Monthly Archives: October 2015

Autumnal Memories

IMG_3872Rustling red leaves on the young oak tree remember past dreams. Dreams that my mother had to see this tree take root and grow in the yard, rising above her home’s roof. Dreams of grandchildren and great grandchildren playing beneath it, finding a place of rest and refuge as they runaround in games of tag and hide-and-seek or sit and read a favorite book. An image of a family rooted in the solid ground of faith and one another.

In its first year, some of the leaves and branches withered, almost as if this ground couldn’t support it. The hoped for strength was disappearing. But with some extra fertilizer and a few strategic trims, the tree had the needed nourishment. Finally, the buds opened and leaves again covered the branches late in the spring looking forward to its glorious fall colors

However, the dreams of seeing this tree mature over the decades through my mother’s care disappeared while she passed away last fall as red leaves slowly fell to the ground.

I cry knowing that she’s not sitting in the living room looking out of the window and relishing the red hues as the tree flourishes for a third year. But it’s not only her lost dreams of seeing a majestic oak grow that have me crying, it’s the lives of her children and grand children of which she will not be a physical part. The loss of times that we don’t get to spend with her to be encouraged with her smile and words. The loss of her absolute joy in seeing beauty before her without critique or condemnation. The loss of the stories that won’t be.

Still I see the brilliant red that my mom was looking forward to enjoying every year to welcome autumn’s call, celebrating the year past and the one to come. As I look at the leaves moving in the breeze of this autumn afternoon, I experience my mom’s unadulterated joy.

This tree, though it reminds me of the past, also pulls me into the present, into the heart and hands my mom held open before all of life. I long to fill my days with this posture. To drink in what is before me today. The colors, the conversations, the opportunities. The see through this tree the beauty it brings for today and the hope for tomorrow. It will continue to grow and my mom’s children and grandchildren will continue to live, rooted in the life soil she tilled and nourished for us.

Today red leaves, tomorrow the shade of a full grown oak and the stories of family and friends coming to life out of the lives of those that have gone before. A brilliant showing.

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Walking into Grief’s Emptiness

IMG_3806At the end of the evening of ministry or visiting with friends, I’m eager to get home. When I arrive I turn the key in lock and open the door. All is quiet. Usually a small orange and white cat greets me, with a grey one not far behind. But there is no “How was your day?” along with a readiness to listen. These past months I’ve longed to return home and share my day, my evening, my latest dilemma. However, I find instead an empty space following my mom’s death.

When I encounter these space, I internally cry out that the story can’t end here. I have so much more to share with her and that I want to learn from her. There are so many more places for us to visit and people for her to love.

In a journal I try to record my thoughts and frustrations in this emptiness. Friends and students are also around to listen. But still, who wants to hear endless small, mundane happenings from someone else’s life? A mother wants to hear all these things; at least my mother wanted to hear. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been able to share that the dinner with students went well or that I don’t know how I’m going to make budget. Eleven months since I’ve received her unconditional love and the best hug ever or simply heard that she was listening without being overwhelmed with well-meaning advice.

As the tears flow more readily now, I yearn to get past this season grief. To step into places that are filled instead of empty. Yet, I’m learning that this time is a gift. I’m remembering and holding on to the love of both my mother and father more fully as I recognize the emptiness in my life carved out from their physical absence. I’m also recognizing the solid foundation they left for me. A foundation of faith, education, and love that continues to support me today.

Moreover, during these times I’m more aware of the people in my life and around the world facing their own spaces of emptiness. Holding out empty hands in sorrow I know I am not alone and can maybe help fill the emptiness of others – not with easy solutions, but with companion tears. During such times as these, our eyes don’t have to be dry. In fact, God himself is intimately acquainted with grief in seeing and experiencing emptiness.

He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
– Isaiah 53:3

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[e] in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.
-John 11:33-35

In this new season of grief it’s not time to seek comfort in just any promise of fullness, but to look into the emptiness and reach out. The house remains quiet when I enter. Are there clear answers? A response to the quiet emptiness of home? Not one that I’m hearing now. And I don’t know what it should look like. What I do know is that I can’t manufacture an answer that will satisfy – either for myself or for others – and as I try to manufacture something, the emptiness only increases.

Yet, there is a Companion who will remain with us, tears and all.  A Savior who also wept is ready to accompany each of us along the way.  Through Jesus fullness comes through the emptiness as we learn to rest on him alone and walk with others.

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