Monthly Archives: August 2013

Hands That Loved Me

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Healing tears and comforting touches

This time 2 weeks ago we had just said goodbye to Aunt Ruby after spending the day at her bedside, keeping vigil and waiting for her to make her trip to Heaven. It seems both  like a lifetime ago and like it just happened.

 

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I cried little cries several times during that day, as we all did. And I cried when she left to go Home, as we all did. But I have not yet really broken down and had the big cry, the ugly one.

This is unlike me, and it feels like something is wrong. I realize that every loss has its own unique set of circumstances, and that grief follows no specific, or even logical, timetable. Having lost many loved ones in my life, having volunteered with hospice for several years and having completed a ministry course which put me face to face with people experiencing their own losses, my mind knows that I will process my feelings in their own good time.

I just feel…half-dead. I remember the events of the day clearly and vividly, the faces of my family as we all communed together in that sacred space, waiting and watching. I remember all of it. But my feelings have been feeling flat.

This loss hits me in a new place, as each new loss does. But this new place feels foreign, strange and unfamiliar in a way I can’t quite describe. I may need some help to sort this out, in the form of counseling or a major sabbatical from some of my volunteer activities…or both. Or something else. Or all of the above.

Of course, after Mama, (and sometimes even before Mama) the person I would talk to about this kind of thing would have been Aunt Ruby. Aunt Ruby told me when I was younger that it was OK to cry, and to just let my tears roll. She was the only person in my life who ever gave me this permission, and it was priceless. What I would give now to be able to sit at her feet, my head in her lap, and have her comfort me. I can feel her stroking my hair and hear her soothing voice telling me that it will be OK, that God gave us tears for a reason, that crying helps us to heal…to just let my tears roll.

And so they roll now. I didn’t start this post thinking that it would help the crying process to begin, but I am grateful that it has. I can feel Aunt Ruby with me as I sit here, telling me that it’s OK to let go, it’s OK to cry…and that I need to if I am ever going to heal. I don’t know if I will ever meet another person with her wisdom or her serenity, and I am going to miss being able to sit in her presence and enjoy those moments.Image

She possessed an enormous heart, a mind that never stopped wanting to learn, and eyes that always saw something worthwhile in me no matter what anyone else saw. And her hands sewed warmth and care into every piece of clothing and every quilt she ever touched, baked nourishment into every biscuit she ever served, and canned future provision and generosity into more green beans and tomatoes than anyone could begin to count.  She soothed my tears and fears with those hands.  Precious hands…hands that loved me.  Image

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The Big Six

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The end of a generation…and time for the next one to step forward

My cousins, my brother and I are living in a different world than we were just 10 days ago, one with a giant hole in it.  The woman Reed and I called Aunt Ruby, and who our cousins called Mother, Mom and Mama, has gone home to Heaven.  I will write more about her, her living and dying, in a future post.  Right now I can still hardly wrap my head around the idea that she is gone.

Right now I just want to reminisce about simpler times with Reed and my cousins, to find comfort and maybe some smiles in my memories.  Debbie was born to Aunt Ruby and Uncle John first, and she enjoyed 10 years by herself with them.  Then Aunt Ruby and Mama started the family “baby boom”.  Mark and Reed arrived less than 5 months apart, then I was born less than 3 years after Reed, Alan was born 10 months after I was, and Haven brought up the caboose about a year and a half after Alan.  Poor Debbie sometimes got stuck with babysitting the remaining 5 of us younger kids! I can’t even imagine what that must have been like!  Image

We grew up attending the same schools because we lived close together.  Reed and I began going to church with Aunt Ruby and Uncle John and their kids when Mama was taking care of Granny and unable to take us to church herself.  Granny made Mama promise that she would take us when she was able to, and after Granny died, Mama kept her promise.  Aunt Ruby and Mama were very tightly bonded and, as a result, so were we, often functioning as a single group of siblings rather than two separate sets.

Often we would “swap a kid”.  Haven would come to spend the night with me on Ford Street and Reed would go to hang out with Mark and Alan on Arnold Street.  Or vice versa, with any configuration of kids at either place.  I know I spent almost as much time at Aunt Ruby’s house growing up as I did at my own.  It was equally home to me.

As we’ve grown older, our lives have taken off in different directions, and each of us has dealt with individual issues and struggles.  Life as a family is not always pretty.  And even though 5 of the 6 of us all live in the same town, we’ve been hard-pressed to get together as a group…unless someone is getting married or buried.  But I agree with the immortal wisdom of the Facebook quote that asserts, “Our cousins are the first friends we have”.  In our case that has been the absolute truth.

Aunt Ruby was the last of her siblings, her generation, to leave this world.  She and her sisters, “The Big Five”, left us a rich legacy of strength, craziness, laughter, tears and love to draw upon as our generation is forced now to step forward and pretend that we’re grown-ups.  I don’t know how all of that is going to work out…but I pray that we can be more diligent about gathering now and then, just to spend some time connecting with one another.  We’ve learned once again, all too poignantly, how short life is.  Image

Beauty In Brokenness

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Why the end is sometimes a new beginning

For several years we enjoyed birds nesting in a bush in front of our porch. What a joy to discover a little tangle of leaves, twigs and mud appearing, growing larger each day until a nest was recognizable. Birds are wonderful builders and watching them make a home for their brood is fascinating.

Once the nest was completed, the eggs began to appear, little vessels of sky blue holding the transpiring miracle of albumen and life. Mama Robin would deposit one egg per day until the nest was full of the four she ultimately laid there.Image

Watching her on the nest and waiting for the eggs to hatch was riveting for me and I stalked the bush and the nest with camera in hand and childlike anticipation of the coming baby-bird parade.  Several times each day I would go out to inspect the nest and see whether Mama Robin was sitting on the eggs or gone to find some food for herself.  Image

When the eggs hatched I happened to catch the process as it unfolded.  The miracle of birth!  I had just said goodbye to Jeff as he left for work that morning, and it was a day off for me, so I checked the nest and one of the little babies was pecking its way through the shell right before my eyes.  I was bolted to the spot as I beheld this spectacle of one tiny bird, then its nest-mates, fighting to be born.Image

My daily obsession continued as I followed their growth and progress, listening to the wails of hungry infant birds, watching Mama Robin as she took such expert care of her little family.  This was great stuff!  And I knew that before long the babies would leave the nest and fill my dogwood tree with birdsong and flight.

A new robin’s nest appeared the following year…but so did a neighborhood cat, who demolished the nest and the eggs. leaving behind only the empty nest with a broken shell to remind me that life is fragile and nothing is promised.  Nature is not always kind.

Like the shell of a robin’s egg, sometimes we have to be broken in order for a new thing to be born.  Jesus talked about wheat dying in the ground in order to sprout and grow grain.  Caterpillars have to break through the chrysalis to spread their new butterfly wings and fulfill their destiny.  Brokenness is a hard thing, a painful thing.  And sometimes it is a needed thing.  Lord, when I am broken, remind me that it’s not forever…and that it is for something new to be born.  Image