A Fun Funeral

In my Southern American culture, a funeral is a celebration of life for a person who lived a long, full life. I can say with certainty that John, a Yankee by birth, would have enjoyed his own funeral. He experienced what I call a “good funeral” when my dad died years ago. We were at the funeral home for two 2-hour periods when family and friends dropped by to visit. The next day we had the service at church and followed the hearse to the cemetery for a short graveside ceremony. This was a reunion of family and friends where people shared remembrances of Dad, caught up on life events, and laughed freely at funny stories. The warmth and love flowed freely, drawing us all together. There is nothing quite like a good funeral.

Our circumstances were a bit different for John. He died four hours from home, and grandson David had been with him at the train club. Caring friends spent time with David, giving him time to recover overnight before driving back here. Neighbor Shawn spent the night in our house so I wouldn’t be alone. Neighbors Bob, Logan, Jeff and his wife, Joyce, Holly, Frankie, and Lisa spent time with me and brought food. My brother Bob came for a few days, and then daughter Lise arrived from Denmark. Family and friends were in contact. How could you not see joy in life when surrounded with such love and support?

Lise and niece Chrissie did all the planning for this great gathering of kinfolks. They found the one date that worked for the most number of people. There were roughly 20 who ate dinner with us the night before the service and those 20 plus another 20 had lunch here after it. Lise’s friend Marco was the chef, who had a great round of applause at the end.

John’s sister Barbara had a birthday on the date of his funeral. Her children brought an ice cream cake, which disappeared before it could think of melting. I thought it marvelous that we celebrated an ongoing life on this particular day. The video shows all who were there except the ones that had to leave earlier.

Most funeral gatherings do not feature a magic show, but ours did. Lise knew Rick was coming, and after checking with me, asked if he would perform for us. Neighbor Logan was his assistant for one part.

Rick ended the show playing the musical saw, accompanied by his wife Myra.

The reason I could celebrate John’s life now is that I am convinced he has gone to be with the Lord. Jesus promised that he would go ahead of us to prepare a place for us. Everyone who believes that he died for our sins and rose to life again will be with him in paradise. What marvelous grace is available to us if we accept it!

Link to the video of the memorial service – vimeo.com/726313494

David, the Organ Tech

Several weeks ago grandson David learned how to make the organ play music that the regular organist had recorded. Today was the first time it was done for a service. This is the way it looked in the bulletin.

He went upstairs immediately and got everything set up. I heard him test a few things and took a photo of him before sitting down in the congregation.

I took another picture from my seat. Everything was timed perfectly. The prelude played, followed by the ringing of the outside bell. I knew he was getting off the organ bench and pressing a button on the back wall to make the bell ring. Pastor made announcements, and the service began. There were several times I expected the people to sing responses, but we spoke them. Other than that, everything seemed normal.

After the service, David came toward me. I could see by his beaming face that he was very pleased. The adrenaline was probably still flowing. Some people thought Lula, the regular organist, had been upstairs. Others read the bulletin and mistakenly thought David was playing the keys himself. It wasn’t until we were driving home that he told me we were supposed to have sung responses as usual. I don’t know whether Pastor rushed things or the people didn’t hear the soft introductory note. David was able to skip those bits and come in with the next music right on time. I didn’t ask if the same thing happened in the late service.

When daughter Kate texted me, I asked if she knew David was running the organ. Yes, she knew it was happening. She surprised me by saying, “I saw you sitting by Susan.”

I knew she attended our service on line from New Jersey from time to time, but I never thought about her watching me on live-stream. Thankfully, she was much more on the ball than I was. If she had missed it, she could have seen the recording later.

People congratulated David after both services, and that did my heart good. It’s always lovely to be recognized when you’ve done something new and different. I was amazed that he didn’t seem nervous and was able to keep things on track after a bobble. Good job, David! I am so very proud of you!

Widow for a Week

My first week of being a widow was filled with wonderful people. People from the emergency room and funeral home were patient and kind. One fact has amused our family. Cremation is a two-day process. The body is cremated the first day and cools down the second day. There was teasing about that.

When Shawn knew John was dead, she drove me up the mountain in their golf cart to see a wonderful sunset. I took a photo of her with the sky. She also spent the night in my house, knowing David would not be home until the next day.

This was very hard for Logan, it being one of the first deaths of someone he knew well. When he walked through John’s office, he picked up a train hat and asked if he could have it. Of course, I was pleased that he wanted it and asked him to pose with it.

On our anniversary, Sadie sent her picture. Dogs (and humans) know when people need comfort.

John $ went hiking to look for train tracks for his dad.

My brother Bob came to stay a few days, and he walked to the creek with me. I like having a selfie to prove we were there.

Bob likes to be helpful when he visits. I don’t have pictures of everything he did, but I was very pleased that he replaced a blind that had fallen apart in the guest room. He also installed a rain gauge that John and I had intended to put out.

Most important, since we’ll be having people here soon, he repaired the shower. The diverter failed so that water would not go through the shower head. When we couldn’t find an allen wrench, we called neighbor Bob. Seeing the photo, Lise said it was the Bob Squared Handyman Service.

Bob and Bob

Many people have called, written, or walked with me. There must be hundreds who said they were praying for us. I never realized how much this would mean. Thank you to everyone who reached out to us. You made all the difference in the world.

Anniversary

Today is our 58th wedding anniversary. Our celebrations were always low key, but they will be lower than ever today. John is missing it, because he died on Saturday, the 11th. He and grandson David spent the weekend at the train club where they rode around the tracks and enjoyed being with other train enthusiasts. They were heading home in two cars, John going first. David saw John’s car wander slowly off the small road and cross to the other side where it ran over a stump and bumped into a tree. He was unconscious. Police and an ambulance were there quickly. Hospital people couldn’t get his heart started again. This sounds like sad, heavy news, but I firmly believe God chose the best time for him to die. He had done things he loved most, and he left a little early to get home so he could go to church the next day. I already think this was the best time for me to deal with this, too. I truly believe John is in heaven, already singing and praising God with his whole being.

Our wonderful neighbors were with me immediately. Many, many people were praying – neighbors, church members, family, and friends. For the first time in my life, I truly felt uplifted by prayer. God was taking care of me, too.

This is not a eulogy. In the next few days many people will talk about what a wonderful man John was and the marvelous things he did. I couldn’t begin to list the good deeds of the last 58 years. We will be celebrating all those things, and I will hear of some I hadn’t known before. It will be a celebration of a full life filled with love and joy.

The very day after his death I was laughing with neighbors about amusing things. John had a very good sense of humor, and we were always laughing together. He wouldn’t want me to cry and be seriously sober. I can almost hear his laughter from heaven.

This morning Shawn was sitting on her front porch when I went out to walk and joined me going to the stop sign. Neighbor Cindy passed us going the other way with her dogs. We needed to rest a leg, so I suggested we sit in Cindy’s yard. Her husband was sitting on the porch, so we asked if we could use his deck chairs. He was gracious and soon left in his truck. By that time, Cindy was coming home, and she joined us in the yard. Julie, who lives near me, came to greet us with her dog. What delightful company!

As Shawn and I came home, my brother Bob called. I sat on the porch and talked a blue streak with him and Beth. They patiently let me blather on. Bob offered to come for a few days, and a few hours later he was here. There was a heart-shaped cloud that formed in the sky, perhaps a sign of all the love floating about.

Former neighbor Connie and Shawn came to visit. Connie brought a list of things she dealt with after her husband died, and I know that will be invaluable. What a thoughtful thing to bring to a brand new widow!!

Shawn, Bob, and Logan came over with anniversary gifts – a lovely bouquet of flowers and a helium balloon.. They explained part was from them and part from our children and grandchildren. There was a long story about what went wrong when Bob picked out the balloons. The person didn’t know how to blow them up, and one escaped to the high ceiling of the store. The helium ran out, as did the backup canister of helium. It was a comedy of errors interspersed with long waiting periods. Lise called from Denmark as we sat visiting, so she was in on the party, too.

Fifty-eight years ago John and I embarked on our life together, celebrating with family and friends. Today that joined life is over. We are still celebrating, though in different worlds. For all of you who have been part of our lives, thank you for your love and friendship. God bless you.

I Left Myself Behind

After unsavory characters quit visiting our neighborhood, I left the surveillance cam hooked up. Mostly I see us going out to walk. It’s useful to check if the mail has been delivered or a package has come. I don’t always look at the line of first frames on the phone, but was I glad I did this day!! I saw that I left myself behind.

If you watch the clip, I have questions for you. Did I leave myself behind, or did I get ahead of myself? Does it make a difference? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Eye Injection

I thought the injection in the eye for macular degeneration was going to be routine, but it wasn’t this time. I’m surmising I didn’t do well reading the eye chart, which is the first quick test you are given. They shunted me to the person who takes a scan of the retina, often given at the end of the sixth cycle. After another wait, I had the numbing drops and an explanation that my retina showed a disturbance and I would be given a stronger dose than before. I’ll get another in eight weeks.

Those are the bare facts. Emotionally, it was unnerving. The audiologist reset my hearing aids to a higher level several weeks ago, and I think they are a bit too high. The waiting room was loud, but I didn’t lower the volume because I was afraid I wouldn’t hear my name called. By the time I left the office two hours later, my head was reeling with all that noise.

The injection seemed normal until after the eye was rinsed. I took the exit papers in my hand, stood up, and realized one eye was seeing only white, pure white. I always thought blindness was black, but mine was as white as snow. (They do say snow is blinding!) I walked hesitantly to stand in line to make the next appointment. I could see the exit door and knew John was waiting in the car just outside that door. If I could only make it out there, I could collapse in the car.

Thankfully, the sight began to return, and I could see where I was going without tripping over people. I was a rumpled heap for a while, but John was very patient with me.

It was a sad task to cancel the appointment I had with the eye doctor who was going to prescribe glasses. The only practical thing was to postpone it until the eye is more settled. I have learned one very important thing. I WANT glasses again! I’m extremely tired of groping for reading glasses whenever I want to see text messages, read a recipe card, know what we need from the grocery shelf, or decipher tiny script on the laptop. If I don’t whip those glasses off when I stand up, they can make me dizzy and run into things. My ears are worn out, and my patience has vanished. I want to see instantly 100% of the time, and glasses are the answer. It took me a while to want glasses when I was a young teen. It was quicker this time. Is that progress, do you think??

That one stressful day is over, thank heavens! I am back in the business of being me.

King Logan

Wait until you see King Logan!!

I had no idea Burger King celebrated its 68th birthday on grandson David’s birthday. Blogger Linda from Detroit let me know there were coupons that day and a special crown. (She writes about walking in her area and feeding squirrels and birds. See her blog here.)

Knowing that David has a collection of cardboard crowns, I asked if he had seen this one. Yes, he had, but he hadn’t picked one up. The next day, neighbors Logan and Bob stopped to greet John and me as they drove past on their way to get breakfast and run an errand. There are many fast food places in town, and John mentioned his favorite breakfast sandwich from Burger King. They decided then and there to head to BK. I suggested to Logan that he ask for a free crown, not thinking that he would do it. A little while later, there was a knock on the door, and it was Logan. He showed me two crowns from Burger King and said to choose one. I chose the fancy one, after which he insisted I keep them both. I was struck dumb by his thoughtfulness and generosity. What other almost-12-year-old would do that?? I thanked him, but I didn’t even think of taking his photo. Rats! What a missed opportunity!

Hours later when we came back from an errand, we heard Logan shooting hoops at the bottom of his driveway. He ran up to the street to speak to us. Would he be willing to let me take his picture while wearing one of the crowns? Yes, but he wouldn’t stay because he was waiting for his dad to start a project.

Here is the photo I wanted. You see? This magical boy made my dream come true!! What a guy!!

King Logan

If you are looking at the picture, please nod your head to recognize the kindness and royalty of this king of my heart.

Logan said again that he had to go be with his dad. The more I thought about it, the more impressed I was. These days, many lads have no dad in their lives. Logan not only has parents who adopted him, but he chooses to spend quality time with them. He shut our front door quietly and RAN home.

Lonely Balloon

The first thing I saw when I walked in Dollar General was a balloon making its way down the aisle. Other balloons were tethered to the top of the shelf, unable to escape. After browsing a bit, I saw the escapee was moving forward, obviously wanting to go home with me. I couldn’t take in another one, having two at home already. I looked at the photo just now and was surprised at what my eyes saw. It looks like it has a triangular nose and two big, sad eyes. Poor thing! I hope someone else had pity on it.

John walked outside with me to his seat, where railroad ties make a retaining wall half way to the stop sign. He rests there to get his breath and sometimes pets CAT while sitting. We split to go separate ways, he to the courthouse to get excused from jury duty and I to the creek. On my way up the steep hill, I saw this amusing sight.

Is that the Elf on a Shelf in summer clothing? He has no hat or scalloped white collar. Do you think he can hang on until Christmas?

David’s Birthday

Grandson David is usually a closer at work, so he often eats breakfast when we are thinking of lunch. I was going to put his doughnuts on the table with a plate, mug of water, a candle, matches, and a sign that said “Do it Yourself Birthday Breakfast”. He surprised me by getting up to eat breakfast with us! I put a candle in a doughnut, and we sang Happy Birthday to him.

We ate lunch at the restaurant of his choice, so I took a photo of the birthday boy and Grandpa.

John insisted my presence had to be recorded, too.

We spent the afternoon on the Blue Ridge Parkway, noting that mountain laurel was at its peak. I made David pose with one big bush. The ones in the valley near us are fading and drooping now. In this area, altitude is the key factor. There are often two seasons at the same time – one in valleys and another high on mountains.

In the Smoky Mountain National Park we spotted four elk in fields near the road. There were two volunteers with stop signs, hanging around near one pregnant female. They would have stopped traffic if she had begun to cross the road. David chatted with one of the volunteers, and she asked if he had seen the baby kick. He watched closely and thought he saw a quick little bulge on her side. She said elk are a bit like deer in that they give birth alone and afterward hide the baby while grazing.

John pulled off the road for me to enjoy a gurgling stream. The bank was a bit steep for me, so David went down to check it out.

We ended the day with a used cake. Our church was given slightly damaged baked goods that couldn’t be sold, so we brought home a chocolate cake that we first shared with neighbors on Memorial Day. The cake I had made with David in mind was lemon, one of his favorite flavors. We’ll finish it next. We, not the elk, will be the ones with bulging stomachs.

Memorial Day

Our neighborhood gathering for Memorial Day had to be one of the best ever. All the neighbors you’ve seen before were here, as well as two new ones, a couple of temporary ones, family and friends. What a convivial group we had!

Before the party, our street looked normal until grandson David carried six chairs and four small tables outside. They were stack-able, so he made two trips. I caught the action as John and David set up the long table.

The next time I looked out, the grills were in place, and a round table appeared. When I started carrying food out, Holly was decorating the long table. How festive! There are two things I’d like to feature – the cook and the cake. Jeff deftly grilled all the meats to perfection. Someone suggested I take a photo of the cake Shawn made before it was demolished. If I hadn’t been blinded by the sun, perhaps I would have taken the flag flying in the right position. It’s history now, as the cake found a welcome in our tummies. Delicious!

Many people make a party fly, doing things no one sees. Jeff’s household provided paper plates, utensils, garbage bags, and the removal of filled garbage bags. Everyone brought food, and several provided chairs. At the end of the party, the grills were dragged back to their homes, and the more able-bodied carried tables and chairs inside. Several people said they missed David and wished he could have partied with us instead of going to work.

In this set of photos there was one extra body (the white dog) and one big omission. I didn’t take a picture of everyone’s favorite boy, Logan!