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
I don’t need any advice or platitudes here – I know this will pass and every bird has a silver lining and early clouds catch the worm and time closes doors and an open window heals all wounds and it’s going to be alright and better days lie ahead and yada yada. But, speaking as just a human bean, DANG. You know? The last four years feel like one long series of good byes. Mom. And then Rachael Randy Benjamin Bob Anita Mike Dean Peggy and Laurie. And Dad.
I didn’t have time to grieve Mom because I needed to step up for Dad. And then I didn’t have time to grieve Dad because the pandemic hit and our home became the sheltering place for sons and their partners and it was so good to have everyone here – laughter and family time – a place of refuge.
And today the last son moved out. This chapter is finished – this home has served its purpose and I feel the book opening to a new chapter – and maybe a new setting. And I watched “10 Things I Hate About You” and found myself sobbing when Heath Ledger’s face appeared on the screen. And I know I’m ridiculous.
But… maybe the time for grieving has finally come -Karen Molenaar Terrell
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1
A kind of odd and sweet thing happened last night:
I’d been sitting in the recliner by the fire – getting toasty and comfortable and kind of nostalgic – and I’d impulsively grabbed Dad’s old alpine hat from the mantel and put it on my head. And his hat is so full of HIM, you know? It’s like an extension of him, really – a part of him. And my thoughts were suddenly flooded with memories of Dad. It was weird – because I was feeling Dad with me, but not as an aged father – I was feeling him with me as a man in his prime – and as a dear friend and hiking partner – as my contemporary, rather than as my dad.
I sat there quietly crying to myself, remembering our hikes and climbs together – and our times of laughter. Mom was with us then, too – standing with Dad, and smiling. The tears gathered and spilled and I made no effort to stop them. but I didn’t make any sounds – I thought I was being unobtrusive – my son, Xander, was sitting near me in another chair by the fire, working away on his laptop on some project, and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I’d thought I’d made my own private quiet space for myself there.
But I hadn’t taken into account Sam the Wonder Dog. Suddenly Sam lifted her head from where she was curled up in another chair and brought her eyes to mine and she just stared at me – intently and unblinking – for maybe two or three minutes – it was… I’ve never seen her doing anything like that before. And then she uncurled herself from the chair and walked over to me and stared at me again – watching and alert and just BEING there, you know? I wondered if maybe the hat was confusing her, making her think Dad was in the room or something – so I reached out and petted the nobby top of her head, and her ears, and her snout and asked her if she remembered Grampa Dee – and after a bit she went back to her chair and curled up again.
Xander left the room for a while then and came back ten or 15 minutes later. And he made an observation that surprised me, but made perfect sense, too. Apparently he HAD been aware of what was going on with me. And he said, “I think Sam came up to you – not because she thought you were Grampa, but because she’d suddenly realized you were crying and she wanted to comfort you.” Sam is very sensitive to our feelings, he said.
Whoah. I looked at Sam – curled up in the chair now – and I looked at her with new eyes. I went up to her and petted the top of her head again. And thanked her.
It appears I have my own emotional support animal. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
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
Taking down the Christmas tree seemed especially hard for me this year. Every ornament brought back memories – sweet and dear – as I wrapped them up (both the ornaments and the memories) and packed them in the Christmas sack.
Ornaments Mom left me after she passed. Ornaments from former students in my class. Ornaments our sons made of pop-sickle sticks and glitter, macaroni and beads.
I felt the loss.
And I know. I know. I know. I know all the things you want to say: I know that Good is never really gone- It’s here to stay It lives on – in our memories. I know Love never ends – and I should be grateful for all the family, all the friends, all the love I’ve known in my life.
But as I take down the tree I’m missing you especially. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
It was a beautiful and perfect day, but not in the way
that you probably imagine. The skies were grey,
the new daffodil blossoms bent over in the gusting
wind. It was a hot tea and zipped jacket day.
There was a sweet melancholy in my thoughts
as I drove by your old home, our old haunts,
and remembered the two of you, laughing and happy,
exploring your new hometown. There was no pain
in the sweet sadness. No tears. A gentle gladness
for the time I had with you here. It was a day to rent
“The Secret Garden” and watch young Mary learn
about hope and magic while a fire danced and burned
in the woodstove and a cat curled up on my lap for a nap.
Today I felt an urge to drive to the old homestead
in Port Orchard and surprise the folks with a visit.
the smile on Moz’s face when she saw me
walk in the door.
Dad scaling the stairs to greet me.
taking a walk through the woods to the creek,
looking for new spring buds on the alders,
and squirrels scrambling through the cedars.
for a place that no longer exists
– Karen Molenaar Terrell
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
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.
Karen: They both love you very much.
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?
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.
Two years ago today Moz was brought to our home for hospice care. Two years ago, around 9:30 pm, she spoke her last word to me – with a happy smile – “Okay.” She passed in the early morning hours of February 21st while I slept on the couch next to her bed.
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
“Angels: God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality” – Mary Baker Eddy
An alpine butterfly flits among the flowers on Table Mountain. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.