A Holy Time

“God is Love.” More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

A year ago on President’s Day my mom was brought to our home by ambulance for hospice care. A hospice nurse arrived to show me how to care for Moz. We didn’t know then how long we had with her – six months? three months? We had half a day. A year ago I was experiencing my last time on earth with Moz. It was a holy time. Precious and beautiful.

***

This year I have been challenged to reach out to God as never before: In the passing of my mother; in the need to find a new home for my father; in a week when the human situation seemed impossible to “fix.”

I remember standing in a hospital elevator with my brother, Dave – we’d just visited our dad on the second floor, and then our mom on the third. We’d just learned that their assisted living home would not be taking them back after their release from the hospital because of Mom’s medical circumstances. We would need to find them a new home in the next two days – before Mom got discharged into hospice care. A new home for them might cost potentially $12,000 a month. My parents did not have the financial resources to pay for this, and I was calculating in my head how long my own retirement savings might last if I needed to get into it to help my parents. I was at the lowest point in my life at that moment. At the bottomest bottom. My brother, David, looked down at me in the elevator (he is 6’3″ and I am 5’3″ – so when I say he “looked down at me” I’m saying that in a literal way) and, with a rueful smile, summed up our current situation with these words: “What a shitstorm.” His pithy commentary got me laughing at the absurdity of this human dream. I really needed that healing laugh.

I turned to God in my thoughts. One word came through the fear: “Trust.”

When had Love ever let me down? Never, never, never.

It came to me that I needed to bring Mom and Dad into my own home when they were discharged from the hospital. I didn’t want to ship them off to another place that felt like an institution with a bunch of strangers. I called my husband about my thoughts, and he agreed that this is what we needed to do for my parents.

I wasn’t sure how this was going to work, exactly – I am a teacher and, although I’d planned to take the week off to care for my parents, I wasn’t sure what would happen after that. Would I need to get someone to care for my parents during the day while I worked? And if I provided care for my parents at night, when would I sleep? But as all these panicked questions whirled around in my head, this phrase from Scriptures popped up: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself…” (Matthew 6:34) And once again that one word: “Trust.” Okay then. I would just take this one moment at a time.

I let the hospital people and the hospice people know what my husband and I had decided. They asked me if I was sure about this – they seemed concerned for me. I assured them this is what we wanted to do. The decision felt “right” to me – I had that sense of assurance that always comes to me when I know I’m being directed by Love.

Of course, the actual morning of the day Mom was to be released into my care, I panicked and tried to find a way to get out of the commitment I’d made. The heavy responsibility of it all freaked me out for a time. In my panic I visited a place that provided home nursing care – and learned 24/7 care would cost $20,000 a month. I called another assisted living place to see if there were any openings – which there were not. Finally, I was able to accept that this was what Love was directing me to do. I pictured God gently, but firmly, directing me down the path I needed to take for Mom – “His rod and His staff they comfort me.”

Moz was brought to my home by ambulance and wheeled into my living room. I sang her favorite Christian Science hymns to her, and we shared our love for one another. Moz was scared about dying – and I reassured her that nothing could separate us from Love, and from our love for each other – “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

“Trust.”

A hospice nurse came over to show me how to do what I needed to do humanly for Moz. My husband came home and took the first shift, with the idea that I would come down at midnight to take the night shift. Not long after I went to bed, my husband came up and told me that Moz wanted to see me, though. So I went downstairs to reassure her that we were there, that Love was there, and that she wasn’t going to be alone. She was smiling with a joy I hadn’t seen earlier that day – her whole face was lit up – and she said, “Okay.”

When I came down later to take up my post by her bed, Moz was sleeping. After an hour I gave her comfort medication, and again an hour later. I dozed on the couch next to Moz. At some point this sense of joy and peace entered my dreams and I woke up. It felt like the air had gently shifted around me. (Later I would describe that moment as feeling like I’d been brushed by angel wings.) Moz wasn’t struggling to breathe, and the atmosphere around me was very still and quiet. I closed my eyes to go back to sleep, and then opened them again. I rose up from the couch and went to check on Moz. She felt cool. I went upstairs to my husband and told him I thought Moz had passed, and he came downstairs with me to check. He affirmed she was gone.

I was so grateful that God had led me to bring her into my home that day!!!

So now we needed to find a new home for Dad – originally the plan was that he would stay with Mom in our house – but that wasn’t going to work now. Dad was going to be discharged in the next couple of days and we needed to find a new home for him quickly. Once again we seemed to be faced with a daunting task.

“Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

When my brother and I talked to the hospital social workers about Dad, they suggested that we look into adult family homes. They gave me a booklet with names and phone numbers of places we could check.

When we came back to my house after the talk with the hospital social workers a glorious rainbow arched across the sky. A promise.

Trust.

I began making phone calls to adult family homes. On the second call I found a home that felt right to me. My brother and I checked it out – there were bird feeders in the front yard, and cats and dogs, and a kind woman met us at the door. Her kind warmth, and the bird feeders, and the dogs and cats all reminded me of my mom – I knew Moz would have called this woman her friend. And the monthly cost for this home for Dad was within his financial resources.

And that is where we ended up bringing our dad.

Dad has lived there almost a year now. His home is 15 minutes from my home, and I’m able to visit him often and take him for drives .

My heart overflows with gratitude for all the blessings I’ve experienced and witnessed in the last year.

“Bless the Lord… who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies…” 
– Psalms 103

Butterfly on Table Mountain

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

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“The times they are a-changin…'”

Did you all see the video clip of the high schoolers protesting at the White House today? Young people are not going to put up with crap. They aren’t going to put up with homophobia, racism, corporate greed, self-serving politicians or the NRA. Our young people give me hope for this world. They are articulate, educated, informed, and they know how to “spread the word” to each other.

The times they are a-changin’.

And it’s none too soon.

“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

“Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.”
– Bob Dylan

 

Message from a Conservative Friend

A friend of mine – a brilliant and thoughtful young man – someone who describes himself as “conservative” – who’s currently serving in the United States Navy and dedicated to protecting our Constitution – sent me a really articulate message the other day. Because he’s someone who knows guns and has been trained to use them in service to our country, I thought he offered a valuable perspective. I asked him if I could share his thoughts. He gave me permission. (Because of his position in the military I’m going to keep his name anonymous.) Here’s what he wrote:

“Hey Karen. I know this is a scary time for all of you teachers, especially with what happened. As you know, I am more conservative, but I think you would agree with my view on gun control: the Constitution explicitly states: ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ Most conservatives miss the important line: A WELL REGULATED MILITIA. To me, that does not mean random citizens stockpiling weapons in their garage, or people buying high-powered weapons to simply play with. It means well-organized, trained, local security groups with standardized training and security practices, and that training should be coming from standardized government entities, such as the National Guard. At least, that’s how I interpret it. So when the NRA loudly states that ‘all civilians should be able to buy guns and that they need guns if the government tries to take over their rights’ I can’t help but laugh. Because if the government even tried to do that, the military would be obligated to protect the citizenry against the government due to its oath to the constitution and the country. That is my view. Gun control solutions and mental health solutions must be pursued at the same time. There are so many mental health resources out there that schools and hospitals simply don’t take seriously or under utilize.”

One Hundred Years from Now

Did you know that in the 15th and 16th centuries people invaded countries, killed each other, and started wars over spices?! Yeah. That’s right. People killed each other over cinnamon and nutmeg. Today we might look back on those times and think, “What the hell?! Seriously?!”

And I’m thinking that 100 years from now when people look back on THESE times and learn that we invaded countries, killed each other, and started wars over oil, they’ll maybe say a 22nd century variation of “What the hell? Seriously?!” and they’ll ask in shock, “They killed each other over fossil fuels?!”

Or maybe they’ll be shocked that we hated each other for the color of our skin or our religion or our political party. Maybe when they learn that people of the 20th and early 21st century zipped alongside each other in earth-bound metal containers, traveling at speeds of 70+ mph, with only human-controlled steering wheels and brakes keeping us from colliding with each other, they’ll say, “Are you kidding me?! How did any of those people survive?!!”

When I try to picture the future, I like to picture a place of peace and equality. I like to picture a world that’s clean and fresh – powered by energy that doesn’t pollute and isn’t owned by corporations. Everyone has health care. Everyone has food and shelter and clean water and safety. People work because they want to work, and they spend their time creating art, music, poetry, beauty – nurturing the good in themselves and each other. No one is owned by Big Business. People don’t feel the need to claw and kick each other for the scraps that politicians throw under the table. Everyone has access to education, and information. And people are kind – they wouldn’t even think of being otherwise.

I like to think we can get to that future. Maybe I won’t live to see it, but I can be part of the wave that takes us there.

earth NASA

 

A Drive with Dad: “Social history?!”

When I get to Dad’s home to pick him up for his doctor’s appointment he’s finishing breakfast. I lean over and shout into his ear that he’s going to a doctor’s appointment for his eyes now.  He nods his head and says he hasn’t seen his eye for awhile. For some reason this strikes me as funny, and I start cracking up. Dad looks over at me and smiles. He finishes his breakfast, Amanda fetches a jacket for him, and we head out. Before we get to the door, Dad says, “I don’t need this thing,” and shoves his walker off to the side. I retrieve it and stick it in the back of the car – just in case.

We get Dad situated in the car and then he realizes he doesn’t have his hat. Dietrick goes to fetch his alpine hat for him – and while he’s gone Dad starts thinking about his hat – thinking maybe he didn’t bring one to “this place” – but I tell him this is home and he has a hat in there, and Dietrick is getting it for him. When Dietrick puts it on his head, Dad thanks him. He has his faithful old hat on his head now, and everything’s alright with the world. We set out on our grand adventure…

Dad: I forgot my wallet! I don’t have my ID.
Karen: I have your wallet.
Dad: Oh, good. I don’t think there’s anything in there, anyway. (He’s right.)

When we get to the doctor’s office I go in to see if it’s alright if we wait in the car until it’s our turn. (Sometimes there have been complications when Dad is in a waiting room too long.) The receptionist smiles and says that would be fine. She just needs to make sure all the information they have on Dad is up-to-date. I read the form she hands me and I sign it for Dad – then I think maybe I should bring it out to him and let him sign it, too – just to keep him from getting too bored out there.  I hand him the form. Near the bottom there’s a heading called “Social History” – I had no idea what that meant when I saw it, and apparently neither does Dad…

Dad: Social history?!
Karen: (laughing) Yeah, don’t worry about that one. (I bring the form back in, signed by Dad, and deliver it to the receptionist. I mention that my dad was a little confused by the “social history” question and make some joke about asking Dad about the sororities he belonged to and stuff. The receptionist laughs and tells me she’ll come and get us when they’re ready for Dad.)

Dad: (waiting in the car) I should have brought the book I got from the library.
Karen: What book did you get from the library?
Dad: Oh, one of those books I enjoyed reading when I was a teenager. A book by Joseph Altsheler. A book about the frontier and adventure. (thinking) Do you have any of my old books?
Karen: Yes! You gave me one that is really precious to me – The Royal Road to Romance.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. That’s the one that got me into adventuring. I still remember the opening line: “May had come at last to Princeton.”
(It tickles me that he still remembers the first line to a book he first read when he was a teenager.)

(The receptionist comes out to get Dad pretty soon and we go in to begin his appointment. The eye-lady takes his blood pressure – she says it’s good and I give Dad the thumbs up. Then she asks Dad to cover his good eye to see if he can see anything out of his bad eye.)
The eye-lady: What do you see there?
Dad: I don’t see anything! You told me to cover my eye!
(The eye-lady and I start laughing. The eye-lady covers up Dad’s bad eye and sees what tricks he can perform with his good eye. He reads the letters on the wall, and then she brings a card up to him to see how close he can see. He reads the letters he’s supposed to read and then starts reading the fine print on the bottom that’s meant for the eye people…
Dad: “The redistribution of…”
Eye-lady: (laughing, she takes the card away from him) Okay. That’s good.

(We go into a second waiting room to wait for the rest of Dad’s appointment. There are a lot of really cool people waiting in this room, and I start chatting to them. One of the people in there tells me that he’s 90. I shout in Dad’s ear that the man next to him – and I point – is 90.)
Dad: (laughing) He’s just a kid! I’m 100. (Dad is 99 – he’ll be 100 in a few months – and 99 is hard for anyone in that waiting room to beat.)
Dad: (after talking about eyes for a bit) It’s my hearing that’s the worst part of me right now.
(I hand Dad a travel magazine and he starts flipping through the pages. When he gets to a picture of Machu Picchu he stops.)
Karen: You’ve been there.
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. I’ve been there. Right at the top (he starts pointing out the trail to the top). It’s a steep trail up to the top.

(Dad gets called back into the inner office for a check-up by the doctor.)
Karen: (shouting into Dad’s ear) Dad, this is Dr. Sappenstein.
Dad: Dr. Frankenstein?
Doctor: (laughing) That’ll work.

(The check-up’s over now and we’re back in the car.)
Karen: Do you want to get an ice cream float now?
Dad: (nodding his head) Yeah. I’m lucky to have you.
Karen: I’m lucky to have you.

(We’re driving down Burlington Boulevard now, and Dad asks which direction we’re heading. I think about this and say I think we’re heading north, or maybe east. He mentions Hwy 9 – “runs along the foothills of the Cascades” – and I realize that Burlington Boulevard actually use to be a part of an old highway, but I can’t remember what it was called anymore. As I’m thinking about this…)
Dad: Is this Old Highway 99?
Karen: (Dad remembers what I’d forgotten) Yes!

(We head towards the place where I usually buy Dad his root beer float, and I pull into the parking lot in front of it.)
Dad: (recognizing) This is the usual place!
(I go up to fetch Dad’s root beer float and bring it back to him.)
Dad: Thank you!

(I decide to take Dad on a short drive before I return him home. Dad is thinking – and I know he’s going to start sharing whatever comes to his thoughts. I enjoy listening to him…)
Dad: I have the TV on 24 hours a day now. There are some really interesting shows that come up.
Karen: Old movies?
Dad: Not old movies. Shows about everything. I keep it on the same channel and all kinds of shows come up. The Olympics.
(We drive down country roads, the windshield wipers pushing aside the drizzle landing on the windows. Snow geese and trumpeter swans in fields of green beside the road.)
Dad: When I was young I used to think about what my old age would be like… Back when my mind was clear.
Karen: How did you picture your old age?
Dad: Eating simply. Hobbies. Reading mountaineering history.
Karen: Do you enjoy your life now?
Dad: (nodding) Yeah. I do.
Dad: I was lucky – I have a good family. My older sister and younger brother did everything with me. My mother and father took us on drives. I probably saw more of Los Angeles than most people who lived there. My dad worked seven days a week – got up early in the morning and came home late at night, but he found time to take us on drives.

(I drive Dad back home. Dietrick comes out to help Dad into the house. I retrieve the walker – Dad never used it – and follow behind. Dad heads for the lounger in front of the TV. He asks about the Olympics. I kiss his forehead…)
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you!

 

 

 

Danskos or Skechers? Gun Control Now

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war…”
Ecclesiastes 9:18

This might help you understand where I am right now: This morning as I was getting dressed I debated whether I should wear my Danskos or my Skechers. I decided on the Skechers. If I need to be able to move fast, help my students get out of the building, and jump for the tree outside my office window, I think Skechers would work best, right?

Yeah. God is Love. Love will protect. And so forth. I believe that. But Love also provides us with the wisdom, and Mind provides us with the intelligence, to take the sensible steps we need to take in our human lives. Just as Jesus didn’t leap out of the tower when he was tempted to (“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God”) – I believe we need to not throw ourselves out of 12-story windows to see if God will save us. And we need not make available to private citizens the type of guns that were designed to kill large numbers of people in a very short time. Common sense, people. Common sense.

Someone commented on one of my posts that more people get struck by lightning every year than have been killed in school shootings. About that: If you choose to stand on the top of a hill holding a metal rod during a lightning storm your odds of being struck by lightning increase a lot. And if we, as a society, choose to allow these types of guns in the hands of people who have no business owning them, we shouldn’t be surprised if a lot of innocent people die.

We need gun control now.

Click here to see a map of the mass shootings since Sandy Hook.