Here’s my ticket from a recent trip to the JFK Presidential Library - it seemed
appropriate for this Memorial Day.
Today I remember both of my Grandfathers - Angelo Leone (paternal) and Thomas Orlando (maternal), immigrants to this country who both served proudly as Medics in World War II. My Mom met her Dad for the first time as a four year old. There is so much I am proud of in each of their stories.
They were proud to be Americans, and they grasped their duty to their new and beloved country with both hands. I am so proud their blood runs in my veins.
My 90 year old great aunt (Lena) has died. She was my Grandfather’s youngest sibling (8 in sum!), and the last to leave this earth. I loved her very much. She lived with her sister, my Aunt Mary, in the sweetest little house in which nothing ever changed. It was always cozy, immaculate, warm and joyful when we visited them. Coffee was on, delicious food was served.
They tended a big garden in their yard, and later in their lives a giant pot of lush basil on the back porch stood in for the garden. Locally grown wasn’t a term back in my childhood, but they lived in a part of western New York State that is all farm land, so every morsel of food was fresh.
Never doubt what a difference a modest, well lived life can make in this world. I can think of only two other places on this earth where I felt as peaceful when I was with my Aunts in their home. They loved to laugh, bowl, and play golf. They both worked at Lipton and Kodak on the manufacturing floor. In her later life my Aunt Lena attended Mass every day, and was always devout and kind hearted. Yes, she was real. Who she was, the way she lived her life, everything about her helped create a place inside of me from which I can always draw comfort and feel love. I am looking to that space now.
I love language, reading, writing. There are a few poems that I committed to memory on a cellular level it seems and they rise to the surface unbidden at just the right moment.
My mind is turning to autumn now, to transitions, back to school, endings, new beginnings. All experiences that can bring joyful feelings - but also of loss, unmooring, change.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Getting a Second Chance
There are lessons here it could take a lifetime to unpack...
Here’s one gem, but this article is a treasure -
“All I wanted was kindness and to be held as a boy. Now I get to do that for somebody else. There’s also the regret of not being able to do that for my victims, for the people in my community who I hurt.”
(Originally posted- 5/19/18)
I know feeling runs high around right to die laws - but there is important information being gathered in states that have those laws in place.
My role in this space is to make sure there is a resource and a forum for us to read, digest and discuss how we live and how we die - from all angles, including the legal one.
(Originally posted- 5/23/18)
13 Reasons Why
When ‘13 Reasons Why’ released their first season, I, as a parent was caught unaware. I felt strongly, as did many, that their treatment of the subject of teen suicide was deeply provocative and troubling.I heard a lot about it in my private practice as a Grief Counselor as well.
To me, it was so irresponsible in it’s presentation of the issues that surround suicide that any benefit it could have brought to the subject was counteracted.
I haven’t seen the next season yet, but it’s being released now and I hope they have taken the roundly scathing criticism to heart. Please read this article and be sure to check in with your teen about this series. Consider watching it together if you cannot prescreen it and establish an open and ongoing dialogue.
Please share this post so that parents of teens see it. Thank you.
(Originally posted- 5/26/18)
The Unbearable Impact of Death Row
I think a lot about the Death Sentence - after all, it’s pretty clear I think a lot about death. I am watching the brilliant tv series right now, ‘Rectify’ and it’s lessons around grief and loss and the toll they take are profound. After twenty years on death row, the main character is exonerated. He goes ‘home’ to a landscape that feels much like the moon would feel to the rest of us.
The demands a death sentence makes on the criminal, the jurors, the loved ones of those folks, and the community at large, are peerless. I don’t pretend to be an authority on the criminal justice system, but from where I sit as a Thanatologist, my bones know the ask of a death sentence is too much to bear. I believe it is an act that leaks more toxins into the present and future than any justice it could ever deliver in carnage’s name. I will be most curious to hear your thoughts.
(Originally posted- 7/17/18)
The Gift of Connection
I had an experience a few weeks ago in which I got a little note from a new ‘Friend’ to this page. Her Mom had died just a few days before, and she was looking through her Mom’s online accounts, social media etc. This is a very routine part of house keeping in the year 2018 after a death, as many of you know. But this time, there was a gift.
What is different in this story, is that this woman realized her Mom had been following me while she was sick, and then dying, and had found comfort in my words. I was able to recall her Mom, whom I have never met anywhere but here.
The daughter told me it gave her a great deal of comfort to know her Mom had been following me, and reading what was written here at the end of her life. Her Mom was one incredible human, so that I could offer her anything at all touches me deeply.
So here’s a story of connection that I share with you all today. There is good in this world, there is real connection to be made sometimes in unexpected spaces. I am hard pressed to know how to convey how much this all means to me. Let’s say that if I had to close this space down tomorrow for some reason, I could be at peace.
(Originally posted- 7/21/18)
Kindness Changes the World
t’s taken me most of my life to allow myself to be as kind as I want to be. That isn’t a humble brag, it does not mean I am always loving, kind, and compassionate. Not at all. I have my deeply crabby moments like anyone.
But I used to be embarrassed of my sensitive heart, and self conscious about my thin skin. I live in the Northeast, not far from Boston. The mentality around me has always been more Damn Yankee than anything else. So I spent a lot of time trying to check my natural impulse. I am so glad I have slowly stopped trying.
This article reminds me that I am built in a good strong way, and that kindness is a really great position from which to proceed in life. Culturally, kindness remains suspect - it’s why my job as a Grief Counselor even exists in large part. For now, I guess that is okay. But I hope we don’t need Grief Counselors for ever and ever, and I will always be working to change that in the world.
(Originally posted- 7/26/18)
The Human Awareness of Loss
Sometimes someone only very vaguely ‘in’ our life can die and we may find ourselves deeply surprised at the impact that loss has on us. I have heard so many folks reflect that... ‘I don’t know why this is sticking with me...I hardly knew him/her.’ Yet, in the loss we become aware that our lives, hearts, or minds were taught or impacted while we barely realized it was happening.
Years ago there was a nurse practitioner at my children’s pediatricians office that I found to be particularly kind. One day when one of my children was ill, we saw her and she seemed quite odd, a bit ghost like. Shortly after that I noted a letter on the bulletin board at the office that she had died from cancer.
I have spent some time now trying to understand why I was so struck by her loss. Her youth? Her kind nature in a place that I have always found quite cold and stressful? The fact that I didn’t ‘know’ she was seriously ill? The truth is, I still don’t have much of an answer. But I think of her all these years later, and her death, and I pause.
(Originally posted 8/3/18)
Sairey Leone Luterman likes to explore the subjects of life and death through lots of creative and artistic means, but words are her medium of choice.