As 2012 comes to a close I wish I had words of wisdom with which to carry us into 2013.
Today, as I bid 2012 farewell, I do so with a heavy heart. For most people, 2012 was a year of loss. Lost jobs, lost pensions, loved ones lost to death, divorce, or irreconcilable differences. We’ve worried this year, perhaps more than in years past. We’ve longed for the “good old days,” times when a steady job meant security. While my beloved retained his job this year, two of my dear friends lost theirs: one to downsizing, the other after she blew the whistle on upper management. Her supervisor stayed: she, the manager of a large program spanning three countries, saw 18 years of service evaporate into an unemployment check. No severance. No benefits.
I don’t have the words to comfort my friends. Both desperately need employment.
I too began the search for employment and have struggled to maintain a positive attitude as countless emails and online applications go unanswered. After praying for guidance, I met with a fellow author who unknowingly gave me the courage to finish my manuscript titled: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Still, as authors struggle to find stable income I continue to search for employment. I have a stepson in college and a daughter to follow within two short years. I hope, submit applications, and work on my first novel titled, Outbound Train, knowing that God will either provide employment, or a book contract.
In 2012, the loss of friends who were taken far too soon pierced my heart. It began with Mr. Coleman, who at 89 years old didn’t give me a hint that Jesus was ready for him. But ready they both were. After that Andrew “The Chicken Man” Wordes, killed himself in an act that still leaves me wondering. I will not tolerate the negativity surrounding his death. Any person who comes to help me at the farm and leaves without payment deserves to rest in peace. My friend, Carole, fiercely fought and ultimately succumbed to cancer. Mr. Gronholm, like Mr. Coleman, went to heaven when he heard the call. Barry Morgan, whose heart reflected love so pure you couldn’t help but smile, also went home after a brave fight. Zara and Lynda were my football gals. Talking smack about our team that seemed determined to empty the stadium and embarrass the sacred sport. They were best friends who died months apart. Tommy, took his life after suffering excruciating pain for decades. These and more departed this world in 2012. They weren’t famous and their names won’t appear on the television tonight. But to me, they mattered.
On December 31, 2011 I, like most everyone else, was ready to begin anew in 2012. Had I known that I would lose these dear friends I promise you I would not have been so eager to tear off that last page of December.
And as much as I have wept over the loss of these Dear Ones, it is the loss of Hero Mama, Shelby Spears, a woman whom I have never met, that causes my eyes to leak even as I type. Shelby is the mother of Karen Spears Zacharia, a woman whom God himself selected to endure enormous heartache and birth a daughter (Karen) whose life-purpose is to write about important, sometimes controversial topics such as poverty, child abuse, and how parents ought not to read the book Go the F@@ck to Sleep to their children because doing so opens the door to all sorts of trouble.
Shelby Spears was an irreplaceable force of a woman. The kind who did whatever necessary to raise her kids, alone, during a time when being a “good woman” meant having a man to take care of you. Hero Mama had a man. Only, Mr. Spears gave his life in Vietnam so his daughter could grow up and bear God’s burden of writing words that are sometimes less than popular.
How quickly we seem to forget the sacrifices of others and how their sacrifice affects children for decades.
I mourn the loss of Shelby because cancer took her. Slowly. In a way that mirrors the devastating effects of my own mother’s battle. Only Karen had permission to write about her momma. She had an outlet. I am forbidden. Forbidden because my mother knows that the rural town I once called home will buzz with faux concern and the promise of prayers that never quite make it to Jesus. Rarely do I bend Momma’s rules. When I do it is to ask…no, beg for donations of blood. I beg, plead, and withhold my personal reason for asking while typing a Facebook post with shaking hands. I endure the negativity as people blast me for endorsing the Red Cross. Little do they know that in rural Western North Carolina the hospital’s only resource is through the generosity of city folk who cast aside any distaste for the Red Cross long enough to give the gift of life.
In the mountains I once called home there simply isn’t enough blood to go around.
But now, with Hero Mama gone I know my mother’s options are dwindling. As long as Hero Mama fought, as long as she opened her eyes and smiled at her family then my own Hero Mama was going to be fine. As Karen brings her Mama’s body to Tennessee to rest beside her Hero Husband, I can feel Karen’s pain all the way across this great country from her home in Oregon, into my cluttered Atlanta Office.
Still, I must believe.
I must believe that Love will settle into the cracks of our hearts like mist in the valleys of the Smoky Mountains.
I must believe that God has a plan for me, for my Mama, for you.
I must believe in healing, in miracles. Because already, my Hero Mama has beaten the odds.
I must believe that in this plan He promises Good things.
He will make a way when there appears none.
He will give me strength when I am weak.
He will dry Karen’s tears, my tears, and yours.
While many are ready to leave 2012 behind, it is the uncertainty of 2013 that causes me to fall, face to the earth, and beg Dear God, I don’t know where to begin….please take my hand.
Are you really ready to leave 2012 behind?
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Coming soon, In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Renea lives in Atlanta with her beloved family. She is currently working on her first novel.