Mary Beth Writes

I found a plaque at Goodwill (I lost the photo I took of it...) that made me laugh out loud.

I asked Jesus, "How much do you love me?"   

"This much." he answered.

Then he stretched out his arms and died.

I understand the heartfelt statement of faith and gratitude, but wow, if you are going to laminate your faith statement onto a plaque – maybe run it past a writer first?

This sounds as if the Son of God was doing okay until he encountered the Sins of You.

So anyways… D is for Death.

Oh yeah, this will be short and easy.

Central statement of this essay; death sucks.

But also; death brings weird clarity.

What you miss after a person dies is a black light that will tell you what you had.

When my dad died when I was a young teenager I realized I was no longer afraid of getting yelled at. There’s a legacy, huh? I also lost family meals at the dining table. (It was just mom and I after Dad was gone. We ate a lot of hamburgers and pie at the Swedish Coffee Pot. ) I lost an exacting person who possibly, if I had excelled, I could have pleased. I never got to have a dad who said, “Hey that was good!” I missed those stories one wonders about when you start living your own adult life, when you try hard things, when you try to be a leader, when you parent your own kids.  I would have liked to ask what becoming an adult was like for him. I have clues, but I don’t really know what he would have said. So death shows you what you miss, what you don’t miss, what you forget to ask, what you didn’t get.

Let’s talk dogs, not dads. It’s easier. Not easy, just easier…

When older pets die, invariably the first thing one doesn’t miss is the strain, work, and expense it was to take care of them in their decline. The lack of responsibility is a relief. 

But as time goes by there comes that day when you are standing in the kitchen talking to someone and you fall into that old story about “that night it was freezing cold, and you were slow on the walk, and you were also busy talking with our son, and Becky casually brought a frozen bunny head into the house, a snack she had found for herself along the way…” And now you are laughing so hard you are weeping.  

When those sad and hilarious tears hit – there is one of the mysteries of death.

You always knew you loved that wonderful dog but most of the time your love was a pleasant background hum in your life. In that retelling of a great old story, that old  love piles up like snow in front of a snowplow. Suddenly it is all over and around you, a great big wash of clear, sweet affection.

Death also seems to take all the love there was and reduce it into itself like a Haute Cuisine French sauce. And every once in a while you will be surprised by the steam, aroma, and the pungent glorious taste of that remembered joy and love. It messes you up bad (bring on the hankies) but you could care less. Your grief is right here now – but for this bit of time, grief is also joy, thankfulness and a profoundly deep need to laugh and be happy.

I don’t know why this is. Certainly not everyone we lose affects us like this. But some of them, blessed be, stir us still. The hole where they are gone demands to be filled with something good and that’s about as close to “love never dies” as I can understand.

Logically, you wouldn’t hurt this badly and you wouldn’t be wiping snot and tears off your face if you had not shared your life with that goofball mutt for 14 years. But who’s kidding who? She was one of the shiny ribbons woven into mortality. Even now, years later, telling Becky stories is STILL a happiness that vibrates in me when I remember her. Nothing in my regrets the day our gangly son brought home this gangly pup who would raise our kids and then break our hearts. Death took her, but left us bigger and better.

Death cracks and breaks us. Sometimes I think that is the point. The cracks are where light comes in and shines out. 

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" She was one of the shiny ribbons woven into mortality" . What a beautiful way to put it! And I love your new website. Congrats to you and LEN!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks. And thanks for letting us know this wasn't working at first. And yeps, I am thinking of your mom, also. Shiny ribbons through our lives.

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Quarantine Diary #15 3/28/2020

The Long-Awaited Groceries (The hymn “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is in my brain right now) came last night at 9PM – when it was raining. A woman named Sarah, late 30’s, brown ponytail, not-posh sweatpants and hoodie – carried ALL our groceries across the street from her car to our porch. This included 8-packs of Gatorade plus boxes of seltzer water, plus lots of other heavy stuff. Did I mention it was raining?

Quarantine #14 3/27/2020

Last night we did another wild and crazy thing. We got in our car and went for a drive! The first thing we remarked to each other was that we had not been in the car together in weeks.  It felt a little odd to be in there, next to each other, about to GO SOMEPLACE! Maybe this is the way it feels to be the family dog when they let you sit in the front seat and EVERYTHING IS SO AMAZING!

We drove west into the rosy sunset, filled with excitement to, um, see the sky.  Quarantines are easiest on people who have a low bar for excitement.

Quarantine Diary #13 3/26/2020

What do you miss?  What, in our new pandemical world do you miss most from our pre-pandemical world?You know, the one we lived in till two weeks ago?

I don’t mean the heartbreaking realities such as safe medical care providers and enough places to go should one become ill and the loved ones that we are losing.

I just mean, what are we getting used to? Or trying to get used to. What might we never go back to?

Quarantine Diary #12 3/25/2020

Right now it is 11:00AM.  Got up this morning at the regular time. Did regular things. Came to the office to write. Worked (hardly at all) on a project, wrapped an item for eBay. Announced to Len at 10:30 that I was sleepy and going to take a nap.

You know what he said?  He said, “Me, too.”

The following half hour he took the sofa and I took our bed and both of us slept like toddlers on cots.

Quarantine Diary #11 3/24/2020

Most mornings we wake up, get coffee, then sit in bed to read news websites and Twitter on our phones. This isn’t the most spiritually centering way to begin a day but IMHO any morning one can actually rouse oneself at all is good enough.

Except this. Remember when Len and I went to Kearny, Nebraska last spring to see the migrating Sandhill Cranes? (Right here.) 

When I have freaked out enough about the news, I go to this crane cam. 

Quarantine Diary #10 3/23/2020

This was a really good part of today. When my daughter was putting the baby down for his nap, Len and I read storybooks to our 3-year old granddaughter before her nap. Literally, she was sitting on her little bed in Chicagoland while holding mommy’s phone.  I read; Len moved the phone around carefully to show the illustrations. 

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