Friday, November 7, 2014

Funerals Are Fun

Are you kidding me!  Then why do these guys look so happy after attending the funeral for Violet M. (Smoot) Hott? Sure, we shed some tears today, didn't we...but, we also were surrounded by God's unending love of our family and friends,... including Ms. Gina and Abbygirl.

About 30 minutes after we all arrived home following what was the end to a very long week, our dogs began to bark.  It was dark outside.  We had just shed our funeral clothes, poured our first beverage, and began to discuss the remants of a very long day saying goodbye to Dan's mom when on our porch came Ms. Gina carrying this:  a pumpkin pie!

Still warm from her kitchen, this pie was so much more than the standard loving gesture of food folks deliver at these awkward times.   After celebrating my mother-in-law's life by posting "Permission to Eat Pumpkin Pie" during her final days on this earth, receiving this gift felt like a message from her in heaven.  Maybe it was the perfect timing of its' arrival or maybe feeling the warm pan in my hands.  I cried one more time today.

Sometimes, life has us do some pretty hard stuff, you saying goodbye to someone you love.  Going to the funeral today was, indeed, one of the hardest things I have ever done.  You see, the family asked me to read at the service.  Have you ever met this Hott family?  Well, they are loud and cranky, and with 141 direct descendants I knew I was in for a tough crowd.

Oh, did I ever want to say "No way!"  But just like some of the crazy things Pastor Andrew asked me to do, somehow the Holy Spirit had other plans for us today.  Saying "no" sure would have been easier, right?  Like, if I never stood up there then I never would have risked disappointing you guys or felt weird for saying something goofy.

But typical fool that I am, I said "yes" and read at the funeral today.  Here is my unedited presentation:

(Today, I am here to share with you a post from my online blog called “Excuse me, can I tell you something?”.  Both Uncle Phil and Aunt Pam asked me to read for Grandma Violet’s service today, an indescribable privilege for me.  After Mrs. Hott passed on Saturday morning, I was hanging out down at the house with many siblings when their request that I share “P to Eat PP” both surprised and, honestly, scared the bejebbies out of me.  You see, I began blogging about faith and family in 2008 as, now - don’t you laugh,…oh, ok, you can laugh – the blogging “Hott Mama!”  Looking around this room, I can see many more “hott mamas”.  Saturday, Phil called me, instead, the family poet laureate – “ah” I think I like that better, quite a compliment.  Once, Mrs. Hott called me Sonie,…an even better compliment.  While Mrs. Hott was in the hospital last, I posted this story you’re about to hear.  Within an hour, it was trending on facebook.  In fact now, if you google pumpkin pie, it comes up third after a Better Crocker recipe.  Hahahah….imagine that!  So, someone out there is reading it.  Honestly, I’m not sure if I can today.  In fact, I tried to get Caity to do this for me but she said “no;” so…. Here I am.  You’re stuck with me, uhhh your blogging Hott Mama.  So, please bear with me.)

Before I start, I want to show you something.  You see, when I was little, I always heard my mom comment on the participation of my brother’s girlfriends/wives in kitchen work.  Woe to the woman who did not offer to assist my mom with supper dishes!

Being used to lending a hand, I thought it was customary to assist as well.  So, imagine my surprise during my early visits in 1995 to the Hott Farm when supper was underway, and dishes began.  You see, with a small crowd of… oh…90 or so on any given Sunday back then, supper dishes began as soon as the first round at the table is cleared with just say 82 mouths waiting to be fed. And, each mouth had to sit at the table too.  There would be none of that eating a plate of food in front of the tv or on the couch.  So, I jumped up and offered to wash! 

I can only imagine the thoughts of the several other daughters-in-law there!  Today, it’s HER turn!  Hah! LOL!  I stood there for three hours as the endless pile of dirty plates never disappeared.  I know for certain I saw the same cracked plastic yellow plate with flowers in the middle come through my soapy water 4 or 5 times!  Check this out…Here it is! 

Grandma Violet's Dishes
This is a simple, plain ‘ole dinner plate from Mrs. Hott’s kitchen.  I borrowed it from among the stack of many chipped and worn plates used to serve a flood of fabulous country food…even today.  Today, this yellow plate from the 1950’s “genuine melamine, made in the USA” that once held Mrs. Hott’s famous Sunday dinner, now holds a special corner of my heart.  I’ll tell you why.  Here… pass it around.

There was another time Dan and I happened to be early for Sunday supper (this never happened often…in fact, Ronnie would always look for snow when we showed up, even in July)  So, observing the Sunday supper preparations, I offered to help out in the kitchen.  Asking what I can do,  Grandma Violet assigned me to the task of peeling potatoes.

Oh….easy smeazzzzy!  Right? I can do that!  And, surely it won’t take forever like washing dishes around here!   And, once I get these potatoes peeled, I can play outside with Caity while they cook on the stove!  So….

“Sure!  I can peel potatoes!”  Immediately, Grandma Violet vanishes to the basement of her farm house (the basement - a place, by the way, to this day after 20 years of visiting I.have.never.seen! and do not care to venture full of critters and creachers– too spooky – Thanks for the scare Uncle Dump!)   After hearing all the ruckous below, Mrs. Hott emerges from the rickety old steps carrying something.  With ease, Grandma Violet then crosses the few feet to the sink to deliver to me

A 5 gallon bucket.

Of potatoes!  FULL!

Oh?...ok!  Wondering how this little lady managed to lug this 5 gallon bucket of potatoes from the depths below, I reached down to lift them and nearly pulled my arms out of my elbows.

Looking up and thinking this won’t take so long, I asked Mrs. Hott, “So,…. Uh…How many of these do you want me to peel?”

“Well, ALL of them.”  Then, thinking what a dummy I was, she turned around to stir gravy.

Of course.    

No,… Wait? She was serious?  “All of them?”. 

Just like the dishes, three hours later and four hand blisters later, I was still peeling potatoes.  That was the last time I offered to peel potatoes at the Hott house!  How do they do this?

So, proceeding to Phil and Pam’s request for me to read…. Here is my post called

PUMPKIN PIE from “Excuse Me Can I Tell You Something?”

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching and the leaves softly landing, this time of year brings to mind one of my many favorite treats:  pumpkin pie!  In fact, I have already enjoyed a homemade delicious slice of the orange fruit (or is it a veggie?) while visiting my cousin Tammy.  As I gaze out my kitchen window at the W. Va. fall foliage, crystal blue sky, and puffy clouds passing, Thanksgiving 2001 was my induction into the Hott's "permission to eat pumpkin pie"!

Well, I don't know about where you grew up; but where I come from we traditionally had a pumpkin pie or two to celebrate the season with family.  It was in 1995 when I made my first holiday venture to the Hott Family Thanksgiving Traditional Dinner.  Surely there will be plenty of turkey and the favorites;... wonder if there will be a pumpkin pie?!

So, how many pumpkin pies do you think there may have been? One..... maybe two pumpkin pies?

Three pumpkin pies?


You're wrong!

Not 1.  Not 2, or even 3!  --   28!  TWENTY-EIGHT!!!

Mrs. Hott had personally baked,... from scratch, with REAL pumpkins --  28 pumpkin pies! 

And I am sooo not kidding you!  Following a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner, pumpkin pies emerge from everywhere!  Apparently, desserts always are hidden out in the "milk shed" until supper is over. Mrs. Hott lovingly manages her kitchen table much like that of a New York City traffic cop; allowing for nearly 90 family members to each sit for a meal (not only on Thanksgiving but for each and every Sunday afternoon).  Once your plate is empty, you have to get up in order for someone waiting to eat to have a place to sit down.   Her farm house home is so crowded with relatives slowly inching their way, shoulder to shoulder, to the table.  Woo… Talk about a close family!

To this day, I am not sure from where all the food came!  Like a flood, endless plates of fresh garden vegetables, mountains of mashed potatoes, home-cooked casseroles -- all from seemingly bottomless pots and pans!  It really is kinda magical, you know.  Or, a bit like Jesus feeding the masses with just a fish and five loaves of bread!

Finally when she authorized permission to begin dessert, there was formed a caravan of grandchildren carrying inside 28 pies of pumpkin among a plethora of other delicious delectable desserts!

So, as Thanksgiving quickly approaches this year I stumble across my favorite picture of Mrs. Violet Hott, the matriarch of the family.  A certain photo I LOVE is from Thanksgiving 2001! With rosy cheeks, twinkling eyes, snowy white soft hair… hers is a face to rival Mrs. Claus!  After six years of sitting at her table for the same holiday, it is this year that she allowed me to have pie early.  In fact, after a few brothers-in-law yelled at me and tried to get me in trouble with Mrs. Hott when I found a pie on the counter, with a twinkle in her eye she came to my defense!  I got pie first that year.

And, did Heath (another Hott nephew)!  Grandma Violet hid an entire pie just.for.him!  (Really, she did!  I saw him eat it whole and am still amazed!)

You know,… I do like to write.  If God ever let me recreate that verse in Matthew 25:35, it would go something like this:  “You are never a stranger at the Hott Farm.  If you're hungry, Grandma Violet gives you food; if you are thirsty, she gives you a sweet tea; and if you're a stranger, well.... it's only for a second. And, if you're lucky, you just might get permission to eat pumpkin pie early!”  

Today, Grandma Violet is now 93.  She is surrounded here by her large loving Hott family.  As we remember our sweet angel, the strong, hard-working woman whose 141 descendants span the hills of West Virginia to the shores of the Potomac, the mother of my sweet-loving Dan, number 10 child among her 13, the grandmother to many, including her last granddaughter - my very own Violet, I am thankful to God, who waits for her at His Thanksgiving table with her very own fresh slice of heaven, and a plate flooding with His unending love and amazing grace, exactly like my early slice of pumpkin pie.  

Feeling a little lost in her crowded and noisy house, I found favor in my mother-in-law that day, when I thought she never noticed me.  Funny how in something like just a piece of pie there was an expression of her grace, not unlike Your grace, God, in the smallest smile or twinkle in her eyes, waiting just for me, among the many, many Hotts.  

 I also saw she had countless expressions of her grace waiting for each of you. As this plate is nothing fancy, just an old plastic yellow plate among the pile with stains and chips, circulates empty here today, it was once flooding with countless meals.  From corn cakes or sausage gravy, to dumplings and ham, fresh peas from the garden to even nasty kale Davey tricked me into eating, maybe it is Saturday night burgers fried in the iron skillet or salty Sunday country ham, or fresh lettuce with egg and hot grease, back bones and sourkraut, pumpkin or corn meal mush (whatever that is!)… or… perhaps even Stacey’s own personal boiled potatoes set aside just for her from the mountain of mashed, Mrs. Hott’s plate from the farm held something special for each of us here.    But for Grandma Violet, I know it was not what was on the plate that mattered, but who was sitting in the seat at her table.

Thank you all, Hott Family, for showing me a little slice of heaven through the grace of your precious mother, Violet Mariam Smoot Hott.  A woman able to see through the crowded room into the heart of a stranger with just a seat at her kitchen table and small piece of pie.  If ever you feel lost in this crazy world, like the crowds are many and your plate is empty, I want you remember Violet Hott, and know by the miracle that was, no is she, there is always her grace, and the grace of Jesus waiting to fill your empty plate.

Even though it will be hard to imagine this Thanksgiving, or any dinner, with our Grandma Violet…and all the pumpkin pies,…as of today,  Her chains here are gone.  She’s been set free. Her God and Savior, her ransomed be. And like a flood, His mercy reigns, with unending love….She sits now at Your table, serving Your amazing grace.

I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Genesis 22:17

Amazing Grace...for Grandma Violet

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