A Message from My Dad

Father’s Day is one of those bittersweet holidays for me, as it is for many others. I enjoyed a brief chat with my stepfather Walter this afternoon. When my sister returns from vacation, we will take him and my mother out to dinner, to celebrate him.

My thoughts have been on my dad the past few days, with the approach of this time of special recognition for fathers. I had even decided already that I’d write a Sunday Short about an item that belonged to my dad, that has meaningful significance to me. And then, my dad changed that slightly, by visiting me and sharing a short message with me. That’s not unusual. Many people had visits with their fathers today.

The thing is, my dad passed away eight years ago.

A Message from My Dad

I love the award that my dad received, almost 20 years ago, in recognition for excellent customer service at the car dealership he worked for. Dad supervised repairs and body work. He was great with cars…and even better with people. I’m sure the award was well deserved.

What brings me joy is that the award is made to resemble a golden Oscar, the award handed out each year in the film industry, for the Best of categories. It makes me smile for two reasons: I adore movies, and the Oscars is a must-see event for me every spring. And…my dad’s middle name is Oscar. Seriously! How appropriate is that?!

Near the end of his life, Dad had his children look through his mementos and select what we wanted to take home. He was, quite literally, handing out memories for us to keep. He was amused that along with other treasures, I wanted this Oscar. It means a great deal to me. I have it displayed in a little vignette that contains the award, a photo of Dad, and a small container that holds a portion of my dad’s ashes.

A Message from My Dad

There it is, the little story I intended to write. Dad added to it though.

He visited me last night, in a dream. It is common for those who have departed to visit their loved ones in dreams. These aren’t typical dreams though. To me they feel more like a visit. There isn’t anything happening. It’s a face to face conversation with one I love, who is now in spirit.

Dad appeared to me, in my house, looking like he was in his mid to late 30s. I remarked about the dark hair on his head, and even touched his neatly trimmed mustache, which was black as well. He looked so young. It made my heart ache.

Dad hugged me. And then he shared these words:

“I am so proud of you, Sissy, for taking care of your health. You are doing well. And the things you are learning, about the connection between the health of your liver and your pancreas…they are true.”

I know. That seems like a strange conversation for a father and his daughter to have. However, it carried great meaning for me. I have turned my health around. And I continue to learn how to improve my wellbeing even more. I just listened to a webinar, presented by my health mentor, Anthony William, on the very thing Dad mentioned…the vital connection between a healthy or unhealthy liver, and a healthy or unhealthy pancreas.

It’s important information for me. My dad died of pancreatic cancer, a cancer that is on the rise. In addition to my father, I’ve lost three friends to this type of cancer and I know of many others who have succumbed to this horrible disease. If taking care of my liver is good for my pancreas as well, then I’m all for that. I’m grateful that Anthony’s new book, Liver Rescue, is due out this fall. I’ve already preordered it.

I’m grateful as well for my dad. It could be argued that my dream was just that, a dream, created by my subconscious. The hug felt real. The man who spoke to me looked like my dad. His words were relevant to what I am learning. I’m going to accept it for what it appeared to be to me…a loving visit from my sweet dad.

And his advice was sound. Just before he vanished, he looked into my eyes and offered these words:

“Take care of your liver.”

I smile when I think about his words…such a Dad thing to say…even while I feel a little catch of emotion in my throat.

I will, Dad, I promise. Thank you for caring. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.

A Message from My Dad

A Father’s Enduring Love

Today is the 8th anniversary of my father’s death. Dad has not only been on my mind today…I’ve been thinking of him all month. Memories have floated up into my consciousness. Funny or sad stories have been recalled. I miss my dad. I think of him every day.

The evening that I got a phone call, telling me that Dad was in the hospital and doctors had found a mass on his pancreas, I knew time was running out for him. He fought valiantly for two years and in the end the cancer won. However, I learned so much from my dad during that time, about living, about dying, about love.

I wasn’t sure that I was going to write this particular post tonight. The idea for it came to me this morning and stayed with me throughout the day, flickering in and out of my awareness. This story is on the fringe of what people can believe, or accept. However as I prepared to write, I did a simple thing. I asked my dad, Is this the post to write tonight? Should I share these stories? The unmistakable answer was Yes. And Dad even gave me the title for this piece.

The truth is, in my experience, death is not the end. It is a transition and the soul continues on. These beliefs are more than teachings or suppositions for me…they are my reality. I have been visited all my life by loved ones who have passed on. And so, these are some of my favorite stories about my dad, after he made that transition. His love endures.

A Father’s Enduring Love

My first experience with my father in spirit happened the day he died. I had seen my dad two days before, with Greg and our children and grandchildren accompanying me. My sisters and I had made plans to spend the night with our dad and stepmom on Wednesday, to spend some time with him. But on the Sunday before, I took my family to see Dad. As I sat, holding his hand and talking quietly, I knew he only had a few days left. Not weeks, as his hospice care givers said. Days.

On Tuesday, I awoke feeling extremely restless. I skipped a sales meeting at the office and paced from room to room at home. When my younger sister called, to say Dad was slipping away and might not last through the night, I was not surprised. I hurriedly packed a bag, and left for Tulsa…an hour and a half drive away.

My niece and sister sent updates via text, which were increasingly urgent. I was speeding down I 44, clicking off the miles. Twenty minutes away from my dad’s house, I suddenly felt very strange. Energy pressed against my chest and then passed through, leaving me slightly disoriented and feeling disconnected from my body. I glanced at the clock in the car, noting the time. And then very clearly I heard my father’s voice. Sissy, it’s okay. Slow down.

I knew what had happened. My dad had just slipped into the spirit world. He always called me Sissy. And he was telling me there was no need to drive so fast. I felt numb and yet comforted too, to feel his presence so strongly. When I arrived at my dad’s, my sister Debbie met me in the yard, crying. Dad had died, at the time I had my experience.

A Father’s Enduring Love

Another visit from my dad occurred a short time later, when my sisters and I spent the night at his house, while our stepmom traveled out of state. I could share many interesting details from that night…unusual noises and odd behavior from my dad’s dog…but the sense that Dad was present came after we retired for the night. My sisters shared a bedroom while I slept alone. I lay in bed, eyes closed but awake, thinking about my dad. I heard a pop and then a sizzling sound, like the crackle of electricity. Opening my eyes I saw a pillar of bright white light next to the bed. The sizzling sound was emanating from the light. I felt curiosity rather than fear. In a few moments the light and sound faded away. I felt like my dad had been standing there, watching me, sending me love. The next morning I learned one of my sisters had seen a white light in her room as well.

On the first birthday that I celebrated after my dad died, I keenly felt his absence. My dad always called each of his children on his or her birthday. I knew I would not be receiving a call this year. Lying awake, after midnight, thinking about that call that was not going to come, I heard a loud crash…inside my closet! I was startled by that, and chose not to investigate in the dark of night. However, the next morning I remembered the noise and carefully opened the closet door. On the floor within the closet was a pile of items, things that had belonged to my dad that I had brought home after his death. I had placed those things high up on a shelf and they were the only things that fell. I smiled. It appeared my dad had “called” on my birthday after all!

A Father’s Enduring Love

Likewise, I was missing my dad very much on the first Father’s Day without him. I strongly associate motorcycles with Dad, as he owned a variety of them throughout his life. Driving home that Sunday afternoon, I asked my dad to send motorcycles by as a sign from him that he was near. I was almost home, so I figured Dad wouldn’t have time to set up this form of saying hello. I stopped at a red light, at an intersection half a block from home, and watched in amazement as motorcycles pulled up on each street in the intersection…across from me, to the right and to the left.

As I grinned, I heard another motorcycle approaching. A yellow one pulled up right next to me. This one made me cry. A young girl, about 10 years old, rode behind the driver, a man whom I assumed to be her father. I rode behind my dad often, as a child, as a teen, and a few times as an adult. Surrounded by motorcycles I felt such love, such gratitude for my father, mingled with grief and sadness.

A Father’s Enduring Love

I have had many visits from my dad since his death. I’ve even felt protected by him. When the 2011 tornado churned through my neighborhood, destroying it, Greg and I crouched in a closet, listening as windows broke all over the house and debris thudded against the walls. I felt like we might die as the intensity of the storm increased and the house began to lift from its foundation. An incredible peace overcame us. I sensed loved ones in spirit near.

Shortly after the tornado, I dreamed about that day. In the dream my dad appeared, pushing us into the closet and helping me to close the door, just as a 2×4 piece of lumber came crashing through the window. Dad stood guard outside the door. When I woke from that dream I recalled that a 2×4 did indeed come through the window just as I pulled the closet door closed. I have no doubts that my dad was standing guard as the storm raged.

Dad has helped me find things, prompted me to take particular actions, makes my chin tingle with energy when he’s near…like right now. I miss his hugs and kisses. I miss calling him on the phone and hearing his laughter. And yet, I know he visits often. I talk to him and then wait for his response, which comes by way of signs, or through songs, or as a tingle of energy that brushes against my hair. Occasionally I hear his voice.

I know that stories like these are difficult for some to believe. But if they bring hope and peace and comfort to others who have lost a loved one, then I don’t mind the naysayers. Our loved ones in spirit are closer than we think. I trust my own experiences. And I trust my dad. And I trust his enduring love for me and my siblings, my stepmom and our families. I love you Dad. Thank you for continuing to be a part of my life.

A Father’s Enduring Love

Father’s Day Memories

My dad passed away seven years ago, on March 30, 2010. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Father’s Day stirs memories of pool parties and cook outs, my dad grilling, waving a spatula around as he chatted animatedly. 

I also remember the long summer evenings of my teen years, when my dad and several of his friends would roar off into the night on their motorcycles, usually with me and one of my sisters perched on the back of a couple of the bikes. That was freedom to me, riding along in the gathering dusk, the cool wind tangling my long hair. The songs of the summer insects and the distintive rumble of the motorcycle as it sped down the road invited my soul to soar. 

Father's Day Memories
In fact, I strongly connect motorcycles with my father. He always had one…or two or three…as far back as I can remember. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of sitting as a toddler in front of my young dad on a Harley Davidson as he slowly cruised up and down the street, giving me a ride. Toward the end of his life, Dad favored a yellow Harley Davidson Fat Boy and finally, when he grew more frail, he rode a black Harley trike. 

That motorcycle connection carries sweet significance today. 

After my father passed away, my gracious stepmom invited my sisters and me to pick out shirts of my dad’s to keep. I don’t recall what Linda and Debbie chose, but I took home a shirt that my dad wore shortly before he passed…a Harley Davidson sleeveless tee. 

My dad fought a valiant two year battle with pancreatic cancer. When he drew his final breath he was a shadow of his former self, so the shirt I selected was small in size. I tucked it away in a drawer and never expected to wear it, as I knew it would not fit me. But it was Dad’s. The essence of who he was clung to that shirt like a fragrance. I was grateful to have it. 

Imagine my delight recently, nine months after adopting a plant based lifestyle, to try on the Harley Davidson shirt and discover that it now fit perfectly. It forged a stronger connection with my dad, to be able to wear his shirt. I knew then that when Father’s Day arrived this year, I would wear the sleeveless t shirt in honor of my motorcycle dad. 

And I have worn the shirt today, with a sense of joy and remembrance. With my jeans, black boots and the black t shirt, I look like a biker babe, or at least, a wanna be biker babe. I think I needed a doo rag to pull off the look! I have felt my dad near in spirit, exuding joy himself. Surrounding me throughout the day has been a deep abiding love, as real as the fabric of this shirt we have shared, a father’s compassion for his child…a daughter’s adoration of her father. 

Father's Day Memories
As I drove to my mom and stepdad’s house this afternoon, to join my sister in treating Walter to a father’s day lunch, I scanned the road around me. Since his death, my dad has sent a yellow motorcycle across my path each Father’s Day, as a way to let me know he is near, that death is not the end, that his soul is eternal. 

The street I normally use to get to my mom’s is closed for repairs. I was forced to drive another way. The pavement was wet, and the air cool, after hours of thunderstorms. Would anyone be out on a motorcycle today? As I drove I began to ask, “Where are you Dad? Where is the yellow motorcycle? Where are you?” 

I was almost to the turn off to Mom’s. I kept watching…asking…hoping. Suddenly, over the hill ahead popped a motorcycle, the only one I would see today, roaring toward me and then flying by. 

It was a yellow motorcycle. My iPhone lay forgotten on my lap. I didn’t get a pic. But I laughed and thanked my dad for his timely love note. And I recalled that one of my last memories of my dad involved a motorcycle as well. On his birthday in October of 2010, six and a half months after his death, my father’s ashes were released from the back of a motorcycle as it cruised over the hills of Eureka Springs, AR. Freedom was won for my dad as his soul soared. 

Happy Father’s Day Dad. I am wearing your shirt. I am thinking about you, remembering so many things. I am grateful to be your daughter. I love you! 

Father's Day Memories

Surrender 35: World Cancer Day

I was aware that today was World Cancer Day, however, I didn’t intend to write about it. I didn’t want to write about it. I hate cancer. I pushed the idea of doing anything or blogging about it away most of the day. And yet, the topic of cancer popped up over and over today, partly, I’m sure, because of the day of awareness. 

 

Although my family has not been as hard hit as many have by this disease, we have not been untouched. 

My sweet daddy passed away after a valiant two year battle with pancreatic cancer. That was almost six years ago. Greg’s brother Ray, my Grandma Mildred, my cousins Bill, Steven and Mindy, Uncle Dale…all succumbed to this disease as well. One of my clients, who is also my friend, just found out his young adult daughter has stage four glioblastoma. One does not have to look far to find someone affected by the ravages of cancer. 

 One of my favorite pictures of my dad, cuddling my daughter Adriel.  

I reluctantly looked up info this afternoon, about World Cancer Day, which launched in 2000 with the purpose of raising awareness about cancer, promoting research to cure and prevent the disease, and improving treatment. This year’s theme is “We can, I can”. 

Thankfully, there was good news from the American Cancer Society. There are 14.5 million people alive in the US who have or had cancer. And while individual cancer mortality rates vary, depending on the type, the five year survival rate for all US cancers diagnosed between 2005 – 2011 is 67%. That’s a 19 point increase since 1977. 

  
The bad news is that 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. The leading cancers are lung, breast, bowel and prostate. 

World Cancer Day wants to continue shrinking the burden of cancer, according to its website. In keeping with its theme, organizers have suggested certain goals. Collectively, they said “we can” inspire action, create healthy environments, build a quality workforce and shape policy change. They suggested “I can” understand that early detection saves lives, support others, return to work and make healthy lifestyle choices.

 

For me to take a “head in the sand” approach to cancer serves no one, helps no one. I at last realized that my reluctance to recognize this day was a way to pretend that the disease doesn’t exist. My resistance clued me in to the fact that I was taking myself out of the flow. I don’t want to do that, or pretend any longer. I checked in with my friend, asking about his daughter. I researched what’s going on in cancer research, discovering there are some promising treatments and possible cures being developed. 

And I found an awareness raising campaign, Talking Hands, in which this year’s motto is written on the palm and a photo taken. The pic is shared on social media with the hashtags, #WorldCancerDay and #WeCanICan. The photos will be collected on the worldcancerday.org site. I wrote on my palm with a purple marker, for my dad, because pancreatic cancer uses a purple awareness ribbon. 

  

ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said, “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.” 

My dad taught me the truth of this. My dad decided to live every day of his life, doing what he loved to do. Cancer didn’t win. Dad won. He also taught me that how you face death is as important as how you live your life. He faced his with courage and grace and even humor. And he loved us all through the experience, before he said goodbye. Thank you for such an amazing gift Dad. I love you. We can…I can…raise awareness…and beat cancer. 

  

Journey 271: Happy Birthday Greg

Today is Greg’s birthday, and we had this day’s journey planned out. We both cleared the day, work wise, and intended to drive to Arkansas, or Springfield, or perhaps even Tulsa, to spend the day doing whatever he wanted to do. There was sure to be a stop at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore…and a steak dinner at a good restaurant, or whatever type of celebratory meal he wanted. It was his special day….and I wanted to gift him with a day of fun. That’s the way it was supposed to go. The reality was, Greg became afflicted with a severe toothache over the weekend. The pain changed all his plans for Saturday and Sunday, and ultimately, changed today’s as well. He has an appointment at the dentist office in the morning, however today, rather than a road trip and fun, Greg’s birthday became one of resting and taking meds to relieve his throbbing jaw.

Gregs bd

One thing that Greg and I both have learned in recent years is to go with the flow. It wasn’t the day that I had planned, but it became the day that was meant to be. How do I know? It is the day we were given. Greg’s body was alerting him to an issue that needs to be taken care of. He listened. Rather than get frustrated by the turn of events, he made an appointment and settled in to let the meds do their work, which made him sleep most of the day. When he stirred this afternoon, I got him a meatloaf dinner from Cracker Barrel, instead of steak, and holding to a tradition that began with daughter Elissa, I got him a birthday treat. He opted for a Frosty Twist, from Wendy’s. Apparently, his tooth isn’t sensitive to cold, at least!

Gregs bd Elissa wedding

And as I have done with the other family birthdays this year, I’ve thought about Greg and his journey this past year. I’m recognizing a pattern here. Every year is significant. Every year has its joys and challenges and its opportunities for growth. That has certainly been true for this man as well. Since his last birthday, Greg has been present for two of his children as they married their sweethearts: Elissa married Josh last November and Nathanael and Megan wed in May. In December he was there as his youngest, Adriel, walked across the stage at Crowder College, to receive her nursing diploma. He stood before her, both of them with tears in their eyes, as I pinned the nurse’s pin to her white scrub top.

Gregs bd Nates wedding

Gregs bd Adriels graduation

Greg is a caring and compassionate dad, very present in the lives of his kids and grandkids. Although often preferring to be the quiet person in the back of the room, his presence is strong and the children look to their dad when they need that strength. When he speaks, they listen, not because they fear him, but because they love and respect him and find value in what he shares. He gives of himself to his family, so he’s there when repairs need to be made, and rooms painted, when grandson Dayan needs practice driving or there are grandchildren performing, receiving awards or playing sports.

Gregs bd Dayan drives

Greg extended that compassion and love to his dad, in the final months of his earthly journey. He had dreaded the loss of his aging father, the last member of his original family. And yet, when the time came, Greg stepped up in ways that he never would have imagined, caring for his dad, spending precious time with him, holding him when he was in pain and confused. He walked with his father until he couldn’t walk with him any farther, offering that quiet strength, and released him to go on, into eternity, when that time came. Greg spoke at his dad’s memorial service, something he never thought he could do, and the words were a beautiful tribute to a remarkable man, a father who surely heard those words and felt so proud of his son.

Gregs bd Dads service

Two years ago, while on a trip together in Eureka Springs, AR, Greg stopped to look at a motorcycle for sale, parked near the highway. As we drove away, leaving that particular bike behind, we discussed Greg’s desire for a motorcycle. He had one years ago, when I first met him. The past few years, he has talked about owning one again. As we drove, he shared what he wanted in a bike…the size, the build, the price….and what owning and riding a bike would mean to him. And then, he let go of the outcome, released his wish and stayed open to what would arrive. This past summer, making a spur of the moment phone call to a local motorcycle shop, Greg found his bike. It was exactly what he had described, two summers ago in AR, right down to the price.

Gregs bd motorcycle and Aubrey

It takes courage, I think, to climb back onto a motorcycle, after 40 years of not owning one. However, gathering that courage, and spurred on by the desire to ride, Greg began to bike again. For him, there is great freedom in hopping on his bike and taking off, no real destination in mind, just him and the bike and an open road. His joy is evident and those trips are fun, and good for his soul. And that is really what life is about….courage and freedom, and living from the heart’s desire….and not being in a hurry to reach a destination but finding joy in the journey. Happy birthday, Greg. When you feel better, we will go celebrate. Happy travels, as you head down the road on your bike, the wind behind you and endless possibilities before you. May joy accompany you.

Gregs bd Texas Roadhouse

Journey 172: Father’s Day and Poldark on First Day of Summer

What do Father’s Day 2015, the BBC series Poldark and the first day of summer all have in common? Not a thing…except that they all fell on today’s date of June 21 and they were all part of my lovely journey today.

summer fathers day poldark nate megan and aubrey

Father’s Day began with surprising my son, Nathanael (Nate to most people), by joining him, his wife Megan and daughter Aubrey at their church this morning. Nathanael’s lovely wife set this surprise up and it was fun to watch my handsome son’s face as their car pulled up next to ours in the church parking lot. I have a silver Toyota Camry. There are lots of cars like mine and Nathanael didn’t think anything of it when they pulled up alongside a silver car. It took a few moments before he saw his dad and I smiling at him from my car. I enjoyed sitting with my son and Megan, singing praise songs, listening to the associate pastor speak this morning. I am so proud of my son. He is a wonderful husband and father, son and brother, police officer and man. Watching him with his wife, seeing him spend time with Aubrey, Oliver and Joey, knowing how he works to serve and protect his community, fills me with joy.

summer fathers day poldark linda nicole and kids

After church, Nathanael, Megan and Aubrey followed us to Golden Corral where we joined my mom and stepdad Walter, sisters Linda and Debbie, niece Nicole and her children Weston and Lola, and Linda’s granddaughter London. Aubrey and London got to sit together and giggle and chat like the best friends/sisters/cousins that they consider themselves to be.

summer fathers day poldark dinner

summer fathers day poldark debbie

It was a lively and fun lunch, with lots of trips through the buffet line. (When you are helping children fill their plates, you really do go through often!) My stepdad is a quiet, wise man who stepped into a ready-made and growing family when he married my mom. I appreciate him and his good nature and giving heart. I am typing this blog and just realized that in the rush to get to the restaurant, I left my stepdad’s Father’s Day card in the car, where it remains! He will not be surprised.

summer fathers day poldark mom and walter

I thought of my dad often today. He stepped into eternity five years ago. I think of him every day, sometimes with a sense of disbelief still that I can’t pick up the phone and call him. I know he is near, just around the corner, just in another room, and that we will be reunited someday. I talk to him often, sense his presence. When I look at my son, I see the strong resemblance between grandfather and grandson, and it reminds me how very near my father is. He is, and will always be, my dad. I believe he is proud of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

dad e

To finish off this beautiful start to summer, this day when sunlight lingered the longest, I enjoyed watching the BBC series Poldark. I have been anticipating purchasing the DVD of this series, which completed its first season in the UK. I didn’t know until recently that the series was going to air in the US, starting tonight! I’ve been so excited. Aidan Turner, who recently portrayed Kili in The Hobbit trilogy, plays Ross Poldark.

summer fathers day poldark aiden turner

Set in the late 1700’s, in Cornwall, England, Poldark is the story of a young man who returns home from the American Revolution to a changed world. His father has died, his family and friends thought he was killed in the war, his home and properties are abandoned and crumbling into ruin, and the woman he thought he would wed, is engaged to marry his cousin. With nothing to lose, Ross Poldark, who is considered a rebel, rolls up his shirt sleeves, assembles a group of friends, tenants and house servants, and begins the huge task of restoring his property and providing for those under his care.

Poldark

Aidan Turner was amazing, as was the beautiful English countryside and the costuming. Like his fellow actor from The Hobbit, Richard Armitage, Turner has brooding down to an art and he is a joy to watch. I look forward to catching the next seven episodes on Sunday evenings.

What a wonderful day, this trio of special events that merged into one lovely journey. All changes of the seasons should be so perfect! Perhaps, if I view them as such, they all will be.

summer fathers day poldark

Journey 89: Pools of Reflection

Reflection pool

When my son Nate was unexpectedly called in to work today, I had the pleasure of picking up his daughter Aubrey from school. Normally this bright eyed girl is starving when she bounces into my car and we immediately head to one of her favorite restaurants. That was my plan for this afternoon.

Yet Aubrey decided it was a gorgeous day to go to the park. I agreed and was delighted to comply. I let her choose the park, and she picked Cunningham Park which contains lots of play areas for children, many places for quiet reflection, and memorials for victims and survivors of the May 22, 2011 tornado. There is also a wonderful area dedicated to the thousands of workers and volunteers who have helped Joplin to recover and heal.

Aubrey couldn’t have picked a better place to hang out. Today is the 5th anniversary of my father’s death. I’ve thought of him all day, with a mixture of sadness and joy, bright memories popping up at random. He fought such a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer, enduring surgeries and treatments, both traditional and experimental. In the end, the cancer won. But it only claimed his body. His spirit never faltered, his love and joy never waned. My dad not only taught me valuable lessons about life, he taught me about living with hope and humor while walking through the shadow of death, and about dying with grace and dignity.

dad e

Mingled with the memories of my dad today, were memories of my cousin Mindy, who passed in January at way too tender an age. She was so fond of my dad, and he of her. When she was fighting her first battle with cancer, she surprised my dad, who shaved his head for years, by whisking off her wig to show that she was bald as well. The memory makes me laugh and cry, at the same time.

This past week, I’ve lost two more family members. My Aunt Annie passed last Thursday, my mom’s older sister, a fun, vibrant, family oriented woman. She was my dad’s sister-in-law for a time. I’m sure she’s found him in the Beyond to at least say hello! And just yesterday, my Uncle Dale stepped into eternity as well, a quiet but rock solid man who journeyed at the side of my dad’s sister, June, for more than 60 years. I can imagine the conversations my dad and uncle are having now. I’ll be traveling to back to back funerals this week.

Reflection memorial

Aubrey knew none of this, and yet with an awareness beyond her years, she was reflective as well today. She played at the park and we also spent time walking through the memorials, speaking of those who were lost May 22. She asked questions and made observations. She is very connected to the event of the tornado and the aftermath. She doesn’t show fear so much as curiosity and a sense of respect for the victims and their families.

At the Children’s Reflective Pool, we read the plaque dedicating the pretty pool with the spraying fountain to “the children of Joplin who would no longer play at the park”. She sat before the pool, lost in thought herself, while I watched her and felt gratitude for her old soul with its inherent wisdom. Instinctively, my granddaughter took me to the best place in Joplin today to allow my own thoughts to settle into treasured memories. The Reflective Pool provided a place to be soothed by beauty and a place to drop an ache that had gathered around my heart, even as Aubrey dropped tiny pebbles into the water. The ripples that spread out across the shimmering water reminded me that the lives of my loved ones are still rippling outward, touching others, inspiring others, ever flowing in waves of love and light. They have not ceased to exist; they exist in another plane, another realm. I sense their presence now and I will see them again. I can’t wait to tell my granddaughter more about them.

Reflection pool and Aubrey

Day 147: Restore Vintage Chairs

Image

Last year, as my sister Debbie and her family prepared to move into a new home, I was gifted with two old wooden chairs that my grandfather owned, and supposedly built. The chairs were wobbly and needed some repairs. Debbie had used them in her pool area, with plants plopped on the seats so no one would risk sitting on them. I was thrilled to receive them and had visions of them in my backyard garden.

Today, my first was to restore these two chairs, in the hopes of making them usable again rather than decorative. What a satisfying project it turned out to be! Greg supervised my work and stepped in a couple of times to show me how to use a tool. But for the most part, he allowed me to do the work. Like many people, I can competently use a hammer and screw driver. But when it comes to using power tools, or a hand saw, I’ve gladly stepped aside to allow someone else, anyone else, to use those more intimidating tools.

I started by assessing the chairs and determining what needed to be done, with Greg’s help. Both chairs had been repaired in the past, and we smiled over some of those repairs. There were many small tacks to remove and on the lighter colored chair, at least 6 layers of fabric on the seat, all rotted. The lighter chair also had missing dowel rods in the back and some cracked and split pieces that needed glued, repaired or replaced. Looking it over,  I didn’t think it could be made usable. That was okay. It could be a decorative chair in the garden and hold a pot of flowers. The red chair was in much better condition although it needed tightening up and minor repair work. I was confident this chair could be usable again.

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The chairs had the same frame style, but the seats and backs were very different. Whether they were always that way, or whether multiple repairs had gradually changed their appearances, I didn’t know. My paternal grandfather died when I was 5 years old. I have warm memories of sitting on his lap and tipping my head back to watch him laugh and talk. I’d reach up to touch the stubble that always seemed present on his chin. He loved to make things and tinker with cars and I enjoyed playing in his large workshop, my imagination running wild as I poked through containers of nails, bolts and assorted gadgets. We called him Poopaw. The day he passed away, Poopaw had a premonition of his impending death, and visited all his children and grandchildren, either in person or by phone. Shortly after his round of visits was completed, he had a massive heart attack and died.

My father passed away 4 years ago after fighting valiantly against pancreatic cancer. I can’t ask him questions either about the chairs. I can only preserve them and enjoy them. I think Dad and Poopaw would be surprised and delighted that I did most of the restoration myself. Today I used a hammer and a pry bar, which were no biggies. But I also learned to use a hand saw, bar clamps and wood glue, a compressor and nail gun, and a speed square. The compressor and nail gun, noisy but very efficient, has always scared me! The thought of putting a nail through my own hand has caused me to avoid it. I did great though.

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The red chair simply needed reinforcement with wood glue and a few nails. It became very sturdy and usable again quickly. I like the chippy paint and the uneven boards across the back and the seat. The lighter colored chair was more challenging. I put new dowel rods in the back, and glued cracked and broken sections and then reinforced those areas with nails. After removing layer after layer of material from the seat, I had a clean frame but no seat to sit upon. I went looking for inspiration and found it in my own backyard. Lath work that had been removed from the upstairs after the tornado was piled on the picnic table. Greg had saved it for making birdhouses. Looking at it, I knew I’d found the perfect material for the chair seat. It was even faded to a nice gray tone, which matched the chair. I sawed those narrow boards to the correct length and attached them to the framework.  I was thrilled with the results. The chair that I thought was beyond repair became sturdy and ready for use.

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Both chairs are now in my meditation area. I don’t want to paint them. I don’t want to make them look like new again. I appreciate the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi…beauty in imperfection.  The chippy paint, the uneven boards, the faded glory, even the repairs present a beauty and grace of their own. My grandfather loved these chairs. My dad loved them as well. My sister loved them and cared for them and passed them on to me.  I love these chairs. They have a new home in my garden and I will enjoy using them. And perhaps, occasionally, I’ll feel the warmth of my grandfather’s or father’s smile, and know they are near and pleased to see that the chairs are still being cherished.

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