WEDDING CAPS

One of Sheryl’s best friends took her to lunch last week. After a very good visit and a delicious lunch, she presented Sheryl with a gift—our first wedding gift—a gift for both of us.

Now, we are not expecting wedding gifts. In fact we are talking about how to combine two households into one.

But I thought this gift was so cute and novel that I had to share it!

We’re off to Dallas/Ft. Worth on Saturday to meet with and visit Sheryl’s sister and brother-in-law. Our 2014 Friends and Family Tour starts with this trip.

Watch for more coming soon!

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62.9 Miles—Point to Point

I-85 and I-20 Intersection in West Atlanta

I-85 and I-20 Intersection in West Atlanta

Mile number one of 62.9 miles began at I-285 at LaVista Road on the east side of Atlanta.

From that point, the journey went south toward the airport…all the way around Atlanta and back to the LaVista Road exit…point to point…62.9 miles.

Sometimes life is like that. We begin at mile number one of a long journey. Along the way we encounter people who come and go while others come and stay.

Some are “keepers—those who stay with you on your whole journey. They may be family or lifelong friends. But you know this: you can count on them to be there for you whenever you need them for anything.

Others are “short-termers.” These are people you meet along the way who come into your life but for whatever reason don’t stay connected. The demands of family, health or job take them away.

Then there are the “late-arrivers” or the “newcomers.” Even though they have entered your life only recently, they enrich you. You are grateful for the opportunity to have made their acquaintance.

Finally there are the “repeaters” or “recyclers if you want to use that term. While they were in your life at one point, you lost contact. At times they reappear—unannounced—like an unexpected plop.

That’s what happened to Sheryl and me.

Twenty-five years ago, Sheryl and I worked together on the same inter-agency team. I left the Home Mission Board and except for an occasional Christmas letter, we had no communication for the next 15 years. Then we reappeared in each other’s lives. More correctly, I should say that I plopped into her life. Her retirement plans took on a whole new direction.

My life with Lynda had made the 62.9 point-to-point-journey. With her death came her generous and heartfelt encouragement for me to intentionally “move forward.” Now it was obvious I was beginning a new phase in my life’s journey.

Sheryl and I have introduced several of our friends and acquaintances to each other. Though some of the “keepers” are “newcomers” to the other one, we hope they will become “keepers” for both of us. We are grateful for the gifts they contribute to our relationship. We hope they are willing to take a 62.9 mile point-to-point-journey with us.

Though both Sheryl and I are very surprised, we both believe that God has brought us together for this period of our lives.

So I’ve asked…and she has accepted…my proposal of marriage. Our wedding will take place next February in Birmingham.

In less than two weeks we begin the “Churchill-Buckner 2014 Friends and Family Tour.”   Our goal is to meet with and strengthen our ties with our far-flung “keepers,” reconnect with some “recyclers, and be on the lookout for “newcomers” with whom we each can collaborate and grow.

We start in Texas with Sheryl’s sister and brother-in-law. Then we will see my brother-in-law (Lynda’s brother Rob) and his family.

Stay tuned!

Moving Forward

In the last year my life has changed in significant ways.

For 16 months, Lynda and I—together with the medical professionals—battled her cancer. During this time, we relived many memories and both of us grieved.

Lynda was concerned about me “sitting in the back of the condo and withering away.” She frequently urged me to move forward in my life after she died. This was often not easy for me to consider but in the days following her memorial service I have made some attempts on three fronts.

First, I began to exercise regularly—swim actually. I don’t swim fast but I can swim long distances and times. It’s hard to believe but I’ve lost 90 pounds since many of you last saw me. I’m feeling well, looking good (my friends say “younger”), and wearing new clothes. My doctor says I either need to lose another 20 pounds…or grow four inches! So I continue to ride my recumbent bike and swim.

Second, I completed my summer choir experience and it was wonderful. Regular rehearsals got me out of the condo each week. From early June until early August, I rehearsed every Monday night with the 125 people who made up the Summer Singers of Atlanta. I have sung with many directors but Dr. William Baker was probably the best.  On Sunday afternoon, August 3rd, we sang Mozart’s Requiem along with several a cappella pieces composed by American composers who were contemporaries of Mozart. This was both a mentally and a physically challenging experience. Seven terrific friends attended the concert then we went to dinner afterwards. It was a very special day…something I will always remember.

Finally, I began dating a woman I worked with 25 years ago.  She and I had had almost no contact for the past 15 years. The sympathy card which she sent after Lynda died brought her back to mind. Her name is Sheryl Churchill.  She recently retired after serving 37 years on the staff of Woman’s Missionary Union in Birmingham where she still resides.  God has surprised us by bringing us into a new kind of relationship.   He’s done “abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). She brings me much joy.  There will be more about Sheryl and me in the future.

I think Lynda would be proud of me on all these fronts.

Thanks for your continued interest in my life. I’m grateful to count you among my friends—and blog readers.

 

Sheryl Churchill

Sheryl Churchill

Remembering Mother on Her Birthday

Wayne and LaVerne Buckner. 1947, Asheville, NC

Wayne and LaVerne Buckner. 1947, Asheville, NC

Today my mother would have celebrated her eighty-eighth birthday if she hadn’t died nine years ago.

She was a student at Furman University when she met my father during student week at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center in the summer of 1947.

The photo on this blog was taken outside the Veteran’s Hospital in Asheville, NC. during the week they met.

Nearly 25 years ago, I wrote this poem about both of them. I share it today as a remembrance of my mother—Margaret LaVerne Travis Buckner (August 25, 1926 – June 13, 2005).

 

Great Expectations

As if at a Roman feast

two lovers recline

on freshly cut grass

before a wall of cascading roses.

 

Though only recently introduced

they appear relaxed and familiar

perfectly spaced and angled

according to the grammar

and syntax of their day—

fluent speakers of body language.

 

That gleam in their eyes

is my siblings and me

and I wonder:

            What were they doing

            just before their attention

            turned from each other

            to the photographer’s lens?

                      whispering?

                      kissing?

                      laughing?

                      dreaming?

 

From deep within their future

I return their gaze

and I wonder:

            Do they know that

            life comes randomly,

            that plans are made

            and not executed,

            that dreams are deferred

            by layoffs and tornados,

            unplanned pregnancies,

            adolescent waywardness,

            unfinished business?

 

Full of hope and promise

they cannot imagine a day

when she will play

             Primary Caregiver

to his

            Alzheimer’s Patient

And I wonder:

            How many times

            have they endured

            simply because they shared

            this time and place

            where, along with the roses

            their love

            sent down

            it’s first

            tender roots?

  

Wally Buckner

16 February 1990

 

 

Remembering you today, Mom!

A Teacher’s Shoes

Almost 45 years ago, Lynda began her teaching career by student teaching kindergarten at the elementary school up the street from my parents’ house. We were not yet married and—in fact—my sister Carolyn was a student in the kindergarten classroom across the hall from Lynda’s room.

Except for the years when our daughter Elizabeth was a baby or a preschooler, Lynda taught elementary students. She frequently served as a math specialist teaching children who needed extra assistance.

Her whole career, Lynda was concerned with her appearance. To her colleagues, her students, and her students’ parents, she wanted to look professional.

I’m mindful of this today because this afternoon two of her “teaching buddies” came to the condo and helped me go through all of her clothing.  All afternoon, while sorting and folding the clothes, they would say:   “Oh, I remember this one!”

Lynda's Clothes

Lynda’s Clothes

There were a few really dressy items—like the dress and shoes she wore to Elizabeth’s wedding.

There were many school T-shirts, sweatshirts, and jeans—what someone else might call “house clothes.”

But it was the clothes she wore when teaching (mostly Chico ‘s brand) that I remembered most intimately.

And her shoes.

Lynda's Shoes

Lynda’s Shoes

I’ve always been amazed by the number of pair of shoes that women seem to need. (I get by with only four pair—black dress shoes, burgundy penny loafers, boat shoes, and Nikes.)

But as I gathered her clothes in preparation for our work today, it was her “teaching shoes” that stayed on my mind.

They were mostly “flats” that could be easily worn with slacks or long skirts—as was her style. She would spend most of each school day on her feet…so they had to be comfortable.

She was always worrisome when a student in her classroom didn’t have good shoes or warm clothing.

I would regularly return home from my volunteer work at a children’s clothing ministry at our church with large trash bags filled with donated clothing that our clothing ministry couldn’t use. Lynda and I would sit on our living room floor and sort the very best of these items.  The next day, she would take small bags of clothing to school and give to deserving students she had spotted.  She occasionally had a pair of shoes she would offer.

For the last several hours, I’ve been thinking about the miles of walking done by these school teacher shoes. They carried Lynda through the morning darkness from her car to her classroom. They accompanied students to the restroom, the cafeteria, the gym—and occasionally to the principal ‘s office! And they took her to countless after-school teacher’s meetings.

But whatever their style and wherever they went, they were always on the job of helping students.

When I think of Lynda wearing these shoes, I’m reminded of Romans 10:15: how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news (NIV).

Join me in dreaming about about a group of new, younger teachers who will receive some of Lynda’s shoes.

And give thanks that these shoes will help them walk lovingly into the lives of students as Lynda did.

Mozart Requiem Concert

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Sunday, August 3rd was D-Day!

After practicing all summer, the time had come.  It was performance day!

Choir, soloists, orchestra, and conductors arrived early for a brief check in.  Then the choir retreated to the chapel to await our time to enter the sanctuary.

We opened he concert with cappella pieces by American composers who were contemporaries with Mozart.  I loved these pieces!  Then the orchestra and a soloist did numbers and finally we got to the “piece of the day”…Mozart’s Requiem.

I know it was not done perfectly but it was done (I think) beautifully.  What a piece!

In the end, after the crowd’s cheers, we sang Mozart’s AVE VERUM CORPUS as a brief prayer/benediction/encore to the afternoon’s concert.

I entered this choir in early June as a means to challenge my brain (Mozart uses lots of notes as you know), my physicality (singing as written by the composer is often tough—an this was), and to give me a social outing (I had to get out of the condo every Monday evening for rehearsal).  It turned out to be all that.

When Elizabeth was in elementary school, she was in the Young Singers of Callenwolde.  When she would return for an alumni gathering, the alumni would ALWAYS pick what they thought was the hardest piece they had ever sung.  Their memories of the good performances following their hard works made this piece an all time favorite.

That’s what I felt yesterday.

At Baraonda Restaurant

At Baraonda Restaurant

 

(L to R):  Janet Speer, Frank Spper, me, Sheryl Churchill, Jane Bishop, Barbara Curnutt, Wayne Grinstead, and Claudia Dickers

(L to R): Janet Speer, Frank Spper, me, Sheryl Churchill, Jane Bishop, Barbara Curnutt, Wayne Grinstead, and Claudia Dickers

 

After a quick clothes change, I met seven friends who had come and “packed my pew”.  We all hugged, changed greetings and comments about the concert and then walked two blocks to Baraonda restaurant for a  delicious 90 minute meal of great food, lots of stories, much laughter and photographs.  I couldn’t have seven better friends.  I love them all.  Thanks to them for arranging their schedules and having an interest in this really wonderful music.

It’s an understatement to say, “a fun time was had by all.”  But that’s the truth.

Am checking on whether the concert has a recording of our performance.  If there is, I’ll let you know.

2014 Summer Singer’s Dress Rehearsal

2014 Summer Singers at Dress Rehearsal with  Stephen Ozcomert (bass soloist) in purple shirt

2014 Summer Singers at Dress Rehearsal with Stephen Ozcomert (bass soloist) in purple shirt

Yesterday morning the 125 voice choir that I’ve been rehearsing with all summer were joined by orchestra members and professional soloists for our final rehearsal of the year—our “dress rehearsal.”  Knock on wood…bit the rehearsal bodes well for this afternoon’s concert at 3pm at St. Mark’s Methodist Church.  Tickets are still available.

We’re singing Mozart’s Requiem along with pieces by American composers who were contemporaries of Mozart.

Our conductor has endeared himself to all of us—Dr. William Baker.  Today’s soloists are Arietha Lockhart, Heather McCarren, Christopher Patton, and Steven Ozcomert.

Seven close friends are joining me for the concert and dinner afterwards at Baraonda Restaurant.

Will post photos and stories about today’s events in the blog tonight or on Monday.

Thanks.

Today’s Memory

ATL Cancer Care Sign

Today, I went to my doctor’s office for a routine echocardiogram.

His office is one floor from Lynda’s chemo-oncologist.

I dropped by Atlanta Cancer Care today to say “hello” to the office manager who handled all of our appointments and was so kind and generous.

I’m grateful for the hope that the doctors and staff were able to give Lynda…and me.  I can’t figure out how everyone there keeps going forward in the midst of all the difficult news they have to dispense.

It’s a place where there often is not any hope.

But ours lasted 16 months and I’m grateful.

Crying at the Post Office

Postage Stamp

 

A couple of days ago, I went to the post office to mail a package.

There was a L-O-N-G…L-O-N-G line.

A woman joined me at the end of the line and asked the young woman in front of me if we would hold her spot in line while she ran to Kroger to get an item.  She promised she’d return before we got to the front of the line.

Shortly afterwards, she returned and she and the young woman in front of me began conversing.  This “Kroger woman” was wonderful.  She engaged the young woman in terrific conversation.  She had brought her a snack from the Kroger deli.

Within minutes, she learned that the young woman was looking for work, had geriatric experience, and was available to help the “Kroger woman” with issues related to her mother.  I enjoyed listening to them exchange emails, addresses, etc.

Then I looked on my iPhone at Elizabeth’s debut blog (search for adverturouslyauthentic on WordPress—You can also look at my list of BLOGS I FOLLOW.)

While standing in line at the post office, I began to cry.  (Yes, I did!)

The “Kroger woman” turned and asked me:  “Are you having a particularly tough day, sir?”

I told her that I was not but that I was just simply moved by my daughter’s writing in her blog.

We talked all the way to the counter.  She asked if I’d send her the link to Elizabeth’s blog.  Then she walked me all the way to my car where she told me about the “Ladder of Charity” that was a part of her Jewish beliefs.

It was an absolutely wonderful and spontaneous encounter.

Meeting and conversing with her…was terrific.  But Elizabeth’s writing (in her debut blog and again today) brought the tears.

I’d suggest following her blog if you want to have some adventure and explore being authentic.

It may make you cry.

Thanks, Elizabeth!

Lynda and Bureaucracies…and All Saints’ Pews

You all have probably experienced the passing of a loved one and then had issues with bureaucracies dealing with this issue.

This week, I had two to deal with.

Verizon Bill for Lynda's Phone Came This Week

Verizon Bill for Lynda’s Phone Came This Week

First, Verizon did not “drop” Lynda’s phone as I requested.  They put the phone on a “hold” and recently reinstated it without letting me know.  So yesterday, I went to Verizon with a bill for her phone…and stayed until I got it fixed!

DeKalb's Retirement Luncheon Invitation Came This Week

DeKalb’s Retirement Luncheon Invitation Came This Week

Second, Lynda got an invitation from DeKalb County Schools inviting her to a retirement luncheon.  They KNOW of her death…but the invitation, I’m sure, was initiated by a computer.

These issues are irritating (I don’t have to tell you!).

Pews at All Saints' Take a Break

Pews at All Saints’ Take a Break

Went to All Saints’ today and found that our 100+ year old pews are out being re-invigorated.  They should return to duty soon.

Hope you’re having a good Sunday!