Clothing & Other Belongings

My Dearest Christina,
Okay, so as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I have been taking this Grief Share class at church. And as crazy as it sounds, I’m actually liking it. It’s not at all what I thought it was going to be. Part of the class assignments are suggested journaling topics. Since the topics are suggested, I figured it would be a good opportunity to catch up on some of my blog posts. So with that being said, let’s talk about your clothes and belongings. Hmmmmmm……………..where do I start?

Well, to start, I still have pretty much everything. Although I’ll admit that I did clean out your closet. And sweetheart!? You had WAY too many shoes!! Alexys decided that she wanted some of your shoes, so she took quite a bit. The sad thing is, some of them actually fit her pretty good. She picked out a few articles of your clothing that she liked, and then left the rest to me. Most of your closet fit into 4 Rubbermaid bins (the BIG kind). The rest went into shopping bags (all 1000 pairs of your shoes). 😉 I still haven’t gone through your dresser or nightstand. As for regular belongings? Well, I’ve given some of it away to those that I thought may like them. We had a few of your blouses made into teddy bears for the kids and one for your Mom. But that’s about it as far as what’s been dealt with so far.

So I guess my question to myself becomes…….”why do I still have everything after two years”? And I know what everyone says….”in your own time Steve” or “you’ll know when your ready”. But I still find myself wondering sometimes if it’s something more? Am I subconsciously trying to hold on to you? Is there a secret hope that maybe this is all still a dream? Or do I truly just not have the time to do anything with it? And while I can honestly say that time does tend to be a factor. I would then be forced to tell myself that “if I really wanted to do something with them, then I would make the time”. And round and round I go. Welcome to my world. It’ll get done one day. I’m sure of it.

So here in lies yet another question. “What do I do with them when I finally get around to it”? For some reason it just doesn’t seem right to haul it all over to a second hand store and just drop it off.  Not saying that would be a bad thing. Just not feeling it at the moment. I’ve tried contacting various different organizations (women’s shelters, “Dress for Success”), but to date, they have all declined the donation. Then there was the thought of selling them, and taking the money to the CF Foundation, or one of the aforementioned charities. Of course, I could be seriously overthinking this all in an effort to hold on to them for just a little bit longer. Who knows.

What I do know is that God is good. And in time, I’ll figure this out also. The kids and I are doing well. Andrew had a great week at school last week. Cost me a new skateboard. But it was well worth it to see him excel in school. Alexys continues to dance, and loves every moment of it. We miss you dearly, and are living life to it’s fullest. I hope you’re enjoying wings. Stop in and say “Hi” sometime.

With all my love……..
Stephen

Ranting

Okay. So I have a rant. But I don’t know where to start it. So bare with me on this one. It may come out a bit, well, jumbled.

Okay, so it’s no secret that there are times when the weight of being a single parent seems too much to bear. And I’ve said numerous times that it’s at these moments when I miss Christina the most. Well, it’s one of those times. And yes, I’m having a bit of a “moment”. So, it’s been a pretty good day…..for the most part. Started normal. Get the kids up. Take them to school (just Andrew this morning. Poppy took Alexys to school). Stop at Dunkin to get coffee (and a free donut today). Then to the office. Meetings. Interviews. “Got a Minutes”. Same ol, same ol. Then I had a client meeting with one of my agents. It was at 6 pm. Which means I have to battle traffic to get there. And this…….is where it all starts. I HATE traffic. Okay. “Hate” really isn’t strong enough. Loathe. I loathe traffic. It’s one of the reasons I loved working midnight shift as a police officer. NO TRAFFIC!!!!! So I get to the appointment about 15 minutes late. Which is okay, because the client “had a headache” and didn’t show. Which wasn’t horrible, because as I pulled into the parking lot of the meeting place, mother nature decided it was a good time to unleash the worst rain storm I’ve seen in a while………for over an hour. So as I sit there talking to my agent about the client that didn’t show, somebody pulls in next to me, and decides to make a run for it. But not before opening his door into my door……REALLY HARD. And then run off into the rain storm of the century. I was so blown away that he did that while I was sitting in the car, that I didn’t even think to chase him down. I mean REALLY!!?? Am I the only one that tries to NOT hit the car next to me when I get out of my car?? Especially if the owner is SITTING IN THE CAR AT THE TIME!!!!! UGH!!!! So, now I’m faced with a decision. Wait for the rain to stop to get out and take pictures, and risk the guy coming back and leaving before I get the chance, or get out of the car in the middle of a monsoon and (at a minimum) get a picture of the guys license plate. Yeah, I wasn’t taking that chance. So, while I now have a picture of the damage and license plate of the very nice person who I’m sure didn’t even notice that he hit my car so hard that it shut his door for him, I’m also now wet. I hate being wet. And as I get back into my air conditioned car, I realize that I am now cold. I hate being cold. So I turn on the heat. But since I’m wet, it just makes the car hot and…….humid. Now the windows are fogged up. Put a little side to side motion to the car and I’ll be igniting the imagination of everyone that passes by. Sigh. So I’m once again just sitting, waiting for the rain to stop, and guess who returns to their car. With a “not me!!!” attitude. Yup, THAT guy. The nice one that decided my drivers side door would look better with a little kiss from his drivers side door. Anyway, names and numbers were exchanged. But he wasn’t shy about making it known that he doesn’t believe he’s responsible for the damage to my car. Hopefully the buffer will take it out and I won’t have to worry about him.

So I leave the parking lot, and drive home. Hoping to be able to say goodnight to the kids and go to bed. And then I get a text from Alexys……..”Are you on your way home?”. “Yes, why? Is something wrong?” “No. Andrew want’s to go to bed” (red flag….it’s 8pm. Andrew never wants to go to bed at 8pm). “No. Tell him to wait. I’ll be home in 10 Mins”. “Ok”. As I walk in the door, I find out that Andrew has just started his homework. Hmmmmmmm. That explains a lot. He doesn’t like doing homework with his grandparents. So he gives them a hard time. Which means……Daddy gets to help with it. That was at about 8:15pm. He faught me till 10:30pm. He is determined. But I won in the end, and his homework got done. But it was a battle.

So where am I going with this? Well, as I’m sure you can imagine, I am quite frustrated, stressed, perturbed, and any other adjective you can come up with to describe this feeling. And it’s REALLY hard to play both parents. In situations where I get frustrated and stressed, Christina used to come in and be able to instantly calm everyone down. Especially me. Or maybe she would just take over. Give me a break. Whatever it was, she would do it. I miss that. With me, it was a hand on my shoulder and a whisper in my ear saying “I got if from here sweetie” Oh, the touch of her hand was magical. It just took all of the anger and frustration out of me. I would just melt when she touched me.  I really miss that. It’s was like some kind of energy that just drained every stress of the day. Every problem. Every concern. It would just vanish. No longer an issue. Just from her touch. It was wonderful.

And she knew this too. Most of the time she would use it to make me feel better. Other times, she would use it to make me even more mad…….like when I wanted to be mad at her. She would just come over and touch my shoulder. And I wouldn’t be mad anymore. It was really frustrating at times. But wonderful at the same time. One of my most treasured memories of our last week together was the Thursday before she passed. She was feeling strong and was sitting up. I had just finished wrapping up the duties of the evening and had crawled (literally) into bed. She looked at me and said “you look tired, how about you lay your head in my lap and let me rub your back”. I looked at her and said “it’s okay sweetheart, I’m fine. Just tired”. In her typical, stubborn way, she said “look buddy, I may not ever get to do this again. So get over here and let me take care of you”. What could I say? Nothing. So I just obeyed. And it was a wonderful, intimate moment. I loved feeling her hands on me. I miss that. I needed that tonight.

Okay, so for all my worriers out there, I’m okay. Just having a moment. All is well. God is good. Loving life. I love my kids (yes, even Andrew). They are the best. And I don’t know what I would do without them. Thanks for listening. I love you all. And as for you Christina? I miss you bunches. Needed you big time tonight. And I love my memories of us.

“If my heart had wings, I would fly to you and lie, beside you as you dream. If my heart had wings”. ~ Faith Hill

Pleasant Thoughts (and a teenager)

My Dearest Christina,
Our baby girl is growing up. Tomorrow morning at 11:26, she will officially be a teenager. It seems like just yesterday, I was holding her in the palm of my hand. And now, she’s a young lady. Beautiful, smart, athletic, compassionate, loving, strong willed. Just like you. You would be so proud of her. She’s still a good mix, but I am starting to see more and more of you in her every day. Her looks. Her personality. Her way with kids. It’s so fun to watch.

So, I started attending a Grief Share class at church. I know what you’re probably thinking, “you? Really?”. So, yes, really. Tonight was my second night. And I actually enjoyed it. Although, the video portion was painfully long tonight. Of course, I’m sure my headache didn’t help with that. I was actually dreading attending the classes. But I said I would because my pastor asked if I would be willing to facilitate a class at Lakeside. I thought it would be like the last class I attended where I end up leaving depressed. But this has been different. In fact, tonight I left with a smile on my face as I was reminded of some fond memories of us. In particular, how we used to say I love you “I love you, I love you too, I love you three, I love you four, I love you infinity, I love you infinity…..and beyond”. It actually made me smile. That was just one thing though. There were actually several things that made me smile tonight. Which I think is a good thing.

One of the things we were talking about tonight, was taking the necessary time to work through our grief. Even though it can be unbearable at times. And even though we don’t always like it, we need to do it, so that we can get to a point where when we think about our lost loved ones, it’s not so painful. And it just got me thinking. That while I still have my moments of sadness, and I still miss you dearly. I find more often than not, that during my “moments”, my thoughts generally turn to fond memories. The ones that make me smile. The happy moments. Our “I love you’s”, your smile, that look in your eye when I walk in the room after being gone all day. A kiss good night. A kiss good morning. A kiss in general. 🙂 We had a good run together. And while I wish it had been longer, it wasn’t what God had in His plan. And while I still don’t understand His plan, I have faith that He knows what He’s doing.

The kids are doing great. Alexys is still dancing. And Andrew is focusing on school (although he is hoping to start taking classes to learn how to do tricks on his skateboard. Don’t hate me, I’m actually considering it). We all miss you much. But we are doing great. We still take it one day at a time. And some days, one moment at a time. But overall, we are doing great. We love you and miss you much. Till we get to see you again. XOXOXOXOXOXO

Timing

Okay. So I admit. I’m not always the best at being on time. And my timing in general isn’t always the best. But come on!!!! This whole grief thing is the WORST!!!!!

So, I’ve been meaning to write something for a little while now. There are so many things I want to put in writing, but I just never seem to have the time. And to be honest, I wasn’t even planning to write tonight. I’m supposed to be studying at this very moment. But somehow, I just don’t think I would be able to concentrate. Then again, maybe this is my subconscious looking for an excuse not to study. Who knows. All I know is, I just randomly had the wind knocked out of me, and all I can think about right now is how much I miss Christina. And it’s the most random things that get me!! Tonight, it was an email I found from her to me back in 2010 (don’t preach, I know. And I’m sure I have some emails from before that). She had forwarded me an email from Andrew’s teacher relating to her about how much of a pleasure Andrew was to have in his class. As I read the words that she typed into the email, I could hear her voice as she related how pleased she was to be getting a good report on Andrew (for once). I could see the joy on her face as she thought about how wonderful her little boy was, and the fact that someone else felt he was a joy to be with. And even now as I think about this, I can see the twinkle in her eye, feel the heart skip a beat as I know it did for her. The butterflies were doing all kinds of acrobats as she swelled with pride. I can picture it as if I were there with her 3 years ago. I have to admit that I sometimes chuckle at the randomness of the things that reduce me to tears, and paralyze me so that I can’t concentrate or focus on anything else. Fortunately it’s late, and I can just go to bed and sleep it off.

So, anyway, as I sit here wallowing in self pity for a few moments, I can’t help but think of the kids. I know how I feel having lost my wife and best friend. I can’t even begin to imagine how the kids feel. My only comfort is knowing that the kids know that Mommy loved them more than life itself, and that she was so very proud of both of them. And as I look at them now, and see how far they have both come over the last year, I can’t help but think of just how proud she must be of them now (I know I am). Probably feeling those same butterflies she was feeling the day she wrote that email about Andrew. She likely has that same twinkle in her eye. Blurred by tears of joy at how well they are both doing. Waiting for the day when she can once again wrap her arms around them and give them a big hug. One of the last things Christina and I ever talked about was how much it hurt knowing that she would not be there to watch the kids grow up. To kiss the boo boo’s. To hug them goodnight. She agonized over this for days. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like. What I can tell you is, the timing of this whole thing stinks. And while I understand that there is a greater plan at work. It doesn’t mean that at this moment, I have to like it. Sigh. I really dislike this part. It’s at times like this that I wish I could hold her one more time. Even if just for a moment. To see in person her wonderful smile. The sparkle in her eye. Feel the butterflies when she puts her arms around me. The heart rate get faster. The scent of her shampoo as I inhale through my nose. Feel the tingle all over as we fit together so perfectly. Sigh. I miss you Precious.

Stephen,

When you get a chance read the second paragraph of the e-mail I got from Mr. Baylor.  It feels so good to finally be getting some positive feedback on Andrew….way to go Andrew!!!

Christina”

 
Hello!


Thanks for checking….I honestly kept trying to send an email to you, but I kept getting side-tracked!   The fee is $17.00.  I appreciate that Mr. Cilento is able to go!

A side note…I am extremely happy to be working with Andrew this year.  He is such a kind-hearted boy and is so eager to do a great job.  It has taken him so adjusting to kindergarten, but is always happy and loves learning.  During tutoring yesterday he was working on the computer (Lexia) and was so excited when he was completing the answers correctly.  He was also very excited to get cards during our Letter Card Game.  Students like Andrew make teaching so worth it!

Have a great afternoon!


Justin “

 
 

Why?

Merriam-Webster:
adverb
: For what cause, reason, or purpose

So many times I find myself asking the question “why?”. Most of the time it’s of the kids (why didn’t you put your toys away, why did you hit your sister, etc). Other times, it’s a little bit harder to answer (why did Christina have to die?). Most of the time I tell myself that God has a bigger plan. And that even though I don’t know (or could possibly imagine) the reason “why”, God knows, and in His time I too will know. I like to think that as an adult, I deal with these questions pretty well (or, as well as I can). I have gotten pretty good at the self pep talks. Looking at the positive side of life. Always seeing the bright side of things. I won’t deny that I still have my moments. But overall, I’m doing okay. But that’s me.

The other day, I was trying to get Alexys to go to bed. She was giving me her typical “I can’t sleep/I don’t feel good” story indicating that something else was wrong. It took me a little while to figure it out, but I was finally able to get her to tell me the problem. With tears in her eyes, she said “I miss Mommy”. And then the question came……”why?”……”why did God have to take Mommy?”. She then started relating how “Mommy always knew how to make me feel better”. “She would play with my hair and rub my back”. I had to admit to her that I didn’t have an answer for her question. And for once, I was at a loss for words. There was a part of me that wanted to give her the typical responses (God has a plan, trust Him. He won’t give us anything that He and us together can’t handle). But then the other part of me said “that’s not what she needs to hear”. So I just shut up and let her talk. For me, watching the kids grieve, is harder than dealing with my own grief.

There are some things in life that just stick with you. And no matter what you do, you just can’t stop thinking about them. So I started thinking about the “why”. Why did God take Christina from us? Why did God take my kids Mother? Why did he take Guy & Jackie’s daughter? Why did He take my wife? All I could come up with was…..I don’t know. God hasn’t revealed this to me. I firmly believe that He will not bring me to, what he can’t bring me through. And He has strategically placed the right people in the right places to help us through this time. Which, of course, got me thinking some more (very dangerous). My logical brain had to examine this from both sides of the equation. All this time we have asked ourselves “why did this happen to us?”, “why did He take her from us?”. We look at the situation as if we are the center of the equation. But what about her? Couldn’t she ask the same question? “Why?”. Why did she have CF? Why did she have to struggle to do the things you and I do with such ease? “Why?” What if, our purpose was to be there for Christina? To make her life easier to live. Gods tool to help bring her through, what he brought her to. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to make myself look like a “holier than thou” person. I certainly don’t feel that way. I was thinking about this as I shared with Alexys my thoughts earlier today. I wanted her to know that she (and her brother) were the realization of a life long dream that Christina had. She (and Andrew) made her life worth living. She (and Andrew) were……her world. She (and Andrew) are evidence, that God will take care of those who love him. And, He will bring us through (using whatever tools he desires), what He brings us to.

Why? I don’t know. What I do know is, that if it weren’t for my kids and the rest of my family and friends, who knows what I would be doing right now. Thank you Lord, for all of your blessings.

Scars

It’s been said that “time heals all wounds”. And to some extent, I guess this is true. But what about the scars that are left behind?

If you did a close examination of me….you will see a number of physical scars. When I was little, I had a bad habit of falling down the stairs, and smacking my head into the cast iron radiator that some genius had installed at the bottom. This resulted in many trips to the hospital for stitches. While the injuries are long healed, if you look closely at my forehead, you will see a scar in the shape of a cross. If you look at the left side of my head (after a good close haircut) you will see yet another scar. This one the result of a young child not listening to his father when he said “DON’T RUN UP THE STAIRS!!!”. So what did I do? Yup. You guessed it. I ran up the stairs. And found the nail that was sticking out of the wall. I remember another time when my brother was “teaching me how to use a chisel”. Lesson #1….when teaching someone how to do something, make sure you know how to do it yourself. As the chisel skipped across my left pinky and ring finger, I remember thinking “OUCH!!! That’s gonna leave a mark”. I went to my Mom and asked for a bandaid (holding my hand behind my back the whole time). She asked me “what for?”. So I showed her my hand. Of course, by this time, the blood from the cuts had just about covered my hand, and I’m sure my Mom thought that I had cut my fingers off. There were many other incidents. Some involved bikes. Trampolines. And most from my own stupidity. Most of these scars, I look back on and get a pretty good laugh. Others, I don’t even remember how they happened.

Today marked the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9-11. I have written several times about my memories of this day. Where I was. What was happening. The events that transpired afterwards. And like many, I still get a little choked up when I see footage of this event. I remember a trip I took to New York City back in 2007. I went to “Ground 0”. And even 6 years later, you could still see the physical scars on some of the surrounding buildings. A constant reminder of an event that occurred years before. These scars though, didn’t bring with them a chuckle like the scars I have. Instead, it brought tears to my eyes, and a lump to my throat. I thought of all the people that lost there lives that day. As I was recalling my trip, and thinking about the different scars that we carry, it occurred to me that every one of us that remembers this horrific day, carries with us a scar from it. Ask anyone where they were on that day. What they were doing. And they will be able to recall (likely in vivid detail) everything. They can recall what they were thinking. What they were feeling. These are the scars that we carry from 9-11. As time goes on, you can begin to see the wounds of that day healing. It’s evident in the way we press forward and refuse to let this get us down. The way we insist on rebuilding. We as a nation are healing from the attacks. But we will always carry with us the scar.

Scars come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, meanings. Some are visible, others aren’t. Some make us laugh as we recall what caused them. While others make us cry. The scar that got me thinking today, wasn’t a physical scar. It wasn’t even anything that happened to me. It was the scar that was left on the families of those who lost a loved one that day. The wife who lost her husband. The husband that lost his wife. The parent’s who lost a child. These scars, in particular, are the ones I’m thinking about today. And it all started with a song I heard on the radio, about a young girl who lost her father in the attacks on 9-11. I don’t usually cry easy. But it took all of about 10 seconds for this song to reduce me to an emotional wreck. And I’ll leave you with this. Hug your kids. Call your parents and tell them you love them. Don’t miss an opportunity to make someone smile, or express to a loved one just how much they mean to you. Because you never know when it will be the last time. And another scar is added to your story.

P.S. Get some tissues ready

A New Beginning

So, I was sitting one day, and I thought…….”I haven’t done anything with my blog lately”. Then, I opened it up and realized that my last entry was almost 3 years ago!!!! So then I started thinking (dangerous, I know) “how the heck am I going to catch up on 3 years, in one post”. Well, the answer is simple…..I’m not. So much has happened over the last 3 years, that it would be impossible to keep it to one post. So I will summarize (suddenly, I’m thinking of Inigo Montoya “Buttercup is marry Humperdink in little less than half an hour……).

Shortly after my last post, my best friend, and wife of (then) almost 12 years became ill. Unlike in years past though, she was finding it difficult to get better. Around February of 2011, she was put on oxygen, and we came to the unofficial realization that the time we feared would ultimately come, had arrived. Christina was finding it increasingly difficult to maintain an adequate amount of lung function, and needed the assistance of oxygen. At this point, she only needed to use it when she felt it was necessary. For her, this meant only while at home. However, she quickly progressed to needing it more frequently, and then ultimately, it became a permanent fixture with her. Even still, she didn’t let this stop her from doing things. She still went shopping. Still took the kids to school. Still maintained the house (although in a more “managerial” sense. She kept the house looking good, just used my hands to do it).
It wasn’t till the beginning of 2012 that she really started to slow down. She spent about a week and a half in the hospital toward the end of 2011. But the benefits of that stay were short lived. She quickly became weak again and needed another round of IV meds. This next round was done at home though, so that she didn’t have to stress about being in the hospital, and away from the kids and family. It was around this time that Christina’s parents moved to Florida to help care for Christina (a blessing that keeps on giving). And so began a ritual that would last for about 8 months. Between school events, doctor visits, me at work, after school activities (dance, scouts), we were VERY busy. A few days after the kids finished with school, my Mom flew in to help take care of the kids for the summer. Help which I am eternally grateful for.
In June, Christina again went into the hospital. This time for almost 3 weeks. It was during this visit that the doctor told us that if Christina did not have a lung transplant, she would die within the next 2 years. Naturally, this was a shock to all of us. Over the next few weeks, we spoke with several doctors, nurses, psychologists, and even a few pastors. Ultimately, it was decided that a lung transplant was not an option. Not only that, Christina wasn’t really healthy enough to go through with the surgery. She was sent home the last week of June, to be cared for by Hospice.
The next couple of weeks would become a roller coaster ride of emotions. About a week after she was home, I had a conversation with her nurse who told me that (based on her many years of experience) was surprised Christina was still alive. She obviously could not give me any real timeline, but felt that one year was a stretch, let alone two. She didn’t believe Christina would live longer than six months, if that. As the weeks went on, her assessments became even more grim.
On July 30th, I received a call from Christina’s nurse informing me that Christina was in respiratory distress, and that I needed to get home ASAP.  My normal 35+ minute drive took me about 15 that day. I thank the Lord for clearing the way of any traffic (and law enforcement). When I got home, Christina had calmed down, but was still emotionally drained. The nurse informed me that she had talked to Christina about the prospect of dying, and that it appeared as though she had finally wrapped her head around the fact that she wasn’t going to make it. It was at this point that Christina and I made the decision to tell the kids that Mommy was going to die. This, as I’m sure you can imagine, was no easy task. We all shed a lot of tears, and the kids had a lot of questions. Most of which we had no answers for. Over the next week, we had many VERY scary moments. Christina’s body slowly started to shut down, and no matter how hard she fought it, she just couldn’t stop it. On the evening of August 4th, she got a burst of energy, and sat up on her own. She talked with those that were in the room. And even ate some ice cream (while simultaneously telling the Pastor to “get your own bowl” when he commented on how good it looked). I fell asleep around midnight, and woke up at about 8am on the 5th. My Mom had been up all night and made the observation that Christina’s breathing pattern had changed.
The next several hours would become a flurry of emotion, and activity. Christina’s parents were notified of her condition, and they came and sat with us. Friends from church came by to sit with us. And ultimately our pastor arrived as well (after he had finished with church services). The chatter in the room went from crying, to laughing, back to crying, to quiet moments of reflection, back to laughing. I remember thinking later that day that one of Christina’s biggest fears was not the fear of dying, but that she would die alone, and that it would be quiet. Well, she wasn’t alone. And it certainly wasn’t quiet. I remember lying next to her, with my arms wrapped around her. She had her back to my chest, and I had my face positioned right above her left shoulder. I was caressing her face, running my hands through her hair. I would whisper “I love you’s” in her ear, while also telling her that it was okay for her to go. At about 1:20ish, Alexys and Andrew came into the room and they both took one of her hands. They looked at me and asked “how’s mommy doing?”. I told them that she wasn’t well. They both told her “I love you”, and about a minute later, she took her last breath here on earth.
I laid there with her for a little while longer. The kids had a lot of questions. We cried. Then I got up and started making all of the necessary phone calls. I remember sitting on my couch, looking out the back door, and seeing two Sand Cranes walking up to the back yard from the pond. These were the same two Sand Cranes that Christina used to love watching from her bedroom window. They came up to the backyard, and stayed there the rest of the day. I found it interesting, since they never usually stay there more than 15/20 minutes. It’s almost as if they new she was gone.
The rest of the day was a blur. Someone cleaned my house. Hospice and The Funeral Home came and were both VERY professional and compassionate. Friends stopped by. And then all of a sudden, it was just me. The house was soooooo quiet. There was no voices from friends and family. No hum of the oxygen compressor. Just…….quiet. And even in that quiet, with the death of my best friend, wife, soulmate, lover, still fresh, I knew that God was there. And that we would be okay. I ached to hold Christina again. But I was comforted knowing that she left my embrace, to be embraced by Jesus. She took one last labored breath on earth…….and the longest, deepest, freshest breath she has ever known at the gates of heaven. She is suffering no more. She now has a heavenly body, free of Cystic Fibrosis. And knowing that, makes me happy.
A lot has happened since that day. But that will have to wait, as it is getting late, and I need to get some sleep. I am going to renew my commitment to this for many reasons. Mostly because I find it therapeutic. So over the next few weeks and months, I’ll try to get caught up on the last year, as well as keeping you all up to date on current events. Until next time…….
………..be blessed.

I Will Never Forget

September 11th, 2001. I was still high from the events of the last week. On September 7th, my daughter Alexys was born. Christina and I were so excited. We had plans to begin looking for a house of our own and to officially begin our life as a family, no longer just a “couple”. But the world would have other plans for us. I remember waking up (not really, I had been up with the baby all night) on that fateful morning excited to get a good report from our pediatrician. This would be Alexys 1st visit with the pediatrician. We got everyone into the car and started working our way to Dr’s office. I remember being annoyed that the only thing on my normal radio station was news, so I started surfing the airways to find some music. Christina and I both remarked to each other about how odd it was that none of the usual stations were playing the usual music. Then we started listening to reports. At this time it was just continuing information and we were still in the dark about what had actually happened. It wasn’t till we got to the Dr’s office that we found out what had happened from the receptionist. By that time, the first tower had already fallen.

We continued with our appointment as planned. Our baby girl was healthy, and we felt blessed to have her. On our way home, we discussed the ramifications that the terrorist attacks would have on our family. See, on August 4th of that same year, I had graduated from Army Infantry Training at Ft. Benning, GA. I had joined the Maryland Army National Guard in February because it was something that I had always wanted to do, but had not yet done. Christina and I discussed it over several months and finally decided to make it happen. I think at this point we were both questioning my timing for this particular adventure. We listened to the news and wondered what this would mean for all of our plans. When I got home, I had two messages from my Platoon Sgt. (who, by the way, I had still not met since I had not yet attended a drill weekend since my graduation from basic). I remember he sounded pretty excited and was saying/yelling something to the effect of “pack your bags, we’re going to war!!!”. This of course sent several people into a panic. The rest of the day was spent making plans for the unknown. I packed my gear as instructed. And the wait for the unknown began. We put our house hunting ventures on hold. Stopped our planning for anything that would require me being present.

In the weeks and months that followed, like many Americans, we began to get back into the routine of daily life. Media of course continued to update us with what was happening at Ground Zero. And while we continued to wonder about what would happen, the prospects of my unit being activated for service started to creep further and further into the back of our minds. Shortly after the one year anniversary of that day, we started looking for a house again with the hopes that we could start our life together as a family in our own home. (Up until this time, we were still living with Christina’s parents. Not a bad thing, but we did want our OWN place). Then life threw us another curve ball. In December of 2002, my unit was called to active duty and in January of 2003 we left for Ft. Dix, NJ for “train up”. We were fortunate in that we were staying stateside, but it was still a pretty stressful year for the family. We once again put life on hold and waited till my orders were complete in January of 2004.

A lot has happened since that day. In July of 2004 we finally purchased our house. December of that year brought us a new addition to our family when our son Andrew was born. I continued to serve in the Army National Guard. Spring of 2006 would see a career change for me when I left Law Enforcement to build a new financial services practice with New York Life Insurance Company. 2007 saw the end of my military career as I was Honorably Discharged from the Maryland Army National Guard. 2008 saw another career change as I gave up my financial services practice for a management position with New York Life Insurance Company and moved the family to Florida. So much has happened in the last 9 years.

In the Spring of 2007 I was fortunate to be able to visit Ground Zero. I can’t tell you the span of emotions that swept over me that day. Standing there and seeing the results of the terrorist attacks still visible on some of the surrounding buildings. And then also seeing that the area was in the middle of being re-built. I was saddened as I walked through the museums and saw some the items recovered from the debris on that day, that represented so many lives lost. But I was also proud to see that we as Americans have not let it keep us down. We are re-building. And we are moving forward. We all lost so much that day. But it has not stopped us. Yes, we were knocked down for a moment. But we have gotten back up, dusted ourselves off, and honored those who lost their lives………by living ours.

To all of those who lost there lives on that day. To all of those who have given their lives in the fight for freedom. And to all of those serving in our military, past, present, and future. To America. I salute you, and thank you. I Will Never Forget.

An Awesome Experience

On September 3rd I had the opportunity to Scuba Dive in Disney’s “Living Seas” aquarium. A truly unique experience. It started with a “back stage” tour of the Living Seas aquarium where the explained some of the daily routine that maintains the aquarium. (Since Disney is a production company, everything and everyone are referred to as if on set). One of the more interesting tidbits of information is that the same truck that delivers food to the restaurant inside the aquarium, also delivers the food for the fish IN the aquarium. Their point, was to let us know that the fish eat “restaurant quality” food. What I heard was that the food I would be eating is the same thing the fish would be eating. Hmmmmm. Not sure about that one.

After the back stage tour, they took us to the locker rooms so that we could change into our wetsuits and get ready to “get wet”. They then took us “on stage” and paraded us through crowds of tourists watching the fish in the aquarium, and the “live bait” heading upstairs in skin tight wetsuits to dive into the tank. (Suck in the gut folks!) Once at the top of the aquarium, we were given a safety brief and then shown to our Scuba Gear. This is one of the really nice things about this dive. All equipment was provided for you, and in true Disney fashion, they didn’t skimp for the cheap stuff. 🙂 Once geared up, we all descended to the bottom of the aquarium (25 feet) and followed the dive master as he took us on a tour around the aquarium to point out some of the cooler aspects of the aquarium. We then got the sign to “buddy up”, and have some fun. I was buddied with the two dive masters that coordinated this dive since I didn’t have a “buddy” to do this with, which turned out to be better than I anticipated. Better than that, at two months dive experience (this being my tenth dive to date) I had no problem keeping up with them.

We began swimming around to get the lay of the aquarium. One of the highlights of my dive was seeing the excitement on the faces of the little kids that were watching us. Some of the smaller kids just stared in absolute amazement. At one point, I approached the window and played “patty cake” with a little girl that was maybe 3 or 4 years old. It took her a minute to figure out what I was doing, but when she caught on, her face lit up with the brightest smile and she came up to the window and played patty cake. We then moved on to the window at the restaurant and waved to the folks eating their meal. All I could think of was that they were eating fish food. 🙂 But again, the kids got a real kick out of seeing us, and someone, somewhere, has a picture of me on their iPhone giving a thumbs up. We then followed the dive master around as he showed us some of the “swim through’s” that take you in and around the coral. We were all originally advised not to swim into any holes or tunnels. But I guess these are the perks for being paired with the dive masters. At one point I was allowed to take the lead. I just cruised around and took in the sights. There was a lot to see. We went back to the windows and waved at the tourists again. As I turned around to head back to the middle of the aquarium, I came nose to nose (like, no more than two inches between his and mine) with a sand tiger shark. I am told that my eyes widened to about 3 times their normal size. But I kept my cool, he moved to my right and just swam on by. Now I remember during my certification classes that things underwater appear to be larger than they actually are. I will attest to that. There is no doubt about it. Because while I also remember being told that these sharks were no longer than about 8 or 9 feet long, he looked like he was about 100 feet long and it seemed like it took forever for him to pass me. It took a couple of seconds, but was able to compose myself and continue moving. But trust me when I say that I will not soon forget that particular experience.

The entire dive lasted 42 minutes, although I could have stayed for hours if they would have let me (and I didn’t run our of air). The experience of being in and around all that sea life is more than words can explain. It truly is a magnificent experience. I have been lucky enough to have grown up experiencing Gods creation on land in many different places. It is such an awesome adventure to now be able to experience Gods creation underwater. A land that is under normal circumstances alien, and even hostile to the human race. It is truly a magnificent. A wonder to behold. Our God truly is an AWESOME God. I can’t wait to one day share this wonderful world with my kids. And I hope they come to enjoy it as much as I do.

You can view a video of my experience by visiting me on Facebook and www.facebook.com/stephencilento.

THE BRICK

THE BRICK

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, ‘What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?’

The young boy was apologetic. ‘Please, mister…please, I’m sorry but I didn’t know what else to do,’ He pleaded. ‘I threw the brick because no one else would stop…’ With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car.. ‘It’s my brother, ‘he said ‘He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.’Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, ‘Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.’

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat.. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. ‘Thank you and may God bless you,’ the grateful child told the stranger. Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.. It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar.

The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: ‘Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!’

God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. It’s our choice to listen or not. Thought for the Day: If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring. He sends you a sunrise every morning Face it, friend – He is crazy about you!Send this to every ‘beautiful person’ you wish to bless. God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, Sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way. Read this line very slowly and let it sink in… If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.