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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

My grandfather was a man’s man. From my youngest days he used words in everyday conversations that I was never allowed to say, kept his refrigerator stocked with beer, and played pool almost daily with his cronies at the Elks where he tended the “gentlemen’s” bar into his 80s. But every winter when the light turned low in Nebraska, he got restless. I think he had what we call Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Well, I’ve said it before, but I will probably declare it each and every year once Black Friday arrives: I am an Advent person. Advent is the church season preceding the Light coming into this world at Christmas. Advent is all about waiting with expectation and hope for the light that will brighten our days—and our nights. But we are not a world much into waiting these days.

In an era when our culture seems to be experiencing an extended period of SAD—global economic uncertainties, financial difficulties in our own homes and neighborhoods, political stalemates and hostilities, and a real absence of long-term feelings of hope—shortening our Thanksgiving celebrations to jostle in lines to get those shiny new big screen TVs and other devices that run on light is not going to provide long-term light therapy.

No, what we need in these darkest of days is to turn to the true light from true light.

Advent—not this too early, too long, and too lacking in Christ-centered way of celebrating Christmas—is what is lacking in our collective focus.

Even though I am also tempted to forget to seek that true light, my own personal needs have again brought me to my knees. While my grandfather experienced winter blues, most likely my grandmother suffered depression during even the sunniest of days, just as my daughter does. These seasonal changes hit us all, but are often darker for those who struggle with darkness year round.

So I ask for prayers from friends both close and far away, as well as try to pray without ceasing myself. I pray for her, but also I pray for discernment and ideas, as well as for those people, professional and otherwise, who can help her.

What can we do besides pray to reduce the darkness? For one, we got her a light therapy box. Crazy, but the blue lights remind me of Advent and its liturgical color of blue.

We sent her back to college with that box, so our own access to that type of light therapy will have to wait, but for me, light therapy also comes in the lyrics I’ve learned from my choir songs. When darkness overwhelms me so much that I can’t even rest in the peace of sleep, those words arrive unbidden to voice the hope I do not always feel.

I like to think God is telling me to look to Him for the light, while pointing us to resources and support. And, so, in this quiet Advent period (well, in our house anyway) I ask Him to help me to wait, knowing He will in His time dispel the night—and SADness will flee away.

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?” Rodney King

(c) 2009

I don’t always feel safe while jogging and walking around our town, even though I choose my routes so that I have the right-of-way in most instances while doing my best to follow the traffic laws. My husband has the same problems riding his bicycle in our neighborhood. I used to think it was just our neighbors who weren’t open to alternative forms of transportation, but having our 50cc (really 49.5cc when it comes down to it) scooter in three Colorado towns since we’ve owned it is making me wonder about our whole state—maybe it’s not just Englewood.

So I just have to ask, why do so many people pick on our scooter? I’m enough of a chicken that I don’t even operate our scooter, but I still care about my family members who do and I write the checks for insurance premiums and upkeep.

Yeah, we own a cute red and white Schwinn Collegiate that has a one gallon gas tank—with that tank you can guess the mileage is pretty darn good—and it goes around 35 miles an hour. We really couldn’t afford the more powerful scooters available through Schwinn or any other maker, but what a great way to get around the neighborhood without a lot of expense or environmental impact. Although we can’t ride it 365 days a year in Colorado, we still get a lot of scooter time in the cooler months due to mild weather.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

When we bought the scooter a couple years ago at Scooters on Broadway, Colorado required operators to have a driver’s (automobile) license and wear eye protection, with riders under 18 also needing to wear helmets. Seemed like a good way to take short jaunts around our home—until Christiana, our daughter, got pulled over. Broadway, the main north/south road in metro Denver, runs right through Englewood. When the police officer informed our daughter she couldn’t ride on roads with a speed limit higher than 30 mph, we were stunned.

I contacted our town’s now former mayor who is also a scooter rider. Turns out the town statute was more restrictive than state laws and those of our neighboring communities—a rider who could ride Broadway legally in Denver would be breaking the law in Englewood until crossing into the suburb of Littleton. Pretty crazy considering two scooter dealerships were located on Broadway within our city limits. Mr. Mayor realized his more powerful scooter could get him a ticket for both being on the road—and speeding. He no longer got to ride his scooter to council meetings and went to work at changing the statute to something more compatible with state standards.

Thanks to the mayor’s work, six months later riding scooters on Broadway became legal in our town, too.

When Christiana decided to work in Durango this past summer, we brought her the scooter. Once again she got pulled over, this time because the passenger was not wearing eye protection. Then the (motorcycle) officer proceeded to cite her for having no formal registration; however, despite last year’s state requirement change, the scooter’s three-year registration sticker is grandfathered and thus valid until it expires next summer. Once we proved our insurance and registration papers were in order, all charges were dropped.

This fall Christiana finds herself living in Fort Collins while she attends Colorado State University. Both she and we are borrowing enough money for her education so that providing her with a car is not a financially viable option. The scooter, her bicycle, her feet, and the bus help her get where she needs from her off-campus home.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Apparently, though, some students who do have cars in her neighborhood do not believe she should park on the street. First she found a thinly-veiled threat written in pink highlighter on a note-card taped to her scooter. Signed by “concerned car owners,” the card states the driver can barely see her “moped” and might hit it, plus declares the vehicle does not need the parking space anyway since it could fit in the writer’s vehicle. And today another student called the police because the scooter “was making it impossible for him to move his car.”

I guess they would rather she park a car on the street—which would take up more room. However, unlike these students, she can’t really afford a car right now, so we’d appreciate it if they’d keep their entitled attitudes to themselves—and stop moving the scooter physically.

I’m glad we reported the first incident to the police, but am appalled that someone else is now threatening our vehicle. The responding police officer today gave Christiana her business card and said to call her if it got hit since she might have an idea who had done it. Great—at least we pay our premiums.

But, seriously folks, would it be so hard to allow alternate transportation on our roads?

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Expectancy is the opposite of dread. It is the anticipation that whatever is coming will be good—or even way beyond good. In fact, we use the word “expecting” to talk about women who are pregnant. In that way, expectancy is a sense of being pregnant with possibility.

So much of expectancy comes to us through our senses, especially through smell. The aroma of dough rising and baking in the oven makes me taste the bread that will exist once the timer beeps the news of its completion. The grapes boiling into juice smell like the jelly sandwiches my mother made me when I was a child and help me anticipate future happy moments. Peppermint and evergreen scents foretell of Christmases to come—and of those past. And who can ignore the heady scent of rain, especially when the moisture arrives after a long, dry spell?

Expectancy seeps into our bodies and has the ability to distract from the here and now. We forget our tasks mid-action, our bodies toss and turn the night before what we await arrives, and we often find ourselves daydreaming of what might be.

On the other hand, for some, only action helps us to be patient in our waiting. The pregnant woman cleans and organizes as she prepares the nest. Parents and kids (mostly mothers and daughters!) visit large box stores, checklists in hand, purchasing items for living away from the nest. Gardeners read books and magazines, ordering seeds and other supplies in the depths of winter.

Expectancy is the feeling that all can come true as imagined. The perfect baby will arrive with minimal pain and the nursery will remain an orderly oasis of calm, even in the midst of all the tasks associated with taking care of the much desired child. The dorm room will continue as picture-perfect as the day the parents helped the student move in and will be conducive to good study and health habits. The seeds will grow abundantly into the desired plants, while weeds will be minimal and the rain and sunshine plentiful in just the appropriate amounts.

Expectancy, as well as hope, springs eternal, as long as we keep faith that this life is essentially good.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

How does anyone know we are mourning in these days when we no longer dress ourselves in black nor drape black crepe over our doorways nor cover our mirrors?

Well, if you visited my house, you’d probably guess that I was either lazy or depressed—or you might realize that I am still in mourning. My house, it seems, is draped in my parents’ possessions—and dust.

First of all, I sorely underestimated how grief might affect my ability to slog through every day chores. Though I was never that good doing those chores in the first place, I’ve amazed myself by how much worse I am at carrying through with my household duties in the aftermath of loss. Turns out I’m not at all the kind who acts out her grief through maintaining a frenetic work level.

Add in the responsibility for sorting through my parents’ lifelong possessions during this low energy period and you get a house that looks like mine does now.

Sometimes when I see the dust on my furniture, I am afraid I will also find Miss Havisham—or at least a somewhat fictional version of a middle-aged woman who has lost her mother and two dogs—staring out from my mirror. I swear I’m not really stuck in the dates of my losses—it’s just that I am respecting the weight of my grief.

In fact, over the past several months I have contributed to an exciting work project, welcomed a puppy and a rescue dog into my home, continued with my social groups and exercise routines, as well as begun new activities. I am moving forward—just not as quickly as I had hoped. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather just skip the mourning and get on with the good stuff.

However, whether or not society dictates rituals for mourning, the mourning still must happen, more or less on schedule. Just because I’m creating new connections and routines doesn’t mean I am over missing the old ones yet.

Sometimes in the midst of something as simple as training our new dogs to deal with Trick-or-Treaters, I remember last Halloween when the little old “shark” (dachshund) and the bombastic springer spaniel were still at my side. I sing a spiritual in church and realize how much my mother would have liked to listen from the pews. I open up a box and find a full decanter of Jim Beam my father never drank because he was a scotch man.

One box at a time—sometimes more on a good day—I work on reclaiming my space. Every month a truck picks up some items I have determined someone else can use. I look for good homes for more specific items—last week it was fabric and music boxes. This week it may be pharmaceutical memorabilia or a Celtic drum.

Dust has been the new black around here, but I’m spending the next few weeks moving through what no longer needs to be here with gratitude for what was—and for what will yet be.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

There are many good reasons the Church and the ancients before them picked late October/early November for remembering the departed. As days shorten and nights lengthen at the same time the sun’s rays grow weaker, many of us turn inward. Just a few short thoughts can lead to thinking of those we have lost, as well as our own mortality.

Our family used to own a medical supply business and we always noticed that deaths began to increase around Halloween and continued at a higher level through sometime in the spring, even among clients who appeared relatively stable and healthy. Despite living in relatively comfortable times, it’s just harder to live in the colder months. Maybe the light matters more than we know and not just to those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

This year on All Saints’ Sunday, I listened as my mother’s name was read and a bell tolled in honor of her joining the saints eternal. In my brightest moments I see her conducting one of the heavenly choirs or playing along from the piano or with some percussion instrument. I was glad our choir was singing a spiritual, “Keep Your Lamps,” accompanied by nothing other than a drum’s beat—my mother would have loved the music selected for the year her life was honored.

And yet, she was not sitting in our pews to hear us sing.

I’ll tell you over and again that I didn’t just lose my mother this past January—no, Alzheimer’s took her from us years before she closed her weary eyes. So, in a way, I’ve already grieved who she was, but that doesn’t mean certain milestones don’t remind me of her final walk in her last year. In fact, sometimes I’m shocked to realize I am missing some of the simple things we could do together even when she was no longer “my” mother.

November’s arrival reminds me of the real beginning of the end for her: she started receiving hospice care a week before Thanksgiving. What’s true is that I am still grieving many pieces of that journey—or I wouldn’t still be so angry about how her hospice care did not provide the kind of support for her, us, and her care facility staff that is such a godsend to so many others.

I do my best to turn my memories to the little things that did work and how we learned as we went. After an unsettling Thanksgiving celebration within her larger community, we pulled back for a private celebration during the community’s Christmas dinner and experienced much greater peace and joy for her and for us. Sherman and I learned to enjoy feeding her, hungry as she was to partake of sustenance long after her own hands could not keep up with her appetite. When Intern Jess and I sang to her in German the carols of her childhood, we all had tears in our eyes.

The other images—the uncomfortable and/or painful ones—I try not to dwell on, but their presence tells me that part of letting her go must involve letting go of what happened, good and bad.

I was not the only one whose eyes teared up on All Saints’ Sunday—for some it is missing someone, pure and simple, and for others, there are the added losses that come with witnessing or walking someone towards a hard death.

As much as many of us would prefer to keep our mourning private and maybe even unstirred, it is good to have a day to remember corporally those whom we have loved—and to know that there are others who walk in similar shoes. Together we can walk in light—and through the dark.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert, Rosebush given by Chris (Diehl) Geiss in honor of my mother, Elda Mae (Ritter) Lange


Día de los Muertos. I cannot forget this day from thirty years ago. On a surprisingly blue-skied Ohio afternoon, the dried leaves blew in circles around the sundial. Time might have moved forward from then, but on that day, it stopped on what I had hoped might be forever. Youth, though, has many promises and distractions—preparing for projects and finals, finding a date for an upcoming dance, making up my mind not to become stuck in what could not be—there was no time to mourn if I wanted to live.

That, however, was another youthful fallacy. The truth is it is necessary to mourn one’s losses in order to live deeply. Moving on without resolving the past only appears to be moving.

Still, I kept up the appearance of resolution even as I held others away from me.

Another November five years later, though I did not yet know it, Heaven received its newest saint on what our church celebrates as All Saints’ Sunday. That weekend I was busy celebrating Halloween and watching our pro football team beat his pro football team—while he was earning his wings.

Not until two months later did I hear the news of his passing. Yet when I did, I discovered how I had postponed my own life in so many ways by not mourning years ago. This time, though, gone meant gone forever. What good would it do me to pretend otherwise?

That was almost half my lifetime ago. Hard to believe someone with so much to offer this world only got twenty-five years to do so. So while I get that gone is gone, I’ll never stop wondering why.

Ever since that loss, All Saints’ Sunday has become a very important church day for me—I know a saint who rested from his labors too early on that day, fittingly just hours after reaching out to someone else in need.

Each year the church reads the names of those saints who have left us in the preceding months—over the years, I have added so many names to the lifelong list I hear in my own mind on that day. Some lived full lives, some welcomed death as a blessing, and others’ lives were cut short. This year my mother’s name will be spoken aloud.

Gone is gone from me for now, yet I believe those saints live on and that one day I too will rest with them in that life eternal. However, that doesn’t mean I’m OK with that now—all that by and by in the sky stuff seems pretty far away when I’m missing someone.

The thing is I’ve learned that acting as if my losses don’t matter gets in the way of drinking deeply from the life I have—or will have as the hurt becomes less constant. Sooner or later I have to mourn—and it might as well be sooner so I can get on with being present in the days I have been given—which are so many more than some I have known and loved.

What happened a quarter of a century ago devastated me, but finally facing the truth gave some boundaries to my grief and opened my heart to what came next: meeting a man less than two weeks later who has been my true love throughout this most recent half of my lifetime.

No, I don’t forget those who are gone from my life, whether by life’s twists or by death, but I also no longer try to forget what I do remember. Instead, I just work on living through it—no doubt that kind of heart work is part of our own lifelong labors, just as it was for all our saints who from their labors now rest.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert