small pieces of joy

pieces of joy in each day

last home game


This weekend was a busy one. Between three Thanksgivings, a football game, and a bridal shower for my future sister-in-law, I’m surprised I have energy to type tonight!

I talked about milestones in my last post, and yesterday was one of those big ones. My little brother’s (K) last home game in his college marching band. He has been a part of the band for five years, and it seems to have become a part of our family as well. I went to as many games as I could while living away and having babies (pumping at football games is quite an interesting experience!) but my mom and middle brother (Ke) went to almost all the games for five years.

It was probably the best game I’ve been to. Beautiful weather, competitive teams, and we won on the last play. The last play! It doesn’t really get more nerve wracking/exciting than that!

From the walk to the stadium, through the first half, I was thinking about how wonderful it is that K was able to have such an amazing experience with the band. Especially after such a rough start.

Dad passed away in the beginning of the first semester of his freshman year. He was deteriorating fast when we moved my brother in for band camp, and continued to get worse. We knew our time was limited and that we needed to make the most of the time we had.

Dad always wanted to see one of his kids march in a college marching band. (Ke and I both failed him.) So the band director, knowing of our situation, made it possible to get my mom, dad, and Ke to the first game of the season. I wasn’t there due to me living in another state so I don’t know all the details first hand…but through the efforts of many amazing people, Dad saw one of his kids march on a college football field.

During the halftime show yesterday I was in awe of the dedication, commitment, and talent it takes to be a part of such an incredible group. I also was blown away by the force of their sound! It was bittersweet knowing it was the last time I’d be able to say “my brother is in the band!”

Throughout the rest of the game my eyes were drawn to him in the band section, watching him do every chant and cheer with a huge smile. It was very apparent that he had really made a home for himself in that uniform, with those people. I felt like a proud mama watching her kid do what they love to do, thriving.

I couldn’t help but picture my dad decked out in purple sitting right next to the band soaking it all in. It is so hard knowing he didn’t get to fully experience being a college marching band parent. He would have loved every minute. (And bought every piece of merchandise.)

He was with us, though. On every two hour car ride. Every time the fight song was played. In every smile on K’s face. With every post-game Texas Roadhouse margarita.

I know this because every time my mom, Ke, or I went to a game, we represented Dad.

We get to carry him with us everywhere.

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meeting papa

Well hello everyone…we meet again. It has been months upon months since I’ve even clicked on my blog page. I’m so glad to be writing tonight, I’ve missed it.

Yesterday I felt an inspiration to go visit Dad at the cemetery. I know my dad’s soul is free and isn’t at the cemetery, but there is something real and tangible about making the effort to drive to the gravesite, get out of my car, walk to his marker, and spend some concentrated, purposeful time talking to Dad. It makes the ritual lover inside me feel like I’m visiting him since I can’t physically do that anymore.

I took the three kiddos with me. G is so good about this and seems to enjoy going. M just likes all the open grass areas available for her little feet to attack. And this was E’s first time.

We all sat around Dad’s marker and I told him about my new baby and introduced her to him. It totally sucks it has to be this way. I envisioned him meeting all my kids in the hospital, not amongst stones. What is even harder is I really don’t know how he would be with them. It’s been so long since George was born to remember how he was, and the brain tumor had already started its damage at that time.


I am now at the point where I am experiencing things in my life that don’t have a string tied to dad. That makes it really difficult to know what he would do or say or think about these new situations. How would he play with the kids? What would he say about the marching band at the football game? What would he help with for my brother’s wedding?

In grief there is a lot of talk about how the firsts are the hardest. First birthday, thanksgiving, Christmas…but I’m realizing that there are many other events that are equally as hard. There are so many milestones in life that I pictured my dad experiencing with me. Now I, along with my family, am reaching these milestones without him.

This is just another step in the long journey of grief. It is not linear, nor time sensitive. There are good days, bad days, and some days that somehow fit in between. I know that it is ok to feel sad when these milestones occur…and it is also ok to feel joy with sadness.

As we left the cemetery we all waved goodbye to the gravesite and said we’d be back again soon. Things we’d say if we were visiting him on this side of heaven. Things he sees us doing from the other side.


called Home


I feel compelled to write today, but I’m just not sure of the words.

A year ago today my sweet, loving, fierce, mother-in-law was called Home.

We held vigil for her in the hospital for almost four days.  Family was in and out throughout the weekend, family and friends brought food and comfort, people even slept in the room with her overnight.

She was never alone.

It is heartbreaking to think back to that time of vigil. Of simply waiting for the inevitable. It was so similar to the last days with Dad that it shakes me to my core even now. I watched my son say goodbye to his Mema for the last time, just as casual and sweet as any time before…yet knowing this was the last time on earth he would get to say that. I hold on to the last words she said to my husband and I as we said our goodbye and shared the name of the baby who would be born just a month later. I watched my husband have to let go of the woman who shaped the man his is today, the woman who loved him more than any other woman…and I couldn’t fix it.

Today I was reminded to also look at the flipside of that day. To look beyond the tears and pain that have settled in this past year and to look for things to be thankful for.

I talked with a priest today, the one who was with us the night before Dad passed away. That night he talked of a holy death, one that prepares our loved one for a life with Jesus. At first those words didn’t make any sense to me as I was in the throes of anticipating the death of my dad! But after the experience we gave my dad with prayer and song the whole night, I felt we really did just lift him up to be received by the Lord.

Looking back at the night of my mother-in-law’s passing, I have a similar feeling of peace and comfort knowing we gave her the best sending forth we could. The day before she died was Divine Mercy Sunday and we prayed the chaplet of Divine Mercy multiple times that day, which is a powerful prayer in the time of death. We learned this after praying it for my dad the night he died. The day she passed away was the feast of the Annunciation, which is the day Mary received news she was to give birth to Jesus. How fitting, since my mother-in-law’s patron saint was Mary, and she said all she wanted to do in life was to be a mother. (And again how perfect we were going to name our daughter Maria.) We also sang a beautiful prayer called the Salve Regina–another one so close to my heart because of Dad.

After she passed away we were able to pray together as a family and offer our pain and hope for the future as well as another chance to pray for her soul to reach Heaven.

Holy death. Words that don’t seem to fit together, but in some strange way they really do.

So today, thanks to Fr. Vince, I’m praying in thanksgiving for her holy death. For the time I had with my mother-in-law and the time she had with her grandchild. For the love she poured out on me and my children, and for the family she created that I am so lucky to be a part of.

Please, friends, pray for my husband, his three sisters, our brother-in-law, and my father-in-law that this next year may continue to be healing and hopeful for the family.

Thanks again for reading and letting me share my heart with you.

For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.


heaven’s doors

I am currently working on an art project and while I do creative things I love to listen to music.

I put my itunes playlist on random, just to see what comes up in my quite eclectic collection. Of course a song came up that I had completely forgotten about, but brought me to tears.

It’s by an artist named Sean McConnell who I happened upon years ago by searching for a song title and started listening to his music. I was hooked.

Anyway, this song hit me in such a powerful way, on many levels. In a little over a week it will be one year since my mother-in-law passed away. I’ve been physically feeling the anticipation, especially remembering back to last year and what was transpiring. So I’m extra emotional.

But the song speaks to more than that. It’s about how our loved ones are still around and we can still talk to them and share life with them. It takes a while to figure out the new relationship, though. As I was listening I was thinking about how I’m still working on that with Dad, and so I’m in the very beginning stages with my mother-in-law.

I just wanted to share this with anyone who might be feeling a little lost, missing someone they love, feeling alone like I still do sometimes.

May this song be a comfort to you as it is to me. Scroll down past the video and the lyrics are there.

Well, I found an old photograph of you
In some boxes that I thought were gone
And seeing your face made me replace
The notion that I had moved on

And it’s foolish to talk to a memory
But it helps me believe in a way
That I’m not crazy for asking you questions
And that you hear every word that I say

So I ask you what you would tell me
When I get to Heaven’s doors
And it could be the wind or the emotion I’m in
But I swear that you’ve answered before

And you said,
“I’ll tell you how proud I am of you
How you look just like your father
And how tall you have grown
And then I’ll hold you like I used to
How you slept on those long winter car rides from Boston to home
And then I’ll tell you that I love your music
Then I’ll say that the apple don’t fall far from the tree
Then I’ll tell you that you’ve done everything right
To become the man I knew you would be.”

And those words still echo inside me
Like a scream in a large, empty home
Where the things that are said come back from the dead
And times when you feel all alone

And so I hold on to them like a blanket
That I wrap around my confused heart
And it reminds me of phrases whispered inside me
That I should have known from the start

So I ask you what you would tell me
When I get to Heaven’s doors
And it could be the wind or the emotion I’m in
But I swear that you’ve answered before

And you said,
“I’ll tell you how proud I am of you
How you look just like your father
And how tall you have grown
And then I’ll hold you like I used to
How you slept on those long winter car rides from Boston to home
And then I’ll you that I love your music
Then I’ll say that the apple don’t fall far from the tree
Then I’ll tell you that you’ve done everything right
To become the man I knew you would be.

And then I’ll tell you that you’ve done everything right
To become the man I knew you would be.”


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your birthday, without you

Hello friends.

Today is Dad’s birthday. Yes, it has been many years since he passed away, but it is still difficult. Each year feels a little different. Each time it comes around I feel there is a little more healing. However, my sadness does still intensify around the day, because as I said about my mother-in-law’s birthday, it is the one day of the year that celebrates them. Just them. And that is hard to ignore.

Yesterday me and the kids visited the cemetery to tell Dad about what’s new in our lives and to wish him a happy birthday. I hate that my kids have to go to the cemetery to ‘visit’ their grandpa (and grandma too) but as many people have said, “it is what it is.”

It truly is beautiful to see how my son has become more accustomed to these visits, and he even asks to go see Papa at the cemetery every so often. When we go there we talk to him and G always wants to say a prayer for him. I am so thankful he gets it. It is balm to my soul to see that my kids will be able to have a relationship with their departed grandparents, even if it isn’t the one I had envisioned.

It also encourages me to seek out my new relationship with my dad and mother-in-law. This takes time and effort to discover what that looks like. I’m obviously still processing the loss of my mother-in-law, so I’m in the early stages of figuring out my new relationship with her. But I think I’m getting closer to a better understanding of what it’s like to have my dad in heaven, and how that fits into my life. The biggest thing I’m learning is to not focus so much on the fact that he isn’t here, but figuring out ways to make it feel like he is. Visiting the cemetery is one of those ways to tangibly feel like I’m spending time with him.

Of course this is different for everyone. I just encourage those who have lost someone to first off, don’t put a timeline on how you feel. And don’t let others do that for you either. If it has been one year or ten years and a birthday or anniversary makes you sad, OWN IT. Please take care of yourself. Spend time figuring out what would make you feel connected with them and DO IT.

Not having Dad around for all the new things in life is so frustrating. But including him and celebrating him when I need to is a good way to make sure he stays in my heart.

Sending love, as always, to those who are missing someone today and everyday.



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happy birthday in heaven


Today is my late mother-in-law’s birthday. I’ve been a little anxious about this day for a while. Unlike our other ‘firsts’ without her, this is  a day that was solely hers.

As the one year approaches I feel I’m missing her even more because I’m thinking more about the things we did a year ago. It still feels so surreal and still is very difficult not having her here.

I’ve been trying to think of ways to honor her on her special day, but nothing is seeming quite right. So I sat down the other day and made a list of things I miss about her. I feel that is a very appropriate way to honor her birthday. A list of things that were uniquely her that I truly miss.

I miss…

A loud “Thank you” in response to making a point she agreed with.

Seeing her read or cross stitch in her chair.

Saying “I’m going to get you” to G.

Sneaking down the stairs in the morning without anyone hearing her.

Drinking tea and chatting with her on her many visits to South Bend while J was at work.

Speed walking everywhere. Especially to mass at the basilica.

The van being perfectly loaded before any trip–and leaving very close to on time.

All of her lists in wide ruled notebooks.

Watching/hearing her study French.

Project Runway!

Planning for Christmas in July, and summer vacation after Christmas.

Calling her after G’s checkups to update her on his growth.

Hearing her yell “DEAR” at J’s dad for any and all reasons.

The special look and voice she used when talking to J.

How fearless and determined she was in any situation.

How fiercely she loved her family. She would do anything and everything for them.


What a beautiful soul. This is only a short list of the many things I miss about her. I’m so thankful to have known her and been a part of her family.  I will keep celebrating her on earth while she celebrates in Heaven.

I sure do miss her.




After dropping G off at preschool, I decided to take a trip to the Dunkin’ drive thru to get some fuel to combat the fragmented sleep of the night before, and head over to visit the cemetery.

I haven’t been many times, but lately I’ve been feeling this undeniable pull to go visit more often. The cemetery is close to my house and many of the places I frequent, so I think I’ve become more aware of the possibility of just dropping by more often.

After arriving at the familiar spot I grabbed a blanket and M and spread out right at Dad’s headstone. After gazing at the text and his photo, I shared with M what her Papa was like, and talked with Dad about all the great things M has already accomplished in her short 5 months of life.

Between my talking and pulling M away from the grass she had newly discovered, I happened to glance at the headstone to see a glistening blue dragonfly perched underneath the dash between Dad’s birthday and memorial day. At first I simply thought it was neat to see a dragonfly, but then of course I needed to do more research to see if dragonflies were symbolic…and I quickly found out…they are!

They have been an important symbol in many cultures, and symbolize change, transformation, resurrection, maturity, living in the present, etc.

What a beautiful message to receive!

My research led me to this poem, which I found as a simple way to describe the mystery of life and death.


Sending some positive thoughts and prayers to all of you reading who are missing someone today and every day. May you be open to your message from them when it comes!

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the third

Monday marked the third anniversary of Dad’s passing from this world to the next.

The third year without Dad. Wow.

It seems like such a long time, but remembering the events from three years ago feels like just yesterday.

The past two years we have remembered Dad’s memorial day with something special. A service at the gravesite the first year, KSU football game and dinner at Texas Roadhouse the next.

This year I wanted to do something specific in honor of Dad, but it was hard to figure out what that would be.

We had a steak dinner at Mom’s and simply enjoyed family time, even though my youngest brother couldn’t make it.

I went home, put the kids to bed, and still felt like I needed to do something more to make the day feel complete. I had wanted to go to the gravesite by myself before dinner, but my husband got home late from work so I couldn’t do that. Then I was going to go after the kids went to bed, but now it gets dark early.

On a whim I left the house and drove to our church’s adoration chapel, thinking I had the code to get in. Nope. Wrong code. So I sat outside of the chapel, wondering if this was a sign or if I should wait for someone to come and let me in. After about 10 minutes I just decided to drive for a while and ended up in the cemetery at twilight.

Only a little creepy.

I turned the car off, started talking to Dad, then had a major cry-my-heart-out-tears-on-the-steering-wheel sob fest. As I was letting it all out, I still felt lost, like I needed to do something else.

I called my mom, and was at her house a few minutes later.

She held me and we cried. Cried about missing Dad, cried about the good memories, cried about the things he was missing, cried about what we thought he might be like today, cried about the whole crappy situation.

It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time.

The thing is…grief is complicated. There is no amount of time to make losing my Dad OK. Just because it is three years out does not mean I’m not still hurting. Yes, I’m getting much better about living my life without him. I’ve come to terms he is not here and will not be here.

But I’m still hurting.

It hurts that I had to see him decline over 10 months, that I was a new mom, living in a different state, trying to juggle all my roles, while cancer was slowly sucking the life out of my big strong hero.

That will never be OK with me.

And all those things I mentioned are things I haven’t had time to really process. Because unfortunately, life continues to move after loss. So it takes a while to get to a place where the shock, agony, and pain can come through and be truly felt.

No, I am not stuck. No, I’m not dwelling on the loss. I’m actually moving forward in the best way I know how.

The best way for ME.

I’m learning about grief, I’m allowing myself to feel, and I’m sharing with others in hopes they can work through their pain too.

These past few years have been the most challenging years of my life, and looking back, also the years in which I have grown the most. For that I’m thankful.

The third year without Dad. Another step forward on a long path to healing.

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A few weeks ago we attended a funeral of another family member.

On our long drive home we were commenting on the cloud formations. I called some of them ‘Toy Story’ clouds–if you have seen the movie I think you know what I mean.

G chimed in and said,”Which cloud do you think is holding Uncle L, Mema, Jesus and Mary?”

I was stunned.

After taking a breath and holding back tears, we responded by pointing and saying “I think that one.”

I am amazed at the understanding my little man has, and the beautiful way he sees things. He has lost a Grandfather, Great-grandfather, Grandmother, and Great Uncle in his short 3.5 years of life. He has been to more funerals at his age than I had attended through my teenage years.

And yet he says beautiful, perfect things that make me believe even more that our deceased loved ones are with us, holding us, and teaching us in ways we only need look for to see.

Especially in the clouds.


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country roads

Hello you. It’s been a long long time since I’ve written a post here. I’d like to list all of the reasons why I haven’t been blogging, but the most important thing at this time is that I’m writing a post right now! Hooray!

Here is a small piece of joy from tonight.

Tomorrow is my youngest brother’s birthday, so we went out for dinner to celebrate. The restaurant has become our ‘go-to’ when it comes to family celebrations and get togethers. And the rolls are delicious…

Before we got in the car to leave G said, “I miss Papa.” After breathing deeply I responded with, “I do too.” He hopped into the car and as he was getting buckled he said, “Remember, he is always with us.”

Heart. Melt.

We arrived shortly after and met up with the family. Once we had gotten all settled and began looking at the menus, I noticed the song playing. “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” It took my breath away. That was one of the songs we sang together the night Dad passed away. Unbelievable.

And then I remembered the last time we were all together at that restaurant, (different location) when another song that reminded me of Dad was playing as we were getting settled. Again, Unbelievable.

You’re right, G. He is always with us. Especially at Texas Roadhouse.

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