Cleaning Up My Mess So Others Won’t Have To


Like so many people I have stacks of paper that I don’t know what to do with. In the last few days I have sorted through and thrown out unwanted paper work and miscellaneous stuff.    All this industry has had the effect of clearing out my head as well.  Getting my estate in order and not leaving a mess for others when I die seems quite important.

I am redoing my will and the Transfer on Death and Power of Attorney forms as well.  I did all this originally in the months following my husband’s death two years ago but my decisions were hasty and now need a thoughtful redoing.  Not having family means I am passing my assets to my church and a couple of friends

I don’t know if my death will be suicide or a natural one but in any event these preparations are just the usual course of events for any 72-year-old.  When my husband died two years ago he left nearly a thousand pages of writing much of which was personal to him.  But among those pages were a few important ones that made me glad I had sifted through it all and not just tossed it out.  I don’t want others to have to go through this when I am gone.

Since I have no family or old friends here in Albuquerque it has been especially difficult asking someone to assume my Power of Attorney in the event I can’t make my own decisions.  While I have tried to specify what interventions I would want taken if I am seriously ill or harmed in an accident, there are still situations where this person might have to make a life or death decision.  Since most of my friends in Albuquerque are older than I am and might not survive me, I decided to ask a young man (he’s 35) I have known for a couple of years to become the designee.  While our interactions have been casual they have also been honest and reached deep.  I shocked him when I worked up the courage to ask him but after he thought it over he agreed to do it. What a great gift to me.

As a hospice volunteer for several years I saw first hand the kind of messy paperwork so many leave behind.  So often people keep papers with the thought that they might need them someday.  In my case I have found solicitations for money from charities and political organizations that I thought I might be able to give to but are now months and even years out of date.  I found ads for concerts I would like to have gone to but happened months ago.  Also I found letters from former health insurance providers that were out of date or unacted upon.

So cleaning up, sorting out and updating is my gift to the living once I am gone.  Much as I wouldn’t invite someone to dinner at my home if it were a mess while I am alive so I also don’t want to leave a mess to those who must carry on after I go. I guess that this is a posthumous application of the Golden Rule.

Taking a Clue From Nehemiah


There have been so many responses to my blogs about depression and suicidal ideation from Christians whose symptoms like mine are not treatable by medication and therapy. I have had 7 years of therapy and I have tried almost all drugs for the treatment of depression.  Some worked for me in the beginning, even for years, but then the symptoms worsened.

This has made me wonder what God is telling me with this illness that seems untreatable by the methods of man.

While reading the first chapter of the book of Nehemiah, I noticed that his response to the news that in Jerusalem the walls had been struck down and gates had been burned was that of grief, he wept and he mourned.

But Nehemiah didn’t stay broken.  He turned to God.  Specifically he fasted and he prayed.  Well, first Nehemiah fasted then from fasting came prayer.  The nature of the Nehemiah’s prayer is interesting.  First he recognises God’s reality, his awesome power and might.  Next he confesses mankind’s sinfulness towards God.  He also recognizes how far short of the glory of God man has come.  Then he calls on the mercy and love of God to remember the promises He made to gather those who he had scattered.  Finally God told him what to do and made it possible for him to do it.

I have often fasted in obedience to church rules and I can’t say I have gotten a lot out of it.  I have also wondered why fasting and prayer are often linked in the Bible.  After reading Nehemiah and doing some praying and reading I think I have found an answer that makes me yearn to fast.

What I learned is that when we fast our weakness are turned into strength by the Lord.  When we fast we are demonstrating our complete dependence on God.  The purpose of fasting is to take our eyes off the things of this world to focus only on God.  Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed understanding of our reliance upon God.  It makes me think of Paul who said “For when I am weak then I am strong.”

With this new perspective in mind I think that fasting must include a withdrawal from the things of the world.  Not just in praying but in not occupying oneself with distractions.

So I will fast and pray for everyone who has written to me about having depression and/or suicidal ideation.  I am not fasting and praying necessarily that this affliction be removed but that if it is not God’s will to remove it then we can better accept and live with it and be of more service to others.

Isolating: First Symptom of Depression and Suicidal Ideation


What the mental health professionals call isolating is withdrawing from contact with other people. This is often the first symptom of depression. Whenever my depression deepens I begin isolating from others. It becomes increasingly difficult to make contact with people just when I need that contact the most. There are several reasons for my withdrawal.

First, many of my friends are uncomfortable with any discussion of suicide or depression  Most of them know that my husband killed himself two years ago  but generally they find reference to it conversationally difficult.  If I admit to my depression people change the subject.  Naturally I don’t want  to cause them distress so I no longer bring it up.  I understand their feelings because most of them are older woman whose lives have been much more settled than mine.   As a result only one friend knows about this site.  I find it easier to blog than talk in person with the people I know.  From  what I have learned from other people who have depression and suicidal ideation this feeling of rejection is common problem whether real or perceived.

Second, one of my primary symptoms of depression is confusion.  I can’t explain myself coherently.  When I try to express what is going on my mind becomes mush.  Recently  the one friend that wants to help me in by discussing my condition with me and who knows of this site tried to offer some suggestions and discuss my mood.  I became so confused trying to explain myself that I fled her house.  That happened last week.  This week I apologized and explained about the confusion and we agreed that we wouldn’t try to talk about my depression in-depth when I am in the throes of confusion.  I really appreciate her understanding and sympathy.

Third,  some of my friends believe that since I am a Christian I shouldn’t be depressed.  Certainly most Christians with some life experience don’t believe this but enough do so that I am constantly on the lookout for this particular land mine.  I am not particularly cogent when depressed so instead of speaking coherently about what I am experiencing I often just become defensive which is counter productive.  The belief that a believing Christian is a happy person at every level is a common misconception.  Certainly my faith gives me happiness and joy but that is often at the deepest levels of my being when my brain goes into a depressive episode.

So what does a depressed and suicidal person need?  I can speak for myself by acknowledging that what I need most is for someone to express that they care and that they do not judge me or my faith by what is occurring during my depression.   My first priority is to keep in mind that this is a passing event.  That it is a trial by God, deserved or not.  Next,  I need to do the things which I know will help me come out of the mental fugue as quickly as possible.  So I need to pray, exercise and do my best to keep in touch with others.  That I may express doubts that I am not normally afflicted with is just part of the package.  Certainly Job questioned why God allowed him to go through his trial.

How to Melt a Heart of Stone


The use of the Jesus Prayer began with the Desert Fathers in about the 5th Century.  Since then it has spread throughout the world. In Russia both monastics and lay people have prayed the Jesus Prayer for many centuries.  Some of them wandered the roads and forests while saying the Jesus prayer as a way to grow closer to God.  They lived in the countryside and people would give them a bit of food as a kindness and a blessing.  This has been a way of sanctification for many.

Eventually as a person persists in this prayer while living a holy life it is said that the heart prays the prayer at each breath even while asleep.

For me hiking has been a way to fight depression and suicidal thoughts and restore my connection with God.  I especially like praying the Jesus Prayer while I hike or walk.  It controls my wandering mind and brings it back to God.  It focuses the entire body and heart on God in one unified action.

Because when I am hike I get short of breath I simplify the prayer to:

Lord Jesus  (breathe in)

Have mercy (breathe out)

This provides a profound way to make hiking or walking a meditation on the key point of Christian life.  That we need God’s mercy  and that mercy was already given us through Jesus Our Lord.

The entire prayer which I pray when at home and I am not breathing hard is:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God  (breathe in)

Have mercy on me, a sinner (breathe out)

God promised in Ezekiel 36:26  that “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  This Sunday at Liturgy our pastor, Father Nicolay Miletkov, talked of the effect of the Jesus prayer.  He said that each time we say the Jesus prayer it is like a drop of water dripping on our stony hearts.  And just as the constant drip drip of water on stone eventually wears down the rock, so our stony hearts begin to erode and to reveal the flesh and blood hearts that God created.  It takes many years of praying this deceptively simple prayer to wear away the stone that surrounds our hearts.

Having tried this prayer when I was a new Christian I wasn’t able to appreciate its power or its beauty.  Now that I am old and understand that I can do nothing of myself I am so grateful for this ancient tradition which transforms the simple act of breathing into prayer.

On The Death of A Spouse


Wendell Berry is a force for good in this tired country of ours.  He decries mans inhumanity to man and the desecration of the earth.

He is 75 years old and lost his wife a while back.

He wrote a poem that I keep going back to because it images the longing for a lost spouse in a way no other poem ever has for me.

   THE REJECTED HUBAND

After the storm and the new
stillness of the snow, he returns
to the graveyard, as though
he might lift the white coverlet,
slip in beside her as he used to do,
and again feel, beneath his hand,
her flesh quicken and turn warm.
But he is not her husband now.
To participate in resurrection, one
first must be dead.  And he goes
back into the whitened world, alive.

But What Would Happen To My Dogs?


My dogs are my anchor.

They put up with my moods.

They insist on hiking the foothills every morning at 5:45.

When I think of suicide one will climb on my lap and lick my hand to remind me that I am loved, as only a dog can love.

In the morning they greet this old woman as if she embodies the sun itself.  They don’t know about a failed life, they see a success.  So I guess I can’t fail them since they never fail me.  If I were to put them at risk by my suicide I would betray that bargain I made with them when I got each as a puppy.  I couldn’t guarantee that I would never die but I could say that it wouldn’t be by my own hand.

Maybe thats why God has put such faithful friends in my life. There names are Billy and Boo.

Maybe It’s Not A Trial But It’s Sin


I haven’t been blogging for a couple of months because of an intense indifference to life.

Wanting to care I can’t:

Keep busy they say

Pray more

You aren’t trying hard enough

So-and-so’s  life is much worse than yours

Why can’t you be more like other people?

If you loved God you wouldn’t feel this way.

They are so right.  So I keep busy; I hike, I drive a friend to and fro, I take a child to the zoo.

And I pray.  I ask God to take this terrible indifference from me.

Only then do strange tears come.

I cry so hard I can’t see the Bible to read.

I wish I knew why I cried.  If I did then maybe I could do something different.

As evening draws close and I swelter in the 82 degree house I find myself plotting how to kill myself.

No.  I say.  No.  I will not do it.

I wonder now is this a trial?

Somehow I don’t think so.  It must be the consequence of sin.

So I renew my cry to God.  Tell me my sin and I will repent.

I will shout it from the mountaintop so the world will know.

But he doesn’t answer me.

But I feel his presence.  What does he want?

The only thing I want is to give him that.