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Archive for the ‘warmth’ Category

Mom & Dad: March 2006

Yesterday marked one year since Dad died. Actually Saturday felt more like it, since he died on a Saturday. Even this year my stomach and body were tight all Saturday as though he were dying all over again, until just about the same time he died, around 6:30 p.m. Then somehow I became relaxed.

Last year, I had stayed up most of the night to be with Dad so he wouldn’t be alone were he to die during the night. So I was really tired on his last day, as I had sat up until about 4:30 a.m. when I finally caved in and leaned forward on his bed and did a face plant and slept for 1½ hours. He awoke at 6 a.m., and as soon as he did I gave him some pharmaceuticals to relax him since he seemed to be miserable. He was done talking at this point. The meds relaxed him. He stopped putting his hand to his head every couple of minutes, which he had been doing even as he slept.

Time does heal wounds. I recall dreading going to Mass the day after Dad died. In fact, my brother and I left early. We just couldn’t take it.

A year later, my family and I looked forward to attending Mass together, which was the feast of Christ the King, which goes along so nicely with how I feel about my Dad. I couldn’t have picked a nicer or more caring man to be my Dad and mentor.

There are still reminders around Mom’s home of Dad, aside from pictures. Mom now sleeps in his hospital bed, the bed he died in. She has physically declined so appreciates the help getting in and out of bed that a hospital bed affords. She also hangs out mostly on Dad’s chair, a glorified lazyboy.

I can still smell Dad in our towels as I dry off after a shower, even a year later. Just last week, Mom had most of his clothes taken away and spread hers around to fill up his closet. It was very emotional for her to give away his suits. I think she would have liked to know who was going to wear them.

I have been going through family pictures for the last couple of weeks and have pulled out my favorites to scan into my computer before the quality degrades further. I have so many memories of good times with my family and friends, so going through pictures is enjoyable!

Yesterday we got up at 6 a.m. for 7:30 a.m. Mass. This was particularly hard on Mom. She almost couldn’t keep her balance first thing this morning, and I wasn’t much better since I had insomnia so had slept very little. We made our way through Mass. There was no singing or exchange of peace so it was recitation of prayers throughout. Our priest is one of my favorites and remembered Dad with warmth as the Mass intention right at the start of Mass.

We were sorry our priest couldn’t join us for a very delicious breakfast at the Hay Adams. It was yummy and Dad would have enjoyed it, and breakfast was his favorite meal! The Hay is a happy place to eat as it’s airy, cheerful, with white walls and lots of windows and white orchids. The service is excellent, which makes you feel so welcome.

Well, we got through this year without Dad. I had hoped I would be done grieving. I still miss him. I think you will always miss a parent you love after they go.

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July 2 was one of my emotional days on the planet except for the day when we lost Dad, Nov 21, 2009. It was our 27th anniversary and that’s always a happy time since life with Rodgers is so good and our love only gets stronger.

I had called the church rectory the day before since I had heard about the death of Father Mickey and that his funeral was to be at the Basilica in downtown Denver on our anniversary. Oh God, I thought can I bear another funeral just now! Father Mickey wasn’t much older than me, and had died within the space of 3 weeks. We had had more hopeful news from Father Jim the previous weekend, until he added that Father Mickey had pneumonia.

Rodgers worked at his art show that day, and I wasn’t needed as it was within driving distance of our home. I had a project with a deadline and all kinds of excuses not to attend Father Mickey’s funeral. Yet, I knew I had to. I liked what he stood for: a late vocation to the priesthood. He was simply so happy being a priest, and didn’t have high aspirations for promotions. He just wanted to be a good priest and that he was.

Late like Father Mickey was for many events, I was late for his funeral. The only place to sit was in the front of the church ironically near some fellow parishioners from Conifer amidst this crowd of some 1000. I was so sad and memories of Dad’s funeral kept returning to me. I eventually found Father Jim, our pastor and Father Mickey’s roommate of several years sitting in the pews not far from me. “Oh that’s right,” I thought, “Father Jim would be a pallbearer, a place of honor and sorrow for him.” Jim had lost his Father earlier this year, so I can only imagine the pain was much deeper for him than for me.

Meanwhile in front of me was my friend’s son. I had never met him and tears were streaming down his face as he was so close to Father Mickey as an altar boy. His parent’s attempts to comfort him just weren’t working.

Meanwhile the Mass was progressing and we got to the great “Amen” after the Consecration. It was then that I realized that the 6 – 8 priests/bishops on the altar had a lot of company; about 50 more priests sat to the left of me and took up the entire front of the church. I had no idea they were all priests, as I had been absorbed in my own world oblivious to the energy of others except for the suffering boy in the pew just in front of me.

I had never felt such support, warmth and love in the resonance of 60 voices saying “Through Him with Him and in Him.” These clergymen were so connected, passionate and supportive of their lost friend, Father Mickey. From then on I was more present outside of myself and absorbed this energy of love, caring and kinship.

After Mass, we congregated outside, and my friend’s son almost leapt into Father Jim’s arms who just held and comforted him while he wept and tried to tell Jim how sad he was about the loss of Mickey. There has been a lot of controversy around the Catholic Church and priests. Anyone witnessing the love and comfort that Father Jim gave this young boy, would be totally moved. Somehow Father Jim, who had to be aching from the loss of his dear friend, was able to find room to support and hold this young boy and just let him be.

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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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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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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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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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