Category Archive: Loss

Fires, Fear, Faith

California fire season is usually in September and October. But 2020’s fires started early, with about 400 wildfires and 5700 “incidents” (https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/) in the past week. Don and I have kept in close touch with our neighbors here, sharing updates with each other as we receive them.

We are right on the line of an evacuation area (we’re in the SCU Lightning Complex), but haven’t been told to leave as of yet. Should you need it, there’s a good evacuation map at https://nifc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=69fca73a82df4fefa7c0e48b66d0899d&extent=-123.2395,36.6849,-119.5618,38.1032

I’ve felt anxious, always watching for the next bit of news. Wednesday night I had a hard time falling asleep. Tears have been near the surface, and sometimes have fallen. Thursday I couldn’t concentrate, but kept watching for news, and registered for notification in the event we are ordered to evacuate.

We heard Thursday that Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center, where I’ve spent a good bit of time at retreats and then at writers’ conferences, had been evacuated and was in danger. Some of our family have been evacuated from that area as well, and are safe.

Meanwhile, food, meals, writing–it’s been hard to concentrate on anything else while we wait; yet life doesn’t stop. We have our “go bags” pretty ready; and my computer bag is next to my desk so I can pack my laptop quickly in the event the fire moves toward us.

According to San Jose Fire Chief, as of Sunday morning they expect winds, light rain, and possibly more dry lightning strikes–something we sure don’t need right now! Praying God will light up the world over the ocean rather than in the forests!

I am calmer now, but seem to go in cycles of fear and then release, recognizing there’s nothing we can do except be prepared and pay attention. So far, the fire seems to be moving a bit farther from us. My brother and sister-in-law have offered us a haven if we need to leave.

And we’re certainly not alone. Floods are pounding the South and East of the United States. Hurricane Marco threatens the Gulf Coast, closely followed by Tropical Storm Laura, which has already impacted Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and is expected to slam Cuba on Monday.

I hurt for the many who have lost family members, homes or structures. It’s good to grieve, to weep with friends, to sit and listen to their pain. Even Jesus, who was perfect and knew He would reverse Lazarus’ death, wept with Mary and Martha as they grieved the loss of their brother. But after He listened and wept, He called Lazarus forth out of that grave!

We are so grateful for the many who are praying for us, and for California.

  • Grateful for yesterday’s report that Mount Hermon is okay at this time. All staff are safe.
  • Twin Lakes Church’s Camp Hammer is partially burned. Some of the cabins are still there and the forest is evidently still lush and green, and all staff are safe. May God bring beauty from the ashes!
  • Grateful for loving family and friends.
  • Deeply grateful for our firefighters, as well as those coming in from other states and even other countries to help fight these massive fires; for the sheriffs and police who are helping people evacuate, working long hard hours. Thank you to each of you. We are praying for you.

Earlier this week a dear friend recommended we read Psalm 36. Yesterday I read it aloud for our morning devotions, tears coming to my eyes. What a precious scripture!

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies… How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings …

Psalm 36:5,7

I have been through several major challenges in my life and, while it’s taken time to work through those issues with God, He has never failed me. And He will not. Tim Keller said Jesus didn’t suffer so we wouldn’t suffer. He suffered for us so when we suffer — and all will! — He can REDEEM it!

Crises such as these do remind us of what’s most important–our relationship with God, family and friends. An old friend used to say the two things that last are God’s Word and people! If you’re not sure of your relationship with God, I encourage you to read John 3:16-18 and Romans 10. I welcome any questions you may have.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:16-18

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I John 5:12

California and our nation, you continue to be in our prayers.

post by carolnl | | 8

COVID MEMORIAL

How do you hold a memorial service during a pandemic? This is a relevant question for many whose loved ones are dying either from or despite COVID-19.

My brothers and I brainstormed ideas of how we could grieve together as a family and honor our mother during this time of Shelter in Place. And we took a page from the playbooks of many churches. Through Zoom, we held a virtual memorial service for immediate family yesterday and hope to have a broader service or burial at some future date.

While we couldn’t hug, be in the same room, meet together as a family for a light meal before the service, or share stories with extended family and friends afterward, we did have a meaningful time.

I was just one part of the service, which we recorded. But here’s what I said about my beloved Mother.

After Mom’s death I found an index card in her room on which Mom had written some of her favorite verses. The scriptures I share here were among those favorites.

Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
    and have carried since you were born.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:3-4

Mom lived her faith. I think of that aria we just heard her sing (“I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”) as her signature song. While she had questions and doubts at times, she loved Jesus with all her heart.  She spent a lot of time reading His love letter to her, and talking with him in prayer. She beamed when she spoke about her Lord. And often when I shared a concern with her, she said, “Let’s pray about it.”

Mom encouraged others. Many of the cards she received over the years talk about her thoughtful notes, phone calls, visits. She prayed faithfully for each of her family members. And she and Dad were hospitable from as far back as I can remember. When we were still in Winnipeg they hosted parties for nurses and grad students. My little girl eyes loved to peek out of my room to see the pretty young women, all dressed up, and their handsome boyfriends.

Mom as a young woman

Because Mom treasured her relationship with Jesus, she wanted others to know Him too. She and Dad worked in Bible clubs, street meetings (Mom sang and played the accordion and Dad preached), and Sunday school. The longevity of her impact is reflected by her decades-long relationship with Sylvia Sigurdson, who was a child in Winnipegosis, Canada when Mom led her to Christ. Sylvia has kept in touch with Mom these 70-odd years.

And when as a teen I doubted my salvation, Mom listened to my fears and gave me John 6:37: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” I began to rely on Jesus’ work and Word rather than on my feelings for my assurance of salvation.

Isaiah 41:10 was another favorite:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Five years ago, Mom wrote this:

“Before God revealed himself to me I was … a young girl (7 or 8). I did not have conviction of sin. Now I am … a mature, 93-year old woman who has been a Christian for 85 years. As I study God’s Word, it becomes dearer to me! I love the verses in Isaiah 41 and others that state that God chose me even before I was born! He loves me – so precious to me!”

Mom’s Diary

Zephaniah 3:17 concludes:

“The Lord your God … will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Music was a vital part of Mom’s life. Hymns were a significant way God spoke to her. When I broke off an engagement eons ago, she and Dad worried about me. She wakened one morning with a song that reminded her to trust God that all would be well, and her heart was at peace.

Mom sang to us a lot as children: not only hymns, but classical songs and “Auf dem Baum ein Kuckuke sass” (the cuckoo song) which Mel, and perhaps Arnold, have sung to their children and grandchildren.

On October 25, 2012 Mom wrote:

“Today it’s 10 years since John left this earth. I have shed tears this morning and I hurt. I have the assurance of Jesus holding me fast, assurance of reunion, that John is in heaven, happy. Am so thankful for that! For over 90 years Jesus has kept, protected, loved, guided, forgiven me! He will keep doing that and I’m grateful for all his promises!”

Mom’s Diary

After Dad died, and again after Jerry died, Mom and I took several out of town overnighters –to Napa, Sonoma, Winnipeg – even the Ukraine where Dad was born. Whenever we had relaxed, extended times together, whether for several hours or a couple of days, we had wonderful, deep conversations about life, love, faith, family. Oh how she loved her family!

And when Don and I started dating, and Mom had a good male friend, we double dated several times. Now that was both fun and interesting!

Mom always felt she was too serious. She wished she laughed more easily, was more fun. In these last months and years life became more difficult, communication more challenging because of her hearing and memory. But on occasion her chuckle reached her eyes so they twinkled. It was at those moments that I thought “There’s my Mom.”

Mom with her son Arnold

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8

Mom longed to go home to Jesus, and to see Dad again. She was not only ready, but eager to go. And on April 4th, her prayer was answered.

I love you and miss you Mom. See you soon!

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!

Psalm 116:15

Should you wish to access the one hour memorial service online at your own convenience, please let me know and I will share the link with you.

My Redeemer Liveth

Sadness has shrouded my spirit this past week. While I’ve been glad that my mother is free of the restrictions of age, while I am thankful for the hope we have in Christ, I’ve missed Mom deeply.

Quite a few years ago Mom put some of her recorded songs on a CD for the family. Among them are her solo of “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”, along with trios and duets between Mom, my older brother Arnold, her sister Mary, her brother Irvin, and me.

Mom, Irvin and me

After a welcome nap this afternoon, Don put on that CD–the first time since Mom’s passing. We sat, held hands, Paigey between us, closed our eyes and let Mom’s beautiful voice flow over and around us. Memories flooded my mind. Mom, Mary and I around the piano at my parents’ home. Arnold, Mom and I singing together, Mom’s clear soprano, Arnold’s strong tenor and my alto. Irvin and Mom dueting.

I grew up listening to my mother sing, at home and in church. She taught my older brothers and me parts and as we drove across the country we would sing four-part harmonies.

So listening to her CD brought back wonderful memories. I realized that in her last years Mom had lost much of what she loved … Dad, her ability to sing, her hearing, her desire to sew. She so longed to be with her Savior, to see my father again, along with her parents, brother and others who have preceded her in death.

Listening to Mom today, I felt some healing inside. Oh, tears will continue and I will miss Mom every day. But I realized she is just where she wanted to be, free of any constraints and rejoicing in the presence of her God and Savior.

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which we celebrated this weekend, we can be confident in His love for us. We can be forgiven and share in eternal life with Him. This is the truth Mom sang about in “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”. It is the testimony of her life, and what gives me hope even as I grieve.

One of my mother’s favorite scriptures was Psalm 143:8.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.”

I’m feeling hopeful again tonight. May you be blessed as you put your trust in the God of the universe, the Redeemer who lives forever.

From Death to Life

Once again grief roars into our family.

I keep wanting to pick up the phone and call her. Then I remember. She left us Saturday. Transitioned from death to Life. My precious 98-year old mother has longed for the day when she would see Jesus face to face. She’s eagerly awaited that great reunion with my father, who preceded her by eighteen years. Saturday evening her prayer was answered.

Mom and Dad’s Wedding. Her beautiful sister Mary is the bridesmaid on the left; Dad’s brother Jake is his best man. Mom’s brother, Irvin, is the ring bearer.

Mom lived independently until about a year ago when she moved into an Assisted Living Center. Over the past year her hearing has declined significantly so that conversations were often difficult, both in person and more so, on the phone. I treasured those moments when I saw her personality shine through her twinkling eyes, young again because of a shared memory, a laugh, a thought.

Mom could laugh – at herself or others – but never unkindly

Mom’s mobility also decreased significantly. Her legs were weak and she first needed a walker. Then she got an electric scooter which was wonderful in helping her get around the Manor and to meals in the dining room. More recently, Mom was usually in a wheelchair when she left her room.

A month ago Mom fell and broke her ankle. She’s been in a cast since, which limited her mobility even more.

I have so many precious memories with Mom.

She was a wonderful cook and homemaker. My brothers and I thought we were so clever when we came up with our own riddle:

Q: “What does Mom always look for and never hope to find?”

A: “Dirt!”

When I was quite little I spilled a glass of milk from my high chair. I expected a scolding. Instead, Mom picked up a towel, said “Oh well, that can be fixed,” and began wiping up the spilled milk.

I received Christ as my Savior at the tender age of eight years. But as a mid-teen I faced doubts–had I said the right words and was I really now a part of God’s family? When I finally confessed my fears to Mom, she helped me understand that God knew my heart. I didn’t need a specific word set if I acknowledged my need for forgiveness of sins and a Savior. She showed me John 6:37 where Jesus promised “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And my soul was at peace, knowing I was accepted in the beloved.

Mom modeled love for Jesus Christ and for others. She was hospitable, gracious and kind. She was gifted with a beautiful, classically trained soprano voice and taught vocal lessons for many years. Whenever I couldn’t be home on an Easter Sunday I knew Mom would be singing “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah in church.

She modeled the disciplines of a walk with God–she loved reading her Bible, doing her Bible study and praying.

When my father died eighteen years ago, Mom refused to wallow in her grief. Deep as it was, she continued to meet with their friends, to enjoy their Sunday school class and church, and to invite others for a meal or conversation. One day not long after Dad’s death, I took Mom to a shopping center–I can’t recall why. As we walked and talked I told her I wished I could take her pain.

Gracious as always, she turned to me. “Carol, you have your own pain.” Despite her grief, she could look beyond herself to see my need in the loss of my beloved Dad.

Later, when both Mom and I were widowed, we took several overnight trips together. Our conversations during those times were deep, fun, meaningful. We talked about whether she had any desire to remarry (she didn’t, although she had a valued male friend for several years). We talked about my hopes and desires for my future. We explored other geographical areas.

We enjoyed seeing movies together.

Going to lunch together.

For many years Mom, my brother Arnold and I enjoyed singing trios together, until both her voice and mine waned. For a time we sang in the same church choir and I loved how her voice next to me challenged and improved mine.

Mom with her sister Mary, their brother Irvin, and me

When I was a child our family enjoyed family nights every Friday. Mom was our resident Chinese Checkers expert and winner. When my youngest brother, Bob, was five we taught him to make the popcorn and that was his job from then on. Since we didn’t have a television ’til I was in high school, Dad bought a movie projector. He and Melvyn often went to the city library and selected 16mm films we could enjoy as a family. Mel and Arn enjoyed playing with the movies–and watching downhill ski segments reversed so skiiers flew uphill backwards gave us big laughs!

Mom still enjoyed playing games until the last week of her life. She was part of a Wednesday night Rummikub group at the Manor. She loved it when she could win one or two games, and enjoyed the mental challenge and competition.

She loved her husband, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with all her heart and prayed for us faithfully. Her deepest desire was for her family members to know, love and serve the God she taught us about from our birth.

With the corona virus outbreak it’s been very hard not to be able to visit Mom in person. Bob and Sheila, Don and I have talked to her through her room window. But no touch, no hugs. Last Monday and Tuesday Mom told me she just didn’t “feel right” and was extra fatigued. Tuesday night an ambulance took her to Kaiser. Bob and Sheila and I waited in the parking lot, unable to enter the ER. Every 20-30 minutes one of us would check at the door for updates. Finally Mom was admitted and, because her x-rays showed spots on her lungs, she was isolated for two days awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. Mom did, however, have pneumonia and a serious case of sepsis (blood infection).

When the COVID-19 tests came back negative, Mom was admitted to end-of-life care and was allowed one visitor at a time. Over the next three days Don, Bob and Sheila, Mel and I spent time loving her, holding her hand, telling her it was all right to go Home. Arnold, unable to travel from Kansas, was with her on FaceTime.

I had the privilege of spending Friday afternoon, night and Saturday morning with her. I read Psalm 23 aloud and croakily sang several hymns, often breaking down in tears. I held her hand and kissed her and told her how much I love and appreciate her and that she would soon be with Jesus and Dad.

Saturday afternoon Bob spelled me and sent me home to rest. He loved on her too; and at 6:19 that evening she took her last breath on this side of eternity.

To use my nephew’s phrase, I am heartbrokenly grateful. Grateful for my mother’s long and loving life; for having her in my life for so many years; for her freedom from pain and suffering, limitations and loneliness. Grateful for God’s promise that because Jesus lives, I will be reunited with Mom when He calls me Home. And heartbroken because I want to pick up the phone and hear Mom’s voice, to hold her and hug her one more time.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21

I love you Mom. Give Dad a big hug for me, and I’ll see you both soon.

Meeting God–in Grief

I’m enjoying reading (again) “Meeting God at Every Turn” by Catherine Marshall. Marshall was the wife of Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate from 1947 until his unexpected death in January 1949.

Catherine relates her own two-year battle with tuberculosis, during which God taught her four significant lessons in her spiritual journey. When Peter died suddenly at the age of 46, leaving her with a nine-year old son, she relied on those lessons she had learned during her own extended illness.

Marshall shares that as she walked into her husband’s hospital room after his death, she felt both his, and another “Presence of transcendent glory, the Lord he had served through long years …” and she knew that “human life does not end in six feet of earth.”

That feeling of splendor didn’t last. At a certain point the two vivid presences left the room and Catherine saw death in all its ugliness. And death IS our enemy. I recall the moment my first husband passed from death to Life, and I knew he had left the room.

Catherine was given a message as she walked to the hospital room door–a message “with that peculiar authority I had come to recognize as the Lord’s own voice:‘ Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life’.

The message I received after Jerry’s death, not audibly, but with great clarity, was Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.

About eight days after Peter’s passing, Catherine was once again in the “valley where salt tears and loneliness and the fear of coping alone with the problems of everyday life are all too real.”

My crash came about three weeks after Jerry’s passing, when questions and doubts assailed my mind and spirit. What if everything I believe is a lie and I’ll never see him again? What if death is the end and there is no eternal hope with Christ?

I’m not comparing my spiritual walk with Catherine Marshall’s. She has gone far deeper with God than I have. But I was reminded of some truths as I read this chapter.

1) Grief is a universal, but God has promised that in all, He will never leave nor forsake His children.

2) Death is ugly. It is our enemy and it is ok to be angry about death (as long as we move past that at some point). But death is also the window through which we must walk to reach the other side, where glory and peace and joy and worship and the physical Presence of our God await His children.

3) God encourages and comforts us through His people. While our natural inclination may be to hibernate, to be unwilling to cry or allow friends in during a time of grief, God has given us those individuals to rally ’round and help us in times of need.

I had friends and family who listened and wept with me, who didn’t try to fix me, and who helped bring our yard back to a semblance of order after I had been away from home for the nine months of our hospital stay in another state. Others sold items for me, prayed for me and for our families, welcomed me despite my being a wilted lump of clay as I groped my way through days and nights of agony, loneliness, numbness. As they allowed me to be only partially present with them, I needed to invite them into my grief.

4) We cannot sidestep the work of grieving the loss of those we have loved and held close in life. And yet, inconceivably, grief and joy can at times co-exist. Knowing my husband was with the Lord he had loved and served in a place of indescribable glory, I knew he would not want to return, not even because of his love for me. Why would anyone leave heaven to return to this world with its joys and sorrows, its beauty and its pain?

5) When we grieve, we experience a oneness with the rest of humanity, and we can encourage others as we ourselves experience healing.

Are you grieving? Look for someone else who has gone through loss, someone you can unburden yourself to honestly. It may be a minister, a priest, a counselor, a good friend, or a grief recovery group. (Check out www.griefshare.org for grief recovery groups across the country and possibly in your area).

And if you have experienced even some level of healing, I encourage you to reach out to someone else to share the help and love you have received.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

II Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV

Marshall says “Part of the process of setting us free (‘…He might deliver and completely set free all those who through the (haunting) fear of death were held in bondage throughout the whole course of their lives’) is reassurance piled upon reassurance in Scripture that at the death of the physical body, the real person inside lives on without interruption.” (p. 111)

When I questioned the truth of God’s promises, the resolution came as God brought to my mind the words of Peter, when Jesus asked if His disciples would leave Him.

Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.

John 6:68, NLT

And with those words, my doubts settled, my biggest questions answered.

At some point we will all experience grief, if we have not yet. Ask your questions–but find people you trust to listen and love you, rather than looking for those who would encourage your doubts. Our God is sufficient to handle our honest questions and fears.

Casting all your cares (all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you (with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully).

I Peter 5:7 AMP