Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When the Dash is Too Short

I have heard the saying that all that matters in a cemetery is the dash between the birth and death dates.  Then it is explained that how you live is more important than how long you live.  While there is a grain of truth in that, it was obviously said by someone who wasn't grieving.

Yesterday, I stopped at the cemetery for the first time since Mom died.  I needed to find the way the date was written on the stone so I could get it cut.  The stone is hard to miss.  Mom and Dad sold tombstones until 1986 and before they sold the business, they purchased one for themselves.  It's a bit like Dad -- over the top -- at least in my opinion.  Or it was in 1986. Some of today's stones are a bit fancier.

The dash is too short for both of my parents.   Yesterday morning, I was at a wellness checkup with a new health care provider.  I was asked history, and I realized that both with Mom and Dad, I said they were "only" and then the age when they died.  Mom was only 69.  Dad was only 62.  Only.  Only. Only.  I'm so sick of saying only.

I was listening to K-Love yesterday and hearing stories about how people were healed.   Not all people are healed.  I think it's the exception rather than the rule.  I was listening to this person on K-Love talking about how he was diagnosed with cancer and sent home to die -- and he gave a date that will forever be ingrained in my memory.  The same day the doctor said to me that in 48 hours I would have to make the decision to pull the plug on Mom.  I don't understand why some people are healed and then some aren't.  And some, like my mother, seem to be healed for a time, but then are so sick and go downhill until one day we find her gone -- when nothing seemed amiss that morning except she was in a health decline.

I stopped at the cemetery and saw the words at the top of the stone, "He Hideth My Soul".  That was played during her funeral.  Seeing the freshly dug grave, I was in tears.  My mother was in that cold ground.  I know this is when I "should" be saying that she is walking along the streets of gold or with Jesus, but right then, all I could think was Mom was right there.  And I am alone.  I know, I know, I have my boyfriend, and I love him dearly, but he's not my mother.  I love my "Nancy-in-law" (his step mother), but she's not my mother.  No one is my mother except my mother.  She is irreplacable.

From there, I decided to go out to her home place.  It's five miles out of town.  As I was driving to the church my great-grandfather built, I was wishing someone would be there so I could go inside.  I never remembered being in it, and I felt like it would make me feel a lot closer to Mom.  She had so many stories of the church, including one that was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Answered Prayers: 101 Stories of Hope, Miracles, Faith, Divine Intervention, and the Power of Prayer about how my great-grandmother prayed for her son during WWII in that church.  Family legend says that hair stood up on the back of people's heads as they heard my great-grandmother plead for her son's life.  After a few minutes of desperate pleading, she got up from her knees and said her son was okay.  Mom related this story so well, it was published in detail.  I've heard so many stories growing up that I feel like I was there for some of them.  But when I got to the church, it was locked and empty.  I figured as much for a Monday afternoon.

This is the church at Freeport near Terra Alta WV.  It once was the Nordeck Evangelical United Brethren Church, but is currently the Freeport King James Bible Church.  

I spent some time just walking around the church.  Remembering the picnic we had with my grandmother who passed away in 1995.  Remembering how a few times each summer Dad would announce, "Let's go for a drive" and many times we'd end up in Freeport, Mom telling me stories.  I am not sure if the tears were happy or sad -- or both.  The dash was well lived, but too short.  I never knew my mother's father, her beloved uncle, or her grandparents.  I was at "home" but also with strangers I've never met except for my mother and grandmother.

I decided to stop at the beaver dam.  When I was growing up, I loved skipping rocks across what is now swamp land.  I loved looking at the ripples and seeing how they resounded.

The farm she grew up on is now private property, but I have been granted permission by the current owners to visit.  It was the first time in years I had walked up to the house (which is now abandoned.)  I always loved the milkhouse, it always seemed like a clubhouse type building to me as a child.  Unfortunately it's beginning to fall in.  The barn is still standing, and the house collapsed years ago.  I walked around the foundations thinking of the generations of my family who lived there (my great-great-grandfather built that house!)  I saw a washtub in the rubble of the house and wondered how many hours my grandmother stood by that doing chores and belting out "Amazing Grace"  (She wasn't the most talented singer, but she made up for it in volume!) 

I sighed as I left and looked out at what my mother would have seen every time she looked off the front porch.  It's no wonder she always missed it.  The view, which I had never really noticed before, is beautiful.  Mom used to joke my grandfather said about the song "Lord Build Me A Cabin", he would state, "Why a cabin in the corner of Gloryland?  I want a mansion in the middle."  But I'm hoping they don't have a cabin -- instead I hope they have a two story farmhouse with a view like they did on earth.  It's beautiful.

There were some raindrops starting to fall as I left.  It felt so fitting.  

As I started back to town, I was still crying.  I felt like I reconnected with my past, with people who love me -- some I've never met.  As I rounded the corner to the church, there was a lady on the porch wiping down a stand, and the door was open.  I stopped, introduced myself and got a tour of the church.  Our church.  The Nordeck Church.   Only it's not ours anymore.  But part of us will always be there.   

1 comment:

  1. Very nice story Jenn. I believe that is all right out the road from us in Crellin. I didn't realize. Sorry for your hurting. I'm with you. Thought of you yesterday.