On Death and Living: A Series, Part 1

This will be the first of many posts on death and dying, fear, life, and living. I’m not even sure where to begin, so I’ve prayed a bit and will just start typing, I guess. I also will be welcoming some guest posts via interviews and podcasts on here, so stay tuned, and also, keep in mind, the views expressed here, as far as my personal posts, are my own, may not line up with what you’ve been taught or currently believe about death, dying, fear, life, or living, but are mine and THAT’S OKAY…AND YOU ARE OKAY TO WRESTLE WITH THESE TOPICS YOUR WAY…and THAT’S OKAY. My intention in opening this topic and even answering questions from others is not to pretend to be a death authority, but hopefully to bring to light the lies and beauty that surround the topic, one the world has tried for years to avoid, escape, and keep at bay. I’ll use sentiments like “I believe” or “I think” or “from my experience” quite a bit, so keep this in mind as you read and process, recalling this is simply my perspective and lessons from my journey.

I’ve had the privilege to be with a handful of people while they passed away, or shortly thereafter, before their spirits left their bodies, and after their last breaths and final heart beats. I say “privilege” because being with someone when they die is truly a sacred, holy moment…I’ve honestly never known more of God’s peace than witnessing that moment and I’d encourage anyone and everyone to sit with a dying person rather than try to avoid it, if you ever have the chance…not only for them, but for you, too.

I feared and obsessed about death quite a bit as a kid, into adolescence, until I went to my grandpa’s funeral. From 3rd grade on, without fail, until my junior year of high school, a friend or classmate or family member, died. I remember thinking that since I couldn’t imagine myself at an older age, like, for instance, in elementary school I couldn’t see myself as a kid in junior high, in high school I couldn’t conceive life in college, so I figured that meant I was going to die…and so on, these thoughts came and went throughout my younger years. I even envisioned my parents crying because I died. It was jacked up, for sure, and fueled by fear and ignorance of the unknown. Looking back, I know it’s because I never processed any of the deaths of my friends until I was a junior in high school and my grandpa died. I was FREAKED out to go see him in a coffin. Let me back up to say, I’m sure none of you did this, but when babysitters were over or when I’d go to slumber parties, let’s just say we snuck horror movies, so my imagination with death, the dead, and the boogie man were all intermingled and Hollywood-ized, so, of course, fear and extreme feelings were coupled with dying.

When my Dad stood beside me, looking on at his own father’s body laid to rest in the coffin that day, a sense of peace washed over me, I know no other way to describe it. I know without a doubt it was God’s presence showing me what happens when life and living and laughter and vibrancy and personality are no longer dwelling in arms, legs, and a familiar smile. The heart stops, but almost 30 years later my grandpa’s voice can still be heard in my heart when I sing, “How Great Thou Art” or hear Flight of the Bumblebee on a violin or think about chemistry and his contributions to science or enjoy boat rides or cherries jubilee. He took none of that with him, but left all that he contributed in life with us, the good and the bad…we all do. I looked at my grandpa’s body, then turned to my dad and said, “Huh. That’s not grandpa. That’s just his body.” And for the first time, as far as it had to do with death, I was okay.

Would I miss my grandpa? Of course. But the fear lessened its grip.

And FEAR is really the big four letter word, here. DEATH has five letters and DIE has three, but FEAR steals life from today, destroys future hope, and robs our energy, love, and vitality for living…and when we spend all our time fearing what is inevitable for every. single. human. ever. I suggest there is a lot of LIVING we’ll miss.

I believe FEAR is one of the underlying things that has to be discussed and exposed when it comes to the topic of death because FEAR of death and dying, sickness, pain, ailing, aging, loneliness, longing, doesn’t make death go away…FEAR paralyzes us by planting seeds of doubt, namely and especially, doubt that God is in love with us because we experience death and pain and separation at all.

LOVE and LIFE are inseparable from the topic of DEATH, too, so must be discussed in depth in order to be FREE to LIVE.

More to come…

Mother’s Day, 1987

Mother’s Day 1987, my Mom chose where we went to church that Sunday. We had been going to a great Catholic church for years but moved away and just. could. not. do. the local Parrish as it was D. E. A. D. and I mean, dead. No pulse. Dry as a bone. Even the priest died.

We thought, “God, You are big. Surely there is more to You than just standing, sitting, and kneeling…”

So, a beautiful lady who used to help my Mom clean the house once in a while invited us to go to her church. And when my Dad said, “Betty, why don’t you pick where we go for Mother’s Day…”, my Mom took him up on it.

28 years ago, exactly, on May 10th, 1987, we walked into a small non-denominational charismatic church where people were dancing in the aisles, waving flags, marching, and shouting “Hallelujah” and “Jesus” and praying in tongues and the pastor had a southern accent.

It was awkward. Seriously.

But, high-tailing it out of there would have been even more awkward, so we sat down near the front, a never-before heard of thing as a Catholic, and listened as best we could through the Texas twang to the message the preacher was sharing that day. And what we heard, amidst the hankies and praises and “amen’s” was that the God who we knew loved us, the One we knew about already from Catholicism, was One who wanted to know us, and be known by us, in a more personal way through the example of the life of Jesus Christ. And we learned the Holy Spirit wasn’t so much a Ghost as our spiritual life-line, a powerhouse for getting to know God through His word, a forever-with-me Presence for discernment and revelation, God’s presence in me for life.

And it clicked. It made sense. God, at least an iota of God, made sense to me in a way that changed my desires from learning ABOUT Him to wanting to get to KNOW Him, and be known by Him.

I watched my Mom quite a bit on this new portion of the spiritual journey. I watched her come into herself, her true self, her child-of-God-self. I wondered why she cried a lot about Jesus, so I finally asked her. She told me they were tears of happiness and thankfulness, tears to show her love for the Lord.

I used to be annoyed at how quickly my Mom’s eyes would rim wet when she’d talk about God and his Word. She could cry at the drop of a hat for the capacity of love she had for God.

Over the last several years, her tears didn’t bother me at all. The moment my daughter was born my tears began to well up and spill over, even at a commercial. I learned empathy. I was struck when I became a Mom just how very much my Mom loved each of us girls.

But as I sit and write this, remembering back to my Mom’s arms outstretched, head lifted, smile wide, tears freely streaming, dancing before her Lord, the very Lover of her soul, I’m most grateful that on Mother’s Day so many years ago, my Mom modeled to me a love and hunger for God, both in the giving and receiving, that would grow to insatiable depths right before my eyes.

One might think with such an example, one of a woman falling in love with her God and living solely for Him, that I’d seemingly follow suit. One might think. But I continue to fail miserably and pray more for God to raise my kids in spite of me.

Maybe that’s it? You see, I know my Mom wasn’t perfect, but the legacy of memories she left me are ones of her passionately pursuing her God.

I’ve passionately pursued trying to have my act together and continue to come up short…putting the cart before the horse, believing the lie that I HAVE to have my act together in order to approach God or receive from Him.

What my Mom modeled most faithfully was a life of going to Him each day and asking Him what she was supposed to be doing. One day at a time. Not perfectly but beautifully.

And looking back…and looking forward, I realize, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

All along, all that time, she “modeled” what a woman loved by God looks like…that’s where the tears flowed from…the place of knowing His grace and forgiveness and unconditional love, in spite of herself.

Thanks, Mom, for leaving a Mother’s Day legacy that defies time and space…I love you, always. Boo xoxox

Taken for Granted: A Series on Grief

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Never in a million years did I imagine that this season of “The Graveswolds”, aka, life without a home, traveling some with Jason’s job, and basing out of my Dad’s house or my Mother-in-law’s house, was about me, so much. Sure, some of it…like the part where I’d be freed up of some grown-up responsibilities […]

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The Stories Behind the Buzz

T-shirt brought to you by "Chosen and Dearly Loved" a ministry for special needs.

Today I shaved my head. Let me rephrase that, first I put it into two high pig tails and let Emily and her best friend, Sunny the daughter of one of my dear friends, cut them off to donate. But the reason for the cut wasn’t to donate. Then we had a bit of fun, […]

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Enjoying the Cold

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THAT is a title I never thought I’d scribe. I don’t care for the cold. But I fell in love with a guy from the sub-zero plains of South Dakota, and though he had no desire to return there after college, it seems 21+ years into our marriage, we are here, with the kids, and […]

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No One is Born an Asshole

Let’s say that one more time, not for shock value, but for the sake of truth and hopefully conveying my heart: No one is born an asshole.” This can be said a plethora of ways: jerk, cheater, meanie, bully, etc. But the reality is, we are all born little, sweet, and tender.  Having had 3 babies, […]

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One Word 365, 2015

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved gathering girls/women together to hear their stories. To listen to the heart of another woman is a privilege and honor, truly a sacred encounter. This is something about which I am so passionate, I’ve spent the last several years studying, and trying to put into practice, […]

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The 5 Minute Marriage

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The other day Jason and I had our first 5 minute Stand Up meeting. The day prior, I didn’t know what a “Stand Up” , or Scrum, meeting, was. He, on the other hand, has known about, held, and attended these types of meetings at his places of employment over the years. He also facilitates group conversations, conference calls, […]

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On Peacemaking and Bridge Building

My personal mission statement includes “peacemaking” and “bridge-building,” as does the mission statement of my non-profit organization, Bevy. Would I compare myself to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for these reasons? I most certainly would not compare myself to him, a man I’ve already outlived in age, but one who greatly surpassed me as far […]

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Fluid

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This vagabond life as The Graveswolds isn’t without its ups and downs. (*For those just tuning in, we sold our house, sold or gave away half our possessions, put the rest in storage, all a week and a half before Thanksgiving, and have been without a home, not homeless as there is a difference, ever since…THIS […]

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