Category Archives: Mourning

Of Baling Wire and Tailpipes

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I journeyed down the frozen mountain to lend my paper wrangling skills to our local charity children’s gift program, enjoying the camaraderie of my Angel Friend Sister “J”, and wrapping mounds of presents destined for needy families.  It was a splendid afternoon, the kind that Hallmark movies like to pan to at the beginning scenes of movies about little miracles, and Christmas encounters. I was basking in the glow when I headed out on old Hwy 12, going through the list in my head of the last minute necessities to make Christmas Day dinner a success…when I heard it.  That screeching, scraping, dragging sound that said my tailpipe had come loose and was clinging by a wire to the main frame.

I whipped into the closest turn off, which happened to be our local cemetery and examined the damage. Sure enough….it was the tail pipe…dragging on the ground.  Frustration changed my rosey glow to a darker shade of red when I picked up the phone and dialed the Gardener. He was working way out of town and was unable to be my champion, but with patient directions instructed me on how to wire it up with baling wire to get me home.  Now, did I know of anyone who could bring me baling wire on a cold Thursday before Christmas, afternoon?.

Baling wire.  From deep inside I heard an old, familiar chuckle.  The kind that came with piercing blue eyes that laughed and danced with the telling of a good joke.  A smile broke through my lips as I realized where I was.  The cemetery, literally a stone’s throw away from Mom and Dad’s resting place.  I imagined the conversation:

“Hey Ma, look, the kid needs baling wire.  Didn’t I always tell her not to go anywhere without it?”

“Yes, Bunk…you were right…when will she ever learn….”

I laughed out loud as I dialed the phone to my beautiful Sister J.

” Hello!” Came her friendly, never too busy to talk to a friend voice.

“Want to come rescue me?”  I asked, still laughing at the predicament of no baling wire to be found in my car.

“I would love to come rescue you…..where are you?”

I laughed as I said, “the cemetery…could you bring some baling wire and cutters?”

“Oh My God….are you ok? Was the response followed by….”We are on our way”

I sat in the stillness of the afternoon, and felt my Dad’s arm around my shoulder, and the weight of his laughter filled rebuke.  “Don’t leave home without it!”

“Oh Daddy.  Merry Christmas.  I miss you. I hear you…I get it, thanks for the gift.  I won’t leave home without it. “

 

 

 

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The Beam

We have lived five seasons on the old homestead.  Five seasons of  extended grace to fields, and furrows, to garden and shed.  Five seasons of running into myself as nine, twelve, sixteen, twenty one with five in tow…a blended family that found shelter under The Old Oaks welcoming shade, and my Father’s watchful gaze.  Five seasons of longing for time to slow it’s relentless march. Five seasons of learning to embrace loss, and discovering joy in the way new life comes from hard grounds.  It was time to change. Time to make the old new, the broken whole, but where to start? This spring, under the weight of wet, heavy snow the Old Oak tree split at the top and a large heavy branch crashed to the earth.  I trembled that morning upon discovering the branches lying separated from the root source.

“Don’t leave me too”, I whispered, running my hands over the scarred ancient bark…”not yet…not ever”

I remember when Dad rattled the oaks last July with his passing, “Squeak” said it was like a hurricane in the tops of the trees, and she knew her “George” was gone.  I felt paralyzed to touch anything lest the memory of my parents be forever altered, or worse…lost.  I was stuck between the forward and the backward swing of a pendulum of emotion. Deep down, I knew to keep grasping and trying to hold the past together  was not living, it was more like being a curator in a mausoleum. Yet, everything felt sacred. The old wood stove with the burnt out box, Mom’s dishes, Dad’s shoes.  It was in holding these things, that I was reminded that it was love that built this house, and the one before that and the one before that. It was a desire for family to be together that drove down hard roots in unrelenting soils. This was a homestead. A place to call the children and their children back to. An anchor in the storm of restlessness,a place where love would reign. So I breathed and whispered to the Gardener that it was time…time to change.

“Where do we start?”  The old porch that wouldn’t see another winter without bracing?  The roof where the tin was peeling back, the walls that needed insulation, the barn that was needing closed in?  The answer came dressed in oak cabinets that had survived a fire, but needed a Master’s touch.  Like our lives, and our hearts.  It was decided.   The kitchen would be first.  The question then loomed,  “how do you make what belonged to another family fit yours?”  I could feel my parents nod in approval as The Gardener sketched, and planned and pondered.

“That is what we have always done, that is what you will do.  ”

The old homestead had a long history of being a  modge-podge of blended hearts and bloods that called each other home, it only made sense that  we would start in the heart of the home, making the old oak cabinets fit. It was on a late summer day, as we sat around the living room dreaming out our  plans that the Boy,  the Light Bearer with the universe in his eyes dreamed a dream of open spaces and walls being torn down, and room being made.  I trembled as I felt the magnitude of the remodel of his vision….tear out the wall separating the kitchen and the living room? I glanced at the Gardener who surveyed the plan with quiet intensity. “It is possible” he said. “It would change the way this whole area looked…”  He glanced my way, waiting…”but, we would need to find a beam to support that long of a span”

I saw myself at nine, running through the house after Dad had framed the walls of the kitchen, it was a great big loop, I laughed at the thought of Mom literally going in circles to clean. I remember the way that opening into the kitchen was the perfect place to nail up sheets for a curtain as my brothers and sisters and I created a special romantic dinner “out” for the two of them one anniversary.  Get rid of the wall? As I sat staring into the kitchen, I felt for the first time the weight  and the joy of living here. Of making it MY home, instead of just my parent’s place.  This would be my touch to a long heritage. “Let’s do it!”  I declared with a lump in my throat. The Boy smiled and spoke gently, “I think Grandma would have loved it!”.  He smiled, I smiled and the Gardener sighed knowing the journey of transformation was going to be long and  hard. The kitchen waited in silence as The Gardener began his search for just the perfect beam. Long enough, strong enough,and  old enough.

The day he brought it home was a cold October.  Working swiftly in between the rain, the Gardener’s strong hands carefully unloaded the grayed, weathered beam.  and with a smile and a nod of respect he patted the side of the beam with his chisel.  “Oak!”   He smiled, as his eyes took in the craftsmanship that created this massive timber. ” You don’t find them like this anymore.  Over 100 years old! ”  The declaration was almost a whisper as he ran his chisel over the hand carved surface of the beam.  “Came from an old Amish barn in Pennsylvania.”  His hands moved over the rough sawn ridges and edges sensing the strength and the potential of the wood.  “Look at those marks, the way they carved this from the tree.  Turned the dowels by treadle, what stories this beam could tell!”

The Gardener began to whittle, and carve, and chisel the beam to his specifications with the same care he gave the earth when planning and planting his harvest. Methodical, precise, patient, intentional movements brought the massive old oak beam to rest securely upon the ceiling of the newly opened expanse.  We stood back in awe at the revelation of how one old beam, given new life, gave new hope to a tired space.  I went for the phone to call my Dad to celebrate, and remembered too late to stop the tears, that I couldn’t do that anymore.   The Gardener wrapped his arms around me, and whispered. “It’s ok, he knows”.  Somewhere outside, just past the oaks an old owl calls from the trees, and the wind picks up a bit and tosses more of the golden leaves to the ground.  A reminder to me, of how beautiful letting go can be.

 

The Lunch Box

Recently in a SoulCare session, I found myself sharing a tender memory of my Dad and his black loggers lunch box as a way of explaining the “gifts” of God.  The way He surprises us with the unexpected.

My Daddy’s lunchbox was the source of much excitement at the end of a long day.  The road to town was a winding one that didn’t beg to be traveled more than once a day.  So, early in the morning Dad would rise before the sun was up, pour his cup of black joe with three sugars, load his old loggers lunch box with the carefully wrapped wax paper bologna sandwiches Mom had made the night before and down the road to work he would go.  Because we lived so far out, Dad was the point of contact with the post office, the grocery store, the pharmacy and whatever else his large family of seven might need.

The opening of the  old lunch box held so much daily potential for joy and sorrow. It was a race to see who would get to open it first, there to find the love letters, lost letters, the occasional Idaho Mountain candy bar, cherry for me, vanilla for Him.   The surprise of a large piece of a bee’s honeycomb he had found in a tree he had cut down, with the amber sweetness still clinging to it.  To this day I remember my first taste of wild, fresh honey. You never knew what the lunch box would hold for that day…”life is like ….Dad’s lunch box….you never know what ya gunna get”.

The Lord has spoken to me often during this year of grieving the loss of my parents.  He has deepened my understanding of His Father’s heart in ways that has both excited, and terrified me.  Through it all, I am thankful that I am discovering a God who delights in giving gifts, and when that gift is the escort of pain, I know I can open the lid of the box, and I will find a tender relationship of love that whispers:  “As I was there in the joy, I am here in the sorrow.”

We took Dad’s old lunch box down from the shelf and used it one last time, to hold the cards and love wishes of those at his memorial service who expressed their hearts to us as they said goodbye.  Thank you Dad, for the lifetime of lessons you taught me from the lunch box.  img_20160916_101117750_hdr

Seed Silent

I have been silent of late. Not the sulking, depressed, anti-social, need to be hidden kind of silent, but the seed kind of silent.  Surrender silent.  The way the seed falls into the cool, dark blackness of earth and gives up one identity for the promise of another. Expectant kind of silent. The promise of the hard outer shell of familiarity cracking under the pressure of the moisture and the weight of the soil.  Longing silent. The way the lover sun pulls on the tenderness of the sprout coaxing and wooing it to the surface with promises of union and purpose and destiny.

This has been my silence as I walked my  earth wet with tears and felt the weight of the reality of my dust.  I have learned a lot about my seed self.  I have experienced paradigms shifting in every facet of my being.  Who I thought I was as Child, Mother, Wife, Friend, Worshipper…all being touched by the Master Gardener’s hand each time with one question:  “Do you yield?”

Will I yield to the work of the silence and surrender? Or die, a hardened intact seed with all of my potential locked inside me?

I bow and stretch and embrace pain as escort.  For the first time I am learning what it really means to be alive.  The why behind each breath and heartbeat.  I want to live.  Live intentionally and purposefully.  I am done with existing. There is so much more to it than that.

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Of Oaks & Men

And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.–Mark 8:24

Today marks one year since you took your last breath here upon this earth, you breathe another air now.  Air that is full of life, light, sound and song.  I wouldn’t ask you to exchange the beauty of the eternal SON for this temporal sojourn…but, I miss breathing the same air with you Dad.

I always wished that scripture for you…that your sight would be given back and your blue eyes would gleam with the testimony of healing you believed in and prayed for.  Even lame, and broken, you were a tree walking.  In my life you cast a shade so deep nothing of this earth could scorch my spirit as long as you were close.  You were my oak-man….walking.

I miss you Dad.  I feel your presence in so much of my life.  I can see you, like a tree…walking.   I just wish we could sit together, one more time, here on the grass, under the old oaks, and sip sweet tea and remember.  To hear your stories, to tell you mine, to see you smile and shake your head, to feel that bear paw of a hand upon my shoulder, steadying the rising swells of grief, guiding me to shore with your sitting easy kind of presence that made it all ok.

It is raining today, might even snow in the high country they say…it stormed when you passed, and it is storming upon your remembrance day.  I like it this way.  As if heaven agrees that a tree has fallen in the forest, and it has made a sound that echoes through generations with it’s passing.

You remain, you will always remain.

–Kid

 

 

Heir To A Grave

I opened the official looking envelope from the county and stared at the title deed to the plot of ground where my mom is buried- I am heir to a grave.

The weight of this inheritance sat with me through the days as I pondered the necessity to prove ownership of my mom’s bones.  Would there ever be a time when someone would dispute my right to mourn my dead on the land purchased and titled?   There across the news the battles in the the Holy Land of who owns what places to put whose bones in blare across the screen. Riots over ancient sepulchers  seemed a bit close to home in my meditations this Holy week.

Bones.

Abraham’s petition to the sons of Heth:

Gen 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

Joseph’s Godfather like command:  “Carry my bones”

Gen 50:25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

Even Jesus’s life evolved around the tomb.  The healing of the demoniac that lived among the tombs, the miracle of Lazarus, the care of Christ’s own bones.

Mat 27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.
Mat 27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.
Mat 27:59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud
Mat 27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.

Joseph had title to his own tomb, and laid another man in it. A man who would not stay dead.  Who would not leave his bones in a borrowed tomb.

Seed.

1Co 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
1Co 15:37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
1Co 15:38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

I know my Mother and Father will experience a resurrected body. I am strangely comforted by the fact that they will rise together and experience transformation together. In life they strove to grow as a couple, to be intentional in “doing” life together.  What greater satisfaction can there be than to have the one your soul is knit to, and cleaved to experience the most dramatic physical transformation with you that there will be?  I have pondered how they cared for the dieing kernel of each other’s earthly bodies often with despair and frustration. I think of the days that we sang them and  sowed them back into the Earth they came from.  I look towards THE DAY when the ONE who is the first born from the dead will give their mortal bodies a new life, a new form, and the rejoicing there will be when what was once sickly, and weak, knows resurrected life.

So, I close the envelope and place it with the other important papers that define life and I know that death is not the end for those who believe.  It is only a seed. falling into the ground, shedding it’s kernel, only to be called again into the eternal life giving purpose for which it was created.

1Jn 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I thank God, that Jesus had bones. tomb-2

 

 

 

 

Dimah-The Weeping

A wooden carving of Virgin of the Seven Sorrows is displayed in a church in the Andalusian capital of Seville

Dimah

The Weeping

There is an ancient word for tears, a woman word, a feminine word, a womb word-

Dimah

The bitter shedding of the blood of the eyes.  The kind of bitter that comes from hearts ripped open by the ravage of divorce, death, addiction.  The kind of bitter that comes from wrong roads wrong loves, wrong gains and the feast made from them.

Dimah

The way the mother heart spills out all over the place like a gut pile from a kill, helpless to defend against the vultures unable to put itself back into its body, laid bare to the picking of its pieces.

Dimah

The sound that moves in the emptiness of home, that echoes in the ashes from the cold hearth shadows of life sounds that has been shattered by the violence- the violence of dishonor, departure, divorce.

Dimah

The blood of the eye that drips down with each glance at the babies the ones who never get to be. The ones who are but don’t know why, the ones who are but think they aren’t and so they disappear from the earth taking their beautiful life force with them, nd we wade in a river of blood that comes from our eyes…

Dimah

The blood of the eye that is ever present as we watch the ones we’ve held to our hearts and our breasts be flailed against the rocks of life in a relentless pounding of pressure. We long to give our bodies to the ragged edge, to weld for them a bridge of peace, but our hands don’t reach that far, all we have is the scream.  The here I am where are you? The scream we hurl at God, to God, desperately groping the blackness for the thread of light begging for his ‘here I am, I see you’ in the silence of the crucible.

Dimah comes unsummoned from the depths of us as we put one foot in front of the other and live because that is what we do. Dimah comes in the circle of the tribe as we lift weary heads and trembling hands to wipe the blood from another’s eyes away.  Dimah comes in the collective life lived and the common bond of sorrow as we raise one voice, shed one consolidated tear.

Yes, we know the ancient word for weeping.  She is with us an integral part of the living and breathing of mothering.  Yet, she comes with a promise, that the valley we have cut out from the torrents of our tears will one day become a door of hope. And so, we weep with you who weep, we mourn with you who mourn, we wipe the blood from your eyes through the haze of red in ours.  Together, we wait for the dawn and the day star to arise in our hearts and we hope.

 

Christians Don’t Cuss and Other Fairytales

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I have put myself in time out. The dialogue is something like this:

Right side of brain:  “I never thought I knew how to say those words”

Left side:  “Sure felt good to get THAT off your chest didn’t it! ” Rummages around in the empty boxes looking for more containers of trash.

Enter the principle:

“Christians DON’T cuss”  said in my very best religious, interior critic voice, wielding a hefty rod of correction-the ever present 1611 KJV. ( In old English)

For the next hour I self-loathe, feeling the bleed of incorrectness, flagellating myself with scripture, all the while the four year old me keeps getting the duct tape off her mouth, refuses to stay in her room and her eyes are flashing at my 100th attempt to silence her.

That’s when I begin to sift for truth.  The truth is, I don’t hate God, I don’t like to hurt people, I believe in pureness of speech and thought and I haven’t stopped being a “Christian” because expletives came out under duress.  I am broken.  I am weak.  I am flesh. So much veneer has come stripping off…I thought I was real and honest and without wax aka…sincere:

Sincere:

having or showing true feelings that are expessesd in an honest way

: genuine or real : not false, fake, or pretended

“Without wax” stems from the Latin words “sin” (without) and “ceras” (wax) and was often said to be the origin of the English word “sincerity.” The story goes that the phrase “without wax” first became widespread during the height of Roman and Greek artistry, when sculptures first became a popular artistic medium. When a sculpture had a flaw, artists would fill in the chip or crack with wax, colored to match the marble. Wax was said to serve as cover-up, masking imperfections on what was most likely cheap pottery. An arguably perfect or quality piece of work was therefore free of these imperfections—in other words, without wax. Pottery pieces were even said to be stamped with the phrase “without wax” as proof of authenticity.

Now, in this moment, I feel the earthen-ness of my pottered self.  I feel strangely as though I was more authentic in my tirade of self expression, than any lofty discourse I have ever given.  In my baseness I feel more real than I have in years.  This rattles me.  Am I back-slidden as my religious schoolmarm black belt judo Bible kick boxing interior self  is sure of?  After all, Christians don’t cuss.  They don’t get mad, they don’t drink, smoke, chew, watch movies, dance, envy, doubt, fear, over eat, under eat, purge, binge, gamble, risk, run away, make waves, they are…..good.  Right?

RIGHT?

My four year old self stares me down stamping her foot.  She lifts her face to mine…” Do you LOVE ME?!” I have never asked myself that.  Do I love the imperfections?  The true dark, deep hidden self with all of its unpredictable un-neatness, insatiable curiosity, frivolous spontaneity.

NO.  I love order, and perfection, and beauty and symmetry and color.  I hate black and white, and mess and chaos and instability and above all WEAKNESS!

It is really quiet inside.  That is the truth and I am shocked at the revelation.  Weakness scares me. I have been told most of my life to be strong, even with the passing of my father, the words from my mother were:  “Be strong”.  The truth is. I am not.  I never really have been, and somehow I hear a phrase in my spirit:  “That’s ok, it’s not your job.  It’s mine.”

Then this happens:

“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier . . . for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own . . . ”
Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

and then….this-

“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . . ”
Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

I am going to go for a walk and close the book of myths and listen to the truth the stillness brings.

Tohu-Bohu

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Today, August 5th 2015.  In the midst of drought both external and internal, I place my pen to the page and I write for water.  I write standing in the cracked river bed of belief and search for the truth that remains when barrenness has gripped the heart.

I write for wellsprings of promise, wells of heritage, rivers that don’t run dry, I write in desperate thirst for truth.

I write to create something from nothing.  Tohu-Bohu….out of nothing something

 Genesis 1: 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

 

tohu wa bohu: Numerous interpretations of this phrase were made by various theological sources, though it is usually translated as “waste and void,” “formless and empty,” or “chaos and desolation.”–Wikipedia

I believe that in the midst of the swirling pain of blackness you are ready to speak light.  So I hold on and listen to my life.  I listen to the rhythms of ebb and flow. I listen for the brush of angel wings and the sound of the dove.  I listen for the hurricane and the thunder.  You will not leave me formless and void.  

Living On The Circumference

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”  The recognition that one’s life is meant to be lived from the inside out is a milepost on our spiritual journey.  In a society which lays such great stress on outward appearances, labels and symbols of success it will take an earnest concentration on our part to free ourselves from this highly touted living on the circumference. “–Bob Benson, Disciplines For The Inner Life

Living on the circumference.

By definition:  the enclosing boundary of a curved geometric figure, especially a circle.

By association:  synonyms:  perimeter, border, boundary, edge, rim, verge, margin, fringe
By etymology:  This word comes from the Latin, it means to carry, or bear around or about…
As I sit gazing at these words, I realize I am beholding the place where lepers dwell.  The social misfits, the spiritual outcasts, the religiously impure, the broken bodies, minds, spirits of the strangers… the ones no one gets…the angry ones.  The deeply soul sad, the fearful and cautious ones who look for stones behind every passing cloak.  The thought comes to me of Yeshua The Rabbi’s response to the walking dead.  What was His interpretation of Leviticus?

The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, `Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.

Leviticus 13: 45-56

Matthew 11:28-30The Message (MSG)

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

 Grief can make you live on the circumference.  Feeling like an electron slowly moving around a nucleus of sorrow that won’t let you go.  Pulling you ever inward.  I am discovering in my orbit an internal language for loss.  I never knew such words or phrases existed until I found myself walking ragged through the ashes.
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and again:
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 I turn to the Rabbi’s invitation and question whether it is for me.  What is the garment of mourning supposed to “fit” like?  at the moment it is tight and constricting and I can’t breathe most days.  But I can’t take it off.  It is like being strapped into a dress that the zipper has broken on.  To tight to go over your head, to small to slide over the hips. Only way out is the scissors-but the price tag keeps my hands at bay…I have paid so much for this dress.
No one ever told me that grief would feel so much like fear.