Christmas Newsletter 2013

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

I didn’t send a Christmas newsletter this year. What was I going to say? Tom and I and the kids are fine, but it was a rough year for Dads?

My father died on March 1st, at the age of 99, and Tom’s father died on October 10th, at 90.

One of my father’s long ambitions was to live to be 100. When I saw him last January he said, “I was born in 1913 and this year is 2013, so I lived to be 100.” When I reminded him that his birthday was the last day of the year, so he had a little ways to go to reach 100, he smiled and said, “Close enough. Close enough.” And I knew he was ready. Six week later he got up for breakfast, got up again for lunch, laid down for an afternoon nap and died quietly in his sleep.

Tom’s father George had a slowly growing brain tumor that reduced his ability to connect thoughts to words, and a progressive lung disease that made it difficult for him to get enough oxygen. His last few days were difficult, but his final hours were peaceful. He lived to be 90 and died in his own bed in the house he built 57 years ago.

Both our Dads lived long and productive lives. They spent their lives doing the right thing rather than pursuing happiness, but they were nonetheless happy men.

My husband’s Aunt Peg died this year, too, 15 days after her only sibling, George, at the age of 84. She had never married nor had children. She was well educated and an artist, but she never had to work for money. Her father left her the income from a family trust, and that supported her, but she had no ownership or control of the trust, and I think she deeply resented this. She was a very private person, but I enjoyed her company and I wish I had taken more time to get to know her.

People grieve in different ways. I joined a church. I was raised a Lutheran, and I’m more liberal than conservative, so I looked for a church affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. My father always thought women could and should have whatever career they liked, so I sought out a female pastor. He would have liked Pastor Sarah. My new church has brought me a lot of joy and peace. I think the Lord led me there.

My husband is cleaning the basement. I’ve been telling him for years that he needs to sort through his stuff so the kids won’t have to some day. After his father died he stood in the living room of the house he grew up in and after looking around at 57 years of accumulated stuff, he said, “The kids don’t want it.” Tom is finally going through all his old electronics, cameras, empty boxes, etc. and selling, tossing or donating stuff. If we live to be 99, like my Dad, we have 35 years left to play with our toys, but it doesn’t matter. It’s only stuff.

Things don’t matter. The people we love, and the people who love us back, matter.

I was sent a poem recently that I want to share:

Out of the World There Passed a Soul 

The day of my mother’s funeral I spend clearing out
her overgrown flower beds, down on my knees
in the leaf rot, nut shells, tiny grains of sandlot sand
spilling from the runoff gullies. The hot work was to see
not feel what had to be done, not to go on asking,
not to wonder anymore. Full from scraps I’d found
at the back of the refrigerator, her mongrel dog
lay curled on a stone and watched me work.
It was Sunday. The telephone rang, then stopped,
then rang again. By the end of the day, I’d done
what I could. I swept the walk, put away the tools,
switched on the indoor safety lamps, and then
(it hardly matters what I think I felt) I closed
the gate on a house where no one lived anymore.

by Sherod Santos

I get these poems through American Life in Poetry, edited by Ted Kooser, US Poet Laureate. Please follow the link to the website.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Living a satisfying life. The normal cycles of life.
    598 days ago
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    1607 days ago
    You are doing marvelous! Keep on a sparkin!
    2253 days ago
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    2763 days ago
    What a wonderful blog. Both your dads were very lucky men--they lived long lives and got to die in their own home until the end. It even sounds like your dad was feeling pretty good right up until his death. To die in your sleep at the age of 99, we couldn't ask for anything better, could we?

    I too follow Ted Kooser's column. He is a University of Nebraska adjunct professor and that is where I worked for 35 years. I adore his personal work, as well as the poems he finds for his column. When I started reading the poem, I thought, this sounds familiar!

    Sounds like we have a lot in common, foremost our weight. What a struggle. I realized a long time ago, it was going to be a life-long problem, and would only be controlled with constant vigilance, and then I let my guard down a little bit and BAM! The weight started creeping up. I hit my 160 lb. goal weight in April of 2011, but eventually got down as low as 139, before settling back about 150 and staying there for a couple years. I liked it there and hope to get back there. We'll do it together. HAPPY MEDICARE AGE! Honestly I am looking so forward to turning 65, in two years, just for that reason! I only hope my Du makes it!!!
    2764 days ago
  • no profile photo CD11945874
    Yes........... Life is short, isn't it ......... even if we live to be close to 100 ........... It is like a vapor of smoke compared to eternity. Good thoughts about cleaning up so the family does not have to go thru mountains of Stuff' accumulated over decades. This is something I work at continually.. One mans treasure is another mans trash" ............. kind of crude saying that is out there ........... But I think there is a nugget of truth in it .................. My Boss, 47, just died suddenly two weeks ago ............. shocked everyone! ........ When a co-worker expressed horror" I told him ................ "We will all die one day ................. we know not when ........... But the important thing is to BE READY and know the One who will give you life for all of eternity. (Mind if I send U a blog I recently wrote?) .................... Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas! emoticon
    2778 days ago
    Your poem reminded me of my first day after my mom died. I went through some of her stuff and tossed it, crying my way through the process. Later, I could donate the things that could be used and decide what things to bring to my house. The experience has made me continue to get rid of stuff at my own house so it will be easier for my kids when the time comes.
    2790 days ago
    I'm sorry about the loss of both the dads in your family this year.

    I'm glad that you found a church, and a pastor, to help you in the grieving and healing process.

    I saw a saying recently at a church gift shop. It said, "The best things in life are not things." I completely agree with you that what matters most are the people we love.

    The poem was beautiful. I clicked on the link and signed up for the weekly email.
    Thanks for that.

    emoticon emoticon

    2792 days ago
  • JUNEAU2010
    I hardly know what to say! Sad your dads are gone, but glad George is now pain free. Your dad sounds a lot like my dad - Dad said things like your dad.

    I will have to see about finding a new Lutheran church home, too. I used to belong to an LCA church decades ago.

    Despite the sorrows of the year, I hope the joy that you find in this community permeates through the season!
    2792 days ago
    Beautiful entry.
    2793 days ago
  • SHARON10002
    I am so sorry to read about all of the losses in your family this year. I can identify what you and your husband are going through to clean out a house that's been lived in for 57 years. I did the same when my parents passes, and it was heart-breaking. To help myself over that hurdle, I donated everything that was in good condition and could be reused to Habitat for Humanity, or the Salvation Army, and some to the local historical society.
    I do believe you were led by God to your church to help you heal.
    The poem is beautiful.
    You are so right that it is not the things in our lives, but the people in our lives that matter, and the love we give and receive. . .
    2793 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/5/2013 12:04:10 AM
    I'm sorry for your losses. emoticon
    The poem is beautiful!

    I was raised Lutheran also, and belonged to a more conservative church.It was the same church my mom was raised in, and up until high school, I went to a Lutheran school. Now I belong to an Evangelical church and I feel much more "at home" there; the atmosphere at the church I am going to now is friendly and informal.

    2794 days ago
  • no profile photo CD5575543
    A lovely poem. emoticon
    2794 days ago
    Sorry for your losses. Yes, everybody grieves differently. Sounds like you found a fine way.
    What a wonderful poem. Thanks for sharing.
    Wishing you a holiday season full of miracles.
    2794 days ago
    The Greeks say that you are already in your first year when you are I'd say you Dad made it to 100, too. Sorry for your matter how long they get to live, there's always one more thing to see, one more thing to say, one more song to sing.
    2794 days ago
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