Welcome to 2017, and a new Ultimate Blog Challenge.
The Challenge requires 31 posts in 31 days. It's a discipline all bloggers need at least one time in their blogging lives.
For 2017, I chose a word - determination - as the word that will guide me this year. This coming year will demand a lot from us. Today, as the beginning of my year of determination, I remember someone from years ago who showed me determination from a deep place inside her.
On my Christmas tree each year is a simple ornament. But the story behind it is less simple.
Pat was many things - an experienced worker, a loving mother and grandmother, and a woman who love crafts - needlepoint, tole, and more.
Her and her husband, a building contractor, restored a house in Maine, New York, and had a loving marriage.
Every year, at work, we would have a small gift exchange at Christmastime. Pat's contribution was always a Christmas ornament - usually made by her, or one made by another craftsperson.
One December day, Pat called her co workers together.
A couple of months ago, she said, she had found a lump on her neck. She went to the doctor, who immediately ran tests. It was cancer. Not only that, they found cancer all through her body. Doctors ran more tests, trying to find where the cancer had originated. It turned out to be lung cancer. She had perhaps 18 months to live.
Pat was only able to work a couple of more months. We all kept in touch after she went out on permanent disability. It was a small office, and we were close to each other. We knew each other, our spouses, our children. Pat had to prepare her children and grandchildren.
Pat always conducted herself with dignity and determination, and the months after the diagnosis were no exception. By her example, she showed us how to face death with dignity.
Our office, in the next months, fell apart due to poor management. One by one, we left. By the next Christmas, several of us were unemployed. As each co workers quit the job, they started to spend time with Pat every Tuesday when she felt up to it. When I left, I joined them in the Tuesday outings.
The Tuesday before Christmas in 1997, Pat gave us our final gift - the gift of her presence. We took her out to a local restaurant, and she gave us a tour of her house - something that took great effort.
By January of 1998, we suspected the end was near. She could not walk more than a few steps without losing her breath.
Pat died on February 13, 1998, a day short of Valentine's Day, a week after suffering a stroke and lapsing into a coma. In my last visit to her, five days before her death, she lay on a bed, under home hospice care. Her favorite country music playing. I held her hand and whispered in her ear. I don't know if it was my imagination, but I am positive she gently squeezed my hand.
In September of 2011, my neighborhood was flooded and we had several feet of water in our basement. We were so fortunate, compared to many of our neighbors. The next months were hard for us and many other in our community.
When we cleaned out our basement, I found that several of the homemade ornaments Pat had given me were ruined. There was no way to salvage them. But the ornament you see above, a needlework Pat made, had survived in a box above the water level. Yes, Pat was watching over me.
Every year the ornament goes on our tree, a sign of survival, caring and love.
Time marches on, and things change for us all. But Pat lives on in my heart, even after all these years. Every year, I gaze upon the ornament she gave me, the ornament she stitched with her own hands. It whispers determination.
One day, my time will come, and I hope I can face it with the same dignity that Pat did. For now, I will be content to face 2017 with courage, dignity, and determination, through all 2017 will demand of us.
I am Determined to complete the challenges of 2017 and the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Are you?