lora beth hernandez
Surviving the Loss of a Child
Our Lora Beth

Psalm of a Wounded Heart

This is hard...and there's no way to "fix" it. I mean--I didn't understand heaven, so I studied it. Given time, I absorbed its design, its purposefulness and beauty, but even more--its reality. By examining all the visions and inferences in Scripture, heaven went from willo' wisps to three-dimensional substance.

This--this defies answers--for now. And it's that pause at the end of the phrase that drives me mad. Why NOT for now? I mean, over and over the Apostle Paul's words affirm, "I would not have you be ignorant, my brethren." So..why leave us ignorant in this mystery--the mystery of human suffering?

Many good authors have addressed the topic before me, and so, as with heaven, I anticipated relief at the end of a diligent study. Not so. Instead, I find myself comfortless and very much alone. Not one author understood. The authors who do understand don't write such books. They, like I, have found no good answer to losing a child to Heaven's grasp.

Now wait. Don't shake your head and tsk-tsk me. I AM a Christian. That's how I dare to voice such thoughts! I know I haven't "lost" my Lora in the truest sense. Still, I have indeed lost her in the earthly sense--the sense you have when you catch that impish smile on your daughter's face. I will forever have my Lora's yesterdays, but her "now" and her "tomorrow" have been taken from these aching arms.

And so I ask--Why?

If I say, "Because evil exists and we live in a fallen world," I'm left wondering how it is He chooses to intervene miraculously as He often does. To say, "God needed her in Heaven" implies some lack on His part, while "God wanted her with Him" paints Him as callous to my own need for her with me--a need planted by God Himself at her conception within my womb. I've heard, "God's idea of what is truly good is different than our idea." Do we now have a God who splits semantics like so many politicians? "It's straight from the pit of hell!!" I would agree--but why would God not intervene for one innocent of satan's devices? Is this not what we were taught to pray by our own Lord Jesus? "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil"?? Would Jesus have us ask the Father for something outside His will? Or worse yet--would He have us ask knowing there would be no hope of an answer from our Father?

You see, I am a woman of logic (though some would challenge that statement). I see a person smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day who dies young, and I can understand. I see a young adult drinking and then driving, and when they wrap their car and themselves around a tree, again--I can understand. But this death--the death of an 18-year old life dedicated to helping little children learn their abc's and hurting youngsters find the love of Jesus--this death I do not understand.

And so, I'm trying not to ask that question any longer. I suddenly realize that we three mothers--of a dying 30 year old cancer patient, of a young drunk driver, and of a consecrated college student--all suffer the same loss, with or without answers. The need to know why isn't nearly as important as the need to know how--HOW do I now go on living? One needs to leave the lesser question to ask the best question.

My daughter Crystal, Lora's big sister, said it best for me. "If I was capable of figuring out why He does the things He does, or allows the things He allows, I'd be very insecure and afraid.. Why? Because it would mean that God is no bigger than me.. After all--HE is God. It's not for me to understand it all."

So, for now I will focus on how--how to go on with a life bereft of my Lora Beth. And I will look forward to the day when sadness can no longer cloud my eyes with these tears, and I can once again embrace my beautiful child... once again tickle her feet and have her kick me, once again have her sing me a song with her beautiful alto voice, once again make green milk and green pancakes for St. Patrick's Day (and maybe even invite the old Saint to our house for some festivities!)... one day in Glory.

"God...it's just NOT FAIR!"

The moment the speaker said the words, my heart leapt. Someone else--another Christian, and one who speaks at women's conferences like these, no less--spoke the words my own heart had been whispering for eleven long months. Yes, whispering, and other words like them. "How come other people's children who are drug dealers and thieves live to marry, often several times, and give their parents grandbabies, while my loving eighteen year old daughter died at the brink of her adult life!?" As a woman of faith, I hushed the angry accusations hissing in my ear. What kind of woman would think such thoughts? Why, the implication is that God should provide for, protect, and ultimately love my daughter more than many others. Could any Christian woman be so jealous of God's favors and still be worthy of Christ's name? Still, the whispers continued.

Until tonight.

Tonight the conference speaker amplified those whispers into an arena of 12,000 attending women, and as she did, that inner voice shouted, "YES! That is what I've been saying all along! Yes! It's not fair, God! My girls and I have lived good lives, serving and loving You, and You let this happen to us? It's not fair!"

Tonight the whispers became a roar. "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" Pain rips the stitches at the seam of my faith tonight.

I await His mending.

No More Tomorrows

Dearest Lora,

Pam's daughter got her first teaching job. I can't help it--I'm jealous that I'll never share that moment with you as she has with Jennifer.

The Chadwick's catalogues still come in the mail, but now the "teacher clothes" mock me. Instinctively I browse the bookstores for children's local interest books when I travel. Then I remember--there's no teacher's library to build any longer.

Every night, I weep, remembering.

In excited late-night talks, you spun a tapestry of your future before me. Always--always--I saw where I had been tenderly woven in.

And every night, I weep, trying to forget.

Like lovenotes fingered on steamy mirrors, your woven dreams have vanished.

A Mother's Letter, Unsent

Dearest One,

There is no way to mend this gash rent in the weave of my soul. Why do I try? It only frustrates me, angers me, makes me crazy with loneliness. No one, no thing, can heal this wound. Some days I know this, and resign myself to it. Other days someone scratches that 'psychic-itch' in a manner similar to yours, my child, and my heart leaps--but only for a moment. No one, no thing, can restore the beauty of a life once filled with your goodness, a life now shattered by the sudden violence of your exit from our world.

Our hearts are hungry for your presence; our ears strain to hear your laughter, your voice, your singing, to catch an echo from the storeroom of our memories. We groan with tears for our own survival without you...a nightly ritual, this travail. Perhaps these are the birthing cries of His Spirit from within us, moments of Divine intercession. Could it be He is making a different thing, even a useful thing, of these remnants of a love once lived?

That is my prayer. That is our only hope.

Always and forever,

What am I feeling?

A sense of peace, at the core, shrouded in agonizing woundedness. My spirit knows you live on, safe within Heaven's borders, sheltered from evil's darts and temptation's lures. My soul, however, argues this sacrifice unwillingly made.

Logic declares your well-lived albeit short life a waste. Surely you could have--would have--touched many more lives with God's pure love, by a simple granting of more years. But logic reasons from greed--greed for more of the joyful love that is you, the security your friendship nurtures. Not for the sake of other souls does my own weep relentlessly. Instead my tears slip unbidden into the yawning hollow where memories throb.

Love is eternal, my daughter. I feel my soul's arms reach beyond this fallen world to hold you close again. Like friend reaching for friend in a darkened hallway, I long for your reassuring touch that all is well; I've not really been left behind.

Does eternity know of me, my precious child? Do your companions there know of your much-loved momma, the one you honored so well and faithfully? Do you reflect on our life together here with joy and gratitude, as I do? Do you anticipate our reunion, when sorrow can never again interrupt our fellowship?

When I return to the Master's dwelling-place, I ask a favor: Would you play the piano while welcoming me Home in song? "Blessed Assurance" or "Softly and Tenderly" would be especially meaningful. I want so to hear His praises ringing in your vibrant alto voice again. This life has fallen silent since your passing.

Love Notes from Lora

Since our daughter's funeral services, held at First Assembly of God Church on May 27, 1999 in Helena, Montana, I have kept a sometimes-journal.. From the Sunday following her body's burial, I have heard and seen "love notes" from our Lora. I know, I know... it isn't anywhere in Scripture, and I know all the verses that admonish us as believers not to pursue contact with those who have gone on Home before us... All I can figure is that our Father has allowed Lora to send her thoughts of love somehow from heaven.. We know that Gabriel is the archangel in charge of communications between heaven and earth, which tells us there is such communication. And, I have noticed that such communication comes at God and Heaven's initiative, from heaven to earth, in messages, in dreams, and visions, thus not violating Scripture's express prohibition of mediums and psychics. Additionally, all such communication points to Jesus our Lord, and will never contradict Scripture. So read the notes from my journal, and see what you think. Every note here is true as it happened, and every instance brought me comfort, gratitude to our Lord for arranging the message's delivery, and greater confidence in the reality of heaven.

Jan Hernandez, Lora's Mom

Sunday, May 30

Songleader had us sing "How Great Thou Art" several times at church..Lora knows it's my favorite hymn (and one we almost never sing). In my heart I sensed her saying, "Ok, you sang me my favorite hymn last week, now I'm singing you your favorite hymn, Mom!"

Monday, May 31

e-card from Lois & Harold that is exactly what Lora would send us (even the cutesy music on it)-I know it IS from Lora and Jesus. It reads, "Just wanted to send you a little note to let you know that I am thinking about you..These little hearts come flying across the miles to connect ours with yours."

Tuesday, June 1

Letter from Tricia (her babysitting job in Ohio) that said she believes Lora is still in ministry NOW (which is confirmation of what I have been thinking, but haven't said to anyone but a few close friends--didn't want anyone to think I was looney!)...and that I am Lora's hero.

Wednesday, June 2

Found her M&M (music & ministry) group practice tape; it was stopped in the middle of the song, Everlasting Place. "Don't'cha wanna come with me, to an everlasting place? No tears, no pain, forever we'll remain..."

Thursday, June 3

Got an email from a friend in Nebraska entitled "Women," which is a repeat of one sent to me by Lora on December 8, 1998
(reprinted here for your amusement *grin*).


01. Everyone around you has an attitude problem.
02. You're adding chocolate chips to your cheese omelet.
03. The dryer has shrunk every last pair of your jeans.
04. Your husband is suddenly agreeing to everything you say.
05. Your using your cellular phone to dial up every bumpersticker that says, "How's my driving- call 1-800-***-****."
06. Everyone's head looks like an invitation to batting practice.
07. You're convinced there's a God and he's male.
08. You're counting down the days until menopause.
09. You're sure that everyone is scheming to drive you crazy.
10. The ibuprofen bottle is empty and you bought it yesterday.


Perfect Marriage

Adam & Eve had an ideal marriage. He didn't have to hear about all the men she could have married and she didn't have to hear about how well his Mother cooked.


10. Dogs' facial expressions
9. The need for the same style of shoes in different colors
8. Why bean sprouts aren't just weeds
7. Fat clothes
6. Taking a car trip without trying to beat your best time
5. The difference between beige, off-white, and eggshell
4. Cutting your bangs to make them grow
3. Eyelash curlers
2. The inaccuracy of every bathroom scale ever made
AND, the Number One thing only women understand:

Friday, June 4

planted Lora's tree, and a ladybug was in the grass at my feet... picked it up on my hand, it spread its wings and flew off in a straight line over the house, disappearing into the horizon..Ladybugs and lilacs have always been special to me, something both of my daughters know--they are reminiscent of my childhood... later on that night, watching old videos, the girls were in a school choir at Big Sky singing, "Never Give Up, Always Keep Believing." Lora was so precious, and the words so appropriate, as I struggle to do just that-keep believing.

Saturday, June 5

planted flowers at the cemetery...the orange tabby cat that Lora's nina (godmother) saw standing watch as her body was buried came by, and it's exactly like the cat on Early Edition-seemed to tell me that these messages are indeed from God and from Lora... anyway, it's 10 pm, I was wondering if she'd say hello again today, and then-the tv had a car commercial on it where the car stops on a dime to let a ladybug cross the road.. I couldn't believe my eyes. Thank You, sweet Jesus, thank you, sweet Lora, for saying hello once more. I so, so love you both.

Sunday, June 6

Pastor Nate (kids pastor) was filling in today as worship leader-he's only been at our church for 2 years, so there was no way of him knowing that Lora's very first vocal solo (at Fine Arts Festival when she was in 7th grade) was "Holy Ground"-yet he led us in that very song today, 4 times through. It isn't one of our "usuals" either.

Monday, June 7

put on the tape that Starla (my friend) left for me, and suddenly, "No More Pain," a song Lora sang in church dedicated to a woman dying of cancer, came on.

Tuesday, June 8

A little sparrow was sitting on our driveway. Anthony walked over to it, thinking it must be dead. It flew a bit further down the driveway, didn't seem hurt at all. I couldn't believe it--figured it HAD to be sick or hurt. So I walked out by it, and it flew up over the house, and landed on the shed--just sat there, like it was a "watch-bird"! Anyway, Anthony kept looking out the window for a couple of hours at it, and it just sat there--then finally it was gone. I still thought it must have died. So I went outside and looked for it--everywhere--no bird. It had flown off, healthy.

The next morning, I told Anthony, "I think that was a message from Lora somehow." Immediately, he said, "That's exactly what I thought yesterday." So all day long now I'm thinking, "What in the world is it about a sparrow? I know there's something about it--what IS it? Why a sparrow?" Every other little message she got through to me had made sense, at least between Lora and me it would make sense. This one didn't. I felt dense, but I didn't get it.

I went to bed, and when I woke up the next morning (2 days later this is now), it HIT me first thing--it was a JOKE! I love the song, "His eye is on the sparrow," and used to sing it very "soul-style" around the house--Lora hated it when I did that, and used to complain... So she was letting me know both the message of the song, and that she IS--VERY MUCH--alive and with the Lord. Yeah, I know, I know--I "know" that, right? But it's so different when it's YOUR baby... you want to be POSITIVE. And I know she was like, "Well, FINALLY! What did I have to do, draw you stick figures to help you figure this one out? !!" haha

The chorus of that song says, "I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free, His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me." amen, eh? Ever since then, I shake my head that it took me that long to figure out the meaning, and the joke... duh!

Friday, June 18, 1999

Got an email from Marty Samuelson, the same exact card that the Keatons sent me on May 31st. Salesman calls, tells me about a new collection of teddy bear music boxes...I suspect it's from Lora, as I have been agonizing today over the teeshirt I wore to the hospital--it was from the Teddy Bear Factory in Vermont (I had just finished a week of training the night of Lora's accident)...I had put it on, hoping she'd wake up from the coma to see the big teddy bear paw print in the middle of it (all through high school she signed her name with a kittycat's paw print beside it), but now I can't look at it without remembering where I wore it...

So here's this teddy bear music box collection, and would I like to receive the first teddy bear music box in this series for my perusal?... I asked the salesman, what song does it play...He says, "I just called to say I love you"... oh God, it's Lora, it's Lora, thank You, Jesus, it's Lora...

Sunday, June 20, 1999

Father's Day. Today was hell for both Tony and I. Finally, at 10:30 pm, with Tony restlessly asleep on the couch, I went out to the back yard, sat on the grass, and moaned and cried and grieved. "Lord, I have to know-I have to know TONIGHT, Lord, that she's really, truly alive and with You. Lord, I have to know! Tell me somehow that she's still alive, and I'll never ask You again."

Eventually, I came back in the house and sat down once again at the computer. I couldn't get on the Internet because of some malfunction we hadn't figured out yet, but I got a strong urge to re-read a letter Lora had written as a special gift for Crystal over Christmas break. In the letter, she wrote, "The love you showed me then and now has helped shape me into the person I am but more importantly it's lifted me up when I needed it most. I hope when we're old we're just like sisters on TV who lived right across the street from each other." Lora and I had just watched a tv story about 2 elderly sisters in Pennsylvania who lived across the street from each other. One is 89 years old and still runs a beauty shop the old-fashioned way; her sister is 93 years old and is her shampoo girl. This is the "sisters on TV" Lora was thinking about as she wrote her letter to Crystal whom she adores. I cried and cried, re-reading such a loving tribute to her sister.

It's now about 11 pm, and I decided to watch some tv. I turned on 20/20. Less than a half hour into the program, they re-ran a story-it's the story about the 2 elderly sisters in Pennsylvania! Tonight of all nights! Lora is still alive, and with Jesus--in His mercy, He has answered my feeble faith with a resounding YES!

Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Got a joke email from Pat; another crazy love note from Lora, who always laughingly referred to herself as "a Blonde." (...okay, okay, so everyone else called her that too *grin*)

Subject: Blondes

How did the blonde break her leg raking leaves?
. . . She fell out of the tree.
How did the blonde die drinking milk?
. . . The cow stepped on her.
How did the blonde burn her nose?
. . . Bobbing for French fries.
Why do blondes have more fun?
. . . They are easier to amuse.
What do you call 20 blondes in a freezer?
. . . Frosted flakes.
What do you see when you look into a blondes eyes?
. . . The back of her head.
What do you call 4 blondes in a Volkswagen?
. . . Far-from-thinkin'.
Why can't blondes put in light bulbs?
. . . They keep breaking them with the hammer.
Did you hear about the blonde who shot an arrow into the air?
. . . She missed.
What is it when a blonde blows into another blondes ear?
. . . Data transfer.
What did the blonde say when she found out she was pregnant?
. . . "I wonder if it's mine?"
Why shouldn't blondes have coffee breaks?
. . . It takes too long to retrain them.

Monday, June 28, 1999

Tonight was hell. The devastation hit me like a ton of bricks, tormenting thoughts wouldn't leave me alone, and once again 20/20 delivered a message... I'm trying to divert my attention from my own pain, so I sat down to watch a show on step-families. For some reason, they showed a blended family together, worshiping, in church-singing in the background of the 20/20 narrative was Lora's hymn, "Blessed Assurance." The pain tonight, the mental anguish, was so severe, I only barely noticed-but I did notice. And the next morning, I realized God had sent another one of her love notes, even in the midst of the raging storm within me.

Saturday, July 10, 1999

Tony and I flew to Los Angeles to visit his relatives. I realize he needs to do this, but I didn't want to go-and I also didn't want to stay behind. My inlaws met us at the airport; we went out to the rental car, me thinking the whole way, "Why did I come-I want to go home." I noticed a car parked in front of us with personalized plates: "Jst4Lra" and it's held in a license plate holder that says, "God Rules" ... Lora had a pin that said "God Rules" in 4th grade that she wore on her jacket to 4-Georgians public school. (She went there for a few months until God answered her prayer to go to a Christian school, and she gave similar pins to all of her playground buddies, after she-bluntly-had asked them first if they were Christians!) Yes, I am here "just for Lora," to share her faith with her family and to receive their love in return. Got it, hon.

Saturday, July 31, 1999

Slept in till 1 pm as Tony was golfing in a tournament. I have a hard time staying home alone now. Checked the email-nothing. I knew this day would come-the day when no one would remember to send a note of encouragement. I didn't feel sorry for myself, just sad in general. Lora rarely let a day go by since she moved to Ohio without calling or emailing me. I walked to the mailbox-and surprise! There's the next month's teddy bear music box! Now, I know the first one was sent with a love note from Lora, and I know this is a series of music boxes. I figured I would collect them, and would always know that Lora had started this collection for me.

I opened the package with this month's music box. How cute! It's a little bear sitting on the grass with a picnic basket. I lifted the lid to push the music button-unprepared for what was to play.. "YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE" !! The same song Lora danced to at 3 years old; the same song that the coffee mug she got me less than 2 weeks before her death plays! I'll be doggoned... I wasn't forgotten today after all-LORA remembered me! I am absolutely, completely overwhelmed by the beauty of our Lord's grace and mercy. And once again, I know-she's very MUCH alive, and with her Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

Thursday, August 26, 1999-Had a horrible night last night/early this morning. Talked to Kyle Sutton for two hours (2 am her time) about heaven, and how I am just in agony as to what it is, and whether it is as great as we say it is, as satisfying. I finally got to sleep after our talk. Later today, I went to lunch with a friend earlier than we had planned-there in the parking lot was a Ford Explorer with a personalized plate reading "Lil Bitt" (our Lora's "baby" nickname, minus one "t") ! Later today, in tears again, I prayed with my friend Kathy, and she poured out her heart to the Lord to hear and answer my prayer about heaven, and its goodness and completeness. An hour later, I got an email from a friend (Peggy) in New York:

"Keep Your Fork"

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.

"What's that?" came the pastor's reply.

"This is very important," the woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.

"That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked.

"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor.

The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming...like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder "What's with the fork?" Then I want you to tell them: "Keep your fork....the best is yet to come".

The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come.

...and I know, the Lord will give me the understanding I need when the time is right; until then I know--the "BEST" for my Daughter of the Most High God IS IN "The Best that is Yet to Come"... He has taken the time to tell me, YES... and WAIT... I will be sure to post whatever He and she share with all of you.

Monday, August 30, 1999

Went to the "Awake America" conference/retreat in Boise, Idaho with only two goals in mind: (1) to ask the leadership there to pray for revival to come to the lives of students at Mount Vernon Nazarene College in Ohio; (2) to "get ahold" of whatever heaven is-to be fully convinced that it is satisfying and truly a place of joy.

Monday morning during the praise & worship preceding the teaching session they sang "The Happy Song." The people at this conference are all "sold out" radicals for Jesus, so everyone is on their feet dancing and praising God-everyone but me. The last church service before Lora and I headed for Ohio to move her into college, the youth group's praise band played this song at the evening service. All the graduated seniors flooded the altars, Lora included, and began dancing in praise. I joined her there and danced with her. Memories of that night flooded my mind, and I sat there in Boise weeping while everyone else danced. A lady came up to me and prayed for me. The song finally ended and I was able to join in worship with the other songs.

That night at the Boise Pavilion of Boise State University we attended the evangelistic service for the general public. Of course, praise & worship was the first order of business. As I sat in the bleachers, watching some of the folks on the floor of the pavilion dancing in praise, I said to the Lord, inwardly only, "If you sing her song NEXT-I'll go down and worship." I no sooner said that to Him than the worship team down front switched into The Happy Song! Obediently I trudged down the steps, dreading the thought of dancing to this song once again. Tears pouring down my face, I lifted my hands in praise to Him, closed my eyes-and danced before Him. It was very difficult. I wept all the way through it, but kept my word to Him.

Later that night, after the sermon, the altar call was given. I followed one of Lora and Crystal's friends, Shelley, to re-commit my life to the Lord. When one of the leadership came by to lay hands on me and pray, I suddenly "saw" Lora! It was just a quick glimpse, but she was "wearing" a long dark blue skirt with tiny flowers all over it and some kind of light blue top-and she had a backpack on! I saw the straps of it on both shoulders. She was turned slightly to talk to someone that I couldn't see, and I "saw" an OCEAN of people stretched out behind her, none of whom I could distinguish either.

SHE'S GOING TO UNIVERSITY! I wept tears of joy this time for many minutes, holding on to the quick image the Lord had given to me of her.

Then, another leader walked by me and laid hands on me, calling out, "Fire, Lord!" And I caught yet another glimpse of Lora! She was dancing with abandon in praise. The only part of her I saw was from her shoulders up, but her arms were lifted and she was spinning and dancing before Him, a look of ecstasy on her face. It was a very quick glimpse, but having danced with Lora to The Happy Song I could tell "something" was different... what was it? What was it? Then it hit me-she wasn't favoring her injured knee! The girls at youth group used to call Lora's praise dancing the "Lora-Hop" ever since she tore her ACL and had had surgery on it. She wasn't favoring that knee any longer!

Does she already have her resurrected body? Is she in some other distinguishable but non-flesh form? I don't know, and it doesn't matter. That look of pure joy on her face was enough to satisfy this momma. Heaven IS satisfying... IS truly as joy-filled as He promised. I give all praise to Him for allowing me these quick glimpses, whether they were actual or symbolic. My heart now agrees with my head, and I am at PEACE.

Thursday, September 9, 1999

On the way home from work, I was trying to think of anyone I know who might be ready to go to heaven, due to age or health... wondering if there is anyone I can ask to bring a message to Lora and Lisa.. I would say, "Ask Lora and Lisa if they can get permission to visit their mommas in their dreams some night!" I so much want to see my Lora again, see her smile, hear her laugh, and tell her how much she is loved and missed...ask her if she is enjoying heaven--what she's up to now, and if her new work is satisfying.. *sigh*

At home, I checked my email. There's one from a freshman at MVNC--a guy named Josh that met Lora through his sister, a fellow-Collegian and close friend of hers. Apparently he and Lora became dear friends as well just three months before her home-going, and she had taken to emailing him every day. When Lora died, he began doubting his faith and said he got to the place where he hated God.

He went to the Nazarene Youth Congress in Canada this summer, and in the middle of the night after he had fallen asleep---Lora came to him! He doesn't know if it was in a "waking" dream or a vision, but they are both Scriptural so that doesn't matter.

She appeared to him, assured him that she was alright and said, "I made it home!!" She told him that it was God's will she be with Him now; she told Josh that God cares for him, that the accident was not God's fault--that He would never harm or hurt anyone; and she said, "Don't worry--we'll meet again soon..." and she was smiling the biggest smile he had ever seen during the entire visit. At this point, Josh broke down weeping--when he looked again, she was gone.

In his email, Josh conveyed to me that through this visit Lora led him back to the Lord--and that he was comforted that she was very happy to be Home. Oh, how like our Lord to grant such a visitation, to reach out to one wounded and misled by the evil one and draw him again unto Himself! And how like our Lora to bring that message of healing and hope!! Both Pam Roberts and I are deeply grateful to our Lord Jesus for restoring Josh at this critical point in his life. What an honor to our Lora that she was able to minister once again to a friend and brother in Christ. We thank You and praise You, O Lord Most High!

Monday, November 15, 1999

Having flown back to Ohio in mid-November to pick up Lora's own car, I head out of Mount Vernon, Ohio heading for Montana. I decide that, since Lora and I traveled cross-country from Cracker Barrel to Cracker Barrel on our Summer '97 and Summer '98 trips, that I will do the same as I take her little blue Honda Civic hatchback back home... First stop--Cracker Barrel--for lunch. I am still in Ohio, so I buy the little baby named after our Lora (Laura Marie Beard) an "Ohio State" infant hat... and I browse in the porcelain doll section. The week before mother day's of this year, Lora asked me, "Mom, do you collect only WHITE baby dolls, or do you collect ALL baby dolls?" I answered her, "Well, honey, I collect WHITE baby dolls and HISPANIC baby dolls, cuz that's what's in our family." "But you don't collect BLACK baby dolls?" "No, honey, there are no blacks in our family, so I don't collect them." "Oh." So for mother's day, I got my beautiful coffee mug that played "You Are My Sunshine," which was the very appropriate song she danced to as a 3 year old in tap class... I almost cried, when she reminded me as she gave me the gift. But she also told me she had "almost" got me the black porcelain baby doll from Avon in the lilac colored dress--to put in her old bedroom that was lilac colored (and that I had re-decorated using the same colors). So here I am, many months later, in the Cracker Barrel, looking at baby dolls. And I see a porcelain BLACK baby doll in a LILAC colored dress--"Hi, Lora," I say under my breath, smiling. Checking the name tag on the doll, I am stunned--STUNNED--to see its name--HELENA. I mean, Helen--ok, that's a normal name--but HELENA??? The name of our--Lora's--hometown??? Too much "coincidence" for me... I bought it.

Tuesday, November 16, 1999

Stopping at a Cracker Barrel again, this time someplace in Illinois. I am once again doing my window-shopping when a card on the card rack "calls out" to me...it's got a picture of a smiling little girl holding a fistful of various wildflowers. I smile. That looks just like a card Lora would send, I think. I pick up the card to read the inside greeting. "You are my sunshine," it says. I start crying, and whisper, "Hi again, Lora--you are MY sunshine too."

Thursday, November 18, 1999

After a day and a half visit with friends in Iowa, I am "on the road again." I have picked up a map with all the Cracker Barrels in the country printed on it, and notice that the last one I can visit before reaching Helena is on the south side of Omaha, and I had planned on taking the road around the north side to save time. Something (Someone?) is egging me on to visit this Cracker Barrel anyway... so I follow that nudge. Browsing once again in the shop, I notice a Dancing Sunflower toy.. Now, I love sunflowers--have our bedroom decorated with them, as a matter of fact (curtains, plaques, etc.) so I picked it up to look at it. I notice it dances to a tune: You Are My Sunshine! :o) Yes, of course, I bought it! After eating my lunch, I keep thinking, "Now why did I keep getting that nudge to stop here??" Yes, it could have been for the daily hello via the sunflower toy, but it seemed like more somehow. Maybe to pass along a word of encouragement to the waitress? Maybe. So I write a short note on the back of one of Lora's "business cards" that carry her picture and webpage address and leave it with her tip. Walking out to the car, a white luxury car pulls up in front of me. An older black couple are travelling in it. The gentleman driving calls out to me, "Say, I like the message on your shirt there!" I had put on a shirt bought for me by my friends, Eric and Charla, in Iowa. It reads: "Heaven: Wouldn't miss it for the world!" I walk over to visit with this couple for a bit, sensing that THIS is the reason why God wanted me here. I tell the couple my story about our sudden loss of Lora, and they share their story of multiple losses in their family in recent months. It turns out the gentleman driving is a pastor for the Church of God in Christ in Minot, North Dakota. He reaches out for my hand and begins to pray for me. Tears pour down my face, as it occurs to me that God brought me here--to minister to ME. I share one of Lora's business cards with them, and thank them for their prayers. Hello, Jesus. So You DO know I'm hurting and lonely and missing my best friend today. Thank You for caring.

Friday, December 3, 1999

Got an email from Karen O'Connor, a visitor to Lora's webpage via surfing another webpage..She enclosed a poem she has written, "You'll Find Me There, inspired by Lora.

You'll Find Me There

If ever you have sensed me near,
Yet doubted it could be,
Thinking it impossible,
That rainbow might be me.

See, I'm the whisper of the wind,
I didn't ever leave,
In fact, my presence emanates,
If you will just believe!

That song that resonates your mind
Is one I sing for you,
Oh Mommy, please, rely on faith,
There's so much I can do.

At times you loathe the days that rain,
In anguish you lament;
It seems the sun but dimly shines,
The flowers have no scent.

Now Daddy, it's okay to cry,
I've watched you hold it in,
Please know that I adore you so,
We'll all be joined again.

And as you hold my Mommy's hand,
And share this grief you bear,
Just picture me, gaze in her eyes,
I swear, you'll find me there!
Karen does not know Tony or I..but a few weeks back we had a very misty, rainy day, and on my way to work, every way I turned the car, a rainbow would appear in front of me. I felt as though it was Lora's way of saying hello, and reminding me that "God keeps His promises," but honestly did not have the faith to believe--it seemed too far-fetched..I've also had many thoughts and doubts plaguing my mind recently--wondering what she's up to--wondering if she can see us from time to time--wondering if these Love Notes are truly from her, or just my imagination--if she can really get through to us here..And Tony..well, Tony has been fighting tears every single day, not wanting to cry, not wanting to break down, wondering if she knew how much he really, deeply loved her..wondering if we'd ever see her again..When I was in Ohio he told me that he realized with me gone that one reason he stays away from home is because whenever he sees me--he sees Lora..Well, this poem says it all. I showed it to Tony on Sunday, December 5th, and he broke down--reached out for me.

Thank you, Lora..Thank you, Karen, for your obedience to the Lord..Thank You, Jesus.

Visits from Lora

Below are some of the more "supernatural" lovenotes from Lora that her friends and family have experienced. I hesitated publishing these accounts, not wanting to encourage anyone to seek out supernatural experiences or psychic phenomena. There seems to be an abundance of books out nowadays encouraging the grieving to "talk to heaven" as one author puts it. I am very skeptical of such spiritual exercises, as Scripture expressly forbids pursuit of occultic practices (see Deuteronomy 18:10-12 as an example). In times past, before losing our own precious daughter, I was severely critical of any supposed "apparitions" of the departed as originating from the devil. However, experience has forced me to study Scripture more closely, seek God more diligently on this subject. I now believe that the source of such experiences can be either angelic or demonic, and must be tested by their effect--has it drawn us closer to Jesus Christ, or caused us to seek more experiences? Has it given us a desire to live more godly, or simply put our minds at ease about our lifestyles as they are? I cannot answer for you and your experiences. A godly mature woman in Christ reminded me that as God's servant, I am called to simply testify--I am not responsible for other people's misinterpretations of God's interventions in our life. Still, I feel impressed to remind the reader to keep in mind that we are admonished by Scripture to "not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God.." (1st John 4:1). Just as there are valid supernatural healings wrought in the name of Jesus, so there are actual healings wrought in the power of a psychic (whose source we are told clearly in Scripture is satan, to lead astray from the pure faith). All such supernatural occurences can be counterfeited by the enemy--but that SHOULD NOT take any glory from God's miraculous acts of mercy such as I will now recount for you here.

Jan Hernandez, Lora's mom

Previous experiences during the summer

Several of Lora's youth group friends were counselors at the various children's and youth camps the summer of '99. Three different friends, at three different praise and worship meetings, AUDIBLY HEARD LORA singing with them--and it was to three different praise/worship songs. One friend, Molly, was so overpowered upon hearing Lora's beautiful voice again and the vividness of her presence with them in praise, that she went off weeping to a corner of the sanctuary and prostrated herself before the Lord, all the time hearing Lora singing. I have already recorded a vision one of Lora's friends (Josh) had of her during the summer, in which she led him back to faith in God.. also my experiences at a retreat in Idaho the first week of September 1999 (see page one of the Love Notes). But here are even more experiences her friends and family have had.

Monday, September 20, 1999

The sister of Lora's best friend, Karli, had a dream. In it Kristen (Karli's sister) was talking to her friend outside in the Shopko parking lot. Kristen saw Lora walk up (looking beautiful, she noted), and said, "Hey Lora, I thought you were dead!" "I am," Lora replied, "but I got permission to visit some of my friends..where's Karli?" "She's in the store," Kristen replied. "Let's go find her." At that point Kristen, her friend, and Lora walked into Shopko--Kristen went looking for Karli in one direction, Lora in the other... and at this point, Kristen woke up. That same night, Karli had her own dream-visit from Lora. In it, Karli was standing in front of a mirror, complaining out loud to herself about her weight and how ugly she looked. Suddenly she heard Lora's laugh from behind her, and she repeated words Karli often heard while Lora was alive: "With THAT cute bod--are you kidding me?!!" Karli turned around in surprise, and there was Lora, laughing and smiling, reaching out to Karli--Karli went to give Lora a hug--and she woke up.

Monday, September 27, 1999

Got an email from Holly back at Lora's college in Ohio. It read: "Ok, I have to start out this message with a dream I had today. It started with me in a class and I looked back and saw Lora sitting there in the class. I jumped up and ran over to talk to her and it was wierd because only I could see her. She told me she was mad at me because I walked past her in lunch and didn't say hi. I told her I didn't see her and that I was sorry and then we both started to cry. I told her that I missed her and that I wasn't doing really well. She told me that she loved me and she missed me too, then I asked her why she wasn't in heaven. She told me that she had to say goodbye...We walked all around and we talked about everything. I swear it was so real. We saw [some people] and Lora said, "She can't see me." I asked her why and she said, "Only those who believe can see me". We walked all around campus and I told her how my life was, I told her about my friend killing himself and we hugged and cried. Jan, when I woke up I felt 100% better. I got up and went to class and before I got there I stopped by the post office and your package was there with Lora's sweatshirt. I ran all the back to my room...I miss her, when I dreamed that today I almost felt like it was the real thing. I told her that I was sorry for the stupid fights we had all year and that I loved her...and the good thing is I heard her tell me that she forgives me and that she loves me too. I don't care if anyone here believes me but I know that the Lord let me see Lora today in my dreams...I am so very thankful."

Later that same week

In talking with Sarai, one of Lora's friends from high school, I heard of yet another "gift-dream" from Lora. Sarai had flown from Utah to Montana to attend Lora's funeral. She recommitted her life to the Lord during the prayer at her funeral (though she did not have the courage to stand and acknowledge it at the time). The week following, Sarai started having panic attacks, worrying that she or their other mutual friend, Jessica, would die soon. It got so bad that at one point she broke out into hives during the night, and she called her parents back in Montana to pray over the phone with her. They did. That night Sarai had a gift-dream from Lora. In it, she saw Lora walking towards her, smiling. "Lora!" she shouted, "You AREN'T dead, after all!" "No, Sarai, I am--but it's alright. Really! I'm very happy." Sarai said she and Lora walked around together, visiting, hugging and telling each other how much they loved one another, and over and over, Lora reassured Sarai that she was alright, and that she was very happy. Sarai awoke the next morning, and has not had a panic attack since that night. She told me she "knows that she knows" that she truly DID visit Lora that night--and that Lora is immensely happy living with the Lord in heaven.

Monday, December 20, 1999

It was 8 am. The alarm on my clock/radio went off and as if on cue, a song started playing. I held my breath--the singer sounded EXACTLY like Lora! She was singing "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," and I just froze, listening... tears welled up in my eyes, it was so real, as though Lora herself were serenading me awake. I called the radio station afterwards to find out the name of the album, and rushed down to the Christian bookstore to buy it... but when I played the song "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" ... it didn't sound like Lora at all! Then it hit me---it HAD BEEN LORA singing to me after all!! And I cried all the more, grateful to our Lord for His tender mercies to me at this difficult "first Christmas."

Sunday, December 26, 1999

An email from Sarai: "I wanted to share a story with you. Two weeks ago I hit black ice on the freeway and did a one eighty I ended up facing on coming traffic stopped in the highway. There was a car coming right at me and I was sure that this was it. I closed my eyes and said, 'Lora, I am coming home,' and when I opened my eyes the car that was about to hit me had gone around me. I can't help but think Jan that Lora was there watching out for me. I know that I would have been hit without some kind of interference from God I think that he sent Lora to watch out for me. I thought that you would like to know that your daughter is hard at work watching over her friends."

Monday, January 5, 2000

Email from Kelly, one of Lora's friends and her "accountability partner" at college: "Just wanted to tell you that Justin and I were in a car accident last week. We were going to Mansfield (by school) to watch a movie about 8 o'clock on Wed. We came up over a hill and though the roads were clear the snow had drifted on a part of the road...we lost control of the car and fished tailed left and right, then did a 180, crossed the center line, hit the ditch and flipped 1 1/2 times and landed on our side. Justin was driving my car and we landed on my side. We were wearing our seatbelts but I believe that by only the grace of God, we were spared. Not a single scratch on us. I don't know how but we came out of there in perfect condition. God and His angels (LORA) were watching out for me. The ironic thing that happened though was that in the side panels of my car we have these wooden crosses. Everything but the crosses were thrown around...the crosses stayed put. You can't tell me that is a coincidence."

Thursday, March 23, 2000

Email from Clem, one of Lora's friends from her high school youth group. "Ok, now that i just read love notes from Lora page 3 I am almost shaking...wow...I can't explain...well I can, and i will try to the best of my ability. Where to begin. Well I read what you wrote about seeing lora in Idaho dancing and worshiping to The Happy Song...I read that and I became jealous and angry. I didn't like the fact that the lord had taken lora and I didn't get to keep in touch with her. So often through our frosh year of College I would think "I wanna email Lora"...but then I would get side tracked, or think, "No, Lora doesn't wanna hear from me." So i wouldn't write a letter or a note or anything. The last time I had seen her was at our Senior Camping trip, and that was it. Well, I was angry and I started to pray...I said to God, "God, if you will just let me see that Lora is OK and happy I will be happy, I want a vision, I want Lora to visit me!" God told me to wait, and so I did...not too patiently I might add...but none the less I waited. And then one night it came...I saw Lora, I don't remember the whole thing now, because it was in about November or so (I think) but Lora was in a white robe, like the one on her web site. She pulled me aside and said to me that any grudges we held in highschool were no longer important, and that she was doing well, she loved heaven and couldn't wait to see the rest of us join her. I remember her telling me that praising with Jesus was the best thing imaginable. That is all I really remember...but that isn't the end of it. I was at an all city worship meeting in Seattle and it was right around Lora's 6 month mark...I knew my relationship with God had been slacking, and I remember asking God why he had to take my friend why Lora and just asking WHY WHY WHY...a question I know many of us ask often...well god didn't answer that question but he did send Lora again. She just smiled this time. That is all, a smile...maybe she said something, but all I can remember is a smile. Man that meant the world to me...to see her beaming smile to let me know it was all ok. Finally I heard something you said Jan...you said it at lora's grave side birthday party...you said that lora called you one night and said "momma, I don't care about rules, I just wanna fall in love with Jesus again." Those words echo through my life daily...Lora said those as a ministry...I can't explain it but WOW that is just how I feel, I wanna fall in love with Jesus again...and not bother with rules...just focus on what he tells me to do."