Category Archives: death

The Passing of Robin Williams – that could have been me

The recent death of Robin Williams hit me kind of hard. Here was someone whom I had never met, but somehow felt a loss at hearing of his death. From Mork and Mindy to The Fisher King, Moscow on the Hudson to Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire to Bicentennial Man, he made me laugh, he made me think, and he made me cry at times.

I read a post from Mike Rowe today, and in it he was asked to comment on Robin Williams. Part of his post really stuck out. He said “Some people enter our lives and become benchmarks in ways we don’t realize. Then they exit, and we struggle. Sometimes, those people are high-school buddies, and sometimes, they’re strangers who somehow felt like friends. Either way, it sucks when they go.”  Very well put.  It explains my feelings very well.

But I digress. What struck me was finding out about his struggles with depression. Depression is an illness that many people do not understand. Somehow they feel that all they need to do is yell at you to “snap out of it” and instantaneously you are cured. It doesn’t work that way. I know it doesn’t. It did not work for me.

Many of you that know me know that I used to practice law for many years. I was a prosecutor for several years, then went into private practice as a defense attorney, and served for almost ten years as a Municipal Court judge and night magistrate. Then it all came tumbling down in a relatively short time. It cost me a marriage, my law license, my ability to make a living, and then another divorce from an ill-conceived marriage to a friend.

Was it drugs? No, never tried them, not interested in them. Was it alcohol? Nope. After a short time in high school and part of college I realized that my genes would not allow me to be a casual drinker – I had too many alcoholics in my family, particularly my biological father. So I quit drinking when I was 20.

The plain fact of the matter is that I was suffering from clinical depression. There, I said it. Very few people other than my immediate family and close friends know about it.  I went through some health problems, a divorce that I did not see coming, my ex-wife moved my kids 600 miles away, and I found myself horribly alone.    Increasingly I found myself going home on Fridays, locking myself in my apartment with the blinds shut, and never stepping out again until Monday when it was time to go to work.

I lacked the energy and desire to do anything at all.   That included the very thing that I needed most, which was contact with my family and friends.    Add to that my reluctance at the time to ask for help with anything (a misguided sense of self-reliance) and it made for a perfect recipe for what became more than just sadness.   I also quit doing the one thing that could have helped me a lot –  I quit attending church.    My faith had always been an important part of my life, especially considering that I made quite a change in my college years by breaking away from the faith I was raised with when I joined the LDS church against the wishes of my mom and my grandmother.

I could have very easily slipped back into drinking, or started experimenting with drugs, or even toying with the idea of just ending it all.   Certainly I was ripe for that to happen to me.  Luckily for me, I guess, I was hurt in a car accident.   The doctor I went to go see for my neck pain was also trained as a psychiatrist.   He recognized the symptoms right away.  After a short trial of antidepressants (did not like them at all) he referred me to a counselor that I saw on a regular basis for quite a while.    He made me think about things that I did not want to think about.   He made me do things I did not want to do, like reach out for help from friends and family.

Little by little, I came out of a very deep fog that seemed to surround my life.  I had a very good home teacher from church that would come by my apartment every Sunday, make me wake up and shower, and go to church with him.    He kept me busy helping do service projects for others and would take me to Goal Oriented Leadership Functions.  (GOLF).  After a while I realized things were not so bad.

I was very bitter about life, did not trust people, did not want to show any sort of emotion or vulnerability to anyone except my daughters.    Believe it or not, I learned how to trust and love again because I got a dog.  That dog helped me through a lot of my down times.  He was there when I was sick, when I felt low and when I was lonely.   He never went anywhere and showed me unconditional love.   That helped to start the turnaround in my life.

It was around that time that my wife came into my life.  I had met her earlier when we worked at the same law office.  We were friends for a long time, and that eventually led to what is now the best relationship I have had in my life.    She helped me to go visit my daughters in Austin.   She got me used to a day-to-day life of being around people and doing simple ordinary things that give your life structure and meaning.   My distrust of others and fear of opening up my feelings gradually went away because of her.  It took a long time, but we eventually got married.   Molly is who encouraged me to teach, which has become my passion.  It was because of Sam, Molly’s youngest son, that I became involved in Boy Scouts,   Scouting has given me a multitude of great experiences and life long friends.

So I guess I can say I am lucky.   Consider the following:

  • Men with depression are more likely than depressed women to abuse alcohol and other substances, according to Jill Goldstein, director of research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
  • Depressed men may also try to mask their sadness by turning to other outlets, such as watching TV, playing sports and working excessively, or engaging in risky behaviors, Goldstein told Live Science in an interview earlier this year.
  • Men’s symptoms of depression may be harder for other people to recognize, and the illness is missed more frequently in men, Goldstein said.
  • Men with depression are more likely than women with the condition to commit suicide, Goldstein said. Men with depression may go longer without being diagnosed or treated, and so men may develop a more devastating mental health problem.  Copyright 2014 LiveScience,

 

So I dodged the perfect storm.  I am alive today and very glad to be here.  But don’t get me wrong,  I am not bragging, nor am I putting down Robin Williams and others that were not able to overcome it, or who continue to suffer.  Like I said, I was lucky.   Keep an eye out for those you love.  Don’t leave them hanging.   Look for the symptoms of depression –

  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)  http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/major-depression

If  you are depressed, you may not know it.  Even if you do know it, you are unlikely to reach out for help.  Don’t be afraid to reach out.   It could have cost me dearly if the right set of circumstances had not occurred that led me out of haze.  This is not easy to write or to admit, but I hope that somehow it may strike a chord with someone who needs that extra push to get help.

I join the rest of the world in mourning the loss of a great entertainer.  My hope is that his death may draw attention to this misunderstood illness.    “There but for the grace of God go I”

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Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them – a reflection on the death of a polarizing figure

I do not revel in the death of any human being.   I know that even those that we may “hate” or “dislike” have loved ones that would miss them if they were no longer around.  That having been said, I was reflecting today on the death of Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church, known primarily for protesting at the funerals of our fallen soldiers.   At the risk of going against what I just said, I am glad that Mr. Phelps will no longer be around to be a major distraction with his homophobic, disrespectful, and outrageous comments and actions that he did “in the name of God.”

The damage this man has done is almost irreparable, not only because of the hurt he inflicted on so many people, but because of the stereotype that he perpetuates to others about the lives and beliefs of Christians.  There are way too many people who look at this man, who perverted the central message of Christianity for his own vain purposes, and assume that all Christians have the same tenets and beliefs.  He is no more a typical Christian than the sadistic terrorists of 9/11 are typical Muslims.

It pains me to see people paint with broad strokes based on what they may see one or two people doing.  Some people that know that I am heavily involved in the Boy Scouting program automatically assume that I am homophobic, when nothing can be farther from the truth.  People see my lovely daughter Erica and my son in law Shaun and assume that because they have tattoos and piercings that they certainly must be drug users.

I would be lying if I said that I have never jumped to these types of conclusions.  I may never had said this out loud, but the first time I saw Shaun with his Mohawk, and found out he played in a metal band, I instinctively said to myself – “Not with my daughter, you don’t.”    But I allowed myself the chance to know him, and he has been an absolute gem of a husband to my daughter.  I would not trade him for anyone else in the world.  I love that kid.

People who make snap judgments based on limited data don’t understand.  This is not what it is all about.  We all have different beliefs, values and tenets that guide our actions on a day to day basis.  You can disagree with my beliefs, but don’t categorize me as a hater because we don’t feel the same about politics, religion, music, sports, etc.   I value you for who you are, not for what you believe.   Admittedly sometimes as Christians we get a bit judgmental.    By the same token those who are not believers are just as guilty of being judgmental of those who profess a religious belief, thinking we are all looking down our noses at them.

So the death of this man takes away one target.  Unfortunately, many other are in line to take his place.  And this happens on both sides of the political and religious spectrum as well.  Some conservatives would freak out to know that I don’t believe that all liberals are like Bill Maher.  (by the way, I think he is the flip side of the coin to Phelps).   If he were to lose his audience, someone else would jump in his place and start making snap judgments and overly broad characterizations.

So what’s my point?  I was reading something important in Matthew in the New Testament the other day.  Whether or not you accept it as scripture, the lessons in Chapter 7 bear repeating.

. 1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.     (pretty straight forward, isn’t it?)

 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (some people call this karma)

. . . .

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.  (We know it as the Golden Rule)

. . . .

and finally, when you get right down to it, this is what my point is:

 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  (Actions speak louder than words)

If we are going to talk the talk, then we need to walk the walk.  I hope that I can live my life by that adage.  In the end, I want to be known not for my worldly accomplishments, but as a good son, a caring brother, a faithful and loyal husband, a loyal friend, and a loving father and grandfather.     Can’t we all try to do this?

It should have never worked – a reflection on two very important lives.

It should have never worked.   She was a naturalized American citizen born in Campo Madera #2, Chihuahua, Mexico, with two little boys.  He was a former moonshiner from Cedartown, Georgia.

She came to the United States at an early age to work as a maid, married a soldier who left her alone while the boys were young, and worked a lot of hours at a hospital in El Paso to support her sons.

He ended up in El Paso after working several different jobs and a couple of marriages that had gone bad.

They met when he came over to her house to share Thanksgiving dinner with the family.  Apparently they had a mutual friend that got the two of them together.  Talk about a blind date.  Since she did not have a phone, he just showed up for dinner that night.    What could have been a rather awkward meal actually turned out rather well.   He came over the next night to take her out for dinner and made big brownie points with her sons when he brought over two model car kits for them to work on.  When they complained they did not know much about cars, he offered to take them to car dealerships on Saturday so they could see what the cars looked like.   That’s right; he dated her sons as well.   Took them to see cars and bought them cheeseburgers. Still, it came as a big surprise when they got married 3 ½ weeks after they met.

The marriage lasted 36 years, ending only when she passed away from a long struggle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  In those 36 years there were a lot of ups and downs.  They started off poor, as many young couples do, but worked their way up slowly to a rather comfortable position in life.  He retired from the railroad, she retired as a respiratory therapist.  They raised her kids together, and never once did he call them his stepsons.  They were always “his” boys.    To them he was always their dad, and they called him dad from the day they got married.

It wasn’t easy.  There was a rather wide difference in culture, upbringing, and religious backgrounds.  He was raised in a very dysfunctional family and trust was an issue for him.   That caused a lot of strife in the relationship, but they worked through it. Together they achieved a lot of their personal goals.   But then she got sick.

After several years of struggling with her disease, she passed away 12 years ago  on January 28th.  He clearly missed her after her passing.  His four years as a widower found him sad and confused.   He moved 700 miles from one side of Texas to the other side of the state to avoid seeing daily the things that reminded him of their life together.    Unfortunately it also left him far away from his sons.

He died alone on the back porch of his house; he was found 24 hours after he passed. I still remember the call that I got telling me that they had found my dad.  That happened eight years ago and I still miss him to this day.    My dad made a big impact on my life, and I miss sharing the details of my life with him.  He taught me a lot – mechanics and home repair, being a hard worker, and how to love your kids.   We did not always agree.  In fact, we argued a lot.   But we both knew we loved each other, and I am glad that the last words I said to him were “I love you Dad.”   Those words apparently came the night before he passed.

My mom was a huge influence in my life.  She taught me about love, about sacrifice, about love of country, and the need to get an education.   There is so much that I would love to share with her – my highs and my lows, my problems and my blessings.   I wish she were here to share the experiences in her life that always made a difference in how I looked at things.

It’s funny, most people thought that the relationship would never last.  They seemed such an odd couple.  But they had love for each other and shared that love with their boys. My brother and I will always be grateful.  I miss them both dearly.

A life that made a difference

mom, art and meShe crossed the border from Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, Texas in a car with several friends. In the English she had learned while staying with her Aunts’ family in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico she declared “American Citizen” and she entered the country to begin a new adventure and a life that would touch many people down the line.

At that time, in the early 50’s her only real chance of finding work was as a babysitter/maid, which she found with Ms. Myers, a kind gentle lady that had a few kids. She washed, did some cooking, and cared for the kids while Ms. Myers worked and took care of other matters. Sometime down the line, she helped Ms. Myers put together a small party for some friends, and that is when he walked into her life. He was a young man from Michigan, stationed at Ft. Bliss for training, and the two of them generated some sort of spark. Before too long they went to Las Cruces, New Mexico and got married.

But life was not going to be the “Leave it to Beaver” fairy tale that you saw on TV. Shortly after giving birth to her son, he decided to leave her and go back to his first wife. He returned on occasion to see his son, and eventually, a second son was on his way. She never saw much of him after that. He returned to Michigan to his family and left her behind to raised two young boys on her own.

She worked hard, harder than anyone should have to work to feed their kids. Her mother and father helped as they could with a little bit of support and a lot of babysitting. The boys spent a lot of time in Juarez at their grandmother and grandfathers house while she worked. A friend of hers got her a job at Providence Memorial Hospital as a nurses aide. She had to convince a jeweler in downtown El Paso to let her may for a watch with a second hand by making payments. She needed that watch to be able to take pulses at work.

The boys grew and watched their mom come home tired, eat a small meal, and turn right back around to go back to work at the hospital for a second shift – a shift where she worked in maintenance mopping floors and cleaning up so that she could make a few extra bucks to take care of her kids. She never had much in those days, choosing to give most of what she had to her kids. On the rare occasion, she would take the boys to the Plaza Theatre downtown to watch a movie. Many times she would have to carry her boys from the bus stop back to their little apartment because they had fallen asleep on the bus on the way home.

There were a lot of obstacles at times. Even after gaining her citizenship, she was often stopped by Border Patrol and asked where she was going with those two little white boys. They did not believe that they were hers. Many men offered to “help” her with her situation, but always with strings attached that she could not, and would not accept.
Through it all she never complained, at least not to her boys. The husband that had left her alone never provided anything in terms of support, either financial or otherwise. The father figure in their lives was their grandfather, a man that was at the same time a strict disciplinarian but also a gentle soul. That husband would pass away in 1965 and the hopes of ever getting that assistance that she needed died right along with him.

She married again the following year, and her new husband treated her boys as his own. He moved them out of that little apartment into a house on the other side of the city, and he taught them the value of hard work and responsibility. Times were better, but raising two hungry growing boys required both of them to work, and often required side jobs on the weekend to provide a better life.

She taught her boys a lot of important principles – patriotism, honesty, faith, hard work, and a love of the culture from which she came. She raised them, with the help of her new husband, and sent them off into the world to live their lives as adults. It would be nice to think that she lived happily ever after, but that was not the case. Although she enjoyed a much more comfortable life and the joy of having grandkids, her health began to fail her. Two times she was diagnosed with cancer, and two times she fought back and beat it. When it came back for a third try she was just too tired and exhausted to fight it anymore. She told her loving husband and sons that she did not want to go through all the chemo and radiation again. She was at peace with her life and felt it was time to go. Eleven years ago, on January 28,, 2002 she finally gave up her battle and entered into an eternal peace.
She was a wonderful woman. She changed a lot of lives. She was a friend, a daughter, a wife, a grandmother, and my mom. I miss her terribly, even after these many years. I love you Mom.

What if you threw a funeral and nobody came?

December and January for some reason have become months of funerals and anniversaries of deaths of friends and family members. My dad passed away several years ago in December, my brother-in-law just passed this month, and at the end of the month my mom will have been gone for over a decade.

Funerals are a strange phenomena sometimes. You find family members getting together and repeating the same words they spoke at the last funeral – “We need to keep in touch!”, “Why do we wait so long to get together?” and “Why does it always take a funeral to bring us closer?” After the services, when the crying is done, the hugs are given and the reception food eaten, we go back to the same old routine and just ignore our family and friends. I am not being critical, I am just making an observation of things as I have seen them over the last few years.

A lot of time is spent at funerals talking about what a good person the deceased was in their life, and the difference that they made in people’s lives. Some people call it a person’s legacy. At a few of the funerals I helped put together video tributes to the loved one that helps bring back some great memories. It got me to thinking, what is my legacy going to be? What difference have I made in people’s lives? If they held my funeral would they need a larger facility or could they hold it in a closet sized room?

I kid with my wife and kids that I already have the songs I want played at my memorial. My choices? “Happy Cause I’m Going Home” by Chicago, and Israel Kamakiwiwo’ole’s version of “Over the Rainbow”. I know that this my be a bit cliché, but it’s what I want and expresses what my thoughts. My son Sam, who is only 21 has already told us he wants “American Pie” played at his funeral. Don’t know why, but that is what he chose and I respect that.

I have had the opportunity to teach over the last 10 years, and several of my students keep in contact with me to let me know what is going on in their lives. I hope that somehow I left a footprint in their lives somewhere. My very first Eagle Scout as a Scoutmaster surprised me a few years ago when he caught me at DFW Airport and yelled out my name. He gave me a belated thanks for helping him through his Eagle project and application. He said it helped him get his current job as an engineer. Since that time 30+ years ago I have helped several others out as well.

A lot of people, especially Molly, my wife, tell me that I have a hard time saying no. Volunteering to do things just seems to be a part of what I do and who I am. My former boss, who was the mayor of Laredo, Texas when I was an assistant City Attorney there, once told me that I should be glad that I was not a woman. When I asked him why, he said that if I was a woman I would always be pregnant because I did not know how to say “no.” A bit crude, I know, but he was trying to make a point. When my daughters were in Choir I couldn’t just be a part of the booster club, I had to volunteer to be president. I couldn’t just go to the Homeowners Association meetings, I had to run to be on the board.

This is not a “hey look at how great I am” type of story. The thought of who would take time to remember me isn’t a huge part of my thoughts on a daily basis, but you can’t help but wonder–how will people remember me? During a professional development meeting one day we were asked to state what it was that we would like to see on our tombstone. Being the smart aleck that I tend to be, my immediate response was “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” It got a few laughs, but I was floored by the thoughtful response of one of my colleagues. He said he wanted it to say, “he was a good husband and father”.

Wow. That summed it all up in just a few words. That is what I want my legacy to be – a good husband and father (and by extension grandfather as well). I need to spend the rest of my life living up to that legacy. If no one but my family came to my funeral, I would be ok with it. Family should be the emphasis and focus in my life. Time to make it happen.

What if it were true?

The whole Mayan calendar craze has been kind of fun to watch. It really amazes me that so many people have taken it seriously and have planned for their lives to end in just a few short days. But I started to wonder, what if it were true? If it were true, and you had just a few days left, what would you do? Assume that money and travel were not an issue. Is there any unfinished business you would want to take care of? Any relationships that need mending?

I spend this last weekend with my wife visiting her brother, who is suffering from mesothelioma and developed pneumonia. The doctors had his wife call all the family to come and see him. because the time is short. As I write this he has been sent home under hospice care. My wife had taken the opportunity earlier in the year to visit and share feelings and memories. Other family members had not had that opportunity, so this was the chance to visit one last time.

So why do we wait? Why is it that we wait until the last moment to take care of important things? When death is sudden, the opportunity to say the unspoken things or do the undone things is gone in an instant. So many people regret the opportunity to say the last goodbye or the last I love you. Maybe it was an unspoken apology.

My dad passed away 7 years ago this month. We spoke several times a week, and our conversations always ended with an “I love you.” I am so glad that I said it during our last phone conversation because he passed away suddenly and without warning. He was found on the back porch by one of his neighbors. At his memorial service I had spoken to several of his friends and church members that he had met during his short time in East Texas They had worked with him for a long time to get him to get over a lot of resentments in his life. He lived a hard life, and a lot of people hurt him and took advantage of him. As a result, he was quick to take offense in even very minor incidents. My brother and my dad did not speak during the last 4 years of his life. An innocent misunderstanding during my moms funeral led them to not talk to each other.

I was unaware that my dads friends had convinced him to let old grudges go and he was beginning to make efforts to make amends before he died. He actually called my brother a few times before his heart attack, but my dad was never one to leave voice mail messeages. My brother, unfamiliar with the phone number on the call list, never returned the call. We were sitting at the dinner table at my house when somehow I mentioned my dads phone number. My brother realized that it had been my dad calling and it really hurt him to know he missed the opportunity to reconnect.

So what is on your list to fix? If the world really ended on 12/21 would there be any unfinished business you did not take care of? There is never a better time to start taking care of that list like NOW. I know that I have some unfinished business I need to finish. Tell the people you love that you love them. Hug your kids. My hopes and prayers are that every parent that lost a child in Connecticut had that opportunity before sending their kids to school on Friday.

What are you waiting for?

Today I attended the funeral for the son of one of my instructors.  The young man was 26 years old, seemed to be a kid full of life and energy, was well liked, had a lot going for him — and took his own life.   Certainly I am not in a position to judge the action, and this is not what this blog is about.     As I sat through the funeral with my wife,  I had a number of thoughts cross my mind.  This will be an attempt to sort through a lot of those thoughts.

First, depression apparently was a  hidden problem with this young man.  The priest who presided at the funeral, as part of a wonderful homily that he delivered, explained that depression is not the type of illness where a person stands on top of a hill and yells “Help me!”.   In fact, the opposite is exactly what happens.  A person suffering from depression hides his/her problems, often ignoring the symptoms or trying to work it out on their own.  I can tell you it does not work.  If you know me really well, you know that I suffered from clinical depression back several years ago.  It cost me my practice and two marriages.  But that is a topic of another blog down the line.   All I want to say is that if you know of someone suffering from depression, or that you think might be suffering from depression, please do not ignore it.   It can be a real killer, both physically and mentally.   You might need to suggest, hint, cajole, kidnap or even force them to get help, but it is very important that they get the help that they so desperately need.

Secondly, I had such a deep impression that no parent should ever outlive their children.  There is no way I can console my co-worker/friend by telling her that I know how she feels.  I don’t and I never hope to personally know the feeling.  What I can do is be there to listen, to laugh, to cry and to share.  It would be disingenuous for me to sit there and pretend to understand the emotions that she must be feeling.  This was not a case of a 95-year-old parent losing a 72-year-old child.   This was a vibrant young man with a lot going for him.   My heart goes out to her and to anyone that has lost a child.

Thirdly, why are we so afraid of death?  Both of my parents have passed away, and during their funerals I was quite taken aback by the different reactions of people to the death of their friend, relative, neighbor and co-worker.    Some were very consoling and understanding, and ready to help at a moment’s notice.  Some were afraid to look you in the eye or talk to you, as if by doing so they might set off a reaction they could not control.   Some avoided my family and I all together, choosing to stand at a distance.

I can remember one of my family members (whose name I will keep private) actually accusing me of not caring or loving my parents because I did not openly display uncontrollable fits of tears or emotion.   Because of my faith I feel I have a good understanding of the entire death process.  Although I certainly felt the loss of my parents’ company, I also knew that this was just one more step in the process of our lives.  In my mom’s case, it ended a long-term of suffering in incredible pain and disability.  In my dad’s case, he would no longer suffer the loneliness he felt at my mother’s passing.   Death is not something one should fear.

Finally, I kept thinking about a recurring theme that I have pondered all year long.   It has been brought into clearer focus since the birth of my adorable granddaughter Chloe.    Why do we wait?

Why do we wait until someone passes to express our love and respect for them?  Why are our friends, family, companions and others we care for not constantly in our thoughts, our hearts,  our prayers and our actions?

My wife and I were having a conversation the other day and I jokingly remarked that since I was going to be in Round Rock on Christmas day, I was going to miss seeing those people at church that I only see on Easter and Christmas.   Again, I do not say this in a judgmental manner.    But as friends, do we not do the same thing?  Do we not wait for significant events like deaths, weddings, births, surgeries, etc. to find the time to visit?   How many times do we say at those events – “We really need to keep in touch”, only to fall back into the same old pattern in our lives?

In the case of the death of one of those we care for, do we find ourselves regretting not having spent more time with them?  Do we wish we had told them how we felt?

I have a very vivid memory of the last phone call my dad and I had before he passed away.  My dad lived in the little town of DeBerry, Texas.   How and why he chose to move there after my mom’s passing is still a mystery to me.  He was 7 hours away from the closest family (which was me) and lived by himself.    We chatted about me making a trip to DeBerry to help him find a new heart doctor so that he would not have to make the 800 mile trip to El Paso every time he needed to go for his checkup.   We discussed all the things he liked to talk about, and had a friendly argument about his other favorite topic – hating whoever was President at the time.  But what made this last talk special is that we spent the last few minutes of our call talking about how much we cared about each other.

I got a call 3 or 4 days later from his pastor.  They found my dad on the back porch where he had apparently collapsed after a heart attack..   What sorrow I would have had if I had not had the time to say what was on my mind during that last call, even if I did not know it was the last time I would talk to him.

Recently I have tried to reach out to my extended family.  My father’s family (as opposed to my dad that I just talked about) is from Michigan, and I have had some limited contact with them.   My mom’s side of the family, many of which I met at a family reunion about 13 or 14 years ago, is another story.  I have been horrible at keeping up with them, and it is my goal this year to make sure that they become a part of my life.

Don’t be surprised to hear from me.  Regrets are not something I want to have in my life.  I will be reaching out to those I love and care for.   What are you waiting for?

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.
Barbara Bush