This Week in February, 2012

Dad's Barber Shop
George’s Barber Shop; Image from a 1991 calendar.

My dad died five years ago this week. I ran across this summary of that week’s events. I sent it to just a few friends at the time, but as I read it today I thought it might be of help to someone who might be going through a similar life event.

I thought I’d post a summary of all that has happened this week. All of you were very close friends at some point in my life and I still care deeply about each of you. If you don’t want to hear all the details, then you don’t need to read the rest of this. I thought some of you might want to know more, however, so when I had the chance to collect my thoughts last night I tried to write them down to share.

The funeral planning started the minute I got here Sunday evening and it all went very smoothly. The few things that could have been major issues were solved quickly and with little effort.

It has been very good to have time with my sister and with my mom. We took time to sort photos for the slide show (power point) and it was wonderful to bring back all those memories.

I have a very clear vision of my dad as his much younger, happier, healthier self, smiling and enjoying himself with many, many relatives and friends — all together in the presence of Jesus. No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more darkness!

Tuesday we spent time gathering the items and photos for the display of my Dad that would be on view during the calling hours and funeral since there wasn’t a coffin. I posted a pic of this on Facebook. R, B and S arrived just as the calling hours began which was wonderful. Tuesday night we had about 400 people (which is about 1/2 the population of this town!) come through the line to give condolences and offer memories and comfort. We saw so many people and heard so many stories that we have difficulty remembering them all, but we were left with an almost tangible sense of the impact Dad left on so many lives in this town. So many people told us about ways that he had cared for them during difficult times or that he made something special for them. R (the funeral home director who was a childhood friend of mine, growing up in our neighborhood and a member of youth group at church, etc) said he thought if we had had more hours of calling that we would have had even more people! But it was what we could do and I think it was as much as Mom could do in one day.

Wednesday the service time arrived so quickly. We talked with the people who came early to talk with us and with mom until nearly the last minute. The service was fantastic. The pastor did an excellent job. He wove in the humor and the grumpiness and the love — it was perfect. The two people who did the eulogy were right on. One was my cousin and the other was one of Dad’s very close friends through thick and thin these last 35 years or so.

Both were heartfelt but also made us laugh. All those trips to various basketball and football games in a car full of girls were definitely mentioned and chuckled over. We sang Mom’s favorite hymn towards the end and also played the recording of A’s song. My mom had heard the song (the composer was a student of mine when I taught at a small high school in central in IL) and LOVED the words and felt they were so perfect. The pastor did a short homily type wrap up using several of my dad’s favorite scriptures. I also played a piano solo arrangement of my Dad’s favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.

Several people said it was the most joyous funeral they had ever attended. Even the funeral director said he didn’t think he had ever heard quite so much laughter at a service.

Many people said it suited Dad perfectly. We all felt very peaceful about the whole thing.

After a lunch at the church, we met at the graveyard very briefly. It was cold and windy. You can see my sister’s house from where his ashes are buried.

I think this was the most difficult time for me.

The pastor read the scripture from Revelation about no more tears, no more pain — and it became very real that my Dad’s body had been burned to ashes and was in that little white box at my feet but that he is face to face with Jesus now. Tears streamed down my face as I realized I will not ever see him again on this earth and as thoughts of all the good memories crowded my mind.

The plot we got for them is right next to Dad’s friend who did the eulogy.

Very cool how that worked out.

My mom will be buried there, too.

Mom and I have listened to the funeral music several times these last couple of days. We had two songs played during the prelude that were sung by the university choirs that I have accompanied for the last several years (7? or more now). One is called “No Time” (No time to tarry here for I’m on my journey home…I really do believe that just before the break of dawn you can hear the angels sing in that morning…Fare thee well for I on my journey home — it is gorgeous!). The women sang that one and they really did sound like a choir of angels! The men sang a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace which I loved at the time (2006) and thought it would be perfect for funeral music someday. I had the mp3s sent here so that we could have these songs as the prelude. There are about 80 to 100 college students in these choirs each year so over the years I’ve gotten quite attached to many of them, so having this music at the service meant a lot to me. (Plus the pianist is very good 😉

IMG_1273
fabulous Fazoli piano!

The more we mull over Dad’s last few weeks and especially his last week, we are so thankful for the way things ended for him. He saw most of the people he loves at least once in the last month and he got to do many of the things he most enjoyed in those last few days — eat with his favorite relatives and go to a HS basketball game. He died at home on the couch in his sleep (if not in his sleep he died as quietly as if he was just going to sleep because Mom didn’t hear him from the next room).

We are thankful he didn’t have to be in a nursing home or kept alive on a respirator or via feeding tube. We are thankful that he didn’t have time to be afraid or to feel pain this time. I’m thankful that I called that afternoon — probably it was in the last hour of his life.

We all feel a wonderful sense of relief, of peace, of comfort. We are truly surrounded by love and prayers and we feel it every minute of every day since those first few hours as the news spread.

There are so many details to take care of. I want to do as much as I can before I go back to WI. Lori has done so much over these last few weeks, months, years. But we also are trying to take time to just rest and soak in the peace.

I’m thankful I had such a wonderful Dad, and that I have had this time to say goodbye to him.

 

I’m thankful for each and every one of you.

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Rarely does the rain taste like tears

IMG_1569
image by TTQ cc; Uncommon Folk exhibit at MaM

Whirlwind of a rainbow, blind eye of the storm.
Keeper of the bear lodge, brave heart soon to rest.

Never have I seen the clouds like this, never have I seen the river white caps whipped so, such rare light marking off in sacred four directions.

Rarely does the rain taste like tears.

Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years --Uriah Heep
Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years –Uriah Heep Image by Robert via Flickr CC.

Tonight my heart is breaking, yet bursting with gratitude – such dichotomy is the stuff of growth and pain.

Life gives us this and more, and in death the reminder of how short and sweet and tumultuous and tender this gift is.

stained glass glow
stained glass windows; church in NJ, image by TTQ CC license

…the storm shall soon pass, with it that kind-hearted Whirlwind and in doing so will leave us all the better for knowing him.

We sit, still in ceremony with all of you. Prayers are felt.

Doug Ellis via Flickr CC license candle light prayer circle
candle light prayer circle

 

For you who know where I sit tonight, I cannot describe the quality of the light of setting sun on the storm clouds.

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sunset storm clouds over Lake Michigan

(We listen) to the wind whip around the house and he laughs! Fitting to go out in a storm he says… The spikes of light in the cardinal points, something very surreal about it all…

diamonds
image by QThomas Bower, via Flickr CC

My love to everyone in the down south lodge.

Here in the north it’s become a powerful night.

Rainbow Curls image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC license
Rainbow Curls, Iceland image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC

 

–Kristen Andrews

I found this lovely, incredibly moving tribute posted by Kristen Andrews somewhere on Facebook a while ago.  Such beautiful words, such heart wrenching imagery, such love and beauty — it makes my heart ache.

Remembering Violet

1-Violet Yount Schwob-001
Violet

Once upon a time in a small town in Indiana, a young man named Cecil married a young woman named Violet on July 10, 1926. A little more than two years later, Violet died in the fall of 1928 of consumption (tuberculosis) at the age of 22. Her burial took place at Woodlawn Cemetery in Warren, Indiana. The grave is marked with a simple, small grey tombstone with black lettering.

On Christmas Day of 1930, Cecil married Edith. They were married for over 66 years. My mother is their first-born of four children.

1-Cecil Schwob and car
Cecil

I’m Cecil and Edith’s grandchild. I’ve been doing family history research for a little over a year now, though I’ve been interested in family stories and connections for much longer than that.

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Decoration Day

My mom refers to Memorial Day as Decoration Day. She isn’t alone in this tradition. My Dad’s relatives have a tradition of decorating family graves for Memorial Day. This usually happens on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend or a few days before that. Many relatives are buried in just a few cemeteries within a short driving distance. Sometimes there are several cars moving in a caravan from place to place; sometimes there are just one or two cars. Each family grave stone is cleaned. Weeds are pulled. Live flowers are planted or planters hung from hooks. Silk flowers are stuck into the ground. Photos are taken. We often end up at a local restaurant for a fun family lunch afterward.

We missed the decorating day this year, but my mom and I made the trip to Woodlawn on Saturday anyway. We had arranged to meet a couple of cousins there.

Dale Schwob
Dale Schwob, 1909 – 1923 Woodlawn Cemetery Warren, IN

Mom and I happened to park near Violet’s grave. She is buried next to Grandpa’s brother who died of influenza at the age of 17 just a few years before Violet’s death. We have many relatives buried in that area of the cemetery.

Our cousins arrived and we stood talking for several minutes. As we chatted, I noticed a man and a woman walking from a car parked some distance away. They seemed to be making their way directly toward Violet’s grave.

Sure enough, they stopped right in front of her grave marker.

I couldn’t resist asking if they were related to Violet.

The woman looked at me intently and said, “Why are you asking?”

I replied that my grandfather had been married to Violet when she died.

The woman was flabbergasted. Her father was Violet’s brother; Violet had been her first cousin.

I pointed to my mother and said, “Cecil’s daughter is right over there.”

Mom and our cousins came over and everyone got introduced to each other. The woman, Leilani, and Mom had quite a conversation, and shared several reminiscences. They talked about Naomi who was the sole surviving person from that earlier generation. I remembered some of Leilani’s Aunts and Uncles. We had often gone with them and with my Grandparents on fishing vacations at cottages in northern Michigan.

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Mom and Leilani, talking near Violet’s grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in Warren, IN.

I asked if Leilani had a photo of Violet. She said no but she would love to have one. I told her I had one and would be very happy to send it to her. Mom asked Leilani if she had any photos of her parents that she could share in return. She readily agreed. We exchanged addresses and promised to send the items soon.

I didn’t hear about “Grandpa’s first wife” until about 30 years ago. Grandpa was in the hospital and I was visiting my Grandmother at her home. She casually mentioned her concern that Grandpa might want to be buried by his first wife instead of beside her. I was shocked and speechless for a few moments. I had no idea he had been married before! My Grandparents had been happily married since 1930 and no one had EVER mentioned a previous marriage or anyone named Violet.

I quietly asked her a few questions. They were young. She was pretty. Her name was Violet. She was a Yount. She died of consumption. They didn’t have any children. She and Grandpa met a few years later and the rest, as they say, is history.

I assured Grandma that I was sure he would want to be buried next to her, not Violet.

So that is why the Yount family has always been close to Mom’s family. I thought they were just friends. The reason was much deeper — they were related by a long ago marriage that ended tragically.

I can’t help thinking — If Violet hadn’t died, my mother would not have been born and by extension, neither would I.

88 years after her death, I’m thankful Violet is remembered and her memory is honored by her family.  I’m thankful for the encounter we had in the cemetery near her grave, discovering relatives in common after so many years.

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Cecil and Violet, marriage certificate July 10, 1926.

 

 

 

Back Hoe Disconnect

I drive a lot more than used to.  I have three part-time jobs in various locations around Milwaukee, so I sometimes spend more than an hour a day in my car.

It is easy to get impatient especially with people who insist on running red lights (well, they SAW the yellow so that means they should go through the light even if it turns red before they get to the intersection, right?).  Sigh.  I also see too many people still talking on their phones (Please, people — hands free is at least a LITTLE safer than holding that blasted phone to your ear while you turn left in front of me crossing multiple lanes of traffic).  Don’t get me started on all the people one can see clearly TEXTING while driving!  Please all of you agree on the roads you want to use and the rest of us will stay off those roads. Seriously.

I grew up in a small town.  I used to describe it as 699 people and one stoplight (which was quite accurate at the time, I might add).  Now I drive past way more than 699 folks and several stoplights before I even get to the interstate!

Somedays traffic is flowing well, and the other drivers seem reasonably rational and semi-intelligent. As I cruise by all those cars, people, houses, businesses, companies — I sometimes feel disconnected and isolated.  I’m in my own little world inside my vehicle and everyone else on the busy highway is in theirs, too.

Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC
Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC

As I was driving one day recently through the city — I pondered the number of very large cemeteries that I pass going from one of my jobs to another.  I catch glimpses of intricately sculpted stones — angels, obelisks, crosses.  Row upon row upon row.  There is even a quite large pyramid in one of the graveyards I pass.  If I go a certain way, the interstate cuts through a military cemetery. There are rows and rows of solemn white crosses on gently flowing hills on both sides of of the highway.  At sunset the light is beautiful against the stones.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gnas/4650799888/in/set-72157607972404806
image by Just Add Light via Flickr CC

My most common thought about these cemeteries is that I wish I had time (or tell myself I should MAKE time) to go walk around in them on a nice day so I could look more closely at the interesting monuments and possibly take photos of them.

One day last week, I was driving along beside one of these huge graveyards and I caught sight of a cluster of cars and a back hoe out of the corner of my eye.  My heart lurched.  I felt sorrow for those people gathered there on the cold grey winter day to honor and mourn their loved one.  I wondered if the person was young or old, if the death was from illness or some tragedy, and even what kind of life they had led..  The back hoe was not very far away from the clump of cars and people.  It sat with the bucket facing the grave as if it was anxious to dig in immediately after the last prayer was uttered.

I felt like I was intruding on the privacy of the deceased and of the mourners.  What a very personal moment to be unintentionally sharing with all the people who happen to be driving by the cemetery at that exact moment. But I felt oddly connected to their sorrow.  I had sudden flashes of the many cold, grey funerals I have attended — too many.  I mulled those memories over as I drove on, away from the sad tableau.

public domain image:  "JCB 3CX Backhoe loader" by S. Lampkin, U.S. Air Force -
public domain image: “JCB 3CX Backhoe loader” by S. Lampkin, U.S. Air Force –

As several days passed, I wondered why this image (of the backhoe and the gravesite and the mourners) was sticking with me.  Why is it still there in my mind?  What am I supposed to make of this?

Obviously, we are mortal beings.  We live, we die.  It’s the circle of life (cue the musical production number).

hah!  Sorry.  I just saw Lion King (Broadway touring company) and it is still fresh in my music memory.

It doesn’t matter how big or fancy the tombstone might be — we all end up the same way.  Dust to dust.

Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license
Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license

But instead of feeling nihilistic about that fact, I feel a reverence for the fragility of our lives.  I want to be remembered for the good things I said and did, not for the way I let small irritations (or big ones) get to me.  I want to be kind and loving.  I want to be salt and light to the world. I want to spend more time with my family and friends and make more time for the things I enjoy doing, whether by myself or with others.  I want to keep my word, do my best at my work, and waste less time in general (FACEBOOK can be a time-wasting vortex).

The back hoe might be revving its engine, but I’m not going to keep looking at it or listen for the sound of its motor.
I’m going to keep looking for the beauty in each person, each minute, each day — and keep looking for that beauty in myself, and in the world around me, too.

This Crappy Obituary – For the Woman I Found Dead in the Starbucks Parking Lot

Please take a few minutes to read this incredibly moving story. Yes, it is a TRUE story. I encourage you to read through the comments, too, if you have time. Some of the young woman’s family and friends respond to this blog post. Keep listening to that still small voice — be aware, listen closely and act accordingly whether you want to or not.

Read his follow up post here.  This post was written 12 days after the first one and is called “on being Freshly Pressed and going viral.”

Legionwriter

I thought you were sleeping. It seems silly now, but you must understand, when one sees a person slumped over inside a parked car, the most reasonable conclusion is rarely that the person slumped over is dead. It was the lights from the dashboard that caught my eye. If it weren’t for the lights, I would have missed you completely, and – who knows? – you may still be lying out there, unknowing of the legions of addicts drawn to the verifiable Mecca of caffeine. You’d remain oblivious to the following day’s massive local windstorm and the city’s collective anxiety, followed by elation, when our beloved Seahawks won the big game. You might still be slumped awkwardly over your console, and I suppose your car would be run dry of gas by then, but folks would not be any more observant.

I say it was the lights on your dashboard…

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Quality Time with Quilt Friends

photo by quirkyjazz aka Jill
photo by quirkyjazz aka Jill

I recently found out one of my quilt friends is dying.

She has been fighting breast cancer for well over a year now.

She tried alternative medicines (including a trip to Ecuador for frankincense treatment) and traditional treatments (surgery and chemo, etc.) but the battle for her body is being won by the cancer this week.

I have known Barb for years. We belonged to the same quilt guild for over a decade. I’m guessing 16 years? I got to know her not only through the guild meetings and guild quilt shows, but also through her volunteer position in the guild as co-tech ed organizer. Her partner in crime for tech-ed was her buddy Annette. They were so hilarious together. Barb, tall thin and dark haired, and Annette, short round and grey haired, reminded me of a great comedy team along the lines of Stan and Ollie (but neither being stupid or mean!)

Wuppertal-Oberbarmen: Stan and Ollie. Flying C...
Wuppertal-Oberbarmen: Stan and Ollie. Flying Circus (Photo credit: wwwuppertal)

Barb and I also got to know each other at the guild quilt retreats* (see explanation below), held annually in Feb (or March) and October (or September) depending on when we can get reservations at the retreat space. Barb and I often ended up sitting near each other as we were quilting and often chatted as we worked. Eating meals together is one of my favorite parts of quilt retreats, and I would often find myself sitting near Barb and getting involved in a lively conversation.

Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

One of the first conversations I remember having with Barb was when we discovered several mutual interests: Jane Austen, Colin Firth and more specifically those two together in the A&E production of Pride and Prejudice. Oh my! I thought I was a big fan, but she left me in the dust.

She had seen nearly every movie Colin Firth had ever made (and he has made a LOT of movies).

Cover of "What a Girl Wants (Widescreen E...
Cover via Amazon

She regaled me with the story of seeing Colin in leather pants in the movie “What a Girl Wants.” Barb claimed she stood up, fist in the air and yelled “YES!” (Annette confirmed this was true. So funny!)

She told me the story of finagling DVDs of all the PBS Jane Austen movies from either her cable company (or satellite, idk?) because she had reception issues when the movies were aired. She got them ALL! She was very persuasive.

A gyro sandwich with meat, onions, tomato, and...
A gyro sandwich with meat, onions, tomato, and tzatziki sauce in a pita as served at The Greek House in Norman, Oklahoma, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We both loved eating at Athenian Grill in Dubuque. She would always tell me when the place was closed (it went through much drama and changes of ownership). We would always commiserate whenever that happened (and it happened often!).

She told us stories from work. She taught computer classes at a community college. I am sure she was a fabulous teacher and that she was much loved and appreciated by her students. As a fellow teacher (though I teach music), I pick up on passion and dedication when good teachers talk about students and classes. Good ones care. A lot. And you can tell just by listening to their stories. Barb was a good one.

Barb certainly had her quirks, too. She and another friend created an elaborate reward system to try to keep themselves motivated and on track in their quilting projects. There were monetary rewards for certain amounts of time spent, for completing projects and for I don’t remember what all. The part that fascinated me was that the money was IMAGINARY and that the amounts were quite small. Once I asked, if the money wasn’t real anyway, why they didn’t reward themselves with higher pay? Like maybe more like $100 an hour instead of whatever less than minimum wage they were paying themselves?

American Money
American Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

She replied, “Well, we don’t want to go crazy with it.” (I am shaking my head and laughing out loud as I write this and remember this conversation. SO FUNNY.)

The other amusing thing is this imaginary money reward system actually WORKED for them!

The forked head of a seam ripper
The forked head of a seam ripper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another “Barb” thing I enjoy is the way she talks herself through a project. She is a perfectionist. She will tear things out that I would never dream of fixing. She usually has a running commentary going about the fabric, her machine, the pattern, the project in general, the intended recipient, or the reason she is making the thing. She struggles to follow directions at times, and also likes to have confirmation from anyone who can hear her that she is doing everything correctly. Barb manages to do this without being annoying.

Barb often would be working on projects for her nieces and nephews (whom she dearly loves). She worked on one Buggy Barn (a quilt pattern company) star pattern for her sister for several retreats! The stars had lots of pieces and each piece had little borders around them. The whole project was in pale colors so all the work didn’t really show up that much. This is not the exact pattern, but it was very similar to it.

Carra making a baby quilt (pinwheel).

Several of us encouraged Barb to just quit working on it because it seemed to be frustrating her so much. But she kept working steadily on it and I am pretty sure she did finish that project eventually. (For many quilters finishing a project is not mandatory. A lot of us are excellent at picking out, designing and beginning projects. Finishing them? Not so much.)

Last fall, as we sat in the sewing room at our retreat I kept hearing an inner voice tell me to ask Barb’s permission to pray with her about her cancer. She had been through several months of alternative treatments by this time as well as some traditional medicine. She was wearing a cute brown pageboy wig, so her hair was gone from having chemo.

I looked for times to talk to her quietly but in a room with 20 creative, happily sewing quilters, there is not much down time and not much quiet time. I argued with myself about the prayer idea for at least the first day. Why me? Someone else could do it. The inner voice was not giving in. Yes, you. Yes, now. Do it.

So I went over to Barb’s table. I asked if she would be comfortable with the idea me gathering everyone who wanted to into a circle of friendship to give her support for her upcoming treatments. She said YES instantly. So I turned around and asked people to gather. I did not want to assume prayer would be the word everyone there would use for what we would do — but whatever I said — everyone came over. We held hands. We stood in a circle. Everyone looked at me. I asked if anyone wanted to say a few words or lead a prayer or anything — someone said “You do it.” So I did.

I don’t remember what I said, but I poured my heart out. We need Barb healed. We need her with us. This cancer needs to get out of her body. We wrap her in our friendship, love, comfort, encouragement and support.

I’m usually a crier. (See any number of my previous blog posts!) I’m not much of a public prayer either. But this was on my heart and I did what my heart (I believe it was the Holy Spirit) was telling me to do. This is one of those times that I believe the power of prayer was not only a mental but also a physical experience. Is there an energy that generates when people hold hands and stand in a circle and all focus their thoughts and minds on one person? — I don’t know. I felt something, though. Love, Faith, Friendship, Compassion. Words don’t mean anything much at a time like that, though.

I didn’t cry (much). At least I was able to continue talking and to form relatively coherent thoughts for which I am truly thankful to this day!

At the end of my words– everyone, EVERYONE, hugged Barb and whispered encouragement to her. Tears were flowing. Barb thanked us and shed a few tears of her own. It was a wonderful moment of personal connection between all of us in that circle.

Prayer Circle
Prayer Circle (Photo credit: graysonakerly) (Note:  This is not the friendship/prayers circle we had for Barb.  There are not quilters! We held hands and we are not young boys. But you get the idea.)

As the weekend went on, many of the other quilters came over to my table to say how much they appreciated the circle. I think many of us had the thought that something should said or done to show Barb our love and support, and we were thankful to have found a way to express that to her.

photo by quirkyjazz aka Jill
photo by quirkyjazz aka Jill

This year, we knew that Barb was near the end of her life. We had some roses both in the work room and on our table in the dining room in her honor. We gathered again in another friendship circle to pray for her and for ourselves as we were missing her presence with us.

As I visited with the quilters there, I found at least one of them working on a “Barb” project. One that she had worked on, but had not finished. She was hoping to get it finished for Barb before she died.

Prayer circles? (3)
labyrinth (3) (Photo credit: Rohan Talip)

I just got word a short while ago that Barb died in the early hours this morning (October 1). My heart is sorrowful, but my spirit is comforted to know that she free of the cancer and is now pain-free. I miss you already, dear friend.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or sorrow
or crying
or pain.
All these things are gone
forever.
NLT Rev. 21:4

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. These two Chur...
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. These two Church Amish women are engaged in quilting. Quilting bee . . . – NARA – 521135 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*Quilt Guild Retreats:  A Brief Explanation

(Modern quilt retreats are NOT like the photo above!)
Imagine 20 creative women (mostly strong-willed and not afraid to express their opinions about anything and everything) sitting around a long large conference room. Each person has their own work table and chair. On each table is a sewing machine, light, and quilting tools/gadgets. Most people have fabric nearby, some cut into pieces large and small and stacked ready to sew. The stacks are neat or messy depending on the creative style of the person. (I’m in the messy category — is anyone surprised?) In the center of the room are several “cutting tables.” These tables are protected by a special type of mat that is used with rotary cutters, wheel-shaped razor-sharp cutting tools that can slice fingers as easily as several layers of fabric. (I will explain how I know this in another post, another day!)

Everyone works on their own projects at their own pace. If you need advice or opinions, just ask. Someone (usually SEVERAL someones) will gather ’round to opine. You can stop to take a nap or a walk (either outside in the verdant gardens or in one of the meditational labyrinths) or just take a break to sit and chat.  

It seems that we eat every 15 minutes, but in reality we eat three times a day down in the spacious dining area with extremely large windows overlooking beautiful pastoral farmland. The Mound (short for Sinsinawa Mound) has a fabulous bakery, so we often have their home-made dinner rolls, breads, pies, cinnamon rolls, etc. 
Some people finish several small projects, some bring one large quilt to assemble, some bring hand work only. The point it to spend uninterrupted time together doing something we love — quilting — with people we enjoy.

Yes, we sit and sew and talk and eat for three day (or more if we can manage the time away!).

And we love and enjoy every second of it.

Finite Infinity

Finite Infinity

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately.  It is so frustrating to be tired, so tired and not be able to let go of being awake.  I often get up because after a while lying there tossing and turning and thrashing around makes no sense.

Sometimes I do a crossword.  Sometimes I eat a small snack (or a big one).  Sometimes I read a book.  Sometimes I write.  I try not to use the computer or TV, but sometimes I do that, too.

Recently during one of these sleepless nights, I grabbed a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson.  I’m familiar with many of her poems, but had not read this particular book all the way through. The book is in three sections:  The Poet’s Art, The Works of Love, and Death and Resurrection. I’m pretty sure it was a Thrift Shop find and that it has been on my bedside bookshelf for quite a while.

I found several poems that spoke to me.

As I read, I found many poems that were new to me.  Or maybe I found poems that were new to my heart.

I’m not a Dickinson scholar.  I’m not even a poet (though I may write poetry from time to time), but it seems to me that she struggles quite a bit with issues of faith and eternity.  She seems to be asking if it (heaven, life after death, grace) is real and if it IS real, then how does one wrap one’s mind around the concept of infinity?  Of infinite life and of infinite grace?

Sea of Tranquility
Sea of Tranquility (Photo credit: Storm Crypt)

48
There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself –
Finite infinity.

I love the alliteration of solitude of space and solitude of sea.  I think it makes the word “death” seem more abrupt because our ear might be expecting to hear the word silence (or some similar word).  And what does she mean about polar privacy?  Is it cold and barren?  Or is it diametric opposition between a soul and itself?  We are left with finite infinity.  (Talk about diametric opposition!)

80

Early summer morning

One Joy of so much anguish
Sweet nature has for me
I shun it as I do Despair
Or dear iniquity –
Why Birds, a Summer morning
Before the Quick of Day
Should stab my ravished spirit
With Dirks of Melody
Is part of an inquiry
That will receive reply
When Flesh and Spirit sunder
In Death’s Immediately –

I’ve tried to write about Joy before.  Several times, in fact.  I have tried write about the feeling of Joy that feels sharp and cutting. (https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/a-certain-slant-of-light/ and https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/i-am-a-little-church/)  It seems to me that Emily came to the conclusion that we’ll find out on the other side of Death — when Flesh and Spirit sunder. Her words convey her confidence that there IS an afterlife.

Iconic Two Trees, Ventura California

148
That it will never come again
Is what makes life so sweet.
Believing what we don’t believe
Does not exhilarate.
That if it be, it be at best
An ablative estate –
This instigates an appetite
Precisely opposite.

I admit I had to look up the word “ablative.”  I thought it meant empty or blank.  I was wrong.  It indicates separation from something, separation away from its source.  In this poem, I hear some doubt about what happens after death:  believing what we don’t believe.  This sounds to me that Emily is wrestling with the unbelief.  Emily was the original YOLO person!  If you only have one life every precious second is sweet.  You never know what really happens after you die, so enjoy LIFE.

Dust storm over Kuwait and Southern Iraq, Apri...
Dust storm over Kuwait and Southern Iraq, April 16, 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

168

Death is a Dialogue between
The Spirit and the Dust.
“Dissolve” says Death – the Spirit “Sir
I have another Trust” –

Death doubts it – Argues from the Ground –
The spirit turns away
Just laying off for evidence
An Overcoat of Clay.

In this poem, Emily seems to me to again be standing firmly on the side of Spirit and belief.  This dialogue between Death and Spirit ends with Spirit discarding the Overcoat of Clay.  So there, Spirit says: I’m living on!

English: Weather Vane Beautiful weather vane o...
English: Weather Vane Beautiful weather vane on Low Hall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

194
The World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy – don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

In this poem Emily seems full of doubt again.  The last two lines “Narcotics cannot still the Tooth That nibbles at the soul –” leaves huge question marks hanging in the air.  She also says “Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –” which to me sounds like she is afraid to admit her doubts to herself or to anyone else.  She seems to be consoling herself (and us) that even though philosophers, scholars and generations of people have asked these questions there is scanty evidence for the leap of faith.  I hear hints of her faith in this poem, too, though:  the Species standing beyond Invisible as Music, positive as Sound, Strong Hallelujahs rolling, asking the way — all of these convey to me a sense of hope and of belief.

English: Organ pipes (Bass (8') - Pedal) Itali...
English: Organ pipes (Bass (8′) – Pedal)  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

200
Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –

From this—experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –

Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Domini’s –

This poem is a valiant attempt to describe infinity.  More than valiant.  I think she describes it superbly.  This is why we are still reading and discussing and loving Emily Dickinson’s words nearly 130 years after her death.  I love the idea that Forever is composed of Nows.  It isn’t all that different from what we know, except for its infiniteness.  Months dissolve, years exhale and it all goes on forever.  

more ilica waves201
As if the Sea should part
And show a further Sea –
And that – a further – and the Three
But a presumption be –

Of Periods of Seas –
Unvisited of Shores –
Themselves the Verge of Seas to be –
Eternity—is Those—

Again, she paints us an amazingly detailed and mind boggling picture of eternity using just a few words and images.  Seas inside of seas inside of seas and seas with no shores themselves the Verge of Seas — and thus, Emily helps us get a glimpse of Eternity.  

God Bless Emily Dickinson.  I pray that she is at peace and has all her doubts and questions answered and that Infinity is now her reality.

Moment of Kindness: Daily Prompt

Moment of Kindness

Cleaning.  Sorting.  Packing.  Painting.

Paint since 1978

Preparing our 125 year old house to be listed for sale is a HUGE job.

Every room is filled to the brim with 17 years of paraphernalia and memories.
Every room is tinged with cobwebs, dust and dingy paint.
Every room has a very long “to do” list to get it ready for the first open house.

Fortunately, we have some amazingly fabulous friends.

They come nearly every day to help us with the
cleaning, sorting, packing and painting.

One guy, Dave, was here painting last Friday.  He claims that he “loves” to paint.  I think I believe him.  He helped paint our two story entryway stairway, hallway, stairs, decorative banister, and trim.  Our house is Victorian so that is no small task!  He isn’t phased by cat hair or decades old dirt.

Last Friday he was re-painting the trim in out kitchen.  Every once in a while he would take a phone call.  He kept painting.

maple tree
(Photo credit: JoyfulMommaKim)

Once I saw him outside under a tree talking on his phone.
I was concerned that something was wrong, but didn’t want to pry.

A short while later he told me that his Mom was near death (several states away).  I knew she was ill since we’d been praying for her for many months in our small book study group.

“I was just talking to my sister there,” he said.  “They don’t think she is going to live through the day.”

I said something like “Oh, Dave — you should go.”

He replied that there was nothing he could do.  If he left right that moment he would not get there before she died.  (It is about a 10 hour trip one way).  He said he would stay to finish the job.

I wasn’t sure what to say or do.  I said I was sorry and told him again that he didn’t need to stay, that maybe he should go maybe be at home or with his wife or something.

He said again that there was nothing he could be doing about his Mom and that he would rather just stay to finish the job he was doing.

My 82 year old mom has been staying with us for the last couple of weeks.  She came to see several family concerts and events (my daughter’s 8th grade graduation, for one!).  She stayed because we need her help right now, desperately!

I’ve written a couple of blog posts about my mom, in fact:  https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/norma-says/ and https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/norma-says-more/

holding hands - age 10, and age 8
holding hands  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mom came around the corner and grabbed my hand and grabbed Dave’s hand and said, “Let’s pray.”

So we did.  So she did.

I can’t remember all she said, but she prayed that Dave’s mom would let go and be at peace.

Mom is a crier.  She cries for things that most people don’t think about at all.  She is touched by joy, sorrow, holiness, kindness, life.  I used to be embarrassed by her tears, but it turns out — I’m very much like her.  Tears come easily for me, too.

But she didn’t cry this time.  Her voice was emotional, sure.  You could tell she was fighting the tears, but her words were calm and strong.  Her faith is so strong that sometimes she amazes me.  Often she amazes me.

We joke that she has a “direct line to God” — but I think it is true. She prays and things happen.
Not just once in a while.
ALL the time.
People call her to pray and she does.  She drops everything to listen to their problems and then she prays with them — either in person or on the phone.
And she keeps praying.

One time I couldn’t find my car keys.  I called her to pray (really in desperation).  WHILE I was talking to her on the phone, I found them.  No lie.

But I digress.  Back to the kindness story….

After she prayed, all three of us hugged.  I think Dave may have shed a tear or two.  I may have as well.

Not long after, really just a few minutes later — Dave got another phone call.

His Mom was gone.  She died shortly after the previous phone call.

In other words, she died while we were praying for her peaceful release from this life.

Kindness.

A moment of kindness.

Dave’s kindness and friendship.
Mom’s kindness and fearless prayers.
The kindness of a peaceful death after a long well lived life full of love, faith, and family.

This precious moment of kindness will stay in my heart forever.

Thanks be to God.

Who knew? part deux re-do

amelia and Eleanor

In my first “Who knew?” post, I included several quotes from the two women.  In that case it was Martha Graham and Helen Keller.  I realized tonight I did not include any quotes in my “Who knew? part deux” post.

In that second post, I commented on the friendship between Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Being adventuresome, outspoken, and intelligent women, they said many memorable and challenging statements during their lifetimes. I’ve chosen several of my favorites to share with you.

Enjoy!  I hope you feel as inspired by their words as I do.

Amelia Earhart quotes:

Amelia Earhart by aircraft
Amelia Earhart by aircraft (Photo credit: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

On anticipation:

Anticipation, I suppose, sometimes exceeds realization.

In my life I had come to realize that when things were going very well indeed it was just the time to anticipate trouble. And, conversely, I learned from pleasant experience that at the most despairing crisis, when all looked sour beyond words, some delightful “break” was apt to lurk just around the corner.

Amelia Earhart and Lockheed Electra 10E NR1602...
Amelia Earhart and Lockheed Electra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On action and purpose:

The most effective way to do it, is to do it.

There are two kinds of stones, as everyone knows, one of which rolls.

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward.The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward.

Never do things others can do and will do if there are things others cannot do or will not do.

Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.

Roots on Roots... Tree on Tree

On kindness:

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed.  A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart (Photo credit: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

Advice for women:

A girl must nowaways believe completely in herself as an individual. She must realize at the outset that a woman must do the same job better than a man to get as much credit for it.

photo by quirkyjazz
photo by quirkyjazz

 Love of reading and school:

Like many horrid children I loved school, though I never qualified as teacher’s pet. Perhaps the fact that I was exceedingly fond of reading made me endurable. With a large library to browse in, I spent many hours not bothering anyone after I once learned to read.

Image from Hubble telescope

Beauty:

After midnight the moon set and I was alone with the stars. I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying.

*************************************************

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed 5B Vega

Courage is the price that
Life exacts for granting peace.

The soul that knows it not
Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear the sound of wings.

Red-capped Robin (Petroica goodenovii)

Nor can life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare
The soul’s dominion.

Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the resistless day,
And count it fair.

poem by Amelia Earhart

Deutsch: Mohnblumenfeld in Flandern, Belgien.

(end of Amelia Earhart quotes)

***************************************************

Eleanor Roosevelt quotes:

On Light:

Fire burning bright
Fire burning bright (Photo credit: Droidicus)

What is to give light must endure the burning.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

Determination
Determination (Photo credit: Gulfu)

Courage and Fortitude:

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

English: Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Mar...
(ca. 1955) Rosa Parks μεand τον Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do what you feel in your heart to be right– for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Curiousity
Curiousity (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying attention to you.

For it isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.

flag waver

You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.

Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.

Life Lessons:

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.

The most important thing in any relationship is not what you get but what you give.

LIFE Magazine (September 27, 1923)  ...item 3....

One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. … All you need to do is to be curious, receptive, eager for experience. And there’s one strange thing: when you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.

01-21-13 Learn Something New
Learn Something New (Photo credit: roswellsgirl)

I have never felt that anything really mattered but the satisfaction of knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could.

Happiness
Happiness (Photo credit: baejaar)

Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product.

Happiness
Happiness (Photo credit: 4nitsirk)

I consider those are rich who are doing something they feel worthwhile and which they enjoy doing.

Roosevelt flying with Tuskegee Airman Charles ...
Roosevelt flying with Tuskegee Airman Charles “Chief” Anderson in March 1941 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You rarely achieve finality. If you did, life would be over, but as you strive new visions open before you, new possibilities for the satisfaction of living.

It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death.

When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.

Clam Shells on the Beach
Clam Shells on the Beach (Photo credit: camknows)

(end of Eleanor Roosevelt quotes)