I Felt Dad with Me Today

I felt Dad with me today as I drove down Chuckanut through the changing autumn leaves. Autumn was his favorite time of year. October was his favorite month. The last few years of his 101 years, he was my companion on almost-daily drives – and I used to love driving him through forests full of gold and copper this time of year. Sometimes we wouldn’t say anything, and sometimes he’d tell me about the geology or the history of the places we drove. I miss seeing him sitting in the seat next to me, his alpine hat on his head. I miss his gravelly voice giving me lectures on glacial till and glacial moraines…

Dad: This is beautiful farm country. There used to be ice 5,000 meters deep here. (He points to the hills surrounding the flats.) Those are glacial moraines. They were created by glaciers.

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

Dad is just finishing up his breakfast when I get there. We put shoes on his feet, his alpine hat on his head, and a sweater over his shoulders and load him up in my car for a drive. First stop: Sisters Espresso for his root beer float.

As we’re driving through the Skagit flats…

Dad: What kind of bird would you like to be if you were a bird? A seagull?

Karen: Yeah, maybe. (Thinking.) Or a kingfisher… those are pretty cool… they dodge up and down and skim the water… how about you?

Dad: (Thinking.) A seagull, I guess.

(We drive along the water for a bit.)

Dad: How’d you like to be a seabird, just sitting on the water, waiting for your next meal to turn up…

(On impulse, I turn down the airport road and head towards the little Skagit airport. Every now and then I stop to take pictures of the autumnal trees.)

Karen: I love autumn!

Dad: (Nodding his head…) Yeah. I think my favorite time of year is late October.

(I discover there’s a flight museum at the airport I never knew was there and pull over to take a picture of an old propeller. Dad’s turning his head from left to right – checking things out.)

Dad: I really appreciate you taking me on these scenic drives. Thank you.

Karen: I enjoy these drives.

(We head back to Dad’s home and pull into the driveway.)

Dad: This looks familiar.

Karen: Yup. You’re home!

Dad: Are they expecting me?

Karen: Yes, they are.

Dad: What are their names?

(I tell him the names of the people who care for him, and he nods his head – I think he’s trying to remember the names of his hosts, so he can be a good guest.)

I bought Dad a pair of headphones for his television – I’m hoping they can help him hear the dialogue. Gwen and Cindy and I play around with the headphones for a while – trying to get them to work – and we finally find success! I lead Dad to his room and put the headphones on him, and he can hear the conversation on the television. We settle him onto his bed.)

Karen: (Waving good-bye…) I love you, Daddy!

Dad: (Waving back…) I love you, too!

(Excerpted from Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad.)

Swinging from Branches and Balancing on Logs and Playing Like a Little Kid Again

Scott and the sons and I headed up to Artist’s Point in the North Cascades for a family hike, but it was really smoky up there – so, after a little jaunt to the first pond, we headed back down. We made a quick stop at Heather Meadows for a walk along the nature trail there – it was smoky there, too – but I wanted to share the laughing little creek I’d found there on my adventure the week before.

Then, with Andrew directing us, we drove down to a turnoff and an unnamed, unmarked trail that Andrew had discovered through a friend a few years ago. It was so cool in there! Massive trees! We scrambled up on top of a fallen tree that stretched a couple hundred feet and walked the length of it. The sons and Scott went back to where we’d climbed aboard and got down that way, but I hopped off the end of the log and found myself surrounded by Devil’s Club and fallen trees and – although I knew the direction I needed to go, I couldn’t figure out how to get through the brush around me.

Xander hollered to me and waved his hand so I could see where he was and then, balancing along long logs and hopping over bushes, managed to get to me and helped show me the way back to the trail. Ohmygosh! It was so fun! I felt like my young self again, swinging from branches and balancing along logs, and playing.

But eventually I came to a log that seemed too big for me to climb over. Xander reached out to me from the top, and Andrew pushed me from the back, and at last I was back on the trail again.

I love adventuring with my family!
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Instructions to a First-Time Mom

Instructions to a First-Time Mom

My mother tells me that when I was born and she held me in her arms for the first time, the weight of the responsibility of raising and caring for me suddenly filled her with great fear. She was so afraid she’d mess it all up somehow.

She looked up at the doctor and shared her fears with him. The doctor smiled at her sweet face and said, “Love her. Just love her.”

This was something my mom knew how to do – and do really well.

My brothers and I may not have had the most conventional up-bringing – but none of us could have asked for a mother with more love in her heart. We grew up witnesses to how she expressed love to others – seeing her voice her protest for those who were being treated unfairly, watching her take in stray animals and make them part of the family, seeing how a room would light up as soon as she entered it and smiled her love on everyone. And the love she expressed wasn’t some feigned thing, either. It came from deep inside her – true and pure. She truly loved mankind and all God’s creatures – and we saw this, and incorporated her example into our own sense of how to live a decent and moral life.

As I think back on my younger years, there’s one moment that stands out for me. I think I must have been in my early twenties, and there was some sadness about a break-up with a boyfriend or something – dashed hopes of some kind – I can’t remember the specifics now – but I was feeling lost and alone – not sure what direction I was supposed to take in my life. I was home visiting Mom and Dad, and had gone out into the backyard to look up at the stars and pray. Mom must have known I was out there, and came and stood beside me. I shared my sadness with her then – I think I shared how I was feeling like a “surplus” person – like there seemed to be no place for me. My mom reached over to one of her rose bushes and gently plucked a rose from it and handed it to me. She looked into my eyes and said, “This is you. I see you unfolding into a most beautiful rose.” And then she went back into the house.

Wow. Those simple words, spoken with perfect love, totally reversed my thoughts about myself and my circumstances. Mom loved me. Mom thought I was unfolding like a beautiful rose. How cool is that?!

Moz knew me the longest of anyone – she knew me before I was born! – and nobody loved me like Moz loved me. I’m so glad I got to have her on earth with me for 60 years before she passed on. I was truly blessed to have her for my mother.

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings…”
– Deuteronomy 32: 11

A mother’s affection cannot be weaned from her child, because the mother-love includes purity and constancy, both of which are immortal. Therefore maternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties.
– from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

Here’s Moz pregnant with me…

Mom pregnant with me.

Safe in Soul’s Womb

I will not fear –
I feel you near.
Mozzy – I sit in the room where you passed on
five years ago and I feel your presence
here with me.
Daddy – your old backpack hangs on the wall
and your hat is on the mantel next to Moz’s shoes
and I feel you smiling at me.
The room is cozy and warm. The cat
sleeps on the back
of the chair.
Outside the frogs are croaking a merry tune.
I feel the power of Love and Truth
pulsing around me – singing of hope.
I live safe in Soul’s womb.

I will not fear –
I feel You here.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

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

The 364 and 1/4 Days a Year That Aren’t Valentine’s Day

“Marriage should signify a union of hearts.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

Scotty brought me flowers to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I’ll attach a photo below. Aren’t they pretty?

On March 31st Scott and I will have been married 38 years. I couldn’t have foreseen, on our wedding day, what was coming down the line – I couldn’t see that there’d come a time when I’d need to bring Mom into our home; I couldn’t see that there’d come a time when I’d become responsible for Dad’s health and finances and well-being. I couldn’t foresee the struggles and challenges – and all the good stuff, too – when I married Scott. But I sure couldn’t have picked a better partner to have beside me through all of it – through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Every single time we’ve been up against the wall, Scott’s come through for us. When I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted as we cleaned out my parents’ house, Scott said, “We can’t quit. We don’t have a choice,” and mopped and packed and dusted and swept right alongside me. When we realized we needed to find a place for Mom after she was released from the hospital that last time, and I asked Scott how he felt about bringing her into our home, he said, “We’ll make it work!” and took lessons, with me, from the hospice nurse so he could help care for her. When I asked him if he wanted to climb Mount Baker with me, and then Mount Adams – he didn’t hesitate to join me on those adventures and – knowing I’d suffered a glissading accident when I was a youngster that had given me a terrible fear of glissading – he helped me work past my fear on the way down from Adams and showed me, again, how much fun glissading can be.

He was with me when our sons were born and with me when I said good bye to my parents for the last time. He was the one I went to when I discovered Mom had passed as I slept on the couch next to her bed – I wasn’t sure she was really gone, and woke Scott to ask him to come with me to her bedside and check. He checked on her with me and said, “She’s gone, sweetie.” He was there with me during that moment of recognition that Moz had moved on – and was there to give me the strength I needed in that moment and in the weeks to come. He was there when Dad needed help in the bathroom, and there when Dad celebrated his 100th birthday on Rainier. He’s been with me through both the sublime and the ridiculous.

Scott helped build our home – he did the plastering and taping, sanding and varnishing, of our physical home; and helped nurture the love and security of our mental home, too.

I can’t imagine how I’d have gotten to this point in my life without Scott beside me.

Scotty brought me flowers to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but he’s showed me his love every day for the last 38 years.

“Matrimony should never be entered into without a full recognition of its enduring obligations on both sides. There should be the most tender solicitude for each other’s happiness, and mutual attention and approbation should wait on all the years of married life.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

The Red Envelope


Something really precious just happened. Christina and Andrew went out last night to celebrate Lunar New Year, and this morning I wanted to hear all about their celebration. Christina told me what they did last night, and then she told me how she would be celebrating Lunar New Year today if she was with her family in Australia. I suggested that she and Andrew should go to the local Vietnamese restaurant for dinner tonight to celebrate, and I told her I wanted to pay for dinner. I got out my checkbook to write a check. Christina’s face lit up and she said that it was just like the “red envelope” – on Lunar New Year’s the young people go to their elders and give them a blessing for the new year, and the elders give them money in a red envelope. So I found an old red Christmas card envelope and put the check in there. Christina gave me a blessing in Vietnamese and then translated what she said in English – her blessing was so beautiful and dear: “Mom, I wish you much happiness…” And then I handed my new daughter the red envelope.

Waiting to See What Will Appear

I sit at my laptop at 5:00 in the morning
waiting to see what will appear
and my poet-son (“Stealthman”) quietly joins
me with his notebook and pen and sits near.
Poet-son and his love looked at apartments
yesterday and I know they’ll be moving out soon –
I know wherever they are they will bloom.
The cats are fed and one puts his paw on me
and meows for me to stroke his hair
while the other watches us from the top of a chair –
watching the poet-son and me
as we wake and write and type.
I feel it. The day is just starting, and ripe
with possibilities of what might be.
I enjoy this perfect moment, with the cats
and the son close by me.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

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

Facing Wild Pigs in the Black Forest and Assembling a Side Table

Two years ago the son
landed in Vienna and called to ask me to pray –
he’d picked up some weird virus along the way.
Two years minus a month ago he wrote to say
he’d just faced wild pigs in the Black Forest,
on a most epic day.
Two years minus two months ago
borders were closing behind him
as he traveled from where they spoke German
to where they spoke Dutch,
and I wished I could touch
him again and worried a mama’s worries.
And now he sits on the floor of our family home,
quietly assembling a side table for the family room.

It’s amazing how much joy I get from watching
my son assemble a side table for the family room.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell