Life's Most Precious Gift
They come without instructions. Many times they cry, whine, frustrate, and yes, humble us. Yet, in spite of all of the trials and tribulations, they are truly life's greatest gift, children.
What do our greatest gifts need to grow into great adults? Some may say food, shelter, clothes. In essence, they are correct; but, I am writing about a different kind of food. It is not the food you can eat, rather it is food for the soul. The name of this food is love.
Some equate love with successes and accomplishments. True love does not measure; it is unconditional. By unconditional, I mean the child is loved for who she/he is, rather than if she/he is successful or not at what she/he does.
You see, children are like sponges and plants. For example, as sponges and plants are given water, you can see their transformation. The same goes for children; love is that water, and it transforms them and they begin to flourish.
Love transcends all of the other emotions. It builds versus tears down, encourages, nurtures versus neglects, and accepts versus rejects.
The following acronym L.O.V.E. may be one of many reminders on how to keep focused while spending time with a child.
L - Look for opportunities to teach and nurture.
O - Overcome the impulse for conditional love.
V - Variety. Come up with a plethora of ways that you can give your child the feeling of being loved.
E - Encourage a continual barrage of encouragement and guidance.
These are but a few examples/suggestions. Our most precious gift can only truly develop by feeling love and being loved.
Angels among Us
Like a gust of cool wind on a hot day, they drift for a brief moment into our lives, and then they are gone as quickly as they came. Briefly, and often when we are in the deepest of problems, struggles, and sorrows, we encounter strangers (I call them angels) that provide understanding, love, support, and suggestions that significantly impact our lives and future.
These angels probably never realize their tremendous impact on others, because their time with us is so brief. All they want to do is help in any way, shape, or form they can. Through these encounters, these angels give us energy, inspire and comfort us, and offer wisdom and insight. They recharge our souls.
So, how do we thank these people? Many times, the encounter is too fleeting for this. But, this gift of an insight into our feelings and emotions often provokes a positive change in ourselves. We then internalize these experiences, and when encountering similar situations, we can respond in a similar positive way, passing the kindness along to others and making this world a better place.
Recently, I was fortunate to experience one of these powerful chance encounters. It occurred when we had traveled to Grand Rapids to help m son and his wife take care of their children (our grandchildren). While there, my son David invited me to attend a men's group spiritual meeting. This is where I met Bert; we hit it off right away. (It seemed as though I had known him for years). Through all of this, he revealed to me the Lord's love and how He helped him through his troubled times. Little did Bert know that, through his sharing, he set me back on course. and helped me to put things in perspective. You see, Bert was put in my path in life to help me, and that he did.
Here are a few suggestions to consider when you encounter these experiences:
1. Be ever vigilant in your awareness to the opportunities that He places at your feet.
2. Take the headphones off, because you are drowning out the inner voice speaking to you.
3. Thank Him with praise and prayer when this happens.
4. Pass this positive momentum onto others. (Who knows how many lives that you will affect, but odds are that you will.)
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org your experiences of angels among us, as I would like to compile them fo a future article(s), but only with your permission. Thanks again, Bert.
Winter in Caspian, Michigan
Winter in Caspian, Michigan
Today, many of the children are attached to social media, so much so that they miss the spontaneity, creativity, and the joy of being outside in winter. Their world centers on social media. Let us turn back the clock to a different time and place. . . .
The sounds of children laughing and yelling echoed through many of the streets of my hometown of Caspian, Michigan. This was the beginning of winter and the building of numerous snow forts and countless snowball fights.
Our two families were blessed with having an empty lot between our Pop Shop (two apartments, where our families lived), and the Caspian Railroad Depot. In the winter, the Caspian city crew would pile much of the surrounding snow into this lot. (I wonder if they still do this today?)
With these huge piles of snow, my cousins Jim, John, Chuck, Bob, and I would spend countless hours carving out some amazing forts with tunnels, moats, and huge walls. We created many battles and employed various tactics that at times proved more often than not unsuccessful.
Numerous hours were spent outside, especially on weekends, on those piles of snow. Of course, as we all know, with winter and snow comes children who are cold and wet. So, when we encountered the above problems, we would go to our homes, grab a bite to eat, warm up, change into another set of drier clothes, and head outside again.
Even today, 55 years later I can still see laying in Caspian’s Main Street (where we lived) and the surrounding flat field hundreds of broken white snowballs glistening in the morning sunlight, the result of one of our epic Friday night snowball fights.
In additional to the countless hours spent on snowball battles and forts, our time was also filled with other winter activities. We would go sledding and tobogganing on various unplowed alleys and side streets in Caspian and also down the various slopes of the Caspian Ski Jump Hill, which sometimes stretched for a quarter of a mile.
Our adventures with the wooden sleds with metal runners (waxed for speed) were endless. From sledding down snow-covered streets with traffic concerns (I wonder how we ever survived!) to sudden contact with the exposed pavement resulting in sparks and sometimes a very sudden stop, which resulted in us becoming airborne with sometimes unfortunate consequences. I might add that the bumps and bruises occurred on parts of our bodies that I will not mention. With one sledding run down the streets, we would be ecstatic as we sauntered back up the street in anticipation of the next adventure. This was repeated countless times until we reached the point of exhaustion and walked home, to warm up and mend our minor injuries.
Another one of our adventures was tobogganing down the slopes of the Caspian Ski Hill. This activity was phenomenal. We would pull the toboggan (which seated four) to the top of the side slopes and slide down long distances at incredible speeds, sometimes rolling over.
One time in particular, we ventured onto the major ski jump slope and hauled the toboggan halfway up that hill. We had one person (cousin Chuck) holding the toboggan while everyone else boarded. My cousin Bob was in the front, followed by my cousins John, Jim, and then myself.
When Chuck let go, we flew down the hill at breakneck speed. Seated towards the back all I could see was white from all of the loose snow swirling by us. When we came to a stop, I was the first to get off. My poor cousin, Bob, in the front had his face covered with snow and all I could see was his eyes.
These were such wonderful events that will forever be etched into my memory. So, why not create some memorable moments for you and your family? Here are a few suggested outdoor activities.
The Choice: Hate or Love
The Choice: Hate or Love
Picture this: the carnage of killing, maiming, racism, looting, and burning. Peaceful demonstrators march while being spat upon, and bottles and stones are being thrown at them. People who speak at forums are shouted down, just because they belong to another political party or have a different point of view.
In the wake of all of this lie our fellow countrymen and –women along with children—some dead—while others carry their wounds, physical or emotional, for the rest of their lives. All of these disturbing scenes are visually played out to us daily via social media and the news. They enter our homes, our work, and even the places where we worship, affecting each and every one of us.
So, let us call this what it really is: hate. Who is not only stoking the fires and fanning the flames, but also pouring gasoline on all of this? He comes by many names and in many forms. His many minions are here on Earth to do his bidding. He is called the Devil, Satan, Beelzebub, or Lucifer, and is served by his devious demons. His goal is to create an earthly darkness and deadly destruction by placing hate into our souls so that they can be rendered at the foot of his own altar.
However, over 2000 years ago, God’s Son Jesus arrived on Earth and brought to all mankind a message of hope, love, peace, redemption, and most important, salvation. This message brought light into a darkened world of evil and lost souls. It poured cool waters of His blessings over the flames of hate, forever making our world a better place.
God also gave each of us the power and freedom of choice, which means we can determine whether to do the right thing and attain eternal salvation or not.
So, for Christmas, let us not only celebrate Christ’s birth, but also follow what Jesus has taught us. This Christmas, let us bring our own light through Him into our world, making it a better place for all. Remember the goal: love and eternal salvation.
From the Paul family to one and all: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Please send cards, letters, and care packages to our servicemen and –women who are deployed overseas, and keep all of them and our first responders in your prayers. (This article segues into my January article, “Faith, Prayer, and Rediscovery.”)
A Day in the Life of an American Soldier
“The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The Soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.” – George S. Patton, Jr.
The American soldier is quiet, resolute, and extremely dedicated. When joining the Army, each one has voluntarily raised their right hand and taken the oath to protect and defend the United States of America. They come from all walks of life, making the Army an incredibly diverse and open organization. They serve at numerous installations (sometimes very remote) throughout the world, working to fulfill their mission of constant readiness at a moment’s notice to respond to our country’s call. These soldiers are your neighbors, friends, relatives, and acquaintances. These courageous men and women are the few. Still, to this day, their years of service resonates far beyond their active duty service. For example, retired First Sgt. (25 years of service) James Phillips was drafted right out of high school and served in Vietnam and then in Desert Storm. Today, he works at the gun range tower, still continuing to make a difference in the lives of soldiers. When asked about his service, he stated, “If I had a chance to do it all over again, I’d do it.”
The 101st Airborne Division Combat Aviation Brigade, located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky rolled back their curtains and included me into a day in the life of our American soldier. The unique daily activities that I observed, coupled with the soldiers’ personal perspectives, afforded me the opportunity to have a small glimpse into what our soldiers do throughout the course of a day (when they are not deployed). The standard goal that ties everything together is “Readiness at All Times” for whenever our nation calls. As stated by Sgt. 1st Class Andrew McClure, “Readiness means ready for everything, whether it is Physical Training (P.T.), the motor pool, the gun range, et cetera. Readiness means always prepared.” Staff Sgt. Clodfelter stated that it was rewarding to see that everything the soldiers did in the state of readiness resulted in accomplishing their mission.
To be in a constant state of readiness, all of the soldiers have Physical Training (P.T.), beginning at 6:30 a.m. outside with the soldiers saluting the flag as the cannon sounds and reveille is played. Afterwards, the 1st Sergeant reviews with a number of assembled platoons of soldiers what their training will entail and to share additional information for the day. The exercises begin with a selected individual from each platoon leading in the P.T. This involves stretching, warm-ups, sit-ups, running, pull-ups, and weightlifting. Safety is explained to the soldiers and is paramount in everything they do.
The rationale for the strong emphasis on P.T. is readiness. The soldier’s body is strengthened and flexibility is increased, thus enabling them to successfully complete assigned tasks, along with reducing the chances of injury.
While attending P.T., I participated in some of their exercises on a small scale, such as weighted push-ups, medicine ball activities, along with the weighted bell. Along with that, I had the unique experience of donning the military gear that all soldiers are expected to carry. The gear was a fully-loaded rucksack (30 to 40 pounds), and a flak vest with protective plates (15 pounds). For me, this was extremely heavy and difficult. Our soldiers must be in shape to be able to carry this gear, along with their rifle, pistol, ammunition, and water, for miles through any terrain . Just imagine yourself carrying this equipment! Cpt. Kristoffer Sibbaluca stated, “Many of the exercises that our soldiers do coincide with the tasks that they are assigned. For example, mortar operators are expected to twist and turn as they fire their mortars. This activity parallels with some of the stretching exercises in the P.T. program.”
After P.T., typically on Monday or as it is called, “Motor Pool Monday”, the soldiers must meet for formation, at the Motor Pool Staging Area. At that point, they receive instructions from the Battalion Commander, Command Sgt. Major, and/or the Company Commander, or 1st Sergeant. After receiving instructions, the platoons then disband and go to their assigned tasks on vehicle maintenance, known as “Prevention, Maintenance, Check, and Services” (PMCS).
This vehicle screening and servicing ensures that all are in a state of readiness. Some of the maintenance checks are as follows: fluid levels, brakes, belts, starters, batteries, lights, and communication equipment. If extensive service is required, the vehicle is either transported into the garage, or the mechanics will make the necessary repairs outside.
While this was occurring, I had the opportunity to speak to a few soldiers on their own unique perspective on the Army. Sgt. Maj. Eric Arnt, when asked about the greatest challenge, stated, “The challenge is in transforming civilians arriving at boot camp with different sets of values to shape into one set of values: The Seven Army Values.” The Sgt. Major and I discussed some of these values: Integrity, Loyalty, and Self-Service. The remainder is as follows: Duty, Honor, Personal Courage, and Respect. I might add, I witnessed these values on display throughout the day with every soldier I encountered.
First Sgt. John Nelson shared the same sentiment about Army values as Sgt. Major Arnt, but he also stated that when working with and teaching soldiers, he tries to incorporate their individual learning styles into his methods of teaching.
I had also spoken with 1st Lt. Julie Dillon. 1st Lt. Dillon is a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, who has been assigned additional duties at the motor pool. She stated that relying on others (as a team) to teach her about vehicles has increased her understanding and appreciation on how tirelessly soldiers work to keep all equipment in readiness condition.
Our soldiers have specific job titles, but they are soldiers first, which means that they are required to meet certain expectations such as P.T. and vehicle maintenance as well as weapons and marksmanship. As part of their readiness, soldiers are expected to disassemble, assemble, and clean their weapons (handguns and rifles), thus ensuring that they function properly at all times.
The practice of proficiency at discharging their weapons occurs at the gun range. The gun range that I attended was specifically designed for handguns, including the M-9. During this time, the following scenario occurred. Three soldiers were positioned on the firing line (with full gear including helmets), discharging their M-9s at designated targets located in their firing lane. The multiple targets were located at various distances throughout the firing lane. All were hidden prone, behind berms.
The person located in the control tower overseeing the range was in charge of the number of targets that would rise up at a moment’s notice. As the targets rose, the soldiers would discharge their weapons at them. The information on the accuracy of each soldier’s performance was conveyed to the control tower. The information then was compiled on how well each soldier did, thus providing the opportunity to the soldiers to assess how to improve their accuracy.
I met Sgt. Garver at this range. When asked about his personal success in the Army, he stated that when he was a drill sergeant, he taught many of these skills to the new soldiers and that to see these skills come together upon deployment was extremely rewarding. This feeling was not only conveyed in his voice, but was very visible on his face as well.
Another portion of our soldiers’ day is spent at the Dining Facilities Administration Center (DFAC), where they receive nutritious, wholesome food. Food and its preparation are crucial in the readiness process. By that, I mean that the food is nutritious, meeting all health standards, including the Army’s standards, and is extremely tasty. It is also designed for maximum energy, so that the body can metabolize it successfully to accomplish various mission-driven goals. The lunch food choices are as follows: meat prepared in different fashions (chicken/beef), various kinds of wraps, rice, a variety of fresh vegetables, a large salad bar, and finished off with desserts. While having a meal at the DFAC, I witnessed a plethora of smiling faces and jovial comments as the soldiers were dining or selecting their food.
The food is not only prepared hot on the base, but also in the field or when deployed. As DFAC service director Warrant Officer Andrew Welch told me, every meal is a mission and after a long day in the field, a good, nutritious, tasty, hot meal lifts the morale of the soldiers. Again, improving morale by providing a great meal adds to the readiness. In fact, the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade’s DFAC food service competed all year against fellow Army DFACs and won. They now advance to the finals against other branches. I call this the “Super Bowl” of field food preparation and service.
Spc. Richardo Hunter, who works in the DFAC, when asked about his duties, stated with a proud smile that “It is not a job, but a career.” He also said that he enjoys working as a team, gaining leadership responsibilities, and helping others.
As an aviation brigade, the flight line is an integral part of the overall mission purpose. It is an area where the rotary helicopters reside: the Chinook (CH-47), Blackhawk (UH-60 and UH-60M -Medical) and Apache (AH-64A). There are two airfields on Fort Campbell, and I was able to observe both Saber and Fort Campbell proper airfields. It was during my observation that I noticed continual readiness maintenance taking place on the helicopters in various sized teams, ranging from one to over eight soldiers. This maintenance occurred in and outside of the hangars.
While he was working on a Blackhawk helicopter, I met Spc. Catlin Cone. He talked not only about continually maintaining the helicopters, but about the ongoing training and refresher courses he takes that enhance his skills and knowledge of helicopters. He stated that he enjoyed working as a team and helping other soldiers. When asked about his job, he stated, “Think about what you enjoy and have a passion for the future.” SPC Cone’s passion for what he was doing was very evident. SPC Cone also provided me the opportunity of sitting in the cockpit of a Blackhawk helicopter. I was amazed at the hundreds of dials and levers. All of these have to function properly; otherwise, there could be serious ramifications.
As civilians, we observe the Army’s actions through different multimedia and digital sources. We witness snapshots of the military, their missions, and occasionally results of particular missions. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Behind the scenes in constant readiness are so many soldiers working as a team, and alongside support personnel, expending countless hours planning, training, inspecting, maintaining, repairing, and working hard to ensure that the mission is accomplished successfully. As Lt. Col. Yastrzemski precisely stated, “We have ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”
To conclude, I would like to extend my appreciation and gratitude to the Brigade and 6th Battalion Command Teams, Col. Craig Alia, Lt. Col Yastrzemski, and Capt. Sibbaluca for providing me the opportunity to witness “A Day in the Life of an American Soldier.” I am so humbled by what I experienced. It seemed as though I had known the soldiers for a long time. Their candidness has given me newfound respect and appreciation for all they have sacrificed to keep their fellow Americans safe. God bless all of you. I will keep you in my prayers. To all of my readers, please keep all that are serving, or have served, in your prayers.
Faith, Prayer, and Rediscovery
Faith, Prayer, and Rediscovery
It cannot be seen, felt, smelled, or tasted. It is something that exists within most of us and affects our innermost core. What I am talking about is “Faith”. For me, faith is the true belief that we will be supported in good times and in times of acute pain and sorrow.
Having faith is like falling from a tree, knowing that there is a safety net below to catch you. When falling initially, there may be a feeling of fear or insecurity, and wondering if the net will hold. But, the true essence of faith is the knowledge and trust that something will stop the fall, thus casting self-doubt and questions aside.
Faith also surrounds and permeates you with feelings of complete contentment, happiness, trust, and inner peace, with all of the disparaging feelings swept away. It is the assurance that by leaving it in His hands, “All will be well in God’s time”, not in ours, and trust that “Thy will be done” is your best option.
For example, many years ago, my position where I was employed was eliminated. This was extremely difficult, not only on myself, but on my family as well. At age 52, I wondered if I would be able to find a comparable position, and still be able to care for my wife and children, two of whom were in college at the time (and a third who would be starting college that fall). I did a lot of praying and reaching out to the Lord and letting go, left it in His hands, and knew that everything would be all right. Lo and behold, a job offer came to me that was in a higher position, with more money, and I could continue to support my family. Please understand that prayers are not always answered in our timely fashion. This point will be covered further into the article.
Another example is when at a recent class reunion, I discussed with a friend in attendance about faith and the loss of a loved one. The family had lost a very young child; through this time of tremendous anguish, a pastor reached out and talked to them about faith in God. This belief began the healing process, a process that would continue to be with them. This faith in God has bound them together through all they have encountered.
Sometimes, at our lowest point, we may rediscover our faith and realize that it goes hand in hand with prayer. Through prayer, we speak directly with God. This may mean reciting prayers from a book, but more importantly it involves speaking from the heart, using your own words, and knowing that God is listening. These prayers provide you with the opportunity to ask for God’s help, laying the problems at God’s feet to solve and rectify while keeping in mind the perfection of God’s own timing.
So, for those of us that have taken a detour from faith, there may come a time in life where problems seem insurmountable, but the choice of the rediscovery of faith and prayer is always there. God is always waiting.
A special thank-you to the friend who shared with me the story of their personal journey of faith that inspired me to write this article.
The Real America
The Real America
What would draw people out of their homes at a moment’s notice, 24/7, during any occasion, to risk their health and lives? It is this: The love for their fellow citizens and their safety. Several of our local community organizations and public officials have banded together in the spirit of cooperation to provide services and an additional safety net to blanket our local communities and the surrounding areas.
Between the Escanaba Township Fire Department (E.T.F.D.), the City of Gladstone, and the Gladstone Public Safety Department, a cooperative spirit began with officials discussing the possibilities of increasing safety in covering fire and other tragic accidents. In order to accomplish this, a willingness to change, listen, trust, and an openness in honest communication needed to be established between the various personalities and community boundaries. With this in place, the wheels of change began to move around a central vision which was, “the ability to provide additional coverage by the E.T.F.D., Gladstone Public Safety, and volunteers to the people living in Escanaba Township and the City of Gladstone.”
On August 12, 2013, the Automatic Aide Agreement, an agreement between public entities to provide fire protection services for both areas, was created from this vision. The entities pledged that both departments would be paged at the time of a fire. Fire trucks and equipment could be shared and driven by either fire department.
Other benefits that resulted from the agreement are:
My personal thanks and prayers go to all of our local firefighters from so many townships and communities for keeping us safe. Special thanks to the following people whose candid insights and discussion made this article possible: Matt Rian, Ron Robinson, Ray Hughes, Steve Belongie, and Tom Sealander.
If any communities or townships would be interested in information about automatic aide, you can call the following numbers:
Gladstone Public Safety (906) 428-3131
Matt Rian, Escanaba Twp. Fire Chief (906) 399-2757
America’s Dunkirk: Houston, Texas
Throughout the course of the past week, we witnessed the survivors of Hurricane Harvey verbally pondering what the night would bring with torrential rains and historic flooding. Simultaneously, the television cameras panned across the victims. Etched into their faces were anguish, tears, suffering, and pain. Many had watched the water continually rise, flood their homes, and devastate their lives. Throughout all of this, large numbers turned to prayer, asking God for help.
Help came in many forms and faces, similar to the civilian fishing boats and pleasure craft that crossed the English Channel to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force, French troops, and other Allied soldiers, from the beaches at Dunkirk, France, to safety in England during World War II. Today, this evacuation/rescue came not from war, as at Dunkirk, but as a “war” against the horrific ravages that nature can inflict. This devastation was hurled into Texas and surrounding coastal areas, flooding towns and cities with many feet of rain. People lost homes, jobs, and lives.
Against this backdrop, our help came from the armed forces, police, search and rescue, firefighters, healthcare workers, and volunteers. Above it all, we bore witness to an armada of tiny fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, and whatever else could float. Hearing this cry for help, these volunteers from all walks of life (men, women, and teens) came from Texas and beyond to rescue people.
These rescuers did not care about race, color, or creed; rich, poor, or party affiliation. They were saving Americans-at the risk of their own lives (and some volunteers did die for their efforts), even knowing that their boats were filling with torrential rain. What greater sacrifice is there than to put one’s own life at risk for another human being?
As this was unfolding, I found myself cheering for all of these volunteers. This is what America is all about. We watched these heroes come together for one great cause—because nothing else mattered to them but to save lives! Sadly, we are caught up in many petty issues that divide us, both politically and socially. We should learn from this example of the Texan armada of small boats and volunteers. Boiling it down, they showed the world their love for their fellow man. All who helped are America’s heroes!
It is for us who have not physically participated in giving aid to assist in other ways. This can be done through many relief agencies. Check with responsible agencies and find out how you can help, because the flood victims will need our support for years to come. Keep the flood victims and volunteers in your prayers, for today, months, and years to follow. We are all Texan-Americans!
(This article will segue into my next article pertaining to small, local government agencies working in concert to make communities a better place to live.)
West Iron County Class of 1970
West Iron County Class of 1970
For a few minutes, turn back the hands of time and reflect on your years in school and your friends from the early years through graduation from high school. Remember graduation—that time, the hopes, dreams, and future that were ours to create. In search of these, many of us moved throughout the United States and even to other countries. We worked in various occupations and built our careers. Throughout all of this, every five or ten years, many returned to our home town and attended our class reunions. At that time, most experienced a rediscovery of the friendships that were formed and forged decades ago and that continue to solidify and strengthen, as does tempered steel.
Personally, I have experienced these friendships. For me, forty-seven years after graduation, these relationships continue to grow. When attending reunions, it seems as though nothing has changed; our friendships pick up right where we left off. The jokes, stories (both present and past), and sharing of experiences binds us together like the fibers of a strong rope.
Recently, as a group, our high school class has decided that the five years’ lapse between our reunions is far too long. So, we now meet every few months instead and, I might add, with great results. Thanks to social media, which enables us to reach out to others in a moment’s notice, our participation has increased.
In fact, instead of meeting at Riverside Bar and Pizzeria, we have now expanded to a local center that gives us additional room, and yet affords us the opportunity to enjoy the local pizza we had growing up. We spend our time together reminiscing about the shenanigans: driving around Iron River, memories at Riverside, Sportman’s Café, dances, The Delft Theater, et cetera.
This concept of meeting as often as possible was probably borne from time. Most of the classmates are currently or will soon be retired, and more time is now available to become engaged in other things like past friendships and relationships.
For those of you who may be interested in meeting more frequently with your friends/classmates, I have a few suggestions:
A Rich, Full Life
A Rich, Full Life
Your arms now hold the person who once held you.
Your hands now lift the person who once helped to raise you up.
Your legs now steady the person who taught you to walk.
You now dry the tears and comfort the one whom once comforted you.
You now feed the person who once fed you.
You now settle the distress of bad dreams of the one who once settled them for you.
Such is the transformation for those of us who become the caregiver of a parent. I had the opportunity, as probably many others do, to be able to spend time almost every day with my mom at a local nursing home. In the nursing home, even at 98.5 years old, she would often join me while I would write my articles. She, in turn, would write letters to both friends and relatives (both in the USA and in Italy). Oftentimes, her handwritten letters to Italy were in Italian.
One of the defining characteristics of my mom was her deep, abiding faith in the Lord. This faith carried her through the deepest of sad times in burying all of my three siblings at various ages (newborn, age 22, and age 65). It also sustained her in dealing with her mental depression for decades. Through all of this, her faith served as her anchor in life.
Her strong sense of family and values tied generations together. Her examples of loving one another, being honest, and helping those less fortunate have made meaningful differences not only with family, but with friends and all who encountered her.
It was always one of her dreams to connect our family in the USA with our relatives in Italy. This has been accomplished, as they have traveled over here and spent time with us, and we have done likewise. In fact, I will be traveling to Italy (a trip my mother helped me to plan) with my son and a friend. So, this dream has been fulfilled.
She also left us with family history in the form of letters and photographs, along with explanations and stories to accompany the photographs from relatives in both the USA and Italy. Additionally, she wrote the story of her life and researched her family tree, with dates all the way back to 1450.
The last days of her life were hard, but death came quickly and quietly. Some of her last words to me were, “Dan, I have to die sometime. Thanks for being here.” So, as she was breathing her last breath, I kissed her forehead and said in Italian, “Te amo tanto” which means, “I love you a lot.” And then, I whispered what would have been her response, which was, “Anche io”, which means “And I as well”. I explained to her that my three siblings were waiting for her along with her husband, her father and mother, and other relatives and friends that had long passed away. I also told her that I will be OK and that in time I’ll be along.
So, the same could be said for many of us all. For those of you whose parent or parents are still alive, make the time to spend with them. If amends need to be made, make it a top priority. Time spent together near life’s end is always time well-spent no matter the circumstances.
In remembrance of my mother, Alice Bottea-Paul (October 9, 1918 to March 16, 2017), who lived a rich, full life.