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May ending

May sang her song: “Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day.” And then she broke into the chorus of: “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.”

So much rain in May caused the grass to grow as high as an elephant’s eye, almost. Flooding in parts of our country caused grief as we watched our own Salt River rise and ebb. Our yard, with its peaks and valleys, was water-logged, and days went by when it was simply too wet to mow. It got so bad that a lawn care company rep came by to give me his card.

The rain also brought flowers, and oh how I love the flowers. I like to cut them and put them in the old mason jar filled with water. Whatever is blooming becomes a serendipitous bouquet. Sometimes a tiny bug or spider has crawled out from the buds, so I have relegated the mason jar to the table on the deck.  In the morning when I sit there in the quiet of a new day, I enjoy the flowers in the outdoors. The creepy crawly things are at home out there.

There’s been lots of outdoor work, planting, pulling weeds and digging in the soil. The dirt under my fingernails continues to be an issue. The yard looks reasonably well kept this spring, though not perfect. My yard will never be perfect or perfectly groomed like yards I admire, all prim and proper. I’ve come to terms with it, because this is the way I garden. It’s slightly wild and slightly pruned, and I’m OK with that. It is ever changing, evolving, becoming something different and new.

The daily walks for Maisie and me down our lane rewarded me with the heavy fragrance of honeysuckle blooming at one corner of the yard. It’s uncultivated growth sprawling in the little woods brings back childhood memories of pulling the buds and sipping nectar.

I had two recitals this month, one at the Academy of Arts and one for my home students. I am always aglow at these events, so proud of my students’ hard work that produces music to my ears. Teaching piano came to me late in my career as the result of a job loss. At the time, I couldn’t have dreamed what grace would come from something so shocking and disturbing. It is the way of God, to bring life from what seems like death.

Mother’s Day came in the middle of the two recital. My own mother has been dead for over 30 years, and our one and only son is in another state celebrating his wife, as he should. What’s a daughter/mother like me to do but be good to myself? I called a friend who shares a similar situation and suggested we spend a few hours together before Mother’s Day, somewhat grieving our loss but more celebrating friendship, our sons, and the love of all things growing.  We spent a lovely morning and afternoon together, and our shared joy helped us ease into the weekend when pictures of gathered families would multiply on Facebook.

On Mother’s Day, I did what I wanted and treated myself with much kindness and grace. It was one of the best day I’ve had in a long time.

I’ve enjoyed watching the Canadian goslings growing daily, grey downy feathers giving in to the white and black distinctive color of their parents. They look like miniature versions of what they will eventually become. I spy the single mallard mamma and her little bitties occasionally. There are six of them left and still so small in comparison to the geese. Watching these babies grow has been life-giving this spring.

I resumed my task of going through the saved mementos from the box in the garage. I came to the cards, letters, notes from my years working at the YMCA. It was my first management positions, and some days I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Nostalgia took me on a journey of memories and faces, experiences and people who helped me grow. It’s been over 15 years since I worked at the Y. They were formative years for me when I learned so much from the staff whose names appear on those mementos.

yard sale signIt’s the season of the Yard Sale. Usually I am quite the sucker for a neon pink hand-lettered sign, but I’ve passed by more often this spring. As the wise Solomon said, there is a season for everything, a time to gather and a time to scatter, a time to keep and a time to throw away. I’ve had my season of gathering and keeping. It’s time to let go.

Rather suddenly at month’s end, we excitedly arranged for a visit from my daughter-in-love, eldest granddaughter and her friend.  I prepared the house, filled the fridge and pantry, and cleared my calendar. The few days would be open for whatever plans they had. I would be bed and breakfast for them and take whatever moments I could get with each one.

They came for a wedding, my granddaughter being a first-time bridesmaid of a childhood friend. My granddaughter is grown up in many ways, and yet I see the little girl who used to come spend the night, who sat at my piano and learned music with me, who sat on the stool at the kitchen counter and told me what was on her mind.

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She and her friend had their own agenda, attending wedding festivities, visiting friends, and staying out later than my bedtime. And we who waited for the sound of them slept lightly as we prayed for their safe return. Her mother and I shared the mutual feeling of wanting to know all the chicks are home, safe in the nest, before we can settle down for deep sleep.

One has to experience it to understand. Parenting cannot be easily explained or described. The bond between mother and child is something unique and beautiful and lasting.

I enjoyed hours of conversation with my daughter-in-love as we sat at the kitchen table and drank sweet tea. For me it was like old times when she lived in the house next door. We laughed and remembered and talked about so many things. It was a balm for my soul.

I made strawberry shortcake for breakfast on the day before they left for home. It was well received and may become a tradition whenever my dear ones come for a visit.

I’ve missed my family in the years they have been living away. The few days with my girls were a jewel in the month of May, memories to record in my journal and on my heart.

Too quickly the days passed and  we said tearful good-byes, unsure when we would be together again, face to face.  And the house that sang with voices familiar is quiet once more, remnants of breakfast and cold coffee all that is left behind.

May has been delicious in lots of ways and difficult in others. And this life I live is very much like the garden surrounding me. Days are spent pulling up the weeds and clearing away the mess of a long winter. Other days I dig in the dirt and plant with hope for something bright and beautiful. Flowers bloom and fade, while others bud with promise. One morning is cloudy, rain falling; the threat of storms makes me run for cover. And then the sun emerges and water droplets glisten like diamonds. A rainbow appears in the sky and I stand in awe.

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There is a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance

May brought different times for me.  I live with fervor some days. I taste the bitter and the sweet. I sing songs and cry tears.

It is all part of this wild, wonderful life I’ve been given. It is mine to live. And I shall live it.

 

 

 

A week after

After last weekend’s celebration of a risen Lord, a joyful afternoon spent with extended family, and counting multiplied gifts from the bounty of God’s blessings, the week after is fraught with things difficult. My mind whirls and tilts like an amusement park ride. But I am not amused.

I hear of an untimely death and sorrowing parents. Sweet William underwent a minor surgery, but nothing is minor when one has been in too many hospitals to bother counting. News about a dear one’s jarring diagnoses leaves us in shock and questions. Yet another one close to our hearts battles dreaded disease and the pain that accompanies.

And we pray. What else is there to do?

We ask in faith, believing God already knows and nothing takes Him by surprise. We trust in His goodness and His strength because He is a good and strong Savior. We know we are His children and will not be given a stone when we ask for bread and fish. We petition a Mighty Warrior who fights our battles with a powerful arm.

We pray and wait to see what will be His answer.

“And we know with great confidence that God, who is deeply concerned about us, causes all things to work together as a plan for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.” — Romans 8:28 Amp.

I have recognized this week that trials bring people together. Texts and phone calls run to and fro through space, keeping us updated, friends and family expressing their love and offering help in some way. As a result, prayer is our connection to those we care about and to the Father who loves us with an everlasting love.

If trials bring people together, then prayer binds us to one another, brothers and sisters reaching heavenward as the family of God and the body of Christ. One one hurts, we all feel the pain.

Jesus offered reassuring words just before He disappeared into the sky as astonished followers watched:

” . . .  and lo, I am with you always, remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion, even to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20 Amp.

In all of our trouble, trials, testing, there is only one consideration:  Jesus.

Jesus with us, in pain, in uncertainty, even in death.

Jesus, the man of sorrows who is familiar with suffering and runs to our cry.

Jesus, the One and only who came from the Father’s loving hand to open the way into His presence.

Jesus, dying for us so that we might live free and abundant.

Jesus, showing us how to love one another by His own extreme love and servant hood.

Jesus, holding onto us when the rope we cling to frays at the end and we lose our grip.

Jesus with us at all times, “regardless of circumstance and on every occasion,” giving us His strength and comfort and answers we cannot even imagine.

Pain and suffering draws people together. Sometimes we sing the song of heartbreak, disappointment and confusion in the minor key. As God’s family, we sing united.

Prayer binds us as brothers and sisters. And our chorus, ascending upward, is heard and is answered. We sing the song of the redeemed. And the world will hear the melody.

Perhaps that is part of the plan.

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Sweet 16

Today is my granddaughter’s 16th birthday. I was blessed beyond measure to celebrate with her last weekend.

Sweet William and I traveled the long road to where our precious ones live, the one and only son and his family. The drive was worth the hours on the road to see smiling faces and be received with such warm welcomes.

I’ve missed some birthdays since they moved from the house next door. Thankfully, I did not miss this important milestone in my precious Grand Girl’s life.

She is the middle child. At times she is the quiet, introspective one. At other times she is the comedian, actress, goof-ball who makes us laugh.

the-3-grandsShe was born without me being at the hospital. Her older sister was brought to our house early one morning in November when time came for her parents to rush to the hospital. I supposed we had plenty of time to shower and dress since her sister took her time coming into the world.

I was wrong. Before many hours had passed, I listened to the message on my phone, “You have another granddaughter.” Elation and disappointment mingled, but I was thankful for her birth. We hurriedly made our way to the hospital where mother, dad, and new baby girl were contentedly waiting for us.

It was a day to remember.

Memories surface today as I think of my Grand Girl, us miles apart and in different states but joined at our hearts.061-2

She was the queen of dress-up. She loved the costumes and cast-offs kept in a box in the back room. She emerged as a character of some sort and took on the persona and accents with ease. One of my favorite personalities was Dr. Bendova, dressed in a white shirt, silly glasses and top hat. She made us laugh a lot.

Being the second child, she was often the companion and follower of her big sister. Once when she was allowed  to spend “alone time” with us, all by herself, she climbed up on the stool next to the kitchen counter where I spend a lot of time, and commenced to talk up a storm. I was surprised at all the words coming from this child who was usually so quiet. It was as if she finally had a captive audience to hear what she had to say.

She loved to cook with me, sitting on that same kitchen stool, us sharing tasks of making meals. Her consistent game began with, “Let’s pretend we’re on a cooking show.”

100_1062-2A few days ago we made pumpkin pie together in her kitchen. It was as special as it always was.

She was a girl of many faces, most of them silly. For years we could not seem to get a serious picture of her. With everyone posed for a snapshot, she invariably make a goofy face just at the moment of the shutter’s opening. While it was frustrating at the time, it has given us myriad photos of this girl’s special way of bringing comic relief to us all.

This past weekend, we celebrated that special girl.

She has grown tall and beautiful, graceful and distinctly herself, studious and artistic, bright and cheerful. She is thrifty with her money and has an entrepreneurial spirit.

She brings gladness to this Grammy’s heart. I love spending time with her.

As Sweet William and I drove home after our three-day weekend celebration, I thought of the trip, the memories we had made, the joy of being with our precious ones, the fun and laughter, the shared table of fellowship where hearts are content just to be together.

Time slowed for me those few days. I forgot what day of the week it was, living in the moment with each sweet soul.

Good-byes are never easy, no matter how often we practice them. But good-byes are as much a part of life as the welcome homes are. We must receive them both if we are to be loved and to love in return.

As we headed east to our old Kentucky home, the sunset glowed brilliantly. A song came to mind:

I think of my Grand Girl on her special day. My eyes mist and there’s a lump in my throat as I remember the child and watch her blossom into a young woman.

Her life is a gift to all of us who know and love her. Her gifts and talents are from the Father above who planned for her life. My prayers seem unceasing for her, that she will know the way the Father leads her, that she will follow Him with all her heart, that she will understand how great the Father’s love is for her.

I pray that her heart is open to receive all He has in store for her. It’s her birthday today. I’m so thankful she was born.

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Little girls and dollhouses

The dollhouse came to me as a rescue, kind of like Maisie but not exactly.

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[from Pinterest. Different house but a close idea-picture]

 

Parents periodically go through the mass of toys and clothes that accumulate in a house full of kiddos. Children outgrow things or there just needs to be space to walk on the floor. Thus the large plastic dollhouse had been marked to go.

My daughter-in-love asked if I would like to have it at my house for the grand girls to play with when they came to spend time with us. I said, “yes,” of course, because what Grammy does not want to have cool toys for her precious ones to enjoy.

The big house stayed in the downstairs extra bedroom, the one that used to be the one and only son’s room until he went to college; then years later I transformed it into the Grands Room. It was the main play place. There was a closet with boxes of dress-up things and toy dishes, a child-size table and chairs perfect for a tea party. The chest of drawers, an heirloom of my dad’s making, held changes of clothes, PJs, and underwear just in case they got to spend the night on the spur of the moment. And there was a bed waiting for me to tuck in sleepy heads.

It was a room they could call their own. The dollhouse found a new home there.

The girls and their cousins played with the house, furniture, and small-size family for hours. Sometimes I had visiting little ones who enjoyed the house. It was a fixture in the room.

I carried the house upstairs to a different room after the family moved from the house next door. I needed a change in the Grands Room, not a reminder of their absence.

For years, the house lived upstairs, its contents boxed away in a storage area. The box came out occasionally for play when the grands came here or when other children visited.

This year, I wondered if it was time for the house to find a new home. My grand girls are growing into young women. I didn’t think they would sit in front of the house and play like they used to.

So I asked the two girls, via Facebook, if it was OK for me to give the house away.

Their comments were sweet and filled with memories of the house, but they graciously agreed to let another child have it to enjoy.

I knew who the little girl might be,  the tiniest and youngest member of our family, so I texted her mother. She said, “yes.”

This past Sunday, this mom, her husband and children were in our neighborhood, visiting our common relatives and celebrating their daughter’s second birthday. I decided this was the day to deliver the house.

I carried it and the box downstairs and out to the garage. I walked the box down the lane to the neighbors’ house. Many family members were out in the yard enjoying the beautiful evening weather. Maisie was an attraction to the littlest girl as she reached her hand and said, “Me woof-woof” to Maisie.

I went back to my garage and carried the big house down the lane. When the littlest girl saw the house she began to smile and bounce up and down with joy. I grinned at her excitement, my heart warming to her enthusiasm. She began to play with it immediately, right there in the driveway. Her 15-year old cousin, the one who had played with my grand girls, began to help her pull furniture and tiny people from the box and place them in the house.

The experience was melancholy for me. It begins to close one era, the childhood of my grandchildren. They are growing up, each one of them gradually turning into young adults.

I walked back to my house, my eyes a little misty, remembering their childhood and how much of it I got spend with them, how precious those days together were. It is a gift I don’t take lightly.

As I talk to those young women who are now my grand girls and my growing-up grand boy, they sound mature in many ways. They are looking toward the future, and I wonder what God has in store for them.

I pray for His hand on their lives, that He will direct their choices, that He will show them His path.

Life changes and life changes us. We have to accept it, allow it to help us develop and blossom. We are always becoming, even as we age.  If we dig our heals in and refuse to see change as an opportunity, we will stagnate.

I anticipate a different kind of relationship with my growing-up grandchildren, one where we share ideas and experiences and we begin to relate as adult to adult. They will always be my sweet Grands no matter how old they get.

The dollhouse has left the building. It’s OK. The memories are still here.

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Five years

Breakfast finished and enticed by the clouds moving in, I went to the back deck to sit and watch the promised rain finally arrive this morning, bringing cool breezes. It’s what I’ve been waiting for all week.

As I sit and listen to the raindrops on wood, leaves, and grass, the wind sways the tall branches of trees in our little woods behind the house. It’s a sight I never tire of seeing. The wind blows and the branches give way to its power.

I’ve been blown about and moved by the power. The power of circumstances and illness. The power of emotion and disappointment. The power of love and forgiveness. And the power of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.

Sometimes rain is a welcome relief of dryness and heat. Sometimes it is reminiscent of tears and sorrow of soul. The rain is both to me this morning.

Facebook’s ability to “never let me miss a memory” reminded me what happened this time five years ago. As if I needed its reminder. This week was the fifth anniversary of the day our family next door moved away. I don’t need to look in the 2011 journal to remember the gut-wrenching emotions I felt as the big yellow moving truck pulled out of the lane. I recall the last wave and tearful smile from the grand boy who was only nine. I feel the long hugs and how we all tried to be brave. They were facing the unknown and the challenges of a new location. We were facing the unknown also and an empty house next door.

It was a hard day. A long, dry season.

I looked at pictures captured the last week before they all packed up and left. Sweet William and I spent a lot of time with the grandchildren trying to build memories and pour ourselves into those precious young lives. I wanted them to be filled up with our love. I wanted them to remember it when they hit some hard, dry seasons themselves.

There were lots of smiles in those pictures, us trying to ignore what was coming and live in the present of each other. Nothing else really matter that week except spending time together.

I can barely believe it has been five years now. The house next door stood empty for almost a year. Then two sets of renters moved in and moved out. Two years ago a young couple, her great with child, bought the house and came to stay. They have been a gift to us, their growing toddler calling us Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bill, their warmth and friendliness, their love and kindness more than we expected.

I have adjusted to another family living in the house next door. I have adjusted to having my dear ones living so far away. I have adjusted to us being the lone couple at family gatherings and no grandchildren to play with the cousins.

I have adjusted, but tears still threaten to fill my eyes.

A lot has happened in five years. I used to look from my back deck and wave to grandchildren heading out to play in their back yard. I heard their “Hi Grammy,” as they waved back at me. Now the meadow has grown to a woods and I barely see the back yard next door.

Sweet William and I endured three years of hospitalizations and too many surgeries, suffering and questions that were not answered. We are on the other side of the physical problems, but it changed us in uncommon ways.

My 91-year-old father died during the five years, then my step-mother three years later, leaving me feeling a little like an orphan, on my own now for sure. Mother’s and Father’s Days lack the luster it did before.

I retired from a position I loved, working with people who were friends. I knew my role as care-giver would increase, as it has.

We’ve traveled to visit our dear ones, but not nearly enough for me. I’ve missed so many birthdays and holiday celebrations with them.

When we do get to see each other, the time is precious. Whenever they say they are coming, I try to clear my schedule, freshen bedrooms, and cook up a storm. I want them to be at home, to feel absolutely welcome, and to enjoy their visit. When being together is rare, the measured occassion becomes a treasured jewel.

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Good-byes are still hard, even after we have practiced saying them so often. I always find something left behind. And I suppose that gives me hope of their return.

For reasons beyond me and held within the secret plans of a Sovereign God, we live apart from one another. He watches over them as He watches over us. More than ever our prayers seem very significant. They are our connection. They create a triangle: them, us, and God. He holds us all, and His hand is strong.

I’ve learned to trust God more during the five years. Trust when I cannot see the purpose. Trust when I don’t know what is going on. Trust when my tears are my food all day long. Trust when I am fearful. Trust when I can do nothing to change any of it.

My Lord is faithful and worthy of trust. His plans have purpose. He is the One who began the good work in each one, and He will complete it in His time.

The clouds cover the the blue this morning. Grey moves across the sky. Rain is here for a while, washing away the dust, watering the ground and the gardens, soothing my soul, mimicking my tears. It’s what I needed today.

When family comes together

Sweet William and I are mostly home bodies. Partly out of necessity but also because we just enjoy being at home.

While we’ve had dreams of traveling to far countries, of cruises to the islands, and seeing other parts of the world, travel is arduous for us now.  The baggage and effort are heavy duty.

We are still in the learning process, learning to be content where we are planted. We have comfort of home and nature’s beauty around us. We know all our neighbors and can call them when we need assistance. Maisie and I walk our quiet lane safely, watching the wildlife and waving to passing cars.

On the occasion we do travel, it will usually be to visit the family, our dear ones,. Such was the case last week. Our eldest granddaughter graduated high school, and July was the opportunity for her family to gather to celebrate her accomplishment.

Sweet Home Alabama

The trip took us to Sweet Home Alabama, the place of our daughter-in-love’s heritage and childhood memories.  Alabama is hot in July, the air thick with humidity. The skies are the bluest blue and the clouds fluffiest white (I always find a poodle somewhere in the sky).

The Live Oaks are just amazing. Crept Myrtles grow like trees and color the landscape in pastels and deep hues.

Southern is spoken there, y’all.

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The evening of the party, tables were set in white with flowers and candles. Food was abundant and iced drinks helped keep us cool. We fanned ourselves like a group of old-time tent revival attenders.

Children, teenagers, middle-agers and older-agers (is that even a word?) congregated to congratulate our granddaughter for another milestone completed. She looked beautiful and was the princess for the evening. The next journey she takes will be as a young adult. She will try her wings and see where they take her.

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Family is God’s plan, His idea from the very beginning. We are born there and other times we draw people to us and call them kin. Either way, we are blessed to be connected to others in deep relational ways.

Our strengths combined help us accomplish much more than we could on our own. Our weaknesses are quickly evident, and we learn to forgive and be forgiven. We challenge one another to grow and to become our best selves.

Iron sharpens iron. And in the family, we rub each other the wrong way and then pat each other on the back. We get on each other’s last nerve and jump to the defense if someone is threatened. We don’t see eye to eye as we all have our opinions. We can even talk politics or religion and still love each at the end of the day.

As extended family, we may not be together often enough, as often as we would like.  But we do whatever it takes when one of us is in pain, when death takes one of us home. And we drive the distance to celebrate the triumphs.

Joy and sorrow bring us back together once again. For whatever reason, whatever the event or need, we show up because we love each other.

It is the love that is God, the love that he lavishes on us, the love that makes us family.

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Photos were taken by different family members.
As the one and only son said so aptly, “I love these people.”

 

The stepmother

She introduced herself as the Wicked Stepmother to my friends and colleagues.

We can thank Disney for that stereotype.

She married my dad after my mother died when she had been widowed herself for 15 years. She’d had other marriage proposals and told us she never intended to remarry. I guess my dad was more persuasive than the rest.

She was independent, feisty, and had a quick wit. She saw life in a unique and fun way. She laughed easily and walked into a room with a “here I am” swagger.

She loved my dad.

She did card tricks and made origami birds and could fold a dollar bill into different shapes.  She had a treasure of family heirlooms and could tell the stories of each one.

She was a child of the depression who salvaged, reused and re-purposed before it became popular. She knew how to make a dollar stretch until it squealed.

She loved food, especially my sour cream cake. She enjoyed gathering with people at the table and had her own method of involving her senses in the process of eating, slowly relishing each bite.

She became a minister and performed marriage ceremonies for about a bazillion people, some of whom would only have been welcomed by Jesus himself. Her stories of those experiences were both touching and hilarious.

She had been our neighbor when I was just a little girl, and she was my mother’s friend. How ironic that my dad would spend his last 30 years living next door to the house he built for my mother and me.

She re-entered my life while I was still in the depths of grieving for my mother. It was a hard dance at first, us trying to find our rhythms in a new normal.

Our one and only son who was only ten years old wanted to call her Grandma from the beginning. She soothed a fresh wound in his heart left gaping from the death of a grandmother he loved dearly.

We welcomed her into our lives, celebrated her on her special days, and she became part of our family’s holidays and everyday events. It was like grafting on a new branch to a tree whose deep roots were already well planted.

She was a friend to Sweet William and me. She was the grandmother of the groom when our son married and became Grandma to his sweet wife. She was the great-grandmother who held their babies on her lap. She was the woman who gave meaning and purpose to my dad when he didn’t think he could live without my mother.

She endured hardship during her 88 years. A tragic sudden death of her first husband. The murder of a close family member. Her own children living cities and states away from her. Stolen assets and property. A devastating house fire. A caregiver for my dad in their home until his death.

She encouraged others going through tough times, reminding them to trust God as she recalled His faithfulness in her trials.

She witnessed with her words and her life. The message on her telephone answering machine was “Jesus is coming soon. Are you ready to meet Him?”

No one can take another’s place, and my step-mother never tried to become my mother. Instead, she made her own place in my life, in our family. We were not blood related but joined by heart and by spirit.

She prayed for us. She loved us by her actions. She claimed us as her own. She was our family and we were hers.

She died yesterday and we are left with a hole in our hearts.

Gramps and Grandma.

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