I Wonder Where Rosalie Is Today?

She was such a cute little girl.  A little afraid, but very curious, of the Americans who had moved into her neighborhood.

She began by peeping around the corner of the wall of our compound, trying to sneak a look at us while remaining hidden herself.

 

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Slowly she came out of hiding and let us see her pretty face.

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For several days she played this peek-a-boo game with us until finally she came with a friend and sat down outside our gate.

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My husband, our youngest daughter and I had moved into her neighborhood where we lived as we taught in a local Bible school and also in local churches throughout Iloilo City on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

Having white Americans as neighbors was quite a novelty.  Children in the neighborhood came to the gate every day to get a look at us.  We began talking to them and before long we developed friendships with all the children on our street.

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At first when we walked down our street, the little boys would call out to my husband, “Hello GI Joe.”   After repeating each day that his name was Paul, they finally called him by his name – but it came out with two syllables – Pa -ul.

Our daughter started a Kids Klub for the neighborhood children.  Saturday mornings our living room would turn into a classroom.  Jessica taught them songs, Bible stories and always had games and snacks for them.  They called her “Tita” or aunt and followed her each time she left our home.

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Rosalie was the youngest of five siblings.  Their mother was a widow and made her living by selling food in a makeshift hut on the side of the road.

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While we fell in love with all the children, we took a special interest in this family.

When it was time for us to return home, Rosalie’s mother wanted us to take Rosalie with us.  She envisioned a much better life for her youngest if she came to the United States with us.

We struggled with what would be the right decision.  It sounded good to provide this little girl with all the luxuries she would never have in Iloilo City.  Things like clean water, plenty of food, shoes and the many things we take for granted but would not be available to her in the Philippines.

But what would it do to her emotionally to be ripped from her home, her siblings and especially her mother?

Was it arrogance on our part to think that all the material things we could give her was worth more than family?

Yet how could we say no to giving her a life that would be much easier than the life she would have here in Iloilo City?

In the end, the legal requirements and the cost of adopting her and all the red tape involved proved more than we could do.

The day we left our neighborhood was very traumatic.  The children gathered early at our home and hung on to the jeepney as we drove slowly away.  They cried out, “Don’t go, don’t go.”

As I reflect back on that time, I do believe it would have been wrong to take her from her family – but I still wonder.

Did we do the right thing?

I wonder where she is today?

With today’s technological advances of Facebook and the internet we might have been able to maintain some contact.  But that was not possible then.

Still, I think of her and wonder if she remembers us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Husband’s Legacy

I have been hugged by many people for many different reasons but today’s hug was a first!

This coming Sunday I will be playing for the worship service at a local church whose organist is out of town for a wedding.  Since this church has a much more formal format of worship than my own church, I went by the office to get a copy of their bulletin for Sunday to be more familiar with the order of service.

As I introduced myself to the church secretary and began to tell her I would be providing music for Sunday’ service, she quickly interrupted me and asked if she could give me a hug.

Now I like hugs.  But usually I like hugs from close friends and family only.  I’m not into hugging people I have just met.

Still, how could I refuse?

As I hugged her I could not help but wonder why she clearly wanted to hug me.

  • Was she grateful that I was going to miss my own church on Sunday to provide music for her church?
  • Was she some kind of nut that hugged strangers?
  • Was my smile so dazzling that it invoked such feelings of friendship?

When the hug was over, she explained why she felt such a connection with me.

No – it was not anything about me.

  • It was not my wonderful generosity to help the church out.
  • It was not my beautiful smile.
  • It was not my friendly personality.

She had met my husband earlier this year when he came by to introduce himself to her pastor.  Being a retired pastor, my husband visited many of the churches when we moved to this small town.  He loves the fellowship of other ministers and he just loved seeing the beautiful old churches in our new town.

She shared how much my husband’s visits meant to her and her pastor.

Her comments about the joy and encouragement his visits brought reminded me once again that no matter how old we grow, we can still contribute to others.  My husband just turned 79.  He can no longer pastor, no longer preach sermons in church, but he can still minister and bless the lives of others.

So I thank God for that hug!  And for the reminder that as long as I have breath, I can and will be used of God to help others.

My husband will not leave our children a great fortune when he dies.  But I am thankful for the legacy he will leave them.

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” —Shannon L. Alder

 

 

 

Twelve Little Toy Animals, A Little Girl and a Big Imagination

A few years ago my husband and I bought our little granddaughter some toy zoo  animals.

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We assumed she would play with them for a couple of years and then we would pass them on to another small child.  We also assumed she would just play with them by herself.

Were we ever wrong!

From the very beginning she wanted someone to play with her and the animals.  In her imagination, she would take them to McDonald’s or to the playground.  Someone was needed to be their voice and order french fries for them or scream with delight as they climbed the monkey bars.

When Mom and Dad and Grandpa all declined the honor, I became their voice.  Thinking the novelty would wear off soon, I had no idea that four years later I would still be their voice.

Oh, the places we have been.

We started with trips to McDonald’s and to the park, but soon we went to even more interesting places like the museum, the mall and Kids Church.

When she began taking Taw kwon do lessons the animals also went to class.

Then there was school.

Oh the roles I have played!

  • worker at McDonalds
  • worship leader at Kids Church
  • school teacher
  • principal
  • unruly student
  • parent
  • Taw kwon do instructor
  • Taw kwon do student
  • museum curator
  • clerk at Walmart

Oh the places I have been!

  • playground
  • school
  • church
  • museum
  • Nana’s house in Missouri
  • Aunt Beka and Uncle Rob’s house in North Carolina
  • Sierra Leone

The animals have even taken on personalities and we have named them all.

  • Giraffe boy
  • Hippy Hippo
  • Charlie Cheetah
  • Ellie Elephant
  • Winnie Warthog
  • Barbara Bear
  • Ted Tiger
  • Gary Gorilla
  • Ralph Rhino
  • Lexie Lion

And the last two have really become best friends.

  • Zoe Zebra
  • Macey Moose

I think their names and their becoming BFF is probably because my granddaughter is Zoe and her BFF is Macey.  Whatever we are doing, taking a piano lesson, going to McDonald’s or on the playground at recess, these two are always together.

As she grows older the animals come out of their special home (a big plastic box) less and less.  Just when I think I am through being their voice, she pulls them out again and says with a big smile:

Grandma, let’s play with the animals!

To be honest, I do sometimes get a little tired of playing with them.  Yet I know I will miss the day when the animals are never invited out of their box to play with us.

Then, my little girl with her big imagination will be no longer little.

Hey Zoe – let’s play animals!

 

 

 

 

 

The Cycle of Life

My parents died in the same year – Mom in April and Dad in August.  I remember my sisters and I looking at each other and saying “We are now the older generation.”

Until that time we could think of ourselves as young – it was our parents’ and their siblings who were old.

But now that generation is gone and we are the old ones.

Even then, still in our 50’s and 60’s, we did not really feel old.

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But time has passed and we are slowing down.  We look at each other and see the wrinkles, the grey hair, the slower gait and realize we have come to the last chapter in the book.

With that in mind, recently I have seen so many posts on Facebook of the next generation – my daughter, my nieces – becoming grandparents and it has made my heart so happy.

Watching them and their excitement at having grandchildren brings back the memories of that time in my life.  I relive those wonderful days of children and grandchildren.  Now I rejoice in great grandchildren.

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I love this picture of my youngest grandchild.  She is 8 now but this is still a favorite memory!

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When this little grandson was born, doctors were not sure he would live and said if he did he would be a weak little guy.   Today he is 6 foot 6 inches tall and anything but weak or little.  God is good!

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Love this picture of our youngest son with two of his children welcoming their baby sister.  All three are grown up now but still a joy to me.

Seeing their joy, seeing the next generation take the stage – it brings me such satisfaction to know our family will continue on.

Shakespeare said it well:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

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Each stage of life has had its blessings and its difficulties.

Those carefree days of childhood with little or no responsibilities.  Still, there was the pressure to do well in school, trying to “fit in” with the other kids.  Hoping to make friends.

Young adulthood brought the joy of first love and marriage and babies.  What excitement those first years of marriage brought.  Yet, there were sleepless nights with babies who would not stop crying, worries about meeting the bills.  For me that time also brought sorrow as my husband was killed in an accident and I struggled as a single mom with two young girls.

Middle age came.  Finally, jobs were more stable and money problems were less.  The kids were at a age to really enjoy adventures with me and many evenings were spent playing board games, shopping or just “hanging out” together.  For me there was new joy as I found love again with a wonderful man who loved my girls.  However, I began to realize my body was aging.  I could still do what I did in my 20’s but it took me longer and I was many times exhausted by the end of the day.

Now old age has come.  This body refuses to do what it once did.  Not only does it take me longer to walk the mall, I simply cannot shop as long as I once did.  My husband and I love road trips but even those have to be shorter and I am exhausted for days recovering from the trip.  Still, there are joys in this stage.

I can get up before dawn, sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun raise.  Or, I can turn over in bed, pull the covers over and sleep until long after the sun has risen.  Lunch and dinner can be a gourmet meal with our best china sitting at our dining room table sharing a great conversation with my husband.  Or, we can eat pizza on paper plates while sitting in our recliner and watching a movie.  There is a great deal of freedom to just do whatever I want to do.

Realizing that my days are much fewer than when I started this journey called life, I am more appreciative of each one.  Thankful for the sunshine, for the rain.  Thankful for the silly jokes my husband tells, for the scrabble games we play.  Thankful for the phone calls from grandchildren checking on me.  Thankful for the hot shower.

A study by Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford found that as people age they got happier and their emotions bounced around less.  Our drama-filled days seen to lessen as our negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced.

Psychologist Karl Pillemer interviewed over 1,000 older people for his book,  30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.  He found that:

“Many people said something along these lines: ‘I wish I’d learned to enjoy life on a daily basis and enjoy the moment when I was in my 30’s instead of my 60’s,’” he says. Elderly interviewees are likely to “describe the last five or ten years as the happiest years of their lives.”

So my advice to those in the earlier cycles of life:

Enjoy each moment.  Do not let the difficult times stop you from enjoying all the good times.  This day, this moment in time will not come again.  Look for all the good in your life and savor that experience.

As for me knowing I am playing out the last chapter of my story, I take comfort in God’s Word.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

May my last chapter be my best!

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Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-so-good-about-growing-old-130839848/#xr2BBzFeUxqfgrfg.99

Thanks for Remembering!

This month two of my grandchildren are graduating from college.  A granddaughter in North Carolina is getting her BS and will be starting law school in the fall.  A grandson in Tennessee is getting his Master’s.

As I rejoice in these two grandchildren’s success and hard work, I wonder where did the time go?  It was only yesterday they were playing with puzzles at my kitchen table or playing on the merry-go-round at the park.

As my grandchildren grow up, go to college, start careers, get married, have lives of their own and also live so far from me (grandchildren in Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee – but only one in Michigan where I live) it is only natural that my time with them is limited.  The circle of life turns and we old folks are no longer an active part of their lives.

But I often relive times spent with them as they grew up.  My granddaughter who is graduating was such a cute baby.

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When this picture was taken I was in the Philippines along with my husband and youngest daughter teaching in a Bible college.  I missed her first year but I always treasured this picture her mother sent to me in the Philippines.  Sometimes I feel sad that I missed her first tooth, her first step.  But thankfully I was back with her by her second birthday and shared so much joy watching her grow up.

Her first step toward becoming a lawyer was getting her Associate’s Degree.

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Now she has completed the second time with her Bachelor’s Degree.  So excited for her as she takes this next step and enters fall school.

One of my prayers for my grandchildren has always been that when the time was right, God would give them a Christian husband/wife.  It was my joy two years ago to see the answer to that prayer.

 

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But sometimes I must confess I wonder if the memories I treasure are held in such esteem by my grandchildren.

So – today my heart is so happy.  I got a text from this granddaughter that said:

Brandon and I are at the mall and we saw a carousel.  It made me remember all the times you and Grandpa took me and my brothers to the mall to ride the carousel.  I love you!”

What can I say to express my joy!

If someone has given you great memories be it a grandparent, a parent, an aunt or uncle, maybe a school teacher or a youth leader, take time to let them know you remember.  We often wait until someone has died to share how important those memories were.  Sadly, it’s a little too late then.

Thank you Barbara Rose for remembering!

 

 

 

 

Mom, You Left Too Soon

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My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern

 

In the last years of my mother’s life she lived in southern Illinois while I lived over 300 miles away in northern Illinois.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband was a pastor which meant his job required work on the weekends.  Thus, it was hard to have a chance to get away for a few days to visit her.

We took some vacation time and made a visit three or four times a year.  When we drove in the driveway she was always standing at the door anticipating our arrival.  Every time we left she would stand on the porch and wave until we were out of sight.

Becoming interested in doing genealogy research on my family I began asking Mom and Dad to tell me more about their childhood.  On one of our last visits, they took my husband and I to the cemeteries where grandparents were buried, to the place where my mother grew up, to the school my dad attended as a small boy.  My husband took a videotape of our adventures that day.

In February 2006 my husband retired and I was so excited as that meant we would have weekends free to visit my parents.  Now I could visit more and begin writing down their stories and take pictures of places from their childhood.

So, early in April we sat out to visit my parents.  I knew Mother would be so happy to hear that I was going to be able to start coming down more and that I wanted to hear more about her childhood and her family.

My excitement soon turned to worry.  When we arrived I found my Mother in great pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.  I took her to the doctor expecting to hear that she had some “bug” that would require some medicine and rest.  All prepared to stay and help her recover, I was shocked when the doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests.

The first couple of days seem pretty routine and we had some great visits in her hospital room – just the two of us talking.  On the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and I called my two sisters to come.  Something was wrong – much more than routine.

Mom quickly went downhill as the days passed and it became clear she was not going to make it.  The time came when we had to make that dreaded decision.  Do we continue to do treatments that were clearly painful or do we let her die with dignity and in peace?  A tough decision.

A few days later Mom was gone.

Gone – before I got to write down those stories.

Gone – before I got to spend more time with her.

It has now been thirteen years since Mom left.  As I age myself I begin to understand her more.  I find myself doing and saying things to my children that she once did and said to me.  Often I see that my comments are not welcome.  I’m being bossy, old-fashion, interfering.  All the things I once thought about my mother.  Now I realize while she may have been (and I certainly am) bossy, old-fashion and interfering, her motives were one of love.

Gone – before I could say, “Mom I understand you now.”

Gone – before I could say, “Mom, I’m sorry.”

 

Now I Am “Great!”

This past weekend I held my great-grandson in my arms for the first time.  He is just seven months old and lives with his parents in North Carolina – much too far away from this great-grandmother.

This triggered so many memories and emotions.  The overwhelming and instant love I felt when they placed his grandmother – my daughter – in my arms for the first time.  Struck by the responsibility I faced to care for this life that God had given me and my husband.  Amazed at the strong love that filled my heart at the sight of her beautiful little face.  Excited about what waited for us in the coming years as I would watch her grow and teach her to walk, to read, play with her in the park, take her shopping.  All the plans I had.

Thinking I had years ahead of me to spend with her, I had no idea how quickly she would grow up, fall in love and begin a new life.  A life where I no longer had that responsibility to care for her or teach her.  A time when she would no longer be my “little girl” but a grown woman and we would have to readjust our relationship.

But this time was also an exciting one.  Watching her fall in love, seeing her make her own way in the world.  The best part was when once again a little baby came into my life.

This time it was a grandson.  I thought being a mother was great – but holding that little boy – I thought nothing could top that.

I loved the years with this little guy.  Taking him to get ice cream or just walking after a rain and stepping in all the puddles we would find – all the time I spent with him was golden.

Too quickly he grew up.  Once again I repeated the history I had with his mother.  Watching him graduate from college, fall in love and begin his life as an adult.

Now once again I have experienced such a magical moment.  Holding my grandson’s son!  Amazing that little guy I had never seen before except in pictures, now was here with me – and I fell head over heels in love with him.

As the weekend passed by way too soon and he is now off to North Carolina again, I am thinking of my own parents and grandparents.  How life goes by so quickly but also how blessed it is to have family – past, present, future.

It is doubtful I will live to see this little guy’s children.  But I hope the memory of me will live on and stories about me will be shared with him.

I have worked some on my genealogy finding stories of great grandparents.  This visit has made me want even more to know more about those who went before me.   I will be working more in earnest once again to find and treasure their stores.

Past, present and future.  As I come toward the end of my own life I realize more than ever that in the end it is family that matters most.

Becoming a grandmother is wonderful. One moment you’re just a mother. The next you are all-wise and prehistoric.”– Pam Brown

Just when grandparents think their work is finished someone calls them “great.”