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Grief 101

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Grief 101

See, from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down Did e’er such love and Sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown. (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts)

Grief is part of our world. Love and sorrow twist together in our lives.

To love, to open our hearts to others? Is to be vulnerable.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.                              C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Grief takes a toll on us all: Men and women and children. So many of us are responding to this in “Social Isolation.” But how do we experience it? 

Elisabeth Kübler- Ross did extensive studies on grief, and it helps us understand what is happening to us now. She envisioned grief as an inverted bell curve, 5 stages.

Shock & Denial

In this stage we can hardly believe what is happening. It is like nothing we have experienced so we do not have a frame of reference. 

Shock gives way to surprise as news unfolds of the event. In this Pandemic, it is disturbing and unsettling. It is frightening and brings on fear. It is a jolt to our system. Trauma intertwines with distress.

Denial comes hard on the heels of shock. Certainly, these reports cannot be true. The Pandemic may be effecting Europe; but how could it ever reach America? We are a medically sophisticated society, and surely our medical community will stop this in its tracks. The facts and figures coming in from China, Italy and Spain must be exaggerated. And as we examine the statistics on American soil, it seems negligible.

And it can’t be worse than the flu—can it? A bad flu.

We experience this every winter. And this, too, will pass.

Anger

The anger stage is multifaceted. How did this Pandemic get out of control? How can it be happening here? In our Country? State? County? Borough?

The invisibility of this beast adds to out exasperation. Give me a visible enemy, and perhaps I’ll be able to take him on. But this? Just how many times do I have to wash my hands? Studies have shown we wash our hands a total of 6 seconds. So there has been a suggestion of singing verses of “Amazing Grace”, or your favorite rock song or “Happy birthday. Tell me: exactly how many verses do I need to sing? Clever methods calm my annoyance for a short time, but give way to irritation.

I become more irritable as time goes on. Do not tell me where I can go. And the distance I have to stand from my neighbor. And how I have to handle my groceries. Or when I shop.

Irritability gives way to annoyance. I may have never baked bread before, but now I insist on buying yeast and bread flour. How dare the store be sold out! Never mind that there are plenty of Pepperidge Farm loaves on the shelves. And the bread dilemma is national in scope. Yeast cannot be found throughout the land.

I may have lost my job, been furloughed, or reduced hours. My finances will be a mess.

Or, I may be working in the medical field, delivery for UPS FEDEX or supply chain. Can’t I stay home like everyone else? Just how much exposure can I have without exposing my family?

Bargaining

Bargaining is subtle in nature. As if we could bargain with a Pandemic! But we try. It is hard to predict how long this will last. If I pace myself for 2 weeks, perhaps the worst will be over. If the extension of “Social Isolation” is for 4 weeks, I can manage. But no longer. That is all I can promise. I’ll make an agreement for the end of April, but surely not into May.

Let’s make a deal! I promise to stay isolated, but how can I see my family? My children? Don’t tell me we can’t have Easter dinner!

Perhaps all of us can have our own Easter dinner, and meet “virtually” through Zoom. That is the solution. I’ll barter with this Pandemic.

Depression

The longevity of this Pandemic begins to wear on us. 

I want out! I want my independence back and I want my freedom! I feel dejected as my routine has been disrupted. A sadness prevails, as I pace from room to room. There is only so much that I can take of these 4 walls! Cabin fever abounds.

I’ve fallen out of the rhythm of life. I may not get up in the morning, but instead, lounge in bed in despair. After all, why get up?

I am despondent as I look at myself in the mirror. My hairdresser is not open, and my roots are beginning to show.

I’m eating or drinking to console myself, feeling guilty about the comfort foods that try to ease my internal ache and melancholy.

Being “in the dumps” has never felt so real.

The internet is ablaze with jokes:

“If I hold a glass of wine or a beer in each hand, I can’t touch my face.”

“Pretty soon I’m going to need a magician, not a beautician!”

“Breaking news: Wearing a mask inside your home is highly recommended. Not so much to prevent COVID-19 but to prevent eating.”

We laugh at them, knowing there is a deep truth here. We see ourselves. And we know that others feel the same way.

Acceptance

As this Pandemic drags on, we recognize that we have to do our part.

To successfully shelter in place means nothing will happen today. But the decreasing numbers of infections will be the reward of our patience. A commitment to other’s safety will become our foremost concern.

We know there will be a “New Normal.”

Learning to manage the home front, even with humor, helps us through the “daily days.”

There are innumerable sites for parents and children to engage in fun activities.

For adults? Netflix, reading, and perhaps video games. But these all point to being at home. Alone and isolated. 

The ideal: time spent in God’s Word and with Him.

And so we reframe this time: Instead of being stuck at home? We are safe at home.

The end is in Sight

Perhaps you’ve seen yourself in parts of the Grief cycle. Perhaps this is a moment, of “Aha! Me too!”

It is not linear and most often, we take “two steps forward and one step back.”

We offer grace to others, knowing that we are each on an independent journey through this time. There may be similarities. But there are also differences.

“We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us.” (Rosaria Butterfield)

We receive this time in faith, being confident that He is at work in us, and in His world.

We trust Him to work in us and through us to accomplish His good will.

And while we may not have a definitive date for this Pandemic to end, we do know that we have a Savior who is doing all things well.

“The tomb, normally a place of endings, became a place of beginnings. Out of if came the new hope of Resurrection life.” (Paul Tripp 4/10/20.)

Let us live in this time anticipating the resurrection He is doing within us.

The Road Less Traveled

Cynthia L. Eppley     10/10/2021

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

Memories

Perhaps the best family vacations are those that include the unexpected.
A favorite of my childhood was a trip West.
Dad had saved 6 weeks of vacation in order to take our camper on a trip of a lifetime.
We skimmed across N. America seeing National Parks, and ended in Texas to visit with family. I could go on about the size of the camper (tiny and cramped.)
Or how we all wedged into it to sleep at night. (I shared a bunk with my younger brother.)
Or how my Mother made meals miraculously from the tiny stove.
But really?
The negative criticisms of youth have faded into a glorious memory of shared family time and our incredible country.

You must understand: my Father was a history buff, and cherished the Country for which he fought in WW2.
While we 3 kids were more interested in Amusement Parks, or gift shops, Dad was interested in historical markers.

Did you know that you can find them almost anywhere?
And find them we did, pulling over to read them.
Meanwhile, I’m sure we 3 kids obnoxiously kidded him and teased him. We did not understand the treasure of history within these markers.

Trips

We have recreated much of this trip with our own children.
And in retirement, we have added to our list of National Parks.
Our history of vacations have included tent camping, catching every storm front coming through, and eating questionable meals over an open fire.
But sometimes, those very moments (I shudder) are the best ones.

Glacier National Park

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Robert Burns.


Two years ago we went to California, and then up the Pacific Coast Highway.
Our destination was Glacier National Park.
Did you know that when you explore and go on an adventure….your GPS may not work? That the internet is not available everywhere?
And so we harkened back to the tried and true, very old fashioned paper Map. Our morning started out brightly as we followed the signs for Glacier National Park, driving through a little town and meandering down an increasingly narrow road. Not to worry!
We had a full tank of gas! We had a map!

Take Me Home, Country Roads

“Every once in a while, take the scenic route.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

The road narrowed and eventually became a dirt road. Not paved: this should have been the first indication of trouble.
No signs anywhere, and no cell service.
But we drove on bravely as the dust billowed up in deep brown plumes behind our car.

The Western Entrance

After 2 hours of this adventure, we reached a small mercantile in the road: Polebridge. We drove on past it, following the sign for Glacier National Park….and for Canada. And within 15 minutes we arrived!
A small, dinky entranceway. The Ranger welcomed us warmly and asked:
“I guess you followed the GPS?”
“Yes.”
“This is the Western entrance, but not the main entrance. Everyone makes this mistake. You can turn around here and go back.”

Polebridge

“Welcome to Polebridge, Montana where the West is still wild.”

And so we turned around and decided to stop at this small trading post that looked like it was built in 1800. In fact, it was built by homesteaders in 1914.

“The Mercantile was then, as it is today, a community center and a grocer of last resort.”

“Celebrating our 106th year. The world famous Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery. Located close to Glacier National Park and far away from everything else.”

“We’re like a cozy enclave in the wilderness. The length of the road, the primitive condition of the road, it makes a psychological transition, and gives the illusion that you’re very, very far away….Some don’t want to leave. Others want to know what’s the best way to get out of here, and is it paved?” Deb Kaufman

A complete tiny town, with cabins and historical markers, and Northern Lights Saloon and cafe. We stayed several hours and learned more about Polebridge and its’ history.

“It’s beautiful once you get here. Breathtaking. But the journey is part of the reward. People who come here need to accept it on its terms. You don’t change it to make it easier. As a society, we have the expectation of instant gratification. but that’s not the North Fork.” Scott Emmerich, Polebridge District Ranger, Glacier National Park

Bear Claws

Famous for their “Bear Claws”, this pastry is served fresh from the oven.

“This is no quaint general store, but rather a living piece of history. Its’ bakery is a paradise of pies and pastries, its’ rows of merchandise an inventory of elemental existence.” Tristan Scott, Missoulian

“And there, at the end of the road, the rapture, Heavenly manna, fresh baked bread, and cinnamon rolls, and sinful huckleberry Bearclaws, piping hot straight from the oven.” Michael Jameson, Missoulian

It was a nugget of history and Americana that we loved— and would have missed if we had taken the correct road.

The Road Less Traveled

“It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, he is also at every stopping place.” Elisabeth Elliot

We certainly did take the road less traveled.
There was no instant gratification in this dusty trail.
But in the process, we found a rich treasure.
Polebridge, Montana remains one of the favorite places of our trip. And remarkably, I didn’t mind reading the historical markers.
In fact, they enriched our visit there.

Backroads

Often we want quick answers, quick success and no struggle.
Certainly interstates get us to our destination quickly.
But we have found small town Americana to be charming and full of history and charm. Life seems to hand us a journey that is circuitous.
Like those who have gone before us, we look to their persistence and resilience with tremendous respect.
Their stories are valuable for teaching us.

Behind and Before

Psalm 139:1-5
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down, you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

When life throws us a curve?
When we hit a bump or a bend in the road?
We can trust in the path , knowing that God is at work in it. He knows us and our ways.
He hems us in, and His hand is upon us.
And in this path and this journey, whoever we may go, we are always safe.

Steeples

“Here is the church, here is the steeple: Open the doors and see all the people!”

Cynthia L. Eppley 09/19/2021

One Year

One year ago started out like any other day.
The end of summer, the beginning of Fall.
I had been a little tired lately, but then again: who isn’t? The heat of the summer seemed to take its’ toll.
The ache in my back was increasing.
I tried not to complain.

The Hill

But then I walked up the hill to our house, trying to catch my breath.
A neighbor had given us a “pulse-ox”monitor, so I was able to watch the oxygen in my blood. Typically, you want to see that number in the 90’s.
Mine was 88.

Emergency

This number put me into a panic mode, and Bob immediately took me to the Emergency Room.
Bob had to wait in the car, as Covid restrictions were in place.
I waited for xrays, cat scans, and blood work.

The final diagnosis: pneumonia and at least 4 pulmonary embolisms.
I was presenting as a Covid patient; but my tests were coming back negative.

Hospital Stay

I was whisked up to my room where I would stay for the next 4 days. Poked and prodded, awakened in the middle of the night.
Hospitals are no place to get rest.
But one nurse assured me: you have quite a view.

Room with a View

Surely she was joking?
I looked out onto another wing of the hospital: brick and mortar, and other lonely rooms. But then I saw it: just around the corner from that wing was a steeple.
It stood as part of the original structure of the hospital.
Stately in form, reaching for the sky, and majestic.
It was easy to see during the day and it was illumined at night.

“Abington Memorial Hospital opened its doors in 1914. A familiar community symbol, the hospital’s steeple, was added in 1930.”

The steeple warmed and comforted me through the night.

Steeples

Why would a steeple have such an effect on me? Isn’t a steeple….just a steeple?

“In architecture, a steeple is a tall tower on a building, topped by a spire and often incorporating a belfry and other components. Steeples are very common on Christian churches and cathedrals and the use of the term generally connotes a religious structure. In early settled America, the church was typically one of the first buildings put up when settlers established in a new area. No other buildings built thereafter in the community were made larger, with the possible exception of a few barns. Even today, local churches from these early periods stand across the U.S. as some of the oldest buildings around.”

Back Story

First Presbyterian Church, Salem, New Jersey

Steeples have a historic significance.

So this takes me back to growing up in Salem, NJ, where I was a member of First Presbyterian Church. Many generations of my family worshiped there before me.

My earliest memories include sitting with my grandmother, and my parents, in the old wooden pews. Always on the left, about half way up.

The building itself is a landmark:

“First Presbyterian Church of Salem was built in 1856 by architect John McArthur, designer of City Hall in Philadelphia. With its imposing 165-foot steeple, the church is a fixture of the Salem skyline and a prominent landmark in the downtown historic district. https://www.nj.gov/dca/njht/funded/sitedetails/firstpresbyterianchurchofsalem.shtml

“Our building is a landmark in South Jersey with its soaring steeple reaching into the sky. Lighted at night it is a beacon to mariners in the Delaware Bay. Salem is a historic city, with many structures in Salem predating the founding of our nation.”

The church building is magnificent; small crosses arise from the spires encircling the central steeple. South Jersey is farming country, so it is flat and open land. Driving at night, the steeple could be seen for miles, assuring me as I made my way home.

More to the Story

The true purpose of the steeple, and the building itself, is what I learned from my earliest days. I was taught by members of the congregation. Scriptures were opened. Hymns were sung. To this day I can still sing all the verses of the oldest, sacred hymns.(See Songs of Thankfulness.)

And certain Scriptures came alive through the symbolism of that place:

Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the mountains; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Sacred music taught me to “lift my eyes” including Felix Mendelssohn’s Oratorio Elijah: “Lift Thine Eyes.” It remains a favorite of mine to this day.

In contemporary Christian music, Bebo Norman released “I will lift my eyes” in 2006 that reflects this dynamic:

“I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can’t climb I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild I will lift my eyes to the Healer
of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You.”

The Sacred

And so the sacred Texts were implanted in my heart.
Sacred music laid a foundation for it to be nourished and take root. The “faith of our fathers” was handed down generation to generation. The things of our life are never trivial or without purpose.
God uses them to lift our eyes to Himself.
And we can be assured He uses all things for our good.

Amazing Grace and Home

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

The Steeple: All day and all night

The Steeple was a reminder of the truths of Scripture and Song.
As I lay in the hospital, I watched the interplay of sunrise, and then sunset.
By night, it was lit up and my early morning awakenings were assured by its’ glow. It brought a deep comfort to me to know it was there. Yes, I had been through many dangers, toils and snares.
The Steeple was a reminder of Biblical Truths: It was a reassurance He had brought me safe thus far; His Grace would lead me home.

First Day of School

Cynthia L. Eppley 09/10/2021

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” Dr. Seuss

School Days

It is that time of year.
If you look through our old pictures, you will find the mandatory “First Day of School” pictures.
Fresh scrubbed faces, freckled with the summer sun.
Huge grins, anticipating the year ahead.
Neatly combed hair; except that one “sticky up” part that just refused to stay down. We might wet it, but it would dry and “Boing!!!!” up it would fly.

School Shopping

And school would not be the same without new school clothes.
Typically a rite of Grandmothers and their grandchildren, it is a special time of picking out a few new things.
And no matter how hot it was…..first day of school meant trying to wear one of the outfits. Maybe not the sweaters, but certainly there would be something we could wear.
New shoes were mandatory. It seemed like our feet grew inches between the last fitting.
But this fitting was special because it was for the first day.
My shoe of choice was “Penny Loafers” from Hoffman’s Shoe Store.
The new shoes had to be worn; the old shoes wrapped in the box.
Never mind that we came home that first day from school with blisters.
We wore them—the shoes and the blisters—proudly.

School Supplies

There is something anticipatory about a fresh pad of paper, awaiting an essay. Or freshly sharpened pencils. Remember the pencil sharpener at the front of the class? With pencil shavings dropping onto the floor?
Fresh crayons, markers, pencil bags. And then there were “Trapper Keepers”—the ultimate in storage.
To be replaced by Texas calculators and now iPads and who knows what else? Somehow I don’t think the high tech gadgets have the same tactile and sensory stimulus.

Teachers and Friends

Back then, we knew our assigned classroom and teacher.
The card came in the mail, and frantic phone calls were made to friends. “Do you have the same teacher?”
It meant everything to have at least one friend in your class.
Classmates meant everything.

Coming Home

When the bell rang, students rushed out the door.
Before long, they tumbled in the front door, filled with stories from the day.
Where were you seated?

Was it boy/girl? That had to be the worst because having the opposite sex surround you meant you might get “cooties.”
Were you seated near friends?
What was the teacher like?

It was the privilege of parents to sit and be regaled with story after story. And perhaps get a special treat.

Treats

First day meant cookies.
They might even be fresh out of the oven.
With milk.
Chocolate chip was the cookie of choice.
One of my friends has continued this tradition for her child who has just entered 8th grade. This child will remember this tradition, for sure.
It warmed the tummy, but also the heart to know that this ritual embedded in our minds and hearts just how significant “first day” could be.

First Day 2021

This year is different.
We are into 18 months of a Pandemic.
We never quite know what to expect.
At first we were told: “Two weeks and we’ll beat this thing.” But time has drug on.

Masks

Masks have taken on a life of their own: Paper or Cloth?
Designer or Plain?
Statement fashion? You name it: there’s a mask for that.
Depending on your school district, you may be required to wear a mask.

Social Distance

School desks have been placed the mandatory distance apart.
Some have plastic partitions encasing them.
Individual pods for each pupil drive home the point of being distant and separate.

Inschool/Out of School

School districts have scrambled to accommodate students.
Last year many classes were held virtually.
New technology has kept up (for the most part) with the need for education.
Teachers have been creative and logged innumerable hours to change up their approach. Students have learned to adapt.
And this year, many schools have opened their doors once again.

First Day of School 2021

Things change, but so much remains the same.
New outfits have been bought this year; jeans have replaced matching outfits. Squeaky sneakers run down hallways, the replacement for penny loafers.
A group of students just rushed down the sidewalk on their way home;
cookies may be waiting.
Moms or Dad, or Grandmoms or Caregivers will be eager to hear stories.
Fresh faced kids will burst through the door and excitedly share the news of their day.

This doesn’t change.

Nor should it.
Masks, social distancing, virtual school: these things may change.

Taking Root

For Fall 2021, and for any day of First Days of School:
Can we embrace the enthusiasm of youth?
Can we set aside the cares of this world and age, and allow the kids to be kids?
Can we sit and review their day, embracing the best, and helping them through the challenges?

Our attentive listening, caring, and acceptance of them will go far.
This is the stuff of connection and encouragement that our children need; that we all need. Like chocolate chip cookies: warming the tummy and the soul.

Who knows what memories of First Day will take root?

Perspective

Cynthia L. Eppley 08/25/2021

We recently enjoyed a 2 week vacation in California and the Pacific Northwest.  Nothing changes your perspective like getting away from home.

Home

Pennsylvania is a large state and has many ecosystems. On one side of the state you may find wetlands and flat open fields. Drive West and you’ll find roads nestled between mountains and valleys. 

Trees

One feature of our home are the trees which surround us. They guard our home in the hot summer, shielding us from the intense heat.

In the Fall, they are a riot of color.

But our trees also block our view of our surroundings.

In order to see an impending storm, I have to go to one bank of windows and look to the Northwest. A dark, looming cloud foreshadows rain and wind.

In the evening, I see glimpses of the sunset filtering through the Spruce trees behind our home.

I often long for an unobstructed view to marvel at the shades of pink, yellow, and purple.

Aunt Marie and Valleys

Aunt Marie lived in El Paso, TX. It was an area of wide open spaces. When she would come to visit my parents in New Jersey, she felt overshadowed.  She couldn’t get her bearings because a trip was often covered by trees.

Give her a thruway and she might have an idea of direction and purpose. Give her open fields!

And we know that East Coast roads are winding and curving, unlike the straight open roads near El Paso.

It unsettled her.

Valleys in life can unnerve us and we lose perspective. We feel closed in.

Mountains

I knew the mountains of the West Coast would be towering and snow covered. 

The Olympic National Park boasts of Hurricane Ridge. To get there, you must navigate a long arduous journey of switchbacks along the side of steep cliffs.

We held our breath, looking down, and prayed that the transmission and brakes would hold.

“High above Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge provides the most popular access to Olympic National Park. A paved road twists and turns 17 mi (27 km) up a steep 7-percent grade to the mile-high summit, where, on a clear day, you can gape at the breathtaking 360-degree views of mountain, valley, and sea.” (roadtripusa.com)

And what a view.

On our drive up, we had mere glimpses of the summit. But at the top, we felt like we were on top of the world. In June, there were still snow covered peaks. We felt like we were in Switzerland.

I wanted to spread my arms and turn slowly around singing:
“The hills are alive, with the sound of music!”

Perhaps on a mountaintop we can see clearly. The mundane of ordinary days fall away and we can see a clearer picture.

God of the Mountains and the Valleys

And so we have both.

Mountains and valleys give us a different perspective, don’t they?

1 Kings 20:28 The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’”

Psalm 121: I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.

A recent Song by Tauren Wells combines both of these experiences and speaks of both the hills and the valleys:

https://youtu.be/8iDuZv_5MQk

On the mountains, I will bow my life to the One who set me there In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own When I’m walking through the valley I know I am not alone You’re God of the hills and valleys, hills and valleys God of the hills and valleys And I am not alone.

God of the Hills and Valleys

On the mountain top we know God as Creator and Sustainer. In the valley, He is the lifter of my head. He is the God of the hills and valleys. I am not alone.

Weary

Summer in the City……

Cynthia L. Eppley 08/25/2021

Heat & Humidity

When I walked out this morning the first thing that assaulted my senses was the sweltering heat.

How can it be so hot so early in the morning?
Aren’t the evenings supposed to cool down?
Aren’t we to awaken to a refreshing new day?

And then there is the humidity.
Last week the entire country was blanketed in a weather map of red:
Heat and humidity.
Even areas that don’t normally see outrageous heat were wrapped in its’ clutches. A simple walk with our dog brings rivulets of perspiration down my back.

July

The unrelenting heat.
Rainy days are rare, and even then it seems to run off the dry, compacted earth. Following the rain, the humidity rises.
I try to water my plants regularly.

Cicadas

And if the heat is not enough, it’s the cicadas.
Apparently they come out of their dark, dank tombs every 17 years.
And this year brought a bumper crop.
Are they there all day?
Somehow they seem more present in the early morning.
It seems that all else is pressed out as their din attacks my ears.
The (relatively) cool, quiet morning is broken by the temperature and the noise. Is there no peace?
Is there no rest for the weary?

Garden

And then there is my garden. (See Of Daffodils and Spring, Flowers and Their Legacy)
It flourishes in April and May, reaching a glorious peak in June. People purposely walk by to see it.
Cars stop and drivers call out: “I love your garden!”
I do, too…..in Spring.

Hosta

For those who know my garden, hosta is a key component.
My initial hosta was brought from NJ from my brother’s home. Since that time it has been separated and split and it has gone all over my yard and into the neighborhood.
They call our home: “The Hosta House.”
But these days the hosta is looked bedraggled and worn.
Yellowed leaves hang on, and no amount of watering can save them.
Even my best efforts are only a stopgap for the inevitable.

Inevitable

And what is the inevitable?

The passage of time, the weariness of summer, followed by Fall.
With Fall comes the death of the glorious plants that regaled us with their beauty only weeks ago.
The tasks of cleaning away the debris of once glorious plants lies before me.
Spent flowers droop and yellowed leaves await composting.

Remember

We remember that it is certain that Spring will follow Winter.
The Fall will follow the heat of summer.
And as I brush aside the dead plants, I know for certain:
there is a root under the plants that grows deep and sure and strong.
Outward appearances are not all we see; the spring and summer have served to strengthen roots that have spread to sustain the foliage.

Remember Old Hymns

Sometimes older hymns bring great truth.
The hymn: “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” is one such song:

“Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand, The shadow of a mighty rock Within a weary land; A home within the wilderness,
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.”

We can take refuge in the Mighty Rock which is Jesus. He is our home, and our refuge.

Remember His Faithfulness

Hosea 6:3
Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.

Joel 2:23
Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.

Remember He Makes a Way

Isaiah 43:19
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Remember Spring will follow Winter

He makes a way in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land.
He is faithful. He is our home.
And though the garden appears dead now, the roots grow deep. Winter will come and blanket the garden in soft snow.
But Spring will come.

And as I face yet another hot and humid day, though the outward appearance looks dry and arid, I trust in His goodness and faithfulness to grow roots deep and strong.

Flag Day

Cynthia L. Eppley   06/08/2021

Wreaths

It all started when I saw a “Patriotic Wreath” online. 

It caught my interest right away: a grapevine wreath wrapped in a flag, with a flourish of greens and a bow.

Just my style!

But I thought: “I can make that myself! And I even have an old flag in the garage that I can use!”

What better use for an old flag than adorning a Patriotic Wreath?

But….

When I mentioned my idea to Bob, he exclaimed:
“You can’t desecrate the Flag!”

Desecrate?
I hadn’t thought of it in those terms.

I thought this would be a way to extend its’ life in a noble way.

Tired and worn out, it wasn’t suitable to fly.

Research

Upon doing some research, I found that the American Flag cannot be used for decoration.

I had a suspicion of this guideline. (See Of Poppies, Service, and Dad)

You see, my Dad, Sgt. Joseph G. Lippincott, Sr. had fought in WW2.

He had instilled in me a deep respect and honor for the Flag, and for those who fought for our country.

I learned so much from my Dad. But respect for my Country was right at the top of the list. 

I know when I see a flag at night it should be lit up. I know the ceremony of raising and lowering the flag. I can’t hear the plaintive melancholy notes of “Taps” without thinking of my Dad. (See Taps)

I know how a flag should be folded—solemnly and with great reverence. 

And so his legacy has been passed on. 

My brother continues to lift the flag every morning at their home overlooking the Delaware River that we all loved so well. 

It is our prayer that it is passed on to younger generations. 

Grand Old Flag

You’re a grand old flag You’re a high-flying flag And forever in peace may you wave You’re the emblem of The land I love The home of the free and the brave

Ev’ry heart beats true Under red, white and blue Where there’s never a boast or brag But should old acquaintance be forgot Keep your eye on the grand old flag. (Song by George M. Cohan, written 1906)

The original lyric for this perennial George M. Cohan favorite came, as Cohan later explained, from an encounter he had with a Civil War veteran who fought at Gettysburg. The two men found themselves next to each other and Cohan noticed the vet held a carefully folded but ragged old flag.

(See Memorial Day 2020)

The Greatest Generation

Tom Brokaw published The Greatest Generation in 2001.

It became ”The instant classic that changed the way we saw World War II and an entire generation of Americans, from the beloved journalist whose own iconic career has lasted more than fifty years. 

In this magnificent testament to a nation and her people, Tom Brokaw brings to life the extraordinary stories of a generation that gave new meaning to courage, sacrifice, and honor.

From military heroes to community leaders to ordinary citizens, he profiles men and women who served their country with valor, then came home and transformed it.

To this generation that gave so much and asked so little, Brokaw offers eloquent tribute in true stories of everyday heroes in extraordinary times.”

Funerals

I attended a Service for the Father of a dear friend yesterday.

He was a WW2 vet, like my father. They were part of “The Greatest Generation.”

He had also instilled in her a reverence for country.

His flag, that had draped over his coffin, took center stage.

The glass had been etched with his name.

It was a fitting tribute to this man who fought for his country.

Like Rebecca, my heart swelled with pride to think of this generation who fought for us, for the freedoms we have today.

Flag Day

In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The Flag Resolution, passed on June 14, 1777, stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

The Wreath and the Flag

Bob’s father, Robert F. Eppley, Sr. also fought in WW2.

His flag is displayed just inside our front door, along with our fathers’ pictures.

The Flag that draped his coffin is preserved properly and with honor and dignity.

And for the wreath, I improvised a flag.

I added Bob’s father’s dogtags, and medals from my father.

Together, they are a reflection of each other:

It is a fitting testimony to the Greatest Generation and the Flag of our Fathers.

Taps

Cynthia L. Eppley  05/31/2021

Day is Done

By the time this blog is posted, it will be evening and Memorial Day celebrations will be complete.

Sure, there are those gardening and mowing the lawn. But this morning there were parades and traditional celebrations.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is part of our National heritage, and I remember it well. (See Memorial Day 2020)

Things were different last year, with restrictions and cancellations due to Covid. So perhaps 2021 will bring a resurgence of interest.

National Moment of Remembrance

“The National Moment of Remembrance is an annual event that asks Americans, wherever they are at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause for a duration of one minute to remember those who have died in military service to the United States.

The time 3 p.m. was chosen because it is the time when most Americans are enjoying time off from work for the national holiday. The Moment was first proclaimed in May 2000 for Memorial Day that year, and was put in law by the United States Congress in December 2000.”

Salem

I grew up in South Jersey, in the small town of Salem. 

Memorial Day was marked by parades and going to the cemeteries with flowers for graves.

To Honor.

To Remember.

But this is something I didn’t know: “Salute to the Dead”

SALUTE TO THE DEAD, local times—  SALEM AREA: 8am St Marys cemetery Walnut St,  8am old high school New Market St  8:10 am St. Johns Market St (cemetery parking lot off Grant St) 8:20 East view cemetery

and the list goes on.

At these times, the ones who gave their lives are honored by the playing of Taps.

The melody will glide through the breeze, over my father’s grave at East View Cemetery.

The whisper of memories and tradition will be thick in the air.

I just don’t know how you can hear “Taps” and keep a dry eye.

Taps

“The use of “Taps” is unique to the United States military, as the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying ceremonies and memorial services. “Taps” originally began as a signal to extinguish lights. The music for “Taps” was changed by Major General Daniel Adams Butterfield for his brigade in July, 1862. Butterfield was not pleased with the call for “Extinguish Lights” feeling that it was too formal to signal the day’s end. With the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, he created “Taps” to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia following the Seven Days’ battles during the Peninsular Campaign.

“There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.” –Oliver Willcox Norton

Protocol

There is certain protocol that accompanies this music.

“The cars will stop and will listen. If you are outside you will stop. If you are in uniform and hear the National Anthem, you will salute the flag. If you are not near a flag, then you will salute in the direction where the music is coming from.” (counton2.com)

“While the sound of the bugle may stop us momentarily from what are doing, the tradition and honor that accompanies the music deserve a moment of our time. When you hear the music, try to remember our veterans and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.” (https://www.dia.mil)

The songs are as follows:

Reveille 7AM Retreat 5PM Taps 9 PM

Memory 

I remember being with my family on a trip out West and being on base. I suppose it was “Retreat” because all traffic stopped. We listened in silence to the poignant strains of music.

My father explained how we gave honor and respect to those who gave their lives for our country.

Stopping our activities for a moment was the least we could do. And it burned into my young heart.

Pictures

1957, My brother Gill and Vic Robinson playing Taps.

Which brings me to the main point of this blog today. 

In 1957, our neighbor Vic Robinson played Taps on Memorial Day. My father captured the moment with the honor guard, but also my brother, standing and watching with wonder.

My father died in 1997. Our greatest desire was to have Vic Robinson play Taps for the funeral.

And he did. It may have been his last time. 

His son Vic told me he found a collection of special letters and mementos in his father’s things. Among them? The letter I had written to him thanking him for his service to us in the midst of our grief.

I suppose Taps could have been played by anyone else.

But no, it had to be Vic Robinson from that picture.

Today, Vic (the son)’s daughter Carol will be playing her fathers bugle in Salute to the Dead. The family tradition has been handed down from generation to generation.

Deep calls to deep. 

The circle of tradition and honor is ongoing.

Musical moments

The simple 24 notes of Taps will play out over the country today. One of my friends played Taps at 3pm and posted it.

Its’ wistful notes will be simple but poignant, tried and true.

It will remind us of those who are gone, but not forgotten:

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the hills, From the lake, From the skies. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

And in our moments of remembrance marked by sadness or celebration, it is a bittersweet truth that God is always nigh.

Backward Pictures: Take 2

Graduation: Up, up and Away!

Cynthia L. Eppley    05/28/2021

Beginnings

I realized when I wrote Backward Pictures (See Backward Pictures) that it was a large topic. As I’ve been rolling it around in my thoughts, I realized I had to break it into two sections.

For specific reasons.

Littles

When we look at pictures of our littles, we are filled with expectations and hopes for their futures. We look forward to their play and wild imaginations. “Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!” or “Let it Go! Let it Go!”

Either way, it is a special time of engaging in their growth and development. Perhaps we take so many photos so that we can capture it in time: If only we could!

Graduation

I’m seeing so many pictures on Social Media of graduations.  Never mind if this year has been so very different; and the student may not have even been in a physical building! For so many it has been a hybrid of in class meetings or computer zoom. But when it comes time to graduate? We celebrate!

Youngest

We have Pre-School graduation, and parents look on, beaming with pride. There is so very much ahead of them! Middle School is similar, with maturing vision and development. But then there is high school. So many experiences are before them. Different courses to try, electives, sports.  All of these things go into making them a well rounded individual.

Pivotal

Thus, High School graduation is distinctively different. The “child” is now a (very) young adult. They have the rudimentary skills to get a job. Their knowledge from all of High School has poured into this moment. The future is theirs!

What You Don’t Know

And off they go: “Oh, the places you’ll go!” There is a common phrase: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.”

“What you don’t know won’t hurt you. A dubious maxim: sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you very much.”  ― Margaret Atwood

or consider this:

“Ignorance is bliss.”

Parental View

And so these maxims ring true to us as parents. But the mind of a (very) young adult is not fully formed. And they attack life with gusto and bravado. Their enthusiasm is commendable, even if their wisdom is not always accurate. And therein lies the rub:

The ability to be a (very) young adult, without the maturity to always handle the requirements and consequences.

Letting Go

By this time, you are probably annoyed with my use of (very) young adult.

I am, as well. All of us would like to erase the “very” adjective. But they are in the “in-between” stage. We long to let them go into the world, anticipating their future. The pictures we take of graduation are very realistic now:

Their backs are to us, and as they walk away we realize they will come home from college changed. More mature. More experienced. (In many ways.)

They will come home…..different.

Letting Go Further

But then there are the College graduations. This is the youngster I taught in Sunday School. This is the daughter of my next door neighbor that I babysat. The little that was in my wedding as one of my flower girls.

On the way to get the diploma. Long years of work and dedication culminate in this moment of celebration. But we view it as not looking at the past, but looking at the future. Where will this degree take them?  What will the future be?                                        

Will she walk in the footsteps of her mother and become a nurse?                                            

This is just the beginning of their career! 

We rejoice with them as their future unfolds. Some will have a position awaiting. Others will travel far and wide to clinch the employment of their dreams.

Backward Pictures

So perhaps these are the pictures that are filled with the most angst and bittersweet joy. They will go away. They will come home for holidays or summer vacation. But they may not be home for dinner every night. Their phone conversations may be brief or lengthy. These are the ones who will have friends we have never met, and may very well be employed in positions that we do not even begin to understand.

Trust your Future

We send them on their way. We look at their backs and trust that the best is yet to come. They may not have housing or friends in their new locations. Some may travel across country; some may travel internationally. In our concern for them let us not forget:

“Never be afraid to trust your future to a Known God.”                                                               Corrie ten Boom

They may cause a wild rumpus where they go. As they fly away, we may have to sing to ourselves: “Let (them) go!”

But always, always, trusting in our Known God who holds them in the palm of His hand.

Backward Pictures

Cynthia L. Eppley    05/28/2021

I’ve noticed pictures showing up that are taken from the rear view of the person. The person is walking away, and the photographer can’t resist but take the picture.

I’ve done it myself.

It seems a universal appeal. I asked my daughter in law why people do this? She responded: “It’s just so adorable!”

And indeed it is.

Message

But I can’t help but wonder if there is a deeper message for us.

Usually you want to capture facial expressions.

And generally, catch the person at their best. (Although more recent selfies tends to defy that impulse….)

And I’ve noticed the pictures are taken by parents.

What is happening?

The World through Their Eyes

When we view people from the back, we are seeing what they are seeing. We know their vulnerabilities. We know the challenges ahead. But they are full of wonder and excitement:

“What a great big world is in front of me!”

“What a wonderful world!”

There is no pretense or posing; only pure joy in life and experience. As one of my friends said: “There is joy and wonder everywhere when you see the world through the eyes of a child.”

Family Legacy and Traditions

Often a picture is taken of a Grandparent and a child. They may be immersed in an activity, or spending a quiet moment together. Wouldn’t we like to hear the conversation? One thing we know for sure: the interaction is golden and ripe with significance, for grandparent and child. This is the stuff of warm memory and family legacies.

Captured Time and Infant Footprints

Often the picture is of a parent and child.

Often the child is very young, and reaching up for the parents’ hand. The child has just begun to walk, and the parent’s gait is slow and measured to match the faltering step of the toddler. You may see footprints in the sand. The large print of the parent eclipses the tiny mark of infant  feet. We recognize that these moments will be fleeting so we capture the moment. Time marches on, and the next tide may wash away the imprints. First they toddle, and then walk, followed by running and sprinting. They may be taught how to handle a fishing reel. First, with Dad’s strong hands. Then on their own.

Siblings

Catch them as Best Buds

Or two children together.  I don’t think I’ve seen a picture of two siblings tearing each other’s hair out. So perhaps this magical moment is a reflection of our desires of their relationship. We catch them being best friends. There may be squabbles and sibling wars; but our deepest longing is for them to defend each other. We pray that the years would be kind and that they would grow more united. 

Skills

Or perhaps a parent is handing down a treasured well practiced skill. At first, a boogie board was sufficient. But the child has grown and requires a full surf board now. He and his sister are in surfing competitions.

Hours of teaching and coaching and practice. But the foundation is time spent with parents. We stand amazed at the skill of these teens. And Mom and Dad stand behind them, cheering them on.

(See http://Backward Pictures: Take 2)

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

So much lies before them. And we, who stand behind, want only the best for our children. We long for right choices and direction and courage.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Nelson Mandela

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.” Mark Twain

Hopes and Fears What are the lyrics to ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’? Written in 1868, the lyrics rang true then—and now.

O little town of Bethlehem How still we see thee lie Above thy deep and dreamless sleep The silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting Light The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight

We may have high hopes for them. But in this changing world we may also have fear. Certainly the graduating class of 2021 has weathered their Senior Year like none before. But notice in the time honored Carol:

“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

Hope and a Future

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So as we watch from behind, we can have a hope for our littles, and not so littles. Our role as cheerleader and coach has matured and changed. But we still stand behind them, watching with pride. We can sent them off with bittersweet joy, knowing that these times have flown past, in the blink of an eye.

But also knowing that the very God of the Universe has plans to prosper and not harm.

That they do, indeed, have a hope and a future.

When Mother’s Day is Hard

Cynthia L. Eppley 05/09/2021

Mother’s Day

It is a holiday that we celebrate and dread, all at the same time.
There is a certain amount of loss associated with being a mother.
Often, we don’t talk about it.
But it lingers, right beneath the surface; at times it bubbles over into our presence….like on Mother’s Day.

Bereaved Mother’s Day

I never knew this existed until this year.

“Bereaved Mother’s Day was created in 2010 to celebrate mothers who have a child (or multiple children) in Heaven. The first Sunday in May is dedicated to moms who hold a child in our heart instead of in our arms.”

Infant Loss

There are so many losses: perhaps one that cuts deepest is the loss of a newborn. I have a dear friend who gave birth to a long awaited baby at the end of December. Little Hezekiah was early, and lived 16 days.


His mother and father wrote this:

“Our precious little soul gave us the long-awaited titles of mom and dad. In his brief time with us Hezekiah lived up to his name “YAHWEH strengthens.’

We never know what struggles people face, do we?

Emily and Joel were out hiking and this happened:

Emily and Joel

“Within minutes of heading up our favorite walking trail we ran into a family with the mom wearing a baby that was probably about the age Hezekiah would be now. Baby was fussing and after saying hello the mom said ‘want a baby?!’ Joel and I both immediately answered with an enthusiastic ‘YES!’
Parents-please be mindful about jokes about the very real burdens in parenting and being exasperated with your children.
My faithful prayer warriors-thank you your fervent prayers for our hearts and minds. This interaction should have sent me down a very dark path, and honestly, in the past, while grieving the dream of parenthood, has sent me down a very dark path more times I care to admit.”

Other Loss

Many circumstances lead to separation and loss within the mother/child relationship. There are those who long to conceive and find that impossible.

There are those who long to hold their child in their arms, but have suffered still birth, or miscarriage.

There are those who made the devastating choice to abort their child. So many factors went into this decision but one thing is certain: it was heart wrenching.

There are those who have no children of their own, but are spiritual mothers to so many.

In my own family, my sister Carol Lynn died of pneumonia and Cerebral Palsy at the age of 5. My parents were deeply impacted by her loss. Although gone, her story lives on.

There are those who have lost a teen or young adult to a car crash or other mishap.

The reality of drug and alcohol use within our population causes a schism in families. Some of our teens and older children are on a path of destruction. And parents ache for them, impossible to stop the downward spiral.

Others may face mental illness. How do parents navigate the Mental Health system with grown children who refuse help? These grown children would rather be on their own, while parents stand by with broken hearts.

A final loss is that of estrangement. Our culture is awash in political arguments. From political parties, to vaccine use— strong opinions divide and separate us.
There are adult children who refuse to acknowledge their parents, sometimes for years.

And I’m sure there are other fractured Mother/Child relationships.

Relationships

So much of our lives are wrapped up in relationships.
And for a mother, especially on Mother’s Day, a loss of a mother/child relationship is particularly sad.
This is why Mother’s Day can be bittersweet for so many.
If you doubt this, just take a look at Social Media.

What to Do?

There is very little we can do to change the loss for a mother, and for parents. In fact, the last thing we want to do is “fix it.”
But we can acknowledge the loss.
Recognize that this may be a hard day for them.

Recognize the life that was cherished, if even for a short time. Don’t ignore the pain of the day.
Perhaps a card, or a simple hug may be in order.
Caring for those who suffer loss is always appropriate.

Sensitivity

This is an intensely personal issue, and asking probing questions may not be welcomed. Certainly, platitudes and superficial assurance are to be avoided.
And like Emily and Joel on the trail, we can be careful what we say to others.
We can be intentional in our support.

“Be kind one to another, tenderhearted.” Ephesians 4:32

Mothers and Hope

Emily has chosen to celebrate Mother’s Day as a new mother.
She longs for Hezekiah.
They longed for a little one, and from conception, reveled in the miracle of life. As an expectant mother, she awaited the long anticipated due date.
Her posts on Social Media have been honest and vulnerable, but also full of hope.
They look with hope for that glorious day when they are reunited before Jesus.
She has opened the door for others to care for her.

Honor

How can we honor our loved ones? What means is there to celebrate life?

For Emily and Joel, they choose to plant trees in Hezekiah’s honor:
“Got our Hezekiah tree(s)! The Helena maple is the official Hezekiah tree, but we really wanted aspens too because they spread/multiply!”

Montana

Montana is awash in rugged beauty.
Hezekiah’s tree will add to the splendor of the landscape and be a living testimony that his time here, though short, was so very worthwhile.
His life was precious.
And he will be in our hearts forever.

Aimee Byrd

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