Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will come often. It is my hope that these stories and reflections will be helpful in your spiritual journey. I look forward to your thoughts, questions, or suggestions. Please leave your comments and join as a follower so I will know you were here. It is a privilege to share the journey with you.

If you wish to know more about me, spiritual direction or retreats visit my website. www.bunnycox.com. Blessings, Bunny

*See first posting in January, 2011 to learn why this blog is called "From the Big Red Chair."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Words for Living - part 2 of 3

“Some stories are harder to tell than others, and some are harder to hear. We know all poems don't rhyme and not every story has the perfect end. If we are willing to look at the circumstances of our lives, no matter how painful, as if we looked through a prism lifted to the sun, if we have the courage to gaze into every happening, turning each before the light, asking, 'Where is God in this moment?,' we will see blue rays of mercy, green bands of healing, and golden moments of love refracted within the pure light of grace."~ Bunny Cox

. . .continued

Last words are important.  They have the power to heal a life-time of conflict in seconds.  I made that discovery when I stood beside my father’s hospital bed before his first heart by-pass surgery. The doctor had given us five minutes to be alone. It occurred to me that my words might be our last. It might be my last opportunity to apologize for the sins of my youth and the pain and disappointment I caused him during that time. In a flashing instant of healing clarity that came from a place other than my own mind, the idea of wasting precious last seconds in such a manner seemed absurd. I realized forgiveness had already occurred. Obscured and unaccepted by the darkness of my guilt, forgiveness merely needed to be received. When life wanes to a limited number of syllables, love, not regret, is the only thing worth expressing.

“You do know she is very sick,” the doctors said in hushed tones as we stood outside of Tara’s hospital room.  That is doctor-speak for “probably dying.” I should have understood. I had heard those words many times during my days as a hospital lay chaplain, but when it’s your child of whom they speak, “very sick” sounds like –“but will soon get better.”  One after another, Tara’s body systems failed, and one after another, my fingers were pried from hope for her survival.  

What last words did I need to speak to my child?  I didn’t think I could bear to bless her leaving.  I suppose I thought if I spoke of dying, I would somehow make it happen. I took Tara’s hand in mine. She couldn’t see me. The same complications that ravaged her organs and that would eventually take her life, had already claimed her sight.

“Tara, I want you to hear me.”  Eyes closed, she nodded and squeezed my hand. “Tara, I love you and I’m proud of you, and I want you to know I’m going to take care of Spencer and Alden . . . until the day that you can do it.”  I knew her ability to care for her children would probably not be in this world, but the next. I hoped my words would encourage her to stay if she could and reassure her if she couldn’t.  It was as close as I could come to giving her permission to die. 
Tara’s response was a smile and a nod that spoke of love and peace between us.  It revealed a heart bond that eternity cannot break.  

Tara moved in and out of hallucinations in her final hours.  Her words were a messy mix of reality and imaginings based on scenes from books she had recently read.  It was the vocabulary of dying. Even though her words made no sense, I strained to hear, knowing they could be her last. 
I added a last silent prayer for my first-born to the thousands I’d prayed for her over the years.   Standing beside her, my palms down, raised inches above her body, I moved my hands slowly above her--from her head--to her toes--and back again. I blessed every part of her.  I asked God to heal her, to send his angels to care for her.  I hoped Tara could feel my prayer.  I wish now I had touched her. I knew then if I did, I would dissolve into wracking sobs.  I wanted to spare her the pain of my grief. Earlier, she heard me gasp for breath when crushing anxiety and rising panic threatened to squeeze life from my lungs.  Frowning with concern, she raised her head and strained to see me.  “Mom, are you OK?”  I lied and said yes.

Chest pains worsening, I left the room without telling her goodbye.  Tara spoke no last words to me. Maybe she knew they would be more than I could bear. I think she lovingly waited for me to leave the room before she died. 

Released from the emergency room,  I crossed the lobby to take the elevator back to her floor. The doors opened. Family members stepped out. The look on their faces confirmed what I already knew.  Before I heard the words, “Tara is gone,” I knew.  I felt her leave.

I said Tara spoke no last words to me, and, technically, that is true, but she did, never-the-less, leave me with words--powerful words to live by. They are memorable; not only for their content, but for how I received them. I shouldn’t have been surprised.  With Tara, you could always expect the unexpected.

. . .to be continued.


“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” ~Proverbs 25:11

“Never part without loving words to think of during your absence.  It may be that you will not meet again in this life.” ~Jean Paul Richter

“The best things said come last.  People will talk for hours saying nothing much and then linger at the door with words that come with a rush from the heart. ~Alan Alda

--Do I carry the weight of a burden that has already been forgiven? Do I need to forgive myself?
--How do I define healing?
--Have I known “golden moments of love?” If so, what were they?
--Have I seen “the pure light of grace?” If so, where?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Words for Living - part 1 of 3

Our bags had barely crossed the threshold as Tara, Brynnan and I arrived home from our girl’s trip to the beach when the call came from the night shift nurse on the fourth floor of DCH Regional Hospital. She asked if I would come see Rachel.

Rachel, a single mother on welfare with failing kidneys and a heart full of bitterness at the turns her life had taken, required dialysis. Her increasingly frequent hospital stays were becoming extended due to malnourishment and complications of diabetes. Before our first visit, the nurses warned she was “unresponsive and difficult” and probably would not welcome a chaplain. They were right about her attitude, but with time and repeated visits, Rachel’s walls came down, and our relationship grew. Rachel was back in the hospital and asking for me.

“No! You can’t leave! This is our last night together!” said Brynnan.

Moments waned for me to be with my daughters before we each returned to our respective responsibilities. I struggled to convince myself Rachel could wait. 

“I don’t know if I can sleep tonight if I don’t go,” I said aloud, mostly to myself.    

“Mother--you have to go.” Tara said gently.

She put her arm around her younger sister’s shoulders, turned her around, and led her from the room. Her gesture said, “Go on, Mom. I’ll handle this.” Tara called back over her shoulder, “We’ll be here when you get back.”

 The house was dark when I returned. Only Tara waited up for me.

“How’d it go?”

“Sometimes there are definite disadvantages to being Episcopalian,” I sighed.


 She smiled.  “What in the world happened?”

“I wanted to give Rachel words of encouragement, and I made the mistake of asking what her favorite psalm is. I figured she would say the 23rd. Doesn’t everyone?”  

 “Uh-oh. She picked one you don’t know.”

“She said, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’!”

Tara laughed, realizing Rachel had heard song, not psalm, and knowing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is a hymn rarely sung in an Episcopal church.  

“What did you do?”

 “I certainly had not intended to sing, but what could I do?  It was embarrassing! I only knew the first line. After that, all I could do was hum!” 

“Oh, dear! That will never do!” she laughed. “We Episcopalians mustn’t be outdone by the Baptists!” Any of whom, she agreed, would most likely have known every word.

When Tara stopped laughing at my vocal predicament and denominational dilemma, she promised she would find on the internet the words to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and give them to me before she left in the morning.  

“Just in case this ever happens again,” she smiled.

“Well, while you’re at it, there is another song I can’t get out of my head. I can’t remember the words, and I’m not sure of the tune, but it goes like this.”  Tara rolled her eyes. I saw a spark of amusement. She must have thought that hardly helpful. I substituted hand claps for words and beat out the rhythm, feeling more than a little silly.  

I added, “I only remember the last three words—‘the marvelous peace of God’.”

“Sure, Mom. I think I know it.”  

I looked to see if her expression revealed a note of sarcasm. It didn’t. 

Morning came and in the rush to get Tara on the road, both of us forgot her promise.

By week’s end, I was called to another hospital in another city where Tara died of complications after giving birth to her daughter Alden.  

We never know when simple words of encouragement might be the very ones to uphold another person in difficult times.  When guilt for leaving that night rose to the surface, when regret for lost time with Tara invaded my thoughts and stole peace of mind, I held tightly to her words of support and knew I had done the thing in going to Rachel.

When the request came years later for me to walk back into a hospital to be with another young woman who needed a chaplain, it was Tara’s words that gave me the strength to return.

Mother, you have to go.”

No matter how difficult it was, I knew I must rise from my big red chair and go. 

Tara wouldn’t have had it any other way.    


 “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. ~Hebrews 10:24

 “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.” ~Fulton Ousler

“Regret reveals places where we might choose an alternate course of action if presented with a similar situation.  It can be the key that frees us from the prison of mindlessly repeating our mistakes. Other than that, regret it has no positive purpose.” ~Bunny Cox

--Is there someone who has been an angel of encouragement for me?

--Is there someone who needs my support or encouragement?

--What are my thoughts about regret? What role, if any, does it play in my life?

Practice: Make a list of people you know and love.  Beside each name write a phrase or word of support and encouragement that might be helpful for that person.  Make a commitment to encourage at least one person every day. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Found Treasure

I veered left at the fork in the road in front of the Stockton Presbyterian Church and continued north on Highway 59 toward the water tower. Gravel pinged against the underbelly of the car and crunched beneath the tires as we turned left off the highway onto the half-mile lane to Lillie’s hundred-year-old, white-board farmhouse.  Late August dust boiled behind us and drifted across the fields, depositing a sandy haze on tall grass that would soon be cut for hay. Lillie was waiting on the front porch when we slowed to a stop at the front gate. Tara had requested the detour through the north Baldwin County community of Stockton, Alabama, on the way home from our girl’s trip to the beach.  She wanted to see her grandmother.

 “Come on in,” said Lillie. “I have something for you.”

Lillie dumped onto the bed a treasure box full of costume jewelry with garish plastic “stones” set in every non-precious metal known to womankind. 

“Help yourself. Bubby would want you to have them," she said, referring to her older sister who died the previous month. "None of it is real. I kept her good stuff." 

“I wonder if Aunt Bubby got her wish,” Tara had asked when I called to tell her of Bubby’s passing. Tara knew Bubby's idea of heaven was a stiff drink and a good smoke, two addictions begrudgingly relinquished in this world.

“When I die,” Bubby said. “I hope Saint Peter meets me at the pearly gates with a martini in one hand and an unfiltered Camel in the other!” 

Unfiltered Camels were actually Bubby's nod to healthy living. She much preferred Picayunes with enough nicotine that one cigarette before breakfast could keep a pack-a-day smoker of a milder brand satisfied until mid-afternoon.

At four feet eleven, Bubby was an inch shorter than Tara. Diminutive statures were not all they shared. Both had spunky personalities and quirky senses of humor.

“I want these!” Tara cried holding to her ears a pair of four-inch-long brass Buddha earrings that hung to her shoulders.  “And these!”  she said raising a pair of earrings that were exact replicas of antique lanterns.  Tara checked to see if they would glow in the dark.  Her younger sister Brynnan poked the remaining pile with one finger as if it might crawl off.

Tara teased from a tangled chain a gold-colored brooch shaped like a giant safety pin with yellowed pearls strung along the back leg. She rubbed the pearls against her teeth.

“Lillie, you should have these,” she said handing the pin to her grandmother.  “They’re real.”

Brynnan and I glanced at each other. I don't know about Brynnan, but I wouldn't have wanted to admit I might have kept the brooch and said nothing.

The screen door banged shut behind us. With treasures in hand, we stepped across the painted boards of the covered front porch to take our leave and say our goodbyes to Lillie. We were almost at the steps before Lillie asked the question I hoped would not be spoken.  

“Have you found my beads?” 

Tara stiffened.  It had been years since she took Lillie’s necklace to restring and lost it in the process. In spite of multiple searches and many times confessing there was no hope of recovering the beads, Lillie never failed to inquire if they had been located. I felt a flush of motherly protectiveness at the subject being raised again, knowing how badly Tara felt about losing them, and was formulating a response in her defense, when Lillie put an arm around Tara’s shoulders.

“What would you say if we just chalked that off as a lesson learned--for both of us?” she said gently.

Tara smiled. They hugged, and in one simple moment of healing grace on the last day they were to be together, years of tension over something as insignificant as lost beads dissolved and floated away.

I could see Lillie in the rear view mirror as we drove down the lane. She stood on the porch watching after us until we were no longer in sight. 

I discovered the Buddha earrings and the lantern earrings in Tara's belongings after she died amid other treasured keepsakes. No one but Tara or Aunt Bubby would have the courage to wear them, but I can’t throw them away.  They make me smile.

Months later, I was sitting with Lillie in her kitchen when I happened to mention I had found them.

“Did you find my beads?” she asked.

I could almost hear Tara laughing. 


“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”~ Buddha 

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." ~Ephesians 4:32

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." ~Leo Buscaglia 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

--Are there unresolved issues--small or large--that exist between someone I care about and me? 
--Where might I extend a hand of peace? Do healing words need to be spoken? Is there something I could let go of?
--Where is my heart? What do I value most?  What is my treasure?

*Make a list of the "treasures" in your life.  They may be physical in nature, treasured memories, or something you call blessings. 

*Keep a gratitude journal.  Every day write down five things for which you are grateful. Be sure to name the blessings of each day. See how your "noticing" changes over time. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sabbath Struggles

Dawn - Lake Lure, North Carolina
Lake Lure, North Carolina, has special meaning for our family. It is the place where four generations gather for a week of summer Sabbath to reconnect, to be renewed, and to be present to God in creation. It is a healing practice begun the summer after my daughter Tara’s death, when we became painfully aware of the finite opportunities for families to be together.

Even as I cherish this Sabbath time, I resist, tortured by the demon of busy-ness.  Mail and newspapers must be stopped, animals must be cared for, bags packed, the house cleaned, bills paid, calendars checked to be sure no item on the “to-do” is left neglected, even if only for a few days.  I am often exhausted from preparation before I leave home. I sometimes ask myself, “Is it worth the effort?”

But when I watch the sun rise above the still water, the morning mist still nestled upon mountain, I know the answer.

Why is it so difficult to step off life’s treadmill?

Is it because we are on a busy track with people moving faster, and faster, always in a hurry? Voices speak louder and louder. Televisions blare from early morning until late at night, sometimes only in the background with no one listening. Telephones constantly ring; telephones with multiple lines and call waiting so we can talk with more than one person at a time. Fax machines, e-mail, hundreds of channels on television, Facebook, texts and twitter all compete for our attention.  We’re assaulted by billboards, magazines, newspapers, radio, all crying at the same time, “Buy me. Do me. Watch me. Wear me.”

No wonder it is sometimes difficult to hear God’s gentle whisper. 

There is a story about a man who came to a hermit for spiritual direction. The man’s life was full of stress and turmoil, and he claimed he could no longer find God.  The hermit took him down to the river where he silently dipped a bowl into the river, filled it with water, and quietly led him back to his hut.  They sat for a very long time until the sand, silt, and mud had gone from churned up--to cloudy--to clear.  The point was made. 

We, like the man in the story, need to learn how to sit patiently and wait quietly for our bodies and minds to settle so we can be present to God. 


Be still, and know that I am God.~Psalm 46:10

. . .And after the fire came a gentle whisper.~1 King 19:12  

Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath’." ~Mark 2:27 (New Living Translation)

“Effort comes more naturally to most of us than non-effort. We can do almost anything in material space: fill it, change it, paint it, cover it, reinforce it, tear it down. But put us in front of an hour of uncharted, unprogrammed time, and we go catatonic or go spastic. Creative non-doing, genuine Sabbath time, is the greatest challenge of all.  But it too is part of the body language of faith.”—Thomas Ryan

--Does busy-ness and stress affect my presence for God? If so, how?
--Do I  regularly take time to be still? To be quiet?
--Is making "genuine Sabbath time" a challenge for me? Why? Why not?
--Am I comfortable with "creative non-doing?" Why? Why not?
--Do I create time to enjoy children, spouse or friends? When do I set aside time to play?  How firm is that commitment?


*Find a place to be outside.  Let the beauty of creation renew your spirit. 

*Prepare a special "Sabbath meal," alone or with friends or family.  Shop for the ingredients, choosing those that bring you the most pleasure.  This food is not so much for survival as for sheer, savory delight.  Put on some music. Turn off the phone.  Take as much time as you like to feel, taste, smell each ingredient, every spice, bread, and vegetable.  Decorate the table with flowers, colorful placemats, and candles.  Say a prayer.  Give thanks, remembering all the people who grew, harvested, packed, shipped, and sold them for you.  Give thanks for the bounty of the earth.  Enjoy.