Memories about My Sister 2

I am hitting myself because I didn’t borrow a photo that I saw in an old photo album my mom had.  It was a group shot of 7 or 8 of the 9 siblings in my family.  I was about 10 in the photo, and my kids all thought Evangeline looks just like I did in that photo.  It was taken outside my grandmother’s house in Talmadge, Ohio (suburb of Akron–you didn’t even know Akron had suburbs, did ya?)  When I was young, we never really took vacations, but almost every summer we traveled 2 hours west to the greater Akron area to visit my dad’s parents.  We visited them because the Burkett family reunion was often held near there, and we would all sleep in the dorm-style attic and the basement of their small home.  When I was 10, my sister was 28, and I am pretty sure she met us there having traveled from Elgin, IL, the Chicago suburb where she lived.

I remember thinking it was so cool that she was grown up.  I always wondered what it would be like to live on my own in someplace more exciting that DuBois, PA.  So it really didn’t matter to me what Kak was doing; I just knew it had to be better than being me.  I really looked up to her, and I wanted to grow up to go off and live on my own just like her.

As it turned out, about 14 years later I ended up graduated from college and not really knowing what I was going to do with myself.  Kak and her husband Randy lived in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, at the time, and they invited me to come stay with them to look for work there.  I said yes, and I was off on my own grown-up adventure.  They were new to that part of Florida, and they didn’t yet have a church home.  So my first Sunday there, Randy said, “We would like to go visit Dr. Kennedy’s church.  We watch him on tv, and we like his preaching.”  I agreed to go along, and I appreciated the service.  I also attended the young adult Sunday school class where I heard the best Bible teaching I had ever been exposed to in Sunday school.  When we were eating lunch after church, I told Kak and Randy this was the church for me.  Ultimately, I joined the church and ended up working for the television ministry, and 2 years later I met my husband there.  So I will always remember Kathy — Kak as having a hand in my meeting Mark.

I spoke to my mom tonight.  It seems that Kak’s time is drawing even closer to the end.  She is medicated  so much that she is sleeping nearly round the clock.  Randy has decided to have her buried in Pennsylvania in our family’s cemetery.  It seems we are just waiting to say goodbye to Kak.

My Pathetic Garden

Carrot Tops

Earlier this spring I made an attempt to plant a garden.  A very small garden.  I had Calvin go out to the back yard and dig up grass from a small section of the yard that used to be a garden.  Then I bought some  topsoil and some seed packets.  I know most people plant plants, but time and money were not on my side, so I decided to just see what would happen when I put down some top soil on my little patch of yard and I planted a couple herbs–basil and cilantro.  I planted lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots.  With all the rain we’ve had, I thought perhaps it would all wash away.  But now, it looks like some of the things will actually become vegetables.  The herbs, of course, are already usable.  I think I will have a bit more basil and cilantro than I could ever use, but I will try to dry some and give some away.


The grass around the garden is very long because we have had no lawn mower to use as our new one of last summer decided to stop working.  It was in the shop, but the shop called and said they couldn’t fix it.  I found another repair place today that says they can take it apart, clean it, and possibly make it work.  So the garden area doesn’t look wonderful, but despite my poor planning and willy-nilly way of throwing the garden together, I might just have something to eat from it as the summer goes on.   If all goes well, I might try my hand at a real garden next year.

Cilantro and Basil


Memories about My Sister 1

My sister Kathy seems to be ready to be with the Lord.  My mom spoke to her on the phone and told her she would like to come visit her, but Kathy said, “That’s ok.  You don’t need to do that.  We all know where we’re going.  We’ll be together there.”

I received an e-mail from my brother-in-law Randy tonight saying that the dosage of Kathy’s pain meds has been increased, causing her to sleep more and talk less.  I get the feeling her time is short, though it hasn’t been said.

So thinking about the possibility of Kathy’s life ending has made me think of memories of her from my childhood.  I never knew Kathy as a child.  She was 18 years old when I was born–the second eldest of the 9 siblings in our family.  She never lived at home with me, but she often came to visit when I was young.  One memory that sticks in my mind is from when I was about 8 years old.  Several of my other brothers and sisters were sitting around the kitchen table with me, and we were playing Scrabble.  Kathy was washing the dishes while we played.  Someone put a word on the board, and I said, “What the h— kind of word is that?”  Before I had time to think, some force was pulling my head back by the hair, and green liquid Palmolive dish detergent was pouring into my mouth.  I gagged and looked around the kitchen.  Kathy was the source of the mouth washing.  Let’s just say I was never much for vulgar speech after that incident!

Another thing to know about Kathy is that I never really called her Kathy.  She was always Katherine or “Kak.”  Kak came from my oldest brother being unable to pronounce her name properly when they were both little.  His “Kathy” came out “Kakky.”  So she forever became Kak or Kakki around home.  Only after she was married did I refer to Kak as Kathy because that is what her husband calls her.  But I still have to think to call her this.

Visiting Mom in PA

I’ve been home from visiting my mom in PA for nearly a week, and I wanted to post something before I forget some of what went through my mind as a part of this visit. I didn’t take any photos on this visit, and that is my only regret.  I took my camera, but I forgot about it until it was too late on every occasion.  I will do better the next time.  However, I am including a few photos Mom passed on to me from her collection.

Mom with my sister, Kathy and her husband Randy in 1991 at my apartment in Florida.

Me, Mom, and Kathy in 1991 at my apartment in Florida.  Can’t miss the big hair, eh?

Mark and I decided that I needed to make this trip because my mom is getting older and we don’t want our kids to grow up without really knowing their maternal grandma. It had been over 18 months since our last trip, and I don’t want time to continue passing without spending more time with Mom before the Lord takes her home.  The timing for the trip ended up happening at the same time my eldest sister was in surgery as a part of treatment for bone cancer.  My two other sisters were able to make the trip to Florida, where Kathy lives, to be with her and her husband Randy during the surgery.  It ended up being good for my mom to have us there at a time she might have otherwise spent worrying about my sister.

Kathy’s surgery was successful as far as it went.  The doctors replaced two bones in her legs with steel rods. When they were operating, they discovered that a large cancerous mass on her hip was bigger than they had anticipated from x-rays.  She will be receiving radiation treatment for the cancer and physical therapy to help her possibly walk again.  I heard from my brother-in-law today.  An MRI revealed the cancer has spread to her liver.   She was released from the hospital today, and a local hospice will be helping to care for her.  Your continued prayers are appreciated.

Back to the trip–this was the first time I made the 12+hour drive to PA with only the kids.  It really went well. I think they are finally old enough to make this doable in the future.  I hope to make this trip more often now that I know it is doable.  My mom was so happy to have us visit.  She had a broken wrist, so I was able to do a few little things around the house, but mostly, we just visited, looked at old photos, and enjoyed each other.

She and my brothers doted on my girls, and the boys were thrilled to explore Uncle Dave’s extensive DS game collection. Evangeline celebrated her 10th birthday there with Grandma, Uncle Dave, Uncle Bob, Aunty Patty, Uncle Larry, and several cousins.  She also ended up getting birthday money from her uncles, and she sure loved that!

We visited the local mall–one story and small–according to my suburban children.  It was too cold to swim, but we were able to spend a couple hours at a local state park that we all decided would be a great place for a family vacation in the future.  Now we hope to come up with a way to make that happen while Grandma is still living less than 15 miles from there.  Grandma bought everyone ice cream cones at the beach concession at Parker Dam, and I enjoyed a cone with teaberry flavored ice cream, which is something I have only ever had in Pennsylvania.

I took mom on an errand to pick up some planting flowers from a local family-run greenhouse one afternoon.  The man who owns the place was so respectful of Mom. He asked about her family, and he listened with great interest to her answers about all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren as they walked around his greenhouse choosing what she would buy.  When it came time to pay, she pulled out $30, and he only let her pay $10.  He said, “I’ve had a good year, and I’ve learned that giving a little comes back 10,000 times.”  So we left with $30 worth of flowers for $10 and a feeling of God’s blessing.  The greenhouse man also kept telling Mom how glad he was she would plant and enjoy the flowers.  It turns out this same man had once come to visit mom last year when she was sick and the furnace was broken.  He spent several hours there working on the furnace, and wouldn’t let her pay him.  So it made me glad to see that God had placed such a generous person in Mom’s path who understands what it means to love your neighbor or to care for the widows among you.

My brother David, whose single and has a neurological disorder, lives with my mom.  He is on a disability pension from the army, so he doesn’t work and is home with Mom all the time.  He has also had some health problem lately,and I had the opportunity to take him to the a medical appointment while we were there.  David can’t drive, and Mom often cannot drive, so my sister-in-law Patty often takes them to their appointments.  Being there to help this one time made me very thankful for Patty taking on the repsonsibility of getting Mom and David where they need to be.  David, by the way, will have hernia repair and his gall bladder removed on June 29.  Again, prayers for a safe and successful surgery are appreciated.

While I was at Mom’s, I realized how thankful I am for all that she has taught me.  She gave of herself over and over again for her 9 children, and by the time I, number 9 came along, life was relatively easy.  I reaped the benefits of all the experience she had from raising my 8 siblings.  My dad was always an interesting character, and she loved him and stood by him until his death at the young age of 66. They had been married 43 years when he died.

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, October 7, 1943

Dad, sometime in fall 1943 after returning from WWII serving with the Merchant Marines

I am so grateful I was able to make this trip.  My stream of consciousness blog post shows just a glimmer of how blessed I felt to make this visit and to be reminded of how God has blessed me through my family.