Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving. My mother's legacy.

"The best kind of giving is thanksgiving." 

 Below is a blog that I wrote four years ago about my mother and Thanksgiving. I was reading it yesterday and the thought that it was worth reposting. I hope that you have a great Thanksgiving. We all have much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving is one of my two favorite holidays of the year. I am sure that my feelings have much to do with the fact that this was my mother’s holiday when she was alive,. She would squeeze 30+ people into every inch of space she had in her small home and serve a feast to everyone who was mandated to attend, and anyone who needed a place to go. After all, everyone needs a place to go on Thanksgiving.

Each year’s dinner started the same way: with the reading of the menu. It took her some time to read the list of the 14 or 15 items she had prepared, followed by thanking everyone else who had contributed. “I want to thank David for bringing the butter” or “A big thank you to the Jones’ for bringing the extra folding chairs.” The truth was that people wanted to help and bring things, but this was her show, her Big Night. Occasionally, she might allow someone to bring string beans or sweet potatoes. But that usually meant we had a choice of the guest’s dish or her version of the same item.

Probably the most unusual or crazy thing that she did for the holiday was a TRIAL RUN. The weekend before Thanksgiving, she would prepare all her dishes, pack them up in Tupperware and bring them to our house, about an hour away. The holiday itself was such a source of joy and pride, I imagine that doing it only once was not enough for her. TWO THANKSGIVING DINNERS and each one was so much work. Who do you know who does that…….or wants to, for that matter? This was truly a labor of love.

She judged her success by the smiles on everyone’s faces and there were always plenty of those. This was her day to shine and she did. On Thanksgiving, she was a Star and we all knew it. Every year on this day, she got all the praises, attention, love and affection she so richly deserved.

I was lucky enough to spend 46 Thanksgivings with her. Now that Mom is gone, my great wife, Gail has inherited the holiday and she does a great job of filling Mom’s shoes. Now the holiday has become her night to shine and she does.

I had intended to write a holiday blog about Thanksgiving, more of my usual stuff about gratitude and perspective. Instead you got a story about my amazing mom and incredible wife. You will just have to trust that I do feel extraordinarily thankful and grateful for both of them.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One of the best weekends ever.

 Almost two weeks ago I told you about our pending trip to Dallas. Now we are back and all that I can say is that my experience was much greater than anything I ever could have imagined. The event, the National MS Society's Annual Leadership Conference, started on Thursday and ended on Saturday and in between were general sessions, breakout sessions, gala dinners, entertainment and more than 500 of the nicest, kindest and most caring people that you could ever meet.

Then it occurred to me. “Of course they are nice. After all, this is a cause.” The people who work for the MS Society are a kind and caring bunch, otherwise they would not work there. The people who volunteer and contribute at this level are kind and caring, otherwise they wouldn't be there.  To be immersed, among and gathered with all of these people was an absolute joy. It was a great thrill for me and a weekend that was filled with  praIses and accolades. I do not know if that is because of the job that I did or because they are so darn nice. Either way, it sure felt good.

 There were X Games Gold Medal winners, Clay Walker, David Osmond and a very talented 10-year-old girl who brought the house down when she sang “the Climb”. There were astronomical fundraisers who have raised millions of dollars for the society, activists who have helped make great changes in how Medicare treats those of us living with MS. There were students who were scholarship winners, researchers and clinicians. Barbecues, cocktails and a video being shot that had everybody singing and dancing.

 In other words, it was fun, moving, informative and inspiring. It was everything that you could hope for at an event like this. It was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life. My only hope is that someday all of you have the opportunity to attend an MS Leadership Conference.

 Who knows? Maybe next year we can all meet up in Denver at the next conference.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

To me it is a very big deal!

I feel like I've told lots of people about this. Yet, almost every day I realize that I've left somebody out and the fact is that I want everybody to know.

 In mid-August I was contacted by the National MS Society. Not the local chapter where we normally direct a lot of our time and attention, but the Big One, the Parent, the Behemoth, the “national” National MS Society asking me if I would co-emcee their National Leadership Conference to be held in Dallas next week. Me?  They were asking me? There are a lot of Michael Gerbers in the world. Did they really mean me? They did and there have been very few times in my life where I have felt so honored and excited to be asked to participate in something. This was one of those times.

 As the song says "Our bags are packed. We're ready to go.” We are actually leaving a few days early to visit a very close friend in Austin, which we are also excited about. In fact, it will be a reunion for four us who have known each other for more than 35 years and who live in different cities across the country. Then it is off to Dallas for the really big show. An opportunity for us to meet and greet the real movers and shakers behind the MS Society. Individuals who have raised more than $1,000,000, companies that have raised millions of dollars, researchers who are at the forefront of the progress being made to lead us to a cure and the management and staff of the Society that make it all happen. 

 “The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” Our journey is thousands of miles (round trip, that is) and begins with an airplane ride. I promise to share some of the details when I return. Until then, I trust that your good wishes are with me as mine are with you every single day.

 Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.