Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Diane

Trembling Heart | for Diane

Trembling heart sits on edge
waiting.

Unseen by human eyes
she calculates in vain
the cost of knowing
or not knowing
looking for solace
if not release.

Piece by painful piece
mortal heaviness
strips proud bravado
as bare as truth standing defenseless
in the dock of human finitude,
calm, grieving and grateful.

***

Today I had a checkup with my electro-physiologist. I sat waiting, trembling inside, wondering what the doctor might discover in the data from Lucy, my pacemaker.

I toyed with the possibility of not keeping these appointments. After all, for generations before me there weren’t gadgets that could make visible the rhythms of our beating hearts. Maybe there are things it’s better not to know.

When I got home, I was still teary and pondering all this. I was also aware that February marks the death anniversary of Diane, my Sister #2. She lived ten years with ALS, enduring the loss of almost everything we take for granted as human beings. I’ve posted multiple pieces about and from Diane. You can read them by clicking on the category Dear Diane, at the bottom of this post.

I wrote this poem based on my experience today at the doctor’s office. However, it also applies to Diane’s situation. I’m proud to offer it in honor of her courage, good humor, honest emotions and struggles with God and with herself. Though she lost almost all voluntary capacities (such as speech and voluntary muscle movement), she never lost her mind or her great heart.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 February 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt:
Tremble

The Most Important Truth I’ve Learned | from Diane

God Loves Me to Pieces

Sadly, this is the last of Diane’s children sermons. It’s dated 11 February 1996–just months before she left her position at the church due to increasing ALS challenges. I’ve put off publishing it–partly because I don’t want to stop hearing her voice.

As one of her sisters, I know how difficult it was for us sisters to ask for help. You and I aren’t little gods or goddesses, sent to live perfectly serene and lovely lives. We’re God’s beloved daughters and sons, sent to live in the muck and mire that comes with mountaintops and valleys. We won’t make it by ourselves. We need each other, not just God.

We also need to know the most important truth Diane has learned. So here it is–in case you haven’t already guessed.

11 February 1996

Well….Good morning, folks! This is a special week! There’s a big day coming up Wednesday. Do you know what it is?

…Right! Valentine’s Day! After first worship somebody told me that’s an awfully sneaky way to remind your husband of Valentine’s Day! But what can I say? It works!

Tell you what. This week has another special day. At the early service Clay [Diane’s husband] nearly fell out when I said it’s our anniversary today!

He knows very well that our wedding anniversary is in June! [laughter] June 12! [more laughter] 25 years this year! [more laughter] Okay! Let’s see if he forgets…! [even more laughter]

Actually the anniversary today is special for me and my husband and our family. Ten years ago today our family joined this church. How about that? So it’s an anniversary for us today.

I’ve been thinking about important things that have happened during those ten years. And especially about the most important thing I’ve been learning the last ten years. I thought of something that reminds me in some ways of Valentine’s Day.

On Valentine’s Day we like to tell people that we love them, and make sure they understand how much we love them. Guess what? For the past ten years the most important truth I’ve been learning about is how much God loves me. That’s a super important thing to be learning.

In fact, when I think about the most important thing I want you boys and girls to learn about when you come to church, it’s that God loves you. Each one of you, and all of us together!

God loves each one of us. I’m learning it doesn’t matter what I do; there’s nothing I can do that will make God stop loving me. And there’s nothing that can happen to me that will separate me from God and God’s love for me.

When you come to church and to Sunday School week after week, you learn a lot of things. I think the most important thing that you could learn is that God loves you. So when you think about Valentine’s Day and about coming to church, I hope you’ll remember that it’s not just people who love us. God loves us, and God loves me no matter what. Let’s pray together and tell God thank you for that.

Thank you, Father, for these boys and girls who are here with me this morning. Thank you that they’re in a place today where they can be learning how much you love each one of them. I thank you for the way that you’re teaching me that truth as well, through this church and through other experiences of life. I pray that each of us will understand more and more the truth that God loves each of us, and that nothing any of us does can change that love. Even better, nothing that happens to any of us can separate us from you and your love for us.

These things we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 September 2015
Image from http://www.partiallyperfection.com/god-loves-me-to-pieces/

Birthday Gifts for Jesus | from Diane

Christian-gifts-heart-decoration-crafts-jesus-christmas-gift

It’s Christmastime 1995, just days before Diane received her ALS diagnosis. She’s already challenged because of unexplained muscle loss.

When I transcribed this children’s sermon I was surprised to hear the words she whispered at the end, right after her children’s prayer. The microphone was still turned on. I could hear that she already needed some of that kindness and extra help she just talked about. A telling moment.

17 December 1995
You can see I’ve got my bag here that says I’ve been doing heavy-duty Christmas shopping! Actually some of it isn’t just for Christmas. You might call it birthday shopping.

Is there somebody’s birthday on Christmas?  Whose?  Oh, yes, it’s Jesus’ birthday! I was just testing to see if you remembered.

So I did some birthday shopping for Jesus.  Let me show you what I got.

  • Here’s one of the items–a box of Cheerios.  Ever seen one of those?  Do you want one of those under your Christmas tree?
  • Let’s see something else. Here’s a jar of peanut butter.  Peanut butter?  Uh….
  • Let’s see. Sugary Sam Golden Yams!  Mmm.  A can of yams!  I can tell you love ‘em.
  • And some cornmeal?
  • Now this one I do like!  Instant oatmeal.  This is the creamy variety.  That’s the kind I like.

So that was some birthday shopping for Jesus! Of course Jesus really doesn’t need to come and eat any of this.

But he told us in the Bible that if we do a kind thing for someone who needs it–if we provide food for someone who doesn’t have enough food, or–I could have bought some clothes, because he said if we provide clothes for people who don’t have warm clothes, or don’t have the clothes they need–If we do it for someone else who needs it, it’s the same as doing it for him!

How about that?  If I want to buy gifts for Jesus, all I need to do is go get some gifts, and give them to somebody who needs them!  Or even show some kindness to someone who needs a little kindness.

There’s one other thing down here in the bag. One of these. You know what it is? That’s one of our Christmas offering envelopes that we use for giving a missionary offering.  That’s another way to give a gift to Jesus.

Why? Because the kindest thing we can do for another person is to make sure they know about Jesus, and his love for them.  And that’s a birthday gift for Jesus, too!

In a couple of weeks we’re going to collect more food for folks in our area who might need some. So I brought these things today, and I’ll make sure they get in with all the food others will bring. Maybe some of you will, too.

Did you know we can give gifts to Jesus all year round in this way? You do? Good!

I like having this really neat way to give Jesus gifts for his birthday! Some of you already brought Christmas gifts that went to a children’s Bible club yesterday. That’s another way of giving gifts to Jesus this Christmas.

Of course I’m doing shopping for my family, too. They don’t have to worry!

But here’s my point. Let’s be sure to include some shopping for Jesus. Not just for our families. We can give food or clothing or even kindness to someone who needs it. Let’s pray together.

Thank you, Jesus, that you’ve told us a good way to give you gifts that show our love for you.  We pray that at this special time of year and the rest of the year we’ll remember to do kind things and give food and clothes to other people because we love you, and want to please you. And we pray that because we do those things, more people will know that you love them, too. These things we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

[Whispered into the mic, as Diane is getting up from the platform stairs: “I’ve got my helper!  Thank you.” Diane’s helper was either her husband, who was almost always with her on Sundays, or a staff member or friend who’d agreed to help her stand up after the children’s sermon.]

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 August 2015
Image from aliexpress.com

Help is Near–Anytime, Anywhere | from Diane

mobile-phones-uses

1995 Mobile Phones, from suggestkeyword.com

By March 1995, Diane has undiagnosed ALS symptoms. Muscles that are here today may disappear overnight. Whatever this is, it’s bigger than post-polio syndrome. Connections with family members become a top priority. Anytime, anywhere.

March 19, 1995

Do you know what this is? It’s a telephone! Usually I don’t bring it to church. But if I need to make a phone call, I like to have it handy.

Here’s the really neat thing about it. I don’t have to be at a certain place to make a phone call! I can be anywhere I want. In my car somewhere. Shopping in the mall. Maybe in the grocery store—more often in a restaurant! I could even make a phone call in the church. I haven’t done that yet, and don’t plan to. But I could!

This phone reminds me a bit of talking to God.

  • Do I have to be in a special place to talk to God? No!
  • Do I have to be at church to talk to God? No!
  • Could I talk to God in my bedroom, all by myself? Yes!
  • How about if I’m on vacation like a lot of people are this week? Yes!

I can talk to God anywhere I go!

Here’s another great thing about this phone. Suppose somebody wants to call me when I’m not near the usual kind of phone. Maybe I’m out in my car, or doing some of that shopping in the mall. Can they call me there? Yes!

My family knows the number for this phone, so that when they dial me, it rings. Most of the time. Sometimes I don’t turn on my phone, so they can’t reach me! And sometimes my husband will ask, “Where were you, and why wasn’t your phone turned on?”

In fact, no one can reach me if I don’t turn my phone on. Which reminds me of something else about talking to God.

Sometimes God wants to talk to me, and I’m not listening. It usually happens here at church when the preacher is preaching, or when  I’m reading the Bible, or maybe when I’m listening to a Sunday School teacher. Those are all ways God talks to us. Sometimes I know I’m not listening.

So this little phone reminds me to stay turned on so that when God wants to talk to me I’m listening, and I can hear what God has to say to me.

I knew a child (not one of my kids!), who once told her mother, “Yes I hear you, but I’m not listening!”   Sometimes we can be that way with God, right now and as we get older. Sometimes we really don’t want to hear what God is telling us. So sometimes we can just turn God off the way I can turn my telephone off.

So I ask God to help me to be a good listener, and to keep my “on” button turned on, so that whenever God wants to talk to me, I’m ready to listen.

Sometimes the batteries on my telephone run down, or there may be other problems with the phone. But when I talk to God, I don’t need to worry about any of that! The batteries never run down and I’m never too far away. I don’t even have to worry about monthly bills coming later.

That’s because God set it all up! It’s a free call anytime of the day! Whenever I need to call! And anytime I just want to talk with God, because God is a good friend who loves to have us call and talk.

Let’s pray together.

Thank you, Father, that even without a special device or telephone, we can talk to you anytime, anyplace, no matter what’s going on.  And you hear us.  Thank you for being that kind of listener for us.  I pray, Father, that when you want to speak to us, we’ll be good listeners, too, and be able to hear what you’re saying to us, and learn the things that you want us to learn.  Be with us in church today.  If there are things you want to say to us today, I pray that we’ll be good listeners, and hear everything that you want us to hear today. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 August 2015
Image of 1995 Mobile Phones from suggestkeyword.com

I Need Help! | from Diane

Hot-new-professional-elastic-sports-wrist-support-tennis-wristband-free-shipping-wrist7801

It’s November 1994, well over a year before Diane knows she has ALS. As a polio survivor, she demonstrates every day that she can do things others think she cannot. Her list of accomplishments is long. Yet nothing is so difficult as the challenge she now faces. Here’s how she talks about it in this children’s sermon. Read the rest of this entry »

Help Following the Plans & Specifications | from Diane

Jesus_and_Childfen
In 1993 Diane flew to Savannah to witness my meeting with our parents. She told me she was having some strange symptoms, and thought it might be post-polio syndrome. Finally, in 1996 she was diagnosed with ALS. In this children’s sermon I can’t help noticing her emphasis on our need for help.

1 May 1994
What do you think these big papers might be?

…Plans! Right! For what?

…the new part of our church building. That’s right! But it isn’t all the plans. That was way too big and heavy! So I just brought the part that’s called the MEP’s.

MEP stands for the Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing plans.

  • The Mechanical plans show where all the air conditioning units are and where the ducts will be. Ducts are like big tubes that the air goes down.
  • Then here are the Electrical plans. They show where every light switch is, every outlet, and every light fixture.
  • And here are the Plumbing plans. They show where all the pipes will be to carry the water.

After the new building is finished you won’t see all these things. But somebody has to make the plans for all of them and draw the plans up very carefully. They even asked me to help with some of this! They asked what kind of dispensers we want in the restroom. I was glad to tell them, because I had an opinion!

So all those fine details you might not think about at first are written in the specifications or drawn on the plan.

Right now some companies are looking at the plan very carefully. They’re deciding how much it would cost us for their company to do all these things. That’s why the details in the specifications and the drawings are important. They have to put in writing how much everything would cost if they build this new wing for us. Then we get to pick which company will do this for us.

Now I have another book here in my lap. What is it?

…A Bible! Right!

Did you know it’s also full of specifications? It’s all right here. All the details about how God wants us to build our lives. And there’s more! God sent Jesus to live on earth, to be like a picture of how God wants us to be. It’s all written down in this book, the Bible.

But there’s one big, important difference from the other kind of specifications. What if a company starts building for us, and something goes wrong, or they don’t do it the way the specifications say?

Someone will say No! That’s not what the specifications say to do. You’ve got to change it!

But you know what? When God gave us specifications, God knew we couldn’t do it by ourselves. You see, God doesn’t just tell us how to do it. God says I also want to help you do it!

We don’t do that when we build a building. We say this is the way it’s supposed to be, and you’ve got  to figure out how to do it! All by yourselves!

But that’s not the way God is. God says this is the way I want you to build your life, and I want to help you do it. So as you get to know God by coming to Sunday School, reading the Bible, and talking to God in prayer, you get to know how God can help you build your life.

I’m so glad God does it that way. Aren’t you? Let’s pray and ask God to help us follow the specifications God has given us for our lives.

Thank you, God, for detailed building plans for our new building, and for people who know how to make all the plans so the builders know just what needs to be done. Thank you much more for the book of specifications you gave us, the Bible. And thank you for sending Jesus to be a picture of how you want us to live, and for wanting to help us build our lives that way. I pray that we’ll do everything we can to get to know you better, and know how you can help us build our lives just the way you want.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 August 2015
Picture from pvumc.org

Growing and Changing | from Diane

bad hair day

Here’s a children’s sermon from Diane for all us adults who may not like what we see in the mirror. Or the news we just got from the doctor about what’s coming down the road. Read on… Read the rest of this entry »

Detailed Plans for My Life | from Diane

blueprint_by_love1008

It’s July 1991. Diane’s sermon for the children is a foretaste of what’s coming down the road. It’s difficult to diagnose ALS. Small physical losses may be due to other things. Yet each loss invites her to reconsider the detailed plans for her life. Read the rest of this entry »

A Book We Never Outgrow | from Diane

Libary Welcome Poster

Just for you: Diane’s children’s sermon from 2 June 1991. The topic fits all stages of life–those we expect and those that take us by surprise, if not shock. In any scenario, there’s something we can all count on.

See this funny looking thing?  Read the rest of this entry »

The Gift of Time | from Diane

A Gift for You

This children’s sermon isn’t just for children. It’s for all of us from Diane, my Sister #3. She gave this children’s sermon in August 1990. In fall 1996, just six years later, Diane was diagnosed with ALS. She lived with ALS for ten years and died in 2006.

Without knowing it yet, Diane describes one of the biggest challenges of her life–the number of days she has left on this earth, brought into stark focus by ALS, a terminal disease.   Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: