Shoes at the Door

Todd and I have had continual banters about leaving my shoes at the top of the stairs at home so I don’t track dirt across the carpeting. He’s put a nice big swatch of extra carpeting there to remind me. I use it to wipe my feet like a bull getting ready for a stampede but he says dirt travels. He can support his position, he says, by the trail I’ve created from the steps to my closet. I don’t see it. It’s amazing we stay married. I have come to believe he’s part saint.

I think he’ll be pleased to hear that while I’ve been staying at Dad’s I’ve gotten into the habit of kicking my shoes off at the door. Things change.

Things change when you step inside a door closer to life because you’re nearer death. Time becomes timeless. Space loses boundaries—morning becomes night, and night, morning. Dad and I were up in the night and he was talking about going to the Island today. It’s 10:48 a.m. now so I know we won’t be getting an early start.

“How do we do this?” my sister and I ask each other. “How do we do this?” What do we say?—call me when you think you’re dying again, Dad. I gotta go now.” We miss our husbands—but I can see mine every day. She’s 2200 miles away from home and work—I’m within walking distance to both. The world goes on around us, where days are measured in minutes not breaths, where shoes are carelessly worn across carpeting, where death is seen as the end and life as finite

Don’t talk about death in front of Dad—not death where it’s the end. Don’t bring up the end because to him, this is a new journey, a new beginning—a new life. Don’t mention grief. “We are celebrating here,” he tells the nurse.

“It’s so beautiful here in your condo, Bill,” she responds as her eyes search the photos that stand in layers on the shelf beside her—it’s as if she’s searching for an explanation. She won’t find it in the flat, two dimensional reflections of our images. It’s a Living Presence she senses which brings a timeless beauty, that dwells within and fills the room where my shoes are sitting at the door. “I can feel the family’s love,” she says. “You all seem to be doing just fine.”

I think we are. This is a time to be treasured not measured.

When heaven begins to open, you find yourself standing on holy ground and you just know inside—you know the time has come to leave your shoes at the door.

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Preparing for Landing

After two years of Sundays and many other days with Dad, I climbed the steps to our attic thinking of him flying his plane upward to see the forest from the trees. Living in a house filled with so much history—not to mention the sleds, skates and saddles, my mom’s wedding dress and a filing cabinet we can’t open—I knew it was time I did the same. I have held onto things to keep memories alive.

I walked first to a little corner under the eave where on one sentimental Saturday I pulled a bag of dolls from the attic to take to Goodwill. I organized them into a tea party instead. Seeing the hand-stitched clothes and miniature china dishes I had paid for with my allowance reminded me of the dreams I had then. Pack them up, Debbie, for the children. It’s time for new dreams.

I moved on from the eave to my late brother’s bedroom filled with the boxes of photos, papers and relics I have gone through over and over and thought of the thousands of words I have written about my family so I wouldn’t forget. Release the beauty you have discovered through writing your stories. They were never yours to keep.

I have been given a great gift of love—time with my parents, first with my mom and now with my dad as he lives out his glory days on earth. I have been able to hold them in their frailty and feel their strength, absorb their love and gather up their wisdom and the experiences of their—not perfect—but well-lived lives. I will remember with peace who they were and are, and can only imagine who they will one day be when we are all together again celebrating endless life with love and laughter, no fear, no pain.

My dad’s cook, Kay, recently told me how grateful she was for her daughter and didn’t know how aging parents get along if they don’t have children who are willing to help care for them. I told her I didn’t know how adult children get along without the parents who had cared for them.

I circled around the attic haven of memories and artifacts and prepared to make my descent like a plane preparing to land. Checking in with Control Tower, I said a prayer and as I walked down the steps, I knew that my fears of loss and emptiness in life, in me, in death, were overcome when the Easter tomb was found empty. The light of understanding what that fully means will continue to grow in my heart. It’s reflected all around us—from herbs to wheat to Morning Glories—that from death, springs new life which is God’s boundless gift.

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Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

(Isaiah 60:1 NIV)

Setting the Stage

A sliver of morning light appeared above the roof of the house across the street. I leaned forward in my chair, separated the filmy white curtains and squinting against the brilliance, watched the sun come up. I finished the last of my coffee, closed the books in my lap, stood up and stretched.

High above in the heavens, I wondered if the sun, in all its glory, is but a speck of glitter to God.

Absorbed in my thoughts, I had to dress quickly for work. Fortunately, jeans are fine for my job. I grabbed a black jacket, pulled on some boots, then adjusted the shoulder strap of my briefcase and hopped on my bike.

But as I passed the bluff overlooking the lake, I had to stop. I laid my bike on the curb and walked over to look more closely. Something was missing. A hazy white sheet, cascading like a curtain, appeared to have been thrown down from above, concealing the horizon. There was no visible division between water and sky.

What divides us from heaven, I wondered. What if it’s right here, separated only by a veil we can’t see beyond with our human eyes?

Just then, a string of shimmering light appeared on the water. Like glitter. I stood still, thinking of the words from my devotion that morning …. I am with you, I am with you, I am always with you…..
October 30, 2013

I came across this journal entry as I was preparing to write my next story, The Seven Days of Heaven. The day, October 30, was the day proceeding those seven days in Mom’s life in 2011.

Mom and I, as well as all the women in our family, had been reading the same devotion that year—Jesus Calling. It was a gift given to Mom by my sister-in-law, Georgine, after my brother Ed died. Reading it together, connected our hearts.

I didn’t realize at the time, that the book’s entry for October 30 referenced the first scripture Mom had ever memorized. I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me. (John 10:14). It was the scripture her pastor, Reverend Bernwirth, had read to her on the Sunday she had been baptized.

As a brave ten-year-old, when the pastor had asked the congregation if there was anyone who wanted to come forward to be baptized that Sunday, without any cajoling from her Uncle Willard who she sat beside, she rose, and walked down to the water. She would step into it—wearing her best dress—and in front of all those present, surrender her heart to Jesus.

A lot happened on that Sunday before the seven days. I’ve already written about some of it in my post entitled Morning Buns. If you haven’t read it, you might want to as background for my post on Sunday, April 20, The Seven Days of Heaven.

Oh….and just one last thing for today, I can’t help but share what I read from that same little book this morning afterI finished writing……

If I pulled back the curtain to allow you to view heavenly realms, you would understand much more. However, I have designed you to live by faith, not by sight. I lovingly shield you from knowing the future or seeing into the spirit world. Acknowledge My sovereignty by giving thanks in all circumstances. April 16 entry from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Dolores Rahn in her Sunday best

Dolores Rahn circa 1940