WHAT TO SAY AT A FUNERAL

One of the most difficult times in anyone’s life is when someone they love passes away. Two years ago I lost a great deal of people I cared about. As it so happens I was asked to say a few words at several of their services. What an honor that is. At the same time it is a lot of pressure. When you are selected to speak at a major life event a good deal of trust is being placed in you to capture the moment in five to ten minutes of time. These are moments when words fail to live up to the gravity of the situation. How can you possibly do justice with words the feelings that are in the hearts of someone at such an occasion? Everyone is feeling a wide range of emotions from anger and sadness to loss and regret. How can you possibly speak to all of those?

I am going to give you two extremely valuable lessons I have learned that will help you in what can be very trying times. Let us first talk about being asked to speak at these occasions. Most of you reading this may never be asked to speak at a memorial or celebration of life event. That is probably a good thing. In recent studies, people placed the fear of public speaking ahead of the fear of even death. Which means, in a nutshell, most people would be more comfortable being the person the service is about than speaking at it. Still, there is questions like, “What do I say to the family and friends of the person who has departed?” and “What could I possibly write in this card that would do any good? In a way all of these questions can be answered using the same idea

When I was about to speak all these crazy thoughts came into my head. “What if they don’t like what I have to say?” “What if I break down and cannot finish what I have written down?” These were all legitimate concerns, but only to me. Realizing I was focusing on my concerns and worried about if I did something wrong how it would be received. What I had to do was change my entire mindset. Whether it is filling out a card, giving a heartfelt words to family and friends or standing up in front of a large gathering filled with emotion to give a speech when you are also filled with that same emotion, the answer is the same. When Albert Einstein was asked why we were here his answer was quick and simple, “We are here to serve others.” That is what we need to focus on during times of sorrow.

When I changed my mindset to one of service and began to ask myself what can I say that can give a little comfort or solace to those who were gathered there, the rest took care of itself. Was I emotional at some? Yes. Did I have to take a moment and compose myself before continuing? Yes. I believe that is of some service too. Knowing that your words come from a place of love and respect mean just as much as the words that are being said. I am generally thought of as a positive chap who promotes motivation and positivity. I thought things like that had no place at a memorial. What I have learned is being yourself and speaking (whether that is in person or in a card) words from the heart is all that matter.

Another thing to remember is that losing someone sucks…big time. This may seem like a no brainer but we must remember death affects everyone differently. We must also remember each of us grieve differently. People will be sad and that is alright. It is not our job to try to lift that sadness. Leave that to a power much great than yourself. Our job as fellow humans is to offer a bit of love and light to those who are hurting and to do so in our own particular way. To let everyone know we care. The way to do so is by being the wonderful caring people we are. We may stumble over our words and even get mixed up and say things completely wrong. That is okay. What matters is the love we have and the service we give. One day we will need the same.

HOW I DEAL WITH DEATH

Today we are going to look at one of the hardest moments in life, the loss of a loved one. How can we possibly make it through this pain? I do not have any magical answers for you. What I can do is share what helps me and hope it will offer you some sort of solace in a difficult time. Death is one of the most difficult situations to handle in our lives. However, if we want to have the secrets to an amazing life, we need a plan to face the tough times as well as the easy times. Let me explain what I mean by facing the tough times.

One of the trickiest things about death is remembering it is indeed one of the most difficult subjects you will go through. That may sound ridiculous, but it is true. When going through the grieving process many people ask how they will return to being their ‘normal selves’. As if magically things will some how go back to being as if they were before. The bad news is they never will. You will always have that feeling of emptiness inside you. The closer you were to the person you lost, the bigger the hole will be. There will be times when you see something, or something happens that you will want to call them and share the news. Then the realization that they are gone will hit you all over again. There is no getting around it, that sucks. There are jokes that will come to mind that only you two would understand. There may be phrases that you shared, or even certain activities that will never be the same. I recall playing cards with my grandmother for hours. This often happened several days a week. I am not sure I know of many other people who would be willing to do that with me now. I recall heading up north to visit my great uncle with my grandfather. There were a million stories they shared about the family. Some of which are probably lost forever.

Now comes the healing portion of our post. Again, this is what I do. It may or may not resonate with you. Just as everyone grieves in their own way, everyone heals in their own way. With every person I lost there is something that reminds me of them as we mentioned in the first part of the post. When their memory is especially prevalent or I just happen to be missing them a great deal, I do one of two things. The first is do the very things we used to do. Yes, it makes me miss them, but I end up feeling connected to them in a strange sort of way. My mother and I play some of the same card games that my grandmother and I used to play. Recently, while visiting our friends tap room at their brewery, Margie sat down and joined us in some games. This makes my heart happy. My grandfather and I used to research different health and natural healing subjects. I even have some of his books. Continuing that research is one of the many ways I keep in touch with his memory and spirit. My Aunt Virginia and I both appreciated Native American traditions and music. These, along with a host of other subjects. When I read a book, or listen to some Native American music I feel extremely connected with her. Again, it does make me miss her and wish I had just one more day, as I am sure we all have felt about someone we lost.

The second thing I do really helps me to feel like I am close to, and honoring those who have passed away. I think of the particular light that person brought into the world. That light is now missing. Not only in my own life, but in the lives of everyone who came in contact with this person. That light needs to be carried on and replaced in their memory. Take my great uncle Ray, the one my grandfather and I used to visit. He was a social fellow who, on any given day, would still rather be in the woods talking to animals than in the city talking to people. Although I appreciate my fellow humans who grace the planet with me, I also love being in nature talking to animals. My grandmother liked to cook and I am excited to say I have a copy of her cookbook which is several inches thick. I am now blessed to have an amazing cook as the love of my life and hope to recreate some of these recipes to share with others. Speaking of my amazing love, we sadly lost her mother a little over two years ago. One of the lessons I will always remember from her is the importance of still “being your same sweet self” even if you haven’t had your coffee. I also do my best to honor her spirit by taking care of her ‘favorite daughter’ the best I can. I know she was Margie’s biggest fan and that my love misses having her support. With the help of her children and grandchildren we do the best we can to let her know how wonderful she is and how much she is loved.

These are some of the methods I use that help me understand that those I love are still around me. On occasion I donate to a cause they believed in or supported. I look at pictures and consider this amazing fact from the world of physics – at the smallest level everything is made of the same thing -energy. A fact about energy is it is never destroyed, it just changes form. To me, the people that we love do not cease to be, just have changed form to an energy that at present we are unable to communicate with. I am not even sure that is the truth. When the thought of a loved one comes into your mind and you feel that warm feeling in your chest, is that them? When some of the sad memories come to mind and you miss them all over again is that just their spirit reminiscing with you? I hope these methods I use may offer some help to all of you out there. I would love to hear things that help bring your heart a sense of peace in difficult times of loss. Let us all share with and help each other.

OUR HEROES CAN TEACH US LONG AFTER THEY ARE GONE

Above is a picture of a very young me next to my grandfather at I believe was his 80th birthday party. Also included in the picture is my late aunt Virginia. When I was growing up my grandfather was one of my heroes. He had a presence that commanded respect. He didn’t have to raise his voice or do anything to get it either. (My mother might have a slightly different memory of that) He was a man of great integrity. He was honest, fair and did what he felt was right. Just last night as Margie and I were pulling into the grocery store I was thinking about things my grandfather had told me when I was young. Many of them at the time I didn’t either understand or I thought I knew better. If you read the last post you may see a pattern developing.

There are things that happen in my life even to this day, long after he passed away, that have me thinking, “That is what my grandfather meant!” His favorite singer was Eddy Arnold. I thought if I ever had the choice I would never listen to the song Cattle call again. After he passed away I missed hearing it. I was fortunate enough to meet a great man named John Whelan who shared the same affection for Mr. Arnold and often sang this song. Sadly, John has passed away. I was grateful to be able to speak at his funeral. My grandfather had a good knowledge of healing herbs and foods. He served in the second World War. He loved the tropics and had fond memories of being stationed in Hawaii.

Another reason my grandfather was my hero, was the way he conducted himself in the relationship he had with my grandmother. My grandmother was an amazing woman as well and taught me many things about cooking and being hospitable. She was, to one degree or another, an opinionated and on several occasions, an upset woman. She had several medical conditions that I imagine weighed on her. During some of her more earnest ‘correcting’ of my grandfather, I noticed he just shook his head and rarely seemed to offer much of a rebuttal. Even when the situation was obvious he was correct and she was not. When that truth revealed itself, he seldom made mention of it. One day I asked him why he never said anything. I asked how he managed to stay happy and some days even sane being yelled at for things that were often not his fault. I recall what he told me to this very day. I can picture it as if it were yesterday. As we sat in his kitchen he told me, “The secret to a successful relationship is to bend but not break.”

I won’t tell you how long it took me to figure out the wisdom of that statement. Let me just tell you that in my relationship with the beautiful Margie we often disagree on things. I have learned to differentiate between things that I just want and things that go against what I value. If they are issues that do not cause me to sacrifice my principles or my standards, then there is always room to compromise. In this way you have to bend. Sometimes you might even just let the other person have their way to keep the peace. If it is something that truly goes against what you believe then you have to take a stand and not break. Applying this knowledge that my grandfather gave me so many years ago in that kitchen has allowed me to build the best relationship I have ever had. I guess if I had learned and applied it sooner I would not have had the opportunity to share life with the amazing woman I do now.

Just a reminder that my grandfather is still teaching me and still a big part of my life long after he is gone. If you have recently, or even not so recently lost someone, realize they will live on and be a part of your life. When someone we really love leaves us, it is only physical. Their lessons, their words and their love will continue to affect us until we are the ones who leave.

A STRANGE OPPORTUNITY

It amazes me how life presents us opportunities that we routinely miss. Misfortune, challenges and pain. Those are three things nobody likes to have in their life and things that everybody does have in their lives. When you are going through something it is often very hard to see the positive in it. Whether that be a heartbreak, job loss, loss of a loved one or a host of other unpleasant situations, we can put them to use for us and others.

This is the very method I used to put the situation of getting the Coronavirus to work for myself and for others. When we go through something challenging, there are 3 ways in which it can be turned from a negative to a positive. Are you interested? I hope so. If we can turn the negatives in our life into positives, can you imagine how that would improve the quality of our life? It would make it, dare I say, amazing! Let us take a look at them one at a time. By using even one of these 3 secrets we can begin to put life to work for us instead of being at the mercy of life.

The first secret is learning and growing. People have one of two relationships with challenges and failures. Either they view it as the end. They lost. It won’t work. Things such as that. Then there are others who view it as a stepping stone to success. As Thomas Edison continued to fail in his attempts to find something to use as a filament in the light bulb, he remarked, “I have not failed, I just discovered another way not to make a light bulb.” Even something as painful as the loss of a loved one can teach us many things. It can help us discover ways to help us heal our heart. It can deepen our spiritual connection. It can even show us who will be there for us when we are at our lowest. Lessons are most often not fun to learn, but they help us grow and develop more than any other period of our life. We always learn more from our trials than our successes.

The second thing we can do is what today’s picture speaks of. We can inspire others by the way we handle things. When I shared my virus Journey with everyone it helped me as much as I helped others. On the days I did not feel like getting up and writing a post or shooting a video for my YouTube channel, I thought about the people watching my journey. Often, things are not that public.

We can use the fact people are watching us to motivate us. I am always on the lookout for ways I can improve and be the best man I can be in my relationship with my lady Margie. One of the many ways I use to stay motivated is that I remind myself how many people are watching how I treat her. Her family, her children, our friends and even those who might want to take my place in her heart. I would say at least once a week someone comments on our relationship. Usually, these are compliments about how loving we are. To me they serve not only as a reward for working so hard on our relationship, but a reminder that her and I do not live in a vacuum. People are watching.

The last positive thing we want to discuss about challenges is this – it provides you tools. When you go through something it gives you skills you can then use to help others going through the same situation. It gives you credibility. When someone is troubled, they will be more likely to listen to someone who has actually went through what they are going through. Following this equation, the more things you go through in life, the more you can help others. It is almost as if every challenge is a painful gift of sorts.

These three things may not take the pain or feeling of loss out of a situation in the moment, but they will help in time. Here is an added bonus – the more you use these three things, the more they become a part of you. When they become a part of you, the time it takes to go from pain to learning, inspiring and teaching becomes quicker and quicker. In my own life when something bad happens it has become so quick that I catch myself thinking, “Well this sucks but I will be able to use it for something good.” I would love to hear what you use to turn the negatives in your life into positives. The more ideas we share the more we can help each other!

WHILE THEY ARE HERE

Here is a picture of my mother and I. While at least the bottom part of my head. As you can see we are out to eat. The place we were eating at, Crawdaddy’s Roadhouse, is a local favorite here in the city of West Allis where I live. They feature amazing Cajun cuisine, live music and super friendly service. Sadly, the owner of this establishment, Jonathan Klug, recently passed away at the young age of 51. Before he opened this amazing restaurant, Jon messaged me and asked if I would come and do a review. It is not often a restaurant owner would welcome a food critic, but so confident was Mr. Klug that he did. Let me tell you he had the right to be. Crawdaddy’s Roadhouse became a favorite with the group of coworkers whom I brought there the first time I went. Groups of family and friends I entertained there always walked away full and happy.

This post is not only to honor that great man, but to share with you something very important. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, that is my mother sitting next to me. She joined a group of coworkers as well as Margie and myself to dine and review the restaurant that day. We joked and laughed as the night went on. She has attended other restaurant reviews I have done in the last few years as well. She always has interesting and insightful things to offer. Being a former personal banker, she knows the importance of great customer service and how it can impact the overall experience you have in a business.

This is yet another picture of my mother. I have to be sneaky and catch these moments because she is NOT a fan of having her picture taken. What is even more important than capturing such moments is sharing them. Sure, parents can drive us crazy as I am sure we can do to them. They are forever worrying about us making the same mistakes they made and we are forever wishing they would let us live our lives unfettered. Especially when we are teenagers and think we have this whole living life thing down pat. The truth is, those who have come before us have the benefit of experience and are offering advice they think will only add to our joy in life.

This picture was taken during an event called the Soup Crawl. It was a brand new event our city wanted to start. Area businesses made soups and offered them at locations up and down main street. For just a few dollars you could sample ten soups all while seeing the city and meeting your neighbors. My mom and Margie even were able to make a bracelet at a local jewelry store. My mother has taught me the value and pleasure of experiencing and being involved in local community activities. We often dine at local places like Urban Joe’s Cafe and even work out at the gym in our city of West Allis.

We also enjoy getting out in nature. This is a local park we walk in. Being physically active as a family serves many benefits. It can do a lot to help us prevent and limit the effect of some genetic issues our family is predisposed to. It also can be a great stress reliever. Nature is a great therapy providing physical fitness, oxygen, scenery, a sense of well-being as well as allowing us to meet some of our unique animal friends. Doing so with your parents can help both of you to be around to enjoy those pleasures for years to come. Being able to relax over a cup of hot coffee after a walk in the woods on a chilly spring or fall afternoon allows us a chance to discuss all of nature and it’s wonders.

Celebrate important events together. This is us at a ‘birthday party’ for Smokey Bear. It was taken at the Wisconsin State Fair, which my mom and I have been going to for…oh…the last 44 years together. We enjoy attending the food awards they do there every year as well as fun events like a 75th birthday party for a bear that helps us prevent wildfires. This year she also came over to Margie and my house for New Year’s Eve. We all were able to toast in the new year, enjoy a wonderful meal Margie created and watch a movie. A few years ago she even stopped by as we were working to bring in the New Year. These are memories that will be cherished. If not always with pictures, due to her not being a fan, at least in memories. We are working on planning a vacation together as well.

It is important to create memories with your parents as often as you can. Just as the untimely passing of our good friend Jonathan Klug reminded us, time can be more fleeting than you know. Take time to enjoy the company of those you love before either one of you is gone. Creating memories and capturing them can be one of the most valuable treasures in life. Something all the money in the world cannot buy once someone is gone.

STOP BURNING DOWN LIBRARIES!!!


When I think about the great library at Alexandria, I often wonder what items would have been located there. What knowledge could have been learned? What early books on farming agriculture, engineering, mathematics, science and many other subjects were contained in its walls? Some were the only copies as printing and recording of knowledge was in its infancy. Sadly, that library burned to the ground and most, if not all, of that knowledge was lost.
For anyone interested in any of those subjects, history or even just bettering themselves, that is a sad and terrible thought. Knowledge is something that should not only be protected, but it should be recorded and shared. The more ideas and knowledge are shared, the more we can work together and multiply that knowledge. We guard against anyone stealing our information online, over the phone or even in person.

There are laws protecting intellectual property. Being an author, I am grateful for those laws. Corporations will pay millions, sometimes more, for other companies just to obtain their knowledge. Indeed the accumulation and sharing of knowledge is highly vaulable and a lucrative business. One of the most common ways to gain knowledge is through experience. Those with the most knowledge generally have the most experience.
An easier and quicker way to gain knowledge is through listening to others. Reading their biographies, listening to their interviews or attending their lectures. These are all great ways to gain knowledge through other people’s experience. There is one problem with that, not everyone has written a book about their life stories. There are plenty of people who have never been interviewed. Most people, some who are considerably smart, are afraid to stand up and speak in front of others.


When these people pass away, their knowledge usually goes with them. I can think of a dozen questions off the top of my head that I would love to ask my grandfather right now if he were alive. What was it like to live during the depression? What tricks did he use when he was a bartender. A fact I only learned shortly before his passing. Questions about serving in the second world war where he was a drill sergeant. He was a farmer and lived in the great state of Hawaii for some time.
I am not sure about you, but often times I thought I would get to these questions later. Maybe I felt he wasn’t interested in sharing. The sad truth is I never asked them. Now that he is gone, it is too late. I can make educated guesses as to what he might say or talk to others that knew him, but the library of personal knowledge he had was, in essence, burned to the ground with his passing.
If you have an elder in your life, or anyone whom you have questions for, do not wait to ask them. Whether you are old or young, I encourage everyone to record your knowledge. Start a journal, record videos on YouTube or begin to write your book. Record your information before your library is gone. Your knowledge, your story is far too important to be lost forever. It may seem like it holds little value to you, but it may be just what someone needs to hear. This person you may not know. They may not even exist yet. They may not until well after you are gone. Make no mistake, they need to hear your story. Do not be like the great library at Alexandria and be reduced to ashes with all of your valuable information still inside you.

REGRET CAN BE YOUR SUPER POWER!

On this blog we do things to try to limit regret in our lives. Regret is one of the worst emotions to have. At a funeral the toughest emotion to get over is not sadness, but regret. “I wish I would have….” feeling. Part of the Secret to an Amazing Life is doing less things you regret and regretting less things. If you live life in the best manner you can, you have less to regret.

Despite our best efforts, we all end up with some regret in our lives. Those of us who really work hard to be the best we can be, can have the most difficulty getting over regret. As I often do, let me share a personal example with you. When I reflect on relationships I have had with people in the past I can sometimes cringe at the memory of how I acted. In some cases the person’s actions may have not been the best either. I recall a boss I had when I first started at the Post Office that was always belittling. You could understand acting in a disrespectful or defensive nature to someone who did not respect you. Although their actions may be disrespectful, it does not excuse us from being the same.

As with all of us, I have had friendships that have been damaged. Maybe even some that have been lost due to things that were said and done between both parties. Special moments have been ruined or at least dampened due to behavior. Upon reflection I would become frustrated with myself. Then I heard something from Les Brown, “If you wouldn’t do the same thing today, then you are convicting an innocent person.” It was then I turned regret on its head. Instead of avoiding the sting of regret I put it to work for me. Whenever I am tempted to act in a manner beneath the best version of me I pause and remember the outcome of a time I did so and regret it. I ask myself, “Do you really want to feel like that again?” Especially if the pain is strong enough, it is enough to put me back on the right track. Regret has done more to shape my current behavior than most other things.

It is not just for keeping you from acting like a social degenerate. Regret can motivate you to do the right thing when you lack the inner drive. I recently read a story of a father in the UK who couldn’t go on a ride with his son because he was too large to fit into the cart. He used the sadness in his son’s face as well as his own embarrassment to lose almost half of his weight. Having a painful memory like that not only drove him to lose the weight but also allowed him to keep it off.

Many of you may recall the story of not going to the rummage event with my grandfather before he passed. It really wasn’t enjoyable for me at the time, but it really brought him joy. Now when I know there are things that others enjoy or that bring them happiness, I focus on the fact that I am helping the one I love. That is not to say I am constantly putting myself in a position to do things I dislike, for that would be a regret too, but doing the occasional thing I am not thrilled about in order to bring a smile to the one I love is not the worst in the world.

I encourage you to make a list of your worst regrets in life. This may be painful, but think of how you can use them for motivation to do better in the future. 

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING 🙂

TIME TO REFLECT

Today is the first day of a new year and a new decade. I want to thank all of you for continuing to be a part of this online community to better ourselves. Together, sharing with each other we can change our world for the better. If we all continue to do this, the world as a whole will become a more beautiful place for us all. We just have to take care of our little corner of the world and we can be a part of a global change.

On a more personal level, I want to talk about something we all face. In the past year we may have lost someone close to us. Relationships end, people pass away. As the writer Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” Despite the ends I have mentioned, our lives go on. The loss may not have happened even in the past year, but as the calendar turns we are reminded that we face another year without someone we wish was by our sides.

In this way, a time of fresh perspectives and possibilities can be veiled in sadness. How can we approach this? To remember a very obvious, but important fact – we are still here. Our very presence means two very important things. First, we have the ability to collect and create new and wonderful memories in the new year. Those we love that are still here can bless our lives in ways we cannot imagine. Something I have learned since my grandfather passed away, and with every loss since, is those who are gone can also continue to teach us even though they have not been with us physically for quite some time. I cannot count how many times I have thought of something my grandfather, or someone else I lost, has told me and I finally understand something they were trying to tell me so many years ago. It is for this very reason I am so grateful to have had so many people in my life that were amazing that I feel their loss to this very day. That may sound like a statement full of contradiction, but it is quite the contrary.

When you miss someone so greatly, it is because you loved just as great. They brought something special into your life. That could have been a supportive love. It could have been encouragement. It could have been the sharing of many happy moments spent together. That is something to be truly grateful for – having a person that is so special in your life, even if it is not as long as we would have desired. Those memories are gifts we can take with us into the new year as well. It is a way of keeping that person in our hearts as the years pass by.

That brings me to the second point that our presence means. This, by far, is the most important thought to carry into the new year. The fact that we are still hear means that we can bring joy and blessings to those who love us. One day we will return to the dust from which we came as well. Those that love us will be missing us and wishing we were there with them into the new year. The important thing to remember is that time is not now. We still have the responsiblity and the pleasure to share life and love with those we care about the most. Even with complete strangers. We have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of all of those we touch.

After my heart problem was brought to my attention, I realize now more than ever that every year, every day and even every moment is a blessing and more importantly an opportunity. In my condition I could be gone tomorrow. Armed with this knowledge I do my best to live each day with the fullest. That is my plan for the new year and one I want to share with all of you.

What are your secrets to living life to the fullest? Share with all of us so we all can make 2020 the most amazing year yet.

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING!!

30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE (DAY #7)

Welcome back to our celebration of 30 days of gratitude. Each day we will focus on one area of our life to be grateful for. If this is your first day doing this I invite you to go back and do the days before this. You can do them in your head, write them down and home, but it is my hope you decide to share what you are grateful for with our community here on Secret2anamazinglife.com. There are no rules. Do one day or do all 30. Let us now look at today’s area of gratitude.

Memories…songs have been written about them, movies have been made about them. They can cause us to shed tears or to beam a smile. When we think of memories the first thing to come to mind can often be times with those who have already passed on. I recall times spent at Military reenactments with my grandfather and late uncle. I can also recall summer trips to the Iola car show with my uncle. Those are nice memories and they cause me to smile. I am certainly grateful for them.

What about the painful memories? I recall a day when my grandfather had asked me to go to this communal rummage sale called ‘Rummage-o-rama’. Every single time we went he would pause to look at stuff that I knew he had no plans on buying. He would often spend a great deal of time talking about farming, the military or nothing at all really to a vendor. We would leave with either nothing or some mismatched things like a phone cord (these used exist) a razor blade and a dish towel. As a young man it was frustrating and seemed to last forever. I usually tried to find some excuse as to why I might not be able to attend. On this day, however, he asked me 3 days in advance. I had no excuse. After hanging up the phone with him I spent the next day thinking of ways to make the experience less painful or to get out of it all together. 2 days later, my grandfather passed away.

We never did go to that last rummage sale extravaganza. Guess what? I can often be found wandering through aisles, talking to people about anything and everything. Although I have no use for a phone cord, Margie can always use a dish towel or two. In hindsight, I realize the ‘Rummage-o-Rama’ was less about shopping and more about socializing and spending time with his grandson. At the time I have to confess to being too ignorant to realize what life is all about. Is that memory painful for me? It was, maybe still is a bit. More so, now it is a reflection on how much I have grown and changed. It is also a good lesson on how to keep memories of loved ones alive.

Speaking of loved ones, memories do not just have to involve those who have left us. Last year my trip to Jamaica with Margie produced more great memories than any other equal amount of time. We were just looking at the pictures and watching the videos the other day. I am really grateful for those memories as well.

One kind of memory I am grateful for that we may not think of, is those that haven’t happened yet. This may truly sound confusing. How can something that hasn’t happened yet be a memory? That does sound confusing at first blush. I know being with the lady I am with that we will find ways to be loving and romantic in ways I cannot conceive of yet. The fact that a lot of my relationships in life have grown and evolved as I have also excites me. I can only imagine as I am better able to relate to others what great memories we will create.

As you can see, thinking about gratitude can take you places you least expect. I am grateful for all of the memories in my life because they made me who I am. Mistakes and times that I was not the best person I could be are painful memories, but they motivate and remind me to not do so in the future. How about you? What are some of your favorite memories?

A DEDICATION TO AMY

I realize reading a blog post on a Sunday here is most unusual. We are going to take a break from our gratitude list to discuss a very special friend of mine – Amy. I had met Amy through my lovely lady, Margie. Right from the beginning, Amy and I clicked. We had many conversations  about life, friendship and philosophy. Throughout it all, Amy was always grateful and kind. You can see this in the picture of our messages above.

Amy had a host of health issues she battled. These both restricted her movement and caused her a great deal of pain. She never let that stop her from fulfilling her passion of creating hand-made stuffed animals. Margie purchased a penguin for me that she had made. The quality was amazing. Amy created every animal conceivable from buffalo to mythical creatures such as dragons. In doing so, she brought joy into so many people’s lives. One of the many great things about

Amy is she was always open about her struggles and how she was facing them. I have a Facebook group where people come to share what inspires them and the struggles they may be facing getting there. It is a great online community that helps everyone who is a part of it. When Amy joined she gave herself over completely. She not only shared her struggles so that others may learn from her, but she listened and did her best to help others with their struggles as well. In doing this she became friends with many of the members including my frind Cari, another amazing caring soul. I can only imagine how difficult it may have been for Amy to do this while she was going through her own struggles but she did. Many people would be focused on  and consumed by their own pain and unwilling or unable to comfort others, not Amy.

It made me proud to have a friend that was so giving in a time where she had the right to be a little selfish. She made all of us proud with her creations that will give joy to the lives of all of them who have the privilege to have one. I am sure everyone who recieved one, much like myself, had an additional bit of happiness in their lives.

Amy also was kind enough to let me know how much my work affected her and how grateful she was for that. Many of my readers never say a single thing in regards to how my work may play a part in their lives. That is ok as long as they are reading and it is offering something to make their lives better. Amy, however, would take the time out of her busy day to let me know how she was usuing what I wrote about and how it both worked, and what did not work for her. I was always so grateful to her for hearing this and told her so. It makes what I do fulfilling. It is also my inspiration to keep writing and bringing all the material to the world that I do. It is people like Amy who keep me inspired to do so.

Sadly, last week we lost Amy. She passed away unexpectedly. While she was here she made a great difference in many people’s lives. She brought joy and happiness with her creative creations she shared with the world. She brought feelings of empathy, love and compassion to all of those she touched in our online community. She also brought a great feeling of value and appreciation to this writer. Amy will be missed greatly. It is my sincere hope that she knew how much she brought to the world and how much she helped every life she touched.

With the loss of those who know and care about, I find there is always a lesson. In Amy’s case I feel there are a few. First, use the gifts you have to bring joy to others. Whether that is sewing amazing animals, baking a great cake, singing a song or any other talent you may have. Second, is to offer those you meet who are struggling with a sense of understanding and compassion. Lastly, is to let those around you who affect you positively know. In expressing your gratitude you offer a great gift that means the world to the other person. I know I will miss these gifts Amy brought to the world but will do my best to instill them myself. I encourage you to do the same as a dedication to Amy.