Seasons of Love

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Seasons of Love

Rent Soundtrack

I knew this song long before my mother died, but now all I think of when I hear it is her. The winter she died, as the days grew shorter and colder, I ran at night and cried my eyes out.

“In truths that she learned,
or in times that he cried?
In bridges he burned,
or the way that she died?”

I’ve written so many times about how my mom was like sunlight to me. I’m sure this is a story I will continue to write as long as I exist. There was no place as warm or as light as being with her. I hope I can be as good a friend to my children as my mother was to me. Sitting at her kitchen table, talking for hours about everything and nothing, laughing, eating, being. The good thing is that I knew how much she meant to me and treasured her while I had her. The bad thing is that it’s been nearly six years since she died. Think of all the cups of coffee, the drives in the country, the moments big and small we could have been sharing in those six years. I miss her. I miss her. I miss her.

She would say I need to focus on my own children now – and I do. Life is good and happy. But sometimes it is so good to write about her, because when I write about her, I weep – and I remember all that I lost when I lost her. Not that I forget – I still think of her all the time – but I don’t cry about her hardly at all any more, except when I write about her. The words pour out and my heart pours out and the tears pour out.

In all our pictures, she looks the same, but now my reflection in the mirror looks older than any photographs I have with her. What would she think about her gray-haired daughter? What would she think of her long-haired grandson? I know exactly – she would smile and love us. She would laugh and live in her grace-filled way.

It’s the little things, the little heart-breaking things…how whenever I would come home late, if she woke up she would come downstairs just to visit with me a little bit. Or how when she would go to bed but dad would still be awake, I would go upstairs to talk with her. No matter how tired she was, she had time for me. I miss her.

But now my sons come to visit with me. They come in the sunroom when I am writing or watching TV and we talk. They come in my room if I have gone to lie down and they tell me about this and that. I hope they feel the same kind of unconditional, grace-filled love and light with me that I knew with my mother. If so, then this life is such a great success.

How lucky I was, how thankful I am, I had her.


mom and me

Seasons of Love

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear.
five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure,
Measure a year?

In daylights?
In sunsets?
In midnights?
In cups of coffee?
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?

In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure a year in a life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love…
Seasons of love…
Seasons of love…

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty five thousand journeys to plan.
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure a life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned,
or in times that he cried?
In bridges he burned,
or the way that she died?

It’s time now to sing out,
though the story never ends.
Let’s celebrate remember a year in a life
of friends

Remember the love…
(Oh, you’ve got to you’ve got to remember the love)
Remember the love…
(You know the love is a gift from up above)
Remember the love…
(Share love, give love, spray love, measure your life in love.)
Seasons of love…
Seasons of love…

Don’t Leave Me Breathing

(I wrote this on September 26, 2012 – about ten months after my mom’s death. Everything I wrote then felt too personal to share, but now after time has gone by it feels good to look back at the healing that has happened and also to remember how raw the grief was for so long.)

I am so afraid of the grief leaving me.

The weather is starting to cool off a little bit here in Texas. Funny that it being in the eighties is cooling off, but that’s how it is here. September is nearing an end. Last year at this time mom and I were dancing together from the nursing home to the cardiologist to different hospital stays. It was like a terrible jig in which the steps got harder and the music got terribly unpleasant and we tried to stay together until ultimately, we collapsed in a heap of silence and stillness.

I miss her so deeply and fully. It’s the biggest feeling I can feel anymore – this grief and this emptiness. I can feel other things, surely – pride in my children and joy in the things they do. I feel love for them and Chad. I feel peace in my work and my church and I can feel annoyed when people disagree with me or if things don’t move at a pace I enjoy. But the only feeling that has really defined me for the last year is this grief.

But sometimes now, and this is the scary thing: I feel like I might actually survive it. And if I survive it, then I will come out on the other side somehow. I feel like the strands of this darkness are getting more slippery and I know it is God healing me – but I am terrified of it.

“Don’t leave me breathing,

no, not alone,

There’s so much more I meant to tell you.

I went by with flowers just to see,

But the granite told me you’re still gone.” 

(from the song, “So It Goes” by Chris Pureka)

As long as I keep carrying this sadness I’ll know it was true that I loved her. The empty place inside me is proof that maybe it is possible I can slowly disappear, too. Sometimes I wish for that. Or I wish I wished for that. It’s just this beautiful life distracts me. It’s hard to wallow too much when there are little boys to love and blessings all around.

The part of me that died when she died is dear to me. I don’t want it to live again. I want that empty space to remain as a monument to her. I don’t want it to be filled. The ache of it reminds me of all I have lost – all that I had when I had a mom so beautiful.


Pastrgrrl – September 26, 2012


Maundy Thursday

In many ways, this is the darkest night of the church year.  One could argue that Good Friday is darker and more solemn as it closes with Christ in the tomb, all hope lost – and yet, I would argue that it is this evening, Maundy Thursday, when the darkness presses in most deeply – it is nearly suffocating when we pause to consider it long enough.

It is this quiet evening we remember Jesus, vulnerable and sharing a final meal with his disciples.  Here he is, experiencing final words and moments with those who were the closest to him.  Here he is, knowing that the end was coming, and that these events that would lead to his death were set in motion by someone from his inner circle.  While on Good Friday we can imagine the crowd of strangers noisily shouting, “Crucify him,” – somehow the shouts of an angry mob are easier to understand than the betrayal of a friend, a loved one.  I sometimes think that while the beating and torture he endured on Friday was horrible, the cruelest blow was that of the kiss of his friend, Judas.

Have you ever betrayed someone you love?  Whether on purpose or by accident – have you caused harm to another?

If you have, you know that there are the stories we don’t like to tell.  These are memories that haunt and the stories that we try to shove deep inside and put on a smile and pretend they don’t exist. Try to drown them with drink or soften their edges with pills- yet, they remain.  Their truth cannot be dimmed.  The stories of our deepest failings feel like they need to be shut up tight and never spoken out loud – and yet, I have found in my own life that there is a certain healing that is possible only with admission and confession. 

I’ve spoken many times to you over the years about my mom. Many of you met her during the brief time she lived here before she died.  You know she went through a time of major depression and that was why she came from Minnesota to live with us.  Her depression had gotten so overpowering that she would no longer make the effort to eat or take her medicine or do anything without someone to make sure she did so. 

When mom came to live with us, I was so glad to try to do whatever I could for her.  The ways that she had lovingly cared for us as kids and then took care of my dad when he got older, I wanted to extend that same kind of care to her when she needed it.  We moved her into a room in our house, we loved having her with us even though she really wasn’t anything like herself anymore.  Her anxiety and depression were so deep that days with us were spent mostly sitting by the kitchen table, not speaking.  I would make her breakfast and go to work and then come home and make her lunch and then go back to work and then make her supper and three days a week I took her to a support group for seniors who were going through severe depression.  At the same time, the boys were in preschool and my final project for my doctorate was reaching its’ deadline. 

I took her to doctor’s appointments and checked her blood sugar twice a day.  She had diabetes and liver troubles and a heart condition that required that she get the thickness of her blood checked monthly so she wouldn’t get clots.  These were all things that she had tended to doing diligently before this but now that she couldn’t, I was determined to tend to all of it for her. 

And after a while, it felt like we were finding our way.  It was a strange new normal that we had as a family, but as I said, I was so glad to have her with me and that my boys could get to know her – even though her newfound anxiety and nerves made it hard for her to tolerate the loudness and chaos of a house with little boys.  It seemed like the support group was helping mom and now and then I saw glimpses of the mom I grew up with.  I was getting my work done and getting my dissertation done and getting the boys and mom where they needed to be.  It was a blur of days and I wasn’t sleeping much, but it felt like everything was going to be okay.

But then one afternoon I noticed mom was shaky and she went to lie down in her room.  I went in to check her blood sugar and I saw she had thrown up and was disoriented and couldn’t speak.  We called the ambulance and she went to the ER in Waco.  In the emergency room, the doctor was asking me many questions – about her medications, about when was the last time she had her blood checked.  You see, mom had just had a stroke because a clot had developed in her heart.  A perfectly round clot the size of a walnut.  And the clot was there because her blood had gotten too thick.  And her blood had gotten too thick because her medication dosage was apparently not right anymore.  And her medication dosage was not right because, as I ticked back through the days and weeks in my mind, I realized it had been well over six weeks since we had gotten it checked, instead of one month as it was supposed to be.

Because of that clot, mom had to have surgery to get it removed, a surgery from which she never recovered, and died a few months later.

I often used to joke about my forgetfulness, how I have to write everything down in order to remember both small and big things.  I figured if being forgetful was my worst flaw, then it wasn’t so bad. But in all my juggling of life and family and work and school, I had forgotten an astronomically important thing – to make sure she got her blood checked – and the consequences were catastrophic.  I’ll bear the grief and guilt and sadness about this until the day I die – because even though I would never, ever willingly have betrayed or harmed my mom, I did.  She had needed me to watch out for her, and I blew it.  Utterly and fully blew it.  There are no words to express the remorse I feel about this.

It’s a confession, that’s what it is.  God and I have talked about it an awful lot over the years.  As I proclaim the forgiveness of sins each week, I try to remind myself that forgiveness extends to me, too, and hopefully one of these days I will believe it. 

I share this story with you not just out of my need to speak it out loud, but to hold up the truth that we so deeply need what this night is about.  We come together as a big group of imperfect people, people who have histories and secrets, failures and longings, regrets and sins.  We may do a great job of hiding all these things so that no one would guess how broken we are inside, but we know.  And God knows.  And in this meal we share tonight we remember that even so, we are loved.  We are treasured.  It was because of our brokenness that Jesus sacrificed all for us.  He knew exactly what he was doing. And even though nothing can erase our brokenness, or fix all our mistakes, that God is able to always, somehow, still use us for good.

It seems too good to be true.  Judas couldn’t imagine it.  He was so overwhelmed by what he had done that the scripture says first he went and tried to give back the thirty pieces of silver he had gotten for betraying Jesus and then immediately went and hanged himself.  He couldn’t bear the thought of what he had done.

It’s human beings who feel such a greedy need to hoard guilt and shame – it’s not God.  Judas couldn’t forgive himself, but Jesus could. He did. On this Holy Thursday we remember how Jesus the Christ knelt and washed the feet of his disciples, even Judas.  He begged them to love one another, even as his heart grieved knowing how they would fail.  He loved them through his tears, even Judas.  His forgiveness so great that the cross would not extinguish it.  His forgiveness so great that it was for everyone for all time, even Judas.  Even you.  Even me. 

May God grant us grace to believe in this truth, in this Jesus, now and always.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

At Two Years

(Written November 1, 2013)

For the last two years I have not preached on All Saints Sunday so being in the pulpit this coming Sunday feels like a big deal. Two years ago on All Saints my mother had just died – I was in Minnesota preparing for her funeral the next day. Then, last year at this time I took a trip to Nebraska to see friends because I knew I could not lead worship or preach on the first anniversary of her death. Instead, my friends and I stayed up late drinking wine and talking, we got some new tattoos, took the kiddos to a movie, bought shoes, and ate good food. That time together with them was good medicine for me.

And now, in just hours, it will be two whole years since mom died. Even now there is a part of me that would happily never talk or write about anything other than her and how bad I feel without her. No one tells you that grief makes you terribly boring and interested in little aside from what you have lost.

I suppose I am getting better. I imagine with every day that goes by I am still gaining some strength, some perspective. But there is a part of me that hates that. The feverish little mess I was in the first months after her death was my proof that no one else loved their mother as much as I loved mine! I was the winner in the loss category.

But the sun keeps rising and setting and rising again. I can either keep adding onto my monument of pain and loss or I can live. I’ve always known I would choose to live –and yet I have been surprised at how comfortable I have grown with grieving. The sorrow has very nearly become a pillow I rest on, a familiar place for my heart to go. I know what to expect there – a canvas painted with pictures of how she looked and the things that filled her last days and months: pale arms resting on a prayer shawl, a fingertip with a heart monitor clipped to it, a spider web of tubes connected to her veins, sad-blue hospital gowns, and her weary visage. She was so deeply and truly tired at the end. Her heart had been sliced open and stitched back together twice, her liver mostly useless – I shouldn’t have been surprised she could die and yet her death was the great surprise of my life.

I’ve written so much about her these last couple years. I’ve filled notebooks and journals, countless status updates on Facebook, church newsletter articles and sermons, I keep spewing out volumes about how I felt then and how I feel now and documenting every move we made in those final months – as if I think that if I write it all down clearly and with enough depth I might be able to rewrite how it ended. I keep lining up words, stacking sentences one on top of another thinking perhaps if there are enough of them I can fill in the empty part of my heart. But there just aren’t enough words. That is what I have found in two years of missing my mother. There will never be enough words to describe how it is.

I have lost her. Surely I will always have things that will connect me to her – her wedding ring I will never take off, her china closet filled with the cups and dishes she loved, even looking in the mirror I see a bit of her staring back at me. And my voice – the sound of her voice has always come out of my own throat, too.

But she is gone. And there are no words. It’s taken me two trips around the sun to realize it.

I write sermons a lot and a good rule of thumb in writing a sermon is that it needs to end with the gospel, not the law. Even if the rest of the sermon is entirely depressing with talk about our sinful natures and the multitude of ways we have failed in life – at the end, the Christian sermon always points back to what Jesus has done for us and that there is hope. It’s what Christians believe – the end of the story is always one of hope.

However, what my mother’s death has taught me is that even though I have great hope and joy in God’s promise that I will see her again someday, there is still a sorrow I’ll carry now as long as I live. Grief is not an event but a journey. It is exhausting and ongoing and travels a path that makes no sense whatsoever. It sucks.

And I’ve also learned I have a lot of company on this path. At my church, the cemetery is filled with stories of loss. I’ve presided at some of those funerals as we said “goodbye” to the parent, spouse, friend, sibling, or child. So many tears have soaked into that ground. Over the years my parishioners have stood together over the graves of the people they loved, over and over again. They have become well-seasoned at grieving and at helping one another to weather the seasons of loss. They help their pastor, too. When my voice cracks, when the tears well, even if I’m all the way up in the pulpit, they look at me only with compassion and understanding. They know this path I’m on, they have walked it, too – and now we’ll journey it together.

So, anyway. Two years. An eternity. A moment. She was pretty great. Her name was Betty and I will not forget her. She liked to sit outside and enjoy the quiet. She loved sweets. She kept a little notebook where she wrote down every penny she spent. She always wore a scarf (or “kerchief” as she called it) on her head when she left the house. She was tall, like me. She was kind and loved a good Hallmark channel movie or a game of Scrabble. She took care of my dad even when he became very sick and not very nice. She always had time to talk to me when I called. I think I miss that the most – just hearing her say “hello” when I dialed her number from wherever I was.

Blessed be the memory of all the saints in light.


All Saints

Henry Scott Holland wrote, “Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt. Nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”

It was three years ago this past Sunday that I woke up on the couch of room 379 of Providence Hospital and noticed I couldn’t hear my mother breathing in the darkness anymore. A few hours before I had set down my book I was reading, “Water for Elephants,” glanced over at her lying there, and thought for the thousandth time how I didn’t know what to pray for anymore. I couldn’t bear for her to leave me. I couldn’t bear for her to be so sick anymore. And so my prayer in those days just had kind of become, “Please…God.” And I understood God would just have to fill in what I didn’t know how to say. I had turned off the light and fallen asleep to the sound of her breathing. And at some point while I slept, she slipped away. Went on to the next place.

I’ll keep telling that story as long as I live. The story of her loss is now such a big part of my own story because now I’m not just Ruth, Betty’s daughter, but I’m Ruth, whose mom is no longer here. Ruth, the forty-something orphan. Ruth, who was overjoyed a few months ago when I was back home in Minnesota and I ran into my hometown pastor who is nearly blind now – and I went up to him to say “hello” and he said even though he couldn’t see me, he knew me by my voice, because I sounded just like my mother.

As of three years and a few hours ago, I cannot tell the story of me without telling the story of her loss. I think you probably understand that because this is just how it is once we have known great loss. Our stories are knit together and when we experience the death of someone closest to us, we don’t expect the empty spot they left behind to ever really be filled again. We may grow accustomed to the empty spot, we may get used to the ache, we certainly go on and live and love again, but we would not wish the echo of their loss to ever disappear, because we know there are just some things in life that are irreplaceable. It’s like Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute; we simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say God fills the gap; God does not fill it, but on the contrary, God keeps it empty, and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other even at the cost of pain.”

And yet, it’s not just the pain and the emptiness that remain with us after our loved ones die. In a mystical, yet very true way, they are a part of us. In countless ways we feel their presence. Think about it, how the scent of a particular gum brings back memories of the fellow who used to always share a piece of it with you before church. Or how when you hear a certain hymn you remember how your grandma would tear up whenever she sang that song. Or how when you look at the smile of your grandson you can so clearly see the same grin your father had. And these things feel like small miracles because they bring back dear memories and glimpses of loved ones long since gone.

But it goes even farther than that. Here in the church we believe that those who have gone before us are not just with us in those memories. Rather, the communion of the saints is a fellowship we continue to share as the body of Christ – regardless of time and space, life or death. I was told a fascinating thing this week – something I don’t know if I had heard before, but if I had, I had forgotten it. That there is a very intentional reason for the half moon shaped altar rails in the Scandinavian churches. The current congregation gathers around the visible half circle rail, while the circle is completed beyond time and space by those who have already died. The altar rail may look like an incomplete circle, but when we gather there we can know that those who have died in the faith are kneeling with us at and complete the circle.

So the tradition of All Saints Sunday that is celebrated in many churches is a powerful time – to not only take time to remember the people from our congregation who have died in the last year, but also to remember all our loved ones who have died, and to remember that while we miss them so much, we are still knit together in the mystical communion of saints. When we sing together, they sing with us. When we share in communion, they share in that meal as well – and it is a thin veil that separates us.

Frederick Buechner wrote, “They live on, those giants of our childhood. They manage to even take death in their stride. Death may take them, but it can never take our relationship with them. However else they still live on, they still live on in us. Memory is more than looking back to a time gone by; it is looking into another kind of time altogether. A time where everything that was continues to be – and grows and changes with the life that is in us.

The people we loved and who loved us; for good or for ill, taught us things. Dead though they may be, as we come to understand them in new ways, it is though they come to understand us – and we come to understand ourselves – in new ways too.

Who knows what “the communion of saints” means, but surely it means that these people we once knew are not just voices that have ceased to speak. They are saints because though them the power and richness of life not only touched us once, but continues to touch us still.”

October Morning

It was a cool October morning when the doctor sat down with my infant son and me in the hospital waiting room. My mother was gravely ill in the Intensive Care Unit. He fumbled with his pen as he explained that she was “a very, very sick lady” and that she probably would not survive.

He left the room and I held the baby close. I could hear the sounds of people in the hallways, the sounds of the elevator doors opening and closing around the corner. How could people be going about life as usual when the entire world had obviously just shifted? My mother was dying.

My cell phone rang – my friend, Amy. I told her where I was and what was happening. Within two hours she was sitting next to me, which means she had packed up her baby daughter and started heading up the freeway immediately. She didn’t ask if she should come. She just came.

We didn’t talk much during the hours she was there. There wasn’t much to say. We just sat and held the babies, drank coffee, and fielded updates from the doctors and nurses. Yet her presence in that waiting room helped hold the sky in place when it seemed everything was about to come crashing down.

Philippians 1:3-11

“I thank my God for you…” (v. 3)

The Jewelry Box

The other night I remembered the jewelry box played music – the tinny notes it played had been part of its’ “magic” to me when I would admire it as a young girl.  The box has been sitting in my bathroom since I brought it home from Minnesota a few months ago – Jesse likes to open it and look at Grandma’s bits of jewelry.  He calls them her “shineys.”  I turned the key to see if it still worked and there was only silence.  I wish I could remember what song it used to play.

My mom did not have a lot of fancy things.  She and dad lived very simply – partly out of necessity – money was tight since Dad couldn’t work for most of his adult life due to his disabilities, but also because of a fierce thriftiness they both held.  If they could make something keep working, keep serving its’ purpose, no matter how bad it looked or how many times it had to be taped together to keep functioning, they kept using it.

Every penny mattered.  They didn’t say things like “it’s just twenty bucks, why not get it?” – they said things like, “waste not, want not.”

There were times I felt my dad took this to the extreme – like when the window in my upstairs bedroom (which had a beautiful view of the hills and woods in the distance) broke and rather than get a new window, he just told my brother to nail a board over it – first stuffing the window frame with insulation so that it could now keep the cold air out more efficiently.  The fact that my room was now a dark tomb with no natural light was not a consideration.

Or there was the car we had when my brother and I were small – it needed a screwdriver stuck somewhere in the engine in order to get it started.  Rather than fix whatever was causing this, mom and dad just dealt with it and drove it that way for years.

And particularly unforgettable were the years when there was something wrong with our well and we used the outhouse out back and washed clothes at the Laundromat in town and filled jugs of water at grandma’s house to use for drinking and bathing.

Some people had more than us and some people had less.  Us kids might have thought our inconveniences were terribly lame, but we knew we weren’t deprived. We had no frills, but we had enough.  Mom and Dad would always figure out a way to make do.

There’s so much of this I admire.  I imagine I would have all my student loans paid off by now if I managed my money and “made do” half as well as my parents did.  As it is, I lean toward the frivolous more often than I should.  Particularly with my children – I like to buy them things.  I think it shocked my mom when she came to stay with us how much stuff we bought for the kids.  I remember admitting to her, “They are spoiled.”  She did not deny it, she said simply, “Yes.  But they are cute.”

For however little material possessions mom wanted or needed during her life, it became even more extremely this way the last year of her life.  When she came to live with us, I ached to be able to ease sadness that she was carrying.  Since I didn’t know what else to do – I would try to bring her little “treats” – things that she would normally have enjoyed – some nice soap or a pretty cup, some fresh stationery or even a tall, cold bottle of diet coke.  She would politely thank me and bring them into her room where she would place them carefully in her bedside drawer or closet.  She did not need them or want them or even barely consider them for longer than it took to store them away.

Sometimes I think, whether she realized it or not, her vision was already set on the Next place.  Her whole life she had needed so little but for where her journey was leading her now, there was absolutely nothing she needed or wanted.

After mom died, my brother and I went through her house in Minnesota and took care of what was left behind. There was nothing of great value – but much that was precious, of course, including that jewelry box.  It is pink with pink satin and velveteen on the inside.  I remember as a child creeping into my parents’ room to open that pretty box and look at her treasures.  When I came across it after her death it still contained many of the same things I had remembered she kept in there – some earrings she used to wear when she was right out of college and worked in Minneapolis, her high school Letter, a locket with a picture of dad, and dad’s wedding ring.

I took dad’s ring and slipped it onto my thumb.  It was just a few days earlier that I had put on mom’s wedding ring.  When she was in ICU they had to take it off her since her fingers were swelling so badly.  I put it into a plastic bag along with the only other piece of jewelry she wore, a black hills silver ring I had given her some years before.  I told her I would hold onto them until she got out of the hospital.  The night she died, while I was still in the hospital room trying to gather the strength to stand and leave and go home, I kept looking at her hands and seeing the indentation on her ring finger. I remembered the rings still in my purse.  I took them out and slipped both those rings on my finger.  I had planned to just bring them back to Minnesota and give them to the funeral director to have them buried with her – but when I got there, I couldn’t do it.  I felt guilty about that because her thin gold wedding band had been on her hand her whole life.  She had held us as babies while wearing that ring.  She had cared for my father wearing that ring.  It rightfully belonged buried on her finger, but I couldn’t part with it.  Mom would have to forgive me for that – because I knew I somehow needed it to help me get through the rest of my life without her.

It makes no sense that a thin gold band should help me feel near to my mom who cared so little for material things.  Yet perhaps it does.  This ring was one thing that did matter to her.  It stood for a promise she made that mattered to her more than any other in her life.  I look at it and I can see her hands still.  Truthfully, I would give away every single possession I have before I would get rid of this ring.  It rests on my finger just below my own wedding band.  Like a firm and gentle reminder from my mom about the things that matter most: persistence, promises kept, and love.  Always love.

Waffles and Coffee

No one knows what heaven will be like, but I know what I hope will happen first thing when I get there.  I will sit down at my mom’s kitchen table and eat waffles that she is making for me on grandma’s waffle iron.  When she’s used up all the batter and all the golden brown waffles are all stacked on a plate, she’ll sit at the table with me and we’ll drink coffee and eat waffles with peanut butter and syrup.  We’ll talk and it will seem as though not a moment has passed since we saw each other.  We’ll have the blessed ease of just being mother and daughter again – how we were when we were at our best.  It won’t be how it was when I was a teenager and blaming her for everything that went wrong.  It won’t be how it was at the end when I was trying to take care of her and so desperate to keep death away.  Those memories will still be a part of us for they are a part of our story, but the sting and the pain will be gone.  All that will remain is the love and the goodness and the wholeness there was to existence when I had a mom, a friend, so wonderful.

Soon it will be two years since she died.  Grief is still my companion, but she doesn’t smother me as much these days.  She’s always around, sometimes just quietly lingering in the background and yet at other times, just when I begin notice how she’s beginning to fade, she’ll come and slap my face hard.  And I’m glad for the tears she brings with her and the ways she twists and hurts my heart.  I welcome the darkness she brings to an otherwise beautiful day.  Her presence reminds me of the blessing I had for so long.  I don’t mind Grief tagging along with me for the rest of my days, because she helps to fill part of the emptiness in my life that mom left behind.  I don’t expect or want that empty spot to ever be completely filled with joy or sweetness or calm or peace again.  I know God is bringing me all those things and I am so grateful for that.  However, there’s a space reserved for the Grief as long as she will stay.

I’ve been thinking I know something more now than I ever could before about the origin of the deep sighs, eyes that hold wisdom of the ages, stooped backs, the wakeful hours in the middle of the night, and the color of weary gray.  There is so much loss this world has to hold.  Grief needs so much space here so she seeps in where she will –  she dries up the creekbeds and starves the crops and steals into every one of our homes to take up residence there.  She’ll take up as much room as we give her.  She can be the queen of everything or a shadow in the corner.  Give her too much power and she’ll gladly ruin the rest of your days.  Give her a spot in the corner and she’ll be just the reminder you need that life is both beauty and sadness, love and loss.  Walk gently.  Really see each other and help each other along the journey.  Cry, laugh, be real.

No, I don’t mind the Grief.  I hope a bit of her always stays.  Her presence is what keeps my eyes looking toward the stars and dreaming about what is yet to come.  She keeps me thinking about the Place where my mother and my grandmothers and friends have already gone and where I hope to join them someday.  At the end of this life.  Waffles and coffee, conversation at a kitchen table.  Home.

John 14:2 – “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. “ (The Message)