Having the Talk

Years ago, when my children were young, “having the talk” usually referred to a conversation about the birds and the bees or the facts of life.  When they were in college, “having the talk” usually referred to a conversation with a boyfriend/girlfriend to define where their relationship was going.  But at this stage of life “having the talk” has a different meaning.

In the last few years I’ve talked to so many couples where one or both are going through a health crisis.  Everybody reacts differently —  some cry, some go silent, some get angry.  But I’ve learned, through my own experience and that of others, that there are certain things we can do that will ultimately make things easier.  One of these things is to have the talk.

“Having the talk” means sitting down together to discuss all those things you don’t want to discuss.  This is the hard part of the talk —

— What if someone dies or is incapacitated?  Does the other one know what to do?

— Have you executed a power of attorney and a living will for while you are alive?  Do you have a will for after you’ve died?  (By the way, if it’s been several years since you’ve done this, revisit it.  Time changes people and circumstances, so make sure it still says what you want it to say.)

— Where are all the important papers — wills, deeds, bank accounts, etc.?

— Do you know how to pay the bills?  Most often one of the partners has been responsible for managing the finances, but the other partner also needs to know how to do it.

— Is there a business involved?  If so, what’s the plan if a key person can’t continue to work?

— Are there children, especially young children still at home?

— What about burial arrangements and plans?

“Having the talk” means sitting down together to say all the things you’ve been meaning to say, but haven’t found the time.  This is the tender part of the talk —

— Tell them how much you love them.

— Tell them how much they mean to you and how much they’ve added to your life.

— Forgive for all those petty shortcomings that we let slip into our daily routines.

— Tell them about your faith in God.  It will be a comfort and will bind you together.

— Pray together.

— Tell them it’s ok for them to go on living if you should be the first to go.

It’s so important to have this conversation with your spouse.  If there’s no spouse, then you probably need to have it with your adult children.  And if you absolutely can’t bring yourself to say the words, then sit down and write it out.  Because if the worst happens, the hard part of the talk will get you through all the technical things you’ll be faced with.  And the tender part of the talk will get you through all the long quiet times you will experience.

You would think that the hard part of the talk would be the hardest to do.  But for some of us, to be completely open, vulnerable and emotional is very difficult.  Do it anyway.  You won’t regret it.

Like Never Before

I can remember that I always enjoyed singing as I grew up.  It was back in the days that we had a time set aside for music during the school day, where we mostly learned patriotic and folk songs.  As a teenager, I spent hours singing along with the record player or radio, using a hairbrush as a microphone (pre-Karaoke days).  I sang for a while in the church youth choir, and I had the opportunity to sing with a group from NORD for some political and holiday events.

As an adult, I sang in the church choir for about 15 years, and was privileged to sing with a ladies ensemble.  There was a great sense of community that formed with the others in these groups.  Now, I don’t kid myself – my voice is average on a good day.  But I can generally match a pitch and sometimes find the harmony.  Thankfully, scripture doesn’t say anything about being on key, just that we should make a joyful noise.  That, I can do.

Recently, as we sang a particular song in church, I was struck by the lyrics – that my soul was to sing.  Now, I think soul singing is a little different from regular vocal singing.  Both should be directed to God in worship, praise and thanksgiving.  But, unlike vocal signing, soul singing has nothing to do with my physical ability to match a pitch or harmonize.  Soul singing goes beyond my physical ability.  It’s something everyone is capable of.  Soul singing is a matter of me submitting myself to God and being able to rejoice, regardless of the circumstances or what He has decreed for my life.  It’s not a matter of physical ability; it’s a matter of surrender and trust when you can’t see what lies ahead.  And it’s a matter of being at peace with the not knowing, even to the point that you can sing in the midst of an uncertain future.

Not only is my soul capable of singing, the lyrics of the song said that my soul would sing like never before.  This is what struck me.  I want my soul to sing like it has never sung before!  I’ve felt my soul sing when I’ve had spiritual highs and victories.  I’ve felt my soul mourn when I’ve been in the valley and felt defeated.  But now I want my soul to sing like never before!  No matter what trouble I’ve seen yesterday or today.  No matter what monsters haunt my thoughts for the future.  My soul can still sing!  And I want my soul to sing like never before to the glory of the one and only true God because He has created me and redeemed me and sustains me.  And most of all simply because He is deserving of all praise.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

O my soul, worship His holy name.

Sing like never before, O my soul.

I’ll worship Your holy name.


Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  Ps. 103:1

After Three Years

Written on 7/18/17:

I will always love Michael .  I will always miss Michael.  But I don’t want to always mourn Michael.
These were my thoughts as this third anniversary approached.  You would think after three years you would have cried all the tears you would cry.
On the 18th I reread the CaringBridge entry from that day three years ago.   It was the day Michael asked me if we could go to Bravo’s for lunch.  That he would just get out of the bed and we would go to lunch.   When I told him he couldn’t go he was disappointed.  His friends thought he was kidding.  The doctors did too – they even laughed about it.  But he didn’t think it was funny.  And later that day his vitals began to drop.  The entry on the 19th talks about him being stable, but that he wasn’t making progress.  And it was just the day after, on the 20th, that he told me he wanted to stop all the treatment.
So as I look back on the timeline — that he was discouraged on the 18th and decided to stop treatment on the 20th — it makes me wonder.  Did I hurt his feelings by not encouraging him on the 18th?  Could I have someway picked him up emotionally and encouraged him?  Was I just too tired?  Did I not try hard enough?  If I had been more encouraging on that day, would he have fought longer?
Did I not encourage him enough?  Did I not show him that I believed in him enough?  God and Michael both know I would have never done anything to deliberately hurt his feelings.  But was I just too tired and being selfish to not indulge him in some way?
You would think that after three years these ideas would have been settled in my mind.  And I thought they were.
But to read back over these things again brings a new wave of questions.  And with the questions come the tears.  The gentle tears.  And then the continual tears.  And then the sobs of sorrow and regret and “what ifs”.
You would think after three years I wouldn’t react this way.
You would think …
The entry above was written earlier this week.  The thought that I could have hurt Michael’s feelings on that day still leaves me feeling crushed.  I know he would forgive me.  So I try to not hold onto the possibility.
Somehow I was under the impression that each year would get easier.  But it seems like the third anniversary is harder than the second.
 Check list for the third anniversary:
           New flowers for the cemetery
           Check on each of the kids
           Friends to get through the day
           Lots of Kleenex
           Book trip to Africa for next summer
           Learn that mourning doesn’t have a schedule
I will always love Michael .  I will always miss Michael.  But I don’t want to always mourn Michael.

The Evolution of Children

I don’t know what it’s like in a home with a single child.  All my experience has been with multiple children, both in my upbringing and in my own parenting.  I can remember, as a child, times that I played well with my brother and sisters, and times they got on my nerves.  Years passed and we each grew, started our own families, and made our own careers. You just seem to get busy managing your own life, but squeeze out the obligatory holiday gatherings to catch up with one another (even though you live in the same town).  And then as you grow older, your parents pass away and you realize that your siblings are all that’s left of your original family. That awareness tends to make you draw back together, to appreciate the time together and recognize that you won’t have very many more years like this.

This awareness also makes me look at my own children.  I can remember bringing each of them home and the older ones being excited for that new baby in the house.  Infants and immobile babies are pretty easy to get along with.  As they grew older there were the usual skirmishes over toys and territory — the things parents get to referee on a daily basis.

Because of the age differences in my children, our household was a combination of teens with children, and then college students with teens.  Most of these years seemed to be a combination of barely tolerating each other and being embarrassed by each other.  The boundaries often were blurred by who got what privileges and who wasn’t being treated fairly.  And sometimes it seemed the only times they were cordially existing in the same room was when Michael or I declared an immediate peace treaty for family dinners or vacations.

Before you know it they are grown individuals, making their own decisions on when to come and go, and who they will spend their time with.  They choose to look elsewhere for those close relationships.  Oh, they come home when they’re summoned.  But gatherings can be marked by hurt feelings.  Maybe somebody’s too sensitive.  Maybe somebody else isn’t sensitive enough.  Words are said.  Jabs are taken.  And you wonder if they’ll ever really like each other again.

And then something happens as time passes.  Maybe they, too, realize that one day they will only have each other from their original family.  Maybe they begin to appreciate how quickly the years will pass.  And you learn that they are texting each other, even though mom didn’t start the group text conversation.  You find out that they FaceTime each other and laugh and have meaningful conversations without being prompted.  You see them change their plans and drive hours just to spend time with each other.  You see them cancel other activities so they can be together to eat and laugh and play cards and silly games.  You see them help each other and encourage each other.  You see them pray for one another.

And then you think … maybe they really do like each other after all.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

                      3 John 1:4

And because we often find ourselves all in the same place only about once a year…



This Old House

This old house began as a dream two “kids” had about building a place of their own.  Built on land bought from his family, they sunk every dime they had saved into it and their future.

This old house saw a groom carry his bride over the threshold when they’d been married only two short months.  They didn’t have enough money for furniture or curtains, but didn’t know enough to miss them.

This old house bloomed with the pitter patter of children’s feet as the years passed.  Children who ran and played and sang and danced their way through life.  Children who brought friends home for swimming and slumber parties, for prom dinners and Bible studies.  Children who never let life get dull or boring because there were too many dance lessons, cheer practices, sports events, school projects and church activities to count.

This old house laughed with friends and family on holidays and birthdays and plain old “no special reason” days when it was filled with the smell of wonderful food and the sounds of chatter everywhere.

This old house cried when knees were scraped and bones were broken, when teenage hearts were shattered and plans didn’t go as hoped, and when a baby was lost before it could be held.

This old house celebrated milestones for its occupants and so many others — babies, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, graduations, going-aways and homecomings.

This old house winced when voices were raised and unkind things were said, when patience was lost and bad decisions were made, when anger showed up and disrupted things.

This old house rejoiced when apologies were made and forgiveness ruled the day, when peace returned and there was acceptance that we don’t all do things the same way – and that’s a good thing.

This old house swelled as friends and family came to stay – some for a night, some for a year; some we first met when they walked in the door, but all left precious memories here.

This old house quieted as children grew older and made new lives on their own, leaving the groom and his bride time to savor the wonderful lives they had lived there and the enduring love they shared for each other.

This old house mourned when the couple was no longer a couple, when their life together was cut short by disease and all that was left was the memory of their time together.

This old house is empty now. The emptiness of the rooms makes an echo of the quiet sobs that say yet another good-bye. I know that I will never again sit here in these rooms that contained my entire married life. I know that today ends the chance I have to make memories in this old house.

But tomorrow . . . . . . . a new family will begin their time in

This Old House.