Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Family’ Category

First Real Snow

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”― Lewis Carroll

“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.” – John Burroughs

This morning we got our first real snow. The snow that’s heavy, plowable and will probably be the base snow that will remain until April. The proclamation that Fall has officially done its job and it’s winter’s turn. Transition time over.

It’s beautiful, fresh, clean and a big inconvenience on the busiest travel day of the year as we kick off six weeks of holiday busyness.

This kind of snow slows us down. And there in lies the gift.

Slow down and celebrate the gifts that you already have right now. Not the ones you’ll race to get on Black Friday. Don’t miss what already is present in search of presents that can never replace a long meaningful conversation, a call or text to check in on someone who’s lost someone this year and this is the first holiday without a loved one, a hug that softly whispers “you’re not alone, and it’s going to be alright.”

Be grateful for all that is, was and will come. God weaves life with both struggle and awe. So often, we only see the struggle and miss the awe. Abundance is an attitude and awareness, not a bank account and pile of gifts. Gratitude is the best gift you can give and receive.

Even in Minnesota, when we know that winter never skips a turn, we are taken back when it hits. So rather than enjoying the beauty and slowing that winter brings, we shift our attention to what we can’t control – the weather – and the complaining ensues.

Abby and Sasha had the appropriate response to the snow this morning. They leaped, created new paths and chased each other, rolling in delight. They saw the gift immediately.

Happy Thanksgiving and may you be grateful each day for your blessings that are hiding right in front of you. Slow down and go make some snow angels.

“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” – George Santayana

The Lion King of Joy

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

“The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.” – Leo Buscaglia

Kids have optimism and joy mastered. It’s impossible to be around Liam without smiling and feeling deep joy and gratitude.

Surround yourself with people who bring that kind of joy and make sure you offer it as well. If you need some instruction on how to proceed, look at the delight on kids faces next week on Halloween and you’ll get a full course in fun, frolic and frivolity.

We take things way too seriously. Lighten up and dare to see the bright side. There’s plenty of it to find.

Find your light and bliss. And cast it out into the world.

Art of Memory

“We do not know the true value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory.” – Georges Duhamel

“The true art of memory is the art of attention.” Samuel Johnson

We are doing the final clear out of my Aunt’s house to get it ready for sale. She passed away September 3rd. I stopped by a few days ago by myself, looking at the few things that remain and found this little guy in the corner of a shelf.

Instantly, it brought me back to her house on Earl Street where we spent many family holidays. It’s funny what triggers memories and where we are instantly transported by small momentos.

In the midst of loss, we suddenly get our buoyancy and pop to the surface of gratitude. As Dr. Seuss so poignantly said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” We find our way back to joy, to delight, to the present in small things.

When we are immersed in the moment fully aware, we get double blessing in the present and later when it becomes a memory that we treasure. The true gift of loss is a keen awareness and deep gratitude for this day. In this very moment, you are creating memories. so pay attention and actively participate in your life. Make today a memory worth remembering.

Beautiful Light

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton

I have fond memories of this lamp through decades of seeing it as a center piece at my Aunt Terry’s house. It’s been 26 days since she passed away and the lamp was moved carefully and solemnly to my house today. My eyes keep getting drawn to it and there’s comfort in it.

As I walked by it tonight to turn it off, it reminded me of the beautiful light that we all have within us. It shined the brightest and with little effort when we were young.

With the passage of time, our lights often dim and flicker. Yet, our light always remains within longing to come out to dance and play with abandon. And when we show our beautiful light to the world, it gives the “permission slip” to others to join us on the field trip of joy and gratitude.

No matter where you are on your journey, you have a beautiful light within that remains steady and unwavering. Let it out.

Shine, beautiful light.

Harvest

“We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.” – Orison Swett Marden

I’ve just started to wear my “gifts of the spirit” bracelet the past few weeks to remind me to be open to receive those gifts given freely without effort or merit. This week, I was then prompted to buy a “fruits of the spirit” bracelet to remind me of how gifts and fruits are inseparable.

When we are given gifts, we are called to give them away, to plant and cultivate them in order to produce fruit.

We must go beyond our one dimensional understanding and seek a higher understanding, a deeper meaning to live this life well.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

When we are given gifts, they expand and multiply when we give them away, producing fruits. They move us from “me” living to “we” living.

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity, generosity, joy, gentleness, peace, faithfulness, patience, modesty, kindness, self-control, goodness, chastity.

Seven gifts creating twelve fruits. Pretty good odds to bet on.

Be open to gifts. Plant seeds. Harvest fruit. Gifts to fruit every time.

An Appointed Time

Our deep losses are always interwoven with blessings and gifts. Mixed in with our joy, threads of sorrow and loss. Life is a woven fabric of brilliant hues and worn strands of a single fiber.

As tears have taken their turn with laughter this week, I recall two simple words of John 11:35 when Jesus found out Lazarus died, “Jesus wept.” An invitation and permission to be real, to grieve, to be emptied and lost. At the same time, a promise of hope, grace and light. And while it will never be the same again, it will be alright.

In the dichotomy of daily living, Ecclesiastes seemed like a solid first reading for the funeral mass for my Aunt this Friday. It also turned out to be the foundation for a pretty good Byrd’s song too – Turn, Turn Turn.

“There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace,
and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
What profit have workers from their toil?
I have seen the business
that God has given to mortals to be busied about.
God has made everything appropriate to its time,
but has put the timeless into their hearts
so they cannot find out,
from beginning to end,
the work which God has done.
I recognized that there is nothing better
than to rejoice and to do well during life.
Moreover, that all can eat and drink
and enjoy the good of all their toil,
this is a gift of God.
I recognized that
whatever God does will endure forever;
there is no adding to it, or taking from it.
Thus has God done that he may be revered.
What now is
has already been;
what is to be,
already is:
God retrieves what has gone by.” – Ecclesiastes 3.1-15

Aunt Terry

This day is one of those days you would run from in the morning if you knew where it would lead to 12 hours later. One of those “you never know what’s going to happen” days. In a split second, it twists and turns in directions never imagined.

There are no ordinary days, so do not treat one more as if it is. I don’t want to write this but I need to mark this day. To honor my Aunt Terry who passed away at 10:41 am this morning. Our last earthly tie to Dad. We never really grieve for the dead, but for those left behind.

87 years old young. Up until last Thursday, driving, booking three appointments each day, swimming at the community center, playing cards, picking up friends for lunch, making soup or ham salad and dropping it off. Always ready to go out and grab a beer or her favorite – a brandy manhattan. One tough, outspoken, soft-hearted friend and soul. That is what is worth celebrating. Her spirit, spunk and energy up until the very end.

She fell last Thursday walking into the eye clinic to have her glasses adjusted. 9 hours later in St. Joseph’s Hospital, with a broken bone in her neck and several facial fractures, still fiery as ever. Her cane was safely tucked away in her car. Second guessing and “what ifs” always catch us up in useless pondering.

After a weekend checking in and out, meeting the outstanding compassionate nurses and doctors, today was the day she was actually going to make it out with a broken-damn neck to transitional care. After we left yesterday afternoon, she called and said she was getting out today to go home. I told her she would be making a pit stop at transitional care first. And rather than calling her nurse, I was prompted to go down in person (thank God) to talk to her nurse in person and check in on Terry.

She never swore and didn’t like it at all. But she called the pureed food, “shit on a shingle.” She told me last night that the phrase came from the soldiers in World War II. She was a soldier for sure. She sang in the choir up until a week ago, sang at hundreds of funerals, checked on friends and all of us.

I told her last night that I would swing by this morning on the way to work for 30 minutes to verify what transitional care she was getting into, make sure it was a private room and hopefully in the new part of the building.

When I arrived at 8:03 to get my badge, they said she changed rooms. As I went up on the elevator, I thought “what the hell for?” I high-stepped it down the hall, turned the corner to a blue light blinking (code blue – one step before the final lights – code red) and medical personnel rushing into the room. Praying it wasn’t her room, but I knew. They quickly escorted me down the hall to the “waiting room” – that familiar room we spend many years of our life in. Not before I asked “what the hell is going on?” Cardiac arrest. Frantic phone calls and more waiting. A total of three cardiac arrests later, it was time to let go and say good-bye until we meet again.

There actually is real comfort in imagining the family reunion and pure peace that comes with passing. The only comfort actually.

So to Aunt Theresa Valarie Pugaczewski. Thank you for your dedication, opinions, sass, vigor, generosity, unconditional love, complaining about the right cottage cheese – Land O’Lake 2% over Kemps every damn day of the week and peach Activia yogurt. I told her speech therapist and nurse who cried with us today that they could keep the unopened cottage cheese and yogurt we picked up yesterday and that they should recommend Land O’Lakes to the hospital.

As I left last night, Terry did inform me that I didn’t bring the right things in the bag I packed last Thursday and that she would make a list. Last night, I told her I would get whatever she needed tomorrow if I missed something (internally a little pissy – again, thank God). When I opened her address book today at her house to begin preparations for her funeral with the family, she had that damn list written out. Oh, how I wish I could be irritated and fulfill my orders right now.

Long detailed story for a reason. Please value each day as if it may never come again with those you love, because one day, you will be right. No regrets for me at all. God gave me the gift and others in my family to be irritated one more time this weekend and to be present in tough times. To hold her hand and walk in on a code blue and wait is something I didn’t get with Dad three years ago. Being there when it happened was a gift too.

As Laura Story so brilliantly says in her song Blessings,

“What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise”

So, this day will be marked like a birthday, celebrating loved ones being born. Today, we honor a life of 87 years well lived, generously, honestly, abundantly, gratefully, imperfectly, faithfully, humanly and lovingly. Aunt Terry, give Dad one long hug for me and thank you for a life well lived. Well done, good and faithful servant!

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”– Matthew 25:23

Break ‘Em

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” – Dr. Suess

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” – Dr. Suess

“Oh the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind!” – Dr. Suess

We’ve sold my parent’s house and closing is in three weeks. You can accumulate a lot over a lifetime and forty-one years in a house. Most of the sorting was done when we put the house up for sale to “stage” it and now the final steps to clear it completely and let it go.

Dad passed away over three years ago and Mom has been moving around my brother, sister and my houses and it will remain the same minus her house. Maintaining an extra house has proven to be challenging at best and it’s time to move on. And yes, it’s still hard. I reminded Mom and myself that home is the people you are with and the time together.

That’s the thing with life transitions. We want to hang on to what was while still moving forward. It’s like monkey bars at the playground. When we don’t let go, we have one hand on each bar hanging looking side-ways, swaying in the wind. To really move to the next bar, you need to look forward and let go of the bar behind to grasp the next bar and then the next to get to the other side.

In the midst of moving stuff, I decided to keep Dad’s pool table and it was delivered and reassembled at my house this week. It was one my favorite things to do with Dad and I look forward to using it with my nieces and nephew and their kids to create new memories. As I stood in my basement and racked up the balls, I smiled as I heard Dad softly say in my head “break ‘em.”

We all need time in transition to collect our thoughts, adjust to our new normal and make meaning of loss and change. And then we need to gather the scattered balls together, rack ’em up and break ‘em to start a new game. Grateful for what has been and more than ready for what is to come.

More memories ahead grounded in the memories already made. Eyes wide open.

It’s Impractical and Makes Perfect Sense

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” – Dale Carnegie

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” – Cecil Beaton

It’s been in the back of my mind for the past two months. And now that we are close to getting a few offers on my parent’s house, it moved front and center. Dad grew up playing pool and after much debate, he splurged and got a pool table years ago. He really enjoyed playing and never declined when asked to rack ‘em up.

I thought about keeping it and putting it in my basement. I then quickly dismissed the idea as impractical. It faded to the background and lingered at the same time.

Today, I measured my basement and then remeasured the pool table. It fits and it’s fitting. It is absolutely impractical and makes perfect sense. Despite the practical and logical reasons, I still want the pool table.

While it won’t bring Dad back, it’s something we shared and enjoyed. It is a place of conversation, confidence and lessons on how to see different angles, to think a few steps ahead to see where you want to go and how to spin avoid the scratch.

When I remodeled my kitchen 20 years ago, I wanted slate blue counters. I hesitated choosing the color, concerned about resale rather than picking something I really wanted. I went with the blue and never looked back.

We move too far into the future and miss fun that is rooted in today. Get the pool table, go with the blue counter, be utterly impractical if your heart is pulling you in that direction. Regrets are grounded in what we don’t do rather than what we do. Impractical and frivolous often makes perfect sense.

Now, rack ‘em up.

The Deep End

Abby, Sasha and I went up north this weekend to my sister-in-law’s family cabin. This was the first time at the cabin without Grace, my brother and sister-in-law’s black lab who died in Winter, way too young from lymes disease.

When the girls jumped out of the car, they enthusiastically ran to the cabin door looking for Gracie to ask her to come out and play. But Grace was not to be found.

Grace loved the cabin and swimming. She was the head of the pack and would lead the girls around showing them the ropes of cabin living. Diving off the dock again and again in pursuit of the perfect jump to get the ball as it floated on the water. In awe, Abby and Sasha would watch her dive long and deep and then run off the dock to enter the water from shore to meet her the middle.

After bringing in bags to the cabin, we walked down to the lake with tennis balls in hand. I threw a ball for Abby off the dock, assuming that she would come off the dock and enter the water from the shore. But this time, Abby dove off the dock, a bit tentative but a solid first time effort. Swimming to shore, back on the dock, she pursued the ball yet again diving off the end of the dock with more confidence this time. And it continued.

With a big smile inside and out, I thought of how proud Grace would be of Abby diving off the deep end, learning the lessons that she taught her over and over. Sasha gazed on and then ran off the dock to enter the water by shore and met Abby in the middle as she proudly swam to shore with ball squeaking away.

Without Grace by their side, they hesitantly carried on. A timely reminder that in the depth of our loss, we honor those who have gone before us by carrying on. A bit of solace on the fourth Father’s Day without Dad by our side to honor in person.

In the midst of loss, we remember, we miss, we regret, we wish for one more day and most importantly, we carry on. And we honor those who have gone ahead by diving off the deep end in pursuit of daily joy and adventure. Carry on, the deep end is calling.

%d bloggers like this: