Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Last Day

Today is our last day here in the Philippines. The last six weeks have been a fun ride, a great time of spending time with family, sightseeing, and stuffing ourselves silly with my mom's scrumptious food. We enjoyed seeing old friends both here and in Singapore, and Theo got to use his US passport for the first time.

Since this is not the first trip we've taken since Vinnie died, I'm somewhat more prepared for what it feels like to return home. It'll be great to be reunited with our wonderful family in Hawaii, but I know as well I'll be experiencing many mixed emotions once we arrive and get back to normal life.

My plan is to breathe deeply, take mini-time outs from whatever I'm doing to read, blog, bake, spend time on facebook, visit Vincent's grave.  I'm also attempting to daily practice centering prayer in the morning while Theo's at preschool.  We'll be OK.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's the Little Things

In grief work, it's always the little things that trip you up.

People who have lost a loved one often talk about how they'll be someplace innocuous like the grocery store, when suddenly as they're picking out produce or rounding a corner they catch a glimpse of an individual who looks like their lost loved one.

Of course, it isn't, it never is, but in that split second of almost-recognition, the emotions are so strong they can make your heart skip a beat, make you sob out loud. In a heartbeat you go from being OK as you're picking out milk to being close to losing it, throwing the milk, yelling and howling. Most of the time this doesn't happen. People shove their emotions into some hidden inner place, catch their breath, and continue on as law-abiding citizens, which I guess is often a good thing for the rest of us.

But sometimes the grief can sweep over you with such force that you can't not cry, right there in the shopping mall, library, gym. I have friends who throw plates when things get bad. They all go outside and toss them through the air in their yard. I can imagine that would be pretty cathartic (except for the cleaning-up process!)

Unfortunately in our society, people who are grieving don't have many opportunities for public mourning. Sure, our culture has rituals like holding a memorial service, a viewing of the body, and a burial/scattering of ashes. But that's about it. Most of those activities take place within a few weeks of death, sometimes up to a year. That's pretty short considering you still have to live the rest of your life without the person you lost.

Or what about people who are grieving the loss of a relationship, job, health, the loss of status or safety or the death of a dream? There is nothing, no rite, no standard method of grieving through these losses, much less an acceptable way to publicly broadcast grief. Even many of our churches view grief as something to privately finish, to overcome, to get through. By in large, we are left to fend for ourselves.

I've noticed that for many individuals, including me, observing people exhibit "negative" emotions in public is unsettling, scary. We don't feel safe. Why is this? Is this because we are so afraid to face our own inner darkness, our own sadness, our own disconnectedness that we don't like to see it in others? Do we not want to be reminded that it could be our turn next? It's tough because those of us who are grieving have to mix with the rest of societywe still have to get out of the house and do basic things like attend school, go grocery shopping, and show up to work. We usually look pretty normal until almost anything, anywhere can become a portal to a painful or precious memory, a vivid reminder of what we've lost.

I was talking with some people in the car the other day about what happens when you sleephow your eyes physically roll up back into your head. My sister remarked on how she's developed some mild sleep anxiety due to this semi-disturbing fact, I can agree that it's definitely not the prettiest mental picture to have as you're drifting off to sleep.

Then I thought of Vincent, how as he died his little eyes stayed half-open for days, how they never rolled back, but just gradually lost their sight as he drifted further and further from us. I cried in the car on the way to the shopping center, then pulled myself together when we got there.  Because you should never cry in public. People might think there was something wrong.

Why do you think it isn't acceptable for people to show emotions like sadness or anger in public? Have any of you had an experience where you saw an otherwise normal looking person exhibit some strong emotion? How did it make you feel?


Nowadays I feel like writing and posting prayers.  A lot of prayers.  It's not that I'm especially devout. I think instead it's because I don't have a lot else to say.  I think I'm internally shifting, my grief work taking on a different shape and form.

I have a lot of prayers.  I pray them all day long.  Mostly they consist of one word.  You probably pray them too.  My favorite is this one.


and this one -

"Help help help help help help help help help!"

Sound familiar?  That one definitely did not originate with me.
I'm sure people have been praying that for a long time.

Sometimes my daily prayers are wordless.  I sit in God's eternal presence and he sits with me.  We don't say much, but we sure communicate a lot.  I talk to Vinnie too, but mainly I send him up my love, silently.  Words are helpful, but only up to a point.

And when I wrap myself in Vincent's blanket at night it's a silent prayer to God.  Hold my child.  Hold me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Prayer when Mourning

As I sing this dirge
may its notes be transfigured, transmuted, transposed,
the dissonance of fear and anger
resolving into harmonic chords of grace and beauty.
In your mercy let the melody of my life
echo the voice of your unending song.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Today I preached at a really cool neighborhood church.  The people were welcoming, warm, funny, and eager to listen.

I talked about disappointment with God, and we worked through the story of John the Baptist together.  Good stuff.  

Of course, since this blog is called "Sermons I Never Preached"  I probably shouldn't talk about sermons I actually have given.  Or not.  Hee hee.    

This week also begins the last week of our trip here in the Philippines, we head back for Honolulu on Thursday where our "real life" awaits.  I'm really going to miss being here. However, I will be happy to be closer to our memories of Vincent, be able to easily visit his grave, and Theo will also enjoy starting up his half-time preschool again.  

I'm planning on seeing Irish on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, to check in on how her son with leukemia is doing. I'll let you all know as well.  

Monday, June 20, 2011


Walking down the stairs to get a drink of water last night I experienced a sudden furious attack of vertigo. I've been diagnosed and treated for this before, gone to the ER when the dizziness was so extreme I couldn't keep down enough liquids to stay hydrated.

On the stairs last night I had to stop walking and as I closed my eyes and clutched the railing I envisioned the tile flat beneath my feet and the walls rising straight up to meet the ceiling. When you have an attack of vertigo it's like spinning uncontrollably under water. You have no idea which way is up.

Much of this past year since losing Vincent has been like that - events careening out of control, feeling helpless, submerged, disoriented, powerless. At some point in time I have to believe that the path is smooth before me, that the spinning in my head will stop. I have to trust that my feelings don't have the final say, that it will get better, that one day I will realize which way is up. Until then I'll keep moving, swimming up toward the light, walking slowly while putting one foot carefully in front of the other. Trusting, even when it feels wrong.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Prayer for Help

When words run dry
fill my mouth with your speech
When patience evaporates
flood my will with your strength
And when my faith wavers
pour in your hope
In the name of Him who turned water to wine and calmed the raging sea,

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I'm so over grieving.

I wish there was something else for me to talk about, think about. I'm tired of hearing myself talk about the same things, go through the same emotions, replay the same tapes in my head.

Frankly, it's annoying me. I'm bored with myself.

But every morning I wake up and realize that our family is still short one person. I freak out at the airport when I can only find 3 passports until I remember there are only three of us here now. I cannot escape or move past this grief. I am fully aware I will live with it for the rest of my life. It is as if I have an amputated limb -- it will never grow back, but with help, I can learn to walk again.

Is there a new song I can sing? A song that embraces my pain yet moves beyond it, a song that doesn't deny my feelings of loss but instead utilizes them, a song shaped by fear but filled with faith?

Hopefully the cavernous hole my son's death left in my heart will become a lake teaming with life.

It needs to happen soon, because my patience is running out.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Good Tired

Since arriving here in Singapore three days ago we've traveled the city-state by MRT, bus, and taxi, as well as walked what seems to be miles upon miles.  I am now experiencing the bone-numbing sensation of exhaustion.  But it's a satisfying feeling, a happy tired.

Tuesday this week we visited the Jurong bird park followed by the Science Center which contains the world's largest I-max theatre. We saw a show about the Hubble telescope -- its various technical issues and how they were fixed as well as phenomenal photographs it has taken.

I don't really cry in public. But I cried-- shaking my shoulders crying-- as we saw newborn stars in nurseries explode into euphoric light. I cried as I saw mishapen galaxies from the beginning of time. And I cried as I saw this - a butterfly made by exploding gases as a star slowly dies.
I miss my little star, Vincent.   And when I went into the rainforest section of the Singapore zoo today, the butterflies fluttering nearby reminded me of his presence with us.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Running Scared

Being here in the Philippines for these last few weeks has been refreshing, rewarding, relaxing. Having time to not do anything, especially with one's own family, is a hard-won luxury. Yet in spite all this free time we've been having, I don't feel that I've made huge bounds in my grief work. I'm still afraid much of the time. I'm willing to go on medication if that will really help, but I'm also hestitant to add another chemical to my already volatile body. I don't want to choose a medical answer if I really have a spiritual problem. I know most of the time things can't be separated that easily, we are bodies as well as spirits and sometimes our bodies need a little bit of help. And some form of medication may be the final solution, especially if I have PTSD which is highly possible. We'll see.

Too often I feel as if the soundtrack to my life is frightening, foreboding, dark. When that happens I just want the music to stop, or to start playing a Bach minuet or a Mozart piano concerto instead. And then my imagination kicks in with a random thought that ends at the gravesite of another family member. Or something worse. It only takes a few seconds for these vivid thoughts to play themselves out in my mind. It happens so quickly that by the time I realize what is happening and give my fear to God, I'm already viewing something terrible.

How do you trust God enough to let go of your fears, especially when something truly horrible has happened to you? Fear is a hard master. But when you keep your guard up and don't expect much, at least you have the option of being somewhat prepared for when the next bad thing happens. You're not surprised. You saw it coming. (So the argument goes in my head.) I know it's a ridiculous argument. Fear does not prepare for you for anything. The very nature of fear debilitates and disempowers. I know that.

So even though God and I are on speaking terms, I still find it hard to trust Him. After all, how can you trust someone as dangerous as God? He didn't hesitate to send himself to die for our sake. He gives freely, loves extravagantly. It cost him everything to offer us a relationship and the hope of heaven. I'm not like that. I love my own skin more than my neighbors'. I don't want to love everyone extravagantly, just my friends and family. And giving freely - forget it! What if my family needs that? Giving freely requires sacrifice, self-denial, risk. I give stintingly, and that's when I feel I can afford it.

There's a big part of me that just wants to be left alone to grow lazy and complacent. I don't fully trust someone who will love me enough to change me, love me enough to give me his eyesight, perspective, wisdom - his very life. That all comes at a cost, a very high, high cost. It demands of me more than I really want to give. And yet He still calls me, compels me beyond my fears to come and lay down my life in order to find it. To surrender my will for his. And to allow myself be worked into the fabric of his glorious future.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Hi everyone!
It's been a while since I posted...
I'm still here.
Earlier this week we went on a vacation-within-a-vacation to Lipa City, located outside of Metro Manila.  It was very quiet and peaceful.  We stayed in a home for missionaries who need a bit of rest.  We slept deeply.  None of us brought our electronic equipment along (except for our cameras, obviously. :)
On our second day we visited a nearby resort which was pretty much empty.  We were glad to support the local economy and enjoyed their lovely pools.  

I also spent some time reading a selection of Fenelon's letters in the book The Seeking Heart.  Good stuff, especially if you're interested in spiritual formation and direction.  I may be quoting him in the future.