Just like them horses

On September 1st we unexpectedly and tragically lost my mother in law. I talked to her that morning. I actually had missed her call and I'm so glad I was able to call her back or I always would have wondered. "Ok I'll talk to you later. Love you."

Joey called me a few hours later. I was in the kitchen making a salad, my phone was across the room on silent. The only way to describe this is a full body cold chill. I knew Joey had tried to call me. I picked up my phone, Joey, Missed Call. 1 minute ago. 
I know that was Gods way of telling me, your husband needs you, go to your phone. He answered and his voice was shaking. I let out a noise I've never made before. 

Social media is a funny thing. It feels wrong to "go on" without a proper acknowledgment of what's happened. Our world is upside down. Life goes on and you go through your day, but grief is always at the forefront of your mind. 

This blog is kind of my outlet. And Rhonda was one of two people who I know consistently read it. (Hi, Caity.) So I know the last thing she would want would be for me to slack on blogging. 
It just feels wrong that someone so full of life could be gone. It's just so so so sad. And awful. And devastating. 

When we found out, we were obviously across the country. So it didn't seem real. My brother in law called me and I told him to please just find out for sure. This must be a mistake. We had to kind of put our emotions on the back burner and deal with life. Joey had to book plane tickets, I had to pack, kids had to be put to bed. The next day after we were finally on the plane and sat still, it was the first time I'd had a minute to think and I just sobbed. 

At her visitation there were so many people there that they ended up having to have people seated and one row at a time release them to go through the line. For over 4 hours straight we stood at the front of the church and greeted everyone who came to pay their respects. On the plane I wrote down a lot of things I was thinking and I ended up speaking at the funeral. Joey spoke too and I'd like to share our eulogies now. 


It is a testament to Rhonda's character how many people are here. I think I met every employee of Donnelly last night. 
It is also a testament to the great children she raised and the people that care about them, and therefore her. 

One common thread that has popped up since her passing, has been that everyone who has reached out to us, personally and through social media, everyone we met last night...they all say that her pride and joy were her children and grandchildren. That is one thing that could not be disputed.

I talked to her on Thursday morning. She was shopping for the boys and wanted to tell me about it. If you see my boys and Matthew running around, they are all wearing what she bought them. She loved to spoil all of us. In the past 12 years I don't think I ever saw her without her having something to give me. 

Caitlyn's best friend shared this and I keep going back to it. 
"We live in a broken world. A world full of tragedy and hate and broken hearts.  But this world is not our home. We were created for eternity with a Savior who heals wounds and mends hearts that are broken, and nothing can change that truth."
We cling to God's promise in Psalm 147:3. "He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds."
I find comfort knowing Rhonda is dancing with the Angels, commanding all of the attention and being the life of a heavenly party. 

The circumstances surrounding her death were tragic, but we ask everyone to remember Rhonda for her life and love of her family and friends and for that to be her legacy. When something like this happens, you expect to have anger. At God, at people. I think that's normal and it's ok. God can handle our anger. Whatever you're feeling now, feel it. Go through the stages of grief. But I hope that no one here holds onto anger in their heart. I know that's not what Rhonda would want for any of us.

Rhonda had written all of her children letters about a decade ago, in the event she passed. Some things didn't apply anymore and gave us a good laugh. A common theme was for everyone to PLEASE take care of Caitlyn. But Rhonda was so eloquent and her way with words would bring anyone to tears. The letters were like she knew what each of them would need. She told Joey it was ok to talk to her, that she thought God would let her listen. She told Courtney that she thought it would rain on all of her big days, and that would be her tears from Heaven. She told Caitlyn to close her eyes and imagine her, that she would be there on her special days, like to say "what a beautiful grand baby." Jen keeps saying she wants a sign and she let her know to look for pennies from Heaven, rainbows and red birds. She told all of them to know that Heaven is an awesome place to spend eternity and smile for me. 

Joey closed out the funeral with this:

Thank you to everyone for coming. My mom would be so happy knowing that so many people showed up...she loved attention. I ask in advance for your patience and forgiveness, as it may take me awhile to deliver this celebration of my mom. 

Back in 1964, a spunky, attention hungry little girl was born. She quickly grew into a brilliant young woman who her mother and sister couldn't control...so much so that legend has it, I'm the result of a really good first date...sorry, Mom. 

From there my mom built an incredible life filled with joy and love and friendship, and we see the fruits of her labor here today. A room bursting at the seams with love and support.
Speaking of people that love her, the love that children have for their mom is pretty indescribable. Over the past few days, my sisters and I have struggled with how to say goodbye to the woman that introduced us to the world, loved us unconditionally, encouraged us, pushed us, and always met us with a smile. Mom was always there for us, skinned knees, broken hearts, weddings, new babies...man she loves new babies. She was the best, most kind, generous and welcoming person I've ever known. My mom takes each day by the reigns, owns every room she walks into, and sees the best in everything and everyone. My mom makes me and my sisters the focal point of every day of her life. Every piece of good will I have read or received since Mom has left this earth has mentioned my sisters and I, and her grand babies...and that's not surprising, we knew how much she loves us and how proud she was of each of us. 

While we are completely devastated by her passing...we didn't get to say goodbye, we didn't get to have a final moment, she won't get to watch all of her grandsons grow into men, and she won't physically be there for the rest of our weddings, birthdays, promotions or births...we are not angry. My mom would never want any of us to think of her with anything but joy. Joy for the way her eyes lit up talking about her kids and grandkids, joy for how much she loved her puppies, or just her overall zest for life. 

After I got the news, I struggled for a few days, thinking I no longer had a mom...but I do. My mom loves me, she adores her grandkids, and she's watching over us right now. So it's not fair for any of us to think that simply because she's no longer physically here, that she loves us or enjoys spending time with us any less. She's here...she's enjoying our time together, she's laughing with this and filling our hearts with joy and peace.

Please join me in remembering my mom for the beautiful, wonderful, optimistic, charismatic, loving woman she is. She would tell us to leave this place with our eyes facing upward, our hearts open to grace and optimism, thanking God for the time we got to spend with her. 

My mom had it figured out, but I didn't figure that out until it was too late to let her know. Mom...I wish I'd known how truly grand your vision was, and I look forward to seeing you again one day. We will love you always and pray that you'll watch over us and be there for all the memories we make going forward. We love you so much. Rest easy. 

Thankful for the time we had, thankful for the son she raised, thankful for the love she so freely gave.


  1. Simply amazing. Beautifully written. Constantly thinking about you all. Hope with each day, you all find a little more peace.

  2. Jessica....continued prayers for you and Joey and his family. Those words were beautiful!

    1. Thanks, Court! Hope to see you soon!

  3. This is beautiful. I cried through the whole thing. Continuing to remember you and Joey in my prayers and know that her legacy will live on through you all!! Love you!

    1. Thanks girl, love you too!! Would seriously love to get lunch if you're ever in town!

  4. I've read your blog for a while and sad that this post is the one I comment about. I too worked at RRD (transfer from Ind) and knew Rhonda from the very first day she was hired. We had a lot in common (multi marriages)and when I got engaged, she asked me, really you really want to get married again?? Then Phillip happened and it was my turn...yes I said the same thing to her. We both got married the same year just months apart. She will be missed for sure.

    1. Thank you for commenting and sharing your story! She was very loved.

  5. Thinking of you all daily and praying...lots of praying. She is truly amazing and was such an inspiration to always be happy and thankful.

  6. Oh...Joey, Jessica. I'm so sorry to read about your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family.
    Adelina (your wedding photographer)

  7. Beautiful words... I'm so very sorry for your loss.

  8. I'm so very sorry for your loss!