the heaviness of missing

“how anxiously I yearned for those I had forsaken.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man


(crab/ Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2019)

I have always wrestled with the notion of “good-byes”.
I don’t like them.
Never have.
Most likely never will.

There is an odd finality to it all…this business of good-byes…
or so it surely seems at the time of parting.

Perhaps it is the continuity of constancy and consistency that seem threatened
during the action of good-byes.

More times than not, I readily comprehend the cognizant reality–
meaning that my mind is well aware that I will indeed be seeing or be with whomever it is
that might be momentarily leaving my physical presence…

So in some regards, I feel almost silly for getting so worked up or sad.
My brain screams at me, telling me to suck it up, you’ll see them–again– soon–
For crying out loud!

Yet the pain in the spirit, soul, and heart is still very real
as I know that there are those good-byes that are temporary and those that are more permanent.
And it is the permanence of those good-byes that are indeed most bitter…
As all of us will eventually experience such on a very personal level.

I don’t know but I often think adopted folks feel partings perhaps a bit more deeply than others…

I am more than aware of the effects that a mother-to-be has upon her unborn baby in the womb—

There is a transference of emotions, hormones, sounds, senses…even down to the very things
the mother eats or drinks.

Throw in anger, sorrow, stress, fatigue, resentment…
all of that passes through to the one she carries.

A baby who is destined to be “left behind” following its birth…be that for adoption,
knows most pointedly on a deep subconscious level, for a lifetime, the pain of both
rejection and good-byes…

Be they simple, short and fleeting or be they bitter, lasting and full of forever loss…
a good-bye is deeply felt and understood.

And so it was with the parting of our grandchildren today, after having been with them
for the past three days, that my heart was weighed down by the stinging tears
associated with such a parting and loss…

Picking up the left-behind toys and the topsy turvy disarray of a house that only babies
and toddlers bring…
all the while battling with a personal heaviness of heart and stinging tears.

Silly emotions really, but the depth of sudden stillness can be physically unsettling
when just moments before, just before the fully loaded car pulled out of the driveway,
the level of endless energy had been deliriously exhausting as it filled the entire house.

In my particular case of loss, as my brain works tirelessly to tell me, will be blessedly short.
Yet all the while, I know that for others, some good-byes will be sadly lasting and difficult.

So I was reminded of all of this notion of partings and good-byes today when I read
my friend Salvageable’s blog post regarding his missing of a fellow blogger friend.

https://salvageable04.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/the-fading-and-disappearance-of-aurora/

Often in our lives, our experiences of missing and loss come because of the one we
long for, for whatever reason, opts to move on or perhaps move away…

There comes frustration in such losses because they are really out of our control,
as are most losses—and they come with no real explanation or reasoning.

One day they’re here, the next day they are not.
No words, no contact, no good-bye.

An open-ended loss.

Just as we experience with a death…
equally as difficult and hard to wrap one’s head and heart around…
for there is no control with the loss.

Most often, there is also no opportunity for farewell.

Either way, the after effects affect our whole being.

I offered my empathy to Salvageable as I expressed just how much I’ve missed my blogging
friend Natalie.

Much the same way that I miss my aunt.
Both became sick and yet I never saw either one of them during their illness.
In Natalie’s case, we had never met face to face.

One minute, we spoke over the phone, then there’s an illness that occurred, and then poof,
they were gone.

Just the other day, my daughter-n-law and I both lamented how much we missed “Aunt Maaaaaathhaaa”
It’s just weird that she’s no longer a physical part of our family.
We spoke on the phone on a Tuesday evening as I shared that she was to soon be a great aunt.
I had no visible bearing as to how sick she was as we chatted about my becoming a grandmother.
Her voice raspy but her mind was focused as she talked about getting some strength back.
A day later… on Wednesday, she was gone.

Similar to my friend Natalie, but our’s was communication via texts and emails while she was
in the hospital.
I told her that I was going to fly out to see her…a day later her daughter actually text back
that her mom was in ICU and for me to wait.
Four day’s later she was gone.

I liked what Salvageable had to say in his post about there being a designated place in Heaven for
Wordpress bloggers to finally meet…because there are so many of you I love dearly,
yet we have never sat together at a kitchen table and shared a face to face laugh or tear.

And such is this life of ours…perhaps it’s akin to being something like pen-pals.
One day, for whatever reason, the letters just stop coming.
Leaving us to always wonder as to what happened.

Yet thankfully there is a takeaway in all of this melancholy chatter and that is actually
the of good news in all of this heaviness.

For it is here, where many of us join and come together, that we are brought together
by our shared love for Jesus Christ.

Even those who come here to counter our words and our posts…those ardent disbelievers and atheists
who come to argue, fuss, cuss and discuss our seemingly “disillusionment”–
all come because of Jesus.

And for those of us who believe, it is that love of Jesus that sustains all of our losses,
be they great or small, temporary or seemingly neverending.

Therein resides our Hope and our Grace.

For those of you who come to fuss, cuss, discuss or for those who come simply with their loss and sorrow…
blessedly and thankfully, we all have Hope.

For He is indeed the great I AM…

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

well that didn’t go as planned now did it?

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
Allen Saunders


( I snapped this little spine chart yesterday sitting in the exam room waiting on the doctor / Julie Cook /2019)

Pour yourself a cool glass of lemonade and pull up a chair, this may take a minute.

Yesterday I found myself sitting in the orthopedic’s exam room waiting on the doctor.
They were kind to work me in as I called on Memorial Day and they were closed.
During grandmother duty this past Saturday, something went awry in my back…
I knew when it happened…much like 3 years ago when I could be found in the same office.

Last time it was two herniated disks.
This felt much the same…sooo I knew the drill.

Shots in the back for now…we’ll see how that works before we pull
in the big guns as we did last time with an epidural and nerve block.
Sigh.

Things like back issues, bone issues…any medical issue really, in almost all cases,
have a hereditary leaning.

We inherit so much from our parents and from those even further down the line from previous generations.

That’s in part why our doctors are always asking us if we have a medical history for __________
allowing you and I to fill in the blank.

When you’re adopted, you almost never really know the answers.
You never really know a thing about any sort of medical history.

They don’t send home care instructions or medical charts with babies who are being adopted.
Well, they didn’t in 1959 when I was born.

So I usually tick the boxes on my doctor’s charts with an NA or an “I have absolutely no clue”

Every medical issue I’ve ever stumbled into during my lifetime has seemed to be an anomaly…
an out of the blue sort of occurrence.
Who knew this short person who has been relatively active her entire life would have bone
and back troubles?

I certainly didn’t.

I’ve written about my having been adopted on numerous occasions.
When I first began this blog 6 years ago, I pegged adoption to be one of my “discussion” topics.
We former educators always think along educational lines…so much so that when I started writing,
I was all about wanting to inform and educate…
Be it about cooking, art, travel or adoption…education was the impetus.

But in the middle of those 6 years, God redirected my words…
I found I wasn’t sharing much about those sorts of topics anymore but rather topics
God had lead me to share.
And who am I to argue with God??

But for whatever reason, I am back to revisiting the topic of adoption…
In great part, due to my concern over this culture of death we seem to be living in…
a culture that puts money, lifestyle and convenience over the sanctity of human life…
but I digress.

Adoption is a funny thing.

We adopted children are actually given a second chance at life.
Aborted babies, not so much.

Adoption is either a hard and painful choice for a woman or it is relatively simple.
It just depends on the woman.

Yet adopted children, those whose adoptive parents are very open and transparent about the adoption,
live with the knowledge that they, in essence, have two sets of parents…
a biological set and an adopted set.

It’s just that many fathers in the biological set may or may not know that they had ever fathered a child.
But that is not to be the pig trail for today’s discussion…we shall stay on topic.
Educators do try to keep the discussions on track…not unless they see a teachable moment taking
place in the diversion…today, we are on track.

A couple of weeks ago, before baby James got so sick, I wrote a post about my search for my biological parents.
Well, not totally an in-depth tale and not so much about my parents, but actually, a search for my mother.
Suffice it to know, things did not go so well.

The link is here:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/i-think-we-could-have-been-friends-and-i-do-have-some-really-nice-lamps/

However I want to back up a bit.

I was born in 1959 and adopted in 1960.

There was a little book put out in those early days for adopted parents to read to their adopted children,
a book read when the adopted parents deemed their adopted child was ready…ready to learn
the truth and could help explain the situation.

Dad read me the story when I was about 5.

I loathed that little book and I loathed the story.
Suddenly I felt separated from everyone I thought I knew as mine.

I then set out living my life,
while trying to keep the feelings of separation from that life, at bay.

I think we call that suppression.

This was the first post I wrote about my adoption—
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/who-in-the-heck-is-sylvia-kay-and-what-have-you-done-with-her/

I didn’t want to talk about being adopted nor think about it.
If I did, then my neat and tidy little world wouldn’t be so neat and tidy.
Plus I fretted about my parents and their feelings…I never wanted them to feel hurt or
pain that I was really not theirs, but rather that I was someone else’s child.

The child playing a role far beyond her age, responsibility or capacity.

For you see their second adopted child, my adopted brother who was 5 years younger than
I was, was a mess.
His life with them and the life of us as a family was doomed…
because in essence he was doomed.

He did not handle being adopted well at all, and we all suffered grievously.

It is probably one of my better posts, despite the difficulty in writing it as well as the pain
in re-reading it of which adds to the re-living…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/

So I suppose we could say adoption has almost haunted me my entire life.

Once, when I finally became a grown woman with my own family, I wanted to learn more.
I wanted to be able to know things for my son’s sake.
Mainly medical information, but genealogy as well.

So 10 years ago, I was troubled by those nagging questions.
Adopted children live with questions.
That’s not a bad thing…don’t educators always say, no question is a bad question?
And I thought I’d seek a few of the answers.
I had always told myself, because of what my dad had lived through with my brother,
that I would never search for my biological parent—
I knew that the thought of possibly “losing” his only living child would be too much.

So rather than seeking the answers to the big questions, I decided to look for smaller answers.
But when I did find those “answers”, they only created giant gaping holes in the story
of who I was.

I reached out the Family’s First, Georgia’s Adoption Reunion Registry—
it is what the Atlanta Adoption
Agency, the place I came from, had morphed into.

For a small fee, they would provide me with my redacted case files—
no identifying cities, last names
or any hints as to people, states, cities or places.

But the story left larger questions.

Questions I would sit on for another 10 years.

Dad died two years ago.
I now have grandchildren.
I continue to look in a mirror wondering.
What is in me that is now in those grandchildren of mine?…and whose DNA is in them?

My doctor and I had talked about me doing one of those popular DNA tests so I could
find out some medical
information to pass on to my son.
She preferred 23 and Me as it provided the best medical info.

And so I did—I did so also hoping to find some sort of family.

I found a 1st cousin in Tennessee.
When I saw his information pop up on my computer screen, I felt my heart stop.

I nervously reached out to this man and shared the story of me that I knew.

That is an on-going story but he is my first cousin on my dad’s side of the family.
He is almost certain his second cousin is my half sister—but they are all still
working on that.

The story I shared added up.
Jobs, dates, etc.

I felt euphoria.
Which quickly faded as they have lives, they are busy and a long lost sibling is
not top on their radar…
but that is not to say that they have not been kind and helpful and eventually
want to meet and share pictures.
But they are younger than I am and are in different places.
My birth dad, one of the three brothers, their uncles, has since passed away…
so no reunion there.
And as I say, that is a story still in the making.

During all of this, however, I opted to reach back out to Families First.
I was ready to pay a larger fee for a full-fledged search for my biological mother.

The social worker told me they always start with the mother.
If she is deceased, then they share information and move on to a search for the father.

She told me that I was to come up with a top 10 list of questions I wanted to be answered,
as well as a letter is written directly to my birth mother.

At the time, I was feeling a bit disconnected…perhaps it was a protection mechanism as
I was almost stoical bordering on flippant in my going forward with all of this.
I was generic in my questions and really didn’t have a full 10.

The social worker told me that they enlist the aid of a private detective and don’t
be surprised if the search takes up to 6 months.

I then tucked all of this away on a back burner.

Yet I was actually becoming a bit of an internal emotional wreck.

But as life would have it, our second grandchild was born nad life quickened.
There were some complications and time was not my own.

I really wasn’t thinking about adoption searches anymore.

But then one day out of the blue I received a call from the social worker informing me that
they had found my mother and she was indeed still alive.

I felt an electric jolt of excitement–a smile filled my face.
Hope of sorts was entering my life’s quest.

The social worker now wanted those questions and that letter—
in hopes of giving them to my mother
when she reached out to her.

I wrote fast and quick…I didn’t want to overthink or reconsider.
I wrote without even reading over what I wrote—
a letter filled with gratitude and kindness
and well wishes…and lots of typos.

And then I waited.
And life got busy, again.

So it was not until the other week when my husband and I were getting ready to
walk out the door that my phone rang.

I immediately recognized the name of the social worker and I stopped dead in my tracks.
She had been good to keep me up to speed via email, but here she was calling.
I fumbled all over myself answering and offering pleasantries.

What had begun as a rather low key nonchalant search of curiosity now had turned into
something much more…
It had grown into the notion of me seeing all of this as a second chance…a second chance
with a crucial relationship in life.

Yet I’ve known of family horror stories—those who were seeking, just as I was,
only to find disaster.

I was well aware of the risks—yet I was willing to take those risks…
because I wanted to know who made me who I was…who I am…
all those nuances that are simply the by-products of personal shared DNA.
Who looks back at me in that mirror every day.
Who has helped to build this wall inside of me?

The social worker started the conversation with,
“Julie, I heard back from your mother today through her attorney…”
I swallowed hard and stammered “attorney”…as in “oh, ok, well that says it all does it not?!”

I felt a sicking weight hit my guts.

The room shrunk in around me and I felt as if I might suffocate.

My family has had enough dealings with attorneys as of late due to
deaths and wills…here we were to go again.
Nothing with an attorney is positive.

She continued—she wants nothing to do with you…” you were from the past and
that is where you are to stay.”

Hot tears now formed in my eyes.

I wanted to yell into the phone that “you tell that attorney and that woman
that I am a good person. A kind person…
a person who I think she could be proud of…”

But I didn’t.

I was the baby she bore prematurely, without any prenatal care.
The baby she fled her family over, moving out of state.
The baby who she ended her relationship with my father over—
a man who had asked her to marry him.
She was 23 and he was 28—yet she said some things and things went too far…
and she ran—she ran from everyone and everything…and she ran into hiding.

She was a nurse who didn’t seek prenatal care.
She delivered under me using an alias.

Even a different hospital then what is on my legal birth certificate.

She gave birth and left the hospital that day.
But the social worker at the time noted in the files that twice she was called back
because I was sick
She was worried and had tears in her eyes when returning to the hospital.
The social worker noted that she was still very much emotionally attached to my birth father
despite his having moved on and becoming engaged.

So many questions.
Such a sad past.
And that was where I was to stay…in her sad past.
A past that could have had a happier ending.

The social worker told me that because of this, she was unable to share my
questions and letter.
I half-heartedly laughed telling her it was a letter chocked full of grammatical errors and
typos as we both laughed.

I asked if she could, perhaps clean it up and send my letter to this attorney.
I even almost found myself asking for the attorney’s name before I thought better—
knowing all of this was such an anonymous process, protecting her identity.

In the state of Georgia, one’s adoptions records remain sealed under the court of law.
They may only be opened by petitioning the court and the reason better be pretty darn good.
Curiosity and the answering of questions are not good enough reasons.

And so that is why I wrote that post the other week.

Tomorrow I will post the letter I wrote to my mother.

I figure what the heck.

The social worker was having to send some sort of affidavit to the lawyer for my
mother to sign—
I suppose a paper to put in my file that states she is not to ever be contacted
and my records…may never be seen.
Despite the fact that they are also my records.
As in mine and just as much mine as hers.

I told the social worker, to again, please assure this attorney that it had not my intent
to invade into this woman’s life.
I also told her I figured this would be how it would end.
“Why is that Julie” she inquired.
“It’s just my luck Stacy”

After writing that post the other day, a dear blogger friend, Dawn Marie,
in Pennsylvania offered this comment:

I am so sorry, Julie.
But even sorriest for the woman who opened her womb to you, but not her heart.
I will pray for her.
And I would ask you to consider perhaps this “rough” ending was put in place by God
to protect you & not harm.
He revealed, through her calloused legal action, a lot about her –
perhaps sheltering you from further harm.
May you be at peace.
A warm hug sent your way to uplift you.

I’ll add a few more words tomorrow when I share my letter.

After I hung up the phone I dropped my head like a small child might do,
and sobbed into my husband’s arms.
A double rejection.
The grown me, the grown 60-year-old woman, crying like a small child whose
own mother had rejected her…again.

But as Dawn reminds me…God is in the midsts of all of this
just like he was when in 1959 when I was conceived and born…
and later in 1960 when I was eventually adopted.

When we opted to go down to the beach for a few days last week, I thought it would be
a time that I could ponder, contemplate and make sense of things…
and to natually lick my wounds.

Yet God thought differently—no time for self-pity…
He called us to race home to be with our grandson who was rushed to the hospital.

See…life, my life, does go on.
It goes on in three blood relatives…
My son and his two children.
Of whom mean the world to me.
They are mine and I am theirs.

Some reasons in life we know,
some we do not—
The best we can do is to always pick ourselves up when we fall and move one foot in
front of the other–
always moving forward…and never back.

The letter tomorrow.

I think we could have been friends…and I do have some really nice lamps

That piece of paper changed your child’s legal parents,
but did nothing to alter their DNA.

Adoption and Birth Mothers

All my life I’ve looked into a mirror and wondered…
I’ve wondered who it is that has made the face that looks back at me.

Being adopted one wonders such things.

I turn 60 this year and I still look and wonder.

Whose eyes
Whose mouth.
Whose hair.
Whose lack of eyebrows.

When I first started blogging, this was one of the topics that I would often touch upon because
it was very much a part of who I was…who I am.

I am adopted.
Born in 1959.
Adopted in 1960.

Back at the first of the year I finally decided to do one those popular DNA tests.

My physician and I got to talking about my unknown medical history…as we keep
having little surprises…
What of my son and his medical surprises and that of my new grandchildren??
Plus I had a dear friend in Colorado who had just met her own birth mother…
What did I have to lose right?

As I mentioned, I had grandchildren now and I very much wanted for them to know this
“secretive” past of mine.
I wanted /want for them to know their genealogy, their origins, just as I want them to know their
medical history…just as I want this for my son.

As of now, I have three blood relatives…my son and my two grandchildren.

I was a history major for heaven’s sake!
History is so keenly important to me…and yet I don’t know my own history.
How pathetic is that?

I have been the unofficial keeper of my family’s genealogy…but the fact of the matter is…
this is not really MY family’s history.
I feel like a specter on someone else’s tree.

Adoption is an integral part of who I am and an integral part of my DNA.
Whether I want to admit it or not, it is the fact of who I am.

I recently stumbled upon a website written by a birth mother, who had given up
her child and her current quest is to dispell misconceptions and set the
facts straight.

Some of her words pierced directly through my heart…

“It’s natural and normal to need to know where you come from and how your child is.
It’s human nature and the fact that your adopted child
has searched for you is a testament that they are actually quite normal.”

The adoptee has a RIGHT to know where they come from.
No adoptee should not have to be a banned as a dirty little secret their whole life.
No one should have to have their very existence denied to protect another’s feelings,
even their own mothers.

It doesn’t matter that you view them as a stranger now,
they were not meant to be strangers, they were not strangers, your child is not a stranger!
You are still the only person in this universe that created this human who dares
to want to talk to you.
You have a moral responsibility to BE there for your adoptee.
Mothers DO for our children.

We are supposed to provide unconditional love for them.
That is our job and the relinquishment was not a discharge from service.

Adoption and Birth Mothers

This is just a small piece to a long story.
60 years worth of a story I suppose.

Just suffice it to know that I received some disheartening news today
regarding my birth mother.

She is still alive and is 83 years young.

I’ll put all of this together into a more coherent post soon, but for now,
my emotions are simply running quite raw.

They say that children who are given up for adoption have a lifelong battle with rejection.

Should that adult child ever find their birth mother and she, though a lawyer,
states that there is to never be any sort of contact as this is a “matter” of the past and
it is in the past that it is to remain…
well, then that becomes a matter of double rejection.

Why does having a lawyer these days seem to be the definitive answer to everything?
Rather than a “by God, this is the way it is”—rather now it is “by the words of this
specific legal eagle, this’ is the end of things, capiche?
Because if not, you will be hit with some sort of legal nightmare.

I sat with tears streaming down my face this afternoon looking at a lamp that was my grandmothers.
It is indeed a fine lamp.
A beautifully old lamp.
A coveted lamp by the lamp shop who repaired it.

I have some nice things…
I don’t want your nice things.

It is not a matter of my wanting anything from someone.
I am happy, comfortable and not lacking.
There should not be a fear of some sort of monetary want.
There should not be a fear of a knock on the door and the desire for
the need of a mother.
There is no desire to rock your neat and tidy world.

There are only questions and a desire for answers.
Like where in the heck did the lack of these lips come from?

I am a nice person.
I would be a good friend.
But yet you’ve opted not to know about that.
And you said so through a lawyer.
And for that, I am sorry.

Men who live far away will come and help to rebuild the Temple of the Lord.
And when it is rebuilt, you will know that the Lord Almighty sent me to you.
This will all happen if you fully obey the commands of the Lord your God.

Zechariah 6:15

We lift up our voices for our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka

“It is a persistent evil to persecute a man who belongs to the grace of God.
It is a calamity without remedy to hate the happy.”

Saint Cyprian of Carthage

NEGOMBO, SRI LANKA – APRIL 21: Officials inspect the damaged St. Sebastian’s Church after multiple
explosions targeting churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019, in Negombo,
north of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
At least 207 people were killed and hundreds of others wounded in multiple blasts that hit eight
different locations — including churches where Christians were marking Easter Sunday —
and 5-star hotels in commercial capital Colombo.
(Photo by Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

It never makes sense.

And it only seems more painful, ever more cruel, that it should happen on a day of worship.

That it happens in a house of worship.

That it happens particularly on Easter…

Aren’t those no go zones?

No go days?
No go places?

Safe zones from human savagery and cruelty?

But we know better.

We know that predation has happened in such places.
We know heinous things have happened in such places.
Tornados have happened in such places.
Priests have had their throats slit while conducting mass in such places

And so yesterday, Easter Sunday 2019, was not to be exempt.
6 coordinated explosions ripped through three churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.
Before day’s end, 8 explosions in all would rock the small island nation off
the coast of India, leaving 207 dead and upwards of 450 injured.

Terrorism.

Again.

Against churches.

Against Christians.

Against innocent folks…folks just like you and me.

We never know.

Evil is persistent.

But our God is eternal.

For our Redeemer remains unchanged…and He lives both today and tomorrow.

Our faith will not be deterred.

And so we lift our prayers in unity for our hurting brothers and sisters…
we pray for healing, comfort, peace, protection, Grace, and Mercy…

Hear our prayers oh Lord…

Before and after…the question

The south facade of Notre Dame before the fire…


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

Now the upper portion of the same facade, after the fire…


(Associated Press)

Despite the brilliant blue sky, the delightfully warm late afternoon sun,
a heaviness continued to linger…

I dumped a portion of the hardwood chunks of charcoal into the grill then used the
lighter to ignite the charcoal.

When the soft yellow-orange glow began, I closed the lid, cracking open the vents while I
proceeded to wait.

Soon enough, I opened the lid as the flames rose while the burning wood chips popped
and crackled.

I stared down into the grill, filled with those yellow-orange licking flames,
while I purposely and intently listened to the sounds of both fire and wood.

My thoughts seemed to have gotten stuck on an unseen replay button…
replaying the scenes from yesterday’s images of both Notre Dame and of the fire.

I thought of each trip, over the past decades of my life,
that I have walked into that cavernous and overwhelmingly
historic and spiritual “house” of worship.

The sounds of my own footsteps echoing off the soaring stone walls and massive pillars
as my steps reverberated against the barrel vault high above my head.

Awe stopped me in my tracks as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting
while the hints of pungent incense lingered in my nostrils.

I grappled with the magnitude of the historical and the physical while my mind
wrapped around the Spiritual impetus for this seemingly gargantuan whale that
had suddenly swallowed me whole.

The rising flames in the grill jerked me back to the present and my need
to get about my grilling supper…

I would say that this historic and catastrophic fire is proving devastating
on a great many levels.

The world is painfully mourning an iconic cultural loss.
Paris is mourning a devastating loss of an iconic piece of her home’s heart.
As we the world mourn both an artistic and architectural loss.

The proverbial bucket list destination for tourists and one of the spiritual
pilgrimage destinations on the lists of the faithful is now forever changed…
just as much of humankind is now changed.

But what I think is even more important, the fire has shaken loose a deeply hidden
sense of loss found in most of Western Civilization…it is a loss on a subconscious level
that we’ve never been able to put our finger on…
a loss that has long existed…one we have subconsciously known
was there but yet we didn’t know.

It is the loss of our Christian Spirituality…
our Spirituality that we have allowed to slip from, not merely our
hands, but from our very psyches and souls.

Yesterday I offered a response to a friend’s comment on my day’s post regarding
the fire and that comment has now lingered in my thoughts…

“someone I was listening to last night posed the question—– and I’ll paraphrase-
‘With so much of Europe becoming so secularized—–we’re seeing these massive ancient bastions
of Christian faith becoming more and more like museums rather than houses of worship.
With everyone now clamoring to rebuild…
the question we must be asking ourselves is what are we rebuilding?

Are we rebuilding a museum that lost so much art, etc…art that can never be replaced…
or are we rebuilding a church, a house of worship?…

I find that to be the very key question for our very postmodern Christian selves”

It is not lost on me that we are in the midst of the most Holiest of weeks within
all of Christendom while in the midsts of an ever-shrinking Christian faith
in our culture.

This fire is yet another visceral image of our own human tragedy and the fall of man.

It shakes loose our hidden sense of grief and loss over our flailing and fragile faith.

Christ descended into the depths of a raging fire of our very sin…
and on the third day, He rose from those ashes…

May we now use this sense of loss and grief, allowing our faith to be rekindled as we too rise
upward out of the ashes of what has become such a sinful loss…

Loss no more..but only gain…as the spire rises again…

“So you’re giving up?
That’s it?
Okay, okay. We’ll leave you alone, Quasimodo.
We just thought, maybe you’re made up of something much stronger.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

An unexpected interruption, the question of shot or no shot and finally, the wisdom of Mary Poppins

“Everything is possible,
even the impossible”

Mary Poppins


(Emily Blunt and the always enchanting Angela Lansbury in the new Mary Poppins
movie as seen on our son’s TV)

Ok, so where was I…??

Ok, so maybe the question should be… where in the heck have I been?

When we were last together, I think I made mention that we were off to see the Mayor…
bringing her home with us for a few days…

Well…we did…sort of…….

A week ago Monday evening, late, we got a call from our son.
Or someone who was supposed to be our son who was sounding very puny, croaky and cloggy.

A pained voice informed us “I’ve just gotten back from Urgent Care and I have the flu
so you’ve got to come get the baby NOW!!!
The doctor told me not to be around her.”

“Ok” I’m thinking.
Your wife is 8 months pregnant, your 13th-month-old has been right there—
you’ve all been together in very close proximity up until now—
so if anyone is getting the flu…
well, that ship sailed days ago when you first started feeling bad.

That’s how viral things work—they make the rounds before you even realize
they’re at work making the rounds.

“We’ve planned on coming tomorrow …
I don’t think the night is going to alter the course of viral destiny”

I calmly respond to a panicked first-time dad.

“We’ve had the flu shot.
We’ve all had the flu shot…
even Autumn had the flu shot…”

He practically wails apologetically with deep lamentations.

“Oh well” I quip a bit caustically.

For you see, at this very moment, I too was oddly not feeling well.
I felt chilled and suddenly zapped of all energy as well as slightly nauseated with a headache.

“Buck up,” I hear an inner voice commanding from someplace deep inside my head.

The satellite Woobooville office was all set-up and good to go—
awaiting our return back home with the Mayor.

‘We are to be on a rescue mission’
I defiantly proclaimed while trying to dismiss what my body was now feeling.

“I don’t feel well” I heard myself tell my husband…
“I’m going on to bed”

“But it’s just 9 o’clock”

“I can’t help it, I’m freezing”

About an hour later I was running a frighteningly odd yet very low-grade fever,
all the while I was violently shaking.

I asked for some Motrin.

And it was just about this very moment in time when my husband began complaining
about having the same symptoms.

This made for a very long, sleepless night of misery.

And yet we were still having to drive over to Atlanta bright and early to rescue the Mayor,
I was more than fretful.

That’s when I noticed how badly my left arm was hurting.

Hummmmmm…

For you see… I’ve failed to share with you that is was on that Monday
(last Monday as you read this today), that both my husband and myself went to get a shot.

A preventative vaccine mind you.

Similar to the preventative flu vaccine our son had gotten.

It was the Shingles shot.

When we went to our pharmacy on Monday Morning, in order to get the shots,
I explained to the pharmacist that we were planning on getting our
13-month-old granddaughter the following day…
so would she be ok with our getting the shot?

“Of course no problem.”

HA!

By Tuesday morning my arm was in full-blown shingles mode.

A burn/bruise-like area the size of a large eggplant covered my arm—
but not at the injection site.
It hurt terribly on a deep level yet was itchy on an up top level.

Eyes now rolling in my head.

My husband had no rash but redness at the injection site along with a
horrific headache, fever and chills.

We struggled to get ourselves up and dressed…
Yet we loaded up the car and headed off to the Mayor’s.

Our son was to be out of town the coming weekend and desperately was trying to
make that still happen—
he stayed home the day we arrived but went on into work the following days
as not to miss any more work.

In the meanwhile, the Mayor came home with us.

They had fretted how she might be feeling.

The Mayor, however, was having none of this as she felt great.
In fact, she was feeling so great, she was actually a live wire—
albeit a live wire with a
very runny and snotty nose.

The next day, I noticed I now had a sore throat and a very cloggy snotty nose
and a headache…
still with my eggplant looking “faux” shingle rash.

The Mayor’s aides were more than puny.
And keeping up with a live wire when feeling puny makes for a tough go.

I called the doctor telling the nurse what was going on.

She calls back the following day.

“Yeah, we’ve heard this shot has had those sorts of reactions…
but as it’s a two-part shot, you’ll need to follow up with the booster
in a couple of months.”

“And get the very viral infection I was trying to avoid in the first place
for a second time??!!”
I incredulously announce rather than ask.
“Thanks but no thanks,” I reply before curtly hanging up.

A week before we picked up the Mayor for her visit, our daughter-n-law informed
her OBGYN that her baby daughter, aka the Mayor,
had gotten what was thought to be Fifth’s Disease.

Such a name comes from the all-knowing medical folks who simply ran out of things
to say when telling everyone
“oh, it’s just a viral infection– you’ll simply have to wait it out”

They decided to give the latest “wait it out” illness a name.
Fifths Disease.

Now if you count Sunday day one in the week…then this disease was named on
Thursday…the fifth day of the week.
But if you’re like most working folks, you count Monday as the first day of the week,
which in turn makes Friday the actual day Fifth’s Disease was named—-
and Lord knows we couldn’t
name a random disease after everyone’s favorite day of the week…
hence the name–Fifth’s Disease.

After having blood drawn then processed, the nurse calls to inform our
daughter-n-law that she is actually immune from Fifth’s Disease.

Who knew one to be immune from a virus?!

Kind of what I was hoping to be from the Shingles.
Immune.

Go figure!

Should the Mayor come down with the Chicken Pox,
knowing I’d eventually be a helping nurse,
I didn’t want to, in turn, get the shingles—
since I had the chicken pox at age 5.

So it turns out that all I had to do was to get the preventative vaccination
and I’d in turn, get the virus.
Kind of like our son and the flu.

Is this beginning to smell of something fishy—
like a little pharmaceutical racket???

Ahh, but I digress.

And so a very rotten puny me headed back to Atlanta Friday,
following the torrential downpours,
in order to take the Mayor home and to spend the weekend with our daughter-n-law while
our not so well son went on out of town as planned.

That had been the plan.

The plan before all the shots made everyone sick.

Our daughter-n-law’s faculty friends were giving her a baby shower for the new baby
(aka the new sheriff in town) on Saturday—
I was to go along with her and the Mayor.

We eventually did—and it was a lovely gathering…
A great bunch of Catholic Parochial school teachers.

Yet all the while… I had a Shingle’s arm and flu-like symptoms from
what our son must have passed along via the Mayor.

Did I mention that we, as in my daughter-n-law, the Mayor and myself
were having to dog sit?
As in a friend of our son’s was leaving his boy dog in their care.
As in an unfixed boy dog that is actually a herding dog…
as in a herding sheep sort of dog?
A herding sheep sort of dog that is oddly being made to be an indoor
pet named Alf.

All the makings of a worst case scenario.

He is a nice enough dog that is wound up like a nervous ninny–
hence the suppressed need to be herding…

And so it fell upon the Mayor to be the chosen item for herding—

despite the Mayor’s wailful protests.


(The Mayor and her watchdog Alf / Julie Cook / 2019)

Think indoor chaos.
Indoor chaos for a sick chief aide and an 8-month pregnant overworked teacher and an impatient
13-month old Mayor.

Note, the Mayor’s actual dog Alice is on a long term vacation due to the arrival of
the herding indoor non-fixed sheepdog.

I was actually supposed to stay until tomorrow, until when our son got home—
however, I was slowly dying and desperately needed to head home as soon as possible
so I could simply crash and burn in the comfort of my own home…

But before I do so… crash and burn that is—
allow me to briefly share with you about our having watched the new Mary Poppins movie
with the Mayor Saturday evening.

Now back in 1964 when the original Mary Poppins movie debuted, I was 5.
My dad, a big kid himself, made certain to take me to see the movie in the theater.

Granted I’ve rewatched the movie throughout the years ever since that year of 1964…
yet I have oddly never been a huge fan.
I liked it well enough as a child but found it to be somewhat odd and boring.

Maybe I just wasn’t a musical loving child at the time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke…but the movie
didn’t do much for me when I was a little girl.

However, while I was there helping, or more like dying–
whichever way you’d like to look at it,
my daughter-n-law suggested we watch the movie.
She told me she thought I’d love this latest new version.

They had just gotten a new television and I must confess, not being a huge TV
nut like our son or even like my dad had been, I have to admit,
the picture quality was indeed amazing.

And yes I really did enjoy this new version versus that classic version
of my childhood—
Which is really quite something given the fact that I am never a huge fan of the re-makes.

Maybe it was because I was feeling poorly…very poorly.
Maybe it was because Dad will have been gone now 2 years tomorrow.
Maybe it was because there we were in what had been his house, dad’s house, and my house
and now their house…
all the while watching a movie whose story merely picked up 25 years past the original story…
picking up where the original movie’s children were now grown up with their own lives of bluster,
loss, and need—much like my own life.

But Mary Poppins, this enigmatic figure, who mysteriously yet magically appears in the most
timely of times, arriving out of a burst of stormy winds,
all at the singular moment when one is at their most dire times of need—
albeit one who has no idea of the depth of that need…
A time when one is in great need of her eclectic whimsy and almost militaristic regime
of peculiar order…

She arrives for the person who needs to be reminded that nothing is ever truly lost.
She reminds her charges that those things, which at first glance appear to be impossible,
are never really that way at all but are actually possible all along…
for it’s all just a matter of one’s perspective.

And so I found my thoughts dancing over to the idea of our relationship with our loving Father,
the Great I AM…

He who comes not in the earthquake or the fire, or the storm…
but the One who rather comes to us in the stillness of a whisper…
always reminding us that with Him, nothing is ever lost nor is it ever impossible.

So thank you Mary Poppins…maybe it was the fever talking, but thank you for reminding me
that with God, nothing, in particularly me, is ever lost… and no matter what I do,
with God’s help, all things are indeed possible…

Oh, and when “they” tell you to get the shot…run like hell the other way.

But Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26