Monday, April 16, 2012

Celebrating Pop's Birthday...

Today my Dad would have turned 83.

I'm not taking it all very well...which surprises me somewhat. I didn't expect to be this emotional. I sent Sara home when I brought Brian home from preschool. I just wanted to be alone with the boys to celebrate Pop. So we did. My Dad loved dessert - and we often shared a birthday cake. I know he wouldn't care that I put some candles in my half eaten birthday cake today!! Brian even sang Happy Birthday - all by himself.

If my Dad were still here, he'd be on the computer in a flash after reading my first paragraph today. He never liked when I was upset and would instantly be on the phone or typing an email or writing a letter to encourage and support me. I realize how lucky I am to have such an incredible Dad...and today I'm going to share just how supportive he was with all of you. Below are three personal emails that he sent to me (one to all of his children) at different stages of my life. Sharing this today is my way of celebrating some of his very best qualities.


September 27, 2008
Dear Kate:
In your Thursday journal entry, you wrote how taking down your favorite tree completely changed your home’s landscape. As you looked out on your “new” yard, you missed your tree and felt that not only did the physical landscape change, but Gavin’s diagnosis of cerebral palsy changed your family’s landscape as well. Kate, it is understandable to harbor such thoughts at this time, but you may consider what replacing that tree would entail. You and Ed would select a tree that you really loved and then you would pick a good spot for it and plant it with all the nutrients and water needed to give it a good start. If the tree were weak, you would put supports around it until it got strong enough to stand free of the wires that held it straight. If it were hit with a disease, you would treat it. The health of the tree and its development would be dependent on the time and effort that you and Ed gave to it. This analogy illustrates that the work you and Ed have diligently done for Gavin have already had a dramatic effect on Gavin’s health and development through the many physical difficulties he has suffered in this first year of his life. You have used those supports to aid your weak little sapling.
I am attaching a copy of one of my favorite poems, Trees by Joyce Kilmer who describes a tree as a woman that looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray. He notes that the tree is covered with snow in winter and intimately lives with rain. He ends his poem with the classic lines Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.
In other words, the change in your family landscape is a change that took place just about a year ago and the nurturing that you have provided Gavin will result in a young man who will beat the odds with God’s help.
Keep up the good work and hang in there tough. God bless all four of you.
Love, Dad
* Sergeant Kilmer was killed in action in Germany in the last days of World War II.


by: Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

      THINK that I shall never see
      A poem lovely as a tree.
      A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
      Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
      A tree that looks at God all day,
      And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
      A tree that may in Summer wear
      A nest of robins in her hair;
      Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
      Who intimately lives with rain.
      Poems are made by fools like me,
      But only God can make a tree.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 1:34PM

In Sunday's Phila. Inquirer, there was a lengthy article on Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies' star shortstop who,despite his size (5' 8") has had an outstanding career. He credits his father, James for teaching him never be afraid of failure which helped his son stay mentally strong while he struggled early in the season. Here are some of the comments that he passed on to his son which could have application in your lives. It is a strong message that goes beyond sports and I thought it would be valuable to all of you:

"I told my kids, don't be afraid of failure. Don't worry about messing up. If you're worried about messing up,you'll lose your aggressiveness. It's not failure if you hit the ball to another and he makes a good play that gets you out. That's his job."

"I still tell myself that," Jimmy Rollins acknowledged. "It's a valuable lesson. Don't be afraid. If you're taking a test in school, don't be afraid. When you're afraid, you block yourself out, you get in your own way.

You only have two options- fail or succeed-so don't stress on it. Have faith in your ability and let it happen."
James Rollins gained other pieces of wisdom as a young athlete and passed these on to his children. Here are two of them:

"You can do anything you desire. You have the tools. Make it happen."

"When I was in junior college, I met Donald Quarrie, a former Olympic sprint champion. I looked at him. He was a normal guy like me, no different than me. I told my kids that no one is any different than you. It can be done."
These lessons have continually helped the MVP shortstop overcome obstacles and can help all of us. Please share with grandkids who are either home or away at school.

God bless, Pop

Sunday, November 28, 2010 5:25PM

Dear Kate: I read your journal tonight and wanted you to know that you're not alone! This is a very tiring time for you with all you been through and the pressure is immense. You are a strong person and a devoted mother who is doing a super job with the boys, but you are not super woman. You have to ease up on your self for your sake and for Gavin and Brian. They need a healthy Mom who they adore.and is always there for them. Many people who read your journals think you are amazing. Mom, I and your siblings feel the same way and we all love you. You are a special person who is suffering from a real tragedy in losing Darcy and a son within a year. This does not even include the physical strain on your body and the accompanying emotional drain the pregnancies which, together, can really get you down. Do not conclude that you have caused all of this mental and physical duress. You have not. Keep your chin up and try to take breaks when Gavin is with his therapists. I know you feel you have to be there when he is going through his rehab, but I'm sure that they would agree that your health supersedes your maternal instinct of being on site for all of Gavin's treatments. You can go back to that feeling when you have regained your strength. Kate, I love you and wish I had the proverbial magic wand to speed your recovery. Like I've always told you ..HANG IN THERE TOUGH TIGER!! Mom and I are praying for you always and we're here for you. We're proud of you as will be your boys when they grow up.

God bless you. Love, Dad

We love you, Pop!! Happy Birthday. We'll never, ever stop celebrating YOU!


  1. Oh, Kate. This was such a beautiful post. I didn't have a great relationship with my Dad. Truth be told, I barely knew him. Over the past several years as a silent reader of your journals, I adopted your Dad as mine. From the way your wrote about him to the photos to your recent eulogy - he was a Dad I always wished I had had. That being said, I feel the same way about your Mom. So many people have bad parents. You are so lucky. But what I love about you is that you acknowledge that you're lucky and you share your parents and your children with us. Thank you, Kate.

    And happy birthday to Mr. Gallagher in Heaven. I never knew you but you and your daughter have changed me for good.

  2. Sending you love and hugs. Although I've only been following your blog for a short time, I've been able to see how much your parents, particularly your Dad, mean to you, and vice versa. My Dad was never very good at expressing his feelings, and passed when Reuben was 5 weeks. I know he would be so proud of my boys, just as I know your Dad was proud of Gavin and Brian.


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