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According to Wikipedia, serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; a fortunate mistake. Specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically not searching for it.

Personally, I love serendipitous events and go through life analyzing them.  They have changed my life’s story completely, but I want to stick to the subject at hand.

This finding a friend experience occurred just this past February.  Another friend, Norma Huff, had taken me to La Petite Auberge in Fredericksburg, my favorite restaurant for my birthday.   Coincidentally, this happened to be the same day, this murdering maniac was on the loose in Fredericksburg in my area of town, and I was upset by it.  This fellow had allegedly murdered two older people in Warrenton, stole their car, ditched it on Lafayette Blvd, and then tried to hurt another older person in Morningside.  (I love this part of the story.  The man with the oxygen tank konked him in the head and ran across the street and called 911)  But this maniac was still out there and I saw right before lunch channel 6 news showing police dogs sniffing around the Braehead Woods sign.

So I was talking about this to Norma at lunch.  The restaurant tables are close and my voice is loud.  With my husband’s artillery hearing loss, I was used to talking loud and still can’t change it apparently.  The lady at the next table heard me and said, “Oh my, I am staying in a downtown hotel, and my car is on the street, and I wonder how safe is it out there.”  I told her that she was as safe, barring the usual precautions, and that the maniac was presumably on my side of town.

She started asking Norma and I questions about where in town to look for housing near downtown,  because she was considering moving here.    At this point, I was a little anxious that the conversation was taking away from my gracious friend that took me to lunch, but we both answered her questions the best we could.

Now anyone that knows me, knows this fact about me.  I love to talk.  I can talk to anyone about anything, anywhere.  I am well read, and know current events, and don’t even get me started on my real areas of expertise where I can go on for hours.

Much to my chagrin, old friends had me to lunch this summer, and I talked non stop for about 3 hours.  I promised I wouldn’t do that again.

Anyway, after about 10 minutes of talking to this stranger, our lunch was over.  And we told her where and how to drive in the easiest way to look at Fredericksburg.  But as I got up, it dawned on me how hard it would be to look and drive  in an unfamiliar city with one way streets and weird traffic patterns.  And I liked this woman and her soft-spoken ways.  Having been a psychiatric nurse, I am an expert in reading body language, and analyzing people, and felt her to be someone I would like to get to know.

Since I wasn’t doing anything that afternoon, I offered to show her Fredericksburg.  I have always enjoyed showing visitors the area, because I am proud of my adopted city of 40 plus years, full of history and interesting places.  I drove her the next 4 hours and showed her every inch of Fredericksburg.  We concentrated where she might want to rent and spread out from there.  We ended up back downtown across from the train station where I said, here is a group of town homes right in downtown.  In fact, I had a close friend that lived there, and called her and she had us over. We spent another 1 and a half hours talking about our lovely town in my friend’s home.

Now this woman had met two people in Fredericksburg.  After the entire day, I really liked this woman from Williamsburg that wanted to live in Fredericksburg.  She offered to take me to dinner, but I declined, but she insisted on taking me to lunch the next day.  Every minute now we spent together seemed to part of the building blocks of friendship.  We exchanged phone numbers and emails, and went back to our regular lives.

She told me in an email, she definitely wanted to relocate here, but was not quite ready.  Meanwhile, she had visited again and took both me and my friend that had in her home to dinner back at the French restaurant.

About six weeks later, I took a short trip to Williamsburg on a whim and wanted to stay at the resort at Kingsmill.  I was interested in their outdoor swimming pool and the views of the James River.  The morning another friend and I left, it dawned on me that the name Kingsmill sounded familiar, and I emailed my new friend in the making and the answer was, “yes she lived there and could meet us for dinner.”  IMG_1198

Suzanne, Delia, and myself

So we did have dinner together, and now this new friend had met 2 people besides myself in the Fredericksburg area.

Months past and about 3 weeks ago, my new friend, Suzanne, called and said she was ready to find a place to rent.  Well, I started watching the paper, Craig’s list, and online real estate sites, and if she saw a place that was interesting, I drove by and checked it out.  I took pictures that a friend and not a real estate agent would take to weed out the places that she wouldn’t like.  This went on a couple of weeks.

We have spent hours on the telephone talking about this area and ourselves.  I told her that it gave me a lot of joy to do this for her, because I spend a lot of time studying  and advocating in the field of medicine and hard topics involving life and death, and this was a joyous distraction.

A few days ago, Suzanne came to Fredericksburg again, taking my friend and I to lunch back at La Petite while looking at a house that might just be the one she moves into.   We got to meet her delightful friend from Williamsburg that came with her and I liked her instantly.

All in all,  I found this new friend  because of a lunch in February where I was talking loudly.  Those connections we make that start out as a ripple in a pond can expand our circle of friends in an exponential  way.  All of this reminds me of that old saying I learned in girl scouts many moons ago.  “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”

Suzanne is moving to Fredericksburg today.

Now I get to introduce her to not only my beloved adopted city in a big way, but also to many people and places I know.  How serendipitous is that?

 

My cousin, Carol Wilson, visited me this spring and we usually go on a mini trip. We chose the Greenbrier because it was always on my “bucket list” and the warm spring water sounded inviting along with the beautiful inside pool when it was still too cold to swim outside.  It is about a 3 hour ride from Richmond, and we went after a stay at my daughter’s house for Mother’s Day.

Carol and I are more than just cousins.  We’ve been close since early childhood, since her mother was my second mother for a year, until my third mother took over, another aunt.  We did everything together til about 9 years old and remained close all our lives.  Here is a favorite picture of my cousin and I that my dad carried in his wallet until the day he died.Scanned Image 103450001

This is a picture of us right before we left for the Greenbrier

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The Greenbrier is a resort in White Sulphur Springs known for the healing spring water.  People began coming there in 1778, and through the years many famous people have stayed there including 26 presidents.  First they came by stagecoach, then by railroad, and in the 20th century by car.  During the Civil War, the resort was a hospital and in 1962 a secret bunker was built to house the Senate and House of Representatives during a nuclear crises and it was in operation until 1992 which I will write about later.

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So off we went on our adventure which was about as packed full as any 3 days can be.  When we arrived, we were told the room that I requested had residents before us that got sick, so they gave us another room with a lot more walking, but believe me, I didn’t want the remnants of someone’s illness.  I always call ahead to make sure they don’t spray anything or have any smells in the room, because of my chemical sensitivities.

The room itself was glorious and huge, and I wish we had taken a picture of the room, but we got a special deal and the room looked something like this  http://www.greenbrier.com/Accommodations/Room-Types/Deluxe-Rooms.aspx

Our room overlooked the back of the property, and some of the meeting rooms.  In the distance is the wing where the Bunker lies.

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The first thing we decided to do the next morning after the buffet breakfast was see the bunker.  It is still used as a deposit for “data” by a private company, but is open for tours.  With my love of history, it was very interesting.  Here is a good link to read about the bunker, but I recommend the tour for anyone.  http://www.npr.org/2011/03/26/134379296/the-secret-bunker-congress-never-used

Just think about the tax payers money that went into this for 30 years with provisions for all of them including staff for 60 days.  When the secret of the bunker was busted in 1992, it closed the next day.  But since it is still there, the thought that crossed my mind, is take Congress there, put them in the darn bunk beds, feed them rations, lock them in with the three steel doors and don’t let them out until they fix the nation’s problems and compromise!.  But that’s me.

They have a lot of pictures in the bunker that depicts how everything was during that active 30 years it was ready for action.

One of the things I really wanted to do at the Greenbrier was swim, and the 1913 pool is still there.  It was glorious, and I practically had it to myself to swim laps.

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Of course, The Greenbrier is known for its gourmet food.  That presents a problem, because I am not a fan of gourmet food.  I eat simply and follow the genotype diet from Dr. Peter D’Adamo for the last 16 year.  The buffet breakfasts were not the problem, but the dinners were.  My cousin and I studied those menus for at least an hour to decide what would be the best restaurant and what I could possibly eat.   I ended up with fish both nights which was fine, but too fancy.  Needless to say it is not an inexpensive place to eat.  They have about 4 restaurants to pick from, but the oriental one that would have given me more choices was closed the two days we were there.

Every afternoon, they serve tea in the dining room, another “Greenbrier” experience.

Here is a picture of the chandelier from “Gone With the Wind.”  It is near the one of the bars in the hotel.

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This is a picture of just one of their grand rooms you walk through looking at the hotel.

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The next day, since our walking ability is somewhat limited, we opted for the carriage ride to look around the grounds and the beautiful golf courses.  Of course, they are already preparing for the Greenbrier Classic on July 4th weekend.  Sam Snead a famous golfer, was hired in 1936 as the golf pro.  In 1978 Jack Nicklaus redesigned the Greenbrier course, and I bet my cousin who plays golf would have liked to play there, but I don’t play golf.

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After swimming on the second day, I had a spa appointment to take in the sulphur waters.  If you want this, they pipe it in to a big bath tub where you can soak for 30 minutes.  That was interesting to say the least, and then I followed that with a message.  My muscles loved it.

Under the Greenbrier are a lot of shops which were added by the current owner, Mr. Jim Justice.  He also added a Casino in 2010.  I think you all would enjoy my casino story.  Carol already had made her small donations to the casino while I was swimming, but I didn’t bother going there.  But our last night they advertised the “Greenbrier Waltz” at the casino at 10PM and I wanted to see it.  So I went down there by myself and was wandering around thinking I might as well give them a small donation, so I cashed a 20 dollar bill and asked for 20 silver dollars.  They gave me real money not tokens, but there is probably not much silver in them anymore.  I made a beeline for a machine I had decided was the one I was going to use, and no one down there was playing the machines.  I said to myself, “forgive me Stacy,” because he hated gambling of any kind, but he knew I did it on some cruise ships.  My deposits were never much.

So anyway, I put my first silver dollar in, and 5 come out.  Then I win some and lose some, but I decided my Greenbrier deposit (they must hate gamblers like me) would be ten dollars so I counted that aside, and said I would lose the 3 to 4 in my hand.  I put in one and pulled the lever and two sevens came up.  That never happened on any cruise ship, and 170 silver dollars came out with a lot of dings.  No one even noticed.  Now, being the non gambler I am, I filled the bucket and cashed in.  It took 5 times longer to count them than to win them.  I kept 20 for my children and grandkids, and went upstairs and dumped the 20 on the bed.  My cousin was speechless, and said “I knew you were taking too long down there.”  It was then I shocked her with the cold cash making up the $160.00.  The next day, I splurged and spent the money on a hand painted leather wallet and check book, so I could see my winnings everyday:)

The last day, I invited my daughter-in-law’s grandmother to meet us for breakfast.  She lives in White Sulpher Springs, and worked there herself in the dining room for 25 years.  Oh, that was such a joy.  She hasn’t worked there in years, but many people came up to her and gave her a hug.  It was a precious moment.

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After breakfast on the last day, we wanted to visit the president’s cottage.  Now that was loaded with the history of all the famous people who came to the Greenbrier.  The Duke and Duchess of Windsor came many times.  Rose Kennedy and her husband spent two weeks there for their honeymoon.  It was fun to see all the pictures of the many presidential guests.  President Nixon came 5 times and Ford visited 6 times.  Actually George W. Bush visited 7 times, the most of any president.

All in all, my cousin and I had a grand time in a once in a lifetime grand place.  The next place we should visit next year is The Homestead, God willing, another resort 30 miles away and another “bucket list” destination.

Fredericksburg was a a colonial town that was established on The Rappahannock River.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fredericksburg,_Virginia.  It was named after Prince Frederick of England and most of the streets are named for the English royal family.  It was a prosperous colonial town and then The Civil War happened.  Fredericksburg was directly between Washington D.C. and Richmond, Va., almost putting a bull’s eye on its head for control during this horrible Civil War.

As it turned out, Virginia’s decision to secede from the union was done in two votes.  http://collections.richmond.edu/secession/visualizations/vote-maps.html.  Now this is really interesting, because the first vote was not in favor of secession.  For the locals, take a look at the map.  Spotsylania, Stafford, Fredericksburg, and King George were pro union.  Now the vote two weeks later after Fort Sumter, the state of Virginia seceded from the union.

My basic pacifist nature cannot help but comment on this vote.  Just think of how short the Civil War would have been IF Virginia did not secede.  All the famous Virginia generals that might have fought with the North included Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, A.P. Hill, Richard Ewell, Joseph E. Johnston, Jubal A. Early, George Pickett,  Fitzhugh Lee,  Lewis A. Armistead.  The war could have been over in less than a year, but went on for four years and more people died in that war than most of the others in our history combined.  And so many bloody battles happened in Virginia.  Just take a look at this map http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:American_Civil_War_Battles_by_Theater,_Year.png

Gives one pause on how delegates to the General Assembly can seal the fate of a million people.

But war did come to Fredericksburg in December, 1862 and it devastated the town.  The bombardment that went on for hours destroyed many homes and businesses.  Most of the locals had fled.  Major looting happened.  Just now as I was writing this, they had cannon fire depicting this event resounding in my neighborhood.  It brings tears to my eyes  so many years hence imagining the horror that went on here.  It was during  the Battle of Fredericksburg that Robert E. Lee uttered his famous quote:  “It is well that war is so terrible – lest we should grow too fond of it.”  How right he was.  A good account of what happened is this link: http://thismightyscourge.com/2009/12/13/battle-of-fredericksburg-ambrose-burnsides-first-foray/.  It is important to read the previous link because it really sums up the horror and the incompetence of General Burnside.

One of my history heroes was Joshua Chamberlain from Maine.  Fredericksburg was his first battle, and the 20th Maine got stuck out in the field around the piles of bodies and they had to cover themselves with dead bodies to get through the night.  In his autobiography, Chamberlain writes a stunning view from the union perspective, since that charge up Marye’s Heights cost so many union lives.  The suffering that occurred that cold winter’s night after the battle was horrendous.

So here we are 150 years later.  There have been fantastic events planned so that the Civil War Buffs and the general population can get a real feeling of what happened here and can remember.  Right this minute, they are marching up through the center of town with church bells ringing and solemn remembrance stops along the way until they get to the stone wall. The Stone wall is where no Union soldier reached during the Battle of Fredericksburg.

The question for me became how was I going to participate in this event?  Stacy and I had attended several Battle reenactments and visited all the local battlefields many times and Gettysburg twice.  Our house is adjacent to Lee Drive, and we could see the trenches from the upper floors of the house.  We were married on Lee’s Hill where Robert E. Lee viewed the battle.  I had lived all these years on hallowed ground, so I needed to participate.  My mobility issues were going to present a problem with not only parking but walking through the town.  And then I also remembered that Orange County reenactment that is so fresh in my mind being a few days before my breast cancer diagnosis in 1996 and I vowed I would never go to another re-enactment.

I had to come up with a compromise I could live with.  Since Stacy’s great-grandfather, James Barrett Southall was part of the 3rd Virginia Cavalry, I decided I would honor him and all the Lloyds by my actions.  James had an Armistead relative in his background, so Stacy was distantly related to that Civil War general as well.  Philip Lloyd, Stacy’s second son, bought him a book about the 3rd Virginia Cavalry and took Stacy to Charles County to visit his heritage.  I just have to quote the last line of his inscription to his dad:  James Barrett Southall, “Is our hero that fought for the ‘Southern Cross’ from 1861 until the Confederacy tired of killing Yankees and let them go home at Appomattox C.H. in April 1965.”

So Friday, I took a picture of James Barrett Southall that was taken in his older age in his Confederate uniform to the  the stone wall, leaving two roses and two flags (only one shown) to remember both the Confederate and Union “Casualties (estimated):Union: 12,600 (killed, wounded or missing/captured) Confederate: 5,300 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)”

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Yesterday, I went to the end of Lee’s Drive to get as close to both a historic site and the area where James B. Southall would have been on horseback during the battle of Fredericksburg which was near Hamilton’s Crossing, a railway station.  There I left another rose at the canons along with a copy of a picture of him in his youth.

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Then I took his picture to the bottom of Lee’s Hill.  IMG_0784

I think Stacy is looking down and saying thank you.  I really did this for him and all the Lloyds including Stacy’s children Paula Jean Lloyd Parker, Scott, Philip, Will Lloyd and Holly Lloyd Saunders, and Stacy’s 13 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.  It is a proud heritage.  To get to Lee Drive from our house, how fitting is it to drive down Lloyd Lane straight to Lee Drive.

What happened here 150 years ago needs to be remembered for all the brave souls that fought, were wounded, and died here.  There are still thousands of  Yankees buried on Marye’s Heights from all the areas’ wars and every Memorial Day there is a light placed by every grave.  Most of the graves are unknowns.  In other words, boys and men left their homes never to return, and their families had no idea where they ended up.

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(Picture on ask.com)

Please watch the video that lasts only 3 minutes.  It tells the story of the luminaries and you can listen to Taps which is an end to this remembrance where this “soulful music” is better than words.

http://m.video.pbs.org/video/1960216452/

You can also go to Fredericksburg.com for The Free Lance Star’s Coverage of all the events.


This story did not take place at Thanksgiving, but it makes a perfect Thanksgiving story.  It is an account of how my cousin with just 25 seconds to think saved an entire Amish family’s life.  Sometimes when I contemplate this story, I think about Clarence’s line in It’s a Wonderful Life when he says, “Strange Isn’t it.  Each man’s Life touches so many other lives,” That line will always make me think about my cousin.   But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Fred Holasek and I are double cousins.  Our fathers were brothers making us first cousins.  However, our mothers were also first cousins making us first cousins once removed.  Fred often said to me, “we have a lot of common DNA.”  Fred and I also share a history of family tragedy.  My mother died when I was 8 weeks old, and his father died at 39 when he and his brother were 3 1/2 and 1 1/2

We saw each other frequently growing up.  My aunts and uncles on my father’s side cared so much about all of their nieces and nephews, since for the most part they did not marry and lived together in this wonderful Holasek household.

I was six years older than Fred, so once I went to nursing school, our paths did not cross as much.  Eventually, I had settled in Virginia, and hadn’t seen Fred until another family tragedy hit, the death of my father.  Ironically, this happened the same week Fred married his wife, Cheryl, and Stacy and I met her at the funeral for the first time.  Our son Will was only 38 days old who was left behind in Fredericksburg with my beloved Aunt Lil.

Time marches on and everyone’s family grew.  When all of our children got together, Will and Holly were about 11 and 10, and Fred’s children and mine got along famously. (First two pictures were 1987, and last two 1989)

This picture is all of the four cousins, my brother Jonathan and my cousin Carol, and Fred’s children in 2001 along with my Aunt Lillian and Uncle George.

Throughout the years of Fred and Cheryl’s marriage, they continued to raise their family, Cheryl a pediatric nurse, and Fred a steelworker.  They loved Amish country and would go to a specific bed and breakfast for their anniversary.

One particular day in June, 18 and a half years ago, Fred and Cheryl went to Amish country without their kids to their favorite place because their children were with my other cousin, Carol, in Walt Disney World.

They were enjoying their long weekend on a beautiful Friday evening around 5 PM and decided to go out to dinner.  All the roads in Amish country are windy two lane roads.  They turned to the right and slowly went up the curvy road, because they were behind an Amish family in a buggy.  Next to the buggy was the older teenage son on horseback.  They weren’t in a rush and couldn’t pass because of the curves,  so they were enjoying the view.  Cheryl and Fred were chatting when Fred noticed a pick up truck going extremely fast (probably around 70 miles per hour) behind him.  Cheryl never saw it coming.

Fred kept glancing back waiting for the pick up to pass all of them including  his jeep cherokee, the horse and buggy, and the fellow on horseback.

This all happened within 25 seconds, and suddenly Fred realized the fellow was not going to pass.  His thought process went something like this:  We’re going to be hit, but if I don’t turn that wheel, that guy is going to kill those people in that buggy and the boy on horseback, because I will be pushed right into them.   He knew also that there was a deep gully to the right, and if he turned that wheel he and Cheryl could also die immediately.  But he turned that wheel sharp to the right at the time of impact.

The pick up truck was stopped from hitting that Amish family, but Fred and Cheryl went airborne over the gully and landed far into the field.   They both had their seat belts on, and therefore were not thrown out of the jeep.  However, Fred temporarily lost consciousness for about a minute and Cheryl was slammed into the dashboard with her right arm taking the force of the blow.

Luckily a woman EMT was driving down the road and went to their rescue.  The ambulance was called, and they were taken to the hospital.  Fred came out with a neck brace, but Cheryl had extreme arm and shoulder injuries.

Fred suspects that the thirty something male fell asleep at the wheel.  He was not hurt, nor was the Amish family.  The family sent them a letter several weeks later thanking them for saving their lives.  But the story doesn’t end there.

The settlement did enable Fred and Cheryl to get another car and pay for some of the medical expenses but it still involved thousands not covered, because Cheryl had and still has nerve damage.

But here is where the story takes a beautiful Thanksgiving turn.  Cheryl and Fred’s dream was to farm in the country.  Now in Amish country, they do not sell their land to non Amish people.  And as we all know, they are a tight knit community and word gets around.  Out of an extreme act of thanks, an exception was made.  Amish people sold Fred and Cheryl farm land where they built a house (with generosity from my uncles who helped all of us).  They now live within the Amish community.

It has been a mutual wonderful experience for all.  Because Fred drives, he can help the Amish people that do not drive, and because he was new to farming they helped him.  All three of Fred’s children are married and live within the area as well.  Cheryl went onto maternity nursing and either delivered or helped deliver many Amish babies over the years.

When I called Fred yesterday to make sure I had the details of the story correct, he told me he had just repeated the story yesterday to someone else. And it brought back the thought he had when he looked at his totalled car the day after the accident.  If my cousin Carol hadn’t taken their children to Florida, they would have been in that back seat which was totally destroyed.

Albert Pine once said, “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”   Just imagine that Amish family with at least 3 or 4 children that lived.  They must have a lot of children of their own by now.  And the joy that Fred and Cheryl have on that farm is a dream come true.  And all the Amish children that Cheryl helped bring into the world, and even their own thankfulness that their own children were in the protective care of another cousin at that time.

The gift of thankfulness goes on and on and on.  Fred’s family in 2008 minus 1 grandchild not yet born.

So at this time of year, we all take the time to count our own blessings of family.  We have 3 less with us this year.  Actually, five less if you include my cousin Carol’s dog Katie and my dog Pepper.   I found out about my Uncle Bob Chylik’s death after the fact,  but he died in early October.  He was my mother’s brother, so he was a relative of Fred’s also.  (Uncle Bob was his mother’s first cousins.) And my step brother, Dr. Dennis Bekeny also died that same week.  In the Holasek family,  my Aunt Lillian Wilson’s  death was on Thanksgiving day.  Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday.   

And even if I can’t be with my cousin Carol and Uncle George in Strongsville, Ohio or see Fred’s family, or be with my brother Jonathan’s family in New Jersey, I am thankful for all of them.   And I am thankful for my extended family in Virginia,  Chicago, Pennsylvania, and my children and their children.  When we sit down to our Thanksgiving meal, our prayers will be for not only our own, but all families that they may know the closeness and love of family that I have experienced all my life.  I am so very grateful.

But a part of me this year will still be smiling thinking of Fred and his split second decision that touched so many lives.

Have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

Last week, I took a friend on the local paddle wheeler, The City of Fredericksburg, for her birthday.  (http://www.tangiercruise.com/fredericksburg-cruises.asp)  If you haven’t been on this trip, it is delightful.  The day trips include some history lessons and the night trips, music and dancing.

I had been on this boat many times before, but always with Stacy.  We went on there for our 30th anniversary with Will, Kara, Holly, & Jeff.

So it was a bit bittersweet as it is when “life goes on,” without the spouse you loved so deeply.   I was not alone in this dilemma.  My friend’s husband died two months before Stacy and he was the love of her life.  So there we are, two “older” women making the best of the situation.  We were enjoying the view, the cool summer night, and the whole experience, and then the music.  However, that’s when the past comes flooding in.

Everyone knows what an upbeat song Proud Mary is made famous by Creedence Clearwater Revival.   Here is a wonderful link to refresh yourself.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOfHOMpU4iE)  It is the perfect song for a trip on a paddle group and one of Stacy’s favorite songs.  He loved it because he was so fond of New Orleans where he did his internship and residency.  He wanted to stay in NOLA, but I thank God he didn’t.

So tears are streaming down my face and the young people around me must have wondered “what is wrong with her.”  Luckily most of them were dancing to this delightful song.  Which brings me to why I had added grief.  My feet and ankle arthritis have made dancing a problem.  And that also hit me when that song played.  Stacy and I always danced to that song.

Then the love songs hit, and my friend had a hard time with that.  We had to comment to each other, “Boy oh boy, two old ladies on a boat.”  At least we got a laugh out of it.

But the night was just beautiful.  All the stars were out and Stacy could name each constellation.  I only remembered a few of the many lessons he tried to teach me.  That brought comfort somehow.  I felt he was talking to me and saying, “Enjoy the moment.  You’re with a friend.”  In this regard, he could not have hand-picked the friend to share the moment any better.  Norma Huff worked for the Pratt Medical Center for many years and he liked her so much.  In his retirement, her husband worked there too.

So as with everything else in life, even though the loss of the past and the present brings it share of having to cope with the moment, being on a boat on a moonlit night with all the stars out listening to Proud Mary was good for the soul.

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As the boat pulled into Fredericksburg, Norma and I were talking to a delightful woman who took the boat trip on a whim passing through Fredericksburg.  She was also a widow, and we would have asked her to eat with us if we had known.  I gave her my card, and I hope she contacts me.  Nothing like life going on meeting new, kind, potential friends.

Late last year, A Book of Miracles by Dr. Bernie Siegel was released for sale.  The By-Line says “Inspiring True Stories of Healing, Gratitude, and Love.”  This book lives up to its title.

Dr. Bernie Siegel is no stranger to miracles, he has been writing about them since the time he was a practicing surgeon, and when he started a support group in Connecticut called Exceptional Cancer Patients.  All of his early books have stories of miracles in them.  Some of my favorites have been the gardener who had a terrible cancer and refused treatment and said it was planting season.  He saw Dr. Siegel years later for gall stones, and Dr. Siegel couldn’t believe he was still alive.  Another story from his older books was the story about the woman who was practically on her death-bed when her daughter asked her what she wanted for her birthday, and she said an expensive spring purse.  Instead of her daughter saying to her mom that she is not supposed to live til spring, the daughter bought the purse and her mother lived and used the purse for 15 years.

This Book of Miracles is different because it not just Bernie’s miracles, but a collection of miracles from all over the country.  And I had the honor and privilege of having one of my stories appear in his book.  My friend Barbara Kimberlin has seen 3 miracles and maybe more in her 18 year bout with carcinoid cancer.  I described her second miracle in this book when she went to Moffatt Cancer Center, and they saved her life.  The story printed like it happened this fall, but it actually happened a number of years ago.

Dr. Siegel, actually he wants to be called Bernie,  not only has written a slew of books for cancer survivors, but also conducts his seminars all over the country, and also has done a collection of meditation tapes.  I can happily say that I have experienced every aspect of Bernie’s work since my diagnosis of breast cancer almost 16 years ago.

The first time I met him was at a conference the first year after my diagnosis.  My fear level was so high that year, and I used his tapes to help me sleep.  I experienced my first seminar with him  and went up to him  to thank him for “Letting me sleep with him.”   At least cancer hadn’t taken my sense of humor.  At that time, I actually looked terrible.  The first alt med I went too believed in these cleanses and I had lost 20 pounds.  I looked sick.  But at the time, I was desperate for anything that would prevent breast cancer recurrence after my medical surgeries were over.  He thoughtfully listened to me and then I walked away.  He called me back.  He then said, “You know I didn’t help you, you helped yourself.”  That is the perfect example of Bernie.

The next time I went to one of his conferences it was much longer and we had time to experience all Bernie had to offer including drawing pictures of our cancer experience.  That night there was a room full of alt med practitioners and doctors from all over the country talking to each other, networking away.  And there was Bernie, sitting at a table with a line waiting to sit next to him so this wonderful doctor could help explain our drawings.

I must have been to at least 5 such seminars and even if some stories were repeated, I thoroughly enjoyed everyone.  And I must say that my drawings of myself  were getting better and better!  Any cancer patient that has the chance to participate in these workshops and seminars should take the opportunity to do so.  There is something so comforting, down to earth, and healing about this doctor.

The last time I saw him was a conference at Virginia Beach.  I met him checking out at the hotel.  I stopped and asked him how could I keep my health up while caring for my husband that was so ill?  He empathized with me and it was very comforting, because at times he also knows what it is like to be a care giver.

To me, Bernie is a wonderful Doc!  Not only because of all the miracles he has seen and written about.  And not only because of his latest book on Miracles which can uplift anyone, but also he is a miracle himself. In his own words he said in his latest book, “When we decide to make a difference in the world and create peace, love, and happiness for all living things… that will indeed be a miracle.”  And Bernie you are a miracle because you have devoted your life to doing exactly that.

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BERNIE can be found all over the internet, and you can even find him on utube.  Just do a google search of his name–Bernie Siegel

He maintains a support group online http://barrybittman.websitetoolbox.com/ and he can also be found on facebook  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1603570256

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From Bernie 2/24/12

marilyn
thank you and i have web site where people can send me comments or questions
http://www.berniesiegelmd.com and can connect with ecap from there too and order the book    blessings to you__________________
bernie siegel

A great understanding of life and love can be found through the written word.  Some people have learned the value of keeping a journal.   And they are kept for various reasons.  My husband  kept a journal when he was in Korea and most of the years we were married with very short entries.  It was basically a reporting of major events in our family with some economic notes thrown in.  They are invaluable.  If someone wanted to look up one of our children’s first steps, or diseases, or vacations, it is all there.   We could always refer to those journals as to when various pets came and went from our lives.  Also recorded were the tragedies and triumphs.   They are priceless books.

Other people keep journals when they are going through some really tough times.  I remember keeping a journal going through all of the breast cancer diagnosis and treatment choices and all the fear that followed.  It is almost too hard to read.  The agony stretched out on those pages is very real, so it is tucked away some place.

Another form of journals as we know it are blogs.  I first started blogging at dadamo.com.  My doctor, Peter D’Adamo has several blogs of his own.

Throughout the ages, many people used to write letters.  Famous people end up having their letters donated to a university.  And some families that wrote a lot of letters can go back and read them and relive part of the family history.  This is something that is just not done as much anymore.  An email is just not the same as a letter, but it can be printed out and stored away as a letter.

My husband wrote a lot of letters when he was in Korea, and always regretted that many of them were lost.  Well, I just found some of them.  They are a priceless recounting of his war experiences. The lesson here is when you bring boxes from your mother’s house, look in them and don’t  just pile them in a corner of the basement for 20 years.

I have in my possession some priceless letters and my mother’s journal.  She kept one for about three years in the form of a diary.  I never read it much until after I had my own children.  One day when I picked up the diary, I realized something really important.  It happened to be a week after we had been visiting relatives in Cleveland.  My aunt was talking about the time her two sisters went on a trip to NYC to a grocery convention and met my mother there.  Her family was also in the grocery business.  I’ve always known about that.   And I knew from that connection, my mother met my father.  However, what I didn’t realize was the beauty in the details which were in the diary.

Apparently, at the time of that train station meeting, it happened to be my father that picked up his sisters.  It could have been anther one of his 4 brothers.  They introduced my father to Mildred (my mother) and invited her and her family to a picnic at the farm.

At this picnic, my mother states in her diary that she had a marvelous day, and that “Bill H gave her a rose.”  Bill was my dad.  I realized right then and there that for my father and mother it was a case of love at first sight.  I can’t even write this without getting choked up.  I knew so little about my mother, but her feelings came jumping out on that journal page.

From that rose picnic, they saw each other all the time for three years until they married.  And most of those encounters are included in the diary.

There is a letter in my possession of a description of my parent’s wedding.  It was written by a girlfriend of my 19 year old uncle fighting in World War II.  It described everything in such beautiful detail, the flowers, the dresses, the music, that I felt I was right there.

I was born three years later, and one of my uncles was still in the navy, so my father and mother wrote him a letter describing my christening in great detail.  My mother also wrote a letter to a friend about that day.  It was Palm Sunday 1946.    Here are some of her words.  “Yes, Marilyn was a very well behaved little girl in church, and she looked like a little angel in that beautiful satin and lace long dress.  It will be a service that I shall never forget.”

Those happened to be the last two letters she wrote. My mother, Mildred Chylik Holasek died at age 33 on Easter Sunday the following week.  I was eight weeks old.  You can imagine what a priceless gift those letters are to me.

I guess what I’m saying here is never underestimate the power of a diary, journal, letter, blog, or email. One day it might be a priceless gift a family member reads to get a better understanding of life and love.

But I might add that if they are not printed out, and kept in a special place all of those emails and blogs and other precious writings could be lost.  I have my beloved Holasek family to thank for keeping those letters for me all of those years.

Of all the subjects in the world, why would I start blogging about Harry Potter?  The answer is simple:  Because I think J. K. Rawling is a genius writing those books and deserves every credit and dollar she got and still gets for doing it.  (And in my real life I am still very caught up in studying disease processes, being a patient advocate when I can, and seeing incredible sadness at times.  I need diversion badly.)

I used to teach a course in Film and Literature and would compare books to films throughout the semester.  The whole series of Harry Potter books are filled  with themes, imagery, comparisons,  and allegories that one could study a whole semester’s course on those books.  And of course, I have read all the books and have seen all the movies.  The last two I had to go to the movies by myself, because no one that I knew was interested except my son and he lives out of town.  A couple of weeks ago,  I saw the last movie.

I remember so well when the last book came out.  It was the summer of 08 in July. My daughter had her birthday party in a hotel, and I was staying there for the night.   When I went down to the lobby there it was:  the new and last Harry Potter book that would answer a lot of questions.  Actually, just one main question:  Would he live or die?   There was great speculation at the time that living would be impossible for Harry.  I bought the hard backed book, paid full price and ran to my room. Then I did what I couldn’t stop myself from doing.  I skipped to the end.  I couldn’t wait all pages to find the answer.  He Lives!

With a big fat smile on my face, I started at the beginning of the book.  And then waited patiently for 3 years for the second part of the last movie.  The first movie was good, but the following ones were disappointing at times.   But this last movie was wonderful.  All of them had to follow the book closely or there would have been screaming all over the globe emanating from England.

Harry Potter has had its share of criticism and some people even fear the books.  Any criticism stems from people just not reading and understanding them. There is nothing to fear about Harry Potter.  He is actually a “Christ like” figure.  This book reflects Christian values and of course “Christ like” is a literary term.   Apparently Wikipedia already has written a statement on this.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_figure) In the end, Harry Potter was willing to lay down his life for his friends.  In fact, It was only through J. K. Rawling’s genius that he lived.  These books are about good and evil and the choices people make.  They are also about redemption, bigotry, group fanaticism, family, and making judgements about people without knowing all the facts.  They are also about friendship and true love.  On top of all of that, Harry’s mother sacrificed herself so he could live.  Maybe that’s why I identify so closely with the story.  My mother did the same for me.

To say the least, I loved every minute reading and viewing The Harry Potter series.  J. K. Rawling has given a whole generation of children a glimpse of a fantasy world on one hand, and a study of good and evil on the other.  The beauty is that good triumphs evil, although the cost is high for those who fight to overcome that evil.  But, the undeniable truth of the story is that Harry Potter, the “Christ like” figure, will live forever.

Copyright Marilyn Holasek Lloyd 2011

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