A Less-than-Great Generation? . .

I’ve always been fascinated by World War II history. My parents were part of that era, born in 1916 and 1926, respectively. They were married shortly after my father returned from his Army experience in the Pacific Theater. He was stationed on the island of Guam. Both lived through the Great Depression and World War II. My maternal uncle was part of the Normandy landing.  I relished Tom Brokaw’s book  The Greatest Generation. Those who experienced the Great Depression, like my mother, saved everything, as evidenced by the remnants of rationing books I found in her boxes of “keepsakes.” They saved because they “might need it” and to remember the past. img_0002 I grew up with a healthy respect for patriotism and the ability to make it through “hard times.” I am the first in my family to complete a baccalaureate degree. My parents were doubly proud when I completed a master’s degree in nursing. They both had dreams that were left behind because of the need to survive. They sacrificed for their children without complaint. I grew up knowing that I was loved unconditionally. My heart is heavy today because I see the patriotism that I was taught morphing into something that is not the pure love of God, country and fellow man my parents demonstrated. As Americans we are to love democracy itself and the processes and foundation that make it democratic in nature. Political parties may be necessary evils but they are not the source of who we are as Americans. We are not to love individual men who are in leadership roles as we blindly overlook their actions. We are to remember that the will of the people is the ultimate decisive force in who holds office in the executive and legislative branches of government. Citizens are to accept the results of elections gracefully. I grieve for the reality that racism is still alive and well in our country. When Jesus spoke John 3:16, he did not speak it only to folks with light-colored skin. He said:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   John 3:16 NIV
In fact, Jesus’ bodily form was of Middle Eastern heritage, so he did not have a fair complexion. Would we have pre-judged him or Paul or the other apostles simply on the color of their skin? Would we have considered them somehow “less than” us because of their heritage? Slavery, brought early on to the North American settlement that became the United States, haunts us. After 400 years we are still struggling to expunge the memory of that sin from our Christian consciences. We just can’t face up to the reality of the skeleton in the closet. Although we may not actively persecute people of color, we harbor in our hearts feelings of distrust and unease when we view their accomplishments. I celebrate vice-president elect Kamala Harris as both a woman and a woman of color to break that glass ceiling. Do you? I was also brought up believing in a “Golden Rule.” It is strong in Judeo-Christian teaching. Jesus said:
 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.     Matthew 7:12 NIV
I am obligated to present the idea that (1) wearing a mask, (2) social distancing, (3) cleaning hands regularly, are all ways to fulfil this command. We are mandated to wear seat belts. We are mandated to pay taxes. We are mandated to follow traffic laws. And we do. Why is a mandate to wear a face mask and avoid large gatherings so onerous? Sure, I’m tired of these restrictions. But I’m still going to do anything and everything to protect myself, my loved ones, and my fellowman. I can do without a huge family Thanksgiving this year in order to be able to give thanks for a healthy family two weeks later. Thank you for sharing in the ramblings of my heart and mind and soul today. Life is hard. But I long to be surrounded by more people like those of the Greatest Generation. I am afraid we Americans have become soft and spoiled and self-centered. I’m trying to focus outward not inward. Perhaps the key to becoming another Great Generation is found in the “Greatest Commandment.”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37-39 NIV
Will anyone join me?

Dignity and joy. . .

Dignity and joy. Remember those words. I always will.

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I have one of those lifetime friends. You know, the kind that may be distant but yet always in your heart. The kind that, no matter how long it’s been since you were face to face, the conversation picks up just where it left off. I am especially blessed, because my forever friend is very, very wise. She is caring for her elderly father-in-law (who is in his 90’s) in her home, and we are caring for my failing 94-year-old mother in ours. One day she described to me how she was trying everyday to give her dear one moments of DIGNITY and JOY.

I’ve thought of those two words a lot since she shared the thought with me. One day she described using an egg carton to start some seeds with “Granddad.” She was anticipating his joy at watching the seedlings sprout and then enjoying the blossoms as they matured and bloomed. She often spoke of having him accompany her on short walks and short errands, just to get out and break up the day.

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We enjoyed much of the same when Mom first moved in with us. Thanksgiving and Christmas were productions, with her first “adult” Christmas stocking hanging on the mantel. She pondered the gifts she would give. The girls all got pearls–not the real kind, but pretty nonetheless. She gave treasured coin collections to the grandsons. She made sure to have some winter gloves and a ski mask for my hunter husband. There was joy.

In the spring we drove to Wye Mountain here in Arkansas to enjoy the fields of daffodils. She loves blooming plants and the variety of daffodils amazed her. Even as we took a wrong turn down a dirt road and traveled through a somewhat questionable area on the wrong side of the mountain, there was joy.

Then things changed. Her mind began to slip ever more quickly. And her frail, stooped, crooked back caused ever more pain. We still try for some joy. She has a tiny flower garden with potted plants just outside the bedroom window that she looks out for much of her day. There’s a Gerbera daisy with bright yellow blooms and a fancy begonia with frilly pink blossoms. And her bird feeder–through which an inordinate amount of birdseed flows, for both the birds and the squirrels. She loves the “red birds” and says she never knew there were so many little wrens.

Now it seems it is time to focus on dignity. She only allows me to help her with her shower, and I guess that’s an example of “turn about-fair play.” After all, she bathed me all those years. She eats her breakfast and lunch in her bed. She says her back is so much more comfortable propped there. But she comes to the table for family dinner. And very slowly and carefully helps clear the table and carefully wipes the table and wants to help dry anything that has to be handwashed. We used to gently protest but I’ve decided that helping clear the meal is a way to allow her dignity. It’s how she cared for her family all those years.

And dignity, of course involves physical comfort, freedom from pain and anxiety and the night terrors she used to have. Hospice is helping with that and doing a fine job. Today after I showered her and trimmed toenails and fingernails she lay on her bed and said, “Oh, that feels so good.” I straightened the room and left her to nap. And I felt good, too.

Dignity and joy. Remember those words. I always will.

Seasons. . .

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Last weekend I found myself explaining to my 94-year-old mother that she has reached a new season of her life and that it is ok to depend on us for those matters. The conversation (more of a soliloquy on my part) was precipitated by her request that her pain medication no longer be under her control, but that we dispense it. Over the last couple of month she has become more confused and more forgetful, and she, at some level, recognized that the further change in her thinking could be dangerous.

We brought Mom from her home, where she had lived independently since my dad’s death 24 years ago, to live with us the last week of October, 2019. She had asked me, crying, what she was “going to do.” She had recognized the signs that her mild dementia was worsening. Shortly after she came to live with us, she had an unexplained fever and was mildly delirious. A couple of days afterward she asked me what dying was like. I responded with the question, “Do you think you’re dying?”

“I know I am,” she answered. “I saw the light.”

However, she continued to live life. We had a good Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was notable that we observed her gifting “special” things to individuals. Then COVID came. It stole the the joy of outings and unlimited social contact from her. She was depressed and praying to die. She no longer wanted medical care. We invited hospice to help us care for her. What a blessing that agency and the people that serve are!

We observed her gradually decline, but with less pain, until about a month ago when there was a brief episode of garbled speech and agitation. The downward spiral has been consistent since then. Sleeping more. Eating less. Unable to make the simplest decision. She appears to think she is in some kind of care facility, asking who she should request “supplies” from (toilet paper) and “if there’s a shower in this place.” Yes, there are three, one in her private bath. She is sweetly courteous in all our interactions. Last evening when I invited her to eat her supper, she asked, “How am I going to be able to pay for this?”

I, of course, assured her no payment is needed. She has paid it forward in so many ways. This morning during my quiet time I found a passage in Psalms that I had dated 5/22/2005–“Mom’s 79th birthday.”

….Surely you will reward each person according to what he (she) has done.

Psalm 62: 12b (NIV)

I remember at that time recognizing the loving care she had given my dad after his initial heart attack in 1966. She cared for him through two open-heart surgeries and for the thirty years he lived after that initial event, doing without a Medicare supplement herself so he could have one. She was devoted in Bible study and an incredible prayer warrior until her vision and hearing and mind have failed. I have no doubt that when she leaves this earthly plane she will have a reward in heaven.

And, I have a reward now–the opportunity to love on her, even when I think she doesn’t quite know our relationship but just that this is the place where she is cared for. Describing a picture to the hospice nurse the other day, she pointed to me and said, “Cindy’s mother.” Pointing to my daughter, Cindy, she said, “That’s Kathy.”

May God bless you, Mother, as richly as He has blessed us through you.

What would Jesus do?

You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about what freedom means to me and what it seems to mean to other people.

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Please don’t cut me off right here because you see the masks. I just have an idea to share with you. I’m a nurse by profession. Trained in the scientific method and germ theory. Taught that if you don’t have anything better to do, wash your hands. And then HIV came along and gloves became mandatory when touching anything “wet” and not yours, and now even when touching skin. I learned to isolate certain infections, to dress wounds, to give medicines, and to assess patients and, sometimes, save lives.

Here’s the kicker for many of you: I believe COVID-19, the pandemic, is very real and very dangerous. Now, don’t turn me off yet. Please. I do have a thought to share.

I hear a lot about how being told to wear masks and social distance or stay at home is taking away personal freedom. We Americans don’t like to be told what to do, especially by the news media or the government. Please, just keep reading.

What if, just for a moment, you considered as a tool to evaluate behavior: what would Jesus do? You know wearing a cloth face covering or other mask (not an N95 mask) does not protect the WEARER from the virus. It only protects those the wearer comes in contact with. It is well known that some people with COVID have NO symptoms. While you are FEELING GOOD and shopping at Walmart or vacationing at the beach, eating at your favorite restaurant, or in a gathering with friends, or maybe in church or Bible study, you could unknowingly be exposing friends and strangers to the infection IF YOU ARE NOT WEARING A MASK. Many of those contacts might be particularly “at risk” of serious complications or death should they become infected because of age or other medical conditions. Some of them might simply take the infection home to children or elderly family members. The multi-system failure that children have had is real. The many COVID deaths are real. (Yes, I know the flu kills, too, but we have an immunization for that.) The potential pregnancy loss for a mother who becomes infected is real.

The COVID pandemic is not some conspiracy to steal your freedom or affect the outcome of a Presidential election. And I think, if Jesus were walking on this earth today in human form, he would, out of love and respect and mercy for us all, wear a mask.

Nope, it’s not fun. But we are adults and do a lot of things that aren’t fun. I hope that we are NOT so “grown-up” and self-centered that we forget the Golden Rule. I hope we ARE “grown-up” enough to respect and protect those we come in contact with.

I wear my mask in Walmart, as I teach Sunday School, and all day, everyday at work. I wear it when I go to various meetings. I do it to protect everyone that I come in contact with. I wish more people respected me and my family in the same way. And trust me, this is written with love and concern for everyone who has been and will be affected by the choices every person makes every day. Blessings.

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Hedge of thorns. . . .

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I read a line in an old favorite devotional book the other day. The book is, indeed, old, probably out of print when my dear friend Arlene happened upon a copy. I’ve read and re-read several times since she gifted it to me in the 1990s–noting the years I read it through in the margin of the last page. Here it is:

A classic filled with “old” language that speaks to modern hearts.

That picture doesn’t do it justice, because now several pages are loose and the cover is reinforced with tape. No matter how many times I read it, I often find something “new” within the text. Kind of like when you read the Bible and all of a sudden that passage says something totally appropriate to the season you’re in but you’ve never really seen it that way before.

The phrase that captured my attention the other day is from an anonymous piece in the book. It reads,

My ways are, in a sense, hedged up with thorns and grow darker and darker daily.

Anonymous

You, see, this season of my life feels just that way. I am surrounded by a hedge of prickly thorns that stick me no matter which way I turn. There are just too many problems right now. I feel like I am constantly putting out fires.

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And putting out each fire takes time and energy, stealing my joy and peace and stamina and, sometimes, hope. But, what if I had the balance and fortitude of a little bird that perches, oh so nonchalantly, on that branch of thorns, impervious to the pricks and sticks, enjoying life?

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And, I found that I can navigate the sharp points of the thorny hedge, if I keep my head on straight and my heart on target. This morning I took the time to really pray, to listen to God rather than just listing things that I want or think I need. And today has been easier. The thorns haven’t brought blood (or tears) as they so often do. Because the answer is not found in my strength to fight the thorns, to escape the darkness. The strength must come from God.

I’m reminded of the fairy tale castles cursed by the wicked witch and surrounded by an impenetrable wall of thorns. Impenetrable until the prince comes with his gleaming sword and hacks powerfully through the hedge with magical powers, climbing ever upward until suddenly the shining castle comes into view, made new by the power of true love.

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All I have to do is connect with that power, God’s true love for me. No the hedge does not magically disappear, but the thorns lose their power to hurt, because I am clothed with the reassurance that God cares for my hurt and has a plan for all this to somehow work out.

One day I will see clearly what all this has brought about, how I’ve grown, the things I’ve learned, as I have persevered with God’s unfailing watchcare.

And I will be, once again, free of the hedge of thorns.

Hear my heart. . .

Yesterday I heard a song (while I was driving my grandson’s truck to be serviced—can you believe I would do that?) that really spoke to my heart. Because it reminded me that it’s ok to just be quiet before God. Especially when we’re hurting. And that’s where I was yesterday morning. Trying to go through the motions of “quiet time” that sometimes becomes “busy time.” “Get it done and check it off the list” time. C’mon, you’ve been there once or twice. And I was just hurting and empty and confused.

You see, my mama is ready to die. She tells me she prays everyday that she will be freed from this physical body and its pain. She’s even been angry with God because “He’s not answering my prayers anymore.” And I, in my nurse self, am trying to figure out what to do.

The idea that I should just be quiet so God can hear my heart is Biblical. Because one of my favorite passages in Romans, chapter eight, includes verse 26. It says that the “groanings” of my spirit are made intelligible to God by his Holy Spirit.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 ESV

The song goes on to say that even when we are singing praises to God in worship, no matter how fervently and passionately and sincerely we sing, that we should be asking God to, once again, hear our hearts. Because our mere words can never do justice to Him.

I usually write my prayers. But yesterday morning the written part was of the “help me, help me; thank you, thank you” variety. But, as always, in God’s awesome omnipresence, He was there, listening to my heart. And in His wisdom and mercy, He has provided an answer.

And I will praise Him for that, with my heart instead of my words.

A new world…….

April 1, 2019, the price of unleaded gasoline was two dollars and seventy cents. Look at it today. Did you ever imagine?

One year ago when we encountered family and friends in the south, we hugged. Even business aquaintances were generally met with a handshake. Some folks who were really germophobic (or carefree youths celebrating athletics or just life) might substitute a fist bump. Now we are mandated to keep a six (or ten) foot distance, and I saw today that COVID-19 can be detected in droplets twenty-seven feet away.

A year ago the economy was sound. Politics was controversial, as always. Maybe a little more so, but relatively consistent as far as party lines and liberal vs conservative lines and personalities go. The speaker of the House didn’t like the President and the aversion was mutual. Republicans thought Democrats were “out to get” President Trump, and Democrats thought Republicans were blind.

And look at us now. Gasoline almost half the price. The economy, they say, is now a “bear” market. I wasn’t sure about the derivation of this term. It made sense to think that things slow down, like a bear in hibernation. Or that personal losses in the market made people growl like a bear when they sensed their retirement money cycling down the drain. Wrong! It seems that bears attack with a downward swipe of their big bear paws, and, therefore, when the market slumps or goes down (like someone attacked by a bear–sorry, my black humor coming through) it is characterized as the aforementioned bear market.

However you look at it, the world has turned upside down and inside out. And we all are reeling with the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, almost minute-to-minute change. The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused global distress. If Rod Serling were still alive, what material he would have for more episodes of The Twilight Zone!

I’ve seen some posts that seem to ascribe the current pandemic to a deliberate act of God. It may rather be a permissive act of God, like when we do things we shouldn’t and have to suffer the consequences. I agree that God probably created the first virus, or created creation to allow the development of virus. It goes counter to my personal theology to think that God in heaven looked down on this earth, which is obviously full of sinful people and sinful acts, and said, “I will send a novel coronavirus to get their attention because I don’t like what they’re doing down there.” I have been taught that God is a God of mercy and grace. And, yes, righteous indignation and necessary judgment. But I believe that Jesus Christ is making intercession for his church as the creation which we are destroying falls apart.

Did you get that? The “creation which we are destroying” part. Gobal warming. Our constant search for more throw-away convenience. Who cares about the environmental impact of plastic bags and bottles and aluminum cans and foam? My little bit won’t make a difference. We think. Did you know that these commonly used and discarded products can take ten to a hundred years to decompose in a landfill? Even milk cartons take five years. And styrofoam does not biodegrade, meaning it is here forever.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been as lazy and complacent as anyone out there. But as I view God’s glorious creation it makes me sad to think that the polar ice caps are melting and polar bears and penguins are suffering. God is, of course, omniscient and I suppose he must have known that man would strive to be ever “smarter” and would create gas-guzzlers, aerosols, unbiodegradeble substances and anything that would make life “easier.” He knew that mankind wouldn’t be able to foresee the damage we were doing, that we were generally disrespecting God’s creation, until it was too late and we were too “set in our ways” (a good southern term) to change. Perhaps the ability of virus to transform itself genetically, becoming more virulent and deadly, and resulting in COVID-19, is a part of creation’s natural demise.

After all, the Bible does foretell not only a new heaven, but also a new earth. It looks like we’re close to needing one. I am thinking that, rather than this pandemic being a judgmental act of God, perhaps it is more of a time of testing for us. Do we really believe and follow those two greatest commandments that a Jesus shared?

I’m thinking this may be a time of testing for all of us. Is our faith strong enough, are we loving enough, and are we self-disciplined enough to follow these commandments during this pandemic? Are we maintaining a living, active faith that includes praise and thanksgiving as well as petition in our prayer life? Are we daily seeking to strengthen our faith-walk through opening God’s word to find the message he has for us?

Are we selflessly seeking the health and safety of all by following guidelines of social distancing? How often do we have the “it’s all about me mentality” versus the Golden Rule attitude of looking out for others first? Where does hoarding of food and supplies fit into the picture?

I don’t know about you but I see room for improvement in my life. Just something to think about…..

The Great Physician. . .

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Life can be such a whirlwind. Don’t you agree? Mine is, has been, and probably always will be. So I’ve decided to share little snapshots of my life in the hope that some of them resonate with some of you.

My great-grandson was diagnosed a couple of months ago with endocarditis. That is an inflammation/infection (itis), inside (endo), the heart (card), roughly translated. Known to have a defect (hole) between the lower chambers of his heart (ventricular septal defect or VSD), he developed a month-long “fever of unknown origin,” meaning no one knew the cause.

But his brilliant and loving and gently assertive mother, my granddaughter, her mother’s intuition prevailing, persisted in getting medical evaluation after medical evaluation until the infection was found. (I think she has a lot of me in her.)

The vegetation (clump of bacteria) seen on the echocardiogram (ultrasound picture of the heart) was very large. We thought it would not completely clear until surgical repair of the VSD was done. A PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line was placed in his right arm, and he underwent six weeks of IV antibiotics with four of those weeks in the home. Again, the devotion and mildly OCD tendencies of his Mom, contributed to the success of the process. I do not think a little OCD is bad, by the way, since I rely on it regularly.

This past week a repeat ultrasound was done. The vegetation is gone! And I must thank the medical and nursing staff of Arkansas Children’s Hospital for their expertise in this rare and unusual situation. I must also thank Sully’s parents for their devoted care. I thank the multitude of prayer warriors across many states who prayed for his healing.

But, most of all, I thank God, our Creator and the Great Physician, who designed our lungs and touched this little boy with healing. The prayers of that multitude were answered. The antibiotics chipped away at the mass. Fragments traveled to the lungs where they were safely filtered away. And our boy is healed and ready to gain strength in preparation for surgical repair of the VSD.

Praise God! He is in control, even when we fret and fear. And he is good, all the time!

When have you seen God’s hand in your life?

Reflecting………

World War II ration books

My beautiful 93-year-old mother came to live with us this past October. She is getting frailer and has some problems with memory. She fills her days with putting photographs in albums and collecting items to donate to the Cleburne County historical society. When I asked about her apparent compulsion to get this done now if not sooner, she said she wanted to do these things before she couldn’t remember. Therefore, these remnants of WWII ration books have come to light. They made me keenly aware of the advantages I have had in this lifetime as contrasted with her life through the Great Depression and WWII.

Her books have several full pages of these blue stamps. She says she thinks they must have been fuel rations because her family did not have a vehicle and didn’t need to buy gasoline. I have Googled as much as I care to and can’t locate a clear description of exactly what the various “stamps” represented.

I think these are food ration stamps.

I have learned that there were stamps for various food items and stamps for various rationing periods. The ration week ran Saturday to Saturday. Mom couldn’t remember what the numbers and letters represented because “Daddy and Momma took care of all that since I was just a teenager.” From reading novels set in WWII I have learned that meat, cheese, butter, and sugar were rationed. Can we even comprehend what it was like to have these items not available any time we want them?

Mom’s family on the “home front”: dad Woodie, mom Eliza, my mother Jessie, her sister Georgia

The oldest sibling, J. B. “Jake” Harmon, was serving with a tank battalion in Europe at this time. I’ll have more about his service later.

All of this made me wonder how the people of our nation would deal with rationing now. It seems that many of us have the perspective that life, this nation, and the government owe us something. Disasters strike and the response is never quick enough or complete enough. We view the privilege of being free and prosperous as ours alone, something we definitely don’t want to share with people from other countries who come here seeking a better life for themselves and their children. The sense of patriotism that was part of day to day life in the 1940s seems to be a thing of the past. Hats off and standing for the national anthem are frequently omitted in various settings.

I have the feeling that today’s population would complain with bitter insistence that we are entitled to better things if faced with the same realities that my mother’s generation accepted as their lot in life. I fear I might be one of those people. Tom Brokaw (in his book The Greatest Generation) said that the men and women of my mother’s generation had values of “personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith” that made them able to defeat Hitler and leave us with the economic affluence, scientific progress, and vision that has made America great. Have we lost touch with those values? Have we lost a sense of appreciation for how far this nation has come? Have we lost the ability to value simple things like truth, right and wrong, and living for some higher calling than our own pleasure?

So, my set of New Year’s resolutions: To start each day with a prayer of gratitude that I have it so good, to live each day trying to be a better person than the day before, and to end each day thanking God that His grace has seen me through the day, no matter the challenges.

What about you? I’d love to read your responses.

Jessie Roberson, my mom….

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This picture is my mom, Jessie Velelia Harmon, in her twenties. The glass “frame” is cracked but I couldn’t give it up, so I had the whole thing matted and framed. The raven black hair and ruby lips remind me of Snow White. But my mother didn’t have it as magically perfect as Snow did, although I hope there has been a happy ending. She was born in 1926, and her early years were years of survival for a poor country family in Cleburne County, Arkansas. She remembers the depression and has described for me “canning kitchens” provided by the government so women could gather together and preserve the produce from their gardens and fruit trees while the children played outside. Her family’s house burned at some point and they lost everything. She told me that lids from cans of lard served as plates until they could gradually accumulate more dishes. Dresses were sewn from flour sacks and glassware was found in oatmeal boxes. The icebox was literally a box with blocks of ice in it and cooking was done on a wood stove. I have seen the remains of the one-room school that she attended and heard stories of her life on “Silver Ridge.”

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This photograph was made in the 1930s by Michael Disfarmer in Heber Springs, Arkansas. In our time he has achieved significant artistic recognition for his depression-era photographs. Negatives were made of glass. A picture cost thirty-five cents. My mom is on the right and stands with her sister Georgia in a classic Disfarmer pose. They walked or rode a wagon to neighborhood events, including the Old Soldiers’ Reunion, an annual event at Spring Park in Heber Springs. Her family attended every year, mostly for the music that could be heard.

In the 1940s things were looking up a bit. First her father, and then shortly thereafter, she, her mother and sister traveled to Kansas to work in an airplane factory. She was literally a “Rosie Riveter” for a short period of time. Georgia was too young to work in the factory, so she waited tables. It was in the late 1940s that Mother met my father, Lee Andrew Roberson, who had served in the Army on Guam as a sharpshooter. He had been married before going to war and had two sons, my half-brothers. However, his wife divorced him in a “dear John” moment and took the boys away from him, living in California and refusing to share his letters with them. It was only late in his life that he was reconciled to one of them after the other died of esophageal cancer.

He met my mom on a blind date. They fell in love. Here I am. But her story had just begun. For life continued to be sometimes easy but sometimes very hard. We were not well-off, probably not even middle class, in my infant years.  But shortly after my birth, my parents moved to Noblesville, Indiana. Mother loved it there. We lived in a neighborhood and they owned a home. Daddy worked for the Firestone tire factory. They had friends. A baby boy joined the family, my brother Alan. However, my dad decided he was ready to come back to Arkansas about 1959. Mother was not happy about showing the house to prospective buyers, but a buyer materialized, and we moved to Judsonia, Arkansas. I was nine years old.

Finances continued to be an issue much of the time. Dad initially worked as custodian for the Searcy Public School but then trained to operate an American gas station. Some of you may remember, back then someone pumped your gas, cleaned your windshield and checked tires and oil, all for twenty-five cents a gallon. My mother had to learn to drive because he was required to go to Memphis for several days for his training. That’s right, she was thirty-four years old and didn’t drive!

We lived in a “rent house” for about four years, and then my dad and my Uncle Truman built us a house, the house my mother lives in now. At one point my parents built another house at Pleasant Plains and lived there for several years so dad could have cattle, but as his health failed, he was wise enough to seek a place closer to family for her. God blessed with an opportunity to once again buy the house he had built. He died about eighteen months after their move to Judsonia, and my mom has lived there alone for twenty-two years now.

She has been a wonderful mother and was a phenomenal caregiver for my dad. She has a love for plants, especially flowering ones, and a true green thumb. She grieves her inability to care for her lawn herself and still is constantly undertaking little tasks of caring for her plants. (You know, I remember when we would visit my grandparents we would always take a tour of the yard to see what was growing well and what was in bloom. Guess the green thumb is an inherited trait that skipped me!)

She finished only the eighth grade but has been a great reader all her life. However, macular degeneration and “dry eyes” have slowed her reading. She loves musical theatre and bluegrass music and her family. Above all, she loves the Lord. Her severe spinal stenosis and chronic pain keep her from church now, but she was working in Bible School into her 80s. She is a faithful Bible reader and prayer warrior.

Her 93rd birthday is approaching. Her mind is beginning to fail, and I am hopeful that at some time she will yield to living with us. But for now she insists on her house, her yard, and her cat. (The psychotic cat cannot come live with us–although we do have a prospective home for “Callie” if Mom comes to be with us. Callie is a calico with the personality disorder to match.)

I feel so blessed to still have my mom with us. She is a hero to me. She has taught me so much about living for the Lord and caring for family and strong southern lady spirit. I love her with all my heart.

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We visited Mountain View a few years ago, when her back was still strong enough for the walk. This is one of my favorite pictures of her, in her element, questioning every plant and drinking in Arkansas history.

Happy Mother’s Day with more love than you know, Jessie Velelia Harmon Roberson, my mom!