Sunday, September 14, 2014

Weep Not For the Memories

Saying goodbye is so hard.  Knowing someone you love is dying and there is nothing anyone can do about it is excruciating.  Watching your husband, a strong man, feel pain - intense, gut-wrenching pain - because his friend will soon be gone cuts to the core.

After church today, our choir visited a friend who is nearing the end of his life.  We gathered in his room at the nursing home and sang two songs for him.  He was aware that we were there and we could see him mouthing some of the words along with us.

I'm a Christian.  I believe that life begins at death.  I know my friend will receive his reward.  So why does knowing he will soon be gone hurt so badly?

Maybe it's because he's been through so much and fought for so long. Operations.  Medications.  He was always so positive even when we knew it was taking a toll on him.

Maybe it's because he's a good man.  One of the best.  Generous.  Kind.  Just the perfect mix of serious and ornery.

Or maybe it's much more personal than that.  Our friend and his wife have always been kind to me.  Welcoming.  I met them when John and I were dating.  I knew right away how important John was to them.  It was obvious.  They looked at him with such love and were genuinely interested in his life.  I'd never known that kind of love existed between unrelated people.  They've taught me the importance of a chosen family.

When I became a part of John's life, they became a part of mine.  To this day, they are one of the biggest blessings I've received.  When I feel I'm at the end of my rope, it seems like one of them is always there to tell me that children are small for a short time and whatever they're doing to make me crazy will pass.  They've been a major support source for me, offering praise and acknowledgment of my parenting.  They even lent us a crib when we realized I was having twins.

It's often said that things will never be the same without certain people.  It's an overused phrase that's often meaningless.  However, I can tell you, with 100% accuracy, that things will never be the same without our friend, Dave.  Who will heckle the presidents or the music chair at Community Choir?  Who will stop us during rehearsal to ensure that we sound like a polished group of professionals?  Who will make us laugh at every single rehearsal?

Dave makes me want to be more like him...the kind of person deserving the eternal reward.  One, whom for decades, will be remembered with fondness.  One whom will missed, so terribly missed.

When you know someone's life is limited, you become flooded with memories.  It's not often that I can say every memory I've made with someone is positive.  Dave is so good.  Gracious.  Kind-hearted. Warm.

You're unforgettable, Dave.  No matter how much time passes between your exit and mine, I Will Remember You. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

And You Spend Your Life Putting Money in His Wallet

For 120 years, Americans have celebrated the first Monday in September by taking the day off.  We enjoy the long weekend.  We host barbecues and make a family day out of it.  But, do we really know what Labor Day is or how it came to be a national holiday?  Is it something we cover in detail in our history classes?  Would we remember if it had been?

Labor Day is the result of the 19th century labor movement.  In the  midst of the Industrial Revolution, the average American man worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week.  Children as young as 5 years old were forced into horrific working conditions.  Mothers in textile sweatshops brought their toddlers to work because, even at age 2, little ones were capable of earning a living by picking up buttons and sewing scraps from the floors.

In the late 1800s, as industry replaced agriculture as the main American employment, labor unions gained strength and became more vocal.  Demands for better working conditions and pay, as well as strike threats (and follow-though,) became more common.  People grew tired of working their lives away for very little pay.  Workers were robbed of dignity and humanity.  It was a new breed of slavery.

On September 5, 1882, more than 10,000 laborers took unpaid time off to walk from City Hall to Union Square in New York City. It was the very first Labor Day parade.  When news of this parade traveled, the idea of a 'workman's holiday' caught on.  Many states passed legislation dedicating the first Monday in September to the workers.

Congress, however, did not pass legislation to recognize the holiday until 12 years later when employer practices could no longer be ignored.  On May 11, 1894, workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest the firing of union employees and wage cuts.  On June 26, 1894, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars to show support for the Pullman workers.  The boycott immobilized railroad traffic across the nation.

In order to break the strike, the feds sent troops to Chicago resulting in a wave of riots.  More than a dozen American workers were killed. In an attempt to appease and heal the American workforce, Congress passed an act declaring Labor Day an official holiday.

Many would argue that not a lot has changed.  Workers in industry and service still sweat to put money in the rich man's wallet.  However, conditions for today's worker are much, much better than those found 120 years ago.  If you're lucky enough to earn a livable wage and work a 9 to 5 job OR if you're enjoying this day off OR earning holiday pay/double time at your work, thank those hard workers whose blood, sweat and tears inspired this day.  Happy Labor Day.