Sucking Lemons

 …..oh the giggles that would explode as we compared our reactions!!
“Mommy, it is SO SO delicious and sweet and so wonderful!!!!” (As her eyes lit up with such delight!)
“Gianna!!!, no no! its so completely sour and terrible, yuck, ewwwwww!!!” (scrunching my face up  with a look of disgust!)
 “NO, mommy….it is amazing! Trust me, it is wonderful!!! SEE!!!!
Try again!
keep trying!!
SEE how yummy it is”
 (how could I not try a lick with that smile convincing me?!)
She loves lemons. Ha…understatement.
 And if you have not noticed, I often use the present tense because she is very much alive in heaven and I bet she has all the same likes and loves in heaven that she had down here on this earth. Simply, because her spirit and soul were such strong GOD-given forces to contend with here on this earth, that I just know these attributes are just as strong and now perfected on the shores of eternity.
I can not wait to embrace all that fierceness in my arms  again!!!
 And my fierce tender warrior knew and knows what she loves! She could suck a whole lemon down in one sitting (pulp too, leaving only the rind) and she thought it was the most wonderful and pleasant treat ever.
She begged for lemons!
 I had to limit her to just a couple a week  because I worried about acid sores in her mouth starting.
I miss seeing her juicy plump lips smashed deeply into that beautiful bright yellow drippy fruit.
She would suck every last sticky drop of nectar out while the juice would roll slowly down her giggling chin and she would smile with  such pure satisfaction, biting down at the pulp,  squeezing her tiny fingers all the way around all that yellow goodness.
I will admit, She did make it looks SO VERY GOOD!!
 She made it look down right heavenly!!!
It was as if she was standing in her own little paradise and kissing the sun.
I was tempted many times to lick that lemon right alongside  her!
I even did at times when she persuaded me to!
How could I not!?
It made me giggle and wince at the same time… How can that be so good to her when it was so awful to me????????
But just watching her enjoy all that sourness of that juicy lemon brought me so much delight.
I smiled as she giggled.
Her joy was my joy!
I melted with her satisfaction and contentment and pleasure at each lemony smooch.
So much joy in her squishy sweet face and sticky cheesy smile.
I started to buy her lemon clothes and lemon cups to celebrate her unique Gia-obsession.
 If it had a lemon on it, it was hers!
Whenever I would try to eat a lemon with her, I would just giggle at the difference I felt about that sour icky fruit, compared to how she felt concerning her perfectly yellow succulent  fruit that was simply overflowing in her mouth.
I felt like it literally stung my mouth, almost biting me back with the rush of sour flavor on the back of my tongue….
 it made me tear up! Literally I cried!
I remember my face would be the one to scrunch up ….
” ouch, that is awful, Gia!!”
How could something that made her senses come to life with giggles and gladness and happiness cause me so much pain and discomfort and almost agony on my tongue.
The same fruit, the same reality…different perspectives.
I thought it was terrible, but how could I argue with the truth that was told all over her smile ….the smile that held such glee and gratification and joy????
It was so much fun teasing with her …she has the best sense of humor!
I miss giggling with her so much.
I miss bantering  back and forth then ending our tease sessions with a squishy kiss and tummy-tickles and her high-pitched squeals. I ACHE to squeeze her!!!!
Pondering those memories makes me weep so hard….the tears feel like they could drown me at times….. I can not even breathe because the ache just chokes me.
But these memories also make me dwell on the sweetness of heaven and the visions of eternity, and that amazing reunion that is promised…..
Somehow the yellow lemon makes me think of her in heaven.
 I  simultaneously feel the nearness of heaven like never before, yet I feel the  actual crushing sting and bitterness of death and separation that happens here on earth like never before.
One of the most difficult tensions I now find myself living in is the strain and contradiction and complexity of my new reality…my heart ripped in literal half.
There I live, Between two worlds.
 It is so painful to be separated from our sunshine….our squishy delightful sour -loving sweet Gia.
It hurts so deep.  I feel so lost without her.
It is a bitter bitter cup to have to accept and to allow the pain to move through me as it makes me keel over and scream.
though the pain is so loud in my heart and head….  the pain actually pulls me closer to an undeniable truth.
I sense Gods presence, even in the agony. An inner awareness of HIM.
 I am compelled by a TRUTH that reaches in deep under the trenches of my most intense pain to hold me….and it whispers hope and light to me in the midst of a dark  loud storm.
I, by HIS grace, know truth, and despite my loss….or dare I say, because of my great loss, I know truth like never before.
So there is this battle.
the pain at my NOW reality on earth.
My terrible horrible lemon.
 and the truth of her reality which is the most wonderful glorious indulgence of all her senses..
That is her amazing Gia- lemon!
Her real home that is promised to ALL believers!
She is in perfect paradise and smiling and shouting for joy high upon a rock!! Cuddling and loving on all the baby animals, riding ponies and maybe even unicorns (says Tolly), through the glorious waves and sitting on Jesus’ lap singing songs in the most beautiful voice imaginable…..sliding down vibrant rainbows with all the butterflies under a pink sky that never gets dark, picking all the fragrant colorful wild flowers and eating all the delicious. drippy, juicy fruit and walking and leaping through streets of gold….swimming with the most beautiful turtles, dolphins and starfish in the bluest  and most sparkly ocean laced with glitter…. (our loose interpretation…and our visions).
The greatest inner contradiction I have to grapple with is that her best day ever………
was our ABSOLUTE worst day ever.
Her Most delicious, drippy, sweet goodness of new life and her incredible leap heavenward through the gates of splendor……
 was our most bitter, sour and painful  surrender, and excruciating stab to our hearts.
Her catapult to heaven was our slaying on earth.
 chasing joy rock
This is where truth rages a battle with my feelings.
In the moments that we try to chase joy down, we do it with a sense that she is so close.
We do it with shattered hearts, but we do it to celebrate her, her life on earth and her incredible amazing reality and perfection and peace and sweetness and drippy nectar of eternal bliss…..
The eternal and peaceful beauty that all her senses now behold.
this grace, this knowledge of truth sometimes gets me up… allows me to breathe.
I get clarity.
But, then another wave knocks me down….they just do not relent! The tears overflow.
 ….the bitter, sour feelings of our loss and painful  separation ….. the ache and depression of not touching, holding, hugging and kissing her again on this side of eternity.
The moments that paralyze and sucker-punch me.
The pain is so cutting.
The wave just pounds over me even if I attempt to stand.
The emptiness of loss dreams and feelings of failed expectations from God.
  So many whys???!!!!
 So much wrestling. So much questioning.
It is just a big mess. A mess of emotions that kicks my butt most days.
It is a deep pit.
I do not know answers that I long to know.
I only know that I believe HE IS BIGGER.
I believe HE is good.
My faith has never felt stronger after glimpsing at eternity…however, I have never had more questions for God, of which I will always have on this side of the veil. The closer I get to HIM, the more questions I have.  The more I am called to surrender.
It is so hard to do “family” without Gianna physically being here.
Going out to eat at a restaurant with Gia…..all 9 of us…. was always a favorite activity….expensive (so we did not do it often) but SO MUCH FUN!!!
A real treat!
It is so hard to do that now without her…. yet it is something that we need to do and it truly brings bonding times for us.
(and thank you to all of you who gifted us with restaurant gift cards, they truly were  a needed blessing)
First of all, can I say how incredibly difficult this question is from the hostess after bravely walking through the doors:
HOSTESS:  “Hello, and how many of you are there in this party?”
US: “(in our head)
UGH……not that question again???!!!!
9….9..9 iT IS SUPPOSED TO BE NINE!!!!!!!!!!
but, its 8. 😦
And I HATE THAT!!!!!!
WE HATE THAT QUESTION, we hate that number.
Just seat us already, hostess person please!!
just stop asking us how many are physically here without  our Gia!!!!!
but only 8 are here!!!!
And it is horrible! TERRIBLE!!”
US: (said aloud):  its 9 but only 8 are here 😦
….yeah, Grief makes you kinda crazy.
Anyways, We have a new tradition when we are out to eat.
We now pass a lemon around the table and each of us takes a lick to honor our lemon obsessed Gia-Bia.
It usually gives us some giggles and silly faces and brings her and her smiles to the table with us.
The other night, at the restaurant I decided to go a bit further with my senses and instead of a light lick, I craved Gianna’s experience.
I craved her truth.
So, I bravely dug my teeth in deep for my baby girl,  and imagined her perspective as I absorbed and engulfed all that sour experience.
At first, the lemon bitterness bit me back….just like I expected.  But, I prepared for that.
It hurt bad. It stung me.
I knew it would.
But what I was not prepared for and noticed  was that with each additional  courageous bite, the lemon started to taste sweet and dare I say, yummy.
Or maybe the pain did not hurt as much because I could feel Gia’s delight rush through it and me?
Whatever it was, I wanted more. And I felt closer to her.
I believed her now!
Crazy I know?!
But the more I bit and drank that lemon, and imagined the joy on my Gia’s face as she used to have sucking her lemons,  the more I smiled and absolutely LOVED my  lemon!
yes, I wanted more!
I started to feel, taste and see that lemon through Gianna’s senses….through her eyes!
I had joy too! I giggled a little too.
The harsh became sweet…..At least for a few moments, and I was transported into Gia’s senses and it was so pleasing, peaceful and satisfying.
I laughed with the kids as to how I actually now liked that lemon….. the bite from the lemon didn’t win anymore.
MY delight and HER JOY won!
Her reality won.
This is a perfect picture of our new crisis. Our new crossroad. Our new contradiction. Our inner battle.
Giannas heavenly sweet  lemon?? Our heavenly promise?
our sour earthly lemon??…Our bitter loss?
Who’s eyes will we look through?
tolly hudson sunset
…there will be goodness in the land of the living, God’s word says it.
I cling to it and  I wonder how this can possibly be without my Gia?
But, when I let myself drink in these promises….dwell and  bathe in them with my precious family, a holy transformation happens in my heart.
I start to feel relief from my pit.
I feel lifted.
I feel grateful. So grateful.
I feel a small sliver of inner joy that breaks through and catches a ray of light like a prism of a new unexpected rainbow.
a small promise.
I feel hints of hope that let me catch my breath  till the next wave happens.
Sometimes I see HOPE, sometimes everything becomes so fuzzy.
I am so thankful that it is not an either/or choice.
Feelings do not define me or define  truth.
Truth wins despite my craziness.
In this valley, my  family is learning that bitterness and sweetness, pain and thankfulness,  now co-exist in everything we do without her.
  Sometimes the seesaw will teeter-totter a little more in either direction but it is not one or the other anymore.
Sometimes, one totally wins and the other is out of sight….but it is always there like a faint whisper in the background.
HIS promises do not change despite my ever-changing feelings and wrestling.
 the constant tug on our hearts between out  eternal sweet glorious home in heaven, and the stuck feeling of the ache of this earth without our Gia…..
a crushing reality of the NOW.
the pull for HEAVEN
the now of earth…
The sweetness of heaven
The bitterness of a broken earth
My prayer every day is that Jesus would give us HIS eyes…..Eyes that see earth in view of eternity.
I beg HIM for the courage to choose THANKFULNESS in our deepest moments of pain…..our gateway to the ray of light in the darkness.
And I beg him for the courage to chomp down hard on this sour lemon and taste the sweetness that can ooze out around all the overflowing pain….
I pray for “Gia- lemon JOY” with every step forward that we are forced to take without her here.
It’s a never-ending earthly conundrum that impacts us like never before.
Half of our hearts are in heaven.
Our eyes have seen HIS glory.
tolly sunset
We are homesick for the sweetness of heaven. Earth feels so painful at times….so painful.
…Will I catch her smiles…Will I chase joy  or will I succumb to deep pits of sorrow. 
Who knows?

It changes minute to minute.  

It’s a constant battle for my senses and my heart….and my brain.
but  I  have this promise of heaven that will always outweigh and out-win our broken world.
Jesus overcomes death ….
 TRUTH IS the light in our darkness. For that I am so thankful!
Satan’s head has been crushed, death has NO victory!
GIA won!
isabella tolly
This light now shines brighter than it ever did before.
More brilliant and more defined.
It chases away the darkness.
Or perhaps darkness was never so dark as it is now, and  now we can SEE the light like never before.
facing darkness allows us to see brighter light and strengthen our faith and HOPE.
Everything changed that night when we got to peak in beyond that veil that separates heaven and earth.
We saw what true glory-filled light looks like.
It draws you in… brings such comfort.
The night Gianna went to heaven, at 12 am on April 22…there we were…. on HOLY GROUND….
We were Able to see just enough of GLORY to know ITS TRUE…all true!!
 A moment where our souls were breaking out in worship as we walked our  baby to Jesus.
Miraculously, he gave us eyes to see.
Tears pouring, voices lifted, arms surrendered. wails and groans with praises and songs.
Compelled to join the chorus of angels who were welcoming our precious gem into eternity !
There was a light like no other……Just a glimpse…. but this glimpse brought us to our knees and gave us an unexplainable peace and surrender.
Gia with Jesus….her most delightful and wonderful moment.
HER VICTORY. Her chains broken.
Her most wonderful eternity.
Incredible clarity was the gift from those surrendering painful moments at heaven’s gates.
God is enough. He is with us.
A light in the darkness.
The gift of that holy glimpse helps us to chase Gia’s lemons.
It Helps us to courageously choose to bite down deep into HIS truth so the goodness and sweetness of HIS promises can drip out and outweigh our moments of  despair!
LORD, help us when our feelings win and we find ourselves in a sour pit of muck and mire.
Lift us out with your powerful heavenly reminders. Sometimes we are just so weak and weary, but I know your strength is perfected in our weaknesses.
Help us to see your starlight in the darkness. Held us to taste and see that YOU ARE GOOD!

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

(psalm 27:13-14)


gia tolly necklace



One of Giannas favorite songs is King of my heart,

I still hear her in my head demanding and battling with my lemon perspective when I am tempted to only taste sour painful bitterness.
I hear her chanting to me
It’s all true, mama!! IT IS SO GOOD!!!!!!
Taste and see that the LORD IS GOOD!!!!
Better than lemons!!!
When I am tempted to let my heart believe THAT I will not see goodness today, this moment or ever …I still hear her shouting
HE IS GOOD GOOOD GOOOOOOOOOD!!!!! I am sharing her slide show video from her celebration service.  She is singing with sissy in these clips.
“King of my heart” is towards the end.
Her spirit and love for Jesus and her family shines through in everything she does. We miss her so much!
JESUS… us to bite hard on that lemon and taste your goodness as we grieve in  this bitter valley of loss.
HELP us to see starlight.
Please WOW us with your sweetness…your goodness in the land of the LIVING !!!!!
WE MISS YOU SO MUCH GIA!!!! We love you so much forever.
Save us some of those heavenly sweet lemons, sweet girl!
Every lemon we lick will be a reminder of your smiles and joy and of how GOOD God is, even amidst our searing pain.
“No, mommy…
.it is amazing! Trust me, it is wonderful!!!
Try again!
keep trying!!
SEE how yummy it is!!!!
you are so right!!
It is amazing and wonderful just like you said!!!!
Let’s enjoy it together, sweet baby girl! Let’s enjoy it TOGETHER FOREVER!!
UGH…… sweet sweet day, ONE sweet day sweet baby, mommy misses you and your drippy sweet squishy kisses SO MUCH!”
 I am not sure what this journey of writing and sharing will look like in this space because I literally feel like I crawl one step forward and fall  hard 40 steps backwards.
 I only desire to write with honesty.
HOPE with wrestling.
Wrestling with HOPE.
An anchor of Faith, yet an ocean of questions and fist shaking.
An abiding trust in a GOD who never changes and never gives up on us.
 It is my heart.
I feel insane at times.
I am sure David did too, He lamented and HE wrestled.
I am so thankful GOD included those struggles for us to read, so we don’t feel alone in our darkest times.
To you, Lord, I call;
    you are my Rock,
    do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
    I will be like those who go down to the pit. (psalm 28:1,2)
 my heart feels like a huge raging storm is going on inside it.
Sometimes, He feels so far. Sometimes He feels so close.
I want her and her heavenly lemons!!
I want to taste and SEE that the LORD IS GOOD!
 I know that facing the darkness and biting down hard into his promises is my doorway to the light and joy.
It is my rescue moment to moment.
It is only by HIS grace that I can even write those words.
Because my eyes are so puffy from crying all day today and everyday.
But, this is where we drop anchor among the tsunami waves.
 We grieve an unbearable weight of sadness ……but we grieve with a HOPE that does not falter.
I will declare truth even when I do not feel it and when I  have lost my focus, I will go back and read these words.
Because there is power in a declaration!
rock garden
I can not pretend not to know truth even in my wrestling.
Just as David ended each aching, lamenting psalm with a vow to praise, I will do the same, despite my feelings….



Praise be to the Lord,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.

The Lord is the strength of his people,
    a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
    be their shepherd and carry them forever.

  psalm 28:6-9 

ps. To those who wonder what to say to the “grieving and bereaved parent”… gentle advice is to simply say nothing, except that you love them and weep with them. 
No words at all is better than advice or your perspectives or your opinion. 
Though well-intentioned, I am sure, those sorts of comments are useless, and even sometimes hurtful at this stage because grief is SO ultra personal and sensitive.  Simply aching with us and hoping with us is very comforting.  
Remember their beautiful treasure with them. Listen to them.
The most helpful thing, personally to us, is knowing that you are praying for us and interceding for us in these moments of crashing waves.   Prayer is a needed gift and a lifeline. We are so thankful for our village and community of love and support.  
 I am so thankful that earth is not my HOME.
I am thankful for HOPE.
I am thankful for the assurance of HEAVEN. 
WE ARE SO THANKFUL for our beautiful Gia-bia and the gift she is to us forever.
I am thankful that our future ahead of us with Gianna is far greater and more wonderful than our past with her.
Though, it is so very hard to even conceive that truth with our humanly frail minds.
We choose to believe.
Each day….one day closer.
HOLD me, Jesus.


4 thoughts on “Sucking Lemons

Add yours

  1. I continue to prayer for you and weep with you in your grief. She is such a joy and is missed! Thank you for sharing !


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