Posts Tagged ‘loss’

The other day I was reading a blog that I follow.  The fellow is fighting early onset Alzheimer’s and in this latest posting he was sharing his anger.

At God. At everything.

He discussed his feelings with a friend who is a pastor.

Wanted to know why he feels so angry. This is what the pastor told him.

“You have a right to be angry,” he tells me. “It’s okay at times to be angry at God. The book of Psalms is filled with such raw emotion, asking the Lord to ‘rouse thyself.’ We all think God is sleeping at times. ‘Wake up, we say, get on the job!’ The anger is understandable, yet misdirected. God doesn’t impart disease, but the Lord will use illness to bless.” 

Some weeks later, this same pastor delivers a sermon to the congregation. Says that they all have a choice when walking through the darkest valley. He said, “Don’t squander the opportunity. Grow through what you go through.”

That’s a difficult thing.

He then shared a parable with the congregation. I had never heard it before this.

A young woman went to her mother. Told her how things were so hard for her. She wanted to give up because she was tired of fighting and struggling. Seemed as one problem was solved another one arose.  

The mother brings her into the kitchen. Brings three pots to a boil. Puts carrots in one. An egg in the second pot. Ground coffee beans in the the third pot. 

Twenty minutes later the mother takes them out of the pots. Puts the carrots in a bowl. Then places an egg in another bowl. Ladles coffee into the third bowl.  

Asks daughter what she sees. 

Daughter replies, “Carrots, egg and coffee.” 

Mother brings the carrots to her and asks her to feel them. She does and finds that they are soft.

Then the mom asks her to take the egg and break it. The daughter finds a hardboiled egg under the shell. 

Mother then asks daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiles as she tastes the rich, aromatic coffee.  

“What does it mean, Mother?” 

The mother explained that these objects all faced the same adversity: boiling water.

Each reacted differently.

The carrots went in strong, hard and unrelenting. But after being subjected to boiling water the carrots softened and became weak. 

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting in the boiling water its insides became hardened. 

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.  

I have friends who are currently facing adversity. In the form of breast cancer, early onset Alzheimer’s, divorce, the loss of a beloved child and the loss of a loving spouse.

All of us face or will face some type of adversity in our lives. Comes in many different forms. Visible and sometimes not so visible.

I suppose we cannot escape these things that are totally beyond our control.

Okay, so what exactly can we do?????????

We can be coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

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I am sharing an old posting of mine. I wrote it in April of 2011.

It’s actually about hope and determination when faced with the worst possible circumstances. But it is also the result of what happens when we look the other way.

The person I was writing about was a Holocaust survivor. His name is Sam. He once had one hundred and eight members in his family back in Poland. Only four survived. Can you imagine losing your Dad, siblings and all of your extended family? Take a moment to really think about that. Imagine if you had a list of your family members and had to scratch each one off, all at once, except for you, your Mom, a cousin and an aunt.

All because of hate.

Ignoring the KKK and similar groups who want to destroy others is not an option for any American. Or any citizen of this world. They won’t just go away. Momentum will be built. It happened in the not so distant past.

I had the shivers watching clips of these groups in Charlottesville chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and Soil!”

Many years ago I visited Dachau concentration camp on a dreary and cold German day.

I had the shivers then also.  And it had nothing to do with the gloomy weather.

There is no place for this in our world. We can’t ignore it or hide our heads in the sand. Like we did in the past.

Butter

Last week I attended a lecture at a nearby university.  The man who was speaking was Sam Silberberg, an 81 year old survivor of the Holocaust.

The reason I attended this particular event is actually quite simple. Because it reinforces my belief in the power of the human spirit. Of determination and survival. Of course, I want to know how these terrible things happen in the first place but I do so want to hear from those that made it. I want to know who helped them and who didn’t. How did they survive?

Sam once had a family of one hundred and eight people in Poland. Only four survived. His mother, cousin, and aunt. His father and siblings perished along with the rest of the clan.

His family and others were discovered in a bunker that his dad had built behind the wall. There was room for about fourteen. But twenty four people were crammed into the room when they heard the stomping of heavy German boots. One of the women had a baby in her arms. When it started crying she grabbed a pillow and smothered the baby. The Germans left but they had heard the baby and soon came back.

Sam questioned his father about God all the time. He was twelve and wasn’t buying that this was somehow God’s will. That they should go peacefully and end their lives with a quick Hebrew prayer.  He loved his father but had different opinions. His dad did encourage him to escape and told him a story. Not about God but about two flies that fall into a bowl of cream. One fly thinks he will never get out, immediately gives up, stops beating his wings and drowns. The other one thinks, “I will get out.” So, he flaps his little wings and kicks his little feet so quickly that the cream turns into butter and then he walks on out of the bowl.

He escaped while marching alongside his father and went to find his mother. They had been told that she was working at a convent that served as a nursing home. When he arrived in the town he became frightened. He didn’t want to get his mom in trouble. At the address he peeked in the front door and then stepped inside. There was a huge cross with Jesus on the wall. He said it was odd because it was a symbol that he had always equated with the persecution of Jews and here he was standing under it.

A nurse came down the stairs and entered the kitchen. When she came out he approached her and told her his mother’s name and asked if she knew of her. 

The woman looked at him and abruptly said, “What do you want with her? Who are you? I am her.”

And he looked up and said, “Mama, it’s me.” 

He said he still got goosebumps today thinking about that moment.

There’s a lot more to his story but he did his best with the hour he had been allotted. He had time for a few questions. One woman asked him about his faith. She wanted to know if this experience solidified his faith? Was that what got him through his ordeal?

He answered, “Absolutely not!”

And then he said, “I have to say that emphatically. Because it was hope and determination that got me through it. That has been my motto all my life. And it should be for yours.” 

He says, “Hey, I gotta be honest.”

Sam joked during the presentation. He laughed at times. Introduced us to his wife in the audience. They had children.

This man was able to rebuild his life. Not without terrible grief and sadness but he survived. And he did it well.

He made butter.

 

 

 

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My Mac died in Malaysia but was revived once I brought it to the Providence Apple Store.

Just like Lazarus.

Sadly, it died again two weeks later. So I am at a loss.

But thanks to us being an Apple family my daughter is letting me use hers to write this post.

I write about life. And I write about death.

I am home now. Visiting Mom and family for the summer in Rhode Island.

Read three obituaries in the last week. I either knew the person or knew the family of the person. It’s a small state. The place where I spent my formative years.

If I read the obituaries in Dallas (lived there twelve years) I would not know the folks. Sure, there would be the odd, unexpected death of someone in the community that I would know. But it would not be the norm.

I lived in Southern California for quite a few years. Same. Wouldn’t know a soul in the obits.

But once you come back home. Well, that’s different.  You know everybody. Especially when you grew up in a state that has a population of one million.

Yes, I once was one in a million. #Truth.

I was attending the funeral of my best friend’s father-in-law yesterday. He was ninety years old. A lovely man who led a truly wonderful life. Nine children and twenty-four grandchildren. Also great grand children in the mix. A family man. A faith filled man. A community man.

I stood outside the Portuguese church waiting for the doors to open. I was told we couldn’t enter because there was another funeral taking place.

Standing with others who were also waiting to fill the pews for the next funeral Mass.

The doors of the church finally opened.

There was a hearse outside on the street with its doors open ready to receive the blessed remains.

I spied a teddy bear in the back of the hearse. But I was still not prepared for what I saw next.

The smallest coffin I have ever seen came out of the church doors. It only required four pall bearers. I almost gasped. My throat closed. I looked at another couple who was also waiting to go into the church. And I could only glance at them and whisper, “Oh, God!”

Watching the young mother broke my heart.

The mourners of the young child left and the mourners of the old man entered the church.

The whole stinking process is sad.

It made me think.

The loss of a beloved father. No matter how old.

But still. A feeling of gratefulness.

Because his death was one of the best scenarios.

He left this world.

After serving his country.

Meeting and marrying the love of his life.

Bringing eight fabulous sons and a daughter into the world.

Starting his own business.

Being a community member.

Involved in his parish.

Caring about others.

I left the funeral service with sadness because I understand what it means to lose a father.

But I also left with an appreciation of a life well lived. And I sort of felt okay.

Not everyone has the same opportunity. For whatever reason.

Bless us all.

 

 

 

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Recently there was a tragedy in Ireland. By the sea in Buncrana, County Donegal.

Many of my Irish family members and friends had shared the articles and links on Facebook so it was in my newsfeed for a few days.

Tragedies occur every day. We all know this. But this was even more heart-wrenching than the usual headlines.

A family of six savoring precious moments together while watching the sunset from a pier. Enjoying life and the presence of each other.

Minutes later the car plunged into the water. Possibly skidding on algae while the driver was attempting to turn the car.

The only survivor was a four month old infant. Held out by her father, who had broken the window and was on the ledge of the door, to a fellow who had jumped in the water to help.

The last thing the Dad said was, “Save my baby.”

As he went back into the car with the rest of his family.

Everyone in the car perished.

That’s not the worst of it.

The mother of the four month old child was away at a friend’s “hen party” in England. A hen party is a gathering for a woman about to be married. The first time she had been away from her family for more than a few hours. They had urged her to attend for a much needed break.

She called them to say her flight from Liverpool was delayed. Only five minutes before the tragedy occurred. While they were still on the pier.

It just gives me the shivers.

Her little boy told her she was the best Mammy in the world and was going to give her a squeezy hug when he saw her.

Here is the worst of it.

This thirty-five year old woman lost her two young sons, partner, mother and only sister that evening.

There are just no words. Who could imagine a loss like this?

The man who rescued the baby is hailed as a hero. He is certainly that but I am sure he will be haunted for years to come.

Hard to find any good news in this story.

But there are some things she will always know.

She will always know that she chose the right man as her partner. One who put his children and family before himself.

She will always know that the courage of an absolute stranger saved her one remaining child. Maybe her only reason for getting up in the morning after such a devastating loss.

She will always know that they were enjoying each other as a family-savoring life’s beautiful moments.

She will always know that her child’s last words to her were that she was the best Mammy in the world and that he was going to give her a squeezy hug.

These thoughts will probably also keep her up at night but maybe, just maybe, give her some measure of comfort in the future.

I can’t imagine her heartbreak, loneliness and despair.

Savor the moments.

Let our last words be loving ones.

Reach out to those who mourn. For days and years. Grief doesn’t disappear with the returned casserole dishes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dad

I can hardly believe it is almost a year that my father left us. I used to hear people say about their own loss,”I think about you every day.” I thought that was really sweet but didn’t really understand it.

I understand it now.

I think about my father every single day. I have a busy life but there is not a day I don’t mention him or think about him. Especially when I look at his photo on my bedroom mirror. Sometimes I say, “Dad, still a little miffed that you left us.”

I want to call him and ask him questions. About family history or about the current U.S. elections. About the New England weather or the Patriots.

I really just wish that he was still here.

I gave him a run for his money when I was a teenager but that was then. He, bless his heart, never held it against me. That’s what makes a great father.

He was a loving grandfather and my kids will always remember him as an important person in their lives.

This past summer, my brother ran into a family friend, Johnny, who worked with my Dad. Johnny recounted a story about when he first started on the job as a young buck. He must have dismounted the truck the wrong way and my Dad yelled at him. My Dad was all about safety and has fifty years of awards to prove it.

Johnny went home to tell his own father about this guy yelling at him and his father told him, “Pat Lennon is one of the finest men you will ever meet.”

Johnny was one of the last people, besides immediate family, to spend time with my Dad in the hospital.

Johnny loved my Dad. He was with him in the end. Even though Dad yelled at him forty years ago. Dad just wanted to keep him safe.

I loved my Dad. I was with him in the end. Even though he yelled at me some thirty years ago. Dad just wanted to keep me safe.

Miss you so much, Dad.

 

 

 

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My daughter sent me a news article today. About two young people that were swept away from the shore into the waters of Northern California.

She said, “This is the brother of my friend. And she lost her father a year ago.”

Oh my!  I didn’t even know how to respond to that.

My God!

I still don’t know how to respond to that.

Life is so very precious. We are here one day. Young, vital and strong.

And then that happens.

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a parent and sibling in the same year. The pain of losing either at any time is horrific enough.

I cannot imagine a woman losing her husband and child in the same year. That is enough to make anyone insane.

We let our children out there in the world. It’s the natural way. We hope they will heed every last warning we excruciatingly exhaled in the last eighteen years. But the fact of the matter is that we do let them out into the world. And that is what we need to do.

Yes, upon hearing news like this, we should hug them tightly and tell them we love them.

But we should always be doing that.

Nothing new there.

Prayers for these families with the hope they will soon recover their loved ones. 😦

 

 

 

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I received a message yesterday from a childhood friend who had just heard about my father’s death. She was so terribly sorry for us.

This same friend lost her mom recently. Her dad died seventeen years ago. She said not a day passes that she does not think of him.

I was fully aware that most folks who came to pay their respects to my family knew exactly what we were feeling. I understood that these people who provided us comfort and solace have all suffered some loss in their own lives. Could have been losing parents, children, siblings or friends. Could have been tragic or welcomed.

It’s the condition of being human in this world for a very short time. Maybe we didn’t sign up for it but we are here and those are the terms of the contract.

It reminded me of a story my husband told many years ago.

A woman’s child died and she was utterly devastated. She approached the Buddha and begged him to bring her child back to life. He said he would be glad to help her. But only if she could bring back a mustard seed from a home that had not suffered from a death.

This grief stricken mother traveled, near and far, to find a home that had not been touched by loss. After many months, knocking on every door, she returned empty handed. She never found that house.

And then she found some peace.

This recent experience of losing my father reinforced the fact that even though my personal grief can be unique it will never be unshared. This will provide me with some measure of comfort during my own quest for peace.

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