the greatest legacy I can give my children

This has been a week like no other.

We’ve had a birth in the family and a death.  A celebration of another year of joy and fun in the life of our Princess, and we’re remembering the day two years ago today that my Daddy left this earth and his fight with Goliath was over.   Needless to say there’s been a lot of remembering and storytelling and laughing until we cry, and crying until we could laugh again.  It’s beauty and brokenness in its truest form.  It’s life.

On the way home from some celebrating and seeing people we love and hanging out with Mess Cat and the family–just sharing the joy of the day, a song came on the radio that I haven’t heard in quite a while.  I believe it was a 1985 countdown, and the song was “Say You, Say Me” written by Warren and Heidi Williams and sung by Mr. Lionel Richie himself.

Daddy loved Lionel Richie.  It always tickled me to be able to share music with him that we both enjoyed–like the Vince Guaraldi Trio  (they do the Peanuts music) and Elvis.  But there weren’t many current artists that he enjoyed.  Lionel Richie was one, and I remember he liked Men at Work.  At least we thought he did–it might have been the Marshall Tucker band.  Either way he wound up with a Men At Work cassette for a gift one time.  As for Lionel Richie, Daddy thought he deserved recognition and a Grammy for his song “You Are.”

So today when the song came on it made me think of Daddy, and I didn’t change the station, though my first inclination was to do so.  But the DJ mentioned the movie “White Knights,” which I am pretty sure was one I saw at the movie theater, which was rare for me.  That made me think of Mikhail Baryshnikov.  Okay?  Okay.  Enough said.  And by then the lyrics had started and I was singing along, surprising myself that I remembered all of the words.  And for perhaps the first time I really listened to the lyrics.

I had a dream I had an awesome dream
People in the park playing games in the dark
And what they played was a masquerade
And from behind of walls of doubt a voice was crying out

We are all wandering in the dark, aren’t we?  Many of us hiding behind a mask, the walls of doubt and hurt and brokenness keeping us from reaching out and taking off the masks and really being with folks, being our very truest genuine selves.  It’s just so sad that there are many folks who never let go of what they want people to see, and so they hide and lose who they really are.  Instead they are always seeking something, and in the seeking they become lost.  It breaks my heart.

 As we go down life’s lonesome highway
Seems the hardest thing to do is to find a friend or two
A helping hand, Someone who understands
That when you feel you’ve lost your way
You’ve got someone there to say “I’ll show you”

As my mind dusted off the lyrics and sent them through my heart and voice in sync with Lionel Richie’s, I smiled at this verse.  It is hard to find folks who understand and are willing to be present for you no matter what, even if it means doing things that are very hard.  Life can be lonesome.  But in the midst of all that has been in this week of paradigm shifts and paradoxical parallels, I have been reminded of the folks in my life, both near and far, folks we talk to everyday and some only a couple of times a year–I have been reminded of the ones who are willing to change up their lives–who are willing to be interruptible–for us.

My sweet friend who called and said, I’ll be where you need me to be when.  Our neighborfriends who remember birthdays better than I have, I have to admit, remembering with cards and messages that bring smiles and warm hearts.  My family who has listened and prayed and talked and hugged and loved through something they might have a hard time understanding, and yet they still did all those things. A friend who asked what can I do and then proceeded to plan a menu to share.  The family and friends who helped this be our Princess’ best birthday EVER.  A former co-worker who remembers and shared tears with me this week.  Family who shared pictures of the new baby born across the country whom we won’t meet in person for a few months.  People checking in just to see how things are going and genuinely wanting to know. Hugs.  Thoughtful.  Listening.

And tonight I am especially thankful for two people who made a promise on December 24, 1995.  They promised to look after my girl.  And they meant it.  Both of them are among the treasures I have stumbled across on this journey.  I’m too bumbling to have been able to find them on purpose.   They are two of my life’s  great gifts.  And this week both have said to me, with words, with actions, with caring hearts, “I’ll show you.”

One of the greatest legacies my parents left me was the people they brought into my life.  They valued family, and being with our people was and still is of the highest priority.  They moved to a new home when I was nine, Blackberry Flats.  They were good neighbors and their good neighbors became great friends.  Mama touched many hearts and lives during the fifteen months she was a part of the Trinity UMC family.  And those dear people have enveloped us with their love and warmth.  And there are many others.  Mama and Daddy left us in very good hands.

As I think back over this week, I realize that I too am building a legacy of people who love and are loved by me who will one day be there for my children, to say, “I’ll show you” and to remind them, as Lionel Richie sang out this afternoon, that they “are a shining star.”  And that is far greater than anything else I could give them.

Love to all.

Turning Over an Old Leaf

A wet leaf with few insects on it

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Tara, I have a mother.  She lives way up north of here,” my brother-in-law Leroy said.  He looked down at me and smiled.Last night at the Fair with Mess Cat and her family, the truth came out.

I try to fix people’s lives.  Way.  Too.  Much.

I don’t even remember what we were talking about that triggered this response from Leroy, but the

truth is it was probably long overdue.  No probably about it.  It was way overdue.

I teased him.  “You’ve never had a little sister before, have you?” I asked, knowing full well he hadn’t.

“No,” he answered.

“Well this is what one looks like.  All this I’ve been saying, it’s how a little sister acts.”

(Like I would know this.  I’ve never been a little sister in my life.  Leroy is the closest thing I have to an older sibling–all of my other in-laws are younger than I am.)

He laughed and I laughed and all was good.  And I really tried not to take care of things for him.  Until.

About five minutes later.  When we were looking for food, he decided he might forego what he had wanted to save a few minutes walk through the crowd of people.

When I started trying to “fix it” again before I could stop myself, Leroy turned to look at me.  I knew I was doing it again.  His look was patient and kind, but I knew.  Stop it, Tara.  Just stop it.

This morning I got a message from a sweet friend about something really bad that has happened in her family and she asked for prayers.  I was thinking about her taking time to let me know about this, and I take it very seriously.  She asked for prayers, and I have tried today to continuously let God know how much she means to me and ask that she have peace and that she not feel alone in this.   I do not take it lightly that she asked me to keep her in my prayers.

Later, as I was pondering her request and the honor and huge deal it was that she asked, my Fabulous Friend messaged me this:

“Sometimes everyone you know has too many opinions and bias when all you really need is an ear.” –Fabulous Friend

Yes.  Truth.

And yet, how can I possibly be this for someone?  I have it in me to try to fix situations/things/whatever for folks.  Is it being the oldest or my personality type that causes this?  Does it come from my fear of losing the people I want to fix things for because I’ve lost the ones I love the most?  I don’t know, but it’s in there.  And I’m having one more hard time trying to break myself of it.

To be an ear.  To just listen and not offer my help or my thoughts on how to fix whatever it is?  To simply be with someone? You’re asking for something mighty big there, my friend.

And yet, I think that is exactly what my sweet friend needs right now.

A week ago the guy who gets our fireplace up and running every year called and came out.  He is a really nice person.  We were catching up and he hesitated.  Then he shared with me that his daughter in her mid-twenties died in a car accident over the summer, leaving her son for them to raise.  Y’all.  Nothing will hush up somebody who’s a fixer faster than this.  There is nothing.  NOTHING.  that can fix bad stuff like this.  Which is a good thing, because that is exactly what I could come up with.  Nothing.  My mind was spinning, and I did wind up telling him about the children’s bereavement camp that the Hospice I worked with holds every year.  Right, wrong, or otherwise I felt the need to share that with him.  Maybe I should have just been quiet and only been an ear, but old habits die hard.  So it goes.

Since I heard from my sweet friend this morning about her family’s heartbreak, I have found out about another friend’s family member who died tragically, and about our Dear Lady friend whom my family loves and who is about to leave this world because of the cancer.  Cancer comes real close to making me cuss.  It makes me so mad whom it takes from us.  And so tonight I am sad.  For both of my friends and their losses and for this dear lady’s family and friends as they prepare to say “Bye for now.”  And what tears me up most is that there isn’t anything I can do to fix any of it.  Not a blame thing.

And so I look back to what my Fabulous Friend said.  I will try to be an ear and just listen and not try to fix it or suggest options or carry on about what I did in a similar situation.  I’m not promising anything, but I’m going to try.  You hear that, Leroy?

Tonight I will lay my head down on my pillow with a heavy heart, filled with love and peace-filled thoughts for my friends and our Dear Lady’s family.  I give thanks for friends who entrust me with their stories and who ask for my ear and my heart and my prayers.  And I am especially grateful for a brother-in-law who will call me on my stuff and still love me,  and for a wise Fabulous Friend who serves as a compass for me on my journey of letting go. I wish change weren’t so hard.