Leaving a legacy………..

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This was on our Intel news memorial page today: I didn’t know this gentleman but judging by the many kind comments, he was much-loved. What a wonderful legacy of kindness and character he left. This is what matters after we’re gone…………what kind of a legacy do you want to leave your family? Your friends?  Your community?

Jingyoo Choi was a loving and devoted husband and father. He enjoyed playing golf during his free time. He was a fighter when it came to playing golf. He beat one Intel friend seven straight times but always remembered to cheer his friend up after the game was over. Just last Monday he told this same friend that even with his illness and body condition, he would keep fighting. He never complained through all of his treatments and remained ever optimistic for the future.

He loved traveling the world with his family during his vacations. He had a beautiful voice and sang in the church choir. It was in the church choir in Korea that he met his future wife, Kim. On Sundays he could be heard down the church hallways during choir practice. He was a true friend to all who knew him, and he always had a smile.

After we’re gone the only thing we really leave is our legacy. What kind do we want to leave? What kind of living legacy are we sowing seeds for in the future right now? How would your family change if you weren’t there?
 
I don’t want people to be relieved when I’m gone.
 
We will all leave many things behind, but the things we try so hard to get like money, fame, beauty, recognition won’t matter. It’s the life and laughter we leave behind that will. It’s the time you spent with those you love, the things you did together; things that might have seemed small and everyday at the time, but added up, the effect on a life is monumental.
 
And the thing is, you can only borrow on someone else’s legacy so long, ultimately you have to build your own.
 
So, will you vanish like a vapor, leaving those around you untouched? Will you slip unnoticed through an opening in the hedge, only to have to close right over as if you were never there?
 
Or will there be a glaring absence……a tear in the universe where you once stood? At least to those who loved you and whom you loved in return.
 
Will they say things like:
 
She had the best laugh……..I could always count on her to help…….he was the kindest person I ever knew……she always took time for me…….he didn’t talk at me, he talked to me……she always made me feel important……she opened my eyes to the beauty around me………She took me camping……..he taught me about God.
 
This is what I think……the most powerful legacies left behind will be those who will inspire you to improve even long after they are gone. And the best thing is, it’s never too late to improve while we are still living and breathing.
 

The Long Way Home

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The day I left my hometown in 1992, there was disorder and chaos and a big moving van outside my apartment complex, and my boss pretending to organize it all. I was on the cusp of a grand adventure, moving away from the hometown and family that I loved; the place where I had always felt secure, yet at 30 years of age, I had never lived away and I felt it was a good opportunity to do something radically different.

I left behind a husband recently buried, and a lifetime of memories. Mostly all good.

It was a move to the high desert of Arizona, with the promise of pine trees and mountain tops and a bit of snow.

Two cats yowling in carriers across the desert in driving rain that came from nowhere, all these years later and that is one of the memories that stays.

That, and my Mom with tears flowing and a heart breaking for a girl that she could no longer keep safe. And a Dad trying not to cry but not succeeding. She carried out to me her most precious possession, the Bible we shared together. An old tattered copy of “The Way.” I still have it, all these years later; with both of our notes co-mingled on hope filled, love filled pages.

We built a dream home, E and I, because back then it was as inexpensive to build as to buy, so why not? A dear, sweet couple named Mr. and Mrs. Bott signed over the deed with a handshake and fifty bucks. A three-story house grew up on that lot. My room was beyond custom-made French doors on the very tip-top, and when it snowed it turned into a snow globe. If I opened my windows, I could almost reach out and touch the tops of the pine trees and in the dark early mornings an owl would hoot.

But there, even in that magical place of beauty, I never felt quite at home.

I discovered that you can’t rush healing by building a dream on top of sorrow, especially when you’re running away from the only One who can heal you.

Even so, God jogged along beside us. He touched us through some very special friends we met there, and a little brown Presbyterian church.

Then that dream died. None of our boss’s promises rang true and he stopped paying his business taxes and all of a sudden nobody was sure they had medical coverage anymore, and he started storing food and ammunition and got kind of crazy. That led to another move and a wonderful opportunity at a big company in New Mexico. It was a terrifying round of interviews, but we both landed jobs.

In Arizona, I was a small town girl in another small town, but Albuquerque was something completely different. I became swallowed up in a huge company and I floundered in a land that looked mostly like a brown paper sack. It’s only now, with some distance behind me, that I can see that it had its own brand of magic. My Mom came to visit and she was mesmorized by the clouds, said she’d never seen any quite like it.

We found a house in the exact neighborhood I said I wanted to live in. It was hilly and pretty and my boss lived right down the street. At night all the garage doors would open and swallow up the people. Nobody played outside, not in the front yards anyway.

Despite feeling lost in a giant corporation some good memories stand out from that time. Of bright-colored balloons against the sky, so many it was staggering, and my brother and sister-in-law who came for the Fiesta, all of us thinking that she was free of cancer then. I remember laughing together over icy cold Coronas under a tin roof at On the Border as the thunder rolled.

And God spoke quietly to me in the sun one day as I cracked the cover of Philip Yancey’s book The Jesus I Never Knew. That’s when I started my journey back home, back to Him.

Arizona beckoned once again with a job transfer, and another move back to a place that I considered closer to home…….it was back across the desert, with the same two cats, older now. And we landed squarely in the arms of Grace when we found a church we could truly call home.

It was peace, and grace, and prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit and traveling that full circle that made me realize that the only one I could truly trust to bring me home to healing was God, and He never left.

And of all those beautiful places, it’s this humble, manufactured home in a senior park, the one that surprises people when they walk in because it looks nothing like that preconceived idea………is the one that truly makes me cry at the thought of leaving it. This place where I pray, where I pour out my heart and He listens.

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This place where a blog was born, and two cats lay buried and two more are now getting to be old men. Where the clouds roll in on summer afternoons and the thunder rumbles. Where the doves coo and the quails cry. Where we dealt with E’s Mom and the Alzheimer’s and her Dad’s death, this place is where we most feel like home because it’s where the river of His grace has carried us.

Each day, I wake up to a miracle because now I can finally appreciate the beauty of the journey.

And I pray for the grace to be ready for the next move, for there is a stirring within me to go back to the place where I began; to end my journey there. I know it’s faith that leads us all home, and I am seeking God’s face for whatever lies ahead. I find myself in a peculiar place in this journey, that of being afraid to leave and afraid of not leaving soon enough.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing, for if I didn’t have the fear, I wouldn’t need the faith.

Please join me over at the Atlas Girl Blog Tour  to help celebrate Emily Wierenga’s book launch of Atlas Girl today. It’s a must read!

There are places…….

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There are places you miss like the face of a loved one…..I know this face. Years full of memories have attached it to my soul, so much so that it has become not just a place, but part of who I am. I see it and they all come flooding back like the mighty Merced that cuts a powerful swath through this valley.

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If I close my eyes, I can feel the spray of this fall where one day near the top my hat took flight. And leaning over from the guard rail I saw it perched on a ledge below. The wind caught it again before my Dad could rescue it because he almost went. The wind was God that day.

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And here is where the coyote trotted through, meandering one day in the hush of a quiet morning. I stopped still and watched him, a living prayer on noiseless feet in his space, in his element, not mine.

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And this…….as we walked along the meadow. I had been here for years and never chanced to see this splash of pink. A day in early May when we walked in that dreamlike place. How many years have we walked this meadow and wondered aloud how it would be to live there in one of those little enchanted houses…….as close to Heaven as we would wish for here.

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I remember how happy Lauryn was when “Blackie” came out to greet us there on our walk…….there in that frozen time.

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Heaven has hoses……and though I smile when I see these, my heart aches, my throat swells with lost time. Yet even so, my heart rests in hope knowing I will be in that place again someday, and maybe soon.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12

I regret not having my good camera yet that year when we visited Yosemite, but I am glad I got these.

Things I remember…….

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Here are some things I remember. Waiting in the car while you ran in to the store, and you always brought a treat. Usually M&Ms, peanuts or a plain Hershey bar. And falling asleep in the theater when I was very small, usually to a James Bond movie. You bought me Flicks candy in the big dark lobby…….I remember the game we always had, the one where I put my hand on the side of your face a certain way and you’d make a growling noise, like you might bite.

I remember stopping at that little roadside store where they had those little “grab bags” in a bin. You always brought us one. I remember begging for stories, the ones you tell Lauryn now. You told wonderful stories you made up about a green light in the dark and a little black kitten. I remember you always complimenting me, whatever I did you were proud.

I remember the fishing trips…..

I remember days at the public pool, the spit pool you called it, and me clinging to the side and you holding your arms out…….you never failed to catch me. I remember how we always used to get in trouble at church for laughing. Mom would give us the glare like you were the kid too. I remember you always the leader on the hiking trail, encouraging us all forward because the view from the top was worth it.

It always was, it still is.

Thank you for filling our home with love and jazz and art and for introducing me to the joys of writing and poetry and haiku. Thank you for years and years worth of  walks, and talks.

You will always be our fearless leader, Dad. It’s this guy I still see.

Happy Father’s Day…….From your girl.

Take me fishing!

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What is it about fishing that stirs such romantic soulful nostalgia? If there is any activity that is more deeply ingrained into the heartbeat of American culture than fishing, I don’t know what it is. I blame Mark Twain. It’s not even possible to think of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn without a fishing pole. I dare you to try.

And who can ever hear the theme song to the Andy Griffith show without visualizing Andy and Opie strolling along that river bank with their tackle boxes?  Later that night they’d be gathering around the supper table eating “a mess of friend trout” cooked by Aunt Bee. For me, it just has to be trout, you see. I have my own memories attached to that.

Then there was that commercial with the little kids begging their parents to take them fishing. I could almost cry right now just thinking about it.

I remember this. I remember the garbage can full of water in the backyard for the boat motor. I remember my Dad cursing it when it wouldn’t start. And I remember the victory when it would. And the Saturdays when we would drive to the Delta, the four of us on a bright California day.

I don’t remember Mom ever getting in the boat, but she would pack the lunch. It was always sandwiches and barbecued chips. Always barbecued. Even now when I close my eyes I can see the brilliant sky overhead, and somehow attached to my memory is the sound of a plane lazily buzzing overhead, that, and the rhythmic melodious sound of the waves gently lapping against the boat. Sometimes we’d fish from the shore, looking for the magic spot, straining our eyes to watch for fish jumping.

As a squeamish girl, I wasn’t into the fishing much. It was mostly the anticipation and excitement of the possible tug on the line. I never could attach that worm to the merciless barb. I remember the bright pink plastic tub of salmon eggs and the debate about which was better. And there was always someone’s favorite lure. This is the rhyme my Dad taught me from long ago:

Fishy, fishy in the brook, Daddy catch em with a hook, Mama fry em in a pan, Baby eat em like a man.

As an animal lover, I hated to see anything suffer so I could never watch the fish flopping around gasping for air. I thought it was more merciful to toss them in a bucket. I was always secretly glad when a fish was deemed too small and felt a private thrill to see it released and swim off into the deep.

But I also remember that there was nothing better than fresh caught trout and crispy skin cooked over an open fire, and weather so cold the rubber souls of your shoes would smoke.

My Dad raised us all to have a deep and abiding respect for nature and all her gifts. I was glad that he never hunted. He always said he could never look a deer in the eye and kill it. He did enjoy fishing, and even more than that, he enjoyed us all being together under the sky. For me, it was never really about the fishing. It was about being together in that magic place, when the world seemed perfect.

When I close my eyes to this day, I am there all over again. I can hear our laughter across the water, calling me back to simpler times, times when we were all young and still had so much ahead of us. A line tossed out…..a line of hope that we would always be together, always just that way.

Many years later I would think of this, sitting in a Mexican resort in the middle of my own nightmare, one memory that never leaves me.  It was what my brother said through tears, “All I wanted to do was take Jody fishing.”

And it’s only a feeling I have that someday, on that great and wonderful shore, Jesus will bring out some fishing poles and Jody, my brother and my Dad will fish together. Maybe even Jesus too. That day it will be catch and release without the hooks. There will be no need of sun, because we will have the Son right there with us.

It’s how we’ll always be, forever.

 

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First photo, courtesy of www.wildlife.state.nh.us

The Color of Time

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The clock finally died. The one I got from the Spiegel catalog some 20 years ago. I thought it was so beautiful when I bought it and now, even though it’s stuck on 7:32 forever I can’t seem to get rid of it. The time piece probably costs more than it’s worth, so for now it is leaning against the wall in my bedroom.

What color is time anyway? The time that is speeding so wildly past us all. Of course it has no color for real. I guess if vapor or water has a color that would be it. But if I had to give it a color at all, it would be like looking through a stained glass window. Each color comes alive with a memory.

Every time I see purple I think of her……she owns this color now, the one to whom these sweet hands belong. I hate to think of the day she will no longer be so excited to play for hours in sand.

And sometime in the future, years from now, I will see sand and time will be that color.

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Her color………….

Treasures of value can’t be measured, they can only be held in our hearts and yet God holds each one in eternity, He knows their worth.

I pour the rich brown of the coffee in my cup and hear the voices of dear ones at my Mom’s kitchen table over the years……different faces, different friends, and the joys and sorrows attached to each cup, each memory.

Yes, time can be the color of coffee too.

The Bible says there is a time for everything under Heaven. And the Byrd’s did a song that said those very words…..Turn! Turn! Turn!

     A time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

And God holds it all……not one moment is lost to Him. And the world drags time along with it, spinning rapidly beyond my control. I click moments furiously trying to stop it all. To catch every color.

To catch time.

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As time continues to write its name in the dust, I pause it for just a moment. Here, can you see it on the shelf? I purposefully left it there for you to find. I guess when it comes down to it, that’s what blogging is:

Each one of us, writing our name in the dust of time.

What color is time for you?

On Alzheimer’s and feeling lost

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We had plans to go to dinner with our neighbors from Canada who were leaving the next morning. She called me on the way to her Moms Carehome after work and asked if I would please go over and give them her apologies, that she wouldn’t be able to make it.

She was driving her route when she got the first two calls and couldn’t return them. After work, she returned the third call. One of the aides picked up. “Your Mom is not doing well, she is crying and asking why no one has been to see her and asking where her husband is?” He has been gone for almost a year and she hasn’t asked about him in just about that many months.

Her Mom has been in the facility over a year and she has settled reasonably well. But now, this.

The panic, the caregiver’s stress, in a moment it all came flooding back. Of course it never really left. Her days continue to be divided by work, home and going to see her Mom to do those tasks that seem to fall through the cracks continually.

I needed to go there, I heard the desperation in her voice and I thought maybe seeing another familiar person would help jog her Mom back into the present. I had to try.

When I got there they were seated at the dining table. E. was relieved to see me and her Mom perked up and said, “There’s Lori, Curtis must have come with her.” I groaned inwardly, and E. scurried around helping her Mom and assisting others at the table. I sat by Bethany and Joyce as they were passing out Dixie cups of ice-cream and had one myself.

Finally we got her to go back to her room, where we found she had been squirreling away socks and two bottles of water in her purse, ready to hit the road. Then the round of questions started all over again.

Where is Curtis?……When are we going home?……How long have I been here?……..What happened to the car?….. How much does all this cost?…..What do I have to do at the house?

It was like she was reliving the events of the past year all over again, back to square one.

E. looked over at me helplessly when Joyce asked where Curtis was for the 10th time. I shrugged helplessly back and mouthed the words…..”I don’t know.”

It was a day later that I had a kind of small personal epiphany. Sometimes, honestly, I feel just as lost as she does. I think we all do. We like to think we have an element of control, but as I sat in that room I wanted to ask the same questions Joyce was asking.

What happened to the last year? Where am I? Why do I feel so ill-equipped at handling day-to-day living sometimes? What happened to the person I was 5, 10, 15 years ago?

Sometimes life just beats the tar out of you.

By the time we left, Elaine was wiped out. She felt like she had propelled her Mom safely back to shore, but it took everything she had.

If dealing with Alzheimer’s has taught me anything, it’s taught me empathy. In watching Joyce, I see a bit of my own desperation and the desperation of the human condition in general. In the mirror of her lostness, I see my own.

It has also taught me the necessity of living one day at a time and doing the best I can with what God has given me. There are days that are hard, when you feel a little bit crazy, but then the next day is better.

And as long as God is the One rowing me safely back to shore, I will be okay.