Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic HeraldThursday, 15 November 2012 09:29
“Words are so powerful they should only be used to heal, to bless, and to prosper.”
Rose and Charlie Plotz, center, celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 1996 at St. James Parish Hall in Mukwonago, surrounded by family including their daughter, Elizabeth Rose Way, left, in flowered dress. (Submitted photo courtesy Elizabeth Rose Way)The wisdom from this Jewish proverb is the foundation of every word Elizabeth Rose Way writes.
“That ancient wisdom, about the power of our speech, is something I mention and promote at every opportunity,” she said.
Way is known for a weekly “Erma Bombeck-style” column titled, “The way it is … sometimes” that ran from 1997 to 2009. The column ran in Pennsylvania’s North East News-Journal and West County News-Journal and offered a glimpse into daily life as she and husband Robert raised two daughters and a son.
A Milwaukee native, Way grew up on Potters Lake in East Troy, where she belonged to St. James Parish, Mukwonago, attended the parish grade school, Catholic Memorial High School and Cardinal Stritch College. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music education, with a concentration in voice.
While in college, she met Robert on a blind date. After he completed service in the Army, they were married in Pewaukee in 1970, at the Schoenstatt Shrine, Chapel of Mary Virgin Thrice Blessed.
“Forty-two years later, I like to tell people that ‘we still take turns being blind,’” she joked. “This is how our marriage has survived, and it thrives – although, sometimes, it is also necessary to be deaf and mute, like the three monkeys: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”
The couple belongs to St. Gregory Thaumaturgus Parish in the Erie Diocese.
Way’s column grew with her children, 42, 41 and 33, who, she said, managed successful solo flights out of the cold northern family nest and appear contentedly settled in sunny southern trees.
Comfort through stories of loss
When her parents, Rose and Charlie Plotz, died in 2006 and 2007 respectively, laughter was relegated to the back burner. More than grief, she experienced moments of wonder and awe as others who offered comfort shared their own stories of loss.
“I listened and felt their overwhelming peace despite the depths of their grief,” she said, adding, “and I decided those stories needed a home, a place where they
If you want to read her book:
“And I Will Love You from Heaven” (2010)—ISBN: 978-1-4502-4756-6 by Elizabeth Rose Way is available at:Sincerely Yours Village Market Place 2888 Main Street East Troy, WI 53120
Or through Amazon.com,
Barnes & Noble Or IUniverse
could be remembered, retold and shared with others.”
Those stories were the backbone of “And I Will Love You From Heaven,” a book she wrote in 2010. The title reflects the words Way’s mother spoke to her before she died.
The book is a treasury of real-life experiences and cherished, unexpected moments that offer consolation and comfort for grieving hearts. One story speaks of the promise of everlasting life: “’I saw Dad last night,’ Patrick told his sister. It was an ordinary enough comment to make, except that Dad had been dead more than a year.”
“The stories I heard and wrote in the book range from seemingly ‘ordinary’ to supernatural,” Way explained. “Music, dreams, visions, someone’s touch, words, nature, especially rainbows, children, angels – all have a place in ‘And I Will Love You From Heaven.’”
Book helps her through another loss
The book offers hope to those treading the murky waters of death.
While writing it was cathartic for Way as she navigated her grief, she had no idea how much she would come to rely on her own words after receiving a devastating phone call on Feb. 15, 2012.
“My sister called with the news that our 53-year-old little brother was dead,” she said. “He had died most unexpectedly, in his sleep. She was called to identify his body.”
Eyes welling with tears, as she shared the pain of her loss, Way, grandmother of three girls, 4, 3 and 1, can still laugh as she recalled the outpouring of support from others, especially as they advised her to read, “this wonderful little book, called ‘And I Will Love You From Heaven.’”
Stories are ‘continual spring’
“There is a smidgeon of humor in this book, a great deal of gentleness and quiet lifting up,” said Way. “I tell audiences that I realize I wrote the book then so that the stories would have time to go deep, deep, deep inside me, to help me now. And they do. They are a continual spring, welling up, lifting me through the tremendous grief I am experiencing at my brother’s death, more and greater than I experienced with the deaths of my parents.”
In the book’s closing pages, Way quotes St. Catherine of Siena: “All the way to heaven is heaven.”
She also quotes from the Roman Catholic funeral rite: “Life is changed, not ended.” And she follows with a reflection:
The cover of the book Elizabeth Rose Waypublished following her parents’’ deaths in 2006 and 2007.“[The living] can respond to such change in two ways. We can embrace it and actively incorporate its lessons into our daily lives, or we can deny it and attempt to bury it in our psyche. These options can be likened to a sort of mental composting or to dumping. Just as physical garbage is turned into beneficial humus with the help of time, moisture, and physical labor, distressing events can be turned into interior strength with patience, tears, and attention. Or they can be ignored, tossed along the roadside of our consciousness, and left to rot, fester, and contaminate our emotional environment.
“…An opportunity comes [for us] to see with new eyes – to live more freely, fully, and faithfully in the psychological skin of our humanity. With a sharp, radical slap against the human heart, Death points us in the direction of what matter most – People, living in relationships that encourage, nurture, and honor one another’s lives.” (excerpted from “And I will Love You from Heaven.”)
Humor defines first publication
“And I Will Love You From Heaven,” is Way’s second publication; her first is a humorous book titled, “Love Every Minute of Moms,” published in 2004 after her mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 1999 and not expected to live much longer.
“When she was still alive at Christmas 2003, I figured if I was ever going to give her a copy of a book I’d written, I’d better get moving,” she said. “Easter 2004, I inscribed her copy of ‘Love Every Minute of Moms,’ hot off the presses. In the year before she died, she told me she always took it along to doctor appointments and treatments, where she would read sections over and over, sometimes sharing with others. And she was always so pleased to see them smile, hear them laugh and be able to tell them, ‘My daughter wrote it.’ Again, the power of words….”
Throughout her more than 800 columns, articles and personal correspondence, Way holds dear the reminders of those lives who have passed before her and the impact they had on her life.
Tribute from Bombeck’s husband
When Erma Bombeck died in 1996, Way wrote a tribute for her family. While she can’t recall the exact poem, she hoped that her words, dripped in her usual humor, would be encouraging to Erma’s husband Bill and their children.
“I can’t remember its title; it was a comparison of me to Erma – she the oak, me the sumac; she the ocean, me a mud puddle; her words bouncing and skipping, mine tripping and falling,” said Way.
“Months later, Bill sent a handwritten note to me. He said that I’d ‘turned the tables on Erma,’ and he mentioned her ‘self-effacing humor,’ comparing it to my correspondence. He thanked me for the ‘intriguing’ poem and sympathy that I had extended. …. more word power.”
Way dreams that as people read her work, something inside them vibrates with joy, strength and hope. She prays that they begin to see more deeply into themselves and will fall in love with the Creator-Redeemer-Comforter at the core of their being.
“When I write, I do not so much feel that I am sharing my faith as much as I feel that I am sharing the experience of being deeply loved, and also sharing the freedom that allows me to wrestle with the Holy One, the way Jacob wrestled at Peniel,” she explained. “And I think often of Flannery O’Connor’s words: ‘You … write the best you can … for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as he sees fit.’”