What is “Holy Thursday?”

A non-Christian friend asked me if I could explain exactly what Holy Thursday is and why it is celebrated. For anyone else who might not know and is interested, Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, commemorates the beginning of the three pillars of the Catholic Church: The Sacrament of Holy Communion, the creation of the Priesthood, and last but not least, the creation of the Mass, which you may have friends who you know to usually attend on Sundays.

At the last supper, which was a Passover Seder, Jesus blessed the bread and the wine and instructed his disciple to eat and drink of them, that they were His body and blood, to be sacrificed for the salvation of man. When Jesus told them to, “Do this in memory of me,” he was creating the mass and blessing them as the first priests. It was at this supper that Jesus commanded his apostles to, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Last supper

Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”

Holy Thursday also commemorates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. John tells us in his Gospel, that Jesus did this as a way of teaching them to be servants. They are then instructed to “love and to serve.”

Holy Tghrusday 1

Jesus washing the feet of his Disciples

It was on this night that Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and turned over to the chief priests and the elders, leading to his passion and crucifixion on Good Friday. It was these events that led to the Resurrection of the Christ on Easter Sunday, which is the very basis of Christianity.

Judas and the Last Supper

Judas leaving the Last Supper to Betray Christ

Usually on Holy Thursday, there is not any other Mass celebrated until this, “Mass of the Lord’s Supper,” which takes place after sundown.

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed Holy Thursday’

Until next time,
Don

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Coming Soon, “Unforgettable – Trudy’s Story”

After literally years and years of working on my novel (based upon my mother’s life) I can finally say that the last of the chapters should be completed in about two months’ time. Then it could go into final editing before getting ready for release.

This book has been a true labor of love and the writing of it has, at many times, been quite cathartic for me. I must admit that a lot of the procrastination I experienced during the writing has been based more upon psychological reasons, rather than “writer’s block.” Something inside me was not ready to give up the total story for fear of having to once again “let go” of my mom. This book will be the last thing I will ever get to do “for her.” It is however very important for me to finish this manuscript on her behalf.

I realize that I will in fact never let go of my wonderful (and much missed) mother, as she will live on forever in my heart and in all the hearts of those whom she touched throughout her lifetime. I know that she would be very proud of my work and I truly believe that from above; she has guided me through the project.

I don’t know exactly how long the editing part of the book will take, but I do know that I am closer than ever before and that each passing day brings me closer to a release date.

I thank you all for your patience and for your words of encouragement. Having you in my corner has touched my heart and I cannot thank you enough. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few names here. These special three women, only one of whom actually new my mother, were privy to reading Unforgettable as a work in progress. Their enthusiasm for the story to continue and for more chapters to arrive into their in box was an incredible inspiration to me. So I thank you Jeanne Steinberg, Chire Harvey, Cookie Vetere . Your encouragement, input, and most of all your interest to follow the story, kept the fire burning inside me. I would also like to give a special thank you to my cousin Susan Tunnell, who each day read a chapter or two of the book to her mother, Eunice, my mom’s only sister, while visiting her in the nursing home where she lived out her final days. My only regret is that I could not have completed the story while my dear Aunt Eunice was still alive. However I do know that she is up there with my mom rooting me on.

So once again, I ask you to be patient with me for just a little bit longer. In the meantime I have posted a small photo slide show to my YouTube channel so those who plan to read the book can get a glimpse of the “real” Trudy.

Thank you all.

Until next time

Don

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Janice, A New Beginning…

By the time I was six and a half years old, there had been enough tragedy and change in my life than most people experience into adulthood. I can vividly recall holding tightly to my sister’s hand as we stood in horror and disbelief watching our father die in our mother’s arms, just days before Christmas. Then on that very Christmas day, while waiting for our grandfather to come and visit us, we received a phone call informing us that he too had died. Grandpa had suffered a fatal heart attack in route to our home!

As time went by, my mother became very close with a man who had made it his mission to take care of our needs after my father’s death, and eventually, that man became our new dad. Before we even had time to adjust to life with a new father, I was told that there was a baby to come. We then moved away from the only home I had ever known and within months, my big brother also passed away. What’s more, all this took place in only two short years. At six years old, that was one third of my life!

I remember being somewhat excited about the prospect of a new baby, but to tell you the truth, at that young age, it didn’t quite seem real until the day arrived when my mother was coming home from the hospital with baby Janice. We rode in the car to pick up mom and the baby. Maureen and I sat in the back seat, while mom held her new baby ever so close to her from the front passenger seat and dad of course, did the driving.

Finally we were in our home and I was permitted to touch baby Janice on her rosy cheek. Her skin was soft and she had a beautiful fragrance that I had never smelled before. I was told that it was what new babies smelled like. Then I was seated in a chair and Janice was gently placed onto my lap for me to hold. That moment right there, holding this precious and fragile new member of our family, changed my life forever.

Although saddened with grief, something inside of me, as I held onto baby Janice, made me feel hope. I felt unexplained joy and caring fill my heart because of her. For the first time since my father died, I felt like I belonged. I knew that somehow, everything was going to be alright.

I remember wondering, is this the family that God had intended for me now? Then I looked back down at Janice’s happy and rosy face, and knew the answer.

easter-1966-donald-janice

Janice and yours truly at 2 and 8 years old respectively

Of course our family continued to grow, blessing me with two more sisters, whom I love dearly, but I will forever view Janice as God’s way of healing our family and as the beginning of a new and happy life to come.

Today we celebrate my sister Janice’s birthday. She is now a grown woman, happily married with two grown children of her own. Janice is a teacher of fourth grade students, and her special brand of love, kindness, and humor makes her a favorite and memorable teacher who truly makes a difference in her students’ lives.

I couldn’t be more proud of the woman Janice has become and of all her accomplishment, but I must admit; to me, she will forever be the beautiful baby whose arrival was the beginning of all things good for our family.

So Happy Birthday Janice, I hope your day, and the year (and years) ahead, are as special and wonderful as you are. I love ya kiddo!

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Janice & Me Today

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Sukiyaki????

Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up with a song in your head that you just can’t shake? This morning, for some strange reason, I woke up humming a tune I had not heard in a dog’s age. It was an oldie from 1963 that my sister Maureen and I use to like quite a bit as children. The song is “Sukiyaki,” by Kyu Sakamoto and it was a rather big hit in its time, reaching the number one position on Billboard’s Top 100’s in June of that year. Sakamoto was the first Asian to ever to go to number one on the American charts. His song went on to sell over 13 million copies!

It had baffled me all my life as to why the recording was named Sukiyaki. For all the times that I had listened to the song over the years, decades in fact, I had never heard the word Sukiyaki in the lyrics. Surly the song must be a catchy tune about food or at least have something to do with a meal, so after fifty-three years, I decided to investigate.

As it turns out, the song is about a man fighting back the tears of a broken heart, from a lost love. It’s actually a very tender love song, but why the name Sukiyaki? Well, it really isn’t titled Sukiyaki. The true title is, “Ue o Muite Arukou,” which translates to, “I look Up As I Walk.” Sukiyaki was simply a familiar word that Americans could easily pronounce. Why they didn’t simply use the English translation instead of Sukiaki is baffling, but that’s a whole other story.

The tender ballad is about a man who looks up to stop his tears from falling because, as he says in the song, “I am all alone tonight.”

Sadly, Kyu Sakamoto died tragically at the young age of 44 in the deadly 1985 crash of Japan Airlines flight 123. Thankfully he will be forever immortalized by his haunting melody. I have located it on YouTube complete with lyrics that have been translated, so you too can now hear and feel the song as it was truly meant to be felt.

Until next time (or should I say, Syanara?)

Don

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The Heroes Amongst Us

The dictionary defines a “hero” as follows:

he·ro

/ˈhirō/

noun

  • A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities:

In the wake of the recent fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, I was reminded by my very modest cousin, Joe Rabito – an actual 9/11 hero – that he has heroes of his own. This got me thinking, one doesn’t necessarily have to run into a burning building to save someone to be a hero. Certainly a person, who selflessly puts themselves at risk for the sole purpose of saving another, is undeniably a hero; but there are other acts of selflessness that people perform daily, making them unsung heroes to those they help, and I am sure, in the eyes of God.

As I pondered the thought, I realized that I didn’t have to look any further than my own back yard to find some of my biggest heroes. I wish everyone in the world could have had an opportunity to have known my mother. What can I say about a woman who literally spent half of her life suffering from one horrible disease after another, with hardly ever a complaint? For the sake of her family, she fought off breast cancer, cervical cancer, heart attacks, triple bypass surgery, total renal failure, steroid poisoning… well the list goes on and on, but I’m sure you get my point.

My mom did all this, with grace, dignity, a positive outlook, and of course her beautiful smile. She would somehow put her pain behind her, managing to hide it from most, while remaining funny, interesting, intriguing, witty, smart, kind, caring, gentle, and loving. She lived a life that inspired me to be a better person. Even in death, I can feel her guiding me every day. It is because of her, that I too can put my woes behind me and smile as if nothing is wrong. She taught me that behind every face was a story. There is no one exempt from pain and suffering. I learned that there is no such thing as an old person; every senior is a life lived, filled with a youth of their own, battles they’ve conquered, loves they’ve had, families they’ve raised, and wisdom that we will never be privy to, if we don’t take the time to get to know these people.

Mom taught me to be myself, no matter how different I may be, that I will never please everyone. I learned that your friends are not really those who “like you,” your friends should “love you,” and that we should love them back, just as passionately.

Through her lessons I have been rewarded with a partner who is truly my soul mate, dear and true friends, and a peace, happiness and contentment in my life as it is. Everyone I love and everything I have, I consider a blessing.

Shortly after she was diagnosed with a rear disease, my mother fell into a coma. We sat at her bedside waiting for the inevitable. Then just before she drew her final breath, mom suddenly awakened from the coma to utter the words “I love you” as she gently slipped away from this world. My mom was indeed one-of-a-kind and without dispute, SHE WAS A HERO.

Then there is my Father. Still a bachelor at age thirty-one, my dad was holding out for “just the right woman.” Realizing that life was too precious to waste, he was determined not to settle on just any woman, but to hold out for his version of “Miss Right.”  He had a clear image in his mind of the type of woman he wanted to spend his life with. It was definitely not the stereotypical Brooklyn born, Italian/American, hard edged women he had grown up with. He was focused on finding a lady who, in his own words, “was much more refined, in keeping with those, playing wives and mothers on screen in the movies and television.”

On paper at least, my mother, fit the bill, and then some. There were however a few snafus that had probably never even entered the equation when dad was planning for his perfect wife. You see, my mother was not only a widow, but she was seven years his senior… with three children!

Clearly it would be an awful lot for any man to take on, let alone a young bachelor. Still, my father went with his intuition, feeling that my mom was indeed the woman he had waited for, he married her and not only became our father, he became our “dad.”

He has broken his back over the years to provide us with the best that he possibly could, putting our needs above his at all times. He has taught me to be a man who is kind, loving, caring, and to have respect for the world that God created for us and respect for myself. He has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for me from day one. He has always been there in my corner, and he remains so today, still believing in me more than I could in myself. HE IS A HERO

I happened to be blessed with not only two, but three parents. My biological father was a very hard working man who did all he could to provide for his wife and three children. After suffering a heart attack at age thirty-nine, he was told that it left him with a blood clot. Back in 1961, before by-pass and blood thinners, it was pretty much a death sentence. He was told by his doctors that when the clot reached his heart, which would happen in a couple of months at best, he would have another heart attack, very massive, and die.

I can’t imagine what it was like for a young man, husband, and father to receive such news. I don’t know for sure how I would handle it, but my father decided to keep it a secret and work on a plan that would take care of his family.

Caring for his family was nothing new to him, as he had been taking care of family since he was a young boy in the fourth grade of grammar school! That was during the Great Depression and as a child; he would sneak out a window to run away from home. He would then hop freight trains to get to the Midwest, where he would find farm work. Once he amassed what he felt was, a sufficient amount of money, he would return home to give it to his parents, helping them with the expenses’ it took to raise their nine children. Each time he returned, he would promise his crying mother that he would never do it again, but of course he did. It was the kind of boy he was, and the kind of man he became. So when he learned that he was going to die, he knew he couldn’t leave this world without knowing that his beautiful wife and his three children would be okay without him.

Ironically, my biological father (Mario) and my dad (John) were friends. John had a huge crush on my mother and my father knew it. Although John thought that he was being very cool about it, everyone who knew them was well aware of his infatuation with my mom. She was the standard that he had set for his own wife.

One day when John came to visit my father in the hospital, my father told John (and swore him to secrecy) exactly what his grim diagnosis was. Of course John was stunned, but he was sent into a tailspin when my father gave him the green light to become my mother’s husband! My father knew that a man with John’s integrity and exceptional morals would take good care of his wife and his children.

He may not have had a lot of schooling, but my father was a wise man nonetheless. As the weeks passed, he would ask John to drive him to his doctors’ visits. Once there, he would always be very insistent that my mother and John go to the diner down the street to wait, while he saw the doctor alone. This not only kept my mother in the dark, it also gave her and John an opportunity to get to know one another better.

Of course everyone knows that John did indeed marry my mom and become my dad, but what an incredible biological father I had who, during his final days, kept focused on his family’s future. HE WAS A HERO.

I find heroes everywhere I look around. The nuns in my church, who have become my friends, started the only organization in Palm Beach County to not only feed the homeless, but also provide them with a shower and a place to wash their clothing, a simple human dignity we take for granted. These nuns; THEY ARE HEROES.

My sister Janice; who sat outside in the rain for hours, just to watch one of her students play in his little league baseball game, simply because she promised him that she would do so. I remember her telling me that the smile on the boy’s face made it all worthwhile. SHE IS A HERO

The more I began to think about my family and friends, the more I began to see everyday people, who by their deeds, things done without any thought of self-gain, are heroes in their own right. I know without a doubt that if you take a look at your own family and friends, you’ll find yourself surrounded by heroes as well. You are most likely a hero to them.

Every day there are men and women, boys and girls, who are preforming selfless acts of kindness for their family, friends, strangers, and even animals. In a world where the news media constantly bombards us with stories of evil doings, I am happy to know that one quick appraisal of the people in my life, has me surrounded by true and honest heroes. I know that you are too.

heros-2

Until next time,

Don

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My Forever Friend

I first met Denise over thirty years ago. It was Thanksgiving Day 1985. Her son Dave, my now brother-in-law, had become engaged to my sister Janice and it was arranged that the Pakula family would come to our house so we could all meet and celebrate the holiday together.

Denise asked my mother if there was anything she could do or bring. “Just yourselves and a hearty appetite,” my mom answered. Then Denise, still a stranger to us, replied in her own inimitable way, “ Okay, then I’ll just bring my green goop.”. Now you see, my mother never, ever, ate any food from another person’s house. The only two exceptions were her own sister and her mother. It was just my mom’s thing. Can you imagine her despair when she heard Denise utter the words, “Green Goop?” For two weeks that’s all I heard, “what do I do if she asks me to try the ‘goop,’ suppose she insists?”

Finally Thanksgiving Day arrived and so did the Pakula clan, and as it turned out, green goop was simply Denise’s term for green bean casserole. If only dear sweet Denise knew the stress that she had put my mom through she would have… well who am I kidding? We all know she would have handled it the exact same way, laughing until she cried! That was Denise, forever laughing, always looking for the humor in just about everything. Of course we all had a wonderful time and knew that very day, that we would always be lifelong friends.

The Mothers-in-law

The Mothers-In-Law

Then the next time I saw Denise was because I had promised to go shopping with Dave for a new wardrobe. Back then, Dave was the ever-so-casual fellow in sweat pants, tee shirts, and baseball caps (Yankees of course) and I was to be his introductory lesson into the art of men’s fashion. I guess you can say that I was his “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” long before the show was ever a concept.

Of course it was fun bonding with Dave during the excursion, but the real fun came when we returned home, where he was living with his parents. I was met by Denise, who welcomed me as she did everyone, with open arms and an opened heart. I remember sitting next to her on the living room sofa, as a very proud Dave not only showed his mom the new clothes, but as per her wishes, gave Denise and I a full fashion show, trying on every single garment. He walked through that living room as though he were a short, chubby, Jewish version of Fabio. Denise would squeeze my hand with pride as Dave beguiled her with his newfound fashion knowledge with such remarks as, “I would never have picked out a paisley tie on my own, but do you see how well this one brings the shirt together with the sport coat?” All the while, Denise doing her famous “Betty Rubble on steroids giggle.”

When the show was completed, Denise gave me the warmest hug and through her trademark laughter, she thanked me for turning her son into a full-fledged grown-up in one afternoon. She laughed as she said, “David became more of a man today than he did at his Bar Mitzvah!” I think I made some sort of wisecrack like, “and they both cost about the same amount, only this time it was his own dime!” I could still hear her laughing from all the way out in the driveway as I left.

During the next year or so, I provided floral décor when her daughter Rose came home to Levittown to announce that she was getting married… THAT very weekend! Sometime later, Jackie was graduating from high school and was not going to her senior prom. I asked if she would attend if I were to escort her – and to make a long story short, she and I BOTH attended our first senior prom. As you would expect, Jackie’s friends and myself gathered at the Pakula house to await the limo which would bring us to the gala. Denise would not have it any other way, and I could see by the kids gathered there, that this happy home was a natural choice for them.

As the years ticked by, through thick and thin, Denise and I became stronger and more dedicated friends. Holidays, birthdays, and family milestones alike, our two families melded together beautifully. I would always enjoy sitting with Denise at the various family functions, sharing never ending jokes and belly laughs with her. No one could be sad with Denise around.

When they received the news, while vacationing with Matt & Courtney in Colorado, that my mom was going to pass away at any moment; Denise and Ben cut short their trip, turned around and DROVE STRAIGHT THROUGH THE COUNTRY to be with us here in Florida. After my mom’s funeral, Denise and Ben came by to see me. Denise pulled me aside and gave me a little card with a verse about a never ending friendship. Please indulge me, as I share it to you:

“Sometimes in life, you find a special friend. Someone who changes your life by being a part of it; someone who makes you laugh until you can’t stop; someone who makes you believe that there really is good in the world. This is FOREVER FRIENDSHIP, and if you find such a friend, you feel happy and complete. You have a forever friend, for life.”

It was a small gesture with a huge meaning. Realizing that I had lost the only truly unconditional love a person knows, she wanted to make it clear to me that she would always be there. Although given to me, the verse ironically sums Denise up to a tee. I kept the card in my wallet since the day she gave it to me, well over a decade ago. It remains there today, and most likely will, until the day that God calls me home. It will stay there not only because it’s a special reminder of an extraordinary woman, but because there was one error in the verse. A FOREVER FRIEND is not only yours for life, when that friend is Denise, that friend is literally FOREVER.

Denis & Don

Yours truly with Denise

I am always going to celebrate Denise as the happy, kind, loving person that she was in life and who I know, is in spirit as well. I will rejoice in her reunion with her beloved daughter, Rose, her parents, and her grandson Nicholas, who will forever be doted upon by BOTH of his grandmothers. I will thank God that I – out of billions upon billions of people in this world, was blessed to be one of the chosen to have time with Denise. I will be forever grateful and I will be happy in knowing that on Earth or in Heaven, I have a very, very special, FOREVER FRIEND.
Until next time,
Don

 

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National Moon Day

I would like to take a moment to wish everyone a very happy “National Moon Day!” Now before you drop trou and bend over; today is a celebration of the July 20, 1969 manned landing of the American Lunar Module aka; “the Eagle” onto the surface of the moon.

I don’t know about you, but for sure I can remember just where I was when I heard those magic words spoken by the Apollo 11 Commander, Neil Armstrong, “The Eagle Has Landed!” I was 13 years old and even then I could remember thanking God for having this happen in my lifetime.

Later that evening, every American, if not everyone in the world with a television, sat glued to their seat as we watch Neil Armstrong take the first steps onto the moon. The room filled with shouts of joy as Armstrong announced, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”

It’s hard to believe that it was forty-eight years ago today. Reminiscing about that awesome moment still brings tears to this writer’s eyes. It stands as a reminder that no dream is too big to aim for.

Happy National Moon Day to everyone. Here’s hoping all your dreams come true.

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Until next time,
Don

Me B&W

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