Dad’s New Wineskins

07/07/2018

“People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” – Matthew 9:17, from today’s gospel.

Every time I hear or read this Gospel, I think of my wonderful dad. His blood vessels and veins had undoubtedly weakened from years of inadequate blood flow, as surely happens to all people whose heart can no longer efficiently pump blood.

In my humble opinion, his vessels couldn’t handle the new flow of blood. Their elasticity was compromised from years of “drought.”

The LVAD

    – New Lease on Life

    – New Medical Issues

When the LVAD created a firehose effect — much greater pressure on inelastic tissues — the vessels weren’t quite capable of handling the new demand.

New Wine. Old Wineskins.

That’s why he needed frequent (almost monthly) blood transfusions. I ain’t no doctor. But years of reflecting and studying this stuff bring me to this intuitive conclusion.

Anyway… That’s the Readers Digest version.

God, I miss him!

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New Wine in Old Blood Vessels

01/16/2018

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the wineskins, and the wine will pour out, and the wineskins will be lost. Instead, new wine must be put into new wineskins.” – Mark 2:22

Except when you get a VAD. Then you get new wine into old, brittle wineskins. Not sure if anybody thought about that…

Dad, Mom, and everybody Easter Sunday 2016 (03-27-16) _MG_8398

Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016 – Dad with his LVAD batteries holstered

I can’t hear (read) this Gospel any more without thinking of Dad, my dad, Norb Kwiecinski. He got a new lease on life in February 2014. An LVAD, a Left Ventricular Assist Device because his left ventricle was failing. It couldn’t sufficiently empty blood from his heart any longer. And he was dying.

450_300_mayolvad rendering of LVAD courtesy Mayo Clinic

Rendering of a Ventricular Assist Device, courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Lack of blood supply means lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen means dying a slow death.

The LVAD gave him new life. It pumped blood through his body for him. But that lack of blood flow for so many years meant veins that had turned into old wineskins. And Dad’s new wine, in the form of a vibrant, fresh blood supply, was too much for the old wineskins to handle.

After being discharged from his four-month journey through intensive care, five staredowns with death, and an incredibly intense physical rehabilitation, Dad became a frequent visitor at the hospital.

Why? He constantly needed more blood. Where was it going?

Despite numerous tests, there was little evidence of a single source of a leak. It wasn’t showing up. So why did he need blood? Where was it going? Was his body like an old automobile engine, burning oil?

My humble, yet considered theory is that his arteries and veins — and especially the fine, delicate capillaries that deliver blood to the extremities and up to the skin — had become brittle from years of poor blood flow. When the LVAD powerfully and efficiently delivered blood, this force was more than these delicate tissues could handle. And the blood was absorbed into the body. It had seemingly disappeared. But it really hadn’t.

Is that really what happened? Is this really the explanation for why Dad consistently needed blood transfusions?

Nobody can convince me otherwise. No one else had a better, more plausible, more scientific explanation. And my theory seems to make sense.

Anyway… today’s Gospel triggered these memories today. Always happens. And the memories of those troubling, yet exhilarating and joyful months come flooding back into consciousness as if they happened yesterday.

I love you, Dad. Still miss you like crazy. Still blame you for my coffee addiction. Still ask you for help with the simplest home repair projects. And I still hear you say, chidingly, “atta boy” when I finally figure it out.

And we have the most serious man-to-man philosophical discussions… well, sure, they’re slightly one-sided. But they’re real. And really serious.

#dadupdate

OI2047625967_Kwiecinski


Reflections on My Dad’s Example

05/17/2016

Norb Kwiecinski, my dad, knew how to make you feel completely comfortable.

Oh… he could make you squirm, too. Make no mistake! Don’t forget. He was also the toughest guy I ever knew.

And I may have provoked his “tough guy” side a time or two over the years…

But at his core, Dad’s enormously compassionate heart shone through.

Today, I took some time to reflect on Dad’s disarming, loving example. Please take some time to watch:


#dadupdate – Funeral Arrangements

05/06/2016

Sometime during the first overtime.

Reality walloped me.

Right in the back of the skull. Like an accelerating two by four.

Like a battering ram. Reality came crashing through the walls of my defenses.

We got home around … hell, I don’t remember … 10:30? It was the third period of the hockey game. That’s all I know.

Sharks and Preds. Game four. Round two.

That’s how I tell time during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I’m not joking.  The world sorta stops for a few hours almost every single night for two months. A playoff game is on!

And it’s thanks to Dad that I watch with such fanatical fervor.

Like a kid. Still. Almost 58 years old.

That’s a topic for another time. More later.

But this week… and more particularly on this night… things are different.

I sat on the right edge of the bed. My side. TV on. Hockey game on. Kathy sawing logs behind me.

I’d taken my contacts out, so I was pretty much blind. Didn’t bother finding my glasses. I sat there and stared at my smartphone.

I looked at some Facebook notifications, posts and comments that Facebook decides are important to me. I saw Doug’s post about Dad’s funeral arrangements. Then Stephanie’s post.

I  shared Stephanie’s post on my Facebook page. Then I decided to share the actual obituary.


Earlier in the evening, before we left Mom and Dad’s house, I made the last-minute decision to cancel my appointments this morning.

It was too late to call anyone. I have a rule not to call a client after 9 PM. I sent texts and emails to cover all the bases.

One client acknowledged me immediately via text and asked for details about Dad’s services. I wanted to share a link to the obit.

The obit on the funeral home’s mobile website didn’t appear to be shareable. Before I shared it with my client, I tested it out to see what page opened when I typed the address into my browser.

It took me to a generic page for Simkins Funeral Home.

“Well, that’s no good. I want to give him information, not send him on a wild goose chase. He’s being very kind.”

I wanted whatever I sent to be complete information… didn’t want to make him work to answer his own question.

There was a link to the full website. That’s what I was looking for. Clicked on the obits. Clicked on Dad’s name.

There was his obit. With that great picture.

Was the link shareable? That was the most important part of this experiment.

I tested it.

Yes. That link took me directly to Dad’s complete obituary.

I sent the link to my client.


So there I was, sitting on the bed. After sharing Stephanie’s Facebook post, I decided to share this direct link to the full obituary.OI2047625967_Kwiecinski

Countless numbers of people have replied to Facebook posts and have sent me personal messages.

I haven’t seen most of them. We’ve been too busy with funeral arrangements, the cemetery, funeral Mass prep, fighting traffic…

As I sat on the edge of the bed, TV no more than four feet away (all I can see are shadows without glasses or contacts), I read some of the messages.

All of the emotions of the words written by friends and family welled up inside of me as I read and responded.

But none of the words hit me harder than gazing at that picture of Dad’s smiling face.

I’ll never see your smiling face again.

I’ll never hear another smart-ass wisecrack.

Doesn’t it look like he’s got one on his lips?

One look at that picture and tears flooded my eyes. I sobbed hysterically. And I pretty much haven’t stopped since.

I’ll never hear him tell me “Love you, Dave” again.

I’ll never hear his voice. I’ll never hear his laugh.

I’ll never kiss his puckered lips again.

Yes, we kissed each other on the lips.

Men, if you don’t kiss your Dad, start. Look directly into his eyes. Tell him you love him. While looking directly into his eyes.

And give him a kiss. Doesn’t have to be on the lips. But if you kiss your Mom on the lips, find a way to start kissing your Dad on the lips. Or on the cheek. Make it tender. Make it loving. Make it heartfelt.

I’ll never get to do it again.

Here’s Dad’s obituary:

http://www.simkinsfh.com/obits/obituary.php?id=602989

 


Divine Mercy Novena: Day Five, Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

03/29/2016

Who are you kidding?

I heard that a couple of days ago. Me. The hypocrite.

Listen… I don’t do this because I think I’m better than you.

I ain’t no holy roller.

I’m just like you. Probably worse. So, I pray my little fanny off. If I may use the vernacular. I’d say dupa, but that’s Polish slang for fanny that may offend some.

There I go again…

Day 5 of the Divine Mercy Novena

Jesus said to Saint Faustina

Today bring to Me the souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.

Our prayer:

Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son’s Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.

 

Follow this short novena prayer by praying The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Please click this link, http://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/chaplet.php, to visit the website of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for resources on how to pray The Chaplet.

Novena paragraphs excerpted from
“The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, ‘Divine Mercy in My Soul’”
© Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.
http://www.thedivinemercy.org/

The Divine Mercy Image, displayed outside The Chapel of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Marytown, Libertyville, Illinois, when it was on display, August 2014.

The Divine Mercy Image, displayed outside The Chapel of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Marytown, Libertyville, Illinois, when it was on display, August 2014.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read and listen to my thoughts. My commitment during Lent 2016 and continuing through Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, is to post a daily video reflection to help you and me on our walk through the season and toward Easter Sunday, and finally to the Feast of Mercy. Click here for my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/davekwiecinski

I appreciate your help and encouragement. Please let me know how I can help you. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.


Divine Mercy Novena: Day Three, Happy Easter

03/27/2016

Can you imagine standing around the empty tomb, wondering what the heck was going on?

Where was He?

Where’s the Body?

What have they done with Him?

Who did this?

Can you imagine seeing a man who you thought was dead rise again?

Without being melodramatic, without overstating, in no way comparing the two situations…

I can answer “yes!” An emphatic YES!

When Dad was ill in 2014, nobody — and I mean nobody — on his medical team offered us even a glimmer of hope.

In fact, I couldn’t even trick them into uttering the word.

I also think that more than one of them left the room crying, on the verge of tears, or red-eyed.

It was somber. It was awful.

Dad’s still alive. Two years later. Five times by my count, I thought we lost him. Five times.

He beat the odds. He defied the doctors. He cheated death.

He had to learn to talk again (no, it wasn’t a stroke). He had to learn to swallow again (not kidding). He had to learn to take a sip again. He had to learn to eat, to sit up, to stand for more than a second…

On and on and on…

Today, he and Mom will be at our house to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

I have witnessed miracles. First-hand.

And Jesus, demonstrating the greatest miracle ever on the greatest day of the year, really… truly rose from the dead. It transformed His disciples. It transformed a people. It transformed the world.

Today is the third day of the Divine Mercy Novena. Today, Jesus asks us to pray for all the devout and faithful souls that helped Him complete the painful walk to Calvary.

So that He could rise from the dead.

After visiting Hell.

To save us all. Even the greatest sinner. Even if you don’t believe.

Jesus said to Saint Faustina

Today bring to Me all devout and faithful souls, and immerse then in the ocean of My mercy. The souls brought Me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were that drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness.

And we pray:

Most Merciful Jesus, from the treasury of Your mercy, You impart Your graces in great abundance to each and all. Receive us into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart and never let us escape from It. We beg this grace of You by that most wondrous love for the heavenly Father with which Your Heart burns so fiercely.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon faithful souls, as upon the inheritance of Your Son. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, grant them Your blessing and surround them with Your constant protection. Thus may they never fail in love or lose the treasure of the holy faith, but rather, with all the hosts of Angels and Saints, may they glorify Your boundless mercy for endless ages. Amen.

Follow this short novena prayer by praying The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Please click this link, http://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/chaplet.php, to visit the website of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for resources on how to pray The Chaplet.

 

Novena paragraphs excerpted from
“The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, ‘Divine Mercy in My Soul'”
© Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.
http://www.thedivinemercy.org/

The Divine Mercy Image, displayed outside The Chapel of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Marytown, Libertyville, Illinois, when it was on display, August 2014.

The Divine Mercy Image, displayed outside The Chapel of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Marytown, Libertyville, Illinois, when it was on display, August 2014.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read and listen to my thoughts. My commitment during Lent 2016 and continuing through Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, is to post a daily video reflection to help you and me on our walk through the season and toward Easter Sunday, and finally to the Feast of Mercy. Click here for my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/davekwiecinski

I appreciate your help and encouragement. Please let me know how I can help you. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.


Why I Posted a Video a Day for Lent

03/23/2016

Today is the last full day of Lent. Tomorrow evening, Holy Thursday, at the evening Mass, Lent officially ends and we begin the Triduum, the three days that unfold the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

We’ve walked through Lent together. Thanks for enduring this daily video series. The genesis for this excursion began — unknowingly — in January 2014.

It may have been a few months before that, when Dad’s health really began to decline. But the decision that he made to endure life-changing surgery touched my life more than I could have ever anticipated.

We had no idea what he would endure.

What he would suffer.

What Mom would endure. What she would suffer.

What we would endure. What we would suffer.

Not that he needed it, but Dad had the blessing and support of Mom, Karen, Stephanie, me, and our families. We were there for him, for Mom, for each other.

Dad had the freedom to say no. He didn’t. He wasn’t ready to let his heart fail and give up the chance for a few better years or months.

None of us knew.

We had the freedom to say no. But how could we? Dad… always so full of life. The past six to twelve months had been rough.

His heart wasn’t pumping the way it needed. The left ventricle had grown too weak to squeeze the blood into the aorta. He had heart failure. His body retained fluid. We could see it. Just looking at him. Seeing him move slower and slower.

Then, during another stay in the hospital, Dad was presented with a life-saving option.

How could any of us say no if Dad said yes?

Walking with Dad as he lie nearly motionless for days on end, no signs of improvement imminent. Five times when we were sure he was going to die and we’d never talk to him again.

Hearing no words of comfort from his doctors, nurses, surgeons. They wouldn’t even utter the word “hopeful.” I’ll never forget it.

Watching Mom keep vigil. Seeing her hurt. Feeling her love for him. Feeling her sorrow. Feeling her numbness.

My entire concept of life and what the hell is really important and what it all comes down to in the end changed forever.

Yes, I had experienced the death of a loved one. Even the unexpected death of a loved one. Never my parent. This, however, made all previous experiences pale in comparison.

It was the worst time of my life.

And I never want to forget it.

It changed the way I prayed. It changed the way I approached my day, my family, my work.

I’m still the same ol’ cranky, obsessive compulsive, intense, sarcastic, prideful son of a buck that I’ve always been.

I ain’t no holy roller and I don’t mean to come across as one. I’m just a guy trying to figure it out, one step at a time.

I’ve been blessed with such a variety of experiences in my life. I’ve been blessed to get away with making so many mistakes… more than I can possibly remember… and having the opportunity to ask God for forgiveness.

And I wanted to, in some meager way, start to share my thoughts.

What better time than Lent?

What better way than video? The real me. All the blemishes.

This isn’t the end, this end of Lent.

This is just the beginning. God willing.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read and listen to my thoughts. My commitment during Lent 2016 is to post a daily video reflection to help you and me on our walk through the season and toward Easter Sunday. I will also explore other matters of faith and also health and fitness to keep us fit for the journey. Click here for my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/davekwiecinski

I appreciate your help and encouragement. Please let me know how I can help you. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.


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