Epilogue…

River

In the many cards my parents have given me on my birthday, my father would often write the chapter of life I was entering. On his past birthday in January, I wrote on my Facebook page, “Happy Birthday, Old Man…here’s to Chapter 86!” I feared it might be the last, … and it was. Hence, the title of this blog.

Years ago, my father asked me to write his obituary. No doubt we were fighting at the time, so I retorted strongly, “You don’t want me to write your obituary!” He smugly asked, “Why?” “Because I would tell the whole truth, and you’re not gonna like that.” And off we went into another argument.

Well, today, I’m gonna tell the truth, but not the whole truth…so, please help me…God. I am going to use some of his very own words to sum up the man.

When I was little, I looked up to him….literally. I felt safe when he was home. I felt he could solve all our problems. I thought he was the smartest man I knew. Then I became a teenager…and my parents didn’t seem to know that much. It would be decades before I realized how much they did know, how much they suffered, how much they sacrificed….

I loved my father, I loved him when I hated him. For years, he was my rock. I knew he loved me unconditionally, despite his inability to express it. In my fifties, I came to realize my father was just a man, a man fraught with all the weaknesses of being human and then some. Weaknesses I share with him. Did I love him less? No, in fact, my heart grew to love him more, even when I knew he would never change, even when things were very difficult. I can thank God’s grace for that.

I used to look askance at the Serenity Prayer, thinking it was kinda trite….well, in the nine years I lived with my parents, I came to cling to the words, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” God did indeed grant me his wonderful serenity. A serenity that enabled me to help in his final, difficult months, help with some compassionate patience (not all the time, mind you) and that also provided me with a wonderful, gracious final moment with him. “Until we meet again, Dad….”

The past couple years have been brutal. My father’s descent into dementia was exacerbated by his worsening COPD. The COPD is what did him in, but the dementia is where we lost him. One moment he was his rascally self, the next he was sickened with paranoia and anxiety…just wanting to go home. All of us, in a rousing, frustrated chorus for over a year, tried to reassure him, “You are home.” In his mind, though, he was not.

There’s only one story I’d like to tell. In the summer of 1983, I went to Belgium with a summer missionary group. As we all know…my father was not the “nice, quiet, peace-loving man” like John Wayne in “The Quiet Man”, a movie he loved. He was robust, loud, gregarious, pugnacious and often worried a great deal. Every family member can tell a story in which he helicoptered them, sometimes calling authorities to make sure they arrived at a destination and were all right. So, now, here I’m off to Europe. Pretty far away. I know he was a little nervous. So I wrote out a scripture verse for him with strict instructions to read it everyday, especially when he got anxious.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”    –Philippians 4:6-7

I had a great time in Belgium even though the first month I received no letters from home. I wrote home expressing my homesickness….and the following card – a card which I treasure now, a card that I copied and gave to my dad on one of his recent birthdays – sums up the man, sums up the things he loved. A card that could almost be a self-written obituary, if you will. This is the Dad I miss even today.

7/14/83 – Thursday – 7:07 p.m.

Dear Donna:

I just got home from work and your letter dated 6/31/83 arrived today in the mail. I know how you feel, I was overseas for almost two years & you always look forward to mail from home. I was homesick the whole time I was overseas. I even sneaked home Christmas of 1952 for a few days. You will also learn that San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the world, the Russian River Area & the land of the Redwoods is the most beautiful countryside in the world. (proof on the reverse side of this card.) And always remember “There’s No Place Like Home.”

We all miss you, especially your Dad, please let us know about your travel schedule, i.e. dates, time & destinations. In other words, when are you coming home? Your city, your block, your house, your room, your bed keep echoing the refrain “When is the Jibser coming home?” I keep telling them, she ate someone’s big toe & then she split. (ha ha!!)

The weather here has been gorgeous, quite hot at the River, 100° plus & 80° right here on the Coast. I’m looking at the Pacific Ocean right now, right outside our window, its almost sunset here now. It’s going to be a lovely sunset.

Joe Hurley’s father-in-law, George McKeever, passed away Sunday, he went all thru College (St. Mary’s of course) with my Dad, they were very close friends. I went to the Funeral Mass yesterday morning. During the Offertory, the choir sang “Danny Boy” & at the conclusion of the Mass when they carried the casket to the outside of the church, the choir sang “The Bells of St. Mary’s”, very, very moving, even though old George was 93, he was the last of the “Old Gaels”.

Well, anyway, that’s about all for now, I will write soon again, everyone says hello & all miss you very much. Hurry home.

Love, Your Dad

P.S. I read the card every night!

You’re really home now, Dad. But, your city, your football field, your river, your wife, your kids, your grandkids, your great-grandkids and the many, many friends you’ve left behind all miss you; but with a somber gratitude, we know you have finally gotten home. May you rest in that peace that transcends all understanding. We’ll be along soon.

Thank you, Dad, for all you gave me and my children. You’ve given me a legacy which includes being Irish, a San Franciscan, a river rat, a Gael and a Moore as well as the rich construction legacy you inherited from your father that I now enjoy. I hope your legacy and your parents’ legacy will be carried on by my kids and my grandkids. Aloha…

Free Pizza* recorded a song in my dad’s memory:

“Goin’ Home”.

https://donnafentanes.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/goin-home1.mp3

*(John Moore, Eugene Fentanes and Audrey Maloney)

 

 

Epilogue: David’s Sunrise is Home

davids-sunrise-home.jpg

Three months to the day of David J Ochoa’s untimely and tragic death, his parents trekked to Fresno to pick up the painting that will always be a beautiful memorial to this young man and reminder of his short, but beloved life.

David died on February 19th, 2018. At the time, David was seeing my daughter, Espi. His death has struck us hard, and we are still reeling. Two days later I took the picture this painting is based on.

As had been told before, not only was the picture a beautiful image of a bird heading for the heavens at the dawn of the day, but it was taken at a particular intersection in South San Francisco, California two days after his death. Even more remarkable was the conversation between his mother and I when she revealed that where I took the picture was very close to where David left this earth. Flew quietly away, if you will.

I love what Wendy said in her blog, “David’s Sunrise: The Story of a Photo”,

“…this image becomes one more example of how art can imitate life, and how an unseen God can intervene in the world, making Himself known through an art form, captured at an intersection of time and space, inserting His presence where He is needed most, to help in the process of grief, honoring a young man taken too soon.”

As much as we long to undo that day in February, to somehow bring David back, we sadly and powerlessly cannot. Such is the hardest thing to deal with in this life: Death. And Death is all around us, the Great Inevitable. David’s Sunrise reminds us of a “really sweet” life gone too soon, but it also reminds us that this is David’s Sunrise, not his sunset. I feel that is an important component to this story. David has gone before us. Even King David, after his newborn son died, said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” Wendy quoted Nabokov, “Life is a great sunrise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.”

I agree. Jesus, who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” shortly before he raised Lazarus from the dead, assures us that there is life after death. There is physical life after death. Every Easter, we remember this Man, His life and the gift of eternal life He’s given us through His death. Every time we look at this painting, we remember the young man, David J Ochoa, who lived here, but lives elsewhere now.

This painting is hung on a wall that seemed prepared for it. God in His wonderful providence has brought people together in His haphazard and serendipitous way to comfort a family and memorialize a life. All of us who were involved in this have been humbly blessed. Such are the marvelous ways of the Lord.

David will not only live on in our hearts and memories, but he lives now in the presence of God. I feel the painting points all our attention to the heavens, to the Sunrise. I look forward to the day when I can get to know David better.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.    – Revelation 21:4

David

 

David’s Sunrise – The Power of the Gift of Art – by Wendy DeRaud

From beginning….

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…to the end.

There’s such a satisfaction for an artist in completing a project. Especially a painting such as “David’s Sunrise,” one that has such significance and meaning in the lives of those who will soon own it. Because of the story behind this image, the painting becomes much more interesting and profound.

I told the story a few weeks ago in a previous blog post, how Donna shot a photo of this beautiful South San Francisco sunrise on her way to work, not knowing that this was the exact location where her daughter’s friend David had died of a drug overdose just a few days before.

That’s one of the mysterious ways God works in touching lives and giving His amazing grace in time of great need.

To anyone else, Donna, a single mom of 10 on a limited income, would seem an unlikely patron of the arts. Yet she felt compelled to commission Mark to paint this, and made payments in order to gift it to David’s mom.

Little did she know that her commission would help Mark relaunch and rekindle his painting vocation after a long haitus of discouragement.

Little did she know that this single photograph and subsequent commissioned painting would help a family heal as they honor and remember their precious son and brother, but also help draw attention to a much-neglected opioid epidemic in the Bay Area.

Next week we will say goodbye to this painting as it graces its new home, hopefully bringing peace and the tonic of redemption for a hurting family.


The moral of the story is, never underestimate the power of the gift of art. 

Thank you, Donna, for the privilege of being part of this story.

Guest Blog: David’s Sunrise – The Story of a Photo, by Wendy DeRaud

 After God perfected the sunrise, he created photographers, artists, and poets to ensure his feat remained immortal.     – Terri Guillemets

Rarely does Mark get a commission to do a landscape from a photograph, but my old friend Donna had taken a photo that had a profound meaning to her, and she wanted Mark to paint it. When she explained the story behind it, I understood why.

On Feb 19th of this year, Donna’s daughter found out that David, the young man she was seeing, had OD’ed. They were all devastated.

A few days later, on Feb 21, Donna went to work early and decided to take a route she rarely takes. The sunrise was brilliant, so she pulled over on a residential street in South San Francisco, to take this picture.

Later, when her photo was posted on the Everything South City site, someone commented on it, saying that it was very meaningful to her. Not the bird flying above, but where it was taken. It was David’s mother who told her that the photo was the exact location where David had died.

Donna had no idea where David had died when she was inspired to take that sunrise shot, but now this image has become more of a significant landmark to everyone involved.

And for you, the reader, this image becomes one more example of how art can imitate life, and how an unseen God can intervene in the world, making Himself known through an art form, captured at an intersection of time and space, inserting His presence where He is needed most, to help in the process of grief, honoring a young man taken too soon.

Because of Donna’s keen eye for finding beauty in her surroundings, stopping from her everyday routine to appreciate it, she now can bless David’s mom with the gift of this painting.

Life is a great sunrise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.  
Vladimir Nabokov

Mark also gets to be a part of this story. By Donna commissioning him to paint this photo, Mark can now extend his brush to communicate more of God’s beauty and love, to give a little more comfort to a family still hurting from this loss. What a privilege.

You can find out more from Donna on her blog, “From the Shoe,” and her post, “Why I Hate Drugs.”And stay tuned here as I follow the progress of Mark’s painting, “David’s Sunrise.”

Mark working on, “David’s Sunrise,” in his Fresno studio.
P.S. from the Shoelady: David’s mom, Karin Cunningham, was featured on San Francisco’s KRON Channel 4 sharing her story of loss and her determination to warn kids and their parents about this epidemic and to eradicate this danger from her community. Fentanyl laced drug overdoses have increased hundreds fold. Below is the link to her story on Channel 4. See her interview below.
Also, you can visit Mark and Wendy’s site for more blogs and artwork:

Why I Hate Drugs

David's Sunrise

I’m writing this blog in a lot of pain and anguish. Last week my daughter got word that a close friend of hers OD’ed. A good friend of mine lost her son last year to the same thing. Three bodies were found last week in San Francisco, their deaths attributed to suspected drug overdoses. At anytime in the past few years, I could have gotten – and can still get – that dreaded phone call about one of my kids. But I am not writhing in pain today, but this fella’s mother and father are as well as his siblings, cousins and the numerous friends who are shell-shocked by this catastrophic phenomenon known as death. A “really sweet” life gone much too soon.

Death is one of the reasons why I hate drugs, and that includes the abuse of alcohol. All my children, my siblings, and, I am sure, most adults I know are intimately acquainted with the pain associated with drugs and alcohol abuse. How many of us know people who died from alcohol related accidents or drug overdoses? Yeah, most of us. And death is a permanent robber. There is no re-do, no restart. It is GAME OVER for good. Not forever, because as a Christian, I know the good-bye is not eternal, just GAME OVER for here. But still the pain left in the wake of a loved one’s death is unimaginable, heartbreaking. No one is the same, no one recovers.

Another reason I hate drugs is drug use is living a lie. The high we get is a lie. I know many folks use all kinds of drugs to help cope with issues and other difficulties in life, but let me tell you, it’s a lie. Life is freaking hard, and drug use does not make it easier, it makes it harder. God has given us resources to help us in difficulty that can help us grow and not be dependent on drugs or alcohol or anything except Himself. Drugs rob us of those opportunities to grow, even though it’s hard. Sorry, I am really mad and really sad.

Another reason why I hate drugs is if they don’t KILL you, you STILL rob the world, your family, your friends of your life. All your gifts lie dormant, your talents subdued and your great potential squandered. All your parents see in you gets lost to this demon. Your laughter becomes hollow and your eyes dim, your dreams diminish and eventually disappear. All what a parent hopes for their child is lost. A different kind of death. And what is there….a never ending war because while there is life, a parent is gonna fight.

And finally, the last reason why I hate drugs is the pain. Everybody hurts….like the REM song. Granted, I know many who use are in pain, many who drink excessively have pain, I understand and sympathize, but medicating the pain through drug use and alcohol only perpetuates it; it doesn’t resolve it. So the drug user is in pain, I get it, but does the drug user know that their habit causes pain. We’re all in pain. A pain we who watch cannot stop because we love the user.

There’s got to be another way. I hate drugs, I hate what they’ve done to my kids, I hate what alcohol has done to my brother and ex-husband. Their dad’s choices have caused pain that my kids had to deal with at a very young age. I hope that pain can be converted to some good for themselves and their eventual families.

And now, I think about this young man’s mom and dad, and the devastating pain they are in now, today, tomorrow and for the rest of their lives. Someday I might have to walk in those shoes. My daughter has said flippantly, “You won’t care if I die.” I told her I don’t want to find out. I don’t want to know that pain. I am in pain for these people I don’t know just like I am in pain for my friend who buried her 37-year-old son last year. I hope these deaths will steer many away from these drugs. There are tons of resources out there to assist.

Life is hard just the way it is, no need to add to that hardship. Our children are our greatest blessings and most of us parents only want our kids to grow up and embrace life, life with its hardships, yes, but life also with its wonders and goodness. Faith in Jesus Christ gives meaning to this life, its joys and its sorrows. With Him by our side, we can face life. Although life is filled with death and its associated pain; hallelujah, we have a distant hope, one that can somehow – eventually – assuage the desperate, despairing depth of pain a loved one feels. Thank God for that.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.    – Revelation 21:4

 

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

https://www.smchealth.org/bhrs/aod/recovery

 

 

Where Do They Go?

shoots-in-snow

“Where does the winter go after the snow?” I asked my mom as winter faded one year.

“Well, maybe God rolls winter up like a giant quilt and stores it in his attic.” My mom answered with a smile. “What do you think of that?”

“I don’t think so, Mom.” I laughed.

“I don’t think so either,” she said, “I suppose winter just goes right into spring like Thanksgiving goes right into Christmas.”

The daffodils blossomed like a chorus, waving in the wind. We picked as many as we could before their leaves curled up and died.

“Mom, where do the daffodils go when they die?”

“The daffodils never die, they just wake up for a short time and brightly wave to us, and then go back to sleep until next winter.”

That spring, we planted a garden. We planted cucumbers and carrots, corn and pumpkins, tomatoes and peppers. As spring marched into summer, we spent a lot of time in the garden, we mulched, we weeded and we got rid of a lot of bugs.

By mid-summer, many of the fruit were ready to pick. We filled our baskets with delicious green cucumbers, light green clad ears of corn, red juicy tomatoes and snappy orange carrots. We had to wait until fall for those slow growing pumpkins.

After the harvest, the plants remained for a time, they look lost and lonely without their precious fruit, and they eventually withered and died. The cucumber vines slowly slipped from the fence, the pumpkin vines shrunk and died, the corn stalks drooped and dropped to the ground.

“Where do the plants go after they die?” I asked Mom at the beginning of fall. Mom, who had been away, answered without looking at me, “I suppose God buries them in the ground where they wait for the next spring.” There was a sadness in her voice like the sadness in our lifeless garden.

Fall descended like the leaves from the trees. The trees seemed to be weeping sensing the sadness that had filled my house. My dad and I raked the leaves while Mom was away. “Dad,” I asked, “where do the leaves go after the fall?”

“We rake them up and put them in the compost pile for the mulch for next year’s garden.” He said matter-of-factly.

Fall flew past like the wind. And with winter, the garden seemed really dead. The holidays were quiet and sad. I went out to the garden after my grandmother’s funeral. The garden was cold, lifeless, just like how death felt. My mom came out to the garden and asked how I was.

“Mom, where do grandmas go after they die?”

“Oh, baby,” she said with tears rolling down her face, “Grandmas are carried to heaven by their Heavenly Father. And though we won’t see her again here, we will go to where she is later.” She put her arm around my shoulder to lead me back into the house when I noticed something on the frosty ground of the garden. I stooped to clear the dirt and frost. The first shoots of the daffodils were beginning to break through the cold, hard dirt.

 

The Flower Fades

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Daffodils have been abloom in Pacifica this past month. I love this flower — it is so delightful, so innocent, so cheerful and sadly, so short-lived. At the end of January, the green shoots are standing tall. I was excited to see them. I knew the flowers were coming. Seemingly, overnight, the blossoms bloomed. There they were, in their yellow glory. But, now, the stalks are leaning and the flowers are beginning to fade.

Isaiah writes, “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…” Daffodils as well as all flowers represent the brevity of life. This past year two lives faded from my life, and one life was cut off before it was fully abloom.

My uncle died this past January. He lived a full and active life. His bloom lasted as long as one would expect. He was a teacher who was a perpetual student. His home was filled with thousands of books, a haven for a bookworm like me. His homes were the places where I fell in love with books, and for that I will always be grateful. He traveled, he entertained, and he only slowed down a month before his blossom faded.

My friend’s fiancé died this past week. I did not know him well, but I know my friend, and in many ways I knew him because of the reflection of his life in hers. He brought her so much joy and happiness and through her happiness, I could tell he was a great man, a beautiful flower — a flower that sadly faded too soon.

Finally, yesterday, my family and I (and many others I know) remembered a flower that did not have time to fully bloom or ever fade. He died at 22 just reaching the full, vibrant bloom of youth. He was a beloved son to his mother as well as other women, me included. He was a beloved brother to all my children. Many of them mentioned that Jesse was the only one that knew them. He was like that – he noticed you and he listened to you.

I was an overprotective homeschooling mom in the middle of a divorce when this kid came bounding down the stairs with my boys into my home. I smelled trouble. So I was apprehensive — but this kid’s irrepressible charm and contagious smile won me over. At a time in my life when I felt not only invisible, but defeated, dejected and definitely down in the dumps (I was progressing in my housekeeping, though), Jesse noticed me too, he even called me “sexy” when I felt and I am sure looked quite the opposite. I am still amazed at the capacity and depth of love that not only my children, but their friends have felt for this young man.

Leo Buscaglia wrote: “What love we’ve given, we’ll have forever. What love we fail to give, will be lost for all eternity.” We who loved Jesse, Robert and Uncle Bill will always have that. He also wrote about this life: “Don’t brood. Get on with living and loving. You don’t have forever.”

The daffodils and the Scriptures agree.

http://pacifica.patch.com/articles/the-flower-fades

 

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I am a mom of too many kids living in Northern California. "From the Shoe" was the title of Cheaper By The Dozen’s Lillian Gilbreth’s summer newsletter. The “shoe” references the children’s nursery rhyme. I mix humor & philosophical musings with everyday events. I hope you like it. From the Shoe artwork by Alec Maloney.

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