#TellHisStory: The Hard Work of Saying Goodbye

November 20, 2013 | 6 comments

My father-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, a few weeks before the first tulips popped their glossy mouths open, toward the spring sky.

Our daughters were six and three at the time, and they immediately asked us if “Bop”—as they called him—was going to die. The prognosis wasn’t good, but there were treatments to take, prayers to pray, moments to be brave, days to be lived—one precious hour at a time.

We told the girls how dying isn’t a dead end, but a doorway. And until we got to the doorway, we had a lot of living to do in the hallway. I still remember all the tea parties that Bop hosted on the back deck of their farmhouse that year. The cups were so dainty in his big farmer hands.

Spring bloomed. And many weeks after the leukemia diagnosis, the girls and I were walking through a park, where gardeners had painstakingly tended to row upon row of tulips for an annual tulip festival. We didn’t get to the park during the tulips’ prime blooming days. By the time we showed up there, the tulips’ heads had begun to nod, draining out their color.

dying tulip


We knelt down by the dying flowers, and the girls cupped soft petals in their small hands.

I told the girls how the tulips were “perennials.” They bloom profusely, for a time, then slowly fade into a sort of death. But next spring, those same tulips would bloom again.

The younger daughter asked me, “Why are you crying, Mommy? Are you crying because we got here too late?” And I just hugged them and told them how beautiful the flowers were, even when they were dying.

Summer came. Bop grew weaker, and we all felt this shift in our prayers, toward accepting things we couldn’t change.

The rest of the post? Over here at TheHighCalling.org.


Please join us. Share with us in community how you help the little (and big) people in your life grieve. We’d love to have you there. 

Photo by jcoterhals on Flickr. Sourced via Creative Commons.

So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

You’re invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.

Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, … your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.

Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.

Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer or a grammarian to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?


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by | November 20, 2013 | 6 comments


  1. Mary Bonner

    What a lovely post, Jennifer. It reminds me of my Amy and of my 91 year old father…as I watch him slowly walking toward the door.

  2. saltshakmk@msn.com

    Blessings to you, Jennifer, and thank you for your ministry as His Storyteller and providing a platform for His other storytellers – like me. I follow your Facebook page and The High Calling and can’t tell you how God has used your words – and the other contributing writers – to free me from some binds so I am now, confidently, moving forward in my own calling as a writer and an artist. I’ve been blogging for 2.5 years but have recently migrated to WordPress and grown in some skills online, re-focusing my content and stepping out into the larger community of wordsmiths in His Word. As a professional performance storyteller, my career has taken a turn and I’m concentrating more on my art and the printed page now – but the call is the same – tell His story. I’m linking for the first time with you today – the first of my five part series on Thanksgiving. I look forward to more inspiration from other bloggers to undergird the work God is doing in me.
    Joy to you!
    Kathryn Ross

  3. Lynn Morrissey

    I left my comments at the High Calling, but I just wanted to say that each and every time I read a story like this–a pure and poignant story that makes an eternal difference–I’m so glad that you left the newspaper. I think that these are the stories you were meant to tell.

  4. Eileen

    Really enjoyed this post, Jennifer. “And I just hugged them and told them how beautiful the flowers were, even when they were dying.” I think that’s such a beautiful line. You inspired me to link up. The post I wrote was about loss and reunion…so it fits. 🙂

  5. DeanneMoore

    I’ve spent more time with my Dad in the last 26 days than ever in our lives. He has a blood cancer, multiple myeloma. We fighting to stay on this side of the door for now…wrote about where I am today…I am sure you all miss Bop.

  6. Sherrey Meyer

    A year ago yesterday my husband’s brother died after 18 months of battling a rare dementia we’d never heard of until Jim’s diagnosis. Bob and Jim were the two youngest of six siblings; Jim the first to die. As brothers growing up they were very close and even into adulthood they would exchange sometimes 7-8 times a day emails about what they were doing, where they were going, exchange a joke or a story. My husband, Bob, misses Jim so much. Recently Jim’s wife of 57 years married one month shy of the anniversary of Jim’s death. This has devastated my husband. How do I help him?

    I’ve been trying to show him an increased amount of love and let him know how I treasure his presence in my life like he treasured Jim’s. I do things I don’t ordinarily do — unexpected cards with special messages, buying him a treat if I’m out to lunch with a friend, or picking up his favorite apple fritters at the grocery. When he mentioned yesterday’s anniversary date, I asked if he wanted to do anything special. His response, “Just stay as busy as I can all day long.” He said it so quietly I could hardly hear, but hear I did. And yesterday was busy. I didn’t mention Jim or the date. I let Bob bring it up. We grieve differently each one of us, and our letting go cannot be measured by another’s.

    Thanks so much for this timely post. I’m sure your family misses Bop immensely. It’s obvious he left behind a legacy of love and care.



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