Monday, July 9, 2012

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee Part 2a

Oh my, what a day this has been. So full of chance meetings, winding roads, memories, moments where the ordinary met the holy, laughter, tears, beauty, fast moving storms, and rekindled sparks of love.  Sweetie and I took pictures all day long, but none quite matched the pictures I have in my head. I fear that they will be gone by tomorrow morning. Funny how my memory can't hold a new thought for more than a few minutes, but as I rounded a curve in the mountain road, I remembered I was almost home. Well, not home exactly, but close to Mom and Dad's cabin in the woods, fondly called Eagle's Lodge.

The day started on a strangely spiritual note when Suzi and I were heading through the lobby and she walked right up to an older gent sitting at a table near the door. Suzi is like that - Miss Social. She thinks everyone wants to say hi, and oh by the way give her a pat on the head. Which is exactly what this man did. We exchanged pleasantries and before I knew it, I had pulled up a chair to listen to his story. He's a 92 year old preacher who is visiting Etowah for a couple of days. This is where he met his wife when he was a new preacher in town. He was 19 and she was 17. They were married for over 70 years until she passed away four months ago today. He sat at the table and told me how he loved her, carried a picture of them in a breast pocket. We both dabbed away tears from our eyes.  When Sweetie stepped out of the elevator he saw me sitting there and thought I must have run into an old friend. Funny, after about 15 minutes it felt like we were old friends. Sweetie joined us in conversation and by the time we met my sister in the parking lot, we'd exchanged names and addresses.

He was nothing at all like my dad in looks, or background. Yet in my knowing place I felt sure he'd been put in my path for a reason. I asked him to say a prayer for us. Certainly not a usual request that I'd make of someone I'd just met. But preachers like to pray I think. It was a beautiful prayer that blessed all three of us.

Buck Bald, TN
Once in the car my sister directed us up, over, and around the mountain roads to Coker Creek. Jack drove like Mario Andretti. We drove twice around Tall Pine Circle. A few new houses have been built,  but mostly things looked the same.  Our main destination was Buck Bald to scatter my parent's ashes on what looks like the top of the world.  Jean threw open her arms in praise, I prayed a silent prayer, Sweetie stood in awe and Suzi raced around like a dog was meant to do. She also found something stinky to roll in, but we never figured out what.  After looking in all directions, Jean and I reached into the plastic bag that held what was left of our parents.  I can't put into words how it feels to see your mama and daddy and the lives they led, their stories, their
Two Indian Maids on top of the World
Eagles Lodge
joys and sorrows, their love reduced to a pile of ashes in a ziplocked baggie.  Each of held some ashes in our hands as Sweetie spit on his finger and held it up to determine the direction of the wind. In our own time with our own thoughts we released the ashes to the invisible wind. And yes, they blew back into our faces like some kind of Chevy Chase escapade.  Jean ended up standing on a picnic table. I stood behind her and could see the ashes she tossed being taken up and into the mountain air that Daddy first inhaled when he was born, and Mom grew to love like her own home.  Before we left the mountain top, Sweetie said a prayer. I wish I could repeat his words. Like the ashes, they were there and then they were gone. But I don't think Billy Graham could have done any better.

 I hadn't known what to expect but I believe it was the perfect end to lives well lived.  They earned their place in the National Cemetery. Dad's military career spanned 30 years. Mom spent 60 of her 80 years as part of a military family. It is a beautiful, dignified and sacred place. But it doesn't get much better than going back to the earth where your soul once resided.  We did a good thing today. And now, maybe I can finally let go and move forward.

Bald River Falls
We continued the day driving to places I wanted to see again and share with Sweetie. Jean, aka She Who Loves the Streams,  made an excellent Indian guide. She's spent the last 9 months wandering through the woods and finding her place among the trees and rivers.  On a whim we stopped so I could visit a woman who had been the Coker Creek Postmaster for 50 years. She and my dad got to be good friends when they had their cabin in the woods. She told me that just a couple of days ago she saw my name in her address book and was going to call to see what had happened to me. She didn't call, but how weird is it that I knocked on her door and say hello? I can't say exactly what it is, but I am drawn to old people. I could sit and listen to them tell stories all day long.  People who have lived to be over 90 years old have a lot of wisdom to share.  And many just want someone to
She Who Loves the Streams
listen to them.  I'm proud to say I'm a good listener.

It's almost midnight, and this post is becoming a book.  I'll write about the 2nd half of the day tomorrow.

Today I'm grateful for my baby sister, Queen Anne's Lace and Black Eyed Susans, waterfalls, the feel of God's hand on my shoulder, mules that smile, the sound a river makes as it travels over rocks, the smell of mountain air, BBQ brisket smoked for 23 hours, rain that drenches you in seconds and makes you laugh at the intensity of it, stinky dogs, and the man I call Sweetie.

Wishing for you a song and a prayer,
 Merry ME

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