#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

 

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Fifty Years Ago…

05/01/2016

Fifty years ago today, May 1…

(Happy 12th anniversary, Aunt Bernie and Uncle Stan, by the way! 50 years ago, it was their 12th, that is.)

I made my First Holy Communion.

Ascension of Our Lord Church.

Evanston, Illinois.

Sunday, May 1, 1966.

Pastor: Rev. Edward Mika.

20160501_134045Could be among the oldest stuff that I own that’s actually my stuff.

20160501_134112Because it’s important to have my home address in the Mass book… and apparently, my name is simply too long.

20160501_134145Back side of the “Take and eat” holy card. From Aunt Bernie. With the names of my six cousins inscribed. Yes, only six ‘country cousins.’ In 1966, Mary was still only a twinkle in Uncle Stan’s eye.

20160501_134219I’m not sure who gave me this gift. Was it from the school/church? I don’t remember and didn’t see any marking on it.

20160501_134245But this one was from Babcia and Dziadzia Konieczka. Now, the question is, was it Mom’s Mom and Dad, my grandparents? Or was it Mom’s Babcia and Dziadzia, my great-grandparents? Hmm…

20160501_134324I love these books. The Mass book (Jesus Make Me Worthy) is dense! Much helpful information packed into almost 300 pages. Short, simple chapters. A wonderful explanation of the Mass, from the perspective of the pre-Vatican II liturgy, when the priest faced the altar and tabernacle at the back of the sanctuary, away from the congregation, in reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.

The confession book asks very simple questions of a child about behavior. Each Commandment has an illustration that makes right action and behavior even more understandable for a child.

20160501_134349Yeah, the tie actually fit.

20160501_134440A sample page from the book, preparation for First Communion. Among the densest of the pages. And Mom’s handwriting in the book given to me by Babcia i (“and”) Dziadzia Konieczka.

20160501_135444The end of the book. How’s this for a simple explanation for how a child should live?

Thanks, God, for the memories.


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.


Hit the Reset Button

03/10/2016

When the words just won’t come…

When you’ve tapped out your emotions…

When you want to pray… or be inspired… or be inspiring…

… and nothing’s there…

(… it means it’s time for a walk by the water… and it’s time to watch a video!)

 

The Lord is gracious and merciful.  –  Responsorial psalm 145:8

 

“Like Father, like Son.”  –  Father Miguel’s paraphrase of the words of Jesus, John 5:17-30

 

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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.


In The Dark

03/08/2016

What do you do when you don’t know what to say?

Have you ever had to write a paper … maybe an article … a speech … and your mind went completely blank?

I’m blaming this sinus thingy.

Can I say “thingy” and retain my Man Card?

Go ahead. Tweet that!

Sometimes you need a scapegoat.

Go ahead. Tweet that!

I read today’s long readings. Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12, the response from Psalm 46, and the Gospel According to John 5:1-16.

I have a video to shoot. I have a blog post to write.

Nothing.

Here’s what I have to say when I don’t know what to say:

Here’s the extent of my thoughts on today’s readings:

  1. Hey! They changed the psalm response in the new lectionary! Huh… (It was “The mighty Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge,” but now it’s exactly Psalm 46:8: “The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.”)
  2. I’ve read this reading from Ezekiel several times at Mass, and I have absolutely nothing to say about it right now.
  3. The gospel is about the crippled man who cannot get anyone to help him into the pool of water. He wants to bathe in hopes of being cured. Jesus asks him if he wants to be well, then cures him. The “Jews,” as John refers to the scribes and Pharisees, are only interested in chastising the man for carrying his mat on the Sabbath and learning who cured him on the Sabbath. All I can think about is “how ridiculous.” Not deep thoughts.

It’s days like this that make me truly happy that I’m Catholic.

When I have difficulty expressing myself, clearing my head, collecting my thoughts, I can rely on repetitive prayers like the Holy Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and just pour myself out in groans or a sincere earnestness as I recite the prayers that have been so beautifully prepared and organized for me.

All I need to do is attempt to focus my attention on the Lord, on God, on Jesus, on asking Mary to intercede for me. That’s all.

That’s all I need to do.

The Lord sees into my heart. The Lord hears what’s in my mind. I can rely on Him, confidently, to get me through this.

When I can’t get myself to the cleansing pool, He knows what I desire. He knows what I need.

If I’m in earnest, I’ll get it.

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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.


Litter Box Theology, Advent Style

12/20/2015

Do you listen closely enough?

I do. But way too infrequently.

Thankfully, I was listening today. While tending to cat box duty.

EWTN Radio broadcasts The Truth & Life Dramatized Audio Bible New Testament on Sundays after Daily Mass. Today, the broadcast coincided with time for cleaning the litter boxes.

I heard the end of St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians and the beginning of St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, through Chapter 3.

The end of Chapter 3 is Paul’s instructions for wives, husbands, children, and fathers. You know… the passage that always causes so much controversy because Paul tells wives to be subject to their husbands.

But that’s not what struck me today.

And not how I heard God talking to me.

Immediately following his instructions for families, Paul continues.

Slaves, obey your human masters in everything, not only when being watched, as currying favor, but in simplicity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:22-24

Here’s what slammed me up against the proverbial wall, what slapped me in my proverbial face:

Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord…

 

What was I doing? Scooping cat poop. Washing the floor and sloshing pee from under one of the boxes because Little Kitten has difficulty hitting the mark these days, poor thing.

It’s not her fault. She’s a cat.

But… all of that… irrelevant.

… do from the heart, as for the Lord…

So I did.

He and I carried on a little more conversation, about my place in life, my place in time, what I was doing at this very moment, what I was doing with my life.

It all happened in a flash.

But it was so real.

Two things:

  1. Do you take time to listen for the Lord to speak to you, no matter what you are doing, no matter what your circumstances?
  2. Do you do whatever you do, from the heart?

I’m not perfect. I’m no holy roller.

That’s why I talk (i.e., whine) to Him so often.

And why I try to listen.

And not only listen.

Hear.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention is to post regularly and to comment on the Daily Liturgy. I’ve fallen short of that lofty goal. However, I have begun posting video reflections (and other stuff) on YouTube. Click here to take a gander: https://www.youtube.com/user/davekwiecinski

I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating. And for still not posting daily.

cropped-img_0673.jpg

 


Surprise!

07/05/2015

What a day! Martha, the youngest of our five children, told us two weeks ago (or so) that she wanted to take us out to dinner for our (30th) anniversary, which is tomorrow.

“What are you guys doing on Sunday?” She wanted to know if we had plans the day before our anniversary. Maybe just to get away for a day. Maybe go for a long drive, which we like to do; drive to… wherever… then stop and do whatever. Depends where we end up.

Were we free? Why did she want to know?

Our traditional Independence Day celebration is at my mom and dad’s house in Morton Grove. We typically arrive before the parade and head to Harrer Park just before dusk for the best fireworks in the area.

So it was going to be a late night. We usually don’t get home until right around midnight.

Kathy and I told her that we didn’t have any plans. Since the Fourth was on a Saturday this year and Friday was the legal holiday, Kathy has to work Monday, our actual anniversary.

Despite her attempt to get the day off months ago.

Sheesh!

We were just planning to relax and recoup after a hectic Saturday, so no… we had no plans.

Last week, she gave us the “bad news” that after our late night of fireworks and way too much food at Mom and Dad’s house, we would need to leave really early on Sunday. She made a reservation and the only time she could get was early.

And she wasn’t kidding that we needed to leave early. 9:30. That’s early for a dinner!

Where the heck were we going? St. Louis??

She wasn’t telling.

But it was her treat and she wanted to surprise us.

Sure enough, we didn’t get home last night until 12:02. It was going to be a short night. We figured we could go to church at St. Therese. They have an 8:30 Mass. And we could leave right from there.

The best laid plans…

Despite the cats’ best efforts, they couldn’t wake me up until 7:36.

7:36!!

We were going to be late for church…

We managed to get there just after Mass began, but we were going to have to stop at home before leaving for the restaurant.

Martha asked if she could drive. It was her surprise, so of course we agreed.

We drove south. I-294 to I-88 and off the highway near Oak Brook.

I guessed wrong. As we approached our destination, I thought we were going to The Melting Pot in Downers Grove, one of Martha’s favorite restaurants.

Nope.

We ended up at Drury Lane.

We were going to see a show!

Nope.

As we walked inside, Martha told us we were having brunch.

When we walked into the dining area, her secret was exposed.

Aidan and Andrew! I saw two of our grandsons walking into the buffet area.

At two tables in one of the large dining rooms sat our other four kids, spouses, their kids, Martha’s boyfriend, Chris, and Mom and Dad.

The tears began flowing immediately.

If you live or ever visit the Chicago area, you must visit Drury Lane for their Sunday brunch. There were more food choices than you can imagine. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Dessert. Ice cream bar. Fruit bar. Salad bar. At least half a football field long.

I’m not doing it justice.

But that’s not the point of my story.

It was the surprise.

The masterful job done by Martha to orchestrate everything.

We thanked each of the kids profusely and every one of them told us that it was all Martha’s doing.

We stayed, ate, drank, talked, laughed (after Kathy and I finished crying), drank and ate and talked some more.

And ate some more.

And said we were full.

And ate some more.

We stayed for more than three hours. We “closed” the joint. Well… at least the buffet.

Stephen had to leave early because he had to work. He does some work at the fitness center in Waukegan on Sundays. Duty called. He left around noon.

Before we left, we asked one of the waiters to snap a photo, sans Stephen.

Thanks, Mom and Dad. Thanks, Chris. Thanks, Stephen. Thanks, Doug and Amy. Thanks, Andy and Cheryl, Andrew, Addison, Catelyn, and Charlie. Thanks, Sarah and Dan, Alexis, Aidan, and Ethan.

And thanks, Martha.

We love all of you so much we can’t stand it. Thanks for a weekend full of fun, full of love, and capped with one massive surprise.

Anniversary Surprise

Anniversary Surprise


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