Saturday, April 25, 2009

Goodbye Magnificent Kit--Till We Meet Again

The greatest man we have ever known left this broken world tonight. He is the kind of man about whom legends are made. He is a man of strength and character, full of love and faith, and brimming with life, wisdom, knowledge and encouragement. We will never meet the likes of him again on our earth's journey and it is so hard to let him go. We feel supremely privileged to have had the years we had with this giant of a man.

Our hearts break for the Lauer family and our deepest love goes out to each one of them...Shelly, Maisha, Mikey and Shae, Buddy and Becky and all the other sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews of this great man. We are all richer for having known Kit and poorer with him gone. We embrace you all with our love and comfort, and look forward to a day when the tears will be over and we will all be reunited again.

One by one, our treasures are going to Heaven and our tears are falling on the hard ground of this earth. May each tear soften our hearts and harden our faith. May we, as Kit did so beautifully to his last breath, honor Christ while we are in this body.

2 Corinthians 5:8
We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Josh's Comment

I love getting comments on my blog posts. I jokingly wrote on the comment box that it "eases my loneliness", but in a way that's not a joke. When someone comments, it's a gift to me. It takes time and thought and effort. Some comments are short and encouraging, others are long, thoughtful responses to the topic. However they come, I feel the love and they do help ease my lonely journey through grief. (By the way, no guilt trip for those who just read and run. I do the same thing with most of the blogs that I read.)

Yesterday Josh Spencer commented on a post I'd written about Joey. He and Joey became friends years ago on Maui, and then better friends when they shared first a house and then a loft for several years in L.A. Joey was with Josh on Maui when Josh had the life-shattering moped accident that put him in a wheel-chair. And Joey lived with Josh during some of his most difficult years of adjustment, as he learned how to survive in L.A., start his own business and create a totally new life for himself.

So when Josh commented on my post, his comment grabbed me. I've been rolling it around in my mind ever since. He reassured me about a couple of things--that grief takes time, and that it's okay for me to use my blog as therapy to process my grief. Then he said, about God:

"He knows how to write His grace into the darkest of stories."

Those words just pierced my heart. They pierced it so much that I started sobbing-- out loud. I guess his words just struck a big ugly vein of fear and doubt...and memories...and behind all that, my own longing for God to write His grace in our dark story. I know when Josh says it, it's not just obligatory encouragement. He's a man of few words, and when he speaks, I listen. There are no words of comfort like the words that come from someone who has been to the edge of hell and back. Josh's words are authenticated by his own loss and struggles, which I was close enough to witness. Those hope-filled words, only a dozen of them, linked together to form a simple confident statement, struck a blow at my hopelessness. They couldn't have been more persuasive. They spoke new hope into my heart and I'm hanging on to them. Thanks so much, Josh.

And now something for you, Josh. After Joey passed, we found 2 rolls of film among his things, which he had never developed. When we developed them we found that they were mostly filled with pictures of the landmarks of Paris, from the trip he took in January of 2004. The only faces on the film were these of you and Hoats McBoats. Pretty good, huh. I like the expressions on your face as you look back at Joe photographing you...the reluctance, yet almost a laugh. Do you recall the moments they were taken? They warmed my heart and reminded me of the parrying that went on between you two... and the shared entertainment you got from that imperialistic dog! Funny memories...I miss those times but I'm glad we had them.

Josh, as seen by Joey, at the loft

Josh, by Joey, at the San Vicente House

Proverbs 15: 23
A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Today it's eleven months since Joey's sudden departure to Heaven. The 22nd of any month has now become a somber day for me--I feel a wordless heaviness, with just an ache inside that is difficult to describe. I never had it before Joey passed, and I only feel relief when it rolls out in tears.

Joe took this picture last year when we were in New Zealand. Craig and I exited Starbucks and saw the surf shop across the street called "Jay-Jay's". We photographed it with the intention of getting a laugh out of our son Joey, who had been called JJ/Double J by his family and close friends, almost from birth. He didn't particularly like the name when he hit his teen years, but there were a few people, such as his cousins, Brian and Jeff, and his best friend Kevin, who could still get away with it. Though it doesn't much matter, now I feel badly that Joey never saw this picture. Silly, I know.

You all probably know that I loved my son, but you may not know how much I enjoyed my son. He was a kindred spirit to me in so many ways, and we always had a lot to talk about. We both enjoyed a deep discussion, and got inspired by many of the same books, the same movies and the same food. More often, though, he exposed me to something new that ended up having real value, like the biography of Kurt Cobain and avocado toast. He never saw me as a lost cause, but was always good about engaging me in contemporary thought and culture. No one else does that for me now, and sometimes I feel doomed to cluelessness, which I hate. He was my link to hipness.

I guess I was a link for him, too. I made him watch Celine Dion with me, which he hated, but patiently withstood for about 5 minutes with all kinds of hilarious mockings: "She's such a man!" I also engaged his spiritual side, and we had great discussions that cut through "churchiness" and went to the core of being human. On my last Saturday night with him, I gave him the book "Wild at Heart". We found it by his bedside the next weekend, already partly read.

My JJ is fully engaged with his spiritual side now. Sometimes I almost feel him saying, "Mom, you don't know the half of it!" That makes me feel good, like I made a positive impact on his life. He most certainly was good for me.

Proverbs 1: 8
My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hillsong Shouts to the Lord

This is Darlene Zschech. She is the little woman in a blue dress on the stage, and the powerful worship leader on the center of the screen over her head. She is the worship leader for Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia and she has written some of the absolutely most inspiring worship music ever. "Shout to the Lord", "Hosanna", and "The Potter's Hand" are just three of my favorites. She is a world class worship leader and sings to stadium-sized audiences throughout the world every week. So, you can imagine my delight that she was here at Wave Church in Virginia Beach last night! It was glorious!

This shows you the size of the crowd and how far back we were sitting-- but with the jumbo screens, it really didn't matter. The kids eventually went down to the front of the stage so they could jump with the rest of the true worshippers! We are really liking attending Wave Church on Sundays. Though it is the largest church we have ever attended, there is a lot of energy and excitement about God there. It always lifts us up and inspires hope.

This is the Wave's Aussie pastor, Steve Kelly, and he's preaching for all he's worth. I am the shy reserved type, but he's not. Here he's asking people to raise their hands if they want to know Jesus and a minute later he asks them to come down the aisles and stand in front of the stage. At least 200 people went forward and prayed to receive Christ. That was wonderful!

I love the heart with wings behind the drum booth. It looks like my "Joey" tattoo on my arm. Jesus helps my heart to soar on wings, too.

Here we are in full-concert mode with the lights and the crowd in silhouette. It reminds me of a scene from a movie and I've dubbed it "Close Encounters of the Spiritual Kind". We all had a close encounter with the Spirit last night, reminding us again that our God is an awesome, powerful, loving Father, who is worthy of our trust and our praise.
Here are some of Darlene's lyrics, the chorus from "Shout to the Lord":
Shout to the Lord, all the earth let us sing,
Power and majesty, praise to the King,
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Thy Name.
I sing for joy at the works of Thy hand.
Forever I'll love you, forever I'll stand.
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.
Ps 66:1,2 Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious!

Posted by Picasa

Hannah Montana Rules!!

They've been waiting with baited breath. Finally the big day came. The Hannah Montana Movie!!
Big smiles! Need I say more?
Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 17, 2009

In Honor of Bunny

In January, we met Kealani and Bunny and Baby Leila for lunch in Charlottesville, VA. We had a wonderful time catching up with Bunny. We talked about our son Joey, about the poor prognosis for her cancer, and shared together about the deep comfort of eternal life in Christ. It was a really precious time.

Afterwards we headed back to her mom's house, where she had been living for the past couple of years. We met her warm and godly mom, Gloria and Gloria's dear husband, Poppy Pete. Of course, this being the South, we had more food. We sat around the table and ate some yummy lemon raspberry cake dessert and chatted over tea--a guaranteed good time.
Bunny passed into the presence of the Lord three days ago. Tomorrow we go back to Charlottesville for her memorial service. I believe she was met in Heaven with a standing ovation. She shined the beauty of Christ as long as I knew her.

These red tulips are growing in my daughter's neighborhood. I consider them a tribute to Bunny. She was so like them--beautiful, upright, worshipful, poised and elegant.
We will miss you Bunny. We extend our love and comfort to your beloved children, Kealani and Lucas. We will keep an eye on them for you.

Aloha Oe, till we meet again.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. Now is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Tim 4:7,8

Posted by Picasa

Virginia Flowers

For my Maui friends, this is what Springtime looks like on the East Coast. It starts out gray and cold, then one by one, these flowers push themselves up through the soil. All of these flowers are from my daughter JoAnne's neighborhood. They are such a good picture of the resurrection.
Today I am posting these in honor of Bunny Palmer McCandliss. Kealani's mother passed into the presence of the Lord on Tuesday after a year-long battle with ovarian cancer. These flowers are a fitting tribute to a beautiful, godly woman. I picture her alive and as radiant as these flowers, singing before the throne right now.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A New Set of Eyes

Monsters and Aliens at the local 3-D showing of "Monsters and Aliens"
New perspective. It's the only thing that's really helping us deal with our grief over losing Joey so early and suddenly. Our underlying optimism about our future and the goodness of life came apart at the seams. This place doesn't hold the promise it once held for us. Now we notice everyone else's suffering too. Anyone's death or grief is also ours. Every news story of death or loss re-triggers our own ache. Sick friends, other grieving couples, we can only embrace them. We often feel so loaded down with our own grief that we have no more to give than a knowing nod and a hug. I feel like we should be able to help more, but for some reason we are weak, exhausted by grief.
The new perspective that's helping us runs like this: "this world is not my home, this life is temporary, don't expect happiness here, our heart's desires are in Heaven, Jesus will make everything better there. Just hold on." Some of you had already reached those conclusions. It took this pain to get us there and I finally feel I truly understand what God's word was teaching all along. This world won't deliver.
Knowing that, I hope there's another step in the process. I hope it's not just a process of detachment, endurance and patience. I hope we get to the point where we embrace purpose again, where we have strength to give, and enthusiasm despite the risks. For the sake of our children and grandchildren. So that we aren't just going through the motions, without the e-motions.
We aren't there yet, and we have no idea how to feel that way. Right now, the promises of God comfort me deeply for the life beyond, but I'm still struggling with the every day. I'm scanning for role models--people who have been devastated by disappointment, and still find purpose for today. Pastor Kit is that person for us right now. And Pastor Greg Laurie who lost his son a month after us, and Steven Curtis Chapman who lost his daughter the day before we lost Joey. I read their blogs to find clues on how they do it, and I think my own blog is an attempt to find purpose again. They are finding a new path and they give me hope that we may yet grow a set of eyes that can see life beyond the pain.
Col 3:2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Joyce and Jesse: World Changers

Joyce and Jesse Spencer, surrounding Joe and I in their warm embrace, are two of the finest people we have ever known. Though they aren't flashy celebrities, everyone on Maui has heard of this couple. They have selflessly improved the lives of hundreds of people on Maui by supplying a basic human need- comfortable, attractive, affordable housing in safe and friendly neighborhoods.

On the premier island in the Pacific, where the cost of real estate is stratospheric, and is easily accessible only to people named Oprah or Eastwood, Joyce and Jesse have made it possible for the rest of us to live there. And because of the domino effect created by employing dozens of workers and sub-contractors, and creating the need for others to service all these new homeowners, many small and large businesses also benefit, as well as the Maui economy in general. Thousands of people on Maui unknowingly benefit from the generosity of these two loving, kind people, who have, by their deliberate decision, made the world an actual better place for the people around them.

There's a lot that could be said about these two-- their faith in Jesus that guides them, their long and fruitful marriage, their gaggle of bright and talented children and grandchildren, the health challenges they have overcome, Jesse's golf score, Joyce's legendary generosity--their lives are rich with stories. They have been a compassionate, loving and consistent source of comfort for us after having lost Joey. Today I'll just mention another beautiful thing that they have done for us.

Before we left Maui, they hosted a dinner in our honor with the pastoral staff of Hope Chapel. And it wasn't the usual church potluck either! It was Joyce's Southern Hospitality in all its splendour: a sit-down, linen and china, gourmet, chef-prepared dinner. Beautiful, delicious, warm and wonderful. A true night to remember, perfect for us since we are still not in a partying mood since Joey went to Heaven. It was a tear-filled night full of sincere reminiscence and heartfelt gratitude for the people we have co-labored with at Hope Chapel, who have walked our journey with us. Such a lovely gift to us from Joyce and Jesse.

Here Jesse prays for us and blesses the meal and all at the table.

The beautiful table set with flowers and china and crystal

Our gourmet salad--food this beautiful has to be photographed!

Yummy dessert with chocolate doggie pawprints (another story)

All of us especially honored by Kit and Shelly's presence,
as Kit deals with leukemia~~Joyce gives a hug.
Thank you, Joyce and Jesse, for the incredible people you are, for your kindness and compassion to us. Your lives are an inspiration and a role model for us. You walk your talk better than most of us, and you are a living example of generosity. You've used your gifts to love others and to serve God. You've changed the world for so many, including us. We love you and miss you.
Proverbs 19:17 — “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward him for what he has done.”

You can see pictures of the party and guests in the sidebar.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 13, 2009

Springtime On Stage

Easter's come and gone and the calendar says it's time for that happy springtime feeling. Sadly, the weatherman says it's 49 degrees. This is tough for an island girl. So I am sitting by the fire, wrapped in my down comforter, oh for say... another month. Or two.
But it doesn't slow down the little entrepreneurs around here. Please note that they are appropriately selling SNOW cones instead of lemonade.

Despite the chill, some flowers are daring to perform. Let me introduce them:

The first tulip in JoAnne's yard bravely tiptoes onto the stage

Then a few more cautiously follow, holding each other's hands

But here's the show-off! No stage fright here!
To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven ~ Ecclesiastes
Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Son's Sandals and Good Friday

This picture of my son's shoes on his doorstep, where he left them the night before he went to Heaven, puts a thick lump in my throat, a knife pang in my chest, and hot tears down my cheeks. The shoes that will never be worn again, personify him. They reflect his glory-- his beautiful size 12 feet, his slip-on relaxed approach to life, his California/Maui roots, the neat alignment by the door indicative of his orderliness, on the porch of the L.A. bungalow that he was so enthusiastic about making into a home. Inside the door, a full and rich landscape of his life: books, music, instruments, recording equipment, a closet full of shirts that carry his scent, a desk full of media industry business cards, a kitchen full of the gourmet foods he loved to eat, a dining room with his favorite wine, on a mid-century mahogany table he had just purchased, decorated with a handwoven shawl he and Rachel picked up in Central America on their year-long road trip. Outside, his van "Gunther" parked in the driveway, near a garage with neatly boxed ski equipment and surfboards.

A vibrant and bursting life, beautiful in its heartbeat and energy, cut short by an enemy called death. Oh, the grief of early and sudden death. It is the miserable thief of happiness, hope, and joy. And Death, the enemy who stole my son, steals us all, sooner or later.

So today, on Good Friday, I am thankful that Christ also suffered an early death, and died for the lost, for the dark and heavy sins of humanity, for the heartbreak of a bereaved mother. 2000 years ago, on a lonely hill far away, on a harsh cross, Jesus willingly took nails in his hands and feet. He died himself, so that the finality of death would be destroyed. Because of Jesus, someday I will see my son alive and vibrant again.

The suffering of Christ has never meant so much to me as it does this Good Friday. Perhaps Jesus' awesome, sacrificial, history-changing act doesn't sink in till you lose someone you feel you can't live without. My son Joey, whom I miss so deeply, will not be forever separated from us. One day, because of Jesus, we will have a reunion that never ends, and it will explode with life. Death will be done. Heaven and earth will burst with celebration and hope and joy and happiness and peace. All together again.

Good, Good Friday.

" in Christ all shall be made alive. Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." I Cor 15:57

Friday, April 03, 2009

In Honor of My Dad

My Dad's c.1960 Living Room--Chatting with Joey

Dad, Brother Jim, Joey in 2003

My Men: Husband, Dad, and Son

My Dad at Joey's Memorial

"Nothing can bring back the hour of the splendour in the grass, the glory in the flower..."

My Dad's Mantle with Precious Memories

A Father-Daughter Hug during our Memorial Week
Posted by Picasa

Happy 81st Birthday, Dad!

The Dessert Table-note the chocolate-dipped strawberries

The Razorback Cake

Reading an excerpt from his autobiography to an attentive audience

This is my incredible dad, at his well-attended book-signing party, back in September 2007. He wrote an autobiography of the first eighteen years of his life, growing up as an orphan boy in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II. It's called "The Story of an Arkansas Boy", and it's a great read. (let me know if you are interested, we have a few copies) He's wearing a centennial anniversary t-shirt from the School of the Ozarks, the boarding school that reared him and features largely in the book.

Joey is looking up at his grandpa as he reads to the audience. Joey loved his grandpa, and was so like him--his 4th generation red hair and brown eyes, his entertaining writing style, and his love for sports and political discussion. Powerful DNA from a powerful Patriarch.

My dad is a retired welder with the Southern California Gas Company, and he can fix just about anything. If you saw the movie "Gran Turino", and you remove the profanity and racism, you have a pretty good picture of my dad. He even lives in a Vietnamese immigrant neighborhood where his neighbors bring him food and gifts! My dad is wise, intelligent, well-read, generous, fit and self-reliant. He loves the Arkansas Razorbacks unconditionally. He's an anchor in a storm and he's been an empathetic, caring support to us in our loss of Joey.

We love you, Wonderful Dad, and honor you today.

Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons (and daughters) is their fathers. Proverbs 17:6

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Creek at the Farm

Shiny Black Water

Chase Up a Tree

Shiny Faces

Sitting on the Canoe