Tuesday, August 26, 2008


525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? How about love? How about love?
Measure in love. Seasons of love.
-Seasons of Love

The anthem song from the brilliant musical RENT keeps rolling around in my mind. I just returned to Ascoli. I was gone three weeks but they felt like three months. Funny how the clock stops and days run together the minute you enter a hospital room. Everything seemed skewed, like I'd entered a parallel universe. All around me Washington, DC went on as normal while life as we knew it seemed to brake and warp, and made me start to wonder, how do you measure moments like this?

Time became measured in three-hour increments as we took shifts tending to my uncle Dean. We didn't want him to be alone, and someone needed to be there at all times to oversee the medical care.

Night was marked by numb fatigue. Early mornings brought clammy awakenings to the sudden rememberance of where I was and why.

Days were measured in hugs and prayers and clasped hands, among the family and the extended familial-like relationships we forged with the employees in Dean's hotel. They all wanted to touch us, to reach out to us as well as to be comforted themselves, to tell us how much Dean meant to them personally, and to have us convey their messages and kisses to him.

We measured the week in countless cups of coffee from the hospital cafeteria. In pounding heartbeats, in hopes held tightly while dismay crowded into the recesses. In the number of well-wishes extended, in meals given, in smiles bestowed.

We lost count of the days and the number of tears, which were broken by jokes to dispel the tension and funny remembrances to chase away the fears.

We made it through the weeks not by taking it one day at a time, but by forgetting what day it was and operating on a different time zone altogether. By leaning on each other, picking up the pieces when one of us fell apart and then getting enough rest to start it all over again.

My uncle Dean passed away on August 6. He had just turned 62 exactly one month before his death. According to my family's scale of longevity, he should have had at least 30 more years to live.

So how do you measure a life? In hearts touched, in spirits uplifted, in opportunities given, in lives changed, in a community bettered. In moments together, in laughter. In love bestowed. Measured in love.
Turn on your sound and listen to Seasons of Love.


erin :: the olive notes said...

valerie, what a heart-filled post. so emotional. my heart is with you and your family.

Ice Tea For Me said...

What a touching and heart-felt post that captures how loved your Uncle Dean was by not only his family but friends an dco-workers.

I'm sorry for your loss.

marybeth said...

cara Valerie,
what a wonderful tribute...both touching and memorable. And the photo is fabulous!

I believe that sharing in this way keeps our loved ones alive....

I miei pensieri e le mie preghiere sono con te in questo momento difficile. Dio ti benedica.


carol said...

Hi Valerie,
I'm so sorry to hear about your Uncle Dean. It sounds like he was just a wonderful guy.....and those seem to be the ones that are taken from us too soon. I hope you can regain your equilibrium now that you're back *home*. carol in dc

Valerie said...

Thank you all for your sentiments and condolences. It has been a very difficult time. I am also very touched by the number of emails I received, some who knew Dean and some who are blog buddies who expressed similar experiences or just conveyed their thoughts. I really am touched and uplifted by each of you.

Carol, sorry I didn't get to see you while I was DC. Maybe next time.

Diane said...

I remember Dean from your wedding and how fun he was!! He touched so many lives and was loved by many.

casalba said...

Your choice of poem/song lyrics is lovely.

Mamma Jo said...

Oh Valerie,

You make me cry; but you also make me smile through my tears! Thank you for the wonderful way you weave the moments of trauma and grief into this sweet tale -- it helps to put those traumatic events into perspective.

Seasons of Love ~~
Seasons of Change ~~

Anonymous said...

How are you doing? Have been missing your writings....

Hope all is well,
Becky Garlock Spiros

Valerie said...

Diane, you're so right...he was a lot of fun to be with.

Casalba, thanks. I love that song. So appropriate.

Mamma Jo, we've both been doing a lot of that lately. I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for forwarding the email comments you received from Dean's friends.

Bec, getting there. Some days it still doesn't seem real. I've been writing, but to fulfill contracts...stuff you haven't been able to read online yet! But I'm back to the blog now, too.