Living with Passion and Caring

by on August 27, 2014

SpaIt is August 27th as this post is being published.  That is a day that will always have significance in my life. That was the day that Jeanne Marie Marateo Calabrese died in 2006.  Jeanne was my wife, my friend, my inspiration and someone who taught me a number of life lessons, without really ever trying to do so. The way she lived her life, my time knowing her as her husband, still has a profound influence on how I live my life today.

When I think of Jeanne, I think of someone who once she committed to a project that was of interest to her, fully committed.  Most often, those projects were based on making something “an experience” in someone’s life.  It is ironic on the day I write this, my present wife Carolina, who continues to provide me different life lessons from Jeanne that help move my life forward, brought something to my attention that was typical Jeanne.

Carolina was bringing together a number of basic supplies for her Mom to send to a friend in Cuba. The friend had relayed how basic things we take for granted, just are not available to people easily.  One such item is pencils with which to write. After I married Carolina, and we cleaned out my previous home, one thing Carolina had brought from it was a big box full of pencils.  However, these were not just any pencils. There were pencils from my surprise 40th birthday party, (I’m 59 years old now), from Jeanne’s Aunt Ida’s 85th birthday celebration, pencils celebrating my nephew’s first communion, others devoted to fighting breast cancer. Even after leaving some pencils for us to keep as souvenirs, there were an enormous number to send to Cuba along with other basic supplies that Carolina was assembling.

In my time with Jeanne I not only remember celebrating parties with “little touches” that made the day special, but being remarried by an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas on our wedding anniversary because “it was a neat thing to do”.  Once committing to an idea, she fully researched it, looking for those added touches to make it special and get the most out of it one could. As I got to know her through our marriage, my surprise would start fading when an event came up and “the planning process” started. I knew there would be lists organizing things, visits to stores or to online sites to not only find the right things, (but also ones that had the best and most reasonable prices), and continued excitement as components for the event came together.  Friends in particular would be amazed and would comment to her and me how special she was. And, then privately to me she would say, “Why does everyone make such a big deal about me, this is just what I do.” I assured her, I knew that as her husband and the one who knew her better than anyone else, but many others just did not have the passion to put themselves into the things they did like she did.

The biggest lessons I learned from Jeanne were about putting passion into the things you do that you really enjoy. Complimenting that lesson was when the focus of your passion is on making things special for those around you, it actually increased your own good feelings about yourself. I also learned from her never take for granted the things you do or are experiencing yourself or with those close to you. When Jeanne’s illness led to her ultimate passing at 55 years old, while there was sadness and a major sense of loss, I knew that she had gotten more out of her 55 years, than many people get out of far more than that. And, while I know she would chastise me for writing this piece and making such a big deal about her, it is something I’m inspired to do, because the lessons her life taught me keep on giving.

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