Changed Forever . . .

Not long after September 11, 2001, my local newspaper ran a poem that has been on the front of my refrigerator since the day I read it. It's called "Changed."

Everything has changed . . .
Suddenly the color of my car and the size of my house don't matter.
The brand of the clothes on my back is unimportant and the size
of my bank account is trivial.
Smiles and laughter have been replaced by tears and sorrow for
all that was and never will be again.

Everything has changed . . .
I hold my family much closer now not knowing if I will have the
chance to hold them again or tell them how much I love them.
I hold my freedom dearer now for all its unappreciated
and ignored gifts.
I hold my God closer than ever before, knowing that without
our prayers and His grace we will not endure.

Everything has changed . . .
My sense of security is shaken, my sense of vulnerability
increased and my sense of grief overwhelming.
I cannot sleep, it is hard to eat and the everyday toils seem
of minor concern.

Everything has changed . . .
I look around and see death and destruction fueled by hate,
surrounded by an eerily calm blue sky.
I worry about the future, I think about the past and pray that
I can get through another day, changed forever.

How can it be 7 and a half years later? It was just yesterday, wasn't it? The profound sadness that gripped all of us. We thought that we'd never be able to go on and yet, somehow, day after day after day life ever so slowly began to return to as close to "normal" as possible. Then the phone rings one beautiful February morning. "Oh my God. I think something is wrong with Gary!!" John is the first person my mother calls and he is out the door in a flash. The phone rings again. John calls to tell me that my stepfather has died in his sleep. One day at a time, for the next year and a half life begins to return to as close to "normal" as possible. Then, a year and a half later it's my turn to get the call. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this Mrs. McDonagh. John passed away at 4:30." Again, life is turned upside down. Again, one day at a time, for the next year this time, life begins to return to a new "normal." Then that fucking phone rings again. This time it's at lunch. "Your father has collapsed and is in Nyack Hospital." We are given encouraging news. He seems to respond when we speak to him. Then we are told three days later that he is not going to make it. "Rippy has left the building." We sit and we wait and we sit and we wait. On the tenth day, in the wee hours of the morning, the phone rings. The dreaded phone. "I'm sorry to tell you this but Mr. Wanamaker passed away a few minutes ago." He had just retired. Had just bought a fishing boat. Had just had a grandson named after him.

My phone rang again tonite. I'm too tired to answer it. I don't want to answer it. Please tell me it's a wrong number. God forgive me but please pick on someone else's family for awhile. This cannot happen again.

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