Tag Archives: values

What a bass means to a boy

August 21, 2013

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Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

I’ve never been so excited about a 16 1/2-inch largemouth bass as I was last Friday.

And, it wasn’t even my fish. The lucky angler was my nephew, Michael. I think I was as joyful as he was when we hoisted his prize over the gunwale.

The chunky fish was the largest he had ever caught. And, the look on his face made that point clear. It matched a fish I had landed about an hour earlier, providing an excellent start to a meal for my brother and his family.

Times like this create summer memories that last well into adulthood. But, I had started wondering if a moment like this was going to happen for Michael or his older brother Matthew. I had spent the early afternoon trying to teach them how to catch bass on plastic baits, but with little success. There definitely is a steep learning curve for this endeavor, and early attempts can be filled with frustration and futility.

This occasion was no different. There were bites, hooksets that weren’t nearly stout enough, and numerous escapes by the bass.

The good news was, the fish were there and plenty willing to grab onto the baits. I was hoping, in time, one of the boys’ hooks would work its way into a largemouth’s jaw.

Sure enough, in the last hour, Michael pierced the mouth of a bass with a worm hook I had let him use. The battle was on! Usually, if the hook gets through the fish’s bony jaw, it’s curtains for the bass, unless the line gives way.

Michael played his fish well, and the fish eventually came belly up to the side of my boat. A quick swoop of the landing net, and the young lad tasted success at last.

I did my best to applaud his skills and acknowledge his success, hoping this would hook him on bass fishing – and plastics – for life. Meanwhile, another task just as important tugged for my attention.

Matthew never did land a fish that day, and he struggled with tangled line on top of that. This is an opportunity for gentle teaching and encouragement, and I took some time after we got off the water to have a little talk with him. My brother felt bad for his oldest son, but I told him that experiences like this can create a hunger that can make a person hungry and determined to conquer the learning curve.

I reminded him that I have been bow hunting for two years, and have yet to tag a deer. Guess what? I am more eager than ever to get out there and try to shoot and recover a whitetail. So, I noted, Matthew’s unsuccessful try at catching a bass on a plastic worm is not necessarily going to sour him on fishing.

Hopefully, it will keep him coming back for more. I have a feeling he is going to want to top his brother’s bass.

Now’s the time to turn to the next page of his young fishing career. Largemouth class will be in session next summer!

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Where are the Women?

April 13, 2013

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Creative Commons license by wonderline

Mary anoints Jesus’ feet.

 

During the conclave I happened across a group of protesters outside of the Archdiocesan Chancery office.  As I was leaving the Cathedral parking lot, I noticed a woman parking her car.  She paused to pull a sign out of her trunk.  I watched in amazement as this woman took advantage of the free parking in the Cathedral parking lot (Intended for visitors to the Cathedral) while she took the opportunity to stand in some sort of protest against the Catholic Church.   Talk about taking advantage of Christian hospitality.  I would have towed her car!

As I left the lot and took a look at the signs they were carrying. They said, “Hey Cardinals, where are the women?”  I almost pulled over my car, jumped out and said, “I am right here!”

 

There are so many things wrong with this scenario – I felt compelled to set it right.

  1. First off – there is no Cardinal inside of the building they were protesting.  Just our Archbishop.
  2. If they took the time to check – they would find out that Archbishop Nienstedt has more women in his Cabinet (roughly equivalent to a board of directors) than most Fortune 500 companies.  These are strong woman in decision making positions.
  3. The fact that women are not ordained  in no way diminishes the role of women in the church.  Priests have a certain role in God’ s plan for the Church just as married couples, single people, religious orders and yes – women!

If you haven’t ever read Pope John Paul’s letter to women, you can find it here.  When I first read it I was able to realize that being a Catholic Feminist (In the context of the new feminism – much like the new evangelization) is not an oxymoron.

Pope Francis even dedicated his first Wednesday audience talk on women in the church.   http://www.news.va/en/news/audience-the-fundamental-role-of-women-in-the-chur

As the Pope notes, the first witness of the resurrection were women.  In fact Jesus and the founding Fathers of the Church elevated women in a way that was unprecedented in their time,  Christ spoke to the Samarian woman, had women disciples, and the early church was supported by women. Besides the more familiar names of Mary, Martha and Mary Magdalene, check out Pricilla and Lydia, the maker of purple cloth. Women have shaped the church from it’s origin.

Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. – Luke 8:3

Let’s not talk of ancient history only.  Throughout the history of the church we have many women who have served the church.  The list of saints are full of them.  Four  women are considered Doctors of the Church (This is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints. This title indicates that the writings and preachings of such a person are useful to Christians “in any age of the Church.” Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings.) Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, and Hildegard of Bingen.  All of these saints are models of women in the Church. These aren’t wimpy women.  They all faced hardships of their times and helped to shape the Catholic Church we know today.

Let’s move on to present day.  Women have been aiding the mission of the Church locally and in a very tangible way through the work of the Council of Catholic Women.  This year they celebrate 81 years of service to the Catholic church.  Check out the topics at their convention in May – Be the Voice of Catholic Women.

I couldn’t talk about women in the church today without mentioning one of my heroins: Helen Alvare.  Here is her Bio:  Professor of Law at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, where she teaches and writes in the areas of family law and law and religion. She is a consultor to Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontifical Council for the Laity, a consultant for ABCNews, and the Chair of the Conscience Protection Task Force at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. She co-authored and edited the book, Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak For Themselves. Professor Alvaré received her law degree from Cornell University and her master’s in systematic theology from the Catholic University of America.

In addition to the credits above she started the movement “Women Speak for Themselves.

I was blessed to hear her talk recently for the Siena Symposium.  Instead of me trying to share her wisdom and spirit – see it for yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYM-FbOU5Hw&feature=share

She reminds me that women can have it all.  If we know what “all” means.

Like I said – She is my hero!

I hear there is a “Women’s Argument of the Month Club coming soon.  The idea is women getting together to learn and discuss what it means to be a Catholic woman.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Catholic Faith Formation more information can be found here.

So in answer to the question posed on the protest signs; “Where are the women?”  My answer is: “We are right here!!”

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Deer hunting at night?

November 29, 2012

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I read a shocking article in the StarTribune yesterday, in which outdoors writer Doug Smith described the attempt by Chippewa tribes in Wisconsin to allow night hunting for whitetail deer.

My first thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Then, as I continued to reflect on this disturbing action by the tribes, I recalled that this is exactly the kind of thing I have feared all along in the ongoing treaty rights debate.

I wondered if the victories won by the tribes would lead to more actions like this. It’s understandable that, after winning a major victory, they might try to win more rights.

But, where do you draw the line? That’s the question I keep asking. I understand that we have to honor whatever rights the treaties have granted. But, I think it can be very hard to understand just what rights the bands are entitled to. And, with so many more people using the resources now than when the treaties were signed 150 years ago, the implications are more dramatic.

For me, a big issue is the whole concept of “sovereign nation” status that the tribes have. I would like to see that come to an end and have everyone in the country governed by one set of laws. I don’t necessarily mean just take over the bands and forces our laws upon them. But rather, enter into intense and determined negotiations to settle the matter once and for all.

If we don’t, things like the night-hunting proposal will keep popping up. And, I don’t believe things like this do one bit of good in helping build relations between Indians and non-Indians. Building bridges between the two cultures is desperately needed and long overdue. I don’t think it is a good long-term solution to continue to have sovereign nation status. If the bands continue to get more rights, there is going to be a pushback. Imagine deer hunters setting up camp on the eve of the firearms opener, then hearing shots in the dark and seeing flashlights shining in the woods.

Thankfully, a judge in Wisconsin temporarily blocked the band’s plan to night hunt for deer. But, the issue is far from over. There still must be a final ruling in the case, which sets up the possibility of night hunting in Wisconsin for deer.

I, for one, hope this never happens. Deer hunters – and the deer themselves – deserve better.

 

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Big buck appears in season’s final minutes

November 12, 2012

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I was sitting high in a ladder stand yesterday near Red Wing during the final day of the 3A firearms season. In several days afield, including several dawn to dusk sits, I had seen only two deer – a buck that was too small based on the Zone 3, southeast Minnesota four-point antler restriction, and a doe that spooked and ran before I could shoot.

So, it had been a frustrating season. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out hunting yesterday, but my friend and hunting partner, Bernie Schwab, persuaded me to give it one last try. He was gearing up for an all-day sit. I didn’t know if I wanted to hunt that long.

From the outset, the weather was brutal. It was cold, very windy and it rained some. I couldn’t sit all day, so we got down for lunch and came back at 1:30 for the afternoon sit. In the morning, I had been sitting in the stand  where he had shot a nice 10-pointer the previous weekend, plus seen lots of does. After lunch, I decided to sit in a stand on the far south end of the property that I just put up last year. Bernie saw a buck from it last year, and only sat in it once this year. I thought that might help, as the deer would be less disturbed.
This buck came out with only about 10-15 minutes of shooting light left. I ranged him out in the picked bean field at 180 yards, which would have been a very long shot with a shotgun, and one I would prefer not to take. I decided that I would try it in the last five minutes if he didn’t come in.
But, guess what? He turned toward me and trotted right at me. He passed the tip of a finger of woods that I had ranged at 100 yards, and he kept coming farther, then turned and gave me a great broadside shot. I shot more than once, and am not sure which one was the kill shot. He came right to the edge of the woods where my stand was and went in just a few yards and died.
I knew he was nice when I saw him come in, but was too busy getting ready for a shot to examine his antlers. He’s a beauty! He was a 10-pointer originally, but he broke off one of this brow tines, plus another small point near the tip of one of his main beams.
Fortunately, the five points on the opposite side are intact. He’s got a 19-inch inside spread, and I’m going to have him mounted. That was the only deer I saw all day. I just kept telling myself, “I only need to see one deer.” Frankly, I would have been very happy with a doe, as it would have provided some venison for the freezer.
This afternoon, I called Lou Cornicelli of the DNR to tell him about my hunt. I also asked him to delete an email I had sent last week, in which I railed on the four-point rule because it keeps me from shooting a deer for the table.
If I had shot the small buck I saw on opening day, I never would have had a chance at this one, which will be at the taxidermist very soon. And, just as important, I will have lots of venison to enjoy in the months ahead. Praise God for this great blessing!
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“Remember who brought you to the dance!”

September 18, 2012

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Remember who brought you to the dance!

We have all heard it; “I believe in God but I don’t go in for religion” or “I don’t need church to have a relationship with Jesus” or “Who needs the Church anyway?”

We as Catholics have to respond to these statements and occasionally it seems difficult to come up with the reasons why we need the institution of the Church. It seems especially difficult when we have been confronted with a militant church lady, political pastor, an unorganized youth minister or decisions made by the church that affect us like closing or merging of our parish or dealing with the politics of the marriage amendment. It is at times like these that we may ask ourselves why we need the bureaucracy at all. I, myself, work for the Archdiocese Central Corporation and it can sometimes feel more like an institution than a community of people united to serve God and others.

I recently spent an evening with a few friends discussing our varying opinions on the stance of the church on different issues. We have all felt some frustration on some level with the bureaucracy and politics of the “Church” from the local parish all the way to the Vatican.

Then, we received a phone call about a member of our parish who was hurt in an accident. There was nothing we could do but pray. So there, amongst our wine glasses and appetizers we prayed together as a community of people united to serve God and others. It would seem that this was “church” not the building on the hill, not the Cathedral in St. Paul, not even the Vatican.

We are a faith of and/also not either/or.

Then it occurred to me that Yes, the church is this group of friends spontaneously praying for one another and/also the institution of the Church. Without the institution of the Church, capital “C”, the church of us praying together wouldn’t have happened. What brought us together as friends is our faith, what taught us how to pray is the Catechism, CCD classes and our Catholic schools, what taught us the value of prayer at all and the idea that prayer even means anything is the institution of the Church – capitol “C”. Without the bureaucracy, doctrine and dogma i.e.; without the institution – we wouldn’t have had our faith handed down to us for over 2000 years.

So, if you ever feel like the church is just an institution and you are tempted to leave, tempted to stay at home on Sunday morning, tempted to say “I believe in God, but not formalized religion,” or if you ever want to just give up on the dogma, doctrine and doo doo that we sometimes see as the Church– just remember who brought you to the dance.

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A beautiful afternoon on Lake Mille Lacs

August 27, 2012

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I got to spend an afternoon on Lake Mille Lacs last week. Actually, it was for an assignment for The Catholic Spirit (my outdoors column). One of the highlights was a nice sunset. I was not able to take advantage of the amazing walleye bite of May and June, but talked to someone who did.

Father Troy Przybilla got out on the water a number of times earlier this summer and confirmed that the action was blazing hot. On the flip side, keeper fish were very hard to come by. In about 10 or 12 trips, he managed to catch just two keepers outside of the 17- to 28-inch protected slot. He caught a bunch that were just beyond the 17-inch mark.

I had felt frustrated about not being able to join the ranks of anglers who capitalized on the sizzling bite, but far less so after hearing about the lack of keepers. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy catching walleyes, but I like having at least a few for the frying pan.

There was a similar problem on Upper Red Lake back when it reopened to walleye fishing in 2006, but it wasn’t nearly this bad. If you fished long enough, you eventually caught your two fish under 17 inches. There were lots of fish in all size ranges, so you just had to keep at it until you found the keepers.

Now, it appears as though there aren’t many keepers in Mille Lacs. So, if it’s a shore lunch you want, Lake Lacs may not be the place to go.

Father Przybilla thinks it’s time for the DNR to modify the harvest rules for walleyes. He suggested a total inch count for walleyes, with anglers able to keep fish of any size, as long as the total inch count doesn’t exceed a certain number.

I like his idea, in terms of balancing the size of fish taken. When you have both sport anglers and Indian tribes targeting small fish, it stands to reason that, at some point, the number of those fish will go down.

In this case, it appears as if it’s going way down. I like the rule they had on Lake of the Woods about eight or nine years ago. You could keep six walleyes, with only one over 20 inches. My friend, Pete Wolney, and I went up in the fall the last year of that rule, and had an absolute walleye bonanza. We each took one fish home between 20 and 21 inches, plus several that were in the 19 1/2-inch range.

Now, you can keep four walleyes, and none between 19 1/2 and 28 inches. That still leaves plenty of fish to keep, and Pete and I have no trouble catching our limit of keepers, as long as the weather doesn’t mess things up.

Lake of the Woods is in good shape, but Mille Lacs has an imbalanced walleye population. I hope the DNR can figure out a way to correct the problem.

I think it’s time to let anglers start keeping at least a few of the bigger fish. Some of those fish are dying after being caught. Why not let anglers keep some of them, rather than feed them to the seagulls?

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Enjoying a drive in the country

July 13, 2012

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Not many folks in the country live within walking distance of their church. Pete and Regina Poncelet are fortunate enough to enjoy this blessing.

After visiting with them this morning, I went on a drive up Highway 47 near Goodhue to see their church, St. Columbkill (pictured above). Because they share a pastor with two other churches, they only have one Mass on Sundays. Sometimes, they walk.

It’s hard not to envy people who are surrounded by this type of rural scenery every day. I make any excuse I can to get out into the country.

The Poncelets don’t have to. They can just go into the garage, get out their bikes and start riding. Sitting down with them and four of their five children (their oldest, Laura, is down in Miami where she is studying to be an architect), their wholesomeness was as easy to spot as the cornstalks in view out their back window.

Because both of our families have kids around the same age, we thought it would be fun to get together and compare notes on parenthood, faith and life. I enjoyed the discussion, not to mention the beautiful drive down Highway 52, with a detour  through Cannon Falls.

That area seems to have rebounded from the flooding a month ago. In fact, the Poncelets say that the whole region now could use some rain.

Fortunately, rain fell overnight and there was a sprinkle or two left as I drove down. With more forecast for tonight, I think farmers will be in good shape. The corn stalks I saw looked thick and green – and high! The old saying used to be “knee high by the Fourth of July.” It’s closer to chin high now.

One of the Poncelet children has taken a special interest in all things farming. Michael, about to turn 15, has wanted to be a farmer since he was a toddler. With both Pete and Regina having relatives who farm, Michael is getting plenty of opportunity. He seems very determined to do it for a living someday.

We need many more like him to keep farming going strong.  There aren’t as many small, family farms as there used to be, but the Poncelets noted that organic farms are now dotting the landscape and doing well.

I just hope the rural landscape stays unspoiled until long past Michael’s retirement!

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Here’s hoping the fires in Colorado Springs are put out soon!

June 29, 2012

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As I took my 3-mile walk last night, the sirens I heard as I neared Snelling Avenue brought my thoughts to Colorado Springs and the raging wildfires that have claimed one life and more than 300 homes.

My youngest brother Pat lives there with his wife Kara and four daughters, the youngest of whom is recovering from open heart surgery. As I turned around on Snelling to walk back home, I said a prayer for them. This morning, I followed up with a phone call to Pat, who assured me everything was OK for him, Kara and the girls.

That was nice to hear. I was able to respond with some good news of my own: I won two first-place awards at the annual Catholic Press Association convention, which took place last week in Indianapolis. The highlight is the awards banquet on Friday night. This is only the third time in 16 years I have made it to the convention, so it was nice to be able to make it this year.

Believe it or not, both of my firsts were in writing categories – best feature story and best sports story. The feature was about the Gross family and the loss of Michael and Anne’s teenage daughter, Teresa, to suicide. The other was a sports story about former NFL (and Vikings) quarterback Brooks Bollinger, who took over as head football coach at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood.

I know it may come as a surprise to some folks that I won two writing awards, but I actually have been a writer longer than I have been a photographer. I will continue doing both in my new role as senior content specialist in the archdiocese communications department, which officially begins next week. I enjoy my role of telling stories with words and pictures, and I’m very thankful that it will continue. May God continue to bless my work – and keep my brother and his family safe in Colorado Springs!

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Is there such a thing as too much technology?

June 4, 2012

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I read an interesting article in my current issue of Outdoor News yesterday. The topic was new technology in depth finders for fishing. With advanced GPS mapping and side viewing functions, anglers can see more and more detail in the water than ever before.

The author, a muskie fisherman, said how he used it to find a small rockpile on a point that went from 20 to 40 feet. Soon afterward, he learned that muskies related to this rockpile throughout the summer. That ultimately helped him catch more fish, which is the idea of these advancements in electronics.

Of course, such technology comes with a hefty price tag, which means that the high-end units likely won’t be mounted to my console anytime soon.

But, there’s a bigger reason why I am reluctant to employ such devices: I’m old-school when it comes to fishing. I got my start before flashers were even invented, and quite a few years went by before my Dad purchased the famous Lowrance “green box.”

I still have one of those units in my garage and may actually use it this summer. The most sophisticated device I have on my boat is a Vexilar flasher. An improvement over the Lowrance, but it does essentially the same thing.

Though the new technology would undoubtedly help me catch more fish, I’m not drawn to it like others are. I have always had a fascination with the underwater world, and a big part of the appeal was the mystique.

I remember looking down into the clear waters of Lake Koronis in Stearns County as a youth and wondering what finned creatures were cruising the depths. And, whenever someone in the boat had a fish on, I would peer over the gunwale straining for the first glimpse of whatever it was on the end of the line.

That’s what captivated me about fishing. Still does. I think, if I knew too much about what that underwater world looked like, it might take away the sense of awe and wonder that I’ve always had about it.

In other words, I think it’s possible to know too much about what’s going on in the depths below. That can take away the element of surprise – not knowing when or where a fish will strike. Playing this guessing game is a big part of the appeal for me.

Same goes for trail cameras used by hunters. I would rather not know that a particular buck walks down a certain trail between 8 and 9 a.m. every day. I like the element of surprise – and, good, old-fashioned scouting to help you determine where deer travel.

Besides, once the rut kicks in, the predictable late summer and early fall deer movement patterns fall apart anyway. And, that’s just the way I like it.

I know that declining the use of some of this high-tech gear means I may end up going home empty-handed from the field or the lake, but it also keeps alive the mystery of what’s lurking in the woods and waters.

And, it makes success that much sweeter!

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Memorial Day is more than just a holiday

May 25, 2012

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As I went on my 3-mile walk last night, I walked past an American flag at Cretin-Derham Hall High School, just a block from my home in St. Paul. I’m sure I’ve seen it before, but it caught my eye on this occasion.

It got me to thinking about Memorial Day. This particular day has special meaning for me in two ways: 1. My dad is a World War II vet; and, 2. My first wife, Jennifer, died on Memorial Day in 1995.

My thoughts – and emotions – vacillated between these two realities as I took my paces in the evening twilight. The month of May is always hard for me, and this was no exception. I found myself silently saluting those who have paid the ultimate price in military service. I’m glad my dad was not among them, or I wouldn’t be here.

Though Jennifer never served in the military, she is forever linked to this day for me. Perhaps, it’s fitting she died on Memorial Day. I believe she gave everything she had in being a nurse, mother and wife. Many people, myself included, consider her a hero for the way she tirelessly and fearlessly cared for the many cancer patients in her charge, during the time she worked as an oncology nurse. She treated them with respect and dignity, and was not afraid to ask them how they were preparing for death when that reality was imminent in their lives.

One story stands out. On our wedding day in February of 1990, she had invited a terminally ill teenager named Melanie to our wedding and reception. Melanie was a standout track athlete, and beautiful on top of that. Sadly, the cancer ravaged her body, and quickly. In just a matter of months, she wasted away to the point where she looked like a Jew in a Nazi concentration camp.

Amazingly, so close to death, she managed to come to our reception. Seeing her come into the hotel lobby, Jennifer rushed to greet her, seeming not to notice her gaunt condition. I, on the other hand, was taken aback by her appearance, and thought she might die right there in front of us.

Jennifer cheerfully embraced Melanie and thanked her for coming, as her mother stood somberly behind the wheelchair. After a few minutes, Jennifer leaned over to say goodbye. She said that she wasn’t coming back to work for another week, so she wanted to say goodbye.

She knew she would never see Melanie again, and was offering her final farewell.

Jennifer was right. Melanie died a few days later. I often wonder if the two have met in heaven. I know Jennifer is there. I hope Melanie is, too.

This will be a hard weekend for me, as it always is. But, as I like to tell people, it is not a grief without hope. So, as I prepare to shed the tears I always do on this weekend, I humbly ask for prayers. And, I offer this simple message to my dear, departed wife:

“Jennifer, I will always love you. I miss you, and look forward to seeing you again in the fullness of God’s Kingdom. I salute you and your dedicated service to the Lord and to all of those who suffered with cancer whom you lovingly ministered to throughout your nursing career. May you rest in peace.”

 

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