The Impact They Made

When I was 11 years old, my grandpa died. I knew him as a grandson would – a fun loving family member. This was the extent of how I knew him. I knew him in family situations. He loved to golf, went to church, laughed a lot, and snored when he napped. It wasn’t until he passed away that I learned more about him.

At the funeral home, I was introduced to SO many people. “You’re grandpa was one of a kind!” “I loved your grandpa!” “He was a good man.” “You’re grandpa loved you!” “I’m going to miss your grandpa very much.” People shared stories with me, told me of how important he was to them, and showed me a side of him I had no idea existed!

A recent blog I wrote about my Godmother spoke of “waiting in the line.” You can read it here:

I wrote that before I went to the funeral home to pay my respects. Little did I know that it was foreshadowing what would happen when I got there.

The doors opened at 3pm for the viewing. I dropped the kids off at Nana’s house so I could drive down. I arrived around 3:25pm. The parking lot was full. I didn’t find this odd, as it was a big funeral home and I figured that there were other families visiting someone who had passed away.

When I walked up to the doors, I opened them and was immediately met with a group of 10 people standing in a lobby-like area between two sets of doors. The creepy funeral home person greeted me and asked who I was there to see. When I told him, he explained that I was at the end of the line to get into the room where the viewing was taking place.

Slowly, the line crept forward as more and more people joined the back of the line. The line was now out the door and down the sidewalk leading to the funeral home. It was no doubt almost to the parking lot. When I finally entered the room where my Godmother was laid out, I could see that there were already many people who had been through the line and either sitting down or looking at the various picture boards.

As I waited my turn, I watched the video that was playing on the TV in the corner. There were so many pictures I had never seen before. Pictures of her graduation, her wedding, her grandchildren, family vacations, and someone had even put the picture I posted of her and I in the video montage. I was touched by that.

At the front of the line, I hugged and spoke with her two sons and her husband. Then I paused at the casket and silently prayed. As the line continued, I spoke with her sisters (my cousins) and had reached the end of the line. I looked around the room and it was pretty much standing room only and the line was still out the door. I walked out of the room and observed that the line was indeed almost 4 times as long as it was when I first arrived.

I smiled. Just like with my grandpa, I was witnessing a facet of my Godmother’s life that I was unaware of. As special as my Godmother was to me, I thought about all of these people that were there for her. I’m sure they all had their own special memories of her to share. I thought of how many people were walking up to her grandchildren and telling them, “Your grandma loved you very much!” She touched many lives and brought happiness to a lot of people.

In a previous blog, I wrote: I understand that death is a part of life.  I am reminded of a quote from my psychology class that said, “The hardest part of losing someone isn’t having to say goodbye, but rather learning to live without them – always having to fill the void, the emptiness that’s left inside your heart when they go.”  This is so true.  Leo Buscaglia said, “Death is a challenge.  It tells us not to waste time.”  Also true.  Bruce Lee, who died at the young age of 32, said, “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” 

In yet another previous blog I wrote: the late author Terry Pratchett says this: “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”  This ties in with the “ripple effect” mentioned in the above picture. Life will go one long after we are gone, but as long as our stories are shared, or a memory is relived, or our name comes up – there are ripples. Based on the amount of people I saw this weekend, my Godmother will be leaving ripples for a long time.

In the meantime, we “adjust” to life without her …

Holiday Grief

The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but for some, it isn’t. Some are dealing with grief and the loss of a loved one and I tend to think that the holidays make that grief a bit more difficult than it already is.

I have written about death and grief before. In reflecting on events of the past few days and past few months, I was moved to revisit an old blog and write again on the subjects.

Back in August, a classmate passed away from Covid-19. This week, one of my dearest friend’s brother passed away. Both were under 55.

In a previous blog, I wrote: I understand that death is a part of life.  I am reminded of a quote from my psychology class that said, “The hardest part of losing someone isn’t having to say goodbye, but rather learning to live without them – always having to fill the void, the emptiness that’s left inside your heart when they go.”  This is so true.  Leo Buscaglia said, “Death is a challenge.  It tells us not to waste time.”  Also true.  Bruce Lee, who died at the young age of 32, said, “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” 

That blog was written after another friend of mine passed away unexpectedly at 47. I talk about how precious time is and how death and time often tie together. I mention in that blog that “life” also ties in with time and death. “Live every day as if it were your last. Someday, you’ll be right.” That quote was written on the band room announcement grease board some 33 years ago by our band director, Tom Shaner and it will always remain with me.

Every year, I would look forward to the Shaner’s Christmas card. They often would share photos and a yearly recap. Tom would always scribble a little note off to the side of the card to me and sign it “TRoy.” Tom passed away a couple days before Christmas last year. Today, the Shaner Christmas letter arrived, this time with a hand written note from his wife. She continues to grieve, as do the rest of his family.

At the end of her letter, she included a quote that I have never seen before, but found to be absolutely perfect. I wanted to share it here because I know many others who are grieving this holiday season. The quote reads: “When we lose someone we love, we must learn not to live without them, but to live with the love they left behind.” (Unknown)

That quote is SO VERY TRUE! It can apply to someone who you have lost recently or many years ago. It also ties in with the last quote I used in my previous blog about life, death, and time. The blog reads: The late author Terry Pratchett says this: “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”  

Whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one or friend who has passed away recently, or a long time ago – every time you think of them there are ripples. Every story you tell, there are ripples. Every smile they bring to your face, there are ripples. They live on and their love lives on – and the ripples continue….

One Bite Took Me Back In Time

In Psychology class in college, we had an entire unit on how certain smells can bring back memories. This happens to me all the time. What they really neglected to touch on is how your sense of taste can do the same thing!

Remember that scene in Ratatouille when the young chef brings food critic, Anton Ego, ratatouille? His coworker, his former boss, and even Mr. Ego cannot believe that this was the dish he chose to serve him. With one bite of the dish – Ego is immediately taken back to his childhood and is eating that very dish served to him by his mother. It is one of y favorite scenes in the movie.

I have certainly had this happen to me, but never with such a simple dish. I have had meatballs that taste like my grandma used to make. I have had breaded steak which tastes like grandma’s. I have had tuna noodle casserole that tasted just like my mom used to make. Today, it was something that I have certainly had more than once in the last year, and never had this happen. Today, while Ella napped, I made a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I was hungry and wasn’t really sure what to make. Sam had the peanut butter out on the counter, so I decided a PB&J would hit the spot. I threw it together and grabbed a glass of milk. I sat out on the couch and took a bite. With that bite, I was immediately 11 years old. I am home on a summer day in the back yard. Things I had forgotten about, are suddenly very vivid.

I was sitting out on our back patio at a round table with a glass top. The umbrella has a burn mark in it from when my brother set it on fire with a sparkler. In front of me is the brick barbeque that the previous owner built, but we only used it for the first few years we were in the house. It had a huge metal square lid that covered the grill. In back of me is the sliding patio door, where my mom stood and handed me my sandwich, chips, and glass of milk. In the middle of the yard is a swing set. There were two swings, a bar, and a set of rings (which I used to be able to do flips on). In one corner of the yard was a beat up dog house from the previous owner and in the other a garden.

I remember so many summer days sitting out there and eating lunch. The funny thing is, I mostly remember eating bologna and cheese sandwiches out there. Why a PB&J brought this memory back so vividly, I’m not sure.

When I was in elementary school, kids could walk home and eat lunch and walk back to school. I remember doing this on occasion. I want to say that the distance from my house to the school was like 5-7 blocks. I liked being home, but I remember you literally had to sit down, wolf down your sandwich, and get back to walking or you’d be late. In today’s society, I can’t imagine letting my kids walk that!

Today, the table, umbrella, doghouse, swing set, garden, and my mom are all gone. I think the barbeque is still there, I could be wrong. It was nice to think back on those days today.

Fear and the Inner Child

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H. P. Lovecraft

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I think every one has fears.  We all fear different things.  Growing up, I was afraid of the dark, afraid of heights, afraid of bees, and many other things.  As we get closer to having our daughter, I have fears, too.  I am afraid I will pass out when she is born.  I am afraid I won’t be a good enough support for Sam while she is in labor.  I’ve never raised a girl before, so there is an entire list of fears that go with that!  Many fears are more worries, “what ifs”, or fears brought about by thinking of alternative possible outcomes.

Recently, in therapy, we have reached a place where I am about to face the fear of the unknown.  Let me explain.

While discussing the Christmas holiday, and the memories that go along with it, the subject of nostalgia came up.  My therapist said that it is obvious that I am a nostalgic person.  I talk about the past a lot.  I experience a lot emotions in going through old pictures, remembering the past, and remembering people who have passed away.  My therapist began to ask about my childhood, which led to an exercise that was very difficult and uncomfortable for me.

I was to pick an event where I recalled a big change in my life.  The event I chose was when I got glasses in fourth grade.  We walked through an exercise where I had to put myself back in fourth grade and remember what I was feeling.  I have to admit, it was difficult.  She asked what I was feeling.  She asked about school.  “What was that fourth grader experiencing at home during this time?”  “How was he treated at school by classmates?” She asked me many things, and it took quite a bit to actually remember those things.  There were many questions I could not answer, but there were a whole lot of emotions that were revisited as well.  I’ve been in therapy for a lot of my lifetime, and I’ve never experienced anything like this!

One thing the therapist said was that sometimes, as an adult, we look back at pictures or memories and remember them in a way that brings us happiness.  We have this ability as adults to block out some of the things that were actually going on at that time in our life and with time, we push those things away, and remember the good.  Is this what I have done?

My homework was to find a picture from my childhood.  I was to look at it and try to remember every possible thing about it.  What might be going on in the next room?  What did the house smell like?  What might I have for homework?  What books was I reading? Things like that.  We will talk about this at my next session.

Why all this reflection on my childhood?  It all has to do with the “inner child”.  I have heard this phrase tossed around for sometime on the radio and on TV, but never really understood what it all meant.  I know a little bit more now that we’ve talked about it.  Basically, each of us has a part of us that feels and reacts to life the way a child does.  Everyone experiences this.  The challenge is to connect with that part of your personality as well as know it and accept it.

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The inner child is not a concept or theory of psychology.  It is part of who we are as a person.  The things that happen to us as a child can affect us and the way we react to things as an adult.  There are many things that can cause the inner child to “hurt” – divorce, bullying, a traumatic event, severe illness, being isolated from family, forms of abuse and neglect, and many other things.  These things can affect your behaviors as an adult.

Many adults are “damaged” and have a “wounded” inner child.  In many cases, you can’t “fix” it, but having knowledge of what things cause the hurt, can actually help you to “heal” the inner child and help change the way you react to things, and actually help end some of the internal suffering that we have.  The idea is that by examining the inner child, identifying the hurt, and addressing it, we can ultimately change the way we think, feel and behave.

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This is a whole new thing for me. I’ve made many positive changes in my life over the past few years, and this is unchartered territory. It’s scary to think about what I may stumble on.  I may need to revisit old wounds.  I may have to revisit emotions and feelings that I have purposely “forgotten”.  It’s a scary thing – it’s the unknown.  I don’t know what to expect.  I don’t know what I am going to feel.  But, if examining these things will help me as an adult, then I am ready to face the unknown and conquer it!