• Birth,  Cancer,  death,  Grief,  life,  Love,  Worship

    And Own that Love is Heaven

    This time last year we knew. Another tumor had presented and Mom’s doctor just told us that the treatment wasn’t working. Mom realized without trying to that she would not be with us much longer and she made peace with it, mostly. She was ready for her pain to end, she was ready to be done fighting, she was ready to “be with Jesus.” She wasn’t ready to say goodbye; really, for us to mourn her. She didn’t want to be the cause of our grief. So as she laid down to get through another headache and imagined at any point she may not wake up, she made us promise her that this…

  • 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…

  • life,  Love

    Thank You

    I started it to coddle my broken heart. It was a way to look outside myself on a day I knew I would be tempted to collapse in. A way to address one of life’s big cruelties because I couldn’t address the one that took her. It was a way for me to put my hand to the plow and put some change in motion, live up to the love a little bit. I had no idea. The first donation floored me. Because they count it in people. So with $60, two people were represented. Two people I will never meet who will be directly affected by my mother –…

  • 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

    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,…

  • 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…

  • Cancer,  death,  Family,  Grief,  life,  Love

    The Best Birthday Party

    A birthday party for a three year old is usually not thrown in between hospice visits and medication reviews. Celebrating birth seems almost vulgar around the dying. But he has given up a lot without his consent and I couldn’t stand the thought of his giving this up, too. Birthdays are a big deal for us; we start talking about them months in advance when we realize that we are “two and a half” years old. He cycled through several themes and set his heart on a Paw Patrol party. He’d tuck his chin and wrinkle his nose and his sweet little mouth curled into a smile when he talked about Chase decorations…

  • Cancer,  life,  Motherhood

    And there are monsters

    Little ones, You are unaware, yet so aware. You are navigating with us waters we have been thrust into. We did not ask for this. But you are full of grace and second chances and patience and expression. You rail against things you don’t understand (darlings, I don’t understand them either), but then you move on. And move back. And it’s lovely and hard and I admire you. I want you to know that life is beautiful. That people can be… Supernatural. They can love like heroes – they can save lives and find value and beat death. I want you to know that there are things here worth pursuing.…