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Posts Tagged ‘Death’

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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Fire dances, mesmerizes and consumes. It can quickly go from subtle, romantic and soothing, like my evening candle of ambience, to raging maniacal destruction, as I witnessed earlier this year in the aftermath of the horrors of the deathly California wild fires.

Somehow this fire display on my trip to Costa Rica last month, felt safe and calming, when surrounded by water.

Set fire to the sky, the sea and the spirit…

The Fire Dancer seduced the audience with her sultry moves, her body ever-changing with the beat of her soul

Thank You, God, for setting fires which refine and redefine, through death and rebirth. Thank You for new beginnings and for hope on the other side of destruction. Help us to always know that new growth only comes through the tests of fire.

Happy Easter, y’all!

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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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We’ll miss you…

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Who can resist a well-earned Special Olympics smile from a kid who wasn’t supposed to live past age 4?

David turns 18 in 22 days!

Thank You, God, for defying all odds, for playing the ultimate April Fool’s joke on death – showing the universe for once and for all that where death seems inevitable, life rocks on!

That there is no such thing as finality, that You are the only Omega…and Your gift is eternal life. May we always recognize that those things seeming to a close = opportunity for new beginnings in ways we haven’t yet fathomed.

And therein lies faith…and trust. Faith and trust that there is always more in store than we can possibly know or deserve in our finite wisdom. Thanks, God, for perpetual resurrection and preciousness in all things. SMILE!!

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May the Son shine upon Your face…both rising and setting…

Hey, God…Thank You for the setting that we may behold yet another Rising. Thanks for Your promise that those things that disappear and set in the sky, will again appear, rise and shine! That even if the worst case scenario comes true, that we can still count on You to rise again and make full and complete, that which once seemed empty and hopeless.

Thank You, God, for believing first in uS, that we might always believe in You.

Thank You for riches in simplicity.

Lord…Let us all be like this sunrise above, illuminating all that we see, shimmering light on darkness, and dancing reflections of Hope in You and Your eternal light.

Happy Easter, dear Readers!

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New beginnings promise hope

Bygones wayside lie

Start afresh, no looking back

No wond’ring how or why

 

Facing Forward, Day By Day

Not one sole day’s resolve,

But each and every day we strive

To see our goals evolve

 

Setbacks – falling short we find

His glory e’er ahead

Pressing on to win the race

Drink faith, eat steadfast bread

 

Looking back will only make

A pillar of salt from tears

Stay focused on the prize ahead

Although it taketh years

 

Death hath no vic’try, nor hath fear

When upward eyes stay trained

Upon the hopes and promises

Of life eternal gained

 

Death in summer, Christmas birth

Seems contrary to me

Yet God works it as He wills

To deepen faith, you see

 

Lost my mother mid-July

Took some time to grieve

Christmas prompts us to new life

A new year, new reprieve!

 

Loss is gain, why can’t we see?

To let go is to gain!

The paradox is paramount

To see joy come from pain

 

Happy New Year, Y’all!

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We all watched with awkward attention and stifled amusement to see how the officiant was going to recover the somber tone of the Good Friday service after The Great Disruption. With an ear-shattering crash in the ancient, echoey cathedral, the Very Reverend Dude’s cell phone slipped out of his swishing, toe-length black robe and busted into three chunks in front of the altar, just prior to the Veneration of the Cross. The rest of us had put our meager petitions before the cross, which was shrouded in a black veil; our fearless leader had sacrificed and presented his iPhone – in trinity – to the good Lord.

It was almost as much fun to behold as it was to experience God sending the direct message that men are men, life is life and that what counts is our direct line to Him that we ourselves maintain, apart from man-made rituals. And that death signals life.

It was a message of freedom; an unyoking of worldly hangups.

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The call had come at the 11th hour earlier this week, after a frenzied voice mail was unable to be returned. The father of the children was discovered slumped over, dead. Too young. Too unexpected. And just when things were getting good. They knew he’d been stressed out about his children, and had been grieved at their ongoing waywardness. He had done everything he’d known to do, even promising to save them from every monster and evil that dared haunt and taunt, proving his power and love in so many ways, but still they strayed. It seemed the more opportunities he gave, the more sick they became, the more trapped in dysfunction.

How bittersweet it was for him – and them – and those who loved them – to see that the only way they seemed to get better, to thrive and grow upright, was for him to remove himself altogether.

He couldn’t do it himself, it took the one who held authority over their disposition, and over his desire for them to heal, to hold firm in drawing a line. The line was drawn very clearly – gradually over a few weeks, but very distinctly – and it became clear to all that in order for success in growth, the cord had to be cut. It was said figuratively – the last thing that was said to him, in fact…but had they known that was the last time he would be seen alive, would they have done or said anything differently? Would the hug have lasted a lot longer? What would the last chosen words have been, instead of the words used under the assumption that there would be a tomorrow?

When someone dies, the grief process seems universal…the shock, the sadness, the denial – is this for real? – the bargaining. Replaying our last words on the phone. And in person. The last voice mail, the last text. Hanging on for dear life…wait, was it something I said or did? why him? Why not me, Lord?

The authority had an inkling that the intermediary had a soft spot for these errant children who fed into the intermediary’s soft spot. Had he not been there for them, like them, he might not have felt for them as much, but it had to be. But the authority saw through the fleshly feelings and the perpetuating sickness, and commanded the cord be cut.

There had to be separation in order for there to be unity and harmony.

There had to be baptismal suffocation, drowning and death in order for there to be resurrection, growth and new life. The baptism as crucifixion, yielding to perfection, renewal and eternity.

The anguish of the one imposing the necessary separation was very great, but there was no choice. When one does their best job, when one assesses a situation and determines the best course of action and executes the plan, it is difficult, but the affirmation of righteousness counterbalances any sense of regret.

For when you know a painful ending represents and yields a fruitful beginning, you know right has been done.

Will you have the mettle to get through the pain, with the promise of a new beginning? What kind of faith does that take?

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Back at the cathedral, the stately priest had passionately inserted into the ritual an unholy “Oh, NO!” as he gathered his long robe in one hand and sheepishly collected his cell phone parts with his other hand. The elderly ladies stiffened with anxiety upon his departure from the words in the Book of Common Prayer;  the younger adults gently strained to see which version of the iPhone he had just demolished. And she, near the back, contemplated that had he not dropped his phone in the middle of this serious occasion, holy day preceding holier of days, could she have otherwise have been so aptly reminded that men are just men, and that He came to us to be one of us? That He died for us, so we could have eternal life?

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The one child threw her arms around and thanked, strangely relieved and released. A totally unexpected response. We had prepared for the worst, with extra support, emergency response ready and all manner of funereal protocol.

But the child sang. She sang of how had there been no death, she would not be able to move forth. This young child who was too young to be privy to such concepts, communicated her freedom and joy in knowing the death was real and true, and it moved her. It moved her forward. She had great plans to no longer be wayward, and looked ahead to a new beginning, a new chance.

How do we get caught up in the ways of the world, that we forget and neglect such basic truths, as how death yields to birth, how dormancy produces life, the dead of winter begets the birth of spring? And a shattered iPhone will necessitate the purchase of a newer model?

There must always be a Great Disruption in order for things to get better, lest we slumber and bumble along down the wrong path.

I have no doubt the Lord used the death that rocked my week to draw me closer and remind me of a few important things. That is so cool how He neatly ties everything together in the end, even if we can’t fathom how or why something happens.

Death becomes new life…what better reason to celebrate?

He is risen! Happy Easter, my friend.

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