Tracy Lee

Recent Articles

Purpose

Last night as I prepared to retire, I opened my electronic device to social media to check on last weeks events in the lives of my friends and family.  A friend of mine, whose daughter had, many years ago, attended my daycare facility, posted a sweet comment referencing an article I had written.  Her daughter is now a married woman.  It amazes me how quickly children grow into adults and how quickly I grew into a senior.  

Earlier, I had decided to attend a seminar about self-reliance.  Thankfully, self-reliance is not one of my struggles, however, I am often asked to help others obtain this worthwhile quest, and therefore find it advantageous to continually seek new information toward its fulfillment.  I asked my husband to accompany me and as we prepared to leave our home, we briefly discussed a beautiful Christmas present he had given me this past season that carried significant personal meaning.  

Prior to Christmas, while my husband and I were shopping I spotted the present he gave me.  My attention, however, was focused on an item sitting beside it that was perfect for my sister-in-law.   My husband told me that when he went back to purchase my gift, the sales lady expressed relief and happiness.  She said that when the item was set out for display, she had hoped he would see it and buy it, as she knew that it and I were perfectly suited.  She was right, and her observation indicates an intimate knowledge of me personally and compliments me in a unique and endearing manner.  

While listening at the seminar, the facilitator’s message encouraged my thoughts toward one’s purpose in life.  It became clear to me that one’s direction or work should be correlated with one’s purpose, or as my friend had stated, “one’s calling in life.”  How wonderful it must be to work in what you are driven to accomplish.   One often hears, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”   I have always felt that 98% of what I do in a day is out of responsibility, while the remaining 2% leaves me wondering if it will ever pay off.  

I responded to my friend’s post that funeral service is as rewarding and fulfilling as daycare ever was.  Her compliment, however, was aimed at writing.  I continued that although I truly love funeral service, writing does not come to me easily.  I lament over it every week. Continue Reading →

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False Alarm

Our daughter was born in July and when the calendar flipped over to December, I excitedly took her to Camp Pendleton for her first Santa picture.  Each year thereafter, until she was too old for Santa pictures, we faithfully visited the sweetest Santa and Mrs. Claus there ever has been.  Traditionally, I take those sweet pictures and place them in chronological order across our fireplace mantle for display throughout the holiday season.  

During my husband’s military career, we were stationed in San Diego, CA.  We attended church near our home, and through the years, we became friends with an elderly couple who attended church there also.  This sweet couple, in particular, loved our daughter.  They were wonderful to her.  They were Pearl Harbor survivors.  

Norm and Gerry would share with us, their amazing stories of that frightening and deadly attack.  When the bombs dropped on Hawaii, Norm was on a different island than his family and for weeks, did not know if they were dead or alive.  The fear that his family may have died affected him so deeply that it haunted him throughout his days.  

As the first bomb hit the ground, Gerry sprung into action.  Like a mother hen, she gathered her wee ones and sought shelter for them.  She was nearing the delivery of her fifth child, yet she formulated a plan and implemented it into action.  She hid her children in a baseball dugout protecting them from explosions and flying shrapnel.  A soldier running by stopped and gave Gerry his loaded weapon.  Realizing that she would probably use it to shoot enemy soldiers, he paused and explained that should the Japanese invade, she should use the weapon to avoid capture by taking her children’s lives, as well as, her own.  

Trembling, and with tearful emotion, Gerry would share with us the agony she experienced as she struggled to find the strength to kill her children to save them from capture and horrific torture.  She would express the importance of seizing every opportunity to vocalize and demonstrate our devotion to those whom we love.  The impact of her experience was overwhelming to us and demoralizing to her. Continue Reading →

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Embrace Every Moment

At the beginning of the first Gulf War, I had an opportunity to spend every penny I had to my name in order to fly to Singapore to see my husband who had been on deployment with the US Navy for five and one-half months.  The reality of war meant that his current trip home would temporarily port in Singapore for five days and then turn around and head straight back to where he had left; the Gulf War region of the world. In the life of a military wife, the possibility that I would not see my husband for another five and one-half months was now a reality, the possibility that I would never see him again was now a threat with a great big red exclamation point behind it.  I was terrified. I was very nervous to scrape up every penny that we had, but I was determined to see my husband before he went off to war.  I needed to express my dedication to him and my absolute dependence for him to return to my side.  He needed to know that without him I would be unable to breathe, that my heart would stop beating, and that my life would immediately end.  He needed to know that our sweet baby needed him to come home because she loved her daddy so deeply that growing up without him would not be possible.  He needed to know that our prayers of protection would pour out to heaven every moment of the day and that angels would surround him when he was in danger. Unfortunately, the airlines found out what was going on and instantly air tickets jumped from $500.00 to $5,000.00.  Five hundred dollars for a poor military family living in San Diego CA during that time was an astronomical fee, five thousand dollars was impossible.  But, I was determined that not even the airlines would keep me from what might possibly be my last chance to see my husband alive.  I pulled every penny we had out of the bank, dug for change through coat pockets and the couch, and purchased my airfare. I was teaching art classes at the time so it was necessary for me to rearrange my commitments to my students.  One of my students was a wife of a Retired Combat Veteran.  She pulled me to the side and shared her great wisdom with me.  She advised me that the first two days with my husband would be wonderful, but the third day together would be sad.  I was so confused.  I had no idea what she was telling me.  She continued.  The third day would be our “Hump Day”.  She cautioned me not to think about it, not to let the fact that we were on our downhill slide of having to separate, destroy the final few days that we would have together.  She said to push it out of my mind anyway possible and to enjoy every moment we had.  Her advice was worth more than I paid for that blasted airline ticket.  In fact, her advice was invaluable. Continue Reading →

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Reflections

While studying to become a funeral director I consigned as a master artist. In fact, painting portraits funded my college degree, my daughter’s college experience, relocating my family from the Western United States to the Southern United States, and collateralized my funeral practice; all in concert. On average, I painted 423 portraits yearly. Painting portraits is a unique and wonderful profession. It gives you the opportunity to profoundly touch a person’s soul, which in turn, touches your own. Continue Reading →

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The Bride Victorious

My husband and I entered the tiny quaint chapel and found a seat.  It was the loveliest little chapel I believe I have ever seen.  The interior was unfinished wood with impressive beams and through the beautiful windows, I could see the tall evergreens reaching toward the sky as the rain glistened on their needles.  The evening was upon us and the organist began to play.  As the bride entered the chapel, we rose. Her gown was deep burgundy velvet and her silver hair was draped in dainty lace.  Escorted by her groom, her eyes were bright and her smile beamed with anticipation and hope.  She was a vision of beauty. My friendship began with her three years prior.  Her eyes were not so bright then, nor did she smile.   Her husband had just passed and I was her mortician.  She was a capable woman who was confident in who she was, but she had just been widowed.  The confusion and uncertainty of losing her husband were not cause for celebration.  She was determined though.  She fought to liberate herself from the pain and fear of grief. Her courtship with her intended was wonderful to witness.  He had lost his wife a short time prior to her loss.  Together, they were able to support each other and help themselves through the pain and anguish they suffered.  Their wedding mirrored the care they had given each other.  His love and concern for her were evident in every detail of the ceremonies.  Her sweet love for him beamed through her countenance. As the evening progressed, I could see in his eyes, and hers, those moments of reflection when each remembered their first marriages.  Tears would fill his eyes and she would gently comfort them away.  In turn, with tender embrace, he would kiss her forehead, and caress her hair until her composure returned.  Their kindness and respect for each other were beautiful, and the honor reserved in their hearts for their departed spouses was gentle and holy. Continue Reading →

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How To Express Sympathy

I think the most glorious thing thus far in my life has been the birth of my grandchildren.  It seems that each birth brings even greater wonder and joy as tiny new lives join our family.  I have analyzed over and over in my mind why this is so, and I have decided that it is the miracle of increased love.  Thankfully, neither my daughters nor I have suffered the tragedy of miscarriage.  I cannot imagine what sadness would envelop our hearts with such a profound loss. One of my daughters telephoned me the other day and asked how she might help a friend of hers.  Not long ago, my daughter’s friend miscarried her baby.  Naturally, her friend is experiencing associated grief and motherly anguish.  As the daughter of a Funeral Director and Grief Counselor, my daughter understands quite well the trials her friend will experience.  What she did not understand was how to protect her friend from well-intentioned ignorant people. Because social illiteracy is rampant in death’s theatre, well-intentioned individuals often offer poor advice or utter words that increase suffering rather than comfort the bereaved.    Obviously, no one wants to increase a survivor’s anguish, therefore, it benefits everyone to demystify proper sympathy expressions.  Unfortunately, one does not generally realize they are committing a faux pas until it is too late.  It is for these reasons that I offer this list of “Not the Best Things to Say to Survivors vs. Better Expressions of Sympathy.”  I am also adding a short list of Kind and Thoughtful Gestures, for good measure.  It is my hope that condolers, especially those surrounding my daughter’s recently bereaved friend, will be able to apply these lists to be able to more comfortably, and better express, their sympathies in the future. NOT THE BEST THINGS TO SAY TO SURVIVORS

Get over it. Continue Reading →

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A Child’s Grief

This past week I had the opportunity to discuss a case involving a young woman who lost her mother when she was only eight years old. This young woman is presently 20 years old and has three younger sisters. Their dear mother died shortly after bearing her fourth daughter. Their father, thinking that his young daughters needed a mother in the house, quickly sought and married another of his choosing. This new mother, however, was inexperienced and did not understand the needs of these sweet children. Continue Reading →

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” what a great song. As a child, I grew up looking forward to Christmas year after year.  The snow, the goodies, the family gatherings, the shopping, the caroling, the parties with dear friends and new friends, and the gifts truly made this time of year the most wonderful of all.  As an adult, I continue to look forward to these same events with great anticipation and experience them with unparalleled delight.  Over the years, however, I have experienced small changes regarding the meaning of Christmas; mainly in my conscious perception of the world around me. I see Santa bouncing babies on his knee as photos are snapped, parents and grandparents busily shopping for just the right gifts, and volunteers jingling bells for monetary donations.  My husband and I, as we do every year, prepare ourselves for service at the nearby Bishop’s storehouse.  As we help families fill orders of donated food for their Christmas dinners, the world seems blanketed in the happiest season of all. This past week, however, has brought a new perspective into my purview.  As the holiday season has approached, I have received two US Veterans who have committed suicide into my care.  Neither veteran had living or caring family members about them.  In this world, they felt alone.  It was a pain too deep to bear as the holidays approached. I have thought about that quite a bit this past week.  For my entire life, I have volunteered during the holidays in one benevolent project or another.  I have donated gifts for needy children, I have filled food orders, I have served hot meals, I have caroled at rest homes, I have sewn blankets and bandages for lepers, put programs together for military families, and the list goes on.  If there has been a request for assistance during the holidays, I have probably stepped up to help.  That is just it though; I have only helped.  It has occurred to me that after the holidays, the problems and issues that I have assisted with, still exist. Continue Reading →

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Mid Season Sorrow

Some people may think that since Thanksgiving has passed, a survivor’s spirits should recover from the sadness of being without their loved one for the holiday. Realistically, this is not usually the case. Even though family and friends have returned to their homes and work, the survivor remains suspended in their loneliness. Recovery work generally calls for extensive support throughout the entire holiday season, as well as for quite sometime thereafter. If you have recently lost a loved one, or know someone who has, here are a few holiday ideas that may be helpful for getting through the season. Continue Reading →

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Angel Shots

Although my husband and I have chosen new professions, persons often call upon us from our past, to photograph their families, and paint their portraits.  Because we have retired from the world of luxury portraiture, we usually refer these clients to our daughter. We retired from luxury portraiture ten years ago and moved to an obscure little village in East Texas, where we have settled into our retirement business, funeral service.  One wonders how our past clients locate us.  What motivates and drives them to search until they find us?  Recently, I posed this very question to a past client and her response was deeply moving. While searching for us, our client has taken her family to several photographers and artists, yet has been continually dissatisfied.  “Their work”, she said, “does not capture the beauty of who we are inside.  Their photographs merely document our physical characteristics.”  She continued.  “When I walk through my home, the portraits produced by you and Mike (my husband), continue to have the same breathtaking effect on me, that they did the first time I saw them.”

Our client is now a grandmother and wishes to capture the beauty of her grandchildren.  I have complete confidence that our daughter will be able to capture her dream.  Our daughter, like her father, is masterful with her camera. So what about these portraits?  What was our client saying about the timeless inner beauty captured within our work?  Before becoming a mother, pictures really did not matter that much to me.  When I had my first daughter, I, like many young moms, took my daughter to the mall for pictures whenever she had a birthday.  It was not until I had my second daughter that I realized the profound impact of portraits. My second daughter was nearly lost during pregnancy.  Had it not been for Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital and their amazing prenatal and delivery staff, her life, and quite possibly my own, would have been lost.  Twenty years ago, an expectant mother and her wee one rarely survived our pregnancy condition.  Our seven-month pregnancy hospitalization took its toll, but we both survived her birth.  However, it was not until her first birthday that I was finally confident that she would not slip away from my arms at a moments notice.  It was then that I, at last, felt profound joy in my soul.  I needed something to capture the beauty of her spirit, the happiness I felt as her mother, and the relief that I felt that she was finally out of the ever-present clutches of death. Continue Reading →

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