This Is How We Grieve

My father died in the early morning hours of Father’s Day, about a month ago. My husband and I have been keeping my mother company since then. We’re grateful for flexible schedules — an upside of being a writer married to a teacher on summer vacation.

As the days pass, we are finding our way to a new normal. Lots of visits with old friends. Everyday tasks. Mentioning Dad whenever it feels right, which is often. As much sleep as we can manage, and a walk every evening.

Now and then we do something fun. Last week we spent a lovely afternoon and evening on the beach at Lake Michigan, at Holland SP. This week we decided to be even more adventurous and took a 2-night trip “up north” to the Grayling, MI area. We walked a one-mile loop through Hartwick Pines SP, enjoying old growth red pines, white pines, and hemlock. Along the way, a sudden late afternoon rainstorm forced us to seek shelter in a small chapel. Sanctuary! After that the path was a bit steeper than we expected, and we didn’t have an umbrella, but we persevered. And at the end, we laughed and had a good meal.

My mother, as always, is teaching me by example. This is how we manage, day by day. This is how we grieve.

The Big Red Lighthouse at Holland SP


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Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review of RUINED

Here is the Publisher’s Weekly starred review of my upcoming memoir, RUINED:

In her second memoir, Presbyterian pastor Everhart (Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land) reflects on being sexually assaulted when she was a college student, the assault’s emotional aftermath, and its theological implications. Raised in an insulated Dutch community and the Christian Reformed Church, Everhart’s worldview was forever changed when two men broke into her apartment and raped her. She asks where God was during the brutality, whether she was being punished for her sexual experiences, and how a God who wills everything could will something so terrible to happen. In addition to her theological analysis, Everhart is at her best when dismantling the sexism that surrounds rape. She recounts how she sucked in her stomach when asked to strip because, “that’s how thoroughly [she] had internalized the fact that a woman should make herself attractive to the eyes of a man.” She recalls her anger when the doctor who performed her rape kit referred to her rapist as a “clown.” She looks at why many people treat rape differently from other injuries and reminds readers that rape cannot make women less whole. Everhart also includes examples of how churches can provide support to rape survivors. This is a touching and empowering story of healing. Agent: Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary. (Aug.)

Service of Thanksgiving & Remembrance for the Life of Nicholas Huizenga

held at Church of the Servant, June 22, 2016

My father wrote the liturgy for his memorial service many years before his death. Working with it now, I felt very close to him, for I have planned and conducted so many funerals. Years ago Dad asked me to send him a list of suitable scriptures. He did a good job choosing —  one reading is very typical for memorial services, the other reading was not on the list — an unusual but appropriate choice.

As I prepared to post this liturgy, I wondered what it was like for my Dad to type out certain lines of text, such as the Prayer of Committal with his own name listed. Knowing him, I am sure that the typing brought tears to his eyes — tears of joy at the thought of being reunited with his Creator/ Redeemer/ Sustainer at last, and tears of grief at leaving my mother and all of this wonderful world. It is a source of comfort to all of us left behind that he was so firm in his faith and sure of his salvation. It was also a kind and generous act for Dad to prepare his own liturgy, saving us the last minute flurry of trying to get it right. His final illness went by very quickly and it was an overwhelming experience for all of us, as he died at home. There was a lot to manage physically, medically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was glad for the way the events went, I’m just acknowledging that it was a very packed span of days. I still feel a bit stunned.

The memorial service was held mid-week, and attended by more than 200 people. As my nephew commented, everyone should live so well that they make it to age 90 and there are hundreds of people who mourn your passing.

There were eight or so musicians who volunteered their time to play a variety of instruments, including strings. My sister Susan Joy Cleveland played in the duet. As she said, “I can play the violin and cry at the same time.” The singing was superb. Say what you will about the Dutch Reformed denominations, these folk know how to sing. I will paste the whole liturgy below the photo. See if you can spot the quotations from the Heidelberg Catechism and the Puritans’ Valley of Vision.

Rev. Jack Roeda preaching at the Memorial Service for Nicholas Huizenga, 22 June 2016

Rev. Jack Roeda preaching at the Memorial Service for Nicholas Huizenga, 22 June 2016

Prelude, ending with violin duet: I Know that My Redeemer Liveth

Lighting of the Resurrection Candle (by Timothy Scott Crane)


Leader: The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which passes all understanding, be with you all.

People: Amen.


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Obituary for My Dad, Nicholas J. Huizenga

September 20, 1925 - June 19, 2016

Nicholas J. Huizenga

Nicholas J. Huizenga

Nicholas John Huizenga, of Grand Rapids, MI died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family on June 19, 2016. He was 90 years old.

Nick is survived by his wife of 64 years, Joan Huizenga (nee Katte); their children, Mary Lynn (Roger) Wesorick of Wyoming, MI, Timothy (Annette) Huizenga of Chicago, IL, Ruth (Douglas) Everhart of Sterling, VA, Beth (Rich) Huizenga-Murillo of San Francisco, CA and Susan (Bennett) Cleveland of Grand Rapids, MI; 13 grandchildren; and 11(+) great-grandchildren.

He is preceded in death by his parents, John and Gertrude Huizenga of Lansing, IL, and his three brothers, Bartel Huizenga of Visalia, CA, Gerald Huizenga and James Huizenga of Highland, IN. He is survived by his four sisters, Annamae VanDrunen of Lansing, IL, Kathryn Rottenberg of San Diego, CA, Carol Kapteyn of Lansing, IL and Joan Vredeveld of Ann Arbor, MI.

Nick was born on September 20, 1925 in Highland, IN. After graduating from Chicago Christian High School in 1943, he received an army deferment and worked on the Zandstra farm. He began studies at Calvin College in September of 1945, and was drafted in October. He served his country for 14 months, then returned to his studies. In his last year at Calvin he met the one and only love of his life, Joan Katte. After graduating, he taught for one year at Highland Christian School (Highland, IN). In August of 1951 he married Joan in Sunnyside, WA after hitch-hiking across the country to ask her parents’ blessing and having many adventures along the way.


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Life Doesn’t Have Chapter Breaks

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meme2_Ruth Everhart memoir challenge

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