Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Life is a pendulum.  It swings back and forth from birth to death, win to loss, joy to pain.

As my heart grows to accept a new little one, and I prepare for my new title of Aunt, my brain urges me to reflect on my four grandparents.  Their hearts still beating, their legacies not yet sealed.  

None of this big, beautiful, messy, wonderful story would be here without those four.  

They stand testament to lives dedicated to living, marriages that fought and chose to stay together, mistakes and losses that didn't define them.  I can't do these four justice.  I can't express the legacies they're leaving for me because I can't fully begin to realize how grateful I am without crying.

Someone once asked what a legacy was, then defined it by saying it was "planting seeds for a garden you never get to see."  

But I'm not really sure that's right.  I know they've seen us flower. 

One of my grandfather's favorite songs is titled I Love.  So for now, because my words cannot be enough:

I love worn bibles and homemade donuts.  I love cheesy eggs on Christmas morning, piano lessons, and curled white hair.  I love hockey games and lofts and Power in the Blood.  I love forts in the woods and the sound of the banjo outside my door while I fell asleep.  I love the heavy scent of gardens in the south, Where's Waldo, and Creedance Clearwater Revival.  I love walks through Bethlehem, stained glass, homemade cards. I love church on Sundays, I love life. 

And I don't ever want to say goodbye.  But I'm so grateful they've given me so much to love.  

And I'm so grateful our goodbyes will be only temporary.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fighting from beneath you

It was her birthday. 

He’s only three.

The wind was still, the reeds at Timney pond did not shake or sway that morning.  No might or power shone from the grand view.  How many times have I thanked the Lord that he kept my little, dimpled, freckled brother away from you and that smoking gun that morning?

It was dark and your headlights reflected on the pavement, still wet from recent rain.  Would you have done it in the day?   Would you still have been able to lift his little body out of the car seat under the kind, illuminating light of the sun?

I don’t understand how you could do that to your wife, your beloved wife.  You loved her, I know you did.  You weren’t all she had, but you were her world.

I don’t understand how you could do that to your son, your baby home in the crib.  And what about your husband, the unborn child you carried?

You tried to get help, I wish someone would’ve looked harder, pushed, tried.  I’m sure they did.  But I don’t know.  Maybe they didn’t.

Why didn’t you get help?  You may have thought it was better to keep it to yourself, avoid the fuss, not spread the pain around.  But now…

Did you have ultimate hope?  Are you at peace?  I have a stronger burning for souls to find rest because of you; I choose this as your legacy.

You had ultimate hope.  I am so very sorry for you, but I hate you.  I’m sorry for that too, but they all question Him because of you.  No.  It’s not your fault.  I don’t hate you, forgive me.  People question, this is normal, this is human. 

You were a friend.

You were a stranger. 

You were loved.

You were loved.

And it doesn’t make a difference.

Except that it does.  We are more than just the end of our lives.  Advice books tell novice writers that while the beginning of your novel is important, it’s the last bit that really counts.  Because by the time the reader gets there, your ending is all they’ll remember and they’ll judge you for it, and with it.  But we are not the last page.  We are every chapter, every sentence, every word.  We are every life that intersects with ours, every smile, every argument, every choice.  And all I can do is pray that I make mine count.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Sometimes there are nightmares. Sometimes there are grandfathers on lawnmowers who get hit by SUV’s, brain matter on the pavement. And even though he came to us, sometimes we lose.  All I can wonder is, the granddaughter who was riding on the back of the mower - will she remember it all when she wakes? I pray she does not.

Sometimes there are women, with no one listed as their nok or emg, who lose their unborn child.  Five months old is not old at all. Sometimes I close myself in the locker room for a moment, chin tilted back, blinking fast so I don’t cry. I blame lack sleep, I’m usually tougher than this.

Sometimes 18 year old girls come in drunk. And pregnant. And I get so angry. Sometimes DOE’s stay DOE'd all day, unresponsive between CT and surgery, and I agonize over who’s out there looking for them.  Sometimes active heart attack patients leave AMA so they can shoot up - to calm themselves down - when they should’ve gone to surgery.  And then they come back hoping no damage has been done.  Sometimes they're wrong.

But then, sometimes there are babies.  Sometimes I walk up to the seventh floor, and she doesn’t even hesitate - just picks up the five pound sleeping bundle and places her in my arms.  I wonder if there’s any better feeling in the world?  She’s perfect and innocent and clean.

In a world with great tragedies happening only a few floors below great joy and wonder, all I can feel is grateful. Grateful that this little child has hope in God’s grace, no matter where this life takes her. I pray she’ll find you.

And sometimes, they do.

Friday, August 31, 2018


What do you do when, right in the middle of the whirlwind of your day to day, you come face to face with your Demas?  I thought I’d faded from your life for good, I thought the scars you left had been washed from my skin long ago.
But I walked right up to you, not knowing it was you, and I was halfway through my first sentence before it registered in my mind who you were.
I’ve been very angry at you before.  But I don’t really wish for anyone to come visit me at work.  Not really.
I met your eyes and instantly I knew you recognized me.  I recognized you too, and then I glanced at the patient.  The woman you’d chosen over me.  Over the little ones.  Over all of us.  And your eyes were filled with worry over her. 
I did my job and left, surprised at how the scars throbbed.  My old wounds ached, but I was surprised at how I ached for you, too. 
The inner war began – I was angry that I was sad for you.  Why should I be?  This woman was your sin.  And then I was angry at my own unrighteous anger.  I should be better.  Christ did not die so that I could live in such childish sin.  
So when I passed by again, on purpose this time, I smiled my trademark sad, apologetic smile and asked if there was anything I could do.  All I could see was your exhaustion, your worry, your fear.  You just shook your head, thanked me, and turned away.  I wanted more. 
But I then again, I’ve been wanting more from you since you left.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Finding Denouement

It’s so frustrating not to know how their stories end.  I check them into the emergency room, and sometimes I’m able to pick up on how things end up just because I’m around and paying attention.  But more often, my shift ends.  I go home. Or they’re transferred away to ICU or surgery.  I get to see the dark night of their soul, but never learn whether their story was a comedy or a tragedy.  

Maybe I’m just too tired, maybe there were just too many real emergencies in the last seven days - some weeks are just heavier than others.  But regardless, I walked back trough the parking garage today, amidst oblivious pigeons, and all I could do was yearn to finish their stories for them. 

Sarah, when your husband came in code green, I know I told you that it was just something we do for all motor vehicle accidents, but I was lying. It means “trauma” and they reserve it for serious patients.  Its an all-hands-on-deck page for backup.  What was he thinking - not having a helmet on? Motorcycles are dangerous enough and I know you say he wasn’t being reckless, someone hit him... You’ve been asking me about him every time I walk through the waiting room, asking me if he’s going to die. I wanted to pray with you so badly but never got the chance, even after I clocked out.  But listen, wipe away your tears because he is okay.  He is going to be okay.  The doctors said it was a close call but he’ll pull through and after some surgery, therapy, and some time, he’ll be as good as the day you married him, fourteen years ago.

Dorothy, in your little blue dress, it was all a mistake.  A misunderstanding - they were wrong.  You won’t be defined by this, it won’t haunt you like a distorted shadow with a mind of its own.  Also, this time without a real, loving advocate is temporary.  A family is looking for you, and whe  they find you, there will be no ‘foster’ to worry about.  Group homes and darkness aren’t the road ahead, not even close.  You are brave and good and kind and someone will make you believe this, someday soon.

It’s okay Kelley.  You’re right - 24 weeks is a little too early to deliver.  But you’re not in labor, and ‘fetal demise’ won’t be on your paperwork later today.  The good, extremely capable doctors upstairs will find where this labor-like pain is coming from and they’ll make it go away.  You and your baby are going to be okay, more than okay, you’re both going to live to have a shot at everything good and wonderful.

God, you are good. You are mighty.  You’re the only hope this broken world has, help me to live and love in the light of this truth.  Thank you for sending us salvation, hope, and a better answer to this world’s mess and pain.  When we are weary and heavy laden, you give rest. 

So tonight, I will rest.  Eventually.  I just wish I knew that they could rest, too.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Our Rhapsody

‘If I’m not back this time tomorrow - carry on, carry on.  Cause nothing really matters.’

As my car radio shifts to a piano interlude, my thoughts shift to you.  We always leave a mark on the people we leave behind. I wish I could go back and tell you that things do matter. You mattered.

No, I can do better than that.  Cliche.

Thinking about you makes me ache, your memory still bring tears now and again.

I’m still only going halfway.  I can do better.

My baby sister brought you up in conversation this week.  She remembers you as her friend that died, but she doesn’t really understand why or how.  She just knows that you were sick for a long time and then she woke up one morning, and you were gone.  When will she learn the truth? Will I have to tell her someday, years from now?

This life isn’t just any way the wind blows. Even if you say it doesn’t really matter to you, it does matter. It matters to me, to my baby sister, and deep down it matters to you too.  It bothers me so much that your eternity is so uncertain to me. My stomach is full of lead when I think about the wasted time I spent around you, I should have tried harder.  I shouldn’t have settled for the cliches of weather and how are things around the house? I shouldn’t have gone only halfway with you.  

I can do better. I will do better.

I just wish I could’ve done better for you.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Moonlight and nothing

Was there nothing?

Moonlight filters through broken glass. Smoke from the engine leaks into the night sky.

Were you awake?

Pedal down, we laugh and shout and turn up the radio. Never mind the driver and the age on his license. Never mind how buzzed he is.  A ride home is a ride home, after all.

Does anyone survive?

At least I wasn’t drinking. Sure I’m eighteen but I’d be in so much trouble if my dad ever found out. I know better.

Did you know the driver, a year older than you at nineteen, had twice the legal limit in his system?

The laughing stopped when he drifted too far over the solid white line.  Dirt flew through the air and I watched the tree get closer and closer.  

But you were in the back seat - I thought you should’ve been safe?

The car slid sideways until that tree smashed right into my door. The kid next to me, 250 pounds easy, wasn’t belted. He ended up on top of me.  It was 45 minutes until the medics lifted him off and lifeflight carried my body to the hospital.  Until then we lay there bleeding, alone, growing cold.

Was there nothing that could’ve made you think twice before stepping into that car?

The next morning my Dad, a paramedic, sits in front of the nurse and that registration girl and he cries. And cries. All six foot five of him.  But I don’t know that.  Every time they try to bring me out of it I start seizing again.

How do any of us survive our teenage years?

You never think you’re going to be the one. You know? The one they tell stories about, the girl who didn’t make it to graduation.  Funny how things turn out.

Did you know you were loved? Did you know?

I overheard the nurses talking, they’ve already alerted the organ bank.  I guess maybe that’s for the best. Maybe someone else can use this tired heart of mine.

Can I tell you there’s something more? Is it too late? What has this world done to you, little one?