Paranormal funeral activity.

Years ago, during my grandmother’s wake service, one of the floor lamps in the room mysteriously shut itself off. Towards the end of the service, the same lamp turned itself back on. Almost simultaneously my family concluded that my grandmother’s spirit was indeed in the room. Since that day I’ve learned to be more alert to these spiritual presences at each funeral I’ve attended since.

A few months ago I attended a memorial service for my father that definitely had a strong spiritual presence to it. He had been cremated and his ashes stored in an urn on the table with lovely flower arrangements gracing the two ends of the table. When I first saw the urn, I could feel an empowering presence in front of the table, almost spherical in form, no doubt my father himself in spirit standing in front of the urn. Never before had I felt such a powerful presence.

Later, during that same service, as I was watching the pastor speak, my eyes began playing tricks on me. In the corner of my eye the urn appeared to take the form of my father’s head, and the red cloth that draped the stand on which the urn rested became his favorite red shirt, almost making it seem my father was standing right there and hearing every word.

The following morning, just before I woke up, I heard in my head the words, “The service is over. Relax clearly, my friends.” If that’s not a message from beyond I don’t know what is.

Laugh at me if you want but I take little signs like these that there does tend to be a spiritual presence during a funeral and when you open your mind to it, it can become quite soothing.

A Eulogy for Carolyn.

Dear Carolyn,

We’re writing to let you know that without you it’s not the same. You will always be the older sister even though you aren’t here. You are the best big sister we know! We will always remember your smiling face and you will be in our hearts forever. You were always there for us and we want you to know that you always brought joy wherever you went. You are the brightest star looking down on us forever. We will do our best to keep up with you. You are loved and missed by all. We love you. The room would light up every time you walked in it. We will always remember all the fun songs you sang when we went to karaoke together. Whenever anyone was having a bad day you had a way of turning it around with your bubbly personality and smiles. There was never a sad face whenever you were around. You were always the first person to help whenever it was needed.

You taught us that we didn’t need all the money in the world or have everything there was to have just to be happy. Here we are in a society that requires us to take ourselves so seriously that it would seem foolish to show our show our carefree and childlike side. But you Carolyn weren’t afraid to show your childlike side and that would be why you had such a talent for making everyone around you so happy. And of course, thank you for showing us that there’s nothing wrong about being a cat lady. You had such a love for animals that it was difficult imagining you without a cat nearby. Or maybe two.

And I will never forget the first time you and I met. I was picking you up at your house and after you got in my car, you told me you noticed how much happier your sister Renee was since she started dating me, the sister who would one day become my wife. And that’s when I knew I would become a welcome addition to the family.

When the three of us were in Orlando and spent time in Downtown Disney, it was the most fun day we had with you. The bowling pin mugs we got from Splitsville were amazing. We got some great pictures from that day. Everyone at Walmart loved you and will miss you. It’s good to know that Heidi, Sylvia and Brandon were there throughout everything that was going on. All the prayers that you sent for me all came back for you and they kept on coming for you. Now you are at peace. Daddy is waiting for you and so are Stubby and Shadow, your beloved cats.

We all love you.

Rest in peace.


Renee and Michael

In loving memory of my big sister Carolyn (1967 – 2021)

Thoughts of my second bereavement.

For the second time in two months there has been another death in my family. This comes at a time when I’ve barely begun recovering from my father’s passing two months ago, and now I have to start my grieving process all over again.

This time I grieve for my sister-in-law, who was more of a big sister to me. She succumbed to her injuries following a fall, so her passing was sudden and unexpected. Just last month she attended my father’s funeral, and now she’s gone herself.

Twice I prayed for miracles for my father and my big sister during their time of need and twice I was denied my wishes to keep them both in my life a little longer. My father, I can understand, his health had steadily declined over the years and his body could no longer fight the illnesses that plagued him throughout his final years. But my big sister? She was healthy and her demise unexpected. Now that hurts.

I was browsing online for prayers of healing and found one that sounded assuring, although it mentions that not everyone gets healed through these prayers. It does ask for no hard feelings towards the Lord in case the healing doesn’t take place. No hard feelings, that’s a bit hard for me to do right now, considering I have lost two beloved family members who meant so much to me.

Every now and then I am reminded that God has a plan for everyone, even if it’s not in perfect alignment with our best wishes. He decided it was time to call my father home, which I’m beginning to understand. But I have yet to understand why He summoned my big sister so soon. It wasn’t her time yet. She was only in her 50’s, which is still fairly young. They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, but I’m looking forward to having this explained. Maybe then my feelings won’t be so hard.

The hardest goodbye of all.

For the second time in two months there will be another death in my family. No amount of preparation can truly render me ready for when that time comes, but it is coming. It is never a pleasant time.

Last month my sister-in-law suffered a severe head injury after a fall and despite the best efforts of the medical personnel involved, her condition has deteriorated to the point where the chances of her survival are zero, barring a last-minute miracle. I’d still like that miracle to happen, but the extent of her brain damage won’t leave us with the cheerful, bubbly personality that was once her. She is already gone. Breathing, still alive, but already gone.

This is the part where I’m confused. Oh yes, I prayed for her to wake up out of her medically induced coma and begin her recovery, but the opposite happened. Instead of getting better, she got worse, the same result of my prayers for my father. Instead of him getting better, he was taken from us. Oh yeah, I forgot. God’s plan isn’t always consistent with our wishes. He knows what He’s doing but as usual isn’t telling us exactly why it’s necessary for things to turn out like this. Who am I to question, let alone challenge, such authority and who knows what will happen when I dare launch such a challenge.

Last week my family paid my sister-in-law a visit at the hospice care facility to say our goodbyes. Sure, she opened her eyes when her mother started talking to her but she said nothing back, not even registering a smile. Hers was a blank, vacant expression completely void of emotion, completely empty of the cheerful, bubbly personality that was once her. Still, we talked to her, thanking her for a lifetime of memories while assuring her that her late father and all the dogs and cats that the family once had were waiting for her. It sounds like a very pleasant afterlife for sure.

Even as she continues fighting for her life, the family has begun preparations for the funeral and then for a new life without her, which will be a a very difficult one. I cannot begin to imagine the mother’s pain of losing one of her children. Your children are supposed to outlive you, not the other way around.

In any case, I’ve started on the eulogy I will deliver at the funeral, my second one in two months and already one eulogy too many.

What a way to end the year.

UPDATE: Hours after I wrote this post, my sister-in-law passed away. She was 54.

A Eulogy for my Father.

This is the eulogy I delivered at my late father’s memorial service on October 5, 2021.

I have to be clear up front, writing this eulogy is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. How do I condense 79 years of a well-lived life down to a mere 5 minute speech? I could very well go on for hours and not even finish until early tomorrow morning, which would be quite a feat, even for me, and one that would break the rules at funeral homes all over the world.

My father was more than just a father, he was my coach, my mentor, my guiding light and the occasional source of pain on my rear end. It is difficult to narrow down who he was down to a single role, but I think his defining role in my life was that of a teacher. There were lessons in everything he did, so many lessons in fact that to this day I’m still absorbing what he taught me.

Thanks to my father, I have been to places I never thought I’d see and have done things I thought I’d never do. We went on vacations to Canada, the Bahamas and to some of the most scenic spots in the United States. He gave me my first dose of scuba diving and snorkeling, leaving me craving for more and carrying out that passion to this very day. He gave me a love of boating and the thrill of taking part in the beer can race aboard his M20 scow with the spinnaker sending us flying across the water if we didn’t tip over first. I didn’t know it then but I think my father was trying to show me small ways to live life to the fullest and to make the most of our time on this earth. There’s a big world out there with places to see and plenty to do, and my father did his best to show me these better parts of the world and get me excited about discovering more of it on my own.

One year when we went to SeaWorld, we were at the dolphin show when my father said to me, “I’m trying to light the fire under your ass.” That was a true motivational speech if there ever was one. I’m still grateful he didn’t mean it literally. But I’ve since learned the art of setting goals and getting myself motivated towards achieving them, no matter how big or small they were. And it was sure nice to have my father there encouraging me every step of the way.

There are so many other lessons my father taught me. Try to be better today than you were yesterday. Always be optimistic even when there’s nothing to be optimistic about. Having a sense of humor is a must. Become present with the moment during times of stress. But the most valuable lesson my father taught me was during some of the darkest hours of my life. I was out of work and feeling very discouraged. That’s when he introduced me to the Latin phrase, and pardon my Latin, “Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit”, meaning “Perhaps someday we will look back upon these things with joy”. He was right. As bad as things seemed at the time, they certainly don’t seem so bad now. Now I even see those dark days as time well spent.

Perhaps we can apply that same phrase to his life. Yes, we’re all sad of his passing, but at the same time, he leaves us to admire a legacy of an amazing life truly lived to the fullest, a life of the usual ups and downs, but with the downs replaced with joy and optimism along with humor to lighten things up. That was the approach my father took when he faced some of the more serious challenges later in life and while he may not have overcome them completely, he at least put up one hell of a fight that teaches yet another lesson in courage and persistence.

So during this time of our grief, let’s take the time to remember the joyful life my father shared and the lessons he taught to make better people of those who knew and loved him. May we forever recall his essence with smiles on our faces long after our tears have dried. Thank you.

Remembering my father.

On Sunday, September 26, my father passed away after years of declining health. Since then I have been numb with sorrow, my appetite gone and my anxiety and stress at unbearable levels. This week is going to be the hardest one of my life as I prepare to move on without my father beside me and cheering me on, whatever my ambition may be.

Tomorrow I will be delivering a eulogy at his funeral service so what better way to collect my thoughts than doing a blog post from the heart as I dig through years of memories of my father. Writing the eulogy was very difficult for me. Delivering it will be even harder.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of my father is his quirky sense of humor. He loved to make people laugh, friends and strangers alike. He had a real talent for walking up to total strangers at the store and chatting with them as if they were lifelong friends. I swear, if he hadn’t worked as an engineer, he would have made one heck of a comedian. I remember one year we were in Chicago at my grandmother’s wake service when my father leaned over to me and said, “You know what I’d like people to hear people say at a funeral? ‘Look, he’s moving!'” He admitted then it was a bad joke but it did much to lighten the mood. That’s what kind of person he was.

And how could I forget his love of boats. I think his tenure with the Merchant Marines ignited that passion. After my father got married and moved to Connecticut to start a new life with his new family, he took up sailing on his trusty Hobie Cat sailboat. After we moved to Florida he bought a power boat he named Second Wind. On Sundays he would take the family out on the boat where we would have a picnic on one of the nearby islands and put in plenty of swimming. One year we went on vacation in the Florida Keys and took the boat from Juno Beach all the way to Key Largo. What a memorable trip that was.

Not long before he retired he bought himself an M-20 Scow, a very fine racing sailboat. We would spend our Saturdays racing other sailboats in Stuart during the weekly beer can race. When the wind caught our sails just right, no one could catch us. I learned so much about sailing from my father and always looked forward to going sailing with him.

Thanks to my father, I got to see some of the most scenic places in the United States and Canada. He would plan family vacations that would later fill pages of photo albums and dominate conversations at the dinner table for years to come. Even towards the end my father was talking about making a return trip to Montreal, one of our favorite places to visit. He really had a desire to see as much of the world as possible, and I hope to continue that desire myself.

I could go on and on about how my father enriched my life with his wisdom and humor. He could be difficult at times, but lessons aplenty were learned albeit the hard way. Towards the end my relationship with him improved to the point where I consider ourselves parted on good terms.

And now here I sit, one week after his passing and the reality still sinking in. It’s never easy losing someone so close to you but I know that someone, somehow my father continues to watch over me and cheer me on. After all, his work shall never be done.

In loving memory of my father Withold John Brazinskas (June 7, 1942 – September 26, 2021)

Riding your breath.

I recently had an interesting dream in which I sat on a bench-like seat that rose to take me to an overhead video screen where I watched a short movie. I don’t remember too much about this part of the dream but I do remember what happened next.

At the end of the movie, I heard a voice say, “Here’s how you’re breathing right now.” All of a sudden the seats were either going up or down, depending on our breathing. My seat would ascend when I inhaled and descend when I exhaled. I remember exaggerating my breathing to give myself a little bit of a bumpy thrill ride.

Since having that dream I’ve been paying more attention to my breathing as far as bringing myself into the moment of mindfulness. Often I think of how that ride feels with respect to my breathing. Am I going up and down smoothly or is it a bumpy ride? I imagine my ride is mostly bumpy with my shallow, panicked breathing during my anxious moments.

How interesting that our dreams can sometimes teach us such valuable lessons to use during our conscious hours.

In memory of Maximillian.

As Hurricane Irma raged through Palm Beach County, I was with my family at my mother-in-law’s house, monitoring the progress of the storm and witnessing the nasty weather unfolding outside. Then I was faced with the unspeakable task of taking her dog Maximillian for his afternoon walk. I borrowed a raincoat and braced myself for one soggy walk. The weather outside was horrific with the rain and very strong winds leaving leaves and small branches all over the street. Needless to say, I was quite miserable, but Maximillian on the other hand loved it. He had always enjoyed the water and this time was no different. He didn’t seem to mind the nasty weather in the least. I think there’s a lesson here somewhere, something about your attitude defining the experience. You can either be miserable because of the weather or you can exalt in it.

Maximillian passed away earlier this week, leaving behind a treasure trove of memories of good times and a life lived to the fullest. That walk during Hurricane Irma is my favorite memory of our time together. I will miss him.

My digital diary.

Back in the 1990’s when floppy disks were the norm, I had one set aside that served as a digital diary of sorts. It contained text files containing my innermost thoughts and fears (such as getting drafted for the looming Gulf War) along with programs I wrote in various programming languages, including TI-BASIC.

Here’s an unabridged entry I wrote that describes an incident that took place while walking the dog at Tequesta Park in Tequesta, Florida. It also contains advice on how not to impress the ladies.

7-16-93 10:01:31 pm
Today I took Max for a walk at Tequesta Park. I walked over to the swings to play. I saw two women who were also at the playground with their kids. In the mood to impress them, I got on one of the swings and began to swing. Higher and higher I went. I soon was swinging high enough to almost fly off the seat, but I still continued going higher. Then, the swing went so high that I floated above the seat and began to fall, all while I held on. I landed back on the swing so hard that the seat broke and I slammed on the ground with my butt. My glasses flew off from the impact. There I was, lying on the ground, wondering why I wasn’t in pain. I rose to my feet.

Then one of the women asked me, “Are you okay?”

I said, “Yes, I’m okay, but I am a bit shaken.” I then began blowing sand off my glasses before putting them back on. I then walked away from the swing, never feeling better in my life.

Ziplining at Icy Strait Point.

Icy Strait Point, Hoonah, Alaska.

The single most memorable excursion on my vacation to Alaska was going ziplining at Icy Strait Point. This was my first time on such a ride and I was a little nervous but at the same time was excited about it.

Should I or shouldn’t I?

The excursion began with a bus ride through the neighboring city of Hoonah, a seaside community small enough where everyone knows each other. It has its own post office, school and a general store whose motto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Then the bus began its bumpy climb up the mountain on one dirt road after another. At least the driver had enough of a sense of humor to announce that everyone was about to receive a complimentary back massage. Finally, the bus reached the top of the mountain, and from there it was a short walk down a steep trail before I arrived at the zipline. The mountain was high enough for me not to see the ground without the clouds in the way.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

The ride has 6 cables to accommodate 6 riders at a time. After the riders are strapped into the specialized chairs and given safety instructions, they are sent plummeting along the side of the mountain, descending 1,330 feet with speeds up to 60 miles per hour before the ride ends less than two minutes later.

But what was it like? Not scary in the least, not by my standards. Although the ride is fast, the descent is smooth and the view spectacular. At once you can feel what it’s like to be a bird in flight high above the trees. I could use my arms to adjust my view of the surrounding area but it felt wonderful to be alive and so free as I have never felt before. Never mind that it was cold and rainy, never mind that I got rain on my goggles, never mind that I got wet, this was truly a thrill of a lifetime. I’d do it all over again, rain or shine.