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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thoughts on Christmas 2009

Christmas has been interesting this year.

At Thanksgiving my hotwater heater leaked and created a small flood in my garage. One of the items I had to remove was a Christmas tree covered with a red plastic bag tree cover. When I uncovered it, I discovered one of Donna's Charlie Brown trees with the lights still on it. So, this year I have a Christmas tree, in the front window no less with lights - no angel, no star, no decorations - but a tree with lights. (I did put a wreath on the door and a small manger scene just inside the front door.)

After the Christmas Eve Service at First Baptist Church of Jefferson, GA, I had a 2-plus hour night-time drive to my parent's home. Along the way my most interesting thought was a feeling that I was leaving Donna at home in the bed while I went to my parent's for Christmas - yes, odd. Perhaps it reminded me of the several months when I would leave her at home traveling to Sandersville for my Interim Associate Pastor position at Sisters Baptist Church there. Perhaps it came because I was not going to be able to go to Virginia this Christmas to visit her grave. Whatever the reason, it was a feeling I had.

Christmas morning after getting up and somewhere around a breakfast of sausage, toast, and grits, and opening our presents to each other, I discovered Hedgehog Launch at So...I wasted a lot of time launching hedgehogs. Just wish it was as easy to make money - I got up to over $4 million - nice dreaming.

At lunch we headed over to my sister's house to eat. It was she and her husband, their three daughters and two sons-in-law, plus me and our parents. After a brief visit and some looking at their presents, the tables were set up and set and we began to eat. Suddenly we were interupted by the news that the house one my nieces lived in had been broken into and some items were apparently stolen (of greater importance to my niece, the cat was missing).

Suddenly the meal was hurried, gifts were quickly exchanged as my niece and her dad prepared for a quick trip to Atlanta to see the damage and do what they could to secure the property. We discovered somewhere along the way that the thieves had apparently been arrested and perhaps some items recovered. Later when they returned, they reported that they couldn't do much until tomorrow when the officers who were investigating this crime were back on duty. Some items were still missing, but we are hoping that they can be recovered. Oh yes, the cat was found and is OK.

I wish for all of you a Joyous Christmas (yes, the first day of Christmas is past, but we have 11 more) and a Blessed New Year!

Christmas has definitely been different and interesting this year.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In Memoriam: Donna Dickson

Today is the 6 month anniversary of Donna's passing from this life through to that blessed hope and promise of life that never ends.

On October 1, 2008 at 11:30 a.m. (according to the death certificate), Donna lost control of the car she was driving, hit a tree, and passed from this life of pain and trial.

I know that her current life is far, far better than this one ever was, even on its best day, so I would not for the life of me wish that she was back. But, I do miss her!

Perhaps it fits during these days of Lent as we evaluate our lives in the light of Christ's suffering, sacrifice, and death for us and our sin. Through all of this life's joys and sorrows, we can trust ourselves to Him because of the hope that bursts through the open door of the tomb - He lives! He lives! And, because He lives, so shall we.

The life holds no promise of tomorrow (or even of this afternoon). It is only in Christ that we have the promise of tomorrow.


In Memoriam:

Donna C. Dickson

December 18, 1961 - October 1, 2008

Friday, February 13, 2009

Questions and Answers - Reply

This is a reply (I can see an ongoing discussion and it might be interesting to see it take place across our two blogs) to Tim Trussell-Smith's response to a question I asked of him which can be found at:
Checking In: Questions and Answers.

You are a sharp one! Yes, the question was actually based on something I ran across as I perused the First Parish Church of Dorchester, Unitarian Universalist website that you linked to. I quote:

Unitarian Universalism is a religion in which each church member has a right to state honest feelings without being constrained by any dogma. Unitarianism, which evolved from the Puritan tradition, taught a reasoned exploration of religious truth and rejected Trinitarian Christianity. Universalism rejected the harsh Calvinist beliefs that humans are depraved and alienated from God, and taught that God's love for creation is unconditional and that no one is separated from this all-conquering Love. The two denominations merged in 1961 to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.

As Unitarian Universalists we believe we are free to work out our own theological beliefs using a well-disciplined search for truth.

I noticed, of course, right away, the items that UU rejects: trinitarian christianity (looks like a rejection of Jesus as God) and "harsh Calvinist beliefs ..." (looks like a straw man for rejection of Scripture as inspired text). Then, it goes on to speak about a "well-disciplined search for truth."

To my mind to reject the possibility of these 2 being true has already hampered the search for truth. Therefore if the UU is in reality searching for truth and arrives at the conclusion that Jesus is in fact God and that Scripture is in fact the inspired Word of God, then he is either forced by that original rejection to reject the truth he has found or to reject the rejection of that truth and thereby reject the beliefs that he started with.

This is the point behind the original question as you so astutely observed.

With great love,
Uncle Richard

Saturday, January 03, 2009

First Visit

Today, December 31, 2008, the last day of the last year of her life, I visited the cemetery. Technically not the first time, but the first time since our trip up for her burial.

Grandview Memory Gardens as seen from Dickson plotGrandview Memory Gardens is a beautiful cemetery located in Bluefield, Virginia. This is where her mother is buried. We have been visiting together almost every year since her mother's death. Next to her mother are her grandmother's and grandfather's remains. I suppose for these generations, Grandview has replaced the family cemetery.

In the fall, the gently sloping hills of Grandview do reveal a grand view of beautifully colored trees and the mountains just over the hilltop. As I said earlier, it is a beautiful cemetery.

Donna Dickson's body laid to rest at the Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane monumentDonna is buried just below the "Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane" monument, slightly to the left. Next to her is a spot reserved for me. I had wondered if I would feel unusual seeing my name on a grave marker, but it wasn't awkward at all.

One of the reasons that I had delayed coming back was the marker. I thought I had understood that the marker would be in place 6-8 weeks after the burial. However, the reality it was 6-8 weeks after the final payment. So, instead of coming at Thanksgiving, I was visiting at year's end.

I wasn't even sure the marker was in place, but I had some vacation time that I needed to take, and I just felt like I needed to visit. It has been almost 3 months since we were here.

Well, it was chilly, very windy day - it felt cold with snow flurries and a little accumulation. In fact, I stopped by Wal-Mart on the way to purchase a pair of gloves and an insulated, pull-over cap which proved to be a very good choice. In just a few minutes I was at the cemetery. After parking the car, I left Abby in the car to first check it all out.

Richard & Donna Dickson's marker placed at Donna's resting placeAs I approached our plot, I noticed what looked like the same flower arrangement we had left on the day after her burial. Then I noticed that the new marker was in place. For a marker it looked good, just like I had ordered.

After checking out our plot and Donna's grave, I went over to check on her mother's spot. There I pulled out the old flowers and headed to the garbage to throw them away. Then I went back to the car to get the flowers that I had brought to place on both of the graves.

Grave marker for Mary Finger, Donna's motherI had originally thought both arrangements were the same, but as I carried them, I realized that one had roses and the other carnations. You can guess which one Donna got - obviously the roses. After placing the flowers in her vase, I went and placed the flowers for her mother.

Then it was back to the car to get the camera. We have over the years made a habit of recording each visit with pictures of the flowers. It was different, of course, this year since Donna had not made the arrangements. And, although I am so very grateful to the florist who prepared them and gave me a good price on two, I noted that they just were not Donna's arrangments.

Next, it was back to the car to get Abby so she could visit.

Now, I realize that the person who was and is Donna is not buried in that cold hillside. What is there is only the physical shell that she inhabited while living on this earth. This was made so obvious at the Bluefield funeral home, when Abby was allowed to visit inside and I held her over her "mommy." There was no recognition at all. Even without scriptural theology and biblical knowledge, this small creature knew the truth that so many of us would deny: Donna was not present in that casket.

But, I also realized that in this place is the only physical representation that I have of the one that I loved and cared for (who also cared for me) for over 25 years.

So, Abby's visit was true to form. She was far more interested in exploring this territory and finding interesting things to put into her mouth than in "visiting." So, it wasn't long before we headed back to the car.

However, I was finding it very difficult to leave. So, I went back a final time. I was getting a lot of exercise - these ARE hills.

Each time, I went to the grave, I talked to "her." I wasn't sure I would be able to do this, as I am pretty certain that she is shielded from the hurts and pains of this life - that her attention is focused on the One who gave His life for her, and I am very, very OK with that. But, especially on this final trip to the grave, I did talk. I figured that God was listening - He is One who is responsible for my care - and that He would share anything that He figured was important with her. So, I talked and as I talked the tears came...again.

Finally, I knew that I would have to leave. So, I bid my adieu. With words that I can only be sure God heard, I told her that I loved her and that I missed her.

Even, as I type this (in a word processor since I don't have internet access at this moment), my eyes are moist. I don't know how long it will be before I can make it back to Bluefield to visit her gravesite. I am so grateful to her cousins, Jim and Susan, who are hosting me on this trip. Together, we will celebrate the New Year tomorrow. But, Donna is not here with me. She would have enjoyed the snow and the visit with family, but she can't.

I miss her!

I wasn't sure of the feelings I would have, but it was what I wanted and needed to do. It was not difficult, but it was not easy.

But, I made my first visit!