Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Long Year of Firsts ahead.....

Allan Walker was  a young man who worked for my Father at the Redondo Beach City School District. My Father taught Allen many things in regard to maintaining the schools in our City as well as possibly, some life lessons.  They were partners for many years, sharing the same work vehicle for many of those years, shared many doughnuts at a local bakery first thing every morning.  I know Allan respected my Father and I know my Father thought of Allan as a Son.  That would explain why I always felt Allan was like an older brother to me.  I loved Allan very much, always enjoyed anytime I spent with him and his wife Myra and their daughter Lori.  Allan always made me feel special,  I new I really mattered to him, he made sure of it.  It didn't hurt that he always chose to talk about how great my Dad was, I'm sure it was very difficult for him when my Dad left us.

Allan on the far left, my Dad in the white shirt. Taken at a retirement party Allan and his wife hosted for my Dad.

 Tuesday afternoon I received the call from Lori that her Father Allan had died suddenly of a heart attack on Monday night. He took a breath, slumped over while seat belted in their vehicle and he was gone.  My heart sank.  My mind was racing, he's too young, this can't be, there was no warning, no time to prepare!  My Dad would have had such a horrible time with this news, just as Allan did with the news of my Dad's death.  I told Lori how sorry I was, that if they need any help with anything to let me know. I told her, I knew what she was  feeling, to which she replied a sorrowful and sure, " I know". All the while knowing, nothing I was saying to her was going to change a thing.  They had entered in to that surreal period that lasted for some time for me after the loss of my Dad.....

How can Myra, Lori and  her son Travis know what likely lies ahead. They can't know that the next year will be a blur to them.  They will cry tears for months and months.  After that they will assume they are starting to return to "normal" only to realize "normal" will never be the same.  Holidays will never be the same, in fact, you will have difficulty with any family gathering as they will bring front and center to their thoughts, he's not here, he's really not here......

As they journey through the first year, they will have to experience the pain of every first holiday with out him.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, his birthday, anniversaries and the most difficult for me, Father's Day.  They will survive, in fact these first days will become their days of release. They will be the days to release those tears they were sure they'd run out of.

It will seem an eternity that their hearts will feel heavy and hollow....sure that life will never be the same.  That  would be correct.  Life will never be the same, but it will start again, they will find joy  in their hearts again.  They will, through the years occasionally find themselves saying, " I can't believe he's not here".

Dad's/husbands, likely the strongest of connections other than our children we have. Dad's, bigger than life they are, the center of the family... in my case anyway.  I haven't a clue the experience that Myra is feeling, the loss of her best and closest friend, father to her child and of course her husband.  I can't imagine how that might feel?

 I just want them to know they will get through this.  They will forever miss his presence, their hearts will never quite be the same.  Yet, for him as well as for themselves, they will continue to live their lives because they will's what he would have wanted them to do.

Live your life, make it count.  You have just been given the greatest heads up ever, life is so short, and can be taken in an instant.  Let those you love know you love them now and often!  Yes, through this most difficult experience you will become so aware of life......and yes, the loss of it.

It's different for everyone I'm sure, God and His Word got me through.  So though its different for each  I believe our hearts feel the same pain, and our eyes cry the same tears.. Allan Walker, I'm so glad you were a part of my family and you will be missed. This is what echos from my heart today.......

As an aside; I wrote this blog Saturday evening, planning to post it on Monday.  This morning, Sunday, Pastor Chico spoke about the many who have lost loved ones this year and of the year of firsts they will experience.  Two things I have to say about that; One, I didn't steal his message :-) and two a reminder that I don't believe  in coincidence,  the topic was obviously meant to by heard by many :-)  So why wait till Monday to post?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Step Ahead ....

How is it possible that I will be basting a turkey in just a week and four days?  Think I will make a point to go and buy all I need this week, less the turkey.  I'm thinking it will be one less thing to worry about in preparing for the day and I like the sound of that, a step ahead.

My thoughts naturally jump ahead to Christmas, which I know is going to be here about the time Thanksgiving dishes are done. This year I am fulfilling a desire I have always had, yet has gone unfulfilled, a picture of my family on our Christmas card!  I really wanted to do so when my sons were little but of course that was never an expense I could have justified.  Well, I ordered them, received them and will be addressing envelopes this week.  Those cards will be in the mail December 1st, yes another step ahead !

I have been purchasing a few small gifts throughout the year, and Saturday I purchased a few books that are gifts as well.  This year is going to be very simple in the gift department, as thoughtful as ever just the same.  This is the first Christmas I have looked forward to since losing my Dad. I am determined that this holiday season my focus will not be about who I don't have (Dad) but of who I do have.  I want to spend the time enjoying my family, making our moments together count.  Of course I will think of Dad, as well as  be mindful of the reason for the season, the birth of our Savior in a more powerful way than ever before.  I have grown so much in my spiritual life, which of course is the reason for my happiness returning in regard to the holiday season. All this because I chose to be a step ahead, I'm ready!

My goal is I will be ready for Christmas decorating on or around Dec. 1st, and, done shopping. Yep, a step ahead. My intention is to have my Christmas music filling the house, while I simply enjoy the decorations, anxiously wait for the mail to be delivered daily (the only time of year that happens).  The excitement of opening Christmas cards from the people I love, a little something that tells me I was thought of.

Planning, the actual making of the decision to purpose to be a step ahead, really does bring me a feeling of calm in this crazy fast paced world.  I've been thinking  a lot the last several months of making sure I am ready in my spiritual life as well.  I am mindful that the more I grow in my walk with God, the easier it will be for me to weather any storm that may come my way.  Whatever the world throws at me, I will be ready, prepared, and with the assurance I will survive no matter the size of the mountain that needs climbing. 

While I am mindful not to attempt to get ahead of God, the idea of being a step ahead in the details of life helps me to feel ready for anything, less the anxiety that comes with not being prepared. Now if I could only get to the gym everyday...a step ahead of next summers bathing suit!  This is what echos from my heart today......

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Sub-Total ~

On Friday  I was asked to attend a get together at my friend Debbie's clubhouse.  Debbie teaches English as a second language at a local Jr. College. Several of her students were there along with eight or so of Debbie's American friends, myself included. Approximately eight tables were set up in a very large circle, with an American seated at each.  The idea was these students would, in 8 min. increments, move clockwise around the room, table to table with a list of questions they wanted to ask us Americans.  They were told in advance that they could ask anything of us. The students were from, China, Japan, Vietnam, Belgium, and Thailand a wonderful mix!
My Friend Debbie and I :-)

Two students at a time would be at my table for eight minutes for a total of nearly an hour, nervously asking me their questions.  The questions asked ranged from, what do you do and do you like it, if not why? Have I ever been to their country and what if anything do I know about their country. A highlight for me was the question, "what was your most embarrassing moment?"  I shared with the two young women at my table that my most embarrassing moment, was without a doubt, in my early 20's while on an airplane. I was using the restroom and imagine my surprise when in walked the Pilot. What could I do but give a smile and a polite wave? Yes, I had failed to lock that door! I love a man in uniform but under different circumstances, never would  I would have imagined it like that.  These two students (China and Japan) were mortified, in fact surprised I could even speak of it! They giggled and told me how life changing that would have been for them. :-)  Further into our 8 minute question and answer period they asked if I have ever been to another country.  I replied, " sadly no because I no longer like to fly".  They started laughing and said,"oh" as they smiled and reference to my earlier mentioned experience.  Too cute, they felt the incident with the handsome man in uniform was my reason to no longer fly :-)  As if!

The most popular question was how old my children were and do they live at home?  I told them my son's ages and explained though they live near by and no longer at home that I would love them to still be living with Mom :-)  Both a girl, a boy from China and a young man from Vietnam all shared with me that they live at home much longer in their countries, as having the family all together is so important to them. However a young girl from Japan seemed happy to no longer live at home and explained that wasn't as important in her country.  A young man from China said, "you are like my Mom, she loves me so much she wants me living with her at home". "You made me miss my Mom". I smiled feeling bad that he missed her so and asked, "how long have you been gone from home?'   He replied, "three days".  How sweet is that? Poor young man is going to really find out what homesick is as he continues his schooling here in the states.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these students.  At the end of our time we all posed for a group photo,a photo to capture our time spent on this beautiful November day.  As I began to leave I turned and said another good bye.  My young man from China said, "thank you for the Mom thing".   Of course I knew what needed to be done, I replied, "let me just give you a Mom hug", and we did :-)

I went home and in the quite time I purposed to have, started thinking about how most American children can't wait to move out and begin there newest phase of independence.  Though I don't see it as wrong, I am none the less glad my sons stayed a few years past eighteen. I wondered what the rush is for us to be on our own. To become responsible for everything, not just the cleaning our bedroom and taking out the trash, but everything! I suspect it may be different if we knew back then that there will be plenty of years later in life without opportunity to spend together as a family, but, we don't.

I am happy our children are on their own and experiencing much of what we all have experienced on our own.  As a parent it is often difficult to watch them struggle, or to know they are ill and or not be there to save the day :-) On the other hand,  I'm also very much enjoying life with my husband in a totally different form of companionship than when the kids were still here.  It's like getting to know each other in a different way and not having to split our time at home amongst the children on a daily just amongst the two of us.

I enjoy the quite, and practice while in that quite, listening to God, really listening. I feel the nudge to do or not do something. I sense when I should reach out to another with a need , when I might otherwise have missed that opportunity to do so. Also in that quite time I reflect.  Reflect on where I've been, how I've changed, and most importantly, how through my trials I've learned.

I can at any time (and often do) pull out a photo album and feel that I have not just my family and extended family, but all that have played a part in my life in some way or another, right here with me because of that photo I hold in my hands.  A photo can bring me to a place that I can actually feel what I felt that very day that particular memory was made. A photo can bring my family all together again in the turn of a page.  I suspect, as I glance around, its the reason behind the many, many framed photographs on display in every room of my home. A photo can help me to remember, all those memories that when added up become the sub-total of me, thus far.

I intend to spend more time, being still and knowing He is God.  I suspect in that time I will be reminded of events in my life He has carried me through, occasionally unaware of Him doing so.  I will be reminded of many who have touched my life in powerful ways, most totally unaware of their impact on me. Most importantly I will be reminded that because He is God and He releases my future a moment at a time, there is no need for me to worry about tomorrow. Why worry about a time He hasn't released to me yet....

I'm so thankful for my time with the exchange students. They likely don't realize that this experience with them has made me even more aware of my family and the importance of each moment I have with them in my life.  Moments that add up to the sub-total of me.  This is what echos from my heart today.....