All posts by Ginger

Back to the Future

It’s been several months since I last posted on the blog.  But it’s certainly not because I’ve been lazy.  On the second anniversary of Michael’s death I asked God to show me what I should do with myself and I distinctly heard Him say “Live”.  And so that’s what I’ve been doing – going on with life.

In the months before Michael passed away, both my parents also passed away.  As my siblings and I settled their estates I acquired their house — a 3 bedroom, 1 bath ranch style house so typical of all the houses built in their 1957 neighborhood.  Michael and I had discussed on several occasions that, if the property were ever to become available, we would pursue building a new house to accommodate the final empty-nesting years of our lives.  And so this is what I’ve done.

Late last summer I proceeded to tear down the old home, the one that my mom brought me home to from the hospital, the one I spent the first twenty years of my life in.  The idea of tearing it down was one I had come to accept through the previous months as I worked with an architect to develop my ideas for a new home.  I will never forget watching with my brother as the heavy equipment was breaking down the walls.  “Is it kind of sad to you?” I asked.  “It wasn’t until you asked me!” he replied.

Through the last eight months the new house has gone from an idea in my head to a sketch on paper and now finally to a real place to live.  I think I’ve come to appreciate more than ever the work that Michael did as a contractor throughout his life.  The hours of planning, thousands of decisions and frustration of delays and unforeseen problems are only eclipsed by the excitement and satisfaction of living in the finished product.  And it couldn’t have happened without the encouragement and assistance from so many friends.  Friends who tirelessly sit with you through meetings to help navigate red tape.  Painter friends.  Electrician friends.  Decorator friends.  And friends who will drop everything to run over and turn off a blaring alarm system so you don’t have to race across town in the middle of the night.

So now begins a new chapter.  The same address that I was born at becomes my address once again.  The neighborhood I grew up in is my neighborhood once more.  There are neighbors here that still remember me as a child and a teenager.  The neighborhood children I once babysat have long moved away and are now parents themselves.  In fact the house on my left side is one of the original 1957 ranch houses, still occupied by the sweet family that watched me grow up.  While on the other side the lot is empty, the 1957 ranch house demolished in anticipation of a new one being built.

The past on one side, the future on the other.

   And here I am, a part of both.

1957

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 2017

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The Hard Road

This week has been a hard road to travel, filled with hurt and disappointment and faith shakers.  I’ve seen hard days before, to be sure.   And this week just seems to add more upon more with each passing day.

The week began as we learned of fires in Gatlinburg.  We have a precious aunt and uncle there who live in a beautiful mountain home.  When you watch the news about troubles around the country, your interest is peaked when you know someone in that community.  And you always wait and pray that they will be unaffected.  This was not the case.  Our family members were forced to flee their mountain community as the fires threatened.  Overnight they learned that their beautiful home was lost in the fire – a fire deliberately started by arsonists.  Our family members were safe in a local hospital as our uncle awaited surgery.  But the next day we learned that the anticipated surgery held an unanticipated result as he was forced to lose his leg in the procedure.  And my heart aches.

Throughout the week I have waited for news of another surgery. This for my thirty-something niece.  For the last five months she has bravely faced tests, biopsies, and an array of medical chemicals in an effort to ready her for surgery in her battle against breast cancer. SHE IS THIRTY-SOMETHING!  She should be forging her career and developing her relationships, not battling cancer!  And yet this is what her world looks like for now.  And my heart is breaking.

And then we hear more tragic news this week – the shooting death of a young man who was not only a local hero, but a personal friend to my children.  All the facts are not known yet, but it appears that either one of the men involved could have stopped this from happening.  Either of them could have chosen to simply turn their cars down another street to avoid the incident.  But instead things escalated beyond the point of no return.  Nobody should be shot and killed in a dispute over somebody’s driving habits!  Nobody should feel like their life is in danger from the person who stopped next to them at the intersection!  This was stupid, senseless, tragic and avoidable!  And now two lives are ruined, two families are devastated and a whole community is shattered.  And my heart is broken.

When are we going to stop this?  Yes, there are things in life we can’t control, like tough medical conditions and health challenges.  But there are so many things that we do have control over – like our tempers and our actions and the fact that what we do ripples through the community and affects those around us.  And I admit, some days I’m losing my faith.  Not my faith in God – the one and only true God whom I serve and whose essence is love.  But my faith in mankind, in the people living in this world.  When are going to stop only thinking of ourselves and our need to be the biggest, the best, the fastest, the loudest, the winner.  Every time we push our way around to make sure we’re the top of the heap, we ignore all those we’ve trampled over and stomped down to get there.

Is it really so important?  Important enough to take someone’s life and to kill the dreams of a community?  Just to satisfy ourselves?  I’d love to ask those involved in the shooting – “Was it worth it? Whatever the argument was about, was it worth it to destroy two lives over?”  And to the arsonists – “Was it worth it? Was satisfying your need so important that it was worth destroying lives, property and an entire community?”  This has been a week that leaves me shaking my head. I just don’t understand.

When life can be so fragile and fleeting …
When each person and each day is a thing to be loved and cherished…
When every action we take affects the lives of those around us and we become aware that some actions have lifetime consequences …
Shouldn’t we take the chance to breathe deeply and let the anger and selfishness pass, before we do something that can’t be undone?

Goodbye Magnum

Many years ago a precious friend gave Michael the nickname “Magnum”.  I think it was a great description of a big guy with a big personality and a big heart.  So when we found the property that would eventually become our land that Michael loved, there was no better name for it than Magnum Farms.

As we bought these 250 acres, we found much of it criss-crossed by barbed-wire fencing and overgrown tree lines.  Michael had a vision of something different and he set out to clean it up and dress it up.  As the years passed he and his crew dressed it into more of a park, with rolling pasture land and four ponds filled with fish and the occasional alligator.  His long term vision was that there would be about a dozen cottages scattered across the acreage to be used as quiet places of retreat for those in ministry needing a place of respite.  Unfortunately he was not able to see that happen.

Now comes the time to say goodbye to Magnum Farms.  Those close to Michael and I know that this farm was always Michael’s dream.  I am the city girl and he was the country-loving boy. (Think Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert in Green Acres.)  Even though that was the case, and in spite of some of the hard memories I’ve relayed, I loved coming here.  But I loved it because Michael was here.  And if given the chance I’d still be coming up here with him — because wherever he went, I was going too.

If Michael was still alive, we’d still be coming to the farm and I wouldn’t be saying another goodbye.  But he isn’t.  And I am.  This somehow seems like just another in a long list of goodbyes.

So as I leave I know that this place will no longer be Magnum Farms; it will be known by another name.  But a bit of Michael has left an imprint here.  Whether it’s the dozens of peach trees he loved so much, or the blueberry bushes and blackberry vines he planted to please his wife.  Or maybe it’s the care he took to make sure the land was in better condition than when he bought it.  And we can’t forget the incredible farmhouse he built on top of the hill – the big stone fireplace for him, the little fireplace with the punched tin panels for me, the porches to catch the breeze, the windows across three sides of our bedroom so he could see the sun rise.  All these things will stay behind as I move on.

And I guess this is how it is meant to be.  For who among us can really call the land our own.  It is only by God’s grace that we are allowed to tend it for a short time.

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,                                                         The world, and those who dwell in it.          Psalm 24:1 

 

 

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Memories from Magnum

Even though we’ve only owned the farm for about seven years, there’s certainly no shortage of memories here.  As I sit at the kitchen table looking out over the pasture, there are so many things that come to mind. I remember Michael and his crew clearing the underbrush and pulling down the old fences; finding old bones from cows and other assorted animals; stocking the ponds and then fishing in the freezing cold; salvaging enough firewood to fill up the old barn; picking wild blackberries while avoiding snakes; following trails through the state park that is our neighbor and helping the park rangers find campers who’d lost their way and wandered over to our property.

We’ve had so many visitors here and Michael always enjoyed showing them around.  There have been kids and families who came by to feed and visit with the cows and donkeys.  College and seminary presidents who stopped in for lunch and a four wheeler ride.  Girlfriends for slumber parties and fellas for camping trips. Parents and grandchildren to fish the ponds.  And lots of friends here just for porch-sittin’.

There have been dreadful times.  My heart aches as I remember.  Like the time we were just beginning to build the farmhouse.  It was the day after Thanksgiving when Michael fell and hit his knee on the brick ledge.  There was blood everywhere!  The workers picked him up and put him in the back of my car. I’ll never forget holding his leg up in the air trying to stop the bleeding as Andrew raced us to the emergency room miles away.

And then there was the last winter we were here when he fell on some ice and his leg was trapped under the four wheeler.  I still remember the exact spot on the side of the house and running to the gate to let the ambulance in.  I remember the policemen who came and the look on the EMT’s face when he cut his pants leg to see the damage.  And I remember the drive in the police car to the local hospital, followed by the long drive back alone to NOLA that night as I followed the ambulance carrying Michael.

The hardest memory is one I still can’t seem to speak the words to describe.  One afternoon late in the fall Michael went out to check on things and I stayed back at the house.  A few hours went by and it began to get dark and cold.  I tried to call his phone several times but there was never any answer and I couldn’t see any sign of him from the house, even with the binoculars.  I called and called to him from the porch but there was no answer.

Finally I decided to set out in my SUV to find him.  For about an hour I drove across the acreage looking for him, stopping every few minutes, turning off the engine and sounding the horn to see if he would respond.  Again and again there would be nothing but silence.  At last I thought I heard a voice calling in the dark.  I drove a little in that direction and did it again.  Turn off the engine.  Sound the horn.  Yep, I heard him calling.  It took several more tries before I finally could understand him and make my way to where he was.  He had been feeding the animals and fallen in the pasture.  His cell phone had been left in the four wheeler.  I finally had to call our policeman friend to come help me get him back home to the house.  Even as I write this my throat closes up when I think about how scared I was when I couldn’t find him.   When we finally got home I wanted to scream I was so angry, but I couldn’t speak I was so scared.  But he needed me to take care of him.  So that’s what I did.

There are so many good memories too.  Lots of quiet nights; just the two of us; old married folks content to just be in the same room together; knowing that we loved each other without condition or regret.

One of the best memories here for Michael and for our family was our only Thanksgiving spent here.  The house had only been finished a few months and our families were gracious enough to travel the hundred miles to share Thanksgiving here.  The twenty-five or so of us had a great day.  There was food as far as you could see.  Lots of laughter and silliness and family pictures.  We both enjoyed having all of our siblings here.  After lunch it was time for skeet shooting over the pond, four wheeler rides, sitting by the fire and rocking on the porch.  It was a grand day.  And as it turned out it was the last Thanksgiving for my mom and dad, and for Michael too.

My heart aches as I sit here in this place.  It will always be filled with Michael — his hard work, his enjoyment and his unfinished plans for the future.

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The Second

Today marks the second anniversary of Michael’s passing from this life to his eternal life.  Today is the end of two years — 24 months, 731 days, 17,544 hours — since we’ve seen him smile, heard his heart beat, gazed into those beautiful baby blue eyes that he was so proud of.  And it’s been a day filled with many remembrances and emotions.

I know my children have each remembered their dad and marked this anniversary in their own way and in their own place, as we now live in four different cities hundreds of miles apart.  For me, of course, I remembered him today, but then not one of the last 731 days has passed that I haven’t thought of him — of what he would say about this world and the state of things around us, of what he has missed in milestones, of what he would be doing at the farm and around the country as our kids make their own lives.

As these two years have passed I have learned so much.  I have learned to live life and endure grief in my own unique way and timing.  I’ve learned that grief is like a fingerprint, in that it has many universal characteristics and yet no two experiences are identical.  I’ve learned that while the early days and weeks were sometimes paralyzing, the demands of this life push you to do what needs to be done; and eventually, with the grace of God, you are strong enough again to not only respond to life, but to initiate  an active role for yourself again.  A role that looks different than before, but still reveals the heart of who you are and who God intends for you to become.

I’ve learned that many of the cliches that I so vehemently ranted against in the early weeks after Michael’s death are actually based in truth.  And I’m sorry if my rants hurt feelings of those around me.  I just think I wasn’t ready to hear or accept many of them.  Thankfully God has carried me through the roughest days, quieted so many unanswerable questions in my mind and softened the aches of my heart.

I’ve learned that family and friends are irreplaceable (actually I already knew this),  and that without them I would not have been able to move through these last months.  I know no other person on earth that has been as blessed as I to have people support and encourage me day after day.  I continue to receive calls, cards and emails from folks who knew Michael and want to reach out to tell me of their admiration, respect and love for him.  And I am always left feeling so proud to be able to call him mine.

So this week, to mark this second anniversary, I have spent the days with wonderful friends, enjoying great meals and conversations filled with remembering and laughter.  I have not spent the day at the cemetery or crying tears.  There are of course days when his absence is especially felt and the tears still make their occasional appearance.  But today I have spent most of my time and energy sitting on the floor, reading books, singing songs, and swinging.  Because I can think of no better way to remember Michael’s past life than to spend time with the future of our family – our beautiful grandson.

May your lives be blessed with the grace of God, the love of family and friends, and the prospect of rich days ahead.  Thanks for reading along.

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