Thank You Profoundly

On behalf of our entire family, we want to say “Thank You!”

Thank you kindly for your heartfelt prayers on behalf of Jeremy, Angela, and their children.Thank you kindly for your ongoing prayers on behalf of Jeremy’s parents, David and Karen Mains, and Jeremy’s siblings, Randall, Melissa, Joel, and their families.

Your prayers, words of encouragement, acts of loving kindness, and tangible expressions of support, have been immensely appreciated throughout Jeremy’s 5-month battle with Lymphoma, and now during our grieving and recovery process, your love is deeply appreciated as well.

We all wanted a different outcome – a healing process to succeed – a restoration to occur. There was some hope that medical skill could beat Jeremy’s Stage 4 diagnosis, but ultimately his life rested in our Lord’s hands. God was the only one truly capable of performing the miracle that was required to heal Jeremy, and for reasons unknown to us, and despite the many prayers lifted up on Jeremy’s behalf, He elected not to cure him from cancer. So we trust in God’s goodness despite this disappointing outcome, and we entrust Jeremy, the impact of his entire 41 years on earth, and the conclusion of his life into the hands of our Lord.

Jeremy lives now where there is no pain or suffering or heartache, and where one day we will be re-united with him in Heaven. We anticipate that day with incredible longing.

Angela continues to write openly about her journey, and you can visit her postings at her new blog: http://beautyinthemidstofcrisis.blogspot.com/

Again, you have our most sincere and grateful appreciation for all your support.

~~ Randall Mains

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“He is not here. He has been raised, just as he said. Come and see the place where he was lying.”
Matthew 28:6 ISV

We are doing OK

The kids and I talk about Jeremy every single day. Eliana will share a story about something she used to do with her dad. Nehem will walk up to total strangers, tell them about his toys, and then tell them his dad is under the dirt (which means I have to jump in to explain what he’s talking about). I am getting out of bed, entering into each day, missing Jeremy and enjoying the beautiful blessings we have. I cry a little but smile, too. I keep thinking that as terrible as the last five months were, and as brutal as they were to Jeremy especially, the good Lord must have been considering the kids and I during that time. Since he was away from us for so much of that time, we were able to establish ourselves without his daily presence active in our lives. Losing him has been awful. Through the prayers of so many we were and are continuing to be surrounded by grace, making this time more bearable than it could have been. We are grateful for that grace and that time with Jeremy. So many of the things we discussed this past summer are so much clearer to me now. God was good to us during those days and He continues to be.

When I think about those final months, and all the time Jeremy and I had together, I am intensely proud of him. I am forever changed to have had him in my life as my husband, mentor, friend and father of our children. One of the things I will always carry with me is how Jeremy lived his life as a faithful servant to his Lord. When Jeremy first received news of his diagnosis, he accepted it with incomprehensible faith. During the summer months he continued to call his lymphoma his “blessing”, knowing God was using it for something beyond himself. He frequently said “Who am I that I should be spared lymphoma?” His humility and faithfulness were inspirational. He was what he would describe in his journals as an “ideal servant” until his last breath. The ray of light shining down on him from heaven was shining extra bright. It was so beautiful. And we were all blessed because of it.

One aspect of Jeremy that I will work hard to share with our children is the way he lived an intentional, well-examined life. Jeremy would spend hours alone one his computer journaling. His writings are largely related to goals he had for himself, our family culture and values he wanted to instill in our children. The goals he had for himself were all focused on becoming more Christ-like. Jeremy would consider a virtue, say loyalty, and would spend hours, days and weeks studying the concept of loyalty. Then he would intentionally practice it. Most of this was done in secret, very few people knew Jeremy’s inner-mind and how he operated. I was always grateful that he shared those secrets, his processes, with me. I wouldn’t always know what he was working on but occasionally something would come up, a difficult situation with a friend, and he would say “This is a chance for me to be a loyal friend.” And he would be. Jeremy did this with so many virtues and it was evident in the way he lived his life. Many people have shared stories about Jeremy that exemplify this. I hope and pray this aspect of his character, the self-examination and intentionality with which he lived his life, will continue. I pray for the ability to model this for our children and I’m grateful for the many writings Jeremy left behind so they can see this for themselves.

One of the most amazing gifts Jeremy had was the ability to see people, making each person feel known. I have never met anyone else who could do what he did when he talked with people, no matter their relationship, no matter the topic. Jeremy showed each person respect and he was genuinely interested in understanding who they were. Many people have shared stories with me about how Jeremy impacted their lives at a particularly important time. Many have shared how Jeremy was one person who provided timely encouragement or inspiration when it was most needed. The loss of him is felt so deeply because of the profound impact he made in others’ lives, even if just for a short season. I don’t have this special gift but I’m praying it has been passed on to our children, that they have the gift of truly seeing others so they can be a vessel of encouragement to everyone they meet.

The hardest thing about losing Jeremy is that he is no longer here, living among us. However, as a dear friend recently reminded me, we are “Resurrection” people. There is a hope and joy that comes with that which is even stronger than the pain of the death of a loved one. Losing Jeremy is gruesome yet, through faith, we know he is in a much better place. His life did not end but continues on in the presence of God through the power of Christ’s resurrection. Because of that, I know Jeremy continues on. I see traces of him everywhere. I feel his presence when I need it most, as if he is there beside me, whispering an important truth in my ear. I see him in my children’s faces. I hear him when they speak Spanish. I know he lives on, even if he doesn’t live in the flesh among us. And it is incredibly difficult to live in a constant state of despair knowing Jeremy continues on.

I’m aware that harder days are ahead as the holidays approach. Yet, we continue to have faith and hope and love. We continue to be surrounded by tremendous blessings. Blessings of family, friends, community. There is tremendous beauty in crisis and we continue to be surrounded by beauty even in the midst of this sadness. I am incredibly thankful for that beauty. I am incredibly thankful for each person that has “entered in” to this crisis and prayed for us, cared for us and loved us. God was, is, and continues to be good. We accept this tragedy as God’s will, knowing (but not fully understanding) He is being glorified through it. We accept this tragedy in the same way we accept all the blessings we have received, believing, trusting there is no better place to be than in His will. Because of Him we have hope and because of Him we can carry on.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving we have many things to be thankful for. We had the blessing of having Jeremy in our lives. And we know we will met him again. We are, and Jeremy is, Resurrection people. May our lives here on earth, even during these hard days, be a continual reflection of that.

~~ Angela

Daily Choice

One of the women, who lived with us off and on over a ten-year period reminds me that I taught her, “Now Jane. You have a choice. You can make this a good day or you can make it a bad day.”
The same is true for the grieving process: I have a choice. I can make these days good days or I can choose to allow them to be bad, really bad days.

Yesterday morning, Sunday, I made a list of the beauty, love and tenderness I experienced the day before–Saturday–two weeks after we buried our son.

*While glancing out early from my second-floor study window, I noticed the morning light radiating out on the yard–lovely–but then my eye was caught by a flock (!) of doves beneath the bird feeders. We usually have one dove now and then, but (count them) twenty?

*The weather has turned frigid; weather reports are forecasting freezing temperatures here in Chicago so I have been gathering the outside pumpkins and squash to turn into puree for soups and breads. My granddaughter, Josie, cooked up one pumpkin on Friday. I cooked up another pumpkin here in my kitchen and brought in the butternut squash from the fall arrangement in an old rusted wheelbarrow. The results were beautiful golden mash and a jar full of toasted pumpkin seeds.

*Melissa Mains Timberlake had cut greens off the trees at the farm for Jeremy’s gravesite and on the way home from a morning (planting bulbs) at Turtle Creek, I stopped to cut wild bittersweet and grapevines. We bought a wreath and a small pot with a Christmas arrangement, and I ran over to the nearby cemetery to cover the raw earth above his grave. I also thought I would plant narcissi but in 12 hours from Friday to Saturday morning the ground had already frozen. An older man (about my age) tending to a nearby grave, noticed that I had been trying to get a shovel in the ground and made a point of coming by to offer help. This was an unexpected kindness. We agreed that it was too late, but maybe in one of those Midwest winter thaws, I’d get another chance. I’ll save the bulbs, just in case.

*I received a $300 check from Mainstay Ministries (which caught my back pay up to somewhere around May); now I will be able to pay my friend, Tim Botts for the prints from his beautiful new book, “Bound for Glory”, that Jeremy had marked to acquire at the beginning of his battle with chemo.

* I spent the afternoon sitting in the dining room aqua chair soaking in the sunshine reviewing all my pumpkin books–five of them. (Which of the vast Curcurbitacea family is ornamental? Which is edible?).

*My eye was also caught by the books on my shelves on creating abstract art. Time, perhaps, to get serious about this.

*Took a phone call from a grieving family member. A reminder that the whole extended family, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, in-law children, as well as Mom and Dad and are all off kilter, hurting. David and I need to move deliberately through our own process so that we can be there for these.

*We ate homemade minestrone soup, artisan bread, apple/greens/walnut salad and munched (too much) on brownies–all provided by my friend Marilyn Stewart.

*A poem was e-mailed to me by another friend, Madelle Payne.

The Well of Grief
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water
to the place where we cannot breathe

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.

–David Whyte, from “Where Many Rivers Meet”; C2007 Many Rivers Press

*To end the day, my friend Sibyl Towner dropped past unexpectedly with a Christmas wreath, a baked chicken, fruit and all her love.

We are finding small round coins in the well of grief of these hard days. But it is a choice we must daily make to look for them.

Karen Mains

Death-defying Acts

Last week in a light drizzle, but in a climate enough temperature, I planted 50 “Gladiator” allium bulbs. In early spring, they will greet passers-by on Hawthorne Lane with their great pink/purple mopheads. Everything in that west side bed grows and blooms late, so this will be a lovely nod to life-coming-back again.

The bulb planting began in October. Jeremy, our son, was always kind about walking me around my own garden, “Let’s go see what’s blooming today, Mom,” he would say. And we would take the garden walk together.

I kept thinking as I bought bulbs, If Jeremy lives, these will gladden him come spring . . . if Jeremy has to undergo a long rehabilitation, these radiant colors rising out of a just-thawed earth will satisfy his eye.

So on the day our friend, Cirilo Leon (who lives with us during the growing season and returns to Oaxaca, Mexico every October) flew home, he found time to plant the 200 mixed bulbs. “I planted bulbs,” he reported as David drove him to O’Hare.

Wheaton College students from our small group buried another 100 yellow jonquil bulbs in the street- side patch of woods in front of the house. I planted 50 orange red tulips by the brick path that leads to the front door. Another 100 bulbs, purple black and wine, were dug into a driveway garden.

After Jeremy died, I kept planting; the 50 alliums in still-soft soil, all surrounded by gray drizzle, then yesterday in the watery fall sunshine and almost warm 47 degree temperature white tulips with green veins and green cups in the back garden where my eye will see them when I look out on the yard from David’s study window.

Planting tulips is my death-defying act. There are others which I am planning when my strength returns.

Mourning is such an appropriate word. I’ve been through death of loved ones before. We’ve experienced loss and betrayal. Never have I had such a visceral reaction to grief. People have said that losing a child, burying an offspring before your own death, is the most terrible grief that can be experienced. In my experience it seems to be so; I do not know where this will go nor how long it will endure.

But I am planting bulbs. I wake each morning with a headache (and I can count the headaches I’ve had in a lifetime on two hands). I don’t have the mental energy to talk much with anyone—there is a pain and grief fog behind my eyes in the center of my brain. For the last two weeks, since the funeral, I’ve been good for about 2-3 hours of activity each day, then I weaken, aching and wobbly. I have slept 8-9 hours every night, and I still wake up tired. I was so often woozy and wobbly that I checked my temperature (normal) and blood pressure (a little high but then, I didn’t really take it following the manufacturer’s cautions).

When I compare, however, how I feel with the rest of my family members, we’re all pretty much in the same boat. “I got the sheets changed on the bed—I think they were last changed sometime in October—and the bed is made.” Now that is progress. Yesterday I kept going to about 3 P.M. then collapsed. So I think I am coming out of the debilitating freshest grief. Every morning I’ve waken with what has felt like a 50-lb curling stone on my chest. I know that the toxicity of stress, the yo-yo effect of months of hopes raised and hopes dashed, the horror of watching a child die and the adrenalin fight and flight effect are all draining out of the cells of my being. I can’t remember what I was doing or what I was or why I have opened this book or why I have climbed these stairs three times.

My sister-in-law, Mary Burton, who lost a child tells me that it gets worse. I appreciate her honesty and the fact that she understands. Yet the worst thing of all, the very worst, is this ridiculous incongruity: I can’t talk with Jeremy about his own death and dying. If only I could talk with Jer . . .
So I am planting bulbs.

At last count, we have planted 550 bulbs, and if we live through all this being broken in the center of ourselves, it will be a beautiful spring. Spring always comes, doesn’t it?—always.

Last night I drove for the first time in the rain and the dark past Jeremy’s grave. I’m not much of a grave-visitor. I truly believe my son is no longer in that destroyed shell. I would much, much rather remember him alive and vital and funny and outrageous. But the grave looked so raw, so alone, so desolate that I came home planning more death-defying acts.

Spring always comes, doesn’t it?—always.

Karen Mains

It is well with my soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

~~ Angela

Words fail me

Yesterday we laid my brother’s precious body in the earth. Words fail me. In the middle of the tears I have also been trying to focus on the positives of Jeremy’s life. (A task eased greatly by all the kind, gracious, and loving people who have come around us to share stories, or facebook “likes,” or their own mutual laughs and tears.) Yesterday as I was preparing for the funeral service I looked out my window at the tree outside my house. Almost all the trees on my block are now nearly empty of leaves, but this tree right outside my house held its leaves a bit longer. So nice. As I took a deliberate “positive” breath and smiled at this pretty tree a breeze picked up and leaves just poured off the branches. I thought, “Wow, that’s me right now — I’ve been hanging on, but now i’m just kind of weeping all over the ground.” I went outside and took a quick picture of the tree for some reason. The day passed and I didn’t get home until night. This morning I awoke to a nearly empty tree. Spent. This time as I took the photo I brushed away a tear. Again I took a deep positive breath. “Breathe.” This morning I stand looking at this near empty tree and I smile. I don’t know why. Yet I also want to curl up in the middle of my driveway, clad in my ratty pajamas, and just sob — neighbors be damned. The internal connection I have with the beauty, and bare, and the ugly, and the death, and the belief that eventually Spring will come again, runs through me today beyond what can be understood or express. Breathe. Today I am thankful for the tree outside my house.

~~ Joel Mains

The stimulating conversation has been interrupted

The stimulating conversation has been interrupted. The scheming and dreaming has been put on hold. Your learning curve has leaped beyond anything I can imagine. You were more than a son to me–you were a challenge to my intellect, a source of renegade laughter, a one man resistance movement, an non-conformist without being an anarchist, a wise inquirer who took the time to understand me, then explain me to myself. Dad and I, it appears, have some things to finish up here on earth. He is 77 and I am 70. See you soon, dear friend. See you soon. We’ll talk more then.

~~ Karen Mains

Thank you to everyone for making our sad, special day so beautiful

While we are still grieving the loss of Jeremy, words cannot express the beauty and perfection of yesterday’s activities. It was the first Orthodox funeral Jeremy and I have ever attended and it was beautiful – exactly what Jeremy would have wanted.

He has been laid to rest in Glen Oaks cemetery, within walking distance from our house, next to our most favorite park. He is surrounded by beautiful, old oaks…I know it is the place Jeremy would’ve picked for himself. The kids and I have already stopped by to visit him, telling him the plans for our day. It is a place of peace, of beauty, of rest.

The reception immediately following the services was amazing. I am incredibly grateful to the Johnson family for opening their ministry house to us, allowing more than 100 people to come together in honor of Jeremy. The house belonged to Henrietta Johnson. Jeremy, in his youth, was often found in the kitchen, chatting with Henrietta. They had a common interest in serving others. Both went to meet the Lord they loved on November 5 (although years apart) and they both leave behind a strong legacy of living intentional, well-examined lives. I can’t think of a more perfect location to gather to celebrate Jeremy than that beautiful house, surrounded by nature.

I am overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of others who made that time so comfortable for us all. I don’t even know how many people cooked or donated food and drinks – I only know that over the course of two days my kitchen and front porch were over-taken with contributions. Friends set-up and cleaned up. I don’t even know who was all involved and there is no way I can thank everyone adequately enough to express how meaningful it was. Most importantly, it was so Jeremy. I know he would be overwhelmed, moved to tears, by the amazing generosity of others. At the same time, I know it was exactly how he would want people to come together. He would want it to be beautiful, hospitable and focused more on community than lots of pompous formalities.

Thank you to everyone for making our sad, special day so beautiful. I know Jeremy would be honored and humbled by it all. May his beautiful memory be eternal.

~~ Angela

Details for tomorrow’s activities

Here are the details for tomorrow’s activities:

Friday, 11-8-13
Funeral 12 Noon
St. Athanasios Greek Orthodox Church
1855 5th Ave, Aurora, IL 60504
(630) 231-1300
Interment at the Glen Oak Cemetery

There will be a reception immediately following with an opportunity to share reflections on how Jeremy impacted our lives.

~~ Angela

Casual gathering on Sunday

THE MAINS FAMILY WOULD LIKE TO SPEND
MORE TIME WITH YOU WHO LOVE US

Please join us for a casual gathering on Sunday, November 10th at an Open House to remember Jeremy and how much he meant to each of us.

Doug and Melissa Mains Timberlake are opening their beautiful renovated dairy barn home to everyone who would love to spend a little time in the country. With laughter and tears we will celebrate Jeremy’s life.

Their 18–acre farm, Turtle Creek, is located in McHenry on the edge of a wildlife preserve marsh.

Come when you can, leave when you must.
Open House from 2PM- 7PM
Look for the aged mustard-colored renovated barn.
Park in the front paddock.
Finger foods will be provided during the day, then pizza and BYOB (bring your own beverage to share) in the early evening.
We will continue to use our i-pods to record memories of Jeremy for his children.

Address is: 2805 W. Justen Rd, McHenry, IL 60050
Contact #: 630-461-6501 (Doug Timberlake)

Google Map link: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=2805+W.+Justen+Rd%2C+McHenry%2C+IL+60050&hl=en&sll=42.293192%2C-88.250873&sspn=0.014%2C0.027852&t=h&gl=us&hnear=2805+Justen+Rd+W%2C+McHenry%2C+Illinois+60050&z=17

Turtle Creek Farm is approximately one hour North of West Chicago.

~~ Melissa Mains Timberlake

Where did that come from?”

As the events of these last days unfold it is difficult to know what to update. Earlier I shared a story about my son visiting his uncle Jeremy Mains to say his goodbye. As my brother passed away later that day, that event was folded into the pain of my brother’s sadness. I have been surprised, but a number of you have asked me privately for an update on how the Elias visit went. I guess in the sadness of the event I forgot to honor his effort as he visited my brother. As part of me wishes to affirm my son’s own way of saying goodbye to Jeremy, I will share for those who are interested.

One of the wonders of being on the Autism spectrum is that there are many social conventions in which Elias is just uninterested. This means I will probably fail at getting him to wear anything but sweatpants to the funeral — a battle I don’t look forward to. Yet, it also means I have the great pleasure of him still holding my hand without shame at fourteen years of age. As we made the long slow walk from the parking lot through the massive hospital to the tenth floor, Elias reached out, took my hand and walked beside me. There are moments as one battles grief when the simple comforting touch of a child’s trusting hand has profound impact. It grounds you back to reality; back to simplicity and innocence. It says, “Remember, there is still deep goodness and beauty in this world.” We walked along this way together.

There is power in the simple innocence of him wanting me to be his father, and of me wanting nothing more than to fulfill that wish. It’s a touch that is so pure and primal it cuts through the pain. You squeeze gently to say, “Forever, child, forever.” So together we walked, fingers entwined, down the halls, up in the elevator ride, to my brother’s room. Months of making that slow sad walk by myself to take my turn, and I think how I almost missed this opportunity to walk it with him together because I feared how he would react.

We stood outside my brother’s room and helped each other into our sterile yellow medical robes that protect Jeremy from outside germs. There is no doubt that wearing these robes telegraphs instantly that all is not well. It’s so clinical and unnatural; it reeks of caution.

Elias could see Jeremy through the glass. His uncle who has been so ravaged by cancer he was now under a hundred and thirty pounds. No longer able to respond to us. My poor brother. His poor uncle. We looked in together.

While Elias is smart as a tack, he can’t always regulate his feelings. The off switch doesn’t always turn off. Fear is FEAR. Grief is GRIEF. Loss is LOSS. He combats this by forcefully avoiding situation like this, talking incessantly about unrelated topics, or escaping into an iPad app or book. Yet Elias had made up in his mind he was going to honor his uncle. He would honor him. He would do it. A compassionate act of will trumping fear and emotion.

Elias and I entered the room. He swallowed hard. He walked up to Jeremy and took his hand. The same hand he used to take mine — a small young hand of deep comfort. He looked at his uncle’s face with such compassion. He stroked Jeremy’s hand softly. “Hi uncle Jeremy, it’s me, Elias.”

There are times for all parents when we see our children emotionally step forward in ways that amaze us. We think, “Where did that come from?” It’s like the times we take a confused look at them, stand them up against the growth marks on the wall and realize they have somehow grown three inches right before our eyes. “Where did that came from?” I tease my son that I do not give him permission to grow anymore, yet for years he has continued to disobey me! He rolls his eyes, it’s a corny joke I still love, that he no longer finds as amusing. But the fact is the same — he is growing in front of my very eyes. Sometimes I am too busy to see it until there is a chance to measure it.

Elias entered this room of sickness, and somehow, though his uncle was hardly recognizable, had the maturity to see the man he loved laying in the bed. He reached out and touched him. He stroked his hand. He said, “I’m sorry uncle Jeremy.” His eyes welled up and he cried as he stood there still holding his hand. This is a side of Elias I know little of. I see my son’s goodness daily — but not this emotional bravery. He didn’t run away and slam the door as he has done when overwhelmed. He didn’t cover his eyes. He just held out a hand of compassion to a very sick man and bravely accepted the emotion as is came over him.

I am dumbfounded. “Where did this come from?” Who is this young man in front of me? How foolish was I to think I might actually choose to shield him from this? To make the decision for him by simply not asking him if he would be willing to try again. I stand there and look at Elias and my eyes well up. He stands there and looks at his uncle. We are both crying.

There is a word I like that I don’t often get to use – transcendence. It can sound very stuffy and spiritual. In its most broad sense it touches on a moment going beyond the physical and embodying something greater. A moment that rises beyond the simple sum of the parts as something profound and “other” enters in. But transcendence for me doesn’t work unless it’s filled with other words like, sorrow, pain, death, humanity. This room was filled with all those things. My son and I stood smack in the middle of all of it, clad in yellow paper medical gowns. Yet it was more than that. The child touching the hand of his dying uncle and soothing him. That same touch somehow soothing me, his father, across the room. There is no way I could express to Elias how his precious vulnerable tears moved me. I know the cost it is for him to stand there and risk the emotions welling up inside him – the pain dial rising and rising and not shutting off. Yet still he showed sacrificial compassion to a man almost unable to receive it, which healed instead his own weary father who watched in awe across the room. Transcendence. A connection that is almost impossible to express in words. A father receiving a grace from a son. A deep gift I could never have even asked him for in a way he could have understood or hoped to reciprocate — yet he did it anyway, in his simple loving gesture. Transcendence. A moment I could only come close to expressing to him later by looking him directly in his eyes and saying later, “I’m so proud of you.”

I won’t over-sentimentalize this. It was a flash. An extended moment. It wasn’t long before the tears had him retreating to some safe iPad App on the couch before he began to FEEL too much. There was no further discussion on the time there. He didn’t hold my hand on the way back to the car. There was no other comment from him than, “That’s so sad.” We had nasty, worthless drive-through chicken nuggets for dinner.

In some ways I’m embarrassed to say the moment didn’t even sink in for a few days. When people asked how it went, I said, “He did so well.” It wasn’t until sitting up later late at night, sleepless, that I made some of the connections I am writing about now. I guess as parents we think of ourselves as teachers. We help our kids. We comfort them. We give them guidance. But they are humans too, with gifts, and hearts, and needs, and compassion. How foolish to be surprised to discover that sometimes when we hold their hands as we walk along life’s sad corridors, it is they who are actually helping, and comforting, and molding us into better people at the same time.

Thank you Elias. I hope that over the years, as I have struggled to be the dad you need, you have seen me grow too, and at times smiled and said to yourself, “Where did that come from?”

~~ Joel Mains

It’s Difficult to Know What to Update

As the events of these last days unfold it is difficult to know what to update. Earlier I shared a story about my son visiting his uncle Jeremy Mains to say his goodbye. As my brother passed away later that day, that event was folded into the pain of my brother’s sadness. I have been surprised, but a number of you have asked me privately for an update on how the Elias visit went. I guess in the sadness of the event I forgot to honor his effort as he visited my brother. As part of me wishes to affirm my son’s own way of saying goodbye to Jeremy, I will share for those who are interested.

One of the wonders of being on the Autism spectrum is that there are many social conventions in which Elias is just uninterested. This means I will probably fail at getting him to wear anything but sweatpants to the funeral — a battle I don’t look forward to. Yet, it also means I have the great pleasure of him still holding my hand without shame at fourteen years of age. As we made the long slow walk from the parking lot through the massive hospital to the tenth floor, Elias reached out, took my hand and walked beside me. There are moments as one battles grief when the simple comforting touch of a child’s trusting hand has profound impact. It grounds you back to reality; back to simplicity and innocence. It says, “Remember, there is still deep goodness and beauty in this world.” We walked along this way together.

There is power in the simple innocence of him wanting me to be his father, and of me wanting nothing more than to fulfill that wish. It’s a touch that is so pure and primal it cuts through the pain. You squeeze gently to say, “Forever, child, forever.” So together we walked, fingers entwined, down the halls, up in the elevator ride, to my brother’s room. Months of making that slow sad walk by myself to take my turn, and I think how I almost missed this opportunity to walk it with him together because I feared how he would react.

We stood outside my brother’s room and helped each other into our sterile yellow medical robes that protect Jeremy from outside germs. There is no doubt that wearing these robes telegraphs instantly that all is not well. It’s so clinical and unnatural; it reeks of caution.

Elias could see Jeremy through the glass. His uncle who has been so ravaged by cancer he was now under a hundred and thirty pounds. No longer able to respond to us. My poor brother. His poor uncle. We looked in together.

While Elias is smart as a tack, he can’t always regulate his feelings. The off switch doesn’t always turn off. Fear is FEAR. Grief is GRIEF. Loss is LOSS. He combats this by forcefully avoiding situation like this, talking incessantly about unrelated topics, or escaping into an iPad app or book. Yet Elias had made up in his mind he was going to honor his uncle. He would honor him. He would do it. A compassionate act of will trumping fear and emotion.

Elias and I entered the room. He swallowed hard. He walked up to Jeremy and took his hand. The same hand he used to take mine — a small young hand of deep comfort. He looked at his uncle’s face with such compassion. He stroked Jeremy’s hand softly. “Hi uncle Jeremy, it’s me, Elias.”

There are times for all parents when we see our children emotionally step forward in ways that amaze us. We think, “Where did that come from?” It’s like the times we take a confused look at them, stand them up against the growth marks on the wall and realize they have somehow grown three inches right before our eyes. “Where did that came from?” I tease my son that I do not give him permission to grow anymore, yet for years he has continued to disobey me! He rolls his eyes, it’s a corny joke I still love, that he no longer finds as amusing. But the fact is the same — he is growing in front of my very eyes. Sometimes I am too busy to see it until there is a chance to measure it.

Elias entered this room of sickness, and somehow, though his uncle was hardly recognizable, had the maturity to see the man he loved laying in the bed. He reached out and touched him. He stroked his hand. He said, “I’m sorry uncle Jeremy.” His eyes welled up and he cried as he stood there still holding his hand. This is a side of Elias I know little of. I see my son’s goodness daily — but not this emotional bravery. He didn’t run away and slam the door as he has done when overwhelmed. He didn’t cover his eyes. He just held out a hand of compassion to a very sick man and bravely accepted the emotion as is came over him.

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I am dumbfounded. “Where did this come from?” Who is this young man in front of me? How foolish was I to think I might actually choose to shield him from this? To make the decision for him by simply not asking him if he would be willing to try again. I stand there and look at Elias and my eyes well up. He stands there and looks at his uncle. We are both crying.

There is a word I like that I don’t often get to use – transcendence. It can sound very stuffy and spiritual. In its most broad sense it touches on a moment going beyond the physical and embodying something greater. A moment that rises beyond the simple sum of the parts as something profound and “other” enters in. But transcendence for me doesn’t work unless it’s filled with other words like, sorrow, pain, death, humanity. This room was filled with all those things. My son and I stood smack in the middle of all of it, clad in yellow paper medical gowns. Yet it was more than that. The child touching the hand of his dying uncle and soothing him. That same touch somehow soothing me, his father, across the room. There is no way I could express to Elias how his precious vulnerable tears moved me. I know the cost it is for him to stand there and risk the emotions welling up inside him – the pain dial rising and rising and not shutting off. Yet still he showed sacrificial compassion to a man almost unable to receive it, which healed instead his own weary father who watched in awe across the room. Transcendence. A connection that is almost impossible to express in words. A father receiving a grace from a son. A deep gift I could never have even asked him for in a way he could have understood or hoped to reciprocate — yet he did it anyway, in his simple loving gesture. Transcendence. A moment I could only come close to expressing to him later by looking him directly in his eyes and saying later, “I’m so proud of you.”

I won’t over-sentimentalize this. It was a flash. An extended moment. It wasn’t long before the tears had him retreating to some safe iPad App on the couch before he began to FEEL too much. There was no further discussion on the time there. He didn’t hold my hand on the way back to the car. There was no other comment from him than, “That’s so sad.” We had nasty, worthless drive-through chicken nuggets for dinner.

In some ways I’m embarrassed to say the moment didn’t even sink in for a few days. When people asked how it went, I said, “He did so well.” It wasn’t until sitting up later late at night, sleepless, that I made some of the connections I am writing about now. I guess as parents we think of ourselves as teachers. We help our kids. We comfort them. We give them guidance. But they are humans too, with gifts, and hearts, and needs, and compassion. How foolish to be surprised to discover that sometimes when we hold their hands as we walk along life’s sad corridors, it is they who are actually helping, and comforting, and molding us into better people at the same time.

Thank you Elias. I hope that over the years, as I have struggled to be the dad you need, you have seen me grow too, and at times smiled and said to yourself, “Where did that come from?”

~~ Joel

You are my king, my hero, the greatest blessing I have ever received from God

On October 11, 2003 Jeremy and I were married in the Orthodox Church. One of the elements of the service involves “crowning” in which the bride and groom receive crowns united by ribbon, representing their union in Christ. The priest says “Crown them with Glory and Honor.” The crowns also symbolize the heavenly crowns we receive when we enter paradise. They are a reminder that marriage involves “dying of self” in the same way that we die to self so that Christ can live in us. After the marriage ceremony, the crowns are typically displayed in a case above the bed as a constant reminder of the holy state of marriage.

When a spouse leaves this earthly world for their heavenly home, it is traditional for the ribbon uniting the marriage crowns to be cut with the crown being buried with the beloved, representing the heavenly crown that person has received. The symbolism is beautiful. To learn more about this, you can read here:
http://www.orthodoxweddingcrowns.com/crownhistory.php

On Tuesday morning, I said morning prayers with Jeremy one last time. These are and were very meaningful to him, a ritual he insisted on doing every day in the hospital even after he lost his ability to talk. There were two prayers that we especially loved praying together:

Traditional prayer for a married couple

O Merciful God, we beseech Thee ever to remind us that the married state is holy, and that we must keep it so; Grant us Thy grace, that we may continue in faithfulness and love; Increase in us the spirit of mutual understanding and trust, that no quarrel or strife may come between us; Grant us Thy blessings, that we may stand before our fellows and in Thy sight as an ideal family; And finally, by Thy mercy, account us worthy of everlasting life: For Thou art our sanctification, and to Thee we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Orthodox Prayers of Parents for their Children:

O God, our heavenly Father, who lovest mankind and art most merciful and compassionate, have mercy upon Thy servants, Eliana Lysette, Nehemiah David and Anelise Caryn, for whom we humbly pray Thee and commend to Thy gracious care and protection.

Be Thou, O God, their guide and guardian in all their endeavors, lead them in the path of Thy truth, and draw them nearer to Thee, that they may lead a godly and righteous life in Thy love and fear, doing Thy will in all things.

Give them grace that they may be temperate, industrious, diligent, devout, and charitable.

Defend them against the assaults of the enemy, and grant them wisdom and strength to resist all temptation and corruption of this life, and direct them in the way of salvation:

Through the merits of Thy Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the intercessions of His Most-Holy Mother and of all Thy blessed Saints. Amen.

As you have received your crown of glory my beloved, I will continue to pray these prayers with you. Thank you for wanting me, pursing me, marrying me and constantly “dying to self” throughout our 10 years of marriage. You are my king, my hero, the greatest blessing I have ever received from God.

~~ Angela

The Mains voice rises again

I have just read my son Joel Mains’ post about his brother Jeremy who died at 41 two days ago. I am overwhelmed.

Fifteen years ago, the Enemy, through the misguided efforts of some Christian brothers and sisters, attempted to close down the Mains family creative voice. Angela Mains, Jeremy’s wife and now widow, has risen through these many months as an articulate and honest chronicler of her husband’s journey through cancer to death. Melissa Mains Timberlake, Jeremy’s sister, has posted breathtaking observations. Now Joel Mains’ voice has risen. And Angela is beginning to go through Jeremy’s diarys and journals finding exquisite writings.

Glory be to God! No matter death. No matter slander. No matter onslaught. No matter devastation. The Enemy is defeated. The Mains voice rises again–in multiple replications and with decades more of continuing expression. HAH! We win!

~~ David AndKaren Mains

The ideal servant

One thing I will miss tremendously is the sight of Jeremy on his computer, journaling, crafting his thoughts. Since the pain of his passing is still so fresh, I hesitate to explore too much but I know he left behind a treasure chest full of his deepest thoughts, wishes and dreams. I know that I can go there often, especially when I’m lonely and I will again have the ability to hear Jeremy’s voice, learn some new thought he had or gain a better understanding of his hopes and dreams for his life, our marriage and our children. It is an unbelievable gift to have these treasures. I know I will seek solace in the many, many documents he left behind.

While we were preparing his obituary today I couldn’t help but think that I was sure Jeremy had already thought of how he would want to be remembered. I’m sure he has processed it out at some point and it was somewhere hidden on his desktop. I haven’t been able to explore too much just yet, but I have found something he wrote in April 2005 about being an “ideal servant”. So bittersweet to read, knowing Jeremy most definitely was the ideal servant even unto his very last breath.

Jeremy wrote:

THE IDEAL SERVANT

1. The ideal servant is unquestioningly obedient to his lord in every area.
2. The ideal servant trusts implicitly in the judgement of his lord and does not question his lord’s decisions.
3. The ideal servant is always at the ready. He is always at his lord’s disposal to be used in whatever way his lord sees fit.
4. The ideal servant is humble and knows his place.
5. The ideal servant is uncomplaining in fulfilling his responsibilities.
6. The ideal servant knows his lord well, and shows initiative by continuously anticipating ways to be of service to his lord. He attunes himself to his master’s thoughts and wishes.
7. The ideal servant is honest in all his dealings.
8. The ideal servant makes his lord’s wishes his highest priority, never placing his own desires above his lord’s.
9. The ideal servant willingly sacrifices himself on behalf of his lord to the point of giving his life.
10. The ideal servant shows enthusiasm and dispatch in fulfilling his duties.
11. The ideal servant is grateful to his lord for his provisions and satisfied with his place.
12. The ideal servant assumes a mantle of his lord’s authority when fulfilling his lord’s duties, bearing his lord’s name with pride and confidence.

Luke 17:7: “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.”

~~ Angela

These are sacred days

It seems fitting to me that it has been raining so much these past hours. I’d like to think heaven has opened up, pouring down on us Jeremy’s tears of joy as he hears “Well, done my good and faithful servant.”

These are sacred days.

Uncle Jeremy. I miss you

Yesterday was a very hard day. My uncle Jeremy passed away from cancer. I know that he is in a better place and with God in heaven…but I miss him. Uncle Jeremy, thank you for always being such a good uncle to me. I always bragged about how you could speak Spanish! This, I thought was very cool. I loved to just listen to you talk to your kids in Spanish, it didn’t even matter what you were saying! I love you Uncle Jeremy. I miss you, but I know you’re not gone.You’re just in a different place.. Thank you for being such an amazing uncle to me. Thank you for helping me with school projects and taking me on trips like going to the zoo with you and Aunt Angela. I love these memories and found moments very special and dear to my heart. Thank you for never forgetting my birthday. I loved always getting a birthday card from you.You were always interested in me.The compassion you have for others is something a lot of people don’t have. I love and miss you, Uncle Jeremy. I still can’t believe this is all real.

Josie Timberlake

Remembering Jeremy

Here are confirmed details for this week (others coming):

Thursday, 11-7-13
> Visitation from 3-9pm
Williams-Woodward Funeral Home
820 Pine St. West Chicago, IL 60185 (Route 59 & Pine St)
Phone:(630) 231-1300

Friday, 11-8-13
> Funeral 12 Noon
St. Athanasios Greek Orthodox Church
1855 5th Ave, Aurora, IL 60504
(630) 231-1300
Interment at the Glen Oak Cemetery

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Jeremy B. Mains Children’s Fund, c/o Williams-Woodward Funeral Home, are appreciated.

Sunday, 11-10-13
> Open Home for Family, Friends, Guests 2-7pm
Doug & Melissa Timberlake Farm
2805 W. Justen Road, McHenry, IL 60050
1-630-677-1517

 

Matthew 19:30

“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” KJV

Hey Bro – you were the last in our family – the youngest child – the third brother.

But you are the first to enter Eternity. You are the first to walk into Heaven. You are the first to see Jesus face to face – the first to get His full embrace. You are the first to be told “Well done, Jeremy, my good and faithful servant. Well done. You fought the good fight. You ran the good race. You were faithful until the end.” You are the first to experience LIFE in a place without pain and suffering – enjoy! You are the first to be re-united with our grandparents. You are first now. You are first.

Jer – you fought the good fight. Now hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.

You make me so proud to call you my brother Jer. You make me so proud to have known you. Goodbye for today. Goodbye for now. I will see you again soon. I love you Bro.

~~ Randall

What Words Can Possibly Be Said?

Yesterday my dear brother and friend went to be with the Lord he loved so dearly. He had battled an insidious form of cancer for months, and fought valiantly to the end. Many if you have so graciously followed and supported our family as you have read our mourning, hopeful posts about his fight. Know that all your fervent prayers (from saints and professed sinners alike) and kind words have humbled me. It’s easy to be cynical of Facebook and other social media for their trivial nature, posts on our pets, or the meals we have eaten, but for me, on many a difficult day, I have been touched by your kind, caring comments. Many a despairing nights I have thought, “Why am I writing this? Who would possibly care?” only to discover that the words would connect with someone else’s own story. Often it was the comments of a distant friend or someone who had only seen the link. There is a profound human connection to this that is still a mystery.

So now I settle in after a long, sad, draining day, and I think, “What words can possibly be said? How does one even honor a loved one’s life on a post?” That task is beyond me. So I apologize to my brother Jeremy, and his loving wife Angela, and my dear parents David and Karen who raised him so well, that my words will be a poor reflection of this amazing man.

Jeremy was an artist. His work was beautiful, whimsical, and profound. Yet as amazing as he was at with pen and ink, it was never as satisfying for him as connecting with people. He loved people. He loved people from other countries. He was a learner of languages. (Spanish & Mandarin) He would say, “The greatest way you can show a culture honor is to speak their language well.” Books and vocabulary lists would never be enough for him — it was the humans behind the words he loved. When he wanted to learn words about a barber he would go get his hair cut at a non-English speaking shop and do his best to get the cut he wanted. When I pointed out he was sporting a rather bad trim, he was undeterred, “True, but now I KNOW the right words! Plus the barber told me this amazing story . . . ” Hair grows back, right?

He truly craved knowledge — not the half a Time magazine article type of knowledge I specialize in — but the seminal 1200 page definitive tome on ancient China type of knowledge. The type of books people only buy to fill large gaps in their bookshelves and make vague promised to someday read. The books on his selves were read often. And he would use his knowledge to challenge my strong opinions with a simple, “Is this actually based on something definitive, or is it simply speculation?” Admit to spouting strong unfounded opinions enough times, and eventually you will discover the great joy in having an opinion founded on actual fact! Thank you for that Jeremy. My life has been better because of you – and the world has had to listen to a lot less of my strongly stated baloney as well.

Jeremy loved making lists. Endless lists. The list of classical music everyone should know. The lists of songs to take with his cancer pills when he needed inspiration to get them down. List of books to read. Lists of places to visit. Lists of plans for each child — he had over 180 books in his Amazon cue of “important books” for his children to read some day. For a couple of years I had been buying him Newberry Award winners at thrift shops because he simply wanted to read them all. He had great plans for his kids, and much of his earlier hospital time was jotting down ways to make their lives intentional, and special.

Jeremy loved to laugh deeply – often leaning his head back and clapping his hands. “Joel, you don’t laugh right. You just grunt and say, ‘that’s funny!” He loved his wife. He loved his kids. He loved his parents and family. He loved his simple town of West Chicago with its Railroad Day Festivals, and Cinco de Mayo parades. We was not ashamed of its diminished status compared to the Naperville’s and Geneva’s that surrounded it. He was not a small town thinker, but he was an unabashedly small town lover. He relished the fact that his kids could enter into a predominately Spanish speaking classroom. In a great test of fortitude, Jeremy only spoke to his children in Spanish – making them bi-lingual. He will be buried in the cemetery next to Reed-Keppler Park – under the big trees he loved. A fitting resting place.

Jeremy challenged my habit of jumping to mental conclusions, and blurting out half-baked ideas, and I challenged him on seeing the world less as an obstacle and more as a place for opportunity. Over the years as life knocked us about with its endless waves of happiness and pain, it was those long discussions with him that gave life such flavor. Having the phone ring and hearing his voice say, “Hey bro, it’s Jer.” would usually only come to an end with one of our wives sighing and asking us to come set the table – “leave the problems of the world for another day.” How does one replace that?

For months now his wife and family, and gracious friends have kept vigil around his bed. Very rarely was he alone. We have been by his side. Holding his hands tightly as they sucked out his lungs. Rubbing his legs and feet to combat bedsores. Walking him through the halls baby steps by baby steps. As he lost his ability to talk we asked him laborious yes or no questions to discover what he needed through a squeezing hand. We prattled away in one-sided conversations and spun plans for when he got better. And we also sat with silent tears streaming down our cheeks as we saw him fade from us. Together we discovered what it is to love someone to the very end. We have seen the tired lines across each other’s faces. It cost deeply, but you do it without hesitation.

Yesterday we gathered around this precious man — his body shrunken by months of battle. We are tired. We are weak. But we were with him to the end. We spoke words of love over him. We cried over him. We prayed over him. We took turns holding his weakening hands and feet. Finally, without struggle, he passed on in the company of those who loved him so dearly.

There is no handbook for this type of thing. No, “Dealing with Death for Dummies,” book that would do any good. We all bumble through. We scream and spit, and step on each other’s raw emotions in some vain attempt to satiate our own pain, and some desperate desire honor to a brother/son/husband/father/uncle’s life. We couldn’t save him. We couldn’t fix him. We couldn’t love him back to health. But we were there, amidst our failings, united in love for this amazing man, none of us could let go.

Brother, I can’t believe you’re gone! I ache. I cry. I shake my head. You made me a better man, and the world around you was brighter because of you.

I love you, and already miss you so much. I will forever hear the phone ring and for a moment expect to hear on the other end, “Hey bro, it’s Jer.”

~~ Joel

Until we meet again…I’ll always, always miss you

Jeremy, my little brother,

My heart aches with how deeply I miss you already. Truth be told, I’m wasn’t ready to say goodbye. My body sobs at the thought of you no longer being here with us on this earth. I’ll miss so many of the little things that made you uniquely you–the way you’d throw your head back and you’d clap your hands when you’d laugh, the freckles on the back of your hands, your delight in reminiscing about family memories. I miss you, Jeremy. I’ll miss the scar on the side of your eyebrow from the stitches you had when you were little, the enthusiasm you had for learning, hearing you speak Spanish to your kids. I miss you, Jeremy. I’ll miss how much you loved to dream and plan, the way you didn’t hold grudges but chose to forgive, your ability to mimic foreign accents. You, my sweet brother, are missed. Your love for the Lord, your deep faith, your heart of compassion, your amazing artistic talent, how you were such a truly remarkable dad and husband, son, brother, and friend. Jeremy, I miss you. I’ll miss how stubborn you were, how you’d stick to your principles, how you refused to compromise. I’ll miss your great hand massages, the lumpy mashed potatoes you’d make at holidays, hearing you sing and watching you dance, the way you could talk on and on for hours. Jeremy, my little brother, I miss you. I’ll miss how proud your were of our parents, how much you thought of their legacy and of yours, how you loved music and travel. Jeremy, I miss you. I’ll miss your passion for life, your warmth and enthusiasm, and your approachable and generously accepting presence. Jeremy, no doubt, you made the world more beautiful. You constantly inspired me to be a better person. I miss you. You gifted me abundantly with the countless ways you loved and embraced life. Your life continually blessed mine. I love you, sweet brother.

Until we meet again…I’ll always, always miss you.

Your big sister,

~~ Melissa Mains Timberlake

May his beautiful memory be eternal

At 3:40pm CST heaven got a lot more beautiful as it opened its gates and welcome my beloved. He was surrounded by the love of family and friends. It was as it should be -peaceful and blameless. At the moment he was gone, I was covered in peace and knew he had arrived. He had finished his race and he let me know he crossed the finish line.

May his beautiful memory be eternal.

~~ Angela

Phil. 4:8 – One of Jeremy’s favorites

One of Jeremy’s favorites…and all those who know this amazing man know he put this into practice.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Phil. 4:8

~~ Angela

God’s sweet presence is clearly with us

5 months ago my youngest brother, Jeremy, was diagnosed with Blastic Mantle Cell Lymphoma. Tonight our family gathered together to surround Jeremy, hold him, tell him we love him, to say goodbye and to prepare ourselves to let him go. Heart wrenching day. Profound day. Day filled with tears, deep painful grieving, and moments of joy in remembering what an amazing impact Jeremy’s life has had. Anguish and beauty. And in the midst of it all, God’s sweet presence is clearly with us. We anticipate saying our final goodbyes tomorrow.

~~ Mellisa Mains-Timberlake

We won’t ever have this time again

Brutal, heart-wrenching day but I’m so grateful for this time, these precious moments. While holding his hand, I’m letting him go. It is sweet, gentle, tragic and beautiful.

Holding vigil by his side tonight. I can’t stand the thought of him alone. Grateful my brother is here with me. It will be a long night that will go by too fast. We won’t ever have this time again.  ~~ Angela