Lawrence

Being from NC makes me a little partial to the way things 'ought to be...but even the hills and weather cooperated to welcome a man back to the earth and then to heaven. Our family was there today, in those beautiful mountains with smoke on the tips, and rain clouds hovering, billowing and puffing up like sails just waiting until the funeral was over.

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There's something about a North Carolina funeral that makes you feel like all will be right with the world even if the world doesn't feel right, right now. We said good bye to a good man today. He was a handsome, loving, generous family man who loved a wife and his children the way that storybooks have to write it for us to believe it is real. It hurts. So much...and we'll miss him but God knows he had a NC send off that would make other states jealous.

But it wasn't the beautiful sermon, or the flowers, or the goosebumps raised from his grandchildren singing Amazing Grace. It wasn't the home cooked meal or the full church of well wishers. It wasn't the full military honors complete with Navy men in white folding a flag or the 21 gun salute. No, what made this NC send off memorable, was something so simple, so understated that had you not been paying attention, you might have missed it.

As the funeral procession left the church and reached the bypass heading to the cemetery, we watched a 1/4 mile of road construction workers stop, remove their hard hats and stand stoically by the side of the highway until we passed.

That, my friends, is a North Carolina send off.

Rest In Peace Lawrence. Say hi to Mary Lou.

We love you.

Wood Over Water

 *Originally written in a letter on March 2, 2008.   It has been edited for privacy.*

 

Dearest friend,

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It seems as if death has made you a widow of one of the greatest men I will ever know.  You are left behind with the memories of a man who was as meek as a blade of grass but as true and beautifully moving as an entire field of them waving in the wind.  Your gentle husband was taken from this life too soon.  There are many who feel sorrow and emptiness without him here.  I think of all the times I should have called, mailed a card or stopped by for a visit.  I hate myself for not taking two hours and making the drive to see him when he was ill. He deserved so much better than he got but gave so much more than he had.  We all miss him.  You were spot on when you said that lightning struck when the two of you got together.  You were perfect for one another.  You were the type of couple that made other couples, envious.

I want to tell you how much your sweet husband meant to me.  I hope the words will reach you.  I hope they will represent the place of pureness from which they come.  I love this man.  In the most respectful way I can express, I miss him and all the things he taught me.  All of his lessons will remain with me forever.

If I were quiet, I could learn a lot from your husband.  His words were no more than a whisper but powerful.  God was benevolent to have this man in my life as a guidance counselor.  God's plan was perfect. I was far enough away from my family to be considered on my own, but not quite ready to do fly.  So God gave me, my second Dad who was my dearest friend.

He was wood over water.  He was my bridge to independence.  He was safe and gave me confident steps when life's rushing water could've easily swept me away.  He was a gift from God and I thank Him for the honor of calling him friend.  

*The lessons of taking care of your home*

My first trip to Home Depot with him was an education.  A lot of things became an education when I was with him.  He showed me a rather useful piece of molded plastic which fits neatly underneath a washing machine.  This simple and quite inexpensive purchase would mean no more surprise leaks for me and no more panicked Saturday morning phone calls for him.

There was so much he taught me about home ownership and updating a space on a budget.  I learned about the “repeat” in wallpaper from him and at first I didn't care, his patience explained why he *did* care if I was going to choose the pattern and *if* he was going to hang it.   Remember when he suggested that I go shopping with you while he installed the chair rail, paint and wallpaper in my dining room?  He said I was more helpful doing that.

*The lesson of taking care of your money*

He took me to Fidelity Investments and taught me the importance of a Roth IRA.  I saved $1500.00 for my initial deposit. He picked which fund and as I signed the forms and they took my check, he said “Tell your money you’ll see it in about 50 years and tell it to bring it’s friends.” I checked on that investment the other day, and it's doing what he said it would and I am so grateful for his help.

*It's a big world - Go see it!*

My husband and I learned to love the adventure of traveling.  You showed us sights we would have never seen without his planning, organizing and budgeting.  We been from Mt. Washington to Mt. Zion and the dam(n) tour at the Hoover Dam.  We’ve flown to Tampa to have dinner at Bern's for the hell of it.  We’ve driven across a covered bridge in New Hampshire because I told him I always wanted to.  We've ridden horseback outside of Las Vegas and been to the beach at St. George Island.

*The lessons of being a friend*

He was a better friend to me than I ever was to him.  I am not sure why he took me under his wing and guided me through those first years of being on my own.  You both were so good to me that I never felt like I alone.  My whole family told me how lucky I was to have a friend like your sweet husband.  He was like my second Daddy, although I never saw him as older, just wiser.

On my way to work one morning, a van full of construction workers ran into my car.  Although I wasn't hurt, I was rattled and frightened.  A witness notified the police, but my first phone call was to your husband.  He arrived to the accident scene faster than humanly possible and stood there with me and as the officer wrote the report.  The policeman asked if he was my dad, but it was too much to explain who he was.  He's my dear friend, my confidant, my teacher, and my financial guru. He’s my handyman, my traveling atlas, and my daily newspaper.  He was my guardian angel.

There are so many wonderful things I could write about this man.  I have more memories of him than words.  Not that many people are blessed enough to have a friend like him.  He was a special person and I didn't deserve him, but God's grace let me know him anyway.  I'm not sure why he put up with me all those years, but God must have given him the patience to do so.   

He was extraordinary. 

He was a treasure. 

He will be painfully missed.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of his and your life.

He was my wood over water.

 

 

Psalm 91:11 - For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

First Love

 "Hi" I whispered.

"I came." I said with a nervous chuckle. "I'm here."

I watched him as if he were asleep in a hospital bed and I was nudging him awake.  The smell of flowers was strong.  I breathed in deeper, acknowledging for a moment that I could and drew in the fragrance of roses mixed with mums and lilies.

"Um, listen, I don't know how much time I have with just you, so I want to say a few things.  I'm sorry I didn't see you before now.  We should've called each other or something.  It's been so long.  I met your wife, just a few minutes ago....she's nice.  Yeah.  Nice. Really lovely, you did so well.  Look, I'm sorry, I feel like I got in the way of you meeting her sooner.   I'm sorry.  She seems so kind.  I bet the two of you are great together. Or were. Or are...I'm sorry.  I don't know.  My words are getting tangled up...you know how I can be..."

I paused a minute and looked around him. There were neatly folded handwritten notes, a Nascar racing card, single roses tied individually with ribbon and piece of gold jewelry tucked under his hand. He was wearing a blazer, the deepest color of navy and it looked almost like suede.   I touched his arm.  A tear slipped off of my chin and splashed on my hand resting on his coat.

"You look real handsome. I wish you would look at me."  Air caught in my throat and spilled out into a sigh that was louder than I wanted.  I squeezed my eyes shut and more tears came.  I was losing my composure and I knew I had only a few minutes here.

"Okay, so I need to say that I love you. I've always loved you.  You were so good to me through all those years and I'm sorry the way it turned out.  The way I hurt you.  All of it."

My voice grew tight and higher pitched as I tried to whisper.  My shoulders rolled in as I spoke between sobs.  I drew in my breath sharply and frowned.  My mouth was dry and moved around useless like it was chewing on something sour.   My jaw ached and burned from my clinching teeth.  I had to swallow but I felt strings of saliva pooling in the corners of my lips. I was determined to say something - anything - to this man that I came so close to marrying over 20 years ago.

"Looks like everyone has left you something.  There's nice things here, okay? Do you know that? Looks like you have some notes to read and gifts and stuff."  I squeezed my eyes shut and lifted my head to the ceiling and the tears streamed down the sides of my face and felt cool when they hit my ears.  I looked back down at him and coughed out "I'm sorry I didn't bring you anything."  I moved my hand from his elbow and cupped it around his hand.  "I'm sorry I didn't bring you anything.  Something for you to keep from just me."  I leaned over and focused on how he looked and thought he could be set in bronze.  So young, like a handsome marble statue at rest.  Peaceful.  I knew I didn't have much time.

 Not the same truck, but similar to his. 

Not the same truck, but similar to his. 

"I'm gonna' miss you okay? I hate to say goodbye."  I bowed my head and squeezed his hand and one tear rolled off the tip of my nose and landed on his suede like jacket.  The wetness made a near perfect circle.  As I watched it fade, I looked at his resting face and said, "There." I smiled a little and then cried some more.  "You can have my tears.  That's  what you can take with you. It's all I have.  I'll miss you."

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In my mind, he is still here.  He is smiling with eyes that make him seem older than he was. He is laughing and shaking his head.  He is working hard because it's the only way he knew and he is loving his family and friends with fierce loyalty.  To me, he's still here.  He was too good to be gone. I've not been in this place, this city for over 20 years.  Time stopped when I left and in my mind he is still here.

Aunt

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You're never ready to say goodbye.  Even if you're expecting death and the approach of it has been looming for a few weeks, you're never *really* ready to say goodbye.  Our family had to let go of someone very special to us last night.  I love her.  We will miss her.

She had the most penetrating, pale blue eyes.  When you spoke, she was listening but her eyes were reading you.  She saw you.  Around the edges of her eyes she had the slightest squint that reminded me of her father.   His squint came from years of riding his tractor in the sun, hers came from discerning what you said.  Her face was full and round and her thin smile looked a whole lot like her younger two sisters.  She was a little bossy but in a loving, warm, Italian mother sort of way.  She had her own ideas about what and how something needed to be done.  She would tell you to go to the doctor and see about what needed seeing about, but if you asked her if she was going, she'd dismiss it with a wave and shake her head no.  She was fine, just fine.  She could sum up and solve your problems with just a few words of instruction but she didn't have any problems that you needed to worry about.

She worked long past her retirement age as if it were merely a suggestion to stop working and go out and enjoy life.  But working was her life and she lived it to the fullest.  She was a favorite among her co-workers.  She knew more than someone as just a person, she knew their family, asked about sick children or aging parents.  She knew more than just a name.  She knew their story.  But she wasn't a gossip.  She knew about people because she took the time to ask.  She cared.  She remembered all of them with gifts - every occasion.  She was thoughtful.  She was generous.  Maybe too generous, because she gave something away of her own to nearly everyone.  It was in her nature to give and we loved her unselfish heart. 

Kindness and generosity didn't seem to come from her, it seemed to pass through her.  It flowed like an endless stream.  For so many years before her health faded to what it was, just a few weeks before Christmas, I could look forward to a card, a handwritten note - complimenting my beautiful family, and then including a check for $100. Every time she sent one, I would write a thank you note telling her what a blessing it was.  But I don't think she ever knew how much it helped.  My children were babies and I was a stay-at-home mom only working part time.  Her money would either buy groceries for the week, or clothes or presents for the children.  She never gave it another thought, but her generosity carried our young family during a time we could use it.

She had four children each named for a person in the Bible.  She and I share the same middle family name.  We come from a deep rooted family in Western North Carolina knitted together with religion and love. 

God.  Family.  Friends. Work. She served all of them well. 

We will miss her more than the mountains have hills.

Seeds to Share:

Psalm 121:1-2 - I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

Daddy 1-4-3

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Everyone remembers our Daddy’s laugh and his smile.  Laughter was his signature. With his mouth wide open and his head held back, the silence was broken with an infectious laugh that was a gift to hear every single time.

But I remember the man who cried and the tears that fell.  I remember the man who was not afraid to show his emotions.  Tears do not weaken the man.  They make him compassionate and kind.  And not all of his tears were sad.  He cried for pride, he cried for joy, and he cried when the words …would not come.

When I was a little girl, I had a bicycle accident.  It was bad enough for a trip to the emergency room.  Dad sat beside me as I was lying on the bed.  And with every tear that fell and every agonizing wince of pain, his hand grew tighter in mine and his tears fell.  Then, he said the words I will never forget and now as a parent myself, the words mean more to me than ever….

He said…I would give anything to change places with you.

My sisters have similar stories.  Those moments when our Daddy sat beside us through our pain, through our desperation, through our broken hearts and broken bones and broken lives.  He never failed us and every time we hurt, his pain was greater.  Every time we had sorrow, he wept more.

And until the very end, during his last moments on this earth, he gave us everything we ever needed -  His love.  His pale blue eyes opened only for a moment and his smile covered his face with peace.   He gave the very last kiss to his wife of nearly 60 years.  

And to me, he gave the gift of tears.  Small, perfect beautiful tears that rested in the corner of his eyes.  His wordless goodbye.  They were mine too.

I love you, Daddy.  I will miss you forever.

(Originally written September 2012)