The Final Good-Bye

IMG_3258The truth is you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.” — Eminem

The quote above was certainly true in our lives the last couple of weeks. We had a fun vacation up north and the next day we were sitting by the bedside of my brother-in-law who was in his final moments.

As I look back on the week it was a week of blessings. We spent time with good friends. We laughed, ate the fish the men caught, explored shops and took the time to relax and enjoy life. It wasn’t the fact that we were on vacation that made it special; it was the fact we shared the week with close friends creating memories.

We got the call that we were needed  at the bedside of my brother-in-law, Evan, as we were driving home from the lake. The next few days by his bedside we  prayed, cried, reminisced and waited for God  to call him home. As hard as it was, it too was a blessing because we could be there in his final moments. We could connect with others who loved this man. We don’t always come into this world easily at birth and we don’t always go out easily either. The last few days were a struggle for him and we didn’t want him or his wife  being alone at this difficult time.

I wondered as we sat there waiting, what he would have said to us if he would have had the power to speak. What would he say about what we were saying? What was he thinking? Were we giving him comfort? Or would he have told us to go away?

It had been a long journey for Evan. His diagnosis was Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t the first in the family, and I suspect it won’t be the last. He was not the person the last few years we all remembered. Yet, he was still loved in his anger, quietness and joy,  remaining the husband, father and brother in our lives.

Everyone deals with a loved one’s decline differently. Some stay away because they can’t handle seeing their loved one in this changing state. They want to remember them as they were. I get that. And again I support those who have to do what they do to take care of themselves. For myself at this time in my life I think about the person going through the process of leaving this earth or who is in declining health. It isn’t about me; it is about them and what they are feeling if those they love stay away.

We all need someone to share the rough spots of our life, to help us get through the hills and the valleys, whether it is an illness where we are healed, or an illness where God chooses to take us home. We need someone to care.

I have not always been by the side of someone I loved, or visited a friend when they are going through their final weeks. I too have stayed away. When my friend Mary was ready to leave this world I stayed away. I was sick and suffering depression and I couldn’t handle it. I so regret that I stayed away and didn’t say goodbye, but I get it when seeing someone you love in pain is too much.

I haven’t always helped those who needed help. I haven’t always had the help of those I thought I could depend on, but I know it is not because I didn’t care or they didn’t care, but because of where they were or where I was in my life, there was nothing left inside of them or me to help someone else.

This time, I was able to say goodbye to the man who was the first person besides my mother-in-law to welcome me into the family and accept me as I was. I felt privileged to have the time to say goodbye to the man who was godfather to my children and took that role very seriously. My children all have special memories of their Uncle Evan as do all his nieces and nephews.

If we needed help, Evan was there to lend a hand. He was there to give his opinion and we could take it or leave it. He left us with sayings we will never forget and memories that will always have a hold on our hearts.

Don’t be afraid to hold the hand of someone you love in their final moments. You will find you won’t remember what they looked like in their final days, but you will remember the lifetime of memories that you were given and the smiles that came before.

Rest in peace, Evan. When we asked you how you were, you always replied, “Not as good as some, but better than most.” In our eyes you were always the best.

Revive The Greeting Card!

Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf printed in the Albert Lea Tribune February 3.

The United States Postal Service is raising its rates. It is partly my fault. The reason I partially blame myself is that I am memory-challenged when remembering to send people cards for birthdays, Christmases, baby births and times of illness, sympathy and friendship.

I like to get the cards. I keep the people in my prayers and always have good intentions but never seem to get it done.

This is not something new that has developed since I have become an adult. When I was in grade school and high school, I would write letters to my aunts and uncles and cousin but they would never get mailed. When they came to visit and occasionally their visits were yearly, I would hand deliver the letters to them.

This is my greeting card showing greeting cards.
This is my greeting card showing greeting cards.

There is one problem, and that is the fact that I love to buy greeting cards, and I love to make greeting cards. I must have a problem with that in many areas of my life since I love cookbooks and recipes but don’t like to cook. Maybe it is the author in me that likes to see things in print.

Since I am changing careers I need to readjust and change out my office so I can work more efficiently with my new writing career. It is amazing the joy it creates when you find an object that you have been looking for. In the midst of the mess I found so many greeting cards. As I looked and sorted the beautiful cards in to categories I wondered how in the world I ever accumulated so many cards. Then I felt a little sad that I never sent the cards to the people they were meant for.

Some of the cards that I found were perfect for someone in their young adult years, but the person that I had in mind when I bought the card is no longer a young adult, in fact they might be called a senior citizen now.

In my meandering of thoughts it crossed my mind that greeting cards are probably obsolete too or they will be soon. I hope not. History is represented in greeting cards. I have the Valentine cards that my mom got when she was young. I have the Valentines that my parents gave me when I was young, and when I read them it brings tears and good memories to my heart.

I am de-cluttering, but there are some things that are keepers in my heart, and those are the Valentines of my youth. The birthday cards from certain people from my youth that I still have. It is the Christmas cards, not all but some, that I have kept over the years from people that I miss because they are living with God now. Those cards give me comfort, make me smile, occasionally make me cry and bring back memories.

My mother never threw anything out, and I was very vocal in letting my opinion be known. There are items that did not need to be kept, and I would still be vocal about them if she were here. She was a child of the Great Depression, and that made her at times hoard things.

When it was time for me to go through her things I found the treasure of her youth. I found a scrapbook she had made of old Valentines. I found cards and letters of sympathy from my dad’s funeral. I hadn’t paid much attention then to all the cards and letters of caring he received when he was sick and when he died. Reading them twenty years later as an adult made me appreciate the impact he had on people’s lives. I would have never had known that.

As I look at the cards, the many, many cards, I have in my stash to send to people I made a decision. This year I will try over the year to mail every single card that I have to someone. As crazy as it may seem, I might send a Christmas card in July. I am not going to pay attention to season but I will pay attention to the get-well and sympathy cards and make sure they go to the right place at the right time. Sending a sympathy card could get a little tricky if the person were still alive, though many years ago when my uncle’s favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, lost the World Series, I felt it did warrant a sympathy card. I was sure my uncle mourned for the next year about that.

Will I live up to my new resolution? It’s not a New Year’s one. Join me in sending cards to friends, family and strangers this year. It may change their day, it may make them smile and … it might keep the Postal Service in business. Challenge your friends. Let’s start a card revolution in 2014.

I have started a page on Facebook called “Revive the Greeting Card.” Hopefully it will help me in my resolve to send out greeting cards. Hopefully the members of the group will keep me on task.

If you are a Facebook person look for the page “Revive the Greeting Card “and join us. Take the time this year to send some greetings to someone, it may change their day.