Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Necessary Hard Things


     These were my babies back in the long ago past of 1971. We didn't wear seat belts or have car seats for our little ones. We didn't lock our doors or hover over our children as they played safely outside. We'd never heard of home schooling and didn't need it anyway because where we lived the school was one of the safest places for our children to spend their days.
     Hair styles for women were transitioning from the back-combed big hair to long and straight, and more often than not, parted down the middle as we proudly wore our bell bottom pant suits. The men were experimenting with longer messier hair, turning from the short parted on the side cut that their fathers had.   
      It was the Beatles popularity and their impact on fashion, all the way from England that changed American styles. With no social media, unless we heard it on the news or read it in a newspaper, we were blissfully unaware of things that might have happened anywhere outside of our small town. But in our tech world of today we hear everything, within minutes and sometimes only seconds of the incident. And when we hear about something that could have happened to one of our children, it strikes fear in our hearts.

     A news report recently took me back to that time. A six-year old boy recently died from Rabies. He picked up a bat and it scratched him. I'm not sure about the details, but I do remember seeing the distraught father in tears being interviewed on the nightly news, accompanied by a video of his little boy in the hospital, connected to all kinds of machines, trying to keep him alive. He lost the battle. That report broke my heart and instantly took me back to the time that I had to make a hard decision so that didn't happen to my little boy. 

     We are all dressed up in our best in this picture, and I don't remember why. However, I notice that I am fashionably dressed in a bell bottom pant suit and my boys are dressed alike right down to their shoes! Unlike the hairbows baby girls wear today, Kerri has one in her hair that isn't as big has her head. (don't take offense, it's just a joke, the big bows are adorable, though I promise someday you will look at your photos and wonder what you were thinking) We are sitting on the front steps of the house next door, and I can only presume that our neighbor, Jean, took this photo. Darin was six, Devin, three and Kerri less than a year old. 

     Since we didn't document every second of every day back in those days as we do today, I am not sure exactly when this event occurred that made me remember my fear of rabies. That precious three year old was trying to pick up a kitten and the momma didn't like that, so she bit him on the face.
     The cat was a stray and we had to assume it had not had any shots. Our pediatrician advised there was no other way to protect Devin except to start administering the rabies vaccine. If the cat remained healthy after a certain number of days it would be safe to discontinue the vaccine.

     The protocol was a shot every day in the stomach. It is horribly painful. The memory of having to choose to take my sweet boy every day and listen to him cry and scream no as the nurses held him down was excruciating and still feels that way today. But the results could be fatal without them. About the third day as I put him in the car, tears ran down his face as he begged me, "mommy, no, mommy no." 
     I don't remember if it was seven or ten days that he and I got in the car and drove to Jonesboro for those horrible, dreaded, painful shots but I know we both cried every day after. We both cried! For weeks after it was finished he couldn't wear pants around his waist. His belly was bruised and knotted and horrible.  Thankfully they haven't administered shots in the stomach since the 1980's. 

     Was that a hard thing to do as a mom? The hardest! But it was so very necessary. My heart broke for the parents of that child who died. Had they known, he could have been saved. They would have been happy to do the hard thing!


Tuesday, May 31, 2022

All Roads Lead Home

 For a few hours on Saturday afternoon and evening, May 28th in small town Lake City, Arkansas, we were all transported into the past as we reconnected at the 2022 Lake City High School Catfish Reunion. Name tags were a necessity for many as we struggled to recognize faces we hadn't seen in what felt like a lifetime ago, and in reality, that was true. Then as we heard the name, or we quickly read the name tag, the years melted away as we looked into the eyes of our classmates and found the person we had known in our teen years. Hugs, hand shakes and sometimes teary eyes ensued as we felt a connection to this person who might have traveled hundreds of miles to return to the small town and high school of our youth.

For some it was the first reunion they'd ever attended, and for others it was ten or twenty years ago. The hard-working committee consisted of graduates who never left their hometown or left and returned. There are no words adequate to thank them for the blast from the past they provided to us in those hours that were just too short. 

A delicious meal was provided and or course only Catfish would do. Served with traditional hush puppies, slaw, french fries and cake for dessert.

The First Baptist Church in Lake City graciously allowed us to use their Family Life Center since sadly, the buildings we knew as our school are no longer there. And not only did they allow us space for our reunion, their awesome praise team provided live music with rock songs from our era that were so good it made us feel young again. Other music was provided from alumni and all three men rose to the occasion making those in the  audience proud to know them. Thank you Paul Spurlock, class of 1958, Miron Williams, class of 1955 and John Alumbaugh, class of 1975.

John Wallace, class of 1970 and Darin Owens, class of 1983 were Co-Masters of Ceremonies. The evening was packed with Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem sung by Nancy (Seay) Gammill, class of 1969, recognition of Veterans in attendance and a moment of silence for those who gave their all to provide us the freedom to gather on this beautiful spring evening.

The remainder of the evening was filled with recognition of the oldest and the youngest in attendance, the person who traveled the farthest, past Valedictorians and Salutatorians, former Little Miss, Jr. Miss and Sr. Miss Lake City.

Since the evening grew long and people were beginning to leave, we didn't have time for the cheerleaders to lead us in the Lake City High School Alma Mater. For those reading this that can remember the tune, here are the words.

        We are loyal to you LCH.  To your colors we're true, LCH.  We back you to stand as the best in the land, and we know you can stand, LCH RAH,RAH.   

         So, out with that ball, LCH.  We are backing you all LCH.  Our team is the best protector, oh boys for we expect a victory from you  LCH. RAH! RAH! 

I love people and I love to hear their stories.  Since we were a small school, we knew everyone.  Maybe not intimately, but we knew where they lived, who their parents were, their siblings and other things one knows in a small town. Sitting at my table and sprinkled throughout the building I knew several, some very well and a few intimately. 

If only we had time to hear from everyone. Where have you been the past 40, 50 or 60 years? What have you done in life? Are you married, divorced, widowed or have you remained single? Are you happy?  Have you had tragedy and troubles?  Whatever those answers might be, I knew one thing. Their foundation started in that small town or on the farms scattered around the area. 

In every school, large or small, there are students who excel and students who struggle. Some come away with wonderful memories and others just want to forget their experiences in high school. I saw both at that reunion, or at least from my memories. I saw both. They were there, talking non-stop, laughing, celebrating and reconnecting.  As we age and live out our years in many different places, in many different types of families and with many different incomes, we sometimes look at the past with different eyes.

We all have different experiences in the same situation. My experience at the reunion was a myriad of emotions. Gratitude, for some of my very best friends since first grade who worked tirelessly to give the rest of us a great time. Thank you, Mary (Nall) Robertson, Mona (Caldwell) Smith, Linda (Malone) Steele, Shirley (Alumbaugh) Smith, Sherry (Wallace) McAnally, Brenda (Ridge) Milligan, and Martha Carter.

Thankful, for my son Darin, who was there for the first time as a Co-Master of Ceremonies. He is one that never left this area and truly loves and appreciates the legacy of his grandparents and the people of his youth.

Humbled, that I feel connected the minute I arrive, though I've lived away from that small town for the past 40 years. 

Indebted! I feel I owe a debt to the people who taught me, came alongside me when tragedy struck our family, loved on me and told me I was worthy.  Then accepted me when I failed, picked me up, brushed me off and encouraged me.  We are the sum of everyone we come in contact with over our lifetime. God uses the people whose lives intersect with ours to bless us as He weaves our individual stories. Lake City and Lake City High School are my roots, deep roots and that is why the minute I arrive, the road has led me back home.

Friday, December 31, 2021

These Hands

    My husband and I often say our hands look old. Now that's not to say our faces don't, but we only see our faces in the mirror or in pictures.  But we see our hands constantly. As we sat in the swing on our screened porch a few days ago, that subject came up again as we compared and argued about whose look the oldest! And it suddenly dawned on me how important these hands are and how old they look doesn't really matter. 
    They are decorated with "age" spots, and they aren't quite as strong as they once were, but they serve me well. I do admire ladies who have beautiful hands that they protect from the sun, always have their nails painted and wouldn't think of having calluses.  But that is not me!   
    We become aware of our hands when we're about four months old. As babies wave their arms around with tightly clenched fists, they aren't aware of their hands until the day their eyes make contact, and they stare. And we laugh because it's so cute to watch. As time passes babies learn they can control that fist and it goes right into their mouth.

     Today is December 11, 2021. I found this post that I started on December 31, 2019. The two paragraphs above are rough, not edited and this post was never finished or published. But these hands have a different meaning today, December 31, 2021, the published date is exactly two years since I started writing this. And the photo of our hands above is exactly one year ago today, as I held his hand for the last time.
     We use our hands when we speak, flailing them around when we don't know what to say, or using them in anger when we say too much. Artists use their hands to share the gift that God gave them to create the likeness of something or someone we love. Musicians can bring me to tears as they gently pull the bow across the violin strings or strum a guitar or play Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring on piano. Woodworkers use their hands to build fine furniture and beautiful houses. There are so many more things we do that require the use of our hands.
    God designed our hands for those things, but the best use of our hands is for touching. A mother touching the fevered brow of her sick child, tucking her curls behind her ear while praying words of healing to the Father. A hand on the shoulder of a friend who is grieving. Holding the hand of a small child to keep him safe. A touch that says I'm right here, you're safe and you're not alone.
    We held hands...a lot. Walking across a parking lot he would reach out and take my hand. Riding in the car he would reach over and take my hand. Standing in a crowd of people he would place his hand on the small of my back. His touch told me, "I've got you, you're safe with me and you're not alone." He would tell me, "I love your touch." So, when he passed from this life to the next, I was holding his hand.
     Just one of the many, many things I miss. Hold someone's hand today.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Until Forever, I Will Keep Loving You

  •        We began our journey on August 28, 1981. Many would say that our marriage ended on December 31, 2020, but that's not true. Today we celebrate 40 years of marriage, me here, where we started, and you in Heaven, waiting for me. I have been without you 240 days, 5,760 hours and ticking. But I'm still yours.
  •              Is it crazy of me to talk to you, as if  you were still here? It still feels as though you've only gone to the store and you'll text me, what, maybe four or five times? I think I hear the back door open and you yell...Linda?  And you call my name again if I don't answer fast enough. In the middle of the night when I suddenly come awake, for a brief moment I think I hear you, and then realize your side of the bed is still empty.
  •       Your toothbrush is still in the bathroom drawer, the clothes you wore to church that last Sunday are still hanging in the closet, your work shoes with wadded up paper in them because they got wet are still in the garage where you left them, now completely dry. I hear the engine of a lawn mower rev up and I want to look out the window and see you, but I know you aren't there.
  •        You always said you wanted to go first because you didn't want to be without me, but worried whether I would be okay if you did. I am okay, but different. Different because I am not whole without you. Now I understand why you wanted to go first. Though I'm living the retirement life we planned together,  a home in Virginia and one here in Arkansas, I am constantly homesick...for you. You always said you could live anywhere as long as I was there. Now I understand.   
  • You would be proud of me, I hope. You know I hate to fly, but since you've left I've flown back and forth from Arkansas to Virginia five times. When I board a plane I know I will wind up at my destination or in Heaven with Jesus and you, and either place is more than okay with me. I've killed spiders, used a wrench to tighten the water hose that was leaking when I was watering the lawn, bought groceries at your favorite store, Kroger, brought them in and put them away, took my car, that you've never seen, to have the oil changed and many, many other things that you always did.  
  •     Those things are easy compared to the important things I miss. Lazy Saturday mornings together, drinking coffee and talking until late morning. I miss those many hours in the car working crossword puzzles, having deep conversations, eating lots of ice cream from the many Dairy Queens at all the exits you had memorized between Arkansas and Virginia. 
  •        I miss worshipping together, hearing your beautiful singing voice and discussing the scriptures as you prepared to teach Life Group. I miss your quiet spirit, your gentleness, your servant heart, your humor, your hugs, your protection and the way you always made me feel things would be okay. I miss watching you care for your mother. She and your sisters miss you too. Your children and grandchildren miss and grieve your absence. You are loved! Stories are shared and sometimes tears come and sometimes laughter. You left us with a lot of yourself and for that we are thankful.
        You wrote to me on my birthday in 2019 and the title of this piece was how you signed the letter. So until forever, I will keep loving you. I still say we instead of I, ours instead of mine, and I still wear my wedding rings. I still belong to you. Happy 40th Anniversary!


Monday, February 15, 2021


Fifty Days…February 15, 2021

Today was supposed to be the forty-year anniversary of the winter Sunday afternoon of February 15, 1981 when a handsome, blue-eyed man followed me around the local skating rink in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He was there with his nine-year-old son and I was there with my nine-year-old daughter. I was planning to drop her off for the birthday party and go home, but the other moms convinced me to stay and I agreed… if they would skate.

It had been years since I’d been on skates, but I bravely laced up and tentatively stepped onto the wooden floor. After slowly making it around once or twice among all the kids enjoying the birthday party, I began to have that “hair standing up on the back of my neck” feeling that I was being watched. When I turned to look behind me, he skated up close and introduced himself. We left the floor and moved over to the tables to talk. We shared about our past. We were both divorced and struggling to make sense out of the past mistakes that caused him to be single at 29, and me, 32.

Sept. 12, 2020 Sitting outside Cracker Barrel looking across the street at the skating rink where we met. We planned to go back today, sit at a table with a coke and reminisce about that life changing day.

There is so much to our story.  We all have a story, some happy, some unique, some unbelievable, some tragic, but we all have one. Almost forty years takes a long time to tell. 

Today is about being alone. It’s been fifty days since he’s held my hand, told me for the millionth time, “I just love you so much”, told me I’m gorgeous, like he did every single day of our lives together.

 It is a raw emotion, like an open wound that refuses to close. The following description of losing my spouse, lover, best friend and yes, my other half, the one who made me complete is everything I've felt for the past 50 days but couldn't put into words.

"Widowhood is more than missing your spouse's presence. It is adjusting to an alternate life. It is growing around a permanent amputation.

Widowhood is going to bed for the thousandth time, and still, the loneliness doesn't feel normal. The empty bed a constant reminder. The night no longer brings intimacy and comfort, but the loudness of silence and the void of connection.

Widowhood is walking around the same house you have lived in for years and it no longer feeling like home. Because "home" incorporated a person. And they're not there. Homesickness fills your heart and the knowledge that it will never return haunts you.

Widowhood is seeing all your dreams and plans you shared as a couple crumble around you. The painful process of searching for new dreams that include only you amount to climbing Mount Everest. And every small victory of creating new dreams for yourself includes a new shade of grief that their death propelled you to this path.

Widowhood is second guessing everything you thought you knew about yourself. Your life had molded together with another's and without them you have to relearn all your likes, hobbies, fears, goals. The renaissance of a new person makes you proud and heartbroken simultaneously.

Widowhood is being a stranger in your own life. The unnerving feeling of watching yourself from outside your body, going through the motions of what was your life, but being detached from all of it. You don't recognize yourself. Your previous life feels but a vapor long gone, like a mist of a dream you begin to wonder if it happened at all.

Widowhood is the irony of knowing if that one person was here to be your support, you would have the strength to grieve that one person. The thought twists and confuses you. If only they were here to hold you and talk to you, you'd have the tenacity to tackle this unwanted life. To tackle the arduous task of moving on without them.

Widowhood is missing the one person who could truly understand what is in your heart to share. The funny joke, the embarrassing incident, the fear compelling you or the frustration tempting you. To anyone else, you would have to explain, and that is too much effort, so you keep it to yourself. And the loneliness grows inside you.

Widowhood is struggling with identity. Who are you if not their spouse? What do you want to do if not the things you planned together? What brand do you want to buy if not the one you two shared for all those years? What is your purpose if the job of investing into your marriage is taken away? Who is my closest companion when my other half isn't here?

Widowhood is feeling restless because you lost your home, identity, partner, lover, friend, playmate, travel companion, co-parent, security, and life. And you are drifting with an unknown destination.

Widowhood is living in a constant state of missing the most intimate relationship. No hand to hold. No body next to you. No partner to share your burden.

Widowhood is being alone in a crowd of people. Feeling sad even while you're happy. Feeling guilty while you live. It is looking back while moving forward. It is being hungry but nothing sounding good. It is every special event turning bittersweet.

Yes. It is much more than simply missing their presence. It is becoming a new person, whether you want to or not. It is fighting every emotion mankind can feel at the very same moment and trying to function in life at the same time.

Widowhood is frailty.

Widowhood is strength.

Widowhood is darkness.

Widowhood is rebirth.

Widowhood....is life changing."

By: Alisha Bozarth



Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A House Becomes Home

 I love the movie, The Magic of Ordinary Days. The reasons I love this movie are many and varied. The time period, the love story, the simplicity, the work ethic, the community and the raw emotions of the characters are a few reasons. The most relevant reason though, it's about life.

Ordinary sounds so...well, ordinary. But don't we consider most of our days ordinary? Yet when we look back, we tend to see and remember the special times, and suddenly realize that many of those times happened on ordinary days.

This is a picture of an ordinary house in Sherwood Hills, Colonial Heights, Virginia. A rent house for many years, it was worn and weary from neglect when we bought it in September of 1992. It needed a new roof, had termites on the front shutters, was outdated with shag carpet the color of bad celery, and the downstairs was as dark as a dungeon.  Saying it was an ordinary house is being quite generous. Not only did I not love this house, I didn't even like it. But it was what we could afford and had what we needed.

So began a twenty-seven year saga. And since the definition of magic implies wizardry or supernatural forces, I'm changing it to blessing. Because only God could bless us with so many ordinary days in that humble house that were so good, that leaving was so very, very hard.

  We were in our early forties and our youngest child was a junior in high school. Our oldest son had married that summer and our family was on the cusp of exploding with in-laws and grandchildren. Howard was still on active duty at Ft. Lee and we were still very much a military family.

 Our children began to marry and soon the grandchildren started to arrive. Since we had five children there were times we had three grandchildren arrive in the same year. So began the celebrations of weddings and births.

We celebrated promotions, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations. And we also mourned several deaths in our family. Over the years the house was renovated time and time again. An inground swimming pool was added in 1997 and I remember thinking that we would enjoy it for many long years. And we did. We spent wonderful lazy summer days with family near and far. Friends came, food was grilled, kids swam and everyone went home happy and tired. The summers around that pool couldn't be rivaled.  

Over time I grew to love this house. It had slowly become our home where we opened our door to not only our family, but friends as well. Every room in our home had memories deeply embedded, and I seemed to see each one when I knew our time in this place was coming to an end. I could see card games played around the table or food covering every counter in my kitchen as we shared meals. We opened our home to a young couple with two children who were moving to Virginia, and had no place to stay over a weekend before their rental would be available on Monday. I felt blessed that I had the room to accommodate them on a very short notice. I have many sweet memories from that weekend. As a mentor to Mops Moms, I welcomed them into my home for many meetings or pot-luck meals where the fellowship with those young mothers has a sweet place in my heart.

Those memories are very special and precious, but the ones I treasure most are the ordinary days. The days it was warm enough to have my windows open and hear the birds sing and see neighbors walking by, or the many Saturday mornings when we were lazy and drank coffee and talked until mid morning. Or the many hours I spent in my swing on my screened back porch, my go-to- place when I was a little down, because I always came away happy. And some of the best are the memories of the late summer evenings by the pool listening to the frogs croaking in the creek behind the house. Just turning the key, opening the door, and walking into our sanctuary where we lived, loved, cried, laughed, learned and grew for 27 years made my heart happy. My prayer is that we honored God through the ordinary days living in the house He blessed us with that I not only didn't love, but I didn't even like. And only He knows how hard it was to leave.

Saying Goodbye


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Todd and Brittany, Wedding Day, December 15, 2018

Dear Todd, 
When you were born on March 23, 1989 we had no idea that our first grandchild would bring a love to our family that we'd never known before. There is a reason we use the word grand...everything was grand as we stared at you while you slept, took pictures and videos of your every move, and became convinced that you were the prettiest, smartest baby ever.  As your parents' first child, they were blessed that you were an easy baby, fun toddler, quiet little boy, and polite and obedient teenager. But you are blessed as well. They've provided a warm, loving, secure home for you where you were encouraged in your walk with God. They've prayed for you, and your mom has been faithful to send scripture to you and your siblings every morning. They've cheered for you in all your endeavors, given advice when needed and your mom was the very best nurse to you during two painful illnesses.They not only took loving care of you, but also taught you about the greatest love of all, God's love, as they lived out their personal faith before you. Buddy and Kerri live a Biblical marriage of faith, fidelity and family that will serve you well in the future.

And then you became a big brother to Trey.
And again...to a sister, Ashley.
They adore you! They've watched you through the years as you focused on earning your bachelors' degrees, and then working full-time and successfully completing your master's degree. You have been and still are their role model, and you live that title well.

And then a puppy... Andy.
God blessed you with a quiet, reserved personality, but  those who know you best also know that He gave you a perfectly awesome sense of humor, too. Your best man Bryan, has been your best friend since first grade, and the two of you have shared crazy times, serious times and everything in between. You played soccer, loved skate boarding, video games and snowboarding. You became a licensed real estate appraiser at the young age of eighteen, bought and paid for a new car, finished college and bought your first house. We have always been so proud of you. You are a hard worker, with integrity, honesty and commitment. I love you more than you will ever know and I'm so excited to see your future unfold.

This is your wedding day. You are marrying the first girl you kissed, way back in middle school. On Valentines day,when you were in seventh grade and she was in eight grade, Brittany gave you this teddy bear. Though you both went your own way after that brief middle-school romance, you met up again in 2011 and have been together since. Before this day is done you will be husband and wife. God is good and His will for us is perfect. 

Dear Brittany, I still remember the day I met you and the first meal you had at my house on Easter Sunday. I remember hearing about your childhood and feeling a definite connection because we share the loss of parents at a young age. We had many long conversations over the past eight years. Though today you will become Brittany Hamm, it seems as though you already are. I love you so much and I am so very happy for you.

Sweet memories of your mother, Kim. Her sister, your Aunt Angie described her as a firecracker with a zest for life. She could take five dollars and turn it into an amazing adventure with you and your brothers. Her love for you was a powerful thing and she loved dressing you in the finest things and brushing your hair. I understand when you would cry about it she would tell you that beauty is pain. She made beautiful dresses for you and she definitely would have been in the middle of all the wedding plans. She would be so very, very proud of you. I know her love for you will be felt today as you become Todd's wife.

And your dad, Dean, was your best friend. He was described to me as one of a kind. He was very smart and very funny, though he always told the worst jokes! He loved his music albums, Star Trek and he adored you! He cared deeply for you and took his role as your daddy very seriously. I love the pictures of the two of you having fun. I know he would love to be here today and I know that he would still be spoiling you and would be so very, very proud of everything you've accomplished. His love for you will be felt today too as you walk toward your future.

I know you  have been a wonderful and loving big sister to your two brothers and that they love you and have relied on you at times. I know they are proud of you too.

Memories are precious and pictures tell the story so perfectly. And your stories continue beyond the families that you were born into. This is your story, the beginning of your family...your love story. 

Then Iceland happened. Todd was prepared. He'd had the ring for a while, and when the opportunity to travel to Iceland for a photo shoot presented itself, he knew that would be the perfect place for a proposal.

Wedding plans began immediately. Longtime friends and family members were asked to be a part of your special day. Kumiko, the matron of honor, and childhood friend  took her role seriously and a beautiful wedding shower was planned.

Todd and Brittany, today, December 15, will be a date to celebrate each year as you remember the vows you will say to one another before your family and friends. Marriage is God's gift to us on earth. Be thankful for each other, nurture each other and grow together and not apart. God in the center of your marriage will give you many happy years.

Colossians 3:12-15  Therefore, God's chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love, the perfect bond of unity.And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.

Our hearts are full with love for you both. May God richly bless your marriage and your home.

                            Nana and Papaw