Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Too many funerals

 A memorial table stands in the lobby of the retirement community’s main building. It’s next to a large grandfather clock that chimes the passing of time, an appropriate reminder for all us aging residents.


I pass the table every day when I leave the building, and I always stop to see whose photo has been newly placed there. That’s how we find out who has died during the night or in the past few days. In a community of over 400 residents, there are usually a few photos on the table. Sometimes more. Death is a presence in this place, the shadow beneath the trees.

In the past four days I have attended three memorial services. That’s too many. In spite of my being a believer in Jesus and in life beyond the grave, my spirit is heavy this morning. I acknowledge, along with the Apostle Paul, that death is an enemy.

Paul also says that while we grieve, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), and I witnessed that in all three services. I guess that’s why we now call them “memorial services” or “celebrations of a life,” rather than funerals. Even so, I still sense death as an enemy and I can’t shake the sadness I feel.

The service on Saturday celebrated the life of one of the residents of this community, a man in his eighties who had lived a full and rich life, who had given himself away in ministry to others. His wife is my close friend. Many people attended and we did, indeed, celebrate this life. One of the speakers said, “It’s easier to face grief when the loved one has lived a sweet life, a beautiful life of service.” A sweet life. In this case, that was certainly true. Listening to the testimonies of his wife and kids, hearing a summary of his passions and contributions, I felt privileged to have known this man. It seemed like he had fulfilled his life purpose. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”

But now comes the time for my friend to feel the absence of someone who shared her life for over 50 years. Gratitude will mix with grief, and I know she will face both with maturity. She will have people who accompany her, as well as times of silence, alone before God. Not an easy road.

Sunday’s memorial service was similar, but also very different. We were celebrating the life of our nephew Josh who died at age 43, after a six-month painful bout with cancer. Josh leaves a pregnant wife and ten children between the ages of 4 and 20, all of whom live at home.

The service was similar in that it was upbeat and definitely celebratory. The sanctuary was packed, with late-comers watching on a screen in the fellowship hall. I’m not sure the word death was even used as people talked about how inspirational Josh’s short life had been. The service went on for two and one-half hours, and I counted 14 mini-sermons. None of the people assigned to give a two-minute testimonial could contain themselves. I especially was moved by the words of his sister and his wife (who only spoke because Josh had asked her to before he died). But I confess, I was beginning to squirm and look at my watch.

The reception afterwards was noisy as people greeted one another, ate together, and laughed. Josh’s wife, children, and parents were all warm and grateful for our presence, their good cheer giving evidence of their belief that Josh now lives in the presence of Jesus. But it all seemed bittersweet to me. The way forward for Josh’s young family will be challenging, to say the least, and they will need (and have) many to walk alongside. Again, not an easy road.

And then I remember the service that took place last Thursday before the other two. It followed a surprise death. The previous weekend, we got one of those dreaded middle-of-the-night phone calls. It was a dear friend, Felix, calling from Bolivia telling us that his daughter Orfa (our god-daughter) was eight hours into a heart surgery that was supposed to have taken four hours. Felix was crying, asking us to pray. For the next three days, that’s what we did. We talked with Felix and his wife Clemi two or three times each day. Orfa died early Wednesday morning.

As is the custom (and law) in Bolivia, a memorial service was held in the church that very day (longer even then Josh’s service), and people were permitted to weep and publicly mourn, also a Bolivian custom, even among Christians. The burial service took place the next day, and Felix loaned his phone to someone who recorded it on WhatsApp. So, we were able to “be there” in real time. A Christian band accompanied people as they sang hymns. A few family members spoke over the grave, included Orfa’s husband. While there were no weeping and wailing, both sorrow and hope covered the event.

We were there 45 years ago when Orfa was born. We helped dedicate her to God in a church service. We have accompanied her (sometimes long distance) through her growing up years, rejoiced with the family when she received her doctorate in pharmacology, and were delighted to meet her husband, also a medical doctor. As young professionals, their future seemed bright.

Am I wrong to consider the deaths of Josh and Orfa as tragic? In no way can I believe that these deaths were God’s will, as some might say. The belief that anything that happens to a Christian is God’s will came into the church with Augustine in the 4th century A.D., and this doctrine is debated by many as heresy. I would agree. We live in a world where spiritual battle is real and, because God gives people free will, sometimes evil triumphs. And sometimes God intervenes; we call it a miracle.

While not everything that happens is God’s will, we believe that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 12:28). Evil does not have the last word. Death does not have the last word. God does.

I don’t intend to get too theological here, but another thing I wonder is if maybe lament and mourning shouldn’t be part of our public memorials. While celebration and hope are real values, so are pain and sadness. Is it necessarily right that we rejoice in public but weep alone?

I wonder a lot of things, especially when my heart is heavy.



Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Finding God's heart in a garden


I visited the annual garden fair last week and was amazed at the beauty and variety, all artistically arranged on display tables. The many kinds of roses always delight, of course, but the onions, tomatoes and mega-zucchinis were not playing second fiddle! The four-foot-long yellow zucchini was given the scientific name “Lady Zucchino Ramicante, the Queen of Italy.” (Surely you jest.) I took a photo of Tonna carrying an eight-day-old giant zucchini as if it were a four-month-old baby. Her baby, of course. A Can-you-guess-the-weight-of-this-onion?-contest offered an enticing prize of—I can’t remember what—probably a bag of onions. I loved chatting with the gardeners as they stood by their products, proudly telling me about dirt, seeds, weeds, and the joy of gardening.


This garden fair is sponsored each year by the garden activity group, one of the many options for involvement here in the retirement community. The main responsibility of this activity group is the maintenance of the large community garden. Any resident who wishes can have his or her own plot. Paths between the plots let all of us enjoy the flowers, vegetables, and berries.

Not only we residents, but numerous beasts enjoy the garden. Early this morning, a squirrel darted across my path with a large lettuce leave in its mouth. More serious than this minor theft, a few years back a family of deer discovered the garden and began helping themselves daily to leaves, flowers, and veggies, an abundance to meet their needs. No matter how beautiful the deer, the gardeners did not appreciate this criminal invasion of property rights. They instituted a drive for funds to enclose the whole garden in a deer-proof fence, which meant it had to be high and properly angled.

The fund-drive was successful, although no one really wanted a fence. But an attractive black chain-link did the trick, and now it’s only squirrels and birds we worry about. (And no one worries about them much.)


My friend Milli is 93 years old and now walks slowly with the aid of a walker. Even so, there’s no way she’s going to give up her garden plot. She goes out to her garden every day, some days just for the exercise of getting there and back, with a rest in her garden chair in the middle. She considers it therapy. She tells me, “It makes me feel better being out in God’s green earth. My garden makes me think of resurrection and new life. It’s like the tiny poppy seed that becomes such a huge bright flower.” When I ask how long she plans to keep up her plot, she responds, “God only knows.”

I asked the chair of the garden club, Darolen, about the requirements for owning a plot. The guidelines are simple and include keeping one’s plot well groomed (weeds can spread to other plots), not growing tall plants (so as not to shade other plots—although I have spotted some criminal sunflowers), and basically “doing unto the other gardeners as you want them to do unto you.”

I must confess that Hal and I do not have a plot. When we joined the retirement community in 2016, we were still traveling a lot for a research project and knew we could not keep up with garden maintenance. At least that was the reason we gave. Now we’re reconsidering, wondering if we have the energy any commitment might require. But then again, maybe committing to a garden at this point in our lives would be choosing life.

I remember a poem I memorized as a child. It goes,

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
(Dorothy Frances Gurney)

A nice thought, but I’m not sure about the than anywhere else on earth part. I’m a wilderness person myself and prefer making my own path as I go. But I admit that I sense the presence of God in this community garden, especially in the early morning. Somehow the beauty of nature opens one’s heart. And probably working together in the dirt, and seeing the results come spring and summer, would be life-giving for us

I think we’ll give it a try.










Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Dangerous women, dangerous books

 I recently ran across a quote claiming that older women who love books and who were born in the month of September are extremely dangerous. The actual quote is more memorable than this paraphrase, but unfortunately, I have this habit of writing interesting things on little pieces of paper and then, of course, not being able to find them. When I run across the real quote, I’ll send it your way.

It is now September and I was, indeed, born in this month. And I have loved books since before I was born, when my mother read to me in utero. I’m not sure about the dangerous part. You can decide that.

One of the rituals of aging is the difficult and much maligned task of downsizing. For Hal and me that primarily meant paring down our library, books we spent a life-time collecting. Before moving here to the retirement community, we actually found new homes for about two-thirds of our books. Yet we still have five bookcases, plus shelves above our desks, here in our two-room apartment. Clearly, we’re not finished with our task.

So, little by little, I’m deciding which books to give our kids (who don’t necessarily want them), which to donate to the community library, and which go to Goodwill (our last choice).

And I’m also determining which books are keepers. These are the books I really do re-read. Or books with such an emotional tie that I would feel pain at losing them.

I’ve decided to share a small part of my “keeper” collection with you, since many of you are also book lovers (whatever month you were born in).

--I’m keeping a dictionary. Not Webster’s (I’m keeping that too, for practical purposes—I’m a poor speller). This is a book I discovered while browsing in a Pasadena bookstore years ago. It’s called Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words (Josefa Heifetz Byrne). I’m a word-lover, and this book has given me much delight. Here’s a sampling: adoxography means “good writing on a trivial subject” (something to avoid); grammatolatry means “worship of words or letters” (is love the same as worship?); metrophobia, “hatred or fear of poetry” (dangerous stuff, that poetry); moanworthy, “lamentable, pitiful”; resurrectionist, “a body snatcher or grave robber”; and swelp, a perennial complainer (from “so help” me, God). You can see why I don’t want to give up this book.


--The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky), the 1946 Heritage Club hardback edition. This comes from my parents’ Heritage collection, and this particular edition contains 46 full-page lithographs by the German Quaker artist, Fritz Eichenberg. The art is wonderful and captures the haunting Russian mood of the book. Plus, this is a book I read and re-read, partly because it’s too difficult to capture in one reading. I love the psychological study of the human personality through the three brothers (body, intellect, spirit). Maybe on my fourth or fifth reading I’ll understand the book.


--Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card). In fact, I’m keeping the first six books of the series. (After #6 I stopped buying them). The first is the best. It’s Sci-Fi, with excellent character development, and a compelling plot. I don’t usually go for violence, but I like the irony of this being the most violent book on peace I’ve ever read.

--The Return of the Prodigal Son (Henri Nouwen). I’ve quite a collection of books by Nouwen, most of which I’ll keep, but this is my favorite. It’s the meditations on Jesus’ parable that Nouwen thought through while standing before Rembrandt’s painting of the same name. I find the book profound. A few years after reading the book for the first time, I found myself in Russia’s Hermitage art museum, standing in front of the same huge painting. It was an unforgettable experience.

--A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry (edited by Czeslaw Milosz). I discovered this anthology browsing in a bookstore in the Los Angeles International Airport, waiting for Hal to come home from a research trip to Guatemala. I was attracted first of all by the wonderful title, and second by the fact it was edited by Milosz, Nobel Prize winning Polish poet. It was an impulse buy that I’ve never regretted. The English translations are of poems from around the world, with a heavy preponderance of Polish writers. It’s a wonder and a marvel. I discover new favorites all the time.


Cry, the Beloved Country
(Alan Paton), one of my all-time favorite novels. This lyrically beautiful novel tells the story of a Zulu pastor and his rebellious son, set in the context of the racial tensions of South Africa. I’m moved to tears every time I read it.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Annie Dillard). This Pulitzer Prize winner first came out in 1974. My copy is much underlined, and I’m realizing it’s time to read it again. It gave (and gives) me a new way of walking through the natural world, both its wonder and its horrors. I’ll never look at a pond in the same way again.

Silence (Shusaku Endo). This sensitive and beautifully written novel gives a unique view of the spread of Christianity, its triumphs and, especially, its failures. Set in Japan in the 17th century, it’s a haunting account of when a believer cries out to God and God answers with silence.

These are just a few of the books I’m keeping, at least for the time being. They’re dangerous only in that they frustrate my attempts to downsize. Other than that, they’re wholesome and healing in the way that only truth can be.

I would love to know about some of your keepers. Why not put a few titles in the comments?

Up with books!

Up with September birthdays!

Up with dangerous old women!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Old-lady clothes and saddle shoes

 Smugness is not nice. Smug people really annoy me.

Now comes the confession. I have been smug. Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 until now, I’ve felt smug about not becoming infected, when family members and other friends around me did. Oh, yes, I’ve been vaccinated and boosted, and I’ve respected the masking mandates (for the most part), but lately even people who’ve done all this have contracted the virus. Two months ago, I nursed Hal through his bout with Covid and did not become infected.

You probably know where this is going. I can no longer be smug because I am currently under quarantine with the nasty virus. For the last few days, I’ve been aching, coughing, and lamenting.

I wanted you to know this. Or maybe I just needed to confess my sin. But that’s not the subject of this blog. The subject is—clothes.

A few years ago, as I was approaching the time when I knew I really would grow old, I decided that when that time came, I would not wear old-lady clothes. I would accept growing older as best I could, but I would not give in to the stereotypes. I would do my best not to look old.

I really can’t describe “old-lady clothes,” just that when I see 'em, I know 'em.

I think I’ve always had a sensitivity to clothes, a negative sensitivity that often caused me to feel inappropriate. Not that we were poor or that I lacked for what I needed. Thanks to my mom’s ability with the sewing machine and the generosity of older cousins who handed down their dresses, I never went without. (But I did, sometimes, grumble.)


I remember clearly the ugliest piece of clothing I ever had to wear. They were called “saddle shoes.” The name evokes images of mules, dusty trails, and rural klutziness, but my mom expected me to wear them. To school. In front of everyone.

I must have been in the fourth or fifth grade. My mom was the proverbial Good Mother, so sensible shoes were the order of the day. After all, they were “good for my feet.”

Sturdy, yes. Substantial. But also clunky and awkward. A white shoe with a large black band across the top—the “saddle”—that tied up and needed to be worn with ankle socks.

In those days little girls wore dresses to school. The saddle shoes definitely did not go with dresses. They were not feminine. They were not pretty.

Ugly.

I hated them. And I was angry at Mom for making me wear them.

Furthermore, I was skinny. One of my nicknames—what the other kids chose to call me—was Bird-Legs. Can you picture it? Top to bottom: a crop of unruly naturally curly blond hair, a frilly dress, two thin stick-like legs, stuck into a foundation of chunky sensible shoes.

No wonder I felt ugly and awkward.

That feeling accelerated in the teen years, of course, but as I became an adult, I was gradually learning to focus more on other people and not to be so concerned about how I appeared to them. I like to think I was becoming mature. Maybe I was.

But I still, from time to time, suffer bouts of feeling inadequate and wishing my wardrobe was better and more abundant.

Here in the retirement community, I’ve noticed a continuum of clothing styles. It’s almost like being back in high school. There are beautiful women among us who are well-dressed, beautifully coiffed, and slender. They are the prom queens and cheerleaders. At the other end of the continuum, the old-lady clothes walk the halls. Most of us (me, for example) are somewhere in the middle.

But all of this is a superficial view of reality. I’ve found some of my dearest friends among the prom queens, women who are down-to-earth, funny, and kind. And many other close friends wear, yes, old-lady clothes. (So far I haven’t seen anyone around here wearing saddle shoes.) While it’s good to dress well, according to our tastes and pocket-books, what matters is who we are. You all know that. I just need to remind myself from time to time.

St. Paul encouraged the early Christians to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Now that’s the way mature people dress. Not to mention that it’s also attractive. Something to set my mind on wherever I again become dissatisfied with my wardrobe.

Going back in time to those saddle shoes, I begin to understand. As an older person with strong, healthy feet, I get it. While I no longer have to wear saddle shoes, I choose sensible.

Thanks, Mom.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The trees help


Our retirement community has an asset in being located above Hess Creek Canyon. A trail leads from the central building down to and around the canyon. It’s not a long trail, perhaps close to a quarter mile as it circles the creek, a bridge on both the north and south ends. Oregon trees, both evergreen and deciduous, line the creek and border the trail. Numerous beasts—squirrels, birds, deer, and, at one point, beavers—graze the meadows, scamper and chase each other, or sing from the tree tops. It’s a place of refuge for humans as well as animals. Old humans and beasts of all ages.

Sometimes I walk briskly, for exercise. Other times I meander and meditate. (The latter is, frankly, my favorite.) At all times it’s become a place I love.

I’ve also made it a habit to do prayer walks on our trail. These are slow walks with frequent stops. I’ve developed a pattern, using different “stations” along the trail to pray for certain things.

I took a prayer walk this morning. As I approached the trail I attended to the presence of God. I asked Jesus to teach me to pray. I prepared my spirit.


Here’s my pattern. At the first station, the bench on the path heading to the north bridge, I stop to pray for my family, naming my son and daughter and their spouses, speaking the needs of each grandchild, then opening the eyes of my heart to any extended family member. I spent special time this morning praying for our nephew Josh whose cancer appears to be fatal.

The second station is the north bridge, a lovely spot right over the creek as it gurgles and sparkles below me. There I pray for people in this retirement community—residents, staff administration, and board members. This morning I lifted up my friend who has just lost her husband, and another friend in the health center who is approaching the end of life. These are both experiences I’ve not had (yet), so in addition to praying for my friends, I asked God for wisdom as I accompany them.

At the third station I sit on the bench beyond the bridge and around the bend to pray for the church, for the members of my Sunday school class in particular, and for unity among the congregations in the larger community. At the fourth station, another bench, I ask God to bring to mind any people not included in the previous stations. I linger a little longer at the fifth station on the south bridge because my concern there is for the local community, the nation, and the world. Yes, that’s altogether too much to pray for at once. So I pray about any matter that swims to the top of my mind. Then I walk back up the hill to the trail head, praising and thanking God for his sovereignty and goodness.

I have another prayer walk pattern that focuses on the nation and the world, and even then the trail’s not long enough. In another pattern I lift up my personal needs and dreams; that walk’s about renewal.

I hesitate to post this because it almost sounds like I’m a super-spiritual prayer guru. I’m not. One of the reasons I take these walks, other than my need to connect with trees, is that prayer has been so hard for me lately. I sit in the chair with good intentions and go to sleep. Or I find myself off in some fantastic day dream. Walking the trail and praying keep me grounded and help me attend to what I’m supposed to be doing. So I do it, not because I’m such a strong prayer warrior or whatever, but because I need help as I try to pray.

The trees help.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Sneaky Peeks: a childhood memory

Remembering is one of the primary tasks of growing older. Not nostalgia, but a gathering of the memories of a lifetime of adventures, hardships, challenges, failures, and triumphs. And of the relationships that formed us.

Memories are not just the stuff of the past, but part of our inner life in the present. Joan Chittister tells us that

The wonder of being able to see life as a whole, at any time and at all times, is the great gift of memory. It makes all of life a piece in progress. With one part of the soul in the past and another in the present, we are able to go on stitching together a life that has integrity and wholeness. Because of memory life is not simply one isolated act after another. It all fits into the image of the self and the goals of the heart. It makes them real. It makes them whole. (The Gift of Years)

Painful memories show us inner work and healing that still needs to take place in order to fully live into today. Joyful or funny memories help us be thankful.

Several years ago I made it my practice to write into my journal concrete memories of events, people, animals, and places (etc.) from the past. An interesting thing—one memory causes another to bubble up out of the subconscious. Collecting these has been helpful and healthy. Sometimes a memory is painful; sometimes it makes me laugh; many times it stimulates gratitude. I’m seeing the patterns and coming to understand myself better.

Following is one of these concrete memories from childhood. It reminds me of the gifts our parents gave us three kids: a lively curiosity, a passion for learning, and a love of reading. The memory also reminds me of the mischief my brother, sister, and I often got into.

Well, here goes:

 

Sneaky Peeks

My parents were Good Readers.
They had Good Taste,
and volumes of Great Books
filled the bookcases of our home.
Some of the Great Books also
had Great Pictures, and we three kids
liked to look at these, with our parents’ permission.
Being very careful, we would thumb through
The Brothers Karamazov, Ancient Chinese Poetry,
 and Don Quixote de la Mancha, fascinated, guessing
what the stories might be about

One day we made a Find.
Tucked among the Great Books
we found a collection of literary essays
from Playboy Magazine
(about which we knew nothing).
It was mostly words, but here and there,
scattered between the essays, were cartoons.
We didn’t understand the captions,
but the drawings
made us laugh. All these
naked grown-ups—both men and women—gamboling
about in fields
(“gambol” is the only verb that works here),
doing strange things.
Who could have thought this up?
It was both informative and hilarious.
We instinctively knew we must keep
this viewing pleasure a secret from our parents, and so
we found a hiding place in the bookcase.

One afternoon Mom popped in to find out
what we were laughing about. She saw the book.
She quietly left the room. I worried we might be in trouble.
But neither of our parents said anything.
The book, however, mysteriously disappeared.
We never saw it again.



Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The splinter

 We’ve been doing grandparent duty for the last ten days while our daughter, son-in-law, and their two older children go diving in the ocean off Honduras. The youngest grandchild, Peter, is 14 and on the autism spectrum. Like most people with autism, he needs to control his environment. One of the more difficult places for environment control is beneath the surface of the ocean. So there was no way Peter wanted to go on this dive.

Which meant we got to spend all this time with him, something we enjoy. We went on some mild adventures, played a lot of games, watched some good movies, swam in the pool, and read. That is, when Peter wasn’t on his iPhone or one of his computers. He is a genius (in my opinion) at computer technology, the one we go to with our technical problems.

During our stay, we also fed and played with the beasts (two large dogs, three cats, and one tortoise), and watered the multitude of outdoor flowers. They live in the middle of a forest and so we were outdoors a lot. Not surprisingly, one day I picked up a splinter in the bottom of my foot.

And that’s what this story is about.

The splinter was so tiny I couldn’t see it, partly because looking at something on the bottom of my foot is challenging at best. It was tiny but fierce. It made its presence known. I hobbled around for two days, not saying anything, thinking it might come out on its own. I’m not a fan of the process of removing splinters, especially in a sensitive area.

But after two days and no relief I knew I had to act responsibly, so I said to Hal, “I’m going to need your help with something.”

Always kind and concerned, Hal assembled his tools, and I knew I was in trouble. Tweezers, a needle, a knife, and a small flashlight. The flashlight didn’t bother me. He had me sit on a chair with my foot elevated on another chair near a light-powered lamp. He sterilized my foot and his equipment and got to work.

As it turned out, he couldn’t see it either. With the flashlight between his teeth, he had to poke around until I yelped. Over and over. He scraped, prodded, and pulled for an hour, while I practiced the same breathing exercises I had used years ago during labor pains. The breathing sort of helped. I kept thinking, “How can this thing be so tiny and hurt so much?”

After an hour we were both exhausted and needed a break. Hal went to a pharmacy to buy Epsom salts for our next approach. The soak in hot water felt delicious. But afterward the painful spot persisted. We tried soaking it again several hours later, and at the end my foot was numb so I felt no pain. The painless state persisted even after my foot regained feeling. I’ve been pain-free for several days now, and we believe the thing is gone, probably dissolved. Or maybe it loosened up and swam out into the salty water. We’re telling ourselves that the agonizing hour of scraping and poking and tweezing helped prepare the flesh for letting go, and the soak provided the opportunity. But, what do we know?

The next day, in the early hours of the morning, I was remembering Hal’s stoical yet gentle persistence, doing what I know for him was an unpleasant task. He knew he was hurting me, yet he also knew it needed to be done. The truth is, I don’t think I could have done the same for him. I’m too squeamish and can’t stand the thought of giving pain to others. Even when it’s the right thing to do. It made me very thankful for him.


As a poet, I went metaphorical, of course, and started to think about all the splinters in life, especially in the process of growing older. This old growth forest is full of splinters. And not all the pains and challenges we feel are easily extracted, if at all. But there is One by our side who is strong, patient, and good, who accompanies us even in “the valley of the shadow of death.”

Belief in the goodness of God isn’t the same as being Pollyanna-ish. The valley of the shadow is real. Evil exists in the world. Sometimes we make bad choices and pay the consequences. And, as the saying goes, “Growing old is not for sissies.”

And yet…there is One beside us. And there is more ahead.

Julian of Norwich’s famous words depict a reality beyond splinters, old age, and even death: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Yes.