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Life lessons with Mr. Rogers – always find the helpers

Grassroots Tehachapi


September 29, 2018

Julianna Crisalli

I learned a lot from Mr. Rogers as a kid. He continues to be a personal hero with his gentle and loving ways of teaching us how to handle life's beautiful and difficult moments.

Maybe one of his best lessons was about helpers.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping," he wrote. "To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

I found those helpers last week. After a painful and scary three-month battle with cancer, my father-in-law passed away in his Modesto home on Sept. 18. After his diagnosis, and the realization of his most likely very short life expectancy, the family began coordinating his end of life wishes. The plan, until three days before his death, was a burial in Modesto. It was never the ideal answer, since no family would remain in Modesto after his death, but the idea of coordinating a burial elsewhere seemed too complicated and expensive. In the end, he wanted to lay at rest in Tehachapi, a place he called his loving and favorite home for 10 years.

That Saturday before, I called Wood Family Funeral Services not expecting to connect with anyone on a weekend. But I was transferred to their after hours service and received information from the lovely, Sally Periman-Lawrence. I've never arranged a funeral. Saying I was nervous for that unknown and emotional call puts it very lightly. Instantly, Sally's calming voice and caring responses put me at ease. Mere hours later, plans had been changed to a burial in Tehachapi and my father-in-law felt more at peace and happy to know his family would be visiting him in the mountains he loved.

Sally, Dolly Johnson and the rest of the staff at Wood Family made a heart wrenching experience doable and as easy as this terrible experience can be.

Following Mr. Rogers advice again, I found more caring helpers at the Tehachapi Public Cemetery. Their compassion and kindness will never be forgotten. Even after my multiple calls, endless questions and requests, both Wood Family and the cemetery treated me like family and were genuine in their concern for my pain and well-being.

They even put up with my insecure apologies for asking questions I know they must receive multiple times a day. Every time they simply responded, "you don't know how to juggle this, and that's a good thing. We hope you never become an expert at this or gain enough experience to have all the answers. That's why we're here ... to help with the hardest days."

Nothing is easy about saying goodbye to a loved one, but knowing that sincere care and compassion will flow freely from the Tehachapi professionals at Wood Family and the cemetery, makes these inevitable dark days a little brighter.

It's encouraging to know, Tehachapi has a lot of helpers.

Do you know an inspirational group, individual or program that should be featured in an upcoming Grassroots Tehachapi? Email me at [email protected]

See you next time and be kind to one another!


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