Portrait of my Grandmother

apron

 

The hands that tied this apron on every morning
that I can remember first picked a hundred pounds
of cotton in a day at age five.
They wrote out sums and spelling words
through eighth grade, then went back
to the more necessary work of picking
peaches, beans, cotton, whatever was in season.

They accepted a simple silver band from
the also-calloused hands of a mechanic
one day right in the middle of the Great Depression,
and they laid down the tow sack and picked up the apron.

Those hands cared for a man and his clothes,
their house and their babies.
They cooked three hot meals every day
and washed up the dishes by hand.
They made the clothes and the quilts,
and ran them through the wringer washer,
and hung them on the line to dry.

Those hands cut and combed and braided hair.
They bound up cuts and burns
and placed cool cloths on fevered foreheads.
They canned peaches and made piecrust
and fried chicken and carried food
to new mothers and grieving widows.
They wrote letters, cut coupons and paper dolls,
and taught smaller hands to crochet.

Those hands planted and watered and weeded.
They could put a dry stick in a pot of dirt  and it
would grow. They ironed other women’s husbands’
shirts to pick up a few dollars here and there.
They cleaned the church on Wednesday mornings
and put dimes in the offering plate on Sundays.

Those hands were never idle until they were
folded on her breast in a peaceful pose.

Some people’s lives are written on their faces.
My grandmother’s story was held in her hands.

~ Rebekah Choat

This Time

It’s not what you’re thinking,
this lounging late into the morning
in the recliner with the child
who is over last night’s illness,
just so tired now;
the child whose legs
are near as long as mine;
the child who stirs from drowsing
to murmur, “Mama? I love you.”

Don’t call it wasted.
Say suspended, rather, or
perhaps even hallowed.

~ Rebekah Choat

A Mother’s Prayer

image by Rebekah Choat

image by Rebekah Choat

This prayer was written three years ago, during a time when
my nearly-grown twin sons were in severe crisis, a dark time
of fear and sorrow and helplessness. I offer it today on behalf
of other parents in similar circumstances.

O Lord, help me to realize and remember that, much as I love and cherish and agonize over my children, You love and cherish them so much more than I can begin to comprehend.

You suffered agony for them beyond my imagining. You made them before I ever bore them in my body. You earnestly desire their eternal good – and You have both the understanding of what that is and the ability to bring it about.

Help me day by day, moment by moment, to entrust them into Your hands. I give them, again, into Your care, heavenly Father, asking that the angels have charge over them, to guide them in health and wholeness, in the name of Jesus Christ Your Son.  Amen.

~ Rebekah Choat

All Saints Sunday

Sitting in the sanctuary this morning
Saying the names of those who’ve gone on
A woman my age cradling an infant in her lap
A younger woman cradling her grandmother in a half-embrace
Middle-aged mothers with newly-grown children
Middle-aged daughters with growing-old parents
Communion of saints

Vacation Musings

photo by Rebekah Choat

photo by Rebekah Choat

Photo by Rebekah Choat

photo by Rebekah Choat

 

I’m just returned from a week on South Padre Island, my favorite place in all the world.  I had thought I would spend a lot of time writing, or at least reading; but as it turned out, I spent a lot of time just watching the sea and the sky, and collecting shells, and wading, and breathing.

Chris Gonzales and Joel Brotzman

Chris Gonzales and Joel Brotzman

 

It was a week of introductions and reunions and bittersweet memories of those from whom we are parted; a week of new beginnings and relinquishment of old expectations and words from time past whispering into time yet to come.

Camille Rich, Jonathan Brotzman, Rebekah Brotzman Choat

Camille Rich, Jonathan Brotzman, Rebekah Brotzman Choat

The Last Goodbye

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My circle of friends has been touched by death several times in the past few weeks.  Many of these departures were long-expected; elderly relatives who had been pressing toward the mark finally reached the prize, desperately ill friends who had been fighting the good fight won through to perfect healing.

Does the expectedness make the parting any less painful?  Does the opportunity to say goodbye make it any easier to let go?  I don’t know.  Both my grandfathers passed suddenly, one in an accident that happened so fast that even my uncle who was right there with him had no chance for a farewell.  Both my grandmothers lingered on long past threescore and ten; I shared with them what I knew were the last embraces, the last words, the last leave-takings.   But when it came to it, though I wouldn’t have kept them here in pain and confusion a moment longer, I wasn’t ready to be left behind.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around this realization that someone we love, someone we can see and touch and talk to today, can be gone beyond our reach tomorrow.  As C. S. Lewis said, we of all men hope most of death – we believe and affirm that our greatest hope and joy lie on the other side – yet we can never quite be reconciled to the unnaturalness of it.

In our poor human understanding, we tend to think of farewells, especially final farewells with great sadness.  We imagine an irrevocable severing of the ties that bind our loved ones to earth, to us.  A vast, impassable abyss seems to open between us.

But as I read a friend’s comment, three summers ago now, about saying goodbye to his elderly father overseas, perhaps for the last time, the words struck me differently.  Yes, we say goodbye for the last time.  We say goodbye for the last time.  When next we meet, it will be beyond these petty limits of physical space and bodily tangibility.  When next we meet, it will be outside the walls of this world and outside of time.  When next we meet, it will be for always, past parting.