Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Anyone who knows me well and either reads here or at Facebook knows that it doesn’t take much to get me to remember and talk about my daughter. Here’s something I posted last week at Facebook after I saw a few posts from friends remembering their children:

When our daughter was born they knew by her features that all was not right. It was decided pretty soon that she needed to be taken to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. She spent the night without us there, but I was released the next day and Jack and I went to Nashville where we stayed with her for the next two days. On day 4 of her life she was released from the hospital when they had determined that it was Trisomy-18 and there was nothing to be done for her. Reading my friend’s story of her own loss and never getting to hold her daughter, I’m remembering how, after they had disconnected Grace from all the wires and machines, I walked around the hall at the hospital, holding my little girl in my arms, and introducing everyone I met to her. I felt like a little girl with her doll. I felt like I was playing at being a mom to a baby girl. I knew that my baby could die at any moment. But I was so proud to call her my own and show her to everyone that passed by. How weird that only a few days before I totally was anticipating having a daughter, and now I knew that it wasn’t to be, but I could pretend for a little while.

Virginia Grace Pelham, February 3, 2006 – February 24, 2006

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A Friend Loves at all Times

Love always Hopes, always Trusts

Last week while we were at rehearsals for a play in which our children were involved, I asked my friends if I could get a picture of the two of them because I wanted to tell you about them. They wanted me in the picture, too, because that’s just the kind of people that they are.

I often feel very lonely for like-minded friends and while I am blessed with many such friends across the globe who I can interact with daily online, locally the story is different. Recently I went through a situation where I was overwhelmed by the opposition to my family and our values, and it seemed to me that no one cared about the truth. It seemed that way. But then Heather comes and asks to hear our story. Annie messages and sends encouragement. I remember, once again, that I do have friends right here that stick closer than a brother. I do have friends right here that seek the true, the good, the beautiful. I do have friends that trust my heart, and the heart of my husband and son.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. ~Romans 12

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.    ~Ecclesiastes 4

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You’re Better Than You Think You Are: Life Lesson from a Cello Lesson

Near the beginning of cello playing with certainly many things wrong here

I have been playing piano for 49 years. One year and a half ago I began cello lessons. I have attempted other instruments through the years, but this was the first that I took seriously enough to go beyond buying the instrument and a few books and then letting it all collect dust. I got a teacher. And, boy, did I get a good one. I scheduled weekly lessons. I practice most days. Some days are better sessions than others.

Now, this may be obvious, but playing cello is different from playing piano. Much more than I thought. It’s humbling to have been a trained musician for nearly 50 years, having a master’s degree in music, and currently teaching over 40 piano students in my studio, to basically start all over. My fingers look like my young students as they awkwardly try to find the right place to be. It has definitely made me a more understanding teacher.

So here we are 18 months later, and I’m still making sounds on the cello that sound more like a moaning cow than the beautiful, rich tone that inspired me to want to play this instrument. I come into my lesson, and while my teacher greets me very warmly and asks me how’s it going, I generally answer with, “Okay,” and I suspect my teacher hears the hint of a sigh, and he says, “You say that every time.”  I get my instrument out — and, boy, what a different process that is than just sitting down at the piano — and we proceed to play a little piece, which has been preceded by yet another sigh, and probably words of where I think I’m failing. We finish said piece, and he says to me, “That was nice. You know, you’re better than you think you are.”

This evening I was walking up the steps to our home, weary from an emotional few days full of alarm and disappointment at the actions and thinking of others for whom I would have expected better, and I recalled how a few weeks ago I had been thinking, “I wish I was a better person. I wish I was kinder. I wish I was more patient and thoughtful.” And then I thought of all the mean things that have been said and done this weekend, and how it hurts me because that’s not the kind of person I want to be, and then I thought — even before I hit the last step — that’s not the kind of person I am! “I am better than I think I am!” I will always be an examiner of my heart and strive to be better, and while one shouldn’t feel good about themselves simply because there are meaner people in the world, this episode has shown me more of what I’m made of and what I had forgotten is there. I still hope to grow in kindness every day. My model is Christ. I have a ways to go. But at the same time, I will fight the mental demons that tell me that I am less than I am. I am on the right path. The narrow one that, sadly, few find. I will never deserve it, but I’m there. I’m going in the right direction, and I am a-okay.

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

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What I Learned 20 Years Ago

  1. You don’t always get what you want. Certainly, I had this figured out by age 36, but my 31 year old brother’s death was the hardest lesson I had had up to that point of the reality of this. (And regardless of my own daughter’s death 8 years later, probably still the hardest lesson.) I had prayed and prayed and begged and begged and had family and friends praying, but July 28, 1998 brought us a definite No to those wishes.
  2. Even though you can never reverse the event, you must use the beauty of your brother’s life and the tragedy (to you) of his death to live your own life to the fullest. You have to make there be a reason for it all. My brother’s 9-month illness and death caused a boatload of spiritual turmoil in me. Actually, I had been struggling for years, and this just increased matters dramatically. In being determined to make his life and death matter, I made decisions to remove myself from bad spiritual and mental situations. I remember thinking as I was making these decisions and beginning to feel relief and light in my heart and spirit, that my brother had saved my soul.  (Don’t freak out Christians; I know what Jesus did.) I remember feeling a very strong sense of homing in on what is really important in life; I had a intense desire to get rid of what was weighing me down and keeping me from the true, the good, and the beautiful, whatever was robbing me of joy and really just complicating my life so unnecessarily.
  3. I also learned things that were helpful to say to the grieving and things that were not so helpful. For example, one person said to my Mom, “At least you have the other 4 kids.” That’s in the not helpful category. Perhaps I’ll share more in another post.

My brother, James Lester Davis, was born October 30, 1966, the 5th of 5 children. How delighted everyone was that here was a second boy. Mike, 11 years older, would not be alone anymore. Although that age difference didn’t exactly make a close friendship in their early years, the beautiful thing is that as adults they became the best of friends. James died in Mike’s home.

Our oldest sibling, Rita, refers to James as her first baby. Her sweet baby James. She was 15 years old at his birth. Our sister Karen certainly had adventures with her baby brother growing up and was privileged to have him live with her for a while when he was in his 20s, with more adventures which she can relate so well.

I was nearly 5 when James was born. Amazingly enough, with that age difference, we got along pretty well growing up. We shared comic books, which I wrote our names on and scratched his out when he made me mad. Ha! Good times. We played games inside and outside, rode our bikes long distances across town. He was in 8th grade when I went to college 12 hours away. I remember coming home that Thanksgiving and seeing this stranger with these long arms coming out of the house to greet me. “Hi, Kay,” James said with this changing voice I didn’t recognize.

Five years later James was in college in Arkansas, studying art. He made a lot of friends there, friends that remained a part of his life until his death 14 years later.

My brother James was about the most laid back, energetic person I’ve ever known. Yes, I said ‘laid back’ and ‘energetic’. He was excited about life. He loved art and architecture and music. He was kind. He was generous. He was interested in people. He was thoughtful. He was open. He loved truth and sought truth.

James loved his parents. He honored his Dad and adored his Mom. He said of Darice, his girlfriend at the time of his death, “She’s so much like Mom.” Yes, he wanted ‘a girl just like the girl that married dear old dad‘.

James loved me. He wanted the best for me. My little brother encouraged me in my love for music. I heard from him daily thanks to the very early days of emailing. He made me travel tapes. He sent me sheet music. He visited me in NYC several times. I was so proud to share my brother with my friends and co-workers and to see the city through his eyes.

Then that call came in October, 1997. From him. “I have cancer.” There was a tumor on his tongue. Even in that first phone call, he acknowledged his readiness to die, although he didn’t want to. His 31st birthday was October 30th. The following day he had surgery, removing about a 1/3 of his tongue. Nodes from his throat were tested, and they found that the cancer had spread to his neck. (My siblings can correct any of this. I am, and am pretty certain I will always remain, medically and biologically stupid.) He was medicated and chemoed and radiated for the next 9 months. By the beginning of June, the doctors were acknowledging that his time was short. My bosses in NYC graciously allowed me to go to Alabama to be with him, where he was staying at our brother Mike’s house. Mike’s wife, Judith, was his chief caregiver there. She was wonderful. On Tuesday morning, July 28th, around 9 o’clock, he had asked that we wait a bit for his next feeding. I sat on the couch next to him, playing some hand-held game. Then I heard a rustling sound and saw one of the worst sights of my life, never to be forgotten. Judith and Mom came into the room. Mom held James’ hand as he bled to death, saying, “You were a good boy, James.” Judith called 911 and kept her 4 and 6 year old out of the room.

And here we are. We have survived 20 years without him. Unbelievable. Wasn’t it just yesterday? James’ old Dad (49 at James’ birth) lived on after James’ death another 17 years. I guess you all know that I have a son. His name is James. You can probably figure out why. You can also read more about that here.

As I was going through the aftermath of his death and the great emptiness I felt at the loss of such a great friend, I don’t think I imagined where I would be twenty years later. I’m not sure I thought I’d be here twenty years later. Part of me thought that I was next. Every little pain was a tumor, and I’d be gone soon, too. I felt very alone. Me was all I had, and I wanted to get her right. In whatever time I had left. If James was with God, I wanted to be able to see him again. I wanted James to look down and be proud of what his sister was doing with her life. I wanted him to know that his life had mattered.

It did.

It still does.

I will remember you, will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories ~Sarah McLachlan, Dave Merenda

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.  ~Aeschylus

James Lester Davis 1966-1998

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An expensive trip to the neighborhood coffee shop and some analysis

I’m going to try to type this up really fast, so that I can enjoy the rest of my evening, hopefully as planned and without event. Jack said, “And now you can blog about it.” And so I will.

I decided that I would have a productive Sunday afternoon in the studio. I would do my calendar for the week, do lesson planning and research for piano students, and be a very, very good girl and have a great session or two of practicing cello. Then I decided that what would be really cool is to go to the coffee shop on the next block and get a refreshing beverage and a snack. It would be like the old days of my singlehood when I would patronize a breakfast vendor on my way into work. So I prepared a few things and decided to go light to the shop and just put the few necessaries into my pockets and head out. Upon my return, just as I’m reaching the studio door, I think, ‘where are my keys? surely they’re in my pocket.’ But, alas, no, they’re not. They are inside the studio.

Remember that part about kind of reminiscing about single days? Well, I’m single today because Jack and James are out of town. And the landlord is also out of town. I’m able to communicate with Jack because, although I left without keys, I did have my phone with me. He calls a locksmith. The locksmith (who turns out to be the father-in-law of the friend who ends up rescuing me) is unsuccessful. So I text a few friends (again, thankfully I have my phone, but it would have been nice if the phone and keys were reversed — but that’s in my brief analysis below) and track down the lovely Christina, who comes to my rescue, giving me a place to be inside. The landlord, who was expected back in town by 6 (this we know because Jack had contacted him) actually gets back by 4. It turns out that his key won’t work for the studio. He is able to get our apartment door open, and I retrieve a second copy of the studio key, which also will not work. What is up with that! I just had used a key to get in 4 hours ago. So the landlord calls the locksmith back. He tries his little tools again. No luck. They decide the lock has to be replaced. So with 30 minutes until closing time, the landlord goes to ACE.  Lock is replaced successfully.

As much as I didn’t want to, I did my work and practiced cello a bit, and even went on a planned Walmart trip. And now here I sit safe and (too) warm in my apartment, getting near the time that I didn’t want to be typing this post anymore.

Now, about that expensive trip to the coffee shop. I’ve recently been reading “The Undoing Project”, in which the working relationship of two psychologists who won a Nobel Prize in Economics for their studies in judgment and decision-making is discussed. At about 50 pages from the end, I finally came upon the use of “the undoing project”. Throughout the book, the author has gone over their work in how people make choices (one of particular interest to me was how the anticipation of regret influences decisions), but this “undoing” is about what our mind does after the fact, after a negative consequences of a choice, or a tragic accident or death. It is the “if only…” Although we cannot change the results, the mind wants to imagine scenarios that could have prevented this embarrassing, irritating or painful event. But interestingly, there are limits.

So I found myself this afternoon living all those “undoing” things that I had just been reading about. Feeling frustrated with my afternoon lost and anticipating the cost to my pocketbook,  I ran through all the “it could be worse”, “at least I had my phone”, “I do have some friends to call”. And I did a few “if only”s. And I realized that I was in the middle of that book. Isn’t it something that the mind insists on doing that? Maybe some of it is helpful in helping you not do that again, but am I really not going to plan to go to the studio when Jack is out of town? (hard to teach lessons that way); am I really never going to go to the coffee shop again? really never going to decide to walk the block with a light load? Now, I will hopefully check my pockets for keys, maybe think keys before phone. That’s the good thing about an “ordeal” (yes, I know, it could be far, far worse) like this; it is memorable.

Regardless of how much I reason and look on the positive side —if the lock was broken, me locking my keys in helped us discover that in a time better than a worse time to discover that, and definitely the comfort of having friends nearby and available, the security I felt at seeing how hard it was for a professional to break into our studio  — I’m pretty confident that my mind will always associate this day with my decision to go get coffee and that raspberry bar. Good thing they were both really good. They sure were expensive.

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Who Got Here First and What in the World are We to do at this point

“Illegal” immigration. Oh, the debates that this brings up. Are the immigration laws even moral and just? That’s the present. Do we consider the past in determining what should be done in the present? Who got here first, anyways? And what did we do to them? We? Who is the We? If we’re all thrown into a blob, then We are the largest governing unit on this continent, the United States of America, which was founded by 13 British colonies. So what are We to do about the fact that We came here — invaded, that is — and committed genocide and stole land and force peoples off their rightful land?

I wonder this when I see people comment in the great internet debate that We were illegal immigrants, too. Just ask those that were already here, they say. So what are We to do to pay the penalty? Leave, as We are making current “illegals” do? Or should We let them in to repeat history and even the score by allowing them to take whatever they want and kill groups of current residents or push them off their lands? How are We to rectify the past?

Paternal great-grandparents, James and Laura Johnson Davis

And then there is Me. Who am I? For whom and what am responsible? With which am to identify? How did Kay get here? Part of me was “already here”. I am Cherokee. My ancestors were a people pushed off their land. Part of me came here from Europe. I am  some kind of mix of mostly western European. So am I victim or robber/murderer? And then there’s the part at how relatively late my Europeans came, and I’m pretty sure there’s not nary a conquistador nor revolutionary amongst them. Just farmers and crafters looking for a better place to live and make a living. They heared about this here place and they come. Some of those Europeans even married natives (Cherokee), and lo and behold, a few generations later, here is Kay.

Okay, that’s where my mind goes in all this. Actually, I do think we need to fix this immigration mess. I am not of the belief that anything that is Law is moral and just. I don’t think the solution is that all of We should exit and go home to wherever we came from. And part of that is, like I said, that and so many others are both “native” and “invader”. But that’s not the whole reason. And I also don’t think that anyone is thinking my extreme example above that We should just let them in to conquer and slaughter as We did. Actually, that’s not true; I think some (We’s and not-We’s) do think this way. Or maybe some think that We should just dissolve our European-based government of this part of the continent. (I have no idea if similar debates go on in Canada, Mexico, and the countries of Central and South America concerning the conquering and displacing of native societies.) If We are allowed to keep the current form of government, then what ought We to do about who gets in and for how long and when are they officially a part of Us. Should there even be such controls? Why or why not? If so, how far should those controls go on how they are to live once here? If the current governments are allowed to remain at the city, county, state and federal level, are they to expect the new occupants to follow their codes and charters? Quite honestly, this is something that I hear often. “They come here and don’t obey our laws. They bring the messy way of life they were fleeing from here. [Shoot! this is even said of those Californians that come here to Montana.] They comes here and think they don’t have to work and can just live off the government.” So should We be allowed to expect them to conform? Can it be enforced?

This is worthy of discussion and restructuring. What would be glorious is if it was honestly, fairly, and humanely reasoned out, and stupid comments and reactions would disappear from these online discussions and out of the mouths of supposed powers-that-be. And I go on dreaming.

Come now, let us reason together ~Yahweh, according to Isaiah 

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
~ Jesus of Nazareth, according to Matthew

My great-grandmother’s brother, Jacob Johnson and family

My grandfather, Lester Davis, son of James and Laura (above), and family

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Where I Lived, and What I Lived For (or, I Wished to Live Deliberately)

I stole those phrases from Thoreau. One is a chapter title from Walden, and the other is the very famous phrase from that chapter: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…” I’m currently reading Walden in my grand effort to preread my son’s books for the upcoming school year. I learned a few things from his freshman year of high school (AmblesideOnline Year 9), one of which involves my changing role as his teacher. As we have moved into his more mature student years, in my zeal for promoting self-learning in his life, I believe that I was more hands-off than I ought to have been in this past academic year. But that’s another post. Just know I’m doing A LOT of reading this summer.

What I’m about to share may need to turn into a series of posts. [Added as I end this post: Yep! it will be.] I want to share about where all I’ve lived in these nearly 57 years (oh, no!) and what I lived for, and how much of it was deliberate choices for some pretty deliberate living. I wish I could say that now I find myself in a cabin in the woods with plenty of acreage surrounding me, where I grow my Joel Salatin-approved plants and animals, (or, rather, let them grow) but, alas, it is not so…yet.

The first two homes in which I lived my first 17 years in Illinois were not my choice, obviously. But they were good homes. In good places. With very good people. I was blessed. My parents left their homeland of Macon and Clay Counties in Tennessee in the early 1950s shortly after their marriage. As I shared in a previous post, my Dad was 32 at the time of their marriage, and along with serving overseas in WWII, had traveled out-of-state a few times for work, and traveled as a musician. He felt that it was the right thing to settle down now with this responsibility of a family, so he took his very young bride up north to the Quad-Cities, an Iowa/Illinois metropolitan area, where he knew there was steady work. For the greater part of the nearly 40 years they spent there, my Dad worked for International Harvester at their Farmall plant in Rock Island, Illinois. I don’t know on which side of the river (Mississippi) that they first lived, but I do know that shortly after their move there, they were both baptized and helped to build (physically and spiritually) a church in Davenport, Iowa. My parents were familiar with the Church of Christ in Tennessee, but neither became members until their move up north. My parents remained very active members of the church for all those nearly 40 years in Illinois — they were members of at least 3 congregations of the Church of Christ in that area. I was the 4th of their 5 children and came along during their 12th year of marriage. As you may imagine, church activities were a big part of my growing up years — twice on Sunday, Wednesday nights, week-long ‘gospel meetings’, summer Vacation Bible School, special events and suppers, area-wide singings, singing at the nursing home, holidays and other celebrations with church friends, summer evangelism campaigns, youth rallies.  And most importantly of all, my parents lived the morality that they taught. Like I said, I lived with very good people. I was indeed blessed.

I wanted to tell about those choices of my parents about where to live and how to live because they obviously much influenced who I became and why I have made the various choices that I have in the 40 years following my exit as a full-time resident of their home. What you also need to know is that for 23 of the 40 years of my adult life I was a single woman. The choices I made were by me alone and for me alone; I had no husband or child to consider, no family for which I was responsible. And yet I was able to take those values (most of them, that is — oh, the debt…) of my Dad that were associated with family responsibility and put them into practice in a single life. But as you will see, the way that I have most imitated the values, and thus, choices, of my parents, both as a single woman and as a wife and mother, is in their spiritual life. This life of mine has definitely been for the most part a spiritual journey. [For those of you that don’t know me well, you might think from the previous description of my family church life that what this means is that I’m going to go on with this long saga and fill it with 40 years of church activities, but you would be off there. It might still be more church-going than you can stomach, but trust me, my spiritual journey has been much more than church-going, as well it ought to be. I think there will even be surprises for some that think they do know me well. This could potentially be a Kay coming-out time. Now, aren’t some of you interested. Don’t worry, family, it’s not like that. (smiley face)]

End of Part 1. For real. I think I need to map out the sections of my life and decide what years to share with each post. I anticipate agonizing over significant things that I will forget to tell about and stressing about just how to tell what I do remember. I’ve lived in 8 U.S. states since I left my parents’ Illinois home, and several residences and cities within some of those states. Forty years and all those states is a lot to cover. What a ride it’s been. See you in Part 2.

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Not Sorry About My Dad

I have had this post going on in my head since October, 2015. That’s when my Dad died. My Dad had many people who thought well of him and many, many who came to the visitations at the funeral home and the funeral at the church. So many times these good people greeted me with, “I’m sorry about your Dad.” I don’t wish to belittle these people or the sentiment they were expressing or their traditional way of offering sympathy; I know that these people sincerely liked my Dad. He was a good man. A very good man.

But just about every time it was said to me, it struck me as so odd for a few reasons, and I wanted to say back, “I’m not sorry about my Dad.”

I’m not sorry about my Dad. My dad Continue reading

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Little House and my Happy Golden Years

One of the reasons I’m grateful that I got to have at least one child is that I was given the opportunity to revisit the Little House series. My old books, purchased in the late 60s/early 70s, got to come off the shelf over a period of about 6 years as James and I followed the Ingalls family from Wisconsin to Kansas to Minnesota and finally to South Dakota. I didn’t finish the series with him. He suspects, I think, that Laura married Almanzo, but doesn’t know about her school teaching days, when Almanzo went out to pick her up and bring her home; he doesn’t know about Nellie Oleson’s return and attempts to get Almanzo; he doesn’t know about those ‘first four years’ of Laura’s marriage, or of their eventual move to Missouri. He does know about that long, long winter Continue reading

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Thanks for the Memories

I’m actually not very good with remembering things. I was listening to a podcast with Karen Glass, author of Know and Tell: The Art of Narration, and she mentioned that Charlotte Mason made a distinction between Memorization and Memory. Yep, memorization, that’s me. What I’ve been good with is deliberate memorizing of things — scripture, choir music, piano recital pieces, phone numbers, birthdays. I don’t remember lyrics to songs from just having heard or sung them a lot, or piano pieces from just playing them a lot. Those things I have to deliberately Continue reading

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