"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

30 November 2012


photo courtesy of Public Domain Pictures     

This morning moonlight radiated through hazy clouds as Phoebe hung at the tip of new-growth twigs on a winter-bare tree.  The clouds dissipated, her light growing stronger as I drove the old ferry road to work, until she shone unswathed by the time I walked from car to building.

Earlier, making my stumbling way through the dark house to the garage, I had been thinking about the beauty of the plants the college sent to my brother’s memorial service.  Mother called last night, and after we chatted about nothing and everything, she suddenly said, “You should see the plants your friends sent!”  After she had liberated them from the lovely basket the florist had used to send them, they now fill the entire house with beauty and hope.

The white kalanchoe, its waxy blossoms like stars among its greenery, sits on the bureau in the living room, across from her usual chair, where she sees them each time she looks up from her book.  The ivies and ferns liven the hallway and bedroom windows.  And the plant with the glossy deep-green leaves, whose name we sadly do not know but whose beauty captured us from the moment we saw it, holds pride of place on the dining room table. 

Mother has lost three close family members in three years:  her husband of 67 years (my beloved daddy) two years ago September; his sister (the last of their generation) last year September; her only son (my only sibling) this November.  Between the deaths of her husband and her sister-in-law came the death of her great-granddaughter, my middle son’s 17-year-old severely handicapped child.  Many would droop into discouragement or worse, but she learned through a difficult childhood in the Great Depression to simply do the next thing, serve and love where she is, leaving what cannot be understood or accepted in merely human terms to her Lord, whom she loves and knows she is loved by.  Time will not take away sorrow, but it will heal the bruised spirit; and serving others aids its process and grows the soul closer to Christ's.  

Oh, there are no doubt tears in the night, and all the human regrets and frustrations alongside the sorrow of loss.  But these are not what define her.  Rather, the plants that now bring their physical beauty into her home – sent by deeply caring brothers and sisters she has never met but who have prayed for her and her family again and again over these last years – these remind her of the beauty of the hope which does define her, the Lord and His family who sustain her day by day, moment by moment.  Her gratitude is never-ending.

And this morning, as the moonlight mirrored the radiance of the kalanchoe flowers, reiterating the hope they represent, my own heart opened in a psalm of praise.

15 November 2012

RIP: H. Michael Blitch 1948-2012

For my brother (18 March 1948 – 10 November 2012)

When our parents brought me home from the hospital, Mike – then four-and-a-half – wanted to take me for a ride in his wagon.  On being told I was too little, he retorted, “Well, what’s she any good for, anyway, if I can’t even play with her?”  Later, when colic kept me screaming for hours on end, he suggested that they send me back wherever I’d come from . . . 

Four-and-a-half years between Mars and Venus ensured we’d never be extremely close, but our parents’ sacrificial and unconditional love ensured that we grew into a tolerant and eventually a genuine affection, because we always knew that we belonged to a family, a bond that could be distressed and cracked, but never really broken.

Family put us together for camping trips, Christmas Eve candlelight services, regular visits to and from grandparents, birthdays, and Sunday night popcorn during Walt Disney.  We decorated cookies together for Santa’s Cookie Tree, an evergreen beside our driveway which we made into a community tradition.  We went to musicals every summer at the Swope Park outdoor live theatre; we learned to ice skate together on the flooded garden in the back yard and to shoot with bows behind the old barn that served as our garage.  We chased fireflies on summer evenings to put in jars for nightlights and kept a pet turtle in the front yard under the sassafras tree.  I loved curling up on his bedroom carpet to read the stories in his Boys’ Life magazines while he read or studied.

The 60s took their toll, and, perhaps inevitably, came the years of distress when the family structure seemed broken beyond repair.  But the foundation laid in those childhood years held, and, a welder by trade, Mike chose to begin repairing the cracks, restoring love and laughter.  How grateful I was to know that he was there to help – gladly and not from mere duty – when our daddy’s health began to decline and I was half the country away.  How glad to know of Daddy’s delight when his son entered the room, to know that Mother had only to call and he was on his way.  How refreshing to see his smile again when I was able to visit, to put up again with “baby sister” and “kiddo.”  How lovely to have his children and their families in our lives now.

And how good to know that, in the end, love is indeed stronger than death.  Missing him now, we are grateful to have had the years of his life framed in the unity of family.