Savoring Time, Because I Can’t Bottle It


 

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I sing in the car. It passes the time when I’m between home and wherever. Sometimes I know all the words; other times, well, let’s just say I try. I particularly enjoy the tunes from the 70s and 80s. Like most, when I hear songs from my youth, I’m transported back in time. I recall where I was, what I was doing, and with whom I was with, usually.

Recently, I was on my way home from a visit with my mother, listening to the 70s channel on Sirius XM Radio, when Jim Croce’s classic Time In A Bottle came across the airway. I’ve heard this song many times, but I never really listened to its message. Of course, I joined in. Then, I stopped. It was as if I was hearing the lyrics for the first time.

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
‘Til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do, once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go through time with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty, except for the memory of how
They were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do, once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go through time with

All of us, at some point in time, grieve. I think about the people who allowed me to be the benefactor of their love and their friendship. And, even though some are no longer here, I continue to reap the benefit. I’ve had incredible mentors in my life, folks who encouraged me when I needed an extra push to move forward. There’s nothing like hearing, “You can do this, I’m pulling for you,” or, my personal favorite, “You’re a West Virginia girl, you can do it.” (There’s a story behind that one, maybe I’ll share it one day.) How different would life be if time awarded us with a more extended stay?

Songwriters compose history. Though raw at times, the lyrics pierce our hearts and leave us longing for the drumbeats of yesterday. Many artists’ work strikes a personal cord. After I left my childhood home, I felt alone, and I found myself running against the wind. There were days where I felt as if I was being trampled by wild horses. I suffered under the guise of the pretender. My soul ached for a time that no longer existed. When life as I knew it ceased, I lived for a season within the confines of the sounds of silence.

A wise and beloved man (my dad) said that if time did not move us forward, we’d all grieve ourselves to death. I find no truer statement, as I’ve journeyed through the growing pains of my young adulthood. The road that brought me to where I am today offered many forks. Some days I traveled my life’s road with caution and blind faith. I prayed, at the very least, for a safe outcome. Other times, I plowed a path as crooked as the West Virginia roads that I learned to drive on.

Life, like time, moves forward. As I continue on my journey, I know that time cannot be stopped, only savored.

I thank you for taking time to read my blog; it is my prayer that you are blessed after reading my ramblings.

 

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Somewhere Over The Rainbow


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Beech Mountain, North Carolina (Elevation 5,506)

High in the hills of Western North Carolina, lies the town of Beech Mountain. Before my husband and I bought our second home on Beech, we visited often. Mountain serenity captivates our senses and reverts us to a more comfortable state-of-being. Now that I’m “midlife,” I purposely wander the road less traveled, an effort that affords me the simple pleasures in life—and, at times, fills me with tranquil bliss.

The transition of the seasons, an ever-present reminder of the ebb and flow of life, disrupts and delights. When the first warm rays of spring sting my virgin skin, I know the dark, dank days of winter are over. Everything comes alive with the rebirth of spring. For me, nothing spurs my spirit more than lounging on a front porch equipped with thick, cushioned furniture; listening to the sobering coo of doves, or the feel of a gentle breeze that brushes over my skin. And, nothing compares to the smell of mother earth as she slips from her winter slumber. It truly appeases the soul.

As a youngster, I imagined what it would be like to live in another place. I wondered if I could ever go there. Now that I’m grown, my curiosity still prods and prompts me to pull back my familiar curtain and take a peek. It’s scary, at times, when my life’s journey rewards me with mountaintop experiences as well as soul-searching valley experiences. I thank God for each one.

I grew up smack-dab in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia; but growing up, I rarely appreciated the mountain’s majestic beauty. After my high school graduation, I moved away. I wanted to see the bright lights of a city. I wanted to look through a window from a high-rise building, which I did. And, I wanted to drive on a road where I used the gas pedal more than I used the brake. I did that, too, and it rewarded me with a speeding ticket. But, looking back, those experiences were nothing grand, compared to the nights of my childhood when I gazed up at a star-filled sky.

Once upon a time, I lived somewhere over the rainbow. It was a place called Home. Everything is as I left it because everything that I hold dear lies within the confines of my memory. I go home when I want to remember things that I don’t want to forget, especially when it comes to my childhood. Whenever I think about Home, I remember the smell of warm pavement after a summer rain. I remember the feel of new clothes waiting to be worn on the first day of school. I remember the excitement of a pep rally on the eve of the first football game. I remember the crunching sound of decaying leaves in the fall. I remember walking under the street lights in the snow on my way to my grandmother’s. I remember my bedroom, my transistor radio, and my purple beanbag, where I sat and penned my thoughts in a composition book. And, I remember that I couldn’t wait to leave.

Sometimes, life throws curves. Life blindsides and sucker punches. It hurts when that happens. It’s a hurt that lasts for a long time. My mom has dementia. Like most, Mom’s dementia came on gradually. Mom talks a lot about going back home. She tells stories about her youth and about her life growing up in a holler in West Virginia. Mom’s memories sleep peacefully, for now. They lay tucked away and wait for Mom to wake them. Mom has good days. In fact, most days are good for her, which makes me question not only her diagnosis but also my own sanity. But then, it happens, and everything I hope for and pray for are snuffed out in a single breath. Mom becomes confused and she fixates. She believes things and says things that I know are not true. It makes me sad. I am learning, through research and by talking with other caregivers, that it’s best to not try to reason with her or try to correct her. Instead, I allow her to tell me her “story,” knowing that in a few days all will be forgotten. And, when she feels anxious, I assure Mom that I will take care of whatever is disturbing her. Mom trusts me in the same way that I trusted her when I was a child. Funny, the way the table turns, isn’t it?

If only I could turn back time, but I can’t. No one can. Sometimes, I want to ask Mom about a recipe, or I want to ask Mom’s advice, or I want to tell her something trivial about my day.  Then, I remember, and I don’t bother.

Like I said, I question my own sanity. Mom forgets; I remember. I pray I never forget. “It will only get worse,” they say, when I share her story or when I need a listening, sympathetic ear. Of course, Mom will get worse. This, I already know. But for now, Mom’s memories equate beautiful stories that she tells again and again. Her memories take her back to a specific moment in time where she’s young and beautiful, and her memory is as sharp as an elephant’s. Mom remembers everything, each detail carved into moving imagery. During these moments, Mom’s mind’s eye does not flow like fragmented drips from a leaky faucet but clear as a mountain spring. Mom longs for home. I know this with each tale she tells.

At night, I resign my day and close my eyes and remember when I lived somewhere over the rainbow. I drift back through time, through drowsy layers of fog. I see the familiar road. I know it well. I take my time and look around. I visit places I’ve long forgotten. I see faces that are no more. I laugh; then, I cry. I wake and realize that I’ve dreamed of Home.

Seizing The Day


For some unknown reason, I’m thinking of my dad today. Maybe it’s because I’m spending the weekend at my ‘happy place.’ Whenever my husband and I can get away from our weekday norm, we high-tail it to our mountain retreat. It is here that I allow myself to bask in the moment.

We recently got a puppy and a kitten. Life as we knew it is now no more, but that’s a good thing. These two youngsters delight us in every way possible. Our four-year-old cat, Woody, doesn’t share our enthusiasm. Although Woody seems to be smitten with the new feline baby, the canine baby creates a bit of anxiety. Woody keeps a safe distance from Riley (pup) and observes her antics from his throne on high. At night, when Riley’s stamina fizzles out, and she succumbs to the Sandman, Toby (kitten) and Woody crank up the action and the games begin!

Daddy loved animals, all animals. Although we always had dogs growing up, Daddy spent a small fortune feeding the birds and squirrels that occupied our backyard. They’re God’s gift to us, he would say, and he expects us to take care of them. After Daddy passed away, and Mom and I cleaned out the basement, the birds and squirrels continued to eat well for a long, long time. I am a carbon copy of my mother, which I am proud of, but it’s my dad’s tender heart and his love for God’s gift of animals that I am thankful for and that I appreciate.

Daddy wasn’t an educated man, but he was a man who knew how to make the most out of God’s blessings. Daddy served in the Navy during WWII.  He never talked about his time in service. I suppose he witnessed things that were too painful to remember, let alone share. Daddy carried a humble spirit, and he taught life lessons by spouting one-liners. His most memorable one-liner compared tight-fitting shoes to misfortune: “The tight-fitting shoe doesn’t hurt until it’s on your foot,” he reminded us. Through my adult years, Daddy’s insight speaks the truth, more often than not.

Daddy also taught me to be thankful for the blessing of good health. He shared that anything and everything can be acquired as long as your health is up to the challenge. Daddy provided for his family via the West Virginia coal mines. Forty-plus years, to be exact. I never remember a time when he laid out of work. Even when his health wasn’t up-to-par, he forged forward. “I’ve got a family to support,” he said. Then, added: “Don’t worry about the mule being poorly, just load the wagon.” When I first started my barbering career, I worked long hours. I needed to establish not only my name but also my talent. My livelihood depended on me making it in the barber business. Funny as it sounds, but Daddy contradicted what he taught. He said, “You’re working way too long, you better pace yourself or you’ll burn out and make yourself sick.” I looked at my dad and used one of his one-liners: “Daddy,” I said, “You always told me to make hay while the sun is shining. Well,” I reminded him, “I’m making hay.” Daddy understood, and he never questioned my work ethic again.

I look back over my life, at my career, and I feel my dad looking down on me. Proud, I hope he is, of the woman I am, the life I choose to live, and the love of animals that I inherited from him. I am thankful for my dad’s one-liners, they are serving me well.

And, above all else, let me say that I am seizing the day!

Dear God,

I learned my life lessons from a loving and devoted earthly father. There’s a saying: “Life is tough, but love is stronger.” Indeed it is, and with the love and guidance of my earthly father and you, God, every day is worth seizing.

Amen  

Coming to terms


If I close my eyes, I can still hear the sound of the rustling leaves; the meandering trickle of the waterfall; the melodious chirp of the songbirds; the crunching sound of pebbles under my feet; and, I can feel the midday sun’s warmth in my hair. The tranquil grounds outside of the hospice house offer sanctuary and respite for caregivers and families. Comprised through monetary donations and gifts-in-kind, the hospice house and campus grant terminally ill patients and their loved ones a time to reflect and connect with each other before saying goodbye.

I remember my father-in-law saying when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, that none of us are meant to stay here forever. My mother-in-law, at the announcement of her cancer diagnoses, felt blessed to be 89 years old. “I’ve lived a good life,” she said. She also acknowledged God with gratitude for granting her with the means to raise two respectful, responsible sons and she confirmed her love for her daughter-in-laws, too.

“I’m ready to go,” she said and left it at that.

Since her funeral, I’ve thought about her life, her courage at facing the end of her life, and the impact that her life had on so many. Before she slipped into her final sleep, she told us to be good to each other and to take care of her grandson and his children— her great-grandchildren. Even in her last coherent moments, she thought of others.

We await the healing balm of time. But for those of us who are left to endure life without our mother, the sting of her death, the void of her presence, seems unbearable. We will move forward, and we will honor her memory by being kind to each other, just as she instructed.

One week later we come to terms with the passing of our mother. Sad, though we are, we rejoice, because one more precious soul rests in the arms of her Lord!

Amen

In awe of your presence


Today we say ‘goodbye’ to my mother-in-law. What a special lady she was in my life. Most people cannot say they are blessed to have two mothers, but I can. My mother-in-law loved unconditionally, gave unconditionally, and asked for nothing in return. When my father-in-law passed away, I sat beside her while friends and church family brought in food. I’ll never forget how uncomfortable this made her. She said, “I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all . . . I don’t like being the receiver; I’d rather be the giver.”  To which I replied, “Sometimes we have to be the receiver.”

This afternoon we are the receiver, again. We prepare ourselves to receive condolences after the funeral. Hard as this may be, I am so thankful that God is already ahead of us, waiting to comfort us through those who loved our dear mother. But isn’t that how our God works? Always one step ahead of us? Always patient? Always loyal? Always ready to comfort with outstretched, loving arms?

Today we say, “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord! Because His grace is sufficient, our cup runneth over.”

 

Dear Gracious and Loving Father,

Thank you for your never ceasing presence. But more than anything, thank you for the blessed gift of eternity. Oh, how each of us will rejoice when we reunite with our precious loved ones! 

Amen