May 31st, 2010 by Regina Brett
Today I turn 54. It's a day to truly celebrate life.
Every few years my birthday falls on Memorial Day. This year, my thoughts drift to Gunnery Sgt. Robert Gilbert who died from injuries suffered in Afghanistan. I had the honor of interviewing his father who told me what it was like to read the "if I am wounded open this" letter. My heart goes out to him today.
All through high school I wore a POW bracelet with the name Capt. Robert Coady 1-18-69. He was missing in action in Vietnam and later presumed dead. I found his name on the wall in Washington years later. I still wonder who he was and who he left behind. I still have the silver bracelet and will wear it today as a reminder to save a place for those we lost.
Major Michael Davis O'Donnell wrote this on Jan. 1, 1970 from Dak To, Vietnam:
If you are able,
save for them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.
And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind.
Michael was one of those heroes. Two months after he wrote that poem, his helicopter was shot down as he was attempting to rescue eight soldiers.
May 24th, 2010 by Regina Brett
Tonight I had the most unusual book signing. I sat in the middle of a Costco store in Mayfield Heights and greeted customers as they shopped for everything from swimsuits to generators.
I met Fred, who 35 years ago was told he had six months to live. He had testicular cancer at 25. He's the happiest guy I've met in a long time. He loves his job at Costco and treats the employees and customers as if they are his family.
I met Johnny, who is ecstatic about his job at Costco. If you ask him, How are you doing? He answers, "I'm living the dream." He's a big believer in abundance. "I look at my life as ministry," he told me.
It's easy to see why. One customer stopped by my table to buy a book as a gift for herself. "Today is my anniversary," she said, then started to cry.
How long have you been married, I asked.
"Twenty three years. My husband died last year," she said. In her cart sat a dozen white roses. She bought them for herself to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
I left feeling like I'd been to church.
May 19th, 2010 by Regina Brett
I picked up the book "Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence" by Anne D. LeClaire from the library. She chose to go silent every Monday and not speak.
A strange thing happened before I got to page 55: I lost my voice. It started with a sore throat and swollen glands then took over my whole head. It's probably just a bad cold, but whatever it is, it forced me to be silent for a few days. No cell phone calls. No endless chattering. No mindless conversations. Every word is precious and painful.
"Nothing has changed the nature of man so much as the loss of silence," wrote Max Picard, a Swiss philosopher. Think about how noisy the world is, the TVs in waiting rooms, the background music in stores, the endless cell phone conversations.
Silence is a good companion. As Confucius said, "Silence is the friend who never betrays."
May 14th, 2010 by Regina Brett
Yesterday I attended one of the most beautiful funerals. Carmelite sister Annamae Dannes died of cancer at 68.
She was one of the handful of sisters left at the Carmelite monastery where I attend Sunday Mass. She always stood tall with her eyes lowered in the modesty of a monk. Annamae left teaching to become a contemplative.
Priest Don Cozzens gave a lovely eulogy. "The humble find traces of God everywhere," he said. Annamae used to stop people to say, "You are so good." She found goodness in everyone.
The church was packed to overflowing. The white walls never glowed brighter. Two things from the service will remain with me. The joy in the room as we sang, "The hand of God shall hold you, the peace of God enfold you, the love that dreamed and formed you, still surrounds you here today. The light of God beside you, above, beneath, inside you, the light that shines to guide you home to the loving hand of God."
And the back cover of her program with the quote by Saint John of the Cross: "The language God best hears is silent love."
That's what Annamae was. Silent love.
May 11th, 2010 by Regina Brett
It's time we all take the pledge.
A reader just sent me a copy of Oprah's "No Phone Zone" pledge which I posted on my Plain Dealer blog.
I wrote a column on May 1 about my efforts to stop talking and just drive. It was tough to hang up and drive at first. I was guilty of having long conversations on longs drives on the interstate just to pass the time. Now I savor the view as I drive and pay more attention to what is in my window, side mirrors and rearview mirror.
Not only has it made me a less distracted driver, it is making me a more mindful driver, mother, wife and friend. Instead of multi-tasking, I'm more present in the one thing at hand and the people I talk to after my drive ends get my full attention, which they deserve.
May 8th, 2010 by Regina Brett
Moms must all use the same playbook:
Don't run with scissors.
Sit ten feet from the TV or you'll ruin your eyes.
Don't go outside with wet hair or you'll catch pneumonia.
Crack your knuckles and you'll get arthritis.
My mom had 11 children and used all of the above plus these:
Take it outside (the football, the fight, the cartwheels.)
You'll be late for your own funeral. (I probably will be.)
If it was a snake, it would have bit you. (Whenever the obvious was right in front of me.)
The best lesson she taught went unsaid: Always make room for others.
We had a huge dining room table. Dad kept adding plywood to the middle to fit all 13 of us. Every holiday, my mom welcomed strays, our friends from college who couldn't get home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. She always made room for more.
More food, more friends, more love.
May 6th, 2010 by Regina Brett
What a moving experience signing books tonight at The Gathering Place, which offers support services for anyone touched by cancer.
Two women asked me to sign books in memory of their sister, Penny. Then I met Penny's daughter and mother and we all ended up in tears.
One woman asked me to sign one for her husband who has cancer. "He's just so angry," she said, then started to cry.
A few women were bald from chemo, a few others wore wigs. I showed them the picture of me bald that I keep in my wallet. It reminds me that every day is a good day. Even that day was.
No, life isn't fair, but it's still good.
May 3rd, 2010 by Regina Brett
It's amazing how many people can look at a piece of writing and all see the same thing -- or miss the same thing. It's like that old trick of the eye:
In Lesson 36, "Growing Old Beats the Alternative. Dying Young Looks Good Only in Movies" I offered a list of 50 things to do to celebrate turning 50. Somehow I left out Number 28. How? I can't blame old age. I can't blame chemo brain anymore, since it's been 12 years since cancer.
I even read the entire manuscript for the book on tape version and didn't catch it. Neither did the three people listening. The Swedish translator caught it as she was translating the book from English to Swedish.
So here it is, pencil it in your book on page 168:
28. Reflect on all the people you would like to meet in the next 50 years.
May 2nd, 2010 by Regina Brett
The emails are starting to pour in from around the country. This one touched me deeply. Cheryl from Atlanta, Ga. wrote:
"I am grateful for your book and your story. I have never written an author regarding a book of any kind. I felt compelled to write. Your story is amazing and I'm sure it has touched many lost souls like mine.
"My husband of 18 years announced last October while on his way to the Home Depot that he no longer wanted to be married to me. That he wanted to pursue happiness. Two weeks later, I moved myself and my 3 children in to a home that we could afford. We were divorced four months later.
"It has been six months and I do not cry every night anymore, but there is still enormous pain. While strolling through the book store, I came across your book. I could not put it down. Almost every lesson applied to me somehow. After reading your book and your lessons, I actually feel like I can make it.
"I feel like I have a purpose in life and it is wonderful. I cannot wait to wake up each day and apply these practical wisdoms in my life. When faced with enormous pain, it is hard for a person to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep moving.
"Your book has reminded me that each person has purpose and value. We've just got to believe, and keep moving. Thank you very much, and may God continue to bless you."
For all the Cheryls out there: hang in there. It will get better. The best really is yet to come. Be patient. Just keep taking the next right step as it appears day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. You are not alone.