The Importance of Big Sisters

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That’s my big sister Darlene, or should I say older sister. She is the brunette and I am the little blonde staring intently at my hand. I was about four years old and I was absolutely enamored with that little wristwatch my daddy gave me. I can still see its shiny golden band and its pretty glass face with the golden Roman numerals. Of course, it wasn’t real gold in the monetary sense, but to me it was pure gold of the highest value because my daddy had given it to me.

My big sister Darlene and I as all sisters since the dawn of time have had our disagreements, but she has and will always be my greatest advocate. I am hers, as well. She just celebrated a birthday-the age I have sworn to secrecy.

This is a poem that captures how I feel about my big sister, Darlene. Happy Birthday, big sister!

Sister, Can You Tell Me

I saw you standing there, could it have been just yesterday?

My big sister, waiting for me outside my first grade classroom.

You, an all-knowing second-grader dressed in a red plaid skirt, your silky black hair spilling down your back.

Wasn’t that just yesterday?

You saw me standing there, a young bride of twenty-two,

pink roses and ivory lace, naively believing in forever.

My big sister, you stood beside me at the altar, you squeezed my hand in yours,

and you let me go.

Wasn’t that just yesterday?

I saw you standing there, crying at Mama’s graveside.

My big sister, I reached over the years and clutched your delicate ivory hands as one who is drowning would do.

Wasn’t that just yesterday?

Sister, can you tell me when the hands of time spun around the clock, at what hour the winds changed?

Sister, can you tell me at what minute tiny lines crept under our eyes?

Can you tell me at what second our hair started to turn gray?

We were young just yesterday.

 

2019 Copyright Jenny W. Andrews

Thinking about Jesus

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As many of you know, my brother Harold was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer last fall. He completed chemotherapy and radiation and is doing well, so far. For this blessing, I am so very thankful. Each day is truly a blessing.

I wrote this poem a few years back when I was experiencing a low point. Life is about highs and lows; nothing stays the same, neither the darkness nor the light. Life is about changes. Jesus, however, never changes. Here is my poem:

Thinking About Jesus

Jesus,

God of the lost,

God of the outcast,

arms outstretched in an embrace for the least of us.

Jesus,

promising to wash us clean from the filth of this life.

Jesus,

promising to keep us company in the darkest hour after the sun goes down on our dreams.

Jesus,

with his bloodied side washes away every tear we have ever cried.

Jesus,

God that remembers what it is like to be abandoned at the eleventh hour.

Jesus,

who remembers the least of us.

Jesus,

God who embraces and loves the lost, the hurting, the desperate.

Jesus,

who grants hope and peace and second chances.

Jesus,

who embraces the world and shares our sorrows and never abandons us in our darkest hour.

Copyright 2019 Jenny W. Andrews

 

Gratitude

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Gratitude.

Thankfulness.

I have been thinking about what it means to be grateful, to be thankful. In our fast paced world, we at times fail to just stop and appreciate the gift that is this life. It is not necessary to state the obvious-that the number of our days on this earth is unpredictable-unknowable. Luke Perry’s death at 52 years old, Fatima Ali’s death at just 29 years old, Elly Mayday’s death at just 30 years old, and now Alex Trebek’s stage four pancreatic cancer diagnosis are just a few public examples of how death and the specter of it is no respecter of age. Fatima Ali was just 29 years old and Alex Trebek is 78 years old. Prayerfully, Mr. Trebek will beat his diagnosis. Thing is that we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Rather than becoming depressed at the inevitable ending of this life for all of us, we should approach each sunrise with thankfulness.

Chief Tucumseh said:

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

I often think of my sister Sara who died at just 49 years old of lymphoma. I have outlived her by eight years, so far. Not a day goes by that her spirit doesn’t linger somewhere on the outside of my thoughts. Her presence is always felt. It is the same with my mother. I know her spirit is near me, always. I am eternally thankful, grateful for having had a sister like Sara and for having had a wonderful mother like Gracie Lee. While they no longer walk this earth, their spirits still exist on a plane of existence that is a mystery. This life is truly a mystery. None of us know what is on the other side of this existence. What we do know is that one day we will know.

For now, I wake and open my curtains so that the sunlight can spill into my bedroom window. I listen to songs of birds swooping down into the branches of the oak trees in my back yard. Each morning as I eat breakfast before going to work, I make a point to offer my prayers to God of this universe. I thank Him for my eyesight, for my hearing, for my very breath. I thank Him for my food, for my drink, for my very existence. I thank Him for creating me. I pray for strength to get through the day; I pray that He reminds me to number my days-that each day is a sacred blessing. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Of course, we have our troubles and anxieties, but they are fleeting.

Charles Spurgeon said:

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.”

I choose to live my life from a place of gratitude.

This life is a sacred blessing. It is a mystery. This life is beautiful if only we choose to spend time acknowledging it. God’s spirit is all around us-in the sunrise, in the silence, in the noise. Be thankful, be grateful. In the morning, stand at your window and watch the sunlight stream in and offer thanks for this sacred blessing.

 

Charlie: Winter Wedding Remembering

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Winter Wedding

Winter wedding, me at 22, slipping on a mask, swallowing back my words, reciting vows at the altar in a white clapboard Baptist Church.

Mama in her lavender dress pinned with a pink corsage, her caramel colored skin radiant, her silvery-black hair glossy, sits in the first pew, stares after me, moves her lips to speak, but halts as if the words would sting me.

Mama dwells in my memory in the land of the haunted. I attempt to hold Mama in that memory, in that winter wedding space, and scream for her to speak, to stop me.

In the reception hall, Sister Sara smooths her hands along the edges of the white linen table cloth.

In my white wedding gown, I stand in the middle of the floor, take Charlie’s hand and together we approach the table.

All my doubts fade away; I am lost in the endlessness of dreams, of promises of forever love.  The plastic bride and groom tumble from the top of the wedding cake, land at our feet.

Decades later, Charlie comes back to me in a dream.

He and I in a late summer moonlit night long ago sink our bare feet into the shifting sand. He gathers me into his arms, ocean waves surround us, starlight sparkles and scatters like the light of broken diamonds falling from the sky.

We meld as if nothing in the known universe could ever separate us.

But it did.

And I wake up from the dream.

Jenny W. Andrews, copyright 2019

Remembrances: Daddy

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ROOTS

Cedar of Lebanon tree rooted deeply in the rich Georgia earth,

Daddy stands in the hours past midnight, canopy of stars sprinkle light between branches, shadow him in shades of silver.

At a distance, I watch him, his hands shoved deeply into his jacket pockets, his shoulders hunched forward, his back turned away from the world.

Into the night, he stands, shrouded in darkness like a lost ghost. I move towards him, rest my hand on his elbow.

He turns, glances down at me.

We stand in the darkness, shrouded in that silent night.

At ten years old, I absorb the sorrow Daddy emanates. I lift my hand upwards, slide my fingertip across his cheek, catch the tears.

I drown with him.

United we stand, Daddy and me, beneath the Cedar of Lebanon tree.

Shrouded in darkness.

The space between us drowns in a sea of sorrow.

Jenny W. Andrews, copyright 2019

 

Circa 1970, Remembrances of Daddy

Coffee shop in front of the cobblestone street.

What of the rest of the world on the other side of this world?

Candied apples, cotton candy breezes saturate that late autumn day,

sweet little childhood memories I have tucked away.

In the other space outside that thought Daddy tips his brown fedora, the one with a tiny purple feather in the gray hat band. He tells me that if I get scared to just jump.

Upward, I turn my little chin towards the Jaycee Kiddie Fair ride emblazoned silver in front of the blue Georgia sky. The ride is dangling there on a cable. Daddy lifts his hands upwards, promises to catch me if I should fall.

Savannah Jaycee Kiddie Fair, Circa 1970.

I tell Daddy to just ride with me, that I just don’t think he could catch me from such a distance.

Coffee shop in front of a cobblestone street.

What of the rest of the world on the other side of this world?

Daddy holds my hand in that memory, cotton candy billowy pink and blue sticks to my chin.

Me and Daddy laugh at the world beneath us.

Jenny W. Andrews, copyright 2019

 

 

Held

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HELD

Standing on a wall,

taking in the sound of nothingness,

tossed toward the ground,

and a whisper climbs toward the shadow myself has laid down.

I wonder if it is God who speaks to me in the silence of a breeze,

I wonder if it is God’s palm that steadies me.

I wonder at the unchanging rhythms of the sea.

I stand on the wall between yesterday and tomorrow,

starlight sparkles like small diamonds at dawn.

Moonlight shadows the forest like the soft footsteps of a fawn.

I look up into the expanse of the universe and search for God,

search for answers hidden within my heart.

Like an actress on a stage I ponder the meaning of my part.

I reach my arms across the earth,

and my spirit steps off the wall into tomorrow,

never far from shifting sands,

but also never out of reach of God’s protecting hands.

 

Copyright 2019, Jenny W. Andrews

Remembrance of Mama-Gracie Lee

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LOST TREASURE

At the corner of Bull and Broughton Street,

Mama waits, turns her head, reaches for my small hand, we hurry across that intersection head west towards Kresses.

Time tips over, spills like lost treasure, evaporates, ebbs away.

At the corner, I wait, watch the four o’clock rain scatter, splash off the brick facade of what remains of that memory.

Mama turns to me, tunnels through that darkness in my soul.

Summer day 1973 and 2017 collide with a crash at that Savannah intersection.

Me, as a young child pause, reach up to grab hold of the edge of Mama’s dress.

Me, as a middle-aged woman pause beneath the Starbucks awning and grapple with the pursuit of Mama’s ghost rounding corners, retreating from me with each footfall, with each year, with each turn of the earth, this parched landscape.

Bull and Broughton Streets intersect like roads wrapping up lost lives.

I cannot connect those disappearing dots, darkness drowning me-sunlight-Mama runs by.

I race behind her, I bury my face in the mounting moments-turn my chin upwards like a stone statue, stare beyond the passing away of that piercing pain.

Mama is gone, but her shadow falls across the sidewalk, turns to me. The rain fails to wash away her shadow trapped like a hand print upon the earth.

Copyright 2017, Jenny Andrews

SPIRIT CHASER

Those things we left behind that late summer evening.

Us-defeated, trudged, zigzagged, through brambles in that overgrown garden. Weeds and broken sticks-futile, slow. We pilfered our youth-casualties we became.

Shadows of our great-grandma’s spirit shifted through slats in the sod hovel.

“Spurious, unctuous” were words she had scribbled across great-grandpa’s photo-his broad face turned ever so slightly away from the camera’s focus.

No sunlight filtered through the open chimney space,

azure sky faded to deep gray.

Cycle of life, those things we left behind.

Great-grandma’s sod hovel in the middle of that overgrown cotton field.

Great-grandpa’s broad face

Unctuous

Spurious

moved slowly across the room.

Closing the door.

Patter of summer rain, cooled us.

Those things we left; those things we lost haunt us, seep into us, saturate our spirit, drown us with each drop of rain.

Copyright 2017, Jenny Andrews