When Your Memories Are Different from the Actual Events

It happens all the time; more often than you think.

Why? Because it’s easier than remembering the heartache, the pain, the disappointment. It’s easier to shift the blame on someone else to justify things that happened in the past that we still don’t understand. Or make us feel embarrassed because we did something dumb that we’re ashamed of.

Sometimes we make memories happier than they actually were because the actual memories are too painful to recount. Or we want others to think our lives were happier than they really were.

Sometimes we make up memories in an attempt to either justify something we did, or should have done, because we think it will make us look better in other people’s eyes. Or to make people think we’ve accomplished more than we have.

Or we make up memories in order to hurt others, to make them look bad, usually because we’ve been hurt so badly by them, we want to hurt them even more than they hurt us.

Sometimes the memories start to blur until we have difficulty discerning what was true and what we made up.

Memories can be that way. And as we get older, it’s worse, because our memories slowly begin to decline over the years. But that’s another story altogether.

I’ll admit that my memories of my earlier years aren’t nearly as vivid as I’d like. And it seems the ones I really remember most clearly are ones associated with unhappy events, such as the days surrounding the death of my father, which memories are far more vivid than my few memories of the good times I had with him. Why? Most likely because I was so young, and at those young ages the traumatic times sometimes take over the happy memories.

If I really stop and think about it, there are lots of memories I can conjour up from the past, but they’re ones I don’t dwell on. Yes, many are happy, like my wedding to Ben, and the joy of finding out we were having a daughter, and the happiness when I gave birth to her, but many others are not.

Like the day I walked into my mother’s room at the rehab center and seeing her body  lying there, lifeless, my aunt in a state of shock and crying. I will forever see that picture in my mind’s eye. It’s not something you can forget.

Or the time my husband coded in the ER right before my eyes, as I sat there helpless, watching the staff work their miracles to bring him back. And thankfully they did.

Each and every one of us have such memories. They’re a part of us, and even though they may become distorted over time, we still remember.

Even though we may not want to admit them to others. Because they’re so painful and embarrassing we change them around somewhat to make them less hurtful.

And even while I’m writing this, many of those are coming back to me.

It’s ok, though, because most of us have finally put the hurt behind us and moved on.

And we’ve changed the memories enough so that we can live with them, knowing how far we’ve come, and sensing the good memories that still lie ahead to be made with the people we love.

Happy Birthday, Mom! (Wish You Were Here)

Several years ago I wrote this blog for my mom’s birthday, several years after she had passed away to her heavenly life. This year I have updated it, because I know in my heart that even though a lot of what I originally wrote is still true, there are a couple of important changes, which you’ll have to read to the end to discover.

Today would have been my mother’s 110th birthday! Where has the time gone? No of course she isn’t with us anymore, and hasn’t been for some 16 years. But that doesn’t mean we can’t remember her on her birthday.

We always wish for “just one more” of those special times with our loved ones after they’re gone. It’s our own human nature, because we don’t want to let them go. There won’t be any more of those special celebrations here on earth, but in my heart I’ve been imagining what her birthday today might be like in her heavenly home, where she’s been for quite some time now.

And in my dreams (even a bit last night) I’ve imagined what my mother’s heavenly birthday might be like.

First of all, my mother didn’t like birthdays, at least not her own. She didn’t want to be reminded of her age. And if she were reading this blog, she’s probably already upset with me for telling – again! Sure, she enjoyed other people’s birthdays, but she never wanted to have any type of party or celebration for her own. But in heaven, I’m fairly sure that’s all changed now.

Her birthday is the anniversary of her arrival here on earth. Now that’s she back in her heavenly home, the aging process she disliked so much is no more. No more old age. Although we have no idea what our heavenly bodies will look like, we know they will be perfect, free of wrinkles and infirmities, restored to our own perfect beautiful self, just as the Lord sees us.

Engagement PictureI imagine her now as she appeared in her engagement photo, a beautiful young woman, full of happiness! Looking ahead to a wonderful life with the man she loved.

I imagine her waking up on this birthday morning in a beautiful room, full of flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds darting all around. There are heavenly birds joining in chorus with some of the angels, singing her a special birthday song meant only for her ears. I imagine her smiling happily at this special greeting!

My father is there, too, restored as a young man, who takes her hand and leads her to the special celebration that’s been planned in her honor.

There’s a beautiful table set out on her porch which overlooks a sea of flowers. Not only the roses my mother so loved much here on earth, but flowers we can’t imagine, grown only in heavenly gardens, their colors painted from heavenly rainbows by the Lord’s own hand. Their scent is amazing, and drifts by as a special heavenly perfume, created for her on her special day. A few of the deer she so enjoyed watching in her back yard wander aimlessly through the flowers, waiting for the right moment to wander up on the porch to visit with her.

The pets she’d had here on earth are there as well, little dogs playing with each other, barking happily as they see her walk in, ready to jump in her arms and wish her a happy birthday! I see her face light up as she greets each one by name and gives them a special hug and a heavenly dog treat which they scamper off with to enjoy.

Her family and friends are there as well; her own mom and dad, as well as her brothers and sister, some of her best friends from earth, all delighted to celebrate with her! Plus other relatives I never met, but know one day I’ll get to know.

There are other young adults there as well that I don’t recognize, but I know they are the children she miscarried, now spending eternity with their parents. My brothers and sisters that I won’t meet until that day in the future when I join them.

I see young children around her as well, hugging and kissing her, bringing her flowers and presents, and I hear them calling her “Grandmom.” Obviously, all the babies I miscarried, living in their heavenly home and being watched over by the grandmother who adores them and loves them just as much as she loved and adored the only child I was able to give birth to.

No birthday celebration would be complete without birthday cake and presents. And her cake is a heavenly three-tiered masterpiece, a concoction of sugary flowers and butterflies that no pastry chef here on earth could even begin to duplicate. I can only imagine the taste as it’s served on crystal plates, for all in attendance to enjoy.

And the presents…what kind of presents could you possibly get in heaven, since you already have everything you could ever want? So there aren’t that many, but the ones there are so special. Beautifully wrapped in iridescent paper, which changes color from time to time, and tied with the most intricate and amazing bows like nothing we could ever tie here on earth. The gifts slowly unwrap themselves as they’re placed in her hands, to reveal a few specially selected gifts designed just for her. Another jewel for her heavenly crown. More colorful embroidery thread for her needlework.

But the most precious gift is a photo frame, decorated with pink hearts and pearls, which contains a picture of her great grandchildren…her namesake Rachel, as well as her little sister Ryleigh This is certainly not like an earthly photo frame, since it allows her to watch little Rachel and Ryleigh as they grow up, through all of their stages of life. What more appropriate gift for her! And on this birthday there are also pictures of the next grandchild in that frame, a little boy named Ryan, who looks just like his daddy. Just think, Mom, you’re getting to actually see what he will look like before he even arrives!

I’ve never seen my mother so happy. So beautiful. And so at peace with her life. But heaven is a place of total joy, total peace, and eternal joy. Of course she’s happy.

So Mom, Happy Birthday! I know you are enjoying an amazing celebration! And you deserve it!

I miss you, and I love you so much!

The Sounds (and Sights) of Summer

Growing up in a small town on the eastern shore of Maryland had a lot of advantages I never really appreciated until I was older. A lot older, as you some of you may say.

But summer some 60 years ago took on a whole new meaning from today. It was less hectic, quieter, and more relaxed than it is today. (And not nearly as hot as this year.)

Because we lived just outside of the town limits, our house was surrounded by two small fields and a woods (which seemed really  big back then). There were fields across the road as well, and we watched the corn all summer as it grew and grew, eventually hiding the homes across the road, growing to reach its potential for the fall harvest. 

Just a quiet rural setting. No crime. No violence. No video games or cell phones.

Back then almost every summer evening was filled with the singing of crickets and frogs, and fireflies lighting up the night as soon as it started to get dark. We’d look forward to catching them and then seeing how many it took to light up the dark corners of our rooms. (Thank goodness my mom always came in and let them escape back outside after we were asleep.)

I remember many nights falling asleep on the glider in our big screened porch listening to the crickets and frogs serenading their friends as well as my mom and me. What wonderful sounds they made. Plus it was cooler out there since we had no air conditioning.

There were some nights during those summers that it was so hot we could look out in the distance from that wonderful porch and see what we called “heat lightning”…silent flashes of light in the distance with no cracks of lightning or thunder, or even any signs of rain.

And the air was so clean, so clear, we could gaze up into the night sky and pick out the constellations. Sometimes we’d even drive down to the bay and listen to the waves lapping against the small pier that was left over from a long ago storm. The sky there was even clearer and the stars easier to see. And when it happened to be a full moon, it was absolutely breathtaking.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to those days. Sure, we have our Jeremiah the bullfrog who likes to sing to us in the back yard after a summer rainstorm, but it’s just not the same. We haven’t been able to find him, or his wine we’ve heard that’s mighty fine, but we still get to listen to him, and he sure sounds happy.

What about the fireflies? I can’t remember the last time we saw any. Crickets? I haven’t heard them chirp in ages. And come to think of it, we see very few honeybees…and they used to fly all around in those distant summers, gorging themselves on all manner of blooms on bushes and flowers, and pollinating everything in our gardens. 

How about butterflies? I haven’t seen many of those recently either, and we have a lot of flowers and flowering bushes in our backyard. They used to fly around the yard all summer when we were growing up. 

Yes, I do miss those summers. And I actually appreciate the memories of them much more than I ever thought I would. Because it was an easier way of life, or it seemed to be, because we were still growing up, and still had our innocence and the belief that these little things would always be a part of our lives.

Now they are only memories in my mind’s eye, stored in a database of pictures only I can see. But they’re there, and I wish you could see them, too.

The sounds and sights of summers in times past….these are my memories. 

What are yours?

Still Missing You

It’s now been almost sixteen years since I last spoke to you. Since I was last able to hug you and kiss you. Talk about life and share stories.

It’s been too long since I was last able to talk to you about things I was going through; that I needed your advice about. And there have been so very many times in these last almost 16 years that I’ve needed to talk to you. To tell you what’s going on. 

To tell you about our happy times. About your granddaughter’s wedding and her wonderful husband. To tell you about your two beautiful great granddaughters, one who’s named after you.

To tell you about your friends and what’s been going on in their lives.

To ask for your guidance and advice, because even though I’m an adult, and now a grandmother as well, I still want so much to be able to talk with you and ask for your help. 

Although I’ve been on my own without you for all this time, it doesn’t mean that I don’t still want your insight on life. I miss being able to talk about my problems with you. Because you always seemed to have the right answers, whether I understood it at the time or not.

You and I survived the untimely loss of my father together. You were there for me while your own heart was shattered into a zillion pieces, and while I didn’t totally understand the whole situation and what it meant, since I was only 8 years old, you hid so much pain from me so I could have as normal a childhood as possible, with you being mom as well as dad to me.

It wasn’t until I lost you that I discovered all the challenges and problems you faced during that time. You never told me, and I’d never asked.

You helped me through two painful divorces and never once criticized my choices. You helped me through heartbreak and encouraged me that I’d eventually find the right one. And you were right.

You were with me when my husband Ben went through his first open heart surgery, at a time when that was not a common operation. You were probably as worried as I was, but you never told me. You only encouraged me and assured me he’d be okay. And he was.

You supported me in the pain of infertility; you rejoiced with me when I finally got pregnant and gave you a granddaughter. And you suffered with me when I had a tubal pregnancy which caused me to lose the babies I was carrying, and almost caused me to lose my mind. Because you knew exactly how I felt, because you’d had the same problems, but had kept them all to yourself.

You loved your granddaughter unconditionally and did everything you could for her. And you would have been so very happy to see her married and now with two little girls of her own.

So many times I’ve wanted to be able to tell you. To share with you, and ask what advice you could give in so many situations. Or just listen to me share my joys as well as my worries.

I miss you so much. Holidays and family times are still not the same without you. I still miss your smile, your presence, and your unconditional love. I still dream about your being with us, and wake up wondering if that dream was sent to me to remind me you’re still watching over me. There are even times, when out of nowhere, I clearly hear your voice saying my name. 

I will continue to miss you because we are part of each other. I will always love you. And I will never forget you.

And I know the day will come when we are together again. Until then,

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.

When Holidays Make Us Remember

For me, it happens just about every year around this time. Thanksgiving is done, and leftovers have been enjoyed. Black Friday shopping is thankfully over. And the decorating is finally over.

Getting out the tree, or trees, in our case, starts it all.  As I unwrap certain ornaments I can’t help but remember where I got them, and the story behind them. I remember the ones that were my grandmother’s, and my mother’s. The ones my mother bought for us, and ones she’d given us for her granddaughter, especially the baby’s first Christmas series. And my eyes almost always get a little damp….

I really think I’m over the loss, the emptiness of my mom being gone; of our traditions being over, or, I guess I should say, carried on in new ways. But then I realize I will never be totally over it, because you never are. The loss, and the memories, are always there. Even this close to Christmas itself, I still feel it the loss.

It’s not just her empty place at our table; her not being around for our traditional Black Friday shopping; her name no longer on our gift list. Her Christmas stocking still hung, except now filled with her favorite red roses (silk, of course) rather than gifts.   Not being able to go to her house during the holidays. Her not being with us Christmas morning to watch presents being opened. She’s certainly with us in spirit, and always will be.

It’s the knowing she won’t be here ever again to share the joys of the holidays with us in our new ways. Her precious granddaughter Ashley is now married, with two beautiful daughters of her own. She never got to meet our Chris, or their little girls Rachel and Ryleigh. My mother would have been over the moon in love with our little girls, and I’m sure she would delight in everything our granddaughters (her great-granddaughters) did, every gift they opened, just like she did with our daughter every Christmas. She’d have sat and played with them all day, while the rest of us prepared dinner. I can even picture the three of them playing together in the stack of new toys Santa delivered for the girls, with so much laughter and so much joy. She’d act like a little kid, right along with them.

My mom never laughed or smiled a lot after my dad died, but at Christmas time, when she had her granddaughter Ashley with her, that’s all we saw. Smiles and happiness. Laughter. Even when our toddler daughter was having a temper tantrum while shopping, or doing something else that wouldn’t necessarily put her on Santa’s “good list”, my mother just smiled and said, “She’ll be fine. Just let her be.” And she was.

I so miss those days. And I think of them even more often now that we have granddaughters who are so much like their mother. I just can’t help wishing “if only my mother could be here….”

But the past is the past, and as much as we wish, and dream, we can’t change it. We can’t bring our loved ones back, as much as we’d like to. We can only imagine how things would be, picture them in our minds, and treasure them in our hearts.

No matter how old I get, no matter how many years will have passed, I will still have these feelings. They’re part of me; part of who I am. No matter how many years have passed I will still picture my mother the way she looked during her last years. Except her face will have softened, the lines disappeared, and that beautiful smile she had whenever she was with our daughter will be lighting up her entire being.

I wonder if some day our daughter, and our granddaughters, will have these thoughts, these feelings. Especially, many years from now, as they pull out the Christmas ornaments that used to be ours, and place them on their Christmas trees. Will they remember? Will they long for those “old days” as I still do?

The holidays are not only a time of joy and excitement. It’s also a time for dreams; for family; and for memories that we’ll treasure forever.

What memories do you treasure most from Christmases past? What are the things you’d most like to be able to re-live? And what memories do you hope your children and grandchildren will most remember about you?

Merry Christmas, and may this year be joyous and full of making wonderful memories.

Remembrances of Holidays Past

Unfortunately I only vaguely remember a few holidays spent with my family with my dad also there. Being only eight years old when he died wasn’t an easy thing, because it robbed me of so many memories I’d never have the opportunity to make. Oh, I do have some fuzzy ones in which we were all seated at my grandmother’s huge ornate walnut dining table, with her and my mom and my aunts bringing in huge plates of food, and my grandfather bowing his head and saying his quick “grace” before we all dug in to eat. But unfortunately, they are, as I said, fuzzy. Faces blur with time, as do my memories of who was really there at those early family holiday meals when my grandparents were still alive.

But the years have a way of fast-forwarding. Children grow up, adults grow older, and loved ones are gradually no longer with us. Holidays become increasingly difficult because our most special loved ones are living only in our memories, and our memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases past are sometimes remembered as being a lot more “perfect” than they ever actually were.

And we’re bombarded with holiday commercials where we see families joyously sitting down together, a perfect meal on the perfectly set table, adults and children alike beautifully dressed up, everyone laughing and smiling, clinking glasses together in holiday toasts, Christmas carols playing in the background, and perfectly wrapped presents under a perfectly decorated Christmas tree.

Those are my real holiday memories. They were fun. We enjoyed being together, and never even thought about not being the “perfect” picture postcard family gathering. We were Just Plain Family. And yes, I miss those days.

I totally understand now why my mom and her sisters used to talk about “the old days” when we were younger. Because now those “old days” I just described, that to me are just memories from what seems just a few years ago, are now “the old days” in the eyes of my daughter and her friends. How I wish I knew what “the old days” had really been like for my mother when she and her sisters and brothers were younger.

As the holiday season is ready to culminate this week with our Christmas Day celebration, I still long to look back and relive the memories of those family Christmases so long ago. But those special times, as I’ve said, still live on in the memories in my mind, shared by just a few who are still with us. We’re all scattered now, and yes, we’ve all made our own new traditions now, just as our daughter Ashley and her husband Chris and their two daughters will be doing again this year.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. I know many of my friends are going through similar feelings, for various reasons. It’s normal, and it’s a part of life. We’re expected to automatically be happy at this most festive season of the year, a season that celebrates love and family. But many of us are almost forced to hide our feelings behind smiles that we force ourselves to wear, because we think we’re the only ones feeling this way. We’re afraid to let anyone else know; but chances are, many of those we meet while wearing that smile, are wearing that same forced smile, because they’re hurting, too.

The next time you start feeling like that, don’t be embarrassed. Don’t think you’re alone. If you’re having a tough time, you’re not the only one. If you’re hurting, you’re hurting. And it’s OK to feel that way, because there’s a loss there that is still all too real, whether the loss is recent, or months or even years ago.

You may be bombarded right now with all kinds of reminders of the holiday season that trigger your emotions. Scents of spicy pumpkin, pine and spruce trees, or fresh-baked Christmas cookies. Colored lights on a tree, or glowing candles. A child’s laughter, or the sounds of Christmas carols. Though these reminders evoke memories of happier times that are now in the past, let them also be a reminder that there ARE better times coming, new memories to be made, and new delights in the smile of new friends who are yet to come into your world. While it may be difficult now, the hope and joy that is Christmas, and always has been Christmas, is just around the corner, waiting to be found. Find one thing that makes you the happiest right now, and share it with someone else as your gift to them. It’ll make you feel a bit better that you were able to share with someone, and it just may very well do the same thing for that person, too. They may end up doing the same for someone else.

We never know how we’ll impact someone else with just a small gesture, especially during this very special season. Make it your gift to someone else, even if you don’t know them. Isn’t that part of what the Christmas spirit is all about? You may be surprised at how much better it makes you feel that you’ve been able to bless someone else.

I know I’m going to try it.

Remembering The Price of Freedom

This post was originally published five years ago today. But it’s still very relevant today. So I’ve updated it slightly to reflect Veterans Day, 2021.

The price of freedom cannot be measured monetarily. It is measured by the sacrifice of the lives of the men and women who defend it.

Today is Veterans Day. The day we thank all of those who have served and are currently serving in our military. Their bravery and dedication to duty is not appreciated nearly enough. They have a unique understanding of the ways of the world that we who have not served cannot begin to understand.

To all of those who have served or are still serving, we owe you a huge THANK YOU for the time and sacrifice you, and your families, have given, and are still giving, to this great nation. You leave home and family behind far too often to serve your country because that’s your duty and your chosen profession. You and your families are invaluable to this country.

My father served in the Army during World War II, however, because of a bad knee that he had originally injured playing football in college, he was sent home with an honorable discharge and a knee brace.

My uncle also served, however, he did not get home until the war ended. He was quite fortunate. Although I do not know his entire story, I will relate what I know of it, because in my eyes, he was one of the heroes.

Fowler Cottingham joined the Army as a young man barely 18 years old. He was trained as a crewman on the fighter planes, and consequently sent to Germany, where he flew in several successful missions with his crew.WW2 Plane

The morning of the day he flew his final mission was most likely just another day. Clear skies; light wind; a perfect day for flying. I can imagine the crew loading the plane, going through their pre-flight checklist, making sure their parachutes were ready, and most likely cracking jokes and talking about what they’d do when they came back from their mission.

Flying over enemy territory was never safe. Most of us have probably seen movies of the allied war planes heading out for missions over Germany. What the movies don’t adequately show is the danger our men faced during each of these missions.

They didn’t have all of the sophisticated equipment in 1945 that our armed forces have now. There were no computers, no GPS; only a navigator with paper maps showing where they were supposed to be flying. There were gunners who fired their weapons without fancy electronics to assist them. They had to judge where to aim, and when to pull the trigger, based on what knowledge the officers and ground troops had been able to discern. It was much different than today. But they had courage, and a sense of duty. They had volunteered to serve, and knew the risks involved.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but my uncle’s plane took a hit from a German warplane. Fortunately they were all able to parachute out, and landed in a wooded area somewhere behind enemy lines. They had only a few supplies, and had no idea where they were. And no idea whether anyone else had any idea where they were, or even if they were alive.

Shortly afterwards they were captured by German soldiers and marched to one of the POW concentration camps. Capture was certainly better than being shot, which I’m sure they were all afraid, would happen. As brave as these men were, just remember, they were all in their early 20’s, the beginning of their lives. They all wondered if they’d ever see home and family again.Blanches Banques POW Camp

Over 93,000 men were held as prisoners in the German POW camps in World War II. They were held in drafty wooden buildings, with uncomfortable cots, and only a thin blanket for warmth. They were fed one or two meals a day, usually some type of thin soup and stale bread. Their only utensils were a tin spoon, and a tin cup for water. One day they were given a treat…candy bars which they quickly bit into. And then saw the worms inside.

My Uncle Fowler and his crew spent six months in that camp, guarded by armed soldiers and German shepherds. They never knew when or if the guards would come for some of them to question them, torture them, or kill them.

There are some experiences that are just too terrible to discuss because they bring back too many nightmares. My uncle would never discuss any of what happened, other than what I have written here; not with his parents, his wife, or his two sons. After his return, and until the day he died, he was scared of German shepherds because he had seen them tear hands and arms off of prisoners who were trying to escape.

How did these men survive this ordeal? And where was the Lord in this? I’m sure the men wondered many times where He was. Even at the young age of 20, when he was captured, my uncle was a man of faith, and I’m certain his faith helped sustain him.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The Lord was watching over them the entire time.

Yes, their plane was shot down, but the crew survived. The Lord directed the German bullets away from the fuselage so that the plane didn’t explode, which would have killed them all. When they landed in the woods, they had no idea where they were, and no idea where to go. The German soldiers could have killed them, but instead they were captured and allowed to live. Many other soldiers spent years in these concentration camps before being freed; these men only had to endure for six months. Many died in these camps, but these men all survived, because the Lord had plans for them. My uncle had a young woman, my aunt, waiting to meet him, fall in love, and marry. The Lord had plans for all of them and made sure those plans were carried out. Prayers for safety were answered; just not the way that was expected.

I wish I knew the names of my uncle’s crew members, but I never had the opportunity to find out. I would love to thank them as well for serving with him, and being part of his support system while in the camp.

And again, to all of our veterans and those who are still serving, and their families, Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you for your service. May God bless you all, and keep you safe.veterans_day_thank_you-1940983

Just One More Day

All of us who’ve lost a loved one have said this, and said it many times.

“If I could have just one more day with you…a special day we’ve already had that we could relive…how wonderful that would be! I remember the day we……”

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago who had recently lost her mother, and we were discussing particular times and events we particularly remembered with our moms, and reminisced how wonderful it would be if we could just live a few of those special times over again.

Which, of course, got me thinking about a very special time with my mother. I remember it so well, down to so many details….

What day do you remember that you’d like to relive one more time with your loved one?

For me, the answer is simple: my mother’s 92nd birthday. Why that particular day? Because it was one of the last times her memory was actually clear. One of the last times she allowed herself to enjoy having a birthday. She never wanted anyone to know it was her birthday, let alone make a big deal of it; she always said it was just another day. But this day was one of the very last times my mom, my daughter Ashley, my aunt (Mom’s sister), and I were together and able to have fun and laugh together like schoolgirls.

My mother’s memory had been slowly fading for a few years, and I had no idea how much longer we would be able to leave her by herself. Ashley and I had come to visit her for a few days so we could be with her on her birthday.

The day didn’t start well. Mom saw me putting presents in the car and thought it was her sister’s birthday, and was upset she didn’t have anything for her. I had to explain that it was HER birthday, and the gifts were for her, not her sister. She ignored that statement, or else didn’t really understand what I’d said.

We got to the restaurant and went to our table. At first Mom was really depressed and quiet, and it was hard to carry on a conversation with her. My aunt and I talked, while Ashley tried to get her grandmother interested in something. She told her about her own 16th birthday she’d just celebrated, even though she’d already told her several times, so they decided to celebrate Ashley’s birthday!

Suddenly the mom I’d always known was back! The mom I hadn’t seen in quite a while. She started talking, and even eating her lunch (which she didn’t ever enjoy doing), and by the time the waitress brought out her birthday cake, she was laughing and even smiling! Something she hadn’t done in so very long….. I took so many pictures of her that day, and she didn’t mind, like she usually did. She even blew out the candles on her cake and helped serve it! Usually she’d sit there and let someone else do it because she didn’t want anyone to know what was going on.

At one point my aunt spilled her coke, and some of it went in the cake, and my mom laughed more than I’d seen her do in years! We stayed at the restaurant for so long, I was beginning to think they’d try to kick us out. One of the presents I’d bought her was a book called “A Mother’s Legacy”. It was full of questions for her to answer so we could always remember things about her and her childhood. She and her sister had a wonderful time with it, reading and answering almost every question in it, and laughing like teenagers, having a wonderful time, just like we all used to all do. Mom had more energy than I’d seen in ages.

It was a wonderful day. And for that time, as brief it was, I had my mother back, the way she used to be before the aging process started stealing her memories. It was truly a gift from the Lord, and I have thanked Him so many times for this special day. I’d gladly relive it as many times as possible.

We never know when the time will come that our loved ones will no longer be here with us. Each day with them is a gift to treasure. Because those days are numbered, and one day we will all be wishing for that one special day to be repeated.

What day would you relive with your loved one if you could? Please feel free to share in the comments below. We’d love to share your memories.

A Promise Kept

Almost two years ago I had to make a tough decision, like many of you have had to do as well. And it wasn’t easy. It was a decision we’ve had to make several times before, and each time it’s awful.

For those of you who are pet lovers, you’ll understand what I’m talking about very quickly. Because our fur babies are part of our family, from the first moment we bring them home. They jump into our hearts and make their nest, and we quickly wonder what we ever did without them.

And all too soon, we end up saying a tearful good bye. Because their lifespans are much shorter than people’s, and even though we know that from the beginning, we still pour our hearts and our love into each one of our special pets.

And they do the same for us.

Over the years I’ve had both dogs and cats. I’ve loved each and every one of them, and cried buckets of tears when it was time to say goodbye.

It was really bad when just two weeks after our daughter’s wedding, we had to say goodbye to Angel dog, my mother’s Pekingese that we had cared for since my mom’s death ten years before. I felt like I was losing the last part of my mother I still had left.

As I was crying and sobbing, my dear husband told me he could just picture little Angel running on her now arthritis-free legs, right up to the door of my mom’s heavenly mansion and barking to be let in, and happily joining my mom’s other dogs she’d had over the years that had been waiting for her at the Rainbow Bridge. I can only imagine what a wonderful furry reunion that must have been!

But I was still heartbroken….

Then a year later I had to say a very teary goodbye to my very favorite cat, Princess, a beautiful black tortoiseshell Persian with curly whiskers and the most wonderful purr I’d ever heard. I put off the decision as long as I could, but sadly I finally had no choice but to let her go to the Rainbow Bridge.

Again, I was heartbroken, but before she left, Princess gave me a promise that she’d send me a new kitty that looked just like her. And she told me all about the Rainbow Bridge where pets go when they pass on to their next life, waiting for us to join them, or going to meet their owners who have already left them for their heavenly home.

And I held on to her promise.

I didn’t realize how it would turn out, though. And certainly it wasn’t like I’d thought.

You see, Princess had promised to send me a kitty just like her. I tried and tried, with no success, to find the one she’d promised me. She was nowhere to be found.

But what I didn’t know, was that all along Princess Kitty had had something better in mind, and she just didn’t want to spoil the surprise she had for me. And she knew I wouldn’t mind if she changed things around a bit.

About a year ago I was involved in an auto accident. It was a bad one, and it threw me into a depression I hadn’t expected. It affected me in ways I never expected. And I needed something to bring me out of my funk. But nothing seemed to be able to help.

And then, out of the blue, a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page that she needed a new home for her Yorkie, because she just couldn’t keep him any more. He needed a home where he could run outside and play, where he would have people who’d love him as much as she did, but could give him the attention he deserved.

Now I’ve always had a thing for Yorkies; I’ve always wanted one. For about 40 years, but who’s counting? What an opportunity! Of course I immediately contacted her!

Obviously Princess Kitty had planned a surprise for me I’d never expected. As much as I love our kitties, I also love Yorkies, and this was my chance!

And two days later, Benji joined our family. I don’t know who was happier, my husband or me. Because Benji’s an awesome dog, perfect for us, sweet and loving and loyal. Plus he’s willing to put up with my dressing him in doggie t shirts and bandanas, and taking his picture with Santa and the Easter Bunny!

I knew Princess had sent him to us. She knew how much I’d always wanted a Yorkie, and she took care of it. And maybe she just didn’t want us to have another kitty who looked like her. Because she really was one of a kind.

As much as we adore our Benji we felt guilty leaving him all by himself while we went to work. He needed a friend. So a few months ago the search began for a sister for Benji.

And it wasn’t easy. It had to be the right doggie, younger, but not too young. A little girl dog who needed a new home, and a big brother to show her around, to protect her. Someone to play with, and to go squirrel hunting with. A doggie who needed to be rescued.

That wasn’t easy either.

But suddenly after three months of searching, we had the opportunity to get Benji a sister. Someone had turned in a 4 month old little girl Yorkie-Shih tzu mix to a local animal shelter. She’d been spayed, and would be up for adoption the next day. As soon as we saw her picture I knew she was perfect! And that Benji would be really happy with her.

We just had to make it happen. Come on Princess Kitty, help us out here! You promised!

The shelter opened the next day at noon. My husband Ben was there by 11:45 and there were already 14 people ahead of him in line. Most of them wanting this particular dog. But one by one people started dropping out of line. Some didn’t want to wait until noon to go in, and some didn’t want to pay the $100 adoption fee!

And then there were only two people ahead of him. Both wanting the dog WE wanted…

When the shelter opened everyone went in and had an opportunity to look at the dog they wanted from a distance, and then fill out an application for adoption.

Afterwards everyone went in one on one to play with the dog for a few minutes. The first people came out a few minutes later and said they’d decided on a bigger dog.

So then there were two.

While Ben and the other lady were waiting for their turns they had been talking, and he’d told her he wanted to get the dog for his wife’s birthday gift, and how our other dog needed a playmate!

When the lady went in to play with the doggie, it seemed like she was in there forever. All this time I was waiting to hear from Ben, and…nothing. I just knew it wasn’t going to happen. I was a nervous wreck…and I’d not even seen this little one in person!

Then all of a sudden he texted me and said, “she’s ours!” Princess Kitty came through! The lady had come out after seeing the doggie and playing with her, walked up to Ben, and said, “I’ve decided to bless you and let you have her for your wife’s birthday present.”

An hour and a half later I finally met little Chloe in person. She was sitting in the front seat of Ben’s car, wagging her tail at us, and smiling like only a newly rescued puppy can smile! She knew she finally had her fur-ever home!

And now Benji has a little sister, who’s already following him everywhere, sleeping beside him, and yes, irritating him on occasion. Because that’s what little sisters do.

Princess Kitty kept her promise to me, and although she didn’t send me another kitty that looked like her, she sent us two wonderful furry friends that have already taken over our house, filling it with more love, assorted dog toys mixed among our granddaughter’s toys, and a jar of dog treats sitting on the counter beside the (human) cookie jar.

Princess Kitty kept her promise in her own way. After all, cats do their own thing, and make their own rules. They keep their promises, but sometimes in their own way. And I have to say. I’m thrilled at the way she kept her promise.

Benji and Chloe are the perfect pair of dogs for us. We couldn’t be happier at the way Princess worked things out!

And one day when we see Princess again, we’ll be able to thank her in person!

Note: If you’re looking for a fur-ever friend, whether it’s a dog or cat, please consider your local animal shelter, SPCA, or rescue organization. They have many animals looking for a loving, fur-ever home. You won’t be disappointed.

Artwork by Stella Violano…Fine Art America

Want to read the other stories in this series?
Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge
The Bridge is Calling

Missing Thanksgiving

No I don’t mean we’re not doing Thanksgiving this year. We are. Our daughter and son-in-law are hosting it at their house, and I’m sure our granddaughter will “help” in her own special 18 month old way.

We’ll have basically the same menu as we’ve had for the last 10-15 years…some traditions do continue. But the cooks will be different. The setting will be different. And the table will be missing a lot of people who are no longer around or in our lives.

That’s what I’m missing. And this year for some reason I’m particularly missing it.

I miss the days of packing the car and driving a little over two hours to my mom’s house the night before, unpacking the car, and then starting on the food prep while my husband and daughter watched movies and played with the dog.

The next morning we’d get up early and start making pumpkin pies, cinnamon buns (with our daughter helping when she got older), putting the turkey in the oven, and then setting the table for a huge family get together, using My mom’s best china and silver. It wasn’t unusual to have ten people or more. We had a large extended family then, and Thanksgiving in particular was a special time!

I have wonderful memories of the holidays from my high school years celebrating with so many aunts and uncles. And later years as our family members dwindled and changed, we still had our special holiday celebrations, just with fewer participants.

That’s all changed now, though. My mom is gone. I don’t see my aunt and her family since they live several hours away. So it’s now my husband and me, and our daughter and son in law and our granddaughter. And we’ll have a wonderful day. That I’m sure of.

But there will be a lot that I’ll miss.

I miss having my mom with us. We never missed a Thanksgiving together. It was just a given that we’d all be together. There’s always an empty spot at the table now, even though I know she’s smiling down on us from heaven, adoring her family from afar, and especially enjoying watching her great-granddaughter Rachel as she grows.

I miss my uncles who were always such a fun part of Thanksgiving. Uncle Jay who always seemed to be ready for seconds even before most of us had finished filling our plates. How he ate so fast we never could figure out, but he always wore a little of it on his tie, and always seemed to spill just a bit on the floor for the dog who happened to be under the table waiting.

My uncle Fowler who always teased us all about something, who was always ready with a joke, and who expertly carved the turkey every year (I actually think he taught my husband a thing of two about it), wearing my aunt’s apron, and happily sampling as he went, just to be sure it was cooked properly!

My Aunt Mary made wonderful pies, and of course we had pumpkin, but she also treated us once in a while to her special mince pie which was amazing! And some years, for a really special treat, and usually at the request of my Uncle Fowler, she’d bring her “famous” angel pie, with its meringue crust, creamy lemony filling, and topped with real whipped cream and shaved bitter chocolate on top. I have her recipe, and so does the rest of the family, but none of us have ever been able to make it like she did! And we’ve certainly tried.

My Aunt Pauline would always bring the scalloped oysters, and she’d carefully put the dish together, layering the oysters just right, and the waiting to pour the milk in just before it was time to bake them. She always complained that she couldn’t get the milk amount right, but they were always delicious. Even if you didn’t particularly like oysters!

And then there were my mother’s cinnamon buns. Oh my, were they the hit of every meal! And not just on Thanksgiving! Sometimes she made two pans of them, because we all wanted leftovers, and they were so good you couldn’t stop at just one! Uncle Jay usually had at least three, because he had to save room for dessert!

We always had appetizers before, dinner. My aunt’s homemade pepper jelly over softened cream cheese (yummy!) which was later joined by her “fake” crab dip (chopped artichoke hearts and Parmesan cheese). One year she told one of our guests it was crab dip, and that guest actually pulled out what she thought was a small piece of crab shell! We never did tell her what it really was, but oh did we enjoy that laugh!

Yes, I miss those days. I wouldn’t trade our family we have now for anything, but it would be so nice if we could go back in time, and take our grown up Ashley and Chris and little Rachel with us, and enjoy a Thanksgiving like we used to have, as the saying goes, “back in the day!”

But now all I have are those memories tucked in my heart, that I pull out every year at this time, and remember all the fun and wonderful times we had together. I can’t recreate them, but I can make new ones, with our growing family here, as well as friends we’ve come to call our family as well.

Yes, I’m missing Thanksgiving, but I’m missing what once was. And appreciating what is now, because the past is the past, and the future is now. We’re making new memories that our children and grandchildren will one day look back on and nostalgically remember like I just did.

To everyone reading this, may you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. May your childhood holiday memories be a comfort to you if your family is no longer around. And may you all enjoy making new memories as you travel through this newest season of your life.

Be thankful. And be blessed.

In Memory of My Daddy

I published this last year, but it’s certainly worthwhile to publish again. Happy Father’s Day in heaven, Daddy! I love you and I still miss you!

 

Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.

I was blessed with a wonderful dad, as far as I can remember. He loved me, and he loved my mother. They tried for twelve years to have me. Twelve long years, I’m sure. And then his time with me was cut short by cancer when I wasn’t quite nine years old.

No, life isn’t fair. It wasn’t fair to him, or my mother, or to me. We should’ve had more time with him. I should’ve had the opportunity to get to know him and have those special father-daughter times that my girlfriends had with their fathers. Like my daughter fortunately has had with her dad, and still continues to have, even though she’s married and is now a mother to her own precious baby girl.

I should’ve had the chance to buy lots of Father’s Day cards, make Father’s Day gifts, and pick out awful Father’s Day ties that he would have said were absolutely perfect when he knew he’d never wear them. I should’ve had the chance to go shopping for my mother’s birthday and Christmas gifts with him; to have him take me to the beach and teach me to swim. I should’ve had him to teach me to ride a bike, help me pick out a puppy. I should’ve had the chance to introduce him to boyfriends and interrogate them, and get his opinion about them later.

He should’ve had the opportunity to go to my dance recitals, my piano recitals, and my high school and college graduations. He should’ve been there to teach me to drive. And to see me all dressed up for the prom. To give me advice on colleges, career choices, and hug me when my heart was broken over some foolish boy.

He should’ve had the chance to have my future husband ask him for permission to marry me. I should’ve had the honor of having him walk me down the aisle when I got married. And to be there with my mother when she met her granddaughter for the first time.

I missed all of that, and up until now I’ve never expressed these thoughts. Because they are too painful. Even at my age of sixty-six it still hurts to think about all that I missed. And all that he missed. So many memories that should have been made, but weren’t.

But they weren’t made, because my dad died. He wanted to make those memories with me, but the Lord had other plans. I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t understand it now.

 

I treasure the few memories I have of my father. From the pictures I found of my first years as a child, I discovered a man who delighted in taking photos of me on special occasions. A man who spent hours in his basement workshop making special handmade furniture and toys for my Christmas presents. A man who bought me a puppy one Christmas and hid it in that workshop, staying down there all night so it wouldn’t cry and wake the rest of us up and ruin the surprise. A man who once took me out on the river in his boat one bright spring afternoon and promised me one day we’d go fishing together, and he’d teach me all about one of his favorite hobbies. I just wish I’d had that opportunity.

And there was the man who wrote me the most wonderful letter when he was in the hospital the last week of his life, telling me how much he missed me, and how he couldn’t wait to get well and be back home with us. The man who lives in my last memory of him, standing in the lobby of Johns Hopkins Hospital in his yellow bathrobe, hugging me, and telling me he loved me, and he’d be home soon.

He was. But not the home where we’d all thought he would be.

My memories of him, like his life, were abruptly cut short.

I know he wouldn’t have left me if it had been up to him. But life is not always fair, and tomorrow is never promised.

If you are fortunate enough to still have your dad around, give him a big hug and kiss every chance you have. Listen to his stories, and take lots of pictures.

And appreciate each and every Father’s Day you’re blessed to have with him.

Daddy, I still love you. And I still miss you.

To My Mother on Mother’s Day

I want to wish you the very happiest Mother’s Day ever.

Except you’re not here to celebrate with us any more. And each Mother’s Day I continue to miss you and wish so very much you were still here. Even if it were just for this one special day.

Especially this year.

Because this would have been the year you’d celebrate Mother’s Day as a great-grandmother. Not that you weren’t a GREAT grandmother to Ashley, because you were the best! But this year you’d actually have that title. Great-grandmother. That beautiful little baby in the photo above…that’s your great-granddaughter in her first few hours of life. The little girl named after you. Almost a year ago.

She made you a great-grandmother.

And I know you’d wear that title proudly. You wouldn’t mind a bit if anyone knew your age then, because you’d wear it as a badge of honor. Because that granddaughter you’d waited so long for had given you her daughter to bestow that title on you.

So many, many times I’ve wished you could see your namesake. Baby Rachel is beautiful. A wonderful, happy, smiling little girl. We’d be four generations of strong and loving women….that would have been so wonderful.

So many times I’ve wanted to be able to call and tell you about our granddaughter, about that funny little thing she just did, or how especially cute she was that day, or how much fun all of us had taking her shopping, like you used to do with her mother.

But there are no phones in heaven. No mail delivery. No photo albums. No Skype. I can’t reach you except in my mind and in my dreams.

So many times I’ve wished we’d had smartphones when Ashley was a baby so we could’ve sent you daily pictures and videos of her like we get every day of Rachel. So many times I’ve looked at our granddaughter and seen a glimpse of your smile, your look, and suddenly felt like a part of you was still with us, laughing with us, and just loving that precious baby.

But I’m hoping that somehow you know. I’m hoping somehow you’ve seen her, seen your beloved granddaughter with her own beautiful daughter. I’m hoping you and Daddy both have had that privilege to be able to share in all our happiness.

I remember so many years ago my Aunt Ruth telling us she believed the Lord let those in heaven see the happy family occasions that were happening with their loved ones back here on earth. Because heaven is a place of total joy, and seeing their loved ones rejoicing over special occasions would only make them happier. Somehow, in some way, I still believe that to this day.

So Mom, I’m wishing you a very special Happy Mother’s Day this year. Yes, I still miss you more than words can express. I still cry on occasion because you’re not here. I still talk to you in my mind, and I hope you can hear me. And I can still hear your voice in my head saying my name.

And when our granddaughter is old enough to understand, I’m going to tell her all about you. All about the things you used to do with her mother. And I’m hopefully going to get to do those same things with Rachel. Not that my cooking skills will be anything like yours, nor will I ever be able to play “school” like you did, but I’m going to try. You were a one-of-a-kind grandmother.

Just like you were a one-of-a-kind mother. And I still will cherish this picture of our three generations on our last Mother’s Day with all three of us.


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Grandmom. And Great-Grandmom. I’ll love you always.