Thursday, November 20, 2014

Celebrate Anyway

I have been reading posts about the holidays, how awful they are when a loved one has died, how hard it is for all who are grieving. Well, I have had a different experience. Our 8 year old son died in July of 1991. He is one of five siblings. My husband and I both come from large families. Holidays, especially Christmas, are a BIG deal in our family. After the Runner died I grieved deep and hard. It pushed the depression I already lived with even deeper. The holidays were a relief to me. It got me out of my house and out of my own little grief filled head.  Also in my world that had suddenly changed into a dark scary place, the ancient carols and the Christmas story remained the same. That was a great comfort to me. We always include the Runner in all our memories and celebrations; no one has ever had a problem with that. Yes, it is different, sometimes we cry and someone is missing but celebrations are still important. 

With big families someone is always missing because they live far away, may be traveling or celebrating with the other side.  My sister's oldest son died when he was two. She now has a big family and for many years would never have a family photo taken because one was missing. Then one year she came to the conclusion at some point her kyds grow up, one by one they would leave home and not be in the picture anyhow so she takes family photos now with whoever is there.  
Celebrate anyway. Choose joy. Wear red boots for courage.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Stone Keeper

I have a friend who lives far away. She has been through hard things and many obstacles in her life. She has freely given her best years to help others. Today, from far away, I am able to help her. I gather a few cleaning tools, some rags and a bucket of water. These are the tools of her trade. The wind is wild in the treetops but fallen leaves are too wet to twirl and dance. This day is chosen for this task because the lichen is rain soaked and more easily removed. The first time I went looking for this stone I wandered searching because the names  are so obscured.

The first step is to scrub the stone with a dry brush. This removes a fair amount of lichen.
I soon find the tools I collected for the job are not sufficient so I improvise. A crunched empty water bottle, a Snapple bottle and a pick from a long faded rose are put to good use.
As I scrape, scrub and rinse I ponder things. Scrubbing is good like that.  I am intrigued by double middle initials. I wonder what J. M. and A. E. stand for.  I think of the baby girl who lived from June until July, all of one day. I picture the little boy playing in his front yard behind the stone wall, waving at the pay loader driver. I cannot imagine  the heart of driver when his brakes give way and he goes over the stone wall.  The mama who went through the heartbreak of laying these two angels here has long since been laid to rest herself but someone still remembers. Someone remembers the life, the death, and the heartache. Someone's heart still bears the scars. 

I think of stones on other little graves and other little ones from times past. I walk up the hill to remember.
The pinwheel whirls in the wind like life and time whirling by. It stops for a brief moment. Time stops and stands still when death comes crashing into our lives or at least it stops in our hearts for a season. 

Bubbles for Kerry and Mary

There is deep peace here but the wind and rain are picking up. The perfection part of me is loath to leave any lichen hiding in the cracks but I have long been on my knees. Anything that brings us to our knees is a blessing. It is indeed a blessing to be reminded how much Jesus loves the children. 

Lichen is beginning to grow on the Runner's stone. I wonder in the long years to come if someone will scrub his stone and find his name.  I wonder if we should scrape the lichens from stones. Should we clean the dust and cobwebs from little red bicycles? Maybe we should leave them be to show the years going by and time whirling on but today I am the stone keeper because someone still remembers. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rain and Red Shoes

In the morning we have appointments. I wear red shoes for courage. The weather is a special gift: seventy one degrees mid morning in mid autumn. There are trees, gowned and ready for the October Ball, just glowing in the rain.
The morning has many moments of waiting with book in hand: "With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness as right as God gives us to see right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations."  A. Lincoln

We dash through the rain into the Diner. A friendly lady at the next table shares her spinach artichoke dip with us while we wait for Yankee Pot Roast, a fitting feast for a late lunch after a long morning that needed courage. The friendly neighbor table is eating New England Boiled Dinner and a Hot Roast Beef Sandwich.
Home again through the pouring rain, the red shoes get swapped for red boots to go out to check the chickens. They have had enough sense to come in out of the rain, half in the coop and half under the coop. A little persuasion from scraps and some gentle lifting they are all in the run, raindrops rolling like crystals off red feathers. Except LunaMae. She runs around going back and forth and around again, frantic, looking like the proverbial wet hen. She finally goes in and the gate is shut behind her. There are six warm brown eggs  rain speckled in the egg basket.

Today I am grateful for books and boots,
 rain speckled eggs, 
and red shoes for  courage.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today I wear red shoes

Last night we gathered to in support of the Biker's extended family. We honored a young husband, father, son whose life ended abruptly when living became too much to bear. The pain was deep, the understanding little, the friends and loved ones many. As I walked away last night I wanted to take my boots off, and curl up in a fetal position with a blanket and pillow. Instead the Biker and I picked up pizza and went to our own little family. The Biker played with the littlest one. I put together a jigsaw puzzle with my Mama and my kyds. We did normal things.  Normal is so far away from the family in the center of this tragedy. That road had ended and the one they now travel long and treacherous.

Today we will gather again to stand with them as they say farewell. And I wear red shoes for courage.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Following Your Footsteps

Down the cold and winter night road
Daddy speeding, Mama panting, down the cold and winter night road
Flashing lights and wailing sirens follow down the long cold winter night road
Such a hurry to start running
Running down your little life road.
Running, leaping, flying footsteps down your little life road.

One big brother, built in best friend
You the younger, he the older, 
Leaves behind his books and pencils, his beloved books and pencils 
Leaves behind his books and pencils
You the younger yet he follows
Follows flying over bike jumps, building high and leafy tree forts
Follows running, flying over bike jumps, leaping, climbing in the tree forts.

Little sister, almost twin sister
Chanting chicken soup with rice
"Going once, going twice, going chicken soup with rice"
Hand in hand, side by side chanting chicken soup with rice
Follows in your gift of friendship
Your sweet and twinkling gift of friendship
Finding, making, loving, keeping sweet and twinkling friendship.

Little brothers follow with their tiny footsteps
Follow with their tiny toddler footsteps
With their tiny trusting toddler footsteps
Riding high upon your shoulders
Riding high and safe upon your shoulders
Riding, laughing, flying safe upon your small and sturdy shoulders.

Down the hot and summer night road
Flashing lights and wailing sirens down the hot and summer night road
Follow flashing lights and sirens down the long hot summer night road
He is gone. Where shall we send him?
Send him down that road to heaven
Down that road of light to heaven
Down that road of light and love to heaven.
We will follow in your footsteps
In your running, leaping footsteps.
In your running, leaping, flying footsteps that lead us straight to God.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

And I am okay.

Twenty-three years ago at the end of a long, hot summer Saturday God called the Runner home. And long, hot summer day turned to long, dark winter night. At first it started on Friday night in anticipation of Saturday and I would not sleep until the wee hours of Sunday morning. As time went on it was the twentieth of the month that would send me spinning. Then as the years passed it became July, sometimes just the long hot summer days that would set me off. For years I hated summer. Yes, I hated summer. Summer was out of control.  Summer was fear. Summer was paranoid thoughts flashing in my mind unbidden. Summer was some untoward thing just waiting to happen. Last year was over the top, worse than ever, maybe because it was just so long, hot summer. The Biker and I were getting ready to head south on the bike and my head was a jumble of paranoid and untoward thoughts. I did not want to go. I did not want to stay home. We left on a long, hot July day. A few miles from home the bike broke a belt. We had to go back and start over. While the Biker did repairs I did prayers calling in reinforcements from a few trusted prayer warriors. The next morning we headed out. The jumble of paranoid, untoward clouds over me lifted and I was okay. It was still a long, hot summer day but I was okay.

This year as summer approached I wondered if I would be okay. I wonder every year and every year I think. yeah, this year I will be alright and every year I was not alright and once again I hated summer. But this year, praise God, I am alright. Yes, twenty-three years and I am okay. Today is a long, hot summer day. We went to Hillside Cemetery after lunch and released balloons. We each chose our favorite color. The wind carried them away and I am okay. All my fear, and hate and paranoia has truly been carried away on the wings of prayer. He is still gone and we still miss him but I am okay.

Ninja Turtle Green
Purple for Royalty
Pink for Sister
Blue for Because
Orange Woody for Uncle Leroy
and Red for Courage

Friday, July 4, 2014

Farewell Yellow Ribbon

In 2007 our Memorial Day celebration changes though we celebrate just the same as we always do: two parades and a visit to the memory stone up on the hill.  It changes everything when you know your two middle children plan to go the next morning to sign on the dotted line to join the United States military. And sign they do. She leaves in September. Mama grieves. Daddy cannot understand because he is so proud he is busting his buttons until the day it dawns on him that she is actually leaving.  Christmas that year changes too. We have our traditional Christmas Brunch twice. He leaves for boot camp five days before she comes home for Christmas. Mama grieves. The first the yellow ribbon is on the mail box and more on the Christmas tree.

Oh, the places we go...
Road tripping to boot camp. Parade in Review. Mama's heart beats a proud cadence: "We are the Navy, the mighty, mighty Navy...". The next time we fly. Great Lakes in February is mighty, mighty cold.

A year in Monterey at the Presidio. Mama misses out but a special someone makes it there. A Sweet Sailor comes home to get married. Foregoing yellow we beribbon the church in blue and brown.  The Biker extends his annual bike ride south all the way to Pensacola to take a sailor to dinner. We celebrate a Hawaiian Christmas, a gift from sailor. Pearl Harbor. Hickam Field. Waikiki. Hanauma Bay.  All the family gathers in his unfurnished apartment at Mililani Manor. We decorate a pineapple with purple ribbon and watch ribbons of oil rise from the USS Arizona.

Hawaii again. This time Mama keeps the watch in a square chair at Tripler. Jaw surgery is brutal and it is successful.  The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater and the Foster Botanical Gardens, both in Honolulu. And the ribbons of light coming into Phoenix.

We have Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant in Virginia Beach and we visit a little house in Augusta, Georgia. There is a blue ribbon on the mailbox to welcome our little Georgia Peach.

There are many comings and goings. Sighs and tears. Surprise visits and anticipated homecomings. At some point a bright yellow bandana becomes the permanent yellow ribbon on the front door. It weathers and fades. Then, after six years, they come home. In August the Sweet Sailor finishes her enlistment. They pack up the little Georgia house, the little Georgia Peach and move home. Three months later the Super Sailor follows suit from Virginia Beach. He is home in time for Christmas. There are job offers coming in from all over. In January his life starts over again, this time in Houston.

There are still comings and goings and Texas is too far away. The yellow ribbon is no longer on the door. Today there is red, white and blue to celebrate our freedom. Freedom that they stood watch for away from home and family. We are proud and we thank you.

Keep a yellow ribbon tied around your heart for those still coming home from far away places and far too many kinds of battles. Wear red shoes for courage.