The Love of My Life | All is Well

IMG_2846One of Maureen and my favorite parts of the holiday season is Lessons and Carols at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Like St. Andrew’s Day just a few weeks earlier, this celebration brings together the entire community. It sets the stage for the Christmas season. From the 1st graders to the 12th graders to faculty and staff to families and alumni, we join together in celebration, celebration of the impending birth of our savior, Jesus Christ, a baby in swaddling clothes in a manger, born to the Virgin Mary.

Even before Maureen’s passing this past October, I could not make it through Silent Night without a tear coming to my eyes. I love this song, because whenever I hear it, I am not only singing its words, but I am remembering. I am remembering being a young acolyte at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Westerville, Ohio, not far from where I grew up in Worthington. I am remembering my fellow youth group members. I am remembering kneeling at the altar rail. I am remembering the lights going low, with only the candles burning brightly, and remembering the joy in my heart at the Christmas season. I am remembering the first Christmas services I went to with my beloved Maureen and again feeling joy, joy that I would celebrate many Christmases to come with this amazing girl. I am remembering our trip to Africa to visit Maureen’s parents in the Cote D’Ivoire and singing in French as we celebrated Christmas there in 1993 at an amazing church in downtown Abidjan, just before Maureen and I moved to Austin, Texas in 1994. I am remembering singing this beautiful song after the birth of each of my children, and I am remembering singing it at the altar at All Saint’s Episcopal Church, with my two oldest kneeling next to me, now acolytes themselves.

Music has a way of moving your soul, connecting you to something much bigger than yourself. Christmas hymns connect us to our God. They connect us to the chorus of angels. This is why I love Lessons and Carols so much. This is why Maureen and I loved Lessons and Carols so much. I know Maureen is now a part of God’s chorus, one of God’s angels. At Lessons and Carols, we hear this chorus through the voices of our Upper School Select Choir singing Carol of the Bells and the angelic 1st graders, singing Mary Had a Baby… sorry Select Choir but those 1st graders always bring down the house!!

However, this year one song in particular spoke to my heart, and I suspect it talks to all of our hearts during this Christmas season. It was sung beautifully by our 2nd graders. All is Well. All is Well. Reflect on its lyrics below, and then find a version to download that you like. For me, I just downloaded Clay Aiken’s rendition. I miss my Maureen; I miss her smile; I miss her laugh; I miss her voice; I miss her hugs. However, because of the birth of Christ and His resurrection at Easter, I know all is well. I hope you do, too. Sing Alleluia.

All is well all is well

Angels and men rejoice

For tonight darkness fell

Into the dawn of love’s light

Sing A-le

Sing Alleluia

All is well all is well

Let there be peace on earth

Christ is come go and tell

That He is in the manger

Sing A-le

Sing Alleluia

All is well all is well

Lift up your voice and sing

Born is now Emmanuel

Born is our Lord and Savior

Sing Alleluia

Sing Alleluia

All is well

Born is now Emmanuel

Born is our Lord and Savior

Sing Alleluia

Sing Alleluia

All is well

The Love of My Life | You Are My Sunshine

As I told Maureen at her celebration of life, I intend to share our stories for weeks, months, and years to come. I share them both because the very act of writing them allows me to experience the stories and experiences again, to feel her presence, and to know our love. I share them because although our specific stories may be unique to us, love is not. Love is powerful; love is universal; and love wove together my soul with Maureen’s as a single fabric. I will be honest that as we approach the 8 week anniversary of her passing it is difficult to not have her soul present in a physical way. I know Maureen is still here, like I said in my love letter at her services, but she is now here in a divine way, not within our human grasp but present and loving nonetheless.

IMG_2679However, there are three souls, very special souls that are here, and I am on a flight home from Washington, DC, as I write, eagerly anticipating seeing my Taylor, my Kyla, and my Katelyn. For out of the fabric of Maureen and my love for each other, each of them were woven by God. They are my sunshine. They were Maureen’s sunshine. For those at Maureen’s service at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, we sang the words of sunshine together. Thanks to my mom we now have those words greeting everyone that enters our home, as shown in the photo to the left. They are special words. Unfortunately for Taylor, Kyla, and Katelyn, Maureen was and remains a better singer than me. I like to pretend that the kids groan when they hear me singing because they simply don’t want to get up for school, but I know better. For better or worse, I sing them, because they were and will remain part of our sacred time, that time from 5:52am to 6:09am, the time Maureen’s soul visited us the day after her passing, the time that all began moving in our home before her passing.

It is worth pausing on the words for a moment: You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You will never know dear how much I love you, so please don’t take my sunshine away. As I was leaving for Washington, DC earlier this week, I was thinking about these words as we passed above the clouds. I will come back to that after I spend a moment reflecting on our sunbeams, our children, and the shafts of light they shine into the world. Maureen and I felt truly blessed that God would allow us to bring these lives into the world. I feel blessed that Maureen would entrust me with our shared love for them. Like any parents, our sunbeams are not always perfect, but then again, neither are we as adults. If you think about it, the sun wouldn’t shine in the first place without the friction of trillions of atoms exploding into the energy and warmth that we feel on earth. It is in the friction that the sun’s energy is released, and I am deeply prayerful that the friction the four of us feels right now in the passing of Maureen will manifest itself in that same light, that same warmth. For love is always warm, just like a sunbeam.

Taylor reflected on this warmth in his mom’s eyes in a vignette he wrote in seventh grade. I happened to discover it, just as I was beginning to write this post. I had done a spotlight search on my Macbook Pro, just like the Siri search that played Chicago’s Once in a Lifetime. When I did, this old document, this old work popped up, written by Taylor three years ago. I share them here: In the end my mom’s eyes have warmness to them. It is like they are always welcoming you in. When you look into them there is always love even if she is tired after a long day of work at the office, or a hard treatment on Wednesdays. They show her strength, her ability in architecture, and her love for the world and family. Eyes show people’s personality, their inner feelings, but in the end eyes show love.

Kyla has also reflected on her mom’s eyes, just completing the same vignettes for seventh grade, as Taylor, her big brother had three years earlier. She reflected on Maureen’s eyes in this way: Our family’s eyelashes are as black as the night without a full moon. For with the stroke of the mascara wand, my mom’s eyelashes get longer, blacker, and thicker. Mascara helped my mom’s eyelashes even more while she was going through cancer, because she was losing her hair. My mom’s eyes show her personality in every step she would take in a day, showing off the outfit she was wearing, or the makeup she wore that day. Kyla continued on the connection of her eyes, Katelyn’s and Maureen’s: My mom’s eyes are golden brown like gold coins you would find in a treasure box. The youngest of the Thompson family, Katelyn, has brown eyes like the rest of the women in the house. I am indeed blessed by wonderful women in this family, wonderful eyes, and wonderful love… sunbeams all.

As I finish this post, I am now at home, having just picked up the kids from the families that so graciously hosted them during my trip. We were all so pleased to see each other, talking about the week, and laughing all the way. Tomorrow morning I will get to wake them with you are my sunshine and probably some groans.  This IMG_2050all brings me back to my flight rising up above the clouds on the way out of Austin. When you reach the other side of the grey skies, the sun is still there. And that is the interesting part of the song. Because of the birth of Christ, which we celebrate in just two weeks, not even the grey skies of death can take our sunshine away. The son of Christ has ensured that Maureen, our sunshine, was not taken away. She is just on the other side of the grey skies… shining….

p.s. Since making this post, I received this picture from a dear friend from Team in Training on her way to Alaska to see the northern lights over the holidays.  I believe she was in a coffee shop in Seattle… I like the idea of sunshine in Seattle…