Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Death and Dying

Yesterday’s sorrows

A chain of prayer
Rises in midnight hours
As restless sleepers
Wake to the sound
Of yesterday’s sorrows
Rising to the surface

Perhaps one’s own trials
Or a loved one’s emergency
Or dense silence inviting
A song or a prayer to
Fill the empty void of night
Broken only by the wind

Since the beginning of Covid-19 social distancing, I sometimes find night silence distressing.

It happened again last night. Not just because of what’s going on out there, but also what’s rising to the surface in me. Sadness, sorrow, and trepidation. Names of family members who tested positive for Covid-19, now in quarantine because of contact with someone else. An urgent request for prayer from a former colleague. Or even a welcome email from a former student now living in another country, without many options.

One of the gifts of this painfully long social distancing has been a measure of quiet in the house. At night, however, silence weighs heavily when I want to get back to sleep. Hopefully unheard by D, I sometimes begin singing (very softly) favorite hymns as they pop into my mind. Not just one verse, but as many as I can recall. Think of an extended lullaby.

Other times I go down my mental list of friends and family members having more challenges than usual just now. Then I whisper (often with tears) my gratitude for D, for Smudge, for our neighbors, and for opportunities to support local and worldwide relief efforts.

Somewhere in the middle of all that it usually happens. I drift off to sleep. If I don’t, I go to my office, close the door, open my journal, and write my heart out. Thankfully, this last resort is rare. Still, it works like a charm. The tears flow freely, and then I’m back to bed and sleep.

I pray each of you finds ways to sleep well, and exercise your faith and gratitude during these strange months of Covid-19 et al, already extending into another year. Happy Wednesday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 January 2021
Image found at pinterest.com

Life and Death | New Year’s Eve 2020

Words flow like honey
Filled with sharp barbs
Invisible and relentless

Each birth
Each birthday
Each anniversary
Each retirement whether
Planned or not
Each debilitating accident
Each political chess game
You didn’t see coming
Plus Colvid-19 and who’s
Who in the Electoral College Zoo

Grace and glory mixed with
Wormwood and gall
Invite us into the reality of death
Not once in this precarious life
But over and over one day
Following another like a bad
Or good dream depending on
How the ball bounces or
Where it lands on the roulette wheel
Or where we place our trust
As the end precedes the beginning
One day at a time inviting our
Attention not to things that
Dissipate inevitable sorrow
But to sweet gifts of life
Small and almost invisible
Accompanying us into
Each new day and
This new year

Most of my life I’ve assumed New Year Day was the beginning of another great adventure. This year I’m taking it as an invitation not to ignore my coming death. Not because I’m “old” but because I’ve never known when my last breath would leave my body.

Add to that the shape of things today. Not just Covid-19, but streaming refugees, loss of trust between the USA and former allies, the nightmare-like nature of post-Election 2020 claims, grossly inadequate attention to issues related to race, ethnicity, local economies, and growing wealth among those who need it least.

What does this mean? I’ve lived most of my adult life by daily lists. To-do lists. The kind that invite a feeling of despair because they’re never finished. Never.

During the last few weeks I’ve focused on four things that bring me joy: blogging, music, writing poetry, and walking with D. I can’t attend to all of them every day. Still, any one of them is, for me, a way of acknowledging life is short. I don’t have time to waste by avoiding them. Besides, avoiding what I most love won’t bring me joy I could be having right now.

Praying you’ll find your way into joy and alert peace this coming year. This life isn’t over until it’s over.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 December 2020
Image found at travelmanitoba.com

Christmas Eve 2020

Torn between competing worlds
I can’t remember when life felt
this precarious on the eve
of Your birthday celebration

Would You understand
if I told You I don’t feel like
celebrating this year?

Instead I want to be in that
stable with Mary and Joseph
Not just because it’s wonderful
But because it’s dangerous

No, I’m not looking for trouble. I’m wondering what it takes to put myself out there at this age. Can I hope for anything but being treated like a little old lady?

Not that I mind being a little old lady. In fact, WordPress makes it as easy as possible for me to speak my mind freely. So do my followers and visitors.

Nonetheless, I wonder what would happen if I said in my large family circle or in my church, straight-out, what I often say here when I’m blogging. I don’t know the answer, though I expect some might be distressed, or try to fix me. Others might pray for me, which is never a bad idea.

I’m no revolutionary. Still, sometimes the effort of putting out just one post lets me know I’ve had a relatively easy life. In addition, I wasn’t given the gift of confidence in my own voice when I was growing up.

Today the stakes are painfully high. We’re caught here together on this planet. It’s Christmas Eve, and too many of our political, social and religious leaders already know the script. The one called “How to Pretend I’m God and You’re Nobody.”

I don’t mean to sound cynical. Instead, it strikes me as miraculous that Jesus of Nazareth was born as a Nobody. The kind who kept getting in the way, until what amounted to a lynch mob tried to take him down. Yes, he died, and yes, the dance goes on.

Praying you have a thoughtful, encouraging Christmas Eve and Day.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 December 2020
Night sky image found at astronomytrek.com

The Life we have is very great – revisited

Here’s a second look at Emily Dickinson’s poem about Life, Infinity, and the Human Heart. A good poem for today when we’re missing family members or friends for any reason, plus Covid-19, political standoffs, hate crimes, or the harsh reality of wildfires, avalanches and hurricanes. My lightly edited comments follow.

The Life we have is very great.
The Life that we shall see
Surpasses it, we know, because
It is Infinity.
But when all Space has been beheld
And all Dominion shown
The smallest Human Heart’s extent
Reduces it to none.

c. 1870

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

It doesn’t matter how many worlds we discover beyond this world. It doesn’t matter how far the distance is from here to there and beyond. It doesn’t even matter that the universe is still expanding.

None of this, as surpassingly great or expansive as it may be, holds a candle to the smallest of human hearts.

According to Emily, the Life we now have is ‘very great.’ The Life we’ll have beyond this Life is even greater. Yet it’s infinitesimal compared to what our hearts can see and grasp right now.

Emily describes the heart’s capacity to love Life. Especially when we can’t see those we love. She suggests that the expansiveness of one small human heart outshines infinity itself.

Yes, it’s fascinating to explore the universe, what may lie beyond it and how it’s ordered. Yet what we discover externally will never match the capacity of one small human heart to connect with another human heart.

It doesn’t matter whether that heart is what we call dead or alive, here or there, or somewhere in between. Nor do we need to understand exactly what Space encompasses, how it is governed, or where Infinity resides.

This isn’t about measuring or mapping Life beyond our present Life. Or discovering where those we love now reside.

It’s about connections. All it takes is one small human heart to leap beyond unmapped, immeasurable boundaries, expanding outward in a heartbeat to enfold the hearts of those we love. No matter where they or we may be.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 May 2017, lightly edited and reposted 10 December 2020
Image taken from Hubble Spacecraft, found at nasa.gov

When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention | Mary Oliver

Here’s my pick for today: a lovely poem from Mary Oliver about life and death. Why today? Because it’s my 77th birthday! See my comments below.

When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention

“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant. Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground. This
is our unalterable task, and we do it
joyfully.”

And they went on, “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but

lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
selfishness.”

Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver, found on p. 9 of Thirst 
Published by Beacon Press 2006

Rue: regret
Lassitude: fatigue, weariness, apathy
Vainglory: excessive vanity, inordinate self-esteem

I know it isn’t spring or summer, but neither do the roses. They do their thing, then disappear until it’s time to start all over.

Death is making the rounds these days. Not just death that follows old age, but death from Covid-19, suicide, broken hearts, incurable illnesses, street fights, unleashed hatred or anger, and more. Still, death isn’t our worst enemy.

We’re not on earth to live forever. We’re here to discover and fulfill our earthly purpose as human beings. Welcoming the stranger, accepting our own strangeness, giving and receiving help, taking our personal histories seriously.

In some ways, the roses have it easier. It isn’t easy to be human. We need each other if we’re going to thrive.

Still, like roses, we’re meant to be extravagant. Giving, giving, and giving again. Not obsessively or compulsively, or because we feel guilty, or for personal gain. But as an overflow of beauty and grace.

Think about it! Fragrant roses, baby birds, clouds, sunrise and sunset, fields of tulips, new-fallen snow, and gnarled old tree trunks soaring toward the sky. All this and more with thanks to our Creator.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 November 2020
Photo found at etsy.com

silent morning breaks

silent morning breaks
my refrigerator hums
one more soul departs

Each death is singular and tragic, especially as the numbers continue to climb precipitously.

This isn’t voluntary mass suicide. It’s a tragedy long in the making, now playing out minute by minute as our current POTUS refuses to face reality about the 2020 Election or Covid-19.

Then there are his very public caretakers. I’m tempted to mock them. But I can’t. For whatever reason, they, along with millions more, have latched onto DT as their hero, even though he can’t deliver on his promises. Another tragedy in the making.

In addition, death by Covid has become so ‘normal’ that I find myself more horrified by daily data updates than by singular tragic deaths.

What happens to our souls when we learn to live with nonsense? Or turn to data more quickly than to human beings and their families struggling to make sense of nonsense? I know I’m guilty. The sheer horror of what’s happening right now in our country is a nightmare gone berserk.

Today I’m praying for singular souls that depart due to Covid-19 or any other cause made more difficult because of Covid. I’m also praying for the aching souls of relatives and friends mourning their deaths.

Who knows? Any one of us or our loved ones might be next.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 November 2020
Photo of sunrise on the East Coast found at tripadvisor.com

stripped of color

stripped of color
bare branches shiver
falling leaves take flight

D and I are just back from a blustery walk. Dead leaves whipped through the air and across the road. A few trees still looked spectacular. Yet on the whole, the achy beauty of autumn colors has become torn, tattered browns of brittle leaves.

What does it take to survive late Fall and early Winter? Or the unsettling reality of climate change? Or the huge surge of Covid-19 cases in the USA, coupled with the refusal of millions to take simple precautionary measures?

As a citizen of the USA, I shiver as I watch the barometer of Covid-19. It isn’t chiefly about our health. It’s about our relationships with each other. Especially with those most affected by the pandemic. We seem to have forgotten we’re all human beings.

Many of us run away from truth about our country. We harbor persistent, deep-rooted racial ignorance, and neglect citizens and visitors who fall near or beneath the poverty level. It isn’t difficult to see this, no matter which political party we favor.

Even so, I have hope. Not because Spring always follows Winter, but because hope is for any season of any year. Someone Else with far more gracious eyes than mine is in charge. My part is to follow Someone Else (Jesus of Nazareth), and do what I’m able to do.

I’m relieved that POTUS, our Governors and politicians, the Supreme Court, Wall Street investors, and deep-pocketed billionaires are not in charge of how and whether Spring will follow Winter.

With the exception of most conifers, leaves fall freely every Autumn. Why? Maybe they know Spring follows Winter. Today their job is to step aside, and let Someone Else figure out how we’ll get from here to there. My job is to do my part, and leave the rest to my true Leader, Jesus of Nazareth.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 August 2020
Image found at merriam-webster.com

What I’m thinking about | 2020 Election

How are you doing today?

I’ve been better. This week is still a roller coaster, though I’ve kept busy with other things than the election. Here’s what I’m thinking about today. (No, the photo above is not a mistake! Read on.)

First, the drama playing out right now is sobering. Am I paying attention? Or am I caught up in the number of votes tallied so far. No matter who is named the next POTUS, this election is as much about us as it is about the candidates. What will that mean for our efforts post-election?

Second, I can’t remember another election in which citizens had to wait in long lines for so many hours to cast their votes. Why weren’t their regular voting places made available? Voter suppression is real. It’s about who’s in power, where you live, the color of your skin, the size of your income and more. All those long lines weren’t just unfortunate realities. Will we ever correct this?

Third, Trump has shown and will keep showing his true colors. Unfortunately, so have many churches that seem wed to Mr. Trump no matter what he does. The slow roll-out of votes and tallies has opened a window to realities I’d rather not hear or see. One of them is the church. What is the church these days? When is a ‘church’ not a church, but a political player with a political agenda?

On Monday of this week I had a routine appointment with my cardiologist. As it happened, he and his associates had just moved out of a wonderful suite of offices in a large hospital. They’re now near the hospital, in what was the chapel for the seminary I served for 28 years. (See above.)

Walking into the front doors was a shock. The beautiful, graceful chapel now had a set of small offices dropped into it. I could see parts of the soaring ceiling, and the top third of the soaring windows that graced each side of the chapel. I couldn’t help tearing up. Nothing was the same.

That night I woke up at about 2am and had a good cry for what was and will never again be. Today, my hope for this election is that we’ll find a way to finally care about who we say we are. One nation under God, with liberty and justice for ALL.

Watching for whatever comes next,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 November 2020
Photo found at hippostcard.com

seeping through pores

Seeping through pores
The virus takes root
Invisible at first
A sense of not being
At home or abroad
In this sea of strangers
Wandering in and out
Filled with good will
They come and  go
Dry and desolate
A thought takes root
Without reason
The only welcome visitor
Whose words unheard
Make perfect sense
In this dying hope for miracles
That never arrive on time

In recognition of our national upsurge in suicides attempted and/or completed, and in honor of family members and friends who ended their lives on this earth, or made the attempt and failed.

Always a thousand unanswered questions. Always a sense of ‘what could I or we have done differently?’ Always a desire to go to sleep and hope for something better when I wake up.

Multiple resources are available online. Hotlines and chat rooms are open night and day.

I first posted this poem with comments in June 2018. Now it’s October 2020, and the number of USA deaths by suicide is climbing. How would you respond if a family member or friend confided in you? What would you say? What would you do?

Every situation is different. However, based on experience, here’s a way to begin conversation immediately. Don’t forget to take notes, including the date and time.

  • What’s your plan?
  • How would you do that? (Describe the process and preparation as of right now.)
  • Have you talked with anyone else about this? (If so, with whom did you talk, and what did they say?)
  • Do you have the suicide hot-line number? (If not, give them the number. You can’t force them to use it.)
  • Promise you’ll call me before you carry out your plan.

We’re not trained to have these conversations. Nonetheless, it’s important to make this real and present. The worst thing would be to commiserate (I call this ‘polishing the furniture’), and then hang up because it seems your friend or family member is feeling ‘better.’ Now we have two people in denial. Hardly a good outcome.

Bottom line: An awkward one-to-one conversation is the best possible place to begin. Honor their pain. They’ve just reached out for help. Not for a feel-better conversation.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2018, expanded and reposted 30 October 2020
Signs of Suicide found at mentalhealthfirstaid.org
Chart found at Wikipedia.eng

How do we vote for this earth?

This gorgeous photo is a tiny reminder of how much our climate is changing. Whether you’re a climate change believer or not, one thing is clear. Fire with a mind and life of its own is taking us down.

I’m not a climate scientist. I’ve been on this earth for nearly 77 years. Yet I’ve never seen so many apocalyptic-like fires ravaging the West Coast and middle states. To say nothing of drought, flooding, and the invasion of insects and pesticides that suck the life out of trees, crops and human beings.

This election isn’t just about who our leaders will be. It’s about this earth, and what we’re leaving to children and young adults.

We’re not Adam and Eve. We are, however, the current keepers of this earth, whether we like it or not. The next generations are already reaping the whirlwind we’ve unleashed on this planet. Do we know how to vote for this earth?

This topic wasn’t on my mind when I got up this morning. But being faced with Word Press’s latest surprise (no more automatic classic editor), I decided to face the music and see what I could do. I like simple. I like uncomplicated. Neither of those seems true of the Grand New WP Plan for my writing life!

Hoping your day is chugging along without unexpected reminders of how old and retro you are! Actually, I remember when retro was cool….

Elouise♥

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2020
Image found at unsplash.com

 

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