A lesson in endurance: running the rosary: A few weeks ago, I was leading the worship for a retreat in Nassau County. While it may seem that I am frequently off on relaxing retreats , I actually am working very hard. The weekends are pretty busy for me. On this retreat, my bedroom was as far from the main conference room as you could get. It was down a very long hallway and around the corner into another hall. Inevitably, I was running back and forth in a hurry between my room, the conference room and the chapel. Because I needed to open the sessions with music, and because I always forgot something I needed, I was literally running. On Friday night, it started off as a dainty pace, in heels. By Saturday morning, I was wearing flip flops, but I still found it hard to get anywhere fast. By Saturday evening I was barefoot and [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 June 8th, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Grief and joy go hand in hand

Michael Hubbard and his mom, Nancy Reyer. (Photo: David Benthal) I have experienced labor eight times. Four times for the kids I am grateful to have with me now and four times for the babies I lost to miscarriage. The live births were well worth the effort. The miscarriages were a terrible loss for which the sense of grief lasted longer than those babies' all too short lives. Losing babies in miscarriage was difficult, especially the longer I carried them. Three of them were in the first eight weeks. One baby died at 14 weeks, just after I had seen her heart beating on the ultrasound. It’s work birthing babies. Sure the conception part is pretty fun, most of the time. But I threw up daily for at least half of the nine months it took for the babies to develop within my womb. My emotions were wacky. My husband [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 June 1st, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Lessons from the vineyard

Christine and Larry Vaccari with nephew, Anton Villamena I love living in the heart of wine country on the North Fork of Long Island. There are three vineyards within walking distance to my house in Jamesport. That makes wine tasting and walking an easy weekend possibility. I think each vineyard has a unique contribution to the beauty of the local industry and landscape. My favorite wine and vintner has not won any awards- yet. He is a dear friend, Larry Vaccari. Larry and his wife Christine moved to Peconic over 15 years ago, to enjoy their life together on the North Fork. They have two children, a son, who is a doctor in Brooklyn and a daughter, who is soon to be a graduate of McGann Mercy High School. Their bucolic home is set on a picturesque plot of land overlooking one of the local vineyards. On the outskirts of [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 May 25th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Living in the present

There is not enough time in the day. Do you ever feel like that? I certainly do. I wake up very early, typically before 5 a.m. I usually go to bed by 9 or 10- thatʼs a 16-hour day. One would think that I could get to everything on my “to do” list in 16 hours. But inevitably, there are things left over which take weeks, months and sometimes even years to accomplish. I have projects in my house that I have been meaning to get to for a long time. When I finally do them, I find that they didnʼt take even half the time to accomplish that I spent worrying over them. A few weeks ago, I took Johanna to Cape May Point, to the teen retreat at the Marianist Retreat House. We have been going to this retreat house for the last five years. My twenty year [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 May 18th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

God is good and so is Mom

Eileen Benthal and her mother, Edna Devine. (Photo: David Benthal) After I blew through Meeting House Deli to grab a coffee, I quickly programmed the numbers I needed to call while I drove on the LIE. The only reason I upgraded to iPhone5 was for Siri. She and I are on a first-name basis. Hands-free, I started making calls as I drove to the MacArthur Airport. I was so glad that it wasn’t JFK or I would not have made it in time. For the first time in over 20 years, my mom and I are spending Mother’s Day together. She flew in from Florida on Friday to spend the weekend with me until Monday when I take her to the ferry to Connecticut, where she will meet her 24th great-grandchild and join family and friends to celebrate his baptism. If that wasn’t cool enough, Mom is just three months [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 May 11th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Opening locked doors, both real and symbolic

The other day I was sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee and I heard dog tags jingling on the pathway that leads from the driveway up to my front door. When I stood up, I saw Taffy, my daughter’s service dog, jogging up the walk with a big smile on her face (really, she smiles.) “Where did you come from and how did you get out of the house?” She pranced up to the porch and nuzzled her big head into my hands as if to say, “It’s okay, Mom. I was just out for a morning walk.” Taffy is almost 12 years old and she has been Johanna’s service dog for almost 10 years. She has been by Johanna’s side through many ups and downs, in the hospitals, on planes, on stage. They have been in the NY Times and on national news. Taffy was trained [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 May 4th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Signs of new life abound

“Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” This is the greeting of the Greek Orthodox Church during the Easter season. Like the 12 days of Christmas, we celebrate the Easter season for 50 days. It’s just that important. Christ died for us and rose again on Easter. How could we get it all in three days? When my kids were little, they took the liturgical celebrations of the Easter season quite literally. They milked it for all it was worth. So there was a perpetual Easter egg hunt in the bag yard that began in the wet spring and continued into the warmth of summer. We got our money’s worth of those plastic eggs. But of course we had to keep supplying them with candy to fill the eggs. Now, we don’t even have an egg hunt for the kids. It’s just for the dogs. We fill up those plastic [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 April 27th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Heaven is closer than we realize

This is the first year in a very long time that I didn’t spend Good Friday walking the Stations of the Cross at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island. After being at NYU for appointments all day Wednesday and Thursday, I was exhausted and so was Johanna. Then on Friday, we were waiting for the home care nurse to come and draw Johanna’s blood. It was a very important blood draw which will help us decide if she needs to continue on this IV therapy. Still, I wanted to pass the time in a prayerful way that included my daughter. So, I curled up on the couch with Johanna and we watched “The Passion of The Christ.” I resisted the temptation to make popcorn. Before we turned the movie on, my husband reminded me that it was R-rated. I told Johanna that the movie was very graphic and [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 April 20th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Wounds that refuse to heal

This week I met my match. I dealt with a medical issue that put me into a temporary state of shock- at least I hope it was temporary. While Johanna was in the shower, one of the scabs on her head opened and washed away as the water hit her head. Immediately I noticed that the opening revealed a part of her skull. I was stunned. As I helped Johanna out of the shower, I carefully explained to her what happened. Johanna is used to the ups and downs of wounds healing. Surgical staples glistened like a tiara on her head many times over the past 17 years. Because of the number of brain surgeries, the skin on her head is thin and heals slowly. This past year was a tremendous challenge with close to 10 surgeries since March 2013. Despite this, I was concerned that seeing her own skull [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 30th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments