Happy Birthday my Brave Knight

Someone asked me recently “Are you over it yet?” As if losing you were something I were ever going to get over.

I will always love you. I will never be over “it”. I will live , I will love, I will move along with life and love, but I will never be over it . Today is your birthday. Today is the fourth birthday I have celebrated your love without you. We celebrated your last birthday in style. we had a party here at the house with our friends you loved watching them celebrate your day. Then we went to Boldt Castle you can’t see the sign above his head but it says KNIGHTS it is a private story between us why he is my Brave Knight but suffice it to say he was the bravest knight in all the land !

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Where have all the Pastor’s gone ?

Have you ever noticed that no one in church suffers from mental illness ? Three hundred fifty million people worldwide suffer from depression that is five percent of the population of the world. Yet we never hear about it in church. I have been hospitalized six times in my life for depression in all of those times I have only ever had one pastor visit me one time and I have been an active church member every single one of those times.

Where are the Pastors of the world when the most vulnerable need them the most? Do you know the only department in the hospital that the Chaplains do not visit ? The psychiatric emergency unit. They are discouraged from visiting patients there because the patients might ask them hard questions about God and life and death.

Are you a Pastor reading this?

When was  the last time you visited the Mentally Ill ?

Why haven’t you visited the mentally ill?

STIGMA

One word answer is stigma.

You know your own  answer.

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Did You Smile Today?

It is nearing bedtime in my house; time for relaxation, reflection on the day, and maybe a few thoughts on this modern phenomenon called “selfies.” I can hear many of you groaning already. I was recently told that because I am connected to many people via the internet and because I post pictures of myself that I am a vain person. You can form your own personal opinion from whatever information you may know about me but I will respond with the reason I take pictures of myself and post them for my friends to see.

I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder more than twenty years ago. I will require treatment for it for the rest of my life. I have been hospitalized for it in the past and there are no guarantees that I will not be hospitalized for it in the future.My depression has been classified as treatment resistant and if you are familiar with depression at all you know that “treatment resistant” doesn’t even scratch the surface of describing the challenges I face. I do not say any of this to elicit your sympathy in any way but as a means of explaining where I am coming from. My depression has been nearly fatal more than once in my life. I pray to God that it never brings me to that dark of a place again.

Having a mental illness requires living a very intentional life. Everything I do requires planning and preparation. I am determined to experience all that this life has to offer me and to do that I must be careful not to allow negativity into my days. For this reason I do not own a television, this requires me to seek out news of local, national, and world events to stay informed. I don’t know the names of many of the celebrities featured on the newsstand magazines and I am not familiar with the latest and greatest mousetrap being advertised on the screen. I read online newspapers, real magazines such as The Atlantic, The Economist, Readers Digest, and Health. I don’t think my way of living is better than anyone else’s but it is what works for me.

Why did I ask if you smiled today? The reason I asked you that is the reason I take selfies and post them on my facebook page; it is because there are many days when that smile I put on my face for the camera is the only time I smile that day. I am a widow who lives alone, there can be many days when I see no one but if my smile on Facebook means that someone else smiles back at me by clicking like on my picture then I smile in return. If you want to call this vanity I won’t attempt to change your opinion, but if my smile has ever made you smile then I have accomplished what I wished to.

Blessings and Goodnight

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Thank You Pussy Hat

Dear Pussy Hat marching women of the world,

THANK YOU!

Pussy Hat

Thank you for taking time to go out and show the world that, peace is possible even when disagreement exists. Thank you for showing the world that diversity in humanity doesn’t have to mean disharmony. Thank you for showing up, being heard, and being counted!

Thank you for doing this, from someone who was; not able to march, sing, carry a sign or have her voice heard. Thank you for myself, for my daughters’ in law, my granddaughter, my nieces, my sisters, my cousins and my 90+ year old Aunts.

Thank you for my; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist, Pagan, Unitarian, Questioning, Hindu, Buddhist, Orthodox, Liberal, Conservative, pro choice, right to life, working, non working, working mothers, work at home mothers, differently able, tall, short, round, and thin, young, old, somewhere in the middle of everything friends!

Without you, my Pussy hat wearing, marching, sign bearing friend,  my weekend would not have been punctuated with photos of joy, peace, love and friendship.

Thank you; for being where I could not go, for saying what I could not say,  therefore allowing me to be exactly who I am meant to be.

Thank you!

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The Grief Calendar

December 3, 2016

It has been two years since I published the thoughts that follow. The anniversaries still come, the memories still bring a smile or a tear, the calendar continues to be a reminder of what once was, but it is also a tool to help plan what is to come. There have now been more milestones since Don died than we actually shared together. More birthdays, Thanksgivings, Easters, and soon Christmases will be celebrated since his passing.

As I look forward to more birthdays, weddings, graduations and celebrations of all kinds it is good to also look back and remember what once could have been, and thank God for what there still is. There is still love, kindness, forgiveness, family, friends, and hope! Hope for a future that contains joy, love, happiness, and family.

As we all look towards Christmas this year during Advent let us not forget that for some this will be the first Christmas without someone near and dear. So please pick up the phone, send them a note, or just visit the person who is missing someone for the first time this Christmas.

Christine

 

December 3, 2014

I seem to have a different relationship with the calendar since my world came to an end six months ago. The painful passing of time being marked in increments of greater and greater length. First it was hours, then days, weeks, now months. Each leap meaning I am continuing to live and go forward.

Going forward also means sometimes looking ahead, which is not the same as it used to be. Looking ahead to the next meaningful date on the calendar means mixed emotions at best, or with fear and dread of the survivability of the date most often. First it was the blur of days before his funeral, then his memorial service in our hometown, and now all of the little, but oh so meaningful, anniversaries from our way too short life together. The first time we met, the first e-mail, the first card, the first letter, the first concert together.

That first time we hugged and felt the spark of desire. The first look into his eyes knowing that I would never be the same again after sinking into the deep blue pools of love that they held. The first time my lips accidentally brushed his cheek as we embraced to say goodnight. The first kiss. The first time he said “I love you” and the first time I replied. The first time we danced and the delight in his eyes while we clumsily made our way around the room.DSCN7188 (640x434)

Little anniversaries that we celebrated in small but meaningful ways, flowers, cards, a special dinner at home or a night out to hear some music. We both kept a dated journal to remember special days. There would be notes tucked into books to surprise each other, or sometimes a special sweet treat from the freezer or the oven.

I have also “survived” the big dates on the calendar; Our wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, his birthday and my own. There are special dates in the Church Calendar that have great meaning to us as well. All Saints Day was a date not just to remember that he has gone on to join the Great Communion of Saints but it had special meaning to the two of us before this year as well. We had both suffered losses in our lives and it was through loss and through our faith that part of our connection was built. One of the early things Don did for me in our friendship was to go up in my place and bring home the rose offered in our local church for my Mother when I couldn’t be there that day due to obligations at school.

This week we have had the First Sunday in Advent and World Aids Day. A year ago those two dates coincided with Communion Sunday and I had the privilege of helping to serve communion to  Don for what I thought would be the first time. It was the only time I offered the elements to my husband and I am eternally grateful that I had that chance.

There are more dates to come as I look at the calendar and sometimes I am not sure if I can endure the memories and other times I know that without the memories I could not endure.

In this season of preparing for Christ, in this season of Advent, I will prepare my heart for the pain it must go through and I will prepare my heart for the JOY of Christ, because in  ‘All My Days’  I know that Christ is with me, just as I know Don is with me always.

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With a Little Help From My Friends

These are just a handful of the people that make my life worthwhile. There are so many people not pictured that help me find meaning in life that I couldn’t begin to list all of them. It may be Halloween to some, Reformation Day to others, but as I remember the saints that have gone from my life I put together a little tribute to the living saints that I am blessed enough to have in my life. I love you !

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Autumn Anniversary

Route 30 Adirondack State Park

Route 30 Adirondack State Park

That first year, less than five months after he died,   I could not even see their beauty. The second year their beauty haunted my dreams and stung like thistles.  This year their beauty brings warm memories and a tear or two. You see we were married In Autumn, October 11th to be exact, right around the date that the trees in Upstate New York reach their full beauty. Their splendor, something that people drive miles to see, was all around us as we celebrated our love.

Blue Mountain Lake October 2016

Blue Mountain Lake October 2016

I have always loved Fall. It is refreshing and inspirational to me; to say goodbye to the long hot days of Summer, to lift the windows and feel the crisp air. To occasionally catch the scent of a neighbors wood stove taking the chill off the night when turning on the furnace just seems too soon. There is nothing better than that first walk in the woods crunching leaves underneath my boots or wrapping up in a sweater for the first time of the season.

 

All funds raised support mission projects and trips supported by the church.

All funds raised support the mission projects and trips of the church.

Pumpkins covered the lawn of the church the day we were married. The church fundraiser seemed so appropriate for the wedding day of this girl with the pumpkin colored hair. My dress was green, his suit was brown, the wedding was a beautiful expression of who we were and who we hoped to become. We made a commitment before all of our loved ones and God that we would be together from that day forward, together in service and together in faith.  It was a musical and love filled ceremony with six songs and vows that we had written together.

The reception was simple and elegant. A musician played the guitar while our guests helped themselves to desserts and sparkling cider. We danced together to the beautiful wedding song we had practiced to during our Fred Astaire dancing lessons, carefully we counted out our first steps as we nervously stepped onto the dance floor.  Soon the rest of the room disappeared and we were alone together for the first time as husband and wife. It was what we thought would be the first of many dances, but in the end it was the only time we “danced” together.

Blue Mountain Lake October 2016

Blue Mountain Lake October 2016

There are other ways of dancing of course and Donald and I lived our lives as a dance every day that we had together. While our time together was cut short unexpectedly we lived each and every day with intention. We did not know that our time together would be so brief but I have very little doubt that we would have changed a thing about the way we spent our time together. We didn’t have a television or a subscription to Netflix or any other streaming service. We choose instead to spend our days learning about each other and deepening our relationships with friends and family.

The trees are beautiful in the Adirondacks this year. My photos do not begin to convey their actual beauty. Take some time to look up and around during this beautiful season, and while you are doing so, remember that you are also a creation of the amazing God that created the beauty you see.

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Homeless, Looking for Work

Homelessness is not something I write about often, but  frequently write about issues facing the LGBTQ community. I had decided not to write about Tyler because my motive for helping Tyler was not for recognition or thanks, or for even purely altruistic purposes, because in reality I hired Tyler,  but when I thought about it I realized that people need to know about the Tylers in this world.

Let me begin by saying that Tyler was not his name but that is unimportant. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was leaving the home improvement store to come home to work on an outdoor project. Tyler was standing at the traffic intersection with a cardboard sign that said he was homeless and looking for work. He was younger than my youngest son and maybe that is why I called him over and said “Do you want to work?” He shook his head vigorously and said yes! I told him to hop into my car and I asked him his name. Filling him in on what the job on my front porch entailed I let him know that I would pay him twenty dollars an hour for two hours work. He said he knew how to do the job and thanked me. When we arrived at the house I asked if he wanted to eat before he worked and he said no thank you, the home improvement store had a fast food chain in front of it and he had been given food.

Tyler went straight to work and I explained to my friend that was visiting that there was just something about him that convinced me I need not worry about my safety in any way. I had told him that I was a minister during the car ride and I had also told him that I didn’t intend to preach to him. I knew that simply by letting him know that I was a minister that from that point forward it would be my actions and not my words that would represent the church to this young man.

While Tyler was working I remembered that there was a pair my late husband’s jeans in my closet and I thought about them. I had given away most of Don’s clothing in the two times I had moved since losing him.  Don wasn’t going to need them of course and I knew Don would want me to take care of this young man. While offering him the jeans and a t-shirt, I put his clothing into my washing machine. He asked me what kind of minister I was and I told him that I was a rather progressive, liberal United Methodist and I asked if he had gone to church growing up. He said that it had been a “Born Again” church in a rural area and that it was pretty conservative. He said he didn’t feel comfortable there. I said I was sorry that was the case and tried to tell him that not all churches were the same.

When he had finished working I asked if he wanted to shower before I took him back to where he was staying for the night. He said his brother lived in an apartment, and that the next door neighbor usually let him sleep on his porch. Then he told me that he was bisexual and that his relationship with his mother was rocky. I gave him my phone number and let him know that if he ever wanted to go to a church where he felt comfortable he could call and I would take him.

Would I do the same thing over again? Maybe, maybe not. People come into our lives for a reason and maybe the reason I met Tyler was to give me a home for the memories I have been hanging on to in my closet. Maybe the reason I came into Tyler’s life was to let him know that not all Christians would put him in a closet.

For more information on how to help at risk LGBTQ Youth connect with The Trevor Project here. For more information about homelessness for LGBTQ Youth connect with the True Colors Fund here.

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Making Peace With Grief

This article originally appeared in “The Yoke, Quarterly Newsletter” Published online September 1st 2016
Picture

The first time that I knew someone who died was when I was about six years old…

Grief is a fact of life; it is a byproduct of love and mortality. If you are in love with someone and that person is in love with you, one of you is going to be left behind without the other. Those car accidents, you know the ones I am referring to; where two people who are married to each other both die instantly,   that the financial planning experts and insurance salesman talk about, well they just don’t happen that often and thank God for that.

 I tend to be a “prepare for the worst and pray and hope for the best in life” kind of person. Unfortunately when my new husband went from vibrant health to death in less than half of a day, I was not prepared. You aren’t supposed to go from being a newlywed to being a widow before even celebrating your first anniversary. There is supposed to be some kind of warning, anything to give you a heads-up that someone is sick. I had no warning when Don died he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm. His heart stopped beating in the emergency room with my arms around his head. The doctors tried everything they could but they could not save him.

 The first time that I knew someone who died was when I was about six years old and my Grandmother’s Brother died. I was very confused because I wasn’t crying and other people were, I remember feeling guilty. I remember my Great Uncle Paul as this very tall kind man who would play jokes with the kids and who had a miniature poodle. He was married to my great Aunt Helen who had red curly hair and was rather round when standing next to her tall and lanky husband. Children need to be told that whatever they are feeling it is appropriate and they need to feel that they can ask questions and that their question will be answered with respect and truth.

During the time in-between my first experience with death and my most recent loss of my husband I have been the person in my family who speaks at funerals, the one who comforts my family, the only person in my family to pray in public. I have lost four of my first cousins and been there for their parents and then I have been there for the passing on four uncles, my two grandmothers and tragically the burial of my two nephews and one niece under the age of seven. Helping a parent bury their child is something all Pastors dread. It smacks of unfairness in the universe; it isn’t supposed to happen that way. Children bury their parents and grandparents and the generation that has lived longer than them.  We aren’t supposed to say goodbye to our children it is not natural.

The ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono…

So how does someone make peace with grief? I don’t know the answer for everyone; I only know the answer for me. There is only one way to get through grief and that is by grieving. You do not get over grief, you cannot sidestep around it. You must go through grief in order to get through it. I took a year off from school after my husband died. I didn’t consciously intend to take a year off but thankfully I had wise and caring Deans and Professors who looked out for me. To me and many others making peace with grief means making peace with the person who died.

 The ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono: “A Good Goodbye” is something I find resonating with my experience. According to this practice there are four steps that one must take when saying goodbye to someone; 1) I love you, 2) I thank you, 3) I forgive you, 4) please forgive me, and then finally then Goodbye. We may not all consciously realize that we are going through these steps but they are usually there none the less.

When my mother died in December of 2011 she had been sick for fifteen months. As her caregiver I was with her pretty much around the clock for that time. We had opportunities to actually say those things to each other. We loved each other unconditionally and we were at peace when she passed. She was not the perfect mother, I was a far cry from a perfect daughter but none of that mattered. Love wins in the end every day. 

When I lost my husband in the May of 2014 we had no warning. We had no goodbye. Making peace with someone who has gone on before you is one of the hardest things to do in life. I easily told my husband that I loved him, I always will. I had to say I am sorry for my shortcomings in our relationship, and to do that without being overcome with guilt takes a long time. I had to forgive him for anytime he had come short of what I needed him to be. That was a simpler process. Thanking my husband for all that he brought into my life was also relatively easy. He taught me what love was; he stood behind me and always had my back. I did not know what real love was until I fell in love with him, but now that I know how wonderful love can be I also know he would want me to continue living my life to the fullest and he would be happy and proud of my accomplishments.

 We are never alone in this process.

You might say that if all there is to making peace with grief are those simple steps then why is it so hard to deal with the loss of someone we hold so dear? There are no two people who are alike in this world; therefore there are no two deaths in the world that we will have to deal with that will be the same. That is what makes us human, what enables to fall in love with someone and not someone else, and this humanity  makes us vulnerable to pain and grief and loneliness.

 It is the hardest thing in the world to keep on living when someone you love so dear has been taken so suddenly, but that is indeed the thing we must do; live! We must make a conscious decision every day, to get out of bed, to go to school or work, to care for ourselves.

 We are never alone in this process. When we weep God weeps and when we are in pain God feels that pain with us. God did not cause our pain. God did not “bring us to it, to bring us through it.” Death is non-discriminating and it is final, we cannot escape it nor can we really prepare for it.

Death is about saying goodbye but many times when someone dies someone comes along and brings joy to our lives after we thought all joy was lost. For me this person has been my granddaughter. Just this last weekend my oldest son married her mother and I am officially her Gigi from now on. Having a seven year old say that she wants to sit with me on a train ride ( completely designed for children to ride, meaning no leg room if you can picture it) is the greatest thing in the world. When this seven year old runs up to me and puts her arms around me, all the cares of the world disappear. I am a much better person with her in my life than before I knew her; and in a way that makes me at peace with the loss of my husband. In the end; even though I still miss my husband every day, I am here alive with my children and granddaughter and that is why Love Wins!

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Summertime

Time to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

Time to read a book for pleasure.

Time to catch up with old friends.

Time……..just that…….time.

To heal, to relax, to restore one’s soul.

To visit, to connect, to rekindle, to be restored.

Gerber Daisy

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