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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Under the Shadow of the Throne -- Remembering Claire

Given I have passed the half-century mark, I rejoice that I still live life to the fullest: exercising every day, trying new recipes, devouring books, traveling, taking on new work opportunities, stepping into new cultures and friendships... I feel remarkably blessed. 

But at the same time, I reflect daily on the many people I have known, the sadness I have seen and experienced, the lessons learned. Today provides that in spades as I remember my dear friend Claire Carey, who would have been 40 years old today. Wow.

I have posted this photo of Claire here before, but I never tire of looking at it. It captures her perfectly. The way she threw her head back for a hearty laugh, the huge and welcoming smile, the radiant red hair, the perfectly composed outfit... all of those things were so uniquely HER. Her presence drew others in, and so many -- students, family, colleagues, church members, medical personnel, friends -- considered her an important person in their lives.

Make no mistake, Claire had her faults. She was remarkably stubborn; one of my favorite phrases with her was "Now don't go redhead on me." She was ALWAYS late, in part because she was a perfectionist. Though those things frustrated me at the time, I now look back on such things fondly, as core aspects of who she was. Isn't that interesting.

About two weeks ago I went to a book release party by Anne Lamott, a favorite author of mine. I'm sure I would have asked Claire to go with me. One of the reasons I love reading Lamott's writing is that she has walked me through grief in a way no other author has. In the opening essay of her newest book, Small Victories, she does it again as she describes a friend Barbara who has ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease:

First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they
clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors' reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.

The entire essay describes much of what I learned in walking through life with someone like Claire dying more quickly than they should. Granted, her stubbornness maddened me at times, but that redheadedness is part of what kept her alive for 10 years after her initial diagnosis. I appreciated, and still do, appreciate life far more deeply from knowing her in and through her death. Lamott says this:

When you are on the knife's edge -- when nobody knows exactly what is going
to happen next, only that it will be worse -- you take in today.

Exactly. Claire taught me, more than anyone else, how to take in today. And some four years after losing her, I still do that. And for that, though I still ache at the memory of her and blink twice to keep from tearing up, I am so grateful. I am changed.

I read this hymn this morning, and thought of Claire:

    Our God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come;
    Our shelter from the stormy blast,
    And our eternal home.

    Under the shadow of thy throne,
    Thy saints have dwelt secure;
    Sufficient is thine arm alone,
    And our defence is sure.

    Before the hills in order stood,
    Or earth receiv'd her frame;
    From everlasting thou art God;
    To endless years the same.

    A thousand ages, in thy sight,
    Are like an evening gone;
    Short as the watch that ends the night,
    Before the rising sun.

    Our God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Be thou our guard while troubles last,
    And our eternal home.
    ... Isaac Watts

I look forward to being "under the shadow of God's throne" with our dear Claire, and am so grateful she awaits us there. I am blessed that part of the amazing equation of God's care in my life was in allowing me to know Claire. And I pray that I may honor her memory every day by stubbornly pressing on as she did. You are remembered Claire, and missed as much as the day we lost you. God, thank you for being our help in ages past, and we lean on you again today as we think of the Redhead.


  1. Thank you for keeping her memory alive so beautifully, Kel.

  2. Yes, Claire is remembered and missed. Thanks for these words, Kelly.