Immortal

So some of you may recall that I have shared, although not at length because it is still an open and painful wound, that the love of my life died after a very brief illness less than 2 weeks before my darling Dad died. We did not live near each other and all of this had happened so fast, happened at the same time as my Dad was coming to the end of his life, so that I did not get to see him before he left this world. And so for all of this time, more than five years now, I have compartmentalized his loss and what it means for me, tucking it away into a corner of my heart that I kept closed off. It was easier for a long time to just think that fate had conspired to keep us apart than to deal with the cold reality of what had really happened. A good man, a kind and smart and loving man, a gentle soul with a gift of being able to weave his words into a story that you never forgot. The man I loved like no other was gone but I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, I didn’t deal with it. I still don’t accept it. I wish I could. I can’t.

And in all this time I had never dreamed about him even once.  He was always with me and I think about him every day. I am lucky to have photos of him, poems and letters he wrote me, the sounds of his voice on a video I watch probably more often than I should. But about two weeks ago, I finally dreamed about him.

It was a happy dream, taking place near where he lived around the holidays. We were leaving a house, getting into a car, driving to a party. I heard his voice, I saw his face, I knew he was really with me. And when I woke the next morning, I wasn’t sad. I was peaceful and realized that he – like my Dad, like so many others I have lost along the way – is truly immortal.

When I hear The Beatles sing Till There Was You, I know he is immortal because there was no one before or since like him. When I hear those words – that there was love all around but I never heard it singing till there as you – I know he still lives in my heart, is still a presence in my soul, is still alive in my mind. He is immortal.

When I see my great kid put others before himself and champion the underdogs of the world, to stand up for what he believes in, to wear my Dad’s Miraculous Medal for a long time and then give it to me when he left for school and I was going through a bad stretch, telling me that he knew I needed it more than he did, I know my Dad is immortal.

When I visit my Burke cousins and I see their hands, which are Burke hands, hands that are scarred from working hard and making do and comforting their children, what I see are my father’s hands and – when I do – I know my Dad is immortal.

When my sister helped me out, unasked, at a time when my fortunes were low and my prospects even lower, I knew that she is doing what my Mom does and has always done – helped without question, without condemnation, without criticism and that she is making my Mom immortal now. My Mom has set the bar so very high with her compassion and support and generosity and kindness and that lives on and always will in my sister.

I know that all of you have immortality in your life. We need just to gaze around and see it every day. You look in your children’s eyes and see your parents. You cook a meal based on your grandmother’s recipe. You sing the songs that your parents grew up listening to. You see a gesture, experience a moment, hear a word and know that it is your loved one manifesting himself or herself and remaining immortal to all those who they loved.

I try to live a good life every day, although some days it’s more challenging than others. I believe in fairness and kindness, gratitude and compassion, appreciation for those who have helped me and sadness for those who have not been as fortunate as I. I have been blessed many times over with so much more than I deserve. I am always appreciative when someone takes the time to say something nice, thank me for something I may have said or done, go out of their way to look out for me when I wander too far off the path.

I try to pay all of these kindnesses forward. I would like, when I’m gone, to be remembered as a good friend, daughter, sister, cousin, Christian and writer but mostly as a great mom. I try every day to set a good example for my great kid, to live my life in a way that not only inspires him but makes him proud. If we can do that, if we can make that our priority no matter what, if we can remember – to quote the great Paul McCartney – that in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make, then I know that you and I will be immortal too.

 

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Words Are All I Have

Some of us, most of us have God-given gifts that enable us to learn more easily, run faster,  be more patient, bake a great cookie (shout-out to my sister, Barbara, and her My Kids Cookies company), teach a child, build a house, play the piano, write a love song, heal someone’s body or heart. And hopefully we are all able to be cognizant enough – or be surrounded by others who are attuned enough to us – to recognize and cultivate and use our gifts wisely so that we end up in a profession or vocation that lets us use our gifts to satisfy not only our own sense of well-being but to share it with others who can hopefully benefit from it. Because if you don’t, you could end up spending your life as the square peg in a round hole, always wondering why you don’t feel fulfilled or satisfied in what you’re doing in your personal or professional life.

From a very early age, I loved to write and – God bless them – my parents always encouraged me to do so. From the earliest thing I can remember writing (a haiku at age 8 called Lawn), I felt such satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that I was lucky enough to be sort of a wordsmith, a person who felt comfortable trying to find just the right words whether it be for a birthday card for my great kid, or a letter to the love of my life, or an e-mail asking someone for answers I felt they owed me, or these musings that so many of you are kind enough to read. And I knew that’s what I always wanted to do.

And I did, although not in an ultimately fulfilling sense. I did write in my former career, I wrote a lot. I wrote insurance policies and vendor contracts. I drafted position papers and responses to industry questions. I penned speeches and press releases. I could rewrite something that someone else had written poorly and fix it so it made sense and sailed through the cumbersome review process that all legal documents were subject to. I was prolific at that job and probably even accomplished some good with some of the things I wrote. I was paid relatively well and I liked the business of the work and the camaraderie of my fellow workers. But satisfied? No.

I left that job after many years to take on new challenges and responsibilities. I wanted to spend more time with my great kid and my parents as their lives were changing. But even though I wasn’t employed I still felt that calling, the need to put electronic pen to paper and create something. The overwhelming desire to not let that writing muscle atrophy because of lack of use. And so I started this little blog which you’re reading, writing when inspiration – or, truth be told, sometimes desperation – manifested itself. The satisfaction of writing was freeing and exhilarating. I was confident in my skills and I could only hope that occasionally some of my random thoughts would resonate. It always pleases me to no end when someone will send me a text or post a comment here or even write me an e-mail saying they liked or were inspired by what I’d written. There was no better feeling than that.

And then after my darling Dad passed away and my son had graduated from high school and was headed off to college, I decided I needed to fill my now far-too-empty days with a new vocation. I was lucky, so lucky to have been selected by the owner and editor of a start-up financial site to write a daily column about women and finances. It was beyond exhilarating. The research, the processing of thoughts and ideas into words, the fine-tuning of the words to make them accessible to all, the sheer joy of seeing my name on a byline – it was something I could only have dreamed about. And I was even more fortunate when the editor liked my work enough to ask me not only to start writing about entertainers and finance but to cover the Presidential debates and election in 2012. Finally I was doing something I truly loved and maybe even having an impact on someone’s life.

But – like all good things – it came to an end when like most start-up companies the website ran out of funding and suspended operations “temporarily”. (It’s now going on 3 years of the temporary suspension of the site; I’m starting to lose hope.)  I didn’t give up though because I knew my writing talent had gotten better the more I wrote, my research skills had been sharpened, my judgment on what would and wouldn’t resonate with people had improved. I eventually moved on to something else but writing is and always will be my passion and even if no one ever pays me again to do it, I will never stop because the process of writing, the essence of writing, the end result of writing all matter to me. It makes me proud to use the gift I have been given by God and which my parents and my son and my friends and colleagues have always encouraged me to use. It would be wrong not to.

We are often too quick to complain and too slow or too forgetful or too silly to remember to thank those who acknowledge and encourage, who lift us up and never bring us down, who hold our hands and dry our tears, who support us and believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves. I am lucky to be given this opportunity to share my thanks for and with you. And so to quote the great Bee Gees (the author of my Dad’s favorite misheard song,  Baldheaded Woman), it’s only words and words are all I have to take your heart away. I hope I do that on occasion for you. My gratitude is with you always.

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All My Children

So if you are of a certain age (as I certainly am and so many of my friends are), you grew up and grew older with the characters of the late and lamented All My Children (and I still hate ABC for throwing this treasure of a show onto the great heap of gone-too-soon memories). Perhaps not everyone realizes that the title of the show came from a poem written by the iconic Agnes Nixon, creator and writer of more daytime shows than one can count. “The great and the least, the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong. In joy and in sorrow, in tragedy and triumph, you are all my children”.

But today we live in a world so divided and so divisive, with the threat of a boorish orange bully possibly leading our country some day. (And I’m sorry-not-sorry for my political leanings on civility and tolerance and polite behavior if they offend). Please and thank you are the exception to the rule. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you are words that seem to have less importance in our spiritual lives every day. We seem to have forgotten that we truly are all one family, all my children.

Tonight I came home from a long day at work, tired from a troubled night’s sleep and a lingering cough that has overstayed its welcome by many weeks and, as I turned the corner onto my block, I was behind the trash collectors’ truck. These hard-working guys usually come the first thing in the morning and you are likely to see people scurrying out of their houses, trash bags in tow so that they don’t miss one of our twice-weekly pickups. More than one person has told me that the trash guys come too early, either waking them up or causing them to have to make the mad dash to get their trash bag to the curb on time. I know we all have problems; an early trash pickup is not one of mine.

And in the ultimate you-can’t-win-for-losing situation,  I saw several of my neighbors who also got stuck behind the garbage truck honking and then complaining about why the trash pick-up was so late in the day, giving a hard time to both the driver and his assistant who loads the messes and garbage and yucky stuff into the truck so that we don’t have to do. I was ashamed to watch some people yelling at this guy, a guy only following orders he gets from some dispatcher somewhere else about what time to pick up at each community. This is a hard-working guy working hard at what is probably a minimum-wage job that few others would want to do. A job that I’m sure is physically difficult and done outdoors in the middle of an icy morning or a pelting rainstorm or the extreme heat of a late summer afternoon. A job you wouldn’t do; a job I wouldn’t do. But this guy does it and we all benefit from it. A guy I say thank you to when I see him because I appreciate that his job makes my life better, my surroundings more clean and more appealing.

It reminded me that these men – who I don’t know at all – are the same children of God that I am and that my great kid and my Mom are, and that my sisters, my DC girls, my Burke and Vernola cousins are. Just because someone does a job that someone else thinks is beneath them, it doesn’t devalue the work that they do, the service they provide, the job that helps us all. We all need to take ourselves to task and remember that work – whatever kind – is valuable and should be appreciated. That politeness and gratitude and acknowledgment of a job well done (an “attaboy” as my darling Mom likes to say) are things to aspire to. That a kind word can be the lifeline to someone whose day has been a mess. That you reap what you sow. That what goes around comes around. That everyone matters.

And that we are all God’s children.

 

 

 

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I Thought There Would Be More

So some of you may know how much my great kid and I love the movie “Boyhood”. It resonates so deeply with us because it is, in essence, our own story to a large extent. A single mother raising a son, a mother who makes many (too many?) mistakes but is always trying to make decisions that she thinks and hopes will propel her and her son forward to a better, kinder, less stressful life. The life she faces as a single woman having to be both mother and father and guide her son while praying he learns from her mistakes is one I have lived for 17 years now. The movie that we still weep over every time either one of us hears the heartbreaking words that the great Patricia Arquette says to her son as he is packing up his car and going off to college: I thought there would be more.

This is probably the last summer my son and I will have together living in the same house as he is headed off this fall to his final year of college and then onto the path that will lead him hopefully to an enriching and rewarding life. I’ve been blessed, so blessed to have 23 summers with him here at home and it’s hard for me to imagine that it has gone by so quickly with no chance to make it last longer. It’s not fair to my boy to not let him explore and conquer, try and fail and succeed, fall in and out of love, grow and learn and live his own life. But he too (I think) wishes there would still be more.

I thought there would be more chances for us to head down to the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore in the dead of winter and walk and talk and watch the waves and, no matter how cold, get an ice cream cone before we got back in the car. I thought there would be more times to sit in a movie theater and watch a film we both loved – or hated – and talk about it over dinner, hash out the plot, critique it, recommend it, and sometimes go back and see it again. I thought there would be more days when he needed my help more than he does now. I thought there would be more chances to do all those routine things you do with your kids and don’t realize how precious they were until your kids are grown and the chances are gone. I know he needs to live his own life and not make sure mine is running smoothly but is it wrong to want to slow down time, turn back the clock, relive those precious moments, hours, days?

I thought there would be more days with my Dad before he left us, more chances for me to tell him how much I loved him and how much I appreciated all the times he worked 3 jobs to keep us all warm and safe and well-fed. I thought I would have one more day to thank him for spending every waking moment with us when we were kids, a fact my Mom always reminds me of when she tells me that my Dad would always say the happiest times of his life were when we were kids and he could be with us any chance he had.

I thought there would be more time with the love of my life, a man who died a mere 2 weeks before my Dad did. I thought that because we wished for a future together, it would happen. I thought that pain and suffering and hurt couldn’t touch us. I was wrong.

I thought there would be more time to be carefree and not be troubled by bills, debts, missed opportunities, broken hearts, hurt feelings, fear of the unknown, fear of the known. I thought I would have more times to say I’m sorry, to be less stubborn and more forgiving, to ask for a second (and sometimes a third or fourth) chance, to fix the unfixable.

I thought there would be more time to pursue what I really love to do, which is write (and I am ever so grateful to those of you who read these musings and always say such kind things to me). The satisfaction of writing is enormous and fulfilling; making a living at it (as I did for a brief while) was even more so.

I thought there would be more time to recover from the still-so-painful betrayals of 2 people I trusted (foolishly, as it turns out) and more time to try to rebuild, repair, recover. Maybe there still is but some days that seems like a moving target that I’m not even close to hitting.

But despite all of what I wish there could be more of, I am beyond grateful that my clock is still running, my determination is strong (and, with the help of some unbelievably loyal friends, getting stronger), my hope that a better future is still in front of me is strong. My desire to close the doors to my past, to turn the page, to let someone mend my broken heart, to trust people again, to cherish every moment I have with my son and my Mom and my sisters and my Burke cousins and my DC girls and my best man and my Florida friends and all of the angels God has placed in my life is a flickering flame that cannot be extinguished by what cannot be undone.

I thought there would be more. I hope there will be more. I pray that you will all come along for that journey with me because I couldn’t have come this far without the part, great or small, that all of you have played.

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Letting Go

So we’re all given the same 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to live our lives. That time is a precious commodity, a gift that not enough of us value as dearly as we should. A moment wasted never returns. And sometimes those wasted moments turn into days and weeks and years and maybe even lifetimes. That’s a lot of time to spend your energy on.

Our lives don’t come with rewind buttons and – even if they did – we would probably go back to the bad hairdo and platform shoe days of our high school years and make better fashion and makeup choices. (Why oh why did someone not tell me that blue frosted eyeshadow was not a good idea? Oh wait. My Mom did. Sorry, Mom, for not listening). But rewinding and revisiting and reimagining and replaying those moments, those actions, those choices, those decisions can be all-consuming and stop us from moving forward. Or at least slow us down enough to create our own personal traffic jam.

Sometimes we can feel exhausted even when we’re not tired and it’s an emotional exhaustion brought on by worry and fretting and thinking “If only I had . . ” or “Why didn’t I . . ” or “What was I thinking when I . . ” (I suspect you all have your own versions of these questions without answers that can play in an endless loop in your brain, always lurking back there in the shadows, never quite going away but just present enough to inhabit a corner of your mind all the time). It’s the craziness we all pretend we’re not dealing with. But we all do even if no one owns up to it.

No one ever judges us as harshly as we judge ourselves. (But if someone does, please remove that person from your orbit immediately. You don’t need their negative energy). We never stop second-guessing about a decision made that didn’t turn out as we hoped. We point the finger of blame at ourself when oftentimes it’s another who has messed up our plans, derailed our future, sabotaged our dreams, rented space in our head they don’t deserve to occupy.

As women, we’re told to empower ourselves. We’re given so many opportunities to do that, opportunities our mothers and grandmothers didn’t have. We are the people who do it all, or at least think we can. We mother our children, we take care of our parents (if we’re blessed enough to still have them), we listen to our friends’ tales, we shoulder the burden of someone else’s troubles. We work until we think we can’t work a moment longer, and then we work some more. We balance relationships, checkbooks, schedules. We function on too little sleep, too much caffeine, too many worries. We go on because we have to. We are powerful and – sometimes, no matter how hard we try – we are powerless.

But it all takes a lot of energy, sometimes too much energy. Energy is an ever-diminishing resource that we know – or should know when we’re thinking clearly – must be replenished. Sleep and food and water, of course, help. But we need to boost our spiritual energy too. The support of friends, the kind word that you didn’t know you needed until someone says it. The person who tells you that you’ve done a good job or handled a situation well or had their back when they need it. The team we all assemble that not only supports us but protects us when we need it.

So let’s focus on eliminating the things that drain our positive energy and block the things that push negative energy onto us. Surround yourself with good and kind people (and please make sure you’re one of those people yourself). Watch a good movie and laugh or cry at the plot. Re-read your favorite book. Treat yourself to something that will make you smile. Help someone who needs it. Accept help from someone who offers it. Sleep more. Worry less (or at least try to worry less). Be your own advocate. Have some ice cream. Hug your kid. Thank your parents. Say please and thank you. Let someone love you. Stop being afraid. Pick up the phone and call someone you miss. Dream big, dream bigger. Smile. Pray. Let go. Let God. All is well.

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Don’t Be That Person

So recently I went to my nail salon for a little TLC. It was a busy Saturday and the salon seemed atypically crowded. And for those of you who’ve ever had to wait for an appointment, you know what happens. If the first person of the day is late getting to their appointment, then your nail tech or hairdresser or dentist or doctor will be running late all day through no fault of their own. In the big scheme of things, it shouldn’t be a big thing at all. Exceptions, of course, do happen but a few minutes wait here or there is not that big a deal. Or so I thought.

I had to wait about 10 minutes past my scheduled appointment so I sat and read my favorite book of all time on my Kindle (it’s The Wind in the Willows for anyone who wants to read a book that has lifted me and inspired me since I was 10 years old). I actually enjoyed those few minutes I had gained, because I had been racing around all morning trying to accomplish all that we inevitably have to squeeze in on the weekend because our weekdays are so filled with too much work, too many chores, too many obligations. This was found time so I didn’t mind the wait at all. The pleasure I got from reading about my favorite characters far outweighed the minor inconvenience of having to wait.

And then some woman I didn’t know came in and found out she had to wait a few minutes and started making a very loud fuss. “What exactly is the problem?” she kept saying to the young  women at the front desk. She wasn’t in the mood to hear their explanation nor apologies and just kept carrying on. It was uncomfortable to listen to and I felt badly for the people not only on the receiving end of her tirade but the nail tech who inevitably would hear the complaints when the customer finally was seated at her station. And all I could think was don’t be that person.

I don’t presume to speak for anyone or everyone but I know I have been that person on more than one occasion and I suspect many others may have been too. We are presented – willingly or not – with an inconvenience, a small delay, a promise unkept, a delay not anticipated, a wrinkle in our otherwise planned – or, truth be told – over planned day and we react badly. We make the proverbial mountain out of the molehill. Our outrage or upset is usually so out of proportion to what has happened that in retrospect we should be shaking our heads at how we reacted. But how many of us do? How may of us have become numb to how our reactions are perceived by others? How many of us fail to realize the impression we leave on others, the example we set for our children, the bubble we encase ourselves in where only our feelings, our time, our priorities matter?

For all the good technology does us, the fact is that we lived in a speeded-up world today, so different from the world I grew up in. We expect instantaneous responses to our texts, we send e-mails and get annoyed when we have to wait a day to hear back from the person on the receiving end. We order our clothes, our food, our books online because it’s faster and saving time matters so much to us. And time is a valuable commodity; I get it. But is it more important than the impact your actions and words have on someone when you behave badly because you’ve made your time a more valuable commodity than their feelings?

We have less and less personal contact with people – or so it seems to me – since we communicate so much via electronic means. We forget that words on a screen can hurt someone, mostly because we don’t have to assume the responsibility of seeing a person’s reactions to how we act or speak. We have, I’m afraid, become numb to the lack of civility. It has become far too often routine behavior, if not encouraged then tolerated. And because of this some of us have forgotten that being rude or disrespectful or inconsiderate or nasty is not acceptable, whether it’s in person or online.

Life is short and we only get one shot at it. Life gets even shorter when you’re my age and you realize that time is going by faster and faster each day. We have the opportunity, the chance, the gift every day to not overreact, to put things in perspective, to think before we speak, to not make everything into a thing. We can take a pause, put ourselves in the other person’s place, think before we speak and make a decision to not harm others with our impatience, our attitude, our sense of entitlement, our words. I don’t want someone’s memory of me after I’m gone to be that I was the person who lost her temper over the smallest and silliest of things, things that won’t matter in an hour, a day, a week. I don’t want to be remembered as someone who was unkind or cared less about others than she did about herself. I don’t want my life’s legacy to be that I was that person. I’m better than that and so are you all.

Don’t be that person.

 

 

 

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Baldheaded Woman

So today is the 5th anniversary of my darling Dad’s passing. A day both happy and sad, a day when I cry easily and often but try to smile as well, remembering all of the joy he brought into so many lives. This is who my Dad was and is and always will be.

To his country, he was a hero who forged his birth certificate to make it appear he was 17 so he could enroll in the Navy and serve as a medical corpsman on a naval ship during World War II for almost 2-1/2 years. He went back again when America became embroiled in the Korean War and served the country he loved for another year. He flew the flag outside his house every holiday and was so proud to live in a country like ours. He is proud, I know, to be buried alongside his fellow soldiers and sailors in a beautiful Veterans cemetery not far from home, a place that brings me peace when I visit it.

To my Mom, he was her best friend, her partner in crime, her husband, the love of her life. The man who made her laugh every day. The man who – when she lost her own mother a few short months after they married – insisted that her father and her brother come and live with them in their tiny apartment. The man who – as my cousin Cooky rightfully points out – was there not only at the beginning of so many lives but also there at the end of so many lives as well. The guy who never met a chore he wouldn’t do, never met a person he couldn’t strike up a conversation with, never met anyone he couldn’t charm. He was her own special leprechaun. He couldn’t have survived without her had the circumstances been reversed. She was his sun, his moon, his stars, his everything.

To my sisters and me, he was what every kid dreams of as a child. A father who came to every event great and small. A dad who drove everyone else’s kids home after sporting events and school dances and parties. A man who left us notes, even after we were adults, encouraging us, telling us things would get better, assuring us that the Blessed Mother was watching over us and would protect us. A dad who came here to my tiny little condo to tidy up (one of his favorite phrases) when I had newly become a single parent raising a young child and working 50+ hours a week with a 2-hour round commute thrown in for good measure and trying to juggle it all. A man who painted my living room when he was 80 years old, filled up my gas tank whenever he noticed it was running on empty and raised himself up to his full 5’2″ of height and threatened to beat the crap out of the guy who had wronged me.

To my great kid and my niece and my nephew, he was the grandfather who would ask you to comb his hair and who thought rewarding you for doing so with a shiny new quarter was the best treat you could get. He came to all their school events. When I worked full time, he drove my son to swimming lessons and bowling tournaments and basketball games and always encouraged those activities (although, truth be told, sports was not my great kid’s thing). He went to amusement parks with them and rode on all the rides and ate hot dogs and fries and ice cream with them and then fell asleep alongside them as we headed home in the car. When my great kid was sick, he’d take the day off and stay home with him so I could go to work. And when my great kid’s own Dad walked away, he stepped in and showed him by both words and deeds what kind of man he could become. That my son is the man he is today is because my father laid the foundation.

To my cousins, he became their second Dad. He stepped in for them when others couldn’t or wouldn’t. He is godfather to more people than I can count and Uncle Bub to so many others. He loved being surrounded by his family and liked nothing more than a party that happened to fall on a day when the Kentucky Derby was being run so he could start a pool and get us all caught up in cheering on horses we had never heard of an hour before. He told them stories of growing up with their parents and aunts and uncles and passed on that oh-s0-valuable ancestral info that is far too seldom written down.

To his friends, he was loyal and true to the very end. His best friends – my Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Ed – were part of his life for over 50 years, people he and my Mom met when their son and I started kindergarden together. He loved tormenting my Uncle Ed by filling in applications for him to box in the Golden Gloves tournament or calling him on the phone to say he was the police coming to serve a warrant. When my Uncle Ed decided to convert to Catholicism as an adult, my Dad served as his godfather (although he did draw the line at having my Uncle get into a christening dress and having my Dad hold him over the baptismal font).

To those who had harmed him, he was forgiving and kind. When my Dad was in the Navy for his second tour, he asked my Mom if she had a friend who could write to a fellow he’d met on the ship who had no one writing him. My Mom’s best friend from childhood started writing to my Dad’s friend and they eventually met, fell in love and married. But when, after she died, his friend became hardened and hurtful and cut my Dad out of his life, my Dad mourned the loss and – when he had just a few days to live – asked my sister to initiate a phone conversation with his friend who had abandoned him. I was opposed to the call but my Dad  was nothing but kind and gracious in what he said to the man he still considered his friend. He was a bigger person than I was because I felt this person didn’t deserve my Dad’s forgiveness. But my Dad knew better and I learned a lesson from him that last Sunday before he left us, that it’s never too late to forgive someone and if you don’t seize the opportunity when it presents itself, you might not get another chance.

To all of the dogs and cats and various other pets we and others had along the way, he was the best friend they could ever hope for. He would stop and pet any dog that crossed his path. When I adopted a dog who was terrified of men, my Dad used to come to my house and lay on the floor as the dog barked at him, staying there sometimes for hours just so she could get used to him being there and learn he was not there to harm her. The dog eventually preferred him over all other men (my ex-husband included – what a good judge of character that dog turned out to be). Whenever any of us had to make that very tough decision to end our pet’s life, he would come with us, even if it meant driving hours from a remote location to get there. He’d sit with the dog or cat and hold it and tell it he’d see them one day on the other side of the rainbow bridge and then weep as he watched their life slip away.

And lastly he was the person who knew what mattered in life, what meant the most. That last night of his life he struggled mightily to breathe. As the night went on, it got more and more difficult and the options were few and not pleasant. About 5:00 am, he interrupted me as I was reading him passages from the Bible and said “Ask Mom to come to the hospital”. I almost didn’t call her. It was so early and I thought I’d wait an hour or so. But I didn’t wait and I called her and my sister and my son and told them he wanted them there. And they were there by a little past 6:00 am, the point where it became clear that the end was almost here. The doctors gave him something to help him be comfortable and we all held his hand and my Mom sang his favorite songs and my sister read from the Bible and we watched him be freed from the pain and the suffering. He knew, I’m positive, that he had so little time left and he wanted to be surrounded by everyone he loved. Not everyone gets that moment, gets that chance to see the people they love the most that one last time. He did and it is that knowledge that got me through those dark and terrible days.

So today I honor my Dad by reminding those who knew him how important they were to him and what a part they played in his life and by letting those of you who didn’t know him how lucky we were to have him. And in this Easter season, with the promise of the resurrection and life eternal taught to us again, I look forward to the day when I will see him again. I know that just because I can’t see him doesn’t mean he’s not here but until I do see him again, thank you, Dad. I’m the luckiest girl on earth and I’ll love you forever.

 

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