Expressive Pics | Heal

A few days ago, I read a chapter from Morgan Harper Nichols’ latest book Peace Is a Practice. I bought the book thinking it would be filled with her soulful words and art, but though the art is minimal in this book, her words still strike a chord. While absolutely out of my mind and having difficulty starting the day, I read through “Healing.” In the chapter, she shares her struggle with the word “heal” and [among other things] encourages readers to walk slowly and not rush through their healing.

I am worthy
of the time it takes
to do the things
that heal my heart. –Morgan Harper Nichols

When I encountered Nichols’ words, I had been thinking about how we are expected to rush through our grief. Although we might recognize our need to take time to process and study the contours of our grief, the demands of life don’t always allow time for it. Sometimes people acknowledge and express sympathy over the hard loss, but they don’t make room for the heavy weight of our grief. They expect us to be okay immediately because it benefits them for us to be so.

If you are grieving in any way, think about what benefits you. Not in a selfish way, but in a healing way. Draw boundaries and make room for your grief. Do all the things that help you heal and take all the time you need to heal.

Expressive Pics | What Remains

beauty remains smaller text

I have been almost obsessive about photographing the sunflowers a friend gave me a few weeks ago. I’ve been capturing them as petals wilt and drop off one by one. I am struck by the beauty that remains in a sunflower even after the bright petals which initially attract us are gone.

Think […] of the beauty that still remains. –Anne Frank

As I vacillate between grief over my father’s passing and gratitude over his beautifully long life, Anne Frank’s words [above] resonate, so these are the words that came to mind as I positioned my “transforming” sunflowers for pictures.

The madness of the outer world and the turmoil of our inner world can try us in unimaginable ways, but there is always beauty–even after the things of this world have left our souls ravaged and torn. We all need a reminder every now and then to shift our focus not to what is not or no longer but to what is and what endures.

There is always beauty. Always.

Expressive Pics | Foggy Mornings

Expressive Pic Foggy

“Life” has been challenging every fiber of my being lately, so I have turned to the three things that provide salve for my soul–God, my journals, and my camera. My conversations with God and my journal entries are private, but my photos can be shared with the world. 😀

My camera has been my constant companion as I attempt to express my feelings and focus on ordinary moments of joy. This morning’s dense fog required a photograph, but though I did “shoot my shot,” I captured the photo above a few months ago on my way to work. No worries–I was in a long line waiting at a traffic light. 😉

I don’t know what it is about them, but I love foggy mornings!

#ThursdayTreeLove | When Great Trees Fall, or My Father’s Tree

The Last Time Tree

Yesterday, while I was considering using the tree above for today’s #ThursdayTreeLove, I received a text message from my Raven, asking if I were in my office. I had a moment of excitement thinking she was visiting from California and was on her way to see me. Sadly, that was not the case. However, she had her sister, who lives in the area, deliver a beautiful “forever bouquet” with an elegant note tucked inside that only an English major could write [Biased? Perhaps]. Her note included the last verse of Maya Angelou’s poem below.

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of
dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

What made Raven’s gift so timely was that this tree is from my parents’ backyard, and I have always associated this tree with my father–maybe because he was usually sitting quietly in or working in the yard in the vicinity of the tree. This photo was shot six days before his passing, moments before I last saw him living, breathing, and still being Daddy.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Seeking Light

Sunflower BW 02-27-22

Sadly, the only cure for grief is to grieve. —Mark Lemon

This was spring break week for our university. Thankfully. I desperately needed time to “just be” and sit with my grief.

I needed to sleep as much as my body would allow. I needed to escape the usual colors and sounds of life because at the moment everything seems too bright and too loud. I needed to take one-day-at-a-time and not bear the weight of grief through meetings, planning, students, and other interactions. I needed to call my mom in the middle of the day just to hear her voice. I needed to clear my desk and shoot a million photos of the sunflowers friends delivered along with gift cards to Olive Garden because no one feels like cooking or even deciding on a menu. I needed to draw sunflowers and tweak the poem I wrote about my dad five days before he passed. I needed to move through my day without purpose. I needed to feel safe in my grief and not feel the need to excuse myself or apologize for being inattentive or not completely present. I needed to look through family pictures and savor the memories. I needed to listen to the same Daryl Coley song over and over and over and over because it is the only song that soothes my soul right now. I needed to sit in silence with God and be filled by His presence.

I needed to seek light…in my own ways.

Daddy’s Gifts

Daddy by Darius T

“Daddy Second Lining.” Photo by Darius T/Tapman Media

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.  —John 16:22

My dad passed away February 12, 2022 at 86.5 years of age, and I have been struggling to put my thoughts and feelings into words. When my own words fail, I go to poetry. Having endured so much grief, the poem that speaks to my heart in this moment is Mary Oliver’s “Heavy.”

I adapted the poem for my purposes, but you can read the original poem here.

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
has his hand in this,

Still, I am bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

is nowhere to be found.
Then I remembered my father:
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I’ll go about practicing.

One day you’ll notice.

the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth.

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply.

This poem speaks to me not only because of my own grief, but because as I read it, I thought about the fact that my father had a lot of hurt in his life. To look at him–to even know him–you wouldn’t see it. Every now and then, it would eke out in small ways. He’d tell us about a painful memory from his childhood, a hurt that stung all his life. He wrote in the autobiography he started about being told the word “no” so much that he did not want his wife or children to hear that word. Despite the pain and disappointment he endured, my father found his way to joy. And his very soul was steeped in an infectious joy.

He never forgot those painful moments from his childhood. I believe he carried them with him his whole life, but “it’s not the weight [he] carried, but how [he] carried it, how [he] embraced it, balanced it, carried it when [he] could not, would not put it down.”

He parlayed all of that weight into beautiful gifts for his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and for generations to come.

They’re found in the music he gave us, the Sunday morning listening to everything from jazz to blues to ballads and everything in between that makes much of the stuff churned out nowadays intolerable.

The gifts are in the lessons about grit and hard work and striving for excellence, about making no excuses and owning our mistakes and allowing them to prod us toward growth.

The gifts are in the sometimes uninvited–a little too straightforward–but sound counsel that pushed us to do right and be better.

They’re found in the celebration of the good that life offers in all its forms, in the beauty of a deep, abiding appreciation for life and grace and a recognition that everything we have is gift and grace.

The gifts are in the joy in spite of circumstances.

The gifts are in his many unanswered questions about God and eternity, questions for which he left us to find the answers.

The gifts are found in the love with an answer, the way he loved and did life with our mother, a love not superficially crafted for social media, but one with deep roots and the abiding presence of the Divine. That autobiography I mentioned earlier, doesn’t start with “I was born.” It starts with “I began to live when I married my wife.” While I am incredibly grateful for my father’s joy, I know the love for our mom is the greatest gift he could have given his children. That love–that love with an answer–has made all the difference.

Sleep well, Daddy. We look forward to the “loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God” that will reunite us for eternity.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. –I Thessalonians 4:13-18


Written 2.22.22 for my father’s memorial service. Shared here for those who have asked for copies.

November Chaos | “Too Many Funerals”

Studio Light Sunflower-1
“Too many funerals.” That’s how one of my friends ended her reply to my “thinking of you” text message this morning. Moments later, I read a post by another friend in which she mentioned that she was gathering photos for the double funeral of her aunt and her cousin.

I’ve lost count of the number of “death” calls, text messages, emails, and conversations I’ve had over the last few months. Our unfortunate reality is that we have all suffered too much loss since March 2020, and we are in a constant state of grief and coping. On top of our collective sorrow, the losses are personal. Therefore, it is crucial that we not use the reasoning that “everyone is going through something” to downplay individual pain.

We must also be careful to not allow the steady repetition of this “news” to desensitize us to the significance of every single loss. Rather, we should tune in and allow ourselves the space and time to give into the sadness and accompanying feelings.

We ended my British Literature class yesterday with 16th/17th century poet John Donne’s “Sonnet X,” perhaps better known as “Death, Be Not Proud.” This is one of my favorites because Donne, in spite of his discomfort with and fear of death, pulled out of himself a direct address to death. He called it out for the powerless perpetrator it is and reminded it that–because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection– paradoxically, death’s own end is imminent.

I’m looking forward with hope to that moment when we will grieve no more.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
–John Donne, “Holy Sonnet X” or “Death, Be Not Proud”

Sunflowers & Snippets | In This Very Moment…

Suzette's Sunflowers

I am back with another “Write Together” snippet. This piece was written in response to the prompt “In this very moment…”

In this very moment I am excited by the possibilities of who I am becoming. I am shedding the old casing, tossing aside ideas and versions of myself that no longer serve who I am in this moment or who I am becoming. Up to now, what has made giving up the former self so difficult is that she was good. She was organized, oh-so-together, and well-equipped for the journey—that bygone journey for a me that is skipping into the past of known worlds. This present me spends a lot of time in overwhelming chaos because transformation is not neat and tidy. It’s messy, confusing, and sometimes traumatic. But I’m learning not to fight it. I’m learning to partner with it in a new dance, a new becoming. I see glimpses of this new person. I can’t wait to meet her.  –Chandra Lynn, Write Together, 01.25.21


About the Image: Today’s gorgeous sunflowers were crafted by my Love Notes friend, Suzette R of Desert Blue Sky. She sent the oversized postcard because of my love for sunflowers and my enthusiastic response when she posted them on Facebook. Like many of us, Suzette is also processing grief. Part of her healing this year has been in planting and growing in her garden. Check out two more sunflowers from her garden: Here and here.

Sunflowers and Truth | #truthbombs

Martha Slavin Sunflower

Are you familiar with Danielle LaPorte’s #truthbombs? On 4×4 white cards–in beautiful black script–LaPorte offers pithy bits of wisdom, encouragement, and in-your-face truth. Every now and then, I pull a random card out the elegant encasement, and think, “Whew! Now, that’s a word!” The cards offer perfect journaling prompts and discussion starters. [Click the link above for more information, see sample #truthbombs, and download the app. For the record, this is not an ad]. 

Before heading to work yesterday, I grabbed a handful of random #truthbombs from their box and dropped them on my bag. I thought they would complement the sunflowers I’d planned to share on the blog, but yesterday did not turn out as I planned: By 9:00 a.m., I was annoyed with no less than three people. By 10:00, the number had increased to five. By 1:00, I had a searing headache that made me want to pack up and go home. When I finally arrived home just after 5:00, I wanted only my bed and a good book. When today began to feel like yesterday, a couple of short walks and three of the #truthbombs became the medicine I needed:

  • Notice how you feel
  • Defend your tenderness
  • Compassion is so often the solution

Those three sentences “can preach,” as they say. For me, they were a call to pay attention to my responses.

Yesterday, I was extremely disturbed by individuals who acted selfishly and lacked compassion. When it comes down to it, this was no different than any other day. Almost every day I encounter people who look out for themselves and show little regard for others unless they can benefit in some way. Of course, by the end of the day, I’d pretty much gotten over it and pushed the experience out of my mind. I realized I had to cut those folk some slack. They are human after all, and like me, they deserve room to be just that–human–and perhaps there were good reasons for what I considered their not acting with the decency I expected under the circumstances. 

But I was still bothered by my own reaction: Why was my response so different? Why did I allow myself to become so uncharacteristically entangled with other individuals’ attitudes and behavior? And why am I again feeling out of sorts and bothered?

Annoying people, gloomy weather, frustration over lecture notes I can’t find. All of that is superficial, the easy things to focus on because the real thing–the underlying thing–is big and scary and too much to handle at the beginning of a packed work week. The #truthbombs were a reminder to pay attention to my feelings and not just stop there. I had to get to the root. And I did.

I miss my sister. Her birthday is tomorrow. There will be no celebration. 

Thankfully, the sunflower provides light…in the darkness of the cave in which I have to dwell for a moment. 


About the Image: The watercolor sunflower is the work of my Love Notes friend, Martha S. She was one of my exchange partners in Louise Gale’s Global heART exchange. It was a pleasant surprise to find a postcard from one of my snail mail regulars in my mailbox. Thanks for this gorg sunflower, Martha! It has brightened my days and will soon find its place my the sunflower wall.