I have a friend who lived on my street. In July, she turned 86. She is the only person I’ve met who loved flowers as much as I do. She loved flowers so much, that she figured she had purchased over 80 different flowers in the last two years that are now growing in her backyard.
Her name was Pearl.
On November 21st of this year, Pearl passed away peacefully. After seeing her for the last time, as she lay pain and struggle free on her bed, enjoying her heavenly welcome home, I walked home in tears.
When I got home, I thought about the things Pearl taught me.
Pearl loved her family. She loved her four kids, Andy (short for Andrea) Tony, Vicki, and the youngest daughter, who they called Sam. She loved her husband, Joe and spoke of him often. She spoke of their lives together – she and Joe – almost each opportunity that I was able to spend time with her.
Respect. This is what she attributes over sixty years of a happy marriage to. Mutual respect for one another.
In her family, Pearl had five grandchildren and two great granddaughters.
Paige, Rachel, and Joe (named after his grandfather) were Tony and his wife Debbie’s three children and very dear to Pearl’s heart. Her other two grandchildren, Mandy (Andy’s daughter) and Brandon (Sam and her husband Lewis’ son), were almost like her own children, she and her husband Joe having spent so much time caring for them while their parent’s worked and/or were finishing up college. Each grandchild had qualities Pearl adored.
Joe, as I was so often told, had a smile that wouldn’t quit and took stunning photographs of ocean life that Pearl would make color copies of on her printer and then frame them to display on her walls. She would share off of her iPad when I’d sit visiting with her. She was so proud of him. A smiling face meant the world to Pearl – and a carefree, uninhibited free spirit, which Joe possessed. But more than anything, grandchildren that listened to their grandmothers was important to Pearl. Especially if she was making a phone call to them to remind them to call home to let their family know they were alright.
She adored Rachel for her gentle and compassionate spirit. Part of what kept Pearl going was the anticipation of Rachel’s wedding. There was no way she was going to miss that wedding in late October and see her granddaughter get married. She was planning to show off the new red dress and the dance steps she had learned from taking dance lessons during the summer, just for the occasion. She made the wedding, but was too tired to dance at the reception. Pearl showed me you are never too old to learn something new – like dancing.
Page is Tony and Rachel’s younger sister and attends college currently and isn’t afraid to try new things – like oysters. Pearl drew the line on her cuisine with oysters, much to her son’s disappointment, but Paige showed her grandmother that they weren’t that bad, when she tried them while accompanying her dad on one of his business trips. She was proud of Page, choosing to spend a week with her father instead of choosing to do other things a college-aged young woman might prefer to do, when given the opportunity. Page was learning what Pearl had learned long ago: family is most important. Oysters were not.
Brandon and Mandy were Pearl’s other grandchildren and she treasured them dearly. She spent much of her life helping her two daughters, Sam and Andy, by caring for their children when they were unable to, due to work or school commitments. Pearl often said that Brandon was gifted in many ways and Pearl showed me the importance of encouraging a child in his/her giftedness.
Mandy was more like a daughter to Pearl, at times, rather than a granddaughter. Pearl taught me, as she spoke of her relationship with Mandy (and Mandy’s two daughters), that we as mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and ‘older’ women are called to teach the younger women how they are to live in such a way that honors their family and Mandy did this by caring for the grandmother that was so dear to her.
As much and as deeply as Pearl cared for her grandchildren, her own children were her ultimate pride and joy.
Tony is Pearl’s only son. I used to love to be over at Pearl’s house when Tony called. She always looked at her cell phone and then smiled and said, “Hi, son.” I would always think, “How special he must feel.” And he must have known how special he was to her, for he called her every night because she had a special place in his heart, too. She taught me that when you let people know they matter, you learn that you matter to them.
Andrea is the oldest and would spend Tuesday nights with her mom. It was important to Pearl to have her there each week, for she knew the significance of having one on one with her children – no matter their age – and that was their special time together and neither of them missed it.
Vicki was close to her mother, though distant by miles. She, also, called her mother every night without fail. When I first got to know Pearl, she would talk about places she and Vicki had gone to or the places they were planning to go, what they’d see, where they’d eat. Pearl didn’t let the news of cancer stop her. She didn’t give in to fear. She didn’t give up. She never gave in.
Sam was the youngest and Pearl was proud of her ‘baby’ and the way she took care of her family. Sam was a hard worker and devoted mom, qualities she most likely learned from her hard working and devoted mother. On any day but a rainy one, you could find Pearl pulling weeds, planting flowers, or volunteering at the assistance center nearby. Nothing slowed her down.
I would see her drive up from working the afternoon at the center and knew she was tired. And hurting. But, she did it up until two weeks before she passed away, for even though she was in pain she would remind me, “It could always be worse.”
Pearl is gone now. She taught me many things, but not through her words. She taught me how to enjoy each new day. How to make others feel important. The wonderful gift of God’s creation. To never take life for granted. The blessing and gift of God’s grace.
Her actions spoke volumes. I watched. I listened. I was blessed.
I am blessed.
This past week, we had the privilege of watching our two oldest grandkids for a week while mom and dad went off to play in Hawaii for an anniversary celebration. I am certain we got the better deal! We were told we could spoil them as much as we wanted but though we tried, we didn’t have enough time to spoil them as much as we would have liked!
The week was filled with stories. Many we read, some we wrote, others we made for posterities sake. We took the kids shopping one day where they could pick out one toy and one outfit. Clara chose a girls’ Lego set – look out Uncle Mark! We put it together that afternoon. Those things are fun, no matter what age you are. She chose a pretty blue dress, whereas John was set on the Godzilla (“dinosaur”) shirt in bright orange. He opted for the dump truck/forklift combo in the John Deere section of the local Toys R Us. That was the extent of our ‘big’ shopping day and everyone returned home quite happy.
Every day included an egg hunt (at least one!), seeing who could blow the biggest bubble (the wind won!), and going for a walk. Every night was popcorn and movie night while we snuggled on the couch together, catching up on the latest Planes, How to Train a Dragon, Bob the Builder or whatever the movie choice was for that night’s entertainment. We sang along to Frozen, sat in suspense wondering if Dusty Crophopper would stall while trying to put out the fire, and wondered if Bob really would be able to fix ‘it’.
After a wonderful worship service with the Cedar Hills Church, we were able to spend Easter with my mom and dad and cousin, coming to join us for dinner on Easter Sunday. The next morning we would be heading for home.
It was hard to say good bye when Monday morning rolled around. Not a day goes by that a tear or two doesn’t drop when thoughts of those two, not-so-little-anymore precious kids wash over me. I stop and, instead of mulling over what isn’t meant to be, find the joy in what is and give thanks for the memories that we were able to make together.
And in the coming home, there awaits new memories to be made with our newest grandson, Finn. To say he is adorable, to say he is cute, to say he is awesome (to say the least)… well, I’ll let you judge. But the reason why I am so taken with him, is his personality (and the fact he may just have red hair like his mama). He is always so happy (especially when mom and dad are around). And this week took the cake.
You see, Finn has had a Grammy issue. He doesn’t like me to hold him. He didn’t want me to feed him. He hated me to change his diaper. I may, in fact, be exaggerating (but it wasn’t far from the truth). Until yesterday.
Yesterday Finn arrived with smiles, as usual. But something was different… He smiled at me! And it continued. He let me rock him and he fell asleep in my arms. He let me dance with him and we watched the birds fly by the window. He let me walk him and he watched the trees and flowers go by with me. And the very best thing was when I was taking him home. He was a little fussy – not crying – so I turned some music on and oh, what a treat!!! He sang all the way home! It was the same word over and over, (“aaaahhhh”) but it was music to my ears.
God takes the broken hearts and heals them. How do we know this is not the song He sings over us (Zacheriah 3:17)? It surely touched my heart in a mighty way.
While on our trip to Idaho, we took a short detour to visit the beautiful Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in the town of Woodruff. Meandering through the outskirts of the main town, we passed several lush green farms, trees with ferns growing out of their trunks, and a gorgeous old church, its walls bursting with thousands of stories begging to be told. It stood across the street from an old school house, which boasted its own memories and stories of childhood days past. A familiar, old, steel gray merry-go-round and ladder slide stood ghostly still, vacated in the school’s play yard.
Shortly down the road, tulips by the thousand waited to be photographed and so I did what anybody else with a camera in tow would do and started shooting tulips. Reds, purples, pinks, yellows and what seemed every color under the sun were waiting to mesmerize the visitor and take your breath away.
And so they did.
I am sharing some of the photos from our week up north via the tulip festival. It was short, but it was sweet. Enjoy.
It’s only been a couple hours
already I miss you like crazy
your tender spirit
like when you held tight to my hand
to keep it from shaking
everything reminds me of you
the snakes have stopped slivering on the floor
a cup sits with milk left in the bottom
that sets upon a cleared table
in a now too-quiet house
the colorful hearts
drawn carefully near the flowers
that were drawn carefully near the bees
that turned a plain piece of paper
into a masterpiece
no one is trying on hats
the pom poms have stopped shaking
the dollhouse is quiet
and the people are asleep ’til you return
the sword lays still
the balls have stopped rolling
and I can’t pick any of this up
or tears fall
and i am useless
so instead I sit here
and commit to memory
all the things we did
like visiting Mrs. U’s farm
feeding the horses
and dodging the coat-eating goats
hugging the ponies
while watching John loving it all
amidst the puddle jumping
watched and listened to Harry and George the ducks
quack at the duck pond
as they complained about their friends leaving them
and not saying which way they were going
resulting in the sad state of affairs of taking a wrong turn
and ultimately getting themselves lost
we ran from the waves at the beach
(and still got cold and wet)s
while walking the pebbly shores,
looking for the perfect stones
in every hue (and we found them!)
I don’t want to forget telling stories at bedtime after prayers:
stories about Clara the princess and her new friend –
(a mermaid, no less)
and Clara the little girl who found a tiger
that didn’t want to live unless he could live with her;
and the polar bear and clown fish who were both named Nemo
and the songs you wanted to hear as I rubbed your head
and you fell peacefully asleep
I want to remember how you wrote
“Grammy and Clara” in the sand
with your special writing stick
that you made me bring home and keep
and how we dug as fast as we could
to catch burrowing sand-crabs
I want to remember our ‘walk-talk’
and how we talked about rocks
and what true friends really are
how we savored raspberry tic-tacs
and frosted a pink and yellow cake with pink frosting
and you decorated it with a pattern around the middle –
for Uncle Josh
how you and your daddy
carted a big tree to the edge of the water
to see if the tide would pull it out to sea as you slept
only to find it the next morning a few yards south
how we talked about honoring our mom and dad
and how that pleases God and makes Him happy
even when sometimes we don’t understand
why they say yes or
why they say no
or why they won’t let us have milkshakes
and how God’s rewards
are kinda like frozen Snickers Bar treats from daddy
I want to remember everything
I don’t want to forget any little thing
even the tears we both cried when we had to say goodbye
I want to remember everything
I don’t want to forget any little thing
because the memories keep me going
’til the next time
I see the light in your eyes
and your precious smile
and hear your laughter
'My Time with Grandma' Bible Storybook by Phil A. Smouse was sent to me by Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest book review. Well, let me give you my honest opinion…
If you're looking for a book for a grandchild, a baby shower, a grandma with small grandchildren, this would be a great gift. It takes twelve of the most 'popular'/well-known Bible stories and with exceptionally colorful illustrations, brings them to life for children.
Intended for pre-school age through about seven years old, children will be captivated by the pictures as “grandma” reads stories about Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, Elijah and the rain, Shadrach, Meshach and Agednego, Daniel in the Lion's Den, Jonah and the Whale, Nicodemus, Jesus and the little children, the Good Samaritan, the lost sheep, the Prodigal Son, raising Lazarus from the dead, and the Resurrection.
Stories in Smouse's book are biblically sound, emphasizing truths of God's word.
I especially enjoyed Smouse's liberty of play with words for children. For example, in the story of Jonah and the whale, he says, “…”Throw me out,” [Jonah cried]. Then the storm will stop!” So out he went — sploosh! — down into the sea, where he was swallowed by a huge fish! “Oh, Lord,” Johan prayed, “forgive me!” So the fish spat him out — ptooo!”
Can't you just picture the scene?!?
At the end of each half page story is a “Love note from Grandma”. This is a little personal summarization of truth from the story, coated with 'grandma's' reassuring love and a enouraging word to the child in living out that truth. On the following page after each story, is a “Love Note from God”, a one sentence truth of scripture from God's word, relevant to the story read.
As I said, the illustrations, by artist Ela Jarzabek (who, hopefully we'll be seeing more of) are colorful and lively and fun. I really enjoyed the depiction of Goliath.
I cannot recommend this book more highly. I loved it. And although intended for readings by 'Grandma', it will be welll suited to be read by any loving adult/older sibling to younger sibling.
Available by Tyndale Kids/Tyndale House Publishing, October 2013.
I didn't write nor did I read to myself.
I played games. And read aloud to little ones. And held those little cherubs. And played Duck, Duck, Goose. And Yahtzee. And Connect Four and more.
I watched as they laughed their way down a steep hill covered in ice, tumbling over sides of sleds as they reached the bottom, snow covered faces.
I watched as they opened gifts that called out to them the last days of Christmas. Watched them play with those toys for the first time – scoot trucks across the floor, shoot BB's through their new air rifle, model new dresses made for a princess, shine light throughout the darkness by means of the mouth of a roaring lion and a giggling hippo.
We read books about trucks and mighty tractors. And princesses. And little critters. And green eggs and ham. And a baby named Jesus. And Bethlehem. And we laughed some more. And we played some more.
Exchanging gifts on the morning of Jesus' birthday, the most beautiful was a mirrored snowman that reflected pure, unselfish love with which it was made. Wrapped with a red scarf – or a pipe cleaner, whichever the eye chooses to see. Red symbolizing the heart – beating strong, beating hard.
Then came moments long dreaded. Moments filled with preparations for our leaving. To find our way back home to a place where I know I won't be able to breath for a time. I won't be able to think through a day without tears. Tears of sorrow for something distanced that I desperately want close once again. Tears of grief for something I have lost in proximity, at the very least. Tears of pain from my heart being ripped apart – once again.
You may not understand. May not be able to say you know how it feels because you have never felt it. Have never had your heart ripped out. Have never lost something so priceless, had something taken away that you held so dear. You may not know. You may not understand. But them, you may know all too well, maybe even to a greater depth than I.
In the missing of understanding, the goodbyes were inevitably, inevitable. A new job had to be secured. A new caregiver found. Replacements put into place. Out with the old, in with the new. Unfortunately, I am the old.
Later, we knocked at your door and you answered. Welcomed inside, we reminisced. Laughed. Shared. And then once again, the goodbyes are inevitable, inevitable. With tears. With young minds that don't understand the why of goodbyes. With older minds that understand but find it oh so hard to accept. With each hello, we now know there will be another goodbye. This makes the hellos difficult and the goodbyes a bittersweet tragedy.
We inch toward home, mile by mile, moment by moment, the distance far, the time dragging on. There is no excitement. There is nothing waiting to take the place of the smiles that filled the last bit of life. Sorrow fills the air like a strong arm around your neck, suffocating the life out of you.
But I know there will be a place of contentment. I know that even in the lack of happiness, joy can still exist. These things I have learned well this past year. These things I put my hope in: in contentment I will find Peace. In hope, a Companion of compassion.
We travel down the road and, as I brush glitter from my shirt, I comment that we have forgotten one item. Left back there behind us. A coffee press.
We will survive without it.
A few more miles. Another comment is made of something else left behind. I ask what it is. A toothbrush? A sock?
“A piece of your heart.”
Ah, yes. That's why it hurts so bad.
LI wonder if God felt that hole when Christ came to earth… Did a piece of His heart leave heaven?
“Hi, my name is Mommy and I’m dead tired. I have ten kids, all under the age of five and I think they all learned to run by the age of seven months. They’ve been chasing me ever since.”
Daniel pipes up with his tale of parenting his sixteen year old daughter, stating that the day she got her lisence is the last day he’s seen the family car – or his daughter.
If there were such a thing as Parents Anonymous, you can make a sure fire bet that it would be full each session. Why? Parents need support. They need to mark the calendar each night to see that yes, they made it through another day. They need encouragement when little Jr. uses all of the toilet paper to make roadways for his Hot Wheels.
Mommy, who's forgotten that her real name is Martha has stepped into a good place – where she will receive the encouragement to keep on keeping on, even if she’s being outrun by ten crazy kids. Daniel may need a private detective to track down his car because he knows if they find his car, they will find his daughter, too.
Both situations are hypothetical and yet, are they? Parenting can be exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. I remember when my kids were all under eight and I asked a friend. “Does this ever get easier?” I slightly heard her answer as I reached out to grab one of the wee ones from going into the street.
“Well,” she almost seemed afraid to answer. “It gets different.”
She was right. We went from physically running after those three little toe-headed kids to mentally fretting over them. Was it worth the twenty-five years we’ve invested in them? No hesitation. Of course.
The midnight runs to the ER for earaches that wouldn’t stop. Opening the front door to see your five-year-old riding down the thirteen feet of banister rail to the cement below unscathed. Helping your eight-year-old daughter pack and make sure she has enough peanut butter when she decides to run away from home. Watching home videos of your sporty son break his arm while snowboarding on a sheet of ice or jumping off the neighbor’s roof and onto the trampoline below. It was all worth it.
Ah yes, memories. The kind that at first may seen horrendous but within months, you can’t recount the stories without laughing.
No one said parenting is easy. It’s hard work and you never get it one hundred percent correct every time. However, you try and you keep at it and the pay off is priceless.
How do you keep your perspective when things seem so tough? You have to have a sense of humor. When Jr. #2 defies your insistence of not chewing on the dog toys, it’s hard not to laugh when his little smile turns up and indirectly his face says, “Who, me?”
When the kids are bickering, consider locking them all in the bathroom at once and tell them they are to scrub it and not to come out until it shines. That provides close quarters for unity and bonding. It sure worked for my neighbor and they have one of the greatest families I know. Be creative when it comes to parenting. What works for one child will most likely not work for the other.
One mom I knew told her kids when they would bicker with each other, to take a walk around the block and keep going around until they could return as friends or at least until the bickering had ceased. Of course, you don’t want to encourage this method if it’s not a safe neighborhood.
Your kids will soon begin to grow from the toddler stages and into elementary and middle schools where they will learn to make potato guns and fling the starchy beasts over the neighborhood rooftops. Perhaps they will even return home one afternoon at the wee age of eight, in the back seat of a patrol car for flinging baby carrots over their best friend’s fence at cars passing by, pretending they are in the army, blowing up the enemy.
They proceed to continue to get older, into the teenage years, learning to drive, go to the prom and find their first true love. Does parenting get easier? No. It gets different. The key to keeping your sanity and finding the lighter side so you make it across the finish line, is to smile. Smile, throw carrots with your kids (not at cars – one may end up being a police car), sit up in their tree house and count the stars at night, and when they’re all huddled in the bathroom working through their disagreements, close your eyes and thank God. The next blink and they’ll be gone.