Just came across this sharing written back in 2003. Don’t know if it was ever posted here, but just in case, here is my very emotional and insightful tribute to this gift from my father, also named “James Michael” . . .

My dad, James Michael Gleason, Sr.

As a young boy/man, I had grown up with a sense of “real men don’t cry” and prided myself on controlling my emotions, never showing any tears.  Even falling in love and getting married with a growing family didn’t change this stoicism.  It was the way of the strong man, or so I believed.

My father was a beautifully “simple” man in a very positive sense, simple in the sense of how he approached people and life in general.  “He never met a stranger…” would be a good description of his outgoing nature, also something he passed along to me. He interacted with anybody, always with spirited conversation and a sense of everybody was good and deserving of respect.  I can never remember his raising his voice in anger, toward me or anybody in our family of 5 growing children.  He always had time to share with everybody his many interests and they were engaging times when he did. 

When dad died of heart failure in 1969, I was the oldest male (26 years of age) in the family and supported my mother in making the funeral arrangements.  Even in this new experience my sense of pride in having no feelings continued.  There were no tears despite this loss.  Dad was 50 at the time of his death.  I had been at his hospital bedside just hours before he passed, feeding him and shaving him, seeing for the first time his vulnerability.  He had always been very self-sufficient, showing us all a healthy, vibrant life style of “can do” in everything he did.  He enjoyed the emotions of being truly human and wasn’t afraid to show that side of himself, although in retrospect, I can’t recall being hugged or told, “I love you.”  This was a generation that  didn’t express themselves in that way, but rather in many other ways.

On the morning of dad’s funeral, I was equally stoic, feeling a sense of manhood in being there for mom during such a trying moment without showing tears or emotions.  As the religious burial service drew to a close in the old church, I led the procession with mom on my arm, as we slowly preceded dad’s coffin down the aisle. 

It was at that moment that dad’s greatest gift was bestowed on his son (and I find my eyes tearing up even as I write these words, 33 years later..) as the moment welled up from deep inside, emotions of sorrow never acknowledged before.  Tears came to my eyes and for the first time in my life I accepted them without restraint, letting the drops run down my cheeks and fall to the church floor.  A very strong sense of pride came with those tears and I found myself holding my head up higher than I had ever done before, with mom on my arm, making no attempt to wipe away or hide those tears.

Clearly this was dad’s legacy to his son.  From that day on I have found great joy in both feeling and sharing my human emotions, yes, even the tears – tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of uncontrolled laughter.  I have come to see the sharing of tears as one of the greatest gifts two humans can give each other.  Every time such emotions are now accepted in my life, I offer silent prayers of gratitude to a father who gave this gift at his own death. 

My life has never been the same since, and that is a very good thing.  Today as I celebrate my heart transplant’s 9th anniversary, I openly share tears of gratitude for my donor family and tears of joy for the life I now lead as a result of both their gift and that of my dad.  In dad’s case it was too early to have been given that same chance since heart transplants were not yet available.  In my case, dying with the same heart condition dad had, my mother pointed out the fact that in my case we had a choice, while in his we hadn’t.  Yes, that thought fills me with emotions too, every time I recall it.

To download (a PDF document) and read a full testimonial to my dad, go to https://www.rjwitte.com/changeofheart/GiftFromTheHeart/Section2/chp-33b-Memories-of-My-Dad.pdf

Recently TIME magazine solicited 30-second videos for their annual Optimism issue (who knew they did that each year?), and being the optimist that I have been all my life – a gift from my father I feel – naturally I created one around the message of being an organ donor which you can see below (scroll down the images of videos until you see me in the left side against a black background): http://time.com/optimists-videos/

or click on this image . . .

We are so blessed to be able to share our stories by way of inspiring others to register as organ donors and showing the success of organ transplant, encouraging those facing transplant in their own lives.

Please join Pam and I for this Sunday sermon:

Just reading an interesting article today about happiness built on horizontal wealth vs. vertical wealth (you can read the full article here: https://medium.com/the-polymath-project/the-price-of-happiness-horizontal-vs-vertical-wealth-6057e9b35d66 ).

This part caught my attention and seems to relate to my own philosophy or value system:

“To understand it, let us go back 2000 years before Pratchett, to the great Roman philosopher Seneca — advisor to Emperor Nero and one of the wealthiest people in Rome.

“Here’s an excerpt from On the Happy Life (which I wouldn’t trade for several hundred copies of modern self-help books):

“Riches are slaves in the house of a wise man, but masters in that of a fool. […] If one takes away riches from the wise man, one leaves him still in possession of all that is his: for he lives happy in the present, and without fear for the future.”

“Take away riches from a wise man, and he still has all that is his.

“And that, my friends, is the difference. While the horizontally wealthy own their riches, the vertically wealthy are owned by them. ”

??????????????And that has and continues to be true for my life. And I live a life filled with happiness with enough riches/wealth to support that, so what does that tell you?

I’ve wanted to share this for months now, but finally getting a free moment to write this:

In my early teen years (about mid-fifties) I earned enough money to buy a stereo console model piece of furniture from Montgomery Ward.  I was in music record playing heaven with my first 33-1/3 stereo LP album, Theme from Exodus by Mantovani, the demo record the store had used to show off the sound of this record player.  That lead to my eventually buying at least (and I did count them) 1,000 vinyl albums over the years.

Record albums from the 50’s


As a teen, I had a reel of cable wire that allowed snaking the headphones out my second story window down to the backyard where on a hot summer night I would listen to its music laying on the plastic lounge outside, so much cooler than my bedroom.  I would stack the records on the changer to be able to play for long periods of musical enjoyment.

“Good morning!”

Using a timer that would start the record at 6am, it was morning wake up music preceded with a series of voices each saying louder and louder, “Good morning! (soft female voice), Go..ood morning! (lower voice), good morning (higher louder voice)…’ followed by a musical vocal using those same words set to music – my favorite way to wake up each morning to the sounds of the record dropping on to the turntable (allowing just enough time for the sound to warm up so I could hear those first words).  Later much of that music was copied to reel to reel tape to allow for much longer play time than those LP’s (‘LP=Long Playing’ at 20 minutes each side – really?), and then there were the cassette tapes which could be set to auto reverse and play continuously – sliding drawers of those in an ever growing library that replaced the vinyl that was still on the large lower shelves of that furniture, records now seldom used.

Cassettes had the new advantage of being playable in the car, extending the time I could enjoy that music while driving.

Music in my ’56 Chevy hardtop convertible

Many years passed and eventually CD’s took over – still playable now in the car CD player – and I continued to buy and play/enjoy music of all types from classical to pop and everything in between, eventually amassing another collection of 1,000+ CD’s that are still today in the closet.

just part of that CD collection

closet part of that CD collection

That music could be copied down to the hard drive of my computer, eventually with low priced huge terabyte storage to where I have downloaded all those 1,000+ CD’s onto the PC for easy selecting music of a particular theme, such as Music of the 50’s and DooWop music, etc.

Vinyl record converter to CD device

And then there was the record player that could copy a record album onto a CD and that then onto the computer’s musical library.  But music played on the PC’s speakers was limited to the office listening area where that PC was housed.  I wanted music throughout the home.


Pandora music on the TV Roku

On the TV’s RoKu device, you could play a large variety of web based on-line music via Pandora’s music service (for free) and that gave nice living room background music to the living room and dining areas, but I wanted more.  I even bought a small Bluetooth speaker that could relay music from the PC to another room, but that didn’t work due to the limited 20 foot range of the Bluetooth and walls blocking that electronic signal.


Finally, today . . .

Enter today’s world of Amazon’s Alexa and their Echo Dot devices and with Amazon Prime, free access to an almost unlimited selection of tunes (and yes, you could pay a monthly fee to extend that library to still more, but I didn’t want to pay a monthly fee so settled for the free service). 

Finally, music in every room, by voice command!

Now you no longer had to load a record or insert a cassette or CD, or use the computer’s mouse to select individual albums or songs, now you could say out loud, “Alexa, play the Theme from Exodus by Mantovani” and voila! The Alexa voice confirmed my voice selection and that music followed. 

But even more, now I could say “Alexa, play the Theme from Exodus by Mantovani everywhere!” and having defined the ‘everywhere group’ to include all five (yes, we now have one in each room!) rooms,  that original album from the 50’s in my teen room of Mantovani’s Theme from Exodus was now playing throughout our home, my ultimate goal, over 60 years later!  I’m in musical heaven, finally.  From morning shaving/showering time, Alexa responds to my voice to play music from the fifties.  In the kitchen ‘she’ responds to my requests while my hands are tied up cooking.  Even for a short time folding clothes in the bedroom, I can ask for DoWop music hands-free, followed by “Alexa STOP” when I’m finished and leaving the room. 

I love it, hands free, huge selection of music, playable throughout the home at any volume, and even “Alexa, skip that one!” when a song comes up in the playlist that isn’t to my liking!!

What more can the future hold?  Only time will tell, God willing to be alive to see that.

The Unwinding of the Miracle
A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After
by Julie Yip-Williams (due out Jan 2019)

“I loved it!” What an amazing real-life story, both sad and inspiring. The author writes from her soul, sharing in details only someone who has lived the early life tragedy, followed by accomplished life from nothing to cancer tragedy at a much too young life. As a reader you will be on a roller coaster reading from one chapter to the next, knowing too early on what the final chapter will be like while still holding out that your anticipation is wrong and a miracle – as in the title – will change that ending as a surprise. But no, the opening reveal prevails and we feel deep feelings as we travel along on this life journey which, as the author reminds us, will eventually lead to death, a natural part of life as we know it all too well.

The sadness isn’t in the guaranteed death we all must face, but rather what we deal with in advancing to that human fate. And there is where the depth of this insightful life story touches us as it unfolds with anticipated impact on the family that will be left behind, two young daughters and a loving soul-mate spouse. The author raises some important questions as she faces the medical trials with their disabling side effects that change the quality of life and impact family relationships. Do we make decisions based on our own needs, even if that means a shortened life span, or conversely, take into account those who are affected by our passing that will leave them without motherly support in their important growing years and life events? How do we feel about the loved husband also left behind, wishing out of love for their best, but conflicted by natural human emotions about his finding another to fill out that left behind family life. The author shares her honest innermost thoughts and feelings in a very insightful reading of those conflictual moments compounded by the unavoidable physical body pain and drug induced mental challenges, especially as they relate to the high hopes and disappointments that come with that ‘giving it our all’ to preserve life for as long as we can.

I’m not giving anything away in sharing her eventual death, but in one final chapter written by her husband AFTER that death, we gain still more connection and insight into her and their amazing journey of life, however too short, but lived to its fullest despite early obstacles. And in that telling lies the inspiration of lives we all must face, lives of challenge and opportunity.

I strongly recommend this reading to anyone facing life’s daily journey (especially – but not only – if yours involves cancer, either yours or a loved one’s), and that’s each and every one of us. I eventually found myself sitting up reading late into the early morning hours for the final chapters, unable to put this awesome book down as those inevitable final days unfold.

With my renewed commitment to share via this blog regularly now, I thought a series on some general topics might be of interest.  Initial series topics would include things like . . .

  • Retirement Reflections
  • Hobby Happiness
  • Cookie Monster treats
  • Reflective Readings

. . . as some initial areas to write about that might be of interest to followers of this blog.

My granddaughter, Gail and I, having a great “cookie monster” day so many years ago (Gail is in her 2nd year of college now!)

Stay tuned to see if this renewed interest becomes the priority I currently feel for sharing amidst a busy life of many other ‘high priorities’ as I enjoy this fulfilled life as I live through my ‘eight decade’ as one doctor recently phrased it to my shock and surprise.  He was using that in the context of a compliment, saying “Mr. Gleason, you are an amazing patient, doing so well now in your eighth decade (as he was finishing an extensive month-long (expensive) series of internal testing for pancreatic cancer without finding any despite symptoms, a very good outcome I thought!)  My reaction was, “Hey, I’m not in my eighties yet!” only to step back and realize that when we are in our seventies, that indeed is our ‘eighth decade’ of life and in that realization, felt the blessing of his remark.  Each day I celebrate, as any good ‘Cookie Monster’ would, living a life extension through my 1994 heart transplant granted by the generous donation of a heart no longer supporting life in that donor, Roberto Quebas of Brooklyn, NY.

PS: In that doctor’s visit, the nurse who came out into the waiting area to find a Mr. Gleason to take back for his appointment was confused when I arose in response to her announcement, saying as we went into the clinic rooms, “Based on my file records of  age and conditions (many), I was expecting someone looking much older!”  Wow, she had made my day and so the doctor’s comments were just the icing on this cookie monster’s cookies today.

May your own life be filled with iced cookies today and every day.  As cookie monsters, we expect good things of life and in so looking for them, see them all around us and celebrate each with storytelling as in this day’s blog here.

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