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!!

Oh, your Dad…

Hi Honey,

I almost forgot to tell you! Man, would you be mad if you were here and we’d forgotten…

I was in Atlanta last week at a meeting and I got a text from your Dad, Can You Talk? I let him know I was in the middle of the meeting but I could pull out if I had to. The response: Yes. WTH?! You know I’m not much of an alarmist, but I did have a few “I wonders…” run through my head in a split second.


So I call your Dad…

And he answers with “I’m fine and nothing is broken.” O. K. A. Y… He was in a motorcycle accident! An F150 hit him from behind as he was making a right turn onto another road. Took the bike out from underneath him, spun him around, sent his bike into the car waiting to turn onto the road he was just turning from. WHAT?! He did not hit his head, no scratch on his helmet. He landed on his right hip/butt cheek, smacked his leg and hit his elbow. Your poor Grandpa drove by the cleanup and recognized his son’s bike. I can’t imagine the heart in the throat he must have experienced.

He has a mighty bruise on his hip, that we figured out was actually from his belt connection that is on the bottom of his riding jacket. Weirdly, his phone, in the leg pocket of the jeans on the same side, is unscathed! He has a quarter sized hole in the inside of his rt elbow on the jacket. I finally saw the bruise on his elbow yesterday. It took a long time to surface. His knee is a little unstable, basically a bad strain. He had his follow up with his Dr today and he gave him some exercises to do to make sure all the micromuscles in the knee are going to heal correctly. The scrape on his ankle is almost gone. He did have a raspberry on his butt, basically in the design of jean fabric. That’s almost healed, too, though the jeans are in the trash.

And he’s fine.

And being your Dad, he was more worried about the driver of the truck than he was about himself. In the time it took for EMS to get there, he’d already talked to the driver, an Afghanistan vet with a leg amputation, and thanked him for his service. He got a little teary eye’d, as he was telling me about him. Your Dad has such a heart for vets.

The insurance is already almost processed, the bike is totaled, and your Dad, of course, is planning on the replacement…

And I’m trying to be OK with that…

And I’m just kinda not…

Had this been caused by an error in his judgment, we would be having an entirely different conversation, but it wasn’t. And it just pisses me off that as I think about this, my only avenues are 1. He gets a new bike and he maybe never has another accident again, or maybe he does and 2. If I pitch a fit and ask him not to ride again, he would do that for me, as he once did when the motorcyclist hit me when I was pregnant with your brother. But he would mourn it for the next 30 years and I would pay for that. Not in a “you did this to me” kind of way, but in an “I sure wish” kind of way. And I really hate being in that position, and I really hate that the hardship of that, and the anticipation of the weariness about would feel about that, weighs in this discussion at all.

As we talked through this, I told him I don’t have the capacity to understand his love of riding. There is nothing that I do, that endangers my future with him, in any way. And I can’t imagine I would ever chose the thing over the future. And yet… On the one hand is his love of motorcycles and on the other hand is a long term future, which I obviously know, my girl, is not guaranteed. And somehow, it’s OK with him that the hand with the bike in it wins. And I know it is in no way a diminishment of his love for me, but it feels a little bit like I’m not important enough. That his NEED to ride is more important than my NEED for him to be in once piece.

And then he wants to share his excitement with me as he shops for a new bike. And he wants my opinions and my ideas. And I just shut down a little bit, because I don’t want to go there, and he doesn’t realize what he’s asking of me, and he keeps talking.

But in the end, as I told him, it is not my decision to make, it is his. And he has to own that decision, even if, in my usual way, I make it easier for him, while making it harder for me, and I can just know that if nothing happens, I’ll have spent time worrying needlessly and if something does happen, all the worry in the world won’t change it. So, somehow, I’ll find myself, again. I’ll look away when he gets on the new bike, until I don’t have to look away anymore.

I will not live in fear, though I will visit an avenue in fear that I haven’t strolled on in a while.

Today, I am thankful that there is a helmet in the garage with not a scratch. I’m thankful it was your Dad who called me and not some first responder or your Grandpa. I’m thankful for insurance and a contrite driver who immediately accepted responsibility for an accident, served his country honorably, and was unhurt. I’m thankful that your Dad is tough. I’m thankful that I am secure in his love for me, even when his choices feel like I’m not important enough. I’m thankful that I can separate for a little bit, when something hurts my heart, knowing that I will return to the reality when my heart is a little safer, a little more protected. I’m thankful it is not my decision. I’m thankful that all of this, in the end, has nothing to do with me.

I am thankful for today!!

LOVE. IS. EVERYTHING!

Hi Honey,

Today is Valentine’s Day. Remember how I used to get you and your little brother a giant Hershey’s Kiss for Valentine’s Day? Every year. Remember how Buttons found one on the floors (probably your brother’s) and ate a goodly amount of it? Oy!

Valentine’s Day and the innocence of love and hearts and chocolate was changed forever in 2011. That’s the year Valentine’s Day was replace with the day of, and then the anniversary of, your diagnosis with leukemia. It just doesn’t hold the same meaning, you know? And yet the whole of the US still sends Valentine’s every year, and chocolates, and roses, and Shari’s Berries! Don’t they know that Valentine’s Day has a bigger meaning, now? Did they miss the memo? Now it means love overflowing, but not Cupid love. It means hearts expanding, but not candy hearts. It means being loved and loving holds extra meaning! Love means everything, not just candy love and flower love and jewelry love. 

LOVE. IS. ALL. THERE. IS!! LOVE. IS. EVERYTHING!!

Today, this year, there is a new milestone. Today is the day that your love has been married longer to his new heart, than he was to you. You and he married 5 days after your diagnosis. When you gained your Angel wings, you had been married 20 months and one day. Today, he and Sarah have been married 20 months and 2 days. There are no coincidences in life, my Girl. This truth does not surprise me. I am so thankful for him and for her and for the life they are forging together. 

Your greatest struggle, during your battle with cancer, was your desire that he live a full and happy life, and to not be hurt by your battle. Really, your point was you fought to live so he would not have to experience the pain your death would bring him. You didn’t fight for you, you fought for him. You fought for your brother and your dad and for me, plus the rest of your friends and family, to protect us from pain. But mostly, you fought for him. I ran across a notebook of yours a few weeks ago, and amidst the grocery lists and medication checklists and doodles, was a request. “Mom & Dad, you have to take care of Logan if I don’t make it.” And the last thing your Dad said to you while you were still conscious, before you died, was “don’t worry, Honey, we’all take care of Logan.”

I know you know, but he did hurt when you died. He still does. But that’s OK. He only hurts because he also loves. And he found Sarah. Much like a lightening strike, they exploded into a relationship! They married 20 months and 2 days ago, and I am thankful.

I’m thankful he loved you with his whole heart. I’m thankful he has more than the capacity to love again. I’m thankful he, they, remain a part of our life. I’m thankful love doesn’t require us to be happy all the time. I honor my tears, his tears, our tears as we connect with you in spirit now, instead of in flesh.

And I’m thankful for more, on this Hallmark day of love. I’m thankful for your Dad, who loves me without reservation and with the comfort of a quick peck being enough today. I’m thankful for your little brother, the light in my heart. I’m thankful for EthelM pecan brittle arriving at his door tonight. I’m thankful that he has a new love today. He told me last week that he’d never had to plan Valentine’s Day before, because he’d never had a Valentine. 

And I’m thankful for you, Sweetheart. For your love and strength and vulnerability, for your commitment and perseverance and grace. I’m thankful you fought so hard, and I’m so very thankful you don’t have to fight ever again. I’m thankful so many things and dates and places fill my heart with you. While Valentine’s Day will never be a Hallmark day for me, ever again, it is a day that you are crisper in my mind, so I will take it.

I love you Angel Baby!

I’m thankful for today!!

Just Hi

Hi Honey,

Snow in Michigan is cold!! Brrr!!! Arrived this week with no luggage, which, even with all my years of travel, almost never happens. It was a bit like my luggage was on a home alone adventure! I’d planned for it, tagged it and passed it off to the right person, it just didn’t follow me! Luckily for me, for some reason I had 2 sweaters on! I knew it was going to be cold this week, so planned several layers, but usually, I don’t like to carry on a bunch of stuff so in the winter, I wear a light sweater and in the summer, I always have a pashmina, in case the air on the plane is cold, but bare bones! Thankfully, double sweaters!! Guess my luggage told my sweaters I would need them, since my luggage didn’t arrive until after midnight. No jaunts to see Lake Michigan!

Good week, lots of people I’d worked with in the past, so it was a comfortable training week. The hardest part about this week was not getting to bed at a decent hour! As in, I have to get up before 5, and lights out at 1:30! I’m like the worst rebel child when it comes to going to bed! I can just hear my inner 3 yr old saying, “but I’m not tired!” Guess I better fix that tonight!

Been spending a lot of time thinking about my trip to Tanzania 3 yrs ago. Man, Girl, next to walking with you through your cancer journey and you gaining angel wings, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. In some ways it feels harder. And I did it so poorly. That’s probably why it still feels hard! I’ve never undertaken something, before, and simply not had the heart to see it through. Had I knot been a world away, I would have packed up my toys and gone home early! It would have been easier to take my heart out of my body and stamp it underfoot. At least that, going in, is consciously impossible. I’ve realized the shame I’ve been carrying around about that trip. My uselessness, my weakness, my neediness. The only thing I did useful on that trip was donate a lot of money and make paper cranes. And learn things about myself I didn’t want to know, and watch others do the hard, anyway!

But, in these last few weeks, I’ve been able to identify the shame, acknowledge it as my past truth, and ask it to take a bow out of my heart and mind and life. I’m not sure it ever served much purpose, except to highlight my arrogance, which was useful for me to recognize, but it certainly is not serving me any longer.

So today, I’m thankful for a broken heart, I’m thankful to recognize that I do have a threshold, over which I am not only reluctant to cross, but perhaps incapable. And that is just the way it is.

I’m thankful others are capable of crossing that threshold into the world of giving and helping and hard, hard work. I’m thankful for guilt and I’m thankful that guilt has served its purpose and is no longer required.

I’m thankful for sweaters and luggage delivery and comfortable work. I’m thankful for snow and crispy air and super thankful that I did not need to be outside in the frigid today!

I love you, I’m headed home…

I’m thankful for today!!

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!!