Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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When I was guided through learning my personality type in the Eneagram, I discovered one of the worst things that could happen to me emotionally was to be excluded from something. I could give you several stories from my life where that happened. I get crushed when I find out I’ve been left out. Knowing it’s a personality thing helps soften the blow a little, but overall I still get bummed.

Last week I had to go to a funeral on Tim’s (my husband) side. It was a Catholic service, true to family tradition. I asked about whether it was appropriate to take communion and I was told that the priest will announce whether you need to be Catholic or not. If there is nothing said, it is ok, even if you are Protestant. The announcement came so I didn’t partake.

This week I had to go to a funeral on Tim’s (current partner) side. It was a Catholic service as well. I waited and sure enough the announcement came. There was also a lengthy explanation about Polish Catholic vs. Irish Catholic ritual and how to appropriately walk with your hands for the Eucharist depending on your background. I abstained again. Tim wasn’t really listening (lucky) so he went up anyway. His heart was in the right place.

I remember when I was in college at a fundamental Christian college, studying to be a missionary. When I came home on break and went to church with my family, I wasn’t allowed to take communion there either. They said if I was currently attending a Lutheran church, I couldn’t take it, even though I was baptized and confirmed there. Sigh.

I struggle with the whole thing. I feel like it is a good and polite thing to respect traditions. My heart isn’t interested in offending anyone, especially in a place where love is taught. Men don’t sing in the Buffalo Women’s Gateway Chorus. That’s exclusive to women, right?

I have to admit though, it feels a tinge different. For me, church is a place where God (and often Christ) is preached and the basis is love. Love with a capital “L” and in bright shining lights. Why would anyone want to discourage another human from participating in a ritual that brings our souls closer to God?

I remember in my years with more fundamental churches and being afraid sometimes to take communion. It was between God and the person, but the pressure was even worse. There was emphasis on the Bible verses that talk about how “some have gotten sick and even died because they took communion in a manner than was unworthy”. Holy cow (pun intended)! That’s enough pressure to keep the most saintly person from participating. I could get cancer or even fall over dead if I didn’t participate the RIGHT way.

Yikes.

I guess for now, in my 50’s, I feel like I’m on a good track. God is about inclusion and love to me. Come and share in the bounty. For those that believe differently, I will respect their wishes. But next time I think I will choose Tim’s path. If I don’t hear the restriction, I can take the bread and wine in good faith (pun intended) and enjoy the ritual that has meant so much throughout my lifetime. Alas, ignorance really is bliss sometimes.


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At Peace

Dad finally took his last breath on Sunday, August 19, 2018, sometime around 9 am. We didn’t actually witness it because he took the path so many do – he chose to go when he was alone. We were there though within a few minutes.

Perhaps next week I will post the eulogy I intend to read at his funeral on Saturday. But not today, no spoilers! For anyone interested, here is the funeral information:

Calling hours are Friday, August 24, 4 pm- 8 pm at the Ross Funeral Home; 10 Eckerson Rd.; Akron where there will be an antique fire truck and other equipment on display

The Funeral Service is Saturday, August 25, 11 am at St. Michael’s; 6377 Wolcottsville Rd.; Akron where Craig Wilkins, one of dad’s favorite singers will be leading worship with the gospel tunes Dad loved.

A procession will then head to Terry’s Corner’s Firehall 7801 Chestnut Ridge Rd. Gasport, for a luncheon at 12:30.  A procession will then head to the cemetery in Holley at 2 pm for a 3 pm graveside service.

I wrote the first guest book entry on the three websites where Dad’s obituary is listed (the funeral home and two newspapers) which got me reflecting again. I am hoping that I will be able to fully experience the wake and service. I cope by doing and accomplishing so it will take a conscious effort to stop what is natural to me and just let myself be there experiencing the emotions.

My life has become so intertwined with Dad’s over the last couple of years, that I am truly going to be lost for a while. It is too strange to even think about the large void left behind. I keep looking at my schedule and realize over and over again how much of my life was structured around him. Once again, my household is going to recreate who we are, with one less important person than we want.

Hope to see many of you this weekend. It means so much when others take the time to be there, even we aren’t able to spend the quality time with everyone we want to. Thanks for loving us, and mostly, thanks for loving Dad.


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Laughter

One last commentary on my high school reunion.

About an hour before I was leaving to go, I was getting ready and I suddenly felt my eyes fill up with tears. I remembered that Tim and I went briefly to the reunion five years earlier, but he had been diagnosed and wasn’t feeling well. It was great to see everyone, and many of my friends came to his benefits and stayed in touch with us throughout the rest of our journey. It started to hit me that an awful lot of life had been lived in the last decade. Not just for me, but for many others as well. I wondered if I would see them and just burst into tears.

What I found, was that indeed, many of us had changed. We had been through the fires of life. But the beauty of it was that instead of being beaten down, there was an appreciation for life and laughter and new priorities. It was unspoken, but I felt it.

One of my classmates had lost her mom. I remember when it happened. She had reached out to me and sent one of those apologies that basically said she had wished she had been more supportive when Tim was sick. Until you go through it, you just don’t realize the impact that cancer has on your life. I assured her she was plenty supportive and we had an entire community around us. But I felt for her and the tremendous loss she was suffering.

While we were hanging around at the reunion, she got telling a story about the funeral. She was able to laugh about it and had all of us cracking up. The gist was something like this: “So how the hell does a person know what the protocol is for a funeral home? I give this guy my mom’s dress and her wig. How weird is that?  Here’s my mom’s clothes and hair. But then he asked me where her bra and underwear was. I had no idea I was supposed to bring that stuff too.” Only she was much funnier than I am re-telling it. Being the anti-bra woman who I am, I advocated for letting the poor woman be free without the damn thing. But the point is, being able to embrace the story and even smile when doing so.

Later, two of my friends that have survived breast cancer ended up sitting at the picnic table together. One of them was the definite life of the party I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs. She started this thing where she would point to our friend and say “cancer”, point to herself and say “cancer”, and then point to me and say “grieving widow.” Then she’d look at the poor sap sitting next to us and say, “So what have you got?” Invariably, they would say something like, “I got nothing.” and she would quip with, “Aw, maybe by the next reunion you will have something.” Again, it doesn’t translate well in writing, but while we were there, we were all drowning in laughter. She found a way to talk about the elephant in the room. She fully embraced it, found the sweet with the bitter, and we were all better for it.

The girls got telling stories about how they torture their sons with it too. One has three boys, the other has two. (Remember the hand sanitizer blog?) Boys, can you help with the laundry? Grumble, no. But I have cancer!  MOM!!! They said it worked wonders with them.

When we were leaving, my dear friend reminded me that I really needed to call her and stay in touch. I lovingly reminded her that I have called her several times over the years and she rarely calls back so I stopped trying. She looked at me, cocked her head, and said ever so sweetly, “Oh… but I have cancer.” I called her a witch and we hugged goodbye.

Perhaps you think this is all morbid, but if you think so, it may be because you haven’t experienced it up close yet. I find it completely refreshing and I couldn’t have been more proud of all those strong, beautiful women I have a history with. You go sistas!

Roy-Hart 30th reunion- Cyndi Barker, Todd & Dawn Arnold

Roy-Hart 30th reunion- Chrissy Ball and hubby

Roy-Hart 30th reunion- Melinda Keirsblick, Darcy