Farewell dad: July 20, 1925 – June 30, 2018

I had no idea what to expect. For once in my life, I had slowed down enough to really hear what was being said. “You need to come; sooner, rather than later.” It wasn’t convenient. I had just returned from a work trip, I didn’t want to leave again. But the words stuck, “you need to come now.” Within 48 hours of returning from Minnesota, I was on a plane headed for Florida. She had only said that he had been sleeping a lot more lately, and not eating much.

Dad was 92 years old. To be honest, over the last few years, I noticed him slowing down; the walker, the hearing loss. At the end of each of our last few visits (over a couple of years), I would wonder if it was the last visit. Truly hearing her words were a blessing, “You need to come now.” So, I went.

I had three days with him. Not knowing much about how this end of life stuff worked, I didn’t realize that these were three of his last seven days. He did sleep a lot. But when he was awake, we shared some extraordinary moments. We had conversations about spiritual matters, about my work and my son moving to college. There were times in our conversation when he, like many other times, was strong in his opinion. It was good to see the spark still come from a weakened 90-pound man. He was still in there. Months ago, his distinctive voice, that I pray never leaves my memory, diminished. His deep but friendly voice carried the spirit of what he believed in his heart.

Dad was kind-hearted and believed in helping where and when he could. He believed in getting a good education and being productive. He shared often that everyone has something to contribute. He had a big spirit, but a humble heart. I remember him telling me once, “if you have something you don’t need, but someone else does, you should give it to him. That thing isn’t doing you a bit of good but could make a difference to the next guy.” Dad was full of what he called his little “sermons.” While probably too many times in my life I didn’t listen, sometimes I did and would decide for myself if that was a belief I would adopt.

Sitting with him at his home in Florida, I saw a very big personality, active every day, taking interest in many things, fading. He had spent his years getting up every day and doing something. They would go visit friends, play golf, fish, play cards, rock hunt, yard sale, find something to do. In the course of that activity, there was always somebody to meet, or an adventure to be had. This, of course, led to dad having more stories to tell. “We met this fella…”

Dad always had a notebook of paper and a pen. He would be doodling or designing. His mind was moving, even when he was sitting. He left the writing to me, although during the years he lived in Saudi Arabia, he wrote some of the most wonderful letters.

During our recent visit, when he was quiet, I imagine his mind was still moving. He knew he wasn’t long for this world. His health had failed to the point of having hands too swollen to hold a pencil. His eyes could no longer see to peruse books or magazines. He shared that he no longer had a purpose.

Like so many other times in his life, dad didn’t realize that even in those last seven days, he had a purpose. Three of those days at least, his purpose was to slow his “middle daughter down” in order to connect one last time, to appreciate not in some naive way, her dad. For all of his imperfection, he was my dad, he brought me into this world. He loved me. Like many other parent/child relationships, we had seasons of distance. But those seasons have faded over the last 30 years, to come to the blessing of an adult relationship. One that allowed me to appreciate and love dad for who he was and what he brought to our relationship.

Sitting in his recliner that weighed twice what he did, his eyes were crystal blue. I sat close to save his voice from straining, and to ensure I could hear him. He recalled stories of years past with such detail that I didn’t even remember. Other times, he would just look straight into my eyes. We connected without words. He was my father. And he was fading from this world into the next. He was being called home. His effervescent spirit was calm, he had peace.

The morning I left, he really wanted to go to the airport. Selfishly, I didn’t think I could handle my good-bye to be at the Delta (#deltaairlines) curb. But if he wanted to, I would get over it and enjoy the ride to the airport. After getting dressed and a small breakfast, he decided to stay home. I have to wonder if he had the same thought I did about where our farewell would take place. We held hands and I looked into his eyes unable to say goodbye, I told him I would see him again. Our conversation of spiritual matters and the Bible assured me of that. The last two words dad said to me were whispered, “Love you.”

Thank you, dad, for your spirited example of living. May our lives honor that through continuing to be life-long learners, kind-hearted people, and productive citizens.

KK

#heaven

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Treasures of a mother’s heart

There is a tree with gifts. Cookies have been made and there is more baking to do. Hopefully we’ve made our last trip to the grocery for the year. Not having many little ones around, our trip to the toy aisle was fun but didn’t take long enough. A few clicks on Amazon and gifts for others were ordered. So this year is a little different.

The reflection of the year hovers but doesn’t shadow our holiday. On the contrary, there is much peace in my heart and in our home. There have been extraordinary moments recently that I have treasured more than gold.

A few weeks ago our family went downtown to the Palace theater to watch a Christmas classic movie, White Christmas. It was on the big screen just as it had been made for in a theater built before the movie was made with ornate antique design.

Last weekend, we finished decorating the tree and watched A Christmas Story. Each year when we travel, we purchase a Christmas tree ornament. So as we are decorating the tree, we share memories.

The other night, I came in from work pretty tired, but my son wanted to play a game. When your teenager suggests a family game night, you do it. My tiredness melted away as we rolled the dice and enjoyed the friendly competition of Yahtzee!

There are many other treasures a mother carries in her heart. Treasures not wrapped in a holiday season. Be encouraged to pay attention to those moments so they don’t escape. Capture them and hold them close.

Merry Christmas,

KK

Why do we keep watching?

When I want to veg-out on a Sunday afternoon, I can be found binge-watching the Hallmark Channel. The two-hour chick-flicks have pretty much the same format; pretty predictable. So why do we keep watching?

The stories are clean, warm and romantic. The families portrayed aren’t perfect. empty nestThe couples aren’t bed-hoping. They are following their heart. They are stories of the human condition of wanting to be connected. They demonstrate both old and new love. And the sweetness both can bring. We the viewers are swept into these perfect worlds of falling in love. We get lost in the story hoping she chooses the right guy (there are always two).

Why do we keep watching? My guess is that most of us get caught up the freshness of new romance – the first phone call, the first date, the first kiss. The butterflies when caller id flashes Mr. Wonderful’s name. The courtship of the new romance. Every date you learn something new about him. Every date is a new experience. We like new beginnings.

In our own lives, there is something wonderfully comfortable about a long-term relationship. He knows me and loves me even after the bumps in the road and seeing me at my very worst. But if we are intentional, we can still find those extraordinary moments of connection. Those times when we look at our sweetheart and feel that thrill of what made us fall in love the first time. It takes effort sometimes to keep things fresh; to breakout from the routine and try something new. In doing so we create our own Hallmark moments.

KK

 

 

Two Little Girls and their Mothers

Within 10 minutes one Saturday, I encountered two very different little girls. One little girl was with her mother in the middle of a parking lot. Their old car was stuffed full. They were not moving somewhere or going on vacation. Their car was clearly their home. They had no gasoline and were stuck. This little girl had short messy blonde hair and was wearing a dingy cotton dress. Her dirty feet donned flip flops. She was playing some kind of pretend with a laundry basket turned upside down with a towel over it like a table cloth.

I noticed the car and the woman when I pulled into the shopping center but didn’t go to see if they needed help until I was leaving. It was a bright sunny morning. They were parked out in the open so I felt it was safe to see about them. I pulled my car around and got out.

The scrappy little girl was playing, but when she saw me, she stopped and drew closer to her mother. Her mother wore shorts and a t-shirt that hung loosely to her extremely thin frame. The little girl relaxed a little when she saw I was friendly. Upon my inquiry, the mother didn’t over explain, she simply said they had run out of gas. She explained that it was hot and she felt dehydrated and just couldn’t walk the two blocks to get gas. I’m guessing money had a little something to do with it as well. She had a one gallon gas can sitting outside the driver’s door.

The longer she and I spoke, the more comfortable the little girl became and went about playing her pretend game with the basket. Noticing the dance studio logo on my t-shirt, the mother told me about how she was looking into dance classes for her daughter for the fall. Oh, the dreams we have for our children, even when starving and homeless.twirling-girl-mary-ward

I offered to go fill their can. She was very appreciative. Assuring her that I would be right back, I put the can in my car. The little girl didn’t like me taking their gas can. She started to reach for it. I guess when you ride around with all of your worldly possessions in a car, every item is important. Her mother assured her that I was going to help them.

Driving to the gas/food mart, I thought about and prayed for the mother and little girl. Was mom on drugs? Was the little girl safe? Writing this a few weeks later, I still don’t know.

Enter the second little girl. At the gas/food mart, I went in to buy them some water and snack items. I picked up another gas can that was two gallons. Three gallons of gas could get them to a shelter. Standing in line to pay, there was a little girl about the same age. She had long black hair in pretty ringlets and a cute shorts outfit on. She read the dance studio name on my shirt and proceeded to tell her mom, “That’s where I dance.” I smiled at her and we talked about the upcoming recital.

I took the water and fuel back to the mother and her daughter in the parking lot. Handing it to them, I also offered the phone number to a women’s shelter. The mother was very appreciative, calling the daughter over to take the bag for water and food items while she tended to the fuel.

These two mothers and daughters have been in my thoughts and prayers since. One little girl played pretend with odd household items. Living out of a car, for all I know, she and her mother just move from parking lot to parking lot. No roots, nothing stable, but the mother had dreams for her little girl. She probably worried about day to day food and location. But in her heart, she had dreams of her little girl dancing.

The second little girl was already dancing. It wasn’t a “someday” that would never happen. She too had a mother who provided for her, but her mother’s concerns probably weren’t their next meal or where they would lay their head. No doubt her mother had dreams for her as well.

Encounters like these remind me that everything happens for a reason. Why did I encounter two little girls that were both very much the same and so very different ten minutes apart? Is there a lesson to be learned?

Some things I’ve thought about:

  1. Dreams don’t cost anything. They are free and available to everyone. When they invade our minds, they provide a wonderful escape from reality – no matter what that reality is.
  2. There will always be those in need around us. What did that few minutes and money for the fuel cost me? Absolutely not. It blessed me. Weeks later I’m not worried about who got voted off the island, I’m still thinking about the encounter. That little girl and all the potential children represent. It changed me a little.
  3. God has a plan and purpose in everything. We aren’t puppets, but he uses every situation to glorify Him. I said nothing about Jesus to these people. Hopefully I showed them a little bit about Him though.
  4. Yes, the mother in the car could have been on drugs. But the little girl didn’t need to suffer because of it. My prayer is she used the phone number to get help and shelter.
  5. I learned more from my encounter with the homeless mother and daughter than I did the mother and daughter at the food mart. But seeing both in a short period of time gave impact to the whole situation.
  6. If I had to guess, living out of a car with her little girl was not the mother’s original plan; or dream for that matter. How did she get to this point? How many bad decisions followed by bad situations happened to bring her to this moment?
  7. Be in the moment. Stopping to help the lady and her daughter was not in my plan, but it’s what needed to happen in that moment. I didn’t spend those few minutes helping them but thinking about the rest of my list. Slow down. Look people in the eye when they talk to you and listen.

Your thoughts…

KK

A Glimpse of the Other Side

empty nestI have a teen-ager in my house. Raising him to be a level-headed, productive, faithful adult has been the priority. In a few years, he will graduate and head off to college. My husband and I will begin the journey toward the empty-nest. This summer, our son was chosen to participate in a three-week music program. He would be away without our being able to visit. His departure meant we would have an empty nest.

I’ve heard of couples who really struggle when all the kids leave. No longer do they have a buffer or something other than themselves on which to focus their attention. They have spent years sometimes decades raising kids and functioning as parents. They don’t know how to be individuals and a couple.

I had no expectation about what our three weeks would be like. Would we fight? We don’t usually. Would we talk and spend time together or each find our own space in the house to spend our evenings? What would our weekends be like? No work, no activity with our son’s sports team. Would our conversations center around wondering what he was doing or anecdotes about when he’s with us?

We came home from dropping him off. The energy in the house was different. Admittedly, I felt a little antsy. I had no one to be responsible for. So, I took the dog for a walk. This gave me time to think. I decided to take on a couple of overdue projects while he was gone.

My husband was supportive of the painting and home projects and even suggested one of his own. And so our time began. Our weekdays were pretty normal, we worked. Our evenings were a little different. I tried to plan our dinners. We ate at home, but in front of the television. Several evenings I worked on my projects and finished them in the first week or so. We connected in conversation like we always do. We had a few more date nights then we would have. We laughed and enjoyed just hanging out together. In other words, I was very encouraged by our test run at empty nesting.

I think when the time comes, we will be ready. We will graduate into the next phase of our relationship smoothly. Our son is a blessing and a very special part of our family. But my husband and I like and enjoy each other as well. We are in love and are best friends.

In and of itself, our relationship is strong. We are as intentional about taking care of our marriage as we are about parenting. As parents, we are to raise our kids to release them to live full and productive lives. This is certainly easier said than done. But it’s necessary. Parents, when our job of raising kids is complete, our lives are not over. We will enjoy our son as an adult in whatever work he takes on. Together, my husband and I will have a new adventure in post child-rearing years.

KK

 

Celebrating Freedom

We the people…

We hold these truths…

Strong phrases that begin foundational statements and documents for our country. Upon these phrases are built the core values of our country. The freedoms we take for granted everyday were penned creative-inspirational-quotes-thoughts-part11-61under these phrases. The freedom to speak our opinions, the freedom to own guns and protect that which we work hard for and the freedoms to worship. With freedom comes both responsibility and opportunity. Yes, we have the opportunity to take full advantage of our freedoms. But we also have the responsibility to not let those freedoms harm or keep others from living their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. These behaviors must be chosen, they can not be legislated. They are convictions of the heart.

We live in the greatest country in the world, founded on Godly inspired truths. Our founding fathers were as fallible as our political leaders are now. But they stood on God’s word and built a country. Today as we celebrate our freedoms, we recognize they came at a cost to thousands of others. Moving forward, we the people need to determine the future by first examining our own hearts.

KK

Never Enough

praying for our childrenWe can never pray for our children enough. Next time you are sending your child off to school or some other activity and feel the need to cover them in prayer, perhaps this will help.

I like that this gives specific parts of their body. Is your teen beginning a new job and need to focus on instruction? Pray for their mind. Is your child starting a new school? Pray for their journey and where their feet will go. Are they going to meet new friends? May their words be encouraging.

The world is different than when we were young. It’s harder and there is more information and attitudes for our children to navigate. We need to be available for them to ask questions. Be there to guide them through as they mature.

When we can’t be with them, we can pray for them. God is always available and watching over.

Keep calm and pray on,

KK