Missing Mom

I was recently invited by a family to help them share the life celebration of a wife and mother with friends and family gathered for a memorial service.  I was well acquainted with one of her children, but had almost no dealings with the rest of the family.  In fact, I only had one fully lucid conversation with the deceased in a hospital room for just a few minutes.

It’s hard to “preach” a memorial when you don’t really know the deceased.  Yes, there are numerous generic outlines one can follow, general guides for bring hope and initiating healing and sharing the hope and healing found in the Truth of the Gospel.  But that is not the same as engaging with the family memories and leading them to the joy of relationship and the living connection that extends well beyond the separation brought about by death.

I lost my mom a little over 13 years ago and I have not written much about that grief.  In fact, up to this point, I believe I have only written about it in contrast to the grief of losing dad.  It’s not that I’ve been in denial and I’m not languishing in depression and despair.  I also haven’t forgotten her and the deep meaning she holds in so many of my relationships even to this moment.  It was just different from dad’s passing and at a different stage of my own life.

Speaking with this family caused me to reengage with these memories, emotions, joys and pains.  And, in the context of discussing their family memories, I found a profound intersection with my memories of mom.  The two words that surfaced time and time again were Family and Love.  And so, the net result was 13 years later, while eulogizing someone else, I also had a chance to eulogize my mom.

I’ve never heard Prov 31 or 1 Cor 13 used in a memorial service, but they are the passages that demanded inclusions in any discussion of these two women.  Though socially, economically and circumstantially these women shared virtually nothing in common, they shared one of the most important things – a life well lived as described by Proverbs 31:10-31 and a love as expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:3-7,12-13.

Though it would be inappropriate to post the eulogy here as it really was about another woman, I will include the follow up letter I sent to the family below.  It was good for me to read these words as I wrote them – even though I am doing fine after 13 years.

In the days and weeks ahead, there will be good days and not so good days. That’s natural. It will surprise you what will remind you of her. It will also surprise you what doesn’t seem to bother you. That’s natural, too. There is no one right way to grieve. We all experience grief differently. We don’t even experience grief the same way every time. This is also natural. You are allowed to be sad, angry, happy, silly, lonely, scared, distracted, determined, joyful, numb, etc. Whatever you feel is what you feel. Pretty much everything is normal.

But it won’t always be this way.

The firsts are the hardest. Obviously the first birthdays and anniversaries without her will be tough. Holidays are hard, too. Special life moments will also remind you of your loss. Two that surprised me are when my youngest son was born (he is the only grandchild my mother never held) and my ordination (I know she would have been so proud). It will be hard when you look for her in the celebrations and she isn’t there.

But it won’t always be this way.

Healing comes. New memories are made. Other relationships continue to grow. We continue on with meaning and purpose. We create. We work. We play. We love. We laugh. We live.

All in good time.

I’ve read that “normal” grieving time is 18 months to 7 years. That’s a pretty big range. You’ve got time. It’s not that it hurts this much for the whole time or the emptiness is unfilled, but during this process it will back up on you from time to time. You’ll have some bad days after you thought you were through to the other side. It doesn’t mean that you will never make it through. It just means you aren’t there yet.

Take all the time you need.

We don’t mourn today as those who have no hope, but we do mourn. Encourage each other with these words.

God’s got you.

You can find other post I have written related to grief here: Posts on grief.

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Thanksgiving Day

Church was at Rye Preserve today.  It’s not a premier outdoor venue.  There are limited facilities.  The pavilion is old.  The bathhouse is a little rustic.  Several of the “trails” are really fire-breaks and utility roads.  There is no manicured lawn.  The grass is patchy with many bare areas and lots of weeds.  There is a dead tree standing among moss laden, scrubby brush. But, there is much of the 145 acres that is completely untouched.

A couple of us arrived early for prayer.  As is our custom, we discussed some of our prayer concerns – people, circumstances, needs.  But there was constant distraction.  Nature is noisy!

It’s so easy to tune out the glory that is evident in the world Glory created.  We chase after the distractions as if they are the main intent while completely ignoring the main event.  What a waste.  All God has displayed goes practically unseen.

Familiarity truly does breed contempt!

This time, our prayer consisted of praise and thanksgiving.  May I learn how to “in everything give thanks.”

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Accidental Cleaning

It was a morning like any other . . .

409

My All-Purpose Cleaner of Choice

Except my wife is out of the country, my oldest son, who is home for Spring Break, took my middle son to a track meet at 6:45 in the morning and my daughter is having a DJ over at 9am to plan her wedding and reception sound and music, of which she reminds me at 8:11am as she prepares to go pick up her fiance . . .

Being a very competent, equal partner, I begin straightening in a manner worthy of the standards of my absent spouse.  No problem.  I’ve got this.  49 minutes to spotless.

I open the cabinet door to throw away a scrap of paper – and trash falls out.  Okay, I can deal with an overflowing trashcan.  “J_,” (the youngest son is still home) “come take out the trash.  NOW!”  I pull out the can and remove the bag.  Replacing it with a fresh bag, I go to put the can back in the cabinet when I discover a pizza box, several wrappers of various sorts and a paper plate pressed into the back of the cabinet.  As I reach to the back of the cabinet to retrieve the A.W.O.L. trash, I notice a peculiar odor, somewhat akin to slightly sweetened moldy salad greens with a rancid grease dressing on the side.

Knowing this would be unacceptable to leave once discovered, I grabbed my trusty all-purpose cleaner of choice – Formula 409.  After a generous soaking I scoured all the interior surfaces thoroughly.  While I was there, I might as well do the door, right?  A good soaking, a good scouring – practically like new.

But, what about the cabinets next to the trash door.  In comparison to the newly cleaned door, they look absolutely hideous.  I have a few minutes.  And plenty of 409.  I’ll just clean down to the corner.  7 drawers and a cabinet door and no more . . .But the cabinet door is a split door on a 90 degree angle for the corner.  I can’t just do half the door!  But now, I have turned the corner.  What about the next door.  I’ll just go down to the dishwasher.  More 409 soaking and scouring and sweating (it’s a little warm in here this morning) and now there are two more beautifully clean doors.

You know, I never really noticed how dirty the kick plate on the dish washer is.  Or the upper face plate for that matter.  They’re supposed to be white, for cryin’ out loud, not dingy grey.  More 409.  Lots more 409 – these textured surfaces are hard to clean.  Maybe if I soak it for a few minutes.  Now all I have left is one more corner cabinet.  I can’t leave just one cabinet door uncleaned.

Okay, 8:49.  11 minutes to spotless.  I’ve got this . . .

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Conversations With the Homeless

Conversations With the Homeless.

Dennis Cardiff followed my blog recently and is my habit, I popped over to check his out as I do with all new follows.  His link is above, I would encourage you to take a look.

The reasons for homelessness are as varied as the homeless themselves.  Reactions to them range from pity to loathing, but the worst is probably blindness.  I think there is very little in this world that is more horrible than to be invisible, to be unworthy of notice.

I don’t work downtown in a large city.  I don’t often pass through the areas where the homeless congregate.  I don’t see the same ones daily, or even weekly, but they are precious to me just the same and I look for them as often as I am near their “turf”.  Many I will not see for months at a time, but I never stop praying and hoping for an opportunity to tell them one more time that they are something of value – that they are worth knowing.

Most of my contact comes when they are in jail.  When there are not too many of them, I see them weekly.  Right now there are 8 in the county jail (an 18 mile drive to nowhere, with only 2 visits per day allowed), so I am only seeing them every other week.  I send them books and postcards (our facility doesn’t permit letters – they can send me a 6 page letter, but I have to reply on postcards that are less than 6 inches by 4 1/2 inches).

When people talk about prostitutes, homeless, addicts, bums, etc., I have at least a dozen names and faces in each category.  This isn’t an undesirable mass of sub-human creatures.  These are daughters, sons, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, parents, children, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, grandchildren – real people, with real stories and real value.

Take a chance.  Do lunch with a homeless person.  Make a new friend.  Change a life – probably your own

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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

mount-cammerer-tower

It’s amazing the things we don’t even realize we have until they are gone.

As vital and important as air is to my very existence, I don’t really “notice” it.  Even being winded from a faster than average running pace, or a 90 second arm wrestling match (I believe it is actually 4 of 5, not 3 of 4, Dave), I don’t really think of my dependence on the air.  When it is foul, I don’t tend to reminisce about time I enjoyed fresh air on the heights of Mt. Cammerer, deep in the Smokey Mountain National Forrest.  To the very best of my recollection, the only time I really appreciated air was immediately following a near drowning experience.  With head aching and lungs burning I gulped in a breath and it was the sweetest, most perfect moment I had ever experienced.  In that moment, I truly “noticed” air.  I really, really appreciated it for everything it means. For all of about 45 seconds . . .

How quickly we take so many things for granted.

Today is my wife’s birthday (I won’t mention age, since she is hypersensitive about being older than me).  She’s out of town with my sister, and I miss her – for so many reasons that I usually don’t even think about.  I’ve spent more than half my life with her.

Man, I really miss her.

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The LORD’s Anointed

So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD ‘s anointed.” (1Sa 24:6 NAS77)

David has been anointed king.  He has led Israel in battle.  The people love him.  Saul tried to kill him.  Jonathan (the crown prince) is sure he will be king.  Saul is hunting him.  But, . . . .

He still won’t take it by force.

Even though David knows he will be king, he trusts God to bring it about.  No demands.  No subtle politics.  No campaigns.  No coups attempt.  No taking matters into his own hands.  He leaves them in God’s.

What a great place to leave things.  Can’t think of more capable hands.

God’s plan.  God’s provision.  God’s timing.

Yep . . .

It’s all good!

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Undiscovered Country

But that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country . . . makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?
Read more at http://www.monologuearchive.com/s/shakespeare_001.html#sKI3buq1yAB8YoIo.99
It’s been a long week.
In the parish, we have cancer and chemo times two, one house fire with arson and theft, one gravely ill and hospitalized, 5 in jail and 2 newly arrived for a total of 7, two homeless (four with children included, but two households), a tense custody battle, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, infirmity, broken appliances, broken cars (or even totaled cars), home repairs, financial issues, marital issues, child rearing issues (a.k.a. financial and marital issues) and a few more I failed to mention because I am too tired to type them at the moment . . .
Fortunately, we have no need to dread the “undiscovered country”.  We know the Sovereign of that fair land and have been adopted as His children.  We don’t fly from ills we know to those we do not.  We fly from a well understood world of brokenness to a place of beautiful perfection.
No off to sleep, and perchance to dream . . .
Ay, there’s the rub . . .
Please, don’t take this too seriously – I’m just tired.
Besides…
After all . . . tomorrow is another day.

 

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Sabbath for Man. Not Man for Sabbath.

2nd week into the 2014 Lenten journey and I already blew my Sabbath commitment!  There are just too many crises – even with other folks helping out.  Jail, hospital, Greyhound busses, shut-ins, house guests, broken cars, etc.

And He said to them, “What man shall there be among you, who shall have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it, and lift it out? “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Mat 12:11-12 NAS77)

My sheep are stuck in the house, homeless, in jail or the hospital, but I think those qualify as a pit, too.

And He was saying to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
(Mar 2:27 NAS77)

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The LORD Is With Him

Then one of the young men answered and said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and the LORD is with him.” (1Sa 16:18 NAS77)

Look at all the great things he can do.  What a guy!  He can really rock the house.  He wins all the games.  Everyone always picks him first.  He doesn’t get pushed around.  He’s tough.  When he talks, people listen.  And he’s got a cover shoot for GQ!

Clearly, this is the kind of man you want on your team.  He’s got brains and brawn.  He’s good at everything and the ladies always swoon.  What more can you want?  Without a doubt, this is real leadership potential here.

Oh, and by the way . . .

The LORD is with him.

Just sayin’.

In case that might interest you.

Let’s live lives that shout, “The LORD is with him/her!”  Without regard for what description of me precedes it, what could be better / more important / more valuable / more significant than “the Lord is with me”?

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Not As Man Sees…

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1Sa 16:7 NAS77)

The average male CEO on the Forbes 500 is 3 inches taller than the average male.  Women consistently rate men over 6 feet tall as more attractive than men of less than average height.  Body Mass Index is now a prime consideration in looking for the next guy in line for the corner office.  We are judged by our physical appearance continually.  (WSJ article, USA Today article)

“It’s not fair!”, we exclaim.  They don’t even know the real me . . .

But then again, we tend to be our own worst critics.  We don’t measure up to our own standards.  I’m not good enough.  I always screw up.  I’m not worth it.  I’m too small.  I’m not smart.  I’m weak.  We can find failure in victory.  We can find any number of reasons why we are not allowed to do well.

But, fortunately for me, “God sees not as man sees …”

Not even this man!

I am the one that Jesus loves, and, in Him, I am enough.

 

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