Verla Mae


I find that having a blog is something like having a diary and making it public on purpose.  Sometimes it is hard to stay in the boundaries of what is ok to share with the world and what is not.  There is a fine line.   I get confused.

Today’s post is ok to share with the world.  Some might find it surprising but I want to share with you about my former mother-in-law.  She recently passed away and was laid to rest yesterday.  My hubs and I went to the wake the night before and I, at last, was able to introduce him to many of my former family, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  My ex-husband’s family is large.  I was nothing more than an immature kid of 18 when I married into it.  The marriage didn’t last long but the relationships did, at least, I think so.  To this day I still feel a sense of family when I am around them.

verla white

Verla Mae White.  1926-2018.  Her funeral Mass was beautiful, a real testament to the lives she touched and blessed.  Her pall bearers were her grandsons, my two sons included.  They were all so handsome and grown up.  And they were proud to lay their ‘Granny’ to rest.

She was a wonderful woman, married for a lifetime to Artis White, bore him five girls and one boy, and was a very faithful Catholic woman with a special devotion to the Blessed Mother.  She was kind, laughed a lot, loved to dance, and adored her family with all her might.  Verla Mae made the neatest biscuits.  They were about 5 inches across and flat.  We called them flying saucers.  Man, they were good!  I loved to watch her make them.  Her small hands making a well in a mound of flour, baking soda and powder, add milk, pull out a handful, shape and pat, pop on the pan and into the oven.  I loved them with jelly smeared on the top.  You couldn’t split them for buttering, they were too flat but they were delightfully crispy on the bottom.  Makes my mouth water to think about them.  There was only one thing she cooked that I couldn’t eat – baked chicken and dressing.  She would bury the chicken under mounds of cornbread dressing and bake it that way.  The cornbread dressing was delicious but the chicken had no color at all.  It came out as white as it went in and looked like – well, dead chicken.  My then-husband said it tasted fine but I couldn’t put it in my mouth to see if it was good.  I understand that she did change her way of baking chicken and dressing years later.  She didn’t have to.  No matter what she cooked everyone knew the finest ingredient she cooked with was love.  And many people loved her.  In fact, her family, meaning brothers, sisters, cousins, and their off-spring, often  visited her home knowing a good time was inevitable.  She had a way of making everyone feel like they belonged.  I remember in the ‘old days’ many weekends and every holiday was spent in the ‘middle room’ of her home playing music, dancing, and cutting up.  She strongly believed in family.

I can honestly say if it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be Catholic.  It’s true.  When her son told her he wanted to marry me, Mama said “she’s not Catholic”.  That sealed the deal and led to my baptism and confirmation.  Bless her heart, she stayed on her knees for her children and their spouses.  I could have learned a lot from her if I wouldn’t have been so stupid when I was young.  A few years ago, I was blessed to see her when I visited her church on a Sunday morning.  She told me then that she always has loved me and always will.  She said she never stopped which is amazing when you consider I left the family way back in 1981.  That was the way she was, the way she is.  Love doesn’t die, it doesn’t pass away.  It is the only thing you can take with you to the afterlife.   Maybe I can learn from her after all.

Wow, those were some good days.  Too bad I didn’t appreciate it then as much as I do now.  Of course, I believe that now is the best time of my life, but there is no harm in looking back and selectively enjoying what was.  Granny’s funeral gave me that, especially with all of my kid’s first cousins, the pall bearers.  It was so good to see them all together.  They still call me Aunt Nancy.  One of them even told me he had good memories of spending time at our house as a child.  He said I was his second Mom back then.  My heart melted, flipped, and rejoiced when he said that.  It was a wonderful revelation.

One more thought afforded to me from seeing this family in reunion was brought about by the sense that my boy’s first cousins, second cousins, etc, seemed to look at me with a different than normal intensity.  At least it seemed so to me.  I figured it out later.  Yes, I did and it was a shock.  Just as I had looked upon Granny, her husband, and her remaining siblings as being ‘old’, now too were the younger ones looking at me and my peer in-laws as old.  Let me say ‘older’ instead.  But nevertheless, we are next in line.  Oh heavens.  How did this happen!?

Oh well.  It is the way of life.  God’s design is quite complex with the end result intended to meet us where we are.  He knows how we need to see the past through older, more mature eyes.  He knows that age and experience tend to put down strong roots and bear fruit beneficial to many.  It’s kind of like “I am the Vine, and you are the branches”, right?

What a good God we serve!  Rest in peace, sweet Verla.  Thank you for everything and please give Him a hug for me.

vision Mary

Please pray for peace, y’all.  The world is a dangerous place.  Storm heaven with your prayers!

 

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LETTING GO: an exercise in faith, a gift of grace


Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes change, that is, the change that interrupts our lives and makes the world we know uncomfortably different. I’m tired of the old cliché that states change is good, necessary, and a catalyst for growth. *foot stomping* I don’t like change!

But I don’t want to be stagnant either. And because I am a believer, I live by the assertion that I must change to live up to the potential assigned to me by God. What? Am I so full of myself that I actually think the almighty God of heaven and earth knows me personally and even takes the time to direct my path if I ask Him to? Yes. Period. Therefore, I must accept change as it comes and then discern how I choose to react to it. I must exercise my faith to allow whatever change is at hand to make me a better person, one more worthy to live up to God’s expectations of me. In the meantime, I don’t want to miss any of the graces He wishes to bestow upon me as a direct result of my decision to accept the direction of His hand over the changes of my life. And in the bigger picture, the change that effects me will have an affect on those around me. It’s a domino effect, you see. The changes in other’s lives influence me, the change in my life influences others.

Simple truths, right? Yeah, it’s easy as long as it is happening to someone else. “Therein lies the rub.” In case you didn’t hear me the first time, I don’t like change. But change is a lesson we all have to learn and grow from, hopefully. It’s a lesson that creeps up on us every day and demands we pay attention. It is stubbornly present and won’t let go, much like a dog and his favorite bone.

We liken change to either good or bad and, face it, the bad changes are the ones that really get our attention. Unfortunately, the good changes are the ones we accept, perhaps joyfully, but more often than not, without a second thought that they may, in fact, be blessings and graces sent from you-know-Who. Both good and bad are golden depending on our reaction to them. Uh huh. It’s true. Let me illustrate why I feel this way.

I haven’t blogged much since I had a brain tumor removed in August 2015. Even though it was a simple (! Did I just say that??), nearly painless surgery, it has not been without it’s effects and that has taken some adjustment to get used to. For example, I have written the previous sentence three times. Moving on… My memory is affected. I don’t remember a lot of the more recent past, things I have done, places I’ve gone, most notably, people I’ve met. Not too many weeks ago I was in a grocery store and a couple passed by me. They greeted me by name as if they knew me well. I had no idea who they were. I nodded to them, smiled, and proceeded on out the door. But it bothered me a so much that I didn’t recognize them that I had to go back into the store and find them. That lovely couple was gracious enough to understand my explanation that I had no idea who they were. I apologized to them and told them about the effects of my surgery. I felt like a fool. But they were kind and actually seemed happy to fill in the missing blanks. What a relief!

All of that just to say this: I’ve been through a lot of changes lately. Trust me. And I suppose there will be more to come. God, please grant me the grace to go through them the way You would have me to.

So, some of these changes I’ve been through recently have been pretty hard. They get the most attention, of course. The biggest and hardest change has been the death of our former daughter-in-law. Erica was not without her issues. If you are a human being, you too have issues. But Erica’s issues were a bit out of the ordinary. The first time I met her (she answered the door at my son’s house and promptly closed it in my face) I thought she was incredibly rude. Little did I know she was afraid of what my reaction to her being in my son’s house would be. Poor thing. I often wonder what on earth my son told her about me to cause that fear! No matter. I learned to love her. In fact, the day she married my son I fell in love with the brilliant loving smile she gave my son after they were pronounced husband and wife. Aside from that, she bore my first grandchild. When he was born I felt a love like I had never felt before in my life. She was responsible for that. Had it not been for her, who knows if I ever would have discovered what unconditional love was all about? Erica and my son divorced after their difficult marriage refused to survive. They were forced to continue their contact with each other in order to raise their son. And by the way, that boy is awesome which speaks to the success of their efforts. Even so, they went their separate ways. Not too many years passed before Erica became seriously ill. The choices she made hindered any healing that we all prayed for. Over time she lost function of her kidneys and liver and had to go on dialysis. Eventually, her circumstances dictated she live in a nursing home until she could get on her feet. The rehab was good, she was successful and was ready to be discharged to home. The last time I saw her at the nursing home she was so happy and full of life and ready for a new beginning! We rejoiced and she ascertained that her healing was certainly due to Divine Intervention. Then she had an accident and smacked her head on the concrete. It was the last assault her body could tolerate. Within two weeks she was gone. She died at the age of thirty seven just when she was getting her life in order. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that our God has a purpose and a plan for everyone. But I had a hard time accepting it, even now, a hard time believing it. My head says no way. My heart says it has to be. That, my friend, is the definition of faith; believing in what you cannot see, like it or not.

As it would happen, on the day before Erica’s wake, my grandson and I went out to lunch. He is very nearly fourteen years old now and such a man already. I had heard from one of my former neighbors that my old house, the one I poured blood, sweat, and tears into, was being demolished. This I had to see for myself. So on the way back from lunch, the boy and I drove past my old address. The neighbor was telling the truth. There wasn’t a house standing, there was instead rubble strewn about, piles of bricks, pipes reaching out of the ground as if looking to connect to something, anything. Lumber, solid, hard heart-pine and oak, was stacked along the perimeter of the old house’s stead. Ghost-like, lonely. There was a man sitting on a pillar of bricks and one standing close by, obviously the workers employed to take the house apart. He approached me as I pulled up and greeted me like a long lost friend. He didn’t know me but somehow he recognized the attachment I had to this place, this ground on which a lifetime was lived and children were raised. He let me tell him how I loved this place when I lived there, how I raised two boys there, how I remodeled the kitchen and built that deck laying in pieces over in the far corner. He smiled knowingly as I told him that was MY home, the one I bought and paid for myself. As if to comfort me, that darling man proudly assured me that he had already removed the kitchen cabinets and, in fact, had recycled them into another project he was working on. And the doors. And the beautiful parquet floor that I put down piece by piece on the floor. (My knees have not been the same since!) His eyes lit up and he told me he figured I was the one who stained the glass on the back door and bathroom windows. Yes! It was me! He proudly led me around the back of the property to show me he saved them somehow knowing a person would come around asking about them. Yes, me again.

For the next few days after Erica’s funeral, I mulled over these big changes set before me. Big big changes. You know, I came to understand something. I spent more time living and loving, and trying to live life in that old house than I have anywhere since, at least so far. I learned about myself and others. Life lessons. Heartache. Joy. Self-discovery. I had hard lessons about growing up. Sacrifice. Selfishness. Forgiveness. From 1987 to 2001 I lived there. I sold it in I think 2002 or 2003. I poured heart and soul into that old house. I gardened to my heart’s content, coaxing flowers from the earth, fashioning sidewalks and secret flowerbeds. I labored and was constantly surprised at the results. Working on that old house gave me the confidence I lacked previously to accomplish many things, personally and professionally. I think there was not one inch of that house and the ground beneath it that I didn’t touch. My identity was tied up in that house for a time but I wasn’t sorry to let it go. It was, after all, just a building. I was grateful to have had it. It sheltered us and gave us a sense of security. It had a foundation when I didn’t. Then the boys left home and I got married and moved away. Change happened.

I can in no way compare loosing Erica to the tearing down of my old house. That would be ridiculous. I can share my reaction to the changes. Loosing Erica hurts. Her presence leaves a hole in the life of her precious son and all who love her. The demolition of the old house merely evokes sentimental musings. Both soul and building are now memories, albeit one more poignant than the other. One leaves behind a legacy, a life, and now love eternal. The other, just memories.

I am a better person for having loved both. They represent different planes in the plan of life. I have learned lessons from each; patience, perseverance, love, frustration, epic failure, joy, happiness, satisfaction, hope, forgiveness. Yes, big changes indeed.

Eternal Father, You Who loves us in ways we can’t imagine, thank you for the gifts You have given. Thank You that Your daughter Erica touched my life, gave me my first grandchild, and taught me lessons no other could. Thank You for that old house and the lessons I learned there; the strength and stamina I needed. Please let me keep these blessings in my heart always and never be afraid to think of them and grow from them. Father, I’m asking that my faith be strengthened to accept Your will and not question it. Thank You again, my Lord, that You love us.

Amen

 

Please don’t forget to pray for peace.