All These Things Are Decisions

My father would have been 55 years old today. It has been six years since he passed away. The month of November is always difficult. Celebrating the month of All Souls, the anniversary of his death, Remembrance Day and then his birthday. The end of Autumn. The darkness of winter creeping in. Without fail every year this is the time I find it most difficult to hold on to my hope.

This morning I woke up remembering as if for the first time that I would never hear him laugh again. Hot tears rolling down my face and into my hot coffee. My heart in my throat.

Then my three children woke up and the day began. Hot eggs to make, cups to be filled, a diaper to change. It felt like a carousel that I couldn’t get off. Helping little bodies dress, make beds, dishes to be washed and a dishwasher to be emptied. What is for supper tonight? Oh yeah, we need to do reading lessons and you know, *school*. As a mother there is often very little time to just feel how you feel. There is always something to do, someone to hug and read to. I am so grateful for this. Holding my six week old daughter when my father died is possibly the only thing that kept me from being swallowed whole by grief. She needed to eat. I had to stop. Slow down. Remember my body. Drink water. Take a nap. Change a diaper.

This morning I was tempted like I haven’t been in previous years to just turn on the TV for the kids and go crawl into my bed and hide. That isn’t like me. I can usually offer my pain at the feet of the One who knows me. Who made my heart to feel the good and the ugly. Not today though. I went searching in my closet for an old letter from my dad. Searching for some wisdom or validation that I am okay. I will be okay. But before I could find one, I came upon an old typed up letter from his mother, my grandmother, who died just a few short months before my father.

What my eyes fell upon shook me to my core. The irony. The incredible strength. The wisdom. I had to share it with you here, friends, because I know with certainty that there are those of you who struggle from day to day as I do, to choose JOY. Not happiness as that seems to come and go with circumstances but I mean an overriding joy that comes from knowing who made me and who loves me.

Letter to my grand-daughter Katie

Now that she is Sixteen


Dear Katie:

When I was a little girl of six years old, I was being prepared for my first Communion, which was a lovely May day. My mom had made me a white dress of tulle, new shoes and also Mum had made a little coat, it was beige. At some time during the day the thought came to me that I promised myself I would always be happy, at least try to be always happy!
“Is that all?” you might say.

However that was quite a promise for a little six year old. I learned much later as a woman of 40 or so that love, hate, unhappiness, happiness, all the emotions we have- all these things are decisions. I didn’t know it then as a little girl, that I had made a decision. I just knew that I was determined that life would be happy for me and that I was going to work very hard to make it so. I knew God was going to help me. I even knew the big blue sky that was all around me was bigger than me and yes, even bigger than my parent. My father had passed away when I was three years old. I knew he loved me. My brothers and sisters told me so. Even the Holy Spirit within me (whom I did not know of as yet) filled me with wonder of creation.

How fortunate for that little girl to be able to think and have the kind of wisdom that much older people search for all of their lives. And where did this wisdom come from, you might wonder. Well, you have the answer within you. It came from a loving God who gives it to you as well.

I can say now at my age, and I am 75 years old, it worked. My decision to try to be happy was a firm one. Has my life been easy? Not always. I’ve had my shares of sorrow, pain (emotionally and physically) but through it all I remembered my decision to be happy in spite of the circumstances, because I knew my God was watching over me and that He had a plan for my life. The bad things would pass, I knew, I only had to believe in His plan for me.

It is not too late for you, my dear, to make such a decision on your own. I urge you to do it, even if it sounds silly  to you. Trust your Memere that it will work for you too.

My wish for you is that you will make the decision to be happy and that you will think carefully on the things that will make you truly happy. By truly happy, I mean to think carefully before you make choices that come your way so that when you are an old woman (and old age will come to you too, my dear, as it has to me), you can look back on your life with no regrets.

This is the way I can look back now on life. There are no regrets. I have done what was honorable. Did I make mistakes? Oh, yes, lots, but I like to think I never repeated the same mistake twice. With each mistake I learned; sometimes the learning was most painful. But, every human being makes mistakes-none is perfect, only God is perfect.

I asked God for patience in my life so that I could wait for opportunities I knew he would send me. All the while I continued to improve myself through reading, taking courses of different kinds, listening to those wiser than myself, choosing what seemed best for me. I would talk it over with God before making the choice. Talking things over with God is called Prayer. That’s all prayer is, just talking to God as I am talking to you now.

The opportunities came and when they did, I recognized them immediately. How did I recognize the right ones you ask? There seemed to be a certainty about the opportunity. It seemed to come at exactly the right time. I had a feeling inside that told me “this is it!” You too will know when an opportunity comes and it is right for you. You can simply say inside of you: “is this the one, Lord?” and He will answer. He will give you a confident feeling about it, whatever the opportunity will be. Whatever the opportunity might be, however God has given you a free will to handle it whatever way you want to. You can choose how to live out that opportunity. Will you decide to be kind to the people involved in the opportunity? Will you decide to treat them as you would want to be treated? When angry, will you take your anger out on them? Will you let jealousy rule your life? I’ve been there on occasions when you were not very nice to your siblings. Perhaps you should really give some thought to how you are around your family. These are all decisions you must make as you live out your life.

As to decisions, if you are not aware that all these things are decisions that you must make yourself, you will live a life of drifting from one thing to another, never satisfied. You will feel that you have no control in your life, which is not true. You alone have control of your life as an adult, for you are, now that you are sixteen.

Memere prays that you will use all the wisdom that God the Father gives you to live a good life, one that you can look back on with pride of accomplishment, but all the time remembering to thank God, who helped you through it all. Maybe some day, you’ll have a granddaughter yourself and maybe when she’s 16, you might want to write her as I’ve done for you.

You are very dear to my heart and I pray constantly that God will watch out for you, if you let Him and trust in Him. I love you, Katie

Memere Toner



I am thankful for the heritage of faith my grandmother has left for me. I pray that I can be as discerning and wise as she became in her lifetime. I hope that I can look with kindness on my husband and children when I am feeling unkind. I hope to be the grandmother she was to me.

Take these words as I did, friends and let them remind you that no matter how life is treating you right now, you get to decide what you do with that. We get to stop navel gazing and call a friend or put on a pot of coffee and invite the neighbors over. Maybe we can’t choose our feelings but we can make a choice what to do with them and how to express them.


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4 thoughts on “All These Things Are Decisions

  1. My Memere too has been a huge faith mentor for me. She lost three children and her husband died young, and at the end a lot of physical pain. But she always clung to her rosary and to the God that your grandmother talks about. She too chose to be confident that God had a plan and she was an amazing light for so many.

    Thanks for this, Katie.

  2. What a wonderful blessing your grandmother was to you Katie, I pray every day that the Lord gives me wisdom and insight like this, often I make mistakes, but the children and grandchildren He has blessed me with are indeed a gift, I choose every day to put them and their needs before my own, and every night I can go to bed and know that although I may have made wrong choices, the choice to put my children and grandchildren before myself, is always the right choice. God bless you richly Katie as you raise your children and instill the values that your Grandmother so lovingly passed on to you. she sounds like a remarkable lady.
    My Dad passed away eight years ago and there are days just as you described that I want to curl up in a little ball and disappear or lash out in anger at those who are around me because of my feelings of anger he is no longer with me.Never in the eight years since he has been gone have I indulged myself in a pity or anger party, not because I am such a good person ,rather because I have a Heavenly Father who wraps his arms around me just like my Dad would do if he was here, and He tells me everything is going to be alright….. and that my dear is always good enough for me to know to wipe my tears and carry on with life the way my Dad would want me to. Your Dad would be very proud of the young woman you have turned into so take comfort in the knowledge that your Heavenly Father loves you so much more and has much bigger hugs than your earthly Father ever could have.

  3. That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I pray that as you come to the seasons of sorrow you will gradually discover little joys filling spaces that seemed never to be filled again.

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