Archive for July 2006

I Cleaned Off My Dining Room Table!

July 31, 2006

I have just finished cleaning off my dining room table! That may not sound like much to you, but it’s a huge step for me. There are still some odds and ends on it, but now it’s simply a matter of tidying up, not a major archaeological excavation. Until this weekend that table was a hopeless jumble of bills, books, old mail, and general junk several layers deep, a perfect metaphor for my life.

Somewhere along the line, in late 2004, I think, when I realized my father was terminally ill, and I developed serious health problems and heartaches of my own, I simply allowed my life to go off the rails in some fundamental way. The daily responsibilities of life were too much, I thought, and I allowed stuff to pile up on top of stuff on top of stuff. As time went by, the problems grew bigger and more difficult to deal with. “It’s too intimidating,” I thought. “I’ll just sit here and watch TV or read–or blog–instead.”

Now that both my parents are gone, however, I’ve been forced to take a hard look at my life and take responsibility for myself as I never have before. I’ve been in counseling for depression for years, and this past Friday, as my counselor asked me about my job, all my frustrations poured out. I realized it was time to seriously seek another position, something I’ve been thinking and talking about doing for awhile now. Friday I decided it was time to do something about the table, and yesterday and today, by the grace of God, I made it happen.

I sorted the bills into folders and threw most of the rest away. Now the next step will be to sort through the bills and come up with a complete accounting of how much I owe. My mother left me a modest annuity, so I can use some of those funds to retire some debt and invest the rest. May God grant me the grace to make wise decisions in the days to come! This feels like the beginning of a whole new beginning.


Birthday Number 43

July 20, 2006

Today is my 43rd birthday. Tomorrow, my brother Bill will be arriving, and we’ll be going up to Charlotte to rendezvous with my other brothers and sisters in order to have a joint birthday celebration with one of my sisters, whose birthday is three days after mine.

On the one hand, I have to say I don’t feel much like celebrating. My mother’s death is still hanging heavy on me and all the kids. It’s a weird thing to be getting birthday cards and condolence cards at the same time. On the other hand, I think a family gathering to celebrate a happy occasion will do us all good after the ordeal of waiting through Mom’s final illness. She wouldn’t want us to be too sad too long. Here’s hoping for a happy birthday, but I sure wish Mom could be there.

The Story of I Love You

July 20, 2006

A cherry when it’s blooming
It has no stone
A chicken when it’s piping
It has no bone
The story that I love you
It has no end
A baby when it’s sleeping
It’s no crying.

“The Riddle Song.”

I took a brief hiatus from blogging to try to process my mother’s death. I decided I needed to come back.

Thanks to all of you who have left comments or e-mailed with prayers and words of comfort and encouragement. They are much appreciated.

I want to tell you about what has happened since I last blogged. The night before my Mom died, we all gathered in her room. I think we all had an intuitive sense that it would be her last night with us. My oldest sister Susan was softly singing “The Riddle Song” to Mom and said that Mom had taught it to her when she was a little girl. I knew Mom loved old folksongs, but I didn’t know “The Riddle Song” was one of her favorites. We started singing any old folksongs or snatches of songs we could think of. One in particular that I remember that Mom always liked is “High Barbary”.My brother Allen got out his guitar and started playing some original music he had written. I know Mom liked that.

A few days later at the memorial service, my niece Maggie got up and sang “The Riddle Song” again and accompanied herself on the guitar. I knew she had been playing acoustic and electric guitar for quite awhile, but I had no idea she was so accomplished! It was beautiful.

The memorial service was lovely, except for one thing. For some reason no one is quite sure of, Father Jim did not allow any time for family members to give eulogies or tributes. He did say afterwards that he had an important meeting at the Chancery that he couldn’t avoid, so maybe that forced him to cut the service short. Or perhaps there was some miscommunication between Father Jim, the family, and the people at the church who planned the service. Here is what I might have said had I been given the chance:

When I think of my mother these days, I think of two things. One is her definition of heaven, one of the wisest and most beautiful things she ever said to me: “Heaven is where all the people you love know each other.” The other is the fact that she was such a great cook who loved bringing her family together for a great meal. But her meals were never about linen napkins and fancy place settings with everyone on their best behavior. Whether it was a giant hamburger with everything, shad prepared the Charleston Receipts way, or a huge salad full of fresh vegetables, Mom’s meals were all about good people enjoying good food and having a good time. If there wasn’t enough room with the grown-ups, you could grab a seat at the kids table or even on the living room couch. Want some more? Help yourself!

Now I believe Mom is in heaven where all the people she loves know each other. Dad is there, Mary Darby is there, and all the people we have known and loved who have gone before us are there. And we are there, too. For I believe Mom has passed out of time and into eternity, where there is no past and no future, but only an eternal now. Therefore, to Mom it seems we are there and have always been there. In a few moments more of time, we too will enter into eternity, and it will seem to us too that we are there and have always been there.

More than once (Mt. 25:1-14, Rev. 19:7) Scripture compares heaven and the Kingdom of God to a wedding feast, the marriage feast of Christ the lamb of God. I believe Mom is up there right now, helping out with that wedding feast, making sure the people she loves are comfortable, happy, and have enough to eat. Maybe she’s sharing her recipe for blueberry muffins with the angels! I love you, Mom.

Mom’s Obituary

July 1, 2006

Here is the obituary I wrote for my Mom.

Cecilia Allen Roberts Leslie of Indian Trail, N.C., was called home to God on Thursday June 29, 2006.

She died at home after an illness.

She was born October 19, 1924, in Columbia, SC, the daughter of the late John Cornelius Roberts of and the late Agnes Cecilia Allen Roberts, also of Columbia. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After a brief career in radio and newspaper journalism, she married the late William Stewart Leslie of Birmingham, Alabama, and largely devoted herself to providing a loving and secure home for their six children. They were married for 55 years. For nearly 20 years, Mr. and Mrs. Leslie operated a retail business, Clocks & Crafts, in Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island, SC.

Mrs. Leslie is survived by her six children: Susan Leslie of Charlotte, NC; John Stewart “Jay” Leslie of Dallas, Texas; William Farley Leslie of Chapel Hill, NC; Edward Allen Leslie of Indian Trail, NC; Mary Grace Leslie Davis of Little River, SC; and Neil Roberts Leslie of Marion, SC; five grandchildren; and two great grandchildren, She will be remembered for her unfailing wisdom, compassion, sense of humor, and strength of character, and will be sorely missed by all who knew her.

A memorial service for Mrs. Leslie is scheduled for Monday July 3 at 11 AM at St. Luke Catholic Church in Mint Hill, NC. The Rev. James F. Hawker will officiate.