Tag Archives: grief

10 Posts for 10 Years: #3

January 24, 2014

Hands clap, they hold, they pull, they reach. My father’s hands were one of his signature traits. I could rely on those hands for mechanical miracles, challenged them to creative building projects and watched them sign one of the most picturesque signatures I have ever seen.

My father’s hands . . . a larger than life, careworn pair. Calluses aplenty dotted his hands, with little grease-marred tendrils flowing from his palms up to his cuticles. Lava soap, Gojo and pumice stones all failed to work complete magical feats, yet small gaps of unreal youth wedged themselves into the mix.

The tops of his hands hand a trace, nearly imperceptible scattering of blond hair and a permanent watch imprint at the intersection of his left wrist. They found a way to peel apples in one continuous swoop—a tradition I now proudly uphold.

They moderated sibling confrontation, wielded a twisted old strip of leather, and ever-so-playfully clicked back and forth on the mouse to play Spider Solitaire. His nails were always cut painstakingly short.

When striking up a conversation or consulting with a client at his desk, he always leaned forward and crossed his arms—looping his hands over each forearm like an ancient guardian.

When sleeping in his chair in front of the TV at night, he would have them resting at first on his chest . . . and then later they would slip to the sides as he snored like a hibernating grizzly through the details of PBS, Discover or History, which I swear he absorbed in his sleep.

I will miss them walking me down the aisle someday. However, I smile at the memory of them playing banjo or cradling a rambunctious harmonica. This is for you, dad:

10 Posts for 10 Years: #2

January 23, 2014

If the eyes are windows to the soul, then my father’s eyes told epic tales.

I “focus” on the eyes now because of the pivotal importance eyes play in empathy, in hope, in knowing a person and in loving unconditionally. The eyes show purity of emotion, they reveal attention, they help us to connect and they transform experiences into memories.

Dad's EyesMy father’s eyes . . . although damaged by pressure and the bombardment of strenuous work, still gleamed when he spoke. No, they danced.

By some uncanny knowledge (or, perhaps, a kindred innocence), his eyes caught us kids in our hijinks. It’s all about the way he knew to raise a brow, sneak in a wink, pinch them shut during allergy season or roll them at one of my notoriously bad jokes.

No eyes will ever see me for exactly who/what I am or love his family just the same. His eyes were accepting, stern, playful, tired and ever watchful. They were hazel, like mine, but with different stars circling the center . . . more feisty brown flecks. The crinkly creases at the edge deepened but never aged him.

I miss how his eyes looked to me with the responsibility of being his eldest child, to me as his goofy sarcastic buddy and to me as his spiritual student.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” Ephesians 1:18

10 Posts for 10 Years: #1

January 22, 2014

On January 31, my father will have been gone for 10 years. Gone but not absent. Gone but not forgotten. Gone but not a day goes by that I don’t miss his hands, his hugs and his humor.

I will spend the next 10 days sharing thoughts, demonstrating hope in the grief journey and celebrating a man—Michael Dean McClellan. To many “Big Mike” and to six lucky kids, dad.

There will be tears, laughs, ah ha’s, pauses and reflections. Honoring someone is never one dimensional. So, I hope to successfully reveal the dimensions that keep his memory vivid in my mind and cross over the dimensions of time.

My father was, is and will always be the best man in my life. He was a remarkable human being. Imperfect? Undeniably. Loving? Nearly to a fault. Funny? Heck yeah! Best of all, he was my friend, one of the truest and most forthright I will ever be lucky enough to know. If faced with a choice to have more time but lose the memories I have, I would decline. I wouldn’t trade a moment, a smile, a tear or a contradiction.

I look forward to telling you more tomorrow, my friends.

With hope,
Sara (Ace to him)

My List of NON-Regrets

July 11, 2013

To quote a portion of Edith Piaf’s famous song, “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien:”

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

I am acutely aware of living. Hugging longer, looking closer, praying harder and leaping farther. Because of that awareness, I make choices that confuse others and I frame my life in ways that are, at best, unconventional. No is just missing the “t yet” and why becomes “why not?”

Living with awareness was the greatest blessing I found in my father’s passing. At the time, it was a sharply new, jagged truth. It stung to think of and lingered in the shadow of night. Then, clarity.

A new friend recently shared the tragically beautiful story of her father succumbing to brain cancer. It was a humbling gift to hold space for her—a privilege to hear the purity of emotion. This encounter quieted my busy thoughts and reminded me of a list I have been meaning to share with my siblings . . . and will now present to all of you.

My List of NON-Regrets

  1. I will never regret an I love you, spoken or received.
  2. I will never regret a tear, as I no longer see it as weakness.
  3. I will never regret a harsh word left unspoken.
  4. I will never regret giving to help raise up others.
  5. I will never regret a thank you, acknowledged or not.
  6. I will never regret being a goofball to amuse a baby.
  7. I will never regret dancing to a song no one else hears.
  8. I will never regret risking rejection.
  9. I will never regret listening to the Holy Spirit.
  10. I will never regret watching cartoons on Saturday morning.
  11. I will never regret catching snowflakes on my tongue.
  12. I will never regret being empathetic.
  13. I will never regret traveling beyond my comfort zone.
  14. I will never regret moments with my family.
  15. I will never regret seeing my sister married.
  16. I will never regret sitting with my dad playing Spider Solitaire.
  17. I will never regret being still in meditative reflection.
  18. I will never regret smiling.
  19. I will never regret being silly Aunt Sawa.
  20. I will never regret hoping.

Having sat with those nearing end of life and worked with grief-stricken families during the healing process, I can tell you about the fears and regrets. In fact, I recently received this link to “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.” I can tell you with assurance that the essence of a good life is not defined by what we didn’t do or wish had gone differently, but by the moments we soaked up and the love we shared.

I have close friends facing tough journeys with their immediate loved ones. I pray nightly, at least, for their comfort, quality of life and support from God. For those who are called to shepherd their family member through a life-threatening or terminal illness, grief begins at the moment of diagnosis. The weight of that “moment of impact” is overwhelming enough without regrets.

The grieving heart is a truth teller and an ever-present mirror. With that in mind, I have found this song by Brad Paisley, with Dolly Parton, to be a challenge and a comfort at different milestones on my own grief journey. “When I Get Where I’m Going” invites us to explore the afterlife, to remember what is worth living for now and to see beyond the linear timeline.

So, what are your non-regrets?

Hope in Times of Loss

February 24, 2013

The past month has seen the waves of grief crashing ashore for several friends. It is in these times I feel both powerless to hold back the tide of their pain and, yet, called forward to wade into the surf with a steady, compassionate hand.

Grief is an island no one wants to visit, but we all, inevitably, do. While difficult to believe when emotions drown out the world, hope does not disappear during these shadowed hours—it remains tucked behind the horizon, waiting to slowly emerge as the fog begins to dissipate.

When I facilitate grief support groups, the hardest question to answer is “why.” Before I can address that here, I must say that I believe in God with all my being. Some of you may be inching toward the x in the corner of your browser, but know this: this blog is about enlightenment and hope, not exclusion and hype. If you are still deterred, I wholeheartedly bid you peace and welcome you back at any time.

So, returning to why. My answer begins with a question: have you ever held back details with a child, a friend or a family member because you did not wish to cause further pain? Or, perhaps, you knew it was not the time or place to share every element of a story, since the person before you was not in the state of mind or heart to fully acknowledge such details. I have found, through many losses and trials, that the truth I desire, the answers I crave and the path I seek are all revealed at exactly the right time . . . when God knows I am most ready for them mentally and spiritually.

No loss is greater or lesser than another. Bidding farewell to dear grandparents, close friends, even family acquaintances all have an impact. In this moment, I reflect on one particular friend—a gloriously beautiful angel, creative partner and inspiring mother—who is facing a tremendous loss. Her father just passed in the same manner my dear dad did nine years ago. A sudden heart attack called him home, and the lives of those who knew him changed in a dizzying instant.

The news strikes like a tidal wave of numbingly cold water to every pore of your body. If you think this is an exaggeration, I pray you never face such an ache that drifts to your bones and submerges your vision. And no, the pain never dissolves entirely. It does, though, become more of a river than a vast ocean.

ocean reflection

If you read “The World Needs Hope,” you know my father is woven lovingly into my dedication. If you know me, you feel the fingerprint of his legacy in the words on the page. If you were lucky enough to know my dad, you will see his smile, feel his warmth and recall his strong hand reaching out to help any one at any time. Big Mike with the big heart (pictured below in high school).


Thinking again of my friend’s grief journey, I can relate to the pang of losing a mentor, a best friend, an ally, a father and a rock. One person takes many roles in your life and, therefore, you face many losses all at once—the car fixer, family mediator, problem solver, rule enforcer, Yahtzee champion, billiard buddy, spiritual leader, joke instigator, movie chauffeur, coffee companion, humble sacrificer, smorgasbord preparer and inventive gift giver. As you feel up to it, lean into the emotion. Honor each tear, own each longing and embrace each memory. We would not grieve if we did not love.

Every loss transforms you from the inside out. The blessings of enhanced compassion, enriched empathy and heightened awareness may be granted in their own time, as you are able to slowly heal and accept them. There is no magic wand and, I implore you, no earthly drug to escape the journey.

A grief support group can offer great comfort. I encourage you to visit GriefShare.org for locations near you. You are not alone. You are never alone. God is reaching out through His words and graceful presence to comfort you. I pray you reach back. And I hope this message floats past the rocks of worry, around the cliffs of sorrow and leads you to safe harbor.