Kelly shared this quote with me recently and I wanted to share it here.
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
On a recent Saturday evening the Reeths-Puffer Class of 1974 gathered together at our classmate Jill Boeve Wiggin’s house to celebrate each other. We celebrated the long-standing friendships we’ve cultivated for so many years.
The weather was absolutely perfect to be outside on this gorgeous summer night. Jill and Brian’s yard is beautifully landscaped with some of my favorite flowers blooming brightly against a white picket fence. The reunion committee was made up of Jill Wiggins, Kristi Buris, Kurt Boerman, Carla Jolman, Kristi Fagan, Deb Couch and Rita Fowler.
I’m sure we all attended the reunion with a little anxiety, even the most confident probably were a little anxious. Because of our life lessons we came together as friends accepting each other as is. For me, I was less stressed for this reunion than ever before. My class has always been close and this past year they proved it to me with their amazing love and kindness. It seems as though I would have been more stressed given my physical condition but somehow I was at peace. I was at peace because of all of you accepting me just the way I am.
Throughout the evening I heard many stories, some of hope and determination like Denise Laban saying, “This reunion is my first and I thought it was time I start getting out.” This may have been Denise’s first renunion in 40 years but somehow she found the courage to attend and I’m so glad she did. I’m so proud of you, Denise.
I heard a love story from Pat Slayton similar to ours. Pat’s wife Kim suffered a stroke and he is currently taking care of her at home. His story mirrors our story because we all thought we would be entering retirement free of a work schedule and ready to play but we were wrong. Instead Pat and Mark are working harder than ever by caring for Kim and I.
Carla Jolman made a beautiful quilt which was raffled off to raise money to be donated for cancer and ALS research.
The theme for the evening was Italian and Jill, Kristi and a few others made the food which I’m told was great.
On my way home from the reunion the moon was shining big and bright and I felt that that beautiful bright light connected all 299 friends and classmates from the Reeths-Puffer Class of 1974. When we got home Mark noticed a text from my classmate Bruce Olsen, who lives in Ohio and wasn’t able to attend saying, “I hope you are having a great time. Enjoy the moonlight.”
My brother Jim and his wife Janet asked Mark, Cole, Peyton and I to meet them at the Hackley Public Library one afternoon in late July. This library is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in Muskegon and one of Janet’s favorite places to visit.
Jim and Janet led us to the front of the library just inside and to left of the front door. They pointed to some tiles on the wall that looked like books and wheeled me closer to get a better look and one of the tiles read “Live Simple, Love Like Crazy” with my name underneath. Jim said, “Now you can say you’ve been published.” What he didn’t say is that he and Janet made a generous donation to the library in my name.
Like Janet, our family loves this beautiful library and we’re honored to be part of it. After Mark and I sold our house on Stafford Drive in 1994, we moved our family into the 297 Clay apartments downtown, on the same block as the library, while our house on Robinhood was being built. We used to bring the kids to the library in the winter to check out books and look around. They all marveled at the glass floor in one of the sections.
Thank you Jim and Janet for such a wonderful gift in such a special place. I love you like crazy.
Corey is home for his monthly visit and earlier this week I asked him if he was happy. He thought about it for a second and said with a smile, “Yeah, I am happy.” And then he said, “You seem happy, too.”
After I was diagnosed with ALS I felt like I fell into a deep, dark hole. I was beside myself and didn’t know what to do so I prayed to God. People all around me said they were praying for a miracle but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to ask for a miracle because it seemed way out of my league. I pray daily and know that many of my prayers have been answered throughout my life but praying for a miracle seemed too extravagant for me. Instead I bargained with God to either let me die of a sudden heart attack like my brother Mick or to help me accept this disease and my new life.
At first I was praying pretty heavily for the heart attack because it was easier than dealing with having ALS. I was pretty sure I wasn’t strong enough to endure so much sorrow and I didn’t want an illness that would drag on for years, sadly affecting my family and friends. As the days and weeks went by the only things that felt good were taking naps and hiking in the woods. At that point I hated my life and thought happiness was gone forever but I was so wrong. Little by little I started to gain some of my inner strength back. My family and friends embraced me with unbelievable love. Mark and my kids kept reminding me that my life was not over and just because I had ALS there wasn’t a good reason to quit living.
I started to receive words of encouragement and motivational quotes from various people. Then one day it dawned on me that I used to be the queen of motivational words and quotes with my kids and my co-workers. For my kids I used to write motivational quotes on napkins and put them in their lunches or sometimes I would write it on the outside of their brown paper lunch bags. My job at Transnation Title was in marketing and sales so I read a lot of books and attended seminars on the subject of motivating myself and others. I know my family thought I was a little overboard sometimes and I suspect my co-workers may have thought that also, but I really believed in it. Also, I have learned a lot from friends of mine who I admire for their grace in dealing with a terminal illness or the death of a loved one.
I was pitiful and really upset with myself because those motivational words always helped me in the past. I desperately needed to find some help, so once again I prayed. I prayed for acceptance of my disease because I knew I wasn’t going to get that heart attack because of all my years of running with Cindy and Paul. I decided to talk with some friends that I admire who are currently living with a terminal illness and friends that have dealt with the deaths of their loved ones gracefully. I listened and I learned from them. I also talked with people that were dealing with other challenges and learned from them. I started to see more and more sunshine in my day and it felt great. Today my life isn’t perfect but by the grace of God I am happy most of the time.
Maybe I did get that miracle after all.
Sunday was one of the most amazing days of my life. Actually, amazing doesn’t seem to properly convey how I truly felt.
Our niece Stephanie Dahlquist had the idea to participate in the ALS Association’s Walk to Defeat ALS and shared it with her sister Ashley and Mark’s sister Patti and together they made a plan to form a team. Their plan started with a small idea but quickly grew to an enormous number of people coming together in a beautiful display of love and charity. With their social media skills and by word of mouth they reached people far and near.
Sunday was such a beautiful sunny day to walk along the banks of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids. The week before the walk Stephanie, Ashley and Patti decided to sell yellow t-shirts with “Live Simple Love Like Crazy” on the front and “Team Rosemary” on the back. Amazingly almost everyone who walked with Team Rosemary bought a t-shirt which created a bright and beautiful sea of nearly 200 yellow-clad walkers. Half of the money collected for the t-shirts was given to the ALS Association to help with respite care for all those suffering with ALS. Team Rosemary donated close to ten thousand dollars to the effort.
I would like to thank everyone who walked and donated on behalf of myself and my family for your amazing gift of love. We will never forget it.