Posted in Uncategorized

Neal’s Post from the Past: “The Viewing & The Circle of Life”

Here’s a post from a decade ago dealing with the death of my father-in-law and my young grandson Daniel’s struggle to understand.

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My father-in-law passed away earlier this week. Death, of course, is difficult for anyone to cope with, but perhaps especially so for young children. Because they are still so close to birth, little beings of the morning, and because their life experience has been with newness and fresh discovery, with joy and giggles, death must seem unfathomable, foreign, outside of understanding.

But like most kids, my four-year-old grandson Daniel likes to understand: “Abu, why can’t I sit on top of your car? I could see a whole lot better.” “Abu, my teacher won’t let me bring my sword to school and fight like the blue Power Ranger. Why not?” “Why can’t I say potty words?” “Why do we have to wear clothes when it’s hot?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

When his parents arrived at the funeral home north of Atlanta the other evening, they told me that Daniel had, as usual, been plying them with questions about the current subject which went beyond his grasp–his great-grandfather’s death. “But if Papa is in heaven, why will everyone be sad?” “Where IS Papa?”

I played with Daniel and his little brother Gabriel in the large kitchen area of the funeral home, where friends had brought mounds of food. Their mom and dad, Amy and Orte, walked through large white windowed doors and down a narrow hall that eventually led to a sitting room where the family received guests who came to pay their respect and offer condolences. Papa looked pre-cancerous in a striking gray suit, snow-white shirt, and brown and gray tie patterned with tiny crosses. He had been a Methodist minister in the North Georgia Conference. A large United States flag, achingly resplendent in red, white and blue liveliness, lay across the unopened lower half of the coffin. Papa was retired Air Force.

Every few minutes, Daniel ran over to tiptoe and peer through the windows of the white doors, gazing down that long hallway which twisted and turned but allowed no view of Papa. “Where are Mama and Daddy? I want to go too.” A few minutes later: “Why can’t I go in?” “Is Papa in there? Where?” “Let’s go in there, Abu.”

A while later, when we were eating lasagna in the kitchen, Daniel was still asking, asking. I made a decision, a decision you may not have made. I asked Daniel’s mom and dad if I could take him in to see Papa. They agreed, mainly (I think) because they trust me, and they know how much I love D.

I picked Daniel up and asked him if he knew what had happened to Papa. “He died,” came the quick answer. I told him that yes Papa had died. “And he’s in heaven,” Daniel added. His confusion centered on who or what was down that hall that everyone kept traversing. He wanted understanding, answers. He wanted to walk down that hall.

So we did.

The kitchen had been noisy with visitors loudly talking, eating, reminiscing, and occasionally laughing at the past. Its tiled floor amplified the clicks of my boot heels as we walked, Daniel in my arms, toward those doors, dividing doors which in my grandson’s mind led to answers. As we passed through them, my heels, like everything and everyone on that other side, grew quieter on the deep carpet.

We entered the viewing room, and walked past adults talking in hushed tones. Daniel kissed his Nana (Donna is the oldest of the four daughters of Papa), then his Great-Grandma, who sat regally next to the coffin. But his eyes were looking, searching.

Not expecting Papa to be lying down (why didn’t I think to tell him that detail?), Daniel finally found his great-grandfather.

He looked for a while, and finally asked quietly (Daniel doesn’t usually do “quiet” very well), “Is Papa sleeping?”

“No, not really sleeping. He died, remember?”

We stood there for about a minute, Daniel growing heavy in my arms.

“Are you ready to go, baby?”

“No.”

Other folks waited patiently for their turn behind us. Daniel started to lean over toward the coffin, paused and looked at me for permission (and like “quiet,” D doesn’t always do “permission” well). I nodded, and Daniel touched the white satin edges of the liner and then Papa’s right arm.

Giggling just a bit, Daniel said, “It tickles.” I smiled.

“You ready now?”

“Yes.”

We walked back through the hall, toward the kitchen. When we got to the doors, I saw through the windows my daughter Amy and Orte, waiting. I put Daniel down, and he pushed open the door. His dad asked him, “Are you okay, Daniel?”

But he was already off, running on the noisy tile, chasing his little brother. Doing “loud” once again.

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With Daniel back in 2012
And now. (Seriously?)
Posted in My Saturday Evening Post

My Saturday Evening Post: “Bless Us All”

Each December, Robert and I LOVE watching the old animated holiday classics, reminiscing of yesteryear. Last night we pulled out The Muppet Christmas Carol.

My capital “F” Favorite song in the movie is “Bless Us All,” sung by poor, sickly little Robin/Tiny Tim and the rest of the Cratchit crew. It always gets me choked up (until I realize that, as a “grown man,” I am crying over an anthropomorphic, singing, cloth-born frog puppet).

“Bless Us All” is actually a beautiful, prayerful meditation, expressing both gratitude for all we have (the sun, family, each other, etc) as well as supplication for greater good outside of our individual little worlds.

I invite you to take a couple of minutes out of your Saturday for a quick listen …

Muppet Truths …

“No place on earth compares with home.” (Of course, “home” can have various definitions for us.)

“We have so much that we can share with those in need we see around us everywhere.”

“Let us hear the voice of reason singing in the night.” (Oh my goodness, yes.)

The full lyrics …

BLESS US ALL!

Posted in Thankfulness, Gratitude

Tuesday Think Thank

This morning I Did what I Should Not Do—according to my husband, my therapist and even my pint-sized common sense. I started my Tuesday by scrolling (and scrolling) through online news. Why? Idk, but I’ll blame it on an out-of-my-daily-routine second cup of coffee.

Paraphrasing my three advisers: “Neal, how does it help you to be inundated with mainstream news, which is most often bad news?”

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A teeny sampling of what my caffeinated scrolling unearthed:

* Senseless deaths and injuries in the Wisconsin Christmas parade tragedy.

* Tucker Carlson calling Kyle Rittenhouse a “sweet kid.”

* A defense attorney in the Ahmaud Arbery case referencing in her closing statement Ahmaud’s “long dirty toenails.”

* The dangerously divisive hatred (hatred?!) in our divided political world today.

* Etc. Etc. Etc.

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What “got me out of the newsroom” (thank goodness!) was a quick trek to the frig for more creamer for that second cuppa and noticing what I had stuck on the refrigerator…

The overflowing harvest of the simple cornucopia somehow (note to self: yet another therapy topic) jarred me into remembering that not all is bad. Duh. And that I/we have so very much to be thankful for.

All of which, again, somehow brought to mind my favorite small-t thanksgiving song, Josh Groban’s rendition of “Thankful.” So I did a quick listen-to.

This non-newsworthy line stood out: “Sometimes we can’t see the joy that surrounds us.”

Here’s the song if you have a couple of minutes

Who says two cups of coffee are bad for you?!

Posted in Holiday Joy

A Most Awesome Father’s Day & Night!

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I hope your Father’s Day (and night) 2015 has been a peaceful and joyful one.  Mine was/is.  Spent time with both daughters and all four grandies.  What a blessing to have them all in my Savannah.  My cards:

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And an incredible Facebook post by older daughter Amy:

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“Happy Father’s Day to my very hip and high impact dad!  I am blessed to have a dad who taught me to love without discrimination, to have joy in all circumstances, and who creates an environment of safety and acceptance where I am free to develop into my best and truest self.”

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What a Difficult and Unparalleled Joy Fatherhood is!

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Posted in Holiday Joy

HH – Holiday Happiness

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It’s Sunday night.  December 28.  Three days after the big day.  Christmas gifts and meals are opened and eaten.

Just a few more days left in 2014.

Sometimes there’s a bit of a letdown after the glitter is gone.

So … what is there to be Happy About?  Especially if you’re alone?  Or sick?  Or frustrated?  Or angry?  Or not where you wanna be?

To be honest, I don’t know.

BUT I encourage you to do this:  Go on a Gratitude Rampage.  Start listing — or just thinking about — what you have to be grateful for as 2014 wanes.

Go ahead — try it.  Make a list.

Here’s a tad of mine:

1.  Air to breathe.

2. Legs that help me to walk.

3.  Imperfect family members.

4.  A mind that allows me to think.

5.  Shoes.

6.  Eyesight.

7.  Collard greens (I just sautéed some for dinner).

8.  Music.

9.  Sunshine.

10.  Cinnamon.

11.  Grandchildren.

12.  People who know my name.

13.  Insurance.

14.  Roaring laughter.

15.  Pecans.

This list could go on and on.

May peace, joy and love be your portion now and forever!

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Gratitude is powerful.  Try it and see how it makes you feel.

Posted in Encouragement, Holiday Joy

Have You Counted Your Holiday Blessings? (Part One)

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Have you done so this holiday?  Blessings come in SO many forms and dressings.  I urge you to take a sheet of paper and number your joys.  Here is a sampling of mine:

1.  I had to miss my seven year-old grandson Daniel’s first piano recital earlier this week.  (I was SO frustrated.)  Tonight at my family’s early Christmas dinner, I walked in the door and daughter Amy had arranged for Daniel to dress back up in his Calvin Klein suit and play Jingle Bells (as he did at the recital).  It melted my heart.

 

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(Okay, I’m not sure about the sunglasses either.)

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(Absolute grandfather joy.)

Here’s Daniel at the actual recital:

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2.  The ability to smell Christmas.

3.  Enjoying the power of silly.

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4.  Hosting a Holiday and Hot Toddy Chili Party Saturday night.

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What fun!

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Good buddies Ellie, Jamie and Brennan.

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I read “A Cup of Christmas Tea” to the twenty-something guests–and asked them to think about a person important in their upbringing to toast at the end of the story.  I urge you to do the same.  Who encouraged you along your way?

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“Let’s raise a cup of Christmas cheer, to family and loved ones far and near.”

So take a few moments, and with Bing, count your blessings:

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5.  Tree shadows on a wall during a walk the other night.

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What are a few of your Holiday Blessings?  Come on, share a few.

Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers (10/31/14)

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It’s All Hallow’s Eve!  (Wasn’t it just July 4th last week?)  And I am spookily happy.  Seriously.  Here’s why.

1.  Yesterday going to my grandtwins’ nursery school and carving a Jack O’ Lantern.  Here it is:

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Okay, that’s a lie.  I took that pic near my place in historic district Savannah.  Here’s the one I did:

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Sorry but that’s a lie as well.  (Is that a bat?)  Here’s mine:

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For more decades than I care to mention, my Jack O’Lanterns have looked EXACTLY the same.  But what fun with Matthew and Madison and their little classmates.

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2.  Speaking of pumpkins, here’s my dinner Wednesday night–Butternut Squash Soup in Pumpkin Bowls.

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Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Gourmet heaven.

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3.  The Savannah Film Festival this week, hosted by my SCAD–Savannah College of Art and Design.

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Such fun.

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What incredible films I saw, including a fascinating documentary about Summerville, GA artist Americana Howard Finster and a mesmerizing selection of short films from Ireland.

4.  Singing with James Brown in Augusts, GA.

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We’re belting out “Papa’s Got a Brand new Bag,” followed by “Make it Funky.”

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5.  The joy of holidays.

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Happy, Happy Halloween to you all!

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