Encounter Grace

This is the seventh and final installment in our Summer Gratitude series, a collection of posts from around the diocese focused on gratitude and thankfulness. It’s our hope that these stories will be uplifting, joyful, and a reminder to us all to count our blessings and experience gratitude even in times of hardship.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
and leaves me
like a needle

in a haystack
of light.
1

Asked to name things for which I’m grateful, I’m capable of a long litany, ranging from the invention of the Frisbee, to the Alexa currently playing Mozart, to the jalapeno plants in my garden actually producing more than last year’s two peppers. But that’s not really how I think about gratitude, as discreet elements of my life. Gratitude is an orientation to the world.

Gratitude stems from my understanding of how God is in the world and how I am in the world. It begins with grace. Grace, meaning the love and forgiveness of God, is at the heart of our faith. Grace is always gift. We do not earn grace; we do not warrant grace; we cannot lose grace. It is ours by the choice of God to be for us, particularly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It comes to us in every moment, covering us, embracing us, holding us from the start of our lives beyond the end of our lives. The lavish love of God is given to me, it claims me as God’s own beloved. That is fantastically overwhelming, nearly unbelievable, and produces such a sense of joy and wonder within me that it changes how I see everything.

If grace is poured out upon me, as angry, anal, and annoying as I am, then grace must be poured out upon everyone, upon the entire creation. It’s a Julian of Norwich moment of revelation: though we are as small and fragile as a wee hazelnut, God sustains us out of God’s great love for us. We are all held by grace, soaked in it, protected by it, surrounded by it. It is possible to forget this, and to see only the mess and brokenness of the world; I can go to a dark place reading about Yemen, trying to negotiate the shrinking public school budget, or staring at the pain plaguing multiple friends. The darkness is real; we’re caught in the mess of the world, some of our own making and some the collective swell of bad human decisions for centuries. We call all of that sin. And we’re caught in it like a web.

Yet, light overcomes the darkness; Jesus rises from the grave. Grace flows through the web of sin. I can expect that in all things, the muck and the mire as much as the sun and the smiles, God is at work. Jesus’ defeat of death means that grace is loose in the world. The Holy Spirit swooshes through us and through our world, bringing good out of evil, moving to create serendipitous moments, causing a pop of laughter in dread times. I used to think all of the gifts of a day- the fortuitous finding of a friend in the grocery, the kind word offered on a really down day- were coincidence or luck. Not anymore. That’s grace. That’s God. That’s the Holy Spirit doing her best to reveal goodness, bring out kindness, and sustain every one of us.

And what I can be left with but gratitude? If God has claimed me as a loved one, if God has chosen to love all of us like that, and if God is constantly moving in the world so as to bring people together, promote peace, and mend brokenness, what can I do but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and expectation? That’s quite an orientation to have to reality, and it has shifted everything about my life. I expect God will show up; I expect to encounter grace; I expect God is at work in your life and mine and across the globe. And when grace finds me or when someone shares how grace has found them, I throw my head back in laughter or fall on my knees in tears, grateful to the One who makes all good things possible.

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips….

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
2

The Rev. Melinda Hall is vicar of Holy Trinity, Brookville, and Church of Our Saviour, DuBois. 

1 Oliver, Mary. “Mindfulness.” Why I Wake Early. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.

2 Oliver, Mary. “Why I Wake Early.” Why I Wake Early. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.

With Grateful Hearts

This is the sixth installment in our Summer Gratitude series, a collection of posts from around the diocese focused on gratitude and thankfulness. It’s our hope that these stories will be uplifting, joyful, and a reminder to us all to count our blessings and experience gratitude even in times of hardship.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Gratitude is a subject that isn’t exactly trendy, but that has gained status in the last two decades in terms of its potential effect on what I would call the human spirit.  There has been more recent attention paid to it in terms of how gratitude or the lack of it affects the way we live.

Sara Hacala, in her book, “Saving Civility,” says that “gratitude is outer—as opposed to inner—directed: We are grateful to someone or for something outside of ourselves—whether to God, people, or things.  It implies our reliance on others for what they provide us and is a humbling reminder that we are not self-sufficient but connected and bound to those around us.”[1]  To me, this sounds exactly like how we are supposed to live as Christians…with grateful hearts for God and for one another, recognizing that we all live in community.

I’m one of those people who says “thanks” or “thank you” too often.  I know I do it, but it’s difficult not to.  Because I mean it.  I really am grateful, but I’ve never known quite why it is such an important thing to me or why I am hyper-alert to the things people do for one another, or for me for that matter.

I think this especially applies to church, when people work together for the wider community or for the church community or do something for one other person.  It really matters.  And I think people should be thanked so they realize that what they do counts—it makes a difference, even if they do it because they want to.

But even though gratitude is a hotter topic at the moment, I have to say it doesn’t necessarily seem like people in general have more gratitude, and it seems that people are expressing it less.  Take saying “thank you,” for instance.  While a “thank you” used to be normal behavior in retail establishments following a purchase, a simple thank you from a cashier is now harder to come by.  And where I would always have said thank you in response, I now find myself wondering why I should say thank you when I do not feel grateful that a sullen, unthankful cashier silently threw my bag of groceries or clothes at me following my purchase.

Maybe people just don’t feel very grateful these days.  It is hard for most of us to embody or express gratefulness when we’re not feeling especially grateful.  So…why should we?  Because it makes a difference for ourselves and those with whom we interact.  In every interaction we have, we can make a change in an increasingly hostile world by finding and then expressing gratitude.   That might sound pollyanna-ish, but research bears it out.  Gratefulness guru Robert Emmons notes: “Living gratefully begins with affirming the good and recognizing its sources. It is the understanding that life owes me nothing and all the good I have is a gift, accompanied by an awareness that nothing can be taken for granted.”[2]

Life owes me nothing…and nothing can be taken for granted.  If we could think that way all the time, we’d be feeling gratitude most of the time.  Because for most of us living in this country, we have no idea how good we really have it.

In “Sleeping with Bread,” the authors suggest ending each day with these two questions (and preferably actually discussing them with someone): “For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful?” [3] Considering both of these questions helps a more negative person acknowledge that there were some moments for which to be grateful in the day, and helps a person who doesn’t like to think about the difficulties in life to acknowledge that pain or difficulties are part of being human.  I plan to start doing this, and I think this could be woven into our prayer life as well…bet this might be the kind of thing God would like to hear from us.

And, thank you for reading this!

The Rev. Dr. Mary Norton is Priest-in-Charge at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Corry. 

[1] Sara Hacala, Saving Civility: 52 Ways to Tame Rude, Crude & Attitude for a Polite Planet, (Woodstock, Skylight Paths Publishing, 2012), 113

[2] Dr. Robert A. Emmons, The Little Book of Gratitude, (London, Gaia Books, 2016), Kindle, 10

[3] Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn, S.J., Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life, (New York, Paulist Press, 1998) Kindle, Loc. 25

Gratitude and “God-incidents”

This is the fifth installment in our Summer Gratitude series, a collection of posts from around the diocese focused on gratitude and thankfulness. It’s our hope that these stories will be uplifting, joyful, and a reminder to us all to count our blessings and experience gratitude even in times of hardship.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When I consider the word “gratitude”, it brings to mind how blessed I was to know my good friend and long-time mentor, Mrs. Arlene Heath.  I first met Mrs. Heath in the early 1960s when she moved to Kane following the unexpected death of her husband.  Her beloved Marvin was a country church Pastor. His death left Mrs. Heath and her teenaged daughter not only without husband and father, but without income.  She would later explain what followed as a series of “God-incidents.” Soon after Marvin’s passing, Arlene was contacted by an old college friend about a position teaching English at the high school in Kane.  She applied for the position and was hired for the next term.  At the same time, she was offered the rental of a second floor apartment in the house of two elderly sisters, who lived just one block from the Kane Senior High School. That location became important for several reasons, not least of which was because Mrs. Heath did not drive, and never wanted to learn to drive, or to be encumbered by a car throughout her long life.

God had a plan for Arlene, and for those of us who came to know her. She came into my life, and the lives of my high school classmates, as our sophomore year English instructor.  Throughout the 40 years or longer in which she would be my teacher, my mentor and my friend, I would learn much from her about the nature of God, of faith, trust, and gratitude.  Above all Mrs. Heath taught me that there is no such thing as mere coincidence; God is always at work for and with us. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, KJV)

I have never known any person of stronger vision, faith or the will to live a Christ-like life than Arlene, and she was determined that the young people she chose to mentor would follow such an example as well.  In our American Literature class she taught us to dig deeper into the writings of great thinkers including Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau.  Both before and after school, some of us would gather at her home to be introduced to such diverse voices as Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, C.S. Lewis, Teilhard de Chardin, Madeleine L’Engle, and Joseph Campbell to mention only a few.  This casual gathering she later developed into an in-school course in “Humanities” which has been offered to all Kane High School students ever since.

Through literature, poetry, and the arts, as well as comparative Bible study and discussion, Mrs. Heath opened a world of ideas for us, and demonstrated how God could be heard and seen and experienced across cultures and religious experiences.  I believe she prepared me, and many of us whom she called her “kids,” to better transition out of small town parochial life, and into the wide world, by introducing us to what lay beyond our church school and high school classrooms. At the same time, she helped us to challenge our faith and understanding of God and Christianity.  While some people considered this to be very risky business, Arlene recognized how vital it was for us to have our beliefs questioned in such a safe setting as her living room, before we were challenged about them in our college classrooms, or dorm rooms.

No matter what we faced, Arlene helped to provide a “life line” to pull us back to our spiritual and faith foundations.  Summer evenings and holiday breaks throughout my college years were often spent among other students on her porch, or over hot chocolate and cookies in her living room, talking about just those challenges and ideas.

I especially appreciated the rare occasions throughout the rest of her life when I could catch her alone and she would listen patiently while I explained my latest triumph, or heart-break.  In the end, she would confront me with difficult questions, asking what I had learned from my experiences, and what I was going to do about it.  She left no doubt that she had expectations for me to live up to. Later she would send me kind and thoughtful notes about our conversations, often tucked into special book, or clipped to an article of interest from the Christian Science Monitor, Christianity Today, or Sojourners.

I cherish those notes, especially one she wrote to me after a tearful discussion about the end of my first, sadly failed, marriage. I was at the lowest point of my life, both psychologically and spiritually. Even then, she was tender but resolute with me, and expressed the opinion that failure and heartache were simply part of the great scheme of things; I was fortunate to have such a heartbreak while I was still very young. She trusted that I would survive, and thrive, and be able to use my experience to help other young women one day.  I can humbly report that I have done that, and a bit more as well.

It is with deepest gratitude that I thank the Lord for providing the “God-incident” that brought Mrs. Arlene Heath into my life.  In body, and now in spirit, she forever challenges me to be more, and to do more, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

I think of her each time we close Morning Prayer with “Glory to God whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever more. Amen“  (BCP)

(Mrs. Heath ultimately bought the house where she first rented the upstairs apartment from the elderly sisters. The money obtained from the sale established the endowment which sustains St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kane, where I am blessed to worship and from which I go out “to love and serve the Lord.”)

Becky Harris is a member of St. John’s, Kane. 

A Reflection of Gratitude

This is the fourth installment in our Summer Gratitude series, a collection of posts from around the diocese focused on gratitude and thankfulness. It’s our hope that these stories will be uplifting, joyful, and a reminder to us all to count our blessings and experience gratitude even in times of hardship.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

There have been countless moments in my life that I have been completely overwhelmed with gratitude.  God has blessed me time and again, and I never cease to be amazed by His great plan.  When asked to write this reflection of gratitude, there was one particular memory of my mom that came to mind:

My mom has never been one to sit back and let life pass her by.  She is always up for an adventure.  If there is something she wants to do or accomplish, she finds a way.  My mom has an incredible gift for being in the moment and grateful for each day.

A little over fifteen years ago, as my family was preparing for a Memorial Day picnic, I realized that my mom had not been working around the house with the rest of us.  It seemed odd and I suddenly felt the urge to check on her.  I found her in her bedroom looking extremely pale and sick.  She told me that she didn’t feel well and I could tell instantly that something was very wrong.  I ran outside to get my dad and in a matter of minutes things went from bad to worse.  My mom was having trouble walking, she began coming in and out of consciousness, and life was draining from her with each passing moment.  I started to panic.  How could this happen?  How could someone who was so full of life just a few hours before suddenly be so sick?  We didn’t know at that moment, but an infection had made its way into her blood stream. Her body was shutting down as she became septic.  The ambulance finally came and she was taken to the hospital.  That day seemed to last forever.  The doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to stabilize her throughout the day and night.  With tears of desperation I prayed, begging God to let her live.

When morning came, mom was not out of the woods, but by the grace of God she was stable.  Many family and friends showered us with love, prayers and support.  It was overwhelming to feel the love of God through their actions.  Mom had a long road to recovery in the following months, but we were so grateful for her continued healing and the peace of God that we felt in the middle of it all.  Even through her pain and fatigue, she chose to face each day with a grateful heart.

Often times I get frustrated with what’s going on in my world.  It’s easy to get caught up in the daily routine, family drama, or the news stories that splash across our televisions and newspapers.  All of these things are parts of life that can leave us in a whirlwind of chaos and negativity.  We suffer unimaginable trials on our journey.  It can be difficult to feel grateful in the midst of it all.  Sometimes we have to choose gratitude.  When we choose gratitude, we allow ourselves to see the beauty that God is creating in the midst of our pain.  When we invite God into the center of our world, He surrounds us with peace that surpasses all understanding.  On difficult days when I struggle to find something to be grateful for, I think back on that Memorial Day.  I remember the grace and peace that God gave to us.  I think about my mom’s example of living a life of gratitude in good and bad times.  I give thanks that my mom is still here with me and for the beautiful memories we have been able to make together since then.  I am filled with gratitude knowing that God is walking beside me on my journey through life and I know that no matter what challenges I may face, I am never alone.

Jill Dressler is a member of St. Mark’s, Erie. 

Episcopal Gratitude

This is the third installment in our Summer Gratitude series, a collection of posts from around the diocese focused on gratitude and thankfulness. It’s our hope that these stories will be uplifting, joyful, and a reminder to us all to count our blessings and experience gratitude even in times of hardship.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When asked to write about gratitude, I had thoughts far and wide of all of the blessings for which I am grateful. I have an incredible relationship with my husband for which I thank God every single day. I have a wonderful daughter. I have a great job. I have precious friends. My family is loving and supportive.

My grandfather was an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Central New York. When I was born, I came home to the rectory. We lived upstairs, and Grandpa and Grandma lived on the first floor. Dad was in the military then. It was wartime.

I’ve never NOT been an Episcopalian. The word “cradle” seems to have taken on a negative connotation for some people; however, that’s what I am – a cradle Episcopalian.

From the Diocese of Central New York, my family eventually moved to Pennsylvania and the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The late Canon Fred Haworth was my priest in Indiana, PA. Remarkably, he would also go on to become my priest in Grove City, PA.  As a teen, I was deeply involved in youth activities, choir, and nursery duties. The church on the corner of Elm and Main held public dinners in its basement. I loved serving at those dinners alongside wonderful women who were mentors to us young people.

We built a new church outside of town in the mid sixties, and Epiphany is still there today with its pink tower outside and gorgeous woods inside. I love that church building. My marriage was blessed there. My daughter was baptized there. Sean Rowe was ordained to the diaconate there. My husband was ordained there and installed as vicar.

The clergy of our diocese are a gift to me as well.  At the recent ordination of Nick Evancho to the priesthood, I looked around at the wonderful people who engage in ordained ministry as well as those who do vital work in other capacities. I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as they came forward and laid hands on Nicholas.  Later, I told my husband, “I love these people! They are amazing!”

The late Barbara Akin [former vicar of Epiphany] and I were close friends. We argued, hung up on one another, disagreed over many issues; but we loved one another, and I love her still. I am grateful for her presence in my life at a time when I was single and struggling with belief and relationships.

Then the greatest blessing of all appeared: my husband. Most of you know that we worked together on the internet and that we became friends as well as co-workers. Love blossomed for both of us, and so I went to Australia twenty years ago to meet him. When I arrived in the airport lobby, he was waiting there for me. I ran into his arms, and it has been wonderful ever since.

When Geoffrey came to live in the USA and we married, he did not attend church. I went every Sunday and came home to talk about Barbara Akin and the other great people in the congregation. One Sunday he decided to go with me. The rest is history!

Then came Foxburg. Through a training held at Epiphany, we met some people from Foxburg and learned that they had no priest at all. Geoffrey decided to involve himself in a ministry there, and this ministry has gone both ways: we have received more than we have given.

I have had two wonderful careers: teacher for thirty years and outpatient mental health therapist for the past thirteen. Being an Episcopalian has enabled me to work with an open mind and a nonjudgmental attitude with all “sorts and conditions” of humankind.  I continue to do so with generosity of heart and with love. The Episcopal Church, in all its liberal glory, has enabled me to have a spiritual base from which to work, The Church teaches us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Almost every sermon that I hear, whether it be from my husband, our deacon, our bishop, or another pastor or priest in our diocese, teaches love. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael, preached love at the recent royal wedding, and I am told that he exudes love when encountered in person.

With all of my faults, I am accepted by the Episcopal Church as a worthy member. God has provided me with many opportunities for ministry wherever I have gone and in everything I do. The Church forms the basis for my decisions and actions. It supports me and gives me hope for the future here on this Earth and in the World to come. The Church has given me a relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Grateful? You bet I am –  every day of my life!

Cheryl Wild attends both Epiphany in Grove City and Memorial Church of Our Father in Foxburg, where her husband, Geoffrey, serves as vicar. She is also a member of the diocese’s Commission on Ministry.

Gladness and Thankfulness

This is the second installment in our Summer Gratitude series, a collection of posts from around the diocese focused on gratitude and thankfulness. It’s our hope that these stories will be uplifting, joyful, and a reminder to us all to count our blessings and experience gratitude even in times of hardship.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When I was asked to write about gratitude, I realized that I have spent much of this year being thankful for so very much—my husband, my children, my extended family, my friends, my coworkers, the people who attend Grace, Ridgway, and the people of this diocese. But there’s more than just the long, long list of people for whom I am thankful. There’s a lifetime of events, and a whole lot of mistakes, that have shaped who I am, the kind of person, the kind of Christian I am. I started out thinking about my gratitude for these people.

But then I started writing, and I kept finding myself back, just over eighteen months ago, on my knees in church on a typical Sunday. Maybe not so typical in that I was so frustrated that what I believed I was being called to do simply wasn’t happening. I felt overwhelmed with the burden of not knowing where I was supposed to even begin; I had no idea what I needed to do. I was angry–more angry and frustrated–than I’ve ever felt in my life. I felt lost, invisible, and ignored. And I was exhausted from what feels like a lifetime of fighting to be heard and to be seen. I was tired of arguing with managers at work for fair treatment; I was tired of defending my parenting choices with my mother. Add in years of being a single parent, a history of clinical depression, and the hundreds of times I was the only one on the PTA or the Bishop’s Committee speaking up on certain topics. I was, in my own words, tired of having to fight all the time.

During the sermon that day, Fr Alan was telling a story about God taking a man and placing him near a very large boulder. God tells the man, “Push the rock.” The man pushes the rock; the rock doesn’t move.  The man continues to push the rock; the rock continues to not move. After a time, God returns to see the man. The man complains, “Lord, I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I can’t move this rock!” God responds, “My son, I didn’t tell you to move the rock. But now you are strong enough for the work I have for you. Come with me.”

Then, I’m on my knees, begging God to take my anger away. I’m telling Him how very tired I am over and over and over. And I’m crying. I can’t see, because that happens sometimes. I’m repeating the litany of battles I’ve fought, begging to have it end. And in my blindness, in my tears, God responds, “Just what do you think all that was for?”

In the months since then, I have moved through a good many conversations with God, as well as conversations with others who have shared their thoughts and insights. There’s been a lot of scripture, some found and some searched for.

I am overwhelmed with gladness and thankfulness for the people God has given me. For the ones who have guided, for the ones who have listened, for the ones who have simply loved. I’m even thankful for the ones who have caused pain and grief, for the lessons they’ve taught me.

I’ve heard it said that all prayer can be boiled down to two things:  help me and thank you. I have spent a lot of my life asking for help. I find myself, more and more these days, saying, “Thank You,” to God for His mercy in forgiving and loving me, His wisdom in those persons He has given me, and His peace as I learn to rest in Him. “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” ~Ephesians 1:16

Cheryl Whipple Mumford is a member of Grace Episcopal Church, Ridgway. 

Not Only Her Daughter-In-Law

This is the first installment in our Summer Gratitude series, a collection of posts from around the diocese focused on gratitude and thankfulness. It’s our hope that these stories will be uplifting, joyful, and a reminder to us all to count our blessings and experience gratitude even in times of hardship.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I recently received an e-mail from Megin Sewak about my willingness to write an article for the Forward blog summer series. She said the series would be based on gratitude. The American Heritage dictionary definition of gratitude defines it as: The state of being grateful; thankfulness. Several ideas and individuals immediately came to mind about whom I could write about. After tossing around a few names in my head, I decided the person I would base this article on was my late mother-in-law, Marjorie Stanford. It wasn’t too long after I had been introduced to her by my then boyfriend, her son Rick, I found out she liked to be called by her nickname, which was “Pete”, so “Pete” was what I called her unless she slipped and called me by my given name “Norma” instead of my nickname “Noni”. If she called me Norma, then I called her Marjorie! Rick and I dated for several years before we got married. During those years of courtship with Rick, I had an opportunity to get to know my future mother-in-law and we became great friends. After Rick and I married, we lived the next house down from my in-laws, who lived in the family farmhouse which was built in 1819!

Now to the gratitude part of the story. Every spring when the trees burst out with a multitude of shades of green and flowers spring out of the ground, Pete comes to mind. She always had fabulous flower beds around her house. She spent many hours transplanting and relocating perennials in the early spring. I would help her and ask her questions about how did she know where to move plants and how did she know the species she was moving? She would smile and tell me after all the years of gardening she enjoyed the mystery of what would bloom and where it would bloom. We spent time in the pasture gathering dried “meadow muffins” to spread around the flower beds. Soon I found myself developing my own flower beds with plants or seeds she shared with me. When the spring/summer season turned to fall, we would prep the beds for winter. She not only tended to flower beds, she was also an active participant in the dairy farm business with her husband Rex. After the dairy business became too much for them, they sold the cows and began to raise beef cows. During the week, I worked at Edinboro University. However, on the weekends I helped with chores, first with the dairy herd and later with the beef cows. After chores, Rick and I would often go to Pete and Rex’s house for a wonderful breakfast made by no one other than Pete! She always made the most fabulous bread/toast and served it with the breakfast meals. I inquired about her bread recipe, and she offered to teach me how to make it. I remember spending a Saturday afternoon at her house making bread. After the bread was made, she told me to go home and make some bread. I did as I was told. After my bread was made, I called to tell her I did it! She asked me to bring her a sample, so I did. She smiled and told me it was just as good as hers. Then she informed me I could now take over making the bread.

As the years passed, my mother-in-law and father-in-law dealt with the death of both of their sons. I continued to live down the road from Pete and Rex after Rick’s tragic death. Often I would cook meals and share them with Pete and Rex. They continued to be an important part of my life. A few days before Pete’s death, she told me I was not only her daughter-in-law, but more importantly I was her friend. Rick died in 2002 and Pete and Rex both died in 2005.

Every spring, when I work in my flower beds, I think of Pete. Those memories continue to bring a smile to my face and I will be forever filled with gratitude for all Pete shared and taught me all those years ago.

Noni Stanford is a member and senior warden of St. James, Titusville.