For the Religion Page, Resolutions, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Resolved

Tofutsies I wrote a column for the Press Herald that was in the paper today, and I'll admit it's basically the same thing I wrote for the church newsletter's January edition, too. 

It deals with New Years, and resolutions. In it, I'm taking on one thing. But since writing it, I've chosen a few other things as resolutions for 2011, so I might as well record them here.

1) Pray first. Read about it here.

2) Knit from the stash. I have a ridiculous amount of yarn, even after giving some away, and I'm committed to stash-knitting in 2011. Not that I would turn down gifts of yarn. That's different. In fact, I got some for Christmas, and I'm very appreciative!!! (It's the kind pictured here, in a different colorway, and I am excited to knit with it.) But given the pace of my knitting these days, buying more yarn is just silly.

3) Read more fiction, especially classics. I feel better when I do. I've got a good selection of books on hand and on my Kindle. I read a paltry 34 books in 2010. That won't be hard to beat in 2011.

4) Eat more fruit. I don't belong to Weight Watchers anymore (one of many little economies required by the change in circumstances), but I hear fruit is "free" now. I realize there are other complexities to the new system, but I also know that when I eat a good amount of fruit, I eat less of other things. Thus, eat more fruit.

5) Be brave. Rheumatoid Arthritis has been kicking my — ahem — recently. I'm on new medication, Humira, which requires bravery, because it requires injecting myself. I did it once with the nurse and have now done it once all by myself. It can take as long as three months to see if the new med helps. I am committed to remaining brave about the whole thing and dialing down worry if it occurs. Worry can't help me. 

6) Cultivate patience. I need it while waiting to see about whether Humira works. I also need it because I'm in a frustrating vicious circle where exercise is concerned. Apparently walking an older dog was perfect exercise for me. Without it, I got worse. Now I'm worse enough that I can't exercise. (Unless you can help me think of a form of exercise that doesn't involve my right ankle.) So I need to get better, so that I can stay better not only via meds but via exercise. Which is mildly frustrating, which is why I am resolved to cultivate patience. 

7) Give thanks. I wrote a number of times in December about how great my kids and friends and church members have been in the midst of all the upheaval of the past several months. I am thankful for them. And I'm going to keep letting them, and God, know about it. 

8) Write more, tweet less. I don't mean to say I'm giving up Twitter, but I want to be writing long thoughts, not just 140 character bursts. I'm still using 750 Words, and at least for January, I'm going to try to write every day.

For the Religion Page

Quilting Memories

I
think about it especially in the spring, that outrageously beautiful Saturday
afternoon in May of 1993 when Prairie Bayou won the Preakness and my mother
lost her by then tenuous hold on life. The melanoma we believed had been
treated successfully returned and spread, and we watched her weaken and fade
until the end came, too soon. Even that day, horses running on the TV screen, we
thought we had more time. But before evening came, she turned her head toward
the window, toward the garden she loved, and left us.

 

I
remember the ways she showed her love for us, because she didn’t like to tell
us much. My mother knew how to share the enthusiasms of those around her.  She faithfully watched sports with my dad, cleverly
sewed costumes for my school plays, and patiently crafted a building block
model of the Peaks Island Ferry Terminal with my little boy.

 

When
I found out almost two years after she died that the new baby coming to be part
of my family would be a little girl, I wanted my mother’s hands to touch her
somehow. In the sewing closet in my parents’ home in Portsmouth, Virginia, were
two big boxes of fabric scraps, remnants of curtains and throw pillow cases and
wraparound skirts and bermuda bag covers and even a maternity blouse. I asked
my sister-in-law to mail the boxes to me in Portland, and I called my friend
Carolyn, and we went through the boxes together, choosing pieces for a quilt.

 

Quilt We
chose the little geese left over from an apron, and the rose pink that lined
the bed hangings on my parents Colonial headboard. We liked the dark purple
with little flowers and the pale Laura Ashley florals, too. Carolyn trimmed
part of the edge with a favorite theme in my mother’s choices for me over the
years, a strawberry print, and she specially framed a scene portraying Mary
Poppins as she arrived at Cherry Tree Lane, umbrella aloft. All these pieces
had passed through my mother’s hands, too, and now they would become a whole
quilt to wrap my little daughter with love.

 

In
my memory are other scraps and remnants, pieces of things my mother said to me.
Two lines of scripture came up over and over again. “Be still and know that I
am God,” an expression of her quiet spirit and need for time alone, so unlike
her daughter, who liked to talk. A lot. The other was that famous line from the
Farewell Discourse, in which Jesus assures his friends, “In my Father's house
there are many rooms,” many mansions, she must have said, an assurance that we
are all included in God’s love.

 

Those friends of
Jesus, in their memories of him, in their stories of him, created a quilt of
faith, passed along orally for a long time before being written down. When you
make a quilt, you look over the fabrics that you have and choose which ones you
like, which ones go together, which ones speak to you. You piece them together
to make a larger image. So it is with memories. Sometimes we need to choose
hard ones to remind us of the person we loved or the person who disappointed
us. Sometimes we choose sweet ones to give us comfort as we think of the person
we have lost. Sometimes we remember a funny story and laugh and bring her
alive; sometimes we recall a joke he told and chuckle nostalgically.

Some years after my mother died,
I came to love the beginning of Psalm 46:

God
is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the
sea; 3though its
waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

It wasn’t until later that I
realized my Psalm was the same as hers. One day standing beside a hospital bed,
I read this Psalm right through to the end, and there it was:

“Be
still, and know that I am God!”

Suddenly our quilt pieces made one whole.

Be still.

And for once, I was, in memory
of her.