Elizabeth Lucille Gregory

Today, I attended a memorial service for my mother, who passed away this past Monday. Elizabeth Lucille Gregory was 80 years old. Her obituary is here: https://grimesfuneralchapels.com/obituaries/elizabeth-lucille-gregory/3194/

I was blessed the last few weeks to spend time with my mother before she passed.  I was able to say goodbye twice, once when she was very responsive and talkative, and then again at the end when all she could do was smile.

I had left mom’s side and returned to Houston barely a day later when Carolyn gave me the call that Mom was gone.  Even though I knew it was coming, it still shook me to my core.  My mother was gone.  I had so many thoughts that rushed through my head that began with “If only…” or “I wish…”. 

At my home, music was playing in the background.  It was “Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman.  The song didn’t directly apply to our situation; it’s a song from a father to a daughter.  But I heard the words, “So I will dance with Cinderella, while she is here in my arms.”  And it made me think of my lifetime of walking with my Mom.

I first met my mother when I was very  young….

… that was my mother’s sense of humor, one of the many gifts she gave us.  She wanted our childhoods to be as wonderful as hers.  She told us often of climbing the magnolia tree at her home in Warrington, Florida.  If you saw how my mom walked this last year, it was hard to imagine her climbing a tree, but she had strong, young legs.

She used those legs to carry us when we were infants, then to walk with us when we were children.  She walked along the beaches of Pensacola, holding our hands. She was a constant presence, always there, teaching, loving, caring. 

When I became a teenager, she walked with a different purpose.  I rebelled in a lot of ways and gave her reason to worry, so she used her legs to pace the floor, waiting for me to come home.  I think my sister Carolyn might have paced with her.  Mom might have been mad at my rebellion, but Mom was still there.  Teaching, loving, caring.

Then as I grew into an adult, about 25 years ago, I gained fond memories of double dating with Mom and Bootsie, often to dinner and a movie.  And once, while Bootsie was out of town, Diane and I, and I think Stephen and Marquette, all went country and western dancing.  We made sure Mom got carded at the door and she was tickled over that.  I took my Mom for several spins around the dance floor.  I can’t say it was like dancing with Cinderella, I never thought of my mother as a princess.  I thought of her more like Jackie Kennedy or Marie Tyler Moore.  But the song sounds weird if the lyrics are “so I danced with Jackie Kennedy.”

In these later years when I came to visit, she still walked, but we parked much, much closer to the door of the restaurant.  The night we took her to the 1011 Bistro for dinner with that long, steep ramp to get to the entrance, I think we spent more time walking than dining.  The walk was very long, and for her it was difficult.

The next day, we visited Bootsie’s grave.  Mom needed help getting out of the car.  The soft ground was hard for her to walk on.  Mom’s feet bothered her greatly.  It was painful to walk.

And just last month, her last weekend at home, we were there.  Diane helped her into bed, out of bed, into bed, out of bed, into bed.  Her ability to walk was nearly gone, but not Mom’s capacity to teach, love, and care. 

All of those “If only” and “I wish” thoughts in my head still pop up, but I realized what isn’t there in my head.  No regrets.  Despite the trouble I was, Mom always loved and waited for me to return.  Those that were blessed to know her over the years found a woman that knew how to love, encourage, and forgive like no other.  My mother was an amazing mother, full of love and laughter and life.

The last weekend I we were in her house together, I was scheduled to teach bible study.  Love of the Lord was probably the greatest gift Mom gave me.  I had to teach online because of Covid, of course, so I sat at her kitchen table to teach, and I’m thinking of all those days when I was a child that she sat me down and read to me and teach me.  I’m teaching from the book of Acts, and in Acts 3, a lame beggar is sitting at the gate of the temple called beautiful, unable to walk.  This is Acts 3, verses 6-8 –

But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”  And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.  With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

Mom’s last week, she was unable to walk.  She asked, more than once from her bed position, for somebody to help her up.  Her earthly dancing days, her days of teaching, loving, and caring were coming to a close.  The Cinderella song I heard playing said,

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Jackie Kennedy
I don’t wanna miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone

But she has the greatest gift now.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, she has a glorious new heavenly body without pain or tears.  She sees Jesus face to face, He says, “In my name, walk!’ and then takes Mom by the hand. 

Mom is walking, Mom is dancing, Mom is living again, and she’s waiting for me, and she’s waiting for you.  She sees Bootsie again.  Her peace and joy is eternal.

I love you, Mom, and I miss you fiercely.  Thanks for all your love, laughter and life.  But I will see you again, Mom.  Jesus says he has prepared a place for us, a mansion with many rooms.  I know my room will be just down the hall from yours.  And if I know you, Mom, every Saturday you’ll come to my room and make sure I’ve cleaned it before I can go play.

I love you Mom.  It’s time to say goodbye for now.  I’ll see you soon.  Maybe we can climb that magnolia tree together.

Amen

Bella in Italy

Our hearts are breaking with the news that our wonderful little Bella has passed away suddenly this week, and we share our grief, and our joy, that we found in this beautiful creation of God.

We have hundreds of wonderful memories of Bella, a feisty terrier mix that was also calm and gentle, a rare mix in a terrier. From Diane’s first memory of how they chose each other at the shelter to the way Bella would greet us when we came home with a toy. And if we went outside to the garage and came back in, that was another chance to greet us happily. Her constant companionship in the evenings while watching a movie. And her compulsive vice to shred Kleenex if given the opportunity. And the way we would hide our suitcases from her when going on a trip, for Bella understood that we were going on a trip without her.

This trip was going to be different, though. We discovered that bringing a small dog to Italy was easier than we expected, so we changed our flights and made all the arrangements. Her trip to Italy had so many firsts – her first airplane, her first escalator, her first elevator, her first taxi. She handled all them bravely, quietly, though anxiously we could tell when she trembled.

This last week she went to her first Italian restaurants and sat quietly and patiently. After a week in our apartment, she had learned to navigate the stairs to the front door as we took her for her daily walks to the parks where she chased pigeons from her new territory. And she went to church for the first time in Florence this past Sunday. If you would ask Bella if she knew Jesus, she’d happily agree with you.

On Thursday, the staff informed us that during the cleaning of the apartment, Bella left the apartment through the open door, navigated the stairs, and was seen exiting the front doors. For hours we searched the city streets with the help of some good friends, then posted missing posters, then searched some more. And we cried. And we prayed, for ultimately the source of all things is the Lord our God.

Friday evening I received a call from the apartment staff that she had been found, but she had not survived being alone in the city. Later this morning, I am to accompany then to identify our precious little girl and complete some sort of paperwork. Bella gave us 11 years of affection and love, and we grieve deeply that she is no longer with us. For those of you whose lives she also touched, we know you also share our grief. We began last night by picking up her food and water dish, little dresses, and leash, because they are stark reminders that she will not ever be needing them again.

From all of our friends and family, we ask for your prayers for comfort for us as we begin grieving for our loss, and we give thanks to our Lord for giving us many wonderful years from His beautiful creation. He is truly amazing that He created such joy and beauty in such a tiny package.

Goodbye, Bella. We miss you, and we are so thankful you gave us warmth, affection, and love to our lives.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Bread and Milk

I found some memories today, tucked back in a corner somewhere.

I’ve been trying to lose weight, and working on portion control. It’s the Nutrisystem, and it’s been good so far. Not dramatic results, but a pound lost each week is healthy. This morning for my carbohydrate, I had a slice of wheat bread, and for my protein, I had a glass of milk.

And ate them together. My grandfather used to tear bread slices into 2″ pieces and soak them in a glass of milk, then eat them with a fork. Bread and milk together has a unique taste, not found in either bread nor milk alone. I was surprised to find they tasted a memory of my grandfather.

My grandfather was active in community, active in church, and taught bible study for decades. In all the time I knew him, I never heard a single harsh word from him. He had umpteen opportunities to do so; as an active kid with a slingshot, I probably provided plenty of them. But never did he speak an unkind word that I heard.

Thank you, Oh Lord, for the memory today. My grandfather was a wonderful, patient, kind man of God, and I thank you for the time I had to know him while he walked this world. He is still an example many years later of your light shining through men.