Posts Tagged 'Letitia Suk'

” Hi” from Heaven? An Amazing Find.

Two months ago, my mom died. I can’t say I’ve ever felt her presence, as some experience, but I’ve certainly felt her absence. Especially on Monday evenings when we used to talk on the phone. Due to her stroke in 2016, those calls began to ebb, but I still find myself sometimes reaching for the phone on a Monday after dinner to give her a call.

But an odd thing happened shortly after her death.  At this point, it would be helpful to read this story first. This is the back story about the history of the personalized napkin rings from my family growing up. It is an important part of this tale. The Lost and Found Napkin Ring

The second back-piece of this story is that on the morning this event occurred, I was listening to a devotional-type podcast and a question was asked the listener:  Which aspect of Jesus’ personality do you most enjoy? I remember exactly where I was in my car when I said out loud, “his playfulness.” Over my long life, I have many stories of experiencing that side of him.

Four days after my mom’s death, my husband, daughter, and I were getting ready for dinner. Many friends provided meals for us that week and this evening’s fare came from some of our daughter’s friends.  For this dinner, I decided to set the table up in a special way. We are everyday-candle-lighters but this night I chose fancier plates and decided to go with napkin rings.

Remembering how much my mom liked the ones with the names, I decided to use mine since I had it back now. I didn’t use it often, but this was the perfect occasion.  BTW, all my napkin rings live in an old piece of furniture that belonged to my maternal grandparents. This sideboard was in the dining room of her growing-up house on the farm and now in my dining room.

I reached into the top drawer and right away saw my silver napkin ring. I grabbed it along with two other types for my family. When I slipped my white linen napkin into the ring was when I noticed it.

The napkin ring did not say Tish, it said Betty. My mom’s name. 

Like the rest of us, she had a napkin ring too which was lost along the way. When my childhood friend returned my lost ring, mine was the only one.

I incredulously held the silver napkin ring and initially wondered if the one I thought said “Tish” had been my mom’s all along. A quick check of the drawer yielded the other one, mine. So now I have two. Definitely news to me!

The mystery remains.

Perhaps I had it all along but I have no memory of seeing it before this day. Maybe my friend gave it back when she found mine. I don’t recall that either. Those possibilities don’t change the story. I was unaware that I possessed it and it showed up on a night near her death when I planned to honor her memory with the special touch.

Or maybe it was the playfulness of Jesus laughing with my mom when I found it. Very consistent with other encounters like this. That’s my vote!

I guess I’ll find out later.

Hope for the best,

Tish

Mourning Armband Wanted

Our last time together in 2020.

I’m longing for a black armband. Not the kind I wore back in college to protest the then-current war but one for mourning. Didn’t this used to be a thing? I think I’m OK without the long black dresses and veils on the women I saw in Italy in the 70’s. Their attire was head-to-toe black following a death in the family. I just want an armband. I may look/act/even feel “fine,” but the ache is still there.

Two weeks ago, fourteen of us in our masks crowded under a small tent-like structure to bury my mother. It was cold, rainy but so were our hearts. The smallish funeral procession – it was immediate family only due to these novel times – had properly winded across town from the church to this familiar cemetery.  Out of respect, or the law, cars had pulled over to let us pass. I found that touching, along with everything else that day.

The long hearse stopped by the rose-colored, heart-shaped stone which listed my dad’s name, birth and death dates and my mom’s name and birth date, the rest will be filled in soon. On the back side is their wedding date, May 22, 1948, and the terms of endearment they called each other, “Sug & Sugie.” We are a grave-visiting family so I often stopped by here on my trips to Quincy. My mom liked to keep the flowers current.

A few chairs were set up, draped in blue. I got one of them. Maybe because I really am the oldest now. The graveside service was much shorter than the one at the church: The one she had planned with me years ago on a Sunday afternoon at her dining room table. This one seemed to end with the Lord’s Prayer but I knew there was going to be a postscript.

“Moonlight Serenade”, the centerpiece song of the Big Band’s, Glen Miller Orchestra, filled the air for the final goodbye. I knew my whole life that this melody would be played at this moment as mom had made that very clear. I just didn’t know how much it would break my heart.

After saying hi to my grandparents buried near by and bye to the rest of the family, Tom and I got in our car and drove home. 5 hours. Covid, you know, no after-party.

Food, flowers and cards were waiting and kept coming. In case you wonder if that’s really helpful, it is. I finally took the cards down this week.

I read in Genesis 50 this week that the Egyptians mourned for Jacob for 70 days. I think I’ll do the same and more for my mom.

I just wish I had a black armband so all who pass me could remember too.

Hope for the best,

Tish

PS Here is my mom’s obituary Betty C. Wiewel

Tales of Christmas Past: Receiving My Doll a Second Time.

Standing tall on my bookshelf.

How many presents from your childhood Christmas’s can you really remember? I loved them all but recall very few.

One thing I could count on every Christmas morning was a new doll waiting for me under the tree. Funny, but I spent much more time playing with paper dolls instead of real ones. Maybe my imagination took me farther with them. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to spot the latest doll each year.

BTW, all the dolls had a certain “fragrance.” Whatever 1950’s dolls were made of left an imprint in the air that always smelled like Christmas. It is still a favorite olfactory memory often found in new shower curtains.

My 7th Christmas, I received a very special doll called, “Little Miss Addie.” She was a promo for AD detergent around 1957, and my mom had to send in a label or box top or something along some money to get her. She came adorned with a little mink stole. I was enraptured with that doll, but she was so fancy my mom wasn’t crazy about me playing with her too much. (Keeping “nice” things nice was a high value of hers.)

I remember some of my playmates received them too and we would carefully make up worlds involving the lives and times of Little Miss Addies,

I eventually lost track of Little Miss Addie but not the memories from that Christmas. She disappeared somewhere in my house when  Barbie dolls came along and later records, make-up and other must-have items for teenage girls.  She was hiding somewhere in the corners among the artifacts of my childhood.

Over 60 years later, she turned up again in a remarkable way. My mom no longer lived in the family home and it was time to sell it. My sister-in-law and brother’s family and I started in on what we called, “The Big Dig.” Fascinating items were discovered and discussed often during peals of laughter. But no Miss Addie.

The day before the sale, photos were posted by the auction company to let buyers see a preview of what was for sale. I scrolled through them and there was my Miss Addie doll! She had been found after all but not by me.

I was determined to buy her back but, as in the terms of the auction, we could no longer just take things. On the day of the sale, the kind auctioneer saw me digging in the boxes for her before someone else bought her. When I found Miss Addie at last, he told me just to take her home.

All the magic of those Christmas mornings are wrapped up in this long ago gift. I see her everyday now and don’t plan to lose her again!

Do you still have a favorite toy from a childhood Christmas?

Hope for the best,

Tish

PS. A while back,  I shared some Advent stories and inspiration in a Christmas sermon called, “Open the Advent Door: Four Things We All Want for Christmas.” Here it is, take a listen.

First Week of Advent: Eight Ideas for the Slow Down Year.

22 Days until Christmas. For the first time in decades of Christmas planning and celebration, this year seems full of time. My December calendar is completely blank for non-work appointments since I cancelled my one dental appointment next week.

For all the reasons we are way too familiar with, we aren’t visiting friends or going to parties or concerts or plays or stores like all the other years. No one is stopping by. When we put up our smallish tree this year, (not by design, that’s how it came from the order: short) I consoled myself that no one would see it anyway.

Since all the things we can’t do this year are too often front and center, I’m turning toward embracing what is now possible since there is all this extra time. Here are a few…

  1. Enter into Advent all day long instead of 10 minutes after dinner. I have a pile of Advent & inspirational books for the season and reach for them throughout the day when I might have been running another errand in previous years.
  2. Plan something enjoyable each day to feed your Christmas spirit.  One of my favorite Christmas books is Madeleine L’Engle’s,  “The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas” http://amzn.to/18hq9wd where she introduces this fun idea to celebrate the season each day. I bought myself a paper calendar with little doors to open every day and look forward to that simple task.
  3. Savor your favorite parts of the holiday that you can still do during Covid. No need to rush.  I love writing Christmas cards over the course of a week in the early morning with quiet carols in the background.
  4. Trade in your usual bedtime reading material for seasonal fun and inspirational stories and books.  My Christmas book collection is large but the on-line library works fine too.
  5. Curate your music. I don’t want mindless carols this month but holiday sounds that will bring me into worship. I’m trying out new-to-me artist and tunes. So far, so good.
  6. Decorate intentionally. Less can be more this year if everything you put up is meaningful not just rote. In contrast, you might go all out and show off your fun stuff to an audience of one or two. I’ve put off buying a wreath for years and I’m picking one up Saturday!
  7. Skip the movies that might trigger sadness or loneliness and go for ones that make you laugh or take you deeper into the story.
  8. Move often, eat well. The “openness” of the schedule allows more time for taking walks and making slow food.

I jotted some notes this morning about some things I want to do next year and it sounds like fun already. But this one is here now with the possibility of additional hours to savor, a daily date with the star of the show, and new memories never before made. True gifts.

I’m all in to see how it will unfold. You?

Hope for the best,

Tish

Thanksgiving in “Ordinary” Time

Table for 14: Not this year!

Thanksgiving this year will be in the last week of the long stretch of “Ordinary Time,” the way the church calendar designates the liturgical year.

No one I know is referring to this holiday season as “ordinary” time! I recall with chagrin how we sat around at our most-unusual Easter and said, “at least Thanksgiving will be normal.” Got that wrong! One thing we all know, it will be remembered.

While we all long for the familiarity of the sameness for all the comfort that can bring, same old-same old can become a blur. Can you really remember something distinct about the last, say, five Thanksgivings? It’s the off-the-rails ones that are most remembered.

My most memorable Thanksgiving, so far, was the one the sewer backed up. Hard to beat that one for novelty! We didn’t want to make a big announcement or forbid the use of the toilet so my husband surreptitiously slipped down to the basement between courses and with a few tools, kept the operation under wraps and the floor clear of water.  We called a plumber the next day.

All the celebrations when the toilet didn’t back up are fuzzier. I remember Thanksgivings in categories.  The childhood ones around my grandparents long table with all the younger cousins. Then the dinners at our house in Quincy with the same people. After that came the ones with Tom’s family and finally the ones with our new family. Those include the big ones and occasionally the small ones. Loved them all, but they are somewhat non-distinct. Except for the years someone played our neglected piano.

Not this year. So far, nothing seems same-old about what will be happening next Thursday. No crowd big or small, I’m still working out the menu for 2-3. Maybe we’ll do a puzzle. The only known is that we will write in our Thanksgiving journal. (Thanksgiving Journal)

I see a lot of ideas of how to pull it off “creatively” this year…zooming with family or friends, eating outside, going for a fresh rather than frozen turkey, ditching the turkey altogether, distributing food to others and more. Are you trying any of these or other ideas?

Maybe, instead of all the focus on logistic planning, this is the year to really dig deep to give thanks. More than a headline when it’s your turn to share around the table.

What elements of your life didn’t change this year or blossomed in the right direction? What basic components of the day to day are you especially grateful for? Who helped you get through the year? What delivery service kept you supplied? This year’s list might be longer than usual!

But this I ask you, don’t write it off. Grab the day and hold on to it and imprint it for the forever files. This is the one you’ll be talking about for years to come. A chance to write a new script, just this once. To really look at the components and choose what will fit: The food, the schedule, the interaction in-person or digital or none at all, the TV off or on. etc. Instead of replicating, try innovating. Re-frame is the operative skill.

It won’t be just like the others, that’s for sure, but it might be the most remembered. Make it count.

Hope for the best,

Tish

PS Are you interested in a two hour At-Home Advent retreat December 5, 8:30-10:30? Ask me for details.

PPS A year ago today I got my 2nd knee replaced. It’s doing just fine, thank you!

Ode to a (Lonely) Piano

The family piano from my childhood.

After years of lessons, I can’t really say that I know how to play piano. I’m not quite sure what happened making those connections between the notes and my hands.

My mom was big on self-improvement and decided taking piano lessons was a good cause in that direction. She and my dad purchased this used spinet piano in the late 1950’s and found a place for it in our living room in Quincy.

A piano teacher was employed, Mrs. Jenkins, who lived up the street. I dutifully walked up there every week and sat next to her on the bench as she opened a John Schaum beginner book with such hope. Mr. Jenkins was always watching TV preachers.

I think my mom paid something like $20-25 a month for the lessons. I felt somewhat bad not really getting the concept even though I practiced at home, usually under some duress. Soon, my brother was walking up the street to Mrs. Jenkins too.

By the time I got to high school, I quit going to Mrs. Jenkins and now took lessons at school. While Mrs. Jenkins didn’t do recitals, Sister Arthurn, my new teacher, did. “Ebb Tide” was a popular piece at the time, and I chose that for my recital. Somehow, I memorized it and pulled it off. My mom was so proud! She talked about it for years.

I officially ended my piano career sometime in high school and had no regrets, even though I still did wish I could actually play. I would say hi to the piano when I was visiting Quincy but no lost love.

On a random day in May of 1986, when I was very pregnant with our fourth child and not thinking at all about pianos, my mom called. Surprise!

“The piano is on it’s way to you.” She announced rather than asked. She decided she wanted the space back in the living room and hired two guys from Quincy to drive it the 300 miles to me in the back of their pick-up truck. (Not at all close to piano movers.) “You took lessons the longest so it belongs to you.” Really?

So we found space in our living room and there it sat. The kids enjoyed banging on it and every so often someone would visit and actually play it.

Three years later, I set my oldest on the same path, piano lessons from a local teacher. He seemed to feel about it the same way I had. I can’t remember how long those lasted but kids # 2 and 3 also took part in the grand tradition of learning to play the same piano.

Our youngest asked if she could skip piano and try something else and I readily agreed. The lid stayed closed unless someone came over to play and then it really rocked!

Meanwhile, the piano became an excellent place to display the photos of the month. I rotate the pictures based on the birthdays of that month and significant events that have taken place. Halloween and Christmas decorations look nice up there too.

Enter the grandchildren! The young ones always open it and pound away. The older ones have their own piano at home and really do know how to play. It’s fun to watch them go at it and try out the pedals but I’m really done now.

Like my mom, I now want the space back and am ready to pass on the piano. It is horribly out of tune and two keys stick. I tried to donate it to a foundation, but no one got back to me. I then offered it as fr*e to all the sites and so far, no one has shown any interest. We can’t bear to just throw it out. 

As I write this, I’m listening to piano music. Kind of ironic, but it is one of my favorite genres.

I’ve discovered my hands are better at words than notes but someone can bring this piano back to the life it was built for.

Hoping it brings as many stories to the next owners as this one has for us.

Would you like a piano?

Hope for the best,

Tish

PS I still have a few pages from my John Schaum beginner’s Christmas album 🙂

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part Four

Arriving home from our honeymoon.

Senior year started for us in the fall of 1971. After the fun day at our friend, Janet’s, I was hopeful that Tom would begin to notice me other than a friend, but I had to wait and see.

My new housing was an off-campus apartment I shared with a friend from the dorm. Setting up housekeeping was so much fun! I saw Tom at the Intervarsity events, but we no longer had the shared dorm as another connecting point.

The first weekend after moving in, there was a knock at our door. Tom! He brought his bike into the neighborhood bike shop in the next block for a minor repair and decided to pop by. I tried to play it cool like it was no big deal but inside I was so excited!

Turns out, that bike needed a lot of repairs that fall. Or at least that was the stated reason for all the visits. By October, Tom was stopping by without the bike. I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on but decided not to ask and just enjoy the slow change in our friendship.

The last weekend in October, he went to an IV conference in Champaign. While he was gone, I decided to knit him a scarf as the weather was definitely changing. It seemed like somewhat a bold move on my part but I kept knitting away all weekend until it was done.

Tom arrived back Sunday evening and came to see me right away which I took as a good sign, so I presented him with the scarf. He looked so happy and to my complete surprise, gave me a nano second thank you kiss. Then I knew, it was on!  Celebrate your Kissaversary!

June 10, 1972

The rest of that year we spent most of our off-school time together. I was falling deeply in love but still we didn’t talk about our relationship’s future. Our parents met each other at our college graduation and connected well. But where was this heading?

I took off for Italy for the summer for a mission program and the letters flew back and forth between us. I still have them and am rereading them now.

All along I planned to relocate near Tom in the Chicago area and find a job when I came back from Italy. He was starting seminary and the summer separation was long enough. But a week before I returned, I had one of the most powerful God encounters of my life where I clearly heard to return to Quincy instead.

August 18, 1973

“But what about Tom?” I pleaded with God. “You will marry next summer” was the answer that came. “Well please tell him!” I begged.

The day I returned, Tom picked me up from O’Hare and whisked me off to a forest preserve to walk and talk. By the end of the day, we were engaged.

I did return to Quincy and he stayed near Chicago and we saw each other once a month until our wedding, August 18, 1970.

Books could and probably will be written about all the years since then!

Hope for the Best,

Tish

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50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part Three

After four months of hanging out, Tom and I were still “just friends.” One January day, I noticed him enter the dining hall of the dorm where we both lived. This was a common occurrence, but this time wasn’t like all the others.

As I waved to him, I really noticed him and suddenly (really!) felt like I was falling in love. I also had a strong sense in that moment that we would marry. I was blown away and he was clueless. I didn’t know what to do with this but knew if I told him of my changing feelings, he would likely split. So, I said nothing (to him, my girlfriends knew all about it!)

In the ensuing months, our interactions were often both in and outside of the dorm, and we showed up at the same Intervarsity events. Tom considered me a “good friend” and once confided in me about a girl he had a crush on. I tried to be supportive but that was hard!

By the end of our junior year in college, 1971, we had known each other for about nine months and for about five of those, I was quite smitten with him. It was not reciprocal. Not that he had spurned my affections, he didn’t know about them.

Then came one of the most romantic gestures of my life! It was the last spring evening in our dorm. Everyone was packing up to go home for the summer, including me. A knock came to my door and of course there was nothing unusual about that.

When I yelled, “come in,” a friend presented me with a bouquet of field flowers in a crockery pot*. Lovely! Next, however, a pillowcase was slipped over my head and I was led away down the hall! I could hear some of my friends laughing and was definitely intrigued, “what was going on?” I was excited when I heard Tom’s voice 🙂

The little procession moved outside, and a car door was opened for me to climb in, pillowcase still on. Of course, it sounds frightening but wasn’t in the least as I trusted the friends I was with. The drive took about fifteen minutes, I had no idea where we were.

The car came to a stop and I was led out for short walk. The pillowcase was finally pulled off and the scene in front of me on the country road was the scene of a most beautiful sunset with an old-fashioned iron rail bridge nearby.

Tom must have been paying attention to my comments over the months about my love of both old iron rail bridges and beautiful sunsets because he had orchestrated the whole event.

I was so touched and hopeful than the turning of our friendship into something more was happening. Wouldn’t you? But not yet.

I returned to Denver in the next weeks to work and hang out with my friends. During the summer, we wrote letters back and forth (I still have his) but Tom’s to me were all about how to grow in faith, very epistle-like.

My feelings grew stronger through our absence. Right before school started, we met at a mutual friend’s home for a fun day. I couldn’t wait to see him again!

After that day, for the first time, it felt the air was shifting, maybe there was hope after all! To be continued….

 

Hope for the best,

Tish

*Still use the same crockery pot for dried flowers.

 

 

 

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part Two

After a life-changing summer in 1970 in Denver*, I returned to my campus to begin Junior year. I was new in my faith journey and wasn’t sure how to keep growing after I left Colorado. Before I left, I asked my new friends how to find other Jesus followers on Western Illinois’s campus as I didn’t know any. They told me to look up two campus groups called, Intervarsity and Campus Crusade for Christ. I had not heard of either one of them.

On my first day back on campus, I was hurriedly exiting an elevator in my new co-ed dorm. Such a rush that I literally ran into a girl carrying a poster, which got knocked down by the collision. I profusely apologized and picked up the poster for her. It was announcing an event for Intervarsity that Saturday night called an “Action Bash.” I was stunned.

Right away I explained to her, Becky, that I was planning to find Intervarsity! She invited me to come to the event then asked me if I knew Tom Suk. I didn’t. She told me he also lived in my dorm and that she would introduce me to him at the event.

So, with some excitement and trepidation, I went to the Action Bash event, September 18, 1970.

I clearly remember walking into the Lab School on campus where it was held and finding my new friend, Becky. She walked with me to the gym where she pointed out Tom who was playing basketball. His longish hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and he was wearing a white tee shirt and blue jeans.

Becky motioned him over and he stopped playing and walked over to meet me. We chatted a bit but not long. Later that evening, I decided to walk to the Student Union where all the campus groups were hosting activities that same night to meet new students. Tom and I left the IV event at the same time, but not by intention, and walked up together.

I don’t remember when I saw him again, probably in the dorm in the cafeteria. In the ensuing weeks, we became part of the same IV group and saw each other fairly often. No sparks yet. I wasn’t looking to fall in love, and he gave me no reason to think he was interested.

We did pair up to lead a Bible study together in the dorm for non-believers which required some extra connecting and found we worked together well.

After Christmas, things began to change….

Hope for the best,

Tish

*See 50 Year Legacy – How I Became a Jesus Follower: Part One.

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part One

Tom and Tish in college.

50 years-ago I started following Jesus (as told in July) and two months later on September 18, 1970, I met the man I would marry. Another amazing story! Watch for that to unfold this month on Thursdays.

For some time, I thought our initial introduction between two college students, was a simple meet and greet (more on that next week.) Then I found out there was a back story: Tom already knew who I was. In fact, we both lived in the same dorm the previous year.

Like the rest of the country, college culture was rapidly spinning in the late 1960’s and co-ed dorms were a new thing, at least for the Midwest. Considering that my all-female dorm freshman year had strict hours and no male visitors except for family, this was quite a jump!

My work-study job sophomore year was sorting mail in the new dorm, a perfect fit for me as I have a life-long devotion to writing and receiving letters. One of my co-workers in the mail room was George – a good friend of Tom’s from high school. But Tom, George and I were never at the same place at the same time for an introduction. Tom did his own inquiries, “who is that girl?”

Meanwhile, as part of my “experimental” lifestyle, I spent a few weekends each quarter in Chicago. On one of these Saturday nights, I wandered into a bookstore in Old Town after a performance of “Hair,” the outrageous musical of the time. Soon I was sitting on the floor of the store, intensely engaged in conversation with a guy who poured out that he had no reason to keep on living. He finally agreed not to harm himself.

The following week, I met with my psychology prof to talk about the need to set up an all-campus hotline for suicide prevention. He put me in charge of it! I don’t remember the details of how that got set up, but it did. One of my tasks was to spread small posters all over campus announcing the hotline, my name was on the posters. Tom noticed them.

He told me later that every time he saw a poster, and there were a lot, he said a prayer for me as he knew I was the girl from the mail room, George’s friend. When I asked him what he prayed, he said he had a sense that I was troubled too (got that right!) and without knowing any details, began to ask God to help me out.

We still never met, and I took off for Colorado that summer. I’m sure Tom’s prayers were part of the amazing story of what happened that summer! How I Became a Follower of Jesus: Part One

Next week I’ll pick up the story of what happened at the end of that summer.

Hope for the Best,

Tish



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