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Archive for May, 2010

Last weekend I attended our annual church retreat with 17 great women. Attendance was lower this year, but I felt that the right people showed up for each other. We had ferocious winds all weekend which reflected our spirits and emotions which were swirling as we reflected upon our lives as individuals, with God and with others.

There are a couple of sayings I particularly liked.

“We cannot do great things only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

“Peace is something you make, are and give away…not something you can wish for.” Mother Teresa

Most of us aren’t the mover and shaker that Mother Teresa was, but we can do the small things in our everyday life with love for the person we’re with whether it’s a family member, a friend, a stranger, the nameless cashier at the grocery store… Isn’t nice to think that if we hold an attitude of love in our hearts that all things we do accumulate and make our hearts big and full of God’s love! I feel similarly about peace. Like so many things in our lives, we are looking for peace. You can replace many other words for peace that we are looking for, when actually we have just what we need inside us, and need to have the confidence to move ahead in our lives.

I still grieve around dad’s death, as of today 6 months and 6 days ago. Here are some words that comforted me during my retreat journey.

“Every tear I cry: You hold in Your Hand. You are not alone your grief…as He wipes our tears, He wipes his Own.” Casting Crowns

Here is another that I read which spoke to me from Everyone’s Way of the Cross by Clarence Enzler from Station 13, when Jesus is taken down from the cross.

I beg you Lord, help me accept the partings that must come—from friends who go away, my children leaving home, and most of all, my dear ones, when you shall call them to Yourself.

Then give me the grace to say: “As it has pleased you Lord, to take them home, I bow to your most holy will. And if by just one word I might restore their lives against your will I would not speak.” Grant them eternal joy.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

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I thought of mom warmly during Mass on Mother’s Day. That is until I recalled that this was her first Mother’s day without dad. I remember the first mother’s day when dad wasn’t enough with it to remember to buy mom a card. He wasn’t driving, so we got him a card to sign for mom. He was so happy to do that and carried the card around and gave it to her. By the next mother’s day he was getting so weak that his signature took a while. I don’t remember if we had a card for him to give mom last mother’s day. But we might have: if we did my brother would remember since he’s the one who would have bought it for dad. By then it would take dad 5-10 minutes to sign anything since his hand shook and was so unsteady. We have saved our last birthday cards and anniversary cards that bear dad’s signature. In those last few cards, it was barely legible, but we knew who it was and that’s all that mattered. It was such a stark contrast to mom’s signature which is picture perfect, the work of art almost. None of us kids inherited her excellent penmanship.

Mother’s day is always a tough day for me since it’s a reminder that we could not bear children. I’m the age of a grandma and it still hurts since I won’t be a grandma either. I love children and the life they give you since they keep you feeling young and more balanced and WITHOUT children it’s too easy to fall into the trap of me me me.

I know there is a reason for my infertility, but I’m still not sure what it is. One thing is for sure: I could never have spent so much time 2000 miles away from home with my family in the last few years if we had had children. I feel convinced that there are other reasons for my inability to conceive. I do so love children and feel blessed that my nieces welcome me into their families as they are having their babies.

Another thing we couldn’t do is take off for all these outdoor art shows which is how Rodgers makes his living! One of us would have to engage in a “real job” one that produces steady cash flow and provides medical insurance. We can live more modestly without children and we pay our own medical benefits, which greatly reduces the amount of spare cash we have to buy “stuff”.  Stuff just isn’t important to us as we drive around a 1989 Camry and our Toyota art car has over 260,000 miles on it, and is still going strong!

I hope to be an author one of these days! That’s not exactly a great paying career move. I probably wouldn’t consider it if paying the bills was more important.

I like to think about what’s right in my life: since I overall I am grateful for my life. I have a happy marriage, am part of a loving family, am healthy for my age, eat fresh food every day and live in a beautiful spot where we have unobstructed views of the Kenosha Range of mountains with Pike’s Peak off in the distance, yet clearly visible most days.

It’s a shame that our human nature is often to be critical of what’s gone awry during the day. I stumble into that sometimes, especially when I have taken on too much and I’m in that hyperventilated mode! However, I make up for it every night as Rodgers and I share our dinner hour with conversation, music, fresh food, candlelight and no telephone calls. I end my day lying in bed and recounting the day, and thinking what went right. I also feel warmth, peace and loving thoughts about my family. It’s a great way to fall asleep.

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“How true Daddy’s words were when he said: all children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

~Anne Frank~

This week I am visiting my mom and brother. The house still feels vacant without dad. It’s even worse this time as I am sleeping in mom and dad’s king size bed. Mom is too weak to sleep in their bed due to sciatica and we have company. Mom wants them to sleep in bedrooms next to each other. One of those is mine. I never thought I would be sleeping in my parents’ bed, especially this soon after losing dad.

Mom sleeps downstairs since she is too weak to climb upstairs often, especially when she is tired, like one is when climbing up to bed. She sleeps in dad’s hospital bed, and has adjusted to it and appreciates that it affords her the opportunity to sleep downstairs and still live in her home. It was an awful reality that must have hit her when I had that bed brought back up to our living room for her. The last time she was with her husband he was alive in that bed. The first time she saw him in death, he was in that bed where she now sleeps. I also have such a vivid memory of him in that bed up until the end, and then how gently they took him away for the last time.

Their bedroom still feels of dad. There is a pile of his clothes on the floor waiting to be given to someone. These are his favorite sweaters which he wore often. They are baby blue and bright red in color. I can still see him in the last pictures I took on “Duffy Christmas” in his pretty blue sweater, just barely hanging in there, but smiling and enjoying the attention and love especially from my brother. Somehow I can’t sleep on his side of the bed, not only since it’s further away from the bathroom. It’s almost to honor his presence that I just can’t go there. I struggle to breathe much of the time while I’m in my parent’s bed.

On their walls hang mostly religious pictures except for the counted cross stitch I gave them for their 50th wedding anniversary. It brings back memories of love, passion and a happy family gathering. I don’t remember their 60th as well since dad was so weak already by then. June 7 would have been their 63rd anniversary.

I am gradually getting through the milestones of mom and dad’s lives where we celebrated life together. This year as we grieve, they’ll be a little tougher to face, but I am hopeful that the joy they have represented to me will return.

Anne Frank was such a wise child. My father did put me on a number of right paths, and I had his guidance for so many years of my life, yet with his passion and caring temperament, I felt like I could be my own person. Other than telling me to pick up my room or clean up some mess or the other, he let me mold my own life. I did learn a lot by his great example of warmth, love and one who would always listen and give good council.

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You cannot judge the value of a life by its quantity. It is by the joy that you are

feeling. The more joyful you are, the longer you live. Let yourself relax and

breathe and be free and be joyous, and romp. The optimum physical life

experience is to have plenty of things that stimulate you to desire, and an

awareness of the way you feel, so you’re reaching for thoughts that feel good

so you’re wide open, so you’re tuned in, tapped in, and turned on.

We promise you, the timing of your death is always chosen by you.

Chicago, IL — 9/7/02 — Abraham

Excerpted from the workshop in Chicago, IL on Saturday, 9/7/02, 2002 #423

Our Love, Jerry and Esther

Week of May 2, 2010

This message from Jerry and Esther resonated during the last week of April. We got past dad’s birthday, the first one since his death. It’s the first day we didn’t celebrate his birthday ever since I can remember. He would have been 92, and he did have a lot of joy in his life which he shared with us. He had a strong desire to live life to its fullest, even when it wasn’t so full and his world had become small, confined to the downstairs of my parent’s home, and he required help to get around, and couldn’t think too clearly anymore.

He still found a lot to be grateful for in daily living and always thanked us for the little things we did to help him out.  He was so thankful and un-demanding that everyone wanted to help him. As he was tiptoeing towards death I recall how we tried to make him the perfect, soft scrambled egg so he could easily chew and swallow it without choking. When he was reduced to baby food, we would put it into a teacup so it could be presented nicely and he could forget what we were feeding him.

We watched a lot of TV in those final days since that seemed to keep us from facing our sorrow that we were losing dad. He did decide when he wanted to die, as he didn’t want to eat or drink one week before he died.

Mom and I had a nice phone call the Sunday after dad’s birthday, and she was strong enough to go to church. The key message at church that week was to love one another as God has loved you, and care for each other in the same vein. It’s really the essence of what keeps the human race going that we care for each other.

I had called mom on dad’s birthday, and she hadn’t brought it up so I suspected that she didn’t want to go there. However, on Sunday she mentioned that one of my brothers had called her on dad’s birthday so I figured she did want to talk about dad now.   I suspected that all the talk about love at church probably reminded her of dad. It sure reminded me of him too.  I was on my own at church, amongst a huge congregation in Richardson, TX as Rodgers was at the Cottonwood Art Festival selling his oil paintings. The warmth of the Texans was evidenced in how they engaged in worship, participating in the oral recitation of prayers in strong unison and the choir had some operatic and melodic voices.

I only shed a few tears at Mass, but I shed a few more as I listened to mom talk about the love she experienced from and with dad.  They had so many romantic times together: one anniversary they had a dinner on a cruise along the Danube in Austria. They traveled so many places together including China the year they turned 80. As they grew older they had to travel on tours, and they would buy all the optional packages to see the most they could…that’s how they happened to be on the cruise on the Danube. She told me about another time when they were in Athens and had a romantic meal with the Parthenon in full view off in the distance.

So we are pulling ourselves through our grief by sharing stories, listening and prompting each other to share more. When dad first died, we just couldn’t talk about him that much. They dying process was too fresh and painful that we had witnessed, and we just needed to internalize a bit before we could talk about dad as he was before his steady two year decline in health.

I look forward to more happy talk about dad as we continue to grieve and bring our spirits back up again.

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