Posts filed under ‘friendship’
The story of last Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, continues in the news. More details come out, but we are not much, if any, closer to the why.
My heart is heavy, seeing all those young faces in the newspaper. And yes, their teachers too.
Jeff Goins wrote this week about his reaction to that news:
“I believe language has power and impact, that it can be a salve to our wounds. But not today. Today, I have no words.”
And fellow blogger, Ann Voskamp wrote earlier this week:
“I don’t know if legs can hold a heart this heavy.”
Investigators are trying to find answers—any answers that would help them solve the mystery. But who helps the families devastated by the death of their children? Who comforts the families of the teachers and principal who tried to shield the children from harm? Who lives beyond it without being changed in some way?
The tradgedy is removed from us by many miles, but the news brings it to our homes in newspaper, on the radio and television. The people affected are unknown to me, and yet I am a mother and grandmother. I cannot dismiss it and go on as if I don’t know. I have prayed since Friday for those people affected. It’s hard to find words. Sometimes just saying the words, the families in Newtown, is enough.
Ann continues: “When grief is deepest, words are fewest.“
Jeff would agree. He adds later in the same posting:
“But we forget that sometimes silence can be louder than our strongest voice.”
He cites the Jewish custom of Shiva in which people sit in silence with those who are facing a loss. “To not say but show we are with those in mourning.”
Sometimes no words are the best when sitting with grieving. I pray that someone is sitting with those affected families and just listening.
American comedienne, Phyllis Diller once said,
“I want all my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.”
Expectations are high for mothers. Jill Churchill wrote,
“There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”
Helen Rice wrote of the challenges of mothers:
“A mother’s love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking.”
My mother as a new mother
… and as a grandmother
Kudos for my mother who was always there for us. Love you.
Our family celebrates another wedding very soon. I am reminded of the day my husband and I were married. Although our wedding was in September, we had much the same weather as we’re experiencing now, warm days, sunny skies and the trees and lawns green with many flowering plants.
While the bride and groom have selected their music, I offer this video in recognition of their vows to each other and in celebration of their special day. This song, with lines from scripture, was on the hit parade at the time, 39 years ago, and it played on the radio the morning of the wedding as we prepared ourselves for the day. My cousin Sharon was our soloist and sang it well.
And so, for Adrienne and Tyler, a tribute to your upcoming day:
By the time we had finished our tea and dessert, it was time to think about going home. Rachel asked if we’d like to see her midwife room first. She led the way up the stairs to her clinic room. She showed us the room with its modern hospital bed, with rails on the sides, the scale and counter where they weigh and measure babies, a shelf where she keeps her books. Rachel told us that midwives must be registered and that she acts as assistant. A doctor comes in twice a month for prebooked prenatal appointments, but his patients go to the hospital to have their babies delivered.
We went back downstairs to the front room and got ready to leave. That was the moment for the hostess gift. I pulled the package, wrapped in blue tissue paper, out of my bag and gave it to Rachel.
Unwrapping the package of note paper and pen, Rachel said with delight, “I guess I’ll have to get busy.”
She set the package on top of a chest of drawers and then pulled out a lined notebook from a drawer. She laid it on a table in her kitchen with a pen and asked each of us to write in it. Thank yous came easily and how much I enjoyed the visit and meeting her grandchildren. I also wrote my address there, wondering if she might write back.
As we chatted and took turns writing our notes, she said, “Oh, I almost forgot.”
She hurried to a cupboard in her kitchen and opened one of the upper doors. She took out 4 bottles of maple syrup and gave one to each of us. It was maple syrup they had made on their farm, and the label bore her husband’s initial and last name as well as their address.
“My husband and I will enjoy this, ” I said, holding up my bottle. “Thank you.”
We said our goodbyes on her front porch, then headed for Bev’s car. Rachel stood on her porch waving to us as we waved from the car and slowly pulled out of our parking spot.
We drove out the lane, turned left onto their country road, talking about the visit, about the grandchildren and how the middle child looked so much like his Dad did at a young age. About Rachel and her work as a midwife and the seeming contradiction of modern equipment in an Old Order home.
I mentioned the buttons on the back of the children’s clothing, quite a step from using straight pins as fasteners. The buttons were plain and practical and the children would be safe while they played.
We speculated if Rachel and her husband had ever thought of leaving their ways since they both seemed so progressive, Rachel in her learning and her husband in his business of raising pigs and his ability to discuss politics or nearly any subject that came up. It was obvious to us that they read widely and are both intelligent. We wondered whether they might ever feel isolated and read to fill the gap or if being apart from the world made it easier to look at something like politics with more objectivity.
We were returning to our lives in the modern world while Rachel seemed content in her own— content, but willing to correspond and visit with her friends from school days who lived in a modern world. As we neared Bev’s home, Gayleen mentioned the picture we were going to have someone take with our cameras. I thought my sister might do that, since she’d be home from work by that time. We drove to her place after checking on Bev’s mother.
After picture taking and a short visit, we returned to Bev’s home and our cars. The day had been a perfect one for a drive, a time together, and a fait accompli that we had finally made the trip to visit Rachel, something we’d been trying to schedule for some time. That Diane was home on holidays from the west was something we could not have planned, so the day was made perfect with that surprise.
Here we are in Joan’s beautiful back yard. Thanks Joan for being photographer.
Rachel invited us into her home. We stepped over the threshold of the front door, into a sitting room, with another room to the right. The front room held a stove at one end that I guessed might be used to heat the room in winter. A number of wooden chairs and rocking chairs stood around the room in a sort of circular fashion, some with cushions. Fine wooden cabinets lined the wall and what looked like a treadle sewing machine cabinet sat under one window. A tall cabinet occupied the end wall by another window. Bright sunlight spilled through the tall windows on which a rectangle of dark blue cloth was tacked at the top corners of each one, with the cloth pulled to one side over a hook or nail to let the light in.
The floor appeared to be hardwood, finely crafted and very clean. The other girls were seated, and I was about to sit on a bench, but Rachel said to sit on one of the chairs. I found the remaining rocking chair and asked if that’s where she wanted to sit.
“It’s my husband’s chair,” she answered, but said that it was okay to sit there.
A wooden rack on the wall held decorated cards that perhaps were a gift, along with a few papers, decorated with minimal artwork rather than photographs, all arranged as neatly as the furniture. Every piece of furniture seemed to have its place and was aesthetically pleasing in a plain sort of way.
Conversation began a bit slowly, but Rachel asked about what we do, about our families, and also about other classmates. It was then that I discovered she had gone to several different schools as the school districts changed and the one-room school houses that were full were emptied into other schools with a smaller population. Rachel had gone to Tavistock school, Facey’s school and eventually Hickson school, so the friends gathered there that day represented three different schools.
At one point, Rachel excused herself to check on the cheese she was making. When she returned, she said she didn’t know if it would turn out. We learned she used rennet in milk that she was heating, and that she was making havarti cheese. Diane, making conversation, said that kind was her favourite cheese.
We had visited for perhaps an hour when her three grandchildren appeared at the windows. Shy of the strangers at their grandmother’s house, they peeked in and finally, overcome by curiosity, they opened the door and hovered nearby. They were coming for a cookie, as they often did. They were all barefoot. Rachel asked them something in German, and they answered with a nod of the head or a few words. They disappeared out the door for a short time and ate their cookies. Rachel said they didn’t speak English, but they would learn it in school.
Eventually, they came in the door one at a time, headed for their grandmother, one sitting on her lap, the other two stading on either side of her but very close.
The little girl, tall for a five-year-old, is slim like her mother, Rachel said. The girl wore her black bonnet, covering her blonde hair, making her fair complexion look even paler. Her plain dark purple dress was long and straight without the apron that the adult women wear. The three year old boy wore his dark brown hair in the typical Amish style, his bangs cut straight across with longer hair around his head, but cut neatly around the back, with his ears covered. He wore the Amish style black pants and coloured shirt while the youngest boy wore a long dress like his sister. The smallest one, another boy, wore the same hairstyle, but his light brown hair looked like he’d just gotten up from his nap and hadn’t had his hair combed, or perhaps his fine hair refused to be tamed, like the fair hair of one of my children. The children’s mother had a bad headache that day, as Rachel said, and perhaps little energy to tame his hair that day.
Unlike the clothing Rachel wore as a young girl and even now, with straight pins for fasteners, the children had buttons on the back of their clothing. Some things change, in spite of their spartan living.
The children soon were a little more relaxed, going out the door, coming back in, shutting one another out, as other kids do. When Rachel served tea and a dessert, the children tasted some too, but from her dish, with her spoon, this after having a cookie when they had first arrived. The small one ate most. His grandmother said he had a big appetite, and we guessed he was getting ready for a growth spurt.
The dessert, a strawberry filling with whipped cream over pieces of chocolate cake, was delicious. I asked how she made it. “I just used my strawberry pie recipe,” she answered. One of the girls asked what she used for thickening. “Cornstarch,” she answered. The little one wanted more, so he came to the dish sitting on a small table Rachel had set the dessert on. Rachel brought the plate and I served him a small amount, as I would to any other young child. He ate it like he had a hollow leg.
Come back again for a continuation…
A friend of mine has been keeping in touch with an Amish girl who attended our one-room schoolhouse. Gayleen and Rachel have been writing to each other at Christmas for many years now. They have visited several times over the years, including when Gayleen and Rachel’s children were quite young. At various time, other friends have been included on those visits.
When Gayleen talked about a girls’ day and going to see Rachel, I was delighted to be included in the plans. We discussed possible dates, Gayleen wrote to Rachel, and then Rachel selected one of those dates and wrote back. Thus the plan was made to visit her this June.
Since planning the visit, I’d been thinking especially of the Amish families who moved into our community, with their horses and buggies, and of the children who attended the same one-room school.
That experience, heavy with questions of a young child, opened my eyes to the world beyond my home and community, to the differences in people groups, to the questions I dared not ask of them. Years later, when I discovered the author Beverly Lewis and her books about the Amish people, her series, The Heritage of Lancaster County, reawakened the questions I had while attending school with the Amish children.
We met Tuesday morning at Bev’s home. When I arrived, there was Diane, a friend who now lives in BC, but who was back home in Ontario for a niece’s wedding. She had also visited Rachel on other occasions with Gayleen. Because of changing school boundaries, each one of us had met her at a particular school. For Gayleen and I, it had been the one-room school house we first attended.
With Bev as our driver, we set out for Lucknow at 10 am on a cool but sunny morning. The hour and a half sped by with conversations on what we had been doing, and family news, and catching up with Diane whom we hadn’t seen in a few years. Gayleen updated us on Rachel’s family, on her sons and daughters, all married, their locations, and her 15 grandchildren, three of whom we might meet on that visit.
We stopped for lunch outside Lucknow, before heading to Rachel’s home. She was expecting us about 12:30pm. In my bag was a hostess gift I had selected for Rachel, one which I had considered as a pleasing and appropriate hostess gift.
Following Rachel’s directions about the road and fire code number, we watched the country roads for particular markers and signs. We found her home easily enough. Two white frame houses, attached, and sitting along a tree-lined lane. Beds of blooming flowers graced the outside of the white frame houses with solid unpainted verandahs or porches at the front and side doors.
Rachel must have seen our car arrive, for by the time we turned in the yard and pulled up beside the home that we thought was hers, she was out the front door, standing on the verandah to greet us. We climbed the four wooden steps to her front porch and were introduced, in turn, by Gayleen. Though we had all known her, it had been some time since we had last seen her. For me, the length of time had been longest.
Rachel spoke quickly and with the same enthusiasm and warmth I remembered from our public school days. Still Rachel, with a smile and a twinkle in her blue eyes behind the narrow-rimmed glasses. She wore a dark blue long dress with long sleeves, and a long apron in royal blue hanging from her waist. Her neat white organdy prayer kapp was in place with the ties connected loosely under her chin, framing her long narrow face. Her feet, often barefoot in public school, were in stockings and solid black shoes. After initial greetings, she welcomed us into her home.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2
This spring, I along with twenty some other women enjoyed a weekend retreat at Camp Edgewood, one of the several camps operated by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. This year was the 25th anniversary of the women’s retreat, originally begun by a pastor of Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waterloo, Ontario, for its women’s group, the ELW. Now the retreat is a separately organized event, with invitations extended to members of other Lutheran churches.
We enjoyed early morning walks up to the cliffs and a look around up there. Our Bible Study leader, Pastor Tanya from Mount Zion, led us to consider nature and how wind, water, and spirit are conveyed in the Bible. Our weekend included worship, study, social time— including the Saturday evening game of Pictionary— a craft time and plenty of good food.
The camp in Eden Mills, Ontario, offers summer camps for children, confirmation camps, youth and congregational council retreats as well as its environmental program led by the camp director, Fred Ludolph, closely tied with the neighbouring community of Eden Mills in its environmental approach.
Camp Edgewood is located only a short drive from Rockwood, Ontario, where we used to take the campers for walks to see the caves and waterfalls. The camp has evolved since I was a camp counselor and even more since my daughters attended confirmation camp. We’ve been at camp for a congregational picnic too.
There are always tasks and upgrades to be done at the camp. Some of the cabins have been replaced with newer facilities; washrooms have been upgraded. Recently at a men’s work weekend, work was done on the nurse’s cabin, installing a new vanity. I understand that Cedar Lodge, shown above, will be undergoing changes too.
The camp will mark its 65th anniversary later this year in October. I’m sure there are some special events being planned for the celebration. It’s a place to build relationships with others and with God and a place to honour and enjoy nature.
Take a look at the photos on the Edgewood site. Go check it out. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime.