“No one is so advanced in prayer that they do not have to return to the beginning.— St. Teresa of Avila
“the only way to survive the storms of the world is to shed all that is not essential, …the only way to survive inner storms is to let everything through.” – Mark Nepo, Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength to Meet Adversity
Some will run.
Some will stay.
Some will wait.
Some will not.
No rules or regulations.
No counting or keeping track.
Gratitude and reverence for those who remain, reside, wait.
The journey is individual first.
Communal and universal next.
No map, signposts, or markers, nothing exact, predictable or precise.
One step at a time journey, each day new.
Grief is not a “fun” topic but each will go through it many times in a lifetime.
Called to be here now.
Awake and aware.
Writing and sharing is a vulnerable space.
Honesty is my only response.
Perhaps, it could be a gift, a foretelling, an invitation to communion, community, belonging.
Be present to the gifts that you are steeped in right now.
Life is both slow and fast.
Before to after in a beat.
Shed the nonessential.
Grief does not reside alone though.
Laughter, memories, tears, wonder, joy all woven through.
No shortcuts or bypasses, right up the middle.
Unfolding a step at a time.
Underlayment, grounded in hope, love and grace.
Cast light, especially now, when it means even more.
Unlacing and weaving something new.
In due time, a step at a time too.
“The great moments of living reside, not in banishing what goes wrong, but in unlacing trouble and weaving tapestries with the laces.” – Mark Nepo, Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength to Meet Adversity
“Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.”― Joan Chittister
“Hope is an anchor dropped into the future. We feel you pulling us toward it once again.” – Kate Bowler, Jessica Richie, The Lives We Actually Have
I saw the sun yesterday.
I noticed it, pausing a moment.
An upward anchor, a kite, a grounding.
The little things are enough, overflowing actually.
At our feet, surrounding us, holding us.
In words, but mostly in silence, in sheer presence.
In waiting, watching, witnessing.
Winter rain through the night.
Hastening the melting of deep snow, softening of earth, precursor to green.
Notice. Awe. Wonder.
Grace enters and sits right beside you on one side, hope on the other.
Holy. Sacred. Steady.
“Love is holy because it is like grace–the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” – Joan Didion
“When people want to know more about God, the son of God tells them to pay attention to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, to women kneading bread and workers lining up for their pay. Whoever wrote this stuff believed that people could learn as much about the ways of God from paying attention to the world as they could from paying attention to scripture.” – Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
We put a lot of hope, focus and energy into firsts, into lasts, into nexts, into moving on.
But the whole and entirety of life is in the second, third, fourth, middle days between firsts and lasts.
We remember too little, the highlights, the lowlights, the trips, the falls.
Forgetting the ordinary days of grace, laughter, joy.
Not a mere snapshot but the entire story, the narrative, the love, the staying.
A lot of small steps to our finish lines and start lines.
Slow down and feel each step in the journey.
Today is the second day of spring.
Spring awaits patiently to be revealed under the snow, witness the melt.
One day at a time to green grass, brilliant color of bloom, precursor to summer.
Stay awake, aware and steeped in the waters of today, the second day of spring.
“One day we will remember how lucky we were to have known their love, with wonder, not grief.” – Elizabeth Postle
“The practice of paying attention really does take time. Most of us move so quickly that our surroundings become no more than the blurred scenery we fly past on our way to somewhere else.” – Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“Reverence requires a certain pace. It requires a willingness to take detours, even side trips, which are not part of the original plan.” – Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
Put the weight down.
No need to carry it every minute.
Remember laughter, laugh.
Remember fun, play.
Remember delight, enter.
Remember spring, bloom.
Remember hope, let it carry you.
Remember gratitude, the full view.
Remember joy, invoke it.
Cross thresholds, aware of footholds, break loose.
Pause here a bit, life will surely pull you back in.
Remain longer, lighter, changed, transformed.
Reverence, attention, wisdom.
“Wisdom atrophies if it is not walked on a regular basis.” – Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”― G.K. Chesterton
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” – Henri Nouwen
This past week, I’ve been running on sheer adrenaline. Last night, I felt the weight of the week fully and was both exhausted and so grateful. Gratitude and grief co-exist. We don’t get one or the other. There’s a menu of emotions we carry and walk with everyday in this life. There is not one simple answer or right way to do life other than to walk it out and do the very best you can with what you have in the moment.
A few reflections on the past few days of Mom’s wake and funeral.
We are loved, so was/is Mom.
Family and friends, old and new, came to witness and walk Mom home with us.
I will miss Mom and am grateful for the long life she shared with all of us.
She loved every single one of us. No one more but certainly all differently. She loved with specificity, not a broad brush. Never saying a bad word about anyone. We are all different and we have different relationships with each other. That’s good. It’s not a contest. It’s just love. Mom did that without measure or counting.
Let stuff go, quickly, don’t let it get a foothold.
Forgive and forget, learn the lesson, forget the experience.
Go to funerals and wakes.
Be present to witness, hold, laugh, cry.
Each one of us can be ministers to souls by simply showing up.
No words necessary, simple presence.
A long embrace.
Thank you deeply to all who did that for us this week.
Be optimistic, hopeful and light.
Love without condition or counting.
Anything less is not love.
A few things I wanted to say about Mom but didn’t when rushed and flustered by a different format than I expected at the wake:
Mom grew up on the east side of St. Paul with her brothers Don and Stan, mom Laura and Dad Jim. My Mom was 10 years old when her Mom died. She carried that cross every single day of her life. Through the years, Mom spoke often of going to Aunt Helen’s farm on Sundays. I imagine the first time that Aunt Helen told her to pick a chicken, Mom probably thought she was befriending an animal. Little did she know that “Henry” would soon be chicken and dumplings after Aunt Helen, who weighed 80 pounds wet, took an ax and outran the chicken. One night, her Aunt Rose heard a noise in the chicken coop. Rose picked up a rifle and headed into the dark to check it out.
Strong tough farm women. Raising Mom because her Mom was gone way too early. Tender steel. Mom carried those characteristics forward along with Aunt Helen’s Chicken and Dumplings recipe minus the chicken chase and ax, taking the shortcut picking up the chicken at Country Club or Red Owl.
So many times at funerals, we say, “I didn’t know that about (insert dead person).” So the final reflection that I will carry forward as I/we carry on without Mom at the table – listen, learn, get to know the people around you. Don’t assume the worst or judge. Love well and reach out. We are on this journey together. You never know what someone else is going through and the way you can find out is to ask, listen with your heart and merely love. Mom did that so very well. I will try my best to do that to carry her forward into my days ahead. Tender steel indeed.
“It is the narrowness of the riverbanks after all, that gives strength to the river.” – Rob Des Cotes
“Slow me down, God. Place your hand upon me and steady the racing of my heart. Take this weight from my shoulders, and pry these to-dos from my fingers. Deepen my breath and still my mind so that I can remember whose hands really do keep the stars hung in space.” — Kate Bowler, Jessica Richie, The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days
Right through the middle.
The only way through.
River bends, rapids, waves, calm waters.
No detours or shortcuts.
Gratitude and grief, roommates.
May I be present Lord in these next few days as we honor and celebrate Mom.
Make me like Mary ever present and not like Martha too busy to see what’s in front of her.
“Blessed am I, beginning to recognize that my edges as well as my gifts can shape the natural contours of what is mine to hold, and mine to do. God will take care of all that you can’t, dear one. And you, too.”— Kate Bowler, Jessica Richie, The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days
“The servant who had received the two talents also came and said, ‘Master, you entrusted me with two talents. See, I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!”- Matthew 25:23
“Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes.”—Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark
“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.”― Henri J.M. Nouwen
Life is richer, more complicated, and complex than a bumper sticker, a platitude, a paragraph, a snapshot.
Allow, invite and embrace the mystery, unknowing, intricacies, story, nuance, shadows, shapes and always light, always hope, always resurrection.
A beautiful mess, joy woven through all of it.
Easter and spring at the end of the story, with glimpses on each page.
“Oh, there are so many lives. How we wish we could live them concurrently instead of one by one by one. We could select the best pieces of each, stringing them together like a strand of pearls. But that’s not how it works. A human life is a beautiful mess.”― Gabrielle Zevin, Elsewhere
Mom and me on a jet ski. One of my favorite photos. In the game.
We live a lot of life in between before and after, in the middle.
Then there are the afters, the lines we cross and there’s no going back.
No do-overs or second chances.
Today, is an after day.
Last night, my Mom died.
No turning back.
Going through is the only path.
No turning back.
My Dad died in 2016 and Mom lived with me, my sister and brother, going between three houses each week for almost 7 years.
Almost two years ago, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, no treatment offered.
The fact that she survived for two years is only one indication of how tough she was and is.
Never admitting to pain, powering through.
The past 10 days she had been struggling, sleepless nights.
She loved the dogs, probably more than humans at times.
I get it.
Dogs just love without measure, memory or complication.
She loved us, the grandkids, and her great grandkids.
Always wanting to be busy, included and involved.
Stayed in the game to the very end.
I am grateful for the quick way she went considering the alternatives of the end of lung cancer.
Caregiving is a long hard journey filled with frustration, joy, exhaustion, all rooted in love.
So much more to say about Mom in the days to come.
Needed to mark this day, this time, as fumbling as this is.
For those who are caregivers, you are not alone and keep fighting the good fight.
We can do hard things, imperfectly, but love is big, expansive, undefinable.
And in the caregiving, we can be like Martha when Jesus comes.
Busy taking care of things, focused on our to-do lists, commitments, murmuring and responsibilities.
As I and we walk through these next days, I am going to be more like Mary and choose the better way.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus quietly listening, present as we walk Mom home for ourselves.
She’s already in Heaven in no pain, reunited with Dad, her Mom and Dad, brothers, friends and relatives she spoke of often and best friend, my Aunt Marion.
There’s a particular solace in her seeing her Mom again who she lost when she was 10 years old.
What a long embrace and reunion.
Martha, Martha, sit.
Choose the better way.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42
“Yes, I deserve a spring – I owe nobody nothing.”― Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary
“Think of the universe as an eternal creative unfolding.
Rivers forge new tributaries.
The world pulses with productive energy, and everything that exists on this planet is driven by that energy.
Every manifestation of this unfolding is doing its own work on behalf of the universe, each in its own way, true to its own creative impulse.”― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being
A heavy white coat clings to the trees and shrubs.
Different that November snow.
The finale to winter.
Prelude to spring.
Nourishing, softening the earth.
Alarm goes off to awaken the seeds and bulbs.
Snooze button a few more times.
Then spring will get up, rise. ensue.
Bursting with color, resurrection, joy.
The anticipation of last snows.
Of new life arriving soon.
“Zoom in and obsess. Zoom out and observe. We get to choose.”― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being
“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.”― John Muir, The Wilderness World of John Muir
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Suddenly, a red burst landed on the barren branch.
Blue sky backdrop pops too.
In the lull of winter, a kiss of spring.
An embrace of color.
A dance of delight.
Signs, wonders, awe abound in each day.
Awaiting the sharpening of our senses.
The awakening of our hope.
Not quite here yet, but spring is preparing and planning its arrival.
An invitation to joy.
“Come with me into the woods where spring is
advancing, as it does, no matter what,
not being singular or particular, but one
of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.”― Mary Oliver, Dog Songs: Poems