I am thankful for my amazing, smart husband that has been lovingly building a (Scottish) cairn. Many times, a cairn marks a grave, the old Scots Gaelic blessing ‘Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn’ or ‘I’ll put a stone on your cairn’ is said to mean ‘I’ll always remember you’ and ‘you will not be forgotten’.
In my last blog I alluded to the fact that there is a new structure coming to Bedford Landings B & B. This cairn will serve as the base for a sculpture to memorialize my daughter, Whitney, who died this summer.
Jack poured a footer, then poured a concrete column to stack the rock around. Among the skills we had building our B & B, laying stone was not among them, so we had to learn how to adhere a rounded rock to a flat surface. It has been a little frustrating as the rock was falling off and we tried product after product. But I think Jack’s patience paid off and it is almost complete. The braces are to hold the rock until the 24-hour curing process has passed before removing the braces.
The sculpture is near complete thanks to the artistic oversight of sculptor, Larry Bechtel. It is in Floyd, Virginia, awaiting the final step. The sculpture is an (polished steel) abstract but will have a “jewel” affixed to it. The “jewel” is a piece of blown glass that has incorporated some of Whitney’s ashes into the design. Tim Burke, is the glass blower in the Glassworks shop at Crenshaw Lighting in Floyd, Virginia. Pictured is the hot molten glass that he is working on. If all goes according to plan, we are anticipating picking it up by Tuesday to mount on the cairn.
We are hoping that on Thanksgiving we can give thanks to the light that Whitney brought into our lives for 35 years. And then give thanks for each other in our family.
Each year, we take a family photo but this year a few important family members will be missing.
This Thanksgiving take some time out of the busyness of kitchen. Sit with your adult child and look at them. Listen to them. Love them and appreciate what they have brought to your life.
We expect four adult children (Katie, Garrett, Shawn and Quentin – we will be missing Jennifer, Alex, Tony, and Megan) coming to share their partners (Ashley, Tianna, and Chris) and seven children with us. Risky during a pandemic? Yes! But we are all promising to have been cautious the past month and to be cautious while together. I want them to each know what joys they are to each other and to us. We will miss our Whitney, our Michael, our Eloise, and even our sweet Bella. But look who is still here! Look around you! Who do you appreciate? Give Thanks.
We are planning a new addition to Bedford Landings that I am anticipating our guests will enjoy and hoping it will bring my family good vibes and a sense of peace. We are working on it but not ready for the big reveal yet. I am going to share with you some of the process so you can anticipate along with me.
My daughter, Whitney died 138 days ago now. I blogged about it earlier in the summer. Her death was followed by three other deaths; my younger brother Michael, Jack’s remarkable mother, Eloise, and our friendly dog, Bella. While coming to terms with each of these losses, we have pondered over how to memorialize and honor them.
Eloise was laid to rest in Jackson, TN during a beautiful ceremony where she was buried next to Jack’s father. Her headstone marks the eternal place where we can visit and remember her. My bother was honored by the City of Virginia Beach that established a scholarship fund for firefighters in training named the Michael G. Brown scholarship fund. Also, later in the month, I will announce how my sister and I are honoring my brother in another way. Michael was cremated.
Whitney was also cremated. With a cremation, there is no place for her family to “visit” her gravesite. That is why we decided to memorialize her with a sculpture in the “Marthy’s Creek” area of our yard. If you have stayed with us at Bedford Landings, you may have enjoyed the sound of water (or singing frogs),or enjoyed roasting marshmallows to make S’mores at the firepit by Marthy’s Creek. We built the firepit a year after my mom died (who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease). After the creek was installed, Destiny (Whitney’s daughter) came to visit. AT the time, she was about 11 years old. When she visited us and she sat pensively by the creek, as if saying goodbye to (great) Grandmommy. It is indeed a special place. This will be the site for Whitney’s sculpture.
I interviewed three different artists who proposed designs before selecting Larry Bechtel from Blacksburg, VA. Being a native of Blacksburg, I was already a fan. But having him understand my great sadness combined with wanting to honor her memory endeared me to both he and his wife. One Sunday afternoon, they drove over from Blacksburg to speak to me and learn about Whitney. Certainly, no artist could ever replicate her beautiful face, so we settled on an abstract design. I wanted the piece to represent her strength, her determination, her fire, and to show movement. Larry has entitled the piece he is creating, “Strength, Fallen, Soars.”
One aspect became the inspiration for the art. When Whitney was a Senior in high school she was heading to the car with her date to attend the Senior Prom. It was then that I discovered that she had gotten a tattoo on her left shoulder; a Chinese symbol of strength. Angered that she had done so without mama’s permission, but happy that she looked so beautiful all dressed up for the prom, I wasn’t going to scold her there in the front yard. That symbol, continued to define her, however. It is this symbol that was the inspiration for the piece. It is anticipated that the sculpture will be in place by the end of the month. That is why I wanted to give an introduction so I can then share subsequent developments as they unfold.
I want to thank my dear friends from Michigan who contributed to this project. Thank you Krista, Jan, Diana, Carole, Mary, and Libbie.
I also want to thank my ever-supportive husband, Jack who is helping to build the base upon which the sculpture will be mounted. He has cut steel and welded the steel for the base plate. We have also ordered rock… but that is all I will reveal at this time. Stay tuned as this piece of art comes together.
There’s a cool crisp breeze. A soft wind blows to give the silent hint that summer is gone. The slow changing color of the leaves mean that fall is on the horizon. There are sounds of only a few boats in the distance. The water view calms the mind. A cold beverage refreshes the soul.
There’s no question that 2020 has been one heck of a year. There have been challenges and losses, but there has also been peace. As we continue through the rest of this year, and try to navigate through the pandemic – continue to steal away moments, views and feelings, taking in the beauty all around. From this vantage point, listen to the planes flying overhead, and hear them fade into the distance. The slow hum of a few cars passing makes one appreciate time away from the usual urgencies of life.
All too often, it becomes hard to find peace in the midst of so much turmoil, but right now-in this season, that is what Bedford Landings offers. While visiting, enjoy some peaceful time on the star gazing deck or one of the any other sitting spaces in this home away from home. Retreat to a quiet space or enjoy time with a small group of friends. While relaxing and enjoying your stay, make plans that may include a cruise on the Virginia Dare or a boat rental. Visit a nearby winery or two, or meander over to Bridgewater to feed the carp, shop, and eat!
When you awake, open your door to the wafting aroma of homemade cinnamon rolls, pecan-encrusted bacon, and mellow coffee. It’s a delicious way to start the day. Step into a place where you can feel the love as soon as you walk through the door! After all, isn’t that what a bed and breakfast is supposed to be?!
Fall is a favorite time for many at the lake, and Bedford Landings has room for you!
The year of 2020 just keeps on challenging us. As a follow-up to the blog that I posted last month, there have been other developments
First, we are thankful that our business has been wild, crazy busy! Our guests have been fantastic. People are just needing to get away from their “work at home” lives. We have had more families using the Flying room than ever before. We wonder if this stay-at-home time has even drawn families closer.
However, we have been called away several times in July. And always, our friends and family have come to the rescue with the B & B. As you recall in the last blog, following Whitney’s death, we had been so pleased to visit with my brother, Mike, in Floyd, VA. He, his wife, and wonder dog, Ax enabled us to play by the river and just escape for a day.
Then, we were so happy to visit with Jack’s 96-year old mother, Eloise, for her birthday July 16. A parade of about 35 church members drove by honking their horns and waving to her. She was so happy and pleased with this birthday surprise! But then the other two shoes fell.
On July 27, both Mike and Eloise died. Our hearts were breaking all over again. It was simply unbelievable. We were able to get away to honor my only brother, a true hero. As a career firefighter, Michael was honored with the ringing of the last bell in a small service at his home surrounded by friends and family, all masked and distanced.
On the heels of that service, we drove to Tennessee to honor and Jack’s mama, a truly adored woman. Eloise McCallen Phillips was honored in a small (masked) service in the funeral home followed by a graveside service with family and friends.
Do I question why? Do I wonder if these deaths were an indirect result of the pandemic? Yes, indeed I do. But I also believe in God and I believe that these wonderful family members knew God too. I think Whitney noticed Uncle Mike stepping into heaven and said, “Wait, what? How come you are here?” Then she ran into those great big, outstretched arms. And I believe Eloise is greeting each of her old friends with a smile, and a little “Hey!”
It is so sad to lose the ones you love, especially so close together. But you know, the living must keep on living! My granddaughter, Destiny is back in (virtual) school. Mike’s wife, Lisa is sorting through papers trying to make sense of the many forms and details. Jack and his brothers are beginning to sort through a lifetime of memories in their childhood home where Eloise lived independently until the very day she died, never having to go into assisted living and as smart as a whip!
Thank-you to our families for pulling together. Thank-you to our guests for forgiving if we overlook a detail or retreat to ourselves. We hope we have not missed too many beats along the way but please know that your presence in our home has been a blessing. One guest gifted me with some Kyanite. I had to look it up to see the healing properties. Here is what I found. Kyanite is an excellent stone for meditation and attunement. It will not retain negative vibrations or energy, therefore never requiring clearing. Kyanite provides balance of yin-yang energy and dispels blockages, moving energy gently through the physical body. I need that!!
Guests may have also noted a group of three candles lit from time to time. A graduate student from several year ago when I was a Professor at NC State sent me a set of candles all the way from Japan. The Japanese custom she described, is to light a candle in honor of your loved one’s memory.
And I do. From time to time, this glow brings me peace. The cards, prayers, and gifts of love keep flowing. Each time I receive a heartfelt gift, I feel God’s hand on my shoulder telling me that they are all ok. They were well-loved on Earth and they are well-loved in heaven.
As you are, we look forward to 2021!
Generally I try to post light hearted material to market our business in this blog. Today it is a little different, so if you prefer not to read something more on the personal side, you may want to skip to a different blog.
Twenty nine days ago, my daughter died. Whitney Lynn DeBord-Wilkinson was 35 years old, a veterinary technician, wife, and mother of two beautiful children.
As a business owner, we have not shared this with our guests who visit the Bed & Breakfast, primarily so we don’t burden them while they are on their vacation and we do not want to seek sympathy from them. We are not really discussing this with new friends yet. We realize it takes courage to express to someone who has lost a dear one that you are “sorry” and people want to find words that can be comforting. The difficulty in “accepting” the words of comfort is that nothing will change the reality of the loss. Up until now, it has been too hard to discuss. We are just taking one step at a time. And we are trying to breathe. Thank-you for understanding that we are not “hiding” this but in time, we can come up with new answers to new questions like” “Do you all have children?” *
For now, having this B & B is a blessing and a distraction.
We want to thank those who have wanted to reach out, but instead, gave us time to process and make some tough decisions regarding our beautiful granddaughter Destiny and growing super grandson Gabe. Quentin is a great dad and has kept Gabe in a routine. For now, Destiny is still with us, as she is every summer. We have been distracting ourselves with activities such as taking local field trips, learning to water ski, Destiny taking guitar lessons, a visit from Baby Gabe, visiting Uncle Mike and his wonder dog Ax,
and a trip to see Jack’s 96-year-old mother in Tennessee on her birthday.
We have received gifts of live plants and nearly 150 caring cards of sympathy, each with a comforting message.
Our beautiful niece. who was very close to Whitney, has established a fund that will be seed money to a trust fund for the children, and the animal hospital where she worked has started a memorial fund called “Whitney’s fund” to care for indigent animals.
*So back to that question, do you have children? Why, yes we do. We have my son, Shawn, who he has two beautiful children; we have Jack’s daughter Jennifer who has two beautiful children. We have our son-in-law, Quentin who has super boy, Gabe but also Adrian. We have Scott, my step son who has two grown children. Then I always include my loving niece Katie and my caring nephew Garrett, who has 4 daughters. There is my sister’s vibrant son, Tony plus more extended family who are all supporting us and Destiny, Whitney’s only daughter.
We feel your prayers and we feel God’s grace placed in our lives even before we knew we would need it. We are moving forward one step at a time.