I lost my own mom when I was almost 13, wow...37 years ago this week. I didn't know then how big a hole she would leave in my heart. I miss her more now than I did then....but God always has a plan to help heal those hurts...how to fill those places.
Charlotte is a mom-like person to me. God brought her, and her husband Bill, into our lives through the church we went to in Cassville, MO. We were homeschooling at the time, and she is a natural teacher, they both were. Bill passed away in our journey of life with them, and we cried at the loss together. I have tears in my eyes now thinking of how he poured his life into our family; whether it was setting up the telescope in the yard of their farm to watch the latest astronomical phenomenon late at night with us, or playing frisbee with my kids, or bickering at my husband for working too much - he was a dear. He loved God, and loved people the way he knew God loved them. He gave of himself over and over again. He left such a legacy, and he is still missed by many.
Charlotte was just as much a part of my life. She is the one that REALLY got me into baking breads, playing with recipes in new ways, taught me (and my girls) to quilt. She organized her fabrics by color and type, as well as her quilt books in her extensive library, and often shared both with us. She is generous still, willing to give fabrics, quilts, and patterns to needy causes...even when they are strangers. She new what small town life was about, and wasn't afraid to stand up to it. She was who she was, and she got mail that was addressed to "The Goat Lady" or "The Quilt Lady" both titles that the post office (even in their new fangled requirements) knew her as. She canned, and made jams, and baked goodies for no real reason, and snuck dark chocolate against doctor's orders. She kept a cookie jar on her counter for my kids, especially for my son Jason. She bought Christmas presents and snuck them under the tree to Bill and herself from their dogs and cats...and gave her pets a good life, a good home.
As a couple, before coming to Barry County, they lived a full life - raising their own family of girls in New York, Colorado, Arizona, and while she baked bread, raised goats, taught school, he had a great career with IBM - which they jokingly referred to as "I'm Being Moved". They had computers before most people knew what one was, and our first family computer was a hand-me-down that they generously gave to us. They were retired and online, before most, and even still she is active online. She is published, which gained my respect as a writer, another area we shared in common. They loved Jesus, and His teachings. They loved to read, and used the library. He loved being outside, working on the farm, building things (even adding a room on their house, and helping others build their homes, and assisting to build a church). They recalled stories often of camping, and canoeing for weeks out on rivers, lakes, hiking, living a full life.
So, now we miss them both - Charlotte sold the farm and moved to the other side of town within the year of Bill's death, and it was not as easy to see her. We went to different churches, got into different circles of friends, and God eased us out of that small town life, and eventually moved us to Kentucky, where Mark and I now live. But our friendship is still in tact, and I miss her - her antics and her silly pets and all the memories of times we've shared.
Every month she sends me a magazine - a local publication from southwest Missouri. She often tucks in a note, a church bulletin, the latest newsletter from her church. This time she sent me a little birthday card :) She is great about sending cards, and I'm sorry to say that I've never picked up on her gift there, but realize because of her example that it's a needed ministry. I need to pray that God will change me to do that more, for her and for others.
As I was writing her a little email to tell her "thanks", it occurred to me that others may need to say "thank you" to someone from their past. As we are all getting older, well - we aren't getting YOUNGER!! - I hope that we can take time to say how much someone has impacted our life. For better or worse, we learn from others, and we somehow know what we want to be like - or what we hope to be like - as we age gracefully.
So, here's to you Charlotte!! I love you, and am so glad that God brought you into my life so many years ago!! It's been quite a journey - and I pray that I will someday be the mom to another, like you have been to me...
Following is my letter to her...be blessed...
"Just got the magazine today...guess it was sitting out in the mailbox all day - I am not feeling well and didn't even manage to get out the front door to the mailbox. Mark brought it in for me.
THANK YOU for the card, and for mailing me the magazines each month. It means a lot - the birthday wishes, your little notes that you send to keep me up on all the news, and the mailings. I know that it "makes" you get out and go to town, that it's not a convenient thing for you to do - but if you didn't do it I wouldn't see it at all...so it means a LOT to have you do it. Thanks.....
....So this is 50!! Content in my life, it finally fits!! I am getting to do things and help people in ways I'd never imagined. Life feels FULL. It really is comfortable.
I look back at the last 20 years and see things that were good; wonderful people who made my life worth living - to bring me to this place. God was so good to put you and Bill, the Latta's, the Reed's, and a few others in my life to bring beauty and fruit to my life during that time. Lovely examples of what marriage looks like in older age....wonderful examples of mature life with Christ. Such a blessing.
I remember too, days that were lonely, even gloomy, TOO many health issues that were so odd, strange things that happened that were scary and unpredictable. He always provided ways to work through it, a few people to pray me through it, a few people to stand by me.
Now I have those memories, and I am walking in those shoes. It feels good. They fit. I thought that I was perpetually 33 - but I feel like 50 is a good age to stick at for a few years. Perhaps I'll be perpetually 50 now, or I'll continue to grow from here and age gracefully year by year. One could hope....
I TREASURE the thoughts of you teaching me to quilt, the way you stepped in to my life, my heart, and became a mom I needed so badly. We lost a few years, but you have always been willing to hear my gripes, feed me chocolate, bribe me with fabric, nurture me with a good book and sewing notions. You gave me strength to forage through in a difficult town, in a difficult church(es), through difficult years. You related to my work-aholic hubby, and loved him like a son (or son in law). You grandparented my children like they were your own. You've been very lovely. Thank you. You encouraged me to grow, as a mom, a woman of God, a woman, an artist and writer. You saw things in me that I often didn't see, and encouraged me to reach beyond myself. Thank you.
You are one treasure that came with me from that time in the desert....my "40 years in the wilderness".
I love you Charlotte, and look forward to knowing you the rest of our lives.
Thank you Char, Mom.
I love you,