the Grace of Thankfulness

“There is so much in the world for us if we only have the eyes to see it,
and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it ourselves-
so much in men and women, so much in art and literature,
so much everywhere in which to delight, and for which to be thankful for.”

L.M. Montgomery

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies;
but the thankful heart will find, in every hour,
some heavenly blessings.”

Henry Ward Beecher


(Aunt Martha’s prized antique bronze turkey / Julie Cook / 2017)

As we gather together around this table of ours, to offer up our grateful hearts…
I am keenly, poignantly and even sadly aware as I take notice as to who is not
physically with us this year at our table….

Yet despite our losses and our sufferings, we continue to offer up our thankfulness
and gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all that was,
for all that is and for all that will be…

For it is from Grace that we have each received so very much…
that which far exceeds what we have ever deserved….

May each of you, despite life’s current circumstance, find time to whisper or shout
your words of thanks…..
for each of us, despite this current moment in time, can indeed find
something in which to be grateful…..

Blessings and Peace to all who read these words….

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion)
endures forever.

Psalm 136:26

Be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
giving thanks always for all things in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Ephesians 5:18-20

reflective remembrance

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty;
it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”

― Coco Chanel


(a slice of the Mile High Pie from Bones in Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2017)

As long as I can remember, my birthday has always fallen on the weekend of the
Georgia / Auburn football game.
Never mind if my birthday was on, say a Wednesday,
the birthday has always been marked by this hallowed grudge match.

A grudge match rivalry game considered, by those who write the history of
collegiate sports, to be the oldest college rivalry
in all of college football dating all the way back to 1892.

So this past weekend was no exception when it came to birthdays and football games…
despite the actual day being a few days after the fact of said game.

And so it would have only seemed to make sense that my beloved Dawgs would have
stepped up to the birthday plate by delivering the best gift possible—
a defeat of this most ancient of foes…putting them one more game closer
to a year of perfection….
Yet alas…
it was not to be….

Yet defeat is not the intent of today’s thoughts but rather the musing of what was,
what is and what will be…

When I turned 21, way back when I was in college at this same beloved college of
which I speak of today, I had been invited by a young man who I really liked at
the time, to travel down to Auburn for the game in honor of my birthday.

But I had a conundrum.

My godparents, the priest of my church and his wife, had already invited me to come
home as they wanted to have a small party in my honor.

Now I don’t know too many 21 year olds who would spend even a second weighing out such proposals…as whether to stay or go—as most any 21 year old in their right mind
would have wholeheartedly opted to go to the football game…
excitedly ready to spend a great weekend with great friends
and a potential great beau all the while living it up as one’s team beats
up another—

I however chose the latter.
I went home.

I really can’t say how many 21 year old kids had the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta,
at the time, bake them a birthday cake, but me…

And yes it was indeed a small intimate gathering… yet one that was, obviously, most memorable.

The game would have been no doubt memorable as well…or maybe not…
because I couldn’t even begin to tell you who won that year…
and I can recall that that young man was only a beau for a short time…
but on the other hand I do remember those other particular individuals who loved me
enough to want to make a special day even more special in their own small way.

And so it is with this day of marking the passage of time,
that I find myself being a bit wistful.
Because isn’t that what we do as we age, we become wistfully reflective.

So in keeping with this notion of being both wistful and reflective,
I am poignantly reminded that this is the first birthday that is to be spent
in 58 years without my dad and aunt.

Mother has been gone since just before I was to turn 26, but Dad and Aunt Martha
have been around throughout of what seems to be the duration of time…

Each of them knew how to make a birthday celebration both special and memorable.
As I remain grateful in recalling the years gone past that they did make a special
day just that— special.
Just as I am sad thinking of a new year without them.

And whereas there will definitely be some sadness on an otherwise momentous day…
besides nursing what could have, should have, been with the Dawgs running the table
on a possible all out rout of a season of wins…
it will be a day marked with a sense of without…
of what was and of what is no more…

Yet as our dear friend Coco Channel so pointedly reminds us—
it is not necessarily a matter of what we may have once been or been given,
rather it will be a matter of who and what we will opt to one day be…

May we opt to be both wiser and kinder….


(my husband with his birthday girl / 2017)

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,

Isaiah 42:2,3,4

the bittersweet

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy
are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but
to mature and transfigure us.”

― Hermann Hesse

“Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley


(image of the bittersweet herb Rue as seen on an herbal supplement site)

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint,
rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.
You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Luke 14:42

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are numerous references to
both plants and herbs.
With each, along with salt, having been seen as taxable commodities.

Since these were items that were sold, traded and bartered,
and whereas people were making money from the sales of such items,
officials naturally wanted to impose a tax.

And with such an early example of something so simple being taxed,
is it any wonder that something like tea, which would lead to a
rebellious bunch of colonists tossing crates of such leaves into a harbor, be of
any surprise…

And since both plants and herbs were playing such a pivotal role in early commerce
we began to divide them into categories…
with both sweet and bitter being the frontrunners in the categories of taste, use,
perception and enjoyment.

Enter the Passover seder with it’s mix of bitter herbs
And they shall eat flesh in that night, roast with fire,
and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Exodus 12:8

Or the admonishment of self restraint and to approach things with moderation….
A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

So all of this talk of herbs and bitter and sweet came flooding in yesterday…
not because of Seders, or cooking, or bartering, or taxes or planting or even quiet reflective Biblical readings..
It actually came about as I busied myself getting ready for of all things…
to take a baby shower on the road.

For you see this is the first big family event that is taking place
without well, family.

We’re having a big baby shower in Atlanta for my son and daughter-n-law this weekend
and I’m the one putting this little shindig together.
There will be about 60 friends and family, old and young, near and far who will
come help them, as well as the grandparents to be, celebrate…

It will be there at what was Dad’s house…with what was once my childhood room now becoming a nursery.

Usually when I do these sorts of events, my trusted helper is and always has been,
right by my side—that being Aunt Maaaatha (aka Martha).

She would have flown up earlier this week, coming with her sleeves rolled up,
ready to jump in with both feet as we’d cook, prepare, buy, shlep,
and haul things here, there and yon.

And whereas I’ve been busy making plans, making orders, purchasing,
cooking and packing everything up… getting ready to transport
things to the big city, I can’t help but feel that tinge of bittersweetness.

What has always been a team effort is now a solo event…
Each time I stop long enough to take a breath, I am a bit haunted by what’s missing.

My dad’s only remaining cousin, who at 92 is the oldest and last living member
of that clan, will be making the trip.
My aunt, my dad’s sister-n-law, who is also 92, will join us as well.
As the top tier of the family now prepare to welcome the newest forthcoming member.

Yet knowing who won’t be with us physically at this party has left me a bit wistful.
But whereas I know there will be those who will not be with us physically,
I do know they will there in spirit.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

the sippy spoons

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in
and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better
hour because it is dead.
Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones,
while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(my grandmother’s silver sippy spoons / Julie Cook /2017)

Our trip to West Palm Beach was long, short, sad and wrenching.
653 miles spent driving down on a Friday…
only to then turn around and drive it all back again on a Monday.

It took about 10 hours, with only one quick stop for gas.
Coupled by a constant flow of bumper to bumper traffic hurling itself,
as if lemmings on some odd unknown mission, to an unforeseen southward destination.

We drove and we drove to what seemed to be the ends of the earth…
but that would have been Key West and that would have required more time with
more stops than our backsides would allow.

The color of the sky changes when one is traveling so far south—
It goes from the more familiar north Georgia’s typical hazy blue sky,
to a faint veiled gauzy cloudy azure blue…
Maybe it’s because the land lays so flat, punctuated only by pencil thin palms
as the soil is more white sand than dirt…
and with the sun so intense, light easily reflects back upon itself.

The heat of day does not dissipate with the waning of a day as it does at home.
It doesn’t back off when the sun finally sets, providing that long awaited
respite of comfort.
There is actually a tremendous heaviness that engulfs one’s whole being…
this being due to the overtly high humidity which makes breathing nearly
impossible.
And I thought our humidity was bad.

Moving from air conditioned buildings, which is essential to survival,
out to the oppressive heat and unrelenting sun leaves glasses fogged over
and skin and clothing feeling sticky and oddly wet even before one has had
proper chance to sufficiently break a true sweat.

This is the place Martha called home for the past 30 years.
A far cry from the years spent in Alexandria, Virginia during the early years of
her marriage.

I now understood why…for despite the apparently tropical beauty,
Martha would always protest…
“no no, let me just come up there”…
And because of that one fact, of her always wanting to come to us as she
would always prefer to venture north,
this was our first visit to West Palm Beach.

Martha would drive or fly up several times during the
year, staying for a couple of weeks at a time,
back to state she still considered home…
or more specifically near the city of her birth and raising….
Atlanta.

I can’t really say all that I should or would like to at this point
about all of this…not yet.
Having lost three of the most important people in my life in the past six months
has simply taken its toll…
As processing the emotions, memories and feelings of such emptiness
will take some time.

One by one… the supports and shorings are now gone…
Those that helped to hold up the life I had always known…
This is part of the transition where I become the shoring to others…
a transition that denotes change, loss, growth and new…
all rolled uncomfortably into one.

My cousin, Martha’s adopted daughter,
had asked that I come to the house the day following the funeral
to see what if anything I would like to carry back home with me.

Martha was an avid antique collector…
and her collections were eclectic at best…
old antique Papier-mâché halloween decorations with a proclivity for pumpkins.
North Carolina’s famous family of folk art pottery, the Meader’s ugly jugs,
along with the primitive pottery of Georgia’s Marie Rogers.
The Ohio Longaberger baskets numbering in the hundreds…
to early vintage RCA radio dogs..
all the way down to antique turkeys of every size and shape.

I was really overwhelmed when we walked into the house and actually saw
the level to which some of the “collecting” had spiraled.
Her house not equipped for the excessive spillover.

My cousin immediately asked if I would like Martha’s sterling silver
flatware set.

Once was a time, long long ago, when every young bride
looked to building her proper entertaining set of silverware.
Receiving the coveted wedding gifts of silver pieces was as common
as the throwing of rice…
That being a particular pattern of sterling silver complete with
utensils and serving pieces.
Everything from teaspoons to seafood forks to butter knives….
As that now all seems to be for a time that was more civilized than
our own today.

But already having my mother’s and great aunt’s sets…and truth be told,
as my world shrinks, entertaining and cooking is now not nearly what it once was,
I tried to instill the importance of her keeping the monogramed set for both her
and her own daughter.

But when she opened the dusty old silver chest, my eyes locked immediately on the
well tarnished bundle of silver drink spoons / straws…
or what we had always referred to as sippy straws or spoons, depending on who
was using them.

While growing up, whenever we visited my grandmother,
we were always served a tall glass of icy cold
Coca Cola complete with a silver sippy straw.

Coke never tasted so good as when sipped through an elegant silver straw.
It provided a seemingly civilized air of savoring verses gulping and quaffing.
Probably Mimi’s way of getting us to slow down, enjoying and not wasting…
as she was a woman who lived during a time when waste was indeed considered sinful.

The straws were always kept in a certain drawer in my grandmother’s kitchen…
inside the 1920s small Atlanta Buckhead home.
A pale wooden light green kitchen cabinet, I can still see clearly in my mind’s eye,
was where the straws, always shiny and polished to perfection, were stored.

In 1989, when my grandmother passed away, Martha and I were the only two left to
the task of sorting and emptying the house for market.
She got the straws.
I had always wanted just one…
just one to remember.

Over the years I’d see other straws at various antique markets and silver stores,
always thinking I’d buy myself just one,
but in the end deciding it just wouldn’t be the same…

It wouldn’t be one of the straws I’d gleefully
retrieve out of the pale green drawer, delightfully anticipating plunging
it into my frosty glass of brown fizzy liquid…
as I’d gently clench the straw between my front teeth,
feeling the cold drawn liquid being pulled up into a parched waiting mouth…
So refreshing because Mimi’s house, back in those days, was not air conditioned…
an icy cold Coke, on a hot Georgia summer’s afternoon,
seemed like the greatest treat a child could have been given…

I asked my cousin if I could have the straws.

She was 10 years younger than I was and did not have the same fond memories
from time spent with our grandmother.
Being so much younger and living so far away, never afforded her much time to
bond with the long widowed woman with the poodles there in Atlanta as I had.

I had been the only grandchild for many years and we only lived 10 minutes away.
Plus Mimi was not a warm and fuzzy grandmother like others and what warmness
there was, faded with her mind as the dementia grew more and more.

My grandmother had lived a hard life.
A life that she had forged alone for herself and her two daughters during
a depression and a World War as a widowed woman…
long before it was common for women to own a business and work outside of
the home.
Both of which she did very successfully for most of her adult life.

My cousin was more than happy to give me the straws and seemed almost
sad that I really didn’t want to take much more as her task is now daunting
as she figures out what to do with years of accumulated treasured stuff.

This as I still have my own years of stuff to sort through at Dad’s.
As both cousins are now left to the task of picking through,
as well as picking up, the pieces—
all of what stays and all of what goes.

My cousin tells me that she wants to sell the house, eventually moving northward
where there are actually seasons, hills and trees…
verses living where the sky meets the ocean coupled by the
oppressive heat, humidity, and an azure blue sky….

I think I’ll polish my straws and then do something I haven’t done in years…
I’ll pour myself a Coke, a real Coke…bottle only mind you,
over a tall glass of ice…and I’ll plunge a straw deep down into the glass of
cold fizzy liquid as I draw up the memories of lives once known but always loved.

Martha Watson Pasley…aunt maaathaaaa

Martha Watson Pasley
February 2, 1939–July 12, 2017

Aunt Martha went home today at 12:40.

And for those of you who don’t understand why Christians always talk about
“going home” it is because we know that both life and death are transitory…
for our hearts, our longings, our souls belong at home,
with God the Father
Christ the Son
and the Holy Spirit

Martha knew about home and often talked about seeing my mom, her sister.
And in keeping with the humor that she and I would and could find
when our hearts were sad and heavy–

I’m left wondering how mom is feeling about
this sudden rash of company.

First Dad in March, who had to explain, no doubt, this business with Gloria…
and now Martha who was mother’s little sister…
and as sisters, there were always those moments…

There will be more on Aunt Maaathhhhaaaa later but for now,
my heart felt thanks to all of you who have prayed and offered thoughts of hope
since she first had the kidney surgery three years ago to this latest
reoccurrence and treatment….


(on our last big trip outside of Ashford Castle, County Galway, Ireland 2015
note the turned down collar to the vest—she always wore it like that, which drove me
crazy but it itched her neck)


(the two of us prior to my son’s wedding, her great nephew, in Savannah, Ga. at
Forsyth Square 2014 –she’d cut her hair all off because she wanted to look like
Judi Dench…I liked the style better on Dame Dench)

life is truly a mixed bag of nuts

I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes,
a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt,
and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.

John Steinbeck

mixed-nuts

Life is truly a mixed bag of nuts…
Despite our best preparations, plots and plans…
most of the time we have no clue as to what we’re going to get.

The tasty or the succulent, the salty or the sweet,
the crunchy or the sour or even the stale and the rotten…

But as it is life, we take what we can get, and get when we can…

Aunt Mothaaaa, aka Martha, met with the oncologist yesterday.
I was sitting with Dad when she called with her news.

Now you need to know that we’ve been living under a huge dark cloud.
Dad is dad and sadly rapidly declining.

Martha’s news of a spreading cancer hit like a rock.
She told me Sunday that she refused to turn the lights on her christmas tree
and wondered if she’d ever see those precious heirloom ornaments of hers ever again…
as she had begun expressing how she wanted her things to be “divvied up”…

Funny what we think about when faced with our own mortality…

Heaviness had wrapped its suffocating arms tightly around my small family.

When Martha called, I stepped out of dad’s room as I had not yet told
him about Martha.

There was a light joy in her voice.

The Oncologist told her that the cancer had indeed come from the
removed diseased kidney.
Chemotherapy wouldn’t touch it.
And there was no way to radiate three organs
And there was no cure for the cancer…

But….

He told her that she can take a pill, four times a day, for the rest of her life
and that will keep the cancer at bay, keeping it from spreading.

She was elated.

I finally exhaled…something I don’t think I’ve done in three weeks.

So whereas things are tragically racing down hill faster than I like for Dad,
we will stop momentarily this day, in order to rejoice for this moment
for Aunt Mothaaaaaaaa!

Who by the way has asked that I thank all “my blogging peeps”, my friends, for their
prayers…
because for next to being told she was cancer free, yesterday’s news was
about as good as it could get…

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

Psalm 5:11

biopsies and updates

If I could give you information of my life,
it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God
in strange and unaccustomed paths to do In His service what He has done in her.
And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing.

Florence Nightingale

dscn1477
(berries of the Chinese Mountain Ash along the grounds of Klyemore Abbey / Connemara, County Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Update on Aunt “Mothaaa”, aka Martha, and the liver biopsy.

Well, the doctor called her in yesterday afternoon and the news was not encouraging…
but it was what had pretty much been expected.

In her words… “it’s not good”

“Unusual” is what the doctor had to say as he would not have guessed this
to have happened this far out from the original surgery and kidney removal
of three years ago…
but it is what it is.

The next step is a visit, the first of the week, to the oncologist to hear the game plan.

So now it is prayer time for a strategic game plan!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11