{a message from my dead father}

Jumbles of words wake me up; clotting in me.  My body resists waking for it’s much too early.  This is my day-to-day litmus test.  How bad? Long before dawn, I am scanning for the gravity of my depression. I have always eavesdropped on myself in this way.

Somehow the heart knows, even if one has learned to shut it up, even when we deny it or work diligently to be fine in the daytime. But while asleep the soul’s true confession takes hold and those few moments before waking are clear.

The words woke me.  I need paper, pen. I am remembering Dad, how he held on to say goodbyes and even give us time to make amends.

What amends does mother need and with whom?  I push through cobwebs of my dream world; the sentience all but gone.

What were you saying, Daddy?

My daily reading in Bishop Edmond Lee Browning in A Year of Days says that we remember the dead, miss them, because we love them.

“This energy between us, the energy we call love is eternal. The soul is made of it, and it is set free from the compromises and disappointments we experience…” And, then, “They are now perfected, made entirely of the love we shared on earth and continue to share.”

It is difficult for me to imagine.

Tonya, me, Paula, and Holly with my father (L to R) in 1976.

I was a little girl longing for peace. I became invisible, on purpose. I was hoping it would help them. I disappeared into the fog, lost, alone, afraid of every turn.  Courage only came from him.  When he pushed.

I thought by disappearing I could make things better.

Recently, I have remembered frequently that day of waiting.  The endless wait to discover – would he die? Brain cancer was a death sentence and all I felt was glee, a dizzying freedom. I pierced my nose.

Silly, but somehow this marked the hour I started living. Soon I wouldn’t have to fear his

His recrimination,


anger, even


His control and power. Her fear, his constant


Soon he would be dead and we could live. I was glad.

In those murky, cotton filled minutes, the in-between of sleep and waking, my father was with me.

He was perfected, finally fully loved.  There was nothing to fear.

And he is gone again, but there’s a fragment here, he left for me.

It’s something we need.

He’s waiting for her, but he knows she needs more time.

We’re all going to die.

My mother isn’t any closer to death than many older adults, but I realize as we face uncertainties that there are things that need finishing when you are married to a cruel, controlling megalomaniac, it is damaging to say the least.

As I sit here contemplating this visit from my father, I know full well it wasn’t really him actually visiting me in my dreams.  Perhaps my subconscious knows there are things that I can do to help my family bring needed closure, healing, last words, even forgiveness – I don’t know.

I remain open.

When my father was ill, I read a powerful and important book, Final Gifts, written by hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley. I learned a lot from their intimate experiences with patients at the end of life. It shaped me profoundly. I saw him hold on for certain goodbyes.  I saw him waiting for particular conversations.  And finally, I saw him go when he felt finished.

My father is a part of me.  He made me into what I am.

I stopped living out of fear and now I know I have to begin again.

{We Are All Dying}

The crawl of fear,
of losing, is close.  It licks me,
as if I am a salty wound.  Everyone dies.

Of course.

But lately, I am aware
of Life all around me

healthy or otherwise.

Tiny birds are singing a sonnet, high up in the tree.
Cancer cells are growing inside a dear old friend.
Dementia and life-stealing pain overtake a sweet elderly neighbor.
Depression and anxiety crush the once glowing spirit of my child

Meanwhile I cling
to sanity, to sobriety
and to Faith, there is Peace.

We are all dying,

and yet without the thought of imminent loss,
of the Ultimate loss, death

we haven’t appreciated our life as a gift.

Everyone dies.
Everyone lives.

Won’t you choose to live?

Choose joy in the midst of sorrow and grief?
Choose peace when hope seems dim?
Yes, fear circles around me like a flame, curling and

enveloping me in those early morning hours when

fear wakes me with a vice grip on my heart, blood pulsing.
Aware, that I am alive.

Everyone lives.
Everyone dies.

They are bitter, these days and nights.  Acrid, this

of life. Pungent,

and in this Pain,
there is a Holy Awareness.

Life’s aroma is sweet.

Watching my Father Die, What I Learned

Whether I die of a prolonged fight with cancer or go quickly in a mishap, I hope that I will have no regrets.

I hope that I die knowing that my life pleased God.

I watched my father die and learned something.  For whatever reason, Dad couldn’t let go of his life. He died resisting,  even disbelieving that it was possible that he might actually die.

He wouldn’t allow goodbyes, because he believed that there was more he was supposed to do; there was more that God wanted him for, there was more to accomplish for God.  I can’t help thinking how sad and arrogant that idea is.

And yet, I spend more days that I want to admit asking “Is there something that God wants of me?

I have spent prolonged, painful years learning this simple lesson.  (Or not learning, but banging my proverbial head against the wall.)

I have wrestled with God, fought, cried, and shaken my fist at God insisting that there must be something important I can only do — insisting that God help me feel valuable, necessary – even important.

Believing that there was more than this, that God has for me to do. How sad, how arrogant that idea really is.

Perhaps these years of frequent struggle were meant to help me absorb this one truth, this one hard lesson.  I can’t do anything to make God love me any more than he already does.  No more than he did at the moment that I came to know him fully.  You see, I don’t believe our days and nights of toiling matter much at all in the Big Story.

To the God of the Universe.

When I die, he will ask did you love me.  Did you love those I put in your way while you were striving for significance?  Did you feed my lambs?  How did you treat them?  Did you give up your power? Did you give of yourself?  Did you give away the things I entrusted with you – power, money, love?  How did you care for those along the pathways of your life?   Did you give up your life?

This tiny nugget of truth eluded my father.   He died believing he hadn’t done enough.

I hope I die knowing God is pleased and that there isn’t anything more I can do for him.  Whatever state of my mind and heart in those last days of my life, I hope that I will know there is nothing more that I need to accomplish.

I hope I will know when I die that I spent my days giving it all away.

Nothing you do today or ever will do will make God love you more.  Do you believe that?

Goodbye “Uncle” Pete

goodbye “uncle” pete

Originally uploaded by M e l o d y

It was Christmas eve. The kids and I spent the day making and decorating sugar cookies. The kids had so much fun. (Of course we told them to slow down with the candies on top, or no-one would want to eat them!) Emma and I took a few cookies over to “Uncle” Pete, our neighbor.  He’s a widower and lives on one side of a duplex next door, his daughter and her family on the other. They were traveling and it had been “pretty quiet” he said. We rang his bell and as we handed over the plate Pete said, “Oh that will brighten up my table! …. We’re still on for pie tonight?” He was coming over that evening, after Christmas Eve church service, for pie.

That was one of my last conversations with Pete.  He did indeed come over later that night, and enjoyed “cheesecake with the drippings!” as he called it.  He laughed with my kids, asked questions about our traditions, and shared some of his own like the opening of the presents.  He talked about a friendly squirrel that visits outside his porch, which his daughter Layne has named.  He seemed kind of down, or quiet, or extremely tired.  But I was so glad that he came.  My mom was there as well and we had nice dessert tastings.

While he was here, I invited him to eat Christmas dinner with us the next day. He wasn’t sure, as he was trying to finish up a project for Layne & Andrew.  He called the next day around 1:00 to say that he was actively working on the project for his kids and wanted to finish it. Later that night, around 6:00 (I don’t exactly remember?) pm I called over to see if he wanted a plate of Christmas turkey, stuffing, etc and/or to come over for more pie. He declined as he was tired, happily full from where ever he had just been. He mentioned he was weary from waking at 4:00 am and he had to get up early for his conference. He had spent the morning writing, he was happiest when he was writing.   He sounded exhausted, but at the time I wasn’t concerned in any way, just disappointed that he didn’t come on over.

I had woken Christmas morning with the flu, and had a whole day on the 26th of more preparations and the Hanson Christmas celebration. I wonder if I would have gone to check on him if I hadn’t been so distracted by things.  But really, Pete travels all the time and if he’s gone or here, his car is in the garage. There is no way that I could have known.  I snow blowed their driveway on Sunday, but nothing seemed amiss.

The next day, I ate that plate of food I had made up for Pete. By that time, I think he had passed away.  Sometime that morning.

My friend, “Uncle” Pete, passed on to be with the Lord (likely) Friday, Dec. 26th, in the morning in his home.

Around 11:00 this morning, an InterVarsity staff person came by a bit alarmed by the fact that Pete hadn’t shown up at a conference on the 26th. (The one he was packing for.) I found him.

I still can’t believe it. Sometime soon, I will write my thoughts about Pete. Right now I am in shock, just stunned and shocked that he is gone.  I’m writing all this down, because Pete often reprimanded me about not writing more.  After my father died, I did not write things down and I have forgotten a lot of the detail.

Goodbye Pete. I miss you already.