Tag Archives: mourning

A Trip of Contrasts

This post is going to be a quick post with pictures and a few comments.

This week, I have the joy of being on a trip to the East Coast that encompasses food, family, and fun.  It is also full of contrasts.

I started out my trip with five days of family and friends with a full schedule of …

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travel to Mohegan Bluffs (and other areas) on Block Island…

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to restaurants such as George’s in Rhode Island…

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and the urban residential area of Cambridge, MA.

I will finish my trip in with a few days of solitude without interruptions or temptations of cell phone, internet, television…or people.

Pictures to come.

See you after my break!

In the meantime, feel free to peruse through some of the most popular posts I have written this year:

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Filed under Food, health, Relationships, Travel

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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Filed under faith, Thoughts

Memories: Mom and Nachos

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Last night, the huz had a hankering for one of the appetizers that my mom used to make for us when we would come to visit…so we made them.

Put a layer of corn chips down on a cookie sheet.  Cover the chips with your favorite kind of nacho cheese.  Then put down some slices of pepperoni – the amount is really up to you.  I like to add another lighter layer of cheese.  Bake the nachos on 350 degrees until the cheese looks yummy.  Switch the oven setting to broil for a few minutes to add a bit of crispiness.

Eat with your favorite salsa. Recently, we have been enjoying salsa purchased from the grocery store which truly comes from the Mexican Village restaurants in Grand Forks and Fargo, ND.

If you try these, think of my mother who was not the best cook but what she did cook was great.  As I took the picture last night, the boy asked why I would blog about pepperoni nachos.  The truth is, when I take a bite of these nachos and close my eyes, I can see my mom very vividly.

And that is a good memory.

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How Should I Be Remembered?

Hot tears stung my eyes and blurred the words on the page. How could this have happened? They swelled over my eyelids and rolled down my cheeks. How could I not have known? As the words came in and out of my vision, understanding fell over me.  Could this be true? No one writes about another person in the past tense unless she is no longer with them. But when? And how?

Some background: In December 1998, I interviewed with four people at Shore Country Day School for a position that I felt I had no chance of being offered but desperately wanted.  Those same four people became my “bosses” when, against all odds, they chose me as the Director of After School and Summer Programming.  Of the four, two of them oversaw my position the most – the Head of the Lower School and the Chief Financial Officer. I later discovered that each of the four had reservations about hiring me (as would I…I was only twenty-five years old at the time), but they also each had reasons to choose me.  The Head of the Lower School and the CFO became wonderful, healing mentors over the next three and a half years as I had left a very unhealthy job situation. Who I am as a worker today is due very much in parts to their mentoring.

Back to present day: I sat in my car outside the car wash on Martin Luther King Jr Day and read the Shore Country Day School bulletin. The school continues to mail it to my Grand Forks address. As I had been in Grand Forks that weekend, the bulletin was in my car. I thought the car wash would be a great time to catch up. Boy, was I wrong!  The bulletin was the 75th Anniversary Edition, and there were highlights of various staff people – all written in the present tense…until I came to the loved Head of Lower School.

I recognized right away that there was a shift in the tense of the article: this article was in past tense. As I drove into the car wash, I read and re-read the article…hoping that I was wrong, grasping at any explanation for the article besides the fact that my mentor had passed away without my knowing.  She had given me a passion for younger children, had taught me patience and understanding, and had showered love on my own children who were toddlers when I started to work there.  She believed in a restorative approach to discipline, but she held them accountable for their actions at the same.  How could she be gone?

After pouring over the article several times and coming to grips with the fact that it was definitely written in past tense, I whipped out my phone and sent an email – through tears that would not stop – to my other mentor, the CFO.  The two women had very different approaches to mentoring me.  While the Head of the Lower School was much like a grandmother, the CFO is like a bulldozer.  I learned efficiency and confidence from her in a trial by fire sort of way.  I remember that I had asked her approval for several purchases within the first month of my hire.  After one too many requests for that approval she told me, “Stacy, you are the director of this program.  You are responsible for the budget, not I.”  Wow!  I learned that she would prefer that I make mistakes and learn how to fix them.  What a gift…

In my email, I apologized, knowing that the email asking about her friend would bring back many memories, but I asked her if what I suspected was true.  Within two hours, she responded.  And I had been right.  By then, I was in the parking lot at the music store where the boy takes guitar lessons.  I again sat in the car as tears stung my cheeks as they ran down my face…sadness overwhelming me at both the knowledge that my mentor had passed away but also at the disappointment that I had not been able to know and mourn with others.

The Head of the Lower School had a tremendous faith in God, and – from what the CFO said in the email – she had come to peace with death as it approached.  In the email, my mentor shared my sentiments, “She taught us all.”  What a great way to remember the life and the death someone!

As I thought about this throughout the week, I have often thought, “What would I want others to say about me when I am gone.”  There is so much that one could say, but that phrase – she taught us all – would be quite a tribute.

What do you think?  What would like to have others say about you when you have passed away?  And what are we doing today to make that possible?

Do I live in a way that I would like to be remembered?

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Filed under Education, Freshly Pressed

Mourning Continues at Caribou

IMG-20120107-00081Last week, I went to my local Caribou as the huz, the girl, and the boy wanted coffee.  I wanted to purchase my personal beverage of choice as well, and there happens to be several convenience stores between my house and the Caribou headquarters store…which just so happens to be the closest and best Caribou around.  Imagine that!

IMG-20120107-00082I was super happy to discover that Caribou thinks very highly of itself and promoted its latest “big deal” moment – becoming a Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee distributor.  Do you know what that means?  Well, because I did not, I had to find out…Google to the rescue!  According to the website for the Rainforest Alliance, “Farms that meet the comprehensive criteria of the Sustainable Agriculture Network earn the right to use the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal.”  In case you are wondering, Dunn Bros Coffee has this but Starbucks does not.  The Rainforest Alliance website has a list of all of the companies.

The bigger deal of the day hit me smack dab in the middle of my head after I had ordered and moved to the pick up counter.  I turned to my right and saw the sign below.

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I believe that I am a horrible person for thinking the first thought I had when I saw this which was, “Sure must be nice to be able to have coffee with your mom. Count your blessings, Jennifer.”  I cannot believe that I just admitted that on the internet, but I am going to leave it. Some people are under the illusion that I am a nice person.  Not always true!

My next thought was sort of melancholy as I thought about how cool it would be to have written that myself.  I then realized that I could have easily written something to that effect except that I do not like coffee, but Caribou does serve my favorite beverage (just be sure to finish it before leaving the shop otherwise you realize that it is coffee-flavored Coca-Cola once you are outside). In fact, I am quite sure that we frequented Caribou in the few months before Mom passed away when she would come to visit us.

Mom was a coffee drinker. When she would visit us on the East Coast while the huz was in seminary and “her grandchildren” (aka – the girl and the boy) were young, she would always find a place with coffee.  There is a gas station off of one of the exits on Route 128 in Massachusetts where I recall quite vividly that Mom purchased a coffee drink and shared it with the girl.  Guess what?  The girl LOVES coffee…she even has a personal one cup coffee machine so that she can take her mug to school.  Thanks, Mom.

Mourning, even after over eight years, finds me in the strangest places. Grief is the unwelcome visitor that creeps in the recesses of our minds. We may not notice it all of the time, but it is there…waiting…watching…and then barreling out of hiding with a zinger – like in a simple memory written on a chalk board in a Caribou Coffee shop.

I did not cry.  I did have that nasty catch in the back of my throat and the hot tears flaming in my eyes…but no tear spillage.  I gulped hard and smiled…knowing that memories are good, that lost future memories are not to be, and that hope comes in the morning – on that glorious day when Christ returns, brings all mourning to an end, and reunites us all with each other as well as Himself.

Praise be to God!

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