As I wiped the tears off of my 17-yr-old daughter’s face, I knew I was putting myself at risk of getting it (if I didn’t already have it). But if getting sick is the price for hugging the hurting, then it should be worth the price. I stood embracing the girl of my height, my hair color: my princess – whom I hadn’t heard cry in years. She looked down at her phone, revealing the emailed results that her covid test that morning had come back positive.
The pandemic had cancelled her senior homecoming game, senior play, junior and senior trips, junior and senior proms, senior retreat, among the plethora of other cancellations (including her grandfather’s funeral over a year ago). But now, the country was finally opening, and a black-tie dinner was scheduled to celebrate the seniors at the famous Angus Barn Steakhouse where they would give senior awards. Christine’s formal attire was at the tailor to be picked up in time for the banquet. We scheduled our own “senior trip” with some of her girlfriends to go to the beach the day after the event – before summer jobs and colleges distanced the high school friends.
The decorations for the graduation party – a balloon arch among them – filled our basement, including a poster-board of pictures of her from youth till now, several of my favorite pieces of her art and rose-gold plates and flatware. “Class of 2021” decked the halls and the caterer had the final count for tacos. A 40-minute video of snippets of her local theatre’s performances when she was “Alice” or “Dorothy” or the co-emcee for the Christmas play at church was loaded to loop in the background during the hours of mingling. We had hoped to add a Jane Eyre shot from that night – since she was so happy to have a local theatre performing when the school could not.
But now the theatre’s show “mustn’t go on.” The positive test crushed the party plans. The formal attire would stay at the tailor until the newest and personal quarantine was done – long after the event for which it was bought.
Though I had seen the opening night, my family never saw any of Christine’s theatrical performance as Jane Eyre, since it got cancelled by the second show. (She was amazing!) The graduation party the following day would be turned into a 2020-retro-style drive-by-and-wave for carryout tacos and I expected the RSVP’s numbers to reduce greatly. The poster-board moved to the driveway, the video stayed in my memory.
God is always on plan A!
I have repeated that to myself a lot this year with all of the cancellations. He is never wringing His hands, wondering what’s going to happen next. He has it under control. It was His plan A to have a different kind of grad party. It was His plan A to have her theatre performance recorded on opening night, so we can hopefully watch a video later. It was His plan A that some of the girls could not make the rescheduled beach trip. It was His plan A that all of her classmates would gather in their formals and have a nice dinner together with the senior parents for the awards ceremony, while Christine and I sat home and watched on Zoom from the couch. (I too tested positive later.) I think I almost cried when cancelling our hair appointments for the formal, since we had planned so long ago to get dolled up together.
But you know what else was in that “Plan A”? Blessings in the mix.
I was having her graduation party catered the next day – something I have never done in my home! God blessed us, because the food wasn’t ruined by sick people (us) touching it, and some people felt safe stopping by to get some, thanks to His planning a caterer before I knew we would need it.
His plan A involved being able to move the balloon arch outside.
His plan A allowed that she and I could sit on the front porch while people drove by, dropped off gifts, stopped to talk to one another – or even came and gave us a “risky” hug.
His plan A didn’t need any of my plan B’s; it was perfect and memorable.
Messy moments make the most memories.
But do we remember?
I had intended to write this letter four weeks ago, but while Christine’s covid was a runny nose for a few days, I had more of the nastiness of its fame – even cancelling my own trip to Florida the following week. When I sat down today (finally) to write you, I was surprised I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember what I had thought was worthy of gratitude or the drama that had tried to steal it. I had to look back at my prayer journal to remember all of the gifts I had received out of God’s plan A – which felt like my plan B, or C or Z.
- Friends dropped off care packages – including freshly-squeezed juice for our health, our favorite snacks, coffee and even an Angus Barn care-package of a table cloth, homemade crackers with cheese and their famous chess pie, so we could enjoy a little bit of the princess-treatment while we watched the senior formal event from home.
- After the graduation drive-by party, friends stayed with her out on that front porch till well after midnight. They were sharing, laughing and enjoying each other, making her feel so special, despite her feeling otherwise.
- Health has become a greater blessing!! WOW! Sometimes we don’t recognize the blessing in health until it has been taken away… and restored. (See My Brain Tumor Letter to be reminded.)
- That Tuesday at the formal awards event, it was announced that she was the valedictorian! What an honor! And you know what her speech was about? (I won’t spoil it, but the 5-minute speech is attached below.)
During those weeks of sickness, often when the delivery man arrived at the front door (where I liked to sit outside reading), I felt like I should be falling on the ground, yelling, “Unclean! Unclean!” (But that would have been weird.) Staying away from my family to stop the spread was tough and left us feeling like outcasts. But what a feeling! … to be reminded that THIS kind of outcast is EXACTLY whom Jesus reached out and TOUCHED!! The ones who were contagious! The ones who were “unclean!” The ones who were deserted by all! (Matt 8:1- 4)
When someone says, “Remember covid?” I am guessing I will remember the feeling of guilt over going “the wrong way” down the grocery aisle. I will likely remember the funny inconsistencies of “mask on,” “mask off,” “vax on,” “vax off.” On a more serious note, I will remember the angst of my son and his wife being separated from their son in ICU when my first grandchild was born prematurely, because somehow the hospital deemed it “safer” to have moms and dads visit at separate times from each other for the 7 weeks we waited to meet our little guy. I will likely remember my temper tantrums when I was “done with it,” as well as my cocky feeling that I must have been immune, because I had been exposed so many times and had never gotten it… till four weeks ago.
But now, I want to remember the blessings. Immeasurable blessings!… when I seek to find them. I am grateful I had written them in my prayer journal – and now for you – so I don’t forget them in the mess.
Oh how He loves you and me! Sometimes God’s “plan A” taking over my “plan A” is just the reminder of that love that I need. I always want to “remember covid,” (but I won’t give it the dignity of capital letters) because it’s a reminder of blessings of His plan A in this battle called life.
You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness… (Deut 8:2)
P.S. My daughter’s 5-minute graduation speech summarized the feelings well. No, I did not help her write it, and maybe I uploaded it at the end of this letter, because I knew if you saw this, you wouldn’t want to read any of my stuff ever again:)! She’s pretty special!
P.P.S. I won’t put the whole 40-minute home-movies video to loop at your next family dinner, but here was one of my favorite snippets: 9-year-old Christine in our church’s Christmas program with a little parody on Let it Go when she just “couldn’t control her desire to decorate.” Also, in lieu of the cancelled senior musical, the school did “Seniors Got Talent” in which Christine sang, “Don’t Know Why” (below).
When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’ 21then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22‘Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.’ (Deut 6:20-23)
“Crime is down 29% every Mother’s Day,” my son informed me, leaving that warm-fuzzy feeling about how much boys must love their moms to not commit crimes on Mother’s Day.
“Must be the moms that are doing all of the crime!” He finished.
Mother’s Day always has mixed feelings, doesn’t it? Grief over loss of my own mom. Grief for those who wish they could be moms and just can’t. Joyful gratitude for moms and their influence on society. Thankfulness for my kids giving me my own motherhood journey.
In soccer, stats are kept on 1. Goals scored and 2. Assisting the goals. (The “assist” statistical point is given to the last person who touched the ball before the goal-scorer got it.) The assistant to the assistant gets no credit! My boys are both midfielders. Sometimes they score goals; sometimes they assist goals; but more often than not, they are instrumental in moving the ball down the field and getting it to the right person, and their names are not even in the final list of stats, despite how grateful their teams are that they exist!
Moms are midfielders. We do all we can to get things aligned so hubbies and children alike can get all the “goals” for which they aim, and often we are barely visible… except maybe decreasing the crime rate one day a year. 😜
But one mom got my attention last week – “a mom at the base”. I don’t mean the base of a baseball field where she was running her own home-run. This mom was on the floor of the stage, “being” the bungee cord which had broken right when her daughter was about to perform.
It was the senior talent show, a replacement for the senior play which – like so much of my daughter’s junior and senior years – was cancelled in January due to Covid. Campbell Griffin (who will be drumming for Liberty University next year!) was decked out in her prom gown (Prom had been cancelled too), and ready to play a drum solo! It was such a unique act, which got more unique when her drums started to fall forward. She prevented “going out with a bang” by catching the drums in the nick of time with one hand and standing them upright with fierce prom-gown-hidden strength. However, she then had to stand holding them for them to remain upright.
I was watching from the piano on the side. I did the “mom move” of yelling to someone backstage to “come help her!” That’s when I saw the “ultimate mom move,” as a woman RAN from the back of the auditorium, leapt onto stage in a single bound (I think – but I didn’t count) and then knelt on the stage next to the wheeled platform that held the multiple drums. Looking up, she said, “Go ahead,” while she bowed her head (maybe to brace for the noise she was about to incur).
And Campbell played. Wow! Did she play! It was a great drum solo, and I hope her mom’s hearing has come back by now. My phone captured what I could from my side seat. It was too beautiful of a “mom-ent” to miss.
Of course, what I haven’t mentioned yet is that Pam Griffin happens to also be Vice-Principal of the high school. In addition, she impressively received her doctorate from Carolina University just the week before. No job is too big or too small for this impressive “doctor,” and I love her wonderful representation of “mom” (my favorite title) for the Senior Talent Show.
Whether you are scoring the goal, assisting the goal, assisting the assistant to the goal or simply cheering from the sidelines,
Whether you are playing the drums, holding the drums, paying for drum lessons or listening to the incessant drum-practice,
Whether you are the vice-principal, the newest doctor in town or a mom like me who relates to the wise dish towel above,
May you be blessed this Mother’s Day and always.
“The home is a place where the mother impacts every member of society, teaching them respect for authority, virtues, relational skills, compassion, honesty, and the application of biblical truth to life.”– Stephen Davey
Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
Motherhood has probably never been so gratifying as when my teen and adult “kids” collaborated and publicly performed a song about their love for ME! (WOW! Video below.) Did you know (yet) that your kids love and appreciate you?! Let me tell you: they do! – whether or not they let you know.
Does your heart melt like mine when Garth Brooks and Scotty McCreery sing about their moms? It is as though we long to hear our kids’ feedback. Will they ever notice our work? Do they care about their exhausted, frizzy-haired “taxi-driver” yelling at them from the front seat on the way to the endless tournaments and practices? Will their stiff hugs ever soften to enjoyment for longer than 0.25 milliseconds? Do my sideline cheering and encouraging words ever make it through their ears or make a difference? Do they know how much I love them? I think Scotty ought to be hunting my son down right now to get his hands on this song! 🙂
I have heard that the best way to tell your kids you love them is to have them overhear you tell others how much you love them. (But beware: I am guessing the opposite is true too – our kids feel unloved if they overhear us telling others complaints about them!) I got to experience this “indirect LOVE” first hand from my four kids when they sang to a crowd about their love for me! Not only did my oldest son write a song for me (WHAT?!!! And I am happy he has written many for his wife too!), but then he was sweet enough to invite his siblings to share the spotlight when they sang about their “first love” in front of a group of my friends at my 50th.
Girlfriend, this song is for YOU. Providing encouragement for the journey, it shows that
Motherhood is valuable,
Kids are thankful (even when they don’t show it yet), and
God is raising our kids despite our failures! (Because the Lord knows there are many!).
These lyrics remind us that our calling in motherhood is so much higher and longer than the diapers and bottles.
Originally an idea of Casey and Nate (then ages 20 and 17) and sung by them for my 48thbirthday in the music nook of our house with our intimate family, this song made my heart melt right down my cheeks. What a special gift! They upped their game when the other siblings joined and sang for the crowd.
If you have read many Letters to Lindsey, then you are already acquainted with these singers from their younger years: The “Tea Party Fashionista” (Christine) starts it off with harmony provided by the youngest brother of “Fishing For Memories” (J.R.). Next up, “Ronaldo” (Nate) brings in the bass, while the “Pianist ” (Casey) closes it out with his turn on chorus. It was truly a magical gift from a magical bunch of young adults, all of whom I could not love more.
How could I possibly deserve a present so incredibly, over the top, untouchably, beyond-my-dreams perfect?! I couldn’t. I don’t. I still stand amazed at this gift.
Love Song for Mom
By Casey Brady
Dec. 20, 2017
The first hand I held on a cold winter’s night
The first time I hurt, she held me oh so tight.
When I’m just not sure, she looks into my eyes,
She knows just what to say to make everything alright.
And I know wherever I may go, she’ll always be there for me.
The first love never truly fades away.
It’s a kiss goodnight, a sad goodbye and a hug that takes too long.
This is a love song for Mom.
When the laughs were all around, she was always smilin’
When the tears were fallin’ down, she’d have Band-aids on the island.
All the tournaments and practice, I don’t know how she did it;
But when she cheered, I tell you this, we knew we could win it.
And I know wherever I may go, she’ll always be there for me.
The first love never truly fades away.
It’s a kiss goodnight, a sad goodbye and a hug that takes too long.
This is a love song for Mom.
Birthdays, bikes and hard falls
Dirty clothes and soccer balls
Years of teaching right and wrong
Patience ‘cause we took so long.
And I know wherever I may go, she’ll always be there for me.
The first love never truly fades away.
It’s a kiss goodnight, a sad goodbye and a hug that takes too long.
This is a love song…
And I know wherever I may go, she’ll always be there for me.
The first love never truly fades away.
It’s a family night, a cherry pie, or a drive that takes too long.
This is a love song for Mom.
This is a love song for Mom.
©Casey Brady 2017
Now that young composer is married to a mom who will be celebrating her first Mother’s Day this week. If there were any line of the song with which I disagree (and it makes me cry every time), it is “patience ‘cause we took so long.” In retrospect, one thing is sure about this young man and his siblings’ childhood: it was a flash of time: a beautiful, God-painted, gloriously-colored, unpredictable, flash of time, and I thank God for allowing me to live it with them.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Col 3:4 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
For more music by Casey Brady:
- @caseybradymusic on instagram
- To his bride, Morgan, for their wedding: Tongue Tied
- A single by Casey Brady on Apple Music: Broken
- At Every Funeral, There’s a Baby
- Real Moms: When the Last Goldfish Dies
- Wet Light Fixtures and Oatmeal Kisses
Being quarantined is HARD for someone who loves people!
Being quarantined is HARD for someone who hates to be in the same house with people!
It’s SUPER HARD when those people reside in the same body!
Being quarantined is difficult for someone who doesn’t like a governing body telling them what to do. Being quarantined is frustrating for someone who can’t stand to have their hands tied when they need to be out working, supporting their family. Of course, I haven’t named the sadness of not being able to meet my first grandchild (currently in NICU) or the confusion of nursing home residents who have no visitors or the unique seniors who are robbed of what might have been the best months of their school career. There are many unlisted singles for whom this is a miserable time of “alone” and “fear.” I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for the doctors, nurses, emergency crews and essentials that are on the front lines, risking their lives and their families’ to save others, when quarantining probably sounds pretty good to them!
Yep, it’s a tough time for many.
Yet, being the “non-essential” that I am, (😉), I have found blessings in the separation. For example,
– Without evening activities taking us from each other, we have had home-cooked family dinners every night.
– The grandparents whose safety is the purpose of our quarantine are a blessing to have in our house! This means my kids have learned toilet-flapper changing, trolling-motor fixing, masks-sewing, puzzle-assembling, and more from Grammy and Papa. They even made a step-stool from discarded wood scraps! This down-time with grandparents will be remembered forever by my young teens.
– Without our normal busyness, we have been able to escape to outdoor fun of fishing, campfires, tennis or just opening a long-awaited book outside while we soak in vitamin D! Oh… and naps.
But Life is Not About Alone Time
One of my favorite outcomes so far has been a music video project a couple weeks ago in which the kids and I got involved with church. The “virtual choir” came complete with a “virtual orchestra.” The people with whom I would normally rehearse at church every Wednesday and worship every Sunday got “together,” each in our own homes (or a couple using the church’s instruments), and recorded ourselves for the project.
The participants were frontline doctors, nurses, police and other “essentials,” as well as retired folks, elderly quarantined alone, young teens miserable without their friends, college students on forced furlough and the rest – all individually participating in this project in their free time.
As if learning the song to record alone wasn’t challenging enough for us amateur musicians, we actually had to get the entire house quiet for recording – even the dog! The struggle is real! AND they had to be silent long enough for several run-throughs of bloopers! (See my daughter’s blooper reel below; she was so gracious to allow me to share. We still laugh!) Eventually, we felt like our singing (or playing in my case) was “as good as it’s gonna get” and we submitted the recording to our music director team, who put all of the voices – instrumental and vocal – together for a song. Voila! “The Virtual Choir”.
Surprises of the project
– I was surprised at how AWFUL I sound on my oboe alone on the recordings. The oboe is complete duck-quacking without massive control on my part – which only takes a portion of the duck away. (Have you heard Peter and the Wolf? The oboe is the duck.) So when we add issues with the mic, surroundings and computer, it did NOT seem pretty!
– I was surprised at how AWFUL I look on video. Playing the oboe is a kind of rigorous cardio exercise/abdominal workout, with limited oxygen depletions and simultaneous straining of overworked tendons. Sometimes my face looks like I’m painfully trying to blow a frozen banana through a milkshake straw, more than joyfully worshipping the Lord with “Disney eyes”! One of my favorite oboe solos is here if you want to watch – and see what strain in the face looks like, since I was too embarrassed to post my own. (haha!)
– I was really surprised by how many others had the same worthless feeling when alone! I was amazed at the musicians’ group-chat of people who said, “I quit!” “I am never singing again!” “The church will never let me back in once they hear this recording!”
But what really surprised me about this project? How AMAZING the final product of all of us together truly is. (attached below) The worship-full song brought tears to my eyes (and the tears were not because of how many times I had heard that same song that week!).
One of our church musicians, singer Jim Wetterau, summarized it well when he said:
“During this time of pandemic and required separation (euphemistically called “social distancing”) our lives as part of a group, both in church and in choir have been rather dramatically upended.
In that time, many found it interesting to see virtual … sessions of singers that were created to cheer us up. One of the most widespread perhaps was the group of Nashville musicians who created a [virtual] chorus of “It is Well with My Soul”.
Thus [our directors], Jon and Aaron presented the idea of our choir doing a [virtual] creation of “Is He Worthy?” And last week we got down to creating our individual parts and submitting them to create the Colonial Virtual Choir. It was complete with background track with click tones for timing and a very good set of instructions.
Then the fun began. I don’t know about you, but the first time I sang through the tenor part with my Nikon filming my contribution, it seemed somewhat unusual—and then when I watched it, it seemed worse. Aaron had advised us it would likely require more than one take, so I did it again.
At that same time, Terri Brady sent in part of her daughter Christine, fitfully breaking into giggles as she tried to sing “We do!”. Now perhaps I felt more like crying than giggling, but I appreciated exactly how Christine felt. I finally finished my take on the tenor part and uploaded it, thinking, that when someone watched it they would surely feel like deleting it and never seeing or using it again.
Then last Wednesday, Aaron played a small part of the vocal from the chorus and I thought, “Wow that sounds great.”
And I realized, we are more than the sum of our parts and we are meant to be stronger together. While an individual effort can seem weak or unworthy, when we band together as believers.. and a church, or a choir, the Holy Spirit is with us and strengthens us and makes us able to do the things that God wants us to do. WE NEED EACH OTHER! The mistake we sometimes make is to think we have to be like soloists. But it is often soloists who do not make good choir members because their voices do not blend. So rejoice in the unity and fellowship we have as a choir, even though temporarily a virtual one, and enjoy and appreciate the gift God has given us to raise our voices together in imperfect but joyous harmony.
Soli Deo Gloria”
When we feel unworthy, worthless and like never trying again in life, what might God be orchestrating with all of our “good, bad and ugly”? We can’t see THAT in our sole recording studio! I have heard the question from young and old alike. In their fit of despair, their feeling of making awful sounds in front of a “camera” – the lens of life – they say, “What good am I?” “What could I possibly have to offer?” or in the words of the elderly, “Why am I left here to be a burden to all of you anyway?” Yet in each one I see God’s creating His message in an overall symphony He calls life.
As a public speaker and as a church musician, I have often prayed before going on stage – not that I would have a perfect performance – but that God would change whatever reaches the ears of the listener for His perfect purposes (no matter the imperfect way it left me).
The song chosen for our first virtual project was ideal. It was not:
“Are we Perfect?”
nor “Am I worthy?”
But “Is He Worthy?”
“Do you feel the world is broken? …
Do you feel the shadows deepen? …
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? …”
The Orchestrator (this is my favorite paragraph)
This makes me think of my favorite lesson from this “virtual togetherness”: God is not quarantined. As the song says, “All the dark won’t stop the [Light] from getting through.” He can reach where He wants to reach in spite of laws, sicknesses and distance. He is not wringing his hands wondering what He could possibly do with this mess. His work can even go within the self-made walls of insecure people and pull out all of the yuck. He can work past our human limits of every little, stinking, ugly, very bad, flawed, mistaken, defective, imperfect part to show that yes! – He is able to build using even our scraps and make a masterpiece out of it all. Is He worthy of all blessing and honor and glory? He is! Now, our job is learning to enJOY and give thanks in every day – the good, the bad and the ugly – and trust He can use it in His beautiful overture. He is worthy of our all.
Andrew Peterson’s “Is He Worthy” by Colonial’s “Virtual Choir and Orchestra”Is He Worthy? – Colonial Virtual Choir & Orchestra from Colonial Baptist Church on Vimeo.
1 Corinthians 12:14-18 For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
P.S. A second project was completed! “Behold Our God” by Colonial’s Virtual Choir and Orchestra:Behold Our God Virtual Choir (Final) from Peter Scheibner on Vimeo.
“White Christmas,” at the local Performing Arts Center, a big birthday party for me, and my church’s Christmas music were all on the agenda this past December, when my dad came to visit. I had invited him to spend the winter in warm North Carolina to get away from the cold of Colorado.
But December 17th, a week after shows and two days after my birthday party, fate took a different turn: Dad had a stroke which paralyzed his right side. My brother, Tim, who had just flown back to Colorado after the birthday party, got back on another plane to Raleigh to be with us. Larry headed down the highways from Pennsylvania.
Our dad was left in a hospital bed, unable to lift his right leg or arm. Fortunately, his mind was as sharp as ever. After a short 3-day-stay at the hospital he went to a rehab center to battle his way back to health, and my brothers returned to their homes. Dad and I enjoyed many conversations from that bedside, but the weight of the situation was always heavy in the background. “I bet you’ll never invite me back!” he often quipped during awkward times of me trying to get him to the wheelchair from the bed or watching an uncomfortable therapy session. Of course, my invitation would always be there, but at that point, an 85-year-old half-paralyzed man getting back to Colorado seemed like a long-shot goal. The battle was on!
My brothers were good at keeping goals in front of him.
“We need you at the wedding in Atlanta in February!” Larry said. (I put the wedding invitation on his bulletin board as encouragement.)
“The Colorado sunset you love is waiting for you. Focus! Time to battle!” Tim encouraged. (I put the sunset photo on his board.).
“I want your help planting my garden; you already helped me build the boxes!” (The sketch of the boxes wasn’t far away.)
One doctor actually made fun of me for “being a kindergarten teacher” of sorts, because of the way Dad’s board was decorated with goals.
Without vision, the people perish. (Prov 29:18)
Goals are important in everyday life but are more invaluable than most realize. Without something for which to aim, too many elderly succumb to focusing on ailments and doom, wallowing away their hours. I suppose without goals, the less-than-elderly focus the same.
After almost three months of daily therapy, plans were made for him to leave rehab and come live with me on March 10. He had worked hard! He was able to walk about 50 feet, carrying his dead leg while balancing weight on a walker. (It looked like he had to carry an eighty-pound LOG with him everywhere he went.) It was tough! But he was such an overcomer – often telling me, “just doing my best with what I have. Angels can do no more!”. The therapists gained new respect in my eyes, as they came back day after day for milestone after milestone. Move one finger. Now another. Now bend at the elbow. Now hold the spoon. Now use the spoon. His hand and arm had rehabilitated well, and he was even able to write with that hand on a wedding card that he sent to Atlanta, though unfortunately the rehab goals to attend the wedding were not met in time. Unmet goals are tough, but he reset and continued the battle.
After his rehab discharge, it would be a short stint at my house, hopefully a couple weeks, then we could finish the journey back to his place in Colorado! A new ramp was built; his walker and wheelchair awaited in my guest room.
We were all surprised when another illness attacked and on Monday March 9th, (the day before he was supposed to move in with me), he went by ambulance to the hospital. By that Thursday, they had inserted a breathing tube. They were able to safely remove it a day later, and an exhausted, sick father lay there in bed. Tim and Larry had been summoned again from Colorado and Pennsylvania. Covid-19 had not gotten to my dad, but its effects rampaged the hospital policies. We were limited to visiting one at a time and felt badgered by nursing staff who continued to adjust to new rules – and change them based on who was working at which shift. (One attacked me for wearing a mask. I was not sick, but had been around someone who was, so I had the mask on as a precaution. She felt better when I wasn’t wearing it. The irony killed me. I chalked it up for her own stress-level being higher than my own – which was reaching new heights as my dad’s health declined, knowing we were far from a Colorado sunset.)
By Saturday morning, March 14, my brother Tim prodded him, “Are you ready to get back to the battle? I need your help in my garden.”
“Yes,” my dad said and nodded, weakly since the removal of the breathing tube the day before had wiped him out. Tim reported the story to the rest of us so we could breathe a sigh of relief, awaiting our turns to visit.
However, that evening my exhausted father suddenly became very verbal. I have often joked that until my mother passed away five years ago, I did not know my dad could talk! (She is laughing at that in heaven while I type!) Especially in sickness, my father had been quiet and now talking was a strain. But this Saturday evening’s conversation is one that will be filed in my mind with meaningful memories:
“Will you help your brother plant his garden?” he asked me.
What?! Oh no! Should I say no? Should I tell him that he needed to get better and get out to Colorado and do that himself? Should I break down and cry in front of him or wait until I am out of his room? Should I be happy for him that he’s at peace to be at the end of striving? I knew this was a very loaded question: “Will you help your brother plant his garden?” Though I have had gardens, my brother would do just fine. This was my dad planning bigger things: planning his end of this battle called life.
I said, “Sure,” but to keep him talking (and avoid the ominous subject of his death) I asked, “When is the planting season in the Colorado mountains again?” I turned away from the bed to hide my wet eyes, and wondered if he had heard the crack in my voice.
It was then that my father spoke more than in the three previous months since his stroke. He told me row by row, inch by inch, day by day, every-single-bit of the garden. The “Ol Farmer” – as he often referred to himself, despite engineering and masters electrician degrees – could leave his Kansas childhood farm, but the farm could never leave him. He told me at what store the plants should be bought and where to only plant seeds. He told me what could start April 1st– since it would last a few frosts before the seedlings grew – and which ones needed to wait till Mother’s Day. Three boxes in my brother’s yard came to his mind. Like an artist sculpting a masterpiece, he put peppers and tomatoes in the middle and worked out the details around them, row by row of carrots and okra (Who knew my brother ate okra?) and lettuces, finishing with the herbs that would help my brother’s chef-worthy meals attain their final touch.
He was no longer in that North Carolina hospital bed; he had gone to Colorado in his mind. And then his sun began to set.
For hospice (palliative care without the battle), my brothers and I took him from the hospital to my home – where he passed into eternity just five days later, on Wednesday March 18.
It was interesting and almost metaphorical that in his final hours, he was planting a garden. He was such a selfless man to the very end. He didn’t want to force us to make hard choices of feeding tubes or breathing tubes. He didn’t want to continue dragging us through the Covid-19 hospital regulations, nor linger in an ICU bed needing full care. He and my mother both had end-of-life plans established and advance directives on file, so my brothers and I were out of the decision-making stress. But now, as he planted this garden, I could tell what was going on: his “ploy” of garden-planting was his taking care of me. He was communicating that life will go on, and he wanted to make sure I knew it.
It reminds me of a saying that he often said:
“Look around at every funeral, and you will see a baby.”
God’s not done.
Twenty-three years ago, we were laughing at my father’s fat belly, often the subject of jokes. (He always carried his weight there like Santa Claus and always had a good sense of humor about our jokes.) When I was 12-weeks pregnant with my first, my mother took a picture of Dad and me belly-to-belly. We laughed!
Fast forward twenty-three years, and that baby boy has grown up to be a fine young man, married to a wonderful young lady. This past fall, while my dad was at my house, she was 12-weeks pregnant, and we decided to take the same picture… and we laughed all over again. My dad laughed that he hadn’t given birth in twenty-three years! He was so excited to be a great-grandfather again, and was always asking me about the condition of “Hezi” (his name for in-utero babies of our family).
Just two weeks after Dad’s passing into heaven – where he no longer carries a dead leg or heavy arm nor strains to speak or breathe – his first great-grandson, Marshall James Brady was born. The timing didn’t work out for Dad to meet this little guy outside of the womb, but like the garden he planted in his final hours, Dad’s life continued – in the lifeblood of a newborn.
Ironically, born seven weeks premature, little Marshall currently resides in the NICU of the same hospital where my father was just over the corridor in ICU weeks before. Now, the pandemic rules have been narrowed to allow zero visitors, so I haven’t met my 2-week-old grandson outside of FaceTime yet. My prayers have changed from my father’s lungs, to this five-pound guy’s lungs, and the new life they represent. Though I will miss my dad, I am grateful for the memories. I thank God for the looking-forward I have in being a grandma. I look forward to Baby Marshall healing and getting out of the hospital, because after all, I will need his help in my garden!
And one day, when Covid-19 quarantining is done and we are able to gather for a celebration of my dad’s life – what some would call a “funeral,” – there will most definitely be a baby there. As with so many of my dad’s lessons for me in life: he was right.
John 14:2 “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” – Jesus Christ
In the “Celebration of Life” for my dad:
My dad called that fall and said, “If I were to go to a fly-in fishing lodge up in northernmost Canada, would you consider going with me?”
I replied, “In a heartbeat!”
At 82, he knew it might be a once-in-a-lifetime, and I was so grateful for the opportunity. Like listening to a teen practicing music, he was saying, “I love you,” the way a dad does, and I hoped I could scream it back to him.
At 79, he had lost his youngest (my little brother) and the following year, his wife (my mom) and one year after that – to the day – his own mother passed away at the age of 100. My grieving dad and I would probably do well with some time under the northern blue sky, while the worries of the world vanished in a small boat’s wake.
“You’re the only person I know who actually likes fishing,” he said. “Most people only like catching.” Haha! We both related to boats full of kids waiting for us to do the work. For him, I had been one of those impatient kids.
Every year of my childhood, my family took a two-week fishing vacation (Six of us and a dog in a camper that comfortably slept four Munchkins). Whether in the boat or on land I always loved to have my line in the water.
My dream of a northern lodge trip with Dad was probably birthed by my younger brother Mike. Once, he had shared with me his written goals, which included taking Dad on Dad’s wanted fly-in fishing trip. I was always trying to horn my way in on that idea, haha, and I didn’t realize Mike had never mentioned it to my father. Mike’s passing was a surprise to us all, but then his missed dream of the trip was a surprise to my dad. I think this Canada fishing trip might be deeper than the lakes on which we rested.
Adventure of Getting to “North”
I flew from North Carolina four hours and two time-zones to Denver, where my dad lived. The following day, we flew (through directionally incorrect Seattle) 7 hours to Saskatoon, SK, Canada. There, we rented a little Suburu SUV, (“Four-wheel-drive is necessary,” we had been told.) and after a night in a hotel drove straight north 3.5 hours (half-way to the North Pole, I am sure) to a very random boat dock with a plane attached. Cell signals long gone, GPS had been replaced by hand-written notes of a phone conversation between my dad and the destination nine months prior.
As I drove, the rain poured and mud thickened. I worried I could not stop – or mud would prevent our re-start. Barely seeing any cars during those hours, I knew if we did get stuck, we would be there a long time, missing our floatplane’s departure. At times a truck would come in the opposing lane and send shivers down my spine at its closeness. Once, a tanker which was literally in a sideways slide, forced me to move over – trying to control my own slide. My pounding heart caused my Fitbit to congratulate me on a good workout! Dad was calm. He always was.
Like many good journeys: the worse the drive, the more worthy the destination.
Nature lined both sides of the mud road. The further north we went, the more lakes, the less houses. Less people.
Finally, we arrived. We assumed we were at the right dock with a white floatplane and awaited the pilot who would take us to the much-anticipated destination: Lawrence Bay Lodge. When we exited the car in the mud-filled parking area, the elements hit. A cool mist engulfed my breathing, but my mouth was not properly filtering out gnats… or were they mosquitos? I went into the floatplane’s “business office,” a dilapidated trailer- similar to the one of my childhood – but with duct tape holding its indoor stairs in place and buckets catching the incoming rain. This was the first bathroom we had seen since Saskatoon. As I ventured in, I realized that this bachelors’ (plural) pad had not heard of Clorox. I wondered if this would be the condition of our week: bachelors, duct tape, mosquitos, and lack of Clorox. I tried to toughen up. UGH.
The pilot arrived at the dock; my heart was having second thoughts. As the storm picked up, the pilot wondered if it was safe to fly. (Note: if a floatplane pilot is wondering if it is safe to fly, it is NOT.) I was fine with taking the small rowboat with the Mercury attached, but the pilot told us that it would be an hour-long very wet, very bumpy [and mosquito-y] ride. We waited in cars to see what weather would do. I missed my weather app – and my house.
The storm lifted slightly and they rushed us along with other arrivals into the floatplane trying to get up and back down before the wind picked up again. This was my fourth takeoff and landing in 48 hours, and by far the roughest. However, we stayed low under the clouds – and in our short, fifteen minute flight saw miles and miles of lake beneath us. Weather has never stopped me from looking forward to fishing.
The plane landed more smoothly than its flight, and the Lawrence Bay Lodge welcomed us with its gorgeous, enormous log-cabin lodge with a lake view. One of the smaller cabins to its right became ours for the week. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw running water… and smelled Clorox. 🙂
Fishing Like No Other
The weather was cold for June, but not for Canada. Before leaving North Carolina, I had checked my weather app for LaRonge, SK (as far north as the app recognized civilization) which predicted several days of unseasonable 40’s (F) and intermittent rain, followed by sun reaching into the upper 70’s by the end of the week. I debated on packing a poncho versus raincoat and ended up bringing both – in their tiny little packages, a size to which they would never return. This extra raingear was a blessing of the week, as my father had only packed using the 9-month-old hand-written paper weather forecast from the phone conversation which said, “Usually 70’s by June in Canada.” (We laughed at the error, because we decided my mom would have brought seven coats and fourteen sweatshirts in case anyone else in the camp needed one. Haha!). Dad and I bought matching sweatshirts at the Lodge, a perfect layer under the raincoats. (Dad actually melted one of the raincoats standing too close to our cabin heater after fishing one evening! It was cold!)
But we hadn’t come for a fashion show, nor for the good weather. We had come to fish. In particular, my dad had always wanted to catch one of those monster forty-inch northern pikes. The following morning at 6:30, our daily wake-up-call took root: a knock at the door presented us with coffee and hot chocolate, already poured into individual cups, delivered by one of the lodge owners. After a hot breakfast in the dining room, we met our personal captain in a little rowboat with a Mercury at the dock by 8:00. A pure Cree Indian, Vince followed the path of both his father and grandfather as a fishing guide. The recent loss of that grandfather patriarch often brought his name to conversation during our long days on the water. We asked Vince how he could possibly tell the difference between the thousands of islands he navigated, and he said, “It’s in my blood,” with a wry smile, of course. He knew the type and size of fish by the way it hit the line – long before we saw it. He liked to play a game that he would tell me what time it was – when he didn’t have any timekeeping device in his presence. He was always within 15 minutes of my dad’s watch. Every day was a different location, and every day was a LOT of fish. My father regretted that we didn’t keep a count!
“Fish on!” I excitedly said within minutes of dropping our rattle traps into the water behind the trolling boat that first morning. Lake trout were incredible fighters compared to the Carolina bass to which I was accustomed. At around 11:30am, Vince said, “Let’s keep the next one for lunch.” We did.
Pulling up to a dock-less island, Vince found a somewhat flat spot and began to build a fire where one had never been. “I’ll give you a dollar for every bone you find,” he said with a smile while he filleted the fish, using the oar as his cutting board. (No Clorox needed. No dollars either.) He opened an old coffee can, revealing a bag of flour, a small vial of oil, a can of beans and some chopped potatoes. He then set a pan on top of the fire, put in some oil, added the potatoes and floured fish and put the can of beans in the coals alongside to warm. Within minutes, we had a perfect lakeside picnic. Vince often filled his drinking cup with water from the lake, but brought us bottled, knowing our stomachs weren’t as prepared for lakewater as his.
The afternoon was much the same… fish on! When we arrived back at the dock, Dad and I were ready for a nap before dinner and early bed! The next day, we moved from trout to pike. Vince cut the bait and told Dad the best place and hook action to use. When the first forty-inch-er took Dad’s line, he leaned back so far to set the hook, I thought we would lose him in the water! Dad reeled with might and the fish made its way to the boat to pose for its obligatory picture. If my dad had a bucket list, the forty-inch pike was on it. He had caught three by week’s end.
Nature and Stories
Like a good guide, Vince told entertaining stories. He talked about his grandfather and told tales of each of the islands (whose identity was a blur to us). (I have often wondered if fishing guides and taxi-drivers just make up stories on a daily basis and watch their audience’s reaction as they spin their yarn.) Once we found a plaque on an island, giving it a name. I wondered out loud how someone could claim one of these islands as their own to name. It certainly felt like “no man’s land” to me. Regardless, at the end of our trip, I sent a plaque to Vince, so he could place it on an island of choice, “naming it” after his grandfather.
Along with our fishing and shore lunches, we encountered nature’s animals. We promptly renamed seagulls as “freeloaders.” Each day, when we would pull up to a random island for fire-building and lunch-cooking, there would be no gull in sight. But by the time Vince’s knife had finished its first swath, there would be twenty-five seagulls ready to freeload on scraps that he discarded into the water.
One day at lunch, we picked a sandy area with fewer trees and brush to dig. Vince exclaimed something, and we came looking to see a fresh bear print right where we were gathering wood! (I wondered what my Fitbit thought about this workout.) At that point, I would have preferred a different location altogether, but Vince – in pure Indian style – assured us that the bear was gone, “probably a kilometer away.” When we were departing our lunch site, he pointed up to the side of the hill above where we were, and there was the bear, still ascending.
My favorite animal encounter was probably when an eagle (of which we saw many!), practically crossed over the front of our boat in pure flight. Vince caught my attention, giving me just enough time to snap a picture. Isaiah 40:31 came to mind. “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
There were other nature differences between northern Canada and where I live. For example, the sun never sets! Well it set, but it did so after I was in bed and starting to gild the sky by 3:30am, complete with the escort of birdsong. (Birds must need less sleep in Canada!)
Similar to the event during our harrowing drive, at several points during our week, I noticed my Fitbit congratulating me on a workout! Ha! Workout? I had sat in a boat with a fishing rod in hand! Maybe it was picking up that my heart rate would accelerate at the fun of catching the fish?! After all, the data shows it to be active only during the hours of our boating! I don’t think my heart chose favorites – whether the fish was on my line or his. We both enjoyed it either way. I suppose my heart rate graph was just a visible proof of the gift of fun I was having. I hoped my dad’s graph would look the same.
My dad and I spent many silent hours together. No internet, no phones, some books. In the comfort of a good relationship, we often just sat in silence. I enjoyed watching his joy of fishing. Each evening we had a magnificent dinner at the lodge (This was no bachelor pad!) and heard the fish tales of the day from others in the camp. We then retired to a game of Scrabble before an early bed. Every day. For seven days– before our long trip back home. It was amazing.
I know many daughters would prefer a fancy place, something to dress up for, people to meet, award-winning meals and jewelry. But I got such joy out of the simplicity of life and the love language of most kids from their dads: T.I.M.E. The lull of the engine motor. The look of the wake vanishing into the glistening water. The peace of silence… with Dad.
Dad and I weren’t betting people, but we did have fun wagering a dollar:
- For the first fish: me
- For the last fish: Dad
- For the biggest fish: Dad
- For the smallest fish: me
- For the greatest variety: Dad (trout, walleye, pike and a white fish, which put scales all over the boat!)
- Dad won a dollar.
Scenery, wildlife, sport and restoration for our souls: it was truly a wonderful vacation I will never forget. If my brothers, kids or husband ever ask if I want to go back, my response would be the same, “In a heartbeat!” I think when I do, I will bring along a plaque to put on an island somewhere to name it in memory of Dad.
Other Letters in Memory of Dad:
“Sometimes I feel like… somebody’s watching me!” so the song goes! I loved when my husband put that as background music on Instagram (@CBrascal) to a video of my dog watching him through the window. LOL! Is there ever a time that “I feel like somebody’s watching me!” is a good thing?
-when parents watch their kids! I don’t mean watching them at the playground to keep them safe, (though they should). I don’t mean watching kids do their chores (though I suppose it’s one way to make sure it’s done properly). I mean a distinct moment in my teen years, when my dad’s love transcended responsibility.
At seventeen, I was a serious musician, though I would not have described myself that
way. My music teachers would tell me that they had practiced 6-8 hours/day, so my measly 2 seemed like I was less than a musician, but looking back, I realize that I could probably have called myself a musician anyway. There were many hours up in that bedroom on my saxophone. Whether it was preparing for a competition, learning new music or just enjoying music the way I do, I was alone. A lot.
The first day it happened, I was taken off guard. My dad came into my room and sat on my bed, waiting for me to finish my song. At a break, I asked what he wanted. His reply made me laugh at the time.
“Nothing. I am just here to listen.”
If my dad were a musician, I might have thought he had ulterior motives of judging me. (because don’t all teens feel like they are being judged?) But this is the man who said he had no musical ability, because he had given it all to his kids. He often quipped that the only instrument he played was the radio.
“Listen to what?” I asked.
“You,” He said.
“Me? Do what?”
“Play the saxophone.”
“Well, what do you want me to play?”
“A song. Or scales. Or whatever you want. Just go on. I am just here.”
So I began to play. Doesn’t someone’s enjoying what you enjoy make what you enjoy so much more… enjoyable?
I am no linguisticologist, but I do make up words like that one. Similar to en-courage in a former letter, “En-joy,” seems like it would mean “putting joy into” something, although its meaning usually implies getting joy out of something. My dad’s “enjoying” my music was actually “putting joy into” me. Don’t you just love that?!
Kids spell “love,” “t-i-m-e”. One author says that speaking love to kids doesn’t mean just spending time with them but spending time with them doing what THEY love. My dad’s time that day was stopping his busy schedule to join mine. We weren’t playing duets. He wasn’t giving me requests. He was “just there.”
This habit of him sitting on my bed while I practiced became a daily event. I would go through more songs, more scales, more ideas, just to have him stay. Soon, he added requests, “I’ll buy you a steak dinner if you learn ‘Yakety Sax!’” I loved the challenge, even though I didn’t play that kind of saxophone.
Eventually, he joined my world in a different way. To wish me luck on a performance, he would sign my saxophone reed before I walked out the door. He chose the words: “Good luck, Saxy Lady,” which made us both laugh.
I doubt my dad loved scales. I don’t know if he loved a saxophone playing alone in the house.
But I know he loved me.
Now, when I read my daughter’s writing, watch my son’s soccer workout, see my youngest soar in the air on a wakeboard or listen to a story that I don’t quite understand all the way, I often think of my dad. I hope my love as a parent speaks as loudly as my dad’s: “Just go on. I am just here.” Being present is the best present.
“Saxy” TerriRelated Posts:
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in memory of Dad…
It was a cold, rainy day when I walked into the thermodynamics exam at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. I was broke – instant coffee for breakfast, followed by a ½-can Spaghettios lunch and the other half for dinner (Don’t tell my mom.) – kind of broke. I didn’t have the newest calculator that was sweeping the engineering geeks by storm: the “Scientific” one. My free solar version from the summer bank-telling job was barely helpful in the interpolation of the hundreds of pages of tables and figures in the back of my thermodynamics book. Nothing was helping me figure out WHICH table to use. My lack of sleep (from staying up studying half the night) and lack of breakfast probably only exacerbated my lack of knowledge for the subject at hand: thermo, as we affectionately called it.
I could hardly believe when the buzzer sounded that the test was done. Had I written down ANY answers? I felt like I had spent the entire hour thumbing through tables, trying to remember which one to use! The heaviness was felt through all of my classmates as we exited the room. Nobody felt great about the exam, but I didn’t even feel like I had completed it! I contemplated, “What IF I got the ones right where I had at least written down an answer? Maybe I would get a 50%??” Ugh. Failure.
When I returned to my dorm, I called my dad. (Because in the ancient days, phones were actually hooked to the wall. They had a long cord attached that – with the right angling – could clear all contents off any desktop. SO I had to wait till I got to my dorm to call my dad. But I digress.) Along with a quirky sense of humor (like when I took a picture of the “chip on his shoulder” below), Dad and I shared a love for engineering, and he loved if I called about anything – especially engineering!
Once, I was stuck on optics and the science behind light prisms. My professor, Dr. Young,
was one of the authors of the textbook, written by Sears, Zemansky and Young. His name increased the book’s cost to $250, and his class required the “new edition,” so we couldn’t purchase it cheaply from former students. (Did this dude know I was eating ½-can Spaghettios meals?) I knew asking this professor any question about prisms would avail no different explanation than what was already in the book, since he had authored it! When I called Dad, he promptly sent me his engineering book from thirty-four years prior, (Who saves these things?!) so I could see what it had to say about prisms. I was shocked when I opened the package to find that his book’s explanation of prisms looked the exact same as mine! His book’s authors? “Sears and Zemansky.” $4.
Fast-forward to my thermo-failing day, and I called Dad. I wasn’t really looking for engineering help this time. I think I was just looking for a shoulder to hold my tears. I told him I thought I had failed my test… with less than a 50. He said, “This is the first time? Oh that happened to me a lot! Haha!”
I wasn’t laughing. Basically choking a cry.
“Well, I haven’t thought about thermo tests in years,” he said. “Did you try your hardest and give it your best?”
“Yes!” I said, emphasizing my belief in my word. “I did! I re-did all the homework so I knew what I was doing; I stayed up half the night re-reading, understanding! I thought I was READY!”
That’s when he said something that has impacted my thinking ever since:
“Well if you did your best, then angels can do no more.”
What?! He wasn’t going to be mad at me for my bad grade?! He wasn’t going to lecture me on what I should have done? He wasn’t going to try to get me riled up to protest the teacher for making it hard? He was just going to leave it like this?!
I haven’t thought about thermodynamics or exams in a few decades, but one day my son woefully told me that he had bombed his science exam. I remember the car ride home from one of his first weeks of high school, hearing him go on and on about the injustice that it was too hard, the self-abasing comments about “how stupid he was,” and even sibling comparison on how he’ll never be as good as his older brother.
I finally cut off his words and said, “Did you do your best?”
“WHAT?!!!” His choleric personality took those as fighting words and he began strongly arguing, “YES!! I DID! I did everything I knew how to do to get ready for this stupid test!”
And I passed on my dad’s advice, “Then angels can do no more.”
Leadership gurus say it this way, “You can’t be guaranteed success; you can only deserve it.” [but be sure you deserve it.]
Girlfriend, as life goes on, I see some places where maybe I got proverbial A’s to show for my massive effort, but I see many other places where I have set goals and reset goals and reset goals and felt like such a failure at the lack of completion. I always feel like I have to pick myself up by the bootstraps and ask, “Did I really do my best? My BEST?! REALLY?! Then angels can do no more!” When my best isn’t good enough for success in God’s timing, then at least my best effort gives a cushion in the waiting room.
My strong-personality son finished that bad-test-day with some words beyond his years. As evening approached, he quietly came to me and said, “Mom, do you know you are not like other moms? All my friends get into trouble for bad grades. You and Dad are the only ones I know who would tell me something like you did today. If you had punished me for my grade, I wouldn’t have wanted to try harder next time; I wouldn’t have wanted to try at all.”
I guess I, too, had a dad who was not like other dads. He helped me get an A in things that matter.
Col 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”
- Disposing of my Disposition
- Real Moms: “When the Last Goldfish Dies”
- A Cookie Kind of Grace (Celebration of Dad)
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One mother bragged, “My son spent a thousand dollars on me, buying me a new coat!”
Another topped, “Well, my son spent tens of thousands on me, buying me a new car!”
“Really? That’s nothing!” said a third, “My son spends hundreds of dollars every WEEK talking to a therapist about nothing but ME!”
I have felt like that third mother sometimes – it might be my kids saying it one day!
Whether they were good, bad or ugly, parents leave indelible prints on our lives. Recently losing my amazing father four years after my mother has left some holes in my heart for sure. When parents pass the baton, it feels like a heavy responsibility to hold, while the foundation on which we stand has just gained a giant HOLE! Although my dad’s public “celebration of life” is waiting out the pandemic’s ban on gatherings and traveling, nothing stops me from writing some things about Dad to celebrate! I figured I could catch up in writing a few memories to YOU!
Dad’s are important. Duh.
“In an analysis of over 100 studies on parent-child relationships, it was found that having a loving and nurturing father was as important for a child’s happiness, well-being, and social and academic success as having a loving and nurturing mother.” I have heard that a father’s relationship with his daughter may have the single most relational impact on her view of her Heavenly Father. Yet, research indicates that, among other advantages, sons who feel a closeness and warmth with their father are twice as likely to enter college and 80 percent less likely to be incarcerated. I don’t say all these things to say mothers aren’t important, but just to celebrate the man I called, “Dad,” because I had a great one! I am grateful for his impact on my life; he gave me every advantage in the book. I always wanted a husband who would influence my children the same way. (And God blessed me with him!).
To kick off my “celebration of Dad’s life,” let’s start with the “peanut butter cookies” story, since it’s a favorite. I have told it before when Shouting Out to Dads, but I was surprised how many mentioned it to me when hearing of my recent loss. This great memory not only makes me want to be a better person, but teach my kids what “grace” really means.
It was a “bad” day when I was a teen. I had wanted to give my brothers a special treat of peanut butter cookies. (I was always such the perfect sister and the innocent victim in every story…because I am the one writing it today; ha! It didn’t hurt that peanut butter cookies were my favorite, too.) I prepared the dough and put the cookies into the oven, and per normal went to kill the 8-minutes of cooking time playing the piano. The piano must have been louder than the kitchen timer, because the cookies ended up burning. I had put too many in the oven, too, so most of the batch was instantly ruined. Of course my brothers came into the kitchen at that exact moment, while the stench of the burn choked any house occupants. I was embarrassed. They laughed, asking if I was using the smoke detector as my timer again. One grabbed a cookie and headed outside, saying he was going to play hockey with it – “anyone want to join me?” he yelled back.
It was then that my father returned from his long day at work. I sat, dejected, ready to hear the words of shock from him too, as I lamented my error. My father (silently of course) walked over to the cookie trays which were still cooling (smoking?) on the counter, scanned the goods, grabbed a cookie and stated, “Great! Someone finally made cookies just the way I like them!” He proceeded to eat burnt cookie after burnt cookie, like Cookie Monster in bliss. My face softened to a grin. I don’t know what kind of work day my dad had had at the glass-making facility, but I know what kind of day he helped me to have.
In my adult years when I reminded him of this story, he claimed he didn’t remember it. That’s just who he was. And it’s who I want to be: someone willing to happily eat burnt cookies, taking seen and unseen burdens off of someone else. That’s grace. That was my DAD!!
Love ya, miss ya,
grace |ɡrās| noun:
- courteous goodwill:
- (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners through Jesus Christ .