My mother was born in 1910. She would have been 107 this year had she lived. Every year around this time, my mind drifts to my mother's gentle soul that was always doing things for others. She'd been raised that way, raised to help others even at great expense to herself. As I remember what she told me about her childhood, she'd said that her birth family was fed by the Salvation Army when she was a child. According to Mom, she, and her mother, and five siblings became destitute when her father had gone to work in a steel mill in Pittsburgh hundreds of miles away their Kansas home. It was during WWI when supplying the shipyards and building tanks was a priority. Evidently the steel mills paid the workers, but many of Grandpa's paychecks never found their way home to his family. Seems he had turned to the local pub for grub and companionship during those lonely evenings after a hard days work in those grimy, steaming steel mills.
As Mom told the story, it was in one of those pubs that the Salvation Army found him, cleaned him up, in truth, rescued him from his "cups". Once Grandpa had been cleaned up and thoroughly saved, he returned home, probably with the brass instrument he'd acquired the skill to play courtesy of the S.A., and applied at the local high school to be the bandmaster. He taught my Mom or one of her siblings to play the violin, marimba, a form of xylophone, the glockenspiel, the trombone, trumpet, and the piano. Throughout the remainder of his life, he became a good provider, even if the Depression years were very tough for them.
Subsequently, during my childhood, Mom went to great lengths to give back what she had been given by reaching out to others through the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations. I remember her sitting up to all hours to clean, polish, and lace up oxford shoes she had collected for the needy. She mended everything she gave away to the S.A. and sent money from selling Avon products to charities like the S.A., World Vision, and other organizations. Mom was a true gem of a woman, all five feet, 120 pounds in her old age, but she'd been a 98 pound slip of a woman when she was young. Pictures of her like the one here show a rather comely young woman with whom my father had fallen head over heels in love.
One more memory serves to keep me looking forward to seeing her again in eternity. When Mom was on her death bed from the ravages of cancer, a coma claimed her in those final days. As I sat beside her, she suddenly sat up, hugged the air, and exclaimed in her clear, sweet voice, "JESUS"! With that she fell back on her pillow never to awaken again. Her heart gave up three days later. We buried her in 1984 over yonder in the Venus, PA, cemetery. The love of her life, my Dad, Wilfred, joined her there in 1990, after his heart gave out, and their only son, my brother, Ronald is now over there, too, after early onset Dementia claimed him. My husband is there as well over a couple of graves awaiting the resurrection away. Sorry, if this has become maudlin. I am feeling a bit weepy as I remember, but I'm also rejoicing because I know whose I am, and whose they were, that is, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When I was a preteen, I went with my Dad to buy our trees around ten o'clock on Christmas Eve after the prices were slashed in half by the vendor because he needed to stretch his salary from the New York City design firm where he worked as a drawing board artist. After handing over a dollar or two, we'd lug it home tied to the top of the lemon yellow Dodge station wagon with fender fins in the back.
The year Dad had his stroke placing him on VA Disability that was a lot less than his usual take home salary, our trip to the tree lot very late on Christmas Eve became a necessity if we were to have a tree at all. Now a teenager, I went with Mom to pick a scrawny tree from the back of the lot. Then Mom began her bargaining magic. A sweet redheaded Southern woman, her soft accented voice melted the hardened heart of the New York tree lot owner so that he gave her the tree for a dollar. He probably knew he wouldn’t be able to sell it anyway. Half its needles already littered the lot floor! Fire hazard or not, Mom and I attempted to wrestle it to the top of the silver grey station wagon. The lot salesman's sympathy for us extended to securing the tree on top of the car. To top off his generosity, he wouldn’t even take the quarter tip Mom offered him. She probably was clueless that such a small tip would normally be an affront!
Back at home, Dad was able enough, in spite of his nearly paralyzed right side, to help us get the tree from the top of the car, saw off the bottom (I held the tree securely), and together we secured it in the tree stand set up in the living room. As I recall, he generously watered it. The thirsty tree sucked up that water so quickly I could almost hear it suck and slurp! I do believe it may have given a satisfied sigh, L.O.L. Before bedtime, we refilled the tree well, then again in the morning. Strange or miraculous as it may seem, that tree lasted us until New Years Eve when all used trees got hauled to the curb for garbage pickup.
These days, fresh evergreen Christmas trees have prices ranging from $5 - $10 per foot! Thus I don't have one. I set up my wee two foot "tree" on the living room coffee table where the gifts around its base dwarf it! I decorate it with mini-colored and white lights, mini glass balls and tiny gold bells. Gold garland and a string of tiny red beads complete the decorations. It's kinda cute! Well, enough from me for today. As my dear Mom would have said, "Don't be strangers, now, you hear. Y'all come back." Blessings, Cass Wessel
If you peeked inside my overflowing closets, you would wonder why I keep all that stuff. Admittedly, my dear departed brother's things are still in one of them. I gave away his clothes, but other stuff like old family photos have yet to find a new home.
Meanwhile, my flotsam and jetsam jam the others. I rationalize that I still use these items, but do I need them? Probably not.
Last month, someone reminded me to clean the detritus out of my house before I was gone. How did I feel about that statement? Hurt. What did I think? Yep, they're right. I need to get rid of some stuff, but not just yet. After all, if I did, wouldn’t that be acknowledging my days are drawing to a close? I’m not ready for that, yet. I’ve still got things to do, books to write, and a life to live hopefully for the glory of God.
Recently, I found myself pondering how to pare down my stuff. Donate it? Yard sale? Trash bin? Ah, but the memories attached to certain items cause me to shift them back onto the shelf. It seems almost traitorous to dispose of them. How can I when a dear person gave them to me? Even though the person is long gone to glory, or maybe because the person is gone, I still find it tough to part with the item. It’s as if by parting with the gift, I would be saying goodbye, again.
Then there’s the things I inherited from my parents, things they hoarded, like my mother’s ceramic angel figurines . . . made in the orient . . . worthless, but oh so priceless to me because they remind me of her. And Dad’s paintings appraised at lower in value than their frames, but they were painted by him. How can I part with them? It’s like parting with him all over again.
So what am I to do with all this stuff? I think I’ll just let my daughters and son have the joy of dealing with it. Then I won’t have to feel guilty when it all ends up in the dumpster, or yard sale, or wherever. That will be their worry.
I’d finished preaching, greeted everyone at the church door who had braved the icy temperatures chatting with them about their fearlessness in the Arctic cold. We had a good laugh. I don’t remember anyone mentioning that the Ontario Provincial Police had closed Route 11 from where we were in Cochrane all the way South to North Bay due to the extremely frigid conditions. Even if they had told me, I still would have gone since I had animals at home that a friend had been caring for, but was expecting me to return that afternoon.
I packed an emergency kit adding bottled water and a thermos of hot coffee and dressed myself warmly while the Explorer Sport’s engine warmed. I checked for the amount of gas in the tank to make sure it was full enough. It was. Then I set out in the warmest part of the day leaving the warmth and safety of Cochrane for the barren plains of Northern Ontario.
Before I reached the next town, my trusty Explorer went silent so I steered it to the side of the roadway. Now what? Stranded in life threatening cold (-30F) with zero cell phone bars, I prayed.
“Lord help! My car just quit and I haven’t a clue why, but you know. Please send someone. It’s too cold for me to leave my vehicle and walk. I’d freeze to death. Is this how you will be taking me home to you? I have animals waiting for me! Rescue me, please.”
Within minutes a speck of a car appeared on the horizon. As it drew closer, I saw it was an Ontario Police car. I thought, “Yes! A Policeman might give me a ticket, but I’ll get help.”
The cruiser sped by me. My heart sank . . .
Then I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw the cruiser make a “Uey”, a U turn. An Officer hopped out of his car and came to my window, tapping on it. I spoke through the glass explaining I couldn’t lower it because I had no juice in my engine. He motioned for me to pop the hood. After checking, he walked back to his cruiser, pulled around me doing another U-turn so that his vehicle’s hood faced mine. He attached jumper cables.
Within minutes I was able to lower my electric window and talk to him. He merely gave me a warning, then said, “In this cold your engine freezes up quickly from the below zero wind chill. The faster you drive, the higher the wind chill and the quicker it freezes. If you want to make it home, don’t go over 30 kilometers per hour (about 25 mph). You should be at your home in Kirkland Lake before dark.” I thanked him profusely then set out at the recommended speed. He followed for a bit, and then did another U-turn to continue traveling north.
After I pulled into the Manse driveway, my dog Frisky greeted me at the door energetically wagging his tail then made a beeline for the back door. After he did his business, I fed and watered him. Then we snuggled beneath blankets on my sofa to watch the weather report on TV. Think I should have checked that before I started for home? Yep, I do too.