Where the Broken Heart Heals

Where is the pathway
Where the broken hearted go
Away from this pain

My heart weighs heavy
This morn approached with promise
Then my friend's son died

Death overtook him
Sorrow pounced on us today
There was no warning

How can he be gone
How does the world keep spinning
Without this boy's smile

Birds hush their singing
Melody melts into dawn
How dare the sun shine

Neighbors come and go
Memories shared with each hug
Roses and lilies

Teacups sit empty
Much like the room where he danced
Only days before

Tables and counters
Burdened with uneaten food
No one is hungry

He would have liked this
Thrown back his head in laughter
A party for him

His mother and dad
The ones who raised him from birth
Struggle to join in

Spirit cover me
Envelope me with your Grace
Give me the right words

There aren't any words
Family and friends offer love
Help is close at hand

Faith has been challenged
Why can't we feel God's comfort
Hope lingers midst fear

Vision turns greyscale
Colors crash into the moon
Igniting shadows

I swallow burnt tears
From the ash heap of lost dreams
Touch becomes muted

Helplessly I watch
My friend reaching for reason
Grasping only clouds

All prayer is vapor
Disappearing with the rain
But there is no rain

Creatures that inhale
Eventually exhale
One final heart beat

We know this is life
But we don't have to like it
While we endure it

We know there is God
We know we'll see him again
We know he is safe

But what about us
And all those who remain lost
Without our loved one

So we must comfort
One another with these words
We will meet again

Mountain of Mourning
We'll never get over it
But we'll get through it


From Salience to Silence

Robert, my California brother who keeps reminding me he is younger, was visiting some of the family in Georgia the past two weeks. He always enjoys being around my children and grandchildren and greeted them with the usual big Uncle Rob hugs. We ate and ate and served up lots of strong coffee with dessert as we “set a spell”. (That’s Southern for hours and hours.) Our group discussions were much like they were when my sisters and brothers and I were growing up. We sat around the dinner table and voiced our opinions with the same passion and volume a child has when trying to convince his parents he needs a new bike. We asked questions like:

  • Who are the three people, living or dead, you would most like to meet?

This would trigger new questions before anyone could offer their ideas regarding Shakespeare, Michelangelo, or Einstein.

  • So, is anyone ever really dead?
  • What happens to the soul?
  • Are our spirits and souls separated when we die or merely transported to the cosmos along with our bodies?

Once again our family gathered around the table just like days gone by. Only this time weightier, more complicated questions came up.

  • What happened for 400 years between Malachi of the Old Testament and Matthew of the New Testament?
  • Who decided what to put in the Bible and what to leave out?
  • How do we know if the different translations are accurate?

Fourteen days of talk about spiritual and non-spiritual things were sparked by a young-ish man who sat next to Robby on the five hour cross country flight. The unsuspecting stranger had introduced himself as an Evangelical Christian to the world’s greatest antagonist. After exhaustive discussion, the man asked my brother if he had a Bible.

“No. I lost mine somewhere between childhood and enlightenment.”

Yep. That’s my brother.

An enormous Bible was pulled out from under the seat and put unapologetically in my brother’s lap.

“Here. You may keep this if you agree to one condition. You have to promise me you will read it.”

It was filled with sticky notes, highlights, and turned down pages. Obviously it was well read and cherished by someone who enjoyed studying. Robby eagerly accepted the reading challenge. The two men exchanged business cards before they left the plane and parted their ways.

Brother Rob had an unusual expression on his face as he stepped off the airport curb and jumped into the back seat of my waiting car. When we arrived at my sister’s house, everyone did the so-good-to-see-you dance and sang the missed you-so-much song.

Then it happened.

Robby smiled his diabolical now let’s talk smile then he pulled out his four inch thick, leather bound weapon of choice. He now had fuel for the much anticipated, multi-generational rebuttals that always accompany family visits. Or, so he thought. And so he said.

“I have a lot of topics I would like to discuss with my dear sisters before I go back home. First, we will set boundaries and establish rules. No name calling. No shouting. No crying. Second, we will have to respectfully agree to disagree… because you know in the end we will disagree.”

Ha. Little did he know what I have stored in my arsenal.

I was armed with the old Abrahams’ family two volume “World Book Dictionary” and my personal copy of “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible” that translates Scripture from original Greek and Hebrew to English. He simply called on Ms. Siri and Mr. Google when desperate. Although it took me awhile to find answers to his plethora of questions, time was on my side. Robby had a tendency to misplace his bifocals. 😉

On the lighter side, many hours of playing board games and Chess and occasional Frisbee for old time’s sake passed too quickly. Our days together now seem more precious and too few.

You see, five years ago, our youngest sibling, the baby of the Abrahams family, the one we always called spoiled, was diagnosed with a rare blood disease. It affected his senses of smell and taste, destroyed his facial bone structure, breathing and eventually his stomach. It is literally a miracle he is still alive, having gone through countless series of reconstructive operations and experimental treatments. His cancer was so unusual and difficult to manage, the university doctors in California called in doctors from Japan to help diagnose and treat our little brother. They are all in awe that today he is doing so well.

He is still vulnerable to infections in public places, especially in airports and airplanes. Many prayers have gone up and out for him and he even said he could feel that people were praying for him. He is grateful, but he still questions this phenomenon called God of the Universe. That’s okay. We will never stop questioning this thing called life and what it is for. And, hopefully, we will never be so arrogant to think we know all the answers.

So, we ended our time together as we started. Full of good food, laughter, and tears. The memories were shared of those whom we have loved and lost. A sister, parents, aunts, uncles. So many. We joked about what Mother would say if only four of her five children showed up in Heaven.

As we dropped our dear brother off at the Atlanta airport, we said our silent goodbyes. We didn’t need words to express our love and gratitude for being given another year where we could be together for two weeks. Life has been good to us. We have each other. Always will.

Thank God.

The Letter

Our step-dad, affectionally called Papa Bill, enjoyed communicating with all of his children and grandchildren who lived in various regions throughout the world. It wasn’t unusual to find in our mailboxes after a long day at work, envelopes stuffed with silly cartoons and pictures of kittens doing crazy things. He definitely knew how to cheer the weary soul.

However, he was infamous for his 5:30 a.m. phone calls. It may have been 5:30 a.m. for those of us on the West Coast, but it was already 8:30 a.m. in Georgia which is Southern for “time to go to work”. Having grown up on a Texas cotton farm during the Depression, his clock said the day was half over. His greeting always started with, “Good Afternoon!”  And trust me, you never, I mean never, sounded groggy or irritated that you had been woken up early (even if it was on the weekend) before the obligatory triple shots of Starbucks, or you would be treated to an even earlier phone call the next week.

While rummaging through boxes stored away from their big cross country move a few years ago, my sister found this letter addressed to her and my brother-in-law Dick who, at the time it was written, lived in rural Kennewick, Washington. They had horses and lots of pasture and, of course, the necessary barns.

The eastern part of the Washington State is known for numerous horse ranches, endless sky, and expansive farmland. This is where you will find your best cherries and apples – sorry Michigan – and asparagus and potatoes – sorry, Idaho. Many of the best wines come from that region, too.  Which may be another reason some of the residents of the Pacific Northwest will argue California is mostly unnecessary.

This letter was typical of Papa’s view on life. Laugh. Love. Now get to work!

It is copied below word for word, showing typos, missing punctuation, added consonants, et.al.  He would have claimed certain amount of skill was required to type on his treasured typewriter (errors be damned) which is now in the care of  his great grandchildren.

It is unknown why he didn’t type the last line. I like to think it was to prove he still mastered pen and ink and was not going to be overshadowed by any technology monster of tomorrow, be it typewriter or computer.


Sat  23  Jan 99

Dear Children:

I am always thinking of your welfare; therefore, enclosed is a copy of the GA Farmers and Consumer Market Bulletin. I thought you may want to know what to do if your horse is stolen. Granted this advice is for GA, but it could apply to WA. Now if your horse is stolen and you can’t find it you may want to go into another hobby. For example how about pigs. You have a barn and they like barns. Page 5 has a list of pigs for sale.

On the other hand you may rather go for goats and sheep. Now goats will cleans(sic) all the weeds, cans and shrubby(sic), but the billy goats stink. Therefore, why not try for sheep. They do like the cold weather in Kennewick and you can take them to the mountains in summer. Also you can shear the wool and in winter you can make wool socks. Another profitable hobby is poultry. Now you can use the barn and of course they like trees. The price of eggs makes this hobby interesting (you will need to build nest for the eggs and of course someone has to gather the eggs each day — they spoil in summer and freeze in winter. There is one other hobby you may be interested in and that is rabbits. Now rabbits are good to eat. You can dress them out and hand (sic) them out on a line in winter and you have food. This will require building cages.

I did not list catfish farming – cause you don’t have a lake.

Here is some gossip:     

The quality of life is in the mind, not in material. The world is filled with beauty when your heart is filled with love. We grow because we struggle, we learn and we overcome.  Goodness is the only investment that never fails. Live every day of your life as though you expect to live forever. Don’t believe in miracles – depend on them. Kind words do not cost much, yet they accomplish much. Cherish yesterday, dream tomorrow, live today.  Be not simply good, but good for something. To desire is to obtain, to aspsire is to achieve.  Happiness is not pleasure – it is victory. To have character is to be big enough to take life on.

Now I think this is enough because as the day lengthens, the cold strengthens.

I love both of you. By-the-way if Dick gets fed up with Realestate he may want to go into farming and there are some good buys in the Bulletin.

I did this on my 1972 Smith Corona typewriter/computer.   Bill  


Let’s Do Happy

Camping in the Rockies. Fishing and eating rainbow trout fresh from a Colorado mountain stream. Driving cross country, exploring State and National Parks for Summer vacation with seven of us, plus an occasional dog, in a gray Ford station wagon. Those are childhood memories that were good for some of us and not so good for others.

But, there was a time when my family was very happy.

I remember December in the 1950’s:

Going to Christmas Eve church service and driving home taking a detour to the “rich folks’ houses” to see the lights and fancy decorations.

Rolling down windows (even though it was freezing outside) and all of us singing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs.

Maybe the neighbors enjoyed hearing us.

Maybe not.

Arriving home, popping corn and sipping hot cocoa before opening just one present that was under the tree.

Usually the one of choice was from Aunt Helen. We already knew it would be hand sewn pajamas which we all enjoyed modeling for each other.

We were saving the surprise presents for Christmas morning.

Going to bed.

Waiting to hear the reindeer’s jingle bells on our roof. Or the throaty Ho Ho Ho outside our bedroom window.

Covering our heads with blankets so we would appear to be asleep just in case someone would check.

My brothers and sisters knew Santa never comes when you’re awake.

Finally falling asleep and waking to a glorious sight of more presents under the tinseled tree. Proof that there really is a Santa Claus.

Back at school, Smarty Pants Mary Jo said there was no such being and the other kids believed her. Just because she was a fifth grader. What did she know?

I’m amazed how some people will believe anything.

I still claim that was the real Santa Claus I heard every Christmas Eve.

I merely stopped talking about him after third grade so I could sit at the cool kids’ table.