The Rest of the Story

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A while back, during my college years, a tad bit before the virtual world exploded into cyber space and super electronics became the norm, I used to love to listen to Paul Harvey‘s, “The Rest of the Story,” segment on a little thing called the car radio.  I loved how he took one story and delved deeper into it to provide a whole different aspect.  After publishing my post yesterday, I began to reflect more deeply on all the things that combined to make that day so special.  You’ve all now heard about why that one particular photo of Mama has such an impact on me personally.  But what you don’t know is some of the other factors that came to be that day, helping to make an unforgettable experience for us all.

To begin, I must say that every person in attendance contributed in some way.  Everyone had to alter plans and travel distances to be present.  You see, Mom was not in her hometown.  We had decided that placing her in a more central location to all who would be spending their days with her in the hospice facility was a more logical solution.  We were actually two hours away from where I grew up and my parents’ hometown.  We would have had it no other way.  We wanted Mama to be surrounded by those she loved as often as possible and for as long as possible.  We were all more than eager and strongly desired to contribute in any way possible to create a day to remember.

Patrick and Traci of course were the ultimate deciding factor in getting the wheels turning.  It was their kind spirits and abundance of love for Mama which guided their hearts.  It was also their generosity in allowing others to shower them with assistance and contributions as best we could. They took care of all the little details necessary for the wedding couple, including gathering up all their little kiddos, preparing them for the day and then finally themselves as well.

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My sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Adrian, housed several people in their home during this time.  Her children gave up their bedrooms without hesitation and were always eager to assist any of us.  Elizabeth was the ultimate hostess, providing food and transportation for many.  So many of her generous friends dropped by with dinners, snacks, treats, and even flowers to show their support and to ensure that their sweet friend would not be overwhelmed by so many guests.

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My twin, Diane, spent long hours on the phone over several days dealing with schedule changes, flight arrangements, and car rentals to ensure that her husband, Scott, and three boys, who live several states away would be able to attend as well.

Mama’s sisters, Aunt Trish and Aunt Lou Lou, were by her side daily and rescheduled their days so as to be there to help beautify her for the ceremony and hold her hand during this whole process.  Aunt Trish provided something “old” by gifting Traci a broach to wear that was painted by Mama. They were more than a support; they were a shoulder to lean on and a hand to hold.

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As for Traci’s side of the family, her parents were taking care of their growing brood of grandchildren and helping to ease any stress for the happy couple in any way they could.  Patrick has twin girls and Traci has a son and daughter.  What a lovely group of people to combine into one loving household.

Traci’s sister, Rachel was a true expert in catering a last minute wedding.  It was absolutely fantastic and such a lovely addition to the day.  She also somehow magically created all of the bouquets and boutonnieres for the wedding party.  I am not sure I have ever seen more beautifully arranged flowers in my life.  I don’t know how she did it!  She definitely sprinkled a little fairy dust on the affair!

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I felt truly blessed and frankly, terrified when my brother and Traci asked if I would photograph the entire event.  I typically do all of my work outside and this was a bit out of my comfort zone. My hesitation was for a mere second and then I promised that I would do my best; but deep down inside felt emotions might just get the better of me, leaving me in a state of frenzy on the special day.  I have considered myself a solid photographer for years; but, this was somehow on a whole different level.  The ceremony was beyond emotional; but viewing this immensely intimate moment in time through my insanely timid photographer’s eye that day, was one of the most illuminating experiences I have ever had the joy of living in.

There remain two exceptionally sweet moments that can only be considered divine intervention.  Early on, there was much question in locating the perfect spot to hold the ceremony.  That was soon resolved by the nurses who strongly suggested that Mom’s bed should only be rolled out as far as the doorway to her room.  We looked around and sighed, having the beautiful image in our minds of just what the original venue would have provided, and yet knowing in our hearts what was truly important.

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Early on the morning of the wedding, two of Traci’s sweet friends, disguised as miracle workers, waltzed in with twinkle lights, paper bells, and flowers to spruce the place up.  As soon as the nurses caught sight of this, they rushed down to assist by providing sheets to hang from the ceiling and frantically began moving all medical equipment out of view.  I very vividly recall the tears that formed in my eyes at that moment.  What a sight to behold!  The love pouring forth from Traci’s friends and the most genuine desire to provide support by the nurses was more than evident.  It was felt by us all, deep down in those special spots reserved for exceptional moments in humanity.

Finally, as Dad prepared for the day, he realized he was lacking appropriate attire for the wedding.  He felt certain he could get away with the pants he had, but needed to stop by the mall to buy a shirt and tie.  As he wandered the unfamiliar grounds of the massive mall, gazing into the windows of unfamiliar stores, he came across a shop that appeared to have just what he needed.  There was only one problem.  The store didn’t open for another hour, which he did not have the luxury of.  So Dad did what any great man would do in his hour of need, he knocked on the door and flagged down the person inside.  The salesman came to the door and promptly said, “We don’t open for another hour.”  At that point, Dad took a deep breath and relayed his story to the young man.  I feel certain that at that very moment, this man looked into Dad’s eyes and felt the magnitude and importance of the day.  He then simply asked Dad to wait a second and on his return he opened the door to Banana Republic and welcomed Dad in for his very own individual shopping spree.  That wonderful salesman assisted Dad in locating a shirt and tie worthy of the man that was to officiate the ceremony of marriage for his only son.  And although the shirt was wrinkled and his pants worn, I have never seen my Dad look more distinguished than he did that day.

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The service was amazing!  There was not a dry eye in the room!  It was, by far, the most intimate, emotional, loving ceremony I have ever had the privilege of witnessing.  It represented what all weddings should be about, the love of two people and those who share in the best, most successful well wishes for their life together.

“And now you know….the rest of the story!”

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The Yin and Yang of a Strong Woman

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Each morning I arise with a flood of Mama Memories.  It’s the strangest sensation.  No matter what is going on in my life that might otherwise take that momentous time slot, snapshots of Mama push their way to the forefront of my mind.  I think it must be because my body, just prior to that, is in its most relaxed state and allows for those things that should take precedence to come forth.  Sometimes they’re happy and sometimes they’re filled with sadness, regret, and loss; either way, they tend to bring tears.  So as the months have progressed, I have become accustomed to wet eyes at the beginning of each day, knowing that my body is most likely just trying to release a bit of stress.

Today, I’m remembering just how generous and strong Mama was.  I’m not sure if anyone outside of her family is truly aware of just how accurate these two words describe her.  I think people feel generosity in the moment that they are included within it, which I also believe to be completely normal.  But how wondrous would it be to have vision enough to witness the magnitude of which some people actually are.  Mom would be one of those that would be awe inspiring to witness.

I don’t know exactly when she started the practice of taking food to every single doctor’s appointment she went to.  My guess is it was around the time she started having her joints replaced due to Degenerative Arthritis or possibly after her month long stay in a hospital in Louisiana with her leg in traction; regardless of when, Mom was really good about acknowledging those that took care of her.  It was nothing out of the ordinary for her to whip up a batch of Ranch Crackers or sugar cookies as an offering of thanks to the office staff, nurses, and her beloved doctors.  I still marvel at her ability to sit in an appointment and come out with as much information about their lives as they did about her ailments.  Mom may have come in as a patient, but I guarantee, she left as an honorary family member. I also tend to believe that some of this showering of appreciation came from growing up with a father who was a doctor that exhibited the compassion, patience, and kindness of a saint.

Now, back to my initial thought; how amazing would it be to witness a timeline of those rare individuals that truly show generosity as second nature and not as a deliberate act in recognition of a specific moment or occasion?  Mom’s timeline would most definitely be far stretching, if not infinite.  If we could all see that much goodness in people, witnessing them at their finest, most delightful, and giving moments, would our impressions of them change?  Would we accept their flaws more willingly?  Would we aspire to know them more intimately and without reservation?  Mom was a master at this.  She could somehow recognize the best in those around her and become lifelong friends with them instantly.

Don’t get me wrong, she was also strong willed and if someone took advantage of her, that did not go unnoticed.  She did not waste time on sugar coating things.  She would simply express the obvious and then reevaluate her thinking in regards to that particular person or situation.  I loved this fire in her.  I respect the fact that she could be so soft and yet so solid as well.  I know that I carry this same fire within myself.  I know that when I feel wronged, I will allow my thoughts to be heard in a respectful and logical manner.  I’m not sure if Mom considered herself to be strong, but if I could say it to her today, I would!  I would thank her for showing me that a weak body causing weak moments in life does not equate a weak heart as so obviously and consistently she exhibited as the years of arthritis and cancer took over her strength of body.  She never let this fact overshadow her generosity and positive attitude towards life and its challenges.  If I could say it to her today, if I could tell her something I should have said years ago.  If I could have one more Mother’s Day with her, I would say, “I wanna’ be just like you when I grow up, Mom!”

 

Cup of Joe

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No matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to make a cup of coffee as comforting as the one Mama used to make.  Even using her coffee machine with her coffee grinds.  I simply do not have the knack for it that she did.  It’s easy to acknowledge, it remains the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. There was just something about it.  But alas, I continue on my quest to somehow master the skill of the perfect cup of coffee and I have to admit, I came pretty close to it today.

The sweetest of friends surprised me with a delightful collection of Hawaiian coffee this past week and I’ve been dying to try it out.  So today, I gave it a go and I must say, it left me desiring the sand between my toes, waves crashing on the shore, and a longing in my heart to move to Hawaii, as if there needs to be another reason to move to a gorgeous tropical island.  It was fabulous!  I’ve come to realize, as years go by, the little things in life, like the simple generosity of others, way overshadow the former necessity of needing so much more. This one little act of kindness absolutely made my day and reminded me of how blessed I am to be surrounded by the people I share my life with.

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