Tag Archives: family living

Six weeks Gone

Six weeks ago today, we had a funeral.

Today was the day when I keenly felt the absence of my confidant and sharer of tidbits of information and answerer of questions from other generations and giver of family opinions and general exclaimer over adventures.

Today I missed my Sweet Mama.

I looked  at a picture of my cousin and his new wife at the wedding of his son, and felt a sudden lurch in my heart.  For there, I suddenly saw my Grandpa Yoder’s face.  At least it seemed like the likeness was so strong.  I started to go to get the phone.  I wanted Mama to check in on her computer and look at the pictures of this happy day and tell me what she thought.

“Don’t you think Jon looks an awful lot like Grandpa Yoder in that picture?”  (She would have said she didn’t know — Maybe, a little bit –.)

“Isn’t Stephen’s wife beautiful?  Did Aunt Gladys tell you how they met?  It’s too bad that Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys couldn’t go for the wedding, but were they able to watch it online?” (Then we would have discussed the current health issues and travel issues and such –.)

“I thought her dress was so pretty.” (And we would have to discuss the colors and the bridesmaid dresses and the location and — well, just all of that–.)

Do you know when Robert and Michelle’s baby is due?  Has Aunt Gladys said?”  (And then we would have talked about how many grandchildren Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys have.)

And then I would have had to detail the wedding of Laura Jones and Seth Fair if she hadn’t been able to be there.  She would have wanted to know every detail, down to what was worn by the mothers and grandmothers.  She would have enjoyed hearing what we had to eat, and how beautiful Laura was, and how Seth struggled for composure when she walked down the aisle.  She would  have wanted to know how her grandson, Josh Slaubaugh did with the ceremony and how grandson Christopher Yoder and his wife Alicia and Laura’s cousin’s husband, Lee Sverduk, did with the music.  And it would have been such a happy report all around.

But she isn’t here.  And in the words of my friend, Lynn Lee, “No one wants to hear my ‘stories’ anymore.”

I realize that there are people who would listen, and be at the ready for me to call them and talk — but no one listened to me like she did.  No one enjoys the stories like she did.  And I don’t really want to tell them to anyone else.  For years, I’ve tried to grasp details of the places I go and the people I see, thinking that she would enjoy them so much.  I would try to stock up so she would feel almost like she had been there.  I thought I was doing all that  for her.

Tonight, I know that isn’t  altogether true.

I was doing it for me, too.

Tonight, I try to keep the salt water out of the pie dough and determine, in vain, not to think.

But the evening closes in, and all that I can think is, “How dark it is without her.”


Filed under Dealing with Grief

Fourth Sunday

It is Sunday afternoon.  Mama’s bird is singing in the sun room.  I collapsed on my chair, the exhaustion of the week caught up with me and I slept a restless sleep.  The music that is playing quietly is Classical Lullabies by Fisher Price, and Certain Man is kicked back in his lazy-boy, sleeping soundly.  He came down with a bad cold and sore throat and needs the sleep even more than I do.  Lena is quietly here, doing something on her computer.  Middle Daughter is sleeping, getting ready for an evening shift with Delaware Hospice.  Youngest Daughter is in Chicago, believe it or not, spending time learning to know one of her daddy’s cousin and his family, Dan and Heather Yutzy and their precocious five year old, Kiran.  Rachel actually went to Chicago for the bachelorette party for her friend, Anna, whose wedding is coming up in a few weeks, but it has been a grand week for God happenings, and this Mama gives grateful praise.

I am just ready to head out to Country Rest Home.  My brother, Nel and his wife, Rose, arrived yesterday and have been helping to fill in the gaps.  Mama’s sister, Alma Jean Yoder, from Harrisonburg, Virginia, caught a ride to Delaware last evening, and her helping hands have already filled in some gaps for us.  It is pretty much the same there for our Sweet Mama.  Sometimes it feels like these days just run together with almost no variation except decline.

Early in this journey, one Sunday morning, while I sat by her bed in the hospital, she reached for my hand and spoke life giving words of love to me that I’ve needed for some time.  I always have known that my Mama loved me, but this last year has been hard for her and us all, and there were many times when it felt like the filters were gone and things were said that would set me back on my heels.  Sometimes when it was time to travel the miles to her house, I would ask the Father for the garment of praise and for wisdom to understand what it was that was best for my Mama, for I knew that she always could tell when something was bothering me and she hated it terribly when she thought I was sad.

“Mary Ann,” she would sometimes say with her eyes all pleading, “Have I been a good girl?”  Often this was after one of her more strident declarations, or actions that were out of character for her. How I hated that question that put me fully in the place of being the parent, while my heart still begged to be her child.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that she needed to stop driving.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that she needed a wheelchair or a walker.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that her days of self medicating were over.

“Everytime you come,” she said earlier this year, “you take something else away from me!!!” And she burst into tears.  Mama almost never cried, and it wrenched my heart as I struggled to know the difference between what was okay, what was negligence and what risks were acceptable.  I almost never laid down the law (we don’t do that with our Mama) but tried to negotiate what she was willing to live with and what she wasn’t.

And now she is suffering so much.  She moves so restlessly on the bed that has been her “home” in these last ten days, no longer asking to go home, not asking me to take her home with me.  She hasn’t spoken my name since Wednesday, and that is okay.  I don’t ask her because I don’t want her to have to think that hard.  I remember her words of love and I am comforted.  How I wish I could fix this for her.  I wish I could transform her into the healthy, young vibrant Mama of my youth, bring back the good, good times, the dancing eyes, the music, the love of beauty and the strong body.  These are the memories that we have of this brave, indomitable woman who is our mama.

But even if I couldn’t bring back the body the way it once was, today I’d give almost anything just to have her be the Mama.


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Keeping us guessing!

Well, she’s done it again!

Yesterday she was much improved over the day before.  She was awake — watchful, hungry some of the time, wanting water, wanting to get off her back, wanting to know how she got there, wanting to know if she was going home with me, wanting to go to her home, wondering how she was ever going to get up on the bus– interspersed with some very interesting proclamations (“God loves a cheerful giver!!!”).  So yes, she didn’t sleep nearly as much yesterday — but still not remembering a lot of stuff, very confused at times, and others quite with it.  Her family doctor came in yesterday and took out the stitches that should have come out ten days ago — (we haven’t seen her orthopedic guy since she had the heart attack in the hospital,  which was 17 days ago) — and she rallied to his presence like someone turned on a light, causing him to proclaim that she needed to work hard to get better so she could go back to her house and her bird!  This morning she doesn’t remember that he was there . . .

Frankly, we are so confused as a family.  Our Deborah, who is our household’s resident hospice nurse, tells us that this is not unusual — that there often are good days spaced between the bad.  So we don’t know if this is just a temporary spike or if it is a trend.  Whew!  It’s a roller coaster!

My youngest sister, Alma spent the night and she said that she had a good night.   Middle Sister, Sarah’s family is coming in for the weekend, and we want her to be able to enjoy them.  All my brothers and sisters gave me such an incredible gift last weekend to be able to be with my family even while keeping up with what happened with Mama, and I would like for her to be able to have the same privilege.  Nel and his wife, Rose were to go to Canada next week on a yearly vacation, but they have decided to stay home and come to Delaware instead.  This is a great comfort to us local siblings.  It will be nice to have them here.  Please continue to pray for us — for wisdom and courage and patience.

And that is the news from a sunny corner room at Country Rest Home, where our Merciful, Loving Heavenly Father keeps watch with us and only He knows what this day holds.  We choose to trust Him.

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When Plans change

I want to sit a little longer in my chair.  The breeze is blowing in the side window, and everything is so quiet.  All our Littles have given big hugs, collected their flip flops and belongings, and been safely strapped into their respective car seats and boosters and shouted their good-byes.  All my adult children that are “spoused” have packed their cars, hugged their Daddy and Momma and their sibs and in-laws and driven out of the lane on their way back to their normals.

It has been a bitter sweet weekend.  We had planned to go to Pennsylvania to Copeland Lodge (http://copelandspring.com/) for five days this week (Wednesday to Sunday) for our biennual family vacation.  Ten bedrooms, lots of bathrooms, big kitchen and great room — everything just so right for a family our size.  Daniel’s sister, Lena, was going to be with us, so that made a grand total of 15 in the lodge.  Eldest Daughter, Christina, had carefully planned and the rest had marshalled around her to help with food and expenses and activities.  I could hardly contain myself, I was so excited.  We had arranged care for OGA and BL, and time away in a neutral turf without home responsibilities sounded so wonderful.

Then Sweet Mama fell, broke her femur, had surgery, developed pneumonia, had a heart attack, developed a secondary infection and eventually came home from the hospital under the care of Hospice to a sunny corner room at the Country Rest Home where there would be care for her broken leg, and comfort for her remaining days.  Our children offered me the option of not going to Pennsylvania, but rather a “stay-cation” where everyone would come home and we would do the best we could while here at home.  I could almost feel the anxiety drain from my body as I discovered that this was not the offer of only one of our kids, but every single one of them, along with the three in-laws.  I gratefully took the offer.  It gave me the opportunity to be close enough to keep in touch, and my siblings graciously freed me up from having to be responsible for what happened with Mama for these five days.

And so, we’ve had some happy, happy times together.  Some of the stuff they did without me.  Some of the time they cheerfully held the edges of stuff together for me with Audrey and Linda and together, we just kept things going.  There was a middle of the night call as Mama went into crisis, and then daily visits and catching up with calls and texts.  I was so glad I was here, and could be involved in these critical days, even while others carried the brunt of the burden. The whole intensity of the situation felt so different than it would have from four hours away.

There was a time, Thursday night, when we did not think Mama would live through the night.  I spoke to my brother, Clint, and asked him to come.  Mark spoke to Nel and Rose and told them they should come, as well.  Mama took one look at her oldest son and things were immediately better.  When Nel got in the next morning, she went into a quiet sort of waiting that was much easier for us to handle.  And while she is not getting better, there is a peacefulness that is wonderful to see. However, though things are not as critical as they were, she does continue to deteriorate.  Clint left to go home to South Carolina around noon, and Nels plan to leave in the morning.  The four youngest of Mama’s children will see this through.  I’m so glad that Clint and Nel and Rose came.  Mama’s most lucid moments were for them this weekend, and their memories will be far better than we had hoped when we asked them to come home.  The days ahead look uncertain and difficult, but we are not alone, and we have incredible support from our families and the extended families.

And I am free to be more involved again.  Once again, having Lena here, having Rachel home, and having Deborah’s familiarity with our house routine and good help are blessings of no small measure.  There is much for which to be thankful.
And so, though our family  may not have had the vacation that we had hoped to have, I believe that we still have had the very best that these days could have afforded under the circumstances.

. . . and my heart gives grateful praise.

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Of Laundry Lights and Wifely Plights and Husband’s Might

The light in our laundry room has been intent on driving me crazy!  For about a year it has been unreliable just often enough to make me threaten it and even sometimes whack it a time or two with a wooden spoon.  Following such displays of power, it usually would straighten up and fly right for a while.  But increasingly, over the last few months, it has not responded to authority.  I have stood at the light switch and turned it off and on and off and on for great lengthy sessions of gentle persuasion, and until just before the New Year, it would eventually come on.  But alas, I seem to have lost my touch.  Certain Man never needed “The Touch” it seemed.  Have any of you ever noticed how things work properly for the man of the house?  And malfunction with annoying regularity when they are nowhere to be found?

A few weeks ago marked a change in the light’s entire demeanor and attitude.  We had a few days of dimming and brightening, then some of that dreadful buzz, and finally NOTHING.  I don’t know about the rest of you,  but I really cannot function without a light in my laundry room.  I complained loudly and lengthily  mentioned it to Certain Man, and he found the sudden (!) demise unacceptable, too.  However, it chose to go out at an inopportune time and there was interference to fixing it, due to schedules and weekends, etc.. So I hauled a spare lamp in from the family room, put a nice, bright replacement bulb into it and “made do” with what I had.

Certain Man took the light apart and peered about at the innards of the receptacle.  He determined that there were some serious problems with the mechanism, but also that one of the long bulbs was burnt out.  He stood at the door of the laundry room and weighed his options.

“I think I will go into ACE Hardware and see what they have for a replacement light,” he finally decided.  “I can buy replacement bulbs for this one and it would probably work, but maybe not right.  I kinda’ think I would be happier with replacing the light.”

I was okay with whatever he decided.   I was sure that it would result in illumination of my laundry room, and I didn’t much care how he did it as long as it got done.  He went out  and came trudging back with two new light bulbs.  ACE Hardware didn’t have any replacement lights that pleased him.  He put the new bulbs in, tried the switch, and lo! And behold!  LIGHT!  I was ecstatic.  But he wasn’t.  He said, “We are going to have to replace that light.  It just has too much wrong with it.  I have a gift card to Lowes.  Maybe I will run in there one of these days and see what they have.”

A few days later, he came home with a box from Lowes that said “florescent ceiling lamp” on it.  I wondered whether he would put it up, or if he just had it on reserve in case he suddenly needed it.  But then the light in the laundry room started acting up again.  It was taking its sweet time about coming on, and when it did come on it was  sometimes dim.

“I don’t know, Sweetheart,”  I said to him the other day.  “That light in the laundry room isn’t acting right.  It takes a while to come on and its just not right somehow.”

“I know,” he said, looking thoughtful.  “I guess I am just going to have to change it.”

Over the next few days, I thought about it occasionally, especially when I moved the box to get something out of the closet in the entryway.  It honestly didn’t bother me very much.  Certain Man has been operating with four stitches in one finger, has gotten new chickens, and has been especially busy with deacon calls because of the extreme cold and Christmas and PEOPLE.   (He has also been dealing with a beleaguering weariness that troubles me, though I do think that some late night watching of his favorite sport, FOOTBALL, and in particular, his beloved Buckeyes, could have something to do with that.) But I knew he would get it done sometime.  Besides, once this faulty light was on, it did a fairly good job.

Then yesterday, I spent the day on Audrey, and besides that, pretty much just did what had to be done to get laundry washed, dried, folded and put away.  I went to bed before Certain Man finished watching those Buckeyes win their game.  This morning, I headed for Greenwood to pick up my Sweet Mama.  She had a dentist appointment, needed to get her glasses repaired following a bad fall at church over a week ago, and wanted to look for a new recliner for the one she has that is literally “letting her down on the side.”  We ate lunch and then I flew into Boscov’s to exchange some things from Linda’s’ Mother and sisters from Christmas.  Then I took Mama back home, filled her med box, went through some mail, stopped some things off at my Aunt Freda’s for my mama, and then came home to Shady Acres.

The house was unusually dark.  I peered through the dark laundry room, through the dark kitchen, on to the dark family room.  Middle Daughter was in her father’s recliner, listening to music with Blind Linda.

“Whew!  It sure is dark in here!” I said as I came into the dark kitchen and flipped on a few lights.  “Where’s Dad?”

“I don’t know.  I haven’t seen him,” said Middle Daughter.  She seemed unconcerned.

“His truck is in the pavilion,” I said.  “I saw it when I pulled into the lane.”  I went out to check, and he was in the truck, talking to his sister. He seemed uninclined to talk to me, so I wandered back in and went to trade my boots for my sandals.  I heard him come in.

“Where’s Mom?” I heard him ask Middle Daughter.

“I don’t know.  She was here–”

“I’m here,” I said, coming around the corner.

They were both looking at me with “the look.”  (I hate that look.  It means I missed something very important.)

“You didn’t even notice, did you?” Questioned my long suffering spouse.  “The light?”

“”I had all the lights turned off so she would turn it on,” said Deborah, “But she came on in and never even noticed.”

I turned to see the laundry room flooded with light.  A clean, new, gorgeous efficient light was shedding a wonderful clear light all over the room, giving it a whole new brightness.

And I was properly grateful and delighted and grateful and delighted, and said so over and over because, in truth, I WAS!


And my heart gives grateful praise for a husband who looks so well to the ways of this household.  I am so blessed.

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Filed under Stories from the Household of CM & CMW, Uncategorized

A Delmarvalous Giveaway from an Oregon Author

The books came in my mail at the beginning of a week that had just climaxed with the memorial service for my sister in law, Frieda.  I was more than ready for a diversion.  The dishes sat, unwashed in the sink.  There was laundry to fold and company extras to put away.  I sat in my chair and held the book like a precious gift.

Displaying ds.fotc.cover.jpg

And so, I read.  I laughed.  I cried.  I snagged Certain Man and read to him about heartache and infertility and redemption and adoption and weddings and families committing to going ahead with joy when the Locusts have eaten so much — too much, claiming the promise that is in Joel 2:25.  We sat quiet and reminiscent and full of realization of what God has done for our own family.

I finally had to put it away so I could get something done in my house, but the first opportunity found me at it again.  Youngest Daughter was home from College and I snagged her and read to her about Grandma’s indignation over those “unfaschtandich Beatles!” while we both laughed and laughed.  Then Eldest Daughter got drawn into the story about the Californian wine maker who pronounced Dorcas a “beautiful woman” and produced a plastic recorder and played a song.  Just for her. Under very unusual circumstances.  Again, the words were rich, the mind pictures inescapable, and the mirth was warm and companionable.

“Hey Jesse,” shouted Oldest Daughter to her long suffering spouse in the next room.  “How come you never played a song, just for me, on your recorder?”

Of course, this produced great bewilderment on the part of Beloved Son in Law, and we had to explain all about Dorcas Smucker’s new book.

Explain about Dorcas Smucker’s new book.  Well, that is kinda’ what I am trying to do right now.  Even if you haven’t grown up conservative Mennonite, or raised a big family while trying to keep family values and traditions intact, you cannot help but relate to this honest and transparent account of a Mama who tries to do it “right” — whether that is relating to adult children who haven’t made choices that she is comfortable with, or teenage daughters trying to make cookies without help, picking berries with reluctant helpers, giving gifts that people “ought to want,” being a daughter to aged and independent parents, being a sister in law to a family that doesn’t know how to tell stories, traveling across the globe in world — and mind–and heart stretching experience, and the list goes on and on.

The thing I love is that in all of this, Mrs. Smucker’s heart comes through.  I haven’t begun to touch on the subjects that are covered in this book of  183 pages and 35 stories, divided into five sections.  So great for those of us who find that we need some stopping places sometimes — and for those of us whose reading preference is short stories.

Just so you know, Dorcas.  You really do know how to tell a story “right.” (And for those of you who haven’t already perused her blog, you can find those rightly told stories here:  www.dorcassmucker.blogspot.com.)

And so, I’m giving away a copy of Mrs. Smucker’s new book.  Just leave me a comment (if you can’t manage a comment, then leave your name as a comment– although an honest to goodness comment is going to warrant TWO entries)  HERE.  On my blog.  In the comments section.  (A comment on Facebook won’t count!)  and I will draw a winner by Monday, November 17, 2014 and attempt to send it out on Tuesday morning.

If you don’t wish to wait to see if you win a book, or if you don’t win and want one, here is the information from the publisher:
Footprints on the Ceiling is available for $15 per book, postage included.  You can mail a check to Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.  US addresses only.  To order a copy for Canada or overseas, email Dorcas at dorcassmucker@gmail.com.

The book is also available from amazon:


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