Without the Black and White


I remember the first time I watched the Wizard of Oz. My mom was excited to have all of her children old enough to watch one of her favorite movies. My brothers and I sat on the floor in front of the tv, my parents on the couch, and all of us chomping on popcorn. Remember the aluminum foil pan popcorn? That was the ish back then. Anyhow, I could barely sit still when I heard the MGM lion roar. The movie started and… it was black and white? I had to sit through an old black and white movie?

My mom told us to just watch and pay attention. It would be amazing, she said. I trusted her and I also knew whining would just get me sent to bed. So, I waited. Dorothy opened the door and the beautiful colors captured me. I remember my mom’s giggle as she listened to us kids ooh and aah. It was a magical moment.

It became an annual tradition to watch the Wizard of Oz. Back then, we didn’t have On Demand. We had to wait until it came back on television. Now, we don’t know anything about the excitement of waiting like we did back then. I remember when we recorded it for the first time. I could watch it whenever I wanted. Woohoo, right? I thought so until I watched it a few times and the family tradition faded. The fun in waiting ended. I learned the magic isn’t so magical without the waiting.

As a kid, I never fully appreciated Good Friday. It wasn’t a nice day to think about. Jesus having to die was sad, it wasn’t exciting. It was like the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. All I wanted was for the door to open. I wanted the beautiful color, not the black and white. I wanted to hear about Jesus rising from the dead. I was a kid so I would be lying if I didn’t also admit I wanted the Easter egg hunt, the pretty dress, and the candy (of course). All I wanted was the magic, not the things leading up to the magic.

I now love Holy Week. I love the reflection and the humility it brings. I always try to carry the beauty of the “black and white” into the “technicolor” and the days beyond. It is easily my favorite week of the year. It sort of snuck up on me this year, though. Tuesday, I kept thinking of how I wanted it to slow down. I wanted to feel the waiting a little bit longer.

It wasn’t until Wednesday night during my class that I felt my usual Holy Week feelings. I told the kids we were going to have a (sort of) Last Supper together. They were excited to say the least. It took them a bit to calm down and I almost thought it wasn’t going to work out.

They did calm down. I read the verses as we talked about how it must have felt to be there. How did Judas feel? Peter? Jesus? We passed out bread. We talked about what it meant. We ate. I poured grape juice. We talked about what it meant. We drank. They were engaged. The verses were familiar to them and of course they started talking about communion. We talked about the steps they need to take in our church to participate in communion when they are older. I got my Holy Week feeling back. Funny how teaching has a way of helping me as well. I guess it goes to show why it is important to use your unique gifts and talents.

Even as an adult I try to rush to the magic at times. I have to remind myself to stop and trust God. I look back and see the beauty in the steps leading up. I thank God for the steps leading up––no matter how hard they may be at the time.

Without the blood shed on the cross, we can have no salvation. Without the black and white, we would not have the color. It is the same with life. We must not rush to get to the color. We have to wait and see and feel the beauty in the black and white. It is only then that we can see and feel the true beauty and magic in the color.


This is a painting I had my class do on Wednesday night after our lesson. This was my son’s. I loved the colors each kid chose. I loved seeing the anticipation they felt waiting to see their finished project. I especially loved their smiles when I oohed and aahed at their work. 

The Life in Dying

I have seen all kinds of dying.  It is a part of life most people overlook––in a sense. Maybe that will not make any sense to the average person. Maybe that is a good thing?  I don’t know.  I know people who have worked with dying patients may relate and I know people who have faced illness may relate. Because why else would you think of death as such?

I remember my first death as a nurse. It was a peaceful death. It was expected. It was awkward being the one responsible for checking for the lack of vital signs. I remembered the rule of listening for a heartbeat for a full minute, the longest minute of my life, as all eyes of the family members were on me.  I felt their tears on hold…justing waiting for the words before they burst out. The hardest part was getting the words out of my mouth. I couldn’t wait to get of the room so I could breathe.

I cannot recall how many deaths I have seen since. I’ve grown accustomed to every part of it.  I know how to talk to a family and the patient of the impending outcome.  I know how to explain (gently) why the body does not need the food the family insists on giving. I know when to stay in the room and I know when to give the family space. I am so good at death that I sometimes can see it coming just by a smell, by a subtle change in the skin, and by a look of the eyes.

Although I may have grown accustomed to the process…it is never easy to say goodbye to a patient and it is even harder to watch a family have to say goodbye to their loved one.  I have shed many tears with family members, something I could not do at first.  I had a very wise nurse tell me one time that it was okay to cry with the families from time to time.  I took that advice because sometimes patients and their family become like family.  I have gathered most of my wisdom of life from being a part of the last days of people’s life.  I have learned what truly matters in life because of them.

I wish I could give some specific examples of what I have seen; I have seen some crazy things.  There is something of a personal level that I do not feel comfortable sharing.  It is not my story to blurt out on a blog.  I am just a bystander in their last moments of life. What I do want to share is what I have learned. Most of it sounds too simple to be profound.  But profound is usually found in the most simple things, isn’t it?  Here’s what I got:

There is life in dying. There is a reason they are still living, even if for just another breath.

Family matters.  People want their family there with them.  They need to feel their hand being held. They need to hear it is okay to die.  They need to hear, “I love you.”

Laughter.  It is okay to laugh when someone is dying.  Sit in the room and tell the funny stories.

Tears are okay too.

Money.  It doesn’t matter.  Not once have I heard a dying patient talk about the amount of money they made in a lifetime.

Attention.  People want attention.  Brush their hair.  Straighten their sheets.  Sometimes it is the little things that matter the most.

Forgiveness.  Give it.  Receive it.  I have seen patients holding out to die because they are waiting for it. Don’t be stubborn.

Love.  I told you simple, didn’t I?

Faith.  I saved the best for last.  Faith most definitely makes all the difference in death.  I have seen the difference of someone with and someone without faith die.  There is a difference. There really is.