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Archive for the ‘In Memoriam’ Category

Our good blogging pal and author extraordinaire, Betsy, over at the “Parenting Is Funny” blog, spotted this big bird on the beach in my last post and asked about the great blue heron.

This majestic and graceful bird frequents the shores of most coastal waterways in the United States and, thanks to tourists and generous fishermen, they come to be quite used to humans, guardedly looking for handouts. I’ve yet to have one eat out of my hand, but they will politely stand nearby so as not to intrude.

I was promised some authentic Pennsylvania bologna earlier this year which fell through, but discovered a nearby hole in the wall peninsula deli carried a reasonable facsimile, beach picnic’s on!

(They also carried my favorite smoked gouda cheese, something dear Daddy got me hooked on in the 60s, a delicacy then)

Perhaps it is their long beak which doubles as a handy fishing tool that makes their stare-down a bit edgy. And if you stare back, they look away quickly, as if their mother had taught them it was impolite to stare and beg.

For such a tall and seemingly imposing bird, they weigh only 5-6 pounds on average because their bones are hollow, just like the pelican….both have great wingspans and navigate gusts of coastal wind better than any pilot.

We are blessed to share our beaches here with such magnificent wildlife, which we try to protect at all costs. The motto tourists often see when visiting, is “Leave only your footprints.” The heron leaves impressive footprints on the sand!

Here, a laughing gull was not laughing as the heron beat him to the treats every time. Too slow, Joe! Check out those big piggies…need a big foot sprawl to support those lanky legs and tall stature. I estimated my friend here was about 3.5-4′ tall.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill set us all back in myriad ways (understatement). We did what we could to protect the wildlife – this heron was pulled from the oil spill, given a bath in Dawn dish detergent (I once dated the chemical engineer responsible for the invention of Dawn) and lived to tell about it. Er, I mean the heron lived to tell about it – he got all washed off and released. So did the chemical engineer 🙂

Courtesy of The Guardian

Thank You, God, for all things great and small – You, Lord God, made them all! Thank You for all the creatures You made to keep our earth in balance, that we may live in harmony with Your great creation.

~In memoriam of Elizabeth, former member of the Audubon Society, on this All Saints Day~

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Sometimes we ask, “How does this end?”

But does it really ever end? Or are endings really new beginnings?

Here are some of my favorite “endings” that actually opened the most amazing doors to new beginnings:

The first evening of my mother’s “running away” from dementia, that helped her feel both at home and free from home, all at once.
Soiled toes after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. We thought our beaches would never be the same, but God was gracious to restore in due time, as He always does.
What sea stars do when they free themselves from their captors out of children’s beach pails and escape back to the sea, alive and free again!
The end of a rum runner schooner from 2 centuries ago…nobody has the $ to rescue it, so it just keeps eroding on a remote beach, a treasure to the few who frequent the far reaches of the peninsula, a legend to those from afar…

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The end of a virtual fantasy and the beginning of an indestructible, eternal bff-ship.
The end of life as we knew it pre-Katrina…once the grief passed, the rebuilding was mostly emotional, projected onto the current landscape should you visit NOL.
The end of David’s life, 6 weeks in a coma and no hope…but the doctors had us sign papers to authorize unorthodox treatments and I stood glued to the wall praying as they applied said treatments in the form of laughing gas and yelling at him to hang in there and stay with us….and he did, and turned 19 last month.
Hurricane Ivan’s destruction, 2004, year before Katrina – rocking my baby in my lap singing hymns as our ears popped when the winds hit 130 and we could no longer hear trees falling around us, but had to trust totally in the Lord..our kids remember that night and our faith and serve God with gratitude to this day.
The ending of a century-old era, my Cubbies losing. Oh, ye of little faith! God delivers if You sit tight and see what He has in store!
Elizabeth died some days after this 93rd birthday…but her death was the beginning of a new legacy of strength, courage and untold creativity….Just open your heart to what lies ahead.
Death of hips – yeah, finished the marathon in David’s honor, but was sidelined early in life with titanium and polyurethane shortly thereafter….pace thyself!

The end of anonymity – red flag hair day unexpectedly revealed last Sunday. God reigns in all things!

Thank You, God, for endings, which usher in brand new opportunities and beginnings. You are the Omega and the Alpha, and everything in between. You’ve got this! May we all embrace endings as we would beginnings….both bring new life and growth.

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Depth is critical. Without it, life is two-dimensional and only has length and height.

3D, however, is by far richer because it adds depth. And depth adds dimension, perspective and soothes the mind, heart and soul because it helps bring things to life, and life into focus.

Similarly, in photography, depth of field allows us to discern distance between what is in focus while keeping an eye on what lies beyond.

Note that neither concept embraces looking back.

Ironically, last week before this post came out, I had captured a shot down by the bay that I’d sent to my blogging buddy, Mr. 3D, for his feedback, since he has a really good eye for photography, creativity and all things beachy keen.

My mother’s favorite flower was the camellia, a flower she paid handsomely for to enjoy in her native Chicago, but which grows abundantly here where she chose to live out her last years with me. So I always think of her in the winter when the camellias bloom so beautifully like this.

Some of you may be aware that I laid my mother to rest, summer before last.

Or so I thought!

In an odd and truly unusual religious turnaround, the priest sought me privately after church last week and made a very unexpected confession. “Er, I believe we found what appears to be more of your mother’s ashes, back in the sacristy. What would you like us to do?”

You see, the priest had been hit by a drunk driver the week before mother died (fortunately he was alright after a few weeks of recovery), so the interim priest did the funeral and interred her ashes in the church memorial garden.

I know mother was buried because I and my family was there in vivo to participate in the solemn event. We wept. We joined hands. We sang hymns and prayed. The children scooped grandmother into the earth. Rites were performed.

We said goodbye. Forever.

There was apparently some miscommunication about a second box that turned up long after what the rest of us thought was the actual second box, had been dispersed to the places her ashes were scattered over water. Somehow, the funeral home had created three boxes and delivered them to the church and with the main priest out of commission, nobody knew about Box 3.

Until this week. They’ve been doing a head-to-toe cleaning of the church as they prepare for the regional Diocesan Convention to descend upon our church later this week.

Mother was a photographer and she also had a great sense of humor, so I’m sure she was LHAO from all points beyond, when we learned she had actually been haunting the church for the past 18 months.

So when the priest asked me what I wanted him to do, for a split second, mother’s funny story about what to do with her ashes (pre-death) danced across my mind.

At some point in her 80s (she died at 93), some funeral home solicitor kept calling her every week trying to get her to buy a funeral plan. They were, as pesky solicitors are, relentless.

So one day mother, anticipating their call, decided to rig up a sure-fire way to get them to stop calling. Sure enough, the phone rang that day and she answered with a wry smirk on her face and when they asked yet again she’d decided yet to buy a plan with them, she said without skipping a beat,

“Yes, I’ve finally decided what plan I want. I want to be cremated and for my ashes to be divided into four. Each one of my children will get a portion of my ashes to keep in the trunks of their cars. That way, should they ever get stuck in the snow somewhere, I can still be of help to my children.”

The hapless funeral solicitor never called back. And I decided against suggesting this to the priest, although I might save the story for him for a lighter time in the future.

So yesterday, mother was officially laid to rest with the rest of her ashes, in the church garden where we thought we’d been going to visit (all of) her all along.

The garden happened to have many different-colored camellia bushes behind the memorial section, so I picked one for mother this morning and located her plot, which was newly disturbed with broken grass and unearthed dirt.

Rest finally in peace, Elizabeth Anne – and may you take some awesome photos in Heaven!

Thank You, God, for the gifts You have given me through my mother – love never ending, a happy spirit, an abundance of laughter, a zeal for learning, an eye for Your creation, a passion for seeking You…and for 3D and depth of all fields.

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Tonight our church observed a new tradition, holding a service of the Longest Night, marking the coming of the literal longest night of the season which immediately precedes the coming of the nativity of our Lord.

I’d never heard of it before, but during some of the moments of silence in the service, I reflected how it mirrors other challenging times that precede other celebrations, such as the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter.

I suppose I’ve had some years of merriment, a seven year Mardi Gras of sorts, leading up to this Longest Night. But through the darkness and in quiet solitude, God is faithful to fill our horizons with bright crimson Sonrise.

This morning’s walk was breathtaking…

Psalm 46 was read tonight, one of my favorites: “Be still, then, and know that I am God…”

I decided to try out the service for 3 reasons: that I lost my mother last year and continue to grieve the deaths of both parents, that I work 70 hours a week helping the mentally ill, the suicidal and others who grieve, have lost, are hurting or are lonely…and that I myself have a fresh loss that has been a long time coming but just yesterday confirmed that it is a forever loss.

And yet, by God’s mercy, all 3 are gains.

Yesterday’s loss was punctuated by the sting of being told that only merry emotions and memories were welcome during this season, that my needs for afore-promised comfort, attachment and reassurance were interfering with the celebration of a dear one’s Christmas…

”So why would I want to be available to your mood swings during these precious days celebrating the birth of Christ, detracting from it?” the email sharply read, banishing me into the land of coal and switches, for even daring to darken the doorstep of one picture-perfect American Christmas. A fantasy blog to which I was apparently, blatantly and abruptly blocked. Unfriended. Unfollowed. Deleted.

My arms got tired holding up the happy mask 24/7. I flunked Christmas Perfection 101. Failed to leave the party while it was still rocking.

My Longest Night had begun, and the service could not have come at a better time.

The intercessor began with, “In the spirit of the season, let us now ask God for what we need for ourselves as we participate in the Season of Christmas as people coping with loss, pain, suffering, loneliness, grief and sadness.

“God, we come to you as Christmas dawns with pain growing inside us. As the nights have been growing longer, so has the darkness wrapped itself around our hearts. In this season of our longest nights, we offer to you the pain in our hearts, the traumas that some of us cannot put into words. Loving God, hear our prayer.

“Compassionate God, there are those among us who are grieving over what might have been. A death or loss has changed our experience of Christmas. Once it was a special day for us, too, but someone has died or moved away or abandoned us. Or we have lost a job, or a cause.

“We find ourselves adrift and alone, lost. Lord, help us find our way.

“The Christmas season reminds us of all that used to be and cannot be anymore. The memories of what was, the fears of what may be can overwhelm us. all around us we hear the sounds of celebration, but all we experience is a sense of melancholy Please be near us this season.

“Compassionate God: You loved the world so much that you sent us Jesus to bear our infirmities and afflictions Through acts of healing, he revealed you as the true source of health and salvation. For the sake of your Christ who suffered and died for us, conquered death, and now reigns with you in glory, hear the cry of your people. Have mercy on us, make us whole, and bring us at last into the fullness of your eternal life.

“Each of us comes bearing our own hurts, sorrows, and broken places. We want to invite each of you to offer your wounds to the God who loves each of us deeply and wants to carry our pain. God waits, patiently, gently calling out: ‘Give me your pain, come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, I will refresh you!'”

We were invited to either stay put and observe silence, come to the altar to receive a blessing or go to the back and light a candle.

I appreciated the options since I could have easily benefited from all 3. But I couldn’t go to the altar because I would have wept openly (what was I thinking, not packing Kleenex in my purse for this?!), and I didn’t want to passively stay put in silence.

So I made my way to the back and lit a candle and said a prayer for my parents and their parents before them, all godly people who fucked up and righted themselves at some point and somehow made their way back to God.

And, after looking around to see if it would be greedy to light a second candle, grabbed another one and quickly lit it, mourning the loss of my bff and noticing the brightness of that candle, there in the darkness, committing it to God and thanking Him for the salvation of a marriage and a family.

I quietly returned to my pew, kneeled in reverence, was washed over with peace and gratitude for God’s mercy.

Thank You, God, for Long Nights, for they signify that daybreak is near.

Thanks God, for Things that matter most. Sometimes the Long Nights are the Things that matter most.

And letting go (of things that matter most) IS letting God.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

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Breath of life

Fleeting sigh

Washing over

Time gone byeFace It

Life so full

But years so short

Your ship sailed free

From New York’s port

 

Home at last

We’ll miss you so!

Your grace and style

Etern’ly flow

 

In memoriam

Frederica Shelton Barney, 1965-2017

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