Why we can’t ever stop loving


“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken……..” C.S. Lewis

“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

It’s been a hard week, friends. First there was the call from my Dad. I could hear the panic in his voice: “There’s something wrong with your Mom,” he said, “I’m not sure what to do……” Then the texts and reports came back from my brother and my concern grew. I heard the word, “Sepsis” and alarm bells rang inside my head. Elaine’s Mom was in the hospital 14 days due to that condition. That pretty much ended the “should I stay or go” battle.

It was the spur of the moment and the weekend……..flights were few. Elaine said, “I’ll drive you, let’s just get in the car and go. We’ll drive as far as we can and stop and sleep, then keep going.” So we did. We called our faithful friends who have watched the cats for years and they said of course they would. Sydney had not quite been himself but he was still eating and drinking. He was in good hands.

When we got there 16 hours later Mom was just out of the hospital. (One day and one night too long in her words) She was shaky and disoriented and not looking good. After a week’s worth of antibiotics at home due to some pneumonia setting in, she was on the mend and I felt I could leave.

Elaine had turned around and left the same day we got there after having dinner with her brother in a nearby town. She was scheduled to train on Monday at work and she was also worried about Sydney. (She may not have a cape but she’s the closest thing to “Wonder Woman” I know)

She had asked me before we left, “If something happens to Sydney, if he gets really sick, do you want me to tell you or wait until you get back?” I told her to wait until I got back.

When she got back he was still eating and drinking but hiding under the bed which wasn’t at all like him. And all that week, while I was in California nursing Mom, she was nursing my cat. (she loved him every bit as much as I did) Two days before I got back he had some kind of a seizure and it scared her to death. She brought him back from the brink but after that he wasn’t the same.

We had decided after the last vet visit two years prior, no more vet visits for him. It was just too traumatic.

And she never let on how bad he was, how scared she was, because she had made that promise, you see. That’s what best friends do, they keep their promises even if it hurts.

When she picked me up at the airport I still had no clue. I breezily suggested we go to dinner. She didn’t answer right away and then she told me between tears and sobbing……”It’s Sydney……” Then panic ensued and all I could think of was getting home.

Sydney has been my baby right from the start, you see. He chose me fifteen years ago, back when I desperately needed something of my own. I had lost the cat who had brought joy back into my life after great sorrow, and my arms felt empty.

Of all the kittens in those two rooms, Sydney (Sammy then) kept coming up to me. He was God’s gift, an answer to my prayer, I know it. Later, when my niece was born, I remember lamenting that she was so far away in California. Sydney helped me with that by insisting that I hold him. I had never ever had a cat that turned on his back and insisted I hold him like an infant, but he did.

And now he needed me. With shaky hands I filled out the online form to have the vet come to the house the next day.

All that evening I stroked him where he lay under the bed, and held his paws. He was quiet, and he was never ever quiet. I was so grateful I made it back in time. Elaine had been holding such secret sorrow and so afraid he would die before I got back. Unbeknownst to me, she had made all the calls and had already checked out the websites for vets that would come to the house.

That night I made a bed on the floor so he could feel me near; he always slept right by my side or preferably on my pillow, he loved stealing my pillow. And he actually loved to cuddle, remarkable for a cat.

Sydney was my faithful and loyal friend. For 15 years of his life, each time I left for California he would look towards the door and cry and mourn for days. It was so bad that Elaine would have to leave to get some peace. After a few days he would settle down and allow her to be surrogate Mom.

The vet responded the next morning and said she would be in the area the next day, but there was no way I could let him suffer another day so I pleaded our case for haste and she came through. She said she would be here within the hour.

I waited and prayed for strength at my bedroom window and when her van pulled up I jumped.

We had already gotten Briggs out of the room. And she was so kind, so compassionate. I knew we had made the right call. She got everything ready beforehand and we comforted him as she gave the sedative. I held him close for what seemed like forever. Time stopped and I was strong for him as I knew I had to be. I owed him that.

She suggested wisely that Briggs be brought in to say goodbye, for they had never been apart. Elaine brought him in and they touched noses for the last time. “If you don’t,” she said, “he will always be looking for him.” I guess animals need closure too.

I was okay until I put his little body in the box with the shell blanket. I didn’t want to let him go and the dam burst as I pressed my face to his fur, the softest I had ever felt.

I recovered enough to go hug the vet. Soon I will go pick up his ashes so that where we go, he can go. I happen to believe he is pestering Jesus right now with his loud Siamese meow and insistence on lap time. My Mom said she thought that too.

So again, I feel how hard and unnatural it all is. We were never meant for this kind of sorrow. And though Jesus has removed the lethal stinger that reaches beyond death to redemption, we still feel the raw pain of it.

But there’s something else that reaches beyond it. Softly and insistently it flutters its way into our heart. It says with promise. This is not the end. There’s Hope.

So my question is, “Why do we keep opening ourselves up to love?” Over and over again.

The answer is simple, we keep loving because it’s in our DNA because it’s in God’s DNA and we are His children. He loves us and has loved us from the beginning with an everlasting love, even when it hurts.

We love because He first loved us. And despite the pain, we keep giving. He keeps giving. Because without love, life has no real meaning. With every loss, no matter how painful, we are better people for having risked and loved.

And God has a happy ending for us, folks.

It’s all arranged.

Thoughts from the Sidelines


The walls close in and all I can hear is my own breathing in and out. There are faint sounds in the backdrop, life goes on. Snatches of words from the television, the three Canadian geese who make an appearance with their cries above almost every afternoon. The hiss of the tea kettle as it simmers down. Sometimes it’s not so bad to be sick, that is, when you know the outcome…….when you know what you have is normal, when you know you will get better. But even sick, the world waits outside and I feel the weight of it through the window. That doesn’t change even when flu renders you inactive. I get a fleeting thought, I wonder how it would feel to just stay here? Sit it all out. It does get tiring, this life. I keep my phone handy. I read the prayer requests between dozing off. They come zinging in through instant messages and one-liners on the Facebook news feed. And I can feel the need behind them. And in some cases the desperation behind them. I will pray. I can do that between breaths, between coughs, between naps. Sometimes, being sick is okay because it reminds us of all that we do have.

You tend to be more aware of everything when you’re rendered…..sequestered…..silent. On the sidelines.

I think of those alone and sick with nobody to help them. I see the commercials, of Orphans and Old Jewish people without heat. My Mom sends them money. I’m blessed. I have a special someone who brings cough drops, medicine, company, laughs and chicken soup. I reach further back and my gratitude slams against the memory. It’s my Mom’s hands I feel now lifting my head, fluffing my pillow, taking away the trashcan by the bed, bringing a cool cloth. Yes, being sick reminds us of what we do have. I turn and feel the cool softness of sheets and I sink down. Exhausted. So glad I can stay here and no one pounds on the door, I can just rest and get better. In a clean peaceful place. Yes, this is luxury many don’t have. And tomorrow, once again, I will enter the land of the living. I will enter back into the fray, this world that is part graveyard, part paradise. And I will make the choice for life because I can. And I will remember the ones who can’t. Those waiting on the sidelines.

When it just flows


Sometimes you hit a sweet spot with blogging, or any kind of writing for that matter. You stop wrestling and trying to figure out what you should write, or what people want to hear, or what you want to hear from yourself. It doesn’t always happen this way, but when it does?

It becomes not something you do, but something you release as a free expression of the worship that naturally flows out of your heart and soul. It’s gratitude and nothing more…..

Just now, I was heading back up the stairs here at work. I had a spring in my step because I am on break and I knew I had an hour or so to do this post. I simply couldn’t wait, not because I have anything of much importance or earth shattering to say, be because I serve a very good God and I am so glad He is walking with me on this earth, because the more I see in the news?

The more hopeless it seems to get. The bleaker the outlook, the more I cling to my God and the more the gratitude spills out. And the more I want to share that with everyone else.

As I spent time with my family just this past week, I learned to cherish them all over again.

When I was unpacking my suitcase last night, I came across the hand drawn map my Dad made me, the directions to the hospital. I couldn’t bear to throw it away. I tucked it into my keepsake box, which is fairly bursting at the seams with each passing year.

Looking at that map, I wondered how in the world I have been so blessed. I have had people drawing maps for me my whole life. At every turn.

And when I took that wrong turn on the freeway just recently? I got a call from Elaine who was watching me via the “Find friends” app on my iPhone. She called to tell me how to get back on but I had already stopped and asked directions.

Friends and family that have your back. When it all comes down to it, that is what matters most. In the hospital room beside my brother there was a man who had no visitors. He was awaiting his heart surgery and he had no company.

He has no hope of any face to greet him when he comes out. No hand to grasp except the medical staff.  No loving eyes that meet his, and no one to wipe his brow with a cool cloth. My brother felt so bad he said he might even go visit him afterwards.

Yes, I am extremely grateful these days. For people who love me, and for a loving God who gave me the best road map and the only one I will ever need.

His word and His love.