A Soldier in the Distance

What I had once been driven to do through dance, using my physical and spiritual strength, I began to find through being still, with pen and paper. Movement of my soul.

I felt differently about writing after my brother died. Bring him back. Quick, someone get it down before we lose anyone else. A vehicle to make what’s temporal, timeless.

It’s maybe ironic that what moved me to write, also unmoved me and I packed it away for several years. Afraid.

I had mentioned his death in a story that brought it all back to someone. Seeing the pain on that face was inexplicable. I froze like the icy snow in the story she later told me to encourage me on……

It was a snowstorm that pressed icy winds against the drafty old house, sending moans throughout its walls and floorboards. Cold air worked its way in through the window frames. Whirls of snow blew in the air and across the field to the west. By mid afternoon, what had seemed cozy earlier became confining for three little kids.

When the snow stopped and the sun peered through the thick grey quilt of a sky, reflecting a glistening bed of snow waiting to be jumped on, Mom quieted our rambunctious voices long enough to say, “Enough!! Get your snowsuits on.” Twenty minutes later we were out the door. Capped, zipped and booted.

We marched up the hill to the stone road behind the gate at the top of the driveway, laughing, thrilled to be in the fresh air and stomping through the deep drifts of snow. Mom was happy to have our energy released in a space large enough to contain it. Ed trudged on ahead while John and I fell backwards together into the soft white blanket and waved our arms and legs. “Eddie, look! Angels!” We called out but he was already busy making a fort. Preferring his project to ours, we made our way over to him and all worked together.

It wasn’t long though before the sun tucked itself back behind the weighty clouds and the wind started up again. Mom pulled our scarves up over our chins and was concerned by the ominous, sudden change in the wind’s direction. She gathered Johnny up in one arm and took hold of my mittened hand in the other. “Eddie!” She called through the wind. “Let’s go back.”

His dark eyelashes blinked away snow, “Okay,” he shouted. “I’ll lead the way!”

He led us back up the road. Our trip was quicker going than it was returning, as it often is. John tucked his head in Mom’s collar and I kept mine down out of the sleety wind as she guided my steps. “What if we don’t make it back,” someone asked as the wind was doing its best to push us the opposite direction we were headed.

“Come on, guys!” Ed shouted, looking on the road in the distance like a toy soldier.

As we neared the house, we could see the glass in the upper panel of the storm door rattling as the yellow light from the kitchen glowed against the darkening sky and filled the window like a lamp, beckoning us inside.

Ed was wrestling with the doorknob, his hands working hard inside icy mittens. With a swift kick of his sturdy little leg, the old door flew open and with frozen fingers and toes, we were all once again safe inside the womb of warmth we called home.

sledding!I think of Ed like that now, a soldier on the road in the distance….almost hearing his voice, “Guys look! Angels!”….guiding us towards the door so we can enter in, away from danger. All grief. The glow of the light against the darkness shines like a lamp, beckoning us onward.

A Picture of Marriage

It’s not so bad really, being sick on your break. You can just sit and no one bothers you….except maybe to ask you to clean out the hall closet if you just so happen to get a spurt. A spurt of what…I wonder.

You also finish the books that have been stacking up on the floor beside your bed because there’s no more room for them on the night stand.

You get to spend all day in your pajamas with your favorite hoodie zipped up over them.

You get served meals in bed that you had nothing to do with preparing.

You read blogs you haven’t had the time to give the attention to they deserve and you also take the time to write short but thoughtful comments.

You write more blogs in a day than you usually do in a month.

You open and read the links on Facebook your friends post and you learn something you didn’t know, get a little smarter and laugh till you have to stop and take a breath.

You actually read the Sunday Times cover to cover. You do the crossword puzzle…well, you have the time to do it anyway.

And when you start to feel a little better, you read your own local paper as you sit across the table from the one you love while eating breakfast at noon and plan an afternoon outing together.

“How about we go feed our leftover loaf of bread to the ducks this afternoon?!” I suggest. “I think the fresh air could do me some good!”

“There are no ducks.” (Clearly he’s not enthusiastic about this.)

“What do you mean? They’re all over the lakefront and they’re hungry.”

“Well, if they are there, they’re not hungry.”

“Of course they are. Don’t you remember that song….? Um….All around the cathedral, the saints and apostles.….hang on, it’s coming to me. I continue to hum until the words come….you know they are crying, each time someone shows that he ca- hares.” I keep singing but I can see that I’m losing him. I give it my all,  “Feed the ducks! That’s what she cries, while overhead the ducks fill the skies!  See? Like that.

He chuckles.

Shhhh….listen….you can hear the ducks crying….Hurry up. Get your coat.” Silence. “Hey, look at this article on all these new restaurants. Yum. Let’s go to all of them this year.”

“Save the page.”

“Hmm….beef cheeks. What are beef cheeks? Served with beef tongue and a poached egg on top. Oh my, I’m not so sure about that.”

“Sounds delicious….”

“Well, the restaurant looks cute, let’s go. Here’s another restaurant that serves veal cheeks. What’s with the cheeks? I’ve never heard of that before. You’d think I would have with farming in my blood.”

“You know.” Todd says acting all smart, “Like the butt.”

“Riiiiiight. We used to have pork butt on Sundays…..I never thought of it like that before. What’s for dinner, Mom? (We’d ask after church on Sundays.) I‘m making a pork butt, she’d say.

“Sure, butt roast.”

“…..Fillet of butt.”

“…..Butt loins.”

I know I can top him….”Butt chops!” We laugh through the rest of breakfast.

“Ready to go feed the ducks?”

“There are no ducks.”

“Yes, there are.”

And that my friends, is a picture of marriage. Well, mine anyway…

DucksP.S. Back in my chair….good thought on the ducks…the bread will keep.

A Dot Makes a Difference

“Hi Dad! How are you doin’ today?!”  I’ve called to check in because I totally missed Christmas Day this year. I slept right through most of it and haven’t talked to Dad since the Christmas Eve service. After all those preparations, the special day came and went without me. Flu does that. Dad’s present is still under our tree, the ham’s still in the fridge and the shrimp…oh my gosh, the shrimp! Is it too late for stir fry…?

Gifts for the relatives that were out of town for the holiday still sit unwrapped on the dining room table. Wrapping presents after Christmas loses its charm. I don’t really feel like being accompanied by carols and sipping wine, which is what gets me through the project in the first place…maybe sip the wine, skip the carols.

“Oh, I’m okay,” Dad answers my question with concern in his voice. I’m immediately concerned. “There’s just a little confusion over here.” Oh no. I assume the worst.

“What’s that?” I’m afraid to ask but already have.

“I got this email.”

Can someone tell me why I suddenly feel like I’m in trouble? Our past conversations and/or disagreements of who remembered what, when and how, come to mind….once a daughter always a daughter.

“It’s really screwy,” he continues as I begin a quick mental inventory of all the things I’ve recently posted or sent to him. “I got a bill that was sent to b.wenzler@……” He goes on, “It says I owe $210.15 and need to pay it right away but I have no idea what it is. So I’ve been on the phone with my phone company trying to get it straightened out. Then I noticed there’s a dot in this email address. Mine has no dot!”

“Oh. That was nice of you Dad, to call and get it straightened out, I mean. You probably saved a guy harassment from some collection agency.”

“I found out the email was meant for a Barry Wenzler. He’s got a dot in his email.”

“Well, there you go.” I close my eyes, feeling the pain you call sinus ache and decide to just listen and not talk.

“My voice is bad today.” He clears his throat, then again and again, his frustration mounting. “I need to do my exercises.”

“Have you had lunch, Dad?”

“No. I just had breakfast!” It’s almost 1:00 p.m. and I realize I haven’t even had breakfast. Well, starve a cold, feed a fever…..or is it feed a cold, starve a fever….? I think for a second.…how could Dad receive an email with an incorrect address?  “How did you get that email if it’s not your address?” I ask.

“I don’t know!”

“Well, it’s nice you’re straightening it out.” DELETE IT!

“I’m not being nice! I didn’t notice the dot when I called the phone company to get it straightened out.”

“Oh. Well, it sounds like you have things under control.” I was really hoping to read my new story to him but it seems now is not the right time.

“My voice is terrible.” he says sounding a little like Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino. “I need to go do my exercises. I had lunch with Jonathan yesterday, did I tell you that?”

“I don’t think so, no….”

“I found out you could get a friend to join at the Club for $1 initiation and $10 for the first month’s membership. I told him I wanted to do it for him so I could always say I paid his initiation! You know usually initiation fees are expensive. So I paid the fee and his first month and he bought me lunch.”

“Awww…that’s great and you can work out together.”

“Right.”

“Your voice doesn’t sound so bad, Dad.”

“Doesn’t it?” he asks with good bass. The wonders of a little encouragement.

“No, in fact it sounds pretty darn good.”  I’m sounding like my dad.

“Well, thanks.” He seems pleased. His heart valve replacement irritated his lungs and though his heart is stronger, his breathing is bad. He walks for an hour at the club every morning to keep his lung capacity up and does voice exercises. He deserves to feel pleased.

“You bet.” I love making him feel better, even if it’s just for a moment. A moment makes a difference.

“How are you doing?” I’ve been waiting for him to ask me. A girl never tires of a little sympathy from a parent, no matter how old she gets.

“Well, I’m in my chair today so I’m vertical…..and doing a little writing….”  I really want to read him my new story.

“That’s good. Anything I can do for you?”

“No Dad, but thanks. I just wanted to hear your voice.” I close my computer to save it for another time. It will be there. Like Christmas.Though it didn’t happen for me on December 25th, it will be there all year long, if I let it. “Go do your exercises Dad, and don’t forget to have lunch.” I can’t help saying it…once a mother, always a mother.

Maybe I’ll give my son a call…he might like to hear my story.  Or just post it, right?

I know this is a simple little blog. Have I told you though how grateful I am for each of you? How much your time and encouragement means to me? I am and it does. Thank you. You each make a difference.

Here’s to you and the hope of the Christmas Miracle blessing you each day in the coming year.

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Wonder

I could see Holy Hill, the highest point in our part of the state, from my bedroom window at the farm. It was like a beacon when surrounded by the setting sun. At Christmas time, I would lie in bed and look out at it, searching for Santa’s sleigh—my eyes devouring the black curtain of a sky filled with glittering stars. One time, I convinced myself that a string of light was actually him on his sleigh and on his way.

On Christmas Eve, my family would exchange the gifts my brothers, sister and I got for each other and our parents. We had a $5.00 limit. We’d shop at Grants at Ruby Isle, a strip mall that went up a couple miles from our house. Then we would have dinner before the Candlelight service at church and afterwards, set out cookies for Santa and sent to bed. But we wouldn’t sleep.

I can still remember those feelings of anticipation and excitement. I think now about all the traditions surrounding Christmas and long to keep them alive. Though traditions remain, feelings change.

The brilliance of the lights, the sparkle of the ornaments, the angelic sounds of the music all pay homage to the Holy One. It’s so easy to lose sight of that in the midst of things and though the decorations are merry and bright, our hearts may not be.

This past week, I woke up in the night wanting to recapture the way I felt about Christmas as a child and was unable to fall back to sleep. I was hungry for the spirit of Christmas that would run deep into my own spirit. I Googled the Real Meaning of Christmas to see what the Internet was saying about it and found what I was looking for—that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. To celebrate Him is to celebrate Life, Love and Forgiveness which leads to Joy and Peace in our hearts regardless of what’s going on around us. When we say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays—which is pointing to the Holy day of Christ’s birth—that’s what we’re celebrating.

I want to make the cookies my mom made because the tastes remind me of my childhood and that time of great anticipation. I have saved some of the shiny but discolored glass ornament balls from the farm and still hang them because I remember my excitement when they came out of the attic. I will place one of my mom’s taped together Christmas Carol books on the piano because I want my heart to rejoice at the memory of the sound of her music and our voices singing as she played from it. But it’s so easy to focus on traditions and memories, get sentimental and then miss the real thing.

The baby lay in a manger—there were no quilts or a bed, there were no cookies. The cattle were lowing—there was no piano music. There was hay and the smell of animals, no ornaments or scent of pine. He came as Hope for a wounded world and this is how he entered into it. He is the Hope for wounded hearts if we let him in. We don’t need all the rest.

Mr. Kiekhever, who owned the farm we grew up on, hoped to one day build a house on the 10 acres where our farm house sat because you could see Holy Hill from it. He passed away before that happened and Mrs. Kiekhever never went ahead with the plan. Mom and Dad eventually bought the property and the farm house still sits there. I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Kiekhever saw Holy Hill as a reminder of Holiness, as a symbol of Hope and that’s why he wanted the view. We need reminders.

I’m not sure I’ll have time to make the cookies I really wanted to make this year in memory of Mom. I don’t know if I’ll get around to writing cards to those I love.Though our tree is up that may be the extent of my decorating. But I will take time to let Jesus fill my heart with his Love and Light—flowing in to be poured out for others. And once again, I will remember the true meaning of Christmas.

20131218_191656_resizedO Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light.

Revered John Henry Hopkins

Baling Hay

Before long, Assy had puppies. There were also several farm cats that had kittens—and then the kittens had kittens and their kittens had kittens. Mice weren’t too much of a problem at the farm. The horses were soon joined by sheep, followed by chickens, goats, rabbits and ducks.

Ed and John in the hay pile with Assy's puppies. Crew cuts = misbehaving

Ed and John with Assy’s puppies.

“Now that we had a tractor,” Dad said, “it always seemed we were loaded with rubbish and tree cuttings that we had to take to the dump along the railroad tracks off Brookfield Road. We thought we ought to really have a wagon to pull behind the tractor. I had noticed a used farm implement dealer just off of HWY 94 on my way back from Madison one day. So on a Saturday, the boys and I drove over to check it out. We found a pretty good farm wagon—the only problem was that the wooden tongue was pretty rotted. We bought it anyway and took the side roads home. On the way, we found another implement dealer and stopped to ask if he might have a tongue for our wagon. He didn’t—but, he did have a saw mill. He ended up cutting us a beautiful 6 x 8 inch wooden tongue and attached it to our wagon. Now we had a beautiful wagon! This became another toy for the kids of the neighborhood. Whereas before we had a bunch of kids on the tractor, now we had a whole neighborhood full of kids on the wagon.

To keep the horses fed, we were going back to Reinder’s regularly to buy baled hay and buckets of oats plus vitamins the salesman said we really should have for them. It wasn’t too long before Ed, John and I went back to Madison to the dealer we bought the wagon from, and asked about equipment to make our own hay. The dealer said he had exactly what we needed. We ended up buying a John Deere sickle-bar mower and an old New Holland baler and he delivered them to us. Now we were all set—we could make our own hay.

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Ed at the wheel with John on the baler

About this time, the church we attended, Faith United Church of Christ, became involved in a merger and we got involved with the church located in Milwaukee on 4th and Meinecke. We would drive in town to 4th and Meinecke every Sunday. One of the things I remember well were the breakfasts our church held after the Easter sunrise services. All the tables would be set up in the fellowship hall—members and families gathered around big platters of scrambled eggs. There were challenges with the merger but those breakfasts were great. Dolores eventually took on the music ministry which included playing their beautiful old pipe organ—the organ console was located in the balcony, where she also rehearsed the choir—and I taught the senior highs.

Sometime around then during the summer, the boys and I had succeeded in mowing, raking and baling our first hay crop.

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Kids in the field

Following that was the chore of picking up all the bales, stacking them in the wagon and putting them in the barn. I talked to my Sunday school class and asked my students how they’d like to help me pick up the hay out at our farm and they were all excited. I also got the guys from my office to help out. It must have looked interesting to the neighbors to see this large mix of African American teenagers and architects out picking up bales in our field. I remember one of my students was very strong. He would pick up two bales in each hand and throw them up on the wagon. We got the bales picked up pretty quickly and stored away in the barn for our first crop.

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Wagon full of hay bales

Now it was a piece of cake in the morning to go up into the second floor of the barn where the hay was stored and just simply kick out a bale to feed the horses.

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Senior Highs

On the side of barn facing the hayfield was a built up driveway to the upper level of the barn where the hay was stored. I found out all the kids had become quite adept at walking across the wooden beams in the barn and jumping into the stored hay beneath. Ed had built a hideout in the corner of the barn where the beams connected to the outside wall. You’d have to walk approximately 20 feet on a 10 inch wooden beam to get to it. So that’s where the neighborhood kids would gather. I didn’t find out until later that this adeptness with heights led to jumping out the second story sliding barn door we used to drop the bales down out of to feed the horses. So here all the kids are jumping from the second floor of the barn, landing beneath in the lose hay from the opened bales. Oh, those poor neighbors who had to watch all this.

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Ed’s innovation–a bridge

When the kids were running around they learned to duck under the barbed wired fence. One of Ed’s friends, Gary Robinson, didn’t duck quite far enough and caught the barb on his back, leaving a bloody injury. About then, his dad happened to come by and I was concerned about what he would say about it. All he said was, “Gary, if you can’t duck far enough, don’t go under it.” Then he got out a first aid kit from his car and patched him up.

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John helping Dad with two broken arms.

Anyway, I would distribute the oats and vitamins by pouring them out on the ground at a fence post near where the hay was dropped and I soon became aware of what was going on. Three of the horses are mares (Lady, Subi and Fleta) and one is a gelding (Sam) who was by far the biggest. I guess I just assumed the horses would sort of divide the food but that wasn’t Subi’s idea. She’d flatten her ears and the other horses, including Sam, would back away. Subi would eat all she wanted. To solve this problem I bought a halter for each of them and knotted short ropes at each of four fence posts.

When it was time for the oats and vitamins I’d attach the ropes to each horse. Now they each got their share. I’m sure this didn’t make Subi happy but it did the other three.

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Dad and Sam

I still can’t imagine what the Mitchells (our neighbors across the road) thought of my farming. We were always into something.

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Wiggles, Waggles and Peep Bo in the orchard

Peep Bo being sheered. The wool was used for the quilt that lays on  Dad's bed!

Wiggles being sheered. Mom had the wool made into a quilt that still lays on Dad’s bed.

I remember the time Mom ran to the store and left Ed in charge. It was snowing hard and he got the idea you should all to go to the Mitchell’s for a visit. You got your snowsuits and boots on and trudged over there together. On the way, John’s boots came off in the deep snow and he arrived there bare footed. You can imagine Mabel Mitchell’s reaction to that…and your Mother’s when she found out about it!”

20131210_171014_resized_1So, we ended up getting a great deal for that $75/month rent. The Kiekavers were a wonderful family and before long, Dad was helping Lolly Linnley, the Keikhevers’ daughter who lived at the farm past the castle at the end of the stone road, rein her horses in. We had a lot of good times together. Though the barn is now gone, our house on Gebhardt Road still stands. Ed eventually lived there with his wife Georgine and their two sons Christopher and Michael—that’s another story. Now Chris, along with his wife Lisa and their son Eddie live there.

Today, it’s hard to imagine a five year old walking alone on a mile-long stone road through the woods but that’s how I often got home from kindergarten. For my birthday in 1st grade, my parents invited my class over for a picnic. We walked on that road together from Brookfield Elementary to the farm with our teacher Miss Miller. I heard that after Mr. Kiekhever died, the nuns moved into the castle and it became a home for unwed mothers.

As life would have it, I was invited to an event at the castle for work last week. I found out that In the 80s it was bought and renovated by Don and Kate Wilson. It felt a little like I had stepped through time as I walked up the front walk. Memories of swimming in the pool that was once off to the left came back along with the old tennis courts where new homes now stood.

The coach house to the right of the drive, where our babysitter Fern lived, had been a mini replica of the castle, but it was gone.

I remembered there was also a log cabin, long forgotten, that sat deep in the woods. We spent one family Christmas there with Mom’s family. Someone later bought, renovated and added on to it.

Did Santa come?

Johnnie and me, “Did Santa come?”

As I remember the golden fields and sound of my brothers voices yelling in the fresh air I can’t help but think how blessed we were by our time on the farm. It’s funny to think now that the kids on the school bus would laugh at me when I got off at the farm house. To avoid it, I began getting off at the stop by the subdivision a half mile down the road and walking home. I wonder how often, like the kids then, we overlook God’s beauty and miss His miracles which surround us every day.

“We were….eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16. NKJV, from Max Luxado, Blessings for a Day, December 14

Always with You

We gathered at my parents’ condo like we were setting up camp back in the days of our family travels—spending days and nights together. Joanie and I shared the pullout couch in Mom’s office until our emotions grew too large for us both to fit there and I moved to the couch in the living room. We never knew that we would have the chance to care for Mom like she had always cared for us. Her children, nursed in her arms, giving us life and all she had to give. Now she was depending on us to supply her fundamental needs. Does it sound strange to say this was a gift?

The week had started out with Mom’s inspiration—Morning Buns. Her sudden burst of energy provided a morning walk to the store that Sunday with Dad. She had always enjoyed shopping and no less on this day. After breakfast she settled into the chair in the corner of their bedroom. This was where she was most comfortable. “The chair suits my back,” she would say. It was soft and deep but very difficult to get out of. That she could, spoke of her determination to stay strong. The chair was surrounded by the books she loved—the Bible Dad had rebound for her with the two pages from Proverbs missing. She had put the worn thin pages in a safe place—so safe in fact, that they missed the rebinding. She could never bear to part with her beloved book again so they remained loose inside. Behind the chair, was a grocery bag packed full of letters and cards from the many people whose lives she had touched, counseled and loved over the years.

No one knew at the time that the day’s devotion Mom read that morning contained the first scripture she had ever memorized. I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me. (John 10:14).  It was the scripture Reverend Bernwirth had read to her the Sunday she was baptized—a brave ten-year-old recovered from pneumonia and destined to be used by her Shepherd to love others throughout her life and work.

Samsung 062713a 116It also included verses 27 and 28 from that chapter. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. I’m sure these words along with the devotion’s text (I am with you, I am with you, I am with you. Heaven’s bells continually peal with that promise), must have deeply comforted Mom that morning.

“You go on to church,” she told Dad. “I thought I could go with you today but I’m not feeling quite up to it now. It must have been the walk. You go. I’ll be fine.”  I can imagine her smiling up at him, inhaling a whiff of his Old Spice aftershave as he would give her a kiss.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Go and pray.” She may have added.

“Okay, darling,” that he could do for her. “I love you. I’ll hurry home.”

I think of her reflecting on their past 12 hours together—the chili and football game the night before, the fresh air of their morning walk, the pleasure of a little shopping and the stunning colors of the produce so beautifully displayed around them. I wonder if the unexpected energy she experienced had given her any hope that she might be getting better. Many things we take for granted had been taken from her. Her fingers hurt when she played the Chopin Etudes, Debussey, hymns and improvisations we loved to hear but she didn’t stop. Music had been such a big part of her life—she wasn’t willing to let that go too. Hospice had told her she wouldn’t be able to leave the house alone once she signed the papers confirming their care, not even for a walk. There would be no more driving, her independence was coming to an end. She had flinched at that, I had seen it.

I know she would have preferred to go to church with Dad that morning. Instead, she reflected on how God’s magnificence surrounded her. Quietness is the classroom where you learn to hear My voice,* she continued to read from her little orange-covered book. That was the place she was most comfortable now. She had told me that.

In earlier days, Mom and I loved to shop together. She was shopping when she was getting ready to give birth to me. Among the racks of a department store, her knees had buckled and people gathered around her wondering what was wrong. A baby—she was getting ready to have a baby. And so this is where I prepared to make my entrance into the world, amongst the whiff of new fabrics and the sense of excitement a new purchase can bring. I wasn’t born in the store but it wasn’t too long after that. So it was my mom, as well as her mother before her, who are partially responsible that I love to shop.

When Grandma would come to visit, we would help her unload her suitcases and boxes of baked treats containing tins layered carefully with cookies and fudge placed between sheets of wax paper. Then she would head straight to the nearest mall—Mayfair when we lived on the farm and Capital Court when we were in town. I still have dreams about girls’ dress departments and being surrounded by circular rods filled with ruffled satin and lace, or heading up and down escalators that lead to shoe departments. Mom would always stop at the candy counter for caramels and cashews before we began. I was too excited to eat, my eyes darting and head jerking from one thing to the next, dazed by all the new possibilities. My husband says that one of these days I’ll sprain my neck.

In the last months of Mom’s life, I began going overboard buying new clothes for her to wear. She had lost so much weight, nothing fit and this had bothered her. Anyone who knew Mom remembers her impeccable style. I went to the shop we had most recently been to together. It was a fun trip where everything she tried on looked perfect. We left with several bags and it had perked us both up. That’s what it was always about. We cheered ourselves up shopping. It’s a superficial thing, I know that—a false promise of hope for a new beginning by looking differently. It only a short time before you want something else but its an escape. I learned how to hide a new purchase on a shelf out of sight until the right time presented itself. “Is that something new……?” Todd would ask me. “I don’t remember seeing that before…….?”

“Why no—I’ve had this for a while….,” I’d respond.

So during Mom’s last months I bought her more than she needed. I later found the things in her drawers with their price tags still on. It was upsetting to be reminded of so I quickly gave them away. I know the things she did wear lifted her spirits a little and that was something small I could do. I also know I was trying to hold on to her.

“Please don’t get me any more, Debbie,” I didn’t want to hear those words. “I’m not like that now. I’m different. I’ve changed. I don’t care about clothes.”

Mom had let that go. There was no place for anything superficial in her life now. For me, more than the awareness that I should let the empty endeavors go myself, it was the beginning of my acceptance that I would have to let Mom go. God had given us this precious woman as our mother and as Dad’s wife on this earth but this great gift wasn’t ours to keep. Ultimately, she belonged to Him.

20131207_163432I needed to hear the words in my heart, I am with you, I am with you, I am with you, and I read them and reread them from that little book on the page dated October 30. It was time to return the great gift to the One we had received it from and not try to hold on to it. To be able to return a gift of love to the giver is the greatest gift of all.

Mom’s devotion: Jesus Calling by Sarah Young