• Cancer,  Family,  Grief,  life,  Love

    The Women

    Their voices are like echoes – one speaks and you wonder which body it belongs to. Their humor coordinates and though each has a slightly different take on the world, they understand each other and laughter comes easy. I was born into a family run mostly by women; strong, sweet, funny, brilliant women. My great grandmother, Betty, had one gorgeous, blue-eyed beauty she called Carole during World War II and then didn’t have any others for almost 20 years. Carole gave birth to her daughter Tracey just a couple years after Betty gave birth to Beth and Becky. And then 25 years later Tracey had me. In and out of crises, The Women get…

  • God,  Grief,  Jesus Christ,  Kingdom,  life,  Love

    Now

    Often beside a cluttered kitchen, overlooking a disaster of a living room, my family sits down to eat dinner (usually later than I’d like to admit). At the table next to a lamp we have a little chalkboard on which I write quotes I want to remember, things I want us to see everyday. Lately we have been memorizing this passage from the Talmud while we eat Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. We say “enormity” round and wide. We say “NOW” loud and…

  • Cancer,  death,  Grief,  life

    My Dirty (water) Thirty

    For 29 years, February 4 started with breakfast in bed, a candle on pancakes, a few cards and presents, and a softly sung “Happy Birthday.” When I moved away Mom sent a box full of streamers and pancake mix to my new husband with careful instructions. She showed up in my apartment bedroom on my 23rd birthday when I lived alone so that I didn’t wake up by myself. My parents had balloons delivered to my elementary desk so I stood out all day. My dad took me out of school every year to have lunch at Marie Callender’s (he always offered to take me anywhere, it just didn’t feel…

  • death,  God,  Grief,  life,  Love

    Blowing Out the Candle

    So the lights go out. And whatever was said before it or during it, you can’t escape that the lights are off and the candles are warm. Every year we go to that Lutheran sanctuary – with the steps Mom was confirmed on, the cobbled aisle she walked down as a bride, the altar where they sprinkled water on my head in holy hope. We all pile into cars and minivans and occupy a pew or two to sing the hymns, speak the liturgies. We listen to the message about gifts or a virgin birth or good tidings and then we do the most honest, beautiful thing we could do: we…

  • death,  God,  Grief,  life

    Evil, Chaos, and Seashells

    I don’t remember what brought us there. I don’t remember if we’d had a fight or something had happened to her at work or something else, but I remember arriving to seagulls and salty air and watching her make her way across the sand. Usually the beach was recreational: we brought blankets and snacks and sand toys and tanning oil (don’t judge). This time was different. No beach bag, just us and a purpose. Mom had business here. My memory is imperfect, but what’s in here is her teaching me, showing me her way, introducing her ritual. She got out a journal and sat in the sand and told me,…

  • Beauty,  death,  Grief,  life,  Love,  Politics

    Election Day 2016

    Something will happen tomorrow. You’ll get up. You’ll do your thing. You’ll work or play or study. And the world will get herself around that sun. We’ll survive. And in America, we’ll have a new president. I went to a memorial service tonight put on by the incredibly caring people at Hospice of Spokane. They offered tips for getting through the holidays and sang folk music and let us cry our tired little eyes out together with strangers. They gave us candles to light and food for our bellies; a great reminder that in the midst of the grief and the pain, you still eat and you enjoy the cookie…

  • death,  Grief,  life,  Motherhood

    Eggs and Ativan

    I made eggs today. I woke up before the kids did (only by a few minutes, but still) and when two of the three were up and hungry I said, “Do you want eggs?” which surprised me a little and made me smile. A month and a half ago I thought I might be dying. I went to the emergency room because the pain in my chest was only getting worse after two and a half weeks of trying to convince myself it was just stress. I felt foggy and dizzy, I didn’t trust myself to drive and for good portions of the day I couldn’t mother in any active sense…

  • Christian Living,  Grief,  Jesus Christ,  life,  Worship

    Death, Where is your Sting?

    I sit in the back of the room because we are late – again – and because there is a table here with room for coffee and coloring books. I am tired. Deep tired. Tired of the platitudes and the things that are not working right now, but I come because I’m also hopeful. Because getting up on Sunday morning and walking into a church building is a liturgy in itself for me. It’s a pattern I am hoping will sync me into something (I’m not totally sure what yet). The message is about Jesus so the music is about Jesus and it’s lovely. But a lyric hits the screen…

  • Family,  Grief,  life,  Love,  Motherhood

    We Mother

    During the 20 months of her diagnosis, I made several open-ended visits to my hometown about 900 miles from where we live to be with Mom. The last visit started out rough. The whole family had traveled from all over the country to be together. We spent time at a beautiful house near the beach. Then we passed around Strep throat and influenza despite our best efforts at quarantine so we cycled through lethargy and soreness and the fear of passing it along to anyone else. With three small children, visits to the cancer clinic, and no coffee options (because one hundred million Starbucks and a Peet’s do not count as “options”).…

  • Cancer,  death,  Family,  God,  Grief,  Worship

    When Those Songs Play

    There is a station on my Pandora account – I named it “My Nest” – which I have thumbed up and thumbed down to perfection. Just about every song is deeply meaningful to me because this station has played through 2 unique pregnancies and their furiously lovely births, a dying dog, 3 moving days, the cancer news from California, all the breath-holding and fervent praying, and now it plays over my mourning. When my mom had surgery to remove the tumor we still thought could be some sort of sinus infection, the music and lyrics matched every atom of my limbo. Peace and anxiety swirled around and up to a God…