Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Do You Say?

My friend, James, was diagnosed a few years ago, as a young man, with a rare type of "old people" cancer.  He had a wife and three small children that he loved very much.  In one of our talks, he said that he was able to keep on keeping on because he had Faith.  He knew that God was taking care of him, that God has a Plan, and that His plan was better than James's.

James said that he was so grateful that he had Faith, because he didn't know how someone who didn't Believe could manage to keep from curling up in a ball and just giving up.

This thought was echoed by my friend, Stacie, when her infant son was diagnosed with a very rare, nearly always fatal kind of cancer.  Faith was what kept her going, gave her the strength to fight, and comforted her when Cash lost his earthly battle, but won the Heavenly one.

Last week, my husband's coworker, who was also the Branch Manager's 23-year-old son, died in a horrific accident on the job.  The responding Highway Patrol officers identified the vehicle by running the tags on the trailer that he was pulling and came back to my husband's workplace to ask the person in charge who would have been in possession of the truck and trailer, and hopefully, get next of kin information.  Obviously, if they had known that they were speaking to Jacob's next of kin, their delivery would have been a bit different. 

My husband had to step into his mentor's shoes to handle filing insurance claims, workman's comp paperwork, notifying the appropiate brass at Corporate, pulling in crews from all over the region to keep their small store running, and also comforting the man that has come closest to filling the father role that my "father"-in-law voluntarily left vacant.  Thing is, Rick, (my husband's boss) isn't a Believer. 

What does one say to a non-believer that is in the middle of a horrific, tragic storm?  All of the comforting things that my Wonderful Husband could come up with were things that his friend doesn't believe.  They brought no comfort.  They brought no understanding.  They brought no peace.  All that was left was "We're here for you.  We love you.  We know that your heart is breaking, and we think that it sucks, too."

Jacob's parents are a mess.  They're going through the motions, and both of them have dead eyes.  Rick is clinging to his wife, my husband and the other guy that he's mentored "since [they] were pups".  The memorial service was yesterday, and it was a fill-in-the-blank memorial service.  Prayers - check.  Pictures - check.  Stranger relating stories that he got third hand from whatever family and friends he could corner - check.  Maybe we should throw in a song - check.  It ended with an announcement that the family was thankful to everyone for coming, but that they were not prepared to greet anyone at this time, so they would be exiting first and then the rest of us would be dismissed.

They're curling up into their own little balls, and the people that love them are forced to stand on the sidelines and find something to do with our hands.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where I'm From

I am from macaroni and cheese, from the bag and the block, ooey and gooey in a huge pot, from books and vegetable gardens and looking up the answers to your own questions in the Encyclopedia Brittanica that takes up the entire bottom shelf of the bookcase and diagramming sentances at the kitchen table after dinner "for fun".

I am from the small green house with the cris-cross porch railings and white trim.  The second one in from the corner, on a half-acre lot, divided by a fence overtaken by trumpet and honeysuckle vines.

I am from the shadow of a grain elevator, the strawberry patches, the fancy iris beds, the medium sized town in the middle of nowhere, a few miles from my great-grandparents' homestead, but two states away from either of my parents' hometowns.

I am from Fourth of July Family Reunions and debating everything from politics to theology to sports, from spunky Smiths and strong featured Stephensons and sturdy Roarks and determined McCartys.

I am from long, rich lives and bullheadedness and family values and dressing up for church on Sunday.  I'm from work hard to support your family, and life's much better if you're able to laugh at yourself, and from love the people that love you, and from family is not always determined by bloodlines, and from we're so very proud of you.

From respect but don't be afraid to question authority and Grandma cheats at Canasta. I am from having a soft heart for abandoned puppies, hurt rabbits, fallen birds nests, and sad children.  I am from a widow that remained faithful to her husband until she died, even though he preceeded her in death by a half century and from lovebirds who held hands on the couch while they watched the news, then M*A*S*H, and ate shebert after 57 years.  I am from plain gold bands and crepe paper skin and blue eyes that twinkle.

I am from Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics whose children met and married and raised their children in an Episcopal Church.  I am from Sunday School in the basement and Holy Eucharist every Sunday and from Preachers and Deacons and Choir Directors and Lay Ministers.  I am from incense at Christmas and Easter and processions and falling asleep in the polished wooden pew and waking up to see the crucifix on the beam overhead.  I am from Amazing Grace and This Little Light of Mine and What A Friend We Have In Jesus.
I'm from Oklahoma and Missouri and far South Texas and the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico and from jello salads and fresh vegetables and whipped cream and butter instead of Cool Whip or margerine.

From Arch and Belle as newlyweds with a black iron bed in the covered wagon, the aunt that changed the spelling of her name because her new husband thought it would look more balanced, the same aunt that changed the spelling back after her husband died 50-something years later, and the grandmother that had one chest of drawers full of linens and another chest of drawers full of costume jewelry - all neatly sorted and contained in rubber-banded checkbook boxes.  I'm from having dollars and tissues in pockets - of your sweaters, your jackets, your pocketbook and from washing out your ZipLocks to reuse them and from saving the pink, blue, and yellow styrofoam trays in neat stacks because you never know when they'll come in handy.   I'm from not wasting leftovers and cassaroles and making every dollar stretch.

I am from headstones in the far corner of the IOOF Cemetary near a highway not far from here, from grave markers of a country family cemetary no bigger than my yard, and the one white marker with the very best view out of 39,000 in the Santa Fe National Cemetary.

*I have pictures in mind that will be added ... at some point.  ;)  And, I stole the idea from here, but she got it from here, and it was originally here.