Tag Archives: Death


There’s only one way to live life and that is deeper. Not like somber, but richer, more richly engaged with what’s going on. That’s the path way of Robert Frost and the creek of Annie Dillard and the pond of Henry David Thoreau. It’s the observing of Sherlock Holmes. It’s the prayer life of Jesus… seems like that to me at least. It’s when you really can’t clarify where the simple experience anyone might have and the artistry of participation begins. It’s what God does constantly and the invitation that extended to any of us daily or even in any moment. It’s turning on the right side of the brain and becoming a part of and standing back from what’s before us.
Is there some part of life where we shouldn’t do this?
We leave tomorrow to be a part of my mother’s funeral. We’ll go to the same little church where my parents expressed their reverence and love in their last years. It’s this white, congregational, boxed pews, stiff little place that always held a community of warm welcome and lively love of people and God.
The service is planned as an expression of family – cousins, in-laws, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren have each honed moments that will be shared. Songs, instrumental pieces, poems, eulogies, Scriptures, hymns and prayers will each be raised to celebrate the deeper aspects of life and a life.iStock_000000927120Large04082012_1813
My accumulated fears all raise themselves in these moments, like rocks pushing up through the soil. Doing well, knowing what, accepting easily, participating calmly, disregarding appropriately, forgiving consistently… they’re all present and more, as if I am required to clamor over them to actually be there. But the truth is that no climbing, awkward or otherwise, is necessary. I can simply walk in and admit they are present and that admission is all that’s involved in moving past or over them. Confession is good for the soul because it is simply saying but also living what’s true.
It’s different from saying it to make it so, to move myself into a place I want to go or be. It’s admitting that I have all the limitations I do and not worrying that they are there. I’m not grabbing hold of the limitations. I’m just not acting like they have any more power than they actually do. They heighten anxiety but do not produce reality. That’s what demons and fears share in common. They produce a darkness that appears daunting but cannot withstand the merest glimmer of light.
And so we go to get face to face with death.
We admit it is there, but have no obligation to bow. It carries no relevant power.
Life wins.


And Bless The Hands…

As I watched the hands smooth the hair back, rub the cheek, roll the frail body, shift the pillows under our mother’s knees, arm, head, tuck the covers up, spread the blanket back I could not miss the blessing of my sister’s hands. I couldn’t miss blessing my sister’s hands.

When I was a kid it always bothered me at church dinners how people always prayed to bless people’s hands. What about the rest of them? Watching my Mom at work in the kitchen I always figured that whoever cooked did it with fully body contact. I tend to be the primary cook in our house these days and I know there’s a whole lot of me that goes into getting the meal prepared. So, what’s with the hands?

As a kid I didn’t put together that when you blessed the hands you were blessing the ones who participated in putting this experience together, all the hands that did the creating work. The attentive nature that infuses hands became apparent to me only as I grew older. It was the joy in receiving the care expressed through these hands that called forth blessing.

And so that makes me think this day, two weeks after my Mom’s death, of my sister Maggie and her good, gentle, creative, loving and blessed hands. Maggie is magic in her own ways and amazing to most anyone who meets her. If I was to list for you the assortment of things my sister gets done in a day and the directions she moves in a week, you could claim I was lying. But it is hard to exaggerate Maggie’s days.caring-hands

This woman might be on a plane to China or on a train to New York or driving to Boston going to conferences or business expos or factories or offices doing deals and developing projects for products that anyone reading this has seen, touched or dreamt about. Anything from toys in McDonalds Happy Meals to Kardashian handbags have felt her imprint. But to find a more attentive and available grandmother, you’d have a chore. Her household is a warm, decorative comfort and if she’s not doing emails to the other side of the world, while catching up on shows she’s wanted to see, she’s designing a crafty element to go into the shop she and her husband run on the side. She makes you breathless.

And I would want you to be breathless when I add that she took care of our Mom for the past years. Whether it was driving to my parents’ home, bringing them into her home or helping to settle our Mom in a care center after our Dad died, she was there. She saw our mother almost every day, taking care of her laundry, making sure that her appointments were kept and understood, that her medications were being handled appropriately, and that those who didn’t understand her either did or were reassigned. She lived as our mother’s caregiver knowing every element of every day even while on the other side of the planet, but usually when she was within minutes of attending to her.

So I bless my sister’s hands that blessed our mother’s days with a nurturing resistance to inevitable. Each finger-tip touch made our Mom’s moments rich with life.


Into Eternity

Everything has been done carefully… just full of care, because this is the human being from whom other humans came. This is the human being who held and nurtured and cared fully for us and our friends around us when we could not care fully for ourselves. This one knew how to create security, safety, home, interest, sensitivity, insight and passion for living, like she was magic. This was the human being who handed out the tools of identity every morning that let one know who one was, how to carry oneself and where one belonged so we could find our way back whenever the world’s feverishness or apathy carried us off.

Worth more than rubies, she tore up carpet and painted walls, refinished floors and guided the work of handymen on how it would be done. She designed roomfuls of beauty, never neglecting interiors, the exquisite nature of food, and the delight of the handmade and so she taught beauty into our souls. She collected drawings, stories, reports, written excuses, daily life souvenirs, and praises from teachers or friends or herself. She boxed them, preserved them long beyond others memories to be given into the hands of those she treasured so we could see how far we came. She gave us our history in tangible forms which only said, you matter, your worth cannot be forgotten and you have always been cherished. But what it actually told us was love and love and love and love.

The Lord had the chance to teach her soul how life works and so our wounds from the world, from choices, from almost inexplicable risks were each responded to but were never a higher priority than our selves. Our traumas were lived through and our embarrassments survived but falsity was faced with ferocity that outgrew her size. Friendship and loyalty were like her name in the voices of those who knew her.

Her frailties, limits and short-comings were all experienced, joked over, disregarded or endured. None of us pretended that what was there wasn’t actually what we were experiencing, but it was never a higher priority than her. And so today, these days, these years of gentle fading, these minutes of passing breath… have been handled carefully… full of care… for they provide us with a full flavor of faith, hope and love… and the fullest taste is love.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
From “Abide with Me” by Henry F. Lyte
Darlene Iola Flynn Kohler
October 10, 1925 – October 9, 2013



5:00 p.m. Wed
Mom only sleeping today – barely eating. No talking. Going back to sit with her shortly.
Meeting with Hospice at 10:00 tomorrow for them to evaluate her needs.
Home Instead to assist with anything needed that Hospice isn’t there for.
Friends on standby.
Plan to bring her home Friday morning.
Redoing the dining room since it seems the best and easiest room to set up.
Hospital bed to come tomorrow.
Lots of details to work through and lots of support here.

We are frail creatures aren’t we? If you met my mom today, you see how frail we truly are and can be.

Met with Hospice this morning.
Everything in place.
Will move her tomorrow morning late.
House set up. Bed coming this afternoon.
Spoke to Mom’s minister – she will probably be over tomorrow afternoon
Spoke to the funeral home we use – in case anything happens.
Comfort drugs on order – I will pick up this afternoon.
It will be good to get her settled at home.
She was highly agitated today at lunch time because the people at the place were fidgeting with her too much – trying to get her to sit up, etc. Both the Hospice nurse and I told them to stop. We are in the care and comfort now – no making her do things.
We go on.

She is a tiny thing and I’ve joked with her (that old joke) for years that she is shrinking and that one day she would just shrink away.

The last hours have been spent with many people in the house getting her here and settled and training us on what to do.
Everyone has been wonderful.
The nurse anticipates we are looking at 3-4 days…
It is good to have her home.

Well, Hospice has told my sisters and me that our mom will probably die within a few days. We are frail creatures.

I can tell that I’m brimming with emotions that make days seem like they are not large enough. I had that happen when my father died. I had it happen the day my father-in-law died. I had it happen the day my mother-in-law died. And I should admit… I had it happen the day my pal, Jack the dog, died as well.

Loss, the loss of two moms in one year (a friend said the other day, “That’s just not fair.”), is a bit overwhelming. I had a friend tell me one day that he was “whelmed… not over whelmed, but definitely whelmed,” and I recognize the difference. These days we’re walking into seem whelming, up to the lip, the brim and we’ll wait for a few days before they spill over… and call it what it is at that point.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
From “Abide with Me” by Henry Francis Lyte