0Summer came on Father’s Day this year, and our nation was bathed in tears for yet another senseless slaughter. Nine exceptional people who had given so much and had so much yet to give were taken from us on a Wednesday night. My personal loss of a niece in Texas magnified my grief.
But amazingly when I turned on the television last Sunday morning while I drank my morning coffee, I unexpectedly found myself in church at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, SC. That heart-broken congregation worshiped God together and loved on each other with such intensity that their love flowed to my kitchen table.
They demonstrated for us what the nine stood for and what faith is. We know the nine would have chosen to stay here and take care of their responsibilities. That is the kind of people they were. Instead a chariot swung low and carried them to God’s presence. We cannot imagine the beauty and glory they are experiencing with Him. Believers in Charleston know that the love they shared there at the AME church as they trusted God and grieved and worshiped is but a foretaste of what the nine are experiencing That love and faith was so strong it came across the mountains and the rivers and the meadows to our farm.
Our Jeannie had just left the afternoon before. Her chemo was finished, and she came down to squeeze in a four-day visit before their summer schedule prohibited that kind of stay. Her bicycle was on the back of the van, and she hoped to try to ride again. But it rained each day. Yet she made certain to take long walks. She was in great shape when this illness hit, so she is determined to get back on the bicycle as often as she can so she will be ready next summer for the postponed last lap of her ride beside the Mississippi River to the Gulf.
Part of the four days was taken up by the many hours required for the trip down, and another part for the long trip back home. So she only was able to be here for two complete days. But it was so good to see her and to think she was able to drive that far. It had to be difficult—it has always been for us even when we were not recovering from anything—let alone chemo.
On top of that, on Saturday before she made the drive home, she took me with her to meet up with Leslie in Paducah. It was such a treat to be there laughing and loving with Les and hearing about her artistically gifted friend’s special wedding and about Les’s great new job. Of course, even after a three-hour breakfast, we were reluctant to leave, but Leslie had to drive back to Nashville and Jeannie to Freeport.
Jeannie and the rest of her family plan to stop by briefly on their way down to Leslie and Mike’s for their annual Fourth of July celebration there, but there won’t be time for any more late night talks.
In the meantime, we received word that Gerald’s only sister was coming from Wyoming. We met her at the airport Tuesday evening, and she regaled us with stories of her flight from St. Louis in a six-passenger “crop duster.” But she was safe and sound and that is all that mattered. She was even on time and no luggage was lost. She had left home at 4 a.m. and was properly tired, but we still did a lot of talking that night and have continued through today when niece Vicki picked her up to take her to another brother’s. Yesterday Vicki also took her around, and they ended up at her house. Ernestine came home with a table top’s worth of family photographs, so we did a lot of looking and reminiscing last night and this morning.
She had a rental car ordered, but Gerald and everyone urged her to cancel so they could loan her a car or better yet drive with her to visit as they rode. A special bonus for us was the Wednesday night visit from Keith and Barbara, Gerald’s youngest brother and wife. Although Keith has been here often for brother fun or business, it has been way too long that Barbara had been able to come. Her last day of work before retirement is Tuesday, so maybe we will be able to see more of her. Before Ernestine left today, we finished up at lunch the blueberry pie Barb brought us from Weaver’s Market. I had heard about the wonderful Amish goods available there, and the pie was scrumptious. Thursday night Gerald and Ernestine came back from their Union County visit with fresh blueberries Barb sent us. And they are good too.
Tonight we traveled down below Marion for grandson Sam’s graduation-going away party given by his Cedar grandparents. Their home at the end of the road is surrounded by huge pines planted 25 years ago, and their huge and attractive open garage was planned to hold such gatherings. The weather was perfect; and after the feast, adults continued talking at the tables there while the teens played on the huge lawn Fred mows between rains. It was easy for all of us to agree that these kids are a special bunch and have made us all proud.
As it darkened, David lit candles for us in and outside the garage. Darlene explained to me they always had a bonfire for Sam’s birthday, but last year it rained and they were unable to burn the damp gathered wood. So she was grateful to complete the bonfire at last. The kids gathered down by the fire. Those of us at the tables, who by now were eating the beautiful celebratory cake, enjoyed the beauty of the flames flying in the air seven or eight feet high. We were among the early leavers, but I suspect the teens stayed by that fire a long time. I hope the memory sustains them when summer ends and they have to go their separate ways.
The corn fields here are racing to reach that elephant’s eye, and some have already made it. The neighbor’s wheat along our driveway is golden and beautiful. Our killdeer has her annual nest in the gravel at the edge of the driveway and is setting on four eggs. If you come see us, stay on the right hand side of the road to miss her! Summer is definitely here; and if we follow the example of the congregation at Mother Emanuel, we can choose to do what Jesus taught: to love God, to love our neighbor; to love our enemies.
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