Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It’s good for young men to carry caskets.

young men

Above are four of the young grandsons who carried Hugh’s casket today.  In addition to Thomas, Steven, Joshua, and Andrew, was Mike (one of my cousins) and Mike’s son, Joshua.   With the exception of Mike, who is a bit younger than me, they were all young men. 

As I watched them carry the casket, I realized it’s a very good thing to have young men carry caskets.  Young men feel so invincible.  They think, as Daryl sometimes says, that the laws of physics (gravity, etc) don’t apply to them.  They think life stretches outward, and sometimes fail to see the more important concept of eternity.  The very act of carrying a casket has to bring you face to face with mortality.

To those young men, I write this blog.  I loved meeting you.  I loved watching how you loved your Papaw and love your Nana.  I wish my kids had known you better, and known you as cousins.  I want to set forth the challenge to you to give thought of eternity.  Think of your Papaw’s life, and what it stood for.  I don’t know where any of you stand in relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, but take time to find out.  It’s the single most important direction you will take in life.  Talk to Nana.  Talk to Mae.  Talk to Ruby or Dub.  Talk to your Dads.  They know.  Love you, guys!

Monday, January 26, 2009

He isn’t here….

Customs are interesting to me.  Today, (Sunday) I was privileged to get to attend my Uncle Hugh’s funeral.  In Texas, we receive friends the first night, then do service and burial on the next day.  In Tennessee, they do the receiving of friends and the service the same day, then the graveside service the next day. 

I wasn’t going to get to go to the funeral at first.  Daryl and I had tickets reserved, but my blood pressure was doing some loopy things, so he asked me to stay home.  By Sunday morning, it seemed to settle down, and he agreed that it would be a good idea for me to be there. (Me, at 6:30 am this morning…”Honey, I’m feeling better.  Do you think I could go on to Tennessee?  There’s a flight that leaves at 10:30…I bet I could get a bereavement fare and go on to Tennessee?)(Daryl, shaking his head as he says “Sure.” Probably thinking he will NEVER know what I’ll come up with next, and that his life will never be boring!) It will be a 24 hour turnaround, more or less,  but is well worth it.  (Thanks for letting me use the vouchers I salvaged, Mom.)

I wanted to be here for my Mom…she’s lost 3 siblings in 13 months.  That leaves her the last of the siblings.  I wanted to be here for Imazo…she and Hugh were always so good to us girls.  I wanted to be here for my cousins….who are more like brothers after the summers we used to spend together at Grandma’s. I wanted to be there for me, because I love my family, and need them. I miss Daryl being here with me, but am grateful he sent me on, even though he couldn’t drop obligations at the last minute like I did. 

My Uncle Hugh was a wonderful man.  He was kind, loving, and a Godly man.  The lines of people who came to console the family began at 4 pm, and the funeral wasn’t able to start until 6:15pm instead of 6 because folks were still in line to talk to the family, especially to Imazo, my aunt.  Hugh was loved deeply by all who knew him.  He had the gift of caring, of making you feel important, and you loved him for it.  Daryl told me that at our wedding, Hugh took him aside and said, “Now, you take good care of Carol.  She’s a special girl.”

An interesting phenomenon occurred in the course of that 2 hours of guests arriving.  When I first went to “see” my Uncle’s body, it was SO obvious, as it always is, that he wasn’t there.  It was still a bit uncomfortable to “look” at him. The way these lines work, the family stands near the casket, lined up, with the One who is nearest and dearest to the deceased at the head of the casket.  The rest of us spread out.  Since my mom was his sister, she was to Imazo’s right, past the casket.  As we stood there, we became comfortable with death.  It ceased to be Hugh, it ceased to be eerie.  It just became fact.  It was clear and undeniable.  I wish I had the eloquence to communicate the shift of emotion. 

When I was a little girl, my Grandpa Gray passed away.  My Aunt Imazo coerced me into “viewing” his body.  I remember her telling me that it’s something I just needed to do, so I could understand it better.  She was right.  I needed to, and it was a clear lesson that death separates the spirit from the body. 

Having that time to be near the casket, that time being comforted for our loss, gives the emotions time to become accustomed to reality.    

Tomorrow, when we have to bury Hugh’s remains, we will have been through today, and that separation of events, I think, will have better prepared us for tomorrow.  It certainly does not ease the pain of loss, it just prepares the heart to view life and death more like God does. Hugh isn’t there.  He’s Home, with his Lord, whom he loved even more than this life.  Love you, Hugh. 

Hugh and Zoe

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Mother always said I was a snoopy kid....

Yep, that's me in front of my county car. I had just finished a day of inspections.

I figured I'd answer all those questions about "What do you actually DO in your job?"

It started off with roughly 3 months of training. We had to read all of the Texas Regulations for Food Establishments (TFER). In tandem, we had to go online and do some FDA modules that were much like a refresher college course.

Then, we started working alongside other inspectors. At first, all we did was observe. Then, bit by bit, we went from observing, to listing the violations we saw and comparing them to the other inspectors' list. The next step was to start entering those violations in the fellow-inspector's computer. Last, we were allowed to do an inspection and write the report ourselves, with the experienced inspector watching us.

I owe a great debt to those co-workers who gave of their time and schedules to do our training. We slowed them down, we asked tons of questions, and they never let on how hard it was on them to add us to their schedules!

On January 2nd, we were turned loose on our new territories. I say "we" because there were 3 of us who were new hires. Three inspectors had retired within the last year, leaving 3 spots unfilled. It's extremely hard to get jobs in this field...folks tend to stay in these jobs for years! Getting this job was DEFINITELY a God-thing. No other way would I have been hired 33 years after getting my degree!

My territory is Burleson, Benbrook, and Crowley, Texas. I teased my boss that if the took a string and tried to find the place on the map furthest from Bedford, he was successful. The good news is that it is a DELIGHTFUL territory. The people are warm and friendly, and the inspector before me was a well-loved gentleman. He also hardly gave demerits, so a few folks are kind of surprised that I do such a thorough inspection. Once I let them know that I'm a nice person, and that we've just been through a standardization process so I have to be more thorough, they relax a bit, and all is well.

An inspection is a long process. At my stage of experience, I probably can do 3-4 inspections per day, depending on whether it's a hard place to inspect, or a simple convenience store.

I'm looking for any sort of health violation. Just as as Christians are to live by God's Word, and try not to either add or detract from what the Word says, as inspectors, we live by the TFER, and try not to add or take away from any regulations.

Violations are things like food workers not washing their hands, not keeping foods cold nor hot according to regulations (Foods have to stay below 41 degrees F and above 135 degrees F to be in the "safe range".) or doing things that would contaminate foods being served. There's lots more, but I could get boring here!

I probably ought to write down some of the funny things that happen some day. Like, the lady who has a cake business that isn't making cakes, and doesn't even have a refrigerator. Needless to say, I had to close her until her place is in order. She, thankfully, agreed and was delightful to deal with.

Today, one of my inspections was a Foodborne Illness inspection. People can call in reports of suspected illness, and we do an inspection to investigate the possible problems that might lead to foodborne illness.

Well, that's the basics of the job. In one family member's words, after we were talking about the fact that I was probably going to be a little over the top for a while on germs, "Yeah, I noticed you were even a little weirder than usual!" :-)