Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory Grief - that's the name given to this state of "pre-loss" before the "actual loss". It can happen months or years before the loss and is in effect a prelude to the painful grieving process. It comes when either ourselves or our loved ones are facing a terminal illness. It is a different grief process than the one experienced after a loss. I am reading a book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler on "Grief and Grieving" which is giving me understanding for what I am going through.

Knowing the inevitable is close; seeing a loved one slowly succumb to the ravishes of disease is a painful experience.

My mother at this present time, is laying in a hospital bed a thousand miles away living and breathing her last final days. She is aware that she is dying I believe, but never talks about it. Today, in a moment of lucidity though, she prayed a few beautiful sentences with my sister - praying for her care, for her family.

She is 81 years old. She gave birth to six children, including a set a twins, of which I am one. Her name is Willow Joyce Docksteader. I have her name "Joy" in my name. Never before has that meant so much to me as now. I will carry her name respectfully and honourably forever. It will remind me often of her.

At the age of 5, mom's father suddenly died and her mother and two other siblings were suddenly faced with life without a dad and husband. They ended up moving in with grandparents for a time, for support and to make ends meet.

My mother became a hairdresser and up until the actual day my brother and I were born, she ran a hairdressing salon in the back room of our house. With six children under feet, she worked hard preparing meals, doing laundry and all the other necessary things needed in raising us. She always overextended herself physically and was relatively healthy till the last twenty years of her life. She honoured and respected my father and her role as a wife is probably the greatest gift she has passed on to me. She deeply loved my father. Mom always looked good. Always. She took great care in her appearance and dressed stylishly and always said she wanted to look good for dad. ;)

My interior design giftings come from my mom too. We always lived in a clean and beautiful home. Her taste for artful decor and warm furnishings were comfortable and peaceful. Mom's ability to create a peaceful environment has served me well as I long to do the same for my husband and family.

Her insecurities could not be hidden and fear sometimes robbed her of peace, yet her ability to attempt some adventures in her life will fondly be remembered - as recently as last summer when my brother took her for a ride on the lake in his sea-doo. She was up for it. I also remember mom wrestling on the floor with my two brothers when they were 10 or 11 years of age - now that brought a lot of laughs to the family! She skated in the winter, loved to swim in the summer, even drove a school bus part time for my dad. She lived a full life.

My last visit to see her was three weeks ago at the hospital. Her bruised, swollen body barely resembles the mom I fondly remember. Yet, when she looked at me I could still see the spark in her eyes, faintly, but still there. My mom has beautiful eyes. At one point, after I shared a heart concern with her, she grabbed my arm and stroked it and said "I'm so sorry Robbie... I'm so sorry." And tears began to slip from her weary eyes and for a moment we were connected - and this gift of her last "motherly" act towards me will always be treasured within my heart.

My mom affectionately calls me "Robbie" which endears me to her.

This feeling of knowing I am going to lose her is frightening. I'm 54 years old and I still need my mother. I still want her to be around - to be "there". I still want to hear "I love you dear" as the last words of every phone conversation. I still want to get birthday and Christmas cards from her. She took extreme care in selecting just the most perfect cards and I appreciated her gift of love with each one of them. I realized the written word is very important to me for affirmation and I think this has come because of how mom expressed her love to us in this way. This past fall was the first time I did not receive a birthday card from her in over 50 years. I knew she was really ill. Mom would never forget birthdays.

I cannot make light of the process I am going through at the moment. Many people experience incredible grief in losing a parent and we all process differently. I choose to process through writing. This is my story of my mother, a beautiful woman who loved me the best she could given her own brokenness in her own story. I am a part of her and she is a part of me. Her strengths, passions, loves and weaknesses are all woven within me. Her fear and intimidation, her kindness and generosity are alive and well in the very depths of my soul. Her love for Christ and her desire to serve Him well are the cornerstones of my theology.

Her strength and ability to endure suffering has set before me an example that is hard to match or exceed - she "endured the cross well". Her incredible lack of complaining and her unbelievable threshold to live with pain speak of a fortitude and character that is rarely seen. I not only love my mother, I admire her.

As the essence of who she is slowly slips away more each day, I find my anticipatory grief looming bigger and bigger before my eyes. My emotions are ultra sensitive - a thought of her can produce a tear; a prayer can bring a deluge of water to my face. I am distracted by the events about to happen and the planning necessary for the future. I am concerned for the welfare of my sibilings on the front line carrying the load of care day after day and my deepest thoughts are almost always for my dad and his journey through this loss.

As the veil between Heaven and Earth approaches more closely and the final steps my mom takes will be as she dances across to the awaiting embrace of her Heavenly Father, we take hope that we will someday see her again, but for the moment we embrace the reality that her journey is ending and her suffering will soon be over and she will finally enter her time of rest.

There is grace to be found in this grieving process; there is a gift to be unwrapped; there is a healing to take place in the hearts of those that will lose her. Never forgotten, deeply loved, she is. Always carried in the hearts of those who love her the most.

I love you Mom.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God is working behind the scenes

Today I was thinking about the ways in which God intervenes in our lives and how we are completely unaware of it happening.
We go about our usual rhythm of daily life with our agenda handy; pen in hand to tick off all the completed tasks and we marvel at our incredible ability and talent to tackle so much.
We don a big smile at the end of the day thinking it all happened because we made it that way.

What we don't realize and may never ever know, are the prayers spoken on our behalf on bended knee by faithful friends who help to carry our burden.
We don't see the time they set aside to pray for us; we don't hear the words they utter; we don't see the tears they cry as they petition God to deliver and rescue us.
We don't know the sacrifices they have made behind the scenes to encourage us by way of phone calls, letters, emails.
Yet, we reap the rewards and blessing from their faithful prayers.

We are also unaware of the precise arranging of holy moments when we "randomly" bump into someone we haven't seen for a long time on the street corner or, through a coincidental circumstance, we meet someone that changes the course of our lives - forever.
Such incidents are divine interventions.

If I had the ability to see in the spiritual realm, I imagine I could see myriads of angels and Godly beings interspersed among crowds of people in a busy downtown city.
I also imagined angels inhabiting the body of my good friends and ministering to me when I have been in great pain.

God is at work in this world and He is doing it in an invisible realm.

Prayers are being answered, circumstances are being re-arranged, re-ordered, angels are busy ministering and carrying out God's orders and we are the blessed recipients of it all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hope Longing

protruding edges
nothing hid

deep emotions
empty emotions

stagnant sorrows

Hope Longing

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Give Me A Dream

Give me a dream God
I've forgotten all the ones I used to have
they've disappeared

Maybe they've run away
Maybe they're covered up with mounds of debris from life
Maybe they've reached their due date
and have expired

Whatever happened to them (or it)
they cease to exist
they are no more

Here I am
pondering life without a dream
without a definitive call,
without a deep sense of purpose
holding my hands out
open and wide
and asking you to fill them
with a dream
(maybe two dreams)

Maybe I'm actually
living the dream

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Weeding, .... again

Today I find myself outside pulling small weeds from our stone and gravel driveway. This mindless task reminds me of another time three years ago doing a similar thing.

Then, it was pulling weeds out of a cracked and broken sidewalk beside a house used by the local university as a classroom. On my hands and knees, and in the hot sun, I wondered how on earth this task accomplished anything for the eternal kingdom. The weeds were overgrown and obviously neglected and they did nothing to enhance the beauty of the landscape around the premises.

I had time on my side and a great love to make places more beautiful, so I tackled the task. I remember thinking then, it would be a means by which I could serve the academics of the university, never dreaming of course that someday I would be one as well.

But there it was that God spoke to me very clearly and told me to lay down my gardening tools, take off my gardening gloves and come sit at his feet and learn from Him. I chased this first thought out of my head like a lion chases prey. But it entered again and what began as a simple, gentle tug on my heart towards the impossible (as far as I was concerned), I stepped forward with small baby steps of faith and tiny pocketfuls of courage to study about God.

It's been an amazing three years. I 've read some great books (more than ever in my life before); I've written academic papers; I've met the most amazing and most dear lifetime friends and I've travelled to Greece and Turkey.

Now I look back and ask "how did it all happen so fast?". I'm delighted at the accomplishment and lessons learned but I also grieve that it is over. I miss all aspects of it greatly.

So, here I am today, down on all fours, weeding - pulling up things that don't belong where they've grown, (ruining a perfect manicure!) and I'm genuinely hoping for You, Father, to speak to me again.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Help Me Father

It feels like I take two steps forward and one step
It's hard to hang on sometimes
I sense You
then I don't
Yet I know you are there
Your life is tangled up inside mine
You formed me
designed me
even planned me
so here I am
and I wonder what I'm supposed to do in life
I'm getting older now
not many years left
who knows
maybe the purpose I've been searching for all along
has been exactly what I've been doing
God only knows
I'm not even sure why I think
I should be thinking I should do anything more
Why this restlessness deep within
why the big questions
I guess it's because I know
I can be more
and I know I can know you more
and I really, really want that
I really want to love you more,
serve you more and I guess
deep down, I just want to
be more holy - more like you
and less of me
and so,
I'm restless
as I figure out how to do it
how to approach you more closely
when you actually live inside me
help me
get closer

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Today I thirst for Living Water

I am sitting on the small side of our upper balcony on our house, enjoying a cup of coffee, reading my bible and thankful for such a beautiful place to live and such a beautiful day to to be gifted to me.

I am reading from John 4, the story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman. Jesus' conversation with this woman captures my heart again. His first words to this stranger come by way of a request. He is asking her for something. It is obvious that this woman draws water from this well frequently and is accustomed to carrying it back to where it is needed. Jesus did not ask her to do something that was out of her realm of ability. This task of drawing water was ordinary. She could do it.

I wondered what God is asking of me that I do regularly. Or, what is it that he might be asking of me that I am gifted at, that I accomplish with little effort but is a core part of who I am. I think God specifically requests of us those elements of our personality that make us unique.

After further discussion regarding protocol between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus speaks to this woman by addressing in a kindly manner her ignorance of whose company she was in. "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water."

Do I really know the One who is asking me for something? Do I know what He is asking of me? Do I really understand the gift God has for me? Do I know what Living Water means for me?

Further on Jesus says, "... the water I give, takes away thirst altogether and becomes a perpetual spring within, giving eternal life."

Our thirst is quenched. We are satisfied. We are perpetually filled. An ongoing source of Living Water flowing within us, strengthening us for the impossible tasks we face. A well of resource that gives us new courage and new hope when we feel we have reached bottom and our wells have run dry.

It's there for us with a mere asking.

Father, help me first of all, to give to you what you may be asking of me. Then help me to know You... to really know who You are, in a much greater way than I've ever known before. If I can stand but a glimpse of your Glory, let me behold You in a way that changes me, and let me ask without wavering for this gift of Living Water.

There is no other fountain that brings eternal life but You.