Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Finding the Good

 Welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday. On the first Thursday of each month we gather to share our insights. This month our focus is on virtues. 

As some of you know, I am #9 in a family of 10. Being one of the younger members, I have witnessed the death of a number of my siblings. This past month our number dwindled again, from six to five. Today I'd like to tell you about some virtues I noticed in the life of my oldest brother, Emil. 

Emil was a minister by calling, with special training in family systems and addiction issues. He was an avid fisherman, carver, cross country skier, poet, and story writer. His way was not easy. He had health issues for much of his life, and he had lost two sons and his wife.  

Emil was almost 20 when I came along, so he was chosen as one of my baptismal sponsors. He carved this little chickadee for me. Later, he wrote about seeing a chickadee at his window in the deep winter, and how it brought him hope.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

- Emily Dickinson

Emil always had a faithful outlook on life. He considered himself a peacemaker... a bridge builder... and when our family gathered he would ask that we put our differences behind us and enjoy being together. He provided leadership and courage, and our gatherings benefitted. 

I was amazed at Emil's endurance. I spoke with him a number of times while the senior residence was in total lockdown. He was completely isolated, unable to have any visitors, meals alone in his room. It was difficult for him, but didn't waste his time complaining. Instead, he found meaning in writing his memories and sharing them, reading, and contemplating life.

Emil was generous. For a number of years he invited family to his home in Wisconsin for a winter weekend ski-in. My gang attended just once, but the time we had together was wonderful. 

Emil and Judy, his wife, spent several weeks caring for my oldest sister, Margaret, when she was ill with cancer and her husband needed knee surgery. They cooked and cleaned and helped every way they could. What a labor of love!

I hardly remember a conversation with Emil that did not include a good laugh. He had a sense of humor and often saw humor that I would have missed, had he not pointed it out. 

Siblings see each other's weaknesses as well as strengths. We know the warts and foibles as well as glory and beauty. Yes, we had times of discord and impatience. That's only human. Through it all, we learned to love each other. Relationships take work, but it is good work, and work that I believe we are called to. A good model helps along the way, and I thank God for Emil and the good he upheld.

It is a great blessing when we can find virtue in others and have good models to follow. I hope you have good models in your life, and I wish you sweet and meaningful journeys.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

Blessings all...

PS: Please post your links in the comment section. I'll do my best to round them up, but we have severe weather here now, so in case I can't get online you can follow each other via comments.


  1. Karen, thank you. I feel your love for Emil in your words. What a tremendous brother to have in this life. You are fortunate. I'm sorry that he is gone from this life. What memories and legacy he has left. What virtues shine from your stories of him. I feel lucky to have met him in today's post.
    I've written about going back to school at A Word Edgewise. Here is my link:

  2. Karen, I'm so sorry that you lost your dear brother. But how wonderful that you have so many memories of what a virtuous man he was!

    Here's my post for today:

  3. Karen, I did not know that you were #9 of 10 children. I lost a sister and my only brother this past year and my sibling count went from 3 to 1.
    Your memories show how dearly loved and what a dear man your brother was. Thanks for sharing them with us.
    If you need a break from cares and worries, I highly recommend that you try to virtue of a walk in the woods.

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss of brother Emil. He sounds like a gem of a brother. I love that sweet chickadee. Thanks for sharing your brother's virtues. I am grateful for grace as I welcome my family into my home following Hurricane Ida.

  5. Karen, I enjoyed reading about Emil again today, as you wrote that lovely "Grief" poem about him before his death. My condolences to you and the rest of your family. What a handsome man with a beautiful spirit.

    I wrote about love today and prayer.

  6. Thank you, Karen, for suggesting this topic. I used your list of virtues as a guide to a new steppingstone for me. Your brother led such a virtuous life. Once again, I send my thoughts and prayers your way. May this tribute and your beautiful memories of Emil, allow peace to surround your family. My post on Virture is at

    1. I shall slowly make me rounds by tomorrow. I seem to be very tired tonight. I do look forward to reading what everyone wrote on this topic. May everyone find peace this Labor Day weekend and perhaps, I will see some of you on Poetry Friday.

  7. My condolences on your loss, Karen...and I can see why "virtues" are a perfect fit for what is in your heart. Thank you for sharing your brother with us. I had a hard time with this prompt, but writing through the difficulty brought me some peace tonight:

  8. Karen: My husband is a minister who has a degree in family systems...I kept thinking how much he'd have loved to meet Emil. I can imagine the hours they'd spend chatting! I am grateful for this encounter with your brother here. You so lovingly list his attributes, and that chickadee is such an uplifting reminder, so symbolic. Thank you for hosting. Writing my post took a lot out of me - here goes:

  9. Karen, I'm so sorry about the loss of your brother. What a wonderful and loving man he was! You've created a beautiful tribute here. May he rest in peace.