Everyday Spirituality

Archive for February, 2012

Raising the Cheetos

Some things you just cannot escape.

I knew it was coming. I even made plans for it. I reached out to a friend to have Mass said for her. I bought the ceremonial Cheetos. I surrounded myself with her family. I prayed for her. I talked to her. I reached out to her for the right words of comfort.

Some things you just cannot escape.

Some things you must endure as painful as they may be inside. Sometimes I wish I had some external wound. I could look at this wound and use it as a gage as to how my heart and emotions were progressing. But of course there is no such wound. And even if there were I would want it hidden, covered by my clothes maybe on my abdomen.

That seems an appropriate place since we all get gut feelings from time to time. I once saw a silly movie where the person had some kind of little creature that would emerge from their side. It was never good when this creature appeared. It was more like a spoiled child.

I do not like thinking things are fine. I have now moved on. I can deal with this loss. I know she is gone. Death is part of life…end of story.

But it is not that simple. Grief lays low waiting to ambush you.

Even when you think you are aware; you get blindsided. It comes out and bops you on the head. It punches you in the stomach…knocks the air out of your lungs.

It really sucks.

You look at the life she had and you rejoice. You try to carry on with the things she loved…family meals, games, and celebrating together. She was all about being together with her loved ones.

I went through the motions…I even tried to be happy and smile. The words of the music at Mass touched my heart in its most vulnerable area. Maybe there is a special section of your heart reserved to hold memories of loved ones forever. Forever is such a long time. I know it will get better, but that does not diminish the present pain.

Maybe I should just swallow a pill and get on with my life. That sounds like a plan. No, that is not the solution for me. I have said many times I wanted to experience this loss. I do not want to pretend the pain does not exist.

So yesterday on what would have been her seventieth birthday, I stood in my kitchen and raising a Cheetos to heaven toasted our friendship. “Here’s to the good times.” I said. Who needs alcohol to make a toast anyway? As I ate each little cheesy stick I etched even more indelibly in my heart the times of laughter we shared together.

Some things you just cannot escape!

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Memory Box: Things to Keep

Young girls sometimes begin saving things in a hope chest for their eventful wedding day.

They save these items with their hope in a bright happy future.

 

 

Years ago women would store things in a cedar chest so they would not get moth ridden. The cedar wood lining of the chest would in effect keep the moths out. It was one way to protect sweaters and blankets.

Today I am writing about a treasure chest. Of course inside of a treasure chest you would expect to find the lost or buried treasure. You would hope to find valuable gold coins from long ago or some exquisite jewelry even more valuable from another era.

The treasure chest itself might be ornate and secured with a large dangling pad lock with the curious missing key. But have no fear because any treasure hunter would have no qualms of prying open the lock to reach the treasure within.

 

Well you might be wondering; where is she going with all this? I won’t keep you guessing any longer.

Some time back my dear friend gave me a beautiful burled wood box 9inches square and 2 inches deep. At the time I honestly remember thinking, ‘What am I going to do with this BOX?’ I stashed it away on the table in the dining room amidst other stuff.

It was a nice box, but still just a plain highly shellacked box. It is even nicely finished inside. And it does have a clasp to keep it closed, but certainly not locked. There it sat idle and empty…waiting.

Since her death I have begun to look at this box in a new light. As I began to come across some of the things she had given me over the years I would place them on top of this box. I soon decided that I would thoughtfully place some of these things inside the box.

I especially want to save letters and postcards she sent to me while she was traveling. I have birthday cards too she so caringly selected with just the right sentiment written inside for me. She would always add her own personal words to make the card even more special. I like to look at these letters and cards, because I like to look at her handwriting. I like to touch the card knowing she once held it in her own hands. Some of her remains on these pieces of paper.

Not too long before she died we had a little dinner in her home with some of our mutual friends. She had tiny little pieces of china filled with fresh cut miniature flowers at each person’s place. It reminded me of a child’s tea party where everything on the table was set with care and attention to detail. I have placed that precious china piece into the box. I will always remember that wonderful time we had together that evening.

I have memories of many things like her garlic butter which has been consumed and cannot go into the box. Her biscuits from scratch. Yum!

On one of her trips she discovered beautiful hand crafted earthenware. She gave me a couple pieces, but one I accidently broke. It was a small spoon rest; it fell in the sink and broke in half. I have put it temporarily back together with a rubber band, but now it too is in the box.

I do not know how many other things will come to take up their residence in the box. But one thing I do know is whatever is in the box will hold dear memories for me for many years to come.

She was a woman filled with hope so this box could have been called HOPE.

She was a woman who was not deterred by a few pesky ‘moths’ in life so this box could have been called CEDAR.

She was a woman precious as gold or heirloom jewelry so this box could have been called TREASURE.

She was a woman I will forever hold dear in my heart.

So this box is simply called MEMORY.

We will soon be celebrating what would have been her seventieth birthday. She would have thoroughly enjoyed us all gathering around the table for food and fun together. We will sing and join together one more time to honor and remember one treasured wife, mother, and friend once again.

You are loved and missed, my dear friend.

I Am with You Always

For some time I have had a picture of Jesus embracing a child in a hug. In this picture, however I see the woman receiving comfort in this embrace. The muted colors reflect tenderness to me. Even moments of tenderness can carry a huge impact on your soul. I tend to close my eyes attempting to block the outside world from interfering with my feelings. The arms of Jesus are supporting the child and drawing her close into his love. Jesus also has his eyes closed so he is also focused on this moment in time. Jesus even seems to be using his head to further extend his love to this child.

I can remember holding my children close to me in much this same pose. Looking back at the child her right hand seems to be clutching to Jesus’ shoulder.

I am describing this picture with such care because it closely represents much of what I was gifted with this weekend during a guided meditation. We were initially led into a church with large heavy doors.

I was at first in a church we had visited while in Barcelona a few months ago. I could easily picture the massive doors. The exterior surface was covered with cut out raised words. You could easily trace the letter of each word with your fingers. The name of Jesus was highlighted in gold and could easily be read.

As the meditation progressed I found myself in another European church with the typical smaller altars lining both sides of the inside walls. I am kneeling there to pray for my friend, which I had actually done, when I began to feel this warmness.

My friend was embracing me; our hearts were merging and the tears were beginning to well up in my eyes. I remember thinking I wanted to wipe them aside, but I did not want to move for fear of spoiling the moment. I remained still letting this embrace be enough to fill my heart with her love.

I think God used this special time to let me know that she would be with me during the rest of the weekend. Towards the end of the meditation time we were asked to touch the place on our body where we experienced God’s glory, I think, anyway I could only touch my heart. I felt her embracing my heart much as I had felt her hugging me physically many times before.

I did not want to let the moment pass, but I knew it was not meant to last. This picture above is a wonderful snapshot of a moment frozen in eternity.

I felt her presence with me at other times during the weekend too. She was beside me during many conversations I had with the other women. She knew most of the women present. She never met a person she did not remember on subsequent occasions.

If she met you she cared about you it was that simple. So she would not have missed the opportunity this weekend to be with those she knew.

So in spite of not really wanting to be on this retreat I know now it was a blessing of peace. It was a blessing of reassurance of her presence. I know Jesus said he would be with us until the end of time.

So if my dearest friend is with him in heaven, which I have no doubt she is, then it seems reasonable to me that she would also be with me until the end of time. Without the hindrance of her physical body she can now be with many at the same time, family and friends.

The beauty of the ‘spirit’ of a person is that there are no boundaries, but only a thin separation as some call the ‘veil of death’. Shortly before my friend became ill my sister was inspired to paint her in an embrace with Jesus similar to this image.

This week as celebrate Valentine’s Day my heart is rejoicing at the friendship and love we shared for so many years. Sending my valentine wishes via thoughts and prayers sprinkled with joy for all the times we shared together.

I invite you to pause tomorrow and think about those who have been a part of your life and touched your soul in a special way. They are with you if only in your heart.

“And behold, I am with you always,

until the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:20)

Do You Ever Feel Stripped?

Romans 8:28, 31 “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Throughout life we are stripped in many different situations. Daily we strip from our clothes in order to cleanse our body. Thus we have the sanitary reason for stripping. Whenever I make my annual gynecological visit stripping is also required. Thus we have the medical reason for stripping.

Refinishing furniture requires stripping off the old finish. A stripped screw can no longer function properly. And of course we have the whole adult entertainment industry where stripping is used to attract and tempt men and women.

There are other examples of stripping I could include, but I want to focus on feeling stripped as a result of a death. A stripping you cannot control; more on that a little later.

The idea here of feeling stripped is about loss; not of clothing but of emotional support. Since losing my friend I have felt stripped of her presence. It is like I do not have my complete wardrobe.

Looking into my ‘closet’ I am not able to find an acceptable substitute. I get dressed, but always something is missing. I feel things do not coordinate together. Something I highly valued has been stripped from my life.

Throughout our lives we are involuntary stripped of things we hold dear…material things….money…personal security…peace of mind…hopes…and dreams…health…the list could go on.

I know in my heart that it is more about how I react than to what I perceive is being stripped from me. This realization requires vigilance.

I often try to connect situations in my life with a familiar biblical story. When I think of being stripped I picture Jesus being stripped of his clothes. He chose to submit to this humiliating act allowing the soldiers to strip him and cast lots for his garments. No greater Love!

Without clothes you are naked and vulnerable to the external elements. Without clothes you lose some protection. There is nothing to cover your sensitive skin. The death of my close friend to me is much like being stripped.   I feel vulnerable.

Being stripped of your soul friend leaves you without familiar cover. Not that you can hide inside your clothing, but the friendship provides a safe place. Within friendship that which is less than perfect and hidden from others is accepted by your friend. Inside the clothing of friendship you are not preoccupied with what others think. You are accepted and loved for just being…you. You can actually be better at who you are.

Occasionally I have left home without something as simple as my earrings. It seems ridiculous, but I feel naked without earrings. I know it makes no sense. Earrings are a very small part of being dressed.

I feel stripped and vulnerable without my friend, but at the same time there is this sense of freedom. This sense of freedom almost makes me feel guilty. Freedom seems to contradict the loss and feelings of being stripped. A freedom from being stripped is the freedom from expectations.

Piet Mondrian

As we approach Lent I invite you to consider; what you can strip from your own life. During Lent we have the freedom to look at our lives and decide what we can strip away in order to have a closer relationship with the Lord.

We can ask ourselves these questions, “What am I hiding behind?

What is compromising my acceptance of God’s plan for me?”

“What am I clutching onto for dear life?”

Like St. Paul I often do not know how to pray as I ought; especially when I feel stripped, vulnerable and sometimes even deserted by God.