More Of The Good Stuff

I found the sweatshirt on Amazon. Didn’t order it, but will try the words on instead.

During a recent weekend trip to New Smyrna Beach I saw a guy wearing an interesting t-shirt.

Using my trusty iPhone I discreetly took a picture so I could decipher the treatise he displayed on his shirt.
Here’s what it said:

More Music. More Love.

More Sunsets. More Kindness.

More Road Trips. More Hugs.

More Fun. More Peace.

More Wandering. More Art.

More Laughs. More Dreaming.

More Adventures. More Happiness.

More Concerts. More Smiles.

More Freedom. More Creativity.

More Movie Nights. More Life.

I can’t argue with a single word. 

I didn’t see what the back of his shirt said but maybe it was a companion list of what he’d like to see less of. 

That list could be endless. But that “more” list… well that’s kind of special. I can’t stop thinking about it. 

Recently a friend told me about the four pillars of life: work, family, love and spirituality. Build all four pillars and you’ll find fulfillment. 

I can’t argue with that. But I do think life is a journey not a destination and your work continues until you can work no more. 

Anyway, I think I will keep the t shirt list nearby and use it as a guide. 

Last week, as I perused the news I became momentarily overwhelmed: Ukraine, inflation, lawsuits , predictions of a depression in the 2030s and Russia getting some crazy weapon we don’t have an answer for yet. It can drag a person down. It can make you want to cut that t shirt up and chuck it all. 

Not me. I’m not going down that path. 

So I did when I usually do when I’m feeling on the brink, I hugged my wife and lost myself in some music. 

“Late Night Willie Nelson” popped up in my Spotify feed. Yes! A brand new Willie album that features the amazing Norah Jones and Wynton Marsalis. 

And I thought how lucky are we to be alive right now. 

If it all ends tomorrow–and I don’t think it will– we will have been around to listen to The Beatles, we heard Joni Mitchell sing and listened to lyrics by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon. 

We got to see Patrick Mahomes play QB, Roger Federer glide around a court and Michael Jordan soar through the air. 

We got to go to the movies and watch Brando command the screen and we got to see the most perfect romantic comedy ever: “When Harry Met Sally.”

We see people cured of cancer who were once sentenced to die and we see foster children find permanent homes because of our own 4Kids of South Florida. I can go on and on. What a wonderful life. 

The same day I saw the t shirt, I stood on a beach at night with my wife and her family. My family.  I adore these people.  I listened as my brother in law Paul pointed his phone toward the heavens and opened an app that told us what constellations we were looking at. I marveled. 

Such a night. It’s such a night. 

Sweet confusion under the moonlight.

As I write this I am listening to Willie Nelson sing Stardust. Friends, it doesn’t get better than this. 

So let’s add more stargazing and more Willie to that t shirt list. 

More gratitude too. 

Reunions

Remembering our time in Oz while enjoying Elisabetta’s.

Recently, I reunited with three guys I went to college with at Suny Oswego.

I hadn’t seen two of the guys for 38 years—ever since we left the shores of Lake Ontario to embark on this mystery ride, we call life.

We managed to stay in touch via Facebook.  I watched their lives unfold on social media. Birthdays, trips, graduations. It’s fun to keep tabs.

But seeing each other in person was special.

We met at Elisabetta’s on Atlantic Avenue, and we wore Oswego State baseball hats to mark the occasion.

The hats served as a calling card, and we had at least six people come to the table to present their SUNY bonafides. This one went to Cortland, another one went to Oneonta, and one had a friend who went to Oswego. It was fun to compare notes.

Seeing people after 38 years apart is an interesting experience. Last time, I saw Joe and David, their entire lives were ahead of them. Last time I saw Stu was 10-12 years ago when we met at Brule in Pineapple Grove for a beer.

I’m proud to report that everyone did well in life and love. They are successful professionals with happy marriages and kids who are doing very well. I found myself taking pride in these guys—I had seen them when they were young and wild. And we shared those stories, filling in details that one or more of us forgot. It was fun to relive those days—pre-cell phone, one computer on the floor of the dorm, when Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Bruce Springsteen ruled the radio.

We spent our nights at the Tavern and on Bridge Street and quite honestly, I don’t remember talking much about the future. We were living in the moment, careening from good time to good time. It was a special time in life.

Anyway, we vowed not to wait another 38 years to get together (the odds aren’t that good for us to make it) and I certainly encourage you to reconnect with old friends. It was a very memorable evening and I must say these guys loved the Avenue, which also made me feel good.  I went home at 9:30. They were just getting started.

Love & Light

 

Today would have been Martin Luther King’s 95th birthday.

Each year on MLK Day, I make it a point to listen to a speech, read something he wrote or take a stroll through his famous quotes. MLK has been a hero of mine, even though I was not quite 4 when he was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39.

Each year, I think of Dr. King in the context of ‘the dream’ and whether America or my own community is living up to the ideals he outlined during his famous speech.

I think it’s obvious that we aren’t there yet. The promise of the United States remains a work in progress.

And that’s OK, because as Americans we are responsible for working toward a more perfect union and since perfection may be unattainable our jobs are never done. But we are called to never give up, to never stop striving to live up to America’s  ideals.

Those ideals—all men (and women) are created equal, the pursuit of happiness, freedom, Democracy—have inspired people all over the world. Those ideals are to be cherished and protected.

This year, on my hero’s birthday, I fear for America’s future and for MLK’s dream. I don’t think I am alone.

And so, in reading some of Dr. King’s most famous quotes in the wee hours of this morning I was struck by six gems which meet the moment.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.”

“A lie cannot live.”

Yes, that’s only five. But if you stay to the end, I will share the 6th.

When you read MLK two words rise above the others. They are the themes of his life, and they are evergreen. Love and light–those words will never be archaic or wrong.

And yet we are lacking both in our world right now.

We cannot remain silent. We are in the same boat now.

In this new year, I will be looking for love and light. I will strive to help those who are struggling to build a better world.

Last week, my colleague and I visited Boca Helping Hands, a wonderful charity that brings so much light to our community. We heard about programs designed to give people the skills they need to build better lives. It filled our hearts with light and hope.

As you enter the facility, there’s a saying carved into the front desk: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Indeed.

As we moved through the facility and saw the bustle of volunteers hard at work, a long line of cars lined up to receive a bag of food and a hot meal. They are the working poor, or as the government characterizes them ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed).

They are our neighbors—our brothers and sisters.

Yes, in our “wealthy” community there remains great need.

The recipients of the food were getting sustenance and a dose of love. Another program provides children with nutrition to get through the weekend. Yes, children go hungry in our community. These are our children.

When the kids are given food to take home, they are receiving love and light provided by an army of volunteers and philanthropists who shine brightly and love greatly.

Love and light. That’s the beauty of MLK. A bullet may have ended his life but his work endures, which is why I saved the sixth quote for last.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

It’s just that simple.

Second Chances….

Recently, I went to an open house at a nonprofit called The Second Chance Initiative.

I was swept away.

It was my second visit to Second Chance’s warehouse like headquarters in Boca and both times I left there deeply moved by the nonprofit’s mission and the work being done by women overcoming obstacles so they can rebuild their lives.

There is so much good work being done in our communities. Much of it is done quietly and without fanfare, but lives get saved and that’s what matters.

Some of you may know that I serve as a trustee for the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation https://www.carldesantis.org/. It is an amazing honor to do this work. Carl was a generous and kind man. Those of us involved in the Foundation are deeply committed to extending his legacy and his strong desire to help people.

Giving people a second chance in life was a value that Carl believed in. He related to the underdog and always rooted for the David’s in their struggles against the Goliaths of the world. I don’t know the root cause of that sentiment, but I think that Carl thought of himself as an underdog in many ways. He itched to take on the giants—whether it was competing with the big players in nutrition or challenging the leaders in the energy drink space. Carl was always up for a good challenge.

One time, he went to Mexico and tasted a hot sauce. He came back with the recipe and a plan to take on Tabasco.

That’s how Tabanero was born, right here in Delray Beach. Today, Tabanero is poised to make a run at the big players in the field. The little brand with a big taste is already at Walmart.

But as much as he loved business and the challenge of taking on the champs, he truly loved helping those who needed a second chance.

So, when a friend from Delray told me about the Second Chance Initiative, I was all ears. Second Chance is dedicated to changing the trajectory of women’s lives. The program enables women in recovery to work toward self-sufficiency by breaking what they call the “cycle of shame” that often leads to relapse.

Second Chance believes that work can contribute to well-being. In the small warehouse in Boca, women in recovery produce mugs, ornaments, and tumblers that they sell on Etsy. Proceeds get funneled back into the program which also teaches job skills and provides a supportive and loving community for women rebuilding their lives.

When a colleague and I conducted a site visit to the check out the program a few months ago, I committed a terrible faux pas. You’re supposed to observe the program, ask tough questions and be dispassionate, but we met some of the women and we heard their stories and I found myself….well… I found myself choking up.

I was touched by the stories of women who lost it all—families, children, marriages, homes, careers and their self-worth. And I was moved by the stories of how this program is helping these women rebuild their lives.

They are getting a second chance. They are finding a community of compassion, and it’s powerful to witness. You can feel the love that goes into every coffee mug; it sounds goofy but there’s magic unfolding in suite 312 in a warehouse district on Boca Raton Boulevard.

And so, I thought, my friend Carl would love this mission. It had it all, stories of people overcoming obstacles, women learning business and life skills so they can live good lives. And they were making cool products that I knew the “product guy” in Carl would really appreciate.

Luckily, the board agreed with our recommendation to fund a gift.

When we returned for the Open House, we were greeted by a group of women working at Second Chance. We were treated to amazing stories of resilience by those who “graduated” and are doing well—one day at a time— and we met several friends who support this mission.

This time, I didn’t tear up, but my heart filled with joy. This was a joyous experience, and I was grateful that my friend’s generosity made it possible to help others.

I’m falling in love with philanthropy. I’ve been on the asking end as a board member raising funds for local nonprofits for decades and that’s been fulfilling too. But giving is extra special.

We are trying very hard to make every hard earned dollar count, to honor Carl’s memory and to help people and communities thrive.

When I come to my office, I long to share what I’m seeing with my friend, who made this all possible but he is no longer here. When I shared that sentiment with a co-worker, she assured me that Carl knows what’s happening.

I believe he does too. And I believe that we are going to do a lot of good.

For more information on the Second Chance Initiative please visit https://her2ndchance.org/

If you need holiday gifts for the office or home Shop Directly https://her2ndchance.org/pages/shop-us-direct or visit the Etsy Shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/SecondChanceMugs

Use Code GIVE20 to save 20 percent.

 

Rest In Peace

This week, we remember Cathy Arts who passed Nov. 6.

Mrs. Arts was the wife of my friend Mike Arts and the mother of my friend Peter. Both Mike and Peter are well-known for their public service, but Mrs. Arts was a major contributor to the community as well.

She served as a past president of the Palm Glades Girl Scout Council, past chair of the Florence Fuller Development Center and past president of the Boca Raton Historical Society.

She will be missed by many.

We also lost a dear friend Sister Mary Clare Fennell.

Sister Mary Clare led St. Vincent Ferrer School for years. I fell in love with her spirit of kindness, her sense of humor and her beautiful Irish brogue. She became a touchstone for me and so many others. When she retired and moved back to Ireland, I wrote about her for this blog. Here’s the link. https://yourdelrayboca.com/until-we-meet-again/

The title of the blog was “Until We Meet Again.” We had talked about going to Ireland and visiting. But once again life took over and we never did take that trip. I regret it, but I have a feeling we will meet again. Sister was a guiding light in this world; a positive, compassionate and loving soul. I’m glad she went home to her beloved Ireland, but wow did she make a mark right here in Delray Beach.

Open photo

 

We also extend condolences to Roy Simon and the Simon family on the loss of Mary Elizabeth Simon.

Mrs. Simon was involved in the committee that created the Delray Affair. She was also a Jubileer and was involved in our library and St. Paul’s Church.

May her memory be a blessing.

 

 

Our Carl…

Carl DeSantis (1939-2023)

Note: My mentor, friend, partner, employer, teacher, confidante and all-around inspiration Carl DeSantis passed away August 10. He was 84. And even though I knew it was coming and thought I was prepared, I found myself devastated when I got the news while traveling in Maine. Carl was a bright light in so many lives. And as word got out, I began to receive a slew of calls, texts and emails sharing stories from people whose lives had been changed by this wonderful, generous, and kind man.

Everyone processes grief in their own way, and my way is to write out my thoughts. I stayed up late the night I heard the news and the following words poured out.

I want to share my thoughts with you as a tribute to a man who taught me so much and in the hopes that his life provides lessons for us all: to be kind to everyone, to be generous (his favorite saying was “good begets good”) to dream big and never be afraid to go after those dreams. My friend Carl lived a big life, he had big dreams, big appetites, and the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. But he was also very simple too: he was proud of his family, loved his friends and lived to bring a smile to the faces of all who crossed his path. And so it was…he was a gift to so many.

 

What can you say about a man who changed your life?

A man who changed so many lives.

So many lives….

Great people change the world’s they inhabit and even when they leave this world, their impact, their care, concern, work, ideas, love, and friendship remain. They continue to brighten our lives for having lived so well.

Carl DeSantis was an amazing man. Just an amazing man. We throw that word around frequently, but Carl was truly wondrous. He believed in miracles and made them happen. He believed that anything was possible and if he was involved that was true.

He made a dent in this world and all I can say is look out heaven because your newest resident is one of a kind.

Our Carl always found a way to beat the odds; again and again with a smile and a style all his own. He made us feel good about life…and he modeled generosity, kindness, and love. Oh, there was mischief too…but always in a good and gentle manner. He was a good and gentle man.

But he was also a force of nature. A whirlwind of energy and ideas.

Great people make things happen; even the seemingly impossible.

They blow away the status quo and transform people, industries, and communities.

My friend Carl DeSantis did all those things and more. “And more”…he said those words often.

“Celsius does this and that” we would tell him. And he would say “and more” and those words went on the can for a while…..we had a lot of different cans and a lot of different words on those cans. Because Carl always wanted more. G-d bless him.

 

He saw further, he dreamed bigger, he took huge risks and he always wanted more for everyone in his universe. Carl was always climbing mountains. Always looking for worlds to conquer, new problems to solve.

When I speak to people who know and love Carl—and to know Carl is to love Carl—the first word they often use to describe him is “generous.”

Carl was always looking for ways to help people. All people, literally everyone he came across.

He sat with titans of industry, and he treated them the same as the person who bussed his table or cut his grass. He loved people. And they adored him because he was respectful, and kind and he stood out from the masses because of those wonderful traits.

If you told Carl that someone was ill or hurt, he would often well up with tears. He had the biggest heart.

If you were lucky enough to be in his orbit, you would quickly describe your life in the following way: Pre-Carl and Post-Carl.

If Mr. D saw something in you, he would change your life. It was just that simple and just that wonderful.

Great men like Carl make a lasting splash and the ripples of that splash go beyond anything that even someone with his infinite vision could have conceived of.

So yes, those of us in his “inner circle” were the most fortunate, but his vision, his investments, his entrepreneurial spirit changed entire industries and impacted the world.

He made his first fortune by transforming the vitamin industry with Rexall Sundown and then he revolutionized the energy drink category with Celsius. His vision, his resilience, his belief and his old-fashioned moxie benefited thousands of employees, vendors, retailers, suppliers, shareholders and partners. And millions of consumers….

My friend was a game changer.

And his vision will continue to transform our world as the next generation of Carl’s ideas and investments grow and succeed. Tabanero hot sauce, hatched after a visit to Mexico (“let’s take on Tabasco!” he said and here we are), real estate, restaurants, office buildings and more. And more. Always more.

There’s no doubt, Carl was a world-class entrepreneur…and others will chronicle his many successes in the coming months and years. But I want to talk about the man.

I met Carl over 20 years ago at a charitable function in Palm Beach. Someone pointed him out to me and said it would be a good idea to walk over and introduce myself. So, I did. I had known of Carl, but I had never met him.

We spoke at that event for a few moments—moments, not minutes— and despite owning property in Delray we never interacted when I was an elected official. But my phone rang when I was term limited and so my adventure with Carl began.

He saw something in me. And that’s how he works. At Rexall Sundown, he hired an ex-narcotics detective to run sales because he saw something in that man—and he was right. He hired his driver and good buddy Jimmy because he had a good feeling about him. Many of us at CDS International Holdings were brought into his world because he saw something in us, that maybe we didn’t even see or know about ourselves.

Carl and I had many heart to heart conversations over the years. He believed that G-d had blessed him with what he called “an innate” gift…he knew what products would work and what would fail and he knew people.

He didn’t believe in pedigree, he believed in his gut instincts. So when he met Nick the police detective, he didn’t worry about whether he had a background in sales….he just knew that Nick would get the job done. And I guess when he met me, he knew he wanted me involved in his various adventures. And so I became a very lucky man and my story is not unique because so many can tell the same story.

Being in Carl’s universe is a magical experience….He didn’t think like anyone else, he saw the world differently… he was not afraid to dream big. He was a man of action and a man of endless courage and resilience.

From the outside, it may seem like Mr. D lived in a charm life and there is no doubt that he was blessed. But he endured so much…physical pain, injuries and setbacks that would have leveled a lesser man. But he met every challenge with strength and grace. We can learn a lot from his example.

A few years back, I had a near death experience with a terrible case of covid and violent pneumonia that ravaged my lungs. Many people came to my aid and saved me, and one of them was Carl. Because I learned from his example—I tried to summon his resilience.

During my time of need, Carl told me that he knew in his heart that I would make it…and I hung onto that intuition because I had seen that intuition work wonders. Carl believed in Celsius, when every expert would have said give up. Carl fought every health scare, when doctors would have told him that it’s not possible…he somehow made it through to live, laugh and love another day.

This last season of Mr. D’s remarkable life was not easy….but we witnessed his boundless courage, rock solid faith, remarkable strength and endless generosity even as we saw him slip away.

We saw these magnificent traits manifest themselves through his belief in G-d and Carl’s legendary capacity to fight through adversity. We saw it in his love for his family, friends and his angel Judy. And we saw it in his decision to set up a foundation so that we may help people for decades to come.

Today, those who love Carl have a hole in our hearts.

You see the special people in our lives fill our hearts to the brim, they enrich us in so many ways, and we feel their loss immensely. Losing Carl is like losing the rain…he’s been that fundamental to our lives.

Still, despite our sadness, we can take comfort that Carl is in heaven… we can rejoice that we crossed paths with this wonderful man, and we can resolve to learn from his example by continuing to do work that would make him proud and by treating people with kindness and dignity.

He will live forever in our hearts and deeds….

 

Love & Grace

Gracie recently celebrated her second birthday.

This is a story about love.

It’s a personal story, but I’m sharing in the hope that you may find something of value. Something you can apply to your own life.

So here goes….

As you know, COVID brought us unprecedented challenges, forcing people around the world to adapt to a new way of life.

The pandemic also ended the lives of nearly 7 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

I was almost one of those people.

It was nearly three years ago that I contracted the virus that put me in grave danger; clinging to life in the ICU at Bethesda Hospital.

During the 39 days I spent fighting to survive, I vowed that if I made it, I would spend more time appreciating the gifts that I’ve been given—a wonderful wife, a beautiful family, great friends and  meaningful work.

I’ve always been an appreciative person, but I feel things deeper now. In a weird way, COVID was a gift.

The disease reminded me that life is finite, and that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Of course, I knew this pre-COVID, but my experience of isolation in the hospital drilled that concept deep into my consciousness.

I’ve never been a materialistic person, but I wanted three things when I got out of the hospital: more time with my wife Diane, a getaway place in Maine and a golden retriever.

I’m still working on the time with Diane (there will never be enough) but we got a place in Portland and a Golden named Gracie came into our lives. As a bonus, we rescued a Chihuahua named Emmitt from a wonderful non-profit in Maine called Ellie’s Legacy Animal Foundation.

Emmitt

I share this because I hope it inspires you to be conscious of time, grateful for health and maybe open to bringing a pet into your life if you have the inclination (it is a major commitment).

Gracie just turned two and if you would excuse the pun, she’s a golden ray of sunshine. When Gracie entered our lives, she brought love, happiness, and healing to me in the post-COVID era. She brought our family even closer, because our children love her too and want to be nearby.

She’s a happy dog, always smiling. Always glad to see you. Always there with a hug (seriously, she actually hugs you).

She’s also goofy and like most pets full of unique quirks. She watches TV—but only shows that feature dogs, loves her little brother Emmitt, and has a thing for shadows. She likes to chase them.

I’ve had a few goldens in my life; my childhood dog Rusty was a shepherd-retriever mix, he was followed by Magnum, Casey and then Teddy. All of them were amazing—loyal, loving and fun.

But golden retrievers also shed (a lot), require lots of exercise and have been known to drool. Of course, their great qualities more than make up for having hair on literally everything that comes into the house.

When we lost Teddy, we were heartbroken. He was a soul mate as much as a pet. It’s hard to describe, but Teddy was so good that you had to remind yourself that he wasn’t a person. He was considerate—I’m serious he was.

When he got cancer, we did everything possible to save him and probably bought him a year. Losing him was devastating and we felt the same way when his 19-year-old chihuahua brother Randy passed away surrounded by family and our longtime friend and vet Dr. Jim Grubb.

So going down the emotional road again, post COVID was a big decision. But I told Diane that I’m just happier when I have a golden retriever in my life. Luckily, she feels the same way and so we brought Gracie into our home. She has filled it with love ever since.

But she and Emmitt bring something even deeper to our lives.

If we open our eyes, dogs teach us valuable lessons.

Gracie reminds us of the importance of living in the present. She teaches us to embrace joy and to find that joy in the simple things. She also reminds us to cherish the connections we have with others and to express our love and affection freely. Gracie’s unwavering spirit and boundless love are a constant reminder that even in the face of adversity, happiness is always within reach.

That’s a concept that I need to be conscious of because post COVID…. I’m different. I just am.

Recently, I read a story about the actor Jeff Bridges. He survived a cancer diagnosis and a terrible case of COVID that almost took his life. He spent 35 days in the hospital. I had him beat by four days, but our survival story had a lot of similarities. The intense struggle to breathe, the awful weakness, the searing pain, and the refusal to be on a ventilator.

But what shook me was his description of something he called “morning dread.” Mr. Bridges struggles in the morning. So, do I.

I thought what I have been experiencing was unique, but it isn’t. I did a little research after reading about Mr. Bridges’ case and learned that COVID does impact mental health; they call it post-COVID anxiety and studies are under way. I’ve shared with readers of this blog, that I struggled after I came home. I did some therapy via Zoom and it really helped. But that darn morning dread…. well it has persisted. It doesn’t visit every day, but it does come often and when it comes it’s not good.

Emmitt and Gracie help alleviate the dread. Their adorable faces are better than any prescription.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, Gracie and Emmitt have emerged as guiding lights, offering solace and unconditional love. These two goofy characters have brought happiness into our lives. They foster healing. They spread joy.

Gracie’s presence reminds me that even in the most challenging times, love and companionship can uplift our spirits and restore our faith. Through Gracie and Emmitt, I rediscovered that sometimes, the smallest acts of kindness—like a wagging tail and a wet nose—can have the most significant impact.

Note: I was saddened to learn of the passing of Joseph Lang, a veteran Delray Beach firefighter who retired in 2017 after 25 years of service.

Joe was a wonderful guy who served on the department’s decorated dive team and served as a driver/engineer.

He will be missed. May his memory be a blessing.
Finally, happy birthday America. Have a safe and wonderful fourth.


 

Gord’s Gift

Music as medicine.

We interrupt our regular programming to talk about the loss of Gordon Lightfoot.

The Canadian singer-songwriter passed away at 84 last week and I’ve been playing his music non-stop.

Each song perfectly crafted, every song a story, revealing truths that are universal and lasting. And that’s why the music of Gordon Lightfoot will endure.

Music is the most magical art form. The best songs reach into our souls and tap into something deep.

I’ve been listening to a broad range of Gordon Lightfoot’s songs this week, but I keep going back to “If You Could Read My Mind.”
The song was released in 1970 and 53 years later, after countless plays, it still packs a wallop.

In 3 minutes and 49 seconds, Gordon captures love gone wrong, failure, the loss of passion and the pain of being brutally honest. It’s not an angry song. It’s a love song. But he’s letting go and it breaks your heart.

In under four minutes, I’ve taken a ride with a master and the music allows me to better understand my own journey.

If you’ve ever had love and lost it, the song just slays because of its truth and its humanity.

This is what great art does—it touches us, shapes us, defines us, and makes us feel things we’d just as soon bury.

I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember.

But as I grow older, the songs reach deeper, and I find I need them more to help me understand a very confusing world. I am rediscovering old songs, listening to lots of new music and searching for songs that convey meaning.

It’s a happy search and when I find a special song or a promising artist, I want to share my discovery with my wife Diane. It’s like sending flowers that last forever.

My friend Blake shared something on Facebook after Gordon Lightfoot passed. It was from a column written by Bob Lefsetz. Lefsetz is one of my favorite writers because he angers and delights me often in the same piece. Here it is:

“I’m not talking about a performer. I’m not talking about an award-winner. I’m not talking about someone who is rich. I’m talking about someone who learns the basics and then walks into the wilderness, on their own journey, following their own compass, not someone else’s. And it’s got nothing to do with what you look like, but rather what goes on in your brain. AI (Artificial Intelligence) can create something that sounds like the past, but it can’t create something that sounds like the future, after all it’s based on scraping the internet, and the new, the bleeding edge, the breakthroughs are never there. No one can teach you to be an artist. Not even Rick Rubin. Sure, you can be encouraged, but more often you’re discouraged. The odds are too long. Your choices are bad. You’re not that good. But some stay the course and break through. That’s Gordon Lightfoot.

Decades from now people might not know Gordon’s name, but I guarantee you they’ll be singing his songs. Because they contain truth, and for that reason they are timeless. But it’s not only the words, but the changes and the vocals. Gordon Lightfoot had it all. I’d implore you to remember him, but his songs will do the work for him.”

Yes!

Those songs will do the work. They will endure. Mr. Lefsetz captures the artistic process, it’s about finding your voice, sharing insights, revealing truths—even if they are inconvenient, maybe especially if they are inconvenient. This is how we evolve as people.

Art endures.

Art moves us forward or makes us look back and truly see.

There’s so much noise in our world these days…so many distractions.

But art clarifies, explains, and raises questions too. Music enlightens, calms, excites, and touches us. It reminds us of our humanity.

And we need reminders.

“If you could read my mind, love

What a tale my thoughts could tell

Just like an old time movie

‘Bout a ghost from a wishing well

In a castle dark or a fortress strong

With chains upon my feet

But stories always end”

Yes, stories always end. But the music lives on.

Valentine’s Day

“We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share.” – Maya Angelou

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I’m thinking about love.

I’m listening to the late great Burt Bacharach and Bruce Springsteen and I’m listening to the universe too.

Because when I stop for just a moment, I hear, see, and notice things that I normally miss as I go from meeting to meeting, toggle from call to call and multi-task my way through life.

But when I slow down, I get clarity. I bet you do too.

Here’s what I noticed last week.

We went to see Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band in Orlando and I was transported once again by an artist I have been listening to since I was a young boy blasting my stereo in my room and dreaming about where life would take me.

His music still resonates, his words still matter.

“With her long hair falling

And her eyes that shine like a midnight sun

Oh she’s the one

She’s the one”

“She’s The One”  was released in 1975, when I was 11.

Back then, I just loved the music—the growl of the guitars, the beat of the drums. It was rock n’ roll and I was hooked.

As I got older, the words began to matter more. They began to mean something. And I started to wonder about the world. I began to dream.

Would I ever find someone who would make me feel —with every fiber of my being —that yes “she’s the one?”

But last week, when Bruce and the band launched into the song,  I looked at my wife and I knew—all over again—that yes “she’s the one.”

Same song. Same words. New emotions.

I slowed down, listened and I heard the magic.

On Thursday morning, I got up early to emcee an event for the Boca Chamber featuring two amazing doctors and the dynamic new CEO of Delray Medical Center.

I’ve done a lot of this kind of stuff over the years, but I still get nervous standing up in front of a large crowd. But it went well, and I was swept away by the passion of these health care professionals who are there for us 24/7/365/.

We heard from an oncologist named Mahdi Taha and a cardiologist named Eric Lieberman and I was moved by the care in their voices, their intelligence, and their message of early intervention. And I thought to myself: “we are so blessed to have these people in our world.”

We need more healers. We have enough dividers.

A few days earlier, a colleague and I made the trip to the Max Planck Florida Institute in Jupiter where a foundation I help manage is funding a fellowship in neuroscience.

We met with three brilliant scientists and an administrator for lunch and conversation. We toured the labs and watched experiments in real time.

It was captivating.

We were blown away by their intelligence, curiosity, and kindness. And I thought “someday we will have an answer for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia, thanks to these brilliant minds.”

I am watching a dear friend and hero of mine struggle with Alzheimer’s and I am watching my beautiful and brave wife battle Parkinson’s and I am overcome with love for them and admiration for their strength and grace.

Strength and grace. Oh, how we long to see these traits in our leaders.

As I write this, we are in the middle of yet another brutal and demeaning election season in Delray Beach. Every year, it seems to get worse and worse, more personal, more visceral, in a word: stupid.

If you didn’t know any better, you would think we live in a hell scape.

We don’t.

It’s February and the sun is shining; the temperature is ideal.

We are surrounded by natural beauty, we have cultural and recreational amenities at our fingertips and despite the doom and gloom of the news the future is bright for us in South Florida.

I’m not blind to our challenges—we lack housing, our schools always need help and we have people who suffer from sickness, despair and  a lack of hope and opportunity.

And there is hatred in our society. It’s there.

Racism, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia—and more.

There are people who wake up every day and live to bully, hurt, and tear down others.

The answer to all these problems and all the bullies out there is love.

I know that sounds trite, but sometimes trite is true.

One more example of what happens when you slow down long enough to notice.

I am on the board of Lynn University. It’s a joy, because the school is cool, innovative and most of all caring. The leadership team works well together. It reminds me of my days at the City of Delray Beach where I would marvel at the relationships between the various parts of our local government.

Where’s there’s trust, where’s there’s collaboration, you will find love and you will find success and progress too.

It’s not rocket science, it’s a simple formula but for some reason so elusive to capture and sustain.

Somehow egos, narcissism and bullies always seem to spoil the punch bowl.

We need to be conscience of these actors. We need to keep them away from the levers of power which they use to cause great and lasting damage. We need to insist on kindness and yes love.

I was on a conference call with Lynn’s President and his leadership team discussing how they engage students, how they try to be there for everyone and how they plan to reach out to local public safety workers to discuss the trauma they experience every day. It’s a team dedicated to serving others, a team dedicated to making the world a better place.

And I found myself energized just to be in their presence.

I noticed.

On this Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ll look around and notice too.

I’ll give my musical muse Bruce Springsteen the last word on this subject.

From the song “Land of Hope and Dreams.”

Grab your ticket and your suitcase

Thunder’s rolling down this track

Well you don’t know where you’re goin’ now

But you know you won’t be back

Well darlin’ if you’re weary

Lay your head upon my chest

We’ll take what we can carry

Yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams

Meet me in a land of hope and dreams….

Our Proud History: Remembering Mrs. Pompey

Pompey Park is more than just a name.

Editor’s Note:
I’m posting this blog a few days early because we are off to see Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band in Orlando and I know I will be too tired to post Monday. Seeing Bruce and the band after 7 long years of waiting is an emotional experience for us “Spring-Nuts” so I’m taking Monday off.

It’s Black History Month and I’m thinking about some of the people who made history right here in Delray Beach.

There are so many local giants, special people who led the way and left a legacy of love and service.

But this year, I’m thinking about one woman in particular: H. Ruth Pompey.

The H was for Hattie.

Mrs. Pompey passed away in 2009.

I miss her.

Mrs. Pompey was married to C. Spencer Pompey, a legendary civil rights leader, coach, and educator.

I’ve been reading Mr. Pompey’s book “Many Rivers to Cross” which his wife published after he passed and maybe that’s why I’ve thinking about Mrs. Pompey.

But there’s another reason she’s on my mind; and while I’m at it I’ve also been thinking about these folks too: Alfred “Zack” Straghn, Elizabeth “Libby” Wesley, Nadine Hart, Loretta and Sam McGhee, Joe and Carolyn Gholston,  David and Mary Randolph, Vera Farrington, Lula and Len Butler, Red and Yvonne Odom and Beatrice Tyson.

There are others. So many others. But for now, that list will do.

These were the matriarchs and patriarchs that shaped so many lives in Delray—mine included. We’ve lost many of them, but a few are still around.

We should be grateful for them all.

I’m thinking about them because they possess a common trait: they shared their wisdom with others.

All of them sought out promising up and comers, sat them down, and shared what they had learned. And they were sought out as well.  Smart people called them and asked them to share their thoughts, perspectives, and experiences.

It was an informal system and it worked because you learn from your elders and if you’re smart you take what they have learned, and you leverage that knowledge. You stand on the shoulders of those who came before. You reap the harvest from the seeds they struggled to plant and nurture.

That’s how progress happens, you build on the work of past leaders. You don’t rip things down and you don’t incinerate the hard work of others.

People like Mrs. Pompey were stewards. We need stewards because they understand what’s precious and what’s worth preserving.

It’s easy to rip something down.

It’s a lot harder to build something of value.

And sometimes when you erase things they are gone for good.  It’s like taking a tree and chopping off its limbs. Often, that tree dies and you’ve lost something majestic forever.

I wonder sometimes whether we understand that cruel rule.

I’ve been reading a lot about Tyre Nichols; trying to make sense of his senseless murder in Memphis. I wanted to know more; to feel more before he is lost forever and replaced by the next headline. And there’s always another headline isn’t there?

I learned that Mr. Nichols was a father, a skateboarder and a photographer who loved capturing sunsets. I have a friend who does the same thing. His name is Kerry and he was once a firefighter in Memphis. Yes, the universe connects us in magical ways.

I’ve also been reading about our Governor and the brouhaha over the AP African American History curriculum. I wonder who he’s consulted, who he’s sat with or if he’s consulted with anyone at all.

And I’ve been seeing the rage on social media that exists in our own community about our community and I’m left to wonder.

What would my friend H. Ruth Pompey say about it all?

Are there people like her still around? Do our leaders seek them out?

I did.

I spoke to many, and they carried me through every crisis, real or imagined in my life. There were many. When you step into the arena, crises come with the territory.

When Mrs. Pompey passed, I got a call from her daughter asking me to eulogize her mother. I had spoken at Mr. Pompey’s funeral in 2001. It was a great honor because he was a great man.

I was touched by the request to pay tribute to Mrs. Pompey.

I recently found the eulogy searching through emails that Mrs. Pompey sent me through the years. I wanted to hear her “voice”, I wanted to connect once more.

She didn’t write me often, she preferred phone calls or visits, but her emails were always full of encouragement and wisdom.

Hope too.

She was full of hope. And she had ambition. Dreams for her community, dreams for the world.

So, I wonder what she would make of “all this” …I don’t have a word for what we are going through. But I hope you know what I mean.

A young man died on the streets of Memphis calling for his mother….

In a few days, some of us will mark the 18th year since our community lost 15-year-old Jerrod Miller. But I suspect that most of us don’t know that name. Or remember what happened right here in our town. Please Google his name because it was an important event in our city.

Many of the people I mentioned earlier got us through that tragedy.

Their wisdom and perspective helped us immeasurably.

They are all part of our history; part of our fabric; part of our town’s DNA.

I fear we are losing that thread.

If you care to read, I’ve shared what I said at my friend’s funeral all those years ago.

She was so special.

We were so blessed.

Remembering Mrs. Pompey…

In the Jewish tradition there is a poem that is often read when a great woman passes.

 

The hymn is called “A Woman of Valor” and as soon I heard the news about Mrs. Pompey…my thoughts turned to the sentiments expressed in that beautiful 22-line poem, which was the eulogy that Abraham delivered for his wife Sarah.

 

“A Woman of Valor is worth more than pearls..”

 

Mrs. Pompey was a woman of valor and her beauty, her elegance, her wisdom, her intelligence, and her love has enriched all of our lives and the community that she called home from the age of 3…her beloved Delray Beach.

 

Mrs. Pompey’s life was poetry.

 

Like a poem there was a grace to her that defies my ability to describe…But if you knew her…if you experienced her essence for even a moment..you knew that you were with someone who understood the world…saw its beauty and its pain…and yet radiated hope, love and kindness for all her days.

 

She had a quality that very people that you meet in this life have…it was a light…

 

A light that shined so brightly that it not only illuminated her and her family…but also those of us who were blessed to know her….she lit up Delray Beach and this world for 86 years and while we are all saddened by her passing…we are grateful that her light shined for as long as it did on our lives and on our community…we are forever enriched by her presence…the poem that was her life….

 

I met Mr. and Mrs. Pompey when I was a 22-year-old newspaper reporter…new to Florida…new to my profession…and new to this community.

 

I sought the Pompey’s out because everyone I spoke with in town said that if I wanted to understand Delray…the history that didn’t necessarily show up in traditional texts…I needed to sit with Mr. and Mrs. Pompey.

 

And so I did.

We sat in their parlor, where they took time to educate a stranger so that I may do my job better…Mr. and Mrs. Pompey were great teachers and wonderful storytellers and because of the time they spent with me I fell in love with this community…its stories, its promise…its potential and most of all its people.

 

When I first contemplated public service…I spoke with Mr. and Mrs. Pompey right after I consulted my immediate family. It is fair to say that without their blessing and encouragement I would not have run for office…such was the esteem that I held them in. Their belief in me inspired me…but also instilled in me a huge sense of responsibility.

 

“If you are going to serve, then make your service matter”…that’s a direct quote from Mrs. Pompey.

“ Don’t waste this opportunity,” she told me with a smile. “The sun rises, the sun sets…don’t hold anything back…make your service and your time on this Earth count.”

 

I wrote those words down in my reporter’s notebook and carried it with me in my heart and my mind through seven years of trials and tribulations in public office.

 

I loved Mrs. Pompey and I know she loved me…because she told me so. During some of my darkest moments…the kind of times when you question whether you have the fortitude to go on, I’d sneak over to her house across the street from the park named for her dear husband and she never failed to set me straight. Never…

 

I later learned she performed the same miracles for many others over decades and decades of life and service to others…she made each of us lucky enough to be exposed to her wisdom…..her poetry…feel like we were the most special people in the world. We were certainly the most fortunate…

 

I am a lucky man…because I have had 7 such special forces in my life…Mr. and Mrs. Pompey… Ms. Elizabeth Wesley…my grandfather, my mother, father and my wife…Three of those people are not kin, in the traditional sense anyway….but it didn’t matter …they made me feel like family.

 

Mrs. Pompey called me cousin Jeff…we were blood she joked…because several years ago I was privileged to donate blood after one of Mrs. Pompey’s surgeries.

 

“It’s official,” she said “We’re cousins.” And truth to be told… I did feel closer to her.

 

My wife reminded me this week of one of her favorite sayings…death does not end a relationship…the love goes on…and that is so true. And to the Pompey family…and all of us gathered here…we will continue to have a relationship with Mrs. Pompey because her lifeforce, her wisdom, the lessons she taught all of us will endure forever.

 

Mrs. Pompey…like her husband… was a visionary. She believed in education. She believed in G-D…she believed in community, service, sisterhood, and the potential of this city to be a beacon for the rest of America…and because she believed …we did too.

 

She worried about today’s young people…and we talked about the young men and women she saw outside her window…she took pride in those who sought knowledge and opportunity.

 

And she worried…really worried– about those left behind to wander the streets.

 

We spoke through the years about Delray’s history, and she told me of her husband’s many crusades…always playing down her role in his remarkable life. But we knew better…There were times—and I experienced a few of them…when she held this community together.

 

Mr. Pompey…he loved her so…they crossed many rivers together and showed us all a better future….

 

When Mr. Pompey passed in 2001, the light in Mrs. Pompey’s eyes dimmed…of course she had enough to light up a football field…but you could see she was not quite the same…Still… she persevered… it was tough though.

 

She missed the love of her life, every moment of her life.

 

Together they crossed so many rivers….integrating the beach right here in Delray…fighting for equal pay for African American teachers…ensuring that black children received the same number of days of instruction as their white neighbors and so much more…she never felt her work was done…my friends…that’s how the great ones think…as much as they achieve…as many accomplishments as they rack up…they see how much work there is left to do…they see the possibilities where others see limitations…they see more rivers to cross, which was the name of Mr. Pompey’s book.

 

And I wonder…as we lay Mrs. Pompey to rest alongside the love of her life…I wonder where we find people to take up the mission she so gladly and so gracefully took on.

She not only lived a good life, but a grand life. She did big things…she was a long-term thinker…she stood for causes larger than herself. There was no agenda…other than making her piece of the world better for others.

 

My hope is that the life she has led…this great woman of valor….is an inspiration for all of us to rise above our own problems and endeavor to make this world, this community a better place…find a river to cross…the rivers are there… all around us…

 

I’ll conclude with a funny anecdote…I hope it brings a smile to your face on this sad day…

 

Near the end of Mr. Pompey’s incredible life…we decided to hire a sculptor to capture the image of this great man in Bronze…sadly shortly after his sitting for the sculpture, Mr. Pompey passed away. But the project continued and the sculptor…inspired by Pompey’s legacy…finished her masterpiece…

 

The finished product was larger than life. Literally.

 

It also didn’t look anything like Mr. Pompey…in fact…truth be told…when we showed it to people, they thought it looked like Zack Straghn….

 

But the artist insisted she captured Mr. Pompey’s spirit, and so we showed the sculpture to Hattie Ruth…now we all know how polite and genteel she was. Her greatest delight was showing her friends pictures of her sororities debutantes…taking great pride in their appearance and their manners…

 

True to form….she looked at the sculpture and not having the best poker face…it was clear that she thought it looked like Mr. Straghn too…but she didn’t want to hurt the artist’s feelings so she said she could…well…live with it.

 

So, the artist left and a day or so passed…a few of us called just to make sure that she was OK with this sculpture…we reminded her that this piece was going to be in City Hall in her hometown forever…and that as much as we loved Mr. Straghn…and you certainly deserve your very own sculpture sir…maybe we ought try again.

 

And so, we did. And the artist…our dear friend George Gadson, got it right. But Mrs. Pompey made sure we didn’t hurt the original artist. That was Mrs. Pompey always concerned about others.

 

Today that sculpture greets all those who come to the heart of power and citizen led government in Delray Beach…it is my wish that we add to that collection and find a way to honor Mrs. Pompey so that generations of people who visit, live, work and study in Delray shall know the impact of this great woman and this great family.

 

Their memory should be a daily and living reminder of sacrifice…service over self…civility….and equal opportunity for all.

 

She once gazed out her window and worried about the youth of this community…we can cross that river in her honor and do our best as a village to heal those whose lack of direction in life troubled her so.

 

Mrs. Pompey loved poetry— her favorite poet was Paul L. Dunbar. I read his works this week as I mourned the loss of my friend…my family member by blood….and I drew comfort from the words of this African American poet who died at 33 in 1905….

 

This is a poem called “The Farmhouse by the River”…When I read this, I want you to picture that small ranch house overlooking Pompey Park….

 

“I know a little country place where still my heart does linger,

And over its fields is every grace lined out by memory’s finger.

 Back from the lane where poplars grew and aspens quake and quiver,

There stands all bath’d in summer’s glow a farm house by the river.

 Its eaves are touched with golden light so sweetly, softly shining,

 And morning glories full and bright about the doors are twining.

And there endowed with every grace That nature’s hand could give her, there lived the angel of the place in the farm house by the river.”

 

Mrs. Pompey crossed many rivers …she was the angel of a place call Delray…and she will live in our hearts forever….

True Love Stories Never Have Endings

The American Parkinson Disease Association is holding its annual Optimism Run & Walk Oct. 30 at South County Regional Park in West Boca.

There are certain phone calls you’ll never forget.Phone calls that change your life.Three years ago, I got such a call from my wife Diane.

But first some context.

Diane’s sister Joan had recently passed after a brave and brutal battle with a rare cancer.

Diane and her siblings went to Santa Cruz to spend those last sad days with a sister who had been larger than life. Joan was one of a kind—tough, independent, kind, spirited, smart.Losing her was like losing a limb, she was fundamental to our family dynamics even from her home across the country.When Diane came back she was understandably sad, notably tired and hurting. We all were.Cancer is a frustrating beast. You rally and then you get hit again.

While the impact  is hardest on the patient, the disease hits everyone and it’s path is broad.Still, I sensed something more might have been amiss when Diane returned home. She seemed to be moving a little slower than usual: her gait was off by a hair. But I noticed.Over the ensuing weeks which included holidays, I asked our kids and family to let me know if they thought something was “off” with Diane.Some thought so, others didn’t notice. Like I said, it was subtle.

But I knew something was not quite right, and I asked that she get checked out. She was suffering from pain in a shoulder and weakness on one side, but despite treatment the symptoms persisted.So she went for another opinion. This time, to a neurologist.The diagnosis: Parkinson’s. Just the word takes the air out of you. She could barely get the word out over the phone when she told me.It’s a heavy diagnosis and we were shocked.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease.

There’s no cure—but there’s hope and Herculean efforts are being made to treat the disease and ultimately find an answer.Until then you do what you can to cope and fight back.You also load up on hope, love, information and support.And here’s where awe takes over.I’m in awe of my wife.

Just when you think you know someone, just when you think you can’t love or respect them more, you find that she possesses whole other reserves of strength, resilience and beauty.It took a few weeks for her “fight” to kick in. A few weeks of emotion and deep depression. I was worried. She didn’t seem up for this challenge. And she said so in worrying terms.But she was processing the news and the impact it would have on our lives.

In an attempt to sort through the noise and anxiety we were experiencing, we reached out to friends who connected us with people they knew who had Parkinson’s. We soaked up as much information as we could find, and came through this process with a strong desire to lean in to our new reality and live with gusto.

The people Diane spoke with were inspirational. Through a friend we connected with a retired airline pilot who was positive and upbeat and living an amazing life. He called Parkinson’s an “inconvenience.”  Diane was taken by his confidence and sense of self. We also spoke to a friend’s aunt who was traveling far and wide—living fully and in the moment. She was encouraging and urged Diane to strive for a full and adventurous life.

These calls helped enormously. I saw a change in Diane. She was processing the news rapidly. Her inner strength, which I have seen before, would be there once more.

But while we were grasping the meaning of this diagnosis, we were also beginning to shift as a family. For us, “someday” had come. Instead of deferring to the future, we would begin to do the things most important to us now.

The takeaway from everyone we spoke too about Parkinson’s was you have to keep moving. The best defense against Parkinson’s was exercise: boxing, spin classes, walking, exercise videos, “Rock Steady” classes anything that keeps you moving and works to keep your balance and strength.In typical fashion, Diane hit it hard. She works out every day—sometimes more than once. She’s in amazing shape.

She also found a wonderful doctor at FAU’s Research Park and has surrounded herself with a community that cheers each other on.To say we’re proud would be an understatement. Those who know and love Diane are in awe.She’s inspiring.

As her husband, I have long been fascinated by the different layers of Diane’s personality. Because she’s shy and reserved, only those closest to her see the depth of her character. But to me, that made uncovering her layers all the more special. She was sharing her professional gifts with the community during her very public career, but I got to see the rest and there was so much more to explore and discover.

To see her resolve kick in, to see her try and find the “gifts” in her diagnosis, gave all of us who adore Diane comfort and hope. This was important, because if you allow yourself you can easily fall down a rabbit hole of despair.

When Diane got the news I had just spoken at the funeral of a beloved Delray icon who suffered for years with Parkinson’s. I saw how this disease can level a strong person. I also thought about Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali, two people with all the resources in the world but still…

But we also learned that we don’t know our exact path. We are going to try and write our own story. We are going to have faith, do what we can and not allow this or anything else to define us.

I drew on those lessons a few months later when I got Covid and thought that I might die.

I was also told that if I lived, I may need supplemental oxygen for the rest of my life. But my doctor, Paige Morris, said “Jeff, let’s write our own story. Let’s try.”And we did.

I can feel the limits of my scarred lungs but I don’t need oxygen. And while I cannot keep up with Diane, who is in great shape, I do try and hang with her when we put on an exercise video.When we went to Maine this summer (because tomorrow is here) we took long walks every morning and I marveled at her stamina.She is doing well. And I love her even more if that’s even possible because she meets life’s challenges with a work ethic and an attitude that inspires all those who know her.

None of us knows what the future holds. Our lives can be changed with a phone call. Ours surely has been.But we move forward. We live. We are thankful and hopeful.

Always hopeful that we can write our own story….

In two weeks, there’s a walk and 5K run for Parkinson’s in West Boca.The event raises money for Parkinson’s research.Here’s a link. https://apdaparkinson.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=998

At last year’s event, Diane and I walked alongside brave families on the same path. The event was emotional for both of us. We saw a lot of brave people. But we didn’t see any broken people. Looking around the park that morning I felt the spirit of a community. I also saw Diane’s doctor, Henry Moore. There he was, early on a Saturday morning greeting his patients with a big smile and a whole lot of warmth. I knew he was the right man for the job. I knew Diane was in good hands.  It was overwhelming and emotional.

Life changing news will do that to you. That’s why it’s life changing news.

But a year later we are strong, happy, healthy, hopeful and grateful for each other, for those who struggle and for those on the front lines seeking answers. Someday we will get there. Until that time, we laugh. We love. We live; a precious day at a time.

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.” – Sophocles

All There Is….

A blessing in my life for 34 years.

My sister Sharon and I lost our mother 24 years ago today.

Twenty-four years is not a landmark anniversary. There’s nothing special about 24 years, other than it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed.

My mom’s name was Fay. If you Google her, nothing comes up. Google was founded September 4, 1998, almost exactly a month before she died. But even if she lived, it’s doubtful she would have done something that would have made her “internet worthy”. She lived a simple life. A good life.

Sometimes I feel people like my mom get lost. But they lived. And they matter. In my world, and the world of my family, nobody mattered more. She was indispensable.

And then she was gone.

Even now, the permanence stabs at me.

So much has changed.

My mom’s granddaughter Samantha is well into her career as a special education teacher and her two little grandsons will both turn 30 soon. They were little kids when they lost their grandmother. She’s a faint memory for them and that alone is enough to break your heart.

The years pile on, the world moves so fast.

A friend of mine lost a beloved sibling a few years back. She recently marked another year of loss and said that while the lump in her throat is gone, she still grieves— quietly.

I do too.

I think grief is the love you have inside that goes unexpressed. Your loved one is gone but your heart is still full. What do you with all this unexpressed love?

Our mother was 59 years old when she passed away after a brave and brutal 50-week battle with cancer.

I just turned 58. I am deeply aware that I am approaching her lifespan and it’s on my mind.

The age we lost her was front and center in my thoughts during my near fatal bout with Covid in July-August 2020. During my darkest moments—and there were many—I couldn’t help but think: ‘I will be younger than my mom when she passed, and she was so young’. She missed so much.

Happy times, stone washed jeans and Long Island nights.

Lately, I have been dreaming of her. Those dreams come and go. While I think about her every day, I sometimes won’t dream about her for months at a time.

But these days, she’s a frequent presence in my dreams and a recurring one has me sitting in a park trying to explain to her what’s happened to everyone since we said goodbye at Hospice by The Sea in Boca Raton.

Her granddaughter is a devoted teacher. She loves her students, and they love her back. I revel in the stories she tells me about a child who makes progress, overcomes an issue, gains confidence, reaches a goal etc. I couldn’t be prouder.

Her grandson Ben…who was a wild child… “all boy” as they say, grew up to be an accountant. We didn’t see that coming.

Back when my mom was around, we were happy if we returned from the mall without losing him. You’d turn around and he’d be gone. But these days, he’s mature, smart and thoughtful. An old soul. Her other grandson, Andrew, is a Ph.D., candidate in Washington D.C. researching the Holocaust on his way to becoming a professor. He’s a wonderful writer and a traveler too. We didn’t see that coming either.

Had she lived, mom would have added two more grandsons to her brood; my stepsons Alex and Viktor, fine young men who would have enriched her life immeasurably.

My mom never met the love of my life, Diane. She didn’t get to see my dad age gracefully. At 84, he still turns heads and remains my go-to guy for life advice.

So much has changed.

Never miss a chance to dance.

America is a different place. I wish I could say that we are a better, closer country but I can’t.

Delray Beach and South Florida have also changed. Some of the changes are good, some are not so good.

None of it would have mattered much to my mother. She liked it here.

She was happy enjoying the simple things in life with family and friends. If family was around, she was cool. What a great example she was, if only I could follow her lead. If only…

So here we are mom…24 years down the road, 24 years without you.

We are doing well, blessed in so many ways. But there’s still that ache, there are still waves of grief that engulf me. The waves hit when I see Sam smile and see your smile in hers. When I talk to my sister and realize that she has your exact voice and so many of your best qualities.

I now realize that grief is the price we pay for love. And we should be grateful for both because you can’t have one without the other. If you are going to love, you are going to feel loss someday.  It’s a price worth paying. It’s taken me a lifetime to understand that. A lifetime to accept that trade.

For years after losing you, my sadness lurked in the bushes like a stalker. I could be having the best time only to be reminded of your absence and I’d find myself overcome with sadness. When the rainy days would come, as they do for everyone, I’d find myself wishing to be transported back to the days when everyone I loved was still here.

There you are with your friends playing Mah Jongg at the pool club, with grandma and grandpa and nanny speaking Yiddish and sneaking us chocolate kisses. Life seemed infinite. There was so much road ahead of us.

Those days are long gone. The losses pile up, like so many leaves.

But loss serves a purpose as well. The losses make us appreciate the here and now which is really good if we strip away the noise and distractions.

And we realize we carry pieces of those we lost in our hearts and minds—for all of our days.

So much has changed, but that never will. The love we feel endures.