Death

This Week’s Task – The Obituary

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Death, Life, Mother, Obituary, Remembrance | 18 comments

cemetary for blog

 

Overwhelmed, challenged, somewhat paralyzed – all feelings I’m struggling with as I labor to draft my mother’s obituary.

How do you sum up someone’s life in 300 – 500 words or less? The task of being factual and still descriptive seems not only challenging but somewhat unfair to the one who has no voice in the matter.

I pealed through online suggestions. Who knew there were rules and basic etiquette to writing an obituary. Once again, I’m faced with the blaring reality that one day someone will have to do this for me.

The examples were fairly generic. The deceased was usually spoken of favorably. Unless a tragedy or illness was to blame, their passing was described as “peaceful”. Along with a few sentences listing achievements or hobbies, the articles were merely simple anecdotal summaries.

I learned our one final published epitaph is nothing more than a short tidy biographical essay with many missing pieces.

We don’t read about the disappointments, failures or tragedies the person encountered over their lifetime, even though they’re usually the very episodes that shape us into who we are. Don’t you think those facts would be the most interesting to read?

How different an obituary would be if the lists were of our personal scars rather than our accomplishments or snippets of our ordinary days. It seems a shame to scan the peaks and miss the seemingly mundane.

We live in a culture that elevates success, especially after someone is gone. The longer our list of degrees and achievements the more notable we are. And when we’re gone, our failures are usually forgotten or downplayed.

Have you ever imagined writing your own obituary now so someone else doesn’t have to do it for you? In some respects, that’s exactly what we’re doing – every single day.

What a different scenario we’ll encounter when we cross from this life to our next. Not one minute will be missing from the perfect records kept on our behalf.

So what do you want said of you? With this – again, I feel overwhelmed, ill-equipped and paralyzed. I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting my life to matter – to be more than a simple statement lost somewhere in a newspaper or public record.

Today I choose to believe the truth:

The truth about who I am.

I was fearfully crafted and not one minute of my life is hidden from God. Psalm 139

The truth about where I’m going.

I will revisit every minute of my life when I leave this life for the next. Romans 14

The truth about what really matters.

Like Jesus, my scars will be turned into marks of beauty. John 20

 

THIS WEEK’S TASK – believe the truth and write a rich narrative for the story of our life, one we’ll be proud to re-read over and over again.

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Thoughts About My Mother and Pierced Ears

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Death, Faith, Mother, Trust | 14 comments

Ears blog 2

 

 

It’s been two weeks since my mother died. In some ways it seems like yesterday and at other times – a lifetime ago. My brother told me he’s having a really hard time shaking images from his mind of her final days. The mental pictures are indelibly haunting to him.

There are certain images that linger for me also. They randomly surface like freeze-framed photos in my head. As strange at it might seem – today I couldn’t get her earlobes out of my mind.

I guess it makes sense since I spent a tremendous amount of time perched close to her face during that final week. I whispered words of encouragement into those ears as I washed perspiration from her clammy brow.

I recall one moment my mind took a snapshot of her ears as my eyes landed on them. Thoughts flooded and tears flowed while I stared at her.

Her ears had been pierced since childhood but were now void of gold or any other adornment. The discriminating earlobes that once only tolerated pure gold were now noticeably closed shut, leaving marks of surrender. The entrance blocked by scar tissue was evidence of her submission to the rules where she lived.

Several times during the last three years I bought inexpensive versions of her favorite hoop earrings trying to satisfy her desire to look pretty. But each time, a day or two later, the earlobes would swell and reject the cheap knockoffs, leaving a disappointed mom and frustrated me.

One item at a time – I watched her give up belongings she had enjoyed for decades.

The picture of her earlobes imprinted in my mind represent a deep level of trust to me – something I’ve never experienced. She fully entrusted her well being and her belongings to my care. It humbles me and pricks my heart with soulful examination.

Trust is letting go of our rights. Trading control for reliance. Trading shallow belief for deep faith.

It’s easy for me to confess trust with my mouth. It’s an entirely different matter to hand over my expensive earrings and live with the consequences of scarred piercings. The result usually isn’t pretty – but the act shines brighter than gold or silver. It’s pure. It’s holy. And it’s our blessed invitation as believers.

My mother’s trust pierces a deep place in my soul. I want to trust like that. I want to love like that.

Committed love depends on trust for sustenance and propulsion. Over time its scars become a sacred badge of honor. I hope that before my final breath – trust will leave its mark on me too.

“The things he planned for us, no one can recount. Were I to speak of them, they would be too vast to declare. Sacrifices and offerings he does not desire, but my ear he has pierced.” Psalm 40:5-6 (emphasis mine)

 

photo credit

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Death And Living Responsibly

Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 in Death, Hope, Life, Mother, People | 16 comments

clean field 2

 

 

Responsible people understand the value of preparing for their future. For instance, responsible parents create college funds for their children long before they actually need it. Responsible people also open 401K plans early in their career so they can ease into a comfortable retirement when the time is right. But how many people pride themselves in properly preparing for their death ahead of time.

After all, who wants to think about death before you have to? And Hospice – that’s an organization we don’t need to know about until it’s absolutely necessary.

I find it rather interesting that so much of our planning gets invested in a future that may never unfold the way we envisioned it. College funds might disintegrate into emergency cash instead. Or a sudden lay-off end up depleting an entire retirement account. We have no way of knowing, because the future is unpredictable.

It makes me question – what do we really have control over? How many plans shifts into Plan B through circumstances out of our control.

Truth is – the absolute only thing we know for certain every person will face, is death. No one gets out of here alive. So why doesn’t that fact make us better planners?

Sitting by my mother’s side last week as she labored through her end of life experience left me facing the cold reality of my own certainty of death.

I learned death is a natural process of life and not perverse.

I imagine like birth, every end-of-life experience is different – some are more difficult than others. In my mom’s case, apparently she was text book in the progression process. It reminds me of the two distinct birth experiences I had with our kids. Although their births were different as night and day – both still involved labor and both had predictable components imbedded in the process.

Death isn’t something to fear, it’s something to embrace and spend our lifetime preparing for. From the moment we arrive on the planet we’re moving toward one common goal – our end.

The end is not final. Up until the day our breathing stops and our next destination is reached, whether we know it or not, we’re packing for the trip.

Responsible people consider the destination they’re headed toward. I wouldn’t pack shorts and sandals if I planned to vacation in Antarctica. And speaking of packing – I have a much healthier perspective about the importance of “stuff” after last week.

It’s God’s mercy to spare us a future view of our tomorrows. He’s the life giver and Sovereign ruler over our time – for all time.

A few takeaways from last week:

  • Hold loosely to the things of this world, they’re not worth grappling for or hanging onto. They really don’t go with us and usually become tomorrows trash when we’re gone.
  • Invest in knowing the one who holds your future rather than tirelessly planning for a future that might never materialize.
  • Prioritize relationships above things and heart over agendas.
  • And hug your mom – you never know which day will be her last.

 

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Gifts From My Mother – Through Life and Her Death

Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in Death, Gifts, Humility, Life, Love, Mother | 32 comments

#65 Linking of Moments

 

This past week I had the sacred privilege of sitting with my mother while she slowly and bravely made her trek through the valley of death. Watching her tiny frame prepare for its final breath was a holy invitation to reflect and give thanks.

Her body may have been the instrument offered to deliver me into this world, but our shared experiences – both the good and the bad – were God’s favorite tools to shape us both for the next.

She left me plenty of gifts. Besides a great spaghetti recipe, lessons in sewing and proper table manners – I also received deep spiritual gifts I’m convinced I wouldn’t have found any other way. They were more powerful than sermons or books – and delivered straight from our creator to benefit us both.

Through her, I learned about faith and forgiveness. She taught me grace, mercy, service and humility. Through our journey together, I learned to see Christ in all things and in every face.

She confessed to be an atheist most of her life and worked hard to hide the fearful little girl she really was. And yet God chose her to teach me about forgiveness – how it easily flows to mercy. And how fear really can transform into trust. I learned service isn’t an action – it’s communion.

Our relationship caused me to face my own judgmental and religious self. The bright light of God’s resolute love and limitless grace poured out for both of us continues to melt my pious heart.

She was a good mom, a loyal wife, a talented artist and gifted seamstress. But everyone knows the simple kind of life she lived fades easily and for the most part, will remain unsung.

Even though – I am confident her life never, ever went unnoticed or was considered insignificant. I’m also certain it was joyously celebrated by the grand welcoming committee in her Savior’s Kingdom. She will cry no more.

Tears are for me – for those of us left in this temporal world.

I will miss the journey of faith we shared. And I know I will see her again.

 

A special thanks to Emily Snider Re who generously shares her gift of photography with me. I picked her puzzle picture because life is never how it actually seems. We only see a small piece of the bigger plan at any given time and do best when we trust the complete picture will be as it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Baton Has Been Passed

Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Death, Extraordinary Everyday People, Hope | 24 comments

#60 seeds

 

The baton has been passed, my friend is gone. Prayers for comfort, peace and healing linger still as they gently shift toward the family she adored.

 

While we weep her loss and consider her life, she speaks still – from a place we haven’t yet seen. Her voice is clear and delivered with a cadence of familiarity, “Press on, stand strong, give grace, cry for the helpless, dream patiently, live with conviction and fervor, love unsparingly, live unceasingly, hope unreservedly.”

 

She now lives without time, or pain, or fear, or worry. Our clocks tick on with a voice of challenge to live and die like her. Her beautiful baton has been laid down for our picking up.

 

Weep with me. Listen with me. And run wholeheartedly toward the goal she’s now reached.

 

 “Your life is your own, your glory is your glory, but you will lose it if you keep it for yourself. Grasp it for the sake of others.” Nate Wilson – author and her beloved son-in-law

 

 

 

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Remembering With a Friend Today

Posted by on Oct 1, 2013 in Death, Friendship, His Love, Hope | 8 comments

He loves & listens

 

We turn the pages of our calendars to October today. For some, it’s a joyful welcome to the new fall season. But for my dear friend Debbie, it’s a reminder she faces a month peppered with memories – both good and hard.

Five years ago today, her family welcomed the first grandchild into their lives. Inexplicable joy came in the form of a redheaded bundle delivered by her youngest born. For the next three years, pink exuberance took over the family gatherings.

Coming up in a couple weeks another more difficult date looms on Debbie’s calendar. Two years ago on an October Sunday morning, her granddaughter’s residency drastically changed. While her parents slept peacefully down the hall, little Eisley was ushered to her heavenly home without warning, without explanation and without a kiss good bye.

Can you even imagine burying a three year old – much less, your daughter, your niece, or your granddaughter?

My heart aches for the October grief this family suffers each year. Dates scream out the ‘what if’s’ as birthdays and meaningful holidays pass by. And the memory of leaving her little body at the cemetery – could there be anything more difficult.

As Debbie’s sister in Christ and friend, I apologize for trying to understand her grief – or worse, trying to make sense of it. Grief is painful. Grief is long lasting. Grief needs understanding and sensitivity.

Eisley’s memory is worth keeping alive no matter how hard it is. Debbie needs Eisley’s memory to be kept alive. So as her friend, I need it also.

CS Lewis said in his book Grief Observed, “The death of a beloved is an amputation.” This is hard truth!

The Holy Spirit offers comfort. The Word of God sustains. But we, her community and family – are called to be the gauze and tape. We squeeze with pressure until the bleed subsides. Each October the wound reopens. Each October my friend needs holding.

Recording artist Laura Story knows about pain and suffering.

Remember a friend today as you listen to her beautiful call to embrace our hard places. Please remember my friend Debbie and her family today too – October 1, 2013 – on what would have been Eisley’s 5th birthday. Pray for unveiled mercy.

 

 

 

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