Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Colorful Butterfly

Today I heard a story of a beautiful, colorful butterfly who lived in an area with many brilliant colored butterflies. He got bored and decided to fly to another place where he met up with the grey  moth who could not fly. "Why can't you fly," he asked. He was told, "Because I do not have any color on my wings." The colorful butterfly reached over and placed his wing on the dull looking moth. Before long, the moth began to get color on his wings. Once he had his wings all colored he was able to fly away. The sad part was that the original butterfly slowly lost his color and would soon die.

The butterfly was compared to the eighty-five year old man who passed away on June 11, 2018. His funeral was today and even though I do not look at the dead in the casket, I did take a peek at the man. I could not believe how handsome he was as he rested on the satin cushions and appeared to be sleeping. I remembered the first time I saw him about seven years ago. He was singing in the choir and he stood out because he was handsome and very striking. He reminded me of  a cross between Perry Como or Dean Martin and the thought entered my mind that he looked like someone I might like to get to know better.

I would see him around the church and always liked his Italian look. When his partner passed away I went to the funeral and at the reception I offered my condolences. He put his arms around me and thanked me and told me how much he would miss his partner. The feeling I had was that the man was warm and friendly and he spoke to me as if we had been friends for a long time.

He never lost his good looks even when I would see him with oxygen and in a wheel chair. And now he has gone to his final resting place. I heard he loved flowers and there were many flowers at his mass. I read the obituary and was amazed at all he had done in his life. Ice skater, actor, waiter, degree in cosmetology, singer, veteran, dancer, and it seemed that no matter what he did, he was loved. At the mass I heard he "never met a stranger."

Descriptions floating around were: warm, talented, friendly, humorous, diverse, and interesting. He made everyone feel loved and welcome, enjoyed his flowers, loved to sing and anything Italian. I would add that he was a handsome man outside as well as inside!

Back to the butterfly. The priest described the exciting man to being like the colorful butterfly, flying around and touching many who did not have color in their wings and giving them a touch of beautiful. As he gave away his color he slowly faded away but left his color on those he met.

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me
the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous
Judge, will award to me on that 
day -- and not only to me,
but also to all who have longed
for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Third Day of Our Journey

Amazing that after my frantic phone call the night before that all the travelers got up to attend mass. There were only two who had gone out the night before and were too tired. Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was celebrated by Fr. Janusz Korban and he welcomed the Young At Heart group from Spirit of Christ Catholic Community.
After mass we returned to the motel to eat breakfast and to pack so we could get on the road again and head for Cheyenne. We stopped at a Lusk rest area while the driver went to refuel the bus. The area has a playground and some of the travelers decided to return to their childhood and swing. Most gathered in groups and talked as they waited for the bus to return.

When the bus returned we loaded up and headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming where we would have lunch. A nun on the bus told us Ghost stories, I told jokes, there was some singing,  and prayers for a friend who had gone into surgery. There were plenty of snacks; pretzels, twisslers, cookies, peanuts, m&m's, licorice, and trail mix. When we arrived at the Hacienda Guadalajara Restaurant everybody was hungry but it would have been worse if not for the snacks that were shared. We ate the good food and a few ordered Margaritas or wine. The bill was less than the check so with the extra money we drove to McDonald's for a cup of ice-cream. We had one more stop at the giant Lincoln head but everyone wanted to get home so we did not go visit the large head of Abraham Lincoln that sits on a thirty foot pedestal.

A wonderful three day trip with new friends being made, different sights being seen, and old friends chatting. I thanked the great bunch of travelers and especially the bus driver who returned us safely home. Of course, God is always thanked because without His help these journeys would not be successful!

The Happy Travelers

Second Day of Our Trip to Mt. Rushmore

Continuation of our Journey to Mt. Rushmore:  Breakfast at the motel was from six thirty until nine in the morning. Today we were going to take a ride on the 1880 train from Keystone to Hill City, about an hour ride. We had one car reserved for our group and as we chugged along we saw three deer. The deer in South Dakota do not look the deer in Colorado because they are lighter in color and smaller.  No other wild life sightings but we did enjoy the green scenery and old buildings along the way. A pleasant voice came over the speakers and explained what we were seeing until we arrived at Hill City where our bus was waiting for us to take us to Crazy Horse Memorial.

We were fortunate to have an excellent bus driver who had experience driving to Mt. Rushmore and knew how to get us to our destination.

Since no funds are accepted from federal or state governments and they subsist on donations, the work progresses slowly. I recall seeing the statue in the 70's and it still looks the same which makes me wonder if it will ever be finished. The finger pointing, when completed, will be 29' long and I read that the statue will be the largest in the world!

There are plenty of things to do at the Memorial; Laser show (which we did not see), orientation movie, Indian museum, sculptor's studio, Native American artifacts and dancing. Everyone scattered to different parts of the Memorial until it was time to board the bus to head to Keystone and the National Presidential Wax Museum.

The museum of wax figures was practically across the street from where we were staying so as people finished looking at the forty-five wax presidents, they were able to walk to the motel. There was a lot of history to be learned and we were able to listen individually on remote looking apparatuses. As we entered the museum, Felix greeted us and I had my picture taken with him!

A quick rest and we headed to the Circle B Ranch where we would have dinner and a western show.
Once the bus parked in front of another bus filled with teen-agers, we all made our way to a grassy area to wait for the shoot out that had been advertised. The wooden structures housed a country store, the dining area and the ticket office. In the center was a jail, a lasso a bull area, and a place to shoot blanks! 

We entertained ourselves by taking pictures, sitting on the couches or on a deck to await the promised shoot out!

I suppose if I was a kid, it would be quite exciting to see two men shooting at each other, but my thought was that the shoot out was pretty corny!

After the brief shoot out we entered the dining area filled with wooden tables and benches. We had our own section and as we took our places by lifting a leg and sliding into the bench, we waited for instructions on how the large groups would be fed. We were called by numbers in sections, very much like our Young At Heart dinners, and picked a tin plate stacked vertically. We continued to where the food was being served; baked potato, barbecue beef and chicken, beans, apple sauce, biscuit and spice cake were placed on our plate and we marched back to the table.

The entertainment began by the owners of the Circle B; husband(bass), wife (singer) and son(guitar) joined by a fiddler player. What fun as they played old tunes and told funny stories. Someone told me that the Circle B was a highlight of the trip!

The rain was pouring when we left the Circle B but our hearts were filled with joy after the fun show.
The rest of the evening was a free night so some walked into Keystone, others went to bed, some met 
to chat and my room mate and I retired to our room. In the morning the plan was to go to an eight o'clock mass. Around 9:50 p.m. I received a text that the mass was at 7:30 a.m. An angel of mercy took it upon himself to verify the mass time. That's when the fun began!  I called everyone to let them know to meet at the bus at 7 a.m. I hated to call the bus driver because he had worked hard and my guess was that he was sleeping but he sounded wide awake and said he would have the bus ready at 7 a.m. I finished calling everyone around 10:30 p.m. and then asked for the desk to give a wake up call to my group around 6:15 a.m. the next morning. 

Our last day on our journey will continue in my next blog. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

First Trip Headed North

When I worked at the Archdiocese of Denver I would take bus loads of people to the Land of Enchantment. I did the trips for ten years and when I retired I stopped doing the yearly trip to New Mexico. After being retired for a few years people began asking me to plan another trip and in 2013, I began arranging for groups to go on pilgrimages to Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

This year, for the first time, a plan to visit Mt. Rushmore took place with forty-two persons. The planning was a bit more difficult because everything was guess work; where we would spend the night, where we would eat and what would we see. I relied on the Internet, AAA, the South Dakota 2017 Vacation Guide magazine and many phone calls until I came up with an itinerary.

We left Spirit of Christ Catholic Community on June 18, 2018 at 8:00 in the morning on an Ace Express bus and our first stop was St. Mary's Cathedral in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Gothic outside is not too impressive but on entering the cathedral the first thing that takes your breath away is the Baldachin or ciborium. A four poster structure that the priest explained is like a four poster bed and it represents God and his relationship to humanity.
 The second outstanding feature is the large organ in front of a beautiful stained glass window of the Madonna. The windows and the organ came from Europe and the organ weighs 36,000 pounds.

Lunch was at Chick Fil A and I had no idea it was inside a mall. Luckily, there were plenty of tables and chairs. A few of the travelers took it upon themselves to get the condiments, napkins and then serve the prepared sandwiches. After a flurry of service, while a few went shopping in the mall, everyone was fed and ready to continue on our journey.

In Lusk, Wyoming we stopped at a rest stop and after everyone used the potty we continued on our way to Mt. Rushmore. We checked in at the Rushmore Express in Keystone, South Dakota and freshened up a bit, loaded the bus and headed to see the giant stone heads. The weather was drizzly
as we entered Carver's Café. What a disappointment for me because I was under the impression that it would be a restaurant where we would sit and someone would wait on us. Instead, we lined up, ordered from a menu hanging on the wall, and carried our trays to tables where we would eat our dinner. I had the Buffalo Stew and it was good. Reports I heard was that the different meals were also tasty. I went from table to table and let them know that for dessert we would go next door for some of the famous ice-cream that was advertised as being made from Thomas Jefferson's original recipe. I thought the double dips were pricey at $6.25 a cone or cup but everyone seemed to love this part of our trip!

And then we faced the elements. Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln were completely hidden behind a misty cloud. It was raining and a bit on the cold side and I found a theater that was showing how the heads had been created. I ran around trying to find as many persons so they could come and see the movie in a warm and dry theater. Some opted to shop in the souvenir store while others waited in the rain for the light show scheduled at 8:30.

I could see some of the group sitting under umbrellas and one of the travelers had brought blinking poles with the American flag and I spotted those folks holding up their flag. As we all stood for the National Anthem I thought that was the end of the ceremony. Later I found out that the military men had been called down to the stage where they brought down the flag and the honor of folding the flag went to one of our very own World War II soldier. Luckily, pictures were taken so I have added them to this blog.

What beautiful ceremony with our members that many of us missed because we thought the show was over. Thank God for photos!

This was our first day and despite the weather it passed for a good day! We had a good laugh when we said that four of the men would probably be the only heads we would see!
But then, the area cleared up for a moment and we were able to sort of see the Presidents' heads up on the mountain!

Mt. Rushmore