small pieces of joy

pieces of joy in each day

words of remembrance

As I’ve been working through my grief, I’m saddened I wasn’t able to give words of remembrance in the days following Dad’s passing from this life to the next. I’ve found that I wish I could have said something to everyone who came to his visitation. I wish I could have said something to everyone who prayed for his soul at this funeral mass. I wish I could have given tribute to dad with words from my heart.

Looking back I know there were many reasons why it didn’t happen. Everything worked out the way it needed to in those moments. Some people, myself included, were able to say things to Dad at his Celebration of Life party. That just wasn’t enough for me, especially since he was driving his electronic wheelchair away from me as I spoke!

I guess it is never too late to write the words I would have liked to share with everyone eighteen months ago. And it is fitting that I will speak about his life on this day, March 8th, the day he entered this world in 1959. Here goes.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

These words from Clarence Budington Kelland sent goose bumps running all over me when I read them recently. I silently whispered, “That’s what my dad did.”

I didn’t really have a lot of heart to heart conversations with Dad about living life. But I really didn’t have to.

Dad taught me about life by living it.

By taking us on inexpensive, meaningful family vacations.

By showing me how to put a worm on a hook when fishing.

By helping me oil my glove, and always being my catcher.

By building our swing set and deck with his own hands (and a few helpers).

By helping us fly kites in the open field behind our house.

By showing us how to ‘box out’ at basketball practice and yelling a few intense instructions during a game.

By watching a Chiefs game with the TV announcer muted and the radio announcer blaring. (And yelling a few intense instructions during the game).

By clapping proudly after every sports game and band concert—especially after my adult dodge ball games!

By playing board games with the family and working his business skills to trade one wheat for two sheep.

By claiming every sports movie is his favorite because he loves the underdog. And watching them over and over and over and over.

By playing in the parents band, proudly banging on the drum that gave him so much joy.

By taking leadership positions even when the job is not easy and sometimes goes unnoticed.

By making the difficult call because it is the right one.

By being a man of few words, but making those few words speak thousands.

By respecting and working with people of all nations, creeds, and backgrounds.

By saying his name with confidence, followed by a strong handshake.

By lying down on the floor next to his crying daughter, reassuring her that things will get better.

By letting his daughter move into a shady apartment during college, even though he had huge reservations—and then letting her move out of the house before having a job!

By saying, “I’m proud of you buddy” after he spent a few days with his brand new grandson.

By allowing people into his cancer journey, accepting all forms of help and encouragement, and at the same time paying those gifts forward. And buying lottery tickets for the radiation nurses!

By going to confession for the first time in over 10 years, and then speaking to me about forgiveness.

By letting me teach him to pray the rosary when he couldn’t remember anymore.

By gracefully letting God take him Home.

As someone wrote in a sympathy card to our family, “He was honest, thorough, and trustworthy. There were only two types of people—those that didn’t know him or those that called him friend.”

I do not believe it was God’s will for Dad to have cancer. But God sure did use the fact he had cancer to show us more good and beauty in this world than I ever thought possible. All of our friends and family were God’s hands and feet on earth, showing His love during the most difficult time of our lives. We are now able to see how God used Dad to teach us loyalty, friendship, leadership, and LOVE.

I miss you, Dad, everyday. I’m working hard to continue the legacy you began and I hope to teach George and my future children the way you taught me. By living.

“I came so that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” –John 10:10

If you have some memories or words of remembrance you’d like to share with my son, George, so he will know his Papa better, please send them to I know he, and my family, would be forever grateful for your sharing of memories!

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birth day

I opened my Facebook feed this morning as normal and was unprepared for the emotions that filled my heart.

Facebook told me it is Dad’s birthday.

Right. I knew that. But seeing it on Facebook was different.

I saw that a few friends had already posted birthday wishes, which warmed my heart and released the tears.

One friend planned a meeting at the cemetery to have celebratory beers and tell stories. Which is exactly what they would do if he were physically here.

Another said happy first birthday in Heaven. This remark made me smile. I often forget that he’s there! I’m so worried about how he isn’t here with me that I forget he’s celebrating in Heaven with Grandpa and all our other family members and friends and Saints and angels! What a party that must be.

But back on earth it is harder to have a big party. I am more sad today than I thought I would be. Physically I’ve been aching and more tired starting last night, and I have a feeling it was in anticipation of today. It is hard to celebrate a birthday of someone who isn’t here to celebrate with us. Who isn’t starting another year on earth. It doesn’t seem right.

But then it makes too much sense to celebrate the fact that he was born, that he was given to us for those 54 years, that we were able to know him. These thoughts have made me want to really celebrate this day with purpose.

We went to the grotto on campus this morning. Dad loved this place so much that we had to make sure we visited each time he was in town. He always wanted to light a candle to pray for those he held dear. For a man who didn’t talk about his faith often, these visits spoke more to me than any words could.


So we lit a candle asking Dad to pray for us and to ask God to give us the strength and courage to continue living with joy, even when we miss him terribly.


I went to a religious gift store to find something I could wear that would remind me of him, and I wanted to buy it today, on his birthday. So I looked around at all the angel pins, crosses, and rosaries. But the one thing that stuck out to me was a St. George medal necklace. It has so many meanings: my son’s name is George, St. George is the patron of Boy Scouts, and St. George was a strong fighter, just like Dad. Perfect.


So I celebrate Dad’s birthday in the best way I can today. And Dad is too. He was praying with us this morning at the grotto. He is with those at the cemetery drinking beer and laughing. He is with those who are thinking of dad and feeling sad. He is with us today and always.

Happy 55th birthday, Daddy.

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