Thursday, September 26, 2013

beginning to end

I apologize, friends, if I carry on so about my dad.
But there's no getting over such a loss,
or "moving on" at a prescribed time.
Not for a moment do I wish him back to his pain-filled state,
but I can't get him out of my mind or heart.
While as a Christian I am certain that Dad now has a new,
healthy body in heaven,
my frail human-ness won't let go of memories.
The nearly four years of conversations, laughter and meals together.
(Gosh those shrimp and cheese grits with black-eyed peas were amazing.)
The outings we took when he was still able,
to "shop" for trucks and grab some barbeque at Jim 'n Nicks.
About a year ago I wheeled Dad outside and we sat for a long
time in the sunshine. He watched roofers at work across the street.
I had a heaviness in my spirit that there wouldn't be many more visits.
He told me I was "a ray of sunshine" on one visit.
Funny, I never thought of myself as that, but I will hold it forever.
When I last saw Dad, I was certain it was the last time.
He was weak and tired and eating so little.
His mind couldn't make sense of things.
I gave him permission to go and held his hand all afternoon.
Now that I think about it, the distance I had to travel to see Dad
was a blessing because seeing him was all I had to do.
I didn't have to run errands or rush home to cook dinner.
I simply sat with him all day.
Through the years he frustrated me plenty: dads do that, I guess.
 But beginning to end, he was an incredibly solid father.
To think I almost missed the chance to sit with him,
to talk about things we never had, to know him as much as he'd allow.
So grateful. 
People who die are not buried in a field,
they are buried in the heart.
- Rwandan adage
Centennial Park, Nashville. September 2011.

Friday, September 20, 2013


I didn't cry at the funeral. I didn't even cry at the graveside. But when I walked into an empty horse barn today at our county fair, I broke down.
It's the end of the fair; we missed it while out of town for Dad's funeral. But Bill and I went anyway. My favorites are the animals: sheep and pigs that the 4-H kids show. Lop-eared rabbits. And sleek, strong horses. They're all back at their farms now, gone from the fair for another year. And when I entered that deserted horse barn, it was an image of my heart right now: empty, quiet.
You know the story.
My dad made an agonizingly slow decline
into dementia and,
eventually. other issues brought on by immobility.
It lasted four years and his inability to do much of anything for himself
for the past six months was deeply saddening to watch.
I know he is now whole and healthy, living in God's presence.
But my heart, like these horse stalls, is feeling empty for a time.
Abandoned, in a way. Though I'm blessed by many loving family and friends,
I've decided grieving is a solitary journey.
And so I continue it, because it really began
four years ago when Dad began his decline. 
Thank you all for the many expressions of love and caring.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

Friday, September 13, 2013

so long for now

Fort Riley, Kansas, around 1949

Joe Lanier Matlock
December 23, 1924 - September 13, 2013

My dad died peacefully this morning in Nashville, Tennessee. He spent 88 years on earth, with a long and brave struggle at the end. Now he will spend eternity with Christ. For that we are grateful.

 "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." John 3:3

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

pressing on

September 15, 2001

September 11, 2001 horrified us all. I watched the news almost round the clock and the images seared my mind and spirit. The following weekend, I had planned to take my Girl Scout troop camping to a camp in Bellefontaine, Ohio. For three days my co-leaders and I debated whether or not to go. I wondered about the girls. I wondered if the girls' parents would feel uneasy sending their girls with us. I even wondered if we were safe and where we'd go if another attack happened. But by Thursday we all agreed to carry through and go camping.

I was on edge much of the weekend. My mind kept going back to the events a few days before. But I was the leader charged with safely guiding a group of 11-year-olds through a weekend of fun activities. We slept in tree houses. (I froze, as usual.) We cooked foil hamburger packets and s'mores over the campfire. The girls giggled late into the night. We hiked the camp on that beautiful September Saturday. And I shot this photo of them rolling down a hill, having fun as kids do.

I won't forget the horror of September 11, but that weekend my girls reminded me that children always give us a reason to press on.

the girls "adopted" a dog that weekend

Monday, September 9, 2013

love life, little Ethan!

Ethan Henry Haller
on his first day on earth

Dear Ethan,
We didn't know your name until your dad told us on the phone last night,
30 minutes after your birth. Ethan is a Hebrew name meaning
strong and sure. I am sure you shall be just that!
Your mama is a get-it-done gal and she didn't waste much time
having you. Start to finish at the hospital was 5 hours!
You were born at 10:46 p.m. on Sunday, September 8, 2013,
weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces and 21" long.
Since we're not there with you in person,
tonight we got to see you on our iPad as Daddy nestled
you in his arms. Daddy and Mommy looked a little tired
and you snoozed away, you beautiful boy!

Ethan, your birth brings a special sweetness for me.
Though you won't understand this for many years,
my dad is coming to the end of his time on earth.
Joe Lanier Matlock, your great-grandfather, is 88 and very sick.
It is very hard to lose someone you love, so your birth is making this time much easier to bear. Then again, this world is
only one part of life. When we leave it, God has prepared
a beautiful place called heaven for those who love Him.

Ethan, it is my greatest prayer that you not only love life,
but also love and serve God all your life so that
when your time on earth is done, you'll spend eternity with Him ...
the One who made you and brought you to us last night. Wow!

I know that would make your great-granddaddy very happy.
And me, too.
Welcome to this world, Ethan. I love you and can't wait
to be ...
your Baba

There is a time for everything ... a time to be born and a time to die.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2


Saturday, September 7, 2013


Today is the due date for our fifth grandchild,
a boy, Lily's little brother.
Jill saw the doctor yesterday and thankfully,
everything is fine with the baby and with Jill. Just no labor yet.
Lily came just 3 hours past her due date!
with Lily last November

And so we wait for the exciting news of labor and joyous arrival of a new life.

The news from Nashville is that my dad continues to hang in there,
but there is overall decline.
In this window, this specific time, I feel I am between bookends.
One is the beginning of life.
My new grandsons are being born into loving families and
before them lie the hopes and dreams of what God has ordained.

The other bookend is Dad, winding down a full life.
He'll leave this world to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren,
a world far different from the one he entered nearly 89 years ago.

Though I accept that Dad's time is nearly over,
my heart is burdened and my mind feels overwhelmed with what lies ahead.
The new baby and my dad are each 400 miles from me,
bookends 800 miles apart!
Things have a way of working out and I believe God is in the details.
He's also wooing me to lean fully on Him
and trust Him as I welcome one new life and await the inevitable loss of another.
Are any of us good at waiting?
Oh, how God is teaching me to trust and wait.  
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6