Saturday, December 18, 2010

Remembering David

One year later, here we are. I've had some pretty vivid flashbacks to this time a year ago. It seemed surreal then and seems surreal now.
David has three amazing daughters who are all grown and living other places than Austin. After the news of his accident, it was important, and of course, necessary that we contact his girls and get them to Austin right away. That plan worked well for two of them, but David's middle daughter was in Europe finishing a study abroad program. We found it difficult to contact her, and difficult to find a flight out as soon as possible. Once she did get on a plane, there were delays and missed flights; not knowing where she was; stress. She did finally make it to Austin around midnight of the 18th. All that to say, there were a few of us that were holding the space in the hospitial waiting room those four days. We just sat with the other two daughters for support and love. We shared stories. Saw old friends; even laughed. We pretty much took over the waiting room. I walked in on Wednesday morning (after we had just been there for one day), and it was clear that we had made this place our own. Oragami creations were hanging from the walls, games were all over the floor, and ads from the newspaper were also displayed on the walls. (Perhaps these ads had somewhat questionable content, but it fit our little group). We helped where we could. Most of this help was devoted to protecting the daughters from the masses of people who wanted to visit. It would have been overwhelming for the them to receive visits from the literally hundereds of people who would have come. The nurses were already asking our pastor to pass the word to our congregation for people to stop calling the nurses station. At one point, there were so many calls coming in that they felt like they couldn't do their job. To say that David was well-loved is an enormous understatement. Everyone who knew him would undoubtedly say he was one of their very best friends. And that they were very special to him. And we were. I'm not sure how one creates such a sense of love and incluson to everyone, but he did. For me, this was his greatest gift. I saw it for years in his youth ministry. I saw it with people who had special needs, or didn't seem to have many friends. I saw it with people who were homeless. His welcoming to everyone; his genuine care seemed so effortless. (Although, I did hear stories about people that made him shake his head!)

The 18th was a long day. I had a sense first thing that morning (early and with very little sleep) that our long week of waiting would soon be coming to an end. Later that night, his daughters acted bravely and powerfully and let him go. Even now, I feel in my body the moment when our pastor announced to us that "David was in heaven now." Although we knew this moment was coming, it just doesn't prepare you for the jolt to your soul.

This day falls in the middle of Advent. The season of waiting; expectation.; the revealing of God with us. A couple of weeks ago I helped a group of people lead worship at church. Our theme was the "Unexpected God." We shared our stories of how we experiencec God in the unexpected moments. Then, somehow, the mystery; the miracle that this unexpected encounter transforms our life. My relationship and experiences with David over many years changed my life. For me, there is great irony in the timing of his death and Advent. His death was certainly unexpected. And I don't yet see God in this. I don't see or feel the transforming miracle. I've felt fairly cynical over this last year. Not to mention angry. Feeling like this is an act of gross injustice, especially to his daughters. So, I'm just going to voice those feelings and let them be. I have no desire to tidy them up or put a nice "churchy" bow on them. And yet, I can't escape feeling immensley grateful. I'm grateful for the time in my life that I did share with him. I'm a better person for having him in my life. I wouldn't trade a single moment, even to avoid this pain.

A beautiful candle is burning in my home today. I'm wearing a Baylor shirt and my Baylor cap. I'll be making gumbo to prepare for a gathering tomorrow with dear friends. We'll remember him together with a Cajun potluck. Nothing could be more perfect.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The phone call

The kind of phone call you get in the middle of the night when you know the news on the other end can't be good. Except this call came at high noon. I'm told that one of my dearest friends of the last 16 years had an accident. A bad accident. A random, freak accident. He's in ICU. He's not going to recover. Even now, one year to the day, those words seem incomprehensible. My body was paralyzed; my mind struggled for anything to say.

David was a life-long pastor who focused most of his career in youth ministry. I think in hearing this news, there was something inside of me; an expectation that somehow this really wasn't going to end badly. Maybe because he was a pastor; devoted his life to serving God and loving others; because everyone thought he was their best friend; because hundreds of young people would testify that he saved their life; because something this terrible couldn't possibly happen to him; because he has 3 daughters; because, because , because. But bad things really do happen to good people. This time to one of the best people on this earth. Four days later, my friend died.

It's been a hard year living with the void that his passing has left in my life. And yet, I feel like that only now I'm really beginning to let myself feel the depth of my sadness. I miss his presence...

every Sunday mornng

most Monday mornings when I would drop by his office to visit

almost daily phone calls

every youth event

talking Baylor sports- especially with the incredible basketball and football seasons this year!

braggin about TJ

any and every time I need to talk about something in my life that I was struggling with

when I wanted to tell someone about something cool that happened

I miss his smile. I miss how happy he always looked to see me. I miss hearing him tell stories. I miss seeing him cry (which he did easily and often).

I've taken some opportunities to acknowledge my sadness and move through the grief. Even still, I've been very conscious of not letting myself feel too sad. Or at least for very long. The pain has felt too deep and too big. This barrier of defense around my heart has been slowly crumbling over the last few weeks. I feel as sad today, and maybe more, than I did 12 months ago. Ultimately, I know this is a good thing. And I think it would be a grave dishonor to his memory to run from this. I feel more willing than I have, up to this point, to be present and conscious in this process. Writing of my dear friend, working through this grief is the main reason I've returned to writing. Funny, it's the main reason I stopped writing several months ago. Though writing about all this here, as opposed to my private journal, feels woefully vunerable. My thoughts are not very coherent; I find it hard to articulate what I want to say; my feellings are raw and all over the map. It's not neat and tidy for public consumption. I need to do this anyway. I'm trusting that God and my heart have led me here and it shall be a sacred place.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A poem...or just rambling thoughts

Ceaseless reminders of passing moons
Swirling thoughts; tangled feelings

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Tree

Occassionally I have good ideas. Even more infrequently I'm very insightful. Mostly, I'm just pretty average. As a first- born hero child, I have quite an attachement to perfection. I'm also the child of an alcoholic; so I really want you to like me. Part of the challenge about having this blog is that I've put alot of pressure on myself to "have something worth saying, " or just be quiet. As I re-enter the world of writing, I'm going to try really hard 1) not to write for you, and 2) not care too much what you think. (Not caring at all is unrealistic; I'm not even going there.) At least for now, for so many reasons, writing needs to be for me. Today, I'm writing with no great spiritual insight or talk through some cool experience I had...I just want to write about my Christmas tree!

I've always adored Christmas. As an adult with my own place, I've taken great pride and greater joy decorating for the season. I especially love putting up the tree (though not so much love in taking it down). It goes up every year just before we travel for Thanksgiving. After I lug a dozen boxes down from the attic, I crank up the volume on Christmas music. and get busy Sometimes, I forego the tunes and watch a beloved Christmas cartoon. My favorite is the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. And I bake sugar cookies. It's the smell I love and just seems necessary. Sadly, though, no cookies were baked this year. My husband is not so much into this whole production, so I end up doing it by myself. Kind of a drag, but I guess I've accepted it. We have lots of ornaments and I use 8 strands of lights, so it takes some time to get everything done. I'm always so happy when I'm finished (tired too!). It's so beautiful. This year I starting thinking about all the memories that this tree holds. The tree itself and many of the glass balls are from my first marraige. Wes's family gave all the kids an ornanement for Christmas every year. So, we have quite a few from his childhood. As a former teacher, I have many ornaments that were given to me by students. Some of those are sweet reminders of friends I've long since lost touch with. Then there are ornanements that Wes, TJ and I paint every year. I started this tradition when we got married. It's was just something fun to do together since the boys go on a "trimming the tree" strike every year. They usually complain about the painting, but comply. It's fun and we now have quite a collection of interestingly painted wooden ornaments. All in all, I have a thing of beauty that brings me to pause, remember days gone by, loved ones and precious memories.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8 months later...

I'm back. Or at least I hope so. It's been a long year and I've really missed writing. I just haven't had the inspiration or energy. It's been a year of sadness, depression, beautiful surprises, irony and new paths.

Writing for me has always been the means by which I hear my soul. She speaks her voice through my pen. Surprisingly, writing has been the very thing I've resisted for the past several months. As I sat in church last Sunday, I felt it was time to resume writing. I hoped I would make this entry on Sunday, the first Day of Advent. Alas, it's Wednesday. I didn't grow up in a religious tradition that recognized Advent. I've only been learning and participating in this time during the last several years. And now, I love Advent. Advent affirms the parts of life that seldom get attention: waiting, expecting, listening...being still. I feel drawn to let Advent lead me back here. And so, Advent begs the questions, "What am I expecting?" "What am I waiting for?" Maybe it's not the expectation of any certain thing to come to pass, or a wish to come true. Perhaps it's an openness to the Divine...the unexpected...the miracles.

You are welcome to join me this Advent season. I would love to hear your stories of expectation, and encountering the Divine.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Catching up

As Lent began I had a renewed desire and intention to return to the writing of my blog. I've missed writing regularly and being connected to those who read. Alas, this is the 1st I've written since the Lenten season began. I've simply had little desire write, and honestly, many other things I truly enjoy. In the last couple of weeks, I've become increasingly aware of an inner restlessness. Most days I don't feel especially centered or grounded; though I may be very productive and feel as if my day went well. I've noticed a reluctance to be still or quiet for any substantial period of time. I flit and flutter from one thing to another whether it be physical or only in my head. At a deep level, or perhaps just intellectually, I know what this is. It's familiar; I've been here before. It's grief. Plain and simple, good old-fashioned grief. Last week marked 3 months since my dear friend's passing. It was around the 2 month mark that the veil of surrealism began to lift. His absence was beginning to feel wickedly real. I speak of him often, and even do things to intentionally honor or remember him. Done, perhaps, without the full attention of my heart. In the last week or so, I've felt this resistance to reality harder to keep at bay. Tears creep through for no particular reason, or at the occurrence of something completely benign, such as our college alma mater reaching the Sweet 16 round of Men, and Women's College Basketball Tournament. I went through a similar grief process after my father died. There was a period of time that was restless, and a time of feeling very paralyzed. So, I know what to expect. I know what to expect. Knowing and embracing are worlds apart.

I also have to acknowledge that this loss coincides with other grief in my life. I think I will withhold the fine details here, but just to say that I feel the grief of a lifelong dream that has not yet become reality. And conventional wisdom would say that I am in the twilight of seeing my dream come true. This, too, is a reality ( in most moments) I choose not to fully feel. But the very marrow of my existence knows my loss, my longings and my sadness; even if my mind refuses to acknowldge.

The Lenton season is, in part, a reminder of desert times. This metaphor is not lost in my life right now. I suppose there isn't much to do in the desert but just be. Wandering? Yes. Searching? Yes. Nothing that seemingly sustains? Yes. Yet, this place serves a necessary purpose. I don't know much about ecology, but I suspect the deserts throughout the earth serve a purpose for all life. Somehow the earth would be adversely affected were it not for these barren lands. And so, I trust God that this is surely true in my life.

I was reading this morning from one of my favorite prayer books, The Celtic Wheel of the Year. It tapped yet another little crack in this defense I've been carrying.

Deep down and darkly down, there you are
there in the core where the world turns,
here in my marrow where no one sees.
May I feel your touch in my flesh,
especially when I seem to have no skin.
May I feel your strength in my muscle,
especially when I have no fight.
May I feel you down to my bones,
when I can come no other way.
Go beyond my bones when all has run dry.
May you remain there at the seat of my deepest desire,
present when I have forgotten my passion,
Be my comfort and my stay as I move through the world this day.

O,Vunerable One who hears our cry,
be with each person this day who is wandering their own lonely desert.
Encircle with your love
those who know there are no short-cuts,
who cannot go round but must go through.
Thank you that we do not get to the garden,
until we have travelled through this featureless barren terrain.
For this is not a detour for the unlucky,
but the touching bottom of being alive,
where we must reckon with what is.

When all seems hollow bless me.
When all seems broken bless me.
When you seem like a mirage bless me.
When I know you are not there bless me.
When I do not care if you are, bless me.
Take me unkempt face in your hands,
smudged and grimy from the road
and stroke your blessing into my features,
for you will never turn away a broken spirit.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Over the last several years, I've practiced the observance of Lent. Growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition as I did, we did not observe this season. I'm not sure I had even heard the word until I was in my 20's. Even still, it has become an annual ritual of mine and one that I eagerly anticpate. It is a time for me of reflection, repentance, rest and restoration (That sounds so "preacher-like"! I promise the alliteration was unintended!) I'll share more in the coming days of what I'm choosing to "let go of." At it's essence, it involves a slowing down. A slowing down of mind, body and spirit. I need this. For today, I simply leave you with a prayer. I discovered this prayer a couple of weeks ago as I was reading of Lenten and Ash Wednesday practices. It feels like a good way to begin.

Prayer of Saint Ephrem, the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of indifference and discouragement, lust of power and idle chatter. [kneel/prostration]

Instead, grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humble-mindedness, patience, and love. [kneel/prostration]

O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother; for You are blessed now and ever and forever. Amen. [kneel/prostration]

Grace and peace to you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy New Year

The entrance into a new year has been quite slow. The two weeks leading up to January 1 were so fraught with busyness and emotion, it's taken awhile to recuperate. And I'm just beginning to really feel the loss of my friend and navigate this grief. A time will come when I can process some of that here, but I'm not ready for that just yet.

The day before David's memorial, a friend and writer shared a poem on his blog that I've been reading daily. The poem was taken from Guerrillas Of Grace: Prayers For The Battle .

Guide Me into an Unclenched Moment

Gentle me,
Holy One,
into an unclenched moment,
a deep breath,
a letting go
of heavy expectancies,
of shriveling anxieties,
of dead certainties,
that, softened by the silence,
surrounded by the light,
and open to the mystery,
I may be found by wholeness,
upheld by the unfathomable,
entranced by the simple,
and filled with the joy
that is you.

Perhaps one of my greatest struggles is living my life with an "clenched fist." A feeling at times of desperation or anxiety for something to be different, a prayer to be answered, a circumstance to be changed. I don't pray to be rich, or famous, or anything extravagant (at least in my opinion!). I just hope for dreams to become realty, for example. Not too much to ask, right? And then again, I may be too hard on myself. For this "clenched fist" syndrome may just be a part of the human condition. The truth is, I'm a fairly peaceful person. I have learned the beauty of acceptance and faith. I know the pentrating tranquility in my soul that comes from breathing deeply and truly believeing that all is well. And yet, I worry how taxes will be paid, or how much longer I'll have to work two jobs, or if TJ will make it through track season without injury, or if (fill in the blank).

"Dear God, just for today, guide me into an unclenched moment...or maybe even more than one."