During second hour on Pentecost, we celebrated Heidi's years of pastoring at Assembly. Carmen Horst, one of our interim pastors, told of being invited, along with other friends, to send a bead as a way of accompanying Heidi as she gave birth to her first child. We were invited to present Heidi with a bead and a written blessing as part of this celebration. These were later strung together as a gift for Heidi and the family.
I posted about seeing tadpoles at the Calendar Garden in late April. Heidi told me later she immediately took the boys out to see.
The cycle of life -- empty chrysalis cases on the crumpled leaf and a bright monarch butterfly in flight.
A candle for those Heidi leaves behind. That's a hazelnut on the base, to remind me of the words Julian of Norwich heard Christ say:
All shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.
The middle school Sunday school class decided to fold cranes for Heidi, and many others joined in over the months, folding and praying.
The first Sunday in Lent, I preached on being Broken, Blessed and Beloved. One image from the sermon was that of the sea turtle. At a difficult time in my life, I heard a message from God that yes, the way was not easy, but it served a purpose, just as some kinds of sea turtles need to make the difficult journey across the beach from nest to the ocean in order to be properly oriented to reach the deep sea feeding grounds, and if female, to return years later to the same beach and lay eggs.
I wore a sea turtle pendant that Sunday, and sent it home with Heidi, who was entering the hospital for an experimental treatment that week. This spring I commissioned this little turtle from Wilma Harder, of silver and sweetwater agate.
Candles have been an important part of our walk with Heidi and her family, from a candle vigil soon after word of her diagnosis to the song and candle vigil just before she died Sunday night.
One of the stained glass windows Wilma Harder made for the Assembly meetinghouse, on a rainy November day
Mary Gilbert, Anne Graber Miller and Sibyl Graber Gerig created a comforter for the Siemens-Rhodes with scraps that the congregation donated. Many have stories behind them -- the blue scallop one near the upper right corner came from material I got on a trip to Japan. Heidi, having lived there several years, provided helpful tips and a sackful of books before I went.
The light shines in the darkness
and the darkness can not put it out.
I began this blog nine months ago partially in response to the news of Heidi's cancer (see the first entry Watching for Light, on 9-29). With Heidi's death Sunday, I have been going through the photos I've taken these past nine months, looking for ones that speak to me of Heidi.
There are none of Heidi herself. I have been taking very few photos of people, since it hasn't seemed right to post those without asking permission and that added an extra layer of work to a blog entry. So even though interactions with people are often the source for sparks of light in a day for me, I have not emphasized that here.
Instead I have focused on nature, and on objects that in some way show a spark of light, either literally or metaphorically. Sometimes it is a physical object that illustrates an interaction or an event that was a spark of light. With the latter, I often have told a little about the event.
I decided to put together a slideshow of photos that speak to me of Heidi -- sometimes due to comments that she sent me, or because the object pictured is from an event related to Heidi, or simply because the photo seems to fit in some way today.
I put this series of photos together, but instead of doing a slideshow here, which may take too long for some computers to download, I have divided it into five segments, one for each day until Heidi's memorial service Saturday, beginning today.
Yesterday evening, on June 24, Heidi Siemens-Rhodes' 38th birthday, just a little before 7:00, friends and fellow church members began gathering for a short song vigil and farewell to Heidi. Nine months ago we reeled at the news that Heidi, one of our co-pastors at Assembly Mennonite, had stage IV cancer and probably only months to live.
She has lived richly and eloquently, sharing her zest for life and her struggles with cancer and unsuccessful treatments. She, husband Mitch, mother Jan, and boys Theo, Adam and Ira, have generously, gracefully, and courageously shared their journey with the congregation and other friends, "daring to stare death in the face," as one friend admiringly put it.
As we gathered, we knew that this day of Heidi's birth was most likely also to be the day of her death, and her birth into a new life.
There were vases and jars for gathering the flowers people brought from their gardens, and a basket for cards.
We lit candles and passed around song sheets:
Let there be light
O Thou in whose presence
The Lord bless you and keep you
There were smiles and tears, and candle flames that danced wildly in the breeze.
People kept streaming in, on bike, on foot, and the small front yard filled and overflowed. Family members gathered on the front porch and watched from the upstairs window. Little ones ran to and fro.
And we sang Happy Birthday, and the three hymns, and stood together in silence, holding Heidi and Mitch and the boys in prayer. Someone began singing a slow, thoughtful Alleluia, alleluia, and we joined in softly.
There were hugs and tears, and people slowly dispersed. About the time most of the crowd was gone, Heidi began taking her last breaths. The family gathered around for that last fare-thee-well, and (from Mitch's message to the congregation and the CaringBridge community) they remained around her bed for some time, crying, laughing, reminiscing and offering words of blessing for Heidi’s new life with God.
Farewell, Heidi, as you rest in God's ocean of light and love. And God's peace to you, Mitch, Jan, Theo, Adam, Ira and to all who will mourn for Heidi, as we continue the journey here.
A rose "candle" for Heidi. Today is her birthday -- and perhaps also the day of her birth into a new life. They have told us that the end of this life is imminent. Every time I check email, I wonder if there will be a message from the Assembly office.
The rose with raindrops comes from the first set of photos I took, back in September, soon after hearing that Heidi had stage IV cancer, when the light caught by raindrops on my rose leaves somehow also caught the mix of sorrow and hope our congregation was experiencing.
And below is a mix of the bright colors of early summer, for a rainbow in celebration of Heidi's birthday, and for the gift of beauty in the midst of sadness.
Dew -- what a concept! And a welcome one after several weeks with hardly any rain. Yesterday afternoon there was a brief, heavy downpour, a lovely sight in itself. And then this morning, when I went out to get a few leaves of Swiss chard to have with my poached egg, the grass was wet with dew, and all the plants were sparkling.
There was just enough breeze the other night to make this web dance slightly in the light, sending out shimmers of light which caught my attention -- and then, fortunately, enough of a lull that the photo came out as something other than a blur.
This metallic green bee appeared to have dipped his pantaloons in bright yellow paint.
Dragonfly at rest -- and then catching the light.
Here are several more photos from Maple Tree Meadows. I was intrigued by patterns of light and shadow, and then by some of the other interesting patterns to be found. Enjoy!
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"