A Grace Filled Eve

Tonight I will gather with little folks (and a few big) whom I love right here in my living room, and we’ll debate about staying up to see the New Year in.  We may or may not watch some form of something dropping to beckon in 2018, and then the laughter will turn into sighs and we’ll gather up the remnants and used cups and crumpled napkins of 2017 and go to bed.

This is as good as I can do.  I don’t have big plans and schemes for this New Year.  If I start thinking of tomorrow as a day THAT ALL BIG THINGS MUST BEGIN, I kind of sort of start breathing a little funny and want to go crawl in Miss Sophie’s crate with her and wait for spring and for this “all great ideas and good intentions” phase to pass.

Because, see, my feet are cold, and most days I have to take it one day at a time.

My Mama said that is okay.

She said do your best, that’s all your Daddy and I ask of you.

And that I can try to do.  Moment by moment, minute by minute, hour by hour, and sometimes day by day.

But a whole year?  In one big gulp?

I’m happy for folks who are excited about the newness of tomorrow and the 364 days to follow.  But for many of us, 2017 and 2015 and 2013 and 2011 were really really hard, and we’re still learning a new way to breathe because of what happened when the clock turned over to November 13 and 17 and December 18 and February 10 and September 26 and May 12 and January 11 and all of the other days of the year when we had hard things happen.  For some of us, each day is a new challenge, filled with moments of learning new ways to live.

Grace.

If you are of the mind of taking on new ways of living and find tomorrow a good day to start, maybe grace could be a good one to add to the list.  Most of all, be kind to yourself.  And others.  When days are hard–for you or someone you know and those you don’t, offer grace and kindness.  Grace that it’s okay to say it’s hard and stay in bed for the day, literally or figuratively, and kindness in the midst of the struggles.  A smile, a listening ear, a hand to hold, patience, empathy.

Tomorrow we will have the traditional greens, peas, cornbread, and such.  I’ll try not to do anything I don’t want to be doing the rest of the year (though I’ve found reframing certain things has helped me in this old tradition), and I won’t be doing any laundry out of respect for the ones who’ve gone before me.  We will spend time sharing stories and laughing and remembering.

And I will do my best to rejoice and be glad in the day, as my Mama reminded me I am called to do everyday.

But for now, I just can’t take on the chunk of a year all at once.  If you are struggling with another day of celebrating and being surrounded by festive spirits, know you are not alone. We are all doing the best we can and walking each other home, as Ram Dass wrote.  Come sit with me, Miss Sophie will make room, and we’ll warm our toes by the fire and sit quietly and we will be okay.  And if tomorrow is a day of new beginnings for you, I wish you all the best. Some of us will be celebrating the dawning of a New Year and some will be thankful for making it another day and some folks will be somewhere in between.  AND ALL OF THAT IS OKAY.

Grace.

Wishing you all a good night’s rest, the energy to get up tomorrow, and the still quiet of peace settled in your heart today and in all the days to come.

Love to all.

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May we all take the words to my much loved and missed friend Denise to heart today and every day–“What people in our community need the most is for us to slow down and love each other.”

Christmas Eve Light and Love

Twenty-two years ago Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, just like this year.  My baby girl was three months and three days old, and she was being baptized at the morning church service.

Christmas Eves at our church then were quite full.  The church couldn’t be decorated until after service on the fourth Sunday of Advent, which Christmas Eve was that year.  After church, folks ran home, changed clothes, and then came back to decorate or “green the church.”  Another quick trip home and then we were back for a Wassail party (not a fan myself) and Covered Dish Supper.  Caroling was after, and then midnight service began at 11:30.  A beautiful day filled with joy and being together.

Together.

During the morning service, the two dear friends we had asked to be Auburn’s godparents stood up next to us and promised to love her and help teach her right from wrong, kindness from cruelty, caring from apathy.  Auburn’s godfather wasn’t yet married to the woman who had come with him that morning, but I know she must have promised all of those things too, sitting in the pew, watching as these bonds were formed.

I know this because that day she also became Auburn’s godmother.  In every sense of the word.

Over the years she has written notes of encouragement, given hugs of comfort, listened to my girl (and me), and laughed alongside us–often helping us to find the humor in situations.  She loved with a passion that one isn’t always lucky enough to come across.  Bless her, as my sister Mess Cat says, “She was larger than life.”

This past week, this dear soul left this world, ending her fight with cancer.  Amidst people who knew and loved her, her husband, and her son, we said goodbye on Thursday, gathered around the tent as the cold wind whipped around us.  Her husband got up and shared through his tears the joy and love she gave them all these years.  It was a time of celebrating and remembering one who loved and was loved with great adoration.

Last weekend my friend sat and told me and Auburn how when he first met his wife, she had said, moving things out of the seat next to her, “You just come sit right here beside me,” with her lovely Southern drawl.  Bless her, that’s who she has always been–welcoming, comforting, hospitable, and seemingly on the verge of a joy-filled laugh at any given time.

Today, as my littles have the wiggles and giggles and excitement abounds, I remember my friend–this dear woman who never missed an opportunity to make me, Auburn, or anyone else feel welcome and important.  I remember her standing by her husband twenty-two years ago today, holding my baby girl, and smiling with all her heart with joy.  It was a precious day.  I am thankful she was there.

As I am thankful she has been there for so much of our journey.

My heart is mindful of the ones who knew and loved her best–her husband, her son, her sister, her mother–and I know that in great contrast to the holiday music, bright lights, light-hearted movies, and cheerful greetings everywhere we go, they are bathed in the darkness of grief and pain and loss.  I am mindful of others who will spend this holiday missing someone they hold dear, for whom Christmas does not evoke visions of sugarplums dancing.

And I remember my sweet friend’s words, “Come sit here right beside me.”  If you are bathed in darkness just now, I hope that you will hear these words from someone.  I’m here, as are many others who have walked the path you are on, and we understand the darkness.  Come sit by us.

Or perhaps you are like my friend and could welcome someone who needs to hear those words.  They are indeed words that can change a life.

Wishing you all much love and light in the darkness, as the world celebrates glad tidings of Joy and Good News.  As I remember the baby from 22 years ago whom I held close as I sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” walking across the churchyard in the dark, I give thanks for 22 years of wonderful memories.  Time passes way too quickly, so may you all find time to make merry memories to recall and enjoy in the years to come.

Love to all.

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for all the tables

where does the table go?
he asked
I barely remembered his name,
Joe or John or J-something–
he’d shown up with the others,
the ones they’d sent to do the job

the table? I replied,
stalling for time
wishing for more of it, so much more time

the table whose surface told
our story
the blonde wood glowing in the dimming light of evening

the fork marks from an excited toddler
banging his utensil up and down
overeager for that next bite

the pencil marks that were never quite
completely erased
from one report or another
or perhaps that year of Algebra II

the surface of it still cool to the touch
just as it was all those times
I lay my head on it, my face hot from the tears
I’d cried
I can’t remember all the reasons now

but today I know why they fall,
all the memories etched into its surface
and the time has come to let it go

time to open my fist and stop holding on
to all the things
and find comfort in the memories
playing non-stop inside my head
and heart

and while some of them are muted
and a tad out of focus

I can still feel the cool of the table
long after the the sun has set
and the truck pulls away

and the door is closed one last time

 

table photo

Foto Wolfgang Pehlemann [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

weaving memories

img_1370there are days when things are hard
when the beeping of the machines reminds me
of days long past
and goodbyes I wasn’t ready for

and the one lying in the bed
is holding a piece of my heart
I happily gave away long ago

it is on these days
that I am especially thankful to come home
to the brightly colored yarn
and hook
resting where I last placed it
waiting for me to pick it up exactly
where I left off

and with each stitch I remember
and weep
and dry my tears with the blanket
that I’m making with the
memories

cast of stones

there are times
on this journey
when the path is covered with brambles
and the way is almost indiscernible

this is when I miss your voice the most
and the wisdom
you shared as easily as the
stories from days gone by
and sometimes they were the same

you seemed so assured
of right and wrong
and yet I wonder if it was
always so clear to you

because frankly, the mud confuses me
and I’ve lost sight of the tracks you left
in the midst of it
I cannot read the compass you gave me
in this unchartered territory

and the Light you were as you showed me the way
seems a little dimmer right now
as time passes and the memories fade
and stories wander off on their own
with no one to tell them

and so I sit here
all alone
on the side of the trail
I can hear the people moving along at their busy pace
to and fro

listening to the buzz of their words
none of it really making any sense to me

I shiver in the darkness
hiding in the shadows
unable to go on
perhaps I will just stay here forever
as though I am broken
and have been given a cast of stones

with a heart too heavy to go on

the mouse who roars

twenty years ago tonight

i shared with the world a tiny secret

that i carried beneath my heart

tucked away with a life of her own

 

the impending arrival of my little one

shared with all

was greeted with handclaps and laughter

and tears

so loved and wanted

from the very, very beginning

 

barely formed two cells together

and already we were dreaming and planning

and tossing around names

one name stuck that night

“the mouse”

my Daddy could be so clever at times

 

twenty years ago tonight

i had stars in my eyes

joy in my heart

and a little fear too, if i’m being honest

i felt quite small and inadequate

to do the task before me,

to enter the “otherworld” of being mama

 

twenty years ago tonight

i had no idea the joy and worry

i would feel over this little one–

but mostly joy

and pride too,

and love

 

all the love

all the joy

never could i have dreamed that the little one

growing beneath my heart

would one day carry it in her hands

and become my best friend

 

tonight i weep a little

that four of those who celebrated

with me

that night are gone

the story is left for just two of us to share now–

of that night and the laughter and the excitement

and the hugs and the hope

she is our hope

for all the good things to come

 

twenty years

how is that possible

just yesterday i was barely beyond that

and awaiting her arrival

my little mouse

with the roar of a lion

 

she will change this world

for the better

just as she already has

mine

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“the mouse” when she had just begun

 

the window

The view from Daddy's window at Blackberry Flats.  Cardinals love those those hedges.

Looking back on the day

that we stood by Daddy’s bedside

and let him go,

I see in my mind’s eye and realize with some

surprise

that the curtains on the window were open.

Daddy spent many hours

sitting in his chair

by that window

watching the cardinals

living in the arbor vitae,

the flying back and forth and building homes

amongst the branches, their red wings

in beautiful contrast with the somber news to come–

all before the chair was moved

to make way for the

hospital bed

and the story changed

forever.

Before

he would sit there

in his chair next to the window

listening and telling stories and

doling out what wisdoms he had to share.

He watched his favorite shows, old movies, and sports

but his favorite view

was looking out

that window.

So it is only fitting that the curtains

were open and

he left

in the light,

not tucked away in the dark

behind a closed curtain

like a secret

we were afraid to tell.

He left in the light,

surrounded by love,

taking our hearts with him.

And after he left,

at the same time he left work

to head Home all those years,

the sun began to set,

shrouding us in darkness

for the day,

preparing us for the shadowed journey

without him

in the years to come.