Friday, March 22, 2013

What I Have Come To Believe - Part 1

There are some things that I've started to think about since my dad died that leave me with feelings of uncertainty; the more I ponder those things, the greater the lack of clarity I experience.

However, there are other things that I have become completely clear about, sometimes because I had never experienced or considered these particular issues before - and some things that I had come across but about which I hadn't had this particular perspective previously.  

Here's one of the things I know for sure:  I know that the world is different without my dad in it, but it's probably not as different as I judge it to be, at least not in a general sense.  Personally, I see the world now in a totally different light than I did before Dad got sick, and I've developed a view that is perhaps less naive, perhaps more jaded, or maybe both.  Every time I hear or read the statement "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," I want to argue: from my perspective, this could not be further from the truth.  If we can keep from allowing it to break us down completely, we are not left stronger;  if we are lucky and diligent, we are left transformed, metamorphosized, different.

I search for consolation for the rest of my family and for the other people who knew my dad and who still say to me "I just can't believe he's gone," but I am unable to find anything of comfort for them since I have yet to find it for myself.  Time has passed; some of the sharp edges of grief have moved into more of an aching pain, but the sorrow and all of the other emotions that come along with the mourning are still there, with no end in sight.  I am different from the person I was before my dad got sick; I live differently, I think differently, and I believe differently.

I know this grief won’t end. It will only change and lessen. We will not get over it, but we will learn to live beside it, hopefully more efficiently and more gracefully than we have been able to do so far. We will hold our memories in our hearts and rely on the promise that the thoughts that now make us mourn will one day be overshadowed by the ones that make us smile.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Big News and a Mission

Something monumentally exciting is about to happen in my family: my youngest sister is about to give birth to her first child, the first baby to be born in our family for many years and an event that is heavily anticipated by all of us.  

Since the end of last summer when my sister told me that she was pregnant, we've all thought a lot about how unfair and sad it is that my dad isn't here on this earth with us to experience the joy that this baby has already started to bring to our family.  Since the moment the big announcement was made, though, I have known that one of the biggest goals I will have as an aunt to this child, whom we have all been calling "our baby" since we learned of his/her existence, is to bring my dad into the life of this child, to teach him/her not only about his/her grandfather but also to impart the lessons and the perspective that my dad shared with all of us.  It's not just a goal of mine, actually, it's a mission: I will pass those things on to our new baby, and I will help him/her to know my dad at every opportunity I get, as will the rest of our family.  

I've heard about people setting up an empty chair or leaving some extra space on a church pew as a tribute to a missing family member during a wedding or other event, to mark a spot for that person who can't be present. In the Labor & Delivery room, though, we won't need a chair for Dad -  not because I don't believe that he will be there, but because I know he will - and I know that he won't be sitting down for any of it.  He will be pacing the floor as he tended to do when he was nervous or excited - and he will be standing right by my sister's shoulder and with an enormous smile on his face as he says to her, "You've got this! You can do it!" as his youngest grandchild enters the world and as his youngest child embarks on her journey as a parent herself. 

Dad, holding newborn Nancy, many years ago

This baby will know his/her Gramps, that's a promise I am making to my dad, to my sister Nancy, and to our new baby.

Remember when you were a kid and you'd run up to Dad with some creation of yours in your hands and say, "Look what I made, Dad!"?  That's what you can say to him about this baby, Nancy, although I think he'll already know.//

Monday, March 18, 2013

Country Road Take Me Home

If you know me, you probably already know this about me: I have zero decorating sense.  Seriously, I live in a house with very little decoration and with several rooms with no curtains, and I've lived in this same house for more than a dozen years.

It's not that I don't like home decor or fabric or color - it's that I like so much of it that I can never decide what I want to have displayed, what I want to live with on a daily basis.  It's also a little bit that I've never liked knickknacks, things that some people might call "collectibles" but that I usually refer to as "dust-catchers."  If I have something out on display in my house, it's because it means something to me, not because a magazine or some decorator who doesn't know me suggested it or because it seemed like there was a hole on a bookshelf that needed to be filled.

That said, I know what I like in home accessories, furniture, and art when I see it.  And when I come across something in my price range that stirs up memories and/or emotions, I usually try to find a way to work that item into the scheme of our house.

Awhile back, I found out about the work of Kallie North, a photographer who lives in a small town in the Mississippi Delta.  She's from Texas but married a farmer from the Delta and settled down in the area near where I grew up.  She's a songwriter and a singer too, but it's her photography that makes me feel like she sees things in that area the way I remember them from many years ago.  

I've decided that I am going to order some of her prints to frame and display in my house; I love the way she shoots things that others probably don't notice and the way that, in her pictures, the beauty of things that probably isn't usually recognized is made clear to see.  I love the colors and the shots of crops and things that are unique to the Mississippi Delta.  The agriculture-related photos remind me of my dad, whose career was in the field of ag-marketing and consulting.  I exchanged a couple of emails with Kallie a few months ago, and she has agreed to take some photos this fall of the grain elevator where my dad worked many years ago.  I plan to display those shots and a few others of hers in the Mud Room of my house so that I can see them every time I come in the back door.

Here's a link to her photo gallery:

"Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on Simplicity."  ~Plato

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Power of Words

We must always remember the power of words.

Words can be healing, helpful, or hurtful, and each of us holds the power not only to express ourselves so that each of our messages has one of many meanings - but also to interpret words that are spoken to us so that messages we take in do as well.