Choices, Christian, Contentment, eldercare, Faith, Family, Fear, God, Grief, Health, Loss, Love, Perseverance, Relationships, Trust, Uncategorized

Dying Peacefully

Apparently David Bowie did it.  The New York Times reported on January 11, 2016 that the rock icon “died peacefully.”

In fact, I’ve noticed that the phrase “died peacefully” crop ups up frequently in eulogies and obituaries.  “John Doe died peacefully, surrounded by his family.”  So perhaps it shouldn’t have taken me so off-guard when someone leaned in and probed, “Did your dad die peacefully?” 

I stood there dumbstruck, unsure how to answer.   I had just come through a grueling nine days of bedside vigils.  I wasn’t sure what the intent of the question was – did he want to know whether my dad looked serene at the actual moment of death?  Was he grasping to find out if my father’s dying process was comfortable and “easy?”  Was he somehow trying to ease the sting of his own grief by receiving an affirmative answer?

Continue reading “Dying Peacefully”

Choices, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, Fear, God, Grief, Loss, Love, Relationships

My First Christmas Without Presents

thJ5VQ8FZ0I was that kid who got so excited about presents that I spent night after night camped out by our Christmas tree each year. Captivated by the mounds of tantalizing packages, I repeatedly rattled, squeezed and even sniffed the gifts, trying to guess what treasures lay within. The wait seemed almost unbearable as I counted the days until Christmas.

While my passion for presents has mellowed somewhat as an adult, the “Christmas countdown” has continued to tick loudly in my head each year, reminding me of all the things I need to do before the big day. In recent years my list has included writing and sending a Christmas letter, decorating my house, buying presents for family, friends and co-workers, and hosting a Christmas brunch and gift exchange for my brother, his girlfriend, and my dad.

But this year there are no decorations at my house, other than a couple of spindly thWGJ9R4T4poinsettias that are quickly shedding their leaves. I didn’t write my annual letter, search for gifts on Amazon.com, or plan a scrumptious Christmas brunch.

My 2015 holiday season has been radically different – more accurately, my entire world is still reeling from a seismic shift. You see, my precious father went to heaven two days before Thanksgiving. Instead of cooking a turkey, I spent the holiday writing my dad’s obituary. In the days following, I devoted hours to writing a tribute to my dad, planning a memorial service, and putting together a slide show commemorating his life.   This year sympathy cards have far outnumbered the holiday cards I have received, and remnants of funeral flowers adorn my home instead of a pre-lit tree. Continue reading “My First Christmas Without Presents”

Christian, Faith, Friendship, Grief, Loss, Trust

When Sudden Death Strikes

th[2]My coworkers and I received the sad news last week that one of our colleagues had passed away. It was a shocking revelation to many, as few knew how ill he was.   Only a few days before his death he had learned that he had stage four cancer.  Most employees hadn’t even heard about the diagnosis, let alone that he was near death. As I sat with my coworkers at his funeral just days ago, many of us were still reeling from the abrupt loss. I couldn’t help but think back to the first time I was faced with the sudden death of a colleague. I was much younger—in my late-twenties, and Jeannette’s passing hit me with much greater intensity. We had not only been teammates in a tight-knit Christian camping ministry,  we were very close friends and neighbors. The post below is based on the article I wrote in response to my first experience with sudden loss and grief. It also turned out to be my first published piece in a national Christian magazine. Continue reading “When Sudden Death Strikes”

Christian, Contentment, Encouragement, Friendship, God, Grief, Loss, Prayer, Singles

Pain in the Greeting Card Aisle

Greeting card aisle

When I was younger I used to love browsing greeting cards. I found it entertaining to read the sweet sentiments and clever humor.   While I still enjoy the quest to find the “perfect” card for someone, I also find that perusing the wide array of cards can trigger twinges of sadness, too.

One of the first times I felt pain in the greeting card aisle was in May 2008. A bright display of Mother’s Day cards was positioned strategically in the grocery store to make sure no one forgot to say “I love you” to mom on her special day. I wouldn’t have forgotten. In fact, I always purchased a second card along with a Mother’s Day card because my mom’s birthday was May 11 (sometimes the two occasions fell on the same day)! The problem was, that year I had no mom to purchase Mother’s Day and birthday cards for. She had gone to heaven five months earlier. The cards ushered in a wave of sadness as a realized I would never purchase another Mother’s Day card again.

Today I made a trip to the Dollar Store, where the wide selection of inexpensive cards wooed me in.   As my eyes swept the different headings, I became painfully aware of how few categories I could buy from.   I jumped from section to section: Grandparent cards – no. Mom cards – no. Sister cards – no. Nephew or Niece cards – no. Husband or romantic connection cards – no.   Son or daughter cards – no. Grandchildren cards – no.   I also noticed the type of cards I had never received: bridal shower, wedding, anniversary, and birth congratulations, to name a few.

We all face reminders of what we’ve lost or of what we’ve never had. Sometimes those twinges of grief or sadness hit us at unexpected moments. While it’s probably not advisable to start bawling uncontrollably in the card aisle, I think it’s healthy to give ourselves permission to acknowledge the pain caused by a loss or an unfulfilled dream.   Let’s admit it; it hurts. To bury our feelings and pretend we are “just fine” is as artificial as some of the cheesy greeting cards on the shelf.

In addition to admitting the pain to ourselves, it’s often helpful to share how we’re feeling with others. The first place we can go is to our Heavenly Father. God is immediately accessible and we can whisper a prayer anywhere, anytime and be assured he is listening.   He is an ever-present help in times of struggle, and encourages us to cast our cares upon him.

We can also seek out earthly friends. Recently I was carrying (and trying to hide) my deep frustration about an ongoing struggle. In a moment of vulnerability I shared how I was feeling with a trusted person in my life. While my friend couldn’t “fix” the situation, the simple act of verbalizing how I felt lifted my spirits. In return, I need to be that safe place for my friends when they need to share their areas of pain.

The reality is, very few people have a reason to buy cards from every section of the Hallmark store. Each of our lives unfolds differently, and everyone skips certain sections of the card racks. In addition, most of us end up receiving cards we wish we didn’t have to, like those that arrive when we are ill or have lost a loved one.  In truth, the greeting card aisle can be a reminder of painful things. But, it can also be an indicator of life’s blessings.

My scrapbooks and file boxes are overflowing with cards from precious people over the years . . .birthday cards, holiday cards, graduation cards, congratulations cards, encouragement cards, thank you cards, sympathy cards, and “just-because” cards. They remind me that my life has been rich in experiences and in relationships with amazing friends and family.  And I have sent oodles of cards in return, celebrating their joys and expressing my support during their losses.

The next time I go card shopping, I won’t be afraid to admit it if a sneak attack of pain comes along with the task. If it does, I know that God and my friends are available to get me through it. I’ll also strive to be thankful for the opportunity in front of me. As I hunt for the ideal card, I will think of the intended receiver – and be grateful for that person’s presence in my life.  And I’ll remember that the simple act of hand-picking a card, writing a personal note, and sending it may be just the encouragement my friend needs to deal with the greeting card aisles in his or her life.

——————————————————————————————————

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you . . .” Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . .” I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NASB)