Faith, Kindness & Three Bean Salad

It is late…well late for me.  I rarely have trouble getting to sleep, but tonight is different .  Everything seems different lately.  Everywhere I go, whoever I encounter  whether they are in person, on the phone or virtual…people are sad, tired, scared and weary.  I guess the best  word for this time is worn.  Some people are on the fringe of a serious mental health crisis, people are physically sick, and we are all so isolated and lonely.

For the last several months I have found my words to be  at a loss.   As a young teenager, I began writing poetry and writing in a journal.  I have written most of my life and whenever there was a notable event, happy or sad, I would write about it.  Several of my closest friends have queried about my writing, as they understand the cathartic release it is for me. I just have not had the words…until tonight.  I saw a text before I went to bed.  My dads’ cousin chose hospice.  As I lay in my bed the words danced in my thoughts, like little flutters of butterfly’s lighting from one flower to another. I had to come downstairs.  I had to write.

My dad’s cousin went home with her daughters as caregivers.  She was born in that house and she died in that house, the house I loved to visit.  Raising her two daughters, one was my age and we found it fascinating that we lived  across the field and over one barb wire fence!  I felt grown up when my mother agreed to let me walk across the hayfield, all by myself.  I promised to be careful of the barb wire fence and the creek in their pasture.  The same creek crossed our farm which connected us even stronger.   It was an adventure to wander the banks of the creek.  The two of us were fast friends as we rode the same bus, sitting together in a seat.  We were in Sunday School together and later walked from school to church for choir practice, often stopping by her grandparents on the way.

All through my life, this dear woman was kind to me.  Their house was quieter than mine.  I would sometimes sit and listen to my friend play piano in the dining room.  We would walk alongside the creek or play games upstairs in the house.  As an adult, I remember talking about canning vegetables for my family.  She remarked that one of her favorite images to look upon was a trip down to the basement to admire all the hard work of canning.  The jars  were lined up in rows like soldiers proudly lined up for inspection; colorful, shiny and vital.  She shared it was one of the most beautiful sights!  It made her smile and I suppose it also gave her satisfaction that her hard work helped to provide for her family.  After she and I had that conversation, the next trip down to my basement made me pause and consider what she had shared.  Yes, the canning jars showcased their beautiful colors…purple beets, green beans, golden corn, jams  and jellies in reds , carrots in orange.  It truly was a sight.  I am grateful for that reminder.

My godmother Carrie died on Christmas Eve.  I knew she was struggling with her health, but the decline to her death was quicker than expected.  She was a short women with a beautiful soprano voice.  Our families were good friends. Often our family would go to their home on Sunday afternoons for a potluck meal and conversation.  The Superbowl games were always there as well, probably because they had a color television!  She always made three bean salad, which I did not enjoy, quietly taking a spoon and hoping I could camouflage it when my plate was done. I thought I was sneaky, but I am confident she knew.

Carrie instilled her sense of faith in me.  She never neglected to remember me on my birthday and Christmas.  We both loved singing, especially in worship.  When I became a godmother/sponsor for baptism I followed her path of honoring those children.  Parents can teach faith, but another adult who cares for you, celebrates their accomplishments and teaches faith is truly a gift, both for the sponsor and the child.

She was so supportive of all my writing; memoir, magazine entries and newspaper columns.  She featured my memoir in a book club she attended.  She always asked me what I was currently writing.  We wrote letters back and forth until her health started to fail and my life turned into those  years of busy teenagers.  We ended up with a Christmas card and a couple letters each year.  She was proud of my journey back to graduate school and my master’s degree. I miss her.

These two women were kind and hard working.  They were faithful and giving.  I know the generation ahead of us is leaving, going to their final home.  It may  appear simple, canning food for the family, speaking kindness, three bean salad and teaching faith; yet these are moments that are the sweetest to me.  Every time I walk down the stairs to my canning shelves, I think of their kindness to me.   As an adult, I now enjoy three bean salad.  Carrie would be delighted!