Recently, my daughter moved to Brooklyn to attend New York University in pursuit of her PhD. Other than the airports, I had never been to New York City and had no burning desire to change that. As a southerner born and bred, I’m not about to seek out cities that don’t understand the goodness of hot buttered grits, home-made peach cobbler, and sweet iced tea. It was with no small sense of trepidation that I visited this foreign region north of the Mason-Dixon line.
And cover me with kudzu, but I liked it! My favorite thing—other than my daughter of course—was the public transportation. Do you know that in NYC, you can walk to a designated spot, and a train will come and take you where you want to go? It’s true! You don’t even have to own a car, much less drive one. It’s amazing. AND, you have a built-in workout in every day because, not having a car, you walk everywhere you want to go. Awesome! Here are just a few of the other things I saw in NYC while I was there.
- Kids in parks. So many green areas; so many parks. I loved hearing children at play as I walked through the city: “Catch!” “Look how high I can swing!” “Ready or not, here I come!”
- Little dogs on strings. Apparently, New Yorkers don’t let their high-rise accommodations stop them from enjoying the companionship of pets. Admittedly, most of the dogs I saw were of the miniature variety—tiny poodles, little yorkies, chihuahuas. I would see a person holding a taut string, follow the string to its other end, and find some miniscule canine pulling its person along behind it.
- School children in uniforms holding hands. I suppose most kids walk at least part of the way to their schools in NYC. I saw moms walking with their kids; but just as often, I saw older siblings/cousins/friends walking with younger children, holding the smaller hand securely in their own. A beautiful thing, human compassion. Add matching school uniforms to the scene and you’ll understand why the cuteness factor was nearly unbearable.
- Lots of people with wheels under their feet without helmets on their heads. Naturally, I also saw the smarter folk who were not out to get a traumatic brain injury; but there were way too many people weaving in and out of NYC traffic with their noggins bare. Caveat: This is not a Yankee thing. I see this in my own neighborhood too. Bikers, skaters, or people on scooters—wear helmets. Your brain will thank you later.
- A street named Stuyvesant. When you are from Asheville, NC and also a fan of the Biltmore Estate, you recognize “Stuyvesant” as the middle name of Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, the wife of George Vanderbilt.(Edith was a descendant of the Stuyvesant family, on her mother’s side.) When my daughter was in the 7th grade, she did an extensive school project on Edith Vanderbilt and has since been an admirer of this strong world-changer of a woman. How lovely that this little reminder of home is on a street corner near her apartment.
- People on skateboards. Who knew people still road those things? Even better? I saw a dog riding a skateboard. True story. Check out the video.
Here are a few pictures illustrating the above plus a few more of the other interesting things I spotted. (Comment below and tell me your favorite thing about NYC!)
Recently I saw a youtube video of an artist illustrating depression. The depressed person would describe how depression felt to them, and the artist would conceptualize their stories in a drawing. Their stories, thus the pictures, varied greatly. I don't have an artist, but I thought I'd try to describe what it is like for me anyway. Here you go.
For me, it’s not so much a color as a sensation. I guess the sensation is a dark one, sort of a muddy black, but mainly it’s heavy. And oozy. It usually creeps up slowly. I feel it pulling on my feet, slowing me down, and I don’t recognize it at first. I kick at it, trying to loosen the hold, thinking it’s something outside myself, rather than the all too familiar internal struggle. (After all these years, you’d think I would recognize all its disguises.) So, I think I can flick it off with a little justification. It’s patient, depression, so it backs off into the shadows, waiting.
I’m fooled into thinking I’ve resolved it, until it starts from another angle—messing with my sleep, my appetite, my mind. By now it has lured me into emotional quicksand. I get pulled under by depression’s Sirens: “What is wrong with you?” “Why can’t you get over it?” “What real problems do you have?” I try to answer and they pull me closer and their voices get louder. The more I search for the answers to their squealing demands, the more pressure I feel, the deeper I fall, the weight of the world pressing me down, down, down.
It feels like I’m wearing pain. Seeking responses to the non-answerables, I envision all those who face life’s most hopeless battles. Cancer, war, divorce, oppression, loss, racism, poverty, inequities. Tragedies loop through my mind mocking me with the reminder that I have no reason to be sad. I agree. And the pain grows heavier.
When depression opts for a more direct attack, I go from feeling like me, to feeling as if I’m caught in a vortex of despair. I sink fast. There’s no slowing it down, no getting away.
And I’m not sure what lifts the weight and allows me to move again. It helps to remember that Sirens aim to destroy me, not to expand my self-awareness. It helps to plug my ears to their false refrains and to answer with dismissal rather than with access to my soul.
And it helps to do what my mama says (as it does no matter what the problem is): “Do one thing.”
I might send a single email, do one chore, write one sentence. I tell myself that after I do that one thing, I can resume lethargy. Then I do just one more thing. And then another. And in time, I’m back on solid ground, back to me.
That’s what it’s like for me.
The last time it happened, I wasn’t impressed. As I recall, Daddy put a little bit of water in our baby pool. He said we were supposed to look into the pool to see the sun — not at the sun, which of course had never occurred to us. He was saying some other crazy stuff too about the moon covering up the sun or something like that. The details are a little fuzzy; but then, I was only 4-and-a-half years old.
Source: 99% darkness is still 1% light – Baptist News Global
The church of my childhood met in this space back in the 70's. It's where all my friends were and I loved it.
“When I was a kid,” my octogenarian friend told me, “I went to church every time the doors were open. But I didn’t necessarily go to learn about Jesus; I went because that’s where my friends were.”
I could relate; truly, the church was the hub of my social life until I went to college. Vacation Bible School, church camp and ice cream socials were highlights of my summer. All year long, I attended Sunday school, Training Union and any special event scheduled at the church. That’s where all my friends were. Why wouldn’t I want to go?
Of course, to be fair, in those days, there wasn’t much else to do on Sunday.
I grew up in the 1970s and back then, blue laws kept most stores in my part of the country closed on Sunday. Movie theaters didn’t open either, except for a few drive-ins which opened for the late movie (which was at 8, not 10). No way could you find a bowling alley open on Sundays, though, if memory serves, I did play a game or two of mini-golf after Sunday night church on occasion. The skating rink might open for a church party on Sunday if you prearranged it, and most public swimming pools opened on Sundays (but only from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. so as not to conflict with services). Thus, when I was a kid, and certainly in the 1940s and ’50s when my senior friend grew up, church was just about the most fun you could have on Sundays without breaking a law.
The same applied to Wednesday nights when most Protestant churches (which back then were the only ones that counted anyway) had Bible study and family activities. I am certain I never had homework on a Wednesday night until late into high school — and that was likely because I had procrastinated and was playing catch-up. My brother’s little league sports never scheduled events — games or practices — on Wednesdays. The same was true for any civic or community activity. Whether it was Boy Scouts or dance lessons, Wednesday scheduling was out of the question. You might as well go to church. You didn’t have any valid excuse for missing.
Not true today.
In 2017, we can visit any number of fine restaurants and enjoy a leisurely Sunday brunch before catching a matinee at a nearby cinema. We can then follow that up with any activity we like: craft brewery anyone? Exception: if our kids play travel ball of any sort, they probably have games on Sundays, games that are out of town and require us to go on Saturday and spend the night.
On Wednesdays, kids have just as much homework as they do any other day (which is way too much, in my opinion, but that’s another column). Performances, practices and lessons happen just as frequently on Wednesdays as they do on other days. Wednesdays, once protected by societal norms from conflicting activities, are now fair game.
I hear lots of complaints about this perceived disregard for church culture. “Back in my day,” I’ve heard, “no business would dare open on Sunday. Little League ball games on Sunday? Not a chance.”
The thing is, though, businesses don’t open if they don’t make money. And they can only profit if they have customers. Same goes for kids’ ball games. You know why games are held on Sundays? Because children and their fee-paying parents participate on Sundays, that’s why. Plain and simple.
Parents tell me, “You would not believe how much homework little Johnny has on Wednesday nights. He couldn’t come to church tonight because he had too much work for school.” That sounds exactly like parents have no choice, doesn’t it? I mean, the kid has to do their homework, right? OK, but just to be clear, when we had essentially no other choice, we went to church; now, when we have a conflict, church is absentmindedly kicked to the curb.
Me, I think it is good that now we have to make a choice. It is harder, yes, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, usually the more difficult a task or decision, the more valuable it is or will become. Gone are the days when we can just follow the masses to church without ever actually following God’s Son, Jesus Christ. But isn’t that good? Isn’t it better that we must choose how to spend our time and energy now? Isn’t it better that we make conscious choices to turn towards Jesus and away from other distractions?
So how about this: how about we stop wringing our hands about the things of the past that we can’t bring forward to our present day? Why don’t we step up to the challenge and choose church, choose Christ? If we do, I’m pretty sure that’s one choice we’ll never regret.
Originally published at baptistnews.com. Baptist News Global is one of my favorite sources of news and information related to faith. Really. You should check it out. Societal norms no longer bow to church. So what? – Baptist News Global
It’s my 52nd birthday. Here (in no particular order) are 52 of my favorites.
- Nephews and nieces. I always knew I’d love having my own children, but nothing prepared me for the blessing of my nephews and nieces. The joy they bring to my life is an ongoing delight.
- Rosa Parks. And Ruby Bridges. And Brown of Brown v. Board. And so many more. These women gave me the opportunity to have friends I could never have known without their courageous acts.
- Carrot cake. As I recall, the first time I tasted it was when Mother was trying out a new recipe. I’ve loved it ever since. Especially with extra cream cheese frosting. The best! If you’re in Western North Carolina, you can get great carrot cake at My Father’s Pizza in Black Mountain and in Weaverville at Well-Bred. I mean, it’s not my Mother’s, but it’s worth the drive!
- Diet Mountain Dew. (Don’t judge.)
- My kids’ friends. Who knew that my kids’ besties would become friends of mine? What unexpected gifts.
- Dinner on the deck. When we were kids, summer meant cookouts with friends and meals eaten outside. These days, as soon as it’s warm enough, my family eats on the deck. Food’s just better out there.
- Jane Eyre. Best book ever.
- Church. From Five Points Missionary Baptist Church (now Forest Hills) in Wilson, through First Baptist Church of Marion, to FBC Weaverville. I love church: I loved two-week long revivals (I went with Daddy if he preached out of town) and VBS that was also two weeks. Church is truly one of my favorite things. No kidding.
- School. You might suggest I’ve over-educated myself. You’d be right.
- 80’s hair. No seriously. The big hair styles of the 80’s? I totally rocked those.
- This is Us. This TV show premiered in September 2016 and is, I’m not even kidding, my favorite television show ever. I love it.
- Microphones. Especially when I’m holding one on stage and I have a huge audience before me.
- Bob Newhart. He’s hilarious.
- My parents' screened-in porch. Even more when homemade ice cream and great storytelling is involved.
- Caswell Beach, NC. It is heaven on earth. I do not exaggerate.
- Beagles. Loud as can be, but still my favorite breed.
- Encyclopedias. I mean, not now. But in their day, encyclopedias mesmerized me. I loved reading our World Book 1971 set. So much information on one book shelf!
- The library. Ahhh. My happy place.
- Pop music. When I was in college, a professor told me that adults stop listening to pop music and gravitate towards classical, country, or oldies. I thought that was a sweeping generalization even then and it has not proven true for me. I listen to what my kids do. Well, more or less. I don’t listen to opera or organ music like my son, or bassoon sonatas like my daughter, but you get the point.
- The NC mountains. Yeah, I know they aren’t the Rockies, but they are home.
- Jimmy Carter. The guy is 92 and is still building houses. That is impressive enough, but he is also still teaching Sunday school! Fantastic!
- Clementines. Oranges that are easy to peel=Perfection.
- Zero Bars. I rarely eat them anymore, but they are the standard by which I measure all other candy bars.
- Boat riding. Oh how I love riding in a fast boat! And
- Water skiing. It’s a little like flying, a little like walking on water, and a whole lot of fun.
- Queso. Liquid cheese=culinary delight.
- Drinking straws. Especially the purple ones.
- Purple. The best color of them all!
- Porch swings. When I sit in a porch swing, I’m transported to the 1970’s and my grandparents’ house in Albany, Georgia where I listen to my cousin sing and play her guitar. Or I find myself in one of a dozen other special places that are marked by the presence of an inviting swing. Sweet.
- Denzel Washington. I appreciate beauty; what can I say?
- Ellen Degeneres. Every day, she reminds people to be kind to one another. What a wonderful world it would be . . ..
- Tie Dye. My garment of choice is almost always something tie-dyed. Favorite tie-dye? Purple of course.
- Tervis cups. Lifetime guarantee, endless varieties, lids with straws. (See #27 above.)
- Podcasts and
- Audiobooks. When I discovered these, it transformed my long drives into time-just-for-me. I listen to my favorite speakers or authors and instead of being drained by driving, I’m energized by new information.
- Bananagrams. No other game compares to this fast-paced scrabble-style word game. Want to play? Let’s get together!
- Video chat. Of course, there’s nothing like the real thing (baby), but seeing my loved ones faces when we chat is pretty close. I’m grateful for this technology that, at least momentarily, eliminates the distance of my far away friends and family.
- Bullet Journaling. Changed. My. Life.
- Nonfiction. I do love a good story; but I’ve gravitated towards nonfiction my whole life. (I can still picture the biography section of my elementary school library.) True stories always called out to me even louder than their imaginary counterparts.
- History. My favorite subject, my undergraduate major. Love it.
- Preaching. Never expected to love preaching like I do. Such a beautiful surprise.
- Finding Nemo. Best animated movie ever made. This is fact, not opinion.
- Board games. There are few board games I don’t enjoy playing. Even when I’m not very good at the game, I still enjoy playing.
- Also card games. I don’t remember learning how to play cards. I think I was playing solitaire before I was in school. I played Crazy Eights and Go Fish, Canasta and Rook, and just about any card game you can name. A side note: my mother had played cards all of her life like I did. Daddy though, was never allowed to play cards and knew absolutely nothing about them. My mother taught him the basics (like how to hold the cards in his hand without dropping them all or showing them to the other players) and eventually he could play Rook with the rest of Mother’s clan. Pretty sure she never let on to Daddy’s mama though. That would not have been pretty.
- Watermelon. I like watermelon even if it’s not that great. But a cold Congo watermelon? That’s a taste of the divine!
- Carol Burnett. Nobody does it better. She is the master.
- And Tim Conway. Have you seen the skit where they are playing password and Tim Conway goes off about Siamese elephants? Drop what you’re doing and watch that right now.
- Children’s books. One of the best parts of my job as a children’s minister is reading picture books to children. Sometimes, like if it’s my birthday or something, my own children will sit and listen to me read their favorites again. That right there? That’s life at its finest.
- Robert Lake Park, Montreat, NC. I took my kids there when they were little, and I took the kids from church there last week. Putting my toes in that icy cold creek and watching kids play in the water and the Montreat park—that’s one of my favorite things ever.
- Yellow roses. From the first time I saw them, they were my favorite flower. Put those with daisies and you get Aileen’s favorite floral arrangement.
- Grace. Grace is my hands down favorite thing. I mess up all the time. When someone offers me grace, it’s just the best. The absolute best.
- My birthday! It is infinitely better to get older than the alternative.
Over the course of one week, I learned of two individuals who took their own lives. Both were successful people, according to cultural standards. One a lawyer, the other a business professional, both were married with children and both enjoyed the admiration of their respective communities. People would argue that these two "just didn't seem the type."
Yeah. See that's the thing. There is no type. Depression doesn't care one bit who you are or what you do.
Depression creeps in and lies to you about your value as a human.
- "You're just an imposter. One day, people will find out that you are really just not that bright."
- "You can't keep faking it forever. Eventually, people will figure out that you are a mental case and they will stop loving you."
- "Your family thinks you are loveable, but they are wrong. You're not."
- "They'd totally be better off without you."
Depression doesn't shy away from professionals who have been trained to recognize its deception. It gives no exemptions to the social worker, minister, therapist, physician, or life coach. Its lies are raw and uncensored.
- "The advice you give may work for other people, but you are beyond help."
- "Keep telling people how to treat mental illness if you want; that won't fix you."
- "Look at you with your great treatment plans and therapeutic compassion! How cute. If they only knew what I know about you, they'd be laughing in your face right now."
- "Other people can get better. That's because they are better people than you are. You are not as valuable as they are. You're just not."
- "All your clients, parishioners, or patients? They can find a much better advocate than you. You cannot even keep your own self sane."
- "They'd totally be better off without you."
Look, I don't know the answers. I just know that depression doesn't care if you are red or yellow, black or white. It doesn't care about your bank account, your social standing, your dress size, or your IQ. Depression is about as selective as cancer is: cancer doesn't sort through a list of traits and accomplishments in order to determine who will be afflicted; depression doesn't either.
I don't know why depression kills some people and lets others--like me--live. There is no equation, no formula, that I've found that makes sense. Until that answer is found, though, let's talk about mental health in a way that promotes understanding, not judgment. Let's refrain from oversimplifying complex questions with uninformed responses that just come off trite, dismissive, or even downright mean. Of course we don't know everything about mental illness, but we know this: when depression ends in suicide, it's a tragedy of inconsolable proportions. Even the most enlightened comments will rarely be welcome in the midst of such devastation. So let's just keep our mouths closed and our hearts open. Because nobody is the type to get depressed. And so is everybody.
“You know that trick where a person pulls the tablecloth off of a table set with fine china, leaving everything standing as if it hadn’t been touched?”
This was to be our final staff meeting as a team. Dr. Jim McCoy had been at First Baptist Church of Weaverville, N.C., since 1997; his retirement meant the coming Sunday would be his last as our pastor. Our administrative assistant was expressing her feelings regarding the inevitable . . . . (continue reading at Ready or not, church, change is coming – Baptist News Global)
Recently, social media was abuzz with the hashtag #thingsonlychristianwomenhear. If you haven’t followed the conversation, you might want to peruse some of the comments. I have heard most of the things listed, particularly since I was ordained in a Baptist church in December 2010.
Lucky for me, I was raised by parents who taught their children that persistence and conviction can overcome most obstacles. See, even though my father was a Southern Baptist preacher, I was encouraged to ask questions when I was a child — even (maybe especially) if they were about Christianity. Thus, if my siblings or I heard something at church or elsewhere that did not ring true, we felt free to ask our parents.
I should add here that there is a slight possibility that our parents over-taught this principle of independent thinking as we didn’t always exercise the self-control necessary to wait until we got home to state our opinions on things. (Mother suddenly started teaching teen girls’ Sunday school when my sister and I wound up in the same class. Coincidence? Probably not.)
Anyway, because of all those questions, all that examination, I’ve found the Bible to be a fountain of truth and the church to be a place where I can get to know God and God’s people better. To this day, I love being at church and delight in Bible study. True story.
Yet, #thingsonlychristianwomenhear included remarks that are all too familiar to me. Some of the things folks say to me about my vocation make me laugh. For example, a number of people have responded to the knowledge that I am a pastor with shock, asking, “Don’t you believe in the Bible?” I’m always tempted to respond, “Well, I won’t be turning over my handmaiden to my husband for the purpose of procreation, if that’s what you mean.” But employing a great deal of restraint, I refrain because that’d just be mean and would fix exactly nothing; so, I say something like, “I do believe in Holy Scripture; that’s one reason I questioned God for 20 years before I agreed to all this.”
I’ve also been asked lots of times, “How does your husband feel about you being a preacher?” The response ever on the tip of my tongue is, “Well, my first husband thinks it’s just great!” (I’d leave out the little detail that my first is also my only husband.) Instead I say, “Actually, my husband and I feel that God called us together: me to go into the ministry and him to support that journey.”
Still, that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the pain that comes from #thingsonlychristianwomenhear. The one that really frustrates me is: “We just aren’t ready for a woman in the pulpit.” OK, I know it seems innocuous at first, but I typically hear this one from churches who actually think they affirm women in ministry. On the one hand, I get it: churches have split over much less. Shoot, I’ve seen church conferences dissolve into fisticuffs due to a change in the family night supper menu.
Here’s my question to you, though: Do you ever plan on ever being ready? If not, then for heaven’s sake (literally), be honest. Just say, “Here at this church, we do not believe God calls women to the pastoral ministry; we believe God only calls males to this task. Therefore, we never intend to recognize your ordination as legitimate. That’s who we are.” Yes, it’s harsh; but it’s direct and truthful, unlike the previous, passive-aggressive non-response.
On the other hand, if you aren’t ready, what are you doing to get ready? Do you have women leaders making announcements, reading scripture, or passing the offering plate? Do you have women on staff? If so, do they have opportunities to participate in pastoral care or preaching? By the way, I’ve known a number of Baptist churches who, while they boldly declare that they absolutely do not believe in women preaching, will have a woman in the pulpit to “share a testimony,” or “bring the message.” Somehow by changing the verb, they’ve sanctified the behavior; and listen: I give them credit for trying. At least they are allowing God to speak through feminine voices.
Me, I don’t consider myself a real flag bearer for women in ministry. I just know without a doubt that God — demonstrating supernatural perseverance through two decades of denial — called me into this vocation. And, as it happens, I’m not a male. Go figure. Plus, I was not at all “ready” for this journey. But, by grace, God didn’t call me to be ready; God called me to be willing. Once I surrendered to God’s direction, the path to readiness miraculously presented itself.
Church, you don’t have to be ready. Just be willing. Then, together, we can change the tone of #thingsonlychristianwomenhear from one of judgment and ridicule to one of mercy and grace.
Originally published as
Changing #thingsonlychristianwomenhear – Baptist News Global
Having battled depression since I was in the first grade, I’ve gotten lots of suggestions and advice over the years on how to “get over it.” Here are just a few of those and the responses I would love to have given.
- “You take things too seriously.”
See, me, I think you just don’t take things seriously enough. Have you given any thought to world hunger lately? Poverty? Abuse? Because I have and it’s pretty serious stuff. You see me getting upset because of one (so-called) minor incident and you think I’m overreacting. What you don’t get is that, I’m not just responding to this occurrence. I was already thinking about the world’s pain and suffering. Then this thing happens and I’m catapulted into a thought process that attempts to take into account all sadness, all pain, all brokenness of all time. You try thinking about that without getting serious.
- “Just don’t think about that stuff.”
Oh okay. If you’d just hold my brain for a minute or . . . I dunno . . . a decade.
- “You’re just too sensitive!”
What you don’t understand is that I do not have an emotional epidermis. Think of me as a hairless cat. Wait no. No one should think about that. Ever. Think of me as . . . well . . . think of me as someone who doesn’t have an emotional epidermis. Best I can tell, my filters are super permeable. More stuff just gets to me.
Also, I’m not consciously choosing to be “too sensitive” as you seem to think. I’m trying to handle emotional difficulties better; but when you say “You’re just too sensitive,” what I hear is, “You are broken. Fix yourself.” Your not-at-all-well-thought-out advice reinforces what I already believe about myself. And that makes me want to curl up and sleep for a week. Which just makes people say, “You take things too seriously.” (See above.)
I promise you, I’m working on it. You can’t imagine how hard I’m working on it. This time, I just didn’t have the energy to use the coping strategies I’m developing. And I’m tired of picking up the mask every time I face people. So when you see me like this, please refrain from giving me your pithy solutions; instead of reducing my depression, they actually inflame the condition.
- “Perk up!”
On it! Thanks for the suggestion. Wow. Wish I could have known you 45 years ago. Would have saved lots of money in counseling and pharmaceuticals. Gosh, really! I’m all fixed now. Thanks!
- “It just doesn’t make sense. You don’t have any real problems!”
You are so right. I don’t. That’s why I don’t understand why I feel this way. Nothing is wrong. Except for everything. And also nothing. But everything.
Here’s the way things go down inside my brain:
Brain: You have no real problems.
Me: Then what’s wrong with me?
Brain: Lots of people have it worse than you! You have no reason to be depressed.
Me: You’re right; I’m such a loser.
Brain: Think about all the people who have truly difficult struggles. Victims of assault or abuse, people in poor health, those who are bereaved. You literally have no problems.
Me: You’re right. I have absolutely no right to feel this way.
Brain: Then stop feeling.
Me: Okay, how?
Brain: Ummmm. Yeah, I got nothing. Not my expertise.
So I hear you, I do. I even quote you to myself all the time. As a matter of fact, there’s no need for you ever to say this to me again. I say it to myself plenty.
- “Why don’t you just . . . [add overly simplistic, completely ludicrous, non-solution].”
Is that a question or an accusation? If it’s a question, settle in friend. I’ve got lots to say. Most people, though, don’t really want to hear the “why.” It’s not really a question at all. It’s an expression of frustration and I get it! It is hard to live with or around someone who is chronically sad. But if you really want to help, give me compassion not judgment. Compassion is infinitely more effective in reducing depression’s symptoms. So instead of making the above statement, why don’t you just create a safe place for me where love is plentiful and mercy is abundant, k? Thanks.
Here’s the thing: if someone you know or love is suffering from chronic depression, resist the urge to give offhand advice. Instead, offer grace: because grace, like love, never fails.
They had already been married six years by then, so it caught her completely by surprise. It was 1931 and they lived in Brazil at the time, far away from the small towns in South Georgia where they spent their respective childhoods.
Grandmama's ring visible on her left hand in this photo from September 1989
“He just tossed it over to me.” Grandmama loved to tell the story. “Just tossed it! The diamond only--it was in a little pouch of course; else I guess we would still be looking for it!” Grandmama laughed easily, particularly at her own jokes. “Asked me did I want to get it made into a ring.” She’d be fiddling with her ring by this point in the story, moving it this way and that so her diamond would catch the sunlight and throw it all over us. “Can you imagine? When I’d never seen something so pretty in my life.” The way she looked at it even then told us she hadn’t found anything yet that could top it. “Your Granddaddy wadn’t one to go and buy gifts much, so I told him right quick that I sure did want him to have it set into a ring!”
I heard the story nearly every year of my childhood. Grandmama loved that ring; I am certain I never saw her without it. She wore it with great joy and pride for more than sixty years until her passing in 1994, five years after Granddaddy died. She left her ring to my mother who wore it with as much love as her mother had.
My mother’s attachment to the ring extended far beyond the monetary value and physical beauty of it. That ring was a symbol for her parents, their love for each other, and their devotion to the family that grew out of that love. Mother wore it all the time. She was wearing it each time she welcomed a new grandchild (a total of eight in as many years). She was wearing it when she and Daddy celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. And she was wearing it in January 2015 when she had an allergic reaction to a medication that resulted in an urgent 911 call.
The first-responders got Mother stabilized and out of immediate danger, but that did not alleviate her own sense of impending doom. As her heart raced and her breathing slowed, she fought to stay conscious while the EMT’s strapped her to a stretcher and carried her to the ambulance, bound for the closest hospital.
Her throat and tongue were too swollen for her to speak audibly, but she remembers crying out in her own mind, “I need to tell someone that I want Baker to have my mother’s ring!” She had made the decision, but had not yet told anyone, not even Daddy. She was terrified that she would die without anyone knowing.
Mother (who the grandkids call Gangi—which sounds kind of like “Angie” except “Gangi” is pronounced with two hard G’s) and her oldest grandson (Baker) have always had a close relationship. She stayed with us for three weeks after his birth and spend much of that time holding our cuddly boy. As he grew, Baker continued to look forward to his time with Gangi. Whenever she was around, he had what he called “a hug attack.” Actually, preschool Baker’s speech was hardly decipherable; his malady sounded something like “uh hud atat,” making the condition all the more adorable. Back then, he would climb onto her lap and snuggle in until the attack subsided. Relapses were common and frequent and Gangi was always willing to administer the necessary treatment.
It was this special connection—one that neither has outgrown—that prompted Mother’s desire to give Baker Grandmama’s cherished ring. Once she recovered from her near-death experience, she put it in writing that Baker was to receive the ring. That summer, she told him that she wanted to give it to him and that he could fashion it in any way he wished for the girl of his dreams. By that time—Summer 2015—Baker and Addison had been dating for over three and a half years. Mother already loved Addison and though she didn’t tell Baker then, it was Addison’s hand that Mother hoped to see adorned with the ring. (Only time would tell.) She told Baker that whenever he was ready, she would give it to him. In December 2016 at the annual Christmas visit, he went to her privately and said “Gangi, I would like to have the ring!”
I asked her how she felt about the whole thing, wondering if she questioned her decision or if she missed having the ring on her own hand.
“Oh no! I am completely happy about it,” she replied. “My heart is absolutely filled with joy knowing that this precious ring will be carried on into another generation. My parents were married 65 years and it would mean so much to them that their commitment to marriage and family continues in this way. They would be just thrilled that their beautiful diamond now glistens on the hand of their great-grandson’s fiancé.” Mother, unabashedly biased, added, “And I KNOW they would LOVE Addison!”