… always holding somebody up … (part 3)

Jamie and Heidi Lake 1985

“Lifeboat 12 was lowered to the sea.

It was one of the last boats to go, and it dropped fast, the boys hanging on.  Like monkeys, Ken Sparks thought.  For a terrible moment the stern fell, dropping awkwardly, the bow left, the top end of a dangerously steep angle.  The roar of the sea lifted, close now.  To O’Sullivan it seemed they were riding ‘a badly adjusted elevator.’  But then Cooper had the falls back in alignment and the lifeboat leveled.  Not one of his charges was thrown to the water.

What mattered most was how the boat would land, and this Cooper managed adroitly, letting out rope in slow and steady increments, adjusting the boat’s angle several times as it neared the water.  The trick was to come down level, though the Benares [the British liner sailing the North Atlantic in September 1940 when it was torpedoed by German U-Boat] herself was leaning profoundly to the stern.  Cooper succeeded where most others had not, and his passengers held on.  Lifeboat 12 touched the water relatively gently and evenly.”

Tom Nagorski

Miracles on the Water: The Heroic Survivors of World War II U-Boat Attack pp.182

Over the 20 years I wrote, researched, and revived this “Shadow Project,” as I called it (now known as Shadows Presence)… I found kindred souls surviving terrifying, horrific, and lonely losses throughout history. Their ingenuity, humility, courage, and driving love continue to speak of the mysterious rest & wrestle of vulnerably sharing hope in troubled times.

In … always holding somebody up … (part 1), I shared my Dad’s words at Jamie’s funeral that included the story of Dawson Trotman. In … always holding somebody up … (part 2), I shared a compelling story of a Hero of Hope of mine from World War II, Friedl Dicker- Brandeis.  Each inspiring story strikes hope and courage despite death’s dark and dank pursuit.

Who doesn’t love a good epic hero story?  Isn’t it gripping to consider all the obstacles overcome?  I get all Olympic-Glory energized, and I want to tackle the world to feel the weight of a medal and to sing the National Anthem … but, then real loss creeps close enough I nearly lose my own ability to move, to think, to fight … or even breathe.

Since I was one of the closest people to Jamie… suddenly, I needed people … to hold me up…  like never before in my life.  And I’m not the greatest at being needy and horrible at expressing anything when I feel utterly weak, abandoned, alone.

Yet, so many people acted in beautifully simple ways to comfort us along the way. I am deeply grateful for every little thing everyone did to lighten our days.  Because of you,  we learned grace… to grieve and live again.  Whether we remember every detail or not, I’m fully aware your efforts- especially prayers held us up for a very long, long time.

Similar to steadying Lifeboat 12 on the sinking Benares, sincere souls grabbed and grappled details around us.  We’ll may never know how all the prayers, sacrificial acts of kindness, and words of encouragement buoyed and steady us still.

As I think back, I don’t remember who sent the biggest flower arrangement to Jamie’s funeral.  I don’t remember my first days back to school.  But I remember how songs people wrote -sometimes decades before- became my anthem and heartbeat.  I remember going out to the garage at Jamie’s family’s home to see mounds of soda and stacks of tissue and feeling the pause… a weightlessness -not of wanting, but of not needing… I remember vividly fearing falling asleep the night of his death… somehow I just knew he’d invade my dreams, but a dear friend sat silently on the other end of the phone line… just so I’d know I wasn’t alone.

“Who know what ‘the communion of saints’ means, but surely it means more than just that we are all of us haunted by ghosts because they are not ghosts, these people we once knew, not just echoes of voices that have years ceased to speak, but saints in the sense that through them something of the power and richness of life itself not only touched us once long ago, but continues to touch us.”

Frederick Buechner  The Sacred Journey pp. 23

After the shock dissolved and the new day-to-days began, Jamie’s absence and the prevailing silence of so many who don’t know how to mourn formally or how long real grief lasts… I remember the few souls who spoke his name, dared to ask how I was doing, and share songs, quotes, questions, etc.

An honest take-away for me has been a bit of a wrestling among the waves … a gripping plea of my heart to forbid anyone from committing suicide ever again and a warrior stance to prohibit anyone else to have to face such a loss, pain, and epic journey back to life.

… someone is always holding us up …

You have no idea how -even to this day- how much it means, how much we feel upheld, to know people remember Jamie, our loss, our pain, and speak life into healing spaces of our hearts… yes, scars remain.  However…

Similar to steadying Lifeboat 12 on the sinking Benares, sincere souls grabbed and grappled details around us.  We’ll may never know how all the prayers, sacrificial acts of kindness, and words of encouragement buoyed and steady us still.

More to Come… Living Hope.

written by Heidi L. Paulec

 

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… always holding somebody up … (part 2)

Jamie and Heidi Lake 1985

“She helped restore a balance to the trembling consciousness of terrified children.”  Chaim Potok wrote of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a Vienna-born, Baushaus-trained, German-speaking artist who turned down a personal visa to enter Palestine during World War II.  Rather, she remained in a ghetto to teach children as the official art teacher of the camp.  To the Nazi’s, the camp was known as Theresienstadt.  And the Czechs and the rest of the world, the camp became known as Terezin.   From 1942-44, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis helped children create and express through nearly 5,000 pieces of art.  (1)

“Auschwitz was the Kingdom of Death.  Theresteinstadt was the Kingdom of Deceit.”  (2)Terezin posed first as a relocation station then as a preparation stop for Jews heading to Palestine; however, the humanitarian smoke screen both dangled and diluted hope day by day.

Yet, truth and beauty found its way out of that mire, in part, because of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who held no pedagogical credentials,  faithfully and sacrificially taught art and expression to non-German-speaking children in this Nazi-run camp situated just outside Prague.

‘… always holding somebody up …’  Although Terezin maintained a posh façade as a countryside resort (a featured location for Nazi propaganda films), the inhabitants knew this ghetto offered any real rest…  Perhaps, all but the children fortunate enough to find themselves under the tutelage of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.

Despite language barrier, she animated techniques.  They listened… and learned.  Time. Observe. Think. Texture.  Time. Observe. Think. Texture.  Repeat.  Mrs. Brandeis -the artist turned teacher who refused payment of any kind- ceased her own work to conserve and to share the meager art supplies with her pupils.

“She taught in the way she herself had been taught by her art teachers in Vienna and the Bauhaus:  exercises in breathing and rhythm; the study of reproductions, texture, color values; the importance of observation, patience, freeing oneself from the outer world of numbing routine and inner world of dread. 

She would tell stories, and the children would be required to draw objects she mentioned twice.  They drew flowers, butterflies, animals, cities, storms, rainbows, streets, railway stations, family portraits, holidays, merry-go-rounds.  They drew their concealed inner worlds, their tortured emotions, which Friedl Dicker-Brandeis was then able to enter and try to heal… A member of those classes who survived said of her:

‘I remember Mrs. Brandeis as a tender, highly intelligent woman, who managed- for some hours a week- to create a fairy world for us in Terezin… a world that made us for get all the surrounding hardships, which we were not spared despite our early age.'” (3)

This fairy world doesn’t seem to have been an escape, but a means to express, understand, and overcome present horrors with vivid remembrances… all while stirring future hopes.  Brilliant.  Beautiful.

Mrs.  Brandeis took great care to hide the children’s art before she was deported to Auschwitz on October 6, 1944.  She later died in Birkenau.

Some may think  her artistic endeavors were wasted.  Some may view the children’s work and wonder if any of it really matters in the scope of ‘real’ art.  But in the scope of humanity, Mrs. Brandeis’ instruction encouraged the children to keep remembering, living, hoping, even if only for a few hours a week as their minds spilled a fraction of that life onto paper.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,

but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” 

Philippians 2:3 ESV

She upheld their dignity in those days they were imprisoned.  And she preserved their dignity as she packed away each piece for had in turn churned life and hope in her.  The world needed these to remember, and she knew it.

So it is with us- as we journey the epic endeavors of life… including the pangs of grief.  We know souls who so seamlessly call out hope and happiness in the bleakest moments.  When they rally, people around them rise above disheartening circumstances and join a contagion -if only by a breath- of inspiration and ride on.  We know people who journey alongside us when we are fun… and when we are frozen… with fears… in grief.    They’re patient and tender.  And they risk upsetting us by calling us back to life again.  Sometimes, it takes some remembering, some savoring, some hoping… ‘holding somebody up.’

Who rallied around you in your darkest night,  deepest loss?

Because I was one of the closest people to Jamie, I felt the honor and obligation to “hold somebody up.”  I took over as a big sister to Michael and Holly.  Jamie loved them both, so I’d try to love them and look out for them more.  (being an only child, myself, I now know I had no idea what it means to be a sibling, but I gave it the ol’ heave-hoe.)   Sending Mother’s Day & Father’s Day greetings to Jamie’s parents as well as my own.  Even his best friend and I became fairly close through periodic letters and phone calls.  But, mainly, I thought “I need to be strong enough (or at least ok) for them.”  Overall, I think these were genuine and proper responses for a time…

However, because I was one of the closest people to Jamie… suddenly, I needed people … to hold me up…  like never before in my life.  And I’m not the greatest at being needy and horrible at expressing anything when I feel utterly weak, abandoned, alone.

Yet, so many people acted in beautifully simple ways to comfort us along the way.   I am deeply grateful for every little thing everyone did to lighten our load as we learned to grieve and live again.  Whether we remember every detail or not, I’m fully aware that your efforts and especially prayers held us up for a very long, long time.

More to come… Living Hope.

Heidi L. Paulec

 

(1) Volavkova, Hana. ed.  Potok, Chaim.  …I never saw another butterfly…: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944.  Expanded Second Ed. Schocken Books. New York. 1993. pp.xix

(2) Ibid. pp.xvii

(3) Ibid pp.xx

 

 

 

… always holding somebody up … (part 1)

Jamie and Heidi Lake 1985

Uncle Tim’s Comments at Jamie’s Funeral – January, 1991

 “As I was sitting here, I was thinking -you know if we had a meeting like this- especially you guys that had Jamie in church, you know good and well that if there was a meeting like this he would be back with the kids helping to babysit your kids right now.  You know without a doubt that’s where he’d be.  And he would also be really reluctant to let them go as you left.

So,  I was asked to introduce two songs that will be played.  The first is I Hear Leesha and the second one will be Friends both by Michael W. Smith.  The song I Hear Leesha is a song that Saturday, not Saturday, Sunday morning, uh…of course we received word Saturday night… but that Heidi was singing, unbeknownst to us she thinks, uh she was singing this song.  And then when we were coming on our way up here, she of course brought the song along.  And we shared it with Carlton, Kathy, several others as an expression of just what was delivered here. 

That we know, we don’t guess we don’t hope, hope in an English term, but we know where Jamie’s at.  In fact, I loved what Brad  said yesterday.  He said, when I asked him how did Jamie look, he said, “Well that isn’t… that isn’t Jamie.”  Because he is, he said ‘though that may have been what he was housed in on this earth in the seventeen years that he spent here, but “That’s not him.”  And he said, “I never felt like that was him.  He is gone. ” He is as the song says he is in the very presence of our Savior.  That’s where he’s at.  And that is a great comfort even though we wrestle with the pain of his loss.

It’s amazing to me, -and Kathy told me that I could be myself.  {Laughs among congregation.}  It’s amazing to me the lives this guy touched. I’m just, uh the people in Tulsa where we live, the lives that he touched and the pain that the people that we know down there who wish that they could be here.  Jamie spent a lot of time with us down there.  It’s just amazing to me that the lives that he touched. 

In fact, I’m reminded of when Dawson Trotman (founder of the Navigators) died.  He was on a lake; he was in a boat on the lake.  The boat lurched for some reason and two girls, who couldn’t swim very well, fell out.  He got in the water and splashed around and got these two girls out.  And just as the guy went down to reach to get Dawson Trotman he sank down… he drowned…he died.  At his funeral, Billy Graham preached the service. 

And I thought the interesting thing is that, there were reporters there from Time and bunch of places, but there was a caption that read -that reflected his life- I thought what a tribute for all of us to have said of our lives.  The caption read: Always holding somebody up.  And I think that really reflects, and it reflected -past tense, now- what Jamie’s life was.  And even though there were times obviously that he didn’t really understand how much we wanted to hold him up.  But he really did have a tremendous desire to hold other people up.”