Church, Appointment and Practice

Hi Sweetheart,

I’ve been thinking a lot about church, lately. Church in the appointment type of church and church in the practice sense.

Your Dad and I haven’t been to church, the appointment kind, much in a while. Really since you got sick. At the time, it was safer for you not to go. For you, it was a place of a bunch of people with germs, in the moment. For me, it was a bunch of people that might give me germs that would lay in wait until I was with you, only to infect you.

And then you died…

And church, the appointment kind, didn’t seem to fill the need we had, to connect with God without just being mad. That’s really your Dad’s thing. He thinks about your death and gets mad. At cancer, at God, at the church, as an institution, that didn’t really minister to us. Our fault? Maybe. Me, it just seems like a duty that I don’t care to pick up and pack around.

Instead, we find God in the practice of church. Nature, snow, spring lightening shows, our dogs, your dogs, a hug from a loved one.

But sometimes, church, the appointment kind, does minister to me in a profound way.

First_Communion

A few weeks ago, your Sister/Cousin’s 2nd received her 1st Communion. She’s a rule follower, a leader, a judge and social worker, all rolled into one. And she was super excited for this milestone. She’d done the work of learning the what and the why and the how, and was excited to receive Christ in this way. So I put her appointment on my calendar and showed up to project my love into her day.

I walked into the church and saw my Bestie, your Auntie, in the back, following #5 around as she explored and demanded and asked “this?” over and over. When Mass started, we sat with the family. #5 crawled all over Aunt C, and proved that she has no whisper yet available, in her repertoire of words and actions and inflections. #4 saw me, and for some reason decided I was the one for the day. Which is crazy, because as the surly one, she usually pretty much ignores her God Mother. But she saw me and came to me and sat on my lap all through Mass. She and #5 played with my jewelry, trading necklace and bracelets. And then E played with my Apple watch, scrolling through the pictures, and scribbling in Evernote. All of this, pretty much wanting me to not help her!! Haha! So I gave her directions, which she’d follow when she thought I knew what I was doing, and ignore when she knew I didn’t, and in general, was a quiet little dictator on my lap. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had the skin rubbed off of me in this wonderful way. Through all the little girl space in my lap and next to me, I missed most of Mass, though the rhythm and cadence of the ritual was familiar, even as the “new” words, that were introduced when you were sick, are still annoying to me. But still, as always, I cried through Communion. I always cry through Communion. And as annoying as I find that, I just let myself cry. You’d think I’d remember to bring Kleenex to church.

peace-officers

Later that week, I had another appointment church. A memorial. The opposite end of the life spectrum, I guess. A friend’s husband, gone after a yearlong bout with thyroid cancer. This just 2 years after he came into her life and brought light to her eyes. She’d lost the light when her son died, just 3 weeks after you. You’d wanted to meet T so badly when you were so sick that last hospital stay. You were too sick, he was too sick and it just didn’t happen. And yet I know you greeted him when he joined you in the arms of the Angels.

Anyway, that church appointment was beautiful in it’s own way. A different sort of service, in a church of a different denomination, but church by appointment, still. Beautiful words, said in hopes of softening the hurt, bolstering the spirit, a video of a life that had joys and hardships aplenty, and shortened too soon. Lunch in company of another Mom of an Angel, and a Mom of a Warrior, there to support our friend, as she moved through the day in a trance of hugs and memories and words of sympathy. An appointment to grieve, though the grieving started with the diagnosis and will continue from now until forever.

Church by appointment, serving a purpose.

hummer Salida

And I keep thinking about Church as a practice. The sacred time of driving through the mountains with your little brother, as we talk and laugh and breathe each other in. The tending to your Uncle B and Aunt J’s old dog, while we stay in their house for the night to break up the drive. She is feeble and deaf and blind and grateful for company. And your brother got to breathe in the nectar that is Salida. The snow on the mountain, the first hummingbirds at the feeder. The sun, the air, the magic of this place of the heart.

hats-off-graduation-clipart-1

And this weekend we will come together as a large extended family to celebrate a twin graduation. Church in celebration, church in family, church in embracing these young men with love and laughter and advice and prayers of grace. There will be hugs and delight and food aplenty. We are hoping for sun, but will celebrate in the rain, or the snow, if that’s where we find ourselves. Because these rites of passage, these rituals of ceremony and celebration connect us to each other in the most profound way. A church experience, a church practice, for sure.

And then your Sister-in-Law and her hubby arrive! I’m pretty sure she’s coming to see the dogs and is happy to get to see me, too. And we plan to camp. And they will hike, and I will read and we all will nap and talk and dream a little. And the church that is my beloved mountains will feed our souls, soothe our hearts and nourish our minds.

Church in practice, extended over days. Ahhhh.

I’m thankful for church, appointment and practice. I’m thankful for your Sister/Cousin and her brood and that she includes me in their lives. I’m thankful for twin nephews, graduating and looking forward. I’m thankful for car time with your brother.

I’m thankful for today!!

Advertisements

Ground Hogs Day

donut

Hi Jenny Renny!

This week was Ground Hogs Day. Or as your sister/cousin’s girls call it: Donut Day. Almost forgot to get a donut, but made a special trip to the store, just to sneak one in! I’m not sure how the donut tradition started. My sis, your Aunt, remembers the story about Grandma Smith making them on GHD when your Pops was a kid, so our family tradition goes back at least as far as that! It was so fun seeing all the family posts of donut enjoyment.

Your Marno did love her a donut! It seems fitting that Ground Hogs Day was the day I finally buckled down to do the final dispersement from her estate. I’ve been putting it off for months under the guise of it would take a chunk of time I just didn’t have. I realized, as I pulled out all the documents and the spread sheet I’d created to keep track of everything, that really, it was about finality. Marno gave you an Angel kiss from me almost 3 years ago now, but somehow, doing the final paperwork and writing the final dispersement checks from the estate puts a punctuation mark on her absence. Gotta admit, I cried a little bit. There’s tears when writing checks and then there’s tears when writing checks! Haha! My tears were sadness, missing, responsibility, resistance tears. But they were also thankful tears. And tears of sweet remembrance. And tears of awe, as I remember how your Marno and Pops chose to live their life, spend their money, raise their family and provide for the future.

And that damn Ground Hog says we’ve got 6 more weeks of winter coming!!! 😉

The rest of the week was a stay at home week, as in work at home, not work on the road! You were good at carving out time. Time to work, time to rest, time for friends, time for self, time to play. I’m not very good at that. For me, it’s either time to work or time to waste time! Anyway, I got a lot done this week, not just almost finished with Marno’s estate, but desk cleared, todo list sorted, one email box cleared, almost. (Are they ever cleared??) Oh, and laundry! Which also is never done!

I also spent some time this week checking in with my body. Had a chiropractor appointment. It’s been a year since my last bad back experience, and I realized I’ve spent much of the last few months in a not-good back space, so decided to start to really fix that. And then I slipped on the newly formed ice on the sidewalk and biffed it!! Such a klutz. Laughed at myself, like you always laughed at yourself when you got hurt. Then went back into the office to warn the little old man with his walker, and his wife, that the sidewalk was murderous and to be careful! Do you know what happened next? The chiropractor, a man I really just like, made the couple wait until he got a cup of salt, and then he walked out with them, in the freezing rain, sprinkling salt in front of them and making sure they got safely to the car. I think salt actually needs a little time to work, but the point was that he went out of his way to care for someone else. There are good people in the world, everywhere I look! That same night, we closed the store early, to get Team Members home as early as possible, as safely as possible. Posted on FB, so the information could make it out as far as possible. Lots of positive feedback, some disappointment, one angry guy that just doesn’t count. But, I can say, no injuries, no accidents and it’s just chicken!

This week, I’m feeling thankful, generally. Relearning how to talk to you is part of that, Sweetheart. I know my heart continues to commune with you, but I so miss sharing life with you and am finding that while talking to you in this way will never be the way it should be, it is better than not talking to you. You are so good about just allowing your peeps, including me, to express their heart, mind and spirit with simple acceptance. You never felt the need to fix someone else, and rarely offered advice, unless someone asked for it, then you always had great advice! I’m doing my best to learn from you, my sweet redheaded teacher! I continue to aspire to your presence and grace!

Today, I’m thankful for Ground Hogs and donuts, whatever Ground Hogs are!! I’m thankful for Marno and Pops. I’m thankful for gentlemen who care about others. I’m thankful for work to do and accomplishment and space to do what needs to be done. I’m thankful the estate paperwork is almost finished. I’m thankful Team Members got home safely in scary weather. I’m thankful biffing it was laughable, not disastrous. I’m thankful I continue to learn from your example, then and now.

I’m thankful for today!!

 

 

Sparkly snow

Hi Girl!

You can’t see the rainbows in the frost in this picture but it was there. Sparkly snow! My favorite! Your sweet Mia wanted out front, first thing, like always. She loves the front yard, she always has! Ever since we trained her for you, she loved the front yard. The back, in that house, had a giant stair to the grass, so we always let her out the front. It’s like she’s come home, every time. I think it’s really just because she likes to poop in the front! Haha!

Today was sit through meetings day. ALL DAY! But so much discussed and sorted and meetings are where the decisions are made.

I also finished a note your Honey asked for. He wanted opinions. I gave them to him. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know… He and his bride are making a life but boy, it’s a struggle! They remind me of baby birds struggling to free themselves from the egg shell they’re surrounded in. Whacking away, not realizing that perhaps all they need to do is stretch their wings a little and go back to the basics. But that boy of yours! He’s certainly wired for struggle! 

Your brother is finally back in his own apt after being gone for a month, starting the day after he moved! You know him, he needs everything in place but it’s not there, yet, and he’s beginning to get crazy! Today, he struggled with injustice. The designer he is working with lit out after his assistant. He feels the wrong in that so acutely. He is so conscientious and kind that those kinds of things really hurt his heart, his sense of justice.

Today I’m thankful for frost and sparkles and Mia and her front yard penchant. I’m thankful for your brother’s heart and ways. I’m thankful your hubs has a wife who is willing to see his heart through the charm, because we both know his charm is just the icing. I’m thankful for people who work hard to keep our business moving forward. I’m thankful for you, my Angel Baby!

I’m thankful for today!!

Folding a flag 

Hi Honey,

Today I got to go to a memorial service. One of your fellow Angel’s Grandpa, though I think they called him Papa, which I love, because that is what we called Marno’s Dad, Papa. And yes, got to go is the right term. Nobody likes to go to funerals or memorial services, but they are worth attending, and it often helps me understand those left behind, in a way I haven’t been able to see before. (BTW, I looked up the difference between funeral and memorial, are you surprised? It’s called a funeral if the body is on sight, a memorial service if there is no body. This would also include cremains.)

Anyway, this oldster served in the military. Part of the service was “full military honors”. I had to look that up, too, and here is what I found.

The bugler was very good and I found it interesting that he controlled the volume beautifully, keeping it at a level that was appropriate to the size of the venue and the occasion. So amazing since everyone thinks it’s only music if it’s loud! The other cool thing was they folded and presented the flag to this man’s son. The flag was already folded and on the table near some pictures and the urn, holding his ashes. But they went through the ritual of carefully unfolding and the refolding the flag. With reverence and grace. Beautiful stillness while everyone watched. Like a meditation.

After the service, I chatted with another Angel’s Mom. I wish nobody knew what it was like to lose their adult child, but since this is Earth, not Heaven, and it’s not perfect here, I’m thankful I have these women to connect with, who understand without explanation and tears leaking from my eyes doesn’t signal a change in topic!

And tonight, because life is crazy variety, we are going to a hockey game. I’m thankful for fleece leggings, season tickets, anticipating pizza for dinner and probably a JD w Diet Coke!

ILYEM!!

I’m thankful for funerals and memorials and Angel Moms and folded flags and fleece leggings.

I’m thankful for today!!

Thankful for snow

Hi GirliePie,

We had beautiful snow today. The sparkly cuz it’s cold, crunchy cuz it’s REALLY cold, 6″ of fluffy kind of snow. The kind that piles on the evergreen bushes and stays there all day. The kind that the dogs burrow their nose into and come up coated and delirious. The kind that looks like snow cones on the banister. It was heavenly. And of course, I got out in it, because I just do. Weather has never stopped me from anything except getting to New York last spring to see your brothers first Broadway credit. But I went later, so it worked out! And the blizzard then didn’t stop me from getting to the airport, it just stopped the airlines from taking off!! Haha!

As this new year has gotten off the ground, I’m hoping for, looking for, planning on being thankful. This week I’ve seen your Auntie’s new house. Yea, the one that is years of projects in the making, and she and my brother are in their happy place; planning, and working and envisioning. We had our annual New Years Eve party in their Irish Pub basement. The last one. Never go down there without thinking of your 100 Days party. Your defiance in the face of difficulty, your determination to celebrate that which deserves to be celebrated.

I’ve also started a new gig with your Dad. I’m his personal assistant! Haha! Partly because we don’t really know what that’s going to look like, long term, partly because I know him so well, partly because I’m not afraid to hold him accountable for what he’s asked for. It’s been fun, digging in, becoming reacquainted with a business that I’ve been pretty disconnected from for coming up on 6 years, since you got sick. I’m feeling useful and I think I can make a difference in how he spends his time, helping him to work smarter, without having to work harder. We’ll see…

Your brother is working in California. Working sick, as he always gets sick when he comes home. Presumably the letting down of his guard that happens being home. But he’s a big boy and is taking care of himself, all while pouting when I don’t answer because he “needs his nurse Mama!” That boy!

Mia was so cute today. She is usually the passive one of the dogs, not the alpha at all, though she is the oldest and certainly the most vocal when trying to get her peeps to do what she wants, like get her another treat. Anyway, I was doing some stretching on the floor and Sophie was using my foot to rub on, hoping I’d, in turn, rub her with my foot. In came Mia, and she actually head butted Sophie out of the way! That’s MY Beanka’s foot! Haha! And to think Mia learned that from Buttons, and then is the one who taught Sophie about foot rubbing! Love those hairy kids of yours!

Speaking of stretching, I never do mountain pose to forward fold, repeat, and repeat again, without thinking of you squawking that it made you dizzy to watch me do that. I made you dizzy this morning and again tonight.

Honey, it was a beautiful snow day with happy things, including thoughts of you!

I am thankful for today!!

Starting the conversation…

Jen,

We used to talk every day, sometimes we talked multiple times a day. Now, we can’t talk. Well, you can’t talk. Angels don’t talk. You communicate, at least I feel like you do, but you can’t talk. And I’m not much on monologues. But I’ve discovered something. It’s taken me 4 years of not hearing your voice to figure it out. I can still talk to you.
People ask me, often, though not as often as during the few months after you died, if I talked to you. Mostly people assume that I did, that I do. But truthfully, I think, feel, say “Hi Jenny!!” often, but that’s mostly it. When I think of you, which is frequently and fervently, I think if you in stills, in series shots in my minds eye. Mostly from those months you were sick, the weeks just before you died, the day you died. But I’ve discovered how limiting that has become. It limits me, and it limits my experience of you.
During your battle with leukemia, I wrote, through Caringbridge, a chronical of your experience. After the first couple of days, I ended nearly every post with “We are thankful for today!!” I did that on purpose. For you, for me, for all who followed your journey. It was my way of finding the hope in the day. It was my way of reminding all of us that the details of the here and now are not the whole story. That miracles happen every day. Sometimes, it’s the people placed in our path, sometimes the thought of the moment, the wash of the heart, the gift for the eye, the ear. Fleeting, but uplifting. The smell of rain, competent hands, puppy snuggles, grilled cheese and no bake cookies, a parking space right up front, the first snow, a goose farm.
As time has marched, day by day, farther away from you, though your Dad thinks of it as each day closer to you (someday, I hope to think if it that way, too!) I find it harder to be thankful for today. That is contrary to my nature! I’ve always been able to see the small miracles and be thankful. But…
So, I am taking that bull by the horns. I don’t want to forget how to be thankful. I want the beautiful idea that you have pink angel wings to be a starting point for noticing beauty and laughter and the good things in a day to day life. And I want to learn to talk to you again. To share life with you, even if it feels a bit like a monologue. So, I begin…
I am thankful for today!!