August 24, 2018
Lesson Learned: I first became acquainted with the Swedish term döstädning this summer when friends from Sweden mentioned it to me. Literally translated, it means death cleaning. This term generated quite a lively conversation when my friends described what the term meant. I quickly realized that the act of death cleaning was actually quite similar to our concept of downsizing.
Two days after our conversation about death cleaning, I learned, to my surprise and amazement, that Margareta Magnusson documented her own history with döstädning by writing a book entitled “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.” Thanks to another friend, who obtained a copy of the book while on vacation, I now have my own copy. Regardless of what you call the concept, the thoughtful removal of stuff that one doesn’t like, want or need yields many positive dividends. Margareta’s book, which is now a New York Times Bestseller, outlines her process, which is almost identical of the one Senior Transition Services uses.
July 3, 2018
Lesson Learned: On Memorial Day, I attended a ceremony commemorating the military personnel who had fallen in service to our country at the William Boulton Dixon American Legion Post 10 in Fort Washington, PA. It was a patriotic, yet solemn observance attended by many who had proudly served their country during wartime. Keith T., a 97-year-old World War II veteran and post commander in 1951, was present and received special commendation. After the program, I offered him my personal thanks for his service to our country. He beamed and without skipping a beat replied with a strong and steady voice, “thanking me is the best thing anyone can say to me!”
At that moment, I recalled the tears that appeared in my father’s eyes many years ago when a stranger approached him on the Ocean City boardwalk, shook his hand and thanked him for his military service. He was stunned. How did this man even know that he had served, my father asked. My father had forgotten that he was wearing his favorite Korean War Veteran baseball hat. He was so touched by the recognition and the appreciation expressed by someone he didn’t know that he glowed for hours.
This random act of kindness taught me a valuable life lesson and one which I try to give back to every veteran I meet. It’s easy and doesn’t cost anything, but to the recipient, it’s priceless!
November 27, 2017
Lesson Learned: Shirley’s second Pearl of Wisdom “Trust but Verify” resonated with me as much as her “you have to help other people” blog post #64. Shirley is a cautious and highly disciplined person, who in her professional career worked as an operating room nurse. She told me how important it was to her and the rest of the medical team to know that the needed surgical instruments and supplies had been properly replaced before each surgery. And while she had confidence in the ability of her team to accurately replenish the items, she always verified before the next surgery took place. In the OR, Shirley couldn’t afford to take any chances. She needed to verify.
“You gotta believe” and “Keep the faith” are popular imperatives used in everyday speech. It’s a good thing to trust. “Trust your instincts” is an equally valid command. In many cases the instincts are correct and valid. But before making important decisions, it can’t hurt to double check before continuing. That confirmation could make a huge difference in the outcome. It did for Shirley.
September 26, 2017
Lesson Learned: In the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes that recently caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean, Texas, Louisiana and Florida, Shirley’s sentiment may seem so very obvious or matter-of-fact, given the tremendous need people in those areas are experiencing.
Shirley actually made this comment to me weeks before the hurricane season became the topic of concern of weather forecasters and residents alike. When tragedy strikes, people typically respond quickly and generously by donating time and money to assist those in need. It’s simply the right thing to do.
But for Shirley, helping others is a daily creed; a mantra she lives by. Help can come in many forms. She explained how powerful a genuine smile, gentle touch or kind word of encouragement can be for someone who is depressed, lonely or ill. Sometimes it’s the little things that help the most, she said with a confident nod. For Shirley, it’s not the size of the gift that matters. It’s all about making a positive difference in the lives of others that counts.
May 29, 2017
During the recent Memorial Day weekend, I had the chance to catch up on some recreational reading. I finally completed a book of short stories that had been compiled by a diverse group of people who shared personal tales from their childhood and youth with a popular German radio program decades ago. The narratives of these specific life experiences had played out in the early years of the 1900s and included references to the historical, political and social backdrop of the times. These were particularly fascinating as they gave a deeper perspective into the lives of the authors during those formative years.
I noted, with special interest, the life lessons that inspired three female contributors, who expressed being:
• thankful for being raised without hatred and prejudice (Lotte
• helpful to others in need (Elsbeth Kasser 1910*)
• taught to be responsible for what you say or do and to carry that in your heart. (Gertraud Uhl 1895*)
While the sentiments above guided these women who were born over a century ago, they still remain relevant for us today. We would be wise to learn from them and carry these values in our hearts also.
* = the contributor’s year of birth
April 30, 2017
After attending worship this morning, I stopped at our favorite Italian market to purchase some groceries for dinner. While waiting to pay for those items, I noticed that the older gentleman ahead of me at the cashier was proudly wearing a World War II Veteran hat. I always like to acknowledge a veteran’s service to our country, so I offered him my hand and thanks. He beamed and volunteered that he was 94 years old. I was impressed and inquired to what he attributed his longevity. A daily glass of wine perhaps? “No”, he replied with a smile. “I help people when I can.”
March 30, 2017
Lesson Learned: Elke “Strong”. This motto or rallying cry was coined by Elke M’s family to give them strength as they mourned her recent death.
Elke was known and loved by many because of her persistence, determination and unwavering faith. Her ever present smile and the twinkle in her eyes, which easily drew people to her, were her hallmark.
Her early years in war torn Germany, followed by immigration to the United States with two young daughters and eventually raising five children, made her strong and independent. Her door was always open to strangers, whom she would gladly feed. She was generous and kind. She spoke good old fashioned common sense and the simple truth, even when it wasn’t necessarily appreciated. (Okay, so my kitchen window is dirty…)
In later years, she bore the death of her husband and youngest son with dignity and grace. She took life as it came without complaints or drama, even as her health began to fail and she spent many a night in the ER after having fallen – again.
Unlike August II (1670 – 1733) – Elector of Saxony, Imperial Vicar, King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Lithuania, who earned the nickname, “the Strong”, because of his physical strength, Elke was a role model for her emotional strength and discipline. She may have been a simple, hardworking gentlewoman, but her legacy can easily live up to being named Elke “the Strong”.