Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

Breaking up with a Church… October 6, 2017

Filed under: Communication,Grief,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:59 am
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When death happens in a family, I have always felt that church was where you go to find comfort… the place that reaches out and wraps its corporate arms around you to give you a bit of peace in the chaos that has just rocked your world… the place where you know you’ll find the words to ease the pain, share the grief, and unburden your soul. But what happens when the church isn’t there for you?BreakingUpWithAChurch

My mother died unexpectedly, 10 days before Christmas, this past year. Celebrating Christmas was difficult, especially since she always spent that particular holiday with me and my family, so I sent my choir director a text to keep him updated on my attendance. The idea of going to services was too painful for me to fathom. I simply wanted to spend time with my husband and children, so we didn’t go to Christmas Eve services. New Year’s came and went so I could concentrate on planning a service that would honor my mother’s memory. I grew up in her church, so I felt comfortable creating a service that would have pleased her in the choices I made. I had chosen Psalm 121 which had, unbeknownst to me, been included in services for both her father and that of her father-in-law, so I honestly felt her hand guiding me in the selections for her service.

January flew by in a blur… mum’s funeral service, executor responsibilities of bills and cleaning out her home, drives to/from Pennsylvania, along with growing concerns about my father’s health. I went to one church service, but couldn’t handle more. Clearly I was hurting, but there was no rest for the weary…

Seven weeks after my mother died, my father died as well… from complications of Parkinson’s exacerbated by a car accident in November. While I wasn’t as intimately involved in his service, my stepmother asked me to honor his memory by singing one of his favorite hymns. I asked my choir director for a copy of the music, since I couldn’t find it in the various hymnals at our house, and practiced it in my kitchen as often as I could. It was a heartwrenchingly difficult thing to do and as much as I didn’t *want* to do it, I desperately wanted to do something tangible to honor him. I may not have wanted to sing, but I’m so grateful that she asked me. They are Episcopalian as well, so the service was familiar and comforting even if I hadn’t been inside that parish since my father and stepmother were married almost 40 years ago.

A month after my father died, I saw my priest at the local store when I was working. I apologized for not being at church lately and mentioned that it was still so hard for me to get through services after losing both my parents. He said that he understood and said “you know where we are if you need us”. Maybe it was the place where we were speaking (I was hosting a wine tasting at a local liquor store), but there were no words of comfort spoken… no short blessing or prayer… no attempt made to reach out to me *as my priest* to meet with me in the future.

I’m not entirely sure why this phrase hit me so hard, but it’s the one that resurfaces each time I think about returning. Thinking about it now, I believe that by using those words, he was placing the next action squarely on me. I wasn’t, and still am not, in a place to make that sort of move… to ask for help… to seek consolation… to get back to church…

And so I don’t. I don’t attend church at the moment. I don’t sing in choir. While I pray daily and sing constantly in my car (those long road trips can be cathartic), I have withdrawn from the corporate church.

While it hurts my heart to have made the decision to “break up with my church”, I don’t feel the same comfort from this particular parish any longer. The two or three individuals who initially reached out to me have gone on with their lives, which didn’t include me from the beginning. I’m sure that some will say it was up to me to return and “rejoin the living”, but sometimes that’s just too hard. Priests are given the tools, and the personnel, with which to reach out to parishioners in the midst of whatever personal struggle they face. I truly believe that, by not having any contact with the people of this particular parish, we have been cast aside and left to our own devices.

While my faith is not entirely dependent upon corporate worship and prayer, I can’t help but wonder if the pain I still feel might have been lessened if I had felt welcome to share my grief at church… if someone had reached out after my mom died, and again after my father died… if my church had cared about me. I really tried to make this church our home, but it has become glaringly obvious that it’s not… grief has brought that into sharp focus.

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It’s only been days… April 27, 2017

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Grief,Life Balance,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:50 pm
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It’s only been a matter of days in which my world tilted on its’ axis… a mere 134 days.  I still have my step-mom (thank God)… I still have my other half/my sister and my wonderful collection of brothers… but my parents are gone.  It feels both like forever and yesterday.  I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever knew, but I’m more vulnerable than I expected.  The dichotomy of grieving while continuing to live is not lost on me… but it can be exhausting.  

The numbers of days is daunting when listed out:

  •  48 days between Mimi’s death and Daddy’s death (12/15/16 & 2/1/17)
  • 23 days between Mimi’s death and her funeral (12/15/16 & 1/7/17)
  • 25 days between Mimi’s funeral and Daddy’s death (1/7/17 & 2/1/17)
  • 15 days between Mimi’s funeral and the last time we saw Daddy (1/7/17 & 1/22/17)
  • 10 days between when we saw Daddy and when he died (1/22/17 & 2/1/17)
  • 10 days between Daddy’s death and his funeral (2/1/17 & 2/11/17)
  • 134 days since Mimi died (to 4/28/17)

I just got back from a cousins weekend at the beach.  It was perfect and raw and wonderful and heart-wrenching.  There were bittersweet moments when I could envision how much my mom would have been so happy.  There were moments that I know would have driven her crazy because getting onto the beach would have truly been a physical ordeal.  I also know that I felt the presence of the three Mimi’s (sisters Jody, Jean, and Gwenn) in so many ways throughout the weekend that it was worth everything to be present.  

I’m reading a lot lately about grief and how others travel this journey.  The kind messages, comments, and shared information mean so much… to know that others are willing to take a moment to simply say “I’m sorry” can be humbling and touching.  Thank you for caring… and for reaching out to me in whatever way works.

I’ve learned to surround myself with good people and am more grateful for every positive experience than ever before.  Seeing the impact that each of my parents had on their individual worlds has given me insight into the kind of impact that I want to make in my own world.  I intend to be more deliberate about those things on which I spend my time.  I want to do things that either bring me joy or allow me to give joy to others.  

If the life and death of each of my parents teaches me anything, it’s that I need to choose how and where I spend my life.  My God, my husband, my children, and my family… these are my beatitudes… these are my blessings… these are where I will spend my days.

 May you find ways to fill your own days with joy….

 

Grief is like an ocean wave… January 31, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:19 am

There’s a story floating around that I have found very comforting… the metaphor of grief to an ocean wave.  Rather than try to explain it, and miss some of the beautiful nuances, I’ll simply post the poem here:


My prayer at the moment  is to learn to survive the waves and the shipwrecks with as much kindness to others as I can possibly muster.  Bless you ALL for sharing your strength with me… and for caring enough to read what I write.  It all helps.

 

Pick your “person” carefully… January 30, 2017

Filed under: Communication,Friends — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:48 pm
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My mom had two best friends who lived close to her. She did nearly everything with them… from singing in choir to celebrating birthdays to just dropping by for a glass of wine on a random evening. She shared her life with these two women… her hopes, her fears, her dreams, and her plans. These two were her “people”… the reference comes from Gray’s Anatomy where Meredith says that Christina is “her person”… as in, these were the two people she could call in any sort of emergency, or I could call regarding anything involving my mom. I was always felt so blessed that she had people like them in her life… that is, until she died.

One of her people (we’ll call her “G”) was the woman who found my mother after she died. G sat with her body while she called 911… she stayed in the house until the paramedics arrived… G was the person who called to tell me that my mom was dead… and she didn’t leave her until the coroner sealed mom’s house after the funeral home came and took her away. G did everything she could think of to honor her friendship with my mom while grieving for the loss of her dear friend. She brought photos and items to add to the remembrance table at the funeral and she checked on me and my family to make sure that we were ok.  She seemed to truly mourn the passing of my mom and her dear friend.

Her other person (we’ll call her Y) has been strangely absent from the picture. I didn’t call Y after I found out about my mom because I thought it would be better if G did that notification. Honestly, I was so broken, especially by the immediate tasks at hand, that I couldn’t have formed a coherent sentence to speak to Y. No matter the reason, I never heard from Y. She never called, never wrote, never even posted a FB message. While she did attend the funeral, she never spoke to either my sister or me or go through the receiving line to see us. I still have never heard from Y. Maybe *I* should have been the one to call her, but I still feel betrayed and incredibly upset by her actions. I’m so hurt that she has blocked me out of her life. She knew my mom in a way that I never will… because she was my mom’s friend. I called Y’s home number a week after the funeral to apologize for not telling her about mum’s death, but she never returned my call. I called her today to wish her a Happy Birthday tomorrow, because that’s what my mom would want me to do, but I have sincere doubts that she’ll call me back… and I have no idea why.

And now, here’s my dilemma: 

You see, shortly after my mom died, both G and Y started asking about an envelope of money… a total of $45… that they were sure had been in my mom’s possession when she died. It was the ‘party money’ for their Just4Fun group and they wanted to make sure that it was returned to them for their next get-together. They asked my brother-in-law… they asked my husband… and they even went so far as to ask mom’s cleaning women, T, (the woman who, imho, has been the most incredible blessing to our family by stepping up and simply *doing* anything and everything when I couldn’t think past the next day… this woman has been our fairy god-mother/god-sister )… but neither one ever asked my sister or me. After a few days they called T and suggested that they privately take and sell an item that they had seen left in the house so they could recoup that $45… and both my sister and I were dumbfounded. A day or two later, they called T again but wanted to tell her that they think they may have been mistaken, that only $10 was “owed” to the Just4Fun group, and they felt they could “forgive” that amount. “Forgive”?

I try very hard to take the high road in most situations. I follow The Golden Rule and use that to guide my actions as often as I can. I do my best to be kind to everyone. How am I supposed to react to this situation? How am I supposed to feel each time I see these people? How am I supposed to simply “let it go”?

As of now, I’ll be praying about this… I’ll be trying to take the high road… and I’ll be kind. I won’t be anyone’s doormat… but I *will* be kind.

 

My Daddy January 26, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 5:23 pm

It’s been a long time. So much water under the bridge. So much history that needs to be forgiven instead of dragged back through the mud. So few days left to allow for peace.

My parents divorced when I was little. My 10 year-old self didn’t understand or comprehend what was going on. I acted out and blamed all the adults for this huge change in my life. But there are so many things that happened between my parents that bled into our lives as their children. Our individual memories are flawed… we see what we want to see… we remember what we want to remember… we forget what we choose to forget. We were children and our parents were human beings who were hurt. They both did awful things to one another. They both caused unnecessary pain to each other. They both felt they were in the right. It doesn’t matter any more… and it hasn’t truly mattered for quite some time. It does not help anyone to review the past unless we are using that past to improve our future.  
I spent too many years blaming my father for my mother’s lot in life. I blamed him for so many little things that I didn’t take the time to see him as an adult. It took me far too long, but once I started seeing the man through the eyes of an adult, I could finally appreciate how he’s conducted his life since he re-married. I can honestly accept that he and my mom were so dissimilar and probably shouldn’t have gotten married (although I’m glad they did, because they created us… me, my brother, and my sister). I can absolutely understand that my dad and step-mom are truly soulmates and area much better as a couple than they were before they got together.  
More than anything, I can also see just how much they love each other. It’s a tangible thing… it’s seeing my dad calm down at her touch… it’s seeing him smile or his eyes light up when she leans in to whisper to him… it’s both heartbreaking and breathtaking beautiful to see how fully they love one another. The past be damned… I can appreciate that kind of love, because it’s the kind of love that I have with M. My father has had his faults, but he’s shown me the one-of-a-kind love affair that is worth a fight. He’s shown me that anything is worth sacrificing, if it means one more day with that person who makes you whole.
I want him to keep fighting so that, one day, I can tell him that I *get* it. I want to be able to tell him that I love him, and have him understand that I truly mean it. He’s my daddy and he always will be…. I’m just not ready to lose him…

 

Grief… after the first month… January 15, 2017

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:27 pm
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It’s been a month… a month since my mom died… a month since I lost my anchor, my forever-cheerleader, my personal historian, the person who knew me in ways that I never had to question.  It’s been a month and yet I still struggle each day with random tears and waves of sadness that come out of nowhere.  It’s been a month that sometimes feels like ages and sometimes feels like minutes… it’s been one helluva month.

mumjune2015

When your parent dies, no one tells you how you’re supposed to move on with your life.  No one tells you that a can of black-eyed peas can rock you back on your heels and make you cry like a baby.  No one tells you that you’re going to reach for the phone more times than you ever expected, only to remember that there’s no one on the other end of that line.  No one tells you that doing the “busy-ness” of death might  actually help hold back those waves of grief until you’ve had a little time to acclimate to this new stage of your life…  your life without your mother.

People tell you so many things when your mom dies.  “I know just how you feel”…. “It will get better with time”… “This pain you’re feeling will eventually turn into a dull ache”… “You’ll get through it”… “I’m so sorry, sweetie”… so many loving, kind, well-meaning phrases that don’t necessarily take the pain away, but make the pain a little easier to bear because it’s being shared.

I know that I’m not alone in my grief because so many others have been where I am at this moment.  It doesn’t make things “better”, but it does make things a little more bearable.  It also helps that I have a crew of people who have my back.  My husband, sister, cousins, friends, neighbors, co-workers… I can feel their support, love, prayers, and know that, because of them, I can push through to do whatever is needed.  I can make the phone calls, organize the paperwork, weed through all the items, and make the decisions that come with the death of someone you love.  I can continue to take those steps.

Two steps forward, one step back… or is it one step forward, two steps back… either way, grief seems to be a daily tango of sorts… and it truly is a daily tango.  I can feel strong and ready to face any obstacle that may come my way, but let one kind, loving person do the “sympathetic head tilt” and I’m a quivering mess of tears.

Adulting is rough and I never seem to be prepared for that wave of grief that crashes over me when I least expect it.  My cousin told me that, when our grandfather died, his youngest daughter (her mom/my Aunt Jody) had complained that she had just wanted life to stop for awhile… to allow her to concentrate on her grief and not deal with the day-to-day.  The more I reflect on that thought, the more I understand and can commiserate.  I have a “Happy Yellow Lab” personality and while people, for the most part, have been understanding, it can still feel daunting at times to put on that happy smile and focus on the positive.

So while I learn to adjust to this new world in which my mom is no longer here, prayers for strength really are the best thing anyone can offer.  I’m doing ok, but that changes day-to-day and sometimes minute-to-minute.   It’s been a month…

Here’s to making it through the first month… and giving thanks to everyone for their prayers for the ones to come.

I miss you, Mum.

 

Mum’s Funeral January 9, 2017

Filed under: Blessings,Family — beatitudesofmylife @ 9:22 am
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I finally slept on Sunday night.  It’s been a long time coming, but I am finally beginning to feel human again.fullsizerender-2-1
The funeral service is over… and I really believe she would have loved it. People from every stage and segment of her life came to pay tribute and share their stories with us and with one another. I was so very glad to know that they felt that the service was a fitting tribute to our mom… it was heart wrenching and achingly difficult to create, but I am so glad that I pushed for each piece.

The private internment was first. Neither my sister nor I wanted to speak, so we asked Jennifer+ to conduct the service. She then poured part of mum’s ashes fullsizerenderinto the ground and scooped a bit of the dirt onto her ashes. She turned, handing the scoop off and Jessica, Tucker, Eric, then Me, Michael, Drew, Evan and Gabbie each in turn took that silver scoop and laid some dirt over her ashes before letting Pastor Jennifer finish. It was hard, but it was simple and lovely. Deb had selected a sweet spot off to the back side of one of the high benches and it seemed perfect. We then needed to go back into the church to collect ourselves before the service… thank God there was a back route into the chapel so we could avoid other people at that moment.

When it came to the mechanics of the service, my sister Jessica didn’t want to have much input, other than having Amazing Grace at the beginning and Silent Night at the end. I wasn’t a fan of doing Amazing Grace but if Jess found comfort in that piece, it was worth having it done. We both remembered Silent Night as mum’s favorite because it had been Mimi Bream’s favorite, so that was a fitting end. The rest was left to me.

The service started out with an introduction by Pastor (the Rev Dr.) Jeff Gibelius, who pronounced Mum’s middle name incorrectly… and with so many Bream family members present, I couldn’t let that slide. Gently but firmly, I corrected our family pronunciation and let him know that this was the *correct* way to pronounce her name… with a long A sound instead of the long E in Bream. While some chuckled, I could feel Mum smiling at my correction and that felt good.

We then moved to the three verses that I chose. I didn’t know Evan wasn’t feeling well and he hadn’t realized that I wanted him to speak (forgot to text him when he got back from London), but I’m so glad that he did. I was also grateful to know that he told his Aunt Laurie later that he was glad I pushed for him to speak. He had a horrible cold and felt lousy, but he did a beautiful job on the Psalm. Kudos to him for handling this with such skill and ease. I only wish now that I had asked both Evan and Bob to introduce themselves to the congregation so that people knew who they were when they read.

  • Psalm 121 (read by Evan Althouse – Mum’s second of three grandsons and my younger son):

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

  •  2 Timothy 4: 6-8 (read by Bob Wilkins – Jennie’s husband and Mum’s nephew-in-law): *Note: the service bulletin actually cited verses 4-8 but I asked Bob to only read 6-8, which he kindly agreed to do.

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 

  • John 14:1-6, 27 (read by Pastor Jeff of 2nd Pres) *Note: the church likes to also read verses 25 and 26, but I requested that only verse 27 be read to end this passage.

1-6: Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you.I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, ad the life; no man comes unto the Father, but by me. 27: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

We sang “In the Garden”… a Robin Hood favorite and one that I just love. How could I not include this wonderful hymn?  Remembered harmonies floated around me and I could feel the support of Robin Hood…. Miss Duncan, Miss Ruland, and all the CRH girls who had a hand in raising me…. helping me to be strong at such a difficult time.

The choir sang “We are the Lord’s”, which sounded so pretty. I personally wish there had been more harmony, but some of that could have been driven by the emotional nature of the service and the voice parts available… either way, Chris made a lovely choice and I’m sure my mother would have been pleased and so grateful to have them sing.

We then came to the “Remembrances” segment of the service.

  • My cousin, Jennie Wilkins, went first and absolutely owned her moment. She was eloquent, charming, engaging, funny, and so incredibly sweet in sharing all the different sides of her Auntie Gwenn… I couldn’t have done this and I am humbled and honored that she was the one of us who *could*. Adding in a SOCK reference was great and if she could have just been able to end with a “mic drop”, that would have brought down the house (and made her some $$ on the side)!
  • Second to share was my cousin, Wendy Bream Stoner, who read a message from Uncle Jack Bream. Listening to Uncle Jack’s words gave me such comfort and I am so blessed that he was able to share his thoughts of Mum, even though he was so far away. It meant the world to hear his voice through his daughter.
  • Bob Foster came next, a man who knew mum both through Real Estate and through the Carlisle Area Sertoma club, sharing his two stories. His vivid tales, first of my mom dressing him up as a woman and then of her great works through being Realtor of the Year and later Sertoman of the Year, truly added a wonderful dimension to the breadth and depth of my mother as a true Christian. I was so grateful to both Bob and Doug Gale for their participation.
  • To end the rememberances, I asked my husband, Michael, to read an excerpt from an Elizabeth Doris Fries poem that Mum and I had first heard at Uncle Johnny Beegle’s funeral in October. Mum loved it and we felt it was especially appropriate for today:

When tomorrow starts without me, and I am not here to see,

If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me,

I know how much you love me, as much as I love you,

And each time you think of me, I know you’ll miss me too.

But when tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand,

That Jesus came and called my name and took me by the hand.

He said my place is ready in heaven far above,

And that I have to leave behind all those I dearly love.

But when I walked through Heaven’s gate and felt so much at home,

As God looked down and smiled at me from his great golden throne.

He said “This is eternity, and all I’ve promised you, 

Today your life on earth is past but here it starts anew.

I promise no tomorrow but today will always last,

And since each day’s the same here, there’s no longing for the past.”

So when tomorrow starts without me, don’t think we’re far apart,

For every time you think of me, I’m right here in your heart.

Much of Mum’s love of music was wrapped up in both her church choir and her participation in Sweet Adeline’s. We were so incredibly touched that they were able to participate in the day’s service by singing their version of “Mary, Did You Know”. I’m sure that Mum was so very grateful to each one who took their time to be with us that morning… I even felt that I could hear her voice from time to time, which made this piece even more special than I could have possibly put into the words “thank you”. I hope the Adelines who attended know just how much their singing touched my heart…

Mum’s pastor, Rev. Jennifer McKenna, then offered her words of hope to the congregation. She shared a bit of mum’s history, some personal memories and reminded us all that the glory of Jesus’ resurrection and that God’s Peace, where Mum now resides, is our ultimate focus. I know that I’ll get there eventually, but it was the human contact and individual memories that helped carry me through this difficult day.

My second musical (and CRH) request was to sing “The Old Rugged Cross”. Although the church’s version didn’t include it, my cousins and I added a traditional (for us) line during each chorus, which made me smile and meant even more than a simple hymn ever could. My cousin leaned up and said that the music all sounded like angels, especially with the family positioned between the choir and the Adelines… a heavenly chorus to wash over us and cover us in love and music.

Following the traditional Prayer of Thanksgiving and The Lord’s Prayer, we sang “Silent Night” and followed it with Jack Larson’s “Peace Carol”. I wish we could have sung the two as a duet, as we used to do when Jack was at Second Pres, but I was glad to hear that piece, nonetheless. It brought my childhood and adulthood into a lovely harmony and allowed me to reconcile them to one another.

Our family was ushered into the rotunda after the service’s final blessing and I was given an incredible gift… the gift of thanking and showing my appreciation to all those who took their time to honor my mom by attending the service that day. I know there are some who weren’t able to wait in line or had other obligations… I know there were some who had to leave quickly because of developing weather fronts… but I hope that the following message reaches each person who took the time to attend her service or has spent a moment at ANY time, praying for our peace and comfort, but especially as we paid homage to our grief in such a public way.

You ALL made my mother’s life better… You made her feel needed and wanted and loved… You allowed her to participate in your life in a way that touched her heart and gave credence to the Godly woman she always strived to emulate. She knew that she had people in her life that had her back and she felt the love that we all crave. YOU did that for my mother and I will forever be grateful for every single person who impacted the life of Gwenn Bream Drum. She was loved, she was happy, and she is now no longer in pain. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the incredibly beautiful Service of Witness to the Resurrection on January 7, 2017. 

May God bless you all…

There is a Magic Something, camp so dear

That fills my heart with gladness all the year

Every girl who’s been here, has that Something in her

It is the Spirit of Camp Robin Hood.

In memory of Gwenn “Tookie” Bream

Green Team Captain 1951, KIG

 

 
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