Suzanne’s Tattoo

I had no idea, last year, when I scrawled  I Want to Live Alive  in my journal, that it would become Suzanne’s life theme and mantra. She cherished the words and set out to make them true. She set out to live her last days fully alive. 389f6f01c8011417c02cc55e05b4ecfa

 While cancer loomed, she chose to push it aside, even when discomfort became a constant reminder. She was determined to enjoy the chapter she had left- and she made it her mission to teach others to do the same.

In her effort to live alive, Suzanne approached her days methodically. She simply did the next thing- whether mundane, like organizational tasks, cleaning and laundry – or more purposeful things – like having healing conversations, and orchestrating intentional time with family and friends. She did it all with excellence and with all senses engaged.

She also threw herself into her Bible reading and gathered strength and perspective to face the rugged terrain ahead. All the while, she looked for ways to serve others, and nudge them to live more fully alive.

In the end, with her beloved husband and family at her side, Suzanne faced forward and did the last thing on her list. She crossed to the other side as a representative of faith, love and grace. While we say goodbye to her physical presence and loving care, we will never be without her tattoo –  her firm instructions to us: We are we to celebrate her life, but we must also celebrate our own. Live Alive! Rest in peace, beautiful woman. Your life has been a lesson to cherish.

If you would like to read the original blog post which was an inspiration to Suzanne in the last year of her life, follow this link:  I Want To Live Alive

I want to live alive…

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Yesterday, I smuggled a four pack of Cabernet, a dark, salty chocolate bar, and a couple of wine glasses into the hospital to visit my friend, who is battling cancer. She was delighted that I actually did the brazen thing she suggested, and we proceeded to spent the cold, drizzly afternoon in her private room, talking about the past, the present and the future.

As we sat sipping wine and nibbling chocolate, we shared some painful things and asked some big questions, which neither of us have the answers for. She has decided to stop the chemo treatments — unless the next specialist tells her that a significant amount of time will be added to her life, if she will endure another round.  She hasn’t given up — she just wants to trust God for the outcome.

She doesn’t want to live sick. She wants to live alive.
She is making plans for whatever time is left — who to see and what to do — whether there are many days and years left— or few.

She is brave and new. Her hair is maybe a 1/4 inch long all over her head and she sits bold and braless, laughing out loud in her hospital bed. She is forced to stay there until she is safe to move, for fear of dislodging a huge blood clot looming just under her rib cage. She is as human as a human can be, there is no pretense — and she is gorgeous.

Her face is all I can see today — our hearts are connected and I am in constant prayer. I find myself looking over the landscape of my life. How would I spend my last days? I want to live alive.

I would make my last days lovely for my family
I would light all the candles and bring all the flowers in.
I would saturate the air with beautiful music.

I would stop.
I would stop and listen.

I would wear expressions that penetrate the skin and make their way to the soul.
I would look long into the eyes of those I love and they would experience acceptance.
They would remember and know how they are valued and treasured.
I would give meaningful hugs — like the one I got when I left the hospital yesterday.

I would eat food around the table, laughing with those I love.
I would know that sharing a meal together is sacred.
I would not rush away.

I would understand that things are things.
They are only precious when they are a part of our traditions.

I would savor.
I would not gulp.
My actions and activities would have meaning.

My bed would be luscious.
I would have very few clothes in my closet.
I would not worry about what I look like —
I would worry more that I might miss moments pretending to be pretty,
and neat,
and all put together.

I would learn to breathe what is.
I would not to dwell on what isn’t.

I would forgive.
I would ask forgiveness of those I have hurt and rejected.
I would forgive those that have hurt and rejected me.
I would see the pain that motivates the walking wounded.
I would look through all the contorted manifestations,
and I would find the wounds,
and touch them with God’s love.

But.
In my last days, would I forgive myself?
Would I go to the pain that motivates me?
Would I look with grace upon my own contorted manifestations?
Would I allow God’s love to permeate and heal what hurts deep inside?
Would I do that in my last days?

Could I do that today?

 

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Photo by: Eugene Nikiforov

It’s always been you…

 

I’m still perplexed,
in awe, really,
that you would long for me so.
That after all my failings,
you would still wish,
more than anything,
for my time and attention to be yours.
All yours.

Now, as my smooth places are not as sleek,
and my buttery, soft skin, not as supple…
Now, when pretty flirtations don’t light up my dark brown eyes,
How is it that that you still pursue me with such desire?

How is it that I can often be satisfied to find your naked toes in the sheets,
but that you always burn to find every inch of me.
You.
You prefer our place under the covers to any high place on earth.
You would clear away any obstacle just to whisper to me quietly.

You.
How you work tirelessly to meet my every need.
How, for all these years, you will deny yourself anything,
to be sure that I have everything.
How you sweat, and fix, and conquer, for the small favor of my high regard.

How can the world send young women to chase after sleek imitations,
with hair and whiskers disarranged just sexily so,
When there’s you?
Girls chasing dreams of fictitious enigmas, which they compare to the bleak, unfulfilling every day.
The bleak, wondrous love I enjoy
every day.

You.
Are there more like you?

You, in the end,
When all the rugged chase is over.
You are my dream come true.
With all your faults and shortcomings, pressed closely against all my finally revealed self…

You.
The faithful warmer in my bed.
You.
The one who has never left my side.
You.
The one who knows just how to lay, so I can wrap my arm around to tuck my hand just so.

You, my dream come true.
The one who loves me,
one step down from God.

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Photo credit: Days Gone By

 

Your life, your signature…

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“Despite overall similarities, each nest identifies it’s maker as surely as an artist’s signature”
Maryjo Koch

 Mommy… Did you know that your nest bears your signature?
When you stand back, what do you see?
I remember the days when my children were small.
My girlfriend would come over with her little battalion of boys
and I would make a pile of french toast.

The children would dress up and run barefoot in the grass.
They would make mud balls in the puddles.
There was laughter.
It wasn’t always neat, but it was always pretty.
It wasn’t expensive, but it was enough.
My nest was full of life.

What does your nest say about your life?
Is there music?
Does a candle flicker, adding a glow to your kitchen?
Have you taken your little one out to plant a seed?
Is there laughter?
Do you have time to drink it in?
Do you find yourself crying tears that flow from a pool of gratitude and love?

Who cares if it gets a little messy, just make sure it’s pretty.
Blanket forts are pretty.
Children in footy pajamas, surrounded by piles of books —
That’s pretty.
The mess of life —
That’s neat.

Or is the place in front of the television,
or the iPad in the lap,
or the phone in the hand — is that stuff of your day?
They will remember
and may become too dull to care.
Don’t allow entertainment to smother the life and creativity out of your children.

Take your little one out to watch the hopping robins tug worms out of the soft ground.
Take them out to pick daffodils and teach them to rub the soft petals on their cheeks.
Help them find the tiny buds that line the branches of spring.
Light a candle and use the fancy tea cups.
Write your signature with flare.
Today won’t come again.

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Maryjo Koch, Bird Egg Feather Nest,
via Meditations for Mothers, Elisa Morgan
Photo credit: Julie Falk 

He wished me Spring

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Spring is the time of year when new life vibrates just beneath the surface of the ground.  The earth is warming and pulsing with life. Seeds are germinating and shafts of green are pushing up through the soil — stretching to receive light. The air is cool, dry and crisp. Birds flit about stealing dried bits to stuff into the small places where they will hide their young. Creatures emerge from their slumber to make the sounds that will build to create the symphony of summer.

Spring is also the time when my mother died. With the cool breeze comes the faint memory of the car ride to the memorial service. The sky was a crisp Colorado blue — the day was cruel in it’s beauty. With her, died everything I ever believed about the world. My personal world construct was shattered.  She was brutalized, her blood was spilled, and her heart stopped beating.
Her life was no more.

I think, if she could have voiced her last wish for me, it would be that I would have a chance — a chance to live a rich and abundant life, a life full of love, a life teeming with relationships.
She would have wished me Spring.

And Spring is when my stepmother died. With the sunshine that calls forth the buds on the trees, comes the memories of our drive to the funeral home and the flurry of decisions. We surrounded her bed as a family on the night she died, unaware that as we prayed to say goodbye, that she would really go. I awoke to the alarm, in the dark of the morning, and crept down the quiet hall to her room- it was time to slip the tiny white pill beneath her tongue to quell the anxiety. But when I got there, the weak heaving of her chest had stopped. But I couldn’t be sure — was she breathing? Her skin was cool — or was it? Should I wake my sleeping father to his dread? Could this be?
It was over.

I think, if she could have voiced her last wish for me, it would be that I would have a chance — a chance to live a rich and abundant life, a life full of love, a life teeming with relationships.
She would have wished me Spring.

And Spring is the time when we celebrate Easter. With the dyed eggs, and the grassy baskets, and the pretty dresses, come the memories of the cross and the horror of His passing. With the opening of the daffodils, I remember the day His life-giving blood was spilled in hatred. And with the rising of the sun, three days later, I remember that the stone was rolled away, and He rose.
But was He really alive? It made no sense.
Did they really see Him?
For Him, it wasn’t over.

He did voice His last wish- a wish that has been carried through the generations. He wished that I would have a chance — a chance to live a rich and abundant life, a life full of love, a life teeming with relationships.
Because of Him, I have access to it all.
He wished me Spring.

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Photo Credit:  Caroline Paulus
A late Easter post dedicated to a blogger in England who, tragically, just lost her son, and is suffering through unspeakable grief.
See her story at The Journey of My Left Foot (whilst remembering my son)
My Friend, He wishes you Spring…

Growing Season

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There are four cars in the driveway now — if I get too close to the edge as I pull in, my tires inevitably slip off and sink deeply into the mud. The slimy ruts fill with water.
Action item:
• Haul in stone to extend driveway.

The grass is greening and the birds have grown loud, as they always do in the Spring.
As I look out the window of the hearth room, I catch a glimpse of a bluebird darting in to build it’s nest in the box on the back porch.

I scan the changing landscape and wonder when it will be dry enough to till.
Never it seems.
Spring always comes in with a soaking that lasts for weeks.
We’ll have to watch for the one weekend that comes — there’s only one.
On that weekend, the ground will be dry enough to till.
Miss it and lose.
Of course, last year, and the year before, and the one before that, and so on,
we were watching soccer games on that one dry weekend.
Hm. Not this year.
No spring soccer for the boy.

I dig into the cold dirt in one of my garden boxes- it’s full of worms, and I smile.
There is a constant rhythm — I believe I hear the beat.
It’s time for another growing season.

Time for my son to graduate.

One day soon, he will leave and take his contagious laughter with him.
He will pack up his crazy shrieks and silly songs and the kisses he plants on the top of my head.
Gone will be the thud of his giant, plodding feet.
My cupboards will no longer suffer the wrath of his vacuum powered appetite.

The halls will grow quiet and hollow with the lack of him.

It’s Saturday and he’s in Nicaragua. He will return and bring with him the final countdown.
And while he’s not leaving immediately, it seems the whole world is about to change.

But for today, it’s time to plant seeds,
for in spite of the mud and the muck, and the fact that I can’t till —
the ground is warming and it’s time for another growing season.
The grass is greening and the birds are growing louder,
and the ruts along my driveway are full of water.

City Spring ~ Country Spring

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I like to read the words of my friends who walk over grates on city streets. I hear the flack-flack-flacking of the train and the whirring of the subway. I smell the city and open my eyes into another world. There is a mass of passing faces and resign as I enter the wave. Vendors are busy and the streets are alive. The concrete is warming and I take my lunch outside. It is Spring in the city.

My friends like to read my words, as I drive the country roads with all my windows down. Old barns dot the landscape and there isn’t a face in sight. Six doe leap across the road ahead of me and I slow to watch them take long, graceful strides before ducking into the woods. The air is soft and cool and the fields hint green. The peepers have emerged from their winter hiding places and their song is the signal — it is Spring in the country.

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Subway photo: James Adamson