Tell Them Now

In memory of Thais Ehman VanGinHoven

February 3, 1955-October 29, 2014

Is there someone you just can't imagine doing life without? Don't wait. Tell them now.  Text them. Call them. Send them a hand-written card. Drop what you're doing and go take them flowers. Or coffee. Or a new bright piece of jewelry to perk them up.  Use your words for good. Tell them three things you love about them. Or your favorite memory of time spent together.  Life is short. Relationships matter. Not everyone is granted the gift of a long goodbye.Yesterday would have been my sister-in-law’s birthday.

I didn’t have to pick out a birthday card this year; just the right one—with side-splitting humor to make her laugh loud, revealing a smile surpassed only in size by her humongous heart.

How strange it felt to not be hopping in the car, headed to her hometown and hour-and-a-half away to take her out to supper. She loved Italian. With lots of cheese. Always with the cheese.

I didn’t need to call her when I pulled in my driveway later to let her know I’d made it home all right. {She was half sister-in-law; half “other mother”. 100% friend.}

Thais’ famous white-chocolate raspberry cheesecake.

If she were here, I’d tell her how very much I loved her. Her and her famous white-chocolate raspberry cheesecake. Her impromptu shopping trips “Just so we can look and have coffee”, she’d say.

We bought coffee.  And that darling teal blue vase she couldn’t do without. And a new tube of bright lipstick. And a card for her friend; a gadget or gizmo for another. {She was always thinking of others} And at least one piece of new jewelry for herself. Always with the jewelry. She said it “perked her up” to have a bright new bracelet or dangling pair of earrings.

She wore both them and life well.

If she were here, I’d tell her how much her positive attitude and infectious optimism always made me believe I could do it. She cheered everyone on, including herself, enabling her to keep going through  hardships in life, including a brain injury that left her unable to work and two different bouts of cancer in two different decades.

She loved nature. And horses. But most of all people. She collected friends like another amasses a stamp collection that fills a binder ’til it bursts at the seams. Only she had more.

Her Bible was falling apart….which meant that she wasn’t. She leaned hard on Jesus, trusting him until the very end.

I was honored to spend almost an entire month with her at the hospice. We pretended to be roommates. I slept on the love seat. We reminisced. Prayed. Laughed til our sides ached and I thought I’d surely wet my pants. {She joked since she had a catheter she could laugh all day long without worry!}

We made Halloween come early, donning masks and prank calling her siblings and nieces and nephews on FaceTime. We handed out fun-sized candy bars to the staff on duty, after we’d stashed all the dark chocolate ones for ourselves. I wheeled her bed outside so we could pick bright orange, red, and yellow leaves in her final Michigan fall. She did the pointing. I did the picking.

Our FaceTime prank calls. Halloween came early for us at our slumber party two weeks ago. ;-)
Our FaceTime prank calls.

She had me run to town daily for KFC mashed potatoes and gravy. And real coffee. And to do a little secret shopping for the special days that she would soon miss in her loved ones lives, because she would be too busy worshipping Jesus in heaven then, unable to attend.

My niece at her recent baby shower. I snatched one of her mom’s corduroy blazers when we were cleaning out her house and had it made into a teddy bear for the adoptive baby on the way. My friend Trish even used the blazer’s buttons and plaid liner so everything on the bear is from Grandma!

Four days before she passed, nearly all her family gathered for an early Thanksgiving dinner. There was turkey. And pumpkin pie. And lots of cheese. But mostly laughter and love. She knew her daughter and son-in-law were adopting a baby, her first grandchild. After dinner, she was told her other child, a son, would soon be a father too when he and his wife welcome their first child in June.

EhmanShe was stubborn. And late to everything.  But this worked to her advantage at the end. Never one to do as she was told, she lived just under three-and-a-half years after being told she barely had six months left on earth. Our family had a long time to say our final words.

Is there someone you just can’t imagine doing life without? Don’t wait. Tell them now.

Text them. Call them. Send them a hand-written card. Drop what you’re doing and go take them flowers. Or coffee. Or a new bright piece of jewelry to perk them up.

Use your words for good. Tell them three things you love about them. Or your favorite memory of time spent together.

Life is short. Relationships matter. Not everyone is granted the gift of a long goodbye.

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  1. That was so beautifully written. Truly touched my heart in a soft spot. We unexpectedly lost my Dad last June. We should all live life this way…loving and honoring one another, ALWAYS. Thank you for sharing such an important message. I look forward to meeting Thais one day when I’m called home. Thank you again! God be with you and your family!

  2. Wow, Karen, this was such a fabulous tribute to Thais! You both were certainly blessed to have each other in your lives. Those types of friendships are true treasures from God! Hugs and love to you in the loss of such a beautiful, precious person in your life. Remember, too, how wonderful it is that you’ll always be able to cherish all the memories. May God richly bless you as you continue your ministry.

  3. Beautiful post. Only the Lord knows when someone’s earthly life will be over. I lost my mom to a drunk driver’s foolish decision and two children to a speeding driver. We also almost lost my sister to another driver who tried to beat the traffic at a set of lights and hit her instead. My very special brother-in-law died within three weeks of a leukaemia diagnosis last summer. One of my best friends is losing the battle against cancer right now. Never wait to appreciate those special to you and make sure they know it. For those with young children housework will wait…you will never regret spending time with your children …I am so thankful for the long walks, playful times, and big hugs that I was able to share with my children even though there were days my house was less tidy than I may have liked.

  4. Big (((hugs))) Karen. I know how much you miss Thais on her birthday and everyday. Today would have been my sister’s 68th birthday. Maybe she and Thais celebrated together. My Carol, died in 1998 after a 4 year battle with leukemia. She had a bone marrow transplant in 1994 but it failed in 1997. Carol was an RN and she loved her job. She waited until her daughters were old enough to go home after school and be alone a little while before she ever pursued her dream. Her patients loved her! Her last position before her illness was as a chemo nurse. She had the heart and the bedside manner that made them all as comfortable possible. When she died the secretary of the funeral home said she had never seen so many people come in for one person. She was so very special. She was our families “go to” person when our kids were sick……..even before she went to nursing school. She had all the little home recipes for sick tummies, fevers and chicken pox advice.

    I had the complete honor of taking care of her Mon-Fri while her husband worked. She had to go to the hospital every day for blood transfusion, platelets or both. Some days were in and out…….other days we were there all day. She did everything within her power to get better. God had another plan.

    She was 51 when she died and she and her husband had celebrated their 30th anniversary that year by renewing their vows. Their oldest daughter was pregnant with the first grandchild. Sadly, Carol never got to see that precious baby before she died.

    Sweet memories and knowing she is whole and well and I will see her again make it easier to get through the dates that have come and gone now for 17 years.


  5. I lost a dear friend VERY suddenly this fall. She was my best friend’s sister in law, and she also collected friends :) Her step-father, a minister, commented at her Memorial Service he didn’t know a person could have so many best friends. Carrie did. Carrie was a beautiful child of God. She knew Jesus very well. She was just 37 when she was called home suddenly by a blood clot in her lungs. We had no warning. On Tuesday she posted pictures of her son’s first day of Kindergarten, on Wednesday she died. It was just like that. She left a husband and 2 small children.

    Don’t forget to say I love you, EVERY DAY! Make sure your parting words are ones you’d be okay as your last with someone. Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. Today I wore my “Carrie” necklace. It’s one that I bought when we did a “girl’s day” shopping trip in Lake Geneva. She urged us into the Jewelry store…I rub my fingers across it now and remember her…and all of her joy…her joy was Jesus.

    1. And I’ve been following and praying for Thais since her diagnosis, 3 1/2 years ago. I am so glad that God granted her more than 6 months.

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