Today we drove 5 hours, round trip, to celebrate the life of my brother-in-law. I did not know very many of the people there, but it was a nice turn out of family and friends who were touched by his life. Although drugs consumed a big part of his life, the bigger part was when he met Jesus on his own road to Demascus. He was on fire for the Lord and that makes my heart happy. Distance and finances had kept us from really getting to know each other, but I do recall one Easter brunch in a restaurant several years ago, I had the opportunity to sit next to him and we talked “God”. It was a refreshing conversation, especially on Easter, my favorite holiday of the year. We had a few telephone conversations after that brunch and we shared God stories. I love sharing God stories.
I recall when my niece, Jill, passed away a little over three years ago. My brother-in-law heard the news and called me while I was at the funeral home with hundreds of people paying their respects to her and my family. He shared the love of Jesus with me and comforted me with his prayers for peace. He shared Easter with me in December.
In the last leg of our journey home this evening, we passed the bus station. The dark evening sky and the lights inside the station made it so I could see the bench that my two sisters and I sat on as we waited for a bus to transport one of my sisters back home after the funeral for Jill. I remember how I did not want my sister to leave. The closeness of family is the only thing I can grasp onto at such times and sitting on the bench made me want to stop time and keep my sister here with me.
Death is a wake up call. We feel close to those we love; we cling to those we love that are still with us. But as time moves forward, we hit a snooze button and “forget” we had that closeness. Life moves on.
Even though we know we will all one day die, death is a shock. Recent posts on Facebook of death notices include the familiar comment, “remember to spend time with your loved ones as you never know when someone will be called home”. Why do we have to be reminded to spend time with those we love?
Funerals are the one occassion we stop what we are doing and pay our respects. Our pictures and stories become extra special as we recall the relationships that have suddenly ended. Distance doesn’t seem to matter when there is a death. Most funerals are held only when everyone can be there that needs to be there. We take the time to travel to be there. Whether it is a 5 hour round trip or a bus ride across a few states; we make the time because we know love. This love is what Jesus taught us.
Godspeed to the newly deceased. To be absent from the body means they are present with our Lord. Rest in peace dear brother-in-law, great is your reward.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I cannot remember where my mom told me to put it, because I do not remember it ever hanging around my neck on a string like I saw on other kids. I carried a backpack, so there could have been a pocket perfect for it. After all those years I am sure there was a place for my latchkey because I was a latchkey kid growing up.
I had to have been about 10-years-old when I got my first house key. My oldest sister moved out when she was barely 18 and my next older sister was married at 20. That left my two brothers and me to come home after school to a house void of adult supervision. We grabbed snacks and probably fought for the best seat in the living room just to watch Bugs Bunny, Gilligan’s Island and the Brady Bunch until my mom came home from work, followed by my dad about an hour later.
Having a house key in my possession was the most important piece of hardware in my pocket. I was (and still am) conscientious about knowing where my house key is since even in the summer break from school, my parents worked and the three of us had free reign in the neighborhood, but the last one out of the house had to lock up. Being the youngest one, my brothers were a bit more social than I was and I was known to be around the house more. Until that one day…
I recall seeing a friend from school ride by my house on her bike with her little siblings. I ran out the door to talk to her and she invited me to ride bikes with them. So in my excitement, I locked the door, grabbed my bike and wheeled off with them. I think the bike ride was a short jaunt around the block and then she had to ride with her family back home. We parted ways at the corner and I coasted down the hill and turned up my driveway to face angry looking brothers. They didn’t have their key and didn’t know where I was and they couldn’t get in the house. I reached for my key in my pocket and to my shock, it was not there. In my haste and excitement to ride bikes with a school friend I wouldn’t normally see until September when school began, I left my house key on the table. We tried to break into the bathroom window, but for some reason we couldn’t get in. As for my big brother, he lit in to me and made me cry. He commanded me to ride my bike to our sister’s apartment to see if she could let us in the house with her key.
I sobbed the whole way to my sister’s apartment. She didn’t live far, but for 10-year-old legs peddling down some very busy streets, it was scary. I had to pass a house with the biggest, meanest Dobermin Pinscher I had ever seen. Even though it was behind a chain-link fence, it had this deep growl and ferocious bark that made me cry even more. By the time I got to my sister’s front door to ring the bell, I was into the hard cry to where she could barely understand what I was saying. My sister let me in her apartment, gave me some lemonade and calmed me down enough to tell her what happened. She was able to stuff my little Huffy bike into her trunk, strapped my little baby niece in a car seat and drove me home. I don’t remember if my brothers were still hanging around the house by the time we drove in the driveway, but since that day, I have done my best to never be locked out again.
Since my mother passed away last year, each time I stuck my key into the lock to open the door, I felt like that 10-year-old girl again. Walking into a house without adult supervision but this time neither mom nor dad would be coming home after a hard days’ work. Being in a house that used to feel like home is like sitting in the skeleton framework of a whale in a museum. Cold, lonely and surreal.
It is with a heavy heart that I locked the door to the house for the last time. Thursday, I will sign off on the house and give the keys to a new owner. Afterward, I could drive to my sister’s house and ring her bell in the midst of a hard cry. She would let me in and understand the jumbled words this time because she understands the pain of selling the family home. It gives me some peace to know a new owner will breathe life into each room that we worked hard to empty.
Thank you God for the big white house with black shutters and the memories that were made there. Please bless the new owner and the lives that will make new memories.
Did you feel that?
……and that too?
I am talking about earthquakes; I lived through three.
The first one was in July 2009 when my dad passed away. My life changed at the moment he took his last breath. Parkinson’s Disease took away his mobility, strength, and his great smile.
…and the aftershocks. I miss him asking me, “So what’s new?” I miss his laugh. I miss racing him to figure out the mixed up letters of the Jumble puzzle in the newspaper; he always won. I miss playing horseshoes and lawn jarts; he had such great aim. I miss watching baseball with him. I miss sitting in the back yard on lawn chairs listening to Polka music in the summer.
The second one was in December 2016 when my niece Jill died in a single car accident with a tree. She left behind 3 young children, parents, a little brother, and a new boyfriend. Word was that she was at the happiest point in her life and she had been going to church and loved the song Amazing Grace; my dad’s favorite song too.
…and the aftershocks. I am sad that I do not know her children – my great niece and nephews. I miss the twinkle in her eyes and dimples in her cheeks when she smiled. She was quick-witted and kind. She could light up a room during a power-outage.
The third one in March 2019 when my mom passed away. A tough little eighty-nine year old weighing less than her age. Her mind was sharp, but her heart was weak.
…and the aftershocks. I miss calling her just to say “Hi!” and to check up on her. I miss watching her sew. I miss watching her decorate cakes, helping her bake zucchini bread and cupcakes, and making Christmas sweets. I miss helping her plan and make Thanksgiving dinner and setting the table together. I miss Sunday afternoons listening to Polka music on the radio; she loved Polka music. I miss driving in the driveway of her home and seeing her fuzzy little head sitting on the back porch in the summer; she loved the warm sun shining on her through the windows. I miss doing things for her that she could no longer do for herself.
I will not see my dad, Jill, or my mom this side of heaven. The aftershocks, otherwise known as grief, come in waves; some light and some strong.
My world has been rocked and torn apart. Please go away grief; I am tired of you showing up as an aftershock.
3 When the earth and all its people quake,
it is I who hold its pillars firm.
When I was a child, my family spent summer weekends at our cottage and fishing was a popular activity. At dusk on Friday night, dad held a shovel in one hand and my little hand in his other, and we made our way to a specific spot in the yard to dig up worms to use for bait in the morning. The worm-hunting excursion brought a song to my dad’s lips and to this day, makes me giggle.
“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me. Sitting in the garden eating worms. Big fat juicy ones, small little thin ones. Oh, how they wiggled and they’d squirm.”
Shovel in hand and me on the sideline, dad made his first plunge into the dirt. I remember he used his foot to stomp on the shovel to get deep into the the earth. With his brawn, he’d flip the dirt pile over and I would start to paw my way through looking for big, juicy nightcrawlers. Dad put some dirt in an empty coffee can and empty whipped cream plastic bowl and I would drop nightcrawlers in one at a time. The lids of the containers had holes poked for the sake of oxygen and they were placed near our fishing gear for the morning.
At dawn on Saturday, when the lake looked as smooth as glass, we packed the fishing boat with our safety cushions, nightcrawlers, and fishing poles and motored to a fishing spot dad felt would wield a good catch.
Even though I caught the worms, I was not able to put them on the hook as well as he could, so dad did it for me. I fished with a bobber on my line so I could learn what it felt like when a fish was interested in my bait. Nibbles would make the bobber wiggle in the water and a hooked fish pulled the bobber out of sight. Depending on the size of the catch, it could take some effort to reel in, but once in the boat, we’d size up the catch. Too small a fish, it gets released to the water, if large enough by state fishing regulations, it becomes dinner.
So it is with grief. The tug at my heartstrings when a memory of my parents comes out of nowhere is like the bobber wiggling in the water. Then the milestone moments knowing they will not be there for a special event or holiday makes that bobber disappear. As hard as it may be to face what is on the end of the line, I reel it in. At this point, whether a nibble of grief or a major catch, it is healthy to face it. Sit with it if I must; ride it out until it fades away.
I have a big catch on the end of my line. June 24 will be my first birthday without either parent. It is the hardest thing for me to reel in right now. My parents made birthdays fun and grief is showing me the slideshow of memories on the wall of my mind.
Thank you mom and dad for bringing me into this world and giving me such a good life that I have, yet another, reason to grieve your passing.
But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.