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

Every Bird Has a Silver Lining

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

April: Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn, MT

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

Taking Down the Tree

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

Christmas Lights




I Miss Him

It is Father’s Day – and it is also my dad’s 102nd birthday – a double whammy. When Dad was 99 and lying in a hospital bed with a UTI, angry that he wasn’t being allowed to leave, he announced to my husband and me that he was “going to live to be 102!”

He almost made it, too. He died January 19th of this year – just five months short of his goal.

A lot has happened in those five months. If my dad were suddenly to reappear here today and look around at what’s happened to our world in the last five months I’m not sure what he’d make of it all. I know he’d be celebrating some of it – I know he’d support the Black Lives Matter movement and be glad to see the progress that is being made towards equality for all people. He’d probably be baffled to see everyone walking around in face masks – but I think he’d like the smiley face on mine. šŸ™‚ He might be frustrated by the way elderly folks are being isolated from the community and he probably wouldn’t like not being able to have a lot of visitors. But – as he always managed to do – he’d make the best of the circumstances – he’d rejoice in the good, patiently wait for the bad stuff to pass, and remain hopeful about the future. He was born at the end of WWI and the beginning of the Spanish Flu pandemic; survived the Great Depression and service in WWII; and survived 10 days in a small tent in a blizzard at 25,000′ on K2 – he wouldn’t be daunted by 2020. Pffft.

My dad, Dee Molenaar, had a full and wonderful 101 years and seven months. He saw his share of tragedies, but he also saw his share of triumphs.

I miss him. As I look at the photo of him, standing next to my mother on their wedding day, I feel him with me. I feel them both with me. Giving me courage. Telling me it’s all going to be alright. We’ll make it through this.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

The Balcony Where You Used to Wave

I pick up your mail at the retirement inn –
it still comes there nearly two years after
your passing – almost entirely requests
from charities – veterans, environmental
groups, help for homeless people and
animals – and I see your name on the
envelopes and remember your generous
heart and I smile. As I get in the car I glance
back to the balcony where you used to wave
good bye to me and I feel a tug on my heart.
You’re still there. I can see you clearly, smiling
your love at me from the second floor.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Moz Still with Me

Scott grabbed an old climbing ice axe out of our garage to take on a hike with us a couple weeks ago. We both assumed it was one of my dad’s old ice axes until we got up to the parking lot at Artist Point. Then Scott really looked at it and saw that it had belonged to my mom, Moz. It made us happy when we realized that we were bringing Moz along on this hike with us.

My dad is a well-known, big name in mountaineering – he’s climbed and painted on some of the highest mountains in the world – and people sometimes ask me to share some of his mountaineering adventures with them. But what maybe most people don’t know is that his wife, Moz, had her share of adventures, too – she’d climbed Mount Rainier twice, accompanied Dad on hikes all over the Pacific Northwest – on their honeymoon she’d climbed this humongous straight-up spire with him that looked like it was some made-up thing from a Hollywood set. Here’s a picture of her climbing over a fence to get to the spire…

Moz climbing on her honeymoon

In early 2017, when Moz was lying on the hospital bed in my living room, in and out of consciousness, struggling to breathe because of congestive heart failure, one of the hospice nurses asked if Moz had COPD – had she been a smoker? No, I told the nurse, Moz had been a singer – a professional vocalist – and the kind of singer she was is the kind that doesn’t smoke. The nurse looked at me kind of skeptically. So then I told her that Moz had climbed Rainier twice when she was young, and I saw the nurse look back at my mom with a new respect. The nurse said that she usually only gets to meet her patients when they’reĀ  ready to pass – and that it’s nice to know something about the lives they had BEFORE she meets them in the person. I think knowing something about Moz’s adventurous past made her more real to the nurse – it gave Moz’s humanity back to her, if that makes sense.

There are certain pieces of music that always bring Moz to me. One of them is Allison Krauss’s version of I Will. As soon as I hear the first banjo chord come through my car radio I feel Moz’s presence in the car with me.

Yesterday I was driving from LaConner – I’d just paid my cable bill and picked up the folks’ mail from their old assisted living place (most of their old mail is from non-profit organizations wondering why Moz hasn’t donated to their causes recently and sort of chiding her for that – I’ve tried sending the mail back with “deceased” written on the envelopes, but the organizations don’t seem to be getting the message). I was passing the spot where Moz had once told me, as I was driving her home from one of her stays at the hospital, that she would really like some cream cheese dip and smacked her lips together – I always smile when I pass that spot – and Krauss’sĀ I Will started playing on my CD. Instantly Moz was with me. I could feel her hugging me and wrapping me all up in her love. I started tearing up. Those of you who have lost people dear to you will understand the feeling I had, I think – it wasn’t sadness that I was feeling –Ā  it was something deeper and more beautiful and more poignant – it was just… it was love, I guess. And I wished I still had her with me in the person so that I could hug her with my human arms, and talk to her with my human voice – but I knew I still had her with me in another form – in a form that couldn’t be taken from me.

Moz is still with me.

Love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever we’re together
Love you when we’re apart…
– John Lennon and Paul McCartney

“…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

 

Lilly’s Human

I met her pet bunny on the boardwalk.
She’d named her Lilly and put a pink collar
around her neck. Lilly nestled in between
my feet for a bit, and then I crouched down
to pet her fur. Lilly was velvety-soft
and I’m pretty sure she was smiling.
Her human was a young woman
and I’m guessing she had “special needs” –
there was a happy innocence in her words
and a sweet, healthy pride in her care of Lilly.

As I continued on my walk I started
to wonder how long bunnies generally
live. A few years? A decade?
And I felt myself feeling sad for the pain
Lilly’s human might feel one day
when Lilly dies. But then it occurred
to me – having just survived a year
in which death seemed to come
every month to someone around me –
that Lilly’s human might learn
that death can’t stop Love. Lilly’s
human might learn that death really
has no power to separate us
from those we hold dear.

And I realized I didn’t need to worry
about Lilly’s human and she’d didn’t need
to be protectedĀ from pain.
Life offers us precious lessons
about the eternal.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

A New Christmas

Endings that are new to me
this Christmas.
Beginnings that are new to me, too.
I miss Moz. I grin as I watch Sparky
the new kitty scamper around
the Christmas tree, chasing
his big sister, Clara – experiencing
his first Christmas. I decide
to make cookies, open up my recipe
book, find the recipe for boiled
cookies and see it written in Moz’s
handwriting. I’d forgotten
she’d given me that recipe.
Moz never got to meet Sparky.
He never got to meet Moz.
But they both celebrate Christmas
in this houseĀ  – one in the past,
one in the present.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Sparky's First Christmas

Address Book at Christmas

Flipping through my address book –Ā 
getting my Christmas cards ready to send –Ā 
your name pops out, and it gives me a jolt.
You died last month, but your name
lives on in black ink on a lined page
in my address book. And I want to send
you something – but you’re not there
to receive your mail.Ā 
– Karen Molenaar Terrell