Saturday, September 11, 2010

Loss and Love

Today was a good day.  We celebrated the life of my Uncle Ralph Weller with family and friends this afternoon.  He was such a great man and you know how it is.  I saw one picture of my Uncle Ralph and though I loved him, today I discovered more and more about what a treasure he really was.  The people's lives he impacted and the things that he did throughout his own life are strong reminders of the importance we play in each others lives.

Carol and I sang at the service and while there's nothing strange or abnormal about that for us, today we were placed in front of people who couldn't wait to speak with us.  While they were effusive in their compliments, the first thing they wanted to ask us was who we belonged to.  We figured out quite quickly that they wanted to know we were Frank Greenwood's daughters.  They loved my dad.

Dad's first church was in Gravity, Iowa, a little tiny town in southwest Iowa that can no longer boast a Methodist church.  Uncle Ralph and his wife, Aunt Ruth were members of that church and eased Dad's way into ministry and eased my mother's way into Iowa.  I was born while they lived in Gravity.

Two women came down after much of the crowd had cleared out and wanted to reminisce about their experiences with my parents.  Mom had moved to Gravity from Boston and that made an impression on them.  What made an even greater impression was when she returned after visiting her parents in Boston and was thankful to be back among people that would genuinely care for her and not expect her to behave in a certain way.  She told us that Mom had gone back knowing that her mother would host some extravagant tea or dinner party.  By that time, Mom owned one nice, navy wool dress.  Grammy served a cream soup and before Mom knew it, she had spilled it down the front of her dress.  She told her friends in Gravity that had she been with them, they would have helped her clean it up and then forgotten about it, yet in Boston among the socialites, she felt ostracized.

She told a story about Dad and her husband fishing one day.  Another fellow was fishing around the bend and must have lost his lure into the water.  He didn't know they were there and began cursing and swearing, stomping around and fuming.  Her husband snuck away from the craziness, but the fellow stomped his way out of the area past Dad, still fuming and angry because of a lost lure.  After he had left them alone, Dad turned to her husband and said in that understated way of his, "I don't believe he was very happy about that," and went back to his own fishing.

We were able to share the fact that Dad actually only swore twice that we remembered.  The man just didn't use crass language in his speech.  The one time that all of us remember is the night that he walked down the hallway in the dark from his bedroom to the bathroom only to jam his toes into a stack of bricks piled up.  We all heard "Damn!" come from his mouth and I'm certain that every one of us in the house, animals included clenched as we waited for heaven to open and gather us all in the final moments of history.

It was good being with family, it was wonderful getting to know Ralph's grandkids and watching a new generation grow into themselves and find their way.  It was a good day.

Today marks nine years since the attacks of 9-11.  There are so many people saying so many things, I don't know that my few words will make any difference.  Our world changed that day.  We no longer felt safe in this country that was seemingly protected by oceans from invasion.  Our lives changed that day.  Those who lost their lives on that horrible day left behind families and friends that struggled to understand how this could possibly happen.  Our hearts were changed that day.  We recognized the need to hold our loved ones closer, but we also lost the simple trust in the universal love of each other.  Of all that was lost, that is the one thing that we need to find again ... ways to trust and care for each other that reach beyond race and religion, beliefs and dogma.

On the way back from the funeral, I managed to drive way too fast through Iowa and I got pulled over by a deputy who issued me a ticket.  I didn't argue with him, I didn't plead with him.  I knew what I had done and I accepted what he had to do.  After he had written the ticket, he asked where I was coming from.  I told him that we had been in Bedford for Ralph Weller's funeral.  He knew Ralph and told me that he was a good man and he was sorry for his loss. 

Ralph Weller was a good man.  His life was filled with honor and integrity.  His grandson said that the great gift Ralph had given him was moral character.  Ralph shared all he had, treated everyone he met with respect and loved his family and friends deeply.

Today I remembered loss of life from nine years ago and the loss of a life very close to me just a few days ago.  Life begins and it ends.  That never changes.  What can change is how we live it from this point on.

No comments: