The Last Gift

Seven years ago.

Just another of the lasts to remember that January and the beginning of February bring.

Mama’s birthday.  The last one she was here with us for.

Only, as life has a way of happening, we weren’t able to celebrate together.  One of the littles had gymnastics and the other one was under the weather.  So we had made plans on the phone that we would celebrate on Friday, three days later, at Stevi B’s with pizza and being together.

The one thing Mama had asked for was light.  In the form of fluorescent light bulbs for the fixture that hung over the dining room table.  The focus part, gathering spot, heart of her home.  Many a dream was shared, broken heart was comforted, peach was peeled, pea was shelled, homework was done, story was told, and guidance offered sitting around that table.  Under that light.

Fluorescent has never been my favorite, but it was the fixture Daddy installed after moving into that house on their December 17 anniversary weekend in 1977.  So in 2013, fourteen months after Daddy left this world, I was not going to argue the merits of lighting.  If Mama needed it, I was going to get it.

My tumbling little and I stopped by Lowe’s on the way to gymnastics.  Mama’s house was on the way, so we planned to get her bulbs and drop them by and see her for a minute and then head on to class.  I figured the errand of getting the long lights wouldn’t take long.  In.  Out.  Done.  On our way to see the birthday Maemae.

I was wrong.

I had NO IDEA that there were SO MANY options when it came to fluorescent lighting.  Daylight, bright, not so bright–which is what I felt standing in front of the options.  What if I picked the wrong one?  I had no idea what she’d been using and suspected that she might not know as well, since I don’t think we’d had to purchase any since Daddy passed.

Also talking with an under ten year old about lighting options gets interesting, if not helpful, results.  In an almost panic, I recall getting the lights needed, fingers crossed, hoping for the best.

We stopped by Mama’s.  I delivered her bulbs, which she said she was sure were fine, along with a hug, happy birthday wishes, and promises of pizza partying on Friday.  That’s what she said, “We’ll party on Friday.”

Which, of course, as the story goes, we did not.  She and I spent that Friday together in a hospital room waiting for red tape and hospital bureaucracy to make it possible for her to be transferred to the bigger hospital.  Critical time as it turns out, because maybe an earlier diagnosis could have made for a different ending.

But it was not to be.

Today I’m remembering my Mama.  On her birthday.  I’m thankful for this day 74 years ago that found her light coming into this world.  For this day that over the years I am sure she had to make most of her birthday cakes until one year when I woke up and realized, hey, maybe she doesn’t enjoy that as much as I think she does.  I’m thankful for the laughter and stories and joy that remembering my sweet and sassy Mama brings.

And I’m thankful for the realization that came to me this morning on Miss Sophie’s walk that the last gift I gave my Mama was light.  It was only a small beam compared to all the light she shone for me and so many others through the years.  But still, I am thankful.  She was a shining star who so often used her light to point towards the good.  “Find something to be grateful for,” she’d say.  “The Lord loves a grateful heart.”

It is with a grateful heart that I remember and thank God for the Mama I was given.  The woman who challenged me, who held my hand, who came after me when I was lost, who guided me, who held me when I cried, who cheered me on, who made me madder and happier than anyone else ever could.  I miss her with every breath.  Those fluorescent lights I bought seven years ago today have long burned out, but my Mama’s light still shines brightly.  Ever and always.

Love to all.

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on your birthday, six years later

I know not how many times
the light had to bend and turn
on its way from the sun
to earth

only that the years that it
spent reflected in your laughter
your smile
and your eyes
blessed me
and so many more besides

each ray that made its trek
across the 93 million miles
and landed on your guiding and comforting hand that held mine
or on your hair that gleamed in its presence

each ray that warmed our toes
and grew the beans you snapped and canned
and the squash you cooked and froze,
ready for the long, cold days of winter

each ray that wove its way–
from the yellow at sunrise
to the pink and blue at dusk

each and every ray of light
was brighter
and more beautiful

because it was reflected by you

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The Question She Always Asked

Tonight I’m sitting with my Mama, as I remember her and struggle to fully grasp how long it has been since I heard her voice aloud.

Three years.

And tonight as I am struggling to let some things go and not put back together pieces from some other things, I can hear her asking the question she always asked us.  Whether it was schoolwork or housework or outside chores or a project or apologizing for a wrongdoing, she would ask,

“Did you do your best?”  

If we were able to honestly answer “Yes ma’am,” grace abounded.  She was okay with almost anything as long as we had no kidding, no holds barred tried our very best.

Mama was all about doing the best we could do in any given situation.  It was something she taught us and expected.

Our best.

Some days that might still look pretty broken, but as long as we had “applied” ourselves (another turn of phrase she liked) and given it our “all,” Mama was pleased.  It might follow that we would still have some work to do towards a resolution, but still.  Our best was all she ever asked.

Not THE best.  Our best.

Tonight I needed that grace.  I’m thankful to Mama for reminding me of it.  I can’t fix all the things I want to.  I don’t have the time to make all the good things happen I’d like to make happen.  I was grumpy a few times today and wish I hadn’t been.  I didn’t get all the clothes folded that are on the couch.  There are a couple of dishes in the sink that will likely stay there until morning.   I cried twice today over things I can’t change.  I forgot to thank my neighbor for driving me this evening.

But I can say, pretty much, that overall, yes ma’am, I tried my best.  And when I came to that realization, I felt a weight lift.  (And I’m pretty sure I felt my Mama patting me on my back, but that’s another story.)  As long as we can end a day by saying we’ve done the best we could do with what we had in front of us–well, then, I’m calling that a win, how about y’all?

Love and grace to all.

 

Happy Birthday and Being Held Close

A few years back my friend told me about how, in the Celtic culture, the Holy Spirit is symbolized by the wild goose.  Since that time, I’ve found comfort in seeing a flock of them grazing in a field or near a pond and in the sound of them flying overhead in the grey winter skies.

Today was no different.  On a day that was filled with the things that needed to be done and called me here and there, it was a precious day.  My Mama’s birthday.  Since my brother let the cat out of the bag about her age about 35 years ago, I don’t think she’d mind my sharing that this is her 70th birthday.  And our third one without her here.

I held her especially close today as we sat in a class about animal predators and prey and parasitism and other interesting things to know about animals, and as we went from one appointment to another this afternoon.  But it was when I saw the geese today that my spirits lifted just a touch, and I knew that we were also being held close today.

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May you find just what you need to bring you comfort right when you need it most.

Love to all.

“Yes, We Have No Bananas”

We are out of bananas.

It’s things like this that make me weary and feel “less than” in the parenting department.  My Mama rarely ran out of things.  Though we were on a strict budget growing up (to quote my brother we were “raised on sale…..with a coupon”), I can’t remember us ever running out of anything.

Ever.

And we are out of bananas.  It’s not even like something that you think is in the back of the pantry, and so when you go to look you realize it’s not pushed all the way back to the corner.  You really are out of ketchup or marinara or rice.  (All three of which we have been out of in recent months because of this assumption.)

These are bananas.

For one thing, they are BRIGHT yellow.

For another, they live outside of the pantry.  Except for the month the fruit flies tried to evict us, they live out on the table where everyone can see and enjoy their yellow loveliness.

The dish where my bananas are supposed to live.  Sad.  Just sad.

The dish where my bananas are supposed to live. Sad. Just sad.

And still, somehow, we are out of them.

They are the base for my smoothies and my go to for a quick snack or healthy side to a sandwich for my littles.

Out.

This is new.  Today I was thinking about the fact that we are out, and how I made a vow NEVER EVER to go to the grocery store again on a Saturday, and wondered why this is new.  Why have we never really run out of bananas before the past couple of years?

And it hit me.

My Mama.

Mama loved a good banana as much as the rest of us.  She kept them around on her counter in the bowl there.  She bought them as a bunch and she and Daddy and whichever little might be visiting enjoyed them immensely.

But the one thing Mama could not handle was a banana that was beginning to get spots.

It wasn’t her being picky, they did something to her.  I can’t really remember what now, which is a little sad to me, but for this reason she didn’t eat the ones that were beginning to turn.

At least once every other week, she’d send a banana or three home with me for us to partake in because we will eat the things near about mushy.  Never mind I have that brilliant recipe from my cousin for the best banana bread ever–in that dish, mushy is not a problem.

And so we never ran out.  Even on days I thought we might be out, nope, there was Mama handing me whatever bananas she had that were starting to go.

I miss my Mama.  I miss her because we run out of bananas now and have ever since she left this world two and half years ago.  I also miss her for a million little reasons that I can’t hold in my hand or explain to anyone else.  I miss her showing up.

Because she always did that too.  She never seemed to run out of groceries in her pantry or love in her heart.

I guess I might never be able to claim that first bit, but in memory of the beautiful woman who raised me and shared her bananas, I’m sure trying to be able to say I never run out of the second.

I’m a work in progress, but I’m trying.

And for a banana-less October night, that’ll do.

Love to all.

For the fun of it, and this version of the 1922 song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn because–all those lovely dresses and suits.  Yes.  

Bubba, the Lamb, and the Raspberries

A week or so ago I promised a story about my lamb Raspberry.  And so, true to my word, here it is.

Years ago, when I was 12 or so, I was in 4-H.  One of the activities we could participate in was raising a sheep for show.  I was all for it, and my Daddy was willing to help me, so we went to the auction.  The lamb I got had an 8 painted on his back, so I thought about calling him Eight Ball.  (My only friend with a two-story house also had a pool table, so I knew stuff–yessiree.)

After getting him home and in the pen Daddy had fashioned for him, my siblings were introduced.  My little brother Bubba, who was maybe 3 or 4, was fascinated with the gentle creature.  He helped me bathe him and lead him around with the rope.

One day Bubba came in the house with a couple of raspberries in his sweaty little hand.  He had picked them from the bushes out in the side yard–another 4-H project I think.  He offered them to Mama as a gift.  As she plucked them from his hand, she gushed with appreciation.  “Aren’t you kind to pick these and bring them to me?  What a sweet gift from a sweet boy.”  And then she popped them in her mouth and ate them with exaggeration, oohing and mmmmming.

“Oh good,” Bubba said, “’cause the lamb didn’t want them.”

Yep, turned out he’d offered those same berries to my lamb, who sniffed and mouthed at them but decided better of it.

And then my sweet Mama took my little brother in her arms, hid her disgusted face, hugged him and said, “Thank you very much for thinking of me.”

Ahem.

Bless her.

And from that moment on that story became part of our family lore, and the lamb who wanted none of the red jeweled berries earned that as his moniker.

Raspberry.

I miss my Mama.  You could give her a rock (and we often did), and she’d act like it was the greatest treasure on earth.  And no telling how many bookmarks I made her over the years, and she loved–and used–every single one of them.

Because she loved me.

That’s a big legacy to live up to.

May we all have someone who finds delight in whatever we have to offer, no matter how big or small, beautiful or not, previously “nibbled” or whatever–just loves it because they love us.

Love to all.

Raspberry and me--after he became Raspberry.

Raspberry and me–after he became Raspberry.

missing her light

 

 

the time came so quickly there was barely time for a goodbye

before I could call shotgun and hop in alongside you,
you were gone

and I’ve wondered what the last kind words you heard were

I hope they made you smile
as you took off for the stars

and made your home amid the Light
that reflects all the good that is you