Eulogy

confirmation

On Saturday, September 12th, my grandfather passed away after a brief, but nevertheless courageous battle with cancer.  This is the second death in our immediate family in less than a year.  The second grandparent to die.  The third with cancer.  I don’t think I realized how raw and real grief really is until Saturday.

On Wednesday, friends and family gathered in my grandparents church to celebrate the life of my grandfather.  My dad shared a beautiful eulogy, where he talked about many of the things I share below.  I’m thankful for the way he honored his father on Wednesday.  He spoke with grace and poise and composure, a far cry from what I would have been able to do in the same situation.  

My dad shared the news of my grandfather’s diagnosis with me on my 20th birthday.  I called my grandparents that evening and sat on our back steps as I listened to them sing Happy Birthday, as they had so many years before, with tears streaming down my face.  I told my grandfather how mad I was.  How I couldn’t believe what was happening.  How it wasn’t fair.  Over and over, he told me, “We’ll get through this. We’ll get through this.”

When he said those words, I certainly didn’t imagine that less than three months later we would be burying him.  I didn’t picture ‘okay’ and ‘death’ in the same idea, but here we are.  

I sat at my computer one evening in early August, before I left for school, and wrote down what you see below.  A eulogy of sorts, perhaps.  The things I wanted to remember.  The things he taught me.  I share it here today because I miss him.  I will always miss him.  But I don’t want to ever forget him.  And so I write.

baby molly papap

My dad shared the news of my grandfather’s diagnosis with me on my 20th birthday.  After a few days of waiting anxiously for test results and suspecting my parents knew more than they were letting on (as parents often do), my dad looked me in the eye and told me the truth.  I sat on our back steps that night, the warm evening air on my shoulders, listening to my grandparents sing me Happy Birthday, as they had for so many years, with tears streaming down my face.

I told him I was mad.  And I was.  I didn’t think it was fair.  I cried tears of anger and frustration and confusion and sadness. I blubbered for a few minutes, as I am wont to do.  I paused to take a breath, I’m sure, and my grandfather spoke up.

“Oh, Molly,” he said, “we’ll get through this.  But all you can do is pray.  That’s what I need.”

That simple statement took my breath away.  How could someone who was seemingly healthy and strong and happy, so good, tell me just pray?  It seemed too simple.  Too inconsequential.  What would a few words, muttered skyward in a moment of desperation, really do for a man who was literally confronting life and death.

I’ll remember that conversation I had with my grandfather forever.  Among all of his pain and amidst the visceral realization of one’s near death, he chose to quietly contemplate and simply determine not let death have the last word.  In the words of Samuel Beckett, “I can’t go on.  I’ll go on.”  My grandfather’s faith was an un-wielding shield; not only during the last weeks of his life, but throughout the entirety of his lifetime.

I hope my grandfather’s mind was filled with memories in the end.  Memories of the people who loved him best.  His wife, his children, his grandchildren, his friends . . . I hope he remembered the countless hours I spent talking to him on the phone.  I hope he remembered his children’s’ smiles and their first steps and the moment he first laid eyes on them.  I hope he remembered my giddy laughter when he opened his mouth without his dentures.  I hope he remembered letting his grandchildren play with his hair, years after his own son had gone completely bald.  The way that my dad hugged him goodbye and told him he loved him.  The sweet taste of the peppermint ice cream he used to make and the way he managed to make Jonathan belly laugh.  The family holidays and the moment he realized he loved my grandmother.  The moments that were so, so good, but also the moments that were hard or sad or just plain bad, too.  I pray that he looked back at who he was and smile with well-deserved pride at the man he was and the life he lived.

I hope that when he came to one of the many moments in his life when he had to give an account of himself, to provide a ledger of what who he was and what he had done and what he meant to the world, I pray that he did not discount the deep-seeded joy that he poured into countless people’s lives.  His joy did not hunger for more and more, instead, it rested, satisfied.  He was sure of his love for his family and most of all, his love for his creator and king.  I am thankful that the same Lord has chosen to take him home, to fill him with the ultimate joy of being housed in his heavenly kingdom.

At the same time, I am filled with unspeakable sadness.  I am sad that my grandfather will not see any of his grandchildren graduate from college, or get married, or have their own children.  I am sad that he will not share the joy becoming a grandparent with his own children, who will someday, become grandparents too.  I am sad that I won’t be able to call 639 Westminster and hear him pick up the phone, taking a breath before he answers like he usually does.  I’m sad that none of us will ever hear him tell a story again.

Robert Wicker is one of the best men I have ever known and undoubtedly one of the best people I will ever know.  He loved deeply, served fully, and lived in daily obedience to the Lord.  He was a devoted husband, a loving father, a doting grandfather, and a humble servant.  He blessed innumerable lives, including mine, with his gentle spirit, his quiet servitude, and his unwavering belief that his life was one that was not his to live.  Even in his last days, he was determined to live his life in a way that honored his Lord and Savior.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “. . . look to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the same, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I know I speak for every person in this room when I say we are sad to lose Robert Wicker.  We might shake our fists at the sky, asking God why he blesses us so richly, only to take away those blessings with which we have fallen most in love.

The preacher in Ecclesiastes chapter one, verse fourteen writes:

. . . And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven.  It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.  I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and chasing after wind.

We are left with a grievous task, indeed.  The work of living in a broken world is not and never will be easy. But we are loved and cherished by a God who sacrificed everything he had to save us from the un-wielding ugliness of death.

I think, if this situation were reversed, if my grandfather were standing up here, mourning one of us, he wouldn’t shake his fist, or even his head.  He would rejoice.  And so today, in the midst of deep sorrow and sadness, amidst the aching feeling of loss, amidst the crippling grief, I am choosing to rejoice.  And I encourage you to rejoice too.  I am rejoicing that someone I loved so much is finally getting the chance to meet someone he loved more than anything here on this earth.  Our Lord and Savior has called one of his own home.

brendan and molly

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Haiti

As you read this, I am sitting on a plane, jetting toward Miami.  From there, I’ll continue to travel to Cap Haitian, Haiti, where I’ll spend the next five days serving the community there with a group of students and leaders.  The letter below was sent to friends and family earlier in the year.  I’ve chosen to share it here because, while the fundraising portion is no longer applicable, the prayer part could not ringer truer.

Dear Friends and Family

Hello!  I hope this letter finds you well.  As many of you know, I began my freshman year at Grove City College in the fall, and am already finding myself nearly halfway through my second semester.  While the academics are certainly challenging, I have loved learning and growing in an authentically Christian environment.  I have been so blessed by the community here and I’m excited to travel this summer and experience a different community in a very different part of the world!

This spring, myself, along with ten other college students and leaders, will travel to Haiti on a mission trip in partnership with Orchard Hill Church.  We will be gone from May 15th to May 20th.  Orchard Hill has been partnering with an orphanage right outside Cap Haitian, Haiti for almost twenty years, and I am excited to be a part of this tradition!  While we are there, we will work with children, assist with various building projects, serving food, and minister to the local community.  Jesus spends most of the gospel loving those who are materially and spiritually poor.  My hope during this trip is that I will learn more about God’s heart of compassion and respond in a tangible way to God’s call to love the poor.          

This trip provides an opportunity to meet the physical and spiritual needs of a community that is desperately in need.  More than anything, I would value your prayers for our team and those whose lives will be touched by God through us.  I believe that God answers prayers and I’m asking you to pray for safety, good health, intentional relational connections with the Haitian people, smooth travel and peace as we enter a part of the world fraught with brokenness. 

Beyond your prayers, I also want to ask you to consider financially supporting this trip.  I need to raise $1500 to cover transportation, food, and materials.  This is a journey that God has called me to and I would greatly appreciate any level of support you are able to offer.  This trip is being funded entirely through donations and by those going on the trip.  

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter and learn about this trip.   If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me.  I look forward to sharing more about the experience when I return!

With love,

Molly

Signing off…

everestheight.adapt.1190.1

I’m headed home this weekend to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon bright and early on Sunday morning.  It will be a quick weekend, but I’m excited to really relax one last time before the chaos of finals week ensues.  Wish me luck!

I just re-watched this talk over the span of several nights.  John Green is a fascinating person and his writing is gut-wrenchingly powerful.

A list of charities that you can donate to help the relief campaign in Nepal.

Along the same lines, a good article about choosing where to donate.  It focuses on Nepal, but the tips would apply to any situation.

Learn to love kale.

Practice resurrection.

Haters gonna hate.

The perfect breakfast sandwich.

(Photo of Mt. Everest from here.)

On fear and monks

On May 15th, I’ll board a plane in Pittsburgh and fly to Miami.  From Miami, I’ll take another plane to Cap Haitian, Haiti.  I’ll spend a week there.  Serving the people in the community and helping at a nearby orphanage.  I’ll be traveling with people I’ve met once or twice before, but we certainly don’t know each other well enough to be sharing inside jokes on the plane or splitting a bag of peanuts.  We’ll be living together and working alongside one another in the community and serving at an orphanage nearby.

I’ve never done something like this before.  I’ve never signed up to travel to a foreign country with people I don’t know.  I’ve never gone somewhere that doesn’t speak the same language as me.  I’ve never seen the kind of utter brokenness and poverty that I anticipate I’ll experience in Haiti.  I expect I’ll be overwhelmed.  In fact, sometimes, sitting and even thinking about the trip makes me feel overwhelmed.  The sheer magnitude of the experience grips my mind with such power that I have to make a conscious decision to think about something else.

I’m a planner by nature.  I like knowing what is coming next.  I carry a bright-red calendar around with me in my backpack and treat it like my second brain.  I love lists and the feeling I get from cross something off said list.  I love looking at what I’ve accomplished.  I’ve certainly been blessed to accomplish a lot in the short nineteen years that I’ve inhabited this year.  And I am proud of the person I am becoming and the things that I have achieved.  And yet, as the trip gets closer and closer, I can’t help but realize that I don’t really know what is coming.  My future is characterized by the unknown.  I don’t know the people or the language or the customs.  For someone whose life tends to be marked by accomplishing tasks, this is an unimaginable feat.

The orphanage where we’ll be serving is run by a group of Catholic monks who have committed at least two years of service to the people that live there.  They live among the residents, many of them severely handicapped, and make it their mission to lay down their lives for others.  There is so much unknown in their commitment. I imagine that every day looks a little bit different.  They are living in third-world country that is stuck in a cycle of poverty and corruption.  Every small hope has the chance to be dashed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those monks and their willingness to embrace the unknown.  Because, as each day passes and I fill out forms and go over last-minute details and make packing lists, I find myself growing more and more afraid.  Afraid of embarking on a week-long trip with strangers to a place where the fruits of my labor won’t be seen immediately.  Certainly, there will be freshly painted walls and repaired fences and children with full bellies, but besides that, I’ll arrive, I’ll work, and, just five days later, I’ll leave.  It’s hard to imagine lasting accomplishments, things that I can package up and stack up one after another on a resume, will appear after only five days.

I can’t say that I won’t be afraid of the unknown when I get on that plane on May 15th.  This trip comes at the end of my freshman year of college, a time when God has already displayed his redeeming grace and provision in so many other areas of my life.  I’ve just completed a small piece of what is sure to be a life filled unknowns.  And so, in the spirit of those monks, I’m choosing to hold on to a hope that very well may be dashed.  I’m choosing dirty hands and scraped knees and sore feet.  I’m choosing awkward get-to-know you games in the airport.  Above all, I’m choosing to love a God who has proven himself to be a remarkable orchestrator of my selfish ambition and human fear for the glory of his kingdom, wherever it may be.

Signing off…

Cherry Blossom Festival

It’s Friday! Hooray!  Between the normal business of school and the snow on Thursday, this weekend is coming at the perfect time.  I am looking forward to lots of sunshine, maybe one last long run before my race next week, and an iced latte.  Hope you have a great weekend and here’s what caught my eye on the internet this week…

I’ve always run with music (or just plain silence), but this roundup of podcasts has me convinced I should switch up my routine.

Already put this Pulitzer-winner on my summer reading list.

Melissa Clark can do no wrong in my book.

These tips are inspiring and practical.

Natalie is traveling and promoting her book.  And making people swoon.

How to make barista coffee at home.

Dating in New York.  Or anywhere, for that matter.

You are enough.

Have a good one!

(Photo of cherry blossoms from here.)

Why write?

I am joining the throws of young adults who feel their lives are interesting enough to document on the internet. For the whole world to see. I started a blog. I’m not sure what I want to accomplish on this platform, other than giving myself an outlet to write. And write and write and write. I’ve always loved writing. I love the way my fingers fly across the keyboard. I love the “click-clack” of the keys as the letters march across the screen. I love the way I can press a pen or pencil on paper and get my thoughts down, corral them on one (but usually more than one) sheet of paper.

I’m a runner.  I love to get out and listen to the way that my shoes collide with the pavement, a satisfying noise that reminds me with each and every step that I am moving forward.  I am accomplishing something.  As hard as it is sometimes to lace up shoes and start my watch, I’m never not happy that I ran.  Perhaps, in a sense, writing for me is a form of exercise.  It’s a cathartic, controlled release of my feelings onto paper (or screen).  It forces me to confront the feelings that are swirling through my mind and sort through them and examine them in a thoughtful, deliberate manner.  I can look back and see myself in the words on the page and see something that is done.

Molly Wizenberg, a blogger-turned-published-author (who still writes one of my favorite food blogs, Orangette), wrote a speech last year about this very topic.  I think she says it better than I could ever say it myself.

But a lot of the time, to be honest, I’m disappointed.  I look at something I wrote last month, and I wish I could have done it better.  Maybe you know that feeling.  It’s uncomfortable – it’s awful – but I’m trying to teach myself a different way to feel about it.  I’m trying to see it differently.  I’m trying to see that discomfort as a good thing.  We’re all in this together.  We’re all uncomfortable.  I can only do the writing that I can do that day.  You can only take the picture that you can take today.  Tomorrow, with work, maybe I’ll be a better writer, I hope.  God, I hope. Tomorrow, maybe you’ll be a better writer. Or you’ll be a better photographer.  Or you’ll make a better recipe.  The key is in the act itself, in the fact of showing up and doing today’s work.

What my blog does is force me to show up.  That’s huge.  A lot of writers and creative people have said things along the lines of, ‘Showing up is 90% of the work,’ and that’s certainly true for me.  Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is sit down and write.  But if I show up, time and time again, it’s worth it.  Even if I think I don’t have anything to say, chances are, if I show up, and if I really put on a good show and act like I have something to say, I will. (My friend George is a poet, and he has a sweatshirt that he wears every single time he sits down to write. It’s his way of acting the part, until he feels the part.) Some of my favorite pieces of writing have come out of days when I thought I had nothing to write.  There is no ideal condition for producing creative work.  I have to remind myself of that every day. You make the conditions ideal by showing up, period. Blogs help us show up, and that’s priceless.