I don’t like the word “eulogy”…

I don’t like the word “eulogy”. But like it or not, this is what this is. And if this is too long or feels too personal, please feel free to close this window right now. But if you’re interested, here it is. The things I said about my mom at her memorial service. Plus a few pictures…

How does one wake up and say, “thanks for this day” on the morning when one faces saying goodbye to one’s mother? 

I try to wake up each morning and have the first words out of my mouth be, “Thanks for this day and I give it to you” but I got stuck this morning on the “thanks for this day” part. But then I realized that I can say thanks for a life lived in light of eternity. Thanks for the example that one need not be perfect to be loved. By us. By God.

When Mom was three years old, she learned to read. Before she turned four, she came down with Rheumatic Fever and the doctor confined her to bed. She spent so long in bed that she had to learn to walk again. She survived the time by reading. Thus began a lifetime of devouring books. 

Several years after this event, Mom moved to a new town – one of many, many moves in her life. Starting out in a new school part-way through the year is neverfun, but it was made worse by the fact that a school program was scheduled to take place and all the girl roles were filled. So young Kathy was given a boy part to play. She was the only girl on a stage full of Junior High boys. She prayed desperately that Jesus would return so that she wouldn’t have to do this horrible thing. 

But God didn’t answer that prayer, for which I am thankful. 

Despite the fact that Dad was is taking photographs, there are some pictures of Mom that are only in my mind. 

Mom: walking into the living room and calling, “The Mountain’s Out!” We’d come galumphing down the hall and sure enough, there was Mt. Baker, peeking through the overcast haze. Mom taught me that views matter.

Mom: reading out loud with me up until I was 16 years old. We never did finish IvanhoeMom taught me that words matter.

Mom: at checkpoint Charlie, the border guards scrutinizing her passport, looking at it, looking at her; looking at it, looking at her. Apparently she looked itimidatable. All it did was make her cross. Mom taught me that there is a time and a place to stand up for yourself. Facing Communist guards is not one of those times. 

When I was small, there were a lot of things I didn’t understand about my mother. I didn’t understand her dislike of noise. I didn’t understand how her love of classical music could include Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition but so rabidly exclude Ravel’s Bolero. I didn’t understand her obsession with tea. Winter cold or summer heat, emotional turmoil, or mid-afternoon pick-me-up; tea was a necessity. She was Scottish, after all. 100%. First generation. Tea and shortbread and tartan and scones. Not scOnes…scawnes.

I also didn’t understand Mom’s enjoyment of “Ducks” having something to do with the “U of O”. But by the way she talked about it, I knew that I wanted to be a Duck because Mom was a Duck. 

Mom was a saver. She saved every single card and letter that Dad ever sent to her. Birthday, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter. For six and a half decades. She kept ideas: for stories, for Bible studies, for crafts. And she kept recipes because she loved to cook. She especially enjoyed trying new recipes. They say that if company is coming over you shouldn’t make a new recipe. Mom didn’t ascribe to that philosophy. She taught me what it is to be fearless in the kitchen.

She also taught me to eat my vegetables. I’m fairly certain that every dinner she ever made – excluding Sunday night Popcorn, of course – 

included vegetables. Every. Single. Dinner. The next day, she could take a fridge full of those leftover vegetables and turn them into delicious soup.

Yes, Mom served us, and served God, with food. Up on Orcas Island, if a child broke a bone or was ill, she would call the kid’s mother to find out their favorite dessert and then she brought it to them, freshly baked. It was part of her firmly-held belief system, one which she called “Banana Bread Evangelism”. 

If a new person moved to their neighborhood, that person received a loaf of banana bread and a sincere welcome. Likewise, when Mom and Dad moved to a new town, she’d bake some bread – once the loaf pans were unpacked – wrap it in foil, and set out to introduce herself, to begin a relationship which, prayerfully, would later provide opportunities to live out First Peter 3:15. Mom was prepared to give an answer to everyone who asked her to give the reason for the hope that she had. And she did so with gentleness and respect. Because it wasn’t reallyabout the bread, it was about the message that went with the bread. 

The very day they moved from Silverdale, Washington, to Arlington, Washington, she and my son walked across the street to ask their neighbor, one last time, if she knew Jesus, because this might be the last chance she’d ever have to hear about God’s love. Mom taught me that if you claim to love Jesus, you talk about Jesus.

Mom loved a good theological discussion. To find a question in Scripture and debate the ins and outs, the why’s and wherefores. She had a lifetime of knowledge, but more importantly, a lifetime of love for the Lord.

Of course, that didn’t mean she agreed with you if you tried to convince her that Christian Rock music was a legitimate thing, or that drum sets belonged in churches. Choirs belong in churches. And if there was a choir, Mom would be in it. 

Another love Mom had was gardening. We had a large garden on Orcas. Every winter Mom and Dad eagerly anticipated the Burpee Seed Catalog; planning and refining their order for weeks. Then, once the seeds arrived and the conditions were right, all of our daily saving-of-the-coffee grounds-and-egg-shells-and-rotten-tomatoes suddenly made sense as Dad tilled in the compost and the dirt became rich and dark and perfect for those fortunate seeds. They planted, they watered, they waited and they weeded. 

Our mother, weirdly, loved weeding. Up until the end of her life. Weeding was a joy to her.

Finally, after all that preparation, came the first signs of buds, the growth, the harvest. And then came the canning, the freezing, the storing-up-for-winter. I had no idea what a sticky, sweaty mess that was until I tried it myself, years later. Once was enough for me. But every year her shelves glittered with golden peaches, purple plums, cream-colored pears, cinnamonny applesauce, verdant beans. 

I could have done without the beans. 

And let me tell you, if Mom could have preserved zucchini, she would have. 

If Mom wasn’t weeding or cooking or singing or dreaming of new ways to feed us zucchini, she was sewing. Dresses for us girls, shirts or ties for Dad, dolls or stuffed animals or Raggedy Andy’s or Ann’s. She sewed quilts from the leftover scraps and tied them with yarn in the church basement. She lived out Proverbs 31: we were clothed in scarlet and had no fear for the winter because she took care to make sure we were prepared.

She and Dad were a team. Sharing dreams and kisses and our best interests. Dad was gone a lot with the Air Force or with Pan Am or flying helicopters into snowstorms to rescue lost hikers, but Mom carried on; knowing Dad would back her up in her decisions. She knew he’d step right back in when he returned, she knew he wanted to be with us but also wanted to provide for us, and flying was how God called him to do that. And in the lean years, when flying didn’t always cover the bills, she stepped in; to substitute teach, to work at Darvills bookstore, to tutor or to help watch kids at the daycare down the road. 

Yes, they were a team. For 65 years. They barely knew each other when they got married, living as they did on opposite sides of the nation. But they knew enough to know that this union was right. So when Dad proposed over the phone, Mom said yes. “Yes” to whatever may come. “Yes” to living their lives in the presence of Emmanuel, God With Us. 

Mom is now with Emmanuel. Absent from the body, no longer present in their cozy home, reading her books and her Bible – I should say Bibles, plural. Underlined, worn, creased, cherished. Memorized. Sung.

She’s no longer up at 4a.m., praying. Praying for me, for Kris and Jenny, for our husbands, our children, and our grandkids – even the ones not yet bornPraying for all of you. Praying for missionaries, whom she felt she knew. Praying for – and with – Dad. 

One more photograph that is only in my mindMom praying before bed, years ago, when they lived in Wisconsin. I was staying with them for a few months. It was late in the evening, and I walked past their open bedroom door and there she was, kneeling at the side of the bed, like a little child, hands clasped together in prayer. I’d blundered into a sacred moment, but she didn’t mind. She opened her eyes, stood up quickly, and hugged me good night. 

She could stand up quickly then, 13 years before the cancer, before the stroke.

After the stroke, not too long before they moved to Arlington, we were visiting them in Silverdale. Mom was having a hard day. I don’t know what triggered it, but tears began to flow as we sat at the table. She was frustrated with her inability to sew and sing and serve as she had for so many years. 

All I can do is pray,” she finally managed to say.

“Mom!” I said, in the middle of the busy years where a quiet day when all “I could do was pray” was nothing but a dream. “Mom, that’s not an ‘all’! That’s your job now.”

But it wasn’t enough. She wanted to be doing. She did not go gently into her waning years.

But thanks be to God, she went gently in the end.


One month ago, today, my mama stopped breathing.

And never started up again.

She moved from this world into eternity.

She slipped her mortal coil.

Why are all those phrases easier to say than the actual word?  All those poetic euphemisms to avoid the stark reality. I guess because even thinking the actual word makes me cry.

She moved on. She gained her heavenly reward. She went to be with Jesus.

It happened early in the afternoon of Christmas day. (“It happened”…still avoiding the word.) We’re two hours ahead of my family on the West Coast, so we were done unwrapping gifts, done snacking (temporarily), and the kids had even moved their loot into their respective rooms. My husband, Colin, was on his ipad, doing whatever it is that he does on his ipad, and I was sitting in the middle of the mess, reading a beautiful book that a friend had given me, a book full of kindness and wisdom and love. I was feeling sentimental. Cozy. Thankful.

Colin’s phone rang. I could tell by his voice that it was family. I expected a, “Yes, she’s right here,” but instead there came, “Ah. Uh huh. Okay.”

Colin hung up and turned to me.

“They’re giving your mom CPR.” He said it gently. But really, there’s no way to gentle those words. No euphemism for breathing air into your mother’s congested lungs.

I looked back down at my book, automatically, as if to make sure that the world still looked the same as it had before this monumental shift. But the words before me blurred. The whole room, really, faded away to be replaced with a distorted mind’s view of my sister’s living room, gifts unopened, children’s excitement turned to confusion, my medically-trained sister and brother-in-law doing all they could, my dad…oh, dear, Lord, my dad.

Colin told the kids, who wandered, empty-handed, full-hearted, to sit, awkwardly, in the living room again, wrapping paper still strewn about, stockings unhung by the chimney with care. Somehow I stood, moved to the mudroom for something, I have no idea why, talking of I know not what. Colin joined me, let me finish my words, stepped to me and took me into his arms.

“Your mom’s gone,” he whispered. “Patrick texted.”

Gone. Another euphemism. Another way to gentle the concept that the world as I knew it had ended.

I don’t blame Patrick for texting. Words are easier to write than to say. I’m thankful he’d called to give the first news.

It all happened so quickly. Ten minutes? I don’t even know. Fast. Gone. Such short words that say so much.

Our son read some Scripture. I made tea, because that’s what Mom would have done. We hugged and cried and made more tea. Mom’s parents were Scottish, and tea cures all.

Only it couldn’t cure this.


This = death.

There. I said it.

I’ll say more, later, but for now I leave you with this…

This = hope:

“’Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:55-57

No, tea can’t cure death.

But that’s okay. Because Jesus already did.

That Holy Shadow

I love Christmas. I love the surprises. I love the scents. I love the giving (and, I must admit, the getting). I love the decorations and the music and the events that are unique to the rest of the year. I love Advent calendars and I love the general feeling that this is a special time. Something is different. This is a time set apart to celebrate.

Spiritually speaking, to be “set apart” is to be sanctified. To be holy. And indeed, the very best thing about Christmas is that it’s a holy season, a season to step back from the usual and focus on Jesus.

And I don’t just mean the baby Jesus. That cute little infant in the paintings; the Jesus of the nativity scenes and Sunday School programs and youthful memories. No, the Jesus I mean is the grown-up Jesus. The Jesus who has hard teachings. The Jesus who threw out the baby with the bathwater when it came to following rules and obeying the traditional law. The Jesus who gave up his right to be right, humanly speaking, because he knew he was right, spiritually speaking.

That Jesus is harder to embrace. That Jesus is rejected. That Jesus is spat upon by Romans, Ancient Hebrews, and modern day philosophers, be they suit-clad in higher institutions or blanket-clad in gutters…or flannel-clad in cozy homes and offices and check-out counters and yoga class.

That’s the Jesus the little baby turned into.

I know that Easter is the “hard Jesus” season. The season with the brutal images and the repentant sinners, hanging upon their various crosses. But the truth is, I want to live my Christmas in the far-reaching shadow of Golgatha, because that’s what this sanctified season is truly all about. The baby came because the man was going to die. He knew that from day one. From minute, from second one. He didn’t come into this knowledge as an adult, he told his parents as a 12 year old, “didn’t you know I needed to be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). They didn’t fully understand, yet we know that Mary, “treasured up all these things in her heart” (vrs. 51). All the little things. The annunciation: “you’re going to have a miraculous baby”; the telling of her news to Joseph: “Surprise!”; the birth in a stable, the shepherds and angels and eventual Magi; the growing-up years; the ultimate revelation of who he was at the wedding at Cana; the final days and hours and minutes, standing at the foot of the cross, watching her son die for the wicked world which did not understand.

Those are the moments she treasured up. It didn’t matter that she didn’t really “get it”. What mattered was that she treasured. She contemplated. She put two and two and one million little things together and came up with belief in a man who was the Savior of the World. Belief that this human being, whom she had birthed, was also God. Deity incarnate. The Devine human.

Sanctified. Set apart. Holy.

And so, I live in that holy shadow at Christmas. Yes, I love the season. Santa Claus, candy-cane-stripes, presents, songs about red-nosed reindeer. But the reason I love it all is because it has been made holy by the presence of the man upon the cross. The man who forgave — and continues to forgive — me of my many sins. And, equally true, who forgives you of yours.

Merry Christmas, dear friends. May the joy and the shadow co-exist in your celebrations this season, pointing you to the one who loves you more than you can possibly imagine.

The heart of Christmas

My earliest Christmas memory — a memory I know is mine and isn’t just from family stories or photos that make me think I remember — is me, age 10, I believe, so impatient and anxious to get to the important business of unwrapping gifts but having to wait for my sister to get off of the ferry boat because she’d had to work the night before on the mainland and therefore couldn’t arrive home to Orcas Island, Washington, until Christmas morning. I must have been quite a pest because Mom sent me with Dad to drive the 35 minutes to the ferry dock to pick up Kris, knowing that the enforced hourish away from the beckoning Christmas tree would give her peace and me something else to think about.

I’m not sure that it did give me something else to think about because I remember pouting all the way there and all the way back, but then, finally, oldest sister returned to the fold, we were home, breakfast was ready, and we could get down to the agenda of the day.

I can’t tell you most of what I received that year. Books, for sure. Puppets, possibly. Probably some Lego. Clothes, handmade by Mom, and that could have been the year I received an Instamatic camera from my grandparents with film that was two years expired.

But I do know for sure, that was the year I received my dollhouse. I had been banned from the loft above the kitchen for weeks, knowing that something more than just secret sewing was going on as sewing machines didn’t make sand-paper noises, or require anyone other than Mom to shut themselves away for hours at a time. I imagined all sorts of things — a book shelf, a birdhouse (though why I’d have been receiving one of those I’m not sure) — anything to keep me from imagining a dollhouse because what if it wasn’t that and Christmas morning would come and I’d be heartbroken because my imagined house wouldn’t be there, waiting in all its glory beneath the Christmas tree.

But it was a dollhouse. Three stories high. A kitchen off to the side. Wallpapered with wrapping paper and inhabited by tiny people my mother made and furniture made from upholstered match boxes. It was all I had secretly dreamed of and more, even if it was incomplete. That just meant I was able to help put it together, which was also fun.

I kept that house for years, finishing some architectural details that the arrival of Christmas had thwarted, installing new furniture over time, adding dishes and doormats and plastic chickens. I borrowed baby Stevie from my Sunshine Family dolls and he lived happily in a second story bedroom. I finished painting the front railings just about the time we had to put it into storage, the year I turned 16. I knew I’d miss it in my new German bedroom.

Four years later, having left West Germany behind and returned Stateside, a truck arrived with Mom and Dad’s things that had been stored away for all that time. A huge box was placed upon the grass, DOLLHOUSE scrawled across the lid in bold Sharpie.

“Where do you want this?” the man asked, indifferently.

“Just leave it right here for now,” Mom replied, handing me a box cutter. I think she was as excited as I was.

We sliced the tape, folded back the lid, and there it was.



Literal sawdust.

Literal holes.

I turned away, unable to face the shock on Mom’s face. I brushed past oblivious moving men, went into the upheaval of my room and shut the door, flinging myself upon my bed. I cried that day. For far longer than one might think a 20 year old should cry for a broken dollhouse.

It had been a cherished hope. A wonderful surprise. A time-consuming art piece. A creative outlet. A miniature world. The one thing I had missed the most, and looked forward to with the coming of that great big van.


I wonder, sometimes, if that’s how God looks at His world. He anticipated it; He made it; He saw that it was good. He cherished it; He watched it; He set it up to succeed.

Yet still it fell. Still it failed. Still sin entered in.


And so He sent the angel.

So He sent His Son.

So He came to save us.

And as we fling ourselves upon our beds in our misery, we fling ourselves upon His mercy, and that wee tiny baby takes hold of our hearts.

“What shall I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb. If I were a wiseman, I would do my part. But what I can, I give Him. Give my heart.” – Christina Rossetti

(All photos curtesy of my dad. The angel is me, by the way, circa 1976?)

The bone maker

I’ve been thinking a bit about bones lately. Aching bones. Turkey bones. Dem bones. 

As far as aching bones are concerned, my fingers sometimes remind me that I’m almost 51 and it’s going to rain, only it’s been a dry year, so I’m not sure if I’m imagining it or if I really am getting arthritic in my (not so very) old age.

When it comes to turkey bones, however, I have a better grip on my knowledge. My mom was a magician when it came to turkey bones. The day after Thanksgiving she’d be back in the kitchen, removing every last vestige of meat from the once glorious turkey and plopping it into the largest cooking pot we owned along with an onion or two, celery, carrots, a bay leaf, salt and peppercorns and a whole lot of water. That thing would go on the back burner and simmer all day, coaxing out the goodness of the bones.

It always amazed me how Mom could make something out of nothing. 

This year I cooked down the turkey bones, too. I don’t do it every year. Sometimes I stick it in the freezer, meaning to get to it later, and then, along about Memorial Day, I disinter its forgotten and freezer-burned carcass from the bottom of the deepfreeze, give it one look and toss it in the garbage. 

But not this year. 

I pulled out my largest cooking pot. I wrestled with the greasy remains. I chucked in onions, skins and all, along with some celery seed because I was out of celery and all the other mystical ingredients and seven hours later I, too, had made something from nothing.

Last night we had turkey soup with dumplings. I’m pretty sure it was the best such thing I’d ever made. There is a pitcher full of broth in the freezer for another day. A few smaller containers for recipes. Each one gelatinous, healthy, magical.

Something from nothing.

“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…” I don’t know if that song is politically correct these days or not, but I like it. Ezekiel prayed and called an army of bones into the service of God! Talk about something from nothing. It’s a little-recalled Old Testament Bible story, but wow, it’s a good one. My guess is it’s not taught often in Sunday School these days – too strange, too scary for children – but the truth of it is golden: God can take dried up old bones and turn them to His service. Rheumatic old bones. Freezer burned bones.

Kinda makes me realize that even stuck at home in the middle of a pandemic, there’s a place for me in God’s plan. It’s never too late. We’re never too old. God can use our dusty selves.

He’s the maker of our bones, after all.

“Now hear the word of the Lord!”


I believe!




I grew up on an island in Washington State, in a cliff-top house with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. Straight across the water stood snowy Mt. Baker, which coughed up steam from time to time for our amusement.

Orca whales would breach in the water off our beach, their sighs loud enough to be heard from our deck. Bald eagles loved to sit in the dead snag on the edge of the cliff, and we’d watch seagulls dive-bomb them in a blatant display of gang warfare.

It was an amazing place to live, and I miss it.

As a result of that upbringing, vast expanses of view are as necessary as breathing to me. Luckily for me, I can find this on the prairie.

Unluckily for me, the prairie views don’t include mountains or whales. Though I do love catching sight of eagles from time to time.

More than once, in an insanely optimistic flash of joy, I have caught glimpses of mountains on my Minnesota horizon only to have my hopes dashed moments later when I realized that those mountains ranges were just clouds, heaped up like Trompe l’oeil paintings set out to fool gullible girls like me.

I have lived in Minnesota for 26 years. You’d think a girl could learn.

Recently I re-read Genesis and Exodus and I was struck by the thick-headedness of the Israelites.

“How we long for the leeks and cucumbers of Egypt,” the Israelites said over and over. “There is nothing to eat except this manna!”

This miraculous, God-given manna. What a total drag.

Did they not remember that they were slaves in Egypt! How easy it is to forget. How easy it is to disdain the miracles of God.

Am I guilty of forgetting? Do I scorn God’s provisions? Am I just like the Israelites?

Yes, I admit it. There are days I long for the leeks and cucumbers or, rather, the mountains and whales. I have scorned the flatness of the prairie, grumbled at the ever-present prairie wind.

My husband, Minnesota-born and bred, says I need to learn to find beauty in shades of brown. I say that takes more faith than I can muster up, some days.

But I’m learning.

Here, in the land where whales are rubber bath toys and Tide is a cleaning product rather than an oceanic process, I am discovering that fields of waving grass are simply a different kind of ocean. That the glory of a long-awaited spring is even more miraculous for the waiting.

I am discovering that I love watching the seasons pass in the furrows, seedlings, and eight-foot tall corn stalks. I can’t wait to see the mist of green sprouts spring up in the fields surrounding my house! I am choosing to find the beauty. Choosing to set aside my Israelite tendencies.

As it is said, “I believe! Help me in my unbelief.” Mark 9:24