Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Healing in a Season of Joy

Death sucks. Cancer sucks. No matter how prepared we thought we were for the inevitable, when my father-in-law passed away on Dec. 7th, we quickly realized we weren't ready and it hit hard. I don't think it's humanly possible to be ready to lose a loved one, no matter how sick they are. We always want more time. That's what scares me, there's just never enough time. Death sucks.

We were lucky enough to be with him in his last days and we take great comfort in the fact that he knew how loved he was. He had a steady flow of visitors that last week. Everyone from work colleagues to family and dear friends. My husband would sit at his father's bedside for hours just rubbing his dad's feet and telling him how much he was loved. We brought music into his room the last few days. Even though he could no longer open his eyes or communicate, a sense of tremendous joy came upon his face when he heard Nat King Cole's voice fill the room. It was as if Pop was absorbing the music into his soul. Music transcends everything.  I just know he could feel the love around him, he was at peace.

 Alex's dad was his hero. I want to share with you his beautiful tribute to his dad:

The Words of Alex G. Hesterberg – On Family, Business and Life
Written By: Alex G. Hesterberg, III

On Family
  • If you make a promise, keep it.
  • Travel.  See and experience things together.  I wish I would have done this more with my family.
  • Parents – make sure you kiss your children.  Tell them you love them.  Tell them how proud you are.  When they become parents, they will do the same with their children.
  • Parents – the greatest words I heard from my children were not “Dad, I got into college!”  The greatest words were “Dad, I got a job!”
  • Parents - you may be older than them, but children can teach you a thing or two.
  • Husbands – marry your best friend.  Don’t take her for granted.  Show her love every day.
  • Wives – you may think he’s “good wood” to work with, but some of those knots can’t be sanded out.  Learn to love the knots.
  • Children - don’t lie to your parents.  Until you meet your spouse, no one on this planet loves you more or will understand you better than your parents.
  • Children – learn how to use a phone properly.  Step 1) Greeting.  Step 2) State your name.  Step 3) Ask whom you are calling for.
  • Children – When replying to “Thank You”, saying “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” is completely acceptable.  Saying “No problem” is completely unacceptable.  Make a note of it.
  • Grandchildren - you are awesome!  Royce, Brendan, Hayden, Mason and Kensington, thank you for bringing your Papa such joy!
On Business
  • Have courage.  Speak up.  Lead even if no one asks you to.
  • Make mistakes.  Learn from them.  Be better.  Try again – even if it takes you a while.
  • Being the first one to the office in the morning and the last one out in the evening never hurt anyone’s career.
  • Take pride in your work and be known for it, whether you wash the floors or you’re the CEO.
  • Your word is your bond.
  • Don’t offend me by trying not to offend me.
  • Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
  • If you can’t say it in 5 minutes, you probably can’t say it.
On Life
  • Never miss an opportunity to learn.  “Be a sponge.  Be brilliant” is what I always told my children as they walked out the door to school or work. 
  • Be proud of this country.  Don’t take what we have for granted.  Freedom ain’t free.
  • Have conviction, but be patient.
  • Embrace humor.  Adopt it, right to the very end - even if it’s off-color sometimes.  And if you ever felt slighted or insulted by one of my humorous comments, it was never intended to be malicious.  In fact, you held a special place in my heart if I felt I could go there with you.
  • Treat everyone fairly, especially when it comes to humor - no one should be spared.
  • Understand and respect the person.  Be tolerant.  That said, also remember that beauty is skin-deep, but ugly goes to the bone.
  • Laugh like you don’t care how loud and obnoxious your laugh is. 
  • Be proud of your faith, know your place with God, put your trust in Him - but do your best while you’re here.
  • Let the sadness pass - I will miss you, too.  I will celebrate our time together - you should, too.  Remember all of the great things we did so I can bring a smile to your face.  My time here is done and I’ve got work to do elsewhere.  I got a heck of a promotion – reporting directly to God.  And that ain’t bad, for a dumb kid from Brooklyn.

We weren't ready to lose him. There's just never enough time.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mason's Christening Day

Yesterday was a special day for our family. An emotional day. An important day. It was the start of a beautiful journey for one family member and the beginning of a sad journey for another. It was one of those days that's filled with so many different emotions you don't even know what to feel.

We baptized our sweet Mason and celebrated his becoming a member of the Catholic faith. As parents, we were so proud and filled with so much love and joy for our son. At the same time, this was a bittersweet celebration. The Baptism was in the hospital, because Alex's father is sick. Very sick. None of us know how much time we all have left together and it was critically important to us that Papa be there. If he couldn't come to the Christening, we were determined to bring it to him.

It was a very small group, only me and Alex, his parents, Mason's Godparents and our priest. What I thought may turn out to be a very sad event, turned out to be so incredibly wonderful - filled with laughs and joyful hearts. It is a moment I know we will treasure forever. I know Mason will be warmed with the memory that his Christening was extra special, because Papa was there.

At bedtime, Royce and I finished reading Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. He brought it home from the school library last week and we've been reading a few chapters each night. It was my favorite book as a child, so I was especially touched that he chose it. I had a very hard time holding back my emotion reading the last few pages, the subject matter is so timely for what we are going through as a family.

"Charlotte's children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, year after year, lived in the doorway. Each spring there were new little spiders hatching out to take the place of the old."

I really didn't want Royce to know I was crying, so I just tried to breathe and read slowly, but he knew what was going on. After I finished the last sentence he said, "Mom, are you crying?" I told him I was and that I was feeling sad. He sat up in bed and gave me a big hug. I told him I was sad about Papa and we both cried together.

He knows Papa is very sick with cancer, but we have not discussed anything further. However, children are so intuitive, and, without saying a word, I got the feeling he understands our time is limited. We talked about the importance of being good to people.

It was an emotional day, but a surprising one as well. I learned that there can still be moments of glorious joy even when surrounded by deep sadness. I learned that we should allow ourselves to feel the joy, because our moments together are all too fleeting.