It's been quite a busy week for us. We had soccer practice, basketball practice, games, dive class, RE classes, play dates, and it's the busiest time of the month for me at the office. Ugh.
In the midst of all the running around, I've been doing a lot of thinking about life and death. Don't worry - I'm not depressed or anything. I suspect it's a normal progression in life. You are invincible and oblivious in your 20s. You are trying to figure it all out through your 30s. And well, your 40s are filled with working hard, raising children, having TONS of responsibilities dumped on you and coming to grips with your immortality.
It just seems at this age you start to encounter a lot of sickness, sadness, and death. I recently got word that a neighbor-friend of ours was diagnosed with breast cancer. She's my age and has three small children. My heart aches for her and her family. The good news is she says they found it in time and in the end, she will be fine.
A couple of months ago, I attended the funeral for Reverend Monsignor Thomas J. Cassidy at our church. I can't say I knew him really well but good grief I confessed my sins to this man on more than one occasion so we definitely knew each other. Albeit sad, at 83 I can at least be comforted by the fact he had a great life and in the end, he changed so many people for the better.
I have also been struggling since September to make any sense of the tragic death of Jack Donaldson. He's the 12 year old boy I've blogged a couple times about who got swept away in a freak flash flood accident in my area. I have been following his mother's blog since the accident and have grown to love this family. Such a happy, healthy, smart, funny, and precious boy taken WAY too soon from his family. Through the sadness, her stories of Jack are so inspiring to me and in the end, he is changing so many people for the better.
And just last month I attended the funeral for a friend and co-worker. I walked the halls of our building for roughly 8 years with Paula. What an amazing person. She was always happy. She was one of those people even if she was mad she looked happy about it. At the funeral, I just stared at her 2 small children. How were they going to move forward without their mommy? But in the midst of all the sadness, I saw family and friends coming together and celebrating this wonderful woman's life and in the end, she is changing people for the better.
I guess this is what got me thinking about death in my life. This topic always brings me to my grandpa. He died roughly 30+ years ago. He was the first person to die in my life that I actually had a relationship with. I had already lost 2 grandparents and a few aunts and uncles before him but I didn't really know them like grandpa. Grandpa I knew and I loved.
His name was John Joseph and he was born in a small town in Pennsylvania back in the early 1900s. He didn't marry my grandma until they both were in their 30s which was really old back then. The story was that my grandma and grandpa were the last two single people in town so they just got married out of necessity. I'm not sure that was true but I always wondered if they really loved each other. It always appeared to me though, they weren't happy together.
BUT my grandpa was the greatest to me. I have incredible memories of him. He used to start every conversation between us with "well hello good lookin'". We would take trips to McDonalds for "hamburgs". I loved when he called them that. When I was around 11, we went for a walk in the neighborhood and he told me that I could be anything I wanted to be in life. He told me I was smart, funny and cute. I had never heard that from anyone before (especially from anyone in my family). He gave me hope. You know what? Sixth grade for me was the greatest year I ever had academically AND with my confidence. I had straight As, had tons of friends and I loved life. It wasn't until years later that I realized it must have been my grandpa's words of encouragement that probably made that year so great.
When he died a few years later it broke my heart. I cried like a baby and I meant it. I never really spoke of this but my grandpa came to me after his death and he stayed with me until I was in my early thirties. He didn't talk to me or give me advice. It wasn't like that. He was just there. I could feel him. He was my guardian angel. He gave me strength. I so vividly remember the last time he came to. It was the night of my grandma's passing. He came to me in my sleep and he said "I have to go now. I love you". To this day I have never felt his presence again.
The memories I have of him are wonderful and in the end, he changed my life in ways I hope he knew.
So my prayer is when I check out of this place that my children will feel my presence long after I'm gone and in the end I will have changed them for the better in some small way.
Until next time . . . remember to count your blessings