Sunday night, the Hubby and I went out for dinner,  reflecting over the holidays spending time with family and how, with the age we are, actually really at any age, we never knows how many more  Christmases we will have here on earth to celebrate with those we love. It wasn’t a pessimistic or depressing conversation, but turned in to more of a discussion on  ‘how do you want to live your life, with the time you have left.’ We talked about people in our life who are no longer with us and who left a big impact on us both. We reminisced about times with those people and the hole, their absence has left in our hearts since they have been gone. We all have those people in our life maybe it’s a parent or a special uncle/aunt, a very close sibling or a very close family friend. They left a mark on our life and we’re never quite the same when they leave and we also know that our life would be much different if they hadn’t  been part of it.

Photos of my cousin, Mitsa and her husband, Tom,both deceased now, along with phtos of Mitsa with her parents, her brother Tommy and her as a child in Macedonia.

    So it was interesting that Tuesday I received a phone call from a cousin, to tell me about the passing of one of our other cousins. I was shocked. I sent her a Christmas card and wrote a nice message in it. She didn’t respond when she received the card, which was unusual, but at first I just wrote it off  as she was busy with Christmas preparations. I thought I’d give her a call this week when things settle down and there would be more time to talk. “Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today,” words from the wise, Benjamin Franklin.  I should have called her. What I DO know is that  I will no longer have a nice long conversation via FB messenger audio call. There will be no more messaging her when I’m thinking of her when I see a picture of roasted red peppers and messaging her to tell her I’m thinking about her, as she made some of the most beautiful red pepper dishes to serve to her loving husband, Tom. I would consider Mitsa a Chief Friend, in addition to my cousin and I even, on more than a couple occasions, wrote about her in blog posts along with posting beautiful photos of her and her Family.

My Dad's grave marker in Grand Blanc, Michigan.

    I remember the first time I saw her, when her family first immigrated to Windsor Canada. Our Dads were cousins and her dad, George Andonovski,  was a few years older than my dad and my dad always looked up to him. Her dad was a soldier in the Balkan war and what I distinctly remember in the stories about him was that he was married had a little boy and he went off to serve, became a prisoner of war and he returned about 10 years later or so, those are the details I remember, hence the big age difference between her and her brother Tommy, who is just endearing as her. What would I remember about that first meeting is that I was about six or seven and Mitsa was probably only about two or three years older but at that age, 2 or three years older was like a generation. Anyway, she had beautiful long braids, she was wearing a pretty white blouse and a red plaid skirt with suspenders, knee socks and brown shoes. I, on the other hand, had the short hairdo of Orphan Annie, minus the color and I would have loved to have long beautiful brunette braids like Mitsa’s. As we got older, I always admired my cousin’s sense of style and her sense of adventure. Her confidence to travel the world inspired me to want to do study abroad in London. She saved a lot of stuff, although I wouldn’t call her a packrat because she had a sense of organization with the things she saved. At times, she would occasionally send me pictures of letters I sent her over the years, or gifts I had sent her.   My cousin still had the crystal vase that we sent her as a wedding gift when they got married in 1996. Uncle George was a talented tailor in Windsor, so it wasn’t surprising that Mitsa had a very keen eye for design and that she moved to Toronto to design wedding dresses for one of the major department stores. Although she didn't design and make her own wedding dress when she married the love of her life, Tom, her dad did.  Mitsa took seriously her role as a wife, preparing Tom’s favorite dinners and treats.  We once compared notes on being a good and attentive wife.  In the conversation, it came up that I started the Hubby’s car on cold winter mornings, she laughed and said that she did the same…Mitsa and I were on the same page when it came to showing our husbands how much they are appreciated and we both were very fortunate that our husbands recognized and valued our efforts each reciprocating in their own special way…We recognized how very Blessed we were with a good spouse.

My Dad with or kids with his favorite place to be, on the lake.

    This wasn’t part of our discussion the other night,  thinking about people who had left us, our Chief Friends and Family members who have passed on. You know I really don’t mind going to funerals. Some people are very uncomfortable going and that is understandable.  Maybe because it reminds them that we all will die or maybe because it is very hard to see those we care about at a very difficult time in their life, or maybe because it really is sad to see those we care about say good bye to their loved ones. I don’t mind going to funerals. Partially because I enjoy having time to reflect in church on the deceased and the life and legacy they leave, and  hearing stories about their life. Before my dad died, I mostly tried to go to the visitation or wake, as I used to feel that the funeral was a Family’s private time to say good bye to their loved one.   When  my Dad died, I so appreciated all those who acknowledged his passing through their visits, kind words, texts, letters, calls and every other form of communication.  At the funeral, when I turned around in the Church to see a full house, it was so much of a comforting feeling that those people came to pay their respects.  I hadn’t expected that, having the attitude I had had prior.  When the service ended at the cemetery, to have all those special people to hug and reminisce about my dad was so comforting, it’s hard to accurately communicate how good that made me feel.  The hardest part about a funeral is saying goodbye. Goodbye to the time on this earth and although I’m confident that I will see our loved ones again when our life on this earth is done, the time we are left here without them can feel like an eternity. The alternative of experiencing this loss when you lose your loved ones is never having those people in your life and would not  that be the truest tragedy not to have had the opportunity to be loved or to have loved those people? That really would be sad.

     My cousin Mitsa and I had so many interesting conversations. I remember once I was in line to check out at Walmart, with a big cart of groceries, when she called. I never wanted to miss her call, so I turned my cart around and walk through the store and talk to her for probably over an hour.   I couldn’t even tell you exactly what we talked about but I didn’t want to hang up, I never wanted to hang up from her. She was my resource for all Macedonian food, customs, traditions and Macedonian people I came across. We often talked about how she so missed her mom and dad. I don’t think she ever really recovered from those losses.

    As a society, when we lose someone we only know through the news and their prominence, such as Princess, Diana, Kobe Bryant or a well loved President, we all feel a sense of sadness as  we’ve seen the pictures, the family, the accomplishments and we feel for their loved ones. When it’s someone in our own community our heart breaks for them as well, because we see their loved ones in the grocery store at the health club, at school, out and about and we can only imagine how much pain they must feel for losing a spouse/child/parent/loved one.  As a community our heart really does break for them and although we don’t always send a card or visit or say something, we pray for those people, or at least I do. When we look at our own life, when we lose those people close to us, the hurt is so painful that it makes me think of the Eagles song, “There’s a Hole in the World  Tonight,” and that’s exactly how I felt Tuesday night when I heard of Mitsa’s passing.

Senator, Robert Dole and his wife Senator Elizabeth Dole and the Senate Chaplain who delivered the Eulogy at his funeral.

    When Senator Robert Dole passed away a couple of years back. He died in his late 90s and what a remarkable man he was. Read about him and you’ll see what I mean. He was very critically wounded in World War II, he grew up very poor during the depression and never forgot the feeling of poverty. He was respected by both sides of the political aisle, a very good man and was married to a woman equally good and respected, being described by the pastor delivering the eulogy, Senate Chaplain, Barry Black as an “ethically congruent woman.” I had his funeral on TV while I was cooking.  Reverend Black described Bob as “one who lived the sermon, he didn’t  speak it.  He wanted others to SEE the sermon, not hear it from him.”  My experience is that those people in  my life I have admired, are those people who live sermon they don’t speak it they LIVE it, each in their own way, by caring for their neighbors and loved ones with a dinner, plate of cookies or a phone call to check in, shoveling the snow from their driveway or taking them to their doctor’s appointments, maybe it’s a walk and a listening ear, it could be a variety of ways they show their love and concern in both small and big ways, but regardless of the method, they LIVE the sermon for others to SEE LOVE IN ACTION.  My cousin, Mitsa was a person who lived the sermon.  I will miss her so much.  However, what gives me comfort is that she is with her mom and dad and her loved ones who have gone before her. I also know she’s with my dad and Teta Anna and someday I WILL see them all again…Keep in touch with those you love.  Make the call to those Chief Friends and your Family.  Let them know how much you love them.  It will make both your and their heart happy and you know what?  It may even make you say…

It’s a Great Day ❤️