Dad, Divine Mercy and the Missing Strap

Today is the 34th anniversary of my dad’s death. He passed away four days after his 46th birthday. This year his birthday fell on the same day as my Woman Crush Wednesday episode.  I had planned to do a little Firefighter Fieldtrip as I do each year to honor his birthday.  However, my cooking tutorial took a bit longer and the museum I wanted to visit had already closed. So I went out and about in London yesterday and saw a few cool sights that helped me feel that much closer to my dearly missed father.

I’ve written about my dad on this blog probably more than any other topic besides food. Why? Because to be honest he was, and still is, the only person who has ever shown me true unconditional love. And even though I only had eight years with him (my first five and his last three) I cherish those years more than anything. He will always be my hero!  If you haven’t seen the other blog posts you can check them out here, here, here, here and here. Somehow through my life long yearly pilgrimages/outings around his birthday and anniversary, and indeed these blogposts, I feel it helps me stay connected to him.

Due to a fire in our garage after my parents’ divorce I only have this one photo of my dad which I carry around with me every day (tucked in with his funeral Mass card). But I do have a log book gifted to me by his old firehouse. One time when I was in Chicago for a visit I went by the station to say hello to his former co-workers. The other firemen were so kind to me and gave me this log book filled with information about what firemen were on duty each day, details about their cleaning schedule and upcoming events like parades etc. Clearly this was long before the digital age!  I love to look through the log book, seek out his name and imagine him in the firehouse.

Nowadays there are quite a few firehouses that have been converted into restaurants and I visited two of them on my outing yesterday. I also attended the London Fire Brigade Pop Up Museum and enjoyed their display. Wherever I go in the world I try to see what each city has in the way of memorials for the brave men and women firefighters who risk their lives for strangers!

Besides my dad’s anniversary, today is also Divine Mercy Sunday. While I am not one to preach about religion, I am open about my faith. But what I haven’t shared on here before is how pivotal this feast day in the church is to my life and where I am today. It was on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2007 that I experienced something powerful. I had recently returned from Ireland after three months at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. I arrived back to the news that my former fiance had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  I reconnected with him and attended Sunday Mass with him on Divine Mercy.  During the mass I felt the grace of the Lord urging me to have mercy on all the pain my ex fiance had caused me and respond with LOVE.

In spite of the upset it caused some family members, we got married within two months, and then ten days after our wedding Hubby had major surgery to remove a massive brain tumor. So this day has great significance for me in so many ways. And while the past eleven years haven’t always been easy, I am reminded during the Easter season when reflecting on how Jesus carried His cross to Calvary, that I too carry a cross. It is part of the human experience. This became more profound to me when I visited the Holy Land in 2012 and walked the stations of the cross. This is a video Hubby made of our pilgrimage there and each time I watch it I retrace those steps.

In fact, while we were there, I lost a strap to one of my sandals. We had stopped on a hot day to dip our feet into the sea. I took off my sandals and held them as I enjoyed the cool refreshing waves. When I went back up to the dry shore and started to put on my sandals I realized one strap was gone. The rest of the folks in the group helped me comb the beach but we couldn’t find the missing strap.  At the time I remember being bummed as the sandals, while not expensive, were new and I really liked them. I even thought I might try to find a cobbler who could craft another strap for me.

I still have the sandals, sans strap. I haven’t ever worn them but they serve as a memento. I guess you could say I left a part of myself in the Holy Land. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime. One that was on the bucket list, and one I likely would never take again. But having a physical reminder of something dear, like the log book from my dad’s fire station, helps keep the memory alive. And at the end of the day, it is our experiences and relationships AND our memories of them that make us who we are!

Mercy & LOVE,

YDP

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