Category: Reflections

Goodbye Kisses

I have many friends that have recently experienced the loss of a parent and others who are facing it in the very near future. It is to them, and to my beloved Mother, that I dedicate this personal walk of faith, in the hope that they may gain some solace.


.In the end, during those last two weeks in the Riverside Hospice facility, Mama was too weak to open her eyes or speak; but I talked to her and read Psalms, Song of Songs, Romans 8, and her favorite, the book of Ruth. I played hymns and quietly sang to her. And I held her hand as we listened to the soundtrack of Maria Callas performing “Madame Butterfly”–the very first opera Mama had taken me to see at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, when I was six. I had found a cache of an eclectic array of music cassettes and CDs in the gorgeously decorated parlor complete with richly opulent Victorian Christmas decorations. It was in the midst of this loveliness that my pastor came out, and my Mom and I shared our last communion together. Breaking bread and sharing the cup, as we had done so many times in church, I was fully well aware that I would never share communion with her again in this lifetime. Another home video stored up forever in my soul! And I am so grateful to God that I had the sacred privilege of walking my Mother home to heaven! It remains the greatest honor I have ever had bestowed upon me.

The gentle, blessedly dedicated hospice staff even helped me bundle Mother up in blankets like a mummy and take her outside one last time, to feel and smell the winter’s crisp, fresh air as I lifted her face up so that the sun’s rays shone down upon her timeless beauty, etched now with the lines of a life lived in service to God and all of His creation. Each line, every furrow and wrinkle adding loving-kindness, patience, wisdom, forbearance, diligence, faith and such character and dignity that her skin glowed like a translucent, ethereal, intangible shrine of a life poured out for others. A relief map of Christ was her beloved face. Moments like these have become memories etched deeply in my heart from those last four months of her illness when I never left her side.

The final day, when Aaron, my baby brother came in to us, he went over to her and lifted open her eyes with his fingers and she looked right at us, her eyes perfectly clear and focused!

It was amazing and I felt so dumb I had not thought to try that myself. She looked right at us and got to see us one last time. Aaron softly said, “There you are.” We smiled tearful smiles, lips quivering with the effort, as we assured her that we were going to take care of each other and that we would be okay. That we knew she had to go.

As Aaron released her eyelids to close, I leaned down and whispered, ” Just look for your little boy in his red, pig sweatsuit, Mama. You’ll see him. And when you do you just run to him and don’t look back! He’s been waiting for you! Tell him I said, ‘Honey!’ ” Aaron and I watched in amazement as we saw her eyes under her lids scan back and forth several times, until they abruptly stopped, her face relaxing. Did she find him? I believe that she did!

When I asked her to convey a message to Scottie, it was not an idle gesture. I was referring to what had become one of our own private little rituals over the years. My other brother, Scottie, was born with Down’s Syndrome. He had passed away ten years earlier from a congenital heart defect. He and I shared a very special love and adoration that had grown between us over the years resulting in our own little inside jokes and routines forged in love. Instead of saying hello or goodbye, we would put our foreheads together, third eyes touching against each other. We would both cup one another’s face with our hands and gazing deeply into one another’s eyes–his sparkling blue, mine dancing green–both filled with a deep, abiding, eternal love; we would smile and at the same time say to each other in unison, dragging the endearment out with artful practice, “Honey!” Then we would just smile big, joy-filled toothy grins full of adoration and love. I don’t even remember how it started, but I recently saw that it is a very ancient greeting and farewell for an ancient tribe of people from several thousand years ago!


In the early, darkened hours of the next morning, everyone had been called to come in because the nurse had told us that Mama was close to the end. Exhausted by our vigil, one-by-one, we had all fallen asleep–in chairs, couches, on the floor.

Then something awakened me. I looked over and a nurse was bent over Mom with her stethoscope over Mama’s heart. She whispered, “I just heard her heart beat a second before you woke.” Nothing moved in the room. The stillness was electric as we waited, eyes locked on one another. Finally, she pulled back, her expression telling me what I could not bear.

And Mother was gone, just like that.

Almost with a jerk, Aaron, my brother, lifted his head, just as I started to stand up and start over to the hospital bed. Then one by one, each one of us woke, one sleepy head after another rising and looking toward her bed without a sound. I truly believe when her spirit left her body, she stopped one last time to kiss us each goodbye.

We stood around her bed and I had been with her night and day, never leaving her side for four entire months except when she was moved into ICU over Thanksgiving. I looked at this incredible, amazing human woman, who was the epitome of strength, dignity, life, and everything lasting and endurable and unconquerable I had ever known . . .and she was just gone! Just like that.

We had been in hospice and I knew the doctors said she was dying, but until that moment, I realized, deep inside of myself, I had not truly believed them. I was stunned as I felt wetness slide down my face. Looking around at so many others I loved so much, I saw the truth of grief and loss etching itself in each face like a mark of passage. And it went through me like my insides had been wrenched out and dropped to the ground.

I remember thinking just, “How?”

How can love and vitality and everything she was not be in that beloved body anymore?

But at the same time the room was so still with the Presence of the Almighty God. So sacred. The holiest moment I have ever experienced besides giving birth to my daughters and seeing a whole new human being come out of my own body. We were in a sanctuary at that moment, not a hospital room. And the Lord, God had filled that place; had come personally to walk my Mother home!

Just like my baby girls had taken their first breath like a holy sacrament; so, now Mother had taken her last breath in the same hushed stillness of a holy communion. And these experiences forever changed who I am and the meaning of life and love and death for me. Yet still, even ten years later, an overwhelming actual physical ache will come upon me and I just want-no! need to hug my mother, even though she has been gone ten years now.

But I feel her. When I’m alone. When I need her most, I sense her presence; feel a tingling like arms wrapped around as if I am being hugged. Sometimes the scent of her surrounds me and on rare awe-inspiring moments, sometimes I can almost see her. Reaching out toward a shimmer in the air, I feel an electricity, an expectancy. And I know she is right there with me!

I know there is life after death. I am visited by love when times are at their hardest. I know if a person opens themselves to spirit, they will know, too. The Bible says that love is stronger than death. And all I can tell you is what I know: It is true.



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Experience (Photo credit: djniks)

When someone else speaks their truth and it hurts or makes me furious, I find it is time to go be alone.  It is best not to react in front of that person, but to get by myself and then vent my feelings.  After venting, I need to ask myself what I can learn from this experience.  I can always learn something.  God does not send me experiences, especially painful ones, unless I can learn from them.  Sometimes the experience is only a marker to show me how much I have grown so that I can practice gratitude for prior lessons.  Sometimes it is a warning to show me what could happen if I make certain choices in life.  Sometimes, and I find these lessons the hardest, it is a mirror to show me something about myself of which I may not even be aware, which really wounds or infuriates me when I am on the receiving end.  By being willing to look in this mirror, I will receive the most beneficial instruction because I can truly see where I need to grow the most.

Log jam in Craighall. An old dead tree has cre...

Log jam in Craighall. An old dead tree has created a natural log jam on the Craighall burn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These insights are my greatest life opportunities.  I can choose to humbly accept them and work out a plan to improve myself or I can hide from them in fear.  But letting fear win only hides these problems from myself.  They remain glaringly obvious to everyone around me.  I am finding it is far better to admit my issues and move forward than to hide from them and stagnate.  Stagnation works like a log-jam.  Everything builds up behind it until even the water cannot flow.  It will eventually become a dam in my life, preventing anything from flowing forward or backward.  Since a characteristic of life is change, building a dam is a form of spiritual death.

The good news is all death is but the changing point, not the ending point.  The bad news is it is possible to get side-tracked or lost in a change-point for a long time.  When something stagnates for long enough, it begins to rot and stink.  When we stagnate, our lives begin to rot and stink.  We become polluted, sick, dying.

Clearing the jam is the only way to renew ourselves.  Fortunately, many have paved the way through this dam before us and we can walk in their footsteps.  We are never alone on our journey.  While each path is individual, all paths are made of experiences we share in common with our fellow humanity.  There is no single way to clear this jam.  It is up to each of us to find our own best way that works for us.   I have heard some say we need to confront the past.  Some say going over the past just reinforces it.  I think it depends on the person and the issues.  Whatever gets you moving forward, free of burdens, is right for you.   I have struggled a long time with this issue personally and have found, for me, it is usually a matter of learning to love myself more.  The more I love myself, the more I seem able to inherently make the right decisions for myself and the more free I become of the past.  The more I love myself now; the less the past matters.  The more I love myself; the higher my self-esteem.  The higher my self-esteem; the easier it is to examine myself for things I may want to change, or release comments that might hurt me or make me angry because I have examined them and determined they just don’t apply.  When that happens, my next question is am I sending signals I don’t want to send or is this person’s judgement just way off-base in this circumstance?  Loving myself helps me realize that it isn’t always me!  It also helps me forgive someone else when they are wrong.  Including myself.  So, how do I learn to truly love myself?

That, my friends, is another post.  But first I would really like to hear from you.  How do you build a loving relationship with yourself?  I am looking forward to reading all of your responses!

Sunlight Is Spoken

Beautiful Sunset Over The Water Dunedin

Beautiful Sunset Over The Water Dunedin (Photo credit: _setev)

The storms and rains

have grayed

my days.

My nights

stretch into me

with chilled abandonment.

Through endless existence

there is a hunger,

an empty knowing,

an aching longing.

I have known

the sun is out there


My hope

hangs on a thin ray

of faith

in some day.

Then my mind’s eye

relives that moment

you told me,

“I have fallen in love with you,

What took you so long,

I  have been waiting for you forever!”

You spoke aloud

my secret words

my wish

my longing

my pain.

Words harbored

so hidden

in my heart.

None had heard

but God.

Words wept

in worship,


want and


You held a mirror

and reflected

my deepest desire

back to me.

And the sun–

You are warmer,

warming me,

more than any fantasy.

Singing doves,

mimic the symphony of my joy.

Sparkling reflections echo

my treasure-trove

of priceless gems for my soul.

Dancing rainbows

bounce in my innermost being.

I never knew my world

was black and white

before you spoke.

You cannot ever know

how you touched me

in that one moment in time.


your words,

your eyes,

your voice,

your touch,

My sun is you.

Mother and Child (Lady Shannon and Kitty)

Mother and Child (Lady Shannon and Kitty) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My mother passed a few years back but she lives on inside everyone who knew her. My earliest memories are of snuggling beside her as she read book after
book, chapter, after chapter, developing a life-long love affair with
stories in me. Later, she would read to herself page after page, paper
after paper, story after story of my work, gently correcting, guiding,
teaching me how to develop my own writing. After she was gone, when I
went through her things, it was my turn to read paper after paper, note
after note, the wisdom of her life scribbled on scraps, napkins, church
bulletin margins. She was such a quiet, strong presence, yet, larger than life, because she knew how to love. She poured out her existence for love and service of others. She was cheerleader, tutor, servant, comforter, adviser, counselor, Proverbs 31. She was better at keeping her tongue than anyone I have ever met. Most certainly better at it than me! But I keep trying. I strive every day to live up to the legacy of her life. I am becoming, every day, my best person, because of her gifts to me. I may not be able to touch her face again, hug her body, but she is still alive, vibrant, giving–in me, through me, for me.

god (Photo credit: the|G|™)

There is a knot in my gut that never seems to go away anymore.  The stress and fear never go away either.   I walk quickly between classes, keeping my head down, eyes averted, hoping against hope that just this once they won’t notice me.  hey won’T be waiting.  Lurking.  I still limp from when they broke my legs.  Both of them at the same time.  It still hurts so much.  An accident.  And those bullies just stared dead at me with smirks on their faces because they knew I would be too much of a coward to say otherwise.  I try really hard not to use the bathroom all day, not drinking at all because going into the restrooms holds its own particular kind of hell if they catch me there.  I can’t concentrate.  My grades are slipping.  I am slipping.  In my mind I still hear all the kids laughing at me as they call me names, trip me, hit me, and whatever else they can think to do to me.  They call me “homo,” and “moron,” and “loser” and worse.  They pushed my face into a toilet at school right after one of them had used it.  They pushed my face right into their mess and then high-fived each other and laughed as I cried and puked my guts out.  I awaken each morning from my nightmares which are still kinder than my daily reality.  I slide from nightmare to waking daymare to nightmare to waking daymare in an endless circuitous prison.  Whoever coined, “TGIF,” had no idea what it is really like when Friday marks the only respite in my life from constant terror and humiliation.  I live for weekends and vacations, but a dark cloud always looms larger and larger the closer the day  comes when I must return to school.  My mom complains about me spending more and more time alone in my room.  It has become my haven that guards my secret torment.  It harbors my secret tears of rage and shame.  I weep in a silent scream into my pillow as my mind turns constantly over the same tracks of self-dialogue relentlessly beating and crashing against my soul.

Emo Boy

“I can’t take it anymore!  I hate them!  Why do they have to keep picking on me?  Why can’t they leave me alone?  Because I am a big loser!  I’m a loser just like they say.  I am a fat, ugly, stupid loser!”  I rock with the pain moving to some ancient,  wailing rhythm from a siren of destruction only I can hear.  I am slipping further and further inside myself, retreating from this world into a place of lost reality and agony from which one day I will not be able to return.  “I hate myself! I hate myself!  I am such a waste of space!  I wish I was dead!  I can’t do this anymore!  I can’t go back!  God, don’t let my mom find out!  Oh, I am so ashamed!  I am such a wimp; I can’t make them stop!  I just want to die!  Just let me die, God!  Please.  I want to die.”My world grows darker each day as I struggle to hang on until one day, I just can’t take it anymore.  I take all their hate and turn it in on myself with all the rage I have slowly, silently, lethally felt building deep below the surface.

Then everyone will ask, “How could we not have known how bad it was?  We missed all the signs.  Everything seemed okay. I looked like I was handling things ok.  How could I do it?  Why didn’t we help?  Why didn’t we realize?”

grave stone

Related articles

 For Danny, who pointed out the perils of seeing yourself as a permanent victim.  Thank you.

Nothing Remains the Same

Nothing Remains the Same (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 “Count it all pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”–James 1: 2-4

     Right.  That’s going to happen.  How on earth can you keep from being hurt and be joyful when you have been violated by a predator?  When your child has been abused, do you just accept it?  On first reading it seems Paul must have had too idyllic a life to understand the reality of true pain and suffering.  Did he not catch the part where even Jesus suffered?  Was he totally oblivious to the Hitlers, Ayatollah’s, Stalins, seriel killers, child abusers and others that peopled his own time?  How can we have joy when we see a world with such suffering?  Children living in garbage dumps.  People forced into slavery all over the world.  Killing, rape, violence–everywhere we look and getting closer and closer to home every single day! Where do you find peace of mind and true and abiding joy?

     I have reread these verses many times and have meditated upon this subject many times in order to achieve an understanding of how it is possible to count it all as joy.  It seems like magical thinking to believe that if you accept your fate, embrace your fate, whatever it might be, you will escape pain.  The truth is that you will feel physical pain, emotional pain, and mental anguish within your lifetime.  These trials will come to each of us.  But if we resist them, if we choose to label them as “bad” and become a permanent victim to them, we will truly be hurt in our eternal spirit because we will waste our entire time in a self-pitying stasis and never take advantage of our opportunity to grow from these experiences.

     When we mistrust that the universe, that the Creator God is rendering all circumstances in any lifetime we are given for our absolute good, we deny the gifts we are given to help us to grow.  I recently read a comparison of our lives to giant puzzle pieces.  If we are putting together a puzzle and toss out any pieces for which we cannot immediately find a good place, we will end our picture with big empty spaces hollowed out.  But if we keep all of the pieces, going back over them to find where they actually might fit, we find there is usually something we overlooked the first time around.  The older we get, the more we see the “big picture”.  They all fit into our life puzzle.  They are all good in the end.  Our greatest spiritual growth opportunities come in the guise of unpleasantness and pain.  In fact, the greater the pain at the time, the bigger the reward will be if we but embrace each experience and welcome it.  Not like some masochist, but truly believing that somewhere within the darkness, we will find our brightest light.  We must look with better eyes and trust and know there is a pearl somewhere in all that slimy mess!  In the darkest storm, when we look closely, there is always a rainbow.

Rainbow over Ribble Rain coming in from the Ea...

Rainbow over Ribble Rain coming in from the East late on a sunny March afternoon in Preston produced this one bright end of a rainbow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we embrace every moment of our life as a step on our path to who we are becoming, we can embrace it all with joy!  Take away a single moment and we cease to be the being we are at this moment.  And this moment, whether pleasurable or painful, is the only moment we have to change ourselves and our future for the better.  I can and do choose to count it all joy.

A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Berea, Ohio

A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Berea, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I attended an anti-bullying rally, walk, and party at my daughter’s school.  I commend highly all the students, families, and school personnel that were present.  Accolades especially to Channel 15, here in South Carolina, who realized it was an event worthy of some coverage.  That being said, I must admit that I was shocked and disappointed by the attendance.  All schools from  primary through high school were involved.  I expected there to be an enormous turn-out for such an important event.  I expected families to realize how horrible bullying in this country has become and to welcome this opportunity as a teaching opportunity to instill values in their kids.  No wonder there is such a problem when more families cannot take a few hours on a Saturday to come out and show their kids that they do not tolerate these or any other types of hate crimes.  And yes, I said crimes.

Bullying is different in some crucial ways than it was when I was a kid.  It is often no longer one-on-one, but a gang of childrenon one child.  It is no longer name-calling and maybe a scuffle or fist-fight.  It is daily torment.  It is facing assault and battery every day.  Can you imagine trying to work under such conditions?  It is broken bones from toilet seats being slammed on your fingers, or being pushed so fiercely, you break your ankles.  It is having your face pushed in a used toilet into someone elses’ feces.  This is horrifying to me that children are committing these crimes on children, and you need to be aware that it is an epidemic in our society.

this is my own version of what bullying looks like

this is my own version of what bullying looks like (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you think your child has never been bullied, sadly, you are probably wrong.  They were probably too humiliated to share the problem with you or don’t think you can do anything about it.  Children are killing themselves every single day because they can no longer take the daily punishment they undergo at the hands of these bullies.  Our kids are committing suicideand we sleep in on a Saturday morning instead of using the opportunity to take a stand and make a difference.

My kids didn’t want to go.  I made them go.  And we had a great time.  But I will tell you something else.  We listened to some other kids and parents describe unbelievable acts of hatred and violence and my kids realized where that bullying behavior can go if not stopped and stopped immediately.  We all felt our hearts hurt and they know, more than ever before, exactly where I stand on the subject.  My kids would never stand by and watch another child get bullied without intervening, even if they can only report it.  They know it is wrong.  Have you talked to your kids about bullying?  Have you asked what they have witnessed at school?  Because I guarantee you they have witnessed it.  Have you had the guts to ask if they have ever been bullied or bullied someone else?  I welcome your input on this topic and look forward to discussing this further on my blog.  Being bullied is not a “character builder.”  It is a crime.  How do you think it should be dealt with?  What can we do as families, as parents, as school personnel and as a community to end this violence?  Check back as I explore the dynamics of helping our kids learn to accept themselves and others in a healthy way, how to overcome being bullied, and how to overcome being a bully!

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