Since our daughter's funeral services, held at First Assembly of God Church on May 27, 1999 in Helena, Montana, I have kept a sometimes-journal.. From the Sunday following her body's burial, I have heard and seen "love notes" from our Lora.
I know, I know... it isn't anywhere in Scripture, and I know all the verses that admonish us as believers not to pursue contact with those who have gone on Home before us... All I can figure is that our Father has allowed Lora to send her thoughts of love somehow from heaven.. We know that Gabriel is the archangel in charge of communications between heaven and earth, which tells us there is such communication. And, I have noticed that such communication comes at God and Heaven's initiative, from heaven to earth, in messages, in dreams, and visions, thus not violating Scripture's express prohibition of mediums and psychics. Additionally, all such communication points to Jesus our Lord, and will never contradict Scripture.
So read the notes from my journal, and see what you think. Every note here is true as it happened, and every instance brought me comfort, gratitude to our Lord for arranging the message's delivery, and greater confidence in the reality of heaven.
Jan Hernandez, Lora's Mom
Sunday, May 30
Monday, May 31
e-card from Lois & Harold that is exactly what Lora would send us (even the cutesy music on it)-I know it IS from Lora and Jesus. It reads, "Just wanted to send you a little note to let you know that I am thinking about you..These little hearts come flying across the miles to connect ours with yours."
Tuesday, June 1
Letter from Tricia (her babysitting job in Ohio) that said she believes Lora is still in ministry NOW (which is confirmation of what I have been thinking, but haven't said to anyone but a few close friends--didn't want anyone to think I was looney!)...and that I am Lora's hero.
Wednesday, June 2
Found her M&M (music & ministry) group practice tape; it was stopped in the middle of the song, Everlasting Place. "Don't'cha wanna come with me, to an everlasting place? No tears, no pain, forever we'll remain..."
Thursday, June 3
Got an email from a friend in Nebraska entitled "Women," which is a repeat of one sent to me by Lora on December 8, 1998
(reprinted here for your amusement *grin*).
10 WAYS TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE PMS
01. Everyone around you has an attitude problem.
02. You're adding chocolate chips to your cheese omelet.
03. The dryer has shrunk every last pair of your jeans.
04. Your husband is suddenly agreeing to everything you say.
05. Your using your cellular phone to dial up every bumpersticker that says, "How's my driving- call 1-800-***-****."
06. Everyone's head looks like an invitation to batting practice.
07. You're convinced there's a God and he's male.
08. You're counting down the days until menopause.
09. You're sure that everyone is scheming to drive you crazy.
10. The ibuprofen bottle is empty and you bought it yesterday.
Adam & Eve had an ideal marriage. He didn't have to hear about all the men she could have married and she didn't have to hear about how well his Mother cooked.
TOP TEN THINGS ONLY WOMEN UNDERSTAND
10. Dogs' facial expressions
9. The need for the same style of shoes in different colors
8. Why bean sprouts aren't just weeds
7. Fat clothes
6. Taking a car trip without trying to beat your best time
5. The difference between beige, off-white, and eggshell
4. Cutting your bangs to make them grow
3. Eyelash curlers
2. The inaccuracy of every bathroom scale ever made
AND, the Number One thing only women understand:
1. OTHER WOMEN.
Friday, June 4
planted Lora's tree, and a ladybug was in the grass at my feet... picked it up on my hand, it spread its wings and flew off in a straight line over the house, disappearing into the horizon..Ladybugs and lilacs have always been special to me, something both of my daughters know--they are reminiscent of my childhood... later on that night, watching old videos, the girls were in a school choir at Big Sky singing, "Never Give Up, Always Keep Believing." Lora was so precious, and the words so appropriate, as I struggle to do just that-keep believing.
Saturday, June 5
planted flowers at the cemetery...the orange tabby cat that Lora's nina (godmother) saw standing watch as her body was buried came by, and it's exactly like the cat on Early Edition-seemed to tell me that these messages are indeed from God and from Lora... anyway, it's 10 pm, I was wondering if she'd say hello again today, and then-the tv had a car commercial on it where the car stops on a dime to let a ladybug cross the road.. I couldn't believe my eyes. Thank You, sweet Jesus, thank you, sweet Lora, for saying hello once more. I so, so love you both.
Sunday, June 6
Pastor Nate (kids pastor) was filling in today as worship leader-he's only been at our church for 2 years, so there was no way of him knowing that Lora's very first vocal solo (at Fine Arts Festival when she was in 7th grade) was "Holy Ground"-yet he led us in that very song today, 4 times through. It isn't one of our "usuals" either.
Monday, June 7
put on the tape that Starla (my friend) left for me, and suddenly, "No More Pain," a song Lora sang in church dedicated to a woman dying of cancer, came on.
Tuesday, June 8
A little sparrow was sitting on our driveway. Anthony walked over to it, thinking it must be dead. It flew a bit further down the driveway, didn't seem hurt at all. I couldn't believe it--figured it HAD to be sick or hurt. So I walked out by it, and it flew up over the house, and landed on the shed--just sat there, like it was a "watch-bird"! Anyway, Anthony kept looking out the window for a couple of hours at it, and it just sat there--then finally it was gone. I still thought it must have died. So I went outside and looked for it--everywhere--no bird. It had flown off, healthy.
The next morning, I told Anthony, "I think that was a message from Lora somehow." Immediately, he said, "That's exactly what I thought yesterday." So all day long now I'm thinking, "What in the world is it about a sparrow? I know there's something about it--what IS it? Why a sparrow?" Every other little message she got through to me had made sense, at least between Lora and me it would make sense. This one didn't. I felt dense, but I didn't get it.
I went to bed, and when I woke up the next morning (2 days later this is now), it HIT me first thing--it was a JOKE! I love the song, "His eye is on the sparrow," and used to sing it very "soul-style" around the house--Lora hated it when I did that, and used to complain... So she was letting me know both the message of the song, and that she IS--VERY MUCH--alive and with the Lord. Yeah, I know, I know--I "know" that, right? But it's so different when it's YOUR baby... you want to be POSITIVE. And I know she was like, "Well, FINALLY! What did I have to do, draw you stick figures to help you figure this one out? !!" haha
The chorus of that song says, "I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free, His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me." amen, eh? Ever since then, I shake my head that it took me that long to figure out the meaning, and the joke... duh!
Friday, June 18, 1999
Got an email from Marty Samuelson, the same exact card that the Keatons sent me on May 31st. Salesman calls, tells me about a new collection of teddy bear music boxes...I suspect it's from Lora, as I have been agonizing today over the teeshirt I wore to the hospital--it was from the Teddy Bear Factory in Vermont (I had just finished a week of training the night of Lora's accident)...I had put it on, hoping she'd wake up from the coma to see the big teddy bear paw print in the middle of it (all through high school she signed her name with a kittycat's paw print beside it), but now I can't look at it without remembering where I wore it...
So here's this teddy bear music box collection, and would I like to receive the first teddy bear music box in this series for my perusal?... I asked the salesman, what song does it play...He says, "I just called to say I love you"... oh God, it's Lora, it's Lora, thank You, Jesus, it's Lora...
Sunday, June 20, 1999---
Tuesday, June 22, 1999
Got a joke email from Pat; another crazy love note from Lora, who always laughingly referred to herself as "a Blonde." (...okay, okay, so everyone else called her that too *grin*)
How did the blonde break her leg raking leaves?
. . . She fell out of the tree.
How did the blonde die drinking milk?
. . . The cow stepped on her.
How did the blonde burn her nose?
. . . Bobbing for French fries.
Why do blondes have more fun?
. . . They are easier to amuse.
What do you call 20 blondes in a freezer?
. . . Frosted flakes.
What do you see when you look into a blondes eyes?
. . . The back of her head.
What do you call 4 blondes in a Volkswagen?
. . . Far-from-thinkin'.
Why can't blondes put in light bulbs?
. . . They keep breaking them with the hammer.
Did you hear about the blonde who shot an arrow into the air?
. . . She missed.
What is it when a blonde blows into another blondes ear?
. . . Data transfer.
What did the blonde say when she found out she was pregnant?
. . . "I wonder if it's mine?"
Why shouldn't blondes have coffee breaks?
. . . It takes too long to retrain them.
Monday, June 28, 1999
Tonight was hell. The devastation hit me like a ton of bricks, tormenting thoughts wouldn't leave me alone, and once again 20/20 delivered a message... I'm trying to divert my attention from my own pain, so I sat down to watch a show on step-families. For some reason, they showed a blended family together, worshiping, in church-singing in the background of the 20/20 narrative was Lora's hymn, "Blessed Assurance." The pain tonight, the mental anguish, was so severe, I only barely noticed-but I did notice. And the next morning, I realized God had sent another one of her love notes, even in the midst of the raging storm within me.
Saturday, July 10, 1999
Tony and I flew to Los Angeles to visit his relatives. I realize he needs to do this, but I didn't want to go-and I also didn't want to stay behind. My inlaws met us at the airport; we went out to the rental car, me thinking the whole way, "Why did I come-I want to go home." I noticed a car parked in front of us with personalized plates: "Jst4Lra" and it's held in a license plate holder that says, "God Rules" ... Lora had a pin that said "God Rules" in 4th grade that she wore on her jacket to 4-Georgians public school. (She went there for a few months until God answered her prayer to go to a Christian school, and she gave similar pins to all of her playground buddies, after she-bluntly-had asked them first if they were Christians!) Yes, I am here "just for Lora," to share her faith with her family and to receive their love in return. Got it, hon.
Saturday, July 31, 1999
Slept in till 1 pm as Tony was golfing in a tournament. I have a hard time staying home alone now. Checked the email-nothing. I knew this day would come-the day when no one would remember to send a note of encouragement. I didn't feel sorry for myself, just sad in general. Lora rarely let a day go by since she moved to Ohio without calling or emailing me. I walked to the mailbox-and surprise! There's the next month's teddy bear music box! Now, I know the first one was sent with a love note from Lora, and I know this is a series of music boxes. I figured I would collect them, and would always know that Lora had started this collection for me.
I opened the package with this month's music box. How cute! It's a little bear sitting on the grass with a picnic basket. I lifted the lid to push the music button-unprepared for what was to play.. "YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE" !! The same song Lora danced to at 3 years old; the same song that the coffee mug she got me less than 2 weeks before her death plays! I'll be doggoned... I wasn't forgotten today after all-LORA remembered me! I am absolutely, completely overwhelmed by the beauty of our Lord's grace and mercy. And once again, I know-she's very MUCH alive, and with her Lord and Saviour, Jesus.
Thursday, August 26, 1999-Had a horrible night last night/early this morning. Talked to Kyle Sutton for two hours (2 am her time) about heaven, and how I am just in agony as to what it is, and whether it is as great as we say it is, as satisfying. I finally got to sleep after our talk. Later today, I went to lunch with a friend earlier than we had planned-there in the parking lot was a Ford Explorer with a personalized plate reading "Lil Bitt" (our Lora's "baby" nickname, minus one "t") ! Later today, in tears again, I prayed with my friend Kathy, and she poured out her heart to the Lord to hear and answer my prayer about heaven, and its goodness and completeness. An hour later, I got an email from a friend (Peggy) in New York:
"Keep Your Fork"
There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.
She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible.
Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" came the pastor's reply.
"This is very important," the woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.
"That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked.
"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor.
The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming...like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder "What's with the fork?" Then I want you to tell them: "Keep your fork....the best is yet to come".
The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming.
At the funeral people were walking by the woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.
During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come.
...and I know, the Lord will give me the understanding I need when the time is right; until then I know--the "BEST" for my Daughter of the Most High God IS IN "The Best that is Yet to Come"... He has taken the time to tell me, YES... and WAIT... I will be sure to post whatever He and she share with all of you.
Monday, August 30, 1999
Went to the "Awake America" conference/retreat in Boise, Idaho with only two goals in mind: (1) to ask the leadership there to pray for revival to come to the lives of students at Mount Vernon Nazarene College in Ohio; (2) to "get ahold" of whatever heaven is-to be fully convinced that it is satisfying and truly a place of joy.
Monday morning during the praise & worship preceding the teaching session they sang "The Happy Song." The people at this conference are all "sold out" radicals for Jesus, so everyone is on their feet dancing and praising God-everyone but me. The last church service before Lora and I headed for Ohio to move her into college, the youth group's praise band played this song at the evening service. All the graduated seniors flooded the altars, Lora included, and began dancing in praise. I joined her there and danced with her. Memories of that night flooded my mind, and I sat there in Boise weeping while everyone else danced. A lady came up to me and prayed for me. The song finally ended and I was able to join in worship with the other songs.
That night at the Boise Pavilion of Boise State University we attended the evangelistic service for the general public. Of course, praise & worship was the first order of business. As I sat in the bleachers, watching some of the folks on the floor of the pavilion dancing in praise, I said to the Lord, inwardly only, "If you sing her song NEXT-I'll go down and worship." I no sooner said that to Him than the worship team down front switched into The Happy Song! Obediently I trudged down the steps, dreading the thought of dancing to this song once again. Tears pouring down my face, I lifted my hands in praise to Him, closed my eyes-and danced before Him. It was very difficult. I wept all the way through it, but kept my word to Him.
Later that night, after the sermon, the altar call was given. I followed one of Lora and Crystal's friends, Shelley, to re-commit my life to the Lord. When one of the leadership came by to lay hands on me and pray, I suddenly "saw" Lora! It was just a quick glimpse, but she was "wearing" a long dark blue skirt with tiny flowers all over it and some kind of light blue top-and she had a backpack on! I saw the straps of it on both shoulders. She was turned slightly to talk to someone that I couldn't see, and I "saw" an OCEAN of people stretched out behind her, none of whom I could distinguish either.
SHE'S GOING TO UNIVERSITY! I wept tears of joy this time for many minutes, holding on to the quick image the Lord had given to me of her.
Then, another leader walked by me and laid hands on me, calling out, "Fire, Lord!" And I caught yet another glimpse of Lora! She was dancing with abandon in praise. The only part of her I saw was from her shoulders up, but her arms were lifted and she was spinning and dancing before Him, a look of ecstasy on her face. It was a very quick glimpse, but having danced with Lora to The Happy Song I could tell "something" was different... what was it? What was it? Then it hit me-she wasn't favoring her injured knee! The girls at youth group used to call Lora's praise dancing the "Lora-Hop" ever since she tore her ACL and had had surgery on it. She wasn't favoring that knee any longer!
Does she already have her resurrected body? Is she in some other distinguishable but non-flesh form? I don't know, and it doesn't matter. That look of pure joy on her face was enough to satisfy this momma. Heaven IS satisfying... IS truly as joy-filled as He promised. I give all praise to Him for allowing me these quick glimpses, whether they were actual or symbolic. My heart now agrees with my head, and I am at PEACE.
Thursday, September 9, 1999
Monday, November 15, 1999
Having flown back to Ohio in mid-November to pick up Lora's own car, I head out of Mount Vernon, Ohio heading for Montana. I decide that, since Lora and I traveled cross-country from Cracker Barrel to Cracker Barrel on our Summer '97 and Summer '98 trips, that I will do the same as I take her little blue Honda Civic hatchback back home... First stop--Cracker Barrel--for lunch. I am still in Ohio, so I buy the little baby named after our Lora (Laura Marie Beard) an "Ohio State" infant hat... and I browse in the porcelain doll section. The week before mother day's of this year, Lora asked me, "Mom, do you collect only WHITE baby dolls, or do you collect ALL baby dolls?" I answered her, "Well, honey, I collect WHITE baby dolls and HISPANIC baby dolls, cuz that's what's in our family." "But you don't collect BLACK baby dolls?" "No, honey, there are no blacks in our family, so I don't collect them." "Oh." So for mother's day, I got my beautiful coffee mug that played "You Are My Sunshine," which was the very appropriate song she danced to as a 3 year old in tap class... I almost cried, when she reminded me as she gave me the gift. But she also told me she had "almost" got me the black porcelain baby doll from Avon in the lilac colored dress--to put in her old bedroom that was lilac colored (and that I had re-decorated using the same colors). So here I am, many months later, in the Cracker Barrel, looking at baby dolls. And I see a porcelain BLACK baby doll in a LILAC colored dress--"Hi, Lora," I say under my breath, smiling. Checking the name tag on the doll, I am stunned--STUNNED--to see its name--HELENA. I mean, Helen--ok, that's a normal name--but HELENA??? The name of our--Lora's--hometown??? Too much "coincidence" for me... I bought it.
Tuesday, November 16, 1999
Stopping at a Cracker Barrel again, this time someplace in Illinois. I am once again doing my window-shopping when a card on the card rack "calls out" to me...it's got a picture of a smiling little girl holding a fistful of various wildflowers. I smile. That looks just like a card Lora would send, I think. I pick up the card to read the inside greeting. "You are my sunshine," it says. I start crying, and whisper, "Hi again, Lora--you are MY sunshine too."
Thursday, November 18, 1999
After a day and a half visit with friends in Iowa, I am "on the road again." I have picked up a map with all the Cracker Barrels in the country printed on it, and notice that the last one I can visit before reaching Helena is on the south side of Omaha, and I had planned on taking the road around the north side to save time. Something (Someone?) is egging me on to visit this Cracker Barrel anyway... so I follow that nudge. Browsing once again in the shop, I notice a Dancing Sunflower toy.. Now, I love sunflowers--have our bedroom decorated with them, as a matter of fact (curtains, plaques, etc.) so I picked it up to look at it. I notice it dances to a tune: You Are My Sunshine! :o) Yes, of course, I bought it! After eating my lunch, I keep thinking, "Now why did I keep getting that nudge to stop here??" Yes, it could have been for the daily hello via the sunflower toy, but it seemed like more somehow. Maybe to pass along a word of encouragement to the waitress? Maybe. So I write a short note on the back of one of Lora's "business cards" that carry her picture and webpage address and leave it with her tip. Walking out to the car, a white luxury car pulls up in front of me. An older black couple are travelling in it. The gentleman driving calls out to me, "Say, I like the message on your shirt there!" I had put on a shirt bought for me by my friends, Eric and Charla, in Iowa. It reads: "Heaven: Wouldn't miss it for the world!" I walk over to visit with this couple for a bit, sensing that THIS is the reason why God wanted me here. I tell the couple my story about our sudden loss of Lora, and they share their story of multiple losses in their family in recent months. It turns out the gentleman driving is a pastor for the Church of God in Christ in Minot, North Dakota. He reaches out for my hand and begins to pray for me. Tears pour down my face, as it occurs to me that God brought me here--to minister to ME. I share one of Lora's business cards with them, and thank them for their prayers. Hello, Jesus. So You DO know I'm hurting and lonely and missing my best friend today. Thank You for caring.
Friday, December 3, 1999
Karen does not know Tony or I..but a few weeks back we had a very misty, rainy day, and on my way to work, every way I turned the car, a rainbow would appear in front of me. I felt as though it was Lora's way of saying hello, and reminding me that "God keeps His promises," but honestly did not have the faith to believe--it seemed too far-fetched..I've also had many thoughts and doubts plaguing my mind recently--wondering what she's up to--wondering if she can see us from time to time--wondering if these Love Notes are truly from her, or just my imagination--if she can really get through to us here..And Tony..well, Tony has been fighting tears every single day, not wanting to cry, not wanting to break down, wondering if she knew how much he really, deeply loved her..wondering if we'd ever see her again..When I was in Ohio he told me that he realized with me gone that one reason he stays away from home is because whenever he sees me--he sees Lora..Well, this poem says it all. I showed it to Tony on Sunday, December 5th, and he broke down--reached out for me.
Thank you, Lora..Thank you, Karen, for your obedience to
the Lord..Thank You, Jesus.