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My Mom died seven weeks ago today. I was able to fly to Arizona and see her before she passed, talk to her, pray with her. 

And then I lived with my Dad until the memorial service last weekend, and flew back this week. 

Part of what I did with my Dad was technical stuff – setting up a new computer and new cell phone, getting a new printer and house phone. Part of it was deciding about my Mom’s stuff – clothes, books, craft things. 

And part of it was getting the house livable. 

When I got there, the fridge was full. Open the door and it was solid. Not shaky – nothing fell out. But nothing could go in. 

I knew that wasn’t right – two people cannot completely and usefully fill a fridge. I’m not going to give details, but after I got done, there was room in the fridge. Space on shelves, visibility to the back wall – it was beautiful. 

But how did it get like that? My Dad had a couple rough months, with my Mom in and out of different hospitals in different cities. The fridge just didn’t rank high enough in his list of priorities. I get that. 

But I also know that time passes and things go bad no matter how busy you are – and it gets worse the busier you are. 

So we are at the time of communion. 1 Corinthians 11:28 says “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” This is talking about your own fridge, your own stacked-full shelves and drawers. Don’t remember that special dinner from two months ago? See it for what it is – old, spoiling leftovers. Don’t hang onto a thing if it isn’t doing anything good, if it isn’t good. See things with new eyes, with Jesus’ eyes. Every time of communion, every prayer, can be a fresh start. Let’s pray. 

Father God, thank you for the encouragement, for your redemptive power to make all things new. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Cleaning up in the bathroom she used. Lotions, soaps, shampoos, ointments, tinctures, shower gel, hair gel, probably some gel gel. Being donated to a charity supporting battered women. They are getting it all, unopened and partially used.

Well, not everything. Loofa gloves, which I didn’t know existed, yes. Razor and toothbrush, no. I’m sure they could be sterilized, but there’s a line somewhere.

None of that stuff, even the highly personal things, caused an emotional tweak in me. She is the one who opened it, the only one who ever used it, and her hand placed it in the medicine chest. But those things were tools, replaceable without a second thought. More shampoo, more toothpaste? She stored her backups on a shelf at the grocery store.

But there are things that are significant, that have an emotional component. Her pincushion, placed on a table beside her rocking chair. A collection of buttons, grown organically instead of purchased. And her Bible, marked-up, and closer to her (physically and spiritually) than the pincushion.

Toothbrushes are not essential. The Word, holy scripture, is.

With my Mom’s passing, there is an immediate reaction on my part to turn everything about her into something to be venerated, something holy. The numbers surrounding her final days – time of death, heart rate, breathing rate. The last recipe she gave me. Her projects that were in process.

This is the first time I have been through a great loss. The avoider part of me wants very much to get into the details – build that time-line of when she was in and out of the hospitals. I could spend years looking for missing details – while ignoring the details of my own life, my own grieving.

This is not meant to belittle her or her death. She was a wonderful woman, very strong, a creator, loving, caring. She was unique (like we all are). She liked lighthouses. She baked Christmas cookies like no other. She wasn’t perfect, but she was my only mother.

She showed me the way to Christ. I remember as a cynical teenager, I walked down our driveway and found her kneeled at the back bumper of her car, praying. I remember being awed that she was serious about this Christianity stuff. And those prayers didn’t stop.

She was greatly into crafts. Basket-weaving was a specialty – she gave classes, sold her baskets at craft shows (and donated the money to charity and missions), and knit scarves (again donating proceeds). One of her last projects is a mystery. She had gathered Halloween cards my brother and I had received from our grandparents. Unsure what was going to happen with those,but the cards were on top of the working pile.

To bring this back around, I’m interested in what that project was. But I’m not going to research what it could have been. Not going to look at her browsing history to find the how-to. I took pictures of the cards, shared them with my brother. And I know it was motivated by love.

The numbers don’t matter – she passed from congestive heart failure. The hospice nurse told me that she was following a textbook path towards her death. If there were minor variations along the way, so be it.

And I really felt the need to enshrine that recipe. From her hospital bed, in a video call, she told me about a sweet potato / apple / maple syrup recipe. Now understand she had never made it – this wasn’t a family favorite. She didn’t have the recipe, and told I could find it on Google. (potentially this one) But I was ready to decree that we absolutely needed to have this every Thanksgiving, because – Mom.

But I’m reminded of Jesus’ words, recorded in Matthew and Luke: “Let the dead bury the dead”. She made a big difference, in many lives. But she’s gone. David’s “But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” in talking about his infant son applies. And “we grieve, but not as the world grieves”.

My Dad said “life goes on”. Not flippantly or irreverently, but truthfully. Do not forget, but do not live there.

Cherry bonbons

My Mom, Mary Kathleen Fluharty Aubrey, gets to worship in a bigger congregation today.

85 years old. November 28, 1936 to December 5, 2021. Permanant residency transferred to Heaven.

I bought a lock-picking kit at the end of August. Tools and some clear locks for practice.

Tonight I tried it, and I was successful! Yes, I’m sure the locks are made to open easily. Doesn’t matter. I took a lock that opens with a key, and opened it without a key.

I’m kinda proud. Doesn’t translate into real-world skills, yet, but it’s a skill (experience?) that I didn’t have yesterday.

Communion Meditation 2021-09-12

Yesterday was the twenty-year anniversary of 9/11, when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania.  That was a terrible, tragic event, one that I hope never happens again.

The whole country, the whole world, was alarmed, very watchful, on high alert – and rightfully so.  Everybody was glued to their news sources – television, radio, newspapers – for days on end, wanting to find out more, to understand what had happened.

Which brings me to my own twenty-year anniversary, which is today.  On September 12th, twenty years ago today, I was scheduled to have my gall bladder removed.  We had confirmed that yes, the surgery was going to go forward.  So I went.

My memory is a little hazy, because of the anesthesia, but my recollection is that everybody, from the receptionist up to the surgeon, was watching the TV.  The nurse feeding me jello afterwards would kind of aim the spoon at my mouth and let me finish the action, because she was looking elsewhere.

Did this concern me, make me wonder about the quality of the surgery I had just gotten?  Yes, it did – but without reason.  As distracted as they might have been, the doctor and nurses were still professionals.  They got their job done, regardless of the cost.  They may have had relatives or friends on the planes, or in the buildings, but they did what they needed to do.

And that makes me think of Jesus.  He had a task – to do God’s will.  That included living a perfect, sinless life, and dying on the cross without guilt.  He gathered and taught the disciples across years, teaching and correcting them. He had one job, and he did it perfectly.  Was it easy?  No – He was tempted in every way, just as we are – but He resisted temptation.  Did He want to pour out His blood on the cross?  No, He prayed the exact opposite.  Did He do His Father’s will?  Yes.  Hebrews 12:2 says “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He did the job, He ran the race, He won the prize.  That is what we are remembering now, with the bread and the juice.  Let’s pray.

Father God, You loved and still do love Your Son.  You loved and still do love us.  Thank you for having Jesus show us the way, and pay the price for our salvation.  In His name I pray, Amen.

Two black cylindrical things

Two nifty things recently, both black and round in two dimensions.

The Amplifi Alien has been serving wifi throughout the house for a month, and doing a wonderful job of it. Phones, streaming devices, wireless printer – everything just works. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Is it a terrible thing that I can’t do network segmentation on it? Nope, no more sad that I can’t extend my hammer. Purchased to do one thing, and it does that thing well.

The other cool thing is a little bluetooth speaker from Anker. Twenty bucks for twenty hours of audio (at lower volumes), that is surprisingly loud, clear, and bassy. It isn’t green – it’s reflecting in the glory of the “signal-is-good” Alien.

Both recommended, for different purposes, of course.

This has been a good week.

  • I turned sixty-mumble, and lived to tell about it.
  • I had a colonoscopy/endoscopy this morning, results next week, and no immediate problems or ill after-effects.
  • I upgraded our home networking with an Amplifi Alien – ‘spensive, but worth it. Mesh system that just works. Our streaming TV service no longer needs a warm-up and no longer pauses. Wish I had done it sooner – been bothersome for months, and a major weight on me.
  • I got my brother-in-law’s site (which I host) up and running with rotating pictures. He’s been asking for that for a long time, and today I had time and energy and inclination to do it. Piwigo to the rescue.

My health is good. My God is great. My job is turning around (less stressful). My weight is the lowest it’s been in 22 months, and down 30 pounds from my high three and a half years ago. And for data geeks, that’s in the bottom 4th percentile across daily readings from almost 8 years.

So what? Not much. This isn’t a brag post, nor a humble brag one. I just feel good about what I have gotten accomplished. And that’s been a while.

PS: That pic of the Alien shows a few things in the blurry background. A potato gun that I got because I wanted to do a project at work that I had named SPUDGUN – never got off the ground, but I like seeing it and saying “spudgun”. A coaster from Scrabble tiles from my very favorite niece Caroline. A model train car from the Rock Island line, because a friend I’ve never met blogged about the trademark being publicly available. My work laptop (powered off), and one of two side monitors that help me do things. The ear coverings of my active sound canceling Bluetooth headphone (sometimes I work better with comfortable music on, and everything else off, even if I’m home alone). A large-letter, lighted keyboard because I’m not getting any younger. The white box contains a piece of bismuth I picked up at the fair a few years ago, which led to my Dad and I home brewing our own bismuth parts, one of which I have in my office window, and I smile every time I see it. Yes, we used thrift store pans. My momma didn’t raise no dummy.

I wish I was a dog.

I was having one of those whiny, gripey woe-is-me moments, thinking life was unfair, and then I realized that dogs have many advantages.  They get fed on a regular basis, and sometimes get scraps from the table.  They get to go for walks with their owner.  And even at the end of their lives, they aren’t worried, because they trust their owner. Wonderful.

Then I started to count my blessings.  I do have ready food, and choose when I want to eat.  I don’t get scraps from the table – I have a seat at the table.  Dogs lying around most of the day is overrated – ask anybody who has spent quantity time in the hospital.

And then, as He does, God moved my thoughts into the spiritual realm.  That table that I have a seat at – it could be anything from David’s “Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of my enemies” to Revelation’s marriage supper of the Lamb.  Going for walks with my owner – well, the great theologian Merle Haggard put it like this:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The son of God discloses

And he walks with me and he talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

The leash that dogs wear?  Jesus said “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.  All through my life, and at the moment of my death, and for all eternity, the Holy Spirit is there, comforting and guiding.

And all this is because although I am a creation of God, like dogs are, I am much more than that.  I am made in His image.  And because I have accepted the gift of salvation, I am a child of God.

So, my life, as it exists right now, even with burdens and cares, is much, much better than a dog’s life.  “This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”.  And why rejoice?  Because of God’s love for us, expressed through Christ and His sacrifice.  Jesus was willingly obedient, by choice, by love, to die for my sins and yours, to ensure that the end of our lives would not be the end of our life with God.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, as we celebrate communion with wafer and juice representing Christ’s body and blood, I thank You for the indescribable gift of salvation.  Your ways are not our ways.  Like Job, I sometimes need to put my hand over my mouth.  I know You love us, and You have plans to give us hope and a future, plans established in time immemorial.  Help me to seek Your will here and now, not wish for something not in Your plan.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

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