Mary Beth Writes

First written 2/18/2017

Yesterday was the funeral of Jack Jude. I met him off and on over the years we lived in Racine.  He was a smart, compassionate, wide-thinking, justice-for-all judge in Racine County. We were not close friends but we knew each other, and talked from time to time when we ran into each other in the Law Enforcement Center. Twice, when I encountered complicated legal snafus in regards to the guys I worked with, I called him. He would listen and then suggest options and strategies.

I know Jack’s unexpected death has rocked many lives.

Today is a funeral in Chicago, of a good friend’s aunt. This aunt was creative, sophisticated, laughed easily and had many adventures in her life. She provided a window to the world for her niece, my friend.

Last night late I received an email from another friend that her dad passed away yesterday. He was an awesome dad from the generation where so many of them were not. He was curious, could-fix-anything, was a loving and faithful family man and orchard farmer.

I woke this morning to a clear azure sky, a blue jay in the neighbor’s tree, a hawk streaking past our window, a squirrel tap dancing over our heads, the promise of a day of warm breezes.

There is something so impossible about death on a sunny day. When the world is gray and bleary, we can kind of take in what’s happening. But not on a day like these days; bursting with light and warmth.

My dad’s funeral was on a September day like today. Sunny, balmy, breezy, jarringly beautiful. After the funeral dozens of people came to our house to eat the food they all brought. Someone had sliced a huge turkey roasting pan of fresh peaches and then sprinkled them with brown sugar. I ate nothing but peaches that afternoon. Bowl after bowl of sweet, probably freshly-picked local peaches.

After a while my brother (who was just 19 that year) said he couldn’t stand to be inside anymore and was going out to work on the tool shed my dad had been building. Did I want to help?

The rest of that day we stayed outside, away from the mourners. Paul hammered and sawed. I sat cowboy style on an empty 50-gallon barrel, rocking from side to side. I was 14 years old, full of peaches, warmed by the sun, and cooled by breezes. It was gorgeous afternoon and I have never understood in words how that luscious memory would become my strongest memory of the day my father was laid to rest.

My theology teacher Paul Hessert once said, “Without silence, one could not have music.  It’s the quiet, empty spaces between the notes that turn sound into music.”

I think a funeral on a sunny day is something like that. An empty space that allows us to rest in the beauty that is around us.

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Not Admiring Duty

Duty without empathy and imagination is handsome.

And dangerous.

This is what Robert E. Lee said. “Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more; you should never wish to do less.” 

This is what I say. “Duty” is a clichéd moral value lobbed at us by men (sic) who seem to assume leadership is about getting other people to do the work and take the risks at hand.”

What's in that Museum?

Do you go to museums? I enjoy them, but I think they are more complicated than we give them credit for.

This past weekend Len and I and our daughters, plus Len’s sister and her teenage sons, spent the day at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. At 400,000 square feet, the MSI is a huge old place; the buildings were part of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 that were re-purposed into the Museum during Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress. (An aunt once told me about seeing a black and white electrical show in a box at the Century of Progress. They called it television.)

Surprise Dancing Lessons 1/7/2018

This is almost a quote from Kurt Vonnegut. “Unexpected travel is a dancing lesson from God.” (Vonnegut said “Peculiar travel suggestions are…” or some such; I need to reread Cat’s Cradle.)

December Seen Things 12/31/2017

Happy New Year's Eve!

Here is the latest edition of Things Seen in December.

You need to click on the icon to open it. It's small. 

PDF icon12-31-17_vol_1.pdf

My New Year’s Resolution

I mentioned to Len this morning that this year I am going to make a New Year’s resolution. Usually I don’t make resolutions because I don’t believe people change (very much) by determining to “do better starting tomorrow.”  The person who works mightily to stop eating cookies tonight - while there are still cookies in the house - is probably going to become healthier than the person who is going to Stop Eating All the Sugar and Only Eat Roasted Brussel Sprouts … starting tomorrow.  Don’t ask me how I know.

A Request for More Readers

A Request from Me to You

I just finished the She Writes post about being more courageous and stubborn on my own behalf.

This fits right in. I’m asking you to consider doing something on my behalf.

Do you know a person who might like to read this website?  If you are here you already know I write about frugality, I write random essays, I tell you about places I went and books I’ve read. I am fascinated by colonial American history. I repost things I wrote ages ago. Sometimes I write short stories.

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