Friday, December 6, 2013

Justin Gifford

Justin York Gifford 1971-2013 video

As Christmas is upon us I can't help but be amazed Justin will spend Christmas in Heaven.  Our hearts are sad as we miss him so very much. As we see the children without a father and Holly without a husband, it is nothing short of heart breaking. While we experience the magic of Christmas and contemplate Mary, Joseph, the angels and baby Jesus, I wanted to write about how we experienced Heaven for three days on earth after Justin' s passing.  It really is beyond words but I will do my best in sharing with you the beauty that transpired through such grief and heart ache. Heaven and earth united the week of Justin's death as we mourned the loss of our great friend, brother, son, husband and daddy.  I hope Justin's children can find comfort in this someday down the road when they ask God why He took their daddy so soon. This page is something tangible for us all.....proof of our faith that we proclaim as Christians and proof that Heaven is not "somewhere up there"....but dwelling among us.

Heaven was descending to receive Justin into the hands of Jesus way before his death on July 28, 2013. Not only was God preparing a place for Justin as He promises in scripture, He was preparing Heaven to be with those who Justin left behind. My four children and I were fortunate enough to spend three weeks in June on the ranch with Justin, Holly and the kids. There was something special about my time there.....I couldn't put my finger on it then but I felt it was different.  I now know Heaven was upon us.

It was the evening of June 7th, Feast Day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus....a very special Feast Day in particular to our family because the church our great grandparents built in Spearman is named Sacred Heart Catholic Church.  The following day, June 8th, is the Feast Day of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Feast days are celebrations in the Catholic church so we were celebrating this friday night, June 7th. The ranch had been in a severe drought for three years and Justin prayed fervently with his family for rain.  That evening it poured rain for the first time in months and Holly looked out the window and said, "Oh my gosh, there is a full rainbow!" So we all ran outside to see a full rainbow covering the ranch....right in the middle of the rainbow was the grotto Justin and Holly had been dreaming of to place a statue of the Sacred heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary along with a large cross.  They were hoping for a place to go as a family to pray and for others to visit and find peace. Next to the grotto under the rainbow stood the 30' red windmill Justin had built with his own two hands to replace the old working wooden windmill that had stood as a landmark for the ranch for almost 100 years.  We knew this was a special grace.....we knew the rain and the full rainbow was a sign from Heaven of some sort....we knew Heaven was upon us.  The next evening, June 8, the Feast Day of the Immaculate heart of Mary, the rain poured down again on the parched land.  This time, the children danced joyfully in the rain and the boys ran out to the pasture to reach the end of the rainbow right next to the windmill.  Again, Holly knew this evening was from Heaven.  Heaven was upon us preparing to take Justin away.
Justin and Holly
Feast of the Sacred Heart
June 8, 2013

June 8th

Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
June 9, 2013

Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
June 9, 2013

There continued to be immense joy during my stay.  The kids jumping into Uncle Klinty's pond with the biggest smiles and laughs I've ever seen.  Justin took the boys camping which made an everlasting impression on not only his sons but his nephews as well.  Justin went all out when he took the boys camping with a full dinner, dessert and a pancake breakfast the next morning!

Uncle Klinty's Pond
Everyone jumped in including Holly!

Simplicity of life brings the greatest joys.

Everytime we would head into town during my stay, we would pass a wheat field and Holly would say, "Okay everybody! Look for my deer!"  And one day we saw him jumping through the field and I was able to get a picture. Also during my stay, Justin talked alot about the Grotto he wanted to build up in the canyons.  Justin was a very prayerful man and wanted to make a place of prayer on the ranch....we would even load up in the gator with a glass of wine and go dream about how he wanted to build the grotto and where he wanted to place the statues and cross.  On Father's Day we grilled out and he talked to Joe T. (Pappy) about it and he agreed and thought it would be a great idea.  

Just a few weeks before Justin's death, Holly called me and told me she went on a walk on the country road early one morning.  She said she felt God's presence so strong and heard sounds from when she was a little girl and smelled smells that reminded her of her childhood.  She told me, "Kim, I think God is coming to get someone.  I can just feel it." 

The morning of July 28, 2013 as Holly came upon the horrific scene, she ran to Justin, who lying peacefully in the pasture.  She said he looked as if he was sleeping.  A hispanic truck driver came up the scene at the same time.  As she sat with Justin while the sun was rising, she held his hand and prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.  She asked the truck driver to pray along with her and he prayed in harmony in Spanish.  A wooden cross that his 8 year old son, Joe T. built is now standing on this sacred holy ground where his daddy ascended to Heaven.  

The next three days of preparation, prayer, mass and burial was, as strange as it may sound, Heaven on earth.  Holy Spirit filled moments and God's grace showered over us.  Pure, peaceful, unexplainable moments admist such hurt, sorrow and pain.  "Thy Kingdom come thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven..." Holly knew he had to be buried on the ranch and it was so neat to see our neighboring farming friends come together to bring their equipment to help dig the grave. For the whole family to be there while they were digging and to see our brother, Klint, get down in the grave with a shovel to smooth it out and get it just right was such a witness of loved ones burying loved ones. When Gus knew they were going to dig the grave, he grabbed his shovel and said he was going to help.  You can see in the pictures the peace and joy in family and friends working together to prepare such a sacred place of burial.  

The evening after the burial, Holly and I and our two special friends who we traveled with to Medjugorje, got a glass of wine and walked up to the canyons where Justin had just been laid to rest.  Holly was standing over the grave as we sat on a blanket.  All of the sudden a wind came from nowhere and chilling breeze (in July) came upon us.  I felt as if we were in the upper room with the disciples as the Holy Spirit descending upon them.  We knew Justin was with us. And as we sat and felt this incredible wave from Heaven, here came the rain pouring down while the sun was setting....a moment that could have only been orchestrated by Heaven. 
Around the grave that evening when the wind and rain came. 

The following day was the memorial mass in Amarillo.  As we were leaving the ranch early that morning and was passing by the wheatfield, Holly says out loud, "Lord, send me a deer today to let me know Justin is with you and that everything is going to be okay.." She looked for a deer the whole way to Amarillo, just yearning for something to warm her greiving heart.  When the Mass and luncheon were over, I felt such sadness and lonliness as I watched Holly ride off in the car.  I thought to's over and now comes the long, unbearable days. But on that third day on the way home from Amarillo, a miracle occured....something we couldn't have dreamed of or imagined.  During the mass of Rememberance in Amarillo, our dear friend, Kyle, was working on a pathway from Justin's grave to the soon to be Grotto Justin had been dreaming of.  He took a picture of a mama deer and baby deer standing directly on top of the Grotto overlooking the gravesite! When Holly saw this picture she KNEW Justin was happy with Jesus and that everything was going to be okay. The amazing thing is that deer are never in the canyons.  In all my dad's life on the ranch, he has never seen deer in the canyons.  
A week later, our brother Klint, whom Justin loved dearly, was walking up to check on things at the site when a huge buck was standing right there at grave!  God speaks through nature and these are all no doubt Heaven speaking to our family!  What a gift from Heaven this was for all of us.  
A mama deer with her baby directly above the grotto sight. Kyle was at the grave when he took this picture.

The past five months, little miracles have continued to happen and Heaven continues to speak.  The ranch received so much rain after Justin's death that my brother will not have to sell his cattle and he had the best corn crop ever!  I have seen Justin at work in my family and our life as well.  I am reminded of the saying from one of Holly's favorite Saints, Therese of Liseaux.  Before dying at an early age she said, "I shall spend Eternity doing good on earth."  And I believe this is exactly what Justin is doing....he is busy as always, with that serious look, on a mission just helping us all out!  Can't you just hear him? "Okay, Jesus, I took care of that. What's next?"  Justin loved helping people here on earth and don't you know he takes such delight in Heaven doing the same. 

Holly and the kids talk about him all the time and their hearts ache from missing him so much. After what we all have experienced in the passing of Justin from this life to the next, we have no doubt our loved ones are  just a breath away. Although the children can not see their daddy, he will be right next to their side all the days of their life.  Cheering them on, teaching them, and loving them.  This life is but a blink of an eye and before we all know it after taking our last breath, we will see Justin's handsome face welcoming us into Heaven and beaming with his beautiful smile saying, "Wait till you see this place!" And then tearing off in his hurried walk raising his hand saying "Come on, let me show you around and introduce you to the Boss!" 

This Christmas season I hope after reading this you will pause for a moment and think of Justin and all he was to you in this life.  Maybe you will laugh, maybe you will cry but we all know what Justin wants us to do....get busy living, have fun and don't worry about a thing...cause every little thing is gonna be alright.  

We love you, Justin. We will forever miss you. Until we meet again....