families, living and growing

Transforming Love

“It’s been a slow but steady change. Something that bordered on indifference had transformed into investment and caring. An awakening awareness. 6 years ago my Uncle Ed died. His death, which came a year after my Aunt Mary’s death, shattered my father. He was the oldest of 4 siblings. He had lost his youngest brother years ago. But it was the recent death of his brother and sister, that broke him. The man who had always played the role of the big brother had no siblings left to care for and protect. He struggled with the injustice of them going before him. The consummate big brother had lost his purpose.

My Uncle Ed and my Dad had for many years, lived within a 40 mile radius of each other. They got together often, talked on the phone regularly and were deeply invested in each other’s lives. Each had children of their own and tried to get these cousins together on a regular basis.

Some of my siblings developed, early on, deep and lasting relationships with these “Framingham Convery’s” as we called them. My relationship with them was different. There were six Framingham cousins in all. Three of them were quite a bit older than me, closer to my own siblings ages. But I had one cousin a year older than me, one a year younger and one two years younger. And for most of our childhood we had the type of relationship children have when they feel forced to play with one another. I liked them more than I disliked them and as we all got older we came to like each other even more and let our own insecurities go.

But the overall indifference I felt, remained. Until their father died. Having their dads brother as my dad, I knew what they had lost. I understood the impact. Both men were larger than life. Both left a huge vacuum that time and space could not fill. My dad died just over a year after his brother. And my understanding of exactly what their loss felt like, grew.

And as that understanding grew, my indifference began to be transformed into something new. The indifference had not been born out of dislike but rather stemmed from the busyness of life. For our entire lives, our fathers updated us all on each other’s lives. No real investment was necessary. I could listen as my father would recite to me all he had learned about each of my cousins from his latest phone call. I could smile or be sad for them, whichever was appropriate and then go on with my life.

Until there were no more updates to rely on. And these people, this small band of Convery Framingham’s began to grow in importance to me. Why? Because THEY KNEW. They understood the depth of my loss. We had a shared history that I could no longer allow to languish on the sidelines of indifference. Slowly and surely I began to care. Indifference gave way to curiosity. Not a gawking kind of curiosity but the kind that develops as one starts to see the value another holds.

Each year since their dad died, my Framingham cousins have held a fund raiser around St Patrick’s day to raise money for a scholarship in my uncles name. And each year I have gone. Our dads both loved their Irish heritage and the day that allowed them to celebrate it. It’s a warm time and as the years go by, it feels less and less sad and more and more of a tribute to exactly what those two men would have wanted. The tribute goes well beyond the Irish celebrations because the real tribute is the growing relationships. It would have delighted both of them.

This year I noted a change when I went. I always enjoy it and have looked forward to it from its beginning. But this year, I felt something new. I felt at home. Completely relaxed. No pretense. No walls built up from years of indifference. I felt a deep abiding appreciation and a deepening curiosity. These people MATTER! I need to know more about them. I WANT to know about their lives. I feel that I have been given a gift……a gift stemming from the love two brothers had for each other. Finally I was open to it being passed down in a way that transformed my heart. My cousins have experienced this too…I can see it and feel it when I am with them.

I know my dad and my uncle are smiling down at us….glad we finally understand what they knew, all along. These growing relationships reconnect us with a part of ourselves that was lost when our dad’s left this earth. But connecting with each other isn’t just about holding onto to something we have all lost. Its bigger than that. This connecting transforms us. It takes us off the path of indifference and puts us on a path of deep, abiding love. That’s a transformation worth celebrating and a tribute to the special love that began long ago. A love that transforms.

comfort, death, dying, eternal life, families, home, hope, living and growing, military, mourning, moving on, music, peace

Major Tom

Shortly before my dad died, a song came on the radio.    I hadn’t heard it in many years.  It immediately struck me that this song would become connected to my fathers death.

https://youtu.be/Ixfqr10bs3s  Major Tom – Coming Home by Peter Schilling.

Having served in the Air Force, my father retired from the military as a Major.  Even 40+ years after his retirement he was still introducing himself as Major Tom.    I remember his pleasure when this song came out in 1983.

Several days passed after my hearing it on the radio.   My siblings and I had started sleeping over my parents house in anticipation of my father dying.   We did not want to leave him and my mother to walk through that valley alone.

Four, three, two, one – Earth below us
Drifting, falling – Floating weightless
Calling, calling home……..

The night before he died, my brother and I were sleeping over.   I had woken up around 3pm to see if my father needed his meds.   He was alive but quiet, I decided to leave him alone.   I went back to sleep.   Shortly after 5 am, I was startled awake.  A sense of urgency caused me to jump up and rush into the room where my father was.   I slipped beside his bed and listened.   My brother had been in a recliner beside my dads bed.   He rested his hand on my fathers chest and we both looked for signs of life.    We quietly called his name.    For the first time in our lives, there was no response.

Back at ground control –There is a problem
“Go to rockets full” – Not responding
“Hello, Major Tom – Are you receiving?
Turn the thrusters on – We’re standing by”
There’s no reply……..

My brother assumed the awful role of going to tell my mother.   While he was waking and then telling her, I had a chance to one last time tell my father thank you.   To tell him, he had been a good dad.   I told him I loved him and I was going to miss him.   As my mother entered the room, I left to call my other brothers and sister.   And so began the truly, most exhausting day of my life.

Earth below us – Drifting, falling
Floating weightless – Coming home….

By mid afternoon, I arrived home.   The mortician had come and taken my dads body, calls had been made, events set in motion.    The trip to the florist has been forever stamped in my mind.   As my sister and I sat there trying to pick out flowers that would somehow express the magnitude of our love for this man, I was overwhelmed with exhaustion.   Every movement and thought was an exercise of sheer will power.  My physical body and my emotions were tapped of all strength.  When I finally arrived home I laid down on my bed, too tired to even cry.

As I laid there, I sent a friend a text telling her what had happened.   Her texted response, “Oh, Beth, I’m so sorry!” was spoken into my heart as if she had said it out loud to me. The sincerity of those words had an effect on me that I still can not describe.   My broken heart responded with a relieving flood of tears.

Desperate for something to soothe the pain, the song I had heard a few days before came to mind.  I found it on youtube and within minutes was listening, and sobbing and unknowingly starting down the path to healing.

The words continued to comfort me in the days and weeks following my fathers death.   My father was like that astronaut in the song, heading into the unknown.   My Dad understood that dying would be his last mission.  He knew that he was heading into uncharted territory.   A countdown had begun.   We all knew it as we gathered around him in his last days of life.   In his last week of life, He repeatedly asked about my mother, did we know where the paperwork was?    We reminded him, he had done a good job, that he had made sure her needs would be met.   And we were here.   We would take over.   He could rest.

Far beneath the ship – The world is mourning

They don’t realize – He’s alive
No one understands – But Major Tom sees

“Now the light commands – This is my home – I’m coming home”

These lines in particular give me peace.   He is no longer here because he’s gone home.   My mind wants to war with that idea.   We are his home, it cries!   But that is not the truth.   We were part of a place he called home for 88 years but his true home, where he will spend eternity, is not here.    And I am reminded that he is very much alive.   His soul, the truest part of him, has not died.   He has gone ahead.   Not with a goodbye.   For those of us who believe, his death comes with a simple thought – ‘I’ll see you later….at home.’


Dad and Me

I had a revelation of sorts last week.

It happened while I was driving in my car. My brother made some cd’s right after my dad died. A collection of songs that my dad loved and ones that reminded us of him. Over a year later I’m still listening to them. But then I also have other songs I listen to. Songs that reflect my processing of his aging, dying and death.

So, there I was driving, my music was playing and I was thinking of my dad and I realized something had shifted in my thinking.

Before he died, I worried about how I would survive without him.

After he died, I discovered survival is not only possible, it’s the only viable option.

But I missed him. The loss of his physical presence was overwhelming. Some days it would be crushing and on other days it was and is, merely a dull ache.

Until last week. When I realized that through his death, I gained something I didn’t anticipate. When he was alive he was often on my mind. His influence was steady in my life. But there were moments, and stretches of time where I went about my life not thinking, consciously, too much about him.

Until he died.

As I passed the one year mark, I realized he is with me now in a way he wasn’t when he was alive. I feel him with me. Not in some sort of ghostly way. But somehow I feel like he has become a part of me, a part of my skin and my bones, my heart and my mind.

And I realize, that’s a gain.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’d take him back, in his old physical form in a flash. Without hesitation, I’d give up this new feeling for a more tangible one I can wrap my arms around.

But that’s not an option. The realization of what I’ve gained, despite the loss, is a gift. It’s one I think I don’t fully appreciate yet because it’s new. I was use to my old relationship with my dad. It was comfortable and safe and known.

This new relationship is more really, a relationship with myself. All that he has instilled in me, now seeks to be given life. He is not here to protect me, to save the day, to provide for me. I must do it without him. But he didn’t leave me empty handed. He left both my hands and my heart full.

I feel compelled to act where he once would have. I am still completely me, but now, I am also more.
And since the only choice I have in this matter, is how I respond to this gift, I choose to embrace it.

Even if the return of the embrace is only felt in my heart.