Thoughts on 1517 and 2020

On October thirty-first, 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the Castle Church’s door at Wittenberg, Germany, to voice his concern and objection to some of the church’s practices. He chose the day because the faithful would be attending church the following day and see what he had written.

November first is when the church celebrates All Saints’ Day, which is when my story starts. When I woke up on November first, I grabbed the coffee mug appropriate to the day. It was a mug adorned with a picture of Martin Luther’s wife, Katarina von Bora Luther. It seemed a worthy choice.

When my Mom was born, she was called Katie and named Kathryn after Martin Luther’s wife, Katarina von Bora Luther. So, thinking of my dear Mom, who died more than a decade ago, it cheered me to drink my morning coffee in a mug portraying her namesake. I didn’t have a lot of time to dawdle over breakfast, but I managed a few cups of coffee before heading out to church.

When I was getting ready for church, I thought I would wear my Grandmother’s gold cross necklace. I think my Grandpa bought her the necklace. I am cheered whenever I look at it because my Mother was no biblical or theological slouch. Her Father, a Lutheran Pastor, made sure she studied the Bible and theology. My Grandmother let her baby daughter cut her teeth on that cross necklace. There is a pretty floral pattern on the front of the cross, and on the back are tiny dents where my dear Mom did her teething. My Mother, both literally, and figurately, cut her teeth on the cross. How fitting is that?

This morning, I was to play for worship. I chose prelude and postlude music, and on Saturday went over to practice the pipe organ. Unfortunately, I discovered that the organ had many ciphers — notes that were stuck and sounded without anyone pressing them. So I ended up having to play the piano for worship.

I was initially quite pleased to be playing for this service because it has always struck me as a festive day — the saints of God. The redeemed, gone home to the Lord. The hymns were very familiar, and as I played, I read the words that the congregation was singing. But then the words hit too close to home. Thinking of my husband, who died earlier this year, it felt as if the flood gates opened. As I played, the tears began streaming down my face while I followed the words of the hymns.

I don’t know how other people experience grief. With me, it often seems as if a sunny and happy day can turn on a dime. That is what happened as I played for worship this last All Saints’ Sunday.

Thinking about this some days after the fact, I would like to add something that my Dad wrote in a letter to my Mom, which you can read about in an earlier blog post here: When the River Won’t Flow: A Decision Born of Grief

I often pray that God will grant me many more years on this earth, as there are some promises I would like to have time to fulfill and so that I may watch my grandchildren grow up.  That being said, God’s time is different than our time.  So let me echo my Dad’s words to my dear Mom.

To my Lord Ron: the parting shall not be long.

You are my beloved,

and I shall stand arm in arm with you

before the THRONE ITSELF.


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A Delightful Getaway

My parents loved any opportunity to flee their hometown and head for the rolling hills in Ohio. Beyond the beautiful landscape, I suspected my father enjoyed seeing horse-drawn buggies, and he certainly had a weakness for Amish baked pies. I find that I am most definitely his daughter! Decades later, the urge to escape into the countryside is hardwired into my heart.

Last week I accepted a most timely invitation to visit friends who own a farm a few hours drive south of me. (Which is why, if you noticed, I did not publish a blog entry on Friday, October 23rd.) Rather than jumping on the highway, I took backroads through small towns. It was wonderful. But their welcome was even better. I remembered a couple of things about their home, which I was last in probably twenty years ago.

I toured their beautiful home, watched as the combine harvested their corn, and took a little drive to see more of their farm and some of their cattle. After the fact, Jan told me I should have taken a ride on that combine. Nah, I don’t think so. But she did answer my question and reported that they have 29 cows, three heifers, and one Bull. I also learned a few things about meat!

We had a great visit, which included a few intriguing antique shops, a delicious lunch out, a working mill, a covered bridge, and the best tasting pie I’ve had in quite some time. This pie was homemade by my incredibly talented friend.

Grief is a hard taskmaster, but friendship and visits are blessed respites. I cannot sufficiently thank my friends for the relaxing, fun, adventure-filled weekend they gave me.

(Raspberry Buttermilk Crumb Pie)

I have given them fair warning that I have no intention of waiting another two decades before escaping to their blessed haven of a home again!

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A Literary Wedding Anniversary

It is perhaps a character flaw, but I am a keeper of lists. Among other things, I have a roster on my computer of important birthdays and anniversaries. It is updated regularly, and it reminded me that today is the birthday of a nephew. But, today is also the wedding anniversary of two literary characters out of the annals of Sherlock Holmes. One of those is Sherlock’s excellent colleague, Dr. John Watson.

That may not instantly ring a bell for you, but as a child, I read every story that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about his famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. In my estimation, these stories were perfectly depicted in film with the casting of Jeremy Brett as Doyle’s detective.

In the episode of the Sign of Four, Miss Morstand contacted Mr. Shelock Holmes regarding the communication that she received and the latest pearl annually sent to her. It was then that Mr. Holmes and his colleague Dr. Watson first became acquainted with Miss Morstand.

On October 27, 1888, Dr. John Watson married the thoughtful and beautiful Miss Mary Morstand. I raise my glass to them.

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The Roller Coaster of These Days

I have lost people dear to me before: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncle, and my dear Godparents. Through divorce, I lost my first husband; even though I was the one who sought it, it has never stopped being a weight and sorrow upon my heart.

But the weight of grief upon my heart when my dear husband died this last spring has been, at times, crushing. It is no longer the only thing I see in my life. Now, there are ordinary happy events. Meals out with my eldest brother and sister-in-law, who live about four miles from me. Plans for a visit with a nearly lifelong friend whom I haven’t seen in eons. Pictures of cats sent to me daily by some married friends who both seem to adore their furry friends. Lunch out recently with an old friend, which I wrote about in my last blog post called When The River Won’t Flow: Stones and Letters

Oh — and those Letters! They proved to be extraordinary gifts that I hadn’t looked at in years — letters between myself and my friend, who became my much-beloved husband.

Perhaps due to our love’s riches, the feelings of loss are crushing and overwhelming at times. At times those shifts of emotion seem to happen within nanoseconds. All I know to do is to keep on keeping on. God’s hands hold even this.

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Stones and Letters

Earlier this week, I drove about 85 miles north to meet a friend at a cemetery. To be precise, I went to the cemetery where I had purchased some plots and where a recently engraved headstone and markers are in place.

My friend had a shorter drive and was waiting in the parking lot when I arrived. I knew where to look, and we quickly located the two plots not far from where my parents and my mom’s parents are buried.

The stones I was looking for will eventually mark the graves belonging to my husband and me. Right now, all they identify is space. I was pleased with what I saw. I took some pictures, and then we searched for my friend’s grandparents, buried in another portion of the cemetery. We discovered that quickly enough, and relatively close by, my paternal grandparents’ graves.

By this time, we had seen what I traveled north to see, and the two of us left the cemetery and went out for a bite of lunch. We had a delightful lunch at a famous eatery, Tony Packo’s,  caught each other up on decades of our lives, and then we said goodbye, and I began the drive home.

After arriving home, I stayed up a bit past midnight. Finally, feeling a little sleepy, I decided that I better get some shut-eye. Maybe five minutes later, something unexpected happened. A strange feeling came over me that I needed to get out of bed and get a box down from a shelf in the closet.

That box was filled with letters between my husband and me. We exchanged letters when we were just friends, courting, and continued writing during many years of marriage. I read dozens of those letters until the wee hours of the morning.

A strange thing happened as a result. In some ways that I can’t quite explain, reading those letters put the heart back in me. At the end of my darling’s life, it became increasingly more difficult for him to speak. The most cherished was the last I love you that he managed to say to me, shortly before he died. These letters reminded me of the richness of our life and gave me new courage for the days ahead. The box has not been far away from me, yet I didn’t think about it until late at night.

Perhaps I was nudged to open that treasure box and feast my eyes.

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Tough Love

Last Friday, I was a soggy mess. I couldn’t stop crying. I was missing my best friend and husband so much that I couldn’t see straight. For those of you who don’t know, my husband died earlier this year. But that happened sufficiently long ago that it seemed to me that I shouldn’t be so teary-eyed. I was pretty much an emotional wreck. I whined about it to my FB friends, and everyone was thoughtful and kind.

I guess the thoughtful and kind response made me want to tell one more person. That is where I made a tactical error! I whined about it in an email to one of my dearest friends — and she read me the riot act. It was a swift kick via a short return email.

Generally speaking, I don’t hope to be on the receiving end of a swift kick. But I have to say that in this case, it was just what I needed. Sometimes what helps us the most, or motivates us to change, isn’t warm and cuddly.

I am grateful that I have friends and family members who remind me, who and whose I am. I am a baptized child of God, and that same God granted us eleven wonderful married years together. I am thankful for that.

Looking forward, I hope that I have many years ahead of me to watch little ones grow, have more adventures, visit with friends, and, in memory of my dear Ronnie — to stir up some good-hearted mischief. Thank you, LY. You delivered just the medicine that I needed.

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Lure and Trap

At a former job in Arizona, one of my colleagues would regularly hold up as ideal Canada’s medical model where there was healthcare for all. As a veteran’s wife, I have learned both the blessings and limitations of The Veteran’s Administration health care. This experience has often made me want to urge caution regarding universal healthcare.

Over the years, there have been a variety of warnings in world news about socialized medicine. I still recall the 2018 heart-wrenching story of little Alfie Evans. His parents had been offered free medical care for Alfie in Italy. Even the Pope intervened:

“Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 23, 2018

But the English courts forbade his parents to pursue this. Indeed, the British courts removed the parents from the equation at all. The court upheld taking little Alfie off of life support, and he died in the hospital with armed guards at his door. The court prohibited taking Alfie elsewhere for care. They even forbade his parents from taking him home to die with his family at his side. The court’s decision was not about money – but about power.

One of the blessings of living in the USA is the right to choose. In America, we can choose to seek treatment with the doctor and hospital of our choice. Cost may be a deciding factor. But the story of Alfie is a story of power. I am not naive about the cost of medical treatments in America. Indeed, I am intimately acquainted with it as I continue to pay off an obscenely high bill for ten hours in the emergency room in 2011 when I had no insurance.

But socialism, and socialized medicine, are about control and power. Years ago, we were warned by a staff member at a VA hospital that all vets have an expiration date. The staffer went on to say that the nearer you got to that date, the less help you would ever receive. No doubt, such cost equations permeate all businesses, including health care.

When my daughter was born, we were blessed to have a wonderful pediatrician in an excellent pediatric practice. A sign stated that vaccines or medicines not covered by insurance might be prescribed if deemed to be in the child’s best interest. So good care trumped cost. But that was a privately run practice whose doctors owned the business.

Like Charlie Gard before him, the case of Alfie Evans demonstrates what happens when the state becomes the supreme force, and parents are barred from the door. The hospital expected Alfie Evans to die within minutes of having life support withdrawn. But that was not the case. The state was wrong. Alfie clung to life, not just for minutes and hours, but for days.

Over the years, my husband was generally pleased with the doctors he saw within the VA. There were a few that were notably bad exceptions. Sometimes the wait time for veterans was obscenely long, and some lived hours from a VA facility. Now living in a small town in Ohio, we once had to drive eighty-plus miles to see a VA doctor. I am not a fan of socialized medicine and am always thankful for improvements and choice within the Veterans Administration.

But I would urge those who seek universal healthcare to think carefully about what that might mean for you and yours.

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Preemptive Strike

Of course, if you see it coming, it is nice to avoid the potholes of life. But if you weren’t born yesterday, you are well aware that potholes sometimes leap out at you from behind a rock.

Long ago, nearly a century now, there lived a little girl who liked to play outside. She wasn’t very old, and unfortunately, there was a bully who lived nearby. He was much bigger than she was and very mean. His name was Charles. He loved to bully others, in particular, if the others were smaller than he.

The little girl in this story had a toy vacuum cleaner, and one day she took it outside to play. Perhaps she thought it would be fun to vacuum the lawn and sidewalk. But while she was playing, an idea entered into her dear little head. She decided to make a preemptive strike.

She did not consult with anyone regarding her decision. Instead, she went in search of the ruffian Charles. Then, quite calmly, she picked up her toy vacuum cleaner and bopped him on his head. The lad Charles ran home crying to Mommy.

The wee lass cured the young Charles of his bullying ways. He never bothered her again.

I always loved this story, although it is a lesson I occasionally need to revisit. Thank you, Mom!

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On the Subject of Men

This last weekend I had a wonderful time with my daughter’s family, who drove to Ohio from Missouri to spend time with me and take some of their belongings home. It was a wonderful balm to my heart to have them visit. Although we have video chats and talk on the phone, I hadn’t gotten to hug them for a year. I got to hold and hug my grandchildren: ask any grandmother, or Nana, in my case, it is a treat. I am so thankful that they were able to make the trip.

Now they are back home, and I am pondering the way I spend my days. I have plenty of work to do and projects to tackle. Thanks to my daughter and son-in-law, I now have three additional bookcases for my home. Two of which are going into my office. That will help tame the second to last wilderness area of my house. But there is more to life than shelving books and taming the wilderness. Today I looked at prelude and postlude music for the organ as I have a funeral to play for this weekend. Those are worthy tasks. But life is more than projects and responsibilities.

After Ron died, it seemed only nanoseconds later that several friends and even some family members told me to never close the door on getting married again. I have closed that door. Permanently. I wrote about it here: When The River Won’t Flow: This Widow’s View of Men

That said, I like having male friends. Men think differently than women. Men look at the world differently than women. I like having conversations with friends who are men.

I have several male friends I talk to on the phone now and then. I have a guy friend with whom I’m planning to have lunch on the day that I drive up to the cemetery to see Ron’s & my headstone finished and in place.  I’m looking forward to that.

There are several male bloggers who I don’t know from Adam, but whose blogs I love to read because they look at the world so differently than I do. I have three brothers; all three are unique, intelligent, and can be quite entertaining. But periodically, it is nice to talk with people who aren’t your kith and kin.

I am not interested in anything romantic. I’ve had the best of the best. I am a widow, but I am very married. Sometimes it is just pleasant to talk with someone whose brain is wired differently than yours. 


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This Woman’s Heart

Anyone who has loitered on my blogsite — When the River Won’t Flow — within the last eight months, knows that the death of my dearest love has broken my heart.

  • grief is a hard taskmaster
  • my tears flow too frequently
  • sleep often shuns me

The plague’s intervention has further isolated people in varying degrees from one another. A long day’s travel from my home, sweet balm was waiting — a new grandchild. This last weekend that handful of a lad, along with his whole family, came to visit.

I remember thinking when I was a new mom that my back would break carrying my new baby. Instead, I learned that I was in basic training, so that as my baby grew, so did my muscle strength. As I held my new grandchild, it slowly dawned on me that it had been many years since I had that basic training. For the last few days, my back has ached, and my ankles got swollen.

Yesterday morning we three (alternating the two not on baby/ grandbaby duty) loaded their rented trailer with furniture belonging to my daughter. Finally, late morning, they were ready to start their trip home. A short while after they headed for home, I got busy with the laundry. As I started the laundry, the required steps to carry dirty laundry upstairs or bring many of the clean items down, my ankles and back grumbled loudly.

Today, I am celebrating the delightful healing gift to my heart. Aches and pains, even the life-altering pain of grief, are never the whole story. Love comes in many shapes and sizes.

  • the arrival of my baby girl long ago was a cause for great rejoicing
  • the joyful appearance of a grandbaby girl some years ago brought delight to my dear husband and me
  • the joyous news of a new grandbaby boy earlier this year further delighted us

There is no substitute for getting to hold that bundle! So a big shout out to my dear daughter and son-in-law. I can’t thank you enough for making the trek across several states to come and spend the weekend with me. Your visit was balm to my grieving heart! The time together caused happiness to rain down on this home and lighten the weight of grief upon my heart.  I love you four beyond measure. I thank the dear Lord that we had this visit and that you arrived safely back at your own home.  This woman’s grieving heart has been much cheered.

Thanks be to God!

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