Thursday, August 27, 2015

Celebrating Loretta's Life

where have you been all of my life?

We celebrated Loretta’s life with a Catholic funeral Mass on August 15 – a fitting date as Catholics celebrate Mary’s assumption to heaven on that date and Loretta’s heart had a special place for Mary.

The funeral was, in many ways, typical: the urn with her cremains was stationed at a Marian altar during the visitation; a guest book rested on a podium next to a table, which table contained a picture of Loretta, a 16x20 inch photo she had given to Ellie and me for our wedding anniversary several years prior, and a basket for condolence cards; there were easels set up with picture boards, documenting Loretta’s look and life over the years.

In several important ways, though, this was an untypical funeral. Many people came to pay tribute. They came not to commiserate about Loretta’s death but to celebrate her life by talking with other people similarly touched. To pay tribute to a woman of incredible faith who had struggled to live well with her cancer. Loretta had never felt sorry for herself, was never mad at God, and came closest to complaining when she said, “I have my good days and my bad days.” She continued to end conversations with, “Let’s continue to pray for one another.”

The readings, readers, and music were chosen by Loretta; while they said goodbye, they also celebrated life. The Basilica pastor presided at the Mass, and praised Loretta as both a woman of the Church ( of course she didn’t like every decision made by the male hierarchy ) and a woman of faith, pointing out how the latter made the former possible. At the end of Mass, my wife, Ellie, spoke words of remembrance celebrating both Loretta’s life and her Lithuanian heritage.

LABAS. I thank you for coming and joining in this Celebration of Loretta's life. Loretta was a multi - faceted woman. However, the one facet of her, we all have in common, is knowing her as an incredible woman of Faith. She was deeply rooted in spiritually and lived her entire life under the umbrella of Scripture. She is indeed a Holy Woman and it has been an honor and a privilege to be her Friend.
Loretta lived to be 84 years of age. She was who she said she is ... A woman of faith, generosity, pride, dignity, moral standards and ethics.. I asked her once if she had any regrets in her life and with without pause she said ...NO regrets, What a model ...What a witness .... I believe she is in the Arms of God ... Her life of prayer and discernment has led her home. May we have the Grace to follow in her footprints.

I have only known Loretta for about 10 years. Yet, it seems like we had known each other for a life time. When we met, she said ... Ellie, where have you been all of my life? I looked at her .. smiled and... said "Loretta, and where have you been all of my life? What a Gift ... What an incredible Gift.
It has been an honor and a privilege to walk this Journey with her. I have met and felt surrounded by love from many of you ... Loretta's family, friends and colleagues..I am truly humbled!

She will be sorely missed by many and yet she will live in our hearts forever. And I believe we will see each other again ...and so for now I say ....
To you, my dear Lithuanian friend, .. ACHOO .... Thank you, my friend ... ACHOO!

(Bow at her Urn)

Approximately one hundred twenty five funeral attendees stayed for lunch. There were people from all over the area, all talking not about how they’d miss Loretta, but about how alive and alert she was and how encounters with her were life changing. We knew we’d miss her, but we celebrated her life.

While we celebrated, her cremains patiently awaited burial the following Saturday, another Catholic feast honoring Mary.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Adventures in Growing Up

When I became an adult, I got a job at a restaurant.  It paid very well if you consider the fact that I didn't have to buy food five days a week.  It was a great way to start out as an adult, and strike out on my own.  I never did continue to grow up.

I've been taking care of myself for almost fifteen years, and I've never really cooked for myself.  Sure, I've cooked for hundreds of others, but never for myself.  My last home didn't even have a kitchen, and it was never a down side.

Now it's 2015, I'm in my early 30's, and I cooked a thing.  I borrowed a mini crock pot.  I put two potatoes, a cup of chicken broth, some minced garlic, and two pork chops in it, and turned it on.  Eight hours later I had dinner.  In hind sight, I should have used more liquid, but it worked out just fine.  It was delicious.

The reason for this development is a desire to grow as a person.  Oh, and the money.  I've come to the conclusion that cars are expensive, and I really have no excuse to not have plenty of money.  I'm a single guy, with no large expenses, or drug habits.

As I write this from Mcdonald's, I do realize I have some work to do.  Next time I plan to try some spices.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Love in the Room Overflowed

Rest in peace, dear Loretta.
 As you know from her obituary, our dear friend Loretta died recently after four years of living with a cancer that her oncologist told her was not curable. She struggled mightily, but finally succumbed after seven months in home hospice and almost three weeks at the hospice home.

A large parade, perhaps menagerie, of people came to see Loretta there. A non-inclusive list includes a retired priest, a friend who had moved to Florida, the father of Loretta’s ten-year old God-daughter ( and sometimes the mother and sometime the ten-year old herself ), current pastor of a little French church in downtown St Paul, the director of the Department of Liturgy at the Basilica of St Mary, the mother of a female Chicago Police Officer ( both daughter and mother had been in RCIA at the Cathedral with Loretta ), and a middle-aged brother and sister who were born in Lithuania. Because we know Loretta, we know almost all of these people. The ones we didn’t know adopted us almost immediately. These friends brought so much love the room could not hold all of it. Their love overflowed to Ellie and me often and in varied ways, including: taking Ellie’s clothing home and laundering it; bringing food for our sustenance; offering to pray over Loretta with us; praying over Loretta and anointing her; offering to regularly keep vigil well after visiting hours so Ellie could get some sleep in the lounge on a much more comfortable sofa than was available in Loretta’s room; keeping watch so Ellie and I could have some time, which included going to Loretta’s to spend time with her cats. This so touched me it brought tears to my eyes and brings tears to my eyes still when I think of it.

We initially went to the home, we were thinking, for a couple to three days, to get Loretta’s pain under control. It soon became apparent that returning home, with Ellie caring for Loretta as she had been doing, was not viable. It became apparent even sooner, and this is not a knock, that although the place was very nice, it was a place. Loretta didn’t want to die in a place; she wanted to die at home. There’s a song, “You can’t always get what you want.” This want was going to be denied.

The staff at the home was wonderful, very caring, very hospitable, and able to figure out what both Loretta needed for pain control and we needed to be able to keep our watch. The social services person was a gem; the spiritual guide was a woman that both Loretta and Ellie knew from one of the parishes around town.

Ellie had lived with her for the last seven months of her life, stayed with her at the hospice home, and was with her when she died. They were alone. It was a fitting end to a life very well lived.
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Monday, August 17, 2015

The People vs Common Sense

In my search for a vehicle I came across a great deal.  I found a car know for reliability with a beautiful leather interior to match a classy exterior.  How could I afford it?  They were selling it for 30% below bluebook.  Now we wonder what's wrong with it.  We kind of need to know before buying it.  People don't just throw away thousands of dollars.  But that answer was simple.  It has flood damage.

Now I know next to nothing about cars.  I have little experience with mechanical things in general.  It really is just an experience thing.  When I've tried in the past, I've picked them up fast enough.  I feel like I can use common sense to get though this sort of thing.  When I apply common sense to this problem, it seems like a great deal.

I brought a friend, and sat in the car on a humid day.  We took a whiff.  We smelled nothing out of the ordinary.  Common sense tells me that if the cabin had been exposed to water for any length of time, we'd be smelling mildew and such.  Again, using common sense, that tells me that the electronics are probably fine since they are mostly in the cabin.

Now the engine is being replaced, and the electronics are probably fine.  It comes with a one month bumper to bumper warranty.  I don't see a lot of other things that can be expected to go wrong.  And if there is something else to worry about, what are the odds it would cost more than the thousands I'm saving?  Common sense says, "Buy this car."

But I don't actually know about cars.  Common sense has been leading people astray since the dawn of time.  I asked the experts, and they all say the same thing.  'Under no circumstances would anyone ever buy a flood damaged car at any price.'  Okay, I'm exaggerating, but that is the sentiment I got.  I actually hired a mechanic off of Fiverr to ask specifically about long term damage potential.  He would not buy it either.  He said that connections wear over time, and they will ware faster if they've been exposed to water.

Shorter replacement cycles on parts that will wear out anyways doesn't seem like a reason to pass up this deal, but I just can't bring myself to choose common sense over the experts.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rest in Peace, Dear Loretta

Javra, Loretta C., Obl SB
Born 7/24/1931 and died in St. Paul on 8/10/2015. Preceded in death by father, Bernard Javra; mother, PetroneIla Myra Chipas; stepfather, Anthony Chipas; brother, Leonard Javra: guardian, Petrika Rusteika; numerous relatives in Lithuania. Survived by nephew, Bernard Javra (Thao, Evan and Alexander) of Naperville, IL; also by numerous cousins in Lithuania and cousin, Stephen Soles (Florence. dec) of Chicago. Graduate degrees in theological studies in religious education, studied two summers at the Tantur Ecumenical Center in Jerusalem. A member of the Sisters of Casmir Chicago for 20 years before relocating to Minnesota in 1973 where she served as religious educator in the following parishes: Religious Education Center, Hastings: St. Rita, Cottage Grove: St. Leo (now Lumen Christi), St Paul; St Pascal Baylon, St Paul; MMCC, Burnsville; St Odilia, Shoreview: St Lawrence, Mpls; Cathedral of St Paul. In addition to working in the above churches, Loretta also taught classes in a number of parishes and institutions in the Twin Cities until her retirement in 2007. She also facilitated a local scripture study group of women in the Highland Park area from 1984-2014. She has been an Oblate of St Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, MN since 1999. Loretta traveled extensively to areas concerned with her religious ministries (Israel, and the other lands of the Bible). In addition, Loretta visited Lithuania, home of her parents and ancestors during the summers of 1994, 1995 and 2002. She loved the land of her ancestry and spoke her first language, Lithuanian, since her childhood. She and her brother learned English when they began elementary school in Chicago. She continued to speak, read and write Lithuanian all her life. She was a member of the Lithuanian American Community in Minnesota. Mass of Christian Burial 12 noon Sat., Aug. 15, 2015 at The Basilica of St. Mary, 88 N. 17th St. Mpls, with gathering starting at 10 AM. Burial at St John's Abbey Cemetery, Collegeville, MN. on Saturday, Aug. 22, 11 AM, everybody welcome! Memorials preferred to Basilica Landmark, Our Lady of Peace Hospice, or the Lithuanian American Community in Minnesota.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Buying Time

Six months ago, I arrived back in the US after an extended vacation to my new home in a similar location to the one I had left the country from.  That is to say, the same old commute.  I was in no shape to improve that with a car, but spring was on it's way.  I am still here, but spring is long gone.  There are decisions to make.

Early in my stay here I got an indication that I might need to move again in the near future.  That is another option.  I could move close enough to have a more reasonable commute.  To make a long story short, I found a few places, but I just can't run out on my friends and landlords so quickly with just an indication.  And I do like having friends as neighbors.

So that brings me back to option one, a car.  A new car, new to me that is, can be a fun purchase.  Driving is a chore to me, so I can't say I feel that way.  I find it stressful.  I find just owning a car to be stressful.  Having the most expensive thing I own sitting out on the street sucks.  Then there's all the insurance, the fees, and the tickets.  I have no idea how someone who goes out of his way to try to follow all the rules has gotten so many tickets.

There are things to look forward to.  This time around I will have a garage, so that should help.  I plan to buy a car with less mileage than my previous cars, so that should cut down on surprise maintenance.  There has been a lot of that as well.  I will need to get a car loan for that, so it will mean more insurance though.

Then there are people.  Relying on a car to get to work is a less than ideal situation in my opinion.  Socially, you kind of have to.  You never really know where the you will want to be to hang out with friends and well wishers.  It will be nice to not have to explain that it's hard to get there.

And even though there are a lot of added costs with a car, there are some savings.  Public transit has a price.  Plus I always insist on paying for lunch if someone else is giving me a ride.  Even my own food will be cheaper.  I currently eat out a lot for convenience.  I spend so much time traveling, it's just a good time to do it.  Plus grocery shopping is such a chore without a car.

Which brings me to time.  Owning a car will literally save me hours a day.  I plan to wast most of that, but in funner ways.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cancer Advances

“Did you ever think it would come to this?”

In a prior post, I spoke about Ellie’s and my developing a friendship with Loretta, cancer striking Loretta and Loretta’s determination to live through the pain. Loretta’s pain recently skyrocketed, and she moved from home hospice care to in-patient hospice care.

After her herculean effort to come to the dining room at home, I sat with her at table. She kept your eyes closed, she said, because of the pain.

My breath catches in my chest as I consider this; my eyes swell with tears. It becomes hard to write; it becomes hard to see.

We are sitting on her bed at the hospice; “I never thought it would come to this. Did you ever think it would come to this?” Her question, directed to me.

“I always knew it was a possibility,” I responded carefully, “but, no, I didn’t think it would come to this so soon.”

Later, sitting in a chair, you dropped your chin to your chest, and I became frail and helpless and afraid.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Fake Space Navy PT

As I've stated before, I've joined the Honor Honor Harrington fan club, which is a pretend space navy.  I haven't attended many club events, but I've had fun at the ones I have.  With Convergence behind us, and the months of bridge building, PT has started up again.  The space navy may be pretend, but the pain is real.

I've never exercised as an adult.  I never exercised as a kid either, outside of gym class.  Sure, I've done things that involve getting exercise.  I actually walk quite a bit.  But I've never really tried to get exercise aside from a few pushups at the start of my day.

So what was I thinking going into my first physical training?  I thought I could do it.  My joins are good, and my muscles get some use everyday, if not strenuous use.  What I found should not be surprising.

We did it in sets.  Sets of squats, and different kinds of sprints.  We did five, then stretched a bit, then five more sets.  I kept up.  I was out of breath, but I'm still young, and minorly active.  Then we started jogging.

I did fine for the first block.  I made it the second and third.  Then I started power walking, and sprinting in spurts to catch up.  After about a half a mile I started the slow walk back on my own, the short way.

As I said, this was a renewal of the PT.  Most were out of practice.  Only one guy met me back at out beginning still jogging, and he is on active military duty.  I was not alone.

My take away from all this is that my endurance is low, and I don't want it to be.  I've decided to start jogging in the morning.  A couple times a week to begin, and see where it goes from there.  Currently my commute is long, and it really wouldn't add much time to my morning commute to replace one bus with a jog.

As always, I'll keep you informed.