My Story, Praise and Worship

In Memoriam of…

… Cousin Renee Zensen, Dad Jerry Olson, Cousin-in-law Neil Guggenmos.

It’s been a surreal month with two cousins dying in addition to the remembrance of my own dear father’s premature death. For a time I could ‘hold it together,’ but the grief flooded out at the latest events and I’m truly feeling my feelings. The story is below.


My older sister, uncle, baby me, and cousin Renee

In late March, I got notification that my cousin had suffered a medical emergency and passed away a little more than a week later. This is my dad’s sister’s daughter, Renee. It was unreal, truly surreal. This is the type of thing you see in movies, but you don’t actually expect to happen in your family. And yet, it does happen to some, to us. It’s nonsensical. I remember my older cousin more as my older siblings’ playmate than mine, but there were times I played with her too. One memory in particular is laughing with her. I wore a red fringe skirt one time we visited. We girls were in her bedroom and I stood in front of her full-length mirror and made that skirt shake! We giggled and danced and there was so much joy! I’ll remember most her smiles and laughter.


Dad and me playing and cuddling

April 20 is Dad’s birthday, or rather ‘was,’ depending on how you look at it. Renee’s memorial was held on the same day as her late uncle’s (my dad) birthday. I couldn’t make it up to the service but I remembered her on that day. I also remembered my father who died at age 67 after a 17 year battle with cancer. I felt the pain of his premature death more acutely this year. He would’ve had some very comforting words to offer his sister and family and yet, he wasn’t here to express those. There are many things Dad didn’t get to experience and I didn’t get to experience with him because of this disease, but I take comfort in remembering the good memories and all the growth that has happened in my life since then. Dad would be proud and he’d probably tell me that I am beautiful, that he loves hearing me sing, and to keep following God.


Neil & Kara’s Christmas photo years ago

Less than a month after Renee’s death, we got news that my cousin’s husband was missing in the Alaskan wilderness. After a long search, he was found and I am mourning his loss. I loved Neil from the first time I met him. It was completely obvious to anyone that I had a little girl crush on my older cousin’s new husband. He had a big smile and welcomed me openly. How could I but welcome him openly into my family and my heart as well? My heart aches for Kara because not only is she my cousin, but she’s also been a role model and mentor. Whether she knows it or not, I look up to this powerful opera singer who loves Jesus so dearly! Our similar educational paths has put a special connection on my heart to her and her family.

Flooded with Emotion…

How could I respond to this pain and grief? I was in deep heartache and no words of prayer seemed to go deep enough. But God’s been stirring something in me. He’s been preparing me. He’s been calling me to deeper intimacy with Him. On Thursday, May 2, I sang. I sang for Neil, I sang for Kara, I sang for Renee, and I sang for Dad. I ‘raise(d) a Hallelujah in the middle of the mystery.’

Thinking of my loved ones and deeply mourning with you all. I love you, truly. – Brittany

5 thoughts on “In Memoriam of…”

  1. Brittany, this is a beautiful tribute to your loved and lost family members. Thank you for sharing your heart and your lovely voice. I pray God will continue to provide comfort in the grief.


  2. What a precious tribute to our loved ones and your special memories. I love each of the pictures you posted. Such good memories to hold on to! Love your special song, too. Keep singing with passion. Mom


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