He Has Run a Good Race

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Mr. and Mrs. Stephens

One week ago today Mr. Stephens passed at the age of 91. He was…is…always will be…the father of Carol, my BFF since 1965. 91 years old. That is a long life, and it is easier to accept the passing of a loved one who has lived a long and fulfilling life. But I still mourn. And perhaps it is a selfish mourning. I miss being the child and being loved and cared for by not only my parents but also other elders in my life.

On Sunday, five days before he passed, I went to visit Carol and her family to celebrate Mrs. Stephens’ 90th birthday and to say goodbye to Mr. Stephens. I don’t believe at any time with all the days, nights, hours that I spent at that home did I ever go into her parents’ bedroom until that day.

In these 52 years, I have never seen him lying down asleep. But that Sunday I saw this 91-year-old man in his well-worn body laying in drug induced subdued pain. For the first time, I stood over him. For the first time when I spoke to him, he couldn’t respond to me. For the first time in 52 years, I gently kissed him on his forehead when I said my last good-bye.

On my drive home that day I reminisced about my past and how enjoyable it was because of the wonderful people that I had in my life.

As a young child, life was simple. I played outside. I rode my Schwinn banana seat bike without a helmet down the middle of the side streets. On rainy days I played board games and watched TV. I walked by myself to school. I ate whatever my mother fixed that day for dinner. I shopped for frivolous luxuries on my weekly $1.00 allowance.

In the 1960’s it was not unusual that my friends shared bedrooms with multiple siblings as it was common to have four to seven siblings per family.  There were even a few families in school that had twelve siblings. And many siblings had friends within the same families. My four brothers all had a close friend from Carol’s family also.

The majority of my friend’s mothers were housewives who devoted the majority of their time to managing a tribe of children and overseeing the maintenance of the home that was infested with their children and their children’s friends coming in and out of the doors continuously throughout the day.

But our childhood was enjoyable because our fathers, like Mr. Stephens, and many of the fathers of my childhood friends, provided for us and set an example before our generation of being hard-working individuals who grew up during the Great Depression.  They knew the struggles of poverty and knew it was possible to do better in life with hard work and determination. They knew how to make life better for their children and through all of this they taught by example to work diligently.

This past Monday Mr. Stephen’s wife, children, grandchildren and great children gathered along with extended family and friends to celebrate his life. His grandchildren shared how he impacted their lives with his patience and wisdom along with his willingness to teach, to help, and to love.

A portion of his obituary read:  “He was a 1943 graduate of Hammond Tech High School. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served on the USS Kingfish submarine during World War II in the Pacific Theater, as a Torpedoman Second Class. After the War, he served on the USS Atule submarine in the Arctic Ocean, finished his tour on the USS Toro, and was honorably discharged in 1947. Upon returning, he began working for local steel mills, and retired from Bethlehem Steel after over 40 years in the steel industry. He was an avid runner, running in the Chicago Marathon in 1979 at age 53. Ed also enjoyed fishing, camping, boating, water skiing, and traveling coast to coast with his wife and children to see other family and friends.”

Mr. Stephens was also a second father to many. I am so thankful for the kindness and patience he has always shown to me my entire life. He has impacted my life and taught by example. May I only do the same for my children and grandchildren as he has done for his.

What childhood memories do you have of your friend’s parents? Preserving the legacies of these important people will prevent them from ever being forgotten and future descendants will enjoy reading about your childhood.

Pull out your laptop and grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of someone who impacted your life as a child.

 

 

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My Annual Day of Thanks

2014-02-15

Clockwise:  Carol; Nancy 1 week after surgery; Nancy and Bruce 5 months after the surgery.

Today is my thirty-seventh anniversary of the day I almost met my Maker! It is my annual reminder of how precious life is and how important it is to put all that crosses my path in perspective.

It was Friday, February 15, 1980. I was leaving work with plans to meet my friend, Carol, for our weekly Friday night game of racquetball. After scraping the car windows of ice and snow, I sat in the driver’s seat, inserted the key and started the car.

In a split second I felt that familiar rush in my head. It was that frightening rush that I’d previously had four other times since I was thirteen. I held tightly onto the steering wheel and braced myself expecting to have another grand mal seizure. It never came. This time I became nauseous and it felt like my head was going to burst.

I turned off the car, walked back into the office and laid my head down on my desk. Again I waited to have the seizure, but it didn’t happen. Ken, my boss, had me come into his office and lay down on his couch after I explained to him I was feeling dizzy and nauseous.

Ken tried to contact my parents but was unable to reach them because they routinely went grocery shopping on Friday nights. And this was the pre-cell phone and pre-voicemail era so it was impossible to reach them. He eventually was able to contact my brother, Bruce, and told him that I seemed to have the flu and asked him to come to the office and take me home.

I don’t remember Bruce picking me up at work, however, I briefly remember sitting in his car in his driveway while he stopped to tell his wife that he was going to take me to the emergency room (“ER”) at a local hospital as he had determined that it was something other than the flu. By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was incoherent and eventually became comatose.

Thankfully in 1980 medical technology was advancing and the doctors were able to run a CT scan and an angiogram to detect a blood clot on my brain had hemorrhaged. The neurosurgeon diagnosed me with arteriovenous malformation (“AVM”) which is a congenital disorder of blood vessels with a tangled web of abnormal arteries and veins. We finally had an explanation for my previous seizures.

Carol, my friend that had been waiting for me at the racquetball court, was a nursing student and ironically was working the midnight shift in the ER that night. When she started her shift, she was given details about patients and was shocked when she learned I was the patient with the brain hemorrhage.

In the meantime, my parents were finally contacted and arrived at the hospital. Doctors advised them to notify close family members and friends as they gave me only four days to live. From the ER I was transferred to the intensive care unit (“ICU”) where family and friends came to see me. Miraculously, two days later I came out of my coma.

Living in Northwest Indiana we were, fortunately, only 35 miles from Chicago. The local neurosurgeon arranged for me to be transferred to a Chicago hospital that had an excellent neurosurgeon with surgical experience in repairing AVM’s. That surgeon was out of the country at the time so I stayed in the ICU for a week until he returned.

Once I was under the Chicago neurosurgeon’s care, I underwent more testing and preparation for the surgery. The day of the surgery I had absolutely no fear. The surgery was successful and recovery went well. I had minimal recovery time and after only one week I was sent home. From the point of near death to brain surgery to going home was a span of only three weeks.

Life is definitely a journey and mine has been interesting with some of the obstacles in the path, and I will forever be thankful to God for every extra day that I have been given. I am especially thankful that I have been blessed with my husband and three children and now their spouses.

In 1980 I was journaling as I found it important to record my journeys in life and recorded my experiences during this time and am able to read my reaction and emotions when I was twenty years old. Have you been Keeping Your Memories of your life journeys? If not, now is the time to begin. Grab your pen and paper or pull out your laptop and begin to answer these questions:

• Describe a time in your life when you had a serious complication.
• Describe an incident in your life that was your biggest challenge.
• Describe one moment in your life that changed everything for you.

www.keepingyourmemories.com

Happy Valentine’s Day

2017-02-14

Every Valentine’s Day I think of my father. He has been gone for ten years now, but I still remember the greeting cards that he gave to me every year on Valentine’s Day. Those cards are all glued into my old scrapbooks. I cherish those cards.

On this 10th anniversary of his passing, I felt a trace of his spirit with me. On my train ride home tonight from work I passed by a woman in a seat holding three red long stemmed roses wrapped in plastic wrap. Memories immediately filled my heart of my dad’s tradition of giving my mother the same three long stemmed roses. Exactly what I saw this woman holding.

My parents always said those three roses represented my mom, my dad and God. If there are red roses in heaven, I know Dad will be giving them to her. I love you Mom and Dad!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

I Write. He Paints. We Preserve History.

I write. My brother paints. We are both preserving history.

Since the early 1960’s our parents took us to the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana to play in the water and waves of Lake Michigan. We hiked the trails, explored the blow outs, climbed the sand dunes and conquered Mount Tom and Mount Baldy.

It was a place for us to roam freely with acres and acres of sand dunes vs our suburban neighborhood with houses built side-by-side.

On a cold day in 1967 while we explored the beach, my brother, Jacob, sat in the sand and made sketches of an abandoned cottage that still stood on the lakefront. He later created this painting. Shortly after, the cottage was demolished. All of the cottages that once stood are gone.

However, fifty years later the memory of this cottage remains as the picture hangs in my living room. And it preserves an era of cottages that were built one hundred years ago by owners who, like us today, relished their hours spent on this beautiful lakefront.

We don’t know the original owners or history of this specific cottage, but in the early 1900’s many folks from Chicago traveled to the Indiana side of Lake Michigan to enjoy a time of recreation at the Indiana Dunes.

It was so well-liked that eventually a group of Chicagoans incorporated the Prairie Club in 1911 and two years later built a beach house for members. Members would come to spend weekends and the summer and slept in tents.

Later in the 1910’s and 1920’s landowners began renting small parcels to these Chicago folks. Simple, inexpensive one story wooden cottages along the lakefront would be built on the rented parcels.

Alarmed by industrial sand mining destroying large areas of duneland and steel company land purchased, the Prairie Club members and others began a campaign to create a state park. The cause to preserve the Dunes began in 1916 and that campaign finally came to fruition in 1926 when the Dunes opened to the public as the Indiana Dunes State Park.

In 1966 with the drive of Illinois Senator Paul Douglas to save the dunes, the park was authorized as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. With perseverance from multiple groups the preservation of more land was granted.

The Indiana Dunes today stands at 15,000 acres. What I will remember of that extensive amount of land, because of my brother’s sketches and painting, is the small portion of land where a cottage was built and an unknown family or individual’s memories were made.

I have over fifty years of good memories made of experiences at the Indiana Dunes from my childhood and with my children and eventually with my grandchildren, and I have recorded my memories on paper.

Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the Indiana Dunes or of your nature preserves for your descendants to read.

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

 

 

 

Practice Makes P-E-R-F-E-C-T

2017-01-21

My mother passed away eight years ago yesterday and my favorite memory of her concentrated on her love of words and the game of Scrabble. She often challenged family members and loved to win.

She enjoyed playing Scrabble and kept an “official” Scrabble dictionary to settle word challenges. She loved to be competitive and would challenge both her adult children and grandchildren. She often played competitively with many two letter words that would rake in high points.

After she died I found well worn papers with coffee cup stains on them showing at some time she had perused a dictionary and copied two to three letter words that she could use which proves she actually studied to win.

That was one of Mom’s life lessons that she taught us by example… If you want to be good at something, you have to work hard behind the scenes to learn how to accomplish the goal and continually practice to make yourself better.

This memory and others of my mother have been written and recorded for my children and grandchildren to read after I am gone. If I hadn’t preserved the memories of my mother, she would have been forgotten.

Preserving the legacies of your parents will prevent them from ever being forgotten and future descendants will be able to read these life stories and understand their family heritage. Pull out your laptop and grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your parents starting with the following questions:

  • In what ways are you like your parent(s)?
  • What did you enjoy doing with your parent(s)?
  • What was your proudest moment of your parent(s)?
  • What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your parent(s)?
  • What is the one thing you most want people to remember about your parent(s)?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

My Grandfather…the Personal Historian

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My paternal grandfather was born 121 years ago on December 19, 1895 and died nine days short of 94 on December 10, 1989.

I never had a close relationship with him when I was a young child partly due to the hundreds of miles between us as he lived in San Antonio, Texas and I lived in Northwest Indiana. In the early 1980’s when I was in my early twenties, I began to visit him on my own. I’m so fortunate that I came to know him better because he opened up a door for me stirring my interest in my family lineage.

My grandfather introduced me to my ancestors and to my heritage. I became intrigued with his oral stories and family pictures he had of his family. He shared with me his journals that he kept. He showed me the paper with his father’s writing recording the day that grandfather was born. He also show me the genealogical notes that he had on his family. He was a personal historian himself.

I went home after that first visit and started recording my ancestors’ and immediate family’s dates and facts. I began to interview and record family stories. Little did I know it at that time, thanks to my grandfather, the personal historian in me was born.

In 1974 he wrote about his service in World War I: “I was in France, Company F. 360 Infantry 90 Division, American Expeditionary Force. It was Sunday, November 11th, 1918 and we were advancing under heavy fire from the enemy. We had orders to take ‘Metz at all costs. We already had taken St. Michiel where the French lost 40,000 men. In that fighting we lost some men including two lieutenants and my captain was wounded. Many of our men were wounded too.

At 11 a.m. on that cold, rainy day of November 11th the War came to an end. Week later we went to Luxembourg for a rest of two weeks. Then to Berncastle, Germany. Stayed in Germany almost one year. So 56 years have passed since. I was almost 23 years old. So today the 11th day of November, 1974 I give thanks to our Lord Jesus for all the blessings I have received all those years of my life.”

And I give thanks that my grandfather recorded his memories and lit the fire in me to continue his mission as the family historian.

It is said that after two generations family stories can be lost if not recorded. However, there will come the day when I have a grandchild or a grandniece or grandnephew come to me with questions about their heritage, and I will be able to tell them about their ancestors as far back as the early 1800’s because my grandfather shared it with me. And hopefully there will be one in that next generation that will become the next family historian.

What priceless story from your grandparents can you preserve? Now is the time to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of stories that your grandparents had shared with you. If your grandparents are still with you, take the time to record their memories.

www.keepingyourmemories.com

100 Years of Military Service

2016-11-10

For the past one hundred years I’ve had four generations of family members serving our country joining the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

At young ages along with fellow soldiers and sailors, they willingly traveled hundreds of miles from their families to serve in Europe, the Pacific and Middle East.

Today on Veteran’s Day, I wish to honor these family members.

At age 22 my grandfather served in the Army during World War I from 1918-1919 and served in Europe.

With World War II going at full strength, my father at age 17 quit high school in 1944 and enlisted in the Navy and traveled to far away countries in the Pacific.

In 1969 during the Viet Nam War my brother at age 20 received a draft notice soon after he was married. He elected to enlist in the Air Force and served from 1969 – 1973 stationed in Morocco, Alaska and Oklahoma.

A niece at age 19 enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1994. Another niece enlisted in the Air Force in 2004 at age 19 enlisted in the Air Force in 2004 during the Iraq War and stationed in Europe, Middle East, South Korea and currently remains in service in the states.

These family members have been an integral part of our U.S. history and it is important to record their stories and memories of the experiences they encountered overseas, how they adjusted emotionally being separated from loved ones and how they dealt with tragic circumstances.

It is essential for you to be interviewing and recording lifestories of family members who are veterans or current soldiers.  Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of them preserved for future generations honoring their service and showing they were valued.

  • Where did you serve?
  • What unit were you in?
  • What did you think of the equipment, food and conditions you lived under as a member of the military?
  • What were you trained to do?
  • Where were you when the war ended?

www.keepingyourmemories.com