A Renewed 2022
New Year’s resolutions seem to be a thing of the past, instead being swapped for more contemplative and long-lasting traditions and expressions of gratitude, exploration, and deeper human connection, especially following a few challenging years for many individuals and families. Take a glimpse into the lives of a few St. Paul people and the unique ways they renew and rejuvenate their spirits throughout the year.
This has been a different year for Lori Parker. Her husband Dave died on New Year’s Day 2021 after nearly 40 years together and after his living with Parkinson’s for 14 years.
But while it’s been a year of grief and sadness, it’s also been a year of figuring out new norms and what new life lies ahead for Lori. Lori and Dave Parker loved to travel. Whether just the two of them hitting the road together or with their children or grandchildren, the open road is where they found peace. And now Lori is finding the travel has become another way to remember Dave.
“Dave and I were never big on getting gifts for each other,” Lori said. “What we would do instead were road trips. We would sit down together and plan out our road trips for the coming year. Our plans for retirement, we always thought we’d be in an RV and travel the country and ride our bikes.”
Though those retirement plans were to change a bit, the meaning behind them and the joyous travel together did not. Lori said that once Dave entered hospice during the last six months of his life, they shared many conversations about the future for Lori.
“Dave was big on making sure I continued on,” she said. “We’d been together almost 40 years. With him being in hospice for six months, we had a lot of time to talk and he was very definite — ‘Just keep going through the motions at first,’ he said. ‘But the excitement and the feelings will come back. One foot in front of the other.’”
This summer, Lori took one shorter road trip by herself to Colorado, with a very specific goal in mind. Shortly afterwards, in September, her sister joined her for a trip through the Southwest, a favorite travel destination for Lori and Dave.
“When I went out to Colorado all by myself, I wanted to be on top of Rocky Mountain National Park at sunrise. Dave and I would usually hit those places at sunset for him to take his photos. I got up, basically in the middle of the night, drove through the entrance at 4:30 in the morning, it was crazy!” Lori said. “I can’t even describe how quiet it was, how spiritual it was, the wind blowing, the birds. That’s what revives me and what refreshes me spiritually.”
2022 looks to be a year of travel, figuring out the new and different, and finding the fun in life again.
“I’ll have some sort of trip this coming year,” Lori said. “It’s now my way to remember Dave. The trip with my sister was sad at times but we went to such a scenic, beautiful spot. That was the first time I realized life could be fun again. It was new and it was different but it was fun again too.”
One word to guide
About five years ago Christine Yoerger was introduced to a simple concept containing one word that now helps guide her throughout the year.
“A teacher at my school was sharing with her students that it’s important every year to think about what you want out of the next year,” Christine said. “She told them it doesn’t have to be anything big like ‘I’m going to exercise every day’ or ‘I’m going to get straight A’s.’ She comes up with just one word each year. She talked about her one word and how that resonates with her for the year. That’s a practice that’s been working for me.”
Christine has a special drawer that holds a sticky note upon which is written her guiding word.
“My word for 2021 was Connect,” she said. “After 2020, I got too comfortable being away from people. I see that word three to four times each week and it reminds me – ‘what am I doing to connect?’ It pops up in my mind. It’s simple. It’s one word. Another word one year was Faith. What am I going to do to strengthen my faith this year? That was actually the year we found St. Paul.”
During the holiday break, Christine takes a few days to not focus on too many other things – the dishes, the laundry, cooking dinner — instead taking the time to focus on the selection of her special word.
“My family lets me just take those few days off to sit and reflect,” she said. “To just have that one word, to think about it, and explore it in all different ways, to keep it simple…for me, that seems to be the best.”
Laughter and gratitude
Throughout the 35-minute call with the Vogels, there was rarely a time where laughter did not erupt. Whether it was a funny quip from Dick or a clever aside from Sonia, there was laughter. A lot of laughter. These two really know joy and say they find a constant renewal in laughter, good books, and self-education.
“We both do daily devotions and we reflect on how we can continue to be renewed,” Sonia said. “Every year, especially since we’ve retired, we find a way — or it finds us — to be more educated in some different community or national issue that impacts us all, like racial justice, and immigration, environmental, education, or some other topic close to my heart. We use current literature, the church (St. Paul and the ELCA have guided us quite often), or we just decide to attend something – a book group, an adult class, or a video series, sometimes a magazine article and the topic just finds us.”
“One of the things we aim to do is educate ourselves to become more knowledgeable and aware of the facts of an issue or issues. That’s important to us,” Dick said. “And we’re both big readers.”
The Vogels love to talk about the books they read together, the topics they connect over. They both agree that while a lot of other books come to mind as favorites, the daily devotional Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith by Henri Nouwen is the one that sticks out the most. It helps to further enforce their practice of daily gratitude.
“A real continual goal for ourselves, with which we find enjoyment and practice gratefulness, is humor,” Dick said. “Humor has gotten us through some of the most difficult times in our lives, like losing our daughter Jenny and the times we spent with her in the hospital.”
“Dick and I do laugh a lot,” Sonia said. “Different things make us laugh. When you’ve lived together for nearly 40 years, it’s all sorts of things, especially little things. For now, it’s our forgetfulness.”
“Our aches and pains!” Dick joked.
“Our grandchildren,” Sonia added lovingly. “Sometimes it’s really a choice to laugh rather than to get irritated about the little things that can happen. If we had to have one thing that is pretty consistent, that we use to face the future or go forward with, it’s that we are grateful for all of the things we do have. Being appreciative of that means enjoying each other and Meg, Miles, and our grandchildren. All of the gifts we’ve been given.”
And laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.