Abe and Shirley K

Do you ever think of them?  The people who are gone?  And do you ever wonder at your own mortality…and who will think of you?  And how they will think of you?  Hmm, not that it will make much of a difference, but I guess that it is human nature to think of it…
Did you ever think of it as a gauge to measure your life by?  And I don’t mean a gauge that others will use after you are gone; I mean a gauge that you use right now.  Instructions follow:
Think of the people that you recall, who are no longer on this earth.  Now only consider the ones that you recall because they were just wonderful!  Plain and simple, just wonderful!  For me, I have a way of forgetting those who fell short of wonderful, or even short of good.  But there are those precious few who come to mind on a regular sort of basis…
Their lives were inspired…and thus, inspiring.  They were wonderful, and had lives that could be called nothing short of "well lived".
It is so obvious looking back now, that they had no awareness of time, of the shortening of the days… jeez, they were too busy living!
Okay, do you have the wonderful people in mind? What made them so special??? And do you have any of those traits???
🙂  Get some!!!
Springtime approaching seemed the perfect time to take stock, recall, plan and then look forward to the coming seasons…the coming days… the coming moments… or perhaps, just the life that is being lived, minus any timepiece tracking it.
Abe and Shirley K were two such people.  They epitomized the lines in the  poem, "live in a house by the side of the road, and be a friend to man."
When you dropped by to visit them, you had better have set aside some time for a visit, and a bottle of homemade rootbeer.
They lived their lives on a 20 plus acre farmette, that they affectionately referred to as"Their own little corner of heaven."
The sweetest place to visit.  They had cows and ponies, chickens and ducks, pigs, cats and dogs… The cutest little working farm that I have ever seen.
Their garden was huge, and they canned and froze what they could.
Not that it was ever necessary financially to do this; they did with their hands what their hearts told them to do…
Abe was 6 feet something of a lumbering mellowed soul.  A lineman by trade, he was already retired by the time that I met him.  He wore a smile, talked with a twinkle in his eye… and was never less than nice to anyone that I knew of. It would have hurt him to say a bad word about someone.
Sometimes I think that it was perhaps a very good thing that their little corner of heaven was only 20 plus acres.  The man was terminally busy with visitors.  The neighbors all dropped in to chat…and when a human being behaves such as Abe behaved, the neighborhood is quite large.
He had hobbies. He was an accomplished woodworker…and as a yearly project, he chose a design for a Christmas ornament.  Then his daughter, Karen, would help him with sanding, painting, gluing,  or whatever was needed for the ornament.  He produced them by the dozens…and handed them out at Christmas to all fortunate enough to be called "friend".
I so clearly recall the 40th birthday breakfast for his daughter-in-law.  First I have to say that I can be very uncomfortable in crowds, and though I hide it well, quite often I am scanning the place for the nearest door and dreaming about what is outside of it.
It was held at a very large buffet style restaurant, And what I had anticipated to be a morning of wishing time away, turned out to be one of the best breakfasts (and times) that I can ever recall.
Abe sat at one end of our table and my daughter and I had the good fortune to be seated on either side of him.
It was absolutely wonderful; story after story, anecdote after anecdote, and not a mean spirited word was uttered!  I knew then, that I had found an inspiration, a role model in how I wanted to be when I got older.
"A beautiful young person is a work of nature, but  beautiful old person is a work of art."
I was viewing a masterpiece.
And then there was Shirley K. Abe’s wife.  So different in her own way, yet so danged wonderful too.
She was the realist, the fact person.  I never spent a moment with her that I did not learn something…and her teaching style was infused with questions and laughter but never incredulty at my ignorance on any given subject.
She read everything that she could get her hands on, and I have long suspected that Shirley K, without a degree, had forgotten a lot more than many people possessing the paperwork…ever even knew.
She was famous on trick or treat night for her caramel popcorn.  She had to start days ahead and devote a lot of hours to making it.  Mixed on top of the stove, then placed in the oven to bake, it really did not stick to your teeth.  (Yes, I dressed up when I took my kids around…and she gave me popcorn too!)
They had a tradition on Thursdays. It was family fun night when all three of their children and their grandchildren came for dinner.  Devised just so because weekends became too busy for their children, so they planned in a way that did not interfere with children’s and grandchilden’s activities.  It went on for years like that.
I remember the pride as as they told me about a family fun night dinner that everything that they ate had come from their little farm.
Thanksgiving, 13 years ago was an extra large family fun night, with extended family in attendance.  They ate, then they all stood around the piano as Abe’s sister played and they all sang. It went on for hours, the latest Thanksgiving ever.
Afterwards, before Karen left to go home, he told her that it was the most wonderful evening ever, that he was the happiest that he could recall in a long, long time.
The next morning, Shirley K went looking for Abe and found him in the basement, beside his coal furnace, across the room from his woodworking tools… at peace.
He had left their own little corner of heaven behind for , I am sure, a much larger heaven in the offing.
The ironies of life…Abe’s funeral was on the first day of buck season… and the place was packed, with nary a dry eye.  I looked around the room and thought that the faces of so many said it all. They had lost a dear friend, a strong shoulder, a constant heart.
Shirley K was tough as nails through it all. 
But she never let the bitterness of loss take hold of her life. She continued to read, to garden…and to love all of the people who entered her world…even for just a moment…or for a lifetime.
She succumbed to what the doctors believed was a series of mini strokes.  They came over several year’s time…and it left her without the ability to even recall the names of the plants in her garden.
She moved from her beloved corner of heaven on earth to a smaller house…and struggled to grow a few plants in earthboxes and to keep the birdfeeders full.
The pastor came to visit her on a regular basis, and she called him "sport" when she addressed him.  She had moments of the utmost clarity, and rare flashes of brilliant recall.  But for the most part, the single most brilliant mind full of gardening and plant knowledge that I have ever known, was lost forever.
Shirley K celebrated Christmas 2005,  and New Years 2006,  surrounded by her loving family…just another holiday, just another turning over of the years…
And then she was gone…
Once again, it was standing room only as we gathered, not to grieve a loss, but to celebrate a life. 
It sounds so cliche, huh?  To celebrate a life… but in her case, it was what happened.  The pastor that she had fondly called "sport" stood before us all, and recalled the wonderful life that he had been priviledged to participate in, even if just for a tiny part, in her later years.
Then there were others who stood and recalled Shirley K stories… the triumphs that had been hers, experienced only while she lived them, then buried far underneath a busy life.
The offices that she held for various organizations, the volunteer work that she did, singing at the White House for the president of the United States.
But for the most part, she was remembered as a friend, a neighbor, a Christian, and she was a true Christian…
She was once again with Abe…and they left behind wonderful memories, and they will live on for many years through the lives that they so affected… mine included.
They are my gauge for how I am living life… though I prefer to pick up and see places and do many things, and though I may not live forever on this tiny little corner of heaven, I am stoic about this;  heaven is not specific to a point on a map.  I will carry it with me wherever I go, I will hold it in my heart for all time.  Heaven is the returned smile of another human, the embrace of a friend… a funny story, a kind word…heaven is reaching out and feeling a heart through the touch of a hand…

About Teresa Cypher

I live with my husband in a humble house in the middle of a tall stand of hardwoods, bordered by soybean and corn fields, in western Pennsylvania. Mother of three adult children and "Grammie" to one sweet little girl, I revel in family gatherings and celebrations. My husband and I care for the gardens on our property--our little corner of heaven, have a glass of wine at sunset, and like to watch the stars come out. Currently working in QC and Development for a Bio-technology Company that produces green, agricultural products. I came into the world a creator of stories. Having been born into a litter, the 7th of 8 children, in a farming family, I have spent most of my life trying to be an individual. My dreams took me there. From the time I was a little girl, I was a thinker, spending any time I could find to be alone--the bastion of undisturbed thoughts, dreaming of other worlds and of fairy-tale love. My mind never shut off-- through the years when thoughts allowed me to escape the everyday world of farm life, to the daydreams while I was raising children and being the cook, the baker, the candlestick maker,and the taxi driver-- all while working full time. It took until middle age for me to realize that my meandering mind was writing stories! Once I sat down and started typing, it took 2 months to write my first book. My biggest challenge at first was getting my fingers to type fast enough to keep up with my mind. My daughter bought me a small digital recorder so I could save my thoughts until my fingers could catch up. The story that I wrote, Across The Night Sky ,was years in the making, and timed well...after I had experienced real life and the joys and heartaches it brings. I think that time gave me a well-spring of experiences from which to merge fairy-tale love with the cynicism adult life creates--while never losing sight of the beautiful and wonderful that love is. Writing is my passion...this incredible discovery in mid life that often keeps me up till the wee hours of the morning. I am so very fortunate to have the opportunity to devote my time to something that brings me such joy.
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2 Responses to Abe and Shirley K

  1. Laugher1957 says:

    Willow you really did hit on a subject I think we all ponder about from time to time.  I know a few "Abes and Shirleys"  in my lifetime.  I agree….what an inspiration to us all.  I also know a few whose lifes bumps and twists have taken their toll on ….bitter ….cranky…full of hate from what they call the cards that life dealt them….in reality the cards they have dealt themselves.
    Your writing always brings back memories…..I recall a time I was out bike riding.  It was a nice summers day…Sunday as I recall.  I had access to a trail and a bike, so I headed out….in a town I was unfamiliar with.  Some where down the trail I took a wrong turn and found myself in a huge cemetary.  Its strange to look at the tombs…wondering who lays there….what kind of lives they lead….how they passed……who greifed for them.  I remember a huge tomb on top of the biggest hill in the cemetary.  A big square stone stood there with a statue on top….a huge plaque describing the man\’s life and all his accomplishments.  I noticed how neglected it was.  The fence around it was falling down….the huge tomb had settled to one side…enough to make the majestic sight seem akward and silly.  He may have had many accomplishments, but it was clear no one had cared enough to maintain his expensive  memorial.
    I headed  out of the cemetary and some bright colored flowers caught my eye.  A small headstone sat behind them…"Here lies so and so, Loving wife, loving mother" the words said.  The flowers were fresh, not the fake ones you see so often on graves.  I wondered who took care of her resting place there…..a son?  A lonely husband?  A dear friend?  Someone remembered her…..and evidently thought of her often.  It makes you wonder….like you say…what about when you are there….your lifeless body in front of a tombstone.
    It amazes me how ironic it is that people who believe in a life after death take so many pains to make sure they are remembered.  They have their names carved in a granite stone, are embalmed, the caskets placed in an airtight vault for preservation.  All must go the the funeral for the "goodbyes" looking for some sort of "closure".  Wouldn\’t a true believer in the afterlife think of all this as a bit silly?  If you truely believed in the afterlife wouldn\’t you realize that its just a matter of time before you get a chance to be with them again?  I believe in life after death……and I do find this sort of behavior a bit confusing. 
    I think of the Egyptians and all the work they went to for life everlasting.  In a way they have reached their goals….their names live on generation after generation….after thousands of years we still know who they are ….. Unlike most of us who with each generation coming after us  the funny stories about us and the accomplishments we made drift into the forgotten edges of history.  With any luck we may remain a name on someones family tree…..in reality that is all we can hope for.
    We must live life to its fullest…..stive for our dreams……reach our goals…..experience all we can…..for we never know how much life we will endure.

  2. Ewe says:

    Bittersweet memories.
    Your story and Laugher1957\’s comment, touched me deeply. I\’ve asked these same questions over the years, you know, "Who\’s going to remember me when I\’m gone, and just how will they remember me?". And the part that hurts is, in my heart, I don\’t believe I have anyone that\’ll grieve, and that\’s the truth. Oh sure, there\’ll be some of my online friends that\’ll miss me and possibly mom, if she\’s still around at the time, but that\’s about it. Now, I\’m nothing great, I\’ve done nothing in my life that could be considered a history changing event, but what I think I have contributed, is the kindness I share with others, like Abe. Never wanting praise for anything I\’ve done over the years, I\’ve tried to treat each life I encounter with the same respect that Abe & Shirley gave to you and all that knew them, and still, I believe that there\’ll be no grieving my passing because my family have lived their lives without the love that I\’ve seen in other familys, and read about in articles like yours.
    This article was very upsetting for me. It\’s not your fault, so don\’t even think that way. It\’s just, I\’ve never been allowed to have the love or closeness that you\’ve described in Abe & Shirley, although I look back and remember SO many people that touched my heart and I love them still, I miss them terribly, unlike how I think I\’ll be missed when the time comes.

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