Beginnings and Endings

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.  I’ve felt that many times.  My hope for all of us is that “the miles we go before we sleep” will be filled with all the feelings that come from deep caring-delight, sadness, joy, wisdom-and that in all the endings of our life, we will be able to see the new beginnings.” Fred Rogers

I know it is hard to believe that a grown woman would feel so connected to “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”  Actually I wasn’t all that big a fan of it as I was growing up.  But I found its calm and quiet atmosphere a welcome relief from the programs that my boy and I could have watched together when he was little.

Today I turn to Mr. Rogers again.  April Fool’s Day 2012 was a day of lemons for my family.  Today I make lemonade by looking at this quote.

My dear uncle died yesterday after almost two years of the debilitation that Alzheimer’s Disease can bring.   He was a wonderful, intelligent and a very funny man.  He was also an over 25 year survivor of a cancer that had metastasized to his pelvic bone and lymph nodes.

My dad, a urologist, found the cancer and enlisted an expert in the Chicago area for his care.  But I know it was my uncle’s indomitable life force which made him the longest survivor of the clinical trial that saved him.  I think he was a little angry at his sister, my mother, for dying of breast cancer, for giving up.

In the end, when he realized that he was losing his mental faculties, he created notebooks to guide my cousin and aunt through the process of losing him…he had all the paperwork they needed in one place…long term care insurance, bill payment, his wishes for end of life care…laid out in these notebooks.  He gave them a great gift and made lemonade from lemons.

He and my mother grew up with a lemon tree in their backyard in Puerto Rico.  When I saw that tree as a child, it was ancient, filled with fruit and the sweet song of the Reina Mora.  Its fruit made the best lemonade I have ever had or ever will have.

So today, I savor the memory of that lemonade as I remember a very special person.  And I wonder at the new beginnings  that this ending may bring…


15 thoughts on “Beginnings and Endings”

  1. I am so sorry for your loss Kathleen – I got a taste of what this cruel disease is like last year with my mother, who displayed many of the symptoms of alzheimer’s but was actually suffering from an undiagnosed brain tumor which took her life in november. It was heartbreaking to see her so confused and uncomprehending and her personality change – this disease can rob us of our loved ones as surely as any cancer.

    1. Marie,
      I had barely gotten the post up and I received your comment. Thank you for your condolences…my prayers are with my aunt right now as they were married for 50 years this May. You are wonderful to share your heart with all of us.

  2. What a loving tribute. Sounds like your uncle succeeded in having a life well-lived. I think it’s something towards which we all strive. In my own family it was a great comfort to know the wishes of family members before they die. I hope that your aunt and cousin felt the same.

  3. Kathleen,
    This is absolutely beautiful. What a loving tribute to your uncle and your entire family. I hold you all close in my heart. We in social media are one big family and I consistently look to you because of your never ending support and your continuous acts of kindness.

    I send you love.


  4. I’m very sorry to hear of your loss, but I think this is a beautiful tribute to your uncle and the spirit of the larger than life presence he obviously was to you. You’ll obviously never look at lemonade in the same way again, and that’s a fine thing.

    Wishing you peace and strength on your journey,


  5. Kathleen
    I have read and reread this post. What a searingly honest and beautiful tribute to your uncle. I was so moved by your description of him preparing those notebooks in anticipation of losing himself.
    I am so sorry for your loss.

  6. It was truly heartwarming to read your lovely tribute. It connects with my heart in many ways. April 1st is my birthday. It is also the day my dad passed this life. We share his birthday in eternity and my birthday on earth.
    My mother always loved to say that we made lemonaid from the lemons of life.
    Thank you for a beauriful and poignant read. What a joy to discover your blog.
    Karen Hoyt

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