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A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

The old saying 'actions speak louder than words' has always been true, but never more so than during a time of grief. Like many people, I don't remember everything that was said during the time after a loved one's death, but I do remember the kind things that people did and the show of support.

When my dear friend Lori died several years ago, our small, but close group of friends reunited to support each other. It was the first time we'd all been together since our high-school reunion, but it was important for us to be together. It was difficult for the four of us to reunite without Lori, but we began to reminisce and talk about the good times we'd had together, and soon we were laughing. At first, I felt guilty, but I knew that Lori would have wanted us to enjoy ourselves.

A few years later, when my grandfather died, I again felt the support and love of the wonderful people in my life. Grandpa's death was rather unexpected, and my family and I were taken by surprise. All of my mother's family members came to the funeral, and I saw cousins whom I hadn't seen in many years. It was good to talk to them and know that even though we live far apart, we will always be connected.

My newly acquired family was there to show their support as well. I was moved to tears when I saw my mother- and father-in-law, along with my husband's grandmother at Grandpa's funeral. Although they'd met Grandpa only once, they wanted to pay their respects, and it meant a lot to me to know that they cared.

Kate Marchbanks

Together With God

It is so hard to know what to say when a friend is hurting. You offer support, you listen to their troubles, and you can even hold them as they grieve, but what do you say to make it better?

I like to remember the poem about the footsteps in the sand. When we are in crisis and at our lowest point in life, it helps to remember that God is carrying us and helping us get through the pain.

'Lord, You said that once I decided to follow You, You'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed You most You would leave me.'

The Lord replied, 'My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints in the sand, it was then that I carried you.'

Father, thank You for always being with us, even when our hearts are at their heaviest. Amen.

- D. Susan Rutz

Comforting words shared with others

When my husband, Charles, died May 2, 1997, one month after our 50th wedding anniversary, I was brokenhearted.

Lovely cards with comforting notes were helpful, as were the visitors who came to the house. But one special card lifted my spirits. I placed it on the table, and I read it over and over for weeks.

It was from my former brother-in-law and his wife. It read: 'Ron and I wanted you to know we have been thinking of you. We know these last weeks since Charles died have been difficult, and it's a big adjustment, losing him and going on without his love and support. He may be gone, but his memories live on. Please know we love and care about you, and hope the days ahead will get easier. Love always.'

Each time I read it, I felt their love surrounding me. It provided strength and courage and gave me peace. I have many times rewritten the comforting words I received to others who are grieving. The words live ON.


An act of kindness changed her mind

Many acts of kindness have been shown to me in my lifetime. The most recent occurred on this past St. Patrick's Day.

I answered my doorbell to a young woman holding a small girl in her arms and two young boys at her side. The older of the boys handed me an Easter basket with two bunnies and other nice surprises in it. Along with a St. Patrick's Day card, there was also an Easter card.

Inside the card the woman had written, 'Thank you! We drive by your home every day on the way to school, and your house is so festive, no matter what holiday it is. Thank you for cheering us up each weekday and more.'

I decorate for every holiday, even though my children left home many years ago. The last few holidays, I have seriously thought of quitting. I am 77, and storage is a problem. Needless to say, after this act of kindness, I couldn't take my St. Patrick's Day decorations down quickly enough so I could put up my Easter things and have them ready  when my neighbors drove by on Monday morning.

Because this young mother included her children in this kindness, it speaks volumes of her character and how she is teaching them. My heartfelt thanks go to Darla, Cary, Craig, Ryan, Kyle and PAIGE.


Actions speak louder than words

I have been in need of comfort several times in my life, so I know what wonderful things people do to try to make us feel better.

When my child was seriously ill and in danger of death, people prayed. Not only close family and friends, but I was told that the neighborhood churches of every denomination had his name included in their prayers for the sick. I also heard that people who lived in many different states had his name included in their churches' lists of names of those in need of prayers.

Several individuals called to ask about his condition, and they told me they prayed every day for his recovery. When he recovered, even though the odds were against him, I was confident that it was a miracle brought on by the prayers of many.

Another time, I had a child killed in an accident. At that time, there was an outpouring of love. When we arrived home from the hospital, neighbors were already at the house waiting for us. They had brought food and love.

Meeting us with hugs, they each found something to do to help us. Some washed dishes or swept the floor while some prepared our supper, the men fed the cattle and hogs, and some teenage boys arrived with lawn mowers and mowed our lawn. A couple of adolescent boys washed our car and pickup truck.

That evening, close friends came over and sat with us to mourn our loss. I can remember nothing that was said that day, but all these wonderful people showed their care and concern by deeds instead of words.

The next two days are a blur in my memory. People came and went at our house. At the funeral home, hundreds of people showed up. Many were relatives, some were our friends and neighbors, some our children's friends, and some were merely people who felt sorry for our family and wanted to show their sympathy.

Some had words of condolence, and some were not able to speak, but they shook our hands or gave us hugs.

What really meant the most to me and what I will cherish forever is the memory of those women and men who put their arms around us and cried with us. Those tears meant more than any words could have expressed.

Others, because of distance, work or other reasons were not able to come to the services. They sent cards and notes that I still keep after 15 years. Many told of special times they had experienced with our child or told of nice things our child had done for them. All were very uplifting.

The entire episode made me realize that there are no words that bring comfort. The comfort comes from the actions of people. To repeat an old adage, actions speak louder than WORDS.


Good news

We all enjoy getting good news. Whether it's a new baby in the family, an unexpected windfall of money or a good health report, the moments we receive good news tend to stay in our memories.

What was the best news you've ever gotten? How did you learn of the news? What was your reaction? Tell us your stories about the best news you've ever received.

Send your letters to Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

Vibrant tomatoes give salads a fresh,
delicious makeover

Warmer weather traditionally means lighter and healthier fare, and since May is National Salad Month, it's a perfect time to add more salads to the menu.

Putting together creative salads with tantalizing flavors is as easy as arranging a few colorful and good-for-you ingredients like fresh tomatoes, oranges and avocados amid crisp greens. Besides adding vibrant color and outstanding flavor to salads, heart-healthy tomatoes offer an easy way to get extra nutrition with very little effort.

An alternative to the traditional BLT, these crunchy salads are served in individual bread shells.

Panzanella Salad Sandwiches

1 pound fully ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/3 cup Italian salad dressing
4 hard round (Kaiser) rolls
3 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, crumbled

Heat oven to 400°F. 

In a large bowl, toss tomatoes with onions and salad dressing; set aside. 

Slice off the top of each roll; remove some of the crumbs from center of rolls; cut into small cubes (about 3 cups). 

Place bread cubes and rolls on a baking sheet; bake, turning cubes occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. 

To bowl with the tomatoes, add bread cubes, lettuce and bacon; toss.  Divide salad among bread shells; serve immediately. Yields 4 servings.

This fresh, tangy salad is a perfect warm-weather meal.

Sun and Sea Chef Salad

2 large, fully ripened tomatoes
2 medium oranges, peeled
1/3 cup prepared vinaigrette dressing
4 cups packed mixed salad greens OR lettuce leaves
12 ounces cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 1 cup)

Core and cut each tomato into 12 wedges. Cut each orange crosswise into 6 slices; cut slices into halves. 

In the container of a blender or food processor, place 8 tomato wedges and 8 orange slice halves. Whirl until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the vinaigrette; blend until smooth.

Place 1 cup of greens on each of 4 chilled salad plates. Top each with equal amounts of tomato wedges, orange slice halves, shrimp, green pepper and goat cheese. Drizzle each salad with some of the blended dressing. Serve with remaining dressing. Yields 4 servings.

These yummy, hand-held salads are full of fresh flavor.

Tomato Cobb Salad Wrap

4 large (10-inch) flour tortillas
6 tablespoons prepared blue cheese dressing
8 ounces sliced, cooked turkey breast
3 medium-sized, fully ripened tomatoes (about 1 pound), cut in thin slices
4 leaves Boston, iceberg OR leaf lettuce
1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut in thin slices
4 strips cooked bacon

Spread each tortilla with 1 1/2 tablespoons dressing. Top with layers of turkey, tomato, lettuce, avocado and bacon, dividing evenly. Roll up tortillas.

If desired, tie each wrap with chives, or secure with long toothpicks and cut each sandwich in half. To serve, stand both halves of each sandwich on the cut ends. Garnish with tomato wedges, green onions and avocado. Yields 4 servings.

This salad makes an attractive appetizer or a meal by itself.

Antipasto Chef Salad

1 pound fully ripened tomatoes
6 cups Romaine lettuce, cut in 1/2-inch-wide slices
6 ounces sliced Provolone cheese, cut into 3/4-inch strips (about 1 cup)
1 jar (6 1/2 oz.) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
4 ounces thinly sliced salami, cut in halves (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup pitted black olives
1/3 cup prepared Italian salad dressing

Core and cut each tomato into 10 wedges.

Divide lettuce among 4 chilled salad plates. Arrange 5 tomato wedges in a row down the center of each salad. Arrange cheese, artichoke hearts, salami and olives on either side of the tomatoes, dividing evenly. Drizzle with dressing just before serving. Yields 4 servings.

A variety of colorful ingredients combined makes a cool, refreshing salad.

Tomato, Shrimp and Couscous Salad

1 package (6 oz.) roasted garlic OR other flavored couscous
8 ounces shelled, cooked shrimp 
2 fully ripened tomatoes, cut in wedges
1 sweet yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing, divided
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup sliced green onions

Prepare couscous according to package directions; cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine shrimp, tomatoes, yellow pepper and 1/4 cup dressing. 

To couscous, add feta, green onions and remaining dressing; mix gently.  Mound couscous mixture on 4 plates, dividing evenly; top with marinated tomato and shrimp mixture. Yields 4 servings.