Monday, December 30, 2013

Thanks, Dad!

My Dad has thrown me and my blog a lifeline.

I've blogged through some difficult situations, hard times, sad times, good times... as well as deliriously happy times. But I have no point of reference for blogging through this kind of grief -- the sadness of losing my mom. It seems that it happened so fast. From last summer when we were clueless, to early fall when I viewed Mom's diagnosis through rose-colored glasses, to Thanksgiving Day when hospice became part of our family dynamic and shared the news that Mom could have as little as two weeks. In reality we enjoyed her company for about three weeks. Three wonderful, blessed, fantastic weeks to laugh and cry and to say 'I love you' over and over again, and to finally say 'goodbye'.

I'm not ready to write about it, but Dad did.

He needed to inform friends, share his grief, and honor our mom, his wife of 63 years. His words:

Dear All:  This is my poor attempt to notify one and all on my address book of the sadness of reporting our loss!  Gloria was the best thing that ever happened to me.................PERIOD.....................
Our seven children were a product of her immense "mothering" skills.  When I met her she was a good daughter, a good sister and a great friend to many "buddies"  (her favorite word for her friends) who became my buddies.  I was fortunate that, from the time we first dated, to our last day together, we never had a serious disagreement that couldn't be solved by a few words of concession and a smile!  She taught me how to care and she taught our children how to care!
We were most fortunate that we never held back from doing things, just because we couldn't afford them.  That included things as small as buying ice cream cones, going to picnics, taking an overnight getaway, to the more costly things like joining North Fork Country Club and building a house when a close friend made it possible.  These things shaped our life and - without a doubt - made "raising" the Bruce children a joyful adventure!!!!!!
Eventually, together, we enjoyed a modicum of success, with a family we were proud of and a comfortable lifestyle that enabled us to do things far beyond our expectations from the early days.  Gloria put up with my impatience and she steered me into a "lifetime" job that we could both be proud of.  If I seem to be using the word "proud" too often it is only because there is no other word that projects our satisfaction with "what we accomplished" together.
During the last few months our children, her family, my family and our friends couldn't have been better and more supportive.  I know Gloria felt the love and I will be grateful forever!  Gloria was the most beautiful person I ever knew..............PERIOD
With love to all:  Dad, Pop Pop, Dick  (or as Gloria sometimes like to call me) The Duke! 
My mom and dad, happy and healthy not so very long ago.
Gloria and the Duke

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Watching and Waiting...

And learning about patience.

Have patience, have patience, don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient, you only start to worry.
Remember, remember that God is patient too.
And, think of all the times when others have to wait on you.
Songs from The Music Machine, circa 1978, stick in my head like it was yesterday. Those were the years when I made a mission of teaching my children important life traits like patience, along with love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It was a lot to teach, a lot to try to demonstrate every day, in every way -- and I didn't always succeed, not with the teaching part or the demonstrating part. I had a theory that if you could just get the first and last down pat: love and self-control -- the rest would sort of fall into place.
Who's with me? (Lucky for us, diligence didn't make the list.)
That marvelous kids album came to my rescue and helped me clue my kids in on all nine marvelous character traits known as the fruit of the spirit: love,  joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Nothing is more important than love, which we know in our hearts, even if we don't know the Bible verses, is the greatest command. And if you skip from that to self-control and master it as well, then surely joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and goodness will work themselves out. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Regardless, we played the songs over and over, sang along while working, playing, and swinging on swings. At night the "Peace" song was a favorite lullaby.
Peace, peace
I think I understand.
Peace, peace
is holding Jesus' hand.
They were songs for kids. Just for kids. But today they are songs for a grown up -- me. They run through my mind bringing me comfort...and peace. When my boys were little I sang those songs and rocked them. And rocked and rocked and rocked. I used to wonder why it took them so long to close their eyes and go to sleep. 
Now it's a grown up me replaying those old songs in my mind, singing them to Mom when no one is near enough to hear. Singing and watching and waiting -- patiently -- for her to pass into the presence of Jesus, wondering why it takes so long. 
And somehow everything gets mixed up. I think of my mom when I was young. I'm reminiscing about family life, times with my siblings. I call to mind special moments my kids had with their Oma and Pop Pop, my mom and dad, back when they were young grandparents. And then somehow it's my own grandparents I'm remembering and missing. It's all mixed up. All the stages of life with generations coming and going. And I know, like it or not, this is how it should be. This is in the right order, the kindest, best, natural order of life. Like it or not. All our days are numbered. And suddenly we're left with two paradoxical thoughts: Where did the time go? and Why does it take so long?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Wait -- I'm Not Ready for Advent

The first week of Advent is upon us. It's supposed to be a time of waiting, watching, and preparing our hearts for the much anticipated coming of Jesus. Apparently I skipped the watching and waiting part, and jumped ahead to the preparing part. Preparing physically, not spiritually: trees are up, house is decorated, stockings are hung -- the ones my mom made throughout the years as my family grew. I've got them all hung by my fireplace, even though it's just me and Tom here now.

I'm doing everything at a frantic pace. Or at least when I'm not walking in circles, talking on the phone, checking in with family in Florida -- I'm working with a sense of urgency. In the past couple of weeks since I've been back from Florida, Tom and I have celebrated Thanksgiving with Adam and Alicia, visited with Aaron, Amy and our dear, sweet, handsome, extremely bright, absolutely delightful grandsons, and hosted a small hunting party on the first day of deer, which happens to be a very important date in these here parts.
Only Steve (far left) got a deer on Monday, but I heard Aaron (far right) got one today.

Pastor Brian and Jesse got skunked too. The guys who didn't have doe tags saw -- you guessed it -- all the doe.
This week I rushed around preparing our house for Christmas... 

Inside tree done. Outside icicle lights hung.

Dining room decorated. Outside tree up and lit.
Was that just one week ago we attended the State College CMA church with our son, his wife, and kids? Last Sunday Aaron began his sermon suggesting that before we rush headlong into the Christmas season we ought to take time to reflect on the thanksgiving season. Beyond Thanksgiving was a welcome and much needed message, one I intended to mull over, take to heart, and practice. But alas, life got in the way. I forgot to get quiet and get with God. I forgot to begin Advent.

All is not lost, I can go back and listen again. Perhaps you'd like to listen-in as well: Beyond Thanksgiving, by Aaron Henning, Dec. 1, 2013 at the State College CMA church. (You may choose audio or video.)

On the re-listen, I'm ready for Advent. I will heed the reminder to express gratitude as a daily habit. I can come into God's presence with thanksgiving any time, all the time. And in that, I think it's wise to put aside my activities and responsibilities and go be with the part of my family who I need to be with most particularly at this time.

So off I go with the well wishes and support of my husband, who is a gem, heading back to Florida to have a little more time with Mom, Dad, and siblings. I'll be watching and waiting, anticipating the Lord coming to us, even as my mom goes to Him. Or watching in delight as He gives us more time together. Either way, we'll bask in His presence, and I'll offer my sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Heaven: It Must Be Very Good

Sadness over hard times.
Serious disappointment.

Grief is all of the above, and sometimes it comes upon us as we prepare for loss.

I'm preparing. We're preparing. Our dad is preparing. He's handling the brunt of this difficult and sad time with such tenderness and strength. Dad is our champion and he is Mother's knight in shining armor. He's by her side, helping her through, keeping a promise he made 63 years ago.

Through the years Dad and Mom have shown us kids how wedding vows are kept. They've demonstrated how to honor, love, and cherish in sickness and in health. We're watching, and they are living it out. They're living out the difficult last part of the vow. Until death do us part. The part starry-eyed young people don't even imagine will be part of their future.  But that's the reality folks. Everyone has their turn. No matter how long or short your marriage -- in most cases -- one of you will pass on before the other. And though we all have some trepidation about crossing over, it's the spouse left behind that has the more difficult position. But, as my Dad said to me just the other day, "Everyone goes through this, and it's just our turn."

What do you say to offer comfort at a time like this? I don't know the right words. I'm left wondering how can I help? What can I say or do? What do I even know?

What Do I Know? by Sara Groves

And with that I'm thanking my son, Aaron, for sharing this song with me. Such a comfort I found this song to be. Perhaps it will bless you as well.