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Celebration Of A Life

Coping With Grief

A Life That Counts

Two Choices

Celebration of Life

On my way home from coaching basketball yesterday, I was listening to WGN; my favorite talk radio station out of Chicago. I could tell right away that there was something wrong by the somber mood of the speaker. There had been a plane crash. Two small planes collided into each other over a northern suburb of Chicago. What made the story hit close to home was that Bob Collins, the morning show man for WGN, was the pilot of one of the planes and had been killed. (I'm sure that many readers have tuned in "Uncle Bobby" on their car radios in the Midwest.) Later that night, as I made my 40 minute drive to my third shift job, I listened as the station reminisced and paid tribute to a man who was loved by many. They told story after story, describing him as the ultimate friend, and a man who had lived life to the fullest. Genuine love and affection poured in from all over the country. The more I listened about how this man had influenced those around him, the more discouraged I became.

Why you ask?

I was discouraged because I wanted to know why we as a culture, wait until somebody has passed away before we tell them how much we love them? Why do we wait until someone's ears can't hear before we let them how much they mean to us? Why do we wait until it is too late before we recall the good qualities of a person? Why do we build someone up after they have gone into eternity? What good does it do then! We share memory after memory, as we laugh, cry, and think back about what was positive in a person's life. Yes, it does help us cope with the grief of losing someone that was special to us. And yes it does bring those who are coping, closer together. But as we lovingly remember this person, our words fall short of the ears that most needed to hear them.

Just once I would like to see a celebration of life, instead of a gathering of death. A celebration where stories are told, eyes mist over, laughter rings out; and as the speaker concludes his or her loving tribute, the person they are honoring rises from their chair and gives them the biggest bear hug! Wouldn't that be something! The special person gets to hear the stories and come to the realization that they have made a difference on this earth. And all this is done well before they leave their earthly bodies and go into eternity. And when the inevitable funeral finally comes, we can say good bye with the knowledge that they knew exactly how people felt about them while they were here on earth.

I now have a stronger resolve to tell those around me how much they mean to me. I am going to let my wife know just how loved and appreciated she is, not only by my words, but also by my actions. I am going to play Batman with my four year old more often, and in the middle of our romping, I am going to grab him, hug him tightly, and tell him how thankful I am that he is my son. I am going to sneak into my sleeping toddler's bedroom, place my lips on his chubby cheek, and thank God for the bundle of joy he has brought into my life. Each day I will make a point to tell both of my boys how much I love them, whether they are four or eighteen! From there, I am going to let family and friends know the tremendous impact they have had on my life. And last but not least, I am going to let the high school players I coach know that I look forward to each and every minute that I get to spend with them in the gym.

Do you love someone? Then tell them! Has someone been an influence in your life? Then give them a call! Has someone made a difference in your life? Then write them a letter or send them an email! Don't let another day go by without letting that person know. There is something special about a written letter that expresses feelings of love towards another. I don't know about you, but I have letters and cards from people that I have saved for years, and from time to time, I get them out and reread them. They can turn a depressing day into one where you realize just how blessed and loved you are.

Life is too short to leave kind words unsaid. The words you say, or the letter you write, might just make all the difference in the world.

Coping With Grief

Grief is a natural, emotional response to a major loss, such as the death of a loved one. It is often characterized by extreme mental anguish. Other losses, such as divorce, miscarriage or the loss of a home or job, are also sources of grief. Grief is an important and necessary reaction that eventually leads to emotional healing. However, it can be a prolonged and intensely painful experience, and can result in significant emotional distress. Social function and productivity at work or school may be impaired, although most people who are grieving continue to work and socialize.

People grieve for different periods of time. The grief reaction may last for months or years. Intense symptoms of emotional distress generally last between six and 12 months, with less intense grieving continuing for one to three years.

The grieving process may occur in several stages. Early stages may involve numbness or denial of the loss, followed by anger. Some people may then experience deep yearning followed by despair. The final stages include acceptance of the loss.

The stages of grief are not linear. Some people go through the stages quickly or even skip some stages entirely. Other people seem to linger or return to certain stages after a period of feeling better. For example, a person who has been widowed may experience anger at the loss of the spouse soon after the spouse's death. The anger may diminish but return months later, when the surviving spouse is confronted with a chore formerly performed by the deceased person (e.g., handling finances).

People grieve differently at different ages. Children may not understand the concept of death and may take more time to grieve. Preschool-aged children typically view death as temporary and may need to have it explained repeatedly. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 years generally begin to understand death better. They comprehend that the dead person is not returning and may ask questions or invent games about dying. Adolescents understand death as adults do, but may grieve differently. They often seek help within their own peer groups and may engage in more impulsive or risk-taking behaviors, such as drug or alcohol use or impulsive sexual behavior.

Different types of grief include:

Normal grief. Also called uncomplicated grief. The normal, healthy response to a major loss.

Anticipatory grief. Grief that begins before (in anticipation of) the loss, such as the initiation of divorce proceedings or when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Anniversary reactions. Grief responses that occur following reminders of the loss, such as on anniversaries, holidays or other special days throughout the year. These can last for days or weeks, and are not necessarily a setback in the grieving process.

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A Life That Counts

By Dr. John C. Maxwell

Ben Franklin once wrote, "I would rather have it said 'he lived usefully' than 'he died rich.'" More than just words, it was the way Franklin lived his life. One example of his useful nature was the invention of the Franklin stove. Instead of patenting it and keeping it to himself, Ben Franklin decided to share his invention with the world.

According to Dr. John C. Van Horne, Library Company of Philadelphia: "Franklin's philanthropy was of a collective nature. His sense of benevolence came by aiding his fellow human beings and by doing good to society. In fact, in one sense, Franklin's philanthropy, his sense of benevolence, was his religion. Doing good to mankind was, in his understanding, divine." Even his position as a printer fit this philosophical bent. He did not hoard his ideas, but shared them, and everyone benefited. He had an "abundance mentality."

Instead of seeing the world in terms of how much money he could make, Franklin saw the world in terms of how many people he could help. To Benjamin Franklin, being useful was its own reward.

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Two Choices
   
     At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: 'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?' The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.' Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play? I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps. I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.' Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!' Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled, 'Run to second,
run to second!' Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and
struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball, the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the
hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he
understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.

Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay' Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third!' As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team' That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'. Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!