What is health ? What is good health?

Recently Jerry and I have lost two dear friends. I am reminded of my great Aunt Mary ( my grandfather’s sister) who faced getting older with her usual courage and determination and honesty. She used to say that the hardest thing for her was the loss of contemporaries – those who understood the life stage she was experiencing. When Aunt Mary talked like this I thought I was being very sympathetic but now realize this is a life experience where you can only really grasp the sadness when you experience it yourself.

Also the father of one of our precious daughters in law died during this period. He and his wife lived so many miles away we did not know him very well. But we will always be grateful to him for our daughter in law.

Jerry and I are blessed to be in our 80’s and to be in reasonably good health. I think there are four categories of heath: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.

Recently we ran into a contemporary friend, Phil, in the parking lot of our golf club. We had not seen him or his wife Pat since last Fall. About a year ago he and Pat sold their home and moved to a senior retirement community. He shared with us that that day was their fifty eighth wedding anniversary. I wondered where Pat was since she was an avid golfer like her husband. Phil seemed to sense my question. He said that he was on his way to visit Pat that she was now in the memory care section of their community. Jerry and I were so taken aback. We tried to offer appropriate words of support.

Mental health is so tricky. We were never that close to Phil and his wife – they were friends but not close friends – to know if they took any special steps to maintain their mental health. With bridge, scrabble, crossword puzzles and Wordle , and an avid interest in current events and our book group, and following the activities of our beloved children and grandchildren, I feel like Jerry and I are appropriately mentally challenged.

Physically it is very easy for us to maintain a meaningful exercise program. We both might be classified by some as golf nuts. We love the game and can be found on the golf course two to three times a week. It all depends on how our body parts are holding up, and how the weather is behaving. On days when the weather is not conducive to golf we usually are able to get in a mile walk.

Emotional health and spiritual health are usually considered separately. But for me they are intertwined. On days when my emotional health is out of whack I am grateful to have my spiritual beliefs to get me back on track.

It is important for me to nourish my spiritual side. I try to start each day with a God conversation – sometimes it is brief, sometimes it is a bit longer. It gives value to each day when I offer to God the activities of that day. Within the framework of the seven days of the week I start the week praying for Jerry and me and our various needs. And then focusing on our children and their families from oldest to youngest, I go down the week, each family having a prayer day. Saturdays are for friends and universal needs. Of course I am not rigid about this schedule if these is a special need that requires more frequent prayer attention.

I was raised in the Catholic Church. Though I have been affected by the scandals that have plagued the church, and have been turned off by, and don’t agree with various church doctrines, I still feel that the Catholic Church is my church home. At one time I felt the Catholic Church provided the only pathway to heaven. I don’t feel that way any more . Each of us must find our own spiritual pathway.

There are many meaningful quotes on health. one that particularly resonates with me is by Robert Urich: ” A healthy outside starts from the inside.”


Stuck in an elevato

Jerry and I closed down our rented Florida condo on March 29 and began the two plus hour drive to the auto train. We were on the tenth floor of the condo building. This was a first for us. We have always thought the view from the third to the fifth floor was the best. But we thoroughly enjoyed this different look at the ocean.

Two days before our departure we scheduled a final round of golf at The Saints course in St Lucie. Our plan was for a nice leisurely round. We made a tee time for 3 o’clock having learned that at this course most of the action was earlier in the day. It was such a beautiful day that we decided to leave for the course a little early. The condo building elevator had other plans for us. When we got on the elevator the doors closed and the elevator did not move. It was, to say the least, a little freaky. Our whole travail lasted about twenty minutes – it seemed like several hours.

I was very grateful to be with my husband. I felt his calmness. We used the elevator phone and called the elevator company. The woman who answered asked if we were experiencing any medical emergencies. We said no but added that we would appreciate her sending a technician to get us off the elevator. She said that since there did not appear to be an emergency there were certain protocols that she had to follow, certain button pressing sequences that had to be tried. When the sequences were followed and the elevator still didn’t budge we said PLEASE send us a technician. Finally she said she would but couldn’t guarantee when he would arrive. I sat down on the elevator feeling that if the elevator fell ten floors this would be my best chance of survival. Jerry busied himself with the elevator buttons, focusing on the alarm button and that paid off. Another tenth floor resident heard the noise and came out to the elevator. She called and banged on the elevator door asking if we were OK. With Jerry on one side of the door and her on the other, both trying to slide it open, the door finally budged and we were able to get out. We thanked our condo neighbor profusely, walked down the ten flights of stairs, got into our car and headed to the golf course. It truly was a beautiful day.

When we returned several hours later, after nine fun holes of golf, the elevator we had been on still was not working but fortunately the second elevator for the condo building was.

Our trip home on the auto train was uneventful – we were excited to be getting back in time for the Cherry Blossom ten mile run where thirteen of our family members were participating. I found myself reflecting on my brother Bud and his running adventures. Bud ran his first marathon at age sixty – pretty impressive!!!

About fifty family and friends gathered at the Constances’ home after the Cherry Blossom to honor the runners and to honor Maura and her 60th birthday. We have a family tradition of asking what we all call the birthday questions. I wasn’t sure that the tradition would be followed with this large gathering some of whom did not know our tradition. But grandson Liam was insistent. It provided an incredible ending to a magnificent day when Maura was serenaded with a very robust happy birthday song and then asked the questions. Her answers showcased the love and the caring which are intrinsically Maura.

Now it is the end of April and my birthday is tomorrow. For me the best part of having a birthday is the effort that family and friends make to specially connect at this time. And for those who do not live close by, the iPhone is the instrument of our connection. Yesterday – for the first time in all our years of having an iPhone, our server had several hours of malfunctioning. At first I thought it was just my phone, but then Jerry’s was also misbehaving. I talked with a neighbor who uses the same server and she was having similar phone issues. Today our electronics are working fine. I have been reflecting on how much it means to me to hear from those I love. Jerry and I are truly blessed with family and friends. I must not forget those who are not so blessed.


Our good friend Dot once suggested that if only all hospitals could be built by the ocean, patient recovery time would be much quicker. I agree. I love the sounds of the ocean and the many different ways it presents its beauty and its mystery. Yesterday the surf was wild. There were warnings posted not to go in the water. There were no sail boats. There were even few sunbathers even though the temperature was a mild 70 degrees.Today is a different story. The ocean is calm. With its soft blue and aqua marine color it generates feelings of peace and tranquility. It was very special, in early March, to share this ocean and its many different moods with our son Jerry – also an ocean lover.

Growing up on Long Island in Laurelton – still part of New York City – even though we did not get a car till I was almost a teen , we were actually not far from the ocean. We were about a ten minute walk to the Long Island train and a twenty five minute ride to Rockaway Beach. I have always loved the ocean, even though as a very little girl I was intimidated by the ocean waves. My father used to bring me in the water on his shoulders. Can’t remember how old I was when I was no longer fearful but I didn’t want my father to find out. It was so much fun being on his shoulders. Then one day he took me off his shoulders, looked me in the eyes and said with a smile, “I don’t think you are afraid any more”. I giggled and swan away from him. I felt so grown up.

My maternal grandfather died in the mid 1940’s. As I said in a previous blog he and my grandmother, Nana, used to spend their summers at a small family hotel in Spring Lake, New Jersey – not far from Ocean Grove where our son Jerry and his wife now have a home.

When Grandfather died my cousin Fran and I took turns being company for Nana at the ocean. I remember one time ocean swimming in a designated swimming area that was very crowded. I was by now about eleven years old and very ocean comfortable. I loved the freedom of the ocean. I did not like being confined by a rope to a specific area, so I swan under the rope and out to my freedom. I kept an eye on Nana who was lifeguarding me from the boardwalk. I didn’t want her to think I was doing anything wrong. She seemed to be OK so I forgot about the lifeguards and just enjoyed myself swimming and diving and floating in the water. And then I heard the lifeguard whistle. I stopped immediately to see who was being rescued and then I realized they were coming for me. I had to decide quickly what to do. Should I pretend to be in distress so the lifeguards wouldn’t think they were wasting their time? The lifeguards were now swimming toward me. I was treading water trying to make up my mind when the first guard reached me and said something like “little girl are you ok”? Aside from being taken aback at being called a “little girl” I was fine and hopeful that my grandmother had not been disturbed by the lifeguards thinking they needed to rescue me. Aside from giving me a a reprimand for swimming outside the ropes, the life guards were very nice and offered me a ride back to shore on one of their floats.

With the passage of time it is no longer necessary for me to actually be in the ocean to enjoy its many restorative aspects. My husband, our children and nineteen grandchildren are all competent and comfortable ocean lovers. It is so much fun to just watch them ride in the waves. I was never much good at that – my pleasure came from diving into the waves and ocean swimming.

In a few days we will close up our rented Florida condo and head to the auto train in Sanford Florida, two and a half hours away. We used to drive back and forth between Virginia and Florida but now this is no longer our preferred mode of transportation – a bowing to our body’s various protests against a fifteen and a half hour car trip. It is always fun chatting with fellow auto train passengers from such diverse places as Michigan, New England, Canada, etc. though it is a tad weird when they talk of the long trip that they have ahead of them when they leave the auto train in Lorton, Virginia for their final drive home. I never volunteer the length of our trip, twenty-five minutes.

We take the auto train on Wednesday. Today, Sunday, we went to Holy Family Church in the morning. I love the ethnic diversity of this church. On the drive back to our condo we made a couple of stops – hoping to to find a New York Times but knowing it was a lost cause. It used to be no problem but now either South Florida stores are just not ordering as many copies or the Times just has more customers. Now we are lounging on our deck soaking up the sights and smells of the ocean. Shortly we will go for an ocean walk, tomorrow we will golf, Tuesday we will pack, and Wednesday it is goodbye to our Florida winter.

Have enjoyed looking for the perfect quote that reflects my feelings about the ocean. There are just so many to chose from. I have decided to end with the words of Jacques Cousteau which so well describe my feelings: The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.


Love this picture where I was also able to capture the water reflection of the roseate spoonbill

This is the first time in our many winter trips to Florida that we have rented a unit on the 10th floor. Usually we try for the third to fifth floors feeling that these floors offer the ocean view that we like best. Last Fall it seemed that health complications might keep us from spending some of the winter months in Florida. By the time complications got resolved and we knew we could go, the only unit available in one of the two condo buildings we were interested in, was on the tenth floor. Well the view is still spectacular – in a slightly different way – and the ocean birds flying by at our floor level are an unexpected treat.

There is so much to learn about Florida birds. Today we golfed at a nearby public course and were treated to the roseate spoonbill pictured above – so impressive, so exotic. It has such a majestic air in flight as it displays is bright pink and white plumage. As the Audubon website says the roseate spoonbill is “Gorgeous at a distance and bizarre up close“. Have found myself pondering the Audubon words – how often in life does something look good from a distance and disappoint on closer inspection.

The spoonbill is just one of the multitude of colorful birds we are seeing during our Florida stay. We frequently are treated to seagulls, pelicans, herons, ospreys, egrets – the list goes on ……..

I got turned on to a specific interest in birds during the 1990’s. Jerry and I were visiting Meg who had finished her commitment as a Jesuit volunteer in Portland Oregon and was now back in Portland teaching in high school. At her suggestion, one late afternoon, we took a picnic supper to the Chapman Elementary School in northwest Portland, joining hundreds of other folks who were already gathered. It was early Fall and birds were migrating to warmer climates as they prepared for winter. According to the Portland news program KGW, “for nearly four decades, thousands of (Vaux) swifts have come to Portland in September swarming the chimney of Chapman as they prepare to roost for the night.” The birds’ aerial display is truly awesome but so is their eventual funneling down into the chimney. According to the Portland Audubon Society, on Labor Day 2022, six thousand seven hundred and ninety swifts were counted funneling into the Chapman chimney to spend the night. The incredible swift display that we witnessed with Meg was definitely a catalyst for my bird interest. That interest is now maintained by the variety of bird traffic we experience at our three backyard feeders at home.

Jerry and I are very conscious of nature’s offerings when we are on our home turf. And it gives us much pleasure to explore Florida’s offerings. When our cousins Liane and Ron were visiting we visited the Florida Oceanographic Institute in Stuart. I saw my first sea horse. He was less than an inch in size – so magnificent in his bodily detail and yet so small in size.

Another day we had a great tour of the Jupiter lighthouse and museum. Can’t remember why the 105 lighthouse stairs were closed for public climbing but my left, sometimes achy, knee was grateful that I did not have to deal with the temptation to give it a try. We had an amazing tour guide who in addition to being knowledgable of the political history of the area was gifted in sharing her well informed background on its flora and fauna as she took us on a walking tour.

I am a big fan of the banyan tree. It is native to India but does very well in southern Florida. Its thick woody root system grows laterally eventually maturing into a trunk system that can cover a very wide area. Our guide showed us a favorite banyan backdrop spot for wedding ceremonies. It was simple and peaceful.

Another meaningful outing we had with Liane and Ron was our visit to the Elliott Museum where they were featuring the works of Norman Rockwell. I find his work to be so reflective of American culture. It was fun looking at the various picture with Liane and sharing our favorites.

Last week our friends Janet and Jerry invited us to join them on a hike with the Adventure Club from their church. The destination was the Mc Carthy Ranch Preserve in Port St Lucie. Though it covers 3,107 acres the groups ‘goal was two hours of hiking followed by a fun lunch. We were cautioned to be on the lookout for snakes and boars and the one alligator who had been spotted in one of the lakes. It was a great walk but no animal life put in an appearance.

I could never live in Florida permanently but it is a fun place to visit. Also we have thoroughly enjoyed the friends we have made here, plus the family and friends who have visited us during our Florida stays. Now due to aging and ill health , those numbers have greatly decreased.

As an avowed political junkie I have a hard time with Florida’s present governor. Jerry and I had lunch recently with Nora and Art, Florida transplants from the Washington, DC area with whom we share family and similar political interests. We met after Ash Wednesday mass at a church of their selection near where they have a condo in Jupiter. The twelve o’clock mass was crowded with our contemporaries. As we stood outside afterward waiting for our friends, Jerry pointed out a nearby crucifixion statue which had been donated Perry Como and his wife. I was very touched having been a childhood Perry Como fan. We learned that he and his wife had been parishioners of this church.

We moved into our suburban Virginia home almost thirty three years. At that time we were one of the younger couples in the community. Now we are one of the oldest couples.The elementary school that serves our community is outstanding and a big draw for young families. But all ages are well represented. We like it that way. Condo life in Florida is weighted toward the older population, except when children and grandchildren come to visit.

When we first came to Florida it was not that important to us to rent right on the ocean – it was the weather, the golf, the flora and fauna. Now being on the ocean and experiencing the various moods of the ocean we just love it. The ocean is like life – sometimes it is calm and peaceful and sometimes it is wild. I like to reflect on these words of Buddha:

If you wish to know the divine, feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand.

January 2023

View from our rented beach condo for the next almost nine weeks

Message to any potential reader – this particular blog is full of grandmotherly bragging.

All months have their specialness – for me January’s specialness has always been tied into the start of a new year and the family and friend birthdays that fall into this month

I have always appreciated the concept of new beginnings. At a younger age I would make some pretty grandiose pronouncements to start of the new year – I thought making New Year’s resolutions was the thing to do – but I like better my current resolution focus – picking out one resolution/plan to focus on. We will see how this year goes.

Growing up I thought my brother Pete had been given a bad deal being born in January – as far as birthday presents were concerned. I remember his getting some gifts that were presented with the words ” merry Christmas and happy birthday.” I was glad my birthday was in April and resolved that when I got married and had children none of them would be born in January. I wanted them to get all the gifts they were entitled to. I have to confess that my focus was a little off.

When Jerry and I married and began our family I couldn’t believe it when our first child was born on January 8. In the happiness of our first born I took a pledge( to myself) that he would never be shortchanged for his birthday. January has gone on to provide us with four precious grandchildren and a beloved son-in- law.

Our nineteen grandchildren range in age from almost sixteen to just turned thirty. Such an exciting time in their lives and ours as we follow their various life paths. As I have said before it seems very fitting that the first grandchild wedding was of our first grandchild. This is a busy time in our grandparenting life as we rejoice in grandchildren milestones: singing solos; first dances; taking college by storm; grad school; jobs; job challenges and job promotions; having the courage to leave a job and move on when it is time; graduations, engagements.

Jerry and I came to Florida by auto train on Thursday. We are gradually settling into our condo on the ocean. We played bridge yesterday and then had dinner with some Florida friends. Such a treat when heading home to check the iPhone and find a message from Lilly who is pursuing her Masters in writing at the London University of the Arts. In response to one of our recent message exchanges she e-mailed me a monologue to proof read. I was honored.

We are so proud of each of our grandchildren as they seek to nurture their God given talents, to find what road into the future they should follow. As Walt Disney says, ” The best way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”


In December 1976 our five children ranged in age from fourteen down to age nine. Santa believers were a thing of the past and that was okey. It is challenging to mix the fantasy of Santa with the spiritual and family and friend meaning of this special time.

We have always wanted our Christmas tree to showcase ornament decorations that had special meaning. In 1976 we decided to have each of the children decorate one of the points of a cardboard star that we put together. Since that time the star has adorned the top of our annual tree. Forty-six years later the star has lost some of its crispness but none the memory joy that it invokes. It used to be the pinnacle of our floor reaching to ceiling Christmas trees, now it just as importantly adorns our table top trees. Tree size has been reduced because we are no longer capable of the logistics of a big tree.

Christmas week 2022 has been particularly joyful as most of our children and grandchildren have been able to join us in person. Those grandchildren who could not be with us were present in our thoughts and hearts. For Christmas dinner we were twenty -eight in number. This could have been overwhelming but not so.

Lilly(granddaughter) and I did the basic shopping which has been a tradition of the last many years. Usually Annie(granddaughter) is with us. But this year she is working in Madrid in a teaching job where she is employed by the Spanish government. We decided to FaceTime Annie during our coffee shopping break. That was so much fun! Electronics can be annoying but they can also be amazing. We had such a clear and wonderful conversation with Annie in Madrid. This was electronics at its best.

When we continued with our shopping I put the phone in my pocket. As my phone is want to do, it decided to make another Face Time call. Coming from my pocket I heard some FT noises and pulled out the phone and there was grandson Alec in Charlottesville, Virginia. An unexpected treat that made Lilly and me very happy.

Our Christmas day celebration started with some pretty amazing caroling. It was a good mix of religious and secular songs sung with gusto and enthusiasm.

Christmas dinner was so yummy. It was truly a team effort with each family preparing part of the dinner menu. The cousin gift exchange was very thoughtful and the white elephant exchange was perhaps tamer than usual but it had its moments of gift theft which added to the fun,

It was an honor to have Emily(granddaughter) and her husband David spend their first married Christmas with us. I so clearly remember preparing for Jerry’s and my first married Christmas. I wanted our Christmas decorations to have special meaning and wanted the first ornament that we purchased to be a memory treasure. We were married the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 1960. With honeymoon and work and writing thank you notes for wedding gifts, we were well into December before we could give time to Christmas decorating. It meant a lot to me that we get the right first ornament. We settled on a three inch long cloth angel wearing wearing a soft pink dress, with gold trimmed wings and a sweet expression on her face. After all these years she is now kind of falling apart as she adorns our advent wreath but is truly a memory treasure.

The next days of Christmas week were filled with time together as we prepared for the engagement party we were co -hosting with our son Jerry, for Jeremy( grandson) and Amy. We are so happy for Amy and Jeremy. As I have said before one of my most favorite prayer requests is that each of our nineteen beloved grandchildren find the right life partner. It was so special to co- host this party for Amy and Jeremy and to meet their friends and to meet Amy’s parents.

NewYears Day we joined with our local families for another team approach dinner. From Lilly’s amazing spanakopita and yogurt sauce to Jim’s grilled chicken, it was a culinary feast. We had such fun sharing New Years resolutions and it was very humorous when the question was asked if your life story was made into a movie who would you pick for the staring role.

New Years and its focus on new beginnings is a very thought provoking time. I like to reflect on the powerful words of Desmond Tutu: Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put all together that overwhelm the world.


Above is a picture of a wood carving by Paul Constance

This past Thanksgiving time has been one of intense sorrow and of joy. The death of John Connelly, husband of my goddaughter and niece, Margie, and father of four wonderful adult children came a few days before Thanksgiving. It was incredibly sad but not unexpected since John has been battling a lethal form of cancer, with a ten percent survival rate, for the last seven months. John died early on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. When we gathered that night with our local families for dinner Jerry suggested after we said the blessing, that we go around the table and share a favorite John memory. It was very moving and very special.

When Senator Hubert Humphrey died in 1978 our dear friend Al Eisele was asked to contribute to the writing of his eulogy. ” He taught us how to live and he taught us how to die.” Al’s words to describe Senator Humphrey can so appropriately be applied to John’s final months. He was an inspiration to all who were fortunate enough to spend time with him.

On Thanksgiving Friday and Saturday there there were two gatherings of remembrance and a very moving mass liturgy. All these occasions were packed with those who wanted to show their love for John and their love and support for the Margie and the family.

On Thanksgiving Day, Jerry and I hosted eighteen of our nuclear family. We had two tables, one for the eleven “older” adults and one for the seven “younger” adults. It is so hard to believe that we no longer have any really young grandchildren. Meal prep is easy because everyone pitches in to help. We have some amazing culinary talent in our family. The dinner was a mix of yummy food and the special joy of being together. We missed those who could not be with us because of work, school, distance (Europe), other family commitments or the monster Covid.

Dinner started off with everyone sharing a happening in their lives that they are particularly grateful for. This sharing was very special. John’s too early death was a stark reminder of the value of each day, of taking nothing for granted. My mother was so proud of all her grandchildren. As she got older she frequently said how much she wanted to be around to see what her awesome grandchildren did with their many god given talents. I had two happenings that I recounted as occasions of thanks for me. Like my mother I talked about our precious nineteen grandchildren. I ended with words of thanksgiving for my beloved husband. Thanksgiving Friday was our 62nd wedding anniversary.


October 24 is the birthday of my beloved brother Bud. Six years ago he died from the complications of a stroke. He left behind a powerful memory of his love of life, of family and friends, and of the people he served in his role as a Jesuit priest. Born in 1932, Bud was seventeen when he finished high school and entered the Society of Jesus to begin his priestly studies. Shortly before Bud left for the seminary my parents hosted a party for him and his friends who were also headed down the path to priesthood. They were twenty two in number!!! For me at age thirteen who was just starting to focus on life outside my family and friend circle, this was a lot guys who had made a very dramatic life decision.

The night before Bud left for the seminary we had our family good byes. Because of travel connections Bud was going to be leaving very early in the morning. My brother Pete was two years older than me and Bud was four years older. It was so early in the morning my parents wanted Pete and me to sleep in. When finally I awoke I found his high school ring on my finger. Bud had slipped in my room and put it there. I was incredibly touched.

In the different stages of Bud’s seminary training he was assigned to various houses of study in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. I loved going to visit Bud both because I missed him and because I enjoyed the trips to see him. In the post Depression era we were not a traveling family. Now all that changed. The trips to visit him at the seminary in Wernersville, PA where he did his novitiate and the later trips to Lake Champlain, NY are the ones that stand out in my memory. The physical settings for both places were incredible. I still remember the first lines of a poem I wrote after one of our Wernersville trips. It was a required English class assignment on any topic we wanted:

We came away from Wernersville, a beautiful place high on a hill

Along RT 422 we sped plotting our course for far ahead

First through the crowded streets of Reading and thence to Pottstown we were headed

I really don’t remember the rest of the poem and I don’t think I got a very good mark, but for me the fact that I wanted to write about visiting Bud demonstrated how important these visits were to me.

Bud was ordained in 1963 at the Jesuit seminary in Woodstock, Md. It was a very happy and spiritual occasion. What also stands out is returning to our family home on Long Island where Bud celebrated his first mass at the church we had attended all our growing years, St Mary Magdalene. Family and friends came together to honor Bud, now Fr. Joe, as he celebrated his first mass. This was a moving and very profound time for Bud and for all the family.

Except for the years when he was working in Samoa and in Chile, Bud became an important part of future family occasions: weddings, baptisms, First Communions, funerals and home masses all were particularly blessed to have Bud as the celebrant. Bud being the priestly celebrant at these spiritual occasions gave them a very special dimension.

As daughter Meg says the home masses were especially meaningful with the singing, the participation by all ages and abilities. As the numbers of our grandchildren increased it was so easy to gather for a home mass. Churches are crowded at holiday time. We knew that was the case but seldom experienced it because we were enjoying our home masses. If one of our precious grandchildren suddenly needed a drink of water or a trip to the rest room it was no big deal. I clearly remember the first Easter mass after Bud died. We arrived at our parish church about twenty minutes early but too late to find a seat in the main church. We went to the community hall which had been set up as a chapel. There were about thirteen of us. We had to spread out in order to find seats. The service was very moving with its community feel but it was different from the family togetherness of Bud’s home masses.

Daughter Maura recalled Bud’s recurrent theme of “the sacrament of the present moment”. Being appreciative of the here and now, not dwelling too much on the past or over focusing on the future. There are many examples of Bud’s ability to focus on the present moment. When my mother lived with us in the mid 1980’s for the last ten months of her life, family and friends frequently offered to help. Bud never asked. He just showed up at our house and started helping. One of his visits that particularly stands out was when he arrived at our door with two bags of fresh vegetables explaining that he was going to fix ratatouille for our family dinner. Bud at that time ran a retreat house outside of Richmond. The squashes and tomatoes and eggplants for the ratatouille came from the retreat house garden. I didn’t let Bud know that ratatouille was not a favorite with me. I was kind of tired that day and not feeling particularly organized. I was grateful for Bud’s cooking expertise. The ratatouille was mouthwateringly delicious.

Jerry and I were in Florida when we got the call that Bud had had a stroke and was in the hospital. At that time he was in residence at Gonzaga High School in Washington DC. His focus was spiritual direction. He was eventually transferred from the DC hospital to the Jesuit care facility located on the grounds of St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia.

Since Bud was so much a part of our family I tended to forget that he was part of another family – his Jesuit family. I had assumed that we would be caring for Bud in his illness. Not the case – with love and competence his Jesuit family took over.

When Bud died the funeral was at St, Aloysius Gonzaga church next to Gonzaga High School in Washington DC. It was a very fitting location and it was crowded. My brother Pete and I both spoke. We tried to share the love that we and our families felt for Bud. It was not a difficult task. All present in the church had had their lives touched by our Fr Joe / Uncle Bud.


Me and my best friend

Last week we had dinner with my brother Pete and his wife Louise. We were at a restaurant in the Hyatt Hotel in Reston- a nice half way meeting point between our home in Fairfax and their’s in Mc Lean. Pre pandemic it was a fun place to go. Good food, quiet environment, clientele mostly contemporaries, and free parking. We had not been there in over two years. When I called to make the reservations I learned that the restaurant had been bought out by a very “hip ” restaurant. We did’t realize that with new ownership came a new clientele, mostly in the twenty to fifty age group, who preferred a noisy bar scene. Food was still very good. Parking was no longer free. We were so pleased to be together but it was noisy. We were grateful when the crowd started to thin and it was easier to hear one another.

I have been reflecting on our long and meaningful friendship with Pete and Louise and on the importance of friendship in each of our lives. I am particularly moved by the friendship words of Oprah Winfrey: ” lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus when the limo breaks down”.

When Pete and I and our brother Bud were growing up we were blessed with many older family members. And then their numbers started to dwindle. As I have mentioned in previous blogs great Aunt Rose was particularly good to me. I think she thought I was a bit too uptight and it was her goal to “loosen” me up a bit. I loved her very much, and was very sad when she died. I was about 12. I remember going with my parents and my brothers to the wake which preceded her funeral. Many in our big family had come together to honor Rose. There was a gathering room and a viewing room. My parents and Pete and Bud went into the viewing room. I stayed in the gathering room with family and friends but really more by myself. I was just too upset. After a while my brothers came back to be with me. I nervously asked how great Aunt Rose looked. I can’t remember which of the boys replied but one said, ”Well she looked OK till she realized you were not there with us. Then she sat up and said,” where is Peggy Ann?” (the name she always called me). This was such a silly response it made me smile and finally gave me the courage to enter the viewing room and pay my last respects to my beloved Aunt.

Great Aunt Mary, Rose’s sister, was the last of that generation to pass. She died at 97. I became closer to her when I was a student nurse at Cornell University. The Cornell nursing school and med school are both in New York City. They were not far from Aunt Mary’s apartment. She would frequently invite me to dinner. It was such a gift to share my student nursing experiences with her. She had been a student nurse in the 1890’s. As Mary’s friends and family members passed I was introduced to the concept of old age without contemporary friends. It was a concept that I knew but didn’t really understand the significance. But now I do.

The Hyatt in Reston where we dined with Pete and Louise was a place we often went for dinner with our friends Moira and Al. One evening in particular stands out. When we walked from the Hyatt parking garage to their restaurant we passed through the hotel lobby. It was so crowded . There were lots of small groups gathered together. Some were singing softly and they were good. When we got to the restaurant there was again the low murmur of singing coming from various tables. The waitress explained that it was a convention of barber shop quartet singers. They were projecting such a happy energy that when our dinner was over we were having such fun with Moira and Al we decided to walk around the hotel and scope out what was going on. The hotel had a big auditorium with an endless number of rows of chairs. We ended up filing in there with Moira and Al and hundreds of the conventioneers. We felt a tad silly but again we were having such fun. The various groups that performed in the show that followed were outstanding. At a break in the entertainment an officer of the national organization got up to talk. He gave an impassioned plea that members attend the national convention that was coming up in several months. I think it was going in San Francisco. He asked for a show of hands for those who might be able to attend. He had been so impassioned I couldn’t believe it when no one raised their hands. I looked at Moira. I could tell that she also felt badly at the lack of response. And then we realized that Jerry and Al were both raising their hands. And when those who were going to the convention were asked to stand, Jerry and Al did and finally more folks joined them and the speaker was satisfied. Moira and I were astonished, glad and a little giggly at what our guys had done. When the speaker was followed by a brief intermission we left. Moira and Al were such close friends. It was hard when they both died. Moira first and Al in the last two years. Good friends are a special treasure – in good times, in tough times and in silly times.

Now that Jerry and I are in our mid eighties we are grateful to have survived some difficult health issues. We take nothing for granted. We are very aware that each day is a blessing. We are fortunate to have a supportive and loving family and to have close friends. I don’t think one needs a lot of close friends. A close friend is a treasure. One you may have frequent contact with one another, you can then go for years without seeing one another and then when life’s circumstances bring you back together again you pick up the friendship as if there has been no time lapse. Jerry and I have just started up again a book discussion time with our friends Bob and Dot. We last did this with them in the 1960’s when we lived near one another. Now they are in North Carolina. We meet over Face time about every six weeks.

This morning I got a phone call from a dear friend Chris. Her husband Jim is in the hospital. A month ago we golfed and had dinner together. Another couple that we are close to is Jan and Bill. Not too long ago we played bridge and had dinner with them. Bill is now recovering from a stroke. Each day with family and friends is a treasure – not to be taken for granted.


The surgeon called on August 5, and said that after looking at the results of my CT scan and my MRI which I had had done three days previously, he felt he could offer me an 85% chance of success for surgery which would alleviate the lower back and right leg pain which was making walking so difficult for me. Though I would prefer 100% guarantee of success I was ready to go with the 85%. What I wanted to know was did he think I would ever be able to golf again. I am not a champion golfer but I am a very happy golfer. I love the beauty of our golf course. Even if I am not playing well I find the golf course setting to be very relaxing.

A surgery date was set for August 22. By August 15, I had gone through two of the four pre op exams required for this surgery. On August 16 I had a conference with the anesthesia department and the next day a final examination was scheduled with the surgeon. Husband Jerry and daughter Maura were with me for that. Was surprised that the surgeon was open to Maura being present. But the surgeon is definitely open to family participation – particularly when the patient is an 85 year old woman. Felt a little annoyed that the surgeon seemed to imply that 85 year olds were not all that reliable but I didn’t really care. He came highly recommended. The fact that Maura is a very competent nurse practitioner made her an ideal person to accompany Jerry and me. Our son Joe – the doctor- would have come too but his schedule is only open on Fridays – it did not mesh with the surgeon’s availability. Would have liked to have also had Joe present but I could not wait. I wanted to get the surgery over with. I had to go with the date that fit the surgeon’s schedule.

And then after several weeks of horrible pain – it suddenly wasn’t as bad. When I went for my final pre op visit I wondered if I should put off the surgery, should I let the surgeon know I was feeling some improvement in my symptoms? What if the pain started heading again in the wrong direction? Fortunately the decision was taken out of my hands. The surgeon detected my confusion. He made the decision to put off the surgery and to get a second opinion. He gave me the name and number of an orthopedist that he said he would go to if he had symptoms similar to mine. I was able to get an appointment for September 12 – three plus weeks off. The surgeon further suggested that, if possible, I gradually increase my daily activity routine. I have always been a faithful exercise lover but once the leg and back issues surfaced all that came to a screeching halt.

In early summer I started lectoring at the 9AM Wednesday mass at our church. Had not lectored in over thirty five years but now in spite of being nervous at getting up in front of the sixty to eighty parishioners who normally attend the weekday services at our church I was able to do it and I loved it. It was an honor to be able to share the word of God. But as walking became more difficult, I was unable to easily climb the few steps to the altar so my lectoring days were short lived – to be started again when the medical issues were resolved. When they showed some improvement I was ready to return to lectoring but the stair issue assumed a greater importance than it should have. At home I was walking up and down fifteen stairs going from the first to our second floor. I was doing that slowly, taking my time and holding on to the railing. Reflecting back now on the big deal I made in my mind over the three steps, I have told myself that this is a classic example of sometimes giving myself a hard time. I blame it on not feeling well but I think there are lots of times in life when we judge ourselves or circumstances too harshly.

I am now feeling so much better. When I saw the arthritis doctor this past week he was delighted at my progress and suggested I cancel the medical appointments related to my surgery – the second opinion surgeon, the pain management doctor. He felt strongly that time, rest, appropriate eating and exercise would lead to a complete recovery. He limited my golf to chipping and putting till I see him again in a month. In his opinion my swollen lumbar spinal disk was finally going down in size on its own. He felt that a surgical procedure was no longer necessary to facilitate this process and to stop the disk from pressing on the nerves which were causing all the pain.

I was a little tentative about canceling the various medical/ surgical appointments. It takes so long to get these appointments lined up. But when I finally made the cancellation calls I felt liberated and pleased.

According to Google ,” Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong. It can be steady, throbbing, aching, pinching …………………it can be debilitating.” These words provide a good description of what I was experiencing. Pain medication was not very helpful. The weaker meds did not lessen the pain and narcotics made me feel loopy. My most powerful tool against the pain was prayer and prayerfully offering up the pain for either our wonderful family, for friends or for a meaningful cause. I like to reflect on the words of the baseball player Satchel Page. ‘” Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”