Messages from Jill

My beautiful friend and former teaching colleague, Jill Bailey, passed yesterday. This morning I’ve been going through our FB messages to each other, soaking up her wisdom and kindness, and I found messages she’d sent me just after my mom passed – messages about the process of grieving. But… it felt like these messages were fresh and brand new – like she’d just sent them to me – like she was sending me inspiration and wisdom to help me through mourning HER passing.

Today is also the second anniversary of my dad’s death. Finding Jill’s messages this morning couldn’t have come at a better time.

I want to share Jill’s wisdom with everyone who is mourning her today.

Jill wrote:
“…Karen, my dad told me shortly after my mom died that he believed that the most important word from Psalm 23 was THROUGH. This scripture can be recited by many…The Lord make me lie down in green pastures, etc. The word THROUGH is only in the chapter once. People picture lying down in green pastures and God walking alongside them through the valley of death, etc..They see themselves THERE. But my dad said go THROUGH it. It is the only way to truly process and heal (get through it) the death of someone you love dearly. He was correct. We can’t shut it out, forget or not deal. The waves of grief crash and we have to dive through…”

And in another message, Jill wrote:
“…this grief we go through tends to be solo and honestly no one can truly feel or understand its intensity (at times)…I am sorry that you are going through all the tough stuff that death leaves for the living. I know, I know people say, ‘everyone goes through it.’ It doesn’t help to hear those words. It just truly amazes me that so many people deal with this grief day to day without acknowledgement. And I guess I want to do that – acknowledge you and what is happening!…This is a very hard time. (As I state the obvious.) Please know you are hugged and understood. Jill”

Two Years Ago Today: The Last Time I Saw Him Alive

Two years ago today: The last time I saw Dad alive. He died the next day, before I could get to him.

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.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad

Heaven Right Here

Went for a walk in the moonlight and starlight and immediately felt Moz with me. And a couple of musings passed through my thoughts: I don’t need to die to be with the people I love who have passed beyond my seeing them – because they’re already with me right now; I don’t need to die to have heaven – everything that will bring me joy on the “other side” is with me right here, in this moment. If I can’t find my joy here, I’m not going to find it “there,” either. If I can’t be grateful for now, what makes me think I’m going to be grateful for whatever comes after this?

“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
– Luke 17:21

Moonrise
, ,
, ,

Since Then

It’s been almost five years since then,
but it feels like yesterday that you left,
brushed by me as I slept, on your way
to the other side of infinity.
There are still days when I think I should
pick up the phone and give you a call.
But I know I don’t really need a phone
to talk with you. I feel you with me –
here and now.
The sons are both married now; and Dad
has gone – joined you on the other side
of infinity; I’m retired sort of; and we have
a new president. Everything has changed
and nothing has changed since then.
I feel your love. You must feel mine.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Moz and Einstein.

I Sit in Sam’s Chair

Sam the Wonder Dog died last summer.
On her last drive to the vet’s her umber
eyes were still bright and alert
as she looked out one last time
on the scene passing by –
still engaged with this world.

And now I sit in the chair
that we had accepted was her chair
while she was with us.
For the first time I no longer smell
her fur in the fabric I nestle in.
For months we tried to get rid of Sam’s smell –
we vacuumed; we steam cleaned;
we scrubbed with soapy rags –
but the Sam-smell never seemed to leave us.
And now, it seems, it has.
And I think I might miss it.

I rub the fabric of the chair, and for a moment
I feel like I am petting Sam’s sleek coat,
and I feel her with me – warm and dear,
an expression of Love.

Her body is gone, and her smell.
But Sam’s still with us in her love.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell




Sam the Wonder Dog

I expect to see her at the door
tail wagging
on our walks
nostrils quivering
one paw raised mid-stride
nose covered in dirt
from her latest hole
unaware of her own beauty
sleek and shiny as a black panther,
but goofy as a Disney character
exhausting
exuberant
extraordinary
friendlly, fetching frisbees and finding –
like magic! –
every tennis ball that ever landed off a trail.
It was a gift she had.
Her first night with us she ate a chunk
out of our ottoman – which we will now call
“The Samantha Terrell Memorial Ottoman.”
Then she went through an “electronics”phase –
the cellphone (chomp),
the remote control (crunch).

Sam loved her neighbors –
the dogs and their humans –
and her walks
around the neighborhood
included frisky, friendly greetings –
dog greetings and human greetings.
And now the neighbors
send us flowers and notes:
“She was a good girl.”
Our neighbors were good friends
to Samantha and their notes
make me smile – seeing the love.
I miss our Samantha
the Wonder Dog.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

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