Thursday, June 25, 2009


Definite: Sunday, 2PM at Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, Decatur, GA, reception / visitation following in the church fellowship hall.

Tentative, pending church / staff confirmation: Monday, 11PM at Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church, Dublin, GA, reception / vistation following in the church fellowship hall.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests, at Mom's direction, contributions to either of the above churches, or the charity of your choice.

A Life Well Lived

And that's an understatement.

Alice "Attee" Adams Hunter Patterson, beloved wife, mother, and friend.
Born: October 7, 1928
Died: June 25,2009

Thank you all for your prayers and support. Keep them coming on behalf of our family and especially on behalf of my sweet daddy, mourning the earthly loss of the love of his life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Minor Correction

After some discussion, we have decided that it makes more sense to have the memorial service in Decatur first, then have the memorial and graveside service in Dublin, a few days later. The Hospice nurse came today, and said that she thought it would be at least another three to four days, possibly even five. But we all know that ATTEE is as in control as she always has been, and she has made it clear that she'd like to go on a Sunday. Take that as you will...

Your prayers have lifted and carried me today. Thank you all.


My heart is very heavy this morning, and my emotions are huge. Mom is no longer communicative, and only slightly responsive. We have all said our goodbyes and shed more tears than I've seen in a lifetime, it seems. I am running out of patience and feeling very short on most of the other "good" internal resources like faith, hope, assurance, trust, etc. This is the hardest thing I have ever done, and today, words just do not do my feelings justice, so I will not try.

In honor of Mom, then, I will move to a more practical note, because that's what she often did when she didn't know what else to do. I want to share with you all the plans that we have made for services, visitation, etc. The funeral will be in Dublin at Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church, with family vistation at the church prior to the service, and a smaller graveside service at Northview Cemetary. Following the graveside service, I expect there will be a lunch at the church for family and out-of-town guests.

There will also be a memorial service in Decatur, a few days after the funeral,at Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, followed by a lunch in the church fellowship hall.

In lieu of flowers, Mom has requested contributions be made to either of the two above churches, or to a charity of your own choosing.

Please continue to keep all of us in your prayers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gifts, Journeys, and Shoes

Before I write, I want to share two books that have been invaluable to both Calli and me on this journey. One is called "Final Gifts," and the other is called "Final Journeys," both by Maggie Callanan. If you or someone you love has this kind of experience in their near future, give them these books now. Seriously. They have been wonderful for us.

David Lamotte sings a song that I love. Well, he sings many songs that I love, actually, but one in particular has found its way into my head these days. It's not one of his originals, & I'm not really quite sure from where it comes, but it's called "Travelin' Shoes." According to David, it is actually a "gospel song from the days of the underground railroad when slaves were being smuggled to freedom in the north." He claims that he "learned from a Texas folksinger Ruthie Foster and it's a code song. It's a song that was actually used to give people information about how and when to run to escape to freedom so the song has very rich history. You listen to a song like that and you tell me you can't change the world, and I say listen to that song. That song changed a lot for a lot of people, and it's just a song. I think we are foolish to think we can't have an impact.''

The lyrics go like this: You know that death came a knockin’ on the mama's door, singin' come on mama, ain't you ready to go. And my mama stooped down, buckled up her shoe, and she moved on down by the Jordan stream. And then she shout "Hallelujah, done, done my duty, got on my travelin' shoes..." It scrolls thru all of the various family members...sister, brother, neighbor, preacher, then finally self. Really, the lyrics aren't particularly creative. However, the song itself is really moving, especially when David weaves the story in among his singing of the song. While I know the song is a a code slave song, it is, on the surface, about death. It is about gettin' ready for the journey. It is about being done with the duties here in this life and moving on to whatever the next life brings.

We have turned a corner. We have begun the slow march with my mom towards that promised land. And while we will all walk with her toward the open door, only she can go through it, at least for now. She's got on her travelin' shoes. We know the road will be long and hard, but we are cheering her on, supporting her, loving on her, and encouraging her every step of the way, just as she has done for Tom, Hunter, Calli, & me, as well as so many others, all these years.

I'm learning so much through this. Even in her dying, Mom continues to have an impact. Even in her dying, she continues to change the world for the better. Even in her dying, she continues to teach us how to love and how to live. What a gift.

A Corner Turned

I was thinking this morning as I was driving around on few errands that one day I will look back on the summer of 2009 and it will all be a blur. It all just feels very surreal to me still, and I feel as if I am observing my life from above myself, if that makes any sense at all. I literally feel as if I am being carried through the days. Often when I lay my head down at night, I marvel at how I managed, on the good days anyway, to go about the day-to-day routines of my life seemingly without missing a beat. And if I am able to string together coherent thoughts for long enough, I offer a prayer of gratitude for the strength and perseverance that has been granted to me and my family on these difficult days.

Mom has declined quite rapidly for the past week. Just last Thursday, she was able to walk from room to room, albeit very slowly, with the help of a wheeled walker. On Friday, we made the shift to a wheelchair in hopes of conserving more of her energy. And now, just four days later, we have acknowledged that she will pretty much be in bed from this point on. She is too weak to move herself much at all, and it is too painful for her if we try to move her.

(I just re-read that last sentence, and am still utterly amazed at how this horrible thing has taken the life and energy out of my sweet mama--a woman who has never looked or acted anything close to her 80 years until just four months ago.)

Tom has been with us since last Wednesday, but left this morning for a few days at home. Calli arrived yesterday afternoon, and is here "for the duration." The Hospice aide and nurse both came today, and Goldie (the nurse) said that Mom's vitals do indicate that she has turned yet another corner on her journey. Her blood pressure, at 90/60, was lower than it has been, and her heart rate was 100, higher than it has been. Apparently this is an indicator. While no one can accurately predict anything like this, based on Goldie's experience, she estimated that we're looking at 7-10 days.

On February 10th, we were told 3 to 6 months, and thought there was no way it would happen that quickly. We are now at 4 1/2 months, and it's been the longest (and strangely the best) 4 1/2 months I've had in quite a while.

Please keep us all in your prayers. We are in the "home stretch," as they say, and it is not going to be easy on us. However, we have been lifted up through prayers and good thoughts since mid-February, and we know that they will continue to carry us. Thanks to each one of you who continue to love and support us on this very difficult journey.

And thanks to you, sweet mama, for teaching us all to care for others, and for allowing us all to care for you these past few months. As I've told you recently, there is ready-ing to be done on "the other side," and you are free to make your way there whenever you are ready. You will always be with us in spirit, and therefore, while we will miss you, we will be fine.

Traveling mercies, Attee. I love you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A concert of sorts...

Today, Daniel spent some one-on-one time with Mom. He enjoyed playing the electric keyboard that a friend let us borrow for a while. Mom enjoyed listening to him. I enjoyed reflecting on the deep love that exists between these two human beings, separated by 68 years, but bound by a special love. And I think this picture is wonderful. I knew Mom wouldn't let me take a picture of HER, so it was pretty sneaky on my part. She looks beautiful to me, though. It was the best hour of my day, and probably of hers as well.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Meal Making

After their own week in beautiful Costa Rica, Calli and her crew are here in Decatur for a few days. I had told her to be prepared for significant decline in Mom’s overall health since she last saw her just prior to their leaving last Friday. Thankfully, she wasn’t surprised to find that her pain had increased, she has been sleeping more, and her breathing and talking are considerably more labored. I continue to be dumbfounded at how this (insert strong expletive) cancer has sucked the life out of a woman who was so energetic , vibrant, and full of life just last year.

Although Mom had a hard day, it was a good day overall for our family. Adam was excited about heading to Montreat for a church youth conference this morning, and once I got him on his way, we all met at Mom & Dad’s for lunch after church. I grilled burgers and Calli and Dad helped with the rest of the meal, and it was good indeed to have so many of us around the lunch table with Mom. We spent a good bit of the afternoon there, then I headed back up there for dinner while the boys and Joel were at youth group.

Calli fixed a great dinner—I savored the familiar smells from my childhood as I walked in the door. Mmmm….chicken imperial! (I thought it was a Patterson family original, but this is pretty much it.) The sides were scalloped potatoes, a bit of leftover curried rice from Kate Hunter’s Kitchen, and asparagus casserole, another family tradition. The five of us…Mom, Dad, Calli, Ned, and me…sat down to a perfectly set table, napkins and forks on the left, knives on the right, drinks at the top right. We put our napkins in our laps, held hands, and Calli asked for God’s blessing on the food. “For health…and strength…and daily food…we give Thee thanks, O Lord. Amen.”

I had forgotten to get my chicken, so Calli offered to get a piece for me since she was closest to the kitchen. She also served our plates with asparagus, and we passed the other dishes among ourselves. We all enjoyed the meal and the time together immensely, and I silently acknowledged my new appreciation for the simple times with family lately. Calli commented that the chicken wasn’t “true” imperial because we were short on parmesan cheese, but it tasted just perfect to me. We talked about the cream sauce on the asparagus, and how she had made it in the microwave, “Peggy Nelson’s way,” she added. Mom & I nodded because we both knew what that meant. I silently noted that she had added the grated cheese to the sauce, and not sprinkled it on top, like we usually do, and decided it was really better that way. Dad complimented Calli on the meal, and we could tell he really enjoyed it. We have been blessed by countless people bringing us food over these past few months, and while it has been delicious, there was something comforting about having “traditional” Patterson foods for a change—foods that were familiar to our childhood—the chicken, the asparagus, and the potatoes, at least.

As the meal was winding down, I noticed that Mom was unusually quiet. Just as we were beginning to clear the table, she got sick to her stomach and had to excuse herself. Once she had somewhat recovered, she apologized time and time again for “ruining Calli’s nice meal.” Of course we assured her that she had not ruined it, that we were already finished, and that everything was okay. Calli and I worked together to help her get cleaned up and tucked into bed. We watched with tears in our eyes as Dad came back to tuck her in and kiss her goodnight.

“I’m sorry I ruined the meal, Tommy,” she whispered.

“You didn’t ruin it,” he assured her. “I love you, Alice,” he said tenderly. “Goodnight.”

“I love you too, Sweetie. Goodnight.”

Calli & I kissed her goodnight too, and I repeated the prayer that she said with me for years when I was little, as has become my habit when I tuck her in at night lately. “Heavenly Father, hear our prayers. Take this child into Thy care. Let the angels pure and bright watch around her through the night. Amen.”

Later tonight as I was pondering our mealtime together, I began to think about her worrying that she had ruined the meal. And as I thought more about it, I realized that not only had she not ruined the meal, but over the 50+ years that she has been our mother, she has made that meal possible.

Because you see, it was Mom who first introduced us to the enticing aroma of chicken imperial when she fixed it “for company” so many times during our childhood.

It was Mom who taught us how to compliment an entrée with coordinating side dishes.

It was Mom who taught us how to set a “proper” table, and Mom who taught us to put our napkins in our laps.

It was Mom who taught us the importance of saying a blessing before every meal.

It was through Mom’s modeling of what it truly means to be a hostess that made it so easy for Calli to offer to get that piece of chicken for me.

It was Mom who taught us how to make chicken imperial and the cream sauce for asparagus casserole.

It was Mom who taught us how to be a family.

My dear sweet Attee, not only did you not ruin tonight’s wonderful meal, but you made it all possible.

Sleep well tonight, Mom. We love you.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mom and Dad on their 59th!

We had a great dinner and celebration tonight at 2871, complete with roses, steaks, wine, and delicious lemon pie. It was a wonderful dinner honoring a wonderful couple!

Today's Prayer

Dear God,

What a beautiful morning it is! I have enjoyed the silence, the birds, the coffee, and the crossword puzzle. I am grateful for the arms that have wrapped around me in comfort today, and for the special-ness that is this day. Fifty-nine years ago THIS DAY, Alice Hunter and Tommy Patterson became husband and wife, beginning the journey of a lifetime for them, and giving my siblings and me life and breath, through You, along the way. Thank you for that union, for their love for one another, and for their love for so many others. They are both wonderful witnesses to the love that You have for us.

Thank you also for allowing me the privilege of caring for my mom these past few weeks. And today, thank you especially for this morning’s gift of helping her take a shower. As You know, it is quite a chore for her, and it was a wonderful thing to be able to help her slough off the yuckiness of life that simply pervades a body after two days. I felt You with me as I sat on standby, just outside the shower, while she bathed herself. Then I did my best to channel Your love for us all as I gently washed her hair, massaged her shoulders, and scrubbed her back before she resumed on her own. As the water flowed over her body, washing her clean, I thanked you for the promises made to her, sealed in her baptism so many years ago. You heard my silent prayer for her as she rested a bit, then continued by drying herself off slowly and deliberately with a fresh towel. You watched and smiled as I rubbed her back and legs with lotion—just like she did with Tom, Hunter, Calli, & me many times when we were babies—and then as I helped her don her housecoat before tucking her in for her morning nap.

Thank you, God, for that woman. For her life, for her example, for her smiles, and for her love. What a gift it is to be one of her many caregivers.

But God, my prayer is bigger than gratitude today. My prayer comes to you with tears streaming down my face, and a giant hole opening up in my heart. Because you see, God, as I felt the humidity in that tiny room swell to an almost unbearable weight on my skin, I longed for my own release from it. I longed for cooler air, for lighter breathing. And I realized, God, that she is there all the time. She lives day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute with that (insert strong expletive here) cancer weighing heavy on her heart, soul, body, and mind. I sat there in that bathroom, God, with the steam from the shower clouding my vision and making it harder and harder for me to breathe. I knew that I could simply open the door and feel immediate relief. But I wanted to feel it—the desperation, the weight, the discomfort. I wanted to feel it so that I could be sure of my prayer today. And now I am.

God, open the door for Mom soon. Open the door for her now. Greet her with cooler air, lighter breathing, and wide open arms. Welcome her alongside the many saints who have gone before her. She is ready, and so am I.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Sermon

For some reason, I woke up with this sermon on my mind. It was one of my early ones--I think I actually wrote it for preaching class. I also preached it twice...once at at CTS chapel service, and once at Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dublin, the church where my parents were longtime members, and where I grew up. At any rate, the Spirit speaks to me most clearly in the early morning hours, so my posting it here is a Spirit thing.

A Place at the Table

My mom is an amazing woman. She’s one of those people who can make friends with anyone and maintain friendships over decades. She never meets a stranger, and will go out of her way to be friendly and hospitable to everyone. She was the one at our church who would invite the first-time visitors to have lunch with us after worship, not having a clue what we were having or if there would be enough. It was always good, and there always was enough. And most of the time, those spur-of-the-moment invitations blossomed into beautiful friendships and secured wonderful new members for our oftentimes struggling little church.

I grew up the youngest of four children in Dublin, GA, a small town just a couple of hours from here. When I was four years old, my oldest brother went off to college, followed two years later by my other brother Hunter, then another three years later by my sister Calli. My brothers were, as they say, “products of the sixties.” I remember that my oldest brother Tom’s preferred mode of transportation in the early seventies was hitchhiking. Oftentimes we’d never know exactly when to expect him home because it would all depend on whether or not he was able to get rides. And naturally, when he was traveling in his own or another’s car, he would often stop to pick UP hitchhikers. So it wasn’t unusual, when he was traveling home, for him to show up with an extra buddy whom he had picked up and made friends with along the way. My mom would make that extra place at the table, find a place in our house for our guest to sleep, serve our guest breakfast, then see that the “stranger” got out to the interstate for his next day’s ride. Amazing, when you think about it. Yes, it was a different world then, but nevertheless, when I think back on it, I’m amazed that my parents allowed it.

Today’s text is a lesson in hospitality and otherness. Listen as we hear God’s word as found in Luke 7:36-50

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’

Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’

Teacher,’ he replied, ‘Speak.’

A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’

Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.’

And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’

Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’

And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

(end text)

When I skimmed this text initially as our assignments were given out, I thought…Oh, the anointing at Bethany. I mulled on my knowledge of that story for a week or so, then sat down later to read it more carefully. I realized then that it wasn’t exactly the same story that I remembered, so I looked it up in the NT synopsis and realized that it, indeed, is placed parallel with the anointing at Bethany stories found in Matthew, Mark, and John. There’s much discussion surrounding this text…partially because of the similarities and differences it has with the other “parallel” texts in the other three gospels. While most scholars agree that they are from the same source, Luke’s version has a totally different feel to it—a different emphasis. I invite you to take a closer look with me.

Simon the Pharisee has invited Jesus to dinner. We don’t know why… perhaps it was a genuine invitation with no ulterior motive. Perhaps he was curious to find out more about Jesus. Perhaps he wanted to rub elbows with the man who is beginning to cause such a stir throughout the region. Whatever the motivation, Simon makes room at his table for this man called Jesus.

Jesus accepts, and while they are dining a woman from the city, from the streets…a SINNER, came in. Now this was not all THAT unusual in the day…the poor would occasionally pander for food at dinner parties since private dinners were actually quite public. But this was much more than that. This woman was clearly overcome with emotion.

Simon and his guests, including Jesus, were probably reclined for dinner, probably propped up on an elbow, lying on their sides as was the custom in those days. His feet are exposed, and this woman walks in, this woman “from the city,” and begins to cry on his feet and dry them with her hair.

We can’t really blame Simon for being a tad bit upset. Can you imagine? It’s no wonder that the meal was disrupted. Her actions were obviously quite embarrassing to Simon—they could have easily been mistaken for sexual advances.

Simon, the host, was obviously flustered. He said to himself “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” It is quite clear, by Simon’s behavior, that he is embarrassed and uncomfortable with the woman’s presence and behavior.

Jesus picks up on Simon’s discomfort even though Simon never voices it aloud. A couple of the commentaries made a big deal over the fact that Jesus “read Simon’s mind and therefore indeed must be a prophet.” But come on now…how difficult would that body language be to read?

Jesus then shares with Simon a parable about a moneylender and two debtors, one who owes a great deal and one who only owes a small sum. The lender, upon realizing that neither could pay his debt, canceled them both. Then Jesus asks Simon “Which of the debtors will love more?” Simon replies “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” “You have judged rightly” says Jesus.

Consider Simon the Pharisee. He is a law-abiding man, no doubt an upstanding citizen in his community. He sets his table and invites his guests. Jesus comes and Simon doesn’t even bother to show him the hospitality common to the day…a washing and anointing of his feet, or a kiss of greeting.

The problem with Simon lies deeper than his lack of hospitality. The problem lies in Simon’s ATTITUDE. Simon the Pharisee views himself as a blameless man. Simon has no clue of his need for forgiveness, and therefore no appreciation for the forgiveness available through Christ, and therefore, little ability to show love. In Jesus’ parable, Simon is the debtor who “owes little”—he loves less because he fails to recognize the magnitude of forgiveness he needs.

Now consider the woman, the sinner. She is a woman of the city—a suggestion that her sins are sexual. Regardless of her sins, however, we she knows that she has been forgiven. Her gratitude for that forgiveness propels her to show Jesus all the hospitality that Simon neglected to show him. She cleaned his feet from the day’s travel, she kissed not just him but his feet—a sign of gratitude for her pardon-- and then she anointed his feet with oil.

Jesus holds up this sinful woman as the model of hospitality for Simon. Shame on you, Simon, for not doing at least as much for me, your guest. As we have seen, though, it is Simon’s failure to recognize his need for forgiveness that keeps him from being able to show love to both Christ and the woman from the streets.

One’s capacity to love is directly related to one’s ability to receive grace and forgiveness.

Simon the Pharisee has set a table. And who is at Simon’s table? Jesus is there. There is a place for him there, but that’s not all that surprising. Jesus was himself a law-abiding Jew, some say even a Pharisee. And Jesus was never one to pass up a meal. Christ was known for dining with anyone…from his loyal disciples to the well-known sinners…anyone.

Chances are there are others there as well…other men…Pharisees and religious leaders. Who else might be there? I’m not sure, but there were definite boundaries and a fixed number of invited guests at Simon’s table, for Simon, the one to whom little is forgiven, loved little.

Simon has set a table. So have we. Who is at our table? One scholar said “unless we see something of ourselves in the character of Simon the Pharisee, we are so blind to our own need that we have failed to hear the story.” But wait…surely we are not as discriminating as Simon. The tables we prepare today have room for many more. Not necessarily or always physical room but symbolic room.

Our guest lists are much more diverse than Simon’s was…or are they? Close your eyes and picture it. Who is at your table? Picture all the guests you have had at your table throughout your life. Hold that image in your mind’s eye. Your family, your friends, perhaps those with whom you have things in common? Think about those who sit at your table, then answer this question: Is Christ at your table? Is he there as an invited guest, or did he just happen to show up? What about that person who offended you just last week, or that person with whom you disagree about some current hot topic?

Jesus said “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.”

Again I ask…who is at your table?

Simon has set a table. We have set a table. Christ has set a table. Who, then, is invited to dine at Christ’s table? Close your eyes and picture it. Or let your eyes drift to or picture the communion table. What is different about it? Lots, yes, but what is the one, obvious physical difference? There are no chairs!!! There are none, for when we set a table with chairs, we are limited as to the number of guests we might seat. Christ’s table is one at which we can all crowd around, regardless of the number of our sins. This table, the table of holy communion, God’s table… has an infinite number of places around it.

As I was preparing for today’s sermon, I remembered a book that my mother recommended to me called “A Place at the Table.” I couldn’t remember the author, so I went to and was not really surprised to find several books with the exact or a similar title. There were books with similar titles that had to do with women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, the rights of the mentally / physically challenged…each lobbying, if you will, for a spirit of welcome for all God’s children, not just those who meet certain criteria. Each author, in his or her own way, reminds us that not ONE of us deserves a place at Christ’s table. We have all fallen short of God’s grace, just as Simon had, just as the woman had. Jesus said to Simon “Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” The good news is that, though we have all fallen short of God’s grace, we are loved and we are forgiven. Hence…therefore…for this reason…and so…WE are to show great love…to all God’s children.

The great 13th century Eastern mystic and poet Rumi wrote: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing , there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense."

For Christians, that field is the Lord's Table, where we meet today for this simple meal. It has been prepared, and it is ready and waiting for us

That marks the end of the sermon. But as I re-read it for the umpteenth time, I began to think anew about that field of Rumi's. I wonder if that is what "heaven," or "the other side," or "paradise," or whatever you wish to call it is like. If so, I think Mom will feel right at home there, don't you?