Fire Seasons

There are times in your life that quite literally bring you to your knees and erase all sense of having something to stand on or back you up—at those times you MUST rely solely on FAITH. FAITH that GOD is good all the time, no matter what it looks like, Faith that you will get through whatever it is, Faith that you are stronger than you think. I call these FIRE seasons…periods of time when you must rely on Faith and strength and Grace to get you through…I find that once we are out the other side of these times the lessons and the skills gained are invaluable.

The first one of these times for me was in 2001 when my Grandfather passed…I don’t think that I have ever shared the details of that time with you guys and so I wanted to do that now…as I continue the approach to my 51st birthday, I continue my evaluation of lessons learned and FIRE seasons that I have emerged from and how they have created who sits here now….

Often the things that we are sure will break us turn out to be our testimonies that go forward to help others walk successfully through their FIRE seasons…may the sharing of this time help you in that way now….

In March of 2001 my grandfather died and everyone in my large family came unglued and went kind of crazy and we all scattered…I moved to the South, so unusual for a Boston girl. I realized this past Christmas as I was driving to Cape Cod why I moved away from there …as I was driving past my grandparents exit where I grew up, I was overcome with sadness knowing that our family home was sold and gone and that I could no longer go back to the place and the people that raised me…

A year after he died my Nana sold the house and I remember sitting on the front steps with my mother crying and crying over the loss of the house and every, single thing it stood for—I see now that I moved away only months after that…I’m not sure that we always recognize what grounds us until it is gone for awhile.

My father and I were estranged for 25 years so my grandfather was in all practical ways my father…he was the strongest person I have ever met and his level of loyalty went beyond anything I have ever seen. He was my base, my childhood was soooo crazy and I always knew that he would never let anything really bad happen to me, he was always, always watching and silently stepping in to make things right when needed. He wasn’t overly affectionate and he was nothing like Andy Griffith or Ward Cleaver and when you screwed up he was by no means gentle—he was hard on us and hard on himself…if he couldn’t bounce a quarter on your bed, you re-made it—if any of the dishes you were drying were damp the whole cabinet came down and got re-washed, if you lied you paid the consequences…

When I was really little I was afraid of him, when I was about 16 I finally GOT him and we were thick as thieves after that, I was his first grandchild and his favorite girl…and he took it so badly whenever I did stupid stuff and boy, did I do a lot of stupid stuff in my early 20’s and until about 30…

I was always the one that took him to the doctor and I was the one that got the call in the middle of the night that he had taken another stroke—I am not even sure what force drove me to the hospital that night, his training I suppose…he trained us to operate in the face of ANY difficulty and GET THE JOB DONE, no crying, no whining, no excuses—just get it done. This is a way of being that too many people neglect to practice these days…

During the recovery of that stroke they found cancer in his liver and in his stomach, his response to suggestions for treatment was for everyone to F— Off…he was going home and that is where he would stay, they gave him three months, he lived a year…

That year was the year that changed all of our lives, it made us better and stronger and it made me more compassionate and understanding. I was in the middle of finishing a degree and I left school to move into their house and help take care of him even though my then husband and I were expecting my son…everyone told me that it was too much to be pregnant and try to care for a dying man…I told them to F—Off (see a likeness here?)There were some tough days and I spent a lot of time crying, but there were some really good days that I wouldn’t have missed for anything in the world…the rest of my family couldn’t really handle the deal, except my Uncle Mike another rock, he was there with me every step of the way—a really good man.

We went past Christmas and the New Year and I thought he was going to hang on until the baby came…I had four weeks to go…And then all of a sudden he took a turn and went into a coma…Hospice was helping us and they came with morphine, they taught us how to administer it every hour…it was my mom and I that last night taking turns in 3 hour shifts, I was sooo pregnant and sooo uncomfortable on all levels. Nobody else could stay in the room for more then 20 minutes…it was too sad for them…I just sat in his recliner by the bed and I held his hand and I said the Rosary over and over and over…I must have said 300 Rosaries that night…

The next day, March 31st he waited until the house was full of people, we are Italian so there were LOTS of people and the Priest came and went, it was about 10:30am and I decided to make ravioli…as my mom and I sat down to eat they started screaming for us from upstairs…took those stairs pretty fast for a pregnant chick…

So now there you are in the room watching what you know is the last run…all of a sudden I freaked, I ran into the other room and I thought, “I can’t, I can’t possibly handle this, can’t deal with this…” and then I thought I don’t want to miss him leaving, so I went back in like a big girl and watched him pass with the rest of my family…it was the most profound moment of my life thus far…he taught us how to live life out loud and he taught us how to die with grace on his terms, on his schedule…

So many people live with regrets; I can honestly say that I live with none. I had to file bankruptcy from cutting my work schedule down for that year while he was dying and I caused trouble in my then marriage, however I have never regretted one, single second. I did what was right for me to do. I did what he would have done for me.

As I have said before, after he died I felt like I lost my base and it took me awhile to learn how to become my OWN base…how to strengthen my FAITH enough to get me through ANY FIRE season…

My grandfather was my base for a long time, he was the rock and I still feel him with me every day …the life that I have built has his influence written all over it. I am of the opinion that when people leave here after a life well-lived they are still out there somewhere watching over us and checking up on us…and I think from time to time, when we are ready to receive them they send us some really great miracles with the help of God’s Grace…

Today may your miracle be the GRACE and STRENGTH to get through your next FIRE season.

-XO, Noelle

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