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Archive for the ‘care’ Category

Today I have been in and out of the house several times. It’s been a sunny and windy day. There are miraculously some Aspen trees that still have their leaves by our mountain home. They make such a delicious, wavy noise as they rustle in the wind. These leaves are old, no longer Fall yellow and just about ready to tumble to the ground.

These old leaves bring back memories of an old friend, my Dad. Last weekend a year ago, my brother had the insight and will to declare it Duffy Christmas. Dad had lost his sense of time, and was happy to celebrate Christmas. We decorated the house a little for Christmas especially in the area where Dad would open his gifts. He enjoyed opening up each present so much that he only opened about half of them before he became too weary. Many of them were books, either cartoons or pictures since that’s what he enjoyed. But it was my oldest brother who gave him the gift that delighted him the most: a military soldier in fatigues that moved to the tune of Over Hill Over Dale. He listened to it repeatedly with delight and that broad smile we all remember him for.

It was the last time we were all together celebrating a happy although somewhat bittersweet occasion. It was happy since Dad was. It was bittersweet since we knew his end was close as both his body and mind had degenerated so much. He had difficulty walking, even with a walker and assistance. He used a wheelchair frequently. He was in a hospital bed at home, a real joy since that allowed him to live at home which was his strong desire. We had a wonderful lady who came in every day to care for Dad and get him cleaned and ready for the day. She is still a member of our family as she now helps Mom with chores around the house as Mom has trouble with cooking, shopping and driving too much. We had a lot of love around caring for our Dad.

Mom was Dad’s constant companion, doing what she could for him given her physical limitations and his mental limitations. One thing they could always do was pray together. They said the Rosary most days together and I joined them when I visited. Although Dad’s mind had weakened considerably, it amazed me that he could still pray and express love, and read stories aloud to Mom. I admired Mom since she realized he was still capable of reading, and it gave him such satisfaction to read aloud to her in his warm voice.

I don’t take anything for granted, especially the gift of life. At this time last year Dad was hospitalized with internal bleeding. I had just returned to my home from their home, and made arrangements return to their home on a one-way ticket.

Duffy Christmas was the last Saturday that Dad had a good time and was in any shape to enjoy sitting up and socializing so much. Somehow I had the presence of mind to take a family photo. The next 3 weekends Dad became progressively weaker until his death on Saturday, November 21, 2009. How did my brother know to schedule Duffy Christmas so perfectly?

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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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“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Khalil Gibran

A few days ago when I read this on Robert White’s Extraordinary Minute blog, I skeptically thought, “yah, right”.

Well yesterday I awoke to a new experience of my dad since his death. I awoke with the vision of my dad, albeit just a quick mental glimpse, as a younger, middle-aged man! Wow, it was a warm feeling that drifted through my body. I could feel the energy of his younger body and spirit as I peered into his face and his soul, almost disbelievingly.

You see up until now, I only dreamt of my dad as a dying man, and often had flashbacks about what he looked like in death. That experience was just too much out of the ordinary and somehow got sketched and implanted deep into my visionary and emotional memory. While intellectually I am certain that this must be a normal, human experience, I know it is up to me to move past it, while not denying it. I was blessed to be with my dad and our family as he crept towards death and died in our midst, surrounded by love and care.

Just last week I had received an email from a dear cousin who had lost her dad a few years ago. She said when she suddenly thought about her dad, she still cried for him.  However, she now remembers him as a younger, more vibrant man, also without Alzheimer’s, the disease he and my dad shared in their later years.

I wanted to share this since dad had been dead for 4 months and 10 days before I had this gift of life, of who he was most of his life! As this was my first emotional glimpse, my feelings aren’t that well developed. I just saw a happy man which my Father was! This is a good start and I am grateful that my grieving process is progressing and I got to feel and see dad as the more vibrant, happy and intelligent man that he was for most of his life! After all isn’t it better to remember someone you love—more as you saw and felt them—before they became so weak, old and memory poor?

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Evoking Passion

Rodgers and I were probably the last ones in America to see the movie, Julie and Julia. What I really loved about the movie was the reminder of the passion with which Julia Child lived her life. She was openly playful yet so ahead of her time as the only woman in cooking class, getting on TV teaching us her tricks, travails and humor that accompanied her cooking. We had seen Julia Child on TV for many years, so we could be more critical about how Julia was portrayed. And Meryl Streep became Julia Child right in front of us taking in her body motion, her passion, her accent and intonation.  So convincing was Meryl Streep that I forgot I wasn’t watching Julie Child!

People show their passion in so many ways, and in ways that may seem insignificant if you aren’t looking for them. The other day I was in Starbuck’s. I placed my order for a chai soy latte. As it was served up I noticed an attractive young lady sitting in the store having a coffee. She said, “Next time you order chai, try it without water added to it. It’s so much fuller and richer that way. I just love it.” Then she continued eagerly, “You could add the cinnamon flavoring to the latte and that brings out the other spices.” Then she volunteered, “Please come back when I’m on duty at Starbuck’s and I’ll fix you up specially.” I was grateful for this young lady’s warmth and enthusiasm, a breath of sunshine in ordinary life.

Here is another story from Copyblogger from early this week entitled, “The Mr. Rogers Guide to Blogging from the Heart” by Karl Staib who focuses on “working happy.” The title immediately grabbed me since my blog is named, “blogfrommyheart.com,” and I couldn’t imagine that Copyblogger would care enough to publish anything from the “heart.” I was wrong.

Mr. Rogers made kids feel special. Here are a few of his tippers:

Lesson: For your audience to love you, first you have to love them. And they have to know it.
Lesson: Before you can be a leader, first you have to be a neighbor.
Lesson: Create an environment where it’s okay to be imperfect.
Lesson: Keep what works, throw out what doesn’t, but always know what and why.
Lesson: Seize your opportunity

Every day that you communicate from the heart, you have a chance to change the world.

In 1969, Nixon proposed cuts to PBS, leading the Senate to hold a hearing to discuss the pros and cons. Mr. Rogers appeared before them and melted their hearts. Watch this video

It’s Mr. Rogers in a role I had never seen him in. He had been in his career for 15 years putting on his half hour TV show for children. Yet he told his story with such passion speaking from his heart, and transformed some of the toughest, most hardened politicians in the country into raving fans. Public TV was funded accordingly!!!

So what is your burning passion?

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A number of friends have told me that grieving comes and goes for about a year after you lose a loved one like your Dad, Mom, a spouse or sibling. In a cooperative vein I would like to share a recent experience.

Rodgers and I just returned from Washington, DC, a 1,750 mile drive. During those couple of days we caught up on our lives as we often work so furiously just before these long road trips. We were away 3½ weeks. Our excuse was Rodgers’ art show at Susan Calloway’s in Georgetown, but we spent most of our time with our Moms and our siblings which was great, especially as we had lots of beautiful snow fall, and to clean up after!

We were so grateful that not one snowflake fell the whole way home. As we drove, we spoke about how great it was to be with our families, and we enjoyed the views of the states we passed through: Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and home sweet home, Colorado. I particularly enjoyed the dreamy scenes in Indiana. It was a gray day and there was snow everywhere, veiny tree branches, and that kind of fog that keeps you from seeing much more than a quarter of a mile. There was so little color that I felt like I was seeing in black and white, like an Andrew Wyeth painting.

The phone rang periodically and we spoke with our families. Rodgers was so excited as he got a call from Evergreen Fine Art to do an art demo on April 30th. We both knew that day wouldn’t work since that would be the Friday before the Cottonwood Art Festival in Richard, TX, so we would be setting up that evening. So Rodgers spoke with the gallery’s management and changed the date to the last Friday in June.

As I listened to Rodgers negotiate a new date, all I could think of was, “April 30th is Dad’s birthday, and this is the first one where he won’t be here.” It felt strange and lonely to think about April 30th without celebration. I suddenly felt so sad, and I deeply missed his presence, and the opportunity to express my love and care for him which the dear man so appreciated.

I comforted myself with a drive down memory lane in Boonville, MO where my Mom spent most of her youth. I took a bunch of pictures to share with her. She is 92 and too weak to return there again. I will surprise her in a couple of weeks when I return to DC and show her the pictures. The party is over for our Moms, so we seek small ways to make them happy.

Boonville MO Thespian Hall

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This is my second trip home since Dad died. It’s easier than the first trip since I was so overwhelmed by his absence and the first trip was only 4 weeks after his funeral. I still dreamt about him every night. I couldn’t think beyond the last couple of weeks of his life, and how he had steadily declined until he died. The dreams were vivid and I awoke in a heavy sweat. 

My Notre Dame sisters from my class, friends and family have been so supportive through prayers, notes, phone calls, and many shared their experiences about losing their parents. My husband listened to me talk about Dad over many dinners like a broken record: I just couldn’t stop. One classmate had a particularly hard time with Sunday church after she lost her Dad, which she attributed to the healing process. It helped to hear her perspective as I was having a hard time getting through Sunday church too. I was numb and felt sad and disconnected at the same time. I feel less sad now.

On this trip, I knew I had to deal with my Mom, her loneliness and her pain. Her physical pain is bad so we don’t think about Dad as much since we’re preoccupied with keeping her comfortable. God knows we love her, and hate to see her wincing. We help her with daily living and it feels good to give back.

A number of friends have said, “Make sure you grieve fully for your Dad.” “Take time for yourself.” “Be kind to yourself.” It sounds good, but who really has time for this when you still have your Mom to care for who grieves after 62 years of marriage with this man?

I have a business to run, and yet I want to take care of my Mom as best I can and I live 1,750 miles away. When do I have time to grieve? When do I have time for myself? When do I have time to run my business? I don’t even have children…how do my friends with children listen and cope with all these emotions and the realities of life?

After I put my night owl Mom to bed, I come upstairs where it is quiet and peaceful as there is no TV noise. I need quiet to do my work as most of it is cerebral. I need to be creative to execute what I do and yet I am so tired!

I want to write e-books, and know that I write best at the wee hours. But while I visit Mom, I postpone this since I have to catch up on business during this time.

It’s cold here in Virginia and we just dug out from two feet of snow and it is snowing again. Like the weather, I know my feelings are temporary and fleeting. I am an optimist and things always work out. Eventually I will take time for myself and continue the process of grieving for my Dad. This blog helps. In the meantime I am grateful for the love and passion Dad instilled in me.

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