Sunday, October 14, 2007

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Midwife of Souls and Chocolate Cake

Today the Punk Pastor is doing his first funeral. It has been a long week for him of bedside watching and praying. Pastors are among the few people in our society who actually confront death on a regular basis. It puts them face to face with their own mortality. "Remember Pr. S-- (a seminary professor), how calm and self-contained he was, like nothing could shake him?" he said, returning from the hospital earlier this week. "It was thirty years of this. Of watching other people die and dealing with the details of his own mortality." Needless to say, the man needed some space.

Yesterday, I found suddenly that I was the pastor's wife, not just my husband's wife. I was leading a Cub Scout meeting. The kids and I had volunteered to run a booth with some other homeschoolers at a fall festival today. The shopping hadn't been done yet, since the Scientist needed the doctor yesterday, and the pantry was bare. I took calls from the funeral home. How many pallbearers are there? Can we come set up at 8:30 in the morning? Has the pastor received a copy of the obituary?

And in the midst of this, the ladies of the church called and asked if I could bring a dessert of salad for the funeral lunch. I'm not by nature a seamlessly organized person. A day like that would ordinarily send me into a tailspin. But I was calm as a summer's day. It must have been grace. I thought, if I grab something easy to make while I'm at the grocery store, I can get it ready this evening after Scouts and it will be ready for tomorrow. And I said yes. And somehow, in between things, I popped a cake into the oven. I went to Scouts. I came home, stacked the layers, and warmed up leftovers for dinner. I put the Cookie Mouse to bed and frosted it. And the I went to the funeral home for visitation.

The family is all here from out of state, four siblings, of this dear lady, and their spouses. There were two more who were unable to come. She had been the eldest and had raised them all when their mother died. It's funny the details you learn about people after they die, the big picture you get of their lives, things no one ever mentioned when they were living, that just don't come up in conversation. They were all so warm. They seemed so glad that I had come. I thought as I left the funeral home that it was sad that the only reason I was meeting them was because someone they loved had died, and that they would all go home and I would probably never meet them again.

I came home and folded bulletins -- church bulletins and funeral bulletins -- while sitting in bed with the Punk Pastor watching As Time Goes By.

And today is the funeral. Two funerals, actually. Another lady passed away the same day, not a member of our church, but the mother of one of our parishioners. So while the kids and I are stuffing scarecrows in the Land of Oz, the Punk Pastor will be attending one funeral and preaching another. It's like a meatball sandwich. You'll have to read the Forum Letter to understand that one.

And in the spirit of a meatball sandwich, here is the world's easiest and most delicious chocolate cake, the one the Scientist made for her tea party last week, the one the Swordmaster will make for the Cub Scout cake auction next week, the one I made for the funeral lunch today.

+In memoriam L.P.A.W. +

Friday, October 12, 2007

Time for Thyme

Even though I always have a pot of thyme on my porch, I had forgotten what a wonder worker this herb is and neglected to use it.

Then yesterday the Scientist woke up feeling terrible. This is not unusual when her allergies are acting up, but this was more terrible than average. I gave her a benedryl and some tylenol. It didn't help, and after half a morning of listening to her whine and dragging her through her lessons, she said, "Mom, can I go to the doctor? I have pressure in my ears."

"Pressure in the ears" gets you an immediate trip to the doctor at our house. I was pretty sure she wasn't infected, just stopped up with allergies, but I don't like to mess around with ear infections, and that's how they start. I got her a doctor's appointment for the afternoon, then looked around the house for some decongestant to help relieve those ears. There was none. Then I thought of the thyme on my porch. It is very effective for congestion. In fact, last fall, I had taken a teaspoon full of thyme vinegar each morning and suffered no hay fever misery at all.

I had been reading one of Susun Weed's Wise Woman Herbal series the night before. I'm always conflicted about whether to sell the one book by her I do own, or buy all the rest. She takes a very Pagan approach to herbalism, so a Christian reader has to sift through the wheat and the chaff when using her material. Still, she knows her herbs, and her book offers the most clear, exact, practical instructions for preparing herbs that I have found anywhere.

With her instructions fresh in my mind, I brought in a couple of handfuls of thyme from the porch, placed them in a large glass jar, and put the kettle on. The thyme was infusing while we were at the doctor's office.

The doctor looked in the Scientist's ears and throat, made and face, and wryly commented, "I'll have to say something to the receptionist about giving the kids red lollipops before they come in here!" He then pronounced (as I had expected) that her ears were not infected, but they were full of fluid. Since the tylenol hadn't given her any relief, he prescribed some ear drops for the pain and told us to come back if she developed a fever.

The ear drops brought almost instant relief, though she didn't like the gooey glycerin based stuff oozing down into her ear. So she wasn't very keen on drinking down a cupful of thyme infusion afterwards, even if it was sweetened with over a tablespoon of honey. Still, she was up against a mother determined to stop this thing from getting infected, so drink it she did.

It didn't have the immediate effect of the ear drops. Herbs are gentle, and thyme doesn't instantly open your sinuses the way diphenhydramine does. But by this morning, she had no ear pressure and didn't need any ear drops. I gave her another cupful of infusion at breakfast and she has been her rosy self all day.

Please note: Thyme is an emmenagogue and uterine stimulant, and should not be used medicinally during pregnancy.