Tag Archives: loss

Serendipitous

I traveled to the Portland, Oregon area, joining dear old friends to celebrate a life that ended far too soon.

For our return the weather caused us to divert from our usual route. Taking in the breathtaking views from the west side of the river instead of the east side, we then crossed the Bridge of the Gods to go up the Columbia River Gorge. This route to the Gorge was a first for both of us.

From grief to comfort to elation. Chris would have loved that.

Thank You, God.

Images (c) 2019 RapturePractice! Publications

Columbia River south of Bonneville Dam

Featured Image (header) Columbia River Gorge Northbound in a snowstorm.

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Already Been So Long

I’m not done here yet, Baby Bother, but I sure long to see you and talk with you again.

Richard Mark

November 30, 1957 – March 18, 2014

 

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord… Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6 & 8 (ESV*)

 

 

*By permission, English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

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Over It

*

I can’t be that unique. With the flora that has fed and shaded us dying, I noticed emotions are also more heightened than usual. I wonder if that’s because the reminders of death are everywhere. Maybe it’s not just me. As life slows a bit everything seems to have more meaning.

We’ve passed Halloween. The Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos) will be behind us soon. Perhaps that has me thinking more than usual about loved ones that have passed on.

**

Like it or not, loss is a huge part of life. I think the worst kind of loss is when humans fail to get over hurts and insults and neglect love.

With the year-end holidays in particular we like to gather with family and friends. My offspring and siblings learned early on to get over the bad stuff and appreciate our time together. Today we are geographically distant so keeping in touch requires extra effort, but I’m glad to say that with few exceptions we manage.

I imagine that’s part of why I can’t forget those who have gone on lately. I tried, but haven’t escaped the longing to see them, to be with them again. I’m just not ready to die to make that happen. Still, I miss very many loved ones.

So, today especially I thank God for my siblings, my offspring and my good friends. Though miles separate us, our mutual losses, one of our most prevalent common bonds also hold us together.

My prayers today are that we always remember that those we hold dear could be gone in a heartbeat. And that’s why I can be extra annoying with extra phone calls, texts and emails – now, before we are all caught up in the busy-ness of the holidays.

If some old issue continues to trip you up, I can’t encourage you enough to kick it out of the way and move on toward peace.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17, 18 (NIV)

 

*Image courtesy James Gussy, 2018 Chicago, IL

**Image courtesy pixabay

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Be-longing

I’ve been thinking a lot about things I don’t possess anymore. I don’t mean items I remember disowning. No, I’ve wondered where I left some things behind.

I really don’t care too much about possessions. I won’t carry anything into heaven. But weeks into this phenomenon, I’m now paying close attention.

This morning I wondered about a mug.

This “wonder” even bled into my normal routine, beginning my day with prayer and Bible time. Instead of flipping my Bible to where I left off last time, I got stuck paragraphs back. I tried, but I couldn’t move on.

Again with the mug. I was getting concerned.

How does one seriously approach God about something as insignificant as stuff anyway? Well:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:28, 27 (NIV)

I wish I could say I always have the presence of mind to pray at the first hint of something beyond my grasp, and especially something that taunts at me. But without a dramatic crisis it usually takes me a while to remember little things – like stuff – until they become big things. Eventually I just asked God why stuff had been haunting me.

I prayed and then I worked in the garden before my study time.

Soon I could see past that mug. That’s pretty remarkable from where I stood on soggy ground by a pile of freshly pulled weeds, while being serenaded by horses, the steer, hens and the dogs.

But I saw my brother Seagh standing in my kitchen with me, his fingers comfortably gripping the mug. During Seagh’s routine pause before sipping his coffee, the mug literally broke away from the handle, fell to the floor, creamy coffee splattering dramatically.

As he gazed in disbelief I:

  1. marveled at how, of all the mugs on that shelf, he picked the one I had repaired and forgotten,
  2. hoped he’d clean the mess, and
  3. hoped the surprise wouldn’t make him late for his appointment.

Breath bated, I watched him – I imagined the entire drama playing out behind his curtain. In a moment (which actually felt much longer) he set the handle down, took another mug and began pouring the last of the coffee saying, “‘Guess it sucks to be you.”

With that I burst into laughter. Perfectly played, straight-faced Joe Cool effortlessly stepped over the mess, out of the kitchen and through the front door. I imagine he had a strangle-hold on every cell in his body to not laugh – at least until he was well out of ear-shot.

So, I get it now.

It’s not about stuff, acquiring or eliminating possessions. Seagh left us in early spring. As did our second brother, our father, and now our oldest brother. Don’t ask me why it sneaks up on me every year. It just does.

Though I’m sorry he had to go on without me, Seagh and I both experienced the strange, new sensation of home living here on this property. I left here intent on returning once sister Roan had settled in Texas. Who knew?

Naturally I miss him and especially his unique sense of humor, but really he’s as much a part of this property as the ground.

I’m determined to let the trivial stuff go and stay focused upon what’s important.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

Stacked mugs image courtesy Pixabay

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Why Worry?

Naturally I’ve been reflecting upon the meaning of life this week. Not really, but I actually have been re-examining my overall expectations.

I always dreamed of life with a big family, gardens, and lots of animals on enough acreage to be self-sustaining. I come from a large, complex family, so this is no surprise.

Since my youth, life took my siblings and me through some very interesting twists and turns. For us, most changes initiated some considerable pain and confusion. We’d no sooner recover from one blow when another would strike. Mean as it sounds, those hard hits on such young humans prepared us for an unimaginable future. That seems sad. It is, but it’s also good.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9 (NIV)

Throughout our lives God’s merciful grace has been the one consistency.

Today I am our eldest surviving sibling and my generation’s first female. That could change again tomorrow, but I’m not concerned.

During many passionate discussions throughout the years OlderBrother and I agreed that though we were impecunious, from a global perspective we have lived luxuriously.

I believe God blessed us all with astounding strength and fortitude throughout our journeys. I also believe that, like both Jacob* and Job**, He broke us enough to help us endure it all.

I’ll never forget the many times over the years I messed up and missed opportunities, simply by being stubborn. I confessed those failures and God forgot them. What’s more, He stayed right on course, kept me in line and lets me think getting here was all my idea, my doing.

Daily – okay at least weekly –  I’m overjoyed to reflect upon my favorite (and some of my most disappointing) memories – What brought me to here and now. Here may not look like all that much to some, but it’s far more than most would have predicted.

God has always used the good and the sad to keep me in check.

So why worry now?

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

1 Peter 5:10, 11 (NIV)

*Genesis 32:22-31

**Job 10:8-13

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Dear John

You were my first friend, my first hero.
Until I discovered John Wayne.
Then our world grew large and mean.
You gave me music,
And then you left.
You made us learn to live without you.
We’d finally begun building a bridge.
Perhaps we’ll finish it soon.
But for now we must say farewell.

Fair winds and following seas, dear “Big Bother”*.

Daddy, Brother and me 1954

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.”**

 

My Big Brother
January 8, 1952 – April 19, 2018

 

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

1 Corinthians 15:54  (NIV)

*Not a typo – a joke between siblings.

**From To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick, 1591 – 1674

 

 

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Bright Week

Spring, even Easter can be like a two-edged sword in my family. I doubt we’re so unique that this should surprise anyone. At some point in life most every body I know tires of winter’s short daylight hours and long, dark nights.

Even so, my family seems to have had more than average trouble getting through to spring – so much so that several times some of our loved ones didn’t make it. My siblings and I for example lost a parent, a cousin, and two siblings before spring.

These, our first losses were when we were all very young and somehow nobody explained what happened. So, understandably our history set up my siblings and me for a sneaky darkness to come creeping around in  early March. Typically that gloom lurks in the shadows until early April. Remarkably, none of us recognized that particular annual happening until we were all grown and set in our individual ways.

Since that realization we learned to reach out to one another about the time our spirits began going down for the second time. Regardless of which of us start it, we team together to help one another through, one way or another. We celebrate the good aspects of our family and we rationalize the bad, the sad and the painful. Mostly by Easter we’ve all beat it.

This year Easter came early so my breakthrough exploded into Easter Monday.

I’m glad to have celebrated the Resurrection, our hope in glory* with extended family this year – people who know my family, our history and they’re as glad to see my siblings and me get through our struggles as are we.

 

 
 

Today I determined – yet again – to continue my campaign to celebrate Bright Week. Essentially borrowing from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, only I’ll continue to observe through to Holy Week next year. Embracing the pain and rising above it, I’m confident God shall carry me through the joy of Easter Sunday all year.

I’ll let you know exactly how this goes after I finish sorting through last weeks’ photos.

“To them [the Lord’s people who are the church] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Colossians 1:27 (NIV, [addendum mine])

 

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Acceptance

I love it when You take over my mind as I wake.
Sincerely.

And usually I love Your perfect timing, especially with the extraordinary things You bring to my mind.
Seriously.

You consistently guide me toward peace in the madness. And You let me think its all my doing. You lead me to build and cross bridges I could never do alone. Your peace reigns freely in my otherwise nonsensical world.

You are marvelous.

And yet, to be honest I was angry and upset most of yesterday. I got used to Scout popping in after his “property inspection” every morning. All summer through late autumn I enjoyed his visits. Come winter, I liked opening the door to find him waiting to be let in, and how his circling through the cottage and then leaving again became welcome recesses.

You are Faithful.

Of course You know, me constantly missing Seagh had subsided. Then yesterday I remembered how every day he’d open the slider bringing Scout in the main house for his early morning nap. I cried and then laughed at how that routine – scant minutes after I’d finished cleaning the floors from the night before – annoyed me back then.

You are patient.

Now that I think of it that was all You, gently reminding me I’m actually not the boss of me, to take a break.

You are gracious.

And now that we’re talking about it – okay, now that I’m venting at You – I realize that was also You yesterday:

The storm broke just long enough for the sun to irradiate the landscape. In that breath before twilight my body seemed to become weightless – an answer to other post-holiday prayers, by the way – and I was transported almost into the blinding light, but stopped short of it.
All in a single, timeless heartbeat Seagh was walking with extraordinary ease away from me, just out of my reach. Scout trotted along at his side, tail wagging, ears up, lips stretched back and tongue dangling in happy anticipation. They were like two stark silhouettes against the brilliance and yet I saw their every detail. I wanted to walk with them, but without stopping Seagh turned to face me, one flat hand raised to his waist indicating I should stop. Walking backward he lifted his head in an upward nod. In our wordless manner I understood him, “I got this.” I raised my arm to wave an acknowledgement, but couldn’t move it any more.
Then he turned around again as Scout too did a full spin. I could feel their delightfully pain-free exhilaration. In that same instant they walked away together as their forms vignetted into the glorious light and then disappeared again.

 
You are indescribable.

I trust You understand my sob and those tears. I completely appreciate You giving us that wonderfully unexpected, but final goodbye. I understood instantly that I won’t see them again until heaven. And in that same instant Your amazing peace returned to me.

You are gentle.

So now I see how You consistently layer all the loss and heartaches throughout my life with immeasurable joy. I get it; the harder the hit, the greater the glory. Looking back at my tantrum over the previous day, I’m humbled – yet again embarrassed.

I am loved.

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”
Romans 8:18 (NLT)

Feature Image by permission, (c) 2018 Julie Wetherby not for duplication without written permission.

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Resignation

You know, Ol’ Man, this morning wasn’t as awful as I expected. For a few heartbeats I was angry with Cole for not calling me up last night, but I can’t stay mad at him.

“Ol Man” Scout in a happy, albeit inelegant moment.

I’ll bet you chuckled to yourself that way you do, on and off all night about how we want to change things up this year. I tortured you with my ideas, chattering the whole week before New Year’s. You have always been a good listener. I still have some more ideas to run by you, but that can wait.

Cole surprised me this morning slipping quietly in the door instead of his usual boisterous entrance. I started to tease him but stopped abruptly. I can’t remember exactly why. Perhaps it was the uncharacteristic way he held his coffee mug against his chest. I offered him the tropical green smoothie I’d intended to take up to the house to him – you know, changing things up – but I carried it to the door. Since you didn’t come in with him I went to open the door for you the way I always do.

I surprised myself asking Cole as I turned from him to the door,  “Did your roommate’s grandmother die?”

I never noticed how cold the metal of the doorknob is until I heard Cole respond, “No. Scout died.”

I turned on my heel gasping, feeling Brother’s pain more than mine. The Ol’ Man’s been my friend these five or so years, but he and Cole have been inseparable since Scout was a tiny pup. Silently, I held my face between my hands a moment to keep back the sob and the tears that surely wouldn’t help him that minute.

Cole tried to put a log I’d intended to take up to the main house in my little stove. I held my words until he clearly realized the log was beginning to smolder but wouldn’t fit. Then I said gently, “That one’s for your stove. Let me take it up.” He handed it over but continued staring into the fire.

I found you there where Cole laid you, on your travel blankets in the dining room. You looked peaceful, as if you were napping. I rubbed behind your ears and your throat remembering how we got to play yesterday under clear, blue skies on a perfectly comfortable winter day. It had been weeks since you felt up to playing, but yesterday you moved painlessly once again. You got to greet a new visitor and then we played some more just because the weather was so perfect.

This morning I let you rest when I saw NewOldFriend arrive. Like you, I like her very much too. Cole had already brought the quad up to the house to carry you and some tools. I walked around to tell the neighbor ladies you’d laid it all down and apologized for all the commotion so early in the day. I’m sure you know how they are also fond of you.

Certain the fair weather would not hold out, Duck and his nephew showed up with the back hoe. Ninety minutes later Cole finished packing rich topsoil back over that high spot in the north pasture with the tractor. We all felt we were finished and should go but we couldn’t. Then we heard the horses in the surrounding pastures begin to neigh and whinny, bobbing their heads in a country chorus. Then we said our good-byes too.

We solemnly returned to the main house. It wasn’t one of the rare occasions Scout stayed home alone and he didn’t greet us as if we’d been away for days rather than hours. We toasted our dearly beloved friend and a life well lived. Cole commented that from the kitchen window we can look out onto his spot in the pasture, near the youngest of the trees.

Later, the pasture drew me back before returning to my cottage. Without Scout along it felt colder and empty. I didn’t hear him approach, but as rain began to fall Hero the steer gently nosed me from behind. Taking that as him telling me to stop being a silly human, I returned to my cottage to reminisce on my time with Scout, our dear Ol’ Man.

Scout
September 2005 – January 4, 2018

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.”

Philippians 1:3 (NLT)

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Rearview

For the second time in my recent history I’m delighted for having gone out of my way, when doing so made little or no sense.

I thrive on variety and spontaneity, so there likely have been many such occasions. Always pushing forward, I rarely noticed, so these two instances stand out.

I wanted to drive to the opposite side of town to attend church services with my friend, instead of staying in my neighborhood. With gas prices skyrocketing – again – and some extra expenses popping up this seemed silly. There was no special occasion, speaker or program, I simply wanted to meet my friend at the church we attended together years ago.

Still, by Thursday I made a date with Dear-Old-Friend. By then I had forgotten all about how my tomatoes weren’t ripening and the wilting pepper plants.

Had I not followed my heart:

  • I would have missed people bringing their garden surplus to church. I forgot I could bless others by taking the extra fresh, homegrown, organic veggies,
  • I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to drop off any of the eggs I’d brought (and almost forgot about) at Dear-Old-Friend’s house, so I wouldn’t have also stopped at the peach grove,
  • I would not have had the extra fresh, wholesome food to give to a young family I met along the way – in dire need of it.

That was just this past weekend, but it brought to mind another seemingly crazier decision I made three-plus years back:

Had I not left my home for weeks to stay with my siblings, to be their housekeeper while Sister recovered from surgery:

  • I would not have witnessed firsthand the importance of daily covering my family with prayer,
  • My younger brother Seagh and I would not have bridged the gap that had formed over the previous years,
  • Seagh and I would not have “solved the world’s problems” as we did every few days or so,
  • We all would have missed the precious family time we shared for the last time, before Seagh died (four months after that visit),
  • Sister would never have gotten over urging me not to come.

Ordinarily I would have resented Sister telling me not to come, rejecting my offer, and stayed home. But knowing she was overwhelmed, frightened and concerned about my situation too, I ignored that particular request.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” Galatians 5:16 (NLT)

Seeing more of the big picture takes practice – daily. Personally, daily Bible study and prayer helps me meet each day with solid footing and broader, clearer vision. Alright, alright; I manage to deliberately step into my days more effectively prepared about Four days out of seven. Even so, the consistent practice makes for a good way to live.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

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