St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He is often credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland and bringing Christianity to Ireland. Note: According to at least one article, there weren’t any snakes in Ireland – so his act may not be all that impressive. Nonetheless, today, March 17, is the day the Irish (and many who claim to be Irish, wish they were Irish, know an Irish person, or hope someday to go to Ireland) celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. While it was originally a religious feast, it has become secular celebration founded by Irish immigrants in America. Simply put, it’s a big deal and it is a big party.

People all over American celebrate this day. There are parades, green beer, green rivers, and lots of fun. My mom was 1/2 Irish and raised Catholic. She loved St. Patrick’s Day and she loved a big party.

Do you know why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today? Why March 17? Was he born on this day? No. Is this the day he introduced Christianity to Ireland? No. Is this the day he drove the snakes out? No. We celebrate this day because it is believed he died on March 17, 461.

I’m not a huge fan of this day. It is a day I will never forget. I was headed out to work when the phone rang (this was back in the days when people had landlines). My wife answered the phone. She quickly made eye contact, mumbled some words into the phone, and held up her hand indicating I needed to stop. Being the ever obedient husband, I stopped. A blank look came over her face. I asked who was on the phone. She said, “It was the nursing home. She said your mom isn’t doing well and you should get there soon.”

My mother had been in the nursing home for a couple of weeks. She was recovering from surgery to repair a broken hip. Additionally, she had Parkinson’s Disease. She was no longer the smiling and engeretic person she once was. For 13 years, Parkinson’s Disease had ravaged her body and her mind. We knew the end was near.

I drove quickly to the nursing home. When I walked into her room, I immediately noticed what she was wearing. She wore a very bright multicolored sweater. If you knew my mother, this sweater matched her personality perfectly. My mom had picked the sweater to wear. It was the perfect sweater for her to wear to big party. I think she knew.

Also in the room was a nurse. The nurse said my mom was having problems breathing. My mom was laying in her bed. I sat down next to her. I held her hand and let her know I was there. And then, it happened. All the stress and tension that Parkinson’s Disease had put in her body went away. My mom’s Parkinson’s mask disappeared. She was so peaceful and relaxed. I had not seen her that way in years. I felt a warm rush of calm serentiy fill the room. But then it hit me, my mother had passed away. She was gone and just like St. Patrick, it was March 17.

I kept the sweater and found it again the other day. It reminded me of what a bright star my mom was. It is pictured in this post. So as you celebrate your Irish heritage today, raise a glass to honor my mother, raise a glass to honor your mother, and raise a glass to honor St. Patrick.

The importance of stories

This picture is of my mom and her dad.  There is no date on the picture, but she looks about 2 or 3 years old. Even at this age, her smile lit up a room. I never met her dad. He died before I was born. Yet from the stories my mom told and this picture, it is clear the two had a special bond.

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would have turned 90 years old. It has been 17 years since I celebrated a birthday with my mom. I wish she could see how great her grandkids have turned out.

I think about my mom every day. Around her birthday, I think about her a lot. March is the month in which she was born and died. There are so many stories I could tell about my mom.  Like the time I fell out of the car and she kept on driving – she hated it when I told that story. Or how sometimes when she and my dad would argue, she would begin to cry and through the tears say “Well, Shit!” and the argument was over. Or how about time she kept sneaking chocolates to my youngest son when she was in the hospital for the last time.

On her last birthday, I could tell mom was tired. Life and Parkinson’s disease had taken a toll on her mind and body. She was no longer the active vibrant woman of my youth. Yet, there was an occasional twinkle of mischief in her eyes. She wanted to say things but her body and mind wouldn’t let her. But through it all, she smiled when we sang happy birthday. She ate her cake and tolerated the grandchildren running around the room. This is how I remember her last birthday.

Mitch Albom wrote, “Sharing tales of those we’ve lost is how we keep from really losing them.” In this post, I shared a couple of stories about my mom. So today, take a moment and share a story about someone you love. If you have a story about my mom, send it to me, I would love to hear it. If your parents or grandparents are still living, call or visit them. Let them tell you a story that you can carry with you forever.

The Answers are Within

I’ve told this story to close friends but not it distributed widely. It’s possible, only close friends will read this post and that’s okay.

I am not an overly religious person person and not a fan of organized religion. However, I am spiritual and do believe we each have a purpose in this life. Further, I believe there is something after this life which I hope is better.

Over 25 years ago, my father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Though his health had been failing for years, his death was shock. No matter the circumstances, you are never ready to lose a family member.

At the time of his death, I was still in the early stages of my professional career and had recently started a new job. Our complicated and sometimes volatile relationship was improving. But now, with his death, our unresolved issues would remain. Further, I was thrust into a familial role I was not prepared to take. My mother looked to me for guidance. I longed for his wisdom, insight and support.

In the months following his death, I would often dream of spending time with him. In my dreams, we were often doing the things we did when he was living or things I wished we had done. In the dreams, there was no sense that we were living in different worlds as we were both alive.

Approximately six months after he died, I had another dream about my dad. This time it was different. This time it was clear I was living and he was not. The sensation still gives me chills.

The setting for the dream was in the house my parents were living when my father passed. My mom, sister and I were at the house when I stepped to the garage grab a cigarette and smoke (it was a nasty habit I had at the time).

When I entered the garage, my dad was there. I gave him a big hug. I felt a calm and peace that I have not felt since. In the garage, we talked about a lot of things while smoking. It was amazing. Imagine getting a

chance to spend a few more moments with someone you love after they pass.

At the end of our meeting, I asked him if he wanted to come inside and see my mom and sister. He looked at me and said “They aren’t ready to see me yet.” I was disappointed by his answer as I knew my mom and sister missed my dad as much as I did. I still don’t understand this part of the dream.

If the dream ended here, it would have been an amazing experience. But it didn’t end there. As we said our goodbyes, I asked my dad “When you die, do you get the answers to the questions?” My father looked at me inquisitively. “What do you mean?” he asked. I explained that I have always wanted to know the answers to many of the questions. Some serious and some not. What came first – the chicken or the egg? Is there a god? Will the Vikings ever win a Super Bowl? Once he understood what I was asking, my father looked at me and said, “The answers are within you, always”. And then he was gone.

I’ve spent the last 25+ years wrestling with his statement. Perhaps it means nothing and was just a dream. However, what if my dad was spot on? What if, we always have the answers within us? Does this mean that to have more success, you need a better questions?

I’ll end here, if the answers are within, asking better and empowering questions will lead to better and empowering answers.

One last thing, mark down 2026…that’s when the Vikings will win the Super Bowl.

Day 29 of Gratitude Challenge

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” – Mitch Albom

Those that know me, know this topic is a bit more complex for me than others. Though I am unbelievably grateful for my birth mother, this post will focus on my adoptive mother.

The picture above is of my mother long before she ever knew I would be a part of her life. My mother was an amazing woman. While growing up, she was always there for our family. She always put our needs ahead of hers. She did so many things but mostly she made me feel safe and loved. Today, I am grateful for my mother. Take time today to be grateful for your mother. Focus on the good.