Monthly Archives: October 2011

It’s Autumn at Shady Acres. 

The pilgrims are out:

And I’ve been burning candles and enjoying the many years’ accumulation of fall foliage and little gourds.


The leaves have been falling for a number of weeks,


but we escaped frost until two nights ago. 


A week ago, I went through my yard and took some pictures of the flowers as they made their last big splash of the season:







This morning, all the coleus are hanging brown and terrible!

                                                                       *This is the same plant that is the
                                                                       third and fourth picture in the previous set

And it won’t be long until the rest of the flowers join them.
I’ve brought a very few in — the rest I’m leaving to go to seed for the birds.

Outside, it’s a strange and unfamiliar COLD.

Inside, the pellet stove is burning with its merry and steady light.
We just came through a delightful weekend with good friends, good times, good music and good food.
I’m looking forward to the holidays and some happy family times together. 
I’m not done with the grief, but I am grateful for your encouragement and prayers.

“. . . weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b



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I will remember October, 2011 with a lump in my throat and so much sadness.

Late on the evening of October 6, we received a call that one of Daniel’s cousins had passed away.  A continent away, alone in a park in the early morning hours, he chose to go.  Someone, somewhere may know why.  We don’t.  I doubt we ever will.  He was handsome and gregarious and musical and kind.  I have wept for the waste of a human life, and for the pain that brought him there, yes.  But I’m angry, too.  I cannot understand how a man can do this to his aging parents, his family.  How is this supposed to make things better? 

Ten days later, as chronicled here, a beloved uncle also left us.  I’ve thought so much about this passing.  About how it is when we are loved, and needed and even useful, how hard it is to say good-bye.  I’ve thought some of the same things I thought when my Daddy died. I went back to one of my other xanga sites:  where I wrote down some of my rawest grief, and found that things haven’t changed much when it comes to losing someone we love — there will always be questions.  There will always be people who get to live that are far less deserving in our eyes than the one who died.  And this ache, though not as intense for me as it was when Daddy died, is just as intense for Uncle Vernon’s wife, Freda, and his children, Jay, Kathy, Vernon Jon, and Andrea, and his beloved grandchildren and his brother and sisters. 

And then, Merlin.  So unexpected, so tragic, so inestimable the loss.  I’ve almost not allowed myself into this room of grief because it hurts so much, and because I almost feel like what is there in its intensity for me is almost improper, bordering on profane.  It’s like it isn’t right to feel this kind of pain when it really isn’t “mine to own.”  I keep thinking about his wife and kids and his mom and siblings, his friends, the community there in and around Pigeon, MI, who will feel this loss in ways I won’t even begin to.  I remember feeling grief when Daddy died that felt so specific to me and our family — like no one else feels a grief this raw and stays sane.  We had the hope of Heaven, we believed that God’s timing was best, we didn’t wish him back to that sick, unreliable body — but he was so GONE, and we missed him so acutely.  The grief was so intense that it was physical in nature — “sick in the stomach, wanting to throw up” kind of grief.  Daddy had 16 more years than Merlin had — and strangely enough, that seemed so young for someone like my Daddy.  It just feels so WRONG for someone like Merlin.

And so, these days have passed.  My hands have been busy, and I’ve tried to occupy my mind with things other than suicide, disease and accidents.  Sometimes, though, in the middle of absolutely ordinary, everyday busy-ness, I cannot stop the tears, and I find myself wanting just some quiet time to answer no questions, to have no responsibility, to just do some honest grieving.

But it will have to wait.  There is an annual hymnsing and minister’s meeting to prepare for, there are cakes to bake,  vegetable trays to assemble, and overnight guests to enjoy.  There are homemaking chores that I cannot ignore, and my ladies’ daily needs that are always “beyond normal” by necessity, to attend to.

And God is God of The Timing of Things.  He isn’t surprised by how everything has come together.  He didn’t set out to “ruin” the month that has always been my favorite.  There is a plan here, and when I am just a little bit better able to cope, I think I will see a little glimpse of what He had in mind.  And if not — Well, I’m going to still trust Him.  He is God.  He will do what is best for me if I can only let go of the pieces.  I want to do my part — but I cannot do God’s part, no matter how hard I try. 

It’s a good time for me to let God be GOD, not only in my heart, but in my head.






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I was sitting in my chair, in the corner beside the fire on this chilly Monday morning.  I kept trying to wrap my head around the ache in my heart.  I just could not really believe that Merlin was gone.  He was so vibrant, so healthy, so alive!  The usual things have been said, and I believe, I believe!  He IS more alive than he has ever been.  He IS in the presence of the LORD, and he would never have wanted to stay in that broken body.  I’m sure he has seen The Father, I’m sure he has seen his Dad — and mine.  But it all seems so surreal.

I was working on a letter to my kids when the morning quiet was interrupted by the phone.  It was Certain Man. His quiet strength and understanding have helped to hold me steady in this last week.  Sometimes I see him watching me with a calculating look, sometimes worried.

“I don’t know if you can see it or not, Hon,” he said, “but the sunrise is spectacular this morning.  Go look to see if you can see it.”

Almost four decades with this guy tells me to never ignore such information, and I got up and looked towards the east.  “What do you see, Sweetheart?” I ask, looking at a gray horizon, and seeing nothing of significance.

“I just came across the bridge at the swamp,” he says, “and the sun is hanging over the swamp like a big ball of fire.  You may not be able to see anything because of the trees, but it is simply gorgeous.”

I look and look, and don’t even see a glimmer of the fire.  Just gray horizon with an area that is a bit brighter where the sun will probably appear after a while.  I don’t doubt that he is seeing it — and that it is breath taking, but I just can’t see it.  Yet.

“I’m sorry, Daniel, but it isn’t up far enough yet.  It sounds wonderful, though.”  We exchange a few more bits of conversation and then I am back into the morning routine with my ladies and laundry — busy stuff to keep my hands occupied while my heart weeps.

And then, fixing a cup of coffee, looking listlessly out the side window where the summer flowers escaped frost one more night, I keep thinking about the morning and the sunrise I couldn’t see.  I keep thinking that there is something nagging at edge of my conscious thought.  I keep thinking about Merlin and how they said he often would call one of his brothers in the early morning hours to “go riding.”  He was an accomplished biker, and loved to cycle, too.  I got to thinking about what he might tell us this morning if he could call back.

“Come.  Ride with me!  You can’t see it yet, but the Morning is glorious!  The Son is like a ball of fire, and all the air is alive with His presence.  You can’t see it yet, you can’t see it yet, you can’t see it yet . . .”

And the fact that I don’t see it yet — don’t begin to understand it yet, doesn’t change the fact that I believe it is for real, and that someday, The Son will come for all who look for him, and it won’t carry the grief of this day, but rather the promise of a Glorious reunion and an eternity without the pain of separation.

“Ah, Merlin!  The ‘if only’s’ and the sadness of this day crowd out the the things my head wants to say.  We will miss you, and you will always be thought of with good memories in the hearts of so many.  May God grant healing to your family, and may this “seed sown in the mortal body” rise to everlasting life.”

(Lord Jesus, forgive my questioning heart, but WHY did it have to be him????)



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I said I wasn’t giving any more updates —

But this just came through on our Family network:

“We’ve said goodbye to Merlin. We believe that he is at this moment exploring the back roads of heaven with Jesus. Or maybe he’s swimming the river of life from one end to the other. He might have even convinced his dad to take a bike ride with him, trying out his new body.

We talked to the neurologist around 8:00 and received the results of the CT scan and the EEG. The doctor told us that the CT scan shows signs of lack of oxygen to the brain. The EEG showed slow brain activity. He says that the tests paint a grim picture.

Although we are celebrating that Merlin is alive and well in heaven, we are grieving being away from him. We are so sad. And the hurt is so deep.

Keep on praying. We are not standing in our own strength. Your support has been overwhelming. We’ll let you know our plans when we know them. Our headlights aren’t shining too far ahead at this point.”

I feel like my heart is going to break.  I am so very sad for his family . . . for this old world.  There are so few fine men — and he was one fine man.  

Healer of our every ill
Light of each tomorrow
give us peace beyond our fear
and hope beyond our sorrow.



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I’m giving a link where anyone who is interested can sign in and get an update for Merlin:

I am finding it is just too difficult for me to assimilate what is happening, and feel like I cannot keep up with updates like I would like to.

Thank you, all of my friends for praying, and if God lays it on your heart, please continue to pray.

Healer of our every ill
Light of each tomorrow
give us peace beyond our fear
and hope beyond our sorrow.

You who know our fears and sadness,
Grace us with your peace and gladness
Spirit of all comfort, fill our hearts.

In the pain and joy beholding
how your grace is still unfolding.
Give us all your vision, God of love.

Give us strength to love each other,
every sister, every brother.
Spirit of all kindness, be our guide.

You who know each thought and feeling,
teach us all your way of healing.
Spirit of compassion, fill each heart.

Healer of our every ill
Light of each tomorrow
give us peace beyond our fear
and hope beyond our sorrow.
Marty Haugen


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Update from Merlin’s Sister in Law, Phyllis

This is a four generation picture — of Merlin, his mother, Cora Yoder, his daughter, Shari Craig, and his grandson, Brayden.

This is the update that Merlin’s Sister in law, Phyllis Yoder, sent to our family group.

First of all, thank you so much for your love and support.  It is very tangible through your emails, texts, etc.  We can also feel the strength and courage God is blessing us with.  Thanks for your prayers.


We don’t know the exact events of Merlin’s morning.  We know he took a load of beans to the co-op.  He stopped in at Brent Maust’s farm shop and talked to some of his co-workers there.  He then went home and appears to have been oiling the chains on his old combine.  (This is best done with the combine running.)  It was a cold morning and he had on several layers of clothing.  Most likely, his right sleeve got caught and pulled his arm and clothes into the combine, strangling him and jamming the combine.  A farmer going by on the road noticed the combine belts smoking, stopped and called 9-1-1.


One of Cora’s (Merlin’s mother) friends in Pigeon has a police scanner and heard the ambulance dispatched.  She called her son and grandson who live just 1 mile away from Merlin’s and told her that something had happened out in our neck of the woods.  They were curious and went to investigate.  They were second on the scene and helped extricate Merl from the combine.  They also called (his brothers) Dale and Darrel.  The 9-1-1 call came in at 10:40 and Merlin was on the way to the hospital by 11:00.  It was a fast response!


I’m not sure if Merl was breathing on his own when they got him out of the combine.  I assume he wasn’t but I didn’t hear that for sure.  His heart stopped on the way to the Pigeon.  At the hospital, Merlin’s pulse returned but they continued breathing for him.  He was airlifted to Saginaw, arriving there around 11:45.  He is now in the ICU.


His condition is grave.  He is doing some breathing on his own in addition to the ventilator breaths but it isn’t enough to do without the ventilator.  His vitals are all stable.  However, he is not responding to any stimuli and is in a very deep coma.  CT scans have revealed no skull fracture and no bleeding in the brain.  It’s a waiting game to determine the extent of his brain injury from the lack of oxygen.  They have lowered his body temperature to help the brain heal.  They will keep him cool until tomorrow evening and then slowly re-warm him.  Once his body temperature is up, they will do further neurological tests.


Merlin’s right arm is severely injured, needing tissue and skin grafts.  At one point during the day, we thought he was going to be having some surgery to begin repairing that but the plastic surgeon decided to wait until more is known about his brain injury.


We continue to covet your prayers.  Saying “thanks!!!!” doesn’t seem adequate but it will have to do!  Thanks!!!!

Phyllis, on behalf of the Luke/Cora Tribe


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Please pray for my cousin, Merlin Yoder, (oldest son of my Daddy’s twin, Luke) who has been seriously injured in a farming accident in Bay Port, Michigan.  He has been airlifted to Saginaw, and things are extremely critical.

Please pray also for his wife, Pat (Shetler) and his children, Shari (Married to Chad Craig) and son, Mike as they make travel arrangements and face this incredibly hard time.

The rest of his family needs all the prayer support they can get, too.  And thanks~



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Certain Man and Middle Daughter have just put up the THANKFUL WALL for 2011.

No entries yet, but that is sure to change yet this morning.
Come on by
Have a hot drink,
and tell us what you’re thankful for!

May we all give Grateful Praise!


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Sunday would have been my parents’ 62nd wedding anniversary.  The day’s emotions were encompassed by the passing of her brother in law, but one of the things my Sweet Mama said to me has been so precious to me.

I had called her in the afternoon, and said,
“Mama, I know that this day has been so hard with the passing of Uncle Vernon,
but I wanted you to know that I thought about this day,
and I remembered what day it is. 
I suppose that, all those years ago, this was such a happy day.”

“Oh,” she breathed, almost too quiet for me to hear, “that was the day all my dreams came true.”

She’s a brave lady.
We’ve been so blessed by those dreams that came true for her.

I love you, Mama!


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My heart is beyond full today.  It is overflowing.  Life is made up of so many shades of the basic emotions — happiness, sadness, peace, sorrow, satisfaction, etc., can all fill our hearts in a way that makes us almost not know what it is that we are actually feeling.  And that is how I feel.

Uncle Vernon died this morning.  He quietly slipped away in the early morning darkness, and left his pain wracked body lying still and at rest.  I got the call just before we left to pick up “our” three kids to go over to our Church Retreat.  I really didn’t have time to think about his passing until on the way home.  The kids were tired, quiet in the back, and suddenly Muffie piped up and said, “Miss Mary Ann, can we come to your house on Thursday night?”

“I don’t know, Muffie,” I said, “but probably not.  My uncle died this morning, and his funeral is on Thusday.”  The words hung in the air, thick and heavy.  “He was such a good Uncle,” I said, now crying.  And then I told them this story.

I remember one time when Uncle Vernon and Aunt Freda come to visit us, and I was in the throes of young adolescence (‘Addled Essence” would be more accurate, to be sure!).  My hair was a mess, and my dress was dirty.  I had been trying to clean up the kitchen, and I was talking to Uncle Vernon.  We stored the frying pan in the oven at our house (Still do in my house, to this day!)  But I had put a cake in to bake just a little before, and it was almost done.  I was talking animatedly to Uncle Vernon, who always engaged me in conversation, and without thinking, I grabbed the frying pan and put it into the oven without looking, right on top of that almost baked cake.  I felt an unfamiliar thud and then I looked in disbelief at the flattened and scrunched cake.

My Sweet Mama was not happy with me for ruining the cake.  We had plans to use it for a dessert the next day that is similar to Cherry Delight.  The only difference is that you use the baked cake as the bottom layer instead of a graham cracker crust.  It was all the rage back then, and I am pretty sure that Mama was expecting company for lunch the next day.  I don’t know what she must have thought, but it WAS a result of not paying attention.  (Something I was, unfortunately, quite famous for.  Still am.)  Uncle Vernon and Aunt Freda were the current company, though and so she didn’t scold me too hard.  But I felt awful, and I cried.  We tried hard to repair and salvage, but it was still rather sorry looking.

Later, I was back in the kitchen, and Uncle Vernon came up to me and said, “Mary Ann.  Come here.”  He took me to where our living room and dining room met, where there was a large, full length mirror, and positioned me in front of it.  “Take a good look,” he said.  I did.  Didn’t particularly like what I saw, either.  “What do you see?” he asked.

It really wasn’t much to look at.  My hair was stringy, falling down over my face.  I reached up and tried to tuck it behind my ear.  My dress, made of the shirtwaist pattern of the day, was an aqua gingham, rumpled and dirty.  I was dreadfully self conscious.  “Um, I don’t know.  Me?”

“Now, Mary Ann,” he instructed kindly, “I want you to straighten your shoulders.  Don’t slump.  And I want you to smile.  You can smile.”  He took my hands gently in his and crossed them over my tummy.  “Hold your hands just so.  Like that.  Now look at you.  I see a beautiful young lady,” he said with energy, confidence and enthusiasm.  “Look at you!  You really are a wonderful young lady.  You are intelligent and you will go far.”

I looked in the mirror.  I smiled at the girl in the mirror and she smiled back.  I felt a surge of confidence like I had never known before.  I didn’t feel beautiful, but I felt capable.  I knew I wasn’t gorgeous.  I certainly didn’t have a reason to be vain, but I really did feel like I could meet the challenges of life, and that I had something to offer this old world, and it felt really, really good.

I have always blessed him for that day.  It was pivotal in my life.  It was many, many years before I understood how “Uncle Vernon” that was.  He lived and breathed encouragement.  He looked for something to praise, something to give hope, something to affirm.  

We are going to miss him.  We are so glad for his triumph, so sad for our loss.  A mix of emotions, again.  This old world keeps on turning, ever bringing us closer and closer to Home.  I wonder how emotions will play into our existence in Heaven.  I’m sure they will be there, and will be a part of that glorious experience  But to think of emotions without the contradictions of our limited knowledge, without the distractions of our Humanity — now that will be Heaven!

Rest in peace, Uncle Vernon.  We’ll see you in the morning. 

Oh, and tell my Precious Daddy that I will always love him and will miss him until my last breath.   



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