Photo Essay

The Healing House

The Healing House

The Healing House

My dear 92 year old mother passed away three days before Hurricane Rita came ashore in Houston in 2005. This was not a convenient time to die. Everyone was trying to get out of Houston as fast as they could. Freeways were already gridlocked, gas was running out, and a monster storm like Katrina was bearing down on us all. Even the cemetery was trying to close. They agreed to stay open to take care of my mom. All I wanted was to know she was in the ground with my Dad, not lost in some flooded out basement in the Houston Medical Center. Seven of my mother's family and friends ignored their desire to fly out of Houston as fast as possible and take care of saying goodbye to my mother at the funeral home. However, the hearse bringing my mother's body was at a standstill in the Houston Medical Center evacuation traffic. At 4:30, the funeral directors came into the waiting room to tell us to go home, that there was no way that her body would arrive at the funeral home before late that night. Long story Mom missed her own funeral. I can laugh now, but of course, at the time it was a nightmare. The hearse arrived there at 11:30 that night. The cemetery agreed to remain open one more day until 8:00 in the morning so that they could bury my mother. By the next morning, there was no way on EARTH, short of a helicopter, that we could travel the twenty five miles back to the cemetery. Traffic was at a standstill. The minister from our church drove for an hour and a half to travel the mile and a half on back roads to the cemetery to perform her service. Five sweet men in suits from the cemetery sang Amazing Grace. These men took jpg photos of everything and sent them to me by computer immediately after her service. Imagine my state of mind to miss my own mother's funeral.

Once I had seen the photos and knew she was buried with my Dad, I could finally have my meltdown. Ironically, at that moment I was trying desperately to hammer semi-rotten, pulled off wooden fence boards onto an upstairs window from the inside to try to protect us from the propane tank that remained on my absent neighbor's deck across the street. I was so ill prepared that I did not even have the right kind of nails and they split the semi-rotten wood. I began slamming the hammer down on the wood and sobbing. Something made me stand up, and I found myself slamming my hand down on the CD player that no one had played for the past several weeks. To my astonishment, the song that played was "Bridge Over Troubled Water." During that song I had my meltdown. But before the song was over, I crumpled on the floor in laughter because I knew that Mom was nearby and safe. And that she wanted me to be safe and well taken care of in this frightful nightmarish time.

The storm came and went, we remained in our little Houston townhome, and we were safe.

Five days after the funeral, my husband was just goofing around on the internet. He had stumbled upon photographs of a little farmhouse surrounded by cows, on two and a half acres, a view of three ponds, furnished with antiques, and just fifty-five minutes outside of Houston. The house was just over one hundered years old and located in Chappell Hill, a beautiful part of Texas where the Hill Country begins. We were not looking for a house, but he showed the photographs to me. Still fried mentally, I just gazed into the images of the sweet little house and knew we had to go and look at it.

I took care of my mother for thirteen years after my father passed away. One week a year, my husband and I would take a trip to somewhere beautiful like Maine or California and we always came back more nature starved than ever. I remembered one day when I sighed and said wistfully to Mom, "I can't believe people live in places like pretty...." I turned down two career moves to pretty places because she did not want to leave her doctors and the Houston Medical Center and said she would not go with us. I could not leave her alone, so I turned down those jobs.

So, the timing of seeing that house in Chappell Hill felt so fateful, I just knew we had to go look at it. I just knew that this was one of those life moments that I could not ignore. I felt Mom's spirit soaring in my heart as I called her friend Terry, the real estate agent who had sold my mother's house. She drove us up to see the house that same day. We were the first people to see the house, the day the owners decided to sub-divide their six acre, three house B&B compound into three separate houses on smaller acreage. We walked into the house silently, knowing instantly how perfect it seemed for us. We walked out on the front porch, sat down on the steps, looked at the beautiful pond across the street, looked to the left and right (two more lovely ponds) looked at each other and at the same time said, "This is our house." We put a contract on it the same day. Never in our lives have we done anything so impulsive or so right.

We set about adding memorial rose gardens in memory of my Mom and Dad and my husband's deceased father. We added nine bluebird houses surrounding the house because my mother loved birds and so did I. Bringing some of my mother's antiques and keepsakes into this house when we moved in on Thanksgiving weekend of 2005 seemed absolutely perfect. In the Spring, we were amazed by the bluebonnets blanketing our meadow. Life felt so charmed. This house, the land around it, the wonderful country neighbors who are like family, and the simple lifestyle, have brought us more happiness than we ever dreamed possible.

Suddenly, it seemed that our bliss might be short lived. A year after we bought it, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I felt so cheated. How could I be this happy and have THIS happen to me NOW??? It was shortly thereafter that I knew I had this house for another reason besides bliss. I took off a year from work for my husband and I to take care of me, IN THIS HOUSE. If I was not in treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, we were here in the house, and during this time the farmhouse began to take care of us. I began photographing with a passion I had never known before. Anything beautiful, rare, funny, wild, gorgeous, moving, on four legs, on two legs, virtually anything living that moved me was captured with a feeling I had never known before. Photography became my lifeline during a time that could have been so dark. This house and my photography saw me through three surgeries and recovery periods, chemo, and radiation. My husband and I were able to escape to this place any time I was not in treatment. It was such a gift. And now I am healed and free of cancer with a good prognosis. Hallelujah.

That first summer I was finished with treatment was a time my husband and I looked forward to with glee. We spent the summer at the farm and cherished the fact that our trips to the Medical Center were over. But not so fast. One more hurricane was bearing down on us. Actually two hurricanes. Impossible as it may seem, as soon as I was healed of my cancer and my treatments were over, my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer. My first reaction was to run outside the farmhouse and scream "WHY???" The other hurricane was Hurricane Ike. We spent the evening of Hurricane Ike sheltered in my husband's hospital room as he was recovering from his surgery to remove seven inches of his colon. It all seemed so deja vu. Hurricanes seem to always accompany emotional storms in our case. My husband had to go through his chemotherapy following his surgery, and once again, we retreated to the serenity and sanity of the farm, and even more deeply into our photography as he went through his time of challenges. Now, thankfully, we are both well, and feeling very much alive. We feel that we have been tested from head to toe and are both very optimistic that our hard times are behind us. Of course, time will tell, but we know where we will be and what we will be doing while we LIVE life. Such a precious life here. No day is taken for granted. Every second is spent loving our life in nature, and we never forget our miracles.

I believe my Mom and Dad have been all around me since their passing. I feel their presence in the roses that remind me of her, the moon in the night sky, and the bustling birdhouses that surround our house. I know my Dad would be thrilled that we did not hesitate to jump on something so right for us, and that he could provide such abundance to us through his estate. Our decision was light speed fast, but it was so right. I like to think my Mom did not waste any time when she got to Heaven. I imagine that she immediately tugged on God's arm and pointed down to us. God knew what we needed. All of my Father's years of hard work for our family are materialized in this love affair of a home that we have in the country. And this house has also brought the rest of the family so much closer together. All birthdays and holidays are celebrated here with my husband's family. It is their house too. We all feel the love in this house, and I know my parents are here too. They are in the wind, the flowers in the meadow, the new skills in my "green thumb," the butterflies, and the bluebirds that swim by the dozen in the birdbath outside the kitchen window. They are in the sunrises and sunsets, the moonrises, and the blanket of stars that covers us nightly. I am forever grateful to my Father for working and saving, and to my Mother for having such great communication with God, who obviously was and still is watching out for us.


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38 responses

  • Pedro Abreu

    Pedro Abreu said (6 Jan 2010):

    Great and true moments, Love your pictures, They can't get more real than this. P

  • Christopher Woods

    Christopher Woods said (6 Jan 2010):

    Beautiful! I live in this house with you and share this rare experience.

    It's a healing house, for sure.


  • Lise Utne

    Lise Utne gave props (6 Jan 2010):

    What a story, what ordeals! And a lovely collection of photos: my vote.

  • Arline Grant

    Arline Grant gave props (6 Jan 2010):

    A most beautiful story, full of love and hope. It truly is a healing house, in oh, so many ways! Thank you for sharing a "peace" of your heart with all of us.

  • Cathy McLain

    Cathy McLain   gave props (6 Jan 2010):

    A truly healing and magical home that brings hearts together. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kelly Connor

    Kelly Connor said (6 Jan 2010):

    An appreciation for the great beauty mixed in with the challenges and losses of our lives.

  • diana

    diana (Deleted) gave props (6 Jan 2010):

    tears for the pain you've survived and the joy you've embraced. i love your healing house!

  • Regenia Brabham

    Regenia Brabham (Deleted) gave props (6 Jan 2010):

    Life is full of hurricanes and you have weathered them all. A fantastic story Linda! Your home is beautiful and the love there makes it a bit like Heaven I am sure.

  • linda woods

    linda woods said (7 Jan 2010):

    Thanks so much. This house has such a life of it's own, all I needed to do was put my finger on the computer keyboard and the story told itself. Every day this home continues to add joy and story and substance to our lives.

  • Antje Woolum

    Antje Woolum (Deleted) gave props (7 Jan 2010):

    What a beautiful story of love and our ability to overcome anything with God's help. Thank you for inspiring me today, even moving me to tears. I could imagine the house while I was reading your story and the photograph is just beautiful...Thank you!

  • Ronnie Ginnever

    Ronnie Ginnever gave props (7 Jan 2010):

    Wow Linda, this is an incredible tale of the healing power of love and committment. You are so courageous, I love the way you choose to take care of yourself and those you love.

  • James Stegeman

    James Stegeman gave props (7 Jan 2010):

    beautiful story and images =) thank you so much for sharing this with us all

  • Petra

    Petra gave props (7 Jan 2010):

    what a beautiful story, tnx for sharing it...really touching...and a picture is amazing! what a nice colours, and a little buddy...:)

  • Tracy Caballero

    Tracy Caballero gave props (7 Jan 2010):

    You have been thru so much yet your pictures still show the happiness you found. And I do trully beleave this house was brought to you from someone watching over you. They led you to it. Hugs

  • Jenny Murphy

    Jenny Murphy gave props (7 Jan 2010):

    beautuful thats all i can say, just beautiful

  • Tom McElroy

    Tom McElroy gave props (7 Jan 2010):

    Hi, Sis! What a great story. You and Chris have been through so much, I call this "your Heaven on Earth". Love, Tom

  • Lyana Votey

    Lyana Votey gave props (7 Jan 2010):

    What a wonderful story, Linda. Thank you sharing it with us. It has my vote!

  • Maureen Kirk-Detberner

    Maureen Kirk-Detberner gave props (7 Jan 2010):

    You have a very inspiring story. Thanks for letting me know you wrote this story so I could read it! Blessings to you and your family!

  • Ale la guapa

    Ale la guapa said (7 Jan 2010):

    Thank you for sharing this very inspiring story with us - we are bound to take our hats off to your strength and resilience. Definitely my vote!

  • linda woods

    linda woods said (8 Jan 2010):

    Thank you so much. My husband and I are very lucky to have each other. There is nothing we do not know about each other having each been a patient and a caretaker. We had two mottoes that kept us going and relaxed during this time. One was "This too shall pass." The other one was, "It is what it is." We have both found that resistance is the cause of so much pain. The pain is already there...accept it, and then you can move on to living again.

  • Rachael Carlson

    Rachael Carlson gave props (8 Jan 2010):

    this is a really beautiful story. thank you so much for sharing. i'm passing this on to my mother :)

  • Karen McCleery

    Karen McCleery said (8 Jan 2010):

    The honesty and integrity of your story is another reflection of your amazing ability to connect with both your art and people. You are very special Linda.

  • Char Jones

    Char Jones said (9 Jan 2010):

    This story was so tender and touching it brought tears to my eyes. What a positive attitude toward dealing with cancer. And the photos are spectacular! You both are survivors!!!!

  • Bermi Shutter

    Bermi Shutter said (10 Jan 2010):

    A truly moving story with such a bright ending. I hope the hurricanes leave you and the beauty of your house alone! Great pics

  • Michael Kenney

    Michael Kenney gave props (10 Jan 2010):

    A wonderful, touching story. You certainly have my vote.

  • Richard Knight

    Richard Knight (Deleted) said (10 Jan 2010):

    First, Linda, you are a superb writer. Second, this is a story that had to be told, and I wonder whether it could be told to a larger audience. Your testimony is compelling. You and your husband approached your illnesses (and the loss of your mother) with great determination. I doubt that the outcome could have been different. You would not surrender. Good things happen, and I appreciate your sharing your story with me. It is very uplifting.

  • Susan Littlefield

    Susan Littlefield gave props (11 Jan 2010):

    An incredible story, Linda! So much love, so much heartache, but together, the two of you with your families have overcome. This is truly an inspiration, and definitely deserves to be published. The photographs are exquisite!! I voted.

  • Rob Roy

    Rob Roy (Deleted) gave props (12 Jan 2010):

    D) ALL the above, in particular a ditto to Dick. I use these as well "This too shall pass." "It is what it is."

  • Justin Sheely

    Justin Sheely (Deleted) gave props (12 Jan 2010):

    Wow-love it

  • Ahmed Arup Kamal

    Ahmed Arup Kamal gave props (14 Jan 2010):

    Wonderful pictures with a touching story

  • Karen Lynch

    Karen Lynch gave props (14 Jan 2010):

    The story is as incredible as overcoming your struggles and the photos reflect that joy you managed to hold on to.

  • Cindy Mikulski

    Cindy Mikulski gave props (15 Jan 2010):

    This is extremely moving and inspirational, Make sure you stay positive and keep supporting each other through the difficult time. You, your husband and the house was meant for each other. Good luck and thank you so much for directing my attention to your story.

  • Melody Golden

    Melody Golden (Deleted) gave props (17 Jan 2010):

    It looks like such a comforting place. Life is full of trials and tribulations. I am happy for your survival.The photos are great!Thanks for sharing the story.

  • Ted Gorczyca

    Ted Gorczyca gave props (21 Jan 2010):

    great story with a lot of feeling, my vote

  • Karen Foto Fiddler

    Karen Foto Fiddler (Deleted) gave props (29 Jan 2010):

    OH my..You are truly a survivor..As I read this tears I cired and cried..for my own recent loss of my Mom. but your trials and tribulaitons have surely tested your faith to the core and you have came out a winner..I voted yes!

  • Billy Houckham

    Billy Houckham said (4 Mar 2010):

    Fantastic story Linda,i hope the rest of your life is a bed of roses.

  • Liz El

    Liz El gave props (30 Mar 2010):

    Beautiful story! Beautiful photographs! I'm sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your story!

  • Niharika Sanyal

    Niharika Sanyal gave props (27 Oct 2011):

    Beautiful story and photographs! Certainly got my vote!

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