Season of Joy and Grief

Yesterday, I had the joy of watching adult children give gifts. Each gift was purchased with that one person or couple in mind, considering interests, wants, and/or needs. Cooking/kitchen, video games, music, and coffee were some of the themes.

We laughed, ate a delicious meal prepared by my husband, Gart, and enjoyed each other’s company. Yet, even in our joy, there were hints of sadness.

We missed my father-in-law, Bob, gone for five years now. Other family members, we could not invite because of Covid concerns. Not being able to go to the hospital and visit my friend who just had her baby. Not being able to travel and visit my parents.

While acknowledging our grief, I realize others are in much more difficult circumstances. Many have lost loved ones this season. Many are isolated and alone right now.

I need to hold on to our moments of joy in hopes they will grow. Not only grow but overflow. ❤

Vastness

The vastness
Of this world
Lies beyond my
Understanding-
Both above and
Below the waters
Lives a state of
Continuous motion
Where all move
From life into
Death and
Joy must exist
Alongside grief-
Many are left
In need of rescue-
If love is held back
What happens to
Those searching
Staggering
Feeling only sorrow-
Will they fall into
A pit of despair
Or will joyful
Hearts reach out
Their hands into
The vastness
Ready to raise up
Those who grieve
Into the light of
A hopeful embrace

Lingering

Impossible to count
The many notes
Played in places
Near and far
On pianos, grand
And ordinary
Yet, in certain
Circumstances
Melodies hang
In the air of
My memories
As if sounding
For the first time…
I remember sitting
At a familiar piano
My hands playing
Precious hymns
Honoring a life-
My Grandma’s-
The music of both
Joy and sorrow
Where each note
Carries its own tear
Easing the grief
While lingering
In the heart

Some faces are no longer present, but their presence remains strong. Such is true of my Grandma Mahar. I smile, remembering the many Christmas Eves spent at her house. And while this poem is not about Christmas, I hope it brings honor to her memory.

A Weeping World

A child
A spouse
A sibling
A parent
Helplessly watched
A man lying
On the ground
A knee pressed down
Their parent
Their spouse
Their sibling
Their child
Pleading for breath
Calling out for Mama
His cries for mercy
Ignored-then silenced
A family left
Grieving as their
Loved one’s name
Is added to a list-
Individuals deprived
Of liberty and life
Because of the
Color of their skin-
A weeping world
Refuses to look away
A weeping world
Refuses to be silenced

Journey

Looking back
Thru worried eyes
Ashamed
Dark spots remain
Fear of
Disappointing
The ones
Most loved
 
Looking back
Thru critical eyes
Dejected
Dark spots grow
Guilt
Weighs down
Body, mind
And soul
 
Looking back
Thru trusting eyes
Hopeful
Dark spots fade
In light of
Grace
Love
Forgiveness
 
Looking back
Thru knowing eyes
Peaceful
Dark spots transform
Strength
Gained from
Overcoming
While remembering
“For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” Psalm 116:8

Come Together

When I was a child, I looked forward to visits with family. I was always asking to go next door to visit Grandma and Grandpa Mahar or walk over to Aunt Sharon’s house. I loved it when the family would visit from out of town. Everyone together, talking and laughing, catching up-all felt right with the world.

As an adult, I cherish family time even more. Through the years I have experienced the many reasons families come together. Births, deaths, graduations, weddings, funerals-No matter the situation, there is strength in being together. Whether it brings celebration or grief, each event is part of this life.

Yesterday, our family celebrated one of those happy times together-a wedding shower for our son, Robert and his fiancé, Erin. Our home was filled with family and friends, young and old, life-long and new. It was a great day!

The happy couple. ❤

We ate food together and played games. We smiled while watching Rob and Erin open gifts, thankful for all the expressions of love. We enjoyed each other’s company.

Lovely flowers thanks to my friend, Marina. 🙂

Yet, even in the celebration, there were also tears. Tears for those family members no longer with us. Thoughts of how much they would have loved the day. Thoughts of how much they are missed.

Our lives continue on, though we have no guarantee of our length of time. And we honor the memories of those who came before when we come together.

Comfort and Joy

Today is Christmas Eve, 2019. That does not sound possible. As a child growing up in the 1970s, the year 2020 was hard to fathom. And yet, here we are.

This time of the year causes me to reflect. I remember Christmas Eve parties at my Grandma and Grandpa Mahar’s house. Surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sharing our favorite snacks and sweet treats. Drinking lime sherbet and ginger ale punch. Those were beautifully simple times.

Added to those memories are the ones of my own children growing up. Christmas programs, music, opening presents, traveling to visit grandparents. Now they are grown. I wonder what parts they will remember in twenty years.

This year, we are hosting Gart’s side of the family on Christmas Day. They will gather in our home tomorrow. We have some new faces in our family. More people to love, to help heal the holes left by those we miss.

Although my Christmas reflections are predominantly happy, I recognize that is not the case for everyone. Many have faced unspeakable tragedies. Ones that do not simply vanish with time.

I want those friends to know it is ok to be sad, even amid celebrations. I should not expect them to just put on a happy face. And I hope they are not afraid to share their grief.

A friend recently shared the following verse with me.

“You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not recorded in Your book?” Psalm 56:8

The image of God collecting my tears in a bottle was powerful and comforting. On this Christmas Eve, I pray that thought brings you comfort and joy.

I also want to share some of my favorite carols. These are my own simple arrangements. Hope you enjoy! Merry Christmas! 🙂

Missing Papa

Grief often invades without warning. This was my experience several nights ago, as I drifted off to sleep. Suddenly, my mind was reliving the night my father-in-law, Bob, passed away. Every detail as clear as that night, over three years ago. The tears began to flow.

Why are these thoughts appearing now? Upcoming graduations. Bob was so proud of his grandkids. And graduations were a big deal! Not something he would ever miss.

Ryan, the youngest, graduates high school in less than two weeks. Bob would be smiling, telling his friends about Ryan’s creative artwork and college plans.

My favorite picture of Bob and Ryan.

Rachel, the youngest granddaughter, graduates college at the same time. Bob would certainly brag to his friends, “You remember my granddaughter, Rachel? She already has a teaching job for next year!”

Color coordinated! 😉

His absence will be felt when each of them walks across the stage. I wish he was here. Such is the nature of grief.

This will not be a one-time experience. Future events will most assuredly bring similar emotions. Yet, we must continue to celebrate. Celebrate the present while remembering the past. Remembering the love of a Papa who would do absolutely anything for his grandkids.

Our whole family is missing Papa. And it’s okay to say it out loud. Saying it out loud brings us closer together. It helps us remember how much he loved us and how much we love him.

Purposefully Remembering

Today marks three years since my father-n-law, Bob died. Each of us remembers him in our own way, with our own actions. Most importantly, we purposefully remember. We choose certain things that to others might seem insignificant, but to us say Papa, Dad, Bob.

Here are a few:

Peanut butter on pancakes
Wild Cherry Pepsi
Chocolate covered cherries
Lego sets
Family photos
Catholic Mass
Barbecue rib dinner
Extra whipped cream on your dessert
A cigar and sip of Drambuie

Finding words may be difficult, but incorporating these little things into our day help us remember him and smile. Each item represents something we know he enjoyed or something he would often get for us. He was always generous. Always thinking about his family. Loved to spoil his grandkids.

We miss him…grateful that the life he lived continues to influence ours.

Pieces of Your Heart

Grandparents are special people. My grandparents were an essential part of my childhood. Spending time with them was important. As a child, you don’t really think about losing them. You imagine they will be part of your world forever. Then you become a young adult, or in my case, a high school student and that idea is shattered.

When my Grandpa Mahar died, it was very sudden. Early on the morning of July 4th, he woke up before anyone else, sat down in his favorite chair, and did not wake up again. We had seen him the day before. The family would be gathering on the 4th to celebrate. How could he be gone?

I mostly remember shock and tears from that day, almost thirty-five years ago now. The reality of my mom losing her dad brought a new perspective on the frailty and brevity of life on this earth. And it was made even more difficult because there had been no chance to say goodbye. This seemed especially hard for my mom and her siblings.

This was not the case for my own children with their first loss of a grandparent. Before my father-n-law passed away, we knew our time was limited. Watching as death approached was not easy, but we found comfort in having time to say goodbye. He will have been gone for three years this coming week, and we miss him more with each passing year.

One circumstance is not easier than the other, just different. Grief is present in both. We hang on tight to memories. We look at photos, share stories, cling to anything that reminds us of the person we lost. And as soon as we think our grief is fading, a birthday, holiday, or other event brings it right back to the forefront.

Sometimes the grief catches us off guard, and we are encompassed by unexpected emotions. How do we respond? That depends on the person, for we are all different. But here are a few personal thoughts:

When tears well up
Let them fall
When your heart aches
Let words flow
When a friend is near
Lean on them
When feeling motionless
Take one step
When tempted to forget
Remember
For that memory
Is a piece of your heart

A memory of my Grandpa Mahar: He is wearing overalls and telling me if I do him a favor, he will dance at my wedding. 😉

A memory of my father-n-law: He would always bring me a box of See’s candy when traveling to California. We both had quite a sweet tooth. 🙂

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Thanksgivings Past

Today is Thursday, November 22, 2018, Thanksgiving Day! As the day begins, I realize one of the things I’m most thankful for is the ability to remember. There are specific people, places and foods which come to mind with each Thanksgiving past. They all blend together, creating a beautiful tapestry.

As a child, my family spent Thanksgiving next door at my grandparent’s home. There were lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. With thirty plus people present, finding a place to sit was often a challenge. Thus, the phrases “On your feet, lose your seat” & “Butt in the air, lose your chair” were uttered often with laughter.

I had two important Thanksgiving jobs growing up. One was stirring the pie filling for my dad’s chocolate pies until it began to thicken. It seemed to take forever, but oh so worth it! There would always be enough filling left for a few small bowls. My second job was chopping the pecans for mom’s four-layer carrot cake, using a hand-crank chopper. Remember those?

Our family also made the fruit salad, complete with marshmallows and coconut. The funny thing is, every year we’d forget to take it out of the fridge. About the time we were ready for pie, someone would say, “Hey, where’s the fruit salad?” Better late than never, I guess.

After I was married and had my own family, there were new Thanksgiving traditions. Sometimes we would host the family meal, having my family travel from Arkansas to Oklahoma to be with us. Other years we would have dinner in Owasso with Gart’s parents, his sisters and their husbands, and our nieces. There were also times our family would travel to Arkansas, and I would share childhood memories with my children.

A couple of Thanksgivings were spent far away from home. The first was a trip to Colorado. My parents, Gart’s parents, and our three children spent Thanksgiving in a cabin in the mountains. Complete with snow, fire in the fireplace, a big picture window, and deer in the front yard. Except for one harrowing drive during the snowstorm, it was a perfect trip!

Then there was Thanksgiving in NYC.  A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our daughter, Rachel, marched in the Macy’s Parade. Watching the parade on television had been a tradition every year for as long as I could remember. Seeing it in person was so special. Even though it was the coldest parade day on record, and we survived by taping hand/body warmers all inside our clothes and shoes!

So many great memories. So many things to be thankful for. Yet in the middle of them, there are moments of grief. The Thanksgiving we’ve talked about most the past couple of days is November 2015. The pictures confirm the meal was at our home. A photo of Gart, his dad, and Robert-three generations. Gart’s parents sitting at the bar. Gart’s dad in the kitchen helping his granddaughter, Hannah, and daughter, Andrea. Typical snapshots from any of our family gatherings. What we didn’t know, however, was that it would be our last Thanksgiving with my sweet father-n-law.

So, what are our plans for this year? Today will be a quiet day at home. Me, Gart, Gart’s mom, two of our children. We will watch the Macy’s parade, eat a simple meal, but we will also prepare food for Friday-cornbread dressing and chocolate pies! Friday we will all travel to Dallas. A huge meal and celebration have been planned at Paula and Martin’s home (Gart’s sister and brother-n-law.) Friends, family, even a great grandbaby will enjoy each other’s company, eat lots of good food, while adding to our beautiful tapestry of memories.

Will there be moments of sadness? Most definitely. People we love dearly will not be with us. Some for the first year, some for the third year, and so on. We miss them. Their absence felt even stronger on days such as this. Days we know they loved because they were about family.  Yet through the sadness, we will be thankful. Thankful for the memories of Thanksgivings past.