Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 2)

Grandpa Ken

Teenagers don’t often seek out time with their ol’ grandpa.  Jamie did that day.  The night before he left our home for the last time.

Heidi asked me to describe my relationship with Jamie.  My response, “Oh, I suppose we had an average grandfather-grandson relationship.”  He did live on our homeplace the first five years of his life.  As a farmer, I worked the land from dawn to dusk six days a week.  Whether in my workshop, chicken house, Quonset, barn or coming in from the fields… Hearing & seeing Jamie and Heidi, too… just part of it.  Those two… couldn’t have been any closer, I don’t suppose.

After Carlton and Kathy moved off the farm, I remember Jamie (Michael and little Holly, too) growing up so fast between our visits.  From what I heard, he was quite a good student.  Active little guy.  I remember him wresting for the school.  He read a lot.  He sure seemed to enjoy learning… came easy to him, I think.

As he aged into a teenager, I remember noting I never saw him upset or agitated.  His ability to articulate- clear.  His ability to pass a football – exceptional.  And his self-control was admirable beyond his age.    Always in control of himself.  Mature.  And well-spoken.  Bright.  Very bright.

Struggles for Jamie surfaced during his freshman year.  First, I remember he had to get glasses.  He had dreams of being a military pilot.  Like his Dad, he loved planes.  And the corrective lenses meant he was physically disqualified already.  I flew planes during the war (WWII), so I understood the draw to fly… And the turbulence that sticks with you years after war’s end.

Additional external struggles picked at him, too at a large public school near Denver, Colorado where he lived with his parents by that time. He endured difficulties during football season.  (Later we learned coaches and students were directly part of this.)  Evidently, the struggles worsened over the school year.  According to his mom (my daughter) his anxiety grew.   By spring and summer, his grades began to slip, and he begged to not go back to that school.  For a kid, who rarely complained, this surprised me.  But, I figured he and his folks would figure it out.

Honoring authority can be a curious thing to navigate particularly in cases when authority is misused.

From my understanding, the family thought Jamie’s social needs outweighed his living with immediate family.  The decision:  he’d live with his uncle (our eldest son) deep in the mountains. This way Jamie could have a fresh start and attend a smaller school.

My son’s own daughters lived with their mother in the city.  However, his house in the mountains was already home to several young people.  Those residing in the home at the time consisted of he and his wife, a step-daughter, a girl friend of hers as well as a boy friend of hers.  This is what Jamie joined.  Some thought this would serve as an ideal answer to the social friction of the big city school.  Instant social circle right there in the home.  They all went to the same high school where Jamie again joined the football team.  This move offered hope of a new beginning.  Evidently, it played out with far less optimism than Jamie had banked on.

The eventual inconsistencies of this family structure is exactly what he wanted to talk to us about that Thanksgiving weekend.

We made our way down the stairs and sat down together.  Jamie spoke calmly.  He outlined unfair treatment he though he received while living there that fall.  (He’d return to his parents’ home to live before Christmas.)    Characteristically Jamie, he spoke clearly.  I didn’t sense bitterness.  In fact, I sensed his desire… peaceful resolution.  But, again, he felt that was unfairly beyond reach.  He did not lambaste anyone…he simply shared.

“The thorough integration of strength and sensitivity, of firmness and feeling, is rare.”

Eugene Peterson Run with the Horses pg. 56

From the details (which aren’t necessary to share here), he shared I certainly understood his concern.  In general, Jamie said he carried the heaviest weight of chore responsibility within the home while the other teens either didn’t have chores or got away easily without doing them.  Also, Jamie explained that all the teens in the home were at least 16 years old, licensed drivers; however, Jamie was the only one not allowed to drive.  When he attempted to seek explanation, he said he was silenced without reason.

In such a situation, I see how a young man’s self-respect could easily erode.  Yet, I certainly never imagined Jamie was in the process of giving up on living… He spoke clearly.  Calmly… Compassionately, he really didn’t want to burden others with the conflict.  I think he hoped we’d help.

continued… Grandpa Ken … He Reached Out to Me (part 3)


Living Hope ~ Connect

You are Welcome.  We invite you…Join our Shadows Presence FB Community Page. If you know someone in fresh grief who you’re walking alongside or if you’re grieving a loved one, we encourage you to join us.  

We’re not here to get stuck in unending, all-compassing sadness.  But stepping through the dark, hard times is part of the journey.  

As we hear each other’s story, we find words to process our own journey.  

We’re here to remember. Recognize the darkness. Process. Present Joys, past sorrows… & the existing (sometimes taunt) tension.   See & steep in the Light. Sharing & Living Hope.

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Shadows Presence Founder, Educator & Writer

Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 1)

Grandpa Ken

Reconciling Memories of a Child Turned Young Man… Pride, Pain, Regret & Rest … Grandpa Ken

PERSPECTIVES:  We can learn so much from one another as we sojourn horizons that both beckon and daunt us.  While our general experiences may have general connections, the specificity of our experiences depends on our position, our perception, and how we filter it all.  What is this all About?

This grief journey led me back to our family.  How do you navigate such a loss?  When I nervously asked if they were willing, several vulnerably shared distinctly personal elements of grief, sadness, struggle through this heavy darkness.  Each generation recognizing the varying social stigmas of suicide as well as the responses of their closest friends.  I am supremely grateful for their honesty.  While we share common relationships, every memory is profoundly unique to those who cycle through them; yet, our family’s openness to sharing weaved threads of bravery within me.

“While they spoke, I penned their words…and processed my own.”

– Heidi L. Paulec

When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story.   However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives.  Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted subsequent oral interviews from their responses.  These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person.  In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.”  Both sections are written in the third person.  Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.

We welcome you here.  This remains tender space for us.  So join us accordingly.  Know you’re also welcome.  We invite you  to subscribe to receive emails as we publish pieces here.

Reflections on the Interview:

This original interview was one of my early interviews  conducted on  July 4, 1997.  Grandpa Ken welcomed me (Heidi) , thoughtfully participated, answered my questions, and commended me for taking on this project to honor Jamie’s memory, help others facing similar loss, and ultimately share hope.  He sat quietly at times throughout the interview.  And while he had already come to grips with Jamie’s absence and reassured by enduring faith, Grandpa Ken acknowledged sadness remains.

Brief History:

Grandpa Ken grew up  farming on his family homestead on the plains of southeast Wyoming. This small community was settled by our ancestors who were Swedish immigrants.  Third born (second son) to Harry and Carrie Lundberg. Grandpa Ken, a content, hard-working, ever-studying man.

Farming the Great Plains …  hardy endeavor for any soul.  Short summers.  Long winters.  Rooting faith seemed the only required element for endurance.  As a young man, our Grandpa Ken learned how to work diligently, grow things, sing harmony, write poetry… and he loved basketball.

Somewhere in his junior high years, his Dad needed extra help and hands on the farm, so Grandpa Ken had to work instead of go to school for an entire school year.  When he went back to school, the public district acknowledged his maturity and capability, so he skipped the grade he missed and moved up with his original class.  (Side note from Heidi … His hand-writing, grammar, and logic… exceptional to read as I prepared for all this.)

As a member of The Greatest Generation, he served in the Army Air Corps- specifically he served primarily as a cargo pilot over “The Hump.”  For more details, please read Grandpa Ken’s World War II bio.  Upon his return from service, he met and married our Grandma Phyllis… patios & picnics (part 1).  They had four children.  First, a son.  Next, Karen (Heidi’s Mom).  Then, Kathy (Jamie, Michael, and Holly’s Mom).  Finally, another son.  Grandpa Ken and Grandma Phyllis raised their family on the farm where Ken grew up.  He took over the farming operation from his Dad.

Ken excelled in carpentry as well.  He constructed photo frames, quilt racks, tables, etc.  He tackled larger projects as well.  As the family grew with grandchildren, he added onto their farmhouse several times.  Large windows framed exquisite views summer sunrises and sunsets as well as whistling blizzard in the winter.

On an autumn day in 1982, their home of 40 years burnt to the ground.  A couple years of crops freezing in the ground along with this loss opened our grandparents to move east for a season.  They moved to Leavenworth, Kansas where Grandpa learned and worked in the oil business.  During their time there, Grandpa Ken especially delighted to serve military families in church  and in the community.

Eventually, Grandpa Ken and Grandma Phyllis moved back to the Wyoming homestead community and  lived out their final nine years on the family farm homesteaded by Grandpa Ken’s grandparents Peter and Sophie Lundberg.

written, researched & edited by Heidi L. Paulec


“Grandpa, can I talk with you and Grandma a bit in the basement?”

I remember Jamie asking of me and his Grandma Phyllis, my bride, on his last visit to our home.  It was Thanksgiving 1991.  He had traveled with Tim, Karen, and Heidi to our home- joining our youngest son and his family who arrived earlier.

During the days prior to his conversation request, we enjoyed the preparations, the celebration of Thanksgiving, and the hours of college football that followed.  The house brims and brews when the kids and grandkids gather.  The table expands, so we can all circle around it together for three square meals.  At breakfast – just after eating, while still sipping on coffee- we’d read the Bible, Our Daily Bread, and pray together.

Then, we’d all find something do.  A project here.  An errand there.  Working together where we can and around each other otherwise.

As much as the hem and hum of activity warms our home, a few extra quieter moments are always welcome to me.  But, this invitation from our eldest grandson serves as a special memory to me.  Teenagers don’t often seek out time with their ol’ grandpa.  But, Jamie did that day.  The night before he left our home for the last time.

continued… Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 2)



Grandma Phyllis… patios & picnics (part 4)

Grandma Phyllis

I think, Jamie, with his heart of excellence and service, knew how to give to others; however, he had a real hard time receiving.  Maybe he thought he was taking something, and he just could not do it.  I don’t know, but my heart still breaks thinking of this.

As I am of Italian ancestry (my grandparents emigrated from Sicily just before my Dad was born), I am emotional.  I cried so often in the months following, but I felt deep concern for Carlton and Kathy, Michael and Holly.  Somehow their little home would feel so empty, and I ached for them.  Also, my folks, Grandpa Philip & Grandma Ruth, were older, physically weaker.  And emotionally they seemed quite unsettled for a long time.  (Great-Grandparents Grieve (part 1))   My Dad was an extremely sensitive man.  I saw grand displays of his every emotion.  Even when he knew one of his family was sick with a cold or the flu, he would get upset to the point of tears at times, so I knew this would be nearly unbearable for him and my Mom.  Finally, I felt so concerned about Heidi.  She and Jamie were like our twins.    They had been so close.  What is she going to do?  How is she going to handle this?

While my own pain was deep and real, I felt a great deal of comfort just gathering with family those initial weeks and with church friends when we returned home.  Our church friends comforted us with listening ears, wonderful meals, encouraging prayers, cards and plants.

For me, crying myself and comfort from others drained much of the heaviness of the pain, but the deep confusion that followed still haunts me.  I still can’t believe he is gone.  At times, I have felt so angry he hurt so much— from his mouth sores to the lack of sleep to the rejection of his freshman year.  Why did this loving boy who was becoming such a wonderful young man have to endure so much pain so early in this life?

The Scripture from Ecclesiastes (Chapter 3) shared at the funeral, “A Time for Everything,” has been an encouragement to me.  In a fallen world, we do have a time for birth & death, planting & harvesting, war & peace, laughter & tears, silence & speech.  I still cannot claim to understand all this.  But I trust the Lord will one day restore our fallen world.  Jamie’s personal profession of faith in Jesus and baptism at age 13 along with the Scripture where Jesus said, “Let the little ones come unto me,” comfort me.  Despite Jamie’s earthly suffering, he knew Jesus.  Trusting in this truth, I have confidence Jamie is at eternal peace.

Our home continues to be filled with family photos including Jamie.  Often, I will pass of one of his photos and think, “Where would you be now, Jamie?  Would you be married like Heidi?  Would you be an airline pilot?  Would you be a Dad?”  The questions don’t go away completely, but I am not overwhelmed by them.

Jamie sent a card to Ken, his Grandpa, I treasure.  In his handwriting, he signed it, “I love you, Jamie.”  What a gift for us to pick up every now and then!  We loved him; he loved us.  Oh, how I wish that could have been enough to keep him alive.

Even now, I cannot believe he is no longer with us.  I can still see him on Grandma Ruth’s patio on a mid-day picnics with Heidi —both her arms around his neck, Jamie smiling and pulling away.

Grandma Phyllis… patios & picnics (part 3)

…From that time on, Jamie seemed to carry a sadness with him.
Our loving and happy little boy slid into a state of discouragement. Some young people do not have specific dreams or goals, but Jamie did. Yet, they all seemed to unravel one after the other when he entered high school.

He did not lose his sense of humor entirely, but he was much more serious more of the time. I remember the last time he visited our home, Thanksgiving 1991. I had some photos for Kathy, so I took them to Jamie. When I asked him to slide them into his suitcase, he looked at me with his half-smile and said, “I don’t have room, Grandma!” We giggled, and he packed the photos neatly into his duffel bag.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Psalm 23:6 KJV

On that same visit, we noticed Jamie’s maturity. As he wanted to talk with Grandpa and me about his troubles living with an elder family member living in the mountains. We went downstairs, and he calmly shared his concerns. Basically, three teenagers living together under one roof with different rules seemed unfair to him. If I would have been in the place he described, I would have been unhappy, too. One example, he had to make his bed daily; the others did not. The others had permission to drive while Jamie did not. If there had been a reason maybe he could have understood, but no reason had been given. Inconsistency is tough for anyone to swallow, but I think this is especially tough on teenagers.
Jamie had gone to live up there because of an unsettling situation at his local public high school. Going to a smaller community might help. He originally looked forward to the change. However, I do remember him saying something about the one year old little girl Kathy babysat at the time he moved out, “Rachel isn’t going to remember me.” He loved children, and he had often helped in the church nursery. We knew he was going to make a great Daddy someday.
On the evening of January 18, 1992, I was playing a game of Aggravation with Michael and Holly. When the phone rang, I answered. The party on the line said, “Is Ken there? I answered, “Yes, one minute.” As I walked back to the bedroom to hand him the phone, as I am a curious person, I wondered who was calling. I didn’t even recognized the voice of my own son-in-law, Carlton.
When Ken hung up the phone, I went back to see who had called. He said simply, “Its Jamie. He’s gone!” Instantly, I collapsed on the bed and started screaming. Kathy responded in turn, and Michael and Holly, too. My emotions controlled my body; however, I do remember seeing Kathy sitting on the edge of the bed shaking terribly.
In the days and weeks ahead, we hurt some for ourselves, but more so for Kathy and Carlton. This kind of loss is so devastating! I felt plagued by the unanswered question, “When someone close to you passes away, regardless of how, it hurts, but then especially in this way— what could have been so bad for him? Something horrible must have happened!?! Why couldn’t Jamie have told someone? What couldn’t we have had the chance to help?”
As I flew with Kathy and the children to Colorado, I felt we must hurry because Carlton was still alone. No family was present with him. I remember feeling so concerned about Carlton being alone. I remember seeing him so drained as he tried to explain what he knew and field our many questions.
We spent the week preparing for the funeral with many people coming and going with meals, snacks, and supplies as well as plants, flowers, and cards. Young people from the church Jamie and Michael’s age lingered in the home for many hours. As I cried through much of this, I kept thinking, “Look at this…look at this …look at this…how could Jamie not have known how much he was loved?”

Grandma Phyllis… patios & picnics (part 2)

Grandma Phyllis

Personally, I enjoyed the time I had with both Jamie and Heidi as their first Sunday School teacher in our little community church in Albin, Wyoming.  I helped them memorize the 23rd Psalm.  What a sweet time to watch our grandchildren, who looked so much like twins, come dressed in their “Sunday Best” and interacting with one another.  Oh, how I treasure those memories!

 The springtime before Jamie was to begin kindergarten his parents decided to move so his Dad could take a job about six hours away in central Nebraska.  We did not realize how much we would miss them until our homestead lost the daily hustle of Jamie and Michael (who joined the family just a year earlier). 

Sadly, from that time on we did not get to see Jamie’s family as often I would have liked.  With Carlton’s work and the operations of our own farm, we only got to see them three or four times a year.  Oh how those kids grew between visits!  We did keep in contact by following the children’s academic progress closely as well as activities like wrestling or church plays in which they were involved.  We visited them as often as we could.

Our whole family enjoyed following football, especially University of Nebraska and the Dallas Cowboys football teams.  I enjoyed shopping for the boys – often choosing football memorabilia.  Football, our weekend entertainment and a great connector for our family, gathered us all around the television.  Some slipped into naps, but not Jamie.  Jamie loved football, and he really understood the game.  And he was so smart.  His Grandpa (my Ken) always said, “He’s going to be a quarterback!”  Later, when Carlton moved his family to Colorado, Jamie organized football games in the street. 

Another fascination for Jamie, living in the big city, was the ability to see the airplanes.  He shared the love for aviation with his Dad.  Carlton loves planes.  Working for an airline, he was able to take his family on many plane trips.  Those boys could tell you so much about all types of planes from military to commercial.  We knew Jamie’s dream to become a fighter pilot.  His Grandpa (my Ken) had served his country during the war as a pilot, so this was something we also anticipated with him.  We remember when he received the news from his doctor that he needed glasses.  Most children would have been excited for the novelty.  Jamie?  Devastated, he knew the military academies see him  unfit for flight school with such a handicap.  That was his freshman year in high school.

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Psalm 23:3-5 KJV

What a tough year that was for him!  He had been so excited about going to high school to join a real football team.  He bought the uniform, he memorized plays, and he practiced with all his heart.  He did not get to play even a minute of a game the entire season.  This crushed him.

From that time on, Jamie seemed to carry a sadness with him. 

Grandma Phyllis… patios & picnics (part 1)

Grandma Phyllis.JPG


When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story.   However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives.  Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted oral interviews from their responses.  These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person.  In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.”  Both sections are written in the third person.  Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.

We welcome you here.  This remains tender space for us.  So join us accordingly.  Know you’re also welcome to subscribe to receive email links as we publish pieces here.

Reflections on the Interview:

This Original Interview was one of my early interviews  conducted on  July 4, 1997.  Grandma Phyllis eagerly participated, answered my questions thoughtfully, and commended me several times for taking on this project to honor Jamie’s memory and help others facing similar loss.  She cried some throughout.  She delighted to remember Jamie as her little cowboy on the farm when he lived near.  And while she had already come to grips with his absence, she remained unsettled with what had gone so terribly wrong for him to sink into such hopelessness.

Brief History:

Grandma Phyllis Nancy LaBue Lundberg (September 18, 1927- September 1, 2013)  was the eldest child and only daughter of Philip and Ruth LaBue in Momence, Illinois  (Great-Grandparents Grieve (part 1)).  She was born September 18, 1927.  She grew up in Chicago Heights where she remembered her large Italian (Sicilian) family gatherings with great fondness – usually involving bodies of water, fish fries, and high energy conversation and laughter.

After graduating from high school, she moved with her family to a tiny little farming town in southeast Wyoming where her Dad served as local pastor.  It was there she met Grandpa Kenneth Lundberg as he returned from serving in the World War II.  They met and married quickly.  They were married for 67 years.  They “raised” four children – two boys and two girls- on the farm.  Their two girls, Karen & Kathy, were Heidi and Jamie’s moms respectively.

Jamie actually lived the first five years of his life on this “home-place”.  As is fairly common in the region, multiple houses stood on this homestead.  This gave family units some privacy and independent autonomy while also availability for farming operations and interdependence for family and rural community culture.

The three greatest loves of her life … her Lord, her family, and all things beautiful – from sunrises to purring kittens to strawberry patches, painting ceramics and music.  At an early age, Grandma Phyllis learned to play the piano and sang with her Dad.  Her love for music continued throughout her life.  As an active member of local choir, she enjoyed singing solos, duets, and quartets.  She read her Bible and prayed for her family & loved ones daily.  She enjoyed women’s luncheons.  She also dutifully prepared and served many meals to farmers & harvesters in their home.  She lit up every room she walked in and delighted to love anyone in her path.

She was an accomplished seamstress and excelled in ceramics.  She also owned her own shop -“Phyllis’ Ceramic Den.”  She exercised an exceptional ability to paint life-like eyes.

Grandma Phyllis also suffered migraines nearly her entire life.  And she and Grandpa Ken’s home of 40 years burnt to the ground in 1982.  Not long after, they moved to Leavenworth, Kansas where they delighted to serve military families in their church communities.

Eventually, Grandpa Ken and Grandma Phyllis moved back to the Wyoming homestead community and  lived out their final nine years on family farm homesteaded by Ken’s grandparents, Peter and Sophie Lundberg.

written & edited by Heidi L. Paulec  (photo of photos by H.Paulec; frame handcrafted by Kenneth R. Lundberg)


PERSPECTIVE:  Grandma Phyllis

Before we moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, my husband Ken and I lived on our farm in western Nebraska along the Wyoming border for over 40 years.   Ken’s Dad and Gran-Dad farmed the land.   After the Second World War, Ken returned to the prairie after serving as a pilot in Asia for the United States Army Air Corps.  Although he was nine years older than me. we met, married, and settled into farm life within six months.  He was 27, and I was 18 years old.  We know we’re oh so blessed to raise our family on the farm. 

Our daughters met their husbands when the young brothers, Tim and Carlton, joined the harvest crews that helped harvest farms as far south as Texas working their way north to assist farmers in the harvesting process throughout the summer months.  These two young men from Wichita, Kansas loved the country.  Farming is tough work, but both young men loved the challenge  and adventure in the summer during their high school years.  After graduating high school in the spring of 1969, Karen and Tim went to John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas that fall.  Tim proposed that winter.  They married in July of 1971 and lived in Siloam Spring, Arkansas until graduation.  Carlton and Kathy married in August of 1972 just following their graduation from high school the previous May.

 Of course, we were thrilled to have Carlton and Kathy living on our farm soon after they married.  They lived a short time in Wichita immediately following their wedding.  Soon they moved near us and  lived in one of the houses on our home place. 

Following Tim’s graduation from JBU in 1974, he and Karen moved to a place three miles away in southeast Wyoming.  Then, when our first grandson, Carlton Jamison Plinsky, was born – we were completely overjoyed.  From the beginning, he was a simply delightfully happy baby.  With that little guy living right next door, we got to see him every single day for the first five years of his little life.  What a joy!  Now and then, he would ask or we would invite him to spend a night in our home.  I can still see him teetering on the sidewalk that connected our two houses with that big suitcase.  He tried so intently to balance himself.  What a sight that little guy!

When Jamie was about three years old, he was visiting our house as I was soaking my feet in a tub of hot water.  (This was a method of relaxation for a farmer’s wife who spent much of my days in the garden or standing in the kitchen preparing meals for lots of hungry mouths ready to eat between hours of farming in the summer sun.)  Jamie decided he wanted to join me, so he pulled up a chair next to me.  He climbed into the chair and plopped his feet into the water.   Instantly, he pulled his feet out of the water.  With wide eyes, he proclaimed, “Dumb kid!”  Oh how I loved and laughed with that little boy!

He and Heidi roamed, and played, and “worked” alongside all of us in those days.  Sometimes they helped me weed and pick strawberries in my strawberry patch as I clipped laundry to dry on the line.  Then, I’d let them sit on the patio and snack on a berry or two of their harvest.  Those two… were somethin’ else.  A little ornery.  So sweet and silly.  And quite well behaved really.  Jamie… such a happy boy.

Having Carlton, Kathy, and Jamie, then later Michael, live on the farm with us was such a blessing!  They were such a part of our daily life.  And we were a part of theirs. 

Once when several friends and family had gathered for a meal and some fellowship, Jamie began to choke on a steak bone.  His Grandpa (my Ken) grabbed him out of his high chair and dislodged the bone.  Jamie did not seem fazed, but he sure scared the rest of us that day.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.   He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:     He leadeth me beside the still waters.”

Psalm 23 :1-2  (KJV)



… always holding somebody up … (part 5)

Jamie and Heidi Lake 1985

Editor’s Note:  This is a fresh intro. & edit as of July 10, 2016

What a seriously intense week… month, really!?!  Orlando’s still smoldering.  And now, Dallas… and families from St. Paul to Baton Rouge grieving… intensely.  As fellow citizens, we  hear it all… we hear the side-stakers… we hear the “haters”… we hear the denials & the outrage… and wonder if a second Civil War is eeking out… We wonder if we should speak out or how best to reach out.  Will we hold up under this internal pressure here in our homeland?

What if, in our weakness and confusion, we kneel down?  I mean really kneel down… and pray.  I, along with several hundred others, just completed a study on the book of Philippians (IF:Equip).  Timing could not be more profound.  We’re reminded our citizenship ranks on a higher plane than where we find ourselves.  Yet, we can’t pretend it all away.  We can’t conquer all the wrong, and we can’t even right enough wrongs to feel right again.

Navigating the now… that’s the tough space.  But we must remember we aren’t alone, and we must remind each other we aren’t alone.  We’re being held up, and we’re holding up.  I concur with Paul’s  prayer:

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Philippians 1:9-11 ESV

Throughout this series, we’ve met 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.  Similar to steadying Lifeboat 12 on the sinking Benares (… always holding somebody up … (part 3) ), we relate to the sincere souls struggle to steady.  Each inspiring story strikes hope and courage despite death’s dark and dank pursuit.

Slipping back into history a bit further, we see how this persistence plays out ( (part 4) & 5) … Listen, as the songs swell …

First, Matthew 14:22-33 recounts the mysterious majesty of Jesus Christ when he walked on the water … perilous, swirling-waves-and-winds-kinda water.  At first, even His disciples feared Him because they thought He was a ghost.  Once they knew it was Him, Peter played bold and asked to be invited to join Him on the sea as the storm raged on.  Peter got out of the boat.  He actually walked on water, too.  Then, he saw the wind, he began to sink, and he cried out “Lord, save me!”

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly, You are the Son of God.'”

Matthew 14:31-33 ESV

We see Jesus faithfully save Peter, join the others in the boat, calm the storm.  And they respond how?  They worship Him by declaring Who He Is.

Next, John 11 recounts the story of Lazarus’ death and Jesus’ response.  Jesus speaks of being the Resurrection and the Life in verses 17-27.  This He speaks to Martha even after Lazarus has been buried for four days.  Jesus asks if she believes Him, and she responds, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Then, they go near the tomb to find Mary weeping along with the Jews who were with her.  Jesus’ response- despite His power, majesty, divinity-… He “was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.”

“Jesus wept.”

In doing so,  Jesus’ compassion connected with His dear friends, Mary and Martha in their mourning, but He also connected with some of the Jews who witnessed this.  They noticed, “See how He loved him.”  Jesus didn’t “hocus pocus-poof”  in a manner of pride and power.  He joined them – heart, soul, mind, and strength.  He loved His neighbor as Himself… both in His humanity and His Divinity.

Are we really looking for the Glory of God?  Do we recognize His Steadfast Love in the moments we’re not getting the Resurrection and the Life vibe?

If we see a glimpse of Him, are we willing to also declare His consistent character by returning praise to Him?

Maybe we think we are, but maybe we’re looking for instant relief?

Maybe we’re looking to political patches, feel-good feelings, humanitarian handouts, work ethic accolades, athletic honor, academic prestige, or anything less than the Resurrection and the Life.

Acts 3 Peter reminds us, “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He thus fulfilled.  Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may sent the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago.”  (verses 17-20)

Repent. Receive.  Redemption.  Refresh… in the presence of the Lord.

How do we respond?

Paul in Philippians reminds us again and again to REJOICE.  Our response is to TRUST and THANK Him through it all.

Remembering back through this grief journey … mourning Jamie’s loss… I confess several seasons where I withheld thanksgiving to the Lord.   Honestly, I even squinted my jaws and locked my soul’s scowl in place containing trust to a controllable region of my heart and mind… because, like Peter, I kept my eyes on the wind.  And the sinking soul…my mind and my mire.

Part of this may have stemmed out of a misconception.  Holiness and Hope doesn’t necessarily equate to jolly, persistent happiness which is contingent on favorable circumstances and stirring fuzzy feelings.  Rather, Joy is a fruit of the Spirit that seeds contentment deep into our souls and stirs encouragement soul to soul despite circumstances.

I know now that I’ve withheld full praise until I see what I want to see as a solution instead of remembering His Character far surpasses my understanding.  His purifying touch inhabits us in beautifully, powerful ways as we praise Him in the process… Step by Step.

In regards to this project in particular, I did not want to share until I felt strong enough.  I didn’t want weakness.  I didn’t want pity.  He’s used both to teach me what Compassion really is.

We’re told to expect trouble in this world, but live in the lively know – Jesus has overcome and He overcomes.  We’re told to “Take up our cross daily and follow,” not to illustrate ease, prowess, or even ethic… but to obey and honor the Divine Dignity bestowed upon those who know only One is always holding us up.  The One who chooses the foolish things of the world to tame the wise was born in a stable.  His earthly character built up His heavenly witness to His Father and perfect obedience to the mission.

Yet, we waver… whether with doubts like Peter or in our grieving… we wonder.

However, as I’ve submitted my weakness, fears, and rejections back to Him, He’s beyond faithful stirring Life, Light, & Hope beyond all I can imagine still, but especially in those early, dark hours of grief and loss.

Consider and answer me, O LORD, my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,’ lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.  But I have trusted in Your Steadfast Love; my heart shall rejoice in Your Salvation.  I will sing to the LORD because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

Psalm 13:3-6 ESV

Won’t you join the eternal song already in progress?

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” 

Revelation 4:8

How do we respond to Who He really is?

Repent. Receive.  Redemption.  Refresh… in the presence of the Lord.  Rejoice!  And Remember His Faithfulness.  Remind one another Who He was and is and is to come.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”  Revelation 4:8

In the contrasting times of our earthly existence, we’re reminded again and again who we are and Who He is.  Circumstances and loss wreak havoc on our emotions; however, they don’t have to derail His Character in us.  Rather, when the winds and waves conspire, we ought to receive His reach to us, and we ought to extend His reach to one another.

Faith.  Hope.  Love… always holding somebody up.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!.. To Him who sits on the throne to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!  Amen!” 

Revelation 5:12-14

writing & photo by Heidi L. Paulec






… always holding somebody up … (part 4)

Jamie and Heidi Lake 1985

Throughout this series, we’ve met 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.  Similar to steadying Lifeboat 12 on the sinking Benares (… always holding somebody up … (part 3) ), we relate to the sincere souls struggle to steady.  Each inspiring story strikes hope and courage despite death’s dark and dank pursuit.

Slipping back into history a bit further, we see how this persistence plays out (in parts 4 & 5) … Listen, as the songs swell…

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD… As for you O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love will forever preserve me!”

Psalm 40:1-3, 11 (David) ESV

A staggering steadiness can arise as a sinking exhausts.

… exhilarating fears, depleting losses… sorrow… stillness… aching sustaining… yearning… past … savors shrink … then slumps… sulks and strives … to sip a savor… only to sink … {a guttural gasp}

Then.. sings…

heart songs erratic with lament,

joy, angst,

release, rest, tension, and time…

and then… stands again.

But sometimes, we sabotage the standing.  Anger, impatience, arrogance.  Rather than wrestling through, we choose to starve our souls by perpetually hiding, cowering from the very One bent, bruised and broken to preserve and nourish us with steadfast love.  We refuse Him even as He offers to sustain us.  We refuse those He sends with a message of conviction, correction and comfort.

Consider Jonah.  When God, out of His Holy Compassion for a city under sin’s siege, called Jonah to go to Nineveh, he recoiled and fled to Tarshish to avoid obedience.  God “hurled a great wind upon the sea…so that the ship threatened to break up”.  (Jonah 1:4)  The turbulent crew eventually tosses Jonah overboard.  You know, the big fish swallowed him.  For three dark, dank & stinky days, Jonah barreled around the sea.  Then Jonah prayed.  (His prayer is recorded in Jonah 2.  A worthy read, indeed.  However, I’m just going to share a few verses here.)

When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.  Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.  But I with voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.  Salvation belongs to the LORD.”

Jonah 2:7-10 ESV

The fish obediently spewed Jonah out on dry ground where again God called Jonah to go to Nineveh to deliver a daunting, damning message to this city.  The message:  in a matter of 40 days, their city would be destroyed.  The city believed the message.  They responded.   Immediately, the people called for fasting and mourning among themselves.  Their king, in utter devestation of this news, decreed a fast and pleading to God to spare them.:

  “Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows?  God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”  (Jonah 3:8)

God’s response?  In His Great Mercy, God saw their repentance and relented of the disaster doomed upon them by their own consequence.  (Jonah 3:10)  He’s always holding somebody up.

Interestingly, Jonah’s response this time… Anger… at the Lord’s Compassion and Consistent Character.  “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country?  This is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Again, Jonah pulls away to pout.  Even so, God grew a plant to shade Jonah- “to save him from his discomfort.”  (Jonah 4:6)  Jonah responds with gladness.  But in the morning, God sends a worm to devour the plant.  And again, Jonah asks to die.

The LORD’s response, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in the night and perished in a night.  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left?”  (Jonah 4:10-11)

How many countless times has my heart echoed Jonah’s first prayer of submission followed by God’s response – resounding Power & Presence…

only for me to berate impending disaster and His Grace?

Another Old Testament example includes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  These appointed Jewish leaders in Babylon, (Daniel 3:12) refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image.  As a result, they faced trial and punishment.  A flaming furnace.

Their response under trial?  “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

How did the trio hold up in the furnace?  Truly, brilliant bright hope in the center of devouring circumstances… for a full read, check out Daniel 2:46-4:3.

Similarly, Daniel (a distinguished official among officials) faced King Darius’ distressful scrutiny (bc King D respected Daniel) as Daniel remained faithful to set petitions before God alone and refuse to worship the king. Although the king desired to protect Daniel from the consequence, the edict dictated -even the king. (Daniel 6)   Daniel’s obedience sentenced him to the Lion’s Den.

The next morning, the king rushed to the den.  He called out, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually, been able to deliver from the lions?”

Daniel’s response to King Darius?  “ O king, live forever!  My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me because I was found blameless before Him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”  (Daniel 6:21)

Even in a dire den, we see the absence of attack as a creative and powerfully uplifting.

The king responds… so … kingly.  And He hands down a decree demanding all:

“…tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever;          His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and His dominion shall be to the end.                               He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth,                              He who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”  

Daniel 6:26-27 ESV

Until Heaven is home, the tensions remain… real.  The pit pulls.  Allegiances align with allies.  And opposing sides wield opposing swords – one weak and bent on convincing lies and the other “sharper than a double edged sword” lifted high declaring the veracity of God and His steadfast love.

When I feel and face danger, death, and destruction, I’m tempted to try to hold myself up.  “Let me show you how tough I am.”  (My sons run faster, jump higher, my daughter dances divine-r, and my husband lifts more… Yet, You can ask my family… who out-planks everybody… um by minutes?)  I want to outwit… or run and hide.  I’m tempted to even think I don’t need help or hospitality… even hugs.

However, the truth is blaring and obvious.  We’re granted a gift to be needed.  And to need.  Do we share the gift only as it polishes pride?

Hope comes humbly, but decisively.

Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed an Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:4-11 ESV

Recognizing a cosmic conflict wages on, we rejoice in the LORD – Jesus is indeed The Christ.  And He calls out His People – Citizens of Heaven to pulse with an ever-increasing awareness that:

Christ’s Resurrection ~ reaches out to others … authentically, naturally…

humbly, sacrificially…

Yet, Endures, Overcomes, Redeems.

Reconciles, Renews, Refreshes.

Gathers.  Relaxes.  Relishes.  Savors.

Shares.  And Remembers.

How do we respond?  If we accept His Grace Gift, we receive the Power & Purity therein.  And we’re His extensions of Hope & Joy & Peace to those around us- not because we can sing the loudest, smile the brightest, or even stand the straightest… no, even in our own brokenness, He is our Living Hope… not to hide or hoard, but to share.

Our righteousness is His transforming work in and among us.  He grants us historic examples in His Word of soul struggles we’ll face, but He also grants us responsive examples who relate to our struggles to fully trust Him when waves chide and crash all around.  Our lives beat, moan and sing our responses to Him.  A fellowship in suffering… and in song.

Epic Endurance.  Witnesses waving us home…We’ll may never know how all the prayers, sacrificial acts, and encouragement from saints of old buoyed… and steady us still.

More to come… Living Hope.

Heidi L. Paulec

… 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