Whole Cloth

The whole cloth of my life has been woven from conception with the warp of my DNA, era, family, and God and then interwoven with places where I lived, people, friends from across 70 years, jobs and vocation, interests and experiences. Traveling recently to California and seeing people I was once close to and some I still am close to, I am aware of how they are such a part of who I am; I see them woven into my very existence today, experiencing them in the fullness of all that has been my life, inseparable from who I am, filling me as they always filled me. Wow!

The warp of my life, most importantly my own DNA, but thanks to my family of origin—mother, father and brother and a host of other relatives—I was given a fine moral sense of how one negotiated life. My parents, having survived two world wars and the Great Depression, didn’t waste time wondering if they should do something, they just did their duty. They didn’t spend money unless it was essential. I was born at the beginning of World War II and raised in that post-war era of optimism in an America-centered world. Such amazing changes have happened across the decades of my life that I watch today with amazement the changing landscape of life in the 21st century.

That God is also a part of the warp of my life is also a given to me—not just the created, the DNA, in me, talents and even weaknesses, but also the divine spark which is the indwelling Spirit. Also he created the soul within me that connects me to all life and gives me the ability to communicate directly to him.

Certainly being born just before our entry into World War II has been another of the warp threads of my life. My earliest memories are of playing with ration stamps and helping my mother stir the little color packet into the oleo so that it at least looked like butter. No longer a baby at the end of the war I grew up and came of age in the forties and fifties, a time of expansion of who the United States was and a time of contraction and conformity because of the threat of communism.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if twelve formative years spent in Louisville, Kentucky, in a hell-fire-and-damnation church, weren’t part of the weft fiber of my life. That early formative church certainly tied me to a god who was vengeful and capricious, but the unhealthiness of that church’s teachings was what propelled me as an adult into finding a God that I could live in, with and for.  And the landscape of Louisville in the post-war era—safe and fun with huge vacant lots that we kids made our own. My world was a two-block long street with an alleyway behind us, between us and the vacant field—plenty big enough. Joy is what I remember most from my childhood—exuberance and joy.

Wilmington, Delaware, is another place woven into the warp of my life. Not only did I spend my junior and senior high school years there, but after graduating I continued for years to visit my parents there. Most of what I remember from the Wilmington years were the athletics I was involved in. I played every intramural sport they offered for girls and was a part of the Leader Corps which officiated at the intermural games. And, of course my friends. I have attended two of our class reunions—35th and 50th–who were all those old people???

New London, Connecticut, was my home for four years of college, and at the same time my parents lived in Strabane, Northern Ireland, so it was my Christmas and summer home. Again, friends. And an incredible juxtaposition of a new-found love of the History of Art, my major, and travel to the sources of much of that art, Europe. It was an amazing time for a middle-class girl from Wilmington Delaware, all due to my dad’s transfer to Northern Ireland.

It was at Connecticut College that I met my future husband through a friend at school. So our marriage precipitated my next location: the San Francisco Bay Area. Hank was a student at Stanford University when we married and eventually we settled there, raised our children, lived happily there. Friends, again. I was just there this month and it was in visiting old friends that I saw them woven permanently into the fabric of my life. Since that trip I’ve been laying out the fabric of my life, unfolding it from the bolt of cloth that constitutes my life, and looking at the different eras and seeing the people and times that define each area.

It’s a long stretch of cloth from the Bay Area: forty years of living, loving, being challenged, giving birth, raising kids and then sending them off to live their own lives. The longest period of my life contains the beginning and end of our life together, the Mendicants—Hank formed this singing group at Stanford, two churches and a cult, and friends and friends and friends. So many memories, so much richness. A few addresses in Redwood City, Mountain View, San Mateo, Portola Valley, San Francisco, Palo Alto. Amazing.

The last length of the cloth of my life has been lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I moved to be close to my daughter, her husband and their four boys. The first year the weaving probably wasn’t so tight as I worked to settle into a whole new place. My daughter and her family were my anchor, thankfully, but it wasn’t easy to make friends in this friendliest of southern cities. Now five years later, I am grateful to be here, with close friends and work that I love,

I haven’t said much about the challenges along the way, but they are also woven into the cloth of my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the struggles to have children, the ups and downs of our married life, the year our twins were born which was one of one challenge after another, the death of my husband at 60, the moves and starting over. But they are more than balanced out by the love, joy and connectedness that were also experienced in great quantity.

The whole cloth of my life contains many surprises and unanticipated joys and sorrows. It is richly interwoven with places and friends and events and family. When I look back at the length of cloth that constitutes my life, I am filled with the certainty that God was with me every step of the way; that I had little control over much of what happened to me and yet I know that the richness that has been my life is due entirely to God.  Whatever is yet to be woven into my life I anticipate with acceptance and love and embrace. May I be conscious of God in my life until the very end. May I continue to serve him, do his will for me. May I continue to listen carefully for that will. May I be a blessing for those who cross my path, may I embrace the experiences and challenges yet to come, because all will be inextricably bound into my life, a part of the whole cloth.

What is the warp and weft of your life? Is God very present in your life during your sorrows and joys? Who is a part of who you are even if you haven’t seen them for a long time? Do you embrace and honor all that has gone before this time and all that is now?

 

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