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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Carving Beauty from Destruction

In 2008 Hurricane Ike blew into Galveston Texas with ferocious intensity...

The Island was devastated.  The storm battered and shrieked with murderous intent.   Homes were destroyed, trees toppled, and flood waters rose unstoppable.  In the end, 37 people lost their lives in Texas and the Island of Galveston was declared uninhabitable.
But the resilience of the human soul is an amazing thing...
In less than 5 years, the historic, downtown Galveston
went from this...
to this...
Last weekend, during our Galveston Girls-Getaway, our group had the blissful pleasure of strolling the streets of downtown Galveston.  We chatted, we oohed, we ahhhed, we relished the blue sky sunny day and soaked it all in... marveling that a Hurricane had so completely shattered this peaceful neighborhood just a few short years ago.
As a part of our afternoon, we took the self-guided Tree Sculpture Tour.  A truly beautiful way to honor the irrepressible spirit of the Galveston people.
On September 13th, 2008, when Hurricane Ike hit, most of the Island was covered in a tidal surge. The damaging combination of powerful wind and waves immediately uprooted many trees,
but ultimately the salty storm waters led to the demise of the thousands of others. Ike forced Galveston to say a sad goodbye to so much of its beautiful tree canopy.
As restoration projects began in the devastated neighborhoods, an idea took root and spread contagious.  Many of the homeowners commissioned chainsaw artists to create works of art, sculptures from the beautiful, old trees that had been killed in the storm.
Each private resident chose their theme and paid for the work.  Some sculptures are large and intricate, others are small and delicate.
But all are simply amazing.

There are over 30 sculptures...and counting...
These whimsical sculptures have replaced the majestic oaks that once lined many neighborhood streets and shaded homes.
Tucked into gardens and nestled in side yards the sculptures are there for the public to enjoy. 
One of our girls softly touched the wood, warmed by the sun.
It's sad, she said, to realize that these trees used to be so full of life, offering shade to those passing by, leaves to rustle in the breeze, roost to the song birds for refuge, and beauty for any who looked...
And now they are gone.
But, another said into the stillness, offering beauty still for any who look...
 And they are all reminders that beauty can be carved from even the most devastating of storms.
"But now, this is what the LORD says,
'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you..."
                               ~Isaiah 43:1-4
So many of us are facing our own storms.
It may be a cancer diagnosis, a marriage gone wrong,
 a child lost, a financial ruin...
These are all Storms of devastation and pain,
of uncertainty and hurt, even of loss and grief...
We will all pass through the waters
 and we will fear and tremble as they threaten to sweep over us...
But even in these devastating storms there will be redemption. 
And there can be beauty.
Yes, the storms will change us. When the waters rise, we cannot help but be changed, and yet all is not lost, even after the ferocious intensity of the tempest...
For we are, each one, precious in His sight.
And waiting to be carved into beautiful by the Master Sculptor.
In the aftermath of our storms, as we wrestle with the grief of things lost,
May we rest, this day, in the Grace of His Providential and Tender Hand.
Finding Beauty After the Storm,
Always,  Jane

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Girl Time

Some weekends are just meant for girl time...

Like this past one.  A girls' getaway.  Mothers. Daughters. Friends. Grandmas. Babies.

Oh.... It was good.  Balm to the soul.  Laughter loosed.  Cares shared, burdens lifted, joy exploding good.

14 of us went to Galveston Island and stayed in a fabulous Beach House.

And the fabulous part?  When we divided the cost between all of us, it was only $108 a piece for the whole weekend!  Now how cool is that?!  I think I just found a new vacation destination!  And it was a fantastic, private getaway that allowed us the space to get crazy loud (it happened!) and also to spend time, just us girls, with no distractions...

Mothers and Daughters.  Sisters and Friends.  Grandmas and Babies.   Friends for the ages. 

Getting away from the responsibilities and duties of our lives. (Thank you Farmer Husband for holding down the fort and taking care of the critters!)  We flew the confines of our organized chaos and gathered together for time away...  Retreating to find that center again.  Breathing deep.  Inviting Christ to renew our hearts and refresh our spirits.  It was glorious.

Long walks on the beach...

Hilarious, side-splitting comic relief...
And through it all, the thread of Community.  Women-folk lifting one another up in the body of Christ.  It was our theme.  And it was intentional.  For Community is not just about being together.  Community is about doing life together.   And it truly takes time.  And deliberate attention.
It was not easy to get all of us together for a whole weekend!  Each one there was pulled in a million directions.  Work, Children, Husbands... and yes, illness.  Even the remnants of grief.  One has lost a husband to cancer.  I have lost my mom.  Katie has lost her grandmother.  Others have suffered debilitating emotional hurt.  Some are struggling to find their place, to find their purpose... Each one brought the weight of their world into the midst, and together we chose to let it go for this space of time and find peace.  And laughter.  And joy.  And healing.
This weekend past was so needed and so blessed.  The core of friendship began with these 6:
We are the "moms" and we each brought a "gift" to the weekend.  We had skits, devotions and even a book club discussion!  We all read The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks in the weeks leading up to the retreat and then had a great time sharing our thoughts and insights (if you've never read it, put it on your must-read list - such a beautiful telling of a love story - you will be laughing and crying by the end!) and we wrapped up the weekend with one mom leading us into a very special time of personal, quiet sharing with our daughters (there was much laughing and crying there too! Not to mention the hugging!)
Some weekends are just meant for getting away!
And for discovering things!
Like Big, Ugly Sand Worms!  It was really BIG!  And I almost stepped on it!!!!  Eeeek!
It was also a weekend meant for exploring...
Historic Downtown Galveston!
And then we treated ourselves to a Beach Photo Shoot! 
So. Much. Fun.

From the youngest to the oldest...
A weekend for Legacy-Living,
making time for the people and things that matter.
The cares of the world are still there,
but the hands of community are now there as well,
bearing the burden with me,
sharing the load,
engaging the heart, gifting a smile.
These sweet women, precious Hands of Community,
you who have rocked the babies,
brought the meals that fed body and soul,
 and held me together
when the grief swamped...
Your giving hands have lightened the load,
soothed the hurt and created joy.
Precious Friends, 
You have been Jesus to me.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Choosing Happiness... Regret #5

We finish Bronnie Ware's story today with her last of the top 5 regrets that people make on their deathbed.  It has been both emotionally exhausting and unexpectedly liberating for me to explore the topic of life regrets...

I think it would be amazing to live a life free of regrets.... but I also know how complicated the living part of life gets.

At least my life. It's messy.

And I make mistakes.

Even when I don't want to. The Apostle Paul must have felt the same way...

"I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway." Romans 7:18-19 (The Message)

I'm guessing that Paul might have had regrets too. It seems to be part and parcel of the human existence.

"I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions." Romans 7:24-25 (The Message)
Praise God there is Hope.  For when we get to the end of our rope, we touch the hem of His garment.  Christ paved the way for redemption, from all our failings and weaknesses, and yes, from all our regrets.
Even the regrets we might have on our deathbeds:
And the final regret that Bronnie shares:
I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one.  Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice.  They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits.  The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives.  Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content.  When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.  When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind.  How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice.  It is YOUR life.
Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly.
Choose happiness.
Ironically, right after I read this particular regret, my happy husband brought in the AARP magazine (don't judge, I'm a youthful 50-ish, no one needs to know!) which had just arrived in the mail.  And in the magazine was a whole article on Michael J. Fox.  Very, very interesting story about him, but what really jumped off the page was this quote...
"There's an idea I came across a few years ago that I love," he says. "My happiness grows in direct proportion (to) my acceptance and in inverse proportions to my expectations.  That's the key for me.  If I can accept the truth of 'This is what I'm facing - not what can I expect but what I am experiencing now' then I have all this freedom to do other things."
All the more profound when you realize that he has been struggling long with the daunting diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease.  The emotional and physical toll that Parkinson's can have on a soul is enormously difficult, but Michael J. Fox's  attitude is largely positive.
That could only come from acceptance.  Which brings the ability to count your blessings. 
And leads to happiness expressed.
It is not too late to choose happiness.  Or to stay in touch with friends.  Or find the courage to express your feelings.  Or get off the work treadmill.  Or to live a life true to yourself....  We may have regrets from our past, but we don't have to live there.  Each day offers a new sunrise, a clean slate, a dew-washed pure to begin again...
And I am reminded so often of God's unfailing good promises to all who stumble and fall, living with regrets and lost opportunity.  It is never hopeless:
"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten."  Joel 2:25 
Choose today to live life with courage,
to trust in the Promise-Maker.
Life is the Gift.
In Love and Grace, Jane

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Friendship.... Regret #4

Bronnie Ware's list of top 5 regrets people make on their deathbeds has surely touched a tender place in my heart. 

And Bronnie's Regret #4 is probably something all of us can relate to...

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down.  Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.  There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved.  Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip.  But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away.  People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible.  But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them.  They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love.  Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task.  It all comes down to love and relationships in the end.  That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
Someone once said that Fate chooses our relatives, but we choose our Friends.  And if you are truly blessed you find that your best friends are your family... Friendships like this are a treasure and worth holding close, but how many of us have indeed let golden friendships slip by over the years?  Another casualty of the busy, busy lives we lead.
And holding friends close does take work... but it can be a delightful labor of love!
Every year, Leroy and I look forward with anticipation to our summer camping trip with friends. 
We are separated now by miles and miles, but the friendships remain close to my heart.  I can see how easy it would be to let distance dim the warmth.  We don't share the same zip code, the same church, or the same schedules as our dear friends from the metroplex, but we do share the laughter, the jokes, the prayers, the hugs and the love.  It is so worth the intentional effort on our part to make time with them a priority.  We mark the week on our calendar for next years trip the minute we get home, get the farm-sitter lined up, and start gearing up for the fun.
And yet, these friendships are not just about fun, but about true community.  It's not just about being together, but about doing life together.  These friends have been there for us in many ways through-out mom's illness.  Their prayers, their phone calls, their solid presence through-out the journey.  They didn't shy away from the ugly, the painful.  As a matter of fact, they walked in when many were walking out... they carried my splintered heart to the throne of Grace on so many occasions.  Friends such as these as truly a treasure. 
On the day of mom's memorial service, our family was gifted with their love in action.  We had just arrived at the funeral home, souls aching and grieved, when the door opened and in walked these angel-friends, carrying plates and plates of home-made cookies and brownies and tea and napkins... in wordless solidarity they set up a buffet and began serving all the family and friends.
Their smiles of encouragement and hugs of love melted all the miles that could have separated us.  Their presence helped shoulder the heavy weight of our grief, and I know that this was not a simple thing.  It would have been much, much simpler to have just sent flowers or a card.  Their gift was intentional and sacrificial and will be remembered for a lifetime.
This is doing life together.  Not just when life is good, but when it cracks and hurts and is messy. 
This is when treasured friends leave handprints on your heart.   It is the sweetest gift.
In the end, it all comes down to love and relationships. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When Tragedy Comes Unexpected

We are stunned and horrified over the tragedy unfolding in Boston...

Mind can not comprehend the appalling scenes rolling in... Our knees bow beseeching for the hatred and hurt to end.  Overwhelming sorrow at the cost, innocents taking direct hits, blinding pain, anguished cries of a nation, horrendous carnage,

the heart falters...

and can only lean into Truth.

May the Light of His Love and Grace and Mercy find a way to bring Healing to the Hurting and Hope to a people crushed under Heartache...

Praying for Boston and all those affected by this senseless tragedy.
May God Hold us Close.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Keeping the Peace... Regret #3

Are you a Peace-Keeper or a Peace-Maker?  Regret #3 is all about the way we settle the peace in our lives...

For a clearer picture, let me share Bronnie's 3rd regret on her list of the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed...

I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others.  As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.  Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others.  However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level.  Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life.  Either way, you win. 
This is a difficult one for me.  I abhor conflict... disagreements... strife... dissension... disciplining children... arguing... and discord.  I am a wimp.
I will walk miles to avoid conflict.
Expressing my feelings does not come naturally.  Well, that's weird to say, because really, that's exactly what I do on this blog.  Huh... so, on closer examination, what I really do not do naturally is involve myself in the conflict kind of expressing my feelings.  Yes, that's the kind I avoid...
Which really makes me a doormat.  I thought it was easier to suppress those feelings than to rock the boat.  I truly do not like to upset people. 
But sometimes, a thing needs to be said, in a nice way of course, that still may upset the hearer.
An example?  When mom was desparately trying to prepare for the inevitable course of her pancreatic cancer, I could barely stand to see the pain it was causing my dad, not to mention all who loved her.
But she knew, gut-deep, that she needed to prepare.  And despite the many, many days that we avoided the conversation, she didn't give up.  As we share in the website, it was her best, last gift to us.
What would have happened if she had suppressed her feelings to spare ours?  Taken the "easy" road and avoided the conflict?  We would have been lost and floundering and filled with regrets when the time came to honor her last wishes... In her gift to us, she exhibited a grace and dignity that raised our relationship to a whole new, deeper and more profound level.  I will ever, ever be grateful for her courage in this.
End of life issues are never, never easy to talk about.  And you cannot control the reaction of others, but in speaking honestly and from the heart, rest assured that peace will settle.
In Matthew 5, Jesus taught the multitudes from high upon a mountainside.  He gave us the passage of scripture that we call the Beautiful Beatitudes.  In verse 9, he shares... "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." 
He didn't say Blessed are the peacekeepers...
So, I'm thinking that God did not call us to be peacekeepers, but to be peacemakers.  Too often I find myself trying to keep the peace at all costs.  Sometimes, I need to make the peace by confronting an issue, even as uncomfortable as it might make the hearer and me.  And though this may cause momentary conflict and distress, I truly believe that it ultimately brings peace.

It is not easy.  I do not like it.  I have not arrived.

But I am striving to turn my peacekeeping ways into the gentle and blessed art of peacemaking...

May Peace Settle in Blessed Abundance this night,  Love Always, Jane

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's all about The American Dream... Regret #2

So... if I have found the courage to be true to myself (Regret #1), then perhaps I can find the strength to Simplify...and get off the treadmill of the "American Dream."  Which is not to be confused with the Dreams deep inside each of us, waiting for us to have the courage to be true to ourselves. 

Well, if that doesn't just get all tangled up.  Maybe I could just share from Bronnie Ware's article, Regret #2 of the the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed:

"I wish I didn't work so hard."
This came from every male patient that I nursed.  They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship.  Women also spoke of this regret.  But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners.  All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do.  And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle."

Regret #2 resonates for me...  The American Dream is all about pursuing wealth, prosperity and success.  And there is nothing innately wrong with any of these things.  Unless they trap you in a vicious cycle of work, work and more work just to get ahead.  When my money owns me instead of the other way around I know I'm in trouble.

And that's where we were about 17 years ago... living up to our necks in debt, in the middle of a bustling city that never slept, spending little time together as a family, running on a treadmill of work, commitments and fast food just to keep up...

And we wanted off.

I get this regret.  Missing our children's youth.  Missing our partner's companionship.  And for what?  A bigger house, a better office, a more exotic vacation...

At the end of our lives what will matter more?  The days we spent at the office, or the time we spent with friends and family? 

And so... 17 years ago, Leroy and I looked at each other, gave in to the Dare and put our house on the market.  We didn't even have a real plan.  More of a "if the house sells, we'll move to the country" kind of plan.

God made it so.  5 days after the house was listed, it sold...

And we moved an hour north of the metroplex to a sleepy little town of cowboys and rodeos, spectacular sunsets and endless nights of star-gazing.   And also a smaller house, skunks and snakes, no mall and definitely no pizza delivery.  The nearest neighbor was half a mile away. 

We held our breath to see how our 12 year old son and 10 year old daughter would take the news...

Here are my dad, Katie and Travis exploring the creek and watering hole
the day we discovered our farm and made the decision to put down an offer.
The smiles and adventures were just beginning.

We found, much to our delight, that this move was the right one for all of us.  No regrets. 

Bronnie is right on two counts...

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do.  We down-sized our life-style, but magnified our heart-strength.  There are few words to express the freedom that move gave us.

By creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle... We became goat-herders... who would ever have believed?  Not our friends, nor our co-workers, nor even our vet.  But the goat-herding brought a happy to our lives that bred contentment.  And joy...

Pepaw (Leroy) and Autumn (first-born granddaughter)
 doing chores (with Barbie in tow).
There are days I know it doesn't get much better.
And, of course, giving it all up to move to the sticks and become goat-herders is not for everyone!  My mom never did quite get it ;-)  But she loved us enough to let us pursue our path to happiness, and for us, this farm is that little piece of heaven.
Simplifying doesn't have to mean a radical upheaval.  Bronnie's advice to have the courage to be true to yourself merges seamlessly with the desire to focus our priorities on quality time with our loved ones, even if that means letting work take a back-burner sometimes...
"Enjoy the little things
for one day you may look back
and realize they were
the Big Things."
            ~Robert Brault 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Regrets? There are 5...

Sometimes a thought just sticks in my head and won't go away... Really, it's not even a whole thought, just a single word...

And not one I want to think about... at all.

But can I forget it?  Nooooo....  It keeps coming up, like the bone Petie keeps burying.  And then digging up.  (And refusing to let go of...)

The point is, I've learned that when a thought (or a word) won't go away, then maybe it's time to hash it over.  Get it out.  Deal with it.  And put it to bed.  Make peace with the troublesome topic and move on. 

Right.  So, this is the thing.  Last week at Aunt Emily's memorial, my sweet cousin shared a simply perfect witness to her life.  I mean perfect, the stories, the smile, the love... all there.  Except.  He added that she always had had a few regrets...


He said, there were things she had wanted to do but never got around to.  Regrets...

Opportunities that slipped thru her fingers.  Regrets...

Choices she had made but wished she hadn't.  Regrets...

I cringed.  Wanted to shut out the word.  For who wants to hear about regrets when there is no time left for restoration?  No happily ever after?

The word rattled around in my soul after I got home.  It followed me to bed.  Crossed my mind during last Sunday's sermon. Interrupted my conversations with the goats, who were no help whatsoever...  And then it had the audacity to jump off the page of an article I was reading...


I stared at the word and finally let the walls down.  And felt the pain.  Tears spilled as I acknowledged the truth of the word.

Regrets... the disappointments, the sorrows, the grief for what might have been, and for what could have been avoided had different choices been made.

In my life.

In Aunt Emily's life.

In mom's life.

It's a truth I can't ignore.  In this life, we will all have regrets... disappointments, sorrows, laments.   Would that there was a way to eliminate these moments.  To find that Happily-Ever-After ending...

And do you know why this particular article had caught my eye?   It was in the title...

"Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed."
Seriously.  That was the title.  I wanted to know.  I had to know.  What are the top 5 regrets that people make on their deathbed? 
I was surprised at a few.  Nodded with understanding at others.  And overall, found myself strangely uplifted by the inspirational viewpoint of the author.
Might you indulge me while I share her story over the next few days?
The article was written by a palliative, or hospice, nurse, named Bronnie Ware.  She has spent many years tending to the needs of the dying, and has found a universal thread of emotions as people neared the end of their lives.  There was often denial, and there was fear, also anger and remorse.  But almost always the emotions evolved into acceptance.  She shares that every single patient she tended found peace before they departed.
When she asked about any regrets they had or anything that they would have done differently, she found that there were 5 common themes of regret among these terminally ill patients.
Today, let me share the first of these 5, it is the most common regret of all...
"I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.  Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.  It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way.  From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late.  Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it." 
Dreams gone unfulfilled... because we live the life others expect of us...
Perhaps this is true for many.  For others, the ones who have focused soley on attaining their dreams, they may find when they arrive that they are all alone. 
Seeking our dreams at the expense of others is the opposite of becoming enslaved to the expectations of family and/or peers and never breaking free to reach for our dreams.  It is a double-edged sword, is it not? 
I have found myself thinking of dreams...My dreams.  And I wonder, what dreams have I not nurtured?  Have I given up on?  What dreams have I experienced with gladness?  Found come wholly true?  If tomorrow I learned of my terminal diagnosis, what would I clearly see?
Will this be my most lamented regret?  Not having the courage to live a life true to myself?
If Aunt Emily could come back for just a moment and share her thoughts, I have no doubt it would be to refute the last line of the author's post... "From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late."  This is so not true!  Aunt Emily was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer over 3 years ago.  It had spread to her spine, honeycombing the bones.  She suffered numerous fractures and aggressive chemotherapy and radiation to ease the pain and arrest the development of the invading cancer cells.  During this time she successfully realized a dream and published not one, but 6 novels...  An amazing feat for any healthy person, but phenomenal for one struggling hard with all the physical and emotional turmoil of a terminal disease.
This is one of the stories my cousin shared.  As a family they could not be prouder of her successes, her dreams come true.  And yet, her regret was of not having done it sooner....  I pondered that thought and decided that perhaps she didn't realize herself what an inspiration she was to so many people.  Somehow I believe those novels were published right on time.  And I so wish I could tell regrets...not for this one dream.  It is beautiful and right... a legacy lived out for her husband, her children and her grandchildren...
It is not too late...
... to find the courage to live a life true to yourself.  What dreams lie beating within your heart?  Have they been long buried? Or are they bringing joy to your soul?  Have they been smothered by the demands of life?  Or are they your life?
What Dreams has the Grace Giver placed within you?  Dare to Live a Life True to the Calling...
It is never too late.
(to be continued...)


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Of Gatherings, and Grief, and Gratitude...

This past week Dad and I spent time traveling to the Midwest to say good-bye to a favored aunt...

We gathered together, family and friends, to honor a woman who has touched each of us deeply.  Her sweet spirit, contagious smile and generous love have poured freely from a life well-lived.  She will be so missed.  But I can't help but think how she would have found great joy in how her memorial transpired!
No stuffy funeral homes, nor elegant cathedrals... her husband and children planned a memorial perfectly fitting her life. 
We gathered on the banks of the Wabash River in the quaint, tiny town of her ancestors.  And there under a wide wash of blue sky and towering pine trees, we shared our memories...
Things she had taught us... stories of mishaps and laughter... remembrances of her battles... even of regrets... but more, jewels of resilience in her crowning achievement, a family raised up to love and cherish each other. 
Her son and daughter both spoke... there were tears and laughter, grieving and healing.  And then her 6 grandsons gathered round and read from her favorite bedtime story.  A story she read to them often, complete with sound effects and theatrics...
There were roses to lay on her grave and silence for a moment... Then a spring breeze whispered thru the pine trees and the boys began an impromptu game of chase, joy dancing in the air...
Aunt Emily would have loved it. 
Dad and I were so very grateful to be a part of this family gathering.  We celebrate her life, but mourn so deeply her passing.  It soothed the ache to be with each other.  Isn't that so often how it happens?  Grief and Gratitude, tied together inexplicably somehow.
We spent several days with the family exploring this charming town of cobblestone paths...
historic log cabins...
quaint cottages...
and peaceful parks...
We gathered for wild games of Wiffle Ball...
And hopped on Dad's rented golf cart for more adventures...
Like getting lost in the giant hedge maze...
And skipping stones across the sweeping Wabash...
Yes, Aunt Emily would have approved.
Dad and I were so very blessed to be a part...