Christmas Notes: Checking the Depth with Aunt Liz

Aunt Liz would have turned 85 on Christmas Eve. She was born during the waning months of the Calvin Coolidge administration on what was likely a cold winter day in the flatlands of Missouri not far from the Mississippi River. She lived to see the White House change occupants 13 times but never strayed far from the Mississippi.

Aunt Liz was a middle aged woman by the time I married her niece and joined the family. I liked Aunt Liz immediately and grew even more fond of her upon learning that she like to crappie fish and that she was good at it. Her husband, Uncle Mike (another favorite relative) was also a superb crappie fisherman and for many years they spent countless weekends prowling Kentucky Lake for crappie and catching more than their fair share.

Aunt Liz played a critical role in she and her husband’s angling successes. Kentucky Lake is a lowland reservoir rife with creeks and is primarily a ledge fishery. Early during she and Uncle Mike’s fishing career Aunt Liz served as something of a human sonar, a chore that demanded considerable concentration, strength and skill. While Mike maneuvered the boat Liz would kneel at the bow and using an anchor and a knotted rope (knots about 1 foot apart) she would ¬†locate drop offs and creek channels with the anchor then measure the depth by counting knots in the rope. Fish typically hang along the drops. Liz and Mike soon learned the lay of the lake – at least the section they liked to fish – then exploited it for years. They always caught fish. After health and other issues forced an end to their fishing and even following Uncle Mike’s death in 2009, Aunt Liz rarely failed to inquire as to the crappie fishing on Kentucky Lake.

Aunt Liz died in October following a short illness. The last time my wife and I saw her she was spending time with her daughter and son-in-law at their home near Kansas City. This was about six weeks before her death. We laughed and talked and played with the dogs had morning coffee on the patio and more wine than was necessary with dinner and shopped and toured a few of the city’s sights and generally had a grand time. Then, just before leaving, we told each other a tiny, harmless fib. We agreed we’d see one another again at Christmas, hugged, and said goodbye. But I feared the Christmas rendezvous wouldn’t happen and I suspected she had the same doubts.

At the memorial service, while I should have been listening to the preacher talking about Aunt Liz’s stellar character, love for Christ, wealth of friends, devotion to her church, love for her family and other outstanding qualities, I was thinking about her at the bow of the boat under a brilliant April sun, checking the depth, then picking up her rod and laughing each time she hauled in a big crappie. I think she would have been good with that.

The boat, anchor and knotted rope eventually came into my keeping. I no longer own the boat but still have the rope and anchor.

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My family will open a raft of gifts¬†on Christmas morning, as will many other families. There is a reason for this and it’s important to remember.

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11., KJV.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Christmas Notes: The Importance of Shepherds

You’re just doing your job, unseen, unheard and generally ignored by society at large. You are, after all, near the bottom of the social ladder, basically doing the grunt work; and working the night shift, no less.

Then of all the people on the planet, God drops the news on you, scaring you witless. But your job requires a calm demeanor and you have sense enough to listen to and consider this outlandish message.

The messengers leave. The night is once again quiet. But something has changed. You talk it over, come to a decision. You decide to go into town and see for yourselves.

Things will never be the same.

Luke, the physician, writes you into history. At every telling of the story you will be remembered for your faith: For hearing, For going. For telling. You have been granted a front row seat to the event on which history will turn.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

Merry Christmas everyone.