smoke from a distant fire

I read this week that in Indiana, they can smell the smoke from the California wildfires. And then I saw that the jet stream has carried the smoke all the way across the country to the east coast as well.

And that sounds about right to me.

Because my life is a haze, many days, no matter how far away July 19 grows.

 Dallas Lantern Fest

Dallas Lantern Fest

When people ask “how are you,” I don’t know how to answer.

I function.

I get up, I shower, I get dressed, I do the laundry and buy the groceries and cook dinner. I see some clients, even. I go to movies and out to dinner. I smile for photos.

But the wildfire that is sorrow occludes all my other emotions.

Sorrow pervades and permeates every single experience.

And I don’t know what else to tell you.

This is what this is.

I smell smoke all the time.

Print Friendly and PDF

i still believe that love wins

I still believe that love wins.

I don’t believe that love controls, but I believe that love wins.

 Cable footbridge, Velika Korita Soce, on the Soce River, Slovenia

Cable footbridge, Velika Korita Soce, on the Soce River, Slovenia

I’ve written about this many times before, in various contexts.

In fact, I wrote these words about love and social justice last year:

“The truth is: we have no control, and that's okay, because LOVE DOES NOT CONTROL.

Love just makes an offer. 

Love offers the truth, and companionship to deal with pain that the truth so often brings.”

Those words are still true for me today in the context of death and grief:

Love wins not by conquering, but by companionship.

“We are not alone in the dark with our demons.” —I Have Made Mistakes, The Oh Hellos

Whatever happens, we will get through it together: that is the promise of Love.

When Libby was sick for the first time, in 2014, we didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.

During that time, Andy and I spoke many times about our lack of control, and our fear about the possibility of losing our daughter forever.

And during that time, we resolved that we would LOVE, fully and completely, so that whatever the outcome, we would know for sure that we had done the only thing we could do:

LOVE.

The terrible thing is that all the love in the world won’t cure cancer.

All the love in the world won’t prevent a heart attack.

All the love in the world didn’t heal my daughter’s illness.

The thing is, we want to conquer.

We don’t like this kind of light-in-the-darkness winning.

I don’t like it at all.

I just want my daughter back.

I want to rewind and make it not happen like it did, that stupid stupid fatal day.

I want control.

I really do.

And I can’t have it.

And this is where I need Love to win for me: when the worst has happened, when my world has crumbled.

Love is arms around me: Andy, my kids.

Love is the weight of Michelle’s head on my shoulder in the middle of the night.

Love is friends, family, strangers, who write and say they care.

And this is how Love wins: by its presence, walking through the dark with us.

The other night, we went to Club DaDa in Deep Ellum to see Birdtalker live. They wrote this wonderful song about their marriage, called My Lover.

There’s this one line that is everything about how I want my life to be:

“I already know my last words will not be regrets or advice.”

I can’t stop the bad things from happening.

I can’t stop death, my children’s, my lover’s, my own.

But I can live in such a way that my last words will not be regrets or advice.

My last words will be Love.

I know what my last words were to Libby.

I texted her, “I love you so much.”

She said she was feeling better that day, and I said, “I’m so glad.”

Wherever she went that last day, my love went with her.

Love didn’t control the outcome.

But my love never, never let her go.

It never will.

That’s how Love wins: it never fails.

Print Friendly and PDF

filters

We just returned from 12 days in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, driving through very beautiful, diverse, and remote landscapes: mountains, coastlines, fertile valleys, rolling hills.

Every day, as I posted one or two photos to our More to Explore Travel Instagram, I messed around with the filters that Instagram offers.

As I fiddled with the filters day after day, I began to realize that Instagram filters are a useful metaphor for my emotional state right now.

Usually, my emotional state when we travel looks like this: light, bright, full of sunshine and happiness.

 Rainbow over Old Town Dubrovnik, Croata

Rainbow over Old Town Dubrovnik, Croata

This time, things were a little more like this.

IMG_20180915_181511237.jpg

No matter how wonderful all the things were (and they were wonderful), it was all just a little (some days, a lot) more subdued than usual.

And that’s because, while this beautiful rainbow-and-antiquity scene is playing out in front of me, I also have within me this other equally true, and more emotionally weighty, reality.

IMG_20180915_181542418.jpg

And this is what I’m doing all the time: carrying these two realities.

The beauty of life and the trauma of death.

I told my sister that I feel like every emotion, every experience, from here on out will always have this additional modulation.

We can’t go back to “pure happiness” or “pure wonder” or “pure gratitude” because of the horror and terror and grief that lives in us alongside all the loveliness.

Life is both.

The thing is, the dark things have always existed in the world. We were just privileged enough to ignore them most of the time.

The lightning struck other houses, not ours.

We were sorry when it did, but it wasn’t truly our pain.

Until now.

Now the pain is truly ours.

 War-ruined buildings, Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

War-ruined buildings, Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Just before we left on our trip, I found some notes I took last summer from a lecture by Buddhist teacher angel Kyodo williams.

“When I allow my heart to be broken open, the pain of the world comes in too. That becomes an opening to connection and to Love. We show up for pain, and we experience in our own bodies connection to the world.”

(She also said that part of the impoverishment of the construct of whiteness is that we white people don’t feel our own bodies, because if we feel ourselves, then we’ll feel others as well. I think she’s saying that if we want to end racism, we white people have to start feeling our pain so we can connect to the pain of the people we’ve oppressed. Topic for another day, my friends. Go ahead and think about it as much as you want in the meantime.)

And then she said this.

The way to keep on growing through pain is two-fold: our “learned ability to suffer” and our capacity to hold the opposites.

That makes an awful lot of sense to me right now, and it reminds me of something I wrote down years ago, out of Wendell Berry’s masterwork, Jayber Crow.

“The sunlight now lay over the valley perfectly still. I went over to the graveyard beside the church and found them under the old cedars... The grief that came to me then was nothing like the grief I had felt for myself alone... This grief had something in it of generosity, some nearness to joy. In a strange way it added to me what I had lost. I saw that, for me, this country would always be populated with presences and absences, presences of absences, the living and the dead. The world as it is would always be a reminder of the world that was, and of the world that is to come.”

I think the ability to suffer comes only through the experience of suffering.

We can have good (or truly bad) ideas about suffering ahead of time, but it’s only in the experience that we gain the actual ability to suffer.

It’s like reading a lot of articles about weight-lifting. It’s good to know the theory, but you have to actually lift the weights at some point.

On Day 6 of our trip, exactly halfway, we visited Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.

As far as I’m concerned, Plitvice Lakes is one of the great natural wonders of the world: sixteen crystal-clear sapphire-blue lakes with hundreds of waterfalls connecting the lakes to each other.

I don’t know when I will be immersed in such a beautiful landscape ever again.

IMG_1516.JPG

And yet, the filter was there.

I didn’t have the ecstatic experience I would normally have in a place like this.

That afternoon, we drove down to the city of Split on the coast and went on a sunset cruise in the harbor.

There was live music, and as the band started playing, the lead singer welcomed everyone aboard by inviting us to enjoy the boat, enjoy the food and drinks, and, she said, “Enjoy this beautiful light.”

And they started singing Stevie Wonder’s You Are the Sunshine of My Life.

And I just lost it.

For two hours.

I sat and cried in one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

It just went on and on and on, being beautiful.

And I just went on and on and on, crying.

Because this is how we learn to hold the opposites: by holding them.

 Sunset with angel wings, Split, Croatia

Sunset with angel wings, Split, Croatia

Maybe things will always be filtered through a certain lens from now on.

Maybe sometimes the tears will wash it all clean and we’ll get glimpses of that pure, clean beauty.

Maybe the tears will even amplify the beauty sometimes.

Some days it’s going to all be shades of gray, too, I’m pretty sure.

But this is life as it comes to us.

We receive.

We carry what is.

And Love carries us all.

Print Friendly and PDF

notes from week 6

It just gets really, really heavy pretty quickly.

The truth sets in: this will never be fixed, it won't get better, there is no cure.

This is reality.

It is final, and it is forever.

We won't get over this.

We will learn to live through it, and into it, to experience it as it is, to bear it, and to walk each other home through this suffering.

Together is best, that much is clear.

The burden is lighter when we are together with it.

I'm thankful today for family and friends who are willing to walk with us.

I'm especially grateful to have Kevin and Michelle's presence with us daily. I don't know, honestly, what I would do without them here.

Kevin is the son of our hearts and Michelle is a light and a joy.

Gifts that Libby left with us to help us bear the pain.

IMG_20180825_082019776.jpg

For the next couple of weeks, Andy and I will be on a long-planned trip to Slovenia and Croatia, while Kevin and Michelle are supported by family and friends here.

As you know, Andy and I love to travel, but this time I'm not quite sure what to expect.

Usually our trips are a time for me to completely disconnect from responsibility and just receive.

I know that beauty and peace and rest for our souls do continue to exist in this world, alongside the sorrow and suffering.

I'm hoping that this trip is a little taste of that for us.

An act of hope, that our new normal won't be entirely dark and heavy.

(If you want to follow along, we'll be posting at More to Explore Travel on Instagram and Facebook.)

Print Friendly and PDF

authoritarian religion and why in the world I'm writing about this right now

Then Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath. And when He stood up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,

because He has anointed Me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then He rolled up the scroll, returned it to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him, and He began by saying, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

All spoke well of Him and marveled at the gracious words that came from His lips. “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” they asked.

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to Me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in Your hometown what we have heard that You did in Capernaum.’”

Then He added, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. But I tell you truthfully that there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and great famine swept over all the land. yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to the widow of Zarephath in Sidon. And there were many lepersg in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet. Yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

On hearing this, all the people in the synagogue were enraged. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him over the cliff. But Jesus passed through the crowd and went on His way.

Luke 4:16-30

This is how much authoritarian religion hates freedom.

This is how much authoritarian religion hates inclusion.

The first time Jesus spoke about it in the synagogue, they tried to kill him.

Let's not be surprised, then, when authoritarian religion today hates our freedom and our inclusion just as much.

One of the arguments I quickly hear after a post like my previous one is this: "But Jesus did talk about sin!"

Yes, and look at what kind of sin he talked about: the sins of the powerful against the weak, the marginalized, the suffering, the poor.

The sin of placing burdens on the backs of others that the powerful themselves are not willing to bear.

I'll say it again: until authoritarian religion is willing to hold its priests and preachers and presidents to the same standards as it requires of the suffering, authoritarian religion needs to sit down and shut up.

Sell all its goods and give the money away to the poor.

Sit in the dust and mourn for a thousand years, then call us back and we can talk.

Don't worry: I know people would like to throw me off a cliff for that, and I know I'm in good company.

IMG_1058.JPG

My son Matt told me that he's shocked that I'm writing so much right now.

Honestly, I am too. 

It made me wonder: why am I writing about authoritarian religion while grieving the death of my daughter?

I think it's as simple as this:

I am so endless grateful to be well and truly out of the clutches of authoritarian religion at this time in my life.

I cannot imagine bearing this grief while hauling the horrible ball and chain of authoritarian religion along with me.

I had to do that earlier in life, and it made everything so much worse.

The heresy of "sinners in the hands of an angry God," the fear of hell, the anxiety of never being able to do enough or be enough to satisfy the perfection required of me--all of that made my life a living hell until I slowly, slowly, slowly course-corrected to Love.

I bless every bit of the broken road that prepared me to walk thorugh this terrible, present pain without fear, knowing for sure that Love wins.

I had just come to a place of great peace and freedom, last fall, after many years of hard, hard spiritual and emotional work.

And thank God, thank God, thank God that I had.

That's why I write these particular words at this time for you, my friend.

You need to know that you are loved and safe and chosen.

You don't need to drag the lies of authoritarian religion with you any further down your road.

You've been set free for freedom, and never again to be a slave to anything.

Love has us all safe, abundant, and free.

We know this for sure.

Let us walk in that light while it is day, and let it light our darkness when the darkness comes.

Print Friendly and PDF

authoritarian religion and "sin"

Why does authoritarian religion thunder on so much about "sin" when "sin" doesn't count for the people at the top?

Why doesn't "sin" count if you're a priest molesting children?

Why doesn't "sin" count if you're the pastor of an evangelical mega-brand?

Why doesn't "sin" count if you're the President everyone was required to vote for if you were a true Christian?

Why does "sin" only count if it's women, and you want to block them from standing with authority in a pulpit? 

Why does "sin" only count if it's the LGBTQ community, and you don't want to bake them a cake?

Why does "sin" only count when it's children, and you're wanting to control and manipulate their religious outcomes?

 Antelope Canyon, Navajo Nation. (photo: my cell phone in the hands of an expert guide)

Antelope Canyon, Navajo Nation. (photo: my cell phone in the hands of an expert guide)

I have been puzzling over these questions for the past couple of years. 

If sin counted the same for everybody, then:

  • a priest molesting children would be defrocked immediately
  • a pastor sexually abusing women would be fired immediately
  • a president committing crimes would not be supported by Christians

And yet, here we are.

And here is the inescapable conclusion: sin doesn't count the same for everybody in an authoritarian system.

If you're at the top, sin doesn't count for you at all.

IN AN AUTHORITARIAN SYSTEM, SIN ONLY COUNTS AS A TOOL TO OPPRESS OTHER PEOPLE.

When you want to oppress women and make them feel like they're too unworthy to speak with authority, then "sin" is your best tool.

When you want to create a scapegoat of the LGBTQ community and make them feel too ashamed to participate in life, then "sin" is your best tool.

When you want to control children into remaining in your religious system and make them so terrified of hell that they'll never ask the obvious questions, then "sin" is your best tool.

And when you yourself are caught in "sin," well, just hold a forgiveness mass, tell people that they need to be gracious to sinners (which magically applies only to straight white male leaders, never to women, children, or the LGBTQ community), say that we're all sinners, it's all fake news and a witch hunt, and voila, you're still in charge and everybody else still feels so ashamed of their "sin" that they'll still let you be in charge, you naked emperor striding along in the sunshine.

Here's the thing we need to realize, friends.

Jesus came speaking BLESSING.

The first big chunk of red words, known as the Sermon on the Mount, is about BLESSING.

Go read it if you don't believe me: Matthew chapter 5 and following. 

If "sin" were the thing God really wanted to talk to us about, why did Jesus come saying "blessed" instead of "damned to hell?"

I think Jesus spoke blessing because blessing is the language of Love rather than condemnation, and Love is the path to healing and wholeness.

When we stop believing that we are cursed by original sin and instead listen to what Jesus said about original blessing, that lights a powerful engine within us.

We don't need sin and shame to drive us to God, as I was taught in that fear-based system.

We simply open ourselves to the reality of our Belovedness, the image-bearing Light and Love, the Blessedness that is already our deepest and whole-est Truth.

And then we're free to live as we really are, not as some "authority" tells us we are.

Why does authoritarian religion react with such fear and hatred to Belovedness and Blessing and Light and Love?

Well, I think it's because authoritarianism does not want our freedom.

Authoritarianism wants our oppression, our enslavement, to its power.

We have been set free for this kind of freedom: to live and move and have our being in this kind of Love, and authoritarianism just can't stand the thought of us living in that kind of peace, where we don't need to bow to the emperor, to the Pharisee, to the law-giver in order to have our fullest Life.

When we no longer live in fear of sin and shame, the powers of hell (so cleverly disguised as angels of light) lose their power.

And we walk free.

Free of sin.

Free of shame.

Free to live in Love.

And authoritarian religion despises that completely.

Print Friendly and PDF

one month

It's one month today.

Oddly enough, I feel okay today.

A couple of days ago, it was agonizing.

Yesterday was hard.

Today is okay.

I'm learning to be grateful for the okay times.

It's weird to feel okay in the middle of this, but I'm recognizing that when I feel okay, that's the time to rest.

The agony and the hard will come back.

It's good to rest and be grateful for that rest when I feel okay.

[Edited to add: at the end of a day of feeling okay, I curled up into a fetal ball and wailed the kind of gut-wrenching sobs I had never experienced before this month.]

IMG_20180817_070641879_HDR.jpg

This morning, Andy and I went out for an early-morning pajama-walk with Michelle.

Her joy, her wonder, her delight in the world is a great light to us now.

She reminds us that life will be more than okay.

It will be full of beauty and joy.

In fact, it already is.

Always.

We believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.

FB_IMG_1534525400148.jpg

We played this song at Libby's memorial:

"It's gonna be alright,

turn around and let back in the light,

And joy will come like a birdy in the morning sun

and all will be made well,

once again."

This is our hope: Love and light, with us, always.

Print Friendly and PDF

some things we could do to make it better

We've been asked for interviews in the media, and it's caused me to consider what exactly I do want to say for public consumption.

In the wake of Libby's death, we all desperately want to understand, to create a coherent narrative, because this makes us feel safe. And we want this terrible tragedy never to happen to another person.

Yesterday, I saw the news on social media of another woman who had died. "She contracted an infection that she couldn't fight off," her friend stated.

And so often, it's as simple and as terrible as that: our bodies are fragile, and we contract illnesses that we can't fight off.

At the same time, we can acknowledge that the stressors in our world often make things worse instead of better for those who are sick and suffering, and when we as a community recognize this, we can take responsibility for ourselves and work to make amends.

If my friend's friend had contracted that infection from raw sewage running down her street, then we ought to get together and fix that problem.

That's what Love does: it cares about the distress of others and works to alleviate that suffering.

At least, reformation is what Enneagram One Love does; and you know me, that's the kind of Love I've got.

I ran across this quote from Sue Monk Kidd that resonates:

"There's a gap somehow between empathy and activism. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of 'soulforce' — something that emanates from a deep truth inside of us and empowers us to act. Once you identify your inner genius, you will be able to take action, whether it's writing a check or digging a well."

This is my soul-force, this is who I am, this is what I've got: Reformation-Love, and so this is the list I make.

I share my list here in hopes that my ideas might indeed make a difference for someone else.

Making a difference for someone else helps make meaning out of a tragedy I will never fully comprehend.

So here is my list, tendrils of hope growing out into the universe.

May it create shelter and blessing for someone.

May meaning come from my grief.

 Peace Maze, Castlewellan, Northern Ireland (photo by me and my cell phone)

Peace Maze, Castlewellan, Northern Ireland (photo by me and my cell phone)

As I look back over the last few years, I can identify a number of things that added greatly to Libby's stress.

Because I love Libby, here's my to-do list for the future.

  • Clean up the earth that Michelle is going to inherit

Libby was greatly distressed by climate change, by waste, by environmental destruction. We all reduced meat in our diets and thrift-shopped and bought smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles. Yes, watching multiple 6-foot-plus Bruners emerge from a Honda Fit does remind you of a clown car sketch, but that puppy gets 30+ mpg in the city. Plus even I can park it downtown.

Eat less meat. Use metal straws. Thrift shop. Drive a more fuel-efficient car.

Things I'm going to keep doing.

  • Promote parental leave for new parents

Libby loved her job and she wanted to work, but the truth is, she needed more time at home before going back to work, and she did not need that time to be full of stress about finances.

Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and the United States of America are the only countries on earth that do not offer parental leave.

Papua New Guinea at least has fabulous rain forests and beaches and snorkeling, I can testify. I've heard Lesotho is beautiful, too. And we have Utah. So all is not lost.

But dude.

Paid parental leave.

Now.

  • Get mental health care out of our jails and into our health care system

Here in Dallas county, Lou Sterret Jail is the largest provider of mental health "services" in our county.

Texas persistently ranks among the lowest states in mental health spending per capita.

I'm a therapist. I've worked with folks who have chronic mental illness in Dallas. One of my clients told me that she knew she wasn't doing well, and she couldn't get the help she needed, so she went next door, threw a brick through her neighbor's window and screamed until the police came. At least in Lou Sterret she'd be safe.

Can someone please explain to me how this is a humane and decent way to treat people with mental illness?

Because this does not look like Love to me, and I'm going to keep shouting about it until it changes.

  • Vote in universal health care for every person in our nation

This is one of the richest countries on earth.

No one should be going without basic health care.

No one should be weighing whether they can afford to visit their doctor, given the symptoms they're experiencing.

They should just be able to get the health care they need without the added stress of worrying about how to pay for it.

The fact that we do not have universal health care in the United States of America is simply immoral and can be traced directly to the nightmare of a government that's bought and paid for by corporations, rather than serving its citizens as it should.

I will be voting for candidates who are dedicated to universal health care.

  • Fully and equally fund our schools

Why did my daughter have to spend her modest teacher's salary on things like classroom decorations, books, and math manipulatives?

Why are some school districts less funded than others? Umm, like the brown ones mostly?

How can any of that possibly be right or fair?

Once again, it's beyond me, people.

I will be voting for candidates who care about our children more than their own pocketbooks.

  • Work for sensible gun laws

Libby was a teacher. School shootings are a horrible reality. Their existence causes intense distress to teachers and children every day. They must stop. 

We cannot love a weapon more than human life.

And we cannot throw our hands up as though nothing can be done.

Every other nation gets it done.

We can, too.

  • Keep marching until all really means ALL

Every person is worthy of love and inclusion, regardless of ability, skin color, race, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any category that creates othering.

Libby saw the Divine Light in every single person.

We must strive to do the same, until every person is safe, beloved, and treated with dignity and respect in our communities.

Instead of fearing differences, we need to value differences as opportunities to learn from each other, to create space for growth and change and new life.

Love, not fear.

***

I doubt that's the end of my list, but it's a start, anyway.

Right now, I don't have the energy to do anything but tell you about this, but trust me: it's coming.

Anger is part of grief, and I'll be channeling my anger into fuel for activism. If you thought I marched a lot before, well.

We can't seriously believe that the bloated billionaires and bureaucrats in our state and national capitols have the answer to life.

Whatever their answer is, I don't want it.

Ever.

No handbag, no private plane, no real estate empire, no political clout is worth that kind of moral decay.

It's up to us to show them the way, including the path to the nearest exit as necessary.

Enough with making life about money and power and the accumulation of stuff that's all going to fall to dust anyway.

It is time to prioritize our care for each other,

and for this earth that is home to us all.

Perhaps your list will be different from mine, and that's okay. In fact, I hope that your list will be different. I can't think of everything or do everything (or much of anything right now, to be honest).

When we all identify our own inner genius, our particular soulforce, and let it free, beautiful things happen in the world.

And God knows, the world needs our collective, free, and beautiful genius right now.

What will your list include?

Print Friendly and PDF

notes on grief #1

I have no idea what this blog will look like over the months to come, but I suspect that I will have many notes on grief.

Today is note #1.

 Sunset with angel wings above our house

Sunset with angel wings above our house

  • Observation 1

My grief is extremely physical. 

The first few days my entire body was in agony. When I woke in the night, I was in such physical pain I could barely move. As I woke, I would get a jolt of adrenaline through my system like a million tiny arrows, as if my body was firing warning shots, telling me that nothing is okay.

I did yoga and that helped. I got a massage and that helped.

After a few days, the grief seemed to gather into specific parts of my body. My fingers and toes were functional again, but my lower back and hips sank into agony.

I am still doing yoga, breathing, and getting massages. Cold packs, hot packs, Epsom salt baths.

These all help for a while, until the grief finds a new place to show up in my body.

  • Observation 2

It doesn't seem real.

And then it's horribly real.

And then it doesn't seem real again.

  • Observation 3

Making things beautiful helps. Creating beauty is an act of hope.

Rearranging the flower arrangements as they fade has been a good little exercise in letting go. I put the faded flowers into our fire pit, and saved out the bits that will dry nicely.

I chalked in a meditation circle on the concrete pad behind our garage and walked it every day the first week. Then rain washed it away, and today we painted it in place.

  • Observation 4

Love helps.

All the love that comes to us in cards and flowers and visits and dinners (even the dinner that the Uber Eats driver stole).

Of course it doesn't replace the love that went out of our lives with Libby's loss, but love does help.

It's probably the best help, and I suspect that everything else that helps is just tapping into Love.

IMG_20180804_090548563.jpg

So, here we are.

Kevin and Michelle are moving in with us, and that brings us joy.

Three years ago, we turned our upstairs into a rental suite and had just updated it to rent out with AirBnB. It's a studio suite with a little kitchenette. Not large, but airy and looks out over the treetops to the lake in the park next door. 

Michelle will have Libby's old room, still the same beautiful blue that Libby picked out in high school, that happens to coordinate perfectly with the colors she chose for Michelle's nursery.

IMG_20180802_141717191.jpg

It's been a week today since Libby's memorial service.  There's a YouTube channel with both her memorial service and a short video Kevin's brother, Daniel, made about her life. 

I wanted to share with you all the brief bio that I wrote, and that Andy and I read aloud at the service. 

She was such a light.

So full of love.

We will always, always miss her. 

IMG_0755.JPG

Elizabeth Michelle Davis was born September 8, 1989, at Charlton Methodist Hospital in Dallas, received as a gift from God by her proud parents.

She joyfully welcomed three brothers into her life over the next few years: Matthew, Michael and Jacob. She loved to play with them, especially dressing them up as the sisters she hoped to have.

In 1993, we moved to the Solomon Islands where Libby and her brothers were raised by the village of Tawatana, on the island of Makira. Of special importance to Libby were her nearest neighbors, Hida and Irene, whose daughter Maki was Libby’s dearest friend in Tawatana. Libby and her brothers spent their days cooking over open fires, playing on the beach, swimming, and avoiding school as much as possible.

When we lived in the capital city of Honiara, she reveled in spending time with the sisters she found in the missionary community: Claire and Corrie; Kathryn; Laura, Rebecca, Emily and Hannah and many more. She made friends with the neighborhood kids, who loved to ride the zipline down the yard and drop into the little above-ground pool in the Bruner’s yard. Sleep overs and play dates and visits to the beach marked the passage of those childhood years.

When we were back in the States, we stayed in Tennessee near Kay’s family. Of course Libby made many friends there with whom she stayed in contact throughout the years.

In 2003, our family came to Dallas. Friends of Libby’s attended Tyler Street United Methodist Church, and invited Libby and her brothers to youth group events. While we searched for a church home in Dallas, Libby and Matt finally made it clear that Tyler Street was the only place they wanted to be. The entire family was loved well within these walls, and here Libby met two more heart-sisters, Mary Anne and Mary Katherine. Her heart-sister from the Solomons, Kathryn, came home to this church as well. Each of the girls is an only daughter in a family of boys, so they formed their own sisterhood of the heart and stuck together.

The years of 2005-2007 found our family in the highlands of Papua New Guinea in another missionary community, where all of the children and their parents were welcomed into the homes and hearts of many friends. Libby found more sisters there: Katherine, Bethany, and Lenise, to name just a few.

In 2007, our family moved back to Texas for good. Libby was entering her senior year in high school and quickly renewed her sisterhood with her Tyler Street girls, who could often be found all sleeping together in Libby’s single bed on weekends. Kathryn recently confessed that they used to “rebel” by sneaking out of the house and running to the park next door and back again.

Libby also made friends that year with an exchange student from Turkey, Ayca (Aicha). After high school graduation, Libby and her friend Brianna spent a month traveling in Europe, and Libby always said that the highlight of the trip was the days that she spent with Ayca and her family in Bodrum, Turkey.

At Libby’s high school graduation party, a certain young man entered the Bruner household for the very first time: the love of her life, Kevin Michael Davis. Kevin quickly passed the brother-test with flying colors. Kevin pronounced our family “quirky,” and everyone agreed it was a match made in heaven.

While Libby was on her Europe trip, Kevin missed her so much that he decided he must propose without delay.

We gave our blessing, and when Libby arrived home, Kevin proposed at a little restaurant in Oak Cliff, using a song he composed and sang for her. He gave her a beautiful and unique pearl-and-diamond engagement ring, perfectly suited to the one-of-a-kind girl he loved so much.

Their wedding took place in this lovely sanctuary on January 1, 2011, in an evening ceremony that included candle-lighting and worship music provided by Kevin’s childhood friends.

Libby graduated with high honors from the University of North Texas in Denton and enthusiastically embarked on a teaching career where she made many dear friends.

In her teaching career among special education students, she consistently shared God’s love with them through her life.

The light and love in her deeply impacted those whom the rest of us might easily overlook. Libby saw the image of God in every person she met.

In 2014, Libby suffered a serious illness which brought together a team of loving family and friends to care for her. Kevin’s mother Jeannie became especially dear to Libby during her illness and was a trusted source of strength and comfort until the moment of Libby’s passing.

In early 2016, Libby and Kevin were ecstatic to learn that they were expecting their precious Michelle Rae. This beautiful light came into the world on November 5, 2016, bringing indescribable joy to Libby, Kevin, the entire family, and all their friends.

After a short maternity leave, Libby returned to teaching her beloved students while Kevin became Michelle’s expert stay-at-home dad. 

A recent recurrence of her illness was far more serious than anyone could have imagined. She was in touch with friends, family, her therapist and her doctor, to help her battle the darkness once again.

Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Those words are true of Libby. She was a light in this world, and we affirm that darkness cannot overcome light.

While her physical presence is gone from us here, her light will never die.

Our family wishes to express our deep appreciation for the outpouring of love from friends near and far, which reminds us of the truth of Libby’s light, love, and life in our time of heartbreak and grief.

 

A Poem by Libby (age 15)

I’m thankful for an interesting life

A spring day full of shining sun,

A loving home without much strife,

Laughing friends and lots of fun,

I’m thankful for clean, clear, running water.

 

I love acting in plays,

Talking to whoever will listen,

Eating chips, especially Lays,

Seeing happy tears glisten,

Swimming in the summer.

 

I want to make an impact when I go,

To not shed so many tears,

To learn how to walk slow,

To live in a house for longer than two years,

To make a good grade on this.

IMG_0854.PNG
Print Friendly and PDF