Friday, July 21, 2017

Goodbye For Now

My beloved mother passed away very unexpectedly on June 29th.  She would have been 67 on July 30.  I have tried a few times to sit down and write up this post, unable to finish each time.  In the end, I'm deciding to lean on the words of my sister.

My brother, sisters, and myself all spoke about our mother at her funeral.  My older sister has given me permission to share her talk on Mom's hands.

Rachel Gwilliam – Reflections on Mom’s Hands – Lorie B. Terry Funeral - July 8, 2017

In an English class in college I read an essay written by a woman describing her mother's hands, and the many things they contributed to life. At the time it made me think of my own mother. I have no idea who the author is or where to find that essay now, but it made a mark on me. After all these years, in coming up with reflections for today, I kept thinking about the spirit of the essay, and what my mother's hands mean to me. They were working hands, not delicate, or dainty. In fact, my sisters and I have in the past humorously lamented to each other that we each think we have our mother's hands genetically, perhaps wishing we could have finer features. But let me briefly tell you about the real work and life of my mother's hands.

They journaled the feelings of her heart in writings we now cherish, particularly about her courtship with my dad. They wrote favorite quotations that she wanted to remember, in perfect penmanship befitting a teacher, in sweet little notebooks. And later, her hands typed up dozens and dozens of inspirational quotations for me, both in email and keepsake binder form, to get me through hard times, because she believed in the power of good words. They gave and took and folded and mended and cleaned and cooked and decorated and soothed.   Her hands drove us to friends' houses and sports and dance and Girl Scouts and home from play practice. They sewed Halloween costumes, and helped us craft some of the best school and science fair projects, for she had such a creative and detailed mind. They wrapped presents so beautifully and with elegance- the fine details mattered to her. Her hands made the greatest sugar and gingerbread cookies you've ever had, often making frosted birthday cookies in the numerical shapes of our new ages to share with our school classes. They passed on the tradition of a cranberry relish dish in our home that both her mother's and grandmother's hands also made. Speaking of food, Mom's hands carefully put together the prettiest place settings for Thanksgivings and Christmases, lovingly arranging china and tall candles and classy goblets and napkin holders. She wanted to help facilitate memorable experiences and ambiance. They held our own hands as needed and did our hair and dressed us in adorable pajamas on Christmas mornings so that we could be filmed by Dad's giant and embarrassing 1980s video camera. Her hands picked up so many books during the course of her life that she became a living and never ending sponge, able to tell you everything you needed to know and more (sometimes too much...) about who was who in history, focusing in particular on French and British history and monarchies, not to mention the U.S. and Virginia history she knew inside and out. I'm sure she now has regular tea with Henry VIII's wives, Marie Antoinette, Pocahontas, Jane Austen, and Robert E. Lee, and finally knows what happened to the missing colonists of Roanoke. Her hands pinned a zillion pins on Pinterest. Put aside plastic containers to do STEM projects with her oldest granddaughter, which became several overflowing boxes in the basement. They kept 30-year-old wrapping paper because she bought it in Switzerland, and treasured it. Her hands pulled out pesky Virginia ticks, lovingly cared for our two dogs until their ends, and gave us a love for nature and dogwood trees and pressed flowers. They turned the pages of so many children's books for her children and grandchildren. They popped popcorn on the stove and placed it in a giant silver bowl for fun family movie nights, cheered madly at BYU football games, and popped in You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle perhaps one too many times. They saved a sick baby's life when we lived in Haiti, putting together proper bottles and blankets and instructions on sanitation and sterilization. They wrote her testimonies of Christ, and underlined verses of scripture. Her hands cut magazine and newspaper clippings on health because she was so worried about dying early like her mother at 72, which in the end didn't save her at 66, but she had that hope and drive and hunger for knowledge and the desire to live and be better, and now I feel like yes, you should cut those articles anyway and live the best you can, shaking your brave fists at the universe even if luck or genes still don't go your way. You fight and hope and try all the same. She served others with those hands, at church and at school and in the community. She taught a galaxy of students over a 40-year period, writing on boards and grading papers and plotting out lessons. She cried into those hands, and felt the range of the human experience with them in all its ups and downs, imperfections and sadness, and happiness and laughter. We would all be happy to have such hands. I feel honored to have them. I look forward to getting their age spots and wrinkles, and hope to serve and live and love as much as her hands did during my time on earth, be it long or short. Mom, your time was too short. But thank you for my hands, and I know that I will hold yours again someday. I know this as sure as I see these hands before me.

Mom passed away in the early hours of June 29, and I was able to be with my Dad and siblings from June 29th through July 5.  I then drove home to NC and returned with Ben and the kids on July 7.  Mom's funeral was July 8.  I was really surprised by how much harder that second drive up was.  The first drive up, immediately after Mom's death, I knew I was heading up to basically just mourn in a protected bubble where time stood still.  I felt myself adding panic to the feelings of loss on the second drive up for the actual funeral.  I was terrified to face the actual funeral because it meant she's really gone, there was nothing else I could do.  I was going to have to keep moving.  As I laid a white rose on Mom's casket before getting in the car and leaving the cemetery, I will never forget the conflict I felt.  The urge to dig in my heels, "no, no, no, I can't do it, this isn't happening, I don't want to do this!" running through my head while my body went through the motions of laying Mom to rest.  Occasionally in my parenting career, I have had to pull my kids from a situation kicking and screaming.  It felt a little like that, only this time I was the kid trying to postpone the inevitable.  I discovered that there is a massive difference between the "mourning" and "mourning and moving" stages of grief.  Living life while grieving has been challenging, but my younger sister pointed out that you "have to go through it".  So many people have shared stories, memories, hugs, meals, and love.  That has helped a lot.  Each story gave me a little piece of Mom again.  I'll never forget the faces I saw at the funeral or the sweet cards and messages I've received.  I feel like I truly can't quite say THANK YOU with enough weight.  When I stood in front of everyone to speak at the funeral, I looked out at everyone and my heart just about burst upon seeing the number of friends, family, and former students that had turned up to honor Mom.  It meant so much to me.  

I'm just going to end this post with a picture of my Dad.  He's reading to my sister and I from the journal my mom wrote for posterity.  It's a memory I'll truly cherish forever, hearing her own stories about the butterflies she got when she saw Dad and the feeling that this was a relationship worth taking risks for.  

Thank you for my hands, Mom.  Thank you for loving Dad, and for showing me what a gift it is to spend each day with your very best friend.  I promise to tell my kids your stories, help them feel close to you.  God be with you 'till we meet again.  I love you so much, Mommers.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

James started swim team in August and we could not be more proud of him!  He's been dedicated and has really worked hard to meet all of his goals.  He recently participated in his first swim meet and loved the experience.  He swam the 8 & Under 25 freestyle, butterfly, and breaststroke, as well as the 50 breaststroke, which he swam with kids of all ages.  Breaststroke is his favorite by far, followed by the butterfly.  The meet was about 3.5 hours long for us, but you can catch the highlights here:

25 meter breaststroke (James is the second swimmer in from the left)

25 meter butterfly (James is the middle swimmer)

This event was probably my favorite because it was the last one he swam and the difference in his comfort level the start of the meet and the end was huge.  He went up to the block to dive for butterfly and actually started doing pushups and dancing around.  He said he just had a lot of excitement to get out.  :) this point we had been there for hours and Jonny and Lucy were can hear Lucy crying in the background.  To their credit, they spend hours on pool decks and are pretty darn patient about it.

25 meter freestyle (James is the second swimmer in from the left)

We are so proud of this kid!

Friday, February 3, 2017


Every January, Ben has a really busy stretch at work.  This year a bunch of his male coworkers decided to grow beards, then shave them into mustaches...

We got SNOW!  

We double bagged Lucy's feet with rubber bands because she doesn't have boots :)

James was here:

Lucy was here:

James reading to Jonny

What would January be without a little sickness for Lucy?  Seems to be a constant.

January has been good to us!