Friday, August 12, 2016


I run from the sanctuary, exit the building, find myself under a tree. I am undone by the music a saxophone playing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, your song, the first one on your playlist, the first song selected as we planned your funeral, the song that drifted through Demmler Park at 2pm on July 2nd as mourners gathered to celebrate your life.

Session Six: Leadership Illusions opened with Bill Hybels challenging us to explore our blind spots through in introspection, reflection, taking inventory, recreating, re-creating, being with God. The invitation to this conference was a gift. This is our second day and it is good to be here. Bill invites us to reflect on the illusion that growth in leadership capacity and growth in our souls can be achieved simultaneously and at the same rate, that as the leadership capacity/speed curve swoops upward the curve of growth in our souls will keep pace. The truth is that the growth curve of our souls flattens, perhaps turns downward, as in our broken humanity we neglect the spiritual nourishment practices essential to flourishing.

My pen was poised over the designated page in our Summit Notebook, my first-born perfectionist ready to meet this challenge. Bill promises beautiful music. A saxophone begins playing ... it only takes a few notes for me to recognize the melody ... it your song, the song ... Hallelujah.

I run from the sanctuary and exit the building. I need to be outside in the open, to feel the sunlight, to see the clouds, to breathe fresh air. I sit on the bench outside the entrance and give myself over to the messy snotty cries rising up from deep within me, embracing what is illusive and rare for me a complete surrender to grief.

Time passes. I open my eyes and look up. I see the tree. I lie down on the bench. The shape of the branches above reminds me of the broom tree in Elijah's story. My tree is mature and young and healthy flourishing with rich green leaves and strong limbs. As I kick off my shoes and get more comfortable, I am thankful for the early-morning decision to wear pants instead of a skirt, and find myself embracing the freedom to recline without shocking someone who may walk by feeling in the moment that even as I dressed this morning God was with me.

Beneath my broom tree I envision the curves on the screen in the sanctuary, my friends continuing on inside the building, my own curves of speed and soul growth. My speed has slowed and flat-lined in the weeks since your death. My soul growth has risen to meet the speed curve then also flat-lined, God weaving the two together for strength and endurance.

In the quiet of surrender I look up and see two large branches that meet, twist making a knot before separating one growing toward the sky and the other bowing low to earth. You are the upper branch stretching to understand the universe, eager to learn. I am the lower branch left here on earth, embraced by gravity, caressed by the rain, brushed by the wind, living apart from you.

Abandoning my recent prayers of please take me too, I accept God's call back into creation, here on earth for as long as life endures.


Friday, August 5, 2016

blue sweatshirt day

i am awake by 6 a.m., my dog Harley has let me know he is ready to eat breakfast. the house is cool especially for August. the temperature matches my mood. i am sad.

i choose the blue sweatshirt from one of many graceful bends in the wrought iron shelf that captures the clothes i will wear again before laundering. this one's hung here awhile, somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 days.

today is day 57.

i am very sad.

the blue sweatshirt is a well worn men's pull over hoodie, 3X tall, with a splotch of cotton candy pink paint on the left shoulder, and when i am honest i know that every day could be a blue sweatshirt day.

the man i loved for 31 years died unexpectedly 57 days ago. i am without my spouse, my friend, my lover ... the grumpa to my grandma, the dad to my mom, the husband to my wife, the man to my woman ... the person best suited to comfort me in life cannot be here to console me in grief.

every day is a challenge. i find it difficult to breathe.

i remember the day we cleaned out his closet. one of the mourners who came by that weekend commented that a dresser full of clothes remains following the death of her loved one. i snarl and turn away, sensing her condemnation, returning it with my own. day 2 or day 3 may be too soon, but within my stone-cold heart i hatefully speculate that 3668 days is way too many.

condemnation becomes a tennis match, volleys and drop shots.

only satan wins.

i pause my writing and laugh aloud now, thinking about the day i added pink paint to the blue sweatshirt. i had volunteered to paint a girl's bedroom in a close friend's home; my husband had been co-volunteered to loft her bed. i had optimistically estimated the painting and drying times, and as we began to loft the bed his shoulder touched a wall ... needless to say the paint was not dry.

it is not the misapplication of cotton candy pink that entices laughter now, it was what happened in the time that followed, a favorite memory of the two of us laying underneath the bed and arguing ... fighting about a next step. i hear another friend come up the steps intent on offering to help. he hears us fighting, senses the tension, and turns to walk back down the stairs without a word. good man. his arrival and departure invite me back from temporary insanity and i laugh with my husband at the foolishness of this fight.

it was a good day. a very good day.