Let The Dead Bury the Dead

Yesterday, our family received the news of the sudden and unexpected passing of a dear family friend. She and her husband were the first friends my parents made after they were married. They have remained friends for over fifty years. While the husband has been sick for a long time, nobody thought his wife would be the victim of a sudden heart attack. It’s just another reminder, for me, that we should tell our families and friends how much we love them every day. And not just tell them, but show them.

As I said after the death of my father-in-law, it’s not enough to expect others to know how much we love them. We must tell them and show them as often as we can. Last week, my daughter wrote about the loss of a friend and how hard it was for her to come to grips with the fact that she would never see his smile again. I often wonder why we only think of these things after a loved one is gone. Why don’t we take every opportunity to let others know how special they are? To let them know how we feel about them?

Much debate has taken place about Jesus’s admonition to “let the dead bury the dead.” Some say Jesus was referring to the “spiritually dead.” Others say that Jesus was telling us to not look for excuses to avoid following Him. In thinking about those I’ve lost over the years, I wonder if there is a deeper, hidden meaning.

How often do you attend a funeral at which it seems the entire world comes to say goodbye? How many people reach out, after someone is gone, to say they hadn’t seen the person in years and regretted not getting in touch. How many times have you lost someone and cried that you had let so many other things come before spending time with that person? Perhaps Jesus was reminding us that, while taking care of the dead is a good thing, it’s too little too late. Maybe we should have been paying attention to that person, to their needs (spiritual and physical), to their joys and sadnesses, long before they were gone.

On this day, in America, we celebrate the birth of our country. Many of us will spend the day with family and friends. We will toast our freedom and salute our forefathers under a sky of glittering lights. Before we spread our blankets and pop open another beer, let us reach out to to that person or persons we haven’t expressed our feelings to. Let’s use this day to let others know that we love them, appreciate them, and are thinking about them from sea to shining sea.

Family Portraits

DSC_1825I know that when it comes to taking pictures, I drive my family crazy. Countless times I have heard the phrase, “Another picture?” or “Haven’t we taken enough?” or “Can I go now?” They can keep complaining. It doesn’t phase me. I will continue to take their pictures, their friends’ pictures, our pets’ pictures, our family pictures, our vacation pictures, our holiday pictures, and any other photos I feel like DSC06333taking because it all boils down to one thing – this event, this memory, this small moment in time will only happen once and only last for an instant, and I want to remember it forever.

It is the norm today for people to snap all kinds of pictures (and let’s admit – they’re mostly selfies) with their phones and leave them there for all eternity, or until their phone dies or breaks, and then the all too familiar cry can be heard “Oh no! All of my pictures are gone!” We’ve all experienced that dreadful moment when we realize that special memory, which we were lucky enough to capture and freeze, has disappeared forever. For me, it was an entire CD with photos from the last Mother’s Day with my grandmother before her stroke. For months, I searched for that CD until I gave up, assuming it was gone forever. Then, a few years later, my grandmother left us for a better place, and I was desperate to find that CD. For those who don’t believe in the power of prayer or the intercession of the saints, let me assure you, I am a true believer. After resuming my search, all the time praying to St. Anthony, I found the CD – in our silverware drawer in the kitchen. The same drawer I open up at least six times a day. It was simply lying in the drawer next to the silverware. Where had it been for the previous three years? I have no idea. 

Mother's Day 1The point is, those pictures meant so much to me because they were all I had left from that day – a day that, at the time, seemed totally unimportant, just another Mother’s Day – but turned out to be the last day that most of our family saw my grandmother the way we would all want to remember her. My girls are much older now, but they remain little in that photo, snuggled next to Granny on the couch, and my Gram remains the woman I loved and looked up to.

This past Saturday, we celebrated Ken’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Leading up to the party, my children, Ken’s sister, and I photo-8spent a lot of time combing through old photo albums and digital photographs. We pulled together almost 200 pictures of my in-laws from the last 50 years – including photos from their high school prom, their wedding, the births of their children, the births of their grandchildren, and every important, and not so important, event in between. The slideshow that ran throughout the night told a story of 50 years of love and happiness, a story brought to life in pictures. 

DSC07592That night, we took even more pictures. The party came and went; some of those faces we’ll see again, and some we won’t, but everyone will live on in our minds and hearts and in those photographs. Our family will always be together in the family photo we took that night just as my family will always be together in the photos we took with my parents on Thanksgiving. And you can bet that I will take many, many more photos on Christmas. It’s what I do, and someday my complaining children will thank me. After all, there will come a time when they will look at one of our family portraits and think “That’s just the way I remember my Mom.” And though it sounds sad, it’s not. Those smiling faces will remind them of times when we were all together, and they will remember just how happy we were in that frozen moment of time.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

IMG_1878-1What a great night we had last night!  Yesterday evening, the Carpenter Street Saloon in St, Michaels, Maryland held a book launch party for my latest mystery, Picture Me.  What a success it was!  We had non-stop action for the entire two hours, and I sold an entire case of my new book plus several copies of my previously published works.  How blessed I am to live in such a great community!  And that has me thinking about how wonderful it is here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Remember the old Cheers theme song?

Sometimes you want to go

 Where everybody knows your name,

And they’re always glad you came;

You want to be where you can see,

Our troubles are all the same;

You want to be where everybody knows your name.

That’s what it’s like living here on the Shore, and while there are times when everyone knows everybody else’s business, I’ve decided that can be a good thing.  When somebody has something to celebrate, their neighbors are there with bells on.  When the community is stricken with grief, somebody always shows up with a pie, or a cake, or a casserole… whatever is needed to help with the situation.  The point is, we always have somebody to lean on, somebody to care for us, and somebody to help out when needed.

Having never lived in the city, I can’t speak for everyone, but I have a very strong feeling that things are just different when people are living high in their glass towers without the time or the desire to look out the window and see what’s going on in the world around them.  Whenever I’m in DC or NYC, I can’t help but notice that everyone is always looking down – at their phone or their newspaper or just their shoes.  There aren’t friendly smiles and waves to those they pass (my hand gets tired just driving down my street from all of the waves back and forth between myself and other drivers – even if we don’t know each other).  There just seems to be a disconnect between everyone in the city that you don’t find in small towns.

So those in the big cities can keep their flats and ritzy restaurants and high class stores.  I’ll take my favorite little shop, the Preppy Redneck, and the Carpenter Street Saloon any day.  And the next time I’m walking down the street, I’ll smile and wave and say hello to everyone.  That’s what we do here where everybody knows your name.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Larger Than Life

10-pics 5This Sunday is Father’s Day here in the States; and all over the nation, families will gather around the grill to celebrate their dear old dads.  For some, this will be a joyous first time celebration, and for others, it will be a bittersweet day of remembrance.  Mother’s Day has become such a commercial event with flowers, chocolates, and cards, but for many girls and women, there’s nobody in the world like our daddies.

I was so blessed to have two father figures to look up to when I was growing up.  One was my wonderful, supportive father, and the other was my larger than life grandfather.  A big man with piercing blue eyes and a hug for everyone, Granddad literally and figuratively stood above all the rest.  He was everyone’s friend, the one everyone counted on for help and guidance, and with only an 8th grade education, one of the smartest men I’ve ever known.  In my book, Crabbing With Granddad, I described him as “a large man, tall and muscular…. [with] skin the color of an old copper penny…. His hands were hard and calloused…. [but] to me, they were the gentlest hands in the whole world.”

We lost my grandfather to cancer when I was 18, but he will forever live on in my heart (and in my daughter, Morgan, who had his eyes and his name).  He was the life and breath of our family, and he will always be missed.  I know that my own father, when he reads this, will not ask why I have said all of these wonderful things about Granddad and not about him.  He will just nod with a smile and tears in his eyes and agree that Granddad touched his life, too, and became his best friend from the day he and Mom said “I do.”

Amy and Dad

But in saying that, I have to pause and tell you that my dad is quite special as well.  He is a man of deep and abiding faith, unfailing love, and endless support.  As I told him on my wedding day, he is the wind beneath my wings.

So to my grandfather in Heaven, my wonderful father, and my loving husband, I say happy Father’s Day.  May you always know how much you all are loved.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com