A Man’s Description of the Permanence of Loss

Just over 15 years ago I was at work on a Wednesday afternoon when I received a frantic phone call from a neighbor. He advised me that EMT personnel were outside my home with my wife. I immediately started to drive the short 6 1/2 miles home but somehow knew that I would not find her alive. My suspicion was confirmed when I got out of my vehicle and was told by this same neighbor, “Royce, don’t go to her…where they are…it isn’t good”. I complied, and in a few minutes I saw them load my wife’s lifeless body into a van. It would be much longer before the doctor came out to me with a sad face giving the news I fully expected, “I’m so sorry Mr. Ogle, we couldn’t get her back”. It was official, my wife was gone….forever.

Now, fifteen years later as I reflect on that day, and the days and months that followed, I am amazed at how God helped me through one of the toughest times of my life. I remember the pain as sharp as a knife, the loneliness, the utter sadness, and all the flood of emotions that continued to ebb and flow as I walked the lonely road of grief.

Now I have been married to another Texan for almost thirteen years. Carol is a wonderful wife, the perfect one for me! I am so thankful that it pleased God to bring us together as He did. Two broken and battered hearts who when joined together would be used to help and encourage many others who too were in the darkness of grief.

Today, that bubbly, funny, wild and beautiful woman I married in 1980 is only a memory. When we exchanged wedding vows we said these words, “…’til death do us part.” Death did it’s unwanted and unacceptable work, it parted us…forever.

Marriage is only for living earthlings. Every marriage begins at some moment in time and ends at some moment in time, either by death or divorce. The key word is “time”. Marriage, and other familial relationships, are only for time, they are not for eternity. When we all get to heaven there will be no marriages, the Bible is clear about that. You see, when my love and yours is perfect like our heavenly Father’s, we will no longer discriminate between people. When I love like God loves, I’ll love your mom as much as I do mine. Those family relationships that are only intended for time will be no longer needed, they will be obsolete.

It is against the back drop of these truths that memories of loved ones who have gone become even more precious and guarded. I think it is God’s design to give us sweet episodes to relive in our minds, to remember good times with those we love so much, until….. Until we see Jesus our Lord face to face and finally know fully what it is to love and be loved…unconditionally, forever.

I have had good cause to contemplate these things. Deaths of parents, loved ones, family members by the scores, and a wife… and now in the autumn of my life I am very aware that my time is drawing near, a myth doesn’t satisfy. I want to realize the goal of my faith. I want to see The Lamb of God.

While I’m here I want to fully enjoy and appreciate all the relationships God has been so kind to give. But when they are gone it is…, well it is…, as Paul said it “Far better..”. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take “Far better” anytime! No more funeral homes, no more grave side services, no more sickness, no more pain, no more broken hearts. Every child of God will be perfectly whole because “By His stripes we are healed”.

Cherish your precious memories. They are one of God’s best gifts to you, until you have it all! Whatever Jesus owns you and I will own, whatever He loves we will love without measure. I can’t begin to imagine how it will be one day when memories become as useless as the sun, no longer needed.

Precious promises and precious memories! God is good indeed!

Royce Ogle

For the Broken Hearted

“An eighty-year-old woman whose partner of fifty years has just died, must face the reality of having lost her lifetime companion, friend, and lover.  Such experiences shape each person’s ongoing formulation of self…”  (Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, 2nd Ed. p. 10).

I didn’t have to read this in a half price college text book, to know it is true.  How many times have I sat at the foot of a bed, and listened to those who have lost a mate after scores of years?  It’s heartbreaking for me as a (still) married man.  How much more for the person that suffers the loss?  I think I really have no idea.

And honestly, no one else knows what your grief is like, even if they, too, have lost a spouse.

YOUR relationship was unique.  There was never another just like it.  So.  What to do?

“And how am I to BE?  Its been a long time since I sat in church alone.  Watched TV alone.  Slept alone.

Alone.

Deep within me there is another.  The Christ.  He, too, suffered alone.  Bore his cross as I am bearing this one now.  Not like THE cross, but my cross nonetheless.

Somehow this comforts me now.  Assures me that this is not all “aloneness” but solitude.  It hurts, but it is getting better.  Slowly, but surely, I am learning to BE once again.”

For the brokenhearted…

David Martin

A Possum, an Egg, the Devil, and Fear

A Possum, an Egg, the Devil, and Fear

“Go gather the eggs, David.” I loved doing chores with Dad when I was a scant six years old. When he gave the order, I eagerly rounded the corner into the chicken coop. The nests were on the east wall. The west side of the tin barn had one small window that allowed the setting sun to send a sharp shaft of light onto the setting hens. It would have been another warm childhood memory, save for the large possum in the top row. The fading sunlight struck his eyes in the darkened barn, giving his eyes an unearthly glow.   In his paws were the respective halves of an egg-shell… the sticky, yolk dripping from his mouth. Then he hissed at me!

This was a little more than a six year could handle.   I backed to the west side of the coop without taking my eyes off the critter, for fear it would leap at me. My dad came in and saw my dismay, asking what was wrong. My jaws begin working, but no sound came out. I pointed at the demon in the roost, and my Father calmly, (but with a serious tone that could not be misunderstood), told me to go get the 22 (rifle). I ran as fast as my skinny legs would carry me, fetched the gun, and a box of shells. I scurried back down the path to the barn, where my Dad took the weapon from my grip. “Now go on back to the house.”

I gladly obeyed. In just a couple of minutes, the crack of that rifle silenced my fears. My Dad…my hero… has just dispatched the devil!

I am older now, and my Dad is no longer here to destroy my demons. My fears…well, they have taken on different forms. My fears don’t exactly have egg yolk dripping from their pointed fangs!

Those fears can be sharp and biting just the same. Cancer…spinal injury…stroke…demons that threaten my health, and leave me slowly turning on a spit. They are grown up fears that cause words to catch at my throat, and snatch my breath away.

I have had to find a father’s voice that would always be there…that could not be stripped away by death.

Once a 20-year old called and tried to talk to me, but he could not get the words out, though I am sure his mouth was moving. It was a choking, garbled sound. “What? Terry, I couldn’t understand you.” More garbled words, and then his mother took the phone and told me his sister had been killed in a car wreck.

Not what you want to hear at 1:30 in the morning. I went.

And I stood. I stood by a younger friend who wept over the bed of a two-month old…just a baby…who had unknowingly lost her mother.   Again, as in the chicken coop, my mouth moved as I tried to speak, but no sound came out. I am pretty sure that was a blessing. What kind of words matter in the face of such horror?

Speechless then, we embraced. Terry and I and cried together.

That was good.

It took a long time for Terry to feel better, I imagine. I can’t really know. I have never lost a sibling.

But maybe you have.   Maybe you could hold someone who is facing a fearful demon…you know…help them along the way…join them in the dark places so they can find the Father’s voice…and be comforted once again.

 

David Martin

Vibrations of Reality

Vibrations of Reality

On PBS…
one night Andrea Bocelli sang …
….in front of Christmas trees that dotted the stage.

Ethereal sounds punctuated
by long connected notes…
At times brought tears to my eyes,
then tightness in my throat.

The dissonance of my worried meanderings…
melted into a pool of beauty, passion, and hope.
The musical of all musicals…
the sound of the spheres thrummed…
with ever rising crescendo…

That affirms that there is more to life than what I see
And in the music of the gifted tenor
The whisper of eternity.

Shared by David Martin

Grief Happy?

GRIEF HAPPY?

Sometimes well meaning friends try to talk us out of our grief.  “Stay busy.  Get all their clothes out of the house.  It’s time you move on.”

Others may shame you.  “You should have more faith!  It was God’s will.”  But your feelings of grief and loss continued unabated.

I submit that faith isn’t about happy feelings. It’s about believing when the feelings aren’t there.  Deep, abiding faith sustains in times of raw grief.

As the Psalmist reminds us,

“Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me…” (Ps. 23: 4a NIV).

David Martin, DMin

The Jug

Sometimes, in the hot summer months, I visit patients who cannot drink fluids (NPO). I cannot give them water, but we often pray together as we ponder that water, when received, satisfies like no other.
A few years ago, after one of these visits, I tried to think of a time when I was as thirsty as my patients. This came to mind.

The Jug

Simmering summer days
Bring back memories of cotton fields
In West Texas on Dad’s farm.
Cracked earth, agape and begging
For a drink while
My own thirst pushed me faster
To the end of the row
Where a burlap jug waited
In the shade of a careless weed
Tall and broad enough
To cast its own shade,
For my precious cache of water.

John 4:10 “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Psalm 42: 1-3, 11b “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?…Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

    

David Martin

DNR: “It doesn’t mean, ‘Democrat, Not Republican!’”

I entered her room with the knowledge that she had had a heart attack. She looked like she was improving. Even though she looked okay, the shades were drawn and the room was dark. That should have told me something, but I forged ahead. She pointed out that I had visited her before in another hospital. Soon, she began to tell me her story which I summarize here:

She began about her kidney failure, with a fistula in place (in order to assist with dialysis), but now doctors aren’t going to do dialysis or any heart surgery, since they found a heart valve problem. At her age of 88, “they aren’t going to do anything. I’ve survived cancer, lived with lots of health problems, but now they can’t fix me anymore. I’ve been put on hospice and now I’m ready to go.”         

I realized that this was more than a routine hospital visit. This woman, this servant of God, was saying goodbye. She began to give what grief experts term “life review.” I have learned in my fourteen years as a hospital chaplain that if we will just listen long enough, we might be privileged to hear an incredible life story…that life counted for something…‘why I am here, after all.’

So, I just sat and listened, nodding from time to time, to let her know I was paying attention. She spoke of being a charter member of her church. She rehearsed her stories of her love for her husband, now deceased. She smiled as she told about moving back to Temple, Texas, “three times…but, the last time I came alone.” There was a gleam in her eye as she discussed her love for her children, saying, “I raised them all to be believers in God…I did my best.” Thinking about her family, she chuckled when her son-in-law told her that the Do Not Resuscitate order depicted on her wristband, “DNR”, meant ‘Democrat, Not Republican!’ “I told him that’s surely NOT what it meant!’”

Finally, she shared her love of church. Her eyes sparkled as she recalled visits from elders, church members and favorite preachers who had come not just once, but many times to check on her. The conversation concluded with her love for God and a forward look toward heaven where, as she said, “my husband and a son are waiting.”  Family. Friends. Church. God. These were important markers in her life.

Desiring to say something helpful, I shared I wished for a magic wand to take away her pain. Sensing some anxiousness in my voice, she reassured me, “It’s going to be okay, for I know I’m okay with God.” I thanked her for allowing me the privilege to sit with her. She reached for my hand, and together we prayed for her courage, for her faith, and for being a blessing to others and to her children as she looked forward to going home to heaven.

As often happens with someone who is nearing death’s door, I sensed God’s presence while talking with this great faith pilgrim, to spend a moment with her at the end of her journey. I was invited into her sacred space, with an invitation to see the face of God.

Thank you for helping Lifeline Chaplaincy to be present in such powerful, holy moments.

By Tom Nuckels, Director of Spiritual Care, Central Texas