Mondays with Mike: The Saints Go Marching In, and On

June 30, 2014 • Posted in baseball, Flo, Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, Uncategorized, writing by

This past Saturday was out of the ordinary in no small way. To start, I went to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Me. Mike Knezovich, lifelong White Sox fan. I went because our good friend Denny Wills has season tickets this year, and he’s not a casual fan—he’s a supremely knowledgeable baseball fan who happens to also be a Cub fan. So it was an opportunity to watch a game, drink beer, and completely geek out on baseball talk without apology.

Early in the game, I sensed the flutter of insect wings to my right. But for some reason, I didn’t shoo whatever it was away. It landed on me above my right knee. It was a beautiful monarch butterfly. In the second deck of Wrigley field between home and first base. On my leg.Monarch

It flapped its wings, and turned and stared straight at me. I motioned to Denny to check it out. His eyes got big. The butterfly sat and stared at me for several batters. Denny, who is about the least sentimental person I know, turned to me and said, “Do you think it’s Beth’s mom?”

Which brings me to the other extraordinary thing about this past Saturday: It was the day after Beth’s mom’s funeral. Flo, after a series of maladies and hospitalizations and things that just go along with being 98 years old, died on Friday, June 20. So last week was consumed by grieving and ceremony.

What to say? Nothing covers this. Which is probably why we rely on ritual and ceremony to get through the first difficult days. They give us things to do. Places to be. And people to be with.

Beth and her sisters Cheryl (who has been on the front line of caregiving along with her children Janet and Ben), Beverle and Marilee got together weeks ago to begin planning the funeral. And they made a lot of really, really good and thoughtful decisions. One of them was to ask their brother Doug, an accomplished trombonist, to put together a traditional jazz combo for the event.

Flo was a fan of that music, and so are her children. So last Friday, when Beth and I arrived, we found the musicians warming up and otherwise preparing in the church kitchen. It was a wonderful start on a difficult day.

They played as people arrived for the hour visitation before the ceremony. To be honest, I can’t remember the songs they played as friends and family gathered. I just know that they struck the perfect balance of reverence and celebration.

During the program, when Doug rose with a solo on “Just A Closer Walk with Thee,” well, I know there was not a dry eye in the house, and I don’t recall ever hearing a more pure or appropriate sound. It was perfect.

The ceremony was a mix of biblical reading, prayer, music—and recollections from family members. It was telling that the four folks called upon to speak were in-laws or step-children. Flo was truly beloved.

As the ceremony ended, the band broke into a rousing rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching in,” which was one of Flo’s all-time favorites.

After a short service at the cemetery, we reconvened for lunch, and it was crystal clear from the conversations and memory-swapping that the ceremony had served us and Flo well. It brought home that somehow, a modest soft-spoken person had touched, for the better, countless disparate lives. All without a college degree or a big title or big bank account or even a Facebook page. Her default mode was to think the best of people until proven wrong. And even then, she didn’t hold to grievance. She was beautifully and boringly consistent in her routines, in her kindnesses, and in her dignity and grace.

There are days when reading the news or just getting through the workday makes me fear for how awfully we can treat one another. And I wonder what we can do about that. From now on, I’ll try to remember what Flo taught me: that the one thing we can control, maybe the only thing, is how we behave and how we treat other people. Thank you Flo, for reminding those who knew you, every day of your life, of that simple truth.

And so, on Saturday, as I got ready for the game, I resisted the temptation to wear my White Sox World Series cap. I will confess to putting on my White Sox t-shirt (to protect against Cub cooties), but I covered it with a buttondown shirt. I didn’t need to aggravate the Cub faithful any more than their team is doing these days.

And I had a wonderful time. As for the butterfly, all I can say is: Flo loved flowers, and she loved bright colors. Who’s to say it wasn’t her?

Catherine Rategan On June 30, 2014 at 8:16 am

Wonderful writing, Mike. Congratulations.

Darlene On June 30, 2014 at 8:16 am

Mike, that is such a beautiful and touching story. Flo sounds likes he was a very special Mom. The butterfyl was a special Godwink to you. That is very special… Please know my thoughts and prayers are with Beth, you and your family during this difficult time. Darlene

Darlene On June 30, 2014 at 8:20 am

Mike, I am sorry for the typo for some reason the she came out as he. I tried to correct it but it sent out already.

Pick On June 30, 2014 at 8:29 am

Ok, you know I love your and Beth’s posts, and I have told you many times what a good writer you are, but WHOA, this one really got me…on several levels. I have thought a lot about Flo in the past few days, and was sorry I couldn’t be there to say goodbye and spend time with her wonderful family. I would love to have heard the tributes that were made on her behalf and the inspirational music that was played. I can picture Flo tapping her foot, clapping her hands and joining in singing “When the Saints go marching in.” I don’t know how people manage to pull it together to speak at such events (I simply resort to my blubbering, emotional, gushing self), but your column is a glowing tribute to a beautiful soul and the butterfly is undoubtedly Flo’s nod of thanks for all the love and support you have shown to her and Beth over the years. Love ya,

Carolyn Alessio On June 30, 2014 at 8:31 am

Mike and Beth I am so sorry about your lovely and Inspiring mother. I think of her at times and I never even met her in person but Through your lively descriptions We would love to see u guys this summer Abrazos Carolyn and company

Sent from my iPhone

Doug On June 30, 2014 at 8:46 am

Thanks, Mike. So wonderfully said.

Don Horvath On June 30, 2014 at 8:47 am

Mike: That was an excellent post. You have my condolences and please extend my condolences to Beth and her family. You obviously loved Flo and though I have never met her, I feel I know her through Beth’s many posts and your eulogy is one of the most touching I have read for any person. Let’s hope she also travels about 9 miles south to watch our favorite team.


Brad On June 30, 2014 at 9:28 am

A wonderful column, Mike, combining so much of the joy and sorrow of a difficult week. Thanks for sharing these feelings with all of us. As always, my warmest thoughts are with you and Beth. Brad

Hava Hegenbarth On June 30, 2014 at 9:50 am

Beautifully written Mike. And condolences to you and Beth on the loss of Flo. From what you and Beth have written about her. I can tell she was very special.

Sandra On June 30, 2014 at 9:54 am

Hi Beth and Mike,

I’m so sorry to hear about Flo’s passing. I never met her but by reading your and Beth’s posts I could tell she was a kind, energetic and hard working woman. My thoughts are with you all..

reneputz On June 30, 2014 at 10:24 am

Mike and Beth,

Our condolences to you both. This was a beautiful post. I absolutely believe in those quirky signs like the butterfly. You had to go all the way to Wrigley to receive it 🙂 Our thoughts are with both of you.
xoxo Rene and Chuck

Jenny Fischer On June 30, 2014 at 11:35 am

Beth and Mike – So stunned to hear of Flo’s passing – it seemed like she was one of the truly immortals. but – it sounds like she truly is – what wonderful things I learned from both of you about all she taught you and the way that she celebrated her life – I am so sad for you to have lost that presence – my thoughts are with you and the entire Finke clan!
Love, Jenny

pattibrehler On June 30, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Beautiful post. Our sincere condolences to Beth and you and the rest of Flo’s loved ones. Thank you for sharing.

Bev On June 30, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I had a similar ‘butterfly’ experience I’ll share with you in person lest your readers think the entire family has gone bonkers! Beautiful tribute. Thank you.

Hank On June 30, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Nicely done, Mike!

Karen Graham On July 1, 2014 at 7:10 am


Mike On July 1, 2014 at 10:32 am

Thanks everyone for the condolences, thoughtful responses, and kind words.

Marilee On July 1, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Beautiful! I definitely think that was Flo – she had to touch you to make sure that was really you at a Cubs game! Thank you for writing and sharing.

Bobbie On July 1, 2014 at 2:51 pm

It was truly a beautiful ceremony for Flo on Friday! She was one of the kindest people I’ve known in my life and the music and tributes were very touching. She will be missed, but the Finke clan and those of us who were touched by Flo will carry on her message.

Lori On July 3, 2014 at 8:19 am

Reading your blog for the so long now, I knew this time would eventually come and I feared too soon since reading that Flo was having health problems. Thank you for sharing so much about her. It seems like a bit of a loss to me as well. Thinking of you and your family in your time of grief.

NICOLE On July 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm

oh Beth (and Mike) I just read this, I am so so sorry for your loss. I just had the strange realization that I never actually met Flo (right?)
thank you for writing about her so often, what a beautiful entertaining and incredible human.

Deborah Darsie On July 6, 2014 at 12:12 am

I am so sorry to hear about Flo’s passing. I know from reading Mike’s post tonight and all the other Flo references that she was an amazing lady.
Be well…pass along my sympathies to her family and yours.

ojdohertyJenny On July 11, 2014 at 11:16 am

So sorry to hear this. She sounded like an extraordinary woman.

bethfinke On July 11, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Oh, she was. Thank you for your condolences, Jen.

Charlene On July 22, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Beautiful blog! I really love reading your blogs. Hi Mike & Beth ( your biggest fan)

bethfinke On July 23, 2014 at 5:32 am

So good to hear from you, Charlene, and so nice to hear you like the blog posts Mike and I write — I was worried I might lose track of you now that you-know-who is retiring, so it’s especially good to know you’re out there. And you are so right: this post Mike wrote is especially beautiful, isn’t it?

She’s 98 in dog years | Safe & Sound blog On September 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm

[…] Our sensational sister Cheryl was there to visit Flo every single day for the past couple years, whether Flo was still living alone in her condo, or in the hospital, or in a rehab facility. Cheryl went with Flo to doctor visits, she helped Flo with paperwork, and she was there with her kids and grandchildren at Flo’s side the day she died. […]

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