Just an announcement that I am re-inventing my blog to include my genealogical research and my research on graveyards, mortuary science, and death in general. I’m not morbid, gothic or anything, I’m just fascinated by this topic. My belief system is such that death is not something to be feared. But I won’t be talking about death and the afterlife – I’ll be limiting myself to what happens to our bodies when we die? What does what I see in the local graveyard say about the people who are buried there?
1. Look at all those pictures of the people I went to high school with. They look old. Do I look that old?
2. Can’t be that old. I just graduated high school yesterday.
3. My children are in high school. I have to be that old.
4. Umm. How about that? I’m grown up.
5. I’m grown up?! What the heck?!
6. Sigh. Guess that means I really am old.
7. Have I done everything I wanted to do before I got old?
8. Today’s music – I can’t understand what they’re saying. (Long pause.) Did I just say that?
9. Is that heartburn or a stroke?
10. This sucks – I’m not going to be old. Not me. Not ever.
11. I’m buying a convertible.
I initially meant to post this closer to July 4, 2011, but I let it sit in my drafts for a while.
On September 11, 2001, I experienced extreme trauma as the attacks on our nation occurred and I watched on TV as the Twin Towers fell. I remember vividly sending my toddler son out to play in the backyard because I didn’t want him to see. My infant son napped peacefully in his crib. I was on my knees in front of the TV, begging God for mercy for those inside the Towers. I’ll never forget that I saw people jumping from the buildings, saw people running from the fiery Pentagon, heard that yet another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.
Subsequently, I’m sure I’ve got a bit of Post Traumatic Stress from that experience. Clearly from my own making, of course. I could have turned the TV off, but then again, how could I? It seems now that it would have almost been irreverent to snuff out what was happening by flipping a switch; almost like it didn’t matter to me.
The good news is that all over the United States, the events of that day renewed our sense of patriotism and loyalty to our country. My boys are growing up to have respect for the flag and for the soldiers who fight to defend it. Their uncle and their grandfather have the standing of superheros in their eyes because they served our country in war.
The other part of this PTSD that I’m really not all that worried about is that I always cry on the Fourth of July. An American flag flapping around brings immediate tears. Mandatory gear for watching a parade includes some tissues.
On Sunday, July 3 of this year our church had a service of honor for veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Forces, along with law enforcement, fireman and medical personnel. They sat them on the front rows as we paid homage to what they’ve done.
I did great until the end of the service. Our pastor asked for a moment of silence for those who had paid the ultimate price in service to our country. During the silence, the sound of weeping was heard. I strained to hear where it was coming from. It was coming from those front rows of the church, where those grown men wept openly and tried to comfort each other.
It tore me up, but I realized it wasn’t the sound that got me. It was their tears for friends lost, for the things they’ve seen, for the things they’ve had to do. It was tears for what they know that others are doing right now on foreign soil. They can comfort each other because they alone know what it is they need comfort for.
I can’t cry for those reasons. I’ve never been in the military. But I cry too. I cry out of respect for what little I understand about what they’ve done. Their sacrifice means my children live free. These men and women daily lay down their lives for my children’s freedom and protection just as I would.
My tears and respect are the only way I can try to repay the incredible debt I owe to them.
Of all the things I quote most often in my job, this phrase is tops. It was coined by my grandfather and describes his feelings toward some pastors he’s seen. However, I see it everyday at work. Parents who are correct in wanting a college education for their child, but incorrect in making the education belong to the parent and not to the student.
It’s an interesting paradigm. As parents, my husband and I are absolutely charged with helping our children make good decisions. We base our knowledge on what we read and what we’ve been told, but more largely on our own set of experiences. On the other side, our boys must learn and have experiences of their own. They must make mistakes on their own. Their triumphs must be their own.
So while I would love for my son to listen to me and take only the classes that I know are going to prepare him for college; I can’t walk him to the college advisor and pick his classes. I can advise, but ultimately, if he stupidly takes all his electives during his freshman year – that’s his mistake. My job as a college advisor gives me knowledge to help. My job as a parent means I can only offer help, I can’t force it.
This week I listened to a fellow parent lament the choices their child had made. It was heart wrenching to hear. But my sympathy abruptly ended when they described in detail the new car, and the apartment off campus they were going to pay for while their sweet delinquent was in his third college in one year.
My question to myself: “At what point do I realize that my sons’ mistakes (and triumphs) are not a reflection on me?” To take credit or blame is not helping my boys become real men. And without a sense of independence, this world will eat them for breakfast.
Facebook – I have a new idea for you. Allow users to send Friend requests to their Kindle, Nook, etc. I bet Amazon and Barnes & Noble would love that.
Only problem is, I believe if I ever stalked someone on Facebook, it would be my Kindle.
My Kindle can store all the books I want to read in one handy little place. It will save my place for me. It will save multiple spots in multiple books. It will let me skip ahead.
My Kindle doesn’t judge my reading choices, as varied as they are. It understands my interests vary from Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction to Management to Higher Education. I don’t have to hide that I’m shopping for another dieting book. I don’t have to worry that somebody will see me in the Parenting section of the bookstore. It doesn’t judge my motives for reading “How To Kill Your Husband” by Kathy Lette.
My Kindle will read to me. It has its own built-in light. The battery lasts a month. Its tiny enough to fit in my purse.
Right now, some of the selections on my Kindle are:
- On Picket Duty, and Other Tales by Louisa May Alcott
- Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore P. Stewart
- So, You Want to Start a Business?: 8 Steps to Take Before Making the Leap by Edward Hess
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Fanny Goes to War by Pat Washington
- Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by Henry Jenkins
- The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age by Cathy Davidson
Yes, there is a dieting book on my Kindle. But that’s a secret between me and my “friend.”
Right now, I’m listening to a man cleanse his soul and prepare for death.
My maternal grandfather, my Papa is the sweetest man I’ve ever known. He’s seen it all – tragedy beyond my capacity to write here, hard times, good times, scraping and trying to survive. He’s come through it all with a genuine love for people of all kinds and receives such love and respect in return.
A few weeks ago, he gave me a handful of cassette tapes and asked me to transcribe them. So every night, I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, headphones and an old cassette player. Play, stop, rewind. Type. Repeat.
But there’s more than a mechanical process going on here. Right now, I’m the sole spectator to a person trying to come up with a way to summarize their life. What an awesome task. On tape, he keeps reminding me that he’s preparing to die. He is cleansing his mind of all the wonderful stories he wants remembered. He has become the keeper of the tales that sum up his family and he wants the world to know they existed, that they loved, and who they were so that in the future, my family can understand who we are.
It’s a special time for me, almost holy. It’s just me and my Papa, with his voice in my ear, telling me the stories of his life. There are occasional sermonettes (my Papa is after all, a minister), but even those are woven into phrases that leave me awestruck. What if I had been forced to live the way my Papa and his 15 brothers and sisters during the worst of the Great Depression? Would I have emerged a person like my Papa?
In my Papa’s words: “Well anyway, you can say whatever you want to say, but I’m somewhere around 84 or 85. God only knows the real truth about it. But that’s not all that important. God has allowed me to live in this beautiful wonderful world these many years and the best is yet to come. Oh, I may be checking out of this old place almost anytime. Not many people live as long as I have lived. Especially to see and know some of the things that I’ve seen.”
An outlook on life from a person who’s seen a lot.
Everyday I spend the greater portion of my working hours encouraging and assisting people to take the first step in a college career. “Go on, you can do it,” I say, “You’ll never regret it.” But when it came time to think about the progression of my own career, I was hesitant to put my foot in the troubled waters of academia again.
I have to say, the process towards my Bachelor’s degree was horrible. On July 4 of my freshman year, Dad fell from the roof of a house under construction and we weren’t sure he was going to ever walk again. After Mom’s first brain surgery the next February, I was worried that I needed to stay home and help. But my parents said, “Go on back to school, you can do it. You’ll never regret it.”
After earning my Associate Degree at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia, I was more than ready to come home. By this time, I was absolutely in love with the man who would become my husband. I dove headlong into a full time job. I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish at the University of South Carolina that Fall. Maybe I should save up a lot of money, and prepare for the future with Peter. But Peter said, “Go on back to school, you can do it. You’ll never regret it.”
I worked full time, and went to school full time. I loathed every minute of it. My GPA to me is not so much a mark of how smart I am, but of a person who felt overwhelmed and just wanted out – fast. But 20 years later, I’m in a new place in my life. I’m more sure of my career than ever. I love my job and every part of what I do. I broached the subject of grad school with a colleague. Could I go to school and be the mom and wife I’m supposed to be? She said, “Go on back to school, you can do it. You’ll never regret it.”
My first classes start June 27. I’m excited and nervous. But I just have to tell myself, “Go to school, you can do it. You’ll never regret it.”