Goodbye to the Varsity

Going to Athens every summer to visit Grandma and Aunt Marie usually included a trip to The Varsity. So, even though I don’t have a long history with it like others do, it still was a part of my childhood and a big part of the town where I was born.

I’m so glad we were able to take the grandkids to The Varsity back in the summer of 2019 after the Bryan/Bailey reunion. They loved the food, just as we did. But, as you can see, they were mesmerized by the TV; Chuck and I let them have the best view -haha!

June, 2019

This article, A Love Letter to the Varsity in Athens, Georgia by Caroline Sanders via Garden & Gun, expresses the sentiments of many people.

The Valley of Vision #5: Death

I don’t know if Chuck read all of the entries in The Valley of Vision because he didn’t mark them. But this portion from one entry near the back of the book could have been his prayer.

"Prepare me for death, 
that I may not die after long affliction or suddenly, 
but after short illness, with no confusion or disorder, 
and a quiet discharge in peace, with adieu to brethren. 
Let not my days end like lumber in a house, 
but give me a silent removing from one world to the next."

If this had been his prayer, I think it was answered. His illness was short, but not sudden like a heart attack or accident. He was not confused, except maybe for the final few days. He was able to say his goodbyes, even though I felt he and I didn’t really say ours.

Madeleine L’Engle relayed a story a nurse told her of when she lost her husband. “NO CODE” was written in his chart. The nurse said she fell apart, but that looking back, she wouldn’t have had it any other way. This is what we did. Chuck agreed and we signed the DNR form, but when the time came he begged me to call 911; said he changed his mind. I, too, fell apart inside but did my best to stick to what I knew his wishes were. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Madeleine also told of her thoughts when her own husband was dying. “Does Hugh understand that he is being touched, loved? Is there enough awareness in him for that?” I often wonder what Chuck’s thoughts were in those final hours. Our daughters were there with me and we all ministered to him, did our best to give him all the love we had. He was aware that we were there up until the last moments. I can only hope he knew we wanted him to stay, but had to let him go.

He preached and believed “our times are in His hands”. I believe this, too. It was one year ago today.

“And she said she was grateful for every moment she'd ever had with him and, even if it was all over, she wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world.” - from Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle

Tears are healing


"Music, too, tends to pluck at the chords of emotion. Tears are healing. I do not want to cry when I am not alone, but by myself I don't try to hold the tears back. In a sense this solitary weeping is a form of prayer."  -  Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle


November, 2018

I understand exactly what she means. I try not to cry in public, but it’s difficult at church sometimes. Oh, that music. The hymns he loved get me every time; at home it might be other music. Especially, but not limited to, The Avett Brothers. Occasionally it’s a scene in a movie. Or a beautiful evening sky. Or dates on the calendar.

Sometimes I’ll come across something that probably only I would understand. Like a book he read where some of the sentences were underlined. He would use an index card and make the lines perfectly straight. I’ve even found a card a time or two, with the edge faintly marked with ink where he had used it.

He was by no means OCD, but he did have these little endearing habits. Like buying the same socks and underwear at JC Penney. Or washing his work shirts every Tuesday. As often as my schedule allowed I’d do it for him. And he always thanked me. Now, this was YEARS into our marriage, not when I had four kids running underfoot and would have loved him to wash some shirts for ME. But, we all tend to mellow and learn so much as we age. As we should. And he thanked me!

Something we cannot see

"And he sits there staring at something we cannot see." - Madeleine L'Engle,Two-Part Invention, speaking of her husband in his last days at home. 

I felt like Chuck did that – stared at something we did not see. Or sat with his eyes closed, just too fatigued to keep them open.

I think of the angel guard around Elisha and like to imagine just such a group around Chuck, giving comfort that we didn’t know about. I imagine him closing his eyes to me, Kat, and Leah and then opening them to a band of angels and Christ, himself. I am still so full of questions about death that I know will not be answered until I myself die.

All I know is this – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” – Hebrews 11:1

One Year Ago

Savannah, Georgia – early 2000s

One year ago Chuck posted this on facebook:

As some of you are aware, I put in for retirement effective June 1 and we placed our home on the market. The house went under contract immediately and we close on 5/19/20.

Unfortunately a few weeks ago I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. We have consulted with UAB oncologists and decided to return to Jax, FL as planned and I have an appointment at Mayo Clinic this Thursday.
I wish all of you the very best in all life as to offer. Angie and I covet your prayers for strength, wisdom and that the Lord be glorified in our circumstances.

According to the Scripture all 'our days are numbered' so whether mine are few or many "I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for my sins..."

Please forgive me if I ever offended you in anyway, it is never intentional but still there is no excuse.

I pray his blessings upon each of you.

Just a little over a month after this Chuck was gone.

I just finished reading Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle. I didn’t realize when I started it that it was not only a memoir of her marriage but a very detailed telling of her husband’s death. They were married forty years and their relationship was so very much like Chuck’s and mine, though our lives and careers couldn’t have been more different.

She tells of their first date: “But we had talked for ten hours without noticing the time passing.” This is very much what happened with us – maybe not ten hours in one setting, but we talked and talked on each date. I miss those talks.

Seven Years

4-25-2014

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
to belong
we were together

we finally migrated back home 
but one month later
you left
for your eternal home
and I try not to wither away
without you

A year ago

A year ago today is when we got our first indication that our world was about to change. I won’t go into all the details, but when I realized Chuck was yellow, jaundiced, I knew I had to get him to the ER. I drove him to the Medical West ER in Hoover but had to drop him off because the Covid restrictions were already in place.

We were under contract on our house already. I went home to take care of marking our electrical box per the inspection, via a wonderful young man who walked me through it by phone and would not let me pay him.

Within an hour Chuck called. They had done a scan and found a mass on his pancreas. When I went to pick him up he was standing outside on the curb, looking so lost.

That day was the only time I remember him really crying. This gentle giant of a man curled up in our big brown chair in the living room and said, “I wonder who will be my pallbearers?”

Then he began his brief fight against the monster that raged within him. Pancreatic cancer. Our journey brought our children back together and then took us to Jacksonville where Chuck died two months after we first heard the words “mass on the pancreas”.

He had no pallbearers, but he is buried in a beautiful cemetery, along with his great-nephew, Wyatt. I can’t say life has gone on without him because he is a part of everyday for me. I see him in the kindness of his daughters and the laughter of his sons. I watched my grandson Everett play chess last Saturday with one of my son’s friends and I thought of how Chuck played chess with him even when he was ill. I’m grateful Everett will have those happy memories of Grandpa.

Everett and Grandpa, 2020

Moving Forward

I’m not one for looking for signs and wonders, but sometimes it’s just interesting how God can use seemingly insignificant things to direct our thoughts. I follow a blog called DC Widow that has been very helpful to me. Her post from March 11 was good, but it was a comment from a reader that got me started on the idea of moving forward. The reader, Steph, said, “Nora McInerny’s TED talk about not moving on but moving forward is spot on…” so, I looked it up and she was right.

At breakfast I picked up the AARP bulletin to scan it while I ate and the cover jumped out at me: “The Path Forward”.

AARP Bulletin

Then, at lunch I did the same with the latest copy of Southern News, from Florida Southern College. Inside was was an article heading “…move forward without forgetting the past.” Wow. It all goes together.

Southern News, Winter, 2021

I am moving forward, well, literally I’m moving south. In two weeks. I closed on my home in Tampa on March 5, then stayed there a week on an air mattress, painting walls and planning. At the end of each day I just drove 1.6 miles to my son’s house where I was fed and loved on. Now I’m finishing up packing and preparing for my third move since last May. It’s been exhausting, not just physically but emotionally. I have to keep stopping myself from the thoughts of “this isn’t how it was supposed to be”. I remind myself, rather, “this isn’t how we planned it.”

Carole King’s song, Anyone At All, comes to mind. I have loved that song ever since I saw “You’ve Got Mail” years ago. It felt like Our Song. It feels like it even more now.

“You’ve become a memory I can’t erase…” “It wasn’t in the plan, not that I could see…” “…that’s what catches me when I fall
I’m so glad it was you”

Photographs and Memories

September, 2012

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal – Love leaves a memory none can steal.”  –  from a headstone in Ireland

If I didn’t have photos, I’d still have memories, but I am so thankful for all the pictures I have to look back on and smile, even though sometimes the smile is between tears sliding down my cheeks. I may have too many photos, but that’s in large part because I am the keeper of the bulk of the pictures that were left behind by Mom and my mother-in-law.

Now in the digital age nearly everyone takes multiple photos on a daily basis. Back as a young teen when I first had a camera, I never knew until I got my developed film just what images I had captured. It was always a thrill to drive up to the Photo Bug to pick up my envelope of photographs.

photo via columbuscoasterco.com

I look forward to making more memories, taking more pictures, and one day passing them on for others to treasure.

Texts from the past #10: Retirement

Moss Rock, 2015

How quickly we forget things. I’m a little surprised as I see how far back we were talking about Chuck retiring.

April 13, 2017: (This was me joking on one of my subbing days) Me: I’ll be sitting in the library until 10 or so. Glad I have my book. I don’t really have to do anything. C: Earn that money :). Me: going to use it to retire and live on an island and listen to music all day and walk on the beach.

April 11, 2018: C: In a seminar RE Retirement Medical, State Farm subsidizes premiums!!!! Me: Does that mean they pay part of them? C: Yes. Suh weet. Me: Would you be eligible even if you left at 62? C: Yes. You too C: We…R…out…of…here!

October 23, 2018: C: FYI – Alert, there is real hope for early rather than later retirement! I will show you tonight.  C: I am almost beside myself sitting here at work.  Me: Don’t get all the way beside yourself. One of you is enough. C: hee hee

May 10, 2019: Me: At Costco. May be in return line a while. C: ok. Me: I’m sure you needed that info. C: I wasn’t sure if I should write it down or not. Me: U so funny. C: I’m thinking I may retire now and go on tour. Me: I’ll be your sidekick.

March 3, 2020: C: I started the retirement process effective June 1

March 10, 2020: C: I started the ball rolling on social security. Big phone appointment next Thursday.

It’s still hard to believe that on April 13, 2020 we got the first inkling that our world was about to change. The sadness just overwhelms me sometimes. He was so excited when he began figuring out we could do this – make it work – retire. When his friend and supervisor, Patrice, had retired he had plied her with questions. I finally met her last week. It was such a blessing to meet one more person that knew and appreciated Chuck.

Now I, too, am officially retired. I want to spend these next years, however many God gives me, doing things that would honor Chuck. Things that honor God.