Reflecting on chapter 7 of Trek to the Manger today, I’m reminded afresh of my sweet friend, Clareen. I hope this post will inspire you to remember those who have been part of your great cloud of witnesses through the years! I shared these thoughts at Clareen’s memorial service last year. I miss her. A lot.
Artist. Prophet. Cracked Pot. Yoda.
Many people in our community have memories and stories of adventures and conversations with Clareen Barrett – I have no special claim to her, to be sure. And yet, like many others, I feel like I DO!
Isn’t it beautiful how one woman can affect so many people in such deeply personal ways? I wonder if you know anyone like that?
If you’ve given it any thought yourselves, those of you who knew Clareen, there are life-lessons that you have gleaned from watching her live. Maybe your own list looks a little bit like mine…
Love Simply and Keep it Real
If we can agree on anything about Clareen, it’s that she was REAL.
Sometimes real is MESSY. Sometimes real is QUIRKY. Sometimes real is HIT or MISS. But Clareen’s love for people was simple, honest and obvious in her easy tears, spontaneous hugs and limitless generosity. Clareen gave me a bound book (and three more just like it to my family members) on the Sunday we joined our church – Clareen was our sponsor. A simple, blank book with a simple note of love and welcome inscribed in the front. This week, more than eight years later, I will write the entry that fills it up completely – the end of one season, and a new beginning.
Be the TRUE YOU and do what you can to make the world a better place
Clareen was always apologizing and asking permission as she went about sharing her vast storehouse of creativity and deep – yet simple – wisdom.
I save things… and many mornings I have fired up the computer to find emails from Clareen, filled with musings, poetry, photos of last night’s paintings, random ideas for events – even scripts for her next play – many of which occurred to her during the third watch hours the night before.
Five years ago I had asked for her artistic help with a women’s retreat I was writing, called ‘Ready to Wear‘. The fashion theme brought back memories for her – one of which I found in an old email…
“Toeless shoes came out in the late 30’s or at least that’s when I became aware of them. However, we only had one pair of shoes each (6 kids) and mine were always so ugly, as I had a very narrow foot we had to have sensible shoes for school, etc. I COVETED a pair of toeless shoes! As I knew I would never have any, I decided to convert my lace up oxfords into snappy toeless beauties. I remember taking them out to the front porch with a big butcher knife and going to work on them… and preferred no one saw – knew this would not be acceptable! I hacked away what seemed like hours… they kept looking worse by the minute… found Mom’s good sewing scissors to help clip out all the layers and threads. It was not a simple job and results were simply a disaster! And I had to wear these woe-be-gone raggedy shoes as I had no others. Did I learn a lesson? I really don’t think so.”
Without a trace of pride or ego, Clareen contributed more than most to making my life richer and this church more colorful and true.
Laugh a LOT! Better to elicit tears of joy through smiles than tears that sting from bitterness and pain
Clareen’s sense of humor, often applied to herself, paints a great picture of a life well-lived.
At my invitation to participate in a youth event at church, Clareen wrote this email response:
“Well, sometimes at that time of day I’m about as much fun as a withered turnip, but if I even have a spark of pep or vinegar, I’ll be there! They are my favorite age people! I am honored to be asked – I can be your token old lady (on the outside, but inside a sassy lassie still exists and is let out occasionally to exercise the right to be eccentric). One earns that privilege when you get in your 80s….probably the only plus one has left!”
And as her boldness increased with age, she wrote:
“Am pushing my “old-lady-gutsy eccentricity” a tad heavy! But dag-nabbit, it’s the only thing one has going for oneself in the sunset years!!!!!! When Paul talked about our lives being a great race he forgot to mention the last lap is the hardest! It’s when our spark plugs have lost their spark, gas tank’s running on fumes and we’re skidding up to those pearly gates with tires shredded and engine smoking! I tend to think of my race as if I’m Henry Ford’s old Model A Ford, which he birthed the same year I was born! I even drew a pic of one and call it my self portrait!”
Many folks have heard these words from Clareen’s mouth – and if you’re lucky, you’ve heard them more than once…
It wasn’t until she was flat on her back – leveled by the difficulties of life – that she thought to LOOK UP! It was in that broken place that she looked up and saw the God who loved her and had engraved her name on His holy hands!
So… if Clareen is saying anything to us today, it sounds a lot like this:
- Look up! And fall in love with Jesus!
- Laugh a LOT! Throw a party! Don’t wait for a holiday – just make one up!
- Live humbly and do what you can to improve the world around you – USE your gifts – have some fun! – and make some messes along the way!
- Love simply and from your heart, but don’t be a BORE! Keep it REAL!
I tell you this, Clareen once said in an early morning email, at the risk of having you think that this little ole lady is Clearly Bonkers, or at least Cuckoo Bananas.
And she signed it: Love Your… CB
PS, she wrote: You thought that CB might mean Clareen Barrett… NOT! At least, not this time!
Well, CB, my life has been Crazy Blessed by yours…
And I thank you.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” Matthew 5:11-12 The Message