No matter where we live or what our stage in life, all of us have a common problem: our world is broken. It’s easy to name the multiple ills that seem to overwhelm our 21st century earthbound reality. Just a small list will suffice here – poverty, war, hunger, racism, disease. Yes, there are ample reasons to declare: life sucks.
As individuals, we’re also broken. We muddle through life in the midst of our brokenness. Thankfully, the grace of God is available to redeem us from the despair and despond. That is superb Good News! No matter how broken we are, because Christ died for us, we’re not without hope.
No one knows how many people across the world suffer from soul-killing hopelessness that mars their lives, almost from the moment of birth. (I suspect that number is staggering beyond belief.) My high school teacher used the phrase, man’s inhumanity to man, but whether it’s a tyrannical government or a caregiver being abusive and cruel, we know there’s suffering over which we’re unable to exert even the most minimal control. Continue reading “Brokenness”→
Discussion of a Christmas Past may evoke ghostly images from Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol. Since first publication in 1843, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge remains an annual favorite. If anyone could dampen the spirit of Christmas, it was the old miser.
But there are no misers in this Christmas Past. Nor does the tale about which I write wrap up as neatly as one miser’s timely transformation. This Christmas Past is for real people.
The central figure is generous, a young mother whose heart overflows with love and good will. Like Scrooge though, she had lost all enthusiasm for celebrating Christmas. Though Scrooge was beset by general grumpiness, this mother had reason for sadness. She’d been crushed by grief after the sudden death of an infant daughter. Christmas 1955 was close at hand and the mother’s precious babe had been in the ground less than six months.
With loss so fresh, how could anyone summon the strength to celebrate the Birth of a child – even the Holy Christ child? For months, she’d been going through the motions. Now, the thought of celebrating Christmas seemed almost beyond reason for her wounded soul. Continue reading “Christmas Past”→
Our dear friends celebrated their 50th anniversary last night, with a party organized by their three adult children (and spouses). It was a lovely tribute, acknowledging the admirable legacy this married couple has modeled for their children and grandchildren.
In my post Striking Gold from last year, I posted about my Beloved and I having achieved our own 50th anniversary. Our celebration (mostly by preference) was more subdued than previous milestones. So much goes on over the Holidays, having an anniversary rarely receives precedence when more urgent events intrude. Consider, last year I was eight days late with my post! Continue reading “Reaching A Summit”→
Some years before my mother died, she made her wishes known about a funeral or memorial service. To each of her children, she gave instructions. I was expected to sing a song or two. In my younger years, this seemed an easy ask.
However, as both Mom and I aged, I realized my particular assignment would be an impossible task. Oh, I knew the songs. I’d sung each one many times. From my earliest days, music had animated me. I sang boldly with adult choirs even when very young. When my older brother learned to play the violin, I followed in his footsteps. My dad brought home a Hammond organ and I learned to play; I still own it, though it suffers from neglect, no, involuntary abandonment. Continue reading “Together Again”→
Great news about the recent recovery in Georgia of more than three dozen missing and at-risk children, thanks to the US Marshals Service and Operation Not Forgotten! Parents everywhere can rejoice knowing these children have been released from awful circumstances and returned home. Bravo to law enforcement for their diligence!
As a little girl, I knew children who had suffered neglect and abandonment. Maybe it’s just my impression (due to hazy memories) but in those days, it seemed to me the community took a more hands-on approach to difficult relational problems. Continue reading “A True Tale of Ricky-Robby”→
Since my mother’s passing a week ago, I’ve reflected on aspects of her life … and mine. As a writer (and a family historian), it’s always been important to me to keep written records and when possible, to match them with images (photos mostly).
This need to retain a written record appears to be a trait I inherited from my forebears – parents, grandparents etc. going back many generations. (Consider Der Stricker for further details.) So, when I get a bit nostalgic, I tend to look at the collection of resources that have come into my possession through the years.
In a previous post, I mentioned my dad spent his working life as an over-the-road trucker. He ended up with hours of dead time on his hands, waiting for a delivery to be loaded or unloaded. Being the contemplative person he was, he wrote poetry. Thanks to his impeccable handwriting, these poems are in pristine condition, many of them penned on motel stationery (wherever he happened to be staying).
The large majority of poems are personal in nature, small rhymed jewels to express his love (most often addressed to his wife, my mom). My dad had been deceased more than a decade in 2004 when I decided it was time to set his handwritten poems into book form. I had copies printed for family members and that’s where the project stayed … until now.
As an added subsection of the Blood Type / Stricker page, I’ve included a flipbook of dad’s poetry. Toward the end (page 50), there’s a poem titled My Heavenly Valentine. It’s written (obviously) to my mother. The final lines present a fitting coda to two lives well-lived … and now reunited in Eternity.
As a tribute to my dear mother, I’ve been compiling certain documents in my possession that add depth to and understanding of her life. A separate section of this blog is titled Blood Type / West and under that heading, I’ve attached a couple related documents. (More documents will follow in time.)
In 2006, we celebrated Mom’s birthday with much more fanfare than usual. We threw a party, Hats Off For Ruthe, and as part of the celebration, I created a book about her life. Given she lived another 14 years, the book is somewhat dated as regards her children and grandchildren. Still, it’s a good record.
Another tab in the Blood Type / West sub-section offers some background information about the boarding school my Mom attended. It was an amazing place for a young girl who came from a modest background and was suddenly bereft (having lost her father) while her mother was thrust into the workforce.
A couple times, I had the privilege (with my Mom) to visit the location of this school (in Newtown Square, PA) which shuttered its doors to students in 1977. The buildings are still there, repurposed. We were able to enter the imposing administration building as well as the inviting stone cottages where students lived under the oversight of a dorm “mother.”
A previously coddled child myself, it was difficult for me to imagine my mother as a six-year-old being brought to this cottage and entrusted (by her own mother) into the care of strangers. It was (no doubt) a crucible for the development of strong character. She could have felt the bitter sting of abandonment; instead, she learned gratefulness for God’s unique provision. She also learned the value of self-reliance.
In large part, the person my mother became reflects the transformation of tragedy (the death of her father) into beauty, as she received an excellent education within a safe environment where multiple benefits (usually reserved for wealthy families) were available to her. Thanks to the generosity of an unknown philanthropist (who’d been dead 20 years when my mom was born), young fatherless girls received a wonderful start in life. Though I wasn’t one of those girls, I’m certainly a beneficiary of aforementioned philanthropy … and how thankful I am.
This morning just before four o’clock, my dear mother opened her eyes in Heaven. The nearest thing to my “other self,” she woke to find Jesus had wrapped His arms around her and welcomed her into His glorious presence.
In this space, I’ve posted more than a couple times with stories and recollections concerning my mom. The picture above was taken last December. We knew at that time her days on earth were winding to a close. Once the lockdowns were put in place at her long-term care facility, visits with her ceased. She died six weeks short of her 94th birthday.
It’s impossible to leaf through my memory to provide a full picture of Marion Ruth West (1926-2020) who fashioned herself (early in life) as Ruthe West and on one occasion, Bobbie Pringle, eventually living most of her adult life as Ruthe Stricker. Just the variations of her name offer a bird’s-eye view into her fun-loving, often-impulsive character! The world is poorer for having lost her, but Heaven is blessed … because she will do her part to keep St. Peter on his toes! Continue reading “She’s So Fine”→
Almost a decade ago, I launched this blog. The nameplate has changed slightly but my general high regard for Flannery O’Connor (from whom the blog name was admittedly plucked) hasn’t diminished. I don’t recall our first meeting (in the pages of a book), but my philosophy as a young writer was partly formed thanks to her insights.
Her book Mystery and Manners set in motion my lifelong interest. I borrowed the book from the library. We were casual acquaintances then. By the due-date, I realized I couldn’t relinquish the book! In those pre-Amazon days, I scrambled to find a hard copy to purchase but found none.
As a last resort, I located a photocopier and proceeded to copy over 200 pages, dime by dime. (The above photo shows that well-worn copy.) I omitted the first chapter (21 pages) which relates O’Connor’s tale “The King of the Birds.” It was an amusing story but not worth the extra buck. Continue reading “A Peculiar Crossroads”→