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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Days That Shape The Soul

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Aging, Extraordinary Everyday People, Life, Remembrance | 22 comments



If you were offered a chance to go back and revisit a day in your past, would you? Which day would you pick?

I asked myself this question yesterday as I sat watching a dozen or so wheelchair bound individuals swinging foam noodles at a balloon. I wondered what day they would pick if asked. Would a day playing the noodle game be worth revisiting – I wondered.

Our life is a masterful architectural linking of moments that together create a framework for our story, the story of our soul. No moment stands alone and yet each one carries its own weight while our heart and soul are being constructed from the inside.

Some days hold great experiences – events we wish would never end, while others are deeply sorrowful. And some days don’t seem memorable at all.

I’m not sure what day I would revisit if I could.

Happy days are easy to recall like the birth of my children, or trips to faraway places, but in the bigger scheme of things, I don’t need to relive them. They’re part of who I am and deeply rooted in my story.

I have many days I wish I could go back and do over. There are words I wish I hadn’t spoken and days poor choices affected the rest of my life. But admittedly those days are also deeply rooted in who I am.

The white haired souls at the nursing home are nearing the end of their days. Much of their time is spent alone with themselves – wandering the hallways of their memories. I asked one of the more lucid individuals which day she would revisit if she could. Her answer was simple. “Days can’t be separated from each other. Separating days would be like trying to take apart a fully baked cake”.

The mysterious soul within each of us – our eternal soul, is grown and shaped by our day to day life experiences. Whether encased in tragedy, celebration, boredom, or fairness – we become the unfolding of its masterful creation for God’s eternal use.

It may feel as though we’ve fallen victim to a faulty cake recipe. And some days might seem as though our only accomplishment is smacking a silly balloon around the room. But the truth is, every day is a gift. And the shaping of our soul is the greatest mystery we’re invited to read and write.

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of a great mystery.”
Annie Dillard

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Memorial Day – More Than Remembrance

Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Freedom, Love, Remembrance, Service | 21 comments

#43 memorial collage


The three day weekend is fast approaching. We will remember our heroes through an avalanche of patriotic commercials and emotional photos. The nation will take a short pause to commemorate our fallen on Memorial Day.

Like most major holidays the media inundates us with ads, short video clips and images. The Memorial Day photographs are meant to stimulate patriotism. They will be moving. They will be clean and pretty, leaving us with good feelings which is somewhat perplexing since they represent a very different reality.

In fairness, most difficult life experiences look better when we’re farther away from them.

I’m grateful I’ve never had to watch someone be struck by a bullet or smell the smoke of smoldering flesh. It’s hard to imagine the photos shown on Memorial Day come even close to depicting the devastation they represent.

I wonder how veterans who’ve lived through the real-life experiences of war think of the polished up images we circulate. The disabled vet who sits at the intersection panhandling in our community probably doesn’t have a Twitter account to give his opinion on the issue. He anesthetizes his mind from memories and we anesthetize ours to him as we pass by – even on Memorial Day.

It’s probably safe to assume the general population can’t identify with him. Besides not understanding the trauma of his combat, he’s certainly not airbrushed enough for our applause. Like many, he’s still attached to the umbilical cord of his pain.

Internal wars are just as hard to understand as physical wars. Inner wars bring their own kind of pain, suffering and even death.

As I sit in my comfortable chair plucking my keyboard in hypothetical thoughts, I am challenged with what I can do. How can I serve the wounded. The broken in our villages need to be fed, listened to and truly honored.

The battle-weary soldiers of internal wars are the poor and the brokenhearted spoken of in Isaiah 61. Many people are held prisoners of war right in our own communities, and they are part of us.

The truth is we all would benefit by standing at attention on Memorial Day. We’re all part of a battle and called to fight in a very real war.

Our identity and dignity are contingent upon truly remembering. By ongoing remembrance and involvement. More than a pause – a lingering that initiates action.

I want to be more than moved this Memorial Day. I want to be enlisted into the causes that move my Heavenly Father. I want to take my place on the battlefield of my own community, so maybe one day I’ll hear my commander say, “This one fought the best she knew how. She lingered long enough to act.”

For today – I linger and humbly ask forgiveness for my own lethargy and preoccupation with myself. I willingly yield these unfocussed eyes to open and see opportunity beyond the polished images of the hour.


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I LOVE YOU, MOM – guest post by Leah Crook

Posted by on Dec 8, 2013 in Faith, Life, Love, Remembrance | 11 comments

flickr alan dow #2


Four words. I love you, Mom. I hold on to each one as all twenty-five years of him slip through the airport doors. My adventurous son. Capable and kind. How I love him.
Before heading home, I sit behind the wheel of my car, trying to see him at his destination – it’s impossible, it’s unknown, it’s not a place I understand. I hope for rain, turn the key and take the road ahead of me.
I choose grace. I choose faith.
It’s true what they say, you’ll wonder where the time went. It was just yesterday when…
And time turns around until he’s twelve, ten, eight, six, four…
I trace his footprint back to when it fit in the palm of my hand. In the middle of October, a storm rages – pouring down. The streets flood with anticipation, he takes cover beneath my heart for just a few more hours.
Early morning opens up with quiet moments – giving way to fierce anxiety. The strain of giving birth begins. Truly unprepared. Indescribable. With each excruciating pain of labor, my heart pounds to the beat of a completely new day – the day my son is born.
He brings me out of shallow places. In the very last hour, I name him Michael, and a million I love you’s are on the way.
The wheels on the highway turn with my thoughts…
I watch from white sand as he braves the waves at three… and delights over snow-cone flavors at six. Peppermint candy passes his lips as he carries a fish home from the lake in a bucket.
I let go of his hand as he enters a classroom for the first time… I feel my head press against the door, and I hear him cry on the other side. I see my hand where the blue paint is chipping… I hold on, and I let go.
I’ll do that countless times.
Motherhood is sweet – even when it’s terrifying.
Seasons pass and bring a brother to cherish, friends to meet, ties to tie, girls to love, and cars to drive. There are dreams to chase and planes to catch…
Motherhood is a whole lot of holding on… and letting go.
A few drops fall from the hot summer sky. I press play on a favorite song – I feel my shoulders drop, let go of my breath and take in the lyrics.


Let your heart sweetheart, be your compass when you’re lost
And you should follow it wherever it may go
When it’s all said and done, you can walk instead of run
‘Cause no matter what you’ll never be alone
Never be alone
Lady Antebellum – Compass

My mood shifts, from heavy to light. Because some words do that – they take you from one place to another.
I love you, Mom.
At twelve, ten, eight, six, four…
This morning, while the sun waits to rise, I drive. Through the known and the unknown. Through fear, anxiety, happiness, joy, freedom, failure, and victory.
I move back, I move forward, I move over.
I hold on… and I let go.
I imagine all the mothers in the world. New mothers, scared mothers, old mothers, brave mothers. Navigating roads – with kids in their cars, kids in their arms, kids in their hearts. Loving children, big and small.
Some of us are still learning when to hold on, and when to let go.
It’s an incredible journey – I’m honored to take.
Let go of fear, hold on to faith.



Leah Crook has graciously contributed to this space twice before. You can read her last post HERE . Please join me in thanking Leah for sharing her tender heart with us today.

Visit Leah at

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