Every Bird Has a Silver Lining

I don’t need any advice or platitudes here –
I know this will pass and every bird
has a silver lining and early clouds
catch the worm and time closes doors
and an open window heals all wounds
and it’s going to be alright
and better days lie ahead and yada yada.
But, speaking as just a human bean, DANG.
You know? The last four years feel like
one long series of good byes. Mom.
And then Rachael Randy Benjamin Bob
Anita Mike Dean Peggy and Laurie.
And Dad.

I didn’t have time to grieve Mom
because I needed to step up for Dad.
And then I didn’t have time to grieve
Dad because the pandemic hit
and our home became the sheltering
place for sons and their partners
and it was so good to have everyone
here – laughter and family time –
a place of refuge.

And today the last son moved out.
This chapter is finished – this home
has served its purpose and I feel
the book opening to a new chapter –
and maybe a new setting.
And I watched “10 Things I Hate
About You” and found myself
sobbing when Heath Ledger’s face
appeared on the screen. And I know
I’m ridiculous.

But… maybe the time
for grieving has finally come
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

April: Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn, MT

Window Seat; Aisle Seat

Window Seat; Aisle Seat

Window seat on the flight out
glaciered peaks and patchwork fields
glistening rivers and cloud towers
and tiny towns in the hours
from here to there – imagining the people
below looking up and seeing the jet stream
from their backyards. Mentally waving to them.
Time and space to look inside-out
and breathe and rest and enjoy our route.

Aisle seat on the flight back in
greeting people as they walk past me –
Red Carnegie-Mellon t-shirts, masks
of rainbow colors, a skateboard
with a PNW Native American design
and “Can you tell I’m smiling?” I ask,
pointing to my smiley mask.

Flight out and flight back in –
a balance for the introvert
and extrovert in me
looking out and looking in,
and breathe out and breathe in.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

I Feel Them Near

I’ve had this urge lately to go home
and visit Mom for a weekend
To laugh and talk and hear her voice
and maybe sing a song or two with her
To go downstairs and see what new
project Dad has going on
in the basement – he was always
up to something

I feel them near
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 8:38-39

Unhooked from the Mother Ship

I’m feeling weirdly untethered –
like I got dropped from the sky
and am in free fall
or got unhooked from the line
that connects me to the Mother Ship
and am floating off into space.
It is scary
and also kind of exhilarating.

Retirement ain’t for sissies.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

In This Tiny Box

Typing with my thumbs in this tiny box
I feel cramped in here –
the space seems too small
to hold my thoughts –
my joys, hopes, and fears.

My Boomer thumbs are clumsy and slow
and not quick enough to keep up
with the feelings and flashbacks
and inner flow.

Sometimes a cellphone just doesn’t cut it.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Who Can I Talk to About This Ache in My Heart?

I saw a terrible thing yesterday –
Involving a mama duck and her baby ducklings
and a freeway and a car next to me
rolling through feathers.
I saw a dead body, and downy feathers on little
webbed feet scurrying into the woods
without their mama. I pulled over
and moved the mama’s still-warm body off the road,
tried to call to the babies to come out,
wanting to gather them in my arms
and bring them home, and keep them safe.
And who can I talk to about this ache in my heart?
Who would understand?

There was a misunderstanding months ago
in the supermarket, involving a woman
in a Seahawks mask – I thought she could be
a new friend. I tried to connect to her in the aisle
between bulk foods and olive oil – “Go Seahawks!”
I said, muffled behind my mask. She looked at me
above her mask, and frowned, and I knew
the Seahawks fan didn’t understand what I’d said –
– she couldn’t read my lips or see my smile,
and I’d scared her – she was Black and I am White
and we live in a time of distrust and fear.
The Seahawks fan left quickly, before I could explain.
And who can I talk to about this ache in my heart?
Who would understand?

I drove by a big rhododendron bush with fat red
flowers and thought of Mom and the rhododendron
bush she’d planted by the front door of our old home
and felt a sudden yearning for her warm hugs
and her words of comfort and reassurance.
If she were still here I could talk to her about
the orphaned ducklings and the woman
in the Seahawks mask and my fears and worries
and insecurities and she would love me.
And who do I talk to now about this ache in my heart?

And the answer came in an instant –
a joyous Presence enfolded me in peace and love,
without question or judgment or condition or hesitation,
affirming the power of Good: Love’s communication
of never-ending Life and never-ending care for Her creation –
care for ducklings, and a woman in a Seahawks mask,
and Mom and me. Love knows what’s in my heart.
She knows my intent. And I know I can let it all go –
She’s got this. Love gives all Her children exactly
what we need, exactly when we need it,
and in the exactly right way – including Her
ducks and Her child in a Seahawks mask
and Her child who is my Mom, and Her child who is me.

Who can I talk to about the ache in my heart?
My Father-Mother Love. Always and forever.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

Escapee Cricket

I spied an escapee cricket in the PetSmart store today,
hopping down the aisle past dog toys and making a left
at dog food.
I wanted to cup him in my hands and take him outside,
but I realized that would be shop-lifting.
So I let him hop on and wished him well.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

A Prayer for Government

“…let no mortal interfere with God’s government by thrusting in the laws of erring, human concepts.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

Feel the unending, enduring power of Truth
enveloping all of creation with wings of Love
sure and all-knowing, without fear or doubt

See the shoddy, shaky, shabby walls of sham
and lies come crumbling down into dust
and blow away in the changing winds –
returning to the nothing they came from

There was never a need for the lies
evil is never a solution; error solves nothing;
Hate serves no purpose.

Government of justice rises from the dust
and rust as it must. In Truth we trust.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Talk at the UU Fellowship: Mother-Love

I got to be the speaker at the local Unitarian-Universalist church today (via Zoom) – and, as always, I had such fun with the fellowship there. There will be an audio link to the talk in a few days, but in the meantime here’s the speech as I had it written out (of course, I sometimes deviated from the script in the actual talk). 🙂

Originally, I was going to talk today about the adventures I had with my centenarian father in the last few years of his life. But when my husband mentioned that May 9th was Mother’s Day I was, like, OH!!!! YEAH!!! THAT’s what my talk is supposed to be about!!! It’s supposed to be about MOTHER-Love! So that’s where I’m going to go today. I’m going to go to that place of Mother-Love.

As some of you know, I was raised in Christian Science by my own mom, so Christian Science is the way of life I’m most familiar with. In the textbook for Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy has this to say about Mother-Love:

“Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation.

A mother’s affection cannot be weaned from her child, because the mother-love includes purity and constancy, both of which are immortal.”

Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man.

Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God…

“In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity.”

Mother-Love isn’t flimsy and fragile. Mother-Love is unconditional, enduring, wise, just, brave, and fun.

My own mother was a wonderful expression of Mother-Love
When I was a little girl I’d play outside all day in the summers, and when I finally came in at the end of the day, my legs would be aching from all my playing. Mom would sit on the side of my bed and gently massage my legs and sing hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal.  There’s one song, in particular, I associate with Mom during these times. I’m going to sing a little now, and as I sing I’m going to imagine my mom singing this to me. Maybe you can imagine your own mothers singing to you. The words to this song are by Frances A. Fox:
“In Thee I have no pain or sorrow
No anxious thought, no load of care. 
Thou art the same today, tomorrow;
Thy love and truth are everywhere.” 

I remember this feeling of being surrounded in a warm, light-filled bubble of Love, and the pain in my legs melting away. Moz taught me the power of Love to heal.

Moz was wise: I remember coming home from school in the first grade, telling Moz about my cranky teacher – she didn’t seem to like her students much. Mom’s response was, “Well, we just need to love the hell right out of her!” Mom didn’t commiserate with me, didn’t call up the school and complain about this teacher – instead she used this opportunity to teach me a life-long lesson about the power of love. I started my Campaign of Love the very next day, bringing in hand-picked flowers for my teacher, and leaving little notes of love on her desk. And by the time she met with my mom for conferences, she told my mom how very much she enjoyed me, and how much my kindness had meant to her. That’s when we learned that my teacher’s son and husband had recently died, and she had been going through some rough times. I’m so glad my mom told me to love my teacher. We never know what’s going on in other people’s lives.

Moz was a warrior for justice. I remember her shaking with indignation when I was a little girl and we encountered a racist at the Sears store. The man had nodded his head towards a Black family and said, loud enough so they could hear, that they should be shopping in their own store. When Moz understood what he was saying she was furious – “They have as much right to be here as you or me!” she told him, trembling with rage. The man had seemed to think Mom would be his ally, and seemed surprised this little 5’1″ woman was standing up to him. He got all red in the face and scurried away. That was a moment I will never forget – it had a huge impact on me. I remember feeling very proud to be Moz’s daughter. She showed me how to stand up to bullies. Last year when I attended the local Black Lives Matter rally, I could feel Mom with me. I think she was proud of me.

This picture of my mom, wearing her Obama cap, always puts a grin on my face.

Moz was brave. In my twenties I was always going off on adventures by myself – hiking and traveling. And, now that I’m a mother of adventurous children myself, I can recognize the courage my mom showed during this time. She never tried to stop me from going on my adventures – even though I knew she worried. She showed the purest kind of love a mother can show by letting me go and live my life and understanding that it WAS my life to live. I think she must have come to realize, as I have come to realize, too, that our children own their own life experiences and it’s none of our business where Love chooses to lead them when they become grown-ups.

Moz knew how to laugh. A couple months before Mom died (although I didn’t realize at the time how close to the end she was), she asked to go to the dentist to get her teeth cleaned. So I brought her into my dentist. And, of course, she had all these forms to fill out. By the time I handed her the last form, she was totally exasperated. “Another one?” she asked. I told her to behave herself, and she said, “Don’t make me laugh – I’m trying to sign this thing.” She finished signing the paper and handed it back to me. “You know,” she said, “I’ll get all these papers signed, and then next week I’ll die.”

Missy, the dental lady came out to get her then, and Moz got up to follow her with her walker. “Watch out,” she said, “I don’t have a license for this thing.” Missy started cracking up.

Missy got Moz situated in the dental chair, and turned the light on to start working on her teeth. Moz told her to feel free to pluck any chin hairs she found. Missy started laughing. She handed Moz a glass of water to rinse. She asked Moz how she was doing. Moz told her, “I’m full of it.” Missy grinned, and asked, “You’re full of it?” Moz said, “Water, that is.” And Missy cracked up.

Then Hansrolf came in. Hansrolf is my favoritest dentist, ever. He’s like a stand-up comic. He and Moz immediately took to each other. Moz told him she came here for the entertainment. She told Hansrolf he should give Missy a raise. Hansrolf said what he needed to do was get all of us out of there – he was out-numbered and we were ganging up on him. Moz responded with some smartassery, and then noted, “I probably shouldn’t have said that, eh?” And Hansrolf said, “Not just before I start working on your teeth, no.” Moz started cracking up.

There was another day, near the end of her life, when I had a lot of errands to run with Moz – doctor’s appointment, supermarket, veterinarian’s. And we were sitting at the doctor’s office and Moz told the nurse, “We have a lot of appointments today. See? I wore my serious clothes.”

To which I replied, “Your shoes belie that.”

To which she replied, “I don’t have any serious shoes.”

Moz was a life-long learner. She had a thirst for learning and was an avid reader. One of her favorite authors was Carl Sagan – Moz loved learning about the cosmos. She also was a huge fan of Neil DeGrasse Tyson and actually got to meet him one time, with her dear friend, Jolene Unsoeld.

Moz Molenaar, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jolene Unsoeld

Moz had her own adventures. My dad was well-known in mountaineering – he’d climbed on some of the highest mountains in the world. But what most people don’t know is that Mom had her share of adventures, too. When she was four years old she contacted rheumatic fever, and her doctors told her family that Mom should lead a quiet, peaceful life. She did not do this. She climbed Mount Rainier twice, accompanied Dad on hikes all over the Pacific Northwest – on their honeymoon she’d climbed this humongous straight-up spire with him that looked like it was some made-up thing from a Hollywood set. Here’s a picture of her climbing over a fence to get to the spire…

A year or two after Mom died, Scott grabbed an old ice axe from the garage to take on a hike with us. We both assumed it was one of Dad’s old ice axes, but when we got up to the trailhead, we realized it was actually one of Mom’s old ice axes! It felt good to be taking her along on the hike with us.

Mother-love doesn’t die. In February 2017 I found myself in a position that seemed impossible. Moz was in the hospital with congestive heart failure, and Dad soon joined her there with a UTI. They were on different floors, both struggling to stay alive. I’d visit one and then the other and then go home, on high alert, and wait for the phone to ring announcing some new crisis.

Just before Moz was going to be released from the hospital, I learned that her assisted living place wasn’t going to accept her back into her home because of her medical issues. This meant I had two days to find a new home for Moz and Dad. In a panic, I started calling other assisted living places, but soon realized the cost of care my parents were going to need would clean out their savings in a couple months. I thought of getting into my retirement savings, but that wouldn’t last too long, either. And I really didn’t want to send my parents to some strange, unfamiliar place, anyway. I prayed – and, by this, I don’t mean that I begged and pleaded to some old guy sitting in the clouds to fix everything – I mean that I reached my thoughts out to Love and listened for guidance. The message that came to me from Love was that I needed to bring my parents into my own home and care for them myself. Scotty agreed to this plan and agreed to help. (I married an incredible man.)

I was still teaching full-time then – so this would be tricky. But it felt right to me to do this.

Hospice got in touch with me – bless them! – and when Moz was brought to our home by ambulance, a hospice nurse came over and showed Scott and I how to care for her.

We spent the whole day telling each other how much we loved each other. Moz was scared. She knew she was dying. She asked me what was going to happen – if we’d ever see each other again. And I told her that nothing could separate us from the love we have 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 Love.” (Romans 8) Mom’s eyes lit up with hope and she nodded her head in affirmation. She felt the truth of those words. Moz went to sleep soon after this, and in the early hours of the morning, while I slept on the couch next to her hospital bed, I felt myself brushed by joy and peace and love. I opened my eyes and it was very quiet and peaceful. I couldn’t hear Mom struggling to breathe, and I thought that was good – she didn’t need any medication. I started to close my eyes, and then I realized. I checked on Mom and she had passed on. But I could still feel her presence in the room with me. The room was full of joy and peace and love. I knew Mom was alright then.

I’m so glad Love had guided me into bringing Mom into our home for that last day.

So now I had to find a home for Dad – I’d promised Moz that she didn’t need to worry about him – that we’d make sure he was alright. Originally the plan had been to bring Dad into our home where he could be with Mom – but, now that she was gone, our home wouldn’t be the right place for him. The social worker asked us if we’d ever looked into adult family homes, and gave us a booklet with names and phone numbers.

When I got home from the hospital after my visit with Dad and the social worker, I went for a walk – at this point I was completely emotionally and mentally stretched – feeling out of my depth and scared about the future – and I needed to find some peace for myself. I prayed again – brought my thoughts close to Love – and suddenly I was filled with joy and hope – and a rainbow arched across the sky! I felt Moz there with me, reassuring me, telling me everything was going to be alright. I began making phone calls to adult family homes – and on the second call I felt I’d found the right place. My brother and I went over to check it out – there were bird feeders in the front yard, and cats and dogs – and I knew the woman who answered the door would have been someone Moz would have felt an instant kinship with. AND the cost of care for Dad would fit his budget!

I felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. We had found Dad’s new home – a place I didn’t even know existed a day before!

We just never know. NOTHING is impossible to Mother-Love. NOTHING.

Not long after Moz and Dad moved to the Skagit Valley I gave my second talk at the U-U church. My husband and I brought my mom and dad with us this time –I wanted them to meet their new neighbors at the Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – I knew they’d be made to feel welcome and at home. And sure enough! – as soon as we entered the doors to the hall we were met by friendly hand-shaking people and surrounded by cheery laughter and smiles.

Being herself an expert at loving-kindness, Mom immediately recognized the love she felt there, and said that when she died she wouldn’t mind having her memorial service at the U-U Hall – the way she said this wasn’t maudlin or anything – she said it in the matter-of-fact way that a woman who was almost 89 would say it.

Within a year Moz had passed, and I remembered what she’d said about wanting her memorial service to be held at the U-U Hall, and that’s what we did for her. It was a joyful, beautiful, music-filled celebration. She was exactly right. The U-U Hall was the perfect place to celebrate her life.

On the day of Moz’s memorial service something really wonderful happened. I was waiting for my friend, Teresa, at the Fred Meyer eating area – Teresa was going to help me figure out what I needed to buy for the memorial celebration.

Pretty soon this man came in with a backpack and all kinds of bags hanging out of his pockets and out of his pack. I saw him trying to organize all his bags and was kind of intrigued by him.

Teresa came in then and started chatting with some new friends I’d met while I was waiting for her.  I left them for a moment to go to talk to the man with all the bags. I asked him if I could buy him a coffee at the Starbucks – and he asked me if I could maybe buy him a couple gift cards so he could buy food later. So I found the gift card rack and he picked out a Kroger’s card for food, and a Starbucks card, and I went back to the cashier to buy them for him.

The backpack man thanked me for the cards – he said he’d been having a really negative attitude about people up until then, and I’d made him feel better about life. Teresa joined us then and said, “Do you want to know why she bought you those cards today? Her mom died and today is the celebration for her mom, and she’s buying you those cards in honor of her mom who was the most loving person in the world.” And as Teresa told him this, I realized that it was true. Moz had taught me to watch out for people, and to do what I could to help. And the idea of that brought sweet tears to my eyes.

Mother-Love isn’t limited to one gender – every she, he, and they can share Mother-love. And it’s not just something we give to our own children. Mother-Love is available for all of us to share with all of the children of the universe.

There’s a song by Tracy Spring, a wonderful musician and friend and a member of the Bellingham UU Church, that’s been a great comfort to me in the passing of my parents. Like me, Tracy had been with her Mom when she passed, and this song is about her mom’s passing. It resonates with me. It’s called “Remember” and I’d like to share it with you now.

My son was traveling through Europe at the beginning of the pandemic last year, and borders were closing down around him, places to buy food and take shelter were closing down – and I was terrified. I remember watching the news one night with my husband, and I just couldn’t take any more. I got in my car and drove to a place where I could see Mount Baker and I prayed. Words from “Mother’s Evening Prayer” by Mary Baker Eddy came to me. The first verse, especially, gave me comfort:
“O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,
Thou Love that guards the nestling’s faltering flight!
Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.”
Christian Science Hymnal #207, Mary Baker Eddy

I really like the idea that Love, God, owns even the waiting hours. Love owns even the in-between hours – the hours when we’re waiting for the phone to ring to tell us everything’s alright; and the plane to land with our loved ones; and the quarantine to end. Love owns even THOSE hours.

Sally found a rendition of “Mother’s Evening Prayer” on Youtube, performed by my friend, Lisa Redfern. Lisa wrote the tune for her own mother – it’s called “Sandra’s Melody. (The CD for this song can be found at lisaredfern.com.) Here’s Mother’s Evening Prayer performed by Lisa – I’d like to ask you to join me in singing this hymn.

I’d like to close my part of the service with a song performed by my mom. Here’s “Tomorrow is a Lovely Day” by Colleen “Moz” Molenaar.

Thank you for letting me join you here today! It’s always a pleasure!