Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | March 4, 2015

the unexpected gift I got while sitting at the kitchen table

I am working late, but taking a little break, scrolling through Facebook. (Of course. As one does when one has work to do. Or is that just me?)
Friend JP posts an elegant photo of his work in progress: sharp chisels alongside mortise and tenon joints, and the caption: “Door parts: Joinery, squaring up mortises. Lots of chisel work. If you can’t shave the hair off your forearm the tool is dull.”
JP is a professional furniture maker and talented designer. Circa 1988, he was a young buck just learning the art and craft of furniture making when he came to share shop space with my husband Jeff Flanagan, who was a self-taught wood artisan and prolific expounder on many subjects, sharp chisels not the least among them.
JP’s friend PB comments: “I can’t sharpen chisels to save my life… is there a trick?”
JP to PB: “Hollow grind. Then, medium India, soft Arkansas, hard Arkansas oil stones. Whet the back of the chisel dead flat. If it’s not flat it will never be sharp. I like oil stones but water stones work well too.”
I chime in: “Shaving the hair off your forearm – such a Flanagan move. In my head I can totally see him doing this. I mean, I know it’s just what one does, but still.”
JP: “Carrie, where do you think I learned it?”

And I’m so damn happy, and so damn sad. Inexplicably my eyes are full of tears, yet I’m so grateful for the conversation. My husband been gone for years, but he’s not gone. And yet he is so fricking gone.Say his name, people. Say her name. Tell a story.

When you do, you give a gift beyond your imagining.

Thanks, JP.



  1. thank you for this post, Carolyn. You are right; I’m still hungry for stories about my Bill, who died over 8 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

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