Art Gallery and Blog

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Wedding and Two Funerals

Have you ever been so tired....?

What am I asking? Of course you have. Sorry.

Me too. Today, I have to admit, I'm bone tired. It's been an emotional few days, lots of pain, lots of joy. Hellos, goodbyes, tears, belly laughs, brand new encouraging friendships, reunions, wrenching separations. You know. It's been life.

But at this moment, there's none of that. I'm completely alone at home. Of course there's lots to do, but it definitely won't be getting done today. I'm having my day of rest. I didn't choose it really, I just found myself being ushered to bed by a concerned husband, and when I woke he was leaving to take the boys to youth band practice, time with his sister and nephews then his Theology course with the good Reverend Doctor. Jess is at work. Gaelle's at her home making a candle lit dinner for her husband. I've nowhere to be, no one is expecting me or needs me right now in any way. That's awesome, right? Or is it...

I managed to pull on my robe after 30 minutes of actually just staring up at the ceiling (not sure I've ever really done that before), and I went out to the kitchen. it went well at first... I simply responded to stimuli. I fed the mewling, wrapping-themselves-around-my-legs cats, filled the empty water jug and took a long swig. But then I opened the fridge and stared for a long minute, went to the bathroom and stared at the tub for about the same long minute, then wandered into the dining room and stared at the laptop. I'm pretty sure I was pleading with silent eyes for them to feed, bathe and entertain me, but didn't quite have it in me to do my part of any of those pretty basic deals.

So I laid back down on my rumpled old bed and let myself think about what I'm thinking about. Deep, huh?

Here's what I found I've been thinking. March has never worked out for me. I can go back pretty far and find some pretty horrible March days. Don't even offer me a shamrock shake. It won't be pretty. And I've been thinking this March is no different.

But that's not right. This March is VERY different! I just got back from a trip to Phoenix to visit my sister, if not in name and blood, then in bond and shared history, in mutual love, devotion and deep respect. When I came home I lost some dear family and friends, yes. But both not only knew The Lord and lived courageously for Him to the last, but lived lives that brought many others to know Him.

And I got to spend some very good moments with them my very last times I saw them. I mean really good times. We can sit and have a coffee sometime, you and I, and I'll tell you about uncle Gordie laughing and eating one of Gaelle's smooshed up wedding cup cakes or Miriam opening her mouth like a little bird to eat her chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard, chattering away, eyes big and bright and full of the peace of Christ.

And I can tell you about my beautiful cousins, Karen and Melanie, who put together the sweetest family celebration of Karen's daughter Sarah's wedding yesterday.

I can tell you about arriving at Aunt Rosalie's yet again to find her dear friends surrounding her and holding her up during the darkest time of her life.

I can tell you about my friends Bruce and Heather and Shawn and Cindy and Danielle gathering around Miriam's bed from early evening to just before dawn to sing and love on little Miriam while she slipped from this world into her Father's arms.

About Bruce sharing meal after meal with a hurting family because he's here and he can. And so he does.

I've been seeing so much of that. People who can serve and so they do. And if I look back at that first wretched March, when I lost another dear friend, my little momma, I see our family and friends camped out first on our living room floor, then at the hospital, being with us, feeding us, helping us clean up, singing to us. Because they could. Because they loved us.

I suddenly don't feel so weary any more.

So, here's the plan: I'm going to eat a yogurt, take a bath, and then spend time with someone I know really needs a friend right now. Because I'm here. And because I can.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~Galatians 6:9

Thursday, March 14, 2013


My heart's too full, the ache too deep right now to tell you even one thing. I have no words but these:

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words."

~1Thessalonians 4:13-18

See you soon, sweet Miriam. I love you.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Well Done, Well Run

Well, I may have taken him off the list, but let me tell you, Uncle Gordie is very much on my mind. He's never been far from my thoughts, always in my prayers, a part of my own soft heart. If you didn't know him, can I just tell you a little bit about him? You'd have REALLY liked him.

I'll start with what my children called him. We have two uncle Gordies in our family, so one morning, when I announced we were going to go visit Aunt Rosalie and Uncle Gordie, Jessica quickly asked, "which one... Uncle Gordie Tickle?"

He TORTURED with tickles. Didn't matter who. You got no points for disability or venerability either. He even tickled Auntie May, in her 70's and on crutches... Or he'd send her jumping up onto the couch with the threat of bringing a mouse into the house. He teased, tickled, tortured his way into every heart, whether toddler, teen or tenured.

A great lumberjack of a man, he had a deep rumbling bass voice that was equally at home in the upper registers, greeting you with a half-grin and something to the effect of, "Well here comes Ugly"... And then he'd wrap those big arms around you and squeeze you surprisingly gently against his barrel chest, blink away a tear, and then threaten you with a "whiskerin".

He was so manly. He drove an oil truck, kept livestock and an enormous garden, cut wood with his brothers and father, manly men all, and could just make anything with his hands.

He could build a barn or doll furniture.

He looked at home in coveralls, hunter orange or suit and tie.

He could sing like the bass section of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir... but he also could sound like the violin I'm learning to torture my family with...he would make up these high pitched little ditties on the spot..." Oh miss Sonya, what a redhead, a sable river bed head"..."old rusty pigtail, gonna grab it, it's that sable river rabbit..."

When he wasn't working hard he was reading... As a child, I assumed men read more than women, because that's what I remember. My own dad with shelves lined with classics, tables and floor stacked with art books, Uncle Gordie or Grandad or Uncle Hilton pouring over their well worn out, used up or marked up bibles or the newspapers, or, especially in Uncle Gordie's case, any and every imaginable genre of book, fiction or nonfiction. 

He had the soul of a poet, but he spoke in the vernacular. "Pass the squarrrsh", he'd say, after he'd bowed his head and humbly, reverently, eloquently thanked his Heavenly Father for not just the meal but all his blessings. He was a man after God's own heart, honourable, loyal, hard-working, faithful, loving, mindful...

If you knew him, you know what's happening here. Gordon Fredericks cannot be captured with words. If you didn't know him, I'm sorry. I'm doing a poor job . This is but an outline. A shadow of a cutout of the man.

But I'll tell you this. He was such a part of my childhood pattern of what makes a man, that I see much of what I loved in him in my own dear husband. He would not have called himself a leader. But ask any of his friends. Ask his wife. Ask his brothers and sisters in law. Ask his pastor, the children he raised, his grandchildren, his nieces and nephews, the men he gathered with at the coffee shop, those he worked with or for, went fishin' with, his friends and family....those who saw and felt Christ's love and peace in the way he lived his life and loved people. He ran his race. And there is not a doubt in any of our minds that he was greeted with the words he longed to hear: "Well done, good and faithful servant". He'd be the first to tell you that it was not his own efforts that made him who he was or that would earn the praise of his Heavenly Father. He'd be the first to make sure you knew it was all a gift from God. He'd let you know it was the grace of his Saviour. But he did a few simple but not easy things. He believed, he was faithful, and he ran with endurance the race that was set before him.

Well done. Well run.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.- Hebrews 12:1

Monday, March 4, 2013

See ya

With a few key strokes I deleted his name from the list today. It was a short list and his name was at the top: Uncle Gordie, Miriam, Heather, Terry, Aliya, Andrea. I stared at the place his name had been... Not the space where it had been, because the delete button leaves no such gap. At least with paper and pencil  there would have been a messy eraser mark or scribble or line through his name, but my iPhone had no memory of it. His name was simply no longer on the list.

I cried. I wept for the loss, for the finality of it, for the space that wasn't there but that gnawed at my stomach and filled my chest and throat with ache.

I have trouble staying awake when I pray. Sitting, kneeling, standing or walking I either slide into sleep or drift into distraction. So I started to write in a notebook while I prayed. When I got my new phone I realized that I could just list the people I wanted to pray for, write it all down once, and then I wouldn't forget anyone. I typed in the names of everyone I want to pray for, and each day the list would grow as more names came to mind or as I met new people. But there's a separate list at the very top, a list of people I love who are battling cancer.

By the time I was 20, cancer had taken Andrew's dad,  my mom, my aunt, and then Andrew's best friend. So I pretty much assumed cancer was the end. Always.

But then people started surviving. Kim, Laura, Janet, MaryAnn, Lisa... I started to believe that healing was possible and that's what I prayed for. In earnest.

In the last month little taps on the shoulder reminded me that sometimes, though, healing doesn't come. My dear friend and encourager, Bruce, started to talk to me about it. I heard a song on the radio about it. 3 times. The daily bread reading one morning laid it all out for me. I heard the words "palliative care" more and more. And then I went to visit Miriam one afternoon at the hospital and they redirected me to the hospital where my mom had died. To the same floor. Two doors down. I took a deep breath and headed on in and visited my very alive, inspiring, beautiful friend.

As I walked from the hospital to my car I realized something. My name's on somebody's list (at least I hope it is), and someday they'll have to take me off it. None of us gets out alive, I've heard it said.

I am an eternal being, though, designed and created by the everlasting God. Heaven waits for me.  So even as my name is scratched off of or deleted from someone's list here, it's already on another list there. THAT's what you call blessed assurance.

So when I took Uncle Gordie's name off my little list tonight, as painful as that was, and as much as I'm devastated by the loss of one of the best men I've ever known, my dear uncle, my friend, my tease and tormentor, I am reminded that his name is written in the book of life, God's list. And there's no delete button.

When I tried to teach my first daughter to say goodbye, I was always disappointed that she just made some unintelligible sound, waving her hand like mad at her own sweet face. But one day, as I encouraged her to say goodbye, heard the usual babbling, shrugged apologetically at Marce and called out my usual "See ya", I suddenly heard Gaelle very clearly say what she'd been saying for weeks: "seee-ah! Seeee-ah".

See ya, uncle Gordie. I miss you. I love you. I mourn for you. But I'll see ya.

And for those of us left behind:"So do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand"-Isaiah 41:10