Tag Archives: memories

Another Angel

Mom K

“If our family was an airline, Mom was the hub and we were the spokes. You rarely went anywhere nonstop; you went via Mom, who directed the traffic flow and determined the priorities: which family member was cleared for takeoff or landing. Even my father was not immune to Mom’s scheduling, though he was given more leeway than the rest of us.”
― Will Schwalbe, The End of Your Life Book Club

[Lynda’s note: Our hearts are heavy at the loss but ever thankful for the privilege of loving my husband’s mom, my second mom, who passed away last Friday evening. No daughter-in-law was ever more blessed than I was by her love. We will miss her, and her gravy, more than words can ever say. The challenge is made greater by the fact that my husband, now 5 months plus in the hospital, will not be able to travel to the services, though he will be there in spirit and in heart through me.

As we remember her, it’s inevitable that I recall losing my mother, now some 18 years ago. The parable I read at her funeral is no less true of my mother-in-law, so I’ll share this post again today. Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers as we learn our new “routes”.]

In going through some of my mom’s writings and collected notes following her death, I found a notebook where she wrote down some of her favorite quotations and stories. It’s a habit I inherited and continue to this day. The story below was in that notebook, where Mom had copied it over from where ever she read it. At her funeral, we asked family and friends to read a piece or share their thoughts. This is what I read, from her notebook:

A Living Presence (A Parable for Mothers)
By: Temple Bailey

The young mother set her foot on the path of Life. “Is the way long?” she asked. And her Guide said: “Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning.”

But the young mother was happy, and she would not believe that anything could be better than these years. So she played with her children, and gathered flowers for them along the way, and bathed with them in the streams, and the sun shone on them, and life was good, and the young mother cried: “Nothing will ever be lovelier than this”.

Then night came, and storm, and the path was dark, and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle and the children said: “Oh, Mother, we are not afraid for you are near, and no harm can come.” And the mother said: “This is better than the brightest of days, for I have taught my children courage.”

And the morning came and there was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary, but at all times she said to the children: “A little patience and we are there.” So the children climbed, and when they reached the top, they said: “We could not have done it without you, Mother.” And the mother, when she lay down that night, looked up at the stars and said: “This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of difficulty. Yesterday I gave them courage, Today I have given them strength.”

And the next day came strange clouds which darkened the earth – clouds of war and hate and evil, and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said: “Look up! Lift your eyes to the light.” And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting Glory, and it guided them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said: “This is the best day of all, for I have shown my children God.”

And the days went on, and the months and the years, and the mother grew old, and she was small and bent. But her children were strong and tall and walked with courage. And when the way was hard, they helped their mother; and when the way was rough they lifted her, for she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And the mother said: “I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone, and their children after them.”

And the children said: “You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates.” And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said: “We cannot see her, but she is with us. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence.”

Mom K and PK

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Monday Moments: Memorial Day

cleaning up cemetery placing flags

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~ From a headstone in Ireland

My father was a quiet man. Not just in tone or in spirit, but in nearly everything. In part, I’m sure, this came from spending much of his time by himself, out in the fields or working in the timber. He was far more content to sit and read than to listen to the radio or watch television. He was never one to make a fuss, or to want a fuss made about him.

Our primary piece of farm acreage was old family property. The remains of an old schoolhouse were barely visible under the growing timber and brush. Remnants of the old family cemetery were strewn about one section. Every winter, when he couldn’t be in the fields, he was in the timber. He’d clear out dead trees and provide firewood for the fireplace at home. He’d beat back the ever-encroaching brush from the edges of the fields. And he would work on the cemetery. He’d try to match old, long-broken tombstones with the right bases, and he’d try to set right what weather and the occasional vandals took down each year. One of his quiet actions in life was cleaning up the cemetery, year after year, stone after stone.

He did this as a labor of love, to his family, to the people buried there, and to the families of those who were forever wedded to that piece of land. Without fuss, without caring if anyone knew or noticed or helped. It was his task. His remembrance. His service. He was a young child when the U.S. entered World War I, and by the time World War II rolled around, he was exempt from the draft as a food-producing farmer. He never talked about not going to war, like he never talked about a lot of things, but I always believed that he wanted to do more, give more, for the country whose history he taught me. So he did what he could, quietly. But occasionally someone would notice and say thanks. letter to the editor about my father cleaning up the cemetery He’d stammer and get uncomfortable, but he appreciated the sentiment. And each Decoration Day, as he always called it, he’d help put flags out on the graves of those who served.

Now living near a very active Air Force base, I see people every day who serve quietly, without seeking honor or notice or attention. Because it fills them from the inside out. Because it’s just what they do, oftentimes without notice. So today, as we should do every day, take a moment and express your appreciation to someone who willingly serves, who has lost someone who sacrificed themselves for what they believed. Who lives each moment to make sure we have our freedom.

A friend of ours, Adam White, who happens to be a very talented filmmaker, put together a marvelous tribute to those who volunteer, those who serve. Please take a couple of minutes to watch the clip, and to remember all those who have served and those who now serve.

Today and everyday.

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Summer Road Trips (redux)

[Lynda’s note: Since I’m heading out on a road trip for a few days away, I thought I’d have my “S” post bring back what is far and away the most popular post here on Second Memory — Summer Road Trips. I was fortunate enough to have this post selected as a “Freshly Pressed” post after it originally appeared on July 21, 2011. So, as I am hitting the road, here’s a little of what’s coming along with me……. Enjoy! Have a great weekend! ~ Lynda]

“On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue. Now even the colors are changing. But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk—times neither day nor night—the old roads return to the sky some of its color. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it’s that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.”—William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways: A Journey Into America (1982)

Summer vacation in our household always meant one thing — ROAD TRIP! Once the crops were in the field and growing strong, our family loaded up the station wagon and set out on adventures far and wide. Like other things in our household, these trips were a combination of exceptional planning and whimsical free-wheeling. Each year, the vacation had a specific theme or destination in mind, carefully chosen to balance fun and education, new experiences and landscapes with manageable adventure. But if we saw someplace fun to stop or a roadside attraction worth a look, we took the time to stop and enjoy the moments the road trip provided for us.

Take, for example, the summer we decided to tackle Civil War battlefields. Not content to sample just one or two, summertime that year was an in-depth historical journey across the eastern and gulf coast map of the major Civil War events.

Civil War Battlefields

Gettysburg, Bull Run and Fort Sumter rolled into Andersonville as we headed to our southernmost destination of New Orleans. It was there that I rode in my first taxi, forever remembered because I left a treasured shirt, hand-painted by my mother, in the back of it, only to find it returned to the hotel later by a very kind taxi driver. New Orleans also marked the first time I ever tried to eat a lobster served whole instead of just by the tail. The kindness of strangers came through again as a very patient waiter took extraordinary amounts of time to teach me how to break apart the thing, as well as the parts to avoid!

On our way back north to home, we stopped for one night at a hotel in Vicksburg. As we were loading up the car the next morning, I went exploring in the parking lot and stopped when I saw a familiar license plate. In our small town, cars changed quicker than license plates, so I grew up learning to remember plates not vehicles. My parents were unconvinced that life could be so random as to have two families from the same small town happen to stay in the same place hundreds of miles from home. I stuck to my guns, insisting that my parents ask at the desk, and I was right! We had a quick breakfast together and caught up on local news we had missed while on the road, then headed out onto separate ways, the start of their vacation and the winding down of our trip.

Some of our other memorable excursions included a long journey to the southwest, complete with my brothers scaring my mother at the rim of the Grand Canyon, a dust storm in New Mexico, and visiting Carlsbad Caverns. One year we headed northeast to New England, another west to California, and yet others to the vast open spaces of the Dakotas or across Canada.

With four kids across a thirteen-year age span, my mother was a genius at making sure our vacations went as smooth as possible. Each child started the vacation with a large paper grocery sack full of wrapped packages, one for each day on the road. At some point each day, at a time of our own choosing, we could open a new present, something she had picked especially for each of us, to entertain us. Silly and small, these daily surprises kept us entertained and engaged, whether it was an egg full of Silly Putty, a new coloring book, or a book to lose ourselves in as we covered the long miles each day.

In order to prevent arguments over money, food, and souvenirs, each child also got their own daily allowance of money to spend. Mom’s rule was pretty easy – each child had a set amount to spend, we could spend it however we wanted, but when it was gone, that was it, we were done. If I wanted that “I-have-to-have-it-or-I-will-die-right-now” item, it was mine as long as I was willing to sacrifice that amount of my budget. I still remember one of my brothers carefully guarding his daily expenditures to indulge in a very large steak for dinner one night on a trip through Texas. And if my sister wanted a hamburger for breakfast and eggs for dinner, so be it. It was her money to spend.

I learned a lot across the miles on those summer road trips — patience, cooperation, budgeting, the sheer pleasure of the open road– hanging over the back of the front seat, map in hand, navigating the blue highways over and around the miles, and finding adventure where we could.

Thinking back on those great summer road trips makes me want to head out on a summer road trip adventure.

Any suggestions?

[Note: This post is #19 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button on the right of the page for more information.
There was no “S” post for last year’s challenge — more on that on Monday!]

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Operator

old telephone with a dial

I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance. Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal – and soon they’ll forget my number. ~ Edith Armstrong

Some friends and I were chatting the other day, and, of course, we started chatting about “kids these days.” (Cue my mother’s voice saying the same thing, oh, about thirty years ago…..) Since I am oftentimes in the company of …. and I say this with great love and affection…. computer geeks, we were talking about smart phones. How ubiquitous they have become, not only for the youngsters but for us as well. I would *never* have guessed how attached I am to my smart phone. I love it. (Yes, I love it!) Everywhere you look these days, someone’s using a smart phone.

“Remember when there used to be pay phones on every corner? Amazing how you rarely see one anymore?” My ever-astute husband tosses that observation out, and those of us old enough to remember nod our heads.

One of the baby-geeks asks, without even slowing his twin-thumb texting while mapping directions to his buds for a meet-up later, “Like a pay-as-you-go phone? Sure!” Type, type, type with the thumbs clatters on.

The rest of us crack up. “No, an actual pay phone. You know, feed the machine a dime, dial your number and talk. Or ask the operator for help, like if you need a number or have to place a collect call.”

The frenetic typing paused, as his eyes actually moved away from his phone and up to look around at those of us still chuckling. “Collect call?”

Blink, blink.

“Operator?”

And for the rest of us, the night turned immediately into a karaoke love-fest for Jim Croce.

Sing along, if you want. He’s hard to resist.

[Note: This post is #15 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button on the right of the page for more information.
Last year’s “O” post: Optimism.]

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A Scent Remembered

atomizer for perfume

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth. ~ Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

I have a bottle of my Mom’s perfume on my dresser.

For the longest time after she passed away, I kept the throw pillow from her favorite chair. I didn’t like the pattern, actually, but the pillow smelled exactly like her. The scent faded away eventually, and the pillow is now long gone.

She only wore one perfume: Estée Lauder Youth Dew. I remember the blue bottle, curved to fit perfectly in a hand.  My dad would buy her a bottle every birthday and anniversary.  It was definitely her signature scent.  On at least two occasions I can remember, well-dressed gentlemen came up and actually asked her what perfume she was wearing.

Here’s how the Estée Lauder company described their creation:

THE INSPIRATION
“Women still like to feel beautiful, pampered and loved, And that is what Youth‑Dew is all about.”
—Estée Lauder

Created in 1953, Youth‑Dew was the very first fragrance from the Estée Lauder company and it was the first American fragrance to capture the imagination of women worldwide.  Estée Lauder wondered why women relied on the men in their lives to buy them perfume. And why they reserved fragrance only for special occasions. To change women’s minds—and forever change the world of fragrance—Mrs. Lauder created Youth‑Dew Bath Oil.

Captivating, rich and exceptionally lasting, women bought it for the bath, but, as Mrs. Lauder predicted, soon began wearing Youth‑Dew as their fragrance as well. Because it was sold as a bath oil, not perfume, women felt free to enjoy and wear it every day. Instead of using Youth‑Dew by the drop, women used it by the bottle. Men loved it too, saying it was “simply the sexiest fragrance ever.”

Every now and again, as I walk through somewhere there’s a gathering of people, a whiff of Youth Dew hangs softly in the air, and I instinctively look around, my mind playing tricks as I look for my mother in the crowd. But like the scent, it’s only a memory, and just for a moment, I am sad.

And days like today, on her birthday, I spritz a bit in the air, trying to recreate the memory of that scent. But it’s impossible to do, as it lacks that magical combination between the perfume and her, the one that caused men to stop her and ask what she was wearing.

I’m always amazed at how quickly a scent can trigger memories, can take you to a specific place or time, or even to the remembered company of someone special.

What smells trigger memories for you?

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