Archives for posts with tag: loss

Everyone remembers my Uncle Ted. Receptionists, baristas, neighbors, dining hall servers—they all know him, and comment on his walking cane, crafted by his own hands. In the garden or down the hall, if they don’t recognize the jangle of the dog collar first, they would quickly recognize him by his hat—a black bowler in recent years, before that an Indiana Jones style fedora. Nurses who came by exhaled a long ‘Oh’ when they saw him lying in the bed with nothing but an oxygen tube as his body quietly shut down. Until the very end, his heart beat fiercely. No surprise, as his pastor said, “He’s all heart.”

P1000136My Uncle Ted has a soul that is always searching, always learning. I say ‘has’ and ‘is’ because I believe that even now he is searching out old friends, meeting long lost relatives, encountering neighbors from the small Montana towns where he and my father grew up. I believe that in the Kingdom of God, my Uncle Ted has more wood carving to learn, more beautiful things to craft, even still. His tools are here, along with the remaining diamond willow branches, and we grieve to see that they will never again feel the touch of his careful hands. Hands that healed patients’ feet. Hands that stiffened at the jerk of a trout. Hands that waved to everyone, accompanied by a smile. He was quick to stop and meet a new neighbor, or ask if he could help a stranger.

Some days I wish I could recall childhood memories in sharper focus, remember words that were said, or conversations we had. Instead, I simply remember the pleasure of holidays at a beachfront home as Aunt Mary and Uncle Ted spread delicious meals. Perhaps there were sports on the old television, perhaps just the radio. It was simply comforting to be there. During the summers, we would overturn rocks at low tide to expose strange creatures to our studious gaze. There was always a dog that needed to be walked. Sunsets and thunderstorms were especially spectacular. Nature was as much inside as it was outside. Collections of plants, rocks and driftwood sat adjacent to finely worked carvings, statuettes, and the Hummel case.

Uncle Ted did not having a booming voice, but it was always a joy to hear his stories of Boy Scout adventures in the wild bush of mid-century Montana. His low chuckle at the end of a tale just hinted at a more mischievous time—not that he would have ever been the instigator. Have you heard the story about his experience at the National Jamboree of 1950,* in Valley Forge, PA? As he grew older, more stories emerged (as they are wont to do), and he filled in some of the gaps from my father’s memories. It is hard work to carry all those memories.

I believe that we have not heard the last of his stories, nor his chuckle, but for now they have been silenced. Now our work of grieving has begun. Yet grief is most fully expressed in the joy of a life lived well. Uncle Ted sought the good in everyone and everything, and taught me how to hold on to the good and the beautiful to the very end.
sunset

 

*Quick simple math correction; Ted went to the 1950 Jamboree as a Scout leader, not the first event in 1937 (he would have been only 5).

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Today is a significant day in U.S. history–a day when we became incredibly vulnerable.

Forgive me if I say that last year felt as though it should have mattered more, somehow. It was the ten year marker post-9/11. Yes, there was plenty of media coverage on it, but society careens onward and, while families and first responders feel the vastness of the loss acutely, the rest of us can merely stand by and take a moment. Perhaps this view from the West Coast is askew. It may seem strange that I want us to feel it more, yet it’s difficult to remember something I personally did not experience. …and yet, I attempt to do this very thing quite often.

Take this, my body, which is given for you.”  The words of Jesus spoken each week at churches around the world remind us that there is a strange mystery shrouding death, grief, loss, communion and the act of remembrance itself.

Loss rips us open, turns our insides out and, for a time, makes us raw. Everything hurts–what is intended to be a soft gesture from a friend pricks with searing heat. With the loss of a relationship comes a loss of control (even if it was illusory). Not manipulative control, but a kind of control over our emotions, our own self; a kind of knowing what to expect from the day. Those we love bring constancy in life’s perpetual experimentation. Our close relationships offer a kind of control factor, and when one goes, we’re suddenly barraged with free radicals from all directions. Not even the calendar is safe: birthdays, anniversaries, date nights are cast in the glow of a dark and somber hue. Loss makes us believe we will never be whole again.

“Time heals all wounds” is perhaps one of the biggest lies we could ever tell someone. The only thing time does is harden the tissue around the wound and bring scarring. When loss opens us up, we immediately begin to look for something/someone to put in its place. At the core of our being, we are hardwired for healing. We want to be whole, we need to feel complete. Grief, the companion to loss, reminds us that we are broken, missing pieces, that we are bound to others and those bonds can break.

Do we need to remember such pain? Do we need to know we’re vulnerable? Perhaps this is different for you, but I’ve noticed that it can take a series of losses before any one of us truly begin to understand just how connected we are and how we need to be with and for one another. What remembering can do is to give some structure to grief and loss, a framework or ladder for growing out of abysmal hurt. Remembering requires doing something, thinking something, consistently and regularly. Like lighting candles for prayer, there is ritual in remembering. But it isn’t just up to ourselves to practice the ritual. Some healing comes with quiet moments. More healing will come when we  invite others to practice remembering with us. One definition for communion is “intimate communication.” This is not a solo venture. The perception that we are to experience grief on our own, to somehow ‘get over’ our loss without others is a lie from the enemy of our souls.

This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant.”  Here’s a mystery: remembering death is a way to life.

The covenant Jesus offers through his death is the same Yahweh offered Abraham–to be with us individually and corporately. Emmanuel, God with us, is the proclamation of communion, before we can say, “death, where is your sting?”

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You, O Lord, are with me.