I'd like to share a very special piece of music with you today. The thing that makes it special is the fact that this was the last melody my mum heard. It was Saturday a week ago when I spent the whole day in the hospital and we talked about everything that we could talk about. At one point we started discussing something about music, and there was a song she wanted me to play to her from Youtube. I played that song and then couple of others, the last one being Estonian composer Heino Eller's (1887-1970) romantic Homeland Melody. It's a tune every Estonian knows and appreciates. By that time she couldn't move much any more but she was still able to move her left hand. So I sat quietly on her bed side in almost dark hospital room, we listened to this beautiful music... and for the very last time she conducted. Conducted with her left hand. I will never forget that moment.


The funeral was held on Sunday. I don't want to talk about it much. I completely broke down in the end of the funeral. But what made me glad was to see her legacy lasting, people who had sung with her conducting the choir at almost every bigger church event came together to sing to her for one more time. There were almost 60 people in the choir on Sunday. And they sounded beautifully in that big old Lutheran church. My mum would have been proud.


I'd like to end this year with a quote from Anne M. Lindbergh. "Don't wish me happiness - I don't expect to be happy, it's gotten beyond that, somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor - I will need them all." This is my New Year's wish for you, my dear friends. I wish you courage and strength and a sense of humor for 2014. Be blessed, stay strong.


Should it happen that I manage to live a truly remarkable life, I'll write down my memoirs one day. And there certain people will be mentioned. I'm not quite sure why but I just know that there in my autobiography two friends will get their own chapter. Don't get me wrong, there have been many great and influential people in my life, people whose friendship I really haven't deserved, people who have given me way more than they know, people who have mentored and guided me. And maybe I should write a whole book about and for them. But right now my guts tell me that there will be at least two special chapters in my memoirs. One will be dedicated to U. And the other one to MJ.

MJ arrived here on December 17, and she just left today. So she was the only person who really witnessed the last sad chapter of one drama, and a few pages of a new (sad) story. She was here, she saw us losing hope, saw us breaking down, saw us hurrying to the hospital early on Monday morning. And honestly, I wouldn't and couldn't have made it through this time without her. It's not only that she was a shoulder to cry on or that she was here comforting us, she literally took over our kitchen and the whole household for a week. She did all our grocery shopping for us (and found it terribly funny when people stopped and stared at her on the street and in the grocery store - oh gosh, we live in such a dump!), she cooked every day, she bossed my little brother around and made him clean up after himself (we had a few good laughs about it), she made me get up and eat and go out and sit in the cafes and go for walks. She literally forced me to continue LIVING. Without her me and my dad would look like skeletons now. And would probably feel like skeletons, too.

I just walked back from the bus station and waved my brother and MJ goodbye as they got on the bus to Tallinn. And I said to God, You repay her for all the goodness and love that she brought to our home at the hardest time of our lives, I don't have anything to give her, so I trust you'll do it.

I don't know. There aren't many things in this world that touch and amaze me more than utter selflessness does.

Safe travels, MJ! Always remember, my home is your home.


My mum had a request last week. She asked if we could come to her in the hospital after the Christmas service in our church and sing her couple of Christmas songs. We said, Of course, mum, we'll come. But deep down I knew I wouldn't have emotional or mental strength for it, I knew I would just break down after the first bar of Silent Night. Well, as you know, she didn't live to see the Christmas Eve. So there was no singing needed.

But the whole thing kept bugging me yesterday. So in the evening when we were getting ready for the first Christmas service without my mum conducting the choir and sitting next to my dad, I said to him, Dad, I think we should still go to the hospital and sing. I think we should still try to keep the promise we made her. We can't sing to her but we can sing to the nurses who took care of her. Dad agreed, everyone else agreed. So after the Christmas service (which really turned into a memorial service; I've never seen a church crying for anyone like Pärnu church is crying for my mum) we rushed to the hospital. We went up to the 6th floor and told the nurses why we were there, they were very surprised but they invited us to the common room and invited other patients to come, too. And you wouldn't believe, WE SANG. We sang the Christmas songs, in four part harmony, a capella. Including Silent Night. And it felt just amazing. First, because we had managed to keep the promise, and second, because I know it would have brought a big smile on her face. She would have been proud of us.


It's good to be together. We cry and we laugh and we sit in silence, we're shocked and confused and terribly sad, but we're strong together. We're stronger than I thought we could be.


My dear mum passed away early yesterday morning. I hadn't slept well that night, I was unconsciously waiting for THAT phone call from the hospital all night. And it came early in the morning. By the time we got dressed, ran to our car, hurried to the hospital, and made our way to her 6th floor hospital room, she was already gone. She had died just a few minutes earlier. As soon as I saw her face I knew that the breath of life had left her. Only dust remained. She was gone.

I don't really know what to say. There's this enormous amount of sadness and emptiness in me. But on the other hand I'm also glad that God let her pass to her rest. The last week was almost unbearable, just because she was suffering so terribly. She's not suffering any longer, she doesn't have those terrible pains any more. She gets some sleep now.

Another name was added to the Book of Life yesterday. She lost the battle but will win the war.

I told God He needs to be my Mother now.


Once again Newbold has been kind to me. 71. I'm not far from the kingdom, as Dr V. would say. :) I give myself an imaginary gold medal for my last exam which I took last week. To study while writing sermons and preaching, while constantly going back and forth between Tartu and Pärnu, while feeling the hope of mum getting better slowly dying, and still to get 70+ is something that speaks very clearly to me. It just tells me where my heart and passions really are.

One fine day when this nightmare is over and I'm free from my obligations and I've found a rich sponsor, I'll continue. I checked St Andrew's university's website the other day. Can you imagine what it would be like - to study in a university in Scotland where N. T. WRIGHT teaches New Testament! That's just about as wild as my dreams can get.

But these are all dreams dreamed from my dying mum's bed side.

It's time for her dinner now. She can eat couple of spoonful. And then we hope and pray that she wouldn't throw up. That's our everyday routine.


Tuesday's Tune

Let me tell you the story of me and Take 6 today.

There's no-one I've had a longer musical relationship with than Take 6. No-one.

There was this funny time long ago when my dad used to be the local conference president. So he went to the General Conference session in USA in 1990. And there someone told him about this crazy vocal group made of college kids who sang like no-one had ever sung before. So he bought their first cassette (yes, it was stone age) and brought it home. I was five. And I was hooked. I remember running around our house and jumping and singing to their music with my younger brother K. who was three years old at the time. And it's funny, I didn't know a single word in English but it didn't matter at all. So I've grown up with Take 6. I have most of their albums, and I know them by heart. We go back such a long time that sometimes I feel like their music has become part of my flesh and blood. Like it's part of me.

Another memory. In the secondary school we sometimes had those special afternoons when we would stay in our classroom after the school day was over, eat cookies and listen to music and play games with our class mates. And I remember our teacher once asking the class who could bring some good music from home to one of these afternoons. Many people raised hands. So did I. My first thought was - I could bring Take 6's cassettes to school. But the teacher picked someone else and that day I learned that other kids meant Backstreet Boys when they thought of good music. Who could have guessed, right.

When S. introduced Spotify to me during my first Newbold year, I used all of my free hours to listen to Take 6. Weirdo.

So that's my story. Like I said yesterday, there's no Christmas over here. But sometimes when I try really really hard, I can listen to a song or two. And then it's often Take 6's Oh, Come All Ye Faithful or something else from their first Christmas album.


I came home for Christmas yesterday. Or maybe I should say - I just came home yesterday. There's no Christmas in sight. Not for us. Not this time.

I'm writing this, sitting on my mum's bed in the hospital in Pärnu. Something has gone very very wrong so she's been in the hospital for a week now, in a terrible state. For all we know, she might go and rest in peace soon.

I've got nothing to say. My prayer yesterday night was, Dear God, if possible, give us some Christmas, even just little bit would do. But I don't think there will be any for us this year. His silence doesn't even make me raise my eyebrows any more.


This past weekend was my last in Tartu church. It was nice, I preached my last sermons, they gave me a bouquet of flowers and waved me goodbye. I should start working in Rakvere from January. Hypothetically, that is. For nothing is certain any more.

MJ will come tomorrow. Our Christmas trip - the one we were SO excited about - won't happen, we canceled the plane tickets last week. But at least she's coming to Estonia. That counts for something, too.


There was one bright moment yesterday morning when we had some sibling bonding time in our favourite Tartu cafe before I caught a bus to Pärnu. I like my brothers, they're guys after my own heart. And maybe that was our Christmas.

Fooling around.
Why, K., why?


I've noticed a weirdest thing, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. The thing is that I'm more and more inclining toward the Old Testament. Me, who used to be crazy about Greek and the New Testament! I'm looking at my sermons I've written over the last four months, and the Old Testament texts and narratives win by far. There is something in these ancient stories that draws me to them like magic. The sad thing is that I don't know a single word in Hebrew, I guess I really should have listened to Dr A. N.'s advice and should have taken at least the beginners course ("You'll pick it up like nothing, you speak a language with 14 cases as your native language," she used to say. I used to smile politely. Never went to any of her classes.) So I'm stuck with cheap online dictionaries and commentaries now. One fine day when I start my PhD studies I'll go and take a Hebrew class for beginners, looking like a nerdy kid straight out of high school. Yes, that's my plan.

So I'm writing this sermon for the coming Sabbath, my last one here in Tartu church (please don't tell my church members their pastor is writing a sermon two days before preaching - although I have a good reason for doing it that late this week). And I'm preaching my Christmas sermon on Abraham sacrificing Isaac - that must be the first time anyone does that haha. But seriously speaking, I'm telling the story of Abraham having to let go. And the more I look into the story the more amazed I get. Because in the chapter before this weird sacrifice story Abraham has to let Ismael go. And Ismael is kind of a living memorial of his past, of his bad choices and lack of faith. But still Abraham is reluctant letting him go (like any proper father would be). And now, after already losing one son, God asks him to sacrifice the other boy, too, the one that represents future and dreams and blessings and covenant and all that. God is like, you've let go of your past, now let go of your future, too. And the most beautiful moment, the culmination comes after he's been on his way to that mount for three days, and I think he has finally got it after all that time, for when the boy asks about the sacrificial animal, Abraham nails it: GOD WILL PROVIDE. He's this old guy who has lost his past and is about to lose his future, too, and in this vacuum, in this nothingness he gets the answer right. God. Only God. Past doesn't matter, future doesn't matter, only God matters, and God is enough.

Here you go. My Christmas sermon.


Tuesday's Tune

No jingle bells this time. But Goo Goo Dolls' Iris instead.

Better days will come.


To my ladies

Mum's birthday flowers
As I was reading John Otrberg's piece of writing about Queen Esther, I came across this thought. I have to share it because I found it beautiful and encouraging.

"In a day when writers - even Christian writers - sometimes imply that women are relegated to the sidelines while the real action belongs to the men, it is ironic that one of the greatest heroes of the Bible is a woman who rejects the stereotype of the beauty queen, who subverts her dim-bulb husband, and who uses all her courage, initiative, and emotional intelligence to resist evil and work for good. So if you are a woman and God has gifted you to lead, for God's sake, for the church's sake, for the sake of this sorry, dark world, lead!"

(And that's exactly how it's suppose to be taken - as an encouragement to ladies who have heard lies being told to them but who have also heard God's calling. This is not a statement-hammer to bash men. No.)


Tuesdays' Tune

I thought I'd be really clever and post my Christmas songs in the beginning of December when people aren't sick and tired of them yet. What a brilliant idea, right. So I decided I'd go all the way today and share the classical Christmas song Silent Night. Here's a live version of Silent Night performed by Harry Connick Jr. (who's awesomeness personified. It had to be said.), Marc Anthony, and Kim Burrell. Oh, it's so simple and so beautiful.