Tag Archives: kids

Growing Up

8 Jul


Below are remarks made at Isaac’s memorial service by Susan Barr.  Susan taught and worked with Isaac in 4-H public speaking, church plays and summer children’s programs among others.

Smile of Christ


Isaac had a smile that was bigger than his face.  Of all the faces in our congregation, Isaac’s reminded me most of Christ.  His eyes were gentle, his face welcoming, his smile genuine.
Isaac was an enthusiastic children’s church worker in middle school.  He was gentle, encouraging, and compassionate.  He loved the younger children and enjoyed being useful.  Isaac was resourceful.  When glitches arose, he was one of the teens who jumped to resolve them.
I saw Isaac often when he came home from college.  He hurried over to chat in church and at Target.  He was cheerful and full of plans.  He still had a big heart, big ideas.  He knew he was disappointing his parents; there was sadness and wonder in his eyes when he said that.  But he thought he could straddle two worlds.
I knew the world was tempting him.
Parents wish our children came with guarantees.  Do these things, follow these steps, and your children will be safe.  Because what we pray for is faithful followers of Christ.  Jay and Deborah were devoted parents: kind, loving, firm, encouraging, creative, fun, sincere.  They got most things right.  Yet the world dazzles.  Our kids get the idea that Christ can be reduced to something small and manageable, folded into their back pocket, or stored on a shelf for later.  That they can manage two masters.
And so Isaac continued with all his gifts, yet walked a path that caused his friends to worry and pray.
Isaac was a talented pianist.  He played Easter services while he was in high school.  I asked him to play last year and his eyes lit up, a joyful yes.  Deborah was surprised and gratified at his faithfulness in practicing.  Easter morning we waited, . . . and Isaac never came.  He slept through his alarm.  This was a snapshot of his life at that moment.  Joy and potential, acknowledgement of Our Savior, yet missed opportunities, disappointments.
Of all the faces in our congregation, Isaac’s reminded me most of Christ.


5 Jul


The following is the text of what I shared at Isaac’s memorial service, Saturday, 29 June 2013.  The bits of poetry are excerpts of lyrics from Sarah Groves’ “Add To The Beauty“, which played while the photos for this section were shown.

Scripture readings:

Isaiah 61

61 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek. He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound,

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn,

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”

Daniel 4

New Living Translation (NLT)

1a “Peace and prosperity to you!

“I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs,
how powerful his wonders!
His kingdom will last forever,
his rule through all generations.


God’s love and intervention in the lives of three people rippled out to include all of you. It is an adventure story full of suffering, delays, plot twists, mysteries:

  • The same week I mournfully defiantly wrote of trusting God’s goodness and grace in our suffering, our barren childlessness, a boy baby was born in a far away land
  • God sent us dreams that changed a man’s mind and gave hope to a woman that she had not been forgotten
  • How in the world did we get the information and contacts needed for all this to happen before the age of computers, cellphones, the internet?
  • How did that boy get in that orphanage?
  • How did we choose “He laughs” (Isaac) as our son’s name before we ever met him?
  • In what way was Isaac the first and the last in Oruro, Bolivia?


We come with beautiful secrets
We come with purposes written on our hearts, written on our souls
We come to every new morning
With possibilities only we can hold, that only we can hold


God had a beautiful secret for Isaac. He brought Isaac from a far off land to set him in a family. Being his Mom and Dad was one of the purposes written on our souls.  It was not easy.  Until his death, walking the road to the day of his legal adoption here in the US was the most difficult time of our lives.


Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are


December 17th, 1992 we arrived at a poor, run-down state orphanage in Oruro, Bolivia. There was no glass in the windows. There was nothing but abject poverty.  Children slept on mats on the floor and were fed potatoes.


Eventually we were handed a small, ugly, sick Aymara Indian/Hispanic boy. He was severely malnourished and covered with pox scars.  Three weeks shy of two years old he was 29 inches long and weighed 19 pounds. He had a lung infection. He could not walk or speak. There is no doubt in my mind he would not have lived a year in that orphanage.


And I want to add to the beauty
I want to tell a better story,
Shine with the light
That’s burning up inside


He was named Misael Rodrigo Patino.   I have never met another living soul named Misael.  Misael was the name of one of the three faithful boys taken with Daniel into Babylon to be trained as administrators. Renamed Meshach, he was one of the young men who went into the fiery furnace and then walked out alive. Misael means:  Who is like God?


Beauty comes in helping a soul find it’s worth.


God gave us a tremendous gift.  He chose our son for us.


You are invited for the weeks and months and years ahead to call, visit, write if you wish to know more and share your story with us.


We thank the Almighty for His love, mercy and grace to Isaac and to us, for opening the way to him, and forging us as a family through the trials it took to make him our son.




Friday, June 21, 2013

3 Jul

Tuesday morning the dog and I took our usual morning walk.  A wet dragonfly with a gold racing stripe down its back condescended to be picked up from its wet grassy site and carried perched on my fingers for a ways until the sun dried it off and it flew away.  A few enterprising young spiders had built lovely intricate webs across the pathway that we have made up through the meadow, it is a great runway for catching insects, too, so I veered around them further into the tall grass.  In the hedgerow along the lane two adult turkeys and I startled each other.  They ran out into the corn field on the other side of the hedgerow.

Tuesday mid-afternoon T. and I watched a large tractor fitted with three large mowers—one in front and two on either side in the rear—quickly cut all the lower meadow.  Once the tall grass was down it was easy to see the patches of ripe wild strawberries and graze on them.  We went on an errand.  By the time we returned, both upper and lower meadow had been shorn. The tractor was gone, all was quiet again.  Numerous long, wide, neat, flat rows of the cuttings lay on the short stubble, quite the manicured look.

When Hawthorne and I took our walk the next morning, I spent most of my time walking around the fields finding patches of wild strawberries, snacking.  The rest of the time was spent watching and wondering if the Bobolink broods had fledged prior to the destruction of their nests. I counted at least eight birds feeding and landing, some of which were smaller and had the needy gestures of young birds and some of which were larger and noisier and acted like parents.  So I am hopeful.

Late Wednesday morning another large tractor returned, this one outfitted with a machine which swept and turned the rows of grass into large windrows. Only four for the lower meadow.  Then later in the afternoon a truck and tractor with a chopper came and chopped the vast windrows into the trucks.  The haylage was taken to feed cows at the large dairy which rents these fields.

In such short periods of time so much can change.

Around here Jay has been ill for a week with a fever and severe head and neck aches.  By this morning he had lost 5% of his body weight and was in pain even with analgesics.  We had gone to the doctor Monday; this morning the Dr. sent us to the ER where we spent about ten hours.


It is now Wednesday, 3 July 2013.

I wrote the last sentence above after returning home late; Jay was admitted to hospital Friday night, tentatively diagnosed with Lyme disease.  Too tired to explain to finish a blog post, I got ready for bed.  Isaac called at 11.20 to ask about his father and planned to visit Jay in hospital Saturday afternoon.

Saturday morning, June 22nd, I woke at 5.45AM to the sound of a vehicle driving in the driveway and Hawthorne barking madly.  State troopers were at the door.

Our son Isaac, 22, was killed in a motor vehicle accident at about 2.30AM Saturday morning.  He drove into a tractor trailer.  His BAC was 0.23%.

Season Change

7 Aug

Each day on the walk there is something from Father God as a blessing: a feather, the small round half-shells of wild cherry pits which something opened (how?) for the nut meat,  an unusual insect – or a pair of them, another wing from a dragonfly, small wings from a grey moth left by the bird that ate the moth, a turquoise larva being attacked by ants, a beech leaf with its center layer eaten by a worm so it seems it contains a grey and black road map.

Lately each morning has also indicated that summer is coming to a close; this morning it was the two large patches of soil that had been scraped mostly clean of vegetation by the front hooves of a buck.  Kind of early for that, I thought.  But maybe not.

Then the fact that our eldest child, now a 20-yr-old young man, moved many of his material goods into his first apartment Friday.  He has not come back since.  But he better because otherwise clothes mountain in the basement  will be removed to a thrift store Monday.

The blueberries are past their peak, the red raspberries are coming on, the corn is ripe.  I need to plant lettuce and beets and other greens for the fall. And the rain.  Yesterday only about .25 hundredths of an inch.  But it is pouring out now.

Of dragonflies and degrees

31 May

The dragonflies were out in droves this morning.  At least three varieties were sunning on the narrow western verge between the edge of the corn field and the woods.  As I walked by they would rise and circle back.  At first I thought there were only a dozen or so, but new ones would keep rising  and falling all the way around the corner , up the south hedgerow until we got to the edge of the shallow green grass sea.  Birds hang out there, not dragonflies.  Butterflies were mixed in with the dragonflies; one yellow swallowtail sunned itself on the lower leaves of the hickory tree.

The grass has grown from hip to chest high in the past week.  Abundant rain and heat have contributed, I think.  In the mornings it is like walking on the floor of a shallow living sea.  Not that I have ever done that, but I do come home as wet as if I had.

The tree peonies are done.  The first deciduous peonies came out today.  The perennial poppies have started.  Only 4 efts out this morning.

It is hot.  Hot like summer hot.  Like August hot.

A bridal shower last night for the eldest daughter of friends of 30+ years put into sharp focus how educational and professional options for women have changed during the course of my life.

Both daughters and one of their female cousins studied art in college. The younger daughter was showing me some of her past semester’s work: metal work using oxyacetylene and MIG  (arc) welding.  She said shed loved MIG welding. Which got me thinking.

I grew up around what we called arc welding since farm machinery needed almost constant upkeep and repair.  In university as partial fulfillment for a degree which included  a certificate to teach agriculture in high schools, I took a metals class; welding was part of the curriculum.  During student teaching I taught welding to a high school ag class.

But what was different from Hope’s experience is this: I was possibly the first woman to ever take and complete the metals class in Agricultural Engineering at Cornell.  And how would I know that? Because the professor tried repeatedly over the course of the semester to make it as difficult as he could for me to continue in his course.  He was hell bent on making me quit. He told me he did not want a woman in his class and he would do what he thought would achieve my dropping out.  Now days he could neither do nor say the things he did and said.  But in the 70’s there was no recourse for me but to stick it out.  Or drop it, as women before me had.  So he said.  Some of the other (all male) students in the class were sympathetic; but we all needed the class and they were not going to jeopardize their grade for me. Nor did I expect them to.  None of them actively participated in the professor’s tirades or shenanigans, but no one stood up for me publicly, either.  It was the more severe and vitriolic discrimination I had yet encountered.  But not the first.

Forty years ago I was 12 or 13 but it does not seem so long ago;  the vet came to check a cow.  I blithely announced to him my goal of becoming a veterinarian.  He laughed.  He said I should go back to the house and make cookies.  My decision not to become a vet had nothing to do with his pronouncement.  Various aspects of working with healthy animals became more appealing so I stayed in animal science.

Forty years prior to that,  the trinity of jobs outside the home open to the women were teaching, nursing and secretarial work.  We had some of each in my family.  At the party were two widows, the grandmothers of the bride. Both were wives and mothers first; one is a potter, the other a retired farmer.  And one other job: both my mother-in-law and an aunt worked in munitions factories during the second world war.

There were exceptions to the trinity: the woman who later would become my mother graduated with honors from Cornell and was hired by P&G as a market researcher for their new product: Tide.  She traveled via rail around the country on their ticket; she had the equivalent of an expense account for hotels and food.  She spent her money on a fabulous working wardrobe that I in turn wore at Cornell decades later.  It was a plum job that was cut short by her father’s death.  She returned home to help her mother, started teaching, eventually meeting my father at a dinner party.

Of the women with whom I graduated or who are friends my age, one is head of veterinary radiology at a major university; a few are or have been professors in math, nutrition, computers.  Several are engineers of various sorts.  Several teach or nurse.  Computer technology, pharmacology, social work, hotel management, freelance writing, accounting, and research are others fields in which they are working.

Younger female friends have degrees and jobs in an even broader array of subject areas.

The young women at the party probably can not conceive of any field of study or class not open to them.  I could not at their age.

Alone with a Token of Love

4 Feb

There has been a Northern Mockingbird coming to the feeder since mid-January.  These birds are supposed to winter in the southern part of the states.  It is alone.

The Foundling Museum–what a wonder there is such a thing–has a marvelous slideshow “Threads of Feeling” : 18th Century Textile tokens left with Abandoned Babies at the London Foundling Hospital

The slides move along rather quickly. Clicking on the black slide show rectangle pauses the show.

Some notes with the babes are legible also:

“Ann Gardiner daughter of James and Elizth Gardiner was born in the Brides Parrish and Baptized and Registered in the Parrish Church Octor 10th 1757.  Begs to have care Taken of her. And they will pay all charges in a little Time with a handsome AcknowledgeMent for the same and have her home again when they get over a little trouble”

With a boy baby:

“Go gentle babe!  Thy future hours be spent in vertous purity and calm content. Life’s sunshine bless thee: and no anxious care sit on thy brow, and drane the falling tear. Thy country’s faithful servant may’st thou prove and all thy life be Happiness and Love.”

A visit with Children off the streets of UB

16 Nov

A group of college students from MIU every other Saturday visit a holding center for children picked up on Ulaanbaatar streets.  The facility is run by the Metropolitan police and funded by World Vision.  It is clean and neat.  The children are not.

Theoretically the children are between the ages of 7-13.  But the 25-30 children I saw were as young as 5 and as old as 15 by my reckoning.  The police and WV staff look for the parents and return the children to them.  Many parents are drunks and send the children back out onto the streets.  So there is a revolving door kind of coming and going happening.  If the parents are not found within a set time period, the child is sent to another facility, a longer term one which is more like prison in all ways.  It is difficult to establish any relationships with the children because they are only there for a few weeks.

Some of the children were developmentally delayed (FAS?) or damaged–some with scars, or tattoos, nails through ears.  The older boys were surrepticiously passing cigarettes and playing cards. There was a lot of bravado toughness.  They have to be petty thieves to survive on the street.  The older and stronger lorded it over the younger: pinching, hitting, taking, making them submit–even in our presence.  All of them had been given prior to our coming bags with candy, apples, soda.  It is a Buddhist custom after a funeral, a belief that making children happy, or giving joy to them, helps the deceased.

The college students performed a song in English with hand gestures in which the children delighted.  Many of the boys wanted to wrestle Joshua.  Some of the older children had, and wished for, the opportunity for a bit of English language study with the college kids. Many of the kids joined hands with us just to whirl around in a circle, like dancing without music.  They all wanted attention of some sort: a smile, a hug, to be spoken with, looked in the eyes.

I took photos which many of the children delighted in since they could see themselves right away.  One boy wanted  to take a photo himself with the camera and when I refused he himself refused to be photographed. There were several young girls, one who had a treated dog bite on her leg.  One boy, who looked like a young Christopher Walken, seemed mild and sweet in the midst of the posturing.  He had tears in his eyes when we left, and hugged one of the young men as if his heart would break.

One young imp had problems with his eyes or vision and seemed to be not so smart.  But how much of that was an act? He was a sly thing.  He saw we also had brought snacks –which were not utilized since they had plenty–and kept trying to access them.  When thwarted, he lashed out with kicks and hits.  At the end, one young woman said to him, “let’s go!”.  He joined hand with her and had a tantrum, then a sort of fit,  when he was not allowed to come with us.  Many of the kids understood more than a little English.  Which makes me wonder if English-speaking tourists are a source of food during the  warm parts of the year.  The children also knew about praying and said ‘code words’ to indicate they understood how the game was played in some circles: “hallelujah!”, “amen”, “praise the Lord!”, with their sideways smiles,  knowing looks, and hands held together in ‘prayer’.

A good short film about where Mongolian street children live in the winter.

%d bloggers like this: