Tag Archives: death

The Certainty of Uncertainty

As much as we might like to think we know what the future holds, we really do not. Anything can happen to keep us on our chosen path or derail us. We need to be prepared for uncertainty as much as we can be. Of course, we cannot cover every possibility. A town less than an hour from where I live was struck with torrential rains and gale force winds. When the storm was over, homes were flooded and damaged. This came as a great surprise. The news showed the residents coming together to help out with assistance coming from other areas as well. We just don’t know what might happen tomorrow.

Each time I drive by a serious accident on my way to work, I hope that there were no fatalities. There are times I am surprised that the driver lived. Even though I don’t know the driver of a fatal accident, I cannot help but think of the profound affect that this accident had on the family. The sudden death of a family member leaves the family confused, angry and anxious for the future. It is never hard to face the loss of a family member.

Other losses, such as a loss of a job or career, can cause just as much anxiety. Even when we get news about a severe or terminal medical condition is a loss. Again, we never know what might happen. But one thing we can do is live in the moment. Knowing that we are in someone’s heart, their thoughts, and prayers can be comforting. It is important that we look inside ourselves for strength. It is also important that we look to others for support. I certainly hope that you have those persons or organizations to give you support when you might need it. If you are a religious person, seek out God. Your faith can be your comfort, even if you have to be angry and shout at God at first because you just can’t understand why. It’s okay, God has very large shoulders.

Whatever might come your way, I wish for you speedy healing. If it is a door that closes, remember that every exit door is an entrance to somewhere else. We cannot know what will happen tomorrow. We need to plan for the unknown, but live in the present. It is paying attention to the now that builds the bridges to tomorrow. We might not know what is around the bend in the path, but what we do can determine the road.

Peace be with you.

The Dash Song

   I was shown a video called “The Dash.” It was wonderful. It said all the things that I wish to espouse to the world. While looking for it on youtube, I found the poem set to music. I hope that you like it.

The Dash – by Linda Ellis – Author, Speaker and Poet

The Dash Song is sung by Kirk Dearman


A Walk in a Cemetery

Before I moved to Holley, NY, I walked my dog in open fields that lay near my home. I do not have such fields available to me in Holley but there is a forest behind a nearby cemetery. I actually find it quite interesting to walk amongst the headstones on the way to the forest floor. The cemetery has been around quite a long time with stones declaring dates into the early 1800s.

The information provided by the headstones varies widely, with some just holding a name and age. Other stones list family members and the departed’s relationship to others. Very few of the stones mention occupation except that there is a section dedicated to those who have fallen in battle. I am not surprised that the most important aspect of a persons life is their relationship to others.

I read some of the headstones and think: what were they like; what did they do; who’s life did they touch. The stones report ages from a few days to nearly a hundred years. Death is indiscriminate. Death is no respecter of lineage, wealth or position. Scanning the headstones, I am reminded that life is so precious. Every one of those stones represent one or more persons. Each of those persons lived a life, no matter how short or long, that touched others. Their life is contained in the dash between the dates. However, the stones that record the death of a child make me wonder why they had died. Was a simple childhood disease that is now cured by simple vaccinations responsible for their early demise? Was it an accident that ended their short, sweet life?

Regardless of the age stated on the stone, I view their lives on this earth as short ones. I myself have been alive for more than five decades, and they passed so quickly. In the older part of the graveyard, the residents have been lying there much longer than they were ever alive. Some have been in the cemetery so long that the carvings in the soapstone wore away.

I like reading the older names: Hattie, Cedric, Lucretia, Judson, and Louisa come to mind. I also remember seeing Prudence and my all time favorite thus far; Silence.

We are here but a short time. Our names and dates may be etched in stone for centuries to come, or maybe not. It is the life we live, the lives we touch, the people we love that is important, now and tomorrow.

Each day is precious. We cannot reclaim the past. Once it has gone by, we cannot go back. We need to make each day count. Live life well. Let those you love know that you love them. Impact the world by your interactions with each individual. Change the world one person at a time.

The cemetery is a quiet place where stories remain untold. I will walk my dog through the grounds to the forest behind. I am sure the residents do not mind. I hope that this finds you well. I hope that you are fit and healthy. I hope that you will make that dash mean something. Take care.


A Glimpse of a Butterfly

   In this garden we call earth, we get to view beauty and splendor: the greenery of vegetation; the soft petals of flowers; the tapestry of a sunset sky; the patterned randomness of the clouds; the awe of the butterfly. Sometimes we get just a glimpse, sometimes a long look at a butterfly, which chances to come into our view. We behold the wonderment and beauty of its patterns and colors. We look in amazement to how delicate the wings are but yet strong enough to flutter the butterfly away. Then, without warning, the butterfly takes flight and leaves our view. We close our eyes and try to capture the image in our mind’s eye. We attempt to catalog the beauty into that space where we keep precious memories.

   This is how I feel about the funeral viewing of someone you love. It is your last chance to glimpse the beauty and wonderment of the body that represented someone’s life. I wrote and said the following prayer for the children of my Butterfly. I hope that it brought them comfort. I hope that it will bring comfort to you as well.

Viewing Prayer, Laura A. VerDow Santelli, 10/06/1957 – 2/20/2010

LORD*, we come to You now through Your Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

  Before us is the body of Your loving daughter, Laura, my Butterfly, Mom – now and always to these beloved children.  Her body is here for us to mourn, but we know that her soul is alive and dwelling with You.  We are comforted to know that she is no longer suffering, that she is at peace and present in Your Glory.

LORD, I raise these children, Jenn & Chris, up to You.  Comfort them through their grief.  Like others, they will miss their mother dearly.  Their mother was such a large part of their lives.  Help them care for each other and see each other through their life struggles.  Watch over them.  Protect them.  Fill their hearts with the knowledge of Your love and that of their mother.  Let them know the kind of love that never fades.

The apostles asked Jesus when He would return.  He said, “In a little while.” That was over 2,000 years ago.  In that light, we are here but a brief time.  So, Mom, your wait will be short.  Soon, we will be with your loving heart once again.

Thank you, LORD, for blessing these children with such a loving mother.  Thank You for placing her in my life.  Take care of her and love her.  We love her and miss her.  Have mercy on us and keep us strong.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, we pray these things.


 *The original prayer used Jehovah, one of the many names of God.


My Butterfly Became An Angel

   My best friend passed away in her sleep during the early hours of February 20, 2010. It is not often that a person impacts your life in such a short time. I met her in October 2008. Just 16 months later, she was gone. I was attracted by her kindness and her loving heart. She was seeking the kind of love that was spiritually based. She wasn’t sure that kind of love was even possible. She appreciated all that I did which made it easier to do even more.

   We had a “safe” relationship. We could share anything with each other. She felt comfortable enough to cry in my arms and that she did often. She cried not because she was weak but as an outlet from being overwhelmed while being so strong.

   Butterfly’s children were her life. Their care and comfort were always her first concern. In the short time we had together, she learned that she could take time for herself as well. She did not get out as much as she had liked before meeting me. I made it a point to visit museums with her which always seemed to fascinate her. I even indulged her love for casinos with limits as to how much she could lose.

   Butterfly felt compelled to end our romantic relationship when she was spending time in and out of the hospital. She wanted me to move on so that I would not be tied down by her illness. I balked and argued but she stubbornly insisted. I finally agreed but could not be drawn away from such a loving heart. I kept in close contact with her by phone, texting and weekly visits.

   We continued to feel comfortable with each other. I was honored and privileged to be her emotional outlet. The most profound lesson I’ve ever learned was revealed to me when I cared for my father in the last 19 weeks of his life. You don’t help people die, you help them to live until they can’t live anymore. This was not my goal with my Butterfly as I did not realize her time with me would be so short. But this too has been a lesson. I will now help everyone live until they can’t live anymore as we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I do hope I brought joy to her life. I know that she brought joy to mine.

   I promised her that I would show her what God’s love looked like; that agape love IS possible. I hope that I had enough time to keep that promise.

   To my Butterfly,

   Although your body is here on the ground, I know your soul was heavenbound. I know you’re there in God’s loving care, no longer suffering, but at rest. We will see you soon, when we depart. We will soon again feel your loving heart. I love you deeply. I love you true. We all love you and we all miss you. You are my Butterfly and you always will be. But now you are an Angel; your soul is free. Butterfly, I love you and I always will.

   The Dash!

   There is no fiction in the words above. My Butterfly was known to the world as Laura A. (VerDow) Santelli. She was born, raised and passed away in Newark, NY. Her life spanned from 1957 – 2010. She was 52 when she passed. Hey did you see it? Did you see that dash? That dash represents a persons life. This is how Laura touched my life. This is what her dash means to me.

   If there was a special person in your life, please leave a comment about how they touched your life and what his or her “dash” means to you.

   Take care, stay well and be safe. Love to everyone. – Justin


Lessons from Death – Conclusion?

If you missed Part One you can find it here Lessons from Death – Part One

   Unlike my mother’s sudden departure where I had difficulty accepting her death, I had let go of my father.  I was at peace with his passing.  I do miss him of course.  I also miss my mother.

   Some families truly come together during funerals.  There is an urge to reconnect to family in the view of the loss.  It represents changes in relationships and family dynamics.  Funerals can remind us of our own inevitable fate and the preciousness of those left alive.  For most of us, the death of someone close causes us to reflect on their lives as well as our own.  Our minds sort through the memories and amplify the attached emotions.  We remember the good in them.  The recollections give us comfort.  Missing my parents is a reminder of how much they meant to me. 

   Life is precious and fragile.  Life can begin and end in moments.  Death is not just for the aged.  Accidents, violence, and disease can take us from the world at any age.  Life IS a precious thing.  Those we love are precious, precious enough to warrant our time and presence.  The little things that really don’t matter fill our lives until we are too busy for anyone, including ourselves.  Watching life slowly losing its grip on my father made many things seem very unimportant.  This is a lesson I am still learning.  It takes practice.  It takes time.  Each of us is allotted just 24 hours each day.  Decide who and what are important and then pay attention.

   I watched my father seek moments that were filled with life, while his own was slipping away.  Add to the lives of those you care about.  Take time to let people know you care.  Life is to be shared; live it.  Life is finite; share it now.  Life is precious; appreciate it.  What is most important is that we live life so that we are fulfilled so that we can help others live until they just can’t live anymore.

   Take care, stay well, and be safe.


Lessons from Death – Part Five

If you missed Part One you can find it here Lessons from Death – Part One

   The older of my sisters (they are both younger than me) drove to Upstate NY to be with her father. My younger sister refused to come, her pain and anger kept her from her father’s side.

   On my father’s last day among us, he seemed to perk up just a bit. He held my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “Don’t worry, Harry, I’m going to be all right.” I was so relieved. He made it through another storm. He laid back and smiled. He died just a few hours later in my arms.

   Just minutes before his death, my sister had gone to my home to rest from her long trip. After saying “I love you, Dad; I’ll miss you,” into his ear as he passed. I felt his body collapse. I thought about my older sister. I ran to the lobby and frantically called her on my cell phone. I was so afraid she would be upset. I was wrong. She WAS upset that he passed but not upset that she wasn’t there. She told me that Dad knew she wouldn’t want to watch him die so he waited until she left. I am not sure if that was true but I accepted it as so.

   The nurses did some quick paperwork. They called a grief counselor for me. We hugged and cried. I went to the hospital chapel, still in tears, and prayed. God answered, “Don’t worry, Harry, he’s going to be all right.” I let go of my selfish desire to keep my father here on earth and gladly gave him over to my God. I hope God puts him in a garden. He was always happy in a garden.

Follow this link to Lessons from Death – Conclusion?


Lessons from Death – Part One

Even from the time I was young, I have been familiar with death. My father was a tenant farmer and a factory worker. His factory work left many of the farm chores to my siblings and me. I had an opportunity to see the cycle of life repeatedly. I understood that death was natural. We raised animals for market and for food. The striving for survival is an incredible urge. When a sow gives birth, we marketed the piglets after a short while, which caused the sow to stress and urge her to gestate.

Unlike what I learned to feel about farm animals, the loss of a loved one is an incredibly emotional event. We read about people dying everyday and if we have no close attachment, it affects us differently. My mother passed away in 1994. She suffered a very sudden death, like the kind that everyone wishes to experience.

I had a difficult time accepting that she was gone. It didn’t become real to me until the funeral. I finally allowed my emotions to surface and I sobbed at the loss. I was taught that boys don’t cry, that displaying emotion is a sign of weakness. I cannot agree. Being afraid to show emotion comes from a place of fear and shame. Acknowledging your feelings is reflective and comes from a place of strength and acceptance. If you don’t acknowledge such strong emotions then they will manifest in other ways, usually in negative ways or in ways that make it difficult to move forward.

Accepting my mother’s death allowed me to see life as more precious and finite. The idea of mortality is one we don’t want to entertain, especially our own. Youth is reckless as they envision themselves immortal creatures. They really don’t understand that they can die. Dying is something that others do.

Take care, stay well and be safe

Follow this link to Lessons from Death – Part Two