Never did I dream I’d be a year in getting back to you. And what a year it’s been!
It was good I’d reserved many months for my special second mother/co-writer/co-speaker and me to finish a Christian fiction book she’d been working on for years. In fact, she’d continued to print it on yellow legal paper even after she’d lost her vision and could no longer see what she was writing.
If I’d slated a lot of speaking tours I’d have had to be away when she needed me most. For the time set aside for writing, we instead were fighting for her life. We lost the battle.
But just prior to the loss in August 2008, a quarterly devotional magazine, Reflecting God, came out with the week I’d been assigned to do in 2007. Believe me, I have greater respect for writers of those devotionals now I know how difficult they are to do with so much research and so many restrictions. JWS was such a help to me while in the hospital that year. She’d awaken in the night to come up with great ideas to share with me in the mornings and had me bring commentaries, songbooks and dictionaries to read to her. We’d discuss. I’d make notes. Late at night I’d come home to do laundry and mail and would get on-line and check out quotations and other pertinent facts. That one-week’s readings took two of us two whole weeks day and night to do!
I tell you this to show what a giving person she was. She was in her glory when she was working on something that would help others. In fact, if it’d not been for her, my speaking career would never have gotten off the ground. I’ve always said, “My professor in college taught me to give a speech, but Jacklyn Welch Shockley taught me to be a speaker.’
Anyhow, I’m so glad she lived to share in the appreciation expressed by so many readers from across the United States and Canada (even Australia) who’ve met us/me through the years of our travel and often speaking together in person or on TV.
Photo: Kathryn and her special ‘second mom’ the Rev. Jacklyn Welch Shockley on last vacation in Hot Springs, AR, state park, 2007
We’d been family so long that we’d agreed to do each other’s funeral service but I told her unless we filmed them, one of us was going to get left out!
I knew it would be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but she assured me God would give the strength needed when the time came. Thanks to the hundreds of messages, prayers and those in attendance – such a display of respect and love for us – He did give the strength. Still it has been a very difficult year without her.
Also as a word of caution… I’d read to her from AARP magazine about the theft of pre-need funeral policies by unscrupulous funeral home and insurance company employees in Memphis and other parts of the country, grateful she’d transferred, (at great loss), her policy to a funeral home here where she’d had to buy an additional policy. Not until the day of the death when the director here applied for the funds did I learn hers was among the millions of dollars of policies stolen from the elderly. It has taken many months to try to get her on the long lists of victims and see if anything can be done.
If anything comes of it, the small fraction of a refund won’t be enough even for a headstone but I don’t want her to be overlooked and forgotten when she’d worked so hard to make sure all was taken care of in advance. So be sure and check into your own policies.
Anyhow this will give you a little idea of why I’m so far behind.
I’ve continued working on her book that along the way had become our book. I know how it’s to end and I must say it’s going to be a good one! I don’t know if I’m going to try self-publishing this time or stick with the traditional method of submitting to a publisher as I did with mine. But I’ll keep you posted as so many of you have asked.
I had two books of my own that I set aside to work on hers and want to keep my word to her that I won’t quit on any. We’d completed most of her music with few pieces left to do, had plans for a book of sermons as people, including numerous male pastors often called on her to write sermons for them. So we had lots of things going in between our speaking.
In the meantime, I started back to speaking – never cancelled anyone – and while I am not slating as heavily as in the past, I’m still selective where I go. I’ve just returned from Upstate New York where I spoke to the Foundation for Long Term Care Activity and Recreational convention in Verona, my second time to speak to these folks. I’m returning in November to the same place for the same organization but to those in Social Services this time.
Closer to home I spoke to Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners which was a first as they met in the Strawberry Festival Board/Ponchatoula Gardenettes building right across the street in Memorial Park. First time I could walk to an engagement!
Within an hour’s drive in Baton Rouge area, I’ve been speaking to Baptist Senior Adult regional groups for their luncheons.
Also I’d been slated some four years to speak at a Nazarene ladies’ retreat for Arizona, Southern Nevada and Southern Utah so did that in March. My housing was like a condo with its own fireplace. What a treat to light and enjoy a fire as outside snow fell there in the mountains of Prescott! Very few homes here in Southeast Louisiana have fireplaces as we can use them maybe five nights a winter if we stretch a fine point. In fact, last December we had an unheard of eight inches of snow and by the third day many of the overjoyed folks who’d never seen snow were seeing the work involved, traffic accidents, the dirty results of melted snow – well, let’s just say they’d seen enough to hope it doesn’t happen again soon!
Photo: Kathryn on location in Arizona during retreat speaking 2009
Up ‘til then, we’d every so many years had just dustings to where one New Orleans news reporter was lying out in the white powder trying to do angel wings – hard to do with grass sticking up through it… At her feet she’d made a little snowman maybe 6″ tall!
I got to visit The North Country and spoke in Brushton, New York, to Wesleyans. What a beautiful place with so many wildflowers along the highway in farm and dairy country and flowers planted in so many yards! Such pride!
The church invited the community and speaking of such had a round community garden they share with anyone needing a vegetable for the table. A gentle creek meandered through the forest out back, mostly shallow over small boulders but with one place just deep enough to hold their baptisms!
Back at home a local Presbyterian church also planned an evening for the community with Miz Maudie and me as the program. I was quite nervous thinking hometown gal –maybe nobody would come. Was I honored as parking lots and streets filled with vehicles, folding chairs brought out until standing room only! And what a wonderful assortment of people from atheists to believers, pre-school through 90’s, varying shades of colors and nationalities. Five of my teachers, lots of my school classmates, neighbors from my childhood, members from bereavement support groups, patients from my dental office days in my youth… the list goes on. But those of you who’ve heard me know I love to meet individuals and spend much time greeting as many as possible, listening closely to each one. Well, I stood for well over an hour exchanging handshakes, but mostly kisses and hugs — our custom. I still never got to meet everyone as it was the largest crowd in the history of that church! So many told me later how the general conversation was “you could feel the love in that building.”
Soon Miz Maudie and I from time to time will be joining Anthony Cangemi, Financial Advisor from Retirement Solutions of Louisiana, to help Seniors stay abreast of protecting their finances. This will be in their local monthly church luncheons here in Southeast Louisiana. We’ll do the kick-off and introduction to Anthony’s speaking on the subject.
For the many of you who keep up with me personally or who’ve read my book about my mother, you’ll be interested to know that yesterday I attended the annual quilt show here in our town of Ponchatoula, LA. Picture the two blocks of downtown with quilts hanging from each store’s awning-type roof along the sidewalks for folks to walk along and enjoy at eye level as a welcome to all. Then in our community center – what a display of award-winning quilts from all across the country as well as men and women quilters from many states!
I’d taken Mother’s quilts over to have them appraised, explaining Mama was a Kentuckian from Depression days, someone who used unbleached muslin instead of the frills. Everything she did was made to last and she made them by hand from the thirties through the fifties. When they were unfolded and draped across a table, the appraiser’s loving appreciative hands stroked each piece as ooh’s and aah’s went up from a gathering crowd. I was moved to tears to hear, “What an artist!” “How beautiful! She used what she had and created such beauty!” How proud I was of my simple-living, sometimes made-fun-of-for-her-country-ways mother! And how I still miss her and my dear father along with my second mother …
So that’s just a sampling of what’s been going on in my life in this past year.
Again, due to the amount of correspondence received, I still respond to each in order received and I still ask not to be sent “forwards” in e-mails – just personal or business letters to help me be able to keep up with the necessary things.
Blessings on each of you.