The Land That Knows No Mean

Sister Hazel died April 17. Now our family of five is down to two, me and youngest brother Art of Prescott, Arizona, age 80. You can find Hazel’s obit with photos at http://carlsonlillemoen.com/tribute/details/820/Hazel_Schwartz/obituary.html.

The obit fails to mention that Hazel spent half her life fighting MS, the last 40 years mostly in a wheelchair. Her pastor-husband David Schwartz died in 2006.

Born14 months before me, Hazel brought trouble to my childhood.  She was better looking, smarter in school, more popular, a better skater, and really, really mean. The least little offense to her person would bring howls of protest followed by wrath from misunderstanding parents. I knew she howled for that purpose. Hazel improved later on and we  laughed through the years over my mean big sister.

I regret health glitches will keep me from her April 20 memorial service in Cambridge, Minnesota. Valley Fever, the culprit; a spore-borne fungal illness found mainly in Southern Arizona and Northern California. My good doctors keep working on it.

Hazel’s death launched a memory trip. I remember our first home in in Duluth’s Riverside community, and the streetcar ride when Hazel and I saw our first black man. We tried not to stare. I remember the inappropriate name we gave his hillside home (the home is still there).

I remember a cold night Father’s cousin came with a small calf in his car. I remember  the pen of table leaves, chairs, and newspapers that confined the calf in our dining room. Mother was unhappy.

I remember the day just before I turned four when our parents left for some mysterious reason. I remember the long ride in an aunt’s car (first car ride of memory) to Duluth’s Lakeside community. There Hazel and I spent our school days and turned Methodist for nine good years. How I remember those years!

Hang in there Hazel. I’ll be with you before long in the land where neither Methodist or Baptist counts for diddley and where there is no mean.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

I’ll Tell You When to Quit

Home and mending from the ills of valley fever, a malady of Southern Arizona. I’m still wobbly, but functioning. Thanks to Keith for covering the Hole News.  His April 12 sheltering wings photo was a masterpiece. Creator God cares for his creatures in many ways, as I learned these past days. Thank you to my healing angels who gave loving care day and night.

Here is Epilogue 2, another life lesson on my way to the crematorium:

It was late October, 2010. Son Kevin sat with me at Lakewalk Surgery awaiting the colonoscopy report.  I had lived a year with troubling symptoms, attributing them to old age. Dr. McKee’s demeanor as he entered the recovery room spoke before he spoke: “I’m sorry to tell you, you have rectal cancer. I recommend surgery as soon as possible.”

That gave me pause. I had long ago determined I would not choose the path I had walked too often with parishioners and dear friends. Multiple surgeries, chemo, radiation; months of unrelieved misery, taking loved ones with them. The cure they sought never came. Younger people may choose that route, but I would not.  I was 87.

I thanked Dr. McKee and told him I would work with my primary care doctor to test for cancer signs elsewhere in my system. If they were found, I would forego all surgery and walk on home. Extensive tests found no hint of other cancers and on November 10, Dr. Melissa Najarian operated. She lopped ten inches off my intestine and poked it out my belly to accommodate a colostomy.

Four days later a van hauled me to Ecumen Lakeshore for rehab, where I settled in feeling less than perky. The staff determined I had to eat. Bad idea. Supper evoked explosive vomiting; black stuff. Feces, said the nurse, and called an ambulance. The crew loaded me and left me alone while they labored through interminable paperwork. My mind clouded. I was desperately cold, struggling not to vomit, more miserable than I had been in my life. “Lord,” I cried, “I’ve had enough. I quit,”

There was no voice, no penetrating light; but from somewhere I heard, “Quit what? You never started anything. I’ll tell you when to quit.” The cloud lifted and never returned.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Grandpa Lloyd Takes a Short Break

Lloyd is taking a short break for the Hole News for a health checkup. Some nagging symptoms since his return to Duluth are being checked out in the hospital.  I spoke with him this morning while he was awaiting the next procedure. Unless test results indicate otherwise he will return to his apartment in a couple of days. He appreciates your prayers.

Young Grandpa Keith

Put Down Your Paddle

For better or worse, the Epilogue series is underway (April 9 Hole News).

Here’s the scoop on the subtitle, A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Crematorium. I stole it from playwright Plautus (251–183 BC), swapping Crematorium for his Forum. The funny things are not funny; they are inexplicable, beyond understanding, life changing.

The serenity I enjoy today resulted from the experiences I will share. Some were painful, some frustrating, some terrifying. I tried dying twice, but it didn’t take.

As I work my way through whatever part of my last decade I am allowed, two scriptures loom ever larger. Note purpose in both passages.

Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Philippians 2:12-13: Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

I wound up my professional career in 1986. Have I fulfilled my life purpose?  Certainly not. Life purpose is the sum of each day’s purpose. A career is nothing but a barge to tote about our days. What we do has little to do what God is doing through us.

But mustn’t we work for the night is coming? Remember my luxury liner canoeist? He rams the prow of his canoe into the forward wall of the swimming pool and paddles like mad, thinking he is moving the ship. Study the above scriptures. God is at work in his world and in each of us; we are part of his team. But, you say, many Christians don’t do anything! Forget doing; work on being. Put down your paddle.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Lowly Cormorant

At the Venice Rookery and other places people frequent to see and photograph water birds Herons are the stars. Anhingas, various ducks, Ibises, the ubiquitous song birds, and the Cormorant might as well be invisible for all the attention they receive. Yesterday at the Rookery I gave them most of my attention.

Cormorant 1

 

A whole family

A whole family

Showing me his best side

Showing me his best side

Poised for Takeoff

Poised for Takeoff

Young Grandpa Keith

Epilogue 1: The Angel of Second Avenue West

Recently I posted a semi-facetious Hole News about a possible epilogue to my memoir called A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Crematorium. It would tell about the string of remarkable happenings in my life since Elsie died in February, 2009.

The idea drew a number of positive responses.  It’s always dangerous to encourage a writer, so here’s the first story, “The Angel of Second Avenue West.”

The family had dispersed following Elsie’s memorial service except for Joel, who stayed on to help old dad. Early Tuesday, he drove me downtown for a required Social Security appointment. He remained in the car while I hurried toward the Social Security office in the First National Bank building on Superior Street  The sidewalks were empty.

Rushing to be first in line, my toe caught the lip of a sidewalk brick and I fell hard, twisting to spare my face. Stunned, I checked for damage. Nothing broken but my pride. No way could I get to my feet unaided. I began painfully scrunching toward the building, hoping for a handhold, when a man rounded Second Avenue West.

He hurried to me, retrieved my hat and glasses, and asked if I was OK. He helped me to my feet. “You look familiar,” he said. I gave him my name. “Oh, you just lost your wife. I’m sorry” Then he added, “I sure enjoy your books.”

To this day, I have no idea who my guardian angel was.

Over the next seven years, events I can’t explain kept occurring.  I’ll tell about them on the Hole News than hang them on the Story Tree labeled Epilogue.

As long as life continues, we have purpose. Our job is to recognize this and quit grumbling about limitations brought on by passing years.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

The Wonder of Not Knowing

Sometimes you come across something that says what you want to say better than you can say it. Kayla McClurg’s April 5 Inward/Outward devotional was just that. As you know, mystery heads my credo, and Easter is the greatest of all mysteries. To pretend we understand it is high arrogance.

Kayla serves on the staff at The Church of the Saviour, Washington DC, surely one of the most remarkable Christian ministries in the land (https://www.cosnet.org ).Basing her thoughts on John 20:1-18, Kayla wrote:

The evidence is clear—Jesus is not in the tomb. The stone has been rolled aside and the grave cloths removed. Mary Magdalene is the first to arrive, and the first to report it to the others: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

Isn’t it intriguing that faith in this risen one grows from the small dark seed of not knowing? In a time of awe-inspiring uncertainty, not knowing is to be expected; it is simply the nature of post-resurrection life. Soon enough will come assurances and creeds, and the growing need to appear to be always certain. But we can benefit from returning to this morning of mornings, when all things are born anew, when not knowing wins the prize. What we do not know frees us from the weight of certainty and makes room for belief. Not knowing allows us to see with new eyes.

Where is Jesus? How might he appear to us? We do not know. Is he gone for good, or nearer than we might guess? Mary sees a stranger, a gardener perhaps, who asks her why she is weeping. She answers, because we do not know where he is. Then he says her name, the sound of his voice awakening her sight. Teacher! Beloved! Such will be our own fresh encounters with him when we begin to notice how little we know. Yet how very close we might be even now to the source of all knowing. With the eyes of faith we can begin to see him alive in our world.

What are you particularly aware of not knowing these days? Is it helping you catch sight of the resurrection?

Thanks, Kayla.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Dance Boots and the Web of Providence

Woodland Garden boasts as fine a library as you will find in a senior’s residence anywhere. Friend Norma tends the thousand-book collection. I gladly lend a hand.

Jan Krabbe leads our monthly book club. Our April title is The Dance Boots. Duluth author Linda LeGarde Grover will be our guest. Her storytelling gift is phenomena. Dr. Grover is Assistant Professor of Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Indians and their ways have filled my imagination since childhood. The Dance Boots triggered memories. When we played cowboys and Indians, I often chose Indian. My interest grew. I led my North Shore congregation in outreach on Minnesota and Canadian reserves and  spent time many summers visiting Alaska villages.

In the mid-80s, Indian life became personal. Forty years earlier our denomination ordained Art. H, our first Native American. A Wisconsin Ojibwe, Art was tall and ruggedly handsome , a gifted evangelist. Sadly, he stumbled. His relapse into alcohol took his family and his ordination. He became a street drunk. Providence marks the long story of Art’s recovery and remarriage.

He completed counselor training and accepted a job at a reservation rehab center. A policy change wiped out Art’s position just as opportunity  came to place a counselor on a reserve in Canada. Wally Olson, Indian ministries’ coordinator for our district, sent Art and his wife to the reserve.

Over the years, Art had put together a series of talks on what he believed to be the root cause for heavy drinking among Indians: unresolved grief.  One morning, Wally, a long-time friend, phoned. “Lloyd, Arts talks are so great, how can we spread them?” I told Wally to tape the talks, have them typed, and let me take a look.

What I saw grabbed me by the throat. The seeds of a good book I would call  The Grieving Indian. But as usual, I had no funds. I contacted several Indian ministries, explained the project, and asked for help.  Money dribbled in.Then a phone call came from George McPeek, publisher of Indian Life magazine in Winnipeg. “Lloyd, publishing for Indian people is what we do. How can we help?”

I just happened to have a speaking engagement near Winnipeg coming up and proposed we  get together. We talked and  I handed off the manuscript and about $1,800. Since that day, 70,000 copies have been published. The book vastly broadened Art’s speaking circuit and became a major resource for Indian counselors in the States and Canada.

Oh the tangled web of providence.

Old Grandpa Lloyd