She would have been so proud. Her grandbabies all spit shined and on their best behavior, lined up on the pew in a church filled with flowers and bittersweet thoughts. Her favorite songs being belted out up front and the gospel message being spoken. And the chocolates afterward would have been the icing on the cake for her. Literally. We said our goodbyes today in grand style. The way she’d have wanted it. The way she did want it and planned: the great thing about knowing your time is coming and being able to tie up loose ends and speak your peace and prepare a celebration just the way you want. And there were nine Bibles, with notes from her inside, to each of her nine grandbabies. Notes saying things like,
Dearest Peter, when I think of you I think of your big brown eyes. That is something you and I will always share, right? and
My hope and prayer is that you grow in the love of Christ every day of your life. You still have a lot of living to do, little one. and
I love you, my buddy, and I will see you at the gate.
Oh, my aching heart watching the pastor pass them out to kids who can’t really grasp how big death is but who know that it includes going without her and then here is this wonderful tangible reminder that she loved them and Jesus, both. And when we wonder how we’ll ever be ok again, we remember that there is Jesus and as long as there is, death doesn’t win. Jesus does. And a stinging blow was sent to Satan this afternoon when several hundred people gathered in a small church in Fremont, Michigan and praised a God who gives and takes away. And we listened to Louise nearly raise the roof off the church with the Alleluia Chorus. And an angel (you know who you are) came and sang. She was an angel, I swear it.
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
We’re claiming that for the days to come. That the Lord has promised good to us and that He’ll be our shield and portion as long as life endures. We’re claiming that through holidays without her and lonely evenings and blank spaces where it asks for emergency contacts. We’re claiming that for ourselves and for Dad. And we’re circling the wagons cause we think he’ll probably need to be reminded of this a lot. And so will we.
But tonight we have aching hearts and feet and a picnic basket chock full of candy wrappers that bear witness to four kids having to sit still for a long time while we said goodbye. If it were up to us, we’d run off to some place with our family and not think of anything deep for a while, but it’s not. And so tomorrow we’ll start figuring out how to live without her and it’ll be crappy, but we’re better for having known her. Lots better. And we’re thankful for that. Seriously.
So this is me being real. Thankful that this goodbye isn’t forever. Not even sort of.
September 18, 1946-March 22, 2011
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
My blog is one today. One year of inviting you into my life, then sitting back and hoping you don’t hate me for it. One year of being real and praying it doesn’t come back to haunt me. One year of change and growth and, hopefully, some laughs along the way, if for no other reason than as an alternative to emotional eating (which I’ve done some of this year too). And for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I had to say goodbye to my mother in law this afternoon, I’m too tired to do much more than point you in the direction of some of my favorite posts. Had to say goodbye to my Mumsy, a woman I’ve known for 20 of my 36 years. And had to watch her mom say goodbye too, which was almost more than I could bear to watch. Could do little else but rub her heaving back while she told her daughter to go to Jesus. And she hasn’t yet, but we’re waiting, hoping Jesus takes her tonight because this earth holds nothing for her anymore and we’ve all given her permission to go on ahead. We’ll catch up later.
So in honor of my Mumsy, there was this favorite about our annual trip to Sugar Island where the famous words, “Cucumbers are dumb” was seconded then sealed into the annuls of great but controversial things my mother in law has said over the years.
There was this rant about toothpaste and life in general that seemed to hit a cord with fellow Perler Bead dislikers (we only hate Satan) and made me realize that my life is really small when the biggest things I can find to complain about are oral dentrifices (dentrifi?) and crafting supplies. But just wait, because I’m formulating a letter of complaint in my mind to the people who put a big hair in my peanut butter. Just you wait.
There was this especially fun way God used to remind me I’m not in Kansas anymore. It involves a tarp and some lemonade and makes me want to sing Sweet Home Alabama even though I don’t even like Alabama.
This post was almost the most commented on post of the past year. Almost. It got beat out by Grant’s accident last month. But I’d be sorta ticked of if it hadn’t. I’m just saying.
We have many brushes with wild creatures, one of which this week involved breading and a gag reflex (actually they all involve a gag reflex now that I think about it. But this one takes the cake.
And here is the only post my mother in law ever commented on. The only one. Even though she was a faithful reader. Took her nearly six months to figure out how to leave a comment and she was never able to do it again, but she did this one time and that’s worth something.
So this is me being real. Introspective about a year of blogging. Vowing to do better in the next year, after all, there is already a back log four deep: woodpecker, peanut butter, minions and sportcoat. They’re coming. Them and lots more. Happy Birthday little blog.
Remember when you were a kid and you would lay in bed on weekday mornings and try to be as quiet as possible, thinking that as long as your parents didn’t know you were awake you wouldn’t have to go to school? That flawed childlike thinking that said if you didn’t move, didn’t make a peep, eight o-clock would never come and you could stay home all day with your mom and not have to do math and bologna sandwiches? I’m doing that today and it’s the eight o’clock of this time in my life and I have to write my mother in law’s obituary but I’m afraid that when I do, she’ll die and so I’m blogging instead. Because there’s this really deep sadness that I can handle most of the time, but today it feels like it might overflow and I’m pretty sure I’m going to wash away with it when it does. And it’s because I’m doing the preparatory things that a person has to do when someone they love is dying and you know about it and you have to get ready: ordering shirts for the boys so they’ll look presentable and downloading Handel’s Alleluia Chorus as sung by the London Philharmonic Choir so that you can put in on her ipod and let her listen to it as she is laying in her hospital bed at home and it’ll remind her that she’s gonna hear that everyday for the rest of her life sung by the loveliest choir ever and directed by Jesus, who she’ll be hanging out with. And you’re the teeniest bit jealous, because, seriously, it’s Jesus and she gets to go there, but you are not ready to leave this life and you’re not ready for her to either, so you try not to think about it and instead you get a sitter so you and your husband can have a date and talk about something other than death for awhile (even if part of your date is going to be spent looking for new black shoes so he doesn’t look weird at him mom’s funeral). And you try not to live on tenterhooks, but you sort of have to because she’s down to the last few days now and we’re trying so so hard not to hold on too tightly but to open our hands and let her go. Trying not to avoid doing these yucky, loving acts of choosing what she’ll wear in her coffin, and finding a caterer and writing her obit. Because it’s almost eight o’clock and the jig is up and I have to do it. Even though we’re only 36 and we still need our moms I’m going to do it. Even though she hasn’t finished the sweater she was knitting for Lucy I’m going to do it. Even though it hurts my heart in a deep place I’m afraid to open up. I’m. Going. To. Do. It. Because it’s probably one of the last acts I can do to love her. And I do love her.
This is me being real. Ready. Totally not ready.
We’ve been thinking about heaven lately. Have had many whispered conversations while snuggled in the monster bed with everyone’s lovies and some books and a healthy dose of curiosity. Because they know Grandma is headed there soon and they want to know what she will find. I’ve learned bucketsful about what it takes to go there this year. And I think the criteria is stiffer than I’ve always believed. Pretty sure we’re kidding ourselves if we think the basic requirements are membership in a church and trying to do good for others. Maybe this is sparked by seeing Rob Bell at Doc’s this morning and stifling the urge to ask him to clarify whether or not he really thinks hell exists. Maybe. But I think it comes from lots of roads in my life converging on this one topic and the road I walked yesterday was one on which I read the book Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent (who also helped write Same Kind of Different as Me, which you should totally read if you haven’t yet) about a three year old boy who goes to heaven and is sent back. And I could write pages and pages about the amazing things he saw and how I believe what he says is true and how I learned so much about heaven as I lay on the couch licking the pages and crying the ugly cry, but it’d be better if you just ran out and got yourself a copy because if you have any doubts about how amazing heaven is, how indescribably amazing it is, then you should read this book. Well, you should read Revelations first, but then you should read this book. And, Lisa (you know who you are), this is for you: a book recommendation I can stand behind with near certainty that you’ll love it as much as I did. Go ahead. Read about the boy who visited Jesus, sat on his lap, and told his dad Jesus had markers on him. Red ones. On his hands and feet. And in his three year old mind he figured Jesus had just gotten messy with the Crayolas. Didn’t know yet that those markers were the entrance ticket for that kid to sit on the lap of the King and be held. Oh my word. Go. Go now. Tell me what you think when you’re finished.
This is me being real. Interested in conversations about heaven and Jesus and how great they both are.
This girl and I went on a date this weekend to see Disney Princesses on Ice. Dressed in fancy duds and accessorized to the hilt we went. With only girls and their moms and all of them in fancy duds we went. And I vacillated between being inexplicably emotional at the sheer romance of the princesses and their princes swirling around the ice together and being wary of yet another marketing ploy by those geniuses at Disney as I watched parents shelling out 12 bucks for a bag of cotton candy attached to a plastic crown. Twelve bucks. Seriously.
And then I folded like a cheap suit and sent her down the aisle with a twenty to get one for herself. And I let her eat the whole thing, only warning her twice of a tummy ache. I plopped her warm self on my lap and let her eat the whole thing, wearing her new crown and her flower girl dress I’ve gotten so much bang for the buck out of and I nearly melted into the seat with the sweetness of it all. The joy of just her and me and a handful of princesses doing leaps and jumps and winning the guy and skating off to forever. I was even mostly able to quiet the voice in my head reminding me that all those skaters were somebody’s Olympic hopeful. Somewhere there is a parent who spent the better part of their adulthood driving their kid to the rink, paying exorbitant amounts of money for more lessons, more spandex, more nude nylons all in the hopes that someday they would sit in the stands and watch their kid compete for Olympic gold. Except on Saturday it was me and Tessie in the stands watching that same kid dressed up as golden flatware for the Beauty and The Beast number. Funny. Sorta.
This kid who skipped out to the car afterward, swearing it was the best day ever? She makes me happy.
This one too, although she was involved in totally different activities while I was away:
This is totally naughty and possibly toxic, but it was also too cute to not stop and take a picture. Because sometimes I forget to do that and then I can only remember what a pain it was to clean up, but the cleaning up part isn’t what it’s all about. It’s really all about the perspective part. So that’s what I took a picture of. Because this peanut’s nannyburd swears that someday my cupboards will be clean and neat and there won’t be 134 messes scattered around and waiting to be cleaned up and she swears I’ll miss it and I think she might be lying, but on the off chance she isn’t, I took a picture. Just in case.
This is me being real. Ready for some of that clean my mom keeps talking about. But only if it means this baby never has to grow up. Because I’m totally not ready for that.
There is this woman I love (you know who you are) who celebrated a very special anniversary last week and every year I promise myself that I won’t miss it and every year I do. Just so caught up in my own life that I miss it. And the missing of it diminishes how totally proud I am of her. Because I am. Because five years and a week ago she walked through the doors of The Betty Ford Clinic in Palm Springs, CA and when she did she left at the door all the hurt and yuck that had led her to anesthetize in the first place. And when she emerged 72 (a million) days later, well, she was still broken, but not as much and not addicted anymore. Free from that and open to the working of the Holy Spirit who took what had been started there and is finishing the job. Is making her ashes into beauty because that’s what he does when we drop all the crap that holds us back and asked to be transformed. He does it. Does it in spades. So you, woman that I love, that I adore, that I’m so so very proud to call friend, you are something to behold.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her.
Many woman do noble things, but she surpasses them all.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lords is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
I love you deep.
The news that Dan’s mom (you know who you are) has days, possibly weeks left had only just started to sink in when we went into quiet panic mode around here yesterday. Dan and I both cleared our schedules (much easier for me than him) and headed up. I did my volunteering at the school, then grabbed Tess on my way out the door. We arrived at Grandmas with all her favorites: clementine oranges, squeeze cheese mac n cheese and double stuff oreos. We arrived with heavy hearts and dreadful anticipation of what we’d find and the unrealistic goal of cramming the next twenty years into a couple of weeks. Can’t be done. That’s not how God works. He only gives us this one teeny precious minute and asks us what we’re going to do with it. So I spent it watching my dying mother in law holding wild-haired Lucy on her lap and teaching her how to eat an oreo. Showing her how to twist the top off and use your teeth to scrape the white stuff out cause that’s the best part. And we spent it rubbing lotion onto her dry, dry feet and legs. Being as gentle as possible and thanking God for even the small gift of being able to minister to her this way. We spent it telling Grandma about Disney Princess on Ice this weekend and listening to her say how she’d dreamed of princesses ice skating last night, isn’t that funny? We spent it trying to focus on just these precious last days that we do have and trying really really hard, so hard, not to think about the million and three days we won’t have and all the things that will happen on those days. Things she’ll miss like weddings and funny stuff kids say and Dan’s graduation and everyone else’s too and shoe shopping for back to school and telling us that cucumbers are dumb at the Sugar Cottage. And, oh, the Sugar Cottage. It won’t be the same.
But we don’t have those days yet. Only this day. And the best way we can think to spend it is rubbing lotion on Grandma’s feet and learning how to eat oreos and praising God for time. Even when there isn’t enough of it. And there isn’t. But we can only suck the marrow out of this day. This hour. This minute. So we’re living hard and learning about what is precious and what isn’t and heading to the grocery store to pick up American cheese slices to put atop the banana bread I’m making for her for tomorrow because that’s what sounds good and I’m not even going to tease her about how disgusting that is because she’s dying and I miss her already.
This is me being real. Sad. Thankful. Chasing time.
A conversation with my husband about the state of our dryer venting, greatly influenced by my annual read through of the Little House on the Prairie series and greatly exaggerated by my imagination:
me: Hey, D, are we ever going to get the proper ducting for the dryer so we can push it back against the wall?
him: Probably not. How did Caroline Ingalls dry her clothes?
me: Pa took care of it. Hung a line out first thing whenever they moved. That’s all she needed. A line and a washtub.
him: I’ll get you a line and a washtub if you’ll stop complaining about the dryer.
me: Wouldn’t work, we have way more clothes than the Ingalls did. Pa had one suit and some work shirts and Ma only had the sprigged delaney she wore to Grandpa’s sugaring dance and her work-a-day calico. That’s all.
him: I see no downside to this plan.
him: That’s what I’m talking about.
All this to say that Wendy McClure is done writing her book, The Wilder Life, and will be releasing it on the fourteenth of April. So, if you’ve lived your life chewing on the pages of The Little House series, wishing you’d been born in a simpler time (but secretly thankful you weren’t since you hate dirt and work, both), you can preorder Wendy’s book. You can live vicariously through her and never have to leave your air-conditioned, shop on the internet, eating prepackaged food grown by someone else house and not have to experience the dirt under your fingernails existence that pioneers faced and that you often dream of when you plot about a self-contained commune with your friends. Aren’t you lucky? And if anyone has a grown up continuation of Little House (and by grown up I don’t mean smut) would you please pass the title along. Because it’s taken me exactly eleven days to revisit my favorite pioneering family and read through all their stories this year and I miss them already. Well, not Ma. She doesn’t seem like much fun to me. But I miss the others. Especially Mr. Edwards. He was cool.
So this is me being real. And wishing I was a pioneer. And very thankful I wasn’t.
The boys have left us behind and driven off to spend the night at grandma ‘n grandpa’s. They loaded up a bag with all their outerwear and their bb guns and a box of cereal for Peter since they’ll probably eat eggs with onions and other stuff in them for breakfast and a fresh pair of underwear each, which I’m pretty sure will still be neatly folded in the bag when they return this afternoon. They went off with the new warm fleece lovies I just made them and the pillow pets they got in their Valentine’s bag and they had each grown at least an inch by the time they left in anticipation of a guy’s weekend. They went to spend time with grandma and grandpa both, but grandma mostly because time with her is dwindling faster than we had planned and it gets more precious by the minute. And because, as Grant said, “I feel sorry for her cause she has to sleep with grandpa (whose snores are legendary, but so are hers, just don’t tell Grant) and because she’s so sick.”
So they drove off in the white diaper and left us girls here to watch Barbie and the Magic of the Pegasus and have a slumber party in the monster bed and find a butterfly costume for a birthday party today. They left us here to read the latest Time magazine and watch International House Hunters and pray secret prayers in the dark. Ok, that’s just me, but the girls had fun too. And while the latest Time lacked the Awesome Column by my fav Joel Stein, it did offer up a fascinating interview about Mike Tyson’s new passion for homing pigeons, informed me that the Eastern Cougar has now officially been declared extinct and made me hurt for the Columbian soccer player who kicked the mascot of the opposing team and only offered this pithy apology, “I was not trying to hurt the owl. I did it to see if it would fly.” I skipped all the political writing as I normally do, but was fascinated to find out that Hasbro is releasing a newer, thinner Mr. Potato Head, who is going to be called “Active Adventures Mr. Potato Head” and will be wearing pants. Begs the question what kind of active adventures to root vegetables have? Charlie Sheen is still wildly unstable and Lady Gaga is still singing in her underwear. Is this culture even redeemable? Praise God that he is the God of this city and state and world and that His revival fire is starting to burn in unlikely places and from the lips of people whose only credential is passion. I can see the smolder here in this neighborhood from my own front door and it’s renewing my faith in redemption. So even though Russia is fighting to change the classification of beer from food to alcoholic drink (Russia, where have you been for the last three hundred years?) there is still a party going on. And you need not bring your own drinks, only yourself to lay at the foot of the cross of the only guy who can save us. Who already has. And who is calling us to draw a line in the sand and then stand. And link arms. Against Lady Gaga and coexist (the bumper sticker, not the idea) and pornography and mediocrity. Oh my, I’m not being very politically correct am I, but this is about me being real and if you read the title of this blog then you’ve been warned. And I was convicted in bed this morning that I spend far too much time reading magazines and not enough time on my face asking the Holy Spirit to invade my space and leave his fruits behind for me to grow and pluck. Are you tired of reading yet? Because there is a metamorphosis that has to take place for a five year old girl who is dressing up the bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup in doll clothes and waiting to take a shower, so I’m pitching this issue and putting a period at the end of my rant. And I’m just wondering what you’re linking arms against these days?
This is me being real. Curious.