Little by Little

“Old age” comes little by little, I think –
little surrenders of who we are
to the experts and authorities,
to convenience and comfort –
someone tells us we need to stay out
of the sun, to eat only certain foods,
to travel only at the right times
and to the right places,
and to wash our hands after every
handshake and human touch –
and we listen and obey.

And so we spend our days in “preventative”
exams – counting the pills into our trays –
hoping to increase the number of our days.
And little by little we relinquish
the small pleasures that make life
meaningful –  the joy of adventure,
noon-time lunch  with our faces turned
towards the sun,  whipped cream on
our cocoa, shaking hands  with new friends,
and listening to our own hearts to create lives
worth living.

And we lose our lives in a fear of death.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell
(Originally published January 8, 2017)

I Hear You

Sometimes there just aren’t words.
But I’ll try.

I hear you.
I feel the pain you’re feeling
and want to fold you into a fierce hug
and absorb the pain into my own body
and relieve you of it.

I hear you.
I feel the joy you’re feeling
and want to dance and spin with you
under the stars until we drop together
from happy exhaustion.

I hear you.
I hear your weeping.
I hear your laughter.
I hear the music of your heart.
And I want you to know
you’re not alone in any of it.

We’re all in this symphony of life
together.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Originally published in September 2021.)

Karen in her twirly dress.

Not What’s Past, Nor What I May Dread

not what’s now, nor what’s ahead –
not what’s past, nor what I may dread –
not what I’ve gained or what I’ve shed;
nor what’s living or what’s dead;
neither the foot, nor the head;
neither what follows, nor what led;
neither what’s read, or said –
alpha or zed –
separates me
from the All that is Good
and mine to claim
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(This is a piece of another poem that I re-worked to turn into something new.)

Life Is Bigger Than These Forms We See

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

There was some police action on the beach the day we arrived. We walked by the crime tape, the team of investigators, the canopy over the scene. I stopped to ask another woman walking on the beach if she knew what was going on. Valerie said she’d seen a couple in the parking lot earlier who’d looked shaken and she wondered if they’d found something. She was pretty sure there was a body under the canopy. She noted that the crime tape had already been up a few hours so it had to be something pretty serious. The winds had been high the night before and she wondered if maybe a body had come in on the surf. A man named Billy stopped to chat with Valerie and my husband and me. He wondered what was going on, too.

My husband and I continued on our walk, looking for agates, watching the antics of the seagulls as they chased each other around for food, enjoying the sunshine and the salty air. Every now and then, though, I’d look back at the crime canopy and wonder.

Billy rejoined me a while later to tell me that a friend had confirmed a body had been found in the sand. Billy said that the night before he’d passed a man on the beach who looked distressed and lost – the man seemed a little “off” to him – but he’d shrugged it off and continued on his walk. He wondered now if this body belonged to the man he’d seen the night before, and if it had been a suicide. For a moment neither of us spoke, each thinking our own thoughts. Then we wished each other well – told each other to stay safe – and parted ways.

Later the local news confirmed that the body of a man in his thirties had been found partially buried in the sand. I went into my mother-of-sons place then. I grieved for the man and his family. I prayed and tried to reach my thoughts out to the man – letting him know he was loved, whoever he was – that he wasn’t alone. I wished him peace. And, eventually, with the help of the ocean and the seagulls and the kites and the ever-tumbling waves, I found my own peace.

A few days later, as we got ready to leave, a rainbow arched across the sky. There’d been a rainbow after my mom’s passing, and a rainbow after my dad’s passing, too. I idly wondered who might be manifesting THIS rainbow. And then I thought of the man whose body had been found the day we arrived. And I knew he was alright.

Life is so much bigger than these forms we see –
so much bigger than body-hieroglyphs of “you” and “me.”
Death has no power to end our Life – Life fills all space –
exists beyond form and time and place.
I feel my loved ones ever-near –
both those who have “passed” and those who are still “here.”
Death can’t destroy the love we feel,
and nothing can stop the healing of what needs to be healed.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photo of rainbow by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

Rainbow in Lincoln City, Oregon

Five Years Ago…

Five years ago today we brought Moz into our home. The nurturers from hospice came in and showed us how to care for Mom. Moz and I spent the afternoon telling each other how much we loved each other. At the end of the day it became hard for Moz to speak, but I was greedy. I needed to hear it one more time. “You love me, don’t you?” And I’ll never forget the expression in Moz’s eyes as they locked onto mine and poured her love into me. I knew exactly what she was saying to me with her eyes: “You KNOW I love you!”

No one loved me like Moz loved me.

Early the next morning, as I lay sleeping on the couch next to her bed, she passed on. I could feel her brush by me in my sleep – it was this beautiful, joyful dream – full of peace and joy and love.

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, from Since Then

The Brush of Angel Wings

The end was like the beginning –
the oxygen machine breathing,
making the sound of the womb,
a soothing rhythm in the room
as she slept on the bed next to me.
All is quiet, but for the pumping
of O through her mask. In my dreams
I feel the light brush of angel wings
and fear is replaced by freedom
and limitless joy that comes
through an opened heavenly portal.
I open my eyes to see the battle
over and done. She has won.
I rise and stand on holy ground.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell, from The Brush of Angel Wings

Moz

“…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

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