Tag Archives: death

Fathers – the ones we have and the ones we don’t

imageI went to mass the other day. It was in my hometown in the same church where I made my first communion, attended catechism classes and impatiently sat through midnight mass on Christmas Eve eager to only get home and open a single gift, as was our custom. I was there to accompany one of my oldest friends as he said a final public goodbye to his father.

The priest was “new,” having been there for just 20 years, he said. He was not the priest from my own childhood, Monsignor O’Flaherty who had no hesitation about addressing those dressed too casually or arriving too late for mass. Reverend Sweeney, along with my friend and his siblings, provided a lovely eulogy to a man who lived a long life filled with family and friends. I learned for the first time that my friend’s dad had never met his own dad and rejoiced in the thought of that introduction finally, 87 years later, taking place. The image made me smile.

Am I a true believer in heaven and life after death? Probably not. Do I believe that when we leave our earthly bodies behind our souls somehow come together and combine with those of whom we missed to create a new energy? I think I do.

I hope your Father’s Day, be it the third Sunday of June or some other day not yet on the calendar, is filled with love and a sense of connection.

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Filed under aging, Aloysius, friends, holidays, musings, road trips

Running to hide in the dark

It’s times like this that make me understand the appeal of going to the theater to see a movie. Or three. I don’t often get to the movies for a film that is anything other than rated PG, but during my winter holidays, I found my way to the Spectrum three times for grown up movies.Two of the movies I saw were based upon books which I had very much enjoyed, while the third appealed to my curiosity and is the one which I’ve found myself reflecting on with surprising frequency. All provided an opportunity to escape.

Escape from what, you ask? Christmas and the stress which it can bring, the reality of who is present in my life and who is not, and a grief that I found I could not run away from no matter how rapidly I moved my sneakered feet. The holidays are a cruel time for death to visit.

So, I went to the movies. First, my middle son and I took in Birdman (and a medium popcorn) together. The plot was interesting without being groundbreaking and I thought the cast was outstanding. Michael Keaton was utterly convincing in the title role and Edward Norton was his standard mesmerizing self. Emma Stone continues to be difficult to look away from and I only wish Naomi Watts had been in more scenes. Overall, I found the film a bit disturbing, but that’s just coming from literal me. I like movies that neatly tie up in the end, and this definitely did not do that.

Christmas Day I made my way back down Delaware Avenue for a matinee of Unbroken. I’ve been waiting to see this movie since I read the book 3 years ago and, while I think the adaptation was respectfully done, the film simply could not live up to the printed page. There just isn’t any way to capture the richness of Hillenbrand’s book and Louis Zamperini’s life in 120+ minutes. By all means, see the movie but do not think it tells the complete story. Read the book.

I completed my trifecta with another film based on a biography, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. I just recently read and loved the book and think the movie accurately portrayed the journey that Cheryl Strayed took in the aftermath of the demise of her mother and her marriage. There are always creative choices to be made and I think the scenes taken from the book and depicted on screen were wisely made. I liked it, but, you should still read the book if you haven’t already.

Hooray for Hollywood and thank God for books and running.

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Filed under Books, Christmas, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Movies, Recommendations, running, winter

Preparing to die

To begin, a couple of childhood flashbacks…

The first time I entered the woods with the boys who have grown to be my dearest male friends, I was convinced they were going to hurt me.  It probably says something about the girl I was that I followed them to their forest fort, despite my certainty that I was about to become a victim.

A number of years after that dusky fall afternoon, on a bright summer day, the home I had known the longest was lost, along with nearly all of my belongings, to fire.  I remember finding irony in the fact that the only clothing that survived the catastrophe were the items I had in my car for a laundromat run.  The things I had worn and soiled were saved, while articles of clothing which had been relegated to my closet, perhaps for a “special” occasion, fell in ashes from their hangers.

During a recent solo afternoon ski, I encountered another skier, a male.  We were in a secluded spot on the course, near the Normanskill, yet I never once felt threatened or in danger. I no longer imagined that someone I didn’t know wanted to bring me harm.

After the fire, I no longer reserved items for only “special” events.  Expensive crystal stemware was used – and broken.  My “good” clothes were worn and enjoyed.  Discarding an item because of a stain, or an irreparable hole, was far more satisfying than seeing an unworn cherished possession turned into a pile of soot and ash.

What does all of this have to do with dying?  It seems to me that there are people who spend so much energy thinking about bad things which might happen, that they fall victim to the ultimate tragedy – missing out on their life.  When we try to anticipate every potential disaster instead of appreciating the wonder that is now, we neglect to experience all the beautiful moments life offers to us each day.

Make no mistake, the thought of my life ending chills me.  There’s still so much I want to see and do and taste and feel!  Any acceptance of death that I may have comes purely from living fully.  What I’m trying to say is this – the only way I know how to prepare for the ultimate end of my life is to live each and every day. Donna Tartt expressed it far better than I. Here, read it:

“That life – whatever else it is – is short.  That fate is cruel but maybe not random.  That nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it.  That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open.”

What she said.


Filed under aging, musings

My youngest son is obsessed with John Lennon and related dilemmas

Image: @yokoono/Twitter

Quinn asked me to load some Beatles on his iPad recently and I finally had a moment to do it this morning.  He has been really into Here Comes the Sun and chose this song as our first tune of the day.  Not a bad way to start a Sunday, I’d say.

As the music was playing sweetly, Quinn mentioned that every day he thinks about George Harrison and John Lennon being dead and he gets angry.  Well, as he said, not really about George because it wasn’t his fault that he got sick, but the thing about John?  That made him really upset. Why did that guy have to shoot him?

Quinn asked me when John was killed – what year?  I’m sure that 1980 sounded like a million years ago to my boy, but I continued my remembrances of that time (freshman year of high school) by telling him that the man who shot Lennon was still in prison for committing that crime.  He was outraged – “Why wasn’t he executed, Mom?  How could he have done that to John Lennon?”

How do I respond to that?  How does one explain the precarious relationship between the emergence of sunshine, the death of an idol and a life spent behind bars?  Oh, Beautiful Boy, where would I begin?

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Filed under Boys, Music, musings

I don’t hate guns

image everydaynodaysoff.com

I hate what people use guns to do. Guns scare me, but I don’t hate them.  Today, more than two dozen people were massacred in a(nother) school shooting.  Twenty-seven people, including 20 children, woke up today for the last time.  I went for a run tonight and thought of the terror that was school today for those children and adults in Connecticut.  Each time I imagined the fear those children must have felt, I gasped anew, feeling my  heart nearly stop with my exhale.  Horror.

I couldn’t post today about the 12 Days of Dining DelSo. How could a person even consider a holiday season on a day like today?  This day belongs to those lives lost.


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Filed under Christmas, politics, Rant, Uncategorized

Minding my Ps and Qs or adventures in parenting Quinn

ImageMy youngest son, Quinn, was born when I was 38.  My pregnancy was considered “premium” and I had obstetrician appointments so frequently towards the end of my 40 weeks, that I joked I was going to pitch a tent in the waiting room to eliminate the driving back and forth.  Maybe the humor I was able to express, along with the sheer determination I exerted in having that third child when my body was uncooperative,  laid the foundation for his personality because this child is a strong and funny little person.  And he just delights me to no end.

Yesterday was a typical day of life with Quinn.  We discussed his eventual children – 4, two girls, two boys.  The girls will be named Buttercup (his blond) and Princess (she’ll have dark hair).  He shared his strengths with me, which are his ability to tan, making people laugh, playing games (board and electronic) and his tolerance for pain.  The latter was a fairly recent discovery and involved a finger, an infected splinter, a needle and some gross pus.  Tough as nails, I tell you.

We discussed important things like Muggles and tornadoes and healthy foods. He danced to the Supremes while wearing the cutest Levi cutoffs I’ve ever seen and cuddled during movie time in his Sponge Bob jammies, equally animated in motion and rest.  Alive.

This morning I read this beautifully post written by my friend, Mark McGuire, about a nine-year old boy who died this week from an untreatable cancer.  This child, Myles, was a student in the district where I teach and I was aware of the situation from an emotionally safe distance.  I am incredibly impressed with the grace exhibited by his family, and so very proud of the support lent by my colleagues during his final months.  Children shouldn’t die before their parents and my heart aches for a mom who will never know what her son’s future children will look like.

I think it’s time for Quinn and me to watch the 7th movie in the Harry Potter series. I hope my boy interrupts the movie with questions and observations and shares his thoughts and hopes with me.  Believe me,  I won’t mind at all.


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Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

The title of this post kind of sums up how I felt after a recent run. I had a stitch in my side that wouldn’t quit and I was forced to slow to a walk more than once over the course of 5 miles. I didn’t feel particularly strong and I wondered if I had finally landed on the other side, the downhill side, of my personal mountain, so to speak.  Yuck.

My lack of satisfaction with my run, while genuine, was put into perspective as I started thinking about my satisfaction with where I am in life. How, overall, I feel pleased with my ability to keep moving forward, breathing deeply all the while. Living.

How often do you think that every day spent on this earth is one less day you’ll be here? Even if one believes in Heaven or reincarnation, there’s no mistaking that each day brings one a step closer to their final moments. When it’s all over will you reflect on your days and feel as if you lived or merely existed?

Sometimes when I’m running and struggling with each step of every mile, I consider how far I’ve come and the distance still to run. If I am 3 miles into a 5 miles run and feeling like I still have too far to go, my mind often makes the leap to how those numbers apply to my life expectancy. The thought that my own life is probably 60% over generally gives me the kick in the ass necessary to finish those remaining miles.

I have a fairly sensitive nose, probably a blessing and a curse in equal measure. I passed an older man walking a small dog and caught a whiff of his scent. Some sort of musky fragrance that took me back to my childhood in the 70s. It was what the cool people wore, earthy and androgynous. He probably was one of the cool people at that time, but now he was just another old-ish kind of guy dousing himself with the aroma of yesterday. And keeping the light on for the generation to follow his into retirement. My generation.

I know I want to run every chance I get before walking my dog and smelling like the past are what I have left.  I don’t mean to say that either of those are necessarily bad things, but I’m trying my best to experience life – love, laughs, aches and pains included.  And when that day comes and I spritz myself with Chanel and grab my dog’s leash, I’ll have plenty of memories to take along for the walk.  How about you?


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