Thursday, December 31, 2020

#52Stories 51/52: A Difficult Month in an Already Difficult Year

 #52Stories is my attempt to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.

I spent Tuesday writing my oldest sister's obituary. It's not an easy post to share, but it certainly belongs in my #52Stories project. I want to honor her through the words I wrote for her obituary and the memories I shared from our brother (who died on December 7) and my own memories.


Velma Ann Scifres McKee, age 79, died at home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on December 27, 2020 after an extended battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma to Lillian Estell Duff Scifres and Ellis Scifres on December 25, 1941, Velma was preceded in death by her brother, Karl Ellis Scifres, granddaughter, Elizabeth Tatum Barajas, and son-in-law, Scott Waite. She is survived by two sisters, Martha Kay Johanson (Ben) and Ramona Behnke (Lance), and sister-in-law, Kathy Scifres.

Shortly after graduating from high school, she married the love of her life, Tommy (“Tom”) Gordon McKee, and shared 61 joy-filled years together. She is survived by her husband, Tom, six children, Thomas, Susan Waite, Shaun (Jenny), Daniel (Jenn), Zachary, and Tim (Brittany), seventeen grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews and a host of cousins.

As the mother of six children, Velma’s life revolved around her family. She was a beloved mother and a devoted grandmother. A lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she served in many capacities in her church community. But her real passion was volunteering at the Family History Center where she served as director for over twenty years and helped countless people with their genealogical research.

Velma’s ability to serve others and love deeply brought grace and light to all within her circle of influence. Her gentle laughter made us feel kindness and warmth just being in her presence. Her talent for listening with an understanding heart blessed all who knew her. We will miss her. 


Memories shared at the Roselawn Funeral Home site:

Ramona Behnke

December 30, 2020

Our brother, Karl, died on December 7, 2020. But I know he would want to be represented. 

Here's a FB post he wrote on Christmas Day 2019 to our sister, Velma:
"Happy Birthday today to my "eldest" sister Velma Scifres McKee. She has always been loving and supportive to me and my other two sisters. Since our birthdays are two days apart, we used to celebrate our birthdays together on Christmas Eve. But we haven't been together for a joint celebration in many years. I wish we could have shared a birthday cake yesterday. I love you Velma and hope you had a great day."

I like to think of the belated birthday celebration going on in heaven this year.

In a comment on that same birthday post, Karl shared a favorite pic of the four of us on the couch and these words: "She has always been our 'big' sister who watched over us."

Martha Kay, Velma Ann, Karl Ellis and Ramona Ella (the chubby baby in Velma's lap)

Ramona Behnke

December 30, 2020

I can't think of my sis, Velma, without acknowledging the light that she brought to our world and our family from the time of her birth on Christmas Day in 1941.

She's big sis to three of us and I'm privileged to be the youngest in our family. I have always looked up to her, learned from her, and been loved by her. Her death does not change that. Now we have another angel looking over us and loving us.

I will continue to reflect on the lessons she taught me. Some of those I shared as part of a blog post that I wrote in May as part of my #52Stories project for 2020.

One of my favorite stories about Velma as a Mama came when I was visiting her in Murfreesboro and Danny, Zach, and Tim were still young boys. They had to empty the trash from every room in the house every day which seemed totally unnecessary to me. When I shared my opinion, Velma responded with these words: "I'm raising boys, not emptying trash."

I've developed a keen interest in family history which I like to think she passed on to me. I remember being with her in the genealogical library in Houston. She shared one of her favorite reasons she loved this work: "Dead people don't talk back!"

Even though she's left this realm, I know she's alive in the spirit world and we'll feel her presence and light and love from time to time. She was that kind of a sister, one who's always watched over us and I know she'll continue doing just that from her heavenly home.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Slice of Life, Sharing Our Stories, and #52Stories 50/52: Scifres Christmas 1950!

I don't recall any Scifres family gatherings at Christmas time. Our usual gathering occurred on the Sunday before Labor Day in September. I'm not sure when we started holding these reunions, but some say it was 1952.

So it was with a particular sense of joy that I discovered pictures (in one of my sister Kay's albums) of a Scifres Christmas gathering held before I was born. I love the family group pics taken at this Christmas gathering in 1950.  I'm hopeful that some of my cousins who were in attendance will share memories from this special Christmas 70 years ago. This gathering included all of the children of Andrew T. Scifres and Martha Ada Young with the exception of Uncle Alfred Isaac Scifres & his wife Aunt Carrie, and Aunt Cordie Mae Scifres (who died in 1942) and her husband, Dale Poulter.

Back row: Uncle Lee (William Lee) and Aunt Margie (Marjorie S. Rhea) Scifres 
Front row: Dorothy Mae Hibbert Scifres and Joyce LeAnn Hibbert Scifres

This pic is the family of my Uncle Jim and Aunt Mabel Scifres. 

Back row: FD Scifres, DL Scifres, Lovell Scifres, Aunt Mabel Scifres, Uncle Jim (James David) Scifres

Front row: Charlotte (FD's wife) and Donnie Ray Scifres

This pic is the family of my Aunt Minnie and Uncle Roy Crownover.  

Back row: Minnie Ada Scifres Crownover, Melba, Cleo, Dorothy, Roy Crownover, Curtis 

Front row Marie, Diane, and Martha Crownover

Back row: Ellis and Lillian Scifres (my parents) 
Front row: Velma Ann and Martha Kay Scifres
Back Row: Aunt Ruth and Uncle Elbert Scifres
Front Row: Linda (in Aunt Ruth's arms) and Gail Scifres

Aunt Estelle Scifres Duke and her son, Bill Duke 
with Aunt Estelle's brother, Henry Scifres

Back row: Adaline Marie Cooper Poulter and Druman Leroy Poulter (Aunt Cordie's son)
Front row: Shelton Charles Cooper and Roberta May Cooper

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Sharing Our Stories and #52Stories 49/52: Coping Mechanisms

I checked in on my niece after receiving word that my brother died on Monday morning. She's a teacher in Texas and had returned home on Sunday after being with her mother since Wednesday following the death of her grandmother on Tuesday. My niece loves singing and adores Christmas music. Last week, I sent her links to previous Christmas specials from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It was my way of reaching out to comfort her during this time of social distancing.

So it's not surprising that this is the return text I received on Monday morning when I checked in with her:

"I'm calm. Packing. Listening to Christmas music. I'll leave here when I'm ready."

She had an almost three hour drive ahead of her and her brother was with her mom.

And here's the reply I sent back to her: 

"Good to hear from you. You know you had the best daddy in the whole world. You keep listening to Christmas music. I'm going to bake some cookies."

And her next text:

"Share pics of your baking. I'll be able to feel and smell the love."

Here's the first pic and accompanying text:  

"Moving slow. Butter getting soft. This may take me all day."

Not all day, but it was an an hour and a half before my niece received this cookie pic.

And because I know you'll be asking, here's the recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, one of my favorites! 

Notes:  I only make half of this recipe (see penciled in amounts). I don't powderize the oatmeal in the food processor (who wants to clean that beast?), but just use quick oats  I use walnuts instead of pecans.

Baking cookies is my go-to coping mechanism. After my father' death forty years ago, I was  often in the kitchen baking cookies while my siblings helped my mom. They would jokingly say, "She's in the kitchen getting therapy." 

And for those who are interested, here's a blog post about my brother, written as part of my #52Stories for 2020, "The Best Friend a Girl Could Have."

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

#52Stories is my attempt to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Slice of Life and #52Stories 48/52: Wear the Socks!

Those of you who have read my blog for awhile know that I'm easily distracted. Today's slice began last week when Jack and I went on a search for the "Going to Grandma" suitcases at our house. We quickly found Uncle Blake's blue one in his closet, but finding the red one that belonged to Jack's mother was more challenging. We looked under the bed, we looked on the closet shelves, we checked under the bed again. But just as we were about to give up, the red suitcase called out to us from a corner of the closet, "Here I am." It was interesting to see what was stashed in the suitcases. Blake's was filled with his Cub Scout manuals and neckerchiefs, Sara's was filled with doll blankets and doll clothes. Jack and Robby emptied them of their long ago treasures and enjoyed a day of travel, all from the comfort of Grandma and Grandpa's house.

But back to my distraction of the day. When the boys left, I hauled out some of the boxes from under the bed. They were filled with a variety of past holiday possibilities - books, ornaments, and small items stashed away. One was filled with paper holiday decor for Valentine's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas (somehow the Halloween decor had already made it to Sara's). I set aside that box for Sara's house. The other boxes I went through and weeded. Some of the books went to a box for the Friends of the Library Book sale and other items were designated for the gift shelf that I keep in the laundry room. 

This morning, I picked up a pair of socks to take to the gift shelf. But on second thought, I decided to wear them myself. Today's a day that I could use some extra love. I like looking at the socks and thinking of the love that's being sent my way. So the next time you are tempted to save something for your gift shelf, remember: "Sometimes it's okay to wear the socks and gift something to yourself."

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday, Sharing Our Stories, and #52Stories 47/52: Songs of the Heart

Linda Mitchell is hosting this month's gathering by inviting us to join in reflection.

As I started collecting my thoughts for this post, these comforting words from a hymn came to mind.

"Oh, what songs of the heart We shall sing all the day, When again we assemble at home, When we meet ne'er to part With the blest o'er the way, There no more from our loved ones to roam! When we meet ne'er to part, Oh, what songs of the heart We shall sing in our beautiful home."

"Oh, What Songs of the Heart" 

When our Family History writing group met on Sunday, November 22, I went off topic and wrote about hymns. This post is a collection of my thoughts and hymns as they came to mind in our twenty minute timed writing session.

The first words that popped up were from this hymn I often associate with Thanksgiving. I loved thinking of my writing friends who gather once a month.

"We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own."
The words of hymns live in my heart. And I love that I can recall many of their lyrics from memory. Although during our at-home church during the pandemic, my daughter and son-in-law can attest that I sometimes mix up some of the words and the verse order. No worries - they still comfort my heart!

"I know that my Redeemer lives.

What comfort this sweet sentence gives!

He lives, he lives, who once was dead.

He lives, my ever-living Head.

He lives to bless me with his love.

He lives to plead for me above.

He lives my hungry soul to feed.

He lives to bless in time of need."

Throughout my life hymns and scriptures have brought comfort in times of trial, solace in times of need, and praise in times of joy as I walk this journey of life.

"There is sunshine in my soul today,

More glorious and bright

Than glows in any earthly sky,

For Jesus is my light."

The words of this hymn, learned as a child, have resounded in my heart for years. 

 "When sore trials came upon you,

Did you think to pray?

When your soul was full of sorrow,

Balm of Gilead did you borrow

At the gates of day?

Oh, how praying rests the weary!

Prayer will change the night to day.

So, when life gets dark and dreary,

Don’t forget to pray."

Text: Mary A. Pepper Kidder, 1820–1905

The words of this old hymn, sung at my father's funeral, never fail to bring sweet memories.

"I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses
And He walks with me and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am his own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known."
No matter what challenges life offers, this hymn speaks of our need for the Lord and his willingness to come to our aid. 
 "I need thee ev’ry hour,

Most gracious Lord.

No tender voice like thine

Can peace afford.

I need thee, oh, I need thee;

Ev’ry hour I need thee!

Oh, bless me now, my Savior;

I come to thee!"

Almost three decades ago as my mother fought the ravages of cancer, I heard her singing. I opened her bedroom door, fearful that she might be preparing for her return home at any moment.

"Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling for you and for me
See on the portals He's waiting and watching
Watching for you and for me
Come home, come home
Ye who are weary come home
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling, 'O sinner come home'"
And finally, the words of one of my favorite hymns, which never fail to assure me of the Lord's love and his presence.
"The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?

By day and by night his presence is near.

He is my salvation from sorrow and sin;

This blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring.

The Lord is my light;

He is my joy and my song.

By day and by night

He leads, he leads me along."

I am grateful for the power of music to strengthen my faith and help me face life's difficult times. Please join our family in prayer for my brother and his family. He's been in and out of ICU since his surgery the week before Thanksgiving. He's currently in ICU again. In addition to bearing the burden of being the only person allowed to visit my brother (due to Covid), my sister-in-law faced the death of her own mother this past week and was unable to be with her. I believe in life after this one. I am grateful for my Savior who died so that I can overcome death and have eternal life. I believe in angels. I believe that those who die without loved ones near are attended by angels from the other side. I am grateful for Jesus who is my light, who continually leads me along, and who lives to bless in time of need.

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

#52Stories is my attempt to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.