Thursday, October 28, 2010

Legacy and Love

This past week, my Aunt Catherine died. The Hubster has already written a beautiful post about my family. I don't know if I can express it any better than he already has.

However, it meant a trip to the farm. As I have grown older I have come to love that land more dearly than ever. KY is a beautiful state. There are lots of lovely woods, creeks, farms and fields. But something about the family farm is magic. It just feels different. When I turn off the highway onto the little road, images began rushing through my mind like an episodic movie.

I see black and white photos, color pictures, memories of times and people long gone. All rushing through but each one tangible and indelible. Each so real I ache with love.

I see in my mind the photographs of my siblings and me when we were all much younger: BB2 clutching a bunch of kittens to his chest; the sister and I standing in a field of tobacco that is 2 feet taller than us; the old house that Daddy built with a lavender bedroom. There is no longer a house or tobacco on the farm. There are however kittens.

BB1 has kittens who live outside working for their supper but also sleeping in the porch swing, running helter skelter down the road, hunting the fields for mice or lazing in the sun.

I imagine they are the descendants of the long ago cats clutched tightly by a small freckled faced boy who now lives a thousand miles away...

I didn't get a chance to walk in the woods this time. It would have been a good time as there was a full moon and it lit up the night so I could see individual trees and a path clearly. But this time wasn't about me. It was about family. The ties that link us, one severed for now upon this earth. My aunt Catherine was the last real link between what I think of as the past and the present. The past was when I was little, and on Sundays all the cousins came to visit. We would play all afternoon and into the late evening: school, church and funeral were my favorite games. Sometimes we would dress the smallest male cousins up as girls and force them to play house and be the "babies". We would play hide and seek, tell ghost stories until we scared ourselves silly and ran to the safety of our parents arms.
We would settle in sometimes and listen to the grownups talk. I remember the rich cadence of voices and laughter rising and falling, the curls of cigarette and cigar smoke wafting away on  a breeze. The clink of ice cubes in glasses of tea so sweet your teeth ached. We would be given pieces of cornbread or cold biscuits to snack on. Later maybe some cold chicken or frozen mushmelons as makedo popsicles.

Some of this happened on another farm we lived on, some at THE farm: that's the one that calls to me, lures me back with the beauty of trees and fields. The farm that backs up to the cemetery where all my relatives sleep in quite peace. We could walk from my nephews house to the graveyard where we all gathered last weekend to pay our respects to aunt Catherine. You can see the treeline that marks the boundary from my parents grave.

At the cemetery we visit all the relatives, dusting off a headstone, straightening flowers, sticking wooden crosses back in the ground where the wind or maybe wild rabbits have knocked them over.
I pause at my parents' grave looking at the faded silk roses, knowing in my heart they were placed there on Memorial Day by Catherine's hands. She went out every year with armfuls of silk flowers, sticking single stems on the graves of her two babies that were born dead. She went from relative to relative, bending down at each grave, paying her respect, showing her love, caring for those gone ahead.

I wonder now, who of us will pick up this tradition? Who of us cousins, nephews, nieces, grandchildren or great grandchildren will be the bearers of the flowers? Who among us will go from grave to grave remembering the past?  Some of whom we never met but who lived on in stories handed down at weddings, funerals, family gatherings.
I wonder about all of us who were children together, now growing older, some of us grandparents already, some of us even gone early. I wonder if we can carry on the legacy of love that was handed down to us. Can we make new ties linking the youngsters of today that will reach from them to us to our elders.

I wonder if that love will survive and thrive.

Later in the day I play with my great niece, the 5th generation to live on this land. I wonder if someday it will call to her as it does to me. If she will find fossils in the red clay as I once did. I wonder if she will love to walk the woods, hear the sighing wind and feel her heart swell with a love long imbued in the hills and hollows where so many of us began and later returned. I wonder if she will love the legacy as much as I do...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Its been a long time

I have written in so long. I have had ideas simmering in my mind for months, but when it comes down to writing, I stall out...

Its been a rough summer. So much sorrow, worry and anxiety. Too many people in my life fighting for their lives.

But oh,  have I learned. I have changed without realizing I was transforming. I am no longer the same person I was in April. Then I was burned out, stressed, overwhelmed with myself. But then on the horizon appeared a great looming shadow: CANCER.

Cancer was diagnosed in my husband, brother, aunt, cousin and a dear, dear friend within the same month Various forms, all Stage IV. Meaning it had metastasized to other parts of their bodies. Suddenly, I wasn't as important in my own mind. I shifted my ego out of the way realizing how precious life is, again. There is nothing that makes one so mindful of  mortality as seeing a loved one facing Death. It becomes a daily presence always on the edge of one's vision, lurking in the room, waiting...

There were several times it came way too close. The hubster developed a pulmonary embolism, BB1 was rushed to the ER several times, my aunt lay in a nursing home with a broken arm, pneumonia...

I have seen Death before. I watched my father die in front of me.  I had lost my mother while I was miles away and couldn't be by her side.  I  have had countless animals die in my arms as a veterinary assistant. I have been the one to speed the process by pushing the needle into the vein and releasing the overdose of barbituates to ease the animals from suffering to peace.

Death is no stranger, but still not a welcome friend...

I have found a new depth to my spirituality. I have had to let go of so many things, so much of myself. I never realized how prideful I was. How desperate I was to be the one who fixes everything and not accept help. In essence, I was a control freak. I had to let go of that. I had to accept my flawed ability to not be able to do it all alone. I had to come to grips with my overwhelming fear of poverty. I had no choice, I had to let go and let God.

God was/is everywhere. People came out of the woodwork to assist us. People who loved us with a depth that broke my heart time and time again. Everywhere I turned, I saw the Christ in action. Friends gave money, time, talent. They sent cards and called. They came and sat with me in the hospital, in my living room, in the hubster's hospital room. They cried with me and let me be angry, sad, broken. They held my hand in silence and hugged me until I stopped shaking. The doctors kept pushing to save my hubster, not giving up until they had the answer to why he was vomiting/fainting/short of breath. Countless times I felt the presence of something so much bigger than myself. I saw something in the eyes of friends, strangers, felt in their touch, heard it in their voice: I am not alone.

I don't know what to do with all the gratitude I feel. It is awesome to be the beneficiary of such unconditional love and mercy. I am humbled by it all. I want to spread it so others can feel the same love and mercy I have been given. But how? How can I repay what I have been given?

How can I pay it forward, spread it, let people know how vast the power of love really, truly is and that it exists? How can I ever describe what is in my heart? How can I show the world that aches and bleeds and cries and mourns that there is more, something true? How can I as one person accomplish what I want to do?

I don't know the answers. Yet. But I will be living my life differently, daily.
Thank you all for the blessings you have so freely given that I have so gratefully and undeservedly received.
Thank you.