Anela en Rouge

art, essay, non-fiction, video No Comments »

2013 ~ Happy Mother’s Day to everyone! I’m so excited to share with you all this beautiful short film (18 minutes), Anela en Rouge, that is the story of me coming full circle in recovering from the death of my mother, and how my mother promises to stay in contact with me after death. The story speaks to all mothers and daughters. Cara Myers is the producer of the film. Anthony Ladesich (also my brother) is the director of photography. Several film festivals selected and showed the film. I promise you will love Anela en Rouge. Beginning today the film is open to the public! Please share with all you know. (to all my mother’s children and grandchildren, too)

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We Buried My Mother in an Elephant

current events, essay, non-fiction 8 Comments »

I am a recovering Republican. It’s been nearly 12 years. Even before my recovery, I did not vote a straight party ticket, nor did I always vote for the Republican presidential candidate.

My great-grandfather on my mother’s side became a Republican as a very young man and eventually worked his way to becoming a United States Congressman from the state of Pennsylvania.  This is not the Republican party of my great-grandfather…and I dare say it is not even the Republican party of my dear departed mother and it is definitely not the Republican party with once I used to affiliate.

Several years before my mother died, I was at a G.O.P. event with her where John Ashcroft was the keynote speaker (a man my mother knew well, and this was before John Ashcroft was the U.S. Attorney General).  At one point  John Ashcroft said something, that I cannot now even remember, and everyone in the room got on their feet, screamed, whistled and applauded in approval.  I so did NOT agree with what had been said, that I remained seated.  My mother looked at me and asked me to stand up.  I remained in my seat….this was the beginning of the end of my Republican affiliation.  I adored the ground my mother walked on, but the light bulb went on fast and bright, and not even the love and loyalty for my mother was going to keep me with a party that less and less resonated with me.

My mother worked over thirty years for the Republican party, for the most part as a volunteer.  She was very loyal to the G.O.P. even in times when the G.O.P wasn’t loyal to her.  Having grown up with my active G.O.P. mom, I used to be loyal to her political world view.

My mother’s love of the U.S. and it’s democratic process were of the utmost importance to her.  She was a very proud American.

Voting rights for all Americans were very near to my mother’s heart.  I sat at my mother’s elbow hundreds of times in G.O.P. campaign offices which she ran. I listened to her when she spoke to people on the phone during election times.  When speaking to someone who had clearly told her that they were a Democrat and they were voting for the Democrat, she would always say: Thank you for your time and remember, it is important to exercise your right to vote no matter the candidate.  If my mother were still alive and heard the words out of Pennsylvania state House Republican leader Mike Turzai’s mouth about making it harder for Democrats (primarily blacks  & other minorities) to vote, she would have dropped dead. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuOT1bRYdK8).

Respecting and taking care of our military was extremely important to my mother.  She never, ever missed an opportunity to thank any military person she saw anywhere she was.  Often times, her thanks came with tears in her eyes, because she knew of their sacrifices, having been married to two veterans and having a son-in-law Vietnam vet.  When the Republicans last month voted down the veterans’ job bill, my mother would have said something I heard her say more than once in my life, “That is the biggest case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.”  Then she would have dropped dead.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/09/23/senate-gop-obstructionists-throw-veterans-under-the-bus-vote-down-bill-to-help-vets-in-need-of-jobs/

On overturning Roe v Wade.  My mother, though quiet in this view, did not believe Roe v Wade should be overturned.  She believed that in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother, abortion should be legal.  My mother knew that I wouldn’t be alive if abortion wasn’t legal in the case of the life of the mother.  She would not want to see Roe v Wade overturned.  Since this hasn’t happened (yet), she would not be dropping dead at the possibility, but she would drop dead if she lived to see this.  Though, I can say with some conviction that Todd Akin’s statement about legitimate rape and shutting “that whole thing down” could have easily caused her to drop dead. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fetFNTgqE6o)

My mother volunteered her time to the elderly, to orphaned children, and any lonely person she ever met.  She gave of herself without complaint throughout her life.  She cared about the poor, the underprivileged and believed that compassion for others was the rule and not the exception….

The turn the Republican party has taken would have horrified my mother~and made her deeply sad.

The news of my mother’s death was announced at the Republican National Convention in 2004 on national television, and it was mentioned how much she would be missed. Barbara Ladesich, would not have recognized her G.O.P. today; she would have missed the party she used to know.

On the primary election day in Missouri, 2004, my siblings and I buried our mother’s ashes in an elephant cookie jar.  Now we are having second thoughts…

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My Mother’s Last Gift

essay, non-fiction 3 Comments »

Seven years ago today, my mother, best friend to her children, great friend to many, a star in the political world, a teacher and a writer, lay in a hospital bed surrounded by her children. Many a time during the last few months of her life, she would say, “Don’t hold a death watch for me. I will NOT die while you kids are in the room.” All of us kids rolled our eyes at this comment every time she made it. After all she was our mother and we were NOT leaving her alone.

On that morning in 2004 the Hospice nurses came into the room and assessed my mother’s condition. “Your mother has a good two weeks before she goes. There are signs of when the time is near and those signs are not evident. So if you all wouldn’t mind leaving the room while we sponge bathe her and change her night gown, that would be good. Give us ten minutes.”

All of us went to the coffee shop and sat in an outdoor courtyard. Within one minute of us sitting down, our cell phones started ringing: we were to return to my mother’s room immediately.

We ran through the hospital back to my mother’s room where one of the Hospice nurses informed us that our mother had just taken her last breath. Mom was right. She did NOT make her grand exit from this earth with us all looking on.

Mom, you always were a woman of your word~for this and a lifetime of many other kind and loving acts, we are all so grateful and blessed. And given the opportunity, we will choose you again.

With all our love,
nannette, ben, kellie, jennifer, amy, siobhan and tony

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Serendipity (conclusion)

essay, non-fiction No Comments »

The next morning, Sunday, I had an eight-thirty seminar. I didn’t care. I was going to the rosary instead. At 6 wayneda.m. my eyes opened without the use of the alarm. I showered, dressed, had a cup of coffee, pulled the rosary from the bottom of my computer bag and headed off to the lobby. I couldn’t find Immaculee anywhere. Instant disappointment. I scrambled my way to the front desk and asked about it. Nobody knew anything. They referred me to the registration desk for the conference. I asked the women at the conference registration desk who all looked at me like I was some kind of nut. I explained that this was an impromptu sort of thing arranged late last night. One of the women got on a walkie-talkie and someone radioed back that Immaculee was meeting with some people in the bar. I took off running and laughing at the fact that this rosary was taking place in a bar.

When I arrived there were about fifteen women sitting on couches and chairs around Immaculee. There was one space left on one couch. I promptly sat. Immaculee was answering some questions regarding her experience during the genocide. Then she passed out copies of information about the rosary. By now it was eight-thirty and the group had dwindled (people left to get to their seminars). Immaculee explained the rosary itself, holding up her rosary. My eyes almost popped out of my head. Other than the fact her rosary was clear crystal beads (mine are blue crystal) our rosaries were identical, same crucifix—an unusual crucifix—and everything. While I’m fairly certain this rosary I held came from my mother’s home, I’m not sure just how it came to be in my computer bag.

When the prayer/meditation of the rosary eventually got underway, Immaculee interjected throughout the meaning of the sorrowful mysteries. From the time we made the sign of the cross at the beginning until the sign of the cross at the end I wept. It was like someone turned on a faucet. I wasn’t heaving or hysterical, but tears kept a slow steady trickle down my face. The small space we sat in had such an incredible spiritual energy that it is beyond any words. As we prayed I noticed we were now down to eight, the exact same number of women who spent 91 days in the bathroom in Rwanda together. It was so powerful. I had no Kleenex with me and at one point I stood and walked over to the closed bar to grab a napkin or two—no napkins. I’d asked the women on either side of me if they had a Kleenex and they did not. Consequently the dress I was wearing served as sponge. When we finished the rosary, I hugged and thanked Immaculee. I bought a cup of coffee, walked outside, and sat by the pool. It was Sunday morning, early still, and I was the only one there. The following is my immediate written response:

November 13, 2005

Chills surround me from my feet to my head even though it is probably seventy-five degrees out here. I’ve just said the most powerful rosary with Immaculee from Rwanda. To feel in my heart even the secondhand pain this woman has endured and her glowing energy of forgiveness is so much for me to take in and accept that the emotion has risen to the point which my body cannot contain it. My cry comes from deep within and cannot help from spilling down my face and on to my breasts, where I can feel my heart pounding beneath. I have no Kleenex now, nor did I during the rosary. The tears are so deep. Immaculee has suffered so much, spending 91 days in 3 x 5 bathroom with seven other women, going in weighing 120 pounds and leaving the tiny cubicle weighing only 65 pounds. Her father, mother and brothers were hacked to death with machetes—ethnic cleansing. I do not understand this hatred. She said the rosary everyday, several times a day, with the rosary her father gave her when she fled into hiding, and she knows that her love of Christ and God are the reason she survived. Every time she got to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” part of the Our Fathers, she stopped as she says she always does whenever she says the rosary because she doesn’t know how she could ever forgive those that trespassed against her family, but she knows she did. How powerfully beautiful for her to be able to say the rosary at all, but to say it with an honest knowing of those words, and to be reminded each time she professes this part of the prayer that she does know the true meaning. It’s beyond my scope of comprehension. She begged and prayed for God’s favor and had a faith that willed it so. While she led the rosary with the seven of us, every one of us cried. I have no rights to complain. Just before the sorrowful mystery of Christ carrying the cross, Immaculee said, looking into each of our eyes, “What we must remember is that Christ carried His cross under such painful conditions,” she paused and began to cry. “What we must remember, is that God, Christ, do not want us to cry, but rather remember that Christ died for us, and that all of us make sacrifices, and that we are very connected. We are all one as is evidenced by our tears.” I will never be the same person as I was yesterday, never. And here I sit beneath a gorgeous blue sky, bathed in sunlight, sobbing into a pool towel. Oh my God, thank you, thank you, thank you. Immaculee, bless you and thank you.

Not one day has passed since this event that I haven’t thought about it. The Prime Mover conducts such extraordinary symphonies. While I know the music is ubiquitous, it is in hearing each note and listening for its significance to the entire piece which creates the spiritual encounter. I am forever grateful, blessed and fortunate.

My daughter is still talking about her experience at the conference. She too, believes she has had a true awakening.

mmiI have shared this experience with a dozen people. I even bought the recording of the night’s lecture and transcribed it so I could read parts of it to those with whom I have shared my story. The beauty is that everyone has thanked me for sharing and I feel I have made a positive impact on their lives. One elderly gentleman, that I didn’t really even know with whom I shared the story, wept and told me that I was the best thing that had happened to him in a long time, and that that in itself was a gift I must carry on: be the best thing that happens in some one’s life every day for the rest of my life. That’s a good goal, don’t you think?

While I’ve written a thank you to both Dr. Dyer and Immaculee, the best thanks I can give to them, is to tell this story and attempt to spread the inspiration. I hope it inoculates you with just a fraction of the spiritual energy it gave me.

Nannette Rogers Kennedy
Fort Collins, Colorado

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Deeper into the Forest

essay, non-fiction No Comments »

forest pathI experienced death for the first time in my life when I was eight years old, the death of my father. My father had what now is considered a fairly curable cancer. In 1956 when my mother was six months pregnant with me, the doctors told my father he had six months to live. He clearly wasn’t ready when the doctors said he would be.

Thankfully, both of my parents were two very spiritually enlightened individuals. My mother didn’t refrain from the truth about my father’s situation as I grew. What my mother did, something for which I will be forever grateful was ingrain in me that death was no less miraculous of an event than birth.

My father was going to a marvelous place where he’d see the face of God, his grandparents and his parents. My mother assured me (and my three siblings ages 6, 4, and 18 months) that when the time came my father would board a ship and while those of us on this shore would wave good bye for now and say “There he goes!” that those on the receiving shore would wave hello and say “Here he comes!” This painted a non-fearful picture of a journey. This is not to say I wasn’t profoundly saddened, but the brush strokes my mother used made death another chapter and not the end.

My mother, half Irish half Scottish, and my father, half Italian and half Scot/Irish both came from strong Catholic backgrounds and especially for Catholics at this time period they were very open minded. Two months before my father’s death, on Halloween, my 6 year-old brother and I visited my father in the hospital. During this visit, nurses rushed my brother and me from the room. What we didn’t know for a few days is that my father’s heart had stopped. As many who have experienced near death, my father’s experience was fairly typical. It was a place of intense love and comfort, but for four young children, he told us that where he was going you could eat hotdogs for breakfast, fish all day, swing on a tire in the moonlight, ask God anything you wanted, and best of all my father’s soul would watch over us all always.

Roland RogersA few nights before my father died, my mother sat in the hospital in a sitting room adjoined to the room where my father slept. My father’s voice in conversation distracted my mother. She rose from her chair and stood in the door way of the dimly lit room. My mother felt certain that someone else was in the room with my father. He spoke in answer to someone my mother could not see. His eyes followed the unseen presence around the room. It became clear at one point that the presence was standing right next to my father’s bed. My father held out his arms and cradled something which my mother could not see. Later my father explained to my mother that St. Anthony of Padua had visited him. He carried the Christ child. They spoke of many things, and during their conversation, St. Anthony asked my father if he’d like to hold the Christ child. My father accepted the invitation. While my father held the Christ child, St. Anthony told my father, that very soon he would begin a new journey, the pain would cease, and his family would be all right no matter what.

The morning after my father died, my mother shared this story and others in a way that cemented ourmom2004 universal view that life is eternal. Although my mother remarried a wonderful man several years later, and we were therefore blessed with a second father, and two more siblings, my mother often told me that my father was with her always. She told me she regularly dreamed that she would stand in a forest calling to him. He would come from behind a tree and embrace her. She would tell him she loved him and he would tell her that when she was ready, he would be waiting near that tree in the forest.

Five years ago today my mother walked deeper into the forest holding the hand of my father.

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Letting Go

essay, non-fiction No Comments »

The more tools you collect for your toolbox, the better lives we will all have—because feeling good is contagious. I’ve been through quite a bit in my life and there have been many times when I’ve had a crisis occur where I was quite quick to jump off into hysteria, depression, anxiety attacks, bad tempers. In recent years I’ve gotten much better about reaching into my “toolbox” to live a happier life.

Just over a month ago, while in the middle of my two week trip in South Africa, I had a jacket stolen from me. This wasn’t just any jacket. My mother had given me this very beautiful white jacket with a very unique design on it. It had been my mother’s jacket and when she gave it to me she said, “Whenever you wear this I will have my arms around you.” This jacket has had monumental sentimental value to me and even more so since my mother’s death. When I realized the jacket was missing, I felt panic and loss and sadness. Like any dark cloud, I could feel the beginnings of letting this event take over my thought process. As I sat in a van riding across the spectacular savanna landscape of Autumn golds and reds, not appreciating where I was in the present moment, I suddenly thought, I’m in South Africa! How many people get the opportunity to visit such an amazing place?

I reached further into my toolbox. I brought out, “Someone must have really needed this jacket more than me” and “My mother always has her arms around me” and “I’m so grateful that I wasn’t injured” and “I’m so grateful for all of the things I do have” and “I’m so grateful my children are healthy” and finally, “What am I to learn from this experience?”And I was sincere in all of these thoughts.

I’m still a little saddened by the loss of the jacket, but of all the gazillion things I do have, why should I lose my balance over the one thing I don’t have? It doesn’t make sense. I stayed with the thought about what does this experience have to teach me? The jacket was a thing. Yes, it had personal value, but bottom line, it was a thing and I was faced with two choices: hang on to the sadness or let it go. The lesson for me was letting go and truly believing that someone had a bigger need for the jacket than I did. I’m not excusing theft, but I feel that to dwell on anger and sadness has no effect on the person who took my jacket. It only has a negative effect on me, and then those around me.

Maybe this person was starving, maybe this person’s children were starving, maybe this person was cold. The possibilities are infinite; I know this. Regardless, I have forgiven the person, no matter the reason. In this instance, I remembered rather quickly to stay in the present, be grateful, and let go. And, look–how lucky I am to have a happy picture of me wearing the jacket.jacket

Lest anyone think that I think I have it all figured out . . . yesterday I nearly threw my lap top computer out the closed window of my home office. Extreme frustration smothered me and I did allow a less than pleasant mood to take over . . . where was my toolbox yesterday?

nannette rogers kennedy

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Ask for a Sign

essay, non-fiction No Comments »

cardinalmom(Regarding yesterday morning) As I prepare for this unbelievable trip to South Africa (now only two days away), I’ve thought of my mother quite frequently . . . how much I want to tell her about this opportunity, this gift that has been handed to me. I know she knows. I speak to her quite often. Yesterday morning I asked my mother for a sign . . .

Almost five years ago my best friend, my mother, died in June. In late August that same summer, I was still living in my mother’s home preparing to put it on the market. In 90 degree weather with 90 percent humidity, I’d picked up my then nine year old son, Casey from my sister’s home. Casey and I drove to my mother’s home with plans of going swimming.

The instant we walked into the house, we both realized the air conditioner was not working. After a few ughs and groans, Casey and I changed into our swimsuits. As we locked the front door behind us, I spoke aloud to my mother. “Mom, I have no idea what your plumber friend’s name is, have no idea whom to trust on air conditioners, and I hope this isn’t too expensive. Please give me a sign that this will work out.”

Within twenty minutes Casey splashed in the pool and I had made myself comfortable in a lounge chair. While relaxing, I heard my mother’s voice in my head. “Don’t worry. I’ve got the air conditioner covered.” I laughed out loud thinking that I was making this conversation up in my head. I opened a book, began to read. I couldn’t stay focused on the page and wondered who I would call in the morning. I heard my mother’s voice in my head again. “I said don’t worry.”

The next morning as I dried off from my shower, the door bell rang. I poked my head out of the bathroom and told Casey to answer the door. I could hear Casey talking to someone, but couldn’t understand what was being said. With a towel wrapped around me, I moved into the hallway and called down the stairs. “Who is at the door, Casey?” Casey didn’t answer, but a male voice did. “I’m Troy, your mother’s plumber.” I said, “Stay right there. I’ll be down in a minute.”

As I hurriedly threw on my clothes, with a total look of shock on my face that I could see in the mirror, I heard my mother say, “That will teach you to listen to me.” I laughed and said “thank you” to the ceiling and dashed down the stairs to meet Troy.

“What are you doing here,” I asked, sizing up Troy, who looked like a “biker”, beard, tattoos, longer hair.

Troy began, “I was driving a couple miles east of here and I just started thinking about your mother. And I thought, ‘you know I haven’t checked in on Barbara in a while.’ So here I am.”

“Well, Troy, my mother died two months ago, but she brought you here today.”

Troy looked at me kind of funny & made condolences. I then proceeded to explain how I believed he came to arrive there that day.

Troy removed his hat & scratched his head. “I don’t believe in this stuff. I’ve heard wild stories like this before and I’ve never believed in this kind of thing. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing. Now it’s happened to me. None of my friends are going to believe this . . .” Troy went on in his doubt and skepticism ending in surprising belief.

And the air conditioner, Troy did me a huge favor and didn’t charge me for the labor on a new air conditioner.

The day after the air conditioner was installed, I looked out on the patio and saw a sea of cardinals, more in one place than I have ever seen in my entire life, at least fifty of these gorgeous birds perched on the patio furniture. My mother always said she’d come back as a cardinal. Hmmm.

(Yesterday morning) I woke and the first thought on my mind, after thinking four more days until South Africa, I thought again of my mother, how excited she would be for me, how she would say ‘how brave I was’, how I’d love to hear from her.

I went downstairs, started a pot of coffee and sat at my desk. As I began to check my cell phone for any messages, my phone beeped telling me of a new text message. It was from my daughter Mary. The message read “I was taking Piper [my four month old first grandchild] into the next room and I looked out the window and in the tree sat three cardinals.” There is my sign. I live in Colorado; my daughter lives in Kansas City. Cardinals do not make their home in Colorado. Out of the blue, my daughter text messages me that she has just seen three cardinals. I write back: I love you, Mary. It is unusual to see more than two cardinals at once. It’s a good sign.

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