Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Remembering Barbara's Final Gifts

Barbara Jones Absher died on June 27, 2000.  This coming Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of her body,  but there are frequent reminders of her spirit that lives on in the lives of those who knew and loved her and those that only know about her such as her grandchildren, born since her death. I want to reflect on that time, 10 years ago and hope others will add  comment and memories.
About this date before her death I asked if we should call Hospice.  She said, "No,I think it's too early," but then went on to prepare an outline of her memorial service.  There is a book distributed by Hospice, Final Gifts.  The outline of her memorial service was a huge gift.  She had even listed the paul bearers, each with a meaningful reason for being on the list.  She had her favorite songs and her favorite soloists on the hand written program.  She requested three pastors to give her eulogy.  I know she didn't pick Howard, Bill, and Ron to brag about her but to talk about things that they knew were important to her life and legacy.  And they did just that with passion and humor, just  as she would have had it.  We failed to get the service recorded except in the archives of our hearts and minds.  Here are the highlights of what I remember:
Howard Reynolds was pastor at NUMC when we came to Nicholasville.  Barbara and Dee, Howard's wife, became close friends as did the young children from both families.  Howard and Dee asked us to be God Parents to their 3.  Howard spoke of that and gave tribute to Barbara as an exceptional mother and friend.  Bill Moore spoke, played his guitar, and sang to fulfill Barbara's request.  He brought laughter as he said he had been on "Barbara's Staff" at church for four years.  He described the kind of help she gave him as secretary at the church.  Ron Young, The last pastor that she served under got laughs when he described her reaction to a new idea.  He explained it was the tone of her "Um Huh" that clued him in as to whether it was a good idea or not.  He valued her subtle guidance.
Pat Miksch could not make it back for the service so Pat Jones,  Barbara's step-mother, suggested that her daughter knew the requested song and might be able to do it.  Lisa agreed and started out beautifully; but her voice broke with emotion.  I row of daughters, sisters and cousin women were next to me in the pew.  As Lisa's voice broke the women's voices welled up from the pew and helped her finish the song.  To me it was as if angels sang!  I even wondered if anyone knew that Lisa's voice had broken.
A similar incident happened in the room just before Barbara died.  All of the children except Anita had
spent some time with their mother as she was in her final coma.  I think each sang from the list of favorite hymns she had compiled.  Then Anita arrived and all gathered around Barbara's bed.  I sat at the back of the room.  Anita began to sing and they all joined her.
At least twice, I stood to see if Barbara was singing.  The kid's voices had never before blended so well and I heard their mother's voice seemed to crescendo with theirs.
A couple notes that came after the funeral were very meaningful.  Randy Patrick, the local newspaper editor, noted that he expected tears but he was surprised by the laughter at the service.  Beth's boss' wife observed from the  balcony that there we sniffles throughout the packed church, "not just from the front rows."  I can remember the members of her circle, The Barbara Absher Circle, standing like honor guards as Barbara's casket was taken from the church to the hearse.  Barbara died on the date when she had given birth to our first-born, Karen.  That date will forever commemorate the two births: one into life and one into Eternal Life.
Barbara loved flowers.  Her casket wreath was made mostly of flowers from her garden.  So many of those flowers have bloomed beautifully this year.  Barbara , can you see them?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Special Father's Day

During 2001 I got involved in the Hispanic Church,  Cristo Reina.  I drove the van, made crock-pot barbecue, and decorated tables with flowers from our garden.  The van I used was the one we purchased for Barbara to make flower pick up deliveries. 
Many of the worshipers at Cristo Reina were Mexican migrant workers who were earning money to send back to their families in their homeland.  We recognized that a Father's Day celebration may be a sad time for the absentee dads.  So Pastor Lupina came up with a plan.  We filled several buckets with a variety of flowers from our yard and placed them at the back of the worship area.  Then Lupina explained;   the van had been purchased to transport flowers, now it was being used to gather flowers for God's bouquet.  God's bouquet included all of our children.  She asked each father to get a flower for each child they had back in Mexico and bring it to the front and add to a container on the altar.  As the men filed by some had a hand full of flowers.  There were tears from the tough laborers.  Sine then, I have been reminded that flowers are for Father's Day as well as Mother's Day and bouquets are always appropriate reminders of God's Love

Garden Memories

Gardening is so much fun in the spring!  Reading seed catalogs has always been a problem for me-I buy more varieties and seed than I could ever plant or cultivate.  But the promise of a bountiful crop and the generally pleasant working weather makes putting in a garden an exhilarating experience.  The first harvest is exciting.
Dad, Bill Absher, really was a master gardener.
Near our Kentucky home is a farm called "June Rich Farm."  That is so descriptive of the season.  As I harvested vegetables and flowers this weekend so many gardening memories flooded my mind.  Dad taught me to garden.  I can remember picking green beans and hauling them on my American Flyer  wagon to the Bluegrass Market in Blacksburg to make a cash sale.  I probably got $0.50 or $1 for my labor and I was pleased.  Dad was always a good gardener even though he work long and hard during the day.  Until he retired he did most of his gardening in the cool of the before-breakfast-time.  Years of building the soil with compost and picking up the big rocks made his garden spot a productive area.  But the deer figured that out to so he had a 6 feet high chain link fence built to protect his crops. Mom called it his "play pen."

Dad's example made me think I needed a garden wherever we lived.  I remember the kids liked to help pick peas but I don't think many made it to the table.  They loved to eat the peas straight out of the hull.
Beth wonders if they were told not to eat the peas on purpose or to get them to eat them since they wouldn't eat cooked ones off the plate.  She said she and David would take turns standing guard and eating peas.  She remembers this happening at our Nicholasville house on Main Street.  Our garden there was mostly on sub-soil and was exposed to all travelers on busy Highway 27 before the by-pass was completed.  Our dentist, Dr. Henkle, monitored our garden and had something to say about it at every visit.

I didn't get into flower gardening much until we moved to Hamlet Hill.  Barbara joined a gardening club and developed a real passion for growing and arranging flowers.  In fact she did the flowers for Chilton Reynolds' wedding about six weeks before she died.  For that event she was more or less the "executive arranger" with Beth and Cindy doing a lot of the work.  Barbara died June 27, 2000.  Flowers were in full bloom.  We got one of her friends to arrange the casket bouquet using as many flowers from our garden as she could.  She used daylilies and refreshed them and hosta blooms, which I had never seen used as cut flowers as well as daisies and a variety of flowers that we had accumulated.  JoAnn Walla and Ruth Warner had given us a lot of plants.

I vividly remember going to the garden early the Sunday morning after Barbara's funeral.  The hymn,"In the garden" rang in my heart's ears.  Then Helmet rode by on his horse and said something to lift my spirits.  But, actually my spirits were pretty high at that point since I knew my wife of 37 years was no longer suffering and was probably in the Lord's garden, and as the verse of that hymn says, "he walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own,  And they Joy we share..."

We were gone  this year when daylilies started blooming.  Beth liked to keep tabs on their progress.  She would generally tell us when the first one would bloom, how many had bloomed the second and third days, and usually by the fourth day there would be too many to count.  The daylilies at the end of the house are the only ones planted by the "book."  They came from the Warners and I dug a trench, put sand in the bottom, and did what Southern Living advised.  The cultured lilies along the patio came from Nancy Bowling and they were just planted my way, but they seem to be doing fine.

Kaye and I have really enjoyed gardening together.  One raised bed we developed (or are developing)
we call our "Memory Garden."  It has plants, plaques, figurines, and rocks that have  special meaning to us.
There are two rose bushes in the bed.  One was one I gave Barbara, maybe for Mother's Day some year. It provide rose buds for her for most of the last month of her life.  The other rose bush came from the Sunday School class at NUMC when Kaye's mother died.  I'm afraid what was grafted on did not survive and what we have now is from the vigorous root stock.  There is a statue that the Mikschs gave us as a wedding gift, and a plaque about gardens that was a gift to Barbara. There are geodes from one of the Beyer's Missouri homes, and some petrified wood that Jacob Beyer gave us from Arizona.
There is a statue of a boy on a turtle's back that came from Kaye's home place in Tulsa.
We are still adding memories to that and other beds.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wonderful Work Week

The last week in May, 2010 was one of the most intense weeks of work that I’ve had for awhile.  And, looking back, I feel so good about it!  Yes, I got tired, hot and sweaty!  Yes, I got my 4x4 stuck, and yes, the differential plug came out of Dan’s tractor on the highway—but these short-term problems ended up with satisfactory solutions.

What is so “wonderful” about work?  My first thought is that I couldn’t have done what I did if I had not had my knee replaced 15 months ago.  Secondly, at 69, I didn’t know of what I was capable.

My satisfying week started on Saturday, May 22.  A team from our Sunday School class constructed 5 raised beds at a free health clinic in the inner city of Lexington.  A class member, Dale, and I hauled 3 ½ cubic yards of dirt to fill the beds, and they were all planted by noon.  Our planting was timely, since we had rains Saturday afternoon and night.

A tree had fallen across a lane that gives us access to the lower side of our property.  It was a large Elm tree that had started sending limbs straight up like new trees.  A grape vine almost as large as my wrist encircled the tree.  I cut the stem into 3 large logs and was going to pull them out with my Titan.  But, alas, the rain-soaked roadway was too slippery—even for my 4-wheel drive—so I had to shut down and let the sun and wind dry out the surface enough for me to get some traction.  That’s one of the good things about retirement—I can wait until conditions get better.  And, that strategy worked.  Got the truck and the logs out by evening.  Those logs plus some salvaged from the burn pile gave me sides for two new raised beds. 

Amidst the work, Kaye and I took an evening to celebrate!  We used an 8-year-old wedding gift to dine at one of Lexington’s finest restaurants.  We truly celebrated 8 years of happy marriage.  We have lived by the example set in the book of Ruth, “Your people are my people; your God will be my God.”  We’ve cared for parents and grandchildren, we’ve worshipped together at both of our churches and shared work with friends at each church to serve people.  I wish we had logged the miles; there would be a bunch, with many of them round trips from Nicholasville to Tulsa or Nicholasville to Blacksburg.  Air miles have been accumulated with trips to California, Washington state, Hawaii and Chile.  We’ve also been to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and we’ve taken “History and Heritage” trips with grandchildren.  We still have 13 grandchildren who haven’t made the H&H trip.  Do you suppose the Lord will grant us health to finish this project?

The longest, but also some of the most fun, days were Wednesday and Thursday, working with Dan to make hay.  The hay-making took me back to my younger days and the great desire I had to farm.  I’d spent a lot of time in the hay field, but not on the bailer.  Dan trusted me with that task, and it took us awhile to get the unfamiliar machine adjusted.  But, by the second day, we got the tension on the bailer right.  On the way home, the transmission cap came off.  Dan’s ingenuity patched that problem until a permanent fix could be acquired.

I was tired at the end of those two days, but so happy that I could be useful to a friend and could be a team member to meet the ever-changing crises of farming.  The grandkids were impressed that old Grandpa could actually drive a tractor.  So that, along with a couple years’ worth of hay for Duke, was ample pay!