Thursday, September 26, 2013

Reflections on Rome (1 year later) and other things...

Wow. It's hard for me to believe it has been a whole year since my husband and I spent our anniversary in Rome. I still look longingly at our pictures and wish I was back there again. I do vow to go back one day, and he has come to grips with that I think.

I don't know exactly what happened to me when I was there, but I grew so much in my faith in the months leading up to the trip and since then, I don't quite know how to explain it. Now that is not to say I am anywhere NEAR where I really need to be faith-wise. Far from it. But I think learning about the travels of the apostles and the early Christians there in Rome and then going to the places St. Peter and St. Paul walked and where they lost their lives for the faith really left a profound impression on my soul.

I have busied myself since my trip watching every documentary and movie I can get my hands on about the apostles and the saints. I love the stories and have really enjoyed learning as much as I can. That is a never-ending process, however, I have discovered. I think I have exhausted Netflix and I'm going to have to look elsewhere for some more. I really would like to learn more about St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and a plethora of the other saints I have not yet studied.

I haven't written in a while, so I really feel like I should talk about the other things that have been going on. Last I wrote, I was talking about Eric, who we lost in a horrible accident at the end of July. It really affected our little town and the people who loved him.

About a week after Eric died and was buried, I went to the cemetery to visit Lauren's resting place, as I do about twice or three times a month. I usually place purple and lavender flowers on her gravesite in August, in honor of her brother and sister-in-law. They had those colors in their wedding two years ago, and I did that then. Aaron and Anna seemed to like that idea, so a little tradition was born.

Anyway, I knew Eric was buried in the same graveyard, and I had heard that he was close to Lauren, but when I got there I discovered he is literally next to our family plots. I saw his wife Angie and daughter Christie a few weeks later and when I remarked on that, Christie smiled and said, "We chose that spot to be close to Lauren on purpose." Wow. That really blew me away. I visit him and my sweet little friend Hanna's baby son Hayden, who is also nearby, every time I am there. I know that those families visit Lauren too. It does me good to know that for some reason.

I had the opportunity in August to share with the Northwest Foundation board about Lauren's scholarship. One of Lauren's favorite teachers and her principal are both members of the board. I was thrilled to talk to them and tell her story to those who did not know her, and just to let them know, from the donor's standpoint, how much those scholarships mean to us. It was a great honor to be asked to do that. Our foundation does such great work and to be able to help a student in our daughter's name is very healing for us.

It is time for our scholarship ceremony and reception next Monday. We have a wonderful young man, Michael Wooten, as our recipient this year. He is a drummer who is studying Automotive Technology at the college. He was so happy to get the scholarship. I met him the day he got it and he told me he had seen Lauren's picture in the band room at school. He is really a snare drummer, and when they told him they needed him to play bass drum instead, he was happy to do so. Great kid. So we'll sit with him and get to know him, and tell him what a wonderful girl our Lauren was.
Michael and me at the band's debut "on the lawn" this August. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In memory of Eric Lentz

Today, we lost a great guy in our small town. He was on his way home on his motorcycle, and there was an accident.

Eric had worked as a highway patrolman for many years. A few years back, he had worked for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and had done his part to get drugs off the streets.

He was one of those guys you never forgot after you once met him. He was from New York, and had that "Brooklyn" accent.  Sometimes he used colorful language that would make my face turn red, but he always made me laugh. He was a real character. Once you got to know him, you looked forward to hearing what he might say next.

Eric loved women. Simple as that. He appreciated women. He made you feel like you were the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. He just had that way about him. But you always knew that there were two women he truly loved: his lovely wife Angie and his precious daughter Christie. Those were the most important women in his life, and he cherished both of them.

We were both regular blood donors and used to run into each other at the local blood bank, which is no longer here. Eric would come in and as I like to say, "hold court" in there till he had us all in stitches. Everybody loved it when he was there.

He was serious about his work with the bureau of narcotics. He and I worked together on an article on the growing problem of crystal meth in our area. He was very proud to have contributed to that article, hoping to make people aware of this terrible problem. I believe he wanted to do his part to stop the madness he saw, to make the streets safer for his children and for all of our children. He worked undercover for a while, and even changed his appearance somewhat. I teased him that the minute he opened his mouth, anyone would know he wasn't "from around these parts."

He was proud of his beautiful son, Tony. I said he was Eric's "mini-me." I think as we watch Tony grow, that prediction will come true. You could see how much the two of them loved each other.

Eric was a true friend. He never said much to me when I lost Lauren, probably because it was too painful for him. He loved his children and was a wonderful father. I think he imagined what I might be feeling as a parent. He would just give me a hug, or text me and say hi.

I have seen him over the years from time to time in WalMart, at church, at high school foottball games and around town. My husband and I ran into him about two weeks ago in WalMart. He greeted me as he always did, with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. We had a great talk, as we always did.

I am praying for Angie, Christie and Tony today, and will continue to pray for them and for all of their family. I am also praying for the young man who was in the other vehicle, too. This tragedy has touched many people in our small town. The people here will embrace these families and comfort them the way they did for us when we lost our daughter. That's what the people here do.

I'll miss you, Eric. I pray Lauren was there to greet you and thank you for being a good friend to her mom. You were a special person. You showed through your life what a man should be - strong, courageous, loving and caring toward others. You were a role model for how a husband should love his wife and how a father should love his children.

I'll always remember you.

"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Instant Replay!

Hi- Yesterday the Gospel reading at Mass recounted the story of the Good Samaritan. It reminded me of a story from my childhood. My mother did her share of "preaching" to us, but showed us a lot by her example through her compassion for others, and most particularly for people who were poor or downtrodden. While she was not a "church-going" lady, and was a bit of a Bohemian, she was still as good as gold. Her birthday is coming up in a couple of days, so I thought today would be a good day to share this story again - LaJuan

The Samaritan Towel

Mama loved that towel. It sat in a place of glory along the back dash of her baby blue 61 Ford Fairlane and we were not allowed to touch it. Even on cool summer nights sitting in the back seat when she drove with all four windows down. We better not touch that beach towel.

It was all different shades of blue set in a mosaic pattern. Blue like her eyes and like her car. Her favorite color. For some reason, she thought it dressed up her car.

Mama was a waitress in a small, but popular diner in Spartanburg. In those days, waitresses wore starched white uniforms that made them look like nurses almost. Mama never left the house unless her uniform was bright and clean, her hair was all in place, and her make-up was immaculate. She looked like a million dollars when she left for work every day.

One day as she drove along Hwy 176, she was past Pacolet, and approaching Glendale when she noticed a figure lying on the opposite side of the road. People were passing him by and not stopping. Not being able to stop in time, she turned around and went back to see if he was ok. When she got there she realized why no one was stopping.

There was no blue on the man lying there. Only the brown of his chocolate colored skin and the red from the blood that had soaked through his clothes from the wounds. She knelt down and realized he was still alive. In a flash, she decided what to do. She ran to the car, grabbed the beloved towel and covered him with it. Telling him to hang on, she ran across the road to her cousin's roadside stand and called the police and ambulance. She called her boss and told her she'd be late. Then she went back to wait with the man. Her towel was no longer clean and blue, and her uniform no longer starched white.

Once the ambulance came, she turned back, went home changed clothes and went on back to work. As the months went by, she never worried about her towel anymore. We did wonder what happened to the man.

That could have been the end of this story, but it wasn't. A few months later, there was a knock at the back door. When I went to the door, there was a family standing there. The lady held a beautiful chocolate cake, and the man held a towel with all different shades of blue set in a mosaic pattern. The two kids looked scared to be there. I called for Mama to come.

The man started to thank her, and Mama stopped him short. "Our friends come to the front door," she said. When the man started to protest, she repeated her statement and closed the door. A few minutes later, there was a knock at the front door and there they stood. She invited them in, and made a pot of coffee for the adults to enjoy with their chocolate cake. The kids all had milk and cake.

I never knew the man's name. I never saw him again that I can remember. The only thing I remember is that my mama loved that towel, but not so much that she would not stop to help a stranger, no matter who he was.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Message from a friend...

I had a message from my friend Rick today. We knew each other before he suffered the loss of his Kayla, but became much closer after her tragic accident.

Just like us, Rick and his wife had two beautiful children. We had known each other professionally, but not personally. When I heard about Kayla, I wrote a letter to Rick and ever since then, we have become very good friends. We see each other at events pretty regularly. I have only had the chance to meet his lovely wife once, but Richard and I see Rick pretty often. 

The message he sent me was about a mutual friend of ours who lost his battle to cancer today. It just so happens that this gentleman, who was Rick's friend, married a good friend of mine two years ago. My friend had mentioned to me in passing that her new husband lost his young son in a car accident, but it had happened more than 20 years ago. I never got a chance to talk to my friend's husband, and I always wanted to. 

Rick had visited our friend the day before he died. He did not know whether I knew about his having lost a son so long ago. His words were simple, but profound. "A reunion has occurred." 

A reunion has occurred. Wow. I replied that I was jealous of that reunion and I am. I told him that my longing for heaven is sometimes overwhelming to me. Then I remember my son and daughter-in-law and my husband and chide myself for being selfish. 

I think it is selfishness on my part to some extent, but I think it is also the longing of every Christian to go home to be with the Lord.  

St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:2 “For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation.”

He continues, “So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5: 6-8.

This weekend I will try to console my friend in her loss. Although she was only married for a couple of years to this man, I had never seen her happier. I hope she remembers that even though their time together was brief, she made him happy in his last years here on earth. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

My prayers for everybody else

I was thinking about my blog today, and wondering what to write about.

Something that bothers me a bit is that while I write this blog for everyone, I really do feel called to help grieving parents. The realization came to me that I probably make a lot of people nervous. I mean, my experience is most parents' nightmare. I feel so sorry for everyone I know, really. They know what happened to me and I know it is hard for people sometimes when I share experiences for them.

I have said that I wouldn't wish my experience on my worst enemy if I had one. I also said I pray that no one else has to go through what I went through. I know that seems unrealistic. But I still pray because I believe what Jesus said in Matthew 19:26... Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible." That leaves me with the hope that none of the people I love will ever have to go through my experience.

I am so thankful for my friends and my co-workers (who are also, thankfully, my friends), and for their patience and understanding toward me. I am so grateful that they let me share about Lauren even if they never met her, and they understand my need to keep her memory alive. I am really sorry if it makes people realize that great fear in their own lives.

If I could give other parents any advice on how to deal with that fear, I would. I don't know how to cope with it still. I worry about my son every day like I have since the day I knew he was on the way. I will worry and fret for his safety every day, until I am too old to realize it, or I am gone home. That fear never goes away. Even after losing a child, I still face the same fears every parent faces every day.

All I tried to do with my kids is what I hope every parent does. I taught them about God and His Son. I tried to set as good a Christian example for them as I knew how. I took them to Mass every Sunday, and holy day of obligations, and made sure they made their Sacraments. I prayed for them and tried to shield them from things that would cause sin to come into their lives.  I taught them to take responsibility when they did wrong, and how to say they were sorry to the one they hurt and to God.

I know at least some of those things stuck because many people told me of the little acts of love and kindness they experienced with Lauren, and I see the wonderful young man my son has grown into. He is kind to other people and loves his wife and his family and friends fiercely. He gives back to his community when he is able, and has a heart for those who are not as fortunate as he is.

I believe that Lauren is with our Lord now, and I pray that I will one day be there too. For now, I will pray for peace, and for safety and good health for everyone else.

Friday, June 7, 2013

I'm only human

When I was visiting my brother last March, he said something in jest that stuck with me. He said, "I love humanity, it's people I can't stand!" While it made me laugh, it struck a chord with me too. I think we all feel that way sometimes. There are certainly days when I feel that way, even though I know that is not what we are called to do.

The truth of the matter is, if you think about it, people are what make up humanity, so people are what we should love. All of them. That's a tall order for anybody. It's a struggle we all face every day. All day.

The thing I tried hardest to instill in my kids, (and to live it myself), is to employ the old adage, "You can't judge a book by its cover." Of course what might immediately come to mind in these days and times would be not judging a person by the color of their skin, or their accent, or their difference in culture from ours - but while that is part of it, that is not what I am talking about exactly. I'm talking about our everyday dealings with the people around us, strangers, friends and family alike.

We all know that looks can be deceiving. The person you think you can love (just by looking at them) will turn out to be the one who treats you the worst. The person the world deems "unloveable" can turn out to be the sweetest soul you will ever come in contact in.

Last week when we were traveling, we were waiting to board our plane from Memphis to Atlanta. There was a young African-American girl there - very tall and thin and covered with tattoos and piercings. She was dressed in atrocious clothes that were two low, too tight and too short. If she had been my daughter, I'd have never let her out of the house dressed that way. she was, under all that, quite lovely, however. I did not realize she had even noticed me, as she had her phone in her hand and earphones in her ears.

During the boarding process, I got separated from Richard for a minute and as we got to the door, she stepped aside to let me through the door first and softly said, "You go first, ma'am." I thanked her of course. I was really taken by surprise, to be quite honest. Her gesture was gracious and unexpected, and it gave me cause to reflect on the goodness there is in people. It was a simple gift she gave to me that day, but it gave me cause to think about loving people just for the sake of loving them.

This past week, I watched two Italian movies- One was "Therese of Liseiux" and the other one was "St. Clare and St. Francis." They were both excellent and I learned a lot. The film about St. Francis was  quite enlightening to me.

Francis was raised in a family of means and his father gave him anything he wanted. He gave it all up for Jesus. When he saw the lepers, the most unloveable of all, his heart was moved with pity and the love of Jesus flooded into him. He walked among the lepers and embraced and kissed them, much to the chagrin of his father and his townspeople. He changed and has become to some, the most beloved saint. He is probably one of the most recognized saints, even among non-Catholics.

Watching that movie gave me some insight into why the Holy Father would chose the name Francis, and why he lives and preaches as he does. He, like Francis of Assisi, has a lesson to teach about holiness and unconditional love.

Fr. Dave O'Connell, the priest from whom I learned my catechism, and who confirmed me, taught me that we must let others see Christ in us. If Christ is in us, we must love as He did. It's a tall order, and one I fail at every day.

I am endeavouring to love as I should- to love the people who make up humanity.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

It's that time again

Just when I think can handle May, it sneaks up on me to let me know I can't. I start hearing about things like graduations and Mother's Day and it starts to get hard all over again. I really should expect that, but I guess it is wishful thinking that I can get through it without a struggle. I can't.

This past Thursday was the ninth anniversary of Lauren's death. I struggled hard to get through that day.  I always fool myself into thinking that it will "be easier this year." It won't.

The good news is that even though I struggle, God provides me with support through the special people he has placed in my life. My sweet daughter-in-law sent me a text out of nowhere to tell me I was in her prayers. She sent one to my husband too. Then my husband surprised me with a beautiful vase of flowers at work. I posted those flowers on Facebook and my folks came a runnin'! They flooded me with messages of love and support and lifted me up. That didn't surprise me.  My sweet friend Dawn messaged me and made me feel so much better.

On Friday, Richard and I had the honor of attending the Rotary Club Scholarship luncheon to meet this year's recipient of the scholarship named in Lauren's memory. She won the scholarship two days before her death. It was a cash scholarship, so we returned it to the Rotary Club. Lauren had written an essay to win, and the second runner up was Lauren's best friend Brittany. Two weeks after we had attended the luncheon with Lauren, we attended it with Brittany. (Brittany, incidentally, is the mother of Lauren Grace, who was named in our Lauren's honor. We got to spend time with that precious family and hold little Lauren Grace last weekend!)

Last night we spent the evening with Dawn, our dear friend Michelle and my goddaughter Lacy and her brother Owen. Even though we waited forever at the restaurant, the company was exceptional.

Today was Mayfair in our little town. Nine years ago, it was the last thing Lauren and I did together. She and I had quite a wonderful day there that Saturday. It took me about 3 years to go back to Mayfair, but now it seems to bring me comfort to go and see friends there! My little godson John Thomas always runs up to me and gives me a hug whenever he sees me and today was no exception. He brings great  joy to my heart. I saw two of Lauren's classmates pushing their babies in their strollers today, and another classmate who has recently moved back to town walking with her parents. It was so sweet to see them again.

One of the highlights of the day was to see our Suzy, who lives next door. We are "Mammie and Pappy" to her. She is a sweet, sweet baby!

Last weekend we celebrated Mother's Day early with my son and daughter -in-law. They were unable to come up this weekend, but we had a wonderful time shopping and just spending time together!

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I will celebrate with my church family as I do every Mother's Day. Although that fateful day 9 years ago fell on Mother's Day, it will be ok because I will be surrounded by the love of my friends, who are like family!

Lauren Grace and me.

My godson John Thomas and me.

Richard and me with Mallory, the 2013 scholarship winner, Kimbrely, the 2009 winner,
Bobbie, Mallory's mom and Parke, the Rotary president. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

When you say nothing at all...

It's been a while since I posted, and because of that I am really bummed out. I have these spells when I truly have nothing to say. Really. I think there are lots of things that need to be said, but for the life of me, I just can't think of anything. Sometimes I wonder if I just use up all my words with my job.

Last time I posted, we had been to South Carolina on my Spring Break and it was Lent.

We got back and the next thing I knew it was Holy Week and we were celebrating our Lord's Resurrection with our new pope. It was a beautiful week with three neophytes coming into the church.

But something strange happened that week, too.  One of our priests, Fr. Duy Nguyen, SCJ, was the celebrant at our parish for the week. (We are one of five churches served by the Priests of the Sacred Heart, U.S. (SCJs)  in North Mississippi.) This June, Fr. Duy will celebrate the second anniversary of his ordination. He is a wonderful young man, and this was his second Holy Week with us. We had a beautiful mass on Holy Thursday.

I was off on Good Friday, and while I was waiting for Richard to come home, I stopped by WalMart for a bit of shopping. I was walking by the greeting cards when I had an overwhelming feeling come over me that I should buy an Easter card for Fr. Duy. ( Now mind you, I have NEVER bought a Christmas or Easter card, or any other kind of card for a priest before.) I just knew at that moment it was something I had to do. So I bought him a card and decided to leave it in the sacristy for him to find. Instead of Happy Easter, I thanked him for his vocation, told him we were praying for him and that he would always be loved by my family.

I put the card in the sacristy after Good Friday service, while everyone else was in adoration. I did not think anything more of it. I wasn't even sure he got it. We had choir practice on Saturday morning and I peeked into the sacristy and sure enough it was gone.

Saturday evening came and it was time for Vigil. What a beautiful mass it was. It's my favorite time- the darkness and the light... The stripped down altar is redecorated in beautiful white, and you know that Christ has risen indeed.

After mass, I did not see Fr. Duy, but a friend told me he had just told them he had been reassigned to  the SCJ church in Houston, and tomorrow would be his last mass at our church. I was shocked about the move, but more shocked by what I had done. I had not understood my desire to send him that card at the time, but at that minute I realized why it had to be done.

Then I started freaking out thinking he might wonder how I knew he was leaving and trying to figure out how I could have known. I texted him right away to explain what happened, and it was so late, I did not hear back from him.

The next morning, which was Easter morning, I finally got a chance to talk with Father. He was a bit surprised by the card, but took it all in stride. He did say it was exactly what he needed to hear at exactly the right time. I think it was hard for him to have to say goodbye to our parish. It was really hard for all of us, I know.

I am still puzzled by the incident with the card. I would like to think that I was "listening" to God, but I'm not anywhere near that holy- that he would speak to me. I hope I will be one day. I will just trust that I was in the right place at the right time so that he could use me to let a young priest who was headed on a new journey know that there are people in his corner.

It made me think of a line in that Keith Whitley song, "You say it best when you say nothing at all."

Fr. Duy and me after Easter Sunday Mass. 

Fr. Duy always teased me about taking pictures of everything.
He hammed it up for my camera at Easter breakfast. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rediscovering my roots

Last week, I was off on Spring Break. I took a trip with my husband, son and daughter-in-law to my home state of South Carolina. The kids were able to stay for 4 days, and my husband and I spent the whole week there.

My daughter-in-law had not met my whole family, so we wanted to take her to visit. We had a big family dinner on Sunday, and Anna visited with those family members who had not been able to attend the wedding.

We took the kids to my old home place, my high school, which is now closed, and to visit the grave sites of our family members who have passed on. We took the kids to visit the small town of Landrum to visit their antique shops, and took in the revitalized downtown area of Greenville, S.C. We shopped, ate and had a great time. On the last night before the kids left, we had a great meal with four of my high school friends and their families. 

It was an opportunity for Anna to see her husband's maternal family roots and for me to revisit those roots. On many of our trips to South Carolina, I get caught up with visits to family and friends, and I don't think I really look at the place I was born and raised. On this visit, I really looked at the places I had been and the people I loved and love through fresh eyes.

My brother Andre and me

The kids and my husband standing on what is left of my childhood home. 

Family dinner

Out in the front of my old high school, which is now the city hall and police department in my hometown.

Aaron and Anna with my niece Leslie. 

My brother and sister-in-law.

My son and daughter-in-law with my high school buddies' children

The smokestack in the mill in my hometown. This is all that is left of the place my grandfather worked for 50 years. 

The house where I went to kindergarten.

In front of my old high school. My mother's class was the first in this building. She helped write our Alma Mater. 

I probably marched 1,000 miles on this field in my high school band. 

High school friends. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Freelance feature: Same place, Different time

Blogger's note: I am taking a departure from my normal blog activity to share a freelance feature I wrote  this past week. It is about two men from our church. It was published in our local newspaper this week. 

Same Place, Different Time

When New Yorker Nelson Rosado walked into Jerry Thaggard’s barbershop in his new 
hometown of Senatobia for the first time, he had no idea he would reconnect with a part of his own history. He had crossed paths with the man behind the barber chair in the past, but he didn’t know it yet. 

Rosado and Thaggard both attend St. Gregory’s Catholic Church. When Rosado came into the shop that day, Thaggard recognized him from church, although Rosado did not recognize Thaggard. 

Rosado did notice that there was a Marine emblem on the door. He asked if anyone had been in the Marines, and Thaggard replied that he had. It would take a few more visits to the shop for the two men to discover that they had gone through basic training in the same platoon at the Parris Island, S.C. Marine Corps Recruit Depot 55 years earlier. 

The two men could not be any more different. Thaggard is a soft-spoken Mississippian who grew up in Neshoba County in the Tucker community near Philadelphia. Rosado, a native of Puerto Rico, is animated as he speaks, often making jokes and spinning interesting tales for those around him. 

Thaggard comes from a large Catholic family of seven boys and four girls whose property joined the Choctaw reservation. His childhood friend, Phillip Martin, was chief of the Choctaws for many years. His father worked for the railroad, and his mother was a homemaker. He graduated from Philadelphia High School in May, 1957 and in June began his three-year active duty stint in the Marines. After basic training, he went to Camp LeJeune, N.C. where he became a machine gunner and rifle range instructor. In 1958 he was transferred to the U.S. Naval Retraining Command, a federal prison in Portsmouth, N.H.,  where he worked as a guard and as a cross-country chaser. 

After his time in the Marines, Thaggard returned to Mississippi and attended barber college in Jackson. He came to Senatobia to work. “B.L. Hogan and Pop Taylor were partners in a barber shop here and I came to work for them at the City Barber Shop. I opened my barber shop with my brother James in 1963,” Thaggard said. “We called our shop Big T’s Barber Shop because it represented both of us.” 

He met his wife, the former Frances Patrick, when a customer’s wife, who worked with her at a local bank, introduced them. They were married in 1965 and are the parents of three daughters, Cathy Moore, Marcia Thaggard and Jeri Yow. They have four grandchildren. 

Rosado moved from his native Puerto Rico at two years old. His father was already in New York working as a cook at the Winthrop Hotel. His mother, a homemaker, took care of the family of six children. Rosado attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, studying Graphic Art. After high school, he enlisted in the Marines for a two-year stint in the reserves and headed to Parris Island. He later added another year to his duty, after finding out he’d have to return to Parris Island if he were called up. He was assigned to the motor pool. “The funny thing was, I couldn’t drive and I didn’t know how to work on vehicles, either. Go figure,” Rosado said, laughing. After a year, he transferred to a job as a supply clerk at Marine headquarters in Camp LeJeune, N.C.

In 1958, his unit headed to Beruit, Lebanon to assist during the threat of civil war between Maronite Christians and Muslims. Rosado never got on the shore, as the trouble there was over when they arrived.  “I was on the second ship and it was over when we got there. We headed back to the U.S. by way of Puerto Rico. We landed in San Juan. I was on mess hall duty and could not get off the ship. I was the only Puerto Rican on the ship and all I could do was watch from the deck. I couldn’t believe it,” Rosado said. 

After his time in the Marines, he returned to New York to take advantage of his educational benefits, only to find out that the legislature had suspended them. He wanted to go to college, but his father could not afford to send him. The benefits were later reinstated but he had already found a job as a graphic artist and worked for a company until 1974 when he opened his own business. That same year, he married a friend of his sister-in-law’s, Linda Velasquez, who was also from the Bronx. They are the parents of two children, Ricardo and Monica, and two grandsons. 

Even though the two men were in basic training together, they did not remember each other from their time spent together at Parris Island. “There was no fraternizing with each other,” Rosado said. “I had a classmate there, and we only said hello once the whole time. We were always standing at attention, running, eating, sleeping. There was just no time to make friends.” 

Today, the two former platoon mates not only worship in church together, they have formed a friendship. Rosado has shared his Marine memorabilia with Thaggard, whose platoon photograph and book had been damaged. They can frequently be heard at church and at the barbershop greeting each other with a hearty “Semper Fi!” 


The two friends today. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Forward in February

February has been full of changes.

We finally finished at least part of one of our 2013 projects - cleaning out Lauren's room. All of her "treasures" are stored carefully and locked up tightly, and I feel a bit better now. Both the kids' rooms are cleaned out and we have shopped around for paint colors and flooring choices. We have decided to make her room into a mini-music studio where her dad can play his guitars, I can play the piano and we can record some music. I think Lauren would have liked that a lot. Aaron's room will be a second guest room so we can entertain more family or friends who come to stay. This is another healing step in our difficult journey.

Our Holy Father surprised all of us early in the month when he announced his resignation. I woke up to the news early that morning, and thought I was dreaming. Resign? Popes don't do that, do they? Can they? It turns out they can and they have in the past, even if the last time was almost 600 years ago. I've learned more about the papacy in the past few weeks than I have ever known, and I have been a Catholic for nearly 30 years. When I went to mass in Italy last fall, I realized our church was universal, both liturgically and culturally. The pope's resignation caused me to read a lot about the history of the papacy and helped me realize this church is indeed 2,000 years old, reaching back to when Jesus handed the "keys" to his "Rock" St. Peter. Now we have a conclave (I love how the word comes from the Latin "clavis"or key). I have been in the very room where the Cardinals will convene and choose the next pope. I feel blessed to have been there. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide them in this most important decision as our church moves forward.

As we move through Lent, we look forward to the celebration of Easter, our March Spring Break trip to S.C. with the kids, and the coming of spring.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

That dreaded day

We both knew it would come, but we dreaded it just the same. We knew that one day, we would need to clean out Lauren's room. Our son is married now and has his own home. One day, we will need to have those bedrooms for grandchildren who come to visit.

So we set out last weekend, with the help of our son, to begin that process. We have cried, we have laughed, we have remembered and we have rejoiced. Instead of making us miserable, it has really helped us to rediscover our daughter, and keep her memory where it should be and always will be at all times- in our hearts.

Lauren was a real girly girl. She had more fingernail polish, makeup, hairbows, costume jewelry, purses, shoes and photos than even I remembered. The dominant themes in her room were stars and butterflies. She loved Tinkerbell and Blink 182. She was a big fan of the Godfather movies (her Italian heritage that she really loved), Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia and the Beatles.  She inherited her love for the Beatles from her mom (just like her brother did). She had a million little notes (texting was in its infancy then) from her friends in a little treasure chest. She had prom dresses and school dance dresses. We carefully placed the most important things in bins and sealed them up for safety. We, of course, are nowhere near being through, but we are beginning to see daylight. 

Among all her treasures were some things that gave us great joy and brought us a sense of peace. She had three Bibles among her treasures. Two were teen study Bibles that she had gotten along the way, and one was pretty dog-eared. She had her prayer cards, rosaries and her scapular (which I think came from our friends Bill and Janet Cupo) in her treasures. She loved her Lord and her Catholic faith. 

I jokingly said she might have been a candidate for the show "Hoarders." Of course that's not entirely true, but to us, this is a daunting task. We have given some things to charity. There are things that hold no sentimental value, and we have given them away. 

Whatever we end up doing with her room, we plan to leave some of her things in there as reminders of her. It will always be her room, but as my sweet friend Dawn said, its the natural progression of things- if she were still here, she would have cleaned up her own room and put things away, as our son did when he left home. 

Now her things are put away for her future nieces and nephews to one day enjoy. They will discover their aunt through stories, photos and memories shared by their grandparents and their dad. 

That dreaded day of beginning a painful task has come and gone, and we are able now to handle it a little better. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

And the beat goes on

I've had to talk to a couple of people here lately who have lost children recently. They are still in those first terrible stages - shock, anger, guilt, unspeakable sadness. When I talk to these folks, I try to be honest- I tell them the only thing I can do is hold their hands. No one can make this any better. Time does not heal this wound, and the only thing you can do is remember that you now have a "new' normal and take it one day at a time. It doesn't go away. 

Talking to them is something I feel called to do. I think it is what God expects me to do. But it's tough. I don't think it there will come a time when it isn't tough. I start to remember how I felt and the things that  were hard for me. 

Christmas is always hard. This past Christmas I got an iPad. It started me thinking about all the things that have changed since Lauren died. Social media had not taken off when she passed away. There was MySpace, but Facebook was in its infancy. There was no Twitter, no Instagram and no Pinterest. She never knew what an iPhone, iPad or iPod was.

Thinking about those things brings your loss into sharp relief. No, time did not stand still for the rest of the world like it did for you. The world is still turning and things are moving forward like they always have. 

I don't mean to sound hopeless because I am not. I am only expressing how I feel. God knows my pain and my suffering and the reason why. I just have to trust Him, and I do. 

That's the one thing I try to impress on these poor people, because my faith is what got me through those early days and every day since then. I have to stay strong and I do that through prayer and the support of my family and friends.

God bless those of us in this club that nobody wants to join!