The Good You Seek

The Good You Seek

I want to take a break, I said.
Can I step out of life for a moment,
or maybe stay in bed?
Can things go on without me?
Can you just pretend I’m not here?
For life is a messy business
and I’m tired and I’m weary
I’ve made too many mistakes to count today
And I’d like to not make anymore, not any.

And the still small voice reached into my thought
– gentle, peaceable benediction –
“All the good you seek and all that you’ve sought
you can claim right now – and that’s no fiction –
for Love is yours to express, to feel, and to be
– you are wealthy beyond description.
Nothing else matters, there’s no other power
no warring opinions, no need to cower
You are loved and you’re loving
and that’s all there is to it
Love’s loving child, and there’s nothing else
but loving, simply nothing.”
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, *A Poem Lives on My Windowsill*

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“She’s fine!”

Dad is lying in bed watching “Gunsmoke” on television. He looks up and sees me and smiles.
Dad: Hi, sweetheart!
Karen: Hi, Daddy!
(He reaches up to pull me into a hug…)
Dad: I love you!
Karen: I love you, too!
(I pull a chair next to Dad’s bed and sit down to watch Matt Dillon outfox the bad guys. Dad reaches out and clasps my hand and we hold hands companionably for a while.)
Dad: Did you stop by to see Mom on the way over?
Karen: (Keeping my eyes on the television.) Nope.
(We watch the show together for a time – Newly has escaped being held hostage by the bad guys, been shot and left for dead, and then managed to make it to the stagecoach in time to warn Matt Dillon that the bad guys are waiting for him.)
Dad: Are you going to see Mom and Pop when you leave here?
(This is the first time Dad has ever asked me if I’m going to see “Pop” – I’m thinking he must be referring to his mother and father – but I’m not sure who he thinks I am now. I contemplate how to answer his question, but come up nada. Scott enters the room…)
Dad: Hi, Scotty!
Scott: Hi, Dee!
Dad: How’s your wife?
Scott: (Without missing a beat.) She’s fine!

“Gunsmoke” ends. It’s time to go.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

She’s Still Giving

Something really magical happened tonight. As Scott and I were getting ready to leave for our son’s improv show I looked down on the floor and saw this card lying there. I have no idea where it came from. I opened it up and it was a card from Moz! Today is the second anniversary of Moz’s passing and I’ve been thinking of her all day long. Finding her card lying there was like this huge, cosmic, unexpected gift. Inside the card was a Valentine’s message and a check (dated 2013) for the son we were on our way to see. I felt like Moz was directing me to bring the card and check to him tonight. And so I did. Moz always said, “I’m a giver!” And she’s still giving.

Moz card to us

Two Years Ago Today…

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

Butterfly on Table Mountain

An alpine butterfly flits among the flowers on Table Mountain. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Immortal Memory

“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when you have really lived, are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love. As memory scans the past, above and beyond all the transitory pleasures of life, there leap forward those supreme hours when you have been enabled to do unnoticed kindnesses to those round about you, things too trifling to speak about, but which you feel have entered into your eternal life. I have seen almost all the beautiful things God has made; I have enjoyed almost every pleasure that He has planned for man; and yet as I look back I see standing out above all the life that has gone four or five short experiences, when the love of God reflected itself in some poor imitation, some small act of love of mine, and these seem to be the things which alone of all one’s life abide.”
Henry Drummond, The Greatest Thing in the World

Whoah. There’s this story in the February National Geographic (Memories Can Be Altered in Mice. Are Humans next?) that has given me some pause for thought. Apparently neuroscientists have found a way to alter memories in mice – to get rid of old mice memories and create new mice memories. And… yikes?

I will not deny there are some memories that bring me pain. And, frankly, there are a LOT of memories that bring me embarrassment. And a few times I’ve caught myself wishing those memories could just go away. But those memories – the painful ones and the embarrassing ones, too – have taught me things that were important for me to learn. Those memories have helped guide the choices and decisions I make during the course of a day. How could I lose those memories and still keep the wisdom they brought?

There have been a few movies that have been built around the notion of memories being altered – Total Recall, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Manchurian Candidate. But those were just fiction. Until now I’ve always been confident that – if I lost everything else – I’d always have my memories of loved ones and good times to help me get through the dark periods in life. As Fred Astaire sang to Ginger Rogers, I’ve always thought, “They can’t take that away from me.”

But the article in National Geographic is nudging me to go deeper in my thinking about memories and memory loss. It’s nudged me to not be so cavalier about my memories, and to ponder the nature of memories and our identity. Are our memories what give us our identity? Would we have different identities without memories? What would the world be like if no one HAD a memory?

As the daughter of a 100 year-old father who has been diagnosed with some memory problems, I’ve sometimes felt the need to give prayerful thought to the notion of memory loss. One passage that has been helpful to me can be found  in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The author of Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: “If delusion says, ‘I have lost my memory,’ contradict it. No faculty of Mind is lost. In Science, all being is eternal, spiritual, perfect, harmonious in every action. Let the perfect model be present in your thoughts instead of its demoralized opposite. This spiritualization of thought lets in the light, and brings the divine Mind, Life not death, into your consciousness.”

That passage can be found under the heading Immortal Memory. Which leads me to ponder this: Is there a difference between immortal memory and mortal memory? And, if so, what is it…?

I guess a mortal memory would be a memory that can die? And “immortal memory” is memory that’s eternal?

In his book, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond (a popular progressive Scottish minister of the 18th century) shares some of his thoughts on the things that are eternal, and the things that aren’t.

In I Corinthians 13 Paul writes,”Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away…”

In response to this Biblical passage, Drummond writes: “Can you tell me anything that is going to last? Many things Paul did not condescend to name. He did not mention money, fortune, fame; but he picked out the great things of his time, the things the best men thought had something in them, and brushed them peremptorily aside. Paul had no charge against these things in themselves. All he said about them was that they would not last. They were great things, but not supreme things. There were things beyond them. What we are stretches past what we do, beyond what we possess. Many things that men denounce as sins are not sins; but they are temporary. And that is a favorite argument of the New Testament. John says of the world, not that it is wrong, but simply that it ‘passeth away.’ There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and beautiful; there is a great deal in it that is great and engrossing; but IT WILL NOT LAST.”

Drummond goes on to write, “The immortal soul must give itself to something that is immortal. And the only immortal things are these: ‘Now abideth faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love.'”

So here’s what I’m thinking: The mortal memory may fade or be altered, but the love behind the memory – the love that went into making the memory – that stays. That’s an immortal memory.

Dad’s mortal memory isn’t as good as maybe it once was – but the immortal memory – the memory that holds Love – that’s still there. And I’m thinking that if I were to lose all my “mortal memories” – no one can take away the Love that was expressed in them and behind them and the foundation for them. You can’t take THAT away from me. (Imagine Fred Astaire singing here…) No, no, you can’t take that away from me.

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“I have to finish my avocado first.”

Karen: You’re going to your doctor’s appointment now.
Dad: I have to finish my avocado first.
Karen: (Laughing.) No, we have to leave now to get you to your appointment.
Dad: Oh. Okay.
(Scott and I help Dad down the stairs and into the car.)
Karen: (Wanting to make sure Dad understands where we’re going.) We’re going to your eye doctor now.
Dad: Oh. I didn’t know anything about this. (Re-thinking that.) I guess I forgot about it.

As we drive to the doctor’s office Scott points out the snow to Dad and Dad turns his head to look out the window at it. We get to the clinic and help Dad out of the car and into the reception area. A lot of patients have, apparently, cancelled because of the snow – the waiting room is empty. Dad is immediately ushered into the exam room.
Karen: Do you recognize this place?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(I relay the technician’s requests into Dad’s ear…)
Karen: You need to uncross your legs. She’s going to take your blood pressure. Good. Your blood pressure is 110 over 87. That’s really good!
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
Karen: (The technician points a beam of light into Dad’s bad eye.) Do you see the light?
Dad: (Shaking his head.) No.
(Dad reads the eye chart now with his good eye and does really well – he adds two whole lines to what he did last time! The technician asks Dad to look straight ahead so she can touch his eye with a pen-thingy that measures the pressure in his eyes. The big letter “B” is still showing on the eye chart and Dad thinks the technician is trying to get him to read that…)
Dad: B. B. B. (Starting to crack up. Grinning and shaking his head at me.) B. B.
Technician: Good!

We help Dad into the room where he’s going to have his eyes photographed. He remembers this room and immediately puts his chin in the chin cup so the eyeball-photographer can take pictures. Then it’s up and into the final room where we’ll meet with Dr. Saperstein. Dr. Saperstein comes in…
Dr. Saperstein: (Smiling.) Knowing you guys, I figured you’d make it in today.
Karen to Dad: (Laughing.) Dad, Dr. Saperstein is a mountain climber, too.
Dad: He is? (Smiling. He looks at Dr. Saperstein like he’s just met a new friend. He and Dr. Saperstein shake hands.)
Dr. Saperstein to me: Thank you for your book! I enjoyed it!
Karen: Did you read the parts about you?
Dr. Saperstein: (Laughing.) I did!
(Dr. Saperstein looks at the photographs of Dad’s eyes, and the chart. He tells me that Dad’s good eye looks really good – Dad is doing really well. He says we shouldn’t have to come in for another eight weeks – that Dad should be fine for that length of time. We shake hands and I thank him for helping Dad with his eyesight.)

We help Dad back in the car and head back to his home. Amanda meets us at the top of the stairs and helps Dad into the kitchen – from here he can go into the living room to watch some television, or back to his own room for a nap, or… Dad heads for the dining room table.)
Karen: (Guessing what’s on Dad’s mind.) Do you want to finish your avocado now?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(Dad’s avocado is placed in front of him. He’s going to pick up where he left off before we interrupted him.)
Karen: (Laughing.) I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.