The Silver Box

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Today, as I was looking through some paperwork in my study, my gaze fell upon a silver box holding several cards.  I have often glanced at it over the past year, but have hesitated in rereading any of the notes filling it.  I finally lifted one out and opened it again, knowing that what I would read inside was sure to bring tears.  No one tells you when you lose someone that through all of the hurt and pain you experience there is an additional emotional tide that waves over you each time you feel the support of those reaching out to you.  The love that is experienced in those moments is so bittersweet.  It is a pure mixture of sweet kindness and bitter reminders.  I don’t know how to ever truly thank those that have reached out to me in my lowest moments and carried me through my biggest struggles.  I know that I have expressed thanks in various ways, but there is a place deep down in my soul that fears I will leave someone without proper acknowledgement.  I hope they know how much all of their kind words, deeds, support, presence, and hugs mean to me.  I also hope that Mama feels it too.  I so wish that she could see how people love her and how much of an impact she made on all of our lives.

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I read through each and every one of those cards today.  It felt good to re-experience the kindness of my friends and embrace the love that was included within them.  I have one friend in particular that gave me a statue of two figures in an embrace.  It was gifted as a reminder that Mom’s embrace is always with me.  I look at it every day and remember its message.  I draw a certain sense of strength from it and am very cognizant of the blessing of friendships that I have.  There are so many special things in my house now that seem to take on much more importance than others and only those closest to me realize the magnitude of significance they hold.  To some they might just appear to be objects, but for me, they are constant reminders of those that have supported me, loved me, guided me, and continue to help me regain my footing throughout this difficult year.  The cards are exactly that….a reminder that even when I feel I am all alone….someone is keeping me close to their heart and right in the center of their well wishes….and that brings a different sense of comfort.

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A Good Cause

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After receiving a call from Dad asking me to join him on his upcoming trip to Minneapolis, MN for a Shriners Convention, I really didn’t know what to expect. This was typically Mom’s adventure to take with him and then I might join them later to take in some of the sights of our glorious country on an extended little road trip. I can’t remember a time when Dad wasn’t a Shriner.  I have to admit, I’ve been so impressed by how this organization works and what they stand for.  I’ve developed and even higher respect for their dedication in ensuring that the Shriners Hospitals for Children are funded to provide for children and burn victims all over our nation, and even in Canada and Mexico as well. Everyone involved is so motivated and eager to serve.  The camaraderie among the devoted members and their significant others is intoxicating. They only see each other once a year and yet it is very evident that the bond they share is strong and long lasting. So many words of comfort were extended and stories told of Mama’s impact on all of them. I could certainly feel the love they felt for her.

Last night, I was lucky enough to attend a dinner and share in their friendship. At one point, members of the group stood and spoke on various topics, mostly recognizing appreciation and hard work among the members. However, there is one man in particular that has stolen my heart. He has such a sweet demeanor and kind nature. This lovely man stood to speak the final words during this portion and focused solely on the absence of Mama and the sadness that lingered in the unspoken words floating within each of our hearts. I was taken aback and moved to say the least. His words expressed exactly how spirited, generous and loving Mama was and filled the empty air with her memory, bringing her back to us, if only just for a brief moment in time.

I’m so glad I decided to come along for the experience. To see Dad among people who truly respect his contributions and appreciate his friendship is heartwarming. I love knowing that he has such good friends. It’s been equally fulfilling to listen to words of kindness and comfort in regards to Mom. I feel like each time her name gets mentioned it’s like a little tap on the shoulder saying…”See…I’m still here.”

If you’d like to donate to the Shriners Hospitals for Children, I have included a direct link to their donation page.  Thank you for your contribution!

Shriners Hospital for Children Donation

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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!”

Early Morning Calls

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The silence in the morning is sometimes deafening.  Where there was once the ring of a phone…there is now none.  Idle chit chat with Mom is now just a memory.  My mornings have always been hectic.  I tend to thrive on getting up early and accomplishing quite a bit before the day ever truly begins.  I remembered those early morning calls from Mama in the wee hours of morning today.  She would oftentimes call out of the blue just to say hello, wish me luck with something I was doing, or fill me in on the gossip of a small town.  I realized this morning just how quite my early hours are now.  It’s not even as if she called every day; but, once that seemingly casual act is taken away, life is altered forever.  I’ve recently become accustomed to playing music early in the mornings, sometimes even beginning much earlier than when I rise.  Somewhere deep in the darkness of late last night, I think I just had a revelation as to why.  Subconsciously, I think I realized just how quiet the silence of a voice can actually be.

Popcorn, Orange Slices, and Jerry

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Ahhhh…the ease of a beautiful Saturday!  I don’t think there is anything better than a relaxed, carefree, sunny Saturday.  As a kid we lived for this day.  This day represented freedom, family, friends and Jerry Lewis.  Yep, you heard me right….Lewis….Jerry Lewis!

In our household, bribery was often incorporated into the daily workings of our homestead corporation.  To give you an example, we could enjoy television at free will, daily, as long as none of us kiddos received a “C” on our report card.  As luck would have it, I could typically be counted on to ensure that we never saw the glimmer of the illustrious, illuminated box; therefore, consistently guaranteeing no television for eight more weeks.  Not sure if this brilliant notion was swiped from the whole Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog phenomenon, but it sure felt that way.  So starting Friday nights we had a pretty packed viewing schedule; but Saturdays, oh glorious Saturdays, now those were the day’s dreams were built on.

Pajamas, popcorn, orange slices and a good Jerry Lewis flick.  That’s what Saturdays were made of in our home.  I can’t rightly recall if it was Mom or Dad that loved Jerry Lewis.  My guess leans towards Dad though. It seems to be a little more in his wheelhouse.  Regardless, we all began to love Saturdays with Jerry.  It represented laughter and popcorn tossing competitions.

As you know, my life on the child labor market started pretty early on and popcorn vending sure seemed to fit right nicely into that realm.  Dad initially was the master of popping, but he more than willingly seemed to pass that torch onto us as soon as feasible.  Unlike laundry duty though, no hard feelings were harbored when popcorn vending came into play.  We all seemed to love that job.  We had a pot that appeared to have fallen off the back of a chuck-wagon traveling along the Trail of Tears that we used to pop corn in.  It was a dull metal, dented and charred from excessive use.  I really have no idea what might have come out of that pot prior to our popcorn days, but it was surely seasoned well and produced popcorn the likes of which you can’t find today.

The popcorn was delicious, but it was Mama’s fine palate that decided to marry the taste of buttery popped corn with juicy orange slices and that, my friends, is beyond compare.  There was nothing fancy to it, oil popped corn with melted butter and perfectly cut orange slices used as chasers for each buttery bite of puffed corn.  I don’t know why, but those two scents and tastes, ’til this day, cause my mouth to water, eyes to sparkle, and a certain feel of home to enter my heart.

Now back to Jerry Lewis.  If you’ve never experienced an afternoon of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis films, you must.  At first, you might question why you are even watching them.  They can be a bit over the top at times….okay…most of the time.  But as time progresses, you start to realize this is truly depicting what life is all about.  We live daily adventures, accepting life’s ups and downs as they come, developing the ability to laugh at ourselves and bring a smile to the face of others all along the way.  It’s about lasting relationships that provide support and love, whatever form they come in.  Jerry Lewis may play this type of loving, loyal character in his movies…but he very much encompasses this belief in his own life as well.  We saw ourselves in his fictional character and wanted to emulate his overwhelming compassion in real life.

I can’t help but compare his bright personality and abundant empathy with Mama.  Maybe that’s why his films resonate so profoundly with me even today.  Long after our popcorn and orange slice Saturdays have since ceased, each one of us still embodies the desire to contribute to charitable foundations through activism.  We learned this from both our parents and I can’t help but think that Jerry, popcorn, and orange slices had a little to do with it too.

 

 

Betsy’s Luminary

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Friends come in all forms, past and present, young and old, same and different.  There is a song I remember vividly from my childhood that said, “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.”  We used to sing it at our Campfire Girls outings.  I’ve never forgotten it and have whole heartedly believed it to be true my entire life.

I love my friends and find such comfort in their presence within my life.  There is one particular group of girlfriends that I refer to as my “Forever Friends.”  These are the girls that have been with me throughout my entire life, most of us meeting somewhere between the ages of 5 and 8.  We know the best and worst in each other.  We share in life’s ups and downs.  We are the ears that listen, the voice that soothes, and the heart that hopes and prays for the best for each of us.  We don’t get to see each other very often, but I know they are there because when life feels a little hard, they are the ones that reach out across thousands of miles to say, “No matter how far away you are you are still on my mind and in my heart.  I am here and always will be.”

Last night, as I was relaxing at home, I received a text from one of these Forever Friends.  Robin had just come back from a Relay for Life walk in my hometown area.  She was sending me pictures of the luminaries that are prevalent at these walks for charity put on for the American Cancer Society.  A couple of weeks ago she had contacted me to ask if it would be okay to light a luminary in memory of Mama.  I was both happy and overwhelmed  by the love being expressed.  There is truly something special in having lifelong friends who not only can relate to what you are going through, but can also reminiscence about life with Mama; after all, she did consider them as her own as well.

As I read her texts relaying the evening’s events and marveled at the photos of the beautiful luminaries, I found a sense of peace wash over me.  There are so many people who loved Mama and the fact that she is not forgotten is truly a blessing beyond compare.

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Bad Day?

I think that sometimes we believe the doubt that rises in our minds, telling us that no one can understand what we are going through.  It is one of those things that in our darkest moments manifests in our minds leaving us feeling alone and either sad or fearful.  This video popped up on one of my social media sites and I felt it to be so authentic to how people feel in moments of doubt and what we should reflect on when those such moments arise in our lives.

Having A Bad Day? Here Are 46 Powerful Things You Should Really Hear.