Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Christmas Poem for Fiery Days and Cold Nights

Our Christmas Bonfire

We've gathered around it many times.
To gaze in silence.
Inspired by the power.
Connected by the warmth.
Dazzled by the light. 

Watching the dizzying sparks fly upward.
I think of those we love and have lost.
Lost for now. 

In my way, I would have you here, son.
I would have all of you here.

I feel you and hear you still. 
My longing heart wraps itself up
and steadies itself for a longer journey.

May I be comforted by fire and light.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

One of my favorite poems now. I believe that last line so fervently. It brings me great comfort. When Joey first died I could not hear him compared to things in nature. It rankled me because I felt it diminished him and my grief. As time has gone by, I see him in every beautiful thing, and God has greatly reassured us of His power to save as we have seen His grandeur in nature. That's how I read it now.

It was written in 1932 by an American housewife and florist named Mary Elizabeth Frye, 1905-2004. She wrote it for a friend who was lamenting that she could not return to Germany to mourn the death of her mother. Frye said it "came to her" as she wrote it.

May it bring you comfort and hope in the power of God and our hope for eternal life, as it does me.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Mom Psalm

It's May.
It's the 7th time we have visited this anniversary.
It still comes like a shadow.
It. Still. Hurts. in case anyone wonders.
I could howl at the moon.
In the beginning I wondered how long it would hurt. Now I know.

I have accepted that the aching void of your absence will never go away in this life.
I didn't know that separation anxiety went on and on.
I didn't know I could go on living carrying all these broken pieces inside of me.
I can.
I have carved out new space inside of me and carry you there.
I am perpetually pregnant.

Everything has changed. We are not the same.
The children are growing up.
The sisters are carving new paths.
Old loves have found new loves.
We have a different look.
Change is the status quo.

Strangely, I started to laugh again this year.
I hadn't noticed it was missing till it started again.
It's a good sign.
Like the leaves of spring.
Surrender is happening.
It was more than I ever wanted. But there it is.

I love you.
I got to birth and nurse you.
I see those baby years, my beautiful boy.  I dream them occasionally.
I watched you go from seed to strength. Your vibrant life.
I saw the man. The beautiful smile, like parentheses. The opinions. The thoughts.
I love that wild hair, so radiant. Better now, I've heard you say.

It can be done.
As I carry you Someone carries me.
Man of Sorrows walks the broken road with me.
Another thing I never knew.
Added to the pile of all the things I never knew.
There is life in death.

My heart has been pierced.
My soul has grown.
My journey is a resting place.
A place where I feel dove's wings slowly moving over me.
A place of peace.
Another thing I never knew.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A New Chapter

Displaying Rach&Jon_wedding-0413.jpg
Rachel and me on her wedding day. 

We love this beautiful young woman who Joey loved.
 We have shed many tears together after Joey's passing. 
She has traveled numerous times cross-country to be with us for painful holidays and anniversary days in the past seven years. 
She has loved each and all of us with tenderness. 
We fittingly call her our daughter-in-love. 

In September, she married a wonderful man.
He has tremendous character and strength.It's pretty hard not to have complete respect for the man who loved and courted this grieving young woman with so much compassion and sensitivity.

We are thankful for him, for her, for the joy of this day,
and for the future that's unfolding before her. 

Though a day like this can't help but be bittersweet, we also can't resist rejoicing with her.
She is the most beautiful soul and she deserves every happiness that life and love can bring. 
And new beginnings. 

So a new chapter begins with a most radiant bride walking down a grassy green aisle in sunny Southern California and we are thankful to witness it. 
And to know that this young woman's heart could be put back together again after a shattering loss. 
And that God's mercies never cease. 

Isaiah 43:19
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Happy Birthday Beautiful Son

We came to Maui for Joey's birthday. 

He had the ability to make every day a celebration. He loved a party. 

We brought along two granddaughters, who are island girls at heart. 

They knew they were coming to honor their Uncle Joey's birthday. 

Joe had a slice of lava engraved to commemorate Joey's birthday and death day. It was something he had wanted to do for a long time, and he finally accomplished it on this trip, seven years later. It is amazing how much grief slows down the very best of intentions. 

The poem engraved on the lava stone comes from this poem, composed by Joey from magnetic letters, one random day when he was traveling around the country on his year long road trip. Rachel photographed it and then we re-found it after he passed. We were instantly struck by the foreshadowing, the wisdom and the comfort in this poem.  Life is full of  mystery, and we have felt that sideways grace even in our loss. These words have ministered to our pain many times in the past seven years. 

So we decided to place it near the wall outside our condo. His ashes were scattered in the waters beyond. This was his favorite view in Maui, and in the days after his death, many people laid flowers here in his honor. It is the right spot to memorialize him. 

The memorial stone surrounded by flowers.

This is a picture of Joey and his sister and brother-in-law taking in this beautiful view  below eight years ago. 

We like that we have a permanent place that honors his beautiful life. 
Tonight we dine at his favorite Maui restaurant.

Though it never gets easier, we are comforted in laying this stone.

Happy Birthday, Beautiful Son. 
We love you forever. 
Aloha Oe.
Till we meet again. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Sunrise Prayer

Summer Sunrise off Sandbridge in Virginia Beach,  July 2015, 6:00 am

Thinking about my life so far.
Thinking about my journey through grief.
Hoping to lift my eyes to bigger things.
Hoping I will be changed for the better.

Thinking about the relentless tide of sorrow in this world.
Thinking about the temptation to only see that.
Hoping to tame discouragement into the corner of its cage.
Hoping to make room for the free birds of joy, peace, and grace.

Thinking about the goodness of this life, the miracles that slip in silently.
Thinking this is the nourishment that sustains me.
Hoping hope will overcome the heavy weight of narrow vision.
Hoping to have eyes to see the holy magic in the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Secret Holes--about the empty places at the table

This article was sent to me by my friend Robin, and I believe it deserves a wider reading. It expresses loss  beautifully, accurately and poignantly. 

I am reprinting here for my family and friends as the season of

 "family at the table" begins. 

May it comfort.

Reprinted from The Christian Century


Secret holes

Every family has a secret hole. Every family has more people at the table than you can see. If we set the right number of plates for all the people at the table, we would have to build way bigger tables.
No one talks about these holes, and you can understand why, because the holes never actually heal, and they are awash with tidal pain, and when you stumble into a hole again for some reason, a sudden photograph or an artless question, there’s the pain again, patient and terrible, as ready with the scalpel as ever, and you stand there in the kitchen, holding onto the counter with both hands, trying to get your breathing back in order, wondering for the hundredth time how it is that pain like this causes you to feel as if you are suddenly hollow, with nothing at all remaining of the crucial organs that used to be behind the flimsy armor of your chest.
I have seen people stumble into their holes. I have watched it happen. You can see it happen in the countries of their faces. I saw a man look at a photograph and see the brother who wasn’t in it. I saw that happen on his face. I saw a woman say “two” when someone asked her how many children she had and I realized the answer was three. I have seen a woman fall again and again into the hole where her father used to be. I saw a woman just the other day grab hold of the kitchen counter with both hands because she was walking through the kitchen with a platter of food and she slid into the hole left by her baby brother, who was always her baby brother even when he died at 50.
We try all sorts of things to hide the holes. Some people run as fast as they can for as long as they can to stay ahead of their holes. Some people build stories and live inside them. Some people construct lock boxes or complicated laby­rinth­ine jails for their holes. Some people pour whiskey or worse into their holes. Some people get trapped in their holes and become their holes and lose themselves forever. Some people acknowledge their holes and treat them as family members you cannot evade. Some people try to bend their holes into music or paintings or essays or books. Some people pour prayers into their holes. Some people try to become other people altogether so that their holes lose track of them and wander around aimlessly without anyone to haunt.
Everyone is in a family somehow. There are all sorts of families and all families are odd and awkward and shape­shifting, and they all have holes and people herding and huddling and hiding from holes. But it turns out you cannot hide from your holes and they are always there somewhere inside or around you and there is nothing you can do but hold on to the kitchen counter, or reach for someone in your family, whatever kind of family that is, and wait until your crucial organs shuffle back into your hollow chest. There’s nothing good about holes other than the way they make you reach for someone else, maybe at the same time that person is reaching for you—which is another one of the things we mean when we try to say what we mean by love, and God, and praying.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


People praying for us at Joey's Maui memorial service in June 2008

I just found this picture. I forgot I had it. It touched me so much to see all these people surrounding us in prayer. I can't make out all the faces in the crowd, but I recognize some of them very well. My mother and I are near the center of the picture with leis on our necks. Joe is out of the picture, on stage, and to the left of me are my daughter and her husband. Rachel and her family are next to the stage on the right.  It is mostly a sea of unidentified loved ones gathering on our behalf, supporting and loving us, and holding us up to God. 

The first thought I had is that two of the precious people in the picture have gone to Heaven themselves since this was taken. I also see one of Joey's closest friends with his head bowed for us, and next to him another  "brother from another mother" . I see my daughter's best friend near us with her beautiful blonde hair. And though I am not certain who the boy is whose head is bowed on the stage, I am so moved by his obvious concern for us. 

These prayers were needed. I was broken, and for the first two years, I seemed to get more and more broken with each new day. As my new reality sunk in, I sunk down. It seemed the pit of grief had no bottom. I had no strength.  My skin hurt, my chest ached, my brain was high-jacked by anguish and sorrow. I cried every day and at every mention of Joey's name. The prayers were needed. 

It takes faith to live through the loss of a child. I didn't have enough of it when I started this journey, but I have grown into it. My peace has grown as God has comforted me a hundred different ways. I know God better now than when I started down this road, and I also know I only touch the surface of who He is. I am glad there is One bigger than me who can hold me, help me, and heal me. I am in His hands. 

These are some of the people who put me there. 

Overflowing thanks to all who have prayed for us.

 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Mourning the Void

I wish you could have been there for the sun and the rain
and the long hard hills.

For the sound of a thousand conversations
the road.

For the people laughing and
crying and remembering 
at the end.

But, mainly,
I wish you could have been there. 

~Brian Andreas

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Praising God in the Storm

Praise You in this Storm
~music and lyrics by Casting Crowns

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can't find You

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away


I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

[Chorus x2]

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I carry your heart...

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
     i fear
not fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) 

~e.e. cummings

Thursday, May 08, 2014

When Death Comes

When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world. 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Suddenly Gone


If it had been a heart attack, the newspaper
might have used the word massive,
as if a mountain range had opened 
inside him, but instead

it used the word suddenly,  a light coming on

in an empty room. The telephone

fell from my shoulder, a black parrot repeating
something happened, something awful

a sunday, dusky. If it had been

terminal, we could have cradled him
as he grew smaller, wiped his mouth,

said good bye. But it was sudden,

how overnight we would be orphaned
& the world become a bell we'd crawl inside
& the ringing all we'd eat.

~~by Nick Flynn

Thursday, May 01, 2014

There Again

The glory of my beautiful small vibrant child

To Bhain Campbell
by John Berryman

I told a lie once in a verse. I said
I said I said I said "The heart will mend,
Body will break and mend, the foam replace
For even the unconsolable his taken friend."
This is a lie. I had not been here then.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

May Cometh

O how shall I warble myself 
for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song 
for the large sweet soul that has gone? 

~Walt Whitman~

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Hope

Today commemorates the Thursday of  Christ's Last Supper, and this picture features the last time I saw my son before he went to Heaven. He is at the Maui airport going through TSA. Our friends accidentally captured this picture while photographing some arriving friends. I love the "UP arrow" reflected from the door onto Joey's t-shirt. I know he is in Heaven. I can't be with him yet, but someday, in God's time, I too will enter Heaven and be with him. I am so very thankful for the promise of eternal life and the resurrection made possible by Christ's death for us all on Easter. It is my greatest hope and the reason I can celebrate these sacred days. 

John 11:23-26 
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Yes, I do.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Today as I perused my usual blog sites and facebook feed,
I was struck again by how much struggle there is in life.
From overwhelmed military wives carrying the weight of the world from their kitchen sink,
to grieving parents who are spending their first holiday season without that precious child,
to broken homes and separated families who live in different places,
to ailing friends,
and dying friends,
and the people taking care of them.
Not to mention typhoons, tornadoes, and mass scale trauma not so very far away.

Someone dumped a pile of broken rubble on my chest.
Tears trickled out my eyes and down my cheeks and onto my neck.
I nervously hoped no one would come into the room and find me like this.
At odds.
Stuck and sad and confused to my core.
At moments like this, I do. not. get. The Plan.

So I mentally create my own plan.
When I ask myself how I would run the universe, my mind swirls.
Would I create people with free will?
Would I allow the free will choices to accumulate into tragic consequences?
Would I allow the wildness of nature and its harsh upheavals?
Would I allow broken history to go on as long as it has?

And the world I create in my mind is admittedly a blandly pastel Pleasantville.
No conflict. No pain. No sorrow. No loss.
A place where nothing hurts and nothing happens.
Which also means:
No stories, no heroes, no victories.
No art, no music, no humor.
No invention, no research, no solutions.
No achievement. No celebration. No gratitude.
No true love.
All that is born of struggle.
Strangely, suffering somehow seems to be the necessary prerequisite of better things.

And even though there are so many mysteries and questions,
I am glad again that I am not God.
And acknowledge that God may know something I don't know.
And hope that He has a better plan than I can imagine right now.
That there may be a magical purpose in all this suffering and struggle.
And a bigger story to tell than my pea brain can conceive.
And of course a beautiful world to come where overcomers will tell stories and celebrate victories.
I hope so.
I am counting on it.
That there will be answers.
That there will be a fix.

For now I open my hands and willingly give it all back to Him,
breathe deeply, refill my heart with hope,
thankful that He
has the whole messy confusing tragic world
in His hands.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

40th Anniversary Party

In Munich last summer, we got the idea of hosting an Oktoberfest party for our big 40th anniversary. So out came the blue and white checked banners and fall decorations. 

We built a stage out of one of our tractor trailers. 

These are our great caterers who served delicious brats and beer, pretzels and strudel. 

Here is the work crew taking a German beer break after setting  up everything. 

The tables were set with steins full of flowers and apples and pumpkins and fall leaves. 

I think we are looking a bit like a German beer garden. 

The flowers came from the cutting garden and around our property. 

The bar was stocked with imported German-made beer and wine. 

Beer steins with fresh flowers were scattered around. 

The buffet line with a big pile of hot pretzels and cheese sauce. 

The sign was made by Crystal and is in traditional Bavarian style. It says "Happy 40th Anniversary". 

The beverage and dessert table is ready for treats. 

German Chocolate cake, Black Forest cupcakes and apple strudel and ice cream will be here soon. Yum! 

Crystal was my right hand, with her generous help and creative ideas.  

Sharon flew in for the occasion and she helped too. Her dirndl apron tricks the eye. 

Hubby and I are enjoying this wonderful day that we waited forty years for...now we are waiting for the guests to arrive and the fun to begin. 
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rainy Heart

It's Joey's 6th birthday in Heaven. It pains me to write the words. It's also a rainy gray day at the beach, which somehow seems entirely appropriate. 

As do the broken bits of shell in the sand and the stranded jelly fish. 

But in spite of the gray, the sun breaks through, and strangely, that too, is a reflection of my heart today. 

Somehow I have found light in the midst of my sorrow. 

Not at first. It took years to find it. It was often a cold, lonely, aching journey. 

But it was there -- undeniable incomprehensible hope in the midst of something terrible. 

Little bits and pieces of hope all around me. Almost negligible, but together they amount to enough for each day. 

I have had signs. Here and there. Reminders. God holds my hand. 

I know I will see my son again. I can feel him. 

And it keeps the darkest darkness away from my heart. 

And makes me want to leave a mark of hope on those around me. 

Not despair, emptiness, discouragement. 

But hope that there is help in the storms of life.

That God's care is bigger than my loss. 

That there is a future where all my tears will be gone. 

If I can just hold on through the storm. 

There is enough of what I need. 

His eye is on the sparrow...maybe it's on me too. 

I love you beautiful son.
I miss you so.
Thank you for taking me on a journey deeper and harder than I ever wanted.
 Thank you, Lord, for leading me to higher ground.

Matthew 10:29
When birds are sold, two small birds cost only a penny. But not even one of those little birds can die without your Father knowing it.