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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent, Christmas, and Everly

Yesterday, December 18, was one week until Christmas Day, and five months since Everly breathed her last, calm breath.  David started the day by getting on the road to NC.  His wonderful friend Lila will be married this week in NC.  I am praying she can have even more than the 33 years of partnership that Everly and I shared. 

Hugh Delle woke up yesterday with discomfort and swelling in her toe.  She contacted her doctors, and before mid-afternoon she had been in two clinics. By noon one doctor had her taking antibiotics, and by 4 pm she had had another surgery to remove the tips of two toes, hoping to head off another long bout of struggling with infection.  Many of you remember her battles in the first part of 2013 fighting infection in her foot.  The prescribed antibiotics ultimately put her into severe danger and hospitalization in June and July, delaying her return from NC at the time of Everly's death.  So with close medical supervision, we are reevaluating our Broadway family Christmas plans, hoping there will be a turnaround that could let her travel to see Jerene and Jim after Christmas Day.

Lydia and I drove to Waco for the Baylor Basketball doubleheader yesterday.  Everly got our family going to Baylor women's basketball games, buying season tickets last year, that she and I mostly used.  Lydia, of course, attended with her student ID.  This year, without Brittney Griner, the playing style is different, and the attendance is down.  The kids have not been as enthusiastic about attending.  David, Naomi, Lydia, and I all attended one game together early in the season, but the prominent of absence of Everly made it hard for all of us. 

Most games have been on weeknights, so the Austin to Waco drive is a bit much before work or classes.  And Lydia's work load was so intense this semester, with all kinds of group projects and lab activities plus business and social enterprise work that she often could not get away. They also are probably a bit tentative because of missing their mom.  By the way, both Baylor teams won yesterday, in two close games.

As people keep telling me, we all grieve differently. I've attended all the games I could so far, in part because it keeps me doing something that I used to do with Everly.  She loved going to Baylor and watching the women's team play, as do I.  With attendance so low this year, I have not actually sat in my assigned seats yet.  I usually find friends like Katie Cook, Sharon Rollins, or Barry Harvey to sit with.  The drive, through the perpetual I-35 NAFTA Highway construction zone, is tedious, but it keeps me close to her.

That was yesterday.  As Christmas draws closer, we are feeling our way forward, wondering how things will be.  We have planned to spend time on Christmas Day with the Estes family in Austin.  David, who has Lila's wedding and another wedding in Philadelphia later, has to miss that family gathering.  But we all agreed he needs to be with Lila on this special day. 

After Christmas, we will drive together to Black Mountain, NC, to see Jerene and Jim.  David will join us there.  WD and HD are expecting to go, although I have my doubts at this point.  She will have several doctor visits between now and Christmas, so I hope we can make the best decision.  I know Mom will be very sad if she has to stay in Texas, but no one wants hospitalization in Asheville again.

After some time with the Broadways in Black Mountain, our four Broadways will take a couple days retreat to a mountain cabin for some family time.  Several people said we should plan something completely different as part of this first Christmas season, so that is what we came up with.  We'll take some board games, swimsuits for getting in the hot tub, books for reading, maybe a couple of movies, and boots to hike if it's not too cold.  It should be a good time for just comfortably moving into and out of conversations about Everly while being able to support one another.  That's what we are hoping. 

Naomi helped us get the Christmas season started by buying a Groupon to take the four of us to dinner at a fancy fondue restaurant called The Melting Pot.  Without the 50% discount, probably none of us would ever have gone there.  Fondue during the holidays has been a Broadway family tradition, but we've always done it at home. 

The thing about fondue is that it takes time for cooking each bite, so there is plenty of time for visiting, as compared to the usual rushed meal times of day to day.  We had a great time just talking and laughing and thinking about our lives together.  After it was over, I had to agree with Lydia's comment as the two of us walked toward the restaurant, "Naomi's doing the Mommy job and getting us organized to be together."  Each of the kids has wonderful characteristics passed to them by their mother.

Everly was our big-time Christmas planner.  She arranged everyone's schedules.  She went out with the kids to help them shop and to find the things they needed or wanted for Christmas.  She unpacked and repacked the ornaments for the tree.  She made sure all the gifts were in place with bows on them.  She enjoyed and promoted the big events of gift-giving and opening.  She instructed me on what to cook.  She took care of lots of the cleanup.

This year Hugh Delle was not feeling up to setting up a Christmas tree, especially since we will be gone during the Christmas season.  Lydia put one up in her apartment in Waco.  Hugh Delle had me help her get out wreaths and some other Christmas decorations which she has put around the house. 

It's a different sort of Christmas without Everly in charge.  We decided to tone down the Christmas gift buying this year.  But that turned out to be harder for me than I expected.  I felt an inner drive to try to live up to, at least in some way, Everly's caring gift-giving to our children.  My gifts will probably seem less personal, more practical, and more oddball than hers.  But at last count I had hit double digits in the number of packages I had for each of the kids.  Oh, well, I thought I would cut back.  Naomi has been loving the chance, with her first job providing a real paycheck, to buy gifts this year.  Overall, we're feeling our way into a new era.

Advent, as a season of waiting, is different from last year for us.  Last year we were waiting to see how progress was coming with a new chemotherapy plan.  It turned out, by February, that it had not worked well for Everly.  But we had been very hopeful in December, when reports said that one last persistent tumor might be reduced to the point of clearing out all of the visible cancer from her liver.

This year we wait in part for the celebratory season to pass.  We wait to see if we can make it through.  We wait to share some very painful joys of enacting our traditions with Everly's absence. 

I think it might be like what some have said about the long silent periods in the history of Israel.  The trajectory of life and nationhood they had anticipated was interrupted and took a very different turn.  So they waited to see what might come next.  Sometimes they held onto the faith that God's mercies would continue to be new every morning and that springs might come forth in the desert.  Other times they felt that God had lost interest in them and cared little whether they were righteous or unrighteous.  I suspect other times they just went through motions and felt numb, only to be surprised by pains on some days and joys on others.  I think that's how we are waiting this year.  What will the coming of the Christ Child mean?

Everly had a certificate describing the meaning of her name, a gift that someone had given her.  "Everly" as a first name was a kind of "coined" name.  But its first three letters, Eve, is a very ancient name.  The certificate said it means "full of life."  It can also mean "mother of life," or simply "living one."  Whether or not her parents had ever thought through those historical meanings for her name, it certainly came to be true of her.  She was the life of the party.  She was the life in our partnership.  And she was the mother of life in our family.  So this Advent, we wait for that life to rise in us, the seeds she planted and nurtured.

I planted more wildflowers today, in 72 degree weather at our Chisholm Trail home:  purple shamrock oxalis, Tahoka daisies, and three types of coreopsis--dwarf red plains, golden wave, and plains.  Lydia helped me plant 100 tall Dutch iris bulbs, mostly purple with a few yellows mixed in.  A couple of days ago I put out Red Drummond Phlox. 

On our honeymoon, on a couple of days we drove out around Caddo Lake and Lake o' the Pines in northeast Texas to look at wildflowers.  I had a new guidebook on wildflowers of Texas, so we stopped now and then for me to get out and try to identify something.  I remember wearing an orange shirt that summery day.  I must have looked like the Great Wildflower of Destiny to the bees, and they decided to gather around me to get a taste.  So we had to quit getting out of the car. 

Our two temperaments were obvious on that day.  Everly enjoys flowers and fresh air, but she quickly draws the line when she starts feeling uncomfortable, hot, sweaty, itchy, etc.  My single-tracked mind was pulling me toward exhaustive knowledge of wildflowers on that day.  Everly lost enthusiasm for the project sooner than I did, with the pollen, the hot sun, and the bugs.  Thanks to the bees, we got on the same page pretty quickly.  That would be one of the earliest memories of our marriage.

Here we are today waiting. Hugh Delle is struggling with pain and medications, waiting to get better.  David is driving the long trek to Durham, waiting to reunite with friends.  Lila is awaiting a ceremony to mark off a new path and new hopes.  Lydia has gone to stay with Naomi as they wait for the intensity of the season to begin.  I could not post this journal entry for four hours while we waited for a power outage to end and restore our online access. 

And now bulbs and seeds are in the ground, both at the cemetery and in our yard on Chisholm Trail.  The irises and wildflowers are another sign of waiting, seeds waiting to grow, bulbs waiting to shoot forth, colors and life that will emerge in spring and summer to remind us of our very own Mother of Life who will never leave us.

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