“I was surprised by how painless it was…”

When I got to Dad’s place I learned a friend had just sent him the obituary for author Ruth Kirk. Ruth had been a dear friend of Dad’s and Dad had tears in his eyes when I arrived to visit with him. He was having a hard time of it. He’d told the care-giver that he’d illustrated some of Ruth’s books, and the care-giver had tried to find one of Ruth’s books on Dad’s bookshelves – but hadn’t been able to find one – so, instead, she’d pulled out Dad’s book, The Challenge of Rainier and they were looking through Dad’s illustrations in his book when I got there.

His care-giver made room for me to sit next to Dad so we could talk. Dad shared how sad he was about losing his friend, Ruth. I told him that this had been a rough year, and we talked about other friends he’d lost. He said at this point whenever he gets a card in the mail he expects to find an obituary for one of his friends inside it.

Some people he remembered were gone – climber Fred Beckey, and his brother, K (although he thought K had just passed away a couple years ago, when actually he’s been gone since 1994). He was surprised to learn that other friends were gone – “I wondered why I hadn’t heard from them,” he said. I think he was wondering why no one had told him about his friends’ passing – so I let him know that we’d shared these passages with him, but that he’d forgotten. I suggested that maybe he forgot because it was too traumatic for him to process – and I told him that would be understandable. He seemed to accept this.

I always follow my intuition in these conversations – sometimes I don’t bring up Mom’s passing, and sometimes – like today – it seems the right time to talk about it. I know talking about Mom’s passing is very hard for him – but… there are times when I think it’s helpful to him, too. So I held his hand and shared with him, again, Mom’s last week with us – I told him that he’d been able to say good bye to her in the hospital before they brought her to my home; told him she’d died peacefully in her sleep while I slept on the couch next to her; told him I felt her presence brush passed me as she left – I felt her love and joy. I told him that she’d loved him very much – that she still loves him – and that we’d promised her we’d take care of him. Dad nodded and wept quietly.

I observed that when you live to be 100 you lose a lot of people along the way. “But fortunately,” I said, “you have a lot of friends who are younger than you.” He smiled and nodded.

I asked him if he’d ever expected to live to be 100. He said he’d never thought about it.

Then – “Is it time for a drive?” he asked, hopefully. So his care-givers helped me get him ready – got him in his sweater, put shoes on his feet – and I put his alpine hat on his head – and we loaded him up in my car. I asked him if he’d like me to take him for a root beer float, and he nodded his head.

On the drive to the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: I’ve been thinking this week that I needed to get out of here and get back home to Mom. But now I realize she’s gone.
Karen: Yeah. That place where you’re living is your home now.

As we turn onto old Hwy 99…
Dad: Now we’re heading north. Parallel to the Pacific coast.
Karen: Yup.
Dad: How are the boys?
Karen: They’re both graduated from university now.
Dad: (taking this in) Time goes fast. I was in school a lot longer than them. Or… that’s how it feels, anyway.

As we turn onto Chuckanut Drive…
Dad: Last month when I thought I was dying I was surprised by how painless it was. It’s just getting sleepy…
Karen: You thought you were dying last month?
Dad: What?
Karen: (louder) You thought you were dying last month?
Dad: What? I can’t hear you. Let’s talk when we get to where we’re going.

I pull into the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: (smiling) I remember this place!
Karen: (turning off the car and speaking into Dad’s ear) Did you think you were dying last month?
Dad: I dreamed I was. I was surprised by how painless it was. It was just like going to sleep.
Karen: Do you feel like you’re dying now?
Dad: No. I’m good.
Karen: Good!

I get him his root beer float and hand it to him. He thanks me and begins drinking it. I head the car back to his home. As we pass a field bursting with little yellow flowers (maybe mustard seed flowers?)…
Karen: I love you, Daddy. (I’m not sure he can hear me, but I feel the need to say it.)
Dad: (turning to me) And I love you!

We pull into the driveway and next to the front door, and I help Dad get out of the car and up the stairs. The care-giver helps him get situated in the living room in Mom’s old chair.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you! Thank you!
Karen: Thank YOU!

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Death Doesn’t Get the Last Word

I learned today that you’d passed away
this last week, and I felt such an odd
mixture of emotions. Shock. Sadness.
Regret when I remembered the last time
I’d seen you was ten years ago. Had it
really been that long since I’d heard
your voice? And I felt anger, too.
Anger towards death. Anger that made
me want to rise up and live bigger,
fuller, freer, more fiercely. For you.
For me. For all of us on this planet.
Death won’t have the last word in your life.
Or in mine. Death doesn’t win. Ever.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Spent Easter on a little island in the Pacific Northwest. On impulse, attracted by the rainbow welcome sign on the front of the building, we attended the Easter service at a small non-denominational church on the island. Here are some of the words to one of the hymns we sang at the service (if you want to hear it performed by a choir on youtube, click here) – the love in it filled me all up with inspiration:

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
John MacLeod Campbell (J.M.C.) Crum

death doesnt get the last word

Butterfly in the North Cascades. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
– I Corinthians 15:55

“Life and goodness are immortal.”
Mary Baker Eddy

“Let us sing of Easter gladness
That rejoices every day,
Sing of hope and faith uplifted;
Love has rolled the stone away.
Lo, the promise and fulfillment,
Lo, the man whom God hath made,
Seen in glory of an Easter
Crowned with light that cannot fade.”
Frances Thompson Hill

Guemes church 2

We’re not here to die, but to live…

“See here,” she said. “Don’t let us talk about dying; I don’t like it. Let us talk about living.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

All preoccupied with warning signs
and symptoms, sickness and dying,
bouncing from one fear to the next –
expecting a crisis around every corner.
This is no way to live.

Death, you are not the boss of me.
My Creator has other plans for me.
Sickness and dying and fear
are not why Love put us here.
We’re not here to die, but to live.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
– Jeremiah 29:11

Were not here to die

What is thy birthright, man,
Child of the perfect One;
What is thy Father’s plan
For His beloved son?
– Emily F. Seal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I felt her loving me back.

A year ago tonight we were gathered outside, looking up at the stars, and saying good bye to Moz. It’s been cloudy all day – snowing as I came home – but just now I went outside and the skies were clear and the stars were sparkling. My eyes were drawn to one star in particular – it seemed to be shining just for me – and I told Moz I loved her. I felt her loving me back.

“In Science, individual good derived from God, the infinite All-in-all, may flow from the departed to mortals…”
– Mary Baker Eddy

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

A Year Ago

A year ago today I was your midwife
as you labored through the transition
from this room to the next.
You worked hard to pass through
those doors – there was fear
about what lay on the other side –
but in the end you smiled and said,
“Okay.” And when you passed by me
as I slept I could feel your love and joy.
As the doors opened for you
I was touched by the light streaming
from the room beyond. Such peace.

It has been a year now. The time
has gone quickly. And someday it will be
five years, then ten, then twenty years
since I last saw you in this room. But
your presence will be with me still. Then
and now and forever.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

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Moz and Einstein.

“This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

A Sweet Sadness

When I left work I felt impelled to turn right instead of left and found myself heading towards LaConner. Tracy Spring’s CD, Looking Forward – Looking Back – was playing in my car – bluesy and poignant – and I felt myself going to that place where I find Moz. I carried her with me in-between fields filled with snow geese and trumpeter swans and I could see her in my thoughts, smiling at the beauty around us, enjoying our drive together.

I stopped at the LaConner Inn (where Moz and Dad used to live) to pick up any mail that might have been sent there. Whenever I go to their old place I always look up at the deck where I used to see Moz waving at me as I arrived and left.

I picked up the mail from the nice lady at the desk – the mail all came from charities that Moz used to give to. Sometimes it’s kind of disconcerting to see her name on all these envelopes from people still asking her for money – but today it made me smile.

As I left town I decided to stop at the coffee shop I used to go to all the time when I visited Moz and Dad. There was a man who looked like he could use a warm cup of coffee outside the shop, getting on a bike. I asked him if I could buy him a coffee and he smiled and said he’d just had a cup, but he’d take me up on the offer another time. He said he was sorry, he didn’t remember my name. I laughed and told him we’d never met. And then he laughed, too, and introduced himself.

I went into the coffee shop and asked the barista behind the counter if she had any pumpkin lattes. She said they didn’t have the pumpkin pulp anymore, but she could give me a pumpkin spice latte and that sounded perfect. We began talking – and I learned her beloved grandmother had just passed on. We talked about her grandma for a bit – she was very dear to her grand-daughter – and the barista teared up as she talked. I shared Moz with her then, and told her about the drive I was having with Moz. She came around the counter and we hugged. And there was a kinship there.

She mentioned the man I’d just met outside her shop – apparently she provides him with a coffee every day and sometimes he’ll spend three or four hours in the shop. She’s told him that if he ever needs anything – a trip to the doctor or whatever – he just needs to let her know. I told her I’d just offered him a cup of coffee, too, but he’d said he’d just had one – and I realized she’d been the one who’d provided him with the coffee. Again, I felt a kinship with her. We introduced ourselves to each other – her name is Judy – and I told her I knew I’d see her again.

I got back in the car with my pumpkin spice latte and drove back home, passing flocks of snow geese and trumpeter swans on the way. Tracy Spring’s music filled my car, and I found myself sobbing – not with grief, exactly – I felt a good kind of sadness, if that makes any sense. A sweet kind of sadness, remembering Moz and feeling her with me.
– Karen

(I’m not sure I’ve written Tracy’s lyrics in the right form, but here are some of the words to her song *Remember*.)
“It’s so hard to say good-bye…
All things pass,
of this I am sure,
love and music will endure,
and when I’m gone
remember the song,
remember how I loved.”
– Tracy Spring

Lilly’s Human

I met her pet bunny on the boardwalk.
She’d named her Lilly and put a pink collar
around her neck. Lilly nestled in between
my feet for a bit, and then I crouched down
to pet her fur. Lilly was velvety-soft
and I’m pretty sure she was smiling.
Her human was a young woman
and I’m guessing she had “special needs” –
there was a happy innocence in her words
and a sweet, healthy pride in her care of Lilly.

As I continued on my walk I started
to wonder how long bunnies generally
live. A few years? A decade?
And I felt myself feeling sad for the pain
Lilly’s human might feel one day
when Lilly dies. But then it occurred
to me – having just survived a year
in which death seemed to come
every month to someone around me –
that Lilly’s human might learn
that death can’t stop Love. Lilly’s
human might learn that death really
has no power to separate us
from those we hold dear.

And I realized I didn’t need to worry
about Lilly’s human and she’d didn’t need
to be protected from pain.
Life offers us precious lessons
about the eternal.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell