Lest we forget

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my dad’s death. Last fall was a crazy mix of emotions. It was somehow a whirlwind and yet a slowing down of time all at the same time. Seeing as we are coming up on the anniversary, I feel like I have been doing a lot of remembering, reminiscing, and rethinking. As I think back to this time last year, I smile because the day before he died, we were given an incredible gift – a living celebration of his with, with him.

We got him home and somehow managed to get everyone around him to celebrate him. He told us stories we will never forget.

  • He talked about an obscure baseball player, Johnny Antonelli, who played with the Boston Braves in the late 1940s.
  • He said his brothers had come for him, but that Donnie was flying the helicopter and since Donnie doesn’t know how to fly, he wasn’t going to be getting in a helicopter with them.
  • He told us about French military soldiers wearing pots and pans on their heads, but needing to make sure they were rinsed out first so they did not have sausages on their heads.
  • He talked about a hot air balloon in the backyard ready to take him to heaven.

He told us tales of sorrow and regret as well as tales of celebration and joy.

He held us rapt with his poignant reminiscing. And made us fall over laughing as he told us to come back when we had more training or that he couldn’t eat too much because he didn’t want to gain too much weight in case he beat this cancer.

Recognizing that he was going to be leaving us, he talked about the things he would never get to see. I think we all hold the moment in our hearts when he held his great-grandson’s hand and, with tears rolling down his cheek, said how unfair it was that he was never going to see Nick grow up.

We laughed as we looked back with him, and cried as we looked ahead at what our lives would be without him.

It’s been a rough year, and this is going to be a rough week for sure, but for today I will celebrate the gift we got the day last year when family gathered, storied were told, tears were shed, meals were made, laughter was heard, and together – with my dad – we celebrated the life, the lessons and the love that he gave all of us.

Let’s always continue to remember and tell the stories and laugh and cry, lest we forget.

 

 

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The other side…

On what should have been the first day of summer vacation I attended the funeral for a 13-year-old little girl. It was for a young girl in a neighboring community.

It wasn’t a student I knew personally, but through her I could see and feel the sorrow of hundreds of middle school children who suffer and are sad. They just can’t see beyond the hurt of today.

I wish she could have seen the church today. Full, no overflowing, with people there to love and remember her. I wish she could have felt the love for her in that church.

It breaks my heart to see so many students and teachers on what should have been the first day of summer, saying good-bye to a classmate.

But the saddest part of today is that she couldn’t see beyond her current pain to get help, reach out, or to understand that it will get better.

Every day I work with children and families to try to help them through the middle school years. I don’t have any secrets or magic answers, but I always try to give the kids some perspective and tell them that it does get better.

Adolescence is hard. It was hard when we were kids, but the challenges and pressures that these kids face are so much harder. The media certainly doesn’t help. Nor does the constant access to peers, friends, and total strangers who are all trying to convince them of something different.

teen species

It takes a very strong teenager to stand up to the hype, and not many of them can do that on their own. Then with 2 parents working, or only 1 parent at home and working, the challenges are compounded. The support system is flawed at best and non-existent at worst.

Life is hard. But to all those adolescents out there, it does get better. You will have to work at it to make it better. Surround yourself with people who build you up and care about you. Find activities that make you feel good about yourself. Stand up for yourself and for what you believe in. Be gentle with yourself, mistakes happen, learn from them. And when it feels like you can’t go on, find someone to talk to. When it feels like you are all alone, don’t be. Reach out to someone. There are people out there who care about you. There are people who understand what you are going through, and have made it to the other side.