It still doesn’t look like much, but when you compare it to this, you’ll see that we’re making progress!
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The old organ looked almost neglected sitting in the back of the “chapel” of the funeral home. The finish was well worn and peeling in a few places, but that look was somewhat softened by the lace runner carefully placed on the top. The keys were smudged with accumulated dust, and based on the position of a couple of them, I knew some would stick when played. An old hymnal sat in place, open to a hymn about finding comfort in Jesus. I wondered if the hymnal was a prop, or if the instrument really had been played recently. Initially, I didn’t realize it was a pump organ, but when I sat down and looked for the power switch, I realized that the only power would be that which came from my feet pumping the large pedals below. The labels on the few stops gave me little clue as to how it would sound, but I quickly picked one labeled melodia and another that sounded close to that, and I began to play.
The initial notes were raspy and a little unpredictable, hanging uncertainly in the air as I tried to figure out the best technique for coaxing comforting music out of the old instrument. But the music grew in strength as I continued to play, gaining volume and confidence as I got into a rhythm coordinating my pumping feet with my hands. It certainly wasn’t a concert worthy of Carnegie Hall, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances!
In the front of the room, the widow was almost motionless on a chair just a few feet from the body of her beloved companion. Her shiny dark hair was a contrast against the white jacket she had on against the January cold. Surrounded by several family members, she sat quietly gazing at his face perhaps trying to memorize his features. I wondered about her thoughts, knowing that this would be the last time she would see or touch his body in this life. I tried, unsuccessfully, to put myself in her position. How do you feel when your husband dies before you are even 50 years old? Where do you find the strength to go on knowing that you now face the future without him? How do you make peace with your loss when it still doesn’t even seem real. He seemed so well just a few days ago . . .
My mind was spinning with these thoughts as I played the familiar strains of “Oh, My Father,” “I Stand all Amazed,” and “Each Life that Touches Ours for Good.” I continued to play other quiet hymns as I wondered what I could do for her. How could I serve her? How could I offer my comfort and deepest sympathy? Her English skills were even less than my Spanish, so our communication was limited at best, but I desperately wanted her to know my feelings.
After playing through a number of hymns, I returned to “Oh, My Father.” This time, after a few notes, I heard a male voice join the organ notes, singing the words in quiet Spanish. As the young man continued singing, another hushed voice or two joined, and they sang through the verses. I could hardly hear the voices, but I sensed a spirit of comfort fill the room as the woman continued to sit quietly, her eyes never leaving her husband.
Eventually our time was up and she said her last good bye. She turned and walked towards the door where I met her, and we clung to each other in an emotional hug. I whispered, “lo siento,” but words weren’t necessary.
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
I knew she understood my feelings and accepted my love.
Thank you for the wonderful work you are doing.
I adore our grandchildren, and
I am humbled by your efforts and your successes.
You are heroes to your children.
Thanks for letting me have a supporting role!
This speaks to me.
As part of my personal accountability plan, I have listed on my project page all the rooms of our house that need a deep cleaning. Okay, so every room in the house is on that list – this whole place needs some attention! But at least I have a starting point. . .
In an effort to stay on task and clean one room this month, earlier this week I recruited Don to help me bring some order to the food room. As I finished up today and admired the neatly stocked shelves, I began to muse about this underground room in the far corner of the basement.
Our food storage room is not a pretty room; the gray cement walls are set off nicely by the gray cement floor covered with orange shag and yellow sculptured carpet pieces left from another decorating era. Cobwebs collect dirt in the corners, and the ceiling is accented by metal heating ducts. The only real color comes from the labels on all the canned goods, so of course nothing matches. And it’s cold in there! A screened vent to the outside allows the room to be cool in the summer, but really nippy in the winter.
The shelves sport a little graffiti – phone numbers or addresses engraved with a ball point pen by my youngest brother Tom. When all the family was home, and his bedroom had been given to a married sibling with children, Tom pulled a roll away bed into the food room and set up housekeeping for the duration of the family visit.
Because of its remote location in the far corner of the basement accessible only through the laundry room, I often neglect or completely ignore regular cleaning and maintenance of the food room. Flour spills commonly adorn the orange carpet, evidence of restocking the kitchen canister from the big buckets downstairs. Sacks and boxes of groceries dropped just inside the door may create an obstacle course through which we carefully maneuver to retrieve a can of tomato sauce. One lone and sprouting potato could be resting on the trunk of Christmas decorations. It’s very easy for me to pay little attention to a room that we only dash in and out of, one that never hosts a family gathering or sees a visitor.
But in spite of its lowly status, the food room is central to our household. It is the foundation of many family meals. “Go get a can of chicken broth from the food room.” It is cold storage for Christmas goodies. “The Special K bars are in a Rubbermaid container on the right side, middle shelf.” It’s our own convenience store, conveniently located in our own basement. “You forgot green chilies for the enchiladas? That’s okay. They’re on the left side, middle shelf.”
I’m certain that our kids have their own memories of that cold, simple room. When they were younger, I know they used to sneak treats out of an infrequent stash of junk food. Occasionally the room was stocked with cases of soda or candy bars that had been on sale, and I would find evidence of their not so discreet pilfering in abandoned wrappers on the shelves or floor. Brittney tells about talking to Peter on the phone while they were in high school and hearing him ponder what canned food would taste best cold, right off the shelf as he anticipated an evening snack!
Although the kids have left home and our choices of food have changed in the last 20 years, our food room continues to provide peace of mind and encourages us to heed the counsel often repeated by our prophet. Because of its design for a specific purpose (my parents were genius to include a cold storage room when building this house), with shelves lining those gray cement walls, we are able to buy in bulk and maintain a supply of food right here in our own home.
“. . . I wish to urge again the importance of self-reliance on the part of every individual Church member and family.
None of us knows when a catastrophe might strike. Sickness, injury, unemployment may affect any of us.
We [the Church] have a great welfare program with facilities for such things as grain storage in various areas. It is important that we do this. But the best place to have some food set aside is within our homes, together with a little money in savings. The best welfare program is our own welfare program. Five or six cans of wheat in the home are better than a bushel in the welfare granary.” Gordon B. Hinckley, October 2002 – complete talk here
Our inventory revealed that we’re doing okay on vitamins,
but we’re a little short on toilet paper.
Home to lots of good food, plenty of memories, and (unfortunately) a rare mouse, our now clean and organized food room is a little corner of happiness to me!
After an inspiring phone conversation with Emily yesterday, I gave some serious thought to my goals and my somewhat haphazard efforts to attain them. I have an hazy idea of my big picture, but wonder if I am spending my time in activities that will help achieve that. I felt a little anxious when I realized that my plan was vague, and my path leading to that plan was poorly marked and wandering. Because I work best in an organized environment, I knew I needed a tangible, visible method of tracking my progress.
First, I gave careful consideration to my goals and dreams for my life and wrote them down – because a goal without a plan is just a dream. Then, building on an idea Emily uses, I created a personal system to track the activities that are important to me and will lead me in the direction I say I want to go. A handy Excel spreadsheet – because who doesn’t love a great spreadsheet – allows me to see at a glance if I am making progress towards my targeted aspirations. As Nikki posted about exercise, personal accountability is key. One check mark on a list is gratifying, and a whole page of them can be cause for celebration!
In addition to my monthly tracker, I have created a list of projects I want to complete this year. That list includes things like painting the cedar chest, making Nikki’s Christmas stocking, and completing Mark’s scrapbook. Those will be added to my monthly list as I am ready to tackle them, but not all at once, because that just overwhelms me.
And last, but not least, I’ve created a list of things I want to do before I die. I dream about a visit to the villages in England that were the birthplaces of my Berrett ancestors. I get really excited at the thought of a cross country road trip in a small RV – check out the Roadtrek and you’ll want one too. Several other dreams have a place on this list; just seeing them written makes them more realistic to me. I’m excited about what I can accomplish.
So I’m on my way, and February promises to be awesome!
“Because how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
– Annie Dillard, author
The weekend of October 3 & 4 brought the broadcast of the LDS General Conference into our home. I love those April and October weekends of marathon church! It’s taken me a long time to feel that way, but at this time in my life I really anticipate and appreciate the chance to listen to Church leaders and be uplifted and inspired by talks like this counsel regarding the need to show and express love to my family members, or this powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon, and this gentle reminder to look for opportunities to be of service.
Yesterday while looking for something else (sometimes my lack of organization does pay off), I came across the history of my great grandfather, Thomas B. Brown (27 December 1824 – 18 June 1899). In light of the previous conference weekend, this excerpt really touched my heart:
“Thomas dearly loved to go to the semi-annual conferences in Salt Lake City. There was not transportation other than horse and buggy. Since he had neither of these, he would walk to Salt Lake City. Two days before conference, Eliza [his wife] would prepare some bread, cheese and fruit, and tie it up in a red handkerchief. Very early in the morning, he would set out. He walked as far as Farmington the first day, getting there about dusk. A fine spring by the side of the road supplied him with a good cold drink of water. After reaching Farmington, he would go to an old friend’s place, Brother Parret, who came from England also. He would spend the night with Brother Parret and his family, and arise early the next morning in order to be in Salt Lake City in time for conference. It would take him two days to complete his journey. He would attend all three days of meetings and then walk back to North Ogden. He traveled over 100 miles round trip, and did so for many years, twice a year.
Thomas said that when all the apostles and other speakers would talk, it was most grand to hear them, but when Brigham Young stood up he started in where all the others left off. His sermons were so powerful and inspirational that the other talks were pale in comparison. Thomas said that if the distance had been twice as far for him to walk, he would have done so, just to have the privilege of hearing Brigham Young speak. On his return, he always brought his children a treat of store candy. It was usually peppermints, and oh, how good they tasted coming all the way from Salt Lake City.”
And I was really happy for the faith and conviction of my ancestors . . . as well as the modern convenience of BYU television.