Saturday, May 9, 2015

When Your Friend is Grieving, Don't Be Stupid

Today's post may be a bit critical, so you've all been forewarned. It may also contain some strong language, so again, you've been forewarned. I'll be writing from my heart (as usual), but it's a heart that is hurting a lot currently and needs a forum to express hardships and pains.

I joked around a lot after Dad's death about writing a guide of "Things NOT to Do for the Grieving." Perhaps this is that, maybe with a less cynical twist. This has been in my head and my heart a lot the last few weeks because, well, I'm having a terrible time dealing currently. I was in a car accident about 5 weeks ago that has put me in quite a lot of pain. We still don't have a car, which has pushed me to the point of exhaustion since I have a million and one places to be in a very structured and short amount of time. So, I'm literally running, biking, and riding the bus to get to where I need to be. Anytime that I had for myself to sit quietly or to pause and take it all in has just flown out the window. Hopefully, a car will come into our lives in the near future because it's been a hell of an ordeal having to respect a schedule that was built around having a car. Oh, and did I mention that I'm having to pop pain pills like there is no tomorrow? I'm treating my back in many different ways, but it takes time, and I'm simply suffering in the meanwhile.

I'm sure the physical pain and the exhaustion are all adding to this already difficult time. I literally felt like I couldn't handle anything more yesterday. I exploded. I screamed, I cried, I threw things. I literally burst into flames because I just couldn't anymore. I felt so alone. I felt so defeated. And I was angry at everyone and everything.

Which brings to me to my main point, my request for those dealing with a grieving friend. This may be my indirect way of also requesting this for myself, because...I, too, am grieving. So:

Please do not forget your friend is grieving. It may be 5 months or half a year since my dad died, but grieving lasts a long time, especially for someone who was my whole fucking world. And grief, while it may have stages, does not cycle through them neatly. It comes all jumbled together. There's anger while being sad while denying that it's all real. There's acceptance mixed with fury mixed with defeat. There's a ripping of your insides that, for me, outweighs the physical pain that I'm in.

So, please don't forget. If you care about someone, just ask them how they are every once in awhile. Maybe this isn't true of everyone, but I'm finding it exceptionally hard to reach out. I don't want to burden anyone with this insanity, but God, I just sometimes need someone to reach out and say, "How are you holding up?"

I'll say it a third time for effect: PLEASE DON'T FORGET about your grieving friend.

On the other side of the same coin, don't treat me like I'm totally debilitated by my grief. I still function, quite well, I might add. So, don't treat me like a poor, pitiful little thing while cooing at me. It's infuriating. I'm not doing okay, true, but I'm making it to work, I'm keeping up with school assignments, and I'm bathing on the regular. Instead, why not say, "Good job. I'm proud of you for all you're still able to do."

One of my dad's best friends came to me at his visitation, and he asked, like many others, "How are you doing?" I couldn't find the words, since I had been lying to everyone all night, and he said, "You're fucking awful, aren't you?" And we both burst into tears and held each other as we cried. It was so real, so authentic, and exactly what I needed to hear. I was fucking awful. I had just lost the most important person in my life, and I was having to somehow be clear-headed, adult-like, and responsible for all the technical shit that comes after someone dies. It was invaluable to me to hear someone recognize my agony in such a truthful way.

Oh, and while we're at it, don't say dumb shit to the grieving. I know that so many professionals, self-help books, websites, whatever say that it's hard to know what to say, and it is. But fuck, people, don't come up to me and start drilling my head about whether the doctors and nurses actually did all they could do to prevent this. Don't say rude stuff about my dad. Think twice or maybe three times before you say something to the grieving. I appreciate those who reached out and continue to reach out, but just don't be stupid. That's all. And if you don't know how to not say something stupid, a simple hug or a smile is enough. A simple, "I'm so sorry for your loss," is also very real and very appropriate.

Grief takes a long time. There is no time frame, and it is different for everyone. Something that warms my heart and makes me profoundly sad all at once are older people, in their 50s and 60s, who lost their parents long ago, but who say that they still miss them and think about them everyday. I want my dad to stay with me like that. I know he will. I know.

Thank you for bearing with me and reading my heated rant. I needed to ventilate, and I hope I was able to help along the way. It's not often that we are real about grief and death and loss. It's so taboo. But, damn, it's the one thing we all have in common - we will one day die, and until we do, we will experience the death of others. So, keep those who are grieving in mind. Lend a helpful hand. Share a personal story of how you dealt with grief. Listen. Be there. It's really that simple.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Good with the Bad...and the Bad with the Good

Hello, dear readers.

I find myself sitting on that edge between Memorial Day and Independence Day here in Israel, that time that is so unique to our young country.  We go from extreme sadness to extreme happiness within the span of 24 hours.

Today has been filled with memorial ceremonies, people flocking to cemeteries to pay their respects, and of course, the memorial sirens that broke through the air at 8PM last night and again at 11AM this morning.

Last night, I stood solemnly in my living room with my boyfriend and dog, as tears slipped down my face during the siren's wail.  Today, I stood outside of a small, neighborhood bakery where Yagel and I had treated ourselves to some baked goods for breakfast.  We stood tall, bowed our heads, and allowed ourselves the two minutes to just think, reflect, and to try to understand the weight of this day.

Yagel and I started a very interesting conversation on the walk back home after the siren, about how he grew up with this tradition and how I didn't.  In his lifetime, he has heard 75 memorial sirens (1 every year for Holocaust Memorial Day and 2 every year for Israel's Memorial Day), so this is a natural tradition, a siren that he can handle.  I, on the other hand, have now heard 9 such sirens, and I am still blown away by the respect that an entire country can show for their fallen.

Not that everyone stopped what they were doing.  Yagel was playing with a group of Arab kids in the neighborhood last night, when one said that he would start dancing during the siren (he also threatened to break our dog's legs, if that tells you what kind of a kid he is...Yagel worked with him to get him to pet Tripp, so that somewhat calmed him down).  Someone continued driving down the street where we had stopped during this morning's siren.  And I saw a video of an Ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem where many religious Jews kept walking, started shouting and holding up signs, and did all they could to break the moment last evening.  I don't think any of these instances, however, took away from the meaning and the respect that the majority of the Israeli people showed today and yesterday.

I, personally, balled my eyes out most of the evening and most of today.  At one point, I turned on the TV and immediately turned it off, unable to watch more stories of fallen soldiers and terror victims whose families are still broken and scarred after their deaths.  It's a feeling that I remember feeling last year, too, as if I was a glass that was about to be overfilled, as if I simply had had enough.  My brain yelled, "We get it!  We've been torn apart with sadness today - please don't fill the air around you with anymore!"  About an hour ago, as evening began to settle in, Yagel and I watched more stories on TV of those lost in this last war, Protective Edge, in the summer of 2014.  I cried more -  my eyes are puffy and red - and I looked up at him and asked if we could just start having fun already since my heart had been torn into pieces a million times over in the past 24 hours.

For me, it is an interesting question as to why I have cried so much during these Israeli Memorial Days.  I'm going to attempt to answer it now, although I'm still not so sure I can put it into words.  The first reason, if you know me, is quite obvious - I am a very sensitive person who is very easily effected by the stories/emotions/hardships of others.  Second, another fairly obvious reason, is that I am still in the middle of my own hard and heavy grief of losing my dear, dear father.  Just typing that almost sent me into tears again.

But the other reasons are less obvious.  I chose this country to be my own.  I, myself, have gone through two wars in my short time here.  And overall, I steadfastly believe in Israel's right to exist and thrive.  (This, in no way, means that I do not want us to live and thrive peacefully next to our neighbors, but that, my dear readers, is for another post...or from posts past.)  I appreciate each and every soldier who puts on a uniform and serves his or her time in the army.  I appreciate each and every Israeli who chooses to serve his or her country through national service instead of the army.  I appreciate the other immigrants, who, like me, came here because of desire, beliefs, ideology, and love.  I appreciate the vast diversity of this small place, from her landscapes to her people to her beliefs and desires.  I respect what has been done in order to keep her safe and to keep the dream alive.

I am, however, in the midst of a huge identity crisis.  I think every new immigrant must go through something similar.  I am not blind to the problems that exist here.  I am not ignorant to the bad decisions that this country has made or will make.  But still, somehow, I am able to feel so strongly the pride of being Israeli, the power of being an Israeli hell-bent on change, and the courage that it takes to stay here and to continue being Israeli.  I'm not ready to give up on it.  And my heart still sores when I sing the Tikva, our national anthem.  It's a beautiful identity crisis that not all have the pleasure of challenging themselves with, and I'm thankful for the chance every day.

So, as you can see, these two days that are in such stark contrast with one another yet so strongly connected, bring a little of the good with the bad and a little of the bad with the good.

Now, go out there and celebrate, Am Yisrael!  Happy Independence Day!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Silver Lining

Friends, it has been one hell of a break.  And I can't necessarily say that in a good way.  Yagel and I were so stoked that we had two weeks off for Passover!  Well, I had one week off, since the first week, I still had to work and make it to my internship.  But by God, I was so ready for the fun that we had planned from Sunday until now.  I needed the escape, the break from the norm.  But instead, I got a really big lesson in how to be satisfied with what I have and how to find the good within the bad.  Let me explain...

Our grand plan was to get in a day at the beach (possibly two) and to go camping in the lush, green north of Israel in between the days that I was teaching "Dancing in English" for the municipality's "the kids have been in the house too long, and I need a break" program.  And I was looking forward to it all, even the teaching, since the kids give me such good energy and feedback.  And that's how the break started - I taught on Sunday, and I started reorganizing and cleaning various things around the house, a large part of my To Do for the break.  That evening, we went to help some very dear friends move into their new apartment.  These are those friends that would do anything to help us (and have done just about anything to help us), and I'm just crazy in love with them and blessed beyond words that they're in my life.  So, we go and load up the car and head towards the new apartment.  We are in this traffic circle, fairly close to the new place, and we slow down because the car in front of us is waiting for a child to cross on the crosswalk.  Sounds logical, right?  Well, the guy behind us did not learn this simple rule of logic in driving school/life/whatever, and he slammed into the back of us.  Luckily for us, Yagel is a quick reactor, and he engaged the breaks in time to keep us from slamming into the car in front and possibly the child crossing the street.

Now, what happened here is that I felt an immediate headache since my head had slammed into the seat.  I also felt that warm pain creeping into my lower back from the injury that I have been treating for almost a year now.  And I was pissed.  No, no, no, no, no!  I have been working SO hard to strengthen my back and to feel better, all for some asshole whose head was and is stuck up his ass to ruin?  We pulled over, and I got out of the car and got a little mouthy.  And you know what the guy said?  (Not "I'm sorry," that's for sure.)  He said, "It's all going to be okay."  Oh yeah?  You, sir, have no idea what you've ruined.  Then, the nausea and the dizziness settled in and the pain started throbbing more intensely.  I started having trouble speaking in Hebrew, and I got a little confused.  So, off to the ER we went.

The ER was a long, obnoxious wait, but it really wasn't so bad.  Yagel had to go to a private clinic, since his insurance wouldn't pay for him to go to the ER, so his saint of a brother who came to rescue us dropped my friend and me off at the ER and continued on to the clinic with Yagel.  Soon after, our second friend made it to the hospital to be with us, worried sick that she had caused all of this mess by asking us to help them move.  So not the case.  She brought such good energy with her that I was able to laugh and cut up in spite of it all.  Also, a quick text message to my dearest girlfriend here in Israel, and she was also there to put a smile on my face and keep me somewhat focused.  Listen, if it's possible to party in the ER, we did.  We made friends with others who were waiting, we laughed, we shared stories ("What brings you here tonight?"), and we got through the 5-6 hour wait.  And somehow, I survived peeing in a cup in one of the nastiest bathrooms I've ever seen in my life:

My fancy bed and pee cup, all compliments of the great State of Israel.

The next few days were a blur of sleeping, trying to be productive (thesis work and house organization, both of which are quite challenging while discombobulated), and pain meds.  I taught here and there, but mostly, I grumbled about how wasted my vacation was.  Yagel, too.  We were car-less, I was in pain, he was worried.  It's a crappy way to spend your time off.  But, it can also get crappier, which we soon learned.

Yagel, the prince that he is, did basically everything.  Cooked, cleaned, took care of me, and took care of the car.  He went to pick up the car from the garage on Wednesday morning.  We thought that the damage to the car was just to the body, but as he left the garage to come home, he realized that the engine and gears were not working properly, causing the car to sputter and jump like a frog.  As he was returning to the garage (he hadn't made it very far), another impatient "no-driving-son-of-a-bitch" (thanks, Dad, for the expression!) rear-ended him, making for two accidents on the same part of the car within 72 hours.  Right?  I hear all you gasping and saying, "That can't be true!"  Well, friends, it is, indeed.  Two accidents.  Totaled car (we think - we're waiting for the estimator to come tomorrow).  And a lot of frustration.

But, here's the grand conclusion to our no-good, very bad break.  Although it was not at all what we wanted, and although there are some consequences to what happened (like not having a car and being in pain), we have each other.  And we have some really awesome friends.  And we did go out a few times, laugh our asses off, and experience a lot of silly things together.  We cooked a lot.  We grew together.  And we rested.  We raised some hell, and we watched a lot of our favorite TV show.   All things that we can be thankful for, that we can enjoy.  This silver lining has put a smile on my face and helped me to feel satisfied with these past two weeks.  Studying will get done, thesis work will resume and progress, and we will continue to live and love every day that we have, hopefully with less worries about what did not get done.  

As for now, I'm going to have another cup of coffee and go snuggle my man and my dog.  And be content with what I have.  Until next time...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Megan Goes to Therapy and Other Short Stories

So, I'm in therapy.  It should probably come as no surprise, given what I have gone through over the past...29 years.  But it is especially poignant to jump into treatment for the first time after the death of my dear father and in the middle of my Master's degree in clinical social work.  It certainly is a necessary adventure to take, and I'm happy to share some of it here with you all.  I can't and won't share it all here, only that which I'm comfortable enough to open up about publicly.  Hell, I'd open up to just about anyone, but as you will see, I'm working on boundaries, and now, I'm setting one for myself.

My history with therapy is quite long, although I am very used to and comfortable sitting on the "other" side of the treatment room.  I even told my therapist when we started, "I'm much more comfortable sitting where you're sitting now, so this is going to be a challenge for me."  He grinned, and I was unsure of what to think about him, about the place, about what I was doing.  I was not a skeptic about the benefits of therapy.  I was skeptical about my ability to dig deep and work on myself, to be challenged, and if I even trusted this guy to facilitate this adventure.  Let me tell you, though, I have landed in a very caring, loving place with a beautiful therapeutic dynamic that is already helping.  Did I mention that all of this is happening in Hebrew?  I'm pushing all boundaries of my comfort, but you know?  It's good.  It's beautiful.  And it's making me even stronger.  I think a #wadestrong is appropriate here.

I'm working very hard on setting appropriate boundaries for myself and learning when to say no.  For so long, I have been hell-bent on pleasing everyone...except for myself.  I've done anything and everything to make others happy, and there are some in my life who deeply deserve this selflessness (here's looking at you, Yagel!), but there are a lot of others along the way who haven't deserved it, and who have abused it.  It is a powerful thing to learn how to say "no" basically for the first time.  It literally lifts weight off of your chest - you feel freer.  It's such a simple and such a smart thing that I have to ask why I didn't do it earlier.  But, if we're going there, I can also ask why did I stay in an abusive relationship for four years too long, why are my neighbors' kids assholes, and why on earth is s/he wearing that?  My point is, it's a question that won't get me vary far, as it's not something I can change.  Israelis love saying this phrase, and it's appropriate here, "What was was was was."  (And I have to teach this language?!)

With this inability to say no and to know my boundaries, I have also deeply wounded my self-worth.  Ninety percent of the time, I can tell you just how much of a badass I am.  That other ten percent that catches me off guard and finds me at my lowest, however, is painful.  Very painful.  And it's usually influenced by the actions, behavior, and words of others.  Why I have given people that power, again is a question from that list of "Best not to ask..."  The main thing is that I'm working on it.  And fuck, it's hard.  But now that I'm aware of it, I am much more in control of me, Megan, the one that matters in this equation.

All of this is greatly affecting the therapy which I am giving.  I've fallen into the most amazing place of internship, a center that works with the families of those struggling with a mental illness.  I'm blessed with a supervisor who believes in me, pushes me, and loves me enough to help me build myself as a pretty great therapist.  Hell, she's the one who told me to get my tail to therapy.  I couldn't be luckier or more grateful.

Let's add to that that I am taking a class on art therapy that has a practical component - second year Master's students of art therapy must lead the students in art therapy sessions.  And damn, am I bringing it!  Opening up, sharing, laying myself out through different art mediums.  It's as if someone just knew that I needed this experience of being the client and not the therapist, because I'm getting it from so many different sources.  And you know what?  It's invaluable.  It's invaluable to me on a personal level.  It's invaluable to me on a professional, social, cultural, religious, relationship level.  It's simply invaluable.  I'm just a thankful human being.  I've been given many truly spectacular opportunities...and I've given myself many spectacular opportunities.

Just this week, I was able to hold my head high during a conversation with someone, saying, "You know what, I am a good therapist."  And this wasn't to one of my close friends - they already know.  It was something that I would typically think sounded so snobby and arrogant.  But it didn't.  It was real.  And it was amazing to hear it escape from my mouth, full-volume, maximum confidence.  I hope that any of you who find yourself on a similar journey find the strength to continue forward with it.  Reach out.  Get help.  Share of yourself with someone in a constructive, safe way.  And reap the benefits.

All my love,


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Beautiful Spring...and Election Fever

I just walked outside, this beautiful Sunday afternoon.  If I had squinted my eyes enough, I would've sworn I was back in my front yard with the beautiful tiny, white flowers that signal spring has sprung.  But then I felt the welcomed desert wind sweep across my body, and I remembered that I'm in my adopted, crazy, fun new home.

And with that in mind, I have quite a bit to update readers on!

This post, I'll focus on the Israeli elections that happened March 17th.  It's possible that this is simply the first time that I have felt calm enough to write about them.  And with the disappointing results, it's not as easy to find news stories in English on the topic of coalition building and where this next Netanyahu government will go.  English news, is in fact, obsessed with what is going on with the Iran deal and the hustle and bustle leading up to Passover (which begins Friday evening).  I will still attempt to add some insight and explanation to what has happened on the Israeli political scene.

Just a very quick run down of how elections and the government in general work here.  The Israeli legislative branch, called the Knesset, is made up of many different parties that represent a wide spectrum of interests in Israeli society.  When elections roll around, we Israelis must vote for a party, and the head of the party who receives the most votes will most likely be appointed as Israeli's prime minister.  This is up to the Israeli president (who is Reuben Rivlin as of last summer) - s/he appoints the party head who seems most likely to be able to build a coalition of parties that will make up a majority in the Knesset (61+ seats, as there are 120 available seats in the Knesset).  That party head must then dive into negotiations with the parties whom s/he is courting, bargaining about things like the budget, which ministry positions each party will receive (like who will be Housing Minister and so on), and which committees the party can control.  This is currently where we are right now...kind of just waiting to see what sort of a deal will be reached.  It's so funny because last elections, I felt like there was SO much coverage on the elections...who was requesting what in order to be in the coalition, the DEADLINE for the building of the coalition.  This time around, I don't feel that sense of urgency or need to know.  Maybe everyone is just ready for more of the same?  Blah.

Netanyahu and his right wing Likud party won the most Knesset seats (30 total), and so he has been charged with forming the coalition.  There was a huge movement from the left these elections, trying to muster enough votes to put the left in the coalition.  And it seemed promising.  The left in Israel is (and this is very general) more focused on societal welfare, taking care of citizens with public services, and finding a solution for peace with the Palestinians (again, among other things).  The right is very much about security, strengthening Israel's borders, and is not the most friendly when it comes to peace negotiations.  Anyway, to the dismay of many, the left did not pull out a win, although the left's voice was pretty significant.

It will be interesting to see what happens, what changes.  For now, I'm not as depressed and hopeless as I was.  The night of the elections, I literally felt, "If the left doesn't get this, I've got to find another place to live."  But, I'm over that.  I'm not at all happy with the elections.  I'm not happy with Netanyahu.  His policies have caused housing and food prices to skyrocket while education and minority issues have just gone down the toilet.  He's also taken a nice, steaming dump on diplomatic relations with America, which puts me on edge a bit.  But...I'm still here.  Even though he's not who I want to be running this precious country, I will deal with it.  And I will keep fighting the good fight - for the minorities in this country, for the rights of every human being, good health care and strong education.  Better situations and rights for workers.  Equal share of the burden among all of Israel's citizens.  The list could go on.

Please, leave questions in the comments.  I'd love to discuss this more in depth and see what more I can share with you, my lovely audience!  Looking forward to hearing from you!

Happy Passover!

Monday, February 16, 2015

It Hasn't Even Been Two Months...

I really wish I could write you all a happy, up-beat post about how things are going just swimmingly.  I mean, well, they are going well.  But...they aren't.  Nothing is the same now, and it is so hard to wrap my head around that fact.  Why can't things just be the same?  But, my father's death has colored everything...mostly for the better.  I so appreciate the relationships that I have in my life.  I don't let myself get bogged down by bullshit.  Family is much more central in my life.  But then I remember WHY those things are so much more centered and balanced, and I just crumble to pieces.

It's like a lightening bolt when I remember that he is gone.  My brain plays back the highlights reel of losing him, and I'm shocked all over again.  It doesn't happen all the time, and when you're a semi-trained, aspiring clinician like myself, you start worrying if this grieving is passing over into depression.  But then you remind yourself that you've never grieved like've never lost like this...and so, you don't really know what is appropriate.  Or how to do it.  How to deal.  There really isn't a handbook on how this is supposed to be (and if there is, would I really trust it?).

Everything is splitting into this convenient dichotomy.  A little bit of bad with the good.  A little bit of good with the bad.  Time flying by/time standing still.  Which is evidenced by the title of this post.  My dear daddy hasn't even been gone two months, but it feels like an eternity has passed.  Yet, I feel that just yesterday, I was talking to him about life and listening to that big booming laughter as I told him about my antics.

I don't wish the pain that I am experiencing on even my worst enemy.  Grief...the great uniter that no one can escape.

I do have the best friends and family ever.  Even just the sweet messages along the way from people I haven't talked to in years puts a little bit of light into my world.  I am in awe of how good people can be.  And I think that is a special gift that my father has given to me.  I sure was getting hopeless.  And he sure does keep teaching me things, even though he is not physically here.  So, here's to my daddy, a force and a power bigger and better than I ever knew.  I love you so much.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My Eulogy to My Dad

For those interested in my words to honor my you go...

Two things - first please excuse me if I break down.  The last three weeks have been the hardest of my life.  And two, how 'bout them Hogs?  I believe they pulled out a win in honor my daddy!  Sorry to any Texas fans there may be in the crowd.

So, here we go.

Wade Turner - a father, a husband, a grandfather, a cousin, a son, a friend, a coach, a confidant - so many ways to describe this one man.  He was certainly a lot of things to a lot of people.  For me, he was everything.  My super hero.  We didn't say, "You're my whole world," to each other for nothing. 

I'm having the hardest time believing, understanding, and accepting that he isn't here.  I also can't bring myself to talk about him in the past tense.  He loves me and always will is a good example of that.  I also do it out of respect for the fact that a parent's love, and in this case, a father's love for his daughter, never dies.

My dad has taught me so much, and I felt it fitting to share some of his lessons with you today.  First and foremost, the man taught me true, solid work ethic.  If you work hard enough, you're going to be okay.  Daddy worked until the last day that he could.  His death is perhaps such a shock because we all saw a man who wouldn't give up or slow down for anything.  There is so much from that to respect.

He also taught me how to dream big and how to use that work ethic in order to achieve it all.  Case in point, I moved myself to Israel and have built a beautiful life that I wouldn't trade for anything.  All with Dad's support and blessings.

Perhaps to the disappointment of my mom and others, Dad also taught me how to fight and cuss with the best of them.  I'm shocked that I haven't said a curse word yet...but I guess there is still time.

I believe that Daddy's most splendid gift of all was how to love unconditionally without judgement with all of his heart.  This was something that I was lucky enough to experience everyday and the value of his that I hold most dear.

There is one more thing that Daddy has left with me that I want to share.  That is a strength so other worldly that I didn't know it was possible.  Perhaps some of you saw on Facebook this #wadestrong.  This fine gentleman (gesturing to the Methodist minister who officiated the funeral) reminded me of Daddy's strength when I was at my lowest point these past three weeks, when I thought my physical self was literally falling to pieces from the pain of losing my dad.  Carter said to me, "You've got this.  You're strong - Wade strong."  And I guess I am.

Please take with you today a piece of my father, whether it be his compassion, his strength, his laughter (oh, that laughter!), or his ability to tell dirty jokes to any and everyone.  And for Heaven's sake, share stories with me about my dad.  What an individual.  My daddy, the superhero, flying with the angels and painting the most magnificent skies I've ever seen.  Thank you all for coming to pay respect to the best man I know.