Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blue Christmas Again

"It feels entirely impossible that I will live the rest of my life without my brother's physical presence. It feels like a horrible dream and a cruel joke." 

These are the words I read this morning from a precious friend on facebook. Another bereaved mother is inviting her community to a mass in her daughter's honor on Christmas Eve. Our new friends in Joplin, MO are suffering through their first terrible Christmas after the crushing tornado that killed so many. A precious Maui friend is experiencing her first lonely Christmas with her husband in Heaven, as many local Navy SEAL families here are facing their first tough Christmas morning without daddy.

My thoughts turn hourly toward many friends who are suffering loss this Christmas,  and one very precious family that is anticipating loss as they bravely wend their way through another Christmas with a terminal cancer prognosis. I worry about them all, and pray for them, and ask God to pour mercy on them. I have met so many broken-hearted people now, and know there is a whole, almost invisible, substrata of people for whom the Christmas holiday is truly excruciating. It's a fount of once sweet memories that has now become a painful reminder of deep, unrecoverable loss. Doug Coupland said, "Christmas makes everything twice as sad." There are no quick cures under the tree for these hurting people.

This is our fourth Christmas without Joey, and we are in an edgy, restless, unmanageable funk. You might think we would be used to it, but we are not. After 28 Christmases with our vibrant son, one who lit up our lives, we are not going to "get over" his absence anytime soon. It still cuts deeply and we are in a bit of a wilderness trying to be part of the holidays with our friends and church, but mostly longing to simply wander into a cave for a week or two and cry. It creates an unwieldy divide inside the soul.

Scripture calls death an enemy. The Bible  never glosses over death, or tries to minimize it in any way. It is the thief of everything that is good in this life--love, companionship, hopes and dreams--and the Bible tells the truth about it. But it also gives us hope that death will not be the end of the story. I cling to these words of Jesus:

John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

And these from the Apostle Paul:

1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

It's true that there is no quick cure for grief and loss, and it won't be fixed today or tomorrow. It does require a patient wait for the things God has prepared for us. But they are coming and that is our solid hope. I believe the reassurances about the world to come--a place where there will be no more death, sorrow, sickness or separation. My anchor is there. I lifted it out of the miry pit of this world, and sunk it into the solid rock of Heaven when my son left. My hope is there.
For now, we get through the days as we can. No small task, but we find our ways. My friend in CO bakes and quilts, my friends in OH preach, and my friend in WA writes and collects blankets for the children's hospital. We give as we can and no longer expect so much from this world. We weep with those who weep. We don't ride the wave of false joy that the television specials and commercials promote. We get in and out of stores as fast as we can. We don't relate to Jolly St. Nick or jolly anything else. Jolly is a thing of the past.
Rather, we endure like a runner in a marathon, for the trophy at the end of the race. We keep our "eyes on the prize" and ignore the distractions on the sidelines. We anticipate the party that will be had then--a true celebration, with true comfort and true joy. And best of all, the truth that makes it possible to survive this sorrowful world, we will all be together at the finish line.

Though it isn't easy, that, when all is stripped away, is somehow turning out to be enough.

“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.” ~ William Penn

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Son's Handiwork

My son created this video as part of his ongoing ad campaign for Red  Bull in 2007. It's all for fun and I'll spoil it for you by telling you that Miguel del Toro is a fictitious character. I love the subliminal advertising with the pro surfers wearing Red Bull hats.  It's had over a half million hits on youtube.  He also did a Red Bull campaign with Shawn White, the Olympic  snowboarder. I posted about that during the last Winter Olympics.   

Just one more reason why I miss our kid so much.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

John, Curt, Patti, Jeff

This is one of my favorite pictures of my friends, Curt and Patti. Curt went home to be with the Lord on December 4, after suffering through a brain tumor and treatment. He was a great man and a  pastor at our Maui Church. The following words are from a comment I wrote on his family's blog. We will miss you, Curt. All our love to Patti and the family.  

Fifteen years of sharing a men's group with Joe, week after week, year after year, Joe said Curt was a true friend and a support through thick and thin--one of the dearest friends of his life. One of my (Karen's) most cherished memories is of our son's Baldwin High graduation. Joey wore Maui casual: slippers and shorts under his gown, thinking he could outsmart the dress code of slacks, shoes, shirt and tie. Not a chance. They pulled him out of the line up and said, "NO slacks, no diploma". We were too far from Kihei to make it back in time. The traffic outside the stadium was snarled in a standstill. Nonetheless and without a moment's hesitation, Curt came to the rescue. Despite the fact that his own daughter was also graduating, he blasted out of the stadium, drove home, grabbed the necessary garb from his own closet and got it back to Baldwin High in the nick of time for our son to walk the processional with his classmates. I cannot see those graduation photos without seeing Curt, the man who made it possible.

Curt was a man of character, unselfishness, wisdom, strength, calm and determination. He seemed to intuitively know how to solve just about any problem--he'd seen it all. He was kind, friendly, and the best Sunday morning emcee I've ever seen. He knew how to take the cringe out an awkward moment and make everyone relax.

The last time I saw Curt, he was at the beginning of his cancer, in the hospital, post-surgery. Our trip to Maui coincided, and I was so glad we were able to see him. As we surrounded him in a circle of prayer and support, I saw one tear trickle down his cheek. That is my final and most poignant memory of him. I think he knew it was the beginning of the end of his life's journey, and though he was courageous, I think it was the realization that this was going to be his goodbye to all of us. We were so optimistic, and I only realize this now in hindsight. I am so glad I had that moment with that beautiful man. We will miss our dear friend, and know that Heaven is better for having him there--though we are poorer without him. Thank you, Curt, for being an amazing, good and faithful servant, and our friend.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Andrea Bocelli Sings "Time to Say Goodbye"

Lyrics translated:

When you are far away

I dream of the horizon

and words fail,

and, yes, I know

that you are with me;

you, my moon, are here with me,

my sun, you are here with me

with me, with me, with me.

Time to say goodbye. -- I'll go with you

to countries I never

saw and shared with you,

now, yes, I shall experience them.

I'll go with you

on ships across seas

which, I know,

no, no, exist no longer,

with you I shall experience them again.

I'll go with you.

I watched the "Andrea Bocelli in Central Park" PBS special tonight. Wept my way through this song--a mother's song. It filled me with sorrow, longing and hope for the world to come.
Hope this comforts some other mothers who are missing their beautiful children this Christmas, and for anyone missing someone essential...may God comfort each of you.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Suffering and Hope

What I encountered just last weekend:
 a young man's suicide while he was away at college,
a mother whose teen daughter was killed in an auto accident
at an uncontrolled traffic intersection,
a Missouri city ravaged by a freak tornado
and 116 random deaths,
our Maui pastor succumbing to brain cancer,
military widows and their children gathering together
at a hotel in West Virginia.

Every day, the bell tolls. Death, grief, loss.
It cannot be ignored.
It cannot be controlled.
It cannot be contained.

 The ability to bounce back after trauma and loss.
The ability to scale a jagged mountain of shock, sadness, and sorrow,
 on your hands and knees,
and keep going
while knowing
there are yet more mountains
to be scaled.

I guess I can say now that I have it.

It requires endurance.
"I can do this for now."

It's based on hope.
"It won't always be this way." 

It relies on trust in the Truth Teller.
"If it were not so, He would have told me".

Rev 21:3-5
 I also heard a loud voice from the throne which said: "Behold, God's dwelling-place is with men, and he shall dwell among men, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them. He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning nor wailing, nor pain, for the first things have passed away."
The One who is seated on the throne said:
 "Behold, I make all things new!"
And he added, "Write this:
'These words are faithful and true.'"