Tag Archives: death

Guest Post: 5 Years – It Seems Impossible!

I am thrilled to have Jeannine Sawall sharing on the blog today.  Our paths crossed at a Moms/Sons Weekend at Village Creek Bible Camp a few years ago. We have a lot in common and enjoy being Facebook friends.  Yesterday Jeannine posted this essay on Facebook, and I asked if I could share it as a post on my blog.  I am so grateful that she agreed.  Thanks, Jeannine!

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my Mom’s going home.  

It seems impossible to believe that much time has passed since she was suddenly and unexpectedly plucked from our lives.  It seems impossible that in that time, I have had two sons get their licenses, start and graduate from high school and the older one of them start and finish his first year of college.  My younger two sons have finished elementary school and moved onto middle school.  My brother started and graduated from college and started his career as a nurse.  My step-dad has re-married and relocated twice already! And what does all that have to do with my mom’s passing?  It seemed impossible at the time life could move on, but it has.

In those first few days/weeks after my mom died, it seemed impossible in some moments for me to breathe, let alone get up, shower, go to work and carry on with life.  They were hard, grief filled days of sorrow and missing; heavy days where “gravity becomes so physical you wonder if the horizon changed directions” and you just never noticed.  How could we ever move on?  But since the sun continues to rise and set despite the missing; hours turned into days, days into weeks and weeks into years and we are at another anniversary.

And it’s a strange thing, the anniversary of losing someone…do you celebrate?  Do you grieve openly without feeling like you’re looking for pity or that you should have “moved on already?”  Does it make others feel uncomfortable and if they do, is that their problem or mine?  Even the theraputic effect sharing my feelings with the written word offers…there’s a part of me that wonders if after 5 years, I should remember alone? Grief becomes a solitary journey the more time passes.  But I can say,  even 5 years later, I sometimes feel like I want/need the affirmation that it’s still okay to cry because I miss my mom; especially on days like today.

So while it seems impossible we could ever move on after the loss of my mom, we have and we are.  The Lord continues to offer His love and comfort each and every day.   I am able to look up and see my God who sees me; who has grieved with me and who comforts me.  I have had friends who have walked along side and while the journey has grown more solitary, they are always there on days I need them.  God has raised up women in my life who stand in the gap for my mom. I love them and am so grateful for their presence.  My brother and I continue to share a close relationship and we remember together.  And on those tear filled days, when the missing still takes my breath away, while it seems impossible, I am able to look forward with hope to an incredible reunion and I know without a doubt my mom is more alive today than she was on this morning 5 years ago.  It seems impossible, but I am really and truly jealous of her.

5 years….it seems impossible.  Love and miss you Mom!  Save a place for me!!

“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”~Matthew 19:26

About the author: Jeannine is a wife and busy mother of four boys. She works in property management, writes for FreshStart Devotions, and actively walks besides those experiencing grief.  Jeannine lost her mom 5 years ago in a car accident and shares openly and honestly about her journey through grief and “the missing.”

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I Didn’t Need to Join This Club

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Membership is supposed to have its privileges, but there is one membership card I would like to throw out the car window, drive over a few times, get out and light a match to it.  This card never seemed appealing before I received it (in fact, I don’t think I knew the card existed before I abruptly received it), I did not apply for it, and I have no idea how I was picked to receive it.

It seems like this particular club likes to accumulate members, but none of the members are excited about joining. We often do not even realize that there is a club.  For some of us, membership catches us totally off guard – it happens completely out of the blue for some while for others we see it coming but do not want to accept it.

This card is not a physical card, nor is this an actual club…though it certainly is starting to seem like one as membership increases almost weekly according to my Facebook feed.

I am not even sure what to name this club as clubs should have catchy names that make you want to join, pay your dues, and spend time hanging out. And that is not what this club is about.

After being in this club for over a decade, I am ready to get out.  The problem is that I can’t.  Once a member, always a member…but there are no beneficial privileges for members of this club.  The privilege of this club is a life sentence of grief, heartache, and pain.

I talked about this club with a friend through Facebook messaging yesterday, but it was not the first time that the concept had rattled around in my brain.

When we were kids, we wanted to belong to something, to be a part of a secret club, to gain membership to something…and these clubs/groups were appealing if they were the more exclusive, the more particular in their qualifications,  or the more narrow the field of possible entrants.  We wanted entrance to something exclusive.

Well – nothing is more exclusive feeling than grief, huh?

I stand here today with all of you in the club and say that grief is a hard road, and – though I know it is impossible to do so – I would like to exchange my membership card and get my loved one(s) back.  I may know things now that I did not know before, but I would trade that information, feeling, and understanding back in…

Unfortunately, there is no getting out of the club.  We are here, membership is growing, and we are stuck with trying to figure out this new way of living.  I would like to say that there is a way out, but there is only a way a through.

So – here is where I am today with my membership status: I am a more senior member than someone else (my mom passed away 11 years ago), and that makes me responsible to turn toward the “newbies” and lend a hand.  While I did not ask to be a member, I do have responsibilities as a senior member. I need to be aware of that…and maybe that is why I not only write blog posts about my grief (because the writing is for me) but also hit publish when I am finished.

To all who have recently joined the club, here are some truths about the longer standing members.

  1. We will not ask you to get over it. While we know that accepting the death of a loved one is important, we will never ask you to claim that you are over it.  It will hurt like crazy sometimes even years after you have started to breath normally again. But you may also have good days sooner than you think, and that is ok too.
  2. We will do our best not to say stupid things. There are loads of dumb things that we have said to others in the past that we had said to us as we experienced the passing of a loved one. We have attempted to put them into our “don’t ever say that again” catalogue. However, we may let one slip sometime, and we hope that you will point it out, laugh with us about what a dumb thing it is to say to a grieving person, and still be our friend…because we still need friends too.
  3. We can handle your tears. And we might just cry with you when you cry. Do not be alarmed by this. Tears are good for us, they cleanse our bodies of bad toxins, and they refresh our eyes so that we can see (both literally and figuratively) better.
  4. We will listen over and over again. It will seem that the rest of the world moves on, and it does.  We all need to realize that. But – when you need to say how sad you are, how confused you are, and how hopeless you feel, we will listen, we will try not to fix it, and we will do our best not to share our story instead of listening to yours…unless you want to hear it…because we sometimes need to tell it too.

To those of you not in the club yet, don’t worry…it seems that eventually everyone is in, and we all  just keep getting more and more into the inner ring and our cards get upgraded. The good news is that you really are not alone…even when you feel that way.  While there are plenty of others in the club (and I am thankful for the guidance of others who joined before me and who cared for me in my earliest membership days as well as now), there is One who knows grief in a way that we could never fathom.

If you would like to read more about how God brings hope through grief, click here.



Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

I’m Not Planning to Get Over It

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last night, a thunderstorm brewed all around us as the huz and the kids played a new lawn game that they created using an old bowling ball and their bodies.

Storms are common in Minnesota summers.

They roll in, become violent – sometimes dangerous, and then move on with beams of sunlight replacing the darkness that they brought with them.  Thunderstorms, by definition, are unstable and violent. They occur when two very different kinds of air masses (cool air and warm air) come together and have an argument about who gets the space. Their argument is our thunderstorm.

Last week, my children graduated from high school. I wrote a post about my conflicting thoughts and experienced quite a response. Thank you to all who commented on last week’s post. To catch you up on that event: I did not cry at the ceremony, nor did I cry at the graduation party.  Ok – let’s be honest, my eyes leaked a little at both events!

What undid me was the Sunday morning church service when we sang one of my mom’s favorite hymns – Holy, Holy, Holy at the very beginning of the service. I sobbed (though briefly) as a thunderstorm raged within me.

There is no better description. It was an unstable and violent kind of emotional experience that rolled in quickly, caught me off-guard, and crashed open the floodgates and released the precipitation of tears. Grief had found me, and it collided with joy…their argument was my thunderstorm…right there in the front pew.

As the tears rolled down my face, I grieved that my mom had not been at my kids’ graduation to be the proud grandma that she would have been.

Tomorrow marks the eleventh anniversary of my mom’s passing. That this day comes only a week after my children’s graduation is a bit of ironic truth about grief that I have thought about many times over the past decade: life goes on even when we grieve. Babies are born, friends get married, and mothers die – all on the same day.

That I was able to make it through graduation events and and focus on the joy of my children’s accomplishments only to be slapped across the face with a reminder – through a hymn of all things –  of whom was missing from the event is just typical of grief.

And this week’s experience has reminded me of a truth that I’ve known for a while: we may never get over the death of a loved one.

My pastor huz tells families who are experiencing the death of a loved one that “death is not something you get over; it is something you get through.” There is wisdom in this. If we try hard to get over the losses that we experience, we may try to suppress how we feel about that loss.

Grief is common in any season.

“Getting over it” often means to us that we do not acknowledge that our people are still gone even years later. That my mom was not at my children’s graduation ceremony was something I needed to acknowledge, and our worship pastor made sure that was the case even though he had no idea that is what would happen when he planned for us to sing Holy, Holy, Holy.

And there simply is no getting over that; I simply had to get through it.

As I have reflected on joy and grief this week, how they are partners in crime – often playing good cop/bad cop with my emotions, I have come to realize a few things about what “not getting over it” means and wanted to share them with readers.

  1. Getting through it should not rob us of our joy. While grief comes at unplanned times and often at inconvenient ones, we must be diligent to acknowledge it briefly and then go back to our present joys – whatever they may be. On Sunday morning, I had my little sob-session in the front pew through the first song and then moved on to the joy of day.
  2. God brings people to fill in the gaps. Our family has experienced an overwhelming love from our church family over the years and in this specific graduation season. While they do not replace my mom, their presence certainly buoys us with their support, love, and generosity. I will forever be grateful for this truth in our lives.
  3. Our grief allows us to minister. Death is not a unique experience. Though the circumstances are often different, the truth of loss is not. And once we have lost someone close to us, we enter into a new understanding of what death is and of what death does to those left behind. Before that experience, we could be supportive to a certain degree. Once we have that experience, we have a new understanding and realize that being there for someone is different than we thought it was before.Our presence, often without words, truly is enough.
  4. Grief is not linear. Talk about irony – the kids’ first set of college books arrived in the same Amazon shipment as Invitations to Tears: A Guide to Grieving Well by Jonalyn Fincher and Aubrie Hills. Though I have not had a chance to read the whole thing, I skimmed the pages on Monday night and this theme rang through the book. And I know this to be true. If grief were linear, there would be an end point…if there is an end to grieving the loss of my mom, I clearly have not found it yet.

This morning – the day after the storm – the sun is shining brightly, and the storm has left a refreshing coolness behind it. I may even open my windows to let in some refreshing air. It is much like the sigh of relief that I exhale after a good cry.

True confession: I hate to cry. 

But after a good cry, once I get over the puffy eyes, the snotty nose, and the headache, I tend to feel as though I am restarted in my perspective on life. A good cry acknowledges that I am still getting through it and that I will get through it – with the help of God and the gap-fillers.

PS: There is a storm brewing to the northwest of Minneapolis, but I doubt that it will come to us. The next chance of storms seems to be on Saturday. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a grief forecast?

PPS: Click here to read other June 13/mom’s passing posts for the back story and how I have progressed over the years on this grief journey.


Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

Do We Have DeathDays?

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my mom’s death.  She breathed her last breath before noon on a Friday morning – a day when I was supposed to go to a wedding, a day that was weeks before the doctor had predicted she would die, and a day on which payroll for the motel had to be done.  It is strange the things that we remember, isn’t it?

As I started to go on in writing this post, it sounded familiar in my head and to my fingers.  The opening paragraph and what would follow sounded like I had written it before.

So – I bipped on over to my WordPress dashboard and searched for all of the blogs written about June 13, my mom’s death-day (if we have a birthday, we must also have a death day…try that greeting out sometime, “Happy Deathday!”  Do you think they will write a song about it?  Sorry…getting morbid and dark…).

Back to my search: I found that I have written about my mom’s death a lot since I have had a blog.  And reading the posts allowed me to see my progression through grief.  Last year’s anniversary was the best and might be the last one I need to write…ok, probably not!

So – here are a few. Read them.  Comment on them. Share them.  My grief shared with others means that others feel comfort that they are not alone…and THAT is a huge thing in this thing called grief, for to be alone in our grief is what leads to despair and despair to all kinds of bad decisions.  But shared grief finds someone else sitting next to us – maybe not saying a word or maybe saying several words in a rambling blog post.

And that “sitting next to us” brings a bit of heaven to Earth.

Here are some of the posts – I am sure that there are more, but I got tired of looking:

PS: Yes – it still hurts. Some days more than others.  Some days less than others.  And most of the time, it just feels strange…and that is how I think it is supposed to feel. Death was never part of the plan, but sin ushered it in and “numbers our days.”  Someday there will be no more death, and that day will be glorious.


Filed under faith, Relationships

Was it a “Good” Friday?

Unlike most Holy Weeks in my past, I have been traveling and focusing on things like college visits, family time, and…driving.  As a pastor’s wife, Holy Week tends to be one in which our family focuses much time and preparation…and go to church.  This year is very, very different because of this travelling week.

Last night, we were on the road – not at the Maundy Thursday service. 

Today, we are still on the road (at least for part of the day).

Unlike most Holy Weeks, though, this year I have had a book (Long Live the King by Dale and Jonalyn Fincher)  and a little book group to help me focus my mind on the last week of Christ’s life.

Today is Good Friday.

Today, we remember that Christ died on the cross. Today, we remember His suffering. Today, we remember that we were the cause of His death.  Today…”good”?

What is so good about today?

“Celebrating” death is a very foreign thing to most of us.  Death hurts.  It is not fun.  We miss the one who has died.  We suffer.  We cry.  Part of us seems to die along with him or her, and we want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.  Or perhaps we are angry and want to lash out.  We want to cry out and shake our fist at whatever disease, accident, or incident brought on the death.

More than anything, though, we want that person back.

There is no celebration in death.  There is nothing good about it. Even when we know that our loved one, taken over by pain from their disease, is now released from that pain, we see no good reason for it.

Death snatches something precious from us, and we mourn.

In Long Live the King, Dale Fincher calls this day “dark Friday.”  My soul responds to that phrase so much better, for it was, indeed, a dark day – literally, according to Matthew 27:45 – “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.” 

And then Christ died.




So what is good about this?

At the beginning of the chapter for Friday in Long Live the King, the Finchers quote a Scottish preacher named James S. Stewart.  His quote tells us what is good about this particular Friday.

They gave him a cross, not guessing that He would make it a throne.

Without the hope of Easter Sunday, the “good” of the dark Friday is nonsense.  However, we live on the other side of Easter Sunday. 

We know of the resurrection.  We know that the story does not end on the dark Friday.

And that which we know, we should tell. 

For without the hope of the resurrection for all, death is a dark day.

May today be a day filled with reflection, gratitude, and hope…Sunday is coming!

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Grief Pangs

As I do almost daily, I read my friend Marilyn’s blog post on Saturday.  She has started a weekly Saturday feature that is so fun – a wrap up that entails some of her favorite internet finds, things that are on her heart, and what is currently on her bedside stand (in other words, what book [s] might she be reading right now).

Almost as compelling as the blog post itself are the comments left by a handful (which is sometimes a very large handful) of daily followers.  Marilyn interacts with her commenters as one would a friend, and she does so – whether they have met in person or not – because they are.  I have come to enjoy her friends as well.

What happened in my heart on Saturday in my heart is something that has happened other times as I have read the comment section. It is not terribly new to me. However, it does always catch me off guard.  The thought has stayed with me now for a few days which usually means I am to write a post about the thought, but I almost would prefer not to do so.

I had a grief pang.

In June, we will remember for the tenth year in a row the death of my mom.  After 10 years, the pain is both much more dull and just as fresh as it was the morning that she died.  While I originally thought that I could predict what would bring about the grief pangs, I now know that I have absolutely no idea what might and what might not do so.

Marilyn’s mom is a frequent commenter in her comment section.

And the great part about the fact that she is a commenter is that she identifies herself in exactly that way – Marilyn’s Mom.  Everyone else has their first name or their blog name or even their Twitter sign @tweeter_someone, but Marilyn’s mom is just Marilyn’s mom.

The thought that went through my mind the first time I saw this was the same thought that went through my mind on Saturday.

That is so cool; I am so jealous.

At first, I scolded myself.  Stacy Ann, you can’t be jealous!

What a horrible feeling to have toward my good friend.  It is not her fault that her mom is alive and mine is not.  It is not her fault that her mom comments on her blog while mine never had the chance. 

And then I realized that I do not feel this feeling toward my friend.  Rather, I feel it because it is just another reminder that my mom is gone. 

I am honestly happy that other women still have their moms around.  It stinks that mine is gone, and I do not really wish these feelings on anyone else.  The problem is that their moms being around is not a quiet occurrence.

They have something that I do not have.

As I wrote the previous sentence, another thought crossed my mind: That is always the problem with us as humans.  We compare our situations, and we find that we are lacking. Rather than seeing the great things that we have in our lives, we see only what others have that we do not.

I realize that it is ok for me to be sad about my mom being gone; however, I have to ensure that I do not stay that way for too long.  These things happen. People die.  Every second of every minute of every day of every month of every year – someone…many someones dies. 

And when they do, we are left with a sincere sadness that they are gone.

While we can be sad, we must look around us and be willing to keep on living.  They are gone, but we are here.  We are sad, but there are many others around us who need us. And they need us to live…to be alive.

Grief pangs can put us on the sidelines, but we have to return to the game.  We are not meant to be spectators; we are meant to be participants (I initially wrote players but worried about the double meaning – ha! Glad for the comic relief?).

Are you on the sidelines today? Be gentle with yourself. Do something calming or chaotic – whatever you need to do.  But get back into the game…soon.  The rest of your team needs you, and they want you to play.

By the way: this coming Saturday would have been my mom’s 63rd birthday.  As I read Marilyn’s post that day, I will thank God that her mom is able to comment – what a gift!


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Nine Years…

It was a “Friday the 13th” morning in June 2003, and I was supposed to jump in a car to drive from Grand  Forks, ND, to Minneapolis, MN, in order to attend the wedding of some good friends.  But when I went into her bedroom to say goodbye for the wedding, I knew that attending a wedding far away from her bedside would be a bad idea.  Instead, I called the huz and told him that he and the kids should come to Grand Forks.

And before noon that day – before they had arrived – she was gone.

The six month battle with cancer – one with an unfair disadvantage of being too rare and found too late  – ended quietly and most likely, aided by strong medication that had clouded her thinking for a few weeks, painlessly.  In fact, to call it a battle implies that both sides fought, and – though she tried a few medical treatments – for the most part, her side of the battle was fought by those on their knees.

Many people had begged God to intercede…

On the Monday night before, she had eaten her last real meal with us  – ravioli. From then onward, she sipped on liquid food; I think it is called Ensure which makes me think of old people…and, at 53, she was far from old. The hospice nurse visited often, and we knew that we had entered a new stage.  She no longer argued with my presence to help her with her needs, and – though she tried to help – I had moved into “the know” of the business side of their lives.  Just the night before a medical professional had visited her in person and had said, “It is most likely weeks at this point rather than months.”

We did not know it would be hours.

In the nine years since my mother’s death, I have wrestled with every stage of grief, have revisited them often, and have found that the strangest parts of life will make me the saddest.  Perhaps others “do grief” better than I do, or perhaps they just do not wear their emotions on their sleeves.

Maybe I do not either.

In fact, for the most part, I would assume that anyone who does not read my blog frequently would guess that I am “over that.”  It often catches people off guard – those who did not know me through that time of my life – when I talk about my mom in past tense, but past tense it is as there is no other tense which serves well.

There is also no tense that serves well the limbo that a now motherless daughter can use to talk about the years between her mother’s death and the present.  There are so many things that serve as time markers in our lives, and the death of parent is definitely one of those markers.  It works well in the list of markers (put in the order of my life which differs from others): graduation from high school, marriage, the birth of a child, graduation from college, the birth of another child, moving to a new state, moving to a new country, returning to the original country, moving to a new state, and the death of a parent.

And a line is drawn there – at the ominous moment when all that was became different, when what I knew to be true no longer was, and how I lived my life was altered by that one permanent outside force called death.  When we moved to another country, we knew we would return some day…it was temporary.

But there is absolutely nothing temporary about death.  Someone who was here is now gone, and that person will not come back. For those of us left to grieve, it is a new state of being that is full of difference, overwhelming feelings, and an utter loss at how to move forward. What was is gone, and nothing that comes to be will replace what was.

Life as we knew it will never be again.

But life goes on.  Each morning greets us with new daylight.  Children must be fed and nurtured.  Businesses must be run.  Jobs await our return.  Life goes on…and so does the sadness.  Every day, it is different.  Every year, it changes.   Even so (to steal a line from Les Miserables), “the grief goes on and on and on…”

The amazing part about grief and hope is that they are not opposites; it is not that we have a certain amount of one and a balance of the other. They can co-exist.  We can be 100% grief-stricken while having 100% hope.

I do not think that I knew that or even realized that until recently when a friend introduced me to a new version of Myers-Briggs type personality scale called LuminaSpark. The concept of the Myers-Briggs scale is that you are either introverted or extroverted, either intuitive or sensory, either feeler or thinker, and either judging or perceiving.  LuminaSpark measures how much of each one uses in every day life.  As readers might guess, in my bipolar tendencies I find this to be true.  In fact, on the scale I am nearly 90% extraverted as well as nearly 90% introverted.  It keeps every one guessing, I am sure!

When we apply this thinking to grief and hope, we no longer have to think about whether we are grief-stricken or hopeful.  We can be both!  And that thought in and of itself gives me life.  I used to think that if I missed my mom too much or too often that I was just caught up in grief and neglecting the hope that I have in the resurrection through Jesus Christ.

But this is just not true.

It is not grief or hope.

It is grief with hope.

That makes all the difference in my life.

Accepting that grief and hope will be my reality – possibly for the rest of my life – has been so comforting.  I do not have to get over anything in order to be a healthy and productive individual.  I can give grief its due and embrace the hope that I know to be true – that one day I will dance with the angels next to my mom who has been practicing for years.


The huz wrote an amazing article this week over on his blog.  He combines theology with a tribute to my mom.  It was great, and it made his point well.  You should really check it out.


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She Would Be 62…

Today is my mom’s birthday.  I wrote that sentence and immediately questioned my grammar.  My mom passed away eight years, eight months, and twenty-five days ago.  Today would be my mom’s birthday…if she were still here.  I did have to pause and count the years, months, and days.  I do not sit around keeping track of that on a daily basis.  From time to time, though, it is good to sit for a minute and count.  To remember…

Some days it seems longer than that; other days, it seems like just yesterday that I sat next to her bedside after she had taken her last breath.

Some people live life as if tomorrow may never come.  They throw all caution to the wind, and they live.  Before my mom’s cancer diagnosis (which came six months prior to her death), she already lived that way. There was always a new project, a new class, and a new friend.  After she died, I spent years cleaning out her belongings because there was simply so much to go through – halfway finished cross-stitching, crates of projects, and books…so many books.

When my mom died, she had come to terms with it.  She did not feel punished by it necessarily, and she did not exactly welcome it (although by the time it came, she had so much pain from the cancer that it was likely a relief).  But she had accepted it.  She had a strong faith that Jesus and had died for her sins and that she would go to heaven to celebrate life with Him.

Every once in a while, I ask myself if I have come to terms with her death and if I have accepted it.  I have that same faith; I believe very strongly that she will be in the presence of her Lord.  Having that certainty is comforting – no doubt – and I do not doubt God’s goodness just because she is no longer with us.  I do not understand why she had to die at such a young age, but I understand that we all do die.  I am not sure any of us die at the time when our loved ones think it is the right time.  I also do not think that a “right” time for my mom to die could have ever come.

Life does not stop just because someone passes away, but I think our current society does not know how to mourn well.  To a certain extent, I would like to adopt some of the Jewish customs of mourning.  I particularly would have appreciated the shiva time – the one week of mourning following the burial of the deceased.  During this time, extended family members and friends visit the home of the deceased where the first degree relatives gather for the week.  One of the most compelling parts (to me) of the shiva tradition is that those close family members of the deceased are not the one who entertain the visitors nor are they obligated to greet or talk to the visitors.

Those who visit do so to care by being present with those who mourn.

Ministering through presence to those who grieve also seems to be a lost art.  I do not do it well.  I want to speak words of encouragement or share from my own experience. I need to learn to shut up and sit down next to those in mourning and just be quiet with them or to listen…but mostly, I just need to allow them to be what they need to be.  Mourning has its own face in each of us, and we need to learn to allow those faces their places in our society.

Other parts of Jewish tradition concerning the death of parents that I feel particularly drawn to include those that commemorate the parent’s death each year in a special way – with a lighting of a candle or with fasting.  The concept of fasting on a parent’s “death day” makes me think of a way to empty myself once again, to remember deeply, and to then break the fast the next day and celebrate that life is still here and must be lived.  Pausing to remember is good.  Having time set aside to do this allows us to give mourning a place, to recognize it, and then to move away from it and continue to live.

In giving death its due recognition as something that happens, as something that causes pain to those who remain, and as something that we all will experience, we can learn to live.  Today may very well be our last – not because we have cancer diagnosis but because death can surprise us in any way.  Knowing that, recognizing that, and accepting that should free us to live.

What are you living for today? 

What life-changing, soul-inspiring, and breath-taking moment awaits you?

Even if she is not here, it is my mom’s birthday, and she would want us all to celebrate…


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Mozart: Unfinished Business

Last night my kids and I went to hear Mozart’s Requiem sung in concert at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.  My daughter’s friend performed in it, but honestly I think we would have gone anyway.  It was free, and we got much more than we paid for.

Yesterday – December 5 – was the 220th anniversary of Mozart’s death, and the concert was in his honor.  Mozart would be considered a tragic figure in my mind.  He died at the age of 35 under circumstances that seem stressful, laden with illness, and overwhelming at best.  Tragedy…sounds a bit like yesterday’s post.  Death…sounds like a lot of posts lately.  I am in a season of contemplation.  Blogging daily since August 1 has allowed my mind to dump, focus, and maybe even resolve.  There are layers and layers of dumping, focusing, and resolving to be done in this thing called life, and I figure I should get started on it now.

I could link to recordings of the Requiem, but I really think that it should be listened to in its entirety when one has time to listen, take in, and process the movements of the funeral mass.  The mass has 14 movements as follows (the conductor of the choir directed me to Wikipedia, so that is where I went:

  • I. Introitus: Requiem aeternam (choir and soprano solo)
  • II. Kyrie eleison (choir)
  • III. Sequentia (text based on sections of the Dies Irae):
    • Dies irae (choir)
    • Tuba mirum (soprano, contralto, tenor and bass solo)
    • Rex tremendae majestatis (choir)
    • Recordare, Jesu pie (soprano, contralto, tenor and bass solo)
    • Confutatis maledictis (choir)
    • Lacrimosa dies illa (choir)
  • IV. Offertorium:
    • Domine Jesu Christe (choir with solo quartet)
    • Versus: Hostias et preces (choir)
  • V. Sanctus:
    • Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth (choir)
    • Benedictus (solo quartet, then choir)
  • VI. Agnus Dei (choir)
  • VII. Communio:
    • Lux aeterna (soprano solo and choir)

Mozart only finished through the first eight bars of the Lacrimosa. Musicians were commissioned after his death to finish the work.  Mozart had unfinished business when he died.  He was in the middle of what I feel is the most amazing, beautiful, powerful, and mind-blowing piece of music ever written.  I could set my iPod on repeat and listen over and over and over again.  It touches my heart deep down inside and awakens feelings – sadness, joy, fears, and elation – that I forget are there.  Beautiful…and unfinished.

One of the tragic parts of death for those left to clean up is the unfinished [insert whatever applies here].  My parents owned a motel in Grand Forks, ND, during the time that my mom was sick and died.  She died on payroll morning; she had unfinished business.  As I cleaned out her “craft room” – which had Bibles, Bible studies, and assignments from started online college Bible classes in to the many craft items, I realized that my mom started a lot of things, and – although she finished quite a bit – she had left a lot unfinished.

I doubt that there is any way to avoid leaving unfinished business behind when we die, but it is good to think about what that business should be and – more importantly – what it should not be.  There are tasks I want to have completed before that day comes.  The problem is that the only way I can ensure that is to be sure I do them today.  This makes the list of critical business a high priority as well as short.

I want my children to know that I am proud of them because they are the best I could have ever imagined in children.  I want my husband to know that he is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I want my extended family to know that they are a priority.  And I want friends to know that I would drop anything for them if they were in need.  More than any of that, though, I want to have ended each day knowing that I all that I could to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not do that well every day, but there is always today.

At the concert last night, the choir only sang what is fully credited to Mozart.  They ended the Requiem eight bars into the Lacrimosa.  At that point, the room went silent for nearly thirty seconds – a moment of silence in honor of the great composer whose work was left on this earth unfinished.

Unfinished business is inevitable – what will it be?

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Loss is Tragic

Yesterday afternoon I attended the funeral for a friend’s mom who had passed away before Thanksgiving.  I had never met my friend’s mom, but I attended the service in order to support my friend.  As I sat in the church sanctuary before the service, I realized that not only did I not know my friend’s mom but I also did not even know her name.

As the service progressed, I learned a lot about my friend’s mom.  I learned her name.  I learned that she was in her seventies.  She had defeated cancer earlier in her life.  I learned that all of her children adored her even though they did not always agree with her.  She had a lasting impact on just about anyone she met.  Her heart was big; she believe in second chances.  And she will be missed.

This blog post has been swirling around in my head for weeks as I have written other blog posts about loss and as I have spoken or read about others losing parents.  My original blog post thought had to do with the fact that dying young seems tragic.  Being in your seventies seems young to die these days.  This woman’s death seems tragic because of that.  My mom was 53; that seems young, and that seems tragic.  The more I thought about this today, though, the more I realized that age has nothing to do with how tragic death is.  Teens dying on the road is tragic, but it is not their ages that makes it so.   The death of children and babies is tragic, but it is not their ages that makes it so.

Age has nothing to do with tragedy of death because death itself is the tragedy.  But it happens. Every second of every day it happens. Tragedy after tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.  Death after death after death after death.  It happens so often that it does not interrupt our days with breaking news stories unless we know the person.   It also does not matter how it happens.  Even though some causes of death are more surprising than others or more drawn out than others, death itself is tragic.  I would assert that tragedy does not have a level – we cannot say that one day is more or less tragic than another.  Death is tragic.

Or is it the aftermath – the impact to our lives – of death that makes it tragic?  I think that may be it.  We all know that death will happen to us and everyone else at some point in our lives.  When I die, I will not feel the tragedy of the death.  I would guess, though, from personal experience that others around me will feel the tragedy.  I find my mom’s death tragic because in the aftermath of her death, I feel loss, I feel pain, and I want it to be different.  I want the story to end differently, and her age – though young – and cause of death – though unfortunate – do not change the impact that her death in a different way or at a different age might have had on me. I would have felt those same emotions if we would have had another twenty or thirty years with her. There would have always been another event that I would have wanted her to attend or another conversation that I would have wanted to have.

William Shakespeare wrote plays during the Renaissance era which can be divided into three categories.  One category is sort of meaningless in this blog post: histories.  The other two, though, are quite meaningful:  comedies which have happy endings and tragedies which do not.  The comedies are fun, and we get our modern sit-coms from this genre.  Problems are solved in these plays within two hours; our sit-coms make even better time with under 30 minutes for resolution.  Tragedies, however, are guaranteed to make the audience depressed.  There are no happy endings in Macbeth, Othello, or Romeo and Juliet.  They are sad from beginning to end, and most of the time one or more main characters end up dead before the play ends.

The interesting thing about death for those who believe in Christ is that the grief that we feel here on earth resembles the Shakespearean tragedies.  We feel pain, sorrow, and loss.  We become angry and sad while we work through the fact that our loved one is no longer with us.  We struggle to get out of bed some mornings because life without them hurts so much.  But this is not the whole story.

Unlike Shakespeare’s tragedies that end that with no hope, our grief has a happy ending because of the cross of Christ.  Christmas is all about the coming of the Christ child, born of a virgin and perfectly God while completely man.  He grew into a man who ministered to others, who died a tragic death in punishment for crimes he did not commit, who spent time in Hell paying for the sin of humanity, and who rose from the dead triumphantly then returning to Heaven where he prepares a place for all who believe.  This is the GOOD NEWS at the end of a tragedy!

Although grief is natural and pain endures for years after the loss of a loved one, hope is here.  Hope is near.  And as we enter the Christmas season, a time for many that is difficult because of loved ones no longer with them, we need to remember that the message of the manger is the hope for our tragedies to end well.  Our pain is redeemed.

May our sorrows decrease as we remember the promise of Christmas.

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

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