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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, July 17, 2014

Sitting Vigil

It's already July 18 in Scotland, where I sit in the little hamlet of Pittscottie, Fife, where Heather, David, Evan, and Andrew Moffitt live.  I'm awake in the middle of the night, listening to a playlist I made on May 24, 2013, the last anniversary Everly and I had while she was living.  I don't know if I'll feel like going to sleep tonight.  It won't be July 18 in the US for a while longer.

Naomi and I went to Edinburgh on Thursday, the 17th.  We visited the Divinity School where our friend Chun-Pang Lau earned his doctorate.  We climbed up the rocky crag and visited the Edinburgh Castle.  Then we walked down the Royal Mile, stopping at various sites, finally reaching the Holyrood Palace.  Along the way, we had lunch at the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling often went to write her famous Harry Potter books.  We had a great evening with the Moffitts over dinner and cobbler.

David finished his drive back to Austin to be with Lydia on the 18th.  He also will be packing, hauling some things to Salado, and doing some cleaning in preparation for moving out of the Austin apartment.  Lydia is in school, and she is working out the tension and grief with some time in the open air of parkland along the Brazos River.  I love the name of that river--Rio de los Brazos de Dios, which translates to "River of the Arms of God."  I hope she is feeling those arms around her.

Events are blurry to me now.  Pastor Travis Burleson came by to offer prayer last July 17th.  Nancy Ratliff came with dinner and sat up talking to me until Everly told us to go to bed.   Lydia stayed up to sit with Everly.  In the morning, Everly had labored breathing, and it was not long until she breathed her last.  You will surely understand that our hearts were broken last July 18.

The pain can still be very intense.  Please don't expect us to be "over" this loss.  How can you be over the force of nature that was Everly?  Yet, we also are not in the same grieving place that we were a year ago.  We've had to make some decisions about living the lives Everly expects us to live.  David is moving to Ann Arbor to work and be with his partner, Michael.  Naomi is getting ready to start graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill, studying social work.  Lydia is putting on the final press toward graduating with an engineering degree from Baylor.  I'm trying to buy a house and relocate back to North Carolina where my work is.  I would not claim to speak for each of them, but I suspect they like me struggled with knowing how to make such important life decisions without being able to talk it through with Everly.

So we are not and won't be over Everly's dying.  It will be with us and in us.  But we also realize, as Everly sought to instill in us during her last days, that we are not to abide in a place of death.  We have to be about life.  The people who sell plaques about people's names associate Everly's name with the great-great-grandmother of all of us, according to the Jewish creation story, Eve.  And they say that name means "Life; to live; to breathe; enlivening."  Everly enlivened us.  She expects us to live.  She sent us forward, even without her, to breathe, to live, and to give life to others.

Now at 3 am I am listening to blues singer Lizz Wright sing The Youngbloods "Get Together."
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand.
Just one key unlocks them both--
It's there at your command.

Come on, people now,
Smile on your brother.
Everybody get together--
Try to love one another right now.
It's a choice we have to make, made more real by the grief.  Sinking into the pain and fear of grief is tempting, but not the path that we and Everly have traveled down and lived for.  "Anyone knows that Love is the only road." (It's okay to feel afraid.  Don't let that stand in your way.

It's the week of Peace Camp, the nickname for the annual gathering of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.  Our family went to Peace Camp for countless summers.  Everly made important life decisions based on her experiences and conversations at these gatherings.  She loved being with the folks who she got to see only at this time of year.  Sometimes she felt it was her only church all year.  It was during their gathering, which of course we could not attend last summer, that Everly died. 

We and many others gave donations in Everly's honor to support students who need help to attend the BPFNA gathering.  We got a wonderful thank you note from one of Everly's Peace Camp buddies, Alice Adams, letting us know that those funds had helped four Burmese students from Louisville, KY, be able to travel to Peace Camp in Canada this week.  She would be very pleased to have a part in that.

Darrell Adams, a kindred soul, has often sung at Peace Camp, and we have his CDs and have listened often.  One song he has recorded that we love is a traditional hymn whose author is unknown, "How Can I Keep from Singing?".  It says one thing that I want to say on this sacred day of remembrance.
My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails the new creation.
Above the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul--
How can I keep from singing?
I also want to remember Everly's motto for her season of struggle against cancer:  Don't Postpone Joy!

I think it's time to get some sleep.

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