Grandpa Welcomed Her Home

This week has flown by like a flash of lightning. Yet it feels like an eternity since we arrived in Ohio on Monday night. We turned into in my sister’s driveway at 9:15 pm and carried our luggage into the house. We embraced and chatted about plans for our visit…not ready to acknowledge what we were both thinking. This would be a bittersweet gathering. We were happy to all be together at Grandma’s but felt a deep anguish knowing this would be our first Thanksgiving without my Mother.

As we returned to the kitchen, the illuminated screen of my sister’s phone caught her eye. The notifications revealed a missed call from our step-father. The text message that had just arrived demanded her attention. The smile on her face was replaced with knitted brow and her eyes conveyed an air of confusion. Her voice quivered as she shared the brief message that had arrived at 9:30 pm “Mom passed”. His Mother, our Grandmother, was gone.

We rushed to the hospital to join our family. Everyone was in shock. Our sister Elli (who lives in Georgia) had visited with Grandma earlier in the day and had talked with her briefly over the phone during dinner. Grandma had been home from the hospital for three weeks and was doing good. She was excited to have everyone home this year for Thanksgiving.

We embraced one another and shared our tears…our pain…for yet another loss. My heart was breaking for my step-father. Exactly eleven weeks ago, Mom…his wife of 30 years, was welcomed to Heaven. And now, his lightly scabbed wound ripped open by the passing of his Mother. I lost the battle to hold back my tears the second I saw the pain in his eyes. When we embraced, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of my pain. It felt as if a carnival strongman was pounding my bruised heart with a sledgehammer. I managed to choke out a faint “I’m so sorry” between the sobs. We took turns visiting with Grandma while waiting for her transport. I was eerily comforted to see the familiar faces of the gentlemen from the Laubenthal-Mercado Funeral Home.

After deciding on a game plan for the next day, we split company with hugs. Elli was tentative about returning our Grandparent’s house (where they were staying) with her young boys. I’m sure her apprehension was growing as they navigated the train tracks and drove the last mile on the snow-covered road. The headlights on their Acura pierced the darkness to reveal a 10 point buck waiting for her in the front yard. She was shocked that the buck didn’t run away when they pulled into the driveway. Elli’s jaw dropped in disbelief as the buck continued to stand in the grass and look back at them…even when they poured out of the car.

At that moment, God spoke to Elli’s heart and comforted her soul. His still voice confirmed what she had believed to be true. Grandpa and Grandma were no longer separated by the temporary and eternal worlds. After 12 years of being apart, they were now together in Heaven. To Elli, and to me, The buck symbolized Grandpa welcoming Grandma to their eternal home.

Elli’s heart overflowed with peace…with an immense joy…knowing that God provided a vision to satisfy her need for confirmation…a need that she didn’t realize she had until it was fulfilled.

With this realization, the buck walked across the road to the edge of the vacant field. He paused for a moment…as if saying “good-bye”. Then, emerging out of the shadows, a doe stepped into the glow of the street light. A tearful smile spread across Elli’s face as she watched the pair disappear into the night.

My heart leapt in my chest when Elli shared her experience with me. I thought back to the beautiful sunset that God sent to us with Mom’s passing. Both were very different imagery but spoke to us the same way. And although we miss our loved ones desperately, we are humbled that God cares enough to deliver specific signs that speak to us in ways that others may not understand or embrace.

Divided Thanks

Thanksgiving…A time when we traditionally pause and reflect on life. Looking back over the previous year and giving thanks for our blessings…those we recognize and those known to only God.

Today, my heart is divided.

I went to bed at 2:00 am but not because of the usual pre-meal preparations. I was on a mission to finish a memorial video for my Grandmother’s funeral service scheduled for tomorrow. James and I arrived at my sisters’ house in Ohio at 9:15pm. We had barely finished carrying luggage in the house when we got the call that Grandma had just passed. We loaded back into the truck to meet up with the rest of our family at the hospital. Working on the video was draining. As I synced music to photos, I found myself flashing back to September. Back to when I was focused on the exact same exercise for my Mother’s memorial video. At 2:00 am, the final draft was finished…time for bed. Wiping tears from my eyes, I put my laptop to sleep and ascended the stairs to join my hubby.

I snuggled in and quickly drifted off to sleep. But not for long. My slumber interrupted by thoughts piercing my unconsciousness. Rising from bed, I looked out the open window…my gaze crossing the lawn…to Mom’s memorial statue. A silent conversation followed…known only to the two of us. Finally I uttered a verbal “Happy Thanksgiving” to Mom.Memorial Blur

My heart is divided.

I am deeply saddened that my step-father has lost both his Wife of 30 years and his Mother…exactly 11 weeks apart. I am saddened that two holidays will now eternally elicit mixed feelings. Mom passed at Labor Day – just before my brother’s birthday. Grandma passed just days ago – on my sister’s birthday and anniversary. These days have been added to the list of other special dates that we remember each year. My Mom and Step-Father’s anniversary also marked the day his father passed unexpectedly. My birthday marks the day my Father left this earth (though he was pronounced a few days later). On the calendar, they are just another day…marching along…leading way to the next. But in our lives, they cause us to pause, remember, and weep…sometimes uncontrollably.

My heart is divided.

When I allow myself to look past the grief, I am overpowered by an intense joy. I know Jesus welcomed Mom home in September. And I confidently visualize Mom and Grandpa, smiling ear-to-ear…standing arm-in-arm, behind Jesus…welcoming Grandma home. My Bible tells me to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV) I don’t know the reason our loved ones were taken from us. But I do trust that God has a purpose. And when I allow myself to look past the grief, I know that they are happier in Heaven than here…in this temporary world. Our grief will be replaced by pure joy when our time comes to join them…to be welcomed home.

And somewhere in the middle…the dividing line…is a bit of guilt. How can I be happy? How can I enjoy the holidays when we have empty seats at the table? Am I discounting their loss if I move on with festivities so soon after their passing?

My heart is divided.

Does our laughter betray the pain inside? Or do we honor our loved ones by finding a way through the pain to remember the love and warmth we enjoyed in their presence? Can we mourn our loss and celebrate their lives?

Alarming Thanksgiving Tradition

Family traditions…everyone has them. Some are sweet and heart-warming – the kind that elicit an “AHHHHH” when you share with friends. And some are…well…just different. The kind you tell ONLY your closest friends in fear of being labeled as crazy or strange. Regardless of the nature of the tradition…it’s something your family holds dear.

Ours is one of those DIFFERENT traditions. Prepare yourself…this could get messy!

For reasons no one knows, Mom started a new…unsettling…tradition when her first three children became teenagers. Fortunately, the tradition found a quick demise when we moved away from home, sparing her future step-children from the same seasonal “joy”.

OK…I’m ready…here we go…

Mom liked to serve our Thanksgiving meal for lunch. This allowed us to clean the kitchen and have everything back in order by mid-day. Eating so early also meant that we enjoyed a wonderful left-over meal for dinner. And, still had time to visit with friends or attend a movie during the evening.

To launch her plan, Mom would set her alarm for early Thanksgiving morning…EARLY…like in the WEE hours early…to prepare the turkey for the oven. Her process started with cleaning the turkey and removing the giblets. Then she carried the turkey to wake us…one-by-one…as she exclaimed “Gobble, Gobble, Gobble…say thank you to Thomas Turkey…he’s giving his life for you.” If we didn’t awaken soon enough…Thomas was inclined to assist with a tap from his wing or drumstick…whatever it took get us to stir.Turkey Wakeup 1

Turkey Wakeup 2

After attempting to fend off the attack, we reluctantly addressed the naked bird. Gratitude expressed, she moved on to the next child. And then back to the kitchen for further cleaning, stuffing, and into the awaiting oven.

Though this tradition hasn’t repeated for many years, we always relive the details during our annual Thanksgiving celebration. Perhaps it’s because we were traumatized during those formative years and the mere sight of a whole turkey brings back a flood of memories. This year our Thanksgiving stories are changed forever. It’s the first time that Mom will not be leading the stories of Thanksgivings past while hovering around the table…at the ready to replenish an empty plate

Hopefully mine is not the only “DIFFERENT” tradition out there. Does anyone have any traditions you’re crazy enough to share?

Hubby Humor-isms: Mossy Rock

Sometimes I just can’t help but laugh at the colorful phrases my husband uses. Well, to be honest, I try to stifle my laughter to avoid encouraging him. Otherwise he would never stop…He thinks he’s a comedian and often declares “I’m my own entertainment!”

We stopped at a travel center in Virginia to fuel the truck and eat lunch. Hubby waited for our order while I filled the drinks and located a table.

After what felt like an eternity, he arrived…GRUMBLING…with our food.

He proceeded to share why it took SO long for our order. Apparently the restaurant workers need more training…a LOT more training. While he was waiting, multiple customers returned so their order could be corrected. The attitude of the people he could see behind the counter prompted him to quip…

“Those people are slower than a herd of turtles with the spunk and enthusiasm of a moss-covered rock.”

Where on Earth does he come up with these metaphors?

Featured image “Moss Covered Rock in the Yellowstone River” by Bill Gracey, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Random Ramblings: On the Road Again

Three states…Two days…550 flight miles…478 highway miles.

Sunday
Finished up a visit to Florida for Hubby’s work. Boarded a plane to North Carolina for our first Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends.

Monday
Swapped out t-shirts for sweaters, loaded the “Beast”, and set out for our second Thanksgiving in Ohio.

Our Dodge Durango (AKA “The Beast”) carries our stuff, handles good in all weather, and supports passenger naps (that’s me). Doesn’t get any better than that.

Cabin Credit

Surprised? Shocked? Outraged? Well, not quite that strong. Let’s go with “taken aback”. Yes, that’s it…I was taken aback when the flight attendant pitched a credit card promotion over the cabin speaker. Not just once…but on both legs of our flight. Apparently, the recent merger of two airlines (who shall remain nameless) sparked a very generous offer. The kind of offer you just can’t live without. After listening to the perks, the light bulb above my head is glowing like the mushroom cloud of a nuclear reaction. I finally understand why SO MANY passengers lined up for the “priority” boarding calls. Just check out a few of the benefits associated with carrying the airline’s card in your wallet…

  • Double miles for today’s flight.
  • Additional miles (enough for two free flights) with first charge.
  • Tickets for two companion flights at $99 each.
  • Access to the airline’s lounge.
  • One free checked bag per flight.
  • Priority boarding.
  • 500 additional miles (today only).

As soon as the announcement ended, flight attendants walked the aisle with credit applications. A passenger two rows ahead caught the attendant’s attention. I didn’t hear the question but I can guess what was asked because I could hear the attendant disclose the “fine print” details of the promotion…The offer is valid only during today’s flight – NOT at the airport or online. The annual fee is $89. A specific section of the credit application (name, address, social security number) must be completed and the application number validated with the attendant. Blah…Blah…Blah…Blah…

My common sense “radar” went berserk causing my brain to seize up and forced me to stop listening for a few seconds. Let me get this straight. At a time when identity theft such a ginormous issue, is the airline REALLY going to require a passenger to disclose their social security number on a document left with the flight attendant?

Now to be clear…I’m not questioning the integrity of flight attendants. Adequate security measures may be in place but the announcement didn’t reveal any details on how this sensitive information would be secured. There could be a lot of hand-offs between collecting the application and delivering it to the individuals ultimately responsible for processing. Each hand-off offering a potential breach of security.

To satisfy my curiosity (like a good Business Analyst), I asked how the applications would be handled. The attendant’s response…“we have a drop box at the airport”. That’s it? You’re asked a question about the security of sensitive information AND the only answer you have is there’s “a drop box at the airport”? My risk-averse mind immediately launched a series of follow-up questions. But I didn’t press any further. Pursuit of an answer felt like an exercise in futility.

When the passenger expressed hesitation to the “fine print” requirements, a more “hard sell” tactic emerged. The flight attendant lobbied that the application should be completed, “If you are considering the credit card, you should go ahead and take advantage of today’s offer. You will only be charged the fee if you use the card when it arrives. So if you change your mind, just tear it up and cancel the account.” Hmmm…I wondered…Is there a contest to collect the most applications? Could a bonus be at stake?

Needless to say, this card will NOT be found in my wallet. Maybe I’m just overreacting…being paranoid. So, I have to ask…What do you think? Would you share your social security number for this type of promotion?

Featured image “Credit Cards on Money” by 401kcalculator.org, CC BY-SA 2.0

Ambushed

Thankfully, the second leg of our flight was less eventful than the first. All buckled in, I settled back into the seat pulling my black sweater around my shoulders. I wondered whether this plane had a slight chill because it was a lot larger than the first. Looking around the zone 3 section of the plane, my eyes landed on the fully extended “personal” vents…all spewing out a steady flow of air. I reasoned that the chill had to be caused by the air movement. No matter, with all the bodies packed in like sardines, I was confident the temperature would quickly increase. So…I closed my vent and snuggled up on Hubby’s shoulder for a bit of added warmth. After the obligatory safety instruction, I closed my eyes and started to drift off with my thoughts.

OUCH! What the?!!! I almost jumped out of my skin when a deep voice blared from the speaker above my head.

I was ambushed by an all-out assault on my ear drums. The sound coming from the speakers was SO loud my ears hurt! Pressing my palms against my ears was the only way to muffle the brief message from our pilot. The niceties he chirped about our flight time and destination weather couldn’t end soon enough. I’d never experienced a message this loud on a plane…I would be willing to swear it exceeded the decibel level for safe sound. The comments from the flight attendants were nowhere near this loud. I guess I’ll have to chalk this incident up to an exuberant pilot. Note to self…bring ear plugs as a future flight precaution.