No One Can Steal Your Joy

“No one can steal your joy from you.”
John 16:22

Went on a nice long walk in Bellingham this morning – needed the fresh air and space for my thoughts.

I reached out to Dad in my thoughts (I don’t mean that I, like, “summoned” him – Dad’s not a ghost or anything – he and Mom are always with me in the same way Love, God, is always with me). And the thought that came back to me was full of joy. I know Dad’s happy. I think I was trying to talk to Dad about all the uncertainty and grief of these times – but it came to me that the things I seem to be experiencing are no part of Dad’s experience – no part of “where” he is (and I don’t mean “where” as in a location – but as a state of mind). I felt that I was being encouraged, then, to claim my own joy, too. The words from John came to me: “Your joy no man taketh from you.”

I’m not sure I’m explaining any of this at all well, but… the gist of it is that what I’ve been learning, lately, is that whenever I feel like I have a hole in my heart – it’s instantly filled with Love. Love is constantly giving me whatever it is I need. My sense of being connected to the infinite Love of the cosmos isn’t dependent upon my parents or husband or children or friends – it’s always with me.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind…”
-Mary Baker Eddy

The Last Visit with Daddy

“Karen”
January 18, 2020

Dad is in bed. His eyes are closed. He’s very still, but I see his chest moving. He’s still with us. I lean over and kiss his forehead and say into his ear, “Hi Daddy. It’s Karen.”
(There’s no response at first. Then his eyes open and he looks at me.)
Dad: (Weakly.) Karen.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: (I can feel the effort he’s making to mumble the words.) Ah uv you.
Karen: (Smiling at Dad – my heart filled with tenderness.) You old mountain goat. (That’s what Mom had always called Dad – and it comes to me – out of the blue – to call him that. Dad smiles at me. And now I find myself singing to him – that old Jeannette McDonald-Nelson Eddy song that he and Mom used to sing to each other…) When I’m calling you-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh… (I see Dad perk up a little. I get this sense that Mom is calling to him.)

We don’t say much after this. I stay for a while, stroking Dad’s forehead, and watching “Maverick” on Dad’s television. Every now and then Dad opens his eyes and checks to see if I’m still there. Eventually he falls back to sleep. I leave to go home and fetch my husband and son for a return visit. When I arrive home and describe Dad’s condition, the husband and son immediately let me know they’re with me and we go back to Dad’s house.

We enter Dad’s room and approach the bed. He’s sleeping. We pull up three chairs and watch him for a while. His foot is moving back and forth. I approach Dad’s bed.
Karen: Hi, Daddy. It’s Karen. And Andrew is here. And Scotty.
(Dad opens his eyes and looks at me.)
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
(Dad’s eyes are locked on mine and he nods his head at me once, twice. An affirmation. I nod back at him. He reaches up and holds my arm and squeezes it gently. I hold his hand and squeeze. He squeezes my hand back.)
Karen: Here’s Andrew, Daddy.
(Andrew sits close to his grampa. This is his time with Grampa. Love is exchanged. This time belongs to them and it’s not mine to share in words.)
Karen: And here’s Scotty.
(Scott grips Dad’s hand and receives a strong grip in return. They both grin at each other. Male bonding.) We all feel when it’s time to leave and let Dad get back to the business of sleeping. I get up and kiss Dad’s forehead and tell him I love him. Scott says his good byes. Andrew is the last to leave – he gets a strong good bye handshake from his grandfather before he leaves him to sleep.

(Excerpted from The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad.)

Two Poems from the Cemetery

Two Poems from the Cemetery

Such a short time we are here!
The gravestones remind me of this.
Four lie near each other – all younger
than I am now when they died: 42, 56,
59, 25. And I am still alive. But it’s
such a short time we are here!
And when we’re gone – have moved on –
what will anyone remember of you –
of me? What memories will remain?
The accolades, awards, one star
or five? How much we owned?
How our jewelry shone? Or will
we be remembered for our smiles,
our kindnesses, our generosity –
the way we stood up to bullies,
helped lift others up, shared laughter,
shared life’s lessons, shared good fully?
Such a short time we are here.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Today the cosmos danced for me
at the cemetery. Sitting on a bench,
feeling the peace I always feel
there, the sun came out and a breeze
moved across the grass and autumn
flowers at the edge of the grounds.
I love you, always and forever, a voice
said. Fear not. All is well. Do you feel
me with you? Celebrate with me.
And how could I not?
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Bow Cemetery #1

Calling Out Her Name One More Time

I found another treasure while sorting through my piles and cupboards during the COVID-19 lockdown: the memory of an old friend.

I found the memory as I was going through the shelves and more shelves and stacks of books I’ve accumulated through a lifetime of reading. I have books from my sci-fi phase; from my fantasy phase; from my romance phase; from my mystery phase; from my memoirs phase; from my true life adventures phase. I have books from authors who make me laugh and books by authors who make me think, and books by authors who make me do both. There’s my Tolkien collection and my Vonnegut collection and my Douglas Adams collection and my old Earl Emerson collection. There are my Neil Gaiman books and my Norah Roberts books and my Jane Austin books and my Agatha Christie books. And, as I was sorting through my stacks, I found I’d accumulated a whole lot of Christian Science books, too – and that’s when I stumbled upon the memory of my friend.

I’d come upon yet another copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy – this one was a 7 12″ by 10 1/2″ “Reader’s Edition”– an old black leather beauty. I opened it up to see if I could find out where I’d come by this one – and that’s when I saw  – written in elegant red calligraphy – the name of my dear friend, Jane Elofson. Just seeing her name there awakened a sweet memory of my friend’s beautiful smile.

Jane Elofson had been one of the people who had made me feel welcome when my husband and I moved to Skagit County 35 years ago and I began attending the local Christian Science church. Jane, and her husband, Gordon, must have been about 68 or 69 then. They were one of those couples from The Greatest Generation that exuded a kind of classy kindness and grace. Gordon was handsome and dignified without being stuffy – he had a wonderful laugh and a great sense of humor. And Jane was stylish and gracious and funny – she had a “Ginger Rogers” kind of class about her.

As I stared at Jane’s name in the book I couldn’t remember when I’d last seen Gordon and Jane – and when I’d lost contact with them. It’d been decades, at least.

I thought it might be cool if I could do some googling and see if I could find some children, or maybe grandchildren, that I could send Jane’s book to. I imagined her loved ones opening up my package and finding Jane’s name in the book, and I imagined the happy surprise that might bring them. But there was little information to glean from the internet about Gordon and Jane. There was a 1940 census that placed them in Oregon when they were both 23 and newly-married. There were possible obituaries in Minnesota and an old photo of what might have been a younger version of Jane. But, eventually, I hit a dead end on the world wide web.

I contacted a mutual friend who had loved the Elofsons, too, and she gave me a bit more information – she told me she thought the Elofsons had a son, an artist, who lived on the east coast somewhere. I went back to googling, but soon stalled out again.

In the end, it seems the only physical evidence I have to show that Jane Elofson was ever on this planet is her elegant signature in the leather-bound copy of the Science and Health I found in my stacks of books.

Maybe this is what she would have wanted. Maybe there’s something kind of clean and simple about leaving this planet with no trace of yourself – no trace that you ever lived on it, or were ever a part of it.

But I can’t help myself – I feel a real yearning to call out Jane’s name at least this one more time – to bring her name to the world wide web and acknowledge her existence – acknowledge her kindness to me and remember her beautiful smile.

Jane Elofson signature

A Tiny Scrap of Existence

We have just a tiny scrap of existence here
– a miniscule piece of our eternity –
to love and learn and live
and leave something good behind.
Let’s not waste it on nothings.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

As I was scrolling through Facebook I saw a post by a friend, sharing that she’d just lost her mother. Her mother had gone into the hospital on a Wednesday and was dead on Sunday. Her death was a surprise to everyone. As I looked through my friend’s pictures of her mom, I realized that her mom was probably about my age. That realization brought me up short. Whoah. And then I thought of the loved ones I’ve lost in the last several years – some of them my age, and some of them younger – and it gave me pause.

I am not afraid of death. I’m maybe afraid of the pain involved in death, but I’m not afraid of death itself. If, as I believe, my consciousness will continue on and continue to learn and unfold – that would be fine. And if death is really the end – that would be fine, too – I mean, I won’t be around to feel one way or the other about it, right? No, I’m not afraid of death – but I hope that what I do here, during my time here, will make a difference for the people who come after me. I hope my time here will mean something, you know? I don’t want to waste even a minute of it on ridiculous rivalries, and empty quests for fame and wealth. I don’t want to waste my life on nothings. Life is too short. We only have one shot at this.

“John says of the world, not that it is wrong, but simply that it ‘passeth away.’ There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and beautiful, there is a great deal that is great and engrossing, but it will not last. All that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, are but for a little while…Nothing that it contains is worth the life and consecration of an immortal soul…You will give yourself to many things; give yourself first to love. Hold things in their proportion.”
– Henry Drummond

(Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell, taken on a hike in the North Cascades.)

butterflies on my shoe luminex

Butterflies on My Shoe

Solace at the Cemetery

In these panicked times
In these fretful, frenzied, frantic times
I have found solace at the cemetery.
The shells of those who’ve lived
here and moved on
to whatever comes beyond
no longer need to distance themselves
from anyone, from me.
I find peace with them – the chrysalises
of my friends – Mike, Rachael, and Debby.

I wander amid the tombstones, snapping
photos of them, and the spinning wheels –
the bright spinners are the only movement
in the cemetery and I feel
drawn to the movement of their rainbow
spinning, faster and faster as I approach,
in a show just for me.

I’m allowed to be here. In the sunshine.
In the peace of the cemetery.
And no one disturbs me as I wander
through the final beds
for the shells of those who
are no longer scared of what lies ahead.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

The Love’s Never Died

I’ve been sort of dreading today all week. It’s the third anniversary of Moz’s passing today. Last night I found myself reliving in my thoughts the series of things that happened three years ago. Moz being brought to our home in an ambulance. Moz being wheeled on a stretcher into our home. The conversations we had. The uncertainty about what lay ahead. Did we have six months? Or less? The hospice nurse coming over to show us how to care for Moz.

Last night I went to bed. Dreading. And I slept.

I slept right through the time of Moz’s passing and beyond that – I think I got a full eight hours in! And when I woke up this morning there was a lightness to my heart. I felt joy.

I ended up at Lake Padden – did a quick walk around the lake – it was beautiful up there today. And I felt Moz and Dad with me.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? We’re never really separated from those we love! Never! The love is as real now as it was three years ago! The love’s never died. All that’s real never dies.

Just had to share.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
– Revelations 21:4

Moz and Einstein.

Dad and Moz: Together Again

Dad and Moz: Together again.

Daddy passed away yesterday morning. I guess some part of me felt that if we didn’t announce his death, it wouldn’t be real. I actually found myself going to Dad’s page on Wikipedia to see if a death date was listed, yet – and when it wasn’t listed I figured that meant Dad hadn’t really died – because Wikipedia knows everything, right?

I wasn’t with Dad when he passed – I was walking on the boardwalk in Bellingham. But he was surrounded by the dear care-givers who took him into their home three years ago and loved him as family. Our whole family has been so blessed by the care shown Dad at Cedar Grove. Thank you, Gwen, Amanda, Megan, and Dietrick. I don’t know what we would have done without your love and support the last three years.

I have felt the support and love of all of you, too. I might go into hiding for a little while – so if you don’t hear from me, please don’t take it personally. It’s just me doing what I do. I love you all – each and every beautiful one of you. Thank you for joining Dad and I on our adventures together the last three years. We couldn’t have asked for better adventure-comrades.

As Dad would say, “Berg heil!”
Karen

“Is Mom Gone?”

I got a message from Amanda that Dad was having a “rough time” and headed over there to check up on him.

He was sitting at the kitchen table, finishing breakfast when I got there. I rested my hand on his back and he looked over at me and smiled. I held his hand and he brought my hand to his lips and kissed it. Then I brought his hand to my lips and kissed it. He smiled again.
Dad: How’s Mom?
Karen: She’s fine.
Dad: Where is she now… is she (mumbling)…?
Karen: (Thinking how I should answer this question. Finally…) Daddy, Mom passed on two years ago. (I feel I should say this – I feel like he needs to know…) She’s waiting for you when that time comes.
Dad: (Nods and looks down at his plate. I’m not sure he heard or understood. I wait.) Where are Peter and David?
Karen: Pete’s in Hoodsport – on the peninsula. Dave’s in Olympia. They’re both doing great. Pete came and saw you a couple days ago. You watched football together. Dave’s coming up this weekend.
Dad: (Nods.)
Karen: They both love you very much.
Dad: (Nods.)
Karen: And I love you, too.
(Dad looks up at me and smiles.)
Karen: Looks like you’ve been eating an avocado.
Dad: Yeah. This was a rich one.
Karen: (I lean over so my mouth is next to his ear, and start singing a hymn I know he’s familiar with..) “In heavenly Love abiding, no change my heart shall fear, and safe is such confiding, for nothing changes here…” and “O dreamer, leave thy dreams for joyful waking!…”
(Then we sit quietly for maybe ten minutes, or twenty – I lose track of time. I don’t feel the need to say or do anything. We’re just together. He’s starting to nod off now. His head drooping towards the table…)
Karen: Do you want to go sit in the recliner in front of the television and take a nap?
Dad: (Looks up at me and nods.) Yeah.
(Dad is in a wheelchair today – he’s having a hard time standing or walking – so Dietrich pushes him in the wheelchair over to a recliner and helps lift him into the chair. Amanda and Dietrich cover Dad with a blanket and get him comfortable.)
Karen: Are you comfortable?
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you. (Thinking.) Is Mom gone?
Karen: Yeah. But I feel her presence with me all the time. And I know she’s waiting for you when you’re ready to join her.
Dad: (Nods. And this time I know he understands.)

I wave to him and blow him a kiss. And he waves back and gives me a sleepy smile.

Hatchbacked Taxi for the Dead

Today I saw a car that looked like the one
that took  Mom away after she died.
And I wondered if it had a body in the back.
And I wondered how many people might right
now be transporting bodies from homes
to mortuaries in hatchbacked cars. Because
somebody’s got to do it, right?  Bodies
can’t just drive themselves where they
need to go after they die. Okay. I’m going
to think about something else now.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell