Tag Archives: loss

Christmas in my Heart

It has been an eventful week.  The house is quiet today, for the first time in four days.  The four grands are precious, indeed.  They are smart, cute, verbal, affectionate and engaging.  They are not quiet.  I remember how I wanted so badly to play the piano at my Grandma Wert’s house and how My Sweet Mama always (and I do mean always) said “No.  It will get on Grandma’s nerves!”  It made me almost frantic to put my fingers on it and make a glorious noise.  However, I knew better than to disobey.

Here I am, 61 years old, with four grandchildren.  Three of them are in a family that has a very loud daddy as well as a very musical daddy and here is this Delaware Grammy who isn’t at all anxious for them to try their hands at the piano.  Fortunately for me, it is one (of many) things that their wise parents have made off limits for most of the time.  Actually, this weekend, I don’t know of a single time that they were playing on the piano.  That did not stop the noise and the busy-ness.  Most of the time, the noise was glorious, in that it was not fighting or scolding or screaming or sassing.  It was just little boy and little girl play and little boy and little girl talk and little boy and little girl noise.  How I loved it!

(How I am enjoying this quiet after the storm.)

But that makes me a bit pensive when I think about the silent piano this weekend.  Were their parents sneaking around and shushing them with ,”NO, you may not play the piano!  It will get on Grammy’s nerves!”  I hope not, but I cannot say with any confidence that I KNOW they didn’t use that excuse.

It has been a good season for our family.  We have much to be thankful for, and I rejoice in God’s Gift to the world that long ago night.  A Savior.  Christ the LORD.  Above all else, we followers of Jesus have reason to celebrate.  But I would be less than truthful if I were to act like this season was without its share of pain.  Our world has so much pain.

Last night, I gathered the grands around me one by one and we picked out gifts from the Compassion, Int. Christmas catalog.  Charis was first. She is the oldest at 5.  She wanted the children to have some thing to play with. “Some toys for the poor children, Grammy!”  She picked out some “safe playground equipment.”

Simon, although younger than Charis by almost six months, is also 5.  He crowded in beside me and thoughtfully looked at the pictures.  He was extremely saddened by the picture of the little boy, obviously malnourished, eating rice.  It was one of the first pictures in the catalog, and he came back to it, looking with deep concern at the little guy.  It didn’t take him long at all to decide that his part of the gift would be food for hungry little kids.

“Don’t let nobody else get that,” he said.  “Just me.”

“Well, Simon,” I said to him, “Let’s just see what the others want to do.  I have a feeling that all of you will want something different.”  And he was good with that.

Liam (4) was very serious as he looked and looked at the possibilities.  He wrinkled his face and thought long and hard.  He finally chose seeds for growing vegetable gardens.  “I like seeds,” he said happily.  “I help Mommy in the garden and plant seeds.”  Which, I found out later, is one of his favorite summer things to do.

And then Frankie.  He’s three.  A great conversationalist, and always thinking about what he can get into next.  I went through the catalog with him and explained everything.

“I want to buy SCHOOL BUS!!!”  He insisted. I explained patiently that there was no “school bus,” and that these people didn’t even have cars to take them where they needed to go.

“Look, Frankie,” I told him.  “They do have bicycles.”  He looked at the picture that had two people on a bike, with a basket that was full of parcels, while the people also had bags on their backs.

“Dey should put backpack in dere,” said Frankie, pointing at the basket.  “Backpack in dere!”  He studied the picture seriously, considering buying a bicycle over a bus.  Finally, with his Grammy’s encouragement, he was convinced that maybe he would settle for a bicycle, and our choosing/planning session was over. (Whew!  That was a relief.  I was pretty sure that Grammy wasn’t going to be able to afford a school bus!)

And it did this heart good.  The season has carried a great deal of memories for me, of other years and happier times.  On Sunday morning, in our Christmas program, the carols and Christmas hymns swirled around me, making it difficult to sing as the poignant memories flooded my heart.  Probably the setting we were in had something to do with it.  Daddy and Mama started attending at Laws Mennonite Church when I was two years old.  With the exception of the ten years we spent in Ohio, every single Christmas program has been in that church.  And though I know we have much for which to be grateful, and the accommodations are pleasant and adequate, it just isn’t the same.  And I was homesick for the old white church on the corner of Canterbury and Carpenter Bridge roads.

Especially sharp this year was the missing of people who have gone on before.  As we launched into “Silent Night” there was this pause at the end of the first line — at a place where J.R. Campbell always added an extra bass trill.  I waited, half expecting to hear that clear, full voice chime in the extra notes.  But there was nothing.  And no one filled in for him.  It made me think about J.R. and the essence that was so uniquely him and while my thoughts were those of thankfulness to him for his foresight and careful attention to detail that has blessed us so immensely as a church in this fire, I missed him!  The music, the laughter, the philosophizing, the attention to detail, the artist, the dreamer.

And I missed my Daddy.  It was nine years ago that he went home to Heaven on a night that we had a Christmas program.  It was the Sunday night of December 18th, 2005.  I had taken him to the hospital in the morning, and they admitted him.  He thought they would take some fluid off his lungs and he would go home.  When they admitted him, he encouraged Mama and I to go home.  There was the Christmas program, and he didn’t want us to miss it.  Shortly after we were in the service, a phone started ringing somewhere.  I was aggravated that someone wasn’t paying closer attention to their cell phone, but it stopped and we were singing the carols of Christmas when someone came and got me and said that my Daddy wasn’t expected to live through the night.  We got to the hospital in record time and soon after 9 pm, he smiled his last smile, breathed his last breath and went on home.

I always think about it, but it has been harder this year.  Maybe because of losing Frieda so recently.  Maybe because of other losses in my family.  Maybe because My Sweet Mama’s health is so precarious.  For whatever reason, it has been a little tougher this year than sometimes.

But for all that has been difficult, I’ve still have it so good.  I have enough food to fill the tummies.  I can grow a garden from a vast variety of seeds or little plants.  My trusty mini-van isn’t dependent on me pedaling it to get it anywhere, and the children have safe recreational activities available on all sides.

There is hope for the hollow, empty eyes.

I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything but I can do something.  The something I can do, I ought to do. And by God’s grace, I will.

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Filed under Dealing with Grief, music

Living with October Grief

Three years ago today, my cousin, Merlin Yoder had a terrible farming accident and passed away two days later.  That October was a terrible time for me, and some days I didn’t know if I would ever be happy again.  In Daniel’s family, we had a suicide early in the month, then my uncle, Vernon Zehr, passed away mid month, and then a week later, Merlin had his accident.

Today is the ninth anniversary of Old Gertrude’s death, also the ninth anniversary of the death of Carolyn Swartzentruber, five year old daughter of friends,  Harvey and Judith.  I went to Old Gertrude’s grave today, as I often do when I have a class at Stockley Center, and the weather was wet, the sky so grey and the wind was whistling through the trees around that graveyard for indigents.  I thought about my sister in law, Frieda, and about the journey we all must make some day, and about how much I love living, but how hard things are sometimes and how knowing Jesus doesn’t make the parting “easy.”  I know that Jesus conquered Death, and that Death is to have lost its sting, but the crossing is still not easy and the unknowns are still so glaring. What we know about Heaven is so intriguingly wonderful.  What we don’t know about the crossing is what we hate so much.

All this pondering made me go back to try to find something that I had written the morning that we got word that Merlin had crossed over, that he was “done with troubles and trials.”  This post says a great deal about what I’m feeling now.  I know from experience that we won’t always be this sad, and that it won’t always hurt this much.  And I know that Clint and his family are not alone, and that the prayers and the love and the concern are helping to hold them steady.  But it is hard.  And time grows short.

Ah, dear friends.  Please pray for us . . .

*******************

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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Filed under Dealing with Grief