Dorothy was right...there's no place like home!
If you don't know what's going on with my mom, you can check out the CaringBridge site that Leigh Ann and I set up. Since she was diagnosed with liver and bone cancer on Oct. 2, I have been eager to be by her side, but Leigh Ann took the "first shift" last week and accompanied Mom to the oncologist and PET scan.
We swapped out at the Tallahassee airport on Saturday afternoon.
I was very excited to get into Mom's refrigerator and sample some of the treats her friends had been dropping off, namely what my sister had told me was some most excellent pimento cheese from our friend Janice. Sadly, it was all gone! However, I enjoyed some fantastic quiche (Mom would like to give a shout-out to Angel's new catering business...thanks, Mary Howard), and our friend Gail dropped by with some chicken artichoke pasta. I went for the first of what will be MANY King Street jogs to burn off a few of the calories I'll be taking in.
Saturday night, our Highland Avenue neighbors "Miss" Betty and Mr. Billy had us down for a wonderful grilled supper of pork chops, pineapple, sweet potatoes, vegetable cous cous and brownies. Miss Betty even set the table with fine china, silver and antique glassware. She has been our #1 angel in the past two weeks.
Sunday morning, I woke up to a text from Ranie, Miss Betty's daughter and my friend since were were babies. "Are y'all up? I made pumpkin waffles. They're still warm!"
What a way to start the day! They were divine -- light and fluffy, with the perfect amount of pumpkin and spices.
After that, we went to church, where my mom's family has always sat on the front row. The best part of this is that you get an unobstructed view of the children's sermon! Miss Betty's three grandsons (Ranie and Jason have Benjamin and William, and Philip and Joann have Andrew) were quizzed on what they'd been learning about the creation story -- what God made each day. I was quite impressed by their correct answers. The preacher's favorite part was when they were asked what happened on the seventh day, and someone shouted, "Church!" During his sermon, the pastor emphasized the fact church is not just a place, it's a relationship and a community. Amen to that.
After church, we made a quick stop at CVS to pick up some prescriptions and some Halloween goodies for the boys. Mom has a cute tradition of stashing treats for all three of them in the pumpkin on her stoop...Ranie texted me this picture last week when they got their first surprise. I hope they like what I picked out for them this week!
Lunch was a real treat. Miss Virginia, our special surrogate mother/grandmother, had us over for a quintessential Southern Sunday dinner of roast beef, potatoes, cabbage, to-die-for corn pudding, okra, tomatoes, and HOMEMADE rolls. Dessert was vanilla rum pudding with a nutty crust. Amazing!
We lingered around the table until after 3 o'clock, laughing and telling stories. (My friend Barbara told me she bet my time here would illustrate the quote, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." She was right.) The only thing that could have made it better is if my sister had been with us.
After lunch, I went to the Winn Dixie and ran into one of my favorite people, James Scott, who worked on my family's farm for around 40 years. He loves to remind me and my sister how he remembers the days we were born. When I told him about Mom, he said, "Tell your mama to eat ice cream! Chocolate ice cream. Not vanilla! I had cancer too, and I ate chocolate ice cream, and it cured me."
I told him that was one prescription I was sure my mama could follow.
My Winn Dixie mission was to pick up ingredients for Maple-Pecan Sundaes with Candied Bacon. (You have to lower your foodie expectations a bit when shopping at the WD...I think I will keep a running list of the things I haven't found there. This trip, it was Nabisco's Famous Wafers and candied ginger. I knew the ginger was a bit unlikely but thought the cookies were a safe bet.)
I spent an hour in the kitchen making candied bacon and reducing maple syrup, then we headed out for supper with our other beloved neighbors, Mark and Patsy. Yet another tasty meal...they had a friend who was visiting, and we entertained each other retelling some our favorite Quincy stories, complete with impersonations.
The sundaes were a hit! I was a little worried about serving something so experimental, but the flavors paired together really well. The cinnamon and the ginger in the maple syrup gave it a hint of fall, but given the fact the north Florida highs are still in the 80s, it was cool and refreshing. Mom thinks this would make a good Christmas gift, so go ahead and get your orders in now...
We are blessed beyond words to be surrounded by so many friends who love my mom and are lifting her up in prayer. Mom spent nearly 30 years teaching at a small private school, a job that offered limited financial rewards but abundant relationships and meaningful connections. She was tickled pink last night when one of her students posted on Facebook this picture of her daughters reading a Spanish book from Mom.
I find strength and encouragement in all that love, along with these words from our affirmation in church yesterday:
We are not alone, we live in God's world. We believe in God: who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God's presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.