Sunday, May 31, 2015

on being wonder woman

Henry, who is going through a particularly big super hero phase at the moment, came home from school on Friday and told me that during "Show and Tell", he informed his 1st grade class that his mother is actually "Wonder Woman."  That he feels that way about me, despite my less than stellar maternal moments the past few weeks, is encouraging.

I love that little boy. He is my medicine.

This past month has been a whirlwind.  Between major home renovations, a pending list and sale of our current home, a future selection and purchase of a new home, a relocation that was slated for four weeks from now, mentally preparing for a new community - office - schools - church - grocery store, Carolyn's surgery (which has been scheduled and canceled twice), William's heel (he injured his Achilles'), and my father's passing ... it's no wonder I've been a bundle of cranky nerves.

My dear friend is a clinical psychologist, and when during one of our walks I was talking about recent and forthcoming events, she asked, "Do you realize you are going through about three of the five most stressful situations in life ... all at once?"  

When I went to see my doctor this week for bronchitis I haven't been able to shake for the past month, and recounted for him just some of the things that we have happening (there are so many other things that are causing stress, which I'll maybe write about later); he just shook his head and gave me the advice to slow down and take some time for me.   

But, but.  Doctor!  How can I possibly slow down when I have so ... much ...  to ... do?

People are counting on me!

Contractors, realtors, supervisors, teachers!

On Friday, I had lunch with a co-worker, who was telling me that several young women we work with, who recently had babies, were anxious to return to work before their newborns were even two-months old.  I was aghast that they were pushing themselves so hard ... these new mothers are granted more time off from our employer, so why aren't they taking it?  Someone needs to tell them that the world will not stop spinning if they take some additional time for themselves, and their families.

As the words were leaving my mouth, I recognized the irony in my statement.

Why are we so resistant to nurturing ourselves?  Why are we so keen to keeping up appearances that we are more than capable of doing everything, and more, on some compressed schedule?  Perhaps it's not even intentional that we impose requirements upon ourselves and expect that we can sustain them - over time?  Why do we work so hard and furiously fast??

I sat in the parking lot of a the restaurant for a few minutes, thinking hard about what I really needed to have happen in order to get that weight of an elephant off my chest.  And then I sent my boss an honest e-mail that indicated I will not be ready to fly to Texas this week and buy a new house, nor will I be ready to list our house next week.  The moving truck that was scheduled for June 29th will need to be postponed until sometime in July. Or maybe even August.

I'll admit that I was nervous to tell my boss these things, so it helped that a doctor, someone from the medical industry, a trained professional (!), had told me something I already knew: my first priority is my health, and the health of my daughter.  It also helps that I am in a situation where I might be offered some latitude. I cannot comprehend how people that have no choice continue to function.

First, I need to get healthy because the last time I was under a lot of stress, I nearly died. Some stress = Good Motivator.  Too much stress =  Not Good.  It can be a fuzzy line, but when it feels like your heart and/or head are going to pop (and you find yourself swearing a lot), you've likely migrated in to the Not Good zone.  Once I'm well, Carolyn needs to have her tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery.  And once she is recovered - which will take approximately two weeks, we will list our house.  It would be less than ideal to show our house while someone is recovering from major surgery.  So ... we won't do it. 

My boss immediately wrote me back and said, "Agreed. We'll see you when you get here."

I am so, so fortunate to have such a good boss, since my last one was so ... awful.  

The rest of the stuff, the buying a new house, the selling of our current house, the move - the acclimation to an entirely new environment ... those things will all happen, and fall in to place - just as they are meant to be.

But not today, so today I don't need to worry about them.  Today, I am just grateful for the beauty outside my window.

Amazing. The world is spinning on it's axis and I'm not even helping it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

in memoriam - 2015

Taking a break from a basketball game (the kids) and cleaning out the garage (Charlie and I), to put up our American flag …


And remember those who gave all for our country.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dad's celebration of life

My family nominated me to write and deliver my father's eulogy last week, and I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to find the right words, or say the right things. I was also so afraid that I'd be an absolute basket case, unable to talk. Instead, the day before Dad's funeral, the words miraculously came to me in less than an hour time; and I was able to deliver them almost tearlessly.  I'd asked for clarity and composure, and my father in heaven responded.  

Both of them!

Here's the eulogy I delivered, and some of the photos that I took during the service. The weather was perfect, a beautiful blue-sky day with nary a cloud in sight. The skies and seas were calm; both literally and figuratively. The only thing that could have made it better, is if my mother was physically with us - but because she could not leave Jim - she was most definitely with us in spirit. Mom, I know you and Dad were so proud of us.  I was, too.

Good morning everyone, thank you for being here today.  We’re gathered here not to grieve, but to celebrate the life of my father, Walter Francis Foley.  You may know him as Walter or Walt, the tireless pharmacist who worked the bench at Snow’s Pharmacy and served the town of Concord for more than 30 years.  For his seven children, he was Dad.  For his 20 grandchildren, and five great grandchildren, he was Grampy.  For all of us, he was a good and kind man, a quiet man, who worked so hard, loved a good joke or story, and spent his life serving others.


A lot of people work hard. But to put it in perspective, my mother and father had six children in seven years.  Their sixth son, Walter Junior, was born a few months after Snow’s Pharmacy opened.  Remember: this was 50 years ago, back in the days before all-night drive through pharmacies, or places where you can fill your prescription while you shop for groceries.   In the 1960’s if you needed medication, you got it from the drugstore, when it was open.  Snow’s was always open for those in need.  


For the next six years, my father with the unwavering support of his devoted wife, Mary, worked seven days a week, often heading down to “The Shop” in the middle of the night to prepare medicine for people who needed it, urgently.  Dad (and later all of the kids) also delivered prescriptions, free of charge. 

(17 of my father's 20 grandchildren served as his pallbearers)

“Running deliveries” meant driving all around town, and bringing medication and supplies to those who could not leave their homes. This was really sacred work for Dad, because he knew that sometimes, he might be the only person that his customers had seen all day, or all week.  So not only would he bring them their medication, he would sit and talk with them. People knew that he cared.  And he did. My father did not take a single vacation until the summer of 1970.  And, so it is, I was born nine months later, in the Spring of 1971, just three days before my father’s 40th birthday. Happy Birthday Dad!


But you know, my father didn’t ever call it “work.”  It wasn’t work to him, it was his life-long passion and God-given calling to help other people.  Whether it be the thousands of customers that he served through the years in his beloved Shop; or the strangers whose roads he would plow with his Ford Truck after a big snowstorm.  Or the patients at Emerson Hospital he so gently transported by wheelchair and gurney for a few years, following his third and final retirement from Snow’s.  My mother and father, together, instilled in each of their seven children a work ethic and sense of compassion, that is stronger than welded steel. 

(My brother, Wally, reading Ecclesiastes.)

Because my mother was so devoted to raising our family, my father was able to devote his attention to his profession. And he was the inspiration for two of his children, his daughters Marylou and Beth, to also choose pharmacy as their careers.   What a tribute!

(Wally's children bringing forth the communion gifts.)

Earlier in his life, Dad served as a radio operator in the Navy.  And the flags are at half-mast, today, in Concord Center because of Dad’s service to our country.  His time in the Navy sparked a love of the ocean, and some of my best memories of my father are those spent on the boat with him, sitting up on the fly bridge, Dad’s got a can of Budweiser in his hand, I’m on his knee, and he’s singing, “Bell Bottom Trousers and Coats of Navy Blue!” Some of my most frightening memories were on the boat, too, because as my siblings can all attest, there were a few times, we had trouble at sea. On the upside, Dad gave us a wonderful opportunity to get on a first name basis with the Coast Guard.  There’s always that silver lining!


The past few years have been difficult sailing for my father, but he navigated the rocky waters of Parkinson’s with grace.  And I have been blinded by the love and devotion that my family has shown to my father during this time. As we heard in Wally's reading of Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.  And as we heard in Janet's reading of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “These three remain: Hope, Faith and Love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.” The family tree really is the strongest tree and I am so amazed and proud of how beautifully our family has demonstrated that.  


To my mother, who has been a role model of what it means to forgive and love.  To my Aunt Peggy, who drove in from Boston to visit my father so frequently, always equipped with chocolate desserts for his sweet tooth. 

To my sister Marylou, who would fly up to visit Dad, and slept many a night on the pull-out couch at Robbin’s Brook. To my sister Janet, who never showed up to visit Dad without her manicure kit in hand and would spend hours, restoring Dad to his handsome glory. 

To my sister, Eileen, who nurtured Dad’s spirit with inspirational scripture and verse. To my brother, Wally, who never ceased – not even in Dad’s final hours - nurturing his heart with laughter.  My father’s final words were spoken in response to Wally, when my brother asked him if he’d like a Budweiser beer.  His reply? YES!


But most importantly, to my brother, Frank and my sister, Beth.  

God Bless You, both. 

To Frank – for visiting Dad nearly every single day, for bringing him to your home, for letting him in to your heart, and for doing everything you could do to carry out his wishes. I know it hasn’t always been easy, but we are thankful to you.  

To Beth - for being Dad’s Number One wingman, not only on the pharmacy bench, but in life.  You have devoted yourself to Dad, and at least for me, I never would have had the relationship that I was so blessed to have with Dad, if not for your unwavering and selfless efforts.   


In the words of another great Concord man – Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."


By this definition, my father was a wildly successful man.  He loved, and he was loved. And so many lives breathed easier because of him.  Dad made the world better, just by being in it.  But Dad wasn’t only successful; he was incredibly lucky to have a family that adored him. The last time I talked with Dad, was when we wished each other a Happy Birthday - just two weeks ago. He was with me when I took my first breath at Emerson; and I had the privilege of being with him when he took his last breath - in the same hospital.  


This past Sunday night, and early in to Monday morning, he was at various times, flocked by his children, several grandchildren, and his sister – who held his hands and feet, sang him his favorite songs including a more risqué version of “Bell Bottom Trousers”, and recounted some of our best family memories. 

(Father Gomes, also a former Navy pharmacist!)

Dad did not leave this world alone; he was surrounded in laughter and love, and it was magnificent.


So thank you again to our dear friends and family for being a part of our father’s successful life. Maybe you came to my father for medicine, but the truth is, each and every one of you were HIS medicine.  Your kindness, your friendship, your stories, your lives … is what made his life so happy and full.  


Science has taught us that energy is neither created nor destroyed, so it is our most heartfelt prayer that you always feel our father’s loving energy surround you. He is now part of the thousand winds that blow – the diamond glints on the snow; the sunlight on ripened grain; the gentle falling autumn rain.  


Dad will forever live in in the hearts of those who loved him.  And he will forever be remembered every time we pick up a broom, because Dad so loved to sweep.  


To our Aunt Ann, thank you again for being here; my father would be so honored that you sang at his Celebration of Life ... you always were his favorite singer.  

(Our amazing family cantor singing, "The Prayer of St. Francis.")

Monday, May 04, 2015

a beautifully sad day

This morning, we said goodbye to our Dad, Walter.


In his final hours, he was surrounded by his children, and his younger sister, who gently held his hands and feet, kissed his cheek, told him stories, sang him songs, and loved him.  Together, we gracefully and peacefully helped to usher him from this world.  It was one of the most beautiful and powerful experiences of my life.

daddy and me

Tonight in Massachusetts, the air is soft and warm. The first wave of spring flowers have erupted with their yellow blooms. And although it is not very clear from my iPhone photo (distorted by lights from the elementary school), there is a gorgeous full moon rising in the sky, shining on us all.


I'm certain it's no coincidence.