Earnie’s Friend Mary

For seven years my life has been a series of plans.  24/7 my life was centered around being a caregiver.  As I am processing the death of  Earnie since last May I am slowly coming out a fog I think I have put myself in since 2011 when Daddy and my brother, Jim, passed away.  I had to go on with being strong for Earnie.  Life had to happen.  Mr. Bee and Miss Bee needed me. Work needed me. Ruthie and the cats needed me.

I didn’t allow myself to fully grieve their loss.  I think I pushed my sadness into an invisable box to deal with another day. Eight months later I am faced with the question, “who am I.  What is my role now?”  I’ve read that every seven years life presents itself with a re-order of sorts.  Something happens in one’s life that changes.   I’m not trying to reinvent myself.  I am trying to fill myself back up with more happiness than sadness. I am empty.  Everyday is a new day for me.  Full of hope and healing.

Last week I received the sweetest card from one of Earnie’s friends, Mary.  She shared with me a dream she had had of her own mother who passed away in 2004.  In the dream her mother was telling her she was okay and so happy to be in heaven.  She went on to say that she knew our mothers were having the best time together with Jesus. As I was reading the card, I was trying to place in my head exactly who Mary was.  I had a vague idea and thought it was probably someone from church.

I went to a United Methodist Women’s meeting on Tuesday.  Earnie had been an active member of UMW ever since she was a young woman with small children.  The last week of her life she was able to attend the last spring meeting of UMW.  Earnie was excited for me when I became a circle leader.  She would often sit in her chair and look at me and say, “you remind me so much of myself when I was a young woman.  I’m very proud of you.”  Attending UMW meetings is hard for me right now, because I am surrounded by so many of her beloved friends.   I miss looking over at her seeing her in the crowd or sitting with her friends at lunch after the meeting.  At the same time, I feel comforted by being there surrounded by so much love.  It never fails that each meeting someone comes up and tells me how much they miss Earnie and what a special lady she was.

I was running late for the meeting that morning.  When I walked into the room there was only one seat left.  I sat down and the prettiest lady seated next to me smiled and patted me on the shoulder.  When I looked down at her nametag, it was Mary.  Mary Johnson.  The very same Mary that sent me the card.

And God winked. And so did Earnie.

The Birds and the Bees… and the Sunflowers

When Daddy was alive he loved to plant sunflower seeds and watch them grow into flowers.  When he was pretty close to loosing his vision completely, he still enjoyed going outside to water and tend to his plants.  We never planted any seeds at our house.  Life happened and we got busy.

After Daddy passed away that summer we started noticing that sunflowers were sprouting up in various parts of the flower beds.  It gave Earnie great pleasure to sit in her room by the window and look out to see a little piece of Daddy in the garden.

This year even more sunflowers came back.  As I was standing in the backyard this morning while Ruthie, the wienerful, was taking care of business, I was looking at how scraggly the bushes had become and I thought to myself that I needed to probably cut them back.  I was looking at the peripheral of the bushes, until my focus changed to what was on the flowers.

 

I’ve since learned (from my friend Becky) that the unfamiliar bird I saw was a black chickadee.  He, along with a cardinal and a mockingbird, was scaling the flowers like a trapeze artist eating ants and sunflower seeds.  It was such a beautiful site and one that was not lost in symbolism.

I have been missing Earnie so much lately.  Some days it takes my breath away when I long for her hugs, or laughter or the feel of her hands in mine.  Just as I feel overwhelmed by this sense of loss, I am reminded of her presence.  It was no coincidence that all of her favorite birds were enjoying the bounty of Daddy’s flowers.  The plant that I mistook as being spent and need of disposal served as a reminder that life can be ugly and messy.  But if we just ride the ride, there will be days when God transforms the messiness into messages of beauty and hope.  We just have to change our focus toward faith.

Nanny McMeow

This is what I looked like this morning at 3:08 a.m. when I was awoken by Oreo, the cat (also known as Yo-Yo, cra-cra, Orie).  She was crying for literally 20 minutes.  When I finally got out of bed (of course no one else got out of bed), I found her at the bottom of the steps looking up at me.

She’s not the friendliest of cats.  She was a stray that I served as a nurse mid-wife to her when she popped out a litter of deceased kittens on my lanai.  But, last night, she let me pick her up and she immediately started purring.  I noticed the pads of her feet were really cold.  I held her for about 10 minutes, rocking her back and forth on the steps.  I’m sure if Mr. Bee has woken and saw me “rocking the kitty” he would have finally admitted his wife was cra-cra, too. 

During that moment I thought about all the times I got up with Miss Bee.  Caring for her when she was sick or spraying the room with “Witch Spray” and wishing I could get a good night’s sleep.  She doesn’t need me as much lately.  The house was quiet.  It was just me and cra-cra bonding.  Then, she was done.

I went back to bed which then disturbed all the other cats. As I drifted off to sleep, with one of them waving their tail across my face, I remembered Nanny’s quote I sometimes use on Miss Bee…

 
“There is something you should understand about the way I work.
When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay.
When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.”
Nanny McPhee

 

Being Quiet in our Thoughts

I had the best weekend retreat with my church-lady friends.  We laughed, talked, shared.  We are all different, but we share one thing in common.  We love the Lord.

During our Saturday evening Bible study, during the power outage while we sat in candlelight, we talked about our gifts.  Words others may use to describe us.  Things like loyal, warm, funny, smart.  We shared how taking the time to be thankful for these gifts is important.  To practice self-compassion.  We show compassion for others, but how often do we show compassion toward ourselves?  Somedays we can be so hard on us.  I’m not this, I’m not that.

So, we “resolved” to set aside a minimum of 5-10 minutes each day to pray for thanksgiving.  To be quiet in our thoughts.  To learn that what seems urgent should not replace what is important.  Sometimes there’s a big difference.  To practice self-denial.  Sunday mornings come and we want that extra sleep or to have just one day we don’t have to shower, do our hair and makeup.  To deny ourselves that extra time, actually makes us so much more productive the rest of the week.  That denial turns into fulfillment from our time at church with the Lord and our friends.

Being quiet in our thoughts is a magnificent journey to spiritual realms that allow our spirits to soar.  Let us try to forget the fast schedule on which we have been running our lives, and let our souls catch up with us.

Amen.

Lunch with Church Lady and Mrs. Schumacher

Last year after we lost Daddy, my church lady friend, Kristi (also known as Mrs. Burdette’s Egg Casserole) invited me, Mr. Bee, Miss Bee and Earnie to celebrate the day with their family and the Schumacher quints.  This is the famous Chocolate Dipped Pretzel dipped Schumachers.  It was so comforting to go and spend the day with them.

We behaved so nicely that she invited us back for the 2nd annual Burdette/Gode/Schumacher Easterfeast 2012.  There’s always ham because Grandma can’t have Easter without it.

And a pile of other food like grits (what Southern household would it be if there wasn’t a grits casserole), pasta salad (this is going to be featured in the Heirloom recipes blog entry later this week), fresh tomatoes, corn casserole, fruit, mini quiches, rolls, and of course chocolate sheet cake, cupcakes, cake balls and Mrs. Schumacher’s pretzels.

Each family has beautiful, intelligent and kind children that you actually like to sit around the table with and engage in conversation.  As an added bonus we got to be involved in Amy and Andy’s science fair projects — “The Tea Party” which tested our abilities to detect if the tea was sweetened with Agave, Splenda or regular sugar (I guessed wrong) and in exam room B. Andy’s test of “Are you for Real?” of guessing whether someone is giving a genuine smile or faking it.  After we left I wondered if the real reason for inviting us was because they needed test subjects.

God has blessed our family in so many ways.  He’s given us a treasured church family of loving, Christian people to grow old with.  If I live to be 80, then I will be spending Easter at the Burdette’s (or their assisted living facility) up until 2044.  I wonder if ham will still exist in the 2040’s?

Six Things You Should Focus on Everyday

I signed up to teach our adult Sunday school class tomorrow.  For about a month I have been thinking about what to share.  Recently, I picked up a copy of one of my favorite magazines Life:Beautiful.  I have posted about this lovely magazine before.

The photography is ethereal and the articles are inspiring.  I read an article by Joyce Meyer entitled Enjoying Everyday Life:  Six Things You Should Focus on Everyday and knew this was the message I wanted to share.

I have really enjoyed my summer with Miss Bee.  Relaxed summer days, a slower pace at my job, no homework to do every evening, no lunches to pack, or hurried mornings preparing and serving breakfast before the bus comes.  I am hoping I can keep this peaceful feeling despite the approaching first day of school.  I know when my hurry and anxiousness bubbles to the surface Miss Bee is sure to feel it.  Do I want to empose these feelings on her?   So, this is my message.  Six things I can work on everyday that will help the “Keep Calm, Carry On” mantra in my life:

1.  Feel Blessed — Start the day with the right attitude and focus
2.  Be Thankful —   Treat everyday like Thanksgiving.  Say thank you more often
3.  Offer Encouragement —  Build up those around me
4.  Be Truthful —  Admit your weaknesses and make hard choices
5.  Make God’s Word Your Vocabulary — Make time for God’s company everyday
6.  Be Quiet — Listen Before You Speak — Hold Your Tongue.  Are your words really necessary?

A Gaelic Blessing

Since my daddy passed away, I haven’t been out to see his grave.   I guess I wasn’t ready.  Approching the second month of his death,  Mr. Bee and I took a drive out there recently on a beautiful, sunny day after church.  It was an odd feeling.  My memories of the day of his funeral were seeing the bugler, who played taps, standing off under a nearby tree and Daddy’s casket covered with the American flag.

I’ve made grieving my hobby for the last thirteen years.  It started with the loss of our little John.  I was trapped in a darkness that seemed insurmountable.  By God’s grace I recovered and I promised Him I would devote my life to helping others who grieve find a sense of hope for the future.  It has been a blessing and a honor to walk this journey with others.  I have made many close friends through this ministry and, as a result, received comfort from those around me in the recent death of my daddy.

Grieving is hard work, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I tell others this all the time, so I have to make sure I listen to my own advice.  When I am stting in church, I imagine Daddy sitting next to me or at the back of the church.  He’s wearing his coveralls, a ball cap and his boots.  He has a half-chewed cigar in his mouth (he long ago gave up this habit) and has his loyal canine companion, Lexy, by his side.  I can feel Daddy’s presence.  I can sometimes feel him putting his hand on me.

Last Sunday during one of these moments with him, this blessing was sung by the Chancel Choir as we were being dismissed from church.  It was a God thing…

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.

To the Moon Raymond

At 3:23 a.m. this morning, my sweet Daddy went to live in heaven.  For the last four years, he has been my constant companion, one of my greatest joys (and pain in my side on just a few days) and a wonderful father.  I wouldn’t trade anything for having him here with me.  I know that he is pain free, can now see out of those beautiful grey eyes again, can run and skip, and is flying airplanes with Jesus as his wingman.

As we were all sitting out on the patio enjoying a cool night, we looked up to the heavens and saw the most beautiful Moon.  Tonight is a Perigree Moon also known as a “Supermoon.”  NASA tells news that the “super” in the word Supermoon refers to the rare beauty and illusion that the Moon will create this evening. At first glance, tonight’s full Moon may not have a proportional difference than any other night, but as NASA explains, when tonight’s Moon is observed behind foreground objects like trees and foliage, it will appear “supersized” and brighter.

There is more to be excited about tonight’s Moon besides it enlarged appearance. It will appear also thirty percent brighter that a normal full Moon. The last time this happened was March 1993.   And yet, tonight’s Moon is only fifty thousand kilometers closer to the Earth to create this spectacle.

So while tonight’s “Perigee Moon” may appear as the biggest and brightest full Moon in almost 20 years, there is always something exciting to capture in the sky.  Of course, I know, it was all my daddy’s doing.  He picked out this moon just for us tonight.   It’s his way of telling us “I am okay”.

Simple Gifts

Three weeks ago today, I clipped a sprig of Dusty Miller from my front flower bed.  I was inspired by a photograph I saw in the winter issue of Life Beautiful magazine.  It is a spritual, inspirational magazine.  Even if the content doesn’t interest you, the photography will.

What a simple, rather non-descript plant this is, but what a work-horse in the garden.  It doesn’t scream, “aren’t I lovely” when you walk by like my roses or hydrangeas do.  But, rather says I am the filler, the base to your centerpiece.  In fact they say you should have three things in your flower pot during the growing season — a filler, a spiller and a thriller.  Dusty is a filler.

Despite the 17 degree weather we’ve been experiencing it is still growing strong in my garden.  Even after three weeks in a bud vase on my end table, it still looks as fresh as it did the day I picked it.  It cost me nothing, and yet three weeks later it is still smiling up at me from my $4 vase I picked up in Frederickburg recently.

It is just one of the simple gifts that God gives me everyday, if I just stop long enough to enjoy it.   God is my filler, my work horse, my centerpiece.  If I let Him, he will make all my days easier and lovely.  I just have to choose to get out of His way.

It reminds me of the old Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” by Joseph Elder (made popular by Aaron Copland)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.