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Arthur Tsetsilas

Arthur Tsetsilas

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Arthur Tsetsilas, I had him as a coach in baseball, playing alongside his son, Tim.

Tonight, I made the short drive to Londonderry, NH. I drove through familiar neighborhoods on my way to the funeral home. Some of the roads I drove on, weren’t even there when I was growing up in Londonderry. Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with this funeral home. This past April, I stood in the same room that I was in tonight, in front of the gathering, in tears, remembering my Dad.

This evening as I stood among the large crowd of people inside that very room, I listened as my friend Tim, remembered his Dad. I reverently watched as “Taps” was played and the American Flag was presented. I wiped away a few tears as Tim mentioned so many of the things, that will “never be” again, as his Dad is gone. I got a lump in my throat as I remembered many of my own interactions with Mr. Tsetsilas and his family. The room was full, and overflowing. The line was long, and wound down the driveway outside. Cars lined Mammoth Road across the road from the high school that so many of us attended decades, yes, decades ago.

I talked to my Mom on the phone during part of my drive to Londonderry. I had hoped my wife could join me, but we had 3 or 4 places to be all at the same time. I told my wife, and my Mom, how I don’t like going to these things. Not because of time, or respect, or any other thing, except for one thing. When I walk into those rooms, I know that there is someone, or maybe many someones, who are dealing with perhaps the toughest times of their entire life in those moments. This is where I pray a little more, I ask for the right words, along with extra love and compassion. I have written too many times on this subject, it seems. Here are some words that I have shared before, in times like these…”Please don’t think that this is over when the news stops running or the stories stop circulating. You and I may be a part of the plan. Anyone of us could be instrumental. Our words, our actions, just might be the right thing at the right time for the one who needs that spoken word or the example they were looking for. Really it’s always supposed to be that way. We are human, and our best moments aren’t all of our moments. Yet the more we think our moments are our best, the more they will be. And the moment we decide that we need to be our best might just be the moment that God’s plan includes us to be the message for someone needing to see that something that helps them cope and overcome.

As I stood in a crowd, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds, I looked for someone I recognized, someone I knew. There had to be many but I wasn’t sure where the line was, or if there was a line at all. Then, Rich, Russ, Stephanie, Sean, Tim, and Peter were all around me, and the line I sought, became a little less important for a moment. While I was still in virtually the same spot that I landed, upon clearing the front door, the service started. We all stood and listened to the tribute(s) for the man, whose passing had brought us together this February evening.

I listened closely, and in the moments following, when folks who had already been through the line, began to file outside, I picked up the trail of the line again. I watched a slide show, that was playing on a screen along the line, of pictures from Arthur’s life. I went through the line with Peter, who, thankfully, kept me company while I scanned the crowds for people I knew but didn’t necessarily recognize. I saw Chris, Becky, Tom, Wayne, Todd, Dave, Mike, Jonesy, and more. I spoke with almost every one of these folks mentioned, and more. There were two women from the Class of 89 in line behind me, who knew my brothers, and since I was Class of 85, I referred to myself as the ancient oldest brother.

I thought about Londonderry, this little town when I moved into town in 1972, that is so much bigger now. Imagine a time when we were all young, and in this town, that none of us picked, where we all grew up. Our parents were there for a myriad of reasons, but to us, this is where, and with whom we lived, and so our roots were cultivated. We went to classes together. We learned together. We overcame hurdles, nuances, and quirks together as we matured and grew. We had fun together. We competed together. We saw highs and lows together. We watched as one class, and the next, and so on, graduated and went their separate ways. For many of those kids, the names I mentioned, I hadn’t seen them since those days. Still I would call them my friends because I don’t see why years removed should have changed that.

See back in the day, as it were, any of us, if not all of us, could have easily run into each other on any day of school. We could have just as easily gathered in the yard at the Arthur Tsetsilas residence in South Londonderry, to play basketball, grill some burgers, and swim in the pool. All of us could have been present at a gymnastics meet (that’s for you Steph), a soccer game, a football game, a basketball game, or even on the baseball diamond. Most all of this group could have been at the rec hall playing basketball or volleyball at any given time as well. We all followed each other, mostly because we all wore Londonderry on our uniforms, but in another way, because we were among the individuals that were all better for having been together. And somehow tonight, it felt like we were all a little better for being in that room together, again. Maybe it was just me.

If my memory is what it used to be, then I have forgotten. Arthur Tsetsilas coached me for years, while I played Babe Ruth Baseball. I was an unobservant teen, living and loving the days of my youth. I wish I remembered more personal stories about Arthur, Tim and Shawn’s Dad. What I do remember is that we were all perfectly attentive, mild-mannered, and wonderfully humble, quiet kids that were a breeze to work with. Please don’t correct me if I am wrong. Honestly though, having coached for many years, and having been a father now for 25 years, I grew to respect Mr. Tsetsilas even more. Tonight, I wanted to show that respect, and to support the Tsetsilas family.

I wrote on the online guest book that Mr. Tsetsilas was a “Popeye-esque” figure in my mind. To me, that’s a good thing. Mr. Tsetsilas was athletic, and he was strong. He mumbled some, and if you were close enough, and quick enough, to catch his commentary, he was hilarious. Maybe the biggest feather I would place in his cap, would be his commitment to volunteerism, because it was second to none. His work ethic knew no boundaries, and that included everything he put himself into. I don’t remember struggles, difficulties, or drama with his teams, because Mr. Tsetsilas made everything easy for us, seamless. We had the luxury of being exactly what we were best at, being kids. Tim or Shawn might correct me on this, or they may concur, but to me, Mr. Tsetsilas had mastered a skill that I have tried to master myself. He was serious enough to do an honest day’s work, while leading by example, making friends for life out of sheer respect, and raised a family to be adults that have no excuses, all while never fully ceasing to be a kid. That, to me, is the secret that Mr. Tsetsilas taught all of us, and we all benefited by him living that way.

Some 600 people showed up tonight, I heard. And countless others have been positively been impacted by the life of Mr. Arthur Tsetsilas. As we settle in, before we drift to sleep the next time, may we pray for Tim and Shawn, and the entire Tsetsilas family. To my generation, may we remember the days where “Londonderry” across our chest was enough that none of us would leave a teammate behind, and we’d run through a wall if we had to. So may we also be present for Tim and Shawn, and family as reality continues to press to the forefront. These times can be difficult, numbing, and seem completely hopeless, but there is light, there is always light. The definition of darkness goes something like this: the partial or total absence of light. Let us be that light should they need it.

Folks, I am sure I left some people out, or just flat didn’t recognize you. For that, I apologize. I am so happy that I was able to see so many people from another time in life. It meant a lot to me. I am even more pleased that we were all there for the Tsetsilas family. Rest in Peace Arthur. You will be missed. You will be remembered.

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He Was There

Christmas Day 2016, my first Christmas without my Dad here

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Funeral

I climbed the hill on foot, but it wasn’t much of a rise. For some reason though, my feet didn’t want to go. It just felt like I was walking through both, the sands of time, and quicksand all at once. Imagine making strides just to make them, but wishing not to take a single step. Forces fell from somewhere, making the quest more of a question, than a statement. I walked hand in hand with my bride, partly because the pull from the gravity of the situation made it a necessity to move forward with her at my side.

The hill crested, round the bend we came. Faces were familiar if not just the same. And the door loomed like the wall of a fortress that I’d rather not breach. I stepped up but the closer I got the further that handle seemed from my reach. Until all at once I found myself inside. As soon as I was seen, part of me wanted to run away and hide. Every hair on my neck stood up, for the feeling in there was just not right. I had come here on purpose, to stand, maybe, for those who no longer were here to fight. Still I was afraid of what was yet to come. There were people in a line, and it wallowed aimlessly it felt, not knowing where it went, or whether I’d rather run. I waited though, holding my wife’s hand, and hoping for something good. But I have been to many a funeral and this one didn’t feel like it should.

The line writhed forward, like it was wringing away every last bit of good. Until finally, with my wife, at the front, we stood. But I was wrong, it wasn’t the good that had left the room, but rather the feeling of evil had entered and hung like a thick black smoke over everyone and every thing. I can’t say that I have ever felt that way before, but it was a place to which not a soul I’d ever again wish to bring. It was almost as those we met, were there because they had to be. And I dreaded anything even close to that sense, were something ever to happen to me. We talked with those there, gathered and disconnected, somehow I sensed. We smiled and we cried, we shared our stories, while this virtual wall of darkness, I felt myself pressed against.

My heart skipped several beats as I looked down and saw the young son left here to carry the light that once held him. And I wondered how a life so warm and beautiful could end up remembered here in a scene so bleak and grim. I searched for my next breath as I had lost my sense of where I was, and stopped, paralyzed by the weight of deep sorrow. I sobbed and wondered how it is that one full of love here one day, was taken from each and every tomorrow. Either way, it was time to move on, to the next stop in this old place. There was nothing more to see here, for the warmth of nurturing love had been compromised, with barely a trace.

Then we spilled into a room, that was just as uneasy to enter, like the next chapter in a book that was missing too many pages to make sense. But there we found smiles among the tears of co-workers, truest of friends. I didn’t have words for anyone then, as I found myself in a battle with the now, and all that I previously knew. So, I smiled in hopes that the look in my eyes would say all that I couldn’t, and reflect the love and passion for the children of the one we remembered, to help others get through.

I don’t know what felt better, getting outside to the fresh air, or knowing that we stood for the warmth of the fallen who cared for many, more than most. See, she stood for the child and acted on it, while so many others noticed, but only came close. Then, ever-changed, we wandered, back down the hill. We got to the car and stood there talking, shaking our heads, in tears, baffled still. I sobbed, as I shared my emotions with my wife. I talked of the thin line so attached, to that so precious, a human life. Were there more of us that looked past the frailties and labels we are so quick to place, we’d be so much better in general. So there we left it, set to remember and share, knowing full well that I’d never forget that funeral.

#NeverForget

I wrote this in 2011, and this post has been a permanent page on my blog, and still is. This morning, I remember.

This page is a place to more permanently keep this close at hand. On 9/11/11 I watched, I listened to, and read pieces on the 10 year remembrance of 9/11. I cried, I thought, I remembered, I swelled with pride, I felt a lot of emotions that day. That evening into the wee hours of the following morning I also wrote a piece in my style, my words, and I want it to be here, close at hand. There will be times when I will add to this page I am sure but this is where it starts for me. Never forget.

9/11 – Ten Years Later – God Bless the USA

Today, and every day really, I thank God that I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in the greatest country in the world. I am proud to be an American every day. Please God, continue to bless the USA, and may we honor and glorify you in all we do. There is goodness in all of us. We were created and born, morally aware. And, just as those who ran towards the unknown terror of 9/11 as to free those who needed help, so did our founding fathers brave the unknown in hopes of freedom for all. It’s the USA, “One Nation, under God”, made up of millions of people with tremendous resiliency, and free will to choose that we will not give up, while harboring a true responsibility to help one another (all of whom are created equal) in times of need. I feel, and I pray for those who lost loved ones or saw so much more than anyone should see 10 years ago today. May we never forget those who were innocently taken and those who have sacrificed so much.

I am in no way trying to be political here and I don’t always know where my thoughts may take me, so let’s find out. I pray that we, the USA (that’s each one of us), don’t lose sight of the spirit that was embraced in founding our great country. I hope that we don’t forget to fight for the freedoms that we have defended around the globe. We should be continually thankful for those who have literally battled on our behalf and knowingly risked the greatest asset; a human life, for their country, our country, the USA. We should be cognizant of our own behaviors that help pave the way for true freedom in the future and be wary of those self indulgences that provoke others to restrict our freedoms with red tape and political correctness. This country was founded on right and wrong, and there is nothing political about that which is right. Right is right. Right is morally justified, while politically correct is often times a choice to act in a manner that gets a desired outcome. If the desired outcome is not right than why be politically correct?

It was December of 1967 when my dad and mom drove over the border from Canada back into the USA just so I could be born in the USA. That may not mean as much now as it did then, but I am awfully proud to have been born in the United States of America. I love Canada dearly and cherish my Canadian family who are some of the greatest people I have ever met. Still, I thank you dad and mom for making that run to Caribou, Maine, USA, right before Christmas, on my behalf.

My favorite combination of colors is truly the red, white, and blue. My favorite song is “The Star Spangled Banner”. Our National Anthem being sung at various events and venues is the television I record most often. I get goose bumps every single time I hear it. I think of the words and the inspiration behind them in a time of uncertainty. Those words will be 197 years old this week, and I think of how many times those words have meant so much too so many people. Climatically our anthem gets to “Our flag was still there” and I think of our resiliency, I think of our free will and am reminded to be so careful with this precious gift. I truly do think of us as the land of the free and the home of the brave. This week I again connect this to 9/11 as there has been, and hopefully always will be an American flag flying at Ground Zero. I will also never forget those who were technically free to run, as thousands did, but instead, instinctively were brave as so many before them have been.

I offer a closing prayer for those who care to read it. With my head bowed, I thank you God for this great country of ours, and for the thousands upon thousands of brave men and women who have given their all to maintain our freedom and our independence. I pray that we don’t forget the sacrifices and struggles past and present, allowing our quality of life to be what it can be today. We have so very much to be thankful for. In a time when we seem to measure our life’s success by things we have accumulated, money we earn, or status we have attained; may we truly cherish the choices we have, the freedoms we share, and the right to put God and our families first. I pray that each of us make the time and the commitment to love and fellowship with friends and family. At the end of our days, it’s our family who will be there with us. The recollection of the choices we were able to make will ease our hearts and minds when our days here are short. It will be the freedoms we embraced, the risks we were willing and able to take, and the free will to forgive and make that which is wrong, right that will allow a smile on our lips as we breathe for the last time. Lord, I pray we wait not, for those days to think on these things, but to actively pursue them with all that we are, and all we can be. We know not what the future holds for any of us. Let us not be caught up in that uncertainty, but have faith in You, and the tremendous power we possess to be present now. May we serve you Lord each day, knowing that the time we invest in one another is truly what makes the world go round. Lord I thank you for your many blessings as there are too many to count. Our days are full of blessings that we often times don’t even take the time to notice or thank you for. Forgive us for our sins and may we learn from our mistakes, in doing so, setting an example for others to follow so that we all may be better off for it. Lord, I ask these things in your name. Amen.

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Remembering Pearl Harbor

There are a lot of people, memories, and events that I focus on in December. One I try never to forget is remembering Pearl Harbor. It was before my time but it did in fact shape a period of time and altered the course of history. I am remembering, and I’m very thankful to be an American afforded with the opportunities I have, because people before me wouldn’t let freedom be snatched from them.

http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/pearl-harbor-remembrance-day

Remembering Veteran’s Day

First, before I get to the thoughts swirling through my mind. Before I share excerpts from my last 24 hours. Before I thank all of those responsible for the opportunities afforded me in Canada yesterday. First, I thank the Veterans this Veterans Day. For without them, many, if not all of my daily routines, activities, and luxuries may not exist at all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

1inawesomewonder

This morning is Veteran’s Day. In Canada it’s Remembrance Day. In my home we are honoring, remembering, respecting, and we are thankful for our Veteran’s, past, present, and future.

I am home with my three youngest children this morning and I want them to know what this means, and why we remember. A few minutes ago, my son came into the office and asked if I had just heard Theodore yelling. I said I had. He asked me if I knew why he was yelling so loud. I did not. He shared with me that the Star Spangled Banner had come on the TV in the family room, and that Theodore, on his own, sang “…of the brave” as loud as he could to end the Anthem.

A minute later Theodore pulled up a rocking chair beside me, and in the presence of his older brother, twin sister and I…

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A few days with Marjorie

Marjorie with family, July 2014

Marjorie with family, July 2014

I knew time was short, and I knew she was quite ill,
Though I didn’t expect it. I prayed she’d win the fight.
That dreaded phone call, the news shook me still.
The earth as I know it got a little bit darker tonight.
 
For those of you who knew her better
For those of you who knew her worse
For those who knew her different than I
My experiences led to this little verse
 
For me, most mornings started with a prayer at the kitchen table.
I felt she’d always be there, prepared, as long as she was able.
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