Old Stuff

I’ve recently been working on a piece for a themed issue about “keepsakes” for an online publication. (My goal is to be published there someday but it’s a stretch for a writer without an MFA degree or a lot of publishing credits. I keep trying…) Their focus was that because so much of what we do now is digital, we no longer keep things like ticket stubs and newspaper clippings as physical reminders of the events of our lives

I wrote about a beautiful nativity set that my grandmother painted years ago which is one of my most treasured possessions, and it made me think about articles you read now about how the generations coming after us baby-boomers don’t want our stuff. It’s all passé and dated so please schlep it all to the auction house or Goodwill before you pass away, so we don’t have to be bothered with it. Just not cool, mom and dad.

I can remember when my parents cleaned out my grandparents’ home. I was a senior in college, obsessed with an upcoming wedding and a new teaching job and happily removed from the whole process. I was in that “I’m a hip young adult now, buying my own things for my first apartment and who wants all that old crap?” phase. I’m sure this is common to every generation but now we post about it online so it’s an ISSUE.

I’m not talking about the piles of ancient magazines and moth-eaten old clothing. I am all for getting rid of useless debris. (My husband can attest to this.) I’m talking about objects that connect us to those who are no longer with us–whether it’s a beautiful picture or a handmade scarf or even some simple kitchen utensil that we remember using with a parent or grandparent. In those items, we hear our loved one’s voices, we smell pipe smoke on our father’s wool jacket, we remember family members eating and drinking from the plates and glasses that now grace our own holiday tables.

As I age, I experience an increasing need to wrap my arms around the tangible evidence that people I loved once existed, as memories of their physical presence gradually recede. The boxes of family slides buried on a closet shelf. An odd-looking plant from my grandparents’ den that is still alive in our sunroom forty-plus years later. The ceramic pitchers my grandmother painted that hold my kitchen utensils. Two Books of Common Prayer, covered in nubby leather, one inscribed on my dad’s 1937 confirmation day and one carried by mother in her wedding in 1955, resting in my nightstand drawer.

 prayer books

I pull out those slides occasionally when I’m working on a piece of writing to help me illuminate my story, to get the details right about small-town life in the 1960’s and ‘70’s. I use the tools in my grandmother’s ceramic pitchers every day and I think of her in her own kitchen. She was a great talker and often got so busy talking (and sipping her scotch and soda) that she invariably burned something. But no one made better fried tomatoes in a cast-iron skillet or the most decadent almond cake with bitter chocolate drizzle. Those old prayer books with their tissue thin pages embossed in gold, filled with the language of 1928 when they were published, represent my heritage as a dyed-in-the-wool cradle Episcopalian.

I remember my grandmother used to say, “You’re not going to have us forever, you know.” When we’re young, we don’t appreciate the impact of that statement. I know I didn’t. So my message to the next generation or two is this–don’t be in such a hurry to disparage the worldly goods of your parents. Granted, most of the possessions we so fiercely cling to in our lives are just plain stuff, easily replaceable. But choose carefully, when you start the overwhelming job of cleaning out the homes of parents and grandparents. If you come across something in which you hear your mother’s voice or that takes you back to a wonderful time in your childhood, hold it fast, don’t stuff it into that trash bag headed for rummage sale. There will come a time when you will cherish it, perhaps far more than you do right now.  If you can taste the almond cake or hear your dad reading those Edward Lear limericks to you as a bedtime story, find a place for that recipe or that worn old book in your life. Those are the sparks which light our memories, tell us where we’ve been and who we are now, and like the people who once owned them, their very presence brings us joy.

Edward Lear 3


Flowers at the Salon

It’s just a small salon located at the rear of a non-descript building along a busy commercial highway. Inside there are only two chairs, and it’s warm and inviting, painted in soothing muted colors, and decorated with interesting artwork. Comfortable and cozy, rather than big city slick. I’ve been coming here for so long that I think of the two women who own the shop as friends, rather than professionals who style my hair.

When I walked in this week and saw several fresh floral arrangements resting on a counter, I thought perhaps there had been a death in one of their families. But that wasn’t the case. Steph received an arrangement from a client simply because it had been a difficult week and her daughter’s school had been closed for several days due to threats of violence. The other bouquet was for an older client who had recently returned to the area after a brief move out of town. A customer who often had appointments at the same time wanted to welcome her home with a surprise bouquet of flowers.

Those flowers reflect the intimate sense of community that exists in a hair salon. The people who color and snip and make us shine a little brighter are also our therapists and ministers. We sit in front of the mirror, vulnerable with dripping hair, and share our lives—our joys and frustrations and heartbreak. Our children grow up and our parents grow old and the mirror reflects a few more lines on our face and a lot more gray in our hair, but our stylists keep us going and send us out into the world looking and feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever is coming at us next. Kind of like church.  

The salon is a great source of information and gossip, (also like church.) Scandal and drama in the schools? A new restaurant or store has opened that’s exceptionally good or bad? The salon is way ahead of social media when it comes to finding out the latest scoop. As we wait for our hair to dry or the color to soak in, we eavesdrop on each other’s conversations. We spread rumors and share ideas and recommend plumbers and house painters and help each other figure out ways to cope—whether it’s with a bad back or a bad landscaping job. No online presence can replace the human connection of someone looking at us and saying, “I had the same problem and let me tell you what I did about it.”

Our stylists, like our pastors, are there for us in the good times and the bad. They are there for homecoming and prom and wedding hair. Lisa met me at the shop before hours on the morning of my father’s funeral so that my hair looked good. It was one less thing I had to deal with on one of the most difficult days of my life. When I had major back surgery and worried about how long it would be until I could get a haircut, she reassured me that she would come to my house and do my hair and that she occasionally does that for clients with health issues. A version of home communion.

These women work their magic on all of us, but they reserve a special grace for their oldest customers. They tenderly wash and style the hair of ladies for whom a trip to the salon is an event, a big trip out. Fridays are often “blue haze” days when elderly clients come in to be permed and colored and sprayed, many times in the same style they’ve worn all their lives. Having their hair done makes them feel connected to the young women they once were, even though their aging bodies may betray them.

I was still there when the customer came in who received the anonymous flowers. She spoke with sad resignation about moving into a small apartment in a local retirement facility. I got a sense that she felt defeated and that she knew this move would probably be her last. When her appointment was over, Lisa presented her with the flowers and said they were a gift from another client who wanted to welcome her back and hoped they would see each other again soon at the salon. At first, the woman’s face lit up with a delighted smile, but then she worried about how she would carry them home in her car without spilling them. Lisa and another customer walked with her down the ramp from the shop, helped her into her car and securely tucked the flowers on the floor of the backseat.

I hope those blooms brighten her days at least until next week, when she comes back to the salon.

flowers at the Lisa's (2)


System Malfunction

It’s a balmy spring-like day, and I just came back from a walk. I needed to process the scenes from Florida. Once again, we’re shown footage of students filing out of a school with their hands up or on each other’s shoulders. An army of emergency vehicles and school buses parked helter-skelter around the campus. Frantic parents behind crime scene tape. Swat teams in riot gear. And then I keep imagining what the media mercifully doesn’t show you. A mother rocking in a fetal position in her teenaged son’s room, clutching his soccer jersey. Or the spouse of a murdered teacher, catatonic with grief, sitting at the kitchen table where she ate breakfast with her husband that morning.

This hits so close to home for those of us who spent our professional lives inside a public school. We know what a February afternoon feels like, right before the dismissal bell rings. Late winter is the armpit of the school year; the shine has long worn off, winter sports are over, spring sports haven’t started yet, standardized tests and final projects loom and June is barely visible on the horizon. The natives tend to be a little restless. I remember instances of fire alarms going off at the end of the day, occasionally pulled by a bored student, but more often accompanied by an announcement “Please disregard. There is a system malfunction.” Indeed.

We have a long history of violence in this country. The wars, including the one we fought with each other, the bloodshed in the western frontier, the gangsters and organized crime of the 1920’s, the bitter strife of race riots and now drug wars–it’s all horrible, but it’s the sad nature of the human beast.  I don’t condone any of it but at least there is some sort of ugly agenda. I will shoot you because you own slaves, or you didn’t pay your drug bill, or I want the land that belongs to you. What I cannot get my head around is the slaughter of innocent people for no apparent reason other than the shooter is hurt and angry or carries some stain that can only be washed clean by the blood of strangers.

I was bullied in school as I suspect most of us were, to some degree.  Whether we were too fat or too skinny, didn’t make the football team or cheerleading squad, were too bright or too slow, or maybe our family was poor and our clothes smelled bad—it didn’t matter. We’ve all sustained injury from grenades of pain hurled by our peers and most of us have probably thrown a few of our own.

I can remember a fourth-grade classmate who was vilified by the teacher every single day. Whatever went wrong, it was his fault, and he would just lower his eyes and take it when she lit into him. Looking back, that teacher should have been yanked from the classroom, but she was one of the revered grand dames of our elementary school and no one dared criticize her. The young man eventually graduated, shows up at class reunions happily married and successful, and to my knowledge, has never shot anyone with a high-powered rifle because he was treated like a pariah in fourth grade.

What’s different now? Is it because social media allows us no escape? Back in the day, we could at least go home and close our door and cry or scream or play loud music or do whatever we needed to soothe ourselves without seeing continued taunts and ridicule on the electronic device we’re connected to 24 hours a day. Or is it that we no longer have the resilience to accept that life can be bitterly cruel and terrible things happen to us that are not our fault and are therefore entitled to take out our frustration on others we perceive as more fortunate? Or is it simply because it’s harder for some of us to find a support system? Whether it’s within our own family or a church or an organization—we all need a place to go where someone will wrap their arms around us and say it’s going to be ok. If we’re out there flailing for too long, we’ll grab onto any lifeline we can find, even if it’s extended by the hand of evil.

It appears there is nothing we can do about slaughtering the innocent except voice platitudes, wring our hands, and wait for it to happen again. When we dare raise our voices in question or protest, we are like gnats smashed against the windshield of this giant stinking leviathan of corruption that purports to be our federal government. Someone told me recently that when he sent an email to his congressman, he got an automated response informing him that the site was no longer being monitored. Not even a “Duly noted. Thank you for sharing your concern.” No, this was “Sorry, but we can’t be bothered with your petty email because we are too busy pandering to political action committees and special interest groups and whoever else will guarantee us lots of money for re-election.”

I have been blessed to live a life of comfort and ease and although I faithfully vote in every election, I have never been terribly political. This sixty-year old moderately liberal retired school teacher is angry and frustrated about what is happening, but I feel helpless. The message is loud and clear that I can send all the emails and make all the phone calls I want, and it will do no good whatsoever. Dying children don’t stand a chance against big money and big power.

I was still teaching when we started code red drills after Columbine. We’d hear the announcement over the intercom, and I would close the blinds, lock the doors, and turn off the lights. My students would put down their instruments and we’d all crowd behind my desk, in awkwardly close proximity, away from view of the windows. The kids would snicker and whisper, and I would admonish them to be quiet, that this was serious, and we’d wait patiently for the all clear announcement. At the time it seemed silly and contrived, and we’d roll our eyes at the idea of a boogie-man coming down the hall to get us. And then at a neighboring rural school district in April 2003, a middle school student walked into the cafeteria and shot his principal dead in front of hundreds of his classmates.

Fifteen years later, we are still slaughtering the innocent. The system continues to malfunction.


Please Remain Seated

When we were cleaning out closets last week, we opened a box and found an old yellowed program from an “Alumni Revue” presented at what was then West Chester State Teachers’ College, dated May 22, 1943. My mother-in-law was one of the student soloists performing piano selections by Liszt and Chopin. A typical Saturday afternoon recital where I suspect the attendees were dressed in suits and ties and proper dresses and hats. Across the bottom is written, “NOTICE: If the Air Raid signal is sounded during the program, please REMAIN SEATED.”

I simply cannot imagine what it must have been like living at a time when you didn’t know if or when an air raid siren was going to sound. To have black-out curtains hanging in your windows. To have civilians manning towers along the nearby mid-Atlantic coast, searching for submarines. No cell phone warnings, no break-ins of network programming or that ominous fanfare NBC plays which makes you immediately drop what you’re doing and race over to the TV to find out where the latest catastrophe has occurred. No, just a simple “Please remain seated” and we’ll tell you what to do if we’re about to be bombed. Otherwise, enjoy the concert. Matter of fact. Fiercely calm. In today’s vernacular, “We’ve got this.”

lookout tower

We also discovered an album of pictures of my father-in-law’s war days. Blurry black and white shots of him squinting into the sun wearing a safari hat with his uniform, taken while he was stationed in Egypt, the pyramids visible in the background. He was trained as a meteorologist, so he never saw combat, but like so many of his peers, was a long way from his family’s farm.

Brian's dad safari hat (2)

Most of us have not lived with the threat of enemy aggression on our own soil. The wars of recent generations have been fought on the other side of the world. Korea and Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan—bloody horrors in far-away jungles and deserts but not on our doorstep. No Pearl Harbors. No war bonds and rationing and air raid warnings on concert programs.

But that program and collection of faded pictures unexpectedly discovered on a mid-winter afternoon gave us a glimpse into what was the everyday reality for our parents and grandparents. A father in uniform standing in front of the pyramids.  A mother blissfully playing her Chopin etude while someone scans the skies over Philadelphia, Pennsylvania looking for German Luftwaffe to appear on the horizon. Powerful reminders of just how spoiled we are, how comfortable and secure a life we are privileged to live, thanks to the sacrifices of those who came before us.

In “Darkest Hour,” the current movie about Winston Churchill, there is a scene where Churchill rides the Underground in London and asks the commoners on the train to help him decide whether to fight or negotiate with Hitler at the onset of World War II. The passengers, astonished at seeing their prime minister riding public transportation, jump up from their seats, and respond with a vehement yes, that they are willing to fight and sacrifice and do whatever it takes. The movie makes me wonder, even these almost 80 years later, where we would be today if men like Churchill hadn’t taken a stand and the rest of us hadn’t set aside our differences and joined forces to support those leaders, who despite their imperfections, were men of integrity and vision. Who agonized over doing what was best for their country.


God forbid, we should ever be threatened again because I worry about how we would respond. We are so busy clamoring for attention for our own agendas, so focused on “me, too” in the general sense that we’ve lost touch with “us”. The cacophony of our voices is so loud we can’t hear each other. I doubt that it would be prudent for any of our current world leaders to escape their security team and hop on public transportation to chat with the masses, but if one of them did, I am afraid we would remain seated, headphones in our ears, eyes glued to our phones, oblivious to what is happening around us.



A toilet has taken up residence in our guest room for the last three weeks. The steps and second floor carpet are covered with plastic which the cat loves to prowl around on at night–crinkle, crinkle at 4 AM. Cardboard boxes filled with bottles of shower gel and shampoo, along with pictures and stacks of towels are piled on various beds. Our windows have been stripped of their curtains and wall switches stand naked without face plates awaiting the application of a new coat of paint.

We are remodeling our master bathroom, repainting rooms, and installing new carpet on most of our second floor. I know just the word “remodel” is enough to strike fear in the hearts of many. We’ve all heard the horror stories. Weeks of cooking in a microwave perched on a coffee table. Faucets that don’t fit the new sinks. Needed items delayed because of a dock-workers strike somewhere in the world. A new countertop just a centimeter too short. Supporting walls that don’t support. But this hasn’t been horrible. A little inconvenient, yes, but surprisingly painless. We’re not quite finished yet, so I hope I’m not tempting fate.

bathroom workspace

We built our home twenty years ago, and for the most part, it has served us well. Unlike some of our friends who are starting to use the “D” word, down-sizing, we’re not there yet. Good Lord willing, we plan to stay here for a while and have discovered that things which were all the rage when we built the house are maybe not so practical in the long run. Like the giant corner spa tub that we’ve used once in the last five years. (Not to mention having to stand on top of said tub to open the bathroom windows.)

So, we decided to lose the tub and splurge on a bigger tiled shower. Of course, once you start a project, Pandora’s box opens and beguiles you with “Well, maybe you should replace the carpet while you’re doing this and since the painter’s here, let him do the guest bathroom, too.” I will own these words, reinforcing the notion that I taught my husband how to spend money.

Every morning, at 7 AM, the foreman and his crew arrive at our door, work steadily without so much as a lunch break, and leave at 5 PM. They are efficient, professional, and utterly amazing. I have no mechanical skills whatsoever. None. I can tell the difference between a Phillips-head and a regular screwdriver and I know righty-tighty, lefty-loosey and that’s about as far as it goes. What these gentlemen can do, almost effortlessly, boggles my mind.


No one scratches their head and says, “Uh, I don’t know. Let me call someone and see if they can figure out what to do about this.” I doubt there are any remodeling problems that the foreman has not seen or does not know how to address. The man who laid the shower tile was truly an artist. The electrician said the original lights we picked wouldn’t work but he had some we liked just as much that would. The carpenter had to do some tricky finagling of the cabinetry, because the walls weren’t quite plumb, and it took some shims here and sanding there.

It is a privilege to be around people who model excellence and take pride in what they do. While it seems like we’re always complaining about being ripped off or being on the receiving end of shoddy workmanship and granted, much of that complaining is legitimate, it gives me hope to see that not everyone is on that page. That there are still folks who believe in an honest day’s work and in treating clients with respect and consideration. That impeccable craftsmanship is still alive and well. That it’s not always about money and greed and how much I can make with as little effort as possible.  

I am humbled and grateful to have had these workmen in my home to create a new space for us to enjoy. I have nothing but the highest respect for those who plaster walls and painstakingly arrange tiles and figure out a way for the towel racks to fit beside the mirrors. We’re thrilled with what these talented individuals have accomplished in a relatively short time. They, like the millions who bring their skills to the construction trade or the hospital or the restaurant kitchen, don’t get nearly the credit they deserve.

But I will be glad when this is all finished, so I don’t have to rummage through boxes to find shampoo and aspirin. I will be glad to say good riddance to that trampled down 20-year-old builders’ grade carpet that has sustained the abuse of four dogs and two cats. I can’t wait to use my fancy new bathroom and not be stepping on cat litter scattered on the floor in the middle of the night. It will be great to see the lovely Sherwin Williams’ “Oyster Bay” covering the denim blue and taupe walls I’ve woken up to for the last 15 years. And it will be wonderful to have the toilet back where it belongs.

bathroom vanity (2)



Sacred Service

I’ve spent a lot of time recently learning Hebrew. Well, not really learning it, but learning how to pronounce it. The clunky consonants, unusual vowel pronunciations and that “ch” sound that feels like scraping a piece of paper across the roof of your mouth have caused me to develop a whole new respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters who speak Hebrew fluently for their bar- and bat-mitzvahs. Even the word amen is pronounced differently. “Ah-Main” instead of “Ah-Men.”

The chorale that I sing with is preparing a performance of Ernest Bloch’s “Sacred Service,” written in the early 1930’s and described on the title page as “A Sabbath Morning Service according to the Union Prayer Book.” I think all of us were intimidated by a score of 90-plus pages of Hebrew, very little of which is repetitive, not to mention the fact that the music is rhythmically complex and just plain difficult. I sit with my laptop listening to a downloaded file that goes through the music phrase-by-phrase, first pronouncing the words slowly and distinctly, followed by a sung rendition from a somewhat wobbly-voiced quartet. Kind of like Rosetta Stone for Hebrew.


I’ve sung a lot of sacred works – masses and requiems and glorias, the great Bach “B Minor Mass” and “Christmas Oratorio” and of course, the “Messiah,” all of which have biblical texts but heavily slanted toward the New Testament. This is the first time I have ever sung music intended for, in the composer’s own words, “the congregation of the Children of Israel.”

It is heart-wrenchingly beautiful, holy music. A solo baritone cantor, requiring a truly virtuosic singer, soars above the orchestra and is interwoven with the choral parts throughout the entire work. The texts are powerful hymns of praise to God and interestingly, the translations not unfamiliar words— “We adore Thee and worship Thee, and we bow the head before Thee.” “He the King of the Kings of Kings.” “For all things in heav’n and earth are Thine.”

Ernst Bloch

Bloch, like us, knew no Hebrew when he was commissioned to compose the piece but according to program notes, “embarked upon intense study of the text” and intended to express “not only the literal meanings of the Hebrew words but their widest possible connotations.” He even insisted that one movement always be sung in the native language of the country where it was being performed to make sure the audience understood the message. He chose not to just skim the surface of the text, but present it in all its depth and complexity, and it is our job as choral musicians to do the same thing. We have our work cut out for us.

We spend hours of rehearsal time, grinding through the music, sometimes note-by-note, singing sections at painfully slow tempos just to get some grasp of the rhythm. We gather in small groups to sing excerpts as our director circulates through the room listening for wrong notes and hesitant Hebrew. We stand in circles so that we can watch and listen to each other, gleaning help from another singer when we falter and smiling with our eyes when we make it through a difficult passage without a mistake.

In mid-April, a combined choir of 120 voices will sing the “Sacred Service” accompanied by a world-class regional orchestra. Many of the choir members are local college students for whom this may be their first exposure to music, or anything else, representing the Jewish faith. That’s probably true for most of us adult singers as well. The orchestra conductor himself is Jewish, and I suspect the opportunity for him to present this magnificent work goes way beyond artistic interpretation of notes on the page.

We frequently hear about the power of music and its ability heal a troubled world, to help us figure out a way to talk to each other and more importantly, how to listen to each other. One of the articles I read about Bloch mentioned that he announced at the tender age of nine, “I would compose music that would bring peace and happiness to mankind!” If only it were that simple.

I must get back to practicing since I am still struggling with the fifth movement. I want to learn this to the best of my abilities. I owe that to the chorale, the music directors, the audience. I owe that to the faithful people for whom this work is their “Messiah,” their Vivaldi “Gloria.”  And, to be honest, it’s kind of cool to learn a foreign language and a different way of praising God from a piece of music.

There is something to be said for immersing oneself in new learning, not only to preserve artistic integrity but to respect another culture or religious tradition. It would be a travesty for the “Sacred Service” to be performed in English, and yes, it’s hard work to learn the Hebrew, but that effort places us in the temple, shoulder to shoulder and voice to voice with our Jewish brethren, all worshipping God together. We develop the skills we need to sing with those who may be different from us rather than standing in the corner with crossed arms and an angry face, steadfastly refusing to learn a new song.

 Jewish worship




Two Saints


They still walk among us, you know. The saints of God. Most of the time we don’t recognize them. We see them as just normal people moving in and out of our lives, but their sainthood is there, a phantom figure moving in the periphery, quietly changing the world for the better.

I was privileged to know two who have recently left us. One was a long-time member of our church who never stopped giving back to those around him. He cared for his mother who lived to be 104 and when his wife became ill, spent the remaining days of his own life caring for her. He led her to that communion rail every Sunday, helped her take the bread and the wine, even when she no longer knew she was at church. He was a part of nearly every outreach ministry and every organization in the church and local community. If he saw a need, he was there, no questions asked, no fanfare. He fed people with Meals on Wheels, drove them to appointments, and offered a ray of hope at the other end of a telephone hotline when they had nowhere else to turn. He saved lives because of the fierceness with which he lived his faith.

He could be an ornery character at times, opinionated and stubborn and several years ago, when my husband and I asked him for a capital campaign gift, we found out in a hurry what he thought of the cost of proposed renovations to the parish!

Yesterday, we celebrated his entrance into heaven with a joyful service of resurrection, the sanctuary filled with people whose lives he touched.  

I doubt that the other saint ever darkened the door of a church. But I firmly believe he was doing God’s work in his own way. Another tough cookie, a gruff exterior with the proverbial heart of gold, this man was a local veterinarian who cared for two generations of our family’s pets. His bedside manner was better with animals than people. I remember one of my mother’s friends was highly offended when Doc looked at her during an exam and said, “This dog is too damn fat. What the hell are you feeding her?

Years ago, Doc came into the office on New Year’s Day when one of my dogs fell off a bed and injured her leg. He would call you with lab results on Sunday afternoon or at 10 o’clock at night because he was always in the office. His home was next to his practice, (like in the old days of small-town family doctors) and you knew that when you had an animal in the hospital, Doc was there. His daughter, who now runs the practice, said he often slept in the hospital if there was an animal in critical condition. He never pulled any punches when he looked up at you over those half-glasses, but no one was kinder or gentler when it was time to say good-by to a beloved pet.

Doc and my dad were great friends, sharing a love of trains and history and good wine. He was the last person outside the family to see my father alive. I heard a knock at the back door and there was Doc with his scruffy beard, in his retirement uniform of wool plaid shirt and worn jeans, bringing my dad a bottle of wine made from grapes he grew himself. I took Doc back to the room to see my dad, he said good-by to his friend, and then gave me an uncharacteristic hug. Later, after the funeral director left, I gratefully sipped a glass of that wine.

There will be no glorious church service for Doc. Just a simple gathering of friends and clients at the veterinary office on a Sunday afternoon. But no less sacred.

In a world filled with people shouting about their accomplishments and abilities, we need to find our saints and treasure them and hold them close while they’re still walking among us, and maybe even attempt to emulate them.

Some days, I literally feel assaulted with brashness. Everyone clamoring about what they can do or what they have to sell or the best way to cook mashed potatoes. Quietness and humility do not trend on social media. I enjoy Facebook as much as anyone, but there’s a fine line between sharing joys and accomplishments and announcing to the world how wonderful you are. I find it utterly appalling that the current leader of our country believes it’s necessary to do this.

The pluggers are the ones who make a difference. They are our saints. Like Doc and the gentleman from our church, they just go about their business, putting others’ lives and needs before their own and vehemently rejecting any kind of adulation for their efforts. They are possessed of a drive to serve, a fire in the belly to do whatever it takes to help another human being. Or animal. To do the right thing regardless of personal cost.

We sang this hymn as the recessional at the funeral yesterday. A fitting tribute to two saints among us.


“Come, labor on, No time for rest, till glows the western sky,

Till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,

And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,

Servants, well done.”


–The Hymnal, 1982


              sunset with field