Sunday, November 23, 2008


My friend Joan invited me to a special service at her church. Family and friends gathered to celebrate the lives of loved ones who died the previous year. My friend lost both her parents and I my sister. It was especially meaningful for me because Deanah's husband had no memorial service for her.

It was sad to see so many people there knowing they must have suffered so much pain the previous few months. But the priest encouraged us to remember the happy times and the unique characteristics and personality traits that made the person so special to us. Then the list of names was read and a family member walked to the back of the sanctuary, took a candle, and brought it to the altar. I felt a jolt when I heard my sister's name. Her name--listed among the dead! It still shocks me to think of her like that.

Beautiful music surrounded us, and one piece I recognized as Pachabel's Canon in D. It brought me back to my own wedding. I had asked my two sisters to be my bridesmaids but Deanah declined. My sister Kelly was my only attendant. Fred and I had chosen Pachabel for our prelude, and as the music played, my mother and Fred's mother lit two candles at the altar and then joined the flames to light another candle. This symbolized the beginning of two families united into one. Tonight we grieve for broken families where a beloved one was ripped out and is now gone. With time I suppose the tear will mend. That's what this service was all about. But scars are left on our hearts. We won't ever forget.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Best birthday ever

This earth is still full of beauty and joy even in this broken and dying world. Here is what came before the show:

For my birthday getaway, we began with a long drive through the countryside blazing with the colors of autumn. We never mind this leisurely, traffic-less trip. The girls watch for horse droppings along the road because that means Amish horses and that means we are almost there! Arielle begins to count buggies (every trip she does this) and then finally we pull up to the first stoplight in Intercourse, a small quaint town at the center of a clash of cultures. This day on the right corner a tourist stands in the parking lot pointing her camera across the street to the left corner. We turn to look and see an elderly Amish woman in her black dress and boots vigorously mowing grass around a tree with an old push mower. Fred says I should have pointed my camera at the inconsiderate tourist to see how she likes being viewed as an exotic zoo animal.

After the show (see previous post) we go back to the hotel for swimming before dinner. The girls love this part of a vacation just about more than anything. Only one other person is there--a legless man doing laps in the pool. The girls are quite accepting of this unusual sight and just jump right in. It was amazing to me to witness the tremendous strength of this man who continued to do his laps the entire time we were there. At one point he called the girls' attention to a colorful hot-air balloon sailing by the window and they ran outside in the cold, biting air to see it better.

We went to dinner at Fred's favorite place--Texas Star. We pretended we were down south. (This place always makes me think of Easley, South Carolina and our almost move to that area.) Tonight we had a sumptious meal!

The next day we drove around town visiting a farmer's market, our favorite quilt and fabric store, and a doll shop that delighted the girls. Then we found a little Mennonite family store and bought a half bushel of organic apples. As we stood outdoors choosing apples from the bins, I heard the clickety-clack of hooves and Fred shouted, "Look out!" In the nick of time I dodged a big black horse trotting toward me. As it passed, I looked inside the buggy and saw a man with a long white beard and black hat grinning gleefully as he drove the horse past me.

We walked around Intercourse on our way home looking for a handmade mailbox, as our old one is moldy and falling apart. No luck. No one was selling them. We headed out of town and suddenly passed a little house with several mailboxes stacked along the road. Fred turned around and we pulled into the driveway. Then we saw the buggy parked inside the garage. The house was quite ordinary and otherwise there was nothing to tell us it was an Amish home, except a little chicken pen ran alongside the drive. A girl about 12 years old came out to greet us followed by a large, bounding golden retriever puppy.
Fred asked her about the mailboxes and she led the way up some stairs to a loft above the garage. The girls and I followed as best we could with the friendly dog trying to lick our faces. Inside were dozens of the most interesting wooden mailboxes. Some looked like barns, some like log cabins or covered bridges. Fred was thrilled and immediately chose his favorite. I took a picture from the top of the stairs of the beautiful farmland around us. I wished for a picture of the cute blonde girl, but I know the Amish do not like photographs to be taken of them. Instead, Fred asked, "Could we take a picture of your chickens?" The girl laughed and said yes, revealing fluorescent green braces on her teeth. We took our picture and left, leaving behind one of our favorite towns.