Five Seven

img022Five Seven. An unforgettable date. We may not remember Three Twenty-Three (her birthday). I don’t even know her wedding date (the year was 1945). But this day, oh I know Five Seven. The calendar starts fomenting emotions around the third or fourth.

I revisit my last goodbye as I trotted towards the car, facing forward out the front door, head turned on the final step as I sing-songed my farewell: ♪♫♪ Bye Mom! ♪♫♪  I see my father waiting for me at the edge of the school grounds, and I hear the deadly quiet when we entered the house.

Last night when I read about Kara Tippett’s family’s first event without her I burst into sobs. Have you followed Kara’s story? Her shimmering grace, her honest struggle, her big love. I look at her kids and I know a small piece of their story. The oldest girl, who will mother her siblings the rest of her life. The girl and boy in the middle whose grief might get overlooked, who will consider their dad’s cares. The youngest girl, the focus of concern for all, the girl who turned six this week.

Although Five Seven can never be the second Sunday in May, it is always in the suburbs of Mother’s Day. Sorrow scoots over and makes room for gratitude. For too many, the grief of Mother’s Day is the ache of having had a mom who couldn’t or wouldn’t, but clearly didn’t express love and kindness. Their focus is on breaking the chain of affliction, expunging the critical words, watching others to figure out how to be a good mom.

I learned the goodness and kindness of God through Mom. Sure, she taught us and corrected us; but she sang while she laundered, she cheerfully plowed through sandwich-making every school day morning, she wrapped her long arms around us, she prayed. What didn’t she do? She never gossiped, she didn’t complain, she didn’t worry, she didn’t fear. Sometimes she sighed, and I know she groaned. But she lived a simple, authentic life, a small life really, that influenced many for good. And she loved me, this I know. To know your mom’s love is a gift of unfathomable magnitude.

Thank you, Mom. I love you.

Nellie Arlene Stover Harper
3/23/1920 — 5/7/1968

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The Kindness of Strangers

DSC_3818Life is in the little things. I’ve been thinking about the kindness of strangers, thankful for recent encounters with folks I’ll never see again.

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I was trudging up Morgan Lake Road. When cars drove by I was embarrassed by the trudginess of my heavy gait but incapable of looking like a normal person walking up a steepish hill. Then this truck passed me and the driver stuck his/her hand out the window with a thumbs up. What did it cost her/him to do that? Nothing. What that small gesture did for my spirits? Reinvigorated them. Thank you, stranger.

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Last month my husband had surgery in Portland. We arrived at the hospital at 5:00 a.m., departed at 5:00 p.m. My job was to drive us home. All that was required was to cross the Willamette River, merge onto a familiar interstate highway, and drive four hours. No biggie except it was Friday night rush hour.

As we entered the bridge, I hugged the far right lane so I could take the first exit on the other side. Towards the middle of the bridge I saw the sign that indicated a left exit. I had about 200 yards to negotiate three lane changes. The one rule I remember from Driver’s Ed is: Never change lanes on a bridge. Ha!

An excellent city driver is neither timid nor aggressive. I was both. I put my left blinker on,  punched the accelerator and slammed on the brakes. Husband and I both yelling. Go! Not now! Watch out! It was not the finest moment of our marriage. I kept in mind how much a collision would hurt Curt. Lord, help! was the all I could pray.

Somehow, three drivers gave me space and I took the exit with one car length of grace. The gorgeous generosity of people I will never know. Thank you, three strangers.

Have you received kindness from strangers lately?