Instead of what I was going to post

I wrote a piece about ashes and Brittany to post tomorrow for Ash Wednesday, but I don’t think I’m ready to publish it yet.

But I can post this: Now I know what Lent is for. Today is still supposed to be Fat Tuesday, but I’ve been feeling ash Wednesday since April. I’m looking forward to Good Friday (or is it backwards to Good Friday?) and even more to Easter. And to the greater Easter which is yet to come.

 

Maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow and 4 paragraphs about Lent will show up here instead of this. I feel very strongly that I should be writing about my experience. That it will help people. But I’m not brave enough yet. My words don’t give voice to what I’m actually experiencing. I think this is because my writing voice is not yet as mature as my life experience.

Living is harder than anyone ever told me it would be. Pain is not something you can scrub off with sarcasm or ignore until it evaporates. This is the beauty of it all. The joy, the hope, and the suffering is exactly the point. Be with it. Let it be real. Don’t ignore it or scrub it away. Embrace it, because it is there whether you give it attention or not. But if you don’t get down with experiencing it, you will be missing out on what Life is.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

 

Coffee with an Oak

Each morning I share a cup of coffee in silence with an ancient oak tree which I can see from my great front window. After we moved into this home I didn’t have a designated place to sit with my cup of coffee so I would linger in my bed much longer than is healthy for I am slow to start before 8am. But once I found my cozy corner of the couch to sit on and establish that the day had indeed begun, I now wipe the sleep from my eyes in my proper place.

Meeting my friend the tree took a bit longer to discover. A couch is an obvious observation because you put a couch where it is. A tree is just part of the background scene until it notices you and chooses to make contact. I can’t remember the first morning that my friend saluted me, a large mass of bare tangled branches without even one leaf. I never noticed him before the autumn leaf drop, which happens in late November in Pleasant Hill, California. In Ohio we would be shoveling ourselves out of a blizzard, in California we rake up leaf-jumping piles.

But from this morning in late January, I know that my coffee date the enormous oak and I have been growing quite fond of each other. As the pillowcase creases fade from my cheeks, the tree sways just slightly on top of its grassy hill. It matters not that my neighbor’s roof divides us like a too-large cafe table. There is no bustling Starbucks ambiance to interrupt our conversation. “Good morning, tree. How was your evening?”

“Oh, much the same. Not much changes for me here. It is nice to see the sun rising over Mount Diablo again.”

“I’m sure it is! What a lovely vantage point you must have from your clearing on the hill.”

“Oh, yes. I can see things the way they are from up here. Today will be a gift. I can see it.”

“You’re right, today is a gift. Well, I have to go unload the dishwasher. See you tomorrow.”

It’s comforting to have a friend who has been here much longer than our family. Perhaps even longer than this house. Especially to have a friend with such a calm demeanor, slowly growing into whatever tangled shape he deems most lovely with no consideration for current trends or norms. This friend isn’t here to achieve something, isn’t here to prove something, isn’t even here to notice if anyone else is achieving or proving. This friend has merely come to be, and being is as much a means as it is an end for this wise coffee date of mine. And although I still have achievements hoped for on this day, and I still suffer from feeling I have something to prove, tomorrow morning my friend the oak is just expecting me to to be here on my couch with my cup of coffee, ready to be for another day.

Celebrating Life and Grieving Loss

I know the tone of our blog has taken a downward turn as of late. Unfortunately, in spite of great joy in most aspects of our life, we have had more than one instance of bad news. My last post about our dear friends moving was sad to write. But even sadder still was the news of the passing of my sister Brittany at the age of 29. This is our family blog, so we document the thoughts, experiences and happenings of our family. Even though I debated much about adding anything to the blog about her death, it is one of the most affecting events in my life and can’t be excluded. I’m not ready to write much detail about the actual passing, and perhaps I never will be. But I do want to include the eulogy which I shared in Akron at her memorial service in front of at least 100 friends and family members who have known us since our earliest days. I also want to share a letter which she wrote me to accompany my birthday present two years ago, but that will be saved for another post. Below you will find what I wrote for her memorial service:

My Dad gave the eulogy for Brittany at the service we had in Austin. There were over 300 people at there and I hugged each of them, which was hard at first but got easier as the hugging went on. My dad wrote out every word which I don’t normally do when I speak in front of people, but this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say to a room of people so I’m going write the whole thing out. I’m going to begin with the poem he read on Thursday. It’s not a poem I would have picked, but when he read it in that room it just made sense. Here it is: Continue reading