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!!

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Hummingbird visit

Hi Honey,

Been missing you. I’m in Las Vegas this week. It’s surprisingly colder than I thought it would be. This is the desert, after all, but it maybe got to 45 today! Sunny, though, so beautiful. The mountains around the city got new snow the night before last and were so beautiful yesterday morning. This morning, too, but it was fresh, yesterday morning!!

I keep thinking about when you and I came here together, just the 2 of us. We stayed at Planet Hollywood and played the blackjack and poker machines in that one area! Using the card you bought so we’d know what to hold on and what to trade in. (I don’t think that’s the term… Haha!!) That’s my most precious memory of that trip! Using that dumb card to know what to do! Still lost money, but not much, so that’s OK. We walked miles and miles up and down the strip. Ate. I think we saw a show, but I don’t remember which one. It was way more fun to do Vegas with you than it was with your Dad a few years later. He doesn’t much participate in any of this, so while he was happy to follow along where I wanted to go, that’s not usually the point.

I’ve been catching myself being crabby again, so remembered that I needed to connect with you to let you know about the good things in life. The things I’m thankful for.

Yesterday, I had a pretty good break, so left to get some lunch and then came back to work, but sat in the car to read in some quiet for a little bit. It was nice enough to have a window open, so I enjoyed the fresh air. As I was reading a collection of Maeve Binchy’s short stories, I got buzzed by a hummingbird!! Hi Mama! I always, always think of your Marno when I see a hummer! She didn’t hang around long, and thankfully didn’t come in the window, but it was lovely to get a Marno drive by!hummingbird

I’m also thankful for sweet thoughts of you and your friends, today. On Monday, your girls represented you to Sigma Kappa in advance of their campus wide Bone Marrow Donor Drive at Colorado School of Mines. I heard they did great and were really able to make you real to the younger sisters presently active in the sorority. 90 girls!! I can’t wait to hear how well they do with their donor recruiting.

This week I’m thankful for happy Grand Opening energy, for too much circus at that self same GO! I’m thankful for time to do some stretching, some yoga, some reading. I’m thankful for a fellow Trainer to have dinner with. I’m thankful for beautiful snow on the mountains in the distance, and a fly-by from my Mama that buzzed my hair. I’m thankful to have lots of people this week that I know and like to work with. That’s always so nice. I’m thankful to get to talk to your brother each day as he’s getting his apartment all put together, including seeking advice from your Auntie. Fun to watch him make a home.

I love you, Sweetheart. I thought about you last week, too, as your sweet hubby called. He’s interviewing to pursue the ministry. I can hardly believe it. Feels strange and yet not otherworldly, for him. I think his sweet bride is really stretched, as she is supporting his searching and seeking and bouncing from idea to idea. Though, she is an idea bouncer, too, so I guess that works for them! I get to hug his little sister, soon, as she and her hubs are heading to Colorado for a vacation in May!! Can’t wait and feel so honored that she has sought out to connect with us on their limited time off. I love that girl!

Took a pause in my chatting with you to finish the work week and get home. The dogs were so happy to have me come home, late though it was. Your Mia girl is my sweet heart and so happy. Sophie rolled in me for a long time. I love how she just ducks her head and rolls into me. She’s going to get her touch in, even if I’m not participating. Mocha, the moose, is happy with her whole body and slamming into me is her way of making a happy greeting. Lacey Jane is beside herself with love as she waits her turn to touch. She looks like a little porcupine as she approaches in submission and love. She drops her head and pulls her back end into and almost under her body. And with her full winter coat, she looks just like a little black porcupine. Which always reminds me of the porcupine you and your Dad ate dinner with when you 2 were camping all those years ago. <3!!

So today, I’m thankful for a good work week. I’m thankful for meaningful work, where I can make a difference. I’m thankful for competent people to work with, and a process that gets everything done. I’m thankful for hummingbirds and porcupines and puppies. I’m thankful for deserts and mountains and fresh air. I’m thankful for the Bone Marrow Donor Registry and Mines’ stem cells and Sigma Kappa sorority sisters and lifelong friends of my girl. I’m thankful for you and the impact you continue to have on the world.

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!!