Every morning, my husband and I do about 15 minutes of yoga together. A quarantine habit that stuck, we lay our mats in the living room floor and start our day with a short practice. Our YouTube yogi, Kassandra, always encourages us to come up with an intention–a word or phrase for how we want the day to go.

It’s been 21 years since my daddy died. Today, on the anniversary of his death, Today, my intention was “peaceful.” Peaceful for him, wherever he is.

Peaceful for me as I continue to exist without him.

I’m so thankful to have a stepdad who’s exactly the kind of father you want to have–attentive, funny, supportive, always there with a word of advice when you need it. My stepdad (who I just call “Dad”) is like the dads I saw on TV growing up. He’s what I always hoped to have, and I’m grateful he stepped into that role in my life.

But my daddy is always present, even in absentia.

My daddy suffered from alcoholism; that’s ultimately what took his life. Even though I know he was sick, I can’t help but feel like he gave up on our family. He didn’t try to get better for us (at least that’s what my my 9-year-old perspective gathered). I’ll never know what he thought, or felt, or hoped for in those last few years he was alive.

I wish I could come to peace with that, the not knowing.

Would my parents have stayed married? Would my daddy and I have a close relationship? I have so many questions I’ll never know the answers to. I’ll never know how things would have been had he gotten treatment, and it tears me apart inside.

I try to comfort myself with the thought that maybe someday we’ll be reunited. Maybe my daddy will be waiting for me, ready to take my hand and lead me into wherever we go when our lives end. Maybe we’ll finally get to sit, and talk, and cry, and he’ll answer the questions that have run through my mind since he died 21 years ago today.

Until then, I’ll think of him and ask the universe to keep things peaceful…for both of us.


The Best Laid Plans

You know how I know God is real?

When I went back to Kentucky, I had every intention of placing flowers on my Granny Aloma’s grave in the morning on the anniversary of her passing. I got up, got dressed, and went to the florist to buy a small arrangement to place on her grave. I planned to take care of that first, before I ran any of my other errands for the day and before the forecasted rain showers began. 

…But the florist didn’t have any fresh flowers. She wouldn’t get any until early afternoon. Silk flowers were not an option; my Granny Aloma loved fresh flowers and that was what I would bring to her. I was initially upset and considered going to another florist–the only other florist–in town but agreed to come back around 2:30 that afternoon to purchase some flowers. 

I picked up flowers at the scheduled time, a small but beautiful bright spring arrangement. I placed them, leaving a single stem on my infant cousin’s grave, and had a good conversation with Granny Aloma. I walked around the graveyard and paid my respects to so many other members of my family. And who pulled up to the graveyard but my Aunt Sybil and Aunt Rhonda, two of my Granny Aloma’s daughters.

God has a plan for all of us. He knows what is best and guides toward it. My plan was to place flowers in the morning. But God knew that if I placed them in the afternoon, I’d be able to see my Aunt Sybil and Aunt Rhonda–two women who watched over me when I was young, who I otherwise wouldn’t have seen on my trip to Kentucky. He placed me there, at that specific place and time, for a reason. So we could comfort each other, spend time together as family, before the rain began to fall. 

The best laid plans–our best laid plans–mean nothing compared to God’s infinite grace and wisdom. 

This carnival ride…

A few days ago, I got word that my aunt (my father’s sister) passed away.

As a child, I spent a lot of time with my father’s side of the family—summertime barbecues, holiday gatherings.  After my parent’s divorce, those weekends and holidays became less frequent.  It shames me to say this, but I hadn’t seen my aunt in years–probably since my father’s funeral in 2000.  There are occasional phone calls from my paternal grandmother, but I’m not close with them like I am with my mom’s side of the family.  

Thanks to Facebook, I was able to keep up with my aunt’s progress even though I couldn’t see her in person.  She had been sick for some time–close to death at least once–but her passing came as a surprise.  I spoke with my grandmother this morning on the phone and she just kept saying, “She was doing so well…”  I guess this is a true testament that God calls us home in His time.

Sometimes tragedy is the catalyst that families need to come closer together.  Who knows if my aunt’s passing will change the way I interact with my father’s side of the family, but it is a definite reminder that life is precious–we only get one go on this carnival ride called life, so make sure yours is one to remember. 

God Stopped and Took Notice

This weekend, my great-grandmother (known to me as Grandmommy) passed away.  She was 88 years old; her health had declined over the years.  Though we knew she was in ill health, the news of her death still came as a shock to me.  

As a young child, I spent a large part of my time at her house on Henley Hill Rd.  A small trailer home at the end of the lane, my cousin Cedrick and I spent as much time outdoors as in.  I remember vividly Cedrick teaching me how to ride a bike on the gravel driveway in front of her house–my legs still bear the scars from my failed attempts.  Grandmommy taught me a thing or two as well, such as how good luck can be brought on my unexpected events…like the bird that pooped on my leg while sitting at a picnic table in her tree-shaded yard wasn’t gross, it was a sign of good fortune.  She had a hard time convincing Cedrick of that fact when a bird pooped on his head in her yard though.

Her kitchen held Shredded Wheat cereal–the big sugarless bricks, not the cute frosted squares–and a deep freezer with a seemingly endless supply of orange, cherry, and grape popsicles from the Schwann man.  Her television was a huge, wood-framed thing.  She always attended church and was a fixture in the choir.

A few weeks ago, I was going through an old box and found the card she gave me for graduating college in 2009.  For my radio broadcasting internship in college, I billed myself as “Ashley Maxine” in tribute to her.  I don’t think she knew that when she congratulated me on getting my college degree, but I hope she appreciates our memories of her and how we’ll honor her now that she’s with our Heavenly Father.

I imagine that my Uncle Bernest and Granny ‘Loma greeted her with a song at the gates of Heaven.  Her husband and daughter (Grandaddy Babes and Aunt Donna) weren’t too far behind.  She’s probably singing praises so loudly that God has no choice but to stop and take notice, just as we did all those Sundays in church.