Thursday, October 25, 2018

Building My Web

I carried many worries with me as I sat down at my computer that day.  Taking just a few moments for myself, I quickly glanced through my emails deleting those which were not worth my time to even open.  With so much on my shoulders … so many demands which became both stressful and isolating … I could at least rid myself of the unnecessary messages that were beckoning me from my computer screen.  An email from Chester County Night School?  Hmmm.  My fingers hovered over the delete button.  Thoughts began to snake through my mind.  The responsible Denise berating me for even considering leaving Jim alone for hours so that I could do something for myself.  The selfish Denise crossed her arms and announced that she was tired of living her life for someone else and began having a tantrum so that she could get what she wanted.  Truth be told I had begun to recognize my feelings of resentment along with those of stress and isolation.  I loved and cared for my husband, but there was more to ME than being that loving caretaker.  With a show of rebellion my hand moved from the delete button and to the one that would open the email.

Habit had me first looking through the classes offered for photography.  My world was a happier place when I had a camera in my hand.  Yet somehow it didn’t seem enough.  An intuitive voice whispered, “Not quite.  Keep going.”  And then, Centered Writing - Mindful Memoirs.  Oh.  The memory of friends’ voices echoed in my mind.  “Your words are powerful.  Find a way to use them.”  

How was this going to work?  I can’t leave Jim to go that far for a class.  Especially at night.  Yet there was a whispered tugging, and with a simple trust I shrugged off the reasons why it could not possibly work and registered for the class.  Heart strings began to form.  

A few weeks later I began the class as a widow.  Life had become surreal in its grief and uncertainty.  “Centered Writing,” yes, but my center had become shock and grief.  How could I bring that heaviness into this group of people?  It seemed unfair to them.  However, those heart thread connections reached out across my fears.  The first bit of foundation was laid so that trust could be built.  Throughout the following weeks my written words helped moved me forward so that I was not stuck in the place of my grief.  And the foundation of trust permitted me to speak my written words aloud.  Rather than resenting the weight of my emotions the strong, open-hearted women listened in class, thanked me for trusting them with my words, and applauded my courage.

It is said that we exist in the web of life.  I taught in elementary school science that a spider does not get caught in the web of her making because she knows which strands are sticky and to be avoided. She also has oil on the bottom of her feet which counteracts the web’s glue.  Yet no matter how well prepared or knowledgeable the winds of a storm can tear through her web and destroy it.  My web was destroyed as the winds of change blasted through my world with Jim’s passing.  As my life was ripped apart I was left overwhelmed and frightened.  

Yet those winds of change can be positive.  I realized that if a spider’s web is destroyed she simply begins to build a new one.  The strong silken strands come from within her.  So to can my world, my web, be rebuilt.  All that I need is inside of me.  The consuming demands of caring for a loved one have been lifted - yanked - from my shoulders.  With that I am free to find my voice.  I am free to be my web’s center.  And as my web building begins I have my first real friends of my new life nearby.  These women - my classmates - connected to me through the silken web-like strands of our heart strings.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Today my world is hushed as a late winter storm blankets the earth and creates my very own snow globe.  The anticipation of Spring with the warmth of its sun, new life peeking up from the ground, and birdsong filling the air is now forced to wait.  Today my world is hushed.

The demands and responsibilities of the past weeks are not permitted to enter my snow globe today.  The worry and tears are forced to retreat, replaced by a cup of tea, a good book, and soft music.  I curl in front of the fireplace and cocoon myself in the softness and warmth of a blanket.  Today my world is hushed.

I step back from the marathon of life with its frantic pace.  I stop and embrace the stillness.  I breathe in the quiet.  Today Mother Nature coaxes me to rest.  Today my world is hushed.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Choosing to Sugar-Coat

Taking a deep breath I stepped inside the abandoned steel mill building.  It was a crisp fall day in late October, and the brilliant blue sky and golden foliage contrasted dramatically with the deep shadows of the building.  It was a photography event, and it was pulling me out of my comfort zone.  It began with rather ominous guidelines from those in charge for the day.  We were advised to wear hard-toed boots, to wash the clothing we were wearing separately or even discard it when we returned home, and to update our tetanus shots.  Then there was the photography itself.  I tend to be drawn to color and objects with graceful flowing lines.  The idea of capturing images that had an industrial feel was foreign to me and a bit intimidating.  How on earth do you make abandoned and corroded objects look appealing?  So it was with a bit of trepidation that I began to chase the feeble light that was peeking in from the cracked windows high above me.  It was not long before I saw the beauty in the textures and contrasts.  And it was not long before I could be found crouched among the rust covered rubble in order to capture a shot with a perspective that most appealed to me.

Time passed as I wandered through the building with camera in hand.  Looking closer I was amazed at the unexpected beauty I found there.  A train car that seemed to have a dejected air as it sat abandoned on the tracks had a hitch that almost seemed to be an abstract piece of art.  And an even closer inspection revealed the amazing sea-like colors that surrounded it.

I was then drawn to a weathered wooden door hanging a bit askew and framed with corroded iron.  I glanced at the corrosion and then, startled, looked more closely.  Rust that is not the reddish-brown I always associated with it?  Blue?  Purple?  Yellow?  Really?

I have learned to look for the beauty in my life; to find it hidden in the silver-linings of the challenges that arise.  Most of the time I can find it, although truth be told it is not always easy to do so.  There are dark days when it seems that the light of magic and beauty has been extinguished by the shadows.
Deep down I know it is still there if I choose to see it, and it is a choice to be made.   I have been praised for being cheerful in the midst of struggle, and I have also been accused of sugar-coating the challenges of my life.  My choice is to focus on the positive and to chase the light.  There are beautiful surprises when you sugar-coat.  In that old abandoned building I noticed light beaming down onto a stepped piece of scaffolding.  I accidentally hit the shutter button on my camera as I fumbled with the tripod.  I confess to having a love/hate relationship with my tripod as it is as bulky as it is necessary.  The planned shot came out well, and I was pleased with it.

However it was only after I returned home and studied the images that I discovered the one that delighted me.  The image was captured when I hit the shutter button accidentally.  It was captured while I fumbled and struggled to capture the beauty in contrast.  The spirit and beauty of that dark abandoned building taught me a lesson that day.  Beauty and light dance in even the darkest of places.  It is always there, waiting to be discovered and embraced.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Letting Go and Letting Love

This is a story of lessons learned and letting go.  It is a story about what happened when I  put my words into action, even when that action was to do nothing.  It is a story about allowing myself to trust and the miracles that followed.  It is a story about getting out of my own way.

The story began two years ago when Jim, my husband, was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure. It was a diagnosis that was to be taken seriously.  We  were told by a doctor that had Jim waited a few days longer he would have died.  Toxins had been swimming throughout his system for months if not years.  Unfortunately they have had long term effects, and I found myself taking on much of the responsibilities of our lives.  I do not tell you this in an attempt to praise myself.  Rather it is a confession.  I allowed his care to become a burden for me.  I was overwhelmed and consumed by it.  I lost sight of the fact that I was not personally responsible  for everything.  I forgot that I am surrounded by a powerful love that is sent from heaven.  I forgot about a bit of wisdom I found on a magnet at the beach a few years before.

"Do not think you are totally responsible for everything.  That is my job.  Love, God"

  Throughout the nightmarish times that followed his diagnosis Jim set a goal that sometimes seemed unreachable.  It became his touchstone.  He wanted to return to Italy to visit his family and friends there.  As we faced one crisis after another his question remained the same.  "Can I still go to Italy?"  And so I set out to make that happen. Yes, I thought all the responsibilities and challenges of his wish were up to me to figure out.

I raced from one thing to another, priding myself on taking care of it all.  I was so caught up in the demands that I did not hear the quiet voices of the earthly angels sent to us.  Among them were the voices of Jerry and Judi, a loving couple who was traveling with us.  They walked hand in hand and reached out those hands to help others.  More than angels, they were guardian angels who were at our side for the entire trip.

"How can we help?'
"We'll be there too.  Between all of us we'll figure it out."
"I can take care of it."

It is odd that I appreciated those sincere offers to help but still felt totally responsible for all that needed to be done.  There was much on my To Do List, and I had a constant voice running through my head.  

  1. Order the dialysis supplies to be delivered to Italy.  Check
  2. Locate back up clinics in Italy to care for Jim in case of an emergency.  Check
  3. Notify the airline that he would need a wheelchair in the airport and help for boarding the plane.  Check
  4. Clear with the airline that we would have his dialyzer with us as carry on luggage.  Get a copy of the letter explaining the need to do so.  Check
  5. Get a copy of his medical records to carry with us.  Check
  6. Get a converter so that the dialyzer would be compatible with the electricity in Italy.  Check
And so I zipped along with my attention being on the myriad of things that needed to be done.  My focus was on the responsibilities rather than the anticipation of a trip filled with joy that Jim so dearly wanted.  I was setting us up for failure.

Finally, in my mind, we were ready to go.  I had worked for months and patted myself on the back for a job well done.  Then the phone rang.  It was Monday, and we were leaving on Thursday.  The call was from the airlines.  It was the first of many calls that would be made that day.  Frustration and fear came barging in as uninvited companions on this journey.  They were not welcomed but were vital players in a valuable lesson I was to learn. 

The first call was to tell us that we would not be able to bring the dialyzer on the plane with us as carry-on luggage.  It was too big.  It would have to be checked.  When I tried to calmly explain that I had cleared this with the airline weeks before I was told that the person I had spoken with had no right to make that decision.  When I spoke about the need to have it with us in order to prevent the dialyzer becoming damaged or lost I was interrupted and told that it would need to be checked.  I was not quite so calm when I said that my husband's life depended on the dialyzer.  The answer came back that it was to be checked and not carried on.  I was in tears when I hung up.  I had been advised by Jim's health team that the dialyzer had to stay with us.  I was just plain scared.

I located a letter given to me by the dialysis supplier.  It stated that the DOT required that the dialyzer stay with the patient on the plane as it contains a lithium battery.  Jim called the airline back, and I left him to handle the conversation on his own.  I found him a few minutes later sitting at the table and looking very confused.  When he read the letter to the person he spoke with he was told, "I don't care what the letter says.  You cannot bring it into the cabin with you."  He was further confused by what followed.  He was told that if the dialyzer contained a lithium battery we not only could not bring it into the cabin with us, we were not allowed to bring it onto the plane at all.  What????

I reached for the phone and first called his health team at the dialysis center.  One nurse in particular began working on her end to resolve the matter.  I heard the same thing over and over throughout the day.  "This is unheard of.  It has never happened before."  Before the end of the day I had contacted everyone I could think of including our congressman and a hotline for disabled people traveling by air.  I slept fitfully that night worried that the very trip that was Jim's motivation for living was not going to happen.  What then?  Would he just give up?  If it was unheard of, then why was it happening to us?  I tossed and turned as the questions hurtled through my mind.

I woke the next morning and prayed.  I asked how to turn the situation around.  I asked what I was missing.  What lesson was I being taught?  I then quieted my mind and received a surprising answer.  STEP BACK!  I professed to believe that I am surrounded by a powerful love every minute of every day.  I now needed to put that belief into action.  I needed to stop trying to be all-responsible.  I needed to trust.  I needed to get out of my own way.  

I think I shocked the nurse who called a few minutes later.  She paused, perhaps searching for words, after I told her I was letting it go and putting it in God's hands.  I then began my day.  Within two hours a representative from the corporate level of the airline called.  An hour later everything was resolved.  The dialyzer would be brought into the cabin with us.  The lithium battery was a non-issue because it was encased within a medical device.  It gets better.

Once we had checked in at the airport Judi asked where we could get a wheelchair for Jim. She was directed to an area of the airport, but was stopped as she reached for one of the many located there. Someone from the airport needed to push the wheelchair.  They asked to see Jim's boarding pass.  When reading his name they exclaimed, "We've been waiting for you!"  Within minutes someone arrived with the wheelchair. Another person walked with us pushing our carry-on luggage to the gate.  Two others accompanied us through security, allowing us to skirt the long lines, and then waited with us at the gate.  They boarded the plane with us and ensured the dialyzer was secure and Jim was comfortable.  Upon landing in Rome we were again greeted by someone with a wheelchair.  He breezed us through passport control, and stayed with Jim while we arranged to pick up our rental car and were on our way.  Amazing things happen when I get out of my way.

That night we tried to set up the dialyzer.  The converter we purchased was not going to work.  The dialyzer needed to draw more power during its nine hour cycle than the converter could handle.  We needed a heavy duty transformer.  They are not easily available in Italy.  Family and friends gathered around to resolve the new challenge.  Then a member of our Italian family quietly spoke.  "I can make one."  Neither Jim nor I knew that he had gone to school to be an electrician, and his job was to keep all the machines in the plant where he worked up and running.  We did not know.  Another unexpected angel appeared when I got out of my way.

Later in the trip supplies that I had ordered weeks before did not reach our destination.  I took it upon myself to fix it as I phoned the supply company.  It was Friday night in Italy.  I was told the courier was supposed to deliver the supplies that morning.  No one knew why they had not.  Courier services do not work on weekends in Italy.  We would have to wait until Monday.  When I explained that I only had enough supplies for one night of dialysis I was told to take Jim to the hospital for treatment over the weekend.  I used the word unacceptable often during that conversation, but I still hung up with things unresolved.  I had not fixed anything.

Family stepped in.  There was a lively discussion in Italian which I could not follow.  It continued the next morning.  Phone calls were made, but not by me.  I stepped back.  In hesitant English, someone explained that they would go to the hospital and get what Jim needed.  It was not necessary that Jim be admitted.  They would bring the supplies to him.  There would be no fee charged.  As we finished our conversation an excited voice called to us.  A phone call was received.  The order was on its way. It was Saturday.  Couriers do not work on Saturday, but within an hour the supplies were delivered by a courier.  Amazing things happen when I get out of my way.

There were poignant moments throughout the trip.  I watched as Jim struggled to climb stairways in Italy.  His legs are weak, and for him those stairs that I had just bounced up must have seemed like mountains to be climbed.  There at his side was his friend who seemed to know exactly what to say to get him up those steps.  There were sometimes encouraging words and sometimes a bit of cursing.

  It was truly difficult for Jim to get up those stairs.  The effort he made to reach the top left him depleted.  As he struggled to climb those last few steps I would sometimes hear Jim mutter, "Oh God, please help me."  I had to smile when I heard Jerry's ready answer.  "That's it.  Keep praying.  Praying works."

Yes, praying works.  That is especially true if you just get out of the way and let love go to work.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

One Rose at a Time

Lisa's Roses...

There exists a neighborhood flower shop located in the heart of one of Pennsylvania's smallest cities.  It is a family business where you will be welcomed with a smile from someone who is most likely a member of that family.  You may find yourself reminiscing with Carmen who founded the shop in 1948.

  Perhaps you will catch up on the latest news with his son, Greg, who now runs the business with his wife, Dorrie, at his side. You enter the shop as a friend and will spend a few minutes in friendly conversation before getting down to the business of the day.  Simply put you understand that love rests between the flowers in that small store, and you will return to it again and again.

Once a year that love spills over into the streets of this small city and reaches out to the neighboring communities as well.  In 2004  Greg and Dorrie tragically lost their daughter to cancer.  Lisa was a young woman whose physical beauty only mirrored the beauty she carried within her heart.  I cannot begin to imagine or understand the grief of her parents and all those who loved her.  Yet the glimmer of understanding I may have leaves me standing in awe of what Dorrie and Greg did next.  The hole in their hearts did not long remain a place of darkness.  Lisa'a love began to gently fill them with a flicker of light that eventually grew to radiate over miles.  On the anniversary of Lisa'a death the doors to their shop as well as their hearts are thrown wide open to the hundreds of people who will enter them that day.  Each and every one of those people will be given a dozen roses with one simple yet powerful request.  Keep one rose for yourself and give the remaining eleven away.  They ask that you pass on Lisa's love.  And on that day there is magic and joy in the air as Lisa's love fills this small city and the neighboring communities one rose at a person at a time.

Lisa's love is carried out into this corner of the world by people of every race, religion, and sexual orientation.  The shop is in the heart of what was once a thriving steel mill town.

 It is a city of diversity and has had its share of difficult times.  Some of those difficulties were the result of economics as the steel industry declined leaving many without jobs.  Some of those difficulties arose because of the diverse cultures which led to misunderstanding and conflict.  Truth be told there are those who look down on the city and its residents.  Its challenges are well known and well publicized.  Little room is left for pretense, and therein lies this city's strength.  Many of its residents share what is almost a raw honesty, and that leads to a clearer understanding.  Understanding can then lead to acceptance and mutual respect.  This shop not only lies in the heart of its city, it represents the heart of its city.  You are likely to cross paths with people who sometimes struggle to simply keep moving, who carry the weight of burdens we cannot understand.  Yet these same people find a way to make their corner of the world a better place with one rose at a time...with one person at a time.

Why was Lisa's Roses able to become such a remarkable movement in a city that struggles with its challenges on a daily basis?  Perhaps because it was born from the heart and with love.  Can you imagine what might happen if we each rose above our pain, misunderstandings, and challenges and worked to make our corner of the world better with one rose at a person at a time?  Why not try?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pink Shoes Legacy

"I hope that when I die someday people remember me as an ornery son of a gun."  The memory came in a flash.  I  was in my early twenties and sitting in the car with my father as he was drove me back to college.   Those car trips provided rare opportunities for one-on-one time which sometimes led to heartfelt conversations.  I can picture him saying those words with his hands relaxed on the steering wheel and his eyes focused on the road's path before him.  It was a true picture of how he approached life.  Always in the driver's seat, looking forward, and aware of the potential surrounding him.  Always ready to do what was necessary to keep any member of his family safe, yet relaxed and taking life one mile at a time. And of course, always with his thoughts leading to humor.  Always looking for a way to make someone laugh and brighten their day.  A simple car trip that is significant not only for the words he spoke but also for the lessons he taught while simply driving.  The lessons that would one day become part of his legacy.

Legacy has been much on my mind recently.  What exactly is it?  That question kept repeating itself in my thoughts. My time teaching in a 4th grade classroom had me opening up dictionaries to find the definition I was searching for.  The closest I found is the following from Macmillan:

something that someone has achieved that continues to exist after they stop working or die

I imagine my legacy musings began with my father's passing in April.  As I sat and listened to the loving words spoken by those who eulogized Dad, there was a quiet persistent voice inside me that questioned who Dad really was and what legacy he wanted to leave for us.  What did he hope to achieve that would continue to exist long after he died?  Truth be told his wish to be remembered as, "an ornery son of a gun'" has been realized.  The photo below shows him as a man who existed years before I knew him, but I recognize the look on his face.  The smirk that speaks to his orneriness and the joke that is in his mind.  The attitude that when life throws you a challenge just thumb your nose at it, crack a joke, and keep moving forward with your eyes focused on the road ahead.

That was the man I knew as my father.  Yet the question of who else he was lingered in my mind.  That question then led to others.  As I went about the process of simply living I tried to quiet those thoughts.  They were determined however, and I would hear from them again.

Mother's Day was approaching, and I began a bit of a treasure hunt as I searched through the hundreds of photos in my possession for a particular one. It speaks to my priorities that said photos are not well organized, and I never did find the one I was searching for.  That turned out to be a blessing because my search led me to discover the treasure of my hunt.  It was a picture of Mom as a young woman.  She was playfully showing off her legs with her thumb out in that universal sign of hitch hiking.  She was laughing and carefree without the responsibilities of being a wife and mother.  That happy-go-lucky lady was unfamiliar to me.  For me, Mom's legacy was strength, faith, and determination.  She loved us with a passion, but I rarely saw that part of her that was free-spirited.  When I found the photo I stopped and stared.  That persistent questioning voice of my thoughts made itself known once again.  Who were you, Mom?  What kind of legacy did you want to leave for us?  What do I want my legacy to be?

As is the way of the universe, the more I reflected on legacy the more the it knocked at the door of my thoughts and demanded to be let in and dealt with.  It next showed up in an online class I was taking from an awesome and creative woman named Lesley Riley.  The lesson included a Youtube clip of a Ted Talk speaker named Minke Haveman.  There was a glimmer of tears in Minke's eyes as she spoke of a shopping excursion with her mother.  Her mother found a pair of high heeled pink shoes that she was determined her daughter should have.  When Minke demurred her mother insisted and said that everyone should have a pair of pink shoes.  She bought them for Minke, and her smile beamed as she gave them to her.  Minke then went on to explain that her mother was battling cancer at the time, and those pink shoes were to be the last gift she received from her mom.  

Minke spoke of those pink shoes as being a part of her legacy, but only if their story was known.  And therein lies a truth.  At the very least a part of my parents' story is not known.  The same is true of all my family and loved ones who are no longer here to tell me their stories.  The loss of those stories brought about some loss of legacy. 

Minke encourages her listeners to gather their stories and share them.  Write on the back of a photograph, share your memories, and let it be known why some seemingly insignificant object is cherished.  Those are the things that speak to our hearts, and aren't our hearts the core of who we are?  Are not those things we cherish voices of our legacy? 

There is an old chipped mug that rests in a place of honor on a shelf in my home.  Although it bears my name it was given to my parents by one of my aunts at a time before I remember.  It was displayed on a kitchen shelf not only throughout my childhood but through my adult years as well.  It was simply always there and became a touchstone for me whenever I visited my childhood home.  It speaks to my presence as a member of a loving family.  It easily brings back memories of family dinners when we gathered around the kitchen table, shared simple meals, and talked about the day's events.  As that mug held its place on a small kitchen shelf it also seemed to hold my place in my family.  It proudly sat on that shelf in our kitchen, and is it not said that the kitchen is the heart of the home?  Does it not follow then, that this seemingly insignificant object has earned its place in my heart?  And does not my heart contain the core of who I am?

The wonderful truth is that we are each the author of our own legacy, and we are each the lone author who can tell our stories completely.  We can choose what gifts or achievements we leave that will continue to exist long after we die.  However we need to tell the stories of our lives rather than let those stories be hidden in closed books.   We need to show what is in our hearts  for it is those things that give birth to our legacies.  

    As her presentation was drawing to a close Minke asked a question that I will now ask you.  What are your pink shoes?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pieces of April

       "April gives us springtime and the promise of the flowers..." -Bread

I love springtime.  What a gift it is to sit beneath a blossom covered tree while savoring the gentle warmth of the sun, the birdsong filling the air around me, and daylight that lingers well into the evening.  My step is lighter when I walk among earth's signs of renewal and discover a rebirth of hope.

I do not enjoy winter nearly as much.  I work to bring light into those cold dark days.  I try to convince myself that it is cozy to light candles and sit in front of the fireplace sipping a cup of tea.  While that is true, I would rather have long days filled with light than days when the darkness appears much too soon.  I would rather the light come to my world with little effort from me.

"I realize that there is something incredibly honest about the trees in winter, how they're experts at letting things go." 
-Jeffrey McDaniel

Effort, however, is necessary in order to learn the lessons that   I have come to appreciate at least one of them.  The blossoms and leaves that impress the earth with their showy beauty can hide the trees' strength.  It is only with the letting go of those leaves that we are able to clearly see the trunk and limbs that stand strong against the cold winds that roar about them.  Cannot the same be said about ourselves?  That it is only when we drop our pretenses that we find our true strength?  That only when we let go of what no longer serves us can we make room for the new life that is to come?

It sometimes seems that I have been letting go for years.  Some of it is so easy it is almost fun.  I have way too much stuff in my life.  It is a good feeling to box it all up and send it on its way to someone who has a need for it.  What I find much more difficult to let go of are relationships with people I care about...with people I love.

Six years ago my father suffered from a stroke that only affected his mind.  A relatively small bleed in his brain dragged us into a new and bewildering reality.  I realized I needed to let go of the showy expectations of who my father was in order to gain the strength, understanding, and wisdom needed to appreciate who he  now showed himself to be.  Perhaps it was a truer picture of who he was at the core of his being and not, as first thought, a new person that I did not know.

And from that strength new life began to spring out in that darkness.  Dad would suddenly purposely make a funny comment which would leave me weak with laughter.  His wisdom would come out in comments such as, "People can't talk right if they think stupid."  As I let go of my expectations  I discovered  a version that also had many gifts to offer.  As he became more childlike the walls we create as adults were brought down.  As he let go of the facade of who he thought society demanded he be, he became the man he truly was.  Once released from those demands he was able to make room for the beauty in the new lessons he taught.  His strength was clearly seen.  That strength remained at the very core of who he was.  His strength was his heart.

My father reached the end of his journey on April 3rd.  I sat with him on the day of his death.  Although not truly conscious, he held my hand when I talked to him.  When I spoke of how much he was loved I felt his hand squeeze mine.  He continued to give his gifts of love and strength until the very end of his time here on earth.  They are the very gifts that will allow me to make room for new growth in  my life.  Dad, I love you to the moon and back.