Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks Giving 2013





   The reading at Mass today was about the ten lepers who were cured by Christ, and only one came back to give praise to God.

   I have always wondered about the other 9 lepers who were cured. They seem to be getting a bad rap, but weren't they following the instructions Jesus gave them? Maybe after they went to show themselves to the priest they came back to look for Jesus to thank him. Because the Samaritan didn't follow Jewish tradition maybe he thought it more important to go back and give thanks to the one who cured him.

   Today is a day we set aside for thanks giving but are we really thankful for what we need to be thankful for.

   Let me give you some examples: I am thankful that I have a job, but sad that I am not able to do something more satisfying. I am thankful that God call me to be a deacon but sad that I not able to minister to his people more than I am. I am thankful that I can help others in need but sad that I can’t do more. You see we always are thankful but we seem to always want more.

   I read somewhere that to be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of our existence is a gift of grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.

   I have come to realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the open effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

   I have also come to realize that we have not gotten to be where we are on our own. As much as we like to think we have there has been many in our lives that helped us on our journey.

   Stephen M. Wolf, was quoted to say “Each of us can look back upon someone who made a great difference in our lives, someone whose wisdom or simple acts of caring made an impression upon us. In all likelihood, it was someone who sought no recognition for their deed, other than the joy of knowing that, by their hand, another’s life had been made better.”

   We need to follow the example that the thankful leper gave us when he went back to Jesus This Thanksgiving lets take the opportunity to thank those that God has sent our way, who made a difference in our lives.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Chair





   It has been a little over two months since my youngest sister Lynn has gone to be with The Lord. I still miss her dearly. I miss the times I would go over to the house she lived at, and even though I knew she did not recognized me all the time, I loved to see her smile when she did.

   After the funeral I had the task of having to get her few worldly possessions. With the help of my wife, brother and sister-in-law we went through her things and decided what to do with them.

   Some of here favorite things, her hats and bead necklaces, we had taken to the funeral home and the next day to the church for anyone to take as a remembrance of Lynn. One of her "Bus Buddies" took some beads and then saw a piece of plastic mesh and a plastic string that Lynn would weave through it then undo it and do it again. When her buddy saw this she asked if she could have it, because, as she put it, "that was Lynn, that is how I want to remember her." She then ask if she took it would she have to put the beads back. I said no, Lynn would want,you to have both.

   One item I did bring home was Lynn's chair. A vinyl leather rocker recliner that she would sit in until she was confined to her wheel chair. The night before Lynn died the caregivers brought this chair in her room for me to sit and sleep in, as I kept vigil with her as she started her final journey.

   When we brought the chair home, my wife had good intentions when she moved my favorite chair and put Lynn's chair in its place. But I could not bring myself to sit in it. It stayed in that place until Joan realized that I was not ready to sit in it yet.

   I remembered her telling me one time when my daughter was over that she sat in it, because by doing so, it felt like she was getting a hug from Lynn.

   This morning I came into the living room and opened the blinds to let the warm sunshine in and saw the chair bathed in the light beckoning me to sit in it.

   So today November 7th, 2013 I sat in the chair and cried as Lynn hugged and rocked me in the warmth of her arms reaching me through the beautiful morning sunlight.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Talk To Them In Your Heart.



   Sometimes being a deacon has its draw backs, they are not all bad though. It has been a little over a month and a half since my sister Lynn passed away, and I really don't feel I have been able to grieve properly. I miss her dearly, but with working and trying to take care of her things that as her guardian I need to do, I haven't had the time to just sit down and think.

   The grieve counselors from the hospice place have called a few times while I was at work and I guess I really need to just talk with someone, but everything they have scheduled is on a day that I work. I am greatful that I have my brother and sister in law to talk to and that I have a spiritual director, whom I haven't been able to see yet, but there seems to be something missing. 

   I guess it is different when as a deacon I am asked to talk with others who are going through a loss of a loved one, or to explain to children about death. But it is harder to do when you yourself are trying to grieve. 

   At the funeral home my daughter gave my youngest grandson to me and told me that he had a lot of questions for me. He asked if he could see Aunt Lynn and I said sure so we went up front to where she laid in the casket. He asked if he could talk to her and I said sure. Then the question I knew was coming, "Why doesn't she talk back to me? Doesn't she like me anymore?" 

   Not going though the whole conversation I told him that she still loved him very much but could not talk to him the way she used to because she went to heaven and that it was just her body still here. 

   He asked then how could he still talk to her and would she still hear him. I told him he could talk to her in his mind and in his heart and if God willed it she would hear him. And if he listened very closely he might hear her speaking to him in his heart. 

   This seemed to satisfy him as he gave me a hug and wanted to go down and go back by his mom. I guess it really didn't make an impact on me until the next day at the funeral Mass. 

   My daughter told later that while they were sitting in the bench at church she seen Matthew with his head down and seemed to be talking about something. When she questioned him as to what he was doing he replied, " I am talking to Aunt Lynn in my heart."






Monday, September 9, 2013

Things My Sister Taught Me About Preaching The Gospel.


The following is the homily I gave for my sister Lynn’s Funeral Mass on September 5th, 2013


   If you could give me just a moment to compose myself so I can get through this, otherwise Lynn will be calling me a turkey.

   For those of you who knew Lynn, you knew that she pretty much had her own language. And the words she used could have different meanings, as my sister in law would say; it depended on the tone of her voice.

   Being called a turkey wasn’t always a bad thing but being called a hotdog had a totally different meaning, you didn’t want to be called a hotdog. But as I looked back on Lynn’s life it wasn’t the words she used as much as the acts she did that formed her being.

   St Francis has been attributed to have said "Preach the gospel at all times -- If necessary, use words."
Now I know that you’re not supposed to use the homily as a eulogy, but I don’t think I am, as much as I am using examples of Lynn’s life and how they relate to preaching the Gospel.

   Over the past 6 months I knew this day would come and I started to put together a homily. But this Monday about 5:30 in the morning I woke up withthoughts going through my head so fast I had to get up and start writing them down before I forgot them.

   I thought of the story of Jesus in the temple and how when Mary and Joseph found him he said “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? This reminded me of when I would go to see Lynn at her home she would tell me, “You go home I stay here.” She knew she had work to do there.

   When I thought of the compassion Jesus showed to the lowliest of people, it reminded me of how Lynn’s caregivers, her second family at her home, would tell me how she would calm some of the others there, sitting by them and telling them that they will be ok.

   When I thought of Jesus at the wedding at Cana it reminded me of how Lynn loved weddings and dancing. It made me wonder what would of Jesus look like doing the chicken dance.

   When I thought of Jesus and the children and how he told the disciples not to hinder them, it reminded me of how accepting Lynn was of everyone she met. Jesus loved children for their innocence. He taught that entering heaven is not about greatscholarly knowledge, admirable accomplishments, or social status. It requires simple faith in God.

   Lynn was the most welcoming person ever. No matter who you were if you met her you got a hug and a high five. She was the official door greeter at her home.

   When I hear of Jesus’s unconditional love for his people I think of how it was expressed through Lynn, and of how many of you here experienced, not only her love but God’s love with every smile and hug that Lynn gave. I believe it was that love that brought many of you here today.

   I remember how when I was younger and still living at home, and then again when Lynn came to live with us those short 5 years, how I would say night prayers with her. How I would say the prayers out loud and Lynn would follow along in her own words, which sounded more like mumbles. I could not understand what she was saying but you could tell she knew and God knew

   In Romans 8 26-27 we are told that In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches heartsknows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

   A few years ago I came across a prayer by St. Ignatius Loyola that helps me to make sense of Lynn’s life. It is called Dedication to Jesus and it goes like this.

Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, and my memory, my understanding and my will. All that I have and cherish you have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by your will. Your love and grace are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus and I ask for nothing more. Amen

Now it is time to say Lynn, go with God, to break bread with the one whose life and death has guaranteed the everlasting life we seek. May his angels lead you today into paradise, as you begin your new life, in which health replaces illness, youth replaces age, and certainty replace doubt; as you enter the company of those loved ones who preceded you and as you wait for those who are to follow.  And when you see Mom Dad Ron and Kathy tell them we love them.

I know when the good Lord came to take you, you stopped at the gates of heaven turned around and said You go home, I stay here, and I say No Lynn you go home, I'll stay here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Let Me Tell You About My Sister!



I write this while sitting in my sister Lynn's room as she is possibly taking her last breaths. Working on a rescue squad for twenty years I have seen a lot of suffering and death but it never the same when it is your own family member.

Lynn was born with Downs Syndrome about a year and a month after me. The doctor told my parents they would be lucky if she lived for 18 months. That was over 57 years ago. 

That was a time that if someone was born that way they would be put in an institution to live out their days. But that was not an option for my parents, Lynn would not be treated any different then her sister and three brothers that came before her. 

I became very protective of my sister, and she knew that I would kill for her, which I did. Many a fly, and moth met their demise because Lynn thought they were going to eat her.

For as long as I can remember I have always wished I could get just an hour in Lynn's head to just to understand her better. To be able to feel what she feels, to try to understand her language, to know what it is like to be her.

But most importantly I wanted to experience the unconditional love she was able to give to everyone she met. Hugs were given out no matter who you were and if you wanted one or not. There was no holding back and there was enough for everyone to go around. 

My father died when I was 15, so I became the head of the family, taking care of my mother and sister. My mother continued to take care of Lynn til the day she died at the age of 91. A few years earlier I became Lynn's legal guardian when mom was not able carry out those duties. 

The day that mom died, Lynn came to live with my wife Joan and I along with our son Craig. We made some adjustments but it was doable until Lynn had her first stroke. It became apparent then that she would need more care then what we could provide. 

Through many prayers and help of angels that were sent our way we were able to find a home for her that was only 4 miles from our house. I remember the day we dropped her off. Her case worker told us we would have it harder transitioning then Lynn would. How right she was, as we were leaving for the night Lynn told me, " You go home, I stay here." I told her "you behave,  I pay your bills." Then I left bawling my eyes out all the way home. 

The home God lead us to was not only perfect for Lynn but for us too. This became Lynn's home, but we were always welcome, day or night, to come visit. Her care givers became her friends and second family, and we could not have asked for a better place for her.

Now it comes to today, and I know that her time with us is growing short. I don't know when it will happen but I know when the good Lord comes to take her she will stop at the gates of heaven turn around and say You go home, I stay here, and I will say No Lynn you go home, I'll stay here.


UPDATE

Shortly after 11 a.m. on the 31st of August 2013, Lynn left to go to her heavenly home. She will be deeply missed by all who ever met her. Rest in Peace my dearest sister. 
With all our love, Dennis and Joan :_(







Sunday, June 16, 2013

Spending Time With My Dad. Father's Day 2013

Me and My Dad

    43 Father's Days have gone by since my father passed away. There has not been a day during all that time that I have not thought about him in some way.

   Today I thought I would spend a little time with him, just remembering what I can during the short time I had him with me. I was 15 when he died, so my memories only scan about 10 years or so.
   
   I don't have many pictures of him and the ones I do have I can't seem to find right now. I do have  the one above when I was probably not even a year old. I am sure I have others or my brother and sister may also have some, I just need to get together with them and scan them into my computer.

   But back to the memories. I remember the times I went to work with him on Saturday mornings. He was a body man at a local Ford dealership in Green Bay. I would love to watch him repair damaged cars and trucks and make them look like new. If you would look at a new car and one my dad repaired you would never be able to tell which was which.

   I remember melting lead and then pouring it into molds to form long sticks that he would then use to solder with a hand held blow torch to the seams of sheet metal he replaced on damaged cars.  (Maybe that is the reason I am the way I am, didn't get my lead from paint chips but straight up. :) )This was before the miracle "Black Magic" putty was around.

   I remember mixing the hardener into the Black Magic putty and then my dad working very fast to apply it to the area needing it before it got to hard to work with. Once that was done he would let me rough sand it and add more putty until he got just the right shape and contour he wanted. 

   I remember riding on the fender of the small FarmAll B tractor we had, pulling the rope on the one bottom plow as we got to the end of the row. And the day I was allowed to drive the tractor and spring drag the field as my dad watched to make sure I got all nice and smooth and ready for planting. 

   I remember church on Sundays and then a stop at the local tavern to get a candy bar, soda, and a game of pool. I remember Sunday rides with dad, mom, and my sister Lynn to go to Shawano Lake and stop in Cecil for some ice cream. I also remembered not to sit behind my dad when he had the window up incase he decided to get rid of some of his chew.

   There are many other memories that I don't want to bore you with, but memories just the same. Then again that is all I have left is memories.

   Now that my children are grown and have families of their own I don't get to spend as much time as I would like with them. Sure I get the Happy Father's Day's text message, or post on facebook, or the quick phone call and it is good to be remembered. But life was so much simpler back then.

   It good to spend some time with my wife's father at the farm too, but it is just not the same, as great a man as he is, he is not "My Dad."

   So today I decided to spend some time, just me and my dad, and try to do a little more remembering.



Love ya dad, always have and always will. Miss you.....

     

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Are You Just Going To Church This Weekend?


   
A few weeks ago my wife Joan and my grandson 4 year old grandson Braydon were having a conversation at the supper table; it went something like this. 

So Braydon where did you go to church this weekend? 
I didn’t go to church. 
You didn’t go to church? 
No grandma I went to Mass. 
Oh and where did you go to Mass? 
At church!
          After I stopped laughing I realized that in a way Braydon was right. We don’t just go to church, the building, we come here for a reason and that is to attend and participate in the Liturgy of the Mass, Maybe more precisely the Eucharist. It’s funny how God uses a little child to show us the simple things that we take for granted, Things like being able to come here week after week, to attend Mass or to come for daily Mass at a close by church. Many do not have that opportunity readily available to them, or have to travel great distances to attend Mass.
If the Eucharist is fully to make sense, it has to be seen in the context of the Church’s ministry. I think that being what we receive we must also give.
As we read Luke version of the story of the loaves and fishes,we can hear our own Eucharistic Prayers as Luke describes the scene of the feeding: Jesus “took,” “blessed,” “broke” and “gave” the bread. The miracle of the loaves and fishes goes on today in so many ways. The simple fact that the Eucharist continues to be multiplied, broken, blessed, shared around the world is a testament to a central, continuing miracle of our faith.
The miracle of Christ’s body and blood continues to nourish the world, and his word continues to feed all who are hungry. Everyday we celebrate not only the glory of the Eucharist, but the glory of how it continues to be shared. The miracle goes on. The multitudes are still being fed!