Cycle of Life

 It was beautiful at the cemetery this afternoon. Peaceful too. Despite the somber occasion, there was a certain stillness, a feeling of love and serenity that seemed to touch everyone there. Was it because of the love, loyalty, and dedication of the deceased to family, friends, church, community, and country? Was it because we knew that the 87 years of this man’s life had been full and rich? In recent years he had become quite computer savvy, and his progeny loved to hear him say, “Just google it.” Gotta love that! Was it because we were all moved by his legacy? Was it because of the sincere words of the minister and the soul stirring songs of the soloist?

I don’t know what made this funeral so memorable unless it could be, in addition to the above, the fact that watching his great grandchildren playing beneath the trees near the gravesite brought home the wondrous marvel of the cycle of life. I knew this man through his daughter and her siblings when we were children. Now Patty has grown children and grandchildren. Yesterday we were wearing our patent leather shoes to First Baptist Church, and today she was burying her father as her grandchildren sat in their parents’ laps and squirmed to be free.  

I looked at many of the older mourners and recognized them as the “grownups” from my youth. Then they were younger than I am now, and yet as a child, they had seemed so old and all-knowing. I glanced to the side of the funeral tent and saw my friend’s ex-husband playing with their youngest grandchild and found myself smiling. Turning to Joan Ella, I said, “I just love families.” She feels the same way, and we chatted briefly about the cycle of life.

Later DH and I returned to the cemetery and walked quietly among some of the plots. I especially wanted to visit the graves of my paternal grandparents. Can it have been 21 years since my grandmother Beatrice died? Yes. According to her tombstone, she died on May 2, 1988. 21 years ago I stood on that very spot, and at my Aunt Polly’s request, read The Giving Tree.

1988. So many people I loved dearly have died since then, and many, many others have come into my life. Just a quick example. My grandmother’s middle name was Emmaline (hope I’m spelling that correctly), and my youngest granddaughter’s name is Emma.  Is it because of her great grandmother, or is it because of Emma Smith? I don’t know. I just know that I love that little tyke and her siblings with a fierce love, and they weren’t even close to being in my life then. Their mother was only 12 in May of 1988. There’s that cycle of life thing again.

Aren’t families fabulous? Funny too. But then that’s a story for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

Bacon and Cornbread

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This morning I had bacon and cornbread for breakfast, a combination I’ve never tried before and will probably not try again. Not because I didn’t enjoy it. I did. But I think the reason I enjoyed the taste sensation this morning is because of the events of yesterday and this morning. Yesterday after church, my children and grandchildren all convened at my sister’s house where we spent several hours savoring great food and each other’s fellowship. So many things went on that space and time prevent me from relating everything (besides, would you really want to read it?), so I’m going to focus on the main thoughts and feelings that I have today, the ones that led to cornbread and bacon.

Yesterday after eating a traditional Easter lunch, I went upstairs with my sister, her daughter, my daughters, and my little grandson Colton to watch family videos about 20 years old. Colton slept through most of it, but the gals surrounding him LOVED the video that had been compiled by my father many years ago. Much of the action took place at 511, the house number of my parents’ former residence, and there seemed to be tons of love, laughter, and conviviality. There was also lots of footage taken at celebratory events like Easter, Christmas, and birthdays.

At some point during the viewing, I think all of us realized that what we’d been experiencing at my sister’s house all afternoon had recaptured much of the same feelings we felt back then. At various points during the viewing, different family members wandered in and out to watch a few minutes before going back downstairs for a snack, an update on the Master’s, or maybe  a ride on Allen’s Polaris. It was huge fun to see the young adults of today as infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers on the video. We laughed at our fashion statements of former years and savored hearing the voices of our parents.

All of this was pretty awesome, but it took a call to Carrie this morning to put into words what I’d been feeling. Always in tune to the spirit of occasions and able to sense moods and feelings, this morning she said, “Mama, being at Aunt Ann’s with everybody there felt like being at Granny’s. Seeing the video with her on it reminded me of how much she always welcomed us and loved us unconditionally. I always felt loved at her house and never judged.“ Ditto, Carrie.

The cornbread and bacon? I baked my mother’s special cornbread yesterday using her square-shaped cast iron frying pan and took it to our Easter feast. Unfortunately, things got kind of crazy in the kitchen and we forgot to serve it. It sat covered with foil during the meal and throughout the afternoon until I discovered it later in the day. A few people took a nibble or two, and I brought the rest home.

This morning since Paul and Amanda were still here, I fried bacon just like my mother would have done, and they ate it with chocolate candy, chocolate milk, and hot chocolate. Ah, the strong constitutions of youth! After they left and I began cleaning the kitchen, I spied the cornbread and impulsively bit off a piece and followed it up with a piece of bacon. Um. Tasty. I liked it so much that I tried it again. I saw it as a way of bridging the old with the young, the past with the present, the then with the now.

Isn’t it amazing how memories can form a bridge across generations? It’s important for families to convene, spend time together, share bits and pieces of each other’s lives, and to talk about the past. Although we’re beings with free will who can make our own choices, the past is part of what and who we are.

P.S. I actually wrote this last night but was too tired to upload the pictures of the grandchildren and the young newlyweds.

 

Conference Pearls

I’ve been thinking off and on about many of the splendid things I was reminded of in General Conference last week and decided to blog about a few of them. For those of you who are not LDS, we have the opportunity twice a year to hear from Church leaders in a semi-annual conference broadcast around the world from Salt Lake City. I used to get dressed in my Sunday-best and meet with other like-minded folks at the chapel to hear the broadcasts, but now I’m able to watch them on BYU TV in the privacy of my own home. No, I don’t necessarily dress in my Sunday-best, but I do manage to look presentable because I believe appearance affects demeanor  and mindset.

 

My children say they don’t have a favorite “talk,” but I do. President Thomas Monson spoke Sunday morning, and I’ve taken his words to heart. They resonated with my own beliefs and prodded me to savor life, not just live it. Every minute, every day, every year, we’re changing in sometimes imperceptible ways, and before we know it, children become teens, teens become young adults, and young adults find themselves with presbyopia and gray hair. Before people “turn around,” they find themselves at Shady Oaks Retirement Village wondering where time went…or worse, fretting over regrets and what might have been.

 

Is that what you want to happen to you? President Monson advised his listeners to set goals, get an education, hug a child, hug a parent, express gratitude, speak well of each other, and show love…to name a few. Being kind, sharing love, performing services for others, and making the most of our precious time are perennial themes of his. In fact, one speaker shared that when President Monson was asked what he wanted for his most recent birthday, he said he’d like for every member of the church to find someone who needed something and give it to them. Love, live, laugh. When people put off what they can and should do today and say, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” before you know it, their lives are full of empty yesterdays. Just do it.

 

In no particular order, I was reminded of

  •  The importance of unity in diversity. While we might look different on the outside, speak different languages, and have different checking account balances, we are ALL children of a loving Heavenly Father.   
  •  The importance of love, patience, forgiveness, meekness, tolerance. Even if people attack our religion or belittle our beliefs, arguing is discouraged. It’s pointless. A person could argue about the truths from Genesis to Revelation, but if his listener wasn’t interested or prepared to listen, the discourse would fall on deaf ears.    
  • The necessity of being prepared for whatever may lie ahead economically, socially, and every other way. I love it when I hear news commentators interview people who are now stressing the importance of staying out of debt, something we’ve been warned about for decades. Same with food storage.
  •  The importance of the family unit and ways to improve relationships with spouse and children…and other extended family members.
  •  The benefits of personal and family prayer, scripture study, self-reliance, being Christ-like, paying tithing, obeying commandments.
  • The fact that both abundance and lack co-exist in our lives; it’s up to us to decide what we focus on. In fact, sometimes trials can be good for our personal development. Every cloud doesn’t bring rain.

 There’s much, much more. Time prevents me from posting more, but you can check out all addresses at www.lds.org.  As for me, I’m going to follow President Monson’s admonition to relish life by strolling around the neighborhood and checking out autumn’s splendors.

What’s Ahead?

Hmmm. I didn’t know the pictures were going to be so small on the preceding post, so I’m going to post another one of the young people by themselves.  I can well remember being 20, and it’s truly mind boggling to think about the changes that have come about since then…and I’m not referring to the physical ones but rather to the social/emotional ones. When I was Sarah Beth’s age, I had both parents, three grandparents, three siblings, cool friends, and a boyfriend. Today, my parents and grandparents have gone on to a more heavenly habitation, and my cool friends and boyfriend of that era are busily living their lives elsewhere.  But get this: Most of the people I now love dearly were not in my life then. In fact, most of them were not even in existence, at least not on this earthly plane.  To sum it up, nearly everyone I loved then is gone, and almost everyone I love now wasn’t even thought of yet, including these three college students. Makes me wonder who else is out there…not only for yours truly but also for these three 20-somethings who are just beginning adulthood.

Family Day

Where have the days gone??? I just checked this blog a little while ago and noted that it’s been over a week since I’ve posted anything. True, I posted something on http://evessisters.blogspot and on http://psychcentral.wordpress.com, took care of a colossal amount of school work, prepared and taught a fun session  for Relief Society enrichment night, took two weekend trips, and sandwiched in a little homecaring (a.k.a. housework)  in between. Yes, I realize those are just excuses, and yet….

So I decided to post a little something tonight about the past two weekends (or at least one of them) and how those events tie in with President Monson’s address in the morning session of Conference yesterday. One of the many, many things he stressed was the importance of truly living one’s life TODAY instead of stacking up a lot of yesterdays and regrets of things undone and words unspoken.  

Last weekend I traveled to Gardner-Webb University with my brother Mike, his wife Lisa, and my sister Ann. It was Family Weekend, and my niece Sarah Beth had requested that we come for the day. When we got there, we met up with my other brother David and his wife Becky for a tour of the campus. Afterwards, we picked up their sons and ate a calorie-laden brunch at a local eatery. Sure wish I’d gotten the pecan pancakes, but at least Lisa let me sample hers. Yummy.  Later we adjourned to my nephews’ home to watch a game, eat dessert, and take pictures.  Now that you know the general rundown of the day, here are a few things I thought about afterwards.

While touring the library, I noticed they were selling hard cover books for 50 cents and just couldn’t pass up a bargain. I finally settled on one by Gloria Steinem, and Sarah Beth bought it for me. “Who’s she?” Sarah Beth asked.  “Well, it’s not sufficient to say she was instrumental in the feminist movement because she was much more than that. In fact, she cared for all people and their rights and was also involved in racial fairness.” SB gave me a glazed over sort of look, and I dropped it.

At brunch the older crowd was discussing the death of Paul Newman, and I asked my nephews if they knew who he was.  One of them was sincerely innocent in asking, “He’s some old actor, right?” Huh? Some old actor. Yes, I guess that’s one way you could describe him. What was the point of trying to convince the young students of his phenomenal talent, his philanthropic enterprises, and his long and faithful marriage to Joanne Woodward? I just had to tell them one little tidbit, however, and it seemed to impress them. Once when asked why he was never unfaithful, he quipped (paraphrase), “Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?” Gotta love that!

 It seemed incredulous to me that these young people weren’t that familiar with these two famous (at one time anyway) people. I was reminded of the truth of the quote, “Fame is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.”  Follow your dreams, be all you can be, hitch your wagon to a star, and so forth, but don’t become prideful about it.  In 20 years, the young set won’t even know who you were.  (In one of my classes the other day, someone asked who the Beatles were).

Another quote that sprang to mind throughout the day was, “We may never pass this way together again.” I read that one on a cross-stitch sampler at Young Women’s camp one year and have never forgotten it.  It’s pretty doubtful that the exact same group of us will be at GWU again. Sure, we may go for graduations, but as far as all of us being there at the same time, I doubt it. My nephews will graduate in December, and their parents will sell the house. SB will graduate in May and move elsewhere.  The nine of us who shared that special Saturday in late September will always have the memories even if we never pass that way together again. It took effort to get up early, go the distance, and come back late that same evening, but we’re all glad that we did. As President Monson said, when we keep saying “tomorrow” without acting on it, we end up with a lot of yesterdays.

Things take time. Take the time.

Paul and Amanda’s Advice

There are oodles of topics I could choose from to write about today, but I’m going to narrow it down to some great instruction I received from church yesterday, some of it from my son and his sweet wife Amanda. My daughters and I came straggling in a tad late (imagine that) with three little children in tow.  Being tardy, we had to sit near the front, but that had its advantages since we could get a better look at Paul and Amanda.

 

I knew that the two of them would be speaking in Sacrament service, and I had asked Amanda about her topic a couple of days before. She said the bishop had asked her to make a few remarks about something she considered to be important advice. Immediately, I thought of the most important advice I could think of, love one another, but I refrained from saying anything. Amanda’s a smart cookie, and I knew that whatever she said would be sage advice. 

 

I wasn’t disappointed, for her talk was on charity, specifically on the phrase,  “Charity never faileth.” Defining charity as the “pure love of Christ,” Amanda then went on to give numerous examples of what that actually meant, and she also instructed her listeners on how to develop that Christ-like quality (II Peter 1: 5-7). Her remarks hit home. Just the day before, one of my daughters and I had been talking about how uncharitable gossiping about others is, and this is one of the points that Amanda made. “If you have it (charity), you’re not going to put yourself down, and you’re going to put others down either.” She also pointed out the importance of patience, temperance, and virtue.

 

Paul’s talk was also about advice to others, and while he had chosen to focus primarily on the youth, there were many lessons there for oldsters as well. He reminded his listeners of the importance of friends and of their influence on you. He also encouraged them (us) to take an active role in the church rather than be what he described as passively active, coming but not really being involved. The choices we make now, including friends and activities, can have eternal consequences.

 

As the young couple sat together on the stand at the completion of their remarks, I looked at them and felt their strength. Both of them had grown up in that very ward, and although college and missions had taken them away for a while, there they were again, home for one last Sunday.

 

As Paul said, it was a bittersweet day, a day commemorating an ending and a new beginning. Yesterday was the last Sunday this young couple will be in their “home ward” because this week they’re moving to GA and graduate school. It’s an adventure that will provide them with the opportunity to establish their own home away from family and friends and familiarity.

It’s bittersweet for me too. I watched them wheel out of the parking lot, young adults who were once babies being brought by their parents to that exact same building. I can only hope that the roar of the ocean will lure them back to SC one day.

 

 

 

 

Ten Years from Today

A couple of decades ago a friend and I were sitting on the beach reading, chatting, and watching our little girls frolic on the strand. We did that a lot. There was nothing we liked better than packing a lunch, loading a cooler with ice and soft drinks, putting supplies (towels, sunscreen, books) in our beach bags and heading to the beach for a couple of hours. Those were the days, my friend, the lazy, crazy days of summer, “days of soda and pretzels and beer.”

 

As fond as I am of beach memories, that’s not the real purpose of this post. It’s to share something from a book that Lynn and I read that summer, a book that changed both of our lives. Entitled If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else by David Campbell, the book’s message was both simple and profound. You need to think seriously about where you want to go and then come up with some specific plans to get there. This probably sounds like one of the dozen or so goal setting books you’ve already read, but this one is different in that the author has an engaging, upbeat writing style that manages to keep your attention while addressing some pretty heavy duty issues. After reading it, Lynn and I got our acts together.

 

There are several concepts I could write about today, but the one that’s most on my mind is the one in which Campbell talks about a long range plan, the one that you want to be living in ten years. What do you see yourself doing in ten years? He then goes on to remind the readers that things can happen, plans can go awry. Regardless of whatever else happens, however, Campbell speaks a simple truth: You will be ten years older.

 

When Lynn and I read this slim little volume, we were in our 30’s, enjoying our children, our jobs, and yes, yes, yes, our days in the sun. Our husbands were decent, hard working men, our parents were still alive and healthy, and life stretched before us. Sure, there were things we’d like to change…but later, next year…or maybe the one after that. One day, we dreamed, we’d have a different house, a bigger bank account, a more exciting job. Next year. One day.

 

Campbell told his readers that if they were 17 and reading the book, that in ten years they’d be 27 and that the likelihood of certain things happening were pretty good. Maybe the person would be out of high school and maybe college too. He or she would be out of the parental home, have a job, own a car and maybe a house, etc. In other words, the teen would be an adult. Interesting, we thought. A page or two later, we read the part that shook us up a bit. Campbell said that if the reader were 37 and reading the book, then in ten years she would be 47!! Huh? Lynn and I didn’t like thinking of that one little bit. Furthermore, the author said that by that time a person would be well into middle age, the children would be leaving home (or GONE), and she would have become about as useful as she was going to be to the employer. The person’s income would probably be about as high as it was going to be.

 

Yes, I know there are all kinds of exceptions to this, but for us, this prediction struck a responsive chord. Here’s what happened. She and her husband both resigned from their jobs that summer and began working at educational institutions in another area of the state. Both are happier and more fulfilled. There may be days when they miss the days of lounging on the beach and eating ham sandwiches gritty with sand, but if so, they can afford a little beach vacation.

 

I just ordered an updated version of this book and am in the process of rereading it. In ten years, I’ll be in later adulthood, retired and hopefully back on the beach reading books, going for long walks, watching the happy frolicking children, and feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin lathered in sunscreen. An occasional ham sandwich gritty with sand would be nice too.

 

Over twenty years have passed since Lynn and I first read Campbell’s words, and it seems like yesterday. Bottom line. How old will you be in ten years, and what kind of life do you see yourself living? More importantly, what are you doing today to prepare for it?

Congratulations Grads!

Happy FoursomeThe Grads

 

A week or so ago I blogged about three recent graduates in our family, but I didn’t write very much about them, mainly because I was waiting for some pictures. My son who just graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a degree in psychology refused to march with his fellow graduates. I tried guilt, bribery, shame (look at your little nephew who’s actually walking in a 4 year old kindergarten ceremony!), and indignation…to no avail. I even solicited the assistance of his bride Amanda. No go. He and his brother-in-law Bryan had decided not to do it and that was that.

 

Amanda and Rebecca, Bryan’s wife, decided that their husbands deserved a little fanfare, so yesterday my husband and I cruised to Myrtle Beach for a surprise shindig honoring Paul and Bryan (see the happy foursome in above pictures). It was well worth the trip, especially when DH later told me that he thought he saw Paul’s eyes light up when he saw us. Thanks Hon. I’d like to think so.

 

Anyway, I’m exceedingly proud of Paul and his accomplishments. As I was reading The State newspaper one day this week, I came across an article about Chick-fil-A adding some new food products to its already great selections. Yum. I’m looking forward to the chunkier chicken salad sandwich on wheatberry bread. It’s going to be nice to have a choice of a small coleslaw or carrot and raisin salad instead of waffle fries too…although I must say that I LOVE those waffle fries.

 

But I digress.

 

The purpose of this post is to say that while reading this article, I was overcome with a feeling of just how much Paul has accomplished in the past five years: completed a mission in another country, learned to speak another language fluently, graduated magna cum laude from college while working full-time at Chick-fil-A and handling church assignments, and married a beautiful young woman who is perfect for him. It’s pretty astounding really. I thought of how “easy” in some ways it must seem to him to currently work a regular day shift with no worries of studying, attending classes, doing research projects, or writing papers. As I was thinking of that, it hit me again how hard he’s worked and what he’s accomplished.

 

Right now Paul is waiting anxiously to hear some positive news from the graduate school he wants to attend. He’s trying to chill, realizing that since CCU had a record number of graduates, it takes a while for final grades to be sent to the various graduate schools.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen for him, but whatever it is will be good.  I hope he enjoys this “in-between” place and realizes that it’s necessary in order to get to what’s ahead. Being in-between isn’t permanent, but it is necessary.

 

I’m so proud of Paul and the man he’s become. Does it show? I’m including one of his favorite quotes to the blog, one that I recently sent to him. Enjoy.

 

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Braden!

My oldest grandchild is 5 years old today…almost to the minute. What joy he has brought into our family. On that warm spring day five years ago, I had left Carrie in the capable hands of her husband and father to scoot out to Wal-Mart for a few goodies, including some beautiful flowers for the soon-to-be little mother. Upon my return to the hospital, I stepped off the elevator to the sound of Carrie’s screams and the sure knowledge that her little boy had decided to make his entry before any of us were really prepared. That’s a post for another day. This post is for Braden.

His Grandfather Crolley and I stood outside of the hospital room listening to the cries of our daughter and the murmuring of the doctor and Rich. What was taking so long? How much longer could Carrie endure this? I was so uptight and anxious that I couldn’t even speak, a rare occurrence for me. AT LAST, we heard Braden cry, low and soft at first and then loud and vigorous. I cried right along with him, tears of joy, relief, and happiness. Finally, we were admitted into the room, and there they were: a family of three, Carrie holding her baby boy and Rich with his arms around them both. The rest of the day is a blur. I know that she (they) had several visitors and that I had to keep looking at Braden to make sure he was breathing and REALLY HERE.

Now he’s 5 and what a grown-up boy he is, a big brother to his little sisters, a recent preschool graduate, a future rock and roll star, and a blue-eyed hamburger lover who’s won all of our hearts. He likes to draw (quite the little artist), to read and write, to play games, and to run and swim and just in general to enjoy life to the max.

 

Morning Always Comes Revisited

I’m sure I’ve blogged about this before so I won’t go on and on about it this evening. I’ll just remind everyone that it’s one of my favorite quotes, one that my son got from a video game. It became so popular in our family that one of my daughters uses it as a tag phrase for her hotmail messages. The message is simple yet powerful. No matter how dark and dreary things are, the sun is going to come up in the morning. No matter how much rain, snow, sleet, hail, or gale force winds there are, all storms eventually cease. That’s a law of nature. True, there be some mud or uprooted trees to deal with, but the storm will pass.

I had a decal constructed of the three little words and have been trying to decide for weeks just where to put them. The bedrooms were too obvious a place. Besides, if a person is tossing and turning with insomnia, can he or she read in the dark? The living room and “library” had the wrong feng shui for platitudes on the wall, and the dining room already has “Love is Spoken Here” above the archway leading into the living room. Upstairs in the room above the garage? No one could see it there. What about the breezeway or the foyer? No, too contrived looking. Maybe the hall or the backporch?  Uh-uh. No way. The lovely decal would look disharmonious in either setting.

This morning the light bulb came on, and I decided to put “Morning always comes” above the door frame in the caramel colored half-bath. That way lots of people can see and be inspired by it. Plus, I must add that it looks great there from a decorative standpoint.

I’m not making light of serious pain, heartache, or disappointment. My heart is heavy when I think of the tragedies in China and Burma, the scary diagnosis of brain cancer that Ted Kennedy just received, the abuse and neglect of children around the world. I’m just saying that how things are now is not the way they are always going to be. I personally need that reminder from time to time, and I’m delighted that I’ve found a way to visually remind myself of that.