Stories: Who We Have Lost

Live Like Pop: The Penny Project

Story aboutTommy Sizemore

I’ve begun a project called “Live Like Pop” in honor of my Dad, aka Pop, who was the best man I’ve ever known and helped others selflessly every day without expecting anything in return. The project is in honor of my father, but also all those we’ve lost to Covid-19. As a nurse practitioner, I am sadly immersed in these losses everyday, both personally and professionally. And, my life will be forever affected by this.

The penny represents my Dad because he owned his own coin operated laundry business since he was 16 years old and he would always find coins in the dryer that he would give to me. One day when I was about 6, he found about ten shrunken pennies in the dryer. I remember his hands as he got down on his knee and handed them to me. I saved all of our coins we found over the years. So what may look like a penny to some, when I look, I see my Dad.

My Pop cared for everyone, including all pets. He used to carry around extra dog and cat food in the back of his truck, and would feed every stray he saw. He loved his life, lived it to the fullest, laughed often, gave his wife and 6 kids the best life anyone could ever dream of.

One of my many favorite childhood memories: after working all day, he would come have tea parties with me outside in the wooden playhouse he built for me. He was so tall that when he sat in my playhouse as I prepared the tea (fruit juice, sprite, kool aid), his head touched the roof. Still, he smiled and drank my very creative teas. Then, he would come to my playroom where I set up a grocery store. He would push my little yellow buggy around and pick out fake groceries and let me scan them. Then he would pay me with my fake money. Even then, the seeds of my penny project were being sown.

My project is still being put together. It’s a work in progress, which seems appropriate, given how we’ve lived our lives since the pandemic began. To hear more about what I’m doing, visit my website: livelikepop.org. Send me a penny with your thoughts. Let’s all remember together.

El Salvador

Story aboutWilfredo Rivera

You were taken on New Year’s Eve. It was just diagnosed as bronchopneumonia then. You left before meeting your grandson Leo. You’re forever in my thoughts. Love, your son.

A million dreams …

Story aboutPhilip Sardelis

Philip was a dreamer, big was not big enough for him. Extremely driven and a conqueror. He was bigger than life.

My husband and I met in 2003, through the internet. Fresh off the airplane this guy caught my attention and so did I in his eyes. A Greek god he called himself … hmmm … I loved him instantly. Then the day he told me he had fallen in love with me, OMG!! … I did too. Pregnancy, marriage, house, kids …12 years were not enough … a wrestling tournament in PA our demise … why oh why did you go … we shared the disease, as I suffered it too, but it is not even, it picks carefully who it will kill … and it was not me … March 8th positive, March 18 intubated, March 25th ECMO, April 24th death … May 5th, that day my white wedding dress became black … and my anguish to run away from the pain began.

12 years were not enough: your mom, your sister, your wife (me), your children, family and friends — we will never take breathing for granted again.

I love you, you will always be unconditionally loved …
Your one and only, your wife … :'(

My mom lost her left arm in freak gun accident when she was 7 years old. She spent 6 months in a children’s rehab hospital learning how to use an artificial arm. My grandmother was determined that my mom would never let my mom feel sorry for herself and that she would be able to accomplish anything that she wanted to. She rode and showed horses. She drove a stick shift car (it was all they had when she was 16). She loved being outdoors and had a gift with plants and flowers. She was also an avid exerciser and loved to swim She was an amazing mother — even though she worked full time, she never missed any activity that me or my brother were involved in — she was the very definition of a super mom. She never let her status as an amputee define her.

She was also very blunt and had a biting sense of humor (if you were not prepared to hear the absolute truth, you should never have asked for her opinion). She was an amazing story teller and some of her best stories happened to involve being an amputee.

Her favorite story was from one of our family vacations to the Gulf Coast of Florida. My mom used a different artificial arm when she would swim. It did not have straps on it because she did not want to have tan lines (yes, she was a little vain too). She was floating on her stomach on a raft in the ocean and she fell asleep. A wave woke her with a start and her artificial arm fell off into the ocean. Panicked, she jumped off the float and started searching for it (artificial limbs are VERY expensive and are not fully covered by insurance). A kind lady noticed my mom walking in circles and asked if she needed help. My mom explained what had happened and the lady began helping my mom with the search. Around 10 minutes later, the kind lady reached down into the water and pulled out my mom’s artificial arm and exclaimed loudly, “Is this your arm?!?” The way my mom described the story, it was as if the lady was clarifying that this was actually my mom’s arm because there were all these other artificial arms floating around the Gulf of Mexico which of course is silly to say the least. My mom started laughing and said, “Yes, that particular arm is mine, thank you.”

She told that story many times over the years and no matter how many times I heard it, it was always funny (her delivery was the best). My mom always had a way of looking on the bright side of everything. Whenever she would go through security at an airport, her arm would always set off the alarm. She would always say, “Yes, I am armed.” The security folks would always laugh. One time, she went through security and a pilot that was a double arm amputee set off the alarm right behind her and she “high fived” him and everyone around us in the security line started laughing.

She over came so much in her life; she was an amazing person. She was truly one of a kind and I miss her so much.

A Pennsylvania Dutch Badass

Story aboutJune Arnold

Our mother June, though often donned in holiday-themed sweaters and polyester stretch pants, was progressive in the ways that mattered. She adopted me and my sister in the early 1960’s when it was not part of the mainstream. She let me cut my long locks so that I could have a shag like David Cassidy from the Partridge Family when I was in 3rd grade. She finally got pregnant when she was 39 with our brother and this was viewed as high risk for that time (1970). She helped me pick out vests and ties from my father’s closet so I could wear suits in Junior High. She accompanied one of us in our teens to get an abortion. She didn’t bat an eye when I came out as a lesbian shortly after my father died (1992) and embraced the interracial partnership that I was in for 14 years. She was there for each of us as we navigated and ended painful, abusive marriages – two of which ended in divorce and child custody battles. We watched her thrive after her husband died suddenly at age 63 – an active alcoholic and Korean war vet who held her back in many ways. Mom would go on to travel abroad, to join multiple community groups – one of her favorites being the Red Hats. She felt strongly about the state of the country and much like me, had a great disdain for Trump supporters. One of my favorite memories about this was her giving the middle finger to the woman’s car with all the pro-life and Trump stickers; mom would tickle herself and let me know that she also did it when I wasn’t visiting! She was also a proud Philadelphia Eagles fan, wearing a team shirt every time they played and believing she had the power to impact the outcome, depending on which shirt she wore! She also loved debriefing at half time or at the end of the game and stating who should be left go or fired. She was full of life, generous in Spirit, mischievous and the quintessential badass for her time. We miss her EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

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