Mixed Blessings

S ince my last post in July the time has been filled with mixed blessings. Incredible highs and unbearable lows. Let’s start with the biggest high first as just thinking about it brings a smile to my face. In August, I became a grandmother to a beautiful grandson, Leo. Witnessing your son and daughter-in-law’s transformation into parenthood and meeting your first family legacy is beyond words. Many friends have tried to share their joy with me when they crossed the threshold into grandparenthood, but until you enter this era on your own, you just don’t quite understand. A new level of love overflows into your life and creates new room in your heart. I remember having our first child, wondering if I had room in my heart for new love. Being a grandparent is yet another depth of love. I’m looking forward to this new role and relationship and relish my new title.

This fall I was blessed with news of a work-related award – a Chicago Innovation “People’s Choice” Award for IN2, IMSA’s innovation center. More good news was the anticipation of an overseas speaking engagement at two STEM+ conferences in Taiwan in November.  I was floating in a sea of blessings until the raft got a leak.

While preparing to receive the award, I received news that my dad had a minor fall at home. A trip to the ER to get checkout out, then overnight in the hospital for observation was just “to be safe.” Something in my gut told me to hop a plane to be with him. I thought I’d be checking him out of the hospital and spending a quiet weekend with him at home. Instead, I arrived the next morning only to find my dad had experienced a larger stroke in the hospital and couldn’t speak well or swallow. The hospital stay triggered a downward spiral that spun out of control with each passing hour and day. Ten days later it was dad’s choice to go home for hospice. Our family surrounded him for a full week of love and support. And dad finally got to meet my grandson, his great grandson, Leo in person which gave me unspeakable joy and I was able to hear my dad tell my son and his wife, “You have a beautiful family.”  Indeed dad, I am blessed.

Yes, dad was home.  I sat with him for hours on end pouring through photo books, Christmas letters and reliving favorite memories.  In his time, Dad passed on to his heavenly home on November 3, 2017 with family bedside. Death leaves the living with a hole in our hearts, sucks your energy and envelops you with a realization of mortality. It seemed dad, at 91, would be with us forever. I am forever thankful for the time we had.

It is only now, while preparing for his Memorial Service and sifting through photos and memories that I have started comprehending the blessings of having a loving father. This time also gives me pause to remember my incredible mother, Edwina, gone now some 34 years. And also the gift to dad and our family of being “lucky twice,” as my grandfather Frick put it, when dad met and married Ruta. Dad’s death has brought back much pain – the death of Ruta to the worst of diseases, ALS, the death of my father-in-law, Leo, of my sister-in-law, Nancy to lung cancer and of course my mom and both sets of grandparents. The heavenly choir is getting a new voice this Christmas, but my heart aches without him.

Even though death is part of life, it is such a hard pause. Death is the great realizer of what we have not anymore. I could wallow in what I have lost, but instead choose to celebrate what was and the many blessings dad bestowed on me and my family. So many gifts. So yes, I choose to live on and to find my smile once again. And to live with new purpose as the legacy of a great, wise man who made a difference in the lives of so many. I will remind my grandson to “be home when it’s dark in the trees” and that “nothing good ever happens after midnight” to preserve family wisdom. I steamed a figgy pudding and baked my mom’s shortbread, which brings back sweet memories with each bite. Loves lives on in these family recipes and traditions, which I intend to honor and preserve. Thank you to dad and to all my family who have been good and faithful servants. Your memories anchor me and remind me that we are put on earth to be Christ to one another, to help our neighbors and to give back.

In this time of family togetherness and holiday celebrations, take time to count the blessings in your life while they are right there in front of you. And make it a point to be a blessing to others as well. Be the gift. You will never regret giving your time and resources to make a difference in other people’s lives. Blessings in the New Year ahead for all of us. #merrychristmas2017 #happynewyear2018

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