August 28, 2013

When the Music Returns

Four weeks ago, my beautiful grandmother was promoted to Glory.  She shed the heavy things of this world and her faith finally became sight.  The heavenly chorus gained one heck of an alto; and Earth lost one incredible woman.  And, as C.S. Lewis said in the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”  And what a sunrise she must be experiencing!

Three weeks ago, I cried as my grandfather, a tall, big, impressive retired Airforce Colonel, bid his last farewell to his life’s longest love as she was lowered into the ground.  This big, strong man never looked so small as he knelt beside her casket, laid a rose atop the polished, pale blue wood, and choked through his tears, “Goodbye, my love.  Thank you for loving me.”

Two weeks ago – and far sooner than I had thought – I sat on a piano bench for the first time in months. 

Everything about the piano reminds me of her.  When I walked into the house she shared with my grandfather for over 30 years for the first time since her death, I walked up to her beautiful grand piano and wept.  I lightly touched the keys and remembered song after song that she would play for us - once seated upon her lap, then seated by her side as we played duets, then seated by ourselves as she stood behind, beaming with pride.  I remembered the times that she would let us play her piano, but only after insisting that we wash our hands.  I remembered her taking the effort to turn off all other sounds – radio, tv, etc. – when we played her piano so she could hear every note.  And I remembered, whenever we’d hit a wrong note, she’d hum the correct note repeatedly until we found it.

I remembered all of the after-dinner sing-alongs around that piano.  I remembered her silly look of aggravation when her aging hands couldn’t find the notes as easily as they used to.  I remembered every Christmas gathered around that beautiful instrument as she played and we all sang, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and I cried to think of this year’s December 25 without her - and all the other ones to follow.  The memories flooded back with the tears as I barely touched those ivories and I wondered how life would ever be the same again and I knew it wouldn’t.

I knew, after seeing her piano sitting empty in their living room, that it would be a very long time before I could play again. She supported our every musical endeavor – attending every recital, buying music books that we would actually enjoy practicing, and even listening to my original compositions laced with teenaged angst – and calling it beautiful.  To me, the piano means her.  So, when I found myself at my in-laws’ house in the week following her funeral, I walked straight passed the beautiful piano in their office without even blinking.  For the first three days of our stay, I walked passed it.  Then, on Thursday, I sat at the bench; fifteen minutes later, I rose – not having played a single note.  Then, on Friday, August 16 – two weeks after the woman from whom I inherited my alto voice joined the alto section of the Heavenly chorus – I played the piano again.

Through my shaky hands and my tear-blurred vision, I plunked out the hymn, “It Is Well.”  There seemed no better song.  After all, this had been my anthem since the day I heard about her cancer diagnosis.  Verse after verse, I played.  After that, “The Entertainer,” a song that will forever remind me of her. Then, hymn after hymn, I realized an hour had passed and that I’d played the piano again.  And then I cried all over again.

I cannot sit before those keys without thinking of her, and I hope it is always that way.  I figured it would be months before I could play again.  But, music was so important to her; and, because of that, music is so very important to me.  What better way to honor her than to keep playing, to keep sharing the gift that she so selflessly shared with me (and SO many others).  Undoubtedly, my eyes will brim with tears each time I wed fingers to keys and play; but, it does not matter, for she loved music, I love music, and I am speechlessly proud to follow – even though hardly half as good – in her petite (yet very impressive) footsteps.


I miss her more than words can say.

August 7, 2013

In My Valley

There have been times in my life when prayer has not come easily.  For one reason or another I am occasionally rendered uncharacteristically speechless, whether I cannot put words to the pain or joy in my heart, or I am simply so confused that I do not know where to start.  It is in those times that I lean heavily on Scripture.  Praying through Psalms or other passages has often been a source of comfort and peace. Other times, I have been incredibly encouraged through the prayers of other saints.  

These last few weeks have seemingly stripped my prayers of any content.  So many days, struggling to put one foot in front of the other, I fall before the throne of Grace with no words, just tears.  My prayers sounded more like, "Please, please, please..." than anything else. I read and reread Romans 8, hoping desperately that the Spirit would intercede and make sense of my senselessness.  And then, I came across this prayer (from Valley of Vision) that echoed so deeply in my heart:
"Lord, in the daytime, stars can be seen from the deepest wells, and the deeper the well, the brighter the stars shine.  Let me find your light in my darkness, your life in my death, your joy in my sorrow, your grace in my sin, your riches in my poverty, your glory in my valley."   -Valley of Vision

This is it.  This is my prayer.  This is my prayer for me.  This is my prayer for my husband. This is my prayer for my family.  All of it.  May He shine more brightly in my brokenness, may I seek His glory in my valley.


August 3, 2013

At a Loss

Grief is a funny thing.  (Funny as in strange, odd, or ironic – not comical.) It never seems to look the same and often jumps in at the oddest times, commandeering all attention.  It can look like hours of unending tears punctuated by moments of shocked silence.  Grief can look like you go about your business day in and day out as if nothing has changed, then break down and cry while folding laundry. Grief can look like losing a record amount of hair in a small amount of time. Grief can look like writing a blog post in the middle of the night that you really don't need to read, but I really needed to write.

My grandma died yesterday.

I can barely type those words.  I will write more, I need to write more, but I do not have the right words right now to do justice to the incredible woman that she was.  After two weeks in the hospital, she was finally healed – just not on this earth.  I am so very grateful to know that she is at peace and no longer in pain, but this whole losing-someone-you-love thing?  It is really lousy.

I have often haughtily observed how blessed I have been to have experienced so little loss in my life.  As a 25-year-old, I was often alone in my peer group for having all four grandparents still alive.  My siblings and I would marvel at our good luck and the blessing that comes with having a wonderful relationship with all of our grandparents – a luxury our parents and most of our friends were not afforded.  But this is the hard part.  We loved her, we knew her, she knew us, she loved us - she was not some distant grandparent who only visited on holidays and only talked with the adults.  She came to basketball games and piano recitals and took us out to lunch every year for our birthday - and now she is gone.

We are leaving Hawai’i two weeks earlier than we planned to get home for the funeral and to be with family.  Even though our time here has been wonderful, I had long been looking forward to heading home.  Then, today, it hit me.  As I folded my tears in with Cole’s dress shirts, in our (likely over the 50lb weight limit) suitcases, I realized that home was the last place I wanted to be.

Don’t get me wrong… for the last two weeks that my grandmother had been in the hospital, I would have given anything to be home – holding her hand, talking to her, and surrounded by family.  Yet now, as I crammed the last of our unworn sweatshirts into the carry-on, Spokane was the last place I wanted to be.  And I couldn’t figure out why.  I knew it was not because I was sad to leave Hawai’i and the beaches and the sun… And I knew that I was longing to get home and hug my mom and family, but I could not pinpoint what it was.

Sometimes, grief looks like cleaning out your shower drain more in the last two days than in the last two months altogether.  Sometimes grief looks like crying through the memories so your husband hears the story about how she often forgot the peas in the microwave.  And, sometimes, grief looks like sitting on the bathroom floor writing at 1am because your sleepless mind will not stop.  My sleepless mind put the pieces together and realized why I was so reluctant to leave.  I realized that I just don’t want to know what home is like without her.  I have been okay in Hawai’i because it is as though, at times, I can deny the reality that she is gone because she was not supposed to be here, Hawaii, in the first place.  I could go to Portland and not feel ripped apart.   San Francisco, Sunnyside, Seattle… anywhere other than Spokane.  She is supposed to be in Spokane.  She is supposed to be standing at the top of the stairs of their split-level waiting for my hug.  She is supposed to step out of the car when Grandpa comes over for dinner.  She is supposed to ask for an ice cube for her glass of chardonnay.  She is supposed to teach my kids the spaghetti song.  I want to be with my family, but I know that once we’re all together, I will have to face the reality that she is actually gone.

I know I need to be thankful that I have had twenty-five years of memories with this one astounding lady, and I am. I am so very blessed to be her granddaughter.  And I am grateful beyond words to know that she is finally Home and at rest.  Selfishly though, I miss her like crazy and I know Spokane will never be the same.



"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."   -  1 Thess. 4:13-18

Just Us

We will also remind you that this is just a BLOG…just the highlights. We don’t sit around happily smiling for pictures all day long. Our life is far from perfect: we are imperfect people serving a perfect God. We do strive to glorify God, but we fail miserably and find comfort in knowing that our debts have been paid and we have been set free.

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