Christmas Continued…

For those of you who know me, or have begun reading, you know that this year my Christmas season is marked by navigating a grief journey of a new kind. For the last number of weeks, I kind of just wanted Christmas to be over.

I will be honest, I am glad that today is over. It wasn’t awful. There were many spaces where people were very kind and invited us in. I enjoyed Church with my Mom, Aunt, Sister and brother in law and two nephews and my niece. We were invited in for a Christmas brunch and enjoyed the kindness of dear friends. We went to a movie, had lasagna soup and did some puzzling. There is really nothing to say about it being a bad day, but it was a hard day. A day I am glad is over this year.

But as I am about to call it a day, I smiled because I read something that led me to title this blog Christmas continued. When I read this tonight, I can say, I am ready to wake up tomorrow and continue with Christmas.

Will you join me in living out Christmas all year long?

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Traditions…

There is something so comforting to the traditions that have always been. We have enjoyed certain traditions over many years at Christmas and our traditions have in some way set our rhythm, routine and expectations for when we all gather.

I have learned that in the midst of grief, traditions don’t feel as simple as years past. There is a sense of comfort but there is also almost a greater sense of disruption. This year, we opted to hang onto some and let some go.

Change is hard and as we are coming off from our family Christmas weekend, I am so grateful for a family bunch that is willing to try new things.

We did not have Christmas at Papa and Beppe’s house this year. (yes, we agreed we can all still call it Papa and Beppe’s house though). We packed up a whole bunch of stuff and went to a cottage all together on Lake Michigan from Friday midday to Sunday midday.

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All the kids who enjoy being together and bring us such kindness and joy!

We didn’t have a tree there and we gave up our long-time tradition of clues when gift giving. We changed some things up and we kept some things the same. None of the changes removed the reality that my Dad wasn’t there and yet some of the changes eased the depth of our grief. It was good to be able to identify what we would hang onto and what we would let go of.

We did keep our tradition of presenting your gift with a poem. I will share more of this over time, but tonight I leave you with the amazing poem written and presented with my beautiful gift.

Trixie Lynn, my sister dear,
what can I say, it’s been a hard year

We’ve suffered some pain we didn’t expect
We’ve lost some things we would’ve rather kept.

One version of the story we’re living
could be full of self-pity and void of thanksgiving.

After all, we are sad and our grief is so new
And the days without tender spots are rare and are few

But that’s not the only true version to tell
For as we look back there are sweet spots as well.

As one of your nephews taught us (not one of the Boses)
There are precious things we can gain from our losses.

As we’ve learned before from our acquaintance with grief
Some bonds grow stronger and bring sweet relief

As we stood on the patio that warm May morn
And toasted to Dad, led by Mom’s second born

Toast to Papa
Following the Committal Service, we did a toast to a Husband, Father, Papa, Brother, and Friend who will be deeply missed!

We felt such a mixture of sadness and grace
For the goodness that continues to grow in hard space

For the gift of the Dad, we miss because he was good
And knowing that many would choose one like him if they could.

So this Christmas let’s choose joy for all that is right and true
And on my list of gratitude, way up on top, my sweet sister is you.
Written by Suzi Bos (December 2018)

And the gift was a beautiful wall hanging of the toast that my brother Nick offered on the patio after a very meaningful committal service.

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The toast Nick offered on the day we laid my Dad to rest.

 

 

Sunday night six years ago…

Dear Len,

How I remember the afternoon, you were driving the many hours from finishing your job out of state and heading home for Christmas. We talked four times that Sunday afternoon. We talked about your gift for Dan and how you were writing your poem. You said you had the best poem ever and you would just need to remember it long enough to get home and write it down.

And then I went to work out at the Kroc, and we said we would talk soon and that was the last time we spoke. Six years ago tonight we got the call that shattered our hearts and drew us all closer.

RK Big familyWe have missed your presence in significant ways and in small ways. From your sense of adventure on vacations to your curiosity and compassion when you would call and say “what’s up?” I love to remember how you loved Marcia and the kids. The stories that you would retell that got funnier every time you told them and the classic family meeting minutes when you would share your quest for a healthy happy family where everyone’s voice was heard, and complaints were given proper credence, but love and compliments always prevailed. Life wasn’t perfect, there were lots of struggles and hardships as well, and there are days I am grateful you have been released from the battles that made life hard.

The kids are doing amazing, and each of them has weathered their grief in honest and courageous ways. Somehow I am sure you know that Papa died as he is no longer with us and now with you in that space of eternity that we long for and yet are so not able to truly comprehend.

In the space of days when Papa was sick and died, Your crew reflected with such wise and compassionate words as to how grief has grown them, and they are stronger and kinder and gentler adults because of it. They miss you so much, and we speak of you often.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1b64eWe love seeing Olivia more, and her heart burns for social justice and racial reconciliation. She has a searching, yearning, never satisfied soul just like her Dad. She is an athlete, a leader, a hard worker, articulate, funny, fierce and tender and so much more. She is filled with such beauty and grace, and we can see that she is a beautiful mix of you and Marcia. She is almost 22 and growing into an adult who will leave her mark on the lives of those she interacts with. She is clear and asks for what she needs. She is brave and she is fun. You would love her sense of adventure, her longing to travel the world and her commitment to stay home and get done what needs to be done. It is exciting to consider all her future might hold.

Noah also is a gentleman you would be so proud of. He is perceptive and well mannered and looks out for Beppe in ways that would bring tears to your eyes. Noah is intuitive to when people need a hug or a smile and his hugs have the strength that you are hugging us through him. He is doing well in school and is a leader both on and off the Lacrosse Field.

Recently I saw a Facebook post on Lauren’s picture where you said, “I choose her,” and they were just friends and now they have been dating for 5 years. Lauren joined us for Christmas this year, and I am pretty sure you would have had such fun with their growing relationship.

noahThere are so many moments where we say to him how proud we are and oh, your father would just smile so at this or that. He has the same loud Len voice that you were blessed with, and his sense of humor could only be matched by you! He is unique and bold and so one of a kind. He will make an excellent teacher and is responsible with his planning and finances. I like to think you have a sense for all he is up to and marvel at how much a boy can be like his father. sonta

Sonta is such a beautiful young woman. We are finally planning to return to Haiti to meet their birth mom. How I hope it will happen this year. We all remember that you were going to take her when she turned 16. We began to consider fulfilling your promise then but now I think we are finally ready. She is finding her way in the academic and work world, and I know you would understand that math is not her favorite. There are times I think she is just like her father, only being reminded by her beautiful Haitian skin that she did not come directly from your DNA. She is free-spirited, feisty, kind, beautiful and creative. She continues to find her way and her bond with her sibs is strong, and you would love the ways they are family together.

Jean Marc is playing high school basketball, and I shudder to consider what you would ben%uMUEJtTS6pIGEipxA_thumb_1b604 like at each and every game. I can almost hear you cheering him on! He is strong and handsome and has a smile that always melts my heart. He met the newest baby boy this weekend in our bunch, and he was so gentle and such a natural. We love to watch the video clip of you and he, and it always makes us laugh and also cry a few tears. Jean Marc would rather play basketball than most anything else, and because of that he keeps his grades up and gives the game his all. We will go and watch and miss you and Dad at the games, but you can be sure we will cheer him on every chance we get.

Len, it is almost 6 years to the hour that we got the call that you were gone. It is quiet in my house as I remember. I have tears, and I am aware of the mystery of time. The complexity of grief and life and love and loss. I have learned that the kindest way to live is to live in the moment, carrying whatever my heart holds and being gentle with it.

lenfamTonight as I listen to John Denver and the Muppets and look at pictures and reflect back but also look forward, I am aware again how you live on in the lives of your children. Marcia remains in our lives, and we share many hugs, laughter, and tears. God is good to us in our heartbreak, our heartache, our mundane and ordinary and in our joy. So much has transpired in six years and yet your in my heart always.

I miss you brother, I love you, and I will see you again,

Until that time,

Trish

It’s time…

Do you ever have something that you know you are resisting? When the time to begin again feels difficult but the thought doesn’t leave you? That is how the idea of writing again has been. People have mentioned they miss my blogs and extended kind invitations to write again. I have often begun or ended the day with the thought of writing, I have even started and started again, but for some reason, I have not yet hit publish.

But now, I am sitting with an open afternoon, surrounded by my family, with noise that fills the space of a beautiful, large, log cabin cottage where we are celebrating Christmas. I wonder what to do with the time that is before me and I know that it is time.

Hard to imagine it was 7 months yesterday since my Dad left us. Hard to believe it is six years tomorrow since my brother Len left us.

I believe that one of the greatest lessons I have learned in the journey of love and loss is the choices that are before me each and every day.

Choices of how I will be true to the feelings of my heart.

Choices of how I will be true to the legacy of Len or my Dad.

Choices of how I will live out the calling to be uniquely me?

I have many moments where my grief is tender and my ache feels deep. I am aware that when the days and months come and go, 7 months doesn’t feel like that long. Some things are still so fresh and there are always the firsts. A few people have mentioned to me lately how year two is harder than year one. I am reminded then that even after 6 years, we have spaces where Len is deeply missed. Grief and time are a funny thing. Those who were so present with us in so many ways are now gone and missed in so many places.

And yet, yesterday, I thought wow, 7 months. A whole summer and fall without my Dad. I grill the meat more often, I know how to use his gas-powered blower and I now know the mixture of the gas oil ratio for his large snow blower. I miss his pipe, his input, his voice and most of all his quiet but large presence in my/our world. Tonight as we open gifts I will miss his poetry and his laughter.

Len and my Dad were a big part of us, but they were not our only gifts of goodness. We had 28 people gathered last night and we held hands to pray for dinner, we were reminded of all we have. The goodness in the people who are present and the gifts that are innumerable. We are gathered at a beautiful place together on Lake Michigan to share in the abundance of love and relationships under this log cabin roof. We remembered Len by singing the Navy hymn and eating homemade burgers (but Nick didn’t burn them. :-), and watching a video of our favorite photos. We remembered my Dad by watching a video and sharing gifts that speak to his life and goodness. We have laughed and we have cried, we have joy and we have sorrow, we have spaces that hold an abundance of noise and moments of silence that are both reflective and precious.

And so this holiday season we have choices. Choices about how we will grieve. We have choices about who we will grieve with and how we will speak of our grief. We have choices about what our Christmas season will look like, not denying what is real, but embracing all that our hearts hold. The holiday and grief is complicated but not impossible. There is goodness and there is sorrow and both are equally real. And both invite me to good spaces. And both are true not only in our lives but in so many others. So, I am aware that it is time to write again. It is time to share all my heart holds in creative ways through words. It is time to put in black and white that even on the hard days, hope anchors my soul. For that I am grateful! And now to honor my Dad with closing words He would use to end his written communications.

Glory be to God!

Ripples and waves…

I started this blog almost one month ago.

I have been surprised how hard it is to formulate the words that fit with what swirls within me. So many times I have sat at the keyboard and started a sentence or two, contemplated, closed my computer and somehow concluded not yet today.

I am not sure that my thoughts are any more clear today than they were a month ago. This is the sixth week since my Dad died. I will say that the journey of grief is more unpredictable than I was prepared for.

wavesHave you stood on the shore and watched the power of the waves. There is a power that comes with the bigger waves. You can watch it build and come with some momentum and then it breaks. Then there is rippling from those waves that continue for quite some time. Then the water stills, but in time, there is another big wave, and then ripples, and waves and ripples. This is how I find my grief journey has been.

There are many moments that I feel like the sadness of missing my Dad comes over me like a wave. This wave can take my breath away for a moment and require me to take a deep breath. Grief is powerful and has the momentum to disrupt almost every part of your being.

Then there are other times where grief comes in ripples. This is much more common. I ripplesfeel the ripples in my heart and soul almost all the time, but they are not always disruptive. Sometimes one can stand at the shore, and the ripples just seem part of the way the water is moving. What I appreciate about the ripples of grief is that they allow for more than the feeling of sadness. When grief is present in ripples, there is room to feel the goodness and the joy

In six weeks time, our lives have been full. There was Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and July 4.  We celebrated Ellie’s graduation, the following birthdays: Hermie’s 91st, Jonna 50th, Suzi’s 40th, Peter’s 15th,  Janneke’s 25th, Matt’s 27th  and Sonta’s 20th. There has been a weekend away to Milwaukee, lots of baseball games and family gatherings. Then there is the never-ending tending to details that need attention when someone you love dies. Six weeks in the Borgdorff family brings lots of activity.

It is good to be together in our grief and in our joy. The other night one of the kids was crying. “What is wrong?”, an adult asked. “She is grieving” was her mother’s reply. It is just like that in our world right now. We all feel the ripples and waves and are learning to how to navigate the absence of a good husband, Dad, Papa and friend.

In a text with my Mom tonight I mentioned that my heart is overflowing right now and I am sure that in time, the tears will not consume so much space. In response she said, “And the tears are welcome, sometimes unexpected.  I get it.  The tender parts of our hearts are touched unexpectedly, and it shows.   There is nothing the matter with that.”

I am grateful for people who stand in the water with me/us and bear the weight of the waves and understand the ripples.

I am grateful for people who understand that when you lose someone you love, sadness is just part of your being, but grief does not consume your being.

And I am thankful for a community which surrounds us with love, kindness, and goodness as we move forward into each day, living just as my Dad modeled, one day at a time!

Happy Hour

Happy Hour is one of those things that I grew up with and believed everyone else also did. I remember as a child when my Dad would come home from work, my parents took time together to connect. They would pour a beverage and sit in the living room. It happened every day, and I love how together they prioritized the importance of setting time aside to intentionally connect.

I remember it as a time when as younger kids, we knew it was our parent’s time. As we grew older, we joined in on happy hour and now as adults, we all cherish the time when we have happy hour (and now kids are always present as well). Happy Hour in the Borgdorff/Bos/DeKam world is a staple of almost every day and a must when we are together. It is not uncommon to hear the question: “how long until happy hour?”

If you have not been someone who celebrates Happy Hour as part of your regular routine, I invite you to give it a try this summer. Consider setting a time to connect each day, to sit together and reflect, remember and celebrate all that your life holds.

In these last weeks, since my Dad’s death, I have reflected a bit more on the role of happy hour in our lives. These are some of my happy hour takeaways:

  • Happy Hour is cherished because it is when we are together.
  • Happy Hour is cherished because it is when we take time to listen and engage one another.
  • Happy Hour is intergenerational. During happy hour conversations, we hear stories about our parents growing up years and about the plans of the grandchildren and every conversation in between.
  • Happy Hour always has room for more. So many people from around the world and right at home have enjoyed an invitation to join in. A glass of wine, a beer, a diet coke, or some water and crackers and cheese and happy hour begins with whoever is present.
  • Happy Hour is a way of celebrating the goodness of life.
  • Happy Hour is cherished because it is just what we have always done and will always do. It says in some way that everything is going to be ok, even on hard days and in sad times.

And so I was not surprised when the adult grandkids offered to get what we needed for a happy hour in my Dad’s hospital room on Sunday, May 20, 2018. After all, we were together and so they came with crackers and cheese and red and white wine and diet coke and water, and we gathered together and we remembered together and we toasted Papa and celebrated the goodness of life even in our sorrow.

And just a few days later, after we had a private committal service, we had one last toast to Papa. For in all that my parents have taught us, so much of it has been shared during happy hour. We love all that we have learned, and we cherish all we have shared. And we raised our glasses celebrating a life well lived that carries on in each of us! To that, we said, Cheers and Glory be to God!

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We knew time was limited, but…

We knew time was limited…

But we thought we had more.

So many of you commented on how surprised you were in the timing of my Dad’s death.

We were also!

I can’t help but replay the events as they unfolded two weeks ago tonight. It caught us all off guard and yet we see God’s hand. As my Dad so faithfully said and so solidly believed, “one day at a time is how we will live, while we also know that our days are in God’s hands.”

It is true that my Dad was diagnosed with a life-ending diagnosis on April 5, 2018. At that time we knew he had a neuroendocrine tumor and that over time it would continue to progress and his abilities would diminish.

Neuroendocrine CarcinomasNeuroendocrine tumors are rare, accounting for less than one percent of all malignant disorders in the United States. It is estimated that fewer than 2,000 new cases occur in the United States each year.

lg6dBy46QwittwpJ1Qw6oQMy parents chose to live life to the fullest without treatment (another blog, another day) and I will say they were living well, even in the unknown and difficult spaces that were very real. My DadIMG_2239 continued to golf, even if the quality of his golf game was affected, he continued to attend the meetings he had the energy for, and he continued to engage all of our family events in his own Papa way. My Mom became my Dad’s chauffeur since he could no longer drive due to a seizure he suffered. My Dad was counting down the 6 months and fully intended to drive again.

He also fully intended to meet his first great grandbaby due at the end of September 2018. My Dad knew his days were numbered, but he did not stop living. He lived at peace with God’s timing and still fully engaged all he longed for until the time God called him home.

The Friday before he died, my folks were told the same consistent message, things will continue to progress but there was no reason to believe that life would be ending soon.  And with that, we all took a deep sigh and continued with the commitment to live one day at a time.

And then Sunday morning my Dad woke up, sent some emails, planned to go to Worship and during breakfast with my Mom had a sudden onset of severe pain. It was clear something wasn’t right and they sought medical treatment. In the Emergency room, we learned he had a gastric ulcer which perforated the stomach lining. Due to his current medical condition, he was not a surgical candidate. It was evident in this conversation that although we had believed we could have months with my Dad with us, this new situation would limit us to weeks. My Dad and Mom opted to have him admitted overnight for pain control, and then we would transition to Hospice at home. He asked us to go home and get his computer, after all, if he was going to be in-patient, he had some things he wanted to get done.

And then within a few hours again, it was clear that my Dad was being released from all that held him here and we would be saying our final goodbye until we see him again. Almost the whole crew made it home to gather and although my Dad was unresponsive our time together was filled with tears, goodness, and love.

We knew our time was limited, but we thought we had more time.

We all wanted more time, just a little, just another month, another week, another day, another hour…

But in the end, we have peace, even in our sorrow, because we know and embrace the same God and the same faith. May we never lose sight that every day holds much more than just our sadness, for we know that God is still on his throne and the birds will sing in the morning.

And now to end with some words my Dad shared in the last few days of his life, just prior to his unexpected death. May we all live in this confidence and truth: “but we wanted you all to know that we are grateful for each day, and rest in the assurance that all of our days are in God’s hands. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”