I think it was Friend Jack, whom I had told on Friday, who mentioned it to some of his students on the next Tuesday.  I am not sure about that.  Later the Principal accused me of spreading the news.  I didn’t, but I didn’t deny it.  Did he think this would all happen in secret with no one finding out  what had occurred?

Apparently, the news spread like wildfire.  I suspect  was something like: “Did you hear that they fired Pastor Pete?”  The first time I realized just how far the news had spread was the next morning, Wednesday.  It was my turn to do chapel. The bell rang, the kids all gathered in the bleachers.  I walked out to begin the service.

I won’t ever forget that moment.  As I walked out, the kids started clapping and gave me a long standing ovation — 800-900 kids can make a lot of noise.  I can’t begin to describe the impact of that experience.

I have no idea what I said that day, other than the message I sought to give every time I stood there, that they are loved deeply just the way they are.  They are forgiven, filled with the transforming power of His love, able to grow into more than they ever thought possible.

One thing I figured out quickly was that I did not want to become the excuse for some sort of rebellious behavior by the students.  Remember, this was the early 70’s.  The volatile 1960’s were fresh in our memories. I was very proud of the way the Kids responded.  The Student Council set up a table in the hallway outside the office.  They had paper, envelops and stamps along with a list of the School Board members. There were no sit-ins.

It was discovered quickly, that the Principal had acted unilaterally in making the decision.  He had not consulted the Personnel Committee.  He and one of the influential members of the Board had collaborated on the decision.  That member of the Board, oddly, had asked to come to my classroom one day to show some slides and make a presentation to a class of Seniors.  It was the first day of a semester.  The classroom had 39 students in it.  Since the classroom was remodeled for a seminar approach, the chairs were not in straight rows with each one sitting with hands folded.  While the approach had provided some stimulating learning experiences, I can only guess that the room was not orderly enough for him.  The school had actually been structured as an all male military academy when that School Board Member had gone through it many years before.

The Board finally met and invited me to come in.  There were questions of all sorts.  There was nothing said that indicated anything that I had said or done that was not acceptable.  The Board did ultimately vote to renew my contract.

Before the decision was made to renew my contract, the kids at school gathered names on a petition totaling 688 of the 800-900 students.  Six area Pastors came in to meet with the Principal and/or the Board asking that the decision be reconsidered.  Apparently one very elderly retired Pastor had heard about the Communion Service with the Passing of the Peace in it and decided that there had been “hugging and kissing and rolling on the floor.”  There certainly was some hugging, but I did not see any kissing or rolling on the floor.

All this while, Mary Ann was taking care of Lisa, dealing with a pregnancy, wondering what would happen to us when the salary stopped and I had no job.

I was offered a contract for the next year.  The Principal had a long list of conditions, such as having my lesson plans in advance for him to review.  The list contained nothing other than things that seemed intended to make teaching much more tedious in hopes that I would just leave.

In the mean time, a congregation sent me a letter asking me to come and interview for the position of Assistant Pastor with responsibilities primarily in the area of Youth and Education.

Do you remember that terribly unfair judgment the students made about Kansas and Nebraska when Call day came, when I had refused to take a Call?   The return address on the envelop said, “Prairie Village, Kansas.”  What popped in my mind was an arid, flat, virtual desert with a little old rural town in it.  That is not what I found.

I flew into the downtown Kansas City, Missouri airport in the spring of 1972.  The Senior Pastor picked me up and drove me down Ward Parkway to the church.  Ward Parkway in spring in Kansas City is one of the prettiest places to be found.  The crabapple trees and redbud trees were in full bloom.  There were blooming flowers filling the boulevard areas.  We had passed through the Spanish Architecture of the Plaza.  The trees and hills were so lush that they dominated the view.

Johnson County, Kansas, the county in which the church was located had been ranked the first or second most affluent county in the nation the two years before.  More than that.  When I met with a room of about 35 leaders of the congregation, the tone, the attitude and the words made clear that these people actually had caught sight of the heart of the message of the Gospel.  The were not just about the institution, but about making a difference in the lives of real people.  I was shocked and surprised after my last experience with the parish.

Now came the dilemma.  Do I leave the high school and abandon the Kids who had gone to bat for me?   What I was being Called to in Prairie Village seemed to be a perfect fit.  I had not been prepared to teach, but I had been prepared to be a Pastor in a church.  I decided that my presence at the high school would simply be a lightning rod, providing a distraction from the problems that needed work.  It seemed to me that I would be more effective in the parish.  I could deal with the Kids while also being able to know and minister to their parents.

I accepted the Call to Prairie Village.  Finishing out the year turned out to be quite an experience.  At Graduation, the Salutatorian’s speech was an affirmation of my ministry.  Jenny spoke in a way that must have irritated the Principal and those who wanted me gone.  Her words warmed my heart.  Then, Tom, the Valedictorian included remarks affirming the effectiveness of my ministry at the high school.  Those two had a great deal of courage to dare to speak so boldly.  I have never forgotten.

Those weeks the roller coaster moved down and up at breakneck speed.  I went from the low of being fired, deeply concerned about how Mary Ann and Lisa and the new baby would survive, feeling like a failure as a husband and father —  to being affirmed so powerfully, that I could hardly believe what I was hearing.  I have always felt grateful to those Kids for what they did.  They nurtured my personal faith and gave me much more than I had given them.

The next step bought us to some of the best years together.  It was not long before the volatile nature of some disagreements in our national church body intruded into the parish life.  Life was never boring in our years together.

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Mary Ann, Lisa and I spent two summers at Camp Beaumont outside of Ashtabula, Ohio.  We packed up enough of our belongings in a U Haul trailor to live in a one bedroom log cabin for each of two summers.  Milt was one of three of us on the faculty who hung out together.  Milt was the art teacher.  He went on to become the head of the Art Department of a college in Nebraska.  Milt was also active in Scouts.  He convinced me to take a summer job as the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplain of a large Scout Camp of some 1200 acres, with 36 sites for troops.

There was a little ring of six or eight cabins for the staff of the camp.  Mary Ann and Lisa hung out with the other families while I ate with the troops, explaining the Religious Awards.  Almost every meal was hot dogs and beans, except for the Jewish troops, who served Kosher hot dogs and beans.

The second summer I bought a bicycle for $3 at a garage sale and road it all summer long.  I had calves of steel that summer.  Poor Lisa got poison Ivy once from the socks I wore with the Scout shorts.  The cabins were simple and very rustic.  It really was a very pleasant setting.  Since we were so close, we made it to Niagara Falls for a visit.  There was a classmate there who took us out to a nice Seafood restaurant to have a leisurely paced meal at a very nice restaurant.  We visited a mushroom farm which was really fascinating.  We ate or put in the freezer package after package of white button mushrooms.

When we were visiting our families in Aurora the Christmas of 1971, driving to my parents house, some smoke came from under the dash.  We never found out what it was, but it was a little unsettling.  After we got to my parents’ house where we had been staying, Mary Ann started feeling badly.  In fact, she began to become rigid as in a mild seizure.

I took her to the Emergency Room in a small nearby hospital.  The doctor had a thick German accent and was about as arrogant and rude a person as we had ever encountered.  He simply decided that we had been arguing and she had gotten so upset that she reacted physically.  It was not so, but he did not believe us and looked for no other explanation.  The next day we went to the doctor we had both grown up with in Aurora.  He put Mary Ann on an anti-seizure medicine as a precaution.  We later discovered that at that time Mary Ann was in the first weeks of being pregnant with our Son.  I guessed that somehow that triggered it, but I have often wondered if that event could have triggered the Parkinson’s.  The literature on Parkinson’s would allow a brain trauma of some sort as a triggering event.

With a second child on the way, we realized that the little house we were  renting would not be big enough for four of us.  We started looking for a house to buy.  We decided to consider a duplex in hopes that the rent from the second unit would help pay for it.

On a Tuesday in April we put $500 down as earnest money on a duplex.  It was the Friday of that week, Mary Ann four months pregnant, a contract out on our first house that Principal Gunther (Gint) asked for an appointment.

Here is how he said it.  We need a new head of the Religion Department and you are not yet ready for that.  We will not be renewing your contract next year.  You need to start seeking a Call (job offer) someplace else.

It was as if the floor had just dropped away, and there was nothing there on which to stand.  (Why do I resonate to that description again now?)  I had to go home and tell Mary Ann that once more, she was pregnant and I had no job.  I called the realtor, who, gratefully, was able to get the $500 check back.

I can only guess that Mary Ann was probably wondering again what she had gotten herself into when she married me.  She had the decency not to say it out loud to me.

When I had left the Principal’s office I went to talk with the other of the three of us who hung out together, Jack.  Jack taught English, but his passion was Drama.  He went on to the English/Drama department at a College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I have no memory of that weekend and the beginning of that next week.  I do, however, have vivid memories of what started that next Wednesday.

Enough of that for today.

I am now writing from Louisville, Kentucky.  I have been here since Friday evening.  It is good be with Lisa and the Girls and Denis.  It was painful to leave the house Friday morning.  I usually love getting on the road and driving somewhere.  There has been an exhilaration, a freedom I have always felt out on the open road.  I had no such feelings.  It seemed as if I was leaving her behind.  Someone who had lost a spouse recently said that she doesn’t like being away from the house and gets anxious to be home, and then she doesn’t want to be at home when she gets there.  I understand.

It felt very different to be traveling without the constant apprehension about needing to find a bathroom and dealing with taking her into the women’s rest room.  Ironically, the rest area I stopped at in southern Indiana, had a Unisex bathroom.  Now I don’t need it.

It has been good here to be with the Kids and Grandkids.  It is easier not to be dealing with the challenges of stairs and bathrooms and wheelchairs, but I would do it in a minute if I had the chance to have her back.

Yesterday I stopped at Walgreen’s to get a birthday card for Lisa, whose birthday is today, the Fourth of July.  Do you have any idea how many “to Daughter” cards there are that say “from Mother?”  It caught my insides as I tried to pick out a card — something we would have done together.  I picked one that was from both of us.

Yesterday evening was a party that Lisa and Denis had arranged with many of their friends.  Some of them had already met Mary Ann and me in the past.  Lisa and Denis have a wonderful group of friends that function sort of as a local family.  I enjoyed the evening since conversation is a helpful   to me.  There were Kids playing everywhere.  It was entertaining to watch.

Today, Sunday, it was clear from the moment that I woke up, that it would be an uncomfortable day.  I didn’t realize how much I would struggle to keep it together later.  I find the worship services at Lisa and Denis’s church to be very meaningful.  They do a full liturgy, but in a relaxed and welcoming way, rather than a formal way .

Todd who does the music is a real gem.  His work at the keyboard is reverent and accessible.  There may be jazz, classical, or any number of different styles, always perfectly done.  Pastor Paul preaches using lots of visuals, mostly images of great art pieces.  The service is on a large video screen at the front of the church.

Today the service and message were on healing.  The wording of almost everything was not only very compatible with my current need, it spoke almost directly to it.  In many traditions anointing with oil is a liturgical practice intended to bring an awareness of God’s healing into a person’s consciousness.  Today, just before the end of the service the option of going to the rear of the Nave to receive a bit of oil on one’s forehead and a prayer by one or both of those at the station.  It is not done in a magical way but in a way that draws to together the pain and the healing presence of the Lord’s love.

I decided to take advantage of that opportunity.  By the time I returned to my seat, tears were streaming down my cheeks.  I worked hard at trying to keep it from being too obvious and distracting to others.  Lisa was crying quietly when she returned too.  The girls were watching us as attentively.

I was able to talk with folks again after the service.  There were some good conversations with some very interesting people.  During the rest of the day, we did some shopping, had coffee, ate out, sang happy birthday and came home to rest.

Denis and I went shopping at Best Buy and I ended up buying a laptop computer so that when I am traveling I can continue writing.    By the way, I am continuing to work on the thank you notes.  They have all been written, but they now need to be addressed, sealed and stamped.

I stayed back from the trip to see fireworks tonight so that I could get a head start on writing.  Now, I need to get some rest. (Too tired to edit the post, it is gong out as is.)

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While I did manage to get an A on my Internship, the Seminary realized that Pastor Harold should never have a Vicar again.  Actually, he went to another parish a month before I left, so I got my congregation back.

Since it was now my last year of school, the preventative measures were stopped and a little new person started developing.  When I phoned my Mother with the news, in a very matter of fact voice she said, “It’s about time.”  It would be her twelfth Grandchild.

While that was wonderful, I managed to complicate our lives hopelessly.  The view of the Parish Ministry (being pastor of a church) from Vicarage was very distasteful.  I could not imagine heading out to some God-forsaken place like Kansas or Nebraska to pastor a little congregation.  That would be the norm for a new Graduate.  What complicated it even more is that I was in the midst of a terrible crisis of faith.  What I had learned about the heart of the message didn’t match what people who called themselves Christians seemed to be doing and saying.  For a time, I threw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, and I struggled with this whole God business.

The result is that I told the Seminary that I would not be interested in receiving a Call, when Call day came in the spring.  I would have no job.  I had just finished spending 8 years of my life training for something I was not going to do.

I suspect Mary Ann had some regrets at that time about hooking up with this crazy man.  I did not tell her about the faith crisis until decades later.   Call Day came, Graduation came, the baby kept developing inside Mary Ann.  It was a terribly difficult time for both of us.  By this time, Mary Ann was working in the Medical Records department of St. Mary’s Hospital.  Her supervisor was Sister Mary Antona, who became fond of Mary Ann, just as we became fond of her.   Years later we visited her in Baraboo Wisconsin (Home of the Circus Museum) where she was a hospital Administrator.  I have wondered what happened to her.  I just Googled her and discovered that she had a distinguished career and was an activist in the Civil Rights’ Movement.  We knew she was someone special.

I continued to work at Clark-Peeper Office Supplies, part time during classes and full time in the summer.  They offered me a job when I graduated.  I interviewed for other jobs, insurance, sales rep.  It was mightily depressing to be starting from scratch again.

What brought joy to Mary Ann and me that summer was the birth of Lisa on the Fourth of July.  The Obstetrician was a Lutheran who would not charge any Seminarian for delivering their child.  I had the privilege of putting on scrubs and joining the doctor and Mary Ann in the delivery room.  Many have said it before me, but what looks unappetizing when seen in a video is one of the most beautiful experiences imaginable.

One of the Professors at the Seminary had become friends with both Mary Ann and me.  On the East Coast at that time it was not unusual to refer to a Lutheran Pastor as “Father.”  He was referred to as Father John.  His Mother had come to live with him.  She visited Mary Ann in the hospital and told the Staff that she was her Mother.  She was a character.

While Mary Ann was busy giving birth to Lisa, little Suzette, the poodle we had gotten from Roger and Jan, was busy ripping up the apartment.  I mentioned that she was grumpy.  Suzy liked no one but Mary Ann.  She tolerated me.  Suzy tore the bottom sheet on the bed.  She scratched at one of those bedspreads with the thread pattern on top until all the threads were in a huge clump in the middle.  She ate part of a decorative candle we had brought back from our trip to Europe, and she chewed up a hand carved horse we had purchased in Oberammergau.  It is fair to say she was very annoyed that Mary Ann had left her.  I now understand how she felt.

Two weeks after Lisa was born, she was baptized in a beautiful Baptistry on the first floor of the Seminary Tower.  Fr. John did the Baptism and used water he had brought from the Jordan River. One day shortly after that, I remember sitting in a chair, holding Lisa, wondering what her life would be like as I watched that first step on to the moon.  It was July of 1969.

During those months, I talked with one Professor in particular, Walt Bartling.  In the course our conversations, he did a couple of very important things.  One is that he stole from my questions and doubts the power to take away my faith.  Then came the key that opened me to a faith far more resilient and stronger than anything I had had before.   Walt essentially said that God was busy loving me, while I was busy doubting God.  My doubts had no impact on God.  That kernel of truth revealed in all its raw power, the meaning of the Gospel, God’s unconditional love for me. The power of the Gospel transformed my faith into something that has filled my life with meaning every moment of every day.

That was all well and good, but Call day had long since passed by the time my faith was regaining ground, and I had no job.  Fr. John came to our rescue.  What will follow is a story that I still can hardly believe, and I was there, we lived it.  Mary Ann must have wondered what on earth she had gotten herself into when she married me.

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No, this will not be one of those “too much information” posts.

That first year at the Seminary, I was singing in a very good choir made up of students from the Seminary and singers from some of the Lutheran churches in St. Louis.  There were probably sixty or a hundred Lutheran churches in St. Louis at that time.  A radio station in Holland had tried to get St. Olaf’s choir to come for a Heinrich Schuetz festival there.  Somehow, they got hold of a tape of our choir and offered to pay us 30.000 Guilder to come to their radio station studio to sing and make recordings.

Mary Ann was not singing in the choir.  She had started working full time at a bank so that we could continue to survive while I went to school.  I continued to work part time during the school year and full time during the summer at Clark-Peeper Office Supplies in Clayton.  Even with the promised 30,000 guilder covering a portion of the cost of the trip, each of us had to pay a portion also.  I don’t remember how much.  I do remember that we could take non-member spouses along for about $750.

We knew we might never get a chance like that again.  We had enough savings in the bank to cover the cost for me and for her, enough for a little spending money on the trip, leaving $100 in the bank for when we returned.  That would be enough to pay the next month’s rent, with nothing left over.  Mary Ann’s bank said that they would not have a job waiting for her when we returned.  We decided to do it!

We flew to Washington, D.C. and on to London.  We spent four days there, visiting cathedrals, riding the Underground (subway).  We sang at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.  The trip there was harrowing.  The tour bus driver was nuts!  Of course he was driving on the wrong side of the road, that was to be understood, it was England.  However, when a blind curve was approaching while on that two lane road, he moved right out to pass a car.  He was traveling at a frighteningly high rate of speed. Our worst fear was realized when a car appeared coming toward us from the other direction on that curve – traveling at an equally frightening rate of speed.  We passed three abreast on that two lane road.  It took hours to clean the seats on the bus — okay, it almost scared us that much.

We drank warm, bitter beer and ate beef and kidney pie.  That was about as bad as it sounds.  We saw all the usual sights.  Both of us decided that we wanted to return some time.  That never happened.  We were right about the once in a lifetime opportunity.

Then we flew into Amsterdam and drove to Noordwijk-Aan-Zee, a small resort town on the North Sea.  There we stayed in a boarding house while we went back and forth to the radio station in a larger town nearby.  I remember riding bikes together to the laundromat.  I remember that the wash water was scaldingly hot.  Someone in there managed to warn us about that even though they spoke only Dutch and we spoke none.  I knew a few German words, but we were told that it would be far better to stick with English than to use any German.  Our bus was picketed at one point because we had a German bus driver.  The war was still fresh in people’s minds.

The weather was too cold for swimming, but we rode to the beach of the North Sea just to see it.  The breakfasts were cold cuts and cheese and breads.  For all the meals, all five days, we had the very same cloth napkin kept in a plastic holder at our place at the table.  We had fried chicken one night.  As a somewhat compulsive hand washer, it was a horrifying experience!

After recording for the Heinrich Schuetz festival, we headed on to Germany.  Only West Germany was accessible at that time.  We saw the huge Cologne Cathedral, Frankfort, Munich.  We visited castles, Linderhof, Neuschwanstein (where from the balcony of the throne room we saw one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen, a lake nestled in between wooded mountains).  We saw what was left of the Heidelberg Castle boasting the largest wine barrel ever filled with wine, so large that it had a dance floor on top.  We did a concert in a cathedral in which there was a full five seconds of reverberation after stopping the final chord. (We heard tell of one castle that had a seven seconds of reverberation.) It was a powerfully moving experience to sing in those churches.  We sang a total of 8 times in three weeks.  The rest of the time we traveled and saw so many beautiful sights.

Classmate Louie (nickname) and Elise had moved their wedding date to just days before the trip so that they could be together on it.  In Muenster, it happened that they were assigned to stay in separate places.  There were tears flowing.  Since by then we were an old married couple of six months, we offered to stay in separate places so that they could stay together.

In Muenster we stayed in homes for two nights since one of the members of the choir was recently from Germany.  We sang at her home church in Muenster.  Mary Ann stayed with a family that spoke English.  I did not stay with such a family.  Actually, I ended up in a boarding house run by a family from church.  The first night was fine.  One of the other boarders was Franz von den Ohden Rhein (Frank from the Old Rhine), who spoke English.  The second night Franz was gone.  I sat at the supper table with six or eight people who could speak no English, not a word.  I knew my one sentence in German, the one that revealed that my Mother was born in Germany.  That was it.  The good news was that after a few bottles of wine, we seemed to be able to communicate without much trouble (at least that is how I remember it — what I remember of it).

The adventure continues tomorrow.  (Can you say “Bobby Kennedy??”)

Today was a better day.  The morning walk was reassuring in that again, I actually enjoyed the sights and sounds.  The pain allowed me room for that.  After I got cleaned up, I got a cup of coffee at PT’s and was greeted by Sara and Kelsey.  They are barista’s who have been very thoughtful and welcoming to me.  I taught Kelsey in Confirmation Class and Confirmed her a number of years ago. She is very newly married.  She had some very thoughtful and affirming words.  It warmed my spirit.  A good way to start a day.

I wrote some thank you notes and then headed to Paisano’s for the monthly lunch with Jimmy.  He lost his wife many years ago and understood very well what I am going through.  After that I stopped for a moment to drop something off at church.  There I spent a few moments with Linda and Marilyn who were part of my support system for many years, whether they realized it or not.  They knew.

When I went to the Wild Bird House to stock up on feed for the birds, I was greeted very warmly by Melody and Todd, who had only a day or two before discovered that Mary Ann had died (still very hard to write or say).  Todd came over and put his arm around me to comfort me.  We have just talked on occasion over the last few months, mostly about birds.  I would stop there most weeks while Mary Ann was in her Tuesday morning Bible Study.  It helps so much to have people around who seem to care, trying to provide comfort and understanding.

I spent the middle of the afternoon writing thank you notes.  They brought me close to tears more than once as I thought about what Mary Ann went through.  I was also overwhelmed in a good way with the realization of all that so many people did for us.  The hours that people spent here are far beyond counting.  It is not even remotely possible for me to repay what was given.  Those who came usually enjoyed Mary Ann, but they were sometimes scared that she would pop up and then fall, maybe hurting herself.  I think people felt good that they were really helping us, making a substantial difference in our lives.  I think many felt that they were doing a ministry for Faith by freeing me to continue to serve Faith while Mary Ann could not be left alone.

It is also clear that Mary Ann ministered to those who came.  So many have been struck by her courage and unwavering faith in the face of all she went through.  She did not complain.   People could talk with her and know that it would not be shared with the next visitor.  I still marvel that she just took the next hit whatever it was and went on as if nothing had happened.

This afternoon, friend and former parishioner Mark came over to talk and listen.  He has been through this.  He phoned Sunday afternoon, knowing that it would be a terribly painful time for me.  We set this time then.  Mark brings with him a strong and vivid faith along with some counseling experience, as well as having lost his wife whom he loved just as I loved Mary Ann.  He walked me through a Psalm that was especially meaningful to him at the time of his grieving.  The content of our conversation will remain between us.  It is enough to say that it was a helpful, meaningful and comforting time for me, immersed in the Grace of God, and the healing God provides.

It has not been an easy day.  Easy is no longer an option, at least for now.  It was a better day.  The pain was clear and identifiable, always ready to pop back fully into view.  It did not express itself as often or with as much intensity as it has in the last days.  I am not so naive as to think it will not come back with full intensity whenever it chooses.  It was just helpful to have a day in which it did not rule.

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It is the name of a movie and what happened at our (my) house last night.  I set the stage in a way that would allow it to happen.  I needed for it to happen.  It changes nothing.  It just needed to get out.

After finishing writing last night, I did a few chores and then got out the box of letters I wrote Mary Ann.  I put on the CD that had brought me to tears months ago when we first realized it was time to call in Hospice.  I read a few of the letters.  Actually, the letters did not tap my emotions.  They are pretty boring.  I ramble on about Greek tests and singing groups and learning recitativs for someone who couldn’t sing the solos at the last minute.  Each letter so far, and I am sure all of them, end with declarations of love in as many different ways as I could figure out to say them.  I have read eight of the letters so far.  Understand, for three years, except for summers when we could see each other, I wrote her a letter every night.  (No wonder I have gotten into this blogging every night business.)

Remember, I was nineteen or twenty years old and very much in love.  They sound like something from a bad romantic movie.  The only redeeming element is that I really meant what I was saying: “I don’t know how to tell you just how much I love you and miss you.  I can hardly believe it myself.  I love you.”  Then another: “Even if you didn’t love me — I love you enough for both of us.”  I will spare you any more for now.

It was not the letters. Certainly the music lowered my defenses and helped me let go of my control.  I just pulled down a picture of the two of us from a year or two or three ago.  It is the one that was cropped for the obituary.  I looked and I remembered the indignity of it all.  I remembered what she endured looking from the outside in rather than from inside the struggle.  I could not tolerate the thought that she is gone.  I spoke out loud because I couldn’t not speak.  In a moment of self-pity, I asked “Why did you give her to me to love and then take her away.”  I was angry — not out of control angry, just angry.  “It’s not fair that she should have had to suffer so — she did nothing to deserve it.”

Please understand, I realize that God doesn’t like death and sickness any more than we do.  I realize that God understands death from the inside out and the outside in.  God didn’t wish for Mary Ann to suffer, for me to be in pain with her.  What God did was hang in there with us through it all, never letting go of us.  Understand also that God’s relationship with us is strong enough and intimate enough to allow anger to be a part of it.  I needed to be angry at that moment.  Read the Psalms some time and see just how many are laments spewing anger at the unfairness of life.  Pastor Mike addressed this matter at the funeral.

Noisy tears flowed.  The dam broke.  Every time I looked at her face and remembered, the tears flowed.  In an earlier post, I mentioned that I used to count how many times I had cried in my adult life.  The first time was after I got the phone call that my Dad had died.  I was 42 years old.  Until last January, I had not yet run out of fingers on one hand to count the times.  I have stopped counting and will never do so again.

I guess there was some part of me that still thought it was a sign of weakness for a man to cry.  I knew before and I know still more certainly now that crying, actually letting the pain in far enough to feel it, is an act of courage that is demanded if wholeness and healing will come.  Running away from it or pretending it isn’t there or encrusting it in some sort protective casing is hardly the path to strength of character and the ability to endure whatever comes.

There was an interesting coincidence at our Spiritual Formation group this morning.  The lesson in our discussion booklet for this morning was entirely devoted to the need to let go, to die, before we can rise to new life.  The last of the four discussion questions printed at the end of the readings was, “What role does the reality of death and the deaths of those you love play in your life?”  Talk about timing.

Today was a busy Wednesday, as they often have been for some reason.  It started with the Spiritual Formation Group on the deck.  While that was going on Landscaper Sheila was doing her final maintenance of the landscaping she put in this spring.  She will return in the fall to do some clean up and prepare it for winter.  I am on my own for the rest of the summer.  Those plantings are in great jeopardy!

In the mid-morning, Dave came over to get a couple of death certificates and obtain the signatures needed on a variety of forms for the financial issues following a death.  Then Kristie came over to do the monthly house cleaning.  Now the house is not only empty but empty and clean.

I did some overdue posting in the computer check register while she cleaned.  It will take a while to get my bearings in that arena.  Everything seems to be on course.  I have configured the online emails from the Caregiving Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia so that I have to go to the web site to read them.  As a result, the hours I have spent checking emails have pretty much been eliminated.  I just can’t read those emails at the moment.  It takes me right back to something from which I need a break for now.

I had leftovers from the funeral dinner for lunch and dinner.  Next I will start on all the containers that Lisa put in the freezer when food was coming in faster than we could eat it. It should be many weeks before it is necessary for me to exercise my culinary skills.

I decided it would be best to get out of the house for a while, so I made a quick run to pick up a couple of things.  One is a zippered cover for a pillow.  No amount of soaking in Oxy Clean or spraying with Spray and Wash is able to get the stains out.  Mary Ann was taking Plavix and Aspirin to thin her blood because of her stroke.  Often her gums or nose would bleed a little during the night.  The pillow is certainly clean, and now it looks that way also.

The house is becoming very neat and orderly and boring.  I still hope to at least get my office, which is a complete shambles, cleaned up.  That happening would be right up there with the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.  Actually, I suppose my problem is that I have the twelve baskets of leftovers and nowhere to put them.

Here are the ideas that I have seen so far for the title of a new blog to replace this one: newlifeemerging.com; calltocontemplation.com; buildingnewlife.com; next chapter; life after retirement; thecontinuinglife.com; my journey continues; life’s journey continues; a new role begins; continuing life’s pathway; making new memories — remembering the old; progressive pathways; pathways of personal progression; day by day; heading home; homeward bound; faith journal; moving on; stepping stones (to healing).

By the way, whatever it is, it needs to be in the .com format and checked with a site like godaddy.com to see if it is available or already in use.

Well, this day has come to an end.  As I mentioned to Son Micah, the challenge is to manage the pause and stop button on the video running in my mind of Mary Ann’s most difficult days including the last one, so that there will be minimal flooding from the broken dam.  Today was better.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Someone came to the door yesterday afternoon asking if I knew where the next door neighbors had gone on their trip.  I didn’t know they were gone.  Then he explained what he had just found.  The back door was standing open and there were a dozen or so beer cans on the back patio.  The cans were unopened.

He explained that he had painted the cement patio on Friday and was checking to be sure that it was dry and to see if it needed a second coat.  The neighbors had been on a short trip to Texas.  Just days before their sump pump had stopped workings during a heavy rain storm.  Their basement was flooded.  For three days the cleaners were working, even one day while they were gone.

Today I found out that the thieves took the cash and jewelry.  They probably left in a hurry when the case of beer they decided to take apparently broke open on the patio as they were leaving.  The patio is no more than 25 feet from my bedroom window.  I heard nothing.  It is certainly unnerving.

It was death certificate day.  I picked them up at the funeral home.  We hardly need a piece of paper with a County Seal on it to tell us what has happened.  They will now be used to trigger a variety of transactions, most of which have no tangible impact other than keeping records straight on some computers somewhere.  There was not much available in the way of insurance since she was uninsurable due to the Parkinson’s Diagnosis twenty three years ago.  All the follow up tasks after a death at least have the side effect of keeping a person busy.

Today’s outing included taking Mary Ann’s clothing to the Rescue Mission thrift store. It needed to be done, but it was hard to do.  There was a sinking feeling as we helped unload them.  Other than a number of her well-worn favorites, the cookbooks went to the Friends of the Library to be sold in the annual book sale.  Mary Ann loved the library.  One of the professions that would have been satisfying to her was Librarian.  She loved old book stores, especially one in the Brookside area of Kansas City, Missouri.

On the way, I picked up from the repair shop the watch that my Mom had taken me out to buy near the end of my Senior Year in high school.   It is a Girard Perregaux for which she paid $85 in 1961.  The jeweler said that if a comparable could be found now it would be closer to$1500. It has a self-winding weight in it.  Still works. I don’t really care about the value.  It is not for sale.  It is for Son Micah to have.  I wear the gold watch my Dad received many decades ago when he retired.  It actually is of comparable value.  I guess old can be good sometimes.  That is good to hear.

Talking about “old,” I am now in contact with a classmate from the Second Grade, Miss Miller’s class.  That was a memorable year.  I got sick after eating a piece of peach pie.  Before it was over, my Dad plunked me down on the examination table at the doctor’s office and declared that I had appendicitis.  Dad had lost a 5 year old son to peritonitis on Christmas Eve, and almost lost another son when his appendix burst on the operating table.   He was not about to lose another son.  (The very oldest boy their first child had died shortly after birth.)  Sure enough, I ended up on the operating table having my inflamed appendix removed later that same day.

While in the hospital recuperating, it was discovered that I had Rheumatic Fever.  I missed the second half of the Second Grade year (four months).  Miss Miller spent the summer going over the school work I had missed so that I could go on to the next grade.  That diagnosis was a dominant part of my life until I graduated from high school.

On the way back from our errands, we made the promised stop at G’s for some frozen custard in memory of Grandma.  Not only were the treats as good as expected, one of my favorite young people from the congregation dished it up for us.  She is actually sort of annoying, she is a very good athlete, very smart, very pretty but not snooty about it, committed to helping others and making a difference for good, and she is a hopeless smart-aleck — all of that and sweet and caring too.  Talk about annoying.  She even admitted to reading this blog sometimes.  You know who you are!  Even after I became a Geezer I found myself enjoying the bits of contact I had with Youth in the congregation.  I spent the first 18 years of my ministry in service especially to Youth.

Someone just moved in two houses away.  She came over to introduce herself to a couple of us talking outside.  Soon there were four of us, two who had lost spouses two years ago.  As we were talking I soon realized that for the last many years, I would not have been able to stay and talk, but would have rushed into the house to check on Mary Ann.  It will be hard to get used to this new reality.

Today we stopped by church to get the list of gifts given to Faith in memory of Mary Ann.  I was surprised at how many gifts had come in.  I have started thinking about how what comes in should be used.  It would please Mary Ann very much to be able to provide that tangible evidence of appreciation of all the years of caring for her by so many Volunteers from Faith.

Early tomorrow is the time that Lisa and the girls leave on their way back home to Kentucky.  It is hard to imagine getting through these events without Lisa and Micah’s help and support.  Like it or not, tomorrow will be the first day by myself in the house.  It is a new reality — can’t go back.  Right now I am running on adrenalin. The crash has to come.  When it does, I will get through it.  The two who lost their spouses two years ago were emphatic about what is the hardest thing, the loneliness. No one can fix that, even by trying to keep the surviving spouse busy.  We just have to deal with it and survive it.

For now, the odiferous ants have arrived.  It is an annual invasion.  The Tero is out and they are gathering, eating it and, hopefully, taking it to the nest to kill more. Pest Controller Tom will be by tomorrow to do some more serious work on them.  Hopefully they will soon leave the premises. I am certainly not interested in their company, even if I do get lonely.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

I am not sure that I have sat down for more than a few minutes at a time since Mary Ann died.  (It is still so hard to say that.)  I realize that it is a way to hold the pain at bay.  The pain is still fresh and raw, so working constantly takes my mind off it.

We have gotten mountains of things done.  We have made it through all the clothes.  Those are ready for disposition.  We have been through all the drawers in her dresser.  I have no explanation for this, but yesterday we missed two of the drawers.  We thought we were done, but we still had two more to go through today.  The contents were very difficult, especially the jewelry.  There were many cheap digital watches.  We kept getting new ones in hopes that we would find one she would wear and could read.  There were countless scarves.

When Son Micah came this afternoon, he mentioned the pantry.  I was able to shed about 60% of what was in there and give it to the Kids.   I found another stash of crafts downstairs.  Chloe will get that.  Micah will take the hangers (a huge bag).

Then came some rearranging of furniture.  My chest of drawers ended up in the closet, since there are not very many clothes left in there.  The table by her chair with the computer screen that constantly showed pictures of the Grandchildren is now downstairs and the computer moved to a corner in the living room.

The house is not dramatically changed, but enough so that things won’t completely revolve around the empty chair.  I can’t avoid the reality that she is gone.  I need to embrace that reality.  That realization will create wave after wave of feelings triggered by things I have yet to discover as well as some of which I am very much aware.

The medical equipment will remain in the garage for at least another week. Tonight’s threatening rain storm changed the plan of putting it all in the open bed on Micah’s truck.  Hopefully that will leave the garage by next weekend.  That is the current plan.

Daughter Lisa will stay and help some tomorrow, perhaps staying until Tuesday morning.  We have lots of things to take to various places.  The death certificates should be ready by tomorrow afternoon.  They need to be sent to various people to get wheels turning on changing accounts designations.  Plans need to be put into place to try to reduce household expenditures by the amount of her Social Security.  The practical matters keep a focus of attention and energy during these first days.

This morning was the first Sunday worship service I have attended sincer Mary Ann’s departure.  It was the first time that I have sat in the pew at the mid-morning service since I retired two years ago.  I wasn’t sure how it would feel.  It actually went very well, in comparison to how it might have gone.  I felt very much at home and surrounded with people who had become almost family over the last fourteen years.  There were lots of hugs and words of concern and support.  All shared the assurance that Mary Ann is secure in the presence of the Lord.

A number of folks have, of course, served as Volunteers at our home over the years.  They know the ins and outs of what we have been through.  A number of folks have been reading these posts and through them have come to have an intimate knowledge of our journey, especially the last few weeks.  It felt good to talk with so many people and experience how many there are supporting our family.

One development I wish had come before Mary Ann died.  A choice of her estranged Brother had hurt her deeply, separating him and his family from us.  I was able to make a connection on Facebook to fulfill my promise to Mary Ann that the message of her forgiveness be relayed to him.  The response has helped reconnect his Wife, Mary Ann’s Sister-in-Law, and his Son, Mary Ann’s Nephew, with me.  I feel a relief on her behalf that there has been some healing at least with the family.  The interactions seem to enhance the sense of peace she has won.

The day I will come into the house with no one else here is approaching very quickly.  I have not sat down since her death to keep the pain at a manageable level. I hope I can continue that defense mechanism until I get some more cleaning done — my office, the downstairs office area now holding all my outdated financial records. I doubt it will last long enough to get the storage area cleaned up.

The plans that are beginning to emerge will include contact with others, not just constant solitude. That the return to church this morning went all right is a good sign.  There is still plenty of serious grieving yet to do. I do not intend to run away from it.  It will be the key to my survival and ultimate good health.

I plan to collect and list the suggested addresses for a blog with a new theme as this new life begins.  Please continue to make suggestions as they come to mind.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.