Moz Still with Me

Scott grabbed an old climbing ice axe out of our garage to take on a hike with us a couple weeks ago. We both assumed it was one of my dad’s old ice axes until we got up to the parking lot at Artist Point. Then Scott really looked at it and saw that it had belonged to my mom, Moz. It made us happy when we realized that we were bringing Moz along on this hike with us.

My dad is a well-known, big name in mountaineering – he’s climbed and painted on some of the highest mountains in the world – and people sometimes ask me to share some of his mountaineering adventures with them. But what maybe most people don’t know is that his wife, Moz, had her share of adventures, too – she’d 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…

Moz climbing on her honeymoon

In early 2017, when Moz was lying on the hospital bed in my living room, in and out of consciousness, struggling to breathe because of congestive heart failure, one of the hospice nurses asked if Moz had COPD – had she been a smoker? No, I told the nurse, Moz had been a singer – a professional vocalist – and the kind of singer she was is the kind that doesn’t smoke. The nurse looked at me kind of skeptically. So then I told her that Moz had climbed Rainier twice when she was young, and I saw the nurse look back at my mom with a new respect. The nurse said that she usually only gets to meet her patients when they’re  ready to pass – and that it’s nice to know something about the lives they had BEFORE she meets them in the person. I think knowing something about Moz’s adventurous past made her more real to the nurse – it gave Moz’s humanity back to her, if that makes sense.

There are certain pieces of music that always bring Moz to me. One of them is Allison Krauss’s version of I Will. As soon as I hear the first banjo chord come through my car radio I feel Moz’s presence in the car with me.

Yesterday I was driving from LaConner – I’d just paid my cable bill and picked up the folks’ mail from their old assisted living place (most of their old mail is from non-profit organizations wondering why Moz hasn’t donated to their causes recently and sort of chiding her for that – I’ve tried sending the mail back with “deceased” written on the envelopes, but the organizations don’t seem to be getting the message). I was passing the spot where Moz had once told me, as I was driving her home from one of her stays at the hospital, that she would really like some cream cheese dip and smacked her lips together – I always smile when I pass that spot – and Krauss’s I Will started playing on my CD. Instantly Moz was with me. I could feel her hugging me and wrapping me all up in her love. I started tearing up. Those of you who have lost people dear to you will understand the feeling I had, I think – it wasn’t sadness that I was feeling –  it was something deeper and more beautiful and more poignant – it was just… it was love, I guess. And I wished I still had her with me in the person so that I could hug her with my human arms, and talk to her with my human voice – but I knew I still had her with me in another form – in a form that couldn’t be taken from me.

Moz is still with me.

Love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever we’re together
Love you when we’re apart…
– John Lennon and Paul McCartney

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

 

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McCain: The One Thing I Know…

Here’s how McCain’s death has affected me, in a personal way – I’ve come to realize what a chicken shit I am – I stand on the sidelines criticizing the GOP, criticizing the DNC, criticizing the politicians who don’t support universal health care, criticizing the political leaders who have allowed corporations to take over our country, criticizing the politicians who aren’t giving shelter to those seeking asylum and the homeless, poor, and unemployed – I send my letters, post my blog posts, march in the marches, criticize my fellow human beings who aren’t doing what I think they should be doing – and what the hell?! It’s easy for me to stand on the sidelines and lob my criticisms at the people who are “in charge” – it’s a lot easier than actually stepping up to the plate and running for office myself. I am humbled because I realize I am lacking the courage to put myself out there in the fray and open MYSELF up to criticism, and the slander, libel, and rumors that always seem to circulate around people who are willing to shoulder our responsibility for us.

I am deeply conflicted about McCain. I find it hard to stick pins into a man who endured five years of torture – who refused to be released from prison so long as his comrades were still in there – and I can’t help but wonder how *I* might have been changed if I’d gone through the same circumstances. I’d like to think I’d be really noble about it all, and forgiving, and so forth. But I don’t know. I don’t know how an experience like that would have changed me.

There were things McCain did that were horrible. Horrible. I would agree with anyone who said that. But I find I don’t have it in me to hate this man.

Right now I find myself thinking about that moment when he cast his vote against dismantling the ACA. I find myself thinking about that moment when he stood up for his rival, Obama, against that woman’s prejudices and misinformation. I find myself thinking about how he refused to be released from prison until his comrades were released. I find myself thinking about the family who loved him.

This is the one thing I know, for sure, about McCain – he had courage. And I’m not sure I have it in the same quantity.

I don’t see how anyone’s anger towards this man is going to make the world a better place.

A Real Life Hero

It has been a year and a half since Mom died. Dad had been in the hospital, suffering from delirium caused by an infection, when Mom passed. When he was released from the hospital after her death, he never returned to the apartment they’d shared together before he went into the hospital. He, basically, woke up from his delirium to find himself in a new home and without his companion of 62 years. I know he’s been working hard in the last 18 months to make some sense of it all. His courage since Mom’s death has been awe-inspiring for me to witness. I always knew he was brave – his mountaineering adventures are proof of that – but I never realized the amazing depth of his steely inner resolve until the last year and a half. I think I finally understand now how he survived those weeks on K2. I finally understand why so many people look on him as a hero. He is one. A genuine real life hero. And he’s my father.

 

 

“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!

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