TO MY SON GREGORY:
Thank you for coming to spend seven weeks with me and changing my life forever. You taught me the meaning of the words “trust” and “fearlessness.” I wish you could have stayed a lifetime, but I knew that was not the plan. You inspired me to be a better person. Your leaving this planet did not change my love for you – for love knows no boundaries. I hope you have felt my love for you all these years.
I picture you elbowing everyone in heaven and saying “see that one – the redhead who runs around like the energizer bunny – that’s my mom. She’s is a bit crazy, but all of us are glad she is now crazy for Jesus. She was dangerous before we could add those last two words on to she’s a bit crazy.”
I know that you are glad that your brother and sister heard about you, knew you even though they never met you and that they think about you. Thanks for watching over us all until we get to see each other again.
People can choose to believe it or not that I believe you knew everything about God’s plan for your life before you came here. They can ask you themselves when they get to meet you in heaven. As for me, I will just be hugging and kissing you.
Thank you for inspiring the words that I hope will inspire the world.
TO FATHER GEORGE:
How do I begin to thank you for helping me through the darkest time in my life? I didn’t think I could survive such a thing as burying my Gregory. Not sure I would have if it wasn’t for you. You ministered to me when I needed ministering. You were there for me in every way. I will never forget your compassion and care. Thank you for loving my son. Thank you for being his best earth pal. He was truly something special, and so are you.
Side note: I located Father George through the Internet. He is now living in Cincinatti, Ohio and is on a year’s sabbatical from the Episcopal priesthood. He had been writing for Forward Day by Day, a daily devotional published by the Episcopal church. He continues to write to this day. He reached the rank of Brigadier General as a Chaplain with the Air National Guard. His daughter, Katie, who turned 31 the same day Gregory turned 30 has a daughter. His son, George III has a son.
I called the Forward Day by Day office and asked them to give my contact information to Father George as we had lost touch with each other. His call last week was a blessing beyond words. He sounded the same. It was wonderful just to hear his voice again. We caught up. He envied the fact that I was outside in shorts and a T-shirt at 10 PM at night talking with him on the phone. He lives in cold weather.
I told him about my project and the video I was about to tape of the words spoken at Gregory’s funeral. Like a reporter asks the same question more than once, I asked him again – “you said that the words spoken at Gregory’s funeral were not written by you. Is that correct?” “You are correct. I did not write these words. They were given to me” he confirmed.
I hope someday we can see each other again. Regardless if we do or not, as was spoken at Gregory’s funeral we are forever bound together by the life and love of a very special child of God.
TO JENNIFER KELLOW:
Thank you for loving Gregory. For taking care of him with your heart and soul as well as your skill and knowledge. For loving him as I loved him. For staying in touch over the years and being everything a friend should be. Thank you for never letting your memory of him fade. You are a very special person, and you deserve the happiness you now have with your wonderful husband.
Side Note: Jennifer is living in Jersey City with her husband. She is working as a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital in Jersey City. She has her own practice teaching the Alexander Technique.
TO SUSAN DZIEMIAN:
Thank you for your friendship and care for me after Gregory’s death. I am so glad you “happened” to show up at the gas station during a particularly difficult day. We spent many years in fellowship when you joined Annunciation. We may have lost touch for a time, but the tie that binds us remains.
Side note: I recently reconnected with Sue by telephone. She still lives in Bergenfield, New Jersey and works in the Infant Neonatal unit at Englewood Hospital. Gregory’s death thirty years ago inspired her to create a Pregnancy Loss Support Group at that hospital. It was unchartered territory at the time. She continues to head this group to this day.
In 1996, Sue herself joined the group of women who have done the unthinkable – bury their child. Her third child, Laura, died at the age of four from cancer. Others got to hold her up in their thoughts and prayers as she dealt with the death of her beautiful little girl.
TO MY MOTHER:
Thank you for being such a wonderful mother. You were always there for each of us. You were a woman with such quiet fortitude. You were a great friend to your friends, and a great mother to your children – the four who lived in our home and the fifth who never got that privilege. You had great wisdom in matters of business, and I definitely inherited my selling skills from you. It is hard to believe that it has been twenty-five years since you left us. You are forever loved and missed. Thanks for your years of prayer for me.
Side note: My mother died after a courageous and horrific battle with breast cancer when Jana was only two years old. She sold Avon up until she physically do so no longer. She loved people and really loved selling Avon, painting paint-by-number pictures, crocheting and reading romance novels, but most of all she loved being a mom. And we all loved having her as mom. She was the glue that held our family together. Our family has never been the same since we lost our Super Glue.
TO MY FATHER:
Thank you for teaching me to be my own person. To walk to the beat of my own drum without regard to the thoughts and opinions of others. Thank you for teaching me to go left when ever once else was going right. Thank you for teaching me there was an answer to every problem. I miss you and just know that you are in heaven saying “that’s my girl.”
Side note: My father died three years after my mother. He was a stubborn man of great physical strength and a soft heart. He went to Atlantic City on a bus trip with the seniors group. He stopped taking his heart medicine because the doctors must have been mistaken about the fact that he had had a heart attack. He just fell over when the bus pulled away and died peacefully on the street with his newspaper under his arm four days before my parent’s wedding anniversary. He told the woman who had introduced them forty plus years before that he was going to be with Dottie for their anniversary. He just couldn’t live without her.
TO MY SISTER DIANE:
Thank you for being the best sister in the world. You have always been there for me during the highs and lows of life. You have been a terrific aunt to Jana and Jeffrey and have always gone above and beyond to show them your love and care for them. You have a heart of gold and a generous spirit. Special thanks for always letting me share my feelings about Gregory and his death with you. Although we only got to do a hospital baptism and not a church celebration, you were his Godmother just the same. We may not see eye to eye on a lot of things, but we love each other unconditionally and respect each others opinions and that, in the end, is all that truly matters.
Side note: My sister lives in Pennsylvania and has two wonderful sons and three adorable grandchildren. She runs the customer service department at a busy corrugated box company.
TO MY CHILDREN’S FATHER:
Thank you for being such a wonderful father to all three of our children. I know that Gregory’s death was a very difficult situation for you as well, but it was hard for me to even give you space to grieve because my own grief was so overwhelming.
We might not have been able to do marriage very well, but we brought three incredible children into this world.
With Jana’s wedding date fast approaching, I am glad that we are finally able to put aside our differences and spend our energy celebrating our children’s milestones as mother and father to them.
We could write a book on how not to do marriage, with a sequel on how not to do divorce. But thank God literally, for with His intervention, Jana and Jeffrey have survived being our children despite us.
TO MY CHILDREN’S GRANDFATHER:
Thank you for taking the words of Father Allen’s Homily for Gregory and having them typeset, printed and framed. Thank you for giving me this special gift of always having these words close by. Thank you for your part in having these words shared with the world. I am grateful.
TO MY DAUGHTER JANA:
Thank you for being my daughter. For being a wonderful daughter. For being your own person. For following your own path. You are so talented and beautiful. You know how to live in the present. How to enjoy each moment without rushing to the next. How to be a good friend. How to enjoy life to the fullest. It is a honor and privilege to be your mother even though so many times we feel more like sisters.
Side Note: My daughter is the hardest working 27 year old on the planet. She is the Box Office Manager for the Stadium at Loyola University. Before she begins her long day (she works until 7 PM every night), she gets up at 6:30, has a job getting five children off to school for a working mother and then goes to the gym for a workout before work. In addition to her regular hours, she works every stadium event at the school which includes many weeknights and weekends. She is going for her Masters in Business Administration at Loyola and is busy planning her August wedding.
Every minute she is not doing one of the above, she is out with her large group of friends with her fiance, who by the way is the perfect match for her! This sentiment is echoed by everyone who meets them. Thank God for a mother who prays “Father God, please send my daughter the perfect marriage partner. You know her even better than I do. You know where she is going and what she is supposed to do. Send her the man you have set aside for her. A man who will love her unconditionally.” Repeated every day until it happened. She might not yet give you the glory or thanks for this, Heavenly Father, but I do.
So Fortune 500 company, if you are looking for a dynamo to help run things, I know the perfect candidate!
When Jana was two, my mother called me to tell me that the Challenger had blown up in mid air. I didn’t believe her. It couldn’t be. That teacher was on that flight. How could this happen? I turned on the TV and watched the replay. Tears began to fall from my eyes. Jana could not speak at that time, but she wiped my tears away with her hands.
Jana, that is what you have done. Dried my tears. In researching this project, I sought out the meaning of the name Jana. It means “God is gracious.” And He is.
TO MY PRAY PARTNER VALERIE:
Thank you for being my trusted prayer partner. My “go to” when I needed Godly counsel. My wing man whenever I wasn’t sure if the plane was flying on course. My confidant. My prayer warrior partner. My co-creator of the prayer line that has done so much to help so many.
Side note: When Jeffrey was struggling at Western New England College to get through the rigorous engineering program, it was Valerie’s counsel I sought. Jeffrey and I went to Valerie’s house to pray and seek God’s guidance as to whether this was, in fact, the proper course of study and career path for Jeffrey to follow. Of course, I forgot to inform Jeffrey that that was what we were going to do when we just happened to stop at Valerie’s house for a minute.
It was God’s word spoken through Valerie that told my son that because Jeffrey sought God’s wisdom and guidance He would, in fact, give him those things like he gave them to Solomon. Jeffrey was told that everything he struggled to understand yesterday, he would understand starting that day, because he had come to Him. Jeffrey was given a word, and he hung on to the word as he ran to the finish line. God just asked that He be given the glory. “I give you all the glory Father God!” I boldly proclaim.
Valerie is the founder of “Taking the Nations for Jesus Ministry.” She speaks at conferences and holds a backpack drive each spring for the children in her native Jamaica. She will soon be completing her studies to be a fully ordained pastor. Her website is takingthenations.org.
TO MY SON JEFFREY:
Thank you for being such a terrific son. You are so easy to get along with. You roll with the punches. Everyone always loves you. I thank you for always being there for me. For being the man of the house for that period of time that you were. But most of all, I thank you for getting your Industrial Engineering degree so that I could pray about something other than you getting your engineering degree – think about something other than you getting your engineering degree.
Side note: I really believe that God was going to call the publishing houses and ask for a reprint of that portion of scripture that says “pray without ceasing.” This degree held the key to both Jeffrey’s future and my new husband and I, as Jeff’s stepfather’s name was on a whole lot of student loans. It was real simple Degree equal equals good paying for Jeffrey. No degree equals Jeffrey flipping burgers for a living and a big financial mess for us. Failure was not an option.
It took an extra two years, but most school’s engineering programs are five years anyway so six was not that far off the mark. My son will tell you that he became a man in his battle to get through. He understood how much he really wanted to become an engineer when the dream of becoming one was almost taken away.
I thank Dean Grabiec for being his advocate. For giving him a second chance. For believing in him and encouraging him. You will be forever held in our highest esteem for this intangible gift. I pray my son will pass this gift on one day to another boy struggling to become a man.
When Jeffrey was five, his kindergarten teacher advised me that she recommended that he be held back because he was the shortest boy in the class and because he didn’t talk very much. When I shared this with him he said “unlike you and Jana, I only talk when I actually have something important to say. And how smart is my teacher if she can’t figure out I am smart without me talking.” “Okay, you are going to be an engineer. That’s just who you are” I replied, and I have never waived from that belief.
Jeffrey was hired by Verizon for their new Leadership Training Program, which requires three moves to three cities in three years. We prayed over his first move. He asked for Virginia. I asked for God’s perfect Will. He was sent to Tampa, Florida. He asked for San Francisco for the second move. I asked for God’s perfect Will. He is going to Los Angeles. There is a great sense of peace for a mother when you know God has her kids’ backs, and they are headed right where they should be headed. Prayer is the only way to see that happen.
A mother praying for God’s favor finding a job – the right job is how Jeffrey got this job. You can say what you want. I know my prayers were answered. Jeffrey knows too. Does he get up on Sunday morning to go to church and thank God? No, but his mother does. But in his heart of hearts, I know he knows the truth and is grateful.
The name Jeffrey means “peace.” And that is my son, he loves peace. Likes to skip all drama.
TO PASTOR MIKE:
Thank you for your freedom to worship. Thank you for obeying God’s command to come leave your rural West Virginia home and live with the lizards. Thank you for holding tight to His Word to you that He was going to do miracles at Bethel. It is so close to being manifested. I can feel it in my bones.
Thank you for answering the original call while you were in college pursuing your dream of becoming an Electrical Engineer – of becoming rich – of having nice cars and expensive stuff – to week after week try to get people to move into their gifts and callings. Thank you for giving of yourself so completely. Serving God as a Pastor comes at a personal cost to your own life and your family’s, but you show us all how to balance the load.
Thank you for your sense of humor and desire to see all God’s people set free from what has them bound. Setting people free to move into who God already called them to be is a great mission, and we stand at your side ready to assist you in fulfilling this undertaking.
Side Note: Several months ago we were worshipping on a Wednesday evening. My eyes were closed, and I was lost in my time before the throne of God. I was totally unaware of my surroundings. I was barefoot and as far up to the altar as I could get.
Pastor Mike was having a harder time paying attention to worship because there was a snake also up close to the altar. He did not know if I would be freaked out by the snake. He knew that it would disrupt the flow of worship if he attempted to get rid of the snake during the worship time so he was waiting until worship was over. He had one eye on me and the snake close to my feet, and one eye looking up at heaven.
When worship ended and before he started with the lesson he had planned for the evening, he asked for one of the ushers to get a shovel. He said he was concerned that I would be freaked out by the snake. I just looked at him and said “if my own life hasn’t killed me or taken me out, that snake isn’t going to bother me.” He didn’t quite know what that meant. I think he will now have an explanation of that statement.
Yes, Pastor Mike you probably don’t know what to make of me. Join the club. Take a number.
TO PASTOR CHRISTI:
Thank you for all you have done for me and Steve and so many others. It is not easy being a Pastor’s wife. Thank you for the incredible gift you have for counseling. You were the other reason we were sent to Bethel. To sit under your counseling.
You have an incredible calling for helping couples learn how to do marriage God’s way. To learn and understand each other’s needs and how to best meet those needs.
Unquestionably, you have confirmed that God brought Steve and I together but in doing so He was being quite a jokester. We are still a work in progress – but isn’t every marriage. Thanks for your patience and the lessons and skills you have taught us and continue to teach us.
TO MY PRAYER PARTNERS:
Thank you to all my prayer partners – those at Bethel and those I have met through our business. Thank you to all who stand with me in worship seeking God’s Perfect Divine Will for our church and our individual lives. Thank you to all of you who have given me encouragement, prayer and advice during this project. A special thanks to Joe and Cat for their pre-production advice about the video taping. Your advice especially about working on memorizing as much of the homily as possible really helped in the end result. A tip of the hat also to the women involved in our Ladies’ Ministry Program. I treasure the sisterhood and fellowship.
Thank you for your endless patience as each Thursday you try to teach Steve to lead and me to follow as we learn how to dance the hustle, the salsa, the rumba, the foxtrot and more. Yes, it has taken us much longer than any of us could imagine to learn the lead – follow stuff and really become dancers but for an hour on Thursday we practice doing just that. It has been a pleasure journeying through life with you.
Thank you for all your help recording the video that is being posted on YouTube. Thank you for all your tips and advice. Thank you for the care and effort you put into helping me get it just right. Thank you for being sold out for the Lord. Not many people can say that they are sold out for the Lord – or even know what that means, but you live it each day.
Side note: Sarita’s owns a dance studio in East Boca called Virtuous Productions. Besides offering private and group dance lessons for just about every dance you can think of, she also offers Acting for Camera, Musical Theatre, Zumba and is holding auditions for her upcoming production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
Sarita’s website is www.virtuousproductions.com. Her phone number is (561) 750-6700.
TO ANDRE GONCALVES:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank You. Neither one of us really knew that this website would go from being a website where people could see a picture of Gregory, print out the words to the homily and read something of his life and death and the lessons he has taught me, to what it has become. But as I stepped out in faith, God started talking to me like He never has before.
As we live pretty far apart, we communicated by e-mail and spoke on the phone and talked every Wednesday and Sunday at church. Each week, I would tell him of the new chapters that were being written.
The project went from being a website to a WEBSITE – almost a book written on line so that no one would have to purchase it, and it could be read by anyone around the world who wanted to read it.
Andre is the worship leader at Bethel for the Sunday 11 am service. We didn’t really know each other before I learned that he did websites for a living from Pastor John, our church’s administrative pastor, when I met with him back in January to discuss this project. Having someone who knew the heart of God and loved Him so completely and knew how to truly worship was so critical to me. I wanted anointed hands to work on this scared project, and they have.
I told Andre that I was a pain at our first meeting. I don’t think he really understood what I understood – I was a pain. I feel that every tear I have cried has lead up to creating this website. I feel that every battle I have fought has lead up to creating this website. I feel that God knew I would give it 110% of my effort and that is what I have done.. Agonized over every word. Agonized over ever photo and picture. Switched sections. Added – deleted. Added. Added. Added. Added. Added. Added. Added.
I hope the love I put into this project shows through. I hope the love I put into every word shows through. I hope the desire I had to reflect God’s heart and words to us all, shows through.
Andre, you are a key component in the creation of this website project. A million thank yous for all your effort and hard work. For understanding the time frame we have been given and for understanding who we were working for. I pray that God will bless you immensely for all you have done.
Andre’s business is called Andre G Website Design. His phone number is (561) 357-4707. His website address is www.andregwebdesign.com
TO MY HUSBAND STEVE:
You are my husband, life partner, business partner, tennis partner, dance partner, dinner companion, theatre companion, lover and my best friend.
We have had many ups and downs in our almost seven years of marriage. They say the first seven are the hardest – I hope so. I wouldn’t mind some sledding downhill. But through it all, I know that you love me, and I love you.
You rescued me when I needed rescuing. We both know that I would be living in a cardboard box – probably a very neatly organized cardboard box – if you had not shown up just when you did.
The Odd Couple was one of my favorite shows on television, little did I know was that I was going to star in a remake of sorts.
I know that God has a great purpose and plan for our lives as it was prophesied over our us at Lakeside Christian church four years ago when the South African visiting pastor stopped the church service to give you a word that God had put His hand on you a long time ago and He had not taken it off, and that we would have a ministry that told people the truth in language they could understand.
There are many good things that I love about you. You are a gifted artist. We still need to finish our book “The Adventures of Dougie and Red”, but I know now that it is supposed to be a Christian children’s book and not a secular one. You are a terrific baseball player with your long legs that stretch to first base and the power to belt the ball out of the park.
But what I love about you most is that you love Jesus. You may complain about other things that I do that bug you, but when it comes to worship, you will just say to me “go up front and knock yourself out.” You never try to tame my excitement for all things heavenly, and never try to inhibit my desire to see the next great move of God happen right here – right now.
We might not be completely where we want to be in our relationship – in fact, without doubt, we are not where we want to be in our relationship, but we are getting closer each day.
We both know the truth that when we take the five minutes each day to pray as a couple, we do one hundred percent better than when we run out the door and don’t take the time to ask God to help us live in peace, unity and single-mindness.
It was very clever of God to have us run this business together and to have all our finances so intermingled that we could not operate without each other. He knew that that was what was going to keep us together in those times when we would have chosen not to be kept together. I hope He will not tarry with His plan to get us both where we need to be as far as truly understanding and fulfilling each other’s needs.
TO MY HEAVENLY FATHER:
Thank you for chasing after me when I did not want to be caught. Thank you for loving me when I hated you. Thank you for caring about me when I did not believe you did. Thank you for showing me who I was meant to be when I felt so far away from being that person. Thank you for wanting to be in fellowship with me when I thought you wanted nothing to do with me. Thank you for thinking I was the best thing since sliced bread when I felt more like burned toast. Thank you for having endless patience when I could not comprehend that your timing had specific and important reasons. That you for the time in the pit although I never thought I would utter those words.
Thank you for creating the beach – our favorite place together. When I see so many people enjoying the sunny beaches of South Florida, I often think Father God of how many people actually take the time to thank you that they have a beach to sunbathe on, that they have an ocean to swim in and sunset to enjoy. Probably, not that many. You know that my heart grieves for the lack of appreciation You are shown.
Thank you for giving us so many types of trees and flowers when You could have given us only one type of tree and flower. Thank you for giving us so many types of animals when you could of given us only one type of animal. Thank you for giving us so many types of fish when you could have given us only one type of fish. Thank you for creating mountains and valleys, snow and ice, oceans and lakes and rivers, forests and desserts. For giving us such a beautiful earth. For wanting us to all live in eternity with you.
TO THE HOLY SPIRIT:
Thank you for your role in giving me power and wisdom. Thank you for showing me the way to go. Thank you for moving in my heart. Thank you for moving in my life. Thank you for your daily help. Thank you for your guidance.
Side Note: For everyone who can’t grasp the role of the Holy Spirit, I will give you an example. Just today as I was typing this section, Steve couldn’t find a check for $2,100.00 that had just come in the mail today. It was here one minute and then gone the next. He looked everywhere. He could not find what he did with it. I asked the Holy Spirit where the check was. Really asked. We really needed that check to be deposited today. I was told where to look. I would not have looked for it where it was found. Thank you Holy Spirit!
TO MY LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST:
Thank you for being the spotless Lamb of God. Thank you for willingly dying a horrible death so that I could be forgiven of my sins and live in heaven for all eternity with my son and all those who have called upon your name.
Thank you for showing me the Father through your words and deeds. Thank you for helping me to have a perfect example. Thank you for your love and comfort. Thank you for the power to defeat the enemy and all his cohorts. That you for giving me the power to defeat the things that used to defeat me!
Side Note: If you asked me to describe my relationship with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, this is the only earthly analogy I could come up with that could begin to paint the picture of that relationship.
Imagine that you are talking with a war veteran. An old man who saw many terrible battles in his time overseas at war. As he says the words to you, he tries to give you an idea of what this time was like. How afraid he was. How horrible the situation was. You try to comprehend. You look into his eyes, and you can tell that he is sitting in the room with you but his mind is back there at that terrible place.
It has been a very long time. A very, very long time. He has trouble remembering what he ate for lunch or if he took his pill at breakfast, but these memories do not go away. These memories are seared into his brain.
He can still hear the sounds of guns and men screaming blood curdling screams. He can taste the blood that dripped from his many wounds. He can feel his fear as if it were a person laying next to him in the fox hole.
A bullet was fired. It was coming for him. It was going to take him out. End his life. He would never see his family again. He was a goner. But then out of nowhere the soldier next to him pushed him out of the way and took the bullet with his name on it. He was alive. He would see his family again. He would live and not die.
He finds out later that this is the same guy who would often try to start a convesation with him, but who he wouldn’t be bothered giving the time of day to This was the man that he often dismissed when he tried to tell him about his hometown or his life.
There is a gratefulness deep in the pit of his belly for this man. He knows that every breath he gets a chance to breathe the rest of his life is because of that man’s unselfish act. He is thankful beyond words – beyond what he can say or describe.
Jesus took that bullet for me. The one with my name on it. I givehim my heart. I give him my praise.
He took the bullet with your name on it too.