Coffee Time Already?

It’s a glorious fall morning on this particular Saturday. I may be a lover of the warm weather, but there is nothing like bundling up with my fleece jammies on and fuzzy socks and enjoying a hot cup of caramel brulee coffee under a blanket. It’s soul soothing in a way.

This time a year ago, I was spending my time in the hospital with my beloved mom. Yesterday was the 1st anniversary of her hemorrhagic stroke, a day that would change my life forever. When I was called by my daughter, I was told that grandma was in the ER and my husband and I went straight there. We never imagined what we would find. As I headed to the room to see her, still not sure what had happened, I was told I could not go in. I was still calm despite my fears.

My dad and brother were already there, of course. I’m the last one to be called since I have a family of my own and my brother is single. The boys, as I call them, are very close and very similar to beach other. I’m the girl, and mom and I were always close, very close. She was my best friend. 

We were shuffled off into a little room so that the doctor could talk to us about the stroke. The fact that mom was coherent when she came in and the cardiac workup was negative but that she started to lose her cognition and deteriorate rapidly finally led them to know it was a brain bleed, and unfortunately it was a big one. She was put on a ventilator and received what we referred to as a brain drain to keep the pressure down in her brain.

She amazingly started to recover slowly. I was so happy even though I knew, being a 20 veteran nurse, that she would never truly be exactly who she was before, but she was doing so well. She was sitting up and eating and talking after a long week. But then everything changed. 

Little did I know in October 21,2015 that on November 25,2015 at 12:38AM my beloved and blessed mom would leave this world. She fought and fought hard, but she had too many complications that mounted up against her. 

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. I don’t cry as often, but I do still cry. I can’t tell you how much I miss her. I miss her laugh, our long talks, her hugs, her advice wanted and unsolicited, her smell, her little cough, her hands. I miss everything about her. 

The pain is still there, but not so raw. I don’t think you ever get over the death of your mother. Not truly. Sure we move on and learn to live life again, but life will never quite be the same without her here. The good thing is, I know I have a angel watching over me because I know my mom has to be in heaven. She was the most beautiful and holy person I knew. I thank God for being blessed with such an awesome mom for all the years I had her here. If you still have your mom here, go give her a hug today. You never know when it will be the last hug you will get.

Where Did the Summer Go?

Each year as August rolls around, I ask myself this question. It always seems that once we celebrate the Fourth of July in all its glory, the summer flies by. This year is no exception as time marches forward in spite of our wish for it to slow down ever so slightly. 

In just a couple short weeks the college kids will be heading off to school, my second daughter among those headed away for the first time. Just after that, school starts anew for the rest of them and summer 2016 will be one more in the memory books. 

I have to say that for my kids, my husband, and myself, this has not been a great summer. Most of June I spent in and out of the hospital and the month of July was spent still recouperating from my surgery and complications. We didn’t do anything fun or exciting. We didn’t go anywhere or explore any new fun adventures. We stayed home. We bonded, at times, a little too much, but usually just The right amount! The best part was that most of us were together and grew out family bond. That is worth it’s weight in gold, however. 

If it weren’t for my family, I certainly don’t know how I could have managed. My dad, God bless him, even made me an Apple pie, from scratch! I taught him how to make it several months ago and he’s perfected it now. My beloved aunts have sent notes, recipes and even a piece of apple pie back with my dad, just for me. My cousins and one of my aunts came to visit me. I truly am blessed to have such a loving, caring and wonderful family near and far. It’s their love, actions and prayers that have helped me recover from this wretched surgery and infection. 

This is not to say my friends haven’t been there because they have been. But this is to remind us all just how important family is. The apple pie from my aunt was made by my 93 year old aunt. She lives 90 miles away and sent it home with my brother and my 85 year old dad. Family and love conquers all of given a chance. Respecting the elders in my family and caring for them means that even though my mom may no longer be with us, my family picks up the pieces and holds me in their hearts to care for me like she would have when I need her most. This summer I needed her like I’ve never needed her before. Having my aunts call and write to me has meant more than they will ever know. Their love has carried me through when I was missing my mom the most.

I’m doing much better and I have no doubt that I’m the next few weeks I’ll be fully recovered, but I’m still weak and I still have pain. I’ll get there though. Now most days are good days. Now, it’s time to put this summer and this chapter behind me and look forward to brighter days. I will never forget those who have been so kind to me throughout this summer though. It is through God’s grace, family and friend’s care and support that I am recovering and doing so well. It has been a journey I hope never to revisit. My mother always said when you have your health, you have it all. She was so right. 

Now it is time to look forward to one daughter pursuing her dream to become a nurse, one daughter going aeaybfir the first time to study pre-med and sociology then my youngest kids will be starting the school year at home. Number 3, my amazing artist and hilarious child will begin driving this fall, Lord help us! The youngest child, my beard devil, will be in 4th grade already. As we all day as adults, “just where did the time go”? Wasn’t my 20 year old just in preschool last year? 

Time is a strange thing. Not only does it stop for no one, but it also will heal wounds. Just look at me! I’m much better than I was 2 months ago. I bet you thought I was going to say it heals wounds of the heart. That’s a subject for another day. For now, I will look forward to what is left of this summer and the beginning of a brand new school year with brand new adventures to be had. There’s still a little bit of summer left for me to enjoy!

Finding Joy after 40

As we approach the middle of our lives, our mindset sort of changes. We start to think of things a little differently and start to think about things we really had never considered before. One of those things is our own mortality. When we are young, we think we will live forever. Oh, how life changes us.
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We begin to ponder more seriously whether heaven and hell really exist. We ponder our financial futures and if we will be able to retire, ever! We contemplate our spouse’s mortality and health becomes an issue. If we are in the dating realm, we contemplate if we will ever find our person, our soul mate.

Family is more important than anything still, but our family roles change as well. Children grow up and start to leave our nest. I will have two daughters in college this fall and I know already how just one leaving changes the dynamics of our family. I am having a hard time imagining life with two out of the house, but life continues to march on.
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Losing my mom last November, my world changed forever. No longer could I pick up the phone and talk to her about this or that. No longer could we go have our favorite salad at Applebee’s. Her life here was completed and my own was turned upside down. For anyone that has been through the loss of their mother or father, you understand.  That loss brings to mind our own mortality.  What would happen to our family if we died? Would our children be okay?  Would our spouse be okay?  Would he/she remarry? Am I ready if God calls me home?  Will I go to heaven or hell?  Will my family be okay financially?  So many questions.
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Then, once you start thinking about those things, you start thinking about what would happen if someone you love dies as well as what will happen when you lose your other parent.  It’s a place that you could easily lose yourself if you let yourself get sucked into that void.  Death is part of life.  We are all born and the only guarantee in life is that we will eventually die.  Morbid thought, isn’t it? But losing someone so important to your very being is losing a piece of yourself.  They live on in your heart, but no longer are they here in bodily form to touch and to have a conversation with.

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As we get to the middle years, even our style of parenting changes.  One of my mom’s best friends used to tell her that every time you have a child, that child comes at a different stage in your life.  You aren’t the same at 26 as you are at 37.  It makes sense then that your children will all be just a little different because you are a little different.  Sure, there’s the genetics and the birth order, but the other factor I see in my home is the kids have different parents because we are different than we used to be.  At 26, when my oldest was born, I was full of energy.  I had no aches or pains.  I saw the world differently than I did at 37 1/2 when I had my youngest child.  Because of this, my youngest child does get away with more than my oldest did at 9.  My oldest was also more responsible too.
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Financially, we start really focusing on the future and we are able to see that there may be a light at the end of the work tunnel.  Maybe we will be able to retire, someday, but will we have saved enough?  With kids in college and more than likely weddings sometime after that (I have 3 daughters), it’s hard to come to grips with the idea that I will have to work long after 62 if I’d really like to retire comfortably.

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I also find that although I love babies, I like other people’s babies.  I have no babies pulling on my apron strings anymore and no desire to have anymore children.  I have a dear friend who has only one, beautiful little boy.  She and her husband are considering adoption at the moment.  For them, I am ecstatic. I, on the other hand, want nothing to do with bringing more children into my own house.  Four is my limit and I’m always kicking the kids to play outside because they are loud and messy.  It’s not that I dislike my children, in fact, I love them with all my heart.  It’s just that I would like to keep the few things I have in my house safe from hockey in my living room or wrestling.  Someday I pray that I will have grandchildren to spoil, but I certainly hope never to have to worry about having any additional children of my own.  I’m too old anyway. Thank God for that and hysterectomies. I’ll gladly wait for grandchildren now but I’m in no hurry.
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As I said before, life continues to move on.  We have choices.  We have so many things on our mind, but we have to move on too and remember to make the most of each day.  Each day is a gift.  Each child is a gift.  Each time you spend time with someone you love, that’s a gift.  Life is a gift not to be squandered.  We all must focus on the good and positive things in our lives, the people and things that bring us joy.  Make the most of today and everyday  You only get one chance to live your life, so dwelling on what could have been is self defeating.  So, find joy in your day and focus on that instead of the negative thoughts or comments.

 

Prom, Show Tunes and Missing Mom

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Another night of sleeplessness.  I am so sick of insomnia.  If only I had it when it was convenient, like during the day!  I could sleep every afternoon, no problem, but that’s not going to work! Today was a fairly good day for me until later this afternoon, just before having to go take pictures for my daughter’s senior prom.  she looked stunning.  Granted, I’m her mother and I always think she’s stunning, but today, she was exceptionally stunning.  I started feeling a bit under the weather just before it was time to leave and felt that it was best for me to lay down and rest for a bit.  She was not pleased, but then again, I felt like a schmuck.  Loser mom.  I mean, who misses out on those once in a lifetime chances? Luckily, I have my backup, Hubs.image

My daughter had her daughter had her best friend come over this morning for the pre-prom preparations.  It started with coffee, then they did facials, nails, hair and makeup.  Our house was a magnificent and extremely messy beauty salon.  My oldest daughter is home for the weekend and joined in the preparations as well.  Such excitement!  The girls had show tunes blaring while they sang along during the various beauty treatments.  I even joined in as well.  Let me tell you about these girls.  They can sing and they sing REALLY well! They all have the voices of angels.  I have heard songs from Annie, Guys and Dolls, Wicked, Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and so many others.

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My Oldest Daughter had a lead in Guys and Dolls and when they played one of songs she sang, I got teary eyed and just started thinking about that show and then about my mom.  Mom flew from Florida 3 years ago to see Emma in that show.  She would have done the same this year to see Clare in her lead in Footloose.  Just thinking about it now makes me nostalgic, sentimental, and sad that she isn’t here.  She should be here for days like today.  Days where her granddaughters look so incredibly beautiful.  It’s just not fair.  It’s not fair that we have to lose our moms.  I need her.  I will always need her.

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And so, here I am, my tummy feeling a bit better than it was after a rest.  My oldest daughter out with her friend, my second daughter at her senior prom with her boyfriend and my youngest one gone for the weekend.  My home which used to be filled with so much craziness, has only Hubs and the Boy and me in it tonight.  I like the peace and quiet, but at the same time, I do sometimes miss the kids being little and needing their younger and more energetic mom. Sometimes.

I Want My Mom Again

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There is always just something we all want in our life.  We may want more time, more money, more energy.  Maybe you want another chance to do something over again so you could do it just a little differently.  I am no different from anyone else in this world and I’ve thought about this quite a bit over the last few days.  It’s a hard thing to determine sometimes because all those things are very relevant in today’s society.  I believe that everyone will agree that more hours in the day to get things done, more energy to get those things accomplished and more money to accomplish said things would be greatly useful.  But did you ever stop to really think , how would those things really improve your life? I think we would still be in the same predicament we are now because we would just find more things to fill up the time with, spend the money on and the extra energy would be depleted because of it.

croagh patrick with sheepBecause of this, I think if I had anything, I  would choose something specific.  If only I had another year with my mom.  I miss her so much.  I know that perhaps other people may ask why another year, why not just a day or why not 10 more years. Well, to be honest, I would be happy to have my mom for any length of time, but another year knowing that she could be completely healthy would give us enough time to spend each and every day together doing things together.  We could travel to Ireland to see family.  We could spend those days laughing and walking and chatting.  I could be writing all of her stories down and taking pictures of all the places she knew and know the places from her perspective.

We could travel to France.  Neither of us have ever been there.  I would love to go there with my mom and my middle daughter, who actually speaks French really well.  I know my older daughter would enjoy going with us too.  What a joy for us to spend a couple weeks in France, all of us girls, eating our way through the French countryside!

loveHow much fun it would be to spend a week with mom’s brother and his family in New York. They are fabulous and so much fun.  I haven’t seen them in so many years and I miss them tremendously.  My uncle is the last of mom’s siblings still living and the two of them were always thick as thieves.  So many stories mom had of how my uncle would even do her chores so she could study.  Never was there a better brother she told me.

We would travel where mom wanted to go, to places we’ve been and places she wanted to see.  It would be a great adventure.  When we weren’t on a magical adventure, we would have many cups of tea and ham sandwiches.  Mom would insist on cooking some of her killer awesome dinners and I know we would have to go out to eat at some really good restaurants, too!   No matter what my mom ate, and she could eat, she always maintained her stylish, slim, athletic figure, unlike me.

Even if we didn’t have all those adventures like I imagine we would, I know I would spend my time with her, especially knowing that I only had her for one last year before having to say goodbye, again.  I would try to gather as much knowledge from her as my tiny mind could possibly hold.  I would relish every single moment and treasure each touch of the hand, each hug.  I just really, really miss her.  The pain isn’t as bad as it was in the beginning, but it’s still there, always present, just not as raw as before.  So if I had one wish for anything in the world, I would tell you this…if only I had another year with my mom, I would treasure each moment and write every memory down and take so many pictures.  I would make each day count. Most of all, I would tell her I love her every day and hold her in my embrace just to remember her more.

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This has been written as part of Finish the Sentence Friday.  This week I am co-hosting with the ever fabulous, Kristi of http://www.FindingNinee.com fame! Please check out the other writers as they finish the sentence this week which is “If I only had…” Thanks for reading!

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Life Just Isn’t Fair Sometimes

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Dexter and Felix last week.

This week has been one of those weeks, which isn’t good since it’s only Monday.  The problem with this week is that it’s attached to last week.  Last week, we received the little blessings of 2 beautiful baby squirrels to rehabilitate since their mother was sick, fell out of her nest and then was eaten by a dog.  We lost Felix in the wee hours yesterday morning.  This morning, I was so frightened that we may lose Dexter as well.  I can’t lose another baby squirrel.  Oh, did I mention that we also lost the little hamster we had for 2 days? Yes, I’ve quite frankly had enough of death of small, cute, furry creatures for a while.

When I looked at my little Dexter, I saw him not moving around like he was yesterday. I saw him starting to scoot his front paws instead of actually using them to climb, like he was yesterday.  I was so frightened.  All I could do was cry.

My wonderful 14 year old, Katie, took over squirrel care for me and I took a break from the world for awhile.  She fed him and also found a site which explained exactly what was going on with our baby, Dexter!  It’s on Squirreltales.org and I am praying that I can help our baby make it through this awful disease now that I have the tools to do so.

What our baby seems to have is Metabolic Bone disease and it’s basically a calcium deficiency.  I’m reading everything I can now on how to help him. I’ve given him his first calcium supplement and pray that by morning I will see a difference.  I have to get some avocados though.  I can’t believe I’m out of them.  Me, of all people, out of avocados!   Apparently, if I hand feed my sweet little Dexter the calcium laden avocado, he’ll love it. I’m sure hoping so because the first thing I noticed was his appetite declining.

I managed to give him his dose mixed with some pedialyte tonight, and I will give him the remainder of it at the next feed since he’s not been too terribly interested in his normal foods and is just as happy to have his formula.  Hopefully the special biscuits will come tomorrow and will help him as well. Ah the things we do to rehab the wee ones.

I pray that Dexter will recover from this.  It is a very painful condition as it debilitates their tiny bodies.  If the answer is calcium, I can do that.  I would do anything to rehab this little guy.  He will be released into the wild if we can get him that far, but that is our job in all this.  We are simply a stone in the path of his tiny life to building his little fortress.  I’m just praying we can do it.  I can’t have my nearly nine year old and myself crying to bits yet again!  We haven’t even gotten over Felix yet.

The Grieving Nearly Nine Year Old

IMG_1053.JPGAnd so after all these months, it takes the death of a hamster and a baby squirrel to get my son to finally grieve and cry for his grandma.  November 25th, my mother passed away and heaven gained an incredibly bright and vivacious angel.  She had a stroke 5 weeks earlier and was doing better, initially beating the odds as she so often did, but then something happened and that changed the course of her life and ours irrevocably.Most of us have accepted this but my nearly 9 year old son, not so much.

Liam wouldn’t cry in front of anyone.  It’s not to say that he didn’t cry, but he wouldn’t cry in front of anyone.  It’s as though in that quick blink of an eye, my little boy was trying so hard to be strong for me.  He hated to see me sad and crying, and I was sad and crying a lot.  She was my mom and learning how to live life without my mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I’m still learning.  But for Liam, without anyone telling him, he wanted to be strong for me.

There were things he would suddenly not do.  He didn’t want me to look at the cemetery as we passed by every hockey day.  He said, “mom, don’t look over there, please.  I don’t want you to be sad or cry.” He knows exactly where mom is buried. Once he saw that I didn’t cry or make us trot over there, he felt more comfortable with me driving him to hockey. Thank God for the small miracles.

He didn’t want me to watch sad things in case I would be sad and cry.  Instead, he wanted to play video games where he could fight and do damage to things, or drive super fast and have cool cars, or just play the mind-numbing Mine Craft that all the kids his age play.

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I felt like I had lost my sweet, caring, concerned little boy.  Apparently, I didn’t.  Of this, I am so grateful.  He still snuggles with me.  He still has a big heart.  How big I didn’t know until we got the sickly hamster and the sickly baby squirrel, Bandit and Felix.  We lost both of these little creatures within a day of each other and Liam was distraught.

He talked about his grandma for the very first time since losing her.  The very first time!  He told me how he still hurts so much and it’s just so hard to go to her house to see grandpa because she isn’t there.  He told me it’s hard to go to church because she was always there  He cried without abandon.  Tears streaming and face buried deep in my lap, the tears kept coming.  We cuddled and talked for a very long time.  We talked about grandma, about grief, about the animals, about why God takes grandmas and baby animals home to heaven.  We talked about everything.

I reminded him that God has a plan for all of us and a lot of the time, we don’t understand what that plan is for any of us.  That it is okay not to understand because it’s God’s plan and He knows best.  It does make us very sad, but in heaven, no one is sick.  Our animal friends will be healthy and happy.  They will be greeted by grandma who will feed them and care for them like she always did with all the little creatures here.  As for Grandma, it was her time to go to the glory of heaven and be young and free and healthy.  Here, she was sick and wasn’t going to be the healthy, independent grandma she had always been before her stroke.  God knew that in her heart, she didn’t want to have to be dependent so he ushered her through to heaven, where she can be with all the angels and saints.  She can watch over us and pray for us to keep us safe.  Now, she always with us.

This long chat seemed to help, but every time we talked about grandma, he cried.  Oh, he cried. I reminded him of all the good things we have here.  I reminded him how much grandpa misses his favorite boy.  My poor, sweet, little boy got up from cuddling, looked at his dad and said, “let’s go lay down, dad”. Within minutes, this little boy, in the throes of grief, was fast asleep.

20150722_122453It’s taken all these months for him to acknowledge his grandma’s death but I’m proud of him for doing it at last, in his own time.  I wish, ever so much that I could take away his pain, that the hamster and the baby squirrel didn’t have to die to bring this about.  Whatever the case, you can’t change the past, you can’t change the future, but you can hold the present tightly in your arms and tell him how much you love him and how sorry you are that he has to know pain.

A Time to Say Goodbye

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RIP Bandit

This morning, my husband found our little hamster, Bandit cold and limp. A life ended. A very short life at that. We didn’t have her a week but I had my suspicions that she wasn’t well when the kids brought her home. She didn’t suffer, she just passed away quietly in her sleep in her favorite place. Poor little might.

The only thing I can say that was merciful is that we hadn’t the time to become too attached to her. My little man, the nearly 9 year old, was upset and as usual in his dealing with death, wouldn’t go near her little dead body. He doesn’t want to deal with sadness. Ever since losing mom last November, Liam is afraid of death and being sad. He’s afraid of grief.

This is not something you can force a child his age to deal with either. He just simply wants to move on. We try desperately to help him. We’ve tried talking to him and reading books, but he will just walk away. Hopefully in time, when he’s ready, he will come to us. Until then? We wait.

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Felix the sickly baby

Our two little squirrel friends are still with us. Felix is not doing well though. I’ve prepared Liam for this by talking to him. Felix has been the weaker of the 2 babies. His breathing and muscle control is remarkably declining and my heart is broken.

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Dexter looking at Felix

Dexter, on the other hand, is thriving! He is climbing all over the cage, eating great and just doing everything he should be doing. It’s so hard to raise wild animal babies knowing that the chance of survival is always risky at best. We knew the odds were against Felix from the beginning but he did rally and look stronger initially. How quickly things can change.

With the short life of Bandit, my husband and I decided that Liam could replace her with a new hamster. This one is Bugatti, a Russian hamster, complete with racing stripe down her back. Already, she is more confident, friendly, curious, burrowing, climbing, exploring and sweet. She is healthy and had a nice solid poop on my hand just to show me how healthy she is. bandit has loose poop which was my first clue there was something wrong.  If you looked in Bugatti’s cage right now, you would think it’s empty, but that’s only because she’s asleep under the bedding.

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Baby Bugatti coming out of her tunnel

Ah the joy and sadness that comes from raising animals. With the good times and the bad, I still wouldn’t give it up. Thank God I have the world’s most understanding and wonderful husband alive.

As We Stand In the Middle Years…

When I was young, my family seemed to be always getting together for family weddings.  I have a very large, Irish, Roman Catholic family so that means I have many cousins.  It was great to have an excuse to get in the car and run to St. Louis for the whole day.  That was how I got to really get to know my family on my dad’s side.  You see, my dad is one of eight siblings.  He had 5 sisters and 2 brothers.  If you recall from previous blogs, he is from a small country village in the west of Ireland.  Dad and 4 sisters immigrated to St. Louis area within several years time.  3 stayed in St. Louis, Dad moved to Illinois and one sister ended up moving to New York. All of them wanted to make a new life in a new world. And so they did.

With the exception of my aunt in New York, the rest of us would get together several times a year growing up.  A few times a cousin would come stay a week with us, someone would get married, a holiday gathering at one of my aunts would occur. And the food! My aunts never let you leave hungry. We had the small household of only 2 kids.  In all, I grew up with 19 first cousins on my mom’s side and 18 on my dad’s side, but I knew my dad’s side better due to proximity.   The age difference is vast though.  Some of my second cousins are very near my age but my New York cousins are my age and my cousins in Ireland are too.  That is the beauty of a large family! Confused yet? Well don’t be.  The point is this, having a big family is amazing! It only solidified me wanting to have a large family when I grew up.  There is always something happening and someone to go to if you need it.

Now that I’m in the middle years, however, life has changed.  I have my own big family, but we don’t get together so much anymore with my extended family.  Lately we seem to get together only for funerals and then it’s still not all of us.  That makes me sad.  When I was a kid, if one of the family passed away, the whole family was there.  That’s just how it was.  Now, everyone has to work.  Has productivity become such a necessary evil that if numbers aren’t crunched people aren’t doing their jobs and can’t get the day off for a beloved aunt, uncle or cousin?  I find that pathetic.  It means that spouses can’t go to funerals unless it’s at a convenient time. Regardless why don’t we make excuses to get together more often to see each other while we are still living?

Today, I trekked to St. Louis to bury my beloved Uncle Mike.  He was the last of the spouses of my dad’s siblings to be laid to rest.  He was 90 years old and the sweetest man you would ever meet.  He was a saint here on earth with a great sense of humor, a devilish gleam in his eye and the kindest, most patient man on the planet, besides my dad. He and my Aunt Nancy raised 4 boys, each of whom I adore.  I was so blessed and honored to have an uncle like my Uncle Mike and I know that my mom will be welcoming him through the pearly gates of heaven with her arms wide open and a huge smile on her face.  Uncle Mike, I know you are looking down on your family now and you know just how much you were and always will be loved.  And just for you, it was a great party!uncle mike