Thursday, December 09, 2010


Ever since I have been a small child, I've always had very vivid dreams. I remember a dream that I had from the time I was around 4 or 5 because it was so vivid, even. Often, I consider it a gift to have such an active subconscious, but sometimes I am troubled by what my brain brings up. But, on the whole, I appreciate the visions of sugarplums that dance through my head.

I think that because of my long history of vivid dreams, and the fact that I remember many of them has helped me become fairly good at decoding what they are saying. Often, I think back to what was on my mind before I went to sleep, and can then figure things out.

I had a dream yesterday that was very odd. I finished my annotated bibliography for a class, took the book back to the library, and sat down at my desk to send it off to the professors. However, I was quickly sidetracked by a horrible bout of nausea (figures, right?). So, I went to lie down on my bed. Soon enough, I was asleep and dreaming this:

I was down in this big basement like room because I was following a bear. It was like I was going into a water level in Super Mario Bros, though it wasn't cartoon-like. It was dark, and I think I had come down a pipe. I jumped off the little platform and into the water. The water didn't really make me feel cold or anything; it was simply something in the dream. As I swam along, I found myself soon enough at this really gross little house that was on stilts to keep it out of the water. It looked all black and mildewy and everything. As the house came into my sight, I also saw the bear I had been following. It was also swimming, but just as I got it in my sight, it pulled this big hose that had a plug on it. I realized it was draining all the water out of the big room, so I went right back to the platform to try to get out, but too much water was already gone. I couldn't get back up onto the platform. Soon, all the water was gone and the bear was backing me against a wall. I was very scared as it continued to back me up until my back was against the wall. But, as I backed into the wall, I looked down and saw a bunch of really long 2x4s right there. As I looked down at them, it didn't register in my brain to pick one up. The bear was snarling at me, and at this point I picked up one of the 2x4s and started swinging it at the beast. Even though the bear was very close to me, I still missed. But, the bear started backing away anyway and then it turned into a less scary thing; a man. It was at this point that I woke up, gasping for breath because I was so scared.

As I lie there in my bed, I thought, "What a strange dream. I wonder what it means." Then, out of the blue, the meaning hit me. The bear was dementia and the big room was grief. The dementia pulled the plug and made me stuck in grief even though I tried to get out of it. When the dementia started coming after me, I didn't know what to do about it and I felt trapped. I saw tools to help and eventually picked one up and used it to help me. I missed because dementia is such a huge opponent, but I felt empowered. When I felt empowered, the bear (dementia) turned into the man (something more manageable). I was fighting it back because I needed to before it ate me up. I kept missing the bear but it kept backing away.

And that's the meaning that came and whacked me upside the head. I have found myself wondering what the water is, but I don't think it had much to do with the dream. I wasn't cold because of it, nor was I drowning in it. It was just something that was. Often, I see water as a symbol for chaos in dreams, but that doesn't fit in this one because the chaos seems to increase with dementia because a person can feel so helpless. I also do not quite know what the gross house was about. Other than maybe the house is symbolic of the brain. The fact that it was covered in mildew (akin to plaques afflicting those with Alzheimer's, or like the blocking of blood vessels due to vascular dementia), and that it was far too small for the bear to live in makes me think that the house is symbolic of the brain. I don't know. Those two things didn't "come to me" the way the rest of the meaning did.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that dream because of the odd circumstances around it. I very rarely wake up gasping for air, but I was really afraid in this dream, and I was also really putting forth an effort to hit the bear with the 2x4. Crazy, I know. But, also an interesting look into my subconscious.

Monday, November 29, 2010

'Tis the Season...

Well, folks, here we are at the end of November. It's hard to believe this year is almost over already. Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. Three more Sundays of Advent, and then we find ourselves at Christmas.

This is also the season of "end of the semester crunch." That sounds like a cereal tagline. "Stressy-O's-they've got that great end of the semester crunch." Haha.

Anyway...In chapel today, our senior preacher talked about the hustle and bustle of the "Christmas Season," meaning how secular culture hijacks the month of December to hawk their wares and get out of the red. He talked of how Christ's birth means more than that. These words were a good reminder.

I find it hard to believe all that has happened since last Christmas. I am a person who often measures time by looking at significant events that have occurred. I remember when X happened because it happened near when Y happened, or on the anniversary of Z, or whatever. Since last Christmas, the hubster and I went on the "Tour de Sushi" vacation, Hub and I celebrated our first married Christmas and Valentine's Day, I made the trip back to Illinois twice to be with my sick and dying mother and then for her death and funeral. I chanted in front of 400 people during Easter morning worship as the intern pastor, among other duties I held as an intern until my experience was over on May 30th. Housewifing for a couple of months held my time, as well as another vacation, skydiving, bringing two of my three nephews to stay with us in ND for a week, and then moving back to school the same weekend as a good high school friend got married. My first semester of senior year is quickly drawing to a close, but not before my first birthday as an orphan, and the dawn of "the Holidays" with this same reality for me and my siblings and countless other people in the world who have experienced the death of loved ones this year.

With all of these truths, with all the joys and sorrows that have come this year, the importance of Christ's presence with and for this world is a great truth to remember. The love of God in Christ Jesus is not something that takes away the hurt and grief of no longer having mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, and other loved ones, but this presence IS a reminder that through it all, we are not forsaken. We are not forgotten. The ones we have lost are not forsaken or forgotten. I take comfort in Jesus words in Matthew 28:20, "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

The world DOES change. Things happen that we wish wouldn't. Pain and happiness mingle together; poignantly at such a time in the year when so much time and energy is spent on "family." And so, with the new reality for me that has only come through my orphanhood, I am learning to embrace "the Holidays," not with a fake, plastered on smile, but with authenticity, with a renewed sensitivity to others, and with the assurance of my Lord and my God: "I am with you always," to love, to forgive, and to offer life where once there was death.

Monday, November 01, 2010

For All the Saints

Today is All Saints Day; a day in the Church where we remember the saints triumphant (those who have died in Christ) and the saints militant (those who are still living).

In chapel this morning, the leaders read off all the names that were given to them of people related to the community who have died since last year's All Saints celebration. What struck me was how MANY names were read off. I personally knew of several of the people, and some that weren't mentioned. But there were a lot of names brought forth to remember this day. What a reminder of the faith around us and how we all live in the ripples.

I am grateful this day for the example of faith that has been shown to me through many saints. This year, obviously, All Saints Day has taken a slightly different bent, and yet I remember my mom at the same time that many people remember parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends.

This community is one that has experienced loss this year. We have grieved the loss of a friend and classmate, the loss of parents (I'm not the only one by far), the loss of loved ones. And yet we still gather to worship, to embrace one another in friendship, and to serve the God who has called us in our baptism to be in this place for a time. We prepare to be sent out in service to the God who calls us to be salt for the earth.

We do so because God has given us people to love and to serve for Christ's sake in the power of the Holy Spirit. For those who have gone before, rest in peace in the love and mercy of Almighty God.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time heals all wounds?

Well, friends, it has been a while. Dreadfully sorry.

Anyway, the thing I've been thinking about lately is the saying, "Time heals all wounds."

I call the BS card on this one.

Time does not "heal" all wounds. I don't think "time" itself helps, even. What I DO think is that as we REFLECT on the situations in our past, we learn from them. We begin to integrate our new "changed" self into a self that has meaning. Depending upon your situation, the amount of reflection and time varies.

It has been seven months and one day since my mom died. I just keep thinking, "Why don't I feel better about this yet?" Sure, some days are better than others, but when it comes down to it, when I'm sitting in my room all alone, I can get pretty sad. And so I reflect. And I think a part of why I don't "feel better" about it "yet," is that I'm still going through that first year. There are lots of things that enter my mind that are new. For instance, October 14th was a hard day because that was the anniversary of the day Mom's bladder cancer basically invaded into our lives. And the surgery to fix that was what caused her cognition to seriously deteriorate. Another example of "new" things that calls for reflection and grief is something others might find silly. I am a tactile person. I like to touch things. I often run my hand along the wall as I am walking. As I was walking down the hall to my room the other day, all of a sudden, a vision from my past flashed in my mind. It was of me walking up the stairs with my hand on one wall and Mom holding my other hand. The memory was one of fondness, but tinged with pain as I no longer have Mom to hold my hand, and I can no longer walk up and down those stairs.

And still, I reflect. I grieve. I pray for and think of others who grieve. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Grief work is hard work. And not work that time itself can do.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Memory Walk

The Alzheimer's Association is the leading organization for supporting patients, families, friends, and other caregivers affected by dementia. Their primary focus IS Alzheimer's Disease, although they do help people affected by other dementias. Their mission is to accompany patients and their loved ones through the disease with education, care, resources, and support groups. They also are one of the leading organizations that fund Alzheimer's Disease research to try to find a cure for this thieving disease.

Every year, the Alzheimer's Assocation puts on a Memory Walk in communities across the country. The Memory Walk is much like the American Cancer Society's "Race for the Cure." Walkers register and seek to fundraise in various ways. Then, they go to a designated place on the day of the walk, experience a short program, and then walk along a particular path.

This year, I formed a team for the local Memory Walk in SeminaryCommunity. We sought donations and fundraised a decent chunk of money. I felt very passionately about participating to the fullest because of all that's happened with my family and me during Mom's illness. I walked for Mom. At one point during my seminary career, I went and talked to a lady at the local Alzheimer's Association chapter and she gave me a lot of information, books, an Alzheimer's Assocation bag, and a listening ear. It was invaluable. So, I wanted to help repay the favor.

I also wanted to raise money so that we can get closer to a cure. I've recently heard of some promsing research in Australia. I am incredibly hopeful that these scientists, doctors, and professionals are on the right track so that people will not have to fear the diagnosis of "Alzheimer's Disease" in the NEAR future. I walked for the Alzheimer's Association.

Honestly, I walked also for my family and for me though. My maternal grandmother had Alzheimer's Disease. My paternal grandmother had undifferentiated dementia, and Mom had Vascular Dementia. I do NOT want to follow suit. Also, my oldest brother is turning 50 this year, and I want a cure to be available when and if he is diagnosed. I want a cure for if and when my sisters and if and when I get diagnosed. Losing people slowly to such a disease as dementia is too terrible a thing. I can't imagine what it is like for patients when they still are aware of what is happening. I walked for patients, families, and caregivers all over the world. I walked for you.

So, I participated in the Memory Walk to support the Alzheimer's Association. I was the 5th ranked top fundraiser for this community, and that is something of which I am proud. I walked for many reasons. I hope to walk in the future. It is a tangible thing that I can do to help me continue to process through the grief that still very much affects me. It seems almost appropriate that the walk here was six months to the day of Mom's death. I hope that I can continue to be a voice for those who have had there voices robbed from them by dementia. I hope that I honor my mom's memory, and I hope that someday soon, we can live in the joy of a cure and a prevention of a disease that tries to steal who a person is.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Residence Hall Laundry

Well, here I sit in my dorm room at Seminary. Prolog Week is over, and this is probably the last weekend I'll have for a while with absolutely no homework or reading to do. So, what am I doing to live it up? I am trying to do my laundry.

Exciting, I know. But stick with me here... At Seminary, we get to do our laundry for "free" in our housing units. In the Res Hall, there are three washers and three dryers in the basement. We all share and share alike.

The thing is, there are many people living in the residence hall, and so sometimes there are no free laundry machines. To exacerbate this problem, one of the RH washers is out of commission right now. So, there are TWO washers and three dryers.

I just walked down to the laundry room because I haven't done laundry here yet and I need to wash my sheets and some clothes. But, right now, both of the washers are occupied, and this got me thinking.

It "should" be pretty obvious that in life, sometimes things won't happen exactly the way we want them to. However, I think we forget that a lot of the time. And then when something like all the washing machines being occupied happens, we're reminded of reality. It's not a big deal right now for me to have to wait for a washer to open up. But for some people, especially in our "gotta have it now" society, that would be a HUGE deal. And unfortunately, sometimes reality vs. what we want comes to a head and spills over into our relationships with others.

I remember vividly when I was a middler (2nd year M.Div student) and had my laundry in a washer. I'm usually very intentional about making sure my clean clothes don't sit in the washer for extended periods of time, knowing that other people might be needing to get their own chores done. So, imagine my surprise when one day, someone called me and sniped at me to come get my laundry out of the washer. In a rude way. Even though, I'm fairly certain the washer had JUST stopped.

I am fairly certain that had this woman been a bit more diplomatic and polite about the situation, I would not remember it. But, since she snapped at me and was rude, I DO remember. And in that remembering, I also think about how my actions and words and tone of voice affect how other people "get" me.

So, as I sit here waiting for a washing machine to open up, I am reflective about community and about the compromises and patience which are important to embody. When we "gotta have it now" we are taking away from others who also have a desire to get things done and to live their lives. Unselfishness is important. Politeness is important. This community and every community in which we find ourselves is important. I hope to remember this always, and to live in ways that honor the various types of people in community, as well as myself.

Monday, June 07, 2010

This Old House

My childhood home has been sold. Way back in February, someone looked at it, liked it, made an offer, and that offer was accepted. We wanted to sell Ma's house because nursing homes are ridiculously expensive, and we wanted to pay them. Ma was always very good about paying her bills, and she would not have been happy to know that Pastures was not getting their money. Anyway, so this person made an offer and it was accepted. But, something about banks these days made it so that we needed to wait two months to close on the thing.

Fast forward to March. Mom died. Guess what? Since the house hadn't been closed on, it became the property of my four siblings and me. Wrench in the plans. We're very thankful that the woman who wanted to buy it was understanding, even to the point of having to wait to get all of our signatures on the sheet, get our signatures notarized, and then back to the bank. Fast forward some more to June. FINALLY the house was sold.

As of last Wednesday, the place I grew up is now off limits to the likes of me. It's kind of weird, really. I lived there for 24 years of my life. Most of my memories are from there.

And now, I can't even go there anymore. The tree my dad planted for me (we got them for Arbor Day in 3rd grade) now belongs to someone else. The old crappy shed that I worked on cleaning out now belongs to someone else. The grass I successfully grew on the north side of the lawn (my dad had tried multiple times to no avail) is no longer mine. The walls that have heard the echoes of so many laughs and so many, "I love yous," and so many conversations no longer are mine.

Now, someone else gets to enjoy the shade of my pine. Someone else can store their belongings in my shed. Someone else gets to mow my grass. Someone else gets to laugh, love, and share life within my walls. Their pine, shed, grass, life.

And even though I grieve the loss of yet another familiar thing, I have hope that this woman will enjoy the place and make new memories and bring joy to her home. HER home.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Grief and the Trunk of My Car

Yesterday was my last day in the office at the big church where I am the intern. My smaller church doesn't have a building at all, so all of my office time has been spent at Big Church (BC). BC is a fairly large congregation, replete with two pastors, an administrative assistant, director for Christian education, parish nurse, and me (for a couple more days, technically).

One of the great thing about BC's "staff church" status is that the staff is excellent. Sure, there are tensions between a couple of people, but nothing insurmountable. We all have gotten along quite well during my ten months of internship.

All of the staff have been great to me during my time in North Dakota. In particular, the administrative assistant, whom we shall call "Smiley," has been a wonderful addition to my life. Not only is she a model of efficiency and pleasantness, she is also very, VERY fun, and to top it off, she reminds me of Sis.

Anyway, yesterday was my last office day, like I said. I was reflecting on how I'd been at Restaurant for 10 years and how I'd been at BC for ten months, and how much more sad I was at the thought of leaving BC.

I waited until everyone else left before I went to get the box I had put in my car (Arnold). Even though they knew yesterday was the last day I'd be working with them in the office, I didn't want to upset them with that reminder. So, Smiley gave me a hug and then they all left.

Which brings me to the gist of this post. I went out and got the empty box to put the bulk of my "office stuff" into. I went to my office and loaded my books and pictures and some things into my bags, and then put most of the stuff in the box. Then, I started carrying my things out to my car. I opened the trunk and realized that the only times I ever open the trunk of my car are times fraught with grief.

When Mom was dying, and J and I decided to drive all night, the trunk was opened to put in our suitcases. The day of her funeral, we opened my trunk to put plants and other funeral home things in there. When we needed to head back to North Dakota, I had to put the last box of my stuff from my childhood home into the trunk, full well knowing that I would probably never get to see the inside of that home ever again because someone wanted to buy it. Even though the death of one of the most influential people in my life is different from leaving a well-loved "job," it is still a grieving process.

So, yesterday, as I was cleaning out my office and taking my things to the car, I realized that the trunk of the car is a place, for me at least, where grief's shadows linger. The trunk lid is opened, and in are poured boxes and contents of my life during times of grief and processing, as well as some of my tears and angst.

I knew full well that my internship was a "fixed time-frame" job. That's what it is to be on an internship. I knew that Mom's time was drawing to a close. That's a part of what it is to be a human being with a terminal illness. And yet, these obvious truths did not stop and do not stop the grief. Which leads me to yet another point: Grief is not a bad thing.

Grief is a healthy thing. Certainly, the loss of loved ones, the realization that we don't get to see people who make us laugh and feel loved on a regular basis, and the growing older and losing the things of childhood cause all sorts of different emotions within us. They hurt, often to the point we think it is unbearable. These things cause tears-even for those of us who don't often cry. All this grief and change help us to see that life is not some perfect utopia, but is instead a place where good and bad things happen everyday. But it's healthy. Grieving is healthy, even if at the same time uncomfortable. Grieving reminds us that we have loved and been loved; reminds us that we have made memories that are irreplaceable; reminds us that we are indeed alive.

And this makes me want to go and open the trunk of my car.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Years gone by...

Tomorrow, my father will have been dead for fifteen years.

As time has passed, I have experienced different emotions on this day. Last year, I was out golfing with YS and getting a sunburn on one half of my body. Three years ago, my youngest nephew came home from the hospital after being born. Nine years ago, I was taking final exams in high school; thirteen I was graduating from eighth grade...

This year, I find myself a bit more grief-stricken than in some of the other more recent years. I think this is because of the added grief of Mom having died just two months ago. Because our grief at the loss of Mom is so new, I find myself reminded of the intense grief that came from the trauma of "the accident" and Dad's death. So, I remember and find the grief a bit compounded.

I do give thanks, as I reflect, that the last words I said to both of my parents were ones of love. After Dad's heart attack, I stayed (relatively) calm, got the car stopped, and stayed in it while YS and our friend jumped out. I stayed with Dad for a few minutes, and only left because YS and Friend were standing by some guy I did not know. I didn't want them to go with some stranger in their shock, so I got out of the car. But, not before I looked at Dad and said, "Dad, I love you."

That day at Pastures, I told Mom several times, "Mom, we love you." And, well, the story about her death is just a couple below this one.

I don't really know what the purpose of this post is. I suppose I just feel kind of alone in the midst of all this. I'm 800 miles away from my family. My friends are spread far and wide. And thankfully, most of my friends still have their parents. I reckon I am trying to get some of this off my chest and out there. I miss my parents.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Everywhere I go...

It seems that everywhere I go these days, "Moms" come up.

This grieving thing is harder than I thought.

Please continue to pray for my family and me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sacred Space

*This post could be considered disturbing to some. This is my disclaimer.*

Last Wednesday afternoon, YS called me at the church where my office is. Older Brother the Younger had been to Pastures to see Mom, and while he was there, the doctor came to see her. He said that she was not doing well and that it was probably a "matter of days." YS wanted me to know so that I could plan accordingly. I decided that I would leave for Illinois the next morning to be with Mom and my family to walk together this journey before us.

The rest of the day was spent doing regular "intern pastor" type stuff. We did Wednesday night Lenten worship, and some of us were chatting afterward. The pastors and staff at the church were incredibly supportive of me, and wished me safe travels for the 800 mile trip back to my home communities.

When I got back to the parsonage that night, my phone rang again. Sis was on the other end of the phone. She needed my advice because one of the nurses at Pastures called and said that it was looking like Mom would not make it through the night. She wanted me to tell her if she should go to the home or not. I tried to be "pastoral" and let her make her own decision, but ultimately, Sis said, "What would you do?" I told her that I would go to the home, just so Mom wouldn't be alone. Sis then said she'd go. So, she and YS went to the home, and Jake and I hurriedly packed up and left for Illinois. YS said that while they were with Mom (til about 2:30 a.m.), she told her, "Trish is coming, Mom. Trish is coming."

Jake and I drove all night. The drive from the parsonage to Pastures takes approximately thirteen hours. But we kept going, and we got to Pastures around 11:30 a.m. A CNA took us to Mom's room, where she was on oxygen and largely unresponsive; lying on her bed and facing toward the window showing a beautiful sunny day. She looked to be awake, but aside from her breathing, she was not moving. I leaned over her, kissed her forehead, and told her, "We love you, Mom." Her eyes moved a tiny little bit as I said these words to her. As we remained with her,I held my hand on her shoulder and we watched her breathe. In. Out. In....Out...........In Out In Out. Again, "We love you, Mom." For twenty minutes, we watched her breathe. In...Out...

And then there was nothing.

I tried to feel for a pulse, and when I felt nothing, I pushed the nurse call button. The CNA came in, checked, and then called the nurse. Mom's struggle was over. We spent some time with Mom's body, listened as some of the Pastures staff came in and gave us condolences, and I traced the cross on her forehead, proclaiming the promises made to her in baptism, "You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever." She waited for me; the last of her many wonderful gifts of which I was the recipient. She may not have cognitively known that I was her daughter, or maybe she did. But I think she waited. For me.

Needless to say, this past week has been incredibly painful for my family and me. I have been a little surprised by the intensity of grief I've been feeling. Don't get me wrong, I really, really loved Mom, but I thought I was "ready." She'd been so unwell for so long, I thought I'd be okay once her death came. But really, I'm realizing that we're never really ready to stop making memories with the ones we love. We're never ready to lose that last connection, no matter the circumstances around the death. It's hard. This grief work is hard work, and so I appreciate the prayers of many faithful people, near and far.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Life in the midst of death

Last Wednesday, YS left a message for me in my voicemail saying that Ma had been taken to the hospital. The Nursing home (We'll call it "Pastures") had called Sis earlier and said that Ma was having high blood sugars, a weird heart rate, was pale, lethargic, and otherwise not doing well. So, Ma was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with sepsis and pneumonia.

These two things are the leading causes of death for people with dementia. Therefore, my siblings and I were concerned for our mother's health, although we have been for some time. Her dementia has caused her further cognitive decline to the point that I no longer have to wonder if she knows me because I know that she does not.

I went to Illinois to see Ma over the weekend. It was a long and exhausting trip, but I'm glad I went. My siblings said that she was singing in her sleep. They didn't know the tunes, but were thinking that they were hymns. When I visited Ma, she was sleeping most of the time. She was not singing for me, so I sang to her. At one point while I was singing, "Seek Ye First the Kingdome of God," she folded her hands as if in prayer. She could not say any prayers with me, nor did she sing with me. But, her brother and sister in law went to see her the next day and said she was singing in her sleep while they were there.

I don't say this flippantly, but instead, in awe. Mom was always a singer. She sang at funerals, weddings, community events/dedications, in multi-community karaoke contests, and in church. She sang at home, in the car, and while working in the yard. One of the hardest parts of seeing her mental decline was the fact that she stopped singing. Imagine our surprise when we heard (or heard of) her singing in the midst of such a serious illness.

I'm grateful that somewhere deep inside her blocked and deteriorating brain; in her personality and character, lay her love of music. I'm grateful that the gifts of God in her life continue to make themselves evident, especially as my brother mentioned he thought he heard her sing, "Alleluia, Praise the Lord" at one point. Singing was a way she could reflect the goodness of God in her life. The fact that music has returned to her reminds me of Romans 8:26 where we hear that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. The Holy Spirit, I believe resides in her and gives her the strength and ability to sing in the life she has left. Even if it goes away again, this time of regained music has been a gift.

Anyway, I appreciate the prayers of those who choose to pray for Mom, my family, and me. Thank you for listening.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hard Days

As most of us know, the island nation of Haiti was devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on January 12, 2010. Millions of people from all over the world have been affected by this. The people of Haiti live in extreme poverty, and so such a cataclysmic event damages these people even more. We pray for the people of Haiti, for rescue workers, and for the family members and friends of those who have died.

Four of my seminary mates were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. Sadly, one of them was killed. His wife and cousin were able to escape from the building they were all in, but B was not. The other person in the country was not with the other three, and even, was in a different town altogether. She was bumped and bruised, but otherwise is physically safe. I give many thanks to God for bringing her back to the U.S. after many failed options, aftershocks, and experiencing to an extent the horrors of a natural disaster. We pray for S as she continues her journey home, and we pray for B's wife, cousin, family, and friends all over the world. The grief that has erupted is great and his loss is profoundly felt.

Today, the big church where I intern had a 9th grade confirmation retreat. The kids learned, played, and spent time together as a community of believers. They weren't all thrilled at having to give up their MLK Jr. Day off, but we appreciated that they came. In the midst of the day, the kids played a game called something like, "Taffy Pulling." It's a game where the kids link together by entwining their arms, hands, fingers, and legs. They hold on for dear life while other people go around trying to separate them all from each other. The last two people connected are the winners. I had never even heard of this game before today, so I stood back and watched.

In the middle of the game, as I listened to the kids' laughter and realized I was laughing myself, I heard one of the girls, who was deeply entangled with another girl, say, "I have no shame. I've won this game before and I will do it again!" I continued laughing and then I felt grief smack me in the face. The girl's comment made me think about how deeply we entwine our lives with those around us and how we hold on for dear life. Our lives are enriched in many ways by the social interactions we have with those in our lives. When someone we love dies, it is painful as that person is wrenched away from us. We wish to hold on, for the hands that pry to go away.

But the thing is, grief is not a shameful thing. We should have no shame in our grief because tears and longing are measures of the gifts of God in our lives. God gifts us with community and with the ability to love. When our earthly sojourn, however long, is over, God embraces the one we love, not as the one who has pried away, but as one who opens arms to show love. God embraces us through our tears and angst. God embraces. Through the embrace of a gracious and loving God, we grieve as ones who have hope. We hope in the promises made in baptism; in the promise that Christ remains with us not to the end of OUR age, but to the end of THE age; and in the hope that Christ redeems us in all that we are.

Today, I give thanks for the lives that entwine with mine, and for the gifts of God for you and for me.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A book and a realization

Currently, I am reading a book entitled, Here if You Need Me. I'm not very far into the book, but up until now, the author has been talking about her life as a Game Warden chaplain, and her life prior to that as a wife and mother. See, the book is a true story, and right now, I'm at the point in the book where she has tended to the body of her recently deceased husband. He was a police officer and was killed in a car accident. She and some friends and family tended to his body in the funeral home, and they also were present at his cremation. The bit in the book that struck me, however, was the one where, on their drive home from the funeral home, the author (named Kate) turns to her mother and says, "Make sure that when I die, you remember to have me cremated at Parklawn. Put me in the same oven they put Drew in. If you're facing the ovens, it's the one on the left." And Kate's mom says, "I'll remember."

I found it a slight bit odd that Kate was giving her mother these instructions, and I found it odd that Kate's mom said, "I'll remember." That is NOT the way things are supposed to go. Parents are "supposed" to die before their children. But, Kate's mom didn't say something like, "Oh honey, I'll be dead long before I have to remember something like that." She simply said, "I'll remember." I suppose in the midst of her own grief, she recognized the horrible pain her daughter was experiencing.

I can't help but think of my own life in the midst of this. My mother has pretty much always been one who tries not to add to the pain of others in any way. When my dad died, I don't even remember her really crying when we were in that hospital room seeing him. She said, "Oh, Jay," and that's about all I remember. I don't remember her crying at the visitation or the funeral or, for that matter, any time really after that. I suppose she, being a stoic German, was afraid that if she started crying, it would make us kids feel worse and then she'd have to deal with not only her own grief, but her kids' grief, too. But it wasn't that she didn't care that such a horrible thing had happened, or that she didn't remember. Certainly she did, as she would say at our graduations, "Your dad would have been so proud." She remembered him in her own way, and didn't often bring him up in conversation.

And I'm realizing in myself, as I remember this line in the book, that a part of why I'm so sad about my mom's cognitive state, is that she's not "here" to remember that she loves ME. She's not "here" to remember that she loves my brothers and sisters, or that she loves to sing, or that she loves doing her yardwork and working up an appetite in the yard. She's not able to remember all those times we would come to her with some sort of boo-boo and she'd kiss it and make it all better, all the while trying to suppress a laugh because, really, how much does that teeny weeny little bump hurt? I want her to remember for herself, but I also want to be remembered by someone who has known me all my life, and who loves me anyway. Sure, I have that in my siblings, but sibling relationships are different. The wonderful relationship I have with my sisters, and the good relationship I have with my brothers (for the most part), is a lot different from the relationship a person has with the one, who along with God, made them.

Anyway, I suppose this post doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but that one discourse in the book just got the old noggin' a going. There is often a saying for people who do Clinical Pastoral Education, and that saying is, "Name it and claim it." CPE is a time when students not only learn about visiting with people in clinical settings, but they also learn about themselves in the midst of group and supervisory settings. We are taught that it is helpful to us, AND to the people we serve, if we are able to understand WHY we feel the way we do in various settings. So, when we are uncomfortable, it is potentially helpful to figure out the emotion we are experiencing and then claim it, not as bad or good, but as something that is, and go from there. So, I'm attempting to name and claim the emotions this book is bringing into my experience, so that I can learn and grow and attain a bit more peace about the state of affairs in portions of my life. Name and Claim. Here we go.