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(c) 2021

This morning I returned to the river—more in need than last Sunday morning. The river, she greeted me with the peace I so crave. The air was crisp, the skies blue, the snow white, and the birds plentiful.

As I got out of my car, I saw heads swivel and look up. I could hear the “oohs” as a bald eagle flew off into the distance.

I started off at a pace I couldn’t maintain, trying to beat back this winter of my loss. But to persevere, I needed to slow down. Soon after I crossed the bridge, I encountered a hawk perched in a tree above me, closer than I have ever been to what I consider my spirit animal—and a sign of continued protections. I stopped for a moment and thanked the hawk for its beauty, presence, and proximity.

Despite the barren season in which I find myself, as my feet again renewed their journey, I sensed the approach of spring.

God’s peace to all trapped within a landscape that appears empty of hope—may renewal arrive when you least expect it.

Jenne

Jenne

She was the closest I had to a sister. Our families kept the keys to the other family’s house, shot off fireworks, traded watching and/or driving kids as needed, shared Christmas Eve dinners, watched football games, and had nights filled with Nerf Wars (the kids) and card games (the adults). We lived just across the street from one another—our lives were so interwoven that we all knew we had a second set of parents looking out for us—even when we’d prefer we didn’t.

Our brothers were the same age so as soon as her family moved to town, the boys started shooting hoops together, playing backyard baseball, and, in general, terrorizing the kid-free neighbors with the perfect lawns who didn’t appreciate all the balls and Frisbees that flew across property lines.

She was younger than I was by four years but I never really minded playing with her. I remember our post-swim stops at Mahula’s, especially the time she got the cotton candy stuck in her still-wet hair. Wherever our brothers played sports—football, basketball, and baseball—we went along, especially looking forward to the post-game ice creams and other treats. Eventually we found our own sports—she, softball, and me, track—so we didn’t always have to trail around in their always moving footsteps.

When I left for college, the year after our brothers left, I lost track of the near-daily interactions but not of the long distance news and the get-togethers that still happened when I came home on breaks. She grew up, too, leaving for college the year I left home for good to find my way in the adult world. I always thought I would see her again.

I had hoped to make it back for the weekend before the usual Christmas Eve celebration since I would only need that one day off to go home for four days. My boss denied my request, saying I hadn’t been at the company long enough. Instead I watched my co-workers get drunk while they listened to Madonna. I wasn’t in Kansas—OK, Nebraska—any longer, was I?

My father’s phone call woke me the following Saturday. Jenne was dead, killed in a car accident while home from college on Christmas Break.

I didn’t ask to take New Year’s Eve off—I told work I had experienced a death in what was pretty much my family. I wasn’t going to sit at work, watching co-workers get drunk while a father and mother and brother buried our Jenne. I took off in my hardly road-worthy ’62 Rambler, daring the bitter cold to stop me—which it did not. While home, the voluminous trunk served as a stand-in freezer for the outpouring of food a grieving community kept delivering.

At all the gatherings at the home of the heartbroken family, I kept expecting her to walk in and say, “What are you all doing here? I’m not dead.”

But, of course, she was and still is these thirty years later. We’re left to wonder who she would have grown up to be and what kind of a middle-aged woman she would be right now. Over the years I think of her at strange times. When I’m typing—because she was good at typing and I am not. When I started having grownup friends who were born the same year she was. When I see—now rare, of course—a Mustang of the type she drove—the one with the wheel that was knocked away from the force. When a kid with wet hair is eating cotton candy.

After some time had passed, her mom wanted me to take some of her fairly unworn shoes. I did, but I couldn’t really bring myself to wear them after all. I finally realized: I couldn’t fill her shoes. No one could.

Dearest Jenne—sometimes I still can’t believe that’s all you got of life and all we got of you. So much has changed in this world since you left us, but I will never stop remembering what it meant to have you as my little sister from across the street.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

One delightful aspect of the Blogging A to Z Challenge is that it challenges me to work within some parameter, even if the parameter is simply that I must write about a certain letter of the alphabet. Not one of those people who plans out a theme or does posts in advance, I want to see what I can come up with in the moment. Deep, silly, whatever. And if I have no ideas of my own, I get to check out my regular or slang dictionary to see if something will grab me—even better when I discover words or phrases that are new to me.

So it is with viridescent—it’s like iridescent—only with just one color of the rainbow and, perhaps, lacking the luster—for now.

Slightly green—who knew?

Well, slightly green describes how the grass and other plants have appeared peeping out from underneath the snow. Usually April is all about emerald green and iridescent raindrops drying on the vine, blade, stem, leaf, etc. This April has been a tease as the green has remained so often hidden. We have been way more than slightly green with envy when hearing about tulips and daffodils that are not only surviving but thriving in other parts of the country.

But if green is all about growth then viridescent or slightly green is the beginning of that growth, those baby shoots that will stretch out for and reach into maturity.

Today I’m thinking about my daughter for whom so much is changing in those areas that are so huge for college students: studies and relationships. As much as she has tried to add Miracle-Gro to that which has been such a big part of her college life so far, the desired blooms have not continued. So easy to feel black and blue, but the truth is also slightly green—those baby shoots are coming up underneath what has ceased to grow.

I have no idea if it hurts the grass to grow or the tree when the buds unfurl, but for humans, the greening process can be more than a little painful, especially if you’re not quite ready to give up on the old growth—even if that growth has become stagnant.

April’s early growth, so recently blanketed by snow, has thrown off its covers. What was viridescent is now verdant and lush. Though delayed and behind schedule, there is still time to blossom.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I have this friend who lost her mom to Alzheimer’s just after Thanksgiving. Because she feels emotionally fragile these days, she doesn’t talk about her loss with many people. She chooses those with whom she shares her loss very carefully.

Since she watched me walk through my mother’s Alzheimer’s, she let me in on her news right away. I hope she sees me as a safe person who understands something of what she is going through. I don’t question her when I see tears in her eyes but let her decide if she wants to explain them.

Last night at church I ran into a woman I met in a grief support group last May. We know each other only because of our losses. She asked me if I had reached my mother’s anniversary date and then I asked about her anniversary, which is coming soon. The truth is I can only understand but a portion of her loss because she did not lose an elderly parent, but a son close in age to me.

Still, there is something about having walked through grief that opens our eyes to others’ pain—sometimes giving us insight into how others’ pain can be even greater than ours—which is something we so often doubt in the early hours of our own dark nights.

These days my bible study group is reading and thinking about the Beatitudes, through James C. Howell’s study, The Beatitudes For Today. This week we are studying “Blessed are those who mourn.” We wrestle with whether or not those words are about mourning deaths in our personal circles or if the mourning Jesus mentions is about grieving our sins or the harshness we see in this world or, who knows what else?

But the part of this lesson that speaks to me at this point in my life is that because I have suffered losses that I still mourn, I am able to see others’ losses. Might I be just another person my friend avoids in her time of loss if I hadn’t already taken the walk to the tomb?

It’s tough to feel blessed when in mourning, but then I look around at all the support I have received on this earth from other people and I know God has not forgotten me. Perhaps it is in my brokenness that I am learning to listen to other people’s stories instead of just telling my own.

I’m not so saintly that I’ll say I’m glad for my losses. However, I am grateful that at least they have grown me into a person who watches out for those who are also blessed in this way they never sought. I was blind, but now I see.

And that is a blessing in itself.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Warning: this is not a happy little holiday post; in fact, it’s not even a happy little everyday post. No, it’s the post that should I get it out of my head might yet lead me to be able to sleep tonight.

However, this is not about sleeping tonight. No, I keep thinking that if I can just get the dining room table cleared during the daylight hours tomorrow, somehow I’ll find a way to salvage what’s left of 2011 and get myself ready to shed this year for the possibility of 2012. If you’re like me and have ADD and you’ve been through a lot of recent loss, you might understand how something as mundane as a bunch of random items on a table or any similar space can grow to appear as a physical manifestation of the condition of your heart and mind.

Yes, a year ago today began my mother’s last month on this earth. I can’t even tell you that was a bad thing because of the Alzheimer’s that had ravaged her mind as well as her body. But it was a very hard thing to watch her go in that way, to know that her brain kept everything—from her thoughts to her vocal cords to her feet—from working as they were used to doing. And to know that as inadequate as I felt, it was my job to hold her hand on that final journey.

I understood that the start of the new year would bring the end for my mother, which was really a kindness to both her and anyone who knew her previously. That part I accepted, as much as anyone really can. One day, after three years of daily concern for her—whether or not other capable hands cared for her—she was gone.

The thing is the losses kept mounting. My uncle died six weeks later and a few days later we lost our dog whose cancer had appeared as my mother was leaving. Sherman and I have been to too many funerals for friends’ parents over the last sixteen months, none more agonizing for me than those for people who were destroyed in the same way my mother had been. Even though our other dog’s life ended at a somewhat expected time, the timing in the midst of this year was hard to accept.

Of all the things I did to soothe my soul, exercise and maintaining my body’s strength brought me the most moments of calm and peacefulness. I had no idea that the other great joy—welcoming a puppy (and another dog) into our home—would negate much of what exercise could do for me. If I had known that that fateful long road trip to bring home our pup would take away so much of my strength for so long, I would have found another way to get him here.

That I am regaining some of my former energy does not make up for the months without it. I am so discovering that I crave using my energy for more exciting activities than the “have-to’s” of this past year, including the huge task of going through the mess left behind by my parents’ lifelong possessions—especially since I did not have enough of me to go around just to get through my regular daily commitments.

In fact, just seeing the table as it is tells me how ready I am to skip catching up. If there is any way to forgo another month of mourning, sign me up. I want to be a person who can converse without feeling compelled to talk about anything negative happening in my life, including in this blog. Oh, to regain the sparkle in my eyes and the spring in my step. Next time I have a hard time falling asleep, I hope it is not because my hips hurt or because my heart aches, but because I have too much I want to do.

There’s no catching up only starting anew. I can pat myself on the back for all I have cleared off that table, but in the end I am so over all the crap that has been so much a part of this year. I’m tired of it tripping me up and reminding me of what is past—I just want it gone. On the days when it doesn’t irritate me enough, I know I have become too complacent in this boring yet painful state. If I can’t bring back to wholeness what has been lost, then it’s time to rage, rage against the dark night that is this year of loss.

This is the next-to-longest night of 2011—just one more night until light once more begins its cycle of growth.

So now that these words have eased from me enough to let me rest for the remainder of this dark night, mark my words: today’s light shall shine yet on a freshly cleaned tabletop, open with possibility for what comes next.

(c) 2008 Christiana Lambert

We all have anniversaries of the heart—some declared and some secret. A certain kind of weather, a date on the calendar, or anything else that brings back difficult memories can give us pause and remind us how much we miss certain people or how close we came to losing others. Often memory grabs us in ways that don’t even make sense.

Why do I frequently think of losing my neighbor Jenne when I type? Is it simply because she was good at typing and I wasn’t? Maybe, but it’s really because she is just that irreplaceable—she mattered to me. The years stretch out, almost 26 later this month, and yet from time to time she appears in my thinking unbidden, especially when I’m confronted with milestones she never met.

Of course, by now, she’s one of many who are gone who can’t be replaced in my heart—some connected by blood and love, and others by love alone as she was.

However, Decembers no longer just point to saying goodbye to Jenne anymore, but now they also remind me how someone I love felt so replaceable to some that it didn’t seem to be enough to her at that time to know she was irreplaceable to so many more, including me. While I cannot forget those dark days, I also do not fail to remember how grateful I am that light did return for her.

In any reasonably functional family, none of our family members is replaceable, not a single one—no matter if others beyond our homes act as if it is so.

I cannot shield those I love from the cruelties of the outside world any more than I can from the cruelties of mental illness, but for the rest of my days, in both good times and bad, I will declare that you are all irreplaceable.

Never stop believing you matter—there is only one of each of you. Your names are written on the only heart I have, just as Jenne’s name is.

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Blogging AtoZ Challenge 2012