Tag Archive | unselfish love

Saying Goodbye One Last Time

Today, my family buried my father who died about 10 days ago. We had hoped my brother John could come home from California, but his wife Wendy is suffering the affects of chemotherapy and he chose to stay with his wife. It was the right thing to do, but I’m sure his heart was right here with all of us.

My father lived 89 years in the same town; in fact, in his lifetime, he moved one block from where he was born. He served on the volunteer fire department for over 40 years as an active member and 25 more years as an honorary member. The fire truck he used to drive in the 1940’s led the procession from the church to the cemetery past the park where I played as a child, past the old fire station where he served (and played poker once a month), and finally past the home where he lived for over 65 years. It was a fitting end for a man who served others most of his life. At the cemetery he was honored as a World War II vet, with a 21 gun salute while the stars and stripes covered his casket.

One of my cousins asked if I would post the eulogy I gave at the funeral. So, as one last salute to my Dad, here are my final words.

Today we’ve come together to honor my Dad.

Because he lived such a long, rich life, many of his friends have passed before him, but I see their children sitting here today. His sisters Beverly and Ellie are here, and so are his nieces, nephews, and grandchildren and one of his two great grandchildren. I hope all of you realize you had a special place in Dad’s heart, even though he may not have said it in words. Dad’s long life touched everyone sitting here either directly, or indirectly through the friends of his children who are here to support us. I want you all to know how much our family appreciates your presence as we send our father off with honor and dignity.

My Dad was a good man. He loved his wife and his family more than himself. He served his community as a volunteer rescue and fireman for most of his adult life, and he also served his village on the planning commission to make Sturtevant a better place to live. His life was simple, but rich.

He was lucky to call a special person “friend” since he was three years old. Now most of us have had children that age, so it’s hard to imagine two little boys barely out of diapers becoming friends. But that’s what happened when Roy Stuart wandered down to my Dad’s house on 96th Street one day. It wasn’t long before Dad found Roy’s house, and their friendship has seen them through to this day.

Roy told me a funny story when we sat together at the hospital watching my Dad sleep. When the two of them were around eight years old, they liked to go the Herzog farm to go swimming. You see, there was a pond there, but before they jumped in, they had to chase the cows out. The swimming hole was muddy pond, but Dad said he learned to swim there. Roy said it was a miracle they didn’t die from typhus .

When I was born, my Dad was proud to have a girl. He proved it his entire life. When I was in first grade, I had tonsillitis much of the school year, and Dad would stop on the way home from work to buy me a chocolate milkshake at the new McDonald’s to soothe my sore throat. When he took me to the father/daughter breakfast at church he bought me a corsage to make me feel special. When I was thirteen, I needed a new winter coat. Mom budgeted $20 for the purchase, but we had no luck finding something suitable at that price. When we did find one we both loved, it was $35. One night after work, Dad took me back to Penny’s where we had found the coat, made me model it for him, and he made up the shortfall, so I could have the beautiful red coat. Every time I put it on, it was like getting a hug from my dad.  I never knew where he got the money until I was much older and my mother confessed he used his poker kitty to buy me the coat. Playing poker once a month with the guys at the fire station was one of the few things he did for himself.

As the oldest child, I was pretty much a test model, so Mom and Dad were stricter with me than John, Mark and Chris. But being the oldest did have a few perks. I got to go with Dad to pick out the Christmas trees, and every Thanksgiving I got to carve the turkey with him. Dad taught me how to play baseball as good as any boy, and how to oil my glove and mold a nice pocket. When I taught myself how to roller skate on the cement sidewalk in front of our house, he cried when he saw my black and blue butt. He ran beside me when I learned how to balance a bike and cheered when I took off on my own.

The most important thing my Dad did was teach all of his children how to be good people. He gave us everything we needed to live happily on our own. He taught the boys how to be good husbands and loving father’s by his own example. I learned how to love a husband by watching my own two parents be happy together.

Today, we say goodbye to him, and we’ll share our memories. Tomorrow we’ll go on without my him. But no one should be sad. Dad was ready for his angel wings, and I truly believe he’s having a great time getting reacquainted with old friends, his brothers Marco and Jimmy and sisters Mary, Rosie, and Josephine. And of course, he’ll dance with my Mom again.

He wouldn’t want us to cry; he’d want us to remember the words of his favorite Nat King Cole song entitled “SMILE”.

 

Smile though your heart is aching

Smile even though it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying?

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile.

True Love Brings The Most Amazing Experiences

KenKen has always been an exceptional person. He’s kind, gentle and non-judgmental. He’s taught me how to be the same. Now that he’s finding himself weaker and unable to walk on most days, we’re both missing things we used to do together. Not big things. Everyday things. Like grocery shopping and snooping in the antique shops. Like Saturday chores. And it always surprises me when I feel a sense of lost when such things don’t happen any longer.

We’ve adjusted to the deterioration of Multiple Sclerosis as well as any couple can. He keeps fighting, and I keep supporting. I’ve learned to be more patient than I ever thought possible. He’s learned to be more courageous than he thought possible. Together we face the challenges of “the other shoe dropping,” never knowing what will be taken away next.

If you have someone in your life who suffers from MS, or Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s then you know what I’m talking about. The first tendency with such a diagnosis is for the healthy partner to run away. I did feel that, but then I looked into the eyes of the man I love and knew I could never abandon him. It’s not an easy decision to make for anyone. I’m no saint, but love has a powerful effect when it’s the real thing.

On the days I need to be with my girlfriends or just alone for a couple of hours to recharge my soul, Ken understands. He knows his illness prohibits me from a lot of other things. So, the pendulum swings both ways. He loves me enough to appreciate my needs, too.

Unlike other posts, I have no “moral” to this never-ending story, but I would like to tell you if you are faced with such a problem in your life, stay the course. There are people who are willing to help, and you will discover things about yourself and your afflicted partner or friends that will amaze you.

Angels in The Flesh

November 28 006Yesterday I missed posting on my blog because I had to process everything that happened this week. If I was a cynic, I would look at the happenings as lessons in humility. Instead, I think God sent me angels.

I wrote about the episode in the pharmacy where I came up short to buy my medication, so that was one event. Two days later at the grocery store, I also came up short at the cash register. I truly thought what was left on my food stamp card and the few pennies I had in my bank account two days ago would cover my purchases. But alas, I was wrong again. I began eliminating items from my cart to get down to the bare essentials, only to find I was still ten dollars short.  Behind me a line of customers had grown and my predicament was holding them up. I wanted to cry and run from the store because I was so embarrassed.

Then the lady behind me pulled out a ten dollar bill and handed it to the clerk. She said, “Please let me help you. It is my pleasure. I believe in paying it forward.” This time I wanted to cry, but not from embarrassment, but from gratefulness. This stranger reached out to me and offered a generous gift. Who was I not to accept it?

This event happened right after I had just taught a class. I gave my students an assignment to write about a person who came into their life and thought they were worthy of being treated special. Over half the class felt there was no such person in their life. Isn’t that sad? It’s hard for me to believe they saw the world as such a cold and uncaring place when here a perfect stranger extended overwhelming kindness to me.

And the kindness didn’t stop there. In the afternoon, the lady from the IRIS Medicaid program came by for a meeting with good news. Ken has received a start date of June 2 for the program. I also had been approved to take care of him. What this means is I will get paid to take care of him–something I’ve been doing for over three years because I deeply love my husband. The good news also means that Medicaid will pay for all of his medical expenses. Talk about manna falling from heaven!

Yesterday, another angel crossed my path with a gift. One of my dearest friends read the account about my inability to buy my medication, and she handed me money to cover the cost. This time, I did burst into tears.

The morale of the story is God does hear your prayers. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus told us, “Ask and you shall receive.” He wasn’t lying. So, I am grateful for all of the help, and I will pray for my students who haven’t felt the goodness which is in all of us.

 

A Search for Normalcy in a Sea of Sickness

Which wayLately, my posts have been rather mundane. I’ve even skipped a day or two because I couldn’t find anything worthwhile to discuss, and that’s a personal disappointment because it was my goal to write a piece everyday. I had hoped by now that I would have a huge following–but such has not been the case. So, what happened?

Life got in the way.

If you are one of my faithful followers, you know that my father is waiting to take his last breath. I try to see him in the hospital everyday, but even that goal has not been achieved. I know our time is short, but I also have my husband to consider. Sometimes he’s not able to walk and takes falls. It has become so often that we’ve made a joke about it. Remember when I told you about the Cool Runnings reference? And then there’s a dear friend who also needs someone to help him. He’s suffering the lasting trials of diabetes. He’s become so weak that he cannot drive, and about once a week he needs me to take him to an appointment.

So right now, this is my life. I’m surrounded by sick men, who need me in one way or another. Not my choice. Just my circumstance. I was raised to be in service to others, or so I was told by my mother. I guess she was right because as much as I’d like to run away and leave all of this pain and suffering in my wake, I can’t. I need to stay the course, live everyday to its fullest, and try to find the joy along the way. It’s there somewhere–it’s just more challenging to find it these days.

Yesterday I got a little piece of heaven when Ken and I went out for lunch. This time we opted for Applebeas, which was really more expensive then the $4 Senior Special at Burger King, but we hadn’t been out together like this since Valentine’s Day. So, we had the joy of sitting across the table from each other, talking about things that didn’t involve sickness. For one short hour, we stepped away from our normal surroundings of the living room and enjoyed each other’s company like we used to do when we were dating. It didn’t even bother me that I had to cut his chicken breast because the tremor in his right hand has become so severe. Our little impromptu outing gave us what we both needed–a little normalcy in what has become anything but normal world.

So when your life becomes overwhelming with defeat, remember you can still find joy in the simplest things. A lunch away from home. The beauty of Spring flowers. A phone call with a friend. Just step away from what’s bringing you down for a minute or two and your soul will be rejuvenated.

 

A Different Memorial Day

memorial dayToday is Memorial Day in the United States. Unofficially, it’s the official start to summer. We suspend all working activities of a Monday to go to parades, have picnics and for some people, travel to a destination far away from home for a vacation. The day is set aside to remember and appreciate the men and women who have died protecting our country. Many of us still do that, but today I find myself using my Memorial Day in a different way.

My father is lying in a hospital waiting for his angel wings. He’s at the end of a long, rich life. He’s dying.

And I’m remembering all the good times I spent with my Dad. Like going to several Christmas tree lots to find the “right” tree to decorate our living room. Like carving the Thanksgiving turkey and giggling as we both snitched little pieces of the juicy meat, while we piled the slices onto a platter for everybody else. Like the  rides we took on a hot Sunday afternoon. Like going to a father-daughter breakfast at church when I proudly sat beside my Dad and he treated me like his date for the day.

I’m feeling lucky I had such a loving father. He was strict, but he never punished with the slap of a belt. He sacrificed for his family in so many ways, and he protected us always. He built us a lovely home with his own two hands. He loved my mother with everything in him. He showed us how to be good people–to love our families, to give to our communities and to be independent.

Even though my father is a World War II veteran, he was never decorated as a war hero. Instead he has a more important distinction; he was my hero. And his time has come to leave, and we both know it. Now we wait until our time together is over. He will breathe his last breath very soon, and I will remember the good times alone.

Celebrate Nothing

Lounging in the Sun

Lounging in the Sun

Over the weekend, we celebrated my dog Ernie’s birthday. Of course, he had no idea why we were petting him incessantly the entire day. He had not idea why we talked to him in high voices and broad smiles. He just pretended we weren’t nuts and slept most of the day.

At suppertime, we treated him with a roast beef dinner with a side of cooked carrots and potatoes. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. He twirled around with excitement and a broad grin on his face. (Yes, he grins when he’s excited. If you don’t believe me, check out the Easter pictures!) At any rate, Ernie’s birthday ended with a happy dog — who didn’t have to wear a funny hat.

As Ken and I go through the MS journey, we use little events — like Ernie’s birthday — as an excuse for celebration. These little lapses of jubilation bring us both happiness. We’ve even made a party out of it not raining in the midst of a week of precipitation. It takes a bit of creativity and a little work to be silly for a few hours. But it’s good therapy to suspend reality and have fun over something that is really nothing.

Today we’re celebrating the first day it will be 80 degrees this year. We’re hauling out the sandals and shades and heading to the lake front to pretend it’s summer. Then we’ll meet a friend for an afternoon spent giggling over a cup of coffee.

When there are so many times of just hanging out at home because Ken is too weak to do anything else, these little spurts of joy in the form of made-up parties are just the ticket to a good day. It’s a way we cope with frustrations of daily life. We need the diversion.

So, as we kick back and enjoy the sun on Joyce’s porch this afternoon, celebrating a pretty day, what have you celebrated lately?

Falling in Love Over a Scrabble Board

let's play (1)Today I want to tell you a story about Scrabble. Yes, the word game that’s been around since 1948. A game that is only played by word geeks. A game that made me fall in love with Ken. You see, on our first date, he came to my door with a red rose in one hand and a Scrabble board tucked under his other arm.

Don’t yawn! Stop that! Don’t you understand that this game brought two people together who have enjoyed a wonderful life together? Don’t you understand that people who can’t compete in any other venue appreciate a game like Scrabble where one actually has to use his/her gray matter? Don’t you understand that the combination of letters is like life playing out on a game board? (Well, maybe I did go a bit overboard with that comment.) But, needless to say, Scrabble is has played a major role in my happy marriage.

It all started one Christmas when I was ten. Santa brought me the game, and I was thrilled because I loved words from an early age. But I had a problem. Nobody but my mother would ever play with me! And of course, Scrabble isn’t a game one plays alone–at least not until the computer version came along. Until I met Ken, I didn’t have a competitive Scrabble player in my life. So, needless to say, I didn’t play too often. I was thrilled when I learned he loved the game as much as I did. So, on our first date after dinner and a movie, we played. And he beat me. I had finally met my match. And he got a second date and a rematch.

I think Ken and I love Scrabble so much because we play at the same level. We hardly ever blow one another off the board; our games are always within a few points of one another. On rare occasions, we help each other when we’re stuck. We’re competitive, but not cut-throat. We have a Scrabble Dictionary that we allow each other to look up a word. (Did I tell you that we also cheat?)

scrabble dictionary (1)

We even have several Scrabble boards for different occasions. The one we use most is the Travel Scrabble that we keep in the car. The little fold-up plastic board with its tiny tiles often makes an appearance at McDonald’s or Burger King after a burger and fries. And you can bet when we were able to travel, the Scrabble game was the first thing we put in our luggage. In fact, when we sailed through the Panama Canal, we would play everyday after breakfast in the same spot by a large window, watching the ocean go by and other passengers would stop by to see who was winning. At the end of the ten-day cruise, we were tied.

One of my best finds at the thrift shop was a couple of Scrabble Mugs I purchased for 50 cents each, so when we have our dining room matches, we can sip coffee and nibble on a cookie “officially.”

Even with MS invading Ken’s brain, he still beats me about every other time we play. In fact, I think when he can’t play any longer, I will retire the game and probably never play again. You see, this game is that special for the two of us.

The Power of An Ice Cream Cone

ice cream cones (1)

On Wednesday the weather was in the 80’s. The sky was blue. The birds were singing -you get the point, it was a gorgeous day. It was a perfect day to drive my friends Dave and Terry to the airport with the car windows open. Ken didn’t want to come along for the ride because he was feeling “under the weather,” but I coerced him to come, saying all he had to do was sit and look out the window.

You see, in our part of the woods, Mother Nature can be a bitch. Three days of beautiful weather now followed by cold, rainy and in some parts of Wisconsin — snow — over a foot and a half in the city of Rice Lake. Yicks!

Because such weather fluctuations are normal in Wisconsin, I knew I had to seize Wednesday and have some fun. I wanted Ken to enjoy the day with me. I’ll admit it. My motives were selfish. I wanted some time with him away from our four walls. I know he felt crappy because he’s always up for an outing, but I also know the power of seeing friends and changing our scenery. Besides, I had a surprise in mind for him.

After we wished our friends a good journey, I rolled the windows down, turned up the radio and blasted out of the airport.  Then I headed North–the opposite direction from going home. I knew one thing that would perk up my sweet suffering husband, so I headed for “Leon’s” – his favorite frozen custard place. Leons drivein (1)

 

As we drove along, Ken didn’t say anything. Now, I was really worried about him because he always comments when I take a different route–especially one in the opposite direction of where we should have been going. It wasn’t until he saw St. Luke’s hospital in the distance, did he realize where he was.

He grinned like a little boy. “We’re going to that ice cream place, aren’t we?”

I smiled at him. “It’s about time you figured out where we are. Yes. I thought you’d like a treat.”

I pulled into the nostalgic ice cream shop that dates back to the 1940’s, parked the car, and walked up to the window to place our order for two double-dip cones.

With a big broad smile, I handed him his favorite butter pecan treat, and we sat in the parking lot, enjoying every lick. As we quietly pretended it was summer, we chatted about how good the ice cream was. We talked about dinner options. We both hoped Dave and Terry would have a good time on their vacation. For about ten minutes, we were our old selves without a care in the world. All because we were taken out of our everyday situation by an ice cream cone.

After the last lick, I started the car and blended into the heavy 27th Street traffic to catch the freeway that would bring us back home. As I drove along, I turned up the oldies on the radio and sang all the way to our driveway. I felt like a kid again. Ken smiled as I belted out, “Born to Be Wild.” Our little excursion turned out to be magical. Not only did Leon’s lifted Ken’s spirits,  it brought me back to some of the happiest, most carefree times in my life. Singing with the radio to tunes I loved as a teenager, made me feel young and carefree.

My point? Well, it’s just this. Simple pleasures are there for the taking.  Enjoy an ice cream cone in the middle of the week. Get out into the good weather and keep the blinds shut on the bad days. If you wait for a “special” occasions to live your life, you may miss the most marvelous events that are right in front of you. Carpe diem–Baby!

Deadlines Can Kill You, If You Let Them

clock_tickingYesterday I missed blog post. Sorry. My day was full from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. Have you ever noticed that you can go for days without anything happening, and then, BAM! you get a day like I had yesterday. A day that takes you away from all your regular stuff and fills your time with something else.

I’ve always been a steady pacer–like an old plow horse, putting one foot in front of another. If I have a deadline, I think backwards and determine how many days (or hours) I have to get the item completed. I’m happy to tell you; I’ve never missed a deadline of any kind.

So yesterday, I had a series of accomplishments. Dave picked me up bright and early to get the lift chair the ADRC had found for us. It was a nice time with him;we talked about high school days and he took me on a leisurely drive down the back roads through the farming community that is only a few miles from the city. When we got there, I was greeted by a warm, friendly farm dog named Jack, who given half a chance would have jumped in the truck and came home with me. The chair turned out to be beautiful. It was a burgundy color that would coordinate with our existing furniture beautifully. So, the men at the farm loaded the chair into the pick-up and in just a few minutes Dave and I were heading back to my house.

While Dave and I were on our excursion, Ken had moved the existing chair out of its spot, along with the end table and his power wheel chair. How he did all of this, I don’t know. But it was a nice surprise for me because all Dave and I had to do was bring the new chair up the ramp and into the house.

After a cup of coffee and a little more chit-chat with Dave, it was time to clean the house and prepare a nice birthday dinner for my daughter. So, that meant a trip to the grocery store. Now, instead of a plow horse, I had become a pack mule. Hunting and gathering through the store, packing up the groceries, hauling them out to the car, packing them into the car, unpacking them when I got home, and then putting them away–keeping out the things I needed to start dinner. Whew!

Finally, it was on to cooking. The part I really love. The part that always gives me compliments once everyone sits down at my table. But like any deadline, I had to plan to get it all done by 5 p.m.

The outcome? The food was good (of course), the visit was fun (we hadn’t seen Sarah since Christmas) and everything got done on time and on schedule. But after I sat down and started to relax, guess what? Yeah. I started yawning. I guess the ol’ gray mare ain’t what she used to be.

But all in all, it was a great day. The weather was a sunny 68 degrees–a welcomed change from all the rain we’ve had this spring. Once again a friend came to the rescue and helped me. We had a wonderful dinner and visit from a girl woman I love more than my own life, and then a welcoming comfortable bed to rest my weary bones.

So even though the day was a deviation from the norm, was a lot of work, it was a wonderful day.

Thanks for reading.

Barb

When Darkness Falls, Let the Light In

incredible-storms

This morning, as all other mornings, I read the posts of some of my favorite bloggers. Candy Coated Reality by Renae is one of my most favorites. It’s a beautiful site filled with art along with articulate posts. She’s extraordinary. But today, she talked about suffering from depression. About the darkness. About wanting to sleep away the feeling of dread. Unfortunately, I knew what she was talking about.

It’s hard to admit you have depression because most people don’t understand it. They see it as sadness, but it’s so much more than that. It’s darkness that invades your life and sometimes your little flashlight of medication doesn’t shine through it. It just is.

My depression manifests itself in withdrawing. I don’t speak. I sit in like a lump in my chair and play Facebook games. I don’t even want to write when this happens to me. Lately, the money issue in my life has put me in such a place. Part of it is the chemicals in my brain, but the bigger part of it is feeling like such a failure.

I tell myself that my life is what I’ve made it. I do want to stay home and be here for Ken. He struggles so much everyday, you’d think he would have to fight depression—because he has it too. But in his case, he sees the world in a whole different way. He never complains because he says doing so would only make me feel bad. He never puts anyone down because he allows people to be just as they are. He somehow keeps himself in a world that is filled with light.

Yesterday some light came into my darkness. After the phone call about getting a lift chair for Ken, we both were invited out to lunch by my dear friend Joyce. We first had coffee at her beautiful little home, and then I drove us all to Nafi’s where we had a sandwich. When Ken went to the bathroom, she opened her purse, pulled out a wad of bills and said, “How much do you need?”

I knew she was going to help us, but her generosity overwhelmed me. I never guessed she would hand me one hundred dollars.

Again, God has provided. He does his special work through others, and Ken and I are testimony to His good works. Remember the ramp his aunts and uncles gave us? Remember Scott putting more work into it than he originally planned and then didn’t charge me? Remember Jackie and Kay giving me money so I could buy my books for a book signing? Remember Steve and Tara helping us with the overwhelming drug expense?  Remember Dad paying off my car when it was reposed by the finance company? Remember others who stand beside us and will drop what they are doing to be here for us –Dave and Terry, Heidi and Ray, Patrick and Linda, Jim and Cathy — the list goes on.

I do not practice organized religion, but I do believe a higher power intercedes when we’ve done all that we can do on our own. Time and time again, our friends and family have helped us out of jams Ken and I couldn’t fix ourselves.

I feel so humbled when all I can do for them is say, “Thank You.”