Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Poem Inspiring a Full Life

One of my dance friends shared this poem in discussion of remembering those we have loved who have gone on.

The Dash by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came her date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,

That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life's actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

This is a nice reminder to live life well and to love deeply.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Remembering My Mother

An excerpt from the Eulogy and Postlude of my mother's 'Celebration of Life Service' Five Years Ago

My mother did not want a funeral and liked the idea of what the Irish do . . . laugh and cry retelling stories of a loved one. In fact, my mom’s friend Nancy told me in a conversation, that my mom once told her “I don’t do funerals.”

Some of my mom's happiest times were when she was a child living on the farm in Otisco Valley with her mom, brother, mother and various animals including Bossie the cow. My mom told me many stories of riding that very lumpy cow and how she loved to pester her brother Fred.

My mom was a woman who wore many hats in her life. She was a survivor of abuse, a single mom, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. Although my mother’s life was often troubled, she was a strong caring person, a loyal friend, and she was a survivor. She often told me at times of pain in my own life that the women in our family were strong. She was right. My grandmother was the rock of our family and I was a third generation survivor of abuse.

My biggest respect for my mother was as a struggling single mom. Mom worked hard to raise her two children the best that she could, with the limited resources that she had. My mom was a caring person who took special delight in children and animals. Mom once told me that she wished that she could have been a veterinarian [although I also thought that she should have been a great singer]. Mom had a beautiful singing voice and I grew up listening to her singing along to her records of various Motown artists as well as Barbara Streisand.

My mom had a great sense of humor too. She was a kid at heart who loved to dress up for Halloween, and enjoyed the family get-together's at holiday time. Although we were poor, my mother worked hard so that I got to go to the senior prom, graduate on stage with my classmates, and insisted that I have a class ring. She made all those things possible for me. She said I was her star and she was very proud of me.

My mother was an adventurous friend who loved to go on drives every weekend and she adored fishing! Her best friend in Syracuse, who is also called Cathy, reminded me how much my mom loved the water. The two Cathy’s were like sisters and spent more weekends than not either fishing or driving around for a great adventure. I remember as a kid my mom would say to us kids, “Hey, let’s go get in the car and drive around and get lost!” She loved to drive and loved going on big driving adventures almost every weekend.

After her family had grown, mom moved to the countryside of Central Virginia to be closer to all of us. She worked for a number of years as an elder caregiver before she had to retire due to disability, and eventually ended up in a rehab nursing facility. There she had many friends and people who were very fond of her and she was very fond of them. The folks here took good care of her and many of you called her "the social butterfly." Mom had her daily afternoon bingo at her special table with her bingo buddies.

Often times when I would call my mom, I could not reach her on the phone and she would call me back breathless and cheerful telling me about her visit at the nurse’s station or talking to residents in the hallways. I will miss my talks with mom throughout her day as she filled me in on her daily happenings.

While I carefully sorted through pictures, to make a collage for her memorial service, I found a note in my grandmother's handwriting which read:

"When my final farewell to this world I have said, and gladly lay down to my rest. When softly the watchers shall say (she is dead) and fold my pale hands on my breast. And when with my glorified vision at last (the walls of that city) I see. Will any one then at the beautiful Gates be watching and waiting for me?”

My mother, Cathie, the social butterfly may be gone, but she is not forgotten. We are sad at her passing, but know that she is at peace in heaven. She is once again reunited with her own mother and in the presence of the Lord.

Aside: this appeared in the program for the memorial service. It is a beautiful song that I love to sing. It is written by a contemporary Christian artist who is a singer, songwriter, and classically trained pianist.

"If I Flew on Morning Wings"
If the Heaven's heights I fly
You are still beside me.
Or in death's dark shadows lie,
You will stay close by me.
If I flee on morning wings
Far across the gray sea,
Even there your hand will lead,
Your right hand will guide me.
Written by Fernando Ortega 1998


I invited those attending the Memorial Service to take one of my mom’s stuffies as a remembrance of her. When the service was over and we were leaving, I saw one of my mom’s friends in the hallway. This white haired lady with the shining face had taken two of my mother’s stuffed animals. A beautiful little fur bear that Dan and I had given mom that she thought was too pretty to hold very much and only talked to him while he sat in his special place next to her bed and a aquamarine colored pony with white mane and tail. This little lady told me again how much she enjoyed my mom’s friendship and would miss her talks and being bingo buddies [her room is straight across the hall from my mother’s room].

My mother is at peace and I think she would have been pleased with the service.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Bucket List (i.e. Things to Do Before I Die)

My Life List aka Bucket List of Things to Do Before I Die

Yet to Do
Sing the National Anthem in public
Go on a Cruise
See the Grand Canyon
Visit the White House
See a broadway play
Write an inspirational best seller
Join a theater group
Perform on stage as an adult
Ride in a hot air balloon
Learn to ride a horse (with style)
Visit Alaska
Visit Texas
Teach a course
Visit the Greek islands
Visit every country of my ancestry: Holland, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales

Items in Progress
Write a children's book
Become a public speaker
Study the Bible in more detail
Learn to play the piano
Start a woman’s support group
Learn to write with my right hand (legibly)
Travel to Italy (Tuscany etc.)
Become an advocate for a worthy cause
Be a Reader at church

Items Completed
Study the major religious beliefs of the world
Study Human Anatomy
Study Psychology
Study biology
Study Child Development
Purchase my own home
See the Russian ballet
Adopt a dog
Adopt a grandmother
Travel to California
Earn my degree
Have my own business
Take a French refresher course
Sing in a band
Visit a Southern plantation