Sunday, October 16, 2011

life & death

Yesterday was a long day.  A beautiful day.

Dear friends of ours have tried to have a baby for years, and finally their dreams came true.  They are due to give birth to their first son on December 7th.  They have a six year-old daughter named Jenna who is very excited about being a big sister.  Yesterday, we celebrated their miracle with a Notre Dame-themed baby shower.

I was there when Russell adopted Jenna a year ago and the three of them became a forever family.  And I've prayed with them for this child to come.  The inscription I wrote in the baby's card was this, "You are the hope of our hearts, and the answer to our prayers.  We can't wait to meet you!"  So much joy.

Earlier that morning, we celebrated another life.  

When Chris and I moved to Ohio nineteen months ago, I started collecting moms.  My actual mom lives across the country, so I needed to add a few others to my mom supply (you know, to have my mom hugs close to me).  Carolyn Clark was one of them.

It started after Chris and I became friends with the other pastors on staff and their wives.  Truthfully, we all hit it off right away.  Talk about provision!  We moved to Ohio in March and by mid-April I was as sick as a dog.  Melanie (married to Pastor Mike)'s mom cooked me a batch of chicken noodle soup and had Mel deliver it to me right away.  Carolyn was instantly in.  Her soup was perfect for my sore throat and a boost to my spirits.

Three months later, after the purchase of our home, Carolyn went to the new house and assessed all of the plants and flowers and vegetables growing wild there, and sent Mel to me with a list of what we were dealing with.  She did this on another occasion when Mel and I were talking about natural exfoliants (did you know that loofahs occur in nature?).  It seemed, every time I had a question about food, recipes or gardening, Carolyn had the answers.

On Valentine's Day of this year, Mel surprised her mom with a day of pampering.  They came to my salon that morning and I gave Carolyn her first facial treatment.  It was just us girls, and what a sweet time we had.  It was a joy for me to show her love in a way I knew well, just as she had done for me.

Like my mom, Carolyn has suffered from cancer in recent years.  Mel and I became a strong support for each other, as our moms would take turns getting sick, having surgery, or being admitted to the hospital for chemo-related side effects.  Even when she was at her worst, Carolyn would ask how my mom was doing.  I experienced this first-hand just a few weeks ago, as I sat beside Carolyn's hospital bed and read a couple of chapters to her from the book, The Help.  Mel arranged for a rotating group of ladies from the church to sit by her bedside and read this story she had wanted to hear.  The best part was all of the unsavory language the book contained.  Funny well-placed cuss words.  It's one thing to read it quietly to yourself, and another to read it out loud to your mom.

During that visit, Carolyn told me stories about her childhood growing up in Maryland.  I was drawn to the details, touched by her adoration for family, and amused by her wit.  We laughed a lot that day.

Carolyn was also a master quilter, a hobby she took great pride in. At her funeral, her longtime friend, Mary Lou, shared anecdotes about their years together, many of which included quilting.  Not even a snow storm could keep those ladies from a quilt fair!  

Another story was shared about their quilting group.  Apparently, you need a large quilting table to handle the size of those blankets.  So, the ladies would gather around it, while the children sat on skateboards underneath helping to guide the quilting needles.  Mom would poke hers down through the fabric and a child underneath the table would poke it back up.  A sort of dance would occur, while grown-up lady conversation was had, and the kids listened in.

Surely, there's a Norman Rockwell painting of this somewhere.

At the reception, Carolyn's family had all of her quilts displayed around the room with cards attached explaining the occasion for that particular blanket or wall hanging.  Mel even posted this on her Facebook page last night, "Family snuggle time on the couch with all of our quilts made by Grammie Clark.  Best way to remember my mom!  She was the best!"  

Carolyn was honored well yesterday.  Even Neil Diamond's hit single made an appearance.  What could be more fitting?

Here's to you Baby McAllister!  Here's to you, Sweet Carolyn!

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