Thoughts From A Wake

This past week, the mother of a friend of mine passed away. It was rather sudden, and consequently hit her family pretty hard. I bought a card for my friend, but thought I should also attend the calling hours for her mom, as well. Not having much experience with deaths and funerals, yet, I am not sure if participating in the services would be expected of me, since I am not a very close friend. But my sister in law once told me that if I had any feeling at all I should go, I should go. So I did.

I told Luke when I was leaving that if it was too crowded, I would drop off my cards and leave. But when I got there, I could see how rude that would be to do- it was crowded, but the line of people wove in and out of the funeral home’s rooms, and most everyone could see everyone else. I got in line.

The first room the line crossed looked like the administrative office. Papers were strewn across the desk, including copies of the video of family pictures that was playing in the foyer. I thought it was strange to have the people walk through here, then inappropriate that the family’s personal things were laying out. Since I was alone, it was a challenge to find things to do with myself. I didn’t feel I could strike up a conversation with my neighbor, a hippie type, or my other neighbors, an older couple. It just didn’t seem right.

Once into the hallway, the line actually came round to the end of the family receiving line. Many at that point were giving a small wave or smile to those they knew in the family. One lady was not paying attention, so advanced in line to shake hands with the family, not knowing the line switched back. She ended up behind me.

For some reason, at this point I felt I could start talking to my new neighbor. I found out how she was acquainted to the deceased, and how my friend’s mom actually died. The Facebook posts were vague, and rightly so, so I didn’t have much information. Seems she was feeling tired, and at some point ill enough to be admitted to the hospital. Then, about two weeks later, she passed away during the night. The doctors didn’t know exactly what was wrong with her, were going through a series of tests, but the thought of death was far from anyone’s minds, so no one was prepared for that to happen.

A bit after talking my new friend pulled out her phone. I had noticed, and was appreciatively surprised, that NO ONE in that long long line was on their phones!!! What a testimony to the solemnity of the occasion. And an honor to this woman’s family. But she was not being obnoxious on hers, and I realized I should check mine for messages, so I told her I was glad she had hers out. Now that I was not the only one right now, I wouldn’t appear as rude, ha ha.

As we advanced, another lady joined our quiet conversation about death, what we’ve experienced with it so far, who we’ve lost, how we’ve dealt with the children it affected, and so on. I was heartened to hear their perspectives and theology mirrored my own; this woman who passed away was active in her local church, but also worked in the school system, so I could have been standing beside someone with a completely different faith background. But instead, we were able to encourage each other. Funny how the second half of my time in line went faster than the first, as we talked.

We got to talking about our stuff we keep around, knowing our kids won’t want it, but still we keep it. I told them I had 13 children, and back for our wedding we had registered for the plates with a setting for 12, thinking the 16 was too many (!) The one lady interrupted me- “You have thirteen children?! I have thirteen children!” What’s your name…” And we began to trade big family stories until we reached the family. What are the odds of being in that line with another mother of 13 children? Not odds, but God, for sure.

My bereaved friend was in shock. And all cryed out (for now) and so angry. But she still looked lovely. She told my new friend in line that she was done with life, that she just wanted Jesus to come and have it over with. I’ve been there, too. Read any of my posts about Micaiah if you want a sample of my feelings there. And then, I recalled another funeral (in this same building) I attended, for a newborn baby my friend had had, with so many medical problems he only lived a few minutes. I will never forget the way she looked at that tiny casket, with tears running down her cheeks, as if to say, this really hurts. I hate that this had to happen. Why do I have to say goodbye to someone I just met? Let me die, too.

It is good that my friend was being honest with her thoughts and feelings. And she realized that the funeral was only the beginning. Soon she would return to life with a new emptiness. Thanksgiving next week, and Christmas. And her young children, needing reminded of where Grandma was. She had just posted on Facebook weeks before about how her mom was her rock. Now it would be those left behind to be her support, but ultimately God. Though she is probably upset with Him now, she knows He can take it. That He’ll always be there listening.

 

 

Don’t Forget

Carol has a sort of game with our young children whenever they part. She says to them, “Don’t forget!” If we are in a place where others are ignorant of the game, they may shrug their shoulders and wonder, forget what?

My mom has Alzheimer’s disease. It has been a slow process so far, and God has been so gracious to allow for that, and have my dad be able to care for her for the foreseeable future. She recognizes all of us, even all of my children (at least I think she does;)), and the things she forgets are not matters of the heart, not yet. But because her mother had this, and because her sister just died and had this, I know a bit about the progression, to a state where she may not know who I am. Dad prays for a slow deteriorating; she is old at this point so a slow fade would take longer than she has years on Earth. This is not something I have prayed with earnestness. I’m not sure if that is God’s plan or not.

We used to joke (halfway) about “shoot me when I show signs of getting Alzheimer’s”, but in recent years I have realized how horrible a thought that is. For one thing, who knows how early in my life I will start to forget.

Just in this past week I have had two very disturbing experiences. The first I can’t explain in detail, but I neglected to do something in the right way, and when thinking on it later, I had to admit that I completely forgot. I quickly tried to think of a way I wouldn’t do that same thing again, especially if I had no recollection, a next time, and cam up with a fitting act of repentance. Good for the mind and the soul.

The next day, I pulled the pork roast out of the oven from cooking overnight, put it in the crock, and tucked it in the fridge. This was to be dinner; I only needed buns. I was to take kids to work at the grocery store later, so I knew I’d have a chance to get them. Later came, and as I went in Stoodts, I walked back to the cheese case, making a mental list of what I needed to make pizza, for dinner, that night. Not until I was home did I realize I already had pork done and planned!

I know we can shoo away each of these blunders, saying, it happens all the time, you’re stressed, you have mommy brain x 13. I get it. But these were different. It was like going to a cupboard and opening the door and that thing not being there. But actually, it is like I didn’t even think to look in the cupboard in the first place. So how would I remember to look for the thing in the cupboard for next time? Me and Mother Hubbard. Think that’s her trouble?

I would love to end this with the above line. That was so clever. I love my mind, and how much it does for me each and every day, day in and day out. God has been so good to me. But if I were to start to lose some ability there, it would be very disturbing. I must remember what is important, though- the thing Grandma Carol never wants our kids to forget- I am loved.

 

 

Getting Caught Up

Saturdays are good right now for giving attention to things I haven’t all week, but for some reason I feel peevish today, and unappreciative of the ‘day off’. Maybe because it isn’t.

This week was busy. Sam has joined a basketball team that practices in Marion. We went round and round about whether we wanted to make this kind of time and distance commitment, again ( see also FCA running in Powell, see also BSF in Columbus). But it is hard to let any of our children down. Not that this was the deciding factor. I think what gave us the go ahead was Sarah becoming a licensed driver this week!!! Now we have four people who can drive him over there. And, Sam picked up his temps this week, too, making it possible for him to get some driving hours with Luke or me. It will still be a long winter, but with some positives.

I was talking to my dad about Christmas- I don’t think we will get toys at all this year. The kids don’t play with what they have as it is. What kind of things could we do instead? Are there any good games, mind building activities, or all around great gifts with longevity you can think of? Let me know.

I got a slow cooker, and slow far, slow good, ha ha ha. My goal is to use it 50 times before I break it in our hard as nails sink. I’ve been really careful when I wash the insert, taking the steps super slow. It is a slow cooker, after all.

On November 11 Luke, Aliyah, Sarah, and I are going to see Les Miserables in Cleveland. Being postpartum for as long as I can, I haven’t yet bought anything dressy. So what would I wear? I don’t really have a style, if truth be known, and I don’t know what looks good on me much. But I was able to find a couple of things at Clothes Mentor last week that look promising.

Be Safe

The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge! Ruth 2:12

A common theme in our family prayers is that of safety. The teen driving home, the kids at the track meet, and on and on. I’m not sure God cares as much about our safety as we do; maybe He thinks more of, say, our holiness, our growth in godliness. But that is a ‘nother post for a ‘nother time.

It begins in the womb, I think. Prayers for a healthy baby, safe delivery. Then we get to where we are praying for whomever is away from the home to make it back home safe, whether they are across town or across continents. Safe is something that happens to us, or doesn’t happen to us, as the case may be.

As I was driving home from the store this morning, I passed Aliyah on the road. She was heading to school. The thought came to me, I hope she’ll be safe. But it takes on new meaning when they are growing up and away from home more than they are in it. ‘Be safe’ means to make the choices and do the things that contribute to a safe, happy life. Good that this simple prayer still rings true.

The Great Adventure

I cannot tell you the thrill I felt as the coldest wind blew past just now. It was like all the good feels of the holidays and home comforts that cold weather brings rushed by me with those dry leaves. Bring it.

Tonight at dinner I was absolutely shocked by the behavior of some children. And when I went to apply discipline, it backfired. So I’m left with keeping us home from the library tonight, and watching the movie without the offenders. They were in bed by 7. I feel a little responsible for setting the scene by being too lenient up to this point. But no more. This has been one instance where I can get a taste of how God feels about sin. It is abhorrent.

The library miss is punishing me more than anyone. I had three books I was reading, then decided none of them were worth finishing. So my fingers are all jittery, looking for a page to turn. I pulled out an Above Rubies magazine this evening; it looks promising.

In better news, I was able to get out some dry erase marker that was on our new couch. The theory online was that if you mark over the marks with fresh marker (follow that?), wiping it right away will take up both. It worked!

House Help

Ahhh- it feels good to sit back in a chair and rest. The morning has been very fruitful, but I’ve had to spend a lot of time harvesting that fruit, ha. Pumpkin bread, blueberry muffins, meat sauce for chili mac, and rice pudding. Not bad for a few hours.

Some angel ran a dishwasher load early this morning before they left for the cross country meet. That got me thinking again how to help us with the dishes. It isn’t working to assign it to a person, or even multiple people. It isn’t working to use paper and plastic. It isn’t working to have me do it all, obviously. But it occurred to me that if we all were involved,that  just might work. If each person put their dishes in the washer right after a meal, and if the meal prepper washed their dishes right away, hmmm. This starts sounding like something I read at Like Mother Like Daughter once. Maybe I’m a bit mannish, having to think of these things myself.

We went apple picking yesterday, but I haven’t done anything with the apples we picked yet. Just wasn’t feeling it. I’m going out this afternoon to get a new Crock-Pot, one I plan to do applesauce and homemade cider in. We’ll see.

 

What’s Your Superpower?

If you could have the superpower of invisibility OR flight, which would you choose?

(Quick- email or text me your answer before you continue reading. Thanks!)

I love driving to Columbus on Saturday afternoons, because I can listen to public radio broadcasts. Shows like The Splendid Table and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me are a rare treat, as I can’t get a good NPR station up in Mansfield. There was a show a few weeks ago where the host was discussing superpowers, specifically the above two choices. He put the question to many different people, and shared his analysis of their answers. One key to getting an accurate result is sticking with your first thought; if you have time to mull it over or talk to others, the other choice may look better. Another funny thing he noticed was that there were stages of acceptance of their answers- they’d think of every loophole, every what if, before settling into what they’d most like to be able to do. Also, the host had his own opinions about why we choose what we do.

So, you want to know what I chose? Flight. From my infancy I have dreamed of flying. It would be so much fun, and freeing.

I had no idea I was so unique, however. At the close of the program, the host concluded that humans are innately after a way to hide, guilty animals really, so everyone, if they are honest, would choose invisibility. What? I was surprised. It seems to me you might have an even split, both sounding so good, but it appears the host had the deck stacked from the beginning.

So, I thought I’d do my own test, at home with my children. I gave them the question and had them write their first thought on a sticky note. Later they would write a paragraph about their choice. Do you want to know the outcome?

100 percent invisibility!!! I said to myself, I’ve got the sneakiest kids around. But it may just back up this radio host’s thoughts on the subject. I can’t explain why my answer was different; wanting to fly is not a prerequisite to sainthood, but maybe it helps. I’m off to ask Luke. Will he want to soar with me or disappear completely? Heaven only knows.

Gimme A Light

“…if it is a religious ceremony we may not be able to understand it, for the mysteries of most religions are very dark and not easily understood, even by those who profess them.”-Captain James Cook, The Voyages of Captain Cook

I have had something very interesting happen to me this week: three books I’ve pulled from the shelf have bombed. One I finished, see last post, but the other two I barely got through a few chapters. Maybe I should be vetting my recommendation sources. Maybe this lets me down easy from a summer/nursing/reading high that will come to a close with school starting next week. But it does make me realize again how there isn’t anything new under the sun and, they really are just books.

Imagine my hesitancy to start The Voyages of Captain Cook next. I mean, would I get anything out of it? Page 15 I find the quotation above, and it brings to light what I’ve just been speaking of. What is your light? What brightens your eyes? What do you look forward to doing? What brings you joy? The psalmist in the Bible says the LORD is his light and his salvation in Psalm 27. I’m trying to memorize this chapter, and one time I was going over it I was stopped at that first phrase: the LORD is my light… It is humbling to note how many other places I look for light than to the LORD, the only source. And this is evident in our human history of false religions- doing things a certain way to gain some light to our paths, while we only end up in further darkness, confusing to others and even ourselves. Thank God for the Bible, truth and light right at our fingertips.

For with You is the fountain of life, and in Your light we see light. Psalm 36:9

First World Problems

I picked up the book Pachinko because it was recommended on Goodreads. Not sure if I’ll do that again: the book, like many humans, lumps all religions together, rendering Christianity ineffective. Why keep reading a book that doesn’t line up with my worldview? I guess I want to see how it ends, if in any kind of redeeming way. That would make the references to Christianity shine out a little bit. But things don’t look promising. Most of the main characters are dead, with no great legacy. One thing I have learned from reading this book is the confusion and oppression that results from war-torn countries. Humans displaced who just want to be humans, not treated badly just because of their national heritage. I got to thinking about how great it is to live in America, and to be from here, too. There is little room for any of the problems those impoverished people around the world face. We can get to complaining, but most everything here boils down to being ‘first world problems’. Here are some of mine.

Our kitchen sink went out this past week, and the part needed to fix it won’t come for another week. When you use the faucet then turn it off, you hear a sound like Dory speaking whale, and water goes everywhere. So we keep the water valve turned off most of the time, to curb the flow. I was using ice cream buckets I filled in the tub to rinse dishes for the dishwasher, which still works. But the dishes come out still smelly, or it could be my imagination. So today I have Caleb, our resident plumber while Luke is gone, turn the sink on while I do a lightening fast round of dishes. This will be our new normal indefinitely. Don’t buy Pfister.

Luke took the van to pick up kids from Lakeside today. I had planned to go to the store, but pouted when I realized with both him and me gone, I’d have to take littles, and he’d have the van til late tonight. Oh, well, guess that meant the trip to Aldi would wait til tomorrow, and I would get creative about dinner with the plethora of foods I have on my shelf already. We’ll dine on a tater tot casserole, baked beans, and applesauce.

While cleaning out my cupboards, I found three bags of beans, so I’m thinking I should try to work more of those in our diet. I found a neat website that offers pinto beans five ways, and am off to get my beans cooking. That will cure me of complaining, one way or another.

 

For Gifts I Didn’t Expect

I’m currently reading a book called The Good and Beautiful God, and in it the author challenges us to keep a gratefulness journal of God’s many blessings. My first entry was “gifts I didn’t expect”. Here are an assortment that come to mind.

-an art book that the kids all signed for Mother’s Day last year. I knew Luke took them to Ollie’s, but I didn’t know they were shopping for me.

-my baby shower for Julia. Chloe is continuing to benefit from that.

-a personalized baby quilt for Chloe. A young friend made it, and it is too pretty to use!

-a stuffed animal homemade by this girl’s little brother. I don’t know if it is a pig, or a bear with a pacifier, but how sweet of him.

-my parents just shared some money with us that will help us greatly in finishing our house. Now that we are only a year away, I feel like I can plan. I know how fast a year can go by.

-we’ve had both expected and unexpected bills lately, and a way to cover them all. Though I do confess to a sour stomach when I opened the dentist bill. So much money, and charges all due to fillings and sealants, not routine care. I feel guilty for not making the kids brush enough. I feel bad for putting Luke’s hard earned money to something like this. It was a heavy weight on me til I paid it this afternoon. I’m not sure all of the guilt is justified, the kids may just have bad teeth and that bill was for three, not just one. But it hurt me all the same. We’re brushing tonight, mark my words.

-so many children to fill our arms and home. The older four, as we call them, are at camp this week, the middle two last week. Anytime one or more is missing, you can tell. Aliyah flits about a lot these days, to photo shoots and coffee with friends, so I’m getting a little used to her not being here. But it is hard. I like to have them all around. A book idea I had was all about families, a counting book, where the last page said, “What is a family? A family is room for one more.” We have found this unexpectedly true.