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Month: June 2014

A Visit to the Oddfellows’ Cemetery

A Visit to the Oddfellows’ Cemetery

Well, I’d be the first to admit it. My kids haven’t had a typical upbringing. And after stomping across cemeteries in the name of research for Four Rubbings, they’ve become accustomed to graveyard visits during summer vacation. I worried maybe I’d scarred them, until yesterday. My sixteen-year-old, Ellie, asked if we could fit a cemetery visit into their first week of vacation, preferably one we’d never visited before. So, after a quick web search, I found the Oddfellows’ Cemetery in Monroe, Washington. You see, I’ve become obsessed with the Oddfellows Society as of late, with no intentions or strings attached. I’ve no plan to include this kind fraternity in my second book, but it keeps coming up in my research, and I’m fascinated with their women’s group.

The drive to Monroe was glorious. The mountains were out – the way us pacific northwesterners say that the sun was shining. As we drove, we listened to Cake and reminisced about the Evergreen State Fair. We walked that tightrope of wishing for early September when the fair would open, and being mindful not to wish away our summer in pursuit of an elephant ear and carnival rides.

As we approached the cemetery, I must admit, I was disappointed. The grounds were washed in sunlight with no menacing high fence to mark the property boundaries. Huge, very old pines, towered over the graves, their branches filled with fat robins. I wanted to feel chilled, spooked and uneasy, not comfortable.

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What does that symbol mean? Do you know?

We parked and began to slowly roam the grounds, finding graves from the mid 1800s through the present day. I had to stop a few times as I walked to cough, my throat felt itchy and dry. I assumed it was pollen.  The first grave I fell in love with bore the name, Matilda M. Oliver. She was born July 8, 1852 and passed away on March 18, 1924. There was a strange star symbol beneath her name.

The three of us, Ellie, Bryn and I, were giddy. It felt like summer vacation at last. Ellie was doing a rubbing and Bryn was carefully walking between graves, reading dates aloud. Next, I saw this old lion gravestone. I came close to take a photo, and only then did I notice the lamb curled up with him. Take a look:

oddfellows lionAnd then, I paused to take another picture, of a grave of no consequence to you, I’m sure, but something about it filled me with peace and joy. As I snapped a shot, Ellie said, “That one! I took a picture of it, too. It made me feel happy.” Hmm.

During any given cemetery walk, I’m reluctant to drop everything and race to the most visually prominent grave or crypt for principle’s sake alone. I feel they receive all the guests they could ever want or need based on their size and spectacle. But, today I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this beauty. Pinkerton was no doubt a family with clout in Monroe circa 1853, and the grave reflected their importance. The ornate carving photographed well in the shade of the pines.

oddfellows graveAnd then, I was drawn away from the girls to a newer-looking grave. His name was Kenneth R. Lindsey and he served in the US Navy as a Seabee. The Seebees were the construction arm of the Navy, I found out later. I turned on the ghost app on my phone and the first word was, ‘touch.’ I was just thinking how I wanted to touch his grave marker. I stooped down and brushed the pine needles off with my hand and my ghost app went crazy with words. What I thought was a silly novelty was conveying what felt like a one-sided conversation. Here are the words, I took a screenshot – and Kenneth’s beautiful grave. I believe he was a character in his living time.

ghost words 1The phone went silent after a time, so I said goodbye to Kenneth and searched for my daughters. They were halfway across the property, staring at three graves, photoall bearing the last name Todd. The middle grave was their daughter, Lillian and she preceded her parents to the grave at a young age. My throat hurt and my stomach clenched. I took a picture and had to move away. The girls lingered, speculating about Lillian and how she died. Bryn said her throat hurt and Ellie began to cough. Was it a freaky coincidence that the three of us were suffering from a throat ailment and the word, ‘throat’ popped up on my ghost app?

As I walked to the car, they followed behind. And then Bryn froze in her tracks. Her face didn’t register fear, more like awe. She stayed there for ten, maybe fifteen seconds, stock still. When she began walking again, I asked if she wanted to share with me what had happened. She shook her head. “I’ll wait until the car ride.”

Once tucked inside, she told us that an apparition had appeared. It was gray, had the general outline of a person, but didn’t look either male or female. It didn’t scare her, but she never wanted to come to the Oddfellows’ Cemetery at night.

When we arrived home, I did a web search of hauntings and found none. I searched for the names of the Todd family and found no records. I’m curious to find out if others have had experiences in this beautiful, tranquil place.

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Leaving God Behind

Leaving God Behind

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No matter the trouble, I think I have to bear it alone. When will I learn?

These last days have been zipping by at the speed of light, making something that happened a few weeks ago feel like it occurred last year. It was the final meeting of my bible study class. After singing one last hymn, we said goodbye for the summer. I drove away wrapped in the tingly warmth of the Holy Spirit wrapped around me like an electric blanket, and I swore to capture and keep that peace until we reconvened in the fall. I promised to stay this close to God throughout summer.

(Cue the ominous music here)

Soon after, I counted the weeks I had left to be a working mom before my kids were on summer vacation, six weeks. Six weeks?!? My head spun, I had a second book to finish drafting, six book covers to conceptualize and execute, a new book team to train, a hospice luncheon to get sponsored, and more.  This was on top of my mom duties, wife duties, pet duties and school volunteer duties. All of which were feeling more like doo-doos as I ran around from 5:30am until after 11:00pm trying to chip away at the stacks of work, which seemed to stay massive in spite of my efforts.

portland street
If you take the same route, expect the same outcome.

I dubbed myself, “Mrs. Frazzled” and carried on, losing any grace in the process. Within a week of that moment when I drove away from bible study, I’d lost my sense of peace and balance. And because I left God behind, it all fell squarely on my shoulders. The stress. The burden. The shortcomings. The frustration.

Things worsened throughout May and well into June. I was more frazzled than ever, short on sleep and even shorter on temper. My teen, an old soul, suggested we cleanse the house, not with 409, but with burning sage and prayer. She feared a dark spirit was at work in our household, something powerful enough to transform her sweet mom into an ogre, though she never said that part.

That evening, with my littlest one fast asleep and husband across the country on business, we lit sage, walked the house and prayed. We replaced the angst crouching in our shadowy corners with grace. Before falling asleep that night, I asked God to forgive me. Forgive me for being obstinate, for insisting on carrying my burden alone. But, the truth is, I have a hard time admitting defeat – and an even harder time asking for help.

Asking for help makes me feel like a failure and leaves me drenched in queasy frustration. I was raised to be an independent woman, and asking for help meant I was weak, dependent and incapable. But, God doesn’t give us what we want, only what we need. And what I need most is to learn to ask for help.

plates on wall
The outpouring of advice from all of you inspired me to try something new.

I wrote a simple post on Facebook asking why it was so difficult for me to ask for help and I got an overwhelming response from friends and family. They found it hard as well. But, they also exposed another side to me – the blessing my cry can offer to the ones that answer my call. Wow. I’d never thought of it that way before. When we help others, it leaves us feeling content, satisfied, good. I knew that feeling from pitching in for other people over the years. Yes. I could give that feeling to someone else, if only I showed my vulnerability.

So, squirming, wriggling, and wincing – these last weeks, I’ve been asking for assistance. Not only from God, but from others as well. I’ve been asking for help. I’ve asked for patience, I’ve asked for understanding, I’ve asked for professional advice, and I’ve asked for more time. It still doesn’t feel comfortable, but I am learning. I am learning that sometimes asking for help is a blessing to the person that answers that call.

I’m also seeing that, even though I left God behind for a time, He never forgot about me. Not for one moment. He was there waiting to answer my request, I need only ask.

So, for those of you that unknowingly helped me learn that asking for help is a safe place, thank you. You were my blessing these last weeks. I promise to return the favor.