Blessed are the P’s

Blessed are the Painters of pictures for their work brings joy to others.

Philip water-colored a picture.

Owen water-colored himself.

Two artists


Blessed are the Painters of chicken coops for they beautify the world, or at least a tiny piece of it.

1989?

2019 — a work in progress


Blessed are the Preservers of the Past; blessed are those who Push for Progress;

In a sidewalk in Boston — “Friend –  Look up and see the North Church Tower … This view preserved for all future generations…”

View of the North Church Tower

And blessed is the balance between the two.

I recently went to Boston with my daughter, Mary. We walked the Freedom Trail from Faneuil Hall to the Massachusetts State House. Along the way, we saw the large medallion pictured above, telling us to “Look up and see the North Church Tower.”

“One if by land and two if by sea…” My mother could recite Paul Revere’s Ride well into her dementia. Earlier that day, I had attended worship at the old North Church, where the usher let me into my own private box. I read the sign on wall there that told of Charles Wesley preaching there. I was in awe.

But I could barely see the North Church from the site of medallion. Oh, it’s there. It’s spire rises above whatever that blue-green thing is.

Boston is a city that works hard to preserve the past.

It’s a balancing act, though.

For instance, the Old Corner Bookstore, built in 1716, is now a Chipotle restaurant. Mary bemoaned its fate. On the other hand, I pointed out to her that the building was going to be demolished in 1960 and turned into a parking lot, but investors purchased it and revitalized it. It’s still standing.

Preservation versus progress.

Both are necessary.


Blessed are the Perseverators.

I can’t remember exactly what my father was doing at the time, but I remember Helen telling me that he was perseverating. It was a new word for me,

but certainly not a new concept.

The repetition that goes with dementia, or autism, or brain injury may be all too familiar to some of us.

Lately my father has been perseverating over church. Our conversations go like this:

Dad: So are you going to take me to church?

Me: No, Dad. Today is (fill in the weekday). You go to church on Sunday.

Dad: Why?

Me: Because that’s when they have worship services. If we went there right now, nobody would be there. You go on Sunday.

Dad: Ok. (short pause) Are you going to take me to church now?

Me: No, Dad. Today is (fill in the weekday). You go to church on Sunday.

And so on.

He wants to go to church, and I remind myself what a blessing that is. He perseverates over a positive.

Blessed are those who Persevere.

I admit that I get frustrated with the perseverating.

It happens all day.

It happens all night.

I’m getting tired.

Yesterday I had to re-certify my lifeguarding. For the first time, the pre-test — a 300 yard swim followed by a timed brick retrieval — was daunting.

I knew I could do it, but my body wasn’t so sure.

Had I thought of it, I could have sung the Dorie song — “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

Instead, I did the Little Engine That Could — “I think I can, I think I can,” and slowly, slowly I completed the swim. (Okay, well, not too slowly. I swam it well within the allotted time.)

Perseverance sometimes requires a series of inner pep talks.

Each time I had to climb out of the pool at the wall, I had to remind myself that I could do it.

Each time I start feeling frustrated with the perseverating, I also have to remind myself that I can do this.

I can.

I can.

I love this man and I can answer the same question 257 times.

In one day.

Blessed are those who persevere, who run the race with endurance, who finish the swim test, who live with perseverators, for they shall hear, “Well done.”

Blessed are those with Open Hands

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with my hands clenched and guarding my heart. I’m sure it’s stress, but it doesn’t change the little exercise I go through — opening my hands wide and spreading my fingers, willing them to stay open while I fall back asleep.

Open hands feel vulnerable. I have to be very intentional about it.


My son Sam went to British Columbia for school and adventure. Adventures like climbing sheer rock faces.

I had to ask him to stop sending photographs. I could handle ones like this:

But not ones like this:

Once he called me and said, “Mom! The coolest thing happened this weekend while I was climbing!”

“What?” I asked, thinking it would be a wildlife sighting or a beautiful vista.

“”I fell!!” he said.

My heart stopped. I felt my stomach squeeze.

“It was so cool!” he continued. “The rope caught me!”

“Don’t tell me stories like that,” I said.

Really. I can’t handle them.

But while Sam was out there, I learned to pray with open hands. I could do nothing to change what would happen — just pray.

And let go.

It felt very vulnerable.


I emptied a drawer in my mother’s dresser a month or so ago.

It was still filled with her things and the smell of my mother overwhelmed me when I pulled the drawer open. I don’t know that I can accurately describe what that smell is. Powder? Tussy deodorant? Sachets? Tissue?

I pressed my lips into a grim line and dumped the contents of the drawer into a large tote.

Then I did the same with another drawer.

And another.

Nearly four years after my mother died, I finally emptied her dresser.

When my sister came to visit, I pulled the tote downstairs for her to sort through.

Letting go of my mother’s things felt vulnerable. But right.


I’m worrier by nature.

And a breath-holder in stressful situations.

I don’t like change.

My tendency is to hold on.

Tight.

But…

Blessed are those with open hands, for they shall know peace.

Blessed are the Homesick

Blessed are the homesick for they have a home.

My father’s music of choice is Scottish — so I hear it all the time. A thread of homesickness runs through their music.

The other day, as I listened for 793rd time to John McDermott singing, My Ain Folk, I found myself thinking about how blessed I am that I understand this song and this homesickness. Now that I have traveled a wee bit, I know even more what it is to long to be home.

The fjords of Norway are breathtaking, Sarajevo is hauntingly beautiful, the beaches of Normandy are sad and inspiring — but whenever and wherever I travel, I miss my home.

I love Cooperstown —- have I ever mentioned that here?

I rewrote My Ain Folk (see the video at the end if you aren’t familiar with the song) for my own family —

Far from my hame I wander but still my thoughts return
To my ain1 folk over yonder — and it’s for them yearn
I see the tree-lined streets there, and I look out o’er the lake
At the Tower2 and the Lion3, and my heart begins to ache

And it’s – Oh, but I’m longing for my ain folk
Though they be but quiet simple4 plain folk
When I’m far away from home — wherever I may roam
I’m missing Cooperstown and my ain folk

Recalling Mom there in the kitchen5, my father in his den6
My husband in the pasture7, mowing it again
My children coming through the door, excited ‘bout their day
The cashier at the grocery8 who talks of family while I pay

And it’s – Oh, but I’m longing for my ain folk
Though they be but quiet simple plain folk
When I’m far away from home — wherever I may roam
I’m missing Cooperstown and my ain folk

1. Ain = own

2. Tower = Kingfisher Tower

3. Lion = the Sleeping Lion a “mountain” at the end of the lake. You have to squint and use a lot of imagination to see a lion, but that’s what it’s called.

at the edge of Otsego Lake looking toward the Sleeping Lion and Kingfisher Tower

4. Simple = in the sense of enjoying simple pleasures: the dew on the grass, the hummingbirds diving in and out of the bee balm, the colors of the maples in autumn, the sparkle of snow

5. Mom in the kitchen = it’s where I remember her most

Marmalade

6. Dad in the den = okay, so my father doesn’t have a den per say, but he loves to read and work on puzzles. If he had a den, he’d sit there.

A dictionary (and a cat) in the lap

7. Bud in the pasture = I don’t think he has missed working as a dosimetrist one whit. He has worked hard on the property here — mowing and clearing brush — so that it’s beautiful just to look out the front door.

 

8. Cashier at the grocery = I really love that she knows my name. Her name is Linda. And the produce guy is Mark. And the deli lady — I wish I knew her name — always brightens up and greets me when I stop there. It’s a small town thing, I suppose, to know the people at the grocery store so well.

Yes, yes — blessed are those who know homesickness because they also know home.


Blessed Are Those Who Grieve

It has been three and a half years since my mother passed away.

A few weeks ago my father wanted to visit my mother’s grave. In the first year after she passed, I had tried several times to get him to go.

His way of dealing with grief was avoidance.

I would ask him if he wanted to bring flowers to her grave. He wouldn’t hear me.

I would ask again. He would change the subject.

I would ask again. No response.

On the first anniversary of her death, I bought a small pot of pansies and asked Bud to drop my father and I at the cemetery before church. Slowly we started down the path, but when it came time to turn towards the Columbarium, my father picked up his pace and headed straight for the church.

Alone I set the flowers I had bought for her at the base of the Columbarium,

The Columbarium

Blessed are those who grieve.

Jesus said, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The difference between grieving and mourning is this: grief is private, but mourning is the outward expression of grief that allows a person to move forward.

Grief is the emotional reaction to a loss, while mourning is learning to live again.

Grief muddles the mind, but mourning begins to put things back in place.

Grief is the raw emotions that say things will never be right again.

Mourning reflects on what was and what will never be again, and then works to  deal with that void.

About a month ago, my father asked to bring flowers to my mother’s grave.

“Can I see where she’s buried?” he asked.

He didn’t remember ever going there before, so I showed him pictures from her interment.

The avoidance had finally passed. He was ready.

I purchased a bouquet and tied an orange ribbon on it. My mother always liked orange.

We drove to town and I parked as close as I could to the Columbarium. He picked his way along the dirt and gravel path that led there, struggling with his walker, while I struggled to hold the bouquet and keep my arm supporting him.

Silently we stood before the gray granite corner of the Columbarium.

“Is this it?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, and showed him my mother’s name carved in the granite.

He wept.

“Can you take a picture of it?”

I did.

 

Blessed are those who grieve, for they have loved deeply.

And blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the Advocates

Blessed are the advocates
and the whistle-blowers
for their shaky-kneed courage.
They shall hear the words,
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”


A week or two ago, a friend posted an urgent prayer request. She had reported an abusive situation and was summoned to a meeting with the higher-ups of the organization.

She had posted her prayer request the previous night but I didn’t see it until early in the morning.  I had just finished my prayer and reading time so the Beatitudes were fresh in my mind.

I prayed for my friend, and for the abused and the abuser, for the meeting. I felt overwhelmed with emotion for what she had ahead of her that day.

In a comment to her post letting her know that I was praying, I wrote the beatitude above.  I knew that if I was in that situation I would need to be reminded why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s so much easier not to stick your neck out.

But God calls us to care for the least of these and to advocate for the person who can’t advocate for themself.

I’m sure He will someday say to her, “Well done.”

Both the young and the old — and even some in between — need advocates.

 

New Memory

This morning I received a notification — “You have a new memory.” I laugh at those notifications. They seem so silly.

New memories — pshaw. Memories are, by their very nature, sort of oldish.

This morning, though, I paused to look at my “new” memory.

Two years ago today, I was in Normandy.

Two years ago today, I first heard the story of British gliders landing in Normandy to take the Pegasus Bridge — gliders whose pilots used stopwatches and compasses to navigate, some landing a mere 47 yards from their objective. I’m still amazed at that feat.

Two years ago today, I stood in the Canadian cemetery in Normandy, France, and grieved for those young men whose names were carved in the stones there. So brave. So young. But such a beautiful place.
Five years ago today, I was watching Karl play tennis. He and his partner, Michael, were killing it.

Five years ago today, at about the same time, 1400 miles away, my first grandson was born.

I didn’t need a photo app on my phone or Facebook to remind me of that memory. I woke up thinking of him. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HENRY!!)

On the other hand, my father needed the memory prompts.

“Remember our trip to Normandy,” I asked him.

“When was that?” he replied.

“Two years ago today we went on our first tour.”

I handed him the photo book and memorabilia I had put together from that trip.

His eyes grew misty as he leafed through it all. He carefully unfolded the maps of the cemeteries and of Paris, studied them, and then folded and placed them back in the pocket of the book. I couldn’t tell if he remembered or not.

“That was a good trip,” he said.

It was a good trip.

As we travel down this other road of forgetting who, what, and how, I often think, We’ll always have Normandy (and Paris, I suppose).