Sometimes you get what you need.

If you've been reading along in this blog or receiving my weekly Monday Morning Manna email.you know the the last months of 2019 were challenging for me. One of the very hardest challenges was going from a two dog household to a dog-less household in four short months.

Suddenly, my house seemed much too big and much too quiet. I was surrounded by the kind of support every grieving pet owner should have, but still, it was hard.

I told myself that it would make sense to get another dog In the spring.

You know how that goes.

I saw Bear's picture, following along with rapt attention while a little girl read to him. I talked with the owner of the rescue that had pulled him from the shelter. His short two years of life had been filled with the pain of abuse and the suffering of heart worm treatment.

And yet,, Bear just loves everyone. From the cashiers in the pet store to the children who live across the street, Bear approaches everyone with the same question: Can I love you? 

In...

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Blessed By Butter Boy

An odd thing happened yesterday. 

I put butter on the counter, turned my back to get something else and returned to find… the butter was still there. This hasn’t happened in my house for a number of years.

Because of Ralphie, also known as Butter Boy. He loved his butter. He loved to steal it off the counter to eat it. And to bury the container in the yard only to dig it up and bring it back in later. 

It wasn’t just butter he buried. He didn’t care much for the dog food I got him not too long ago, but he swiped the cleaned-out can from the recycling and carried it for a couple of days like the Holy Grail. He then buried it, only to dig it up a few days later and deposit the can full of dirt on my freshly vacuumed rug.

It wasn’t just butter he loved and stole. Pretty much anything was fair game for him. I’d barely adopted him when I heard the swoosh of a rotisserie chicken being nabbed from the counter and taken through the dog door....

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Pain

"I learned to look at the pain, rather than hide from it. When I refused to look at it honestly, it grew like a shadow in a childhood bedroom. My pain seemed to sense fear; fear was the fuel it burned in order to run through me. To disarm it, to look at the pain honestly. took time. I had to learn to inhabit my body. It's a difficult thing to sit with pain and just be. To sit beside it, acknowledge it and be whole in its presence. to experience pain in that way, I had to constantly remind myself that it wasn't me. It was just a sensation.  I was bigger than the pain and I could withstand it, it wouldn't kill me. I would survive it." Dr. Rana Awdish, In Shock

I've been reading this exceptional book, In Shock. An ICU doctor,  Awdish was pregnant when things went horribly wrong. It's telling that I'm about halfway through the book. Awdish has been through critical illness, has been actively dying and now, after a very long journey, has returned to work. She still...

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When Mother's Day is Just A Day

 It's an odd feeling, really.

The day used to take up so much space in my life. There were plans to be made and coordinated. When my brother lived nearby he and his wife hosted both sets of parents for events like Mother's Day so I focused on bringing my part of the lunch.

And, of course finding the right gift and card.  

After my brother and sister-in-law moved out of state, the hosting duties became mine. I enjoyed planning the lunch. Cleaning the house to Geraldine standards? Not so much.

Odd that a day that took up so much space in my life is now just a day.

Maybe you know the feeling. Maybe your mom has died, or maybe dementia has steadily slipped her away from the life you shared together. And Sunday will be oddly empty.

For other women there's more pain than emptiness. It's the first year without your mom. Or the first year since the terrible reality became real to you, and you know that you will never have a son or daughter making macaroni jewelry (is that still a...

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Wasting Your Time Looking For Closure

closure grief healing loss May 03, 2019

The article title on Facebook caught my eye:

When Closure Eludes You

You knew I was going to have to say something, didn't you. And you were right.

Over and over again I get asked about closure. How long before I reach it? When will I know that I have it?

Here's the truth, folks. There is no such thing.

Closure implies that we can tie things up with a neat bow (finally.) The case is closed. We pack up the notes into the file box and store it in the closet. Only it doesn't happen that way.

We never reach closure when we lose someone in our lives whom we loved, whether it was the child whom we carried but never held or the loved one whose hand we would gladly hold forever. But that doesn't mean that we don't heal.

Our lives will never be as they were had we not had this loss. As a hospital chaplain I often talk with patients in their seventies and eighties. It's striking to me how often the conversation is about their parents. They want to tell me about who they were and how they...

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When People Aren't Exceptions

It seemed innocuous enough.

It was one of those internet articles shared in a Facebook group I’m in. The article focused on emotional changes that happen in your life when your parents are gone. Having buried both of my parents, I was interested in what the author had to say.

Some of it was just plain malarkey, like “You no longer feel like your accomplishments matter.” Yes, I miss being able to share accomplishments with my parents, especially my dad who was easily impressed.

 (As my mom declined I started taking meals to them more often. One night I brought roast beef and potatoes that I’d cooked in the Crockpot. My father said it was delicious and asked where I’d gotten it. I told him that I’d made it. “You know how to do that?” he asked, his voice full of wonder that I could accomplish such a thing.)

Even without my parents, though, I’m proud of what I do. I have friends and other family members with whom I celebrate. My...

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Grieving for Half a Minute

Like many others around the world, I watched in horror this week as the Cathedral of Nature Dame in Paris burned.

It was inconceivable to me that the church that had stood for 900 years might not be standing any more. Of course, the French firefighters did an amazing job, and the cathedral builders - being well aware of the dangers of fire - had done an amazing job as well, so more was saved than we once thought possible.

As we watched the flames consume the roof, we didn't know that something good was going to be part of the ending. Like many people,  I reached out online to express both my shock and my sadness. Many friends posted pictures of Notre Dame from their visits to Paris, and I lamented that I'd ever have the same experience.

Friends were quick to reassure me, just as people around the world had been quick to reassure each other. They'll rebuild it. You'll still see it. It will rise from the ashes.

Because, you see, that's what we do with grief. We don't want people...

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Grief creeps into the cracks

Grief finds shape in absence...

the lack of dressing made just so, 

of sweet potato casseroles 

and broccoli casseroles

and a square of Jell-o salad.

 

Grief finds expression in silence,

missing the sounds of voices stilled or too far distant,

the silence too orderly without the chaos of children,

a dog's collar no longer jingling.

 

Grief creeps into the cracks

where tradition and ritual used to be...

Christmas morning.

Thanksgiving afternoon.

Broken and maybe even mended

yet as grief is wont to nag,

never again the same.

 

We think of grief as big and bold

announcing itself on a timetable

and fitting itself into schedule.

 

But sometimes it comes

helter-skelter 

tumbling into our moments.

And what else can we do

but hold our suddenly tender hearts

and breathe.

 

 

 

 

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She's not crazy; she's just sad

After the fire, no one quite knew what to do with her. Madonna Badger lost her three children and both of her parents in that home fire, and it seemed like she'd lost herself as well. 

She was shuffled from treatment center to treatment center, all of them trying to fight a mental illness they couldn't quite get their hands around. Nothing got better for her.

No one knew what to do with her.

Until a doctor in Arkansas spoke up.

"She's not crazy. She's just sad."

Well, of course she was. She had to be unimaginably sad. We understand that the grief of a parent burying a child is beyond all expected experience. Badger buried all three of hers. Along with her parents.

The generation before her and the generation her after both gone in an instant. She's not crazy. She's just sad.

I don't know why all of those other doctors and nurses missed it. I'm glad someone finally noticed.

For all of the brilliance to the Inside Out movie, a lot of folks (including professionals) are still...

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When Your Fear is Stronger Than Your Faith

We make it harder on ourselves.

I do it; I suspect you do it as well.

It's not enough that we're facing something that has our hearts beating a little faster and our nights a little more restless. It's not enough that life has opened the door and fear has sauntered in.

Nope, we have to add to it. Once the door is open we ask Fear to bring a cousin or two along. We're afraid, and we're afraid that being afraid means that we're not really that great of a Christian.

And if we can't pas this test, well then, what good are we? Maybe we're just lukewarm Christians or backsliders or whatever name you want to call yourself when you feel like you're not measuring up.

Look, I'll tell you this as true as I know it.

Some things in life are just plain scary. Getting the call that something just wasn't quite right with that test and can you come back in for more tests? Oh, and make it as soon as you can. We have an opening  tomorrow.

Or you blinked and that person you thought was going to be...

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