May 2001 Updates on

Mary Beth's Journey

 

The following page contains updates regarding Mary Beth's Journey for May of 2001.

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April - 01 / June - 01

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5-1-01

Happy May Day!  We had a wonderful sunny day for the luncheon to benefit Mary Beth's Angels Foundation.  We wish to thank all who were in attendance and those who supported the event even though they were unable to attend.  The generosity was truly abundant and the majority of the plants we had on hand were sold.  Sheila again had statuesque poise in addressing the attendees.  She spoke of Mary Beth's thrill when we informed her that we established a foundation to carry out her dreams of helping others.  Sheila expounded on MB's desire to help underprivileged children in the areas of homelessness, hunger, illness and education.  She also announced that we are establishing a scholarship fund at Saint Joseph's Academy for children who would not otherwise have the financial means to attend.  

She truly amazes me in how she is able to address a gathering and speak about Mary Beth's goals and dreams.  Each time she does it in my presence, I stand next to her for support.  But each time, she is the one supporting me as the tears stream down my cheeks.  Heidi and William were also present for support today and Barbie was unable to attend because of play practice.

We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Tina and Patrick McNulty for the generosity of hosting this event and opening their hearts and their home to all.  Their home was wonderfully presented inside and out.  And special thanks go to Bob and Joanie McNulty, Patrick's parents, for all the work and support they provided Tina and Patrick in preparation for this event at Nana's house.  I know that Mary Beth and Nana were sitting together watching over all of us today.  You could tell they were present by seeing all the smiles on everyone's faces.

God bless you,
Gerry

5-2-01

Today was a day of emotional ups and downs.  We received a package from Patrick Bick, a 1st grader at Our Lady of the Pillar.  In it was $100.00 for Mary Beth's Angels Foundation which Patrick collected in lieu of presents at his birthday party.  When he sent out his invitations he put an angel on some of them.  If an angel appeared on the invitation, he requested that they contribute $10 to benefit the foundation.  We are so blessed to have such support from such young people.  That was the up part of the day.

Tonight we ask you to pray for our dear friends, the Sansone family.  Peggy Sansone, the dear loving wife of Tony, Jr. and loving mother of Tony, Mike, Christine, Carrie, Deby, Nikki, and Lilly succumbed to severe depression today and went home to Jesus.  Peggy and the girls were the first people to appear at our door with food on the day Mary Beth died.  She was always smiling and loved spending time with her family above everything.  Tonight she is on her journey to God's kingdom and has joined the ranks of the angels that have arrived before her.  Some things are so difficult to understand that we simply do not try to comprehend.  This is one of those mysteries.  We can pray for Peggy and her family and offer support in the coming days, weeks, months and years to come.  We understand how important the prayers and support truly are.  We pray to Mary Beth to open her arms and welcome Peggy and look over the entire family.

God bless you,
Gerry

5-3-01

As I sit here, I am searching for words to say.  When you encounter a loss of a friend, it is difficult to express words of comfort to the family members.  This may sound strange from a person who has so recently been on the other side.  The most comforting thing that I can offer is a hug and a word of love.  But the most important thing I can do is pray and I ask that you do the same for the entire Sansone family.

God bless you,
Gerry

5-4-01

Being at Kriegshauser West Funeral Home this afternoon truly invoked the memories of the support and love we experienced in the same parlor room in January when our dearly beloved Mary Beth was being remembered.  There was such an outpouring of love then and now, it makes one appreciate the good there is in the world.  Please continue your prayers for the Sansone family today and everyday.  The power of prayer is the most significant force in the universe.

We are truly honored that Tony and his family have selected Mary Beth's Angels Foundation as one of two charities to receive memorials on behalf of Peggy.  Tomorrow will be a difficult day but it will be my privilege to serve as a pall bearer for our dear friend Peggy.  

God bless you,
Gerry

5-5-01

The most touching thing we have experienced in some time were the eulogies presented today by the Sansone children at their mother's funeral.  Their words were wonderful, their composure magnificent, and their love everlasting as they spoke of the love of their mom.  It is truly an honor to know these courageous children and see how mature they each are.  They are all obvious products of a loving environment in which they have been nurtured by their mom and dad.  The words Tony spoke at the grave site were inspiring.  He talked about his feelings of today which included joy and peace in knowing that his beautiful loving bride is with our Lord.

The love and support shown today enabled everyone to get through the day with a spirit of hope.  The challenge for the family will be to sustain this spirit in the coming days as their grief continues.  We ask for your prayers of strength so they may all remain as strong as they were today.

God bless you,
Gerry

5-6-01

On a daily basis we welcome "daughter number four" into our home.  Each and every day Gerilyn Goeddel pays a short or extended visit to see us.  It doesn't matter who is home because she just hangs out and checks up on whoever is present.  We are extremely proud of her most recent accomplishment.  She has been bestowed the honor as this year's recipient of the Sister Mary DePaul Award.  This award is presented to the member of the basketball team at St Joe who best exemplifies perseverance, strength and courage.  Gerilyn is especially touched to receive this honor because the first recipient of the award was Rachel Baumgartner.  

Rachel continues to demonstrate these attributes in her daily life.  She has spent some time in the hospital during the course of the past week and is gearing up to receive her stem cell transplant.  Please keep her and her family in the forefront of your prayers as she works her way to victory in her courageous battle.

God bless you,
Gerry

5-7-01

When Sheila was a guest lecturer at Saint Joe last month, she learned of a story which occurred this Spring to a Junior while working on a project.  The project entailed writing a paper on the culmination of Theology 209 this semester.  The student was using a variety of colored paper while printing her paper which was several pages in length.  One of the pages simply read: "Life is short, laugh hard!".  When this page printed out, it appeared on purple paper.  We have learned of similar intriguing events similar in nature from a vast array of people as they think about Mary Beth.  We smile and laugh each time we are blessed with one of these stories because we want to continue to carry out her personal motto.

God bless you,
Gerry

5-8-01

We experienced a very entertaining evening this evening by attending the Spring musical program at Our Lady of the Pillar as performed by the student body.  The lower grades were all dressed up like various animals of the jungle and were very cute.  The upper grades performed a variety of songs and did a wonderful job.  One of the songs performed by the 7th and 8th grade struck an emotional chord with me and my tear ducts.  When they started singing "All in All", the tears began to roll down my cheeks.  Those of you who had the opportunity to attend Mary Beth's glorious funeral mass will recall that this is the song courageously sung by Barbie and Gerilyn.  The tears tonight were those of pride and joy as I saw Barbie on stage and reflected on how poised and mature she was on the eve of her 14th birthday telling the world how special her sister is.

God bless you,
Gerry

5-9-01

As I was driving from Denver through the front range of eastern Colorado today I had a great deal of time to think about things, reflect on life, and view the scenic beauty of tumbleweeds and jackrabbits. Whenever the Rockies appear in sight, memories of family vacations come to mind of driving through them to Steamboat Springs for ski time.  As the aroma of feedlots penetrated the air conditioning system of my rental car, I recalled the family closeness of driving through western Kansas for the first ski trip.  It was 1994 and the five of us (pre-William days) stopped in Salina, KS to pick up Grandma and Grandpa Ricken.  When we arrived in Steamboat one of the things we did was snow mobile.  We entrusted Grandpa with our 8 year old Mary Beth.  We all had a blast, but this combo had the best time.  They took the wrong turn once when they were in the lead and got half of the group lost.  It wasnít until later in the day when we found out that they turned their snow mobile over twice in the open meadow and went flying through the snow.  We still laugh about this adventure and look forward to creating more Rocky Mountain memories.

God bless you,
Gerry

5-10-01

When Mother Teresa was living, she handed out cards to people she met.  The cards read: "The fruit of silence is PRAYER.  The fruit of prayer is FAITH.  The fruit of faith is LOVE.  The fruit of love is SERVICE.  The fruit of service is PEACE."  She referred to the cards as her "business cards."  She urges us to love each other as God loves us.  She reminds us that he wants us to love one another.  Mother Teresaís words are simple, direct, and without apology.  So is her path.  Let us all pray to strive to follow her simple yet powerful path.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/11/01

I just arrived in a hotel in Denver and pulled my boots off.  As soon as I did this, I remembered the first pair of cowboy boots we bought for Mary Beth.  She asked Sheila for them and promised that she would wear them a lot.  She was about four years old and they had some growing room in them.  She held to her promise for a lengthy time period then suddenly stopped wearing them. When asked by Sheila and me, she simply responded that she wanted to wear other shoes.  It wasnít until about a year after she stopped wearing them that we realized the true reason for the sudden change of heart.

Mary Beth shared a bedroom with Barbie in Overland Park and Barbie was a curious little sister.  It turned out that Mary Beth was using her cowboy boots as a special secret hiding place for the things she didnít want Barbie involved in.  She did not want to share this with us for fear that Barbie would find out.  We all had a good laugh about her secret hiding place.  Mary Beth had a way of making us laugh about the simple things in life.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/12/01

Tonight we hosted Heidi's 12th birthday party in which she invited the entire 6th grade class in addition to those former classmates who have left Pillar for other schools.  Trying to corral 24 6th graders certainly presented a challenge, so we unleashed them in two groups on a scavenger hunt throughout the neighborhood.  From all indications, they appeared to enjoy themselves.  One element of surprise as a control measure was the presence of our friend Barney Barry.  When the kids found out he was a Jesuit priest, they we a bit more reserved in their actions.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/13/01

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!

God bless you,
Gerry

5/14/01

We just returned from the Pillar 8th grade production of "Heidi".  All of the students did a remarkable job not missing a line or prompt in either the afternoon or evening performance.  As always, Mrs. Beth Barrere led another wonderful play through to perfection.  Barbie was the lead as Heidi and Heidi thought it was really cool that Barbie was Heidi.  William thought it was great that Barbie was Heidi as well and started calling Barbie, Heidi and Heidi, Barbie.  Confused?

The last few weeks of 8th grade are filled with fun activities and Barbie is enjoying them just as Mary Beth did last year.  This fall they will all be attending different high schools and will see each other less often.  On Wednesday, the 8th grade honors our Blessed Virgin during the May Crowning mass followed by the luncheon in which they share their thoughts about what Pillar means to them.  Get the tissues ready because my eyes are beginning to swell just thinking about closing this chapter of Barbie's life.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/15/01

Some people live their lives with a few close friends and some people have friends too numerous to count.  Mary Beth fit into the latter category, had several best friends and never knew a stranger.  She had one person, however, who she considered her very best friend.  Her name is Elizabeth Gelpi.  Elizabeth lived directly behind us in Overland Park and the two of them were inseparable until the day Mary Beth left us.  Even after we arrived in St Louis, they did a lot together and spent weeks together in the summer time.

Tonight, when I arrived home from a meeting, Elizabeth's dad Phil was at our house stopping by to visit while in town on business.  We spent a lot of time catching up on life and laughing.  It was so refreshing to sit down and talk about everything and solve all the problems of the world just like we used to do in our respective back yards.  If anyone ever needs advice, please join us for one of these sessions.  We may not solve anything, but we guaranty you will laugh until your stomach hurts.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/16/01 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY HEIDI!

Today was a very emotional and fun filled day.  Barbie and her 8th grade classmates celebrated the May Crowning mass by honoring our Blessed Virgin Mary.  Afterwards at the luncheon they reflected on their days a Pillar.  Multiple tears flows throughout the room and for me it was especially touching to hear the reflection of the difficult times.  All of the 14 girls and 3 boys looked like adults in their graduation dresses and coats and ties.  A vast departure from how they looked when we first met this group.

Today also marks birthday number 12 for Heidi.  She celebrated by attending the mass and luncheon and we are departing for a dinner venue of her choice.  As Barbie prepares for high school, Heidi moves on to 7th grade next.  They grow up so quickly it is amazing.  We strive to enjoy every moment we have because as the 70's song goes, ". . . you don't know what you've got 'til its gone."

God bless you,
Gerry

5/17/01

Shortly before her ascension from earth, Mary Beth said a special prayer for health for her newest cousin who is planned for arrival tomorrow morning.  She also prayed for a healthy heart for her cousin and "soon to be a big brother" Clayton Ricken and for his parents, Ken and Linda.  Clayton was born 17 months ago today and spent some of his first weeks in a pediatric hospital in Fort Worth where heart specialists focused on his heart arrhythmia problem.

We have praying to Mary Beth for a healthy delivery for Linda and our new little cousin/niece/nephew and are confident she will carry this message for us.  As you say your daily prayers today, we ask that mention this blessed event as well.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/18/01

Our prayers have been answered!  Jacob Henry Ricken appeared at around 11:45 this morning weighing in at 6 pounds, 13 ounces.  He has a healthy heart is very healthy all around.  Linda, his mom, is doing very well and is resting.  As of the time of this posting (1:09 PM), his big brother Clayton hasn't had the opportunity to see him yet but is very excited.  Ken is a very proud father and relieved to see Mom and son in good health.

When he phoned to inform me of the details, he told me about the sex, name and weight.  Since I have passed similar information on to Sheila in the past, I knew that I should also find out how long the he was.  After Ken told me the weight, I simply asked, "How long?"  His reply was, "About an hour."  The sense of humor, albeit weak at times, runs deep throughout the family.  I know that his oldest cousin is smiling on Jacob and will always look over him and his brother Clayton so they may enjoy a long and healthy life.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/19/01

Tonight we entrusted Will with the Sullivan twins, Danny and Bobby.  Barbie is at the Lake of the Ozarks and Heidi is spending the night a friends house, so we needed a baby sitter.  Since Will is predominantly surrounded by women in his life, we thought it was prudent that we sought male baby sitters.  As we understand from Bobby and Danny, they had a blast.  It will be interesting to hear Will's perspective on the evening tomorrow morning.  We are sure he will inform us that he will want the boys again.  Boys will be boys, but when we returned from dinner, the house was cleaner than it is typically when Will's sisters baby sit.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/20/01

This evening we enjoyed a short jaunt to south St Louis city for everyone's favorite summer treat - Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.  This delectable desert comes most often in the form of a concrete.  The true test is performed before it is handed to you.  The server turns it upside down to make sure it doesn't drip then hands it to you with a spoon for consumption.

When we left Ted Drewes, we stopped and bought some flowers then visited Mary Beth's grave at Resurrection Cemetery.  We shed some tears and said prayers for all of our departed relatives.  We asked Mary Beth for a special intention for an upcoming surgery.  We were just informed today that a 5th grade friend is having some brain surgery on June 7th to prevent restriction of her spinal fluid.  She is a wonderful young lady from a wonderful family.  I am not trying to be evasive, but I have not asked for permission to use her name.  Mary Beth's neurosurgeon, Dr. Park, will be performing the surgery.  He is known throughout the world as being one of the best, if not the best pediatric neurosurgeon.  We know that she will be in good hands and ask for all of you to ask our angel Mary Beth for a successful surgery and a life of health and happiness for her. 

God bless you,
Gerry

5/21/01

Just before the alarm sounded this morning at 6:00 AM, I was awakened by the lyrics from "All in All", the song Barbie and Gerilyn sang at Mary Beth's funeral.  It was being sung by William.  After listening for a moment, I began to get out of bed to walk to his room.  Before I could put my feet on the floor, he came running into our room and jumped on me with a huge smile.  Then he put his finger over his mouth and pointed at Mom so I would not awaken her.  We snuggled for a while and he provided lots of big hugs.  When I left for the shower, he deemed it appropriate to snuggle with Mom and kiss and hug her.  It is life's simple pleasures that are so enjoyable.  Savor them.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/22/01

Mr. Entertainment continues to perform for us.  This morning the first words we heard were the lyrics "We are party animals, we're going to paint the town."  Will was up to his singing before the alarm sounded.  This evening, when we were reading books in bed, he started blowing on his forearm making lovely noises as his lips and cheek vibrated against his arm.  Every time he did it, I waved my hand as if to redistribute the air in the room and we would laugh.  This continued and the goal of getting him settled down was diminished by my participation in the fun.  I asked him who taught him how to make those noises.  He simply laughed and replied, "Mary Beth".  

Life is short, laugh hard!

God bless you,
Gerry

5/23/01

Last Friday when Jacob was born, one of his aunts could not visit him because she was sick.  My sister Ann called our brother Ken to let him know that she would not be visiting because she was not feeling well.  He agreed that it was best that she stay away until she was not ill.  Today, she called him and told him that she still did not feel well but was coming to see them anyway.  Ken informed her that he did not want her getting anyone sick in his house.  She then informed him that she was not contagious and he certainly could not get what she has.  She announced to all of us today that she and Jim are expecting number four.

Our family continues to expand.  A word of advice - if you are visiting south central Kansas, don't drink the water.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/24/01

A couple of nights ago, Sheila and I had the privilege of attending a reception honoring Sister Nancy Folkl, principal and Sister Pam Harding, associate principal at St Joseph's Academy.  These two wonderful people are leaving St Joe after the current school year.  Both of them will take some well deserved time off before deciding which avenue to turn down in life's atlas.  Sheila had the opportunity of being taught by Sister Nancy starting in her sophomore year and had fond memories of days gone by.

Sisters Nancy and Pam have led the Angels of St Joe for some 20+ years and will be dearly missed.  It is not often that one has the chance to see the impact true leaders have.  We were blessed to experience this first hand during Mary Beth's illness and passing.  From the day MB applied to St Joe to the day we sent her to God, we all felt a part of the St Joe family.  The support and love we experienced from every student, staff and faculty member was immeasurable and is a tribute to the leadership shown by these two outstanding ladies.  We know that the motto, "Not I, but we" will live on through the continued leadership of Sister Joan Lampton.  And we will forever be thankful for Sister Nancy and Sister Pam's contribution to our lives and for their friendship. 

God bless you,
Gerry

5/25/01

Today was truly a proud day for Sheila and I as we attended the prayer service this morning at Pillar to kick off the annual three team competition of OLP Field Day.  Part of this event, includes a class vote for the young man and young lady in the class that best exemplifies sportsmanship in the actions they display in their daily lives.  Barbie was awarded this distinction by her peers today.  She was joined on the altar by Matt Baumgartner as the other representative from 8th grade.  We are very proud of these two and the other recipients who stood in front of all assembled today.

Barbie joined her sisters, Mary Beth and Heidi, in receiving this honor.  It is considered the highest honor one can achieve at Our Lady of the Pillar because it is awarded by one's peers.  We have several years to see if we can make it four for four with Will starting kindergarten in the Fall of 2002.  Have a great holiday weekend.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/26/01

Just after 10:30 PM Will fell asleep after a long day which started at 7:30 this morning with a memorial mass held outside at the St Anthony Cemetery in my home town of Garden Plain, KS.  This mass kicked off the weekend centennial celebration of St Anthony's parish.  He had a lot of fun collecting candy thrown from the parade, petting all the farm animals, riding the pony, playing the games and playing with his cousins.  Heidi is also with me and the true highlight of her day was holding her newest cousin Jacob.  Sheila and Barbie stayed close to home to prepare for graduation and attend various 8th grade get-togethers.  I have seen a lot of people I have not seen in several years.  Many who expressed their thoughts and prayers on Mary Beth.

This evening the three of us attended a mass for Mary Beth at St Elizabeth Ann Seaton parish in Wichita.  When Father prayed for her, the tears streamed down Heidi's cheeks and mine as I held Will who was fast asleep in my arms.  As I looked at my sister Donna, I noticed that she did not have dry eyes either.  It was a beautiful mass and was very heartwarming to speak with Father and the parishioners who have prayed and continue to pray for MB and our family.  One of them is Jean Pauly, with whom I graduated 25 years ago.  We had a good cry together.  Days like today continue to amaze us as to how Mary Beth has touched so many.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/27/01

Today was the final day of festivities for the centennial celebration of St Anthony's with the day starting off with an outdoor mass celebrated by Bishops Gerber and Olmstead and Father Allen and several other priests.  The mass was as beautiful as the morning.  At about 3:30 PM, the weather changed like it often does this time of year as intense storms blew across the plains.  Strong winds, hail, and rain appeared as our extended family gathered at Grandma and Grandpa Ricken's home.  Jacob was the centerpiece of attention as we all fought for time holding him.

When Mary Beth, Barbie and Heidi were young, they would plan and perform a production for the adults at gatherings like today's.  We know Mary Beth was smiling today as her brother Will and his cousin Hallie (age 6) led the entertainment this evening.  There were jokes and skits as well as some tumbling.  All of the cousins participated and laughed their way through the performance.  It is amazing to see the development of all the cousins, especially since us parents never get any older!

God bless you,
Gerry

5/28/01

After a short 7 hour trip back to St Louis today, we enjoyed a family meal together and discussed the events of the weekend.  As soon as we drove into Chaminade Park, William exclaimed, "I'm not homesick anymore!"  He had been missing his Mom over the weekend and couldn't wait to have her snuggle up to him in bed for story time.  Before we reached that point, we took a jaunt to visit Mary Beth, Aunt Joanie, Aunt Mary Beth, and all of our other relatives at Resurrection Cemetery.  After placing some yellow roses and little purple flowers on their graves, William said he was going to give Mary Beth a big hug.

He threw himself to the ground and started rolling around on the new grass telling us that he was hugging his sissy.  He proceeded to give his Aunts Joanie and Mary Beth similar hugs as well.  We all laughed then cried as we prayed hand in hand before heading off to Ted Drewes.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/29/01

Tonight was an evening of cheers and tears as we all attended Barbie's 8th grade graduation.  It was a special event with the class being featured in a slide show, performing a live rendition of "That's What Friends are For" and each being recognized for their achievements and receiving their diplomas.  Heidi served the graduation mass just as she did for Mary Beth last year.  All of Barbie's grandparents were in attendance as well as Uncle Michael, Aunt Cathy, Lauren, Liza, and Jessica Kohn.  William was running on fumes most of the day until his tank ran completely out just before mass started.  He fell into a deep sleep and was even snoring loudly during part of the celebration.  As the graduates were proceeding down the aisle after mass, he woke up ready to party.

He partied with the 8th graders and their families at a local restaurant before falling to sleep for the night at about 11:00 PM on the drive home.  The 8th graders were all smiles as they anticipated this day for a long time.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/30/01

It didn't take Barbie long to make the transition to St. Joe.  Just last night she was having fun with all of her 8th grade friends after graduation.  Tonight when I saw her after work, she was in sweats adorned with the St. Joe logo and she was off to swim team practice.  Heidi is already focused on 7th grade with a field trip tomorrow and a half day of school on Friday.  William is having fun with his sisters tormenting them one minute, then hugging and kissing them the next.  Summer in the Ricken household is about to get into full swing.

God bless you,
Gerry

5/31/01

In preparing Barbie's half page dedication in the Pillar yearbook tonight, I had the chance to peruse several pictures Sheila had selected.  Tears welled up as I saw the picture of Barbie and Mary Beth on the first day of preschool when Barbie was three and Mary Beth was four.  In some ways it seems like it was yesterday, but as I look at the gray temples in the mirror, I realize it was a few more days ago than one.  Her nine years of grade school flew by and she really enjoyed them.  There were the hard times when she really didn't feel like going to school but she toughed it out and faced the challenge.  The support she felt from her peers, teachers and her peers' families helped in ways that are immeasurable.  We want to say "Thank you for your support shown Barbie, Heidi and William this school year to all of you."  We could not have made it without you.

God bless you,
Gerry

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