Tag Archives: faith

On My Trip I Took A…

cappadocia

When you lose someone – expectedly or unexpectedly – many supportive people and institutions come forth with suggestions about what to expect. They want to do what they can, say what they can, to help you heal.

The information from hospice is, well, informative: After the death of a loved one, “The resulting grief is a normal and natural response to loss. The struggle to adjust may be difficult and one of the most meaningful experiences of our lives.”

Over two months has gone by and I’m still in no rush to understand or “process” my experience. The only frame of reference that makes sense to me is traveling. I don’t have a destination in mind. I’m not trying to achieve a state of “healed” or “recovered,” in part because I don’t feel damaged or unhealthy. I’m just going.

When my son, Thom, took off Monday on his four-month study abroad program, I found and shared this poem with him. It spoke to me of my hopes for his experience, but it also helped me to recognize that journeying is a pretty good metaphor for this thing I’m doing.

It also brought to mind an old game we played with our children. We would go back and forth, adding to an ever-lengthening alphabetical list of ever-crazier things that had to be remembered after the phrase, “On my trip, I took a…,” until someone lost by forgetting. (On my trip, I took an apple, and a boat, and a curmudgeon, and a diary…)

I’m on my trip. And I’m not alone. I’m taking the love of my family and friends, the beauty of nature, the inspiration of art, a trunk full of memories, the still-palpable presence of my father’s spirit, and faith.

For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

~ John O’Donohue ~

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Scott speaks to Dad’s exemplification of Marine values

scottdad

My eldest brother, Scott, 15 years senior, kicked off the family remarks at my father’s memorial on Saturday. He spoke from notes rather than full text, so I’ve done the best I can to recreate them here:

My Dad was, quite simply, the finest man I’ve ever known. He was always a rock for everyone in the family, and his passing has left a void that will never be filled. The family was very fortunate that he was a major part of our lives for so long.

If I were to describe my Dad’s character, I would say that he exemplified the core values of the USMC:

Honor,which means to display the highest ethical and moral behavior; of abiding by an uncompromising code of integrity; and of respecting others. The quality of maturity, dedication, trust and dependability commit Marines to be responsible and be accountable for their actions; to fulfill their obligations; and to hold others accountable for their actions.

Courage, which entails the mental, moral and physical strength expected of all Marines. It carries them through the challenges of combat and helps them overcome fear. It is the inner strength that enables a Marine to do what is right; to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct; and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure.

Commitment is the spirit of determination and dedication found in Marines, it leads to the highest order of discipline for individuals and units, and it inspires a driving determination to achieve a standard of excellence in every endeavor.

Dad displayed an abundance of all these qualities throughout his life.

But Dad’s most important achievement was of a more personal nature. Dad did not have a particularly happy relationship with his father, although he did not talk about it much until the latter years of his life. He made a deliberate decision to break that cycle and to be the best father he could be. Several pivotal events in his life may have influenced that decision: marrying our mother, Eileen; combat in WWII, the death of Midge, their first daughter; and his heart attack in 1962, which forced his retirement from the Marine Corps.

He was a romantic in the complete sense of the word, with a deep love for his wife and family. There were almost certainly times during WWII when he wondered if he would come home alive. If he had not, I’d be his only child, and I would not have the same brothers and sister.

After Ken Burns’ series about the Civil War aired Maj. Sullivan Ballou’s letter to his wife, I shared it with Dad. He told me that, had he been writing in the 19th century, he might have written a letter very much like this one:

July 14, 1861

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days — perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure — and it may be one of some conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done.

If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.

I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows — when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children — is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my forefathers floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last hours, perhaps, before that of death — and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.

I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me — perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar — that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been!

How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night — amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours — always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

Sullivan

Major Ballou perished at the first battle of Bull Run.

Leave a comment

Filed under Marines and those who serve, Uncategorized

A bittersweet cousin “union”

cousinsfeb162013

Tall row: Isaac Campbell, Vincent Campbell, Thom Stone, Sandy Campbell Kaduce, Marc Campbell, Henry Campbell, Madeline Stone. Front row: Eileen Campbell, Alison Campbell, Oleg Kaduce, Max Kaduce (Max was a little tired but he had a great time!)

What do you call a reunion with people you’ve never met before? Or people you hadn’t seen since they were infants? At my father’s memorial on Saturday, my brothers and I brought all of our children. And they brought all of their children. The result was a first for our family: all of the cousins and cousins-once-removed in the same place at the same time.

As much as they enjoyed each other, taking advantage of the bowling alley next to Pour at Four where the family met to share wine, food and memories following the memorial service, for my children, at least, there was a sadness to it. They know what it is to have close cousins, living within an hour of their four Stone family cousins in California. In seeing cousins they had not seen in many years, and meeting others for the first time, they recognized what they had been missing.

Growing up, my brothers and I never saw much of our cousins. Although we have developed close relationships some, especially with Louise (on Dad’s side) and Lynn (on Mom’s), our family seems to be missing the cousin gene. There are plenty of practical reasons that we didn’t spend time with our cousins: divorces that pushed cousins away from one another, family estrangements, distance and finances. (Despite these forces, we were surprised and delighted that two of Dad’s nephews came from Yakima to honor Dad: West Campbell and Ed Campbell, Jr.)

The memorial was a gift in so many unexpected ways, but one of the loveliest was the chance for our children and children’s children to spend a little time together. Remember this, dear ones, when it is time for you to foster relationships between your children. You belong to one another. Hold on tight.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My brother Dean took Dad home

deandad2011

Of my three brothers, Dean is closest in age to me, just three years older. As he explained in his remarks at yesterday’s memorial, he and I knew the kinder, gentler version of Dad. Dad used to say that he and Mom raised Scott and Bruce, but he let us raise ourselves. I’m not sure that’s quite true, but he did perhaps trust the process more than he did when he was first a father. Here are Dean’s remarks:

“I would like to thank you all for coming today to help us remember and celebrate the life of my father, Henry Snively Campbell. I know he would be and, I like to think, is very pleased to see all of your familiar and beloved faces. I imagine his broad smile, and the warm greeting he would extend to all of you. On his behalf, I welcome you.

Today each of my siblings and I are sharing a few fragments of our memories of and love for our father. In some respects, my sister and I experienced a different father figure than did our two older brothers, so different in age were Betsy and I than they were.  Scott and Bruce knew the fiery, hard-charging, career-oriented Marine officer, a decorated WWII veteran who aspired to the Commandant’s mansion in Washington D.C., whereas Betsy and I were raised by a less rigid and more compassionate father. I believe that two events led him to re-balance his life outlook: the loss of his 4 year old daughter Midgie to leukemia in 1953; and his heart attack in 1962 that led to his premature retirement from the Marine Corps. I think these events made him re-consider what was most important to him in life; and it’s clear he decided it was his family.

My first memory of my father dates to the latter part of his Marine Corps service, during his post as Executive Officer at the Marine Barracks in Washington DC. I was about 4 or 5 years old at the time. Each Friday during the summer, an Evening Parade is held on the grounds within the barracks; the Exec is the parade commander, the conductor, if you will. In my memory of those parades, I see a marine platoon in spotless dress uniform, flawlessly conducting their silent drill with M-1 rifles, fixed bayonets gleaming in the twilight. The President’s Own Marine Band plays John Phillip Sousa. My father stands at the center, calling for the precise maneuvers in his full-throated, commanding voice.  You can imagine the impression that made on a 5 year old boy. He seemed about ten feet tall to me back then.

As I grew older, I naturally came to know him differently and more realistically, but the legacy of his Marine career was still much in evidence. He carried himself with an unmistakable grace and military bearing. He dressed smartly, and he spoke with authority, confidence, and courtesy. He modeled, more than he taught, the values and behaviors expected of a Marine, an officer, and a gentleman: respect; integrity; honor; courage; and commitment. I realize now more than I did during my childhood and adolescence that I tried to emulate him.  It was in this way that he taught me how I might become a man, poor student though I was.

Some of my most enduring adult memories of my father are of the times we spent together in his native eastern Washington, hunting chukar partridge in the hills high above the Columbia River near Bridgeport. The images are clear to me, as though they happened yesterday. This is my memory: on crisp fall mornings while it is still dark, we drive under bright stars from the river to the top of plateau, and out across the wheat stubble fields to our destination. We strike out before sunrise into the arid grass- and sage-covered land adjoining the cultivated fields. At the very edge of the Columbia gorge, we walk in the mist of early morning fog as it is driven off by the light breeze coming from the plateau. We move in silence, the only sounds coming from the snuffling dog working in front of us, and the crunching of the frosted grasses beneath our boots. The pungent smell of sage hangs in the cool morning air.  As the sun rises behind us in the eastern sky, we pause to stand at the precipice, looking out over the majestic expanse of the Columbia River gorge that spreads before us.  The hills across the river, many miles away, turn from dark to purple to tan as the sun climbs from the horizon. It’s an awe-inspiring sight that makes one feel humble and quite insignificant. I will always carry the memory of these mornings we spent together; and for me, he will live on within them.

I was truly fortunate to have been with my father in his final hours. The night before his passing, he was too weak to come to the table for dinner, even in his wheel chair – so Betsy and I brought our dinner into his room. We set up a card table in front of his recliner, squeezed in next to him, and had a quiet time together. In retrospect, he was clearly starting to fade, although Betsy and I did not realize at the time how close he was to the end.  He was very sleepy during dinner, and seemed to be in a waking dream state: still connected to the physical world around him, but clearly seeing and responding to other things as well.  As we sat together, he looked at me with half-closed eyes and asked, “Dean, will you drive?”. This caught me a bit off-guard, but I responded that of course I would. I wish now that I had had the wits to ask him where he wanted to go, but I did not. Afterwards, my first thought was that in his mind he thought we were sitting in our camper on one of our hunting trips, and that he wanted me to drive because he was too tired to carry on. What I’ve now come to believe is something else. In the few days preceding his passing, he was often restless and wakeful during the night, trying to get out of bed, even though he had become too weak and short of breath to walk on his own. Our hospice nurse told Betsy and me that such restlessness is fairly common, and offered the belief that perhaps those close to death know they have somewhere they need to go, and are so determined to get there they will get up out of bed and walk right out the front door if you aren’t watching over them. Today when I look back on my father’s words, I think he knew it was time for him to leave, and that he wanted me to drive him there. I think he was asking me to take him home.”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A time to every purpose under heaven

My brother and niece

When my father talked about the death of my sister, Midge, he often went on to describe the birth of my brother, Dean, not so many months later. “It was as if the sun came up,” he said.

After a loss, how it heartens us to see a fresh generation behind us, revitalizing our faith in life and our hope for the future.

Last weekend, I ventured to Minneapolis (brrrr…) to see my niece Eileen become a bat mitzvah.

From the moment my brother, Dean, and his wife, Gwendy, met Eileen — in a Holiday-Inn sized hotel room packed with 10 adoptive parents, six children less than a year old, and eight caregivers, she stood out from the crowd. She was the only one who didn’t cry as she regarded the two people who would take her home, love her and raise her. When Dean and Gwendy brought her back to Seattle in November 2000, it was just a year or so after Mom died. At the time, I wasn’t quite ready for Mom’s name to be attached to anyone else. But Eileen is the perfect inheritor of her name.

My brother Dean made these remarks to her as she took on her role as an adult in the Jewish faith:

When I see these characteristics growing within you, I am reminded of another person I deeply loved: my mother and your namesake, Eileen Driscoll Campbell. I see your determination and focus; your love of God, family, friends and life; your fun-loving spirit and lively sense of humor; and your ability to see and embrace the goodness within others, and I realize these are the same qualities I loved within my mother. I wish that she had been able to know you, because I know she would have loved you as I do.”

Jewish people know a few things about love and longing, and that includes their traditions for remembering those who have died. I loved this bit from the mourner’s kiddush section of Shir Tikvah’s prayer service:

Grief is a great teacher, when it sends back to serve and bless the living… (E)ven when they are gone, the departed are with us, moving us to live as, in their highest moments, they themselves wished to live. We remember them now; they live in our hearts; they are an abiding blessing.” — p. 294, Mishkan T’Filah 2007

Grief is a great teacher, and I am its student.

Leave a comment

Filed under Faith journey, Uncategorized

Let Us Cross Over the River

Dad pointing out fish on the North Umpqua in 1999, shortly after Mom's death

Dad pointing out fish on the North Umpqua in 1999, shortly after Mom’s death

With Mom’s death and now Dad’s, I’ve noticed that it takes time to expurgate the image of them near death – diminished and battling. In Mom’s case, I awakened after three days with a brilliantly clear “dream” of her at the kitchen table in her favorite pink quilted bathrobe. Blessedly, that became the image I carried with me as I mourned her death and celebrated her life.

With Dad, what keeps coming to me are images of water, which I shared in earlier blog posts. I thought the dream about safety drills under freezing water, dozens of stories below ground in a mine, and another about paddling a crew boat across a cold, choppy channel, represented how I was trying to rescue Dad.

Then I had the dream about entering my living room to find a group of seven caregivers. The six clad in white told me they were there to “lift Dad up.” When I asked the caregiver clad in a black swim cap what he was doing there, he said he was for “after.” I knew that he was there to swim Dad across the river, as in the River Styx.

Rereading my emails to my brothers, I came across some from summer before last. All that summer, Dad and I “shade hopped” from one side of the street to the other, walking down Mariemont Avenue, ending across from a large oak tree. Most days, before we crossed, Dad would recite Stonewall Jackson’s final deathbed statement, as transcribed by his physician, Dr. Hunter McGuire. McGuire wrote:

Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, ‘Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

If there is life after death – and I believe there is – surely Dad is resting in the shade by a beautiful river.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Can This Love Last?

Holding on to love

In the wake of Dad’s death, I am deeply reflective.

We hear a lot about how hard caregiving is on caregivers, and I admit to feeling at my wit’s end during the most challenging periods of my Dad’s final illness as I wrote about during this blog post. And yet… I have rarely felt so filled with love as during these last months. Maybe I’m experiencing the same kind of amnesia that once dulled my memory of the pain of childbirth.

I’ve known many kinds of love in my life: romantic love, maternal love, even “sister-wife” love. The kind of love that I experienced when focused on my Dad’s needs approached something on a more spiritual level. I find that I miss the “love bubble” that I lived in with my Dad these past few months.

During the past couple of months, I’ve struggled with matters of faith and was angry about the natural order of things, which can make old age and dying a brutal experience. My beautiful cousin Lynn wrote, “The Love you are feeling is God. Everything even the agony is part of that love. This is your path now… with your father.” And my mentor Jim wrote, “Your Dad does not have to have all the answers to all the questions right now. He needs heart connection because that ultimately answers the unanswerable questions and ensures him peace of heart and peace of mind so he can release. Whether he connects in any way to a traditional notion of God, he sure does to your Mom and he wants to go and be with her.  So for him, there is a there there, and he has his heart set on arriving.  Leaving is generally harder than entering, for each of us.”

There was something, well, holy, about the last 15 or 20 minutes. I previously described how his eyebrows lifted up, the way they would when he saw someone who delighted him, and his lips moved as if he were speaking to them. And a little while before that, his mouth, which until then was slack, suddenly bowed into a giant smile. I said to Dean, “Look – he looks happy.” Dean and I had the distinct feeling he was seeing Mom.

As we plan Dad’s memorial service, my brothers and I are sifting for readings that speak to us. Phrases are popping out to me like these:

“Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13: 8)

“… the peace of God, which passes all understanding…” (Phillipians 4: 7)

“It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15: 44)

“We do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. … what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (1 John 3: 1-2)

Then I read Dr. Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven and found his testimony of his Near Death Experience to be reassuring that consciousness — our soul — lives on after we leave the little bit of this universe that we experience during our mortal lives. 

Talking about the book, my brother, Scott, described to me something that Dad had shared with him when my sister, Midge, was in her last hours, dying of leukemia at age four. Dad told Scott that Midge suddenly sat up and said, “I hear music.” Shortly thereafter, she died.

I know that it feels as if Dad is not gone. And I don’t just mean that his lessons live on in all of us. I still feel his love as a presence. I believe that he – and Mom – somehow exist beyond mortal death.

That love was shared with me in the process of his dying. It changed me during that time that I lived in the small world of his house, where everyone was focused on the mission of easing his way.

What I wonder now is this: as I rejoin the world, how do I keep this feeling of selfless love? Is Jim right when he says: “God is with us, actually inside each of us even when we do not sense it, and remove enough of our own clutter and misgivings and pain to be fully conscious of divine love inside us.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized