Thoughts on my mother’s passing

I was raised by a warrior. Chances are you were, too.

And, sometimes it takes a funeral to help bring that home. A remembrance reminds a person of the circumstances of a life.

Mom’s funeral on Monday helped sharpen that for me.

It was important to her to make sure her kids learned that structure was important. She was good at that.

She did her darnedest to bring order to our lives. Three meals a day. Always a garden. She knitted and crocheted. She sewed. Her house was very, very clean. She read. She read to her children. She wrote letters. She kept track of who was who in the families. Anyone who visited was invited to sign a guest book. If she knew you, you’d likely get a birthday card, with a letter.

I’ve missed a few things I should add to that list, I’ll bet.

She was a preacher’s wife, too. That’s a tough role to fill, right there. She tackled that with the same vigor of her other endeavors. She played piano. She played organ. She taught Sunday school. She led Bible studies.

She was the wife of a Reformed Church missionary, as well, called to be of service among several tribes of American Indians. This woman, raised with German, Protestant, Calvinistic values, was determined to pass that along, wherever her and her husband’s calling took them.

All that came from a deep well of belief — Christ is redemption Christ brings meaning. There were terrible times, but those, too, had their places in the scheme of things.

Sometimes all that order made it tough to live with her, but that went with the territory.

The last 12 years or so of her life, she battled infections after illness resulted in total parenteral nutrition. A woman who loved to cook for herself and others could only taste food while liquid nutrition was delivered through a vein.

But, she battled those recurring infections, recovering time after time, maintaining a faith that puts mine to shame.

Chances are you have a warrior in your family. And, it’s a good idea to think of a parent in that fashion. They may not be dressed in a cape or armor or camouflage, but I’ll bet they’ve fought their share of battles to get you to where you are.

History sometimes pivots on moments

I’ve long been convinced of the power of story. Annie Dillard, Hunter Thompson. Flannery O’Connor. Herman Melville. These authors and others have heavily influenced how I look at the world.

I was reminded today, thanks to a reference to the web site, that there are moments upon which history turns. I took a spin through the list and was reminded of the power of a single story on the path of a nation.

At some point, the old clothes are changed for something new.

I don’t want to overstate, for history is changed by more than the moment, but culture builds to a point of change, and a single event can remove the last obstruction to a course of action that takes our lives in a different direction.

Here, in northwest Iowa, I’m on the lookout for the event that will signal a sharp turn in a number of areas: a deep cultural acceptance of diversity, the emergence of a strong, ethical citizen journalism, permaculture over annual cropping, to name just a few.

In future years, someone will be able to pick out the moment in which a significant shift happens.

Whether it will be legislative action, a change in language usage, the evolution of gender, technological advance, an acceptance that the human DNA includes all colors, changes in sport and popular expressions of culture, the emergence of new global political entities or the evolution of law and order, there will be points in which our history will pivot. It’s an exciting, sobering, sometimes scary notion that we’re part of slow swells that will one day break in directions that have been building for years.

A late snow

Friday’s sheet of snow,

tightly furled around the yard,

is now rumpled

as a muscular sun

pours its rays.

Blizzard pieces drop like rain

from frosted evergreens

Busy squirrels dimple,

intent on trails between trees

while hungry ferals stalk.

No greater love

Cantus presented a wonderful a capella concert at our little college in Orange City last night. In a chapel with great acoustics, the eight singers presented pitch-perfect, emotional pieces that touched the range of sacrifices by people in the armed services. It wasn’t sugar-coated, either. It was honest, gut-wrenching at times. Too, a few of the numbers made me smile and the audience chuckle.

The group presents a song a month on Soundcloud, the latest “Wondrous Love.” It gives a taste of how the group blends. If you click on this link, you may get something else. They post new songs regularly. The clip of their “No Greater Love” tour presents the event well.

One comment from one member of the group (I was so enthralled I didn’t note the individual. Sorry.) sticks with me. I paraphrase: What would our country be like if we all adopted the brotherhood, the desire to serve, the leadership exhibited, the camaraderie of those who invested part of their lives in the armed forces? The comment might have overstated, to some degree, but the kernel of that thought has stuck with me in an uncertain time.

Then, too, I’m in a group studying Galatians and Paul’s missive to the Galatian believers. Christ’s love is sufficient, even the pinnacle of what can be accomplished. As the Cantus concert and “Wondrous Love” clip hints, this idea still lives.