THOUGHTS ABOUT MAMA

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal.  Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”  I heard this quote on a Hallmark Channel movie some time ago and it has never been more real to me than right now.  The first few days after Mama died were whirlwinds of getting stuff done; I didn’t have time to think about her and grieve her loss.  That has hit this week; Tuesday, Wednesday and today have been difficult both mentally and physically.  Mentally, today has been a bit better I think; but I’m still tired. 

The first part of the quote I’ve experienced off and on the past few days.  And absolutely, Mama’s absence just leaves a deep gash in my heart.  I thought about the last time I was over at their house with my guitar and we played some old hymns together; she on the piano.  I’ve heard Mama play the piano all my life, but I never enjoyed it as much as the day we played together and I have looked forward to going back and playing with her again.  And to know I won’t be able to do that hurts so much.  When she wasn’t puttering around the house preparing food or cleaning up after eating she would sit in her chair and we’d talk (at least until I nodded off for a little nap).  She always wanted to know about the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.  Those conversations were just normal catching up, but now they have a new meaning.  We won’t have those discussions any more.

And I can’t imagine the agony my dad is going through.  His companion for seventy+ years is not with him.  I hurt for Daddy too and I know his emptiness is far greater than mine. 

But the memories; sweet sweet memories.  No one can take them from us.  The memory of playing and singing with Mama is special; it hurts to know we won’t be able to do it again (here) but nonetheless I have that memory to hold and cherish forever.  Same with the conversations.  Because of her great love for us and ours for her, we have so many memories that “no one can steal.”

And for those memories and our love, I can still celebrate the fact that Mama was with us for a long time, she was relatively healthy, and did not have to suffer through a long and painful death. 

And Mama, I hope you, Nell and little Carter are having a wonderful time!

A MOTHER’S LEGACY

“Her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her.”  Proverbs 31:  28

My mother traded in her earthly tent for a crown early Tuesday morning and our family is reeling once again.  She left behind a loving husband, two sons and daughters-in-law, four grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren with another due in December.  She also left behind a niece who was more like a daughter than a niece, and many many friends.  To say she will be missed would be a gross injustice to the impact she had on so many lives.  She had an outstanding role model- her own mother. 

Mama would bake for weeks ahead of a holiday or family get-together to make sure everyone got their favorite dessert or veggie dish.  If anyone loved babies more than Mama I don’t know who it would be; I’ve seen some close rivals, but I’m not sure anyone could actually outlove her with a new baby. 

She defined the word love, yet I found ways to bring out her anger.  But even in her anger I still knew she loved me and only had my best interest at heart.  My sweet mother, when her dad sent her to the store to buy a plug of chewing tobacco, would bite off the corners and chew them on the way home.  My sweet little mother could drag a 60-80 pound bag of cotton with me riding on top of it to the dump wagon.  She washed and ironed almost everything including Daddy’s handkerchiefs, pillow cases, dish towels….  I often wondered why but I didn’t ever find out.  She worked at home until I started school, and occasionally was a substitute teacher.  When I started school she went to work in the school system to help pay the bills and feed two hungry boys.  Then she worked until she retired. 

Now she can rest.  But the vacuum she leaves behind in our lives is just a void that can’t be filled.  I love you, Mama. 

JOHNNIE MAE MILLER CHAMBERS

February 22, 1931-November 3, 2021

A MILLION TOMORROWS

Many things swirl in my head today; covid-19, peaceful demonstrations/protests, riots, vandalism, looting, burned buildings.  Many things I’ve seen before as a child and thought we were beyond all of that as a society.  Sure, I knew there were still pockets of all of these things, but I thought, as a whole, we had learned the lessons that would take us to a better life for everyone.  I guess that is still a possibility, that all of this unrest is not our way of life and the media of course is going to focus on whatever gets attention.  But I will admit that it’s worse than I thought, and certainly worse than it should be.

But amid all of these thoughts are pleasant and happy thoughts.  We’re enjoying spending extra time with our daughter, son-in-law and new granddaughter and today, June 8, Robin and I celebrate 46 years of marriage.  I remember funny things from our wedding night.  As Robin stood outside the church our good friend, Bill, cranked his Harley Davidson motorcycle for the first time since rebuilding it.  I didn’t hear it; I was already standing in place and was a nervous wreck anyway.  Once we left the church, I stopped at a gas station to clean the car windows that our wedding party decorated for us.  We had a four-hour drive to Calloway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga for our honeymoon; and I got lost.  So, we were late getting to Pine Mountain.  We saw a police car and asked him for directions to our motel and he just said “follow me.”  So, we had a police escort to our honeymoon site.

Fond memories of a great day in my life, but we have 46 years of fond memories and some memories that are almost unbearable to recall.  But that’s what life is, isn’t it?  It is experiences both good and bad and we hope the good outweighs the bad.  It certainly has for me, and I’m so thankful for my life and my wife.

Even amid all the turmoil I’m reminded of a line from John Denver’s 1975 song, “Today”: “A million tomorrows shall all pass away ‘ere I forget all the joy that is mine today.”

Happy anniversary Robin!! I love you!

BEAUTY FROM ASHES

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.… to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…” Is 61: 1-3

For three years we have held to the promise and hope of “beauty from ashes”. Sometimes our grip slipped a bit and we were afraid we’d let go, but we held on. It has been a bumpy ride at times; some days it seemed we couldn’t stop crying, just couldn’t make another step. It’s still that way, but those times seen to happen less frequently, and the duration is shorter.

We still miss Carter terribly and long to see him, hold him and watch him play. His memory will never leave us nor do we want it to. So today we will pay tribute to Carter and honor his life. We’ll remember how precious he was and I think Robin and I will be in Clam Bayou at 3:08 this afternoon to drop some flowers in the water.

But I will also breathe a prayer of gratitude for living long enough to see the fulfillment of His “beauty from ashes” promise.

Phoenix

IMG_1603 cropped-img_2463.jpg

O.W. CHAMBERS AND O.W. REED

Olen Wesley Chambers (my paternal grandfather, also known as “Big Daddy”) was born May 13, 1906.  Olivia Walker Reed was born May 13, 2020.  It’s interesting to me that my grandfather and my granddaughter have the same birthday, separated by 114 years, and the same initials.

When I think about Big Daddy and all the changes he saw in his lifetime I’m amazed.  He lived through the Great Depression with a family to feed and care for.  Daddy was born in 1929 so technically he lived through the depression also, but probably doesn’t remember too much about it since he was so young.  But most all of the conveniences we take for granted came about during Big Daddy’s lifetime.  The telephone was invented in the late 1800s but wasn’t common in many houses until much later; same is true for electricity.  Cell phones were not even a dream on the horizon and now kids have their own phones.  Social media, the internet, even the computer, not even in Big Daddy’s field of view or imagination.  He knew farming, plowing with mules, hard work and long days.  I remember when Big Mama and Big Daddy enclosed their back porch and put a washer and dryer there.  Until that point Big Mama did the laundry in the basement with an old washing machine similar to this:

1930s washing machine

Then she hung the clothes outside on a line to dry.  Even Mama hung clothes outside to dry for many years and I can’t recall exactly when she got an “inside dryer”.

Thinking about all of the changes in Big Daddy’s life makes me wonder what little Olivia will see during her lifetime.  Technology is developing so rapidly I can’t even conceive what she will experience and see.

I remember my employer building and furnishing an entire room with seating for around 20 people for video-teleconferencing.  It cost a lot of money and in its day was pretty sophisticated.  Now, as we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic anyone with a computer can host a meeting on Zoom (or a similar platform) and the App is free.

So, no, my imagination just won’t carry me far enough to dream things this baby girl will see in the next 100 years or so.  But it’s exciting to think about it.

*NOTE:  After posting the above, I learned of the death of Ravi Zacharias yesterday .  In my opinion, Ravi was one of the century’s most prominent Christian apologists and I would put him right beside Chuck Colson and C. S. Lewis.  I never had the opportunity to hear him speak, but I’ve watched him on You Tube many times and have a couple of his books.  He was remarkable, and somehow, the world seems a little empty today. Rest in peace, Ravi.

MAY 19, 1982

Thirty-eight years ago today our first child was born. It was a long day of labor for Robin to finally end with a C-section late that night. I don’t have access to old photos or I would put her baby picture in the post. But here she is now, with her new baby, Olivia.

IMG_1603

Their birthdays are just six days apart so we’ll celebrate May birthdays. We seem to have birthdays in clumps in our family. July, December and now May have multiple birthdays in each month. We’re going to their house later this morning and Robin is going to make fresh biscuits for Katie’s breakfast (her favorite food). It is a rare treat for us to be with Katie on her birthday so today will be very special. We are unashamedly proud of our daughters, their husbands and children.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KATIE!! I love you very much!!

 

ANSWERED PRAYERS

In his 1991 number 1 hit “Unanswered Prayers”, Garth Brooks sang “some of God’s greatest gifts are answered prayers”.  And while I agree with the statement and premise of the song, ANSWERED PRAYERS are great gifts from God as well.  Olivia Walker Reed was born this morning at 3:12 am EST at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.  She was 8 lbs and 13 oz, 21 inches long and Mother and Daughter are both doing fine at this time.

She arrived in a hurry; Katie had been having contractions throughout the night, but apparently early this morning woke Joshua when her water broke.  She was carried to the hospital by ambulance and Olivia was born in the ER.  They didn’t have time to get to Labor and Delivery and Joshua didn’t make it in time to be there when she was born.  But as he said the important thing is she is here and healthy and Katie is fine.

I don’t know how many people have been praying for this day to come, but I know it is a BIG number and I know how grateful and happy we are.  Now if we could just get our hands on her…..  But that day will come soon; for now, we are just thankful!

PANDEMICS AND CHANGES

I was thinking earlier today about the changes we’ve seen resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  We’ve had to learn new words and phrases like “new normal”, “social distancing”, “stay-at-home”, “safer at home” …  We’ve had to learn new ways to live and new habits like never leave home without your face-mask and gloves, stand on the “X” in the check-out line, have food delivered or pick it up and take it home.  It’s all about avoiding people instead of socializing and being close to people.  I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime, but throughout history there have been other horrible pandemics that the human race has somehow managed to survive.  Three in my lifetime are: 1) 1957 Asian flu which had a second round in 1958 that killed an estimated 1.1 million people worldwide; 2) 1981 HIV/AIDS Believed to have developed from a chimpanzee virus in West Africa in the 1920s the disease moved to Haiti in the 1960s then to New York and San Francisco in the 1970s.  Treatments have been developed to slow the progress but no cure, resulting in 35 million deaths worldwide.  3) 2003 SARS Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome believed to have started in bats and spread to cats and dogs then to humans in China and 26 other countries resulting in 774 deaths.  (Source: history.com).  These and earlier pandemics have altered life in some ways.  Bubonic plague, smallpox, several outbreaks of influenza have brought significant changes in the medical world for vaccines and treatments of the diseases.  I’m sure this one will do the same.

But I wonder about the long-term social aspects of the disease when the worst is over.  Will we still be “social-distancing”, wearing face-masks and gloves?  Since we’ve been in St. Pete now for more than a week Robin and I have not touched or hugged our daughter and son-in-law; we knew when we came that we would have to stop at gas stations, rest areas, restaurants and even though we were masked and gloved anytime we were out of the car we all agreed that the safest thing to do would be “quarantine” for two weeks after arriving here.  For the safety of our family and our new granddaughter it was the right thing to do.  We have visited on their patio always staying a safe distance away.  But it’s hard; I want to hug my children and grandchildren and my Mama and Daddy.

I hope a vaccine can be developed sooner rather than later; some things are just too precious to give up completely forever.

MOTHERS’ DAY 2020

This is a different Mothers’ Day as we anxiously wait for our daughter to deliver her second child. “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Giver her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

This is the conclusion of “The Wife of Noble Character” in Proverbs 31; and while all of the verses are important these seem to be more reflective of a mother being a mother. In our society some mothers do not live up to the high standard of being a mother (dads either, but that’s a different day). It’s such a blessing to see and hear our daughters talk to their mother about “mother things”; all I can do is listen. It is a subject of which I know nothing except through observation. I’ve observed two of my great-grandmothers, my grandmothers, my mother, my wife, my daughters and my mother-in-law, (who treated me as a son) as they set a high bar for motherhood. It’s the only kind of mother I know anything about; and I guess it would be easy to take that blessing for granted. But I hope I NEVER do that! I could even extend that to aunts and cousins in my family. But I’ve heard stories about other kinds of mothers; mothers who can’t live up to the honor of being called “Mother”.

I’m blessed to still have my mother with us; Robin misses hers terribly and would like nothing better than to share the excitement with her of a new great-granddaughter, or as she would call her, “my littlest angel”. Although I won’t get to see Mama this weekend, you can bet I will talk to her. I want to give her (and all the other mothers in my family), “the reward she has earned” and “praise her at the city gate”. HAPPY MOTHERS DAY ladies! I love all of you so much!!

OVER THE RAINBOW (PART 2)

In a post on April 15 I closed with the following line: “’Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue’; I can’t wait”.  Yesterday was our moving day and as you can see below, skies are really blue.  This photo was taken from the patio of our home away from home for a little while.  We haven’t seen Katie and Joshua yet; self-imposed quarantine after our drive down yesterday.  We have discussed a “patio party” where we can visit from a distance and maybe share a meal together.  And we are still daring to dream our dream as we move closer and closer to baby girl’s arrival.  All is well at this time and we are confident it will remain that way.

The move did take its toll, however.  We were determined to drive the distance in a day and not spend the night anywhere.  After we arrived around 9:00 we still had to unload coolers of food and some limited amount of clothes and toiletries.  It was a long and tiring day and Robin has been in bed pretty much all day today.  But she will bounce back after some rest.  But nothing will cure your ailments like the fruition of a three-year dream that is now on the horizon.

IMG_1599