What do I want to leave behind?
What is love?
The Past Can Bring You to Realize the Future
Tonight I set out to prepare for a visit with my sister, brother-in-law, my two nephews and my niece in a week, yet, I started a journey down memory lane by pulling out an old Tykes table and chairs and going through boxes of what I thought were books; however, they were memories and writings that I had forgotten about. So here it begins......
Dedication: To the "Gardener" (My Mommy), which was From: "the one who learned to let people in rather than 'nudging them away' because of her example and unconditional love."
And from these writings I will continue:
"Along the Way"
I will start at the core of the reason for looking back on my life. The passing of some of the people that have touched my life. Through their deaths I have learned that life as we know it is meant to be just a blink compared to the life that we will all go to one day and that we make a choice to leave a huge mark, small mark, or no mark at all within that life.
I remember the first very vividly. Fr. Domonick, a priest at my church, who I had seen everyday. He was the kindest person I had ever met and was always doing for others never for himself or any kind of acclaim. He just did it from the heart. He felt a need to take care of all animals (which is where I originally found love for St. Francis). He had glasses with a crack for years and would not replace them because he could still see through them, "It would be a waste", he would say. He could talk to you, tell you a joke, and always make you feel so special. He made it his duty to help anyone going through hard times by often going to get the remains from the farmers that were still good (and not sold) to bring to anyone that he found out needed them. He had an old station wagon and would fill it up and empty it. His kindness and generosity was so selfless. He didn't announce it or make it known. He just did it because it was the right thing to do for others.
He once said that it would always be an honor to die on the day that Jesus died (Good Friday) and he did die on that day. He had set Easter baskets out for everyone on Holy Thursday (the baskets were the norm; however, they were always on Easter Sunday). It was as if he already knew and he was letting everyone know that it was okay with him and it should be okay with them, as well. However, there were many tears shed. He would probably rather they rejoice in his passing and celebrate his life instead of mourning or shedding tears. That was just who he was and how he led his life. He brought joy and small fortunes when they were needed the most and I believe he rejoiced in the chosen day of his passing (now I can say that, but then I cried along with everyone who knew him).
I remember the day I was told my grandmother was sick with Cancer. It was terminal and she, at first, decided not to go for chemotherapy or radiation, but after much thought she changed her mind. I remember the sheer shock wave that shuddered through and the lump that seemed like it would never go away. The tears wouldn't stop unless I was at work or school. These time were when my mind was occupied and I had no room to think of feelings. I left a week after I found out to be with her, but she was in the hospital.
I went there telling my Mom and my aunts to tell PopPop that I was there for the weekend because I had been in Jersey for work, only because if my PopPop knew I went there for her it would've made it "too real" for him. I had seen him when I was younger so worried about her when she went in the hospital with a heart attack and things were very grim. I did not want him to realize I was worried or anyone else was worried.
They put a shunt in her and started the chemotherapy. I still have the image of her smile in my head as she dragged the thing around to hold the chemo and snuck in the bathroom to have another cigarette. I should've been angry at her, but I loved her JUST THE WAY SHE WAS!!! I remembered walks with her to Wood AVenue, diners, and always talking to everyone and anyone she met. Her smile and talk could brighten anyone's day. Laying across the bed Through sunshine, clouds, rain, and snow. It didn't matter it was her favorite place and we talked and laughed and built on the relationship. I can still picture her there. I can still picture her face, hands, legs, and hear her laugh. I wanted her to stay, but I got past the selfishness and I realized it was her time. All of those memories came flooding back along with those of glasses with ice and coke that eventually turned into water with coke and she would ask for more coke and ice, a cigarette always lit (whether she was smoking it or not) and a laugh that could turn into a noncontrollable laugh that was mixed with a snort, but you could never help but laugh yourself. I could not be angry...I could not blame her...I could not do anything, but hope she made it through because I needed her and wanted her in my life longer. I wanted my kids to know her laughter, friendliness, genuine kindness....and love for getting to know ANYONE she met. The things that can never be taken away.
I also remember my grandmother asking me and my aunt to pray with her to die. I remember it so vividly....the music in the background from the radio (very ironically "I Did It My Way" by Frank Sinatra) in the kitchen and praying from a book my Grandma had.....I was soooo sad, yet I had to do it, it was her wish. I loved her so much that I prayed for her to pass even though, selfishly, I wanted her to be here and I had prayed that she stay.
There are many people who go through this everyday. They watch people they love and they find to be very good people go through a fight for their lives as they, themselves, pray that the person will make it through another day. They see the suffering, but they hold onto hope that it will end with recovery. Yet, that person realizes the truth and really only wants someone that they care about to tell them that it is okay to let go. We, ourselves, do not want to see them suffering anymore. Yet, we want them to hang on because we know life without them would be so different, maybe even (seem) unbearable. How can the person we knew as so strong just let go? How can the person we have depended on just let go? How can they (seem to) abandon us like that?
If we really look at it the right way without all the emotion then we can say. They did not give up or abandon us. They did what they were here to do. They left something behind and, "Thank God", they did and there was the opportunity to have that person in life. They gave so much and added so much and taught about caring and continuing to care. Now they have been granted what they wanted in the end to be happy and painless and free. In the same way they gave that to us in life and should be given that during their time of suffering. They should not want to hang on because someone cannot live without them.
Past sadness and heartache over loss could very easily take away from longing to reach out to others because the pain of the loss of someone loved seems to immobilize us. It stops us in our tracks. A feeling of that which we think we cannot get past. However, somehow we do. Somehow we cry and remember and laugh and cry and pick ourselves up and realize that the very person we are grieving would not want us to grieve. They would want us to overcome and smile and laugh in the memories of them. Think of the cherished moments and that they would want us to live our lives just as they did with any losses they may have faced. The way they taught us through action. That to leave behind a memory of ourselves to others outlasts any other thing we can give. Get involved in a big way by being involved and if not in a big way, then in a small way by a smile or laugh given along the way.
What do you want to leave behind? What do we want to leave behind? Do we want to leave behind the mirror image of the goodness, kindness, smiles, intentions, and strength from them. The things that make others want us to stay even when we, ourselves, are ready to pass. Yet, give them the empathy to love us enough to let us go and pray for it. The things that you and I have witnessed and seen in our family, friends, and also through the kindness of stangers. It does go a long way and lingers in memories far beyond any material thing that anyone can ever possess. I hope to leave behind an imprint to those I know and those I meet that gives them a good feeling and makes them want to bring it forward through their actions. What more can any of us want to leave behind?