Nancy Hatch’s Memorial Service

January 9th, 2020

As I posted a link to the video of my father’s memorial service, here’s a link to my mother’s memorial service:

What I had to say begins at 45:00, and the part where seven of us sang the fourth movement of Brahms’ Requiem, “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” begins at 1:17:00.

Here is what I planned to say at the service. (I also spoke at my Dad’s graveside service, but didn’t write out my remarks ahead of time. I learned my lesson.)

I haven’t seen a lot of my Mom since she had Alzheimer’s, because I live in Virginia. When I did see her, I’d see how much worse she’d gotten since the last time I’d seen her, and it would hit hard because I wasn’t seeing it happen gradually.

When I came here for Dad’s memorial service, Mom couldn’t do much of anything, and it broke my heart. But I wanted to be a loving presence, so I held her hand and said, “I love you, Mom. I love you.”

And I swear she answered me, “I love you.” It was three syllables and the right vowels. So my Mom’s last words to me were “I love you.”

And you know what? I believe her. Mom and I didn’t always understand each other, but one thing I’m sure of was that she tried her best to love me and to love all her children and grandchildren.

Alzheimer’s strips so much away from a person. When all that’s stripped away, she could have ended up a bitter and resentful person, but not Mom. Down to her core, Mom was left with her loves.

There’s a cute speeches phase of Alzheimer’s, just like there is for little kids. I got to have dinner with Dad on one of his trips to DC when Mom was in that phase. He told me that she’d said to him, “I love you! We should get married!” In fact, he said she’d never told him she loved him as much in their whole lives as she was doing then.

Another cute speech was reported to me by my sisters. They said that one day, Mom said, “I just remembered that there’s this place with rooms full of books, and you can take home as many as you want!” As a public librarian, this made me happy.

And that makes me remember that so many of my deepest loves in life are loves that my mother instilled in me.

She taught me to read. And instilled in me a love of books and reading and reading aloud to children. Exactly the passions that make me love being a librarian.

Mom loved little children and babies to the very end, and that’s a love she instilled in me. Though I prefer to enjoy *other* people’s children, as a children’s librarian, I’m lucky enough to get to do that on my job.

Lately I joined a church that has a wonderful choir. I’ve been reminded how much my love of music and singing and hymns and choral music came from my Mom. She made sure our family owned a hymnal, and she was the one who started Becky and me in our habit of singing hymns on long trips. She got me piano lessons and flute lessons and voice lessons and took me to choir concerts until I was old enough to sing in them myself, and then she attended all of mine. And she wasn’t faking interest – she loved to hear the choirs singing.

It was Mom’s idea to pay us to memorize chapters of Scripture. She was the one who’d patiently listen even when I didn’t necessarily know the chapter as well as I thought I did. And memorizing Scripture changed my life, because it found its way into my heart. Mom passed on to me her love of God and her love for God’s Word.

Mom, I love you, too. Thank you for passing on to me the loves that make me who I am.

The Depths of God’s Forgiveness

January 9th, 2020

This morning these verses in Micah 7:18-19 struck me:

Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

My photo above isn’t right for this, since my picture is of the edge of the sea, not the depths of the sea, but it was the best recent sea picture I have. But there’s no chance the waves are going to bring our iniquities back to shore.

I’ve long thought that evangelicals tend to go overboard with confession.

Now, I understand that confession is important. I learned I John 1:9 by heart when I was a little girl — “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

But I was also taught as a little girl to “keep short accounts with God” and that “sin demands payment” — and the result is the idea that God’s willing to forgive, but he’s keeping track — and you’d better confess every single sin of omission or commission, or he’ll sternly disapprove.

I’ve seen prayer meetings stop for time of confession — and see people agonize over all the little ways they’ve failed God.

I don’t think that’s what God is after.

Look at how God is portrayed as the Father in the parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15). The son was ready for a profuse apology, but the Father didn’t even listen to that.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

At the end of my marriage, my ex-husband gave me a long list of ways I had hurt him over the years. I groveled and cried and apologized — but he didn’t accept my apologies. That’s what it’s like when someone demands payment.

God does not hold grudges! He doesn’t require us to make up to him what we have done. He simply wants us to be free from sin.

He says as much in Psalm 103 —

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

I think conscientious Christians can especially get ourselves feeling guilty for sins of omission. For example, I’m sick today, but starting to feel better — did I do enough good things?

That’s why that last verse quoted above comforts me so much — “He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” God does not hold against us that we are not perfect. Just as we do not hold against our toddlers that they can’t run and jump.

He loves us, even though we are as yet imperfect.

And though we’re told to confess our sins, and we’re told to examine ourselves, I think we can overdo it if it gets into guilt and groveling. We are God’s children. He’d like us to enjoy his presence instead of spending our time with him apologizing for things in the past.

George MacDonald shook up my thinking about this in the chapter “Salvation from Sin” from his book The Hope of the Gospel. (You can read it online through the link above.) Here’s a passage I especially love:

Not for any or all of his sins that are past shall a man be condemned; not for the worst of them needs he dread remaining unforgiven. The sin he dwells in, the sin he will not come out of, is the sole ruin of a man. His present, his live sins—those pervading his thoughts and ruling his conduct; the sins he keeps doing, and will not give up; the sins he is called to abandon, and clings to; the same sins which are the cause of his misery, though he may not know it—these are they for which he is even now condemned.

What does all this mean? I don’t know about you, but when I’m at the start of a new year, I start to think about, What did I do badly last year? What ways do I need to do better this year?

What if instead I think of God taking everything I did wrong or poorly in 2019, all my flaws and failings of 2019 — and hurling them into the depths of the sea?

Can I accept that God does not hold grudges? Can I accept that he loves me as I am today?

And then I pray: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Help me to live the life you’ve called me to and walk in your love today.

But even as I pray that prayer, I imagine the Lord interrupting me and saying, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on my child!”

Guilt and groveling? I don’t think God even wants me to think about those ways I’ve failed him. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have hurled them into the depths of the sea.

Christmas Letter 2019

December 20th, 2019

Emmanuel — “God with us” — that’s what I’m clinging to this Christmas season, along with other tidings of comfort and joy.

I’ve decided that 2019 was an overdramatic teenager of a year — very big good things and very big bad things. Maybe 2020 will calm down!

I’ll go in opposite chronological order, to cover the bad news first, so I can finish with the good news.

On November 30, my mother passed away after more than ten years with Alzheimer’s. She’d been on hospice for two years, and this was not unexpected. The lovely part was that the day after Thanksgiving, my family in California came together to celebrate, as is our custom. My mother’s sister, Aunt Linda, came to watch Mom and she brought her violin. Mom’s sister and her children stood by her bedside, playing and singing hymns. Believe it or not, when they finished, a rainbow came out. The next morning, Mom went to heaven.

That was expected and really should be thought of as a blessing at last — but it was made harder because my father, who had been tenderly caring for her for years, passed away unexpectedly on September 25th, in the hospital from a blood clot two days after minor surgery.

So it feels like a wallop for my twelve siblings and me. The gathering of family at Dad’s memorial service was beautiful. But when my mother passed away, too, this time I didn’t have the luxury of the Denial stage of grief, and it hit hard right from the beginning. We did want my Dad to have a nice rest after all his work caring for Mom — and he has gotten that rest. Rather than seeing Mom off, he got to welcome her into heaven.

Another tough thing that happened this year was that the church I’d been attending since I moved to Virginia, full of people who love me and support me and got me through my divorce, that church officially adopted a policy that essentially says LGBTQ people are sinning. I strongly disagree with the policy, believing it is neither biblical nor kind.

The good side of that was that I joined Floris United Methodist Church, just fifteen minutes down the road. I heard the pastor making some of the same biblical arguments I’d been making about how Christians need to be inclusive. And to my delight, it turns out this church has an outstanding choir — and I hadn’t even realized how much I’d missed singing in a choir, joining the voices of others singing praise to God. Singing in the amazing Christmas cantata brought light to an otherwise dark December.

And that brings me to good news! I actually got the news of my father’s passing when I was on one of the best vacations of my life, traveling in Prince Edward Island with Darlene and Ruth, two of my childhood friends. There are two weeks of the year in late September and early October when we are all the same age, and we spent a week in PEI to celebrate being 55. We saw the L. M. Montgomery sites and beautiful scenery from all over the island. And we enjoyed spending time together. I wrote about the whole trip, with pictures, on this Sonderjourneys blog.

And the year started off with the amazing and wonderful experience of meeting with the 2019 Newbery Committee and deliberating in a locked room in Seattle to choose the most distinguished American children’s book of 2018. Our winner was Merci Suárez Changes Gears, by Meg Medina. One of the things the main character deals with in the book is her grandfather developing dementia, so that hit home.

After choosing the winner in Seattle, I got to visit my kids and my siblings and little nieces in Portland, Oregon. It was lovely to see them! Tim had started a new job, still doing computer work, and I saw his new apartment. Zephyr announced that she’s planning to marry Lily Dear in December 2020, and I got to meet Lily and welcome her into the family! Speaking of welcoming into the family, as of November 2, I will have to talk about nieces and a nephew in Oregon, because Robert and Laura had their third child, little Martin.

In June, we got to celebrate with the Newbery winners at ALA Annual Conference in DC, which ended up being a great big celebration to cap off all our hard work.

And the other amazing thing that happened at ALA Annual Conference was that I was given the 2019 Allie Beth Martin Award from the Public Library Association! This award is given “for extraordinary range and depth of knowledge about books and distinguished ability to share that knowledge.” Who even knew such an award existed? I was blown away to be nominated by my own library system, and then winning it felt like serious validation that I made the right choice switching careers when I was in my forties.

So, those are just the big things of the year — but they were very big things!

2020 will start with my mother’s memorial service on January 4th and finish with my daughter’s wedding on December 21st. I’m hoping in between will be plenty of love and joy.

To those reading this, thank you for your love and friendship! All that 2019 held was enhanced by the many dear friends rejoicing and weeping with me.

May this Christmas season bring you the comfort and joy of the knowledge that God is with us.

Ron Hatch’s Memorial Service

December 13th, 2019

I’m posting a link here to my Dad’s Memorial Service, which took place on October 10, 2019.

I’m posting the link so that some day if I want to watch it again, I can easily find it. I’m not quite ready to do that yet.

I’m afraid I’ll also post a link to my Mom’s Memorial Service, after that happens on January 4, 2020.

Driving Home from Prince Edward Island

December 13th, 2019

This is my last post about my amazing road trip vacation to Prince Edward Island with my dear friends Ruth and Darlene during the week in September when we’re all the same age. Here’s a list of the posts that went before:

First, I explained our upcoming trip and why we came up with this plan.

On the first weekend, we drove from Virginia to Prince Edward Island, where we stayed in a cottage in Cavendish.

On Monday, we visited Green Gables Heritage Place, the Haunted Wood, Montgomery Park, the site of L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish home, and took a shore drive back to our cottage.

On Tuesday, we visited L. M. Montgomery’s Birthplace, the Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush, and saw Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.

On Wednesday, we drove to Greenwich Dunes, where we walked through old farmland and woods, then on a floating boardwalk right through a lake, and then over dunes onto the beach.

On Thursday, we visited Bideford Parsonage Museum and then North Cape. But it was also the night I found out that my father had passed away.

On Friday, I put the whole day in one post, as our main activity was to go see West Point Lighthouse Museum.

Now we’d spend Saturday and Sunday driving home. This time, the plan was to spend the night in Bangor, Maine, rather than going further to the halfway point. That way, we were able to find the hotel while it was still light and did our night driving on Sunday when we were going home.

First, we had to pack up the car again. We’d eaten a tiny fraction of the food Darlene brought for us! And of course now there were plenty of souvenirs to pack. But then it was time we really did have to say good-by to Prince Edward Island.

This time, leaving the cottage, we used the paper map and did *not* take the dirt roads Google Maps had brought us in on when it was dark!

The pictures don’t come out very good when the car is moving, but I had to try to take some last shots of the Island.

There’s the Confederation Bridge off in the distance, the longest bridge in the world over water that freezes.

We’re almost to the edge of the Island.

And there’s the bridge coming up:

Here we go!

Darlene did great. (She doesn’t like bridges. But we couldn’t tell.)

That’s the Northumberland Strait under us.

It goes up in the middle.

And then it goes down.

Welcome to New Brunswick!

This time in New Brunswick, we wanted to make sure we got a picture of a Moose Crossing sign.

We drove through New Brunswick and Maine on Saturday. We noticed that the leaves were already brighter than they had been one week before.

In Maine, we stopped at a rest stop that turned out to be beautiful. The funny thing was that just a few miles further down the road was a rest stop we’d stopped at the week before — and it wasn’t very beautiful at all. Oh well! We were glad we found the pretty one this time.

We got to our hotel in Bangor while it was still light! That hotel had a restaurant, so we had a fun time sitting and eating together. And that night, we gave Ruth a bed to herself, so she didn’t even sleepwalk to figure out who was in the bed with her!

Sunday was more beautiful Autumn driving through Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.

I’d asked Darlene to be the one to drive through New York City this time through, since that was my least favorite part of the drive up. Well, google rerouted us because of traffic, and we didn’t have to go through the city at all, but took the Tappan Zee Bridge north of the city. I remember that’s the route we used to take to drive north when my family lived in New Jersey in 1991. Much less stressful!

Speaking of living in New Jersey in 1990 to 1991, it was weirdly nostalgic driving to Virginia once we passed the middle of New Jersey — because my family made that drive several times when we lived in New Jersey and went to visit my friends Darlene and Kathe.

So we continued through New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, and got home in Virginia not too long before midnight. It was a long day’s drive, but not quite as bad when we knew home was at the end of it and we didn’t have to find a hotel in the dark. Ruth spent the night at Darlene’s and caught her flight back to Los Angeles the next day.

And so our amazing, adventurous, inspiring, and above all friendly week together finished up. For me, it was when I got home that it began to sink in that my father had passed away. But I was glad I’d been with dear friends when I got the news, and glad I had time apart from the hustle and bustle to have my soul uplifted.

West Point Lighthouse Museum

December 12th, 2019

In the story of my trip to Prince Edward Island, I’m on our last full day on the island. To recap:

We drove up the coast on the weekend.

Monday we stayed in Cavendish and visited Green Gables Heritage Place, the Haunted Wood, Montgomery Park, the site of L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish home, and took a shore drive back to our cottage.

Tuesday, we visited L. M. Montgomery’s Birthplace, the Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush, and saw Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.

Wednesday we drove to Greenwich Dunes, where we walked through old farmland and woods, then on a floating boardwalk right through a lake, and then over dunes onto the beach.

Thursday was Bideford Parsonage Museum followed by North Cape. But it was also the night I found out that my father had passed away.

So I was in something of a daze on Friday. We did take off sight-seeing again. I was disappointed in the lighthouse at North Cape, since we couldn’t go inside, so I found a lighthouse that had a museum, and we headed for West Point, the westernmost point on the island. The lighthouse there had a museum and an inn.

This time, I got a picture of the colorful signs for the scenic route we were taking.

Once again, I didn’t make much effort to get pictures along the beautiful drive, but here was a pretty spot when we stopped for a moment:

You can see the beginnings of Autumn in the trees:

After some navigating challenges, we arrived at the lighthouse, and yes, they had a museum and we did a self-guided tour.

The ground floor had a variety of things from the history of the lighthouse, including information about the lighthouse keepers of the past and their families.

The West Point Lighthouse Timeline was very interesting.

This sign laid out what we were going to see at the museum —
Ground level: West Point Lighthouse – “an introduction to our Lightkeepers and a look at the history of Island lighthouses through artifacts and displays”
Second level: The Life of a Lightkeeper – “Glimpse the life of a lightkeeper and his family” This level lets you book a night in their “spare room” as part of the Inn.
Third level: The Lighthouses of PEI – information and artifacts about the Island’s 63 lighthouses
Fourth level: Seeing the Light – “Get to the heart of the lighthouse. Inspect the lamp and lens system and the mechanics that makes them work.”
Fifth level: A View from the Top – “Reach the top to discover our 4-ton lantern and lens. Cast your view outward to take in the stunning vista of West Point and beyond.”

I enjoyed this map of Prince Edward Island shipwrecks. I found the Marco Polo, which wrecked off the shore near Cavendish when L. M. Montgomery was a child. I guess it’s a little ghoulish to say I “enjoyed” it — I was shocked by how many there were.

This picture was taken from a few levels up. You can see that the offshore water here, too, is as red as the land.

A display about all 63 lighthouses of Prince Edward Island filled this level.

Here’s what it said about the lighthouse we were in:

West Point: Called the first of PEI’s 2nd generation lighthouses, West Point Lighthouse was the first of the island’s square towers. Built in 1875, at 67 feet, eight inches from base to vane, it is also its tallest.

And the lighthouse we’d seen the day before:

North Cape: Built in 1865, North Cape is one of three “Sister Lights” in the Maritimes. These octagonal towers are among the oldest wooden frame towers still standing in the region.

Now we’d climbed a little higher:

Explaining how the light works:

The ladder-like stairs to the very top:

And here’s the view from on top:

The light itself is huge.

Looking straight across the strait:

When I zoomed in, you can actually see New Brunswick!

We walked around outside the lighthouse by the beach.

And then we went on a short hike into the woods.

I like to think this could be L. M. Montgomery’s “Birch Path.”

And back to the lighthouse!

So that was our last adventure on Prince Edward Island, except a couple intriguing stops on the way back. We did stop at a quilt shop, and Darlene bought some adorable Anne of Green Gables fabric.

And when we were almost back to Cavendish we stopped at “Hostetter’s Viewscape” with an incredibly picturesque view of French River.

“Where Farm Meets Tide” — that could describe a lot of Prince Edward Island.

And I’m still not all that great at selfies, but you can see I was having fun!

And believe it or not, our last day on Prince Edward Island ended with a beautiful sunset.

So that night we began packing things up, ready to drive back south after an amazing week with tried and true lifelong friends in an incredibly beautiful place. I’ll do one more post about our weekend driving home.

Prince Edward Island – North Cape

December 11th, 2019

Prince Edward Island! The last week of September, I drove there with two childhood friends. I’m blogging about our adventures.

Monday was packed with L. M. Montgomery sites in Cavendish, the place she grew up: Green Gables Heritage Place, a walk in the Haunted Wood, Montgomery Park, the site of L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish home, and a shore drive back to our cottage.

Tuesday, we visited L. M. Montgomery’s Birthplace, the Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush, and saw Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.

Wednesday was for nature. We drove to Greenwich Dunes, where we walked through old farmland and woods, then on a floating boardwalk right through a lake, and then over dunes onto the beach.

Thursday we drove to North Cape, but made a serendipitous detour to the Bideford Parsonage Museum where L. M. Montgomery boarded when she first taught school at nineteen years old. Then we traveled on along the North Cape Coastal Drive heading for the North Cape.

The drive was gorgeous, but I’ve learned that when I try to take pictures while we’re driving, it rarely comes close to showing how beautiful it is. At one point along the drive, we decided we simply had to stop the car and take pictures, it was so pretty.

We did make it to North Cape early in the afternoon.

This post is mostly going to be pictures from getting out to look around and walk out to the northernmost point.

We didn’t eat at the restaurant, but this building had a nice gift shop. I bought some more (Surprise!) books about Prince Edward Island and L. M. Montgomery.

We’d noticed already when we were near the shore further south that the water closer to the island has the same red color as the cliffs.

There’s a windmill farm at North Cape, and it seems to be an appropriate place for it.

We didn’t get to go into the lighthouse, but it’s pretty.

Here’s the northern tip, so out there in the water is where the Strait of Northumberland meets the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Ruth at the top of the world.

The week was almost done, and I finally thought to try my camera’s selfie feature.

Darlene went right down by the water!

The sandbar at the top of this picture is covered with birds.

Looking further along the coastline after rounding the northernmost point.

Ruth with wind and water:

I’m not sure how some of the windmills were still — it seemed plenty windy. Though I think that’s why they point them in lots of different directions.

The clouds were doing fun things.

These cliffs take a beating.

All that wide water out there made the beauty all the more exhilarating.

I love this one of Darlene and the sea and sky.

I thought it was funny to take pictures next to that sign, blissfully ignoring it.

Okay, I need more practice with the selfies.

The fun thing about a coastline is how going around each bend is similar, yet new. And looking back gives you a new angle. And it’s all lovely.

Now we’ve fully rounded the point and are looking south.

This was also pointed west. I liked the sun sparkling on the sea.

I caught a seagull!

Looking south:

Looking north back toward the point:

And we came back around to the lighthouse.

More shimmering:

More windmills:

Time to ride off into the sunset. This was when we visited the gift shop.

Fabulous Friends at Fifty-five!

So — that was our amazing day by the sea. We drove back through the middle of the island instead of along the winding coastal road, but it was still a long trip. I was thinking about the news I thought I’d gotten that morning. I told the story in my last post, and based on a Facebook post about bereavement fares from my sister, I was pretty sure my mother had passed away from Alzheimer’s. I had no phone service in Canada, so I’d asked her to post what had happened, and I knew I’d find out when I got back to the cabin. But I was thinking that at last she was at rest and at last my Dad would get a break after taking such amazing tender loving care of her. That was when I told Darlene and Ruth the story of my sister’s dream about leaving Mom in the arms of Jesus.

So we got back. We put our stuff in the cottage. And I checked Facebook.

I learned that it was not my Mom who had passed away. It was my Dad!

Here’s what happened. I’d known that he’d had minor surgery on Monday for what was probably stage one colon cancer. I’d seen a post that it was successful.

The last time I’d seen him, back in June, he’d just found out about the colon cancer and said that his oncologist and cardiologist were fighting about when to have the surgery. He’d had an aneurysm in March and had yet another stent put in (He had quite a collection of stents.) — and the cardiologist wanted him to be on blood thinners for at least six months before he had the surgery. My Dad did know what was at risk — that the cardiologist was afraid it would kill him to go off the blood thinners too soon. (I remember he clearly spelled that out to me, but I had conveniently forgotten — I mean, he did wait six months.)

Anyway, apparently six months was not enough. Dad had surgery on Monday and it did go well. But on Wednesday, he had a cardiac event still there in the hospital, but they couldn’t revive him.

I told Darlene and Ruth and they let me go numb. Since I couldn’t call anyone, I hung out online for awhile. Darlene and Ruth went to the office and did our laundry for me. They fed me supper. And before we went to bed, they hugged me and prayed with me. And though this wasn’t a nice thing to happen while on my wonderful vacation — it was comforting to be with Darlene and Ruth instead of alone in my own home. And it was a beautiful place — very conducive to thinking meditative thoughts. Or at least that’s what I thought when I thought it was my mother who had passed.

I felt terrible that Dad didn’t get his break after taking care of Mom and her Alzheimer’s — except of course I had to admit that he was getting an even better break than I’d envisioned.

I felt terrible for Mom, though — she couldn’t talk any more, so she wouldn’t even be able to ask about him, but I was sure that she’d miss him. It did turn out that my sister Abby, who’d been living with them and helping Dad take care of Mom, continued to stay and look after Mom, with the help of hospice.

[Nobody wanted Mom to linger any longer without Dad — for that matter, we hadn’t wanted her to have to linger so long anyway. She was tough and lasted so much longer than we ever thought she could. To tell you how it turned out, Mom did pass away two months later, on November 30th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The afternoon before, my California siblings had gathered for our traditional day-after-Thanksgiving celebration. My mother’s sister Linda came to look after Mom while my siblings ate. Linda brought her violin, and she played hymns while my siblings sang, including Mom’s favorite, “Day By Day.” Then they all prayed together and, believe it or not, after prayer a rainbow came out. (This is in southern California and rainbows aren’t commonplace.)

I thought that I didn’t want Mom to linger, but with Dad already gone, it hit even harder. We’d wanted him to be there to see her off. However, when I think about it, he got off a lot easier this way (we’re left with the paperwork headaches!) — and he gets to welcome her Home.]

But all I knew that Thursday evening was that they told me my Daddy was gone. I still don’t think I really believed it. But at least I had my lifelong friends with me, and we had one more day of adventures ahead on Prince Edward Island.

Bideford Parsonage Museum

December 10th, 2019

This is the story of my Road Trip to Prince Edward Island with my childhood friends. In late September, we packed up Darlene’s car and drove from Virginia to Canada, where we had a cottage booked.

On Monday, we visited Green Gables Heritage Place, took the path through the Haunted Wood, visited Montgomery Park, saw the site of L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish home, and took a shore drive back to our cottage.

On Tuesday, we visited L. M. Montgomery’s Birthplace, the Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush, and saw Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.

On Wednesday, we drove to Greenwich Dunes, where we walked through old farmland and woods, on a floating boardwalk right through a lake, and then over dunes onto the beach.

On Thursday, our plan was to drive along the North Cape Coastal Drive all the way to the North Cape — the northernmost point of the island. Then we figured we’d take the straight road that ran down the middle of the island to get back.

By now, I’d figured out my phone didn’t work in Canada, and we’d been lucky that my GPS had gotten us to the cottage on Sunday night. But we did have internet at the cottage, so I could check my email and Facebook there. Just before we left, I saw my sister Wendy had posted in our Siblings group on Facebook. (There are 13 of us siblings, so Facebook is a necessity!) She’d posted how sorry she was to hear the sad news and that she would look for bereavement fares to Los Angeles.

My heart sank, and I realized my mother must have passed away at last. I say “at last,” because she’s had Alzheimer’s for approximately ten years and had been on hospice care for almost two years. Even before she was on hospice, she was doing badly enough that I expected to get the news of her passing at any time. Now she was bedridden and couldn’t talk and had to have her food pureed to be able to eat.

I commented under Wendy’s post to please post on Facebook what had happened, because I didn’t have phone service. I told Darlene and Ruth that I was pretty sure my mother had passed away. Dear Reader, I was wrong. But I spent the day thinking that was what had happened, because I read that post only a few minutes before we left the cottage for our day’s adventures.

The drive was wonderful! I was navigating the many turns while Darlene was driving. It took us around and about the shoreline, so we saw lots of coastline as well as lots of beautiful fields and forests. I was in a melancholy state because of thinking my mother had passed away, though I do remember thinking it wasn’t quite right for Wendy to call it “sad” news. Because I’d hoped for my mother to be free from her suffering for years. The person it would be most sad for was my Dad, who had been tenderly caring for her through her illness. He’d waited to retire until five years earlier, when he was 75, but since that time, he’d been caring for her full-time. I knew he’d miss her, but that it would also be a huge weight off his shoulders.

So it was a lovely place to be thinking about my mother’s life and how she would be in a better place. Before we got back to the cottage, I told Darlene and Ruth about a dream my sister Becky had a few years before. Becky said it was so vivid, she thought when she woke up from it that she’d get the news my mother had died. In the dream, Becky was climbing a long stairway with Mom, who was eager to climb them (and able to climb them!) and excited. At the top of the stairs was a doorway. And I don’t remember all the beautiful details — except they fit a recent book I’d been reading about near-death experiences. But Jesus was at the top of the stairs and his eyes were shining with love. And Becky left Mom there in Jesus’ arms, and she was so happy.

So thinking about that, I couldn’t be too sad for my Mom, right?

[Stay tuned to when I found out what really happened after we got back to the cottage that evening.]

Anyway, we were having a wonderful time on the winding North Cape Coastal Drive, navigating by paper map, when I started wanting to find a place to use a restroom. Since we’d seen a super nice Visitor Information Centre the day before, I started looking for the “I” symbol on the map.

We went down a side road — it looked like there was one not far from our route — but it ended up being a dead end and no Visitor Information Centre in sight. But after we turned around, I saw a sign for “Bideford Parsonage Museum.” And I called out, “Let’s stop!”

You see, Bideford is the first place where L. M. Montgomery taught school when she was nineteen years old. I’d read that there was a museum in the parsonage where she boarded while she taught there, but it was farther from Cavendish than any of the other L. M. Montgomery sites, and I’d never worked out exactly where it was. So finding it that Thursday morning was completely serendipitous. (And we were able to use the restroom, too!)

Once inside, a very nice man gave us a complete tour. The museum was packed with things from the time period when L. M. Montgomery boarded there. It had things about the parsonage and the town of a hundred years ago, as well as things about L. M. Montgomery.

This is an example of how packed some of the rooms were!

It included many authentic old household objects.

I think this contraption was for washing clothes:

And I think this was a butter churn, but I might be totally wrong. (I didn’t take notes!)

The old kitchen utensils and pots and pans were really fun to look at.

And this fun display had a story posted next to it:

While Lucy Maud was boarding at the Parsonage, Mrs. Estey made a layer cake to serve to a visiting minister. By mistake, she flavoured the cake with anodyne liniment. Lucy Maud wrote, “Never shall I forget the taste of that cake, and the fun we had over it, for the mistake was not discovered until teatime. The minister ate every crumb of his piece of cake. What he thought of it we never discovered. Possibly he imagined it was simply some new-fangled flavoring.” It was from this incident that the idea for a liniment cake in Anne of Green Gables was derived.

An old map of Prince Edward Island next to a typewriter like the one Maud Montgomery used:

But my favorite room was the bedroom where Maud stayed while she lived there. Every morning before school she would get up early and write. A post on the wall said:

In 1893-94, while Lucy Maud attended Prince of Wales College studying for her teacher’s license, she continued to send her writings to various publishers. One day when she went to the Charlottetown post office, she received a thin letter from an American magazine accepting her poem “Only a Violet.” The editor offered her two subscriptions to the magazine in payment. She was encouraged and wrote, “It is a start and I mean to keep on.” During her year in Bideford, she would get up early in the morning to write before going to school. The Parsonage was sometimes so cold that she would have to wear gloves and sit on her feet in order to keep warm. Her poem “On the Gulf Shore” was published in February 1895. On June 17, 1895, she received word that the Ladies’ Journal had accepted a story. Both “A Baking of Gingersnaps” and “When Apple Blossoms Blow” were published in July 1895.

They’ve furnished the bedroom as Maud might have had it, with extra photos of her and her family.

This is from a note posted on the wall:

Maud’s Room — This was L. M. Montgomery’s room from August 3, 1894 until May 11, 1895. When she first moved in, she wrote, “I have a great big room — too big — commanding a lovely view of the bay.” The view from the window has changed very little from the time when Maud sat here and received inspiration to write. In her Journals, pictures of her own bedroom at home show a spool bed of this design. The bed has a wooden frame and woven spring. The mattress is a feather tick — a large cotton cloth case filled with feathers and down. This is the original floor that was in Maud’s room — note the square head nails. This is the only room that did not have hardwood flooring in it. A closet that had been built in the corner in later years has been removed.

Although the condition of the schoolhouse left much to be desired, in recollection of her year in Bideford, Maud wrote that it had been “a varied chapter of pleasure and toil, hardships and joys.” Her summary was — “This has been a very happy year for me and I shall never think of that old school without a very kindly feeling.” After she moved home to Cavendish on July 1st, she was most wretchedly lonesome — as lonesome for Bideford as she was homesick for Cavendish her first week there. On July 21, she wrote that she was just beginning to get over her lonesomeness for Bideford.

Here’s that view again:

And the sun came out while we were taking the tour! Here’s the view from the front porch:

Looking back at the house:

It had been a serendipitous stop. We had a lovely time, as well as a nice break from driving.

Here’s a little more detail of the view from the front yard. Have I gotten across yet how common this kind of beauty is on Prince Edward Island? Everywhere we went had this kind of lush beauty. I’ve told people that it’s not L. M. Montgomery’s fault — she mentions the sea often — but until I’d been on Prince Edward Island, I hadn’t even noticed how much the sea is described in her books. I’d tend to pass over those parts and my imagination of the island settings was missing the water that is so present.

My next post will cover our time at North Cape — and what had really happened with my family.

(Can you see that this was a beautiful place to be thinking my mother had passed out of her suffering? I was with two of my best friends and I was bombarded by beauty, and it really felt peaceful. We were playing some of my favorite Christian music while we drove, too. Some of the songs brought tears to my eyes in spots, but the overall feeling was peace and thankfulness that my mother was at the end of her suffering, and my father was released from caring for her. All that peace did help when I found out the truth.)

Greenwich Dunes – To the Beach and Back

December 8th, 2019

I’m telling about my Road Trip Adventure to Prince Edward Island with my friends Darlene and Ruth. On a late Saturday and Sunday in September, we drove through New England and New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island.

On Monday, we visited Green Gables Heritage Place, took the path through the Haunted Wood, visited Montgomery Park, saw the site of L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish home, and took a shore drive back to our cottage.

On Tuesday, we visited two L. M. Montgomery museums: L. M. Montgomery’s Birthplace and the Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush. That day culminated with a trip to Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.

On Wednesday, we took a scenic route to Greenwich Dunes. Once there, the path led through the woods, then on a floating boardwalk right through a lake.  After we got through the lake, which was surrounded by dunes, we climbed over a dune and this is what we saw on the other side:

Anyway, that’s what I saw when I pointed my camera to the right as I climbed down the dune.  But when I pointed it to the left, it looked like this:

I have to admit that after walking on a floating boardwalk through an astonishingly beautiful lake, it was astonishing to now be walking on a lovely white sand beach.

Little sandpipers were skittering near the waves.

And close up:

Time to take a picture of Ruth and Darlene on the beach.  I’m lucky to have friends like them!  And after all that walking, we’re still smiling, because it really was astonishing.

Okay, the looming clouds on our left were coming closer and closer.

In fact, now when I took a picture of the view to the right, you can see the edge of the bank of clouds overhead.

We decided it was time to head back.  I did take some backward glances as I climbed the dune again.

We were ready to travel again on the floating boardwalk.

And here’s a wider view of where we were going:

The clouds were catching up to us.

Of course, the new lighting meant I had to take more pictures! This one’s still from the top of the dune.

This one gives a better look at how steep the climb was over the dune.

The walk back was darker, but still beautiful.

And yes, the birds were still calling. I hadn’t seen any Canada Geese in Virginia yet this season, so I told these ones I’d see them again in Virginia! (Sure enough, there are some outside my window on my lake even as I write this.)

It was around this time we began feeling a little rain. Mercifully, it never did get heavy, though.

The darkening sky did mean we didn’t linger as much on the way back.

Now the birds were dark outlines.

And we made it back to the woods.

And back out to the former farmland.

I like this one of Darlene. We were still just walking, just enjoying being out in this beautiful place.

Then we had an opportunity to take another side trail before we went back to the car.  I was delighted when everyone wanted to do it!  When I used to hike with my family, the others were generally done before me.  Darlene had been having some soreness walking, but she still wanted to keep going!  And so did Ruth!  So we took Tlaqatik Trail.

This trail led first beside St. Peter’s Bay. There were birds by the water here, too.

And then I spotted a great blue heron!

The lighthouse across the bay:

By now it was lightly raining again.

This trail had woods and shore. Love that Fall Color!

Another great blue heron!

I understand that Prince Edward Island is a much bloomier place in the Spring and Summer and not a few weeks after a hurricane. But we still found wildflowers.

We reached another boardwalk over plant-covered dunes.

I wouldn’t have guessed by looking at these hills that they’re sand dunes.

I loved the way every boardwalk we encountered was curvy.

We were getting closer to the Interpretive Centre with more normal woods.

Now it was back through old farmland we’d passed on our way out. But now it was lightly raining, so we didn’t linger.

So we headed back to the car. We drove a more direct way back to the cottage than the scenic one we’d used to arrive. Back at the cottage, Darlene fixed a dinner with leftovers for our remaining nights, and we got a good rest after our astonishing day’s walk.

Greenwich Dunes – Walking on Water

December 8th, 2019

This is the story of my Road Trip Adventure to Prince Edward Island with my friends Darlene and Ruth. We drove up from Virginia to Canada on a late September weekend. On Monday, we visited Green Gables Heritage Place and walked on the trail through the Haunted Wood to Montgomery Park and L. M. Montgomery’s Cavendish home, finishing up with a drive along the shore. On Tuesday, it rained, so we visited museums — first L. M. Montgomery’s Birthplace and then the Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush. That day culminated with a trip to Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.

On Wednesday, we took a scenic route to Greenwich Dunes. As we began the hike, people we passed told us to walk all the way to the beach, because it was “astonishing.” As we came out of the woods, we began to understand what they meant.

Even in the woods, we’d been walking on a boardwalk, to keep us off the delicate plants of the dunes — before we’d even realized we were already walking on dunes.  But coming out from the trees, the boardwalk continued, becoming a floating boardwalk that took us through a shallow lake.

It was already stunningly beautiful.  We emerged into a huge flat area.  A lot of it was covered by water, but also grasses growing in the water.  The area was rimmed by what looked like grassy hills, but we now knew were dunes covered with dune plants.

The view was sweeping in every direction.  This was off to our right as we came out of the woods.

Our path led through the lake.

So peaceful and beautiful!  And the air was filled with the sound of birds calling.

So many water birds!  They were swimming, flying, swooping, calling…

The floating boardwalk was anchored in the ground below the shallow lake, but was obviously made to be able to move with the dunes.  It felt like we were walking on water.

There was even an information stop in the middle of the lake.

The main text of the sign says:  “Life in the Shallows:  This freshwater pond manages a fragile existence.  It is at risk of being flooded by salt water during the highest tides, it often goes nearly dry during the summer and it is surrounded by migrating dunes.  Bowley Pond and others of its type are an important habitat for many species of plants and animals.  The extensive area of cattails on this side of the boardwalk is an excellent place for American bitterns, red-winged blackbirds, and other birds to live.

“Bowley Pond is shallow, sandy, and becomes very warm in summer.  While these conditions make it difficult for fish to live here, they provide good habitat for plants such as waterwort.”

Have I mentioned how beautiful it was?

So many birds!

This was using my full zoom, since they were at the far end of the lake, but we did appreciate that there were lots of birds swooping and flying and making bird noises.  (Imagine all these pictures with birds calling.)

And the boardwalk continued!

I liked it that the boardwalk didn’t just go straight across the lake.  Now we were curving around some grasses toward the other side.

On the other side of Bowley Pond, the path led up and over a dune.

There were some parts of the lake’s rim where the dunes were not covered by plants.

Such an amazing place!  Yes, I’d even call it Astonishing!

The light and reflections added to the beauty.

Looking back the way we’d come:

And forward to where we’ll climb the dune:

More of those otherworldly dune plants:

Another informative sign says, “It’s a Tough Life:  Sand dunes are constantly being reshaped by the wind that formed them.  In addition to being a beautiful and ever-changing landscape, dunes are an important and unique habitat for wildlife.

“The anchor that allows this ecosystem to exist is marram grass, a tough grass with special adaptations that allow it to survive in this harsh environment.  It is able to grow up through the sand as it accumulates and spreads mainly by a system of underground runners called rhizomes.  The roots and rhizomes of this plant form a living net, which helps to slow the movement of sand.

“When a dune is stabilized, other species of plants, such as bayberry and wild rose, may begin to grow there.”

Looking back, we were now across the lake and crossing the dunes.

Ready to climb to the other side of the dune:

From the top of the dune, looking back to where we’d walked:

And Ruth and Darlene were climbing to join me:

What we found on the other side of the dune was also astonishing.  I’ll save those pictures for my next post.