Tag Archives: death

A Playlist Mashup – Life and Death

width and depth

“Will you be going to the cemetery?”


The magnet thumps dully against the metal as the flag declaring our intentions is put on the roof of the car. The sky is a brilliant blue, unfit for grief and I think back to a similar sky on a similar day over a decade ago.

What do you say to the boys who have lost their mother?  What do you say to the husband who can’t make sense of how cancer laid claim to a body within a span of days?  Not years. Not months. Days.

“I am so sorry…”

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
‘Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting

There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place,
Will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always (1)

There will be a day with no more suffering, no more pain, no more fears.  Even and especially when we don’t understand Jesus please flood our hurt with your comfort. Peace that passes understanding.  The assurance that covers all hurt – not removing it but allowing you to breathe through it and heal in spite of it.  And I know it and believe it and have laid claim to it.  I pray that they do too because mere words fall hollow on both ears and breaking hearts.

“The doctor will see you now.”

“You’re blood tests look great.  So, you know you are in remission…”

I grab hold of these words and hang on as if my lives depends on them, because it does.  But for how long?  And how will I know when I’m not?  And what happens then? Will I have the grace to declare God’s sovereignty over my life? When the fear becomes paralyzing, the unknown too heavy to carry, lay it down…take courage. God is striding ahead.  And if that day comes, if the results are different, He promises He will be right there with me.

This has been a week of paradigms of opposition, of declarations of continued health and the sweeping hand of death.  It’s been a week where even a diagnosis of remission is terrifying because it isn’t a continued guarantee of anything. Life’s fragility has been at center stage.

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You (2)

“Hey, Mom. My homework is done and the top is still off of the Jeep.  Can I go get ice cream before I put it back on?”

The clock says its almost 9:00 on a school night.  That brilliant blue sky of the morning has faded and darkened.

“Sure.” Then, running out the door after him, even though I am ready to call it a night, “Wait! I am coming too.”

And with the now night-cooled wind blowing our hair and the heater cranked warming our feet he looks at me and says, “Thanks for coming along.”
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

And in his sincerity, my eyes fill and my heart spills over as God wakes me up to how much life there is to live in every single day. I think about how quickly time is passing us by and how I don’t want to miss a second of it because as I have been reminded there aren’t any guarantees.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long. (3)

Praising and leaning in and holding on for dear life because Oh God, how I need You.


(1)There Will Be A Day, Jeremy Camp (2) Lord, I Need You, Matt Maher (3) Blessed Asurance, Frances Crosby


The Gift of a Legacy


Today, I am thankful for legacies.  I am thankful for the gift of an extraordinary, quiet man of God whom I was able to call Pap.  A man, who has left a legacy of what it truly means to be the hands and feet of Jesus…

These hands, once strong and able, with age became weak and unsteady but never less powerful. These feet that once ran in youthful excitement over time became homebound, but never lost their impact.

pappic2We are called to be like Jesus and in reading this last week I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather, Pap who died 5 years ago today…

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.” (Isaiah 42:1-2; Matthew 12:17-19)

Jesus wasn’t like some of these people we see today, going all-out, being loud and obnoxious, in the name of the Lord. He really didn’t draw attention to Himself. In fact, He blended into His world so well that in the Garden of Gethsemane, if Judas hadn’t betrayed Him with a kiss, His enemies would never have recognized Him. Here was a Man who had healed, and fed, and taught thousands, yet He remained unidentifiable because He moved in such humility and grace.

To move in humility and grace, Jesus legacy to us, Pap’s way of life…quietly, unassumingly, being the hands and feet…feeding, clothing, teaching, loving, giving, caring for others.

Edwin Eugene Charles, known to all as Pap.  As many times as he has stood on death’s doorstep and came back to us gives testament to his fighting spirit and determination as well as God’s plan to show His Glory and Greatness through miracle after miracle.  Today marks 5 years since this man, who lived his last days in such pain, was freed from that bondage and now celebrates in Heaven.

Born in the early 30s into a coal-mining family in a small town in Pa., he grew up with very little but in doing so came to understand early the important things in life.  Faith, family, and laughter.  These are the pillars upon which his life was built.

My challenge today is how do you, in the shortness of a few paragraphs, even begin to capture the entirety of who Pap was to so many different people.  The difference he made in living the way he did.  Our memories of him are an integral part of who we are and there is no way to properly pay honor to such a great man.

Pap was the Go-To-Guy.  Not just ours but everyone’s.  Did you need someone to listen and give advice?  He was there, a great listener and his advice wasn’t off the cuff.  It was thoughtful and contemplative and filled with love and your best interests in mind.

Did you need a little money to get you through til pay day? Or maybe you needed a lot.  Pap gave it graciously without any strings attached.  It wasn’t just money though.  If he had it and you needed it it was yours. It didn’t matter what it was, the shirt off of his back if that would have helped.  He was the hardest worker that I have ever encountered, sometimes working three jobs in order to provide the things for his family that he never had.

He loved his garden and his tomatoes especially. He babied his plants and watched them vigilantly waiting and watching for the first one to ripen.  Nothing tasted as good to him as the first homegrown tomato of summer, salted and savored.  He shared his garden’s bounty with anyone who would take it.  He even boxed it and shipped it across the country to family.

pappic4He attended every sporting event, recital, program there was from his children to his grandchildren, taking pride in the accomplishments of each and every one of us.  Sports were one of his great passions, baseball, football, wrestling.  He was a student of the game.  He studied plays and players, from the peewee level through the pros and took great pride when any Pennsylvania team beat any Ohio team.  He was sure to remind you of the victory if you weren’t together at game time.  The phone would ring after a game and you knew who was on the other end.  Pap, just wondering if you had watched the game, innocently asking if you knew the end score.

Pap was often the first call when you had good news to share.  He enjoyed a good story, but, even more so, a good laugh.  He loved to joke and to tease.  His laughter was infectious and it came from deep within him.  It was a large part of who he was.

pappic5Pap’s giving and generous spirit were evident year round but during the holiday season he would shine the brightest.  He provided magical Christmases for many, many people.  The memories that we carry in our hearts of Christmas Eve’s spent with him over the years are our most cherished.  He embodied what the season is supposed to be about.  Not Santa, not presents, not stuff, but remembering God’s gift of Christ to us and glorifying Him for all that that gift meant.
pappic6In his last days we had to bring the outside world into him.  He lived through the stories that we brought him.  Stories of the great hunt, or a great game.  The visitors were a constant stream in and out, a testament to the lives that he touched. Thank you to all who stopped in to share a story or just say hello.  You helped him continue to be connected and pass the days of being homebound.

Someone once said that he was an uncommon example of kindness and generosity.  What made him uncommon?  It was his faith.  The Lord was his guidepost, his rock. His faith quiet, understated, but evident in every day that he lived.  And today he suffers no more.  He doesn’t cease to be but lives on in heaven.  Because of his faith he has gone home to be with his Lord and Savior.

The legacy that Pap was in life, and now leaves us with in death, will be a summons to all to live in a way in which God’s love through us can touch the people whose paths we cross for the rest of our lives.  That we may be one fraction of the man that he was.  To live in kindness, humbleness, and generosity.  Always putting others before ourselves and living our lives in faith, surrounded by family, and with a good dose of laughter.

pappic3This…this is what it’s all about.  This is what it looks like to be the hands and feet and tonight I am so thankful for this man, for my memories, and for his legacy that I hope to pass on to another generation.

Standing With The Trees

Maybe it’s because 13 years ago today I woke up never knowing what the week had in store, never knowing that in just 5 days we would be burying our son.  Ignorance is bliss.

Maybe it’s because this season is marred by so many anniversaries.  Anniversaries marking the passage of time from “the before.” Before we knew “that” grief, before we knew “that” fear.

Maybe it’s because I can identify with the tree, but I read this and I can’t get it out of my head. Beating like a drum…

All through the woods, the trees are letting go.

I told the Farmer on the way home from Sunday chapel—when we came up to the top of Bobbie Johnson’s corner, and just before he turned, where you could look long to the northwest and out across Gingerich’s cornfield to their woodlot with the embers of maple — that it was brave, the way the trees made dying look glorious.

How did you let go and relinquish glory and be willing to stand bare, straight into wind?

(How The Brave Deal With Losses, Ann VosKamp)

I read the rest of the article but I kept coming back to this, a question for the trees. How do you let go and relinquish glory and be willing to stand bare, straight into the wind?  It keeps echoing in my head.

So, maybe it’s all those things and probably so much more…

There are so many things that strip us bare, aren’t there?  Death and disease have both stripped me down and left me standing bare, and vulnerable, and exposed. They come like a thief in the night stealing away swiftly all that we have known and come to count on and love.

And I thought of this tree, letting go because that is what it has to do. The tree, no matter how badly it wants to, cannot make it’s leaves last another season. And my heart hurts for the tree and for what it is losing.

fall tree

And I thought of these words…

Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight
Of His wind and mercy

The tree, beaten, bruised, and whipped by the wind. Bent and broken under the forces it endures, but rooted still…

How do we let go…of a person, of control, of a dream?  How do we let go and relinquish our beautiful leaves when they have reached their vibrant best?  But the Autumn tree, it lets go and I am reminded of the rest of the song.

When all of a sudden, I am unaware
Of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me.
(How He Loves, David Crowder Band)

The glory eclipses the pain of affliction. It doesn’t erase it, it doesn’t negate it. You don’t forget, you never forget. The pain is still there but it fades under the shine of His glory when our eyes shift from “it” to Him.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. (Psalms 73:26 NLT)

winter treeAnd so we trust. We trust that this isn’t it. This isn’t the end. We know that as trusters and believers glory lies ahead for us. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:18 NLT)

And we hold onto hope. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. (Job 11:18 NLT)

While we may stand stripped bare, as autumn turns colder, facing straight into the howling winter winds remember the spring will come.

spring tree