God Wins…but can I ?

A Mother's Journey


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My Dad – Preparing to Honor his Life

Dad more recent
When I started this blog, the goal was to share the grief journey of losing my precious daughter Leah to cancer. I wanted to invite you, my family and friends, into the experience with me. Little did I know that the next 11 months would bring compound losses. Just two days ago, my loving, 91 year old father went to be with Leah and my mother. My fourth major loss. Joan, my mother, joined Leah in heaven in March. In November, I was laid off my seven year job at Awana-leaving behind many dear friends and a role I loved. It is truly unusual to have so many dramatic losses in one 11 month time period. I will share more about complicated grief in another post. Many of you are probably concerned about me and my family.

For today, please join me in honoring my father and the legacy he leaves.

Joseph Michael Buscaglia was born in 1923 in Louisiana to young Angeline. His family immigrated from Italy and in his young years, his parents led a strawberry farm that also had animals. When he was five years old, his parents divorced which was very unusual for that time. Some of his childhood years were spent in an orphanage. The stories shared about my dad’s childhood reflect a season of hardship, but I heard of his gratitude in spite of the hard times. Dad loved his mother Angie and was a devoted son his whole life. He has two younger brothers, many cousins and loved them all deeply.

My dad served in both World War II and the Korean war. He served in the Pacific on B29s as a navigator and radar observer in the US Air Force. Receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross award for one specific mission over Japan, he must have other recognitions that I don’t have names of at the moment. My dad was a loyal veteran. His commitment to his fellow crew members was solid. One of his responsibilities was to call the families of men who died in battle. I cannot imagine.

Dad WWII on bus

After the war, my dad lived in Chicago and worked in retail at Hudson Ross and Wieboldt Department stores. He met my mom Joan at Hudson Ross, got married after knowing her for many years, had me, moved to Morton Grove and became father again to my brother Joe and sister Kathy. As a Roman Catholic, my dad was devote. We were in church every Sunday. Dad had a strong faith and believed that prayers saved his life in WWII.

My dad retired from Wieboldt’s and moved to Crystal Lake. He got severe dementia in his 80s. When he was moved to the nursing home, the doctor gave him six months to live and he lived six years. Just like my dad, very strong willed and not succumbing to adversity.

These are his facts….

All our lives have facts….interesting facts. But each life brings so much more than where we are born, our family, what we did for a living, or sadly, where we will die. Our lives connect to a deeper story. We are part of God’s bigger plan.

So, this week as I prepare to honor my dad, I will be dwelling on the gifts of the heart that he gave me. I can tell you the primary one: love. I know without a doubt that my dad loved me. In my imperfection. In his imperfection. He loved me and that is an incredible gift any father can give his daughter. He loved in words and actions.

I look forward to sharing more about his legacy later this week. Appreciate your prayers.

Dad and me photo booth


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Kiss of Hope

Kiss of Hope
by Marie Guthrie

Another ending

is soon approaching.

Another

unwelcome guest at my doorstep.

Although expected

this ending brings a fresh finality-

the closing of a season.

Shared memories and many stories.

Love, laughter, anxiety and sorrow.

Time stops as these endings enter…

all the words said,

all the smiles given,

all the hands extended.

Now what is left are memories –

images, thoughts, feeling to hold onto

for always.

Grasping the good.

Locking the memories in the heart

airtight

so they will never be forgotten.

Never forgotten.

Trying to see the beauty in the season of winter.

Searching for the glimmer of eternity in the grey skies.

Looking for the kiss of hope

on the forehead of time.

Winter beauty


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My Dad, WWII and Standing Unbroken

Watching the first moments of the World War II movie Unbroken felt very familiar. The scenes transported me to remembering my father share story after story about World War II. My dad, Joe Buscaglia, was in the US Air Force during the war and was a second lieutenant on B29s over Japan. His roles were navigator and radar observer.

My dad always spoke of the war with an affectionate tone. Joining the Air Force right out of high school, he spoke of his crew as you and I would of close friends in a small group. I heard so many stories about WWII as I grew up that they became white noise. A few story examples: Dad told of the time that his plane crash landed in a swamp during Florida training. He had to shoot at crocodiles surrounding his plane before being rescued. And there’s the time that one of his crew members was kicking active bombs to put them in place. My dad was so mad at the guy. Or, the time that his plane was hit by friendly fire during a mission. The crew member behind him was killed.

While these are serious stories, my dad spoke of the war with an energetic and fond tone. The experience meant something deep to him. It marked him for life.
Dad WWII

Watching the movie Unbroken, I was hit with the weight of the danger my dad navigated. Because he didn’t focus on the gravity, dad didn’t share the horror and risks of his war experience. But he knew what he overcame. And his mother did. She prayed everyday for my dad when he was in the service. Following the war, he was a devoted son his whole life. Seeing the movie helped me understand my dad’s extreme loyalty and love for his mother. He believed her prayers saved his life.

Since the movie, I am completing the book Unbroken and near obsession about the Air Force over Japan during World War II. If I could, I would ask my dad many questions about WWII today.

But I can’t.

My dad is 91 and has extremely advanced dementia. He was given six months to live 6 years ago. He can no longer communicate or interact. With no long-term memory, he doesn’t remember who his family is, or who others are. He can no longer tell war stories. Seeing my dad in this state is one of my greatest griefs. I miss my funny, loyal, devoted father. As Ronald Regan’s daughter shared, seeing her father die of alzheimer’s was a “long goodbye.” I too am living through a long goodbye.

So, the Louie Zamperini story is a gift to me. It prompts me to think of my dad in a new light.

Reading about war trauma and war survivors gives me a lot to consider about what it means to be “unbroken.” I have a fresh respect for my dad, his service and all our vets service to our country. And a respect that my dad rebuilt his life after the war. He got married, had children and moved on – knowing how dark humanity can be.

Through Leah’s cancer, I often felt we were in a “war” and in a “battle.” Thank God I have never been in an actual war, but the nature of a terminal illness feels like a metaphor to an enemy attack – unwelcome, brutal, careless, cruel and complex.

Yet, trials are known to bring out the best in some people – courage, trust, perseverance, commitment and faithfulness. And I think of Louie’s and my dad’s WWII stories. These characteristics give me hope that God built the human spirit to have a choice. We can not only survive, but thrive after extreme challenge.

At the end of my life, I want to be standing with Louie and my dad in the “unbroken line.”

me and dad 2