Category Archives: grief

Blue Christmas

2013-12-12 08.29.46-1“Christmas can make our wounds bleed. But the journey isn’t over. God isn’t done. He still has things left for you to do. And you will heal.”

“A small branch in the Winter looks dry, gray, dead. From all appearances, it has no life. And yet, inside of it there is life. It is surging with life just waiting to explode out when the warm sun arrives in Spring.”

“You are in the Winter of life. But Winter is followed by Spring, and then Summer, and Fall. And, yes, there will be other Winters in your life. God has created seasons of life. Sometimes it is cold, desolate, and difficult. Other times, it is warm, sunny, and happy. Rest assured that the seasons of God are meant for our wellness. Because he loves us.”

– – – – –

Winter darkness
swaddles the long evenings
with comforting covers of stillness,
greets the brightness of the waxing moon,
fills the clear royal blue sky
with brilliant patterns of shining stars,
applauds the vigor of determined dawns,
receives the bowed head of setting sun.
Winter darkness.

Tau Healing Arts

– – – – –

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
God have mercy on me. Help me accept my brokenness, emptiness, and need for you.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Lord, grant me grace to trust you and drop my defenses, be approachable, kind, merciful, and appropriately assertive.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Help me love you above all else. Purge my soul of all polluted affections, habits, and rebellions.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Enable me to forgive as generously and consistently as you, Lord, forgive me.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Lord, I ask for a pure, clean, uncluttered heart. I long to see your face, that there would be nothing between you and me.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Lord, fill me with courage to disrupt false peace around me when needed. Give me wisdom and prudence to be a true peacemaker.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Lord, fill me with courage to speak and live the truth, even when it is not popular or convenient.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
by Peter Scazzero

– – – – –

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

Psalms 27:4-5

– – – – –

I attended a Blue Christmas service on Wed night at Charles Wesley UMC in McLean. It was quiet, calm, and comfortable. The organizers and reverend were gentle and kind and made us feel, even in our hurt, like we were special and still had much to live for. Some beautiful music was presented – It Is Well With My Soul  and I Will Not Leave You Comfortless particularly stands out in my mind. Scripture was read. Some selected pieces of poetry were read. Response readings were done. A kind person presented her “Reflections” on Christmases past when she was experiencing difficulty in her life. Some of the words and readings are listed above.

We held our small twigs and considered how God can use a small, gray, almost-dead-looking thing to bring new life when the sun is warm again. We were each prayed over, by name, and anointed with oil – this was very special and meaningful to me. One candle was lit from which, then, we each lit our smaller candles in memory of our lost ones. In lighting our candles, we were reminded to never lose our memories but, also, to not let our memories hold us back from moving forward. God isn’t done, yet, and he needs us with him.

After a closing prayer, we were dismissed in silence. In the foyer, we each received a hug and a whispered blessing from the officiant. A very nice and special evening. For me.

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Getting Together

kinkeeperLast fall, I spent several months with grief counselors and fellow wives and husbands who had lost their spouses. At one of the sessions, I recall, we had to take on the difficult question of what we felt would be missing from our families without our spouses; for example, income, friendship, support, care-giving, and so forth.

For the men, we agreed that without our wives, there was going to be a huge gap in the effort to keep our families together. We had a hard time expressing our ideas through words and putting our finger exactly on what we were trying to say, but the gist was that, generally, our wives served as the glue that held the many pieces of our complex families together.

Recently, I did some reading about a role that many older women take on – the role of kinkeeper. As I read, I realized that this exactly described what we were trying to describe last year. Being a kinkeeper is being the one – usually a mother or grandmother – who insists that the family and extended family gather for celebrations and events and makes sure everyone is staying in touch with each other.

Regina was our kinkeeper. She spent months organizing the picture above. She knew every detail about the kids and grandkids. She wrote, bought, listened, called, and literally worked hard to keep our family together. It was very important to her. She was so good at it, and loved it, and I miss her ability to be a kinkeeper terribly.

I’m not a good kinkeeper. There is so much that needs to be done. I’m sorry. I’m far from what she was. I’m trying to do better.

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Party Codes

ficiulexpI watched my first Christmas movie several nights ago. ABC Family is doing a countdown, of sorts, to Christmas by showing some kind of Christmas movie each evening. I’ve been recording a few in the past week with a few more queued up in the next. The movies I’m recording are all movies I’ve seen once before and remember to be pretty good.

I say I watched my first Christmas movie. What does that mean? Well, I didn’t watch any last year. It wasn’t going to work. And, honestly, after watching my first movie of this season, Christmas Vacation, I’m not sure if I am ready to watch more this year. Not because of Chevy Chase and his over-achievement issues, certainly. He’s wacko! But, rather, because the theme of the movie had to do with the extraordinary efforts taken in order to make the perfect Christmas event for a family. I appreciate the theme but it made me sad.

More specifically, and when Clark’s plans would work or not work, I noticed that Clark and Ellen (the endearing father and mother of the tribe) would cast personal, special glances at each other. These glances were able, for them, to communicate far more than words. They knew each other well enough that nothing more than a smile, a tilted head, a smirk, or a pursed set of lips said all that needed to be said between them. It’s like having special smoke signals. Or a code.

Regina and I often used codes. Especially at parties.

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gruopsSometimes being around people is uncomfortable. It’s not because I don’t like people (my antics are an act – I actually like you!) or anything as mundane as that. It simply is about being able to breathe.

The pain has moved below the surface now. It isn’t always right on the edge ready to go off in an instant. It moves deeper – like an underground river. Going for hours and hours now is possible without thinking about how things have turned out. Focus and intensity have, for the most part, come back. But deep inside – often just barely perceptible – is the rumble of rough waters, scary waters, black waters.

It seems most noticeable, oddly, when there are other people around. Maybe it has to do with the fact that others – I, obviously, am not always in tune with their predicaments – don’t seem to be wounded or ailing or otherwise scarred. It’s silly, of course. Everyone has some kind of baggage but, from where I’m sitting, their baggage doesn’t seem to hurt them as bad as my baggage is hurting me. Selfish and self-centered? Probably. Regardless, this happens when I get in crowds or groups. It’s almost like clockwork. The longer I’m in the crowd, the more likely I’ll start to get a sense of unease, sadness, anxiety, and a desire to get out.

This isn’t debilitating. But it’s like someone is antagonizing me with pinpricks. It starts slowly and then it begins to pick up and after awhile, it’s little pinpricks all over the insides of my heart and soul.

· 2 Comments. Posted in 250 words, grief.

34 Years


· 2 Comments. Posted in family, grief, regina's rest.

Last Movie

hgumIt was late Thurs night and early Fri morning. A school night. I had been anticipating the new movie coming out, Hunger Games, for quite some time. During several years prior, I had read the three books in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. I was fascinated by the storytelling, the character development, and the fact that the lead character was a strong, intelligent, young female. After putting up with Bella for quite a few books and movies in the Twilight too-long series (personal opinion), it was refreshing to have a heroine who was tough but empathetic and intelligent but reasonable. I looked forward to the movie.

Regina agreed to go. It was a premier opening midnight movie. It began precisely at 12:01am on Fri morning. Regina, Niki, and I went up to an IMAX theater in Woodbridge to watch. Niki and I were ardent fans. Regina was a trooper and wanted some adventure. I had ordered tickets early to avoid a ticket line. When we arrived at the theater about 30 min early, all was orderly and calm. We zipped right in and found some good seats together. I forget how we sat. Maybe Regina, me, and Niki. Or something like that. It was a nice evening together.

Niki and I went together to opening night last evening of Catching Fire. We had a nice evening out. Another school night. The two of us. Niki mentioned that it had been on the morning of Mar 23, 2012 that we three had seen Hunger Games together.

Yes. It was Regina’s last theater movie.

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Junk Memories

jinkmaleI don’t know whether to cry or get angry. Every day – the same thing. It’s a small part of my day, it really shouldn’t matter, and it is easily managed. But why? Every day like clockwork. I’ve about handled all of the other business and done a pretty good job at anticipating random, drive-by grenades that bring up hurt.  But this? I can’t figure out what to do. It’s not about being sad. Fact is, I find that being healthily sad every now and then is good medicine. It heals. But this persistent drip drip drip of junk mail really bothers me.

Do you like mail? Until recently, I never cared about or even thought about picking up the mail everyday. That was one of Regina’s assigned tasks, I guess. I rarely visited the mailbox on the street. It was usually already picked up and handled by Regina by the time I made it home in the evenings. She also, I suspect, liked to hijack her own mail out of my sight. Funny girl. It all worked alright. It was just one of those things.

But not a day goes by, now, when I don’t anticipate the mail. Maybe a card. A letter. Some good news. A package or small surprise. Each day, visiting the mailbox is an event for me. Funny how things change.

But the junk? I despise it. Just yesterday. A typical haul. Giant “Fresh Thinking” flyer. To Regina. HighScope ReSource catalog. To Regina. Lands’ End catalog. To Regina.

I can do without these constant duck bites. It feels cheap.

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Heart Journey 7

Grace Before DyingLastly, another take away from the recent The Heart of the Journey workshop comes from Carol’s discussion on dying. Carol had just had her right knee replaced and this presentation was her first one since returning back to work. She was mostly unable, or at least uncomfortable, standing for long periods of time. She finished up her talk and discussion by sitting down in front of us. She sat and used her hands a great deal.

She became almost animated when talking about the importance of talking to a dying person. “They can probably hear, ” she said as she moved her arms around, “and I don’t know how many family members I have told to keep talking and assure their loved one that things will be alright.” I sensed the voice of experience but I also sensed the voice of a kind woman who very much desired the best for everyone experiencing death.

I’ve been hurting the last week a bit and I think I do have one regret now. When the boys and I were with Regina during the last few moments, the nurses and doctors encouraged us to talk with her. I was tired and confused but I also didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I remember leaning over and touching her hair and cheek and caressing her arm and hand. I think I said something but it must have been so inconsequential that I don’t remember what I said. After that, the boys did something but I don’t remember. It was all so unreal, surreal, and not right.

I wish Carol had been standing by me to prod me to have talked to Regina personally and lovingly. I regret that I did not give Regina my support and my understanding that she needed to go and that all of us would be alright.

Carol told us that she will talk with her patient a great deal if she senses the final moment approaching. She emphasized this twice to make her point. She was moving her arms around and pointing from her seated position as she told us. She talks to her patient at the end!

She leans over and whispers comfortably but quite audibly in the patient’s ear. She says, “You can go now. And if you see an angel’s hand, take hold of it firmly and don’t let go. Go on now!”

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Heart Journey 6

jurneyOne take away for me from my time at The Heart of the Journey workshop came from Randy’s presentation on spirituality. Randy explained how working with others when they are badly hurting is “sacred work,” as he called it. He also said that, truth be told, we aren’t helping others totally for their sake. He explained that there are many who can empathize with the plight of others. He said that there are many who can see the progression that a patient might be going through from hurt to hurt to hurt. There may or may not be resolution. Regardless, the serial nature from poor to bad to worse to extremely dire is something that an empathetic person can see and sense.

So what might this say about an empathetic person? Randy discusses research that shows that, often times, an empathetic person is also working through a progression of events – situation to situation to situation – almost, in some ways, like what a patient is experiencing. The situations may not be as serious, the urgency may be far less, and the stakes may not be as high, but the empathetic person – the caregiver, possibly – is walking something of the same journey as the patient.

Of course, this understanding opens up all kinds of discussion and possibilities. Then who is the real patient? Are we selfish in care-giving if we are doing it for ourselves? Is it good that we are walking in the patient’s shoes? How does a caregiver, when dealing with the cases of terminal patients, not become so overwhelmed that even the caregiver becomes debilitated? How close is too close and how far is too far in care-giving?

I have wanted and am now comfortable to be working with hospice patients. And I will admit – especially after hearing Randy’s presentation – that I, too, am walking a journey of hurt and grief. And somehow in helping others I, maybe, am hoping to find resolution in my own instance.

With God’s help and the patience of patients, I will find out.

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