Where were you when there was a shift in the world?
That happened yesterday, on Friday morning for me in Atlanta, when my world shifted…my world - as I had known it - changed.
Linda and I met the first day of seminary in August, 1988 at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. I fell head over heals in love for the first time in my life. And she has been and continues to be my life partner. We met on the first day of seminary. My hope for love and being loved; my understanding of God, and God's love for me...broke wide-open on that first day...and has been true, now for the rest of my life...
…and yesterday the world shifted. For once and forever…the world shifted.
In a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court of the USA said that Linda and I existed, not only that, they said that our commitment to one another matter. Justice Kennedy wrote:
No union is more profound than marriage for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity,sacrifice, devotion, family and love...The judgement of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.
I’m a simple girl with simple notions of the world. My world. We get up everyday and we do our best…and the world continues to turn…and we continue in it.
And yesterday – I cried all day long. All day. For little things and big things, I cried. I cried for Justice Kennedy’s words and truly, truly what they meant to me. To the essence of me. His words spoke to me and to my family. I cried most for his last line: "It is so ordered."
Linda and I met. We fell in love.
We made a commitment in front of family and friends on November 1, 1991 that we would love and cherish one another. We bought a house. We live now in our second house. We talked with our friend, John about having a family. And now we are John and Rande – having a family. We welcomed John Brogan on September 27, 1998 and then Samuel Clark on November 11, 2001. We – the six of us are raising a family. With an amazing, generous, life-giving village.
And on June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court said that it was good. And fine. And within our rights as citizens here in our country – and in our families and in our community. It is good and fine. And it is ordered. The law of the land.
Next week we are going up to Illinois to our Hashbarger-Brogan family reunion and on Thursday, at 1:00 pm CST in my cousin Jill's living room, Linda and I will legally be married. My Uncle Jim and cousin, Mary Fran and Gamma will speak the prayers and read the scripture (Romans 12 read back in 1991 at our commitment service) – and when we come back to our driveway, here in Decatur, GA – we will be married.
How amazing – how blessed – how thankful am I, are we.
I wish Bill Mallard were alive to see it. He helped us “come on” all through seminary and now we are doing that very thing. I wish my parents were alive to see it. They were there with us at our service in 1991. I wish, Linda’s Dad were here to dance with his daughter…I wish…
And my heart is full and grateful. It IS Amazing Grace after all. Thanks be to God.
Clark Brogan never met a stranger or passed a piano by.
Father’s Day is so tender every year. This year, too. I miss him. My Dad was the smartest person I knew, and the one I went to when I was at the end of what I knew to do. That “end spot” has come round several times since Dad’s death in October 2010 and each time I wonder how Dad would have advised me.
Dad’s compassion for neighbor and stranger alike was a sight to see. If stopped, Dad turned and gave his full attention. And more often than not, somewhere in each conversation there would be laughter. Dad helped build the hospital and start the YMCA in our hometown, Mattoon. And he shoveled the sidewalks on those cold winter mornings for the neighbors who couldn’t get out to do it for themselves.
Too many favorite memories to tell – but one always speaks to man. Every night after the 10 o’clock news he would walk our family dog. Our last one, Mr. Chips was pretty smart (Dad would say, “Smarter than two of my kids”). Every night, didn’t matter the season, Dad and Mr. Chips would head down the front steps. When they came to the sidewalk Dad would wait – and whatever direction Mr. Chips would turn, Dad would know that they were going to walk ½ or 2 miles. Their evening stroll. And then, when they came back, Dad would sit down at the piano in our dining room and play - with no books or sheet music - until 1 or 2 in the morning. Jazz filled the house every night of my growing up.
Dad worked his way through Yale playing piano and working as a short order cook in a diner. He sat next to Bill Buckley in a couple classes. He was a lawyer and trust officer by trade. He played piano for the church choir for 200 years (give or take). He helped started the Girls Baseball League (Ponytail League, it was called) when we were growing up. He and Mom were married 53 years. And this dear man lived his last 19 years with Alzheimer’s. I wish, I wish, I wish his ending could have been written differently for him and Mom and all of us. What a waste, what a loss. He died with his three daughters beside him, as we sang, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
And I miss him everyday…this is one of the chapters from my new book. It tells a little more of him.
My Dad’s (next to) Last Gift
(God bless you, Clark Whaley Brogan)
Without the others knowing it, my two sisters and I each grew up believing that we were our parents’ favorite. It was that kind of growing up and they were those kinds of parents. None of us was perfect, it wasn’t that. We each had our personal foibles. But our parents raised us with unconditional love and did the best they could by their three girls.
There was a particular moment years later when I came to truly understand the meaning of trust. And more specifically the notion of trusting God – with my whole heart. Dad had been living for fourteen long and painful years with Alzheimer’s, and Mom had lived nineteen months with lung cancer. At that time Dad would live another five years and Mom would live another month. I had fumbled and bumbled my way through so many emotions during those days: anger, despair, thankfulness, restlessness, bitterness, depression. The list felt endless.
And in the midst of all that, there was one moment when I felt wrapped in the lovingkindness of God. In that moment I felt rocked and cradled by trust in the One who was, is and will be. In that moment I recognized both life’s fragility and preciousness. Here I understood for the first time that death would come for Mom and Dad and for me, as well. Here I understood that death would not be the end. Love was greater than death. Here for the first time, I understood what it meant to trust God.
It was the afternoon that I picked Dad up from his room at the Assisted Living Facility where he lived. Dad and I drove to the house he and Mom had shared since moving to Atlanta. It was the afternoon they would say good-bye to one another. Mom’s health was beginning to ebb and my sisters and I knew we had begun to count her last days with her. After Mom and Dad’s tearful good-bye I was driving him back to his place. We were stopped in a line of cars at a stoplight. In that moment I began silently yelling at God, “It’s not fair! They are such good people. Such deaths for them…it’s not fair!”
I was lost in my personal ranting when Dad nudged me, pointed forward and said “Hey!” It had been years since he’d called any of us by name, and a long time since I'd heard him say even a word, so you can imagine how I was jolted out of my spiritual lamenting. The car ahead of us had a license plate that read “Lesley.” I looked at my father and he was beaming. I knew in that moment that Dad knew me, Lesley, his middle child and I felt God’s presence in our car.
The psalmist speaks of “pouring out our hearts” and I believe that is how many of us make our way on the journey from despair to hope – from bitterness to trust. When we find our voice and pour out all that has been bottled up inside, a shift can happen from the inside-out in our spirits. In this moment (or over time) we come to intimately know the One who created and is creating still. Here in this trusting place of the One who calls me by name, I found refuge and sanctuary.
(Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days is available on my website – www.Lesleybrogan.com)
Seeing a book you've written feels pretty darn good. I can recommend it. Especially for those of you who have had this desire/dream in the back of your head somewhere - I can highly recommend the writing and the publishing. It feels life-giving and fulfilling. At the same time it feels overwhelming and so much bigger than life. And now this miracle has happened for the second time and I’m about ready to burst.
The first book Relying on the Moon was literally written in 3 ½ days. Working fulltime, you take what you can get – and that’s what I had – 3 ½ days. And in many ways that book wrote itself. Linda helped me carve out the time and precious friend, Susie generously let me use her house on Skid-Away Island as the Writer’s Studio. A computer, a 12 pack of Diet Coke and walks with Susie’s great pooch, Zeke every couple of hours- and I was good to go. The first book had been percolating in me for about 4 years – and the words just flew out onto the paper. Stories of grief -- living with it and through it appeared. 29 chapters (for each night of the lunar cycle). Susie then added her gifts of amazing pictures – and the book was self-published 3 months later.
The second book has been very different. From the start this book was all about companioning. Again as with the first book, this book used the image of the moon. Each chapter, each night was joined with a verse or two from the Psalms. Grief and the Psalms was written after being invited to companion my seminary advisor and friend, Bill Mallard in the living of his last months. He and his partner, Gatra welcomed me for visits during that tender time. This book was born in those days.
The two books are very different from one another – and they are much the same. It was important in Relying on the Moon that each chapter be short and that the reader have a lot of “white space.” Knowing that grieving can be exhausting and even the reading of a couple paragraphs can be about all that a soul can do. Grief and the Psalms is more a book of reflections, and there isn’t as much white space. They make for a good pairing, I think. In grief there are times when connections come in abbreviated spaces and at other times, we lean in to hear the whole story being shared.
I’m an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and after the first books, I heard from many folks who had read the first book – asking for “more words of faith.” The second book is more faith-based. Relying has a question for reflection with each chapter, while each chapter from the Psalms ends with a prayer.
Writing has proven to be a helpful spiritual practice. The moon has been a faithful and encouraging teacher and the truth is that she continues to teach. Like grief, the moon is always changing. Never in the exact same place, or with the exact same shape. Each night the moon appears at a different time. And sometimes, much like times of grief, even when I can’t see the moon, I know that she is there.
Since writing the first book, I’ve been invited into groups to have conversations around the book. Both books lend themselves to weekly gatherings for discussions. In the writing and in the times for conversations, I have come to experience places of healing for the losses I’ve experienced - and I've heard that from many others as well. In the writings, I’ve come to understand better and trust that grief is not static and there is hope and that healing can come.
As I said at the beginning – I can recommend it.
[And if I may…Grief is with us. If you have lost a loved one or know someone who has, one or both of these books might provide a comfort. Visit the Home page within this website to purchase either or both of the books. With my thanks, of course.]
(For me, it's writing. For Linda, oysters. We understand one another pretty well )
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.