Taking Time to Smell the Roses

Michelle Stimpson & Bill Stimpson and Bill's Parents

Welcome to the biggest gap between posts since this blog started almost two years ago. It’s not because I haven’t written; I have. Over this past month I’d force myself to write a post and reluctantly toss it on my editor’s desk (Bill), mumbling under my breath: “Good luck with this one.” And later he’d come back at me with, “Um, I like it, but it’s very confusing.”

I know, I know. Forcing yourself to write isn’t good. And it’s not fun. So I finally decided to just drop it and wait until the time was right.

Here’s where my heart and soul have been this past month: Bill’s father, Larry, has been in the intensive care unit in the hospital, following a myriad of health issues. I’m a big believer in being fully present with whatever you’re doing, wherever you are. So, my father-in-law’s situation became the number-one issue that occupied my brain.

There have been many times throughout the last month where I’d sit in his room in silence. Or in the hospital chapel, staring at the water fountain. Often times at home, Bill and I would sit together on the couch and say nothing at all.

I cancelled several meetings and coaching sessions – and said ‘no’ to many invitations – so I could be available. Available to visit Larry in the hospital. Available to sit and visit with my sweet mother-in-law, Marlene. Or available to have lunch with Bill to just “be” with him during the day. It reminds me of a year ago, being in this same spot in life.

Intense focus

I’m not a multi-tasker, and I only advocate doing its opposite. Even though I had plenty of time over the past month to write, I had zero interest or energy in writing. When I tried to force it, I hated everything I wrote and it never made sense. So even though I previously committed to writing a few blog posts each month, I realized it’s not always going to work out that way. Life happens.

As they say, I was taking my time to “stop and smell the roses.” And I wanted nothing else to take its place.

Hospital Flowers

In fact, every time I left the hospital, I stopped to admire the big bouquet of roses in the lobby. The sign underneath noted that the flowers were in appreciation of the staff who provided “exquisite care to patients and their families every day.” Amen. I witnessed extreme human care taking place 24/7 in that building. Sometimes the gentleness of the care moved me to tears.

So, this past month I put a lot of stuff on hold. And there was simply no space in my soul for writing.

Until this past weekend.

That’s when I wrote a little talk I gave at my father-in-law’s funeral.

Larry took his last breaths with 16 members of his family completely surrounding him in a blanket of love. I’ve never experienced anything so poignant and powerful. Nor have I been in a setting like that where it felt like such a sincere privilege to be included.

Sheer gratitude

When I married into Bill’s family, I hit the jackpot. I gained an additional set of loving parents, two fantastic sisters, nieces and nephews I adore, and aunts and uncles and cousins I think the world of. So in that moment at Larry’s bedside, the gratitude and love was overflowing…as I witnessed the patriarch of the family slowly transition into his place in heaven.

The past week has been incredibly intense. Emotional and difficult, yet peaceful and wonderful.

After Larry’s passing, the writing flowed and it felt like such a joy to put my thoughts down on paper. It was the perfect example of going with the flow and knowing when the timing is right…to write.

Here’s a brief excerpt of what I wrote and shared during the memorial service:

My favorite part about Larry and Marlene was the way they raised my sweet Bill to be the man that he is today. Together, they stood as models for living a full life, serving others, and doing whatever it is in life that needs to be done…while nurturing a charming couplehood all along the way.

By example, Larry showed Bill what it means to be a “real” man. To be soft, sensitive, caring, gracious, appreciative, gentle, loving, loyal, and to be able to do anything…from building a deck and fixing a car, to cooking a fantastic meal and ironing shirts. And for the model that Larry was to Bill – particularly in the way of being a devoted husband who cherished his wife and put her above all else – I am forever grateful.

I remember when Bill and I had our first apartment, and there was a time when we both came down with a terrible flu. We were sitting at the table, looking at each other, unable to move, not knowing what to do. Just then, there was a soft knock at the door. It was Larry, standing there with a smile and a pot full of homemade chicken noodle soup.

This is the stuff I’m talking about.

I’ll never forget backing out of the driveway the morning of the funeral. Just then, John Lennon’s “Imagine” started playing. I don’t think Bill and I said a word to each other for the remaining half-hour drive.

The funeral service for Larry was amazing…so much love from family and special friends. What a reminder to me of how blessed I am to be part of such a loving family.

Deep sadness and joy all at the same time.

What to do next?

That night after everything was over, Bill and I had tickets for a concert we had almost forgotten about in the frenzy of it all. Naturally, I figured we wouldn’t possibly go to a concert on the day of the funeral and dismissed the idea. But then I glanced at Bill and saw him smile and say, “Dad would love it if we went.” I knew exactly what he meant. Live music that we love fills our hearts and brings us tremendous joy.

Why not immerse ourselves in a celebration of life?

The more we talked about it, the more “right” it felt. It almost seemed as though we couldn’t not do it.

So, after carrying everything out of the church, we headed home and changed out of our dress clothes. Then we headed downtown. We stopped in a bar before the show and toasted to Bill’s dad through our tears. At the concert, we were right up in front – center stage – and stood up for much of the show and cheered extra loud.

The last “get fired up” encore song will be etched in my memory forever. That moment was a powerful reminder that life is to be celebrated. With all your being.

I don’t know that I ever danced like I did that night. It was one of those “dance like no one is watching” moments; it was the essence of being alive. I was filled with tremendous joy.

The sacredness and preciousness of life filled me to the top, as 2,000 other concertgoers were up on their feet behind us, dancing and celebrating life with us. Total goosebumps.

My joy partner was right next to me, smiling and dancing his butt off, too. Tears filled my eyes. I was grateful to be alive.

We were definitely “smelling the roses,” so to speak.

And I know that Bill’s dad was smiling with us.

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20 Responses to “Taking Time to Smell the Roses”

  • Jeff says:

    Michelle and Bill,

    Thank you so much for not writing to your “Following Your Joy” family for these last few moments. What you did for your family there was so much more important. The moments of silence in the hospital room. The way you spoke of Larry and the descriptions of the way he brought joy to others. The way you and Bill celebrated his life through music that day, both on the way to the memorial and after the memorial.

    But thank you also for telling us what happened! Welcome back!

  • Maryse says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful post! Beyond the pain of physical separation you take us into the realm of eternal love, of undying joy. Thank you for such a blessed gift!
    May your father-in-law’s spirit shine upon you and your family now and always. ♥

  • Mary says:

    Poignant Michelle! Absolutely soul-touching.
    Thank You for your eloquence and authenticity.
    I can’t wait to meet you in person someday soon.

  • Bill says:

    Thank you, Sweetie, for a very touching post. I’m sure you know how much my dad enjoyed having you in our family for the past 18 years!

  • Connie says:

    Well here I am in tears again after reading your touching and moving words. I’m so happy you got to experience such an amazing man in your father-in-law..you are truly blessed. Thank you for sharing your life Michelle.

  • Wayne says:

    Michelle and Bill,
    Sorry to hear about your dad. I always say my dad taught me how to swing a hammer and balance the books. What else do you need? Your post filled me with Joy and motivated me to be present.

  • Thanks for sharing how you take the time to live your life “off line” as well as “on line.” Nothing is as important as the love we have in face-to-face relationships with family and friends. You’re a great example of having your priorities in order. Wishing you peace and love as you work through your grief.

  • Anna Stimpson Bjerken says:

    This is beautifully & graciously written.
    I am so glad that you spoke at Dad’s funeral. I do agree that he had a great send-off! When the ‘Saints go Marching in’ was perfect. Right along with ‘I’ll Fly Away’ as our extended family and friends left the sanctuary.

    Our family is blessed to have you as a sister & auntie!

    The roses have never smelled better than the day Dad died and we left the hospital knowing he was in a place that was ‘better than the alternative’.

    Love you!

  • Barb says:

    Michelle, my dear friend, YOU are such an incredible woman and Bill is an equally incredible man!

    My empathy at this time of loss — please know that I’m right there with you, holding you all in love and light – sending lots of healing, joy-filled energy!

    You and Bill have been on my mind a great deal the last month or so – now I know why. Please know that I am, as always, so empowered by your willingness to be open, vulnerable, loving and compassionate. Beautiful writing, beautiful celebration of your father-in-law’s life, beautiful expression of his spirit.

    You brought tears to my eyes! Tears of sorrow and joy mingled together – as I’m sure you know from experience!

    My heart is with you both, and with your family,


  • Michelle and Bill,

    Thank you for allowing us to see your pain. I have lost both my mother and father-in-law, so I have empathy for you both.

    It’s good to see your love shine through and how you honored and celebrated Larry.

    No rush getting back into life – we’ll be right here waiting for you.



  • I’m sitting at a Caribou Coffee dabbing my eyes. What a powerful post and eloquent reminder that we are here to love and find joy even on the hardest days. You radiate joy like no other! And I am sure Bill’s dad was thrilled to see you dance the night away! His family is so blessed to have you part of their tribe – especially at times like this. Hope I can give you a big hug soon!

  • Rochelle says:

    Intense inner joy shining through! Touching, sincere, beautiful and well written. Wonderful blog!

  • Tracie says:

    Michelle, Thank you for your words, your loving spirit and I always know what you write or say comes from your heart and a place of love! I want to thank you for being present for Dad, Mom and all of us! You are a gift to our family!

    Love you, Tracie

  • Char says:

    Wonderfully put! It was so comforting to see you and Bill at the church making sure everything was just right for the Celebration of my sweet brother Larry’s life! Reading your blog today reinforces for me the love that we all felt that day! When you, Bill, Ashley and Blair spoke I could feel the energy and love surrounding all of us! I know Larry was touching us all that day as he did when he hugged us hello so many times in our lives! Bless you and Bill! I will miss Larry until we meet again in Heaven, but know that he is there watching over all of us! Our new angel!!

  • Jen Vickerman says:

    Michelle, what beautiful post adn tribute to your father-in-law. He sounds as if he were an amazing man. He obviously live on in you and Bill. Thinking of you during this time of immense sorrow and joy.

  • Jane says:

    Your dad was such a sweet, gentle, compassionate man Bill. How blessed they were to have you as a son and you Michelle as a daughter! That scene of you 16 encircling Larry is so powerful and warm. What a send-off to heaven!!! Love you so!!!

  • Cindy says:

    You amaze me with your ability to find joy and happiness even in very hard times. You are graceful and an example for all of us!

  • Lance says:

    Michelle and Bill,
    Sending healing care and love to both of you, and to Larry’s whole family.

    And what beautiful words here, Michelle. Your heart and soul shine through – and in that, the heart and soul of Larry shine through so wonderfully.

    May the memories of Larry continue to live in your hearts, and may the joy of this man continue to be with you.

    Much love,

  • Kim Utecht Prayfrock says:

    You don’t know me, I found you through another site. What an incredible story. As my dad ages (82) I can’t imagine him never being around again. I just expect that he will ALWAYS answer the phone when I call. I know the day will come when he won’t be here…and I hope, no I know, I will dance as well. He taught me so much and I am so grateful to be his daughter. I hope you will have more dancing moments in your life and can feel your father-in-law in your life every day.

  • Wow. To all of you: Thank you sooo much. Each and every comment has been acknowledged and received…and felt! From special friends to family members to loyal readers to people I’ve never met. Your words of kindness have thoroughly filled my heart and lifted me up. Thank you. I’m blessed to have each and every one of you in my life.

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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

The Parent Company

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