About Me

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Tennessee, United States
Retired teacher living in East Tennessee, adjusting to life in the land of round door knobs. Photographer for our local animal shelter and foster of many dogs and kitties. Don't ask me how many dogs I have, but my son got me one of those "I'm the crazy dog lady" sweatshirts.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

The stuff we leave behind

Cleaning up after my father's death was an eye-opening experience. Someday each of us will die and others will go through our stuff and pitch out much of it, save a few things to remember us buy, sell what they can. That scripture about not storing up our treasures on earth has a clearer meaning for me. After helping my siblings and sisters-in-law nearly fill an enormous dumpster, I think I should go home and clean out my own drawers, closets and the garage. So much meaningless junk we hang on to.

Those who worked outside got bruised and cuts from the work. Jim and I went and got tetanus booster shots to protect us, because we figured it had probably been 10 years since our last one.

My father had started widening the porch in front of the house, but the job was incomplete, like every other project he started. My brothers laid out some of the concrete slabs they found to make steps of a sort from the lawn to the porch, but they tended to wobble, only marginally better than stepping onto the mess of rocky, weedy, trash-strewn ground to either side.

After my brothers left and went home to Oklahoma and Arkansas, I dug up the ground and laid the slabs into the ground to make a pathway. As I dug, I uncovered many of dad's rocks that he collected through the years, and used them to line the path. I used bricks, also just found lying around, to cover up the exposed insulation along the base of the wall. There wasn't anything any of us could do about the equipment and lumber piled to one side of the door, but all-in-all, the yard and porch are less of an eyesore, safer and more inviting than they were.

Friday, May 04, 2007


The best part of funerals is being with family and friends. The hardest part is dealing with the grief, in this case my mother's. She is a strong woman, but even when you've been married to a difficult man ("my jerk" she called him), the end result is that you are alone and must cope alone.

My brothers, my sister and their spouses, my son and I have all worked hard to try to clean up the mess my father left behind. He was one of those packrats of the awful kind, never letting go of anything that might be useful some day or might be fixed or might be sold, but of course none of those things happened. The mess was both inside the home and outside, extending to rotting trailers and rusting cars in the back field. We got a huge dumpster and the only reason it isn't full is because the rains came and haulted the work. My brothers went back to Oklahoma and Arkansas. I am grateful for all they and their wives did, because it was a tremendous amount of work.

The house will be in much better shape when we leave, but it remains to be seen whether the cats will be able to change their habits and use the litter box and not the fireplace. We are ordering a new tempurpedic bed for Mom, which should help her mood and her health by giving her better rest. Having lain on the store model, I am tempted to get myself one when we move back to the States.

Billy Dean Stearman, 1928-2007

My father passed away on Thursday, April 26, 2007. The good thing about Dad's passing is that he saw it coming. He was told that he was dying and had days to live, so he was able to say goodbye. I talked to him on the phone the day before he died and he told me he was not afraid of dying, not at all, but he wasn't in a hurry either and would try to be there when I arrived, but he passed the day before. My dad loved to talk, and even though he would have to stop and catch his breath, and his voice was wheezy, he talked and sang his way to death's door. He decided to die at home, and so arrangements were made for hospice care. He gave directions to the ambulance drivers and told them, just a quarter mile now, but those were his last words. As they were wheeling him into the house on the gurney, they look down and saw that he had gone still. They got a faint pulse, but he passed quickly. He made it home, but just.

The Memorial was organized very quickly, but everyone worked on their part of it. It was a beautiful service, lasting for an hour-and-a-half and attended by around 100 people. There were four ministers, including a catholic priest with whom dad was friends and shared a birthday (year and date). He joked before his death that he had been administered to by ministers from our church and given absolution by Father Kaiser, so he was prepared to go.

I organized a slide show with photos I had scanned at home and photos sent to me by other relatives. I selected the song: "I'll Fly Away" from the movie soundtrack of "O Brother Where Art Thou." I liked the message, but also the old-time country gospel feel and sound. I knew my father liked classical music and had originally thought to go in that direction, but this song changed my mind. When I played the slide show for family, my nephew Luke recognized it immediately as one of Dad's favorite songs, one that he listened to in the car and sang along with. Later, my brother, Jerry, told me it was probably the last song Dad ever sang, because he sang it to his roommate in the hospital.

On Tuesday, May 1, Dad's urn was placed in the mausoleum at the Veteran's Memorial Cemetery in Higginsville, MO, receiving full military honors.