Loved and gone

We got her when I was 23; she was almost three months old.

We said goodbye when I was 38; she was almost 15.

I helped her grow and made her feel safe. She did the same for me.

She spent her last moments on her favorite spot: the loveseat facing the door to the screen porch.

I scratched her left ear as the sedative took hold. She pressed her head into mine, like she always did during a good scratch—hard, as if she couldn’t get close enough to me. And she kept it there until the vet was finished, and our sweet pup drifted off to sweet relief.

“You did such a good job being our dog,” I whispered to her, over and over.

I’m still whispering it to her, even though she’s gone.

I just really need her to know.

 

 

Being, changing the default

“Picture a human in your mind.”

His lanky frame—somehow just a couple inches shorter than mine—shuffles along the sidewalk.

“Why?” he mutters

“Because I asked you to.” That phrase still carries weight with him, thankfully.

“Ok,” he sighs, tilts his head back a bit.

“Is the human a man or a woman?” I ask.

“A man.”

“What color is the human?”

“…white,” he says finally.

“Why do you think that is?”

He gaze turns down to his shoes as he walks. He says nothing.

We continue forward for a few steps. I feel him lean into me, hear him sniff.

I stop and turn to him. I take his damp face in my hands.

“I do the same thing, baby. Lots of people do. It’s not your fault. Everything is set up to make us think that way.”

He peeks at me through the shock of blonde hair perpetually in his face.

“So, what do we do?” The words come out quivering.

“Better,” I say, wrapping my arm around his shoulder and steering us forward, towards home.

“We try to do better.”

 

Making

“This group of people in this room will never be together exactly like this again—we’re making something.”

Audrey Assad, the musician-in-residence for Walking on Water: The Madeleine L’Engle, shared this thought during a lunchtime chat.

We’d gathered in the sanctuary or All Angels’ Church on New York City’s Upper West Side where the conference was taking place. Audrey sat at the piano, sharing freely about her creative process, her faith story—pretty much everything.

I don’t remember what question or comment prompted this statement from her, but I immediately scrawled it down in my notebook.

What a thought. Imagine if we let it shape every church service, every shared meal, every everything we share with other people.

Imagine if we looked at our times together as precious times of making—as given spaces to co-create with our fellow co-creators, ones made to make with our Maker.

To husband ourselves

“We are all body, mind, and spirit, and we need to husband ourselves on those levels.”

Barbara Braver shared this thought at a writing retreat I attended last week as part of Walking on Water: The Madeleine L’Engle Conference.

(Braver is a poet and writer who for several years shared Madeleine’s Upper West Side apartment during the week as she did work for the Episcopal Church in New York City.)

I paused for a moment when she said this because I’d never heard the word husband used in that context before—as a verb, rather than a noun. My pen hovered over the page as I transcribed the sentence into my notebook…

“Maybe I misheard her,” I thought. “Did she say tend instead?”

But no. She said “husband.”

So, like any good student, I wrote down what I heard and looked it up later when I got home.

According to Merriam-Webster, husband means, of course, a male partner in a marriage. But as a verb, it means “to manage prudently and economically.”

To continue down the definition rabbit hole, prudently means “marked by wisdom” and economically suggests care and efficiency. Even further down the hole, efficiency points to something that produces the “desired effects.”

So, to rephrase Braver…

“We are all body, mind, and spirit, and we need to wisely manage ourselves with care on those levels to produce the desired effect.”

That sucks the poetry right out of Braver’s original statement, but staring at that dissected sentence hits me with a wallop.

My body, my mind, my spirt all need managing—a managing born from wisdom and care with the aim of helping each of those elements produce the desired effect, helping them do what they are supposed to do.

What they are Designed to do.

To neglect one of those levels is to neglect part of my Design.

I’m glad I didn’t convince myself she said tend.

Dave

In 2014, my friend Dave died in his house that was just a couple blocks from mine.

I only know about the location of his home from the invoices he’d submit sporadically to the online news magazine where I served as editor and he served as contributor—our most unreliable contributor when it came to deadlines but our most reliable when it came to page views. Whatever Dave wrote, people read—partly because he was the frontman for GWAR. And partly because (I think) everything he wrote was totally over-the-top nuts…and good.

I was Dave’s editor for a couple of years. We emailed and texted weekly, but we never met in person. He was the lead singer of a heavy metal band, and I was a work-from-home mother of a toddler. I read the pieces he’d composed on tour buses crossing Australia during my breaks from folding laundry and (re)reading of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Our lives didn’t exactly line up.

But he was my friend.

In between his apologies for missed deadlines, he would always ask how our son was doing. He’d sign-off on text exchanges with things like:

“Have a good day with the kid, lil mama!”

or

“I know I put you through a lot of shit! You’re the best! Thanks for putting up with me!”

(He rarely ended a sentence with anything other than an exclamation point.)

But I wasn’t putting up with him. I liked Dave a lot. To me, he was a this big, loud tornado of a person—and I only experienced him over the phone or through the screen of my laptop. I can’t imagine what he would’ve been like in person.

I wish I’d gotten the chance to find out.

Fellow feeling

Q: Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?

A: It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

(Westminster Standards, Larger Catechism #39)

A fellow feeling.

The power of my infirmities has felt unbeatable lately. I keep wondering what life would be like, how things would be different were it not for my mental illness. What would it be like to not live in this fog?

But what a comfort to know that Jesus, the Mediator, knows what to do with me when so many don’t—when I don’t.

What a thing. What a gift. What a God.

A prayer for Annabelle

May your heart be always full,

My your hair alway be red.

May sleep come to you quickly

When you snuggle into bed.

May your brother show you kindness,

May you give to him the same.

May you both always remember,

To honor your shared name.

May you know God’s love so deeply,

May you know His grace as true.

May you carry this forever:

He made you to be just you.

(With love, Queenie)