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.