Happy Birthday Ryan!

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… ~Henry David Thoreau

Happy 38th Birthday Ryan!

Believe it or not, Ryan would’ve been 38-years old today!  He just turned 24 when he pertinently went to his grand woods in the sky.

Ryan with his boss 1996 Aunt Heather Piper

Ryan joking with his old boss at Ryan’s graduation party. Like me, Dad & Kyle, Ryan carried the sarcasm gene & the sweet tooth. 1996

A fun fact, something I’ve noticed more recently, I use Ryan’s birthday as our birth date for Thrill of the Hunt.  Really?  Yes, not the year, but I always claim September 24, 2012 as the beginning of Thrill of the Hunt.  To be honest, it was September of 2012 that we sold our very first private scavenger hunt.  I could probably find out the true date, but in all reality which date do I credit?  When we received our first proposal, the approval for the quote, or when the scavenger hunt took place?  We also held our very first public scavenger hunt on September 22nd of that year.  In fact, I believe our corporate paperwork went through in 2011, not that we did anything with the company until later.  September became our breakout month.  So yes, Ryan and Thrill of the Hunt share the same date of birth.  It’s my way of including Ryan in our adventures.

To be honest, I got the idea from another event.  This might be silly, but the town of Forks, Washington, holds September 13th as Stephenie Meyer day, actually, they call it “Forever twilight in Forks.”  You know the lady who brought Twilight to the masses and brought a little unknown town to the world.  In the book, September 13th is Bella’s, the main character’s, birthday.  In honor of Stephenie Meyer, the town holds this day, and the days surrounding it, as a time of celebration and to pay homage for everything the author did to their dying town.  I liked that idea, and wanted to include Ryan in on Thrill of the Hunt in a subtle way, besides Kyle’s involvement in the company.

I’ve had some ask me if Kyle knows who Ryan is?  Yes he does.  But Ryan, his dad, doesn’t mean the same to Kyle as Ryan meant to us.  It’s a shame, considering between Kyle’s birth and nearly three months, Ryan already showed traits of being a stellar dad.  Perhaps down the road, Kyle will feel a connection with Ryan, maybe one unique to them.  I hope so.  I’d like to think Ryan’s always with Kyle, and Ryan’s looking out for our little teenager.

Happy birthday little brother, you’re still remembered and in our hearts, always.  One day we’ll run through the woods together again, this time no mosquitos!

 

 

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Getting A Handle On the Teenage Years

I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.  ~J.D. Salinger

Uncle-George-Gram-1980s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Uncle George, Gram & (not sure) 1980s

Evey time I catch myself huffing and puffing over Kyle’s behavior, or worse his attitude, everyone tells me he’s a typical teenager.  I guess so, but does that mean I have to tolerate it?  Perhaps I expect too much from him, maybe more than I should.  I just want Kyle to be a respectful, hardworking (non-lazy) young man who’s moral compass points North.  I’m not asking a lot.  (I’m quietly laughing to myself.)

Monday was a bit of a rough day with the focus being Gram’s funeral.  It’s true, Kyle didn’t fight me on his attire.  He wore dress slacks, nice brown shoes and his navy woven top with clusters of anchors.  The very same outfit he sported on his cruise.  He looked nice and appropriate, and he didn’t argue when it was time to get ready.  He was off to a good start.

However, during the visitation, Kyle sat in a corner and wouldn’t get up to acknowledged the visitors and accept condolences.  Okay, maybe that was asking way too much from a thirteen year old, soon to be fourteen.  Personally, I found it rude, especially when others made it a point to talk to Kyle and include him in the conversation.  Kyle’s response?  He did smile occasionally but barely look up from his seat.  I addressed that immediately.  “Get your butt up when someone is talking to you and shake his or her hand.”  I guess that’s also a maturity thing, as well as learned behavior.  Everything considered, Kyle was pretty good.

On a side note, there was no casket, which I didn’t understand.  I asked Kyle to walk around and find Gram because “The guest of honor has to be here somewhere.” as I so plainly stated.  Kyle snickered at first, and then gave me a horrifying look.  Feeling a bit awkward with my request, Kyle tried to ignore me and continued starring at the floor while sitting in his seat, playing his video game periodically.  Letting Kyle off the hook for my unusual request, I went seeking the answer myself.   What I didn’t know, was Gram chose to be cremated and then buried by my Pap.  A bit of information that would have gone a long way with me before walking into the funeral home.  That took me completely off guard, and the fact that we weren’t going to the cemetery, which is very unlike Piper funerals, really threw me for a loop.

dad-sonny-building-grams-house-on-ridge-c.1953-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny building Gram & Pap’s house on the ridge. c. 1953

Then, while at the brunch after the funeral services, Kyle sat on his iPhone and played video games.  At one point he left the American Legion, which is where we met in Latrobe, to sit on the Legion’s front steps to either text, play video games or whatever he was doing on his iPhone.  I was so embarrassed.  Seriously?  Good friend’s of the family, and relatives wanted to talk to Kyle and try and get to know this mystery man they never get to see.  Kyle was quiet and almost distant.  What was his problem?  Again, I knew it was a rough day of funeral services, but still.

On Saturday, two days before the funeral, I stopped down to mom and dad’s house.  I pulled in the driveway to find my dad, who is in his sixties, outside in the dead of the heat, splitting and stacking wood, by himself.  Upon entering the house, I found my sister and nephew playing a board game sitting in the air-conditioning.  I think it was great Kyle was off his video games and spending time with my sister, but come on, help an old man out!  Naturally, my sister yelled at me and very tactfully stated they were playing a game and I was to “Shut Up!” as my sister so respectfully demands.  Now that doesn’t help Kyle’s attitude or his unwillingness to do actual work and get off his phone.  I was floored.  That’s no way to teach a young man to respect his family, very poor example, but moving on.

This past Tuesday, Kyle actually agreed to help me and dad build the chicken run.  Really?  He did!  He was almost enthused about it.  That is until we started working.

We needed an area for the chickens to run around outside, while being safely enclosed, so critters don’t have an opportunity to eat chicken for dinner.  Sure, it wasn’t easy digging holes to set the posts, hammering boards together for the door, and tacking the chicken wire fence in place, etc.  It was a beautiful day, but very sunny and HOT.  We worked from 9:30 am till about 7:00 pm.

Gram-A-Kaye-John-U-George-Rhea-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Gram, Aunt Kaye, her husband John, Uncle George, his wife Rhea. 1990s

I’ll give Kyle kudos, he was trying, but I could also tell he’s out of shape and was having a tough time.  Then, the attitude made its appearance.  What’s better is when dad or myself calls Kyle out on it.  Kyle will actually challenge us with a stare down and blatantly deny his attitude and insists, “What?  What did I do?  I didn’t do anything!” (And repeat that over and over again even after we told him what he did)  When we all know, including Kyle about his attitude.  He wasn’t terrible on Tuesday, but that snotty behavior is working my nerves big time.  He treats me like I’m his parent, which is funny because I’ve always played that role with him.  Maybe I should take it as a compliment.

About midway during the day, when we were about halfway done with the project, we decided to stop and refuel before continuing.  While eating lunch, I heard the shower running.  What?

Me:  “Kyle, why do I hear the shower?”
Kyle:  “Because I’m going to take a shower and go home.”
Me:  “What?  No you’re not.  You purposely work as slowly as you could this morning, to stretch out the work, and you think you’re going to abandon us?  Without saying a word?  Then, you think I’m going to stop what I’m doing to take you to your mom’s house?  Seriously?”
Kyle:  crickets…
Me:  “No, you said you’d help.  You need to finish what you started.”
Kyle:  Huffs as he walks away and turns off the shower.

He did help us, and as soon as we gave him an easy project, tacking the wire fence to the door, Kyle’s mood changed.  I could tell he was proud of the work he put into the chicken run and felt a sense of accomplishment.  Granted, Kyle didn’t stick around to help clean up, but I did ask him to pick up two quarts jars and a pint jar (used for drinking water) laying in the grass.  What did Kyle grab?  One quart jar and one pint jar.  Did I let him get away with that?  Nope!  This kid needs to be held accountable for his behavior and learn to follow direction, even for something as simple as collecting the jars.  Again, I addressed this with Kyle and he headed back up to the yard to retrieve the other jar, while rolling his eyes slightly and pouting along the way.

Please note, it’s not like we ask Kyle to do much.  In fact, he does very little around the house.  We’re always offering to take him fishing, and we build fires and make mountain pies and s’mores.  Supposedly, we’re going fishing this weekend, I hope Kyle doesn’t blow us off again.  It really upsets my dad, and after loosing his mother last week, dad needs a good day of fishing without an attitude.

On another side note, the quote above cracked me up, thinking about the Catcher In the Rye!  I loved that book!

Below is a screen shot from Gram’s obituary.

Grams Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Another Year Closer to Ryan

Life is just a short walk from the cradle to the grave, and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another along the way.  ~Alice Childress

Nicole-Ryan-Aunt-Heather-Piper-early-1980s

Nicole, Ryan & myself. I guess the theme was black & white. early 1980s

It has been thirteen years since I’ve last spoken to Ryan, at least in the physical sense.  It has been thirteen years since I’ve last seen him alive, except in pictures.  It has been thirteen years since Kyle lost his dad.  And it has been thirteen years since I wondered how I was to carry on without my brother, and how we as a family were going to cope with our loss.  Well, it’s been thirteen years today, and we have carried on, mostly with the help of our little guy, Ryan’s son, Kyle.

How did we do this?  I have no clue, no doubt by the grace of God and the help of friends and family.  It’s been a struggle, and there isn’t a day in those thirteen years that I didn’t think of Ryan and at times fallen to melancholy.  Yet, over the years, there too have been times when I seriously look forward to the day I can hang with Ryan again.

Personally, I love my days with my family, especially Kyle and watching him grow up.  I cherish every moment with that little bugger and being a big influence in his life. I do enjoy life, but there’s a part of me that can’t wait to see Ryan again and catch up.  I mean that, not in some crazy suicidal way, but in a way that gives me something to look forward to, a happy ending to my story.  Granted, I know I have a long way to go, at least that’s my assumption, but it’s still a new way to handle Ryan’s death, with hope of reuniting with him.

It’s not just Ryan I want to see again, in fact there’s a laundry list including my pappy, my sister’s friend Jennifer, and bunches of cousins and aunts and uncles and pets.  When I pass the pearly gates, if Saint Peter has me on the Almighty’s worthy list, I expect there to be a big old party of catching up and rejoicing.  I also trust that Ryan will remember how I am, and give me a personal tour of Heaven, since I do tend to be Directionally Challenged.  I suspect my directional deficiency won’t change even after death.

Like most, I too wonder about that light at the end of the tunnel and what Heaven has in store for me.  Maybe I will be able to go shopping for my own wings, or even better, have them custom made as per my creative instructions.  Maybe, I will be able to choose designer shoes to match my wings.  Not that I’m materialistic because even here on earth, I’m not, and I doubt Heaven has room for such nonsense nor would God would allow such things.  My idea of looking my best is to show my honor and love of being apart of the supreme spiritual, to be the best representative for God and all the angels.

Much like we have free will on earth, I’m guessing it will be the same in Heaven.  Perhaps I will be able to pick my own child to guard for all of his or her life.  I wonder if I work really hard, would I be able to manage two children?  I am a task master and that’s a challenge I welcome.

Putting all my silliness and imagination aside, I do miss Ryan.  I’m always trying to look on the brighter side, which for Ryan, he gets to be in Heaven and escape the suffering and the terrors of life.  Yet, I believe Ryan does experience the joys we part take in, similar to singing in church. You see, during mass, it is said that Heaven opens up and the angels join in with our singing.  Of course, if we were all placed on American Idol, I’m guessing the angels would win the sing off.  The point is they rejoice with us.  I’m thinking it’s the same for Ryan when we are happy and joyous.

God Speed Ryan!  I can’t wait to laugh and joke around together again.  Maybe we can play pranks on the living!        

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Ryan!

It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.  ~J.K. Rowling

Ryan's-Birthday-9-24-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan’s 3rd birthday party. Upfront: Nicole’s big head, then cousins: Tim, Chad, Jeremy & the birthday boy, Ryan. 9/24/80

Ryan would have been celebrating his 37th birthday today!  He would have loved waking up to his son, Kyle, who is now thirteen and probably went to work, stopping for a beer on the way home, never thinking much of the day.  Like me, Ryan never cared much for birthdays.  Unlike Kyle, who takes the entire month of July to celebrate his.  Granted, Kyle’s a kid, but regardless, Ryan and I still weren’t that interested in our birthdays, except to get our driver’s license and to legally drink.  Although, I was pretty stoked to vote.

Now that my company Thrill of the Hunt is really starting to make some traction, I wonder what Ryan would be doing?

You know, I truly believe Ryan would have started a company too.  He moved on before he had the chance, but Ryan would have been a great businessman!  How do I know?  Easy, Ryan possessed all the qualities of a great entrepreneur, the passion, the ideas, the know how, leadership and most of all the ability to work hard and stick it out, no matter what.  Ryan was never a quitter and there is no one that can say he wasn’t a hard worker.  No one!

Granted, Ryan’s interests in business were very different from mine, but still the same concept regardless.  Early on, Ryan showed an interest in starting a deer butchering business.  Dad told me once, Ryan really considered doing this as a seasonal job.  It’s true, Ryan and dad, heck the rest of the family are very experienced in gutting and butchering deer, plus other game and farm animals.  Yes, we do it all ourselves, every year, even the wrapping and preparing of the deer meat for the freezer, canning it, or making Bologna and/or deer jerky, usually all of the above.  And yes, we have all the equipment to cut up the deer, make ground meat etc.  I believe I knew of Ryan’s idea, but during high school, yes Ryan was in high school and wanted to start the business, I was so involved in my own activities I probably didn’t care much.

Piper-Cousins-around-Pap-Aunt-Heather-Piper

We always hung on pap. Left: Nicole, me, Ryan (sucking his finger but trying to hide it), cousins Jeremy & Chad. c. 1980

Why didn’t he do it?  Easy, dad talked him out of it.  Not because dad didn’t think he couldn’t handle the work or make the business a success, nope not at all!  It was quite the opposite.  Dad knew Ryan would have made it into a flourishing business and he would have enjoyed it too.  Yet, dad was being realistic and pointed out that if Ryan was butchering other people’s deer, when would he have time to hunt himself?  Very valid point dad!  You can’t let a deer hang around too long, especially if it’s not gutted and skinned.  Dad’s theory the sooner the better for both.  The butchering and packaging can wait a few days if needed, as long as it’s cold out (our deer hang in the garage).  But sooner or later this needs to be done, and it couldn’t be done with Ryan in the woods hunting, not to mention he was still in high school.

In a way, I wished Ryan would have started the business. I would have most certainly helped!  Actually, at the time I stopped hunting myself and I could have picked up the slack, when it worked with my band and Winterguard schedules.  Ok, perhaps dad was right!

Ryan’s ideas and drive didn’t stop there.  For years, in high school and out, Ryan mowed lawns when he worked for Lester.  In fact, just the other day, dad pointed out Lester’s place as we passed.  I totally forgot Ryan worked for him!  When Ryan lost his driver’s license (a whole separate story) I had to drive him to and from work.  One time, I even gave his dog Jake (he was a beagle that I always fought with) a ride when picking Ryan up.  Anyway, years after Ryan passed, mom said she ran into Lester.  You know what he said about Ryan?  He said that if Ryan would still be living, and decided to start his own lawn business, he would have put Lester out of work.  Seriously, what a compliment!  You know, Lester’s one hundred percent right!  Like I said, Ryan was made to be an entrepreneur.

Sometimes, I think having the ability to start a business is in the DNA.  Ryan was so much like my pappy in many ways.  He was a good person, a truly warm soul with a big heart with drive and a solid work ethic, much like my pappy who started his own business,  a sawmill, Walter Piper & Sons Lumber.  Pappy started the business on a fifth grade education!  Yep!  Basically, pappy knew the timber industry and practically lived in the woods his whole life, but he also would pay attention and made most of the business decisions purely off of gut instincts.  He was even big into marketing, before he knew what marketing was.  Granted, that’s a tough industry and it lasted for years, even after my pappy’s death, but it did eventually come to an end.  Like Ryan, pappy had the entrepreneur spirit in him and he also possessed all the same qualities.  I couldn’t imagine how successful pap would have been, if he had an opportunity to finish high school, let alone further his education.

Would Ryan have paired up with Nicole and myself for Thrill of the Hunt?  Probably not, for it wasn’t really his gig.  But I would have loved to work with Ryan!  There is no doubt he would have helped out if needed.

Ryan never got the opportunity like I did, to start a company.  When he passed away, he worked at a Aggressive Grinding Machine Shop, furthering his career in his trade.  Just like my grandpap Chester, Ryan was a machinist, and from what I was told a very good one.  No matter what, Ryan always did the best he could and took pride in his work.  We all missed out by Ryan’s passing and he is still missed by many, very much!

Happy Birthday Ryan!

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Truly Understanding A Family’s Pain

Drink today, and drown all sorrow;
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow;
Best, while you have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death.  ~Ben Jonson

Kyle-fishing-with-Aunt-Nikki-&-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2005

Kyle fishing wearing his Penn State shirt (courtesy of Aunt Nikki) with his pappy, me, Aunt Nikki & Gigi (took the picture) 7/2005

This past weekend dad and I were in New York setting up a tree stand and getting ready for deer season.  As I’ve mentioned before, the New York season starts a week or two before ours in Pennsylvania, so we always get our tags and head up to hunt.  On our way back from Cortland, dad got a call from a guy he works with, informing dad of some horrible news.  Dad’s good friend Mike, another one of dad’s co-workers and a guy I’ve hunted on his property, lost his son Friday night in a car accident.  What?

Yes.  It was one of those moments when the past came rushing back and instantly depression fell over both of us.  For a brief moment, it wasn’t about Mike and his family, it was our family that was reliving a tragedy that happened nearly 13 years ago this October.  It was the phone call that changed everything, it was dad traveling to get back home after hearing the news, it was shock and a devastation that took us all off guard and permanently changed our lives.

Then, to find out Mike’s son had a little boy too.  Seriously?  Yes.  I’m not sure of the age of the child but that poor little munchkin will be following in Kyle’s footsteps of loosing his dad too early in life and only knowing him through stories.  That breaks my heart more than you can imagine.

There are no words that can be said to ease the family’s pain and help lesson the blow and gradually move them into reality.  None.  I know personally.  What they need are prayers, a lot of prayers, and support when asked.  Sometimes the best way to help, at least from my experience, was to keep a distance and being there when called upon, for they will reach out.  It may take them a while and it may be in a way that is unconventional, but it will happen.

They first need to get used to the new direction of their life and deal with the stress, the sadness, the confusion, the anger and everything in between on their own.  Then, their next obstacle will be dealing with the holidays and memories and accepting life as it is.  That is until they get to a point of possibly addressing the deceased belongings and such.  Believe it or not, another horrible pain, all a reminder of what used to be and what will never be again.

Is this immediate?  No, the emotional roller-coaster ride will go on for years, I still deal with it presently.  Like it or not the holidays arrive and leave.  Sometimes I slept through them and sometimes I dealt with them by visiting Ryan in the cemetery.  Naturally having Kyle helped ease some pain and almost made these celebrated seasons enjoyable.  As for the belongings, it took me a few years before I really went through Ryan’s stuff and organized it and made sense of it all.  I never got rid of anything of Ryan’s, in fact I boxed it up waiting till the time was right to give it to Kyle, if he wanted anything.  Of course, we didn’t even really need to do this, but we wanted to turn Ryan’s old room into Kyle’s, resulting in the need to make room for Kyle’s “stuff”.  And let me tell you, there’s a lot of “stuff”.  It seems like every year he accumulates more, even though every year we give a ton to St. Vincent de Paul.

I know others may have it worse, but this one is a little too close to home for my liking.  I always said, I never wished anyone to go through what we did.  At least, I’ve always had my family for support.  From the beginning, my family has been tight and held together through the entire tragedy of loosing Ryan, barely but we did it.  I pray Mike and his family remain as such and reach out to other friends and family for support when it’s right for them.  As time passes, it will never be easy, NEVER, but life will become manageable, at least in short segments at first.  Ryan, We Miss You!

I chose not to use full names or even mention names out of respect for the family.  I didn’t want to bother them with asking permission to write this blog and I didn’t want to bring additional attention to their situation.  I do however want to flood them with prayers and well wishes.  I want them to have some peace, the next week is going to get even worse before the healing begins.

Please everyone say a pray for this family and the newly deceased.  God speed.

I would also like to send thoughts and prayers to my cousin Roxanne who just lost her mom.  It was a long battle with cancer, which Roxanne sat by her side and took care of her mother until the very end.  My heart is broken for my sincere and wonderful cousin who only a few short years ago lost her dad too.  She’s been through enough.  Also please pray for her and her family’s peace.  God speed.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hunting & Fishing,News,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

May You Both Find Eternal Peace

A human life is a story told by God. ~Hans Christian Andersen

Melanie A. Grimm
December 18, 1976 – March 28,2014

&

Bertha F. Nesser
December 19, 1970 – May 22, 2014

Melanie-Grimm-Thumbs-Up-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Melanie Grimm giving a reassuring thumbs up! Rest-in-Peace 12/18/76 – 3/28/14

Recently, meaning within the last couple of months and a week ago, two friends of mine from back in the day, have separately moved on into their eternal journeys.  Melanie Grimm and Bertha Nesser both passed away at young ages, but graced everyone who knew them with their friendship and loving spirits.

Unfortunately, in recent times, I’ve lost touch with both ladies, only reaching out via Facebook or the rare get together, but I still considered them friends.  To be honest, I took advantage of these distant friendships, thinking they would be around for a long long time, into our ripe old ages.  I guess God had other plans.

Previously, I wanted to pay homage to Melanie, who passed away on Friday, March 28, 2014, but was never sure how, it’s been weighing on my heart.  To be honest, I was in a little bit of shock, knowing she was sick for quite some time, yet remaining in that false safe place called denial.

Then, Bertha passed, on Thursday, May 22, 2014.  Now the true reality of death is standing in front of me and staring me in the face, without as much as a blink or a flinch.  I know this is a part of life, but one I was hoping to postpone for many years.

Recently, Grandma Ferry – Moving Into Greener Pastures, passed at the age of 97.  That’s an acceptable age, at least in my mind, but 37 years and 43 years, respectively, is uncompromisable, again in my tunnel vision.  I’m still trying to fathom the death of my cousin Tommy who was only 13 years old.  Moving On Too Soon – Thomas Watson Piper.  I know there’s no age prerequisite for dying, but some ages make more sense to me than others.

Bertha-Nesser-Smiling-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Bertha Nesser looking radiant. Rest-in-Peace 12/19/70 – 5/22/14

There is no doubt that there is a world of people, meaning strangers, who have experienced worse in life, so much more so than I can ever imagine.  But the death of a friend still shakes a person up a bit.

I’m no stranger to dealing with a sudden loss, and I’ve experienced tragedy first hand.  Nothing can ever compare, nor crumble my spirits and drop me to my knees with sadness and sorrow like it did with Ryan’s passing, at least I hope not for a long time.  Yet, loosing a friend effects me in a different way, not better or worse, just different.  It certainly rekindles emotions from Ryan’s funeral.

Sometimes, I wish I could become callous to death and facing the loss of loved ones with ease and without sadness.  Personally, I guess I wish that of no one, for every life has meaning and is essential to the world and should be treated with extreme importance.  However, on the same note, even though death is inevitable, I pray for many to have peace when exiting this world and their family and friends are graced with acceptance and strength.  My heart bleeds for those suffering, truly heartbreaking.

It’s weird, but both gals, Melanie and Bertha were very similar, at least in ways that come to my mind; fun, goodhearted, hard working and friendly, to name a few.  I came to know Melanie through a friend, as did I with Bertha.  Did they know each other?  I don’t believe so, but without a doubt they would have been friends.

I don’t mean to lessen either death by combining them in one blog post, but to be honest, I don’t think I could have ever mustered two separate tributes without it breaking me down.  It seems as though I am comforted to speak of them together and deal with their deaths as one whole, little bit more manageable from my point-of-view.

I want to give a call out to each lady and reiterate how genuine and great each one was in life, and how missed they are and will be for years to come.  My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone Melanie and Bertha touched.

God Speed Melanie Grimm

Melanie Grimm Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

God Speed Bertha Nesser  

Bertha Nesser Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Grandma Ferry – Moving Into Greener Pastures

When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.  ~C.P. Cavafy

July 6, 1917 – May 8, 2014

Grandma-Ferry-Funeral-Pamphlet-Aunt-Heather-PiperGod retrieved another good soul, but blessed us with her for 97 years.  Mrs. Sophie (Ferry) McLaughlin was a good friend of my family’s for as long as I can remember, as long as my mom can recollect.  The entire Ferry clan has been an integral part of our entire life, living on the opposite hillside.

Grandma Ferry, as we always called her, which is exactly what she was to us, a grandma, passed away on Thursday, May 8, 2014.

Some may ask why I would call this neighbor lady, who clearly wasn’t even related, with the honor of the grandma title?  Easy, my maternal grandmother passed when my mom was a teenager, so I never met her.  It’s true my paternal grandmother is alive and well (still is causing trouble), but let’s say Grandma Ferry was more of the grandmotherly type.  Granted, we had my Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary down over the hill who were also very close with us and like a another set of grandparents, but somehow Grandma Ferry got the title and it has remained ever since.

Grandma Ferry  lived directly behind my parent’s house, most of her life, until she re-married and moved to Ohio.  During my childhood, occasionally she was needed to babysit, and let me tell you it wasn’t a free for all.  Nope, if our rooms were a mess (which usually they were), then she made us clean them up and organize the disaster.  If the house needed cleaned, we had to get to work straight away.  If any work, inside or out, needed done, there was no time to dilly dally.  When it was time to feed us, she wasn’t no short order cook.  O no!  We helped her prepare our lunches and no television while eating.  We had to sit at the table and eat together, the way it should be.

Grandma-Ferry-Funeral-Pamphlet-Inside-Aunt-Heather-Piper

I remember once when I was hanging cloths, yes back then we had cloths lines strung up alongside the house.  Part of my chores were to hang the dripping wet garments and take them down, fold them and put them away.  One day, while doing so, I remember as plain as day, I spotted Grandma Ferry making a beeline for me.  Her house sat up higher on the hill directly behind mom and dad’s, making our backyard and the sides of the house easily visible.  As a kid, I know I rolled my eyes when I spotted her, because I didn’t want to be doing these chores, let alone listen to someone tell me how to do them.  She marched right up to me and showed me the right way to hang the laundry.  My comment, “That’s not how mom does it.”, which we all know my mom was never the poster child for good housekeeping.  In her own polite way, without throwing my mom under the bus, she held her ground and showed me the reasoning for hanging the clothing a certain way and the correct way to do so, which I remember to this day.

Every once in a while she would have me and Ryan rake her leaves or grass clippings.  She paid us in homemade soup and freshly baked bread.  I remember thinking, I would rather have some cold hard cash (I would have never dared ask), but the food was so delicious it made all the work worthwhile.  She also didn’t let us slack while raking.  Nope!  If we missed areas she would point them out and we weren’t done until the job was done, no matter how long it took us.  We always had to finish what we started.

She really was a huge help to mom and dad, especially when mom went back to work when I was in the third grade.

Grandma-Ferry-Funeral-Card-Aunt-Heather-PiperWhile playing in the backyard or taking hikes up through the woods with my cousins, she would always pop her head out to see what we were up to, questioning our actions every now-and-again and sometimes not speaking a word.

Thinking about our interactions with Grandma Ferry now, from a different perspective, she was never a nag or a pain, she really cared for us.

On a side note, sometime when I was little, dad put in our small orchard, which overlooked Grandma Ferry’s front porch.  She always loved it, especially when dad would mow.  Dad even commented that she came down one day, while the digging had begun, and gave dad a little bit of money to put toward the project.  She too had an apple tree and a huge grape harbor, which again Ryan and I would have to pick.

Did I think she was annoying and bossy?  You bet!  Exactly like I did my own parents, that same bittersweet love.  She really was my family and truly a nice lady.  However, you never crossed her for she wouldn’t take any crap, and that meant from us kids, even around our own parents.  Most adults shy away from disciplining kids in front of their parents, especially ones that aren’t their own.   Not Grandma Ferry.  She knew where she stood and demanded respect and demanded we show respect to our parents and each other.

Grandma-Ferry-Newspaper-Article-Aunt-Heather-PiperWe always joke around wondering how I know how to fold and clean properly and am so organized, the complete opposite of mom.  I think I finally found my answer, Grandma Ferry.  Looking back on it now, I owe her a lot.  She wasn’t just the little old neighbor lady.  She was a big part of our childhood and helped reinforce what we were taught, respect and hard work.  She taught me to do laundry, clean, yard work and even a little cooking.  She was one of the good ones, who took an invested interest in us, not for her own sake, but for ours.

I’m sure she led a great life before I came into this world, and I know she led one while I was here, being a first hand witness.  I can’t even imagine what those eyes have seen over a span of ninety-seven years.

Rest-in-Peace Grandma Ferry! 

Thank you for being you!  You will always be remembered!  

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Moving On Too Soon – Thomas Watson Piper

Death is a distant rumor to the young. ~Andrew A. Rooney

March 12, 2001 – May 9, 2014

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Thomas Piper – image courtesy of Terri Lynn Lewis on Facebook.

Death is not an easy part of life, however there are some circumstances, which are harder than others.  This one is truly heartbreaking.  I want to send my deepest sympathy and condolences to Thomas’ family and friends.

My cousin Thomas Watson Piper was killed in a car accident on Friday, May 9th.  I don’t know much about the details, but like my mom says, “It doesn’t change anything anyway.”

Stepping back to understand how we’re related, since there are so many Piper’s, here is a very brief general outline of our family tree.  My pap (Walter Piper) had a brother, Merle Piper, my uncle.  Again there are a lot of other siblings but I’m just tracing one line down.  His wife was my Aunt Mary and among all the kids, they had Richard, who later married Eileen.  They had a son, Aaron Piper, who in turn had a son Thomas Piper.

Unfortunately, with such a large family we each get lost in the shuffle, or in Thomas’ case, live out of state in North Carolina.  I never really had the opportunity to get to know my little cousin, but regardless he is still family.  Perhaps over the years I met him, but I am saddened to say, I truly don’t remember.

Again not knowing a lot about this young man, I can say for certain he was loved and seemed like a pretty good kid.  Following Aaron’s Facebook posts helped to keep me in the know with my distant relatives.

It’s true, I did attend Eileen’s funeral, Thomas’ grandmother, but those are moments when I put my head down, pay my respects and give support to the family, before scooting out the back door, so to speak.  I know getting reacquainted with my relatives is never on the top of my list.

When I heard about Thomas’ tragedy, of course I was saddened, not wanting anyone to endure such an ordeal.  Admittedly, the details of the misfortune really hit home with me.

Tommy was only thirteen years old, about the same age as Kyle is now.  That really puts things into perspective.  As mentioned earlier, he died in a car accident.  Now that paints a whole new scene of nagging sorrow and depression, since loosing Ryan, Kyle’s dad in a car accident.

My heart bleeds for the family and friends of the deceased.  I will continue to reach out through prayers and thoughts during this time.

God Speed Thomas Watson Piper!   

Online condolences may be made by visiting www.millerfhc.com.

Here is the complete obituary as well as a screen shot below.

Thomas Piper Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Random Fun Facts: Saint Vincent College

Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.  ~Richard P. Feynman

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Statue of Saint Boniface Wimmer in front of Saint Vincent Church at Saint Vincent College. I received the Sacrament of Confirmation in this church… Ryan was the alter boy.

Since I recently wrote about Random Fun Facts:  Latrobe, Pennsylvania, it wouldn’t be complete without addressing Saint Vincent College.

This past June, for Kyle’s birthday gift I got him, Bricks 4 Kidz, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe!  Actually I got him two different Bricks 4 Kidz sessions, Animal Grossology for the morning session and Space Adventure – Star Wars for the afternoon session.  The Lego camp lasted a week, from Monday June 24 through Friday, June 28.  Kyle’s birthday is in July, so he was really surprised.

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Saint Boniface Wimmer, Saint Vincent College

The first day of Lego Camp, on Monday, I thought it would be neat to hang out with Kyle for lunch.  So I packed us a picnic and we ate on the college grounds.  It was a warm day but really pleasant under the trees.  Afterwords, I thought he might find a tour of the campus interesting.  In my head, I remembered how cool it was when Father Alred gave our sixth grade class a tour of the college when attending Sacred Heart.  He talked about the history, the architecture, the stain glass windows, and so on and so forth.

Well, as it turns out, I remembered the feeling more than the facts.  I must say, I fell short and needed a refresher.  Kyle wasn’t amused at all!  It was at that moment when I thought, I need to revisit Saint Vincent College, in the books.

Ironically, when I was doing research for the Discovering Greensburg Scavenger Hunt for Seton Hill University Discovering Greensburg in the Rain  (the sister college of Saint Vincent), at the Westmoreland County Historical Society, I came across a lot of intriguing content on  Saint Vincent College.  I hope you find the history of the college as interesting and almost mind blowing as I do!  Please read to the very end!  I promise it will shock you!

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Sportman’s Hall, built in 1790 by Father Theodore Brouwers- later become Saint Vincent

Random Fun Facts: Saint Vincent College

  • Founded in 1846 – Saint Vincent Arch-abbey and College
  • In 1766, before the monks John Fraser, an Indian trader, acquired land on part of which Saint Vincent is now situated
  • February 10, 1766 granted a tract of land along the Forbes Road to John- made in the name of the King George II of Great Britain by Captain William Murray, Commander of Port Pitt.
  • December 3, 1768 John Fraser transferred teh entire parcel of land to James Hunter, a farmer for Five Pounds Lawful Money
  • James Hunter owned the land for 21 years
  • March 12, 1790, the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted Joseph Hunter “a certain tract of land called ‘Sportsman’s Hall'” – 1st time the name of Sportman’s Hall was given to individual tract of land (name retained for over half a century)
  • Sportman’s Hall was called “the Cradle of Catholicity in western Pennsylvania”
  • April 16, 1790 Joseph transferred the deed to Rev. Theodore Brouwers, O.F.M.
  • Father Brouwers died on October 29, 1790.  As per his will his body was laid to rest in a plot overlooking Sportsman’s Hall.  Since 1869 his remains have reposed under a a stone cross in Saint Vincent Cemetery
  • Father Brouwers provided his successor by bequeathing all of his real estate “to a Roman Catholic priest that shall succeed me in this same place, to be entailed to him and to his successors, forever.”
  • In 1787, 6 Catholic families moved from Philadelphia and settle near Greensburg
  • A small log church was erected
  • Sportsman’s Hall stood northeast to the present Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica until 1883 – in 1930s a marker was erected on this site
  • Reverand Michael Galllagher succeeded Father Stillinger as pastor, serving until October 21, 1846 – then Rev. Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B. was pointed as pastor
  • Boniface Wimmer was a monk from the Benedictine Abbey of Metten in Bavaria

Hence the name Wimmerton for the neighboring housing development

  • Boniface Wimmer received the monastic name of Boniface upon his entry into the monastery, a name with deep significance for German Catholics
  • Saint Boniface was an English monk who in the 18th century brought the Gospel and the Benedictine Rule to the Rhineland, where he established  monasteries and served as bishop of Fulda

He wanted to provide education for the sons of German immigrants and train clergy for the German community in the United States.

  • Saint Vincent is the 1st Benedictine college in the United States
  • Saint Vincent sits on roughly 200 acres of land
  • First buildings were built by the monks
  • The Benedictine Rule is known for spirituality and practicality
  • By 1855, Saint Vincent was divided into the Seminary, the Classical Department, and the Commercial Department – basic structure of college for next 50 years
  • In 1870, the college was incorporated by the State Legislature of Pennsylvania and given the power to grant degrees in the arts and sciences
  • February 25, 1931 Benedictine Sisters left Germany to go to America, set up residence in Saint Vincent, to earn money to send back to mother house during World War I
  • By 1987, one sister retired and founded Saint Emma’s Retreat House in Greensburg
  • In 1948, there were 19 majors available in the divisions of Humanities, Social Sciences, Science and Business
  • January of 1963 – a fire destroyed part of the campus – no life was lost

On the campus they have a memorial with a rescued bell saved from the bell tower.  The bent and torn metal of the once perfect bell is so surreal yet intriguing.

  • In 1983, Saint Vincent became co-educational

Until that point it was an all male college, sister college to Seton Hill University, which used to be an all female college

  • The college is sponsored by the Benedictine Monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey and shares the campus with Saint Vincent Seminary (4-year graduate school of theology), and Saint Vincent Parish
  • Saint Vincent College offers undergraduate degrees in business, education, medicine, engineering government service and church.
  • Saint Vincent College offers Masters degree programs in education and business
  • The Fred M. Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media (yes THE  Mr. Rogers!) is a college center
  • Nationally known, students from 24 U.S. states/territories and 20 foreign countries – half of these students are in the top 20% of their high school graduating classes
  • Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and School
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Bell Tower at Saint Vincent, built in 1871 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Benedictines in the U.S. In 1963, destroyed in a fire

Ok, now for the the really fun and interesting information I stumbled across.  Evidently, the students at Saint Vincent College need or did need to write a senior thesis before graduation.  Using primary resources, they were permitted to write about anything.

One student narrowed his focus to Latrobe and decided to write about the history of Latrobe’s volunteer firer-fighters and the Latrobe fire company.  Nice little topic!

Unbeknownst to him, he was going to stumble upon some really ground breaking news that was overlooked, even by Saint Vincent scholars, even to present day!  When I had lunch with my cousins John and Sherry Business Leader in the Form of a Youngster, in September, I asked John if he ever heard of the news I will reveal to you below.  He didn’t.  Dr. Olczak who also translated books for Saint Vincent College and most certainly was knowledgeable in the history of his Alma Mater, had no idea!

In the 1870’s, the Latrobe Advance, the local paper which is now the Latrobe Bulletin, circulated a story which dealt with a recent incident at Saint Vincent College.  What made the news but never made any other history books regarding the college and was forgotten?

Boniface Wimmer, yes the founder of Saint Vincent monastery and college, made the paper in the form of a small hidden story.  On October 1, 1879, the newspaper reported that the then 70 year old Abbot was nearly assassinated by a “lunatic”.  YEP!  No joke!  Keep in mind at this point in history, Boniface Wimmer was no stranger to the world, especially when concerned with his dedication and progress towards education and as a missionary.  In fact, he was recognized by many as the American Roman Catholic Church leader.  Kind of a big deal!  The paper reported that the mad man tried to assassinate Boniface Wimmer in his monastery room.

The story goes, a stranger was found lurking around, outside the monastery for several days.  On Saturday, September 13, 1879 the stranger gained access to the monastery where Boniface Wimmer resided.  A monk cut him off at the pass and ejected him from the premisses.  A week later the creepy stranger, on Tuesday September 23rd made his way back in the monastery and proceeded towards Brother Nicholas room.  He was the Porter or the gatekeeper of Wimmer.  This crazed stranger struck Brother Nicholas on the head and bolted up the stairs to the Abbot Boniface’s room.  (currently located in Mauer Hall and is used as a guest room) The lunatic took the key and tried to lock himself inside along with Boniface Wimmer.

Quick witted and matching reflexes, even from an aged man, the Abbot noticed this unusual sight and took the would-be assassin off guard before he could lock the door.  There was a tussle between the two men and that’s when Boniface Wimmer received a blow to the head, but not before gaining a hold of the intruders arm and managing to gain the upper hand. The 70 year old Abbot took down his attacker!  Yes!  He wrestled him to the floor!  This just proves, you have nothing to fear with God on your side and when you have complete faith in Him.

The recovering Porter came to Boniface’s assistance, after gaining his wits about him, and eventually a couple of monks arrived at the scene, hearing yells for help.  They removed the determined stranger from the premises.  No charges, no cops, no finger pointing, nothing.  Now-a-days that would have made front line news and opposing sides would be talking about it and pointing fingers at everyone including the Abbot for days, or weeks, heck months.  Everyone would have someone to blame.

The reason for this situation?  Not an Anti-Catholic message nor a hatred against Saint Vincent nor its Abbot.  The intruder was a Latrobe native who had mental issues and recently escaped from an asylum.  He felt if he killed the Abbot Wimmer he would in turn take his place as the Abbot of Saint Vincent.   At least the mentally disturbed man had goals!

Since this was not recorded anywhere else or brought to the spotlight, how can we know this actually happened? Even though back then the reporters needed to check and verify their sources, so I would be pretty confident they did their due-diligence before including the story in the paper.  Well, I came across documentation of a letter Abbot Wimmer wrote to the Vatican giving them an update on the church and the college.  This was a standard letter, with pleasantries and general day-to-day stuff.  At the conclusion of his letter, yes not as a headline, the butt end, as if just mentioning it in passing or as an afterthought, Abbot Wimmer made note of this incident.  Why didn’t he make it out to be the big deal it was?  Simply, because he was a humble man and didn’t want to upset anyone or have the general population turning on the assailant.   At least that’s my guess.  Or perhaps he didn’t like the negative publicity.  Either way, it was real history.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Smells of the Past, Missing You Ryan!

Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.  ~Helen Keller

Ryan-with-Truck-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-1980s

Ryan playing with a toy truck… look at those boney legs! 1980s

I’ve said it countless times, yet it seriously does seem like it was just yesterday when Ryan moved out of our lives and moved permanently in with our Heavenly Father.  For him, great move!  For us, not so much!

How long has it been?  As of today, twelve very long yet short years.  He would have been 36 years old.

Among all the hustle and bustle of life, I do like to take a few minutes and remember Ryan, not that a day goes by when I don’t think of my little brother.  I’ll admit, acknowledging his birthday is easier than the anniversary of his death, but it’s an inevitable part of my life, as well as my family’s.

They say smell and scents are the most powerful memory triggers.  I concur!  Recently, dad had me take the gas tank when I went to fill up my car.  He wanted to get the allotted gallons of gasoline available with their Giant Eagle Perks Card.  Naturally, it’s not that easy and I spilled the gas jug in the back of my car.  Luckily, I had not one, but two blankets under the unstable plastic jug full of potent liquid.

Nicole-holding-Ryan-on-Bike-Aunt-Heather-Piper-1980s

Ryan trying out Nicole’s new bike. Casey is on the right. c. 1980

The smell in the car only lasted about a day, until the fumes evaporated.  But I will admit as I was cruising along, the smell brought me back to Ryan.  You see he did the same thing!  Except he wasn’t as lucky.  His trunk and the inside of the car had matching odors that seemed to last FOREVER!  How do I know?  Because for some reason, around that time I needed Ryan to take me to and from work.  So yes, I had to sit in the car with my head hanging out the window like a dog, just to catch some fresh air.  I’m sure I totally exaggerated it at the time, but Ryan got a kick out of me.  Well, maybe not, but he tolerated my silly behavior.

Eventually, someone told me about this carbon type of bag that you place in such an environment to absorb the smell.  Ryan always maintained my cars, cut the rotors when needed, replaced the brakes, changed the oil,  and the list goes on and on.  He would never take any money from me, so when an opportunity arose to get him the perfect gift, I jumped at the chance!  This carbon bag was pretty cool, it actually worked!  Once the smell infiltrated and was captured in the carbon bean bag, it was to be placed in direct sunlight to eliminate the order.  Really a nifty invention!

As I drove around, memories of that time came back to me.  Not the most heartfelt story, but to me all memories of Ryan tug at my heartstrings.  No matter if they were fond or foul memories, they are all near and dear to me.

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Ryan fishing in Montana, when he traveled with Jim, Casey & Joel. c.1989

On a side note, I didn’t think to lay out the gasoline soaked blanket in the sunlight to evaporate the fumes before washing it.  Nope, not me, I immediately placed the saturated blanket in mom’s washer when I got back to their house to drop off the culprit gas tank, thinking I got it in good time.  Well, what I didn’t anticipate was the aroma de gasoline was going to set up camp in the washer and leave a little trace on every piece of clothing it encountered.  Not a pretty sight or smell, but eventually it worked its way out, and all is good now.

This would have been one of those situations Ryan would have rolled his eyes at me, knowing better, and just snickered to himself.  Heck, he probably would have called me on it, saying something along the lines of “Idiot” or “Really Smart!”, or “Why didn’t you think first?”.  Yep, that was Ryan!  I would have said the same thing if the roles were reversed.

When the day is done, we were all a very tight and close family, willing to do anything for each other.  Kyle has very much joined those ranks.  He is not only my nephew, but he has started to turn into my brother too.  Ryan would have loved to do the things I am doing with Kyle, but I guess he’s enjoying our activities and interaction from a different seat.

I can’t wait to join Ryan and have him as a roommate again!  Save a seat for me Ryan!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy 36th Birthday Ryan!

I want to take all the pain that I feel and celebrate and turn it around.  ~Stevie Wonder

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Ryan with his newborn baby, Kyle. 7/30/01

Today would have been Ryan’s 36th Birthday.  It has been nearly twelve years since Ryan moved on to bluer skies.  To be honest, Ryan’s birthday creeped up on me this year.  Yesterday was Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith’s memorial service.  Blue Skies Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith  It was what one would expect, an emotionally draining and tragic service.  The type of event that brings rushing memories of past and current pain back from the corners of my being and gets me really thinking of Ryan again, not that I ever stopped.

After the church service, all of Jen’s friends and family gathered in the cafeteria in Saint Cecelia’s school building to meet with the family to share stories and to comfort and be comforted.  As we were at the table sitting and discussing Jen’s death, it dawned on me.  The twenty-forth of September was upon us, Ryan’s birthday!  Once I made the declaration to mom and Nicole, a friend of mine, Patty, who was sitting across the table asked me, “Do you still celebrate his birthday?”  My quick response was ‘no’.  Only because we never really did or do “celebrate” each others birthdays.  It was never apart of the Piper family culture.  We always acknowledge the day of our birth, just not make it into such a big deal.  To be honest, I like it that way.  So really no, we don’t celebrate it, yet we do in our way.

Sharing a stupid story about Ryan, I told Patty how I used to tease him about going bald.  Yep, I did!  Reminding Ryan that both of our grandfathers were bald, grandpap Chester was sporting the shinny scalp when he graduated high school.  I used to say, “It’s going to hit you right in the middle of your head!  I can’t wait to see it.”  Ryan would just roll his eyes at me.  Priding myself on the conclusion of my perception, I informed Patty that Ryan’s hairline was starting to recede a bit before he died.  When Ryan passed, he just turned twenty-four years old a month prior.  A really stupid story to remember, but it brings a smile to my face.  I do miss picking on him terribly!  He was a lot of fun and would take me for so long before retaliating.

While driving Kyle around yesterday, I mentioned his dad’s birthday.  He just shrugged his shoulders and grunted, in acknowledgment.  I don’t know if it just doesn’t mean anything to him or if he doesn’t know exactly how to react or what to say.  Knowing Ryan’s birthday doesn’t mean as much to Kyle as it does to the rest of us might change over time, the more he learns about his dad and matures.  At least I hope so.  Ryan loved that kid so very much, even before he met Kyle.

There is no doubt that Ryan and Jen are hanging out somewhere in the big blue heavens above us.  After all, they did know each other.  Like I said, Jen was always apart of our family.

Ryan would have been thirty-six years old today.

Happy Birthday Ryan! 

posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Blue Skies Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith

No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world.  And normally he doesn’t know it.  ~Paulo Coelho

Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith
July 28, 1974 – August 27, 2013

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Nicole & Jen hanging with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. c. sometime in the 80’s

Tragedy is no stranger to me and my family.  It has directly landed on us, suddenly, and with pinpoint accuracy, so I know what dealing with sorrow and confusion feels like.   We’ve been wrestling with it for nearly twelve years.  I’m not saying I understand it, and I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m not saying I like it.  I’m just saying it’s a close friend and I certainly recognize it.

At this particular moment, I’m at a loss as to what to say.  I’ve never dealt with such a situation.  So instead of my typical format, I chose to write Jen a letter.  I’m sure it doesn’t do her justice, to her kindness, beauty inside and out, intelligence, sincerity, adventurous spirit, wit and sense of humor.  But my words are sincere and straight from the heart.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jen’s family and friends at this time and always.  We have been blessed to know such a wonderful person.  The world will not be the same.

 

Dear Jen,

If my memory serves me correct, we have known each other since I was in the first grade and you in the third, going to Sacred Heart Elementary School.  To be honest, I don’t remember when you officially joined our family because it seems like you were always there.  Who would have thought, from that moment on,  you and my sister would have become friends for so many years?

Dr.-Jen-Smith-Galbraith-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith eating a Twix.

Even though you were always Nicole’s best friend, you always treated me as a friend too.  I can’t believe it’s been years since those days at Sacred Heart, but we’ve always kept in touch, only due to your continued friendship and sisterhood with Nicole.

Over the years, my family would get updates on how you were doing, what was new and what was going on in your life.  Even though Facebook has been the focus of the media for negative uses and development of an anti-social society, Facebook helped us to connect again.  Prior to that, even without direct communication, you were always in my thoughts.  After all, you were very much a part of the Piper household.  I mean even dad remembered your name!

By the time I reached the seventh grade and you in ninth, in the Latrobe Junior High School, I would grin when I saw you in the halls.  You would smile and give me a friendly nod.  Actually, I think it was more of a laugh, I was always so lost, mentally and directionally.  Here I envied you because I thought you were so much more together than I ever was!  Even in junior high it seemed like your life would take a straight path to greatness.  Well, you certainly achieved greatness, in many ways.  But I was wrong, your life took a sudden and fatal sharp turn.

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Nicole & Jen graduating from Greater Latrobe High School. Class of ’92! Go Wildcats!

When I joined the colorguard and you were in the band (clarinet), it was nice to know someone among the older strange faces.  You never snubbed me or anything of the sort.  Actually, you looked out for me, and over the years as we both matured, maybe you more than me, I wasn’t just “Nikki’s little sister”, I was your friend too.

When I heard you were going to school to be a doctor I was so excited for you and I remember thinking, “Yes she is one smart cookie who will have no trouble getting through her studies.  She is going to be such a success in life!”  You were always such an intelligent girl, it came so natural to you.  In that respect, I could see why you and Nicole were always such good friends, you challenged each other intellectually.  In my younger days I didn’t appreciate that, but over the years I certainly have.

Jen, you always had such patience.  Every time I asked a stupid question like “How can you be an optometrist and not have perfect vision?”, you would answer me.  Even though we were private messaging each other or communicating digitally, somehow I could see that Jen smirk.  It’s funny, Ryan had the same type of grin.

You may not have realized it at the time, but you were loved!  You had a lot of friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, patients and the list goes on and on, that relied on you in one way or another.  There were so many lives you touched, including mine!  I know my sister looked up to you and was proud to call you a friend, as was I.

Nicole-Jen-at-Birthday-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole’s birthday at the house. Back of Casey’s head, Mikey, Ryan, Jen, Nicole & Elizabeth. Rest-in-Peace Ryan & Jen, may you both find each other in blue skies.

In a way, I think you found me intriguing with my hyperactive nature and my adventurous and creative spirit.  You seemed to find those qualities later on in life, whereas I discovered them early.  I loved hearing about your skydiving adventures, your running accomplishments and your evenings on your porch with a beer.  You seemed to be enjoying the life you made for yourself.  I was enjoying it with you!

Did I ever mention I loved hearing about your dogs and especially your chickens!  When I heard you were building a chicken coop, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic and pride.  Not because you wanted to have fresh eggs, which I didn’t blame you, but because to me that was a sign of you hanging around my family.  You were always at the house and down my Uncle Walter’s farm.  It was almost like a piece of us up on the ridge was instilled in your very core.  You didn’t know it because I never told you, but to me that was a perfect compliment.  Now I may have been completely off base with my assumption, but I’m holding onto it.

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Welcome back class of 1992! Nicole, Jen, Heather, Susan 2012. Go Latrobe Wildcats!

On a side note, I saw that Facebook post you posted about getting locked inside your chicken coop.  I was howling!  That was so terribly funny, I still think about it.  You certainly found complete humor in yourself, which was a great quality to have!

I don’t know if you remember or not when Ryan died?  I bet you do, how can anyone forget that horrible time and grief.  The same grief everyone is feeling today.  Granted that wasn’t Ryan’s choice to leave us, but it doesn’t make any death easy to accept.  I guess that’s why they call it a tragedy.  I’m not sure why someone, including you would make that choice.  Maybe you really wanted to LIVE and wanted true peace.  I’m sure I’m a part of the mix of people you left behind wondering why?  Or what could I have done?  I mean, that’s natural right?  Everyone wants to understand and have a good reason, although in my eyes there wasn’t a good one, however that wasn’t my decision.  It was your unfortunate action that cannot be reversed.  One that I still can’t fathom.

Life will go on.  It always does, but it won’t be as colorful and interesting without you here.  I didn’t find out about your passing until early evening on Wednesday and I had the very same shock and confused feeling as I did when I got the news Ryan passed.  I guess that’s understandable considering you were family.

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Jen with a Lobster. This was not my pic, but taken from Jen’s Facebook page. I just loved her in it! Rest-in-Peace Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith

Jen, I never thought your days would be short.  Of course, when loosing someone, who really thinks that?  I suspect you’ve always struggled internally.  I suppose I kind of knew that, but I never made mention of it.  Perhaps it was because I didn’t understand and I couldn’t identify with it or because I thought at this point in your life  all was good.  Do I get it now?  No!  Not even close!  Especially the way you chose to leave our earthly world.  Why that way?  It was so violent.  You seemed so happy, but I guess even though pictures can say a thousand words, they don’t show the inside, the truth, just the surface.  So I guess pictures can be deceitful lies.  I just don’t understand.  I mean here I am talking about going to the shooting range this past Sunday.  Did I give you the idea?  I hope not!  You grew up in the Piper household, you knew we respected the guns.  Did you forget dad’s rule about never pointing a firearm at another person, even a toy gun?  That includes yourself Jen!

I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a person near or far, friend, foe or even complete stranger that wouldn’t have stopped everything that was going on in his or her life to help you.  You, Jen were an asset to this life!  Did you realize that?  Many knew it, I hope you did too!  I bet everyone is wishing you would have called them.  Nicole would have been at your house in a heartbeat, as would I and many others.  Maybe you didn’t know or maybe you thought you had the perfect answer.  You were very smart throughout your short life and have done things right, this time your judgement was wrong!  If you had to do it again, would you choose the same?

Since you consistently read my blog, I thought it appropriate to give you your very own day, your own story, your ever lasting memorial.  Your words were always so kind and encouraging.  You used to state how much you loved my writing style and how much you loved hearing what I had to say.  I know you were just being nice, but coming from you, that was such a compliment!  You truly loved hearing about my silly and sometimes pointless tales, and a few uncontrollable rants.  Eventually, this post will be buried by life and other stories that always seem to want to exit my brain and travel down through my fingers, to end up in black and white, but like this post, you will always remain.  Remain in the minds and memories of those you knew, and maybe by some you didn’t.  You will never be forgotten!

Jen, I hope you are flying in the beautiful blue skies you were made to, and I hope your soul finds the peace it was seeking.  God bless!

With much love,

Heather

Rest-in-Peace and God Speed Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith!

 

Huffington Post Article on the Skydiving Accident

Jen worked for Leading Edge Eyecare since 2005.  I took a screen shot of the website.

Leading-Eyecare-Webpage-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Here are a few screen shots I took from Jen’s Facebook page to preserve her memory.

Jens Facebook post on the race Aunt Heather Piper

Jen Galbraith Facebook Post about running Aunt Heather Piper

Jen Galbraith Facebook Post Aunt Heather Piper

News of Jens death FB Aunt Heather Piper

Nicoles Facebook Post on Jens Death Aunt Heather Piper

Jen Galbraith Facebook Post from Patty friends Aunt Heather Piper

Friends of Jen FB Aunt Heather Piper

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Reminiscing and have Comments (6)

The Chad Delier Scanlon Story

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.  ~Mother Teresa

This post is dedicated to my cousin Chad Scanlon.  In loving memory of Chad, September 4, 1994 – May 25, 2007.

Chad-Delier-Scanlon-The-Book-of-Chad-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Chad Delier Scanlon, what a great inspiration!

This is a follow up to the Life’s Not Fair blog post.  After I wrote it, a certain someone came to mind, my cousin Chad.  He passed away on Memorial Day from a brain tumor, on May 25, 2007.  He was just 12 years old, about Kyle’s age.

Is that fair he didn’t have a chance to live his life?  Is it fair the family had to accept such an ordeal with the fight of cancer or worse, to loose a child?  Nope, but again it’s part of God’s ultimate plan I guess, even if we don’t understand it or really accept it.  So I guess life isn’t so bad when you spill your coffee or hit every red-light.

In all sincerity, I believe Chad lived a full life while he was with us.  How can you not growing up on the ridge?  The Scanlon family is a living testament to the type of person Chad would have turned out to be.  Jimmy, Marie-Paule and Sasha, Chad’s dad, mom and sister respectively, are all down to earth, good hearted folk.

The Scanlon’s and the Delier’s have always held their head high and never pitied themselves, nor did they expect that from anyone.  Nope!  They played the hand that was dealt to them and tried to handle it as best they could, even when Chad was fighting for his life and when he passed on.  Do they miss Chad?  Sure, everyday!  Everyday Chad is thought about, everyday they feel the grief.  Just like anyone who has lost a loved one, especially so young.  But they took this as an opportunity to help others while working through their pain.  They are the strongest of people, those that can move forward, face their grief and use it to help others, to reach out to those who need strength and support.

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Chad & Sasha in their pj’s. 12/31/05

As a lasting tribute to Chad, they established the Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.  Every year the Scanlon family, and I mean the entire family, organizes the Chad Delier Scanlon Golf Outing at the Glengarry Golf Course in Latrobe, Pa.

Besides helping the healing process, which I can totally understand and relate to (ie the Aunt Heather blog), they support many of Chad’s activities.  Can you believe Chad was fluent in French, ever since he was able to talk?  Yes!  His mother, Marie-Paule is bilingual, being born and raised in Belgium.  I always thought that was so cool!  Maybe because je parle un peu de Francais.

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Me, Jimmy & Marie-Paule Scanlon, Casey Olczak & Sasha Scanlon. The dream team! Chad Delier Scanlon Golf Outing at Glengarry Golf Course Latrobe. 2010

Chad went to the Holy Trinity Catholic School and he was a member of the church.  He enjoyed hunting and fishing.  What can I say?  All kids born into our family come pre-programmed for the outdoors.  Of course, I couldn’t speak of Chad without mentioning his love of jump rope.  Yes!  He was a member of the High Flyers Jump Rope Team.  In fact, while Chad was going through rehabilitation, he would work some jump rope into his activity.  Can I also mention he had a great attitude and never complained?  Never heard ‘It’s not fair.’

In addition to Chad’s activities, the Scanlon’s, raise money to help families whose own children are undergoing medical crises.  When I say the Scanlon’s, I’m referring to the immediate family and the rest of the family clan along with friends and neighbors.  Like I said, the Scanlon’s are genuinely good caring people.

It’s no secret, there are many more stories like Chad’s, but I’ve never heard anyone say ‘It’s not fair’.

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Chad’s High Flyers Jump Rope Team. Sasha is in the back row on the far left & Chad is in the middle back row.

Instead of saying ‘It’s not fair’, do what you can to help.  Years ago, when I read The Book of Chad, I was pleasantly surprised to find out what the local friends and family did to help Chad and his family during Chad’s struggle.  This is amazing to me!  Family and friends got together to finish building Jimmy’s garage.  Yes, while the family was dealing with Chad’s sickness, friend and family finished building a complete structure!  The Scanlon’s came home to find a finished garage at the end of the driveway.  I bet that was an awesome sight!  Maybe it helped to shift their focus, even if it was for just a moment.  I’m sure it made Santa’s little helpers feel good to just pitch-in and do something, and I know Jimmy and Marie-Paule appreciated it beyond words.  Sometimes giving is completely unrelated, yet it means the world to both parties.

Casey-&-Kyle-Golf-Outing-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2010

Kyle & Casey at the Chad Delier Scanlon Golf Outing at Glengarry Golf Course, Latrobe. Chad & Kyle share the same godfather!  2010

It’s easier said than done, and not everyone thinks that way or has the drive, motivation, resources or ideas to tackle their tragedy in the same manner, but there is much more to bringing comfort to others.  Instead of saying, ‘It’s not fair’ we should be saying ‘What can I do to help my fellow brother or sister?’

A few years after Ryan passed away, dad was back in the hospital.  Something about his oxygen in his blood being low, or something along those lines.   Naturally, I got a call from mom telling me to meet her in the emergency room.  On a side note, I walked in the room where mom and dad were, and dad was wearing a hospital gown for a shirt and he kept his jeans and boots on!  I almost fell over laughing at the sight!  Mom said he refused to get totally undressed, since they only needed his arms to take his blood pressure and such.  Only my dad!

Anyway, across the room from dad was a little boy, probably Kyle’s age at the time, two or three.  I’m not sure why he was there, but I do know he was sick, again the details were none of my business.  When dad heard about the little tyke, he immediately had my mom go and get the little boy a balloon and a stuffed animal from the hospital gift shop.  I know seeing that kid sick struck a cord with dad.  At that point, Kyle was always in and out of the hospital himself with phenomena, tonsillitis, ear infections, you name it, all respiratory issues.  We had a sick little man on our hands for quite some time.  I did peek my head in the room of the mystery boy, just to give the kid a thumbs up.  He was so happy over his spontaneous gift from an unknown source.  It made all of us smile.  And you know what?  The day was a little bit easier to take.

Chad-&-Jimmy-Scanlon-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Chad helping his dad with building the beginning of the garage before he got sick.

Was it fair that Kyle was so sick for so many years or that little boy was in the ER?  No, but we are blessed that Kyle is healthy now.  Like I said, others always have it worse, like Chad’s struggle.  But I will admit those years of emergency room visits, made us all aware of the fears and battles other sick children tackle.  Let’s not forget, it helped Kyle to soften dad’s heart.  So much so, that he reach out his neighbor, literally, across the hallway to give back.  This time in the form of a milliard balloon and a stuffed animal.

You know I do believe Ryan and Chad are hanging out in heaven together, maybe casting their fishing lines side-by-side.  I also believe they are with my pap and Chad’s grandma, my Aunt Helen.  That’s how we are related, my pap and Aunt Helen’s dad were brothers, Jimmy’s grandpa and my grandpa were brothers.  Aunt Helen was another one of those great spirits we were all blessed to know.  Ryan had such a crush on Aunt Helen when he was little.  He used to say she was his girlfriend.  Maybe she’s sitting there too, fishing in the pool of heaven.

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Me & Kyle working tickets at the Chad Delier Scanlon Golf Outing 2010

This year’s golf outing is on Saturday, June 15th at the Glengarry Golf Course in Latrobe, Pa., near Lycippus.  Every year the seats fill up fast, I guess that’s what happens when you come from such a large family.  It is a fun event!  All donations support the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help a child with a life threatening disease receive a wish; the Holy Trinity School in Ligonier; Hunt-of-A-Lifetime to help send a child with a terminal illness on a hunting trip; and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation for travel expenses to aid children in getting to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh for treatment.

Chad-Sasha-playing-with-train-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Sasha & Chad setting up the train for Christmas

If anyone is interested in volunteering or donating, please let me know.  Or visit the Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Fund on Facebook.  Show your support for Chad and the family just by hitting ‘Like’.  Some donate in the form of monetary contributions; some sponsor a hole, which we do in memory of Ryan; while others donate their time and some donate baskets and prizes to be raffled off during the golf outing.  It’s a very well organized event that I am blessed to be apart of every year.

I do want to give a special shout out to the Glengarry Golf Course.  They have been exceptional to work with and they have treated us wonderfully.  Besides going out of their way to make sure the day runs smooth, not that Jimmy and Marie-Paule need any assistance, but they are easy to work with and they genuinely want the day to be successful.

To really learn the full story of Chad’s brain tumor, the struggles and obstacles he and his family faced, purchase The Book of Chad.  It couldn’t be more straightforward and spot on and educational.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Thinking About You Ryan!

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  ~1 Corinthians 15:42-44

Ryan-smiling Aunt Heather Piper

Ryan showing his muscles

It has been eleven years since Ryan has left us on earth and moved toward eternity.  Is is easier that it’s been over a decade since his passing?  Nope, not at all, but through the grace of God we are still managing to get by every day.

There is no doubt that Ryan is looking down us, especially Kyle.  I’m sure Ryan is extremely proud of the young man his son has turned out to be, as we all are, friends and family alike.  How do I know?  Well, the presence of Ryan is a gut feeling, but those residing on earth, they mention it in passing or make it a point to call out Kyle’s kind heart and sincerity.

Kyle is the best reminder of Ryan, not that we need it.  With Kyle, it’s fun to share stories about his dad and make comparisons between the two.  Although, the biggest joke we have is that Kyle is my sister reincarnated.  While that’s true for many of Kyle’s characteristics, the truth is Kyle is so much his dad, his friendliness, candor, and sense of humor are all Ryan.  Even his creativeness and desire to build are stemmed  mostly from Ryan.  I guess Kyle’s a little bit of us all.

Kyle's-Born-Ryan-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan proudly holding his son, Kyle 7/30/01

Sometimes I can still see Ryan’s unique smirk.  It wasn’t quit a smile but certainly not a frown, and it was a bit crooked, almost a mischievous grin.  When he demonstrated that look, you couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking.  Although when he shot me that expression along with the rolling of the eyes, I knew exactly what he was saying inside.  Of course now-a-days while he’s hanging out in heaven with my pap, Ryan’s probably saying ‘What were you thinking Heather?’ or ‘My family is a rare breed.’  I hope we are entertaining him but I mostly hope all of our actions and decisions are Ryan approved, especially when it comes to Kyle.  I’ve always said, with all my decisions regarding Kyle I ask the question, “Does it help or hinder him mentally, spiritually or physically?”  I also try to take Ryan into consideration.  I know it’s silly, but I try to picture how Ryan would have raised Kyle and handle certain situations.

No matter what goes on in life, good or bad, no matter how busy or hectic things get, we still think of Ryan every day and I can’t help but wonder what the days would be like if he was still around.  Death is tough on the living.  I can’t wait till we are reunited again!  I miss my little brother!

posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Strong Soul

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities:  It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak. ~Thomas Carlyle

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Dad holding Nicole sitting by pap Christmas 1974

As I was watching the movie Soul Surfer last week, the film based off of a true story about a young girl who had her arm amputated by a shark, I remembered my pappy and his prosthetic legs.  Yep I said legs, plural.  My pappy, my paternal grandfather, had both of his legs amputated, one above the knee and other below the knee.

Being really young, if born at all, when pap’s first leg had to be amputated just below the knee, wasn’t a big deal to me.  If I am remembering the stories correctly, pap broke his leg, I’m guessing in the woods since he was a woodsman, and the doctor applied the cast too tight, cutting off his circulation, and eventually resulting in the amputation.  As far as I can remember, he only ever had one leg.  But looking back on it now, it didn’t seem strange or odd, it was normal to me having a prosthetic leg and using a cane.  In fact, he didn’t let the wooden leg stop him, even from driving.  He had a stick he used for the gas peddle, which would put him in jail today.  I also believe he had a wheelchair in the house, but I don’t remember if the wheelchair came before or after his second amputation.

pap-at-Aunt-Heather-Piper-b-day

pappy, Ryan, Joel & me at my birthday party c. 1980

Regardless, as kids we loved the wheelchair.  It’s almost shameful to admit, but me and Ryan used paps wheelchair as our own personal amusement park ride.  We would push each other around, chase each other, squeal tire (leaving the occasional tire mark on the floor) and spin the wheelchair into doughnut motions in the middle of my grandmothers kitchen.  We had a blast on that thing!  Every now and then, probably more times than I care to admit, we would accidentally run into grams cupboards, which always provoked a few loud reprimands from the living-room or porch.  Pap never really was upset with us, at least not that I can remember.  We also would use the wheelchair as an extra seat in the living-room.  It was always parked by pap.  I would request to occupy the seat to sit near pappy, it was either that or risk gram cuddling me to the point of crushing.  Sometimes, Ryan and I would fight over who got to sit in the wheelchair by pap, it was prime real-estate.  You see, Ryan and pap were always really tight, they were two peas in a pod.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-diary-page-5-6-87Now eventually, pappy lost his second leg to poor circulation, which I’m sure his smoking habit didn’t help the situation out.  Did I mention they were Camel Straights?  Those life stealing addictive sticks totally stunk and were extremely gross!  Although, I do give pap kudos, he never really smoked around us and at one point he did try quitting, with no help of my gram.  He would go out on the porch, even in the dead of winter to inhale a few less years on his lifespan.  So I guess it’s no surprise when I say that over the years, because of paps health, I was no stranger to Latrobe Area Hospital.  When he lost his second leg, which I remember very clearly, we went to visit him in the hospital, just like we did every time he had a heart attack or another health issue.  To this day, I can still picture the hospital chapel perfectly.  Mom would always march us down the hallway to the chapel to say a prayer for pap and to get us out of the room so the adults could talk.  Now I don’t remember pap being upset over the removal of his second leg, which was above the knee, but I’m sure he was.  To this day, I remember the journey into paps hospital room and seeing him lay there.  I did shed a few tears on my journey, I must have been upset by this newest adjustment.  Pap was strong, at least in my eyes.  From my perspective, the new challenge didn’t seem to bothered him at all.  However, mom did tell me years later, after my brother had already pasted, that pap was depressed over the second amputation.  This came as a complete surprise to me.  In fact, I remember pap giving me one of his ornery grins while laying in hospital bed.  I don’t remember seeing him struggle with the canes, and I certainly never heard a negative word said about his handicap.  He wasn’t even negative about trying to quit smoking.  I do remember he struggled with kicking the habit out of his life once and for all, but he was never mad.  Never mad at life and never blamed anyone for his woes or wished his life was different.  He was content, he was pap.  He would sometimes refuse to use the handicap parking, saying ‘Those are for handicap people.’

During the time of the second amputation, Ryan wasn’t in school yet, so he stayed with pap during the day.  I guess he helped him around the house and kept him company.  Ryan was probably a God sent to pap, kids tend to be like that, I know I’ve experienced it first hand with Kyle.  Thinking now on the situation, no wonder Ryan and pap were so tight.  Ryan kept pap going and saved his life, just like Kyle did for us nearly twenty years later.

Over time, pap learned to walk with two canes and two prosthetic legs.  His car had a contraption installed so he could drive, since gram rarely did, and trust me it was much safer that way.  He continued to work at the sawmill, literally until the day he had his last stroke and died.  Pap went to work every day, Monday through Friday and sometimes worked on Saturdays.  When it was my turn to stay the week with my grandparents during the summer, I would wake up at 5:00ish in the morning with pap and hang with him before he went to work.  He always made his own lunch and packed it away in his metal lunch box.  His midday fuel supply always included a pack of saltine crackers and a piece of fruit.  Then, when he would leave to start off his day, I would go back to bed with gram.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-dairy-page-5-7-87Pap died on May 6, 1987, which I just realized was the day Ryan got married.  While pap was working in his high lift at the sawmill, he had a stroke and was rushed to Latrobe Area Hospital, where he passed away a day or two later. I remember it was a Wednesday and I was in the fifth grade at Sacred Heart.  In fact, I remember I was suppose to go to a birthday party that weekend and we were going to make sundaes. I was bummed about missing the party and the fun.  Now don’t get me wrong, I was really upset about the passing of pap.  We were all very close to him and since my grandpap Chester passed away when I was five, pap was our only grandfather.  What is really amazing about my memory, I remember every detail about the funeral, riding in the backseat of the car as we followed the hearse to the cemetery, the blue dress trimmed in white with ruffles that I wore, and mostly I remember the pain my brother was going through.  Later, following Ryan’s hearse to the same cemetery I thought of that ride behind pap.  Well, Ryan is buried at the foot of pap.  Two strong souls sticking together forever!  Rest-in-Peace guys, till I get there!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments
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