My oldest brother suffered a stroke a week ago and is soon going to be on his way to heaven. He was the patriarch of our family, beloved by so many people. It's hard to let him go. This man is simply amazing and inspiring - and because he is so inspiring I want to share just a few things about him in the hopes that you'll be inspired, too.
My brother is 82 (and yes he's a lot older than me so don't even go trying to do the math). Before a stroke felled him he was coaching his grandson's basketball team, taking voice lessons (and entering competitions right up against college kids), doing yard work for his daughter, attending a guys' Bible study, planning fun and games for family events and helping anyone and everyone who needed it. Talk about living a full life right up to the end!
Brother Ben never held an office. He wasn't a war hero (a bad eye kept him out of the service). He never wrote a book. But his life was a book on kindness and self-sacrifice, open for all to read. He and his wife took in foster kids, hosted countless parties for their own children and their friends. His home has been the extended family's gathering place for years and he and his equally generous wife have happily hosted Thanksgiving, Christmas, family reunions and Fourth of July celebrations. When we need a place to gather we go to Ben's. He has helped family and friends with building projects and given tirelessly of his time and building talents. He had a double lot on our family compound and there he built everything from slides to tree houses and zip lines. Oh, yes, and he constructed a miniature airplane kids could ride in that would tip from side to side. We called the fanciful backyard BennyLand. Our kids, his grandkids and any other kids who were around enjoyed BennyLand. Even more, we all enjoyed Benny himself. He was a crazy, fun-loving tease and he made life fun for everyone.
He certainly made my life fun, acting as a second father to me over the years, crashing my book signings in goofy costumes, teasing me relentlessly. I loved every minute of it. I've loved every minute of our life together as siblings. Benny, I'll miss you more than words can say. (And Sammy, you'd better stick around for a while!)
I think about all my brother has done with his life and it makes me want to do more, be more, bring more joy to those I love. It's such a short time we get here on Earth. I want to follow in my brother's footsteps and spend my time wisely and well. Big shoes to fill, as the saying goes, and the clock is ticking.
How about you? Is there someone in your life who inspires you? My challenge for myself and maybe for you, too, is to start moving beyond inspiration and into action. Lord, let me follow my brother's good example of kindness and generosity. Help me to do my part to make this world a better place.
It's right around the corner, that special day when we think of hearts and flowers and chocolates and dinner out, when we exchange cards and watch romantic movies. I love Valentine's Day! (And, as some of you may know, I love getting those chocolate treats at fifty percent off the day after!)
This year, I'd like to remind all my women friends to make this the month you show yourself some extra love. And I'm not talking about buying your own chocolates or flowers (although if you want to do that you have my permission - a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do). Instead I'm talking about taking care of yourself, chickie.
When was the last time you went to the doctor for a check-up? (We make sure we get our kids in but we often neglect ourselves!) When was the last time you had a mammogram or Thermography screening? How about a pelvic exam and pap smear? I'm especially rabid about this last one. Many doctors seem to think that after a certain age we women no longer need those. Wrong-o. We are just as vulnerable to uterine cancer when we get older as we are when we're young and menstruating. (I know this from personal experience, ladies!)
And how about exercise? Are you getting any? I've just been reading a fascinating book about biology ("Younger Next Year") and keeping the machinery running as long as possible and this doctor recommends exercising six days a week. (I don't know about you, but I thought I was doing good with three. I'm upping the ante!) Did you know that exercise also helps with depression? Feeling down? Get out and go for a walk in the sunshine ... or the snow. Or, if you live in the Pacific Northwest like I do, the rain. And eating right? How many fruits and veggies are you eating? How much protein? And how much sleep are you getting? Isn't it time we all started taking better care of ourselves so we can be around longer to help the ones we love?
Another way we can take care of ourselves is to do things that are good for us spiritually and emotionally. I think of the Proverb that says a merry heart does good like a medicine. And then there's the Bible verse that talks about focusing on things that are true and noble and good. I've found that the more I focus on what's good in my life rather than what's wrong the happier I am. And I love to read a book or watch a movie that makes me laugh. Did you know you can burn calories simply by laughing? (Just do an Internet search and see how often "laughing diet" pops up. (Not that I'm saying you should use that as a substitute for eating well and exercising but hey, every little bit helps, right?) I feel so much better when I'm having fun with family and friends and laughing.
This month I'm going to be celebrating love with my sweetie by whipping up some chocolate dipped strawberries ... and laughing. And loving. And later this month when I celebrate the fact that I'm still here I'm going to party with friends and laugh some more.
How about you? I hope you're going to remember to show yourself some love this month. Treat yourself to a daily smoothie, take your vitamins and get out there and get some fun exercise. Make life worth living and share the love, okay? And have a happy Valentine's Day!
P.S. The picture you're seeing is of a decoration my mother made at least forty years ago. Isn't it cute? I bring it out every year to honor her and remember how much fun we had together.