My sister Nancy had her first child when she was only nineteen. Maybe she knew that her time on this planet was limited and so she did what she could while she was here. Or perhaps she wanted to leave a legacy because she saw so many of her peers leave too soon. Whatever the reason, Nancy had two boys that she saw to young adulthood before she died.
After we lost Nancy, my sister Janice and I tried to fill up the space that she left for the boys. Janice lived nearby and did quite a bit for them. I lived 3,000 miles away and did what I could. Eventually my nephew Jimmy moved out to the west coast. After that I was able to see him more often and when his daughters were born I was only a few hours drive away.
Yesterday, Jimmy and his girlfriend Pearl came to visit me and they brought along his daughter Lorelie. This child has the beauty of her mother and the impish energy her father had at her age. But what’s most amazing to me is how much she looks like her grandmother, Nancy.
This morning Lorelie and I made a Chocolate Pecan Pie to take back home with them. She helped stir and taste the batter and she licked the bowl when we were done. She absolutely wore me out in just a few hours…but I wouldn’t miss a visit from her for the world. And one of my life’s goals is to be the best Great Aunt I can be… for my nephews, for their children, and especially for Nancy.
To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.
A few months ago I wrote about a young man from our small town who was the victim of a violent homicide. His name was David and he was only twenty-three years old. As a parent of two young adults I felt deeply moved by this tragedy and my heart ached for David’s parents. As a small gesture I sent a quiche to his Mother and offered my condolences on the loss of her son.
At this point in time, the killer has not yet been found. And somehow the residents of Ashland try to go about doing what they have always done while living with the knowledge that they aren’t as safe as they had once thought. And, of course, for David’s parents, life will never be the same.
Recently I was told about a couple who are friends of David’s Mother. For the past few months they have been helping her get through the most difficult time of her life. I am very grateful that she was able to count on them for the help and support that she needed and hope they realize what a comfort they have been to her. Today I brought them a Dutch Apple Pie to thank them for the gift of their friendship. My hope is that we will all have friends like this when we most need them.
|“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen
At one point today Karen O entered my mind and I thought that I might surprise her with a pie. And then I thought that she might appreciate a quiche more because she is a very busy woman and might need help with dinner. As I prepared the vegetables I thought back to when I first met her and realized that I have known Karen for more than 25 years. She was a friend of my husband’s and became my friend as well. Though we don’t see each other often, there is never a distance between us. One of the things I like most about her is that when she asks you a question, she listens to the answer.
About ten years ago, my daughter, and a group of girls, took a course with Karen that helped them navigate the transition from being a “girl” to becoming young women. At the end of the course, my daughter and I participated in a Mother-Daughter weekend that Karen organized. There were about 8 mother/daughter pairs at the workshop. It was an emotional weekend for many of us – for our little girls were now stepping into the realm of womanhood.
I appreciated all the effort that Karen put forth to make the weekend special. She had arranged for yoga instruction, arts and crafts, meals, and live music. As darkness fell at the end of the second day, we were shown a labyrinth and told that we all were to walk the labyrinth and when we found our path, we were to exit. One by one women and girls entered, walked and exited the maze. When it was my turn, I began walking and kept on walking. Finally my daughter, who had already walked the maze, came up behind me and asked me why I was still walking. I told her that I could not find my way out and she stepped in front of me and told me to follow her. She then lead me out of the maze. It was one of the highlights of the weekend for me – for I felt that we were not just parent and child, we were becoming friends.
I want to thank Karen for all that she has done to recognize the importance of coming of age rituals. In this modern world we tend to overlook them and they are too important to ignore.
I forgot to take a picture of the quiche I made so instead I am posting a picture of me with my grown up daughter in Copenhagen last December.
Margie moved in next door to us a few years after we moved into our home in Ashland. She was in her eighties and was still quite spry. You would see her out in the yard pulling out weeds and doing other chores that much younger people would have long forsaken. She was a grandmother and she loved the location of her home because she could hear the sounds of children as they walked to and from school. Best of all, Margie loved living next door to a family with small children. That turned out to be an incredible blessing for me.
At that time, I was working early mornings as a baker and would leave for work before my children were awake. When I came home from work, I still had a lot of work ahead of me – as many mothers do. My saving grace was Margie. When I was at the end of my rope and my kids were needing attention I could call upon Margie. I might ask my kids to go ask Margie for an ingredient for dinner or I might send them to bring her something I had made that day. My children looked forward to spending time with Margie – she had toys for them to play with, she loved hearing about their days, and now and then she offered them a sweet treat. She was their next-door Grandma – and she was a lifesaver for me. She gave me a break when I most needed it. And I am forever grateful to her for that.
This weekend, Margie’s family is gathering to celebrate her life. I delivered a lovely Strawberry Rhubarb Pie to Margie’s daughter, Katharine, so that she could share it with her siblings and their families. I hope they know how lovely it was to have Margie as a neighbor and a friend. We will cherish the memory of her always.