Sally Ann Shurmur: Loss, Lent, And Love

Columnist Sally Ann Shurmur writes, "On Wednesday and throughout Lent, I shall continue to pray for the families of Bobbi Brown Barrasso and Toby Keith."

Sally Ann Shurmur

February 08, 20245 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

It’s been a week.

Not even the King of England can escape a cancer diagnosis. Whether you are a royal watcher or not, it’s sobering news.

His Mum lived to 96, so we all knew his reign would be decades shorter than hers. Here’s hoping his treatment works and he returns to good health.

A doctor’s wife and U.S. Senator’s wife died of brain cancer at 70. She received marvelous care for two years and it wasn’t enough.

She was an absolute force and will be missed every day by the thousands of lives she personally touched. She was my friend for 50 years and I hate that she is gone.

And arguably one of the country’s most popular entertainers and songwriters died of stomach cancer at 62.

Two nights in the hospital for a granddaughter with breathing problems pales in comparison, but this Nana was shook. She’s already back in school, tripping over her brand-new backpack on wheels.

So where does one turn in the face of sadness, and in the latter instance, panic?

I’ve been turning to the beads more and more, Rosary beads that is.

The repetitive prayer has a calming effect I cannot find elsewhere.

Next to my chair in the living room is my Rosary of translucent brown and gold beads, handmade by a Glenrock parishioner.

As she made her way down the aisle at St. Louis one Sunday, she stopped at my pew, fished it out of her pocket and said, “I think you need this.”

Upstairs on the bedside table is a beautiful Rosary made of cream-colored oval beads enhanced with gold, made by Lenox, the fine china people.

When we had the sad duty of emptying Owen’s mother’s snowbird house in Arizona after her death, it was on her bedside table. I took it and think of her every time I use it.

In a central theme of the Hallmark movie to come, she and I worked together at the Star-Tribune and were great friends before I ever met her rascal of a son.

As only a mother can, her first words of advice to me were, “stay away from him.”

Every day, I am glad I did not take that advice and eventually, she was too.

In God’s perfect timing, Lent begins on Wednesday. So at least for me, that automatically means more time for prayer and reflection— and sacrifice.

The Pope may be the leader of my church, but when it comes to Lent, Peggy Jane the Mom is in charge.

It’s still giving up as far as she is concerned, although the more modern thinking is sacrificing for others in the form of charitable works and kindness.

When I was a kid, many of my Catholic school friends were Hispanic. One particular family observed Lent with every Sunday being a free day from whatever it was you gave up. So for a whole Lenten season, I wanted to hang out at my friend’s house on Sunday afternoon, because the candy jar was full and available.

Peggy Jane the Mom caught on and that was the end of the Sunday visits.

It doesn’t happen often, but Wednesday is also Valentines Day. Hilarious, right?

We are going to dinner in Casper on Tuesday at my favorite restaurant, and then will have a nice meatless dinner at home on Wednesday.

Memes about Lent are ramping up on social, and I am here for all of them.

My favorite thus far is a big pink candy conversation heart, those tooth breakers that taste suspiciously like Pepto-Bismol.

“REMEMBER U R DUST,” is the message.

We are all dust.

Some of us have a beating heart and a brain that sort of sometimes works, but it’s all packed in dust.

Lent reminds us of the sacrifices of Jesus in his final days on earth.

Giving up candy or booze or social media pales in comparison to carrying your own cross and dying on a hill.

If you believe, you can’t think of Lent without thinking about what comes after.

Then there is my all-time favorite greeting card, stark white with no other words than in typewriter font, “B.R.B.” — Jesus.

In other words, you can’t have the Resurrection without Lent. Just as you can’t win a Mountain West championship without puking in the IPF in February.

On Wednesday and throughout Lent, I shall continue to pray for the families of Bobbi Brown Barrasso and Toby Keith.

And as the song Toby wrote for Clint Eastwood so beautifully advises,

“Get up and go outside

Try to love on your wife

And stay close to your friends.

Toast each sundown with wine

Don’t let the old man in.”

“Don’t Let the Old Man In,” Toby Keith.

Sally Ann Shurmur can be reached at:

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Sally Ann Shurmur