This Week in February, 2012

Dad's Barber Shop
George’s Barber Shop; Image from a 1991 calendar.

My dad died five years ago this week. I ran across this summary of that week’s events. I sent it to just a few friends at the time, but as I read it today I thought it might be of help to someone who might be going through a similar life event.

I thought I’d post a summary of all that has happened this week. All of you were very close friends at some point in my life and I still care deeply about each of you. If you don’t want to hear all the details, then you don’t need to read the rest of this. I thought some of you might want to know more, however, so when I had the chance to collect my thoughts last night I tried to write them down to share.

The funeral planning started the minute I got here Sunday evening and it all went very smoothly. The few things that could have been major issues were solved quickly and with little effort.

It has been very good to have time with my sister and with my mom. We took time to sort photos for the slide show (power point) and it was wonderful to bring back all those memories.

I have a very clear vision of my dad as his much younger, happier, healthier self, smiling and enjoying himself with many, many relatives and friends — all together in the presence of Jesus. No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more darkness!

Tuesday we spent time gathering the items and photos for the display of my Dad that would be on view during the calling hours and funeral since there wasn’t a coffin. I posted a pic of this on Facebook. R, B and S arrived just as the calling hours began which was wonderful. Tuesday night we had about 400 people (which is about 1/2 the population of this town!) come through the line to give condolences and offer memories and comfort. We saw so many people and heard so many stories that we have difficulty remembering them all, but we were left with an almost tangible sense of the impact Dad left on so many lives in this town. So many people told us about ways that he had cared for them during difficult times or that he made something special for them. R (the funeral home director who was a childhood friend of mine, growing up in our neighborhood and a member of youth group at church, etc) said he thought if we had had more hours of calling that we would have had even more people! But it was what we could do and I think it was as much as Mom could do in one day.

Wednesday the service time arrived so quickly. We talked with the people who came early to talk with us and with mom until nearly the last minute. The service was fantastic. The pastor did an excellent job. He wove in the humor and the grumpiness and the love — it was perfect. The two people who did the eulogy were right on. One was my cousin and the other was one of Dad’s very close friends through thick and thin these last 35 years or so.

Both were heartfelt but also made us laugh. All those trips to various basketball and football games in a car full of girls were definitely mentioned and chuckled over. We sang Mom’s favorite hymn towards the end and also played the recording of A’s song. My mom had heard the song (the composer was a student of mine when I taught at a small high school in central in IL) and LOVED the words and felt they were so perfect. The pastor did a short homily type wrap up using several of my dad’s favorite scriptures. I also played a piano solo arrangement of my Dad’s favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.

Several people said it was the most joyous funeral they had ever attended. Even the funeral director said he didn’t think he had ever heard quite so much laughter at a service.

Many people said it suited Dad perfectly. We all felt very peaceful about the whole thing.

After a lunch at the church, we met at the graveyard very briefly. It was cold and windy. You can see my sister’s house from where his ashes are buried.

I think this was the most difficult time for me.

The pastor read the scripture from Revelation about no more tears, no more pain — and it became very real that my Dad’s body had been burned to ashes and was in that little white box at my feet but that he is face to face with Jesus now. Tears streamed down my face as I realized I will not ever see him again on this earth and as thoughts of all the good memories crowded my mind.

The plot we got for them is right next to Dad’s friend who did the eulogy.

Very cool how that worked out.

My mom will be buried there, too.

Mom and I have listened to the funeral music several times these last couple of days. We had two songs played during the prelude that were sung by the university choirs that I have accompanied for the last several years (7? or more now). One is called “No Time” (No time to tarry here for I’m on my journey home…I really do believe that just before the break of dawn you can hear the angels sing in that morning…Fare thee well for I on my journey home — it is gorgeous!). The women sang that one and they really did sound like a choir of angels! The men sang a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace which I loved at the time (2006) and thought it would be perfect for funeral music someday. I had the mp3s sent here so that we could have these songs as the prelude. There are about 80 to 100 college students in these choirs each year so over the years I’ve gotten quite attached to many of them, so having this music at the service meant a lot to me. (Plus the pianist is very good 😉

IMG_1273
fabulous Fazoli piano!

The more we mull over Dad’s last few weeks and especially his last week, we are so thankful for the way things ended for him. He saw most of the people he loves at least once in the last month and he got to do many of the things he most enjoyed in those last few days — eat with his favorite relatives and go to a HS basketball game. He died at home on the couch in his sleep (if not in his sleep he died as quietly as if he was just going to sleep because Mom didn’t hear him from the next room).

We are thankful he didn’t have to be in a nursing home or kept alive on a respirator or via feeding tube. We are thankful that he didn’t have time to be afraid or to feel pain this time. I’m thankful that I called that afternoon — probably it was in the last hour of his life.

We all feel a wonderful sense of relief, of peace, of comfort. We are truly surrounded by love and prayers and we feel it every minute of every day since those first few hours as the news spread.

There are so many details to take care of. I want to do as much as I can before I go back to WI. Lori has done so much over these last few weeks, months, years. But we also are trying to take time to just rest and soak in the peace.

I’m thankful I had such a wonderful Dad, and that I have had this time to say goodbye to him.

 

I’m thankful for each and every one of you.

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Rarely does the rain taste like tears

IMG_1569
image by TTQ cc; Uncommon Folk exhibit at MaM

Whirlwind of a rainbow, blind eye of the storm.
Keeper of the bear lodge, brave heart soon to rest.

Never have I seen the clouds like this, never have I seen the river white caps whipped so, such rare light marking off in sacred four directions.

Rarely does the rain taste like tears.

Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years --Uriah Heep
Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years –Uriah Heep Image by Robert via Flickr CC.

Tonight my heart is breaking, yet bursting with gratitude – such dichotomy is the stuff of growth and pain.

Life gives us this and more, and in death the reminder of how short and sweet and tumultuous and tender this gift is.

stained glass glow
stained glass windows; church in NJ, image by TTQ CC license

…the storm shall soon pass, with it that kind-hearted Whirlwind and in doing so will leave us all the better for knowing him.

We sit, still in ceremony with all of you. Prayers are felt.

Doug Ellis via Flickr CC license candle light prayer circle
candle light prayer circle

 

For you who know where I sit tonight, I cannot describe the quality of the light of setting sun on the storm clouds.

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sunset storm clouds over Lake Michigan

(We listen) to the wind whip around the house and he laughs! Fitting to go out in a storm he says… The spikes of light in the cardinal points, something very surreal about it all…

diamonds
image by QThomas Bower, via Flickr CC

My love to everyone in the down south lodge.

Here in the north it’s become a powerful night.

Rainbow Curls image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC license
Rainbow Curls, Iceland image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC

 

–Kristen Andrews

I found this lovely, incredibly moving tribute posted by Kristen Andrews somewhere on Facebook a while ago.  Such beautiful words, such heart wrenching imagery, such love and beauty — it makes my heart ache.

A Song sung to rest the tired dead

http://meadowbrookpsychotherapy.com
Miss you

I’ve known for many months that you were going to die. That doesn’t make the news that you are gone any easier to bear.

I’m thankful I had the chance to let you know how much you meant to me before you were gone.

I wish you had not had cancer. Knowing that you suffered and shriveled makes my heart ache.

Losing you leaves me as the sole caretaker of our shared memories. We both claimed the other as “brilliant” and as the best (teacher/student) we ever had.

We only had about 4 years that overlapped in time and geography, yet your influence and spirit are with me still (more than 40 years and counting).

You were effervescent, ebullient and jaunty. I can still hear your voice and your laugh; I still see your lively eyes and joyous smile.

I didn’t know until last night when I Googled you, that you had taught in Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela as well as at Indiana University. That our paths crossed and that I became your student leaves me humbly grateful.

You changed my life.
Without your talent and knowledge (and patience) I would not be a musician, a pianist, an accompanist, a music teacher, a choir director.
I would not be who I am.

There are not enough words to thank you, dear Susan. There are no words to convey the sorrow; but the joy and the music and the wonderful memories will endure.

all rights reserved, The Tromp Queen
The pianist, 1980.  (Yes, this is me.)

Two poems that will always remind me of you:

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

–Elizabeth Bishop

 

Image by Mimi Phan via Flickr CC, Cherry Bomb
The Wild Cherry Tree

Why does the wild cherry tree
blooming
on the Hudson
make everything
more so
more itself?

So the green
of the elm is greener than
when it stands alone,
the sky
bluer.

So you
are one of those
who make others
more themselves
more what they
are!

Of those who draw them to
the extreme verge,
the edge
that crackles:
that is
your beauty;
that is what
you do.

–Hilda Morley

“The Wild Cherry Tree” from “To Hold in My Hand,” published by Sheep Meadow Press, Riverdale, N.Y.
image via Flickr CC by Bill Rogers, Gone Forever
Gone Forever

(Excerpts below are from a letter I sent many months ago…)

There are no words to thank you for teaching me. Your daughter tells me that you think of me as your best student in all the years you taught, and I thank you for that gift. You were the BEST teacher I ever had! I would not play the way I did and do without your guidance and knowledge.
I’m so thankful that we found each other. You changed the direction of my life, whether you know it or not. Before I had you for piano, I was planning to become a beautician. By my sophomore year in high school, I had begun to think of music as my career.
I’ll never forget how I felt playing that first wonderful Rachmaninoff piece. The power, the beauty, the drama — I fell in love with it and with the piano. Then learning Fantasy Impromptu the next year was a new and completely different journey. I remember spending several weeks just working on the fingering and timing of the first page or two. I fell in love with the beauty of the phrases, with the melodies, with the emotion of the music. I felt like a door had been opened into a wonderful world that I never knew existed. I can still play Fantasie Impromptu mostly from memory even after all these years. Since learning that piece, I’ve loved Chopin’s music. Many of my future teachers continued to let me study Chopin pieces because I was good at it — AND because of the technique and training I got with you.
I think those two gorgeous pieces (and so many others you taught me) gave me so much confidence, not only musically but also personally. I realized I could do something quite well that most people couldn’t do at all and better yet, that I LOVED doing it. I played solos at school and at various community performances, and I felt proud and appreciated. YOU did that for me. I would not have had those experiences or opportunities without your expertise.
I also love the other big pieces we learned together, especially Reflets dans l’eau and the Chopin Ballade (and others). Each piece became part of my heart and soul. I can’t imagine my life without this wonderful music and without you having been in it.
Because of your influence on my life, I in turn have influenced many other lives. Some of the high school students I taught tell me that I made a difference in THEIR lives and that I was their favorite teacher. Parents tell me that students I had when I was a long term sub (for various maternity leaves) still talk about some of the fun things we did in music class many years after I taught them. That is YOUR legacy, too.
I’m sorry I haven’t called, but I am not great at expressing my feelings — especially over the phone. I asked L if she would consider reading this to you so that you will know how much you mean to me. You, your knowledge, your teaching, your expertise — your love of life and your wonderful personality — thank you for sharing part of your life with me and for making me a better person.
Thank you, from the deepest part of my heart.

Scratching the Surface

Be the bridge. Be the light. Be there. image by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Be the bridge.
Be the light.
Be there.
image by The Tromp Queen, CC license

This time of year seems to be filled with peace, joy and love… but when the surface is scratched there is often sorrow, pain and sadness.

I’m praying for several very sad, troubling, desperate situations for various friends and families.

Take time to really listen and be there just in case YOU are the one who is the bridge,
the safety net,
the strong hand to hold.

Be kind.
Be patient.
Be light and salt.

Most of all — be there.

“Please stop me if you’ve heard this one before.”

I heard a song this week for the first time in a long time.  It brought to mind the very first time I heard it which was September 27, 2013.  You might wonder how I know exactly when I heard this song for the first time.  Well, there is a story about that.  I realized the other day that I never wrote about it.  At least I don’t THINK I wrote about it; hence the title for this post.

The song is “Ain’t It Your Birthday?” by Jonny Fritz and the In-Laws.

The words to the chorus go like this:

Hey well ain’t it your birthday?
Then why aren’t you smiling?
I just drove 250 miles
In the middle of the night
On an empty tank
Dodging deer along the way
On a central Virginia moonlit byway
Brought to you by this small town
I always thought I could come home to
Oh well I guess I was wrong

I had attended my Aunt Linda’s funeral in Indiana that late September Friday and I was driving all the way back to Dubuque, Iowa in order to attend the rest of the annual fall guild quilt retreat that weekend.
I had been driving several hours in the dark.  I was tired.  I was drained emotionally and physically.  As always, a family funeral brings together far-flung relatives who do not see each other very often — usually just once  a year or so at the holidays.  It had been a good day of reminiscing and of re-connecting. I was sad, but I knew I had done the right thing in going to the funeral.  I was also looking forward to spending the rest of the weekend among very dear friends being creative and relaxing.  There would be much talking, laughing, eating and sewing.

I had my ipod hooked up to the car stereo and I must have had it on some kind of shuffle.  This wacky country song came on.  I heard the chorus.  I laughed.  Here I was driving over 250 miles at night (okay, it was only 9 pm — not midnight) and I had just stopped for gas.  I was on a curvy, hilly country road in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin and was most definitely being cautious for deer and other night critters that might dash out in front of me.

Then it hit me.  This would have been my dad’s birthday.  September 27.

He loved country music.  The twangier the better.  The more steel guitar and sorrowful the better.  He would turn the radio up really loud in the garage while he was doing his woodworking (making sawdust as he used to call it) and sing along to Johnny Cash or Ernie Ford or anybody that old country music station happened to be playing.

Though he was a marshmallow on the inside, he was not one who usually spent extra time smiling.

He also really, REALLY loved to drive.  He would drive hours just to attend a high school football or basketball game, especially if one of his nephews was playing or anyone from our hometown for that matter.

So — this song surrounding me in that dark car on that lonely, long drive with family on one end and friends on the other — felt like a great big hug from my dad.

The weird part is that I had no idea where this song came from or how it came to be on my ipod.

A solo version by the same guy who is also known as Jonny Corndawg:

I later found out that this song was on a free mp3 album I had downloaded from Amazon, so it didn’t appear out of nowhere.  It just seemed that way. I still like to think it was a hug from my dad and that is was sent to me on that night especially.  (I checked.  Amazon no longer offers this album, free or paid but you can download the song for $1.29).

From The Tromp Queen archives on related topics of quilt retreats, Dad, and being a good neighbor:

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/quality-time-with-quilt-friends/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/5-stitches-and-a-tube-of-glue/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/be-a-good-neighbor/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/be-a-good-neighbor-2/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/missing-dad/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/sensory-links/

Final Few February Haiku

This post marks the end of my February Haiku (part of my Joy 365 project).  This was more difficult than the January photos.  I am already behind on March!  I’m not sure what I will be doing with March yet.  Stay tuned, and as always, thank you for reading and following The Tromp Queen!

25 Tues — First rehearsal with area HS students preparing for upcoming district solo/ensemble contests.

image by TTQ
image by TTQ

Singers prepare songs.
First run-through:  a little shy.
Music minds the gaps.

26 Wed — Meet with photographer at Milwaukie’s Art Museum lobby to take head shots for my new job as MCC accompanist.

image by TTQ, CC license -- at Milwaukee Art Museum
image by TTQ, CC license — at Milwaukee Art Museum

Hair, make-up, jewelry:
Head shots at Art Museum.
Carved marble profile?

27 Thurs — Driving across the state from east to west. Going through Pville en route to quilt retreat.

Driving Driftless roads
Passing bluish-white meadows
Trees and cows dot hills.

Tears rush to fill eyes.
I don’t live here anymore.
“Home” is elsewhere now.

28 Fri 

image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr
image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr

Favorite coffee shop:
Time to chat with my dear friend.
Joyful day begins.

quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license
quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license

Next stop: Quilt Retreat.
Bound with stories, tools, advice,
Hugs, laughter, sorrows.

Connections endure:
Souls and voices — we still hear.
Fabric soothes us all.

One Art: 15 years!

image by jennconspiracy via Flickr CC
image by jennconspiracy via Flickr CC

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

image via NichoDesign via Flickr CC
image via NichoDesign via Flickr CC

One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop.  She worked on this poem for 15 years!!!

This fact boggles my mind.

The words and message of this poem speak to me.  I assume this is because I got a lot of practice in the “art of losing” last year.

I can’t decide if Elizabeth is urging us to hold loosely onto the things of this worlds (keys, watches, houses, cities) — to hold onto only the things that matter, though sometimes we lose those things, too.  Or if she is trying to convince herself that losing all these things, including the things she loves most, is no big deal.  Is she saying, “We enter this world alone and leave it alone?”

I prefer the view I’ve spoken about before:  It hurts because it matters.  Saying goodbye to things you love is painful, but taking the risk of loving is worth the chance of being hurt.  I’d rather have things/people who break my heart to leave behind/say goodbye to/lose than to feel alone in the world, unattached and unloved.

A few more thoughts:  I enjoy the rhymes she makes with disaster.  Faster.  Vaster.  Gesture. Fluster.  The repetition of the word disaster adds interesting structure and emphasis.  Each stanza has three lines, except the last which has four.  Hmmmm. Not sure what that means, but if she worked on this for 15 years, she must have had some intention behind it?  Don’t you think?

I’ve gathered a few more of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems.  I’ll share them in future posts.

from Writer’s Almanac Feb 8 2014:

Poet Elizabeth Bishop, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts (2-8-1911). Her father died when she was a little girl. Her mother had an emotional breakdown from grief and spent the rest of her life in various mental institutions. Elizabeth spent most of her childhood moving back and forth between her grandparents in Nova Scotia and her father’s family in Massachusetts.

She was an extremely slow writer and published only 101 poems in her lifetime. She worked on her poem “One Art” for more than 15 years, keeping it tacked up on her wall so that she could rearrange the lines again and again until she got it right. But she was an obsessive letter writer. She once wrote 40 letters in a single day. She said, “I sometimes wish that I had nothing, or little more, to do but write letters to the people who are not here.” A collection of her letters, One Art: The Letters of Elizabeth Bishop, was published in 1994.

On Another’s Sorrow

On Another’s Sorrow

by William Blake

Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC
Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC

Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Was Crying image by Espen Faugstad via Flickr CC
Was Crying image by Espen Faugstad via Flickr CC
image by Su Heng Pak (peshk78) via Flickr CC
image by Su Heng Pak (peshk78) via Flickr CC

Can I see a falling tear
And not feel my sorrow’s share?
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill’d?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! Never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

Singing Wren image by CaptPiper via Flickr CC
Singing Wren image by CaptPiper via Flickr CC

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird’s grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear —

And not sit beside the next,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant’s tear?

image by Tara Brown via Flickr CC
image by Tara Brown via Flickr CC

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
Oh no! Never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give his joy to all.
He becomes an infant small.
He becomes a man of woe
He doth feel the sorrow, too.

Think not, thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by.
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

image by kenjonbro via Flickr CC
image by kenjonbro via Flickr CC

Oh He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

image by BalancingJane via FlickrCC
image by BalancingJane via FlickrCC

“On Another’s Sorrow” by William Blake, from The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake.

February 4: Happiness Haiku

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nexus_6/3017902989/sizes/l/
image via Flickr CC by nexus6

Girls’ choir spins pure tones
Words of comfort, peace and grace:
No tears in heaven.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.
Rev. 21:4
(New Living Translation)

I got a call on Sunday from the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choirs.  Suddenly, they were in need of a replacement (permanent!) pianist.  Thanks to a friend and fellow accompanist, I was recommended and asked to play.

I went to the first rehearsal this evening.  The group of young 3rd to 5th grade girls meets once a week in an absolutely fabulous downtown Youth Arts center.

The room was filled with red t-shirts, snazzy boots and wiggly, smiling girls.  When they sang it was angelic and the room was transformed into a huge gothic cathedral!

The first song they sang with piano accompaniment was a setting of Rev. 21:4.  My heart lurched when I opened the music. Tears sprang into my eyes as I quickly scanned the piece. This verse was one that I held onto two years on this very day — the day my Dad died — the day he fell asleep on the couch in Indiana and woke up in heaven!

He had been sick for so long and had been so miserable. It was a great comfort to me to read these words and to keep them in my mind and heart that week — through the funeral planning, all the visitation hours, through the sorrow, laughter and tears.

So as I sat there in that room with all the that young vibrant musical energy, I was filled with gratitude and joy.

God brought me through. I believe I was sitting in the exact place I was meant to be at that moment.
Thanks be to God!

Be a good neighbor.

Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc
Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc

Be a good neighbor — Re-visited one year later.

Today is the one year anniversary of my first regular post on The Tromp Queen blog.  Click on “Be a good neighbor” here or above to read that post.

(The VERY first one was called “Apparently I can be talked into starting a blog but I don’t really count that one since it was mostly just an announcement of my presence and intentions).

It is also the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death.

I wrote a post about my dad last May as I contemplated Father’s Day without Dad.  The post is “Missing Dad.”

A year later — I’ve written 140 blog posts as The Tromp Queen.  I have 200 followers here.  I’ve made new friends and have enjoyed this whole blogosphere more than I ever imagined.  I recently started a recipe blog, called The Heat is ON!  My family endured a year cram packed with changes.  New job, new city, new home, new schools, new neighbors — new practically everything.

Some things never change.  I still miss Dad, and I always will.  The events of that day and the week after feel simultaneously quite recent and a long time ago.

Thank YOU for reading, commenting, following and most of all for caring.  I hope you’ll continue to hang around for rest of the journey.

It means more to me than you know.

This Crappy Obituary – For the Woman I Found Dead in the Starbucks Parking Lot

Please take a few minutes to read this incredibly moving story. Yes, it is a TRUE story. I encourage you to read through the comments, too, if you have time. Some of the young woman’s family and friends respond to this blog post. Keep listening to that still small voice — be aware, listen closely and act accordingly whether you want to or not.

Read his follow up post here.  This post was written 12 days after the first one and is called “on being Freshly Pressed and going viral.”

Legionwriter

I thought you were sleeping. It seems silly now, but you must understand, when one sees a person slumped over inside a parked car, the most reasonable conclusion is rarely that the person slumped over is dead. It was the lights from the dashboard that caught my eye. If it weren’t for the lights, I would have missed you completely, and – who knows? – you may still be lying out there, unknowing of the legions of addicts drawn to the verifiable Mecca of caffeine. You’d remain oblivious to the following day’s massive local windstorm and the city’s collective anxiety, followed by elation, when our beloved Seahawks won the big game. You might still be slumped awkwardly over your console, and I suppose your car would be run dry of gas by then, but folks would not be any more observant.

I say it was the lights on your dashboard…

View original post 873 more words

Sorrow prepares you for joy.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/eddi_07/4684277955/
Image by Eddi via Flickr CC license.

Sorrow prepares you for joy.
It violently sweeps everything out of your house,

so that new joy can find space to enter.
It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart,
so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.

Image by James Wheeler via Flickr CC
Image by James Wheeler via Flickr CC

It pulls up the rotten roots,
so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.
Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart,
far better things will take their place.”

– Rumi

This Rumi quote has been in my draft posts for quite a while.  I believe I found the quote through Soul Gatherings, and I saved it thinking I might have something profound to say about it eventually.  I chose a few photographs to enhance the imagery and in the process my thoughts got a kick-start.

I do read more (and different meanings) into this quote now than I did last summer, though. The anniversary of my dad’s death is quickly approaching (Feb. 4).  It will be two years since he died, and I find I still have a lot of baggage to sort through emotionally and spiritually.

Dad's funeral flowers, image by TTQ CC
Dad’s funeral flowers, image by TTQ CC

Also, most of you know I’ve been adjusting to (and grieving for what was left behind, really) all the changes this last year brought. I left a home and community of loving, creative, supportive friends after 17 years (and also left our 18-year-old son there to finish his senior year of HS).  I’m still very much up and down in how I’m feeling about and dealing with all of these issues from day-to-day, even now.

This Rumi quote has, at times, made me angry as I browsed past it in my drafts.  “Sorrow prepares you for joy? Yeah, right.  I’d rather avoid the sorrow part, thank you very much.”  I didn’t/don’t want things or people swept violently out of my life then or now — the sorrow is still very present some days.

But then the older and wiser me chimes in.  Yes, I realize sorrow is indeed an integral and unavoidable part of life. Change happens. For better or worse: It happens to us all.

image by Alexander Boyes via Flickr CC
image by Alexander Boyes via Flickr CC

I continue to have Faith and Hope.
I always believe that I’m going to slog through it,
that I will find equilibrium again,
that the fog will eventually lift.

image by OnceandFutureLaura, via Flickr CC
image by OnceandFutureLaura, via Flickr CC

Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. 
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.*

I’ve watched nature programs enough to know that after devastating, ravaging forest fires come meadows of lush new grass and rich swaths of wildflowers.

My internal voice gives me encouraging words:

Dawn over Webster Lake, image by TTQ CC license
Dawn over Webster Lake, image by TTQ CC license

The darkest hour comes just before dawn.

Olbrich Gardens, image by TTQ CC
Olbrich Gardens, image by TTQ CC

Weeping may last through the night,
but Joy comes in the morning.
(Ps. 30:5 NLT)


Arboretum Gardens in Madison WI, image by TTQ CC
Arboretum Gardens in Madison WI, image by TTQ CC

For everything there is a season, 
a time for every activity under heaven. —
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.**

first leaves, late March at Gov Dodge SP, image by TTQ cc
first leaves, late March at Gov Dodge SP, image by TTQ cc

On the positive side, I am on alert for the new green leaves and roots: both figuratively and literally.

Literally, I planted a lot of spring blooming bulbs in our new yard. I will be thankful and happy when I see them.  I look forward to fragile new growth as summer follows spring, as the roots and leaves grow larger and greener each day.

UW Madison Arboretum, image by TTQ CC
UW Madison Arboretum, image by TTQ CC

Figuratively, I have made some small forays to find and make friends and to begin to send out roots and branches (creatively, musically and otherwise).

I am thankful for each of you who read my blog.  Many of you have been hanging in here with me for pretty much the whole year I’ve been at this.  I appreciate the friendships that have sprung up, the emotional and creative support and inspiration I gather (and hopefully share), and the incredibly kind and thoughtful comments exchanged.

I just tried to find a comment from many months ago that has stuck in my mind.  I looked through all the pages of comments from all my posts and could not find it. I’m not sure who said it, but I DO remember the meaning of it.  I must have either posted something very short or re-blogged something I found interesting but did so saying I didn’t have any coherent thoughts or time to share them because of the move and all the goodbyes and such — and someone very kindly said (and I’m paraphrasing): That’s fine.  Don’t worry.  We’ll be here waiting for you on the other end of it.  When things get back to normal, we will be here ready to hear about it.  

Thank you for caring.

*lyrics by James Taylor from “Fire and Rain.”
**excerpts from Ecclesiastes 3, New Living Translation.

Going Away

Now as the year turns toward its darkness
the car is packed, and time come to start
driving west. We have lived here
for many years and been more or less content;
now we are going away. That is how
things happen, and how into new places,
among other people, we shall carry
our lives with their peculiar memories
both happy and unhappy but either way
touched with a strange tonality
of what is gone but inalienable, the clear
and level light of a late afternoon
out on the terrace, looking to the mountains,
drinking with friends. Voices and laughter
lifted in still air, in a light
that seemed to paralyze time.
We have had kindness here, and some
unkindness; now we are going on.
Though we are young enough still
And militant enough to be resolved,
Keeping our faces to the front, there is
A moment, after saying all farewells,
when we taste the dry and bitter dust
of everything that we have said and done
for many years, and our mouths are dumb,
and the easy tears will not do. Soon
the north wind will shake the leaves,
the leaves will fall. It may be
never again that we shall see them,
the strangers who stand on the steps,
smiling and waving, before the screen doors
of their suddenly forbidden houses.

“Going Away” by Howard Nemerov, from New Poems. © University of Chicago Press, 1981.  Featured on Writer’s Almanac, October 4, 2013.

This poem brings me back to the emotions I lived with most of last year. I tried to describe something quite similar to this poem’s scenario in my this feels final poem and post.  I’m pleased to report that I’m no longer living daily in this emotion. Slowly I’m adapting to my new life, making friends and finding new favorite places.  I still have days when I look back, but most days I’m looking forward or at least being present in my now.

I want to share this poem with photos I found on Flickr (Creative Commons!) to remember that time and to be thankful the pain isn’t quite so immediate now. I appreciate all the love, support and encouragement I’ve had from friends (and family) far and near, in person and through technology. Thank you for being with me on this journey.

We did have an offer on the house back in the other town late last fall, but the deal fell through.  I know some of these feelings and emotions of loss and separation will come rolling back when the house sells. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to face it when it happens. Somehow, I will be.

The Miracle of Grace

Once upon a time there was a young family: a mom, a dad and a darling baby boy. The baby boy had blond curly hair, and was cute as a button. He was quite intelligent, a bundle of energy and very creative. The mother worried that he was an only child. She had Polycyistic Ovary Syndrome so it was very unlikely she would have another baby without major medical intervention. In fact, the boy had been a miracle — helped along by many fertility doctors and nurses through over a year and a half of fertility treatment, culminating in over a dozen shots of Metrodin, AIH, pregnancy, and birth of healthy baby boy!

Three years later. December. The mother and father discussed options. Because of insurance changes there was only one more chance to try the incredibly expensive Metrodin treatment. This time, however, no egg was fertilized. The parents were sad, but tried to accept that another child might not be in their future. They decided another Metrodin treatment was not what they wanted — no matter if the insurance ran out or not.

January. Not long after learning the fertility treatment had failed, the mother had a very vivid dream one night. There was a warm golden strongly comforting voice (no image) that said: “Get a house, lose some weight and the baby need will be solved. Also, remember the story of Abraham and Sarah.” That was it. There really wasn’t a “you will have a baby” message in the dream. The young mother was left with a feeling of peace and woke with a sense of determination — and with a specific plan of action!

February. Though getting pregnant seemed destined for the back burner, two “by chance” conversations at church led the mother to a new fertility doctor in a nearby town. Soon the couple and the new doctor were getting set to try a less expensive and less invasive approach to solve the fertility issues. Then, suddenly the doctor had to leave the country for a couple of months to take care of a family emergency, so the plans to try again to get pregnant were put off for a few months.

In the meantime, the young mother called a realtor (just a few days after having the dream) and started looking at houses. In just a few weeks, a home was found. The couple felt a sense of peace in the new house. Though the house was old, it had the feel of being the “right” place for them to live. This was the place for them create a home with their son. They would be happy there.

At the same time, the young mother (who had struggled with weight issues since her teen years) was inspired by Oprah’s Make the Connection book and managed to lose about 15 or 20 pounds in a couple of months. She got up early, went to the gym and worked out even when the college football or swim team guys were there! It wasn’t easy, of course, especially because of her PCOS, but she was making progress.

April. After the couple of months had passed, the young family had moved into their new “old” house and were getting settled. It was time to call the fertility doctor’s office to set up an appointment. Though it had been 6 or 7 weeks since her last cycle, the young mother knew she was not likely to be pregnant. Three different doctors had told her she would not get pregnant without major medical intervention. Since the mother had been through months and months of treatments, she knew the first thing the clinic would ask was “when was your last cycle?” and “did you take a pregnancy test?” She knew they would not start any fertility treatments until a negative pregnancy test result is in hand. So — she took a test.

It was 6 am. It was the day before her 36th birthday. Odds of getting pregnant for people with fertility issues goes WAY down after 35. It goes down again every year after that.

With a sigh, she took the test. She waited the few minutes. She looked at the stick. She looked at the box. She looked at them both again. Surprise! Disbelief. Doubt. Who can she call this early?

Husband. He is already at work. She calls him.
Both are cautiously excited, but wary.

Anne. “Are these tests ever wrong?” Anne has 4 children. She did NOT have fertility issues. Anne said the tests are very accurate. This could be true!

Who does she call next? Her pastor.

Why? Several reasons.

A major reason is that the pastor also had had fertility issues. The pastor was one of the “by chance” conversations that had led to the new Dr. connection. She understood the issues of fertility because she had been through some of it herself.

Another reason was because of Lenten Vespers.

(Go back to March…) The pastor had done a series of homilies on the topic of healing. HEALING.

She talked about Namaan (2 Kings 5:1-19), about miraculous babies (Elizabeth, Sarah, and others), and about different ways healing could come. One might be healed because circumstances or desires change. One might be healed miraculously and immediately. (It does still happen!) One might only be healed after death, upon reaching heaven. Healing could come in a way different from what anyone might imagine or expect.

The young mother had lunch with the pastor one day during Lent. She told the pastor that she had never considered asking God to heal her, but that after hearing the series of talks it was weighing on her mind. The pastor replied that there would be a “Service of the Word for Healing” when people could come specifically to pray with the pastor for healing. The young mother said she would think about it.

(Early April) The night of the healing service, which happened to be on Sunday night at the beginning of Holy Week, life did not go smoothly in the young family’s home. The couple had a verbal disagreement, and the wife took a tearful walk down to the nearby neighborhood park. She was surprised to find an acquaintance from church sitting on the park bench.

Now this acquaintance was not a bosom buddy. They barely knew each other. It was clear that the young mother was upset, though, so what would turn out to be a very personal conversation got started.

The person in the park had had fertility issues as well. She had never had a child. She and her husband had gone through many rough years. She understood the push and pull of career needs and of family needs. They discussed the pastor’s series of healing messages. They discussed the young mother’s desire to have another child, a sibling for her son and to fill the baby shaped space left open in her heart.

She, the park bench sitter, urged the young mother to go back home to sort things out with her husband. She, the park bench sitter, would go to the healing service and pray for the young mother.

Life kept moving. The couple sorted things out. Holy Week went forward. A few days later, Ash Wednesday arrived.

The couple was new to being Lutheran. Lent was not a familiar concept or process to them. On Ash Wednesday, the pastor put ashes on foreheads and laid her hands on parishioners as they knelt to pray together. The young mother hesitated to go forward because this was a completely foreign concept to her. She believed in Jesus, and had been a Christian for many years. Her faith was strong. She just didn’t know what to think about the ashes and the laying on of hands. She thought it through, though, and decided to go forward. As she knelt, she was overcome with strong emotion — almost like being swept up in a strong wind — tears began to flow. She was nearly sobbing on the way back to her seat and was literally shaking. Embarrassed, she hoped no one could see how the experience had affected her. In the end, the turmoil left and she felt deeply peaceful.

Sunday. Easter Sunday.

Easter egg hunting in the yard, Easter Sunday, 1998
Easter egg hunting in the yard, Easter Sunday, 1998

After church, the boy searched for eggs in the large yard. He had on striped pants and his blond curly hair was adorable. He carried a basket and searched all over the yard (green grass for Easter!) for the hidden eggs. The young mother watched as the father took photos. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, the sky was bright blue with a few white clouds. She had an overwhelming sense of certainty that her son would be fine as an only child. He would have friends, he would attend the wonderful children’s center in town, he would be more than fine.

She realized this was her healing. She was healed of the desire (deep need) to have another child. She was content.

Fast forward and/or rewind back to the day of the pregnancy test, the day before her 36th birthday. April 28.

Hopefully, filling in those details explains why she called her pastor.

That day the young woman went to the Dr. to have the pregnancy test confirmed. It was TRUE. This was REAL. (Side note:  Another really cool thing happened that day. On the way back into her house, she greeted a neighbor she barely knew and invited her in. They ended up becoming best friends and created many happy memories together!)

It was clear in the young mother’s (now mother-to-be again!) mind and heart that the baby’s name would be Sarah. Her middle name was not as easy. Elizabeth? Maybe. Then one of her friends spoke of her dear old Aunt Grace. The Aunt used to say, “Everyone needs a little Grace in their lives.” She thought to herself, “Everyone needs a LOT of Grace in their lives.” Sarah Grace. It felt perfect. God had graced them with a miracle baby; Grace should be part of her name.

Months later, the young mother (now several months pregnant) was in a Sunday morning church service when the scripture from Genesis (21:1-8) which tells the story of Sarah’s miraculous pregnancy was read. The young mother heard the voice again saying “remember the story of Abraham and Sarah.”  She felt like she had a “miracle” sign flashing over her head.

In her heart, she realized she had not thought of the first dream as a check list. She really hadn’t focused on the “list” at all.  She had followed the path that seemed to lie at her feet. It was almost as if just by hearing the words in her dream, they had become the plan and had become reality. Not that she hadn’t worked hard at losing weight or getting the house. She had. She didn’t feel like she had been jumping through hoops or marking things off a “to do” list to “earn” the baby.

Another tidbit: At the first ultrasound back in May, the mother asked for information about the due date and when the baby had most likely been conceived. The answers: Due date was late December. Date of conception: Holy Week. (Service of Healing and Ash Wednesday prayers…remember?) God winks.

The bottom line is: It is hard to describe a miracle.

There are more “God Things” in this story, but I’ve gone on long enough for now.

Flash forward again. December 3.
She comes EARLY.
Three and a half weeks early!

Sarah Grace, 3 days old
Sarah Grace, 3 days old

The pastor visits the young mother in the hospital. She is holding the baby. The baby’s name is Sarah Grace. The pastor and the young mother pray. The pastor’s tears drop gently on the baby’s face as they pray together — Tears of Joy for the miracle of life that lay in their arms.

Grief. Tears.
Prayer. Tears.
Healing. Grace.
Miracle. Tears.
Joy.

Flash forward to the very next Easter.  Sarah Grace was baptized by the pastor in a gorgeous lacy baptismal dress borrowed from Anne (which had been worn by her four children).

Another flash forward. The miracle baby, Sarah Grace, turned 15 this week.

Hallelujah! Joy. Tears. Gratitude.

The not-so-young mother treasures all these things and ponders them in her heart.

Silence is a booming emptiness

Sunset Swim image by familymwr via Flickr CC

 

Do They Know?
By Jill Hasker

Silence is a booming emptiness –
stillness’ sheer weight and presence imposes and expands —
squeezing thoughts as words clang and clamor to be free

Words circle –
unwilling to coalesce
to relay heart depths, currents, soul swells
Words evade – bobbing in choppy waves

How can I convey?
music surrounds me,
reaches in with tendrils and slivers and shivers
‘til – finally home again – a single tear emerges

Do they know?
music’s magic melds and heals…
Joy enfolds sorrow –
both continue to exist –
but the golden glow fills edges, surrounds, gently embraces
and eventually peacefully subdues
the shiny, hard grey remnant

Dregs of dread drop as ashes swept away by shimmering moments of utter beauty.
New shoots emerge, freshly green
fragile durable
resilient unyielding
fleeting eternal

(They/it/we) are not
(gone/lost/empty) but
(replaced/sated/covered) with
(love/joy/beauty).

What was done, shared, said, created is not void –
It endures.
And remembering – still holding it heart close –
our fingers brush this edge of eternity.

I wrote this poem in the wee hours this morning.  On Sunday afternoon, I got to hear the two choirs I used to accompany (for the last 6 or 7 years!) sing their fall concert.  I admit I had been dreading this first time just a little bit — hesitant to hear them sing without me.  I thought I would be swept back into the sadness and sorrow I felt when I said goodbye.  I worried for no reason, though.  Instead of sorrow — I was swept away by the sheer JOY of watching them sing and of listening to the soul stirring music they were making.

I shed one small tear near the very end, when the men’s choir started to sing “Bring Him Home” from Les Miz.

I felt a wave of healing and of gratitude for all that I had shared and experienced with these groups, with these people, in that very place (and in many others).  As I walked away from the hall, the words of a song we had performed ran through my head “Though much is taken, much abides.” (quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson)

I am left with the certainty that what we had and created still exists and that it WILL endure in my heart (and hopefully in theirs as well!).

Sometimes There is Beauty

The Heart
The Heart (Photo credit: petalouda62)

Some of you might remember reading a post I wrote several months ago: It hurts because it matters.

The amazingly talented young singer I describe in that post recently wrote about me on her blog, Sometimes There is Beauty, reflecting on what I wrote. The post is called “Dear Jill.”

Working with people like Amanda is the reason I’m still reeling from the changes this year brought.  I’m now several hours away from them, not playing piano on a regular basis now, and I am still grieving the loss of those deeply personal and creative connections we shared.

This was my reply when I read her post:
I love you, dear Amanda. Thank you for writing these beautiful words and for sharing them with me. My heart feels the same as yours. I try to tell myself that Pooh was right: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” But my heart is still sad and empty without the music and connections we created — day by day, week by week. (Of course, tears are streaming down my face as I write this!) i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) — For Good.

Thirds
Thirds (Photo credit: e_monk)
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
….
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

— by ee cummings

****************

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
……
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
–lyrics of For Good, from the musical Wicked
music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
******

Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel sing For Good, accompanied by Stephen Swchwartz on the piano:

******

fabulous Fazoli piano!
fabulous Fazoli piano!