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Braking Points

Exploring the Adventure of Aging

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Just Saying

No Maps for Grief

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, hoever, turns out to be not a state but a process.” ~ C. S. Lewis

For 25 years we were parents [in-law, in-heart, in-love] to a beautiful woman with a quick wit, a kind, loving heart and the capacity for drawing us into a circle of love. I want so much to write about her, but collapse in tears every time I try. My son is writing, but I cannot share that yet.

When she died this summer, we each plunged into land of shadows, which it turns out exists right in the smack dab center of every day life. The path loops and circles like a maze. Out there somewhere we will individually emerge into the sunlight, if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other and getting on with life. The shadows, however, shift and change our perceptions, still we climb out of bed in the morning or we don’t. We find diversions. We grapple with our grief which feels like anger at times or fear or like we have been filled with rocks. We are people of faith. That should make it easier, right? And it does in some ways, but my Lord, Jesus broke down in tears over the death of Lazarus and the grief of Mary and Martha. He knew within the hour Lazarus would walk out of the grave. I know our Martha laughs, leaps, dances and sings in heaven. Knowing, Believing fails to take the pain away.

And so we walk, sometimes Terry and I walk hand in hand. And we talk to each other, with our son, with others. We pray. In spite of the love and support of each other and others, we are on this journey through the valley of the shadow of death on separate winding paths. There are intersections where we meet, but the greater part of our time we are traveling solo, sometimes on roads that parallel but are so different .

Over the span of my 70 plus years I have experienced grief, but no two journeys through the valley of shadows has been the same. Over this past summer death has stolen from not only our family but from the families of people we know and love. I have felt a diminishing of myself with each loss.

I know I am not alone. Sometimes the shadows comfort me, pull me close, let me rage and I feel God’s presence. I know I am protected. I know I am under the wings of the Almighty, my refuge. Sometimes, however, I find myself stymied by the simplest choices, I walk into walls, I drop things and I break down and cry. Jesus said, he had overcome death, I know that in my head, but here and now on this journey, I want a MAP. I don’t wander well. Just saying…

THE WEIGHT OF GRIEF BY CELESTE ROBERGE

Her Hands Were Clean; She Drove a Mercedes; God was too Goody-Goody: The Snob Within Me

Not her pretty dresses or styled hair, not her Momma’s Cadillac or her richness, I envied her perfectly clean hands. Her hands with not a hint of dirt, no ragged, chewed nails encrusted with grime like mine, I envied her hands. She was kind. She was sweet but I stood away, because her hands made me feel unclean. I hope you who read this hear me. She did nothing to push me away. Why! She even came to my house one time to play. The whole time she was there, all I could see was our poverty. She was like a princess and I was a mere peasant with dirty hands. I knew no matter how hard I worked to get my hands as clean and well groomed as hers, it wasn’t going to happen. So, I backed away.

Hear me if you will. I AM THE REASON, SHE AND I WERE NOT CLOSE FRIENDS.

Years later, when I was doing my Clinical Fellowship Year in Audiology at the University of Tulsa, a beautiful young woman joined the academic teaching staff in Deaf Education. She was tall, slender and she drove a Mercedes convertible. At the time I was doing well in my fledgling career, still poor, but things were looking up. With no provocation on her part I erected a wall of professionalism to protect myself lest she find out how insecure, how poor, how much lesser I was than she. I even parked my ten year old car on another parking lot so she would not know how poor I really was. One day when my guard fell after we finished working with a child together, we began to laugh together.

She looked at me with tears in her eyes, “I am so glad we had this moment. I thought you were the worst snob I had ever met.”

Hear me if you will. I AM THE REASON SHE AND I WERE NOT CLOSE FRIENDS SOONER.

When I am really honest with myself and God, I know I stayed away too long because I didn’t really believe I was worthy. I was too much of a sinner. I had nothing to offer. God was all goody two shoes and I, well, take my word for it, was not. All those years of Sunday School and Church had failed to grab me until I was face down in the dirt of my own making and God saved me.

Hear me if you will. GOD NEVER REJECTED ME, I REJECTED GOD.

I don’t know if a single person will have any similar experiences but if you have and would share with me, I would love to hear your stories. Even if you have not had an encounter with God, but relate to the human story I would love to hear from you.

My Mantra for Today from Bob Goff: ‘Love like you were made of it’

Sunset by Doris Faircloth King, 2019

Sunset Fascination–A Season of Good-byes

Lately, I have been collecting pictures of sunsets as I juggle a tub full of conflicting thoughts and emotions. After completing my last small book of poems, remembrances, and thoughts, Storytellers and Dreamers, I flew into hyperdrive to complete and mail two small quilts to my grandson Joshua and granddaughter Gabby as well as pack and move us to our Florida abode. I also piddled around writing the sequel to Braking Points, as yet unnamed. But collecting photos, some I have taken, others pulled from others’ posts, trying to tag them so I remember who to give the credit to, a new book undulates in my head like a swirling flock of birds, a book about those last whispers of light in the evening sky of life.

Hard as it is to write it, this past several months has been a summer/autumn of good-byes. Many of these are still too raw to put the words on paper, so that will come later. Each one, even the more distant ones, challenged me yet again to face with courage, but not rush toward the last sparkles of flaming light on the horizon. So the swirling flock of thoughts in my head carries me forward even as it baffles me. Every sunrise should fill me with hope and thanksgiving in anticipation of a new day—the day the Lord has made—and most days it does. There are things to do, people to see, daily challenges, and the anticipation of the unexpected, of adventure. Most days I want to cram as much as I can into every hour. Some days I want to fade into the background and hibernate. With each day’s passing, after the sunset, late at night before I fall asleep, I pray like I did as a child. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

For each time I close my eyes to sleep brings me closer to that reality. No twenty one year old or even fifty year old in good health thinks like that. There are dreams I have yet to complete. I have so much more love I want to give. Adventures I never would have considered in my youth capture my attention. I told Terry recently after friends of ours here in Florida went parachuting that I wanted to do that. He looked at me and said, “Where is my wife and what have you done with her?” If I cannot go out with bang not a whimper, I at least want to make some noise and accomplish some goals before I go.

But it really isn’t up to me nor should it be.

Sunsets fascinate me. The western sky broadcasts each day’s good-bye. For every glorious ending there are hundreds of days that end in lackluster gloom. Dark comes quickly without any fanfare. Who takes pictures of dreary sundowns? I am thinking maybe there should be a few in my collection. Certainly my life like most others consists of flares of wonder, uneventful seasons, flashes of terror, and dark tunnels so it is reasonable to expect the ends of the days to follow the pattern.

Did I mention, there have been way too many good-byes this past summer? I am grieving and what is worse, my child and his children are grieving, my friends are grieving loss of soulmates, and even the more distant losses add to my grief. God has me and those I love, but still I see the writing in the sky with every sunset and don’t want to waste a moment.

My High School Reunion has Thinned

I wrote this a while back, but with all the graduations around me I felt the urge to share it. To all the grads from kindergarten to Doctorate Live don’t just Exist.

My high school reunion has thinned

There aren’t quite as many as there were back then

My high school reunion has thinned

My high school reunion has thinned

Our paths to this moment littered with sins

My high school reunion has thinned

My classmates have grown quite old

So have I, if I believe what the mirror unfolds

We were young and now we are old

My high school reunion has thinned

We are and we aren’t who we were back then

My high school reunion has thinned

My classmates like I have experienced loss

Parents, spouses, children, health some of the cost

We are who we are because or in spite of this loss

My high school reunion has thinned

Paths diverged have merged, once again friends

My high school reunion has thinned

Our faces hold stories that beg to be told

Our faith has been tested, refined like gold

Memories compiled that long to be told

My high school reunion has thinned

We notice whose missing not like back then

My high school reunion has thinned

We are the survivors, torchbearers of then

Who remember most of it with a grin

My high school reunion has thinned

If you read this and you are still young

Don’t let a song in your heart go unsung

Believe me you won’t always be young.

My high school reunion has thinned.

Organizing the Unmatched Sock Drawer that is My Mind

How can a drawer full of white socks not match? These are questions that often occupy my thoughts in the moments early in my day. It takes a few minutes to pull them together into pairs, choose a pair and put them on my feet.

It is the same scenario with my mind. How can a brain that floods with streams of consciousness be unable to construct one clear sentence? Organizing my thought patterns takes a bit longer than a few minutes in my sock drawer. And that is just so I can put a few sentences on a page, so you can imagine what happens when I need to verbally respond.

Let’s just say, I trip over my own tongue more than I trip over my own feet. This does not happen as often when I am fully engaged in a conversation, going with the flow, responding and listening. No! This tripping usually occurs when I am asked a question that requires forethought.

Truth is, I am a writer not a speaker. I can speak. I have spoken–even at national conventions. I enjoy speaking to audiences. But that type of speaking has already been filtered through and sorted out. I do not do a manuscript because I find my speech patterns hampered by being tethered to podium or script. Nevertheless, mental structuring does happen. I do insert it into a file in my mind.

However, in front of an audience or in casual table conversation, when asked a question that requires a quick construct, I babble a bit–ok, sometimes I babble a lot. Last night I was asked by a friend what I was writing now. Now, I know what I am writing. I know what it is about. But give a synopsis off the cuff. Did not come out clear at all. I wasn’t even sure what I was writing. Old people, chickens, murder–let’s just say my newest attempt at a novel, Fowl Play left a foul taste in my mouth and baffled expressions on my dinner companions. Now I know I need to plan out a synopsis, file it in my brain, in case I am ever asked that question again.

How do you organize your thoughts to write or speak? I always begin with a bottle of water, a cup of coffee, and my quiet time with God. My devotional today explored, believe it or not, James 1:19:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I kid you not. And that verse got me to these few blogging words. How do you organize? I am always looking for new ideas that might help me clear the clutter of unmatched thoughts in my head.

My Laundry Basket and My Brain Overflowth

From Prayer Warriors Thanks to Donna Sidle for Sharing

We just returned from a three day trip to Oklahoma. We experienced the

hospitality of friends–thanks again, Jeanne and Eddie. We celebrated our

granddaughter Gabby’s graduation from high school. We had a much

Needed visit with Terry’s brother and sister-in-law. And we made it back to

Kentucky ahead of the storms.

During that three days we stuffed our dirty clothes into plastic trash bag

Which I have now stuffed into our bathroom hamper–not a pretty sight, it

Kind of looks like it is oozing out over the sides. But, hey! I was one tired

Old hen by the time we got home.

During those three days, our mail stacked up, our routines changed, and our

hearts experienced a deepening of love with all its nuances. From the

celebration of accomplishment and young adults with all their

potential setting out in life to the recognition of how the experiences of life

shape the lives of us on the other side of the mountain of life, we stuffed it all

in.

Our life hamper overflows.

On top of that, we ate differently and we ate more, SO my body overflowth.

As I contemplated how best to reset my physical being, God gave me the

path and outcome for resetting my whole system.

This morning my devotional pointed me to Isaiah 58:6-11

The path:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭58:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The outcome:

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭58:8-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

And THEN on FACEBOOK my friend Donna shared the image you see with this

post. AMEN

And so these thoughts came:

When life gets out of control

When the hamper of life overflows

When the brain goes chaotic

When the body bulges

When the spirit sags

Get up, Get out, Go, Go, Go

Reach out to friends

But don’t stop there

Orderly life comes one clean sock at a time

Healthy eating requires more than dieting

Abundant life comes

from abundant giving and forgiving.

And

It’s the ones who won’t cross a puddle for you who need it most.

Not an easy path, but the right one.

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