Thursday, January 31, 2013


I believe it was the year I turned ten.  I came home from school to find that my mother had purchased a new bedding set for me.  I had used the same yellow and white set since I was a little thing, and I was ready for a change.  I wanted to use all different pastel colors (that's what was in at the time).  I don't remember if we had gone out looking at bedding or not, but my mother purchased the new set with lovely light shades of pink, lavender, blue, and green and had it all set up on my bed when I got home.  I was surprised and flattered.

She was always good at both those things... surprising me and flattering me.

I've been thinking about that birthday all week.  About the moment of happiness when I walked into my bedroom and saw what she had done.  Envisioning her smile of pleasure as she watched my delight.

Today is Madlyn's eighth birthday.  She wanted to freshen up her room, get rid of the pale yellow on the wall that has been there since before she was born.  She picked a bold pink and black and white zebra curtains.  It's very her.  So I have been painting for the last two days and will finish up this morning.

I've been thinking a lot about my mom as I paint.  We painted the nursery together when I was pregnant, mom taking the high parts and me taking the low.  I see the little spots of yellow on the ceiling where she accidentally bumped it.  I see her all over that room.  And I have felt her all week as I have done something she did for me so many times in my life... doing something that is so aggravating and difficult just to make her daughter smile.

When I was still pregnant but knew I was having a girl, I questioned God a lot.  Why was he entrusting me with a little girl?  I just wanted another boy... that would be easier in so many ways.  I felt the pressure of being an example for a girl, a scary responsibility of making sure she didn't make the same mistakes I made when I was younger.  And now, eight years later, as I was rolling the sassiest shade of pink onto a twenty foot wall yesterday, it hit me.

God gave this little girl to me because He knew.  He knew I would lose my mother.  He knew.  He wanted me to feel that mother/daughter connection long after she was gone, and what better way than to have it than with a daughter of my own.  He gave me a way to displace my love for my lost mother into a relationship as meaningful and lasting as what we had.  And I am so grateful.

I can't describe my relationship with Madalyn.  There really are no words for it.  It's a push and pull, poke a prod, laugh and scream type deal.  She is spunkier that I have ever dreamed of being.  She is more high maintenance than three of me.  But she has this soft, philosophical side that amazes me.  And with every year that goes by, we draw closer.  I appreciate her so much more since I lost my mother.  It has made me see her in a different way.

Thank you, Lord, for Madalyn.  She is an amazing gift.

Friday, January 11, 2013

It is well...

I remember telling Him exactly how it needed to go.  "First, take my grandfather.  There's no way he can make once my grandmother dies, so he will need to go first.  Then You can take my grandmother.  And last take my mom.  Later than sooner, please, but make sure she goes after her parents are gone."

This conversation with God took place about two years ago.  I had it planned out perfectly and wanted Him to know how it should go.

Wonder if He chuckles at us when we do things like that?  Or does he get preturbed?  I like to think he chuckles, kind of like how I chuckle at my Madalyn when she is being stubborn.

Whether He chuckled or not, He already knew the way things would go, and He knew there was a different order to things outside of my desires.  And He knew it would be the perfect order.

My grandmother was the first to go.  It did break my grandfather's heart.  Over and over again, actually.  He had to be reminded from one day to the next that she was gone and wasn't coming back.  Over time, he became more confused than ever, like a boy wandering in a snow covered field, unable to find landmarks or tracks to find his way home.  The loss got easier as the days went by, as he grew more confused and less in touch of where he really was.  His mind took him somewhere else, and he quit searching the halls for his wife.

Then my mother went.  By the time she was gone, so was my grandfather's mind.  I don't think he ever cognitively knew that his daughter had passed away.  Family members danced around questions and changed the subject as frequently as needed to protect his heart.

And then he went.  Reunited at last with his girls at Home.

Yesterday, I watched two Naval servicemen remove the American flag from atop my grandfather's casket.  They stretched it taught between them, folded in careful precision.  The soldier at my right formed a triangle, and he rolled it over, straightening it tight, using the bright white of his glove to smooth out any wrinkle or imperfection, folding it again and again from his end to meet with the other soldier.  The serviceman to my left tucked in the edge of the flag perfectly.  They each used their gloved hands to smooth it, check it's tightness, assure it was properly done.  They each took their turn presenting it to one another, acknowledging it, saluting, and holding it tight to their chest.  Then it was presented to my grandfather's namesake, his youngest child and son.

As I watched that flag that had begun as a large flat sheet covering the casket transform into a neat and tidy memory, I was reminded of God's perfect Will.  He knows the order of things.  He knows how to fold things up in perfect precision.  And He presents it to us in His perfect timing, not ours.

And something deep inside my soul said, "It is well."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I walked through the living room, heading toward my kitchen.  As I passed the stairs that lead down to the front door and to the basement in our split level home, I noticed her sitting on the third step.

"Millie... Millie... what are you doing?"

Yes, I talk to my 16 year old cat.  Most of the time she probably can't hear me nor understand, but I talk to her anyway.    Yesterday, she finally turned her little grey head up toward me and gave me her kitty version of the smile, blinking her eyes at me.

I noticed she was sitting in a little rectangle of sunshine beaming in from the sidelights of the front door.

"You're crazy, Millie... can't you find another warm spot?"  I sat down at the top of the stairs, and she slowly moved up toward me, purring wildly.  She plopped down in front of me, and I srtoked her long back.  And then something dawned on me...

Animals are created quite differently than humans.  Their minds work without reason, relying purely on instinct to get them through.  In the 16 year old kitty's mind, where the sun is beaming in doesn't matter on a cold winter's day.  I can find her in a little patch on my bedroom floor as the sun beams through the half moon window in the late afternoon.  She will find a little line of warmth that streams in from the crack in between the blinds.  She will sit upright with her eyes closed on the stairs in the middle of the day to bask in the warmth.  Wherever she finds the sunshine, she stops to enjoy it and soak it in.

What a lesson to learn from my senile old lady cat.

On January 24, 2012, I lost my maternal grandmother, Mattie Olivia Norris, at the age of 92.  There was nor ever will be a more humble, pure, and gentle spirit.

On April 22, 2012, I lost my mother, Patricia Norris Tew, at the age of 65 to cancer.  She was my soft place, my voice of reason, my confidant, my friend, my Mama.

Yesterday, I lost my maternal grandfather, Clifton Norris, at the age of 94.  He was a stearn man, a hard worker, from a generation of difficult times, softening slowly but surely in the last decade of his long life.

In one year, so much has changed, so much has been lost.  Perhaps one never knows how raw their grief can feel until another is poured on top.

In the meantime, I find myself wandering through my life, searching for the little rays of warmth, lovely shapes of sunshine peaking their way through the thickness of grief.  They are there, but they are small and in odd places, unexpected and often awkward.  They are small reprieves from sadness.  Very small indeed, but there none the less.

The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.  {Isaiah 30:26}

Shine, Lord.  Shine.

Friday, January 4, 2013



I had it all planned out, what I would say to you.  It was beautiful.  But, like most times when I figure out ahead of time what needs to be said, I never spoke a word of it.

You were beyond antsy, rubbing your long legs together and pulling at the oxygen tube around your face.  And, as I looked at you, all I wanted was to sit with you quietly, holding your hand, calming you as best I could.

Are you scared?  I asked you.  You didn't really answer, but I know that you are.  This man that once so big and strong and full of activity and energy has no control over anything anymore, no say in what is done or how it's done.  I would imagine it's a pretty scary place to be, somewhere between here and there, somewhere between us and those that await you.

What I wanted to tell you is simple.  Your girls are waiting for you.  All three.  Your oldest daughter has been there the longest.  I know how close you were to her.  My mother and I looked through various cards you had saved from her in cigar boxes from years ago.  She told me that you and Kitty had the neatest relationship, that she adored you, and that you two shared the same sense of humor.  Mattie Olivia awaits, you, too.  I bet she can't wait to take care of you, even in heaven.  That is what made her happiest in life, taking care of the people she loved.  And your youngest daughter, my mama, is there, too.  She will be so glad to know you aren't confused anymore, that you aren't wheeling yourself around that nursing home looking for Mama.

We'll be fine here.  We will hurt but in a different way.  You were so different.  A man of necessity and few words.  A man that was busy until you stilled for a moment to catch a cat nap on the floor.  A man that always seemed so far away to me even when you were in the room.  You were from a different world, one of little emotion.  But it was such a joy to see you soften and vocalize your love so much more in the past year, the hardness of you washed away by aging.

My favorite memories of you involve walks around the block.  You couldn't stand to sit still, so you'd ask the little ones if we wanted to go for a walk with you.  I don't remember what we talked about or if we said anything at all, but I remember your smile and your long fluid strides with legs that measured more than my entire body.  I remember your garden in the back yard, rows of peppers and muscadine vines.  You were so proud of what your hands had nurtured.  I remember watermelons and cantaloupe in the summer, homemade ice cream, and waffles.  You loved sweets, a trait I am certain I inherited from you.

It's okay to close your eyes and give in.  The fear will leave your body, and you will see them once again.  Go give them a hug from me.