A Funeral For A Friend

Ever since I was a teenager, Elton John has been one of my favorites. His music in the seventies was new and unique and combined piano and rock in such a way that it connected with me deeply. Your Song, Candle In The Wind, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, and A Funeral For A Friend to this day still move me when I’m listening and singing along.

Sir Elton is currently on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour and I’m planning on going next Friday night here in Columbus. I’ve never seen him in person and I’m excited as a teenager to get this opportunity before he stops touring. And let me take this opportunity to apologize in advance to all those that will be sitting around me for the raspy singing you’ll be hearing. From me, not Sir Elton.

Rock music has always been my favorite genre. I’m a child of the seventies so I guess that makes sense. I have many friendships that began listening to this music. Cruising Main Street on a Friday or Saturday night, windows down and 8 track speakers cranking out the tunes. Singing loud and sometimes dancing around the car at the stop lights. Great memories of great times with great friends.

The song Funeral For A Friend holds special meaning for me today. This morning I was among many who celebrated the life of a dear friend. Richard was a brother in Christ and he made his final journey home. He had a long struggle with illness and finally, thankfully, he found his rest.

There’s a mixed blessing at a funeral you know. Feeling both sadness and joy at the same time. I felt that today. A sadness in the missing of him which we will all feel for a long time and the joy in knowing that he lived his life to the fullest, called all strangers friend and loved his God with all his heart. He was truly a good man. My prayers go up for his family and all of us that were blessed by his friendship.

Today brought back strong emotions of when my wife finished her journey home. Hard to believe that it’s been eighteen months since Barb completed her race on earth and went to Heaven. I miss her still and always will but knowing that she, Richard, and other family and friends are together now in Heaven gives me great comfort and peace. I’ll see them again and that gives me an even greater hope. Death is not the end.

So after today’s memorial, I was back in my apartment and remembered the song Funeral For A Friend. I asked Alexa to play it. In its own rock way, the song, which starts as an instrumental, took me to a place of peace in my mind. It allowed me to flash back to memories of wonderful times. I found joy in playing my air piano and air guitar along with the song. Don’t laugh. I know most of you play air instruments too and let me say we’re all pretty good at it! Rock On!

Anyway, the second half of the song is actually called Love Lies Bleeding. I believe it’s about a romantic breakup if you follow the lyrics. But for me, on this day, that title holds a different meaning.

The main line in the song is ‘Love lies bleeding in my hand’ and today those lyrics took my thoughts to another person who both Barb and Richard knew very well. The person that truly did have love bleeding in his hands. The one person that did what no other could do for a friend and our world. God himself giving his life in our place. ‘The’ Funeral For A Friend.

Tonight as I sit here in my apartment listening to the rain, I’m thankful for the love Barb and I shared. The friendship Richard shared with so many. And the sacrifice made by the One for all of us. Yes, there is joy to be found in a funeral. I felt it today and still do tonight. It will remain.

If you’re on Sawmill Parkway in the days ahead, don’t be surprised if you see me dancing around my car and singing ‘It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside’. Just put your car in park and join me. And be sure to bring your air guitar or piano too.

Rock on my friends and see you down the road….

A Better Boat

Really, I don’t dislike worms.

When I was a child, my dad took me fishing many times and I enjoyed everything about it except baiting the hook.

I didn’t mine worms. They were actually very interesting to watch but poking the hook through the worm, night crawlers usually, I swear at times I could hear the worm cry out in pain. A kid’s imagination. Right?

Sitting along the bank, casting out, reeling in, watching the water roll by. Some pretty great days even with the worms. Days I wished I could have spent more with my dad. But cancer and his self medication in dealing with life problems cut our fishing days short.

Regardless, I have some pretty fond memories along and on the water fishing with my dad. One such memory was camping and fishing at Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri.

Around the Fourth of July most years, my mom, dad, and I would spend a couple weeks in southwest Missouri for our annual family reunion on my mom’s side. One summer, all the dads and kids that wanted to, went to Table Rock for an overnight fishing excursion. We camped in tents, trailers, and the beds of a couple pickup trucks but not much time was spent sleeping.

Just before sunset, we took boats out on the lake to string lines of baited bottle floaters. Our goal was to catch lake trout and other varieties overnight in order to cook them up for breakfast in the morning. I’m happy to say our goal was achieved. And it was delicious.

Being out on the small boat was a lot of fun for my ten year old self but one thing I was not initially informed of was that at least twice during the night we had to go back out in the boats to check the lines and re-bait as needed. Again not much sleeping happened but that was ok. We were doing man things.

On the second trip out to check the lines that night, the sky got cloudy and a wind kicked up out of the south. This made our small boat rock quite a bit and the re-baiting pretty difficult. Being not a good swimmer, my ten year old self became quite nervous. About all I could do that second trip was hold on to the sides of the boat and try to not fall in the lake. In my mind I was shouting, ‘We need a bigger, better boat!’

Although shaken and somewhat wet from the rain that came with the wind, we made it back to land ok. I can laugh now looking back at myself on the water that night and realize that it wasn’t really that bad. I was with my dad and uncles and if anything went wrong they were there to help me through.

You know though, I can still feel like my ten year old self sometimes even now in my fifty-eighth year. Dark nights come. The wind and rain begin to blow and my life boat gets rocked. There’s no time to enjoy what’s going on around me as holding on is about all I can do. Bet you’ve felt that way too. We need a better boat.

There’s a song out right now by Kenny Chesney and it’s title is exactly that. Better Boat.

It’s a great song with very meaningful lyrics. If you’ve ever felt like your boat is taking on water, sinking, and there’s not much hope of making it back to safe dry land, I want to encourage you to listen to Kenny’s song.

Below is the chorus. Simple words that hold great encouragement. We all need a better boat at times in our lives. Let’s all keep building while we hold on. The storm will pass. There’s still a lot of good fishing to come.

I breathe in, I breathe out
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t workin’, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussin’ out
Now and then I let it go, I ride the waves I can’t control
I’m learnin’ how to build a better boat.”

See you down the road…

Route Recalculating

Hey there. It’s been a while.

Life got very busy for me over the past three months. I retired from a thirty-seven year career in the I.T. field, sold our family home of the past eighteen years, moved into an apartment for the first time in my life, and I’ve been helping my daughter get her business off the ground.

Yep – I’m taking it easy in retirement.
Not really sure how you do that but I’m working on it.

Retiring at Fifty-eight was not in my original life plan. Nor was losing my wife to cancer. But one thing I’ve discovered through the past few years is that when the road we’re traveling in life changes and our destination becomes uncertain, who we are as the traveler doesn’t really change. Here’s what I mean.

Throughout my working life, I’ve always worked with computers in one way or another. Programming, in my opinion, is a form of art. It’s creative, it can be original and unique, and it can be awe-inspiring to see the final outcome of your work. It’s not a symphony by Beethoven or a masterpiece by Monet, but in its own way, a well-done computer program is a work of passion that any I.T. geek can be very proud of.

I loved the various types of work I did and positions I held over those I.T. years but in all honesty, over these past few months, I really haven’t missed it. What I’ve learned is that it wasn’t the type of work I was doing that was fulfilling to me but it was working with others that were just as passionate about their work that brought me wholeness. My experiences with my teammates, my coworkers, my “life traveling” companions is what made it all fun and meaningful.

As a child, I was pretty much a shy introvert. I had a hard time feeling comfortable in meeting new people and being in large crowds. I preferred to just hang out with a few close friends in our neighborhood most of the time. This led to some lifelong friendships but also kept me from getting to know a whole bunch of other folks. I sometimes wonder how many friendships I missed creating back then and experiences lost.

But when I turned sixteen and got my driver’s license, my world expanded in both area and relationships. Those four years of high school were a time of so many memorable experiences for me and I cherish them all. The good, the bad, and the ones I’m still surprised I survived.

At my 40th High School reunion a few weekends ago, many of us from the CHS class of 1978 laughed and enjoyed looking back at our high school journey and reliving the past. Matter a fact we relived it so well that the local deputy paid us a visit around 2am at our hotel. We’ve still got it was our motto for that night! Not sure what that ‘it’ really is these days but it’s still ours.

While I was driving home the next day after our reunion, I was thinking about friends that were not able to make it this year and some of our shared memories. In particular, I was thinking about one childhood buddy that wasn’t there with us. Bob. He is one of the twelve classmates we’ve already lost. Cancer got the best of him in 2017.

A number of us talked and laughed about times with Bob during our reunion weekend but while driving home I became rather angry over it. Angry that this damnable disease has touched my life and the lives of so many of those I care about. Everyone dies but cancer, this horrible disease, takes too many too early.

I hate it. I asked God to destroy it or take it far from this earth so it could no longer strike down those we love. I was becoming quite upset when at that moment a song came on the radio that brought me out of my anger and back to a place of peace. And the next song that played confirmed that peace and a few tears of thankfulness.

The songs ‘Praise You in this Storm’ by Casting Crowns and ‘Even If’ by MercyMe, both speak to the struggle we face in our lives due to illness, relationships, or any hardship. Dark things that we can’t control that are put in our path that we have to somehow try to navigate around, no, make it through. Horrible things. Things not planned in our life journey.

Both songs brought me back to my faith and belief that there’s really just one way to make it through those dark times. We can try all the human ways of dealing with tragedy and death, and believe me I’ve tried many over the years, but the one thing that has gotten me through is giving the anger, pain, and hurt away to the One, the only one, that can truly make it easier. Not necessarily take it away but carry it for me. I’m grateful for that each and every day.

This past weekend here in Columbus was the Pelotonia. The annual bike ride to raise funds for cancer research and to find a cure. Many of my friends touched by cancer rode again this year. I believe for them as well as myself the lyrics from ‘Even If’ sum up how we feel and where our hope and strength lie. Give both songs a listen to perhaps hear for the first time how you can make it through.

“They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone”

May it be well with you as you continue your life journey – see you down the road.

Front Porch Sittin’

It seems summer has come early to Central Ohio. Today, the temps were in the mid 80s as it has been for the past four or five days. Tonight there’s a cool breeze as the Doodle and I enjoy the front porch. That breeze also has the scent of rain so something is coming our way it seems.

Today was a really good day. Actually, the weekend has been very special.

Our family celebrated Mothers Day this afternoon to honor all the mom’s in our family. Three generations. This morning, our extended church family stood and affirmed our commitment to 10 young children being dedicated by their parents. Two were my grandchildren. That commitment of love makes my heart full.

Today was also my two-year-old granddaughter’s birthday and last evening we partied like a two-year-old to celebrate her presence in our lives. She and her little brother bring incomparable joy to my life.

And Friday night I was able to go with a group of friends to see a band perform the hits of Fleetwood Mac. One of my favorite groups from my youth. Music has always moved my soul.

So tonight while doing some front porch sittin’, I’m lingering in the stillness of the evening with a full heart, a joyful spirit, and a soul that is singing a song of gratitude and thanks.

Oh, how I wish my wife Barb was still here with us to celebrate these precious moments. They are the life events she loved. From the hanging out with friends to celebrating special days with her family, she deeply enjoyed times like these. And you know, I’m confident she did so this weekend.

I don’t really know if our loved ones, who have passed on, do have some heavenly view over our lives but I like to think so. Even though she is not physically present, I can sure feel her with us.

I felt her Friday night at the show and could visualize the two of us dancing away the night like we used to. She was with us last night as we enjoyed and celebrated the blessing of our granddaughter, and her spirit was with us today during the dedication of our grandchildren. Her joy tonight must be beyond abundant.

I find comfort in knowing Barb’s joy is abundant and complete. How awesome that must be. I can’t wait to experience it for myself some glorious day.

But for now, I remain here in this life. And I have to say it’s a pretty good one. I’m surrounded by family and friends that love me and one another. And with that love and grace, there isn’t any storm that can overcome the hope and joy I have.

So tonight I’ll leave the windows cracked and let the breeze blow in as I listen to the rain on the roof. It will give me peace. And there again I’m reminded of Barb and her love.

Peace to you my friends.

See you down the road…

How Sweet It Is

I woke up this morning with James Taylor.

Singing in my mind that is. I’ve always enjoyed his music and this morning I could hear his song “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You”. My foot started tapping which apparently annoyed Izzy the Doodle enough that she jumped off the bed. She must not be a fan of the original JT.

Here are a bit of the lyrics:

‘I close my eyes at night wondering where would I be without you in my life.
Everything I did was just a bore, everywhere I went it seems I’d been there before.
But you brighten up for me all of my days with a love so sweet in so many ways,
I want to stop and thank you baby, I just want to stop and thank you baby.
How sweet it is to be loved by you, feels so fine. How sweet it is to be loved by you.’

This is one of a number of songs throughout my life that has always picked me up. I can’t help but to start singing along and let the song put a smile on my face. Someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll pull up beside me at a stop light while this song is playing. I expect you to sing along with me so don’t be shy. Put the windows down and join me in making a joyful noise!

Do you have a song that picks you up? Why does it? Perhaps when you first heard it, it really connected with you. Or perhaps you heard it during an emotional time in your life and it’s been your goto song ever since. Or maybe it’s a family favorite or a song you and your childhood friends have great memories around.

Songs are memories. And tied to them are emotions. Many if not most songs have emotions as part of their title or in their lyrics. Songs such as:

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake (the other JT)
“Happy” by Pharrell

“Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night
“Yesterday” by The Beatles
“I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams

And thousands more across all genres of music. No matter your favorite artist or style of music, I’m sure there are certain songs that will forever open your mind and emotions to another place. Take you back to a time when you experienced something that made an impact on your life. A life-changing moment.

James Taylor’s version of “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” has now made a new emotional connection with me. In addition to being that happy little jingle that always made me sing, it has also become an anthem since losing my wife Barb. We would dance to this song everytime we heard it. Weddings, parties, clubs, and once on a public sidewalk. I promise it wasn’t too embarrassing.

Wonderful memories of a love so sweet in so many ways that continue on even after the grave. I really do wonder where would I be without having had her in my life all those years. So many great memories and experiences that will stay with me no matter what comes. I’m very thankful for that.

So which song connects with you? I’d love to hear about your song and your story so please leave a comment to share. And while you’re doing so, queue up that song of yours. Play it loud and sing along. Get that feeling inside your bones and go electric wavy when you turn it on. Dang there comes that other JT! He’s pretty good too.

See you down the road.

The Ness Of March

The month of March has always meant the coming of Spring. Sure almost every year in Ohio, we would get a pretty decent snow in March but it usually didn’t last long. Soon the sun would warm up the ground to melt the mantle of white and flowers would start poking their way up through the soil. Daffadills, Crocus, and sometimes Tulips would begin blooming in all their colors as Spring arrived. Such wonderful colors. Nature in transition. The beauty of creation. March in all its fullness.

Since 1939, March has also been the month where brackets are drawn, teams compete, buzzer beaters ignite the crowd, nets are cut down, and a champion is crowned. If you’re a fan of college basketball then this is your month. Even if your team is not in the tourney, there’s something about these games that is unlike anything else in sports. Going through the season and all the transitions teams must deal with to reach the pinnacle of success. Such anticipation. Such excitement. The beauty of the game. March in all its madness.

And then there’s March of 2017. March 7th to be precise. The day our family said goodbye to the person that held our hearts together. The day my wife Barb finished her 19-month journey of transitioning from a healthy life to her death from cancer.

It truly is the saddest day I have ever experienced. No other pain or sorrow comes close to what I felt that morning as I kissed her goodbye and whispered in her ear it was ok for her to go. She had fought long enough and now she could fly high to her new home. My heart still aches as I think about that moment. Tears well up again as I experience one more time the loss of her beauty. March in all its sadness.

But there’s another Ness that surpasses all the others.

Some years, Easter occurs in March which brings with it the greatest beauty. The beauty of grace and sacrifice. If you are a follower of the Christ, Easter week is probably the most significant example of transition you can find.

From the joyous shouts of Hosanna, through the final days of teaching and preparation, and into the night of communion and betrayal. Then the Friday of trial, suffering, and death and the Sabbath of sadness, doubt, and despair.

But then, oh thank God then, coming with the rising of the sun, there is the gift of new life. The raising of the Son on Sunday morning. The world transitions from a place of darkness, confusion, and fear to a home of hope, light, and life as the Christ overcomes the grave. The beauty of the Creator. Easter with all its forgiveness and completeness.

This March has been a tough one for me. In some ways even tougher than that first March losing Barb. Everything I’ve seen and experienced this month has reminded me of her. At times bringing great happiness and smiles and other times such a strong feeling of loss and tears. Grief is a process that presents itself in many ways. I’m learning to allow the ways of grief to come and to accept them. The transition out of grief is long and perhaps I will never be rid of all of it. And that’s ok.

You see I know that this loss and grief will not keep me. It cannot keep me. Because the love I shared with Barb and the love our Saviour has shared with us, is greater than anything we have to endure in this world. I am so thankful for it. The goodness of God.

Tonight during our Good Friday service, we sang the song At The Cross by Christ Tomlin.  I heard the lyrics in a way I had not before. Singing this song tonight gave me a comfort, a hug from God if you will, which is what I needed to close out this month of March.

I hope you, no matter what you are going through, are able to see and take in the goodness of God and what He has done for you. It is my prayer that you do.

“There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide
Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down”

 

Happy Easter and see you down the road.

 

March 5, 2017

Faith
is the bird
that feels the light
And sings
when the dawn
is still dark.
– Rabindranath Tagore
(taken from Healing After Loss by Martha W. Hickman)

March 5, 2017, many friends and family came to visit Barb to comfort her and to pray. It was a tiring but wonderful day of love and kindness shared with her and our family.

I like to think, no, I know that Barb’s faith was carrying her, sustaining her as her journey was coming to an end.

Even in the darkness of her last few days with us, the light of her new dawn was beginning to rise. I couldn’t see it through my sadness but it was there. And I can see now that the darkness could not overcome it.

I thanked God for his presence and comfort those last few days. And I thank Him today for the song of light and hope He continues to sing into the darkness. Can you feel it?