Tag Archives: very personal

Leaving it up to God

My last two weeks have been very eventful. Things seem to be going in every direction and leaves my mind to wandering. A few weeks ago, we were looking for something to watch on Netflix streaming. We chose “Up in the Air”, a movie about a hatchet man starring George Clooney (which I think was the main driver in Theresa picking this movie). Little did I know that I would soon be experiencing the same type of situation last week. When I got the email to attend a meeting and viewed the other participants, I just knew it was a termination committee. Of course, this layoff was not based on my performance but on reorganizing the structure of the company. I basically took the role of the poor soul receiving George Clooney’s character’s straight forward pronouncement.  I felt bad for the others that received the same email that day as well. It was a very sobering day for all of us.

That was the Wednesday before last and the day before my vacation was to start. I looked forward to the time off to be able to assemble my thoughts and decide on my options. On Friday, we drove from upstate NY to Durham, NC so that we could attend an Eagle Scout Awards ceremony. Although I have never been involved in Scouting, I nevertheless understand that it took a great amount of effort and dedication to achieve such an award. It was a very happy moment and a wonderful distraction.  Upon returning from NC, I applied for five open positions within my company both locally and at other locations, deciding that relocation was a viable option. I am quite hopeful for re-employment. Even if I am not successful, I know that I had, at least, tried.

I suppose that I would consider myself an optimistic-realist. I learned a long time ago that I control very little in my world other than my own reactions to it. Because I know that I don’t or can’t control the world, I have very little in the way of expectations. I do hope that things go well but I know that as long as I do my very level best and leave the rest up to God, I can be proud of the man I see in the mirror, regardless of the outcome.

I know people who like to “control” everything, some intimately. I have always noticed that they are frequently frustrated, worried and upset because the rest of the world is not following the “script” that they have so graciously supplied. I was one of those people, maybe it was my nature, maybe it was because I became the “man of the house” at a very young age, maybe because I was just simply immature. I think the Army changed my mind. In the Army, I wasn’t my own person anymore, I was United States government property. I was told when to sleep, when to wake up, when to eat, when to use the toilet, when to stand still and when to march. As terrible as that may sound to a fiercely independent person, it is there that I did much maturing. I could either deal with it or fail miserably.

I am not in control of what happened to me in the last two weeks. I am in control of how I handle it. I discussed the possibility of long-term unemployment with my family. I got out my unemployment plan. Everyone should have an unemployment plan, even if you are currently employed, not just for unemployment but for long-term disability as well. Basically, what would I do if I became unemployed today and could no longer bring in an income? It is actually best to do this while you are employed because you will have more clarity of thought and emotions are quiet.

I saw an interesting sign on a church marquee, “Faith gives you the ability not to panic.” I like that. I will wait for the eventual outcome of this, knowing that I have reacted rationally and with the best intentions. I know I am not in control. I know that I and all people have free will. I am subject to the consequences of my decisions and am subject to the decisions of others.

God will open doors for me. I have to pay attention and not only look for those open doors but have the faith and courage to walk through them. I have tried my very level best and will continue to do so. I will leave the rest of it up to God. If you are also looking for work, look for the doors that are open to you. Humble yourself to walk through doors that may lead to opportunities never before imagined.

Take care, stay well and be safe.

P.S. When I went to YouTube to see if I could find an appropriate video, God took me directly to this one by Tracy Lawrence called “Up To Him”. I listened to it twice and I cried. It so much speaks to what I am going through right now and how I feel about it. God is truly amazing. The sentiment in the song as to working as if it is all up to me and pray as if it is all up to Him is what started my tears. I believe this song speaks to many of us. Enjoy the video.


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


Relationships and Intimacy

   Valentine’s Day is here and thoughts of romance are in the air. Some relish in their romantic relationships, others are in anguish because they wish for romance. These types of holidays are always bittersweet. I draw your attention to intimacy, romantic or not, and the incredible love that is found there. Like other holidays, Valetine’s Day should be an everyday affair.

   Love is simple, relationships are very difficult. There are so many different kinds of connections that create relationships, not just romantic or physical. This is a list of possible connections that create various relationships with others;

   Social = friends, acquaintances, co-workers

   Family = relatives both close and not so close

   Spiritual = religious, beliefs

   Caregiving = all aspects

   Professional = client, service worker, customer, supervisor

   Sensual = significant other, life partner, sexual

   Greater/Lesser = Teacher/Student, Supervisor/Employee, Parent/Child

       You can connect to others in one or more of these ways. The relationship that you have depends on what connected you in the first place as well as where the relationship may grow or change. Relationships are fluid. They can and do change. Just because a relationship changes, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t remain precious. I still love and care about the women I have known in my life. My wife of 20 years was a wonderful woman. I suppose that there were needs that I could not fulfill and that my wife could not have filled otherwise within our marriage. Our relationship ended badly but it doesn’t erase the many, many years of love, wonder and beauty that we had. I will always be grateful for that time and for her. Other relationships had their own uniqueness and their own treasures and tortures. I will hold on to the beautiful memories and lessons from them as well. I have made friends, lost friends, connected and disconnected with relatives. Relationships are in constant flux. We must accept them as so.

   When someone says “relationship” though, we usually think of a romantic connection, which certainly is possible. In regards to a romantic connection, it can vary in intensity depending on the level of intimacy. Intimacy is a connection that is very deep, very complete and very safe. If you can speak your heart to someone without fear, then you are experiencing intimacy.

   You can share intimacy without sex. You can share sex without intimacy. Sex and intimacy can be enjoyed together.

    Intimacy is not just between lovers. It can exist between any two individuals who allow themselves to be a safe haven for each other. If a romantic relationship also involves intense intimacy, then that relationship is indeed strong. There are different types of intimacy. You can experience one or more of these types. The more ways you experience intimacy with a particular person, the deeper your love and connection can reach.

    Intimacy can be obtained on these levels: emotional, intellectual, sexual, spiritual, and physical. Intimacy means real connection. Intimacy means trust. Intimacy means giving yourself completely to someone because you know they have only your best interest at heart. Intimacy means not expecting perfection but expecting sincere effort and granting forgiveness. Intimacy means the risk of exposing your very soul. Intimacy is an incredible form of love, romantic or not.

  You can share intimacy without sex. You can share sex without intimacy. Sex and intimacy can be enjoyed together.

   Some think sex and intimacy are the same. Mostly men think this. I can say this as I am a man. Intimacy is a skill. It must be learned. It must be experienced. It must be practiced. It comes easier to women, I think, because they are taught to nurture and to be caring, and are probably naturally inclined that way. Boys may be too, but I was taught that boys don’t cry, they don’t show emotion as that denotes weakness, which I have since unlearned. So ladies, be gentle with us. We need to be taught that intimacy is possible and that it is different from sex.

   You can share intimacy without sex. You can share sex without intimacy. Sex and intimacy can be enjoyed together.

    You can have an intimate relationship with people who you have no desire to have sex with. You can have an intimate relationship with a friend, a relative, a mentor, or anyone else you have trust and respect for. Most importantly, you can have an intimate relationship with God. God certainly loves you. God wants what is best for you. God is a safe haven for everyone. Find intimacy with God and you can share yourself easier with others.

   Emotional intimacy allows you to cry, to laugh, to scream, to be still and allow yourself to be loved. Intellectual intimacy allows you to share ideas, dreams and thoughts without fear of ridicule or rejection. Sexual intimacy allows you to give your body and to share theirs for the glory of sensations that our minds and body crave. Spiritual intimacy allows us to solidify our faith in others, in ourselves, and in God. Physical intimacy is a handshake, a warm hug, a kiss, the holding of hands, a shoulder massage, an abandonment of personal space that welcomes the touch and closeness of another. Guys, this is called “cuddling” – a powerful way to show your love.

   During this time of Valentine, don’t just concentrate on romance, but think about all the different kinds of relationships that you have. Think about the level of intimacy that you have with different people. Let those lucky enough to have intimacy in your relationship know how much you love and appreciate them. Love is a tremendous gift and a powerful force. And never forget, grow your intimacy with God.

   God bless you. Take care, stay well and be safe.


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 Four

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

   Just before my father’s final ambulance ride, I woke up and made my way to the kitchen as I did every morning. I was startled to find my father, folded against his bed face down. I immediately went to him, dropping to my knees. I shook him. He responded with a weak moan. I thanked God he was alive. How long had he been like that? Minutes? Hours? I had no idea. I called 9-1-1. They asked how long he had been down. I could only answer that I didn’t know.

   Within a few hours, my father was alert. By that time, he was getting IV fluids and a blood transfusion. He kept asking me what had happened. I had no answers for him. He could not recollect anything that had happened. As far as he knew, he just woke up in the hospital.

   He was admitted to the hospital for observation. This began his final week among us. My father actually seemed to be doing well. Phew! We thought, another crisis over. It seemed as though we had just breathed a sigh of relief when my father developed a high fever. The doctors and nurses worked hard to control his raging infection. His immune system had already been compromised. He just couldn’t fight it.

   A health proxy, completed much earlier, stated his wishes against feeding tubes and artificial ventilation in favor of a natural passing. A “do not resuscitate” order was already in place. I tell you this because he refused to eat. I agonized between letting him refuse nutrition or forcing him to eat. I tried to feed him fortified pudding but he begged me to stop. I felt helpless. He told me, “Harry, I just can’t do this anymore.” Now, I really felt helpless.

   His doctor held a conference with my girlfriend, my sons, and me. He explained that all they were doing was not affecting the outcome. I made the very difficult decision to honor my father’s wishes and allow him a natural death. He would be made as comfortable as possible until the end. I was letting him go. I desired to and hated to. The anguish of it all stunned me. I would learn later that my youngest sister considered my decision “the killing of her father.” She no longer talks to me.

   The next contribution to this series describes the final letting go and my initial misunderstanding of my father’s last words to me.

Follow this link to Lessons from Death – Part Five


Lessons from Death – Part Three

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

   The sudden request from my father to move in with us caught me off guard. He was to be released from the rehabilitation center two days after he asked to live with me. My sister packed some of his things. She put together his finances so that I could take those with me. He had only been to Upstate NY once before. He always thought it was too far to drive. Somehow, it was much closer for me to drive to Maryland with my car packed with luggage, wife, and kids. In his mind, I’m sure I did live closer to him than he did to me.

   He enjoyed the trip. I believe he saw it as a new adventure. He seemed more energetic and excited as we drew near to our destination. After an eight-hour ride, we arrived at my home, a home my father had never seen before. He seemed pleased with his new surroundings. The very next day he was planning to turn my back yard into a garden. I had to explain to him that the park that I live in had certain restrictions concerning gardens. I told him that I would think of something.

   My father loved western shows and movies. Luckily, our cable company had a channel dedicated to such a genre. The livingroom TV was set to that station for him. He never did get the hang of the remote. I went to the library and signed out large print books for him to read. I spent most of my time that week preparing our livingroom to be a proper place for my father to stay. He had much more energy than I had expected. His spirits were greatly lifted. He begged to help with the cooking. I was very pleased to witness what I thought was a recovery. I assembled a team of doctors for his care.

   A newsletter was designed and published so that it could be sent to his friends (they weren’t all dead afterall) and family so everyone could be informed as to his progress. A new edition of the newsletter went out every two or three weeks. I purchased an amplified phone so that loved ones could call. He was very hard of hearing and did not have much luck with those “fangled” hearing aids.

   He did surprisingly well until Spring, his favorite time of year. That is when the planting begins. He had supported himself with a cane, but the cane no longer proved sufficient. We borrowed a wheelchair for him. He was so disappointed. He wanted to be in the garden, any garden. My neighbor told me about square foot gardening as an alternative. It was a great idea. Then God improved on the idea – He inspired me to think garden tables! Take the square foot garden idea and elevate it to a level that would accept a wheelchair. My father was so happy. He brightened up again. He was just like a child with a brand new toy.

   He didn’t see much of the harvest from those tables. He grew ever tired and more ill shortly after working on the garden tables. I realize now that his excitement and energy was much like a bulb that burns ever brighter before going dim. His illness finally caught up with him. Soon he would have his last ride in an ambulance.

   Doing all this for my Dad was a wonderful task and a loving struggle. The most profound lesson I learned from this is that you don’t help people die, you help them live until they just can’t live any more.

   The next contribution will explore his last days and the incredible preciousness of life and letting go. Until next time, take care, stay well and be safe.

Follow this link to Lessons from Death – Part Four


Lessons from Death – Part Two

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

My father always checked the obituary page in the paper first.  He said it was to make sure that he wasn’t listed.  For the longest while, he would attend many of the funerals of people or families that he knew.  It probably isn’t true, but it seemed as though my father knew most of the families in the county.  If he didn’t attend the funeral, then sometimes he would stop and deliver his condolences to the family home in person.

   My father’s “funeral” ministry ended when my mother died.  He stopped going to funerals.  He said that funerals were too painful, that it reminded him too much of losing my mother.  I would have thought that it would have made consoling others even more meaningful but I suppose that the pain was too great.  The only funeral that he attended after my mother’s death, at least that I’m aware of, was that of his own mother.

   My father suffered from multiple cancers for over five years.  He lived with my sister, who worked a lot of overtime hours.  Early on, my father remained quite independent, but as his illness progressed, his geographic world began to shrink.  I had asked him to come live with my family and me.  He turned down this invitation time and time again, stating that his friends lived in Maryland.  He spent most of his life in Cecil County, Maryland.  I live in Upstate New York.

   In late 2005, my father’s cancer tightened its grip on his life.  He was in and out of hospital and rehabilitation.  Chemotherapy and blood transfusion became more regular.  He participated in a drug study that, I believe, extended his life.

   In January 2006, my father, exhausted from his long fight, asked if he could live with me – to spend his last days with me.  This was an incredibly emotional request for me to consider.  Of course, I blurted out “Yes” right away.

  I asked, “What about your friends?”

  “They are all dead,” my father replied.  I knew that was not true, but I did not protest his answer.

   This was the last leg of my father’s journey and an incredible path that was an honor and a great privilege for me to travel.

   To be continued…

Follow this link to Lessons from Death – Part Three


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