“Every Summer Has Its Story”

The summer of 1984 was hot and dry – just like this summer.  Due any day to give birth, Skip would take my sister-in-law Ramona (pregnant, also) and I for a jeep ride – every night we would stop at Baskin-Robbins – then, ride around Stillwater, hoping to help along John Michael’s arrival, as he was a couple of weeks overdue. My brother Jim had just graduated from college and was a new accountant for Price-Waterhouse – stuck in western Oklahoma counting grain in silos – or something like that.  

Every summer for the next 25 years would find us celebrating somewhere special – a vacation or just a favorite restaurant and movie – not one birthday did we ever miss celebrating together. I can remember almost every movie we ever saw on the 27th….. Batman, Robin Hood, Tombstone, A River Runs Through It, Field of Dreams.  The decorated cakes…. A baseball field, a hockey stick, and on the 16th – a jeep on top of it meant the blue jeep would be his for the next two years – the same jeep we would ride in before he was born – the same blue jeep that still has a home with me.  Summer of 2000 – my daddy passing and John Michael at 15 headed out to England, Wales and Ireland for a month – bittersweet summer memories.

Fast forward to 2022….. What a summer.  It began with this “senior” taking the high school seniors to the beach, beginning a new job, and then the passing of my mother.  John Michael loved my parents.  After my daddy passed, John Michael loved doing things for my mother and having her come see us.  She loved coming to see us in Tennessee – driving the other jeep to the beauty shop, meeting all of John Michael’s friends from both church and school, going with us on church ski trips, to Atlanta and Birmingham to watch him play ice hockey…. Then, after going to college, he would take mother to eat at Pete’s Place, where daddy took her on their first “real” date.  She would go to Mom’s Weekend with me at OU. This summer – The Summer of 2022 – so nice to have all our family together, but bittersweet again that it was to gather to say goodbye to my mother. I won’t dwell on this summer, nor will I be sad when the long, hot summer nights turn to cool, fall evenings. 

Life…. We never know which road our journey will take us on any given day. I realize that the ones who love you the most and always unconditionally are your parents, your children and your spouse. My journey now takes a new turn… not sure what bends along the way it will take me, but I when I look back to my summer stories, I realize what a blessed life I have lived – thankful for parents who made their children’s summer stories fun and full of love, thankful for a husband who always put his wife and son before anything else except God, and especially thankful for the 25 years I had being John Michael’s mama – for he was truly a blessing to everyone he met.  A life short-lived, but what a well-filled life he had; my mother said many times, “John Michael did more in his 25 years than most people do in a lifetime and left a smile wherever he went.”

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy!

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Journeys October 2021

Journeys……. we are all on a journey, taking either a familiar or uncharted path; as we meet each day with its twists and turns, we forge ahead on our “forever journey”… spending countless hours in our dreams and hopes for our future; then, when we least expect it, we are suddenly stranded, trying to find our way.  How quickly our hopes and dreams turn into tears and sadness.  We are lost; we are confused; we struggle to find our way back.  But, there is no way back; we can only travel forward. 

Dear John Michael – 12 years, but only 12 minutes in my mind.  You were my forever journey… How unreal it is for me to visit the cemetery and know I am alone.  But, I quickly find solace in knowing every step I take, it is because of you and dad giving me the courage to become the “journey” – to embrace the wonderful memories of laughter and love that still live and thrive in my heart.  So, as I search my way through this new journey, I give thanks for knowing that “I loved a little boy very, very much, even more so than myself” and because of you, I’ve not lost faith in knowing I will see you again.

“Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”  Judges 8:16

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Forever Valentine

Valentine 2021 Journey,

I began this blog as the first “anniversary” of John Michael’s passing was approaching – it literally saved my life.  As the first “anniversary” of Skip’s passing approaches, I will continue to blog as my journey continues…… while trying to put life into perspective, many thoughts raced through my mind, but most of all was the thought that on any given day, some are celebrating their happiest day while others are celebrating what they deem as their unhappiest.  Not to be frivolous in any way, I think what happens to us is relative to us only.  The purpose of this blog is to never make someone feel sad, but to give hope to those whose journey may take a path like mine. So, with that precursor, here’s my Valentine’s blog for 2021.

Dear John Michael,

Sorry for moving in on my blog for you, but, blame it on Dad, as he’s at fault, so to speak.

Dear Skip Gore,

It won’t surprise you for me to call you, “Skip Gore” because my favorite thing to call you was “Skip Gore” – and, you would always answer, “yes, my lover,” no matter what my tone was!  How I miss that ever calming voice of yours – never out of whack, well…. maybe, there could be a little bit of “what now” tone, but always, calmness!   I’ve been thinking aloud to myself that you had a lot of nerve leaving me alone like this, but, then, every time I do, strange happenings occur….. Such as, last summer as I was standing by the big maple tree and uttered “you have a lot of nerve leaving me with this big place to keep up,” when suddenly, a Red-headed Woodpecker began to make a commotion – right above me in the maple tree! Oh my gosh, my thoughts racing in my head, he’s telling me to quit my griping!  A few months later as I was thinking, “Skip Gore you have a lot of nerve – leaving me to do these Christmas lights” – suddenly, I heard a noise and this most beautiful cardinal was staring in the glass door at me – seemingly, a reminder again?  Then, one night last week, I had the most vivid dream – you had come to see me, and I was asking you why you had to leave me so soon….. And, typical Skip Gore, in your calm, but slightly stern voice – “why are you worried – we are going to spend eternity together.”  Typical you…… always the right answer. How fortunate I was for this late night visit…… as it allowed me to work on my perspective a little more…… and, to remember the wonderful blessings in the midst of such a sad year for all of our family…..

  • for Babies…… how you loved babies and looked forward to new arrivals from the nieces and nephews …. Sweet Riverlyn who you were able to hold, Sweet Baby Jane, and, most recently, Sweet Wyatt Paul
  • for Ryder who was brave enough to be the first to stay two weeks with me last summer – what fun riding in the jeep, learning the art of burning (sorry, Val!)
  • for Ben who was here the next two weeks – and, became my traveling partner to Virginia – what fun we had at the land auction, learning to drive a stick shift, and then traveling cross country
  • for Hayley, who became my traveling partner for over three weeks – visiting college campuses all over the South, swimming with Dr. Debi and Anna Kate, exploring Southern Alabama, nightly fires in the firepit, fireworks at the Council House, lots of jeep rides, and Chinese lanterns above Hurd Creek…
  • for the Virginia Blairs, John, Heidi, Hayley and Ben, spending 12 days at Thanksgiving – the kids learning how you skin and quarter a deer, great memories, and then putting up with me for a week at Christmas – shopping, Busch Gardens, shopping, movie nights, and more shopping
  • for Valerie, Kelly, Knox, Ryder, Jack and Cassidy – the King and Country concert last fall, all the Opryland Hotel winter fun… for bestie Debi and sweet Anna Kate for joining us
  • for Blair, Shawnda, Riverlyn and the boys….. Always making me smile
  • for Adam, Sara Jane and Baby Jane…. So pleasant you always when you see my to do list  –  how comforting to see Skip’s truck when you pull up
  • for Jessi and Kyle who have given us the sweetest gift for 2021 – Baby Wyatt – and, Kyle, taking on “plumbing duties” at mother’s when you visit
  • And, last but not least, Karen and Dusty, who not only “feed” mother every night, but will show up with dinner for me, and encourage me as I attempt to finish all your outside projects – and, just smile as I add to them

I must mention one of the greatest blessings was to take your class this year…. How they love you…. We planted your tree – their “prayer” tree.  It has been a great year of healing for them and me both.

So, in this Winter of Discontent, I find solace in wonderful family and friends, and remember on my saddest day, it is a joyous day for many.  We never allowed sadness to dwell long; I will continue to do the same without you – focusing on that eternity that I will spend with you and John Michael, my forever Valentines.

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Eleven Years…

Dear John Michael,

As I remember your life, the past eleven years are as though it was just eleven hours ago; the words say years, but the heart says it was like yesterday when Dad and I, hand in hand, took that final long walk out of the hospital…. Alone, for the missing piece – you – would forever be missing from our lives. We were three, but as one we lived.  Everything in our life had centered around being the best parents we could for the gift God had given us.  

Immediately, we held on tight, taking turns being strong for each other.  Immediately, we began to remember how blessed our lives had been being your parents and what a difference you made in the lives of all you met.  We knew from that moment on, our lives had to honor you.

Your daddy’s unfailing faith was my strength – how many times did I tell him we will leave this earth together.  Your dad was so looking forward to being well –  last January, he proclaimed that “the next chapter of lives would be giving back and sharing what God had done in our lives and for the many blessings we had been given.”

But, then, the unthinkable – I now face this journey without your daddy – my moral compass, my prayer warrior.  I had no idea today would be so tough; we always tried to get through this day, not bitter, yes, sad, but with a reverence of knowing we are not in charge and, with Grace, we would survive. So, I take this next journey without you both….. physically, that is, but always there with me in my heart and soul as I try to honor you both with every step. 

What comfort I have knowing that like you, your daddy faced his pain and suffering with a courage only brought by knowing what lay ahead – Home.


…… where the streets are golden, where the chains are broken….we will dance on the seas of Amazing Grace, where the Angels sing Hallelujah…. Home       ~ Chris Tomlin

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Happy Birthday in 2020

Dear John Michael,

What a glorious birthday for you this year……. to spend it with your daddy and Uncle Bubby.

Selfishly, I write that my heart is so heavy. When you left this world, my heart broke in half; no words can describe the missing piece that will never be whole. Your daddy always made sure to take care of me on days that were so hard – I smile when I think how on Mother’s Day, he always tried to find animals with new babies, especially baby calves, as he knew what joy it brought me to see a mama and a baby…… then, on your birthday, he made sure that we always did something we enjoyed doing with you as a family, whether it was eating somewhere special, cooking your favorite food, or watching a movie. No words today can say how much I also miss your daddy, especially as I remember the day you were born.

This year on your birthday, I will be at school, conducting a training (my favorite thing to do!)…. how hard it has been this past week as I packed up your daddy’s classroom and read his notes he left in his desk drawer – even a note where his computer password was written brought an overwhelming sadness.

I climbed in the car one afternoon of working at school – immediately, “Angels Among Us” came on the radio. Yes, a God Thing. It brought back such precious memories of you learning to play it on the piano at age 11 and singing it in church at age 12. You loved that song! Yesterday, I worked at school again, and the tears started to flow as I left – I started the car, and there it was again – “Angels Among Us.” A God Thing. Strange about those “God things” – every moment, every day is a God thing, but sometimes it takes a song to remind us that God is always in control and is taking every step with us, big or small.

Several years ago, Uncle Bubby shared your story with Becky Hobbs who wrote this beautiful song – at his music tribute, she sang it and mentioned how it had impacted you. Yes, there are angels among us; may we always be thankful for those who bless our lives.

I am so blessed with wonderful memories……. July 27, 1984, “a beautiful baby boy” who loved life was born ……. whose favorite book was Last of the Mohicans – or was it Fried Green Tomatoes? …… oops, that was your favorite food! Your favorite movie was Dances with Wolves or was it Lonesome Dove? Your favorite television show was Everybody Loves Raymond as you said his mother reminded him of me. You would laugh just talking about it. I miss going to the movies with you, discussing books, scratching your back, and laughing. The joy you brought to your mama and daddy is only measured by the joy you gave to others – you touched so many lives.

I will love you forever and ever – you will always be my baby.

Love,

Your mama

This is the day

the Lord has made;

let us rejoice

and be glad in it.

PSALM 118:24

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Ten Years

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Today marks the day ten years ago that during the early morning hours, John Michael Gore took the hand of Jesus with his famous beautiful smile as he was at peace with the world.  Hand in hand, Skip and I took our longest walk — through the halls of the hospital and out to the car, not knowing the journey we had ahead.

Last week, another young man left this life – memories began to flood as we were told of his passing, as he had played along-side of John Michael “on the ice” all through junior high and high school.  I have waited to contact his parents – I know too well what lies ahead for them and wanted to wait until this weekend was over.

I never want to see this date as an “anniversary” or really want to count it as years, but, yet, I want to remember this date as it is the last time I held his hand and kissed him – a day our hearts broke forever, never to be whole again.  And, then, I want to remember our wonderful family and friends who clung to us, not only that first week as we celebrated his life, but, also, those first few years that actually have become a blur – how did we make it? It was those friends and family, and the grace of God that held us together, to remind us how blessed we were to be chosen as John Michael’s parents and be able to have great memories of a charmed life we three led together.  The Grace of God – words we do not take lightly; it is because of Him that we go forward and reminds us of the great responsibility we have to carry on the life of our child – to honor his life.

My message in today’s blog – nothing can compare to the love you have for your child; nothing can ever soothe the ache of your broken hearts; and, nothing can prepare you for the longing you have to see your child, hear his voice, and look into his eyes.  But, the good news is that this love is what defines us and prepares us every day to go forward in serving the One who made us all, doing His work to hopefully make a difference in the lives of those whose paths we cross.  Jesus is our anchor and guards our soul.

 

Dear John Michael,

 Not a day goes by that your mama doesn’t have you on her mind; the tears start to flow, and, then, I say to myself , “no, you have too much to do – you must forge ahead, with a smile on your face and love in your heart and remember that those famous words of yours, ‘that’s my mama’ ”  – so, see, my world still revolves around you and always will.

You are missed. You are loved. You are our baby boy always.

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Our Darkest Days…. At the Cross

A few weeks ago, I was surprised with a birthday party, bringing together my sister and two nieces and many of my friends – some from childhood, some from high school, some from college, and then “new” friends that I’ve made as an adult.

I truly believe that there are no chance meetings – all those who cross our path have done so for a reason; reasons that we may never know.  But, those who were with me last month to celebrate my birthday, not only crossed my path, but stopped along to be there during my darkest days – those days before and after John Michael left this earth for a Heavenly gathering. So many others were at our sides, with their presence and many with their prayers from afar, but I mention the ones today as they reminded me that during our darkest hour, angels are always near.  As we approach this Easter season, I think of the One whose darkest hours, wiped away all fear and brought us hope, as well as a promise that we are never alone; for He, our Lord and Savior, gives us mercy and hope as we wait for that day we enter the gates of Thanksgiving, reunited with those we love and a God who showed us the Power of the Cross….. Love and Forgiveness…. And life, everlasting.

 

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A Servant’s Heart

Dear John Michael,

Happy Birthday!  I can’t begin to express how much I cherish the memories of every one of your birthdays!  Dad and I always try to do something on this day that honors what you loved to do on your birthday: going to a movie, eating your favorite foods, traveling somewhere….. This year we will eat your all-time favorite fried green tomatoes made by your Aunt Karen – oh, you loved the book, the movie, and the tomatoes! We will also honor another part of your life that meant so much to us – service to others…… whether it was doing mission work in the southern Appalachians, working with a missionary from Ireland for VBS, volunteer mowing for the elderly, or teaching ice hockey to inner city children….. our treasured memories of are you putting others first.  So, on your day, your cousin Valerie and her three sweet little boys – Knox, Ryder and Jack –  whom you love – will volunteer their service as our church gets a home ready for a missionary family from India.  I can’t think of a better way to honor your life.

Our hearts cry; our hearts rejoice

Our hearts are blessed

Time stopped; time went on

Our hearts are blessed

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of John Michael

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

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Beyond Words

July 27, 1984 – a day that changed my life forever – when John Michael Gore entered this world.  He was the center of our life for 25 years. October 11, 2009, was the saddest day of my life when John Michael Gore took the hand of Jesus.  Though I knew he was at peace as he left, most of my heart went with him. My solace has been that even when he must have known that his time was short, his faith in God was never shaken.  My beautiful boy, whose life was a testimony to his love for his family, his friends, and those less fortunate, never faltered in his love for Jesus.

Dear John Michael,

 Eight years……. It is does not get any easier; in many ways, it is much harder as each day passes.  Not a day passes that I don’t shed a tear, wishing I just had one more moment to give you a hug, scratch your back, rub your feet – or hear your voice. I catch myself trying to remember every mole on your body, the shape of your toes, your slightly crooked bottom front teeth, your infectious smile…. I know that sounds silly, but I don’t want to ever forget anything about you!  You were my life, my reason to get up every day….. We lost our son, our best friend…. and, the one who inspired us to be better than we were, to be kind to all, and to love every moment of every day.

 This year I’m suddenly at a loss for words that flow freely….. my heart hurts and my body aches as I remember the wonderful life we had with you.

We will go forward, always, because you would expect nothing less from us.  You would be the first to say, “my mama never quits and never stops believing in the best of everyone and every situation.”

We love you, our baby boy you will always be.

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When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  ISAIAH 43:2

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  ISAIAH 43:2

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Courage 2016

Dear John Michael,

This October I want to focus on some very courageous people I’ve been blessed to cross paths with this last nine months. Some are old friends; some are new friends; some are family; some are people I don’t know well, but whose path suddenly veered on mine. I’ve heard someone say and I truly believe it… There are no chance encounters in this world.

When I think of courage, my thoughts automatically turn to you as you are the embodiment of courage in my mind. I’ve spoken so many times about the year you were in 4th grade – waiting to go into the school for a “reading lock-in.” I dropped you off – then as I watched several boys scuffling not far from where you were standing, you stood alone – anxious to read all night, and so secure in standing, following the instructions to stay in that one place. My thoughts rushed to me – “it takes a lot of courage to stand alone.” And, stand alone, is something we all have to do at certain moments in our life.

“It takes a lot of courage to grow up and become you really are” e.e. cummings

So who crossed my path?
• Neighbors who loved us no matter what was happening
• An elderly widow who stepped out on faith for us
• Friends texting, emailing, and calling to see how we were, never ceasing
• New friends who didn’t really know us, but who loved us anyway, praying without ceasing
• New friends who became life-long friends… Now joined by “ties that bind”

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up for our friends.”

• A mother picking out flowers for her son’s service – I volunteered to deliver the flowers to the church as she was from out of town and didn’t know how they would get there
• A mother sharing about her son’s 4-wheeler accident that took his life a year ago.
• A young girl picking out flowers for her mother’s funeral, with all the planning left to her as she was the oldest child – just 19 years old herself, but picking out each flower that she thought would make her mother smile
• A mother and daddy planning their only child’s service – their son. Too close to my heart this was….

The most painful moments and memories eventually lead to the greatest strengths and growth in life.” ― Kemi Sogunle
I am humbled by all the courage I’ve had the privilege of seeing … And, the common thread is that it’s courage wrapped in relationships. Last week, as Dad and I began listing all the positive things that had happened in our lives the past year, relationships kept coming to us… Relationships with our friends, with our family, with each other, and, most of all, with God; we are truly blessed.

One more year without you… does time heal…does time make it easier? No, but time does allow relationships to grow and new relationships to join our journey.

Courage to love, courage to live, courage to die…. Your courage sustains us.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
We love you, our baby doll,

Your mama and daddy

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