closer than they appear

“objects in mirror are closer than they appear”
it says
and as the people press in around me
and the bar drops down to signal
the ride is about to start
I begin to suspect that the same is
true
for all those all around

closer

than they appear

because there is less to separate us
than most would care to recognize

and with the first click and jolt
the ride begins
and my breath is taken away

I reach for the closest hand
to know I am not alone
and that the past is not as close
as it may appear

we can leave it behind us
in this moment
and change its course

for the better

together

rear view mirror

By Axel Schwenke from Meschede, Deutschland CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

the low road

 

over and over

I’ve heard them say,

“take the high road”

take it and you won’t regret it

 

but I wonder,

if that’s all I ever walk along,

how will I ever meet those you told us to help

how will I ever know the burdens they carry

 

was the high road where you met those you helped

those you shared the News with

those for whom your kind of love was a very new and precious thing

and it made them laugh with a buoyant joy like never before?

 

or was it the low road

down yonder by the creek

where folks gathered day after day

lost and lonely even in the crowds,

hearts hurting from choices made

hearts that saw no second chances

hearts weary and without hope

 

I’ve walked down there myself

though I’d rather folks not know that

I’ve tumbled headfirst into that creek

and found myself lost

on this journey

and when I looked around

I saw my own reflection in the eyes

of those also there

 

we have felt the pain

carried the shame

and lived to walk again

 

and I wonder if

it’s not so much about the road

we’re on, I think,

but maybe

it’s more about whom we love

and how we love

as we are walking it

and what we do after

that matters the most

 

pic of Granny's road

 

To Me, Age 22

A tearful and joy-filled day of remembering someone who loved life.  Loved cooking.  Loved people.  Loved his family.

And loved my sisterfriend.

As I sat there watching the slide show of pictures of him throughout his life, including the wedding pictures–the wedding I had the joy of being a part of, in the same building where I sat today with the tears flowing–

I found myself face to face with my 22-year-old self.

I saw her and my sisterfriend, sitting side by side in the little office with the cinderblock and wood top desk.  I saw them working together to get the job done, but also they laughed.  And they listened to music.

And they talked.

And in those moments between payroll and accounts payable and making signs and calculating timecards,

a friendship was born.

As I looked at my much younger self, I wanted to whisper–

That one sitting right there?  The one you just met and are getting to know?  The one who is funny and vivacious and kind and smart and is putting up with you right now at this very minute?

She is your sisterfriend.  She is going to continue putting up with you.

One day, you will be able to say, “I’ve known her for over half my life.”

One day, you will hug each other and hold on tight and whether the tears are yours or hers, whether it’s her sadness or yours, it won’t matter.

Because you will share the journey.

You will be there to laugh over the crazy things people do, the choices they make.

You will be there to stand up for each other, to say, “hey, this girl right here–you’d better treat her right.  Or else.”

You will be there to stand off to the side and bring comfort merely because you are there.

There will be periods of time, years maybe even, when you won’t hear from each other,

but when it all boils down to it,

when things get hard or wonderful or life finds you in need,

that one, she will be there for you.  Just as you better be for her.

Life doesn’t always deal you a friend like that one.

The one with the bat.

The one with the smile and laugh.  The one with the stories.

The one who will carry your stories with her to the grave.

The one who will let you into her family, who will share love with you just as she does.

Hey!  You!  The 22-year-old me who thinks she’s got it all together, who thinks life is rolling along pretty well–engaged, new job, college degree…..

Yeah, you do have it pretty good

but not because of any of those things.

It’s because of that girl right there.

Your sisterfriend.

And all of the women like her.

Who stand strong and love their friends fiercely.

Yes, girl, you have it good.  Now reach over and hug that girl next to you.  Both so young, both have so much wonderful adventures and heartache in front of you.  And it will be okay.  Not because it won’t hurt, not because you will get over it, but because you have a friend to share the journey with.

And to sit in the dark with you when the lights go out.

Because, my sweet self, they will go out.

No, don’t worry about a flashlight.  That’s only temporary.

Grab your sisterfriends.  That’s what light eternal is made of.

Friends.

 

Wishing you all a friend who will spend the next twenty-four plus years putting up with you.  (And a small warning, once you offer to use your bat “as necessary,” there are some folks who are hard to get rid of after that.)

 

Love to all.  Especially my sisterfriends.

 

Asking for Directions

I found myself able to etch out an hour or so yesterday evening to make a serious grocery shopping haul.  It’s been a while since I’ve spent that long in a store stocking up.

I made a rookie mistake from the start.  Cart choice.

The cart I chose was too small for all I needed to get.  And the way the wheels rolled were wonky.  Ka-dump, ka-dump, ka-dump.  All the way through the store.

But I persevered nonetheless, and I was about a third of the way through the store when an elderly gentleman walked slowly past me, looking perplexed.  I couldn’t help it–it had probably been twenty minutes since I had talked to anyone, so the side of me that I get from my Mama took over, and I asked him if he was looking for something.

Turns out he was looking for the jelly.  My mind spun around and it took me a minute to get my bearings. And then I remembered.  “Over by the bread,” I told him and gave him the directions to find it.

He smiled and was on his way.

For whatever reason, I came across two others lost, looking for a particular something in the store I’ve come to know pretty well (of course now that I do, they are going to change it all up in the next couple of months)–one was looking for juice and the other for aluminum foil.  I was able to recall locations and give directions both times.   (No small feat–busy store, long list, I was a bit befuddled at best.)

This evening I saw something that never fails to take my breath away.

The river of birds

The river of birds

A river of birds.

When I see them, I always think of our friend Pastor Bill who shared about the river of birds at our cousin’s memorial service almost two years ago.

I was so thankful to see them.  It had been a long and tiring day, and when I lifted my eyes to see them, my spirits lifted a bit as well.  I realized I’d been feeling a little lost today myself.

The birds were all flying together, in one direction.  Sharing the journey.  So that not one got lost on its way.

You know what those soaring wonders, flowing along so gracefully, taught me?

Don’t go it alone.

Tonight I’m thankful for folks who are brave enough to ask for directions when they feel lost and are looking for something.  They remind me to have courage to do the same when I’m searching for something or someone and can’t find my way.  I’m also thankful for the beauty in the journey when it’s taken together–how it makes the work of living a little easier with folks all around you headed on the same path.

May we too learn from the birds, and find ourselves surrounded by folks who can take turns leading and following and guiding us on our way.  May we never be truly alone for long, and when we are, I hope we can all find someone to ask for directions who might be willing to travel alongside us for a bit.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

River of Birds

This afternoon after I fought back during Round 2 of the Migraine Mess, I took Miss Sophie out back to let her run her little legs off.  It was a nice afternoon.  I’m hesitant to get too excited, because I know what my Granny said has always come to fruition.  Every.  Single.  Year.

There will be an Easter cold snap.  Right before Easter.

And Easter’s late this year, y’all.

So, ummm, call me a cynic, but I don’t trust the weather just yet.  I see you playing hide-and-seek over there, Winter.  I don’t believe you have packed your bags and headed home just yet.

Anyway, weather forecasting aside, as I was watching the littles and Miss Sophie running around, playing Frisbee and soccer, I heard a distinct sound above.  I looked up, and way, way up high, there were geese flying in the beautiful v-formation.  Tears came to my eyes.  I do love geese, especially since I found out that in the Celtic culture, they represent the holy spirit.  I have a friend who texts me “geese sightings” since we talked about that.  I love it.

As I watched them fly over, I thought about thoughts I heard shared by a dear man, my Mama’s pastor and friend, Pastor Bill.  He shared it at a Memorial for our cousin, Miss B, on a rainy Saturday afternoon in the upstairs chapel of the church.  Gathered with our family and a few dear friends, he shared stories and songs to bring comfort and hope to the children and all of us who had been touched by death, not once, but twice in the previous weeks.

A year ago today, Miss B passed away one week after Mama.  I was with her the day and night before.  Listening to doctors, nurses, taking in opinions and listening to all the options.  A visit from old friends of Miss B’s and their kind words helped a lot, but ultimately the decision was mine as to what to do.  I talked with my sisters and my brother and my Aunt, and by early the morning of the 17th, I thought I knew what we had to do.

I had dreamed about Miss B just two nights before.  She was in a beautiful golden room, wearing a fabulous bright pink dressing gown.  She was dancing around, and her speech was perfect, not hard to understand at all, as it sometimes could be.  I said, “What has happened?” and she replied, “I’m fine.  I’m dancing.  I’m happy.”

Wow.  I took comfort in that dream as I wrestled with the decision before me.  It was time to let her dance.

I called Miss Sue, our precious and dear friend who was Daddy’s nurse and has been a friend to all of us.  She and Pastor Bill had been there when Mama left this world, and I trust her as much as I love her.  Which is a lot.  I called her and asked her what she thought.  There were medical issues I wasn’t quite clear about.  She asked me if I was by myself.  I was.  “I’m on my way,” she said.

Bless.  Her.

Around this same time, Mama’s neighbor and sweet friend and someone I’m glad is on our team came in.  Miss Helen.  She had been a friend to Miss B too.  She walked in and hugged me.

So it was that the three of us gathered and said our goodbyes.  Miss Sue was so beautiful, talking to Miss B.  She was a comfort to me and for Miss B, talking her through the journey, as she took her last breaths.  I don’t know how I could have handled this without these two strong and gentle women there to help me say goodbye and let Miss B have peace.  Finally.

On that Saturday afternoon when we honored and remembered the life of Miss B, Pastor Bill asked the children in the room, my littles and Shaker, my nephew, if they’d seen the birds flying overhead.  So many it was hard to see where they began and where they ended.

They nodded.  We all did.

Pastor Bill called them a “river of birds.”  He talked about hope and finding beauty in life.  I don’t remember everything exactly as he said it, but I do remember the peace he left with all of us.  And what a gift he gave us in talking about the river of birds.  Now when we see them, we all point them out and stand in awe for a moment.  Standing in awe is good for the soul I think.

So it was today.  I watched the geese as they traded the lead.  Once.  Twice.  Three times.  Rhythmically and without slowing the progress.  The tears flowed when I thought about how the people in my life do this for me.  They come up beside me when I feel like maybe I cannot go on, and they take the lead, letting me rest and catch my breath, protecting me from taking everything head-on all by myself.

We do not journey alone.

And for that I am thankful.

Tonight I especially give thanks for those who have listened to the Spirit and been there to sit with me and all of us in the darkness.  And to celebrate in the light.  Pastor Bill and Miss Sue, who made time for us time and time again.  They love well.  Miss Helen, and her spunk and laughter giving us what we needed to keep going.  My Aunt, whether it’s bail money or a shoulder, someone to listen or advice about cupcake papers–she always picks up the phone.  She’s never too busy.  And all of you with your hugs and messages and calls to say you are thinking of us.

Thank you all for taking the lead for a few moments.  So we can catch our breath.

The river of birds.  Flowing.  Together.  Onward.

It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Finding Strength in Moments of Weakness

As I sat on the hospital bed, the sun had begun to set.  The room, filled with light just a half hour before, began to darken.  How many sunsets had I sat through in this very hospital waiting for the darkness–with Daddy, with Mama, and with Miss B?  Too many.  Far too many.

Last night I went to the hospital to visit a friend I had never met.  We had a friend in common, my Writer Friend, who had led us to meet.  Lettie and I had been trying to plan a get together over the past couple of weeks. Work schedules and sick children kept delaying our plans.  She called me last Tuesday to tell me that she had today, Monday, off.  So we planned to meet.  Then I got the call on Saturday night–Lettie was in the hospital, had been since Thursday.  I told her I’d come see her on Sunday.  And so it was that we met for the first time in Room 431.  Just four doors down from where Mama was in August of last year.  For a ten days HospitalStay.

It was surreal being there, meeting this dear woman and her daughter and son-in-law from out of state.  It was an honor hearing her stories and sharing unspoken concerns through glances with her daughter as Lettie talked about her condition.  There was a lot of uncertainty, a little fear, and a whole lot of faith.  We talked about the beauty of sisterhood–the challenges and the rewards.  About how Lettie’s sister who is younger by 11 months took care of her when she had a hard time as a young girl, and how she sees it as her job to take care of her sister now.  (I completely understand that feeling.) We talked about how not even physical distance can separate sisters.  She made me laugh as she gave her honest opinion about hospital food–“You know it’s bad when even the staff says it’s not good.”  She was thankful her daughter and son-in-law had brought her some food from the house.  They left to go back home and eat.

My sweet friend took my hand and my heart and wrapped them both in warmth.

My sweet friend took my hand and my heart and wrapped them both in warmth.

I  continued to sit with Lettie as she took my hand and talked about what it’s like to have someone you love pass from this world to the next right there in front of your eyes.  With a squeeze I let her know that I understood.  It’s the most precious and holy moment in this life–being there as life comes into the world and as it goes out.

The quiet of the moment filled the room and our spirits.  She needed to get up, but she wasn’t supposed to do it without help.  The nurse came down.  One of Mama’s nurses, but of course she wouldn’t remember.  Too many people to care for between then and now.  She helped Lettie to the bathroom and took care of everything.  After we got Lettie settled back in her bed, I gave her a hug and told her I’d see her soon.  She took my hand again.  “I love you.  Thank you for coming.”

I love you too.

Oh my aching heart.

It was my honor to be there.  To hear her laughter.  Share her stories.  Have her share her worries and hopes with me.  Those very thin moments of one soul joining another along the journey.

Knowing you will never be quite the same again.

Tonight I am thankful for a new friendship that fell into place like it had always been there or was always meant to be.  My heart breaks for the uncertainty and tenuousness of her physical health.  And at the same time, it leaps with joy at the way she is facing what might come–with a smile and with faith.

She told me I could share anything about her story I wanted to.  She has an amazing story filled with pain and love and laughter and sadness, much as we all do.  But what I want most to share of her story is what I learned from her.  It’s okay to ask for help.  She has had to let her children and friends help her, and she is learning to accept that.  The other thing I learned was it’s okay to admit you are scared.  You can have faith and still be scared.  It reminds me of the line of a song by Rascal Flats, “I’m Moving On,” written by Phillip White and David Vincent Williams:

20131014-232205.jpg

“I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness.”

As I sat in that hospital that holds strong memories of my Daddy’s diagnosis of lymphoma four years ago–going to find him in a little room in the ER that first morning and again when he fell and broke his hip in spring of 2011, memories of Mama’s fear and faith working its way through her heart and mind and our lives over a year ago, and memories of Miss B telling me she wanted to have the surgery on her hip because she didn’t want to stay in a bed for the rest of her life.  I remember standing at Daddy’s window in the room upstairs and watching the sun go down over the town as the lights above the storefronts began twinkling.  Last year I sat in the chair next to Mama’s bed texting with my Writer Friend whose Mama was in the hospital at the same time; it breaks my heart that we’ve both since said goodbye to our sweet Mamas.  I could look out of Mama’s hospital room window and see my babies climb out of the Fella’s car as he pulled up to bring me something from home.  And last night I sat with a precious woman who gets that fear and faith can share the path and who squeezed my hand and said life is hard and smiled and filled the room with love.  It might sound crazy, but as I travelled down the elevator and to the parking lot, a trip I’ve made many, many times, I had peace in my heart.  Peace that came from a hand and from a heart and from a smile.  And a shared journey.  A peace that passes all understanding, and for that I give thanks.