Life is just a bunch of 'Nows' strung together in a brilliant, colorful necklace called Life. A few cracked or dark beads mixed in, but for the most part a stunning array of a life well lived. As I reflected on my life I remembered some of the unique, amazing gems or people that have supported, cared for, challenged or loved me in a way that allowed me to overcome adversities and thrive in the world; with a smile on my face.
My Mom, Laverne (Gami):
Every morning flocks of large, stately white herons fly across the sky in search of food. This morning, during my meditation, I saw one lone white heron flying twice as high, sunlight shining on it like a plane way up high, going in the opposite direction. I said without knowing, “Bye Gami. Happy flying!” And then the news came. Our dear Gami has gone flying! Safe journey. We know this will be your best trip ever!
The night after Gami passed, just a week ago, was the Supersized or Supermoon The moon was extra close to Earth, giving the best view for decades. I woke up in the middle of the night, the full moon shining in the windows and filling the room with light. I went outside. The fireflies were dancing and the crickets and frogs were singing. “Wow. What a moon!” I exclaimed. From far above this celestial body came a laughing, twinkling reply, “You should see it from up here!”
My Mom was born into a pioneering family. Gami’s life was not easy at times but her wisdom and strong faith pulled her through. She was an inspiration and comfort to those around her. She walked her talk. One of the many wise things Gami taught me was to be thankful for all the gifts in our life. Life isn’t fair sometimes but don’t whine about it. Think better thoughts, look for the good around you, look for the good in people, and when all else fails cook up a fantastic meal with LOVE and make it a party!!
Gami taught me to follow my dreams. Give it a try. It only costs a 7 cent stamp (a few years ago now!) Her encouragement taught me that possibilities are endless in life. We had so many fun, exciting adventures together. After working for the F.B.I. during WWII she returned home to a small town in northern Wisconsin and there she remained, living a simple, happy, country life raising two kids. She was always helping those around her and was loved by all who met her. She had gypsy in her blood and always wanted to explore the planet. As I got older we shared this passion and she was able to travel with me/us to Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and S. E. Asia. She never complained, even when travel forced her into uncomfortable situations. She just looked at what life presented her at the moment and made the best of it. Whether in a simple little town in N. Wisconsin or in Paris or in Rarotonga or in BC or in Hawaii – Make the Best of the Moment, of the Day, and Be Happy!
How many people could keep this attitude up even after a major stroke landed her totally disabled, bedridden, in a wheelchair? Sitting in the garden with Gami one day, she in her wheelchair, I asked her what she would like to do. Back came a resounding, “Dance!” So I started singing loudly and spinning her around. We laughed and laughed. She told me, “You just got to keep on dancing!” And I dance every day, like nobody's watching!
My Dad, Peter, or (Obbie):
A hardworking, conscientious man, my Dad was good for his word. He was a loving Dad and husband and put his family first. He loved to garden and between raising a large vegetable garden and 60 kinds of roses, he put venison and fresh trout on the table. We never went hungry. He had a good sense of humor, especially in his young years. I can remember him buying a 20 ft long balloon to tow behind a 6 ft. jeep in the community’s iconic 4th of July parade. Another year he froze snowballs in the dead of winter, and Northern Wisconsin has winter, and we threw them to the surprised, sweltering crowd along the parade route.
What I remember most was my Dad’s love of Nature. He was in his element when he left the stress of work behind and walked for miles in the woods, in all seasons. He loved fishing and hunting and just being one with the elements.
Nature was your domain. Nature is still your domain. You and God were buddies along the stream. Things make more sense out there. Many of our talks about life were sitting along the stream or out by the pond at the shack, or hiking along a trail. I remember hiking for miles with you down the big hill by Caddys. You fished one way up the river and I went down. While alone I saw a black bear and we each ran in the opposite direction. When we met later I had the rainbow trout that I had caught cooking on sticks over the fire. You raised me tough, Dad. And you are still out here with me in the winds, birds, and the trees. Where you came from and returned – free again!
My Little Grandma, Mary:
Coming over from Croatia, on the last boat to America before WWI, she always seemed like she left a piece of her heart behind. Once she had her 4 sons, she blossomed in love and became a wonderful, hard working Mother. Life was difficult through the depression but because they were willing to persevere there was always food to eat and a roof over their heads. Grampa Emil died at 51 leaving her struggling but once again that didn’t faze her. She just did what she had to do and thrived. She kept a spotless house, washed clothes every Monday by hand, ironed every Tues, did ‘handiwork’ like lace tablecloths or embroidery after lunch and cooked a mouth- watering dinner every night. She also planted a big garden and canned hundreds of bottles of fruits and vegetables to keep in the cellar. Everyone was welcome in her home. If you showed up at her door she would make a cup of coffee and meal and offer you a place to sleep. She was a giving person with a heart of gold. She had a strong faith and attended church every Sunday morning. She was surrounded by a group of ‘bubbas’ or Croatian Grandmas and they took turns serving coffee at each other’s homes and helped each other when needed.
Living a block away I loved sleeping at Grandma’s house and filling up on her food, before going home to eat yet another meal. There were benefits to being thin! I can still smell her bread baking in the oven. She always had a budgie or parakeet named Chippy and this soft spoken 4’11” lady liked to watch wrestling on TV Saturday afternoon. She would howl when they slammed each other around. We ended up watching her instead of the screen.
The highlight of the year was the feast that followed the Christmas Eve mass. Povatitsa (walnut bread), baked ham, potatoes, rollie pollies (cabbage rolls), baked beans, mashed potatoes were just a few items that passed around a very grateful table. We would then sit and tell stories. Her favorite ones were , “The lady who called the church and asked what time was midnight mass?” Or the time when "a neighbor’s pig went missing and a notorious character in town tried to disguise it by painting spots on it after taking it home!” We would laugh over and over at the same stories, spellbound in the moment of the evening. Then we would retire to the living room to sit around her beautiful shimmering little tree, complete with hand blown ornaments and bubble lights. Croatian music playing we would sometimes do a ‘kolo’ or circle dance and finish with opening presents. Simple presents, not like today but then consumerism hadn’t hit and many of the gifts were hand-made with love. Life was simpler then. No cell phones or computers or racing to and fro. It was easy to be mindful, without a ‘mind full’ of clutter. Wouldn’t it be great if we could work a little mindfulness into our modern day busy lives?
My hanai (Hawaiian for adopted) Swiss parents Pierre and Elizabeth:
These dear folks were also sparkling gems in my life’s necklace. This wonderful couple came into my life and introduced me to a completely different side of life. Art, music, European culture, and the simplicity of peace-loving Friends or Quakers. Seemingly proper on the outside, this was a thin veneer to their warm hearts and hilarious nature. Well read, cultured and full of a zest of life we shared many meals, adventures and laughs together, in British Columbia and in Switzerland. Did I say laughs? Pierre, an artist and trickster, would have us chuckling from the time we met until we parted. I can still hear Elizabeth saying, “Oh Pierre.”
Seems to be a thread running through this necklace, holding all these gems together. Don’t be afraid to work hard, make the best with what life hands you, follow your dreams, keep your life simple, cherish and be kind to those around you and most importantly, it seems, keep laughing!. One quote I will remember always from my Mom and try to live by: “Smile, lighten up; life really IS Funny!” Thank you for these gifts you shared by example. Love you! You will always be in my heart, the memories warming my heart forever! xo