Losing loved ones


What is Love?

 

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”

-Sophocles

 

As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we may better be able to answer this eternal question. After the lust and attraction of youthful desire somewhat diminishes, the true meaning of love may be better understood.

 

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

-Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version

 

Before his marriage, our oldest son came to me and asked a question that momentarily caught me off guard. He wanted to know at what point I knew for certain I loved his mother. After a moment, and wanting to answer his serious question honestly, I said, “Sometime between our second and third year of marriage.”

 

“True love is rare, and it’s the only thing that gives life real meaning.”

-Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle

 

As seniors, I’m sure most of us probably look back and believe the complexities of romantic love, especially at a young age cannot truly be understood. Emotions, hormones, peer and family pressures, and societal conventions all converge to confuse youthful decision-making. In fact, most of us probably believe romantic love does not conform to nor does it lend itself to logic and rationale decisions.

 

“The heart has reasons which reason knows not.”

-Blaise Pascal

 

Like most people, as I’ve grown older I’ve come to realize that love is not the mystical and tingling feeling that one experiences at the mere sight or touch of another, but is the conscious desire and actions to be the best and do the best for another person with whom you share your life, interests and values. Long term romantic love such as marriage requires that each person in the relationship continue to have and demonstrate these desires and actions, as well as the capacity to change and age with their loved one.

 

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

In other words, romantic love is not the often expressed feeling of “being in love,” but is an active term that requires us to give rather than expecting something from another.

 

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to  give.”

-Katherine Hepburn: Me: Stories of My Life

 

 

Before his marriage, son number two came to me with a similar question as his older brother. I told him that we can never truly be sure, but try to imagine your life without her. Where romantic love is concerned, there are never any guarantees.

 

“Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn your house down, you can never tell.”

-Joan Crawford

 

You might wonder what has put me in such a reflective and philosophical mood to be pondering the meaning of love. There are two reasons. First, this has been an equally wonderful and emotionally trying year. New lives and love have come to me in the form of new grandchildren and new friends. For this I’m blessed. I have also lost more friends and family this year than I’ve ever previously experienced. I suppose it’s part of the price of a long life, and I’m grateful for knowing and loving them all. 

 

“When someone is in your heart, they’re never truly gone. They can come back to you, even at unlikely times.”

Mitch Albom, For One More Day

 

There is another reason for my reflective demeanor. In a few days my wife Trisha and I will share another wedding anniversary. Fifty years ago I met this young woman whose beauty and charm mesmerized everyone she met. But she was much more than a pretty face. She was smart, kind, and a genuinely warm person with  strong moral and spiritual values. She was, in a few words, too good to be true. Now, so many years later and to my daily amazement, we share a loving family and a wonderful life together. What is love? It’s all the things mentioned above and more. It’s mystical and tingly, risky and complex, challenging and rewarding. and the greatest single gift we can give and receive.  

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.”

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

 

 

 

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

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God Bless All Those Who Have Served

My flag is flying proudly this holiday weekend as we honor those who have served and those who have died in service to our country. As an Air Force veteran who served during the Viet Nam era, I have the greatest respect for every person who ever wore the uniform.

My patriotism is almost curious to me now because at the time I entered into the military, I was more interested in flying airplanes, playing guitar in a rock band, playing baseball, and chasing girls. All this with longish hair and sideburns accompanied with the requisite love beads of the day. (Fact is, I actually wore those beads under my uniform for my four years of active duty)

My true patriotism actually snuck up on me. While I was proud of my father’s Navy service in WWII, I didn’t actually understand what it meant to be patriotic and proud of my service. Through basic training, most of us spent time complaining about everything from missing our home lives to our girlfriends. Then it happened. It was time for graduation day and we put on our dress blue uniforms. We marched to the parade grounds where there were crowds of people and other flights of airmen waiting to march into place. All of a sudden, the military band struck up Stars and Stripes Forever, and off we marched. As I marched, my chest pushed out, my head raised up, and I felt a kinship to all those who had served before. 

I still feel that kinship, and although my service cannot compare to the sacrifice so many true heroes made, I still feel a strong connection. I hope every citizen takes a moment in the next few days to honor our service men and women. They deserve our appreciation.

I want to thank all of those who read my blog. I enjoy writing it and hopefully you find something useful or amusing from time-to-time. This is actually my 100th blog. I had planned to write something very upbeat and celebratory, but in the last few days: my wife and I lost a very dear friend to cancer, our lovely neighbor fell and broke her foot, another dear friend damaged her eyes in an accident requiring several procedures, and my always healthy wife twisted her back causing a pinched nerve.

But you know what? It’s called life and we need to live it as fully as possible. In our last visit with our friend who just passed away, she would not let our conversation be sympathetic. Knowing what we were thinking and perceiving the sadness in our faces, she looked at me and said, “I don’t think I’ll be driving for a couple of months.” We both smiled. Such wonderful courage and consideration for her friends and family.

Our other friends, both a bit damaged for the moment, have accepted their fates and look forward to better days. Of course my wife Trisha, even with the pain of a pinched nerve, refuses to slow down. Believe me, I’ve tried to reign her in a bit, but she’s not having it.

Into each life a little rain must fall, and sometimes it’s a monsoon. It gives us more reason to celebrate those sunny, more carefree days.

If you do enjoy my blog, please pass the link to others in your contact list. I will be making some changes in the near future and I think you will like them. Thank you.

 www.TheBestofOurLives.com

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

 

It’s the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life

 

These beautiful lyrics, if you’ve never heard or read them before, are from the Lion King song The Circle of Life. One of the greatest challenges retired life thrusts upon many of us is the caring for aging parents and other relatives. It’s a time of weighty responsibility. It often also turns into a time of gut-wrenching life and death decisions.

We live at a point in time in which modern medicine can keep someone technically and mechanically alive forever. When one has the responsibility for making such a difficult decision, it is frought with tension, second-guessing, and tremendous guilt. There are no easy answers. You do the best you can to fulfill the wishes of your loved one.

If you’ve experienced this particular challenge, you know the feelings involved. I’ve now been involved in such decision-making four times, most recently with my father and mother. If we can learn anything from this experience, it’s that we need to sit down with our children and/or other family members to make clear our own wishes. Be precise. Don’t put them in a situation in which they have to guess what you wanted. Put it in writing. Fill out your Advance Health Care Directive. The forms are available from your health care provider and will make it so much easier for your loved ones. If you’ve done this already, bravo. You are a responsible retiree.  

If you are wondering why I began this blog with The Circle of Life lyrics, it’s because two days before my mother’s funeral service, our youngest son and his wife presented us with another grandbaby. A cute little fellow (well, not too little, 8 lbs. 6 oz. and 21 inches long) that has given everyone in the family that uplifted feeling we all needed. It is truly the circle of life. My mother is smiling from above.

Here is my wife and proud grandmother Trisha with her new little fellow.

 

Martha Lucille Parker 

9/27/1925-3/2/2012

 

I’m a lucky man. One of the reasons I consider myself so fortunate is I’ve had two wonderful people as parents. I lost my father Frank in 2010, and on Friday, March 2, I lost my mother Martha.  

Known to most as Marty, mom was much different from my father in many ways. She was shy and inward, whereas my father was outgoing and always the life of the party. But they were exactly the same in some important ways. They both loved their family more than anything in the world. 

Even in my mother’s last days, she never once asked about her own condition. The few words she could speak she used to ask about others, especially wondering if her two new expected great grand babies had been born yet.  

Mom always stayed in the background, never one to call attention to herself. But she had very, very strong values. She was completely devoted to my father in every way. When he became blind the last several years, she showered him and dressed him every day, not once complaining. From the time I was born, though we didn’t have a lot of money, my sister and I never went without. We were well fed and always groomed quite nicely. We were taught manners, honestly, and respect for all others. We were encouraged to have a strong work ethic and everything we ever did, everything, was met with adoring praise.

Mom may have been in the background, but she was the tent post of the family, always there to support her loved ones. My wife Trisha, our entire family and her friends will miss mom more than we can ever express. Through the years, she had become my wife’s best friend and mentor. I don’t think she ever gave herself credit for all she did for everyone, but that was typical of mom. If you praised her she would get embarrassed and tried to change the subject. 

I would go on, but mom would disapprove. She was such a warm and loving person, and completely selfless. In such a selfish world, she never asked for anything but gave everything. 

Thank you mom, I love you and will miss you always. 

With love and respect forever, 

Your son, John

 

Finding a Treasure

As my friends and other readers of this blog know, my father passed away in 2010. He was a wonderful father and my best friend. If one lives to retirement age, losing loved ones is something we all must endure.

When dad passed, we did not rush to go through his belongings. From time-to-time, my mother and dad’s wife of 65 years, sits down and looks through old photos and various memorabilia. A couple of days ago she handed me a time-yellowed piece of paper. It was a newspaper clipping she had just discovered in dad’s pocket bible, the one he carried on Guadalcanal during WWII. As I read it, I could not help being moved by the simplicity and eloquence of the words. I wondered how many times my father must have read this clipping and wondered what the future held. Let me share it with you. Thanks Dad.