Sherri Lessman: A Grandmother’s Grief and Healing


Sherri Lessman is an active member of Acts Church in Waco, Texas.

She’s married to her precious husband, Dean. They’ve been married for 39 years. They have four grown children and 11 grandchildren, with one on the way.

Transcript
Donna Woolam:

Hello everyone. It's just so good to be with you again and I have the incredible honor and pleasure of having Sherri Lessman with me today and Sherry. has a story that is very unique and a point of view that we don't get to hear very often. And I'm not going to tell her story, I'm going to let her tell her story. But she lives outside of Marlin, Texas on a small ranch, and she is taking care of her two grandchildren right now. They go to school right near her. She's married to her precious hus band Dean. They've been married for 39 years. Congratulations, Sherry. That's incredible. Wonderful. They have four grown children and 11 grandchildren with one on the way. And as we began to hear her story, you're going to hear her talk about her faith in the Lord and how all of the things that her life has been. And Sherry, just thank you so much for being with us today.

Sherri Lessman:

You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

Donna Woolam:

Oh, it's incredible. It's such an honor and a pleasure to have you here. So one of the things I like to do, just so people can get to know you a little bit better is to just ask you, what do you, what's a regular day like for you now. If you're taking care of two small children, I'm sure that's busy, but could you tell us just a little bit about what life is like? Can you just on the every day?

Sherri Lessman:

Yeah. I get up. I pray and read my Bible with my husband. That's our first thing. And then our little grandkids come. They're three and four. No, no, there are four and five now. And a lot of times we'll you know, just get settled and everything. And then after a while we'll go out and work on the, I call it a farm it's really a ranch. We don't grow crops. And we will clear, we've got lots of land to clear and so we'll do that and they'll play out there and in the, what I call the woods, and then sometimes I bring in lunch for them and they'll sit back on the back of the truck, come back, learn their letters and then they take their nap and and then I get to, to rest for a little while. So yeah, that's pretty much, pretty much of our day right now. We've been doing a lot of baseball too in the evening. They're all in baseball. T-ball.

Donna Woolam:

That sounds like fun. And it's a beautiful time of year for that. It's just so beautiful. This particular time of year, wherever you are listening to this, I hope that you're having beautiful weather too. So Sherry, I told everyone that we're going to have a very unique and beautiful story. And what I would love is just in your own words for you to just tell us about the situation that you and your family found yourself in and what that was like for you.

Sherri Lessman:

Okay. Well, it's been a long time ago really, but it in a lot of ways seems like yesterday that my my oldest daughter Summer had a, a baby named Emma. So she was pregnant with Emma and doctors told her early on that there was some problems. So we, we knew that there were problems. We realized that they were pretty serious problems with the heart. And Summer really had faith and, and oh, we posted scripture. She posted scriptures all around our house and we just believed that God was gonna heal this baby even before she was born. But when she was born She wasn't healed. And Summer was pretty devastated then because she had so much faith. I mean, she really believed that the baby would be born there being nothing wrong, but she had some serious heart problems and realized in the next couple of days in the hospital, that there was more. Summer knew that the baby just cried and cried and cried. She couldn't settle her down. She couldn't feed her, she wouldn't eat. And she just knew the baby just wasn't acting right. They had to do heart surgery before they ever, ever left the hospital and that, that devastated her even more and they they went home and every day things just seemed to get worse with the baby. And like I said, I mean, she wouldn't, she wouldn't eat and they took her back to the doctor of course. And she was diagnosed with Alagille syndrome. Yeah. So we had never heard of this, but it is very rare syndrome. And what it is is vascular disease and where all of the vessels in the body are either very, very small or non-existent. And so it affects so much. It affected her heart because of the vessels in our heart. And. It affected her liver because of the bile duct it's in the liver of, out of the liver. And out of that we learned that the liver would not process the bile. And because of that, she itched all the time because bile has a lot of salt, it has salt in it. So that was one of the first things that I mean was truly, I mean, just so distressing to think that this baby was itching all the time, all the time, and that they gave her medicine and stuff that helped with that, but she still itched all the time. So that was kind of just a horrible realization. And one of the many things that we realized, you know, we, we can't do anything about this, you know, it's just the way it is. And so as Summer you know, as the baby grew a little bit older I just saw Summer start sinking. She, the, the baby couldn't sleep because of the itching. And she never would eat. These babies with Alagille syndrome are, are very malnourished. And so I saw Summer just really, really sinking. And I'm so thankful for a good husband that she had. He really, he tried to hold the family together. He was he's a teacher. He was going to work every day. Summer was at home trying to take care of the baby. And they have a, they had a two year old. But both of them, were really dealing with a lot of fear and Summer was getting very depressed. And so I was going up there. I was working also, I'd go up there every weekend from work and, and be up there all weekend. And sometimes I would just drive back to work and I wouldn't, you know, I just, I wanted to help her as much as I could. And there wasn't a lot I could do. You know what I could do was to relieve her because they, they weren't getting to sleep either because Emma didn't sleep. So they were up like all night and just so stressed. So when I came up, I could relieve them and at least they got to sleep. So that was one thing I could do. But then my work, I mean, I was very tired from doing that. And my work ended up later giving me two, two more days off. It was like the greatest gift. They gave me two days off paid, paid leave. And so I would go on Thursday and Friday and butted up to the weekends so I could be there four days. Summer lived about three hours away from me. So that's why I couldn't just like go after work or something. And so I would go up there and I was just determined to like hold Summer together. And I was determined to, you know, will Emma to live because a lot of these babies do die. And if they don't die, they don't have a very long life maybe 20 years. But I was just determined and I see now that it was a lot of my own pride. I wasn't really relying on God that much. I was praying I was, you know, believing, but. It's like, I was going to do it. I was going to make this happen. At the same time, my husband just kind of had, you know, had a word, not really a word from God, but he knew in his spirit that Emma wasn't going to live. So we were two completely different. You know, very, very different with what we were thinking and I wouldn't hear of it that she wasn't gonna live. So so I would go up there and help Summer and still had a lot of faith that, that God was going to heal her. But but Emma got sicker and sicker and sicker. They put a PICC line in her and they started feeding her with TPN. Well, they always had tried to feed her with a G-tube. But she, she wouldn't take in enough nutrition. So they use this stuff called TPN and I forget what that stands for, but it's highly nutritious, but sometimes so they would just pump that in and she, it, it was on a pump and they would pump that into her stomach. And her little stomach was just so full. Sometimes she'd throw it up and it was, it was just terrible. It was really just heartbreaking, you know? And then so as time went on, her, her liver started to, to fail and so she always had this, this great tan. It was just because she was yellow, you know because in her liver wasn't working right right. And anyway, her liver was failing. We wanted her to, to have a liver transplant and she actually got on the transplant list. It's hard to find a baby liver you know. So we're waiting and waiting. And as we waited, she got sicker and sicker. So I, I decided I was going to lose weight. I found out I didn't know this before, but you can have a live liver transplant. Oh, wow. Yeah, they take the bottom lobe of your liver. And they can transplant it and it will grow. And the person, the donor, their liver will grow back. Oh my goodness. Yeah. Wow. So I was overjoyed. I was like, I am going to give her my liver and again, you know, I'm going to make her live. So anyway, so I was losing weight because the liver had to fit. Summer and Mike's home turned into a virtual ICU unit. I mean, she had IV IV I mean, through the PICC line we fed her and everything and She had, I can't remember why she had yeah, I guess that was the PICC line in her arm. It was in her arm. And anyway, It was just harder and harder. She was in and out of the hospitals all the time. She would have these crisises, but finally on December 7th she went to the hospital. Summer called me and she didn't normally call me. She knew I was coming that morning and she called me and. She said, "Mama hurry. I need you to come now." So I knew that I knew this if something really bad was going on and lots of bad things went on with Emma. So, you know, there was always this hope, like, no matter how bad it got, she always pulled through. So it would be okay. You know, but I rushed up there and. we rushed to the hospital and they air flighted her to Dallas hospital and she was septic. And so she was still living and we were still believing that she would live no matter what. And I remember the, doctor saying that you know, she, she couldn't live and I just, I made him say it was possible. It's possible. He finally said, well, I mean, yeah, it's, I mean, it's possible, you know, if this, this and this happens and I'm like, okay, well it's possible. Then she'll live. Anyway, he didn't believe it, but I did. So we all stayed by her side and and seven days later she died.

Donna Woolam:

Oh, Sherry.

Sherri Lessman:

So, yeah.

Donna Woolam:

And how old was she? How old was she?

Sherri Lessman:

She was 11 and a half months

Donna Woolam:

My goodness.

Sherri Lessman:

And that was a hard thing. It was, two weeks before her birthday. And it was right before Christmas. And so she passed away and I had just come back from the hospital. I'd been up there, but I had just come back and and then they, they called and in my car, just so you know, I was so thankful for Mike, because he was, he was so strong for Summer and he was going through so much too. Yeah. But he called and just said, her heart just keeps stopping and they're doing CPR, but, and then you know, then it stops a gain and, and, but they can't stop until Summer and Mike told them too. So it was really heart-rending and we we rushed back up there to Dallas. And I remember just saying to Dean, you know, this can't happen, this can't happen. Like, you know, cause I was like, we can't, I can't, I can't do this, you know? And mainly that Summer, Summer couldn't do it. I just, I just didn't know how she could get through it. And we went in there. And there she was. And you know, it was just the most surreal thing, you know, she's holding this little dead baby and just and she, and she was trying to comfort me, you know, she's like, "She's done Mama she's she's she's, doesn't have to fight anymore and she she's, she can rest now." But, just tears, just, you know and so we, you know, I got to hold her and it's just su rreal to walk out of a hospital room and like leave her there. And it just, no one knows how to do that, you know. Right away, Satan began to work with me. So right away I was angry. Summer and Mike are such, they're very such good, good people and good parents, and really loved this baby. And I was like, why, you know, why would you let her die when they believed so strongly? They knew you were gonna you know, help them and you didn't and why didn't you answer our prayers and why, why would an innocent child, why would you allow an innocent child to suffer, you know, or anyone to suffer? Why a suffering and why take a child from parents that love her so much when there's others out there that don't, and I, I just couldn't understand. So my, my heart was so confused and so full of pain, and it's kind of a double, it's kind of a double pain for grandparent because, you know, I really loved Emma, but I saw my, my child, you know, suffering so much, and and I saw her husband, you know, just suffering and they having to be strong and they were going to have to go home and talk to their little two year old and tell her, and you know, it's just, all this pain is all around everybody, you know? Yes. So but we could never feel the kind of pain that they felt. I know. But as far as a grandparent, we had this extra thing with watching our child right. And our grandchild, you know? But so after that we we did what we could and there was not a whole lot that I felt like we could do, you know, how could we really help them? And so. We we decided to make a big garden for Emma and that ended up, you know, I felt like there would be life there, you know? And that ended up being very, very therapeutic for Summer more than more than we knew, I just, I wanted her to have something. Just to remember Emma. We got some of the little, the little garden statues and it, at least it was something that we could do together that might be considered kind of fun for Summer and Mike you know. So we went out and got all that and our whole family came together and we, we got all that stuff to make a garden and we did it one day and it was a very sweet you know, day.

Donna Woolam:

That's just beautiful. That's beautiful.

Sherri Lessman:

Yeah, it was, you know, I was reading the other day in the Bible about the woman that broke the perfume on Jesus' feet. Yes. And Jesus told the Pharisees that were, you know, upset with her. And he said, leave her alone. She's done what she could. And I had never noticed that before, but I think that's so profound really, you know? You just do what you can. And sometimes it's not, you know, not a really big thing. It might just be buying some plants for a garden. But I made a little scrapbook for Summer about Emma with pictures and cards people had sent and then and then it was Christmas and, you know, I can't imagine how they got through Christmas, but they did. They came to our house and you could just see the pain and the sadness on their face. But but you know, again, there, they were just so brave, you know, they just, they just do what they have to do. And I made sure I got a real special little ornament and I wanted Summer to know that. You know, we may have lost her, but that she's still ours. Yeah. you know

Donna Woolam:

It's beautiful. It's so beautiful. So, Sherry, I had a question for you about that because I know in the place where you are now, that you are a woman of great faith. And you just told us that you were in a place where you're like, why God, how could you do this? would you tell us how you were able to reclaim and to reignite faith in God?

Sherri Lessman:

Yes. Yes. It took a little while, you know? I'd be at church. and I just, I just couldn't worship up. You know, some of, so many of the songs just seemed, just rang hollow to me, you know, about how God is faithful. And I was very angry. I was very, very angry at that time, which is part of grief. But I ended up kind of stuck in my grief I couldn't quite get over it, you know, and I went I went to the theophostic prayer. I had some theo phostic prayer, and it really, really helped me. It just brought me peace. I actually saw a vision of Jesus holding her, holding him up and he just stayed there and I sat and I just kind of watched. Him and her for half an hour. And then he started to slowly leave and, and it just in my heart, I knew that he, he was like, I'm going to stay here as long as you need me to, I'm going to be here and you can see her, you know, and it was very, very healing to me. Then he he showed me. Several scriptures. One was John 11:25 and it said those who believe in me shall live and never die. And it just kind of hit me. I know that scripture, but I was like, you know what? She's not dead. She's alive, she's alive. And that helped me. And then Psalms 1 0 2 19. He says, it says for, he looked down from his holy height, from heaven, the Lord gazed upon the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to set free those who were doomed to death. And it really spoke to me that, you know, Emma did not have good quality of life. You know, she suffered a lot. And that in his mercy that God looked down, he saw that. And he, and he, he was, you know, even with transplants we've found that a lot of the kids actually later then they might get cancer or something because of the immune depressant drugs. And you know, so who knows what would have happened later? Right. But but that God looked down and he was like, no, you're not going to just suffer and suffer. And then, and then die you know, this is, I'm going to take you now and you're going to be healthy. And that, that helped me a whole lot. And then, you know, my why question? Why, why, why, why? And God showed me that, you know what? It's okay to ask why. That even Jesus asks, why, why have you forsaken me? And that's really how I felt. I felt forsaken and abandoned by God. I felt like he didn't answer our prayers. I just but then when God showed me that, you know, even Jesus asked why and it's okay to ask why it's not okay to be an accuser of God, which and he showed me that, that I, I really was agreeing with Satan, you know, Satan is the one that did this, not God. And I was blaming him. And he, you know, that's not okay. Yeah. So all of that just helped me, you know, come to terms and remember. Who, who God really is. And I think the most important thing was just that, you know, that scripture about, you know, if you believe in me, you shall live and never die. And when I really thought about, you know, Jesus died, God let his own son die and suffer. So that Emma could live that, that she is alive. She's not with me, but she's alive. Right. And God let Jesus die so that she could live. And so I, I really started realizing how much he loved me. And how much I loved him, really. I kind of got over my anger, you know, so I I learned a lot. I actually had a. I actually had kind of a list of some things I learned. Do you want me just to read that?

Donna Woolam:

Yeah, absolutely. Because that was my next question. What did you, well, what changed for you? You know, how did you change and how did your relationship with God change and what did you learn? So those were the next questions... So I was going to ask

Sherri Lessman:

Okay okay. These, this is my little list. You don't have to know why to know that God is good and he loves you. Take one day at a time. Don't worry about the small stuff in your life. That doesn't matter anyway. Don't take the gift of a healthy child for granted. Do what you can, no regrets will be a great comfort in the end. It takes a long time to grieve. Don't try to make someone be where they are not. Anything can happen to anybody don't live in fear, but live for today. Yeah. And when you, when you don't know what to do for someone, ask them and then do what they ask. You know, so many times we want to help them. We think we know how to help, and it might not be helpful because it's never been that situation. It might not be helpful. Listening is one of the most important things you can do. Sometimes there are no words. A hug can mean everything. Almost everybody is going through some sort of hard, painful things so be patient and be kind. Don't agree with Satan. Don't accuse God. That was the big one. That you do not bring pain to people when you ask them about someone who has died or mention their name, or remember things about them. And because I really used to feel like that, like, oh, I don't want to mention this person. It's just going to bring pain and no, you know, people, they want to remember, they want to talk about them, you know? Yeah. Believing that you do not deserve to suffer is living under a works mentality. I think I really did feel like Summer and Mike are, are so faithful and, and just so good. Such good people. That it shouldn't have happened to them. That's that? Wasn't fair.

Donna Woolam:

Wow. Well, that's a, that's an incredible insight and I've never heard that before. That's powerful. That's really powerful.

Sherri Lessman:

You know, it came from Summer cause I asked her one day, I said I said why we were just having a conversation and we talked very honestly about everything, about it. I said, you know, but why you Summer and she said, well, mom, why not me? You know? And it just hit me that, you know, just that fact that we're, we're not exempt from suffering because we're Christians, you know,

Donna Woolam:

So powerful.

Sherri Lessman:

I'm almost done. There was such a thing as the sacrifice of praise. It's very hard to worship when you're grieving. And heaven means everything. Those who believe in me shall live and never die. And let's see. Rather than lamenting the fact that God let this happen, remember that he knew it would happen. And that is exactly why he went to the cross to conquer death day.

Donna Woolam:

Wow.

Sherri Lessman:

So those are some of the things that I learned and I think the way it changed me is I, I appreciate I just appreciate life more. I appreciate children, more my children. And I appreciate just the small things. In life. I mean, when you deal with such big things, I mean, you realize a lot of things really don't matter that much, you know? So, and I, I just, I mean, I just learned that God is, God is good. You don't always get an answer for why. But it's okay because he knows and I trust, I trust him, you know, I trust that there is a reason. We don't always, I think it's a blessing if you get an answer to why, because not everyone does, you know? Right. So, yeah.

Donna Woolam:

Wow. Sherri your story is just, there's so many powerful layers in your story. There's how you and your husband moved through this, how you observed your daughter and her husband and how your family all came together. So many different layers in all of it. And I'm just sitting here and I'm thinking about the woman who's listening to this, and maybe she's just gone through something like this, where she's watched her children suffer through something very difficult, or maybe even like you had been witness to the, to the loss of a grandchild. I'm thinking about that woman. And if you were sitting across the table from her, what would you say to her today?

Sherri Lessman:

Hmm, well, I would say do what you can, you know sometimes it's the littlest thing. That you can do that really help, you know just listening, if it's her, her daughter or something, just having someone that her daughter can call and know that she'll always be there and she'll do anything she can. That means a lot. I think, I think that helps a lot looking at you know, to realize that there's, there's other, other consequences to some of this stuff. Like I think, you know, when someone goes through something really hard and you know, the marriage can really suffer, you know, the marriage. I mean, it either pulls you together or pulls you apart, I believe. And so whatever you can do there, if you can relieve somebody, you know, with babysitting or or just to relieve their stress, you know bring them a meal, just anything you can do to, to relieve their stress. I think that, you know, that. That would be good. That would be something. And, and just know that that God is good. He is good. You know, you have to, you have to really hang on to the truth and know the truth, even if you don't, if you're not feeling that, you know, you're, if you don't feel like he's good because he's not right. You know, basically doing what you want them to right. When you get right down to it. I mean, you know, I had to admit that, you know, it was, he didn't do what I wanted him to do. Well, you know you still, you just need to hang on to the truth that he is good and he does know what he's doing and just, you know, stay with him. Just hang on to his hands and hand and stay with him and you know, get, get some friends around you to, to, to help you. What help you with your faith? Even Moses had people holding up his arms, you know, and sometimes you need that. Sometimes you don't feel like you can pray, you know, because you're so discouraged or. But other people can pray for you if you let them in. If they know what you're going through. And I think sometimes people, you know, they don't let people know because they want to be strong or whatever. I had one and that just gave she, you know, soon as she heard how hard things were, she just opened up her wallet and gave me a hundred dollars so that I could. You know, for gas, money and stuff, and you know, I never forgot that. Yeah. And then another little sweet little friend that I worked with, all she did was listen, she didn't have answers. She didn't know, but I turned, I turned around so many times. In our little Q, but turn around and say, but why would God do that? You know, like, like she's gonna know he's been through with the problem and to get to it, just do it. Just say, I don't know, Sherry, I don't know. And, and it it gave me like permission to feel. And to just kind of, I asked her so many times the same question and I'd go back to typing and doing my work, and then I turned around, but why would the, why would the God, you know, have this doctor here and all these questions that she couldn't answer. And all she really did was listened to me. It I never forgot her. I never forgot what Courtney did because she, she helped me probably, you know, I don't know it was more than anyone else, but a whole lot. She helped me so much.

Donna Woolam:

That's so powerful just the the simple, not so simple act of listening is, is an incredible gift and incredible gift. Sherri thank you so much for being so vulnerable and for sharing such a story that touches your life on so many levels. I'm so thankful. Thank you for being my guest on the broadcast. Thank you.

Sherri Lessman:

Thank you, Donna.LivingThank

Donna Woolam:

you so much for joining us today. I really hope that something that you heard helped you to be encouraged and inspired. And in fact, if it has, would you do me a favor? Would you please just share this with a friend of yours and join me over on social media on Facebook and Instagram. Well, you know, wherever you are, I'm probably there too, but be sure and go to the website, Donna willem.com and grab the free resources that we have for you. Thanks again, and have a wonderful Live At My Best Day

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