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My Enemy Parkinson’s: Dad’s Last Words To Me

The last day of his life, my father sat in the passenger seat of his van and struggled to control the muscles of his mouth. I listened carefully for words I’d recognize. He told me he was proud of me.

Dad died of a heart attack a couple of hours later, but it was Parkinson’s disease that robbed him of the ability to fluidly communicate. It effected his gait and caused his hands to tremble but it was losing his ability to get a word out that really hurt him.

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Dad and me with our dog in happier times, before Parkinson’s disease.

Today is World Parkinson’s Day, and April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Parkinson’s is a progressive condition of the nervous system.

The first sign of Dad’s problem was sluggish legs and a tremor in his right hand. Drinking from a glass became an impossibility. The liquid sloshed out. He used straws, and then a baby cup.

Parkinson’s is one of my enemies. It twisted the last few years of my dad’s life. He suffered.

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One Great Thing I Learned

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” ~ Mitch Albom

This quote sums up one great thing I learned about death. I cannot hear my parents anymore, nor my Uncle Karl, whom I lost one year ago tomorrow, but they speak into my life. I must listen with my heart.

I’ve got a lifetime of memories. A lifetime of lessons they put into me. I “hear” these. And the things they wrote down – oh goodness, a treasure. I can’t possibly remember everything. It helps when I see what they thought and felt on paper.

I will probably write about that more another time. I just wanted to pop in, give you a word, and let you know I accidentally published my last blog early. I hope I didn’t wake anyone last night!

Here’s the link to that post: http://wp.me/p7Agwy-b8

Have a great rest of the week. Thanks for following my blog. I’ll be back next week.

 

 

 

Uncle’s Letter Leaves Indelible Mark

He called me “doll.” He took me to see the Empire State Building when I was 16. He introduced me to art at the Peabody Museum at Yale. Years later, lying in a hospital bed at a rehab hospital, he told me I was like a daughter to him. But I was his niece. He was my last surviving uncle.

I wailed when I learned he’d died. It wasn’t just that he was dead. It was that I’d missed seeing him once more. Missed helping him into eternity. Missed saying goodbye.

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My Uncle Karl and me at age 16 during my first visit to his and Dad’s hometown in Connecticut.

The first anniversary of his death is Friday the 7th. He lived to be 85. Society doesn’t make much of the loss of uncles and aunts. They don’t typically live in the same home with us. They aren’t in that tight family circle. Not a spouse. Not a child. Not a parent.

But like a parent. That gets overlooked sometimes. After we lose our mothers and fathers, they stand in the gap. They know all the good stories about our parents. They remember our early childhoods, too. They’re like mini-parents, especially after we lose mom and dad.

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Befriend Me: Relationship Transforms Grief & Outing After Mom’s Death

My mother lived a reclusive life, beginning about the time I turned 8. She left the house two or three times a year. Dad did the shopping. But when I got older, Mom ventured out every spring for our sale.

It’s the one thing we did together. After she got sick and then after she died, I found it difficult to go to the annual rummage sale. I missed a few times. Grief works like that. It twists pleasure into pain.ChurchSale (2)

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Befriend Me: Where to Go When Your Parents Are Gone

Suzi kept calling me. Kept befriending me. I’d stopped dating her brother, and I’d met her only once. She lived 2,100 miles away in California. Yet she remained my supportive friend.

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Suzi

I thought about this last week because Suzi died. She died on March 22. A few hours after I learned the news, I realized she died 10 years to the day that I met her.

Wow, what does that mean? Probably nothing, but it took me back a decade, to what was happening in my life and to what Suzi then meant to the brokenness I was experiencing.

I thought: Maybe Suzi was one of those people God sends to stand in the gap. These friends bridge the span between our need and our supply. They bridge the gap illness and death creates between us and the parental guidance we need.

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Befriend Me: New Series Reveals Other Relationships Parent Us thru Grief

I want to thank all of my readers today and invite you to follow a series of posts that begin tomorrow, March 28. The posts will reveal how friends and other kin help us navigate our lives as the incredible burden of grief presses on our hearts. They “stand in the gap” left by the deaths of our parents.toni2017-2

In my first post, I’ll write about Suzi. She came into my life amid one of the worst periods of my life. I had lost my dad and was caring for my mother. Suzi had just lost her mother. Yet in her own grief, she met me in mine.

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Photography: When It’s Too Hard to Let Go

I’m blessed with a lot of space, but many others struggle with finding a space for the things they inherit. Useful things aren’t the challenge. Grandmother’s casserole dish? To the kitchen it goes.

But what about the things you aren’t going to use? Things that perhaps aren’t at the top of the sentimental list, but still is wrapped in a memory? Something too big to put into a box?PhotoLawn

I’m not going to be exhaustive right now, but I do want to suggest one solution. Photography.

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Dreams Direct Grieving Daughter To a Place of Refuge

Do you dream about your parents? Do your loved ones seem alive again in your sleep? I love dreaming about my parents, but often dreams are uncomfortably instructive rather than happy.

Such was the case in 2015. That spring, I was focused on devising a way to articulate for my first book what the cleaning out of my parents’ home meant to my grief journey.

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An old shed sits at the front of my parents’ pasture.

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Who We Decide We Are Steers Our Lives

I didn’t like my name. School teachers and classmates misspelled and mispronounced it. Others expected me to be a boy, to be Tony. Not Toni. But I’ve long since gotten over that, and even love my name now. I’ve never met nor discovered through Google another Toni Lepeska. It’s unique.

Maybe you’ve struggled with your name. Maybe it means you’ve struggled with your identity. If so, I’m right with you.NameBlog3

Every first full week in March is Celebrate Your Name Week. It offers us an opportunity to reflect on who gave us our names and on the joy with which we entered the world. Maybe we can recapture that joy. Maybe we can celebrate ourselves in the way we were celebrated at birth.

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Inherited Stuff: Three Questions To Take With You to The Clean Out

I’ve got a special relationship with stuff, but a professional organizer who visited our church this week challenged my attachment, not only to my belongings but to things I inherited from my parents. Kathy Armstrong lets go of things. I latch onto them with unmatched ferocity.

I didn’t recognize the extent of my attachment until after my parents died. I discarded a lot of their things, things that didn’t trigger much of an emotional tug. Everything else, which was a lot of stuff, lived in limbo. I could because the house, 10 minutes away, was paid for.clutterexample-2

Over the years it became apparent to me that I wasn’t that different from my parents. My mother, a child of the Depression Era, kept things because they might be useful someday. Ends of 2 x 4s come to mind. I recently cleaned out the oldest shed on the property. I threw away the wood.

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