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Archive for the ‘peace’ Category

Father Ted HesburghLike many Notre Dame students and alumni, I recently received the Notre Dame Magazine, which commemorated Father Ted Hesburgh’s life. Father Ted died late on the night of Feb 26, 2015.

I just couldn’t put this magazine down, and yesterday being Memorial Day, was such a perfect time to read and reflect on the great man. I remarked to my husband that his accomplishments and full life were more like that of 20 people! But what really stuck out for me was what he said, and how he lived his life: first and foremost, as a priest who vowed to say Mass every day.

I loved Father Georgio Di Prizio’s advice to Father Ted, this in his early days as a priest.

“Ted, don’t be too professional…Most think that the faster they get rid of the person, the better the job they’ve done. A good priest will spend time with the person at the door. He won’t be satisfied until he knows why the person rang the bell. Priesthood means service, no matter who rings the bell.”

(Source: God, Country, Notre Dame, 1999)

We sure felt this as Notre Dame students and alumni. He was there for us: our education, our faith and our wellbeing. He was there for so many good causes such as world peace, civil rights, the poor, and disadvantaged. This is also sage advice for anyone in our personal lives and in business, especially in today’s rush, rush digital world.

Another inspirational Hesburgh quote to live by,

“My basic principle is that you don’t make decisions because they are easy, you don’t make them because they’re cheap, you don’t make them because they’re popular; you make them because they are right.”

(Source: What Works for Me, 1986)

Maybe this is why he could make so many decisions, and quickly.

Father Ted never carried bitterness according to former Senator Alan Simpson (Republican-WY) who recalls him saying,

“If you can’t forgive a person, it’s like letting them live in your head rent free.”

That is such a huge part of the human condition: forgiveness. No wonder he was such a successful leader and coach towards world peace.

I am particularly inspired as I am dealing with health issues these days with Father Ted’s credo in facing one’s later years.

“Do as much as you can, as well as you can, as long as you can, and don’t complain about the things you can no longer do.”

Soon before Father Ted died, Father Monk Malloy, Notre Dame’s 16th president visited him. He asked, “Ted, what have you been thinking about?” Father Ted said,

“Eternity. The phrase that keeps coming to my mind… ‘No eye has seen, nor ear has heard what God has in store for those who love him.’”

How comforting.

“The greatest gift a president can give his students is the example of his life.”

(Source: The Hesburgh Papers, 1979)

Right up to the end, Father Ted Hesburgh was a great example to us all, and I feel lucky to have been touched by him as a Notre Dame student and alumna.

BTW, today would have marked Father Ted’s 98th birthday.

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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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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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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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A Glimpse of Spring

This weekend I took a walk down memory lane as I accompanied my husband to his family’s farm in Maryland.

As many of you know, we have had a record amount of snow in the Washington, DC area over the last couple of weeks. I had been feeling somewhat stir crazy along with most of the local population, since other than shoveling we were home for the duration. My family lives on one of the last roads to get decently plowed in Fairfax County. In fact, it’s still not great!

We had to walk down the driveway to the farm since we didn’t get it plowed. It’s a ¼ mile driveway, so not for the unsteady of balance or heart! It had been several years since I had visited the farm since I have spent all my time caring for my parents at their home during my trips to DC.

The farmhouse is full of counted cross-stitch projects that my Mother-in-Law has created over the years. One in particular is a handsome, large tapestry which hangs in the dining room. Numerous counted cross-stitch pillows are scattered all over the house which gives it such warmth. Family pictures are the other prominent theme, and most of them date back 20 – 30 years when we were all much younger! There is a lot of caring, love and laughter in that home.

The family had a new well installed since my last visit as well as a new roof. One of the large barns had blown down in a storm, and a smaller replacement barn had been erected.

But mostly it was the sameness of the place that stuck with me: the house, the farm buildings, the barns, the garden plots and the sense of peace that I feel whenever I’m there. We could hear geese flying off in the distance, presumably to the nearby Patuxent River.

Here is something really sweet which I almost stepped on as we were leaving. The daffodil bulbs are coming up, just as the snow is beginning to melt. I am so grateful for the small things in life. I guess Spring is coming after all!

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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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