Monthly Archives: April 2015

I hope I learned my lesson.

Last week I took some time to dig weeds out of my front yard flower beds. Just getting my hands in the dirt gave me visions of trailing butternut squash vines and sunflowers turning their sunny faces to the summer sky. Somehow I missed the other part of the picture that must come earlier in the sequence of events: me jumping on the shovel and sweating in the midday heat, kneeling over my tomato holes that had been custom-filled with various composts and manures and topsoils lugged home in bags from Home Depot.


Before that hard work began, however, my first visions were expanded when I visited the plant sale I love, which happened almost the next day. Mrs. Bread went along with me and I came home with more kinds of plants than I had originally planned. Ha! No surprise, is that?

P1130201The timing of the sale seemed so convenient, but now as I think about it, it was unwise of me to buy plants before preparing the soil. It was the end of April and everything seemed urgent, especially once the baby plants were in my line of vision and begging to get out of their little pots. The pressure was on to make places for them, and I had to go against all good sense and nearly sacrifice myself trying to make good on my investment.

Yes, in my heart I do still know how to be a gardener. But in the flesh? My body is sending messages that we needed some help with the grunt work and I better never do that kind of thing again. Tonight I can barely walk, and am typing while soaking my feet, poor tender feet that were trying to make do with a shovel when I needed a post-hole digger. All the joints and sinews and head and muscles are crying, “Enough! More than enough!”

mystery salvia plant-1
my mystery salvia – mystery solved

This unusual degree of pain and suffering is a result of trying to do too many things in one summer. I should have just said, “This summer I want to take out the swimming pool. Next summer I can have a garden.” But oh, no, I have to do both. If the back yard is likely to become unavailable, I’ll just use the lawn area in the front (which was supposed to die last summer, but didn’t). If I had done as a widow woman should, and consulted with someone, anyone, before forging ahead, they might have reminded mP1130199e that I could buy very nice tomatoes at the farmers’ market, and that breaking sod is something one does with a plow.

Well, live and learn. I hope my plantings are successful, but even if they aren’t, a couple of good things have come from my recent escapades. I bought a cute little Garden Dump Cart today to haul things around the property. And when we were at the plant sale, I saw a salvia that strongly resembled my mystery salvia that I wrote about in this post. I took a picture of it and after researching at home I think it must truly be Indigo Woodland Sage. How satisfying to finally know the name of the stalwart perennial that graces my world.

The best thing about the plant sale day was not the vast nursery offerings we meandered through, but getting to tour around Mr. and Mrs. Bread’s beautiful and homey garden. And when we got back from the sale she cut our 6-packs of dill, cutting celery and Titan sunflowers in two, so we could share.


At 9:00 p.m., it’s still 70° on my patio, and I have the windows open. I will feel better tomorrow, after a good sleep. Now there is nothing else making me hurry, and  I plan to slow down again and enjoy the springtime. Happy May!

Love is real and it maintains.

mrg&G 5-11 yellow Butte lgFather Alexis Trader in another article on grief, excerpted and linked below, discusses not just the memories we hold of those who are departed, but the love that binds us to them even after our former connection is gone forever. Notice that it is not the loved one who is gone forever, but the nature of the relationship.

That the relationship one has with those who have died can continue to change is something I haven’t given much thought to in my own case, though I have heard of a person asking or offering forgiveness at the gravesite of someone with whom they didn’t have “closure.” Not knowing back then that it would pertain so closely or so soon to my experience, a few months ago I printed out an article from the Internet on the subject of “Dostoevsky and Memory Eternal” but didn’t read it until after my husband died.

I always love the hymn “Memory Eternal” that is sung at the end of every Orthodox funeral service, and I was eager to read what conjunction the writer Donald Sheehan found between it and The Brothers Karamazov, a novel that I also find very meaningful. About half of his article discusses the theology of Fr. Pavel Florensky and conditions of personhood, but it was the second half that most affected me so far, where Sheehan describes the events of his life and how they led to him becoming Orthodox. His father had been the cause of chaos and suffering for his family, but after he died, seemingly in response to his son’s own efforts at reconciliation, the father gives him a great gift.

Thanks be to God, I could not relate to the kind of pain that Sheehan lived with, between me and anyone I’ve known. It was the love he had for his father, of a kind that would not give up even after death, that resonated with me in the first days after my husband died. In his article on Grief and Human Bonds Fr. Alexis quotes two church fathers on this topic:

As Saint John Chrysostom once wrote to a widow, “For such is the power of love, it embraces, and unites, and fastens together not only those who are present, and near, and visible but also those who are far distant; and neither length of time, nor separation in space, nor anything else of that kind can break up and sunder in pieces the affection of the soul” (Letter to a Young Widow). That love was real, is real, and leaving it free to maintain a bond with the beloved is a healthy, real response to grief. When Saint Ambrose of Milan’s brother died, he wrote “My relationship with you is not lost, but changed; before we were inseparable in the body, now we are undivided in affection; for you remain with me, and will always be with me” (Book 1 on the Decease of his Brother Satyrus). In the same spirit, Saint John Chrysostom once consoled a parent who had lost his son, “I beg you, do not say ‘I am no longer called father,’ for why would you not be so called while your son remains? For you surely have not parted with your child or lost your son, but rather obtained him and have him safe.”

At the cemetery this week Fr. Michael exhorted us about the ways we can continue to love those who are no longer present in body. His words, “Do good deeds in their name,” reminded me of the broader concept of living the kind of life that honors the one who has died, and that will keep me on the road that leads to the great rendezvous at the end time. (The thought of that meeting causes me to wonder: Do you suppose we will hug with our new bodies?)

In the words of St. John Chrysostom, I may have my husband safe, but does he have me safe? I am still on my journey, and my love for him will help me to stay on track.

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)


(Photo credit: Pippin)

A month later… the cake.

I just realized it is the one-month anniversary of my birthday. That is a bit odd to take note of, except that it gives me a chance to show you the cake that Kate made for me. It was a flourless chocolate cake, which she had baked before, but the recipe was for a smaller springform pan than I had here. So she increased the recipe and made a giant cake, considering how rich it was. All the 15 people who were here for our anniversary party (which was also my birthday party) could not finish it, and it was enjoyed by several liberal-minded people for another week, as breakfast.

G b.d. cake 15 crp

The girls did not want ask the person whom they were celebrating where they might find birthday candles, so they made do with my cute (giant) gumdrop-shaped candles they discovered. That made me happy remembering the cakes I made for the children when they were young, and very often decorated with gumdrop candies, because that was special and very easy.

It also made me think it funny the way things have evolved, that I keep birthday candles in a different place, clear across the house, from all the other candles.

Joyful with those who wait in Hope.

Fr D Healds cistus 4-15

The second Tuesday after Pascha it is common for Orthodox to visit cemeteries to share the joy of Easter with the departed, just as Christ must have done when he “descended into Hades” first thing after His Resurrection. In our area it is a strong tradition among parishes and monasteries, and I learned to love this trip to the cemeteries early in my life as an Orthodox Christian.

Until this year I had only visited one of the many cemeteries that are included on this day, but now that my own husband lies “newly reposed” in different one, I wanted to go and sing “Christ is risen!” by his grave as well. Priests from two Orthodox churches arrived unintentionally at the same time and led the service right next to the yet unmarked grave of Mr. Glad. You can see the long rectangle where turf was replaced, in the center of this picture.PH cem 4-21-15

The cemetery where his body was laid is of the modern “endowed” sort. All of the grounds are kept up by the owners, paid for by the burial fees. This is the same cemetery that I first visited in 2012 and afterward wrote about in A Sleeping Place Is Blessed. Not two years later Mr. Glad realized it would be prudent to buy plots for us there.

Fvl cemetery Radonitsa 15

Up the road a few miles at the next stop, we were met by Nina who was waiting by the graves of both of her husbands. I saw on the marker that her first husband died when I was still a child. Through the oaks down the hill we could see a third priest praying with two women at one gravesite.

This cemetery is of the old and non-endowed sort, where you are lucky if once a year some community organization chops down the larger weeds. And there is concrete, lots of it, in big broken squares and rectangles of curbs and cracked slabs over and around family groupings. I had forgotten about the hilliness, and about this difficulty of standing and walking on uneven concrete surfaces, anFvl 2 flowers 15d my ankles began to hurt. Note to self: No Danskos next time.

Besides the concrete, in the unpaved areas there are often foxtails and dust. But flowers grow in the cracks even in drought, and the rockrose that was planted long ago (photo at top) is vigorous. Last year it was really hot on Radonitsa (the Slavic word for this Day of Joy) but today it was cool and drizzly, so our shoes got wet on the lawns.

We didn’t have a big crowd at any of the cemeteries. A different group showed up at each place, with the most people at the third one, including several nuns from a nearby monastery; and women originally from Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia, presumably because they are used to doing a similar thing in their countries. Yevhenia, my new friend from Ukraine (that’s a phonetic spelling of how I try to pronounce her name, a form of Eugenia) said that in her country they bring tables and chairs to the cemetery so that they don’t have to rush off, and they picnic on festal foods while they think a while longer about death and God. They like to leave food on the graves, too, for poor people to pick up later on.

When I came home and read again about the Day of Rejoicing, I found that “The Slavs, like many ancient peoples, had a tradition of visiting family members’ graves during the springtime and feasting together with them.” It was an easy custom to continue after their conversion to Christianity, a faith that gave them a truly joyful message to bring along with the food, about Christ’s life-giving death.

Hlds cem 15This third cemetery has a smooth endowed section with flat grave markers, down the hill from what is in this picture, and we all trailed over there on the paths between the large square plots, to finish the service near those newer graves. Not far off a group of three people we didn’t know was gathered around a gravesite that was heaped with flowers, one woman obviously weeping.

They watched and listened to us as we faced their direction and sang the Paschal Canon enthusiastically, and when Father walked around censing, and blessing the graves with holy water as he sang, he went as far as their spot and sprinkled water on it, too, just very naturally, but did not interrupt the service. When we finished we went to talk to them; the woman’s mother had died. Maybe the two men were her husband and son. She kept telling us, “Thank you!” through her tears, and we exchanged hugs and repeated greetings of “Christ is risen!”

Some of us had colored eggshells left over from Pascha, to sprinkle on the graves. I didn’t have anything like that for Mr. Glad’s grave but a friend shared his with me. I hope to be ready next year, as I’ve conceived a plan, to make use of the blooms of our big snowball bush (viburnum) which are usually at their peak about this time. On the graves of those awaiting the Resurrection, they would be a lovely adornment.

snowballs crp 15