Fifteenkey

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Happiness – Let it take a lifetime

happyToday is International Day of Happiness uh, Day. In 2013 the United Nations proclaimed it “to promote happiness as a universal goal and aspiration in the lives of people around the globe.” I don’t know why it should be limited to just us on this one tiny orb in the universe, but that’s a post for another day…

So… Are you happy? If so, how do you create it? If not, what’s keeping you from it? Even in the face of life’s sometimes horrible adversities, happiness is a choice.

My happiness quest began shortly after a happiness fall in the Fall. The meditation thing is definitely yielding benefits, but it takes work. That’s why they call it a “practice.” I don’t know about you, but it takes pretty intense concentration to shut up the voices inside my head even for a few minutes, but I keep at it and sense gradual benefits each day. I can’t say I’m “there” yet, and I’m not sure there is a “there.” You just keep trying, and don’t expect to become the Dalai Lama overnight. After a late night in Atlanta recently, my 6AM practice kept being interrupted by the image of a Starbucks cup… Hey, nutrition. Then about a month ago, someone cut me off on the highway. My initial reaction was not very Zen-like, but I caught and laughed at myself, then thought, “yeah, better keep at the meditation thing.”

I can’t say there’s one particular thing working for me, but I’m still listening to the podcasts previously mentioned, and based on my research the tips pictured above and listed here are solid. Here’s one thing… “Being in the moment” is supposed to be a key to happiness, yet it seems an elusive concept to many. It isn’t, but it does require some effort. For me sometimes it’s simply putting the phone down and experiencing life…

“Maddie just spent about 2 minutes explaining her elaborate leprechaun trap to me. I listened intently, watching her happy little face move and eyes shine as she spoke. When she finished, I noticed a smile had crept onto my face. Thanks baby.”

It’s your life. Just be there.

“I’m learning how to be alone. I fall asleep with the TV on
And I fight the urge to live inside my telephone
I keep my spirits high, find happiness by and by
If it takes a lifetime” – Jason Isbell

Stillness through Space

MartianThis morning I’m surprised to discover this happened nearly five years ago. Suddenly last summer is five back. Time is a funny thing. Like life, it goes on. I’ll never forget that experience, and it occurs to me that tumbling down that rabbit hole is where I am now. Literally. You too. I mean we’re passengers on a rock spinning 25,000 miles an hour and traveling around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour… Oh, and the galaxy we live in… The Milky Way? It’s ripping through space at 1.3 million miles per hour. It’s amazing I can keep my fingers on the keyboard at these speeds. Still, there’s stillness to be found within, and that’s an interesting journey, too.

In spite of pursuing stillness and finding some peace, I’m feeling a bit untethered these days, like back in the gleaming steel tube. Will I be caught like Matt Damon at the end of “The Martian” or continue spinning through infinity?

I don’t know. I’m just enjoying the ride.

The Pursuit of Happiness

pursuit-of-happiness-300x300A few months ago, someone I love and respect said, “you just don’t seem like a happy person.” In the aftermath, those words continue to echo in the vast space between my ears. The words roll around like sneakers in a dryer, consistently thumping my attention. Over time, my YouTube search for things like “Physics and Ultimate Meaning” and “Why is There Something Rather than Nothing?way out there began to turn inward as I sought an answer to the more pressing question, “Am I Les Miserables?”

I’ve discovered there’s much scientific study behind happiness, and even a Cal-Berkeley edX course on the Science of Happiness I’m taking. I’ve also learned how meditation can physically alter your brain in positive ways! Oh, side note: Yoga was developed some 2,500 years ago as a way to warm up and prepare the body for meditation…

With all this discovery has come some actual practice. I can recommend two podcasts that I now begin each day with. First I spend 10-15 minutes with Mary Mechley’s Daily Meditation Podcast, followed by another 10 minutes or so with Dr. Robert Puff’s Happiness Podcast. I think how each end their podcast says a great deal about how to be happy:

“You are so worth slowing down for.” – Mary Mechley

“Accept what is. Love what is.” – Dr. Robert Puff

Speaking of meditation, Buddhist monks spend quite a bit of time practicing it and their positive results are indisputable. Monk Matthieu Ricard is sometimes called the “happiest man in the world.” Check out his 20 minute Ted Talk. Here’s a little sample of his insight to true happiness:

“So how do we proceed in our quest for happiness? Very often, we look outside. We think that if we could gather this and that, all the conditions, something that we say, “Everything to be happy — to have everything to be happy.” That very sentence already reveals the doom, destruction of happiness. To have everything. If we miss something, it collapses.

Desert Island Christmas Disc

Christmas CD 2004Recently my son Kyle and I were driving with a Sirius holiday station on. Suddenly I was hearing an awful Christmas song. I looked to see who it was, and a Grinch-like smile slowly grew on my face. “Kyle, this song is awful!” “Yeah, this song sucks,” he snapped. “Who is it,” I inquired. Kyle leaned forward and studied the screen. “Dad!” Suddenly Kyle thought better of the song by his favorite French diva. “C’mon Kyle, this is terrible.” “Yeah, it is,” he admitted and we shared a good laugh.

Why does every artist (well, many) have to put out their interpretation of holiday tunes? Nevermind. That was a rhetorical question. I know why, but why do so many of them suck? I think I could be quite content on a desert island with just these ten eleven. Yeah, that’s right. My list goes to 11. Back in 2004, the first year in our current home, I threw a Christmas bash and handed out a holiday CD favor to mark the year. Most of these were on it:

  • 2000 Miles – The Pretenders
  • Blue Christmas – Elvis
  • Do You Hear What I Hear – Perry Como
  • It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – Andy Williams
  • Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
  • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Bruce
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland
  • Merry Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon
  • The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
  • White Christmas – Bing

Later on the ride we were digging on another holiday jingle, and I glanced to see who it was. To my surprise it was the Beibs doing “Mistletoe.” Nice job, kid.

Who would you kick off the island? Who would come ashore?

Merry Christmas

Merry Consumerism

advertisingThis time of year even the days have marketing names… “Black Friday.” “Small Business Saturday.” “Cyber Monday.” Every day is “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST SPEND MONEY” day! Marketing is so out of control. Maybe the universe is getting even with me for marketing as a profession by inundating me with it as a concession.  We are bombarded with advertising like never before. It’s inescapable. Marketeers spend so that we spend. It’s the circle of consumer life.

“Marketers are expected to spend 540 billion
dollars globally on advertising this year.”
Ad Age – March 2015

My television viewing consists largely of recorded shows about the universe or the mind, and sports. The former I record and can fast-forward through the ads. The latter is a maddening barrage of ads intermingled with short bursts of actual sports. Let’s take football for example. There is one hour of play in a regulation game, yet broadcasts last about 3 ½. Here, try this. When there are two games on and one goes to commercial, switch to the other. Commercial. Or this. Scroll through the TV listings until you see a show you like. Click on it. Commercial.

Spend, Spend. Spend. It is our responsibility as Americans, and to do it by any means necessary, especially now.

The National Retail Federation expects sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurants) to increase 3.7 percent over 2014 to $630.5 billion. In 2014, Americans spent over  $50 billion just on Black Friday weekend, and we borrowed over $20 billion of that.

Running a deficit is the American way because we want what we want and we want it for Christmas.

This is from Wikipedia so do with it what you will, but “based on an analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data, the average household owes $7,529 on their cards; looking only at indebted households, the average outstanding balance rises to $16,140. And over the holidays in 2014, those indebted households added an average of $986 to their cards…

No, this isn’t part of some liberal elite “war on Christmas.” It’s more a secular than religious holiday now anyway, with people of all faiths or none at all duking it out at Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving. I grew up Catholic, but put my faith in science today. Still, I learned enough about the real meaning of Christmas, and still hold on to it today:

Love.

Hope.

Peace.

May you all overindulge on that this year.

“Big Gubment,” Profits and Death

ronald_reagan_quoteLast week at the Reagan Presidential Library in California, the second Republican presidential debate of the 2016 election season featured most of the candidates attempting to channel their dead president, Ronald Reagan. As they slammed immigrants who have entered the US illegally and an actual diplomatic solution with Iran, they ignored that their hero signed a bill granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants and sold missiles to the same Iran that held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days.

Those two little facts aside, perhaps the biggest legacy of Mr. Reagan is his deriding of “Big Gubment” as he put it. Yes, the gross national debt increased significantly under Reagan, from $995 billion to $2.9 trillion, but he still remains the right’s anti-government hero. Listening to today’s Republicans, we have to remove the “shackles” of big government so that businesses can thrive. In theory, “the market” will regulate businesses.

Let’s take a look at the news to see how “the market” is regulating behavior of some members of “Big Bidness:”

That’s just this week, folks. In my opinion, many private institutions have grown too big via years of merger and acquisition activity in all industries. Competition has lessened and that impacts pricing (higher) and wages (lower).

When candidates like Bernie Sanders says we need to “break up” the big banks, it give me pause because while the 2008 financial crisis almost took the global economy down due to high-risk profiteering gone awry, US banks still need to compete globally against huge banks in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.

I don’t believe “socialism” is the answer in most markets, an exception being healthcare, but I think we need a more sustainable form of capitalism. We have limited resources, so the infinite growth of revenues and profits simply isn’t possible. We’re already hitting a resource wall with water in some geographies.

I don’t have an answer, but for now, maybe the human beings that make decisions like those by Volkswagen, Exxon and GM can make better ones and not knowingly kill people and potentially the whole planet.

Take me to church

coexist peace signYesterday I spent an hour in a Catholic church for a wedding of people I didn’t know. The groom is the son of Joyce’s high-school friend, so… Sometimes you do what you have to do. Then I saw the welling eyes of the young man watching his bride to be walking toward him, and I was all in. Keep it together, man.

Probably like “the most interesting man in the world,” I don’t go to church often, but when I do, I pay attention. Behind and above the altar was a circular stained-glass window of the “holy trinity,” the father, the son, and the holy spirit – portrayed in a peace sign. So that was cool. The church was filled with whitish people – Italians, French, Irish, Hispanic… From right to left, I’m sure they filled the political spectrum, too. The musicians were an Asian couple and a white woman playing a cello beautifully. The priest was black. At the reception a gay couple sat at an adjacent table. The brides “man of honor” was a gay (and very funny) man.

Back in church, I sat there with my five senses while the attendees knelt and recited old familiar prayers. It did feel strange to be one of very few not to walk the communion ritual, but I had no fear that my religious non-conformity would result in my beheading. As Reverend Mpagi spoke eloquently, I was not concerned someone would rise and shoot him for the color of his skin. The gay men in the room had nothing to fear and felt free to be who they are… Coexistence. Not too complicated.

One of the ceremony readings was about the god of that house, and his plea to “love each other.” Father Mpagi then spoke of “a love as strong as death.” That shook the cob webs of my thought. The ceremony and reception were well done. Our table-mates were cool people. The haddock was tasty. The bride sang like Julie Andrews. Joyce’s friend held court for cigars on the porch. Someone mentioned the Charleston shooting in our little group. I spoke of hearing that the daughter of slain 70-year-old Ethel Lance said to the killer, “I forgive you.”

Suddenly “a love as strong as death” made a little more sense.

Tragedy at the Happy Hollow

Let me preface this by informing you this is a “first-world” tragedy I’m about to describe, not some real tragedy involving someone’s health or well-being. No, wait. It is exactly well-being that’s at stake here. And hygiene.

Commando 450This apocalyptic tale, like many, begins with a wealthy philanthropist. Well, a philanthropist – Joyce. To help support her beloved charities like the Summer Experience In Greater Lowell and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell, my girl auctions time at her Cape Cod cottage, aka the Happy Hollow. Last weekend, “George” (I’d change the names to protect the innocent, but in this sordid tale, there’s no innocence, plus “George” has a certain connection here…) was in residence with friends. I’m sure “George” is a fine fellow. He and his friends waters all her flowers, left Joyce a beautiful orchid, and left the place immaculate. Now I know why… They broke the “Commando 450.”

Part of the magic here has always been the Commando. If you’re not familiar with the term, then you’ve obviously one of the unwashed masses. I advise you to view the documentary below on the “Commando” in hopes you can understand my plight, and get yourself truly clean. Let’s put it this way, with the Commando 450, you don’t need soap to achieve blissful cleanliness. That baby packed exfoliating power, and required careful use to avoid damage to exposed and sensitive areas.  Anyway… “George,” not having the black market showerhead connections necessary to secure a 450, made a decent effort and replaced the head with an attractive, but unreasonable facsimile that dribbled the water pressure of a tinkling 80 year old man.

Enter the internet. And freedom. Though “George” was unable, through no fault of his own, to obtain a black market showerhead, A Libertarian Approach to Showerheads: How to Increase Your Flow may deliver the high-pressure miracle we need. Until then, the Happy Hollow will not be the same, and neither will I.

“If I don’t have a good shower, I am not myself.
I feel weak and ineffectual. I’m not Kramer.”
– Cosmo Kramer in “The Shower Head”

Musical Transcendence

1969-Camaro-InteriorYesterday after eating a small family’s ration at brunch, I went to give penance for 90 minutes at the gym. The first 30 was all the slow lengthening of old muscles that still stretch. I’m grateful to be able to do that. 15 minute shorts each of treadmill walking and spinner cycling was followed by 30 on the elliptical that started strong, but faded right about the time Led Zeppelin’s “Presence” ended. I strode on for awhile before the silence reminded me I had run out of musical propellant.

I quickly pulled up the song I wanted from Spotify for the ten plus minutes left on the countdown. I was tired and what thoughts hadn’t been driven out by exhaustion were now being blasted out by David Gilmour’s guitar. Then a little beyond the 9:23 mark with guitar chords shredding the walls of my mind like wallpaper falling from steam, I felt his peaceful presence. I was in shadows of the co-pilot chair in a white ’69 Camaro ragtop, and we were one, just like so many other times inside that song and others. No words were spoken. None were back then. We were just hanging out and lost in the music, my dead friend and me.

Eulogy for Michael Anthony Gonnella September, 8, 1957 – August 1, 2013

Dillard-Nina-and-Anna-196x300I am honored that my second family asked me to help celebrate Michael’s life today. My name is Leo Daley, and though I’m not Italian, I grew up with an Italian family. The Gonnella family.

I can’t imagine the pain Tony, Barbara, Mark, John, Paul, Nina and Anna are feeling, I just know they’re Gonnella’s, and they’re strong enough to survive it. Michael loved them all so much, as he loved Kerry and Shelley, and Tracey and Amanda, and Jeannine, and all his nieces and nephews. His uncles and aunts… And his 27 cousins. So while I mourn his loss, I’m here to celebrate Michael’s life. If he knew I was down here crying, and bringing everyone down, he’d be slowly shaking his head in a disapproving way, then he’d look up over his round hippie glasses, and have just one word for me. “Weak.” I can’t hit every highlight, or tell every story, especially in church, but I hope to shed just a little light on Michael’s journey.

For the last week and a half, the outpouring of love on Michael’s Facebook page has been incredible, just like when we lost Peter only 15 months ago. Tony and Barbara and their boys have had an incredible impact of so many lives. This week in Arizona, I think Mrs. G got a glimpse of Michael’s out there, but I’m not sure she understands that she and Mr. G are a big reason their sons have so many friends. I’ll tell you why. 67 Greenwood Ave in Wakefield was an open door, and a welcoming place for all the friends of the five Gonnella brothers. Mike Mercurio, Joe Ventura, Ralph Gonzales, Scott Brown, Frank Gallahue, Pat Tecce. The list is a long one. The boys grew up in a home where their friends always felt welcomed. So they kept making new ones, and still do today.

Michael wrote and posted a lot about life, often from “Hippie Peace Freaks” and from the sayings of Native Americans. Over the past couple years, Michael shared things to help cope with the loss of his brother, Peter. I’ll share some of Michael’s own words today to help us understand the man he was. Here are the first two:

On April 1, 2011, Michael quoted Pope Paul VI (I got this one in for Mrs. G…):

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”

On July 27, 2011, Michael wrote to Nina:

“For my oldest beginning her new life, it’s time for you to make your mark. Always be true to yourself and follow your heart. Find your balance and be happy. Enjoy and protect all the creator has given us. Love you.

Sometime in 1967 or ’68, like all lifelong friendships, one day Mike and I just started hanging out, but things didn’t really begin that well. I remember my mom saying pretty firmly, “I don’t want you hanging around with those Gonnella boys.” What I didn’t know was Mrs. G. was saying the same thing to Mike about me. Well, we loved our mothers, and still do, but they were both wrong. Within a few years, my mom would ask, “why can’t you be like Mike?” I think she meant his aggressiveness, particularly in sports. “Be like Mike…” Nike ended up stealing that line a few years later for some basketball player.

Speaking of basketball players, Peter now has a partner for 2 on 2 hoops. Michael and I used to thrash the other brothers in 2 on 2 at the court at 67 Greenwood Avenue. We were “Wilkes and Walton,” dominating like the undefeated UCLA teams of the mid 70’s. Of course, Mike and I were in high school by then, and our brothers in grammar school… Like all his brothers, Mike was an excellent athlete, and an even stronger competitor.

One summer, Mike and I were roommates for two weeks at the Sam Jones – John Killillea basketball camp at Stonehill College. Somehow our parents made that happen. Every day we’d have a morning and afternoon “clinic” on fundamentals. One hot afternoon, Celtic Assistant coach John Killilea took a group of us out to one of the 8 courts on the parking lot to learn defense. For the sake of this story I’ll say the temperature was a buck twenty. For 45 minutes, as the waves of heat rose off the blacktop, coach had us in “the defensive position.” Thighs parallel to the ground and arms held out the same. We kept our backs straight, butts down, and heads up while coach Killilea whistled us through defensive drills, shuffling quickly side to side and back to front. You could hear the groans of the young. Some quit from the heat. Most of us didn’t. Mike didn’t. When it was over, coach Killilea explained the drill. He pointed to his chest and said, “defense is all about heart.” That was Michael. Mike could score, but he had the heart to play “D.” Later in high school, Wakefield would game plan to neutralize high-scoring guards with Michael. “Oh, you guys got a great scorer? Well, tonight you don’t.” Remember that, right Cam? Shutdown D..

Five-Gonnellas-300x225You may have seen the picture of the five Gonnella brothers at a Wakefield alumni tournament in 1996… Mark, Michael, Peter, John, and Paul. The apostles they weren’t, especially in any competition. Taking on the five Gonnella’s in hoop? Only a “gidrul” would do that. Besides, I always thought you just needed one Gonnella if you wanted to win.

Just one more story about Michael’s heart… Our senior football season took a big hit when one of our lineman rolled Mike’s ankle before we played our first game. Anyway, I recall Mike missing games early in the season, but for some reason the Watertown game lingers in my mind. It was late in the year, and brutally cold, but Mike was on fire that day. I remember watching him run through a hole and seeking out defenders to hit, and they were hitting hard. Each play he’d bounce off two or three like a pinball, until a gang finally dragged him down. It was all blood and guts on one good ankle that day, and Mike heroically carried us on his back… to a 27-6 loss.

Now it wasn’t just all Moms, apple-pie, and sports when we were young. One time we got caught drinking by Mr. G. He always treated me like a son, and on that occasion he gave us an epic lecture about how he had 4 younger sons, and that I had 2 younger brothers, and that we needed to set an example. Mr. G.’s words really hit home with us, and our brothers were very important to us, so from that point on, Mike and I made sure that we never got caught drinking again.

Again, I’m sorry I can’t tell every story, but I want to make sure I tell this one. I think it may have foreshadowed the free-spirit Michael became later in life. In the Fall of 1973… I know this because you can look stuff up on the internet. We were at a party at Jeff Lanzillo’s house. Moose, Chico, Fitzy, Bogie, Rogie, Mike B., Mac, Tony, Hog, and Dillard. We were all there. I’m not sure how Mike got a hall pass from Marie that night, but that’s not important right now. Anyway, as the evening wore on, it occurred to some of us that Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band” was repeating over and over in the dark living room. The tune was a huge hit, and Mike’s favorite song. When we walked in to see what was up, we found Mike dancing by himself in front of the stereo wearing nothing but his whitey-tighties. Of course we started teasing him, but unfazed, he just kept dancing. And that’s the end of that story. Except for the music…

Michael’s taste in music was not everybody’s taste in music, but Mike’s taste in music was a wider range than most. For every Sabbath or AC/DC or Motorhead song, there was one by the Beatles, or BB King or Johnny Cash or Frank Sinatra or John Lennon. His favorite song, and a song that defines him is “Imagine” by John Lennon. Listen to its simple message that Michael lived:

Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

“My Way” is another song that defined Michael. You know the words. It’s Michael.

Around midnight back in August of 1977, Mike and I approached the MA Turnpike West in a white 1969 Camaro convertible. Michael slowed the car, and said, “This is it. We can turn around or go.” We were, “at the dividing line between the East of our youth and the West of our future…” I stole that line… We were not yet 20 year olds from Wakefield, MA. We paid the toll. Already best friends, that trip to college in Tucson, Arizona bonded us with a unique experience only the two of us lived.

Early on, I always understood the love and loyalty between the brothers, and I’d seen it in action. Sure, Michael was all about that hippie peace love stuff… unless you messed with his family. I remember the one and only time we went to a bar while we were in college… Yeah, we just wanted to see what this “bar” thing was all about. Anyway, Michael and I were looking over a balcony talking about an accounting course or something, when we heard commotion behind us. We turned around to see some guy pushing Mark. Apparently Mark was talking to this guys girlfriend. Michael darted at the guy like Deion Sanders, except Michael could hit, and before the guy knew it, Michael was on top of him expressing some sort of dissatisfaction with the poor fellows actions. Michael’s words were flying as fast as his fists, and neither was saying “peace.”

Some 30 years later, I wanted my son Kyle to experience a road trip like Mike and I did. Well, the rated “G” parts, anyway. So when I planned our trip, it was natural to begin and end with some Dillard time. That’s when I witnessed that love and loyalty to his brothers was only surpassed by that for his girls, Nina and Anna.

Nina-Anna-Harley-300x225On Facebook, Michael posted a picture of Anna sitting on his bike, her head back against Nina’s shoulder. Anna was beaming. Nina was looking into the camera with that look of hers that says, “there’s quite a bit going on in my head right now, and you can’t even begin to comprehend it.” Yeah, Nina is very much like her thoughtful, free-spirited father, and Anna the mischievous “twinkle in Michael’s eye.” The picture of the girls had a simple caption written by their father. “My life….”

On that trip, Michael and I had a lot of catching up to do. We met in Sedona, a desert paradise of soaring red rock and mystic energy. Mike’s kind of place. After Mexican food, we grabbed cigars, a bottle of bourbon, some ice, and then retreated to a private balcony eventually blanketed by an Arizona sky of stars I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Now, anyone seeing Michael on the street would think “Biker” from the tattoos, head scarf and black leather vest. I remember one of our high school friends asking me, “What’s up with the beard and the tattoos and all the Indian stuff?” All I could say was, “He’s still the same guy.” I have spent some time reflecting on Michael’s evolution, and some of the adversity life put in his path. First was the torn ligaments in his ankle before Senior year football, but that was nothing compared to a serious car accident after HS, that not only nearly killed him, but caused him to miss a KISS concert a few weeks later. Then a lung tumor and surgery a few years after college. Was it all bad luck? No. It was just Michael’s journey, and the lessons that taught him that our time here is short, so you should live the life you choose. So if I were asked that same question about Michael today, I might say, “People are like Motorcycles: each is customized a bit differently.” The Harley. I’ve never ridden, so I did a little research to find out what drives those that love to. Here’s a quote I found:

“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.”

That night in Sedona, I also learned how spiritual Mike was. At yesterday’s wake, someone told me that friends at the Arizona service described Michael as “the healer.” I don’t know about that. The next morning after the bottle of bourbon, I didn’t feel like he did any healing on me. What was most enlightening was hearing Michael speak about his girls and his efforts to instill the wisdom of the Navajo in his eldest, Nina. I then understood the spiritual center of Michael, and why he signed everything he wrote with “Peace.”

We had a great time reminiscing and filling in gaps like loose grout in our life’s mosaic. After several hours, we had recounted some 40 years of family, children, women, music, working and living.

After the trip, I remember thinking, “Why can’t you be more like Mike?” I was amazed at how outgoing he was with people, and how many friends he had. I wrote about it, and referred to Mike as “the mayor of Anthem.”

On October 24, 2011, Michael quoted musician Tim McGraw on Facebook:

“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.”

Michael was us, and we are him. Sometimes I’ll hear myself phrase something a particular way, or even laugh a certain laugh, and I think, “That’s Michael.” I hear the same things in Mark, John, and Paul, and definitely in Nina and Anna. In that way, he’s still with us.

It’s now been 12 days since we lost Michael, and in my reflections on his life, I again find myself asking, “Why can’t you be more like Mike?” What I mean is that he had the courage to live life on his own terms, be true to himself, and not bow to societal pressures about how to look, and he made no apologies for it. Michael Gonnella was a man of family, of peace, of love, and of incredible heart. I’m going to miss him.

I leave you with Michael’s last written words, On August, 1st, the day he died, Michael posted a picture of a colorful peace sign, made up of smaller, multi-colored peace signs. He wrote,

“Peace, love, and happiness from Phoenix. Happy August……”

Peace

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