The Written Word

Today on the 10th anniversary of Mom’s death, I was initially planning on going to the cemetery like last year, talking to her and hoping for some kind of response, a feeling or a sense of her presence… but I didn’t go. She’d said, she actually didn’t want us hanging out there, as if that’s where she was there, and that must be true, because I don’t feel any closer to her when I’m there. I can talk to her anywhere, and I do, but it still makes me sad not to hear her answer back. You’d think after 10 years I’d have gotten use to our one sided conversations… I haven’t.

A few years ago it was suggested to me that I start journaling, but I didn’t care for it at all, it felt like talking to myself. But today it occurred to me… maybe I should write to mom! I still love reading her old emails, the longer the better. I’ve saved pretty much everything she ever wrote me. So today, I started writing to mom. It didn’t feel like talking to myself and there’s no expectation of hearing her respond. It just seems so fitting, writing to some one who loved to write and loved to read! I still have so much to say to her and I expect that will always be true. I wish I thought of this 10 years ago, I feel like I have a novel to write now. A novel… I think she’ll like that.

Nine Years Without Her

Everyone who recalls Helen’s countenance would see a bright face with an expression of approval, always smiling and “happy to see you”. She was a beautiful human being throughout. She is best described by quotes from our children.

Henry Jr: Mom once advised me “Don’t sweat the small stuff…it’s all small stuff” I can do cancer standing on my head”
momdad50thChris: I recall something mom said on your fiftieth anniversary when our entire family flew to Hawaii. Sitting in front of our bungalow porch she said, ” Everywhere I look I see someone I love”.

Matt: On1stcommunion500 my First Communion, Mom told me that on her First Communion she felt so close to God that that it would be okay to die if that’s what God wanted.
Lenore: In her last year, we had many conversations which lead to my crying uncontrollably tears. Mom was holding me and talking. I could sense the smile in her voice. Everything about her exuded calm, love and happiness.
Mimi: If I had to pick out one word to describe my mom it would have to be “Luminescent”. Her smile really did “light up the room.” She was well-read, well informed and a sparkling conversationalist… add to that, a good listener. If you met her at a party and struck up a conversation with my Mom… well, you hit the jackpot. You were bound to have a wonderful evening because she was a delight to talk to.
Henry Sr: Helen’s TOP priorities were not to be measured by Academia. That was all dwarfed by her love of God, family, friends, life and learning. Mimi had written, after Helen died, “I think I was trying to unravel the mystery of what unique combination of genetics and environment came together to create this remarkably strong and loving personality? I’m coming up with a big bang theory that only happens once every 20 billion years.” She was tooo good to be true!
Patty: I remember after Dad and Mom moved into the apartment, sitting in the living room with Mom. I’ll never forget her taking my hands (like her little one) and telling me (in her beautiful soft voice), “Patty I’m not afraid of dying. But, I am afraid of missing you all”! I kissed her and told her Mom I’ve always been able to talk to you AND always will. You won’t miss us!! Mom’s always been there for us and always will!! Love you Mom!


Conversations with Mom

ltj2016cemeteryToday on the 9th anniversary of Her death, I went to the cemetery with the intent of planting myself next to Mom, for the entire day if need be, until she spoke to me. I keep trying to have conversations with her, silently, out loud and sometimes through tears, begging her to talk to me.

I thought how in Her last months, several times she said…  “you can ask me anything, tell me anything.” Funny how as much as she was such a wonderful conversationalist… some of the most memorable, poignant and touching things she said were but a few words. For example… after my third or fourth miscarriage she sent me flowers. The card simply said “There, there.”

Today was kinda like that.

Helen’s Father: Robert Minze


Helen's Father, Robert Minze

Helen’s Father, Robert Minze

I’ve been scanning a lot of old family photos lately to post historical Haddad and Tahan background to my Dad’s website  Along the way, I became obsessed with knowing more about the ancestry of both sides of my family.  I think my Mom’s website is a good place to share her family’s history and photos.  Let’s start with her father, Robert Minze, a fascinating fellow indeed!

My mom always talked lovingly about her father.  She said they didn’t have much money when she was a child (she grew up in Brooklyn, New York during the depression), but her father always found ways to entertain Helen, Bob and Bill with wonderful (free) adventures.  I think she said they took tours of ships and firehouses, but I may be embellishing with my own imagination here.  My mom said she never felt poor when she was out with her Dad.

Some of the background I’ll add here are stories my Mom has told me, others are bits of information I’ve discovered on  I’ll probably keep adding to this post over time.

Herman was the first president of...

Herman was the first president of…

My grandfather was born with the name Mortimer Minzesheimer in July, 29,1902 in Manhattan, NY to Hermann and Dora Minzesheimer.  His father, Herman (a dentist and business owner) was born in Baden Germany and came to the US in 1891.   I’ll add more about Mortimer’s family in the future, but I want to share this a few tid-bits for now:  The Minzesheimers were a German Jewish family of very accomplished men: lawyers, business owners, community leaders, hospital administrators and firemen. Their family was called Münzesheimer in Stebbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

I always imagined that Mortimer changed his name when he came to America, in order to assimilate with American society. But that is not the case!  The truth is: he fell in love with a Catholic beauty named Mable Callahan and in order to marry her, he changed his name to Robert Minze and converted to Catholicism!  Also, there was a dramatic divide in the family around 1915 that may have made it easier for Mortimer make a break with his family name.  Not sure if I will go into that story… I need to check with the wishes of the Minze family.  Nothing too shocking, but a bit scandalous for the time!

Robert’s (Mortimer’s) profession at age 17, was listed in the census as “office boy” at his father’s company, Royal Rubber Works.  Eventually he began working in the electronics industry and in later censuses his occupation was listed as Radio Service Man and Radio Engineer.  Not sure if this is my own childhood imagination (or my Mom’s), but I think she said that her Dad helped invent the television!  Now there’s bragging rights, hey? Whether or not it was true, my mom said her family was the first family on her block to have a television in their home.  That part, I believe!


1910 Census, 111th St #452

Mortimer had three sisters:  Marjorie (Saltzer, NJ), 4yrs older, Dorothy (Urbach, Alaska) was 2 years older  and Clarice who was four years younger than he.  Clarice died at just six years old; I haven’t yet discovered the cause of her death.  I imagine that my grandfather (only 10 years old at the time) must have been close to her, because twenty years later, he named his first child: Helen Clarice Minze.  I never knew the origin of my Mom’s middle name until I began researching my genealogy a few months ago.  I wish I had asked my Mom where her unusual middle name came from.  I have no idea if Helen herself ever knew the sad story of her aunt, little Clarice Minzesheimer.  I wish I could ask her now.

I’ve also found one reference to my Mom’s full name as Helen Clarice Cecile Minze.  I’m not sure who Cecile was, but my mom has an unfinished novel titled “Cecile.”  It’s a historical fiction, based on my paternal grandmother’s (Henry’s mother, Angele)  life in Cairo, Egypt.  So, now I am determined to get to the bottom of this mystery: who was the real Cecile?  Maybe my mom was playfully leaving us with another mystery to unravel?

I never was aware of my Jewish ancestry, but it was not a secret either.  My mom used to mention that some of her father’s family was Jewish.  This was actually a relief to me, when she did mention it, because I had secretly wondered if Mortimer Minzesheimer had changed his name when the rise of German facism became recognized in America?  I wondered if anti-German sentiment made whoever Mortimer was (I thought it was my great grandfather), no longer wanted to be associated with the country of Germany?  I only recently learned that Mortimer was my grandfather, and he changed his name for love!  The entire story makes me wonder what happened to the Minzesheimers back in Baden, Germany? Did they all escape Nazi Germany eventually? I haven’t not yet gotten that far in my research, but my brother Matt recently had an DNA Ancestry workup that confirmed that my mother was 50% German Jewish and 50% Irish, with a little bit of British mixed in there!


A smile and a laugh like Her’s never fades

On the 17th, I was in Big Bear, for the second time in a month, for what started as a cleaning and redecorating project to prepare the cabin for sale. After 4 trips to the dump, it was clutter free and actually comfortable to be there. Alone at the cabin, while Gary and Trevor made the final trip to the dump to make room for the new furniture and beds… memories of the time Mom & Dad came up to play in the snow with nearly all of their grandchildren. As if it had been days ago (rather than 25 years) I could hear Mom laughing and talking to the kids as they made snowmen. I’m know I have photos of that day. hopefully I’ll be able to find them and add them to this post. I remember one photo in particular where they posed with the picaso-esque figure… Mom smiling like she was caught mid-laugh.

Gosh… come to think of it… i’m pretty sure every picture of her she’s caught smiling not posing with a smile. It was just naturally there whenever she was with family or friends, in fact think anyone would be hard press to remember a time when she wasn’t smiling, to her… life was beautiful and there was always a reason to smile.

In her last year, there were many time we had conversations that lead to tears… let me rephrase that… I WOULD BE IN TEARS. Come to think of it… i don’t recall even one single time seeing her cry… i would be crying and she, SHE WOULD BE SMILING!!!! Remember, that consoling comforting way she had? Not trying to stop you from crying, not making light of your sadness. I remember one time crying uncontrollably, wanting to stop, wanting to be brave but just not able to. I remember her holding me and talking (you could hear her smiling in her voice) I could feel the love and calm flowing from her. Man, didn’t everything about her just exude calm, love and happiness?

I miss that so much.

I had a particularly rough week this week with work, which is why I’m days late writing. Couple of jobs driving me crazy and the client constantly wanting to talk on the phone, sending text after text pushing the limits of the work I was already doing for free, to help land a big job. Anyway, was on a conference call at 7:30pm when I missed a call from Henry. When I didn’t answer, he texted me… I responded, telling him I’d call him at 9 when I expected to be done. When 9 came and went and the client was still pushing for more…. i wasn’t in the best of moods and warned Henry by text. We didn’t end up talking that night but yesterday Henry sent me a text, reminding me about something what Mom use to say… “don’t sweat the small stuff, and… it’s ALL small stuff.”

She even said that about cancer! She said… “I can do cancer standing on my head.”

So… I suppose I can handle a rough week. I just wish I didn’t have to do it without her. Everything was easier when she was here.

I miss HER so much. <3

Eight Years Without Her

Let me tell you about Helen. Although she had only one book published (Picture of Guilt), she had written four others: Cecille, Prelude to Love, Twice a Fool, and the Wild Game Supper. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I must take you back in time.

Nobody could make her do anything she really didn’t want to do. NOBODY!!. I started teaching her how to drive in Brooklyn, before we were married. Four years later, after failing the drivers test four times, she decided she didn’t want to push the stroller with the 3 kids one mile round-trip to the market, she decided to get licensed. It was not because I’d tried to cajole or embarrass her into it, but because she wanted it. Two weeks later, she was licensed.

At 45, she was working as a Library Aide in La Mirada when she decided to return to college to get her BA so she could be promoted to Full Librarian. She was aware that she would be 50 to achieve that goal as a part time student but she applied at Fullerton Jr College.

The school insisted she take a special update class for folks who’d been out of school for over 20 years but she refused, stating she was as prepared as any of our six kids who had graduated high school. They made an exception, and she was in.

As a freshman, she raised her hand so often, that, when she stopped, the teacher asked why she had stopped, to which she replied she was embarrassed to be the only one who apparently knew the answers.

On literature subjects and authors she particularly enjoyed, she read all the books on those subjects and authors rather than the ones required by the teachers. I saw all those books scattered around the house. She knew more about Kafka than her professor.

By the time she was a senior at CSUF, she would have been a straight ‘A’ student if it wasn’t for a ‘B+’ in Statistics and an ‘F’ in Music (which she loved) but had been mistakenly recorded as having many absences. She didn’t protest; grades were not high on her priority list. Learning was! With only 6 credits needed for her BA, she left school at the urging of two English teachers who asked her why such a good writer was still in school when she should be writing full time.

Despite all the above, Helen’s TOP priorities were not to be measured by Academia. That was all dwarfed by her love of God, family, friends, life and learning. Mimi had written, after Helen died, “I think I was trying to unravel the mystery of what unique combination of genetics and environment came together to create this remarkably strong and loving personality? I’m coming up with a big bang theory that only happens once every 20 billion years.”

It had to be more than luck that we met at a St Francis dance, miles from both our homes, on June 24,1953, one day after her 21st birthday. It was destiny.

Fifty years later, on her 74th birthday, I wrote to her:
“The sun is shining but it would make no difference if it were cloudy. If I am with you, it is always bright, even if we are inside with the lights on or off. I need only to
think your name to smile. Touching you face, your arm, your anything make me feel good. You make every day beautiful because you are beautiful. But on your birthday I sense it more, and it makes your birthday MY BEAUTIFUL DAY.

Helen loved everybody and everybody loved Helen, especially her #1 fan.

The Calm Before the Storm.

I was looking for photos of my mom today, the 8th anniversary of her passing, and came across these great pictures of her in Coronado with my boys. The location is a corner condo that had a view of both the beach and the bay (in case you are trying to place the spot). I think these were taken in the late 90’s, just one year before it was discovered that she had breast cancer. Definitely photos of the calm before the storm.

God, I miss her so much.  It seems like much longer than 8 years since she’s been gone.  I’ve needed her so much but I’m relieved that she didn’t have to bear watching Casey unravel these past 5 yrs or so.  Wish she was here to magically make it better; as we all think our mothers can do!  My Mom could always make me feel like everything was going to be OK.


Seven Years Without Her

For this anniversary of Helen’s passing, Mimi is printing selected paragraphs from the eulogies given by three of our children.  But first I must reveal to you a side of Helen that most people never knew. She was a risk taker, particularly on vacations.

Although she couldn’t swim, Helen insisted on sailing in bays whose proximities to the ocean made it dangerous if the boat was mishandled, and though I had been in the Navy, I was never on a boat, ship, or anything that floats.  In gathering materials for for her book, Picture of Guilt, she wanted to experience canoeing down the same river that her “make-a-believe” hero did, cruising past his estate.  She asked me to rent a canoe for us to navigate down that same Pennsylvania river.  Hoping to also become her hero, I agreed to try my maiden trip. Unfortunately, I capsized the canoe, and Helen stood in water up to her neck, laughing hysterically.  We obviously survived.

In Cambria, she thought it would be fun to ignore a sign that read “KEEP OUT, DANGER” and crawl through a hole in fence of a cattle range that included bulls. The range was not only bordered by the fence, but also a cliff with a hundred foot drop into the Pacific Ocean.  I thought this might be a might bit dangerous, but we did it. Obviously, we survived that too.

Do you remember the song “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets”?  She always figured I would somehow save her.  Life with Helen was not just concerts, ballets and operas, and a few pecks on the cheek.  It was exciting and risky as well.


Henry’s Handpicked Excerpts from:

Mimi’s Eulogy for Mom (full post here)

If I had to pick out just one word to describe my mother; it would have to be “Luminescent.” Her smile really did “light up the room.” She wasn’t a joke-teller, but she exuded happiness. … I saw a big red truck on the 60 freeway that night. It had a giant bottle of Bacardi on the side and the caption read “Live like you mean it.” I thought to myself “You don’t need Bacardi to live like you mean it. Well, … I’ll have whatever my Mom was drinking, because SHE really lived like she meant it.” She savored every person and moment in her life as a gift from God. And she fought for every last minute of her life with courage and grace.

Lenore’s Eulogy for Mom (full post here)

We couldn’t get enough of her gift. And what’s hard to believe is that it never diminished. Ever time you saw her, when she’d first catch your eye, she’d smile and greet in such a loving way, like she was surprised to see you. This is the greeting you got whether you’d seen her the day before or if it had been weeks since you’d seen her.

I know you’ve all experienced this too; it’s why you’re here. She loved you and you knew it. That feeling will never leave us. And neither will she.

Matt’s Eulogy for Mom (full post here)

Mom was more then just a person to love and a person to be loved by. My mom was a child of God. A woman of God. When I was getting ready for my first communion my mom told me how close to God she felt at the time she first took communion. She said she felt God’s love so much, that He was so real, that if she died then (as a 7 year old), that it would be okay because she knew she would be with God. So in a sense I think my mom has been ready for heaven for the last 68 years. God knew he was going to have Mom with Him for all eternity so He allowed us all to be blessed and loved by her for 75 years. Mom used those 75 years to honor God.

Notebook Observations

I have a little notebook that Nana had in her purse for a while in the 90s with some of her notes, ideas, and also observations about the things happening around her. I love how she’s looks at the world. Where most people would be tuning it out, playing on their smartphone, or focused on the next thing on the to-do list, she’s truly seeing the people around her. Their interactions. Imagining their stories. She writes “normal life” with such a flair that it makes you wish each were starting out a novel! I thought others who love her (and her writing) might also appreciate these.


2/10/1997, Huntington Park. She’s walking through a park on her way back from the courthouse, and must have stopped to write down some observations…

“…Sometimes you see a couple with grocery bags full of food. They are cooking chicken on the party barbecue. A lot of chicken. When it’s cooked, they put it in a plastic ice box. I think they live in someone’s garage. They have no stove. They are cooking for their family. Maybe for more than one family. It disturbs me to think of people living like this—but in a way—I admire their resourcefulness.

Next to the park there is a huge school. A middle school, I think. The ize of a city block. It is named after a man whose last name is Gage. The school is very ugly, all concrete and chain link. You can walk “into” (not “onto”) the school grounds from the park and the parking lot of the courthouse, but once you’re in, it’s like a prison.

…What is the reason for the fence? To keep the students in? Or to keep intruders, vandals, drug dealers, and gangsters out? Probably both.

I thought to myself, “Can any meaningful learning go on in this place?”

But when I went to SIA in New York, the buildings were in terrible shape. Dark and dingy. Run down. Deplapidated. Both the Annex on 51st Street and the main building in the seventies (was it 77th street?) and a great deal of wonderful learning went on there. It was a wonderful school. It wasn’t the surroundings. It was the teachers, or the students, or the times.”

Huntingtion Park 1Huntingtion Park 2Huntingtion Park 3

On the Royal Carribean Cruise, Feb 22nd

“A beautiful day—sitting in the sun on the deck.

Near us, a young couple. Maybe of the 19 honeymooners on the ship. They are sun-bathing. Both very good-looking, but the girl is beautiful. So much so that she doesn’t look real. Tall and tan and young and lovely. Red hair. A wonderfully voluptuous figure. Not too thin but not heavy, just full and shapely. The guy grabs her hand and whispers to her, but she just keeps looking in the direction of the sun. Soaking up some rays. Getting more and more beautiful.

There are Cuban cigars for sale in Ensenada. You can buy them, but you can’t bring them into the States. They crumble them in front of you in/at the U.S. Customs when you return. But they can be smoked on the ship before returning. So you see some people, men and women, walking on the rear decks smoking long, neat cigars. Not fat, not skinny, but long and tightly rolled.”

Cruise 1 Cruise 2

At Nana & PopPop House

Here is a short (3 minute) clip of celebrating Luke’s 1st birthday at NaNa and PopPop’s house.  Mom makes an appearance around the 1:30 mark but her voice and laughter can be heard throughout the entire video.  It reminds me what a perfect hostess she was:  making sure everyone had what they need and always brightening up the conversation with her happy spirit.  How I love her!

More of these to come, as I transfer my home movies from analog tape to digital.
Hope you enjoy them!

Before the Storm Hit

Mom, one month before her open heart surgery in 1995.

Mom, one month before her open heart surgery in 1995.

Here is a photo that my Dad asked me to post to the website. He says it’s a photo of Helen about 1 month before she had open heart surgery. He had Lenore do some editing to it, and they asked me to post it here.

Six Years Without Her

This is what it was like being married to Helen:

5 Years Without Her

Here are a few things my Dad ask me to add to Mom’s website.  I had scanner issues and I’m adding them quickly before leaving for the cementery.  Maybe Henry can add some more thoughts, as we drive up and i can post them by cell.

By Henry

Click to View Larger Version

Another Poem by Helen as a Young Girl

Here is another of one of “Young Helen”s poems.  My Dad showed it to me earlier this week and I was surprised that it was the first time I had ever seen it.  It had me laughing out loud.  I thought it was so cute.  She had such great self-deprecating sense of humor! (Which you also get a glimpse of in her Ezra poem).

Click on the image below to open up a full size image.  We are not sure what age she was when she wrote this, but obviously she had not yet met my Dad!  Maybe Uncle Bill could shed some light on whether or not the fiery redhead ever really existed?

By Helen Minze

Click to view

Mom’s Rice Pilaf

I can’t decide if it’s appropriate to post the video here, but I made this video for Henry, who likes to call for the recipe when he’s cooking it.  Come to think of it, cooking Mom’s recipes probably just makes him want to talk to the family.  Which means this video was unnecessary, but it’s done so I’ll post it here for now.

Recipes: Shish Kebab (Mishwee)

Well, I can’t say I’ve tried making this one.  It looked like a lot of work and, as I recall, it disappeared in the blink of an eye  in our family!  But if you are feeling nostalgic and ambitious:  here is the recipe … have at it!   And let me know what time dinner will be served.  I’ll be there on time!

Shis Kebab

Click for Full View

Recipes: Cabbage Crunch Salad

cabbage crunch salad

Click for full sized image.


Here is the Chinese Crunch Salad mom used to make.  You may remember that, originally, she used to fry up those Mai Fun noodles a small batch at a time.  They would make a big mess and cool noise when they puffed up.  Eventually she discovered she could save herself a lot of greasy clean up,  by using this version of the recipe which swapped in Ramen noodles in place of the fried noodles.

This ground breaking discovery was a turning point in her career, finally freeing her to devote more time to writing her first novel.  Murder mystery readers worldwide thank you, Top Ramen! Domo Arigatou Gozaimas !  (That’s for Monica’s amusement. )   🙂


Another note:  You can buy one of those broiler chickens for less than $5 , shred the chicken off it, and turn this into a Chinese Chicken Salad in a jiffy!

MoonRiver (Full Version)

Here is the full version of  Mom singing Moonriver  for Patty, who video-taped it during our trip to Kauaii.  You can hear PopPop in the background teaching one or both of Patty’s boys, how to play poker!  At first, it bothered him to hear that he was talking through Mom’s performance … but I thought it was a very sweet scene to imagine:  Mom singing a sentimental song from Patty’s childhood, so that she could tape it.  And Dad, hanging out in the hotel room with his grandsons teaching them to play cards.

50th Anniversary


Today, on my own 25th wedding anniversary, I came across this wonderful photo of Mom and Dad celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with all of us in Kauaii!   Now, that was a trip to remember.  I’m so glad we all took it together.  Not sure if this photo made it onto Mom’s memorial video, but I like it so much I want to add it to the site.  I hope Scott and I look that good and that happy in another 25 years!

Over the Rainbow

I’m not sure if this is music Mom loved, or just music that makes Dad think of Mom. But I thought he would like having it here on her blog.

Let’s see if I’m right?

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On the Balconey in Coronado


Here’s a beautiful photo that Uncle Bill (Helen’s brother) sent of Helen and Henry at the condo in Coronado.

(I’m reorganizing Mom’s blog and moving these photos, posted long ago,to the main page)

Click for Larger Image

A Lulllaby and Kiss Goodnight

When my mom would put the kids to bed each night, she would let us each pick a song that we wanted her to sing to us before we fell asleep.  I think all of the kids in the family cherish this as a very special part of our childhood.  With six kids, it must have been a very long process, now that I think about it.  But as a child, it was a few minutes of the day when we had our Mom all to ourselves as she sat on the edge of our bed and sang our request.    This song, MoonRiver, (we all later learned) turned out to be the song that everyone thought was “their special song.”   Knowing kids, I wonder if it was the song that took the longest to sing?

When we were in Hawaii for Helen & Henry’s 50th wedding anniversary, Patty coaxed my Mom into singing it to her yet again!  And, thank goodness, she even videotaped  it!  I posted just about 20 seconds of the song here, because I’m not really sure how my Mom would feel about a video of her singing being posted to the intenet?  Would she mind?   When I was a little girl, I thought my Mom had the most beautiful singing voice I’d ever heard,  even prettier than Snow White.  I still think she has the voice of an Angel.  The very best part is the end, where she gives Patty a kiss and tells her she loves her.   It makes me feel like she’s right here, giving me a kiss goodnight.


Four Years Without Mom


Well, if you haven’t noticed, as I tried to retrieve some missing posts and comments today … I managed to wipe out the entire blog on the most crucial day of it’s duty. Here is the image that Dad asked me to scan and post to the site:

Click for Full Size Image

Click to Enlarge Image

This is something that Dad came across in Mom’s desk drawer, I think, and has had hanging on the wall with a photo of Mom for the past year or so.

Now, I’m going to try to retrieve and restore the past year of posts. Also post that video I promised you!    (Scroll down the page here, to read Henry’s comments about this image)

Click for Full Size Image

Click to Enlarge Image


“Everything in the room gave off a warm coppery glow, except for a curving , citrus yellow love seat that seemed to float in the center of the room like a crescent of  lemon in a cup of freshly brewed tea” . That  is the last paragraph on page 50  of  Helen’s book, Picture of Guilt.   I have paused to savor this description on every reading, including the one last week.

Surprisingly, I find something new in every reading and a greater appreciation of the subtle nuances, and the elegant methods in her handling of  passionate, romantic engagements.  The writing was beautiful, she was beautiful.  Once again, the book and Helen, did not allow me to let them  go.  It is worth re-reading.

The first of these annual letters began with a letter of gratitude from Helen to those friends who sustained her during her illness.  Last year I wrote an  “In Gratitude”  letter to those particular friends that were members of the Prayer Group who had been in constant contact with her.  This “In Gratitude” letter is to God, to Whom I offer thanks every day for blessing me with Helen and a life of  indescribable, delirious happiness.  This is the first time I’ve thanked Him in writing.

Two years – In Gratitude

On this second anniversary of Helen’s passing, I decided to re-print a letter I had earlier mailed to a Prayer Group who supported her throughout her ordeal. I also owe this debt of gratitude to all her other friends who prayed for her over this ten year period.

The letter is a recap of excerpts from emails written by Helen to the Prayer Group from the date she obtained her laptop, May 23, 2006, through the last date she was able to write, September 29, 2007. The letters reveal insights into her thinking during that roller-coaster period.

I will never forget all of you for your prayers and subsequent contributions to this website.


05//23/06 I’m so excited. I’ve received my new laptop. This is my beautiful day.
07/12/06 I made funeral arrangement at Coleman Mortuary
08/21/06 Last night I feared I might not wake up the next day.
08/21/06 Everyone I know has faced heartbreak
09/14/06 Proud to be able to move around with my new walker instead of having to be pushed in wheelchair
09/22/06 Xolda pills not working. Tumors growing again
09/26/06 Literature Donna sent me discusses “the large world view”, but my world is getting smaller
10/13/06 Delayed chemo so I can go to Coronado condo
11/10/06 Starting new round of chemo
12/06/06 Had my last chemo. Feeling really bad; can’t think straight
12/17/06 Began Palliative care. Hope I can make it to family Christmas party
12/20/06 Refuse to take any more chemo. Began Avastin infusions which doctor hopes may prolong life
01/23/07 This was “my beautiful day”. The liver tumors are shrinking…. Love, prayers and gratitude
02/11/07 Made it to Henry’s birthday party
03/05/07 I’m so weak. Palliative nurse mentioned Hospice for the first time
03/08/07 Went to Chico’s. Narrow aisles. Hard to maneuver wheelchair, hangers are too high. The Chico experience is not what it used to be
04/16/07 Made it to Easter; even went to Matt & Mary’s San Diego condo It was another “My Beautiful Day”
04/25/07 Loud dispute between Henry and Cat Scan people re incorrect Scan prescription. They refused to clarify with Oncologist. He was furious, struck me as funny. Also found myself trying to talk people at belt buckle level from my wheelchair
6/15/07 praying for you, Donna, is my privilege
6/15/07 I’m not sure I am “a tough little cookie”. I don’t fear dying; I fear being sick
6/19/07 my major goal is to live long enough to see my first great grandchild. Angela is due February 2008
6/27/07 I will fight each battle as it occurs and do the simple things that bring laughter and pleasure to each of my remaining days
8/13/07 My hands shake too much to write or type any more
9/27/07 I signed up for Hospice a couple of days ago. Can use some prayers and I know where to go to get them. ..Love, prayers, and gratitude

Three days earlier, I had refused to allow ER at St Judes to admit her for continued testing the next day. She had reluctantly allowed me to take her to the ER, saying “promise you won’t let them admit me. I’ll never come out alive”. While awaiting test results in the ER, she said “Don’t worry, I’m a tough little cookie”.

Through all Helen’s “ups and downs” her prayer group continued to visit and pray for her. I know that Helen had been praying for you too. Meanwhile, I had been looking inward, hurting when she was down, ecstatic at each “up” as she achieved each of her short term goals, and always reveling in the joy of simply being with her throughout. Each of you lovely and good people lifted her spirits each time you visited or wrote, extending her life through your prayers. Helen particularly looked forward to, and appreciated, the Friday morning communion visits and flowers from Doris and Eileen. On the last visit Doris said “See you next Friday’, but we all knew there would be no next Friday.

With love, prayers and gratitude,