Dear Bema,

Right now, I’m remembering early mornings around the breakfast table every time I visited you. You and Bopie sipping cups of coffee while I – one of the few non-coffee drinkers on the Rothrock side of the family – sipped orange juice. As Bopie ate his oatmeal, you would read the daily devotional to us from your little Catholic devotional book.

And all those good conversations that started around the breakfast table. Conversations about nearly anything. Life, Love, God. We covered it all. Mostly God, come to think of it. Anyone who knew you couldn’t help but see how much you loved the Lord – God was just such a huge part of you!

I can still see you standing by the front door, waving goodbye to Bopie as he left for work – in the wintertime, drawing hearts on the frosted-up windows as you watched him leave. Then we’d go back to our conversation – sometimes as we ate, sometimes with me settled on the floor in front of the pellet stove, and you sitting nearby in your rocking chair.

I particularly remember one “word of wisdom” from those conversations. I remember it well, probably because you told me multiple times, that: “Love is a choice, not a feeling.” The more I see of life, the more I believe and try to act on those words. But, true as those words are, it was never a hard choice for anyone to love you. Everyone who met you fell in love with you. And you always returned the love. You were no ordinary woman.

You were no ordinary cook, either! Not only could you whip together a meal in what seemed to be about half the time it would have taken me, but it always tasted way better than anything I could have made, too. You’d tie on that hideous red-and-white striped apron (don’t get me wrong – I love that apron. But it IS a little bit hideous) – and in no time flat supper would be on the table. We’d all sit at the supper table, with you talking about what was wrong with whatever “Bema concoction” we were eating, what you’d do to improve it next time, and how the quality of food had gone down so much since when you were younger. Bopie and I would defend the food – we’d try to tell you how good it was. I don’t think you ever really believed us, though, even though we were being perfectly honest when we said it was really, really good.

After supper, Bopie would watch the news, then the TV was ours for the evening. Both you and I know how awesome re-runs are, and we watched so many Monk and NCIS re-runs those evenings that any normal person would have gone crazy re-watching so many episodes. But you and I both know that the story gets better every time you watch it. And if you’ve already seen the episode, you don’t have to worry about missing an important part of the story while you concentrate for a few minutes on a tricky spot in your knitting and double-check the pattern.

That was another thing we both understood the awesomeness of: knitting and crocheting. Although you generally bought the better-quality yarns, whereas I bought the cheaper stuff, we both bought yarn in massive quantities (and drove our relatives crazy because of it), and always had a project we were working on. I would loan you pattern books full of afghan or sweater patterns, and you would give me patterns you had found for shawls and hats and scarves.

You were always enthusiastic and encouraging about anything any of us grandkids did. Your refrigerator was always covered with letters, poems, or pictures one of us had given you, and the walls were covered, not only with family pictures, but with things we had given you. Whenever I showed you a story I had written, it was always read (many times read aloud, much to my embarrassment), and at one point you had a file folder just for stories I had written and given you – you wanted to have them to show people. When I showed you the “book” I had written, you sat down and read it straight through – staying up until nearly 11 that night to finish it. When I made some comment about how lame the book was you said “Come on, Naph, I’m tired, I want to go to bed, but it was so interesting I had to stay up to finish it! It does need some editing, but it’s really good!” (“I love you too, Bema.”). You then insisted on borrowing it so you could read it to Bopie and show it to who knows who else.

“Soul music” is a term that will always make me think of you. I can remember when I first “discovered” some of the great “classical” composers. I was about 13 or 14 years old at the time, and I was so excited on hearing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Concerto for the first time that I brought the cassette tape along the next time we visited. We sat in the living room, listening to the Four Seasons Concerto, and as we listened, you said that the music was real “soul music” – music that fed the soul. Music that you could tell had been written to glorify God. It was something that stuck with me – and I can remember you tearing up after I played the piano at my high school graduation. Hugging me and saying that you could hear it in my music – you could hear the “soul,” glorifying God. Even to the end of your life, you thought of me as the musician of the family – the last conversation I ever had with you was over the phone, about a week before you died. Someone from Hospice had come and played the harp for you, and you had to talk to me about how wonderful it had sounded, and how you wanted to buy me a harp, because you knew I would do so well with a harp, and would be able to touch so many lives with such a beautiful instrument. You loved it every time I played the violin for you, and never hesitated to tell anyone and everyone how talented your granddaughter was, how she played violin and organ and piano, and had such a gift for music. Once, the night before one of my recitals, I dressed up in my recital clothes and played you the piece I was going to be performing – Wienawski’s “Legende.” You loved it. Your smile and “That was just beautiful!” and Bopie’s pat on my head and “Sounds good, kiddo” meant more to me than all the people who stopped me in the halls at school the next afternoon to ooh and ahh over my performance.

I wish so much that I could go back to those days – waking up early on a cot or the couch in your living room to the smell of coffee. The big Saturday morning breakfasts of your EggMcBemas, or eggs, bacon and home fries. Those conversations around the kitchen table or the pellet stove. Those shopping trips where we both headed directly for the yarn section as soon as we stepped into the store.

I miss seeing you and Bopie together. Your marriage was the closest thing I’ve ever seen – or am ever likely to see – to a fairy tale/storybook “happily ever after” love. You weren’t just husband and wife, you were best friends. I think I hurt more for Bopie than I do for myself. His life simply revolved around you.

I love you, Bema. And I miss you. A LOT.

In loving memory of

Sandra Gail Rothrock

2/28/1943 – 1/24/2012


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