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Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy and even harder when that person is the one who bore you and gave you life. I had known for awhile that my mother had cancer and not only that, she had heart problems and COPD. As an adolescent and even a young teen, I was well aware of my mother’s mortality. She would ask that if something happened to her, who would I want to live with. My first answer was my grandparents but she reminded me that they would probably be gone before she was, and even if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be in very good health to raise a young person. It seemed like every time my mom got hurt – whether it was spraining her ankle on a curb or falling down the concrete steps where she worked or even when it seemed she just didn’t feel good for one day longer than I thought was right – I felt a sense of panic. But time marched on, and Mom always bounced back from whatever it was that happened. I moved away and became independent, got married and had children, settled into a nice career, and even turned my life around after my divorce. Back home, Mom was settling into her own life – one without the strains of an angst ridden teenager living under her roof. She found new friends and went out on dates. She became even more active in her church and the many other organizations to which she belonged. Her life didn’t revolve around me anymore. I was happy for her. After my grandparents passed away, she had even more time to indulge in what she wanted to do. If she wanted to spend the day sewing, she did. If she wanted to watch the Master’s Golf Tournament from start to finish, she could. If she wanted to travel, she did. Somewhere along the line, I forgot that my mother was forty years older than me; forgot that she was getting older before I hit middle age; forgot that her mortality could knock on the door at any moment.

Then in 1998, Mom had surgery to repair leaky heart valves brought on from a bout of childhood rheumatic fever. My family had already planned to be at my in-law’s 50th anniversary celebration so we traveled all night to get to Missouri, but I was not going to sleep until I knew the outcome of the surgery. All day I waited for my brother to contact me but still no word by early evening. Nerves on edge, I played phone tag with him but managed to talk with Mom’s doctor who let me know that she had come through the surgery okay. What a relief – then I slept. It took her time to heal, but she did. She continued to work full time even as she was approaching 80 years old. It was about then that I realized Mom might not have a lot of time left on this earth. We tried to visit more often.

In June 2001, her brother passed away and in August 2001, my brother passed away, and my mother was inconsolable. She kept saying that she wouldn’t be far behind. I was afraid that my brother’s death would cause her mental and physical health to decline rapidly but she was stronger than I thought. Mom pressed on knowing that life does not stop. Due to unfortunate circumstances, she was let go from her job. I always thought that if she didn’t have a reason to get up in the morning, that she would probably call it quits. But she made due with the hand that had been dealt.

Several years later, she had to have another surgery but due to the blood thinner she had to take and lack of attention by medical personnel, she began bleeding internally. It was then that I realized that she wouldn’t be able to handle any type of surgery – major or minor. Her blood pressure was getting lower. Her heart valves were starting to leak again. She started having breathing issues and congestive heart failure due to fluid around her heart. After testing some of the fluid from her lungs, they discovered that she had lung cancer. Surgery wasn’t an option for her so they gave her the chemo pill. She had good days and bad days but she always did her best to go to church each Sunday and drive to doctor appointments or to her friend’s home. It was such a blessing that my cousins were close by and if need be, one of them always helped her out. Being 900 miles away that knowledge helped ease my anxiety about her situation. She had a couple of TMI’s (also called “mini-strokes”) but she’d be okay after a couple of days. Her oncologist had put her in touch with hospice because there are several things that organization can help with even if it’s not at the end of life. Mom got a lifeline in her home so if she needed it, help was just a “holler” away. She was on oxygen all the time.  Even though she could and still did cook for herself, Meals on Wheels delivered meals to her a few times a week. That would help on those days when she really didn’t feel like preparing food just for herself. Each time she had a spell that sent her to the hospital, she would have to go to a rehab for a couple weeks afterward so they could make sure she was able to take care of herself. She’d get so frustrated.

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Summer 2008 – Mom and I just before we left

When my family visited in June of 2008, I kept watching her to see if I could tell how she was doing. It was probably to ease my mind. I went to the doctor with her. Not at any time did they ever give her a time limit. There was no one year or six months or anything. She kept taking the medicine she needed – especially her blood thinner and her cancer pill. She knew what she could and what she couldn’t eat. She knew if her oxygen was turned too low or too high. Walking out of that house to return to Texas after our vacation, I hugged her with the thought in the back of my mind that it might be the last time.

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November 2008 – Mom looking at an old photo album

That November, my sister and I made a special trip to visit her. It was the first time in many, many years that Mom, my sister, and I were under the same roof for several days. We had a lot of laughs and made some good memories. I dug out really old photo books that Mom hadn’t seen in eons. As my sister and I looked at all the stuff in the house, we knew what a task we would have one day. Mom would get too anxious about throwing stuff away so we didn’t. By that fall, she had lost a lot of weight and was looking frail. She got cold easily so she always had a blanket around her and several tissues ready to catch the drip of her nose due to the oxygen. I can still here her cursing her nose! She’d cough and couldn’t quite get it all up and out.

By March 2009, Mom would tell me at least a couple times a week during our daily phone calls, that she wondered if it was all worth it. I think she was getting tired. All I did was pray harder. Her back would hurt where the tumor was. It was hard for her to get comfortable. She was continuously losing weight. But she was still driving where she needed to go. She had gone to the hair dresser and when she got home, two nurses came to visit. They asked her if the doctor had told her how much time she probably had left. Mom said no so they told her that they didn’t think she had longer than six months. Well, that threw her into a tailspin. They kept pressing her as to where she would want to go – what nursing center. Mom adamantly wanted to stay in her home of over 30 years.

My sister and I discussed it, and one idea was for my mom to go ahead and move to Texas and live with my sister. Both she and I started researching places where my mom could be treated on her Tricare (military dependent) insurance, oxygen companies, hospice agencies, etc. We both knew that even though Mom agreed to that, she really didn’t want to leave her home or her companion or her friends and the family that was in Ohio. My sister made other arrangements to move up to Ohio on May 2nd and stay with her as her caregiver until the end. I think I could hear Mom’s sigh of relief that she wouldn’t have to move. Not long after, she had another bad episode of internal bleeding, and my cousin got her to the hospice hospital in Dayton. Not knowing what was going on or if the end was near, my sister and I loaded up and took off for Ohio. Luckily, my husband was supportive and did everything he could at home to help with our grandson and his getting to and from school and other tasks that needed to be done. My other children also pitched in to help – whether it was picking my grandson up from school to making sure his homework was done to giving the house a thorough cleaning to cooking the Easter dinner because I was gone – it all helped so I could focus on my mom. When we left, we didn’t have a time table on when we’d be back. We were there over Easter 2009. Mom was even more frail than when we had seen her in November. She was down below 100 lbs and had aged about 10 years or more. Sometimes she said something that didn’t make a whole lot of sense – things that were relevant 20 or 30 years before. She told us that she didn’t want to linger in a comatose state like some of the other patients there. She was so worried about that. She wanted to be at home. She wanted to die at home. We were told that she would be released very soon but she would need a place to go and someone to be there. Before we left the hospital that last day, I hugged Mom as tightly as I dared and spoke only to her. I thanked her for being the best mom I could ever hope to have and for doing everything she had done for me.  Then I told her that I loved her so very much. It was the last time she reached out to hug me back and give me a kiss goodbye.  My sister drove me back to Texas, and then she loaded up her dogs and clothes and went back to take care of our mom. She arranged for a hospital bed to be waiting on mom when she was released. They had told us that they didn’t think she would be with us in three months.

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April 2009 – Mom with my sister and me
(the last photo of us all together)

Mom went downhill very quickly after she got home. Each day when I called, my sister would give me the update, and then I’d talk to mom. On April 28th, my sister told me that the hospice nurse didn’t see that Mom would make it past the weekend. What was my plan? I decided to fly out on April 30th for Ohio. That happened to be my grandson’s birthday so the day before we had a mini-birthday for him and then very early the next morning, I caught a flight out. I heard her voice for the last time that evening. I told her I was coming. She kept calling me by my sister’s name (well, she’d done that my entire life!) but my sister got her to say my name and told me that she wanted me to hear Mom say my name. Mom had been calling my sister by her sister’s name and talking as if she was back in the 1940s or 50s. My sister had hardly slept as Mom had been trying to get up in the middle of the night, and it was all my sister could do – even at my mom’s 97 lb weight – to hold on to her so she wouldn’t fall down and get her back to bed.

I didn’t know what I would find when I arrived. Would she still be alive? She was. Would she still be alert? Not really. How much time would there be left? Not much. All afternoon and evening after I arrived, friends, relatives and the minister came by. Hospice nurses switched shifts. My sister and I talked to Mom. She began to really “go away” that evening. We talked of how she didn’t want to linger. We had to let her go. I didn’t sleep that night but my sister said she got a good night’s sleep. I sat next to Mom’s bed, holding her hand, listening to her breathing, and just making sure I could remember how her hands felt – soft – and that she was near. The next day dawned, and she was still with us. More relatives came by. People called on the phone. We all told her that it was okay for her to move on, to go to our grandparents, her sister and brother, and our brother. My nephew drove in from Texas. I called family members and Mom’s special gentleman friend and told them they had to tell her that it was okay to let go – that it wasn’t fair to her for them to hang on to her. I’d put the phone by her ear and pray that she heard their words. That evening, I told my sister I was going to try to nap for a bit but to wake me just in case her breathing changed. It wasn’t long before she roused me. She, my nephew and I sat with her and told her goodbye. My sister told her that it was okay to fly away like a butterfly, and then she took her last breath. Amidst the tears, sorrow, and grief, we helped bathe her, brush her hair, put lotion on her, and then called the relatives who wanted to see her one last time before the funeral home came for her.

In the days that followed, my sister’s husband and my husband and family arrived, final preparations were completed, a memorial service was held, and then our husbands and families left. We still had the interment to follow a week after the memorial service. We still had a house that needed to be cleared out and readied for sale. We had an attorney to find in order to start probate – and without a legal will – that was absolutely the worst thing to endure while going through the grieving process. There were times I just wanted to go off on whoever was giving me an attitude – in fact, I did at a clerk in the probate office who kept pointing to forms when I asked her what I needed to do. There were times that I didn’t want to have to pack the car just one more time for one more trip to Goodwill. There were moments I wondered why we had never made sure she had a legal will.

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May 6, 2009 – Memorial at the Celebration of Life service for Mom

After cleaning out the house – which made it practically impossible to give in to grief – and having our cousins around trying to provide some sort of support for us, my sister went back to Texas after Memorial day – after we had ordered Mom’s gravestone. I had to wait a couple more weeks until my grandson was out of school so that my husband could drive to Ohio to pick me up – along with renting a U-Haul truck and being loaded down in my van with stuff to bring back to Texas for my sister, niece, nephew, and my own kids. It still took almost two years for Mom’s estate to be probated and her home to be sold. Until then, it seemed as if every communication from the estate administrator or the attorney was like ripping a bandage away from a wound. The sorrow and grief were always there – not to mention a bit of anger that Mom’s wishes were not being carried out the way she had meant.

On what would have been her birthday the fall after she passed away, I was busy waiting on my grandson to be born. For my sister, it was a very difficult day. Mom never knew that she would have a new great-grandson, but I knew that she was probably arranging his birthday to be the same as hers after she was gone. During one moment when I had sat with her alone, I had asked her to indicate her presence to me with a penny. When we were cleaning out her home, I would find pennies in the most unusual spots. In an old change purse, I found a penny dated the same year I was born. That was good enough for me. Although, in the jar marked “pennies” there were none to be found – only nickels, dimes, quarters and silver dollars! To this day, my children and grandchildren have had butterflies glide along beside them as they play or light on their hands and arms – just sitting for a few moments. We always say that Grammy (what mom was known as to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren) is nearby.

And now, five years has gone by since she’s been gone. I dreamed about her several months ago – a dream that wasn’t a memory of something that had happened earlier in my life. It was a dream that she was real and was standing in front of me. I was able to hug her and feel her. It was comforting to know that my mother’s arms are still around me even if she’s not physically with me anymore. The dishes that once belonged to her, I still use – but only for the same thing she used them for. One bowl is only for mashed potatoes. The top part of the large double boiler was only used to heat up soup. I am so lucky to have digital recordings of her voice so I can still hear her. I have some old videos so I can still see her in motion. I have letters that she sent to my grandparents in the 1950s when she lived in Japan so I can read her words and know her thoughts. And I have photos – tons of photos.

Each year my sister and I buy a silk flower arrangement for the vase on her gravestone. The cemetery leaves it there from spring until fall. And we will continue to do so until neither one of us can do that anymore. I miss our daily phone conversations even though there were times neither one of us had any real news of the day to share. Occasionally, I have to keep myself in check because I haven’t picked up the phone to call her before realizing there’s no one to call anymore. When I hear hateful words between family members, I’ve had to say that I wish I could argue with my mom but I can’t because she’s not there hoping to make someone realize that life could change in an instant.

This is just a small part of my mom’s story. But it’s her final story. And whether it’s five years or fifty years, I’ll miss her everyday.

Mary Helen (Johnson) Amore
September 21, 1921 – May 1, 2009

mom's grave with flowers 2013

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Not long after 9/11, I wrote an article on my personal web site to express my thoughts and my actions on the events that occurred on that horrible day. Then five years later, I wrote an update. Here are my words:

eaglecrying

FIVE YEARS LATER
September 11, 2006: Five years after the attack that claimed thousands of lives and shattered the illusion of safety that America had strived to achieve for so long, the question seems to be “are we any safer now?”  Most of the editorials seem to believe that we are not.  The threat is still there around the next corner.  We have been fighting the war on terror almost as long now – on the battlefront, in a middle eastern country that some believe we are right to be fighting and some believe its wrong – we fight terror on the information superhighway, over the telephone lines, through our many forms of media, and for some people – in their own homes.  Measures the government and private industry has instituted in the last five years include: airport safety, immigration arguments, thorough background checks of some employees, the Patriot Act and much more.  More importantly – what hasn’t changed?  What safety measures are lacking?  Many entered churches (some for the first time) after 9/11 to pray for the country, for those who had perished, for comfort, and for themselves.  How many of those are still worshipping regularly?  How many have turned away from our Creator as the war in Afghanistan and Iraq continues?  How many mothers have listened in fear to news reports of roadside bombings in an area where their sons and daughters are deployed?  And the biggest question – how do we fight an ideaology that wants only death for free Americans?  We can push education – educate others to be tolerant and compassionate.  America, however, can’t dictate what other countries are teaching their young people.  What does it tell the world, when Americans can’t even begin to be compassionate to one another?  Each day there are still horrendous acts taking place – right in our cities, in our suburbs, in the rural communities, in our companies and industries, and right in our backyards.  Not only do strangers murder each other but parents and children talk to each other with venomous hate.  What do we show the rest of the world when we can’t even get along?
Are we safer today than 5 years ago?  Not really.  We all like to think we are.  We like to cling to that illusion that was shattered so instantly on 9/11 that we are a little safer.  Can we live our lives in fear and terror?  No – because as soon as we start – they have won the battle.  We have to live – go to work, to play, to worship, to school, to enjoy our families, create friendships and be friends – or we aren’t really living.  If we throw up our hands and say “why bother”, we have handed those terrorists our lives.

THEN
This page is dedicated to all those men and women, ordinary citizens, police heroes and fire fighter heroes, airline pilots and flight attendants, business travelers and military personnel who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. And for the families of the thousands of victims – not only has this been your tragedy – but a world’s tragedy – a nation’s tragedy – and for each of us, our own personal tragedy.

I grew up in the home of parents who had both lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They had lived in Japan after the war and saw the aftermath of the bombs. My grandparents had lived through World War I and had visited many cities in Europe and saw the aftermath of the wars there. My great-grandfather, James House, fought for the Union in the Civil War. My grandfather, Glen Johnson, served in WWI and was in the service during WWII and the Korean War. My father served in WWII. Several cousins and family members went to Viet Nam. Another cousin was active during the Gulf War. I grew up listening to stories about the tone of the world before December 7, 1941. I heard and have seen news stories showing the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My family relayed their own personal opinions and how that day affected them. Until September 11th, I never completely understood their words. And unfortunately – at 8:45 a.m. that morning – I realized exactly what their words meant. I realized how their world had changed – just as mine changed that morning. I realized from that moment on – nothing I had ever known would hold the same meaning for me. I realized that I had not been desensitized by the media. I cried and my heart wept for those who died, those who fought the hijackers, those who were left without spouses, those children who lost parents, and the world.

Less than two weeks previous to September 11th, I lost my brother to cancer. I was already feeling sorrow and sadness. As events unfolded on every television channel the morning of the tragedy, I was too numb to put down in words exactly what I was seeing, hearing and feeling. I emailed my husband with each new piece of information. A few days later, when my mind began to sort everything out, I wrote my feelings in a journal I keep.

Emails that I wrote to my husband:

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Subject: Bomb at Pentagon
Honey, Now I just heard & am seeing on NBC that a bomb has exploded at a heliport by pentagon. Lots of smoke – said a significant blast.  Looks terrible. Pentagon shook & windows rattled. Reporter said could smell acidic smell (like when a florescent light goes bad) – now they are saying highly sophisticated attack. Later, Love, Wendy

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Now they are saying – might be another plane – that crashed into heliport at pentagon. Getting too scary. White house has been evacuated – Bush is in Florida but he will be leaving soon to get back to DC – reporters are getting jumpy when they hear aircraft. Hope Cheney is underground – just in case Bush’s plane is targeted upon his return trip.

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Supposedly the people they’ve heard that are claiming responsibility is people for Palestinian Liberation. One of the airplanes that hit World Trade Center was an American Airlines jet hijacked going from Boston to LA (I’m glad you’re not traveling right now!)

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
FAA has shut down ALL air traffic Nation Wide

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001

Subject: Another one
Reporter just said & just showed on NBC – another explosion at WTC – don’t know if this is residual or not. Another explosion on both sides (left & right) buildings of WTC. Felt 2 blocks from there. Manhattan is covered in smoke right now. Pictures are horrible. People are running – reminds me of Independence Day when everyone starts running away.. Now showing from harbor view. Confirmed that a plane was what went down at the Pentagon. Can’t even see one of the WTC buildings – only smoke & flames. Evacuating all critical buildings (probably in DC as well as NY).

Emails I sent others:

To my sister – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Watching the news this morning – very disturbing. Pretty scary as well.

To my sister – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
I know this will sound horrible – I’m glad none of this happened last week or we would have had to figure out another way there.[referencing our brother's funeral] Very hard to comprehend. People are filling reunion arena to donate blood.[referencing the big arena in the area] My mother-in-law called while I was at work to make sure Charlie wasn’t traveling. I called her back & told her we were all here & okay & no one was in the air. Later, Wendy

To my sister – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Emailed one of the Johnson cousins – Virginia – she’s an atty in DC. She’s okay & emailed me about leaving one courthouse & going to another one when they closed it & listening to the military jets overhead. Charlie has flown on Flt 11 from Boston Logan before – I thought it was one of those that he’s been on before. Told him I was glad today that he’s not with Nokia or traveling at this point.

To one of my genealogy cousins – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Thanks for replying, Virginia. I’ve found out everyone I’m related to or know who are in / around NY or DC or flying are okay. My niece is a flight attendant with Frontier & she was on the ground in Portland when all you know what broke out. Wendy

To my sister – Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001
Well – I had to get out of the house for awhile today. This morning during a lull in getting stuff done around here – everything just hit me from the past couple weeks, . . .  what is going on in this country. Went to the library & looked at all their genealogy stuff. Just needed to do something else with my mind.

To my sister – Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001
Only worked until noon today. My heart just isn’t in it. The church was also opened for anyone to come in during the noon hour for prayer. I went into the sanctuary after I turned my computer off & there were already several people there including a couple who just happened to wander in – glad they felt they could.

From my Journal:

14 Sept 01
Three days ago the world fell apart. 9-11. After dropping [my son & daughter] at school & getting gas, [my youngest daughter] & I were at Main St. crossing the bridge over I-35E when the breaking story hit KLUV that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trace Center towers in NY. First they thought it was a small plane & not even a jet. I immediately told [my youngest daughter] that terrorists had struck the center again. That they’d tried to bomb it in 93 and now this. She wanted to know what that would do and why there. Tried to explain world economics, etc. No way could I believe it was an accident. Once back at home I called [my husband] to give him news & then turned on NBC news. The pictures were bad. Smoke pouring out of the #1 tower not quite at the top. Then horribly as I & the nation watched 20 minutes after the first crash came a 2nd one into the 2nd tower. How many had died just in those 2 crashes? As I typed on the email my thoughts could not begin to comprehend the destruction. 20 minutes from that 2nd attack came a 3rd – directed this time in DC at the Pentagon. Bush had already spoken to the nation from his stop in Sarasota, Florida. My concern was to get the Pres. someplace safe as well as VP Cheney. If terrorists could strike the Pentagon, they could hit other DC places. Air travel was stopped. All planes grounded. Then word came that a missing flight had crashed in PA. In an empty field. People on board that plane had decided to stop the terrorism at the cost of their own lives but not taking the lives of other innocent people. I hadn’t been at work too long when not only the 2nd building that was hit collapse to the ground but so did the 1st one. How many rescuers were already in there? How many lives lost? The reporters kept calling it surreal because that was the only description. It looked like something out of a spy movie. Except it was all real. No Spielberg behind the camera. No Bruce Willis or Rambo who was going to take out the men responsible. No good guy to win over the bad. The 1st name on everyone’s lips was Osama bin Laden – the mastermind. Not Carlos the Jackal this time unless he was doing this from wherever they have put him. No Harvey Keitel in a movie costume. Just pure evil. I wasn’t alive when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I’ve heard about it all my life from parents who were alive then. But I don’t think this could compare. Then we knew who had hurt us. We had a geographic location to strike back at. This is not a country who has struck. It is a faction. I wasn’t sure if Hollywood had desensitized me against such brutality, destruction & evil but it hadn’t. Yesterday it felt as if my life had crumbled. I lost Jim over a week ago on Aug. 31st. My family was emotionally torn by other stuff this week. I just cried & cried & cried. Keeping busy at home wasn’t helping. I left the house for the quiet of the library. No TVs there & no radios. For over an hour I poured over immigration lists and settler books. Those ancestors of mine, long dead – who faced war in the form of the Revolution – the war that created the Patriotism we are witnessing today. The Civil War – which tried to bring a nation torn apart by different political views together. The wars of the 20th century. WWI which Granddad was a part of. WWII – which my father was a part of. Korea – Viet Nam – the Persian Gulf War. What type of war will this now be? Can we stop the terrorism for future generations? Can we ever return to the carefree life we had before Tuesday morning? Can we ever see a plane overhead & not wonder or think about the 4 planes that were hijacked? Can we ever see a new picture of the Manhattan skyline & remember the twin towers that graced the picture & remember those who lost lives & loved ones in that terrorist massacre?

16 Sept 01
Sunday morning. I’m sure the church will be full today. There was a prayer service Friday at noon. Pres. Bush declared that a National Day of Prayer and Mourning. I stopped work at noon & went into the sanctuary. There were already several folks there. I prayed and cried. Then I went home. We watched “Independence Day” – at least in that movie we know what & who we are fighting. Couldn’t get to sleep last night. Tossed & turned. Last night took me a long time to get to sleep.

30 Oct 01
This weekend will be 4 weeks since the US started bombing Afghanistan. That really doesn’t bother me. I’m just hopeful that all the “new” security measures we are implementing don’t go too overboard & encroach on the freedoms we do have. Isn’t that the reason we are trying to defeat the terrorists? So we can keep our freedom? Feel like October has just whooshed by. People are still rasing money to send to the victims of the 9-11 terrorists attacks. Only problem is that it becomes such a normal part of every day life that people may start to forget the terrible thing that brought us to where we are. At least I’m back to sleeping at night.

11 Nov 01 Veterans Day.
Time to think about all those military persons who have gone before us making sure our nation is safe. My g-grandfather, James House, who I never knew, fought for the Union in the Civil War. Granddad – active roles in WWI, WWII & Korea. Dad who served during WWII – his brothers doing the same. My cousin in Vietnam as well as [other cousins].

TODAY – 12 Years Later

Not long ago we were watching a program on the Smithsonian Channel about 9/11 and before too long I felt tears in my eyes. Even though twelve years has passed, I still feel the sorrow that I did on that day. Though I didn’t lose anyone in that attack, it was personal. Less than two weeks prior to 9/11, my brother passed away (I have referenced this above). I never wanted to lose my brother but if he had passed away at any time after 9/11, we would never have been able to grab a flight, get to the airports at the last minute and make the funeral the day after his death. My niece was a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines during that time. I spent that morning with my heart in my throat until I knew that she was on the ground and safe. The fall of 2000 my husband had accepted a job with another company. He really didn’t want to leave Nokia but the salary offer, benefits, and signing bonus was too much to walk away from. The job ended in 2002 – but – if he had stayed with Nokia, he quite possibly could have been on one of those doomed flights as he had flown on EVERY SINGLE ONE of them prior to leaving Nokia. My first born grandson – born just months prior to 9/11 – has only known America after 9/11. He will never know what it’s like to have loved ones see him off from the terminal of an airport. He won’t be able to carry a pocketknife – something most men just always did – even on an airplane. It was as common as carrying their wallets. The term “Al Queda” will always be a part of the world’s vocabulary.  Each time people see a low flying aircraft – especially over New York City or Washington D.C. – they will fear another 9/11.

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To Be Completed:

  • Two blog posts – right now they are sitting in my draft folder waiting on me to finish them.
  • Attaching Media Files – Slowly and methodically I am attaching media files (images of censuses, newspapers, vital records, and photos) to individuals in my Family Tree Program.
  • Sourcing – I have tons of sources that need to be entered correctly (do I hear a collective gasp from my fellow genea-bloggers and Elizabeth Shown Mills at the same time?!) Before anyone hyperventilates, let me explain. Yes, it’s true that most of my documentation is not sourced according to Mills’ Evidence Explained – but they are all sourced in such a way that anyone can find the source. Using FTM 2011, it’s sometimes not very easy to figure out exactly what template to use for the source (I know, it’s an excuse but I was busy researching!)
  • RootsMagic – I downloaded the free version of RootsMagic Essentials. After reading so many positive reviews about this software – especially when it comes to sourcing, I wanted to try it out. It is a very slow process because after each fact, I am listing the sources correctly!  I may never make the switch from FTM, but I will be able to list the sources correctly by the time I’m done!
  • Organize – I have a four drawer filing cabinet that needs serious reorganization. Several file folders are filled with paper reports that are out of date and since I want to lessen the amount of stuff in there, I need to add them to the circular file!
  • Scanning – Tons of photos need to be scanned and metadata added to them.

Accomplished:

  • Found a 1931 letter written by my grandfather’s foster sister, Eva (see this article that I wrote about her). The letter was written to my grandparents detailing how she met her father for the first time. The story can stop there, but it doesn’t – I scanned it & emailed it as quick as I could to Eva’s daughter – the daughter she gave up at birth just as she had been given up.  Now perhaps my cousin can knock down some of her own brick walls!
  • Well – wasn’t that enough for the week?

 

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I’m proud to introduce you to Trey, our newest family member! He was born just before we left on vacation and his mother, our second daughter, was more than ready to “evict” him! Weighing in at a little over 8 lbs, he immediately stole the hearts of not only his parents, but his other set of grandparents (he is their first grandchild), his aunt and uncles, cousins, and parents’ friends!

(photo of Trey was taken the day after his birth; photographed by my daughter and texted to me while we were on the road for vacation)

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After two+ days of labor and delirium, Mary gave birth to her first born child (no, this isn’t THAT story!). The baby boy weighed over 10 lbs and came into the world on January 2, 1940.  His mother was just a mere eighteen – still a child herself. He was the first grandchild for his maternal grandparents who doted on him and cared for him when his mother was working.  In fact, he met his great-grandmother in Oregon before his mother had met the woman!

When he was five and a half, he found himself an older brother to his newborn baby sister.  The family lived in a state far away from the grandparents he loved dearlyjim picture new camera. He made friends with the neighboring family’s children.  As a young teen, he found himself – along with his mother and sister – on a sjim&sandykelso001hip headed to Japan to join the family patriarch who had been stationed there with the United States Army Air Corps (the forerunner to the U.S. Air Force). He made friends, participated in the Boy Scouts, learned to be a photographer, and tried to be a dutiful son and big brother.  Since they were so far from family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – they sent many letters back to the States.  After a few years, they went back to their home state of Ohio, but then once again found themselves back in Japan again. He graduated from the American High School and joined the Air Force. Unfortunately, due to his eyesight and other physical issues, he was discharged before too long.

In February 1961, he married a woman that he met at work.  Soon after they were married, he heard that he was going to be a big brother again!  He and his wife took the new little sister under their wing, and she spent many weekends with them. As his baby sister grew, he found himself in a role that he never expected – being torn between being her big brother and confidante and a father-figure when their father moved away. At the same time, he was enjoying new fatherhood for he and his wife had just adopted their own little boy.

He had found his niche working for a printing company in Dayton and assumed he would be there until retirement. He and his wife had finally found a home they were fixing up and happy with that wasn’t that far away from both of their mom’s. He was an officer with the local Fraternal Order of Eagles and enjoyed the friendships and community service he found within the organization.

There were a series of losses – his beloved maternal grandmother and then grandfather and close friends.  After his son graduated high school, hardship struck when the printing company closed the doors. Dayton was experiencing a major downturn in the jobs market and he had a very hard time finding a job right away so he went to work for a cousin. He and his family moved to another home and proceeded.  Every so often he would find he and his mom on the outs – he avoided confrontation like the plague, and she sought it out.

thanksgiving98_3He found a new love in a far off state.  For a short time, he was remarkably happy. Then his health began to deterioriate. The worst part was that no one could tell him exactly why or what to do about it. By the time the doctors had discovered the pancreatic cancer, it was much too late. He only had a short time left. Too short of time for he and his mother to reconcile – although she tried to tell him while he was comatose. His two sisters were also grief-stricken but tried to remain strong for their mother – who should not have had to see her son succumb to his illness.  Far too soon and far too young, he passed away on the last day of August before the world fell apart and terrorists held the world hostage in horror.

He was survived by his wife, his mother, his father and step-mother, his three sisters and their husbands, his son, many nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends.

Today, he should be turning 73, and I should be able to call him on the phone and say, “Happy Birthday, Jim! I love you!”

 (Photos: Mary and Jim, 1940; Jim and Sandy Kelso - 1945, photographer: Gene Amore; Jim at Christmas in Japan, photographer: Jim Amore; Gene and Jim Amore, Thanksgiving 1998 in Arkansas, photographer: Wendy Littrell.  All photos – originals and digital images held in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

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In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d take you on a photo tour through many years of “dressing up” for the holiday.  Disclaimer: some of the following photos of me were not taken at Halloween – they were taken at times I just felt called to dress up (my children may either get a kick out of these or be horribly embarrassed)!

I was three – not quite four – when I was a “Chipmunk” for Halloween. I can remember that Mom and Dad drove me over to my grandparents’ house to Trick or Treat. They “hid” while I went up to the door. Somehow I still think that my Nana and Grandad knew who I was!

This is one of those times that I just created my own “look” and it wasn’t Halloween!  I call this being a “movie star” because of the hat and sunglasses!  I am not sure why I was pretending it was very sunny, yet still had a rain umbrella!!

Scary witch, anyone? I can’t believe I had on a “dress” type costume because it was usually pretty chilly at the end of October in Ohio.  There were many times that Mom and I argued over whether I should wear a coat to trick or treat – I did not like that my costume would be covered up!

I am “Little Red Riding Hood”!  This was taken just before I turned six. School age kids would not only “beg” for treats but they would carry UNICEF boxes to collect money.  I did the same thing when I was in elementary school. The money was taken back to school after “beggar’s night”.  Do you remember doing that?

 

This was my attempt at dressing up as an “Old Lady” for Halloween – complete with my mom’s wig, an old ’50s style skirt, and a stick I made into a cane!  What strikes me as insanely amusing is that I sure didn’t look “old” (I was almost ten) – in fact now I am the age I was trying to “look” back then and I don’t think I’m even pulling it off now!

Somewhere I have another photo that shows me with my hair all tied up in a scarf, rock star make up on my face (in the style of KISS), with a pair of purple tights under shorts!  And that wasn’t for Halloween – that was just me being me – at about fifteen!

Even as an adult, the thrill of wearing a costume for Halloween has not left me.  I’ve dressed up as a witch, a fortune-teller, a pregnant gypsy (I was pregnant with my youngest child at the time!), a hippie, and a “madam”.

As the years have gone by, I’ve watched my four children get excited at Halloween and talk about what costume they will be wearing for weeks before “Trick or Treat” night.

    

Now I get to see the three grandsons all dressed up!  (Picture on far right was taken by my daughter: Teresa Sumner)

Image of Jack-o-lantern Pumpkins by Petr Kratochvil

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Happy 4th of July

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I want to wish all of my readers a glorious Independence Day! I will be baking a great dessert for our church’s annual Ice Cream Social, and this afternoon my husband will be in charge of the burger’s on the grill. We’ll head out to church late this evening & then stick around because it is easy to see the fireworks from the parking lot.

I am so thankful for the freedoms we have in this magnificent country and though there are several types of divisions (political, social & religious especially), I hope that when it comes right down to it, we all would stand behind the USA & together against any threats. As many song lyrics proclaim: God Bless the USA!!!

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Posting from Kindle

That’s right! I am now able to post from my Kindle Fire! There is an app for that!

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There Be Camels!

A week and a half ago, I posted a picture on my Wordless Wednesday post that showed my mom riding a camel. Where? When? How?

From the time I was young, Mom had always wanted to travel to far off countries. She got an opportunity when my dad was stationed twice in Japan in the 1950s with the Army Air Corps (US Air Force). However, I remember her mentioning that she always wanted to go to Australia.  Why there? I don’t know because she never gave an explanation. There were other countries she wanted to visit, too.

In the late ’90s, Mom became very excited when she realized that she might be able to take a trip to the Holy Land as part of a church group.  She told me that she had always wanted to see Israel, although I don’t ever remember her mentioning that. Perhaps it was due to the fact she was getting older or it was something she hadn’t ever shared because it was so personal to her and her faith.

She was working full time and had put money back for the trip. Her minister and another lady from her church would be part of the group. At least she had another woman she knew to room with. Mom was still in pretty good health although I was concerned about the distance and speed at which any walking would take place, and if she would be able to keep up.

Then the time came – even though there was still quite a bit of unease in the Middle East (this was prior to the War) – she told me that if security was too risky, they wouldn’t have been allowed to go.

I waited until she returned from her trip, anxious to hear that she was okay and it had all been worth it for her. She loved seeing places where Jesus had taught and preached during his life. She had taken several rolls of film that she promised she’d send to me – just to look at but I’d have to immediately mail it back afterwards – as soon as they were developed.  The only hitch of her trip had come afterwards when they landed in Egypt for the international flight home. She had stepped off the debarking stairs and twisted her ankle. If it had to happen, I was glad it was after the trip instead of before.

Finally the box of information arrived.  Pictures, pictures, and more pictures – along with small posters, travel guides, and purchased pictures and postcards. It took me over a week to absorb it all. Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever “got” the entire picture at that time.

No, it would be years and years later – after she passed away – that my sister and I were discussing her trip – that the emotions she must have felt finally seeped into my heart. She had taken a pilgrimage to Israel – alone – without any blood relatives with her.  It was Mom and her faith and love of the Lord that had carried her to see the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the hill where Jesus was crucified on the cross, the tomb that he had left after his resurrection. These places and the emotions she felt would never be something she could explain. Yet, she had all the reminders that she could look at every day through the photos she took and the maps of places she had seen.

While in Israel, she rode the camel. It was probably dirty and smelly but that was her way of being “really there.”

After her death, I became the keeper of all her mementos and photographs. She loved being able to travel there. I wish I could have been with her so I could have seen her face as she saw all those things up close. That would have been part of my memory. The camel photo was one that was used on the DVD I made for her memorial service. It showed her in a humorous setting (Mom on a Camel!) and in a country that she repeated over and over again as she aged that she was glad to see before she died.

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SISTERS

(Original & Digital Image Owned by Wendy Littrell)

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