September Mornings

Last week, I stood at the door of Ambleside Cottage, looking out over the lawn and trees. The squirrels were busy, and the jays were scolding. The air was crisp with a temp that is unusual for mid-September. I thought about the summer that had slipped away without much notice from me. Certain Man had watered flowers more often than he probably wanted to, and garden things had been sadly neglected. There were tomatoes that got quietly put onto the compost pile and even a couple of handfuls of lima beans that turned sour in the small bag in the fridge. (It was their own fault! Those beans of mine hardly produced enough at a time to even make a meal for CM and I! I would shell my paltry few and put them in the fridge, hoping to get some to add to them, and then, next thing I knew, they smelled funny. I did get my first two bags in the freezer just before I left for DC, but even so, the pickin’s have been slim!)

It’s been three months since Deborah had her bilateral mastectomy. The blood clots, the infections and the complications have made this recovery far longer than we had hoped. She ended up with a second surgery about six weeks ago, and she is healing well, but she just isn’t quite there yet. The days have been challenging for her, but there have also been glorious accomplishments. She finished her Bachelors Degree in Nursing (BSN) and she did it with a 4.0 grade average. (She wouldn’t tell you that, but I’m allowed! I’m her Mama!) She has actually started back to work at Delaware Hospice, but is only allowed to work from home because she is still under fairly stringent restrictions (no driving, no combing or washing her hair, no reaching up too far, no reaching out too far, no leaning forward or bending over, no driving). Fortunately, Delaware Hospice has been more than accommodating, and she has enjoyed getting back into the swing of things- at least in part.

Last week, anticipating this week’s daily trek to take 4-year old Stella to school, I started to walk over to Deborah’s house for the morning chores there. I had hoped to get a little used to the walk. The distance is somewhat similar. The terrain? Not so much. Leaving the back yard door, the walk is uphill almost all the way to her school. And there is mostly blacktop and sidewalk. It’s not that far, (only .2 of a mile) but I’m almost 69 years old, and I have two replaced knees and there is that crazy thing called “spinal stenosis” that wants to remind me when I’ve slept in an unfamiliar bed. Which causes me to sometimes have a peculiar gait.

Yesterday, Stella said to me, “Grammy, why do you sometimes wobble when you walk?” (Please note. She did not say “waddle!”)

I said, “Well, Stella-girl, Grammy’s back is kinda’ hurting today.”

“Yeah,” she said thoughtfully, “And you are really, really old, too!”

Yes, well. That, too! (She told me the other day that she thought I was “a hundred years old” so I guess that does make me a old. A little bit old, anyhow.)

September mornings are delightful here, though, in spite of the trek that makes me puff. I come into the alley behind Lem and Jessica’s house and the squirrels are scolding, the walnuts dropping, and the yellow flowers are blooming by the back fence. There are neighbors who don’t do well with their trash, and the other day I saw a city rat nudging through the garbage, but he went his way and I went mine. This morning the crows were scolding loudly about something and in this section of town there are lots and lots of trees providing shade and privacy. I’m not a city girl by any chance, but these mornings, so full of life and a bit chilly are invigorating.

Tomorrow morning, Lord Willing, after walking Stella to school, I plan to come back here, pack up and head back to Delaware and that Man I Love the Most, our little farm and the next door girlie that I still comb, and make sure that she has what she needs to live and move and have her being. I will feed her old cat, JuJu, and give him some Grammy treats and it will be so sweet. Tomorrow night, if plans carry, I will spend time with my sibs and their spouses (Except for Nel and Rose) and I’ve been looking forward to that with an almost ache.

Today in Ohio, our littlest grand is fighting the biggest battle of us all, and I watched a clip of my tall son cradling her to his chest while they both sang, “What a Wonderful World,” and I weep. There is so much about this old world that is wonderful, and I love these September mornings. My heart gives grateful praise, but along with that, this Grammy’s heart is heavy.

Please pray for our Ellie-girl.

https://youtu.be/A3yCcXgbKrE

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She Dances . . .

Elise Evelyn. Our Ellie-girl.

She is life and light and movement and spirit and song and fire. And she dances. There is no stopping the feet and the voice and the personality that has trusted and engaged and loved without reserve. She knows no strangers. She knows what she wants and when she wants it and how she wants it, but she has also learned that sometimes you just cannot have what you want and when and how.

Gift to our family. A Sacred Trust.

There have been hundreds of people who have said, “How lucky she is to have this family!”

NO!!!

Oh, Ellie-girl! We are the ones who have been so blessed. And there was no luck involved. You came to us, a six week old baby, and we wanted you to stay from the minute we laid eyes on you.”

It was a long journey, with many tears and uncertainties and times when it seemed that she was gone for good. There was a day in July when a state car took her away for her new life, and we wept and prayed and felt the grief that was worse than death. But in Washington, DC, a client cancelled and Uncle Lem locked the door of his office and got down on his knees and pled for mercy and intervention. People all over were praying, for something to happen.

And God chose to intervene and sent an angel in the form of an unknown man who warned the case worker. He showed up and followed her around while she surveyed the premises of the intended placement and when no one was listening, he hissed, “Don’t you leave that baby here!”

“What???”

“Don’t you leave that baby here!” He offered some brief words of explanation, and then was silent.

The caseworker called her supervisor and Elise came back home. The story wasn’t over, there were still hurdles to cross, and there were 5 times (all together) when an actual date was set for her to be moved to another placement, but each time, something (rather, Someone) intervened.

My Ohio daughter in law was given the family name when she joined our family, “Ohio Heart Throb.” Just for the record, she has a new name. “Warrior Mama.” She’s earned it fair and square and has the scars to prove it. She faced imperious case managers, biased directors and held her own with honest and objective directives when she had had enough of the dilly-dallying of bureaucracy and the indifference of a state system. I’m so proud of this woman. She has known relinquishment and broken dreams and grief. She has given up when she realized it was in the best interest of the child. And this time, she knew what was in the best interest of Elise and she fought for her future. And won!

On April 19, 2019, the baby known as “Sweet Baby E” became Elise Evelyn Yutzy.

Most of you who follow this blog know that our Ellie-girl is facing a huge challenge. This week she starts a “five day a week for six weeks” radiation therapy for a synovial sarcoma in her leg. The risks are great, but the risk of not treating is greater. But she still dances. She still bosses her brothers and plays with her dollies and watches her “shows” and does all the things that she wants to and can. She doesn’t begin to understand to import of what is happening. She doesn’t even know the catch in her family’s throat, the sadness in her daddy’s eyes, the unrelenting hurt in her Mama’s heart, or the fear that her brothers are grappling with. And it’s better that she doesn’t.

People have been so kind. From the beginning of this journey, people have given and shared and prayed and loved and given some more. Nothing is taken for granted. Raph and Regina find the generosity and outpouring of care and concern hard to believe. For them as well as for us, the love and the prayers have been the best gifts. I call it “wrapped in a bubble of Grace,” where a sense of God’s provision and presence gives me courage and strength. I’ve said it more than once because, though I cannot explain it except by God’s grace, “This is hard, and I am sad. But I am not afraid, and I am not frantic. I’ve walked with this Heavenly Father for over 60 years, and He has never failed me yet. He hasn’t done everything the way I wanted, or spared me from heartache and loss, but He has carried me when I couldn’t make it on my own. He promised not to leave me or forsake me, and I don’t believe that He will stand apart from my grief now any more than I would stand apart from the grief of one of my children. He is here and He is not silent. My heart gives grateful praise!”

There are a lot of expenses connected with Ellie’s cancer treatment, and Ellie’s Uncle Lem and Auntie Jessica have started a gofund.me account to help out. As the families of Raphael and Regina, we are helping, but there is always more that is needed. I’m attaching this link so that if you are so inclined, you can access it without too much trouble. Thank you for listening, for reading and for caring and praying. The prayers are still the best gift!

https://gofund.me/9357cacb

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Part Three, “I Will Carry You”

This week I changed the calendars at our house. Five of the ones I changed, I changed from July to September. They never got changed to August. I think there was only one that got changed back when August dawned, and that was the central appointment one that helps both Certain Man and I keep track of our lives. It’s a funny thing about calendars. I remember over 40 years ago when Sherilyn Schlabach (now Gant) lived with us, there was a time she commented, “You know, it’s such a funny thing! In America, you guys have clocks in every room. In Costa Rica, we have calendars!” Somehow that made an impression on my mind as a young homemaker, and I began putting calendars in almost every room, hoping that it would remind me that I needed to live for the long term, not the immediate.

But as I thought about the whole thing of how I had missed changing all these calendars for a whole month, it didn’t carry the connotation of slowing down. At all. But the more I pondered this “lost month” and all that had happened in the month, my heart was suddenly very quiet before my Heavenly Father. I realized in a startling way that while my head and hands were too busy to really mark the days, He had carried me safely through and brought me through a month that I would remember, not for individual days and the terrible things that happened on those days, but rather a period of “severe mercy and extreme grace, (and my heart gives humble, grateful praise).

To pick up the story again-

When I realized that I had tested positive for Covid at Raph and Regina’s house, the immediate concern I had was, of course, the fact that I had exposed this very vulnerable household to this confusing disease. Of course, I prayed they would not catch it, prayed that I wouldn’t be too sick, prayed (“Oh, Lord Jesus, Have mercy!”) that Ellie, especially, would not get it.

My next concern was about my ticket home. I called, and the only way I could reschedule was if I waited for five days to reschedule. I rescheduled for Wednesday. Problem solved.

Then I was concerned about my prescription meds and vitamins of which I had only packed a week. An SOS call home sent Deborah over to the big house, and between her and Certain Man, they got everything figured out, packaged and overnighted to Canton. Another problem solved. (They actually were there by the next day! Yay for the US postal service!)

And so the days passed. Sunday morning I came downstairs to find Ellie wrapped up in a blanket on the floor.

“First Covid Sickie,” Announced my resilient Daughter in law with a lot more cheer than I felt.

“Oh, no!” I mourned. “Really?’

“Yep, She tested positive!”

I was so sad. I figured it was only a matter of time until the whole family came down with it. But astonishingly enough, she was our only “casualty.” Raph and Regina had a mature and careful response and they were amazing! The boys had a healthy fear of catching it and there was no problem with them keeping their distance. There was that time when the three of them were engaged in one of their frequent skirmishes that was getting out of hand and I said, “Listen up boys! Your Grammy hates fighting every bit as much as you hate Covid. If this fighting doesn’t stop I’m going to give every one of you Covid!” They looked up surprised and questioningly. “Yes, siree,” I intoned soberly. “I’m going to lick my finger and wipe it right on you . . .” BLITZ!!! My three handsome grandsons were gone in three different directions. (“But Grammy, would you really???” “Probably not, But—“)

Thankfully, I didn’t feel too terrible, and the days flew by with lots of activity and joy. Ellie had only one day of feeling bad and then was back to normal. Out of precaution, she had to delay her appointment for receiving the results of that last surgery, but otherwise, things progressed fairly much the same as before. Tuesday evening, Raph showed up at my bedroom door with a Covid test.

“Mama,” he said, tentatively, “Would you want to take another test before leaving tomorrow, just to be sure?”

I looked at that test and almost didn’t let him finish. “NO!” I said, more forcefully than necessary. “I don’t want to know. I’m going to put a mask on and wear it all day and I’m going to go home and then, I’ll double check. So, No! I just want to go home!”

He looked a little startled, but seemed to understand and went away. I sat there in my room and thought. I thought about how I would feel if I knew someone else was in my shoes, and I wondered if I had made the right decision, but I figured that I was at least a week into this, I had waited the five days that was required by the airline, I had been vaccinated and boostered and I just wanted to go home. I finished packing my bags and spent a restless night, but my resolve did not weaken.

Early the next morning, Raph drove me to the airport. He stood in the early morning darkness, my tall son, and hugged me, kissed the top of my head (as he has taken to doing over these last years) and thanked me for coming. My heart was full. This son of mine and his brave wife were facing far more than just their little girl’s health issues. There are stories that are not mine to tell. My heart ached for my “Canton Six” and repeatedly, I packed them up in my mind’s eye and set them fully at the only place I’ve found for my anxiety, grief, uncertainties and pain: The Foot of The Cross.

(” . . . when you’re terrified, I will carry you!”)

I landed in Washington without any trouble and Certain Man was there to pick me up. He had accomplished a lot of things in my absence, and I was very impressed with all that had gotten done. I was also suddenly weary beyond belief. We came into the lane of our home, and I looked at the familiar landscape, picked up my phone and texted the family.

“We are safely home.”

It was so sweet to be home. The Crepe Myrtle was showing off, the familiar old farmhouse was beckoning me in. The last eleven days were packed full of so much living. I enjoyed being in Ohio so much, and Raph, Gina, Si, Liam, Frankie and Ellie are some of my favorite people. But now it was time to be back home and get on with the things here.

I did not know that I was coming home to another non-stop merry-go-round of life events that would keep me on my toes and my knees. But that will be in the next segment. This one is long enough.

Stay tuned.

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I Will Carry You . . . Part Two

Synovial Sarcoma.

I didn’t even want to think about it. I decided that I wasn’t going to google it, I wasn’t going to listen to any of the dire predictions, I was just going to pray and wait and bide my time. A CT scan of Ellie’s abdomen and chest as well as an MRI of her leg were scheduled promptly, and we all waited anxiously for the results. The first report was encouraging; there was nothing suspicious in the chest and abdomen. The MRI of the leg? Not so much. “The MRI showed another spot that they need to get out along with tissue around the last tumor and possibly part of some muscles and a tendon. They said that there shouldn’t be any long term effects except possibly a numb spot on the inside of her calf. They’ll send everything out for testing and see where the numbers (cancer markers) are at to see if next steps are needed or just doing scans every several months.” Surgery was scheduled for Thursday, August 4th.

We got that text on Tuesday, the 2nd. Two days before the scheduled surgery. That night I got a call from Raph. Regina was having a miscarriage. Regina and Raph, longing to be parents since shortly after their marriage, had battled infertility and when they were told that the chances of ever having a biological child were slim to none they went the route of adoption through foster care. They were unaware that Regina was pregnant, but when I thought about the timing and the implications and the emotions that my brave, resourceful daughter in law was dealing with, it seriously felt like a bad dream. They asked some questions, took advice and called the doctor in the morning (which was now less than 24 hours until Ellie’s scheduled surgery) and after close questioning and considering symptoms, it was deemed that it would be okay to wait – at least until after the surgery.

I got awake the next morning to a missed call from Raph at about 1:40 AM (I don’t take my cell phone into the bedroom at night) and then a text at 1:45 saying that they were at the ER with Regina who was having severe abdominal pain that would not subside. The wait time was 5-7 hours, and they needed to leave to take Ellie for her surgery at 7:00. I read the note and heard the desperation in his words and thought my heart would break But wait! There was another text, sent an hour later, that said, “We are back home. She’s feeling better. Please don’t call or text before 8:00.”

I thought it would never be eight o’clock! But eventually it rolled around and I was able to at least quiet my heart that Regina was feeling some better, the surgery for Ellie was going off as planned and everyone should be getting back to somewhat normal, but I was so uneasy. How would they ever manage. Regina wasn’t supposed to lift anything, and at that point we didn’t know if Ellie was going to be able to walk. If things went the way the previous surgery went, there would be nights when she would wake up and be restless. Regina would not be able to rest and recuperate like she should, and if Ellie couldn’t walk???

This Mama/Grammy needed to think.

I decided to check on airline fares into the Akron-Canton airport just 15 minutes from Raph and Regina’s house. Aha! I could get a one-way ticket for under $200! Armed with that information, I asked Certain Man what he thought I should do. He was 100% supportive. “I think you should go for it if Raph and Regina think it would help!” He said. And that was the general consensus of every single one of Raph’s siblings and their spouses! They all said that I should go.

I called Raph. “I won’t be much good at carrying Ellie around,” I said, “but she has big strong brothers that can do that if it’s necessary. I can cook, wash dishes, do laundry, take care of the kids, let the dog in and out , help pick up. I can be there so Regina can rest, and I will be happy to come if you need me.” He said that he would talk to Regina and let me know, but he thought that it might be helpful. He called back, and before I knew it, I had a one-way ticket for Saturday, August 6th, for a flight from Philadelphia to Akron-Canton via Washington, DC..

It was a bit strange, but very exciting to me how all the pieces came together in spite of what seemed like incredible opposition. I had this calm assurance that I was supposed to go to Raph & Gina’s, though and it did not waver through crazy traffic all the way to the airport (including reports of 3 accidents between us and the airport in the last 20 miles). Certain Man maneuvered his way through the most trying of situations and still got me to the airport a full hour before my departure time. I boarded and departed and landed in Washington, DC, according to schedule. That’s where things got a little hairy. I was supposed to have a 3 hour layover, (which really didn’t bother me at all) but the flight, scheduled to go out at 7:48 got delayed and delayed until I wondered if I was going to even get out of there at all that night. When it got delayed a third time time, the ticket agent, a beautiful black gal with an accent, in response to my question, “Could it be delayed even further?” Said, “Eet eess a distinct pooseebilitee.  But I don’t found oot before you do. We get the same informa-see-un that you do!” So I went back to my book and waiting until, finally around 9:45, the little jet left Washington, bound for Akron-Canton where Raph picked me up around 11:10 and brought me safely home to their home in Canton. The boys were still up and I was welcomed grandly and enthusiastically.

I could write a book about the week with my beloved Canton Yutzys. I pretty much did what I had said I would do: Cooked. (grocery shopped, too) Did laundry. Took care of kids. Let the dog in and out. Helped to pick up. I did other things besides. I tried to interest the boys in weeding. They are more inclined to mow. I baked bread and made cinnamon rolls, cooked some old favorites of Raph’s and loaded the dishwasher and unloaded it. There was nothing that I had to do, but what a joy it was to do it and the Grace of God was incredibly real to me through the minutes and hours and days. Raph and Regina were so appreciative and affirming and easy to be with! The children are some of my favorite people, Ellie was doing far better than expected, and the week sped by.

On Tuesday, I was reading Ellie her nap or bedtime story. It was “The Little Engine That Could” and I was as always, putting heart and soul into it. And then we came to this page:

Well, there was a paragraph on this page that called for “bellowing!” And being the good Grammy that I am I bellowed. Except that the bellow got strangely broken in the middle. Something really strange caught in my throat. Oh, dear. I coughed, adjusted the volume and finished the story, and got Ellie settled into her bed. But the funny little tickle continued.

At the beginning of the week, Regina had some doctor appointments. She hadn’t been experiencing the excruciating pain, but she was still wasn’t feeling at all well, and sometimes I would see her face awash with an almost indiscernible look. I saw weariness, discomfort and grief mixed with a faraway look that concerned me so much. There were things I could not do – the boys needed to do school shopping and Ellie’s incision (a long, ugly thing) needed tending. Regina handled things expertly, resting often, but by the middle of the week, a procedure was scheduled for Friday morning. This was where Raph and I began to have some discussions about when I was going to go home. I had scheduled a return flight for Saturday morning, but I kinda felt like I should stay longer, and he said he would be happy if I did. I was getting anxious to be home and Certain Man’s birthday was on Sunday. On Thursday Raph, Gina and I sat down and discussed things. Regina’s family was standing at the ready to help in any way that they could. Her sister, Marilyn, was already planning to spend Saturday with her with the option of Sunday if needed. Her Mom, Saloma, was also ready to help out the next week if needed. I didn’t want to leave them in the lurch, but it sounded like they might be okay. Besides . . .

“There is one more thing,” I said. “I’m out of my prescription meds as of Saturday . . .” I was going to say that I could call Certain Man and the people at home and have them send them, but before I could say anything else, my Eldest Son said, very decisively, “Then you are going home on Saturday! That settles it!” And so, with great joy and even a freedom of spirit, I made my plans.

There was one thing, though. That tickle in my throat had continued. I could mostly forget it, but every now and then it would remind me that something was amiss. Then I started sounding like I had a frog in my throat. I had forgotten all about the “bellowing incident” and I kept trying to think what in the world was wrong with me. As is the custom with little children, they like the same book read over and over again, so I was reading that book to Ellie again and came to the bellowing page and was suddenly reminded of what had happened the last time. I was so relieved!!! I finally knew what was wrong with my voice. I was careful not to bellow a bit! And I told my sisters that night that I had finally found out what was wrong with my voice. It was actually funny to me at that point.

Friday morning. Raph and Regina were leaving early for her procedure. I had had a restless night with a bad tickle and some more coughing. I came down in the early morning hours before they left and said, “Do you have any home Covid tests? You know, with leaving tomorrow, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t at least check. I’m sure it isn’t, but in the off case that it is, I guess I shouldn’t fly.” They had one. Regina got it for me and they headed out to the hospital. I didn’t feel like taking it. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I felt grumpy and tired and old. Finally I bestirred myself and did the nasal swab, twirled it in the solution and dropped the mandated drops onto the test strip. I didn’t want to watch, but I couldn’t help seeing that the positive strip turned up before the liquid even reached the test point.

“Oh, no! Maybe that’s why you aren’t supposed to check it for 15 minutes,” I thought. “Maybe I have the strips mixed up and this first one is the control strip. Maybe, maybe, maybe . . .” There was no such maybe. The control strip colored up while the positive only got brighter and brighter. I willed myself not to keep checking it but the enormity of the fix I was in, and the weight of knowing that I had exposed this already vulnerable household to Covid, kept drawing me back to that little white strip sitting on a small ledge beside “my” chair.

It’s funny how things come into your mind at a time like this, but this verse from James kept running through my head, paraphrasing itself as it scrambled about.

James 4:13, NIV: Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to Canton, Ohio, and spend a week there, thinking you are being such a big help! Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’

Well, I knew it was the Lord’s will for me to be there. I had prayed about it, and I was pretty certain He wanted me to go home after a week. But it was pretty plain He didn’t. It’s funny, looking back. I didn’t feel like God was punishing me or even scolding me. I almost felt like He was smiling, and telling me, “Daughter, your work in Ohio isn’t done yet. There are special days ahead. You will be glad that you had five extra days. Hold on, my child. It’s all good!”

And it truly was. The only one of the family who got Covid was little Ellie, and she only had one day of feeling bad. I masked up some, and the boys kept their distance, but when Ellie tested positive two days after me, I stopped worrying. I knew that anyone who was going to get it was truly going to get it from our little fireball. As it turned out, I was very grateful for the extra days. But the rest of the story is for another segment. Stay tuned!

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“I Will Carry You . . .” Part One

I see that it has been over six weeks since I’ve updated this blog. Actually 45 days. There have been many days when I thought that I had to get on here and write everything that has been happening in our lives as a family, and in my life in particular, but there honestly never seemed to be time. There actually doesn’t seem to be time now, but it’s high time I let those of you who have been praying for our family have at least a little glimpse into our lives, and to give grateful praise for the promises that will never fail us. (The rest of you can listen in.) Because of the length of it, I’m going to write it in segments.

After writing that last blog, Deborah developed an infection on one side that has continued to give her trouble. For awhile, it looked like it was going to clear up with antibiotics and extra care. We were even given permission to take her to Ohio for the Yutzy reunion over the weekend of July 31st. Deborah was especially wanting to go because it was the weekend that we were also having her Aunt Lena’s memorial service. It was a lovely time! Deborah traveled out late and came back early and even though it was a stretch for her, she did well! She came back feeling pretty well, and when she saw the doctor that week, she was given permission to take her own showers and comb her own hair! We thought we were on a good track towards recovery. We were wrong.

Every time it looked like things were finally settling down, about the time that she finished a course of antibiotics, and we got hopeful, the next thing you know, here would come the swelling, increased pain, lots of drainage and the incision would start macerating and the stitches would come loose, creating more and more anxiety with each day. Last week her surgeon decided that more surgery was in order, and plans are for her to go back in and have that done this week on Friday, August 26th

Looking back, it would seem that we had enough to think about without adding a single thing to our emotional plates. Our daughter in law, Jessica, dealt with a major flare-up of her stomach disorder shortly before Deborah’s surgery, and that was on our minds as well, and even though it seemed like it was beginning to settle down, there was the ongoing concern for the residual pain left from the earlier damage. Into the middle of this, another issue raised its ugly head.

Our Ohio granddaughter, Ellie, had been dealing with sudden pain in her right leg for some time. She would suddenly stop almost mid-step and cry out and then sob while someone rubbed it for a bit, and then she would go back to being herself. She often walked with a limp, though, and even though it had been checked repeatedly, it was not thought to be anything serious. The hard part was that it would seem to disappear for a time, and then come back for a spell, and then quiet down again. This spring, it came back and seemed to intensify. There were numerous tests done, and it was decided that the lump that had been deemed a cyst needed to be checked out more thoroughly since it seemed that the pain was originating from that cyst. It was so small that the surgeon said that it would be just as invasive to do a biopsy as it would be to remove it and so he did just that. Following the surgery he said that it was a lipoma – nothing to worry about, they would send it to the lab, but he was sure that it was just a lipoma. The aftermath of that surgery was difficult. Ellie was in a lot of pain, and she couldn’t sleep. There was an exhausted, miserable little girl, and equally exhausted parents. A few days later the hospital called and said that they were unable to identify the lump, that they were going to send it to the Mayo Clinic to have it analyzed. They reassured Raph and Regina that they felt it was benign.

That weekend, the three grandsons came to Delaware for a week. What a week it was! This Grammy didn’t know if she was going or coming! Deborah, usually my right hand person when it comes to doing things with the grandsons, was not only incapacitated, she needed my help! Charis had just spent a week with Bontrager cousins and was rather peopled out, and it wasn’t feasible to have Christina help if Charis wasn’t here. There were various activities planned for the week for which Charis joined me and the boys, but Daniel was working and it was a very full week at First State Inspections so he was gone a LOT! Oh, we did things, alright:
I took them swimming in a neighbors beautiful inground pool. Twice or three times.
I took them to the Rehoboth Children’s Theater production of “Puss in Boots.” They were unimpressed. I loved it.
I took them to Bob Evans for lunch. They were keyed up. And I’m not used to the dinner topics of a girl and three boys ages 10. 11. 12 & 13. The Restaurant was short handed, and the wait did not wear well on the restless natives.
I took them to Chuckie Cheeses. They liked it. I didn’t. At least not much.
And then on Thursday, Certain Man took off work and took the three boys and me to Sight and Sound to see “David” and it was a grand time. On the way home, CM stopped and the boys and he played a couple of rounds of miniature golf (and I might have sat in the car with the A/C on and slept).
Friday was a bit of a catch up day for me. The rest of the family was coming in for the weekend and there was food to prepare and stuff to catch up, so I didn’t plan anything major for the boys. So they ran the golf cart and were on the computers and did young men kinds of things until their Uncle Rob and Auntie Rachel came and took over the entertaining until I got supper on.

Somewhere through that afternoon, we had a text from Raph:
“Is there anyway that we can get everyone together tonight? We have something we want to discuss with the family.”

And thus began another saga in the life of our family. Our four-year-old granddaughter, Elise Evelyn, had received a diagnosis on the “cyst, tumor, lipoma, benign (but unknown)” area in her right leg that had been excised the week before.

It was a Synovial Sarcoma.



https://youtu.be/IziBz0d5yOk

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Of Braids and Grace

She was my little girl.

On school mornings, I would comb her brown hair into two pigtails before school, and she always had an opinion. She would feel them gingerly, then hold up her thumb and forefinger and measure from her ear to the braid, then carefully holding the space between her fingers, check the distance from her other ear to the other braid to see if they were the same distance apart. Because I knew that this was going to happen, I would try hard to make sure that they were as even as possible. If they weren’t, she would tug and tug at the one that wasn’t right so that it would be a bit more compliant. I would secretly look at the result and think that the offending braid wasn’t actually moved that much, but it was the principle of the thing! At least she felt better about it.

There came a time, as a fifth grader that she wanted to go to New York City with her Grandpa and Grandma Yoder and decided that she would learn to comb her own hair. She didn’t want to have something as simple as needing someone to comb her hair to prevent her from having an adventure, and though she knew her Grandma would do it, she did not want to have to rely on anyone. And so, she learned.

The years passed. My girlie grew up. She graduated from high school, went to Bible school, went to Bangladesh, and from there set out to travel the world, taking any excuse to go on yet another excursion, independent, brave, and strong. She became an RN, and took a job as a hospice nurse which she has held for over 11 years. She made friends that were loyal, loved the many children in her life, bought land, built a house, loved her church and neighborhood and family with intent and abandon. She grieved the losses of things that mattered to her, and she laid aside her dreams of marriage and children without rancor or bitterness or resentment, though she sometimes cried when choosing what she knew was right over compromise.

She is still my girlie, though she is an adult.

These last weeks have been hard for her. There was the sudden diagnosis of breast cancer, and almost as suddenly, a double mastectomy. She had never been hospitalized, much less had even minor surgery, and the anesthesia and pain meds had a debilitating effect upon her. When she finally got awake enough to realize that she was the only patient left in recovery and that the nurses were staying late because of her, she forced herself to sit up, and then instructed those responsible to get her dressed and get her out of there. She came home nauseated and teary and in so much pain. Somehow the hospital messed up and didn’t get her prescriptions called in as they said they would and there was an anguished gap in some much needed meds. But we made it with some desperate, pleading prayers (with the help of some close, professional friends). The next five days were pretty much as expected but then came the nagging pain in the leg, then the shortness of breath, and then the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis in the leg and pulmonary emboli in both lungs. This time she got admitted to the hospital, and spent two long days trying to find answers, solutions and resolution. It was a holiday weekend, and although her caregivers tried hard, the hospital was understaffed, orders got overlooked and the days were long. It was a huge relief to her to finally come home on Tuesday night to her house, her cat and the familiar.

One of the things that she is not allowed to do is comb her hair. It is hard for her to accept. Her bout with Covid caused her hair to thin, and just when it seemed like things were starting to replenish a bit, she got hit with this surgery and it’s falling out at an alarming rate. There is really nothing she can do about it, and even if there was, she couldn’t do it for herself.

So once again, this Mama is combing her girlie’s hair. I pull the brush as gently as I can through the thin tresses and then I braid it in one lone braid down the back. She never moves to measure distance, but I look at the braid and it isn’t straight. I wonder what she’s thinking. I resist the urge to try to tug it a bit to the right and say, “I don’t know, Deborie-girl. It’s not very straight . . . “

“I know,” she says, matter of factly. And then, as she has said a hundred times over these last two weeks, “It doesn’t matter. It’s fine. Thank you, Mama.” My eyes burn with sudden tears because I know that behind those quiet words is another decision. It does matter. I know it does. But she has decided that anything someone does for her is going to be considered a gift, and she is not going to complain. I pick up the brush and carry it to the bathroom and put it away. I think about courage and strength and love and hard decisions. I think about how hard this could be for us all, including Deborah, if she gave in to the preferences that sit firmly in her OCD’d brain and thank God for Grace extended – to us through her, and to her, through the One who gave her to us in the first place.

You know, It’s a pretty special thing to be able to comb my girlie’s hair. I am glad for this opportunity. I’m so thankful that I can walk this journey with an adult daughter, and have the opportunity to help in any way that I can, even if I don’t always get it right. And I’m glad that she isn’t measuring the distance from her braid to her ear. I would really come up short.

For this, and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise.

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July 4, 2022

  Almost every year for the past 25 years or more, on this particular day, Shady Acres has had a big picnic with friends from church, family, neighborhood and even from afar, gathering to eat, play, and fellowship. There was always the Jones Express, activities for the children as well as the adults, relays and water games and it was hot, with flies and other things that bothered, but it all seemed to be worth it!

Life happens, and the last seven years have taken a toll on Certain Man and Delaware Grammy. There have been so many things to come into consideration and we realize that we aren’t as young as we once were. (Fancy that!) Also, The June days of these last years have held deaths and funerals and health crises and so many unexpected schedule challenges.

This year is no different. We had hoped to have the annual picnic this year until Middle Daughter’s cancer diagnosis and we realized that surgery was going to complicate more than just her life. It was with a great deal of relief, actually, that we realized that the Certain Man and Delaware Grammy were on the same page in their thinking. There was to be no Fourth of July Picnic at Shady Acres this year.

However, I had planned to have a quiet day, and maybe Middle Daughter would have recovered enough from her bilateral mastectomy that she could join us for an afternoon cookout as a family. If not, we could go over to Ambleside Cottage and at least be together as a local family.

Instead, I’m heading for the hospital this morning. Deborah was admitted yesterday with blood clots in both lungs and one in her left leg. She is doing pretty well. She is discouraged, and there has been a lot of pain. Please pray for our girlie. Our Heavenly Father is not surprised by this, and He walks with us. It makes even my darkest valley a place to walk with courage and confidence, and I am so grateful. But it’s hard to see our children suffer (something that has happened to us a lot in the past two years) and if He wasn’t with me? I do not like to even think about it.

So say a prayer for us, but especially for our Deborah Girl. We are so grateful for the love, support and prayers that have been so freely given to us. We need the prayers of those we love and who love us. 

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Oh, Love That Will Not Let Me Go

The first thunderstorm of the season was rolling in on dark skies. I love summer storms. The grandeur of the lightening, the crash of thunder and the smell of spring rain feeds something in my soul. I listened to the wind picking up, and felt like there was something that I should be thinking about in this context, but couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Maybe a sadness creeping in with the usual delight?

It will be two years tomorrow (May 9, 2020) since our beloved Lena, Daniel’s sister, my sister in law and favorite aunt of our children came home to Delaware. We knew something was wrong when she said she would be meeting us at the curb of the airport in a wheelchair. We just didn’t know how wrong things really were. 45 days later, Lena was gone. It was the middle of the pandemic, life was crazy. Sometimes I felt like all of my emotions were put on hold, lost in a sea of the demands of the moment. Our handicapped adult (whose care I could not ignore, and who, because of COVID, could not go to respite) was present 24/7. Lena’s sisters, Ruth and Rachel, came in with their husbands, and her sister in law, Ruby was here as well. Our adult children were here, with the grandchildren, and while everyone needed to be here, I barely had time to think, much less process anything.

Lena loved thunderstorms and in the few weeks before she went to the hospital, she would watch the rain, long for thunder and lightening and have a delighted peace whenever she could experience a storm. In the months and now years that followed her death, every now and then, a summer storm would come through, unleashing a wave of memories and emotions that would threaten to drown me with salt water. Most of the time, it was easy to think that she was just off on one of her jaunts, heading somewhere new with her motor home. But when a storm came through, it was easy to remember how desperately we were missing her.

Our middle daughter, Deborah, had built a special place in her house for Lena to live for the months of the year that she planned to be in Delaware. Lena, a little person, had a bare 6 weeks to enjoy her suite, with lowered light switches, and a handicapped accessible bathroom with built in, slide out risers at the sink. Deborah had also chosen her kitchen appliances to allow Lena to have full access to controls and shelving that she might need. Deborah and Lena often traveled together, and it’s safe to say that Deborah knew her auntie better than any of us, and the loss to her was inestimable. A few weeks ago, Deborah sent me the link to the following song, saying that the song (not necessarily the video) reminded her of Aunt Lena.


I couldn’t listen to this song without tears, as I thought about Lena, and missed her with all her delight in the simple things of life – garden tea, tomatoes, still warm from the garden, rhubarb in almost any form, family, friends, the baby foxes playing in Deborah’s yard in the middle of the nights in May, family card games (when she would unabashedly cheat and even lose to keep someone else from getting a card she knew they needed) Summer thunderstorms, the bigger and louder the better. Deborah shared that love of thunderstorms, and she also felt keenly the emotions of this song.

Little did we know that our Deborah-girl was about to face a tumultuous life storm of her own.

On Friday, May 6, 2022, Deborah was diagnosed with breast cancer.

There have been many reassuring words. “Early,” “non-invasive,” “lots of advances,” (and some that I am not sure about) “not something your die from,” even while they hasten to add, “But we don’t know if there are more, invasive cells that we need to check out . . .”

When she went for her biopsy, they had told her that only 10-20% of the type of calcifications she had were malignant. She decided that she could go alone for the results, and when she texted that it was, in fact, malignant, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Eventually she called me and gave me preliminary results and what it means, and over these last few days, we’ve looked over her reports and tried to get a handle on what is actually going on. It’s so easy at a time like this to overthink, over imagine, over react. And this old Mama has certainly done all the “overs” that are possible. On Friday, I finally decided that I could take the day for lament. That it wouldn’t hurt to cry, to grieve, to be really sad. And then, starting Saturday morning, I could go about the business at hand – that of figuring out the “what” and “How” of all the logistics. I also felt like it was a good time to remember that Deborah had been given to The Father before she was born, that she was a child of promise, and that I didn’t need to let this draw me into the vortex of despair. Deborah herself has given me courage and examples before me the path to peace even while acknowledging that this is hard.

Sometime in the first conversations after she received the diagnosis, she said to me, “You know, Mama, this year, I’ve been choosing a song a month for my theme song for the month, and this month I chose, ‘Oh, Love that will not let me go.’ The words are comforting to me as I think about them and my present situation.” (Listen here: https://youtu.be/TvA6PYa54sg)

I’m so grateful for her attitude, for the people who have prayed for her, for our church family that gathered around her to pray for her this morning, and for an overwhelming sense that Jesus is walking with us. This is hard. We don’t know what the future holds. It looks stormy ahead. I wish I could take it for her. Just so many unknowns.

But this I do know. Deborah is not alone. Each of her siblings have responded to the news with caring and hope and promises to help where needed. Our church family is the best, and they love her, and are already in the trenches with her. She knows the Master of the Wind in this summer storm, and He is in the boat with her, with us.

We covet your prayers. The prayers are still the best gifts! So please, PLEASE! Pray for wisdom, for discernment, for peace, for health and healing, for an eye for joy on the journey, and that our awesome God would be glorified in it all.

And Yes, my heart gives grateful praise!’

Deborah and I today. She captioned this,
“I was six weeks old the first time someone said I looked like my mama. I think it’s more pronounced the older I get. Happy Mother’s Day! @delaware_grammy”

I think she is an improved edition – but she is right about people saying that she looked like me. I was in the well baby clinic at Mt. Carmel Hospital back in early 1980. Deborah was a fussy baby unless she was held around her tummy, her back against me, looking out on her world. I was standing in the waiting area holding her just like that, when a perfect stranger looked at the two of us, did a double take, and then said, “if that baby looks that much like you now, what will she ever look like when she’s all grown up?!?!?!?” I laughed because I honestly did not see it. Even now, I don’t really think about it. She’s my girlie. I have loved her from the minute that I laid eyes on her. I’m so glad that she is ours!

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Julia’s Mission

Julia’s Mission
 The house phone rang into the evening quiet of the farmhouse at Shady Acres. It was my cousin, Julia. I listened to her voice carry over the miles from Virginia. It was tentative with uncertainty underlying the pleasant tenor of her familiar voice. I wondered what was in her heart.

We were planning a family reunion together, and the time was getting closer. The details had come together in usual Yoder fashion, with lots of last minute questions and glitches, and we were drawing a sympathetic sigh of relief that things were finally pretty well finalized, and it looked like everything was going to be okay. Shew!

For Julia, though, the weekend was carrying a significant weight of an unfinished task, left to her nearly two years ago when her mother, my Aunt Mimmie had passed away.

Aunt Mimmie. The youngest of the family of David and Savilla Yoder. Growing up was hard for her, and the deficits that she experienced before coming to Grandpa and Grandma’s house were probably not really understood. She had severe malnutrition resulting in Rickets and she suffered long term effects from the care she hadn’t received as an infant. In spite of being a slow learner in school, she learned how to keep house, cook and was probably the best “ironer” there ever was. She married when she was 20, gave birth to three children in the first five years and then abandoned them and her husband about five years later for a new life in Virginia. D was 9, Julia 7 and E was almost 6. In the chaotic and confusing years that followed, her three children paid dearly for the choices that she made. Their Daddy and other family members tried hard to pick up the slack and fill in the gaps, but nothing was really good enough to compensate for the lack of a loving, present mother in their lives.

Each of the three children have their stories, but Julia is the one that is in my heart. We were not close as children, and there is much that she has chosen to forgive me from our past. Never feeling quite accepted by either her mother’s family nor the church community, Julia stumbled through some devastating adolescent and early adult years searching for resolution of the inner pain and for someone to love her. She moved to Virginia, to her mother’s area, in her twenties, hoping to find a safe place for herself, and also searching for that “someone” who would help her make a stable and nurturing home for herself and her young daughter. 

It was also, in all probability, an attempt to mend the relationship with the mother who had traded so much for so little; a mother who would live the rest of her almost 83 years in those Virginia hills, living in a marginal mountain house with an abusive and alcoholic man for over 30 years, working in a local hospital in Environmental Services for 27 years, then divorcing her second husband to marry someone she met at work.  I am certain that Aunt Mimmie loved her third husband, and that he loved her, but the relationship was complicated and muddled, and frequently there was not enough money.

While there was, of course, increased contact between Julia and Aunt Mimmie, the relationship was anything but satisfactory. Julia, her life back on track, successful in a job, her daughter grown, tried hard to understand her mother, providing groceries and essentials in those last years, but always feeling like there was so much more needed. The animosity between them was almost tangible, leaving both of them on edge and caustic.  There were times when Julia brought her mother along to Delaware for a family reunion or the death of a sibling, and they would stay with us. My heart often broke for Julia as I observed her mother’s unkindness towards her. I remember saying to someone following one of those visits, “I just do not understand why Aunt Mimmie is so resentful of Julia! It’s almost as if she is hoping that Julia will fail. And not just hoping, but trying to make it happen. It doesn’t make any sense to me. She should be so proud of how Julia has redeemed the wasted years of her life!” But it appeared that she wasn’t, and I watched with deep sadness how Julia gave up hope of ever having a relationship with this highly irregular person who had given her birth. She formed a protective shell that kept the hurt at bay, and invested in her husband and daughter and grandson, even while doing what she felt was her duty– picking up groceries, sometimes paying bills, checking up on her well-being. And Aunt Mimmie kept getting older and older.

Then, in 2019, Aunt Mimmie fell ill and in late December, less than two weeks shy her 83rd birthday, she passed away, leaving a final instruction for Julia. “Scatter my ashes on the old home place in Delaware where I grew up,” she insisted on more than one occasion, “I want to be back home.”

So after the memorial service, the attractive box came to Julia, who had promised. She promptly wrapped it up and stuck it on a closet shelf. “Every time I open that closet door,” she confided to me one time, “I say, ‘I know you’re in here, Mama!!!” She said it with a self conscious little laugh, but it actually weighed heavily on her. Our extended family was supposed to have a gathering at the old home place in September of 2020, and early on, Julia expressed a desire to have a bit of a memorial and scatter the ashes at that time. Bit COVID happened, and the reunion got rescheduled for a year later. This was where we were at last. September, 2021.  The reunion was held in Dover, 30 miles north of the farm, with no plans to do a memorial and scatter the ashes. However, Julia needed to finish this chore, and she said that she was going to bring them along.

“I think,” she told my younger sister, Alma (who, along with her husband Jerrel, has lived on the home place for over 35 years) “that I’m just going to drive by and throw them out as I go past.”

Alma did not think this was the greatest idea. “It’s kinda creepy to me,” she told me later, “to think that Aunt Mimmie’s ashes might be anywhere, blowing around the property.” I was pretty sure that Julia had no intentions of actually doing that, but I also thought that something wasn’t right. I decided to talk to her about it the next time that we talked and ask her if she wanted me to go with her after the reunion to spread her mother’s ashes. It didn’t seem like it was the sort of thing anyone should have to do alone. This is what was feeding the uncertainty in her voice when she called me. I brought it up and made my offer, she readily accepted, and we began to plan.

The reunion was a wonderful time! There was incredible food, a rousing outdoor auction, good fellowship and wonderfully reminiscent singing. All the stuff that good family reunions are made of. It was over at noon on Sunday, and Julia and I planned to go in the later afternoon to honor Aunt Mimmie’s last request. We came home, Julia took a short rest, but she was restless, and I sensed that she was “dreading the doing, but anxious to have it done.” There didn’t seem any good reason to delay.  We had agreed that we wanted “Amazing Grace” piped in from the car stereo and that a prayer would be said.

We collected gloves, the box and and set out. I was scarcely down the road when I heard Julia weeping in the passenger’s seat. The heartbroken words came tumbling over each other so interspersed with the sobs that I could barely understand them. I looked over at my cousin and thought about what it would be like to be doing this one final chore for someone so significant as a mother with so many bad memories and nearly alone. I heard the anguish in her voice and it sounded to me like the voice of her little brother, sitting under the open window of a classroom at Greenwood Mennonite School, some 50 years ago. “I want my mommy,” sobbed the confused, abandoned little boy. “I want my mommy!” But that mommy was never there for him again. She came to his funeral when he drowned at 17, but it was too late.

I looked at my beautiful cousin, weeping, crumpled on the seat beside me, and thought of a song that had been rattling around in my head so often in recent weeks and I asked her if I could put it on.  I said to her, “This may apply more for your Daddy than your Mama, but it’s also for you . . . “
https://youtu.be/BCc7TCmKcwQ
(Excerpt) “ . . . ‘Cause there’s a wound here in my heart where something’s missing
And they tell me that it’s gonna heal with time
But I know you’re in a place where all your wounds have been erased
And knowing yours are healed is healing mine

The only scars in heaven, they won’t belong to me and you
There’ll be no such thing as broken, and all the old will be made new
And the thought that makes me smile now, even as the tears fall down
Is that the only scars in heaven are on the hands that hold you now

I know the road you walked was anything but easy
You picked up your share of scars along the way
Oh, but now you’re standing in the sun, you’ve fought your fight and your race is run
The pain is all a million miles away . . .” 


She listened and sobbed quietly and then the song finished and the sobbing settled into an occasional sniffle. She talked about life with her Mama the last few miles, then we pulled in to the long farm lane leading back to the ditch bank at the edge of the first farm field of the old home place. 
I parked the minivan, started Amazing Grace on the speakers, turned them up high, and together we went to the back of the van, donned gloves, carried the decorative box across the autumn weeds to a rise in the ditch bank, and surveyed the area. I looked questioningly at my red-eyed cousin. 

“I think this is far enough,” she said simply, and I agreed. I pulled the surprisingly heavy bag from the box and looked at Julia. Neither of us quite knew what to do next. Untie the ribbon? Who should do what? The bag that held the earthly remains of a person we knew and loved weighed like dark wet sand in my hands.
 
“Do you want to hug her one more time?” I asked impulsively, and held it out to her. 
“Oh, Mama!” Cried Julia, and wrapped it to her chest and wept again.  Then we opened the bag and together, broadcasted handfuls of ashes into the quiet September evening until the bag was nearly empty. Somewhere behind us the strains of “Amazing Grace” were echoing sweetly. We emptied the remaining ashes into the weeds at our feet, a prayer was said, and Julia said, “Rest in peace, Mama. I’ve done what I promised you I’d do . . .”

And she had!  The relief was tangible, the freedom was remarkable. The spot in the closet was empty and the cloud was gone. It took courage and commitment and determination . . . And she wrapped it up in forgiveness and put it away, somewhere in the corner of her memory and heart, and when she takes it all out to remember, it is my prayer that she could hear her Mama say in her heart, the words she never heard in her life, “You done good, Julia-girl. I surely do love you!”

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Yutzy Family Christmas letter, 2021

First photo, Grandpa and Grammy with the Grandchildren-
Charis (12) (beside Grandpa)
Franklin (10) (in front of me) Liam (11) & Simon (12)
Ellie (in front of Liam) and Stella (both 4)

Second Photo:
Back Row- Lemuel, Christina, Jesse, Regina & Raphael
Front Row, Deborah, Jessica, Rachel & Rob

As I said to our families, “Some of you have gotten this, and some of you haven’t–
and some don’t really care!
For those of you who do, here is our family Christmas Letter and Photo Card”

Dear Family and Friends,                                                                                                                                             December 25, 2021               
                It’s Christmas Day all over the world! What Good News to a world that needs good news today as much as any time in history, “Unto you is born . . . A Savior!” To this truth, we have given our very lives, and we believe it today as firmly as we ever have.
                This letter is late, but it has been incredibly sweet to receive Christmas cards and pictures from many of you in these past few weeks. The cards are inspiring and precious, the faces are dear, and when there is a personal note or letter? That’s just icing on the cake! Thank you each and every one who have remembered us.
                There is some really BIG news for us as a couple that has truly defined this year in exciting and unexpected ways. We ended 2020 with both of us, (as well as our handicapped adult, L) sick with COVID. Daniel & I recovered fairly well, although there were days when I wondered if I was going or coming. Bursitis had settled into my hip, I had some other health issues, but L needed care, even when my own vitals were worse than hers. It was in those hard and lonely days that I felt strongly that my 35-year career as a care provider was coming to an end. I had a strong sense that I had God’s word to me on it, that it would happen soon, and that when it happened, no one would miss that it was HIM and no one else that did it. The story is a very long one, and I’m not at liberty to tell it all, but following her extended bout with COVID, L had a stroke, ended up in the hospital for about 6 weeks, and was then admitted to a long-term care facility near her mother and sisters in upstate Delaware. The move, the timing, the place, the 24-hour care, and a whole lot more were all part of a miracle. She had only eight months to be near her mother, to have whatever visitation was allowed, and to be as comfortable physically as was possible. We didn’t know it then, but her journey was almost over, and on November 21st, she went quietly into the presence of Jesus. She was a part of our family for over 21 years, and she taught me Life Lessons that often stopped me in my tracks and refined me in ways that nothing else could have, and I’m grateful for the years we had with her. I’m also glad that her suffering is now over. We miss her quiet presence in the corner of our little room off the kitchen. Through most of the year 2020, she was here 24/7, and I seldom left her. I sometimes still think in terms of arranging care for her, and have dreams about being somewhere and thinking that she is still at home, and I haven’t gotten her up, showered, dressed, fed and medicated. (“Oh, dear! Poor L!!! I need to get back home right now!!!”) It’s disconcerting! However, the ensuing months have proven that the timing of her leaving was nothing but a “God Thing” as the events of this year have unfolded.
                For the first time in almost 46 years, Daniel and I find ourselves alone without another dependent human being in our care, either foster child, our own children, or one, two or three handicapped adults. It’s more than a little strange to suddenly be free to do things together, to pick up and go if we want to. I am no longer responsible to another authority for time spent, medications given, classes taken, appointments met, daily documentation done, monthly paperwork and reports for case managers, state nurses, and support personnel submitted, and it feels really good! To both of us! One night in particular was pivotal in our understanding. I was getting something ready to take to a young family in our church and giving Daniel instructions about the delivery, when we suddenly looked at each other and realized that I could go, too! And I did! The realization gave us an almost heady sense of freedom!
                Even in the things this year that were not easy or what we wanted, there has been reassurance over and over again that God went before and freed up my time to do things that would never have been possible. In February, Daniel was on the chicken house roof and slipped on some ice and slid to the ground, suffering a couple of compression fractures in his vertebrae (Lumbar #1 and Thoracic #12). He didn’t need surgery (thankfully!) and it could have been so much worse, but it has impacted Daniel’s usual busy moving about and strong-arming just about anything he wants to. The pain is real, and it does haunt him still, sometimes worse than others, and he has learned that there are some things that he just shouldn’t do. That doesn’t necessarily stop him, (although it should!) but I am free to help and to spend time with him, and we are both learning a new normal.
                Daniel has been recruited often for sundry jobs in the plumbing industry since his retirement. He really didn’t want to go back to running his own business and even more, knew it wasn’t wise to take a job that required daily, physical labor. However, in the early summer, he was asked to help out at a local private inspection agency and after much thought, and discussing it with each of his five children (“Dad, if it’s what you want to do, go for it!” was the unanimous response) he agreed to help out part time. He has proven to be a valuable employee to First State Inspections, and has enjoyed it very much. He works 3-4 days most weeks, sometimes less, occasionally more, and has procured a Maryland license as well so that he is more useful to the company. I like him to be home, but I also enjoy seeing his interest in the contacts that he makes and the places he gets to see as he travels up and down the coast.
                We enjoyed a Mark Yoder Family reunion this summer, held at the farm that belonged to my grandfather, then my father, and now belongs to my sister, Alma, and her husband, Jerrel Heatwole, Sr. It was a most gratifying time for me. The memories of being a child on those very acres, and spending time that day with all of our children and grandchildren, all of my brothers and sisters, and many of our nieces and nephews, made me feel peaceful and happy. I was reminded of how good a childhood our Daddy and Mama provided for us, and how they lived their faith before us in ways that impacted us. We cannot really know how much they sacrificed for us, but the older I get, the more I understand how important the values are that they taught us, and how they must have felt as they watched us grow into adulthood. They weren’t perfect, (they never claimed to be) but they were safe to follow, and they loved us. I am grateful for Daddy’s prayers and Mama’s nurture and for the memories that are always with me.
                After the reunion, our three Ohio grandsons; Si, Liam, and Frankie (now 12, 11 & 10) spent about another week between here in Delaware and Washington, DC. One day we took our oldest granddaughter, Charis, (12) and the three boys to the Sight and Sound production of “Esther.” We had such a happy day, and the production was so good that we hope to take them to see next year’s production of “David” when, if plans carry, they spend another week on the east coast. What a time to look forward to!
                Daniel & I had been planning a trip up through the New England States for some time, and on Saturday, September 18th, when the chickens were finally gone and the local things arranged, we headed out. It was a magnificent time! We headed west, stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania the first afternoon, and got to Raph and Gina’s that evening. We spent a happy Sunday and Monday there, and left Tuesday morning, stopped in Solon, Ohio, for a delightful breakfast with Daniel’s youngest aunt, Esther Zeitz. She not only made the breakfast but sent us on with fortifications for our trip! Later that day, we got to Waterloo, NY, and spent two nights with Rachel (Daniel’s sister) and Ivan Zehr. There we had supper invitations to the homes of two of their children, and met members of the family that we had never seen. From there, we revisited Boldt Castle on the St. Lawrence Seaway (a place we visited on our honeymoon over 48 years ago, and have followed the renovations since by stopping whenever we are in the area). While there, we got to witness a wedding on the lawn of the beautifully refurbished estate. The happy days seemed to run together after that—we visited the Almanzo Wilder Homestead, stopped on whim at the spectacular High Falls Gorge near Wilmington, NY, crossed Lake Champlain by ferry 3X! (It wasn’t planned, but it was still fun!) and stopped at covered bridges in Vermont and New Hampshire. We took a canoe portage trail near Leed, Maine to see an impressive, turbulent section of the Androscoggin’s River, then headed to Bar Harbor where we took an afternoon cruise on a 151-foot Schooner, the Margaret Todd. We took various scenic routes in our travels in hopes of seeing a moose in the wild, but there were none to be seen, much to Daniel’s disappointment. We visited the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory (and YES! I did go up to the top of that 447-foot monster and actually “observed”). We stopped at Historical Fort Knox and wandered around those sobering grounds for several hours, then headed out to see if we could find a “Fresh Maine Lobster” for a Certain Man. We found exactly that at a dubious looking place in Belfast. Young’s Lobster Pound plucked a living lobster from one of their watery crates and cooked it to perfection. Daniel was delighted with it and I enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder that had more clam in it than was necessary. From there we made our way on towards Massachusetts. We considered stopping in Salem to learn more about the witch trials, but the town was overrun by people, so we went on to Lexington where we visited the Minuteman National Historical Park. We walked one of the trails and then went to the North Bridge at Concord, where “The Shot That Was Heard Around the World” was fired on April 19, 1775. The bridge is modest and the grounds uncluttered and peaceful. The stories there, both told and untold, gave us a quiet sense of awe. Then it was back on the road again. All along the way, we stopped whenever there was a lighthouse that was accessible. By day or by night, these New England wonders drew us in and we were always glad. We stopped at an old timey diner in Woonsocket, Rhode Island on the next to the last day of our trip, had an impressive amount of food for an equally surprising small bill, and found our last hotel. Which is also a matter requiring some attention. We slept in some chain motels that were surprisingly good and others that were disappointing. We also slept in out of the way, little places that were absolutely enchanting. We made careful note of those because we really want to go back again. Will we go? We certainly plan to, because one of the places we had planned to see on this trip was Prince Edward Island, but it took almost an act of Congress to get into Canada, so we gave it up. In the months since, we’ve made new friends, Tim and Nancy Jacob and their family, who live in New Brunswick, Canada, and we want to visit them and P.E.I. before too many more years pass. But God knows our future, and we will see what happens.
                Our children and grandchildren continue to give us much joy, as well as cause for prayer. Christina, Jesse and Charis still live down the road from us and we see them often. Jesse still works for Burris Logistics, Christina is a homemaker, Charis, a 7th grade student. Deborah is across the woods and is still a hospice nurse. She has done an impressive lot with plants and landscaping this year around her lovely home, Ambleside Cottage. Raph and Regina are still in Canton, Ohio. Regina is working part time at NuCamp as a receptionist while Raph is enjoying his promotion to Customer Experience Manager at the same business. The boys and Ellie (now 4) are growing and the personalities are diverse and interesting. Lem and Jessica have continued to work from home (in DC, at the same jobs as last year) while coping with Jessica’s serious health issues. A rare stomach disorder has taken a toll on the Jessica we knew, but in the last few months, there has been a marked improvement, giving us hope for better days ahead. Their little Stella, (also now 4) started preschool in September, and loves it. Rachel and Rob rented their own place (also in DC) this summer. Rachel continues as a therapist and Rob is working on his Masters’ degree. The two of them came for our annual cinnamon roll baking day, and Rob helped me roll, cut, fill, and bake, while Rachel got to help with one of her favorite childhood jobs- that of helping her Daddy deliver the finished product to neighbors, friends, and family. It was our best day ever for cinnamon rolls!
                This year has been full of lots more, but my page is full, and I’m going to quit. We trust your Christmas had meaning, and that Hope for the New Year warms your heart and gives you courage! And in the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, Everyone!”
                We send our love.  
                Daniel & Mary Ann

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