Day 434 of Coronavirus Chronicles – May 23, 2021

Sunday. May 23, 2021. The Lord’s Day. Woke to 50 humid degrees in RVA on its way to a hot day in the 90s. Back to the Valley where it was a high of 86 degrees under mostly cloudy skies. Rain moving in tomorrow and I hope we get it because we’re dry.

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Quote: “Spirituality is being in the mountains. Religion is sitting in church wishing you were in the mountains.”

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Colin ran in a half Ironman today in Chattanooga and did well.

Meanwhile in Colorado Gail and A took the day off from unpacking for him to make music with musical friends.

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Oh my gosh … going to Lori’s was exactly what I needed. It was a break from what has been my routine the past 14 months and a chance to get out and see people and go places and even eat out.

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Quote: “Find people in your life who believe in you. Their belief will fill the gap when you are remembering how to believe in yourself.”

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Phil Mickelson, at the “old” age of 50, won the 2021 PGA Championship, making history as the oldest player to do so. I’m so tired of people using age to judge people. Age is just a number.

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I drove home this morning after five wonderful days and was home before noon. Now it’s time to catch up and get back to work. Sunday mornings are a great time on I-64 … light traffic.

I played vehicle hopscotch from Richmond to Charlottesville with a guy with license plate #13 of the House of Delegates and a “Sickles” bumper sticker on his back window. Looked him up and he’s from Fairfax County and has been in the House since 2004 so texted Chris Saxman since that was during his time there, and he knew him and said he was one of the good guys. I messaged Kris Amundson since she lives in that area and was in the House during Sickles’ time, and she said he’s her delegate and that he’s a really good guy. She said Chris would say the same and I told her yep, he did. Kris said she would tell Del. Sickles I saw him.

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Lori and I worked on our ancestry information, taking the info Mom had put together in notebooks and working from that using the app. It’s so interesting to discover these faces that sometimes have been lost to history and, even more interesting, their stories.

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Weight Watchers:

-Daily points: 23 points (our of 23); 0 rollover

-Movement: Out and about

-Water: 64 ounces

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Coronavirus stats….

No updates as of 10pm.

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God bless, keep the faith, be kind, and be well.

A Valentine’s Day Message For My Children

A Valentine for my children…

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together … there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart … I’ll always be with you.” – Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

‘Twas Two Weeks Before Christmas

Our tree, Mom’s chair, the bookcasethe family memories that make the holidays precious.

[About seven years ago I took a break from holiday planning, gift wrapping, and addressing Christmas cards and, as visions of my own version, er, sad attempt, of “The Night Before Christmas” danced in my head , I sat down and popped out a few verses before getting back to work. It’s Christmas in the Shenandoah Valley….]

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the house
Every creature was stirring including the mouse.
With plans for family, friends, and neighbors, too,
To celebrate together … there was much left to do.

Last touches on the tree, a wreath on the door,
The presents were bought except perhaps just one more.
Gingerbread baked in the oven with care,
Looking forward to when our guests would be there.

Cleaning the house and planning the meals,
And scanning the ads for those last-minute deals.
Gift wrap was piled deep on the floor
To decorate gifts and candies bought at the store.

A Shenandoah Valley Christmas is what we’ll celebrate
With everyone here, this holiday’s sure to be great.
Two weeks left, we’re almost done
Then it will be time to enjoy all the fun.

December 2013

Christmas Offers a Time to Show Appreciation for Those in Our Lives

When I was a little kid, Christmas was a magical time to pick out a special something for my sisters and parents to show how much they meant to me. Today the same applies for family and friends who are the reason my life feels complete.

While growing up in Bon Air across the James River from Richmond, shopping opportunities were few for two young sisters with limited financial resources. There were the Buford Road Pharmacy and the Bon Air Hardware, both a short one- or two-block ride on our bicycles, so that’s where we did our shopping.

Two very patient older gentlemen worked in the Bon Air Hardware and I’m sure they probably chuckled to themselves as my sister and I walked among the rows of familiar plumbing supplies, carpenter needs, and other materials necessary for the upkeep of a house. Our young eyes wandered up and down the shelves as we searched their contents, hoping to find just the right gift for our parents, that was within our price range. The gentlemen offered kind suggestions for us neighborhood kids carrying only a couple of bucks in our pockets.

I say the gift was for our “parents” but it was usually more suited for our mother, and our good-natured Dad just got his name on the tag.

One year I decided on a paring knife for them. A paring knife. The cost was within my paltry budget so I proudly took it home to wrap but it was so small that I decided to find the biggest cardboard box I could to wrap this prized gift to make it seem more impressive.

I rolled the knife in tissue paper, placed it at the bottom, and then proceeded to stuff the box with wadded-up newspapers. It must have taken an entire roll of wrapping paper to cover the thing and, of course, it had to be topped with a bow.

If my mother was disappointed on Christmas morning, she never showed it. Looking back all these years later as a mother myself, I know the corny saying is true … it is not the gift that counts but truly the thought. I had wanted to be able to give more so the box seemed to represent my desire and the lonely little paring knife was the reality.

Christmas cookies 1
Christmas cookies

There was the year one of my younger sisters wanted the Magic 8 Ball that was all the rage. I scraped together enough money to get that one special gift for her and stored it in the closet of our shared bedroom. Unable to contain my excitement, we ended up playing with it before it was wrapped and put under the tree. Ah, the impatience of youth.

My sister and I made a coupon book one year for our parents with each page representing something we would do when presented with said piece of paper, i.e., washing dishes, babysitting our younger sister, and other chores that we were actually already assigned to us. I don’t remember ever having a coupon redeemed, perhaps because we were already expected to fulfill those obligations around the house.

I find gift-giving to be easier with those we know well. A friend may have expressed a like for a particular quote so it gives pleasure to print and frame the quote and gift-wrap it as a surprise. I truly enjoy finding something that fits the person, although sometimes falling flat on my face with my selection, and sometimes over the years I’ve had to resort to the ready-made one-size-fits-all category.

When funds are short, ingenuity goes a long way. During the years when my children were growing up and we were a one-income family and very pinched financially, homemade gifts were necessary. If you don’t think you can be creative, try coming up with something made by your own hands for someone you love, respect, or appreciate. After all, it is meant to be a reflection of how you feel about the person and gratitude for their place in your life.

Homemade, or maybe handmade sounds better, for me has included everything from hand-dipped candy and festive decorated cookies to evergreen wreaths that I fashioned from greenery on our property, to hand-sewn items to arts and crafts.

One year with two young children and more time than money, I sewed two Christmas aprons for my mom — one red and one green — complete with holiday appliqués. Those aprons hung on a hook in Mom’s kitchen until the day they moved into a retirement home in 2017. Now that both parents have passed, they hang on a hook in my kitchen.

Christmas gifts 4
Miniature wreath made of sweet gum balls.

On the farm where we lived in North Carolina when our kids were born, we had a huge old sweet gum tree beside the front porch that dropped hundreds of sweet gum balls in the yard every fall.

One year I eyeballed those pesky little things — they are prickly — and then smiled. That was the Christmas I collected and made dozens of miniature sweet gum wreaths complete with tiny bows and gave them to friends and family.

Another year I collected, husked and cracked open black walnuts from our trees and gave the shelled nuts as gifts.

I remember years ago when one of my sisters found herself financially strapped when Christmas rolled around. She was living in Colorado and working her way through graduate school with limited resources. Mom bought her an airplane ticket to fly home for Christmas in Richmond so we could all be together and, when she arrived, she came bearing gifts.

On Christmas morning, I opened my gift from her and it was a rattan lamp from her Denver apartment that I had admired. She didn’t have the money to buy items for us so she had shared her own possessions. That lamp still sits in my home.

Christmas 3
Handmade wreath

Maybe I learned over the years that to receive a gift — any gift — is a kindness of the giver who took the time, whether a few minutes to purchase something or hours to handcraft it, because they cared enough to show a gratitude for the people in their lives not only throughout the year but especially during the holiday season (see Gigi Engle’s Why the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the best time of the year).

Now I have to get back to work because there are some gingerbread men in the kitchen waiting to be decorated as gifts for a friend who absolutely loves the holiday spirit that comes through in that personalized holiday treat.

Enjoy the days leading up to a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Originally published in 2015.

Love Thy Neighbor

I was sad today. Not for myself, but for a friend who just found out his dad has Covid-19, and he’s not doing well. In fact, this evening they had to admit him to the hospital.

He’s 88.

The anti-mask crowd will most likely say he’s old, no big deal, it’s his turn, just as they did with my family.

Here’s the deal. The grandparents have spent the past two weeks together with the friend’s family completely unaware that anyone had Covid. In retrospect, they believe the grandmother, who is 84, had it first but it was achiness that they thought had to do with working too much around the house.

You see, neither grandparent exhibited the usual Covid clues: difficulty breathing or other respiratory distresses like coughing. So the grandmother is better but the grandfather, who was thought to also just be tired from working too hard, has progressively become worse, tested positive, had oxygen levels plummet, and is now in the hospital.

And here’s another distress. My friend’s spouse has been battling cancer so now that it’s know the grandparents have Covid, that is yet another worry.

This friend and his family have been diligent about masks, hand washing, not going out, and all the other precautions because of the cancer issue. They’ve done everything right. Every.Thing.

And, yet, they have Covid in the household.

This may not be the right thing to say but I’m saying it anyway. I hope those who are more concerned about their freedoms than other people’s lives by refusing to wear masks are happy.

These anti-maskers who have been friends are not the people I thought they were all these years. Between Donald Trump and this global pandemic, friendships are splitting because of selfish people.

My heart aches for this friend and his family. I cried to learn that someone else was going through the vile virus that is Covid-19. If every family had to deal with this, I guarantee there would be far less, possibly no, anti-maskers.

Love thy neighbor? They’re too busy loving thy selves.

My Grandmother’s Apple Peeling Skill

Yesterday as I was peeling an apple, slowly working my knife around the outside, the apple peeling remained intact in one, long peel.

As my hands worked, my mind was busy going over the day’s events and news, and then it drifted back to the days when I was a little girl who watched as my grandmother peeled apples, watching wide-eyed and chatting with her as only a child can do.

Sitting on the porch, her always-present flowery apron over her dress and a small pan in her lap, she often worked on whatever fruits and vegetables were coming in from the garden. Her weathered hands shelled peas and butterbeans, snapped green beans, peeled peaches, and the fall was for apples.

What particularly mesmerized me about her working with apples was the one, long, continuous apple peel. She started at the top near the stem, and the peel never broke as she worked her way around and down, until she finished at the bottom.

“How do you do that, Grandma?” I’d ask with childlike innocence, sitting on the porch floor looking up at her. It seemed an impossible task and I thought she was amazing, a magician as far as I was concerned, to be able to do something that was so impossible.

An older me eventually mastered the one-piece apple peel that had seemed so difficult when I was young.

All that swirled through my memory as I finished peeling my own apple and, voila! The peel was in one piece … one long, unbroken length of apple peel, and I smiled.

It was a sweet memory, a visit with my grandmother who passed away when I was in 8th grade. I wear her wedding band with my own … she is never far away. And yesterday she was right here with me, probably smiling as I worked.

Memories. Family. The two are inseparable, and both are precious.

9/11: It’s Been 19 Septembers … Remembering That Tragic Day

“Today, our nation saw evil — the very worst of human nature — and we responded with the best of America, with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.” –President George W. Bush, September 11, 2001

When the White House was evacuated on that fateful day in 2001, my sister was a member of President George W. Bush’s administration. My memories of that day — and the danger she was in — are still sharp.

Instructed by Secret Service agents to evacuate and then to flee as fast as possible, women removed their high heels and ran in bare feet as staffers in the White House and Old Executive Office Building raced for their lives. They were fully aware that United Flight 93 was on a path toward the nation’s capital. My sister has barely talked about that day … the rawness is still real … and we are forever grateful to the heroes of Flight 93 who prevented a tragedy at the Capitol or White House. No one is certain which one was targeted.

I will never forget September 11, 2001 … and I don’t want to forget. Nineteen Septembers have passed, and I am still easily overcome with emotion.

That week my husband and I were vacationing in Colonial Williamsburg with our two teenage children. The morning of September 11 we had just arrived in the Colonial area with our freshly-purchased annual passes in hand, when a Colonial interpreter leaned in and quietly told us of the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. We were shocked and asked more questions, and then I quickly stepped off to the side to call my mom in Richmond to see if she had heard from my sister in D.C.

Amazingly, perhaps because her Austin cell phone was still routing through Texas, my sister had already been able to call and reassure Mom that she was okay even as tens of thousands of others in D.C. encountered jammed phone lines.

Reassured of my sister’s safety, we started walking through the recreated early American village, making our way to the Colonial Capitol to hear from costumed interpreters. Our hearts, however, were not on the Virginia history we usually loved. Visitors talked among themselves, strangers speculating about the events that were unfolding north of us, and wondering if America was under attack.

Under a tree on the capitol grounds, the historical interpreter’s animated voice talked about American history but it was difficult to concentrate on what he was saying. After an hour or so we decided to head back to our condo so we could turn on the television and follow the latest news.

In D.C., the White House and U.S. Capitol had been evacuated, and stand-still traffic made escaping the nation’s capital a nightmare. It took hours but my sister eventually made her way home to Bethesda where she then waited to hear news of her next-door neighbor who worked at the Pentagon, also a target of the terrorists. He had fled his office, leaving cell phone and keys at his desk, so with no way to contact family to assure them that he was safe, he began the long walk home from Arlington to Bethesda. He arrived hours later after making his way through the clogged streets of D.C.

Our much-anticipated Williamsburg vacation had suddenly taken a sad turn on that Tuesday in 2001, and all I could think of was going home to the Shenandoah Valley. Tears flowed easily … I was in touch with family and friends … and a patriotic, defensive streak came out in Americans. We were glued to the TV for updates and hated to get too far from the news. There was an uncertainty because no one knew what was next. Everyone was on edge.

With two children, however, who had looked forward to our planned visit to Busch Gardens amusement park on Friday of that week, we made the decision to stay the remaining four days of our trip. We tried to make it as normal as possible for them although we stayed on high alert, wondering along with the rest of the country if there were more attacks to come.

On Friday morning when we arrived at Busch Gardens, a new reality hit as, for the first time ever, our backpacks were searched when we entered the park. Little did we know it was the beginning of a new normal that was to expand and necessarily intrude in the years to come.

At noon, the park ceased operation for a time of remembrance. Patrons lined the park’s walkways and held hands as all bowed their heads in prayer, then listened to and sang along with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” as it played over the park’s intercom system, echoing off roller coasters and drifting across the hilly terrain. Tears streamed down the faces of strangers standing shoulder-to-shoulder who came together that week not as Democrats or Republicans, not as black or white or immigrants or rich or poor, but as Americans.

After the remembrance was over, as our kids made a beeline for the roller coasters, we worried about snipers in such a high profile area. It may sound silly now but it was, after all, only four days since the terrorist plane attacks and all were aware that more terror could be planned. The day, however, was uneventful, and we, thankfully, headed home to the Valley the next morning.

One memory that sticks in my mind is the sheer number of American flags waving after 9/11 on vehicles, store fronts, houses … I had never seen so many flags flying in the USA. At home I had dozens of American flags but none with me on our trip, and when we checked at Williamsburg shops for anything red, white, and blue, everything was sold out.

I was aching for an American flag. Again, it probably sounds silly, but it taught me a lesson: never leave home again without one.

Back in the Shenandoah Valley, we were in church Sunday morning as a sanctuary packed with friends and strangers sought comforting words even as tears streamed down many faces. The most important thing of all was that we were home. Home.

In the days, months, and years after 9/11, I held my children tighter … my husband and I lingered in conversations a bit longer … family and friends were dear and we pulled them closer. The events on 9/11 reiterated the importance of those around us.

As America went to war in the wake of 3,000 innocent souls murdered and the destruction of 9/11, we held Support the Troops rallies to show our public gratitude to our men and women in uniform who were protecting not only the United States by taking the war to foreign soil, but also our freedoms. We recognized our First Responders, the front line of America’s defense.

For almost nineteen years we have said good-bye to those going to war … and embraced those who returned. We watched close family friends leave for battle and prayed for their safety. We have grieved with military families who lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and flown American flags in their honor. Yellow ribbons have adorned our yards. We’ve sent care packages to troops in harm’s way and embraced their families at home.

We volunteered long hours on campaigns of political candidates who were strong on national security. In the middle of a war on terrorism, it was comforting to have a no-nonsense leader like George W. Bush whose first priority was the safety of the American people. Under his watch, America saw no more terrorist attacks on her shores.

Watching families mourn loved ones, my appreciation and respect for United Flight 93 continues to grow. Each 9/11 brings renewed fear of terrorism attacks, and there’s a hope that we will someday return to the unity that temporarily held our nation together after that grim Tuesday in September.

Never forget.

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Back in the homeschool classroom: Summer prep for the new school year

Teachers' Day

At the end of July my mind wanders back to the days of educating my children at home and this familiar time of year when thoughts turned to the new school year.

Thankfully, I was able to set my schedule, and I chose to start back to school after Labor Day. Unscheduled warm summer days were for enjoying the activities that there’s little time for once the school schedule kicked in with lessons, gymnastics, baseball, soccer, co-op classes, writing club, and my leadership responsibilities within the local homeschool community.

Summer was for hiking, exploring, swimming, biking, traveling, camps, visiting grandparents, sleepovers with friends, summer sports, camping and campfires, and anything else we wanted to do in the slowed pace of long days, short nights, and hot weather.

The first of August I would order our curriculum for the upcoming school year and it was usually delivered within a week. As the kids played outdoors in the pool on those hot August days, I would sit at the picnic table under the nearby shade tree, unpack the box of curricula, spread out my weekly lesson planner, and begin laying out our study schedule.

The smell of chlorine mixed with the loud sound of cicadas humming all around while the warm breeze stirred the leaves above me. In the background, the kids were splashing and laughing and doing exactly what I wanted them to do — squeeze every minute of fun out of their vacation time. It was a routine year after year after year.

Continue reading

Spring In All Its Shenandoah Glory

Oh my heavens, it’s gorgeous out today!

I’ve been busy at work all morning and ate lunch at my desk working on Bearing Drift stuff. With the window open, I could feel the warm breeze coming in so finally unplugged my laptop and walked out to the front porch.

Heavenly!

It’s a bit blustery but the breeze is warm. The sun is shining. I can hear a lawnmower in the distance. The birds … the birds are singing in all their loveliness! It sounds like camping up in Shenandoah National Park, those days when you’d sit at the picnic table playing games or find a rock outcropping and gaze at the magnificent scenery that is Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

The birds are part of what make living in this house so much fun — the variety, their songs, and watching them come and go. We’ve taken in the bird feeders for the year — bears getting into them make that a prudent move each spring — but the bird bath is still out and it’s a popular location for our feathered friends. They splash and cover the deck with water while enjoying a sip of the heated H2O. It’s about time to unplug but the nights had still been so cool that we kept it warm for their comfort.

Our safe frost date is still almost three weeks away but the long-term forecast doesn’t show any surprises, yet. One year we had frost on May 16, the day after our May 15th safe date.

Mr. M went to Milmont Nursery today to buy plants for the garden. We’re under stay-at-home orders but are allowed to pick up gardening plants. I didn’t go; no need to expose myself anymore than necessary to the wicked Covid-19 that killed Cal last week.

We will depend on the garden more than usual this year. Even though Mr. M always plants more than we need to be able to share with friends, this year he has packed in a bit more. He picked up a few marigolds to plant but I didn’t send a flower order with him. Just not in the mood yet for flowers, and it’s not May 15, but I’ll pick up some if it looks like we can do so. Cal’s death and the whole coronavirus worldwide pandemic have me feeling apprehensive.

That’s one reason I wanted to come outside. I just wanted to make it all go away. Stop thinking about what the world is facing and will face for a long time to come. Stop thinking about the loneliness of Cal’s passing. Stop thinking about both parents gone in an eight-month period. Stop thinking about everything.

As I look around the yard I see tons of work to be done. Flower beds need cleaning, shrubs need pruning back. Mr. M mowed and trimmed the front yesterday and it looks fabulous. We need to get the little white lights off the front of the house.

The deck needs cleaning and setting up for summer. I’ve got porch furniture to paint — Mr. M bought the paint and I didn’t get to it last summer — so need to get it done this year. The feeling is if no one is coming over, why bother?

I need to order a truckload of mulch to spread in flower gardens and at the end of the driveway. Mr. M wants dirt so we need to order that, too. Tree roots need to be covered as well as low spots in the yard.

The deck needs staining, and as I look around, the front porch could use some paint. Each spring I wait until the pollen has finished falling before giving the front a thorough wash — walls, door, windows, porch floor, railings, and ceiling. It always looks so much better.

The boxwoods need trimming. They have grown so much since last year.

Time to get back to work. There’s research and reading to do, and I need to get back to my book about the Spanish flu of 1918. Oh — and I have an online library board meeting that I need to lead tomorrow so need to get ready for that. And some correspondence to catch up on. Lots of things to do. Who the heck gets bored during quarantine?

But the doors and windows will remain open to enjoy this beautiful day and listen to the songs of the birds. It’s spring in the Shenandoah Valley….

 

Happy (Virtual) Easter

Easter 3 Covid-19 free pixabay 2020

Reminiscent of “The Brady Bunch,” stacked in boxes on the iPhone screen, my family’s smiling faces looked back at me on this Easter Sunday, sharing greetings and life updates and weather reports.

The weather reports were because we were, literally, stretched across the country from coast to coast: Richmond and Shenandoah Valley in Virginia … Nashville … Houston … and Los Angeles. Nashville had rain; LA and Virginia were cloudy and gray.

It’s a coronavirus Easter. With everyone sheltering in place as the worldwide pandemic continues, meeting online was a necessity at a time when our family members in RVA, Shenandoah Valley, and Nashville usually spend this time together and Skype with the others. This year we all were on the Facebook Chat session getting our family fix.

At an unusual and historic time when everyone is working from home, businesses are closed, many retail stores are closed, and we are encouraged to travel outside our homes only for groceries, pharmacies, and other essentials, many are talking of spending their days in their jammies (the running joke is, “I changed out of my daytime pajamas into my nighttime pajamas”).

If they’re like me, they’re saving a bunch on makeup. Why put on base, mascara, blush, eye shadow, and whatever else when there’s nowhere to go? Besides, my skin is breathing like it hasn’t breathed in a long time.

But today I found myself not only pulling out my makeup bag but also searching my closet for an Easter outfit to wear, and I even ran a brush through my hair. There are few occasions to get dressed up these days.

We are a cat family so the ones with cats brought them to the camera for all to see on the screen. Food, afternoon activities, and pending tornado warnings in Nashville and beyond were discussed. For me, it wasn’t even the conversation that mattered … it was laying my eyeballs on my children and their spouses, and my niece and sisters and brothers-in-law.

It’s a different Easter for everyone. In many places here in Virginia and around the country some are mourning family and friends who have died from Covid-19 … others have loved ones in ICU, or slowly recovering. On the front lines, health care workers are spending 24/7 caring for those affected by it all. Their Easters are different, too, and we cannot thank them enough for what they do.

As Americans, we will get beyond this. It will be a while … it will most likely take development of a vaccine (and that will, from what the experts say, a year or longer) before we feel safe going back out in crowds. But we will eventually get beyond it.

As for today, we are reaching out to our loved ones the best we can. And for many that will be a virtual Easter.

Don’t Forget To Remember Me

My cousin died today. I wasn’t home when she slipped away and didn’t know until this evening.

It’s been 10 months of non-stop goodbyes. Now another. In good health and always fit, she had a stroke. “A big one,” the doctors said. Big ones often don’t turn out well. This one didn’t.

She lived in the land of my grandparents and great-grandparents, the high mountains of southwestern Virginia in the shadow of Mt. Rogers. Those who went before her, including her parents and grandparents, are all buried there, and she will be, too.

The memories rush into my head … her as a teenager when I was a little kid … the cousins, my parents, and my siblings/spouses climbing the surrounding mountains …

… chasing cows in from the field for milking … wading in the creek … picking cherries from trees along the hilltop … riding the old plow horse … visiting a nearby trout farm …

… sleeping on homemade feather ticks … Aunt Okie’s homemade buttermilk biscuits baked in a woodfired cookstove … jumping out of the car to open the gate to the farm … all the things I loved when visiting those mountains.

Tonight is for remembering and savoring those sweet memories. Too many goodbyes….

 

A Valentine’s Day Message for My Children

Valentine 1

A Valentine for my children…

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together … there is something you must always remember.

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart … I’ll always be with you.”

— Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

Too Many Goodbyes

My Texas sister flew out on Sunday heading back to Houston and her life that had been on hold for the 10 days she visited in Richmond. My RVA sister and I drove her to the airport and waved goodbye as she disappeared into the corridors leading to check-in gates and TSA stations before boarding her plane.

It feels I’ve been saying goodbye to her most of my adult life. She left RVA after college and has lived away ever since.

Her purpose for visiting was the memorial service of our youth minister of music from our high school days. Gail was asked to give remarks representing the youth group, and she did a dang good job. We had brainstormed with memories from those days, scraps of remembrances that she captured on paper where she worked to make sure it was exactly what needed to be said.

Then, after the words had been written, she read it out loud to us and reworked the wording, going over and over and over, then printed it out and rewrote it all over again. We timed her to keep within the five minutes that had been allotted. Then one last print-out, one last read-through, and it was ready to go. Her delivery was crisp and perfect, with touches of humor and poignance and love. It was an excellent reminder of a man who had meant a great deal to many of us with the examples he set in his own life.

We three sisters spent the following week after the memorial service visiting the sights and friends in RVA and enjoying time together. All too soon it was over and time for last hugs to say goodbye.

As I drove home that afternoon, the Blue Ridge Mountains growing larger out my windshield and feeling a little melancholy, I thought about the past year and all the goodbyes that had taken place, most notably my mom who died in July from congestive heart failure. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone.

My cousin Jim who died in May from cancer … far too young to be gone.

Bearing Drift senior correspondent and radio personality Rick Sincere who died in November, passing away in his sleep.

A childhood friend’s wife.

Parents of friends.

Mr. Harman. Man of God. Hero. We learned life lessons from the foundation he laid. He was someone who opened his heart to all and lived the Christian purpose of helping those who needed help. “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

And those who are dealing with life-threatening illness like my cousin who was recently diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

A high school classmate whose birthday is the same day as mine who is dying from cancer. Our birthdays are February 9; she hopes to make it that long.

And so many more.

Far too many goodbyes.

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ “

‘You Have Been My Friend’

In the middle of a boisterous lunch with sisters and cousins today, I found myself at one point staring out the window and deep in thought as the laughter continued around me.

My two sisters and our two older cousins who are sisters … we’ve known each other our entire lives. With my Texas sister in town this week, it was a rare opportunity for us all five to be together.

Our mother and their mother were sisters. They’re gone. Our fathers are gone. With my mother’s death last summer, all the aunts and uncles are gone since she was the last of the 10 Osborne siblings.

So that leaves the cousins. We get together fairly often, but my Texas sister isn’t here for those fun times. That made today special.

I don’t know why today I had that moment of pensive remembrance … and then it was back into the conversation for the three hours we were at the restaurant. All too soon, we parted ways and, all too soon, the Texas sister will be winging her way back to Houston.

But for that brief time I enjoyed being in the presence of those who have known me the longest, know me the best, are the closest to me, and will, hopefully, always be there because I think we’ve made a silent pact that we will be there for each other.

Sisters … cousins … lifelong friends. Family. They will always be there.

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.” –Charlotte from “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White

 

When Yesterday Was Young: Remembering Mr. Harman

His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” –Matthew 25:23 KJV

When yesterday was young — when I was young — there were friends and church and youth group outings, and all the memories from those to last a lifetime. From middle school through high school we were in our church youth group — and it was a big youth group! There were over 100 of us. My dad was a deacon and a Sunday school teacher. We lived one block from church so much of those years was spent at church activities.

We enjoyed youth retreats at Massanetta Springs near Massanutten Resort and presented Christian folk musicals in Nags Head. James River buses would line up in the parking lot to take us Christmas caroling to church members who were ill or elderly. We had Bible studies and community projects and socials at parents’ houses and much more.

They were my friends and my social community. They helped keep me on the right path through my teen years which built a solid foundation for my adult life.

One of the most beloved church leaders from those days was H.D. Harman — Mr. Harman to the youth, Reverend Harman to the world. He was married with five daughters, and two of them were around the ages of my sister Gail and me. When he was called to come to our church, they became involved in all the activities including those for the youth.

Mr. Harman was a big burly man — think Hoss Cartwright on “Bonanza” — who could have been intimidating except we all knew he was a big loveable marshmallow inside. He was our youth minister of music … and so much more. When we were performing the Christian folk musicals “Good News” and “Tell It Like It Is,” not only did our choir consist of over 100 teens but we also had guitars, bass, banjo, piano, and other musical instruments played by the youth who were part of the group.

On weekend youth retreats when we teens tended to be our most rowdiest and pushed the evening curfew, Mr. Harman played the bouncer, so to speak. As the clock neared midnight and his patience waned, he would bounce us right back to our rooms with a firm admonition to go in your rooms and go to bed and don’t come back out!

God bless him for his patient heart. We loved him for it. His big baritone voice would boom out as we all sang — we sang all the time because that’s what we did — and he played along with our talent shows that showcased talent and silliness and fun. As we shared the highs and lows in our lives, he shared from his youth.

We learned the lessons of life from Mr. Harman in the character he exhibited in his own life: kindness, generosity, integrity, fairness, patience, sincerity, devotion, loyalty, determination, persistence, tolerance, optimism, and most importantly, spirituality.

4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

Mr. Harman passed away in June 2019. His memorial service will be held this week in Richmond and many of the 1970s youth group will be attending to honor this man of God who touched the lives of so many. I’ve kept up with some church pals over the years but some I haven’t seen in decades so it will be wonderful to once again gather and catch up. Maybe an impromptu chorus of “Good News” or “Pass It On” will break out.

Leave it to Mr. Harman to bring us all together, something we talked about doing for years but it never got off the ground.

Thank you, Mr. Harman, for coming into our lives. Thank you for the sacrifices and dedication. And thank you for sharing your life, your testimony, and your character with us.

I imagine that right now in heaven there is a big bass voice singing amongst the angels … one day we will all join him in that choir.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” –Philippians 1:3 KJV

Related:
-Bon Air Baptist: Rev. Cochran Has Passed Away (https://lynnrmitchell.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/bon-air-baptist-church-rev-cochran-passed-away/)

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