About Me

  Patricia Hammell Kashtock

Aka: Pat Kashtock. Mother of three, wife of one. BA in Social Work and Biblical Studies. Graduate work at Virginia Tech interrupted, then derailed by oldest child’s brain tumor...

My life has not followed the course I planned. But I am not complaining. Pain is to be expected in a world broken apart from its Creator.

The miracle resides in the ability to find joy when least expected...


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For What It's Worth

Each life is a journey. The voices of many guides try to direct us, saying, “This is the path – walk in it!” Yet each one leads in a different direction.

I believe only one Voice can be true. That Voice will lead us in ways most unexpected, into worlds yet undiscovered. It will lead us up the hill, around the river and through the forest. And sometimes, it will lead without mercy.

Or so it seems.

I have made listening for that Voice and following it, my life’s quest. I will share some of what I have heard that Voice say with you. But I am not in the business of telling people how to think or what to believe. Each has to decide for himself. Only you can decide if you find the truth of the Voice in these words. And only you can decide how much it is worth to know the Voice, and follow.

But for me, it is worth the whole world.

And then some…

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Christmas 2015 Light Wars

Christmas 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

We allowed last year’s difficulties to rule out writing a Christmas letter. But that year fluxed into more of the same this year, so I write. There are times when joy abounds, and times when grayness crisscrosses the horizon like empty branches against a dulled winter sky. Times when life teems with opportunity; and times when opportunity eludes our most ardent search. Times of fullness and times of emptying. To everything there is a season. 

Yet some seasons seem interminable. 

Two days after the anniversary of Heidi’s death, Mike and Carolyn’s Mom, Augusta Kashtock Young, died. Her death blasted a hole through the fabric of our lives. No more long chats on the phone. No more laughing over something crazy. No more pure Jersey Italiano remonstrances of, “Whaddah ya wanna do that for?!” Those protests that never changed our plans, but did let us know she cared. My mother-in-law and friend is gone. It has been heart rending to see how deeply this has weighed on Carolyn. She and Mike were steadfast and valiant in their care of Mom. Like rocks…with shattered hearts.

Mom’s death culminated a year of losses of many kinds. Loss opened the very beginning of last year with the elimination of my staff position due to budget cuts. It was a small job, but all I had. The next month, on our granddaughter's second birthday, her her parents found her other grandfather dead on his bedroom floor. By all accounts, he should have been alive to celebrate. There had been no reason to expect his death.

Following this, tests confirmed Mike had prostate cancer. As we struggled to understand the various treatments, the news my Aunt Jane was near death completely blindsided me. I thought she was the same as always. Terrified she would die before I could see her, I bolted up to Jersey guitar in hand to sing for her. Thankfully, I made it in time to spend the last few hours of her life with her. I still can’t believe I will never hear her voice on the phone again, and I will not be able to ask her about our family history. 

We had a short reprieve when our grandson, Felix, was born in June and we were able to go see him. Six weeks later, Mike had surgery. Within a month, Justin landed in the hospital for a two part back surgery. We almost lost him when he went into respiratory arrest following the second surgery. Thank God, a nurse was standing at his bedside and able to revive him. He no sooner was back on his feet when Galen and Lacey hit the wall due to their infant’s inability to sleep. As Mike had not fully recovered and needed to work, and Justin was in no shape to go anywhere, I bounced down to South Carolina to try
to stay up nights with the baby. The first time I saw the two parents; they looked zombie like so deep was their exhaustion. 

Through all of this, Mike’s Mom, Gussie, battled a recurrence of her lung cancer. She seemed to be doing well, but cancer being the thief that it is, we headed up to Jersey for Thanksgiving, a couple days after I got home from South Carolina. The day after Thanksgiving, I sat with Mom and she kept saying how terrible she felt. Shortly afterwards, she was in the hospital and came home on hospice care. With instructions that she was not to be alone. This left Mike and Carolyn to tag team staying with her. Thankfully, FDA gave Mike permission to telecommute a couple of weeks at a time. 

For a while, he and I ran in two directions. I drove down to SC to help, and Mike headed up to Jersey. Throughout all of this, I had been frantically trying to figure out how I could get to Florida to see my Aunt Helen who had developed some health problems. Okay, finally, I thought. January I’ll go to our churches women’s retreat in Williamsburg, beg someone to take the sound equipment back home for me so I could head to SC, help a few days – then continue driving to Florida. Plans set. 

Only Christmas created a different story-line. 

As we started to leave Justin and Hillary’s house that Christmas evening, Hillary’s grandmother suddenly pitched head first down the stairs hitting her head on the hard wooden risers and losing consciousness. Lying  stonestill at the bottom of the stairs, she turned blue. In terror, we waited for the EMTs to arrive. After they took Gwen to the hospital, we scooped up Coralie so Justin and Hillary could head down to the hospital. 

When we got into the car to go home, I picked up my phone only to see it blinking like crazy with a quite a few missed Florida calls from both my cousin’s and my aunt’s numbers. That shouldn’t be. I started to shake. I told Mike I wasn’t sure I wanted to make this phone call. Then called my cousin, Karen. Her Mom, my last aunt and my good friend, died that Christmas morning. Thank the Lord, He prodded me to call her as I drove home from Columbia, SC, just a couple weeks earlier. We talked literally for hours, oh, about everything. Ordinary things. The same things we talked about my whole life, ever since her sister, my mother died when we kids were young. She seemed fine, like herself as always. I had no idea she was so ill. 

Only a couple weeks later, Mike’s Mom died. In what seemed like a blink, I had none of the older generation left on either side of my family, and my mother-in-law was gone. I’ll never hear those loving voices again, at least in this life. Yet this season would not even allow us a decent period of grieving. Because of a court ordered deadline for a project Mike is overseeing, work has been high-pressured and demanding, forcing him to work far more over time than regulations permit him to claim. He bordered on nearly total exhaustion. 

Then in April, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. In excruciating pain, but not realizing how serious it was, I hobbled around a couple months. But it was almost totally torn. Had surgery and once again poor Mike found himself telecommuting in order to take care of a family member. While I still lugged the cast around, one of the water pipes sprang a nasty leak, destroying the new ceiling in the sewing room. By September, I was finally out of the cast and out of the tall cam boot, and somewhat able to drive again, when I tripped and tore to tendon again in a new place. This needed a more extensive surgery. To add insult, the anesthesiologist nicked my vocal cords messing up my voice for a couple of months. Not only did I lack the comfort of being able to sing, but my voice was a wreck for the only available audition.

I’m still not allowed to walk any distance, let alone run or dance. This has forced me to drop out of working with the homeless ministry at McPherson Square in DC for many months. I really miss the street folk there. 

August came. Another flood from a pipe that broke while we were on vacation. We came home to a horrible smell of mold and we could not find its source. Unknown to us, a main beam had rotted through, aided by the handiwork of termites. The outside wall of the famly room was destroyed. Justin found it after the last service of our church as he went to put away the sound equipment.

The church we loved and belonged to from its infancy, died that day. We now have no church to call home, no real support system here. We have no place to easily go back home for the holidays as we had stayed with Gussie the last thirty-seven years. And for only the second time in twenty years, we are not doing music at church on Christmas Eve, a small thing but adding to the feeling of displacement. 

None of this was expected. For two years, loss after loss has blindsided us at every turn. Unlike Paul on the road to Damascus, we have not been blinded and knocked off our horse by brilliant Light. Rather we have been sucker punched by the darkness of a fallen creation. 

But -- Christmas is the season we celebrate the Light Who came to overthrow the world of darkness that assaults each and every one of us. Perhaps it is no coincidence we celebrate the coming of the Light of the world during the most light-starved days of winter. Fear lurks in dark corners because the darkness masks the evil trying to overtake us. Children instinctively fear the dark. Yet there comes a day when the darkness of grief or shame, fear and regret, overtakes us and holds us prisoner. We want to escape, but as surely as shackles restrain our legs, this form of darkness fetters our hearts tightly, and we can scarcely breathe. 

Too often darkness prevails. But long ago, the promise was given that we would be saved from the engulfing darkness.

 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. The light now shines on those living in a land of deep darkness.”  

What, or Who, is the Light we celebrate this season of the year so full of darkness?

 “In the beginning, before time began, the Word, the Christ, already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through Him all things were made. The Word was the source of life. This life brought light to all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, and will not ever overcome it.” 

Jesus came. The One who was with God, and was God, came as one of us in the way we all come; as a helpless infant. He suffered the way we suffer, even weeping at the death of a friend. He did not come to condemn us, but rather to shine His light into the dark corners of our hearts and minds. To be the Light that guides us when the way is too dark to see. He is the Light Who nurtures us, and strengthens us. The Light Who comforts us when all seems dark in that place grief and shame have overtaken us. 

He is always there, and always Light. In Him, there is no darkness; none at all. 

When fear assails, and sorrow overwhelms – remember this:

Light will always penetrate the darkness. It never works the other way around.

Christmas blessings to you and your families, and to every part of your lives

All our love,

Patty and Michael Kashtock


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Reader Comments (2)

SO glad I have a contact for you and Mike and family once again. My heart hurts for you with all the sadness and continuing health problems. And yet, your faith surmounts each event. Your trust in our Savior is not diminished. My heart still goes out to you as it did with my dear Heidi who would bring her guitar up to my porch and play and sing heartfelt Christian songs for my mom and me, , and Justin would come also. . You will all be surrounded with each other in heaven, with no more sorrow, pain or heartache. Our condolences for all whom you have lost. I am on facebook and my email is smileymb74@gmail.com

December 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret and Brock Brockman

Hi Margaret -- it's great to hear from you! And thank you.
Yes, life has some tough patches, doesn't it? But He is always faithful, even when we are faithless.
I see you on Helen's Facebook page from time to time. I'll send you an email now that I have your address.

December 30, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Pat Kashtock]

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