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Hope

May 10, 2012 5 comments

Since I haven’t written in a while, and I’m not sure when I will find time to fill you in on all that’s going on lately, I figured the least I could do was share Gretchen’s blog from the HERALD today that mentions the Race for Hope team.

In our fourth year, we raised nearly $10,000. Not too shabby! (If you want to help us get to $10K, it’s not too late!) Our team was once again in the top 50 in terms of fundraising.

I expected that each year it would get easier to do the race. Not physically, but emotionally. But for the fourth time, I was shocked when at random moments I was overwhelmed and on the verge of tears. …for many reasons.

For one, the race has grown SO much since the first year we started. We used to be the only team in sight at our meeting place. Now we share those steps with at least 6 or 7 other teams. Sure it’s great that so many more people are working to raise awareness and funds to fight brain cancer, but it’s also a sad sign that so many more people are being affected by it.

At the beginning of the race, survivors (dressed in yellow) release yellow balloons into the air. It’s certainly a sight to see. …but at the same time, it pisses me off that I don’t know any survivors. And I know too many that are gone.

It was a little shocking this year to walk behind a team carrying a sign “In memory of Mary Frances.” It reminded me of the time we went to a family cemetery and I saw a gravestone with my name on it. It shocks you. I nearly stopped right in the middle of the giant crowd of walkers.

But as I told Gretchen in the blog above, as emotional as the beginning of the race is for me, what I look forward to most is the end. I always watch for the first yellow shirt (survivor) to finish – usually a good 40 minutes ahead of me. I look forward to getting three miles into the race and seeing people in yellow shirts – sometimes struggling, but always excited – SO happy to finish the race with their family and friends.

I look forward to the day when our fundraising will make a difference. And I hope that some day, I might know someone in a yellow shirt.

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Two years ago today…

May 31, 2011 2 comments

…my life forever changed.

I will never forget the moment. Charles and I were in his friend’s Jeep, about to head downtown for the annual birthdays celebration. My brother called (which is odd on its own), but I was in a Jeep with no top, and I figured he’d leave me a message. He called back three more times, so I figured I should probably return the call.

I think those few moments in the Jeep were the last carefree moments of my life. Dad was sick, but had traveled to Charlottesville the day before to receive his fourth degree with the Knights of Columbus. There were no signs of anything going wrong.

Just the way he wanted it.

Dad never wanted to suffer long or lose any of his faculties. It made him sad to meet formerly brilliant men who were affected with dementia. I can remember him telling me a few years early that that was one of his biggest fears…to seem so small and helpless when once he seemed so smart.

My brother was calling me home because Dad was declining. Fast.

When I got home and saw Dad, I congratulated him on getting his fourth degree the day before. “Is it still Sunday?” he sighed. The few hours it took me to get there seemed like an eternity to him.

Family filtered through…Mom’s sister’s family, the older grandchildren who could grasp what was happening, and Dad was lucky enough to spend his last weekend on earth with his little sister, who he’d always loved so much.

In those last few hours, my worldview changed.

I’ve prided myself on establishing my own life, an independant life. A life where I didn’t “need” anyone else.

But in those hours, I needed my family and they needed me.

I could see the strength that my Dad got from my mom…the strength to let go and let it be. I could see the strength that she got from him. The strength to let him go.

And the next morning when Charles arrived to do whatever he could do, he was my strength. All he had to do was sit in the living room and be there. The simple fact that he was there was plenty for me.

And it was in that moment that I knew I would marry him.

Two Months to Go!

March 2, 2011 Leave a comment

We’re less than two months away from the Race for Hope!

I’m so proud of my team. We’re ranked number 14 out of nearly 300 teams and keep rising in the ranks each day.

But at the same time, I’m sad.

The first year I did the race, my father was recently diagnosed with cancer. That year, it was SO easy to raise funds for the brain cancer cause.

Each year after that, it’s become harder.

Why might my team be doing so well this year? My boyfriend’s friends are joining the team.

Their father passed away from a GBM yesterday.

I’m grateful that we’ve been able to raise so much money for a worthwhile cause. But…My greatest wish right now is that maybe, for just 6 or 8 months, no one that I know would lose their father.

The Taste of a Memory

February 18, 2011 4 comments

As I’ve spoken of before, when a person dies in my family, we have one of two things: a wake (if they’re Catholic) or a viewing (if they’re protestant). I thought the difference had to do with religion, until I asked my brother if I was about to attend a wake or a viewing (in my mind, asking if the body was going to be on display) and my brother said, “It’ll be a viewing. Wakes are more fun.”

Fun?

Yes, fun.

When my father passed away, we didn’t want any of the “boo hoo, woe is me, what are you going to do without him?” sentiment. We wanted to celebrate a life well lived.

According to family and religious tradition, we prayed a rosary, we gathered with friends and family. Since Dad made fourth degree the day before he died, we even had a Knight’s of Columbus color guard on hand.

Then, near the end of the service, we pulled out a bottle (maybe the only bottle we had?) of Paddy’s Irish Whiskey to toast to Dad.

Paddy’s was special. I knew that from the time I was a kid. When Dad would run out, it was time to go back to Ireland! That was the only time we got it (other than a few times when cousins brought it back for us).

There were no importers of Paddy’s in the U.S., so it just wasn’t possible to buy here.

So the stuff was savored, rationed, and completely and totally special. Only the closest of friends and family were offered a taste.

Wednesday night, after a huge meal in Little Italy, Charles decided we’d stop in on the way home at a pub. The James Joyce.

I wasn’t really wanting a drink (I was stuffed!) but I opened the menu and my face lit up. There at the bottom of the list was Paddy!

I’ve been in bars that have a bottle, but can’t sell it. So I had to ask. I didn’t really want it for myself (so not a whiskey drinker!) but I just had to know! Had Dad’s wish come true? This could be almost as big as the Red Sox winning the world series!

The manager came over to talk to us, and yes. Now it is available here. Charles was going to enjoy some Jameson, but after seeing the look on my face when I found out they really DID have it…ordered the Paddy.

Truthfully? He hates the stuff. It burns on the way down and lingers. To me, it sort of tastes like sickness (it’ll knock a cold right outta you!).

But split the shot, and I loved it 🙂

It’s like having God breathe a hot breath of life directly into your lungs.

I’m sorry you didn’t live to see the day Paddy’s was available in the States, Dad. But I enjoyed it for you!

Ready to Race?

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

First, I apologize. I’ve been a terrible blogger lately!

We’re preparing for a HUGE event at work, so hopfully after next week I’ll be better (although I’ve just taken on more responsibilities, so it sounds like maybe I’ll see you in May? No, there’s commencement. June?)

2010 Race for Hope Team

Anyway…Today, I finally took a few minutes for myself and recreated our Race for Hope team. My friend Kt and I started this team three years ago when my father was battling a GBM brain tumor (aka – the same kind Ted Kennedy had. Although Dad hated that reference. But he did sort of have Kennedy hair, didn’t he? Anyway…).

Kt’s step-father had died a few years earlier from the same cancer. Honestly, I’m not sure how I would have gotten through Dad’s illness in one piece without her. She taught me many important things.

1. Don’t google. You will find exactly the opposite of what you’re looking for.

2. Statistics are ridiculous and don’t mean a thing.

3. The worst thing you can do is take yourself too seriously.

4. But it’s ok to be angry.

Kt, Me, and Timmy the Tumor eating T-Rex.

It helped me feel less worthless and more like I was DOING something to have started this race team and raised money to fight tumors (Like a t-rex. T-rexes hate tumors).

It makes me sad that our team is growing because more people are being affected. But this year two of Charles’ friend (and a friend of theirs) will be joining us in honoring our fathers. I hope they can feel the same amount and type of love and support that I felt the first year I joined.

I’m so thankful for all the family and friends (and friends wo are like family) who have supported me and my family since Dad’s diagnosis in 2009.

If you’d like to join us on May 1, you can join our team online. Donations, thoughts, and prayers are also very appreciated 🙂

Oh Happy Day!

December 6, 2010 1 comment

As a kid, I had two different families. My father’s side was your average Irish/Italian-Catholic family, my mother’s a good southern-American-Protestant family.

I can remember the first time I realized they were different. I was maybe 7, attending Presbyterian Bible school (as I did many summers) and I was asked “I know what we believe about the trinity, what is it that your people believe?” At 7 I was shocked. I didn’t realize there was a difference other than in the building where we went to Church (and that the protestants ate regular bread and grape juice for communion).

As I got older, I noticed another huge difference. I went to my first funerals in elementary school for my great uncle and my uncle. I noticed how sad and sober people were. How upset they were that someone they loved was gone. What would they do without these people?

I was shocked when I went to my Catholic great-aunt’s funeral when I was 10. After saying the rosary, the family got together, and they were….laughing? They were praising Auntie and the life she led. They were thankful that the Lord took her away to live a better life than she could in her old age.

I was…confused.

Through 30 years of my life I’ve lived with this bias. Maybe it was just the perception of my grandmother and her family, but protestant funerals were more “woe is I” and “we’ll miss you dearly.” Catholic funerals were more about celebrating a life well-lived and knowing the person is in a much better place looking down on us and taking care of us.

Then, this weekend, I attended my first Baptist funeral.

My perception was completely rocked! Not only is a loved one in a better place, but we’ll be damned if we won’t be there with them one day! Literally.

The gospel choir (who stood up front facing us so we could see their joyful faces) lifted us up with a power that could only be godsent.

In college I became accostumed to a type of Catholic service called “Praise and Worship”…we’ve got nothing compared to this.

My boyfriend’s friends even remarked through the rest of the day…”If I knew church was like that, I might actually go.”

I thought I knew what to expect, but I didn’t expect to be lifted up in the way that church embraced all of us, and showed us the brighter side of life. After many tears were shed when the casket was closed (I swear I was good until I made the mistake of looking left right as Christopher said softly “Goodbye Daddy.”) it was a comfort to so many to be reminded of exactly why we were in that church.

Not for ourselves. Not to mourn a loss. But to celebrate a life well lived and a life — that was made completely evident by those who attended — that touched many other lives through his own actions, and through the love he passed on to his children.

Goodbye Daddy. We know we’ll join you one day.

C’mon and talk about the happy days!

Categories: Life Lessons Tags: ,

One Love. One Life.

November 30, 2010 3 comments

I do not envy my boyfriend today.

His first task of the day is to come up with one sentence that reflects his feelings for his father. Each of his father’s kids (four of them) will write a sentence to be compiled into a poem to go on the back of his funeral program. How do you sum up nearly 40 years of feelings into one sentence?

I’m pretty sure I was more emotional Sunday morning when I heard the news that he passed away than I was even when my own father died. It’s easy to be shocked and upset that you’re not upset when it’s someone so close to you. But when it’s someone that’s so close to someone close to you…it hit hard.

Charles started trying to write his thoughts last night. The whole time he sang Bob Marley and couldn’t get it out of his head.

“Let’s get together and feel alright”

Perhaps it’s the most fitting.

Charles’ dad was one of the first of his family members that I met. Even though we weren’t “dating” yet, I was greeted with a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek (the same way I’d be greeted every time I saw him). I’ve never felt more welcome into anyone’s family other than my own as I did when I met him.

Alan Hines had more love in his heart and shared it freely with so many people. And as we prepare for his funeral, I can see that a lot of what I love in Charles is a product of his father’s influence.

I’ll forever be grateful for all the love he passed on to his kids. I know if he could talk to them now, he’d tell them to “Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel alright.”

Categories: Life Lessons Tags: , ,