Mom and Her Hands

Just thinking…..


I contemplate my mother’s hands. She is dying….. minutes to eternity.  And yet, these hands hold mine, and give a slight move….. do I dare think it is a squeeze?

These hands held and carried me, spanked me, hugged and squeezed me, rubbed my back, wiped my tears. These hands combed the snarls out of my hair, and clasped in prayer. These hands made beds, cooked meals, washed clothes, weeded gardens, gathered eggs, slopped pigs, milked cows. These hands drove a car, played piano, wrote letters. These hands waved hello…waved goodby. These hands caressed my father’s arm as he was dying, and grasped her walker when she visited his grave. These hands signed her name in her Bible, and made hush-signs to her children when we were too loud. These hands created crafts, sewed on buttons, frosted cookies, decorated trees, played rummy cube, arranged flowers. When did her hands become so wrinkled and bruised? And what does it mean that my hands are looking like her hands? Towards the end, my mother could not talk, could not see, could not hear. But she could squeeze my hand.


Mom’s hands became so swollen and bruised as she aged…. the skin became so thin.


She liked for me to polish her nails.  Most of the time she wanted clear polish or a very light pink.  One time when I polished her nails, she thought that I put on a too-dark color. But she later said she thought they were nice, and waved her fingers about so that others would notice.  I would trim her nails, soak her fingers and clean the nails.  I would gently massage lotion into her hands and arms, careful not to hurt her.

My hand… over hers…. and my hand is now looking like the old hand.

After my mother took her last breath, the hospice workers asked us to leave the room for a few minutes while they arranged and cleaned her body.  When they ushered us back into the room, Mom’s hands were placed like this, with a fresh violet-colored flower in her hands.  I was so touched by their compassion.


The final repose….. Mom’s hands in the casket. No more bruising. The make up artist did a nice job, but I just keep thinking that her perfect heavenly body will have hands even better than this!  I miss my mother’s hands.  I miss the love they expressed with the many tasks she did and gestures she gave.  Now I contemplate my own hands.  Will someone…. someday…. hold my hands during my last breath, and remember me with love?

Father,  I praise You and thank You for the hands of my mother.  What joy to think that even now her beautiful hands are lifted in praise to You!  Make me worthy….. and help me use my hands in such a worthy way.  Amen.

To God be the Glory,


Published in: on April 19, 2018 at 3:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Harvest: A Mystery of Sacrifice and Life

Just thinking…….

What do Willie Loman, Iowa corn and Jesus have in common? Read on….

October.  It’s harvest time here in southern Iowa.  Because of greater than average rainfall this summer, the harvest promises to be bountiful.    As I drive out of town, clouds of dust show where the farmers are working.


Great machines roll through the fields and huge trucks carry away the grain.  This picture was taken of the harvest on the flat prairie fields in our area, where the corn meets the horizon miles away.


(Photo by Brenda Burkhiser Jeffers)

The concept of harvest is ancient.  Early civilizations knew the importance of planting and harvesting in order to live.  For centuries, it was painstaking work by hand or with animals.  Even today, the crops are harvested this way by the Amish in our area.

th-10    th-4

While modern machinery is huge, it was not long ago that harvesting machinery was relatively modest and not very technical.

th    th-7

But whether large or small, or ancient or new, the harvest must go on.  It is essential in this circle of life.

My father was a farmer.  His farm was small and hilly.  He worked with small old machinery.  But in the end, he did what farmers have done in the past….. bring in the harvest….. and what farmers do today…… bring in the harvest.

After the spring planting, and as the summer months go by, the farmer eyes the skies, prays for the right amount of rain at the right time, hopes the markets stay steady, readies his machinery and tools, and prepares the trucks, bins and barns.  He chops the weeds that choke out the good grain.  He holds his breath as storm clouds gather in the west.  And then at just the right time, the tractors, combines and corn pickers head out to the fields.

My father would harvest well into the night.  We would take sandwiches and mason jars of water out to the fields for him.   There was a narrow window of time between rains where he could safely harvest .  I remember times when it rained too much, turning the fields into mud pits.  And Dad had to wait until the ground froze to finish the harvest.


Despite  growing up on a farm and knowing the drama of the farm, I did not become a farmer.  I became a teacher, instructing my students in literature, composition, speech, theater, and journalism.  It was a different kind of drama.   One of my favorite pieces to discuss with my students was Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.    Willie Loman was tragic, and as a farmer’s daughter, I could see some aspects of Willie’s actions that my city students could not see.

Corn.   How did it go from this  th-9

to this corn sprout

to this  cornplant

to this  th-8

to this  th-5.

None of it could happen if the kernel did not die.  The kernel had to be put into the dark soil, with the right amount of heat and moisture, and then the kernel died.   Out of that death, came the sprout that developed into the stalk of corn.

Willie Loman understood this cycle of life.  He had spent his life in failure: failure as a father, failure as a faithful husband, and failure as a salesman.  His past was painful, his present was fragile and he could not see a future.  In his horribly distorted reasoning, he decided to plant a garden.  It is dark, and he traces rows in the small yard which receives little sunlight.  He drops in the seeds, mumbling to himself about giving his sons another chance.  In a few minutes, Willie will leave home and have a deliberate car accident.  He dies, like the seed.  His damaged mind  had begun to equate the seed, dying in order to bring new life,  with his death, which he believed would bring new life to his no-good sons.willieloman

Willie had an idea of this circle of life, but he left out one very important part:  his life insurance.   He did not pay his premium.   And so his sacrifice of himself came to nothing.  There would be no life insurance to give his sons a new start in life.  There would be no harvest.


Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!.”  (John 4:35)

I don’t know what grain Jesus might have been referring to in this verse.  th-6  Here in Iowa, whether it is corn, wheat, or beans, the plants get lighter and lighter as the harvest approaches.  The fields are no longer green.  But Jesus was not referring to plants; he was referring to a world filled with people who needed to know about Him.  Look!  There they are!  Go and harvest!

I’ve been going in a few different directions with this concept of harvest.

 Let me try to tie the strands together.  

1.  When the kernel of corn dies, there is a sacrifice of form.  The corn no longer is the intact kernel.  But the result of that sacrifice (the harvest) cannot occur without the preparation and wisdom of the farmer.  And even there, the farmer must make his own sacrifices of time and labor in order to bring in the crop.

2.  When Willie Loman died, there was a sacrifice of life.  His body and soul were no longer intact.  But the desired harvest of that sacrifice would not happen because Willie had not prepared with wisdom concerning his life insurance.

3.  When Christ died on the cross, there was a sacrifice of Himself for the sins of the world.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16).   The fields of humans are ready for His message of life.  But that complete harvest won’t happen without the preparation of believers to share Christ’s message.  And  yes, it calls for sacrifice on the part of believers:  sacrifice of money, time, and labor.

Harvest.  Life.  Sacrifice.  It’s all one.   The sacrifice of one seed to bring forth many seeds, which will continue to nurture life.  The sacrifice of One who was both God and man,  to bring forth many people into eternal life.


O Father…..   Let me not be a Willie Loman, understanding some aspects of life, but not grasping the part that would give meaning to his sacrifice.  Let me not be a Willie Loman, operating in darkness and not in light.  Let me not be a Willie Loman, who lacked wisdom and preparation for the harvest he desired.  Father, equip me with Your wisdom.  Give me courage to go to the harvest, and not let Christ’s death be for nothing.  

To God Be The Glory…..


An Eulogy For My Father

Just Thinking…..

I am a retired speech teacher. One of the speech assignments my students did every year was give an eulogy. The textbook presented the eulogy as a speech of identification and magnification. This special occasions type of speech was to pull people together and identify them as a group, and then was to magnify certain traits.

My students usually did well on this speech, but for some it was difficult. Some would choose to eulogize someone who was still alive, some chose a person who had died long ago, but some chose one whose death was still recent and raw in their emotional memory.

I felt somewhat like a hypocrite. I had never actually given an eulogy for real. Then I wrote one for my mother in law, and delivered it when she died. I tried to think of points like her love for nature, and for being frugal, and her many kindnesses. I quoted Robert Frost, her favorite poet. And it worked.

Then my father died two weeks ago. No one pressured me to give an eulogy, but I knew that I wanted to say some last words. I wanted to identify us all as family and friends. I wanted to magnify certain traits.

The speech was actually easier to write than I thought it would be. I liked the second draft, and it was within my self imposed two minute limit. I printed it and went to the church for the funeral.

But part way through the funeral ceremony, another thought came to me, and I did a quick revision. And then I gave the eulogy.



“Eleven Things You Might Not Know About My Father….

And Two Things You Have Known All Along.”

11 things you might not know about my dad:

1. When ordering at a restaurant, he would usually order the fish, and especially liked lutefisk.
2. He used to clip lilacs and pin them onto our dresses.
3. He graduated as salutatorian and wanted to become a math teacher.
4. He wanted to go to Peru on a mission trip.
5. He played the trombone.
6. He loved dogs, especially one named Tippy.
7. Our house was filled with books because he loved to read.
8. When he butchered a whole hog for pit bbq, he cooled the meat down in the bathtub.
9. He loved to make fried potatoes.
10. He knew that duct tape and baling wire fixed almost anything.
11. He wanted to marry my mother one year to the day after he returned to American soil from being in WW2. And the ferns at the front of the church were actually ferns that were a part of their wedding!

2 things you probably have known about my dad all along: graciousness and grace.

1. He taught us graciousness. When you came to the door, he would invite you in by saying, “Come on in and make yourself homely.” When you left, he would say, “Take your time a going, but hurry back.” And he would walk you to the car, poke his head through the opened window to say goodbye, and then stand, waving, as you drove up the lane. Their home was always filled with company: family, friends, neighbors. Dad made sure we practiced hospitality, treated others with respect, and minded our manners. Learning graciousness from my dad insured us of a smoother life with our fellow man.

2. He taught us grace. While graciousness secured relationships with others, grace secured our relationship with God. He taught us about God’s grace in both word and deed. We saw Dad read his Bible. We all went to church as a family. This was not a once in a while thing just in case nothing better came along. Worship was real to Dad. He sang, sometimes loudly and off key, about grace. And we saw it in action as he forgave us for our misdeeds, just as God had forgiven him. Learning grace from my dad insured us that we would understand God better.

I was indeed blessed.

Father, Thank You for my dad. Thank You for the many years we had together; it is a precious gift. Amen

To God Be The Glory…..

For Ever and Ever….. ??

Just Thinking….

I was folding laundry in the bedroom this morning, when our neighbor came over to bring the city newspaper. He and his wife are so kind as to share the paper with us. We moved to this home about 2 1/2 years ago, very grateful to find this nice of a home here that we could afford. And it has been a blessing to have good neighbors who share with us, who stop to talk, who look after our home when we are away.

Anyway, the neighbor said that the obituary for the man who sold us this house was in the paper. The Hubs and I looked at each other in shock.

Flashback to 2 1/2 years ago: We had been coming to this city almost every weekend to look for a house. Our house had sold (although we had started looking before it sold), and we had a time constraint on finding a new home. Frankly, it was discouraging. Nice homes, like we were used to, were out of our price range, and what we could afford were old, rundown, leaky, moldy, had poor layouts, no garages, small rooms, not enough space, in a bad area of town, etc.

The real estate guy told us he had another place to show us: a place that actually had not even come on the market yet, but he had wind of it soon being up for sale. We went through the house and were immediately sold. It was an older home in an older neighborhood, but everything in the neighborhood and in this home were well taken care of. There were things that needed to be done to the home, but we could get around to those in due time. The roomy layout flowed nicely, and it was comfy…. homey.

The agent explained that the husband was a professional who had been downsized. The stress from that had provoked a heart attack. So they needed to move. We entered negotiations about the house, and met the owners. They were very nice folks and we could tell that they had taken pride in the home. The sale was completed, and we all moved.

But they didn’t move too far: just across the street! That gave us a little more opportunity to meet them and talk. And then a job opportunity came up, and they moved again. That was the last I saw them…

…until the picture today with the obituary. I stared at the picture, with an unfolded T-shirt in my hands. I willed it to look like the former owner, and there were traces of the man I remember. He was so young…. much younger than Hubs and I. And despite the heart attack, he had seemed so active and vital….. and alive.

Stenciled above our bed are words that the previous owners had placed: “For Ever and Ever.” I began wondering about when they stenciled it there. Did they think about how it might not be for ever and ever? Did they talk about how short life is? About counting their days? Did they cuddle right below this stencil, talking about their dreams of growing old together?

I was sitting in the family room tonight. It is bitterly cold outside and we have a fire burning in the fireplace. I remember the previous owners being proud of that fireplace, and Hubs and I have been oh so grateful for it. I wondered: Did the previous owner stare into the flames, thanking God for the beauty and warmth? I looked out the window to the backyard, the deck, the bird bath that they left here. Did he enjoy that view as much as we do? There is a little pantry door in the kitchen. Did he ever open it and grab a snack, like we do? Did he wander into the sunroom with a cup of coffee and enjoy the early morning, like I do? Did he ever linger by the front door, enjoying the lake view across the street, like we do?

I had a sudden urgent appreciation for this new home, and am sorry that I did not appreciate it as much as I should have when we moved here. My rhythms of life are being established here now; it feels like home. I’ve memorized the light switches, know the number of steps from the bed to the bathroom. I know what time the neighbor’s yard light comes on in the evening. I’m on speaking terms with the sump pump and its periodic groan.

When I am gone from here, will a new owner sit in the window seat and watch the maple tree sway lazily in the summer wind? Will the new owners be mesmerized by the fire? Will “For Ever and Ever” still be stenciled on the bedroom wall? Will they walk in the same rhythms?

Oh Father! Life is so short! I can’t help but pray for the wife tonight, who knows that for ever and ever is broken here on earth. Let her find Your comfort. Please give me awareness of life, the beauty of life, the shortness of life, the sacredness of life. Let me make the most of my days, for Your sake. Amen.

To God be the Glory…..

Published in: on February 11, 2012 at 6:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Stimulus? hahaha….. Got Another Joke?

Just thinking…….

Well, the House passed the stimulus bill. Where their brains have gone is anybody’s guess. Like most Americans, I am deeply concerned about the spending level of this monstrosity. But I’m even more concerned about the hidden aspects, namely the health insurance aspect. Parts of that are so blatantly anti-life that I gasp when thinking about the implications. Have you looked at this? It’s dangerous.

Frankly, this scares me silly. It’s scarier than anything you can think of for Friday the 13th. (and yes, this IS Friday the 13th) We have been on the slippery slope of lack of respect for human life for some time, and this is just the next dive. Each dive seems to de-sensitize us a little more to the respect of human life.

Seniors have a duty to die? Where will the wisdom that comes with age then come from? Who here will not someday be a senior? Who wants this to happen to their parents? What age will be the cut off where I am no longer considered important enough to live? 60? Then I have 2 months. 80? Then my parents should be done away with.

I have a real real real problem with trying to classify whose life is worth saving and whose is not. Life is precious and sacred. I don’t deem a mentally handicapped person, a preemie, or an elder as any less a person than me. Shades of futuristic sci-fi!!

Will I accept my own death with grace and dignity? Yes. But not at someone else’s whim and hands. I belong to a culture of life, not a culture of death!

Already insurance companies try to tell my doctor how to treat me. Now the government? I heard once that the scariest words in the world are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

Finally, I am livid at Congress for their lack of insight, wisdom and patience. There is no need to vote on a huge money spending package without carefully reading it. Yet Congress didn’t get the total bill until 11 pm last night and they had to vote today at 2 pm. KMOX radio in St. Louis interviewed our congressman this morning, and he said he didn’t intend to read the bill. HUH????? You should have heard the calls coming in from irrate citizens. And why do they have to vote this afternoon? Because Nancy Pelosi has plane tickets and is flying to Europe this evening………

I am so angry at this blatant disregard for American citizens. I despise being led by incompetents!! My wonderful America is turning into a nightmare much faster than I ever visualized.

Dear Lord, keep us safe from ourselves.

To God be the glory,

Published in: on February 13, 2009 at 10:48 pm  Comments (5)  
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