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Happy 84th Birthday Dad!

6 Feb Our Family Photo is complete!

It seems fitting that today, on the occasion of my Dad’s 84th birthday, that I revisit the amazing experience my family and I shared four years ago when we gathered together to mark Dad’s 80th birthday.  Time always marches on, and we tend to let important events slip into the recesses of memory … until something happens to trigger then.  I think that is why I have done so much writing in the past 12 years.  Once you write something down, you can let it take a back seat to every day life.  But, on those occasions when you want to bring back the memories, all you need do is look back on what was written and the feelings come rushing back. 

GIFT FOR GRANDPA

I was excited as I awoke early that Sunday morning. Today all of my plans and preparations would come full circle. In a short while we would begin to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday. Dad doesn’t like a lot of fuss, but he good-naturedly went along with all of our plans.

I had managed to get his birthday celebration on our local 10 pm news. I had slept right through it, but many people let Dad know that they had seen it. A picture of Dad was in today’s paper announcing his milestone birthday. And there were flowers on the altar at church …. all in honor of Dad.

Our family would gather at a restaurant later in the day to celebrate Dad and honor the role he plays in so many lives. I had hoped to secure a private room at the restaurant, but when I checked early in the week, nothing was available. I was disappointed, but I knew the party would still be the grand celebration I wanted it to be.

We arrived at the restaurant and followed the hostess to our table. Much to my surprise and amazement we had somehow managed to get our own private room after all. We were free to talk and laugh and carry on without disturbing anyone. Two of my favorite cousins – Dawn and Beth, were also joining us. They loved my Dad and were very close to him.

As we finished our meal with an extravagant chocolate dessert we all raised our glasses and toasted Dad. He smiled from ear to ear and got a little teary as he told us how proud he was of his family and how much he loved us.

Beth worked for a photographer and she busily snapped photos throughout our time at the restaurant. As we got ready to leave, we all stood proudly around Dad and took a family photo — something we had not done for a very long time.

Despite the happiness of the day, I couldn’t help but be sad. If only Elizabeth were here I thought to myself – then this day would be perfect. Our 20-year old Elizabeth, our first-born daughter and granddaughter, had died in a fire while attending college in 2003. Even though almost nine years had passed there would always be an empty chair at our family table that no one but Elizabeth could fill. And, it was especially difficult today when we were celebrating such a happy occasion.

The next day I received an email from Beth thanking me for inviting her, and she included some of the photos she had taken. She told me she was concerned when she downloaded the photos and brought the first one up, only to see a large white spot just above my head and on my husband’s arm.

Beth was dismayed and she wondered how this could have happened – would this spot ruin all of the pictures?

As she slowly viewed each picture, she was relieved to see that the white spot was found only on that first photo of our family. As Beth stared at the photo, suddenly it dawned on her – if Elizabeth had been here she would have been standing in the exact place where that white spot had been. Could it be she wondered?

I didn’t have to wonder — I knew. What a wonderful gift Elizabeth had given to her family, especially her Grandpa. I printed off the photo and excitedly asked my Dad to stop over, “I have one last gift for you I told him.”

He came into my kitchen and gently scolded me – “Kimmie, he said, I don’t need any more birthday presents! Everything you gave me yesterday was wonderful.” “Oh, I think you’ll want this one Dad, I said, – but you’d better sit down first.”

He sat down at the table with a quizzical look on his face. I laid Beth’s email in front of him, which said:

Here are 2 pictures from yesterday, I have to correct the lighting on some of the others and then will send more. Can you BELIEVE the first one? I’m not kidding when I tell you that I have NEVER had a white spot show up like that before. Dawn was with me when I downloaded them and we were looking through them. When I first saw it I said “darn it look at that spot on there”, totally expecting it to be on a whole bunch of them….then i go to the next one and it’s gone and it didn’t show up again. Dawn and I looked at each other in disbelief and said “Liz was there too!!”

I quietly laid the photo down and Dad stared at it for a few minutes and then was overcome with emotion, as he realized the significance of the white spot. We both shed tears of joy at the thought that our beloved Elizabeth had been with us yesterday on such a special day. Love never dies, and the bond we all share with those we love is never broken …. not even by death!

 

Milestones

30 Sep

I breathe a sigh of relief … today is the last day of September.  I love the September weather and the move to Fall.  But it is a month full of emotions — good and painful.  September 2013 was remarkedly so.

Liz would have turned the big 30 on September 12th.  What haunts me the most is that I so long to know what would her life look like at 30?  What career would she have?  Would she have found someone to share her life with?  Would I be a Grandmother?

In my mind, Liz will always be this rebellious 20-year old daughter — whom I love more than my own life — but who was not an easy teenager to deal with.  I wish I could forget about that and concentrate on a more positive outlook.  It’s easy to assume that everything would be rosy — she would have a fab job, a wonderful partner and maybe a special daughter or son.  I sure would like to believe that.  But part of me can’t help but wonder if it would have gone the other way.  Would she have continued to struggle and make poor life decisions?  Would she be in and out of rehab?  Would she have “seen the light” and turned things around?  The simple truth is that I just don’t know.

But the other truth is, that it really doesn’t matter either way.  Because none of it happened — the good or the bad.  It is what it is and I choose to make the best of that.  I have known every night for the last ten years where she is and I know that she is safe and she is at peace.  Therefore, so am I.  I no longer have those sleepless nights of wondering about her.  I know where she is and we still have a relationship.  It’s certainly not what I had hoped for on that day 30 years ago when I first saw that beautiful baby girl with the wild shock of hair and big blue eyes.

But I am at peace about her, and I love her more than ever … and she knows that.  That’s all I can ask for at this point, and that’s OK it is enough.

We chose to celebrate the 20 years that Liz was physically with us on September 20th.  Our house was filled to the brim with family and Liz’s closest high school friends.  It felt so good to have everyone together — much the same as we had been ten years before — but most of the pain and shock of her sudden departure has worn thinner.

We shared memories and laughter over the crazy antics of this amazing, daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend.

And I know she was there with us in spirit — thankful that we had gathered to laugh, to love and to remember.

Carry on Liz … til we meet again in spirit.

Love always,

Mom

butterfly

A Wonderful Birthday Celebration

7 Feb

Elizabeth Helps Grandpa Celebrate His 80th Birthday!

Yesterday was my Dad’s 80th birthday.  I had so much fun planning a little party with our family on Sunday.  As time went on new ideas  to honor him popped up.  I put flowers on the altar at church  in his honor.  We put his picture in our local paper, and he even made the 10 pm news last Friday night!

We had a wonderful time on Sunday celebrating and honoring Dad.  Yesterday we all received a gift that we will all honor and cherish forever.  My cousins, Dawn and Beth (Elizabeth) and their husbands, joined us in the celebration.  Beth works for a photographer and loves to take photos.  All throughout the afternoon she was taking them.

Yesterday I received a note from her about one of the family pics.  There was a huge white spot right above my head and close to my husband Roger and my daughter Anna.  When Beth first noticed it she was alarmed that something had gone wrong with her camera and perhaps all the photos would be ruined.

Not the case – the white spot, otherwise known as an “orb” was only on one picture.

Excitedly I printed the photo out and called my Dad over.  He came into my kitchen, and I told him I had one final birthday gift for him but he’d better sit down first.  I explained what an orb was and the significance of it, and then laid the photo down in front of him.  He studied the photo from one side to the other and suddenly the realization hit him.  His precious first-born granddaughter, Elizabeth, had made her presence known on a very special day in his life.

We both shed tears of joy, and now we really do have a photo of the entire family!

The power of love cannot be broken — not even by death!

Eight

9 Sep

The number eight has been rolling around in my brain for the past few days.  I assumed it was because we will soon be marking the eighth anniversary of my daughter’s death.

However, it dawned on me yesterday that there was more to it than that.  I realized that September 12th would have been her 28th birthday and eight days after her birthday is the 20th – the day she died – eight years ago.

As all of those realities sank in, I began to see the number eight in my mind’s eye.  And I began to pay attention.

Notice that once you put your pen on paper you can make an eight in one fluid motion and you have two circles that intersect one on top of the other.  This is a metaphor for the relationship that Liz and I continue to share.

Our lives will always intersect.  She will always play a part in my life and I will always play a part in hers.  Each circle represents one of us.  The top circle represents Liz because she is now on a higher plain than I am.  Her energy vibrates at a much higher level than mine does.  She has moved on to a higher plain of existence or heaven, so she is the top circle – I continue my work here on earth so I represent the bottom circle – we are in different worlds – but yet still solidly connected.

Look again at the eight — it is like a path that can be followed.  You may start out at the top and work your way down (to earth) and then continue to go back up — Liz did that.  Or you can start at the top and continue down and follow the same road as long as you need to and then you switch lanes and move up — but whatever your path you always remain connected.

Whenever September rolls around I try to make sense of things — but most of the time there is no sense to be made — it just is.  Choices were made and consequences followed — for both of us.  But what gives me comfort and solace today is the gentle nudge that I believe Liz is giving me to remember that just like the number eight our lives will always be intersecting with each other.  And one day, when my job here is complete I will move to that top circle and we will truly be together – two balls of love-filled energy.

That knowing makes me smile and it is what will make the days of September just a little bit easier to bear.

Thank you Liz — once again — you never cease to amaze me!

Love,

Mom

PS – I just realized – today is the 9th – I should have paid more attention and made this post yesterday! Oh well.

 

Wake Me Up When September Ends?

12 Aug

In a few short days,  the month of September will be upon us.  As I type these words, I can physically feel my stomach flip-flopping and a knot beginning to form.  What’s wrong with September you ask?  Technically … nothing  … I do enjoy the last days of summer and the soon-to-be fall weather.

But my oldest daughter’s birthday and the day she died are both in the month of September.  September brings up so many memories … both the good and the painful.

On September 12th my Elizabeth would be 28 years old.  What would she be doing with her life, I so often wonder.  Where would she be living, what career would she have chosen?  Would she be married?  Would she have any children?  Would she have dealt with the demons that plagued her in the last years of her life?  These are all questions that will forever remain unanswered.

On September 20th we will mark the eighth anniversary of her death as well as the deaths of Amanda and Brian, two of her six roommates.  Three young lives gone in an instant as the result of a fire in their old wooden duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota where they were all just beginning their adult lives.  So much promise … so many dreams and hopes gone in an instant.

So, what do I do?  I could continue to focus on what is no longer possible … and, trust me, I do that on occasion.  I think it’s necessary and I owe it to Liz.  To sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened not only is a disservice to my daughter, but it is also a disservice to me.  Revisiting the pain is necessary and part of my grieving process.  The key, however, is only to visit, not remain stuck in it.

What is also necessary is to focus on the twenty years I had with my daughter.  The times she made me laugh, made me smile, made me so mad I could hardly see straight — the good times as well as the bad.  I remember that Elizabeth’s life was so much more than the way that she died.  In the end, all I can do is smile because when it is all said and done the only thing that really matters is how much we love each other.  Love wins out over pain and heartache in the end.

There is a song by Green Day called, Wake Me Up When September Ends.  My husband has commented that he would like nothing better than to go to sleep on August 31st and wake up on October 1st.  And, even though I breathe a big sigh of relief when the calendar turns to October, I would never wish not to have September.

So in a few days I will focus on remembering.  I will honor her each and every day  – in some small ways and maybe even some big ways.  I will celebrate her and love her for what she is and will always be, my beloved first-born daughter.  Death can never change that – nor can it erase the love that we will always share.

“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”  Alfred Lord Tennyson

What We Can Learn From Michael Jackson

4 Jul

1. Money does not buy happiness.

2. Celebrity is never what it seems.

3. Childhood is a necessary and very
important part of our lives.

4. Being famous does not mean you love yourself.

5. Sometimes you are your own worst
enemy.

6. Money and fame do not bring peace
or a long life.

7. Our life is what WE choose
to make it — even those the world
knows by name.

8. Celebrities have problems and issues
just like us so called regular people.

9. We all long to love and to be loved.

10. People search in many places to find peace and happiness – drugs, alcohol, plastic surgery, all in search of something that can only be found within ourselves and through a higher power.

Rest in peace Michael – you deserve it.

The End of an Era

7 Feb

Yesterday was my last day at SPX.  After 34 years and ten months,, it ended just as I had always hoped that it would – in joy, and on my terms.

I can’t say enough good things about SPX.  It has played an enormous role in my life.  It brought me my husband, a wonderful life that afforded me the opportunity to have and raise my daughters, buy a home, and travel on occasion.  SPX was there for me in the good times like my wedding and the birth of my children, but they were also there during the most painful time of my life, the death of my daughter Liz.  And they did more than just send flowers and sympathies.

SPX gave Roger and I as much time off (with pay) as we needed.  But they also went above and beyond … they paid for the food after the funeral.  It was totally unexpected and something we will never forget and will always be grateful for. 

We felt the love and support of the entire company as we dealt with this most painful of events.  And it didn’t stop a month or two after the funeral. 

It’s always oh so easy to sit back and criticize the company and/or the people that you work for.  I’ve done it many times over the years.  But when you look at the big picture, I think we  have a tendency to sell our employers short … or always look at the negative instead of all the positive opportunities they present to us as employees.

So … THANKS SPX …. you gave a shy, quiet 19 year old kid a job and it became a wonderful life.   I could not have asked for anything more.

It’s a NEW Day!

20 Jan

Today is the day – I have never in all of my 54 plus years been so excited, so envigorated, so hopeful for our nation than I am today.

It really is a NEW Day … in so many ways.

Barack Obama is like a breath of fresh air in the stale air of Washington DC. 

He brings a new energy, a new sense of purpose, and a new and very wonderful sense of family.  He represents all that is good and that which is right with our world.

Please join me in sending him light and love for the difficult journey that lays in front of him and that he has chosen to accept.

It is a grand day and even better is that today is the 20th!?!  🙂