I love fall and the change of seasons. I am usually pretty darn thankful to live in an area of the country to see such vibrant color and change of seasons. The real bitter cold weather is never fun but I love snow and I love looking forward to spring.

November is my birthday month too. Aging doesn’t bother me—not really. I don’t get too worked up. But this birthday was a bit different. Well, a lot different. It was actually a very tough day.

I received a call that a dear friend from my hometown passed away. A young woman who I babysat. Boy—that made me feel old and very sad. She passed away at 41. Way too soon. Stupid cancer.

Courtney. What can I say, a ray of sunshine and a sweet, sweet soul. I spent summers and some weekends at their home—only a block away from mine. Babysitting. Their parents and my parents all good friends, really like family. All going our separate ways now and away from our hometown, but always connected by friendship.

It just breaks my heart to lose Courtney and I pray for her family daily. She leaves behind a husband and four children. Just doesn’t make sense. Life, sometimes, does not make sense.

I knew she was sick, but was in denial of how bad. The last time I saw her was at my own brother’s funeral.  Ironically, Courtney and Ryan shared the same birthday—and she died on mine.

Someday—somehow it will all make sense. Again, at this moment it doesn’t. So, what to do with the grief. The pain. I pray. I also put my faith into action. Live out the life that God wants me to live to honor both Ryan and Courtney. And actually, for all of those that passed on and will pass on before us.

So, the change of seasons are upon us, the change of life. Is it the circle of life? I suppose so. I just want to live my best life. Be the best wife, mom, co-worker and daughter I can possibly be. In order to do that and to honor myself—is to take care of myself first. It is a vow I promised to do and I ask the Lord for guidance daily.

I have a devotional by Martha Whitmore Hickman called, “Healing after Loss: Daily Meditation for Working through Grief.”  One of the daily devotional studies is about physical activity in our daily lives. It states that when we release physical energy during exercise, part of our energy grief rides away. We then witness our own competence, being in charge of our own bodies. Our sense of confidence will spread.

 I found it profound in several ways in dealing with grief. Sort of common sense stuff. Therefore, I made a vow to take care of myself daily—exercise and try very hard to eat the right foods. The more I am physically active, the better I feel to cope with life’s ups and downs. When I thought about it, how hard is it for people in deep emotional grief to really want to commit to their own health and well-being?

Depression and sadness can really swallow a person’s soul. I have good days and bad days—but few and far between are the bad days when I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I am the “let’s tackle the world” kind of gal. 

Hickman’s book also talks about weathering storms in life and when we do, we have a better sense of who we are and what we want most in life. She talks about telling our story and how it affirms the life of the loved one we lost.

I took this to heart as well. It is why I am so passionate about our LOSS team in Kearney. Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors. Yes, I lost my brother Ryan to suicide and this outreach group formed about a year ago. Saturday, November 21, 2015 is declared as International Survivors of Suicide day. Sad that there has to be a day for that—but there is.

Our Central Nebraska LOSS Team will honor those survivors and their loved-ones with an event at the World Theatre in downtown Kearney that Friday through Sunday. Ironically, the movie will star Robin Williams. Another bright and shining star in this world—gone way too soon.

I really feel that our loved ones who pass away, whether by their own choice following sickness and or depression, cancer or a tragic accident really want us to live our best life. They will greet us again in heaven to witness the glory of God. I want to make them proud that we left this world in a better place.

Just like Ryan and Courtney. They left the world a better place with their lights shining bright and now shining stars in eternity. Until we meet again sweet souls, to celebrate those birthdays in Heaven.

For more information on LOSS and the weekend events go to [email protected]

Renae Zimmer

My name is Renae Riddle Zimmer. I was born in Iowa and raised in Nebraska. I am a Midwest girl. I married my high school sweetheart, Dave Zimmer and raised two awesome kids. Nolan, 21 and Kamryn, 17. As we approach our empty nest years—we reflect a lot on our life—our kids—and being a part of the “sandwich” generation as well. Taking care of teenagers and aging parents. All the joys and difficulties that are ahead. We are solid in our faith—solid in our family and we love each other, support each other. I work a corporate job and travel. My husband is an educator and coach. We love to cook, garden, landscape, watch sports and enjoy our kids activities. We follow up college-age son as he runs cross country and track for Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo. And support our daughter as she is in the last year of high school . Where did the time go?