Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Death and Dying

Falling in love with today

How soft and easy
the pillow of yesterday
when heart, mind and body
were young and strong
filled with adventure

When did the lie creep in?
The lie that weak isn’t strong
or even beautiful in its
softening and yearning for
more time on this precious earth

Peering into the rear-view mirror
of life as I’ve known it has become
a daily gift to myself and to those
I loved and let go along the way
while holding them in my heart

I’m painfully aware that my energy for blogging has plummeted in the past several months. Not because I don’t want to show up, but because I’m still coming to terms with the ups and downs of nondiabetic peripheral neuropathy.

At the top of my daily list have been painful feet plus awkwardness when walking. A close second has been keeping pots of soup or stew ready to eat, along with cut-up veggies ready to eat raw or steamed. In addition, the weather is warming up nicely, the birds fight daily at our two birdfeeders, Smudge loves my lap, and I’m learning to walk outside with my handy-dandy hiking pole.

Bottom line: I’m learning to treat my feet as part of me—not as my enemies. They aren’t going away, and even if I live to be 100 years old, I can’t thank them enough for taking me places I never dreamed I would go. So yes, we’re on the same side now. No more glowering looks or worse. Instead, I’m learning to listen to them, thank them for letting me know enough is enough, and give them and myself the break we deserve.

I pray your day includes giving yourself the breaks you need and deserve.
Cheers from Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2022
Photo from eventbrite.jpg

Gaping Holes

With apologies to
Chinua Achebe—
So quickly
Thing fall apart

Not once
Or twice but
Like broken records
No one wants to hear

Past promises
And dreams teeter
On the brink of
Desolation

Hearts bleed daily
Racing from one scenario
To the next Big Thing
Basking in false glory

Only to fall apart
Helpless to recreate
What can never be
repaired

Nothing but truth
Can fill gaping holes
Born yesterday
Buried today

I highly recommend Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It’s a slow-paced examination of what happened to a community in Nigeria, Africa. It’s still happening today–the takeover of people and systems in order to assuage the insatiable hunger of those at the top.

Easter is also on my mind. Mary Oliver’s poem about The Donkey reminds me that choosing to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth was and still is no picnic. Apart from the donkey, there weren’t many heroes in the crowds—whether they shouted Hosanna, took delight in seeing this man tortured and lynched, or ran away in fear.

If I were asked about today’s scenario in the USA and the nations of this world, I would admit to very little hope for the world as it is today. Except for this: Every day, somewhere, I know there are people doing what needs to be done. Not for themselves, but for others. It’s a sign that we haven’t been abandoned—if only we can keep our eyes on what’s close at hand. Without running away or giving up hope.

Thank you for your visits! My life has been a bit unsettled recently. I’ve missed posting as often as I would have liked. I have not, however, given up, thanks to the joy I have when I’m able to post something from my heart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 April 2022
Photo of book cover found at en.wikipedia.org

Distractions

The fight begins
without apology or
convincing evidence
that we are getting
anywhere fast

Yesterday’s news
becomes today’s garbage
overflowing with fresh
litter spread across
my computer screen

The urge to stay ‘up to date’ tugs at me. So does the reality of life on the ground these days. I’m starving for safe conversations. The kind that used to happen regularly, decorating my days with sometimes giddy delight.

Today I’m grateful for telephone calls and emails with photos from family members and friends. I’m also grateful for neighbors I see at a short distance as we wave, smile, and pass each other in Covid-style ‘safety.’

Yet the birds take first prize! I love seeing them storm the bird-feeder, pair off, play hard to get, or soar across the sky in noisy flocks of starlings or crows. (Granted, the lovely albatross pair above did not visit my back yard!)

Bottom line: My kitchen window, and my own neighborhood offer much more ‘up to date’ news than most of what passes for ‘news’ these days. Yes, I’m besotted with Spring.

Still, I’m not unaware of horror and sorrows heaving like waves or burning like wildfires wherever we look. I think I’m learning to become a survivor in a world going missing in action.

Praying you’ll find joy right where you are this day, despite the noise of computers, radios, TVs and your own worst fears.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 April 2022
Photo of albatross mating ritual found at audobon.com

remember then thy fear | George MacDonald

The sonnet below blows me away. Not because it’s beautiful, but because it’s timely, true, and thought-provoking. Especially now, when we’re surrounded on all sides by friends and strangers haunted by dismay and death. The possibilities are endless: suicide, warfare of all kinds, bombing, Covid, lynching old style or new style, aging….

George MacDonald (1824-1905) dealt with his own incurable tuberculosis, witnessed the early death of six of his children, and was not well received by many church leaders. He also wrote amazing novels such as Lilith, and books for children such as At the Back of the North Wind. Dismay and death were regular visitors in his life.

Here’s MacDonald’s March 24 sonnet from The Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul, also known as The Diary of an Old Soul.

O Christ, have pity on all folk when they come
Unto the border haunted of dismay;
When that they know not draweth very near–
The other thing, the opposite of day.
Formless and ghastly, sick, and gaping-dumb,
Before which even love doth lose its cheer;
O radiant Christ, remember then thy fear.

George MacDonald (1824-1905), author
First published in The Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul
© 1994 Augsburg Press, Diary of an Old Soul
Sonnet for March 24 found on p. 36

The last line of the sonnet says it all. MacDonald is praying on behalf of human beings “haunted of dismay.” They know death has moved too close for comfort. Too close for cheer.

This is what moves me. Instead of asking the “radiant Christ” to restore their cheer, he asks Christ to “remember then thy fear.” In other words, he’s asking Christ to accept and thus honor their fear, anguish, and anger. Including, I would add, MacDonald’s and that of our friends and family, plus our own.

Thanks for visiting, and for remembering friends and neighbors dealing with their own deaths.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2022
Photo found at amazon.com, Kindle

Life gone missing

1963 Aug Elouise Double Exposure flipped

Disoriented
and out of touch
the old woman
blinks hard peering
at old photos
in scrapbooks–
traces of life
now gone missing

Is that building
still standing and
did the hurricane
demolish the
lovely roller rink
firmly rooted in
yesterday’s pristine
sand washed clean
with every tide?

Questions.
Nothing more
rises to the surface
of my weary mind trying
to visualize the way
back home

Yes, this could be about getting old. It’s also about how quickly we, as a conglomeration of nations, seem to be sinking into quicksand. Are we ready for this? How are we to live in the face of death and destruction at every turn?

Though victory has sometimes been snatched from certain defeat, I’m not convinced that will happen anytime soon.

Which brings me to the big question: Am I ready to die?

This is about more than being spiritually ready to die. It’s about not knowing what will happen next, no matter how carefully I may have planned for today or tomorrow. It’s about being bold in the way I live each day, knowing it could end at any moment. Not just from health issues, but from worldwide chaos, festering anger, lust for power, or attempts to wipe out people based on gender, color, religion, or whatever those in power love to hate.

One more question: What does it mean to make chaos my home? In the poem I end up trying to remember the way back home. Perhaps the poem is challenging me to find my way home. Not to what’s old or familiar back there, but to what’s real and certain right now, 21st-century style.

Am I ready for this? If so, how does that mean for the way I live today?
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2022
Double exposure taken (by accident) by DAFraser and a friend, August 1963 at Tybee Island Beach

Sometimes…I cannot pray | George MacDonald

The news from Ukraine and neighboring countries is more than grim. No matter who ‘wins’ this obscene standoff, too many have already lost. How, then, am I to pray?

Today I read this sonnet from George MacDonald. His life was full of unwanted tragedy, death, pain, and strife.

Sometimes, hard-trying, it seems I cannot pray–
For doubt, and pain, and anger, and all strife.
Yet some poor half-fledged prayer-bird from the nest
May fall, flit, fly, perch–crouch in the bowery breast
Of the large, nation-healing tree of life;–
Moveless there sit through all the burning day,
And on my heart at night a fresh leaf cooling lay.

From George MacDonald’s Diary of an Old Soul, p. 13
© Augsburg Publishing House (1975) and Augsburg Fortress (1994)

It seems not knowing how to pray isn’t the end of the world. Perhaps it means we’re in touch with reality. And what then?

I hear George MacDonald, whose life was filled with strife, pain, anger and doubt, suggesting it’s OK. I don’t have to know what to say. In fact, not knowing what to say might be the most honest way to approach strife such as he endured, and many are enduring right now in Ukraine and beyond.

In the middle of seeming chaos, do I have the courage of the half-fledged prayer-bird to “sit through the burning day”? Waiting, watching, staying close to the “large, nation-healing tree of life” until this little bird brings a “fresh leaf” to cool my troubled heart?

May our Creator have mercy on us all.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 March 2022
Photo of young fledgling found at birdguides.com

Life on the edge

The world is on edge. Refugees, weather patterns, political maneuverings, pandemic puzzles and outright war.

I hear an invitation to look into the mirror and take stock of where I am in the middle of all this. The church calendar invites me to look inward. It also invites me to ‘give up’ something between the beginning of Lent and the celebration of Easter.

For most of my early life I gave things up routinely. I was taught to live frugally. My family didn’t have much money. In fact, they considered not having much money a virtue, though we were clearly better off than our neighbors living in colored town.

That was then. What about today? We’re in a mess of gigantic proportions. So what am I to give up for Lent that both challenges me, and brings me closer to others living in this world that’s seems to be spinning out of control?

Several years ago I posted a challenging prayer that fit the spirit of Lent. It challenged me as an individual. Not once, but many times. Today, it’s challenging me as a world citizen and follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Am I willing to live as an undocumented refugee? As part of a family broken up by war, lies, and powermongers?

Everything in me wants to rage, fight back, make sure I’m on the ‘right’ side, shout back at the TV news, and run for cover. Instead, this simple prayer invites me to take another approach.

I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go my desire to change the situation.

Quoted by Cynthia Bourgeault in Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 147 (Cowley Publications 2004)

Will this solve everything? Of course not. It will, however, keep me centered. Not on myself, but on Jesus of Nazareth who showed and still shows me how to do this. One day at a time.

It also occurs to me that my life is the only thing I can ‘give away.’ But only if I’m not struggling to keep it and my privileges alive at any cost.

May our Creator have mercy on each and all of us.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 March 2022
Image found at pixabay.com

Today’s nightmare

Recent news from Ukraine is beyond grim. The post below is from September 2017. It’s about a dream, and my sense of being trapped when Trump became POTUS. Now we have Putin against Ukraine and most of the world.

~~~

This morning I woke up feeling strangely empty and weeping. Partly because of a near-nightmare and partly because we’re living, it seems, in a near-nightmare.

In the dream, I’m alone in a small room, just getting ready to exit. I’ve decided this small room isn’t going to work for me. Suddenly a man I don’t know and have never seen before walks into the room. He isn’t impressive in stature or looks, yet I know in my gut that he’s potentially bad news. He immediately flops down on the single bed near the door.

As I walk toward the door to exit, he reaches out and grabs my hand. His face clouds over with contempt and a sneer. I know I’m done for if I don’t take charge. I feel small and defenseless. Caught in a nightmare not of my making. I feel his grip tightening on my hand.

I wake up not knowing what to say or do next.

The man’s eyes, the sneer on his face, and the totally invasive nature of his presence and behavior communicated his firm belief that I was totally irrelevant. In his eyes my life mattered not a whit.

It’s sometimes difficult these days, especially since I’m on the older end of the age spectrum, to maintain a sense of relevance. But this was bigger than that. It was about the invader’s power and willingness to exercise it no matter who I might have been. Though I’ll admit it didn’t help to be female.

This tired old world is in a season of growing visible and present chaos. The kind this world has seen before, though not with so many growing warehouses of nuclear arms and an over-supply of trigger-happy leaders ready to prove their supposed virility. Ordinary people seem to have become irrelevant. Except as props on a political stage.

I don’t fixate on this every day. Nonetheless, it’s always in the air begging for my addictive attention. If I remain fixated, I’m a goner, dead or alive.

Instead of playing along with the ‘dream’ man’s agenda for me, I relax, ignore his eyes and disgusting speech, and pray out loud and in a strong voice these challenging words from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Six Recognitions of the Lord.”

Oh feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
The fragrance of the fields and the
Freshness of the oceans which you have
Made, and help me to hear and to hold
In all dearness those exacting and wonderful
Words of our Lord Christ Jesus, saying:
Follow me.

Mary Oliver, Thirst, stanza 5 from “Six Recognitions of the Lord”
Beacon Press 2006

Praying we’ll find courage to identify our True North and follow it, one day at a time.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 March 2022
Caught in a near nightmare was published on 27 September 2017
Photo found at givaudan.com

The world as God’s poem

Several years ago I posted “Emily Dickinson meets Mary Oliver.” A phrase from one of Mary Oliver’s poems had captured my imagination. As she puts it, we owe our dignity to being part of “the poem that God made, and called the world.”

With so much ‘undignified’ death flooding our news media, it’s difficult to hold onto Mary Oliver’s image. I don’t easily hear or see “the poem that God made, and called the world.” It’s easier to picture what’s happening today as a rising tide of undignified and wrongful deaths that should never have happened. Which may also be true.

Here’s my response, first posted in August 2017, and reposted below in light of today’s current events.

No mortal words of poetry will ever do justice to this world, God’s poem.

Nor do we understand ourselves
unless we give up all efforts to capture in our words
the reality of what God created and invited us to inhabit as caretakers.

We can look and point;
We cannot replicate.

Furthermore, no poetic words of ours
will ever improve upon God’s great poem.
Still, as humans we’re at our best when we reflect in our lives
the grandeur of creation.

Surely the summer sky, the deer,
and all parts of God’s creation are dignified
not because of what each does, understands,
or even writes in flowing poetry.

Rather, they and we owe our dignity to being part of
“the poem that God made, and called the world.”*

*Quotation from Mary Oliver’s poem,
“More Beautiful than the Honey Locust Tree
Are the Words of the Lord.” Published in Thirst, p. 31

~~~

Praying we’ll become open to seeing each human life and each creature great or small as part of God’s poem. Which, of course, includes each of us with all our flaws and our gifts.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 February 2022
Photo found at smartpress.com

A poem I can’t get out of my mind

It doesn’t take much effort to see what’s happening daily in many if not most of our neighborhoods, towns or cities.

Nonetheless, when it comes to actively joining efforts on the field, many of us would rather stay put in the grandstands. Glued to our seats. Gasping from time to time, but not joining the fray, or putting ourselves in harm’s way.

I’m no extroverted star. I’d rather stay on the sidelines. Study what’s happening on the field. Pray. Give money. Or read more about poverty in cities and surrounding towns, and what others are doing to come alongside with help. Certainly all those good things are important and necessary.

Here’s a poem that challenges me every time I read it. G. A. Studdert Kennedy served on the ground as a World War I army chaplain to British soldiers. Many of his poems reflect realities of life in the warzone. This one, however, reflects the reality of life in the city of Birmingham.

Indifference, by G. A. Studdert Kennedy (aka Woodbine Willie)

When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree.
The drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by.
They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.

“drave” – drove

Indifference found on page 21 in The Unutterable Beauty – The Collected Poetry of G. A. Studdert Kennedy
First published by Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London (March 1927), reprinted June 1928
Second publication by Pendlebury Press Limited, Manchester, U.K., August 2017

There’s no end of women, children, young people and men who would welcome even a small sign of genuine interest from another human being. Maybe they’re next door, just down the street, sitting beside us in church or on a bus, or even sitting lonely in that big mansion up on the hill. In the end, Woodbine Willie was known for his commitment to being there. Not with answers, but with a listening ear and a praying heart.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 February 2022
Photo found at backwatersman.wordpress

 

 

 

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