Thursday, December 13, 2018

"The Happiest Dying Woman You'll Ever Meet"

Me with Joan and Karen out for Christmas Tea, 2014
In the early hours of December 10 my dear friend Joan Clyde slipped away to Jesus. She had been experiencing back pain for several months and it had not subsided so she had an MRI at the end of August. On the 31st, the Friday of Labor Day weekend, she got the results on the phone from a doctor she had met only once. "You have cancer in several places in your back," she was told. "You have two choices. You can either come in for more tests or you can call Hospice." She chose Hospice.

I first met Joan in 1995, when our family moved back to the Northwest from our three-year stint in Western New York. Joan and I served together on the Women's Ministry team of the Marysville Free Methodist Church for several years and enjoyed a sweet friendship. Joan was a retired school librarian who lived very near the church in a charming brick home that she had decorated with exquisite taste, including the artwork of the old masters, Victorian pieces, and her grandfather's violin. I couldn't get my fill of the colors and style of her living room, the sense of being enveloped in peace as I sat on her white sofa, and the delicious treats that would appear on the table when our committee had tea together.

It was our first year back that Joan and I were assigned to be prayer partners. She took a keen interest in my family and, ever since that time, asked me often about my children and told me, "I pray for your sons every day." I am grateful for those prayers and the love and faith that carried them to the Lord for 23 years.

That wasn't the only gift I received from her that year. At Christmas she gave me a beautiful outfit—a pair of pants and matching sweater that she purchased for me at Nordstrom. She told me that she and her sister in California had everything they needed and they had decided some years before that instead of exchanging gifts they would choose someone else for whom to buy a gift. What a joy it was for me to be the one she chose that year

Joan's fine taste and her flair for art (particularly her penmanship) delighted us all. She could whip up invitations and programs for our events and decorate a beautiful table. You can't imagine a lovelier table than one that Joan had prepared for a women's event. I suspect our committee stayed together for so many years because no one wanted to miss out on the joy of working with Joan.

She loved the Scripture and completed the whole series of Bible Study Fellowship and several Precept Bible Study classes. Her prayers lifted our hearts to the Father's throne. Not only was she a friend of many women, she was also a friend of God.

One evening we had gathered at the church to plan our annual Spring Women's Brunch, but Joan was late. That was so out of character for her that we waited for several minutes for her to arrive. Still no Joan. When we heard sirens in the neighborhood I ran to the street and saw that the aid car had stopped in front of Joan's house. Her husband Pat had had a heart attack which he did not survive. It was an awful blow to Joan, and she never fully recovered. She missed Pat terribly and began that day to turn her mind more and more to Heaven.

Joan's birthday lunch in April at The Living Room

Karen and I got together with Joan to celebrate her birthday the last several years. This past April we took her to The Living Room, a church building in Marysville that has been turned into a multi-room coffee house, where we sat at a table in the former sanctuary and sipped our tea and ate our lunch and caught up. I never knew Joan's age. I thought she might be close to my mom's age so since Mom turned 90 this year I asked Joan if this was a special birthday for her. She laughed, as if she saw right through my attempt to find out her age, and said, "No, it's not a special year for me!" I still don't know how old she was.

I saw Joan just days after she called Hospice. She looked radiant and told me, "I'm the happiest dying woman you will ever meet!" Each time I saw her after that, or whenever we spoke on the phone, she affirmed that sentiment and told me that she felt the presence of the Lord with her and such sweet peace. She had very little pain. Her daughter and son-in-law were with her for the last months of her life, along with many caregivers, even someone who came by to wash her hair. She always looked beautiful and greeted me warmly when I stopped by to see her.

Below is the last card I received from Joan, written September 6, 2018. It says, "Dear Ginger, What a happy surprise, your unexpected visit. Thanks for the lovely card and even lovelier message, the bookmark and the macaroons (no appetite, but I ate them all and they were yummy!) You have always been my example of a true and faithful woman. God put you into my life at just the right time and He has allowed us to be friends for all these years. I am so grateful for you. Love, Joan"

She may have been a happy dying woman, but what rapture she must be feeling now in the tangible presence of Jesus. 

I'm signing off with my name as Joan wrote it on the envelope in which she mailed the above card. May the Lord teach us to know Him in such a way that we, too, will be able to join Joan in saying, "I am the happiest dying person you will ever meet!"

In Christ,

Monday, September 17, 2018

In Honor of My Other Mother, Lynda Kauffman

My mother-in-law would have turned 100 last week. I am grateful that our lives were intertwined, and offer you a brief moment to be blessed by this lovely woman.

Lynda was born in 1918 in the township of Hume, New York, and lived there until she was in her 20s. She married Harold, the neighbor boy, and their newlywed nest was a little house on her parents' property.

Lynda with her mom, Winifred Burch Mills
Lynda, her mom, and her Gramma Burch


Who would have dreamed that this young woman, so fond of her family homestead, would make countless trips across the country, settling her family into homes in Buffalo and South Seattle, on Vashon Island, and Queen Anne Hill, in Tucson and Fort Worth. They eventually returned to Houghton and lived on the "farm," as they called the family property, until they died in 2009 and 2010.

Mom and Dad Kauffman with Carol, Tom, Dan, and Marilee

Lynda was charming and adaptable. They came to Seattle for our wedding in 1989 and we decided to introduce our parents to one other at Black Angus. But I had forgotten to make reservations. You might be able to get away with that sometimes, but it's not a good idea on Valentines Day. Despite some awkward moments, all four parents took our dilemma in stride and found instant friendship with one another.

When our boys were tiny (just seven months and twenty-two months) we packed up and moved from Seattle to Houghton to live near Tom's parents. Lynda was an attentive grandma, a supportive mom, and a source of unrestrained love for us all. She cooked farm food, always ample and delicious—well, there was that rooster she prepared for us one night. It was rangy and tough, simply beyond earning any kind of compliment! Always the good sport, she handled our reaction like a champ.

After we moved back to the Northwest we saw Tom's parents quite often. We loved our trips to the farm, where the cookie jar was always full and Dad and Mom's arms were always open. And we loved their visits too.

Tom's folks took us on many outings, including Letchworth State Park and Genesee Country Village & Museum, two of western New York major tourist attractions. And sometimes they'd hitch the trailer up to their tractor and drive us into the back woods of the property for a picnic.

Three generations at Letchworth State Park

Exploring Genesee Country Village and Museum

They made a handsome and compatible pair, Dad and Mom. Each morning over breakfast they had devotions, reading the Bible and praying together. Most evenings they read books aloud to one another. They were happiest when they were together, and they weren't shy about demonstrating their love. I often heard Lynda say to Harold, with pink cheeks and a girlish smile, "Oh, Daddy!" They were married for 70 years.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;

    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Proverbs 31:30-31

~ Ginger Kauffman

Friday, September 14, 2018

Ohme Gardens

Ever since I was young I had wanted to go to Ohme Gardens. It's a beautifully lush park, I'd been told by my grandma, on top of a bluff in Wenatchee, a kind of oasis in an arid land. Each time we drove past the sign to Ohme Gardens as we traveled across the state on I-90 I would look longingly up the hill toward the gardens, wondering what I was missing. Finally, we stopped to visit.

In contrast to the day's unbearable afternoon heat we found shade and cooler air inside the gardens. Water features, tall, lacy trees, and lots of plantings provided a pleasant setting for visitors.

Wenatchee is located in north-central Washington, on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. With precipitation only 29 days of the year (find data here), it is no wonder the area is so dry. So how did these welcoming gardens come to be?

The answer is found on the Ohme Gardens website:
In 1929 Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. Included was a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the shimmering Columbia River valley. Herman and his new bride, Ruth, loved to stand on the bluff and dream of flourishing alpine meadows, shimmering pools and shady evergreen pathways where the hot, relentless summer sun allowed only sage and scrub desert growth. They set their minds on achieving that dream.

Because weddings and other events are held at Ohme Gardens, I suggest you check out their schedule before visiting. But do go! It's a lovely place, and I think you'll like it.

~ Ginger Kauffman

Friday, August 31, 2018

When Graham Kerr Came to Dinner

Graham Kerr at our front door

It began with my husband's simple comment. It sounded to me like a statement of resignation. "Well, I guess I'll never have a chance to be a sous chef for Graham Kerr." Is this a secret dream he harbors? I wondered. 

I knew that his interest in the Galloping Gourmet (what Graham Kerr was called in his early years as a celebrity chef) pre-dated our courtship. When I met Tom I learned that he loved cooking shows and was, himself, a fine cook. In the early years of our marriage we were in the studio audience for four episodes of his program, The Graham Kerr Show, produced by KING 5 in Seattle. What a delight to watch this charismatic man whip up a nourishing, beautiful, and delicious dish or two while connecting so well with his audience. Book signings and public presentations came later. We knew Graham Kerr, but he certainly did not know us.

Graham's newest book, this is a reprint of his first book,
written when he was 26 years old.

An idea began to form in my mind. In a few months Tom would be celebrating his 70th birthday. Perhaps Graham Kerr could come to our home and he and Tom could make dinner together.

I contacted Graham with the help of mutual friends and shared my idea. He agreed to my request and the planning began. The menu was worked out, Tom got his assignments for the meal prep, I bought a crepe pan for the event, and we cleaned the house. I called our friends Ike and Donna and invited them to join us. The dinner was scheduled for August 24.

Our friends Donna and Ike...

...and the beautiful flowers they brought for the table.
Notice the blackberries! Nice touch, Donna!

Tom and Graham made a fine team in the kitchen. Following Graham's own recipes, they created amazing crepes for our main course. Many of the salad ingredients came from Graham's garden and the dessert parfait was a perfect finish to our meal.

Tossing the salad

Arranging the crepes

Adding the sauce and the cheese to the crepes

Oh, so delicious!

Graham calls this The Patriot

When the day arrived, we were ready, but I'm not sure we were completely prepared—prepared to find in Graham Kerr such a charming man.

He is open. He told us about his assignments in the British military when he was a young man, including a stint in the unit's kitchen. "Follow me down this hall," said the cook. "I have your office ready for you." When he entered the room he faced a sink full of dirty pots and pans and he was charged with keeping them clean, a job that lasted for several months.

He's an animated storyteller!

He is adaptable. Before the dinner I had to call him with bad news. Our brand new oven had quit and the repairman couldn't fix it before our dinner. Since nothing on the menu required baking he said to me, "Don't worry! I have a blowtorch and I have been wondering if it will brown cheese as well as melt it." So we had blowtorched crepes!

Blowtorching our crepes!

He is gracious. Graham just seemed to be happy to be at dinner with friends. He wasn't trying to impress anyone, only to serve us.

But what we appreciated the most is his heart for Jesus and for people. He puzzled over a question through the evening. He wanted to know what people seem to be looking for in life—what are they pursuing? If we could put that into words it would make us more effective in sharing the life of Christ with them. He spoke of people he knows who are seeking God. His desire to walk alongside them and love them touched us both deeply.

Graham spoke of Matthew Henry, a pastor and author who lived from 1662 to 1714. He is known for his six-volume commentary, Exposition on the Old and New Testaments. In his entry on Matthew 11:29, where Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me," Matthew Henry tells the reader that "it is a yoke that is lined with love." More than once that evening Graham used that quote to encourage us.

He prayed for each of us, one by one, when it was time to leave, and we knew that we had spent the evening with a dear brother in the Lord. The fellowship that we share as followers of Jesus leaves a sweetness like nothing else.

We'll look back on this evening in the years to come and we'll remember the anticipation, the preparation, and the scrumptious meal we shared together with friends. But even after those memories have faded we will still hold on to the feast it was for our souls.

~ Ginger Kauffman

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Exchanging Wildfire Smoke for Wildflower Beauty

Mt Shuksan and Reflection Lake
The wildfire smoke from Eastern Washington and British Columbia had hung in the air for days. It was beginning to feel oppressive. So we picked up my mom and headed to Mt Baker, where we traded in the wildfires for wildflowers.

I was excited for this day trip, although I didn't have much confidence that the air quality would be better at Artist Point (just past the ski area at Mt Baker) than it was at sea level, where we live. Nor did I understand how you can travel closer to Canada, where many of the fires were burning, and yet not have the smoke. But that's what we found.

To get to Artist Point, take Interstate 5 to Bellingham, and get of at exit 255, WA 542-E/Mt Baker Hwy.  Follow the signs (or you GPS) to Artist Point. It took us about two hours to make the trip from Stanwood. We drove through beautiful farmland and passed rivers, giant trees, and small towns. My body relaxed more with each mile. Although the drive up the mountain is winding and mostly without guardrails. the roads are well maintained and safe. The sky, free of most of the smoke, held  just enough clouds to provide drama for our photos.

My Grampa Blanton was a tall, strong man who spent most of his life in the woods of the North Cascades, cutting down trees. About 17 miles from our destination we found this bronze sculpture which was recently installed at the Glacier Public Service Center to honor lumberjacks. It gave Mom a perfect photo op as well as some special memories.

My first glimpse of wildflowers. (Notice the switchbacks far below the trees and plants.)
Somehow I had a mental picture of the fields being filled with wildflowers, everywhere you look, when you go to the mountains in July and August. The reality is that I have never seen such a spectacle. Still, there were many beautiful flowers as well as glorious mountain scenes that called for numerous oohhhs and aahhhs.

My favorite photographer with Mt Shuksan in the background

Mt Shuksan

And when it was time to drive back down the mountain we were filled up with the beauty and the fresh air and the time we got to spend together.

Mt Baker
~ Ginger Kauffman