Sunday night six years ago…

Dear Len,

How I remember the afternoon, you were driving the many hours from finishing your job out of state and heading home for Christmas. We talked four times that Sunday afternoon. We talked about your gift for Dan and how you were writing your poem. You said you had the best poem ever and you would just need to remember it long enough to get home and write it down.

And then I went to work out at the Kroc, and we said we would talk soon and that was the last time we spoke. Six years ago tonight we got the call that shattered our hearts and drew us all closer.

RK Big familyWe have missed your presence in significant ways and in small ways. From your sense of adventure on vacations to your curiosity and compassion when you would call and say “what’s up?” I love to remember how you loved Marcia and the kids. The stories that you would retell that got funnier every time you told them and the classic family meeting minutes when you would share your quest for a healthy happy family where everyone’s voice was heard, and complaints were given proper credence, but love and compliments always prevailed. Life wasn’t perfect, there were lots of struggles and hardships as well, and there are days I am grateful you have been released from the battles that made life hard.

The kids are doing amazing, and each of them has weathered their grief in honest and courageous ways. Somehow I am sure you know that Papa died as he is no longer with us and now with you in that space of eternity that we long for and yet are so not able to truly comprehend.

In the space of days when Papa was sick and died, Your crew reflected with such wise and compassionate words as to how grief has grown them, and they are stronger and kinder and gentler adults because of it. They miss you so much, and we speak of you often.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1b64eWe love seeing Olivia more, and her heart burns for social justice and racial reconciliation. She has a searching, yearning, never satisfied soul just like her Dad. She is an athlete, a leader, a hard worker, articulate, funny, fierce and tender and so much more. She is filled with such beauty and grace, and we can see that she is a beautiful mix of you and Marcia. She is almost 22 and growing into an adult who will leave her mark on the lives of those she interacts with. She is clear and asks for what she needs. She is brave and she is fun. You would love her sense of adventure, her longing to travel the world and her commitment to stay home and get done what needs to be done. It is exciting to consider all her future might hold.

Noah also is a gentleman you would be so proud of. He is perceptive and well mannered and looks out for Beppe in ways that would bring tears to your eyes. Noah is intuitive to when people need a hug or a smile and his hugs have the strength that you are hugging us through him. He is doing well in school and is a leader both on and off the Lacrosse Field.

Recently I saw a Facebook post on Lauren’s picture where you said, “I choose her,” and they were just friends and now they have been dating for 5 years. Lauren joined us for Christmas this year, and I am pretty sure you would have had such fun with their growing relationship.

noahThere are so many moments where we say to him how proud we are and oh, your father would just smile so at this or that. He has the same loud Len voice that you were blessed with, and his sense of humor could only be matched by you! He is unique and bold and so one of a kind. He will make an excellent teacher and is responsible with his planning and finances. I like to think you have a sense for all he is up to and marvel at how much a boy can be like his father. sonta

Sonta is such a beautiful young woman. We are finally planning to return to Haiti to meet their birth mom. How I hope it will happen this year. We all remember that you were going to take her when she turned 16. We began to consider fulfilling your promise then but now I think we are finally ready. She is finding her way in the academic and work world, and I know you would understand that math is not her favorite. There are times I think she is just like her father, only being reminded by her beautiful Haitian skin that she did not come directly from your DNA. She is free-spirited, feisty, kind, beautiful and creative. She continues to find her way and her bond with her sibs is strong, and you would love the ways they are family together.

Jean Marc is playing high school basketball, and I shudder to consider what you would ben%uMUEJtTS6pIGEipxA_thumb_1b604 like at each and every game. I can almost hear you cheering him on! He is strong and handsome and has a smile that always melts my heart. He met the newest baby boy this weekend in our bunch, and he was so gentle and such a natural. We love to watch the video clip of you and he, and it always makes us laugh and also cry a few tears. Jean Marc would rather play basketball than most anything else, and because of that he keeps his grades up and gives the game his all. We will go and watch and miss you and Dad at the games, but you can be sure we will cheer him on every chance we get.

Len, it is almost 6 years to the hour that we got the call that you were gone. It is quiet in my house as I remember. I have tears, and I am aware of the mystery of time. The complexity of grief and life and love and loss. I have learned that the kindest way to live is to live in the moment, carrying whatever my heart holds and being gentle with it.

lenfamTonight as I listen to John Denver and the Muppets and look at pictures and reflect back but also look forward, I am aware again how you live on in the lives of your children. Marcia remains in our lives, and we share many hugs, laughter, and tears. God is good to us in our heartbreak, our heartache, our mundane and ordinary and in our joy. So much has transpired in six years and yet your in my heart always.

I miss you brother, I love you, and I will see you again,

Until that time,

Trish

It’s time…

Do you ever have something that you know you are resisting? When the time to begin again feels difficult but the thought doesn’t leave you? That is how the idea of writing again has been. People have mentioned they miss my blogs and extended kind invitations to write again. I have often begun or ended the day with the thought of writing, I have even started and started again, but for some reason, I have not yet hit publish.

But now, I am sitting with an open afternoon, surrounded by my family, with noise that fills the space of a beautiful, large, log cabin cottage where we are celebrating Christmas. I wonder what to do with the time that is before me and I know that it is time.

Hard to imagine it was 7 months yesterday since my Dad left us. Hard to believe it is six years tomorrow since my brother Len left us.

I believe that one of the greatest lessons I have learned in the journey of love and loss is the choices that are before me each and every day.

Choices of how I will be true to the feelings of my heart.

Choices of how I will be true to the legacy of Len or my Dad.

Choices of how I will live out the calling to be uniquely me?

I have many moments where my grief is tender and my ache feels deep. I am aware that when the days and months come and go, 7 months doesn’t feel like that long. Some things are still so fresh and there are always the firsts. A few people have mentioned to me lately how year two is harder than year one. I am reminded then that even after 6 years, we have spaces where Len is deeply missed. Grief and time are a funny thing. Those who were so present with us in so many ways are now gone and missed in so many places.

And yet, yesterday, I thought wow, 7 months. A whole summer and fall without my Dad. I grill the meat more often, I know how to use his gas-powered blower and I now know the mixture of the gas oil ratio for his large snow blower. I miss his pipe, his input, his voice and most of all his quiet but large presence in my/our world. Tonight as we open gifts I will miss his poetry and his laughter.

Len and my Dad were a big part of us, but they were not our only gifts of goodness. We had 28 people gathered last night and we held hands to pray for dinner, we were reminded of all we have. The goodness in the people who are present and the gifts that are innumerable. We are gathered at a beautiful place together on Lake Michigan to share in the abundance of love and relationships under this log cabin roof. We remembered Len by singing the Navy hymn and eating homemade burgers (but Nick didn’t burn them. :-), and watching a video of our favorite photos. We remembered my Dad by watching a video and sharing gifts that speak to his life and goodness. We have laughed and we have cried, we have joy and we have sorrow, we have spaces that hold an abundance of noise and moments of silence that are both reflective and precious.

And so this holiday season we have choices. Choices about how we will grieve. We have choices about who we will grieve with and how we will speak of our grief. We have choices about what our Christmas season will look like, not denying what is real, but embracing all that our hearts hold. The holiday and grief is complicated but not impossible. There is goodness and there is sorrow and both are equally real. And both invite me to good spaces. And both are true not only in our lives but in so many others. So, I am aware that it is time to write again. It is time to share all my heart holds in creative ways through words. It is time to put in black and white that even on the hard days, hope anchors my soul. For that I am grateful! And now to honor my Dad with closing words He would use to end his written communications.

Glory be to God!