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Archive for the ‘grateful’ Category

Yesterday was the anniversary of D-day. We had a crashing end to Rodgers’ art show, in the pouring rain as we tore down. It was a successful show on all accounts so it helped us deal with the torrential rain and getting thoroughly wet. Working at art shows keeps us flexible since the variables of weather and customer whims keep us on our toes. Setting up and tearing down will keep you nimble too as it’s quite a workout!

As I was taking down the infrastructure that we use to hang Rodgers’ paintings, including the little hooks, I thought of dad. The last time he and mom visited us in 2006, he came down with us on the last day of the Littleton art show, and so wanted to help us with tear down. He was quite weak, but he could still walk, although slowly and unbalanced at best. We were creative as we gave him things to do, so he could help us without hurting himself. He took down the picture hanger rods and hooks and was so happy to be helping, and knew he was helping. He put away all the price tags. We had the director’s chair set up for dad, so he could sit as he put away the price tags, stacked the picture hangers and put the picture hooks in their box. He stacked the picture hangers all so neatly before putting them away. He supervised us with such warmth and care as he noticed things we might forget as he had keen eyesight and attention to detail. We were so careful not to hurt him as we tore down around him. It’s easy for a panel to fall the wrong way, and so many other things. We were glad to be spared of any accidents and dad left with a smile on his face that he had been useful, since so often I don’t think he felt like he was in his later years. During the rest of their visit I gave him things to do, so he would feel helpful since that was important to him.

I have a feeling it’s hard to be old. Dad was 87 then and he realized how limited he was in what he could do physically, yet was still so aware that he wanted to be helpful. Dad always had such good intentions, right up until he died. I’ll never forget the hospice doctor’s reaction when they first met and he took her hand, kissed it and said he loved her, less than a week before he died. At this point he had stopped eating. She was expecting twins, and was so shocked by his ability to interact since so many who are dying have lost the ability to interact, never mind warmly. She didn’t have great words to describe her surprise, but her astonished, caring look said it all.

Today is another “first” since dad’s death: it is mom and his 63rd wedding anniversary and I’m sure he is staring down from heaven at his bride! Oh how he loved her right up to the end of his life. On his last night, he was almost too weak to sleep since his body could hardly stay in position. But when he heard his bride snore in the bed next to him, he fell right asleep. I sat up next to dad that night since we didn’t want him to be alone in case he died during the night. I was grateful he slept for a few peaceful hours. It was a testament to their strong bond since he was out of words by then, and just slept.

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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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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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Last  Sunday was a tough one to get through as I was thinking about Dad during many parts of Mass. There are at least three places where we recall the dead.  I haven’t gotten through a Mass without tears since he died now almost 5 months ago. One of my Notre Dame classmates tells me that this is part of the healing process. I hope so.

Father Jim had some great comments especially regarding the Gospel reading where Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him and forgives him for denying him 3 times the night before He was crucified.

That is a very extreme example of forgiveness but it is a reminder that we get huge relief and energy from forgiving others, and then we’re in a great position to let God’s love really shine within us and to share it with others.

This is where I thought of my dad. He must have been so forgiving since the love he held for all of us, including total strangers, was so evident in how he spoke, and in his soft, sparkling blue eyes. He said, “Ah… he is a one hell of a nice guy,” with such warmth and passion so often. Even while he was failing and had to be in the hospital and rehab, he was telling every nurse or aid that she or he was his favorite. “You’re the best,” and “I love you,” were common statements from dad. They all wanted to help dad however they could. And he always said “Thank-you,” even for the most trivial things. If there was an excuse to be grateful, he shared it.

Yet aren’t there times in our lives where we just don’t know which way to go? That’s a good time to ask God for some direction, but so often I find myself feeling anxious and hyper, and then I’m not much good to anyone.  Father Jim reminded us that at these times, it’s just good to ask God, “What’s next? I’m waiting for Your word.”

I am a little lost without my dad as he had such a deep influence on who I am. He was there for me ever since I can remember, even up to about 2 days before he died. He was bedridden at this point, an old man hardly in charge of his physical abilities. He wasn’t eating, yet he was still telling us he loved us. I know he was scared, and some of those last mornings he would waver between marveling that he was still with us, almost in disbelief that he was, since he knew he was very sick–even though he lived with the confusion that comes with dementia.

He had frequent choking fits from a combination of dryness and his inability to swallow. We would take turns helping him out, and as much as he suffered, he always thanked us. I wondered how he even had the energy to thank us, but somehow he did. He was a kind man right up to his death.

Yet I now see more glimpses of him as the man who pulled me out of the pool when I won swimming races, and even when I didn’t. This is the man who taught me to believe in myself and that anything was possible with God’s help. He instilled the “can do” attitude that I have on most days!

I had another wonderful gift this week: it was from Mom. I was telling her how I had no regrets about all the traveling I did when I was abroad in college for a year. She told me she had no regrets about the wonderful 62 years she shared with my Dad. She is so grateful for the rich life they shared, how much he loved her and how much they traveled and experienced the world! This message came right at the end of our phone call and I could hear a sense of peace in her tone of voice. This is part of her grieving and I wonder how long she had been waiting to share?

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We’re half way through April already! April is a month of birthdays in my life. Just yesterday my mother-in-law turned 88 and my husband’s godfather turned the big “90”! He is in good shape both physically and mentally, with a sense of humor and wit that keeps me on my toes and laughing. My mother-in-law is very tiny and her mind is deteriorating from dementia, but she is still very much with us.

I remember when my father turned 90. He was in a rehabilitation center working on building his strength up so he could move back home and walk again, albeit with the help of a walker. I made apple pies for everyone and we brought in sparkling apple cider to be more festive with something bubbly. He had a really great time, but was worn out at the end of the celebration, and wasn’t quite sure who the celebration was for. The presents and celebration in his honor just didn’t seem to make him realize it was for him.

But the good news is he did come home from rehab and I am grateful that we had him in our lives for another 18 months. He celebrated his 91st birthday last year, and was even more confused about whose birthday it was. I recall my brother and his wife had given him a birthday balloon as part of the festivities, which we put by his bed since he spent so much of his time there. As we put him to bed that night, he looked up at the birthday balloon and asked whose birthday it was.

On April 30 this year, dad would have turned 92, but he isn’t here to celebrate. I’m already dreading how I’m going to feel that day. Ever since I can remember, over 50 years, I have been celebrating a happy occasion that day. Death is so final.

I have decided to do something positive and possibly cathartic in his honor. I am going to write a book on grieving that is stories, and not full of theory, but just practical stories around death, love and grieving. If you would like to share yours, please let me know at ellen at thebisource dot com.

BTW look at what I almost stepped on while we were hiking in the Colorado mountains recently. It was the only floral beauty up in this area. We decided to take a snack break and went off the trail! It’s amazing what you find in nature, and it gives me such comfort to see spring this year!

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I recently celebrated a birthday and it was in a beautiful snowy spot in the mountains and woods of Colorado.  I particularly love this picture of the Spruce trees surrounded by the Aspens.

In a cooperative and loving spirit, I want to share a poem that a dear friend handwrote to me for my birthday in 2009 written by John O’Donohue. The theme behind this message is that you are loved, and makes me grateful for friends, my many blessings and what I continue to learn through my mistakes and disappointments.

Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
The blueprint of your life
Would begin to glow on earth,
Illuminating all the faces and voices
That would arrive to invite
Your soul to growth.

Praised be your father and mother
Who loved you before you were,
And trusted to call you here
with no idea who you would be.

Blessed be those who have loved you
Into becoming who you were meant to be
Blessed be those who have crossed your life
With dark gifts of hurt and loss
That have helped to school your mind
In the art of disappointment.

When desolation surrounded you,
Blessed be those who looked for you
And found you, their kind hands
Urgent to open a blue window
In the gray wall formed around you.

Blessed be the gifts you never notice,
Your health, eyes to behold the world,
Thoughts to countenance the unknown,
Memory to harvest vanished days,
Your heart to feel the world’s waves,
Your breath to breathe the nourishment
Of distance made intimate by earth.

On this echoing-day of your birth,
May you open the gift of solitude
In order to receive your soul;
Enter the generosity of silence
To hear your hidden heart
know the stillness of serenity
To be enfolded anew
By the miracle of your being.

In an odd way this poem evokes life and death as I think about praising my mom and dad who loved me before I was…and trusted to call me here with no idea of who I would be.  The miracle of life is so incredible, and in a similar vein the pain we feel when we lose our parents evokes such feelings of grief.

I think this is a contemplative poem to recall once a year, and I imagine depending on my life’s events, different sections will speak to me.

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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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