Marking the end of an Era, Mom died on January 19, 2022 at 5 in the morning.

Mom in her 90s

Her lifelong goal was to be 100 years-old, but “Big Rosie” fell a mere 73 days short of that milestone. For her valiant effort and positive attitude, the family has given her a pass and will consider the cherished goal achieved. It broke her heart when our dear dad and her loving husband Harry passed in 2001 some 21 years earlier, but ever the optimist, she never gave up. She was a strong and determined woman.

After some weeks of reflection since Mom’s passing, I’m (Em) overwhelmed with many happy memories. My mere 70 years of life as a “practicing adult” under Mom and Dad’s tutelage have given me opportunities beyond my wildest dreams—too many to recount. However, amid the flood of countless thoughts and emotions, I turn to their legacy of values passed down to me and hopefully through me to our children and subsequently, on to their children as well.

The focused team

Mom and Dad had a shared vision: Love, Faith, Family and Fun. It was just that simple. Those basic elements were apparent every single day in numerous ways. They believed that if they kept their focus on those central values, everything would be just fine—a life full of abundance, success and happiness. It turns out that they were right. It worked!

Memories are the greatest keepsakes that we all inherit, but there were also two tangible memory-pieces that I wanted from them as well. Those two items serve as visual reminders of essential gifts they gave me—those particular attributes that have carried me forward throughout my life.

Dad’s favorite drill

Dad had an old wooden drill that he sometimes used on projects at home. That simple tool now symbolizes his steadfast work ethic and natural capabilities. Constantly busy, Dad made all sorts of things that helped create our strong sense of home—a tireless lover of projects of all types and sizes. He made stained-glass, carved wooden figures and fashioned an intricate plaster replica of the Taj Mahal, loved oil painting and even played an electric guitar. In his spare time, K9VTD became his ham radio presence around the world, giving him untold hours of pleasure. Not many people knew that he built all of his radio equipment from mail-order kits with hundreds of tiny parts he staged and stored in muffin tins. He also designed and built an intricate setting for his miniature train that filled most of the garage, painstakingly making all of the mountains, streams and towns from scratch.

Taking a work break

Any projects that were needed around the house, he did himself. Fortunately, as the youngest I was always his sidekick, learning by both watching and doing. He taught me resourcefulness, commitment, perseverance, kindness, patience and problem-solving. To this day, I’m a willing volunteer if something needs a little adjustment or major repair. For me that simple wooden drill captures all of those wonderful qualities he quietly wove into the fabric of who I am. The many lessons and skills he taught me, by example, have served me well.

Mom’s tap shoes

Mom was the consummate mother who resumed tap-dancing at 50 years old—all I wanted was her patent leather tap shoes. She loved to dance as a child with her older sister, Margaret, on the Garfield Park stage. She was a natural performer and it showed-up in every aspect of her life. So when we three kids became young adults, she decided to dust-off her tap dancing skills, navigating her return to the “stage” with grace, dignity and enthusiasm. A young dance teacher gave her lessons and as her “performer” persona reappeared, I saw a new spark of life flash in her eyes. She turned the music up loud and tapped away in the garage where the concrete floor created the perfect click/slide sound. The rhythmic beats echoed as she tilted her head and gracefully extended her arms, swaying and tapping to her heart’s content.

She had no intention of performing for anyone (although she graciously accepted an occasional  request). Mom just loved the process, the practice and the promise—forever a little girl at heart. So, for me those shoes symbolize her love for life and an unfaltering zest in everything she did. Just like Dad, she modeled values, hopes and dreams for us kids. I always saw her as youthful in spirit, socially engaging with others and being as entertaining and joyful as possible. Her tap shoes sit prominently on the living room bookshelf. A quick glance there reminds me to make every minute count as I aim for those same qualities.

The Family project

Mom and Dad together also gave me a tangible model of what it looks like when committed partners create family, striving toward a vision so big it requires a team of two kindred spirits. They produced a legacy of love that continues to trickle down through each generation, soaking deeply into every cell of our being. That’s immortality!

Thanks Mom and Dad for all you gave me. May I allow your selfless gifts to flow through me over the course of my lifetime, hopefully adding my own little tweaks and twists to your beautiful story. The “Rose and Harry” playbook will live on forever.

Love, Emerson (and Cheryl)

Music – “Where Forever Waits”

Related Stories and Music

We also wrote the following stories and songs over the years as the life of Rose and Harry continued to unfold before us:  “Lucky Day,” “Yesterday Me.” “Rocking Chair,”  “Lover’s Leap” and “99 Years,” “Where Forever Waits.”

Credits: The featured image at the top of the post is Rose Louise in 1942 at the age of 20.

“I began to piece together another part of the puzzle—one that was hidden deep in our DNA. I found that we inherit the emotions and beliefs of our ancestors. Programmed into our very cells, these deeply embedded patterns influence our health, wealth, and relationships.”

DNA

Margaret Ruby, a pioneer in the fields of personal growth and self-healing, penned those words. Her book, “The DNA of Healing”, is a captivating read. Studies have shown that our DNA isn’t as permanently fixed as previously thought. More than being just about our physical attributes, it seems there’s a DNA underbelly made up of nuances, habits, behaviors and expectations. Rather than a fixed set of genetic characteristics, our DNA is malleable and dynamic. That realization leads to three very important ideas:

  1. Your DNA has been shaped by those who came before you, imprinted with the patterns of THEIR life experiences and beliefs, whether limiting or encouraging. The results are quite often unintended genetic consequences.
  2. Those evolutionary changes, both positive and negative are automatically stamped into the fabric of YOUR life and consequently, generations to come. However, those pesky, undesirable nuances can actually be snipped out of the DNA and replaced with something that does work.
  3. In her book, Ruby describes this conceptual micro-surgery. You can easily and safely be guided through the process by a specially trained therapist to eliminate limiting patterns forever!
Cultural overlay

Still there exists the age-old question of Nature vs. Nurture. In addition to those interior genetic patterns, there are powerful external structures that dictate much of what gets programmed into our lives in the first place. Yes, the forces that shape us come from deep within our genetic structures, but also from outside us in the ever-present cultures we inhabit.

According to Ruby, “The Matrix is the system of beliefs that we have come to accept as truth—a giant web of ideas that we believe is right or wrong, good or bad. The Matrix is the rules we as a society have created that dictate how we should live our lives.”

The Matrix

“The Matrix Trilogy” is actually mentioned in her book as a cinematic touchstone. Within the scope of a movie we see how dangerously powerful the “made-up web of rules” is in determining what’s possible in our lives. We tend to think that our days are just being “played out” with very little thought about our own accountability. Ruby suggests we begin snipping the ties that bind us inexorably to the past—both internally and externally—that block the full expression of our better-selves. As we see the context of our lives differently and more holistically, we can begin layering change upon microscopic change, both within and without, to become free—an action that creates a positive impact for many generations to come. 

In medicine, once a genetic mutation dead-ends, that mutation no longer exists within a family. The threat of risk ceases. The same thing is true with behavioral “mutations.” For example, we often hear about the necessity of breaking the “cycle of abuse.” Future generations reap the benefit of such an intervention. So, if we see the value of that positive change, doesn’t it follow that we can permanently re-direct other behaviors and thoughts as well?

Subtle forces influence our world

The Matrix Trilogy recently birthed a sequel. The 4th Matrix movie is available to stream and watch in the comfort of our homes. Anticipating this installment, we decided to re-watch the first three movies in preparation. Cinema can often be powerful in depicting the unyielding patterns of a given culture. In this particular instance, watching the shows has strengthened our resolve to look inward at the “genetic code”—whether physical, psychological, mind or body. Simultaneously we’re examining other established programs, the “exo-genetic codes”—whether political, societal, or other subtle constructs that influence our world. Once we see those external forces at work, we can never un-see them. Then, if we decide, they CAN be changed!  

Related Stories and Music

Footsteps

Footsteps

This story is about the patterns hidden deep within each of us that block us from becoming our very best Self—self-sabotage at its worst.

Green Book

Take a look at the disturbing underbelly of our American culture and the powerful limitations created in our not too distant past and unfortunately, our present day as well.

 

Palazzo in Firenze

Once upon a time, in a magnificent palazzo in the center of Firenze (Florence) Italy, lived Beatrice Portinari with her adoring family. They spent their summers and weekends in the cool Florentine hills in her family’s serene villa—the quiet and lush Tuscan countryside unfolding just beyond the city. Italy, in 1275, was on the cusp of the Italian Renaissance, poised to leave medieval times behind.

Tuscan hills at Villa

“Bice,” celebrated her 8th birthday with a lavish party at her country villa. There she met young Dante Alighieri for the first time. The 9 year-old-boy found himself speechless—love at first sight. More than just smitten with her beauty, he sensed something deeper. Her presence seemed to exude a spiritual quality, an aura of perfection. Had Dante seen an angel? Perhaps. Would his life ever be the same? No.

Dante Alighieri

Dante also lived in Firenze, but his family had a country villa, as well. In fact, his country home was just a ten-minute walk from Beatrice‘s place. Even though they shared a geographically small world, they only encountered one another a few times in their lives. Sadly, Bice died at the age of 24, but her influence remained a constant companion in both Dante‘s writing and in his dreams—she was his muse and inspiration.

Likeness of Beatrice

Dante‘s book La Vita Nuova was written about his love for Beatrice. His adoration was neither physical nor earthly, but was rather an ethereal, aspirational, platonic or even agape love that inspired his journey toward enlightenment. In Dante’s La Davina Commedia (The Divine Comedy), Beatrice appeared as a guide to lead him into Heaven. While Dante could only approach Heaven, Beatrice took her seat next to God, as an amazing divine spirit—truly other-worldly.

We imagine our “Best Self” as a modest reflection of Heaven’s perfection. In order to move toward our “Heavenly Best,” don’t we all need a muse—someone who inspires, guides and leads us to our highest possibility? How romantic a thought, to be smitten by an earthly presence who shows us a way that we could otherwise never even imagine. For us, the story of Dante and Beatrice presents a powerful, idealistic yet tangible image—a vision to help us navigate this Life on Earth and beyond.

Credits

Featured image above: Dante encounters Beatrice in the historic center of Florence, Italy C1285—this painting is dated 1883 by the artist Henry Holiday, on display in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England.

Dante: Painting by Attilio Roncaldier 1801-1884, Ravenna, Museo Dantesco.

Beatrice: Painting by Washington Allston 1819, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Related Stories and Music

Winter’s End
This musical story and lyrics were written by Cheryl, alone in Tuscany on a cold winter dusk as she gazed out the window toward the beautiful Villa Portinari. Following are her poetic musings put to music. 

Beatrice’s Ghost
This music was spontaneously written and recorded in our Tuscan cantina by Joshua Housh in 2009—inspired by the mystery of the nearby historic villas of Beatrice and Dante.

This is the second “breadcrumb” we’re leaving along the path that we call “Toward the Light” of aging. 

Let’s face it, no one is exempt from growing older. Some changes may be subtle, while others are more drastic and obvious. This series of posts called “Breadcrumbs” is an attempt to find our way in and through the aging process, while continuing to mature and develop further. So, as we meander and stumble along this trail, we’ll drop as many breadcrumbs as we can. Perhaps, as we follow the clues left by other wise Souls, we too can find our way “Home.”

David Bowie

David Bowie left us all too soon, but certainly seems to have poured his heart and Soul into living Life to the fullest. He created countless moments of meaning, whether through music, film/video, performance, or painting that continue, beyond his physical presence. As we hike our trail, our path, one of Bowie’s clues about life resonates with us. 

“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”

For us, that short quote carries an extremely important message, basically turning Life upside-down. Rather than feeling as though we are losing cherished pieces of ourselves (disintegrating), he’s suggesting that we are intentionally and painstakingly examining what remains. He suggests that our true Essence is the Pearl we seek. We open and shed that which is unnecessary or no longer needed—eventually letting go of anything and everything that isn’t our “Essential Self.”

Mark Nepo

The poet/philosopher Mark Nepo speaks about this pursuit, this process of life-long “Pearl-essence” in a different, but poignant way when he says, “Like a comet worn to its center by the time it reaches Earth, the gravity of our journey leaves us bare and unadorned as we reach the simple, enduring center where all souls meet.”

However we choose to envision and articulate this life, the process remains the same. We simply consider it the never-ending work of the Soul—the journey of a lifetime. 

Thank you David and Mark! 

Related Stories and Music

Uncommon Promise

We were living in a friend’s cottage south of Florence, a different side of the city for us, providing many new experiences, including a delightful walk into the center of town from the apartment. Trying to distract ourselves from the studio’s much-delayed completion, we were struggling with seemingly constant waiting. It was a challenging time, […]

Out of the Block
This story is about breaking out of social molds and constraints. We felt as though we were sculpting new lives for ourselves and wanted to capture the joy of creativity, the tireless commitment and the surprises that result from such an effort.

Letting Go
With much to consider, our conversations settled on the idea of letting go, and how important it is for us to move on and release that which can no longer serve us—no matter what stage of our life.

This is the first “breadcrumb” we’re leaving along the path “Toward the Light” of aging.

Rumi speaks to us across seven centuries, as a wise old friend joining us in the shade of the porch on a warm summer afternoon. Perhaps he has come to stay for a few days, or even longer. Wonderful! We sit entranced by his soothing voice as he recites a poem written especially for us. He calls it “The Guest House,” to honor our openness, hospitality, willingness to listen and our love of Life. We absolutely adore his visits—always gentle, kind and gracious. We heed every carefully selected word and subtle inflection in his voice as he begins:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

What a beautiful poem to start our journey into the “final stage of life.” We took our first step by cracking open “The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker’s guide to growing older.” The co-authors invite readers to take a new perspective, a new vision toward aging—with a veil of spirituality. Count us in!

Rumi, our first guest

As we all know, in order to begin any new endeavor, we must first be open to listen and then to actually hear. Lao Tsu said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Hmm. Ahh. We are ready, and Rumi arrives as our first guest and guide. We lean forward to hear his message. Shhh!

Poetry by Rumi, from “The Essential Rumi,” translated by Coleman Barks.
The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker’s guide to growing older,” by Robert L. Weber Ph.D. and Carol Orsborn, Ph.D.

The first post of this series is called “From Wind-Down to Wisdom,” and can be found with a simple click. To find all of the stories that will follow, just enter the word “Breadcrumbs” into the Stories “Secret Search” box,” on the site’s front page and they will all magically appear for you.

Turning toward the Light.

Cheryl’s mom had a funny saying, “One day, we’re all going to wake-up dead.” This may sound like a contradiction, but it’s actually a humorous nod to an inevitable reality. 

Kane Tanaka

Hey folks, that’s the truth of the matter. We all WILL die, even though some people seem to defy that reality. For example, the oldest person living (as of Jan 12, 2021) is Kane Tanaka in Fukuoka, Japan—born the same year as the Wright brothers’ first powered flight. Imagine that! For some of us, the earthly end will arrive much sooner than it will for others, but eventually, even Kane will take flight. But at 118 years, she wants to delay her own “take-off.” She thinks she’ll be ready when she’s 120. Why is that any better than 118, you might ask? Only Kane knows?

So, what’s her secret to longevity? She says it’s all about “Eating delicious food and studying,” Okay, we can do that, but frankly, there must be a bit more to consider!

Living well is one desire that many of us surely share. However, for some, the topic of mortality has rapidly moved to the top of the list. We represent just two Baby-Boomers, two septuagenarians. But let’s face it, In order to even consider a powerful “lift-off” from this earthly adventure, it makes sense to examine our pasts—which may then require a little clean-up work. We’ve always tried to “keep house” as we go, checking in with the expertise and wisdom of select therapists along the way. But, over the past several years we’ve decided to “up our game,” deliberately and methodically digging into lingering issues or limiting perspectives. We feel that this deeper dive will help better prepare the Way. Now, together, we are ready to design a “grand finale” for this human experiment. Here we go!

Erik Erikson

We first shifted our gaze to the future when our wonderful therapist Dr. Jody Saltzman referenced the work of the German-American psychologist Erik Erikson. He authored the now famous “Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development”—of which the last and final stage is “Maturity” (from ages 65 to death). Ooff! That last hurrah has also been referred to as the phase of “disintegration.” YIKES! That doesn’t sound good! However, upon further study, the “virtue” of that stage, according to Erikson, is “wisdom.” Hmm. We became intrigued and decided to check that out!

We are stardust

We began our own little research project to uncover the possibilities that lay ahead. We strongly preferred the word “transformation” rather than the ooky term, “disintegration.” Oh, sure, we know about the “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” thing, but disintegration sort of signals a painful “falling apart.” No, thanks. So, our mission is to turn this time in our life from “the beginning of the end” to just “the beginning.” With thoughtful enthusiasm, we jumped right in. 

Once we decided to explore the topic, we found ourselves sorting through some amazing information. It will definitely take some time, determination and patience, but early indications suggest that irresistible clues are scattered all around us. Transformation is not only possible, but appears to be the preferable “calling” at this juncture.

Finding our Way

Mind you, our interest is certainly not about “staying young,” (too late for that) but rather about making the most of this truly once-in-a-lifetime chance to “grow old and get wise.” We also suspect there might be others who are approaching similar crossroads. So, as we meander and stumble our way along this trail, we will drop as many breadcrumbs as we can. Perhaps, as we follow the clues left by those before us, we too can find our Way “Home.”

We’ll keep you posted!
Cheryl and Emerson—fellow travelers

This initial post will be followed by an ongoing series called “Breadcrumbs.” To find the complete list of entries to date, just enter “Breadcrumbs” into the Stories “Secret Search” box, and they will all magically appear.

You might also check out our related music and story from 2008 called “Toward the Light.”