Grief is love with no place to go

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Yesterday would have been my mother and father’s 79th wedding anniversary. They married Feb. 7, 1939, at Zion Lutheran Church in Alamo, Texas.

Dad went to heaven way too soon to suit Mom and the rest of our family. He was only 66 when he passed away New Year’s Day 1983. He’s been gone over 35 years.

Mother Elda, who might yet see her 102nd birthday April 10, prays every day that she would be blessed by God to join Father Martin. But her desired answer has not yet been granted.

Elda misses Martin every day and longs to be reunited with him in heaven. The rest of our family, even those who were not yet born when he passed away but have only heard lots of stories about him, miss him also. Although it would be selfish for us not to affirm Mother’s prayer that one day soon she’ll wake up in heaven, we’ll also truly miss her when she’s gone.

In a very real sense, people who lose a loved one grieve that loss. It never really goes away.

The other day I read this definition of grief: Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

Over the years our family has mostly learned to live with our grief. As the Apostles’ Creed states, we believe “in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.”

That hope in our hearts keeps us from expressing grief by curling into a fetal position or doing a catatonic rock. We simply miss the man we called “Dad.” He was a good man. Not perfect. But a dedicated Christian, hard-working provider, faithful husband, loving father and grandfather.

Most people I know can tell a similar story about grief for a loved one they’ve lost. That’s likely true in your life as well. For me, some of the most consoling words in the Bible are 1 Thess. 4:13-14, 17-18: Brothers, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who are without hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him… And so we will always be with the Lord… Therefore encourage one another with these words. 

Humanly speaking, grief is just love with no place to go. But we can do as the hymnist suggests:

I lay my griefs on Jesus, my burdens and my cares; He from them all releases; He all my sorrows shares. (Lutheran Service Book 606)

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A Day to Remember

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January 29, 1966, was a long time ago! For me, it’s a day to remember.

At 5:00 p.m. that day Terry and I stood before the altar at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin and pledged to one another our faithfulness “… to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death parts us, according to God’s holy will.”

That was 52 years ago! And although many things that happened more than a half century ago have been lost in the maze of my seemingly totally stuffed gray matter, other recollections are quite clear. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Our wedding day was preceded by our wedding rehearsal the night before. Friday afternoon, January 28, I drove from my nearly completed graduate school semester classes at Texas A&M in College Station to Austin for the rehearsal at St. Paul. All went well and was followed by the rehearsal dinner hosted by my mother and father at the Villa Capri Hotel.
  • After kissing Terry goodbye on her front porch at midnight, I drove the 100 miles back to College Station, getting to bed shortly after 1:00 a.m. Saturday. At 7:00 a.m. I arrived in class to take my final final exam … in Biochemistry. Both because of our wedding and my decision to leave grad school to go to the seminary, neither my heart nor my head really gave a rip about that exam.
  • After concluding those last few moments at my alma mater I packed my few worldly goods in my ’57 Chevy, turned in the key to my dorm room, and drove back to Austin in time to hang around the hotel with my parents, three sisters, and other family members.
  • The wedding began promptly at 5:00 p.m. The officiant was the sainted Rev. Dr. Albert F. Jesse, who had hired me in August 1964 to teach the fourth grade at St. Paul. My entire preparation for that memorable year was a B.S. degree in Animal Science. Go figure! Mid-August, the date I was hired, was only two weeks prior to the beginning of school. I had a pulse and was willing to work for $200 per month. I was his man!
  • After the wedding service and ceremony, our reception was held at the Villa Capri Hotel. I remember the beautiful wedding cake. I recall Terry and I posing for a photo, both with a piece of said cake in hand, lovingly feeding it to each other. What I failed to see, discovered only when asked en route to our honeymoon destination by my new bride, was the groom’s cake. I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about! Never saw it! Haven’t yet lived it down!
  • We arrived at the Stagecoach Inn in Salado, a short 48 mile drive north of Austin. It was late and we were newlyweds, so we chose not to do any midnight sightseeing. Money was tight in those days. One night in the hotel cost 10% of my monthly salary. We stayed two nights … 20% of my monthly salary. After a semester of grad school, the bank account was not quite non-existent but was far from flush. I think we ate in the restaurant only once. Another 10% of my monthly salary!
  • Monday morning we packed the car and headed back to Terry’s parents’ home in Austin to pick up her clothes, other belongings, and our wedding gifts, and headed to our first home in Houston, arriving late Monday afternoon. The apartment on Bellefontaine in southwest Houston cost $75 per month, half of which was payable every two weeks.
  • The next day, Tuesday morning, I started my second teaching job, also in the fourth grade, at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Houston. Angie Bielefeldt was on maternity leave that semester and I needed a job prior to moving to Springfield, Ill. to enter the seminary, so it all worked out just fine. Terry worked with my father at Rice Food Market those four months in anticipation of the move to the seminary in June.

Lots of water has gone under the bridge since those days. Neither Terry nor I could possibly have had any clue whatsoever about what the Lord had in store for us. Perhaps in the weeks ahead I’ll be moved to share some of those stories as well.

In the meantime, I thank God for his priceless gift of a beautiful wife who became an awesome mother, an incredible grandmother, a gracious hostess, an excellent cook, a friend and mentor to many women including countless pastors’ wives, a tireless companion on many weekend trips for preaching engagements across the country, a fearless travel companion on many international trips to the mission fields and partner church locations around the world, including numerous third world countries where she was the only woman in the entourage, and a woman who loves to give of herself to people she meets … friends, family, and strangers alike.

Happy 52nd Anniversary, dear Terry! I love you more than words can express and thank God for you every day!

Worth Remembering

ProposalLast week Terry shared with me a story she had received via email. An elderly man whose wife had recently died attended his 75th high school reunion. Soon after arriving he saw across the room an old high school girlfriend whose husband had also passed away. He immediately went across the room, engaged in conversation with her and asked her to dance.

The couple spent the entire evening on the dance floor. As the reunion party ended the man asked his old flame if she would marry him. She quickly replied “Yes!” The two 93 year-olds kissed excitedly, exchanged phone numbers and parted company for the night.

The next morning the man, whose memory wasn’t what it used to be, remembered having a great evening. But he couldn’t recall for certain whether he had actually asked his high school sweetheart to marry him. So he picked up the phone and called her to find out.

When she answered the phone, he asked: “Did I ask you to marry me last night?” Her ecstatic reply was: “Thank you so much for calling! I remembered receiving a marriage proposal but I couldn’t remember from whom it came!”

Next Monday will be the 51st anniversary of the night I asked my dear Terry to marry me. I recall it clearly. For 51 years I’ve had no trouble remembering the significance of August 15, 1965!

Neither of us has been out of high school 75 years. Yet both of us sometimes have minor lapses of memory, finding it occasionally difficult to recall what so far have been matters of minor significance. Perhaps you can identify with that reality.

Some things are never forgotten. Births, baptisms, confirmations, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers, pastors, educational experiences, marriages, children, vocational callings, grandchildren, deaths of family members and personal friends—many of these are likely on your lists of people, events and experiences worth remembering.

One more thing worth remembering: “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:8)

Thank God for experiences and people of significance in your life! And thank God for his grace! That’s a blessing absolutely worth remembering!

Forty-Nine Years Ago

HeartIt was a cold January 29th in central Texas. The temperature in Austin that night reached 12 degrees. Thankfully, Terry and I were able to spend the night at the Stage Coach Inn in Salado and not in a tent or on the parking lot!

The weekend of our wedding began Friday evening with the rehearsal at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin, the congregation of Terry’s birth, baptism and confirmation. It was the obvious venue for our matrimonial vows.

St. Paul also operated the school at which I had taught 30 fourth graders the year before. I had been hired for that position August 15, 1964, fresh out of Texas A&M with a degree in Animal Science, for the princely sum of $200 per month. For a few days I thought I must have really impressed Pastor Jesse, who hired me on the spot. Then it occurred to me that school would be starting only two weeks later and he desperately needed a teacher in that classroom!

After the rehearsal dinner I kissed Terry goodnight Friday at midnight, drove the 100 miles back to College Station and got to bed shortly after 2:00 a.m. Saturday. My last graduate school final for that semester was Biochemistry at 7:00 a.m. You can probably guess my score on that exam! Not all that great, mostly because my mind and heart were focused elsewhere.

The grad school idea came after one year of fourth grade teaching. I was persuaded that church work would be my vocational ambition but most likely the elementary classroom would not be my final destination. A Master’s degree in biology would open additional opportunities. That plan was never completed, replaced with a decision to go to the seminary instead.

After the final was finished I got in my ’57 Chevy with all my worldly goods and drove back to Austin. The short afternoon was spent “hanging out” with Mom, Dad and my three sisters. Wedding participants had been instructed by Pastor Albert Jesse to be at St. Paul shortly after 3:00 p.m. That was a good thing, since my best man had forgotten to pick up Terry’s rings.

The worship/wedding service was wonderful, meaningful and memorable. Pastor Jesse’s sermon was based on John 2, the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. The title: “They Invited Jesus to the Wedding!”

After the service and photo session we went to the reception at the Villa Capri Hotel in Austin, which no longer exists. It was picture perfect. Not extravagant, just very nice. On the way to our two-night honeymoon stay in Salado Terry asked what I thought of the groom’s cake. My reply: “What groom’s cake?” I hadn’t even seen it or known it was there.

We spent Saturday and Sunday nights at the Stage Coach Inn, which at $20 per night pretty much blew our meager budget. Monday morning we drove back to Austin, picked up Terry’s belongings and our wedding gifts, and drove to our first apartment in Houston, a clean but not at all fancy one bedroom apartment that rented for $75 per month. We paid half every two weeks.

The next morning I was in another fourth grade classroom, teaching one semester at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Houston for a teacher who was on maternity leave that semester. Four months later we moved to Springfield, Ill., then the home of Concordia Theological Seminary. It might just as well have been the end of the world as far as our parents were concerned.

All that and everything that followed had its official beginning 49 years ago today. Lots of water has gone under our bridge since then, most of it joyful, some of it stressful. Through it all we have relied on our love for one another and God’s grace. We will continue to do so, as we pledged that January night in cold central Texas, “… until death parts us, according to God’s holy will.”

Happy Anniversary, dear Terry! I love you with all my heart!

A Very Special Tribute

Flower 1This edition of Perspectives concludes the fourth year of these weekly articles. Frankly, sometimes it’s a challenge to decide what topic to address and to do so with a reasonable degree of quality prior to the all too quickly arriving deadline of 5:00 a.m. each Thursday.

From time to time I think perhaps I should give this endeavor a temporary or permanent rest. Occasionally a few readers will complain and criticize. (By the way, if you don’t like what I write, feel free to delete or unsubscribe.) But then a bunch of readers will reply to an article they particularly appreciate and I get flooded with requests to keep on writing.

Since that’s happened often in recent weeks, I’ve decided to proceed with the fifth year of weekly articles. I have a fun one in mind for next week, so stay tuned. Invite your friends to subscribe or send them to jerrykieschnick.wordpress.com. Also feel free to suggest topics about which you’d like to hear my perspective. While I can’t promise to get to all of them, I’d appreciate your suggestions.

Much more significant than the end of Volume IV of these articles, today marks the 48th anniversary of the day I asked for Terry’s hand and heart in marriage. I remember that moment like it was yesterday, which is why it’s so hard to imagine it was almost a half century ago! When I tell people we’ve been married over 47 years, Terry quickly adds, “We married when I was just a child!” Actually, she is a few years younger than I, and always will be! Funny how that works!

It’s impossible to express how sincerely I thank God for Terry and how deeply indebted I am to this very special lady. She has been incredibly loving, forgiving, supportive and encouraging to me and the rest of our family. She has also tolerated, sometimes patiently and sometimes not, the interruptions, headaches and heartaches that have accompanied the variety of callings in which we have been involved together during the 43 years of our ministry in the LCMS.

There have been many such challenges, especially during our nine years in St. Louis. In lots of ways those were very meaningful and fulfilling years. In other ways they were quite difficult. I could say much more about the tough times, but I’ll save that for another time and place.

Even in times of trial and tribulation, Terry’s love for Christ, firmly established early in her life and lovingly nurtured during childhood, especially by her maternal grandmother, Blanche Gruesen, is as strong as it ever was. That love motivates her to encourage and pray regularly and fervently for family and friends. Her encouragement is frequently expressed in the form of hand written notes and cards, which she often writes early in the morning or late at night, endearing her to many.

So, my dear Terry, this is a very special tribute to you! You are loved and respected by many, especially all of us who are blessed to be part of your family! May our gracious Lord continue to hold you in the palm of his hand!

With all my love,
Jerry Kieschnick with Blog Background

A Tribute to Pastors’ Wives

Rings 1In my humble opinion, not nearly enough has been written or said about a woman whose role is almost always voluntary and almost never really understood or adequately appreciated. The role of which I speak is that of pastor’s wife.

Since I’ve been married to a pastor’s wife for more than 47 years, one might expect me to have a fuller understanding of the joys and sorrows, difficulties and blessings, highs and lows my dear bride has experienced during all those years. Yet I’m often either partially or totally oblivious to the roller coaster of emotions Terry has ridden as the wife of a mission developer/pastor/ ecclesiastical supervisor/church leader for 43 of those years. She is not alone in that ride.

The wife of a parish pastor is often scrutinized by people in the congregation her husband serves. She lives with, but doesn’t always talk about, concerns regarding what to wear, what to say, what to do and what people think or say about all that. Most pastors’ wives are sensitive to how what they do reflects positively or negatively upon their dear husband and his ministry. To varying degrees, the same is true also of spouses of other professional people and political leaders.

In the case of a pastor’s wife, those concerns and sensitivities are frequently exacerbated by the fiscal realities catalyzed by her husband’s all-too-often inadequate compensation. Those realities are regularly on her mind. Especially in recent years, pastors’ wives in greater numbers have followed their God-given vocational calling into professions of their own. In many cases the wife’s compensation is greater than her husband’s, which presents a different set of challenges, especially when her husband considers a call to a different congregation.

Accepting a new call requires the pastor’s wife and children to leave behind familiar surroundings and faithful friends, both in and beyond the congregation. It also means that the pastor’s wife may very well be faced with terminating, postponing or reestablishing in a new community what in many cases is a very fulfilling and successful career.

Without ever divulging specifics or identities, Terry has shared with me that she has spent many sleepless nights at pastors’ wives retreats listening, crying and praying with women she had never previously met. Quite often pastors’ wives feel there is no one with whom the burdens they are bearing can be shared freely and confidentially. They appreciate a trusted, supportive listener.

As you have opportunity, say a word of thanks, encouragement and support to a pastor’s wife you know. Pray for her. It will probably mean a whole lot more to her than you could ever imagine.

Much more could be said about these faithful women, who should in many cases legitimately be viewed as heroes of the church. Consider this brief article an inadequate and incomplete but nonetheless sincere expression of appreciation for and heartfelt tribute to pastors’ wives.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!