Oral Roberts shown here attempting to heal my late sister, Audrey, passed away this afternoon.
I have always found this photo to be a haunting study of human emmotion. We have my Dad crying in anguish over Audrey. We have Oral straining in the spirit to move a miracle over Audrey and then we have little Miss Audrey, smiling, laughing as if not a bit of this matters.
The nice man is praying, Daddy is crying but it's as if she already knows that it will all be for naught. She is who she is and this is the way it was meant to be. So rejoice in the life that is left!
No, Audrey did not walk out of that service on her own, nor did she up and talk and come back to the way she had been prior to the polio shot that ruined her.
But she did start to eat again with gusto.
This healing of the appetite was something that Oral was able to knock out of the ball park on a pretty regular basis. Past recipients of Oral's prayers have reported that while they still could not walk or see or hear, they could, at least, polish off a buffet of food in short order and come back roarin' for more.
Anyway, he's dead, Jim. He of the visions of 800 foot tall Jesuses is now passed on to the big Sunday Dinner Buffet in the sky.
Made his soul be blessed and may he be in paradise. He did try after all to make the world a better place as is evidenced by the photo
With the cost of postage and the insane cost of the average box of cards, Mr. Exacto and I decided that this was the best way to send our greetings; online via YouTube!
I used Photostory3 from MicroSoft. It's a free download that works so well and it soooo easy to learn; anyone can be Ken Burns with this thing!
So here you have it, our Christmas card. And no, Mr. E. did not micro manage it's production.
Not for the first time in my life, I wanted to be "crafty" for Christmas and make my gifts this year. Unfortunately, owing to poor hand/eye coordination skills, my attempts at "craft" have all too often wound up as "trash". At the very least, most of my attempts have gone back in the box waiting to be recycled for the next "white elephant" gift exchange at the recipient's place of work.
As I am laid off and have more time than money on my hands this year, I figured that maybe I could manage a little something like the house shown below:
This is what ebay classifies as a "putz" village house. These were very popular and quite common in American Christmas scenes from about 1920 to 1970. Most were made in Japan, were very cheap and provided a cheery and whimsical sense of the season from their rosy, Christmas bulb lit cellophane window panes.
The "putz" house is enjoying a revival of sorts just now as retailers look to cash in on the nostalgic feelings for the first great depression that the current one is bringing about. The houses can sell anywhere from $5.95 to a high of $19.95. Ouch!
So why not just make one? Card stock, paint and glue; how hard is that?
VERY hard according to Mr. Exacto AKA "dear Husband". Mr. Exacto came with me on my shopping trip for supplies. Card stock? Don't make Mr. Exacto laugh! That is too flimsy, what is needed is matt board. Matt board that costs $12.95 per board.
"You can easily get 6 houses from this one board alone!" he reasoned as I pulled out my wallet.
"Here's what I want to do", I told him, showing him the picture lifted from ebay, "Just something simple and charming..."
Mr. Exacto looked down his considerable long British nose and sniffed with disgust. Oh, these Americans with their quaint ways!
Three hours later, Mr. Exacto had produced the house shown at the top of the entry. He painstakingly painted tiny bricks. He measured and calculated the size of the windows to the door and then cut them out with his exacto blade employing all the skill and care of a top surgeon. Miniature steps were crafted from wood, the same wood that was used to provide joists and backing beams for the the matt board walls.
An offer of the use of my one and only craft tool, a glue gun, (never opened), were met with a sneer. Top of the line wood glue was the bonding agent of choice that any serious crafter would ever consider!
Mr. Exacto is now working on the roof of Exacto mansion. In true Mr. Exacto style, the roof is being measured and fussed over as tenderly as any real roof should be constructed.
When he's done with this house, Mr. Exacto intends to produce a whole village of tidy, well built houses that will be tastefully painted and decorated as only one of his exacting caliber can produce.
Suggestions such as;
"I'd like to do like a blue stucco house with cracks that show the brick behind"
are met with horrified intakes of breath. CRACKS on the face of an Exacto built home????
BLUE stucco in Exacto Village???
A sudden idea occurs to me; how about I make little Christmas wreaths to go over or on the little doors of the houses?
Mr. Exacto sighs and regards me with a baleful stare.
"Only if I can check them first!"
So for now, I am leaving Mr. E to go about his business. In the meantime I guess I'll dust off the directions for how to create rugs from plastic bread wrappers thus providing some lucky soul with at least a minute of unconfined mirth as they and their companions try to guess just what in the hell is that blob of plastic meant to be?
I'll be damned if I make any little plastic rugs for Exacto Village tho', not even if he begs!
September marks the end of so many things and by its ending, there marks a beginning.
September marks the end of the growing season, yet it is the beginning of the resting season for the earth. September's cool breezes mark the end of windows being left open all night but the beginning of quilts being taken from cedar chests and placed on beds.
It's also the beginning of school, of Wednesday night choir practices and theatre seasons and the end of just lazily doing whatever you felt like doing on lanquid summer evenings.
And in my family, September has marked the end and beginning of life.
Four members of my family have departed this life in the month of shortened evenings and lengthening shadows. For these holy dead, life has both ended and begun anew in the presence of the Lord.
For those left behind, life has also stopped in its tracks and a new life begins; a life to be learned to live without them in it.
September; Omega and Alpha. This week marks so much to remember...
In September 1968, I thought I had things more or less figured out in my world, small as it was.
When you're five years, the world basically melts down to just your town, your street, your house and whatever is going on in this micro sphere is what must be going on through out the rest of the world in every house in the world.
For me, the world was our town and some distant place called England which my Dad claimed to visit on a daily basis.
"Where have you been?" I would ask upon his arrival home.
"I've been to see the Queen!" he would insist.
"The Queen of England!"
I knew who that was. There was a stunning color picture of her in the front of one of our National Geographic books. That my minister Father was on a first name basis with the Queen of England was astounding to me. That he never took me to meet this queen was a source of great frustration.
"Does she ask about me and sister?" I always wanted to know.
Dad would assure me that she did, that he even showed her a picture of us which thrilled me no end but still did not make up for the lack of face to face with someone wearing a real crown.
Besides, time was of the essence if sister was ever to go and see this queen because any day now she'd be going to live with Jesus and go back to being an angel.
Jesus lived in heaven which was in the sky. Jesus could on occasion come to visit the Methodist church next door, (which is where God lived all the time), but his primary world was up there where all the other girls like sister Audrey became angels when they were done being Audreys on this earth.
I should pause here to relate that I was a very strange child in that while I would pepper people with questions on mundane issues such as why is the sky blue or why is so and so's hair a different color every week, when it came to the deeper issues like why can't my older sister walk, talk and go around like the rest of us, I chose to ponder this out on my own and arrive at my own conclusions which I then tended not to share.
After all, if it made sense to me, then it must be right and there was no further need to talk about it.
So with that in mind, I had reached the conclusion that Audreys were special beings that had been angels once and would be angels again when they were through with their missions here on earth.
Because they had once had wings, they couldn't walk very well on their feet nor could they use their hands that much. Angels communicated with thought so on earth, the use of the mouth to make words was an alien thing to them and they simply wouldn't do it.
Nor did they need to. Audrey couldn't walk to go and see this or that, instead, this or that came to her. She never uttered anything that came close to a word yet she spoke volumes with her eyes, her face, her laughter....and her tears.
Audrey was often ill. Audrey was often in pain. Audrey had already lived out 3 previous doctor imposed expiration dates and was closing in another one in that September 1968 so for this reason, my parents tried as gently as they could to explain to me that one day soon, my golden haired sister would be leaving us to go and live with Jesus.
And because I had already come to know that she was an angel trying to be a human, this did not duly upset me as they perhaps feared it would. I was concerned that she wouldn't know anyone up there. Yes, of course she would know Jesus but he was all over the place and who would she talk to when he was down here visiting his father at the Methodist church?
Of course, as an angel, she would have her wings back again so I reasoned that would be alright then. She could fly in the night time sky among the stars in the moonlight and perhaps she would come by and see me most nights. Yes, that would be fine. I would miss her but at least she wouldn't be sick and in pain anymore because, as I thought everyone knew, trying to be a human was hurtful for angels.
So that was my world as I figured it to be in mid September 1968; as colorful and flitting as a butterfly's wings and, as it would turn out...just as fragile.
According to the doctor, Audrey's time with us would be drawing to a close and likely very soon.
Years of numbing heart ache over Audrey's condition had already prepared my folks for her departure, but what of their youngest? It's one thing to tell the child that her sister would be going to live with Jesus but how to explain the funeral and the sight of one's sibling laid out in a casket?
So with that in mind, as a way of preparing me, Mother took me to the local funeral home.
In those days before SCI and other corporations turned the funeral services into an industry, funeral homes were just that; homes where one could hold a funeral. Ours was a big house built in the early part of the 20th century with a deep front porch. The front hall featured an elegant stairway with an elaborate banister and an unusual light fixture shaped to look like an elfin creature who balanced a multicolored globe on its elfin foot. I loved that light and always wished I could see it lit up sometime.
To the right of the hallway was a display room for the caskets and it was this room that my Mother wanted me to see. The funeral director's wife was a very kind woman with slivered white hair. She was also a good friend of my Mother's and I imagine she must have felt my Mother's pain at this moment very keenly. Mother/Daughter outings should be to shopping centers or the park, not to a casket display room. But, here we were.
The moment I first laid eyes on a casket stands sharp in my memory. Jewel toned with gold or silver accents, their lids opened to reveal rich interiors of velvet or satin. They were just like...giant jewelry boxes! They were beautiful!
I am sure that the women were likely explaining to me what a casket was, how it was used and all but their voices faded to a low hum in my head as I stood in stunned amazement at the sight of so much splendid beauty. What pretty boxes! Oh, how I wished I might have a box like one of these one day! I could keep my best dolls in it, put a mirror over it...
What's that you say? Mother's voice came back into focus in my head. These boxes were not for me, but someday Audrey would have one. Oh, that's good. Maybe I could play with it for her...wait a minute! Boxes...these things are boxes...
Of course! Suddenly I recalled seeing boxes like this coming out of the church next door and out of the church across the street. Bedecked in flowers, the boxes would be carried slowly to the big car parked in front of the church. In answer to my question over the contents, I was told that it contained people now going to live with Jesus and this was their send off ceremony.
I would watch as the box was loaded into the big car and then the big car would go ever so slowly towards downtown with all the other cars following behind. Of course they were headed for the cemetery but I didn't know about that place yet. I did however know that downtown was where the post office was and that is where boxes came from and went to.
Now it made sense to me! When you go to live with Jesus, you get a box. At the end of the send off ceremony, you get in your box and get taken with great fanfare to the post office where the post master would weigh you in and then put you on the back dock for the truck to pick up.
This is how you went to live with Jesus, via a box sent parcel post. When you got to heaven, Jesus would open the box and then there'd you be with Jesus and the angels. What you did with your box after that, I had no idea. Keep your spare halos and harps in it? Who knew, just so long as it was pretty!
I smiled up at Mother and the funeral lady who in turned seemed satisfied that I had understood what they had told me which of course I didn't on account of I hadn't listened to a word they had said.
Once again, I had figured it out all for myself and knowing that sister was going to go to Jesus in a pretty box made me feel a little better over her going off without me to live with Jesus and fly in the moonlight.
And naturally, I didn't share a word of this with anyone.
I had gotten to know Mrs. Keller pretty well if only by sight during my forced marches to and from the prison aka school. School had been introduced into my life that fall thus marking a major end and beginning in my life. So far as I was concerned this marked the end of my joy and contentment and the beginning of being forced to sit in a room full of noisy and oddly behaving strangers.
My days up til then had been marked in bluer than blue morning skies that I could watch and daydream about from my swing in the front yard. With church business and Audrey to attend to, my folks were very busy and no doubt thankful that I could so easily go off into a world of my own making.
Now that world had intruders who ate glue, stabbed one another with scissors and took things that didn't belong to them. The teacher was a nice enough lady but I was growing weary of her constant demands of my time in which she insisted I learn things like letters and how to tie my shoes.
Having to sit in that room with all those strangers doing things that made no sense to me was jarring to say the least. Obviously, I had done something very wrong to have wound up here and I wished with all my heart I could find out what it was I did to deserve this.
The sight of old Mrs. Keller bending over her garden in the morning and on her back porch in the afternoon was somewhat comforting to me. At least there was one soul left in the world who could do as they pleased with the day. I often wished that I could just veer off the sidewalk and go pull weeds with her rather than having to watch the teacher pull some foreign object out of so and so's nose.
(I should add here that my class was an exception to the rule from day one. The roll call included 5 boys who despite their tender years were already known trouble makers. I am told that teachers would visibly pale at the sight of their names on their class room assignments. In Sunday school, these 5 had helped introduce the practice of husband/wife teams teaching the class instead of just the ladies. One would teach, the other would shake, smack and pull first one boy and then another out of the room for a private "talking to".)
But there came a Wednesday when Mrs. Keller was not in her garden. Nor was she on the back porch at day's end. In fact, the house had a mysterious air of emptiness about it in the afternoon sun. Coming home, I was informed that Mrs. Keller had up and gone to live with Jesus.
I found it odd if not rude that she had never mentioned this. She might have at least called over the fence that she was going to leave soon and tell all us kids goodbye.
Two days later, Mother had me come home for lunch so that if I wanted, I could go and see Mrs. Keller at the church before she left.
I had never been to a send off before and was excited at the prospect of seeing what box she had picked out and what kind of flowers she would be taking to Jesus.
Imagine then my confusion over the sight of Mrs. Keller already in her box and seemingly fast asleep! Why would she be in the box already? Is she going to sleep thru her party?
Mother started to go over the points of why she looked to be asleep but in no time, my mind had wandered off from her and was arriving at it's own conclusions. Of course, it would make sense to be asleep on the journey. I had wondered that myself over how one would handle being in that box for the trip and sleeping would make it easier. None the less, what a shame to miss the party!
My critical child's eye focused on the box. It was rather plain. A pale gold, no decorations. The inside was a tan color, no fancy stitching and the flowers were about as simple as could be. To say nothing of her dress, a muted green number. This was not right! Not at all!
Mother's reply over the plainness of the items was that Mrs. Keller had outlived everyone in her family and that there hadn't been anyone left to help pick things out for her. That struck me as being very sad.
At Mother's prompting, I said my good byes to Mrs. Keller but doubted that she had heard me as she looked to be very fast asleep and then made my lonely march back to the prison past the house without Mrs. Keller in it.
At naptime, during which I never slept, I pondered over the basic boring box Mrs. Keller was being shipped in and made up my mind right then and there that when Audrey went to go live with Jesus, she was not traveling in a boring box!
Burgundy, I decided, burgundy with a pink interior what had button tuffting like our couch did.
On the side, I envisioned gold scrolling to look like hearts or better yet, to look like a string of paper dolls in a row. Oh, that would be grand!
At home, I sat at the kitchen table and tried to put my plan on paper. The colors weren't right and the scrolling went over the margin but I had the general idea which I explained in great detail to my Mother as I drew. I then handed her the pages and went outside to play.
My poor Mother. Years later, I can only imagine what must have gone thru her head and her heart as she stood in the kitchen holding my renderings. Other Mothers got pictures of houses and flowers and maybe the family pet from their children.
Her youngest was drawing up plans for the oldest child's casket and acting as if this was the most normal thing in the world.
Needless to say they never went on the refrigerator. I don't know what she did with them.
I never saw them again.