Reflecting on Shadows….

The sun is a welcome sight after the cold and wet days this weekend. I enjoyed a nice walk with a visiting friend, happy to be outdoors in the cold, crisp air. So I was drawn to this photo of an unsuspecting subject taken by my friend Mary in Put-in-Bay, Ohio. I love the warm colors and sharply outlined shadows. If you look closely, you can see the brim of a hat. On the table, there are plenty of drinks waiting for friends who haven’t yet arrived or are out of the picture. Today is All Saint’s Day, the day we remember those who have passed from this life to the next. In some cultures, the Christian tradition of All Saint’s has been combined with the ancient remembrances of the dead in a celebration called Dios de los Muertos, or Days of the Dead. There is a carnival atmosphere, as communities celebrate for three days, eating ghoulish sweets, resembling skulls and bones. It’s as if Halloween and All Saint’s run together, making fun of our own mortality while accepting the reality of death by grieving loved ones. There are three days each year when all laugh and cry together. Perhaps we need a holiday like that, rather than grieving haphazardly, on our own. Like this shadow, our memories swirl around us. The strangest things can bring fresh grief, like an old sweepstakes entry or a sugar packet tucked in a shirt pocket. We look around for the source of the shadow, then realize that only the shadow remains. Yet the more we resist grief, the more it persists. We can’t get around it; we simply must get through it. Take time today to remember a loved one that has passed on, or to comfort another lost in grief. Give thanks for those who passed before you, shaped your life, and made you who you are today. Let laughter and tears blend together, like the celebration of Dios de los Muertos. And remember you can’t feel the joy without accepting the pain. We are promised abundant life, not a bowl of cherries. Photo by Mary Staley

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Reflecting on Caregiving….

It’s steadily raining this morning, making today the start of a third wet week. Puddles are everywhere, and the raindrops make perfect circles as they land. The weather has turned cold, and the rain is even colder. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Michael of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Michael rose early to take this photo, of the new dawn over calm water. The perfect blue sky seems a distant memory, like warm, summer days. So much can change so quickly. Yesterday my father would have celebrated his 93rd birthday. He passed away almost three years ago, in our home. In the days after Daddy passed away, I found it difficult to adjust. As his primary caregiver, I had become accustomed to listening for the slightest sound, to reacting without thinking. Sometimes I wonder if I simply sorted things out without really waking up. The only experience comparable to those last days would be caring for a newborn, with exuberant joy replaced by aching sorrow. Yet there were many mornings when my chaotic schedule allowed me to see the early dawn. Perhaps the seeds of these reflections were sown in that quiet, in between time. My heart was nourished by awe inspiring beauty in the midst of pain and sorrow. Every day, even the saddest of days, is full of possibilities and promises. Take time today to look beyond what is right in front of you, to allow a simple wonder to draw you in. If the scene is too dreary or depressing, consider looking through photos of a recent trip or call and chat with a close friend. And remember to drink in whatever this day offers, because so much can change so quickly. Photo by Michael Granche

Reflecting on Grief….

It’s raining this morning, or perhaps the rain from last night is dripping off the large oak trees. I linger when walking the dog on days like this. The world seems so silent and at peace. So I was drawn to this photo of my parents at my sister Lana’s wedding over twenty years ago. Mom and Dad are making their grand entrance at the reception, happily greeting everyone. You can see my sisters Rita and Pam in the background along with members of the groom’s family. This morning Lisa and Roxanne, sisters and my friends since elementary school, are burying their father. Last month, they buried their mother. My heart aches for them as I write this, knowing they are preparing to leave home for the funeral. I remember looking at my feet the morning of Mom’s funeral, wondering why I only had on one shoe, wondering how long I had been sitting there, without the energy to put on the other shoe. Over fifteen years later, getting ready for Dad’s funeral, I expected to feel that heaviness. Yet expecting something doesn’t make it any easier. When I read about the Pit in the Psalms, grief is what comes to mind. You feel stuck, oppressed, lost without hope of ever getting out. Someone you love is gone from this life forever. I’m not sure I understand what happens after death, and for me, I’m not sure it really matters. All I know for sure is that while we all die, love lives forever. Love is more powerful than our frail bodies, our weak wills, our feeble attempts that fall short in this life. So this morning I bid your prayers for these precious sisters, offering the words of a favorite hymn, Ubi Caritas. Where love and caring are, there is God, Ubi caritas, et amor, Deus ibi est. May this peaceful morning and the peace of God that passes all understanding, be with you, now and always. Amen. Photo credit The Torre Studios in Burlington, NJ

Reflecting on New Beginnings….

What an eventful week! Earthquakes, after shocks, and now a hurricane. Yet for many, the weather may not be the main event. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Lindsey. Her husband is walking her sons down to the end of the drive to catch the bus. On Thursday, Jared started kindergarten. Notice how intent he is compared with his little brother. He’s clutching his backpack and walking straight ahead, while his little brother hops or skips, or a little bit of both. Dad is taking the lead, knowing that Mom may not share Jared’s enthusiasm. She has a chance to let go in private, to honor her son’s desire for independence while also honoring her own feelings. Other friends are dropping off their sons and daughters at college, some for the first time. Some are visiting their grown children in their own homes, their first place after graduation, or visiting to help with a new grandchild. Each of these changes stirs up a mix of emotions. We are happy, elated, expectant, amazed. We are also sad, mournful, confused and a little lost. We can be tempted to gloss over our mixed emotions, to hide the feelings we would rather not admit. Yet so often in life, what we seek to view as either or is truly both and. We are not promised a perfect life, we are promised abundant life. When our hearts are full, when we let all those emotions flow, we claim that promise of abundant life. Take time today to fully understand the impact of a change in your life. Allow yourself to freely experience the emotions that this change has wrought. Let go of what was to make room for what will be, trusting that our Lord works for good in all things for those that love Him. Photo by Lindsey Wangsgard

Reflecting on Memory….

 Those fireflies have led me down memory lane.  What began as a single memory of fireflies led me to make beef vegetable soup this weekend, complete with broth made from soup bones.  So I was drawn to this photo of my Aunt Audrey, holding her great grandson Andrew as a baby.  I’m not sure, but I believe she is sitting in my cousin Diane’s kitchen.  It seems we have a lot of photos of Aunt Audrey in the kitchen. My Aunt Audrey was a wonderful and creative cook, and she shared this gift with us all. We often gathered in the kitchen, helping her to cook and learning to cook at the same time.  She loved cookbooks but rarely used the recipes exactly as provided.  Fortunately for us all, she frequently wrote in her cookbooks, recording these changes and variations. So her cooking, and her memory, is preserved and handed down to the next generation, and the next. At first, I didn’t connect making this soup with those fireflies. Then on Sunday, I saw so many butterflies in our backyard. The day my aunt died, the backyard was full of butterflies, as if tiny angels had arrived to call her home.  Another wonder of nature tied these memories together, and led me again to consciously remember my dear aunt.  Take time today to make a memory come alive, to honor pastimes or skills lovingly taught to you as a child. You’ll preserve the memories of those that have gone before us, and make memories for those who will remain when we are called home.

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