Category Archives: conversations to remember

God Is In The Picture

I’m as surprised as you are that I’m writing about God. As Dylan would say, “Awkwaaaaaard.” I feel as qualified to talk about God as I do quantum physics or Minecraft mods. What the heck is a mod, anyway? I don’t even know if it’s appropriate to write God or if I’m supposed to write G-d. The whole thing makes me as uncomfortable as watching “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” I’m going to stick with the “o” over the dash here, because the dash makes me feel even more anxious, if that’s possible.

I believe in an energy that runs through the universe and that if I’m lucky or fortunate or grateful enough, I can tap into it to feel something larger than myself, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

I send prayers to friends and family who are grieving or ill, I whisper a prayer for safe travels every time I get on and off an airplane, and I see my beloved Harry in rainbows and sunsets, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

Years ago, a gust of wind knocked me off of my feet after my Great Aunt Glenna died. I felt her presence so fiercely that I lost my breath, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

I don’t know why I can’t just say that I do or that I don’t believe in God. Whichever it is, a concrete answer would be a lot easier to live with than the perpetual questioning to which I subject myself. But, I can’t. I simply don’t have an answer, so God and I have an unwritten agreement to keep a safe distance from one another. We avoid eye contact, we’re not friends on Facebook, and we let calls go to straight to voicemail, but regardless of our efforts, something keeps bringing us together.

It’s not motherhood per se. Becoming a mother didn’t sway me one way or the other, although I totally get how it could. I mean, I grew a human being inside of my body! Twice! My molar pregnancy didn’t squash or boost my faith either. It just made me angry and sad. A decade later, it’s a wash. I’ve experienced the devastation of loss and the miracle of life, and I’m still on the fence.

It’s my kids. My children have natural and independent inclinations toward God and the unknown that have nothing to do with me (that I’m aware of). I have parented them the same. I have given them the same foundation of values. I have provided them with the same education. Yet, Dylan questions everything. He’s fascinated with death and insanely inquisitive about the afterlife, so much so that I sometimes wonder if maybe he’s been here (or there?) before. Whereas some kids ask “Why?” on a permanent loop, Dylan’s go-to question is, “What happens after we die?”

Riley, on the other hand, plainly and beautifully accepts God as true. “God is everywhere,” he once told me once while nibbling on Goldfish crackers in the car. “God is in my Goldfish,” he said munching away. How could I argue with that? It was a lovely sentiment, especially considering how many Goldfish cracker crumbs were on the floor of the backseat of my car.

Another time, Dylan asked, “Who makes shoes?”

Riley said, “God makes shoes.”

“Actually,” I piped in, “people make shoes,” to which Riley concluded, “God makes all the things that people don’t know how to make.”

Fair enough.

These conversations happened when the boys were much younger, but I remember them clearly – in fact, I wrote them down – because I never want to forget the authentic and easygoing relationship they have with God. I remain as confused as ever, but my kids and their unabashed honesty – about their certainty or their doubt – have taught me to appreciate my spiritual journey more and worry about my spiritual destination less.

I no longer cower from or cringe over my boys’ questions about life and death and everything in between. I welcome the opportunity to engage their curiosity and confront my own hesitancy. When Riley says, “God is in my heart,” I’m comforted by his faith (how ever long it lasts), and I’m equally reassured by Dylan’s courage to question it all.

Not long ago, Riley and I did an art challenge after dinner. In an art challenge, we choose a theme and then we each draw a picture. When we’re done, Dylan or Dad picks a winner. (Exciting stuff, I know. At least it’s not Minecraft!) That night, I drew a bird per Riley’s instruction and he drew a truck per his whim.

Several minutes into our battle, he said, “I think I’m going to win.”

“Why is that?” I asked as I feverishly drew a bird with colorful feathers surrounded by fall foliage.

“Because God is in the picture,” he said.

“God is in your picture?” I asked peeking over.

“He’s building a house,” Riley explained.


Indeed, God was building a house in the sky above the truck, Best Buy, and “Targit.”

My little feathered friend and I were totally screwed, because you can’t win an art challenge if your opponent has God in his picture. Still, I felt triumphant because, thanks to my kids, God is in my picture, too.


Not that picture. ↑

This picture. ↓



Filed under boys, conversations to remember, death, Harry, molar pregnancy, motherhood, religion

Letting The Light In

I’ve always thought there’s nothing sweeter than watching my boys wake up.  Their warm bodies, sleepy eyes, crazy hair, and sheet wrinkles imprinted on their cheeks are a gift (before the grind).   As it turns out, I was wrong.   Letting a five-pound puppy loose in their beds to sniff their feet and lick their knees and noses is way sweeter.

Gertie has turned our house upside down in the most delightful way.  The floors are a mess with dog toys and treat crumbs, the kitchen counters are cluttered with food bowls, leashes, and cleaning supplies, and we’re in the house training weeds, but our hearts are full.

Earlier in the week, my therapist asked me how things were going.  “What is it like having Gertie?” she asked.

She meant, What’s it like having Gertie but not Harry.  I thought about it for a minute and replied, “It’s like Light.”  Light because a weight has been lifted.  Light because she’s made our home bright again.

“Does Riley still talk a lot about Harry?” she asked.

And suddenly it occurred to me that he doesn’t talk about Harry anymore.  In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time he asked me about dog heaven or the last time he drew a picture of him.  I don’t know when it stopped, but I supposed it was the day we brought Gertie home.

For me, Harry exists inside Gertie.  It’s like she carries a piece his soul inside of her own, and every now and then his Light seeps out in a look, a trot, or a snore. I wondered if in Riley’s fleeting four-year-old mind Gertie had replaced Harry, and that made me all kinds of sad.

Two hours later, in the car on the way home from an appointment after school, Riley said, “I miss Harry.”

I was all kinds of relieved to hear those three words.

“I miss him, too,” I said.

Then Dylan said, “It’s too bad dogs don’t live more than 15 years.  I wish Harry could still be here.  I hope Gertie lives forever.”

Normally, I dreaded the death talk, but that afternoon in the car, while Gertie sat in her crate at home waiting for us to return, I relished in it.

“I hope Gertie lives a long time, too.  And I wish more than anything that Harry were still here.” I said.  “The thing about pets is that even when they live long, healthy lives, we usually outlive them, which is why we have to enjoy every moment we have with them.”

“I wish you had four kids,” Dylan said.

Uh-oh.  The “Why won’t you have another baby?” talk.

“Me, Riley, Gertie, and Harry,” he clarified.

Phew.  “Me, too,” I said.  “That would make me happy.”

“You know,” I said. “Harry’s birthday is coming up on March 6th.  He would’ve been nine.”

“When I’m 14, Gertie will be seven,” said Dylan, the mathematician.

“Do they have birthday parties in dog heaven?” Riley asked.

“I think so, sweetie.  I’m pretty sure birthday parties in dog heaven are awesome.”

Then the conversation evolved into coming up with a nickname for Gertie.

“How about Sweetie Underpants,” suggested Riley.

“That’s interesting,” I said.

Dylan wanted to come with something just right.  “Like how we called Harry Bo-Berry,” he said.

I told him that a “just right” nickname would come to him when he least expected it and that the breeder’s nickname for Gertie before we named her was Sneakers.  Then, I laughed because Gertie absolutely loves to chew on the boys’ sneakers.

“I like Sneakers,” Dylan said.

“Me, too,” I said.

When we finally arrived home, the three of us rushed into the kitchen to find Gertie accident free in her crate.  (Good girl, Gertie!)  We threw our bags and backpacks down on the kitchen table because doing homework, signing school forms, and unpacking lunch boxes could wait a little while.  Riley opened Gertie’s crate, Dylan opened the sliding doors, and we all emptied into the backyard to play with our Light.  Our Gertie.  Our Sneakers.  (Maybe.)  Our Sweetie Underpants.  (Nope.  Never.)

Here’s to letting the light in!

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Filed under conversations to remember, death, Harry, pets, Valentine's Day