Chasing the Sun

Paint the world
Calm the heart, the mind and spirit with a fall drive.

Chasing the sun along fields and forests, the round bales of hay dotting fields against the fiery leafed edges in shades of crimson, gold, mustard, orange, oxblood, chestnut, shades of red and orange of every description, against skies of gray clouds slowly shifting to skies of clear blue. Shafts of sunlight lit the occasional tree with heavenly light, like Moses’ burning bush. The gentle cacophony of bird song carried through the open skylight. Wonder and awe lifted my sorrow. Wrapped in glory, my eyes were lifted from earth to heaven.

This glory, this peaceful glory wrapped around my heart and lifted me in my grief, and hinted, no, insisted that there is more than this.  There is more than this earthly glory and it was almost visible for a time. The veil that separates us from the eternal other was thin. In those moments, grief, so real, so profound, was nonetheless overwhelmed by glory. Comfort in the bliss of colors that came from the hand of God himself, lit by heavenly glow, colors too vibrant, too many to grasp in my finite mind.

Today I am comforted in the fading glow, the residual memories of that glory.  I know that is there, and I long for it again. That thing which seems to be the perfect fall day, but is achingly more than that… I am unable to explain why this is such a comfort, but having tasted this comfort which is also discomforting, this glory which aches for more glory, I must hunt for more.  I must seek more solitary wow.  I must seek more of those glimpses that cause me to cry out, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”  and “Glory to Thee, O God. Glory to Thee!”

Ah, help me in my grief, O my Savior!




I need a serious break.  That is, I need a break in a serious way…or, perhaps, I need a break from the serious.  Whichever way…I need a break.  I am running on empty.  My heart, my soul, my spirit, my energy…all fairlydrained right now.  Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings like eagles.  They shall walk and not grow weary, they shall run and not grow faint.  Isaiah 40:31  I’m waiting for the renewal.


I am surprised by the physical manifestations of the experience of my niece’s death and the emotional reaction, for lack of a better description.  I am exhausted.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally.  Simply and overwhelmingly exhausted.  I feel as if I am swimming in a fog, but a fog with a density and weight that I have never known.  Every movement feels heavy and strained.  Every word I read a difficulty, every fact impossible to grasp.  Questions in the text make no sense, and my assignments are unfathomable.  May as well have been written in a foreign language.  Oh, it’s a language I studied once and so I can decipher the meaning upon careful and intense reading and re-reading, but once the translation is done, there is the herculean task of gathering together the resources to answer the question.  Was that in the book or the lab manual?  Which chapter?  Which figure?  Everything is ten or twelve times more difficult than usual.  The math comes painfully after working the problem over and over and over.  Am I stupid?  Am I an emotional wreck?  Am I somehow unsuited for managing what looks so easy for others?

I feel ashamed of my weakness.  Embarrassed by my frailty.  I’m behind by nearly a week.  At this rate I will have to drop the course and loose $1000.  I have to catch up.  I have to clear my mind.  Compartmentalize.  Think, think, think.  But I need sleep instead.  No, that has to wait.  I am determined to catch up today.  But it’s already noon and I have spent hours doing minutes worth of work.  Sigh.

Back to it.  Maybe some coffee will help.  I think I will ask my husband to head to Starbucks for me.  I’m out of creamer and so far my attempts to make a suitable cup of coffee without it have failed miserably.

Jagged Edges

I have a picture in my head, burned there, indelible, scribed there.  I suspect if you were to examine my brain scan, you would find this picture.  Standing at the cemetery, one day after the funeral, the beautiful flowers shrunken and fading, the sod patched above the dirt; jagged edges, a poor patchwork of green that appeared to have been ripped into tiny pieces, evidence of the lack of care in the removal and replacement of the grass over my niece’s grave.  I feel the jagged edges in my heart, in a way I can’t understand and can’t fully explain.  I can’t shake it.  I feel the pattern of those jagged edges, that rough, careless patchwork of sod in the fibers of my chest. It’s tight, it’s painful.  I feel like I should be short of breath.

How do we do it?  How do we humans walk away with our loved ones in the dirt?  How do we keep breathing when they close the lid on the casket and turn the key?  How do we walk, talk, move and work after that?  Yet we do.  We eat, we breathe, we sleep, we work, we shower, we keep going.  I do not understand it.  I don’t know where the laughter comes from–but it comes.

The horror of death is overcome somehow with…life!  Life somehow lifts us out of the pit of death.  Perhaps because it must, perhaps because we must go on living…  We have built into us the desire for, the love of, the imperative of life.  I have pondered this before…that the saddest of homeless bum, unshaven, un-bathed, lacking in means, in sobriety, in shelter, in love and in hope, nevertheless keeps breathing, keeps moving, keeps living.

And so…despite my patchwork heart, the aching for my brother’s grief, for my sister-in law, for the other siblings, for the grandparent’s the other relatives, for her friends…we keep living.  We keep breathing, moving, going, working, playing…we keep living.  We pray, we love, we cry, and the unimaginable becomes part of us, the jagged edges remain.

What Earthly Sweetness?

I find this beautiful and very moving:

What earthly sweetness remains unmixed with grief? What glory stands immutable on the earth? All things are but feeble shadows, all things are most deluding dreams, yet one moment only, and death shall supplant them all. But in the light of Thy countenance, 0 Christ, and in the sweetness of Thy beauty, give rest to him whom Thou hast chosen, for as much as Thou lovest mankind.

~St. John of Damascus~

Core Beliefs

This is not the first place I’ve posted this profession, but I believe it today as I did the day I first wrote it. Today my niece Tiffany, age 15, died of unknown causes and though I am shaken, I still believe:

At my core, underpinning and mocking my questions is the belief–in my very pores, in my skin, in the blood that runs through my veins, it would seem, and in the voice that whispers solemnly in my inmost being, that even if the questions be dizzying, even if the world feels rocked on it’s very foundations, I know…KNOW…that God exists, that he is real, that Jesus is both the Son of God and fully God, that his sacrificial death and exultant resurrection are true and that I believe this. It is the rock of my faith, of my life, of my hope, and none of my questions, none of my doubts, none of my worries can loosen that which is woven into my very being.


I don’t know why I picked up my cell phone at work, usually I don’t pick up any calls but my husband’s. Today was different, perhaps because I was working sooooooo hard and getting things accomplished without interruption because it was so quiet at work. Two-thirds of the people in my work area were out today, so it felt like I was there alone most of the day.

A hushed voice on the other end of the line said, “…Happy’s remains are back. We’re open ’til 7.” I hung up and started crying. I’ve been doing a fairly good job at pushing away the reality that she is gone. Truly gone. But those words, and even her gentle quiet voice reminded me.

I was on the phone with the vet, staring at her lifeless body. Slowly she began to breath and her eye opened. “I can’t believe it!” I told the vet. “She’s alive again!” I looked beyond where she lay, looking at me with her upward facing eye. There she was, walking around! For a moment I was overjoyed, then I realized that she could not be at once laying there quietly breathing and staring at me and walking around three feet away. “Oh, nevermind,” I told the vet. “I’m hallucinating.”

Yes. I was hallucinating in my dream. What? There are moments when I feel like I’m just about to go into full panic attack mode, or what feels like that. Like the grief will overcome me and I will shake and cry and hyperventilate and collapse on the ground until any sane person would lock me away for 72 hours. I forced that away at work, willing the panicky overwhelming grief to leave me so that I could work and could drive to go get her. It’s all awful. I couldn’t stop crying, but I wasn’t hiccuping, panic-attacking, so I managed to drive to the vet. I did a semi-okay job parking (I didn’t hit any other cars and left enough room between us that a wraith could get through.) I walked into the vet and waited my turn at the reception desk, while a long-haired German Shepherd type dog stared at me. With them there, with this bright-eyed, healthy dog standing in front of me, I was hoping they would conclude their business and leave before someone followed them and stood behind me while I asked for my dogs remains. I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable, reminding them of this sad fact of pet ownership. Of course, they were still standing there at the counter when a second lady came to help me. I quietly told her why I was there. It felt wrong somehow to bring the specter of death into the room. She handed me the green box from the Cemetery and Crematorium and gently said, “I’m so sorry.” She started to say something else, but I cut her off. “Please don’t say anything nice. I’m trying not to be a basket case and I still need to make it home.” She smiled sadly, understandingly and I carried my dog-in-a-box to the car.

Some who don’t know me (and some who do) may find it distasteful that I call it dog-in-a-box as if I’m making light of it. Those who REALLY know me know that this is how I deal. I make light of the unbelievable, the horrid, the painful, the too hard to accept. I have to. It isn’t making light of it, so much as it is putting a light coat over the darkness. It is dark humor. I say dog-in-a-box so that I don’t let loose the depth of grief that is waiting inside me. I am incapable of that expression. I feel it, but I cannot express it. I can’t.

I have many things in life that are dreadfully painful, things that when I tell them, counselors stop and stare at me slack-jawed when I tell the tale. I cannot say those things with the gravity that some feel they deserve. Because they happened to me, I am not certain I understand the full extent of the horror that others show when they hear the tales, but I do know that for me to bear the weight of these things, I must bear them lightly. I cannot grip them in a white knuckle-grip, nor carry them chained to my ankle at all times, I must give them buoyancy by tying the helium balloons of humor to them to help carry the load. I would never make it a step with the full weight of these things on me.

This is, I suppose, what I do with my grief. I tell happy tales, so that those happy tales may carry a portion of the load of grief. I make morbid jokes, attaching more helium balloons to my pain so that they are bearable.

I’m embarrassed to say that I am crushed to have lost my dogs. A few years back it was Barney, oh my beloved Barney, and now it is his companion and mine, Happy. I feel these odd desires to hold onto her things, even though I know it’s crazy. I want to keep her bed. What for? What possible use do I have for it? Am I going to move her empty bed and place it next to the window in our next place? I’m tempted. Oh, I’m tempted. Crazy, yes? What, am I going to put her now empty bowls in the kitchen there, for us to trip over? Amazing the odd thoughts that run through my head. I never thought I would be the kind of person who would go buy a special shelf for the pets remains, nor sentimentally hold onto her coat, to hang on the wall by her boxed remains. NEVER. But, here I am. Barney has been through two moves already in his white box, and now he’ll go through another.

I don’t know whether to hope the dreams stop or to hope they continue. It’s nice to see her breathing, looking at me, walking around, even if it’s a hallucination in a dream. Maybe next time I dream of her, she’ll be running up a trail, or riding in the car with her ears flapping out the window. Maybe I’ll see them both together, on an adventure together where there are no more fences to try to contain their wandering hearts.