Family

EARNING MY EULOGY

This posting is dedicated to JAMES JOSEPH BUJNO.

Although I never met Jim, (his sister, Sandy, is my friend), I learned some things about him as his friends and family paid tribute at his memorial service on Saturday, April 21st.

I looked at the photograph collages displayed at his service and it was clear that he was a man who was full of life. His smile was huge and his spirit, even larger; there was just no denying it. Picture after picture, he was surrounded by smiling friends and family. I suspect he was greatly responsible for those happy faces, as I couldn’t help but grin as I looked at them.

I learned that he was a really good man who loved life and having fun. He loved shooting pool, bowling, golfing, riding his motorcycle, dirt bikes, and hunting, boating, snowmobiling, and playing video games. He loved watching hockey and the Red Wings. Someone named the things he loved to do. I remember, it was like, everything. Wow, the guy knew how to live. He was a wonderful son, brother, father, and uncle, and he had A LOT of friends.

Every time one of them reminisced about him, they smiled. Even as their tears flowed . . .

What a testament to a man.

I sat, reflecting on the crowded room of tearful, smiling, grieving faces, and thought about the man who had brought them all together and how they honored him.

Anyone would be so lucky to be remembered that way . . . but not everyone would be so deserving of it. It is obvious that he was.

And so, this remarkable man whom I never met has inspired this week’s blog. He brought me to a place I needed to revisit.

This one’s for you, Jimmy Bujno, a man who lived life well.

EARNING MY EULOGY

I sat at a funeral recently and was profoundly touched at the sight of those in mourning. What honor they bestowed upon their loved one with their presence, words, and tears.

I’ve given many eulogies over the years. Too many times I’ve stood at the podium singing the praises of someone I had loved and lost. At times I wondered who would be left to sing for me. And when I looked around, it broke my heart; there was no one.

I had to take a close look at why. And then I needed to climb the steep steps to change. I needed to make some important adjustments in ME and the way I was behaving and living. And I had to learn to be a better friend. And I am learning; because I have some pretty amazing girlfriends who teach me by example every day.

Now, I’m pretty sure, there would be someone to say a kind word or two on my behalf after I’m gone.

A friend jokingly told me that she was working on the photo collage for her “someday funeral” NOW because she didn’t trust her sons to pick out her best, most flattering pictures. Although we mused over this, it got me to thinking.

NOW IS THE TIME to create the memories and live the experiences that are reflected in those wonderful photograph collages. And NOW IS THE TIME to become the person worthy of the eulogy that I would want spoken in my honor.

But I had to wonder, “How would I be remembered?”

Upon reflection, these are the words that I would want spoken:

“Julia was a kind and compassionate Christian woman who helped people and animals humbly and without expectation. Through her writing she shared her greatest weaknesses and joys in an effort to comfort, share, and show a new perspective. She was honest, brave, and passionate. She strived to be a better person, lived life to the fullest; made us laugh, and was well-loved. She was a good friend.”

Just as my friend gathers the pictures she hopes will be displayed at her own memorial service one day, I will strive to live my life NOW in a way that will earn me these words LATER.

We determine how we are to be remembered.

Tell me, what do you want your eulogy to say?

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Categories: Family, Friends, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation | 26 Comments

PLEASE, MISTER, CAN YOU SPARE SOME CHANGE?

My sister, Teri, was the eldest of six kids. She was popular, pretty, and had long, black hair that she used to iron on an ironing board to straighten, or sometimes she wrapped it around orange juice cans atop her head to achieve a perfect wave. She was beautiful, bold, and brave, and gosh, I loved her.

At the age of 17, rebellious and troubled, she hopped in her car and began her journey in search of herself and her place in the world. But after many years of wandering, some failed marriages, and an untreated mental illness, she ended up living in a drafty wooden shack, on a tiny patch of dirt, in an obscure little Texas town.

She forever struggled as a recovering alcoholic and was once a homeless panhandler. She was outside of the store begging for money the last time you went shopping; with dirty clothes, tangled hair, and a chipped, grey smile, she humbly asked you for spare change. That was my sister you turned your face from.

Most would judge her as a weak person. I do not.

She was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. Because of many failures and misfortunes, she fell down often. But she would get up again . . . over and over and over. She just kept getting up. Imagine the kind of energy and tenacity that takes.

Teri passed away in 2006 of lung cancer. She was 52 years old and 34 days sober.

We are not all born equally into this world; some arrive with the odds already stacked against them; others are given no survival tools, or are beaten down by cruelty or bad luck.

So please, when you see a homeless person or someone asking for food or money, instead of judging and turning away, remember that they are someone’s child. And be kind. Be giving. Act like God is watching you.

Because HE is.

Categories: Addiction, Family, God/Spiritual, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Love, Mental Health | 15 Comments

GIRL, INTERRUPTED

“Julie, wait. You need to adjust your pants. You’ve got to look natural or you’re so busted. Now strap this to your waist and pull the top down over it. There, how do you feel?” Mary asks.

“How do you think I feel?” I ask sarcastically. “I mean it! I’m not even kidding! I know I said I’d do this and I’ll do it, but I’m really not in the mood.”

Mary smiles faintly and is about to speak, but changes her mind.

“Yeah, yeah”, I continue complaining, “I see that smile; you’re so funny. I mean it; just give me the damn bag already.”

I step outside and my eyes squint as the bright noon sun pierces them. I feel every one of the day’s 87 degrees as the sweat trickles down my back and underneath my arms. This is my first time and I’m hot, and cranky, and unprepared.

I jog slowly down the sidewalk and around the corner.

“I just need to get there and get this over with.” I grumble.

Upon arrival, I walk to the back of the small house and open the chain link fence. My heart races as I sprint into the backyard, grinding my alto voice and roaring from deep within.

“MMM!” I bellow, “Me want cookies! Big Bird sent me! He says someone has birthday today! Me want cookies!”

Within seconds, four year old children swarm towards me like happy, squealing, little honey bees.

“Hey! It’s Cookie Monster! Cookie Monster’s here! Yay!”

Some wrap themselves around my legs while others hang off of my arms like big Christmas tree ornaments. Within minutes I’m flat on my back in the grass, laughing and flailing wildly.

I pass out coloring books from my white bag and the helium balloons that I’ve been holding in my oversized, furry, blue hands.

My sister, Chris, walks by and I grab her butt.

“MMM, Momma! Nice cookies!” I shout.

She yells and slaps at me, and parents screech with childish delight.

Soon the kids line up to say goodbye. My niece, the birthday girl, a petite, precious little thing, hugs me firmly and looks up into my big googly eyes.

“I have your picture on my wall” she says earnestly in her sweet, tiny voice, “I love you Cookie Monster!

I tear up, swallow the lump in my throat, and take a breath.

“MMM! Cookie Monster loves you too! Me thinks you yummy like little cookie! Yum! Yum! Yum!” I say and hug her back.

Then off I go, trotting down the sidewalk back towards Mary’s.

As I make my way, a passing car slows and a little girl hangs out of its window shouting, “Hi Cookie Monster!”

I wave my big blue hand, do a little dance, and continue on.

Moments later, a woman comes from her home with her son and a camera and asks if she can take a picture. I am happy to oblige.

I arrive at Mary’s and change back into my civilian clothes.

Now, I head back to the party . . . . once again.

“Aunt Julie! Aunt Julie!” My niece yells with excitement as I enter the backyard, “Cookie Monster was here!”

“Oh right; sure,” I say hoarsely and brush right past her, “like Cookie Monster would really come here; you’re so funny.”

“Really! Really!” She shouts.

I wipe the sweat from my face with the back of my hand, gently push past the children, and plop into a lawn chair. I am overheated and exhausted.

I glance over at my sister. She smiles.

I smile back.

And wink.

It’s been a good day.

Categories: Adventures, Family, Holidays/Birthdays, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , | 27 Comments

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