On hope and rainbows

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton

This past Sunday brought an eclectic mix of weather. Warm sunshine and then a cloudy gust to cool things down. The plastic resin chairs bounced across the yard like beach balls. We had an occasional sprinkle of rain, and then the sun was out. This pattern repeated itself throughout the day and into the evening.

I was cleaning the kitchen just after dinner when a beautiful burst of sunshine seemed to just pop out of the darkness. The glorious sunshine was joined with a downpour like I hadn’t seen in a while.

“It’s the perfect mix for a rainbow,” I thought to myself as I headed outdoors. Trust me when I tell you that I wasn’t disappointed. Across the evening sky were not one, but two rainbows. (My oldest daughter was able to snap a quick photo – see above.)

Looking at the double rainbow, I began to tear up. The beauty alone was enough to bring one to tears, but it was the rushing downpour of memories that caused me to be misty-eyed, but smiling at the same time.

Rainbows have a new meaning to me. On July 22, 2011, we were informed that the ventilator my dad was on had to come out. Though it aided his breathing, the apparatus was beginning to do more harm than good. My siblings, mom and I waited nervously while Dad went through the procedure. He came through it, was breathing on his own, and he was finally off the sedation. (Because of his Alzheimer’s, Dad was sedated so he wouldn’t remove the numerous tubes and wires attached to him.) Finally, he was able to see us! And we could see him – with his eyes open! It was wonderful – we were all crying and smiling – because after two long weeks, we had Dad back. He made eye contact with each and every one of us, smiled at us like he really recognized us, and he even tried to talk. We were able to leave the ICU room confidently, though we knew he had a very long road to recovery.

Later that evening, Dad started going downhill – and fast. Mom stayed with him all night, and we all started coming back to Dad’s room in the wee hours of the morning. By the afternoon of July 23, Dad was moved to Hospice care on another floor. His room was packed with us kids, our families and my parents’ siblings. We took shifts taking dinner breaks so that Dad wasn’t alone. Mom came home with me, where we tried to eat. We knew we had to go back to the hospital, but dreaded even thinking about returning.

A storm blew through, which gave us a few more minutes to linger over the dinner my husband had made. After a few sips of coffee, Mom was heading back. I would meet up with the rest of the family later, as I was waiting for my youngest daughter to return home from a week-long trip.

It was still sprinkling when we walked my mom outside to her car, and then out of no where was this bright, fleeting, intense sunshine. In its wake, we witnessed the most beautiful rainbow. I hugged my mom and told her, “Look, Mom, no matter what happens, it’s going to be okay. God‘s got our backs.” My phone started chiming – I was getting texts from other family members who saw the rainbow, too. The texts read: “Did you see the rainbow?” and “God’s promise.” We all felt tremendous hope and comfort in that unexpected rainbow.

Five hours later, in the wee hours of July 24, Dad was on heaven’s side of the rainbow.

In all life’s storms, there really is hope and comfort in a rainbow.

And now in the rainbow, for me anyways, there is also a smile from my dad.

“When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:16 ESV

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Some quiet time with Super Heroes

 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15:13 NIV

A few years ago, my husband and I answered a call for volunteers for our local historical society. I am not embarrassed to admit that I was a bit apprehensive.

Our volunteer mission: to place flags on veteran’s grave sites.

My apprehension wasn’t due to the perceived creepiness of going to a cemetery, but how would I handle this emotionally. As a military wife and mom, I’d be placing flags at the graves of someone else’s spouse or child.

Previously, my only experiences at cemeteries had been emotionally charged because of the burials of relatives or friends. Would emotions run high for this event, too?

Volunteers gather in the center of the cemetery to receive flags and instructions, then disperse. Amongst those donating their time were several members of scouting groups and some veterans – a good mix of young and old.

Walking amongst the headstones is very humbling. There is an innate respect for the ground you are walking on, carefully tip-toeing to make sure you don’t “step” on someone. After a quick search of a seemingly endless row of headstones, you spot one. A veteran’s grave marker. It is unmistakable. Place a flag to the left hand corner of the marker and you’re done.

Or so you think, “done.”

In my case, I would stand a moment and picture what the service member may have looked like, in a uniform fitting the years noted on the marker. Looking at the dates, you know if this person was young or old when they died; if they had come home from war and continued on with their lives. Or, sadly, if the service member had fallen for their country. Super heroes who answered the call to serve.

I’d say a sincere thank you to each veteran, using his or her name, plus give a prayer of thanks to God that this person put their life on the line for me, my family, my friends, for future generations, and off to find the next marker. Yes, there was a certain soberness to the occasion but there was certainly cause to smile, hearing the distant shouts of an excited Cub Scout yelling “I found one!” then watching as he firmly planted a flag and a gave a quick salute.

Did my emotions run high? Yes, without a doubt.

Leaving the cemetery, seeing hundreds of flags swaying in the breeze, I whispered to my super heroes, “Thanks, guys. See you next year.”

And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. ~Lee Greenwood

How will you celebrate Memorial Day?

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Making time to smell the flowers

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. – A.A. Milne

Reading my dear friend and mentor’s blog the other day made me sit and reflect on Mother’s Day and flower giving. Cindy’s blog, (found on my BlogRoll and here: www.laferle.com), was a simple post and a photo of the flowers she received from her son and soon-to-be-daughter-in-law.

My Mother’s Day arrangements have evolved as my children have grown older. I, too, received flowers. My youngest son gave me a beautiful hanging basket, and it touched my heart in so many ways. My husband had a rose, freshly cut from our yard, sitting in a vase next to my coffee and newspaper.
I believe my first experience in receiving flowers was from my dad. He never forgot to give my mom flowers on their anniversary and other special days. Every once in a while, he would surprise my sister and I with flowers on Valentine’s Day.

My husband does the same – he never forgets special dates and likes to surprise me with  bouquets. Every year on Valentine’s, he gets roses for our daughters, daughter-in-law, and our granddaughters. He also brought me the most beautiful flowers for the birth of each of our four children.

To me, no bouquet is sweeter than the handful of dandelions, picked with love by the chubby fingers of a toddler. Who smiles more, the giver? Or the receiver?

I still chuckle at the memory of my oldest son, who was about eight or nine-years-old, bringing me some of the most gorgeous hand-picked bouquets I had ever received from a child… until a neighbor (or was it his older sister?) alerted me that the flowers were coming from the garden of the dentist’s office down the street.

There is such beauty in seeing flowers in bloom. There is such a beauty in receiving flowers given with love, too.  The beauty of the flower compels us to pay it forward by sharing them with others.

When God created these living works of art, I am sure He knew they would touch more than our senses.

He knew they would touch our hearts.

Who smiles more? The Giver? Or the receiver?

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Playing in the sandbox

“I think when I was two years old in the sandbox. I think I formulated my basic philosophy there, and I haven’t really had to alter it very much ever since.” – Boyd Rice

My oldest son has been out of the house for almost five years, leaving home for basic training. Not too long after that, he got married, bought a house, and eventually faced a deployment. He also got to experience other “grown-up” realities, like budgeting, running a household, mourning the death of his wife’s grandmother – whom he just adored, and then mourning the loss of his own grandfather.

A boy when he left, he has grown into a fine young man. Of course, my heart bursts with pride for him, and for where life has taken him.

I love that he calls home to bounce ideas off of us; to ask questions and lay his concerns about life before us. Just recently I remembered something he said to me about a year ago at a particularly rough time.

“I wish I could just come home and go play in the sandbox.”

The sandbox his dad made was his and his siblings’ favorite spot to play. There were Hot Wheel cities, bridges made of sand and sticks, hand-carved paths for flowing rivers – which were then filled with several buckets of water. The kids and their friends would play outside in the sandbox for hours on end.

We have a shared memory, as I fondly remember the sandbox my dad had made for my siblings and me. The stuff we built and the fun we had. We, too, played for hours at a time.

A sandbox is a refuge for kids. Close your eyes and imagine the soothing feel of the sand as it is running through your fingers; or the sensation of squeezing the sand between your toes; or the therapeutic process that takes your mind off your troubles while you are busy building a sand castle.

“I wish I could just go play in the sandbox” has become our saying when life gets tough. I’ve repeated this wish to him during many conversations we’ve had regarding life, stress and when his grandfather was suffering with Alzheimer’s.

Just the other day, we were notified of a friend’s death. It was the same day that we heard that a dear neighbor is struggling with an aggressive form of cancer. And it was just a day after hearing of the very public struggles of a well-respected family in our area. There was other bad news that day, but those three illustrations surely make my point.

“I wish I could just go play in my sandbox,” I said to myself. And so I did. Closing my eyes for just a few minutes, I was in the backyard of my childhood home, playing in the sandbox. My dad was working in the yard, the sun was shining, and the warm sand felt wonderful on my bare feet.

And, for a just moment, all was right in the world.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Note: this post was featured on Midlife Boulevard on Jan. 24, 2014.

 

Wrapped in a prayer

“Pray, and let God worry.”  — Martin Luther

I absolutely love to knit, and though I’m still a beginner, it is something I really enjoy.

I honestly don’t remember where I initially learned. Memory says my great-aunt taught me, but my mom says it was her. All I can tell you is that as a youngster with a set of knitting needles in hand, I was really uncoordinated and rather confused with the process. So I crocheted instead.

As the years progressed, I became quite proficient at crocheting, but I always yearned to knit. Then I was busy raising four kids so the crafts, needles, yarn and such were stuffed in boxes and forgotten about.

It was so enthralling to watch someone just knitting away – witnessing something beautiful being made in brilliant color and a soft, comforting texture. So, about five years ago, I bought a how-to book and re-taught myself.

A simple kitchen dishcloth was my first successful project, and I have a drawer full of them to prove it! From knitting dishcloths I learned to make a baby blanket – which was simple because it was basically the same pattern with more stitches. And from that blanket I started making Prayer Shawls.

When I’d accompany my mom to my dad’s doctor appointments, I usually brought my knitting. It helped soothe me, because anyone dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient knows that with each doctor appointment or test, the family will most likely hear that the is patient getting worse, not better. And so one of the first prayer shawls I made, I gave to my mom.

The beauty of a prayer shawl is that you can choose to make it for someone in particular (which I have) or make one and donate it to total stranger (which I have done, too). I made a soft-pink shawl for a neighbor with breast cancer, a few shawls for relatives, and a few for several for people that I never met.

Beginning each shawl, I’d thank God for the ability to use my hands for His work, and then to ask Him bless the person who would receive the shawl. I’d pray for the recipient to feel God’s comfort, seek His grace, and that when they needed a big hug from God, they’d put the shawl around them and feel His touch.

Last July, my mom and I were getting my dad admitted to a nursing home. I can’t even begin to articulate the sense of loss we felt. I tried so hard to keep my composure, but once I got home, I completely broke down.

I went to visit Dad the next day, and there was a brown throw on the chair at the foot of his bed. I picked it up and handed it to a nurse’s aide, explaining it didn’t belong to my dad.

With a gentle smile, she said it was in fact his.

“Someone makes and donates prayer shawls to our new residents,” she explained.

With tears in my eyes, I covered my dad with this shawl that was made with the love and prayers of a total stranger. Maybe the knitter went through placing a loved one in a nursing home and knew extra prayers were in order. It was in that moment I realized just how comforting a prayer shawl is to the recipient.

I just wish I could personally thank the person who was so generous with their time and talents. I’m guessing the best way to say thanks is to pay it forward.

Have you made or received a Prayer Shawl? Feel free to share your story.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb