A Bittersweet Farewell and the Power of Gratitude

My father was a world war two vet in the Pacific theatre. A pilot on photographic missions he earned his wings at nineteen–straight out of high school.

 

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PB4Y-1_USCG_NAS_Argentia.jpg

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons –

We met my mother at her sorority house Northwestern University Chicago as he played the piano pass time downstairs waiting for a friend.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

She heard his rendition of Tea for Two and was drawn like the music lover she was.
Mom passed away at home in August of 2007 before her Alzheimer’s could rob her of all her memories.

My only sibling, a brother, followed her in June of 2008–a victim of his nicotine addiction.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad passed in March 2010 in the final cruel stages of the neurological thief — Parkinson’s disease.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the span of two and a half years my family of origin was lost. It drew a curtain of sadness over my life.

Today I went to visit the care home for the elderly and infirmed where my father spent his last year. It is the first time I have been back since he passed. It was lovely to see the care providers and other residents. I am humbled by the level of love they provided day in and out. I watched over my parents as they were robbed of their faculties and know intimately the emotional and physical demands of care providers. Until dad could not move from wheelchair to bed, he remained in his home of thirty five years. It is one of life’s most difficult decisions to know when elders can not be served best in their homes.

The care home in which he resided is a magical place. It is a private home in which a maximum of six resident may be cared for at any given time

Image by C London

It sits on a hill overlooking the sea in the most beautiful part of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles.

Today I met the new residents and their families. They were having a birthday party for one of the elders. As we sat in the back garden overlooking the sea, two biplanes–Stearman–the same sort my father trained in as a 19 year old in World War two, flew overhead–out over the sea.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NAF_XN3N-2_prototype_in_flight_1936.jpeg

Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons

 

They nearly touched wings as they moved in perfect formation. It was as though my parents were saying hello to me–and farewell. Such a moment, such a vision etched permanently in mind.

There is a hole in my life now that is unfilled, but the loss has also given me such a great appreciation for life. To enjoy every day-every moment. To see what I wish they could see–what we could share together–what I now see for them and for those who might be touched by my world through the vehicle of my words.

Such was the color of my day. Bittersweet–rich. I hope yours did not pass without notice and deep gratitude. There is so much beauty and wonder in every leaf, face and sunrise. This life is a rainbow of experience.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is no problem or challenge so big or difficult that it should color your world gray.

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18 Responses to A Bittersweet Farewell and the Power of Gratitude

  1. Bitter-sweet as you say, Christine. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Leslie says:

    Because we embrace life with all its fullness, we feel deeply the loves and losses. We see value in every moment… sometimes that moment is painful. The blessing is the joy that is certain to follow, with the next brillent sunrise.Bunny & Ralph… incredible characters I was glad to know!

  3. Beautiful post. I know more than anyone how much your loss as affected you but you, being you, will pull through and emerge stronger.

  4. A beautiful tribute to your family and a reminder of the beauty of every moment. Simply lovely, Christine. (Yes, I think they were saying good-bye.)

  5. Paula Martin says:

    Lovelt post – and how amazing to see those two bi-planes. I'm sure your parents were smiling down on you.

  6. Thanks for you support, dear friends old and new. Special love to Leslie and Harold. xoxo

  7. Robena Grant says:

    Lovely, Christine. Your writing is exquisite and your emotions come through in those recorded thoughts. I too think the bi-planes were a spiritual message. Big hugs to you, and may you find healing through wonderful memories of shared times with those who have passed.BTW, your book When We Were Amazing is next up on my Kindle. ; )

  8. Roben, Thank you–you are a wonderful lady and great supportive inspiration in my life.

  9. Dear Christine – It is heartening to know your parents had good and loving care in the facility. I wish that could be said for all nursing homes.I lost my brother in 2008 from nicotine and alcohol. My mother died in 2009 right before Christmas. My father died when I was six months pregnant with my son in 1986. I have one sister, and once in a while we realize we're all we've got left from our side of the family, nd she and I are ophrans. No matter the age, it hits hard when both parents have passed.Thank goodness for friends and extended family – where would we be without them?I'm so glad you noticed that message in the sky. I'm convinced most of us miss those kinds of things on a regular basis!Lovely blog. Wonderful writing.

  10. awe…Lynne, I knew we were soul sisters at heart. Orphans have an 'understanding'.Thanks so much for your touching words. 🙂

  11. Janie Emaus says:

    Mine was much the same as yours, but in a different way. My father does have Alzheimers and seeing him always tears me up, but also gives an appreciation for what I do have.

  12. Janie, Alzheimer is the long goodbye and is tougher on the family than the patient, I am convinced. Bless you and your dad. One day at a time. Whatever you do or decide on his behalf–you are doing the best you can in the circumstances. I think the patient senses that deep down even if they can't say so or show it appropriately. Take good care of you.

  13. S.Durham says:

    Christine,A very moving post, and I think it is lovely that you returned to the care home your father resided in. The new residents surely appreciated your presence, as you did theirs. The pictures, are simply beautiful.Sara

  14. Thank you Sara, It was my honor to be invited back to the home where dad spent his last months. There is something deeply moving and spiritual among elders in their last years. It is an amazing thing of which to be a witness. There is a coming to terms, a gratitude for a long life well lived. Even the Alzheimer patients seem to somehow have a peace or are moving toward that place of peace. It is difficult to describe. Of courser there are always the exceptions, but in this particular home–one I am truly blessed to have found–there is such an atmosphere of true care and love that the fortunate residents live in an environment that is optimal for this high purpose.

  15. Leslie – and brother David was definitely a character. For better or worse he definitely put his mark on all of us. He was the Yin to Bunny and Ralph's Yan.

  16. Mia says:

    What a lovely moment. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Niki Chanel says:

    I got a jolt when Lynne mentioned orphans. I never thought of grown adults becoming orphans. You, Christine, always seem to have family around you, so it's even harder to imagine that you are, indeed now an orphan… as if your story wasn't tearful enough, already. Your depictions are so vivid, I feel like I was there, in your memories. Lovely post. So moving. *sniff*

  18. Niki—why you were and are in my memories.. 😉

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