Category Archives: Life

Journal-ish entries about my journey through this world

regret.

Death is kind of like the sword wound of a Nazgul … no matter how much time passes, we never really recover. It’s been a decade since my mom died; nearly that since my dad.  I’ve attended three other funerals since those (not counting Gram’s). They’re all somewhat like digging a scab off a mostly-healed wound.  You start to just bleed all over.

We didn’t make it down here in time to see Gram before she died.  That wasn’t the original plan anyway for various reasons (including travel time, Gram’s apparent disconnection from reality and the people in it, and our job responsibilities).  But I feel cheated that we weren’t here.  We missed it by an hour & a half.

It’s not that I actually want to see someone die … I guess I just feel guilty that I wasn’t there when either of my parents “shuffled off this mortal coil to touch the face of God” (marvelous speech by Ronald Reagan after theChallenger disaster in 1986).

I didn’t get to say goodbye.

My mom. I wish I had better photos of my parents.
My mom. I wish I had better photos of my parents.
My dad, circa 1952 or 1953. He was an MP in the Army till 1954.
My dad, circa 1952 or 1953. He was an MP in the Army till 1954.

My dad died alone. We’re not even entirely sure when – it was either the evening of June 6th or the following morning.  I kind of commemorate both days … the death certificate reads the 7th.  I guess God kept His promise about “when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will be with you.”   I’m sure He was.

Mom was a different story.  She’d been sick for a while, her body decimated by cancer and her mind robbed of its acute clarity by a cancer- or chemo-induced stroke. The damned disease even took her personality – her grace, her smile, her voice, her sparkle. Those last six months were horrible and ugly and everything I don’t want to remember.

As her health failed, mom’s doctor told the family on a Saturday night “it wouldn’t be long.”  My brother called me at college and told me to start preparing to fly back home.  I couldn’t afford to fly on short notice except on the bereavement fare (which you can’t get till someone has died), and I didn’t think I could get there in time anyway.  I had no car; I had no money; I had just begun a new job; I was about to be utterly smashed by the opening week of my first semester of grad school; I was 500 miles from home and lacking any adoptive “parents”—those adults who realize that 18 to 22 year olds are still pretty stupid and need to be mentored in the ways of life.

So I waited the extra 24 hours till my brother called again to say that she was in heaven, then flew home the next morning.  Mom’s journey into the Undiscovered Country was relayed to me secondhand.

My dad and brother and aunts and uncles gathered around her bed when the end was near and started singing. They sang hymns; they read psalms; they prayed; they sang some more.  She slipped away to the sound of their voices. It was done.  I should have been there.

I was far too dumb at age 22 to realize how much I would regret the extremely practical and sensible decision to wait 24 hours to fly home.

Passing: Scattered thoughts on “Crossing the Jordan”

Written from north GA while preparing for Gram’s funeral.  By the way, funeral is set for Sat at 2pm.  Coart’s doing all the speaking. I’m doing the music. 

Traveling home.
Crossing over.
Passing on.
Death is a doorway, a waystop on the journey of life and our terminology reflects it.

******
I like that people tell stories when they gather for a funeral. You start to hear all kinds of stuff about the second cousin who accidentally set the barn on fire, or the creepy real-life ghost story from the old “home place” up in Such-N-Such county, or the stone d cousin who woke up from her stupor to discover her mom wasn’t around at the time  so she assumed the rapture had taken place and she missed it. (That last one I didn’t make up. I swear.)

Family trees get reconstructed at times like this.  You hear amazing names that no baby-name-book would ever think of (especially in the South!).  You find out things, like the fact that there’s a British branch of the Ramey family: one of Monty’s uncles in WWII fathered a child in England. Cloe (that’s Gram) used to write to the boy, and at one point he sent a picture of himself to the States.

*****

Coart with his Gram.
Coart with his Gram.

She was one of the most ordinary  people in Habersham County, yet extraordinary in her ability to simply love people. It wasn’t a gushy, mushy, touchy-feely love.  It was the real, hard-nosed, hard-working kind of love thatdoes things for people without having to talk about it. Refreshing to find someone who was a Christian instead of just talking like one.

Gram had known her Savior for a long time and there’s no way in this world I would have done anything to prolong her days on an accursed planet like this one.  But John Donne was right when he warned us that we cannot ignore the massive sense of LOSS that accompanies a death.

Losing a human from our population diminishes us all. We are connected, like tiny threads criss-crossing and webbing all of humanity into a living, breathing organism.  No one else will ever exist with Gram’s particular combination of gifts, talents, memories, quirks.

All of the history she lived –the Depression, WWII, the post-war baby boom, desegregation, the turbulent 60s – is now detached from our little circle of reality. She was the storyteller; we were the listeners. Now we are the vessels for stories we can only carry, not know from experience.  Like Lois Lowry’s Giver, we can describe, but we cannot make others (or even ourselves) experience.

Brownies are Beautiful

Make these. You know you want to:

4 squares bittersweet baking chocolate
1 1/2  sticks (10 T) butter –none of that margarine stuff! 
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 T dark Kahlua (vanilla works instead … or regular Kahlua)
1 cup flour
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips
can of dark chocolate frosting

Melt together the chocolate & butter. Pour into mixing bowl.

Beat in the sugar, then eggs & Kahlua (or vanilla). Then flour.  Stir in pecans.

Pour into a well greased & floured 9×9 pan.  Sprinkle choc chips liberally on top

Bake @ 350 for 30 min or till a toothpick comes out with crumbs (still a bit soft in the center).

Let cool & ice.

Confessions of a Southern-Yankee Convert

I have a confession to make.

I am a Yankee who honestly likes living in the South, and I’ll be sorry to leave whenever that time comes.

For years I’ve been trying to squash this rising conviction that the South isn’t half-bad. Now in the 15th year of my “sojourn” in this foreign land, I still enjoy mocking its quirky towns and hick accents and odd people with names like Delmar and Raybur and Calloway.

I still live in mortal fear that, should I raise children in “these here parts,” they’ll develop the undesirable ability to stretch simple words to 4 syllables. The linguist in me shudders to hear diphthongs so maligned.  Who knew a simple name like “Joyce” could roll off the tongue in 3 barely-connected segments?  I find myself wanting to finish other people’s sentences for them because it pains me to wait as they drawl out all those multi-syllabic words.

But underneath the jests I’ve developed a deep liking for this part of the planet. The winters are warm(er); the people friendly (though I still shudder when some cashier at Belks’ calls me “honey” …. I’m not her “honey” or anyone else’s unless they’re 87 years old and nice enough to be my grandma).  The Southern tradition of pulling up a chair to “visit a spell” over a glass of diabetes-inducing sweet tea is something to treasure.

sweet-tea

Don’t get me wrong:  Some days I long for the refreshing bluntness of Yankee-land, where a well-pointed hand gesture can communicate 1000 words. People talk faster up there…. Fast food is actually delivered to the counter before you can pay for your order… And you know where you stand with folks. None of this “smile to your face and stab you in the back” stuff (which is probably the South’s greatest fault).

But given the alternatives, the South is one of the best places to live.

When it comes to interesting characters and stories stranger than fiction, the South wins hands-down. Southern storytellers ought to be a marketable export. Forget the Comedy Channel… find yourself a Southerner, give them a glass of sweet tea and a heapin’ bowl of banana pudding, and ask them to relate a few stories about “family.”

Most recent installment of “hilarious stories you would only hear in Dixie”:  The Racoon that Smokes Pot.

Oh dear. lol