I Miss You, Dad!

TWELVE YEARS. It’s been twelve years since my dad died. It seems like forever since we last spoke and yet sometimes it still feels like yesterday that we lost him. Dad lived in New York and I live in Florida, and when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer I got up to see him as often as I could. But those visits were so strained because of the elephant in the room: each time we said goodbye we knew it could be forever.

As Dad got sicker, I realized I was waiting for him to say something like, “I’ve fought the good fight and I’m going to enjoy my last days with my fishing pole and a good book,” but Dad fought till the very end. After he died, oh how I wished he had gone down to his condo in Florida so we could have had some downtime and an opportunity to talk, but he really wasn’t much for small talk.

Looking back now, I realize the timing of my divorce, which was finalized just six months before Dad died, was a blessing in that it gave us something to talk about other than his cancer. Dad had a seemingly endless supply of financial and life advice, and I think he enjoyed talking about the home I was purchasing, work, family, parenting, and practical matters.

When I think of Dad now, that’s what I remember most: his practicality and advice, and how he cared for his family. Dad gave me a book called “The Millionaire Next Door” when I was a teenager. It wasn’t exactly a fun read but it described how anyone could become a millionaire by living within their means, saving and investing. As it turns out, that book was also a huge blessing because I can remember so many conversations and lessons that sprung from those pages. I was shocked when Dad told me he could pay for a new car in full- just write a check anytime he wanted to- but he chose to save and invest so that he could put his daughters through college. And he did, two girls with Bachelor’s Degrees and no student loans! (Thank you, Dad!)

Looking back, we never went without but we always lived frugally. I have fond memories of Dad’s white Volvo. She was such a part of the family that we called her Josephine, and she was with us for well over 200,000 miles despite having no Reverse for at least the last year till she finally gave out. Dad did a lot of creative parking that year, and thankfully our driveway had such a steep slope that he could roll out of the driveway in neutral.

Tonight I’m missing my Dad and celebrating what a wonderful, kind and caring man he was. I am so thankful to have so many happy memories, and I’m thanking God for all the good years we had together.

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.” Proverbs 20:7

Making Memories

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. ~ Proverbs 3: 5-6

We lost Mom 31 years ago today.

I’m pretty sure we didn’t realize when this picture was taken that it would be one of the last photos we had with her, or that lighthouses would always hold a special place in our hearts. After all these years I treasure the memories of our trips to Montauk. There was something special about getting away, just hopping in the car and heading to the beach with the family, but at the time we surely took it for granted.

For a long time, I thought that my Dad had taken this picture, but I realize now that he’s in the picture too, down by the water, off to the left. Maybe he was looking for shells, or fishing… if I close my eyes I can almost smell the ocean, hear the seagulls, and imagine my family beside me. Now that Mom and Dad are both in Heaven, it’s even more precious to have a photo of all four of us.

I may not be able to remember the sound of Mom’s voice, but the sounds and scents of the beach can bring me back to a time and place where the only thing on the agenda was for us to hang out and spend time together.

Today I’m thankful for happy memories. I’m thankful for the ocean and the seagulls and the beaches and the lighthouses. And figuring out how soon I can make a trip to the beach… we’ve got to make some more memories.

MOM WOULD BE TURNING 80 THIS YEAR.

When my mom passed away thirty one years ago, she was just 49 years old. That’s how old I am now.

It’s a lifetime ago, and yet at times it feels like it was just yesterday.

Sometimes I can almost recall the sound of Mom’s voice… there was a time when I could just close my eyes and easily hear her voice, recall her words, and even picture Mom perched on the stairs, smiling down at me, listening as I played piano.

But as time marches on, we lose some of these memories that used to give us comfort. I used to find this very upsetting, but lately I’ve been thinking that perhaps it’s all part of God’s plan because while memories can be comforting and full of joy, when we have lost a loved one, memories can also keep us stuck.

This year, as the season of missing Mom approached, I realized that I was the same age that Mom was when she died; that my oldest daughter was turning 18, the age I was on that fateful day; and that my youngest daughter was 14, the age that my little sister had been when we lost my mom. Suddenly I realized how difficult it must have been for Mom to carry the burden of knowing how sick she was, and even realizing that her daughters were going to have to grow up without her.

I carried that with me for awhile, but a funny thing happened right before my daughter Breanna went off to college, on her 18th birthday. She told me she wanted to make me a salad. It sounds crazy, but it was the best salad I’ve had in a really long time for several reasons.

First, watching her make a salad, I realized how much she’s grown up this past year, and I was comforted about her going off to college. Second, seeing how happy she was just making a salad for me showed me that she enjoys doing nice things for others, and she can appreciate the little things in life.

But the real gift came because it had been weighing on me that I wouldn’t be taking her to college, helping her plan, or getting her settled into college life. Perhaps this hit me so hard because these were some of the last things my mom and I did together before she died. Finding our way around campus, shopping in town, setting up my dorm room and going out to dinner in town were some of the last memories I was hanging on to, because they were the most recent and all I had. Or so I thought…

With that salad, so many other long-forgotten memories rushed back: the wonderful, pungent smell of tomatoes on the VINE. Making salads in the kitchen, using the tomatoes and cucumbers we grew in our own backyard, and mixing up our own vinaigrette in the glass carafe that measures out the oil and the vinegar. Adding a teaspoon of sugar to spaghetti sauce, Mom’s little secret when it hadn’t had time to simmer… I also felt the pride and sadness Mom might have felt, watching me as I got ready to fly the coop. (“We give our children two things: roots and wings,” she reminded me, on more than one occasion…)

While the college memories were some of the last memories I have with Mom, they weren’t the best memories. All of a sudden there was a flood of other memories: summers in the cabin, Sunday morning breakfasts, coffee toast, snowmen, family dinners, so many holidays, Irish coffee, chocolate mousse, Yorkshire pudding, and of course, Nana’s burned carrots.

Sometimes we just need a little reminder that we can always find new memories to hold on to, and to find joy in simple things. Like SALAD.

They say grief comes in waves or goes in cycles… I never know what will trigger grief, but I’ve found that each year, the season of missing Mom typically starts at the beginning of summer, and really gets going by her birthday in July. Then there’s the anniversary of her death and a series of family birthdays in October, followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, my sister’s birthday, and Easter… For some reason there’s a short lull between Easter and summer (probably because we were always in crazy end of the school year stuff during that time) but to be honest, even after all this time I never know what will trigger grief. I’m thankful for happy memories, but I still find myself missing my mom (and Dad) all the time.

I Lost My Mom 28 Years Ago Today…

…and my tradition has been to spend a part of this day grieving, and a part of the day counting my blessings and reflecting on how to make the most of the time I’ve got left.

I live in South Florida, and I feel very blessed and thankful to have been spared the wrath of hurricane Matthew.  The winds were howling fiercely during the night, and when I ventured outside this afternoon the winds were still howling as Matthew was looming off the coast of northern Florida.

The lake behind my house is usually as still as glass, peaceful and silent except for birds chirping…  As I listened to the wind, and saw the ducks in the water and heard the birds in the trees above,  I remembered a bit of scripture from Matthew:

Do Not Worry
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?

Where have 28 years gone??   I’ve come to realize that grief never ends, it continues cyclically.  Like the tide, the moon and the seasons, grief is just something I’ve learned to expect.  Sometimes grief is like the undertow I remember so well from Jones Beach: even after 28 years it can still knock me off my feet if I’m not careful.  Sometimes grief is like a brilliant full moon that catches me off guard, sets my nerves on edge and leaves me feeling unsettled.  Other times grief is like a gloomy moon obscured by clouds, it’s not one sad memory but rather a longing for happy times.

And sometimes grief is like a cold blast of winter, when I feel the profound loss of my mom most acutely.  I continually grieve that she didn’t get to see me through motherhood, she never got to be a grandma, she doesn’t get to know, much less spoil, my kids.  We don’t get to bicker, reminisce, share recipes, gather for holidays, or ride out storms together.

For a long time I felt that grief was a bad thing, something to downplay or suppress so as not to burden others, but I realize now that even though it’s not fun or always welcome, it’s a part of the healing process.  Grief will never end because something irreplaceable has been taken from me, and I will never be the same. But I’m getting stronger, worrying less and praying more, and I’m immensely grateful for the blessings I have each and every day.

And grief has made me more compassionate, better able to relate to the suffering I see in the world, and more willing and determined to do something about it.  As difficult and traumatic as it was losing my mom so young, I have the luxury of happy memories and a few photographs and a roof over my head.  Even when we lost my Mom, as hard as that was, we didn’t have to struggle to survive like our brothers and sisters in Haiti  are struggling right now.  And we have the luxury of grieving because we aren’t fighting for our lives.

So today when I thought about how I can make a difference, I decided to make an additional donation to Compassion International, to help those kids and families in such desperate need. Today I grieve for our brothers and sisters in Haiti, where the destruction is catastrophic and resources are so scarce.

Please join me in lifting up special prayers for the people of Haiti, for our Compassion child Jac and his family, and for everyone affected by hurricane Matthew.

To help the victims in Haiti, please consider COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL:   http://www.compassion.com/haiti-hurricane-donation.htm

My mom was a nurse, and I know if she were here today she would also be pulling out her credit card to help those in desperate need, so in memory of my mom Sandy, I pray that the Lord will multiply our gifts, to bring healing and peace and hope and safety to our brothers and sisters in Haiti.  I’m grateful for organizations like Compassion International that will venture into these areas to render aid that’s so desperately needed.  I pray that their efforts will be blessed, their workers will be safe, and their impact will touch lives and hearts to restore safety, promote hope and healing, and allow the people of Haiti to grieve and heal.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Mom and girls

 

Prayers & Puttering on Father’s Day

Today at our church and at churches around the nation, prayers and prayers and more prayers were lifted up for Orlando… My heart breaks for all the families who are planning funerals and memorial services when they should be planning holiday barbecues and summer vacations. I know from experience how incredibly difficult the holidays are after losing a loved one, having lost my mom nearly 30 years ago, and my dad nine years ago. Losing a loved one is hard enough, but their grief is compounded by the senselessness of these violent losses.  We will all continue to pray for these families, that they can get through this incredible tragedy and carry on after such loss.

Today was my ninth Father’s Day without my dad, and church was a welcome diversion in the morning, a routine that helped me to get it going on a morning when I would have loved to sit around missing Dad and feeling lonely and wistful, especially since my girls are with their dad on Father’s Day and it’s just me, myself and I at home.

After I got home from church, a jumble of memories flooded back to me in no particular order, like a memory playlist on shuffle.  My dad loved puttering around his koi pond, gardening, building things, delivering wise lectures that typically began with, “in life…” and working outdoors.  And of course right after the happy memories came the bittersweet wistfulness: how I wish my girls could have known him! They were so little when he passed away, and we’ve missed out on so much.

with Dad by the pond

I’ve found that on days like these it helps to keep busy, so today I spent some time PUTTERING, in my dad’s honor.  I cleaned off and polished the beautiful heirloom server that had belonged to my parents, and as I polished it, I admired the beauty of the intricate woodworking. I imagine my dad did too, especially because he had done some beautiful woodcarvings of his own.

dad server beforedad server wood topdad server after

After I finished polishing the server, I went to admire one of my dad’s woodcarvings. There aren’t that many, and sadly, he said that the nicest ones were confiscated by a senior officer when he was serving in the US Army.  Apparently he had quite a lot of time on his hands when he was stationed in Alaska, and he said that compared to the ones we’ve seen, his Alaska carvings were exquisite.  I can only imagine, but I’m so grateful for the ones that we do have.  And I guess that’s the takeaway for me today.  Even though Father’s Day is difficult without my dad, I’m so grateful for the time that we did have, and so thankful for the happy memories.dad birds wood carving

I’ve arrived at a stage in grieving that I wrote about here, where it comes in waves, and where there is life in between the waves.  I knew Father’s Day would be tough, so I was prepared for it, and actually for me it’s not just the day, it’s the whole time period that begins just before Mother’s Day and ends on Father’s Day.  And I’ve survived it again this year, in part by admiring my dad’s handiwork.  Looking at it now, it’s a great visual reminder that we’re never alone, and even when we are physically alone, all we have to do is LOOK UP.

I do have so many happy memories of my dad, and because laughter is good for the soul, I’m sharing a clip from The Skit Guys that celebrates Fatherhood.  I was blessed to take the girls to see The Skit Guys recently, and they are absolutely phenomenal, they gave an amazing performance and they were so nice and down to earth, we were all so blessed. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

Treasure Each Day

Happy Father's Day

Today would have been my dad’s 78th birthday, and I celebrated his life today by remembering all the little things we did together: reading, drawing, fishing, woodworking, skiing, skating, painting, cooking, building, the list goes on and on…  My dad worked long hours and came home exhausted each night, and although he could be pretty introverted and even intimidating, he had a heart of gold.  This story reminded me of my dad, who was very fond of sharing “life lessons,”  so I’m sharing it here in the hopes that others will be inspired and remember to always make time to create happy memories.

Enjoy!  God bless you!   ~Michele

 

1000 Marbles

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the backyard patio with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other.  What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.  Let me tell you about it.

I turned the dial up to listen to a Saturday morning talk show, and I heard an older sounding gentleman, with a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business…  He was telling whoever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles”.

I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say…

“Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job.  I’m sure they pay you well, but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital.”

He continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.”

And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.”

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

“Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime.  Now stick with me Tom, I’m getting to the important part.”

“It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail,”  he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays.  I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy.”

“So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had.  I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles.  I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.  Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.”

“I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.”

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast.  This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container.  I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time.  And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.”

“It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again.”

You could have heard a pin drop on the radio when this fellow signed off.  I guess he gave us all a lot to think about.  

I had planned to work that morning.  Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”

“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile. “Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a while since we spent a Saturday together with the kids.”

“Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out?  I need to buy some marbles.”

Source: Anonymous

 

1,000 Marbles and Counting…

The story of 1,000 Marbles has been circulating on the Internet for some time now…

1,000 Marbles

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the backyard patio with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other.  What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.

I turned the dial up to listen to a Saturday morning talk show I heard an older sounding gentleman, with a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles.”

I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say…

“Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job.

I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital.”

He continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.”  And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.” 

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

“Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I’m getting to the important part.”

“It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail”, he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy.”

“So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.”

“I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.”

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.”

“It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again.

You could have heard a pin drop on the radio when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work that morning. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”

“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile. “Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a while since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”   —Source: Anonymous

This awesome story reminds us to avoid taking life for granted and simply getting caught up in the current of life, and reminds us to treasure each day so that we can make the most out the time we have with our loved ones, but as a Christian, when I read this story, I found something missing…. FAITH.

I can only vaguely remember the days when I took life for granted.  When I was little, sickness was something that people lived with for a little while, and then they recovered.  But when my grandfather passed away when I was fifteen, and we all felt his sudden absence after such a strong presence in our lives.  That was a shock.

I didn’t realize at the time that grief was at the heart of my mom’s sickness and depression, even as her illness dragged on longer and longer and she got worse and worse.  There were brief periods where life went on as “normal” before she would get sick again, and even when my mom was very sick, losing her wasn’t ever a possibility in my mind, because she was so young, and because the idea of losing her was inconceivable… Until we lost her.  She was just 49, I was just 18.  My life was forever changed and I’m still grieving.

And, about fifteen years later my dad was diagnosed with  cancer. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to receive such a bleak diagnosis, Stage IV colon cancer, with just months to live. Thankfully my dad received excellent care and we were blessed with another seven years with him, but they were horribly difficult years for all of us because he had so much pain and sickness and uncertainty, and we weren’t sure how much time we would have. My sister and I both lived out of state, so every time we said goodbye to my dad, we knew it could be the last goodbye.

Dad lived about 20 years longer than Mom did.  That’s a thousand marbles. Dad was there for weddings, proms, graduations, and the birth of my children.  Sadly he was about 100 marbles short of being there for the birth of my nephew, his grandson. 

I found my way back to church after losing my dad and going through a terrible divorce.  My church family has been an incredible source of support, help, and spiritual growth.  My brothers and sisters in Christ have helped and mentored and discipled me in such amazing ways, which led me to realize what a difference a church family could have made for my family growing up  

If only our family had known the Lord.  We grew up going to church but we didn’t have community, conversations, or personal relationships with Jesus Christ.  I drifted away from God and away from the church after my mom died, but I now know we all would have had more peace if only we had focused on where dad would be going when the Lord finally called him home.  Nothing will take away the pain of losing Dad, or the feeling of being utterly lost without either of my parents. Knowing that I will see them again is a huge comfort, and even huger is the knowledge that my daughters won’t have to go through such grievous loss without knowing the Lord and knowing the tremendous sense of peace that comes along with knowing Him.

As Christians, we know the importance of helping others to make the most of the marbles they have left.

I figure I have 1,000 marbles left, give or take… So I’ll take every opportunity to spend time with family, to fellowship with my church family, and to share the Gospel, to share PEACE, HOPE AND LOVE.  

Finding Peace, Conquering Grief

serenity prayer 2

I lost my mom 27 years ago today, and today I’m reminded of a little card that Mom had tucked away in her jewelry box.   The card contained just the first half of the Serenity Prayer, the part that you’ll often see on bookmarks and wall plaques.  I even have a Christmas tree ornament with that little quote on it that came from New York to Florida with me over twenty years ago, one of the treasures I look forward to seeing each year when I put up my Christmas tree.

The first few lines are the most widely quoted part, but it’s only half of the poem and it’s and not even the best half because while it defines what we’re after, it doesn’t tell us HOW to get it.

I’m sharing the whole poem here in my mom’s honor.  We lost her when she was just 49, and while she accomplished great things in her life I often wonder about and grieve for those lost years, the years we might have had with her, if only…

If only Mom had known how to get what she was after.  She knew and feared God, but she didn’t ever experience peace that I can remember, not really.

The Serenity Prayer has gotten me, and many others, through some very dark days because it’s a road map to trusting God and knowing that it’s OK not to be OK sometimes.  I pray that my kids will learn that from me by my living it, rather than by finding it in my jewelry box one day when I’ve gone to be with the Lord.  But I am absolutely confident that I have more joy in my life now, despite having lost both my parents and struggling as a single mom, than I have ever had in my life.

God is good.

I’m so thankful for my sister, she’s an amazing mom, wife, sister and friend, and we were blessed to be able to spend a week in Maine with our families this summer.  There is absolutely nothing in the world that can compare to watching our kids play together.  And I know that our relationship now would make my mom so happy.

mothers prayer

I’ve loved my little sister for as long as I can remember, but there were years where we got on each other’s nerves.   And my prayer for my girls, in addition to the one above, is that they can get through those years with as little drama, scorn and hurt feelings as possible.

sisters frames

 

It’s only now, years later, that many of the pieces are falling into place in the puzzle of my life.  It’s funny how my sister and I each have a cat that resembles our favorite cat we had growing up…

sisters frame2

…and we are here for each other, even when I am here and she is there.

 

sisters sentiment

 

I’ve received amazing love and support from my family, but I live in Florida and my closest family members are in Upstate New York and Connecticut, so far away!   But I feel blessed that even though we may not see each other that often, we don’t allow the miles to come between us.  When we get together it’s like old times.  We talk on the phone, send cards, pray for each other, and I’m hoping and praying we will be able to see each other more often.

And God is so good, I’m blessed to have made awesome friends in my neighborhood, at school and at work, in organizations like my college fraternity and the MOMS club, and I am blessed to have an amazing and very supportive church family.

I regularly attend events by myself, but I never FEEL alone, because I never am alone.

matthew 18.20

My prayer for each of you is that you would have a loving, supportive network of friends and family to lift you up when you’re down, and to help you celebrate the milestones and achievements in your life, and to help you draw nearer to God.

God bless you!

~Michele

 

P.S.    One final note…  I write and talk about grief a lot because grief and loss have dominated much of my life, and I wanted to share one of the most helpful things I’ve found on the subject of grief.  This post has been widely shared and frequently attributed to GSnow in various places online.  It’s a very poignant and kind post in response to the heartfelt plea:

“My friend just died.  I don’t know what to do.”

ALRIGHT, HERE GOES. I’M OLD. WHAT THAT MEANS IS THAT I’VE SURVIVED (SO FAR) AND A LOT OF PEOPLE I’VE KNOWN AND LOVED DID NOT.

I’VE LOST FRIENDS, BEST FRIENDS, ACQUAINTANCES, CO-WORKERS, GRANDPARENTS, MOM, RELATIVES, TEACHERS, MENTORS, STUDENTS, NEIGHBORS, AND A HOST OF OTHER FOLKS. I HAVE NO CHILDREN, AND I CAN’T IMAGINE THE PAIN IT MUST BE TO LOSE A CHILD. BUT HERE’S MY TWO CENTS.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes.

My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function.

You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

~ by GSnow

Thanksgiving Prayer

This Thanksgiving, as the Northeast still reels from Hurricane Sandy, as friends face difficult diagnoses, as families break apart, and as I face my own struggles, I am especially thankful to live so close to God after being away from Him for a long time.  I offer this prayer with humble thanks to all my friends and family for being there when I needed you most.  Have a blessed Thanksgiving!  God bless.

 

 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day: Precious Memories

This picture must have been taken sometime in late 1973 or early 1974, because my little sister was REALLY little… I can still remember marveling that she could grip my hand so tightly with such tiny little fingers.

Memories are so precious, even more precious than photos because of our memories’ endless storage capacity and the ability to store the little details that make all the difference.  When I close my eyes I can still picture the cabin we vacationed in every summer.  When I remember the creaky front screen door, and the long splintery wooden table we sat at for dinner, I can go back to that place where there were no phones, no appointments, no agendas.  We had mom and dad’s undivided attention, and it was on these trips that we really got to spend quality time together.  Dad taught us how to fish in the stream, jump from rock to rock to reach the other side, and toast a marshmallow after having found the perfect toasting stick…

And how awesome that the two little girls pictured above can now make memories with our own kids, in little cabins of our own.  Thanks, Dad.  Happy Father’s Day.  God bless. 🙂