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Posts tagged: EndNotes

End-of-life hilarity

My mom and Mary met in seventh grade and remained best friends for decades – until Mary’s death from Leukemia. They shared secrets and opinions and their mutual outrageous humor. They even shared their funeral wishes hoping those wishes would be followed.

“But our kids will probably be responsible for that ritual,” they lamented.

When my mom arrived for Mary’s memorial service she listened as mourners commented on the beautiful flowers, the music and the crowd. Then my mom saw Mary’s final joke – a request Mary made years ago as she giggled, “Wouldn’t that be fun?!”

My mom did not dare look around or speak; she just kept her eyes forward through the service, especially when she heard someone comment, “She was a strikingly beautiful child!” The framed photo in front, surrounded by flowers, was of a lovely young girl; it was the photo Mary wanted. But in the frame was not a photo of Mary, but a photo of a very young Elizabeth Taylor.

(S-R archive photo)


Thanksgiving – a day for grace

Anne Lamott writes: as a child she never said grace at her family’s table, but was drawn to her friends’ homes where people paused and recalled blessings before scarfing down the vittles.

Thanksgiving is a holiday for every American, no matter their religion – or lack of it – their heritage. We bring ourselves as we are to the table of everyone. We eat, we laugh, we remember and we give thanks for all that has been good.

We are grateful for each other – and the freedom to love as we like, worship as we want and celebrate our blessings. And that is grace. Happy Thanksgiving.

(S-R archive photo: harvested wheat)

November: National Adoption Awareness Month

We all deserve to know our own story. Many people who were adopted wonder where they began their life. Michaela Pereira of CNN shares her story of growing up in a family of girls who joined their family through adoption. As an adult, Michaela found her birth family – and a new wonderful friend.

In Washington state, 2,167 children live in foster care, waiting for their own forever family.  We all know there are no unwanted children: it really is just a case of geography – matching eager little ones with adults who long to become parents.  Spokane celebrated National Adoption Day with families bound in love, now legally bound - forever!

(S-R archive photo: My son, Alex, adopted when he was four months old.)

Mike Nichols, director, dies at 83

Mike Nichols died suddenly Wednesday of cardiac arrest. He was 83. Nichols was an admired and award-winning director. His genius earned him Oscar, Emmy and Grammy awards. He won nine Tony awards.

Stars loved him: Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Ron Silver, Anne Bancroft, Candice Bergen and Gene Hackman all worked with Mr. Nichols more than once.

His work includes: “The Graduate,” “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “Carnal Knowledge” on the screen.  He won an Oscar for “The Graduate.” He directed theater successes “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple” and “Death of a Salesman” on stage.

Nichols’ unparalleled success spans decades.  

Mike Nichols was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin, on Nov. 6, 1931. His dad, A Jewish doctor from Russia, escaped the Nazis and fled to America in 1938; Mike and his brother followed the next year. Mike’s mother arrived in 1941.

Longtime friend, Elaine May once said: “So he’s witty, he’s brilliant, he’s articulate, he’s on time, he’s prepared and he writes. But is he perfect? He knows you can’t really be liked or loved if you’re perfect. You have to have just enough flaws. And he does. Just the right, perfect flaws to be absolutely endearing.”

Mike Nichols is survived by wife Diane Sawyer, daughters Daisy and Jenny and his son Max, his brother, Bob and four grandchildren. 

(S-R archive photo: Director Mike Nichols at the premiere of “Closer” in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, in 2004.)

Snowflake babies

When couples long for a child and are unable to conceive, they seek various options. Liz and Kevin Krainman opted to “adopt” a snowflake baby – a frozen embryo that was implanted into Liz.

The frozen embryo is considered “property” and the rights of the property are transferred to the receiving couple. The action can be perceived as an ethical alternative to destroying or donating the embryo.

Liz says, “Love is what made her. The love of so many people went into creating her and bringing her here.”

(S-R archive photo)

Poignant grief

Some stories feel too painful to tell, yet they are extraordinary tales of human compassion and resurrection of the spirit.

Chris Picco buried his wife, Ashley and their son, Lennon, on Saturday. Chris met his wife while they were both assisting firefighters after the September 11, 2001 attacks. They married in 2007. His pregnant wife – with their child due in February - died in her sleep last Saturday. The baby, named Lennon, was delivered 16 weeks premature. Lennon died on Wednesday.

As the baby struggled to live, Chris Picco, played a guitar and sang the Beatles’ song, “Blackbird” with the tender words: “take these broken wings and learn to fly.”

The video, posted on YouTube, evoked responses of sorrow and compassion from viewers. 

(S-R archive drawing: Duncan Cooper)


I have been away for nearly three weeks.

Traveling home to my native Minnesota and then to the Caribbean with friends from high school, offered perspective. St. Augustine wrote: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Conversations with Mom and friends connected my present to the past. Cool, crisp Minneapolis weather reminded me of childhood ice-skating parties and high school days of marching band and boyfriend kisses. A week in the Caribbean forced me to listen to myself.

I left home at 18-years-old; seems I have been on a field trip for decades. At the Minneapolis airport yesterday I felt I was leaving home to travel home. And while travel means I have read many pages of the world’s book, I can only stay on one page at a time. My heart, dissected by time and place, always leaves pieces behind.

(S-R archive photo)

Veterans: Thank you!

Today we honor our veterans, men and women who left their known lives to serve our country. May  we honor all those soldiers who courageously walked into the unknown to serve America. No matter the act of remembrance - free drinks at a local restaurant, a parade, a holiday - we honor all our service people whose commitment to freedom made our gestures of gratitude possible. Peace from a grateful nation.

(S-R archive photo)

Time to get shot

While Ebola has hit the headlines, we must pay attention to a bigger threat to our health: the flu. Each year that illness claims thousands of lives.

People over age 65 and younger than 2 years are at higher risk than others. Anyone who lives among a lot of other people in places like school dormitories or long-term care facilities may be at higher risk. And those with chronic health issues such as heart, lung, or kidney conditions, diabetes, or a weakened immune system should consider the vaccine. 

(S-R photo: Jessica Shinn, a third-year pharmacy student at WSU Spokane, puts a bandage on nursing student Addie Burkhart after giving her a flu shot. )


A previous supervisor told me her husband never votes, never has, never will. And because I wanted to remain employed, I said simply, “Oh, that is interesting.” And kept my opinion quiet.

He doesn't vote because he believes his vote does not count. Try telling that to former Governor Chris Gregoire. She won in a recount by nearly 130 votes.

Today I say,”Vote!” It is a privilege and a responsibility. We take it for granted in our country, but voting gives us a chance to have our opinion counted, our views considered. Millions of people around the world, in different countries, have walked miles and miles, stood in line for days to  drop their vote into a box. 

Take time, consider the candidates, their views; consider the Initiatives and what you believe and then…vote accordingly. Don't keep your opinion quiet.

(S-R archive photo)

A child’s dreams come true

Justus Uwayesu started at Harvard this fall as a freshman. He has traveled a long distance – across the globe and through a sea of sadness. As an orphaned child, he lived in a garbage dump in Rwanda.

Then along came Clare Effiong, an American charity worker who offered several children a chance to leave with her. All but Justus refused.

When he told Effiong, “I want to go to school,” she made certain he did.

He lived in an orphanage run by Esther’s Aid, the charity Effiong founded. In Rwanda, he learned English, French, Swahili and Lingala. He earned straight A’s; he attended a high school specializing in science and he oversaw the student tutoring program. Uwayesu helped found a youth charity among his nation’s high schools, a charity that buys health insurance for poor students and gives medical and scholastic aid to others.

And now the young man adjusts to his American setting: Harvard. He has a full-scholarship, studying math, economics and human rights. He would like to earn an advanced science degree.

Juliette Musabeyezu, a sophomore, another student from Rwanda has posted a photo of Rwanda’s Harvard students. The caption reads: “My people are finally here.”

(S-R photo: Gate at Harvard) 


All Saints’ Day

Art Miller, 91, hung onto life in the open sea for two days during World War II. He knew he had to get home to Norma, the love of his life. He did. They married, raised their children and traveled after his retirement.

When we say, “I do,” we often imagine a life of passion and joy and fun. We do not easily anticipate the end times when health deteriorates.

After 68 years of marriage, Norma lives in a retirement community where her health needs can be met. Art lives with one of their daughters.  But Art still visits Norma, six days each week.

Says Art: “Every afternoon when I leave, I leave a piece of my heart there. I’ll always say, ‘Honey, I’ll see you tomorrow.’ The next morning when I come in she always says, ‘There you are!’ ”

Sometimes the remarkable people around us are those who live their vows, in good times and in bad, with quiet compassion and grace. Saints in our midst; people to celebrate.

Time capsule moments

When Kelvin Peters was diagnosed with terminal cancer, his young daughters knew they would miss many special moments with him. They knew he would never dance at their weddings.

Kaitlin Peters, 21, could not miss that special moment with her dad. She knew her two younger sisters needed that moment, too.

Last month the girls created a wedding event to share with their dying dad. Businesses contributed the necessary dresses, cakes, and photographer. Just three grooms missing. The special event – complete with dad dancing a wedding dance with each daughter – was recorded.

Kelvin Peters will be present when his daughters marry. Present in spirit. He has recorded a message for each future husband and purchased a special gift for each daughter to open when she marries.

The courage and compassion of the girls and their dad may inspire other families to create time capsule moments for each other.

(S-R photo: Spokane River at sunset)


Robin Williams – a Giant among us

The three children of comedian Robin Williams were on the pitcher’s mound at the World Series.  Zak Williams, Robin’s son, threw out the first pitch of the game. Robin’s dear friend Billy Crystal acted as catcher. 

As we continue to seek answers to mental illness, the beloved comedian – who died from suicide in August – reminds us of the need to be vigilant and stay close to each other. Mental illness cannot always be detected by those who suffer with it or those who love and stay close. 

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

(S-R archive photo: Robin Williams June 15, 2007)


Compassionate kindness to Marysville Pilchuck

Sometimes in the middle of horrific tragedy, like Friday’s shooting at Marysville, kindness offers hope.

The Oak Harbor football team was slated to play Marysville Pilchuck Friday night in a championship game. But all school activities were cancelled.

In the evening, as the Marysville football players met to share their grief and shock, they saw a group of Oak Harbor players walk in, dressed in their purple jerseys. They came to offer presence and reassurance and kindness. They offered to forfeit the game–giving Marysville Pilchuck the league title and the No. 1 seed for next week's Wesco 3A crossover games.

The Oak Harbor gesture is an object lesson in a grief observed: show up, offer to make the path ahead a bit easier. Stay close.

(S-R archives: Drawing by Duncan Cooper)


With the insane heat of the summer only a memory and autumn leaves cascading down, October bliss brings lovely days and the World Series.

October brings relief and the grace of baseball – no chains to measure distance, just the crack of baseball bats, balls bouncing into the hands of eager fans and the best mini-series of the year.

We live in a world of increasing chaos and daily violence. But a few hours of America’s favorite past time, seems a lovely escape. Tradition has its place.

(S-R photo: Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain celebrates after the Royals’ Game 2 win.)

The Oscar of oscars

Oscar de la Renta, fashion designer and celebrity among stars, died at his Kent, Conn. home. He was 82.

The designer had battled cancer for nearly eight years, but continued to dress famous women: Sarah Jessica Parker, Amy Adams,  are two of the glamourous women who wore his creations. George Clooney’s bride, Amal Alamuddin, wore a de la Renta gown at their recent Venice nuptials.

Oscar de la Renta, born in the Dominican Republic, went to Madrid to study art where he spent time drawing clothes for newspapers and fashion designers.  When the wife of John Davis Lodge, the United States ambassador to Spain, saw some of his sketches, she asked de la Renta to design a coming-out dress for her daughter.  The daughter and the dress made the cover of Life magazine. Soon de la Renta was working in Paris at Christian Dior.

In the last eight years, his business grew 50 percent to $150 million in sales. He dressed socialites and first ladies.   

Oscar de la Renta is survived by his wife, Annette.

(S-R photo: Oscar de la Renta Oct. 13, 2011)

Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?

Lots of talk last week about what to call the October 12 holiday. How did you observe, or not observe, October 12?

We like to romanticize our heroes, their personal characteristics and their accomplishments. However, when we seek historical accuracy, we often make our own discovery: they possessed failings and faults.

So disappointing.

Perhaps it would be more disappointing to our heroes if they knew we often observe their days of honor with trips to the mall seeking “holiday sales” and whining when the mail is not delivered.

Hopefully, our leaders will leave Veterans Day just as it is. That group of brave people deserves their holiday: a day of admiration, gratitude and, yes, parades. 

(S-R archive photo)

Ebola and compassionate care of the dying

Volunteers continue their poignant and compassionate care of Ebola patients in West Africa.

Dr. Stephen Hatch, an American volunteer with International Medical Corps, cares for Ebola-infected patients in a Liberian hospital. He is part of a four-week rotation. Hatch and nearly two dozen others trained last month in Anniston, Ala. at a former Army base, learning how to safely care for Ebola patients.

While suited up in protective gear, Hatch and other physicians touch Ebola-infected patients and soothe their pain. Without drugs to cure, the caregivers offer fluids, medications to treat symptoms; they offer compassion as they feed patients and clean them. They offer frightened patients the solace of human touch.

Last week Hatch cared for a gravely ill pastor who arrived at the Liberian hospital. The pastor insisted on praying for Dr. Hatch. The man prayed for him again the night before he died.

While we witness West Africa’s crisis from afar, compassionate care continues: Caregivers comfort and grieve as they witness suffering and remarkable courage.

(S-R photo: n this photo taken Thursday Oct. 2, 2014, Promise Cooper, 16, is helped filling a bottle with chlorine solution by Kanyean Molton Farley, a community activist who visits Promise and her two brothers, Emmanuel Junior, 11, right, and Benson, 15, not pictured, on a daily basis at their St. Paul Bridge home in Monrovia, Liberia. The Cooper children are now orphans, having lost their mother, Princess, in July, and their father Emmanuel in August. Their 5-month-old baby brother Success also succumbed to the virus in August. Ruth, their 13-year-old sister is being hospitalized with Ebola. The three never fell sick to the deadly disease.)

He who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured

…is an Ethiopian proverb. Perhaps when one conceals their disease from themselves, they can never begin to get well – find medication, support or change behaviors needed for healing.

Perhaps when one conceals their disease from the community, they are not part of a group who changes perceptions, advocates for cures. Together, we encourage each other, find hope.

In an interview on The Queen Latifah Show, the beautiful actress Rene Russo revealed her lifetime battle with bi-polar disorder. Another lovely face – like actress Catherine Zeta-Jones - now associated with a mental health illness.

Rene Russo's story may encourage others to get medical help, change how people perceive others who live with mental health disorders. And perhaps enough stories will lead to the longed-for cure.

(S-R photo: Lake Pend Oreille) 

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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