Cynthia gone one year

The Lord isn’t always very pastoral with me. A couple times when the pain of loss was still severely new and chronic, I cried out, “I can’t do this!” And He replied, “Yes you can; you’ve gone through worse.” And remembering, I had to agree. He got me through those times, and He’s gotten me through this past year too. Glory to His Name. The moments of intense sorrow take place more seldom now, but one of them happened just last month in Hawaii. I was walking back from a wonderful talk with Phil & Amy, thinking that it was 30 years earlier when Cynthia and I went to Kona to help Loren and Howard get the University going; ten years now since Howard’s passing; and how proud both Howard and Cynthia would be to see Phil & Amy now on staff at that campus. Sudden tears, one more time . . .
Some of you heard that I found the missing gift certificates in January. I had given Cynthia one for Christmas 2011, she loved going to Schilliger’s garden center here in the Spring. She especially loved the anticipation of having a gift certificate so she could choose what she liked.
But she hid them away, and I didn’t know where. When I was looking through some files in my office, I found the envelope! Not just the one I’d given her, but 4 others too. So the other day I went to Schilliger’s with Marie and Patricia and we got some more flowers for her grave (see attached photo). Cynthia’s certificates will help me inundate our apartment and garden with flowers this year . . . she will bless many again.
Steve & Marie are God-sent here again, exactly one year later. We met at the grave today, along with Richard & Elaine, Doris, Derek, and Eliane H. We read the 23rd Psalm together, as we did over Cynthia three times a day during her last weeks here. Richard’s idea was to share bread and wine at the grave; I brought the bread, the last loaf of banana bread that Cynthia baked and froze. She always baked it to share, it was part of her hospitality. I found it at the bottom of the freezer, it was still good. And still blessing others . . . . Springtime is bringing all the flowers out now; another sign that life triumphs over death. Hallelujah!


Cynthia 11 months gone

I thought I was going to get through Christmas OK, until Elaine brought over a Christmas present that she had found while sorting, that Cynthia had planned for me: 4 new books, a note saying “for Tom – Noel” and the attached blessing. I shed quite a few tears that day . . .

It hit me hard, since it seems like she wrote it as a farewell to me.

I think she found it on the internet, since it’s written on the scratch paper that comes off our printer. I found it yesterday, under “I wish for you . . . comfort . . .”, it’s attributed to both Theodore Roethke and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

But Cynthia changed it to “I hope for you . . . “ as you can see. Then she added the prayer at the bottom, I found that on none of the internet versions. And what struck me was when she wrote “when you go on your way”: the other times she wrote prayers on cards for me, it was always “we” and “our”. It’s as if she knew that I would be going on alone . . . and going through a serious tribulation.

She sent me her hopes from beyond the veil, just like it says in Hebrews 6 . . .

When did she write it? It can’t have been too long after the sickness set in, because her handwriting looks perfectly normal and there are no errors. Was this another of those deep premonitions of her soon departure?

I didn’t want to write an 8-month-gone post and have people cry on Christmas . . . so I’ve waited until now.

Receive Cynthia’s last blessing, it’s for you too. And remember as you ponder the Resurrection in these days, it’s not just a past event, nor a future event, nor a doctrine. It’s a Person, and His Name is Jesus . . . and Cynthia is already there with Him.


See the attached link below:


Thanksgiving letter 7 months gone

For many years, I believe over 30, Cynthia and I sent out our annual letter around the time of the American Thanksgiving celebration in late November; and its theme was always thankfulness, what we were grateful for during the past year.  This year, nearly 7 months after her passing, I will write the letter by myself; but the theme is the same.

I am thankful for Cynthia’s life; she brought the life and joy of the Lord to so many people, in so many ways.  And I am so thankful that I knew her for 40 years, and that we were married for over 38  years.  And that her death was relatively quick, and that she is now free from pain and living in perfect light and love.

I’m thankful for Phil & Amy, and the steps of faith they continue to take.  They are doing so well together, and in the Lord.  I’m planning on seeing them, and several others of my family, in the USA in February and March.

I’m thankful for my God-given ministry, the joy I have in helping people back to hope, and helping them cast off their Cinderella rags and enter more firmly into their royal positions.  Working with young leaders is so fulfilling for me.

The tears flow less often now, although I still catch myself thinking, “I must tell Cynthia about this . . . .”  I’m thankful for the stages of grief, and that we move through them in the measured and stately way of the changing of the seasons.  The Lord made us so well.

I’m thankful for my life at this stage: my health is better than it’s been for years, my weight is going down, my energy levels are up, and I’m surrounded with affection.  I flow between my circles of covenantal love, invite myself shamelessly for meals and visits, and live each moment with an intensity and a clarity I have not known since I was converted over 41 years ago . . . .

The extroversion and desire for company continue to develop in me, and I not only cry more easily but laugh and shout more too.

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”
John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

               Prayer requests:

That I can finish my first book before the end of January 2013.  It’s doable, if you pray for me.  I have an increasing sense of urgency to get this done, the need out there is huge.

That I can have long-term housing that won’t change; the leaders of the Burtigny base are working with me on this project.

That I can continue to be a source of blessing to many.

And dear ones, I am so thankful for you.  Even though I have not been able to respond to you as well as I should have, I have been overwhelmed by your kindnesses.  May your Christmas season be the best one ever, and may you be “ever mindful of the Presence of the Lord”.

Cynthia 6 months gone

Cynthia Bench

Today, six months after Cynthia’s passing on, I took the geraniums out of her grave since frost is predicted for the weekend.  I repotted them and will move them to the cellar to overwinter, and they will bloom again next Spring.  Anouchka will put some winter plants in the grave tomorrow . . . going to the cemetery is still the hardest thing I do.

Below is a potpourri of things people have sent me over the past month, and a few of my random musings.

After I confessed my secret dancing last month, a friend told me about Lee Ann Womack and her song “I hope you dance”.  The version I like the best on YouTube is her original video, I love watching the toddler and her solemn big sister.  Of course Lee Ann is easy on the eyes, too.

Affection: hugs mean so much to me now.  They are healing.  Thanks to those in my circles of covenental love who know how to give and receive them – you know who you are.  “Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.”  — C. S. Lewis

Link to hear my Harpenden GLG message in English:

Where to order my 16 September message in French at the Yverdon seminar:

After the stages of grief and the waves and waves of tears, my emotions are much more on the surface now, and I’m hoping that will continue to be the case . . . to my amazement.  My son tells me I’m sounding like a teenager!  And this just before I turn 65 in December.

I’m being more direct in my communication and teaching, not so diplomatic . . . I have less and less patience for foolish conventions, especially the Christian religious ones which are not found in the New Testament.  The Lord brings me such joy, His Presence is so manifest to me in these days.  Glory to His precious name.

“The weight of this sad time, we must obey; speak what we feel, not what we ought to say…the oldest has borne the most.” King Lear

Six different people have brought Richard Rohr into my life this year, and I am listening to some of his teachings.  Here is part of what one friend wrote:  “A few months ago, I read a book by a Franciscan monk named Richard Rohr – called Falling Upwards: A Theology for the Two Halves of Life. So far I have to say, he has done the best job of articulating a rationale, so to speak, as to why such difficult things happen.”

“When you get the choice to sit it out or dance . . . I hope you dance.”

I’m not going to sit it out . . . .

Cynthia left 5 months ago

Cynthia left us 5 months ago:

Francis Schaeffer said we should always start with the bad news, and end with the good.

So here goes with the bad news; and please fasten your seat belts because it’s not just bad, it’s brutal:

Everyone close to you is going to die.  Most will go peacefully we hope, but some will die in horrific accidents, some with wasting diseases.

And the Lord is not going to heal all of them, even though He could.

Why not?  Why does He not control every detail of everything on earth, and make it all better?

Because He set this world up for love, not for control; and as Jan Amos Comenius said, “There is no control in love . . .”

Love risks, and as the other old song says, “love hurts”.  Besides, He left us the job of making everything better, for all of Creation.

There are no guarantees on this earth; the guarantees are only in Eternity.  He indeed promises us eternal love and eternal life, but down here we have no contracts with the Lord; He owes us nothing, because He has already given us everything.

We need to remember how many times each of us have prayed, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven . . .” and not be surprised when His will is done, and not ours.  We blithely forget our prayers; but He does not.  He takes our prayers so much more seriously than we do . . .

As the old saying goes, Today is all we have, and it’s a gift . . . that’s why it’s called “the present”.

So here is some good news, there are some strategies for living that work for me:

The most important is to lean into the Lord (NB: best to have learned how to do this before the unthinkable happens . . .)

Read the book ‘Heaven is for Real’ if you haven’t already – Cynthia did

Laugh daily, through the tears if necessary (hang out with little kids, they laugh a lot more than adults do)

Watch at least one sunset a day

Eat all the Swiss chocolate you can

Adopt as many flowers as you can handle

Tend your relationships even better than your flowers, because they are your greatest treasures . . . they are the only things you can take with you into eternity.

Dance as if nobody’s watching (yes, there is one song that used to get me dancing when alone in my living room, and no, it’s not going up on YouTube, and no, I’m not even telling you which song it is)

Love all you can

Live as if there’s no tomorrow – because sometimes there isn’t, here on this old earth.

Bye now, I’m off to spend time with my flowers; but maybe I’ll put that song on and dance a little first, it’s been a long time since I’ve done that . . .

Cynthia left 4 months ago

Thanks again for praying for my health, I am completely over the shingles and am even back near my old energy levels; although I’m still on a reduced schedule because several have warned me that it can return if stress levels get too high.  I taught in 2 of our schools in Lausanne last week, and gave a seminar in Burtigny last weekend on the theme “Toward a New Reformation” based on lessons from 16th-century Geneva.  This week Maureen and her team are beginning our new Executive Master’s MA program with a group of mature students, so I’m spending time with them.  I know many since they are long-time leaders in our mission, so it’s fun for me to have them here.  Tuesday I taught them in my garden about Principles of Spiritual Development from the plant world.

Below is the poem that was printed in the program of Carolyn Gay Malmstadt’s memorial service last Friday; Jon found it in a file of poems that she had kept.  It is apparently quite well known, but I had never seen it; and I couldn’t find the author’s name, either.  But it was certainly written by someone who had walked through that dark valley of the shadow; and the last stanzas are a powerful encouragement for those of us who remain here below.

Blessings on you all,




I am home in Heaven, dear ones;
Oh, so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty
In this everlasting light.

All the pain and grief is over,
Every restless tossing passed;
I am now at peace forever,
Safely home in Heaven at last.

Did you wonder I so calmly
Trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! but Jesus’ love illumined
Every dark and fearful glade.

And He came Himself to meet me
In that way so hard to tread;
And with Jesus’ arm to lean on,
Could I have one doubt or dread?

Then you must not grieve so sorely,
For I love you dearly still:
Try to look beyond earth’s shadows,
Pray to trust our Father’s Will.

There is work still waiting for you,
So you must not idly stand;
Do it now, while life remaineth-
You shall rest in Jesus’ land.

When that work is all completed,
He will gently call you Home;
Oh, the rapture of that meeting,
Oh, the joy to see you come!


Cynthia’s Mother is with the Lord

101 days after Cynthia left us, Carolyn Gay Malmstadt departed to be reunited with her husband, Howard, and her daughter Cynthia. While having dinner on Saturday evening with her son Jon, God called her home and she was released from her suffering here on earth.  I agree with Marie that they must have had an amazing reunion in Heaven, and we can be sure that Cynthia was insisting to the angels that she was going to organize the hospitality.

This event is actually an answer to prayer; ever since Howard’s passing in 2003, Carolyn talked of her longing to join him in Heaven.  We prayed increasingly, especially the past three years as her difficulties increased, that the Lord would take her quickly and painlessly.  Over three months ago she became too weak to talk much at all, and the past two weeks had difficulty in breathing.  But the Lord was faithful, and she went with no pain or protracted suffering, and did not have to spend a day in a hospital or nursing home.

Please do remember the family in prayer as this is another great loss; a beloved aunt of Cynthia’s passed away too, about the same time she did.  Pray especially for Cynthia’s brother  Jon who is alone in Michigan and has cared for his mom around the clock for many years.  Plans are in process for a memorial service and burial.

Thanks so much,