Other's Archive

Izzy/Glen: “Jon, was God in the room?”

Monday, January 21st, 2008

January 21, 2008 – Cold, sunny, a bit warmer.  My frostbitten fingers are telling me not go out again with the camera. I am convinced. And Annie says I am under house arrest. To the computer, surrounded by dogs.

I got a lot of quite wonderful e-mail about Izzy and Glen, shown below, and Cynthia, from a small town in Nebraska, asked me point-blank: “Jon, looking at those pictures, it seems as if God is working through Izzy, that explains it. Jon, was God in the room?”
An amazing question to be asked first thing in the morning, after only one cup of coffee. Cynthia, I will try and be honest with you. I will tell you precisely what happened. Hospice teaches me a lot of things,  mostly that I don’t know much of anything, a theme of my life recently. It’s good to know that about yourself.
I am powerfully drawn to that room with Glen, and yesterday, when Ann said a prayer for Glen, (see photo below) and I looked up and saw that Izzy had lowered his head, I was startled, I opened my mouth but didn’t know what to say. Ann radiates spirituality, and love, and when I picked up the camera lens and looked through the window, I saw that the room was so bright that I had to change my camera setting, and yet the photo was quite dark.
I attribute this to my clumsiness with the camera, yet the day before, sitting with Glen, as he struggled to tell me stories of his truck driving days, and his quite tough childhood – his parents sent him away to live with his grandparents because he had a deformation in one leg and they couldn’t afford to keep him on their farm – and Izzy turned to me, and his eyes were yellowish and bright – as if reflecting sun, but there wasn’t any, and the room seemed also suffused with light. The photos were too bright to use.
So I don’t know about these things, and I would never presume to know where God is or what he is doing, or presume to think he would come and visit with me and Izzy and Glen. God-talk often makes me nervous, and I steer from it, yet I have not had a more spiritual experience in my life than I got in that house, and in other hospice visits, and I do not know how to explain it.
I was tired, drained, and it was late afternoon and there are all sorts of good explanations for Izzy’s eyes, the light and the feeling the room. I just don’t have any.
Surely, Izzy is guided by something I do not grasp. Surely something was in that room. On the way home, I looked ahead and saw that a snow shower had swept over the hills and blocked the afternoon sun, creating precisely the same light I saw in Glen’s room. I pulled the car over and got this photo. It’s the same light. Maybe Cynthia can tell me if that was God, or if he brought me this light. I don’t know, and like Izzy’s work, I think I’ll leave it a mystery for now. I am just quite lucky to have Izzy, to know Glen and his family.

Loss (2)

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

December 1, 2007 – When Izzy loses someone in hospice that he’s been visiting, we always go back for a final visit to the family, or a last visit to the bed or chair where he last saw them. Izzy seems to know when people are gone, at least he doesn’t bother to look for them.
  And he always hops up on the bed or lies where his friends were, and closes his eyes for a bit. I don’t quite understand it, I have to say, but it’s not something I can either forget or explain.
   I think, as C.S. Lewis does, that there is some vanity when it comes to dealing with loss or grief. We want to prove to ourselves that we are players, lovers on a grand scale, tragic heroes; not just ordinary people, part of the throng, or privates in the huge army of the bereaved, plodding along, making the best of things.
  We don’t want loss or grief to be prolonged, but we want something else of which grief is just a symptom, and then we confuse the symptom with the thing itself. There is joy in loss, and release, part of the awful beauty and mystery of life. It tests us, challenges us, forces us to be better or worse, defines who we are. I suppose loss gives meaning to gain, an empty hole followed by the thing that fills it.


Friday, November 30th, 2007


November 30, 2007 – Very windy, cold. Snow on the way Sunday. Glad I expanded the pole barn, as the donkeys and sheep are huddled snugly inside. Dogs are lucky to be inside huddled under chairs, next to the wood stove. I especially love the farm on a night like this. Went up to visit the grave of Orson, the border collie who led me to the farm, and it was a good, wind-swept night for it.
    I haven’t thought of him in awhile. Some people think I’m cold this, moving from one dog to another. I think it’s my way of handling their loss, respecting their animal natures. 
   But I’m thinking about loss lately, his and other loss, and its inevitability in our lives, and the different ways people handle it. 
   There are obvious kinds of loss – the death of somebody, or an animal, or the loss of a friend. Some losses hurt a lot, yet seem small, and are hard to acknowledge. Everybody has loss, few people want to hear much about other people’s.
   It’s difficult to admit loss, sometimes, or even to talk about it. C.S. Lewis said it was much like fear, that rising in the chest. In its early stages, grief runs through the mind and heart like a monotonous tread-mill, then begins to recede. Concentration is difficult, normalcy is elusive. It’s sometimes hard to do the things that bring distraction, like reading a book or having a conversation. Lewis writes in “Grief Observed” that an odd by-product of grief and loss is feeling like an embarrassment to everyone you meet. People who have lost someone close to them often talk of being embarrassed at bringing one’s private suffering to others. I know this feeling. We all want to be tough, resilient, beyond transient suffering.
   We are expected to get over it, not to dwell on it.
   “It’s not always clear whether it’s good or bad that others know when you suffer loss,” Lewis wrote. “Sometimes you need to talk about it, sometimes it’s unbearable. “…I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t.”
   People can sense loss, pick it up, shy away from it. Some people avoid it, others are confused, unnerved by it, not knowing what to say, fearing they’ll say the wrong thing. In hospice work, they teach you not to cheer people up. Let people have the pain they need to have.
   A friend who lost her husband some years ago can be bowed low in grief at his mention. A 70-year-old man in my town can’t speak of his dead German Shepherd Thunder without tearing, five years after he put the dog down.
  Losing a friend, for any reason, feels like a death, at least to me.
  Lewis thought it would be easier for those suffering loss to be isolated in special settlements like lepers. They wouldn’t have to worry about other people. To some, people suffering loss are worse than embarrassed, but horrifying, as encountering a death’s head.
  Strange that we would be embarrassed by loss, or sensitive about showing it. Noone wants to be seen as having lost something important, and many people hide it completely. People prefer being seen as happy, fulfilled, complete. Our culture is tough on people suffering, as they are often seen to have failed in some way, or brought misfortune upon themselves.
   I think loss is best handled slowly, in bits and pieces, with deep breaths,  by taking one walk, talking to one close friend, walking dogs, reading bits and pieces of a good book, or poem. Journaling helps, in that loss is recorded, dealth with noted, as it should be. Acknowledging the loss to yourself and to others is, I think, also good. I think it is somewhat appropriate to be embarrassed by loss, otherwise, we would be drowning in it, and stories and laments about it.
  Loss is an inevitable part of life, even if it surprises us, ovewhelms us, and hurts. Like pain it’s a mystery, since a benevolent God wouldn’t allow us to suffer it. 
  And, I suppose, it is a private thing, since even if we are fortunate to know people willing to share our loss, or help us with it, it is also something that only we can feel, that sense of pain, of having a piece cut out of us, of having lost something we may never find again. Sometimes people deny loss, thinking of it as temporary, or are reflexively reassured by people telling them things will be fine, what was lost will inevitably be recovered, regained, replaced.
  I’m not sure. Sometimes what is lost is gone for good, in one way or another. I do believe that loss is a gift, like most things you feel, that opens us up and leads us to different places. And I tell friends who have suffered a loss, this: toughness doesn’t come from denying loss, but from the ability to think and see beyond it, to imagine a hole filled in with something else, a time and space where the ache will inevitably fade and soften and be replaced by something else, if we are lucky, something better.