Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It's Over

A month and a day since the last post, and here I am again on this rambling drawn out thing we call a "blog." (I don't like that word now any more than I did when I first used it here.)

The thesis did get printed, and I did graduate. I hope to say more about that later, as it was quite a series of small adventures.

But for now, I'm enjoying looking at the detail of a tulip fully open.

The detail is simply amazing. These could be Georgia Okeefe's work--except that her work came from the real flowers, not the other way around. (I don't know if she ever painted tulips, but these just remind me of what I've seen of her paintings.)

This one is a bit past its prime, but even the browning of the petals is lovely, in its way.

Flower petals in general amaze me. Such thin, fragile tissue, easily destroyed by something as simple as a careless step or even a rough bump--and yet so full of complexity, those tiny membranes whisking water all the way through the thing, and combining with the other petals to create all kinds of shapes and colors and sizes, making the world beautiful in a way nothing else can.

These particular flowers are special because I bought them on a somewhat impetuous stop at the Fresh Market grocery store. I stopped in just because I had the time to do it, not really needing anything, but for the fun of it, because I do love that store--everything but the prices. And I bought the flowers and brought them home, something I haven't done very often the past few years, because a brain can only think of so much at a time, and my brain and my schedule just didn't have much room for thinking of, or accomplishing, flower-buying.

And then these flowers took on extra specialness because the other evening we had dear friends over for dinner, another thing we haven't done much of in the past few years.

And those dear friends brought the sweet purple campanula that shared the table with the tulips until this morning, when I had to finally say goodbye to the tulips before they dropped petals all over the table!

And so in a very real way, these flowers make a fitting image to say "it's over," and to rejoice in the moving forward into another chapter of life--one that I hope will have many more flowers and many more friends over for dinner.

And perhaps even more blog posts? Time will tell.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

It's Not Over Till It's Over (But It's Almost Over)

Today I took the 25% cotton paper and my 200-plus pages of thesis on a flash-drive to the FedEx Office shop, trusting that tomorrow I will receive back from them four printed copies.

It has been quite a saga.

At some point a few months ago, I came across a little book on spiritual growth, written originally in the 1400's, I think. It had a good section on sloth, with the admonition to "begin, bravely and quietly with one" small task, rather than letting yourself be overcome with the sense of exhaustion and discouragment that comes when you think too much on how big the task seems. Those words helped me get through that final chapter that I struggled with so much.

At one point, I bought myself a special mug, sort of as a mascot to encourage me to keep going, keep going. The mug says someting about changing the world, which sounds grandiose, but somehow it helped me just as a reminder that it really is through the little things each of us does that the world is changed. And I have to believe that this thesis will do something, somewhere, at some point, to change someone's world.

And of course, I had to remind myself repeatedly to simplify. Sometimes that meant redoing a sentence so it wasn't so long and complex. At one point it meant just not writing an entire chapter I had hoped to include.

My counseling office became a second home for quite a lot of weekends. It's going to look strange when I finally get all the stacks of books and papers off the shelves.

My carrel at the library has been a less-frequented hangout, but an important one when I needed books, or when the heating and air conditioning at my office was too extreme.

Several months back, while working on this, I decided to do an art therapy online course. One of the assignments involved making a picture, and then (gasp! she hadn't told us this on the front end) cutting out parts of that picture and using them to create a new picture. It nearly killed me to cut up the first picture that I had so lovingly done. But I did it, and this is what I came up with next.

And that turned out to be a wonderful help as I found myself more able to make changes, cutting and rewriting, in that final chapter that took so much work. I had gotten to a point of feeling really stuck with it, and it was the art that helped me get un-stuck and moving forward again.

And now, even though I can hardly believe it, I have done all I can do. It is at the printer's, and I am simply waiting (and hoping nothing goes wrong with this part of the process!)

It has been so much a part of my life for so long now, it is strange to think of not having to think of it anymore. And of being able to focus on other parts of life. I guess I will "begin, bravely and quietly, with one"....as I just did in writing on my blog, something that's been neglected for several years.

Maybe tomorrow I'll actually get the impatiens planted.....

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Little Things

This time of wrapping up such a huge project,
beginning to free up brain space and actual time and space,
combined with the coming of spring,
seems a perfect setup for me to be particularly attentive to little things
and how much joy they give me.

Some days I feel as if I am seeing life, really seeing it,
for the first time in a long, long time.

Like a peek into the opening of a dogwood blossom the other morning.

And the little remaining evening light falling on the chair at the piano.

And this little walkway, which, even though I know exactly where it goes, always fills me with a sense of adventure and wonder at what might lie ahead. . .

Violets that fill our yard, and these few just perfect for the tiny pitcher on the windowsill.

Also on the windowsill, there year-round,
these sweet little ones from my parents' stop in the Amsterdam airport over twenty years ago.
They are always there, but somehow recently I see them more often.
And on this evening saw their cute little shadow.

Little things are only little compared to bigger things.
And often they represent things much bigger than their physical size hints at.

I read recently that the writer Robert Brault,
about whom I know nothing,
"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back
and realize they were the big things."

Whoever he is, I think he is right.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Primavera always makes me think "first green." In Italian, "verde" is green, and a little etymological hunting seems to confirm that at least some word hunters believe the Latin words for "spring" (ver) and "green" (viride) may go back to some shared root. it would certainly make sense.

This post isn't about the first green, but the blossoms that precede the green leaves. But primavera dictionarily means "spring," and that's what this is about. The coming to life after a period of dormancy. The colors after the more "meno-chrome" winter, if I may create a new word not for  the monochrome state of having only one color, but the winter-in-the-South state of having less color.

The grass was still actually monochrome at the time I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago, except for those few little green weeds.

We always had a flowering quince in the yard when I was growing up, so I wanted to have one in our yard here. When I called the nursery, the owner didn't have the brighter, solid peachey red I was hoping for, but he suggested this one instead.

I took a chance, based on his description over the phone.

And am so glad I did! It's really beautiful, and even though it's still a young thing,
this year it had more blossoms than the two years before.

I'm beginning to feel as if my own mind, body, and heart are coming to life again after a long winter.

I started this degree in 2012, the same year my mom began having serious health problems and hospitalizations that went on throughout the next four years. So it's been a very, very unusual five years since then. I often felt I couldn't give enough to school because of the family situation. And I often felt I couldn't give enough to my family because of school.

And yet, somehow the energy kept coming, and we made it through to my mom's beautiful and victorious ending. And I recently defended my thesis project, and am very close to bringing that to an ending. Not nearly the same kind of beauty and victory, but an ending I'll be thankful for.

Since the defense (on February 27), I have struggled with an exhaustion of mind, body, and spirit. I did stay up pretty late a few nights the week before the defense, but i don't think it's just that immediate sleep deprivation. I think it's five years of tiredness finally feeling free to make itself felt. Throughout the past month, I have just not felt capable of doing anything beyond what I absolutely had to do--and occasionally have cancelled commitments because I was just too tired even for those routine activities.

It has been, I must say, a wonderful thing to experience spring this year. I always love spring, but this year especially it is like a promise. A promise that new life will return, because it always does. It doesn't depend on the flowers or the birds or the trees to make it happen. The Creator and Sustainer makes it happen, year after year after year.

And so even though I must of course do what I can to get my sleep, eat well, rest, drink water, make time for the refreshment of friends and family--it doesn't depend on me to somehow make my energy return. I can trust that it will.

And little by little, just in the past week or so, it has been happening.

A couple of mornings I've waked up and felt alive, refreshed, eager to get up and get going. Sometimes it lasts two hours, sometimes four or five. Sometimes I've taken a short nap and felt energetic again in the afternoon.

I've been remembering recipes I haven't made in 4-5 years. I've begun playing the piano more than I have in a long time. Little by little it's as if my brain is finding more space available, and even my body is remembering routines it had to temporarily forget about for a while.

And here I am, writing on my blog!

The flowering quince is all in green now, at the time I'm writing this. Only four or five blossoms remain on the plant; the rest is all filled out in green leaves. Primavera.

But it was those blossoms that gave me so much hope and joy. They are fragile but beautiful, and this year they helped me believe that as fragile and tired as I've felt, the day would come when the sap would flow more fully, the green leaves would come out, and the plant would be ready for another season of growth.

I trust that I will be ready again before too long, too.

For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. 
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come....
Song of Songs 2:11-12

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ode to a Beloved Bookstore

We came home from  Europe late Wednesday evening, and I haven't had normal sleep since Monday night. Had hoped tonight might be the night I would sleep through the night, at least mostly. But, no. I woke up around 2:30, and by 3:30 realized I wasn't doing any good just lying in bed awake, reinforcing to my brain that doing that is an option.

So I decided to get up and write, thinking I would write about our travels.

Instead, upon opening my computer, I saw in a friend's email a link to her post about the closing of our favorite bookstore here in Memphis. I am feeling shock and great sadness.

When we moved to Memphis in 1994, to a campus apartment just a five-minute drive from the bookstore, we quickly fell in love with Davis-Kidd, as it was known, named for the two owners who started it. We are booklovers. When we moved to Memphis, all we brought with us were two suitcases of clothes and the few boxes of books we shipped over. Books were a huge part of our lives before we met, and continued to be so when we married. In Florence I had loved stopping in Feltrinelli's. In Zagreb there was a downtown bookstore that we bought books from, both in Croatian and in English. But Davis-Kidd was like nothing else we had encountered. It was smallish, but it had more single titles than any of the larger bookstores around Memphis.

And it had charm. The early store had a fireplace. You walked in and just felt like you wanted to stay. The folks who worked there were welcoming, and they knew their books. It soon became our favorite hangout, and when they moved to a larger shop across the parking lot and opened a cafe' and restaurant, for many years it became our Friday night date site. We could meet there after work, have a slow, yummy meal (I will never forget their chicken and dumplings, even though they disappeared from the menu some years back), and then spend the rest of the evening browsing books, nearly always taking something home.

When I finished my master's degree in counseling and knew that I didn't want to work as a counselor  immediately (not until I'd had some kind of break to take a deep breath), I applied for other kinds of jobs, without success for some months. Having a professional degree and student loans to pay off, I was trying for something full-time.

But finally one day I said, "Well, if I could just do what I want, I would love to work at Davis=Kidd. I love that place, love the people, love books . . . why not just apply and see if they will take me?"

And I did, and they did. I worked in the arts and entertainment section, and I learned more about why the store was so beloved. They did hire part-time workers, but they hired them with the understanding that they wanted people who were committed to the store, who planned to be there longer-term. And each person was assigned a certain section and was expected to really get to know their inventory and how to help people find what they were looking for. And we were taught to not just be approachable, but to approach people who looked as if they might need help. But no pressure-y type selling whatsoever. Just being helpful to people. Kind of a golden rule application of salesmanship. They wanted it to be a place where people felt free to roam and browse, and sit and read, where the booksellers were people who came alongside to help, not hawks out to make a sale.

Oh, and there was no "MUZAK" approach to the background sounds of the store. No; at least when I worked there, each bookseller got to choose CD's that they would like to play during the time they were working there. Of course there were some limitations on what could be played. But it meant that even the music was personally selected, and that you could go and ask, "What is this music I'm hearing?" and someone would be able to check and let you know. (And sometimes I would then buy it.)

As it happened, about six weeks after starting at Davis=Kidd, I got a call from one of the full time jobs I had applied to and not been accepted for. With great reluctance I went to my manager (Linda? I think that was her name?) and told her I had been completely sincere when I'd said I planned to stay there, that I had no other options on the horizon. It just happened that the person hired for this other position had had to leave, and so they were offering it to me. It would pay off my student loans much faster than working part-time at the bookstore. She was gracious beyond expectation, and I sadly left.

That was in 1998. Almost 20 years ago. And to this day, when I go into the store, I see people who worked there when I did, who remember my name. Mark and Eddie. And then others who came just as I was leaving, or who I met after I'd left, but we struck up friendship because they knew I had worked there. I saw on the store's website while ago that Eddie described it as a fellowship, and that is what I felt there, too.

This is truly a shock and a loss. I was shopping there for Christmas gifts just three weeks ago, with no inkling that this was on the horizon. It feels surreal. I saw just now in a letter from the owner that books will be on sale, that furniture and other fixtures and equipment will be for sale. It sounds like an estate sale after someone has died. Part of me wants to go and find some meaningful last purchases. Part of me doesn't want to witness it, or to feel like one of the Thenardiers, in Les Mis, taking advantage of those who have fallen for personal gain. I don't know what I, or we, will decide to do.

What I do know is that it wasn't "just a bookstore." It was a living testimony to what a common love for literature, art, history, poetry, music, good food and coffee, and community living can create and sustain even through the financial shock of the recession and the rapacious effects of Internet sales. Davis-Kidd, which became the Booksellers at Laurelwood, as explained in my friend's blog, survived the recession and the advent of Amazon when other bookstores were closing all around.

I can't help but wonder what would have happened if everyone who shops or eats at the Booksellers would have just made a commitment to buy all their books there, rather than using the Internet? Do we really want a life where our constant drive to save money and time means we lose the precious places of community that make possible (and require) face-to-face interaction? Those are big questions and get into issues of technology and globalization, and what it means to flourish as human beings as opposed to simply getting what we want materially, and that's not what I want to focus on. But they are important issues with important questions.

I saw in Florence that Feltrinelli's is still open, and so were many other little bookshops around the city. Same in Zagreb. New books, used books, shops were still open. Maybe it's because in those cities they walk most everywhere, rather than driving in cars, which I believe has caused Americans to lose much of any sense of community and place and belonging--and therefore, loyalty.

Well, I think I will have to go and say goodbye, but it will be a very hard goodbye to say. Not quite like the closing of a church, but definitely the closing of a fellowship. This is where I found Christian Wyman's poetry, and Mother Teresa's wisdom, and Henri Nouwen over and over, and who knows how many blank books that now contain my life in words. And beautiful cards sent for birthdays, deaths, weddings, encouragement. And no telling how many Christmas presents we bought for friends, all in this one shop.

And we would so often get gift cards from the store for my nieces and nephews, who all loved to read. They live in a small town elsewhere and loved coming to Memphis to visit us, and part of those visits was always--always--going to the bookstore to use their gift certificates, from the days of going for the reading aloud when they were little children, to the days of their interest in Captain Underpants and other series books, to the days of being interested in biographies and history books.

Once I was there, at Bronte, with a friend who loved whipped cream on her hot chocolate. She asked the server if she might have more when hers ran out, and the server just brought the whole conatiner of whipped cream over to her, to refill as often as she liked.

One time a server accidentally mangled my credit card because their computer system wasn't working, and they had to use the old-fashioned credit card machines. He apologized profusely and repeatedly, and I still think of him each time I use my credit card--because despite his fears, it still works in most machines, though occasionally at a gasoline stop, I'll have to go inside and pay when the thing just won't slide properly. Each time I use my credit card, I think of Booksellers and Bronte and that sweet fellow.

In this past year, our two oldest dogs died, my mother died, and my car (the only one I ever actually chose, rather than inherited) was totaled. Learning about the end of a beloved bookstore perhaps should not come as a surprise. But it was a surprise, and I will grieve the loss of it if it truly goes through.

I began writing this post in early January, thinking it was a grieving, gratitude-ing, goodbye-ing post. I never did finish it, because shortly after I saved it as a draft, the petition was brought to my attention.

Now it's February 15, and I still dare to hope that someone, somewhere, or someones somewhere, may be able to save or resurrect this place, this entity, this very special human collaborative creation that has meant so much in my own life and in the lives of countless others.

It's hard to say goodbye. It's hard to not know whether to say goodbye. No matter how this turns out, I will always be grateful. My life and my family's life would not have been the same without Davis-Kidd and all the wonderful booksellers at Laurelwood.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I Shall Not Want

Beloved Neva Jane White, who taught me so much more than how to play piano, left this earth four years ago on October 20, 2012.

She left these words, which have a sweet and funny story behind them. When I lived in Italy, and when I lived in Croatia, I would write her letters from time to time. This was before email, and calling cost too much. And I was very much a letter writer.

When I would come home for a visit, I would always see her if possible. And she would always apologize that she had not ever responded to my letters. (She was working full time and was just the kind of person who is very involved in loving the people right in front of her.) She would always say, "But next time, I'm going to write. I will write you a letter, so don't stop writing me, because I love to hear from you."

So I never stopped writing her. And she never stopped not writing back.

Until 2008. I was making a six-week trip to Europe that involved several speaking and teaching responsibilities, and I felt the need for support from friends because I was somewhat overwhelmed by what I would be doing. (And traveling most of that time by myself.)

So I sent out an email to several friends, asking them if they would write me before I left or while I was away, just notes of encouragement, either handwritten (which I would love) or by email if they just couldn't see doing it by hand and mailing it the old-fashioned way. Truth is, though, I longed for something tangible to have with me as I journeyed.

Several friends responded, and I did have both handwritten notes and emailed encouragement accompanying in my travels. And nothing from dear Mrs. White.

Nothing, that is, until I got home. When I was able to visit her, she had a ten-page letter written that she had not been able to send in time that I would have recived it while I was away. So she just saved it  until I got home. And said she hoped the ten pages made up for all the years she never wrote. There were a couple of spots where she had fallen asleep while writing, and her pen had drifted down the page. There was a funny apology for that. There were humorous bits, and hopes for the travels and the groups I would be speaking to.

But mostly it was her sharing scriptures and songs that she had found to be especially encouraging, and that she wanted to share with me. The part in the photo was from a calendar, I believe, a calendar based on Psalm 23, with notes by a certain author that I no longer recall.

The section in the photo is especially poignant, because at this point in her life, she was dealing with several health problems and was in pain quite a bit. Her faith shone through to the very end, and so did her generosity. She had such an abundant supply of love and such a full heart, those around her never were empty.

It was such a delight to receive this from her, and it mattered not at all to me that it had not been part of the travel experience. It is her beloved handwriting on creamy, lovely paper. It is now "something tangible to have with me as I journey" throughout the rest of my life, and I will treasure it forever.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tudor Revival, of Sorts

Yes, that below is a frame of our kitchen window. No, it is not chocolate fudge smeared around the edges. It is something less tasty but much more exciting.

After six-plus years of living here with the idea of giving it a different look, we are--tah-dah!--doing it!

Well, we are paying someone else to do it, to be clear about that. They do the hard work. We get to enjoy the finished product. My beloved does other hard kinds of work to pay them for doing this hard work. I guess my main role is having the idea in the first place, looking at pictures and dreaming for six years to keep the idea alive, or at least resurrectable--and finally choosing colors and consulting with friends to get their opinions before we dove in with final decisions.

Of course it won't look any different on the inside, so I'm kind of enjoying this stage of seeing a little bit of it, at least, through the windows.

Here is that same kitchen window from the outside.

A living room window in progress.

The dining room window coming along.

And for comparision, my office window with the original trim color--which, though I realize someone must have liked at some point, I always have felt was somewhat anemic and didn't do much for the lovely brick colors.

I can hardly wait now to see it all completed. From a young age I fell in love with Tudor style architecture (and Tudor Revival Architecture). Probably partly because of the home of the former Dean and Shakespeare scholar that sat next to the campus building that house the English department, where I spent many hours, both because my dad taught there and because I got an English degree there.

Probably also because of a house in Brownsville, Tennessee, where my grandparents lived. When we were little, my sister and I would play a game of choosing "if you could live in any house on College Street, which one would you pick?" While we each occasionally picked another house, we usually settled on the same two, and "mine" was a home with modernized Tudor architecture.

Our house is not actually built in that style, but its lovely brick, along with the ivy growing around the front, gives is a cottage-y feel and just made it seem possible to give it a Tudor touch.

I'm thinking once it's finished, we'll have to start drinking more hot tea--and reading late medieval British poetry on a regular basis. Anyone have other suggestions?

Friday, July 01, 2016

Abide with Me

We sang this hymn quite often in the church where I grew up. We also sang it in a small women's ensemble during my college years. I've always thought it was beautiful, and it has been coming to mind the past few days since my mother's death on Monday, June 27.

We did not sing it at her funeral, but the reason it keeps coming to my mind is because of its references to the sky and the sense of connection between the human creature contemplating death to the creation that is fallen in change and decay, but also responsive in a sympathetic way to the event of life moving through death to life again.

The photos below were taken on the day of her death and then this morning (Friday).

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day,
Earth's joys grow dim, its sorrows pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see.
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless--
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes,
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

About 5:45 Monday morning. I had not slept much all night and was very hungry. I left my younger brother in the hospital room and went to get something to eat and try to sleep a little before coming back. On the way I saw the sun starting to rise and stopped to take a picture. My mom died at 6:15, shortly after sunrise.

This is from inside the hospital, while I was making phone calls after her death.

We had lunch later at my sister's house, and as my dad, older brother, and I were driving back to my dad's house, we exited the tree-ey neighborhood to this unexpectedly beautiful sight. That is the hospital at the end of the rainbow.

I was driving the car, and my brother was taking pictures. We kept trying to slow down, or stop, or back up, to get good shots of it. And then it turned out he was able to capture the whole rainbow from my dad's own driveway.

Sunset on the evening of her death, from Daddy's back porch.

This morning.

"Heaven's morning breaks...." I could hardly believe I got to see this in the ten minutes or so I was out there today. The rest of the day has just been blue, blue sky with almost no clouds, but this morning it was a cloudscape perfect for the morning sun breaking through to shine on her grave.

Mama always loved nature. When she was older she had to stay in more because of skin cancer concerns and general health issues, but in earlier years she went to Camp Wyldewood thirteen years as both camper and counselor. She spent a summer at Yellowstone Park. She planted all kinds of flowers, digging them up from the side of the road or transplanting shoots given her by friends or her mother. She used to take us fishing (though my sister and I used it as reading time.) She loved to go for rides in the country. We had dogs and cats and chickens and rabbits and goats and I don't know what all when we were growing up.

So it just seems fitting that nature would give us these beautiful moments in the days around her death. Through cloud and sunshine, she is abiding with the the One who changeth not in the mystery of this time, and in the weightlessness of finally resting in peace.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Breath and Heart

Even though our playing it so much used to drive Mama crazy, I'm pretty sure she was the one who taught me to play "Heart and Soul" on the piano. She and I used to play it as a duet, and later my sister and I would play it. What child learns to play piano without learning to play "Heart and Soul"?

Tonight I am thinking more about heart and breath, however, as my mom's heart rate gets slower and her breathing more slow and difficult. It is hard to witness, and yet I would not want to not be here for this time.

Tonight my aunt and I were marveling at the heart, how it works so well most of the time, and how it does everything it does without any of our own power or control. Not one of us creates our own heart or starts it beating.

I heard an author say recently that we are a gift given to ourselves. The idea that we are all about independence and choice and creating our own meaning is an illusion, or perhaps a delusion. We do not bring ourselves into existence, we do not give ourselves the amazing ability to be alive and to experience all the many parts of life that we experience.

Tonight reminded me of something I've been reading from Becoming a Healing Presence, by Albert Rossi, a psychologist. In one part he writes,

Awareness of our breathing opens a door to awareness of the presence of God, the giver of breath, and it is the very voice of God, guiding and encouraging us.

Not everyone believes that. And yet there is something very powerful about simply paying attention to our own breath and the wonder of it, and contemplating ourselves as receivers, as wholly dependent on a force beyond ourselves, outside ourselves, that brought us into existence.

No one, I hope, can witness their mother dying and continue to think of themselves as independent, as self-made, as autonomous, the way Western thinking would have us think. Not one of us would be here without a mother and a father. And our mothers and fathers had mothers and fathers, and on and on and on. Our very breath can remind us of how connected we are to all those who went before us, and for many of us, that means realizing our connection to "the giver of breath."

Other excerpts from the book that strike me as my mother is losing her breath, as her heart moves closer to the end of its physical work, are below. They strike at the heart of neo-gnostic thinking that would divide the physical and spiritual.

Tonight a group of us sang around Mama's hospice bed for 30-45 minutes, hymns from the hymnbook used in the church where we grew up. More than one song spoke of resurrection, that strange Christian belief that has been so much a part of my thinking for so long that to me it seems strange not to believe that breath and heart, spirit and body, will be reunited one day, that we will be alive again together in some new but also very familiar way.

It was hard to leave tonight, wondering if I will hear her breathing again in the morning. But no matter what people may say and think about orthodox Christians these days (or whatever they've said and thought for 2,000 years), I've seen over and over again, and have experienced over and over again, that the words written to the Thessalonians close to 2,000 years ago, are true--that "we do not grieve as others do who have no hope." We have great and beautiful hope.

"Within the heart is the antenna for the voice of God."

We grieve, of course, and we have great and beautiful hope.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Endings and Beginnings and The Last Battle

My mom is in the hospital after a fall and having a combination of health issues. My parents just celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary this past Sunday, three days ago. I do not have many words right now but want to share something in the midst of this.

We never know how these things will go; doctors are not gods or purveyors of crystal ball predictions, and thankfully these good doctors helping us do not pretend to be. But in the stream of thoughts going through my mind as I looked at this photo taken in an earlier chapter of life, which my sister posted on Facebook earlier, C. S. Lewis' The Last Battle just came to mind, and I found this quote. It seems especially fitting, given the number of battles my mom has waged in her life and the faith that has sustained her and us through all of them:

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”