Saturday, November 18, 2017

An attempt at making sense of it.

I like to say that children are jewels, precious gems.  Some people are called "diamonds in the rough" and while this seems cliche, there is some truth in it.  Because I have an affinity for pearls, I tend to look at my own children as such.  It isn't because they begin as irritants and end as beautiful works of an oyster.  It is akin to being a "diamond in the rough".  They are literal grit, softened and beautified over time, and having many, many formative layers.
People, in a general sense, are continual works in progress, being slowly tumbled, tried, and polished until they are perfected in the eyes of those who love them.  But they are loved all along.  If a child is perfected long before we expect it in our own minds, does that mean the work is over and they can be safely tucked away in the Master's pocket?  Or does that stone become somehow flawed or crushed under some unseen pressure?  If my precious stones were to be snatched from me, I would no doubt go through the various stages of anger, doubt and resentment toward the One who gifted me with them.

This is where my mind is right now as I think about our young people in the wake of another loss.

What causes some of these gems and pearls to break, and to break too soon?  What does a parent go through in trying to comprehend such loss?  What questions do their friends, family members, teachers, and other supportive people ask themselves during a time like this?  I can think of a thousand 'what-ifs' and 'why-didn't-I's",  many of which I have already heard uttered by the anguished.  It is so easy to fall into a mire of guilt and regret, as a by-product of utter sadness.

And of course, "where is God?"

In an effort to sort through this, I wanted to look to the scriptures for some semblance of an answer and also offer it to you.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  -John 17:17

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  -1 Peter 5:8
What parent doesn't inevitably blame him or herself for tragedies that befall their children?  I know I would. "What didn't I do?" "Where did we go wrong?"  "Did I not love enough?"  The torture of one's own soul has the potential to consume entirely.  But look at what Peter says; we are all fighting the enemy.  There is spiritual warfare going on all around us; we don't see it, but it exists.  
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.                -Ephesians 6:12
I do believe that God is there in that moment and that he remains in control; however, every person has his own battle against despair and discouragement, and is his own moral agent.  And thus that person's cross to bear is transferred to others...all those people who love him take up this cross of despair and sadness.  We have to give it to Jesus.
May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. -1 Thessalonians 3:13
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. -Psalm 46:1
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort  -2 Corinthians 1:3
I pray for our Heavenly Father to wrap his arms of peace and comfort around this family and to love them and all the classmates and friends through this sad time.  
Briefly, what of this sweet soul who left too soon? Can he rest peacefully?  I hope so in my heart and I believe that God has great mercy.  Consider this from Paul's letter to the Romans:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus -Romans 8:1

Forgive me, please, if my words are no help, I am merely a lay-person attempting to make sense of this and find my own comfort.  If nothing else, I hope that the Words of the Scriptures bring about some peace in someone.  
Last evening, several pearls and their sweet mothers gathered in my home to support one another.  We didn't know how to help these young people, we knew not the words.  We only knew that they needed each other in that moment.  And I am so incredibly thankful for their youth pastor who came by to help them and us through the utter shock of what has occurred.  
Arielle, you are a blessing.  We thank God for you.
We thank God for all our precious gemstones and pearls and their bonds for each other.
We thank God for this sweet young man who was in our lives for such a brief moment.  
We pray for Comfort that only the Lord can provide for his family and friends.
That's all I have.  It's just love and sadness.  I guess the two will eternally go hand-in-hand in the same way that love and joy are also intermingled.  The three cannot be separated, and must be embraced as a whole.  But embracing this whole is made easier when embraced by our Master.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


I realize as I have gotten older, that perhaps my introspection gets the better of me.  It seems to me that I have, all too often, allowed the possibility of vulnerability to keep me from moving forward.  The act of writing in a public space opens one up to vulnerability, which is less and less comfortable a zone once you begin to get too personal.  I live inside my head.  Whole conversations happen inside my skull.  If I'm caught doing it, and I seem to wear the process on my face, someone might ask, "what are you thinking?"  Because I often wear migraine headaches on my face as well, I am often tempted to fall back on that as an answer.  Typically, though, I feign some empty thought.

"Oh, I just have a lot on my mind."
"...just looking at this."
"Well thinking about what I need to do next."

What's the truth...and this is the funny part...I'm usually wondering about relationships.

Readers here might be able to understand why I might avoid giving up a truth.  After all, it is possible that most people find themselves stuck in a loop and when snapped out of it by an intrusion, realize how absurd thoughts can become if left to their own devices.  You heard me right, our thoughts have minds of their own.

But I digress.

Relationships.  Just having them leaves you naked and afraid.  When a relationship flags,  you find yourself wondering so many things.
What did I do wrong?  Did I say something hurtful?  Was I being weird and uncomfortable again?
You find yourself becoming defensive in your own head.  At some point, apathy sets in.
Communication, or lack thereof, seems to breed apathy.  And trust me when I say, I know something about lack of communication.  When you consider what I do for a living, my reluctance to talk doesn't make a lot of sense.  I like to say I'm reticent, which is better than being outright antisocial.  But you see, I'm just making excuses for the fact that I am notoriously bad at making small talk.  This is a problem, since apparently, relationships of all kinds, depend upon some level of small talk.  Pointless prattle between individuals who are working hard at passing the time and filling the air with words.

When one enters into a new friendship, there is so much to learn about that person; the conversation never seems to lag, right?  Then, at some point, it does begin to lag.  But why? Did the parties cease being curious about one another?  Did engaging suddenly become too taxing?

My husband and I agree on this: Most relationships exist for a time to serve a purpose.  Once that purpose has been fulfilled, much less effort is expended and the relationship stands to lose ground.  Despite what I have heard to the contrary, a true friendship requires work and effort.  In our technology-based, social networking society, work and effort seem diminished.  I don't mean to say that timely relationships have no value.  They have much value; some even save lives, and I appreciate each person whose path has crossed mine.  I suppose, the hard part is the lament over lost friendships.  Once a person is in my life with less of a presence or with less frequency, the person tends to become a work of fiction in a way.  The memory of what was seems a little sweeter, making an evening without a friend a little more painful.

But the worst pain, is to invest your heart in a person; to really love a friend, only to lose them to a death.  Giving of yourself as a friend, a daughter or son, a spouse, a parent, and then having to say an eternal goodbye can change you.  It will change you.  You cannot help this because a thread has been pulled from your fabric, and your pattern has been altered forever.  You wonder why you ever endeavored to weave this person into your existence.  You would never have to hurt, if only you hadn't loved.

This, of course, is not reality.  Most of us need to experience the joy of relationships, even if it leaves us open to annoyance, pain, and vulnerability.  In the end, the process is worth it.  My mother always said that, at any moment, you can count your real friends on one hand, and that is being generous.  She knew that all relationships come to an end.  Indeed, she was my best friend.  Alas, I could no more keep her with me than I could eat cheese from the moon.

With those rambling notions exposed for the world, I toast each of those past, present and future relationships.  We may have quit on one another. We may have become too busy to stay in touch.  One party, perhaps discarded by the other.  Purpose fulfilled.  Some endings not yet written.  Some ties going strong.  Others barely hanging on.  Some lacking depth.  Others hungry for more.

I never do how to wrap these things up.  Let's leave it as this: If you have yourself to give to another human, even for the briefest moment, it may just be the meaningful gift that human needs at that moment.  Who are we to deprive one another of love?


Saturday, October 17, 2015

"A Writer Writes"

The title, "A Writer Writes" was a quote from a former Radford professor.  She also said, "A writer reads."  Both are as true as the wind blowing in Autumn.

I have taken a very long break in writing for several reasons. The main reason is that whenever I attempted to write in the last two years, it was always about my grieving process.  There is only so much to say on the matter that is even rational.  After a point, one begins to just murmur in a way that is unattractive and not at all productive.  Grieving is such an ugly past time; while one must get through it, one maybe should not bore others with it.  I will forgo this tedious process for the time being and write on writing.

I recently took on the challenge of writing a poem which honors a friend.  Tonight I read this poem to a room of guests, including the guest of honor.  I had a good two months, at least, to fashion this "ode" as  I call it.  I am a procrastinator by nature and while a task such as this looms overhead and creates great anxiety for me, I found myself writing the bulk of it over the last two days.  Granted, I did write a poem about a month ago, and I found it to be rather corny and impersonal.   I scrapped the original completely.  My initial plan was to reach out to others for inspiration and I found that, indeed, this was necessary.  I really needed to research, both by interviewing others and by reading some of the work of the subject.  I admit, after returning to Plan A, I felt like I was doing the natural thing.  Last night, as I wrapped up the finished product, I realized that I truly missed the process of writing, both poetry and blog entries.

I treat them differently.  For a blog entry, such as at this very moment, I type and if I hate it, I backspace.  For a poem, I have never, and never will, use a computer. It all must be hand written, struck, re-written, struck again, and so on.  It has been this way since college.  I was so sure I wanted to be a writer that I had disciplined myself to this ritual.  But I decided also that I was sure I wanted to eat so I did not become a writer.  My compromised that I would not seek a Master of Fine Arts, but rather, I would become a professional Speech-Language Pathologist and write in my spare time.  Any mother with a full time job knows that this is nearly an impossibility, at least while the kids are young.  You sacrifice.  You put dreams on hold.   You stop writing.  You stop painting.  You stop pretty much everything.  Not with any ill feelings, mind you.  No regrets.  Children are totally worth it.  They deserve your all-encompassing attention for a season or two.

Tonight, I realized that, while I already suspected it, I miss writing.  The poem was well received and our guest of honor insisted on putting it in his pocket and taking it with him.  This is the highest compliment of all; my writing preserved by someone I care for.  Stay tuned.  This challenge, which I desperately needed, may be just the thing to get me going again.  I guess time will tell.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

On twelve months

It is twelve months since losing my mother.  There is no poetic way to write it.  She is gone twelve months.
It was twelve months ago our family gathered around her bedside and watched her fade away.  Afterward, we spent time just being silent, just being.  I tried to speak into her ear and my voice would not work.  I screamed but all was quiet.  I was a silent strain.   My sister and I dressed her for her final ride, knowing that she would want it to be done properly.  She was a dignified woman and a lady.  Cancer never took my mother's dignity, even though she felt that it had.  As long as you hold yourself to the highest standards, you still have your dignity, even when it is difficult to reach the bar you keep setting for yourself.

Daily, I ask myself, "How long do I have to go on this way?"  I am nearly forty years old and I have no longer the person who brought me here.  When she left, there loomed such a gaping hole that I feel I might very well be swallowed up in it.  I suppose the giant hole has a name and it is Grief.  I know that Grief can swallow a person completely and I know that some people find that they cannot face their daily business without the pall of sadness that wraps around them like a swaddling blanket. There are those who prefer to dwell there.  There are also those who let it take them.  I do not want to risk sounding suicidal, because I most certainly am not.  But I do wonder, "How long must I go on without my Mom?"  Each time I look at her photograph, I think "I miss you so much, how long do I have to do this?"  And then...tears.  Her photograph does not answer.

The presence of my children is my answer.  The fact is I had my mother so much longer than she had hers. I am in the more fortunate position of having been raised by my mother into adulthood.  She knows I would always choose to stick it out and give my children all the advantages a mother can provide.  To leave them, would be pure selfishness.  But how to answer the question of how long must one go on this way?  What I mean to say is in this condition of sadness.  I manage very well in the day to day drumbeat of life.  I enjoy my work, my co-workers, my husband, my children, my family, my church, my friends.  With the help of family and friends, we tackle the logistics of getting the children where they need to be daily.  Somehow, the basics get done and no one gets hurt.  Frankly, it is all a blur.  Most days, I feel like life gets done, but not done very well.  Getting a delicious meal on the table used to seem like such a culinary adventure.  Now it is simply a burdensome task that deserves no more creativity than picking out the which ketchup to purchase.
At what point do I attend a social function or go to the mall and not constantly think, "Mom would have liked this. I wish she could be here."?  If there is one thing I have figured out, in these twelve months, it is that it does not get any easier.  I will always miss her.

I will always miss her smell.
I will always miss her smile.
I will miss her critiques.
I miss her infectious laugh and her wicked sense of humor.
I miss calling her on the phone for every question and to tell her every little mundane detail.
I miss her encouragement.
I miss her insistent generosity.
I miss her scrappiness.
I miss her unsolicited advice.
I miss the way she bragged about her all her children and her grandchildren.
I miss her obsessive cleanliness.
I miss her pissing me off.
I miss her telling me what to do.
I miss her amazing ability to be Mom.

When you miss the good, the bad and the ugly in a person whom you love, how do you carry on and live a normal life?  Or a happy life?  And all these questions just feel like a whistling into a deep cave.  The sound just gets lost and the answers are just as vague as the inquisition.

Oh to be in the arms of my sweet mother and to tell her one more time "I love you, Mom."

There are too many names of loved ones on this list.
But it is God's Will that they appear here to see.
Like the changing colors of Autumn's leaves,
There is a season and a time for all things.
Our time is continually drawing near,
 our souls draw nearer to Thee.
Our hearts are drumbeats on
 the march to Heaven.
Praise Him.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Early morning gift.

*I walked into my Mother's bedroom at the Farmhouse and there she was, sitting upright, in one of her dark-stained, ladder-backed chairs.  She was surrounded by family members, who were already enjoying her company and perched on her bed and on other chairs.  I was obviously late to the party and there was nowhere left to sit.  Her smile was beaming at me and she gave me a hearty "Hey Sweet!"  I walked over, knelt in front of her, put my head in her lap and hugged her deeply.  I said, "I can't believe you're really here!" and she only said, "I hate that it's so dusty."  I looked over at my puzzled brother and then I asked her, "You mean the house?"  She answered, "No, me."  I just hugged her more while she played with my hair.  I wanted to hold onto her forever and never, ever let her go- And then I woke up.*

I didn't want to open my eyes for a long time because I was trying my best to hold on to that image of her but I knew that it was only a pillow to which I was clamoring, instead of my beautiful Mother.  When I finally peeked at the clock it read 2:30 a.m.  I had just received my first dream visit from Mom and while it was so hard watching that image fade away into the darkness, I couldn't help but feel incredibly grateful for this brief-lived gift.

It really doesn't matter from where these gifts are generated- from God, from Mom herself, from some special area of the brain- what matters is I have these dreams and they help me.  I don't know if others have this experience, but after I lose people whom I love very deeply, they will occasionally visit me in my dreams.  My Grandmother Fleta left us in the Spring of 1999.  Since her passing, she has waited at her kitchen table for me numerous times.  Sometimes my Grandaddy Reid is there as well.  We always share a quick bite to eat and I pass the napkins around.  In these dreams, I always know they are really gone from us and that I will have to say goodbye.  I always tell them I am glad to see them and that I love them; and then they are gone again.  Because this is a recurring dream, I believe that I will see my Mother again in similar dreams.  It only took a little over a week for her to appear to me but I needed it so badly.  Anyone who has lost a dear one, no matter their age or their circumstance, knows how devastating and empty it can feel.  I am happy to report that Mom looked so beautiful and healthy in my dream, like she had never been sick a day in her life or had to endure the treatments to fight her disease.
This helps me to remember that she didn't really die, only cancer died, to paraphrase a quote from one of the sympathy cards Herbert received from a friend.  I have been reminded twice in the last week to "look inside myself to find her."  I think this is true as well.  I look at her five grandchildren and see her in all of them.  I look at my siblings and see her again.  I look inside myself and there she is.  Another person wrote that "losing a parent is one of life's saddest milestones" and yet another said, "it is the season of our lives." I know that I must accept this as true, but I also know that I don't ever have to say good-bye.  It was always, "I'll see you later, OK?"

I found this beautiful song that I hope you will take time to hear.  It is a reminder that while I am waiting for her, she is waiting for all of us.
This is Michael Kiwanuka, an artist recently seen on Austin City Limits.  It is beautiful song.  You will cry.

This post dedicated in the remembrance of my Beloved Mom, Cathy D. Ramsey, who left us far too soon, on November 6, 2013- Rest In Peace, Beautiful Lady

Saturday, October 26, 2013

This is not a cry for...

Not a cry for help.  Not a cry for sympathy.  Not a cry for validation.

I usually enjoy picking a topic and writing about it.  At times, my topics are tangential and folks who actually know me know that is pretty true to my nature.  I spend much of my time out in left field.  It is where I prefer to reside.  But this entry is all about me.  Not about work.  Not about food.  Not about some random event.  It is all about me.  More precisely, it is about me being a downright failure.
I have a hunch that I'm not alone in this feeling of being a failure, but right now, indulge me.  But, again I say, it isn't a cry for attention, sympathy, sad looks or even prayers.

This has been a week of abysmal fails.  I failed as a mother, sister, friend, daughter and caretaker.  I failed as a professional speech therapist, diagnostician and clinical supervisor.  I fail each year as a writer, musician and artist.  I fail every second as a dreamer and visionary.  I fail as a Christian and church-goer.  I fail as a housekeeper and gardener.  My knees and I fail as a runner.  I fail miserably at being a wife.

I lose my patience, I cuss, I roll my eyes, I blow, I neglect and I may not be loving enough.  I have not kept up with my friends in the way that I should.  I do not keep up with the journal articles nor do I stay abreast of the latest research on therapeutic modalities.  I feel lost at sea when it comes to the voluminous mess of paperwork that faces me each week.  I fail to model best practice consistently.  By the age of 40, my first novel should be written and I should have already learned to play the violin.  My career is not what I wanted it to be and I don't see my way clear to get it there.  I am cynical and I hate kool-aid.  There are so many days I do not feel I can face my fellow man.  I do not send the cards I want to send nor do I make the phone calls I need to make.  I am inflexible and grumpy.  My house is a mess and the weeds have taken everything out of doors.  I let the frost kill my tomatoes and I neglected to plant my mums in the ground or even keep them watered for the last week.  I love to exercise but exercise hates me.  As I am writing this at almost midnight, The Dude is working in the kitchen at making a soup because I haven't cooked in a month.

This has been an exercise in emotional cleansing.  I have a lot of work to do on myself.  I keep thinking I need to move back to Colorado to get myself straight, but then I realize I would only be trying to run away, hence failing at living honestly with my failures.

Don't cry for me, Argentina, or anyone else.  I am just having one of those moments.  You know, the moment when you stop blaming everyone else for your problems and you admit that you are the epic fail you never meant to become.  I'm not the only person who realizes this... right? Don't answer that.  I don't want to hear from a soul.

(The soup smells pretty good.)

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Life is only one time around"

I took this photo last night as I was driving home from my mother's house.  The message is on the marquee outside of the church in which I grew up.  It was really late but when I spotted it, I had an uncontrollable urge to share it with my little FaceBook community.  These words really spoke to me, especially in light of our current situation.  There is just so much to say but no words in which to say it. There is much I cannot express, but these words on the church marquee seem to express so much of what I am feeling.  Many little platitudes and sayings are so cliche; however, I am not turned off by this one.  Think of "You only live once" and "Live life to the fullest" and "Live like every day is your last."  Those sayings don't seem to capture the essence of the problem.  The real crux of the matter is written on the marquee right there.  The pretty horses on the old merry-go-rounds go around and around and around.  You get one spin on the ride of life and then the guy at the controls stops the ride and somebody else gets a turn.  At this point in the revolution of my life, one of my favorite riders will be getting off and I have to enjoy riding with her the best way I know how for as long as possible.  That last line, just got me really, really - I cannot even begin to find a word to describe how it just made me feel.

This must be why I have been avoiding this.  Maybe, I am not as prepared as I thought I was.

I have so much to say.  God only knows when I will be able to articulate it and give it the justice it deserves.  Until then, Peace be with you.