Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A New Start

It has been a while since I have written. Much has happened in life. About two months ago I accepted a job at Duke University in North Carolina. It was the hardest decision I've made as an adult. The privilege it has been to work at Walter Reed seemed foolish to give up-and many people told me so. I prayed hard about the decision as I would not only be leaving a good job, but there were the close friends and those I now considered family as well. Additionally, it was one of the first places I lived where I had my own space but really felt comfortable with the people. So much it seemed to lose for something so unknown.

Despite the unknown, I knew that I needed to be challenged more as a nurse. North Carolina has indeed been a long-time dream of mine. D.C. was brand-new at one point and as such, so is North Carolina. So here I am-months later and two drives with my little trailer. Again I went shopping on Craig's List and again God provided. I won't bore with details, I will save that for my miracles book, but God provided a place on a farm with people who are Christians and very much like my own family. They have already been completely hospitable and provided for my needs often before I even identify them. 

My first day exploring the area was yesterday. Things I notice that are different than D.C.? Well, first of all there is free parking EVERYWHERE! Also, "traffic" down here is a joke. Plastic or paper bags at the store-FREE! People make eye contact and smile more. People stop to help you and let you go first at the stop sign. The left lane of the road is more of a "desiring to pass" lane and the right is more for actually passing. There are a ton of discount stores and lots of places to get good biscuits and good coffee. The weather so far has just been rainy, but supposedly they have very mild winters. 

I live in a barn. Very Roadhouse (Patrick Swayze) style with horses below and my kitchen in one wing. The upstairs is a bedroom, living area, and bathroom. It has beautiful cedar floors and overlooks pastures and the house. Talk about quiet and dreamy. Much writing will be done here and hopefully a few guitar lessons. 

The people I rent from live in the house on the property. She is a NP, originally from Niagara Falls who was recruited by Duke for a year, fell in love with the place, and ended up staying to get her NP. Strangely familiar story. He is one of those all around handy guys who also has a real job. I haven't yet figured out what that is. Both have been extremely welcoming and I feel so blessed to be here.

This morning was my first breakfast in the new place with the new kitchen. I drink well water and have fresh ground coffee (Matthew McLarty taught me about coffee burrs). Nancy provided fresh eggs from the neighbor. Talk about an exceptional place. Did I mention it was peaceful. A little chunk of heaven. I miss Walter Reed and my friends and family there, but I think I'm going to like this place just fine.
 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

"The Trouble Is, You Think You Have Time."



"The trouble is, you think you have time."

Again it strikes. The quote we hear is something like "Only the good die young." Well, Billy Joel, that's crap. Good people die at all ages. The problem is that we don't understand death-particularly senseless death at an early age. We also hate that we didn't get to spend that extra day or moment with that person before it was too late. We didn't get to make sure they knew we loved them by telling them again-or perhaps it is more our conscience that makes us so uncomfortable with death. When we have plenty of time, WE can act senseless and not be as considerate as we should. WE can pass up the chance to maybe make a difference in someone's life, because after all, when we are young, we think have nothing but time.

My Sweet, Little Cousin,
You have gone to be with the angels. I believe you are there. We talked of God, even as kids. We had some debates back and forth, but you loved with the kind of love-despite your circumstances-that gives me the peace that you are safe and in heaven now. You are up there and hopefully have already met up with your Daddy and my Grandma and are giving them both grief-because that is one of the many things you were so good at...


I miss the innocent days when we would spend our holidays and summers out of school together. You and your little brother and me and my siblings wrestling in the basement, having slime wars in the river, staging games in the woods, and generally wreaking havoc on our Grandmas' ideas of "proper behaviors". I remember so many car rides where we were all grounded with the exception of the "perfect younger kids" for picking at one another. So many memories with your crazy huge smile and your squinty-eyes with your premature crow's feet. So many good memories.

You had the most positive attitude of any kid I've ever met. The struggles you endured at a young age didn't break you. You were exposed to a cruel world before most children are even in school and you responded with a smile. You were a lover of people and wanted to make situations better. You were a rock for so many people and your passing will be felt across the country. Reading the messages from your fellow Marines breaks my heart because you had clearly touched and challenged so many people to be greater than their circumstances. You made life fun and more enjoyable. You were a bright light and a joy to be around.

Jason, I regret not having spent more time around you. I regret not calling you to tell you how much I
love you. Jason, your passing is teaching me things and pushing me to be better. Even outside of this world, you are still inspiring greatness.
Jason, I don't want to wait until people are gone to tell and show them how much they mean to me. I don't want the many positive characteristics you possess to be buried with you. I want to be more loving and more positive about unchangeable circumstances. I want to live without regret. People so often love life and hate death, but I wonder-is it the beautiful lie that life can be and the ugly truth that death reveals?

Thank you for living your life out loud and being unashamed. Thank you for making a decision to not be bitter. Thank you for continuing to love. You will be missed. The ripple effect of your life will be felt by others in years to come because of the choices you have made to love.

I love you,
Grace

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The un-lived and wasted life is a much more disastrous outcome. We have a limited amount of time on this earth and each of our decisions will effect others for better or worse. Each is but one person with one life. We each have just as much time in the day as did Abraham, Gandhi,  Mother Theresa, and Ronald Reagan. The question remains, What will we do with the time that we are given?? It is a gift but also a responsibility.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Legacy of a Legend

David Finnegan. 

What a man

He entered my life the same year my grandfather was taken suddenly after a massive heart attack. I was five years old. 

My parents had recently decided to settle in Missouri and as a young couple with two small children, they had so much to learn when they decided to buy a house and land on HWY PP. Thankfully, Dave had it covered.

Dave came busting into our life one day and each memory I have of him is LOUD and clear. He never sat in the background, he always had advice to give, humor to offer, or more advice to give. My mom's first memory of Dave was his walking in on her as she was trying to move a fridge. Now mind you he was still a stranger and she was home alone, but he didn't seem to mind. He walked right past her, picked up the fridge like it was a small child, moved it to the desired destination, then proceeded to sit down and chat.

It didn't take long for him to become a part of our family and fill the role of honorary father, grandfather, and mentor. When my grandmother moved from Texas to live with us, Dave made her welcome and helped her around the house as much as helped us. Every evening, we would all sit around the table and fight and talk and laugh, then wrestle and clean up. Dave was a part of homework, friend drama, band concerts and school plays. 

He was the man. The man who always sampled all three of us girls' new dishes and critiqued them. He would never let mom live down the time she tried to make his favorite pie and accidentally baked a melted spatula into it. He never seemed to tire of my calling him and insisting that he come down IMMEDIATELY so that I could get an opinion on a new recipe.

He was the man who taught me how to drive the tractor, then the truck, then a stick shift. He was the first person I called when I wrecked the vehicle, and the other one that he had given me and that he would never get running again. 

When it came to my crisis, Dave was always present to help. I would break the blade on the lawn mower and he would teach me how to fix it. The horses would escape and he would help me chase them down, a tree would be across the road and he would help with the tractor and move it. He was always bailing me out before dad came home.

Then came the day my incredible grandmother was killed in a car accident. She was so strong and healthy and it was so sudden. One day she was living next door and teaching us about life, and the next she was in eternity. Dave was the first one in the room when I found out. He held me tight and cursed anything and everything. For the first time ever, I didn't silence his cursing and he stayed with my family through each stage of grieving. 

Dave was the one who I called the day dad deployed to Iraq and he was the one who unlocked the gun safe and taught me how to shoot. I spent lots of time learning how to fix engines, change oil, weld small metal pieces for my broken jewelry, stack hay, and so many other things around our farm with the man, Dave Finnegan. He took care of us and the farm for the year that dad was gone, then continued to look after us.

Dave also taught me about respect, honor, and what our men went through in Vietnam. While he had a different way of approaching things, it was always extremely creative, controversial, and created conversation. There was truly never a dull moment when he entered a room. He loved us in a very different way, but he loved us so much. 

Dave gave of himself every single day and next to my grandmother was the hardest working person I have ever met. He lived his life for other people and would drop everything to help someone in need. All of the neighbors on blasted Highway PP could tell stories of times that Dave had come to their rescue. He owned a large chunk of the highway, and knew the comings and goings of everyone. Every time I drove that highway, I would see him parked in front of someone's house, but there was not a house that he spent more time at than mine. He had his own parking place for his yellow sports car and would get out with his little wry smile and the gait that spoke of years of wear on his body. He lived in constant pain but he rarely complained about it. He would knock loudly on our door first thing in the morning, crack it open, then holler, "Hello?? I'm here!" Sometimes he would just sit in the main area and wait for us to wake up so we could get started on the farm chores. 

There will never be a day that I drive home and don't automatically look for Dave Finnegan's vehicle. There will never be a piece of the farm that does not ignite my mind with the memories of Dave. Every time I pick up a gun, or grab the stick of a manual, I will remember his rough voice and his stiff words. There are some people who don't just leave a footprint in your life, they instead mold a part of you and wait patiently as that part of you forms into adulthood. Dave helped to form some of the best parts of me and I will be forever indebted to him. He was not at all a perfect individual, but he taught me so much about life. He lived his life out loud and never once hid who he was. He figured out what he believed and he stuck to it. David Finnegan, the Creator took you home today and all I can say is that I hope He realizes what He's getting into!

Here is a link from my last actual visit with Dave-My dad's 50th Birthday and an example of Dave's normal dialogue. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ymv5uSMjge4