Missing My Aunt

When I got the news that Aunt Peggy was in hospice care, I immediately cried in advance of her death (3 days later). Then I prayed. Then I reminisced.

I cried because I’m going to miss her consistent encouragement and prayers for me and my family. I cried for her husband and children, grand- and great-grand children, for the sorrow they feel over missing her daily presence. I cried for my mom, the only one left in her immediate family, for losing her beloved sister.

I prayed intercession for my uncle and my cousins and Mom, for comfort for them as they miss talking to her. I prayed thanksgiving for my aunt, for the celebrating she was doing with Jesus as He welcomed her home. That she was no longer in discomfort or pain.

After I was done crying and praying, I began reminiscing. I couldn’t sleep for all the memories.

I remember being five years old and telling Aunt Peggy how I loved that she was named after me; the world revolves around a child!

I remember visiting our cousins, and my uncle and aunt taking us all out for ice cream – in our pajamas!

I recall getting in trouble with Aunt Peggy, when she caught me wearing the Barbie Head makeup. (I especially remember the blue eyeshadow!) I told her my mom didn’t mind – and she busted me for lying.

I remember swimming in their kidney-shaped pool. And putting on dance shows for the grownups. And learning to play billiards. And her little schnauzers.

I regularly dream about my aunt and uncle and cousins, and all the special times we shared. Is that weird? I think I dream of them so often because I love them so much.

Aunt Peggy was an amazing encourager. She always read my blog posts, and often told me to keep writing, told me I had a story to share to help others. She regularly prayed for me and my family – I knew we were being lifted in prayer. She gave me the example to pray consistently for my own nieces and nephews.

I know she is with her Lord and Savior, and she has no more pain nor sorrow. And for those of us left behind, we only grieve for ourselves and missing her, for we know just a glimpse of the joy she has from being in heaven. And we know we’ll see her again, when we all join her in eternity with God.

Papa Chuck

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandfather lately – my mom’s dad. I won’t go into all the reasons why he’s on my mind, but I think I may be grieving his death. Seems a little strange, since he died over 40 years ago, when I was 12. Even so, I find myself thinking about him, and wishing he was still in my life.

There have been milestones when I really missed him. Like when I presented at the High School State Optimist Club Speech Competition – I took second place. And when I got married – I think he really would have loved my husband. And when my daughter, and later my son, were born – I wish he could have met them.

He was a big man, with a booming voice and even bigger laugh. He adored my grandmother – we called her DeeDee. One time, when I got to visit my grandparents for the week, I watched him twirl her around the floor at their Arthur Murray Ballroom Dance class. They looked so magical and light on their feet; he held her regally.

He was gentle – I remember him petting his adorable new German Shepherd puppy, Noble; later, I recall the firmness with which he trained that dog – firm yet kind. And when I cried all the way home from a visit to their house, he talked to me on the phone and calmed my tears.

He was wise. Every opportunity was a teachable moment, from raking leaves at the lake to eating in the cafeteria. One lunchtime, he let me choose where to sit, and I picked the front of the restaurant instead of the back tables where we usually ate. So mealtime became a lesson in dining room table etiquette – we needed to be on our best behavior if we were going to sit where people could watch us! On another occasion, I remember leaning on a cabinet display when I went with him to the store, and he pulled me back a bit to show me the fingerprint mess I had made on the glass. I think if he’d had Windex with him, I’d have been cleaning off the smudges!

He was a preacher before I knew him. (By the time I recall him working, he had left the pulpit and was a big-wig at a major employer in his hometown.) He loved the Lord, as did my grandmother. Together, they left a beautiful legacy of faith in Christ through their daughters and us grandchildren and the generations following.

He loved to read, and his floor-to-ceiling bookshelf was packed with all kinds of literature. I remember when he took an interest in bonsai trees; I got one from my son for my birthday last year, and I think of Papa pruning his tree every time I water mine. I seem to think his was greener and bigger than mine is.

For that matter, I recall him as “larger than life.” It may be that it’s just from the perspective of a young grandchild, but I remember him as big and generous and kind and loving and firm and gentle, all at the same time.

I know I’ll see him again someday, in heaven. Until then, I’ll remember these moments and many other special times. I’ll try to be the grown woman he would have been proud of. And I’ll sit anywhere in the restaurant, because he taught me which fork to use first!

The Church’s Rooms

Lately I’ve been thinking about floor plans. Old ones, like from my childhood. I’m picturing our house from my early years, my old church, my grandparents’ Lake house. I’m drawing them in my mind, and imagining the flooring, the room locations, the wall colors. These are a kid’s memories, so I don’t know about the accuracy of them, but I do know the magical recollections in my head.

I woke the other morning thinking about the layout of Macedonia Christian Church. I grew up there –  we were at church all the time in my early years – Sunday mornings and evenings and mid-week evening services. Add to that Vacation Bible School and church revivals – we spent hours there. My folks were very actively involved in Children’s Ministries, so there were even extra hours for them to prep, and that meant that my sister and I often had run (i.e., without adult supervision) of the building to play and explore.

My favorite part was the old section of the basement. The ground floor of the Sunday School hallway was uneven and slanted – it felt like the cement had simply been poured over the ground below, without any leveling involved. The five or six classrooms were paneled, so very little light came into the hallway, and it was fun to run through the hall in the dark or play hide-and-seek.

Up the stairs at one end took me outside to under the covered driveway, and another half flight went up to a hallway with a large room used for Sunday worship for the youth group and other gatherings. There was also the Pastor’s office, the church library, bathrooms, and the nursery area. Then a short hallway with coat racks went from there to the narthex and the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary seemed huge with lots of long wooden pews, the two side aisles and one center aisle all leading to the front of the church where the worship leader led singing and where the preacher spoke from behind a podium.  Below the podium, still on the main floor with the pews, was a large heavy wooden table with a chair on each side – green upholstery, I think. The table was carved with “Do This In Remembrance of Me” along the front edge. This was where the communion trays were brought and from where it was distributed. There was a door on either side of this center space at the front of the side aisles, one leading to stairs to the basement of the church, one leading to two tiny rooms off the baptistery. The organ sat on one side of the front of the church, and the piano was on the other. Behind the communion table and along the raised platform was a small railing to guard the edge. The podium was centered on the stage behind the communion table – it had a small microphone attached to it. Behind the podium was a little space, then the choir seats. Behind that was the baptistery.

There were two rooms at the back of the sanctuary. One was set up as the “overflow” room and the other was sometimes seating and sometimes the folding door was pulled so it could be a classroom.

There were two sets of stairs from the narthex to the outside. One went down to the front of the church, and the other went to the side parking lot. All the way down those stairs was the hallway – to the right was the old basement hallway again, and left took me into the Fellowship Hall – a large room that was full of tables and lots of food on Sunday pot-luck days, with the kitchen to the back. More classrooms lined this area, and there were the bathrooms, a tiny elevator, and the drinking fountain that smelled and tasted funny because it was well-water. The back stairs were mostly off limits – they went up to the door by the side of the sanctuary platform – a big no-no when my sister and I were running around!

I have lots of memories of the different rooms at Macedonia for all kinds of different reasons: Sunday Schooling, helping in the nursery, putting together communion trays and washing them all at the end of a service. Visits every Sunday to the library. Walking into the tiny baptistery room on a Wednesday night to get ready for my dunking after I had told the church that Jesus is my Savior and Friend forever. Hours in the large community room for Junior High Worship or Vacation Bible School evenings. Running in the hallways. Playing in the churchyard. A very good place to grow up. Indeed.

Lake House Floor Plans

Lately I’ve been thinking about floor plans. Old ones, like from my childhood. I’m picturing the house from my early years, my old church, my grandparents’ Lake house. I’m drawing them in my mind, and imagining the flooring, the room locations, the wall colors. These are a kid’s memories, so I don’t know about the accuracy of them, but I do know the magical recollections in my head.

One of my favorite places to think of is my grandparents’ house at the Lake. I enter the house from the car port – up a few stairs to the door. The covered parking had some cobwebs in it – such is the nature of living at the Lake. I remember sweeping the car port, and raking leaves out in the front yard and down the long driveway. My mom was swatting a wasp from my shoulder with her broom – that didn’t go so well!  I also remember swimming in the lake – pretending with my sister about the fancy house on the other side. I can still feel the spot where sand became muck, and we couldn’t put our feet down without the squishy feeling on our toes. And neither of us wanting to leave the Lake to go up to the house to the bathroom, so trying to convince each other to pee in the water. I confess I did, even though I told her I did, then told her I didn’t. Funny memories.

The door from the car port opens into a carpeted “hallway” – not with walls, but with a long built-in coat closet that blocked off vision into the rest of the house. Just to the right and up the few carpeted steps to the formal dining room – such a beautiful space. There’s a polished silver set near the long dining room table.  I walk to the left of this “hallway” and enter the formal living room –  a large room with a fireplace, tall ceilings and a big window that looked out onto the lake. My favorite way into the living room was to step down from the dining area into the beautiful room. I always felt like a princess, entering from above into the expanse below, with the thick carpet and white couches and shiny candlesticks. Fancy memories.

Back up at the dining room level, if I walk straight through, I’ll see the small hallway to the right that takes me to two bedrooms – the master bedroom with a large bathroom, and a guest room. There’s a guest bathroom on the way. Papa’s dressing room was just to the left, and his changing valet was visible from the doorway. How cool was that? A funky chair to hold his clothes. I think there was an electric shoe polisher in the room too – push the button and the red and blue fibers swish quickly and presto! shiny shoes! Nostalgic memories.

I keep walking past the hallway and find myself in the long galley-style kitchen. I guess pantries lined the right side, because all the counter and sink space was on the left – looking out the many windows onto the beautiful green space and lake. When the stray cat in the bushes bit me, this sink is where my mom and grandpa treated the wound, with Papa sucking the potential poison from the spot in my hand. Scary memories.

A little jog around a bump out, and there’s the eat-in informal dining nook, with the laundry room and door to the backyard behind me. I remember meals at this table – delicious food that DeeDee made, and petting Noble the German Shepherd puppy in the laundry room. I know we went out the back door to the woods  – there was a large woodpile, and lots of trees. Sweet memories.

I walk through the nook – I think there was a sitting area with a door out the front of the house, and then through another doorway that opened into the library/TV room – a big white space with books on a wall, a big leather couch and chairs – plenty of room for the grandkids to gather and watch, though we weren’t all visiting at the same time very often. Definitely after Papa’s funeral. There were so many books on the wall – I marveled that Papa had read each of them. How did he have the time?  Maybe over the course of his lifetime. Sad memories.

What a beautiful home. Such lovely thoughts. Family memories.



My Daddy

I hung up the phone, having enjoyed our call immensely. I teared up as I prayed, “Thank You, God, for my Daddy.”

I call my folks every week. Typically on Tuesday afternoons, but sometimes I have to reschedule. My folks are great about that when it happens. And I mean schedule – as in: on the calendar for a particular date and time. Yes, I schedule my calls to home.

Honestly, I have to or otherwise I would forget to call. At least, that was true when my kids were younger. I could get so busy with them and all their stuff that I would forget to call for a couple of weeks. So Mom and I got in the habit of putting it “on the schedule for next week.” Good habit.

Sometimes when I call, Dad answers the phone and I get to talk to Dad, too. Sometimes I just chat with Mom.

So I had already talked to Mom this week. But I wanted to call Thursday morning and share an answer to a prayer request that I knew they were covering in their morning together-prayer time. And I knew that it might be too late to share this news with Mom; I couldn’t remember what time her Thursday commitments start.

I was pleased when Dad answered – he had just returned from dropping her off at church. I was just going to share the prayer request and hang up, but we easily started chatting about …stuff. Mom’s ministry, Dad’s studies, writing and blogging. We talked about some things we did when I was a kid. It was a great chat.

After I hung up, I let memonies of younger days come:

How I loved Saturday mornings when he would run errands – such fun to get to go with him! Especially if we stopped at his office. The old green tile steps and industrial hand railing, the smell of paper, the black spinning desk chair. I felt so small at his really big metal desk, piled high with papers and fliers and books. There were lined yellow pads, his large cursive/print handwriting revealed on the open pad in the center of the ink-blotter. I think he had a glass plate across the desktop with notes “permanently” attached under the glass. I’m not sure about that, though. If it was there, it was hard to see under the piles of books and papers, the black rotary phone, the in-boxes. He was always researching or writing or researching for writing. At least, that’s what I thought he did. In my limited understanding, he wrote a newsletter, I called it a newspaper, for his company’s employees. I’m still not sure how that meant he got to be the guy in charge at the park activities – a kid’s memories you know.

I remember playing silly word games at the dinner table. We used to beg him to “be funny.” He told good jokes – still does (sometimes the same ones!) I remember when he ate the stuffed green peppers because we kids had never tasted such a thing. (I haven’t made those in ages, but they are so yummy – maybe for lunch this weekend.) I remember how he was always the first one dressed on Sunday morning, sitting on the couch in the living room, staying out of the way of his three girls getting ready! I remember good advice he gave to me as a new bride, jealous of my husband’s salary. I remember his delight when Santa brought him a mountain bike for Christmas, and the year he got his long longed-for jean jacket – a present from Mom when he was in his late 40s.

Daddy doesn’t know a stranger. He has this amazing gift of putting people – anyone – at ease. He’s got a great smile that makes his eyes twinkle – really! – and a laugh that bubbles up from deep inside him and makes me laugh along. It’s attractive to people he meets – he draws them in.

I remember one time when he and Mom were visiting, and the three of us decided to explore the historic downtown shops. I was a beginning knitter, so Mom and I wanted to check out the yarn store.  We walked in, Dad staying near the front of the tiny shop. Mom and I wandered to the back, picking up skeins. We were admiring the colors and displays and chatting about her knitting project and my beginner’s efforts. And then we were done – it wasn’t a large store! So we waited by the front display as Dad wrapped up his conversation with the shop owner. Only he didn’t.  Mom and I lingered, but the guy and Dad were laughing, Dad listening intently, head bent down a bit, ear tilted toward the right where the man was standing. We waited for several minutes, but the conversation was not even close to ending. Finally, Mom and I told Dad we were headed next door. It was three stores later before Dad caught up – he and the shop owner had been talking the whole time. I think they were swapping golf stories!

Dad is a servant-leader. He’s not afraid to do a job that needs doing. He helps clean the church on Fridays for the weekend, though when I was growing up, cleaning was the girls’ job. He is a retired professor – still a Sunday school and Bible teacher – who only wants his students to learn. He is a man of integrity – there is no question that he walks out his faith in Christ. He’s humble, too – always quick to sing another’s praises, not his own.

He shows me God’s character of grace. He is gentle in his guidance, and it’s clear that he loves Jesus, and continues to grow to be more like Him. Dad and Mom aren’t quitting their journey of growth in the Christian life as they age. Quite the opposite. Dad is like Caleb in the Old Testament – he longs to finish strong in the Lord (Joshua 14:6-15).

I want to do that, too. Thanks, Dad, for showing me how. Love you.