Tag Archives: comfort

Time To Go Home

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Timing is all…

Wednesday, August 30, 2017, was an intense day.  My emotions ran the gamut from profound sadness to overwhelming love to incredible joy, over the course of both hours and moments.  I’m actually still trying to process it all, and in doing so, I’ve spent a bit more time lately just keeping to myself and being still.

It was the beginning of my work week as Wednesdays always are, but with a distinct change in the middle of the day when I took a 3-hour lunch to go and sing for a funeral at Messiah Lutheran Church, where I sang and served from 2013-2016.  The associate pastor’s mother had died, and I adore both pastor and mom.  Being asked to offer music for this occasion both honored and humbled me, as I would have attended the service even had I not been singing.

Even the most seasoned of musicians sometimes feel nervous, especially when called upon to provide music for funerals and memorials.  It is only natural.  And nerves visited me as well.  My friend and #firsteverworkhusband Martin, knew how much I love this family, and how important the service was to me.  We exchanged messages first thing in the morning and throughout the day.  I had gathered a little token of love for Pastor Pauline to take with me and give her prior to the service, along with a big hug.  A reminder that she has not lost her marbles.

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As I had predicted, my singing was not easy or perfect, but it was, as I told Mother Farrington’s grandchildren afterward, with my speaking voice breaking,  “…a way for me to love your family…”  Reuniting with my former “choir boss”,  Joan, to make music for this service comforted me, and being back among this church family warmed my heart and made me feel loved.  As I have come to understand, musicians and people of faith are all part of the same family;  we never really say goodbye and we always recognize and welcome one another back.

I left the fellowship hall and I walked to my car with tears of sadness, gratitude and love…and I thought the intense part of my day had passed.  Knowing that Martin had held space for me meant the world to me, especially with everything he has endured this year…a transitional period in his relationship, his health, undergoing medical procedures, and his living situation, including being without a home for months and staying with friends/family, and in shelters ranging from tolerable to hellish.  His, and my, fondest wish, had been for him to find a place to live, and that process seemed to be taking longer than forever to happen.  Until this intense day.  Almost the minute I returned to work, Martin ping’ed me with a message.

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Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that feathers are for me a symbol, a powerful reminder that God is there, looking out for me and my loved ones, sending comfort when I need it in a language I can understand.  When this teeny feather floated down after the funeral and landed on the program, I assumed it was just for my benefit…turned out to be a harbinger of Martin’s wonderful news as well.  That his housing came through at the same time I sang and we were commending Mother Farrington to her home in Heaven…seemed, and still seems, especially poignant, and fitting.  For her, and for Martin, it was time to go Home.

Home.

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Promise

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Reminders of the circle of life…

For the first time in several years, we had a bird to build a nest on our front porch.  In the past the nests have actually been in a shrub just in front of the porch.  However this little bird built her nest inside a watering pitcher I had left outside on some shelves next to the front door.  The eggs were beautiful, pale pink with burgundy speckles.  After doing some research online I discovered that they were the eggs of a Carolina Wren.

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Watching this miracle unfold never gets old for me!  I check the nest, making sure it is secure and safe, seeing if Mama Bird is there or has left to find food for herself.  This little Wren has been a great Mama to her eggs, building them a quite impressive nest for a bird so little.  Since I didn’t notice the nest until it was already full of eggs, and promise, I missed the earliest parts of the miracle, but I hoped and prayed I would not miss the last stage.

This time last week, my church family was saying goodbye to our friend Ray, about whom I wrote in my last post.  I was unable to attend his funeral because of scheduling, and usually missing that chance to pay respects and find closure would upset me greatly.  But somehow, this time, I think it was meant to be that I just remember him as he was the way I saw him last, ringing handbells, singing with the choir and reading Scripture, multi-tasking at church in his customary way.

When I arrived home from work, I checked the nest to see if Mama was there and how the eggs were.  The final miracle had begun to happen!

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I missed Ray’s funeral…but God gave me comfort and joy on my porch as the baby birds hatched and their new little lives began.  He reminded me of the promise of new life we have in Christ, the new life Ray was just beginning in Heaven.  He reminded me of the care He has for us, as a bird cares for her eggs, then her hatchlings, providing them with warmth, love and security.  Gracious Lord, help me remember that You always keep Your promises, and that You ALWAYS care.

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The Comfort/Sanity/Happiness Kit

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Because we all need our marbles…

I enjoy giving goofball presents to people who appreciate my sense of humor and understand the spirit behind the gift.  Gag gifts between me and Reed at Christmas happen from time to time, although it is not an annual occurrence.  He started it when we were kids and he bought me a Chia Pet.  Over the ensuing years various crazy presents have passed between us, such as monkey dishes (I gave him a set the year after he presented me with a monkey lamp), bright pink slip-on sandals from him that decorated my office wall back when I had an office, and an extremely ugly “giggle jug” lamp that I gave him which had a goofy smiling face on one side and a frowny, but hilarious, face on the other.  My crowning goofball gift to him happened the Christmas I was able to obtain a beauty school head that a friend’s sister-in-law had worked with as she completed her training to be a hairstylist.  Score!  It was by far the goofiest gift I have ever given to Reed, or to anybody for that matter.  One Christmas, Reed overwhelmed me with 4 additions to my ugly necktie collection!  I actually wear my outrageous ties now and then, so this gift was priceless.

I have been working on an idea for a comfort/sanity/happiness kit to give to friends and family who need one or all of those things, especially in times of sadness or stress.  It would contain things like bubble wrap for stress relief (who doesn’t LOVE to pop bubble wrap?!  Again, when I had an office, I kept bubble wrap in it to work off my frustration);  A Slinky, for the soothing sound it makes as it passes from one hand to the other; and some jingle bells for those moments when a little music is needed.image

And definitely some marbles.  Who among us doesn’t occasionally feel like we have lost our marbles?  The gift of marbles assures the recipient that, no, you haven’t lost your marbles, because right here they are!

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The comfort/sanity/happiness kit might contain other items like bubble bath or a scented candle, a mix CD of music tailored for the recipient (a few people still actually use CDs, I think!), a book the recipient might like, a special snapshot, a recipe, or a jar of bubble-stuff to blow bubbles at the world. It’s a lot better to spread bubbles than profanity (although, I’ve been known to spread both!).  The only limit to the kit is one’s imagination and the desires/tastes/needs of the person who will receive it.

What would be in YOUR comfort/sanity/happiness kit?

The contents of mine would vary day by day…but I would always want, and need…

My marbles.

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Harbingers

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Bearing the signs of change…

Relief is coming.  I see the signs most vividly on my dogwood tree.  While the temperatures in East Tennessee are still hot and the humidity is still high, my dogwood tells me that fall is on its way and soon there will be respite from summer’s moist, heavy air.

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The past 2 summers have held an additional heaviness for me as well, the weight of grief bearing down as oppressively as the soaring temperatures and wilting humidity.  Stepping physically into the heat feels much like stepping onto the path of mourning, as though somehow my energy is being drained from me, body and soul.  I know this path well.  It seems like I’ve been walking it for most of my life.  Still, its familiarity does not make it any easier to navigate, nor any shorter.

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But relief is coming.  The changing colors on my dogwood tree are just the earliest harbingers of changes yet to begin.  Soon the maples, oaks and other trees will begin their turning from summer’s greens to the parade of warmer shades brought on by the cooler temperatures.  Such a graceful paradox, cooler bringing warmer and vice versa.

Relief is also coming for my grief.  There will never be a total removal of pain from the deaths of those I love, nor should there be.  But gradually, over time and with the changing seasons, the pain becomes less sharp, always lingering but not as suffocating as before.

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Relief is coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creature Comforts

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Why I need a dog in my life…

My days off this past weekend were wasted, and wonderful! I didn’t accomplish anything except sing in church and get a lot of rest, which I sorely needed after the prior weekend’s concerts and church solos in an unheated sanctuary. I didn’t even do any reading, which is unusual for me on my days off from work. I just rested.

Our Boy Roy, our little Terrier mix, rested with me, or more accurately, a lot of the time he rested ON me. Maybe it is the changing weather, or maybe he is just a little moody lately, but it seems like he has been wanting to snuggle closer in recent weeks. Not that I mind, of course. He is a sweet little companion, and a source of warmth for me in more ways than one.

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Physically, he puts off a lot of heat, which is so welcome when I plop on the couch or into bed at the end of a long day. At my age and with my hormones doing whatever it is they’re doing, I freeze all day and burn up all night. The cold actually seems to bother me more, and Roy is like a little furry space heater when I get home from work.

Then there is the warmth of companionship that he provides me, a relationship spoken in the language of scratches and belly rubs, snuggles and dog kisses.  He listens without interrupting, or judging, and he never tells my secrets.  He never cares if I haven’t had a bath (sometimes I think he prefers it that way!) and his idea of an excellent adventure is a ride with me to the pharmacy drive-through.

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 He seems to want to do whatever Jeff and I are doing, even if what we’re doing is nothing.  He seems content simply to be with us.  I have heard some people say that dogs don’t feel emotions, and that they are not capable of loving their people.  I can’t bring myself to believe that.  I have cried and had a dog put his head on my chest, sighing as I sobbed.  When I fell years ago walking Ernie The Wonder Beagle and broke my leg, I dropped his leash, but he never left my side as I crawled to get back into the house.  When I have been at my lowest, I have looked into the soulful eyes of a dog and felt the warm comfort of a creature looking back at me with nothing but love.

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Angels Among Us

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Comfort in plastic and concrete

 

Shortly after Mama died, I was at the house with Dad and I saw something in the kitchen I had never noticed before.  On a small hook next to a cabinet hung a few little plastic angels suspended by metallic gold thread.  They were tiny and cheap, and I found out later that they glow in the dark!  I don’t know where she got them, if they were a gift or if she had bought them herself.  I can imagine that they might have been attached to some sort of small present as part of the wrapping.  Seeing those little angels at this time of bereavement brought me an odd sort of comfort, and I asked Dad if I could take them home with me.  I don’t think he had ever noticed them hanging there either, and he gave me his blessing to take them home.  

I later received a catalog in the mail and, as I was looking through its pages of gadgets and knick-knacks, a picture of Mama’s kitchen angels jumped out at me!  They came in sets of 10 and were very inexpensive, so I bought a bunch of them.  I figured I would use them in craft projects, gift wrapping and the like.  When Mom Cutshaw died, she had requested a closed casket, so I asked one of the funeral home men to slip one of them into her casket, as a little temporary parting gift from me.  And again, one of these little plastic angels gave me a peculiar sort of comfort.Image

Before and since, I have collected angel figurines and jewelry, and I enjoy taking photos of angels where I see them.  A church near my house has a beautiful angel next to its majestic red front door.  She is almost the size of a real person.  On my way home one afternoon when the sunlight was especially pretty, I stopped to photograph the church, its arched door, old-fashioned bell, historic cornerstone and steeple, and especially that lovely angel.Image

From the street as I drove past, she looked like she was made of marble, but up close, I could see that she is really made of concrete.  Whoever made her gave her detailed wings, a flowing, drapey gown, praying hands and a serene face.  A face I found, again, strangely comforting.Image

 

I took a class last year that had students fill out a form and answer questions regularly before our individual meetings with our supervisor.  One of those questions was, “Where have you found God this week?”  In my faith and my worldview, I find Him everywhere, in big things and small ones…because I choose to look for Him everywhere.  I’m not saying that I can always make sense of what He’s up to or that I understand how He’s working all the time, because I don’t.  But I know He’s there.  

I have found Him in the most unlikely places, maybe more often than in the confines of a church building.  I’ve seen Him in the faces of people who, stricken with their own grief, somehow manage to reach out and comfort others.  I have felt Him in the embraces of my family and friends when no words could offer solace.  I have heard Him in music and birdsong and the sound of ocean waves.  And He has sent me comfort and peace in the form of angels.  Even (or especially) in Mama’s tiny, glow-in-the-dark plastic angels.