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4th of July – Still Grieving

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My mom at her 82 birthday celebration

It has been been about 4 months since we lost my mom, Florence Hassis Vissar.  She would have celebrated her 88th birthday on the 4th of July.  She always said, that she was a “Yankee Doodle Dandy!”  I wrote about one of the life long lessons I learn from my mother here about looking for the good in everyone.  As you know, those who have strong family ties, your parents are your first teachers.  If you are lucky to have this, they mold you, they instill the moral ethics and the path to a fulfilling life.

Still,  I will grieve for the loss of my mom, and I know that both of my sisters are with me in this grief.  I know I will continue to for a while. She was the rock that kept us together, even though dementia and Alzheimers took her away from us years ago..  You see, my mother touched many in her life.  She left a legacy of love, of giving back to her church, her family, and her roots as a first generation Albanian.  She had a place for all that crossed her path within her life, even when she suffered from dementia.  She was something special and if you are on my Facebook page, you can see this with all the likes and comments!

Both of my parents met at St. John’s Chrysostom Orthodox Church at a church dance in Philadelphia PA.  They both had parents that emigrated to the United States from Albanian to make a better life in a new and prosperous country at the turn of the 20th century.  To grow up as a third generation kid with all of the customs of Albania, the religious symbolism and events are a treasure that some may think is hokey, but I think are epic.   

For instance, in the Orthodox religion, we celebrate life and death.  We baptize and confirm our children at the same time, celebrate the beginnings of life, spit three times to get the devil out of the new born, (yes it is exorcism!) and anoint the body with holy water and oil.  The same happens when we die.  We celebrate the memory of ones life, anoint the body, and bring it back to earth, but it doesn’t stop there.  We celebrated my mom’s memory on the 40th day of her passing and we will continue celebrating her memory for three years.  It is symbolic to the 40 days of Christ on either and three years to symbolize the trinity.  But enough of the religious symbolism as much as the memorial given to one who past – FOR THREE YEARS.  It is a beautiful tradition.

As for life lessons, my hopes and dreams for my families and friends is to have had these interactions with their parents or to be that parent to their child.  As a school educator and leader, I can help show how I was influenced by parents who gave everything and be proud of their three girls, but I cannot be in the home to give that experience to kids.  I am  one of the lucky ones. There are children not only within the world, but in our communities that may not be so lucky.  It doesn’t matter how rich you are or how popular you are, you still can be neglected in some way.  Family is your first education.  Parents will always be your first teacher.  I know that and will live by that.  Schools cannot replace this for our kids.  Sorry…

Barriers of inequality did not stop my mom. Rich or poor, black or white, straight or gay – she was a happy soul and loved everyone.  Although there were times she had to overcome prejudices due to upbringing, she accepted and loved everyone. She was also a spitting image of my grandmother Bessie Hassis. My grandmother was my mother!  They are two of the same.  My grandmother’s legacy was and is my mother’s legacy.  I know that now and I hope to continue this legacy.  I miss you mom, and I will keep your memory eternal!

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Look For The Good in Everyone

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(A post to for our parents at East Side.)

David Brooks, a New York Times columnists, recently wrote a book titled The Road to Character. In the beginning, the book gives examples of two characters, Adam I and Adam II.  Adam I lives by the “career” characters – he makes it for himself in his career, works hard to move forward and up the ladder of success for his career.  Adam II is about moral character.  These folks live by what they want to be remembered by.  It is basically what would be said at your eulogy when you die.  He lists it as the “resume virtues” or as the “eulogy virtues”.  Brooks also wrote an opinion article in the New York Times about this titled The More Bucket List.

Why do I share this with you?  As you know, I recently lost my mother.  What was really interesting me and my family is how she touched various people throughout her life.  Her motto was always, “Look for the good in people”.  She always told me this as a young adult, prior to college and going out on my own.  It is one of those moral lessons that lives with me every day, look for the good in everything.  As you know, my parents were hard working, WWII veterans who did not go to college, but worked hard to support the family.  They always wanted something better for their children, but they also wanted to live a life where they could give back and make a difference in our young adults, now “my generation”.  (I may be older than some you!  Showing my age!).

We always are concerned about the “academic” curriculum, but what about the social and emotional curriculum and our moral character in our students?  How as adults are we modeling this for our kids?  Is it always about the “external achievement”, or is it about the moral and character achievements?  How do you want to be remembered and eulogized?  This is what life is about!  Something to think about.

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