Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks - Part I

This Thanksgiving will be bittersweet. This year, three people who are important to members of my family won't be here. The boys will not see their biological father. They have not mentioned anything about it, but it has been on my mind. Even though the two of us have had a tumultuous relationship over the past few years, he was still their father. Mike's father won't be here to play the role of patriarch at the family Thanksgiving, always the consummate host. There will be a huge hole in the celebration. And finally, my sweet Muz is celebrating with Jesus and making sure that the Thanksgiving table in Heaven is set "just so"... But she won't be with us, and I know my mother will be so affected.

Even so, I have so much to be thankful for. I've been meaning to write about how God's hand was such a part of those few days from October 4th through the 7th. Days that could possibly only be described by someone as a nightmare. Yet there were so many glimpses of His presence, His Holy Spirit moving among us, His unexpected - and unexplained - gifts and blessing.

Yes, this will be one of Bevy's infamous Two-Parters. As we all are, I'm in the midst of preparations for tomorrow's big feast. But I am excited to be able to share those moments, those obviously Holy (and not it so obvious) moments with you. So later this weekend, I hope to give you an inspiring read.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Walking in...

When I walked in I was completely unprepared. I didn’t know what would greet me. I didn’t know how I would be affected.

When I entered the sunny apartment, the first thing I saw was the old mahogany Imperial styled chest with all the family photographs in a mix match of silver and Dollar Tree acrylic frames. Homemade cards and pictures from her great-grandchildren were in a little pile. An antique clock silently ticked.

My eyes scanned her home and saw the dichotomy of beautiful silk draperies on the living room windows beside the tacky peacock feathers displayed in a vase she bought at a garage sale. The silk print of the last Dowager Empress of China above the handmade camelback chest from Afghanistan with the “made in China” (and not in the good way!) oriental lamp on it. The exquisite Victorian mahogany and horsehair sofa she had upholstered in the most God-awful light blue striped velvet we know she got for free somewhere. The corner cabinet with all her sterling and fine china serving pieces - and the Christmas china my sister and I had thought she gave us, but later she decided she hadn't and wanted back! (Anne Stuart and I are still confused over that...) Her mink wrap and elbow length white kid leather gloves next to her seventeen million pairs of Keds in every color and pattern imaginable. The sterling silver tea service and water cooler on the small dining room table – right beside a cacophony of holiday, cocktail and party napkins she would "rescue" (not used of course) from a luncheon or event where she was a guest so she could use when WE came to visit. It was so her and I was completely unprepared… and I sobbed.

This past weekend I joined my sister, aunt and uncle, and their daughter to clean out Muz’s apartment at Still Hopes. (You may remember my post about the lovely residence.) We started the weekend with shared tears as we talked about her last days and the numerous happy memories we had. We wanted the weekend to not just be about packing up all her belongings (and sorting “Good Will” and “throw away” – there were over fifty bags!). We wanted the day to be one that honored her and what she meant to us. My dear Aunt Laura, who, at times, had a tumultuous relationship as the daughter-in-law, asked if she could lead us in prayer that the weekend would be a blessing for us all. And oh, how it was!

We told stories as we’d find old books she read to us as little children and pictures of Christmases from years ago. We laughed as we’d find old newspapers - and programs from events she’d attended in 1983. Boxes and boxes and boxes of old church bulletins… invitations… Christmas cards from people whose names we didn’t even recognize… receipts from presents she’d bought us through the years… papers and old photographs from "the war" (better known to rest of us as World War II)... drawers full of recycled Christmas bows and wrapping paper… bags and bags of packing peanuts. But that was so Muz: frugal and a product of the Great Depression. How many pieces of recycled tin foil and Ziploc bags we found in her kitchen cabinets; the jelly packets and sugar packets and ketchup packets. The woman NEVER THREW ANYTHING AWAY. You’ve heard of functioning alcoholics? Muz was a functioning hoarder. You’d never know it from the way she kept her lovely apartment!

We finished, exhausted yet blessed, Sunday afternoon. In addition to the wonderful time reminiscing with my family, we each left with some items Muz had designated especially for each one of us. I was so excited to carry the silk print and camelback chest, as well as a mahogany pie crust side table.

But it was earlier that day when I was cleaning out her medicine cabinet and I hit the jackpot. Of all the furniture and other inheritances we all received, this meant so much more. I found two 45-year-old bottles of merthiolate she used to put on our cuts and scrapes when we were children. She would paint that orange liquid on one and blow on it “to take the sting off”. We would wince in pain and watch the “paint” turn that awful neon pink. What on earth was she thinking? But I was so thrilled to find these bottles. I ran out of the bathroom laughing and crying. It was a memory we all shared. It was so her... so Muz.

And crazy as it sounds, when I look at those two little brown worn out bottles, I feel the clouds that have covered our lives for the past few months dissipate. I feel golden days are coming soon…

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Merry Stressmas!

Despite relegating three of our own children to 
the “Happy Holidays” frames, 
Gary felt the Allens had sent us enough family photos 
to warrant their own engraving.

OK, so I stole this from Catalog Living, but I just couldn't resist!  We're entering the middle of November and I have just now started thinking about the inevitable Christmas card photo. D*mn it...

Or maybe I should just use one of the Allens'.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Friendship Basket

We are almost a month to the day my father-in-law died (October 4) and the wreck (October 7) that will affect my family's lives forever. I am still in the midst of writing thank you notes for the outpouring of care and concern by so many friends around us. We have had more meals lovingly prepared than I could have ever imagined. Those nights we didn't have a casserole dish placed in the cooler on the back porch, we used one of the numerous gift cards we received to eat at local restaurants.

Cards and memorials are still pouring in from friends near and far, old and new.  Until you go through something so tragic, you just don't realize how much a quick note can mean.  (At least I didn't...)

S and J have also been taken care of by their friends and parents, taking them to their activities and letting them sleepover on school nights. One friend of S and his parents even made the hour and a half trip to Columbia for my grandmother's visitation.

One gesture that really touched Mike and me was a large basket we found on our back porch the night we drove back to Aiken that horrible night. It was around eleven o'clock and we had spent the past six hours shuttling ourselves between the children's emergency room with the boys and the Trauma Unit/ICU with Mama and Daddy. Mama was in emergency surgery with a neurosurgeon (no brain, but intense scalp injuries).

As we were driving that night, I received a text from my sweet friend Kiki:
"Just want you to know that Bunco girls and Sunday Class class are praying for your family. Look on your back porch when you get home - I left a basket of snacks, entertainment, etc for you to take to the hospital as you go back and forth with your mom and dad. It's from the Bunco girls. We love you and are so sorry."

And this is what we found. Both Mike and I teared up. (Ok, I cried.) We were just overwhelmed. We couldn't believe it. Kiki and another sweet friend, Tanya, had filled this huge basket to the brim with bottled water... magazines... Chapstick... snacks... Advil... pens... a notebook... gum... notecards... more snacks... tissues... travel toothbrushes... hand lotion... more snacks... and change for vending machines. These girls thought of everything!

I kept it in my car the next two weeks, replenishing my "hospital bag" every day. And every day, I thanked God for my friends and the gifts they have given me, both tangible and intangible. Now, I'm just ready to be on the giving end myself these days...