Tag Archive | car accident

A Dramatic First Entry to My Gratitude Jar

Last week I wrote about the special words Mim, Floey, and I chose for 2015. Mim’s word is WAIT. Floey’s is LEARN. And mine is GRATITUDE. More readers responded to that post than usual, and I really appreciated reading your comments.

My Gratitude Jar for 2015

My Gratitude Jar for 2015

One friend asked me if I had ever heard of a “Gratitude Jar?” I hadn’t, but upon her suggestion, I googled the phrase, and learned a lot about it. Basically it’s a jar that you keep in a handy place, along with small scraps of paper and a pen, so that you can easily write down anything that you are particularly grateful for whenever you happen to think about it. Then drop the scrap of paper into the jar. Over the year, you can see the pile of blessings in your life grow higher and higher in the jar. Whenever you’re feeling that “your glass is half empty rather than half full,” you can look at your jar, reread some of the slips of paper, and remember many of the things you’re truly grateful for – the many blessings in your life.

I told Mim that I wanted to start a Gratitude Jar and to keep it on my desk. She found a beautiful blue glass jar for me to use, and the next day she unintentionally provided me with the first item to write on a slip of paper to put into the jar. She had driven me to jail in Madison to play the piano for the women’s worship service. She was planning to shop for groceries while I was in jail. I was thankful that she had dropped me off at the door of the City-County Building. It was a cold (below zero temperatures), snowy, and windy day. I was glad I didn’t have to park several blocks away and walk to the jail. But that’s not what I wrote on the first slip I dropped into my Gratitude Jar.

After Mim dropped me off at the jail, she drove toward the Beltline to go to Woodman’s. The roads were very slick. As she was driving on the John Nolen Drive ramp to get on the Beltline westbound, she hit a slippery spot, lost control of the car, and spun off the ramp onto a steep embankment. She fully expected to roll over. She didn’t. She didn’t hit any other cars, and no other cars hit her. She was okay. The car was okay. She was upright, but stuck. She had her cellphone with her, and called 911. Before the police arrived, a snowplow/sanding truck stopped. The driver came to be sure she was okay. Before he got to the car door he had called the police and a tow truck. Within half an hour of the accident, Mim was safely back on the road. She didn’t go grocery shopping, but instead went to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee. That’s where she waited for me to call her to say I was done playing in jail and ready for her to pick me up.

Mim told me all about the accident when she picked me up from jail. This was only the second time in her life that she had slid into a ditch. The last time she was in college, driving home in a snowstorm in Minnesota – more than 40 years ago.

The first entry in my Gratitude Jar

The first entry in my Gratitude Jar

It’s a scary feeling to lose control of your car, especially when you’re on a steep embankment and you fully expect to roll over. As we talked about how bad the driving conditions were, and how bad the accident could have been, we were so grateful that the only thing that was lost in this accident was about 30 minutes of time and a $150 tow charge, which will probably be reimbursed by AAA.

This is what I wrote on the first scrap of paper I dropped into my Gratitude Jar:

I’m so grateful that Mim was safe when she slid into the ditch at the John Nolen entrance to the Beltline. I’m so thankful for her safety, that there was no damage to the car, and that she was quickly helped to safety.

I sincerely hope that the other slips of paper I drop into my Gratitude Jar are not as dramatic. But I’m certainly glad I’ve chosen GRATITUDE as my word for 2015, and I’m thankful that Roberta told me about having a Gratitude Jar. I think the jar will be stuffed with lots of thoughtful and thankful notes throughout the year. Maybe I’ll share some more with you as the year progresses.

Gratitude Stune - fullness of life

Awful August – except for …

Broken Glass grass and skyDoes it ever seem like your world is shattered? That life is suddenly broken? For some of my family members, that’s what August has been like this year.

I guess I would describe August 2014 along two tracks of events. One track is affecting my broadly extended family. The other track is affecting Mim and me mostly, and a few other unrelated people. I feel like I’ve been running as fast as I can along the “Mim and me track,” but the “broader family track” keeps pulling me over to slow down and cry with my family and wonder what’s happening in our world.

Sandy and Conrad looking out their kitchen window while hospice volunteers did spring yard work.

Sandy and Conrad looking out their kitchen window while hospice volunteers did spring yard work.

Perhaps I should begin by explaining who my “broadly extended family” includes. My brother, Danny, married his high school sweetheart, Sandy, shortly after they graduated from high school in the mid-1960s. They had two kids, Cindy and Kevin. As Danny and Sandy matured, they grew in different directions and divorced when their kids were still young. Danny and Sandy still stayed in contact over the years, primarily because of their kids. They both remarried twice, bringing more in-laws and nieces (no more nephews) into the family. We’re a big, complicated (but probably fairly typical) extended family. I think of Sandy as my first sister-in-law. She is still part of my “broadly extended family.” I knew Sandy in high school, even before she dated my brother. I’ve always liked and admired Sandy. She made me laugh a lot with her quick wit.

Sandy and Conrad holding handsSandy has been in declining health for the last few years, even though she’s only 67. Several months ago Kevin took the picture of his mother and her husband, Conrad, holding hands when she was in the hospital. Kevin had gone to visit her, and he found them both asleep but still comforting each other.

A few days later she was released from the hospital, to go home on hospice. Conrad would take care of her at home.

On Monday evening, August 4, Conrad went to Subway to get sandwiches. He was killed in a car accident on his way home, on the street right in front of their home.

Sandy was devastated. She lost all will to live. She died 16 days later. Her funeral is today.

Kevin has three daughters and his sister Cindy has two sons – all who lost two very loving grandparents in August. It’s been a very sad month. We’re reminded of the observation in Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…” But it’s really hard when two deaths – of people you love deeply – come so close together. Too much time to weep. Too much time to mourn. And no time to laugh and dance.

Farmhouse exterior - summerOn the “Mim and me track,” our farmhouse is moving quickly into its next phase. As you may recall, six years ago we turned the farmhouse into a bed-and-breakfast style spiritual retreat center. We named it Whispering Winds Retreat Haven. A year and a half ago we put Whispering Winds on hiatus and agreed to rent the farmhouse to a family who needed a place to live for a couple years. On August 3rd the renters moved out, five months earlier than planned. We were okay with that because the renters were able to buy a home of their own sooner than they expected, and we really wanted to spruce up the place and try to sell it.

A few days before the renters moved out, I received an email from someone (Jeff) who wanted to talk with me about collaborating on reopening the farmhouse as a retreat center. Eventually Jeff would like to buy the place, but for now he wanted to see if we could work together to reopen the farmhouse as a retreat center. We scheduled a time to get together at the farm and talk. That meant Mim and I had just over a week to “spruce” up the place before our meeting.

We quickly realized that we had a bigger clean-up job on our hands than we had anticipated, and we would need help. Amazingly, within that one week in early August, we had two women from a cleaning service deep-clean the five bathrooms and the kitchen; five men from a landscaping service spend a full day weeding, pruning, and removing three truckloads of brush from the yard; another handyman mow our 3-acre lawn and spread 8 more yards of mulch (he had spread 10 yards earlier in the season); our HVAC service man clean the furnace and repair the central AC; and a friend help us carry a dozen heavy boxes of dishes, glasses, flatware, and other furnishings up from the basement. With all that help, the house was presentable for our meeting with Jeff to explore the possibility of collaborating on a retreat center.

The next week, we had a friend paint walls and ceilings as needed throughout the house, reinstall parts of the kitchen cabinets, and replace the garbage disposal and faucet in the kitchen sink. Mim and I worked, too – mostly moving around furnishings to make the house look like a B&B retreat center again. It was an amazing transformation! Oh, and we also bought a new range to replace the one that had been accidentally damaged beyond repair by trying to clean the self-cleaning ovens with a spray-on oven cleaner. (Caution: Don’t ever do that!)

We were amazed. With the help of half a dozen friends and half a dozen strangers, our farmhouse was completely transformed within a couple weeks – all within the same timeframe between Conrad’s death and Sandy’s death.

Stone Meadows Condominiums

Stone Meadows Condominiums

The day after our meeting with the retreat guy (which had been a great time for sharing ideas, but probably not the beginning of a retreat collaboration), our realtor showed the house to a prospective buyer. Thanks to all the help we had received over the past week the house and 3-acre lawn were completely ready for showing!

But then everything changed. Our friend Sharon, who was renting one of the condos in the duplex next door to ours, was told that her condo had been sold and she would need to move out within a month or so. Sharon is the friend who had welcomed “Mary,” one of the 93-year-olds we care for, as a short-term roommate because we didn’t have room for her in our condo.

So… that’s what the next phase is going to be in the life of our farmhouse… Sharon and “Mary” are going to move into the farmhouse next month. Sharon may also invite her 90-year-old parents to join her for the winter months. We’ve talked with our real estate agent and have decided to take the farmhouse off the market. It seems pretty obvious that this is where Sharon and “Mary” need to be for the next several months.

That’s August 2014. Track one is filled with sadness. Track two is filled with fast-paced problem-solving and lots of hard work. Between the two tracks, we’ve been able to deeply sense God’s presence, God’s comforting love. I guess that’s why I played “God Will Take Care of You” for the prelude last Sunday in church. The awful August of 2014 demonstrates this truth. We’re not in this world alone. God is with us, as are the friends and family God has sent to comfort us, as well as the kind strangers God has ready to help us with our various challenges.

Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you;
Beneath God’s wings of love abide, God will take care of you.

Refrain:
God will take care of you, Thru ev’ry day, O’er all the way;
God will take care of you, God will take care of you.

Thru days of toil when heart grows frail, God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.

All you may need God will provide, God will take care of you;
Nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you.

No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon God’s breast, God will take care of you.

[Civilla D. Martin, 1904]

Gods presence butterfly