mothers…it’s complicated

“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children..”
John Steinbeck


(a bluebird nest with two remaining eggs that never made it / Julie Cook / 2017)

Perhaps it does indeed Mr Steinbeck,
perhaps it does take courage…..

It should come as no surprise that no matter whether you’re young or old,
Republican or Democrat,
Christian or Muslim,
Jew or Baptist,
liberal or conservative,
black, white, brown, red, yellow…
alive or even dead…
the one single thing that I think is safe to assume for every last one of us,
a matter in which we may all find common ground…
and is surely a topic which we can each unite upon is…..

the single fact that we have all have had a mother!

Oh we’ve had a father too, but since today is earmarked for all things mothers…
mothers shall be the focus.

Mothers and motherhood…

It’s complicated.
Ask any mother….

And getting more and more complicated with each passing day I fear.
Because that role, that contribution, that definition is now morphing faster
than I can blink my eyes..

There was a time in history when more women died from complications with childbirth
than from anything else.

So it would be safe in assessing that birthing is not a piece of cake.
Then there is the raising…

Some of us are better at the whole motherhood thing than others…
Pintrest being probably the current best portal into
the realm of successful mothering and of those who are up for the current year’s awards.

Yet we each must admit….that during the course of a lifetime….that we have…
loved our mothers,
hated our mothers,
loathed our mothers,
divorced our mothers,
disowned our mothers,
liked our mothers,
acknowledged our mothers,
ignored our mothers,
not claimed our mothers,
never known our mothers,
been angry at our mothers,
been embarrassed by our mothers,
cried over our mothers,
missed our mothers……

but in the end…
we each must admit…for good or bad, we had a mother…

And petri dishes and test tubes aside…

Some of us are good at mothering and nurturing and loving….
and some of us, not so much.

Some of us want a boatload of children while…
some of us give away the only child we had.

Some of us “mother” children who we did not birth,
as some of us choose our children….
while still others are given the children they are to raise.

Some of us mothers are actually fathers who have had to take on the role of mother
for a variety of reasons…

So yes, this one simple fact of a mother, mothering, motherhood…
is complicated.

I am not a Catholic…so no one can accuse me of bias or blindness…
but there is one thing I know for certain, that being the example we have been given as to
what a tremendous job mothering can demand…
an example is found in a simple woman named Mary.

Oh we all have some notion about Mary–something akin to a fairytale really.
An image of a benign gentle face, adorned with white shroud with blue tunic,
hands tenderly folded as her unblemished face looks lovingly down upon mankind
from atop some heavenly throne as the stars dance around her head….

And that may very well be how things are for her now…in Heaven….

But I actually think of a young dark haired, olive skinned Jewish woman who’s hands
are calloused as her feet are dusty…
She is neither fair haired nor do flowers adorn her beauty.

Oh she is indeed most blessed among women, but she is also greatly burdened.

She carries in her heart a burden none of us shall ever know.
We may glimpse her burden, her pain, her hidden anguish…but we will not know
exactly her magnitude.

I see her the day she is angry at this strange yet gentle son of hers who speaks with
adult leaders as though he is one of them…

I see her when he becomes lost to her for days during a family trip.
Literally lost, as in gone.
He is young and seemingly naive to the ways of a dangerous Palestine under Roman Occupation.
Panic has taken hold of her as she and her husband desperately search.

Has your child ever been out of your sight for even just a minute or two
and for those moments of uncertainty, did you not feel that nauseating hold on time,
the feeling of drowning without being under water…?

And I see her releasing both relief and anger as she finds him comfortable and selfishly lost
in his own time with no apparent concern that perhaps his family had been anxious
during the three day search.

There were no phones, no Amber alerts, no police who would aid in the search.
And yet, he is among the elders, teaching.
In his mind, a perfectly normal place for him to be
but so frustratingly odd for her….

What does the mother of God do?
Does she yell, punish, reprimand, perhaps even ground him…
or…
does she bite her tongue as he speaks to her words that come from some place else.
As she is pondering, wondering, bearing the burden hidden in her heart.

I next see an older woman, hair greying, the lines on her face run deep.
She is no longer young or vibrant, but tired.

She stands in the middle of an angry crowd.
She is hot after standing for hours in the midst of this pulsating mob
as her nostrils burn from the heaviness of both sweat and dust mingled
sickeningly together.

The shouts from these people, some she actually knows, pains her but pales in comparison
to the sight now standing before her.

A man striped of clothing, no dignity remaining, naked, bloody and bruised
head lowered in exhaustion.
He is bound, bleeding profusely as he is the image of a man who has
been savaged.

This is her son.

The once young, gentle naive boy who spoke of things she did not quite understand.
Her mind flashes to holding him, cradling him, soothing him as she now longs to do the same…
wishing to not only kiss away the hurt but to wash his bloody and torn skin
while shielding him from the abuse—
yet she is frozen and paralyzed knowing there is nothing she can do.

A mother who bore Salvation.

So yes, mothers, motherhood and mothering is indeed complicated
as it does indeed demand courage…from every last one of us….
Mary should know…

So on this springtime Sunday in May,
may we each remember the mothers in our lives…
with love, with forgiveness and with hope…

Happy Mother’s Day….

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2:33-35

children

“Times are bad.
Children no longer obey their parents,
and everyone is writing a book.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

“We cannot always build the future for our youth,
but we can build our youth for the future.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt


(a youthful barn swallow, stuck in our garage / Julie Cook / 2017)

This is not a post about my own child…
nor is it a post about anyone else’s child in particular…
and yet, none the less, it is a post about children.

All children, no matter the species, spend their youthful days swinging upon
some sort of learning curve….
As in growing up…there is always some constant state of learning.

Life is indeed a constant lesson on what to do…
…but probably more importantly, perhaps the lessons are in what not to do.

As in don’t touch…HOT
Don’t step there…DEEP, WET, GROSS, DANGER
Don’t eat that…HOT, GROSS, BAD, POISON
Don’t get out of my sight
Don’t let go of my hand
Don’t forget to_______ (fill in the blank)

Anyone who has survived getting their children to a certain point in life…say,
maybe 30, can tell you that it was harrowing…

And frustratingly still, say at age 30, the coast is yet anything but clear.

Such is the lot of a parent.
A life lived in a constant state of worry, jubilation, pride, disgust, sorrow, anticipation…
the list is endless.

During the summer months I often have had problems with hummingbirds
flying into my carport / garage.
I don’t know why they do it….
there are no flowers, nothing bright and colorful, just an open
dirty white space where two vehicles live, when not on the road…
along with two trash trash cans and all the recycling.

When the birds appear, I usually grab an extension pole—
one of those things that telescopes upward allowing one to clean a ceiling fan etc.
I walk around the garage with pole extended,
complete with a soft brush on the end in order for the now tired hummingbird to light,
all in order for me to slowly lower the pole allowing the bird
to clear the raised garage door and fly to freedom.

Sometimes the birds are so tired that I can actually pick them up by hand from
atop the windowsill.

The birds tire because they buzz around the white ceiling…
unable to perceive that it is indeed a ceiling and not the sky.
Buzzing and bumping into a white ceiling that won’t let them out.
All the while, I’m craning my neck at a 45 degree angle, balancing a
pole blindly and wandering about dizzy while trying to get the birds to light on the pole.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon.
There I was yesterday afternoon, minding my own business in the kitchen
busy cooking supper, when my husband arrived home from work.
I go to the door to let him in when he tells me that I’ve got birds in the garage.

Huh??

Knowing that it was too early for the hummingbird madness,
I couldn’t imagine what in the world he was talking about…
that is until I saw them.

Two barn swallows were whirring about in circles along the top of the garage ceiling…
flying 90 to nothing!

If you don’t know, barn swallows are the acrobats of the sky.
They zoom and dart, precariously skimming the surface of ground or bush as they snap up every
and any sort of insect, never missing a beat of wing.

These two were no hummingbirds and they were not about to let me grab them nor were they
comprehending that they had to swoop downward in order to get out.

As I grabbed a broom, my husband said “let’s eat and they’ll get out on their own.

Well…
following supper there were still two fast as lightening birds swirling and
racing in circles around the top of my garage.
We backed out the cars.
We got brooms and rakes.
I even ran to find one of my crab nets.

All of a sudden, another swallow flies in the garage.
AAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

But this third bird actually flew in, did a couple of laps,
then dipped low while flying back out.

We went back inside to watch and wait as we had an inkling this third bird had a plan.

The third bird kept coming back in, looping around a time or two, then dipping low
each time near the backdoor, then swooping out.

Finally one of the misguided birds took notice and did the same.
This left just one hapless bird who seemed clueless as to where everyone went.

What we deduced to be the mother to these two slow learners, would return in and out until
she finally got the one lagging behind to eventually follow suit.

After about two hours, we were thankfully minus the three swallows but
we had a copious amount of bird poop all over the floor, walls, windows…

And yet I marveled at this most teachable moment within this small family.

Happy, as well as somewhat awed by what I had just witnessed,
my thoughts drifted to that of a loving Father who also tirelessly dips into our own lives…
trying over and over to demonstrate just how it should be done…
until we finally get it and follow suit….

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Psalm 32:8

The bench

“Seated here in contemplations lost, my thought discovers vaster space beyond, supernal silence and unfathomed peace”
Giacomo Leopardi

The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.
Wendell Berry

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(remnants of a red cedar picnic bench / Julie Cook / 2015)

Fifty years ago it came to be.
The red cedar picnic table, along with the accompanying two benches, just appeared one hot summer afternoon out back on the fenced green lawn, sheltered under the shade of the tall pine tree.
It was long before central air-conditioning.
Every window in the house was wide open.
It was cooler out rather than in.

These were the days before every home had a two, three or even four car garage.
Despite cheap gas, frugality reigned.
It was a time when everyone was home more often than away.
A time when families and neighbors would gather together outside in order to cool off, simply sharing the riches of one another’s lives.

Backyard cookouts, neighborhood block parties, a time of lazy summer days. . .
Life was delightfully slower back then.
Most moms were home, as dads were at work and the kids whiled away the hours outside.
Kick the can
Hide-n-seek
Stickball games
Collecting evening fireflies
Catching crawfish in the creek
A single voice calling out “Marco. . .”
while a handful of youthful voices echoed back “Polo. . .”

This was the time before toxic waters, child predators and electronic this and thats. .
There was no need for cell phones. . .parents knew kids would be home at dark.
High fashion consisted of tee shirts, cut offs and a new pair of keds.

Popsicles dribbled down chins,
As everyone shooed the flies aways from the platter of ice cold slices of watermelon.
Winning the seed spiting contests always went to those who still had their front teeth.
Mothers were insistent on everyone wearing their tennis shoes while youthful feet clamored to be free
“I don’t want to hear it when you get a splinter or step on a yellow jacket. . .”

A neighborhood full of youthful energy each took their places at the table, sliding onto the benches oh so gingerly so as not to rub bare legs carelessly over the red cedar wood.
“Everyone look this way and smile”. . .
As the Kodak flash cube blinked and clicked with the advancement of the film.

The paper plates were ladened with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Lays potato chips and fritos along with freshly washed green grapes. . .however it was to the ice-cream sandwiches and fudge bars that all eyes turned.
“Now ya’ll wait a while after eating–I don’t want you running around making yourselves sick. . .”
As the moms sipped iced coffee and puffed on their cigarettes.

Yet sadly, time always has a way of catching up with Life.
The children grew up and one by one, grew away.
With each passing summer there were less and less members gathered around the table.
The joyful chatter of youthful exuberance grew silent
The pine straw fell, covering the table as the benches remained empty and bare.
Abandoned and finally forgotten. . .that is until today.

Fifty years later, a lone bench is found hidden deep in the woods.
Time and the elements have each laid claim to the table and fellow bench, but the lone single bench remains much as it did—waiting and inviting any and all who might wish to sit a spell while spending a summer’s evening listening to the sound of the whip-poor-will and the distant echo of the laughter of children.

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Mother’s Roses

“Even more than the time when she gave birth, a mother feels her greatest joy when she hears others refer to her son as a wise learned one.”
― Thiruvalluvar

“Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues — faith and hope.”
― Charles Dickens

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(Mother’s tea roses / Julie Cook / 2015)

Mother was never much of a gardener.
She worked in the yard but it was more out of necessity rather than joy.
The mindset was, if you had a yard, you needed to keep it up.
Dad cut grass, mother cut the bushes and did everything else that needed doing. . .
Going through the motions of doing, merely for the sake of necessity.

I don’t remember exactly when or how mother first came about the small tiny tea rose bush.
I don’t know why she opted to plant it by the corner of the carport.
But I do know that she was proud of the tiny rose bush.

I think she planted the bush when I was away at college.
Most likely I acknowledged the little bush, during my comings and goings,
with nothing more than a half interested glance.

Upon graduating college, I immediately moved away, with little thought of the
small bush remaining behind, perched alone by the corner of the carport.

Within two years of my independence, Mother was sadly gone.

After mother’s death, the little rose bush faded.
Dad became gravely fretful over the health of the bush,
almost frantic that the little bush not die.
Each year upon year he watched, watered, waited.

29 years have since passed.

Now with each trip back home, Dad takes me to see the bush.
No longer do I have a mere casual interest in this little plant
but rather my interest is one of keen observance,
as I have become a silent cheerleader of the now lush vibrant bush. . .

Mother would be so happy to see so many blooms. . .
Happy Mother’s Day Mom. . .

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the love of a mother

“Only a Woman, divine, could know all that a woman can suffer.”
Willa Cather

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(hand carved wooden figure of Mary / carved in France / Julie Cook / 2014)

Have you ever loved someone so much that you’d do anything for them?
I mean anything.
You’d cut your arm off for them.
You’d stand in front of a speeding train for them.
You’d lay your life down just to move Heaven and Earth, all for them.
If they were facing some sort of challenge or difficulty, you’d trade places with them without blinking.
You’d take the pain,
the suffering,
the anguish. . .
Whatever it is, you’d take it and take it willingly and gladly, just to spare this loved one the pain, the suffering the anguish. . .
all because you love this person just that much. . .

If you are a mother, a mom, a mommy, a mum then you totally “get it”—you understand those questions and statements.
For those hard questions with the impossible answers are what constitutes the love of a mother.
Doesn’t matter if your child is 6 or 26, if they hurt, you hurt.
If your child is going through difficulties, challenges, hardships. . .
you’d take each and every one of those difficulties, challenges and hardships just to spare your child—
Because that’s the heart of a mother.

As my own heart currently heaves heavily for my own child–
As I pound the gates of Heaven as hard as I can–
As I scream out to the void of stillness–
As my frustration and anger is all so bitterly palpable–
As I assail the God of all Creation. . .
. . .because that’s what a mother does for her child—she sees, she watches, she hopes, she cries, she suffers, she wishes, she dreams, she hugs, she consoles, she remains outwardly positive—
And all the while, she prays.
She prays day and night.
She prays without ceasing and riles at the maddening silence from above.
She badgers and harangues the God of the Universe as if He’s merely not paying attention. . .
As if He has no idea of what was going on.
As if He doesn’t actually love this child any more than the mother.
What?
Loves him more than I. . . ???

Try telling any mother that someone else loves her child any more then she. . .
For that’s how mothers are—they are tenacious, defensive, voracious, strong. . .and yes, they would move Heaven and Earth for their child. . .yet on those occasions when they can’t move the Heavens, they can’t make things right, they can’t kiss it and make it all better, they can’t stand in as substitute. . .a heart silently breaks.
I don’t think anyone can ever fully grasp the pain of a mother’s heart.

And as it is on just such an occasion, as my own heart currently breaks–as in it is breaking now— as my own frustration is enough to break me, as my voice is raw and hoarse from my shouting to the God of both Heaven and Earth, and as my eyes are swollen from the shedding of countless tears, my thoughts race across time to another Mother who most assuredly understands my frustration, my pain, my sorrow for my child, for she suffered grievously for her child long before my own heartache began. . .and there is solace in a shared pain.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Luke 2:34-35

And a sword will pierce her soul. . .

This is the time of year when we find our thoughts turning to the story of a young timid woman, along with her equally young husband, seeking shelter during a long and arduous journey as the time arrives for the birth of their first child. . .
Yet it is to this same woman, who 33 years later, witnesses the brutal betrayal, beating and ultimate public execution and murder of her son—It is to this very public story of the very private agony of a Mother’s heart which draws me inward and touches my own heart in a deeply profound manner.

And so it is. . .and so it goes. . .
a pierced soul will continue to assail the Heavens, as the tears continue to flow, as the prayers continue be spoken without ceasing. . .
As the heart of a mother continues to be battered and bruised for the love of a child.

Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good;
Turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.
And do not hide Your face from Your servant,
For I am in trouble;
Hear me speedily.
Draw near to my soul, and redeem it;
Deliver me because of my enemies.

Psalm 69:16-18

Life’s fragile moments

Beauty is a fragile gift.
Ovid

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(gerber daisy, with a small shield bug / stink bug / Julie Cook / 2014)

This beautiful gerber daisy continues blooming like nobody’s business, unaware that in a few short weeks, the first frost of the year is predictably scheduled. Until then, I suppose we shall bask in the vibrant colors and beauty of the last hoorah of a slow fading season.

Beauty of a flower, with it’s often quickly fading glory, is not the only fragile “gift” I’ve recently been privy to observe. . .rather, it is Life herself, that is most tenderly fragile. . .as I have so poignantly observed over the past couple of weeks. . .

I did something this morning that I have never done before. I finished my 30 minutes of pure torture on the elliptical when something unexplainable inside myself made me push the start button—again.
A double run.
It must have been an outer body experience.
Sweat was already pouring down my face, my toes were already numb and luckily I had yet to inhale my gum.

Maybe it’s because in two weeks I’ll be turning 55.
Maybe it’s due to the black cherry juice (yes black cherry juice but more about that another day).
Maybe it’s because of the cheesecake.
Cheesecake, did she just say cheesecake?!
Yes.
And I’m proud of it.
I made the most heavenly and unctuous cheesecake over the weekend. I haven’t made, let alone eaten, a cheesecake in years.
What’s so bad?
It’s got all the major food groups—dairy, eggs, grains —graham crackers are a grains right?
And for all of you über svelte individuals out there who post your latest marathon number on the back window of your cars and nosh on kale chips and who are currently rolling your eyes over my paltry 30 minutes of weights and a 30 minute elliptical “run”, now doubled, on this fine Tuesday, may it be noted that I work rather hard at striking a balance, trying not to go too far off on any one tangent— or ledge for that matter.

Life is all about a healthy balance. . .
A balance of activity, spiritually, health, relationships and butter. Yes you heard / read me correctly, butter.
Remember, I grew up as a member of the Julia Child butter is life club. . .life is no fun without butter. . .

Yet it is my having witnessed and observed a couple of “encounters” over the past several weeks which has not only touched my heart, but has brought my attention around to this precious thing we call Life. . . with all of her tragedies, her triumphs and her fragility, of which has maybe pushed me a bit further this morning in the pushing of myself. . .

Two weekends ago a friend of mine popped in on a Saturday afternoon for a visit of catch up. Her daughter, who went to school with my son, has moved far way. And not that she’s not been away before, she has. It’s just that now, her mom ( my friend) always knew it was temporary—as in away at college, away on trips, away on study abroad programs–always knowing she’d be returning . . .home. . .
This time however, the move is more of a permanent nature.
As in moving to Chicago to live and work sort of permanent.

She and her husband had just returned from a quick weekend visit–the first visit since the big move.
The daughter had plotted and planned a grand weekend adventure for her parents as it was their first trip to the Windy City. At one point during the adventure, the daughter looked at her mom asking if there was anything special she wanted to do or see before having to head back south to Georgia.
My friend then said something that struck such a deep chord in my soul. She turned to her daughter, locking her arm around her daughter’s arm and said– “I didn’t come up here to be entertained. I don’t care if I do or see a single thing. . .the only thing I wanted to do was to be with you”

WOW!

That took my breath away not to mention the sudden tears filling my eyes.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a mom anymore who can say that to me or that I can now finally truly appreciate hearing that from my mom–or that I would long hearing that from my mom.
I suddenly felt a tremendous sense of sadness missing my mom.
Maybe it’s because I was thinking sightseeing mode for my friend and the fact that she just wanted / needed to see her daughter, as that was all that simply mattered, caught me by surprise.
Only the love of a mother. . .

The next observation came Friday evening. My husband and I had gone to dinner at a local restaurant. The place was packed as we were lead over to our table. Scanning the overtly crowded restaurant, I thought I recognized the face of a former student but thought better of it as I knew he was now making his home in Atlanta. Out of the blue, a friend who had seen us being seated, made her way over to say hello. It turns out she and her husband were actually dinning with this former student and his family.

In the midsts of her conversation, she began telling me something about this particular student, when suddenly she said “after his accident. . .”
Accident? I inquired as I had no knowledge of him having been in an accident.
She proceeds to tell me that yes, he had a diving accident almost two years ago and was now paralyzed from the shoulders down.
“WHAT??!!”

Long story short. . . I got up and went over to his table to speak with him. He had come to see me just before I retired a little over two years ago. He had graduated college and was actually working at the State Capital. He had had this diving accident shortly after seeing me at school and has since been in rehab and therapy working on some hoped for mobility.

As I made my way back to my husband and our supper, I was still so terribly shocked. Such a vivacious, joyful young man perched on the periphery of a long career and happy future when BAM, he’s thrown a devastating curve ball. Yet he still possesses that most vivacious smile and joyful spirit.
I wondered if I could or would have any sort of spirit if I was sitting in his place or if I were his mom. The unfairness of life plagued my heart.

The last situation came about yesterday.
I had run up town to a local little farmer’s co-op when I ran into a young man I had had the pleasure of working with many years back. I had also had the pleasure of teaching his wife many years ago. I actually had worked with both this young man as well as his older brother as they each began with careers in education at my school. Having long left teaching, he now owns his own investment firm and is quite successful.

As this was a Monday morning and he was not dressed for the office, I asked if he wasn’t working today or did he take Monday’s off. He seemed to be a bit reserved which was quite out of character.
He hung his head a bit, telling me that “no, this is the second anniversary of my son’s death and I just couldn’t go in to work today.”

Hit with the enormity of his words, I felt winded.

Two years ago, as he and his beautiful family, his wife and three young sons, were leaving a restaurant off our town’s small downtown square, just as the family was crossing the street, a truck made a shape turn into the intersection, not seeing the young child at the end of family’s journey across the street, the truck struck and killed the little boy.

It was a terrible accident. The young teen driver had simply not seen the little boy. It was a devastatingly tragic accident. An accident which shook our entire community.
I had not realized, when I saw my friend, that this particular day had marked the very sad day of remembrance for his family. Again, the unfairness of life plagued my heart. As a parent, who has not suffered though such a tragedy, any and all words of solace on my part ring terribly empty, as simply, there are no words.

And so it is on this October day that I am most mindful of Life and of her most fragile nature.
Her Triumphs and her tragedies.
We are joined together, you and I, by the ties of such events which take place each and every day.
It is what joyfully or sadly grants us a unifying humanity. For good or for bad we journey together on this planet. We are all given choices. We may either join together supporting one another as the global family we are, or we may rile against one another with suspison, distrust and hate.

There are those who are bent on destruction and hate.
And I wonder, what is the point.
I am reminded of the lyrics of Gary Jules song, It’s a mad world:
“And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world, mad world, mad world, mad world”

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5

May we choose caring, may we choose compassion, may we choose love, may we choose Life.
Life is simply too fragile to choose anything else.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:3-4

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The Queen Mum speaks

“Your work is the rent you pay for the room you occupy on earth.”
Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

“My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel–it is, before all, to make you see.”
― Joseph Conrad

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Oh, you were expecting someone else weren’t you?

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Hoping you’re not too terribly disappointed in the selection of queens, I did however, want to share with you the words spoken from this particular queen mother—words which were used to pay homage to the transition of her son, the heir apparent, as well as welcoming words to the addition of his bride into our lives . . .

Obviously this version, the written version, is sans the emotion. The tears, the raw moments which where marked by a mother who would find herself choking up when she had otherwise been the proverbial rock. There is also something very moving, as well as overwhelming, when you find yourself standing before a gathered group of nearly one hundred folks—family friends, who have journeyed near and far in order to be with your family for a celebration.
A very humbling moment indeed.

This is a copy of the “toast” I offered on behalf of Brenton’s dad, Gregory (he just gets too emotional at such moments–remember, I am the rock), and myself as we brought our magical evening to a close. I think I echo the words of most parents out there who find themselves in the position of offering their child, who has suddenly grown up, to another person and family–while, in turn, welcoming another individual and family into their family.
It’s all a matter of transition. . .

And as this special day of ours fell on the 70th anniversary of D Day—-I took the opportunity, before beginning my little “talk”, by offering a brief history lesson—which was geared especially to all the young people gathered in, of all places, a restaurant named Churchill’s in a banquet room known as Number Ten Downing, who I think all need a good dose of reminding of such a monumentally perilous and heroic moment in the history of the free world. . .leave it to the teacher in me. . .

As most of you who know me, know that I express myself best through the written word, tonight shall prove no differently.

Again, Gregory and I would like to thank each of you for making the journey here to Savannah this weekend. We would also like to thank you for making this journey with us a parents—Each and every one of you has had a hand in helping to raise these two very precious individuals who are seated here in this room this evening. Had it not been for all of you and of the role you’ve played in the lives of both Brenton and Abby, this joyous weekend, possibly, may not have ever taken place.

As a teacher, I was always keenly aware of the importance of the role I had in helping to raise children other than my own. It was a role I took very seriously for over 30 years of my life. It is for that very reason that Gregory and I are both so truly grateful to all of you here with us this evening.

I am also keenly aware of those individuals who had a hand, either directly or indirectly, in and with the lives of Brenton and Abby— who are no longer physically with us —in particular Abby’s dad Chris, as well as for my mom Mary Ann and my Uncle Paul.

I don’t know if this was true for any you parents or not, but I believe that when we, as new parents, first hold our freshly delivered baby in our arms, we immediately begin planning.
Planning an illustrious future.
We immediately begin planning when our child will walk.
We plan what sports he or she will play.
We plan their academic success, we plan what college they’ll attend and chances are, we plan their career choice…

We also, no doubt, immediately begin planning, or at least imagining, their wedding.
Who will they meet?
Who will they fall in love with?
Will they have to endure broken hearts?
Will they be happy?

Life and parenthood is truly all about planning.
Planning for ourselves as well as planning for our children.

But as any parent in this room will testify—all that planning can just be thrown out the window because no child will ever live according to the plans or the schedules of any well-intentioned or well-organized parent.

Yet nevertheless, plan I did.

I cannot speak to the parents who have raised multiple children, as Brenton is our only child.
And it should be noted that there is a lot of pressure on only children. They fortunately or unfortunately receive all, and I mean all, of their parent’s love, attention, and planning.

Follow all of that with telling folks your mom’s a teacher and you may multiply that planning and attention by at least a million.

From the time Brenton was born, it was happily always the three of us. We went everywhere and did everything together as a family. The first time Gregory and I ever went away on a weekend trip together, Brenton was a junior high school. I won’t talk about the destroyed freezer, the burn marks on the patio, or the exceeded limit to the “guests” at the house that weekend but just know that the three of us were pretty much a team for most of Brenton’s life.

And in the back of my mind, I always imagined who would one day come into our lives to make our team of 3 a complete team of 4.

So not only was I always planning and imagining, I was always praying.
Praying that God would bring the right girl, one day, into Brenton’s life.

I think He’s certainly answered that prayer.

Not being one who can speak to quick proposals, as my mother would have been the first to tell you, I couldn’t say a word when after only a brief courtship, Brenton told his dad and I that he had found “the one” and wanted to propose to Abby.

The flip side to a quick proposal has been the length of the engagement. Of which I think their friends have begun teasing them, but of which I have found to be a blessing as they have had ample time in the sorting out process.

I like to think that if they’ve made it this far– through the trials of growing together as a couple, having shared joint custody of their beloved Alice, their very sweet black lab, as well as having struggled with schooling, job searches, finding a new home and discovering who they are as both individuals as well as a couple,
then maybe, they are indeed ready for a life as two verses life as one.

We have been truly blessed welcoming Abby to our team of three, as she completes the missing piece of the puzzle, making our family a complete team of four.
The daughter we do not have.

I would like to conclude with a reading taken from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the young German pastor who lost his life at the Flossenbürg Death Camp in 1945. This excerpt is taken from his Letters and Papers from Prison

Marriage for God
“Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7)
In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive.
Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as your are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.
From the first day of your wedding till the last the rule must be: “Welcome one another. . .for the glory of God.”
That is God’s word for your marriage. Thank God for it; thank God for leading you thus far; ask God to establish your marriage, to confirm it, sanctify it, and preserve it. So your marriage will be “for the praise of God’s glory”

AMEN.

To Brenton and Abby