Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Balm, a Wedding...Family and Friends

Last Saturday, after a whirlwind of the wedding preparations and events for BJ's brother Greg and his bride Sarah were concluded, Anna Cate, BJ, my parents, and I met my dear friend Dorina and her boyfirend Geoff to hear The Fisk Jubilee Singers at Mary Washington College. The story of the Fisk Jubilee singers is one of those American stories whose legacy reveals the value in showcasing the talents and being yourself. 

The Nashville college, Fisk University, a school opened to educate young black men and women after the Civil War, was in dire financial straits in the 1870's when a group of those students toured the country and eventually the world to raise funds. The story goes that at first, they were not received well but once these young men and women started singing their own songs, former slave spirituals, their acclaim reached world wide  attention. The choir tours the country today to share this story and the music.  I first heard them at Cornell College, when they visited to sing; I have been on the campus of Fisk and shared this story with students when I taught Tennessee History and join my father in loving the tradition, so when BJ saw in the paper that they were coming, he knew we all had to go. We didn't know that Daddy had never seen them in person, though.

After the concert, we went down front to meet the singers (and as fate and Bates luck would have it, Mom and Dad rode home on the same plane with the choir back to Nashville).

I love all their songs, but think "There is a Balm in Gilead" is my favorite.  Its scripture reference is an old testament lament pleading for Israel, "is there no balm in Gilead?"  meaning: is it really this bad? Is there no healing?  The spiritual's author answers the question that there is indeed a balm, referring to Jesus, but I think you can inhale the meaning of this song with the fact that there are many balms presented to us in our life amidst the pain. Mine is family, friends, a community of faith, good words, meaningful art like the music we heard, mending a broken relationship, forgiving someone, a soul-stretching long run, comraderie and laughter. What is your balm? 

Early that day, as I sat in the church during Greg and Sarah's wedding and saw how happy these people who have become my family are, I couldn't help but focus my heart and mind on the spirit whose memory was honored in this candle here. 

I saw the faces of the people who loved her, whom she loved and who love each other in the midst of the loss and in the presence of the grand celebration of Greg and Sarah.  Susie's name didn't need to be written or mentioned to have been carved in our heart and present in our minds. There is a balm. 

Before the pre-nuptial events began, in between making banana pudding and taking care of the flowers for the rehearsal dinner, it was BJ's idea for us to have Carolyn (floral designer and friend) create an arrangment for Susie's grave for the weekend.  His thoughtful and generous remembrance moved me. We could have easily used "left over" flowers from something for her, but he wanted the floral decoration to be there during all of the festivities, a tangible symbol of his remembering her. 

For us, the wedding festivities commenced with a rehearsal dinner we helped to host. The setting and company was perfect for Greg and Sarah...a close family friend's farm.

Anna Cate liked the soda in the bottle (mostly because she has only seen beer come that way).
Molly liked the banana puddling out of a mason jar.
It was a nice family outing for us too.

As I sat and watched BJ stand by his brother as he married the sweetest of souls you could ever meet, the new Sarah King, in this ceremony conducted by two of Susie's best friends, Larry and Patti, I couldn't help but focus on the light of the candle and the way its presence was the foreground for our celebration.

 I thought of the way she would have been so thankful for her friends, and the way BJ was involved because heaven knows the best thing for a mother's heart is for her kids to be nice to each other.  I know how much she would have loved Sarah, and the way that their spirits are kindred.

She would have swooned over these two flower girls, and appreciated the way Brenda coordinated it all and told who to walk when and where but let her shoulder serve as the napping placed during the celemony for tiniest flower girl, Molly. 

After Molly tossed her petals, she was devastated to see Daddy and not get to stand with him so I had to swoop her out, but her Baba took her so I could slip back in to enjoy the ceremony.

This describes both Sarah and Susie....
"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength." 
~Ralph Sockman

The joy we have found in the midst of that candle's light and the celebration of the love between Greg and Sarah, our family,  created our balm. 

The wedding was beautiful and sweet and everything a wedding should be. We were so honored BJ and the girls were a part of it.

  I'm so thankful she is their Aunt Sarah. 

We were happy Nana and Daddy Doug came up.

Good family times.

We celebrated with so many.

The groomsmen were Sarah's brother, BJ and Brad Haun (pictured above). No, the groomsmen didn't carry bouquets, but it does look great with the ties.

Best buddies, Molly Mae and Owen Haun.

It was a beautiful day for a sweet couple.

The flowers on the car were fallen petals from the Easter cross the week before. Beautiful gesture from Erin and Michael Silver.

Marriage is the golden ring in a chain whose beginning is a glance and whose ending is eternity.        ~ Kahlil Gibran ~

Congratulations, Sarah and Greg, we love you both!

The next day in deep exhaustion, we said our farewells to Mom and Dad.

Mom always cries and says, "I wish we didn't live so far apart."

Yet I know she could not be any closer to these girls. 

They are close to Daddy, too; look at how Molly is leaning into him. Good visits, skype, long summer and Christmas visits -- our balm.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Our Spring Break kicked off with  treasured memories made with our friends Whitney and Kate, who visited us from Kentucky.

Whitney and I are friends because our mothers were friends when they were in their 20. I've written before about this friendship. I look for words or quotes to describe how special this bond is, but there isn't anything fitting. 

We packed so much into four days, including time for relaxation and play, for outings and experiences. The best part was how well Kate and Anna Cate "hit is off."

It brings back so many memories for us, and a little like watching our past.  Many times Whitney or I would snap a photo and say, "ahh, look at that." We wanted to stop time and appreciate what we are seeing, but I think on a deeper level we are saying that we are so thankful for this friendship....for theirs, and for ours.

Whitney wrote a fabulous blog about trip here.

On Saturday, I took Whitney to CrossFit, we had tea at Pinkadilly, ate crabs and enjoyed dying eggs.

The Easter Bunny found all three girls and we rejoiced in the story of the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday.

I love so much about Easter, the beautiful dresses, the story of resurrection, the flowers, the music.

The chocolate (hollow, of course) Easter bunnies.

Really, the only thing I don't like about Easter is my lack of willpower to the candy. 

All was made more special with Whitney and Kate.
Kate was so sweet to Molly, and I know there may come a time when Anna Cate will have friends who aren't so nice to Molly.  I hope AC always makes such wise choices in her friends.

We've added a tradition to our household and I never get tired of hearing Molly Mae say when learning about the jelly beans on our front porch and our explanation of why they are there, "The Eater bunny poops Jelly Beans!" A new King tradition.

We enjoyed an Easter Egg hunt in our backyard.

Then we prepared for our quick overnight getaway to Washington DC. Whitney treated us to a fabulous hotel stay in the heart of the city.  While the monuments and the experiences made the memories for me, the girls seemed to be more enthralled with a hotel room and the taxi cabs. 

We rode the metro to the Zoo.

     We met Dorinda for dinner at a fantastic Sushi restaurant, and Anna Cate enjoyed a lesson on chop sticks witih my beautiful, dear, accomplished friend.

The cocktails, decor and food were so memorable, but the company was the best part. I have no idea how, but I have been immeasurably blessed with successful, kind, gorgeous and talented women in my life. Many of my dear friends are like Whitney and Dorinda, very successful, organized, beautiful women who are as kind and lovely as they are successful. I'm not sure how my  mediocre self got so lucky, but I try to show the universe my gratitude with appreciation of these gifts of phenomenal women as friends.  I hope and pray my girls are as fortunate. 

After dinner, the girls came back to our hotel and had a late night swim.

The next day we enjoyed breakfast in the city before seeing the White House and the MLK Jr. Monument.

I shared a memorable brush with humanity at this monument.

The backdrop is a wall of MLK's quotes. I read them to AC and tried to interact with her on its meaning. When I read, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that" and asked her what it meant she said something about love being better than hate, and I said, "and it changes people's hearts." When we turned to walk away, an older black lady had a tear in her eye and commented on her understanding and we exchanged grateful glances.

Words are important yet so are understanding glances. Our parallel journeys and relating to each other our shared histories and common values serve as a foundation for Whitney and my friendship. I love you, Whitney, and will tuck away the memories we made this trip in that treasure trove we have created for many, many years. What a joy it was to share it with our sweet girls.   

"It takes a long time to grow an old friend." ~ John Leonard