Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Early Morning Pondering on Flowers and Mortality
This morning I woke up early. It is a beautiful day, dry, sunny and promising to be hot later. My husband headed off to his follow-up appt. with the orthopedic surgeon. I made coffee (you can see my cup in the picture) and took my Bible out to the back deck, where I spent time enjoying solitude and quiet--except for the mourning doves cooing, and the cheerful "chee chee chee" of a cardinal who perched on top of the bird feeder and preened his feathers in the morning sunlight.
After a while my mother joined me in the swing and began her usual comments on the weather, particularly what I (silently) call "the breeze report." She does this every day of her life. This morning she said, with wonder in her voice, "Just look at that tree." I did, not sure what I was supposed to see. (I should have known.). "Well just look. See how completely still it is? Not a leaf stirring." "Wow." I said, trying to muster that same tone of wonder, and failing. I don't think she noticed. As she grows older, my mother's thoughts return more often to her girlhood on the west Texas plains. The wind blew constantly. She, along with her parents and her 7 brothers and sisters, lived in a little wooden farmhouse full of love and laughter. They were poor for much of their early lives, but they were rich in the things that matter. My grandfather later became quite well-off and infuential in his town, but in the early days life was difficult.
They all worked hard. In the late summer the children each received a long burlap sack and headed to the cotton fields with "Papa" and the Mexican field hands. They picked cotton all day in the Texas heat--a tiring job of stooping, pulling the cotton so as not to lose any of the precious white fluff but also not getting bloody fingers from the sharp leaves at the bottom of the cotton boll. They welcomed the breeze as they kept a sharp lookout for snakes or spiders hiding in the rows of cotton plants. They also watched the sky for "thuunderheads" -- puffy white clouds that could turn dark quickly. At noon they headed in for "dinner," which always included some of my grandmother's famous hot biscuits. My mother tells of the preacher who often just happened to arrive at their place for a visit around dinner time, a man who never refused an offer of their biscuits. As my mother remembers it, he, covering a golden biscuit with butter and honey, always said, "Miz Lela, you make the best biscuits I ever et."
I adored my charming grandfather but I never knew my grandmother. My only memory of her is when I, creeping fearfully into a hospital room painted an ugly green, was urged up to the bed by my mother and my Aunt Ora. I was three years old, but I knew "Mama," at only 63, was dying. Her face was frail and drawn and she spoke to me in a whisper. It was sad and scary. My mother and I had travelled from California to Texas on a train. I remember little of the trip except for the clickity clack of the wheels on the track.
I thought of that this morning, looking at my mother as she sipped her coffee and talked of the weather. My mother looks very frail these days. She has changed in the past year--grown thinner and more confused and more melancholy. She doesn't smile much--but come to think of it, she never did smile much. She had a strange life. That is another matter, but this morning I looked at her wrinkled, pretty face in the sunlight, her blue eyes, her tiny nose and then her long, thin hands. How fragile those once-strong hands seem now. The mottled skin looks almost transparent, streched tight over the bones. We talked of "home" and of her parents and her brothers and sisters. She and my Aunt Pauline are the only ones that remain, but she looks forward to a reunion in Heaven with "Papa, Mama, Vernay, C.G., Cleo, Robbie Jo, Ora, and Maxie Rae."
I remembered these verse from Isaiah as we went on to talk about the flowers on the deck.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass. The grass withers
and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever."
The "companion" from the local home care agency will arrive tomorrow morning. Mother is very unhappy about that, but life goes on.
We'll soon be enjoying some days of rest and relaxation with our daughter and son-in-law. No doubt there will be happy conversation about our much-anticipated grandchild that will arrive in about 5 months.
Birth. Life. And age. And death. And God, and eternity. Such mystery.
I looked at the bright flowers and thought of how fragile they are. This is Wisconsin, and the cold winds will blow in a few short months and they will wither and grow brown and then be covered with a blanket of snow and ice. We'll look out the kitchen window at our icy little deck and wonder what happened to summer.
How foolish we are when we grow distracted and fretful over our "stuff" or over temporary things. People are eternal, so they are what really matters. We usually can avoid thinking such melancholy thoughts, but we know that we are perishing. At least our bodies are. God's word, God's love, remains.
How I rejoice that our spirits can flourish and grow and expand and reach upward, even as we grow frail.
2 Corinthians 4:15-17 All of these things are for your benefit. And as God's grace brings more and more people to Christ, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever!
I've been feeling overwhelmed with life this last week or two. But all of this is nothing compared to the joy of great glory -- which will last. Some things never change and those things will remain. Praise be to God!
I'm off to make a few last phone calls. I'll be back in ten days.