It seems like today we are surrounded by death. With media, we hear about different deaths every day. It is on many TV shows, some of them my favorites. It seems that they are all trying to find a new spin on the murder mystery storyline. I will admit some of my favorite shows are Castle, Law and Order SVU and Pysch, which have a death in pretty much every episode as entertainment. I think at times we forget the seriousness that comes with such finality.
This month especially I have been reminded at every corner about the mortality that we all face. The 11 year anniversary of September 11th came and reminded us all of so many who gave their lives willingly and unwillingly. Such a tragic event reminds us that we are not untouchable.
Then there are the daily conversations that people have around me about the possibility that my husband may not come back. Yes this happens on a regular basis, and it is not the most comforting thing to face. I know that most people are trying to be comforting and become uneasy and the awkwardness just pops out. But it becomes exhausting hearing “I feel so sorry for you,” and “How do you do it?” or seeing “The you poor thing” face. I think about Tom and the danger he is in every day enough on my own without the help of these conversations. And, again, I know people do not mean to put this pressure on and are wanting to show care and concern.
Hint: Ask me how Tom is doing just like you would if he worked here in the States. Yes he is making a huge sacrifice, and yes it is dangerous, but we are trying to live as normal as possible. So say thank you for the service if you want to mention the topic of the Army, and then ask normal questions and treat us like normal people. You don’t have to walk on egg shells around us. We made this choice to do this adventure so you don’t have to be uncomfortable and act like we need saving. We’ll let you know if something happens, then the saving can occur. And I will need lots of saving if something were to happen. Otherwise, I can just tell you how his first mission was attacking a bee hive. Hard at work I tell you.
These things were all just reminders about death, but then I had to deal with real life ending stories when both of my grandparents passed away recently. My grandma passed after a stroke in July, and my grandpa gave into his fight with cancer earlier this month. I have been very fortunate to have all 6 of my grandparents up to this point, so lucky.
I have had people I know pass away in my life-time, but never anyone that I was super close to and depended on. So the concept of death being real is something very new to me. I did not have my first real experience with death until I was in grad school when one of my staff members, Sam Rankin, passed away from a disease she was struck with suddenly. She and I were extremely close after her time on staff. She became like a little sister to me, and I was devastated to learn of her passing at such a young age. Sudden events like this make you think how you can change your own life to make the best of the time you have on this earth. Sam is my inspiration in a lot that I do at work to always be mindful of helping students have an meaningful time while they are at college. You can always do more. She had a wonderful zest for life and was always positive, and I hope that I can live up to her spirit.
As for my grandparents, I still am trying to process their passing. It’s hard to believe they aren’t just a phone call away when I need advice. Or that when I head south they wont be there to go to a buffet for dinner. They lived in South Carolina my whole life so they weren’t always here in person. But they were grandparents who made you feel loved and special with the time that you did have with them and never forgotten when we were apart. They always made it a point to call whenever we did have big things going on in our lives, and did come to things when they were able.
They lived right outside of Clemson where I went to grad school. Having a different relationship with them was one big reason that I went to school down south. I wanted to know how they were on day to day. During those two years, I was able to get to know them differently and learn so much more from them. They were the most compassionate and generous people that I know. They opened their door to so many people even when they had nothing. And the love that they had for each other is something that we all should aspire to. So to remember them I thought I would tell some of my favorite memories or tidbits of their lives.
1. Anytime we went out to eat we always asked for a to-go box even if there was only 2 bites of mashed potatoes left. Grandma wasted nothing.
2. We called him “Grandpa Christmas” because he sounded like Santa over the phone and always came to visit at Christmas when we were a kid.
3. While I was in grad school, whenever I came over Grandma would have piles of newspaper clippings to help me solve an issue for a problem that I had had a month ago and had probably forgotten about.
4. Grandpa giving me transparencies of his lectures to help with my counseling classes.
5. Seeing my grandma play the piano and my grandpa sing along. They had a way with music.
6. Watching their faces when I told them I was doing an internship at SWU, their beloved school my Grandpa had worked at for years.
7. My grandpa’s sense of humor and his impeccable timing for his wise cracks.
8. Grandma giving you a back rub every time that you got a hug from her.
9. They always spoke so highly of the family and showed true dedication and love to us. And you could see the pride and joy they had for us when they talked about any of us.
10. Grandma fixing my soon to be dead flowers I had in Clemson and teaching me a thing or two about gardening.
11. When I went to visit them we always went to Ryan’s, and when they drove into Clemson we always went to Western Sizzler. Guaranteed.
12. When I broke my butt, they came and cleaned my apartment so I wouldn’t have to worry about it while I hobbled around.
13. Both of them had infectious laughs that shook their whole bodies, and is making me giggle right now to think about them.
14. The fact that I come by being a packrat honestly. When I came for the funeral I realized that the kitchen window was actually a door. They just had junk piled in front of it for years that I never had seen it open or that it had a door knob.
15. I don’t really remember this, but my parents say Grandma had a knack for potty training, and was able to train my brother and I on weekend visits. I wish she had spilled that secret before she went.
16. Taking us to the zoo when we were kids.
17. Grandma being terrified of bars. Her reactions/stories about “bar folk” were priceless. I am pretty sure she thought anyone who drank in a bar wore all leather and was in a vicious biker gang.
18. Whenever I had a break-up, I could expect a letter from Grandma soon after telling me about a story of her love life and how things will get better.
19. Grandpa asking me how we got Grace and if the same shelter would give him a dog to help Grandma through the stroke. (FYI: Grandma did not like dogs.) Adorable.
20. Not one of my fondest memories, but a good life lesson. They always had a way of putting me in my place when I was being selfish. It wasn’t that they would point it out, but they truly lived by example and taught me so much in the way they lead their life that it reminded me what was really important. They never meant to make me feel guilty, and I don’t think that they even knew that I did. But their life and their actions were constantly showing me that this world is bigger than myself.
21. They taught me to always serve others and always show kindness.
22. Their dedication to the Lord. Their faith was unlike any other. They had bible study every morning and every night with each other. When they were in hospice before Grandma passed, Grandpa insisted that we took his tithe to church for him. We told him that he had given enough and that he did not have to worry about it that week. He then proceeded to give us a lecture on the importance and wrote out the check for us to take. Always giving to the Lord, even in their last moments.
22. Lastly their marriage will always be something that I look upon with fondness. I have a memory of them doing dishes in the kitchen, and they are singing and being playful with each other. Just precious. They were so sweet to each other and would give and give. Their love was unwavering. They grew together over the last several decades, and were always there for each other. This is something that will always stick with me as Tom and I begin our marriage. One year strong!
They were wonderful people. Seeing the hundreds of people who came to their services shows they are going to be truly missed by so many people. Words cannot even begin to express what influences they had on people. They gave all they had in everything they did and everyone they met. And it showed in their celebration services. The best that we can do now is to take what we learned from them and continue living our lives the best that we know how.
Some days it is hard to accept death, others it may never even be on our radar. In thinking about Sam and my grandparents’ deaths, I am reminded to never forget that each moment is precious. It is a moment where we can be an example and show compassion to others. It is a moment to love life and be thankful for the gifts that we were given. We should be thankful for the moments that we have and just live.
And so with that, today I am thankful for a weekend of rest and the chance to make things!
Now the holiday season is upon us (sort of), so that means that some of my creations will be for “Homemade Christmas.” I have gone back and forth about whether I should post these on here or not, and I have decided that we are all grown-ups, and it’s the thought that counts not the surprise on Christmas day. And this way you can share in the story. Or maybe I don’t want to wait until after Christmas to talk about all these goodies and post all the pictures. You decide.
I have wanted to do a Chevron thing for a while, and this weekend I tried. Here is my story of how it went.
To do chevron patterns, it takes a lot of time and patience.
First I measured out and marked the squares on the canvas.
Caution, when you are making the lines, try to be as light as possible. I had a hard time erasing some of the pencil marks at the end.
Then you can use tape to start marking off the stripes. I used painter’s tape, but I would suggest something else like Frog tape or masking tape. My paint bled through-not living up to it’s name.
You will do diagonal lines in each square alternating directions as you go across the canvas.
This takes FOREVER. You have to cut the tape as you go to make the precise lines. I think doing the markings took me about an hour alone. So if others have suggestion on how to make this a quicker process, feel free to chime in. I was not able to make it quick.
I wanted to make one for me and one for my mom, but I got sick of the tediousness by the second canvas that I just made up a design by making a whole bunch of diagonals with the tape. And I actually like the funkyness a little more.
Then comes painting.
I let it dry over night before I took off the tape. Like I said some of the paint bled underneath the tape. Bummer.
While I was waiting for this to dry, I took on the second part of the project. I wanted to personalize each one with our last names. So I had to spray paint wood letters.
I wish I could have found a little bigger blocks, but the next biggest size were about the size of my hand and would not all fit on the canvas I had already bought. Sometimes you just have to go with what you can find.
Once everything was dry, I hot-glued the letters on the canvases. And here is the final project.
I still don’t know how I feel about either of them, but here they are. I am hoping its like when you get your hair cut. At first you hate it, but then it starts to grow on you.
Mom, act surprised. I hope you like it!