So Many Deaths…

Just thinking

Carol’s mom. Betty’s mom. Mary Jo’s mom. Gary. Anne’s mom. Marilynn’s mom. Mrs. Forsythe. Marti’s brother in law. The list goes on but these are the most recent. These are people who have recently died with whom I had a connection. I never met some of them; I only knew their daughters in high school, and reconnected via FaceBook. Yet I grieved for them. Perhaps it is because I know that a similar occurance is waiting for me sometime. I am blessed to have my two parents still, and I hope to have them for many more years. Yet I know that time is tenuous and fragile.

One of the people on the list above was my grade school teacher. She was so vibrant and energetic, and in a way, she inspired me to become a teacher. I remember so well how she played the lap-harp, and one day in the future, I finally got one myself. I remember how she didn’t let me weasel out of learning the times-tables. She explained that it was a faster way of adding. I wasn’t really interested in a faster way, thank you anyway. It was good enough for me to just add, and use my fingers if necessary. Just get the numbers over with so that I could get back to reading my book. But she didn’t let me get away with my sloppy thinking. And she even teased my curiousity by showing me all the things that were unique about the 9’s: 9×2 was 18, but 9×9 was 81. And it continued with all the 9’s: they were like mirror images. Boring numbers became a little more fun. She institued trading days, where we could bring things to school and try to trade them with others. Talk about a great economics lesson. She threw herself a birthday party every year, and every year, I got sick and missed school on her birthday. I was willing to go to school with a raging fever and hacking cough, just to go to her birthday party, but no….. I looked into the coffin at the funeral home. She seemed so tiny, and I had remembered her as so big. Rest in Peace, Mrs. Forsythe. You had a profound impact on who I became.

It was a different story with Gary. He was the first boy to whom I ever lost my heart. There had been the crushes before hand, and this was probably just a crush, too. But it was important in a different way. Every girl should have a first love who treats her like a queen, and sets the bar high. That was Gary. I had no way of knowing at that time that our sweet innocent love was setting the foundation of my wonderful permanent love with my husband. Because I was treated with such respect and care by a first boyfriend, I held that as a right with subsequent boyfriends. My last boyfriend, the man I married, is a wonderful husband, who treats me like a queen. Thanks, Gary, for setting the pattern that I came to expect. When I looked into his casket at the funeral home, I did not recognize him. The last time I had seen him was the night before the Hubs and I married. He came by the church, just to say that he saw the wedding announcement in the paper and wanted to wish us well. That was over 3 decades ago, and people change. Rest in Peace, Gary. You had a profound impact on my marriage.

Anne’s mother was a classy lady who always greeted me with such friendliness. I didn’t see her often, but she had a way of making me feel as if I was important. I went to her funeral at the little country church where I had attended as I grew up. The sign in front of the church said that it was established in 1861. When I attended there, it was a one room country church at a gravel crossroads. There was a small cool basement under it, and an outhouse behind it. I remember the windows open in the summer, and the pasteboard fan on lollipop sticks from the local funeral home stuck in the racks along with the hymnals. Now there is an indoor restoom, and a window air conditioner. Nonetheless, I was immediately back in the 1950s as soon as I opened the church door and stepped inside. The wide floorboards still creaked when stepped on in certain places. The same little pews were still lined up with the double aisle. The same organ, pulpit and piano still were in the very same spots. But it was Anne’s mother who was in the casket at the front of the church, and that was the different part. I moved to the front and stared at her. She looked so little, so fragile, not like the strong woman I remembered. Anne came by my side and we hugged. She thanked me for coming to the funeral. I took a seat and listened to the pianist play the old hymns of my childhood. A few words… and then it was over. The ladies of the church had set up a small meal in the basement; would I please attend? I studied their faces and realized that I had known them from decades back. We all re-introduced ourselves. Once again, I was being treated with such friendliness in that little country church. Rest in Peace, Anne’s mom. Your gentle gift of friendliness has left an impact on my life.

I’ve always known that death is part of the cycle of life. Being a farm girl who saw calves and lambs born and who saw the same die taught me that lesson well. And over the years, I knew that my great aunts and uncles, and my grandparents, and my elderly neighbors would die. It was the way of life. But now I am older, and the deaths are getting too close to my generation. It’s harder to be accepting.

Father, I know Your plan of life includes death. I thank You for putting each of these people into my life and for the gift of their lives. Teach me Your ways, that I may accept Your will with grace and dignity. Teach me to live so that my life will also have an impact on others. Amen.

To God be the Glory….

Published in: on February 20, 2011 at 1:51 am  Leave a Comment  

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