Christmas Queen

2009-12-21 18.09.50

My perspective is real wide now,
but my vision is like way narrow.
The word “Love” sounds like
when you shout into a bottomless well.
Well, maybe there’s a bottom,
but how would we know, ya know?

We keep seeing you everywhere.

I saw you a whole lot today in the
back of the TJ Maxx on Madison.
There were those peppermint-bark tins
that you used to get, I was gunna get Miss
a picture frame, but I couldn’t wait in the line.

You waited in every line for us.

I don’t know how ya did it.
You said every Christmas would be small,
but that was always a lie.

I don’t think you meant to lie.
I think you genuinely thought
you couldn’t pull it off some years,
but oh, man you did.

I don’t know what I’ll miss more,
your Christmas village magic –
or the thought of you waiting in all
those lines; a big smile on your face
when you began to realize … that year
was gunna be bigger than the last … again.

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Celebration of life – 11/10/18

I stared at all your faces
Sombre, though bright alike
They came from all your places
Some drove through the night

I recited poems and sang
The worship songs you’d want
My bright guitar strings rang
Hid my tears all nonchalant

It was impossible indeed
To see your daughter cry
Our simple family creed
Is try, then give, then try

Many wished they’d’ve spoke
Too hard a thing to do
I tried to calm them with a joke
And head back laugh in lieu

In pictures, young I saw
Your face lit up with glee
God’s gift of grace and awe
For many eternity

I know I did you proud
Don’t have to wish a thing like that
Your people sang real loud
I acted as diplomat

I closed with that poem
I read to you that day
Not ever a time alone
When that poem I hear you say
When that poem kneels down to pray

We have the honor to remain

We got everything in order for you.

The disability benefits for your final months.
The life insurance so we can pay off the house.
The automatic payments for the energy bill.
The files are in order.
The mail’s been checked.
The cars are paid off.
The radiation is done.
The chemo is through.

No more doctor’s appointments.

We got everything in order for you,
“Right down to the urn.”

I’m Not Asking

I will never know
how hurt you have been
and are.

You held it together for
years. Then one day it all
came apart.

Maybe you saw it coming,
but couldn’t believe it would be
a new reality.

Reality sounds kinda nice
compared to what every
stunted, splintered day in this hell feels like.

I hope you can have some good
before you go. There’s been a mistake
in how much broken you were handed.

I pray peace for you, even when you
really frustrate me. I want to hear
more joy in your voice.

Not one more moment of pain, Lord.
Not one more God-forsaken moment.
Let’s see you redeem.

I call upon you now to right this ship.
To make impossible good out of
insurmountable bad.

I’m afraid I’m not asking.
I’m telling.
Right now, show my mother … love like she’s never seen.

To Mom from Ty

When you’re gone, return to dust
I’ll be alright, You’ll have to trust
You’re only boy, your “favorite son”
I’ll be fine, when your day is done

Miss has my back, and I have hers
Thick as blood, more than words
The joy of friends, I’m sealed with love
Only good comes from above

Think of the place you’ll get to be!
Golden courts for eternity!
A place of rest, for a body worn
A Savior king, the curtain torn

Peace forever! Not for a time!
A whole new body! A whole new mind!
Cancer is a forgotten word!
It’s name is never, ever heard!

You’ll run and jump and maybe fly!
And never, ever say goodbye!
Only love, that’s all you’ll know!
You and me, we know it’s so!

No more bad, no more pain!
Two more completely forgotten names!
All your words get whittled down
And somehow “Love” is the only sound

You’ll see your dad, you’ll see your mom
And all the others, who have passed on
Run into – your daddy’s arms
And gaze upon his million charms

A loving mom, ‘til the day you die
But we keep it here, with us inside
I think what I’ll remember clear
Your steady saying, “I love you, dear.”

I love you mum!

-Ty

My mother and I went down to the river

It was the warmest day in early fall. Faint, wispy clouds above, water running slowly over fragments of glacial rock beneath.

There I am standing, ankle high in the water, and I’m thinking about just how perfect this feels. Some folks gather at the rocky banks. My mother joins me in the water along with my friend, Stephen.

We wade out into the center of the Little Miami River and I trudge through the water trying to find a deep pocket to stand. Stephen and I hold my mother’s hands. I ask her if she is ready to be washed clean of her sins.

I say that as she is submerged beneath the water, it is a symbol of being buried in the grave with Christ, and that as she comes to the surface, she will be a new creation, a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. She says she is ready to be made new. She never learned to swim and is glad the water is not too deep.

We lower her body down into the water and the slow current courses over her. We raise her up and she exhales and smiles. Then, my friend and my mother grab my hands. They tell me that what I am about to do is a response to how much God loves me. My mother tells a story of me proclaiming my love for God when I was a boy. They dip me into the water and raise me up. There is cheering for my mother and I from the banks.

Make us new, Lord. We are thankful for this baptism day and hold it as a reminder that while our clothes will become soiled again, you can wash us clean and that you delight in redeeming us. Your desire to bring us back to you never fades. Your resolve is unending. I pray Lord, that not one would be lost, for even if one is lost, then our sum in none. I pray that we would be a complete body when we are returned to our former glory. I pray that we would forgive one and other like you forgive us. Lord, this season has been difficult for my mother and I. I pray that we would not give up loving each other well. I confess that I think I know what’s best, even now. There are things in this life that seem so unnecessarily painful. I want them to go away. Make them go away, Lord. Please. From a man full of doubt. A man whose faith is as strong as a dead leaf in autumn. Tossed and turned by a slight wind. One day I hope to be like that river, Lord. That made up its mind when it will bend. Amen.

Jody

Walk into the service with your head hung low; a sign of misplaced respect for the deceased. Hug old friends and shake the hands of people you only slightly remember.

The deacons tell you to pick up a stone from a basket at the entrance. Curious, you think, but you gladly hold the small gray stone in your palm and massage the smooth surface with your fingers.

Smile and wince simultaneously at folks who nod as you pass them by in the tight pews. Too tight, you think, why do they make them so close together?

Throw the back of your brown, tweed sportcoat behind you. Notice, for the first time, that every man is wearing a black or navy blue suit with a white shirt and a dark tie and every woman is wearing a black dress with white fringe somewhere. 

Organ music swells. You wonder how they build instruments like that. So encompassing, the sound.

The service begins. The minister speaks like poetry. A rhythm that’s unmistakable. There’s no words out of place. Each word is as beautiful as the last. Each word carries a cosmic weight.

Friends and siblings speak effortlessly about her kindness, her wit, her writing, her love. Your friends cry when her sons get up to speak. When was the last time you saw any of them cry? You can’t recall really, but it’s been a long time, you’re sure of that.

They get through their short speeches with indelible strength. They pause when they must, to choke back all the things that come rushing forth. You are proud of them and wonder how you will do when you find yourself in their shoes one day.

You feel something hanging all around the room. God? You ask the inside of your head. He doesn’t answer audibly, though, maybe he doesn’t need to.

Her husband speaks. He is a good man and his goodness is profound in that moment. How deep his love is for her. Is not was. Is.

Piano playing, poems recited, favorite blues songs echo from the speakers. All of it quiet reflection for a woman who was like a second mother to you. You cry too, but mostly because it’s beautiful.

The minister tells the congregation to remember the stone they are holding in their hand. This stone is from Rhode Island. She has been going to the beach where the stones were collected since she was a small child. Feel the weight of the stone. Feel its texture. Cup it in your hands. Now, imagine that in one of her many years at that beach, she may have picked up the stone you are holding in yours hands. Then, think of a word that describes your relationship with her.

“Mother”

That’s the only word in your head. Mother to her sons. Mother to her son’s friends; adopted and brought in to the family.

The minister asks everyone to get up, row by row, and place the stone in a basin at the front; an act of letting go.

You let the stone go and listen to the sound it makes as it hits the rocks below it with a slight thud. It sounds like a final page turning and a book closing. It sounds like closure.  

You throw your arms around her sons and her husband. You sing a hymn you’ve never heard and you leave; with your eyes forward and your head up, a true sign of respect for your second mom.