The picture above popped up in my memory feed today on Facebook. Already feeling out of sorts, this added fuel to my sad fire. But it also was fuel for my poem today.The prompt was “thought” . So, I thought, as if I wasn’t already thinking, about how long and how short seven years are.
Thoughts on Seven Years
seven years ago we moved to a new state
it was not our choice
but that’s okay
and though there is such a thing called the seven years war
that’s not what we fought
in fact, many of those seven years were good ones
years of plenty like in Joseph’s dream
and Joseph's life
but years of plenty
soon became lean years, rawboned and grievous
though we enjoyed hiking through the beauty of fall colors
and a few snow-angel winter snows
and spring on the back porch
there was much loss
the demise of three parents while we were away
longing to be with them
even though we often languished
in the city where we tried so hard
we were together
we finally migrated back home
but one month later
for your eternal home
and I try not to wither away
“Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountain of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use…I do wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness – chemical wastes in the rivers, metal wastes everywhere, and atomic wastes buried deep in the earth or sunk in the sea.” – from Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
Well, I’m glad for boxes. And for people willing to recycle them by passing them on. To me. Especially since I don’t have my friend Rodney here. He was my go-to box guy in Bham.
It seems crazy that I’m packing for my third move in less than a year. I should be a pro at this, but I don’t feel at all like one. I have a lot less possessions now so you’d think it would be easier. I just hope this is the last move, at least for a very long time.
I am not familiar with this hymn, but it brought to mind not just those who mourn, but many who are cast down. Last week I delivered food to three people who have Covid-19. Two of these people, a couple, also have family members with numerous health issues. I am blessed right now with good health. I thank God he has kept me healthy and I pray for these loved ones that they, too, might be restored to good health.
“We were not standing, hands clasped, weathering the storm together. He was living the storm and I was standing by, desperately, unsuccessfully, trying to bat away individual rain clouds to get to him.
Somehow, the universe had succeeded in pulling our hands apart.
...And the truth was, whether I was wife or caretaker was never as important as whether I meant the words I’d said to him all those months before: we were in this together, no matter what. ” – Elaine Roth
My last post, Everything tells a story: Amazon , is like me trying to “bat away individual rain clouds”. When I was packing up before we left Birmingham he told our daughters I was “busier than a one-armed paper hanger”. One of his old, favorite expressions. And I was. And I wonder, should I have slowed down? Should I have spent more time just sitting quietly with him? But, I felt I had to keep going. I had to get it done because he couldn’t. Then the girls came as reinforcements, yet I still plowed ahead. We had to go. We had to get to Jacksonville. There was no magic cure there, but there was hope. And a longing to be home.
We made it there. He struggled on for a month, wrapped in prayers. He sat quiet for hours, unable to do much more than let us poke him with needles and try all the protein concoctions we used to tempt him to eat. I don’t know if he was lost in his thoughts, in prayer, or just zoned out. I do know he never lost his gentleness or his need for me. I just hope I was there enough.
Numerous have been the manifestations of God’s providence in sustaining us. In the gloomy period of adversity, we have had ‘our cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.’ We have been reduced to distress, and the arm of Omnipotence has raised us up. – Samuel Adams
I have been going to a griefshare group for three weeks. Out of all the ones across the city, I chose this one at the beach.This week I struck up a conversation after the meeting with a woman at my table. She lost her sister to COVID in August. 69 years young. As we talked, I mentioned State Farm. I saw something flicker in her eyes. She asked a few questions and it turns out she worked with Chuck before we moved to Birmingham. Sat right next to him.
Isn’t God amazing? He constantly reminds me He is here. When I forget to pray or just can’t, He is here. When tears choke my voice in church during the hymns, He is here. In the sunrise, the sunset, and the breezes in between, He is here.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life. - Psalm 42:8
I decided to take a walk around the hood tonight. I left my candy on a table on the front porch. Still there, and I’m sad. I truly don’t need to eat it.
I only passed three groups of trick-or-treaters. One was a group of three teenagers. The other two were little kids with parents. And though I passed some decorated houses, it was just so quiet.
But, you know what I heard that made me happy? Little voices shouting “thank-you” as they walked back to the street where their parents waited. It reminded me, in the words of TAB, “There’s hope for sure”.
“Still, ghosts have a way of finding your new address.” – From All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
I have found this to be true more than once. I thought when we moved from Winter Haven back to Jacksonville years ago I was going to leave some ghosts behind. But problems often have a way of following you.
The weight of lies will bring you down
And follow you to every town 'cause
Nothing happens here that doesn't happen there
So, when you run make sure you run
To something and not away from 'cause
Lies don't need an aeroplane to chase you anywhere
- The Weight of Lies/The Avett Brothers
Now there are different ghosts, memories. Memories can be good or bad. Or both. But, either way, they have found me and will not let me go.
October 17, 2011 · Hi Angie, hope I’m doing this right. I just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you and hope you have a good class this year! I have been very busy going to Drs. and dentists and seeing my family. However, I hope we can get together before our birthdays and then just maybe Robin Ann will go out with us to celebrate our birthdays! Love , Donna
I recently came across this message on Facebook from an old friend. My college roommate, going back to 1976. We didn’t really become friends until our senior year of high school. We found out we were going to go off to the same school – Georgia Southern College (that was before football – they are now a university). This brought the bright, giggling spirit of Donna into my life. Our birthdays were just a day apart.
Things weren’t always perfect; we sometimes got on each other’s nerves in our tiny dorm room. I had to learn to share space – I never had a sister. But we learned, we adapted, we were there for each other. Donna played the guitar and sang. She put my poems to music when I was missing my high school boyfriend. That didn’t last too long. Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder.
She returned to Jacksonville to finish out her education at UNF and went on to be a teacher and a guidance counselor. She was a perfect fit for both of those positions. We kept in touch, but then a year or so went by and I hadn’t heard from her. This was in 2005 when we moved back to Jacksonville. I found out that she’d fallen, broken an arm, and something went wrong during the surgery. I think it was too much anesthesia. She was in a coma for four months and had to relearn everything. She made a remarkable comeback, but could not go back to work. And even though she won a lawsuit against the hospital, she would have rather been back at work, loving on her students.
The last time I saw her I took her to get her hair done and to lunch. She still had that high-pitched, sing-song voice that just made me smile. She died in January, 2013.
So many deaths and it never gets easier.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
The end of June I went through Chuck’s phone and wrote down some of the texts. I haven’t been able to go back again yet, but I hope to soon. Even though the phone is turned off, I think the texts will still be there.
Just about every one triggers a memory.
December 22, 2017
From Chuck to me: “Packing to the sounds of the Avett Brothers and thinking of you.”
He was always thinking of me. This was when I went to Jacksonville before Christmas and he followed a few days later. It was the last Christmas we had with Mom.
He thought of me in the special surprise gifts he got me throughout the years. Like the sandals he bought me one spring just because he thought I’d like them. I did and I still have them, 9-10 years later.
He thought of me when he got the tickets last fall for the Avett Brothers concert in April, which ended up being canceled. And even if it hadn’t he was so ill by then we could not have gone.
He was always thinking of me.
He knew how much I missed the family and he let me go and stayed behind with first Loretta and then Ruby.
He got left behind so often during our Birmingham years as I flew back and forth to Tampa to see the grandkids or drove to Jacksonville to see mom. Juliette so often asked, “Where’s Grandpa?” My response was, “He’s working.” He was so looking forward to retirement just to spend more time with the kids. Last summer’s Bell Camp was such an absolute blessing and fun time. This year it will just be Grammy Camp and I don’t know if I’ll do it justice without him.
“We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Chuck didn’t fear death. He knew where his hope was. I knew that, too. I know that. But, the sadness is still here. Sadness that his face will no longer light up when his children or grandchildren enter the room. Sadness that we talked, dreamed, and finally planned for his retirement and our return home to Jacksonville. That return was overlaid with sorrow. For him, that return lasted one month. Now he is truly home, and I’m left here to carry on.
Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.