“It Was 26 Years Ago: My Mom Went Home”

Yesterday November 21st was the twenty-sixth anniversary of my mother’s death. I can scarcely believe she’s been gone that long. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. A year or two maybe but not twenty-six. Then I think of all that’s occurred since she’s been gone, all the things she was unable to be a part of, all the things I wish she could have seen, all the family birthdays, her grandchildren’s graduations, weddings, and the birth of her great-grandchildren. I wish she could have been around to see me earn my  master’s degree and become a counselor.

“What could have been”. My mom on her last birthday 9/91 me on my 55th birthday 9/2006. The magic of Photoshop

“What could have been” Nana and Janene on her wedding day! courtesy of Photoshop magic!

              

I wish she could have been there for Janene’s wedding day. She missed so many incredible events. But then again Heaven has got to be the most incredible event of a lifetime! Still,  when I think of these things and so many others, I miss my mom and realize she has been gone a very long time.

Her passing was unexpected, we had no time to prepare. I’m not sure what’s worse, sudden death or a long illness resulting in death. Both are difficult. But the latter, although painful in that you have to watch a loved one slowly drained of life, you at least have the opportunity to say your goodbyes and you have closure, no regrets.

A sudden death is a shock to the system and catches you completely off guard, there are no goodbyes, or closure, just a lot of regrets. Believe me, I had plenty of regrets and a ton of guilt! No, make that a ton and a half. It took me nearly two years to find peace and come to terms with my mother’s death. In the meantime,  I succeeded in making the lives of my wife and kids a nightmare. I’m so sorry, I hope they have forgiven me, I’m pretty sure they have. I was a real mess. I don’t wish that type of grief on anyone. It’s the worst. In life, my mom taught me so much and even after her death she continued to influence my thinking. In dealing with her death  I learned about life, and how significant every moment is. In working through my guilt and pain she helped me to become a better person, something I continue to strive for today and will continue to strive for until my dying day. 

My mom was an incredible woman. She certainly surprised me when her and my dad up and sold their home and moved to Las Vegas. We always encouraged them to do it, we just never really thought they would. I’m glad they did.  She really enjoyed that final year of her life. She was so happy. It would have been a real tragedy if they had never moved and she would have died at home alone, a real tragedy. Things happen for a reason.

My mom lives on in our memories and we are reminded of her every day. Our 14-year-old granddaughter is named after my mom and her other deceased great grandma. My mom’s name was Angela, (Angie for short) and her other great-grandma Arlene. Her name is Anjalene, a fitting tribute to two wonderful women. Funny, but at school, Anjalene’s school friends call her Angie. Grandpa’s little Angie.

Love you mom. Miss you.  Until we meet again…

JS

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My daughter had a very special relationship with her nana.  She was her first great grandchild, just as Anjalene is mine. My mom loved her like no other. Yesterday she wrote about her nana on her blog. I’d like to share her words with you.

 I actually don’t remember where I was when I first heard the news.
I remember driving to pick up my little brother from preschool.
I remember talk of angels and clouds and heaven.
I remember my grandparents coming over and taking us to dinner.
I remember sitting in the back seat of their yellow Volvo feeling numb.
I remember sitting on my parent’s bed with my two brothers watching Beverly Hills 90210 that evening.
I remember now that I had no idea of how my whole life was forever changed.

  My Nana had died.                                                                                                                            My life would never be the same again.

Nana and Janene

My dad was different.
My aunt was different.
My Papa was different.
My uncle was different.
Nothing was the same.

Grief does strange things to people.
Guilt does strange things to people.
Grief and guilt combined?
This can break one.

Twenty-six years ago today my Nana died.
No more songs sung to me…
“Who’s that girl in the pink jacket?”
No more, “I love my Janene Marie.”
No more damp washcloths and blessings on car drives.
No more little square gum pieces from the bank.                                                                      Pan dulce and grandma’s coffee will never taste the same.

But because she died…
I learned early on that sometimes the people we love most can hurt us the most.
I learned that we can honor the dead by honoring their wishes.
I learned that life is short.
I learned that death is not an end.

Twenty-six years later…
I have a daughter named after her,
a chair reupholstered from her living room,
two bird statues from her collection…
but more importantly, I have memories.
Memories and lessons learned from the life she lived and the kids she raised.
Twenty-six years ago today my Nana died.
My life has never been the same since.

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: “A Labor of Love”

Is your life a labor of love? It should be. Everyone should strive to make their time here on Earth a meaningful and worthwhile experience, a true labor of love. First off, do you really know what a labor of love is? To most people, a labor of love is simply some kind of altruistic work that a person performs where there is no reward or compensation other than personal satisfaction.

worldpeacecopy-300x300Altruistic people unselfishly give of themselves so that others may benefit. They have an unconditional concern for the welfare and well-being of others. They are the Ghandi’s and Mother Theresa’s of the world. Their selflessness is exemplary. Their lives, true labors of love. The well-being of others was their passion, their purpose. Can you imagine what a beautiful world it would be if each and every one of us could demonstrate even just a fraction of their selflessness in our daily lives? The results would be astounding!

Sadly, the chances of that happening are slim to none. It seems very few people want to do something for nothing these days.

Today it’s all about the reward and compensation. Before anyone can lend a helping hand they first ask themselves “what’s in it for me?” or “what do I get out of it?” when they should be asking “what can I do for you?” or “can I help you?” Unfortunately, the “me, I, my” mentality so prevalent in our society is destroying kindness and selflessness in America and replacing it with materialism, selfishness, greed, and envy.

What’s happened to doing things out of love? Didn’t Christ tell us that the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength.’ Didn’t He tell us to love our neighbors as ourselves? Of course, He did! And added the declaration that there is “no commandment greater than these.”So again I ask, what happened? Why does this command from God fall on so many deaf ears?

Let’s take it a step further, what about the Ten Commandments, do they mean anything at all anymore? To some, they are guidelines on how to live one’s life, to others they are only words. Some people are guilty of worshiping false gods in the form of the almighty dollar, luxurious automobiles, giant TV’s, jewelry and clothing. It’s all about image. It’s all a show! It really upsets me when I see a family of six living in a shoddy, one bdrm,   apartment in Azusa or any town USA. The kids dressed in hand me downs, and feasting on Cup a’ Soup and junk food, yet out at the curb sits a brand new, 85 thousand dollar, fully loaded, Siver Cadillac Escalade SUV! Wow! Pretty sad.

So what’s wrong with this picture? What kind of prioritizing is going on here? What sort of life lessons are these kids learning? You probably think the above example is extreme.  Believe me, it isn’t, one of the kids was my counselee!  The only error is the part of being “brand new.” The Escalade is actually a 2012, they’ve had it since last May. I could give plenty of true-life examples, but why bother I’m sure you have some of your own. And let’s not get started on covetousness that’s a story in itself.

Yeah, here we are a self-serving, status seeking,  possession seeking, ultra-materialistic, society. A society headed for a fall. It would take a labor of love to make things right. A labor of love that begins within each of us. If we all sought to help one another see what is truly important in our everyday lives, things would begin to change. Oh, they’d be baby steps, to begin with, no doubt, but in time we would begin to see and feel a difference.

What we need to do is begin changing things by example, strive to be more compassionate, more empathetic and more loving. Wouldn’t that be a true labor of love? Productive work performed voluntarily for the benefit of others, inspired by your passion and purpose, with no monetary compensation. The payoff would be for the greater good of all! A labor of love?  You bet!  Let’s get started!

Just saying…

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Throwback Thursday: Sleep Like a Baby 11/2013

I love sleeping. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”                                                                                                                          -Ernest Hemingway

Sleeping-BabyHow do you sleep? Do you sleep like a baby? Are you a sound sleeper who wakes up feeling refreshed and energized each and every morning? Do you have difficulty falling asleep? Do you get to sleep but still wake up groggy or tired? Do you have insomnia or some other sleep disorder? We all know that sleep is important to a healthy and happy lifestyle. We’ve been hearing it since we were kids, get plenty of sleep, eat right and exercise regularly. But just how important is sleep really?

We all need our rest. Studies have shown that most of us need between 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep each night. Our mental wellness depends on it. Those of us who regularly get the proper amount of sleep tend to live healthier, longer lives (up to 7 years) than those who get too few or too many hours of sleep. Sound Sleep is a vital ingredient. There’s nothing quite as bad as a horrible night sleep or worse yet several bad nights and beginning the following day feeling out of sorts, tired, groggy, forgetful or just plain crabby, not only for the sleep deprived but others around them. Inadequate sleep directly affects the way we interact with others and can create tension and put a strain on our interpersonal relationships. Nothing as bad waking up to a sleep deprived, moody grump or getting to work and finding him there! I’m pretty sure we’ve all been that guy at some point in time. Yeah, sleepless nights make for terrible days.

Okay, so a good night’s sleep helps us stay mentally fit, can add years to our lives, affects our mood in a positive way by reducing stress and allows us to interact with others (especially those closest to us) more easily. All very good reasons for getting the proper amount of sleep each night, but it doesn’t stop there, restful sleep does even more. A good nights sleep can help make our immune system stronger, making us less prone to illness, aid our memory and cognitive function, and even help our eyesight. In addition, good sleep reduces our chances of heart attack and stroke, assist in maintaining our weight and even reducing our chances of getting diabetes.

Sleep, a function we spend a third of our lives doing, is more important than many people realize. The benefits of getting a good night sleep on a regular basis are overwhelming. The key is in developing a routine and creating the proper conditions that allow you to get the sleep you need each and every night. You can’t skimp on sleep during the week and think you can catch up on the weekends, it doesn’t work. A good night’s sleep has to be a part of your everyday routine and you may have to make a few changes if you want to reap its rewards. So I ask again, “how do you sleep?”

If you’re not getting the sleep you need there are several things you need to look at and make the necessary changes that will ensure a healthy night’s rest. Perhaps you’re too tense to fall asleep or just can’t seem to switch off your mind. You lie there thinking for what seems like forever, tossing and turning. The bed is not a think tank. Its not the place to rehash the day’s events or plan tomorrows. You should learn to associate the bed with sleep nothing more. Okay, it can also be associated to one other activity as well but it is not the place for deep thinking. Train yourself to do this thinking earlier in the evening and elsewhere. In time you’ll see a difference. Maybe you fall asleep right away but wake up far too early. Some people seem to sleep soundly, but wake up feeling unrefreshed and tired all day. No matter what your situation there is a solution, you can get the healthy sleep you need.

Sometimes the solution is easy particularly if you are sleeping but are still tired. In this case, the problem is more than likely environmental. Something is disturbing your sleep but not enough to wake you. The cause could be your mattress, pillow, the position you sleep in, or even the room temperature, factors that can be easily changed or adjusted, and easily identified through a process of elimination. Check your mattress, is it too soft, too firm? Does it sag? Is your pillow supportive? If not, make the necessary changes. A sure sign of a poor mattress or pillow is waking up in the morning with aches and pains.

If you can’t sleep because your too tense or can’t seem to shut down the thought process there are things you can do to bring on sleep. You can begin by avoiding anything that may be emotionally upsetting or exciting at bedtime include watching television, listening to the news and even reading. These activities fire up the awake system and can cause muscle tension and stress making relaxation and sleep difficult. To combat this stress there are progressive relaxation techniques that are easy to learn and can be used at bedtime. These techniques work. I use them when needed and they do the job.

Nighty Night

If we want to live a happier, healthier and longer life, and who doesn’t, we have to get our sleep and have to do it consistently.Our bodies rely on the sleep process to function optimally. It is essential that we make restful, healthful sleep a top priority in our lives. There’s a lot to be said about the need for getting our “beauty sleep” nightly. Life can be beautiful.  Sleep well…

Just a Thought

 

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