Friday, July 31, 2009

Joey's Point of View

I love this close-up of my son's beautiful brown eye, another precious photo taken by lovely Rachel during their years together. I love the lashes and the eyebrows, the crinkled skin under his eye. I loved those chocolate brown eyes since the moment they showed themselves brown. I remember staring at them when he was a baby. He liked eye contact and would grab my face with two hands when he was a toddler, so I would look him directly in the eyes when he was talking to me. Brown eyes aren't sensational like blue eyes, but they are so wonderfully sincere. Joey had a calm, direct gaze and so much warmth in his brown eyes.

I don't know everything that those eyes saw, but I loved to hear his opinions on life. He was a reflective and intelligent soul and his point of view was always interesting. We all liked to hear what Joey thought about something, and because he was cool, but also thoughtful, he had a lot of influence on the people around him. He was also kind, so even his criticism was direct and truthful, but temperate. He was merciful with human frailty, probably because of his own.

He wrote this poem using magnetic poetry in the van on his road trip of North and Central America. Rachel, again, had the artist's insight to snap a picture of it. We discovered it a few days after he was gone to Heaven. It has ministered to our despair and heartache over and over again this year. It helps us make peace with the messiness of life. Joey's point of view continues to guide us through our confusion, and point us to God's sufficient grace, even in death. I love the way he stood the word "grace" on its end. Grace is the one thing that will make it all okay someday.

For by grace have you been saved through faith...Eph 2:8

Thursday, July 30, 2009

We're All Dying

I don't mean to be dark and morbid, but I now know that this is true. JoAnne said this to me the other day. She said, "Mom, we are all dying and we just don't know which one of us will be next, but one of us will be." In the picture above, the three in the center are already in Heaven. In time, we will all be there together.

So that brings up a question. What do I need to do differently in light of that truth? Certainly it shifts priorities. Acquiring more of anything is a low priority. Living with passion is a high priority. Loving and serving people is the highest priority. Leaving them with a sense of being special and valuable and necessary--that's what Joey did so well. That's why we grieve him.

He lived with passion and infected the rest of us with it. He loved each one of us in a special way. He truly made life so much better for all of us, he can never be replaced. I want to follow in his footsteps and leave a shining mark on those around me.
Like Joey did.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Our Stretcher Bearers

This scene is from Joey's memorial service in Maui. The pictures, the flowers, the guitar all lovingly staged by my precious friend Melissa. Melissa was Joey's second mother. I think he spent at least half of his childhood at her house because her son Kevin was Joey's best friend.
The night we got the news about Joey, Melissa went straight to his house. She kissed him goodbye for me. She noted that the birds flew out of the trees when the coroner took Joey away. She had his picture waiting for me when we arrived at the airport several hours later.
Melissa, me, Aunty Viv, Deanne

These three women, angels really, got us through the worst two weeks of our life. They helped us do the unthinkable and the impossible, say goodbye to our son. They drove through miles and miles of L.A. traffic every day to be with us. They supported a houseful of brokenhearted people walking us through our difficult decisions, planning our memorial services, and doing all the work behind the scenes. They made beautiful pictures of my son, put them on easels and into slide shows. They contacted caterers, florists, and made numerous runs to the printers. And most of all they hugged and listened and wept with us.

It is exhausting and expensive supporting the grief-stricken. These three never failed.

Uncle Don and Aunty Viv
Their loving support for us seems to come from a well that never runs dry. They also flew to Virginia to be with us for our first devastating and tearful Thanksgiving without Joey.

Bob and Deanne, friends for 30 years, gracefully stick with us through thick and thin. Deanne showed up with food for 20 and blankets so that we had what we needed our first few days in L.A. Our final dinner at their house was a holy moment of deep comfort.

Tom and Melissa came back to Maui with us for Joey's second memorial service. They not only put together the service once again, but they spoke about our beautiful Joey. All we had to do was show up. Melissa was attuned to my every need, anticipating and providing before I could even ask. All this while also carrying her own grief. Her gentleness and sensitivity are legendary, and their generosity to us bowled us over. Such friends are beyond description.

These women and their husbands were our stretcher bearers, carrying us when we were so broken we couldn't move. We will never be able to thank them enough. It was the richest, deepest, purest love we have ever experienced, and it was there when we needed it most.

"I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends." - Walt Whitman

Two Gifts

On Saturday, my daughter JoAnne and granddaughter Clare showed up on my front porch with this bouquet from the Farmer's Market. I love the mix of unusual flowers and the vibrant colors. Flowers just lift my spirits. Once in my house, I can't keep my eyes off of them.

Some people, whom I will never understand, consider them a waste of money because they fade. But for me, since everything fades, (including me), I believe beautiful things are meant to be savored up close and enjoyed while we have them. Like people.

Here's a closeup of the textures and colors. Flowergardengirl could identify all the flowers, but not me. Still, I love those unnamed flowers. Thank you, sweet JoAnne and Clare, for all the love in that little bouquet.

The quilt below came in the mail last week. It is from my fellow grieving mom and friend, Sharon. Thank you dear sweet Sharon.

Handmade. Heartfelt. Hawaiian.

I think it's made from 6 different fabrics. It is beautiful and vibrant, like the flowers. I will snuggle in this quilt all winter long and it will remind me of Sharon and her beautiful daughter Angie and my beautiful son Joey and our shared bond of knowing. She, like me, lives with daily sorrow and longing. She soothes herself by sewing quilts, like I soothe myself by blogging. I can imagine how many precious tears flowed while this quilt was being made. This comforter is really and truly a comfort-er.

And after the loss of a child, it's all about comfort. It's an all-consuming quest. Your once orderly insides become sideways, undone, shaken, twisted, stretched-- unsettled on a frightening scale. They are jumbled and they cry all the time, whether anyone can see it or not. You seek anything that will bring some quiet and peace to all that internal chaos. So beauty does that for me. It quiets me. The flowers and the quilt quiet me.

Isaiah 66:13
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you;

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friends- the Sunshine of Life

We haven't made many friends in Virginia yet. There have been more urgent things on our To Do list, such as finding a place to live, finding a church, and sometimes just getting through the day. But these two very special people were waiting for us on the East Coast when we got here.

These two wonderful people go way back with us. Joe and Glenn were neighbors and best friends growing up, and the Best Man in each other's weddings. Joe and Glenn can get belly-laughing over the silliest childhood memories--it only takes a word before the two of them are hilarious over some inside joke.

Though we've been geographically distant for many years, we are now, for the first time in 20 years, just a quick flight or a road trip away from these two. Glenn and Alison's daughters live in Virginia so we will get to see them on a regular basis when they come to visit their girls. You can't imagine how incredibly happy this makes us. These two are kindred spirits. They really know us, yet love us anyway.

When we finally connected last week, I cried in both their arms. Their love, support and compassion have been steadfast. Alison cried with me and kissed my Joey tattoo on my arm. Her act of compassion touched my heart deeply. They listened and they really care and that means everything to us. After being with them, I felt new hope. The clouds of gloom parted and I got some sunshine into my soul.

We've been blessed with many wonderful and caring friends who have helped us through the last year. These two reminded me of this description of friendship. This is really what grieving people need.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
Henri Nouwen
Prov. 18:24 There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Necessary Shelter

Yesterday, the gazebo went up in the backyard. We hired Matt to do the assembly as we found the directions both unintelligible and intimidating. Matt wasn't put off. He showed up for work bright and early with his tools and a can-do attitude. The directions said it would require the help of 8-10 men to assemble and lift the 600 lb steel roof. We couldn't find that many available men, so the five we found lifted it on their own! Impressive, to say the least. I would have photographed them in their Atlas poses, but I was busy putting each column in place as they held the roof up. I'm a little proud of myself today!

They make it look easy, don't they! Actually they've already done the muscle work. See the columns are in place and they are simply stabilizing as Matt reinforces the columns.

Welcome to our new outdoor room. In Virginia, unlike Maui, you get real weather, at least two weathers every day. Usually it's blistering sun in the morning and drenching rain in the afternoon. Now we are ready for whatever the atmosphere delivers.
This morning we woke up to a rain-covered patio, but our chairs were dry and comfy and we had our morning coffee right out here, listening to the birds chirp and the flowers bloom. Pretty cozy, huh? We are all about comfort in this house. Can't get too much of that stuff these days.
Thanks to Matt and Drew and Ron and Brent. We appreciate your help so much.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

This is Aidan's Sunday School artwork. It won't win him a scholarship to art school, but for us, it's full of comfort and innocent faith. I'm not sure what the lesson was that morning, but when he came out of his class, he proudly showed us this. It's his view of Heaven and he wanted us to have it. It's now hanging on the kitchen wall.
Let me explain it to you. Starting from the bottom, he's got the clouds, then the gates of Heaven, complete with the haloed angels standing guard. Above the gates, three more flying angels. At the top, various planets and stars and things floating in space-- a couple of moons, Saturn with a ring, even a heart-shaped planet.
But right in the middle, the one with the big smile on his face and the splayed fingers, is Unkie JJ. (No halo.)

Truly, there's no denying it, he looks as happy as can be, floating there among the angels.

Though none of us here yet know what happens after this life, we have the words of Jesus to reassure us. "I go to prepare a place for you that you may be where I am...if it were not so I would have told you." Those powerful words have held us together on many a dark night in the past year.
Aidan, too, has held us together. We would never intentionally give such a burdensome job to a child, but Aidan's love-filled heart has overflowed on us over and over again, washing away our tears. He's a little gift from God keeping us rooted in the present when we were ready ourselves to fly away to Heaven.
Matt 21:16 "Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Warning Signs at the Pool...hmmm

Is it just me or are these signs a bit intense?

We know there are dangers in a swimming pool, but seriously, take a chill pill, management people! All these harsh signs kind of kill the joy!

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Clare's Final Swim Meet-The Relay

Here's Clare in the white cap, crouching, tensed, waiting to fly into the water...

Here she goes...

Faster than a speeding dolphin...

She's at the wall quicker than you can say "Olympic Gold Medal".
That's our girl! What a champ!
I'm still awaiting final notification, but I think her team won, too.
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blanketed in Love

Ah yes, thanks to the Geek Squad at Best Buy, my computer is singing again. So here's the stuff I've been saving up for a week. This beautiful quilt was a farewell gift from our friends at Hope Chapel on Maui. Creative Cori had people write on the squares, then she meticulously sewed them all together into this cheery blanket of love. She sent it to us the other day and you can imagine our delight when we opened the package. I am including some close-ups on some of the art.

Thank you Caring Cori and all our Maui friends who did this for is so love-filled and such a lovely way to remember you all, precious friends. We miss you all.

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Sweet Squares

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More Squares

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