The Rest of the Story

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A while back, during my college years, a tad bit before the virtual world exploded into cyber space and super electronics became the norm, I used to love to listen to Paul Harvey‘s, “The Rest of the Story,” segment on a little thing called the car radio.  I loved how he took one story and delved deeper into it to provide a whole different aspect.  After publishing my post yesterday, I began to reflect more deeply on all the things that combined to make that day so special.  You’ve all now heard about why that one particular photo of Mama has such an impact on me personally.  But what you don’t know is some of the other factors that came to be that day, helping to make an unforgettable experience for us all.

To begin, I must say that every person in attendance contributed in some way.  Everyone had to alter plans and travel distances to be present.  You see, Mom was not in her hometown.  We had decided that placing her in a more central location to all who would be spending their days with her in the hospice facility was a more logical solution.  We were actually two hours away from where I grew up and my parents’ hometown.  We would have had it no other way.  We wanted Mama to be surrounded by those she loved as often as possible and for as long as possible.  We were all more than eager and strongly desired to contribute in any way possible to create a day to remember.

Patrick and Traci of course were the ultimate deciding factor in getting the wheels turning.  It was their kind spirits and abundance of love for Mama which guided their hearts.  It was also their generosity in allowing others to shower them with assistance and contributions as best we could. They took care of all the little details necessary for the wedding couple, including gathering up all their little kiddos, preparing them for the day and then finally themselves as well.

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My sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Adrian, housed several people in their home during this time.  Her children gave up their bedrooms without hesitation and were always eager to assist any of us.  Elizabeth was the ultimate hostess, providing food and transportation for many.  So many of her generous friends dropped by with dinners, snacks, treats, and even flowers to show their support and to ensure that their sweet friend would not be overwhelmed by so many guests.

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My twin, Diane, spent long hours on the phone over several days dealing with schedule changes, flight arrangements, and car rentals to ensure that her husband, Scott, and three boys, who live several states away would be able to attend as well.

Mama’s sisters, Aunt Trish and Aunt Lou Lou, were by her side daily and rescheduled their days so as to be there to help beautify her for the ceremony and hold her hand during this whole process.  Aunt Trish provided something “old” by gifting Traci a broach to wear that was painted by Mama. They were more than a support; they were a shoulder to lean on and a hand to hold.

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As for Traci’s side of the family, her parents were taking care of their growing brood of grandchildren and helping to ease any stress for the happy couple in any way they could.  Patrick has twin girls and Traci has a son and daughter.  What a lovely group of people to combine into one loving household.

Traci’s sister, Rachel was a true expert in catering a last minute wedding.  It was absolutely fantastic and such a lovely addition to the day.  She also somehow magically created all of the bouquets and boutonnieres for the wedding party.  I am not sure I have ever seen more beautifully arranged flowers in my life.  I don’t know how she did it!  She definitely sprinkled a little fairy dust on the affair!

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I felt truly blessed and frankly, terrified when my brother and Traci asked if I would photograph the entire event.  I typically do all of my work outside and this was a bit out of my comfort zone. My hesitation was for a mere second and then I promised that I would do my best; but deep down inside felt emotions might just get the better of me, leaving me in a state of frenzy on the special day.  I have considered myself a solid photographer for years; but, this was somehow on a whole different level.  The ceremony was beyond emotional; but viewing this immensely intimate moment in time through my insanely timid photographer’s eye that day, was one of the most illuminating experiences I have ever had the joy of living in.

There remain two exceptionally sweet moments that can only be considered divine intervention.  Early on, there was much question in locating the perfect spot to hold the ceremony.  That was soon resolved by the nurses who strongly suggested that Mom’s bed should only be rolled out as far as the doorway to her room.  We looked around and sighed, having the beautiful image in our minds of just what the original venue would have provided, and yet knowing in our hearts what was truly important.

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Early on the morning of the wedding, two of Traci’s sweet friends, disguised as miracle workers, waltzed in with twinkle lights, paper bells, and flowers to spruce the place up.  As soon as the nurses caught sight of this, they rushed down to assist by providing sheets to hang from the ceiling and frantically began moving all medical equipment out of view.  I very vividly recall the tears that formed in my eyes at that moment.  What a sight to behold!  The love pouring forth from Traci’s friends and the most genuine desire to provide support by the nurses was more than evident.  It was felt by us all, deep down in those special spots reserved for exceptional moments in humanity.

Finally, as Dad prepared for the day, he realized he was lacking appropriate attire for the wedding.  He felt certain he could get away with the pants he had, but needed to stop by the mall to buy a shirt and tie.  As he wandered the unfamiliar grounds of the massive mall, gazing into the windows of unfamiliar stores, he came across a shop that appeared to have just what he needed.  There was only one problem.  The store didn’t open for another hour, which he did not have the luxury of.  So Dad did what any great man would do in his hour of need, he knocked on the door and flagged down the person inside.  The salesman came to the door and promptly said, “We don’t open for another hour.”  At that point, Dad took a deep breath and relayed his story to the young man.  I feel certain that at that very moment, this man looked into Dad’s eyes and felt the magnitude and importance of the day.  He then simply asked Dad to wait a second and on his return he opened the door to Banana Republic and welcomed Dad in for his very own individual shopping spree.  That wonderful salesman assisted Dad in locating a shirt and tie worthy of the man that was to officiate the ceremony of marriage for his only son.  And although the shirt was wrinkled and his pants worn, I have never seen my Dad look more distinguished than he did that day.

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The service was amazing!  There was not a dry eye in the room!  It was, by far, the most intimate, emotional, loving ceremony I have ever had the privilege of witnessing.  It represented what all weddings should be about, the love of two people and those who share in the best, most successful well wishes for their life together.

“And now you know….the rest of the story!”

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The Challenge

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Recently I was presented with the challenge of selecting my absolute favorite photograph ever taken.  Mind you, that is out of thousands.  However, I found it to be an easy choice.  For me the photo does not have to be perfectly composed, or even perfectly focused; but it absolutely must be from the heart.  By far the most cherished photo that I have ever taken is this one of Mama.  It was taken two days before Mom’s passing and during my brother’s wedding.

Originally, my brother and his sweet fiancee were to be married on my parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary at our ranch house with both families present.  So many plans had been made, flights had been purchased, hotels reserved, and catering set.  However, things drastically changed when Mama’s health faltered and she was placed in hospice just days prior to that.  Knowing how much she wanted to witness the marriage ceremony and their desire to have her present, my brother and his fiancee decided to change the venue.  In less than two days, all family members altered their flights, plans, and prior arrangements to attend the wedding of this selfless and loving couple.  Amazingly enough, every family member was able to make arrangements to attend.  The hospice facility staff was beside themselves with assisting in the preparation since this was the first and only wedding they had ever had in their facility.  They were as excited as we all were.  They too, had grown to love Mom instantly, as so many did.

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During the days in hospice, Mama seemed to be fading with moments of her true spirit shining through, allowing times of true joy for all of us.  She slept a lot and couldn’t seem to focus very clearly; but we all knew she was alert enough to know that a wedding was going to take place.  On November 19th, with my father officiating and my mother looking on from her hospital bed, two of the most amazing people on this planet were joined in matrimony.  That day, the day of this photo, was Mama’s most coherent day.  It was as if the sickness had left her body to allow her complete delight.  She was laughing, hugging, talking, and blowing kisses to us all.  It was during this time that I turned the lens on her and captured the purest moment of clarity and happiness in Mama that day.  She passed away two days later and just two days shy of their 50th Wedding Anniversary.

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It has now been exactly seven months to the date since her passing and posting this photo brings the same raw emotion as it did the day I peered through the eyepiece and captured her true essence.  For me personally, the photos which evoke the most emotion are the dearest in our hearts. This photo of Mama is by far my most emotionally charged and favored photograph ever.  It manages to grasp onto those ultimate moments of beautiful clarity and the memories of those final days spent with my dearest, sweet Mama.

Bad Day?

I think that sometimes we believe the doubt that rises in our minds, telling us that no one can understand what we are going through.  It is one of those things that in our darkest moments manifests in our minds leaving us feeling alone and either sad or fearful.  This video popped up on one of my social media sites and I felt it to be so authentic to how people feel in moments of doubt and what we should reflect on when those such moments arise in our lives.

Having A Bad Day? Here Are 46 Powerful Things You Should Really Hear.

Marcello’s Message

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Some things in life are much better than others!!  I’m lucky enough to have a full time job that allows for vacations throughout the year.  So this week, I’ve enjoyed my time off by doing a variety of different activities and projects.  By far though, my most favorite thing to do has been spending some good quality time with my spunky, silly pup, Marcello.  I will admit my shortcomings to most and one of them is definitely allowing Marcello to sleep in my bed, lick my finished dinner plate, and pretty much demand anything he wants.  I just can’t seem to say, “No” to him.

Don’t get me wrong!  He’s not ill mannered or even really demanding; except when guests arrive and he wants to be noticed or it’s dinner time and I’ve failed to fill his bowl.  In that case, he has become accustomed to hitting the Easy Button™ to receive his dinner.  Mind you, I did not train him to do this, but he’s connected it with treats and decided one day that it might just work to get his dinner as well.  I don’t mind.  It means I only need to fill his bowl when he’s ready.

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He’s actually a pretty chill lil’ guy, extremely smart, and freakishly humanesque.  Like me, Marcello enjoys his meditation time.  At least that’s what I think he’s doing when he sits right next to me and appears to be almost asleep.  Okay…maybe that’s a stretch; but, I like to believe he is regardless.  He is the number one factor in keeping me on track with my exercise.  He LOVES to walk and can easily take on a hefty trek every day without even breaking a sweat.  For a little ten pound pup…that’s pretty impressive.  He’s apparently pretty famous too.  It’s not uncommon on our nightly walks to have people calling out to him.  Don’t ask me what he’s doing when I’m not around; but, it appears he’s making the rounds on a public campaign with quite a following.

By now, you may be questioning the purpose of this particular post.  Believe me, it does have a point.  One thing I learned from Mom was to enjoy the little pleasures in life.  Embrace that which is for you a simplistic luxury in your life, because for another it’s not even a glimmer of a possibility.  Show and express your heart to those you love as often as possible, because one day they will not be able to embrace you back or answer your sentiments.  Recognize the fact that those things most valuable cannot be bought, but can easily be lost.  Take time to notice the little details in life, the moments of pure bliss, and the heartache of lost loves.  Gratitude, my friends, is a powerful thing indeed!

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Crackle of a Good Book

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This past weekend I found myself on a mission in search of an audio-book from the public library.  I’m embarrassed to say, I haven’t visited our library in years.  I tend to be one of those purchase and go kind of people.  I’d forgotten how much I actually liked the library, but beyond that, I was shocked as to just how many people were visiting on a Sunday.  The place was packed and not having found what I needed at the first stop, I was destined to visit another one in our town as well.  Again, the place was packed.  Although I wasn’t in search of any particular book beyond the audio-book which started my whole journey, I decided to peruse the shelves in search of nothing in particular.  What I found surprised me.

As I meandered down the rows, sliding my fingers along the glossy bindings, I caught glimpses of necks, chins, and foreheads of my fellow readers peeking through the open spaces of shelving and I was drawn back to my childhood.  I can remember getting my very first library card and how excited and grown up it left me feeling.  I loved to read and would lose myself in a good book as soon as I’d checked it out.

Each summer, our small town library would introduce a program to encourage young readers to devour books on break.  The anticipation of snatching up armloads of books, flipping through the pages, frantically reading to finish as many as possible before summer’s end was the perfect challenge for me.  I could hardly wait for Mom to take us to get our first collection of reads at the beginning of each summer.  She would start up the car and we’d pile in, heading off to collect our treasures for the next two weeks.  I still remember the musty smell and dense weight of the books.  It was pure torture waiting to finally reach the age to check out a book that was big enough to require a hard back cover with the crinkly plastic foil wrapped around it.

So as I walked through the library, running my fingers along the books to hear the crackle of the plastic, I remembered Mama and all the times she made sure we were doing things that were good for us, but disguising them as adventures instead.