On Random Reflections

Before moving on to my regular posts, thought I would put together some random thoughts from last week.

Last week, my MIL’s older sister (from Detroit) was visiting her daughter (in Denver). She was able to change her flying date and destination for $15. Unbelievable, so thank you Delta! She arrived in Cincinnati during a snowstorm, so time awarded me by extending my 40-minute drive from the airport to 130 minutes.

As an in-law, I approached dealing with a death in the family with caution. Given only two siblings, I was there for support, but had judge when it was appropriate to give input and when to stay put. If the family was bigger, I can’t imagine even being part of the discussions.

Over the past ten days, I had many thoughts about mother (who passed away in 1987). Being too weak for the 3-hour ride, she never made it to our new home. As we are planning a move in the spring, another mother will not be able to visit a new home.

I cannot recall who told me this great advice many years ago: When a baby is born, don’t forget to ask about the mother. As an in-law, our role is to support our loved ones during grief – and I did – but that doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t heavy and we don’t grieve. So the next time you have a friend lose a parent, also attend to their spouse. That spouse may simply say they are OK, but I’m betting that they are very appreciative.

We didn’t know a church friend worked at Hospice, but my wife saw her when I wasn’t there. I happened to be in the room early Monday morning when she stopped by. As we talked, she quoted something I said to her three years ago after my dad passed away: “My dad had 84 pretty good years with one real bad day at the end – so that’s not too bad.” To think she remembered that shocked me. Well, my MIL lived 1025+ months, so four difficult months isn’t too bad.

That same Monday morning at Hospice, I witnessed wonderful kindness – let’s call them the flower guild. There are two teams: Mondays and Thursdays. On those days, the flower guild volunteers gather donated flowers from florists. At Hospice, the volunteers create bouquets for the patient’s rooms. My SIL and I smiled watching them work while seeing and receiving the results of their efforts – so this Monday, I took some of the funeral flowers to the flower guild.

For a Friend

A year ago, the hearts of many were heavy as we received word of the passing of an outstanding lady that my wife and I were lucky to know and call friend.

We last saw her at handbell practice in early November after returning from a week-long Caribbean cruise. She was fighting chest congestion for a month, thus at the end of rehearsal, my wife and another ringer convinced her to escalate her troubles. Later that week she went to the hospital, received X-rays, was admitted, and never returned home.

Being gracious, funny, and a good one to kid, those that knew her, loved her. No matter what she did, she always gave it her best, and with the ability to laugh at herself … and, much too young to leave the living.

We, and the family, thought she would be home for Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter, but the lung cancer was too aggressive and too advanced. I can’t recall ever crying for so many consecutive days – not for any friends or my grandparents, aunts, uncles, or parents. It was very hard for us in this house, and it also impacted our entire holiday season.

Nonetheless, we grabbed our bootstraps, and focused on her husband because that is something we could do here and now. I’m proud of him as he’s done well, and I’m happy with the little part that I’ve played.

Today is the first anniversary of her passing – thus, why I couldn’t do a cartoon post. She wouldn’t be much for the today’s hub-bub, thus would be fussy with me to post as normal – but that’s ok, she’s not here to stop me … besides, I can use this to  kid her again!

I’ve thought a lot of her this week, and even write this with tears – but it’s something I had to do for a good lady.

A few days after her funeral, I posted this tribute to her, as I share a constant reminder I have of her.  Besides, I know I’m a better person today because of her role of a portion of my life – but my wife and I still miss her.

Her funeral was difficult for the entire handbell choir as she was one of us, besides, her husband asked us to play. I still recall the difficulty of that rehearsal for the entire choir, but also his strength and pride through his smile as we concluded at the funeral.

Today is a good time to share this beautiful version of Beside Still Waters we played with heavy hearts for our friend and handbell colleague.

Meanwhile, “Hey up there – how are the butterflies?” (actually, an inside joke for her that I couldn’t resist)

On a Tough Wait

This evening we got the news that our friend (who is has been in the hospital most of November) has taken a drastic turn for the worse. I wonder if she will still be with us when I awaken in the morning.

I want to take a day away from my planned post for her and her family. I know she would suggest I press on, by hey, this is still a post.

No matter if one has faith or not, no matter the religion, and regardless of geography, human nature is to feel a sense of sadness during times like this.

So on this night and through the day tomorrow, I hope and pray for peace and strength for her and her wonderful family.


Update 11:oo am EST Dec 1, 2011

We received word that our friend peacefully passed away at 8:15 am EST. I know no more pain and uncertainly, and in the spirit of the baptism that I believe, she is in a better place. I can’t imagine what her family is feeling after having their life turned upside down in a matter of 3 weeks. Please keep “the family of Frank’s friends” in your prayers. Thanks everyone for caring.

On a Different Monday

Things happen in life causing us to change our daily routine. Sometimes these events are life altering, while other times they serve as a detour. Late Sunday morning my father passed away, so I won’t be posting this week as I attend to related family responsibilities.

Everyone handles death differently. As I write this on Sunday evening, my faith belief system gives me peace and trusting that heaven is a better place. I also believe he was ready. At 84, he outlived many of his friends, and is now with my mother (who passed away in 1987). Knowing my dad become comfortable in his faith during the past 23 years, I’m confident that he’s happier than ever.

Dad was very proud of his past. Born in St. Louis, he moved to Ohio at 16, yet remained to close contact with his St. Louis friends. He fought in WW II, and remained in contact with his military friends. He returned to the Army in 1950, and remained in contact with his fellow soldiers. I knew he has left us a large address book of people to contact. As a business owner in a small town, he knew many people – and upon retirement, he visited many in nursing homes and hospitals.

He has always been proud of our Italian heritage. His parents came to the U.S. from Italy in 1919. He even met my mother in Italy during his second military tour of duty. Our rural area had a pocket of Italians, and yes, he knew them all.

Although he couldn’t play for some time, Dad also loved his accordion. So, with this post, here’s to you Dad – for what you gave me – and for what you gave others.

On a Thought for Support

While attending a funeral visitation (wake), have you ever heard or maybe even said to the griever, “Call me if you need anything”? Heck, maybe you have been on the receiving end of that line.

There is no doubt in my mind that the comment is sincere, and some people who are actually eager to do something. Besides, many times we struggle with what to say to the griever. On the other hand, many inside the griever’s inner circle are the people most likely to be receiving the call of help.

Here is a suggestion on a way anyone can help. Since as outsiders we know and respect the griever well enough to attend. With that in mind, call them at least 3 weeks later. Then call them a month or two after that. Sure, you can offer assistance, but more importantly, the call will catch them by surprise, they will appreciate the contact, and it gives them a chance to talk. Here is an example.

We met Kathy and her family in the late 70s at the church we joined. Ten years later, the church moved west and we moved east, thus our lives separated. Then about four years ago, Kathy appeared at our current church.

We discovered the changes in her life as the kids were grown and gone, her divorce from the husband we knew, her current marriage, places that she had lived outside of Cincinnati, and that her current husband was fighting cancer,

He died this past summer. I attended the visitation and the embrace I received not only surprised me, it told me that she appreciated my visit.

Several months later during an evening my wife was at a meeting, I wonder how Kathy is doing popped into my mine, so I called her. Over the next two hours we talked about her support system, the way people respected her husband, people at our the old church where we met, and life with her previous husband – and I learned he died 7-8 years ago.

Although the length of time we talked surprised me, I know I used those 2 hours well and that she appreciated them. Although I have called other grievers in the past, this call truly demonstrated to me that it an important thing to do – thus, something for you to keep in mind.