Two Songs: ‘The Circle of Life’ and ‘We are Family’

Twenty-two years ago, my baby sister got married and recently I  reminisced about little snippets of that day.

I remember my sister’s beautiful dress and how sweet and young she looked. I remember mixed look of pride and hope and worry on my parents’ faces. I remember Neil sneaking outside to take a few quick puffs on his cigarette anytime an opportunity presented itself, meeting other relatives over their common vice. I remember Gina twirling and twirling with abandon on the reception dance floor as her dress flew in wide circles around her. And I remember dancing a bit crazily myself with my sisters to the immortal words of Sister Sledge: “We are family. I got all my sisters with me…all the people say can they be that close?”
Continue reading →

Is There a Lesson in Those Memories?

It was one of those unusual days in the ER when nothing was going on. No car accidents, no sick kids, no broken bones – and the nurses left the department in a rare opportunity to relax at the cafeteria for lunch. Alone in the department I strolled around looking through the windows to the sunny summer day outside. As I watched, the glass ambulance doors opened and a man wandered through. He had a distinctive swaggering walk and blond hair that was long enough to fall in soft curls, but I couldn’t see his face behind the bloody towel he clutched
over it. Continue reading →

Sometimes Life is Not Like a Box of Chocolates

A baby is finally born after two days of labor as four grandparents anxiously await its arrival.
A bridal shower is celebrated with friends and family in joyful attendance, all the while knowing that in less than a month that bride will move to the other side of the country.
A student graduates from college and says goodbye to closest friends, ready to embrace the real world.
A marriage dissolves as the real world proves too difficult an obstacle.
A young driver totals a car while all involved tremble with gratitude at their safety.

All this in the span of a few days! And a mother prays, because she knows that’s all she can do. She puts all these people and situations in God’s hands.

This is life. Pain and joy happen in rapid succession, sometimes even together in the same situation. Continue reading →

Three Ways to Overcome the Lies of a Mourning Heart

All of us will mourn in our lives. Perhaps it will be the death of someone we love, or a relationship gone wrong, a loss of health, or a job terminated.  A mourning heart can convince itself of all sorts of things that aren’t true: My husband didn’t really love me or I could’ve made him stop smoking if I really wanted to. Maybe you’ve heard some of its criticism, too: My friend never liked me.  I didn’t deserve that job.
And, of course: It’s all my fault. Continue reading →

Boo Boo or Fun Badge: It’s All in The Way You Look at It

My husband could see fun and adventure in everything. Years of being an ER doctor left me far more able to see danger. As he tossed each one our daughters over his head when they were just gurgling babies, I always complained, “Please stop it – you are going to drop her!” Or while he raced through the parking lot pushing them in a grocery cart, I yelled, “Neil, that’s dangerous!” barely audible over their gleeful laughter.

Once we were on a family camping trip at a local state park. Early in the afternoon we hiked around the lake, and stopped for a treat afterward at the camp store. The girls ordered ice cream cones that were far too big for their little hands, while Neil and I chugged coffee. The trail that led back to our campsite was a steep downhill path lined with gravel and dried pine needles. Powered up by their ice cream, the girls ran ahead as fast as their little feet would carry them, while Neil cheered them on. “Neil, they shouldn’t do that; someone is going to get hurt!”

I hadn’t even finished the sentence when three year old Jordan crashed face first and slid downhill on her belly for several feet. Continue reading →

Sometimes The Best Prayers Are The Unexpected Ones

I didn’t start out to pray. I just wanted some exercise to help settle the thoughts that swirled in my head. I decided to walk the old train track trail behind my house, where it follows the river along the cliffs. I was not in a hurry, and took my time. Gradually my breathing slowed to match the easy rhythm of my pace. And then something wonderful happened.

I saw God on my walk that day. Continue reading →

Life is Guaranteed to be Unpredictable; Mourning is Not

Every one of us suffers through the deaths of people we love, and grief is a strange companion. Sometimes it fades into the background and lulls us into believing it has loosened its grip on us. Then, without warning, it’s back, uninvited, unwelcome, and unkind in its sneaky ways.

I was reminded of this only a few weeks ago. My daughters and I were all together celebrating a birthday, strolling through shops and boutiques, breathing in the unexpected spring warmth on a day that was still winter, enjoying dinner together, laughing at family jokes. I was fine.

On the trip home I started to feel the first prickle of sadness in my stomach. Continue reading →

When Your Heart Wants To Help, But Your Head Has No Idea What To Say

I recently had a request to resurrect this post from back in 2015. It’s still true…..

People respond to me in different ways now that Neil has died. Some people pretend they don’t see me because they don’t know what to say. Others pretend nothing has changed. Some offer advice and worst of all, some people tell me it’s time to move on. I know they all mean well and want to help; they just don’t know how to do it. How do you help someone who’s faced a great loss when you don’t know what to say? It’s actually easier than you think. You don’t have to say a thing; you just listen.

Recently, a dear friend brought me dinner. We sat at the table long after the food had grown cold and she invited me to reminisce. She didn’t find it awkward or uncomfortable to be speaking about the dead and listened intently as I rambled on about how Neil and I met and fell in love. She chuckled with me over funny family stories and laughed at some of the ridiculous arguments Neil and I had over the years. She loved when I showed her my collection of the crazy little frogs that Neil drew on everything he wrote – messages in the girl’s lunch boxes, notes he left for us around the house, and especially on his signature homemade holiday cards. Continue reading →

No One Really Has it All Under Control

It’s hard for a perfectionist to live with ‘good enough’ but it’s even harder for most people to live with a perfectionist. Neil and I had different ways of doing things. I always folded towels into trifolds; Neil folded them however they fit in the drawer. I washed the dishes right after dinner; Neil washed them before bed, or even worse, before breakfast. I can’t even count how many arguments we had about whether the toilet paper should unroll from the top or the bottom. It was hard for me to relinquish control of the household when I went to work, just as I am sure it was hard for Neil to always be under my watchful eye.

One night I came home after a long shift in the ER and crept upstairs to kiss the girls tonight. I saw a strange chunk of hair on the steps, but didn’t pay much attention to it. I set it on the handrail to throw away on my way back down. My two youngest daughters shared a bedroom back then, and both were sleeping soundly as I tiptoed in and blessed their foreheads. I checked my oldest and blessed her, too. All was peaceful and quiet as I went in to the bathroom, until I noticed what I thought was a mouse behind the standing towel rack. It turned out to be another chunk of hair. I didn’t scream loud enough to wake the girls but I did get Neil’s attention downstairs. Continue reading →

What To Do When You’re Stuck On The Rock Wall Of Life

We were guests at a Memorial Day celebration. Children ran around laughing and playing, and adults sat chatting and sipping cool summer drinks. Curiosity captured the crowd’s attention when a huge truck backed up the long, narrow driveway. As everyone watched, the drivers got out, adjusted some mechanical gadgets, and slowly raised a huge, portable rock wall.

The kids swiftly lined up to give it a try, and with the complete fearlessness most children possess, scrambled to the top and rang the bell of success. There wasn’t really anything to be afraid of since they were all belted into place, and three people could climb side by side and talk to each other, so gradually the adults tried it, too.

“Come on; let’s go get in line,” Neil urged. “No, you go ahead without me.” I had all sorts of good excuses: I don’t have the right shoes, I forgot my sunglasses, I have to help the hostess, but as I watched everyone else having fun, I gradually convinced myself to try it.

With all the nerve I could muster, I started the climb. The belt wrapped around me like a diaper so there was no way to fall. Yes, I thought, this is fun and safe! Concentrating on each foot and looking closely at the wall’s indentations in my path, I slowly made my way up. I specifically avoided looking down just to prevent any sudden panic and within a few minutes I made it to the top and proudly rang the bell.

“Woo hoo!” My daughters called up to me. “Way to go, Col!” Neil yelled. I enjoyed my success and the fabulous view of fields and farmland until I realized there was a line below me waiting for a turn. It was time to go down.

Oh dear, it was time to go down. Continue reading →