Just one year ago, I sat outside the fence of the Belle-Claire Fairgrounds in Bellville, IL, in the Hardee’s parking lot. I sat there reflecting on all of the years that have passed since Joe and I first stepped into that building for the Country Treasures Craft Show so many years ago.
Jan and Cara, the promoters, had convinced me that Belleville would be an excellent show for us to try after doing their show in Terre Haute. (My friend Gay and I were sharing a booth there.) I had met Gay at the YWCA craft show months before, and we’d become fast friends. She taught me so much! My eyes were opened to a whole new world—I never knew existed. It wasn’t until meeting Gay that I realized there were craft shows where people would actually pay to come in and shop! You could say that our whole life changed after meeting her.
This was the catalyst for our “new” life and where Beckley’s Best Blends was truly born.
After doing that first October show in Belleville, we wanted to get into the sold-out Christmas show that December. Poor Jan. I called her incessantly until she finally acquiesced and said… “I can give you a 4×8 space in front of the bathrooms.” We’ll take it! I told her. Jumping with joy, I couldn’t wait to tell Joe! He looked at me and said, “Come here.”
I followed him into the garage, where he grabbed a piece of plywood and dropped it on the floor. “There’s our space,” he said. I looked at him with raised brows… hmmmm…well, we’ll figure it out! I told him. And we did. (Did I mention we would also have THREE kids with us!? That’s five people, a bagging table, and two racks of candles in a 4×8 space.) I don’t know how we managed that weekend, but we did.
But this time, something other than work was pulling me there. I knew I had to go. The lot was locked, so Hardee’s was as close as I could get. It was enough.
As I sat in the truck looking at the building and remembering the good times we’d had there…
Joe and Eddie, trying to one-up each other with their silly pranks all weekend—and Karen, finding no humor—in any of it—made it even better for Joe. (I’m sure she eventually became wise to that fact.) Fred and Joe “shooting the shit” and catching up on all the news and happenings since we’d last met. Jane, never disappointing with a great story and a belly laugh. Joe, complaining to everyone that I was out shopping…again. Joe and I showing up early on Sundays, long before the doors opened, to walk around and shop “together.” And Ian, always performing some magic finding a solution to our wifi issues so that we could accept credit cards.
All of the things…came crashing down.
I had a total breakdown—a moment of pure sadness—grief demanding to be heard and seen. After sitting there for some time and being unable to regain my composure enough to drive, I called Jody. “Where are you? she asked. I’ll be right there!” (She always seems to know when I need her before I ever pick up the phone.)
I had no idea how deeply it would hurt, just seeing that old building.
It’s a special place, Belleville, and the fairgrounds. Joe and I spent more time in that building than anywhere else doing shows. It was indeed a home away from home. Our customers became friends, and lifelong relationships were born.
There’s nothing “special” about the old building, except for the memories it holds.
As I travel there for Kay Weber’s Holiday Craft Show this weekend, my first time back since December 2019, it’s with great anticipation and sadness. I have been working my way through all of our “regularly scheduled shows” this year. I needed to see our customers and friends and find closure.
December 2019 was our last show before the world changed forever-BC (before covid).
Ironically, Belleville is where we did our very first show together and our last. That’s how our show year started, for years. Ending with the Christmas show- formally Country Treasures, and now Forever Vintage- and always our first show back to start the year, first in February, and in later years, March.
The March show was where we were scheduled to be before Covid hit. Driving off of the beach with Joe for the last time ever, in March 2020, I received an email from Courtney. “The show is canceled.”
That’s where and when Joe left me, driving off the beach that evening. He never recovered from the news. He knew life would never be the same, and it was more than he could handle.
We eventually began participating in Kay Weber’s Holiday Show, Thanksgiving weekend, at some point, though I don’t remember what year that was.
It’s all so much to take in, but at the same time, so crucial for me to do. I have always been a very sentimental person—I think that’s why I love photography so much—all of those captured moments, frozen in time.
And then there’s Kay, the show’s promoter. I will never forget her calling me as soon as she heard the news. It was September 2020, more than two months after Joe had passed. I was with Travis and Amanda in Wyoming. We drove down the mountain and into town, and as soon as we had service, her VM came through …
“This is Kay Weber. I think I heard something about the Beckley’s. Could you please give me a call?”
I called her right away, so happy to hear from someone in our “show family.” When I confirmed that the news she heard was accurate, she began to cry. She was so sorry, so sad. The comfort she brought me was beyond anything I had expected. She cried with me. She prayed with me. She listened to me. She made me feel as though I mattered. It was so heartfelt and so loving. It meant the world to me, and I will NEVER forget how she made me feel. She has since called me on several occasions just to see how I was doing.
On one of those check-ins, she told me she was moving forward with the show this year. Though I wasn’t planning to do any shows, I told her I would come. That phone call was the catalyst I needed to get me going. Soon after, I decided that if I was going to do one show, I might as well do the rest.
And here it is—this weekend.
I have so many feelings about being there. Mostly happy and ready to “peel the bandaid,” but there is also a sadness that lingers in my mind. On the one hand, I think…WOW… how is it already Thanksgiving? And on the other, it feels like I’ve been in a time-warp—slow motion. Like things are barely moving. How is it possible I’ve been living without Joe for almost 18 months?
I am always looking for meaning—in everything—even though I know there isn’t always meaning—sometimes things just are... because.
I don’t know how walking into that building this weekend will feel, but I am ready. Ready to do both of my final shows of the year, right there. To see everyone and to remember all of the best memories that have been made there. And, of course, I will be making new memories, too.
I’m looking forward to that, as well.
Your prayers, your thoughts, and well wishes will always be appreciated more than I could ever express in a single sentence. We have all suffered loss or will at some point in our life. This time of year is hard for so many. I hope that as you go through your holidays, you will keep those who are suffering, in any way, in your prayers and try to understand, though it’s truly not possible unless you’ve been in this position, that grief is not something you get over. It’s not something you just recover from. You don’t just go on. It is always there. Maybe not on the surface, but deep below and sometimes when you least expect it, demanding to be heard. Seen. Witnessed.
Be a witness for someone. Let them talk, cry, laugh hysterically, be angry, or sit in silence. Don’t talk. Just listen. That is the best advice I have.
If you’re in Belleville this weekend, I hope you’ll stop by to see me. I’m working on fresh inventory and will have some new offerings, too. (The booth may look different, but the product hasn’t changed.)
Death does not get the last word. And the show must go on.
Maybe this will help…. from grief expert David Kessler:
“Young (early) grief is considered the first two years of your loss.”
“Grief is what we feel inside. Mourning is what we experience and show to others on the outside, and grief demands a witness.”
To your healing, and to mine.
xo, and peace.
Call: Lifeline 1 800 273 8255 (USA Only)Text: CNQR to 741 (741 Crisis Text Line (USA Only)
I just want the pain to stop… (video)
Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s a desperate act.
Please comment below if you have something you’d like to add to this conversation, words of wisdom, or just some encouragement for all of us.