A Lesson in Friendship

It seems strange to me I’m just getting around to posting again after letting another two weeks go by.  Things are settling down around here but, I guess sometimes things like these just take a while. 
So the short story today is: I heart faces is holding another photo contest. The theme for this contest is Friendship.  As we all know, friendship comes in all sizes, shapes and colors. You just never know where you’ll find it. 

 When I think of friendship, I can’t help but think of Tommy. He’s the hippy on the right. The man with the bandanna around his head, holding the red cup.  Tommy is my brother George’s friend.  He has been around for. . . well. . .I guess, forever. The other guy in this photo, holding the yellow cup, is my brother George’s son. . .Little, Bigger George, as I loving call him. 

 The  one thing I always think of when I see Tommy is how genuine he is. What you see is what you get: a true, loyal friend. 

 I will never forget the action Tommy took when our father died. He cut his hair, shaved, bought himself a suit, arrived at the mortuary early, before any of us got there and waited outside for his friend George.  

Tommy told me that night. . . when I saw him standing there waiting: “I don’t want anyone of you walking in there alone tonight. Your father was better to me then my own father and I will always be grateful for that.”  In his kindness, Tommy offered to walk in with me because, Mark had gone to be with my mother. I told Tommy I would be okay, I had my kids with me and then I remember Tommy saying; “I’m just going to wait right here for George. . . so I don’t miss him and he doesn’t have to walk in alone. ” and my heart filled with love that night. . . and I’ll never forget the lesson in friendship a man named Tommy taught me without even trying the night of October 2, 2009.   


Lungs 4 Life. . .Standing United

Editors Note: Because I have received many e-mails and comments saying the information I have in this post about Lung Cancer is vital to our community, I thought I would keep this post going for the week by playing many memes. I have also had many comments and e-mails telling me people would be putting this post on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for stopping by my little blog and taking the time to read this post.   If you need more information about Lung Cancer and it’s stigmas please go to the Lung Cancer Alliance Link I have on my blog. 

The Cain Halter run was last week and since it IS a cause we ALL care deeply about, we thought we would get together and give this run our all. 
160,000 Lives in 2009! 

We know this is true because, one of those 160,000 was our father.   I will tell you this,  when you lose just one of those 160,000,  it really does feel like you lost ALL 160,000.  It’s devastating to think. . . HE never smoked. He never lived with smokers. HE always lived a healthy life style. HE exercised everyday, even up to the last weeks of his life. When he couldn’t get up anymore, HE exercised in bed. . .YES! In Bed.  

And still he died. . . of Lung Cancer.  

Just in case you missed that, I want to make sure you heard me; Over 60% of new lung cancer cases are never smokers or former smokers, many of whom quit decades ago.  

Because we really care about Lung Cancer and we have to change the stigma. . . we turned into Team Finnell. . .AGAIN! 

But, this time with shirts.

We hit the road! To walk. To run. To support. 

Friends came out and ran with us.  

Speaking of beautiful friends and woman heres another fact for you:  Lung Cancer has surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause for cancer death in women.  Do you know: you don’t have to be a smoker to get lung cancer?  

With this in mind, we clung to each other and supported. . .like we always do. 

We made it to the end. . .Like we always do

All of us

We ran on the Faith of our Father. . .We ran with his spirit by our side.  We ran meeting people who were survivors. We ran with people who lost loved ones ,  who were runners. . . 

It effected us deeply as we thought of what was. 

 It effects us deeply as we think of the facts. We stand united AS “Team Finnell” . . . now with shirts.

Even though everyday we remember . . .There are some things none of us will ever understand.   Maybe, just maybe a little family run for Lung Cancer might help us heal, one year at a time. 

Ni Hao Y'all

I want to Remember

As I think about the past week and the tremendous effect it will have on the rest of my life…..I can’t help but think how do I carry this? How do we move forward like my father wants us too? How do you respectfully keep going, stay positive and live up to his memory? Just how do we do that?

The other day my cousin Kathy sent a comment that has stuck with me …….She told me how my father was her first crush….I can see that…my father was very handsome…((the was is so hard for me to fully grasp.))
However, that was not the part I am speaking of……….The one thing she said that stuck with me was…….”I always found comfort in knowing my Dad (and Mum) were only as far away as my heart.” “Just listen…you will hear him.” She is so right…….I can feel him……… everywhere. He truly is everywhere.
But, before I can find the comfort and peace to go on with my life, and before I can get things to the point of a “new normal”, these are the things I want to remember for the rest of my life:

I want to remember how my mother, my father’s wife of 56 years, has been a pillar of strength for her husband and her children through out this whole ordeal. During the times my father was sick because of cancer, radiation or chemo….my mother was always by his side, taking care of him. She was always encouraging him to get up and eat with the family. She was always encouraging him to get up and sit with the family. She was always encouraging him to keep working and to keep going. The last days or weeks of his life it was our mother that let us sit with him and keep him company. On the really bad days she generously let us be alone with him and just hold his hand. She let us help her, help him. She was truly amazing. She IS truly amazing.

These past four and an half years when the doctors would say…….”Bill, we don’t want you uncomfortable.” My mother would say “I just want him here….I don’t care about his comfort. Let’s just keep him here.” My father loved to hear this. He would smile his biggest smile and laugh with pure joy and say…”That is the nicest thing she could ever say to me.” He accepted her words for what they were……True Love. When it was time to let go….She simply knew and as hard as it was for her……she did….again…..True Love.
She knew he would be with her forever……living in her heart.

I want to remember my Aunt Mary Lou and how she stayed with my parents the nights she was really needed. I want to remember how she let my mother sleep and how she stayed up all night with my dad watching over him, helping him anyway she could. I want to remember the love and dedication she gave to us, my father and most of all her sister, our mother.

I want to remember how my sister in law, my brother in law and my husband would make time to see my dad everyday. How Linda helped with his care giving her time so lovingly. How Reiner worked in the yard, Mark worked on the equipment and how both of these men would go and just sit with our dad. They would just sit with him, letting him know he was never alone.

I want to remember, my oldest three children serving on the Alter at my father’s funeral Mass. How Matthew held the cross as high as he could…..I know he wanted his Grandpa to see it, to feel the love, admiration and how honored he was to be part of his Mass….I want to remember how each one of the children stood on the Alter with pride and just how lovingly they served for him and my mother that day.

I want to remember how the older grandsons were pallbearers for my father and how James and William read the readings at the Mass with such dignity and respect.

I want to remember how each one of the grandchildren put a rose in a basket on the Alter by my father’s casket and how significant that act of love was for both my parents.

There is nothing more important then family… The final act was perfect and honored them both in such a way I never dreamed possible.

I want to remember, Jen’s eulogy and how she started it off with ….”Uncle Bill, you can not drive.” And how Jen’s tribute to my father left everyone with a smile on their face……Just remembering.
I want to remember the day of the wake: When we were trying to get the house ready for all the guest…..Jen was there working, helping us get ready. She told me she needed to run to the store and she needed me to show her how to get there. I want to remember how I really didn’t want to go but she insisted. After all, as she said, she lives in California now and she could get terribly lost…. She said it was very important that I go with her…to show her the way.

In reality it was important to me. She knew I was becoming over whelmed and had to get out. Our ((or at least my)) spirits were lifted as she filled 2 great big carts and baskets with mums, pumpkins, candles, flowers, and a wreath. After the shopping we were off to McDonald’s for a nice FAT comfort meal that we both seemed to enjoy all to much. Jen said she wanted to get all those things to bring happiness and color back into my parent’s home…… and that is exactly what she did.

On the way home that day I realized she had a GPS in her car and I thought she lied….. But I am so glad she did……She knew I needed to get out more then she needed me to show her the way. I remember saying to her….”Thank you for making it sound important that I come….I needed this.” I think she said; I know.

I want to remember how Aunt Ann sang and just how beautiful her voice and the songs we picked were that day. My father loved her voice and to have her come down and sing would have been such and honor for him. I want to remember; how her daughter Peggy and Aunt Ann’s husband Paul came down without a single thought. They just came a thousand miles to be with our family. It was all so wonderful.

I want to remember the out-pour of friends and mostly family….how Ann Marie came back down even though she was just here a couple of weeks ago. It was just that important. And how Uncle Bernie and Sue showed up and made us all laugh and feel good about the day.

I want to remember; how my in laws just came and gave and did. My sister in law, Kim, stocked the shelves and refrigerator at my house. She knew shopping was the last thing on my mind. She knew we were mostly out of everything…..The night of the my father’s wake I even came home to a very clean kitchen because of her. She knew walking in the door to a clean kitchen was almost better then a warm hug.
I want to remember how very loving my dear sweet husband has been. How he comforted me and just gave to me when he was hurting too. Mark told me just how much my father meant to him and how grateful he was that when the odds seemed against him my dad was the only one who truly believed in him and gave him a real chance to prove himself in the business world.

I want to remember the food people sent over…..the flowers people gave…and what flowers there were…
I want to remember the friends and family that came and cried and loved us. How my father’s brothers came down without a thought. I want to remember just how Uncle Joe and his wife came back down even though he and Aunt Millie were just here. I want to remember my cousin Lyn and her tears of love. I want to remember Uncle Bob and his wife, Pat, their daughter Patty and her children. I want to remember how both my father’s brothers told stories about their childhood and how the love shined through. Each tale told with devotion, humor, honor and joy. With each Aunt and uncle came their children…. Cousins I hardly knew.

I want to remember Aunt Jean and Aunt Joan came with Kathy and Kristen. I want to remember how my aunts stayed just a few more days in an effort to make this transition just a tinny bit easier for their very good friend our mother.
I want to remember my cousin Judy’s genuine sorrow.
I want to remember how my friend Denise filled the pantry with food and paper products at my mother’s house and how she just thought of everything. I want to remember how my friend Kim just showed up at my parent’s house the morning of the wake and started cleaning bathrooms….How our girl friends from the karate school were just there in my mother’s kitchen after the funeral putting deserts they made on the table, making coffee, feeding my mother, my children, my sisters and me. It was an amazing display of love…..pure affection.

I want to remember the people that came to the wake and how they cried and how we comforted them. I want to remember their true sorrow and how grown men told me through their tears how my father and my mother were better to them then their own parents. I want to remember how many times I heard my father’s favorite saying that night from each one of those men…. Luck only comes to those who work at it.”

I know I will always remember my father and the love he shared because after all ~ my cousin Kathy is just so right when she said;
…….”I always found comfort in knowing my Dad (and Mum) were only as far away as my heart.” “Just listen…you will hear him.”

It was for the kids

A few Saturdays ago, I got to take Elizabeth to a Character Breakfast. A good friend invited me to go with her and her children. We had a great time…………..and……. I think the kids did too.

The girls were not really sure of what to think about it all.
But, they loved the pancakes and balloons that decorated the Hall.
We saw lots of characters like Dorothy and the Tin Man


This guy………….Who ever he is.
The best part was the party on wheels.
AND just hanging out with my friend…..
I mean for Elizabeth to hang out with her friends……..
Yeah, the best part for the kids,
was to hang out with their friends….
That’s right……..
it was for the kids.
Remember that Melissa………It was for the “Kids.”

Another Good Reason to Run, Pray and Give

This is an e-mail form my good friend Melissa:

She is begging for prayers for this little boy whom she has never met. This little boy is the same age as our daughters, two and a half. I can’t imagine the nightmare this family is going through.


Read her e-mail. Visit this child’s site. See his beautiful face and send his family a note of prayers and then give.

Here is the link to visit the caringbridge website Brayden’s grandmother created for him. Caringbridge is a nonprofit webservice that connects family and friends during a critical illness, treatment or recovery. I was introduced to it almost 2 years ago when a dear friend’s nephew, Joe (some of you might remember him…some of you selflessly kept him in your prayers for so long) was involved in a horrible accident that almost claimed his life. The prayers and messages of support, from so many people he didn’t personally know, made a HUGE impact on him and his life (as reported by his aunt, a dear friend). As my sisters and brothers in Christ, am calling on you to visit Brayden’s caringbridge website and leave a message of hope for him and his family. The grandmother told my mother today to forward the link to me and ask that I share it with as many people as I could. It goes without saying that this dear woman, a sister, covets the support of family and friends. And as fellow Christians, we all fall in that category of her “family”. Ever heard the story of the power of one? An old man was walking along the ocean after the tide had went out and was picking up starfish, one by one, throwing them back into the ocean. A young boy came up to him and started poking fun at him, exclaiming, “What are you doing old man? There’s a million starfish along this shoreline, there’s no way you’re going to save them all!” The old man looked at the young boy, bent over, picked up a starfish and tossed it in the water. He looked back at the young boy and said, “I made a difference to that one.” Every single prayer and message will make a difference in the life of Brayden and his family. Thank you for showering God’s love on this precious little boy.

In the grip of His grace,Melissa

*Proverbs 31*




My Little Flower

Yesterday, I went with Kathryn and the club she belongs to, called the “Little Flowers”, to a nursing home. The group wanted to hand out home made Valentines, Mary Kay hand lotion and some foot cream.
It was a great experience.
It just so happened that day the director in the nursing home said “her” people needed a “pick me up.” Our group of girls had just the thing an aching heart may call for……….Little Flowers handing out well wishes, candy, presents and hand crafted valentines to people they didn’t even know.
That day, the people in the Nursing home where grieving over a death of one of their close friends from early that same morning. They where more then happy to see our girls come in and spread cheer.
At first the girls were very shy and nervous until they discovered the people in the home were just like the people they know and love in their homes. It was so amazing to see how all the girls slowly bloomed from shy little flowers into loving, caring roses that wanted to make a difference in someone’s day.
All the girls lovingly gave out “thier goodies” while they talked to the residence. Everyone felt great about how they were spending their Valentines Day.
I really think these young woman understood they where actually making an impact on someone’s day. Before we went into the home, the mothers where telling the girls…..”How life was not about what you get, it is more about what you give”…..and yadda, yadda, yadda.
It seemed to me that day…..the message was not just for our little girls………the message went to the big girls as well.
I was ,of course, encouraged the most by my little flower, Kathryn.
To the outside world she is a shy, quite girl that is not always sure of herself. In my world she is a loud Tom boy that tries very hard to keep up with her 6 foot plus, brothers and dreams of “whipping the tar out of them”. Kathryn loves animals of all kinds, music and her baby sister.

This day I saw my future in “my Little Flower”. She blossomed into this loving young woman who gently opened gifts and lovingly read the cards she crafted for people she was afraid to meet. She held hands with sick strangers. She gave hugs to grandparents who told her they didn’t get to see there own granddaughters and could she just do this one more thing.


Sometimes I wonder…….. am I doing enough for society? Am I helping others the way I should be? Should I be fund raising, doing bake sales and doing all those other outside things people do to make a difference……..I wonder and then I research……. and then I think…….. I am just a stay at home mom that home schools her kids. I take care of my family, teach my children, help my husband and try to help my extended family…………..then I look at my girl……my little flower

AND I know……….

A Week in Review

On Sunday afternoons, our sons, Stephen and Alex, prepare for their lives as Catholics by going to a religion class. Margaret and I take advantage of the hour we have to give each other a little friendly, competitive push on our running. We talk, laugh, and try to out-do each other like good team mates should.

As we prepared Sunday night for a busy week ahead, all was right with in our world.

Monday was a normal school day and things went as they should. The bad news came Monday night, when the phone rang late. I normally would not have answered, but this time the ring had an urgent sound to it, as phones sometimes do. It was Kim, a friend of Margaret’s and mine. She wanted to tell me something terrible had happened to another friend’s son.Kim said our friend’s son had died. She was not sure of the details because she had received the news “through the grape vine”. We were not even sure if it was true.

Within seconds of hanging up from Kim, Margaret called to tell me what had happened. This friend’s son’s death was all too real.

Matt, the young man that died, was only 23. He was the only son of four children. He was a black belt many times over. He was a veteran of the Iraq war serving four tours of duty. He had also just recently signed up for the National Guard. He was a quiet, gentle kid always thinking of how he could help others. Amazingly, he wanted to serve our country even more than he had before.

Now the shock of this tragedy was starting to sink in for us. I could only imagine how his mother must feel. Matt and his mother where very close.

In this very sad time the circles of friends we have, where all at a loss as to what to do. Most of all, we were at a loss for words. Everyone was trying to do something, anything to make it better for Matt’s mother.

With no way to truly help, we cried.

We cried for his mother’s loss. We cried because we all knew Matt. We cried because we are all mothers. We also cried for all the losses of the mothers and fathers all over the country that are suffering due to this war or any war, for that matter.

A rainy, cold Tuesday was fitting for my mood that day. With the news still sinking in, the close circle of friends stayed in contact through e-mail. We shared our thoughts and most of all we tried to help each other cope. But, in reality we had the easy part and our lives still moved forward as usual.

My Matthew had made arrangements to spend Tuesday afternoon with his nana. They were going to run errands and then drop by the DMV so Matthew could take the drivers permit test. To much of his excitement, Matthew passed the test. Mark and I now have a student driver in the house.

Although, I am excited for Matthew, I can’t help but be a little sad. I keep thinking somehow I turned around and my baby boy was growing up all to fast. But, then again, I am very happy he has a grandmother that will take the time out of her busy day to spend with him and do these important things that kids need to feel special. Kathryn and Stephen went to piano lessons while Mary Elizabeth slept in the car. For me that day, my life move forward as usual.

By Tuesday night the word was out about Matt’s death. Everyone in our small town wanted to see if they could do something to help. His mother was one of the kick boxing teachers at the karate school we all had grown to love. All her old students and now friends came together at a local sandwich shop to pray, cry and talk about what could be done. Matt’s sisters had come to say thank you for caring and to tell us ways they thought we could help their mother. We learned what had happened to Matt. We learned about the very sad events of the weekend for his mother and her family.

We also learned, once again in the end, Matt showed his heroism and his mother showed her courage, faith, and love of life by donating Matt’s organs. None of us were surprised by this family’s incredible strength.

Wednesday morning, still cold and rainy and still fitting to the mood, was a rush out the door by 7 am. I had to have, my son, Matthew in Easley, an hour away. He was up for a 10 hour day of debate. Where the kids amazingly talked about sanctions, stock issues and reforms.

That same day, our father, as brave as can be, went in for another round of chemo with our mother at his side. For, they are still fighting the cancer that is eating away at our dad’s body.

My other kids did their school work in the car and at the church where the debate was held. They also helped where they could with the debating events. Elizabeth slept in the car and played where ever she was.

On the way home that night, we stopped and picked up a pizza for a late night dinner with our family. Mark and I talked with the kids about how the day went, read the comments on Matthew’s debating and then we kissed our children good night. It was life as usual for me.

Thursday morning the boys were really excited about the adventure they were about to partake with James and their grandparents. There was a very big conference about growing grapes and other small fruits that Matthew just had to attend.

For his dream is to have a muscadine farm where he, his siblings and James can become famous wine makers. They want to sell grapes to cancer research laps, make wine and anything else they can think of to do with the fruit. Incredibly, their grandparents are 110% behind them cheering all the way.

Thursday afternoon, my mother and father packed up the car and the three boys. They were taking them over night to the RAIN conference in Florence, South Carolina, about 4 hours away.

I took the girls home that afternoon to get dinner ready and to get myself ready for the funeral.

Thursday night Margaret and I went to the funeral together to pay our respects. As we drove up to the church we were taken back by all the cars in the parking lot. We walked slowly down a sidewalk that was lined with men in uniform holding American flags. Our walk into the church left us in awe for all the people that had come to show their love and respect for this young man and his mother.

The service was incredible. There was not a dry eye in the church. Everyone cried. They cried for the loss of this young life. They cried because of the things his sisters had said during the service. They cried because of the pictures that where shown. They all cried when our American flag, that covered Matt’s casket, was folded. Everyone cried even more when the bugle player played taps, and when the 21 gun salute was fired.

Even though everyone was filled with pride for this young man and pride for our great country, we cried.

Everyone cried because of the circumstance of this young man’s death. Once again the system had failed and this terrible event should not have been.

It was a tragic night.

Margaret and I went home to our whole families and even though we were both very sad; it was life as usual for me.

Friday came; Margaret and Kathryn went to their Friday home school classes. Our older boys where still in Florence enjoying the RAIN conference. Their grandfather was sick as he could be but never complained. Their grandmother showed her love and support for all her men by spreading herself thin…….watching the boys, learning about growing grapes and taking care of her husband, all 4 hours away from home.

Mary Elizabeth and I stayed home and prepared for our play date that would be later that day. Her new and only little friend came over to play. The girls played while I enjoyed talking to my friend and all was right with my world.

Friday night, everyone came home from the adventure of the conference excited and eager to get started. All three boys could not wait to get home and tell their mothers how things went and what the plans where. They wanted to tell us who they met and what the next step would be for their young lives. They went on and on in their excitement. It was all very wonderful listening and dreaming of their future plans.

Saturday came and it was time to visit Mr. Black and his family. Mr. Black is another instructor at the karate school. Thursday night at the funeral, Margaret had learned Mr. Black and his son were very close to Matt. She had learned the Black family was taking the death of Matt very hard.

After telling our group about her conversation with him, a few of us decided it would be nice to take food to their house and show our love and support.

Saturday afternoon Kim and I took a very American meal over to a very Japanese family.

This family was truly in pain from their loss. We learned how the Black’s really felt about Matt. We learned they truly loved him and how they thought of Matt as one of their own children. We learned Mr. Black’s son and Matt where as close as brothers. Mr. Black said “twins could not have been closer”. We learned Mr. Black felt he had lost a son and nothing would be right for this family again.

As we left, Kim and I hugged everyone again and drove away. We went back to her house talked a little and I went home to my family. It was life as usual for me.

Sunday again, the boys where off to more religion classes and there was another competitive run between sisters. Only this time we ran up the hills and walked, talked and laughed on the down.

Even though, Margaret and I where still felling terrible about the events of the week, we realize this young man could be any one of our children……Life is fragile and much to short……… We know now, more then ever, our sons and my daughters will grow up way to fast. This terrible death could happen in anyones family, even in ours.

As Edwin Starr sang: “WAR!…huh…yeah What is it good for?Absolutely nothing…….Uh ha haa ha”

In reality: It is still life as usual for me.

Old Friendships and Blessings

The day started with much anticipation. I knew there was no work for Mark. I knew school had to be done. I knew that even though Mark had taken and passed a plumbing test for his license, it was the wrong test. We were not sure what to do about it, or what we should do next. We were not even sure if he could use the harder test he passed, to get the lesser license. But, the thing that weighed on me the most was that: I knew an old friend was coming by today and I was nerves.

This friend and I use to have the greatest of friendships. We could discuss anything. We would share stories, hold each others children, and cry on each others shoulders. We shared birthdays, and always shared the Christmas season.

We use to…………….

Then something happened……….. The friendship ended as quickly as it had began.

A year went by and we talked very little. She prayed for my father and for Joe. I prayed for her, her sister, her mother, and other family members as each one of them went through some trial of life that I knew about. Even though we are neighbors, we really did not speak, wave, or see each other. I did not call it a friendship. I didn’t call it anything……..

I missed what was…….

As another year went by, and life moved on. We both became pregnant again at the same time. This time it was me that miscarried and she had the beautiful baby. This time I understood her pain of losing a child better then I wanted too. The loneliness of the miscarriage was strong for me. During her pregnancy, for some reason, this old friend would send me ultra sound pictures of the child she was carrying. I would look at them, and as I did it was all very healing for me. As I looked at the pictures I prayed for the beautiful child.……I prayed for the health of the baby and I prayed for the health of this old friend. The baby arrived and as far as I knew everyone was healthy.

Then Christmas came and I recieved a picture card, and a seasonal Christmas letter. I thought it was all a mistake, but read it anyway. It was nice to see the kids and know that everything seemed to be okay.

Then, invitations to a blog came, agian I thought maybe it was still a mistake but then maybe it wasn’t. Maybe, I should just take a look and say hello…………..

I’m so glad I did.

As I end my day today, I can go to bed with a smile on my face and a little more at peace……Even though the phone did not ring and there are no jobs for tomorrow. Today I know, Mark is a great test taker and taking the wrong test has turned out to be a good thing for us.

………….The old friend came and brought new friends……………….

Our two year old daughters played together for the first time. Her little boy played again with my very big boys. And, I enjoyed it all very much.
Best of all………

I got to hold Leah……………and the old friend felt like she never left.