Sometimes I am asked by others on the grief journey if it ever gets easier. I am not sure, even after 9 years, how to answer that question. I usually respond my rote response; “It never gets harder.” I guess that is because I am not sure if “easier” will ever happen and I am not sure that is even the best word! I don’t know what it would mean to be easier and I think that straddling heaven and earth is not ever meant to be easy.

Easier is a really tricky word because death of a spouse is so permanent. It is a really good word when learning a skill and practicing it over and over and the progress can be measured. The reality of grief is that it is always there and it will never be easier to live without my best friend and life partner. At the same time it will NEVER get harder than Nov. 5th, 2010.

Grief is different because it is not linear. It is learning to tread water and sometimes being overwhelmed by the surf and taking in huge swallows of water. I am overall managing each day better than the day before and the days and weeks have turned into seasons and years. But, that does not mean that I no longer am sucker punched by waves of sadness that knock the wind out of me.

Easier is not the right word for me; instead I think it is different. It used to feel like a constant hail storm and now it is softer at times and louder at others. It has become unpredictable too. I like the quieter days with some sunshine and light breezes when the remembering is nice and the pain is less. Grief evolves with time.

The thing is that life is still beautiful. Jim lives on in memories and in the children he raised, in the spiritual children he mentored and in those who he raised up in ministry. I am reminded of the movie, Coco, and the importance of keeping memories alive. Death is not a bad thing but just a reminder that we live in light of eternity. Additionally, family matters, listening is important and it is never too late to forgive!

I don’t even think twice about looking out the front windshield when I am driving; it is the way I learned to drive! What is in front of me is far more important than what is behind me when I am heading down the highway! The rear view mirror is smaller and is designed that way because we are only supposed to glance in it occasionally. I doubt I would find anyone who would argue with me.

In life it is easy to “drive” in reverse, but it shouldn’t be! Just as looking in the rear view mirror to drive is a bad idea, so is focusing on the past, becoming nostalgic for the “good ol’ days”. When our past consumes us, we can’t make good decisions for today and for the future. It is not healthy to pay more attention to where we have been than where we are going! I am not suggesting that we never look backward! It is important to remember and to learn from history. I am, however, reminding myself that time marches in one direction. I cannot relive or change the past, but I can live with little to no regrets for the future.

This is the season when I tend to spend more time trying to “back up” and gaze to longingly in my life’s rear view mirror. This is the season when Jim left earth for heaven and I find myself remembering those last days wistfully, wishing that I had a chance for one more goodbye. So that I live life with the right perspective on the past, I keep working on creating a place for those memories. I give myself permission to remember and then I close the “photo album of my mind” with intention so that I can get on with living today, creating new history as I go.

Lord, I want a windshield life.

I had the blessing and the privilege of visiting Europe, specifically Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland, with a friend (Ann W. ) in honor of my 60th birthday. It was an amazing trip with good food, plenty of adventure, and a great friend. We averaged 11 1/2 miles walking every day (yes my knees survived, even if they were not happy about it) and we saw places I never thought I would see in real life. Many people travel so perhaps my trip was just another one like everyone else’s, with one exception! It was mine – Ann and I created memories and bonded over our own adventure choices and sights.

One thing I thought about while traveling is that it really is like our relationship with God! Everyday, where ever we go, we have this traveling companion (Jesus) who goes with us and who we lean on and talk to and who knows what we like and does it with us.

As the 2 weeks went by we saw so many beautiful sights from mountains to rivers and waterfalls, from antique treasures to beautiful expressions of art, from cathedrals to chapels, from fortresses to expansive countryside vistas. It was all so stunning and photo- worthy. As I took it all in and marveled at God’s handiwork and man’s creativity, I was struck with the reality that all this is temporary! Even more, the beauty and wonder of heaven is going to be better than all the amazing sights and sounds we will ever experience in this life. Wow! It takes my breath away when I realize that my future in eternity is beyond anything I can ever imagine. Sculptures by Michaelangelo is like preschool playdough and masterpieces by Da Vinci are like kindergarten coloring pages by comparison to what is to come. I am overwhelmed by the gorgeous world I have experienced and in many ways this trip was worshipful, yet it is only a glimpse of what is coming!

In the words of Karl Barth, worship is “the most momentous, the most urgent, the most glorious action that can take place in human life.” That’s because it gets us ready for what’s to come.

There are people all over this planet. Many who have suffered. Many in need. All broken and wounded and in need of the Savior’s love. I found myself praying for God’s grace and the reality of His love and forgiveness to be made known. It is weird to be in a place where the most visible buildings are churches and yet they are only full of tourists who don’t see or hear the whispers of the God they were created for. I gained a renewed commitment to praying for and supporting those who are called to cross a culture to spread the best news in all the world — that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to save sinners by dying in our place and rising again. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Because I have tasted the joy of worshiping Jesus, I found myself aching for all those not yet included, to wake up and consider the purpose of the monuments, the art and buildings they are seeing; that they would see, hear, understand and respond to the gospel.

Letter to my future self

So I finally found a copy of a letter I wrote to myself quite a long time ago. Now I am 60 so it is interesting to compare how life IS versus what I imagined and hoped it would be.

Dear 60 year old Miriam (2019),

If you are reading this, you have managed to stay alive for 6 decades and even better, your memory is not completely gone, because you remembered where you put this or even that you wrote it! Ha! It is hard to imagine what life will be like where you are. Memories are fickle so this letter will be a record of how you thought about things, maybe even alter your perspective.

I hope you are well, wiser and thinner! There may be new inventions. Life may finally mirror the Jetsons. You may not even live in CA anymore. As I sit here at 47 (2006), I think that, if the past is any indication, you will have a great future. I know you left behind a beautiful home, an amazing church family and ministry and great friends in IL. You grew where you were planted! Good job! The memories and traditions your family made are sweet and hopefully you all will remember how they shaped your family’s mission to love God while bringing out the best in each other.

Time marches on. There are things that are rough with every move and I know you are sad to not own your home anymore. You are grieving the end of vocational youth ministry. Even more, I know your kids are struggling to adjust to life here and they are still grieving the move from “home” in IL. You have the perspective of time that they don’t have, so be gentle with them as you creatively teach them how to embrace change, navigate puberty and make new friendships.

 Time and distance changes things; you know that, and in 15 years, you will be surprised at what God has done! It will be cool to see what new ministry doors God opens up and how your kids will grow in their faith and relationships with both sets of grandparents and their cousins nearby. Perhaps your kids will be out of the house and successfully launched and independent. One or both of them may even be married! Jim may be looking at retirement. Maybe you will write that book, finish that PhD or find another calling outside of junior high ministry.

I hope your parents and family members will be living; But, if they aren’t, I pray that you have learned to grieve with hope and joy. You are so fortunate to have healthy relationships with your family and hopefully those will continue the thrive. 

There are some things that I don’t want you to lose sight of EVER – so here you go:

  1. Thank God every day for the man God chose for you and for the marriage you enjoy.
  2. Be grateful every day. It turns what you have into enough.
  3. Make sure your kids know that they are the greatest thing you have ever done besides marrying their dad.
  4. Don’t grow “Old”. Remember that the older you get the more important it is to act your age. Keep your mind active and open to new ideas. Read. study. Engage in conversations that deepen your faith and knowledge. May your heart always stay open to hearing and obeying God’s still and tender voice.
  5. Nurture your friends – at least the ones you want to keep.
  6. Laugh often.
  7.  Discourage debt. 

That is all I have for now. Be kind to yourself and look at the wrinkles, marks, and gray hairs as new “colors” in your life and you won’t fade so quickly! The “heirlooms” of vintage Miriam don’t depend on the exterior to hold their value.  

With Hope,

Mirm <+><

PS Write back!

At the end of the letter, it says to write back. So here goes:

Dear younger Miriam,

Hindsight is foresight! Who can even begin to imagine what life would be like!? Yes! Time does march on! I am grayer and “marked up”. I think I have a different perspective because time does change things. At the same time, I am still holding to the same values I listed at 47. 

Some things are as I thought they would be.  Both my kids are “launched”. One is married. Both consider California home now. They both love Jesus. I still live in CA, although back in Downey! I still teach for Trinity and I still have a Disney pass.

Some things are very different than anyone could have guessed – The Cubs won the World Series. I became a widow in 2010. Jim’s dad passed away shortly after that. Others have gone on to be with Jesus including Aunt Janie, Rich Howard and Earl and Connie De. I no longer own a pet. My parents are still living, though many of their generation have run their race to the finish line. I didn’t prepare my kids for death  – but I think it is on their radar since their dad went to heaven. 

I don’t know if I am wiser, but I definitely not thinner! I am working in a ministry but I still miss the days when I was free to dream, teach and plan opportunities in a pastoral capacity. I long for heaven more than ever before and I changed political views. Life is still a wonder and I am blessed beyond all measure.  

I wonder how life will look when I turn 75?  I will wait and keep the faith with a grateful heart. 

Talk again  – as ever – Miriam 


4 months old

Emily! How is it possible that you are 27 years old?! You are a game-changer, mother-maker, jazz singer. worship leader. big sister, art lover. shoe painter. talented, Disney lover, Christ follower, daddy’s girl, kind friend, and my only daughter. There are not enough words to express who you are and how much I love you. You are beautiful, inside and out. You are creative and fun, godly and I am so proud of you.

I pray that this next year is your best yet. I pray that you grow in your faith and confidence and cleaning skills! I thank God for deciding I needed to . be your mom. You are gift. I am blessed.

So many years ago I bought several rose bushes. I loved them so much that I moved them to California. Some of the roses struggled when they had to face the tough winter and once we got here they thrived with the constant sunshine and nice weather. Some of the bushes are hardier than the others. One of the bushes has always needed more TLC than others. It is one of the most fragrant and beautiful roses I have, but it is really temperamental no matter how much pruning and feeding I give it. The name of that rose is Emily. Just like my sweet daughter, there is no comparison and it is worth the extra attention to reap the beautiful blooms.

My peach – Emily!

So the musical version of Cinderella has a song called “Impossible” –

Impossible, for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage.
Impossible, for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in
And four white mice will never be four white hosrses!
Such fol-der-ol and fid-dle-dy dee of course, is— Impossible!
But the world is full of zanies and fools
Who don’t believe in sensible rules
And won’t believe what sensible people say.
And because these daft and dewey-eyed dopes keep building up impossible
Impossible things are happening every day.

Impossible things are happening every day! So today the impossible happened! Happy Birthday Em! I love you!

39 Years

For the past 9 years I have tried to have some creative angle on how to celebrate our wedding anniversary without Jim. It might seem a weird thing to honor and yet remembering Jim is what I do anyway. Marriage is a big deal and I am grateful for the one I had. So I continue to remember the day I changed my name. I don’t make it a big deal; I don’t go out to a fancy meal alone or anything similarly ridiculous. Just the following!

  • 31 went to Baskin Robbins with my kids
  • 32 attended a Dodger Game for Sandy Koufax #32 bobblehead night
  • 33 made a Picture Frame out of a record album
  • 34 Went to  34th street Newport beach where He asked me to be his wife and ate choc. covered strawberries
  • 35 Sorted all the 35 mm pictures and scanned them from
    slides – finally!
  • 36  The year of Bone China so I bought a teapot
  • 37 This is a prime number so I bought something on Amazon Prime. Then I rode the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland
  • 38 wanted to go to the 38th parallel (Northern CA) but it was on fire so went with the kids to AZ instead

So this year I tried to think of something clever and the only thing I could think of for 39 is the length of a meter! That seemed too much of a stretch to do anything about, as did any reference to Meter in music or the perpetual age of Jack Benny. So, instead, I went to the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan. While it may seem random, there are reasons! First of all, Jim was a magician. Also, he knew it was there and always wanted to visit it when we lived in the midwest but we never made it. So on my trip to Michigan I employed the car and the companionship of my BFF and off we went! We both thought it would be “lame” and wondered more than once on the way, in a summer thunderstorm, if it was really going to be worth it, but we were doing it for Jim! Well, it was worth it!

It was very interesting. We both learned a lot and we spent much longer than we had anticipated wandering through the museum. Jim would have loved it! And, on a side note: This is the last year I can say I was married for more than half my life!

So an extraordinary day, the day I changed my name and a whole lot more, that I celebrated for 30 years with Jim has become an ordinary day. Even though I cannot stop thinking about Jim, even though I carry him forever in my heart, I hold my memories in and thank the Lord quietly for the man He gave me. I do celebrate in some small way every day and our kids reflect his heart.

It was a good day today. I went to work and wore the T-shirt I bought at the museum. I ate junk food and cried a little.  I got greetings and love from many friends. I was blessed to be married to my best friend, to do ministry side by side and create 2 amazing kids. Pretty magical. Thank you Lord.

Parenting Parents

Let me start by saying that my amazing parents are living in their own home and are very intelligent and capable people. They are, however, definitely technologically challenged as many 80somethings are. Further, I can see how what many of my friends have experienced with their older parents is becoming a possibility with my folks too. This is on my radar as I drive down to their house to teach them how to use a smart phone and plan a trip to Alabama.

What I mean is that I can see how they need more from their kids, just as we needed them when we were growing up. It is the mundane things that they were able to handle themselves back in the day that now takes them twice as long because they do not understand the internet and life without “paper”. It is looking up information without going to the library, making reservations without using a landline or travel agent, and banking without a printed statement!

My parents were my caregivers for the first 20 years of my life. Did they always do a good job? Of course not! Did I always feel supported and understood? No. Was I provided for? Most of the time. What they did best was pray for me, lead me to Jesus, create a “family” of friends and others who mentored, trained and extended their reach. They did their best.

I know there are differences between my parenting styles and theirs. I am very much aware that there are realities that come into play because they are consenting adults and they are not my kids! And yet, there are parts of parenting that impact our relationship moving forward. They have never been this age before and parts of it may be scary or frustrating. Many of their friends have already made it safely home and are no longer available to lean on for advice or friendship. They can’t do all the things they used to do as independently as they used to do them.

It is my prayer to never need my kids when I get old (I am a 5 on the enneagram) but I probably will. I pray that they will notice the ways that I have cared for their grandparents with kindness, patience and generosity. May we all have courage to walk together in love all the way home.

Goodbye to Earl Gray

So the Toyota is done. After 230000 miles, many trips and oil changes, moves and soccer tournaments, it can no longer pass smog. It has served our family well. I prayed that it would get Clayton through college and it did! I will miss it but I am so glad to not have to worry about kids breaking down anymore. Since I really do not like cars and the expense, I go for cars that last “forever” and this one sure did!

Thanks Earl Gray! RIP

Like Father Like Son

Hey Jim! … So yesterday our son told me he is interested in vocational ministry. I must admit that I find that daunting and I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because I can see how things have changed or because I have become a bit jaded. Maybe it is because I have seen so much “hurt” caused by churches to those in ministry and such a poor work ethic among those I work with. Mostly I think it because you are not here to mentor him. I wish you were, because you were so good at that.

Clayton is like you in so many ways and yet so different too. Like you, he is introverted, talented and smart. You would be so proud of him, and of Emily too. I am so humbled to be their mom. It is reasonable logic to say that long life and children are a blessing, but Proverbs 17:6 is surprising when it says that the glory of children is their father! Our kids have taken great pride, and rightly so, in the blessing of you as a dad!

I need a new word

Sometimes I miss you because you made me laugh

Sometimes I miss you because I have a question that I know you would be able to answer

I miss someone else helping me with chores and responsibilities; making goals, plans and sharing plans and my day at the end of it.

I miss cooking and family routines. I miss your wisdom and your smile.

Of course, I miss you every day and I can get by missing those things and millions of other fading memories.  

The one thing I miss most is something deeper and bigger that aches all the time. It feels indescribable because it is so complex and special. I think there is no word for it, but intimacy is close. I don’t mean physical intimacy (although that is sometimes true). It is the oneness of us that I cannot erase and I can’t seem to remove from the very core of my being and go back to the me that existed before us.

Intimacy means “in-to-me-see”; it is the sense of union and mixing of life on life. Connection. Since you went away no one has looked into my heart to see who I really am. No one knows me the way that you did. I miss hearing your heartbeat. I am lonesome for the aliveness that came when we found each other. I miss knowing you so completely that I could see myself better. Thank you for making the load of walking the earth a little lighter for a while.

Walking the rest of the way would be unbearable without the One who knows me even more intimately than you. God makes me feel known in a way that no one on earth is able now that you are gone.

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