Up Until Now…or Later

My mind has run away from me and somehow ended up here.

Be A Good One

Today’s post is a bit personal as well as a bit of a shameless plug.

My Uncle passed on the 10th of May and yesterday* was his memorial. (*That used to say today, but I’ve been figuring out how to word this post for so long that it’s not midnight.) In light of some complications, I wrote a eulogy (of sorts), just in case it was needed. Thankfully, it was not, but I felt that it would be appropriate to post it here in light of the fundraiser I’m going to share with you. Maybe, after reading my eulogy, after watching the video, reading the comments, you’ll understand the man my Uncle was and how great of a cause this is.

A family friend started the GoFundMe page for my Aunt to help with expenses. In 28 days we have surpassed the half-way mark and we’re still going. If you have the time, please feel free to check out the page, read some of the messages that have been left. If you can donate, we thank you greatly. If you cannot, sharing this page is also a fantastic way to help, and we thank you too.

http://www.gofundme.com/RonanWinterFamily

https://rafflecreator.com/pages/2263/ronan-winter-family-benefit-fund?token=jBxk4dGENWPhCn3chAZPcg

(^In this raffle you can win a BlackRock College jersey signed by famous rugby players! Pretty neat.^)

Moving on to the eulogy.

I have never written one before and despite reading every sample I could get my hands on, I was still clueless. So I just wrote. (As I always do.) At first I wrote what came to mind, I asked myself what Uncle Ronan would want to say. In the end, it all came down to love, and it came down to working to be our best selves. Because that’s all he ever wanted, for himself, his wife, his children, his family, even for strangers.

I was hesitant to share this for a multitude of reasons, and to be honest, I still am. But I’m going to do it anyway. Thank you for reading, for checking out our fundraisers, for subbing to my blog. Thank you for supporting me.

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Ronan was a far greater man than I ever got to know. When he married my Aunt, I was too young to really understand who he was, and since I grew up on the East Coast, I only got to see him in small frames of time. But I knew some things. I knew he attended Blackrock College, I knew he had a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters. I knew he was from Dublin, and I knew he met my Aunt in a bar. I know that he loved motorcycles and knew that he loved to laugh. I know that my Aunt was the love of his life and his children meant more to him than words could express. (But he’d try.)

These are all small facts about his big life, small bits of a man who came into our family and became my Uncle.

The parts that I got to experience with him are what make him great to me, small moments of my life where he shines brightest. The moments when he took the girls and I to Disneyland and Sea World during my summer vacations in California. Moments when he dropped what he was doing to counsel me when I needed help. Moments when he encouraged me to push farther with all of my goals because they were worth it and so was I. I saw it in the way he spoke to my cousins. The way he looked at my Aunt, with adoration, with complete and absolute and undying love.

I get to see it in his friends and family who continue to tell their stories, share their memories and kind words with us. Every day they affirm what I believed to be true, that he lived fully. That he lived his life with compassion, selflessness, appreciation and joy.

But life is like a candle, it either melts away or a harsh breath of wind blows it out. So when someone is given the diagnosis of cancer, the reaction is a mix of “We can fight this” and “Oh God”. Because as strong as we are, the word cancer has implications, implications that make life more finite than we expect.

And for my Uncle, the battle was relatively short. Six months. Gone. But it wasn’t just six months of cancer. It was six months of life shattering change. It was six months of family butting heads and family coming together. It was six months of learning how to put one foot in front of the other while your knees buckled beneath you.  It was six months of reliving every moment of our lives with him and living his life with him in that moment. Because that moment was all he had.

But it was six months too soon. Because you’d think that it wouldn’t be a surprise for someone with that disease to pass. But it was. Because while he was alive it felt impossible for him to die. And then someone pulled the rug out from under us and he was gone.

During his illness, he asked something of his family. He asked it in different ways, whether it was to end a bad habit or to try harder at something. But no matter what the request was, in essence, he was asking us to live better.  For all the days he isn’t going to get, we get to live them for him. We get to take each day and ask ourselves how we can live a little fuller. A little bigger, a little kinder. With a little more love.

I do believe that he was too big of a person for this world to ever try to contain. His dreams and his love never stopped, never faltered. He attacked life with a tenacity that helped him build his life with my Aunt, with my cousins, with his family. He left a big hole in us, in everyone he knew. And I do not think that it can be healed completely.

But I do believe that it can be filled with good things. I ask that if you find yourself with an aching spot where he used to be, that you fill it with memories.

I will remember him as being the mustard man, coming down the stairs in the large mustard colored T-shirt, spreading his arms and laughing out loud. I will choose to remember him on his motorcycle, Keelan on the back, driving down de-Portola.  I will remember him flinging Keara into the pool repeatedly while she laughed uncontrollably. I will remember him for the goodness that he embodied, as a person who was an example to many.

Every day will be hard. And it won’t get easier for a long time, and even then, the ache won’t go away completely. But as he asked his family to live better, I’m going to extend that request to every single one of you. I know its cliché, but use this as an opportunity to take away a new appreciation for life. Take the days that he cannot live and use them to the fullest of your potential. Use them to become the best you. Use them to love more, to find more wonder, to chase your dreams.

I know that despite what I do know about my Uncle, that I will enjoy continuing  to learn about the man that he was. I’ll get to understand more about the compassion, love and drive that made up the man that our family loved.

In closing, I’d like to reiterate that my Uncle spent his life pushing people to become more than they thought they could be. So whatever you become, whatever you are, be a good one for yourself, and for him.

 

 

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What is Grief?

Grief is many things, and in most cases, grief is more than just sadness. Grief is being awake at three AM because when you close your eyes there are ghosts that live behind your eyelids, haunting your sleep. These ghosts replay the memories in your mind’s eye like an old projector on a dirty screen, reminding you of what you had, and not of what you have.

Grief is begging someone to love you then turning them away when they give it because you cannot fathom someone else’s touch. It is mornings where getting out of bed is a greater challenge than climbing the tallest mountain.

It is made up of blissful moments where life makes you forget what you are grieving for. It is also moments of crushing reality when you remember what you’ve lost.

Grief is more than sadness. Grief is frustration. It is the words “why” and “how” repeated like a mantra you wish never existed. It is calm like falling snow and it is thrashing and ugly like angry waves lapping at a boat during a storm.

Grief is hallow and empty, yet all-encompassing and too much.

And yet, above all, grief IS sadness.  An aching sadness that tugs at your heart one moment and envelops it entirely the next.  A sadness that lingers, that crawls across your skin like an unwelcomed touch.

But sometimes in our grief, there come positive things.

Grief can become strength. The strength to carry on, to climb the mountains that rise above you, to travel the paths that appear beneath your feet.

It can become love. Our grief can remind us how important those happy moments are, how important they become to our survival. How important it is to love with all of ourselves, and not just 25%.

Grief brings us together. It brings us closer to our friends and family, and to ourselves.

It can be hard to find the light in our grief, but they are there, waiting for us.

That is what grief is, at least to me.

 

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Late night thoughts, how is it already 1:30AM?

Compassion is a Verb

Over the past few months, I have given myself the challenge of being kinder to bugs. If you know me, bugs and I don’t get along. Spiders are not my friend, creepy crawlies get stomped on, and flies are swatted into juice on the wall. This is not uncommon amongst humans. When bugs or small animals get into our homes, most of our first reactions are to kill it.

There is no compassion. There is no kindness. There is no understanding. There is, however, the instant thought to grab the closest object and smash that little bug into non-existence. Afterwards, we go about our lives as if nothing happened.

Now, I know you’re thinking, “But bugs are pests!”

Remember, people can be pests too. And I know, I know, it’s not exactly fair to compare people to a fly, but bear with me.

When we’re in those situations where we’re dealing with someone who is grating on our nerves, when they’re disagreeing with us or they’re making us angry, what is our first reaction? What do we reach for in those moments, anger or love?

Do we try to be compassionate and understand why they’re annoying us, or do we reach for the fly swatter and smack them upside the head?

I’m going to be honest, most of the time; I reach for the fly swatter. How can I even expect to project love and kindness upon myself and others if I can’t even show compassion to a bug?

Over the course of these last few months, I have had the opportunity to flex my newly found tolerance upon the people in my life. It was a big step from freeing flies and ignoring spiders, let me tell you. And it was nothing short of difficult.

This past month has seen its share of ups and downs. I was fortunate enough to help with the fundraiser for my Uncle, who (at the time) was dying from esophageal cancer. Cancer didn’t just drag its ugly claws through his health, but it reached his finances as well. This left behind debt and struggle for my Aunt and my Cousins, that has thankfully been somewhat alleviated by the success of this fundraiser.

With the fundraiser came an outpouring of love that filled my heart in the moments when it ached for my family. It was beautiful. But there were other moments when hate tried to seep through. It might be hard to believe that someone would leave hateful, cruel comments towards someone trying to help their family, but they did.

It was difficult to not respond to these people who called me scum. It was difficult to not fire back when they called me greedy and miserable. There were even people who wished I would die, who wished that I too would get cancer. How easy it was to reach into my bag of emotions, pull out the hate, and slap it all over their faces.

And let me tell you, I wanted to. Because how could they be so cruel? How could they say those things to someone else? But this whole fundraiser was about love. Love from family, love from friends, and love from complete strangers. I was able to take my experience with loving these tiny bugs, and to transfer it upon these people who so desperately needed that compassion.

When these tiny bugs come into my home, into my space, I think first before I act. How did they get in? Did I leave a window or a door open? If they’re not bothering me, can I leave them be? If they are, how can I remove them safely? These questions can be applied to the people that we come into contact with. Did I cause this situation? How can I best answer their anger with love? What part of my feelings am I pulling my responses from?

Because of how aware I am now, for the first time in years, my response was not from anger. It was not from a place of resentment or revenge. I genuinely wanted to love them. I wanted them to know that no matter what fueled their need to be unkind, I was going to give them enough kindness for both of us.

Most didn’t say anything in return, others apologized, and some remained the same. In that regard, you can’t win every battle, but that doesn’t mean that the ones you win are any less significant. When you can help someone reside in their own love and acceptance, you’ve helped them climb a hill that they might not have been able to on their own. You’ve made their day better, and yours brighter.

Not every situation is going to be like this. There are still moments where I unknowingly choose my first reaction to be anger or annoyance. But life is a journey that is to be practiced and continued. Slip-ups happen, mistakes are made, but they don’t matter so long as you keep trying.

When you make a conscious effort to make compassion your verb, you change the atmosphere around you. You can change the people around you and you can change yourself. When I make a mistake now, sometimes my initial reaction isn’t to beat myself up. And that is a milestone in itself.  I look at myself and others with love and compassion, even when I don’t feel like I can.

Just yesterday, there was a fly in my room. This little fly wanted nothing more than to be my friend, as it kept sitting on my arm, my head, my laptop, my hand. And there were moments when I truly thought that I was going to kill it. I was so sure that I even posted about it on Facebook. My friends laughed, some offered advice, and some gave me a free pass to squash it since it was bothering me so much.

Sometime after I made that Facebook post, I lost track of time. But I realized, at the end of my day, that I had not killed that fly. He’s probably somewhere, buzzing around, or he’s reached the end of his life-cycle.

Again, today, I chose compassion as my verb. I never thought I’d see the day where I celebrated the victory of not killing a bug. Hopefully, I’ll get to celebrate this more often.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make a Blog

..or..something like that.

How many times in your life have you told yourself that you’re going to do something and commit to it? How many times have you actually followed through? This is my relationship with blogging. I’ll get an idea in my head and I’ll start to run with it. This little baby of an idea in my hands, new and exciting, just waiting to be shared.

And then the same thought crawls its way into my head.

“No one wants to read about that.”

And just like that, I drop the idea faster than Skrillex drops a beat. No questions about it, no second thoughts, I just step over the broken pieces and keep walking like it never happened.

But not this time. No way Jose. This time I’m going to actually try. I’ve got things to say! I’ve got ideas and I’ve got opinions and who cares if no one cares!?

(Well…I do care. Damn. )

Up Until Now, I’ve never thought I could create a blog that someone would read. But this time I’m not going to drop this idea-baby like it’s hot. This time I’m running with it at full speed.

And hopefully you’ll come along for the ride.