An “anchor” is a place or a person to me that grounds you, steadies you, and keeps you from crashing into the shores.”
Starting the year off by heading off to a funeral isn’t the way that I imagined kicking off the new year. It was hard to go back to Atlanta, since I hadn’t been there since my mom’s memorial service over two years ago, and I honestly dreaded the trip. After a crazy, turbulent flight (pink ink and I share an almost irrational fear of turbulence . . .), I arrived to a cold and rainy day in the ATL. Lovely. I was drawn home to celebrate the life of my 93 year old aunt who was known for her great cooking, her welcoming home, and for her love of family. The cousins who gathered in her living room and porch throughout the years, gathered this time to remember her. We came from all over – some of us hadn’t seen each other in quite a while – and began the chorus of “my goodness, how much you’ve grown,” or “I haven’t seen you in a forever,” and kissed new babies and shared stories catching each other up on the lives that have become distant from one another. My generation, the first cousins and a few younger, still had vivid memories of large family celebrations and great food and fun, but some of the younger ones (my kids would have been included had they been with me) hadn’t known that joy completely, and had only seen glimpses.
Our time together made me reflect on the very simple, yet complex, woman that my aunt was. Like, her siblings, she was a smart lady, but she had not had the opportunity to pursue higher education completely and lived most of her life in the same small house in south Atlanta. She worked hard at a factory most of her life, traveling out of state rarely, and raised her five children with the help of extended family. In turn her children, and grandchildren, provided for her and took care of all of her needs (and her small list of wants), in her golden years.
She valued family above all else and welcomed us all with a warm home, a plate of great food, and outstanding dessert, but most of all with a genuine interest in how we were making our way through this life. I remember a home full of laughter, and great smells and a heart full of joy when you took the time to stop in even if just for a little while. Her spirit made you want to come back over and over again.
As I fly away from Atlanta, I realize that her home, that was her mother’s (my grandmother’s) home before that, was the place I identified as an anchor. I remember nights as a child sleeping in the back bedroom hearing the train whistles out back, ice pops and listening to Marvin Gaye on the porch, and walking the hills to the corner store for Coca-cola (“co-cola” is what we called it). With her passing, though my cousins remain in that house, the anchor somehow feels a bit less secure. I’ll miss that . . .
It made me think though, how important it is for us and for our children to have these anchors in our lives, and about how my kids feel about our home, about family, some of my friends, and about the Vineyard, but I wonder honestly, if their anchors are as secure…
This occasion also made me think about the most important anchor that we can give our children and that is our faith, which Aunt Louise shared. The anchor of our faith, brought us cousins together to pray in her last days and to share and reflect on her passing as a time when she would be enjoying time with her other family, including her closest sister, my mom, on the other side. This anchor of faith brought us joy and smiles amidst the sadness.
In the midst of all of this, I had two very special “visits” with best friends who book-ended the trip to Atlanta for me. They have both been anchors or safe harbors for me, it seems forever. After playing phone tag throughout the crazy holiday season, my best girl from college – my alter ego who is so different yet so similar to me – and I had a chance to catch up during an hour plus long chat while I waited for my sister’s flight to arrive. I poured out all of my concerns and fears and listened to hers over the hum of the car engine. And at the end of the long funeral day and repast, after all of the family festivities, I made a call to one of my best friends from high school, and he and I sat in a Starbucks where I downloaded, and we laughed and reflected on all that we have shared throughout the years. We reflected on the many friendships and people who have come and gone and reveled that we have remained a constant – an anchor – in each others’ lives. We both counted ourselves blessed.
Last but not least, I spent the two days sharing a room with my “big” sister, and shared with her also lots of laughs, memories of our mother, some great meals, and a few tears. As ever, she was protective of me, as she exited the wake and asked if I was sure that I wanted to go in. She and my big brother (who joined us with his family) had open arms to embrace me when the full weight of my aunt’s passing, along with being in ATL for the first time without my mother to visit, fell upon me. More anchors . . .
When I get home, I will have a conversation with my teenagers about their anchors, not expecting them to yet realize that the faith that my husband and I have shared with them is one of them, but hoping that they will be able to recognize at least a few earthly anchors. Our generation, with all of our busy-ness, needs to work harder I think to make sure that our kids are rooted, and anchored, to weather the storms that life will bring.
In 2012, my family faced some real challenges, and unexpected twists and turns, but the anchors in our lives held and we face 2013 – not without uncertainty – but with renewed faith that my anchors will hold and that I’m blessed to have them whatever life brings. Thanks Aunt Louise for the reminder! Rest in peace.
Happy New Year everybody. As you begin this new year, perhaps you too will reflect on the anchors in your life and take the time to appreciate them.