Gran's Apple Butter Blog

December 13, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Home Stretch (7XI)

Chapter 7 – Home Stretch

So, where were we? Oh yes, coming into the home stretch. At this point we tend to punch the gas a wee bit, eager to pull in and put ‘er in park.

But there’s one home stretch we tend to dawdle on. Our final trip to that Big Rocking Chair in the Sky sparks mixed emotions, ‘cause this going home means saying “see ya later” to all the homes we’ve had here – the ones we shared with friends and family, the ones that held our hopes and dreams. No matter how much we want to go, it can be hard to say goodbye.

This can be hard on everyone involved – not just the one who’s leaving, who at least has a new adventure to look forward to. For the ones left behind, it can feel hard ‘cause they’re still in the old adventure, and one of their favorite players just left the team. Sometimes that makes it hard to keep going, to finish the race.

It can be hard ‘cause this represents change. Gran said she’d never gotten very good at enjoying that. The thing with change – we don’t know what that means. And we’ve been socialized – oh boy, have we: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. But is that true? I gotta say, in my life, sometimes what I found around that corner was a whole lot better.

We fight this change so hard we hold on much longer than is good for us. Sometimes because we don’t want to go for ourselves, sometimes because we don’t want to go for the ones we’ll leave behind. We know they’ll be sad and probably have to deal with some darkness until they figure out how to move on with their lives. We want them to move on ‘cause we love them – we may even tell them that. But we also know that most likely they’re going to forget this for a while. Sometimes a long while. And Gran said that was ok. It’s only human.

So we’ll hang around, dragging things out when we know it’s better to rip that bandage off all at once. Sure, it hurts like crazy. But Gran said at least then somehow the pain can seem a bit more bearable. She didn’t say how though. She didn’t always answer my questions, just like she didn’t always answer anybody’s questions. And for the same reason – she knew I’d have to figure out this one on my own.

This can feel especially hard when the person saying goodbye is young. When this happened, Gran would remind me of the saying about good people dying young. She suspected that might not be too far off, ‘cause when we’ve done our work the best we can, we’ll want to go home and take a rest – all this learning wears us out. So when someone makes this trip earlier than we’d like, Gran figured that meant this was just a fast learner – ready to move on, lessons complete. That didn’t make the goodbye much easier, but somehow the idea felt soothing, like a sip of peppermint tea on a hot summer day.

Sometimes we fear this journey so much we get stuck along the way. Halfway home, we can go no further, ‘cause that extension cord we’re hanging on to isn’t long enough. Or maybe someone roped the trailer hitch as we flew past, and there we are, dangling between here and there, lost in the darkness. There’s only one thing to do then, Gran said, and that is to lovingly and gently let go of anything we’re holding on to here, and to do what we can to help those left behind unhitch their end of that rope as well. They may not even be aware they’re holding on, but we’ll know it.

This applies to deaths of other things too – like the end of a relationship or a job, anything that means a lot to us. We go through this process consciously when we give up one thing to make space for another. Sometimes we know we’re doing this. Other times, Gran said, all we know is that something is going away, something has been lost, and we’re just hanging on for dear life.  

That’s when we have to be patient with ourselves and keep plugging away, following our path, even when it leads away from roads that have been a big part of our lives for a long time. Gran said it was very important to ask for guidance in these moments, to pray that highest good be served, and then to listen and watch for the stars that will lead you home. That’s when you learn to see in the dark, when you close your eyes and hold out your hand, trusting that Someone is there to take it, and then, follow your heart.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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February 15, 2011

Deborah’s Story (Eulogy for Deborah Batson, 1954-2011)

Filed under: Death,Deborah Batson,Eulogy,Family,Gran's Big Book of Short Stories — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 12:06 pm

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a little angel named Deborah was sent to Earth. Her mission was simple: to learn to love, as humans do, and to share that love, her most precious gift, with one and all.

Everyone could feel that Little Deborah was different from the day she first said hello. No one could say just how – but somehow, she felt different. Or rather, more correctly, each person felt different in her presence, like they were floating in a cloud of peace, of compassion.

Little Deborah brought with her the most resplendent set of glorious wings. Not everyone could see them, but again, they could feel them. Each feather was sparkling and shining, a different color, a different song, a different brilliant shade of love, of joy, of peace, and each feather had its own meaning.

A brilliant feather, turquoise in color – represented Deborah’s love of music. Row after row of multicolored feathers stood for her creativity – one here for her beadwork, one there for her songwriting, one for each poem that ever left the tip of her pen. One for her voice, one for each guitar string that she would so lovingly and carefully tune and strum. Next were rows upon rows, each a different, beautiful shade, yellows, lavenders, pinks, a feather for each prayer she prayed, each sign she saw among the animals, the birds, the crows, the coyotes, the wolves – her messengers from the Creator – glorious feathers of the peaceful, prayerful warrior that Deborah was.

And still more rows, gorgeous in their splendor – each person in her life, each person on whom she shed her light, her love – her daughter Lee, her family, her friends, her coworkers. There were rows of chestnut brown and forest green, the trees she loved so well, from oak to pine, sycamore to cypress, willow to walnut. Still more rows, fiery orange, burnt siennas – the bridges she built, everywhere she went, strong yet flexible in the winds of life. The blue-green feathers, almost hidden, tucked next to her skin, were her love of nature – each raindrop, each stone, each mountain, each river that flowed, each wind that blew, each fire that warmed, each four-footed, finned, and feathered friend whose path she crossed. And then there were the beautiful blue and lavender feathers of Deborah’s beliefs – her beautifully encompassing sense of spirituality – all the principles she stood for, the light she so clearly reflected.

Deborah never had to speak her beliefs, to voice those words aloud – all she had to do was spread her wings, like a mighty condor on a mountain top, letting the dew dry in the early rays of dawn. In their brilliant, protective cover all could see her true beauty, all she stood for, all Little Deborah had become.  

One might think that as an angel, Deborah’s path would be blessed with nothing but goodness, joy and peace. And yet this was not the case, for Deborah had her own lessons to learn in this life, just like each of us. She went through all the same experiences we have, finding joy and happiness, as well as pain and great loss. And yet, astonishingly, each time an arrow of pain would pierce her heart, leaving a tender scar behind, new feathers would form on her wings, bright and glorious, more beautiful than ever.

With each new feather, her wings grew larger, heavier, to the point one expected them to drag her shoulders down with their weight. And yet Deborah never complained – she did not mind – those same feathers only widened her wingspan. With the eagles she could now mount, higher and higher, circling in the heavens, closer, ever closer to her Creator, closer, ever closer to her One True Home. And when she flew, Deborah did not feel the weight of those feathers – she only felt the glory of the wind lifting her, the beautiful prairies stretching before her, the sky enveloping her with its sunlight and shadows, rainclouds and rainbows, until she would finally descend to the arms of Mother Earth again, to rest on her bosom.

And when one day Deborah had reached her most beautiful, her greatest strength, having learned all that she was to learn, done all that she was to do, the Creator was filled with joy, knowing it was time to welcome her Home. She had born those wings, suffered those arrows gladly, done all with the greatest spirit of love and compassion, the true mark of a servant of Highest Good. After all these years, it was time for Deborah to rest, to recover her strength, to let her heart heal in the shining light of Home.

For those of us left behind, we each bear Deborah’s mark in our hearts, our souls. The beauty that she touched us with, and the scar she left behind as we’ve said goodbye. Yes, we all love Deborah, and we want what’s best for her. We understand with our minds that it is time for a most joyous reunion for her, and we truly celebrate that, and yet we mourn, bearing our sadness, stumbling in our own darkness, feeling that the entire universe has dimmed, as Deborah’s light has moved on to brighten another place more worthy of its splendor.

And yet, has her light truly left us? I look around this room, and I see Deborah’s light reflected in each face here, in the words and memories of the messages and prayers flowing in from around the world. She planted seeds, tiny rays of her own light, tucked away deep within the hearts of each one of us, for us to nurture and grow in her honor, in honor of the Creator who first planted that light within her. As we feed this flame, our world will become brighter than ever, as Deborah’s light is refracted, multiplied in each of us, like a beautiful prism, a rainbow of color that spans the globe.

Each time we see this light, we will be reminded of Deborah Liljequist Batson, who she was, and what she stood for. And maybe, just maybe, each time we see a feather, large or small, tucked beneath a tree, or floating on a breeze, it will remind us once again of Little Deborah, and comfort us to know that she is not very far away at all – just on the other side of the tissue-thin veil that now covers our eyes. May the sight of these feathers comfort us, wrapping us in a blanket of love, just as Deborah would have done.

Go in peace, Aunt Deborah. You did your work well. The laborer is truly worthy of her reward: May you rest in the arms of your Creator, knowing that you have finished your course, and knowing that none of us will ever forget you.

Deborah Batson (L) and Mary Batson (R), memorial hike for James Lee Batson, January 1, 2009

July 26, 2010

1/I: Mikey’s Story

Filed under: Death,Feeling Homesick,Going Home,Grown-Up Standards,Life Journeys,Loss,Mikey,One Real Home,Self Development — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 2:55 pm

Chapter 1. Mikey’s Story
Excerpt from Going Home, by Mary Batson

“There are two ways of spreading light: To be the candle or the mirror that receives it.” – Edith Wharton

Sooner or later, we all want to go home. At least that’s what my grandma says. At first I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that. And just when I thought I had it all figured out, I found out she was talking about something totally different. But maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m remembering wrong. Maybe. Maybe not.

You see, it’s not that complicated. I mean, I’m only five years old, which by grown-up standards (and there are So Many Grown-Up Standards) means I still have a lot to learn. But even I get this. Sometimes, I think I get it better than most grown-ups. But I try to be patient. Most of the grown-ups I know have a Lot on Their Minds. They have a Lot of Balls In The Air. At first I thought that meant some kind of game, but I’m beginning to suspect otherwise now. They tell me I’ll learn about this before long. I don’t think I’m looking forward to it.

But I know about Going Home. I know because I was there not too long ago. And I can remember it. The feeling. The knowing. The Love. And it seems so sad and strange to me, that all the grown-ups here have forgotten the Truth. It’s like forgetting your own address. How could you forget your o-w-n address? Isn’t that why you have your name written in the back of your jacket and on your lunch box and in your Under-Roos? So you don’t forget? Don’t grown-ups wear Under-Roos? Carry lunchboxes? Heck, some of ’em carry around great big books and stuff that I don’t even know what it’s called. Surely they have their address written down in there, just in case? Have they really forgotten their address, their way Home? Have you?

Ok, I’ll admit, I don’t know you. I’ll probably never meet you. And if I do, I probably won’t talk to you, ‘cause my grandma told me to never talk to strangers. I think that r-u-l-e is a little strange, if you ask me, because to me, no one feels like a stranger. How can they, when we are all really just One? But Gran has explained (over and over again!) that while I’m with this family, even though she and I know the truth, I still have to learn How Things Work Here. Truth is, there are no strangers here, she’d say, just friends we haven’t met yet. But for now, apparently, Here one Doesn’t Talk To Strangers. Gran says her grandmother taught her this when she was my age. Ok. Well, I don’t really get it, but I can go along with that. Just seems kinda sad. And lonely.

There’s something else I don’t understand. Here it seems like everyone is so sad when someone Goes Home. I’ve seen it happen, in my own house, when Grandpa Harry Went Home. And my bus driver. And the lady next door with the calico cat. It seems like when this happens everyone cries and cries. I try hard to help people feel better, but when I tell them that it is a GOOD thing to Go Home, that it is something to celebrate like my next birthday (you’re invited, by the way), they just look at me and kind of breathe heavy and pat my head and say things like “Someday you’ll understand.”

But that’s not true. I already understand. I do. I DO. It’s everyone else who doesn’t. Some of my friends do. We talk about how strange grown-ups are sometimes. How they seem to have everything backwards. They laugh when they should cry, and cry when they should laugh. They do all kinds of crazy things that a-n-y-one should know better, and then wonder why things turn out like they do. Like working too much. Of COURSE you get sick if you work all the time. Duh. Even I know that. And I’m only five.

Some grown-ups do seem to know a bit more about How Things Really Are. Like my grandma. She’s pretty cool. She knows A Lot. Like she knows about wanting to Go Home. See, I didn’t really understand that, because I was JUST home — so I’m not in a hurry to go back. I’m ready for a Big Adventure! But Gran says that when someone has been adventuring for a grand long time, sooner or later they’ll get tired, and they’ll start missing Home.

You know, they miss all the good stuff Home stands for. Like warm blankets and soft pillows and fresh cookies and hot chocolate and love everywhere around and red mittens and fingerprints on windows. Like admiring the fresh snow out the front window and watching your dad come around the corner of the house, tramping out a path to the mailbox. Like sitting in the kitchen floor, industriously rearranging one’s car collection, making paths through the flour that sifts to the baseboards from the snickerdoodle production taking place at countertop level. Like taking the scraps out after dinner and turning around to see the Lights in the Windows and that warm feeling that starts in your tummy and goes all through your insides when you think of hurrying back in. Like watching for car lights coming down the dirt road when it’s dinner time and you’ve claimed the wishbone and are just WAITING for everyone to get home so you can find out Who Will Be Lucky Tonight.

You know, that kind of stuff. The Important Stuff.

But that’s not all. There are different kinds of Homes and different kinds of warm fuzzy feelings. Well, that’s not quite right. There a-r-e different kinds of Homes. But you know that fuzzy feeling? It’s the same for all Homes. It feels the same, it tastes the same, it means the same, ‘cause it all comes from the same place. Even with all the different kinds of homes, it all gets back to One Very Own Home. And all the other kinds of homes are like strings of paper snowflakes that are very pretty and Good to Decorate With, but they’re not really Snow. They just REMIND us of Snow, like all these other kinds of homes remind us of our One Real Home. Kinda like funhouse mirrors.

So that’s why Gran says that when people are away from home for a long time, or when they start feeling bad, like when I ate too many chocolate turtles at Jonah’s house, or the very first time I had a sleepover at my cousin’s (the time she stole all the blankets and wouldn’t share her LiteBrite), that we get a different kind of fuzzy feeling — a not-very-nice fuzzy feeling. Gran called it “Feeling Homesick.” And she said that sometimes, when you feel Homesick, nothing else will do but to Go Home. For me, as soon as I saw Mom and my own little house, I felt 100% better.

But Gran explained that when people Go Home, it’s a little more complicated. Well, it’s kind of the same. You know, that person just Isn’t There anymore. Like when I went home from Jonah’s. I just wasn’t there anymore. And when grown-ups go home, it’s kinda the same. I mean, your body isn’t There. That would be kind of silly. A body without you in it? How weird would that be?!? And yet, at the same time, YOU are still there. Just in a different way. Really, kinda, you’re EVERYWHERE. And you can go everywhere and do everything and see everything and be everywhere. All in the very same second, maybe! I’m not sure on that one.

But I know that you’re still There (and by that I mean Here), because Grandpa told me so. Right after he Went Home, he told me. We had a big talk about it, and it was so great, because finally I had a grown-up to talk to who knew all about Home! I asked him all kinds of questions, if everything was still like I remembered it, and he said it was, and even Better Than Ever. That was pretty cool. I wanted to tell Gran about his visit, but he told me that she might not understand and he didn’t want her to be worried, so I just told her I had a dream about him and about Home and how great it all was. And she was so happy, and smiling, and gave me a big hug, and she had a strange little twinkle in her eyes that made me wonder if maybe she knew a little bit more about Home than Grandpa thought she did.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
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