Category Archives: life influences

Loss of Parents

Out of the Storm

A new book, Out of the Storm, was published about a week ago. It’s an anthology of short stories, winners in a short story competition hosted by a Texas chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers and HopeSprings Books. I have a short story in that book, “A Rumspringa Storm.”

I received my box of books three days ago. There’s something special about seeing the first book you have published and holding it in your hands. In this case I had written only one of the stories. But it’s still exciting. I won’t be making any money from the sale of the book. The proceeds will go to a scholarship fund for the American Christian Fiction Writers. It feels good.

As I thought about the significance of the book and its title, I realized that I’m coming out of a storm of my own. Over the past two years my family has been through one crisis after another. My mother died in April of 2013, and my father died last month. My father had dementia and was in the nursing home while my mother died with cancer. Over the last two years my father’s dementia had slowly robbed him of any dignity and all of his memory. His Parkinson’s disease had slowly worsened to the point that he could barely feed himself. He’s in a better place now. That’s where he wanted to be. He’s with God. And he’s with Mom.

As I think back over the last two years and my life during that time, I remember how turbulent it was. Mom’s unexpected diagnosis of colon cancer, then her quick descent and early death. Family issues and conflict that always seem to strain family ties. Then problems with Dad’s health at any hour of the day or night. Phone calls during vacations. Always wondering what would pop up next. And then watching him die with complications of influenza and pneumonia, knowing there was nothing we could do.

Now there is an empty feeling, a calm after the storm. But it is unsettling. All of the connections to the past are gone with Mom and Dad gone. It feels like a space with no landmarks, disorienting. Which way do we go? Where are we, even? What do we do next?

Conflict with family will continue…for awhile. Time for things set aside in the past couple years will return. Life will go on. But an emptiness will persist in my heart.

God’s presence is needed now more than ever. And His promise to never leave us is the foundation I depend on.

I’m sad that neither my mother nor my father lived to see my first published book. My next book, Mark of the Fire, is dedicated to Dad and uses the theme that was his favorite Bible passage to recite: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I now realize my father gave me the advice I needed for this period of my life. The storm is over. Now what? I hear a voice telling me, “Trust the Lord to guide your path. You are now out of the storm.”

A Mother’s Love

In a previous post, I discussed how my mother was able to use guilt to manipulate my behavior. As I reflected on My Plexus, and all the areas that make my life rich and rewarding, I realized that my mother was a very important factor in arriving at many of those areas. So I wanted to offer a tribute to my mother.

My mother grew up Amish. And in the Amish community most children dropped out of school after eighth grade. She developed a real passion for learning and decided she wanted to become a nurse. With the help of her mother, she convinced her father that she should stay in school. She finished high school, and went on to nursing school. After a break in college to work in a pediatric hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, she returned to Goshen College and finished her RN and BA degree.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was a strong influence in making certain my siblings and I were introduced to art, music, and literature at an early age. We sang in our church’s children’s choir in the second and third grade. The family went to Vets Memorial in Columbus to hear Marion Anderson sing, VanClybern play the piano, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra perform. We started private piano lessons by third or fourth grade. I took trombone lessons and played in the middle school band and orchestra. I sang in the middle school and high school choirs. During middle school and high school my mother took me to Bellefontaine for private cello lessons. We were encouraged to participate in the community choir that performed Handel’s Messiah each Christmas.

I didn’t realize, until much later in life, how much emphasis she had placed on music. Ironically, when I was part of a gospel group in recent years, she was disappointed. I think she felt that I was wasting the education she had given me. She preferred classical music.

She loved art and had painted when she had time, before all the children came along. My sisters took art lessons. She somehow recognized that I didn’t possess that talent and didn’t waste the teacher’s time with me.

She knew that a head start on education was a key to success. She read books to us at a young age. We had two years of kindergarten before starting first grade. She introduced us to the local library, and we were never criticized for spending long hours reading. My favorite spot was the tree in front of our house. TV time was limited, with the hope we would spend more time in our books.

When I turned to the sciences in high school and college, and entered medical school, she never discouraged me. But she often asked me about books she was reading, or offered to lend them to me. When I visited her, she was always listening to classical music. She didn’t get excited about my gospel group, but she came to our performances occasionally.

We really never talked about writing, once I started down that path. She was excited and proud when I edited my father’s autobiography. She didn’t seem too interested in my writing when she learned that it was fiction. But somehow I think she would be proud that I finished my book. I wish she could have lived to see that day. I realize now that she was probably the earliest and biggest influence for me to add culture – music and literature – to my plexus.

Who were the biggest influences in your life to add literature to your plexus?