Featured

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.

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.

Mother’s Day Without your Mom

Cynthia L. Eppley 05/05/2021

Mother’s Day

We are coming up on Mother’s Day this coming weekend.

Already you see the signs around you: circulars are chock full of gift ideas for Mom.

Flowers abound in the stores.

Perfumes and chocolates.

Walk into a card shop and you’ll be met with rows of cards—from the silly and irreverent, to deep heart felt sentiments.

The Bereaved

But what do you do when your mother is deceased? Is there a card that can sufficiently sum up the mixed emotions you feel?

Mother’s Day Recognition

One of my friends recently told me she hated Mother’s Day.

Do we need to recognize it set apart from every other day?

And I remember well the church service where carnations were handed out to the women:
one color if you still had your mother, one if she was deceased.

Really?
Do I want to remember that she is gone?
And that I stand out with my colored carnation that marks me as a person of loss?

Painful Process

It is a painful process to go through your first Mother’s Day without your Mom. This may be the hardest recognition:

“My first Mother’s Day without my mom. I long to hug her again and miss the relationship that we had before she became so debilitated from depression. I am sad that none of us could be there with her when she died.”

“Maggie graduates on Sunday from Penn State. I know mom and dad will be watching from heaven beaming with pride. I miss her everyday. My routine was to call her when I left school each day. There are times I still go to dial her number.”

Motherless Daughters

The loss of our mothers becomes a defining moment in our lives.

The book Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss (1995) by Hope Edelman explores the profound pain of mother loss among women.

”When my mother died, I knew no woman my age who had experienced mother  loss. I felt utterly and irrevocably alone. In  college, where new friends knew only as much about me as I was willing to reveal, I told few people  my mother had died. I searched the university library and local bookstores for writings about mother loss. In each book I found about  mother-daughter relationships, I quickly flipped ahead to the  chapter about a mother’s death, but discovered they all assumed the reader would be in her forties or fifties when her mother dies.  I was eighteen.”  –excerpt from Motherless  Daughters.

Young Loss

For those who have lost their mothers when they were quite young, the pain of loss is raw:

“It’s weird how the memory photos fade over time. It is so weird! I didn’t realize how drastic the fade was until I thought about a childhood memory and could barely “see” her remembering… I have tons of pics so I can see her face. What kills me is I have a hard time remembering what she sounds like. Her voice and her laugh. And the way she would call my name. I have home videos that I can’t find (of course) wish I could to hear her.”

Mature Loss

We may have lost our mothers when we are more mature. The loss is still real:

When I lost my Mom, I lost my person. She got me. I know now I can never replace that.”

“I still miss my mother………thinking how joyful she would be watching her grandsons in their adulting day to day.”

“I dream about my mom often. At first there was a re-occurring dream about me calling her for a recipe and then one dream she told me to stop calling her that I was now the keeper of the recipes. And I am. My daughters call me often for a favorite grandma recipe!”

“Sadly I no longer have my mother and I miss everything about her. Even our “disagreements”. 

“I still sometimes reach for the phone to call her and it hits me all over again.”

“My mother has been gone for 16 years. I miss our weekly talks via phone. We easily chatted for an hour or more. It’s how I started my Saturdays. I really miss that relationship.”

“There is so much to say about wishing my mom was still here and missing her so much. But, one of the hardest things is having sweet little babies and not having her here to watch them grow up, be a part of their childhood, and just be there to text or call during the hardest moments and most joyful moments of parenting!!  I have found I am having some tough emotions erupt because I want to be the very best version of myself for my daughter and not miss my mom so much in the process. I find I am having a big a hole in my gut wishing my mom could share in this journey too. It has been 5 years….but it truly doesn’t get easier!”

Current Loss

Even with our mothers here, we still long to be with them and treasure the moments:

“I LOVE my mama. She’s one of my best friends since I was born. I enjoy spending time with her, talking, laughing, crying and having fun. She’s my prayer warrior. When she’s no longer here on earth, I have the hope & joy of knowing we’ll spend eternity together in heaven. My mama’s got skills too! She’s one smart cookie! She loves her family and friends. She has a tender heart. There’s SO much more to say. I love my mama!”

“Yes my Momma is still on this side of heaven. The hardest part is not being to go out with her whenever. planting flowers for her every mother’s day.”

Personal

My mother will be gone 12 years this August.

I still long for her smile and her laugh. I remember our last long hug; I held on feeling her warmth and catching her scent.

I think of her during celebratory events: a baby shower honoring the baby to be.

And it hits me hard that she never knew my own grandchildren.

Weddings, showers, funerals: they all have their poignant view of what could have been. 

Celebrate!

Weddings, showers, funerals: what could have been but also what is: Reasons to celebrate!

For this Mother’s Day, we miss our mothers.

We have the rituals and traditions that we celebrated together.

I will plant flowers in my garden beds, and remember the ones that are from her garden.

I will stake the tall yellow iris and pass a few on to a family member.

We will call our son and rejoice in the recent birth of our new grandchild.

My mother’s voice may fade over time.

But the legacy is strong and the legacy lives on.

Her very life was, and is, a reason to celebrate.

A Year in Review

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Cynthia L. Eppley    04/29/2021

Blog?

I first began blogging a year ago: April 25, 2020.

That was the date my first blog was released. I can promise you that getting my site developed and figuring out the bells and whistles took many days before that time.

Why bother?

A frequent question is: “Why bother to blog?”

For me it was quite simple: I’ve basically retired from counseling, but I didn’t feel quite ready to give up counseling.

Teaching and seminars are always a possibility. I’ve done 2 Seminars on Covid that are on Youtube.

But the blogging format gives voice to my thoughts and concerns on a broader scale.

Results

I have published 52 posts in this time.

They have been varied.

Initially, it was a response to Covid and the Pandemic.

It has not been an easy year, and the stress and anxiety many felt was—and still is—palpable.

As the year continued, I saw other dynamics:

Healthcare workers and heroes.

Other heros on the frontlines, too numerous to mention.

Children and tension

Zoom

Working from home

Not working, and losing jobs 

On-line schooling and hybrid learning

Isolation and loneliness

Politics

People going above and beyond for their fellow neighbors.

People behaving poorly.

A Long View

It will be decades before we see the implications of this Pandemic.

There will be immediate ramifications, but also long range results.

Foundations

I was reminded of a classic hymn by a good friend: “This is My Father’s World.” Written in 1901 it is timely, but also timeless. What challenges did we face in 1901? What will we face through this year and onward?

1 This is my Father’s world, And to my listening ears All nature sings, and round me rings The music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas– His hand the wonders wrought.

2 This is my Father’s world: The birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, Declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.

3 This is my Father’s world: O let me ne’er forget That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: Why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King: let the heavens ring! God reigns; let earth be glad! 

What Matters

In this year the veil between the secular, worldly, and the eternal has thinned. 

We are seeing more of our humanity, but also our eternal natures in so many ways.

And doesn’t this classic hymn speak to those truths?

This is my Father’s world.

His hand the wonders wrought.

All of Creation declares their Maker’s praise.

He speaks to me everywhere.

And perhaps most pointedly:

“Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”

The Point of it All

It has been my desire in blogging to thin the veil between the mundane, the secular and the sacred. To draw close to the spheres all around us.

To see God our Father in His majesty.

I hope you have received encouragement from my thoughts and musings.

And as I continue into 2021, that you will be uplifted to acknowledge that “This is my Father’s World. The Lord is King. God reigns. Let earth be glad.”

Of Daffodils and Spring

Cynthia L. Eppley 04/07/2021

Spring If you’ve been outside at all, you’ll know that spring is upon us, and (hopefully) there will be no more snow.
At least if you live in the Metro Philadelphia area.
And with the coming of Spring comes the flowers. If you have been reading my blogs, you already know that I love flowers. (See Flowers and Their Legacy.)

Yellow

Yellow isn’t really my favorite color. But how can you resist the upturned fluted bowl of a daffodil?
Sure, there are forsythia. But they are standard fare.
The daffodils range from a soft buttery shade, to a bright sunshine filled sharp mustard. Then there is the variety of orange centers, pink centers….the list goes on.

March

They seem to be such happy flowers, and they cheer me at the end of March.
By that time, I don’t think I can hold out for Spring much longer.
Winter has drug on and on and on…..
And actually, they pop up in January. But they must know that they will be covered in ice and snow if they should open. So they weather the cold with patience and wait until the fullness of time.

Timing

Funny thing about my flowers, and gardening in general:
I post their joyous arrival from the dirt as they tentatively poke their heads up. And every year they seem to push their way through the soil about the same time. Usually within a one week span.

New Life?

I thought my lungwort had died. We had about 6 weeks of ice and snow and we all seemed to hibernate. My lungwort seemed to be trampled and dead. It usually begins to flower in February.
But wait….

About the beginning of March, I spied new sprouts coming up and sure enough, new buds and blossoms.
And my rhubarb comes up near the end of February as well.
Sometimes I have to brush away leaves, but sure enough, the green stems and flowers are pushing through.

I am so delighted to see the plethora of colors that I speak to them:
“Well look at you! Welcome!”
And I post them on Social Media.
This is like my gardening journal as I chronicle the arrival of each plant in my garden. People almost expect me to post the pictures.

When I ask who is ready for Rhubarb pie? There are many takers.

Fullness of Time

What amazes me about my garden is the reliability of each species.
Each has its’ own growth path and season.
Before their arrival, the garden is stark and bare, a flat brown canvas hiding a treasure beneath its crushed leaves.

It is almost like “The Strange Magic” of Narnia that bids it come forth in its’ time.

Random Time?

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.

What if each of these plants is destined to burst forth in it’s own time? What if each is individual in color, form, and even purpose?
What if none of this is random….at all?

Perfect Time

I’ve just come in from gardening, and it is a perfect day for it.
It’s also the perfect time: digging up perennials and splitting them must come early in the season. And I, impatient as I am, eagerly dig up clumps and carry them unceremoniously to a new home.

Faithfulness

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” is a classic Hymn of the Faith and it speaks to the Rhythms of the Seasons:

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided— Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong recorded “What a Wonderful World” in 1967:

I see trees of green Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself What a wonderful world!

All is Right with the World

The long winter is over.
Spring has come.
It is the time for gardening.
But as I look at my daffodils, and emerging plants, I am reminded again of the Creator who has set all things right in “The Fulness of Time.”
He is ever faithful.
And my joy is full as I remember:

“God is in His Heaven, all’s right with the world.”

Covid Easter and Babka

Cynthia L. Eppley 04/03/2021

Babka

Easter 2021

There is no way we could believe that Covid would have us in its ugly clutches this year. Last year? The Pandemic was new, and jokes abounded about our situation.
We could hold out for Easter and other holidays knowing that this, too, would end. Soon. Or so we hoped.

But Easter 2021 is upon us and there are still restrictions. Some churches are still closed. Some are meeting although socially distant.
What is a person to do?

How is this Year unlike any other Year?

Again, reminiscent of the night of Passover, when significant questions are asked—and make us think of the significance of this sacred holiday.
It is Easter.
And often families arrive to celebrate with us.

Easter egg hunts are created, even inside if the weather does not permit an outside romp. Traditional meals are served.
But this year has brought Covid.
And some families are not able to gather.

Some families have lost loved ones, and this may be the first Holiday without them.
Others have family abroad who are unable to come home due to country lockdowns.
And still others have family close by physically, but unable to join us.
There may be a bit of melancholy as we remember how Easter was celebrated; the differences can be stark.

Bake!

For those of us inclined to bake, it is a fantastic way to relieve stress—not to mention the wonderful baked goods that are created in our kitchens.
But really? Bake for just us? Bake just for me?

Paula

Then I got this message from my dear friend Paula:

“ I am enjoying myself with a baking project. It’s a family recipe (Joe’s mother with my tweaking) for Babka! After several rising and shaping and adding I have finally put this baby in the oven. It should be done by 1:30. After it cools may I bring you a chunk?
I feel my family around me when i do these things.”

Who am I to say “no” to a chunk of baked goods?
She invited me over to savor the aroma.
When I entered the back door, the kitchen was filled with the intoxicating scent of cinnamon. The recipe was her husband’s mothers’, embellished with her own additions. The original recipe was in Joe’s handwriting, with small changes scribbled in the margins.
And on the center of the table? a small display of hand dyed Easter eggs.

Easter past and Easter present

Holidays are a time of bittersweet joy mixed in with sorrow. Remembrances of holidays past, and the reality of what we have now. By recreating cherished dishes and traditions, we feel our families once again near to us.
Paula found joy in the creation of Easter present, fueled by Easter past.

And she shared that joy with us.

The Aroma of Christ

2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

Easter Morning

Our senses are alive with the presence of Christ. Perhaps it is an early morning service, misty with the dampness of the new day. Or the sweet fragrance of Easter flowers when we enter the sanctuary of worship, bright with hope and joy.
Our senses come alive in the shades of Easter eggs, whether they are “real” hard boiled eggs, or plastic; in the aroma of our homemade meals and traditional menus.

In Christ, we are the aroma of Him to all those around us.
What better way to remember this than with a thick slice of Babka? Come Easter morning, I’ll cut a large slice of that Babka and rejoice in good food, good friends, and most of all the goodness of our Risen Savior.
Hallelujah!
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Easter Eggs

Cynthia L. Eppley 04/02/2021

Easter and Eggs

It is that time of year where Easter eggs are being dyed. Sure, there are the plastic ones that get reused every year.
There are Ukrainian eggs that are lovingly and meticulously painted.
But dying Easter eggs the old fashioned way?

It is a classic rite of childhood. And parents and grandparents enjoy it as well.

Dye

So what is a Grandparent to do when a little one is here with you?
Dye Easter eggs. It sounds simple enough doesn’t it?
But the new razzle dazzle methods are not sufficient. No mixes for us. No, these had to be the regular water, food dye, and a touch of vinegar.

Dunk

So we got out several mugs and added the food dye. Many combinations were created, and patience was required as we waited for the dye to do its job.
Of course, who can resist lifting it out of the murky solution to check on the progress?

The Roll

As eggs were dyed, they were brought out and placed on the counter.
Or maybe on a plate.
Either way, I don’t remember specifically.
I do remember hearing the slow roll across the counter. Almost in slow motion, and then the…..

Splat

Splat

The egg dropped onto the floor with not a crunch, as we’d expect from a hard boiled egg, but a “Splat.”
Uh-oh.
Her big eyes looked at mine as if to question my reaction.

What is a grandmother to do except laugh?

The Messy Clean Up

Eggs are a nasty business to clean up.
And why the “splat” and not the “crunch?”
Evidently, I had not cooked the eggs long enough. Maybe 5 more minutes would have done the trick.
So back into a simmering water bath they went.
Who would have known that the dye would have been lost in the new bath?
Now they looked mottled and grey.
Not quite the colorful plethora of shades we had anticipated.
This was more the color of death.

Good Friday

Considering what Jesus did on the Cross, there is much to consider. His body was beat and broken and hung on a tree.

Matt 20: 17-19
Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests

and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Crushed and Broken

Isaiah 53:5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Jesus was crushed for our iniquities, for our sins. The punishment we deserved was placed upon Him. In a miraculous exchange, we are healed through His wounds.

Splattered Lives

But perhaps we don’t feel healed right now.
Perhaps our lives seem to be “splattered” all over the floor.
Perhaps we can’t seem to find our way forward through the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Perhaps our lives look dull and grey like death.

The Reality

In reality, we may as well be dead in our sins.
The stores may be selling brightly colored plastic eggs and decorations.
Easter is getting more commercialized with gifts galore.
Bunnies smile at us from display shelves.
It seems innocent and cute and adorable.
But the reality of the Cross stands in stark contrast to the commercialized hype.

Friday is here….but Sunday is coming!

So we take our broken lives, that may look gray and shattered, and we offer them up to Jesus. He alone can fix the chaos of our lives.
He can look at the mottled mess smeared across the floor.
He takes our sin and casts it into the depths of the sea.

What kind of miraculous exchange is this that takes our broken, crushed lives and gives us new life?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Homeschooling in PA

Homeschooling in PA From My Heart To Your Home

Open Our Eyes, Lord!

Gary Shogren's Blog

Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

Tim Challies

Informing the Reforming

Counseling from a Christian View

Christ Counseling and Life

For Younger Pastors

Musings on Lessons Learned Along the Way

Discover

A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.