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Goodbye, Mama. I love you.

Mama and me

Going to miss her so very much.

I’m sorry if this is some of my worst writing ever in this blog, but I hope y’all will excuse me since I buried Mama today.

She finally succumbed to complications from COPD Monday night, March 25, 2013 at around 10:30 PM. Budge and I were holding her right hand and my cousin Rhonda who was like a daughter to Mama was holding her left hand when she passed from this world into the next. We buried her next to Papa John in a pale, almost translucent pink casket. We didn’t have a viewing and we only had graveside services. That is how Mama wanted it and since I am her only next of kin, only son, power of attorney, and executor of her will, no one was going to have me do anything differently. I didn’t even have her embalmed because her body was in such poor condition. Fletch — Alan Fletcher — the owner of Fletcher’s Funeral Home in Fountain Inn, agreed with me about not having her embalmed. He said she wouldn’t look right and there wasn’t much he could do. I’m glad, because that’s not how I want to remember her.

I managed to preach her funeral myself, which is what she wanted me to do. I really didn’t have any choice because all the other ministers who knew and loved Mama are in such poor health themselves it would have been hard for them to do it. I read the 23rd Psalm and spoke about the Easter story since Easter is Sunday. I talked about how Mama loved Jesus and how she was ready to go to her Heavenly home. I read a letter a friend of hers had emailed me all the way from Las Vegas. Of course, at the funeral, I transplanted Las Vegas from Nevada to California, but Budge and Deuce caught the mistake in time for me to smooth it over. I had the mortician put a copy of the letter in the casket with her.

Rob — my beloved stepdad — is taking Mama’s loss incredibly hard. They were together for almost 20 years, which was three times longer than she was married to my dad. Thankfully, he’s had family and dear, dear friends rally around him the last few days. I know he has a very long road ahead of him. As much as I don’t want to admit this, I’m actually afraid Rob may grieve himself to the grave with Mama. I know he misses her that much.

For me, the grief has been unpredictably breaking across me in waves. I broke down in the hospital right before she died when it was just Budge and I alone with her as she was fading fast. Since then, I’ve had a meltdown per day, except for today. I’ve actually been happy all day, even during the funeral because it was a picture perfect crisp Spring day. I know the happiness isn’t permanent. I have some dark nights to look forward to, I’m sure. I also have a lot of responsibilities to attend to that will give me ample cause to fall to my knees and wail a gut wrenching sob from my heart for nearly an hour as I’ve done twice already. I’m trying to keep in mind this is all normal and I don’t have to be Superman. I’ve just lost Mama — my best friend, my oldest friend, my main cheerleader . . . it’s normal and okay for me to be bereft, but it doesn’t make it prettier or easier.

Reunited Monday, 3-25-13.

Reunited Monday, 3-25-13.

I’m also having to contend with guilt as well. Several times I’ve heard a voice inside me I recognize as my old friend The Black Dog whispering, you could have done more! You should have done more! Why didn’t you move in with her? Why didn’t you bring her to live with you? Why were you not with her more? Why were you reading or eating or playing a stupid computer game instead of sitting beside her in her recliner holding her hand? Why didn’t you cook meals for her? Why did you leave her alone? Didn’t you know she was lonely? Didn’t you know she was hungry? On and on and on this voice spits vitriol and accusation at me and it’s been pretty much nonstop for the last 72 hours.

Of course, there’ve been other voices as well and these have been from the outside. People have told me time and again how proud they are of me for following through with Mama’s wishes and for being strong enough to preach her funeral. I’ve had several people tell me of conversations they’ve had with Mama when she told them how proud she was of me and how thankful she was to have a good son. I’ve had nurses tell me this week of the numerous people they’ve seen die all alone even though family was available.

In the end, I have to decide which voice or voices to listen to. I will say this, though, when I have been at the heartwrenching depths of despair, when I have been sobbing uncontrollably, even in the dark hours at Mama’s deathbed, I’ve found one deep, deep well of strength and comfort — God’s written word. The only thing that has been able to pull me out of the waves of grief that have wracked me with sobs and crushed my soul with emotional pain too great to bear has been reading from the Bible. I’ve read out loud and silently to myself and every time, I’ve found balm in Gilead. For that I am thankful.

I am also thankful for 42 years with the most wonderful mother a boy could want. I am going to miss her tremendously and I’m not even going to try fighting that battle, but I cannot let losing her destroy me and break me in the way losing Papa John broke Mama. I must carry on and if it means I have to limp because I’ve lost one of the major muscles I’ve stood on for all these years, then that is what I have to do. Mama is gone from me, but she is never going to be forgotten.

I love y’all. Sincerely, Me.


Ma and Pa Finch: Our First Sign of Spring!

Ma Finch looking over a likely nesting spot.

Ma Finch looking over a likely nesting spot.

When I went out to get the mail after lunch today, a blur of wings and cheep-cheeped expletives announced what has become the surest sign of spring — Ma and Pa, a pair of beautiful finches, were poking around in the channel beneath our front porch awning for the perfect nesting site. These two may or may not be the exact same pair of birds who have built nests beneath our awnings for the last five years, but I’m relatively certain if they are not the identical two, then they are the offspring of those who have come before.

I’ve consulted Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America and our interlopers are either a pair of house finches or a duo of purple finches. I honestly cannot tell the color plates in the book apart, but then I make no claims to being an expert birder. I do love watching them though.

Each year our avian visitors typically raise three to five obstreperous and demanding youngsters, some of whom I’m pretty sure have returned the next year to build their own nests. Once these little scraps of skin and feathers hatch, entering and leaving through our front door becomes somewhat hazardous. Ma and Pa are always either on the nest or very nearby and they inevitably interpret our need to walk down our front steps as being hazardous to their young. It seems they don’t associate the nesting material we put out for their use and the bird seed we keep supplied with US. I suppose in their minds these helpful items just “appear.”

After about ten days, the little ones are fully fledged. Then the sad waiting game begins. At some point, Ma and Pa leave the nest for the comfort of a nearby oak signaling the gravy train and room service have come to an end. Compelled by empty bellies, one by one the little fuzzballs hop up on the edge of the nest and launch themselves skyward. So far — knock wood — we’ve had a 100% success rate with flying.

This year's Ma again. She seems to be checking out the view.

This year’s Ma again. She seems to be checking out the view.

Two springs ago, however, we did have our first holdout. He (HAD to be a male I’m sure) was the runt of the nest of five and when Ma and Pa pulled back and the other nestlings left, he decided the newly roomy nest was to his liking and he showed no signs of leaving. For two whole days, he remained in what he’d adopted as his bachelor pad. I figured he would have gotten hungry, but one evening during the holdout, I caught Ma bringing a care package to him. Pa wouldn’t have approved, I’m sure. After two days, however, he must have gotten lonely watching his four siblings swooping through the air nearby. I was lucky enough to be sitting where I had a view as he finally decided to climb to the lip of the only home he’d ever known and launch himself into the blue. It wasn’t the most graceful first flight, but it was enough.

Three years ago, we had an awning built over the back deck as well and no sooner had its paint dried than another set of the same species moved in. This location, however, has more in the way of hazards than the front porch; so much so that Budge wants me to put up a rubber snake or something to discourage potential nesters. See, out front, if a little one doesn’t make a successful first flight, we’ve got several azaleas and boxwoods very close by he can climb up in and try once more. Out back though, if he doesn’t get it right the first time, one of two things is going to happen. First, he could land in the pool. For the record, finches swim about as well as I do. If they miss the pool, though and land in the back yard, they have to contend with Keaudie and Jack and while Jack at 14 isn’t nearly as fast as he once was, he can still outrun a fledgeling. Luckily though, we haven’t had any casualties yet.

This is Pa from last year. He's a little blurry because I never could catch him perfectly still.

This is Pa from last year. He’s a little blurry because I never could catch him perfectly still.

Even as I type this, Ma and Pa are twitching back and forth from one end of the awning to the other. Hopefully, they will take the hint we left them in the form of last year’s nest which sits at the OTHER end of the porch and build down there. I’m sure it will be less stressful for them and I won’t have to worry about losing an eye when Ma goes frailing into the night to protect hearth and home as I try to enter the front door!

Hope the weather is treating you great wherever you are and make sure to keep those feet clean!

Love y’all!