Remember and Celebrate

October 13, 2011

It’s the “October-almost-November” feeling

gordon bl og 10 11I wrote the “October-almost-November” Feeling a few years after Gordon died and first posted it last year.  It references the “anniversay reaction/grief” as it is commonly known.

This year it’s a bit more noticeable for a couple reasons I suppose.

1)  It’s the anniversary where I can say,” 6 years ago  to the very day…”  This anniversary seems more poignant for that reason.  There is even a term for it, but I can’t remember what it is.   and 2)   I am losing the presence of two very dear friends – 

Anniversary grief . . .
Anniversary reaction . . .
I experience it in some form or another
some years less intense,
some years more noticeable

Like this year:
There is the loss of dear friends as they move 5 hours away . . .
two of the people who walked with me through this journey of loss,
two people who, except for my husband and a couple other close friends,
really “know” me.

It’s not their friendship I will lose.
It’s the loss of  their presence in my everyday life.

The beauty of the autumn is  bitter-sweet than usual.

Again, it’s the
“October-almost-November” feeling.
I have learned to
expect it.
pay attention
take time to remember
A red balloon for  his January birthday
Lake Michigan
and a journal,
usually are part of my remembering!

How do you remember?

click HERE to access the  original post:

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October 4, 2011

Blessing Journey part 2b :) A Tribute to My Village

More villagers come to mind, as I reflect on that time in our lives.  It has been good for me to “Remember” and have this way of “Celebrating” my villagae.

* Lorri who created a beautiful display out of all the things I gathered as a tribute to mom.

* friends in Morton who cared about and watched out for Mom and Dad while they still lived 150 miles from me.

* The people at Grace Bible Church (and probably others) who provided meals meals during times when Mom could no longer cook.

* Gary who led the songs at the funeral service – the ones mom chose to have sung.

* Ron who spoke at the funeral

* The ladies ( and maybe some men)  from  Grace Church, Grace Bible Church and The Bridge Community who who provided meals for those who had traveled for the funeral and the  memorial service. 

* Those who came to the funeral service in Morton and the memorial service in Des Plaines and shared their memories.

Brian who sang “I Will Rise .”  We had learned that song in choir for Easter that year and it was the song that kept playing over and over on the soundtrack in my head during the days as Mom longed go “go home” and we waited and “longed” with her. 

I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin

There’s  a peace I’ve come to know, though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul.  I can say, it is well.
Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won.  He is risen from the dead.

I will rise, when He calls my name –  no more sorrows, no more pain.
I will rise, on eagles wing, before my God, fall on my knees. 

There’s a day that’s drawing near when this darkness breaks to light.
and the shadows disappear and my faith shall be my eyes.

I hear the voice of many angels sing worthy is the lamb.
And I hear the cry of many longing hearts – Worthy is the Lamb.

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October 3, 2011

Blessing Journey Part 2 – A tribute to My “Village”

Happy Anniversary in North Miami Beach –           40 years

I will never forget:

*  My husband, Galen  who loves my parents as his own and is my rock when I am falling apart. No one could have it better than I do when it comes to a spouse who honors his in-laws.

Cousin Janet who kept me from flying apart by phone from Virginia  when things began to unravel and Suzanne who went with me to talk to someone about options for where mom and dad could live if they moved here.

*  Jan who sat with my mother several times so I could have a much needed break.

*  Karen who said she wanted to walk with me through this. I said coming to meet her at lunch once a week would help – It still does and we still do.

John & Jan, Ralph & Mary who spent the entire long day at the hospital the day of dad’s surgery.

*  Brian who came to the hospital the day my dad was fading in and out of reality and we didn’t know if this was a new thing or temporary – it was temporary.

*  My cousin Joyce who came and sat with mom and allowed me “to breathe” on what turned out to be the last day before she died.

Leslie, who called and said “I will come to you, what do you need?” She brought lunch and took me to Lake Opeka.

*  Jean who went into Mom and Dad’s house and packed up her china, Mary who traveled with me to Morton and spent a day packing and the men from Grace Bible church who helped load up the U-Haul and the men who were here at this end to help Unpack the same truck.

*  Katherine, the church secretary who for two years has sent Dad the bulletin and a friendly note about what is going on at the church.

*  Brian, my “little brother” who met me for coffee the day mom died, Karen who met me for lunch and cousin Joyce and Gary, her husband who gave us family connection that evening.

*  Carol, who came from Montana for the funeral and helped me start to clear out mom’s clothes and my cousins who drove from Kansas, and Pennsylvania for the funeral, knowing I had no siblings to stand by me that day.

*  Donna who came for Virginia for the memorial service a month later and helped me go through more stuff.

Ralph and Mary who said “Call us and we will come be with you when your mom is gone – we’ll come at any time”   And they came at 4:30 a.m.

*  My sons and their familieswho loved us and were there for us – and grandkids who freely gave the needed hugs and kisses

*  Aunt Lois and Uncle Elmer who came to visit from PA and gave us some time.

John who makes sure Dad still has a ride to anything at church and is “on call” when we need him.

*  God who was there and present – at times through the people He sent to us.

Click HERE for part 2b

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October 2, 2011

The “Blessing Journey” – Lessons Learned Part 1

How she loved her man!

It’s been two years since mom died.  Earlier in the spring of 2009, when I was so overwhelmed with the care of my parents, and feeling very alone I read an article in “O Magazine” that gave me hope. One of the suggestions had to do with making sure I had “a village” to help me. It was a timely article and recommended reading:  http://www.oprah.com/health/Caring-for-Aging-Parents-Martha-Beck-Advice/2

Here it is – 10 things I have learned on the “Blessing Journey (in no particular order)

1.    Caring for an elderly parent takes a “village.” Know who they are and call on them.

2.   I can’t predict how I’ll react. I have to accept what I feel, be willing to stay self-aware .

3.   Losing someone by degrees is different from losing someone suddenly. I was afraid it would be the same.

4.   Knowing how I receive comfort is important. Asking for it is even more important.

5.   Letting people help me, even inconvenience themselves for me, is good. I can’t make the choice as to when someone else is too busy to help me.

6.   When I let others help me or the one I love, it will bless them as much as it blesses me.

7.  It’s important to let others do the things I can’t do, so I can do what only I can do.

8.  I need to accept that even though this doesn’t fit into the plan I had for this time of my life, it IS the plan GOD has for me now. And perhaps sharing my journey can help others.

9.   Make sure conversations are about what is really on my heart, so that I don’t sidetracked, and focus on external circumstances.

How she loved those babies!

10.  Death is not pleasant – we were created for life, not death, but no matter how it happens, God is Good and He is Present.

Many of you have been and are there – what have you learned?  I am sure there is more!

Click HERE for Part two of the Blessing Journey

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September 26, 2011

Signs, The Future and Trust

 

Lord,
As I walk into the Gardens today,
I ask You to help me
be aware
pay attention
Perhaps there is
something here you want me to see
something you want to tell me today.

My mind has been full of questions . . . .
mostly questions about the future
where will we….
when will . . .
what if . . .
what should we . . . .
will we . . .
how can we . . .
will there be . . .

And then I notice the sign –

But, I am here at the garden,
surrounded by your creation.
Surely there is something else –
Something beautiful you have created
to speak to me this morning

I continue my walk
and there is another one.

This sign –
normally I don’t notice traffic signs when I am walking!

Some signs mean
stop
look
then proceed with caution..

Sometimes signs give us other options.

but this one just says a great big  “NO.”

 

And then I begin to get it. .  .
It’s about all those questions about the future.

And I hear you say:

Carol:
Don’t go there.
Just don’t.”

You can plan,
You can be wise,
but the things you are talking about are things you
cannot control,
plan for
set up
or fix.

Matthew 6:34  (The Message)
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

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September 20, 2011

Green Pastures, Still Waters and Refreshing

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The last couple of days I have been spending time in Psalm 23

The first few verses are what has captured my heart:

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
     he leads me beside quiet waters,
 3 he refreshes my soul.

Lord,  I didn’t realize how the view you give me this morning would fit the scripture that engages my  heart with yours.  Thank you.

Lord, I know You don’t promise a life that doesn’t need
green pastures,
quiet waters
and refreshing –
but You do provide them when needed.

This comforts me.
Much is uncertain – in your big world and my little world.
Most days I am afraid of accompanying Dad on his final journey
Mom’s was so difficult.


(My Daddy, how I’ve always loved his smile!)

And then I am reminded of your presence and refreshing.
And I  will trust for another day.
And enjoy the days I have now with Dad,
seeing his smile
watching him enjoy his family,
hearing him laugh at one of Galen’s jokes,
and hearing “thank you for all you do,”
and “I love you” as I say goodbye to him each time I leave.

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September 17, 2011

A Friend’s Email, Beaches, Waves and God’s Love

There I was in Michigan at a Church Conference with a sick husband by the time we arrived.  After a night of chills and fever and a Dr. who prescribed much needed antibiotics. Still too sick to travel home or attend the conference we had no choice but to stay put – wondering why we were there. I sat in on a few sessions and made a few significant personal contacts but the most important was what happened at Glenlord Beach that second day.

Earlier that day I email my friend, telling her I am going to the beach for a quiet time. I almost decide not to go when I receive an email from her telling me she is praying for me as I go to the beach. She has been aware of my struggle with doubt these past weeks – all my wondering if prayer mattered and while I know God is good overall, does He ever really care about how I feel? The past weeks I have been wondering…

And so, sensing God would have something there for me, I get in the car and drive over to Lake Michigan.  I walk out onto the bluff overlooking the beach.

Glenlord Beach, Lake Michigan, Stevensville, MI

The untamed beauty blends with the drabness of the beach cluttered with debris. What I notice most are the waves. I sit down and begin to write the thoughts that are running through my head.

Lord,
I come here with a sense of expectation.
Karen asked You to give me
a visual of your love here today.
You often speak to me through nature,
so I am listening.
You know my questions . . .
my doubts of your goodness . . .
doubts of your love . . .
I am not used to doubting you.
It’s a dark place to be,
yet I sense you telling me
“Don’t rush through this.”
I think you have something here for me to learn.
And so I look out onto the beach.

Waves never fail to intrigue me.
I love their beauty,
their constant-ness.

I love the frilly, lacy frothiness as they break.
how they caress the sand.

Nothing happening on the beach
changes the rhythm of the waves.

And then I know what you are saying to me . . .

Carol:
The source of my love has nothing to do with
what you are doing
what you are feeling

It has everything to do with
my love for you,
constant
beautiful
covering
The waves a “visual” of how
I caress you with my love.

I just keep loving – you!
even when you don’t feel like it.
even when you are broken
and especially when you doubt . . .
It doesn’t matter
how you feel about my love
or if you feel it at all!
It still keeps coming,
like these waves . . .
over
and over
and over again.

 

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September 13, 2011

Grief and Gladness (Gratitude), A “Curious Blend”


In silence, Lord, I feel now
the curious blend of grief and gladness in me
over the endings that the ticking and the twirling of things brings.

(Ted Loder, “I Teeter on the Brink of Endings” – Guerrillas of Grace, Page 83.)

These lines from Ted Loder’s poem capture my pensive mood today. It’s Ronnie’s birthday and here I am, back at Lake Michigan, reflecting on the 2 1/2 years I had him in my life. A dear friend recently gave me Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts; Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are  and I want to focus more on gratitude than sadness today


I sit along the shore on a rock and decide to write him a letter, imagining him to be a big grown-up little brother: I have never written to him before.

Dear Ronnie,

I brought coffee to a friend’s office this morning, stopping at Starbucks to get just what he wanted. Doing this gives me a real life picture of what it might be like if you were still alive and lived close enough for us to celebrate your birthday. When my friend found I had lost all of you, he said I could be his sister – this was a gift.

Would you even like coffee? I don’t know. There is so much I don’t know about you. I’d bring you just what you wanted if you did! We’d visit, laugh at the latest family story, catch up on the kids. I think about how there is a sister-in-law and some nieces and nephews I will never know because you were gone so young.

We’d finish our coffee…I’d let you back back to work, give you a quick hug and a big sister kiss. We’d part and go our ways, knowing we’d see each other soon. I’d leave smiling and grateful for the gift you were to me, to our family.

Instead i enjoyed coffee with my friend, grateful for those who walk with me through the losses, offering presence more than answers. And now I am here at the Lake, one of my most favorite places, thinking of how grateful I am for your short life.

On my walk down to the beach I see this sunny-yellow flower, not quite opened all the way and I think of how you brought sunshine to our lives for such a short time. We never got to see who you’d be – another dimension to the grief over the loss of a young child. Dad says the greatest grief he has known is not knowing who you would have grown up to be, sort of like this flower isn’t all the way open.

I’m grateful for the laughter and the joy you brought into our home. Your smile was full of life. Your eyes sparkled with mischief. Often directing the imaginative play for you and Gordon, you were the one that thought of making the piano bench into the river barge and the floor into the river as you traveled up and down the river on your “barge.” Those barges on the river as we crossed the Illinois River into Peoria must have made quite an impression on your little 2 year old mind.

I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned as I processed your loss over the years at different stages of my life – the latest being Feb. 2009. As my Godly counselor prayed with me, I was able to see that Jesus was right there on that terrible morning, welcoming you into heaven, and holding me, while telling me how sorry He was that I was going through this. I have learned in a new way that God doesn’t promise we will have no pain, but He does promise His presence. And I am grateful.

I am grateful that through processing your loss, I learned that God is still good.   I’ll tell you that story some other time, but I expect you might already know about it.

And so very grateful I “found” you again, while grieving the loss of Gordon. I know you and Gordon and Brenda are just fine. I’ll be coming someday – until then, ya’ll save a place for me.

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September 8, 2011

Coffee, A Worship Song and Being

written August 4, 2011

I think I write about silence and solitude so much, not because I am “good” at it, but because it does not come easily to me.  My random mind has trouble settling down.   I am learning more and more why it’s called a discipline!

Dear God,
Settling into my old purple chair this morning,
I take a sip of hot coffee and say,
‘I wonder what it would be like to sit down 
          each morning with a cup of coffee . . .
          just be withYou.’
And of course, 
          that’s exactly what I’m doing.
It’s just that I can’t see you
          except with the eyes of faith
          for now it’s enough.
          It’s so hard for my random mind
          to stop long enough to hear you.
It is  important for me to show up each morning.
Thank you for always being here . . .
          just waiting.

I don’t have a lot of say right now,
I just want to be with you, Jesus

And before I know it,
          my mind is chattering about
          unimportant things.
This “being” isn’t easy.
Maybe that’s why they call it . . .
          practicing
                    the Discipline of
                              solitude
                                        and silence.
Dear Carol,
Just show up
Get back into the practice.
Don’t fret you aren’t “good” at it.
It’s your heart I see.

And I begin to sing a song of worship.
I love you Lord and I lift my voice
          to worship you
          oh my soul rejoice
Take joy my king in what you hear
May it be a sweet sound in your ear.

And I am reminded
Music is my worship language.
It’s a way for now to stay on topic . . .
          my love for you.
Thank you, Jesus.

I go to Scripture and I read:
Psalm 143:8. . . .
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.I never go away hungry from your “word” when I take the time.

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September 5, 2011

Singing her song!

Today, August 28, 2011, I remember Brenda Jane in my own quiet way, and  release a green balloon into the air on the bluff above Lake Michigan at Ft. Sheridan beach.
She would be 51 years old today.

 

I will song your song, little sister!

I will song your song, little sister!

 

Being a tiny premie, she lived only 7 hours.
I never knew her.
I have no grave to visit
only a set of footprints to prove she lived and died.

 

Baby Brenda Jane August 28,1959

Baby Brenda Jane August 28,1959

 

At the beach I find a Queen Anne’s Lace

 

Queen Anne's Lace along Lake Michigan

Queen Anne’s Lace along Lake Michigan

 

my favorite wildflower,
a full grown flower and a baby one
all on the same stem –
just like me and my baby sister . . .
12 years apart
and 
from the same “stem.”

As I stroll out the path to the edge of the bluff, my eyes fill with tears at the loss of a sister I never knew.

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Not knowing what our relationship would be, I craft one to my own liking.  Observing my cousins at the recent reunion, I see how they love and honor each other as siblings.  And knowing how Gordon and I were, I expect we’d be the same.

As I allow myself to feel the sadness, I have a sweet thought. August 28th is not only a day of life and death for a sister. . . . . . .

It is a day to celebrate the birth of my beautiful daughter in law.
the wife of my son,
the mother of 4 of my grandchildren
I think of her loving ways, and her beautiful smile
and after shedding a few more tears for the sister I never knew I smile.
I must call my Daughter-in-law and tell her how much I love her.

I will sing your song, little sister!

I lift my green balloon into the air – the color of Peridot, the August Birthstone and say:
“I will sing your song, little sister
and I will hold you in my heart,
until I can hold you in my arms.”

Elaine Stillwell: a grief counselor says “”If their song is to continue, then we must do the singing. We have to find that special way that will allow us to sing our loved one’s song loud and clear . . . Knowing you are doing something to keep your loved one’s memory alive keeps you passionately busy, allows you to tell your sacred story, adds joy to your heart, brings an array of beautiful, loving people into your life, and rewards you with a meaningful life again. Your loud voice will echo in many hearts making sure your loved one is never erased from memory. [Source: Elaine Stillwell, in “Singing Their Song,” Grief Digest, Volume 2, Issue #4]

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