Essentially Esther Banner

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Mom and the Powell’s had been visiting at Blair with other family and came home in mid-September. They had been staying with aunt Mary in the Stricklett home on “the hill.” Mom looked tired and worn out….even though enjoying the trip immensely. I fixed dinner for them as uncle Tom and aunt Inabelle were leaving the next morning for Virginia. It would be another year before we would see them again.

My friend, Rosalie, called from Shawnee to tell me Margaret Laricks died of cancer after a long fight. The Laricks were the standard for the neighborhood. I mentioned before about their son, Jimmy, being ahead of George and John in Scouting and was a standout both there and in his high school. He was the boy that did it all. He had a great personality and participated in sports, Scouts, school …president of his class and overall Representative for the students to the faculty. He was a straight A-student and in the National Honor Society. Boys of every age looked up to him.

Jimmy went on to Annapolis and served his time in his chosen field….the submarines. Jim Sr. and Margaret were understandably very proud of him. He came home, married and excelled in business with a drive to succeed. His older sister, Myra, was predisposed to be very different. She had a carefree, happy personality and never knew a stranger. Unlike her brother, she was satisfied to squeak by with her grade average and never stayed with projects or goals if they became boring. She danced in plays and literally danced through high school and college. Jim Sr. would shake his head and grin….then say, “I would always ask if she could bring her grades up like her brother…and then she would dance around a little and tell me…..but Jimmie can’t dance.”

Jim and Margaret loved their kids and put every opportunity before them. Myra eventually married and had one son, whom they all idolized. He was a sharp little kid with the Laricks personality. I wrote before that he was playing in his back yard when a run-a-way car crashed through the hedge and killed him instantly. The tragedy was overwhelming for Myra and she signed up to teach school in Taiwan….she and her husband had divorced. That was the last I knew of Myra. Her father, Jim, died in bed at home a few months later. He could not overcome his grief and his many heart problems finally took his life.

Margaret stood up to all of the grief and carried on. Then later, was diagnosed with cancer. She fought a long battle and was a great encouragement to all of us. She certainly made death work to wear down her determination. I have no further knowledge of the Laricks family….but I will say this. Anyone who has ever known any of them has been blessed. We are all better for having known them.

Life brings many people into our lives and if we slow down long enough to get to know them….we are the better for it. I think the worst detriment to making, having and keeping friends is…that no one has time for them anymore. My friends have always been important to me…right under my family in priority. The friends I had years ago are still my friends today….we live apart but we have not grown apart. It takes work to make and keep a friendship as it does to make and keep a good marriage. However, it takes two people working on both ends. Over the years I have lost many friends to ill health, accidents or death. We cannot change their journey….we can only make it better while we are here.

My mother had a verse that hung in her bedroom many years….it said, “Give me my flowers while I live for I shall not pass this way again.” If you have friends, give them a flower today….if not….go out and make one. Then give them a flower. As Martha Stewart would say, “and that’s a good thing…….”

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, November 29, 2004


Today it is raining and everything is soaked to the gills. While we were gone the wind took the last of our beautiful fall foliage so we have skeletal trees and bushes staring back from their vantage points. Some of the oaks will not drop the remainder of their leaves until Spring. And so, for the most part, fall is now over, just like Thanksgiving….and winter is soon to follow.

George took good care of us in KC. We always enjoy seeing the improvements he has made on his home and getting acquainted with Cheetah, the cat, and Murphy, the dog, once more. They lead a pretty solitary life since George works and is away many hours of their day. They are always quizzical concerning our arrival and with good manners, wait until we are ready to acknowledge them.

We had to take our cat, Missy, who suffers from nerve damage and can no longer walk. She has little use of her front legs but her back ones are constantly used to pivot her from side to side as she needs to change position. She has survived a year this way and has accepted her situation with grace. She remains a sweet, sweet, kitty cat.

We are thankful for our safe trip up and back. Traffic was heavy but we didn’t drive at peak hours….traffic is always heavy around the KC area. George lives on the West side in Johnson County so most of the fields we remember from 20-years ago are built up into fancy corporate locations and the farms are long gone. It’s sad for me….I am not akin to much change but the hoards of people moving to the cities make it necessary. I am happy to note that people are waking up to the history and beauty of the wonderful old buildings and many are in the stages of restoration.

George and John had been telling us that we needed to see Union Station and the return to it’s original beauty. This time we made it a priority and I’m glad we did. It is the second largest train terminal in the U.S. with Grand Central Station in NYC being the first. The huge entrance area had a large display of different trains running around tracks….and through different scenery. There was a coal train, passenger train, freight train, AM Track and trains with box cars and tank cars…all going through the four seasons and towns, cities, mountains; the expanse of America.

That is how we stumbled onto a very nice display which was just there for a limited time and it added much to the pleasure of touring the station. We ate lunch on the balcony overlooking the vastness of the building and remembered the many times of arrivals and departures our own family made from the place. To see the building restored to her former greatness was a happy experience.

We did eat at the Pizza Shop the night we arrived which is always a family tradition. On Thanksgiving day George attended to the meal with some assistance from Becky. The past two years he has ordered a meal from a store specializing in full “take out” holiday dinners. Worked great for all of us….we had more time to visit and the food was very good for “take out.” We made arrangements with my good friends who used to live across the street from us, (Gene and Rosalie Fowler….and their daughter, Janice and her three children) to come to George’s for a visit. Gene and Rosalie drove up from Emporia, KS. to spend Thanksgiving with Janice…..yes, the same Janice who blogs and many of you know. She’s as beautiful in person as she is in her blog offerings.

We had a good time catching up with each other on a face to face basis. We have kept in touch all these years but hadn’t seen each other for 7-years when they drove over to attend my retirement party from the MSHP. We are always surprised how much time evaporates between our visits and have vowed to make connections sooner from now on.

We arrived in a 10-inch snow which broke down many trees all over the area in George’s neighborhood. Bradford Pear trees were the worst hit but certainly not the least. They survived a terrible ice storm a few years back….and the area is known for their beautiful landscaping.

So today I am unpacking, doing laundry and getting organized for Christmas. There is much to do and so……..I will be back with the ongoing story of Esther, tomorrow. Right now, I’m headed for the kitchen to round up something for our lunch. I hope you were all treated as well and fed as good as we were and that today is a day for remembering your own good times.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


We will be leaving tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with my oldest son, George. It looks like snow is predicted for the Kansas City area but that may not be a problem. He lives on the west side of Kansas City at Shawnee, Kansas, and quite often the weather doesn’t materialize. However, we have until Sunday so hopefully we will not be snowbound.

A trip to George’s always means pizza at our favorite pizza shop in our old neighborhood. We meet Becky’s high-school girl friend and her family to enjoy the good food, good cheer and excited jabbering. Much akin to a flock of turkey’s doing their gobble thing. It’s always a lively gathering.

We plan to return on Sunday and I’m sure our kitties will be glad to see us. One is going to stay in the garage, two in the house, one to be boarded with Rocky’s little poodle and our little sick one is going with us. (Oh please don’t let me see any more stray kitties.)

Hopefully on Monday I will be here to post the end of 1984 and beyond. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving to all of you from Rocky and me…..in this great land of ours we have much to be thankful for. God bless our service men and women.

Essentially Esther

Monday, November 22, 2004

THE SUMMER OF 1984.... 

The following days in April provided weather as unsettled as the events in my life. There were unusually heavy snows to the north of us, tornados to the south and west, and rain for us. The days following the robbery in Springfield were busy. Becky needed me to fill in at Fas-Serv and I worked different shifts to cover for her.

Mom and aunt Beulah both had their 80th birthdays in May. I fixed a nice supper for mom and a few days later we drove to aunt Beulah’s for hers. Dale, her sister Mildred and LaDonn, a friend, helped make her day special. We always enjoyed our visits to aunt Beulah’s and the birthday gals exchanged their gifts with each other.

My birthday followed the end of the month and I spent the day at Ava, working with the DE crew. The guys took me to lunch and later in the afternoon a lady delivered a beautiful Home Interior wall piece….a spray of brass butterflies. I was overcome with their surprise ….you just never know what a few guys will come up with.

I confess…my birthday is the one day of the year I allow myself to just hog all of the love and affection any one wants to throw my way. The day you part company from your mother and begin your journey from life to death to life again….should be special for everyone. To me it is very special. As I sit here and think about it…I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a birthday as much as Becky enjoyed her last one. Miss Becky left the French Quarter reeling on it’s toes after her last birthday…the big 50. I think ‘John and company’ were satisfied with their efforts to make it unforgettable.

I filled in a lot of days for Becky and finally began working a 4-day shift for her again. Warren and I headed for Illinois to visit with John and Barb a few days the end of July. We went to their church and heard John preach on Sunday morning and in the afternoon we drove across the river to shop at a Craft Fair on the banks of the Mississippi. Rock Island is across the river from Davenport, Iowa. The weather was pleasant and we enjoyed looking at all of the hand made items. In the evening we went back to church and then to John and Barb’s apartment.

It is a family joke about how much I love ice-cream. It makes up half of my intake of food many days. I’m a displaced ‘soda-jerk’ who never got over the fun of dishing up ice-cream for folks and watching their pleasure as they enjoyed my creations. Knowing this, full well, John had a new ice-cream place in mind with a new innovative menu. It was before ‘Blizzard’s’ were invented and this concoction was called an Oreo cookie milkshake. Oh my goodness!! Heaven in a plastic cup! It was amazing. There were also other items on the menu….all kinds of candy bars and flavorings. The rest of our visit we ended up at ‘Whitey’s’ for one of his shakes.

Our time ran out and once again we were on our way home. I went back to work for Becky and the Patrol….Warren had a physical and it was discovered that he had Type 2 diabetes. He took classes at Fort Leonard Wood with a dietician and came home with a lot of information. It seemed pretty complicated and clinical but we both began working on the diet. On the last day of August we received a cute announcement from John that they were expecting a baby in April. He and Barbara were very happy about it and I began working on a special order that John requested.

He had liked a baby afghan he watched me make for Jennifer when she was on the way. He asked if I would make one for their April arrival and of course, I said yes. In typical ‘John’ fashion he began reading up on parenting and child bearing….this son of mine always wanted to be well informed on any immediate need. I remember him telling me how he sat on a stool one time, reading directions to Barbara, as they attempted making bread. Between them, it was accomplished and they both enjoyed their experience.

From bread to babies was a bigger jump…..but I knew they would both come through, informed, and making terrific parents. It is nice, these many years later to say….I was right.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Sunday, November 21, 2004


In memory of Justin who was killed serving his country; for a dear friend and co-worker, Otis Petrus; for another friend, Lois Wheeler and all those that you may have had to say “goodbye” to this week, I dedicate this Indian Prayer.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet
birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep. Author Unknown

Today we say goodbye to Otis Petrus. Our great sorrow is not for him, but for ourselves. We know Pete is home now where God intended. Until we join him there we continue on….and are thankful that we knew him in this brief span of time we call, Life.

Esther Rockenbach

Saturday, November 20, 2004


This week-end comes with great sadness in our town. Becky has written about our DE-Supervisor who passed away Thursday evening. He had a long battle with heart attacks, stroke and finally cancer. His body just couldn’t win the last fight. He has, for some time, known his condition was terminal.

He grew up in this town and went to the Navy after high school. When his time was up, he came home, married and had two children. He was extremely proud of both. Most of his years were spent as a Driver Examiner for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He had a gift of gab and always had a ready joke. He could be so corny we thought we couldn’t stand it at times but he never left the room until he heard your laughter. He survived on laughter.

I shall remember Pete to the end of my days as a gentleman and overall nice guy. He “took care” of me all those years on the job and never let anyone speak foul language or lie to me. If they did…….they were made to apologize on the spot. I will miss him….and I know in our small town, there will always be favorite “Pete” stories………and laughter. He would like that.

Tomorrow I shall take my place with the active and retired Driver’s Examiners at his funeral.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, November 19, 2004


Becky had to keep the store on it’s feet during the whole affair. I didn’t go back because I had to stay off my leg and some of her other clerks quit. The mother of Scott didn’t come back to work, understandably. I continued working for the Patrol with the DE’s my three days and the rest of the time flew by. By March, Becky had worked a lot of hours to fill in for clerks who quit and to train others. She needed some time for personal business and appointments and asked me to work as a sub when she had to be gone. I did this gladly. I had enjoyed working for her and I’ve always enjoyed working with the public.

On April 26th Warren and I went to Springfield to do some shopping. It was late afternoon when we got there and we went to the mall and then to eat. I decided to make a last stop at a large “Cloth World” store. By now it was near 8:00pm. Warren parked in front of the store and waited in the car.

I looked through a few tables of cloth and then walked down a large main aisle where I found what I wanted. A young woman was measuring it out when I glanced up to see a man approaching us with a Ronald Reagan rubber mask on. He was walking with a fast gait and I assumed he knew the girl cutting my cloth and intended playing a prank on her.

He passed behind me, walked around the table where she was, with one hand in a front pouch of a sweat shirt….the other on her shoulder. Her obvious fear told me it was not a prank. We could both see the gun he had in the pouch. He told the girl to take him to her manager and then he looked at me and said, “Don’t move….stay right where you are.” He followed her down the aisle, walking close behind her and my mind was racing with all kinds of ideas to escape….I knew Warren was right in front of the door sitting in the car.

I first thought I would try to make it out the door but then thought if he came in that way someone might be sitting in the parking lot with a rifle and shoot anyone attempting to leave the store. As I was considering my options the clerk came back and said, “He wants you to come to the office where everyone else is” and I said, “I’m not going”….she became nervous and said, “Well, he said you have to come..” and I repeated….“I am not going” …. She hesitated and then said, “Well, there’s a restroom back over here….you can go in there.” As I thought about it I decided it might have a lock on the door so I could lock him out if he came after me…..so I said, “OK…I’ll go there.”

Once inside, I was face to face with an elderly woman who was afraid and didn’t know what to do. There were three stalls in the restroom so I told her to go in the middle one, lock it, and sit down with her feet up on the door so if he opened the door to look in, he wouldn’t see her feet. I assured her I would do the same thing and I went in the one closest to the door. We both waited quietly but my mind was racing…..after some time I heard someone coming to the door and opening it….I thought, “This is it. He’s come after us, now. I had seen others going to the office where he and the manager and my clerk went. I feared for their lives….I knew Warren couldn’t get in because the thief had taken the manager to the front door and had him lock it….no one could come in or go out.

My adrenalin was pumping at breakneck speed for a few seconds…….then I heard a female voice say…. “are you in here? The robber got the money and went out the managers door in the back of the building. We have called the police and they are on their way…..stay where you are and I’ll come get you when the police come. He didn’t hurt any of us.”

The little lady in the other stall began crying from release and I opened my door and told her to open hers. I took her in my arms to comfort and to help her collect her packages. The clerk came back and said the police were there and we were free to go. Of course, Warren had seen the man enter with the mask, but like me, thought it was a joke. Then he saw the man walk the manager to the front door and lock it before going to the back of the store. He was afraid to leave and go for help because he didn’t want to leave me behind……as he sat thinking of options, he saw the police come and he followed them in looking for me….greatly relieved that we were all unharmed.

The next night on our local TV news station, they mentioned another robbery with the same scenario but the third night two people were caught in the act of robbing a liquor store. It so happened it was a man and his wife from Kansas City who drove to Springfield for a three-day robbery spree……..they were apprehended and awaiting trial.

After two close calls just four months apart, I was a little unnerved…but one thing I am sure of…when danger comes the brain kicks in and the survival instinct works. It is something you can never plan ahead for but is there when needed. I am grateful we have a generous and merciful God to watch over us. My life, may lack in many things but I have never been bored and every day has been an adventure. At times, a little too much so…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Yesterday was my husband, Rocky’s 73rd birthday. Today we are meeting his sister and her husband at Rolla, which is half-way between our respective homes. We do this several times a year to have a visit and lunch. We exchange news and gifts for a few hours and then depart. I am always impressed with Rocky’s family and their efforts to stay current with each other. At least once a year the three Rockenbach siblings get together at some point of interest and we spend a few days together, see the sights, catch up on family news and then go in different directions. It is easy to fit in with the Rockenbachs for they were raised up from the good earth in Illinois and Missouri…..are very strong in mind and body and have given back more than they have taken. I admire them all.

Since it is an early ‘departure’ I am sharing a few words I wrote for Barbara in March 1984. When events happen I am most usually reaching for a pen to write them down and record my feelings.


Your ears will never hear what I have to say nor will your eyes read these few lines. I knew you only four and one-half months. We were not close friends and we never had much time to find out about one another’s lives. We saw each other three days a week as we changed shifts - made necessary comments to each other about price changes - a few social pleasantries exchanged and I would be on my way home.

The Christmas season came and you did something that was unexpected and loving at our employee’s Christmas party. Instead of the usual gift for the name drawn in our gift exchange, you also gave a comical little, fat, crystal pig to everyone. We could see it made you happy to do it. The unselfish act of giving above and beyond the necessary gift not only won my admiration but lit a candle of faith in a selfish world.

Then, suddenly, alone on your shift two days later you were shot and killed shortly after 4:00 o’clock in the morning. The paper called you a middle-aged clerk and gave a cold account of a convenience store murder. In the weeks since, I find many remembrances of the person you were. I thought we didn’t know one another very well. Still, your life spoke to me then….as now. Such a fleeting span of time and yet a positive impression was made.

I hope, in living, I touched your life as you have touched mine. I look at your little pig and I remember a friend.

You are missed.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Last night when Becky came, I asked about the days following Barbara’s death. We had gone to Illinois to visit John and Barb so the immediate events were cloudy for me. In the years since, I forgot the small details that I now wondered about. Who cleaned up the blood? Who went to tell the husband? How did they get money from the register? Becky went through the first days following the crime and to make the incident complete I shall answer the questions I had….and perhaps you may have had.

It was Becky who cleaned the blood from the floor. She spoke of it as one does when recalling an unthinkable tragedy. Can one imagine cleaning a friend’s blood from the spot where they fell? War does that, accidents do that, something that cannot be avoided does that…..but ordinary people who work with ordinary people don’t do that. It was in essence an act of respect and love for Barbara.

She went on to say when she was mopping the floor, Barbara’s husband came to get Barbara’s coat and purse. No one went to his home to tell him, he received a phone call from the police, which I feel was a gross error of common courtesy. He was older than Barbara and bent over with grief. Few words were exchanged, however, each felt the other’s compassion. With all of the words in our language, they are useless until the heart mends.

The cash register had jammed and was still buzzing wildly when Becky arrived at the store. Later, in testimony, it was learned that Scott, the one who actually tried to get into the register and who shot Barbara, had gone behind the counter while Barbara was in the cooler. When she came back to the front, she immediately saw him trying to get into the register….what he didn’t know was that she had locked the drawer with the key when she went to the cooler. When the register jammed he began trying to break into it with force. The frustration of the register buzzing, not being able to get into the drawer and Barbara’s continued pleas to stop made for the tragic decision to kill her and leave.

Had he only known, the key, if turned to the “open drawer” would have given him the money he was seeking. He did discover the petty cash which were rolls of coins and were missing. The girls were actually not at the store during the robbery but knew in advance what was going to happen. They chose not to warn anyone and were with the boys afterwards. When they did talk, they were given a light sentence of a five-year parole. The boy who stayed out front to warn Scott of anyone coming was also given a five-year parole. He had turned State’s evidence.

When the trial was finally over, Scott received a 50-year life sentence with no parole. He was released after about 20-years and is living in the community now. The severity of the sentence did not match the crime for most of us. We literally felt justice had not been served. How much is a life worth? In this case….only 20-years for the guilty and a life sentence for those who loved Barbara. I am quite sure that he nor his parents feel any sting of guilt. For those of us who traded shifts with his mother and who waited on Scott and his friends….we all felt it could have been any of us. Barbara just happened to be the victim. It made an impact on all of us….and became a life changing event. What about Barbara? She had re-dedicated her life to Christ a week before she was murdered. She was proud of that decision and unknown to her……was the preamble to her journey’s end here…..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Barbara was found by a customer and the police were then called. When they arrived at the store they called Becky and told her the situation, then asking her to come to the store in person. Apparently Barbara was shot around 4:00am and they questioned Becky extensively, trying to make sense of who would want to kill Barbara. Becky supplied them with pertinent information…name, address, husband’s name and the like. I don’t know who went to tell Barbara’s husband.

At the onset, local people were not suspected, and it was considered a random robbery and murder. Becky tried to piece together what Barbara may have been doing at the time because she was found near the entrance door. The building only had the one door. We were constantly warned not to go into the cooler when there were customers in the store, as well as other guidelines we followed for safety. The money was only counted after the next shift came on duty and we could go into the back room out of sight.

Each clerk had her own “hiding place” for the money. Barbara had been robbed once before in another employment and she vowed it would never happen to her again. She was very careful with the money and Becky knew exactly where to find it. When she looked….it was all there…Barbara died without giving them anything except what they could get out of the register. We never kept much money there….the large bills and even $20’s were routinely taken to the back and put in the bank pouch.

It was a little after 5:00am when Becky called me. Warren, mom and I were packed and ready to leave for Illinois to see John and Barbara. A vein broke behind my left knee the night before and I had a large bruise and swelling. I had to keep off my leg and ice it down…..Now we were faced with a quandary ….should we go or stay? I hated to cancel out on the Illinois trip because it would be some time before I could get time off to go again….that and the fact they had looked forward to us coming. I also hated to leave Becky with things the way they were but she insisted…. and since we couldn’t be of any help in the situation, we did decide to go on.

We found John and Barb’s apartment without too much difficulty. John always draws such easy, yet detailed, maps for us that it’s never hard to find their new address. They had been looking for us and John came right down to help unload our luggage and Barbara had a nice meal fixed. We enjoyed the warmth, our meal and then opened gifts. Later, I called Becky to find out what was going on with the investigation and the store……she was getting through the best she could. We were both having a hard time registering the reality of the past 24-hours.

I still had the discomfort of the broken vein in my leg and had to stay off it. We had a nice visit with John and Barb for another few days….we visited their church and met some of the people they were working with and left for home on December 30th…….when we arrived at mom’s we discovered her pipes were frozen so we stayed with her until a plumber got her water running again. We had very cold temperatures during this time which lasted over two weeks. That’s very unusual for our area and the cold began seeping into a lot of places.

The weather kept us in except for my three days with the Patrol. I wasn’t able to go back to Fas-Serv at the time because my leg was still bad. We stopped in to see Becky mid-January and she was training a new man since I hadn’t been able to come back to work. The owner was there and hoping I could come back soon…which I intended doing after my leg was strong enough.

On January 19th we were stunned by news reports that four local teen-agers had been arrested for Barbara’s murder. One of them turned out to be the son of one of the other clerks at Fas-Serv, which made this a double tragedy for all of us. We had all waited on these kids countless times in the store and to think they were casing the place for the robbery made all of us shudder. There were two girls and two boys. The girls became nervous after so much publicity and came forward to tell where the murder weapon had been thrown. On the strength of their information, the police found it in a large drainage ditch.

Because Barbara knew them she tried to talk them out of the robbery and appealed to the boy not to do this for his mother’s sake……..but ‘because’ she knew them and could identify them she was shot. Barbara died trying to save them from making a terrible mistake……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, November 15, 2004


After John, Barb and her parents left for Illinois we flew into the Fall chores. Warren and I washed the mildew off mom’s mobile home and swept the pine needles off her garage, then picked the moss out from under the shingles. It was a big job but necessary. Mom rode the bus home from Blair and before the month was out we got her windows washed and the storms put on. These things were done on days I worked at Fas-Serv so I had a whole morning to devote to the project.

We then did our own and the month of October turned into November. This Fall was especially beautiful with colorful foliage and riding back and forth to work each day was my time to enjoy it. Some years just seem to outdo themselves in beauty and this year was one of them. When hunting season started I couldn’t believe the traffic we had at the convenience store.

To begin with, our prices were over the top. That is understood when you shop at a convenience store….you are paying more but it’s fast. People are on such a fast track they throw any sense of economy to the wind just for a “quick in and quick out.” Normally, we were frequented mostly by the younger people but on holidays or hunting season it was everybody. With only one person on a shift it was impossible to keep any order to the store.

People would line up clear to the end of the aisle and all you could get done was ring their money up. Of course, while you did that, the gas pumps had to be maintained….started, shut off and collected for. It made for a wild 8-hours. As the soft drink and beer supplies dwindled it took mad dashes to the walk-in cooler to replenish the ones taken out. The opening day of deer season gave me my biggest night….$1500. Believe me….that’s a lot of gas, pop, gum, beer, chips…..

I came to appreciate my job with the Patrol more all the time because it was a sitting down job. I was equally divided in my two jobs. One used my brain up and the other burned my physical endurance up. Since it all equaled out for the most part I kept on stepping off the miles. I worked 31-days before having a break from either job while keeping the home fires burning. With the holidays coming up, I would have to have a miracle to keep it all going.

Thanksgiving day was a break in routine. Becky had someone to cover my shift so I made a traditional dinner for the family and later we got the Christmas tree out and decorated it. It was a nice respite from the busy schedule that had become “normal” in our house. I know for a fact that we don’t jump into these wild drains on our time and energy…..they just happen a little at a time. One day you realize…. “hey…I’m alive but I’m not living. What happened?” That time was approaching for me.

As I read over the pages in my journal I honestly don’t know how I did it. The shopping, sending all the Christmas cards, gift wrapping….all the homemade cookies, candy etc; The advancing holiday kept me later at the store and I was getting home one to two hours later than usual. I remained true to the customary dinners we had with the Bible group, Sunday School Class party, programs at church, choir party, and family occasions all connected with food to prepare and take. No matter the requirement I just tackled it with more effort and there was always a way to get it done. Not quite.

The twelfth of December I woke up with the flu. I stayed in bed for three days and managed to get up again on the fourth day to work for the Patrol. I felt pretty good but didn’t have the energy back I needed….still, it was do-able. We sang our Christmas Cantata at church on the 18th so I took another day off from Fas-Serv. I always planned a party after the cantata to honor the music director, pianist and organist. For a couple of weeks before time, I collected money from the choir members and bought gifts for each of the three, then we all enjoyed “finger food” and a time to enjoy the occasion.

During the holidays I enjoyed having friends in for food and gifts…….we had a bad cold snap right before Christmas and it was wicked to be outside in it. We had zero temperatures with a strong wind. It was a cozy time to be in and do some baking and candy making. Becky had planned a Fas-Serv Christmas party but she came down with strep throat so she came long enough to give us each our gift from her; and the owners gave us each a 2-pound box of Russell Stover’s Chocolates and a check for $25. It was unexpected and greatly appreciated.

After enjoying the food, the clerks exchanged gifts for the person whose name we drew earlier. It was a very nice little party even if we had to take turns waiting on customers at the register. I offered to work Christmas eve and Christmas day since the other girls had worked for me when I was sick. However, I was going to work an earlier shift on Christmas day so I could get home in time to make the family dinner.

I worked until 12:15am on Christmas morning, came home and slept a few hours, got up at 4:00am and went back to work. People came out in droves and literally cleaned the shelves. On my own shift I tallied $2487.28 just the hours that I worked. I left mid-afternoon and came home to enjoy our Christmas family meal.

At 5:00am the next morning Becky called from Fas-Serv and told me that Barbara, the girl who followed my shift had been robbed, shot and killed in the store…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Today is my day to do something a little different from writing the ongoing saga of my life. Each day I live is one more thing to write about…this could go on for a very long time…or maybe not. That is the fun of life. Not knowing. Not knowing about a lot of things. That’s why I think each day is an exciting gift that opens up fresh every 12-hours or so and allows us to either be dragged kicking and hollering….or to hop skip and jump our way through every minute. Either way….the day will NOT go as planned by you or whomever. The excitement about living is….at any given moment a great surprise can happen. I hope all of your surprises are good ones….and if not….may your falls all be “bounces.”

For your reading pleasure, or not….but for my pleasure, I offer the following observation.


The trees by now are on the decline. They are half ready for bed and like a reluctant child, are waiting to be coaxed into their winter’s nap. The sky, getting a little chilly herself, has put her blue skirt away and put on the gray flannel; the sun is beginning to feel the early hours she put in last summer so has been a late riser the past few mornings. Being in no mood for schedules she even “cat naps” all through the day and only occasionally walks along the hills.

The wind has been prancing rampant outside the window like a playful puppy. It jumps on the door till it rattles a tune and then darts around the yard till the leaves scurry in all directions. Their hollow tones sound a bamboo staccato as they dance madly and settle again. It lifts it’s head to the autumn sky and wails a mournful puppy song over and over again.

The squirrels hear this recital with great lack of interest and disrespect. While the wind has been absorbed in it’s own escapades they have been working the clock around to carry every last nut home. And now, a little heady with their own success, they have given way to nonsense and are playing tag under the oaks.

Winter waits to make her entrance while Fall reigns for a few last days…..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Rocky, Becky and I will be gone all day. I intended writing a blog yesterday to post this morning…..but then the Peterson verdict shot me right out of the water. I sat glued to the reporting the rest of the afternoon and evening. I have followed this from day one and I’m relieved that for once, the jury got it right. There is no doubt in my mind that he is guilty…….on top of being such a down-right lying cad.

So, off we go. Have a great day and hope to see you tomorrow.

Essentially Esther

Friday, November 12, 2004


The convenience store was a pretty simple operation. It was open 24-7 and had three shifts. Each shift was the usual 8-hours and with just one clerk. My shift was going to be 2:00-10:00pm, Friday through Monday.…..to accommodate my schedule. Becky came in at closing time to check me out since I hadn’t learned the register intricacies yet. Each clerk was responsible for her own register which was tallied when the shift was finished. By the time that was accomplished and the coolers refilled for the oncoming shift, it was usually 11:00pm. I would then spend a few minutes chatting with the clerk who relieved me, before driving the 25-miles home.

As everyone knows who has ever worked a late shift…it takes a little while to “come down” and get sleepy enough to go to bed. I usually did a few chores for a start on the next day and maybe have a little snack before my shower and “lights out.” I was very comfortable with my clerking job for the Driver’s Examiners so I could put my energy into learning the responsibilities at Fas-Serv. Becky worked with me each day and patiently went over the pitfalls I encountered. I was great with the public but lacked confidence with the book-keeping and register receipts. After a few days she cut me loose and I was on my own…..as I waved merrily goodbye I was hiding outright panic. I didn’t want to let her down but I was scared silly.

So at 51-years of age, I started another little chapter in my book of life. I went with the guys my three days a week which were like being on vacation after 4-days on my feet. After my first 4-day shift I was able to get the floor scrubbed before the next clerk came in, check the invoices with vendors, get the merchandise marked and put away and do a lot of cleaning. The shelves and area where the micro-wave, fountain soft drinks, coffee etc; constantly needed to be swiped up and filled. Making coffee was a full time job in itself.

Actually, it worked very well. I had four mornings a week to get my work done at home….bake, cook, clean, laundry…all that stuff. Then I worked my 3-days with the Patrol and back to Fas-Serv for the four. I was able to go to church on Sunday’s because I didn’t go to work until 2:00pm. From the outside looking in, my life changed very little. I could still go to my missionary group meeting once a month, to choir practice every Wednesday night after church… and teach a Bible Study in our home one night a week…..those all fell on my “day job” evenings.

When I didn’t have applicant’s to test as a clerk for the DE’s…I studied for the lessons I taught. The human body is greatly underestimated. It seems to cruise better around 80mph than it does at the regular 55. I didn’t have time to brood over anything….good, bad or indifferent. I merely stayed on my 7-day course and kept going. In a way it was a God-send because we needlessly stew over things we can’t do anything about….if given time and opportunity. Being with the public everyday was uplifting….people are amazing when you think about it. The power of a smile bridges all gaps.

As all this was going on, John and Barbara flew to Rock Island, Illinois to look at the possibility of serving in a church there and flew back to New Orleans on September 5th. On September the 11th, John called to tell us they were going to Rock Island to serve the Home Mission’s as Church Planters. They would be coming through here on their way to Rock Island on the first of October.

In the meantime, Warren was given the opportunity to drive a little deaf girl to school where she could learn by “signing.” It was tailor made for him and he was happy to be in the “job market.” It was a 30-mile drive to her school and he usually waited to bring her home. He could always find ways to spend a few hours.

October 1st, John, Barb, her parents and sister arrived with a large U-Haul to load John’s things here at home for the trip north. The guys got it all loaded and I fed everyone….some stayed at mom’s for the night and the rest stayed here. The next day was Sunday and John was ordained at our church in the evening service. I was so happy that Barbara’s parents could be present. They loved him as a son. The next morning, after a good breakfast, we said our goodbyes.

When I put my arms around John to give him a hug I couldn’t help the big sob that escaped….it soaked in that he was not my little boy any more and that he was taking the “fork in the road.“ Just then a chill wind blew some leaves up and he pulled back and looked in my face… “are you all right, mom?” I said I was and put on my brave face. When I waved goodbye to the U-Haul, I knew he was really “gone” this time. A mother’s heart is never as heavy… as when she realizes the torch has been passed.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, November 11, 2004


The rest of May followed our familiar pattern. We went to Arkansas to celebrate mom and aunt Beulah’s birthdays, George came home over Memorial Day week-end to help me celebrate mine, Becky and family were here and John called. Aunt Mary, aunt Sally and her daughter Marsha came to visit mom as they were planning a little trip together. They came here to pick mom up and they all left the next day.

We made a 4-day trip to see John and Barbara and had a wonderful time visiting with them and seeing the new sights John had planned. Of course, it was always high on our list to go back to the French Quarter for our favorite shops and eating. It was a fast trip but a good one. Back home, there was a note on the table that mom had gone back to Blair with aunt Mary and aunt Sally. Their brother was very ill, in the hospital, and not expected to live.

A few days later, aunt Mary called to tell me that uncle Bud had died. He was their younger brother and I was so happy that mom arrived in time to see him. She said when she walked in to his room, his monitors just went crazy. They had always been the same, quiet spirits and were very close in their years at home. A long battle with leukemia finally ended his life.

We made plans to attend the funeral and left the next day. Relatives from all over the country congregated at the big house on the hill and relived some of the good old days gone by with favorite stories. Uncle Bud was the first of mom’s siblings to pass away and it was very difficult for them all.

On July 12th George called to tell us grandma Strain died and her funeral was to be in Cabool on Friday. They were bringing grandma back home to be buried beside grandpa. I called Becky to let her know so she and Hank could attend. Grandma had lived with George Sr. and his wife for some time and more recently had been in a nursing home. She lived to be way up in years and didn’t have a selfish bone in her body…she was a very low maintenance woman and taught me a lot about taking things as they come. I knew I would miss her.

Sometime later, Warren’s blood pressure spiked and he complained of feeling weak, with vomiting following. I was afraid of infection so got him to Leonard Wood as fast as I could. He stayed a few days and I came back to work my three days….then when he was released I drove back to bring him home. It was a small infection but was under control when they released him.

Mid-August came and Warren and I decided to drive to West Plains to see the convenience store where Becky was newly employed as manager. She gave us a cup of coffee and was telling us how hard it was to get good help. There had been problems with clerks not showing up, outright stealing and helping themselves to the merchandize. Warren laughed and said, “What you need is someone like your mother…” and Becky said, “That’s exactly right. If she wasn’t working already I’d hire her on the spot.”

Before I thought, I said, “Well, I could work four days a week when I don’t work for the Patrol.” We talked about the probabilities for a little bit, and got around to working out the details….it would be easy to put me on a shift the four days I was available so she sent me next door with an application. In a few short moments, I was an employee. Becky put me right behind the counter and started my training. We never told anyone that I was her mother. We didn’t want them to think I would be shown partiality. Our work relationship was “Esther” and “Becky.” So that is how I began working a 7-day week…it made my life very interesting, as we shall see down the road……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


You just never know what a day will bring. We had a very normal day the 14th of May this year, (1983) with the normal kind of stuff going on. It was cold and rainy so I spent the day indoors, busily cleaning and cooking. The day was over and we were well into the evening when an ambulance came down our road. We watched it turn into our neighbor’s driveway and attendant’s go up to the door…..then they all headed for the garage.

We went over, fearing Floyd Thomas, who had a series of heart problems might be the reason for the ambulance. Other neighbors came to see if they could be of assistance and we learned that Floyd had suffered a fatal heart attack and died in the garage. Ruth, his wife, had an asthma attack and had to be taken to the hospital for that, high blood pressure and shock. Their elder daughter had come home from Illinois to see the younger daughter graduate from high school. It was an unthinkable tragedy for the family.

What was supposed to be a happy occasion for them turned into a nightmare they couldn’t have imagined earlier in the day. In reading my journal of the events that took place, it put me to thinking how quickly a day can change. Even though I am along in years and have been exposed to death in many ways; members of our family, friends and even contemplating my own…death still comes as a surprise. It is amazing to me how you can visit with a loved one…walk in the kitchen and come back to find them “gone.”

That is exactly what happened to my aunt Beulah, Dale’s mother. She had just spoken to uncle Ted….went to the kitchen to put dinner on the table, and when he didn’t come, she returned to find him dead in his chair. The same thing happened with my dad, with whom I’d had coffee, along with a visit….told him goodbye and came home. Fifteen minutes later he was dead. The thing that haunted my aunt Beulah and my mother was the fact they didn’t get to “tell them goodbye.” In my dad’s case, I had that privilege.

I have a friend who tells me the last thing she says on the phone, in a letter or in person is…….“I love you.” She wants that to be the last thing they remember her saying. If we could choose “that one last thing to say”….what would it be? A neighbor who used to live by us in Shawnee was a nurse and had seen many patients die. She said those who had a faith always died a peaceful death, with love on their lips when they could speak….and in their eyes if they are unable to speak. For others, without a faith, it was far different. They died screaming and asking the doctor to “save them” or cursing because they are dying and they knew it. For them, there was no hope of tomorrow. I’m sure there are exceptions here and there but for the most part I believe her. After all, she was a professional on those “death watches.”

Death is not an option, but how we live, is. We are the results of past and present choices. I was always a fan of Cary Grant’s. His last words were reported to have been, “I’ve never died before….I hope I do it well.“ I think that is the hope of all of us. The future looms uncertain before us but that doesn’t matter…we have today to manage the words we say. Let’s try to make them count.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

SPRING IN 1983.... 

What to our wondering eye’s should appear as we drove north towards home? We were on I-55 cruising along and we came upon John and Barbara headed up the road ahead of us. Barbara was driving and John was asleep in the front seat….we waved merrily as we passed them and were soon out of sight. Barb drives slower than Warren so we lost them quickly.

They came to Willow Springs the following Tuesday as our church had planned a shower for them after their wedding. The missionary circle I was in had a cute idea at our meeting before the shower. We brought gifts so everyone could see what each other selected. Then we were all given paper and ribbon to wrap them for the event. We ended up down on the floor, tying our packages, and having an altogether good time of it.

Aunt Beulah was visiting mom so we all went to the shower together. The gifts were piled high and the cards held well wishes for the happy couple. John had been a part of our church for quite some time and was well liked by the congregation. He did his first preaching in our church.

I was off work the next day so we drove around town to show Barbara the points of interest and acquaint her with our area. Later the same day John received a call for an opportunity to preach at a church in Toledo, Ohio. He accepted and they planned to go from here which would put them much closer to Toledo. That evening they went to dinner at the Ross’ so Barbara could meet John’s good friends. They left the next day and aunt Beulah became ill and drove home, as well.

A few days later John called and said the church at Toledo was a “no go.” They were on their way home to New Orleans. Not too long after all that, he called to tell us he had to have surgery on his right jaw. He had two extra teeth growing into the jawbone which, if left, would eventually break his jaw. There was also a cist or tumor to deal with and danger of nerve damage.

Barbara had surgery in Vicksburg on March 25th and they stayed at her folks until they had to go back home after the week-end. On April 8th, John had his oral surgery. I called before his scheduled time and he told me they had 12” of rain in 8-hours…that Mississippi and Louisiana were having bad flooding. I called later that evening and talked to Barbara….she said John was sleeping and the surgery had been a painful ordeal. They were hoping there would be no nerve damage to that side of his face, as the doctor said his lip could be numb for up to a year. John called the next day and told us there was no numbness and he was fine. Needless to say, we were very grateful.

Mother’s Day came on May 8th this year. I fixed a nice dinner and had mom over after church. Later, we drove out past the old farm at Tyrone, where we first put our roots down in Missouri. The dogwoods were blooming and made the hills white with their blossoms…..we saw four deer on the drive. It’s a narrow, less traveled road that winds back in the hills where it is quieter and less populated by man. It is a respite from the usual activity of the small surrounding towns…and where nature is at her best. I seek those rural roads to find a connection between me and all those things I love so much.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, November 08, 2004


As I’ve mentioned before, January is my time to hole up in the house and enjoy my crafts and hobbies. Well….after I put my three days in with the Patrol, that is. Jennifer was wanting something to do so I helped her with some embroidery. She was painstakingly good at it. She completed several little pieces and I still have a couple of them to show for her effort. I worked on a sampler for Barbara.

We had high wind alerts that caused extensive damage all over the Mid-West…it had something to do with the jet stream going haywire. We were predicted to have snow several times but missed it until mid-month when we got 6-inches. It stayed on the ground a few days before it melted. The woods are so pretty in the snow; it makes a beautiful landscape. On snowy days we didn’t give driver’s tests….just the written and eye exams….so it always meant a cozy time in the office. I usually took home-made cookies or coffee cake, etc; so it was a time to snack, me to crochet and the guys to tell stories about the “good old days.”

I get homesick for the men I worked with. Most had years of working for the Highway Patrol and their stories were endless. As their clerk, I enjoyed listening to them each day and laughing along. I love the way men get such a kick out of rehashing old events and drawing it out in a good story. They were so good to me all those years and four of them followed me in retirement. There are only two of the “old crews” left, one being Becky. When I finish with the history of our family, I intend to write about some of those wonderful days. I have writing material in my head that will never be emptied.

John and Barbara’s wedding was planned for February 19th and we planned to take Jennifer with us. She arrived early on the 18th and we left by 6:30am. We drove to Memphis in fog most of the way and then took a direct highway through Mississippi. There was so much local traffic on it and was two-lane all the way so we decided not to take it again. George was waiting at the motel we were staying at and after all of our stuff was put in the room we went to tour the battlefield of Vicksburg….driving around 16-miles of it. Very interesting.

Afterwards we went back to our rooms to get ready for the rehearsal and dinner to follow. We met Barbara’s parent’s who were absolutely wonderful to all attending. I shall never forget how graciously they dealt with John’s mother and husband and his father and wife. They made us all feel welcome and special. The dinner was in a private home, very well done and the bride and groom were radiant. I knew they were meant for each other….they were so on track, together.

We were up fairly early on the day of the wedding. John came by to have me trim his beard and shave his neck. He had already run. (How many men ‘run’ on their wedding day?) George was with him and had driven him over. We all went to breakfast together in the motel restaurant and almost all of the out-of-town guests and family members were there.

We drove to the church after breakfast (and changes); things were getting exciting with the wedding party arriving, along with friends and family from all over the country. The church was beautiful and decorated in good taste. The groomsmen were in soft gray tux’s and the girls were in mauve and pink. Dr. Hubbell who was one of their professor’s from the seminary performed the service. Barbara worked for him when John came in to talk to Dr. Hubbell about something one day….took one look at her and……..well, the rest is history, as they say.

He gave a beautiful ‘charge’ to them along with their vows. It was an inspiring and sentimental service. Very thoughtfully put together. They made a handsome couple and everyone was teary eyed. After the wedding a large group met at the home of the Bryant’s to visit and view the gifts. We stayed for a time and after the good-byes we headed for home at 2:30pm. We were absolutely filled with Southern hospitality, food, good manners and love.

A lot of things have changed since then….in our personal families as well as the world….but one thing that hasn’t changed is the love and devotion John and Barb have shown to each other and the rest of us since their wedding day. They exemplify all the good there is in marriage….and got it right the first time. I say…may it live long…..we know it will be happy…..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Sunday, November 07, 2004


Today is just too pretty to stay inside and I know those winter winds are soon going to be blowing around the corners. Since I enjoy raking leaves and mulching my bushes with them I’m going to take advantage of the day. I leave you with a few thoughts I felt note worthy…….

The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.

The secret of contentment lies not in possessing many things,
but in wanting few things.

God promises to take care of the needy; not the greedy.

When you stand for nothing; you fall for anything.

If you think you are full of yourself; you are empty.
When you admit you are empty, you can be filled.

A stamp takes a licking before it reaches it’s destination; so
never, never give up.

Holding grudges makes one bitter…not better.

Worry is like a rocking chair. You may feel like you are doing
something, but it won’t get you anywhere.

The only people you should try to get even with; are those who have
been nice to you.

God’s tests are invariably true or false. Not multiple choice.

Even the humble mosquito needs to do some serious work before
it gets a slap on the back.

Copied from “God’s Little Promise Book.”

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, November 06, 2004


Fall was ushered in with a lot of activity. We took mom back to Blair for a Stricklett family reunion. The old house on the hill was full of relatives, from near and far. We spent a week-end together…and all congregated at the small church for services on Sunday, where my grandmother was a charter member. Many of us had gone there over the years as children visiting grandma….and later, for her funeral. The floors creaked and the walls seemed to speak now and then. The church was old but still had lots of life in her.

The old organ pumped out hymns and the sun came through the familiar stained glass windows. As a child this church had looked immense. Now I was surprised at how small it looked. The minister was practically eye-ball to eye-ball to the congregation and the choir loft rose steeply behind. Time changes perspectives in more ways than just the mental process. I remember standing by grandma many Sunday’s and hearing her sing the hymns with a crackly voice….now I sing but my voice is no longer “choir material”either. The years take their toll on each of us….in due time.

Returning home, the routine was predictable. I worked my three days and then had four to complete all of my commitments and chores. Our friends, the Coddington’s came to visit, George came from Shawnee, Becky and her family were in and out … aunt Mardelle called to say they were selling out at Kimberling City, MO. and moving back to Omaha. They were both in ill health and the time had come to move closer to doctor’s, medical facilities and family. Most of their combined family lived in Omaha. Uncle Emil was the last of dad’s brothers. Six had preceded him in death, including dad.

George, Barbara and John were coming for an early Thanksgiving this year so I made preparations ahead. The three of them arrived on Saturday, November 20th. We had all the family together and it was nice. Very seldom all three of them could make the same date so it was a special time. George was first to leave, on Monday but John and Barbara didn’t have to leave until Wednesday….I had to work the same day so after they left I made a quick change. On Thanksgiving day, mom and I worked on decoupage’ making gifts for Christmas. It was a nice quiet day and we had lots of “leftovers” to warm up at meal time.

The month of December is always a flurry of activity. The cards, the shopping, wrapping, candy and cookie making, finishing handmade gifts (just under the wire) and decorating the house and outside. Whew!! It makes me dizzy to think about it. Reason being that it is almost that time again and I’m looking at the same list. We were blessed this Christmas because, again, we were all together. That’s what it’s all about….just being together.

I have always been a stickler for hand written notes in cards at Christmas. It made me half crazy but I managed every year to send off 80-100 cards. It may sound excessive but to me, it was much more personal than the generic page copied off a word processor. I clung to the silly belief that other’s would appreciate my martyred effort. So I kept on, year after year, until last year. With our own business and a third family, I had to throw in the towel. It was either sink or swim. I swam. I doubt that anyone noticed or cared….it became a welcome tool to accomplish an impossible task. Like others, I decided it was better than not hearing from us at all.

As the year wound down we took the tree apart and packed it away again. We counted our blessings after the past two years of anxious moments and long stretches of medical problems…..being away from home. We were thankful our families were all ‘present and accounted for‘….all well and all working. When the boxes were put away and the lights turned off we went to bed and slept away the old year…..woke up to a new one. A clean slate of days ahead….365-of them to use or to waste. The choice would be ours but the number of them to be granted was God’s alone. I like that.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, November 05, 2004


I have a note in my journal that Grace Kelly died from a fatal car accident on September 13th of this year. We didn’t know then that another “princess,” Diana, would die years later, in a tragic vehicle accident in France. Two women who led unbelievably fascinating lives, but died without love. Both had been tormented most of their years, looking for someone to love them in the way they could love back. My mother worked a cross-stitched Sampler once that read, “To love and be loved is the greatest joy on earth.” It is sad to think that a princess so loved by the masses, died without that one special love she sought.

To be loved. Is it in your capacity to love deeply and unconditionally? If not, you are losing the most precious part of life. The more you love, the more love comes back to you. Some people die alone and unfulfilled because they never knew how to show or receive that gift. That’s right. A gift. It can’t be bought, traded or killed. It just goes on and on without ending…..when it flows from the heart. Put the “mind” on a shelf. It doesn’t know love….nor can understand it. The heart is the seat of emotions….it was made specifically to manufacture love by the wagon load. The more you dump it out…the more there is in the wagon.

To me, the only tragedy of both princesses was their inability to find that kind of love. Their death was untimely, yes, but to die without that perfect love is the real tragedy. Simple women, the world over, love deeply and unnoticed. Their love is dished out daily to those around them……and done so without complaining or asking for anything in return.

If you have not been loved in the way you seek….love more. If you have not received your “just due” for all you have done….give more. If you are starved for praise that never comes….keep on doing. Your rewards are great, within your grasp….and just around the corner…..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, November 04, 2004


The “decision” didn’t last very long. When we came home and looked at our 65 x 12-foot mobile home it looked tiny. It was amazing how much larger the 70 x 14-foot looked. The salesman gave us credit for the same amount of money we paid for our first one which meant we lived in it 11-years for free. The difference was very reasonable and the deal was struck for it to be delivered in a few days.

Uncle Tom and aunt Inabelle were still visiting at mom’s and they were all as excited as we were. The selling point for Warren was the fact it had a large bathroom in it with a garden bath tub. He had ample room to sit on the edge and swing his leg over, thereby easing into the tub with no problem. There was also a shower which he hoped to be able to use.

The day the new home was to be delivered arrived and we made the effort to pack breakable things as they had to move the one mobile home out of the way for the other to be put in place. Frankly, it was a huge mess. I don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t be so much work since we were moving from one to the other. One still had to be emptied of every item and the other filled. It was an endless task. If you had to move everything from toothpicks to bedding and furniture to groceries, where would you start? When would you be finished? How long would it take? Believe me…..a very long time and with back breaking effort.

Finally, all was in place in our new home. Mom and aunt Inabelle washed and dried all the dishes so they would be freshly done for the new cupboards. The electricity and water had been changed over and our home was once more functional. The electrician hooked up our AC and we thought we were in heaven. To think I had canned all of those green beans in a kitchen that had temperatures over 100* with smaller space to work in.

With everything in place, mom treated all of us to dinner out, to celebrate the end of the moving. It had been a busy few days and uncle Tom thoughtfully took pictures to chronicle the ‘old’ moving out and the ‘new’ moving in. Uncle Tom and aunt Inabelle left us on the morning of the 24th and mom had to go back to Springfield for her 5-week check up after her cataract surgery on the 27th. She got a complete dismissal….no more eye drops or anything. We had a nice lunch before coming home and were glad that mom came through the cataract ordeal without any problem.

August had been a very busy month. Summer always brought friends and family for visits and with me working 3-days a week we were very scheduled much of the time. It didn’t work out for Warren to use the shower, which was his preference. It was a standard size and didn’t have room or anywhere to attach bars to hang on to. Standing on one leg and trying to bathe was impossible and after a practice run, he gave it up.

I continued teaching my Monday night Bible Study Class and taking care of Jennifer and Jonathan when Becky needed a “sitter.” The rest of the summer was spent repositioning some of the walks, shrubbery, grass and the under skirting around the mobile home. The past two years had been a struggle with Warren’s and mom’s health ordeals and the obligations we had at church. There wasn’t much time to waste or even to keep up, it seemed.

When things were quiet, either at work or at home, I would often write poetry or an essay about anything I was feeling at the time. It has always been important to me to sort things out, analyze and regroup. Writing was an avenue to express the deep feelings I had as I traveled along, for I wanted to capture the moment…… to remember that inner Esther….the invisible part of who I was and am…the part of Esther that only peeks out occasionally before disappearing into activity again. It is in those times…..that I see God’s will for me more clearly……

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


John flew back to St. Louis on July 1st to participate in a friend’s wedding. Debbie, the daughter of Bob and Donna Ross, was being married the following Saturday. Bob picked John up at the airport and brought him home; then picked him up the next afternoon for the rehearsal and dinner.

Debbie’s wedding was nicely done. She made a beautiful bride and John’s part of the service was original and creative….easy to do when you know someone well. The Ross’ have been long standing friends and are John’s ‘other family.’ After the ceremony we were invited to their home for dinner and Donna had a wonderful array of food, served up with love. Bob and Donna are masters at hospitality.

The next morning, Bob and Donna came to breakfast with us and then drove John to St. Louis to catch his flight back to New Orleans. The week-end came and went quickly…..the day was very quiet for a Fourth of July. American flags are put out on both sides of Main Street which looked festive…..and later we watched the fireworks on TV as they flashed the event from city to city. The pyrotechnic art continues to amaze crowds and gets better every year.

Mom had cataract surgery on the 7th and was admitted to the hospital due to her large amount of medications and her fragile health. I had to work but Warren drove her to Springfield and went back each day to check on her. She was released on Saturday and I was then able to go along…I wanted to find out how to put the drops in her eye because I would have to do it. Mom was waiting when we arrived and was amazed how well she could see out of her eye without her glasses. In 1982 the technology was beginning to change the stereotype cataract surgery and although advanced as it was at the time….it is now archaic. It makes me realize the strides medical capabilities have taken.

Later in the month, friends brought me several bags of green beans at different times and mom helped me stem them for canning. I had a total of 50-quarts after they were worked up. We took Hank and Becky 17-quarts; Becky and Jennifer helped stem them once and we thought it would be nice for them to have some. I later canned 7-more quarts.

On Sunday, July 25th, we had a phone call from John but we were disconnected somehow and when I called his number at the seminary, I was referred to another number. It turned out to be a Mississippi number belonging to Barbara’s parents. Barbara’s mother was suddenly taken very ill and was in the hospital…..John was in Vicksburg with Barbara. They were very concerned because there was no diagnosis and the doctors were frankly puzzled. He was to keep us posted on her condition as they were running a lot of tests and nothing had been confirmed.

Aunt Beulah came to visit mom in late July and I noticed she was looking more frail than usual. Her hearing also seemed to be worse. Mom and aunt Beulah both had a bad year. They were the same age….only 2-weeks apart, by birth, and they had been as close as sisters their whole life through. Marrying two brothers brought them into each others lives….aunt Beulah was always a favorite of mine.

Jennifer had her 10th birthday on August 3rd. She was away at church camp so we planned to celebrate when she came home. George arrived so he could be here for her birthday and had an adorable White West Highland Terrier pup with him. He named him “Mac” after Admiral McNamara because he was born on the anniversary of the U.S. Navy. George spent a tour in the Navy so Mac was a significant name for him as far as George was concerned. Jake didn’t have the same affection for Mac that the rest of us did and jumped at him to protect his territory. Mac, being a more aggressive breed, promptly bit Jake on the foot which earned him the name of “alligator mouth.”

We had our party for Jennifer, George had to leave on Sunday of that week-end and we continued to monitor Barbara’s mother’s progress through John. There was still no clear diagnosis and the family was understandably concerned. Aunt Inabelle and uncle Tom arrived at mom’s for their yearly visit and Warren had been to Fort Leonard Wood to have some stitches taken out of his arm. On the way back he stopped to look at some new mobile homes and had seen one that took his eye. He wanted me to go see it with him on Saturday…..it was indeed, a beauty. So now….decisions, decisions, decisions……….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

MAY AND JUNE....1982 

Aunt Mary and aunt Sally came to visit mom a couple of days before we went to New Orleans. When we came home, mom had gone back to Blair with them for a short visit. On Friday, May 28th, we loaded the car and drove to Blair for a stopover on our way to Warren’s high school reunion. Mom and aunt Mary surprised us with a birthday supper for me. We spent the evening visiting and catching up on family news. The next day we left early to drive north to Warren’s old home town, Newman Grove, NE. It is about an hour and a half north of Blair. It was Warren’s 40th reunion and we stayed with a cousin of his and went on to the school auditorium for the dinner and program.

Newman Grove is an old town with a lot of history. Warren grew up in that town and remembered everyone he saw. It was a banner evening for him to catch up with old classmates and laugh over their travels, since. Sadly, of course, some were missing and some had passed away. It is a fact that one faces when you attend any function after a number of years….some faces will be missing and missed. Life goes on and you are forced to except the inevitable. The ranks grow smaller with each passing year.

On Sunday the King family had a reunion for the evening meal so that Warren and I could visit with everyone in one place. His mother’s family was quite large and were pleasant and sociable. The gathering was in the basement of the Methodist Church where most of them attended on a regular basis. At the time we were there, the King family count was 65. All of Warren’s cousins had grown up on the farm and eventually took their father’s farm over as each dad passed away. They had huge farming operations of all sorts and it was interesting to listen to them talk about their farms. It was obvious they loved what they did. Warren grew up hating anything about farming so he knew as soon as he could, he would leave to make his mark somewhere else.

The next day we went on to Albion, NE. to visit his father’s side of the family and had the opportunity to visit with several cousins there. We stayed one more day in Newman Grove and then drove back to Blair. We took mom, aunt Mary and Sadie (their cousin) out for dinner and enjoyed another visit with them. We left the next day to come back home and mom came with us. She had been staying with us most of the time after her first trip home from Blair. This time she decided she would try housekeeping again in her own home. She was naturally a little apprehensive but I’m sure was ready for some peace and quiet. I checked on her by phone a couple of times and she came down for mid-morning coffee but after that she was in her own element and content.

My vacation was over and time for me to go back to work. Everyone was happy to see me back and it was nice to be in a routine again. As much as I enjoy travel it is always good to come back home….my bed, my kitchen…..my, my, my. I don’t think that is a bad thing….I have always loved my little home and the things within. In all these years since, it has become a house of memories. Each item is a treasure of a happy time shared in the past, be it family or friends. As I look at the items and care for them each day I take comfort in knowing that I am the keeper of family possessions passed down from great-grandmother, to grandmother, to mother and to me.

One day they will all go to my children who will enjoy them for a while before they are passed on to their children. I was raised to love simple things and to be content with what I had….mom and dad would be proud to know that I am.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, November 01, 2004


Warren and I drove to New Orleans the 21st of May for John’s graduation from Seminary. He was to receive his Master’s degree. It was a pleasant few days…we went to River Bend for dinner the night we arrived and afterwards went to a reception at President Leavell’s mansion. We met some of John’s friends that had been guest’s in our home as well as some we had only heard about. John’s friends were always unique, well educated and witty. A few were willing “straight men” for him. Barbara was always entertained by him.

Barbara was a true Southern lady. She was refined and smart….her appearance was always perfectly groomed and her small frame was delicate and graceful. Her manners were above reproach and it was her pleasure to make you feel comfortable. She was what every mother dreams her son will want to marry. I loved her soft Southern way of speaking……and her gentle spirit. I just loved Barbara. Period.

With John’s suggestion we went to the Chapel early as the seating would be inadequate for the number of people attending. We saved a seat for Barbara….she and John had gone to an early breakfast together. I don’t need to attempt a description of the pride I felt when I spied John walking in with the rest of the graduates. He had overcome so much and achieved so much with so little. He had worked with a friend and fellow classmate as grounds keeper at the Seminary as well as working on Saturdays manicuring lawns at some of the large homes.

He told of working at one of the mansions where the owners were young with a young family. He was big in the oil business and his home, cars, wife’s doorknob ring etc; were symbols of his wealth. When the big crunch came…….he lost it all. John was sad for them because it’s a lot harder to have it and lose it than to never have it at all. A good thing to remember is it’s a lot harder going up than it is coming down. John learned a lot about lawn care and floral plantings and still enjoys working in his yard at planting time. I can just imagine he has mums out now with a few other things to spruce up the yard.

The program was challenging and the last inspired speech the graduates would hear at the Seminary. Afterwards, we met with friends of John and Barbara’s and went to the French Quarter to eat and enjoy the sights. Barbara had to leave after lunch to go home to Vicksburg. The “Quarter” has so much to offer, it’s hard to take it all in. John ushered us around a potpourri of sights, sounds and tastes. We walked, ate, shopped and visited till we were too tired to take another step. We had a wonderful and full day…………

When morning came, John arrived at our guest house early to go to breakfast at a neat place called, The Magnolia Grille. If you like the old 50’s grille’s you would love this. A long counter with stools…all in black and white. The cooks and manager were all in white. The flare with which the waiters took and called your menu choice to the cooks was something to behold. Watching them cook your breakfast while you sat on a stool sipping hot coffee was beauty in motion. It remains one of my favorite places in New Orleans to this day. What did we order? I took John’s choice….a chili cheese omelet….Warren took the safer route….a ham and cheese omelet. After that, John took us to the church where he and a lot of the Seminary students attended, St. Charles Baptist Church. It was built in the old Southern style and still elegant among the huge live oak trees and residences up and down the street.

John took Warren and me to Dr. Roger’s class for Sunday School….a professor at the Seminary…..and I believe the message was also from one of their professors. We had coffee in between the services which was nice. Afterwards we went back to the French Quarter for our last time as we would be leaving in the morning. Café du Monde for beignets are a “must” as you sit in an open air dining area, watching the parade of humanity pass by. I think it is George’s favorite thing about going to the French Quarter. He will eat beignets on top of a meal if he has to….just can’t leave without downing a few…..but then…it is a custom for all of us.

Have to have!! Aunt Sally’s Pralines…lunch at Mesparo’s… Farmer’s Market where you can buy anything you can think up….the jewelry shops…feasting your eyes on Jackson Square and hearing the calliope and big horn of the Natchez Queen as she pulls away from the dock……..the sidewalk vendors, the boys tap dancing or the musicians playing as you walk up and down the streets……um-ummmm. I hear it all calling me back….listen….do you hear that? I’m gone…………….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther