Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Miracles

Do you know that Christmas is all about miracles - big and small?
I know we've all heard the Christmas story so many times, that some of us can repeat it verbatim - and that's a beautiful thing!

Just to recap - Jesus was conceived by immaculate conception through Mary who was probably a teenager. Elizabeth,Mary's older cousin, also conceived miraculously with her husband Zechariah. Both were carrying children of promise. John was a fore-bearer of Jesus and the Holy Spirit was on John from conception. (Luke 1: 13-15) John was born six months before Jesus. When Jesus was born, the angels sang, shepherds were afraid and yet they knew something amazing was happening and kings came to worship. Young innocent Mary treasured all these things pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

The thing that has struck me the most this Christmas is one small detail in the Christmas story and it is this: when Mary visited Elizabeth, shortly after being told that she would bring forth the Messiah, the baby that was in Elizabeth's womb leapt with joy!! It is utterly amazing to me that two spirit filled babies were communicating with each other before they could be seen by their parents.
Christmas is a time for miracles; for believing in things that may seem to man implausible - but knowing that with God - ALL things are possible.
May you have a wonderful Christmas -and if this is your first year without a loved one, know that God is there to comfort you. May you be enveloped in his love - the ultimate gift at Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Update - Recalibration

I originally started this blog as a result of my brother's death, and because of the words of a very wise 18 year old who said, "in my young life I've experienced my share of death and it makes us appreciate life more." Those words were the impetus for this blog.
I find writing cathartic, but I dont only want to write about things related to his death - but things that I enjoy in life. They may be as a result of his death, but more times than not, they're not. What I've come to realize - is life is for living; lifes too short - there are no guarantees in life except: you are born and you will die; so make the most of it.
So, I've said the above to say that I'll be expanding the things I write about and they may have no connection to my brother's death.
Keep reading to find out more!

Monday, December 6, 2010


I recently read a book about Jamie Dimon called Last Man Standing, which led to subsequent discussions. BTW, Jamie Dimon is the current CEO of JPMorgan Chase.
One of the things that stands out about Mr. Dimon is the opportunity he received.
Another thing was exposure - banking was in his blood and it was talked about at the dinner table.
But I want to talk about opportunity - because much has been made of it. Opportunity is defined as: a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal;a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success.
In life, you try to enrich, educate and evaluate yourself so that when an opportunity presents itself you are ready for it. This opportunity may be a mate, a job, a promotion, a house, confirmation of a plan, a child, healing, anything. Opportunity takes on many forms and I think that's what makes it so hard to jump when it becomes available.
But what if your opportunity never comes? What if you never get married, or you never get the job, or you never get the promotion, or you dont get the house, or you can't have children, or you are not healed?
Seems like so many of us are in the missed opportunity camp, than being able to grasp on to these opportunities. Do we become bitter and cynical? Do we curse God and die? Or do we recognize that even in these missed opportunities, God is in control. Maybe that's not what God had in store for you.
Perhaps we can refocus our lenses and recognize that opportunities abound - but all may not be for you. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up IN DUE TIME. 1 Peter 5:6

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hair, and other inane things

I like when men are involved in aspects of life that we women sometimes find annoying - the key is balance.
My brother has 2 girls and 2 boys. I remember in the early days, when we (his wife and I) spent alot of time talking about hair. How to make it more manageable, different styles, products that worked, etc... apparently he was listening. Fast forward to August of the summer before he died. I was visiting and somehow the conversation came around to hair. At this point in time his wife and two daughters were wearing sister locs and had been wearing them for at least ten years. I remember when his wife stumbled on to this hairstyle. His daughters and his wife now both have mid back length hair. Anyhow we were talking about swimming - and my brother said, "Either way (whether you perm or stay natural) its all maintenance. You still got to take care of your hair." This made me smile - I guess being surrounded by three women and their routines, you get to learn something about hair care. He took it all in stride.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Brother, Are You at Peace?

So many conversations since your death. So much revelation - hopefully some growth for all affected.
So if I could talk to you now, I would ask you, "Are you at peace?"
I can't imagine what it was like to be young and in the prime of your life and to find out your diagnosis. I'm sure initially you had no idea what this meant, as you'd said to me in conversation, but over time it became clear. Physically, you were losing a piece of yourself, daily (it would seem). Physically, that must have been hard to watch and endure. The pain and all the unknowns. Emotionally and spiritually you had to come to grips with what was happening. As a spiritual person, whose faith was your bedrock I'm sure now this disease rocked your faith. I heard it in your voice when you were discouraged. I'm glad you didn't give in or give up, but through the end held on to your faith.

Oh, but the going through - must have been hard. Having a wife and children watch you. Fighting the demons in your mind. Maybe those thoughts became stronger than reality.
You were married - what a blessing. When we get married we take vows and I think we have no idea what we're saying, it's our intention that's good. In sickness and in health took on new meaning in your situation. Your sickness took on a life of its own. Your sickness, her health.
When you're sick and chronically ill - you are not 100%. You begin to feel less than a person. As a male, you acknowledged that this was a hard position for you.
Not being able to take care of your family as you wish - less than.
Everyone having to do for you - less than.
Tailoring your diet - less than.
Losing your teeth - less than.
Arthritis - less than.
Losing lots of weight - less than.
On an oxygen tank - less than.

You were sick - everyone else was well. But in little ways, you became more than your illness.
You were able to take long car trips - more than.
You were able to discipline the children - more than.
You were able to set an example for your family- more than.
You were able to love your wife - more than.
You were able to talk - more than.
You were able to study - more than.

In living and fighting this illness I'm sure they were many things that were left unsaid. I wish you would have said them. Your wife, in your last days, allowed us to have the opportunity to spend time with you. God bless her for doing that, even though it turned out to be quite difficult.

You were the big brother - a position of pride. You had differing relationships with each person, but you never told us bye. You told many friends - see you in heaven, but you never told us. I knew the end was near but you never acknowledged it with me.
The strangest things bring back memories - shortbread biscuits. Do you remember the first time you baked them in school and came home with that smile of pride on your face and duplicated it for us? I ate shortbread biscuits the other day and it brought back this memory. Listening to Chuck Colson on the radio and hearing the word worldview and remembering that you took a course with this organization. I regret that I didn't listen more.

I don't know if you were at peace in your last hours, but I surely hope you are now.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Marriage - Praying

I'm sure this will be the first of many posts on marriage.
When I first got married - I had no clue. I was not the person I am now and so there were lots of growing pains, but I wouldn't change it for the world!
However, when I first got married my husband was more spiritually aware than I. I think I resented his spirituality because he always belittled the angle I came from which was of getting things done. He used to make fun of me and called me "Martha". I found it hard to pray with someone like this about deep things - because to my mind Martha served a role, just as Mary did. And without Martha so many things would not be done. I guess the resentment came in because at that point in time there didn't seem to be an appreciation for what I/Martha was bringing to the table.
And then we had children, and it seemed like Martha's work increased exponentially.
Praying together is one of the most intimate acts of marriage and it did not come naturally to me.
All I know is as the Lord worked on me, the resentment disappeared and the gentle and kind communication increased to the point where its much easier to pray together.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Things that make me go Hmmmm....

Well, keeping in mind the genesis of this blog, I often wonder:
Why we let death tear us apart instead of bringing us together?
Why we can't speak our truth and know that it will be received? (Maybe I shouldn't wonder about the receiving part...)
Why we don't accept that death is part of life?
That if God calls someone away it's God's will?
Why we sometimes weep as those that have no hope?
Why didn't we appreciate the dead one when he was here and now that he's gone we want him back?
Why are things never as they seem?
Does one ever know their purpose in life?
Does purpose change based on the stage you're in?
Is purpose definitive?
Do you really need to know your purpose?
What does it mean if you've never had a fight about the toilet seat with your spouse?

Things that make me smile randomly:
I am loved.
Someone thinks I'm beautiful all the time, not just when I make an effort.
Memories of delicious hugs and kisses.
Living by faith in God (not anything or anyone else) - truly living by faith seems so stupid to those who watch you. It doesn't add up but I'm all in.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


My brother never cursed - that's what his college roommate said was one of the things that stuck out about him.
I don't curse, neither does my husband so I would take the leap and say neither do my children, but this is not necessarily the case.
I don't curse because it was never second nature to me, it wasn't as prevalent when I was growing up in movies, TV, people, but the most important reason why I don't is because the Bible says, these things ought not to be so (James 3:10).
I've been angry, and certain words come in to my head, but I just can't utter them.
There was a time in HS, when a person was talking and every other word was the eff word and I was listening intently. Turns out when it was my turn to speak, the eff word came out - I had to check myself and wondered how did that happen?
Basically, if we feed ourselves these words - consciously or unconsciously they will come out. Today, our standards are looser and sometimes going to the movies can be an assault on our ears. The same can be said for music, or daily interactions with co-workers.
I can accept that people curse; however I struggle with people who call themselves Christians and curse with no remorse. As an example, I see so many people on Facebook saying that Jesus is the number one man in their life and the next status update is laced with expletives. Where is the self control, the wanting to be like Jesus? It's a bad testimony - how are you different from everyone else around you?

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? (James 3: 9-11)"

This is a little thing that can have a huge impact, if you're willing to make that change. Stop cursing, you'll sound a whole lot better.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Year of Magical Thinking

Have you ever heard of "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion? It's a book that describes her feelings and experiences after the death of her husband. In her words - this book is the author's attempt to make sense of the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness, about marriage and children and memory...about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself. There's a subplot - before her husband dies suddenly, they were dealing with the hospitalization of her only child who was in ICU. The daughter eventually recovers, the husband dies.
After her husband's death, she talks about avoiding places that brought back memories, her denial of her husband's death, the first few nights being alone in her apartment and recounts countless conversations she had with her husband.
In this year of magical thinking - the reader gets to see what goes on in her head. She questions herself often. She is a researcher/author, so she does alot of research on death and grief to get answers and validate her feelings.
Ultimately, she is very gripping in her honesty.
As the author says, "Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be "healing." A certain forward movement will prevail. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself."

I think this book is a worthwhile read.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cracks in the Cement

Within the past two weeks - two families within our circle of friends have lost their husbands. Two funerals in two weeks. Additionally, since I started writing this post, three teenagers that my children knew have died in car accidents within the space of a week.

Children are dying in car accidents - so eager to experience life they sometimes ignore the rules. Who knows when they will be fatal consequences?

Older people are dying from life's toll on them in the form of illness and disease.

Since my brother's death, I'm more attuned to death. They are circumstances that influence how I feel about the death. Most importantly if the person was a believer, claimed the Lord as their Savior - then I truly know they are in heaven and in a better place; while I grieve I know they truly are in a better place and this gives my grief perspective. If this was not the case, my heart aches. When a young person dies, it seems as if their life is cut off especially if it was in a reckless manner. As a parent, I wonder - why? Why didn't they listen, why were they speeding, why were they drinking, why weren't you home, why were you with those people, why were you many whys - they dont change anything...may even torture us.
Death is like a crack in the cement; remember when you were a child you tried to jump over those cracks. Sometimes you just couldn't and ended in the crack. That's how death is - unavoidable - so be sure you live a full life, not reckless or uncaring but one that glorifies God and be sure you know where you're going when you die.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”(Proverbs 12:18).
We just say what we want, with no consequence as to how it affects the hearer. This trait seems to be hereditary, and it is something I wish to break. I have parts of this trait in me, and am constantly working to change it. The hardest part for me is tone - I sound harsh, abrupt, angry. I don't like the way I sound but it seems so hard to re-program; believe you me I've been trying for years. In some areas I have become quite successful - but I struggle with speaking lovingly on a daily basis using terms of endearment to make things more palatable. The closer you are to me, the harder it is to speak with love...when it should be just the opposite.
Well it seems there's alot of anger in the way we communicate, and since the death of my brother it has become more complicated. If the relationships were not formed when he was alive, right now it seems impossible to forge with death hanging over our heads.
Growing up, our house was always loud - my mother was a yeller, my father was quiet and the strict disciplinarian. It wasn't just the yelling - it was what was said. Looking back, I don't think I liked it one bit which is why once I discovered books I insulated myself from what was happening around me by disappearing in to another world. I would literally sit in a corner and block out all the noise for hours on end. Its where I also learned to be sarcastic and flippant; in my mind this was the quickest way to end an argument without getting in to a screaming match.
Its amazing how our environment becomes a part of us even if we don't like it. The biggest eye opener was when I had children and the way I initially communicated with them - yelling, not listening, and denying every request. My aha moment was when I realized I did not wish to be like my mother in this regard - in other areas, yes, but not this one. I did not want to pass on this unhealthy manner of communication to the next generation.
This way of communication has affected everyone of us, included the dead sibling.
I think things need to be said - but we hurt with our words more than help, because somehow everyone feels they can say what they want, when they want, how they want, to whomever they want. There's never an apology either when someone is wrong, the barrage of words just becomes stronger, louder, harder. In a time of crisis, this makes everything worse.
I dislike the expression brutally honest - because you can be honest without being brutal. The definition of brutal is savagely violent. Think about that image the next time you wish to be brutally honest!
I know people mean well, but I cant take it when people yell at me to get their point across - it brings back my childhood and I want to bury my head in a book.
I've learned to apologize when wrong, speak softer, but most importantly to listen.
I'm always working on not being glib and sarcastic, because this has worked for me for so long.
I'm not a doormat; but some may consider me a wimp because I don't yell back.
I want my words to be kind, like apples of gold in pictures of silver, to minister and heal. It might be an impossible standard, but when I can't do this, I say nothing.
So where do we go from here?
Effective communication involves more than just speaking and hearing. Real communication only takes place when both parties move beyond speaking and hearing to understanding. Speaking and listening are means, not ends. People who feel better because they “spoke their mind” or think they fulfilled their obligation because they “heard him out” inadvertently communicate a message that they don’t really want to communicate!
I don't know who's going to make the change. I know we all want it, but old habits die hard. I hope we have the courage to change. I hope we all get tongues of the wise so that we can each bring healing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

You Are Who You Are For a Reason

I came upon this poem while reading "With God, All Things are Possible (The Victor Marx Story).
Victor suffered more than I have suffered in my life and in spite of everything - he is a joyful child of the King.

You are who you are for a reason
You're part of an intricate plan,
You're a precious and perfect unique design
Called God's special woman or man.

You look like you look for a reason
Our God made no mistake,
He knit you together within the womb,
You're just what He wanted to make.

The parents you had were the ones He chose
And no matter how you may feel,
They were custom designed with God's plan in mind
And they bear the master's seal.

No, that trauma you faced was not easy
And God wept that it hurt you so,
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into his likeness you'd grow.

You are who you are for a reason
You've been formed by the Master's rod;
You are who you are, beloved
Because there is a God.

So the next time you are down on yourself - whether you feel you have good reason or you just wish to have a pity party - remember there is someone bigger than you who is in control. I particularly like Psalms 139 - to think that someone as insignificant as I, was so significant to God - that I was "fearfully and wonderfully made" (v 14,15).

I don't know; I surely don't have all the answers; life sure does have it's twists and turns - sometimes no matter how you plan, you just can't see what's ahead of you; and for this reason I'm learning the importance of trusting someone bigger than myself. It's one less thing to worry about.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Life is full of waiting. We wait for a job; we wait for a significant other; we wait for healing; we wait for strength to face another day. Alot of life is about waiting and knowing when to move.
In our waiting we live. We have to. I won't say my brother was waiting to die - but at a certain point he knew. He had greater clarity because he was ill. When we are well we don't necessarily have this clarity.
I've recently moved across the country from the east coast to the west coast - and in moving I had a certain idea of how things would turn out. For the most part they have, but for me personally, I had a different expectation. Professionally, things have not happened as I anticipated, but what I'm learning is that since God is in control and He knows the plans He has for me - I will continue to trust Him. I won't fret or worry; I may question and have deep conversations with God so that I can further know his will; but I won't become anxious and I won't be miserable. I'll enjoy each day that God gives me with my family and those wonderful friends in my life. I'll be grateful for the big and small things - life, breath, food on my table and shoes on my feet.
I've come to appreciate the beauty of waiting - Wonderful Answers In Time. They that w.a.i.t. upon the Lord shall renew their strength...This is the perspective I choose to have as I W.A.I.T expectantly.

PS - I cannot take credit for the acronym wait - Its not mine, but I heard this for the first time at a ladies tea at my church.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Lesson 1 - Good Grief

While my brother was dying and after he died there were a host of feelings expressed - simply because he came from a large family, which exponentially increased the grieving process. I've learned that: grieving is entirely personal, there's no right or wrong way to grieve, I shouldn't be made to feel bad if I don't grieve the way you grieve, and some aspects of grief are quite common.
I found the Mourners Bill of Rights online, and thought it was quite helpful so I've included it here.
The Mourners Bill of Rights by Dr. Alan Wolfelt
1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.
2. You have the right to talk about your grief.
3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.
4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
5. You have the right to experience ―grief bursts.
6. You have the right to make use of ritual.
7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
8. You have the right to search for meaning.
9. You have the right to treasure your memories.
10. You have the right to move forward in your grief and heal.

My brother was the first to die - and I heard this statement so often, "Its hard for a child to pre-decease his parents" that it almost became cliche. But what this statement allowed me to do was cut my parents some slack - particularly my mother. There are many stages to the grieving process - denial, fear and anger being some of them, and to my mind at that point in time these were exhibited by my parents. Watching someone die is hard to deal with, especially at the end. It's probably why I chose not to be there at the end - I didn't know how I would handle it and didn't want to find out. As a parent myself, I would like to think that I may handle things differently, but who knows maybe I would fall apart also.

For the siblings, he was the big brother. A big brother means having someone you can look up to, having someone to go to for advice, having someone to intercede on your behalf to overprotective parents so that you can go to your first track meet, someone who can dispense advice freely because he was consistent in his beliefs. Yes he may have been overbearing at times, but he was big brother. You never know what this means until that person is gone. He had a different relationship with each of the siblings - but there was a relationship. The hardest part seemed to be dealing with the VOID left by his death. At the funeral, I discovered many unknown aspects of my brother's relationship with each of the siblings - a brother always wanted to be like him physically (before scleroderma he looked like a bodybuilder) and professionally (being successful in the financial industry); he was able to accomplish that. A sister said he inspired her, in spite of his illness; he told her to "Live like the Birds - they have no worries yet they are always well taken care of." What I learned was the emotional connection he had with each one that we didn't always communicate while he was here. The stories were told with laughter and poignancy.
There were times when there wasn't much laughter - when everyone was questioning in their own way - why now and why this way? These questions were a manifestation of what he meant to each person and their grief. And so to say it was tenuous at best would be an understatement. Everyone grieves in their own way - some are loud, some quiet; some rant and rave; some internalize; some are quick to accept the circumstances for others it may take awhile; some may feel they have unfinished conversations with one who passed on; some may dream of him and feel his presence. Its all OK. Its all OK.
Grief is good and can be cleansing - and once we go through it and get to the point of healing, it allows us to move on with greater clarity - respectful to each other, being open with each other, communicating in love, and building on what we've learned from our grief and loss. I think sometimes we forget to view things through the lens of grief - recognizing that we've all suffered a loss and who knows when and how that loss may affect us.

I'm also amazed by the compassion of people once they hear of my loss; most seem genuinely sorry as if they too have lost a brother. That humbles me - for I hope that I can express the same depth of emotion if the tables are switched. Basically, everyone wanted to do something - from sending cards, to sending donations to the family, to cooking or just being there for me and praying (which I do not take lightly).

Grief, while intensely personal is something we must go through. Once we have gone through - we are better for it. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. That's the good in our grief.

Friday, April 23, 2010


The intent of this blog is not to be depressing but to be realistic. Before my brother passed away from Scleroderma, I was not as aware as I am now about the disease. His wife knew about the disease and could probably provide great advice to anyone dealing and living with the disease (but this is an aside.)

My brother lived for 17 years with the illness and that in and of itself is a testament to the medical care he received, his support system, and his will to live. As I read up on this illness, treatment has come a long way from when he was first diagnosed.

So be encouraged; we don't know why things happen in life or why we are dealt the hand we have. I think what my brother did well was display how to live with the disease. At his funeral - this was a consistent theme from the many people that he impacted.

So living with Scleroderma may be difficult, but you can thrive while living with it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


It was mid February and we received a call that my brother was not doing well and that he was hospitalized. We had received these calls many times within the past seventeen years, but this time something seemed different - there was a heightened sense of urgency from his wife. For the past seventeen years my brother had lived with Systemic Scleroderma (also called Connective Tissue Disorder) and seemed to have exhibit every symptom that goes along with the disease. It started with collapsed lungs, and progressed to arthritis, foot pain, weight loss, shortness of breath, and most recently extraction of the teeth. His wife was versed on the disease and knew his numbers and how well he was or wasn't doing.

As usual, once we received the call we worried inwardly, but prayed outwardly. In this instance he was exhibiting shortness of breath but it wasn't noticeable to anyone since he was already on an oxygen tank. During a regular doctor's visit, the doctor picked up on it and from there after visiting another doctor it was determined that he should be hospitalized.

Soon after, we received another call where he had suffered a seizure and was in intensive care.

At this point, something in my spirit told me that this might be it.

Within our family, my husband decided that he would go down to visit especially if this was the last time he would see him alive. Approximately ten years ago, we got a similar call from a cousin who was in the final stages of colon cancer and we knew at that instant he was on his last legs; my husband made the decision to visit him and talk with him before he died. He passed soon after. This call felt just like that call ten years ago. My husband and my brother were very close and I was OK with him spending the time with him and representing me.

My brother had a lot of time to think while living with this illness, and knew how he wanted to die when it was his time to go and had conversations alluding to what he would want. My husband was able to see my brother, pray and spend time with him and be a support for his wife and children. As his wife said to me afterwards, "Thanks for lending him to me."

My brother passed over from this life to heaven on March 5th, and even though I was expecting it, I was caught off guard. I literally felt like I had been struck in the chest with a brick; I could not breathe momentarily.

I guess that's the point - even though death is imminent, it still catches those who remain off guard.