Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Rose that Bloomed for Mama

The day before Mama's funeral, I had driven down to Daddy's to help straighten and clean the house and to greet visitors dropping by offering sympathy to our family and generous gifts of food. There wasn't a lot to do since my sisters-in-law had already done most of the cleaning by the time I arrived. Daddy, my brothers and my sister had gone to finalize arrangements for the next day's services, so it was just the four of us there working, stopping for an occasional embrace and to wipe away a steady flow of tears. That house is all about Mama. Memories of her are everywhere....

I was expecting a friend of mine to come by with dinner for family members staying with Daddy. Instead of just the one friend, two friends arrived with a trunk full of food and fresh cut flowers for the table. We unloaded the car and made our way inside the house. I introduced my friends to my sisters-in-law, we all talked for a while, then I walked my friends back out to the car.

As we were standing outside, I noticed a red rose that was in full bloom on the bush nearest the driveway. It took my breath away for a second or two. I thought maybe there might be more blooms on the other bushes as well, so I excused myself and walked around the house looking at all the rose bushes in the yard. It was the only rose, and it was beautiful!

One of my friends took out her phone (one with a camera), got down on the ground as close to the rose as she could, snapped a couple of pictures of it, and told me she would email them to me from her home. Within the next day or so, I had crystal clear images of Mama's rose. I have a print of it on my refrigerator. I swear when I get close enough to that picture, I can almost smell its fragrance drifting past me. I close my eyes and imagine Mama sitting in front of me asking me to come closer so I can press my nose to its petals and savor it's sweet perfume. Oh, how she loved everything about roses! But, her favorite were the red ones.

I like to think that the rose flourishing before my eyes was a gift to those of us who stopped to admire it and remember. I call it the rose that bloomed for Mama, but maybe more accurately, it was a gentle reminder to take time to enjoy the beautifully simple things in life, before they slip away.

Love and miss my sweet Mama....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More than a Bountiful Harvest

This is the time of year when Daddy would normally begin to gather fresh produce from the garden, bring it inside in baskets or boxes, and help Mama start preparing it for canning or freezing. Some of their bounty would always be spread out on the island counter. There would be talk of the harvest and the work to be done. I'd occasionally get a call from one of them telling me that I needed to come down and get some tomatoes, squash, beans or peas and those huge cabbages only Daddy knows how to grow. Sometimes it would all be waiting for me in plastic grocery sacks ready to bring home. At other times, Daddy and I would grab a box or two and head out to the field. Over the years, we've had some great talks together, he and I, while picking peas, pulling corn, cutting okra or harvesting whatever was ready to use. [Daddy and I have also had some intense conversations while fishing at the pond on their old property. But, that's a story for another day.]

During the colder months, my father suffers from the winter blues. Mama diagnosed him with it years ago. He doesn't like the shorter days, nor does he like the cold. He is miserable all winter long. There's just not much for him to accomplish during those cold winter months. Mama recognized the fact that, even though she was not physically able to preserve all of his plentiful crops, he needed to plant and work in the garden for his own preservation. So, they always had enough for themselves and much to share. And share they did. Neighbors, friends and family enjoyed the literal fruits of their labors. When the crops were especially generous, and we all had our fill, the excess would be placed in containers by their driveway for others to stop and collect. Nothing would go to waste.

The garden and kitchen seem so quiet right now, at my Daddy's house. I miss the sound of my Mama's voice as she tells me what all Daddy has planted and reminds me how much he loves his gardens and how good it is for him to be outside in the beautiful healing light of the sun. Mama told me once she was afraid that we (us kids) would blame her if Daddy were to die while working out in the hot sun. I told her, as I think my brothers and sister had echoed, "If Daddy dies doing something that he enjoys so much, there is no better way for him to go! Let him do it!"

Daddy told me about three weeks ago that he was just going to plant some green beans this year, for my sister. She had told him she needed some. "I don't know what she did with all those beans she canned last year and the year before," he said to me. My sister knew what she was doing when she asked him to plant those beans for her. She knew that it wasn't the green beans that were important or necessary. It was the motivation Daddy needed to get out in the field, plow and plant, nurture and harvest, and share. Since then, he's also planted tomatoes and peas, and I'm sure filled row after row with the seeds of his existence. And, watered them with his tears......

When I bite down into that ripe, juicy tomato that Daddy put his heart and soul into protecting and providing for me to enjoy, I will continue to thank my Father in Heaven for this great man, my Daddy, and for the strength He has blessed him with to (hopefully) work another spring and summer in his gardens, reaping more than a bountiful harvest.

You can do this, Daddy. I love you.

As of today, the 4th of June, the garden has been plowed, but Daddy's decided to wait until next year to plant after all..... He's really trying to do the best he can.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The hardest part about this life is.....

.....relationships! And, the most rewarding part about this life is relationships!

The Hard Part: Just when I think I've made peace with myself and others around me something else pops up and knocks me back a few steps. To me, some of the most important phrases in the English language (or any language) are: "please," "thank you/you're welcome," "I'm sorry/I forgive you," "I love you." I know I don't say those things (and mean it) nearly as often as I should, nor do I hear them as often as I would like to. Maybe we are so comfortable with each other that we tend to forget that sincere acts of courtesy might help when nothing else could. Maybe we don't think they are necessary. However, a little bit of kindness goes a long, long way, especially with the ones we love the most.

It takes less time, effort, emotional energy.... less of everything to avoid going to a place where we know we'll get lost and have a really hard time finding the way back. Follow the "road signs" and get there safely, whole and happier. No shortcuts, no half-hearted excuses for taking a different route, just follow the path. Sounds pretty simple. It's just hard to always do! I know, I take detours all the time and end up regretting them -- every time.

The Rewards: Peace, Unity, Courtesy (meant and felt by all), Security (the opposite of insecurity), Sympathy and Empathy, Unbreakable Bonds of Love. Is there anything better?

The Challenge: [Message to self] Do it! Today and Everyday!

Friday, May 21, 2010

No Greater Love

I'll probably write a lot about what is on the wall behind the computer monitor on my desk. There's a good reason why I have placed these things up there. Between facebook (I'll admit I'm addicted. It's a daily habit.), emailing, bookkeeping, writing out checks (when there's actually money to back them up), writing/typing out notes and letters and what not, I spend about a fourth of my day at my desk. Will likes to eat breakfast and lunch in the office with me while I work and write. He and I also listen to music there. It is usually a quiet and peaceful place to sit and just be together.

Back to the wall.... on the bottom row of pictures and quotes is a simple black and white print of a powerful message. The artist, Darin Ashby, simply portrays a portion of the Savior's clothed arm and His hand, His nail-scarred palm facing outward signing the words, "I love you." Whenever I'm feeling unloved, unappreciated or alone, this picture reminds me of how much greater Christ's love for me is than any other I think I should be receiving.

Disappointments will continue to come, expectations will go unfulfilled, some dreams may fall by the wayside, but one thing is for absolute and certain, nothing will ever compare to the the greatest Love shown to us by the One who has experienced it all. And, HE LIVES to tell us how to get through this life and into Eternity better than we could ever do so on our own.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends....Ye are my friends....I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." John 15:13-15

It is impossible for me to comprehend that much love right now -- the kind that allowed the Savior to endure rejection, betrayal , torture and crucifixion, but someday, when I am in His presence, I believe I will experience for myself no greater love.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"You just can't fake fun!"

"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh." George Bernard Shaw

This morning a cherished friend came over, dug holes in my yard, poured in a shrub-friendly mixture of potting-soil-plant-food-nutrient... stuff, and planted some flowering bushes I've had since Mama's funeral. I provided a shovel, the yard, the plants, a hose pipe (and water, of course), a bucket and an opportunity for the two of us to get into some DIRT! I was a little concerned, at first, that I was making her do all the work. I even apologized for the clumsy way at which I was going about the whole thing. It's been a long time since I've planted shrubs or flowers and I didn't have a clue about how to start, much less how to proceed once I got into it. We were setting out Gardenias and Hydrangraes (I'm not even sure how to spell either one), both requiring proper light/shade, soil, moisture and attention. Up until today, I had given them water and kept them out on the porch or the patio in the same containers I had received them in, you know, the little pots that barely have enough room to hold a tangle of roots. They were beyond looking like they had not been given to a good home.

Anyway, as I was apologizing (for the 3rd or 4th time) for all the work my friend was having to do, she paused from digging, looked up at me through strands of sweat soaked hair and said, "I am having a great time! Stop worrying! This is what I LOVE doing. You can sort of pretend that you're happy or that everything is alright, but you just can't fake fun!" She looked like she was having fun, and I wanted to have fun, so we did! It was a great couple of hours. We were digging and planting and I was learning how to do something on my own. But, the best part of it was spending time with a dear friend.

My friend and I are both striving for peace and understanding in the midst of great losses. It would have been easy for us to have sat in my den and wept for what is not anymore, or for what could have been, and we still may do that sometime. Today, though, we worked, side by side. We laughed, out loud. It felt real and it felt good. We just couldn't fake fun.

Love, peace and an enormous thank you to my precious friend, for teaching me today about planting Gardenias and Hydrangeas, and, about how to nurture the fun and funny side of life. You are loved beyond words.

Monday, May 17, 2010

One Month Later....

Yesterday marked one month since my Mama passed away.

A flood of memories came rushing in as I was getting ready for Church. After spending 21 days and and nights with my brothers, my sister and Daddy, camped out in the waiting room of the CCU at the hospital, it's been difficult, if not impossible so far, to get back to some semblance of normal life for me at home. Every night when I go to bed I tell myself that "tomorrow" will be a little better, just work on it a little harder. I find myself torn between moving in with my Daddy to make sure he's really going to be alright without Mama (he really doesn't want me to do that), and digging in my heels to take on my world again at home with all the gusto I can muster up. I've a stack of bakery orders to fill (11 orders, to be exact), neglected bookkeeping for Ron's business, Church assignments to fulfill, housework left undone for weeks now, laundry baskets running over, flowering plants to dig holes in the yard for, new recipes to try out on my picky-eater boys, clothes to shop for (there's only so long you can wear a pair of jeans before holes begin to appear. I'm now covering them up with longer shirts.), grieving friends and family to visit, postponed lunch dates, closets and drawers to reorganize.....ok that's enough to think about for right now! I have a full life, typically. But life is not typical at the moment. And I know it.

In my opinion, there should be a strict guideline on how long a person should grieve so we'd know what to expect. When does energy and interest come back? When do the tears stop flowing without any advance warning? I have some questions here! Somehow, I think that the answers may be different for every person......

From my desk, I can see traffic going by, and birds lighting on the front porch railing, pecking at dried up bugs and such. The sun is shining brightly through the rustling leaves on the big oaks and pines. I can hear Scott out in the workshop turning plain pieces of wood into cabinets that will be installed into someone's "dream" kitchen. Will is sitting by with his earmuffs on, patiently waiting for the planer to start up so he can jump up and do his part in the creative process. That is "his job." Ron is on a jobsite, keeping his clients happy and pleased that he took on their plans to transform the old to the new (in a few short weeks). Their reward is not only money, but in seeing the results of their efforts -- the finished product -- and in receiving praise for their fine workmanship. A job well done.

As I've been typing, my eyes have kept glancing above the monitor to a quote from the President of our Church, Thomas S. Monson. I think I need to internalize his message (I've read it a hundred times and even used his quote a few times). "....our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us. .... fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith."

Blessings, knowledge, comfort, joy, good cheer. I'd say those are great rewards for "a job well done."

Guess I'd better go get busy now......

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I figured it was about time I joined the I'll begin by saying I am happy to have a place to go when I need to talk, without worrying about what it might sound like. It's MY place, after all, so I think I'll just make myself right at home.

Ron and Will are out sailing boats at Aldridge Gardens at the moment. They are members of Birmingham RC Club. On the 3rd Saturday of every month they all meet and float their remote controlled boats on the lake behind the Gardens. I'll get some pictures up here soon. It's open to everyone, so go check it out on one of those Saturdays.

I'm trying to get my motivation back after a few months of struggling with pain from a pulled muscle in my back, the loss of my dear sweet Mother, and the loss of a young friend. I know this is all part of the plan of life, but it has been difficult to quickly adjust to some things. Life is unpredictable, for the most part, and it's a good thing to move forward and keep progressing, so I'm working on it!

Instead of doing what I thought I needed to be doing, I recently finished reading tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom (guess I figured I hadn't cried enough lately or something....). It was worth every minute and the cost of an extra box of tissues. If you haven't read that book, I highly recommend it. Some of my favorite lines from the book are: "Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone. .... giving to other people is what makes me feel alive. Not my car or my house. Not what I look like in the mirror. When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after they were feeling sad, it's as close to healthy as I ever feel. Do the kinds of things that come from the heart. When you do, you won't be dissatisfied, you won't be envious, you won't be longing for somebody else's things. On the contrary, you'll be overwhelmed with what comes back" (p. 128).

Time to go think on that again.