Thursday, June 27, 2013

Papa Barnes, Rest in Peace

Dear Lucy,

If someone had told me that in your four short years of life you would experience the death of two of your grandparents, I would have thought it inconceivable.  In your own little way, I think you understand what has happened.  When I told you that Papa Barnes went to heaven to be with Grammy, you gasped, said "he died?" and then started crying.   It just about broke Daddy and I's hearts.   We think Papa had a special place in your heart. 

In order that you can always remember all the good things about your Papa Barnes, I am writing you this letter.

He was a man who had a goal, worked to obtain that goal, and then lived his life enjoying it.  When your dad was just 2 years old, your Papa Barnes-a regular city guy-decided he wanted a farm.  He left D.C. and bought his 100+ acre farm in Bennington, NY.  Your dad and I hope what you can learn from this is that it pays to have goals, and work towards achieving them.  We hope that you will always look to Papa Barnes as an inspiration for pursuing your future dreams.

Papa loved his farm.   Your dad learned so many lessons as a result of growing up there.  Some of them in spite of how Papa did things, but most of them because of what Papa did.  There is no doubt that your dad learned his hard work ethic from growing up on the farm and seeing everything that Papa did. We hope this work ethic will be passed on to you, as it would be a great tribute to Papa and the example he provided.

Your Papa Barnes had his own unique way of loving.   Do you remember playing that triangle peg board game with Papa at Grandma Moorleghen's last summer?  Or when you and Papa played "buzzz...buzzz.." on our couch during his visit a few months ago?  You and he laughed uncontrollably for a good 10 to 15 minutes.  Papa was a teacher through and through, and loved to see his kids and grandkids learn (especially in sports).   He took pride in seeing people in his family achieve.  When you first started crawling, he was at our house visiting---he thought he had taught you how to crawl, as he had been working with you on it the entire visit!   He was so proud!

Something else he took pride in was people enjoying his farm.   Like when you would go riding on the golf cart or four wheeler, taking in the beauty of what he had created.   Or when he took you out to the barn to see his cows and barn cats.  What about this past visit, when you and your cousins were on the gigantic teeter totter, that he inadvertently had created?  We hope that, like Papa, when you work hard at something, you will take a moment to have pride in what you have achieved.

Did you know that Papa and your Mamaw Barnes were married almost 50 years?   You weren't born yet when they renewed their vows at 45 years, but it was a joyous occasion.  Your Papa remained a loyal, committed, loving husband to Mamaw over all these years.   Your dad and I can only pray that our marriage will last this long, and that someday you will enjoy the privledge of such a lengthy marriage.

It is true:  your Papa loved his politics and Fox News.   You endured many animated debates with the family about various heated topics.   Even though we didn't all, always agree, there is something very important for you to learn from this.  Papa was true to his convictions and principals.  He lived according to them.  He wasn't scared to express them.  Your dad is the same way, surely learning it from Papa over the years.  We hope that you will always be guided by your principals, and live according to them.

Another thing Papa love:  music.   This is something you and he already have in common.  Do you remember when he and Mamaw danced in our kitchen in April?  I can't remember what song was playing, but if I had to guess, it was something by George Strait.  It was always wonderful to watch him and Mamaw dance... something they loved to do.  Papa didn't have time for current, popular music, and was sure to let anyone who would listen know this.    He would be happy to see you develop your musical interests, as long as it was the classics or country!

I am sure that as time goes on, you will hear and learn more about Papa from your dad and I.  He was a good, honest, hard working and principled, husband, father and man.  Most who knew him liked him and felt drawn to him.  He was funny.  He told good stories. He was always a fighter, never a victim-- all the way to the time of his death.

We are sad you won't be able to experience first hand all these attributes of your Papa as you continue to grow up.  But rest assured, your dad is a good representation of who Papa was.

By knowing your dad, you will know your Papa.

Much love,

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Coming Full Circle

Recently we were blessed with being a part of a very special occasion.   It involved one of my Mom’s good friends from college.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that throughout the weekend my Mom’s presence was everywhere…but I was.

My Dad, Brian, Lucy and I trekked up to western Pennsylvania for the celebration of 50 years of Sister Rose Anne being in religious life with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary.  Sister Rose Anne and my Mom were college roommates.   They remained good friends through all the years leading up to my Mom’s death.   When we received the invitation in the mail to be a part of this special occasion, we never doubted that we would go.  And what a special, memorable, spiritually-alive weekend it was.

There were the peaceful surroundings of Villa Maria: the wetlands trail, and the herb gardens, and the college-like dorm we stayed in (which we had all to ourselves!), and the amazingly beautiful chapel, and the ponds, and religious statues, and cows and sheep, and organic gardens….

Lucy loved smelling all the different herbs.

The wetlands trail that we explored.

This is not even skimming the surface….

There was also all the incredibly friendly and happy residents, so marked with God’s grace and peace.

And the delicious food, lots of it grown and/or made right there on site.

And the amazing weather.

And the masses that we attended, where the Holy Spirit was filling my every inch.

The Magnificat Chapel

Lucy enjoying holding Mary's hand.
The pictures of this gorgeous space really don't do it justice.

And the catching up and visiting with Sister Rose Anne, her sister Sue, and my Dad.

I could go on and on, and I haven’t even gotten to the most amazing part of it all:

The gifts exchanged.

I have to go back just a bit.  

When I was home in April for my niece’s birthday, I sat at my Mom’s desk in her house, just looking through her stuff, as I sometimes will do.  I noticed her rosary, sitting in the corner of her desk.  I thought to myself that I was sure it hadn’t moved since her death, and what a shame that it was just sitting there, unused.  I pondered what to do with it, but left it there, not wanting to change her space.

Fast forward to a month later--my Dad and I talking about what we could give Sister Rose Anne to commemorate her special celebration.   I had been thinking and thinking and couldn’t come up with just the right gift.  Then my Dad said “Have you ever thought of giving her something here, in the house?”  That is when I knew.   Of course, the rosary! This is exactly why I sat at my Mom’s desk a month earlier, and why my Mom had me notice that rosary of hers, sitting in the corner of her desk... that rosary she had used for over 50 years.  I had not a doubt in my mind-at that moment in conversation with my Dad- that the rosary was exactly what my Mom wanted us to give her good friend on her 50th anniversary celebration.

But the story doesn’t end there…

On that Saturday night-- when  we were staying in that peaceful, empty dorm on those beautiful 700 acres of nature preserve at Villa Maria, some different gifts were being exchanged.  This time, from Sister Rose Anne… to us.  Two of those gifts:   a pair of silver earrings and a Belleek pin.  Both gifts that my Mom had given to Sister Rose Anne (the earrings right before she died).  And now Sister Rose Anne wanted to pass them on to us, specifically to Mom’s grandchildren.  She explained that since the grandchildren can’t receive gifts from Mom anymore, she wanted them to have these things.

I knew then, and see even more clearly now, how busy my Mom had been leading up to this weekend.   She was at work through all of us, planting seeds, and making sure her things were given away to the proper people…people whom she knew would treasure these special things.   Not only this, but she brought us all together so that we could exchange these gifts, enjoy each other’s company, and be reminded of her eternal presence.  

Lucy picked this for me on the wetlands trail.

It is true that I never saw any of this coming…this full circle moment, in such a serene place, with such wonderful people.  Now, all I can think is, of course this happened…never doubt the unending power of the Holy Spirit, and God’s divine Providence, always present.  

If ever you get a chance to visit Villa Maria in Pulaski, Pennsylvania, I highly suggest it.  Amazing things are sure to happen there.