I’m terrified to write. And here’s why.

Words.

You’d think after years as a poet and a student of journalism and literature and creative writing and a newspaper columnist and freelance writer with three novels under my belt and a fourth in the editing phase, I’d be comfortable with words.

But today, I’m terrified.

Like most of you, I’ve been watching the news and the soundbites cross my social media feeds for the last week. I’ve seen friends curse worse than sailors and announce that they refuse-from-here-on-out to be friends with anyone who voted differently than they did. I saw a mother pack a suitcase for her grade school age son and kick him out of the house as he stood screaming in terror. I saw people threatening to kill police and throw rocks at them in the streets of my home town. And I saw the late night comedian sing a pop hymn through tears, and the voices of twitter and Facebook rose like an off-key choir and their collective

hallelujah

finally broke me.

Because like so many of the words filling our feeds and ears and minds this past week, their

hallelujah

is empty. A pop star dies. The media lassos his song and uses the word

hallelujah.

Redefines the word

hallelujah.

Distorts the word

hallelujah.

And the people believe they are saved by a pop song and a comedian pretending to be a candidate they thought could save them, alongside another comedian pretending to be a candidate half of the rest of the country thought could save them.

Hallelujah

is defined by Merriam-Webster–never mind the Bible–as a word used to express praise, joy, or thanks, especially to God.

HALLELUJAH

the people sing, and God,

well,

–can I have a witness here?–

I believe He weeps. I believe He looks out over humanity beating the emotional (and sometimes physical) crap out of each other in this land of milk and honey the same way Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and wept. Because the current and resounding

hallelujah

is empty, just like the words we sling at each other because we fail to see the face of the Creator in our enemies, in our neighbors, and even our friends. So yeah, I’m terrified of words right nowbecause a whole lot of people are saying a whole lot of things and nobody knows what any of it means anymore.

Love means

hate

and hope means

despair

and peace means

war

and brother means

bigot

and protest means

kill

and I am undone.

Hallelujah.

Can I at least reclaim that word?

Can I at least suggest those nine letters strung together be reserved for my Savior, your Savior, the one Savior, the only Savior, the only hope for any of us, whether we sit at a piano crying or throw stones or burn flags or vote for the wrong candidate, or whether we are simply alive and breathing, because to be alive and breathing is to be a sinner in need of grace?

Back when we actually knew what the words we were saying really meant, some wise soul coined the expression that the good Lord gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason.

Might require pulling out a dictionary, but we’d all be wise to sit and contemplate what that little phrase means for a spell.

There comes a time when a writer has to write, even if she is terrified, because the same words currently tearing us apart could, rearranged, bring us back together.

Words of hope for a hurting world.

That’s been my mission, my calling, for as long as I can remember.

So I’ll keep writing.

But I’ll sure as heck make sure to listen.

And I’ll reserve the right to sing

HALLELUJAH

for the only wise King.

 

You’ve got a friend. 

You’re not alone.

Those can be the most reassuring words on the planet, can’t they? 

Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on…encouraging one another…”

Allowing someone the privilege of coming alongside us in our burdens is as much of a blessing as coming alongside them when they need it. Sometimes, telling just one loyal friend is enough to lift our hearts and help us press on in faith and joy. 

Because through friends, we learn we are not alone humanly, or spiritually. 

The Lord never leaves. 

In Lead Me Home, James Horton and his friends in Sycamore, Indiana, learn this truth, some of them the hard way. 

What does community mean to you? 

Changing the story of the elderly among us: Aging Family We Love

agingfamily1

 

*****

My Grandpa Joe and me at my wedding in 1995.
My Grandpa Joe and me at my wedding in 1995.

In February, 2012, my Grandpa Joe, a month shy of 95, suffered a fall which ultimately led to his death approximately ten days later. During his hospitalization, his short-term memory was poor, but his long-term memory was strong. Sitting with him and simply listening to his stories without trying to correct him or argue when he got little facts and names wrong over the course of those 10 days proved to be a precious healing and grace-covered time. 

As a nurse, I frequently care for elderly patients who are fading. The challenges surrounding end-of-life care and elderly loved ones is daunting for everyone involved, and I detail much of that struggle in my recent article at More to Life Magazine: Final Chapters. Many of these patients have dementia or Alzheimer’s, which compounds the exhaustion and distress of caregivers and friends. According to the Alzheimer’s Association more than 10 million Americans face the task of caring for a family member with dementia. This means that chances are, this sort of situation touches you or someone you love. 

But the elderly among us are more than their diagnoses.

Indeed, many have stories left to tell.

In Final Chapters, I write: 

We can re-write these stories for ourselves and our loved ones. First, we need to raise awareness of the magnitude of the plight of our aging brothers and sisters and the loved ones close to emotional and physical collapse trying to care for them. Then, we need to listen to their stories, for it is through story—yours, mine, and theirs—that we live.”

While we often cannot change the progression of age and age-related crises, one of the most significant realizations besides capturing the stories within our loved ones is that we don’t have to go through these times alone. In fact, many organizations exist to help learn ways to cope, such as the Alzheimer’s Association  and A Place for Mom.

Community matters in end-of-life and elderly care.

We need to start sharing our stories.

We need to start sharing their stories.

Will you join in the conversation?

There’s a new space I started on Facebook for people to come, post photos of their loved ones, tell their own stories and gather for encouragement, called Aging Family We Love.

In addition, we’re making space for people like you to post pictures and stories on social media sites like twitter and Pinterest by using the hashtag #AgingFamilyWeLove.

*****

Do you have a story to tell about an aging loved one?

Write a post on your own blog and link to it in the comments below.

And/or, help start the conversation by clicking one of the links below to tweet:

Tweet: Do you care for an aging family or friend? Share your story. #AgingFamilyWeLove http://ctt.ec/fbRfJ+

or

Tweet: I’m helping change the way my loved one’s story ends, and you can too. #AgingFamilyWeLove http://ctt.ec/V6GyI+

or

Tweet: My loved one has a story beyond #Alzheimers that needs to be told. #AgingFamilyWeLove http://ctt.ec/w55R2+

or

Tweet: My loved one’s story doesn’t end with #dementia. Share your story. #AgingFamilyWeLove http://ctt.ec/1448s+

*****

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Here’s a picture of my Grandpa Joe, my Grandma Mary Jane, and my dad from the 1940’s. Grandpa Joe was the inspiration behind my new novel, Then Sings My Soul.

What will your loved one inspire you or someone else to do?