We had our first taste of fall this week in the northern corner of Virginia. It’s been delightful! Our overnight temperatures have been cool enough to sleep with the windows open. That’s always a welcome change from the air-conditioning that has been running non-stop since May.
This weekend we hosted family members in town from New England. We look forward to their visit each year. We always try to think of places to show them in and around the DC area that we enjoyed seeing when we first moved to Virginia.
In past years we toured the DC monuments at night, drove to Harper’s Ferry, and visited Luray Caverns. Yesterday, we spent the morning at Arlington National Cemetery, and the afternoon at Mount Vernon, the home and final resting place of George Washington.
Visiting these two landmarks is always such an honor for us, no matter how many times we have been in the past. Mount Vernon turned out to be an educational visit for us too, since so many new features and exhibits have been added since our last tour.
Although it was a hot afternoon, there was plenty of shade along the walking paths. I particularly enjoyed strolling through the gardens, and took a few photos of the flowers before they faded for the season.
Between years of school field trips and out of town guests, I am not sure how many times I have been to Mount Vernon. But on this particular day I noticed something I have missed on other visits to George Washington’s tomb. On the wall above his sarcophagus, there is an engraving of a familiar Bible verse:
I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord,
he that believeth in me, though he were dead,
yet shall he live;
and whoever liveth and believeth
in me shall never die. – John 11:25-26
I couldn’t find any mention of this inscription on the Mount Vernon website. It’s placement is significant though. It was probably added to the new tomb in 1831 when George and Martha Washington and their family’s remains were transferred from the original tomb. This was the chosen scripture for our first president’s final resting place, although it was not his final home.
Family visits are always a special time. We enjoy sharing stories from the past and creating new memories to relive on future gatherings. This year was even more memorable for me because a familiar Bible verse reinforced not only a lesson in history, but also a faith connection shared with our forefathers.
We’re back from our vacation — over 1600 miles round-trip — miles that took us through some of the most scenic winding country roads and rolling mountain passes I have ever seen. We drove across Virginia, and through parts of South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. We were on the outskirts of Nashville when our faithful Toyota Avalon ticked over 100,000 miles on the odometer.
The photos can’t capture the beauty, but I’ll share a few in this post. The one above was taken in North Carolina, near the Tryon International Equestrian Center.
This week’s blog title, “Four Brave Ladies”, is a tender tribute to four women I’ve spent time with in the past five weeks, all who have recently been touched by cancer. I will not mention their names out of respect for their privacy. Their loved ones will recognize these stories.
My first tribute is for a friend I met at church shortly after we moved to Virginia. She had a wonderful sense of humor, and I enjoyed getting to know her and her family. As our children grew, we shared many laughs and stories — particularly during our kid’s teen years. She and her husband were both music teachers and I was a band mom. That provided a long-lasting connection.
Her cancer diagnosis came in October of 2017. Just two years into her retirement she received the devastating diagnosis of Stage IV pancreatic cancer. It had metastasized to her lungs. There was no cure, only the hope of a miracle and more time.
She fought valiantly for the next 21 months — a miracle in itself for a pancreatic cancer patient — during which she met many milestones for trips and family gatherings. On July 6th she met another milestone, when she held her tiny newborn granddaughter for the first time. Can you even imagine the joy in her heart when their eyes met?
On Friday evening, I received a call telling me that my friend was welcomed into the arms of Jesus. The greatest milestone of all. May she rest in eternal peace.
My second tribute is for a relatively new acquaintance. We’ve only met once or twice in the past, but our paths crossed again during our vacation. She is a breast cancer survivor. Her cancer was caught early. After diagnosis she had a mastectomy followed by a short course of chemotherapy. She was blessed with very few side effects. Her treatment is over, her spirits are high, and she is doing very well.
Throughout her cancer journey, she kept her eyes fixed on the Lord. We talked about our shared faith, our families, and our lives back home. It seemed like we had been friends for years! I was grateful that the Lord brought us together again as an encouragement to one another in our walks of faith.
My third tribute is for a friend that we have known for over 30 years. Her family lived on a farm in Maine. They were neighbors and close friends of my parents, and were a huge source of comfort and support for my mom when my father died suddenly in 1986. Her children grew up and moved away, and she and her husband relocated their farm to North Carolina several years ago, shortly after my mother and brother moved to Virginia.
We haven’t been in touch very often since their move. I reached out several weeks ago to ask if we might visit during our upcoming vacation, and was shocked to learn that she was battling breast cancer. She received the diagnosis on her birthday last year. Even though she had just completed her chemotherapy and is beginning radiation treatment, she still wanted us to visit.
It was wonderful seeing our friends again. Although the chemo left her weak and exhausted, she still enjoys her daily walks. We were given a full tour of their property, accompanied by her husband, their two granddaughters, three dogs, and a donkey. We were quite a sight to see! She is another brave fighter, and I expect she will regain her strength — and hair — very soon. I was so glad we were able to visit during our trip, and I will continue praying for her full recovery.
Yes, I mentioned four tributes, didn’t I?
”M” stands for Mom. Last Friday, while still on vacation, I received word that my mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She has Paget’s Disease which accounts for between 1%-4% of all breast cancers diagnosed each year. It’s very rare, but treatable. That is, if you are 85 years old and in relatively good health. My mother has advanced Vascular Dementia and a pacemaker. She cannot have an MRI or a mammogram to see how far the cancer has progressed. The disease is clearly visible though, and presented itself as a nasty rash. My brother and I will meet with a breast surgeon next week to discuss our options. It will be a difficult visit. Your prayers are coveted.
I’ve lived my entire life knowing only a handful of people who have been touched by cancer. Suddenly this disease is touching so many lives of people I love. It is hard to not feel a sense of helplessness or even dread, however, I have a Father who holds me safe and secure. I have confidence and the reassurance that He will uphold me through whatever trials are on the horizon.
“I consider that sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” — Romans 8:18