Saturday, May 18, 2019

Six Years and Counting!

Time passes.  Thankfully.  

As I wrote down the date this week, I realized it was the anniversary of a most significant day in my life:  May 14.  On May 14, 2013, I had a bilateral mastectomy.  In 2013, I marked the date on this blog with the following story about the night following my surgery. It just proves you can usually find something to laugh about.  I repost it here with my message from my cancer/chemo experience:GET YOUR MAMMO!

A brief look at the journey

June, 2013
First chemo session
covered with my prayer shawl

July, 2013
AJ buzzes the hair off

July, 2013
My favorite hat

Judy and me
April, 2019

Our Midnight Visitor

Let me set the scene: My room on the fourth floor of our local hospital, the night following my surgery.
The participants: Me, Friend Judy, Nurse, 2 Nurse's Aides.
Judy and I were having our version of a sleep-over.  When you're 60+ years old, your sleep-overs are held in places like hospitals.  She was making every effort to find some comfortable spot on the recliner and I was in and out of goofy-land, still dealing with the effects of anesthesia.

In one of the rare moments that we were both settled and quiet and ostensibly sleeping, the door opened, the lights flipped on and the poor nurse came in for the requisite check of my vital signs.  It was well past midnight...that no-man's land of who-knows-what-time-it-is.  Nurse was most apologetic and we tried to be nice.  Since she was already there, I decided I should potty.  I pushed myself to the side of the bed, put my feet on the floor and stood up.

I looked down, straight into the face of a huge cockroach.

He had obviously been disturbed by the sudden light.  The next few minutes rival anything ever filmed for a slapstick comedy.  The nurse jumped back, announcing that she couldn't do roaches.  The first aide ordered "You watch it and see where it goes.  I'll get something to kill it with."  Yeah, right.  That was roach's cue to make a move, heading straight for Nurse.  All the while, Judy added exclamations of disgust for the whole scene.  I simply sat back down on the bed and waited for it all to be over.

Roach ran straight ahead, then skirted the wall and headed for the bathroom.  I'm sure he had never heard such bedlam in his short life.  Aide 1 returned with Aide 2 just in time to head the scoundrel into the confines of the bathroom.  There followed at least five minutes of "Where is he?"  "I've got him...Nope...he's coming at you."  Wham...blam...whack...And then...silence.

The offender was dispatched to his eternal reward and flushed down the toilet.  Nurse and Aides defended their territory, saying the creepy thing had to have come into the hospital on somebody's shoe or clothing or in a box.  Whatever.  Judy continued to spit and sputter.  Me...I just laughed, after I finally used the potty.

The whole story just proves once again:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...a time to weep and a time to laugh...
                                                  - Ecclesiastes 3: 1 and 4

Whatever your circumstance, find something to laugh at today.  It helps. 

2019 Thought:  If you are dealing with cancer today, take heart, be strong, and hang onto your faith.  God knows right where you are and he will never leave you or forsake you.  Cancer will change a whole lot in your life, but it cannot take away your salvation or change who you are.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

From Bunnies to Jesus

There is something about the doings of a three year old little boy that just puts life in perspective sometimes.  Especially when the little boy is named Ellis and he's smart as a whip.

Ellis is my grandnephew...the grandson of my brother.  He is pictured here with his mother, his baby brother and the Easter Bunny.  Ellis' facial expression, assisted by his hands, tells everything we need to know about his opinion of this giant dressed-up fake rabbit.  Obviously, this photo op was his mother's idea.  I'm told he didn't want to sit beside the rabbit.

Fast forward 24 hours and he had an aisle perch on his Papa's lap at church:

He was catching every bit of the performance of the children's choir. When it was done, he came to sit next to me for the Pastoral Prayer.  At the end of the prayer, the congregation recites the Lord's Prayer.  That little three year old said every word exactly right.  

It was my favorite moment of the day...a Faith Breeze for sure!

What a way to start Holy Week.

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Super Someday

Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
-Thomas Jefferson / Benjamin Franklin / and Countless Others

How many times are we told that if there's something we really really want to do we should do everything we can to make it happen.  This quote is officially credited to several famous figures in history...not to mention my mother and every mentor I've ever had.  It's good advice, and yet it's so often ignored.  Things that would enhance life in so many ways are allowed to slip to the bottom of our Life List and put into the category of that Great Someday...when all the planets align and life is totally in order and everybody's schedule matches.  And we miss so many beautiful moments.  

My daughters and I have spoken longingly for several years about having a girls weekend.  Doing something special just for husbands, no kids.  The realization of our need for time together came at Christmas when the most fun moments we had were in...the grocery store!  So what should we do?

Our birthday sequence seemed like a good time.  Becky's birthday starts it off March 3, followed by Lyn March 17, and mine bringing up the rear on April 19.  For Lyn and me, this is a milestone year: 50 and 75.  It was obvious.  This was the time.  And the choice of place was a no-brainer:  The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC...midway between their homes in Tennessee and South Carolina.  It was delightful.  I wouldn't trade a second of it.  My favorite picture is this one.  We stood in the chilly night air on the porch of this famous hotel with Asheville in the background.  

The most precious thing to me is not the things we did, but the gift of time with my daughters.  The thing we do best is laugh and there was surely a lot of that.  As I watched them together and realized how much they were taking the lead and taking care of Old Mom, I realized that through me God has given a special gift to this world in my two adult children.  They are loving, caring and just downright beautiful people.  If I do say so myself.  

I'm not writing this today to promote The Grove Park Inn.  It was a great blessing that we were able to go there...our gift for birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day for a long time!  I'm saying that if there is someone you need to spend time with, get it in the works today.  It doesn't have to be fancy.  Time spent walking the beach or hiking a mountain or even buying groceries is just as precious.  Just do it.  Life is short and uncertain.  And its already got enough regrets.  I hope you won't let this one slip through the sands of your time.  We only have today.

This is the day the day the Lord has made;
 Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
     -Psalm 118:24

Friday, March 15, 2019

Put On the Grits!

John and Carrie Chesser Kennedy 

(This essay was originally published in my book Faith Breezes.  
I share it here in honor of the 100th anniversary 
of Vero Beach, Florida 1919 - 2019.)

Few people in Indian River County would recognize the name Carrie Kennedy.  They might know her sons, Thomas and Purnell.  But the lady who lived most of her life in the white frame house on the road that led down to the river passed this way leaving few footprints in the Florida sand.

To me, she was Mema Carrie, and she was unforgettable - nothing short of amazing.  She was a Florida pioneer because she had to be.

It was about 1910 when she and her brother traveled to Florida from their birthplace on Virginia's Eastern Shore, a spit of land between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  The climate there was making her sick - the doctors told her parents when she was a young teenager that if she didn't get to a better climate, she likely would not survive to adulthood.

So her family arranged for her to live with an uncle in Florida.  Florida at that time was mostly sandspurs, palmettos and mosquitoes, but its climate would be a bit kinder to her asthma.  The fact that she lived 65 years would have amazed those doctors.  And not only did she live, she married my grandfather and gave birth to six children,  five of whom survived to lead full adult lives.

A vision of what must have been the saddest, most difficult time in her life came to me as I read the cold hard facts of her life on a genealogy chart.  Comparing the dates of the births of her babies and then noting the death date of her one child that died, I realized that she had given birth to a daughter just about six weeks prior to the death of Johnny, her firstborn.  Imagine dealing with the demands and discomforts of recovering from birth and nursing a newborn, caring for another healthy toddler, and mothering a sick little boy in his final days.  The clash of emotions between joy and grief must have been unbearable.  How do you deal with such emotional highs and lows when your own health is so fragile?

On her birthday in 1929, as the horror of the Great Depression began to grip the country, her husband died.  She was left with five offspring ranging in age from 14 down to 7.  They had the house they lived in, 20 acres of grapefruit and the fish in the nearby Indian River.  Her oldest son, Thomas, quit school at 14 to support the family.

I'm told that whenever there was a crisis, her first response was to start a pot of grits cooking on the stove.  Whatever was happening, her family would need to eat.  Those grits were a staple in her household and a symbol of practicality with which she approached life.  They accompanied the many pans of fish her sons brought home from the river.

The family's very survival depended on those fish.  The tale goes that when the boys reached a certain spot on the road, they would begin to yell for their sisters and mama.  It was the signal for the women to start heating the grease that would fry the fish for supper.  If they had enough cornmeal, there would be hushpuppies on the side.  As a child, I would get a glimpse of those days when I watched my father cleaning fish for our own family's supper table.  As he deftly scraped away the scales and removed the innards, he must have been remembering the many times he did that same thing as a young boy.  

Some struggling families received government assistance during those lean Depression years.  As my father remembered, Mema Carrie was told they were ineligible because they had a grove.  A grove producing grapefruit that nobody had money to buy.  It was a bitter memory.

A widow living with children in the sparsely-developed Florida in the 1930s had to be tough, able to stand up for herself.  Carrie was.  Circumstances finally allowed the purchase of a car which took her and the kids to town...when there was enough money for gas, that is.  The story goes that one day, the family realized that their gas was disappearing.  As they sat listening one dark night, they heard stealthy noises in the vicinity of the car.  Mema Carrie picked up her rifle, cracked the back door and opened fire.  The gas thefts ceased - and some days later, a man showed up in the nearby village with buckshot in his leg.

Her life was so full of losses and hard times that she must have stirred up many pots of grits.  But the memories I have of her, as her oldest grandchild, are of a pleasant lady.  I remember a self-controlled woman who sang the old hymns of the church as she went about her daily chores.  From the songs she sang, I know she was a woman of faith who appreciated the natural world around her.  She could grow anything and especially enjoyed working with her rosebushes.  When I was four and five years old and my parents were starting the family grove business, I often spent whole days with her.  I would stand beside her and watch as she carefully made the cuts in the rose stems, placed the bud inside and wrapped it with cloth.  I could walk with her and pick up the avocadoes that had fallen from the tree in the back yard.  I could listen to her speak lovingly of that faraway place of her birth called the Eastern Shore.

Only later did I realize what a gift that time was to my life!  The atmosphere she created in her home was one of sweet peace and laughter.  The Lord lifted her head and she faced each new day armed with resolve.  Her attitude was simple: she would do what she had to do.  Sick or well, she would deal with it, with God's help and a pot of grits.

How has your family coped with the challenges of life?  What stories or memories sustain and inspire you?  Think of times when the Lord has lifted your head.