To paraphrase Art Linkletter in his old-time television show, Kids say the darndest things, humor can be found in the darndest places. I received this e-mail recently from a lovely retired couple in Florida that migrated from North to South, legally of course, leaving the winters of Ohio and fleeing for the flora and fauna of Florida, going from icicles to iguanas, from shoveling snow to seeking shade, and apparently living and loving every minute of life in the sunshine state.
I freely admit, with not a smidgen of shame, that I took a few liberties with the original e-mail and in my not-so-humble opinion I approved it immeasurably. In the original e-mail, for example, the bagpipe player said he felt badly about being too late for the graveside services.
No, no, no, never—not no, but hell no! If one feels badly, then one has a deficiency in one’s ability to feel, to exercise the tactile sense of touch. Consider this: Does anyone ever say that they felt goodly about anything? No, they say they felt good, not goodly, about whatever the feeling was that generated how they felt. There were numerous other improvements involving wayward commas, failure to capitalize when needed, attempts to reflect regional dialects of Kentucky and redundant terms such as like I’ve never played before—the word never does not need before.
I rest my case, and I now offer the edited e-mail:
Bagpipes at a funeral . . .
As a bagpiper I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. The departed had no family or friends, and the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in rural Kentucky. I was not familiar with the backwoods and got lost, and being a typical man I didn’t stop for directions.
I finally arrived an hour late and saw that the funeral workers were gone, and the hearse was nowhere in sight. Only the diggers and their equipment remained, and the men were eating lunch in the shade of a nearby tree.
I felt bad about being too late for the ceremony and I apologized to the workers. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and saw that the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.
The workers put down their lunches and gathered around with their hardhats in hand. I played my heart and soul out for that man with no family and no friends. I played for that homeless man like I’ve never played for anyone.
I played Amazing Grace, and as I played the workers began to weep. They wept and I wept, and we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.
As I opened the door to my car I heard one of the workers say, I have never seen or heard of anything like that, and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.
Apparently I was still lost—it must be a man thing.
Postscript: The internet offers several versions of this story by different bloggers—none are better than this one and some, while not necessarily worse, are not as good as this one—take your pick.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: amzing grace, art linkletter, bagpiper, cemetery, director, Florida, funeral, gigs, graveside, humor couple, icles, iguanas, kentucky, kids, octogenarians, Ohio, pauper's, shade, snow, sunshine state, tactile, touch, tree, vault
Special note to the reader: In this posting and in many others on my blog, you will find considerable details concerning disease and medical treatment over a period of many years, and considerable information on personal feelings. Please understand that my postings on WordPress form at least a semblance of an autobiography—they are written and presented primarily as a sort of history for my three daughters. WordPress offers an outlet for me to say those things that are very difficult for me to express, but as an autobiography I am able to achieve far more depth than in face-to-face interviews with my children. Everything I write has, at the very least, a nucleus of truth to hold it together, sometimes a bit embellished but always based on facts. I tend to ramble, but with care my readers should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
This posting closes with a poem, poignant in its message but untitled by the author. Had I written the poem I would have given it the same title I used for this posting: Don’t leave me alone.
In late 1999 Janie—my wife, my love, my life—was diagnosed with Stage Two ovarian cancer. She was 68 years old at the time, and although the statistics for survival were not in her favor she refused to bow to the disease, but continued living and loving life for eleven more years. The photo at right was taken in the fall of 1983 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. We celebrated her 52nd birthday in December of that year.
Her life was dramatically changed following the diagnosis, of course. She embarked on an eleven year journey, a grueling period punctuated with several major invasive surgeries requiring lengthy hospital stays, several rounds of chemotherapy, numerous X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, blood draws, urine samples, frequent physical exams, trips to emergency rooms and brief hospital stays.
Throughout those years she held steadfast to her faith, enjoying life and considering each return of the disease comparable to the speed bumps found on city streets, each simply requiring a brief slow-down and then a return to normal speed, a return to living life and loving it. During periods of remission she frequently voiced her pleasure with life, saying “We have a good life.”
Seven years after the initial diagnosis of cancer and successfully holding the beast at bay, she was diagnosed with kidney disease, a complication probably caused mostly by the several series of chemotherapy she endured. The kidney disease progressed and she eventually required dialysis, a treatment that necessitated several more surgeries to place access ports for the dialysis needles, first in the chest while access in her arm was maturing.
My wife of 58 years, the mother of our three daughters, died at 9:15 PM on November 18, 2010 from complications of ovarian cancer and renal failure. We would have completed our fifty-eighth wedding anniversary just 25 days later on 13 December, and she would have celebrated her seventy-ninth birthday on the twenty-sixth day of December, one day after Christmas.
The eighteenth day of this month will mark the sixth month since she died, and the grief I feel—the loneliness, the heartache and the miserable feeling of being alone has flowed and ebbed with the tides of time. My daughters and friends have been stalwart pillars of support, even though rebuffed in those numerous instances in which my pity party was in full swing—and to my shame I admit that many times I have lashed out at them, desperately seeking someone or something on which to place the blame, or at least to share the blame with me.
I am constantly advised to remember all the good things I’ve done over the years, but I seem to be stuck in the ultimate low gear of self-blame. During my years of being gainfully employed I frequently spent long periods away from home, traveling all over the United States and other countries, and no matter how hard I tried I remembered all the things that I had done wrong and all the things that I should have done but failed to do. I’m reasonably certain that good things happened, but I had difficulty focusing on them, and now that I’m alone I’m still stuck in the same low gear.
I know, I know. There is a saying which tells us that one who represents one’s self in court has a fool for a lawyer. That same bromide can be applied to most attempts at self-analysis—in such situations one cannot see the forest for the trees, and ultimately help must come from someone looking in from outside the forest.
A hoary joke involves a drunk hurrying home late in the night, and in crossing his front yard he walks into a tree, the only one on the lot. He makes several attempts but runs into the tree each time. On the ground and stunned, he is heard to mumble, “Well, I may as well face it—I’m lost in a thick forest.”
In many ways I am like that drunk, although I am a teetotaler. I am lost in a thick forest of self-analysis and self-pity, frantically seeking someone to blame for anything and everything. Impractical and patently unfair, but it involves something psychiatrists term projection—we tend to project our faults into others, and then we criticize them rather than criticizing ourselves.
My neighbors to the west have been tremendously supportive during this transition period. The lady of the house recommended several online locations that she felt might help me in overcoming grief, or at the very least might help me learn to live with grief. All were helpful but one towered over the rest.
The following poem concludes a lengthy contribution to the Living With Loss magazine. I feel that in her poem the author gives sage advice that can apply to any grief situation, including mine.
From the introduction to the author’s essay: “. . . . although its subject matter is the loss of a child, it reveals commonality in grief such as the changes in the way survivors view the world and in the way the world views survivors, regardless of the loss.” Click here to read the complete essay and be warned—have a plentiful supply of tissues ready!
This is the author’s untitled poem:
Don’t tell me that you understand,
Don’t tell me that you know.
Don’t tell me that I will survive,
How I will surely grow.
Don’t tell me this is just a test,
That I am truly blessed,
That I am chosen for this task,
Apart from all the rest.
Don’t come at me with answers
That can only come from me,
Don’t tell me how my grief will pass
That I will soon be free.
Don’t stand in pious judgment
Of the bonds I must untie,
Don’t tell me how to suffer,
And don’t tell me how to cry.
My life is filled with selfishness,
My pain is all I see,
But I need you, I need your love,
Accept me in my ups and downs,
I need someone to share,
Just hold my hand and let me cry,
And say, “My friend, I care.”
Joanetta Hendel, author
Living With Loss Magazine
Bereavement Publications, Inc.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: autobiography, blame, bromide, cet, chaff, chemotherapy, disease, forest, heartache, hoary, joke, kidney disease, message, mue, nucleus, outlet, ovarian cancer, pet, poem, renal failure, self-analysis, speed bump, stalwart, teetotaler, truth, wheat, x-rays
You, the reader, are about to be subjected to reading two odes, the results of my abject attempt at writing poetry. I apologize in advance to those that dislike doggerel masquerading as legitimate verse. And for the multitude that may not be familiar with the term doggerel, I tender the following doggerel attributes described by Wikipedia:
Doggerel might have any or all of the following failings: trite, cliché, or overly sentimental content, forced or imprecise rhymes, faulty meter, ordering of words to force correct meter, trivial subject, or inept handling of subject.
My poetry—and I use the term loosely—probably includes all those attributes, and poet laureates throughout history would probably wince if subjected to a reading of my efforts. However, if their wince meter measured humility, earnestness, love and forgivingness the indicator would go off scale in my favor.
Well, okay, I’ll back off a bit on the humility part. Hey, I’m a wannabe poet and let’s face it—even poet laureates had to start somewhere.
Ode to Janie
Your life has run its course
And now you have gone
To heaven as your just reward
And left me here alone.
I sail the seas without a mate
In weather foul and fair
But I fear the ship will founder
With my mate not being there.
And if the ship goes under
In life’s unruly sea
I’ll closely hold your loving words
That were I’ll wait for thee.
Ode to Janie and to everyone else
No one lives forever
At least not in this realm
And at best we’ll have a long life
With our Maker at the helm.
And when our life is over
And a new life has begun
Be it in that world of gladness
That waits for everyone.
But only if our time on earth
Is spent on doing good
Will we go to spend eternity
In that heavenly neighborhood.
That’s my Ode to Janie and my Ode to everyone else, and I’m sticking to both.
Postscript: When you, the reader, have recovered from exposure to this posting, click here to read my Ode to a Cheesecake, an excellent example of contemporary verse—oh, and it’s also an excellent example of doggerel. Hey, I do the best I can with what I have to work with.
Yes, I know, I ended that last sentence with a preposition—to paraphrase the words of Sir Winston Churchill, that is something with which you will have to up with put.
Tags: cheesecake, Churchill, cliche, doggerel, eternity, founder, healm, heaven, humility, laureates, life, mate, meter, neighborhood, odes, poem, poems, realm, sea, trite, verse, weather, wife, winston churchill
Recently various television news outlets discussed the existence of hell, noting that if heaven exists but hell does not, then everyone that dies must go to heaven. I submit that if a person believes in heaven, then that person must believe in hell. One cannot exist without the other. Heaven exists in the minds and beliefs of people, and hell exists in their minds and beliefs just as surely as does heaven. I am pleased with the way heaven is presented but I really dislike the current description of hell, and I believe I have a more acceptable vision of hell—if it exists!
Everything in our universe and everything outside our universe has its opposite. One cannot exist without the other. Form an image of a mountain in your thoughts, and you’ll find that a valley is included in the image. No mountain can exist, either in reality or in our thoughts, without the existence of a valley. Mountains and valleys must coexist if either is to exist, and while their existence can be verified, it cannot be falsified, and it is at this point their existence diverges from the discussion of whether heaven or hell exists.
I submit that heaven and hell also must coexist or not exist at all. We can cling to our belief that one or the other or both exist, but we can never know—we can only believe. True knowledge is reserved to those for whom life as we know it has ended, and they now exist in another world, either in heaven or hell if either exists. Their existence can neither be verified nor falsified by anyone living. Their existence depends on our beliefs, whether those beliefs are derived from the Scriptures or from our lifetime of living and observing humanity.
Just for discussion, let’s suppose that heaven is exactly as described in the Scriptures and that hell is not as described. Perhaps hell does not exist. Perhaps those not entitled to spend eternity in heaven do not go to hell when they die. Let’s suppose that the wicked have already been judged when they die—prejudged, so to speak—and they simply do not go anywhere. Their spirits do not go to heaven when they die—their spirit, their souls, that which gave them life simply cease to exist, and perhaps that is the hell foretold in the scriptures.
Let’s suppose that the spirit that exists in those of us who have been judged unacceptable in heaven dies when the body dies and remains dead through eternity. Our being barred from heaven therefore is our punishment for living our lives in such a manner that we did not qualify for heaven. Of course those of us that do not make the grade will never know that we failed, but we will have been spared an eternity doing the devil’s bidding while enveloped in flames and forced to shovel coal to keep the fires burning. Bummer!
Thus we have postulated a heaven and its antithesis, hell, without the necessity of describing hell as fire and brimstone ruled by a red devil with horns and a pitchfork tail. If the truth be known, had it not been for volcanic eruptions the ancients would never have developed the idea of hell, then invented the devil and located his kingdom at the center of the earth.
In all of recorded history only one person has returned to the earth after death, and the truth of that record resides in us as individuals. We can neither verify nor falsify that story of life after death, and can never know the truth of that return until we draw our final breath—until then we can only believe and hold to that belief in the hopes that heaven does exist and that our beliefs and our actions in this life will qualify us to spend eternity in heaven—not an easy task, that! And the beauty of my hypothesis is that even if we are denied entry into heaven, we will never know that we were denied because we would spend eternity in the nothingness of hell.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Postscript: This final image is my self-portrait from some five months ago, but as time has passed my anger has faded to the point that I no longer try to place blame on anyone or anything. I no longer fault God for not giving her doctors the power to lengthen her life, and I no longer curse the devil for the disease that took my wife away from me—even after 58 years of marriage I wanted more—I wanted our marriage to never end. If you like, you can click here for a posting that came from my heart and from the depths of my soul.
Tags: breath, brimstone, coal, devil, doctors wife, eternity, existence, fire, God, heart, heaven, hell, humanity, kingdom, knowledge, life, marriage, mountain, scriptures, self-portrait, shovel, soul, spirits, Television, universe, valley, world
The “statistics” that follow were in an e-mail that I received several years ago. Somehow the e-mail survived the ravages of time and at least one hard drive failure, and I believe its survival is a message for me to share its message to my readers. Hey, some of the stuff may even be true. However, I challenge the statement that a T-bone steak placed in a bowl of Coke will be gone in two days. If it were cooked medium well before being placed in the bowl and I were in proximity to the bowl, the steak would be gone in 15 minutes or less, depending on size.
75% percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. That likely applies to half the world’s population.
Even mild dehydration will slow down one’s metabolism as much as 3%.
In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is mistaken for hunger.
One glass of water will shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters studied in a University of Washington study.
Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.
Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on a computer screen or on a printed page.
Are you drinking the amount of water you should drink every day? Drinking five glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.
In many states the highway patrol cars carry two gallons of Coke in the trunk to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.
You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of Coke and it will be gone in two days
To clean a toilet, pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl and let the “real thing” sit for one hour, then flush clean. The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous China.
To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers, rub the bumper with a rumpled-up piece of aluminum foil dipped in Coca-Cola. (Note: The aluminum foil will do the job without being dipped in Coke)
To clean corrosion from car battery terminals, pour Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.
To loosen a rusted bolt, apply a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the rusted bolt for several minutes.
To remove grease from clothes, empty a can of Coke into the load of greasy clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains.
Use Coke to clean road haze from your windshield.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION:
The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid. It will dissolve a nail in about four days.
Phosphoric acid leaches calcium from bones and is a major contributor to the rising increase of osteoporosis.
To carry Coca-Cola syrup (the concentrate) commercial trucks must display Hazardous Material signs reserved for highly corrosive materials.
The distributors of Coke have been using it to clean engines of the trucks for about 20 years.
Are you thirsty?
Which would you like, a Coke or a glass of water?
Special note: The cooking advice that follows was part of the original e-mail, but it’s so mouth-watering that I extracted it and presented it as a recipe for gravy. It just sounds too good to be included in dire warnings of the evils of Coca-Cola. Enjoy!
To bake a moist ham, wrap the ham in aluminum foil and place in the baking pan, pour a can of Coca-Cola into the pan and bake. Thirty minutes before the ham is finished, remove the foil and allow the drippings to mix with the Coke to create a sumptuous brown gravy.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: aluminum, bladder cancer, blood, breast cancer, cocl cola, Coke, computer, cycle, dehydrated, foil, ftigue, gravy, grease, ham, hunger, math, memory, metabolism glass, nail, osteoporosis, page, phosphoric adid, population, research, steak, t-bone, University of Washington, water, windshield
Memories of those words and that question, and memories of Archie Williams, W.C. Fields, Shirley Temple, dirty old men and a certain red-haired office typist—all came together in my thoughts this morning while I reminisced in search of fodder for my blog. If that group has in any way piqued your interest, read on.
I’ll begin with the red-haired office worker, an administrative clerk sitting sideways with legs crossed while operating an old-time word processor, a dinosauristic but cleverly constructed machine that combined mechanical, electrical and manual functions, a machine known as a typewriter. When the machine was operated properly it produced ink impressions, alphabet letters, on white unlined material—paper—a versatile material with many uses, made from wood pulp and commonly used for writing and printing upon but with various other uses and capabilities and sometimes referred to as tissue or tissues, quintessentially used at work, at home and away from home.
Just as an aside, I wonder how many readers will resort to Wikipedia for a definition of the word quintessentially. In the past, one in search of a definition would have referred to another dinosaur, that quaint publication known as a dictionary. Alas, that item is swiftly disappearing from our society, but I have one to which I felt I was entitled. I purloined it from my office when I retired from government service. In fact, I retired twice from government service, first from the military and then from federal law enforcement—the dictionary I brought home on the second retirement was simply a free upgrade of the one from the military.
But I have digressed from my original objective, to tell the story of Archie Williams. For that I apologize and return forthwith and continue towards that objective. From the information given in the first paragraph you, the reader, probably have in mind the image of a young auburn-haired beauty in a mini-skirt seated sideways before an office typewriter with her legs crossed and showing lots of leg, both lower leg and thigh and you would be right—except for the fact that the typist was a young red-haired male member of the United States Air Force, clothed in khaki shirt and trousers showing no leg, belted in blue and shod in black, sporting on his sleeves the three stripes of an Airman First Class, engaged in a spirited conversation with Archie Williams, an Air Force master sergeant, a six-striper similarly clothed who embodied and displayed the unique characteristics of W.C. Fields, an old-time veteran Hollywood comic of black-and-white film fame, in at least one of which films he shared billing with a very young and very precocious Shirley Temple, a child prodigy who tap danced, beautifully and at length while wearing a very short dress, and whose characteristic close-ups revealed curly hair, a cute smile, snow-white legs and significant expanses of white underwear, both front and rear, as she tapped and whirled and smiled enticingly for the camera.
I know, I know—you’re wondering why the previous sentence is so lengthy, nearing 200 words. It’s because I’m trying to equal or surpass the length of the one in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, not the longest sentence in literature but certainly among the longest—1,300 words. Of course, that’s very brief compared to a sentence in Ulysses by James Joyce that has 4,391 words—more or less!
I will digress no more—I’m running out of ink, so I’ll try to finish this posting. I’m reasonably certain that you, the reader, are wondering where this is going so I’ll put your mind at rest. I read an article in a magazine prized by men that in big city theaters that show the old black-and-white movies in certain theaters with Shirley Temple displaying her dancing talent, the major part of the audiences consists of dirty old men. Admittedly, some of the dirty old men simple needed a place to rest or to sleep, and some were addicted to black-and-white movies regardless of their contents—some may in fact have been movie producers, black-listed by Senator McCarthy and forced out of the movie industry—maybe.
My contention is that the dirty old men in the audience felt that the child prodigy was wearing that smile and showing the underwear just for them, and as a result of that feeling they perhaps—alright, probably—reached illegal and unimaginable plateaus of pleasure during the showing, a la Pee-wee Herman.
While I was busy in the Administration Office on a typical working day, I was privy—inadvertently—to a conversation between Archie and the young red-haired leg-crossing sergeant that centered on the typist’s off-duty activities. After quizzing him on those activities Archie told him, in Archie’s replication of W.C. Fields whiningly nasal tone, poetically and in rhyme, You don’t smoke, you don’t chew, you don’t drink, you don’t screw—damn, boy, what do you do? Archie’s height and girth, his stance, his ambulatory movements and his habit of carrying an unlighted cigar all mimicked W.C. Fields. While Archie’s physical characteristics were not controllable, I believe that the cigar and his voice were perhaps props, intended to imitate the old-time actor and indulged in so much over time that they belonged to him and were part of his persona, just as legitimately as they were for W.C. Fields.
When I heard Archie’s question I immediately decided that I had no other business in that office, and I hurriedly relocated so I could satisfactorily react to the question without incurring the enmity of the typist. I never knew the typist’s answer, if in fact he gave an answer, and I did not have the temerity to ask Archie how his talk with the typist was concluded. I did learn later from another source that the typist shared his lodging and his life with an over-the-road non-military truck driver. I find it interesting that in that era I was not aware that my service had either an animus against, or a tolerance for, members with sexual preferences that differed from what traditionally has been our society’s norm—there was no don’t ask, don’t tell policy. At that time, circa 1965, I was in my sixteenth year of military service, and if my service had a problem with such preferences it was never part of my training. Over the years I served during peacetime and wartime with several such persons and had no problems—none at that time and none now.
Archie died in the mid-1960s, and his earthly remains were interred in Fort Sam Houston’s national cemetery here in San Antonio, Texas. Full military services were provided, with taps, rifle volleys and uniformed pallbearers, and I was one of the six men that carried the casket, with Archie safely ensconced inside, a considerable distance through interminable rows of upright grave markers to an open grave, fitted with the mechanical device that would lower the casket.
Archie was a big man that in life would have approached a weight of 250 pounds, perhaps more, and at least partially because of that weight I almost preceded him into the excavation that had been prepared for him alone. As we marched towards the open grave I quickly concluded that he had not been embalmed—had he chosen that mortuary option—not required in Texas—he would have been considerably lighter. Of the six pallbearers, I’ll give you three guesses as to which pallbearer was less tall than the others, and the first two guesses won’t count—not that I am necessarily short, mind you, but I will admit that I was less tall than the others.
My position as we marched Archie, feet first through the rows of white markers, was at the left forward corner of Archie’s casket, the corner closest to his left foot, I am convinced that mine was the heaviest area of the weight we carried, perhaps fitted with a large anvil—perhaps Archie had been a blacksmith in his youth and the anvil was placed as a salutary salute to that profession—he may have suffered from a left club-foot, but I doubt that it would account for the weight at my corner.
Just as we moved the casket to a point directly over the grave and the lowering mechanism, my right foot slipped into the opening and I frantically relinquished my portion of the weight—I became an ex-pallbearer. However, the remaining five pallbearers apparently divided up my former contribution to the operation and held the casket up until I could reposition myself and return to pallbearer status, and we then properly placed the casket, stepped back and snapped to attention, and the ceremony continued and was concluded without further incident. In my haste to return both feet to solid ground, scrambling to avoid being interred with Archie, I soiled the knees of my uniform trousers as I frantically returned to an upright position—the soiling process could have been far worse, I suppose.
I have good reason to visit Fort Sam Houston’s national cemetery these days. I don’t remember where we left Archie some fifty years ago—that’s far too much time for me to be expected to remember his Section and Plot numbers. I have promised myself that I will ask cemetery office personnel for the location of his grave. I want to say hello to him, and I may hear again the question below, the question he addressed to that red-haired typist, and perhaps the typist’s answer to the query—if Archie chooses to confide in me:
You don’t smoke, you don’t chew, you don’t drink, you don’t screw—damn, boy, what do you do?
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: absolu absolum, absolum, anvil, archie, casket, ceauty, cemetery, chew, dictionary, dirty old men, don"t ask don't tell, drink, enmity, excavation, Fort Sam Houston, james joyce, macarthy, male, master sergeant, Military, mortuary, office, pallbearers, pee wee herman, plateaus, screw, senator, shirley temple, smoke, temerity, Texas, tissue, typewriter, typist, ulysses, underwear, US Air Force, w c fields, william faulkner, word processor
Jesus Christ—the Son of God, or liar and charlatan?
My wife came to me in a dream last night. I awoke after the dream, then slipped back into sleep while savoring my time with her, repeating over and over in my mind what she had said. When I awoke and began yet another sad and silent day without her, only one phrase remained in my memory, a phrase that resounds in my thoughts now and always will. I don’t remember the circumstances or location of the dream or what prompted it, but this is what she said:
I have never felt better in my life!
Every word was enunciated succinctly, properly and clearly including the t in the word felt. The thought was voiced exultantly, jubilantly and joyfully, obviously and literally from the heart and from the soul—even the exclamation point came shining through. I am painfully aware that some of my readers may place this post in Ripley’s Believe it or Not category but please believe me, I am not making this up.
I have never felt that dreams were real because some of my dreams, particularly some of those I experienced as an adolescent, were so ridiculous that I usually was awakened by my own laughter. A recurring dream in my teenage years was one in which I could fly, just as did my comic book heroes.
One of those memorable dreams of flying was precipitated by my leap frogging over curbside parking meters, an unusual ability that few of my friends could match, even those much taller than I, and most wouldn’t even make the attempt, fearing the result of failing to clear the top of the meter and possibly sustaining irreversible damage to specific body parts. In my dreams, each time I cleared a meter I rose higher and higher before returning to the sidewalk, and ultimately I was in full flight, soaring over the earth from dizzying heights.
Some of those dreams were so real that although I was aware that I was dreaming, I eagerly looked forward to my awakening so I could show everyone that I could fly. At this point I must confess that I had many other dreams as a teenager, many even more fantastic and even more improbable—nay, more impossible—than flying, but I refuse to discuss them in a family-oriented venue such as Word Press—there is a time and place for everything under the sun, and this is neither the time nor the place for that.
So what does last night’s dream mean, given the belief that dreams mean something? I am of the opinion that what my wife said is an indication that life exists after death, perhaps not as we know life on earth, but life in another realm.
It is an immutable truth that every person that has ever lived, every person that lives now, and every person that will live in the future wonders if there is life after death. Many of us reject the thought of a life after death, and hold to the belief that first you’re born and then you die, and that’s the alpha and omega of humanity—the beginning and the end. I unashamedly but humbly admit that I was a non-believer until a recent event changed my mind. If you are interested, you can click here for a detailed explanation of that life-altering event—it’s a good read, beautifully crafted and presented, as are all my efforts to communicate on Word Press. I say that in all modesty, a trait that is the only fault in my character—were it not for that fault, I would be perfect!
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending. No, not me—those are the words of our Lord, given to us in Revelation 1:8 in the King James version of the Holy Bible. Whether we believe or disbelieve the Scriptures, neither non-believers nor believers can reject the fact that we exist, that we had a beginning, whether as the work of a Supreme Being, or through eons of change we are risen up from the depths of primeval slime to our present humanity.
It’s the Omega part of Revelation 1:8—the ending of life—that divides us into different groups of believers versus non-believers. Some of us consider the ending of life as simply a new beginning, a transition from the physical mortality that began at birth to a spiritual immortality that begins with death and continues throughout eternity.
None of us reject the Alpha, the first beginning, but we are not unanimous in our belief of a second beginning, or second coming, if you will—just as Jesus will have a second coming to earth, ours will be a second coming to heaven. While we universally accept one beginning, acknowledging that it is real, many of us refuse to accept the possibility of a second beginning.
I can postulate the possibility that each of us is born with an empty spot, either placed in our body or in our heart or in our thoughts by a Supreme Being or by accident as we ascended from the primeval slime to our present humanness, and the only thing that will ever fill that empty space is a belief in life after death, that death is nothing more than a new beginning. For the inimitable few of my readers that have progressed this far in my efforts to entertain and enlighten, the following quote is offered:
Either Jesus Christ was who he said he was, the Son of God and the savior of man, or he was the greatest charlatan and liar that ever walked the face of the earth.
Can you guess who said that?
The Reverend Billy Graham said it—I couldn’t find it online, but trust me—he said it. I memorized it many years ago from a text book required for a University of Alabama speech class, back in the days when I was still rising up through that primeval slime. At first I thought it was, as the British are wont to say, a bit cheeky, but then I realized that the reverend is telling us that we cannot accept Jesus partially—He must be wholeheartedly accepted by body and mind and soul, without a shadow of doubt—therein lies salvation.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: accident, adolescent, Alabama, alpha, believe it or not, billy graham, British, category, character, charlatan, Christ, comic book, curbside, death, dream, eternity, God, heroes, holy bible, humanity, immortality, jesus, King James, laughter, leap frogging, liar, life, Lord, meter, modesty, non believers, omega, parkingmeters, primeval, realm, revelation, reverend, ripley, salvation, scriptures, sleep, slime, son, Space, supreme being, trait, venue, version, Word Press
A small boat drifts on the massive swells of a broad expanse of ocean, without direction, moving aimlessly among groups of land masses, each island offering vistas of white beaches, grassy slopes and forested areas, each a mirrored image of the others, with nothing to distinguish between one island’s attractions and the attractions offered by any of the others.
The vessel is fitted with a small motor, adequate to move the boat and its occupant from water to land, but the engine is silent, the motor tilted up—nothing on any island appeals to the drifter, nothing that would cause him to lower the motor and aim for land.
Each island beckons equally, and although the lone occupant of that small vessel has no preference for any particular island, he longs to land on one or another, just to quell the aimless roaming and find some footing more substantial than that furnished by the unpredictable forces of wind and waves.
The previous three paragraphs are meant to introduce the author of this blog, the king of Texas, a king that embarked on a lonely voyage following the death of his wife late in November of last year. That king is now drifting aimlessly toward the end of the third month of his voyage into a void, a place that is completely foreign to him. For the past 58 years he was anchored firmly, albeit in many different locations, by the love he received and the love he gave to the young woman he married in 1952.
That anchor held firm through fair weather and foul, through gales and ice storms and tsunamis caused by volcanic upheavals generated and fostered by long separations. In one instance over the years the anchor broke loose from its bottom moorings but the chain held fast, and the anchor eventually found its former firm grip and returned the marriage vessel to a normal keel, and for that I thank the anchor, God and all the angels in heaven.
On Thursday, the eighteenth of November 2010 at precisely 9:15 in the evening my anchor—my wife—broke free from life’s anchor chain and returned to her Maker. Her earthly body is at peace—she lies in her casket in Section 71, Plot 47 in San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, and her soul is free in heaven. Her faith in God and her love for me are voiced on her headstone:
Cry not for me—I wait for thee
Some viewers may find this posting, these thoughts and the thoughts that follow sacrilegious and perhaps doubt my sincerity, but if they could see the tears streaming down my cheeks as I write this, they perhaps might feel differently. Should anyone have doubts concerning my sincerity, I will state positively, unequivocally and irrevocably that on the night my wife died I found God—I felt God’s presence and I believe that I witnessed some of God’s handiwork, and I am now in search of Jesus to complete the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. You can click here for the story of my finding God by witnessing His power.
As an aside to this post, I believe that I found Jesus yesterday on February 2, 2011 at 9:00 AM as I was driving on Loop 410 West in San Antonio, Texas. That belief will be the subject of a future posting—please stay tuned.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: adrift, author, boat, chain, drifter, gales, God, holy ghost, ice storms, image, jesus, king, land, motor, National Cemetery, ocean, san antoniofort sam houston, swells, Texas, tsunamis, vessel, weather, wife
To whom it may concern:
Interments in America’s national cemeteries are accomplished under rather rigid rules and regulations. Those directives specify who, why, how, where and when such burials are made. I am not aware of any exceptions to those rules—one cannot, for example, choose a shady spot with a hilltop view and request burial there. Such requests may be made, of course, but will politely be refused.
As earth is removed to accommodate new arrivals to the cemetery the length, width and depth of the excavation is done in accordance with regulations and is intended to accept four burials, with the potential of accepting a total of eight burials. The mandatory concrete vaults are constructed with four niches for future occupants, and the excavation is filled when the four occupants are in place.
Before the caskets are lowered in their separate compartments plastic strips of material, fitted with several lengths of plastic pipe placed cross-ways, are placed on the bottom of each compartment. The resulting space created between the vault bottom and the bottom of the casket when lowered allows the lowering bands to be removed, then each compartment of the four-unit vault is covered and sealed.
Should one or more of the compartments need to accommodate another casket in the future, only the earth above that compartment need be excavated. The vault cover will then be removed, another strip with rollers will be placed atop the lower casket and the second casket will be lowered, the vault cover will be replaced and the excavation will be returned to its original configuration.
Let me say at this juncture without any attempt at being flippant or funny, that those consigned to burial in a national military cemetery do not have, nor do they need, lots of elbow room. Each of the four-compartment concrete vaults discussed above has the combined potential of holding a total of eight caskets, two in each compartment. Land for burials is limited, and every effort must be made to accommodate as many burials as possible in the space available.
I imagine that some people feel, as I have felt in the past, that they would like to have their final resting place on a hilltop in a place shaded by a towering oak that marks the spot—a beacon, so to speak—with a magnificent 360-degree view of the surrounding area—minus the diameter of the tree, of course.
The view would be a monumental panoramic scene of hills and valleys, wildflowers and streams and waterfalls and myriad wildlife moving about with balmy breezes caressing the flora and fauna of the area. I suggest that those who long for such a final resting place should consider the attractions of perpetual care and companionship with those that have exchanged this realm for another, and for themselves at the end of their journey through life on earth, a journey that ultimately returns each of us, in one manner or another, to the earth—in Biblical terms, to the earth from whence we came.
I feel tremendously privileged that both I and my wife qualify for interment there, a right that was accorded her based on our marriage and her support of a husband far too often away from home for extended periods, and for her maintenance of our home and possessions, and for fathering as well as mothering our three children in my absences. At some time in the future, interred in one of this nation’s national cemeteries, I fully expect to be happy and comfortable when I am reunited with my wife of some fifty-eight years in our cozy one-fourth of a community crypt in Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery.
My wife is now, and I will become, part of a community that enjoys maximum security—its grounds are immaculately kept and visitations are virtually unlimited. And at this juncture I must explain, in the interests of full disclosure and again with no attempt at being flippant or funny, that although I look forward to that reunion I will do nothing to hasten it—I will, in fact, do everything I can to delay it.
Our condominium lacks the towering oak tree, but a young oak has been planted nearby and is thriving, and with the assistance of weather and ground keepers and a bit of luck it will tower over us some day. Nor does our site—our suite, if you will—include a vista of hills or valleys or streams or waterfalls, but balmy breezes waft o’er the community and wildlife abounds.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: beacon, casket, cemeteries, community, companionship, condominium, diameter, excavation, ground keepers, grounds, hilltop, National Cemetery, oak, occupants, panoramic myriad, perpetual care, pipe, plastic, realm, reunion, tree, vaults, waterfalls, wildlife
I sometimes imagine that I have the soul of a poet, and I would like to believe that my soul is that of a poet, but I do not have a shred of a poet’s talent. My love for poetry began when I first read the lines placed by Mark Twain on the headstone of the grave of his daughter, Olivia Susan Clemens, dead in 1896 at the age of twenty-four. I first read the epitaph as a Junior High School student—now known as Middle School. I was moved to tears, just as I am now while researching and writing this post.
Those words have for many years been attributed to Mark Twain, but they were borrowed from a poem written by Robert Richardson, Annette, published in 1893, three years before Twain’s daughter died. This is the verse Mark Twain placed on his daughter’s tombstone:
Warm summer sun, shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind, blow softly here,
Green sod above, lie light, lie light,
Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.
While writing his autobiography, Mark Twain said that he could not remember the author’s name, and apparently he was uncertain of the exact wording of the poem.
When Twain learned of the author and his work, he added the author’s name to the tombstone without changing the verse. Richardson’s original words are as follows:
Warm summer sun, shine friendly here
Warm western wind, blow kindly here;
Green sod above, rest light, rest light,
Good-night, Annette! Sweetheart, good-night!
The poem, Annette, also included this beautiful verse:
If that ancient ethic view
Of Pythagoras be true,
Your light soul is surely now
In that bird upon the bough,
Singing, with soft-swelling throat,
To the wind that heeds it not;
Or in that blue butterfly,
Flashing golden to the sun.
The ancient ethic view of Pythagoras, mentioned in the above excerpt from Annette, is explained as follows:
The ancient Pythagoreans believed that souls transmigrated into the bodies of other animals, and because of that belief they practiced vegetarianism, hence the poet’s references to the bird upon the bough and that blue butterfly. However, in Richardson’s ode to his daughter he passionately expresses his love for her, his belief in heaven and his hopes for her in the afterlife, saying that:
Somewhere there beyond the blue,
In the mansions that so many are,
They say, is there not
Any one of all, Annette, for you?
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: annette, bough, butterfly, clemens, daughter, death, grave, love, mansions, mark twain, middle school, poet, poetry, pythagoras, robert anderson, throat, vegetatianism
One soul departs,
and another arrives.
I have read the letter that follows many times and each time my heart—my soul, my spirit—soars to incredible heights, and then descends to incredible depths. I know that I am not worthy of those heights, but I would like to believe that I do not deserve to remain at those depths.
I have vowed that in the time I have remaining above ground on this sphere—this earth—I will dedicate my efforts, my will, to live my life in a way that honors my wife, my family, my friends and my God. I hasten to add that I will accord that honor in my own way and not necessarily in ways favored by our society, nor by actions sanctioned by various religious denominations. I know that I cannot undo the things I’ve done in my lifetime that I should not have done, but I can try with all my might to do the things I should do in the time I have left in this realm.
I will begin this writing by saying proudly that I have the finest neighbors anyone could possible have, a beautiful couple that lives just a few feet away on the west side of our house. The husband is a self-employed architect and the wife is an educator-at-large in local school districts. They have two grown sons and a brand-new granddaughter.
My wife was in hospice care, and shortly before she died our neighbor gave her a gold chain with a pendant fashioned into the I Love You symbol in American Sign Language. She expressed her sorrow to my wife for her illness and her sorrow that she could not be with her until the end—her elder son’s wife, living in a distant city, was near child delivery and the doctors anticipated problems with the baby. My wife died before the neighbor left, and the neighbor’s sorrow—her sadness—is eloquently expressed in the letter she gave me before she left.
With her permission I have reproduced the letter and am posting it exactly as written, including the pen-and-ink sentence at the top of the page. She professes little talent for writing, but in my opinion, unlettered and unfettered though my opinion may be, she has a tremendous talent for writing and should pursue that talent, whether as a vocation or as an avocation.
Her letter follows, exactly as written. The first sentence just above the poem—This was in my heart today—was written in ink in the upper margin:
This was in my heart today:
Courage is not the towering oak
That sees storms come and go,
It is the fragile blossom
That opens in the snow.
—Alice MacKenzie Swalm
You hurt so deeply…..so, so deeply. You are sad, on top of sad, on top of sad. And all I know to say is, “I’m sorry.” So trite…..it screams out that I can’t even begin to feel your pain. I want to just sit and cry, cry, cry with you. Janie left you for another. That will always break your heart. She left you, she left you…how could she? You were always there for her. Year after year, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, second after second…..you were always there for her. But she left anyway. Gone, gone, gone. You always knew that she would leave you. It never mattered. You would do it all over again if you could. If only you could.
She said that you were a “Good Man.” A good man. A loving man. A caring man. A clever man. A funny man. A loyal man. A knowledgeable man. An interesting man. But a man all the same. Not perfect, but not a requirement for Janie.
And there lies the real beauty. Janie left room for others to live their own lives. To make their own mistakes. To make their own amends. To write their own stories. To make their own verses and rhymes. To be their own selves. To find their own beauty. To find their own strengths. To find their own weaknesses. No matter where you were in life, whether in the good or the bad, she welcomed you home when you were ready to be home. She didn’t push or prod. She just waited. She knew you would eventually come home. She led by example. Every needle, every probe, every surgery, every bruise, every doctor visit…she said, “Be strong. Be strong, be strong, be strong. It was her battle cry. No words needed. She screamed it out with the softest of cries. So strong…..yet so, so gentle.
I’m your neighbor. I’m just simply a neighbor. How could I be touched this way? For me, death and birth are coming at the same time. I didn’t want to choose one over the other. But here it is, saying choose, choose. Janie’s example said to pick life. Choose life, she said. It is with sadness that I go. Even when I should be filled with bubbling joy. Be strong, she says. Go and be strong.
You are a good neighbor. The best. Be strong. Be strong. Be strong. “Live” she says. Be strong. She will wait for you to come Home.
With Sad, Sad, Sadness,
Your Neighbor, Your Friend,
Postscript: At the memorial for my wife, our daughters placed the “I Love You” pendant in their mother’s hands, along with a small card with Biblical quotations given to her many years ago by her sister, Christine. The only other jewelry was a gold chain with a small pendant that I brought home many years ago from a foreign assignment while in the military. The pendant has a French quotation that translates as “I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.”
My neighbor is back home now and back in work harness. Her granddaughter, Caitlan, was delivered successfully by Caesarian surgery. The baby weighed eight pounds and two ounces at birth, and she is healthy, happy and growing by leaps and bounds.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: architect, birth, blossom, bruise, deaf, death, doctor, dranddaughter, French, home, hospice, margain, Military, needle, neighbor, oak, pendant, probe, quotation, school, snow, sorrow, surgery, swalm, talent, wife
Yesterday was the eighth day of January 2010, a supremely significant Saturday (ah, that alliteration—I cannot resist it). The entire world knows at least one reason why yesterday was significant. Elvis Presley was born on that day in 1944. Had the rock-and-roll star stuck to singing (more alliteration) and kept his distance from fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches he could have celebrated his seventy-sixth birthday yesterday—some say that drugs contributed to his early demise.
Yesterday Debra, our elder daughter—I use the phrase elder daughter because it carries far less emotion than older daughter—celebrated her fifty-seventh birthday. She and our granddaughter and their friend Sandy whiled the day away shopping in Austin at Sam Moon’s mercantile for Chinese-made items, primarily jewelry, and enjoyed a birthday lunch—probably at a McDonald’s outlet—no, not really—I’m certain that they went to a five-star restaurant, assuming that Austin has such.
I called Debbie on her cell phone and submitted her to the birthday song—I’m unsure whether she has recovered from that cacophony of sound. She has breezed past the half-century mark in age and added seven years, and she could easily pass for thirty—alright, she could definitely pass for thirty-five. I believe that her satisfaction with her work in one of San Antonio’s school districts is helping her stay young—that and her plethora—call it a gaggle—of close friends.
I believe that most of the credit for her youthful look can be attributed to the genes bequeathed by her mother, a lady that has always appeared far younger than her years. I would like to believe that I contributed to that youthful look, but I’m honest enough to give full credit to her mother for that.
Janie, if you’ll take a quick look at a certain spot in a certain section of Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery you’ll see a brilliantly white marble marker, newly erected, with a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers placed in front of it. The marker is etched with all the pertinent information required by military regulations, and the words Cry not for me, I wait for thee.
I have been unable to comply with the CRY NOT FOR ME admonition, but your statement that I WAIT FOR THEE has stood me in good stead and kept me from unraveling completely. That phrase is in the forefront of the multitude of reasons why I love you, and in the words of Emily Dickinson in her timeless poem, I shall but love you better after death.
The beauty of the flowers will last for several days in the cool weather of this December, but with the summer sun I’ll need to replenish them far more frequently, but I don’t mind—they are from our local HEB market—this is perhaps one of the best bargains that can be found in one of the finest markets in our city—nay, one of the finest in our nation.
Sweetheart, I’ll close for now. I have a photo of your marker taken by my new Sprint 4G phone, but I haven’t figured out how to get it from the phone to my computer. When I do I’ll add it to this letter.
Sleep well in heaven, my darling.
I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.
Postscript: The marker photo was added today, January 10, 2011.
Tags: 4g, Austin, banana, birthday, cell phone, computer, death, december, drugs, elvis, emily dickinson, Fort Sam Houston, gaggle, genes, heb, january, jewelry, lunch, Macdonalds, mercantile, mother, multitude, National Cemetery, peanut butter, plethora, poem, San Antonio, saturday, sprint, summer, sun
Prior to the interment of my wife’s mortal remains in Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery here in San Antonio, I was asked to provide any information that I wanted in addition to the mandatory data required by military regulations. An official of the funeral home said that I would have three lines for our use, each line consisting of a maximum of 15 letters including spaces. After securing agreement from our three daughters, I submitted the following three lines, to be placed below the lines required by regulation. These lines were my original submission:
Cry not for me
I am at home
I wait for thee
Shortly after that submission I was contacted by a cemetery representative, and was told that only two lines were available for my use after the mandatory items were inscribed. After a few minutes of looking at possibilities, I realized that any one of the three lines I had submitted could be deleted. I could remove the first line and the inscription would read:
I am at home
I wait for thee
I could delete the third line and the inscription would read:
Cry not for me
I am at home
And finally, with the second line removed the inscription would read:
Cry not for me
I wait for thee
Again with the agreement of our three daughters, I chose to remove the second line, so the inscription will read:
Cry not for me
I wait for thee
Of course, when my earthly remains are placed with the mortal remains of my wife in our temporal holding place—and I will join her, either sooner or later—her inscription will again need to be formulated, primarily because she will no longer be waiting for me—at that time I shall have arrived.
As for my inscription on the front of the final headstone to be inscribed and erected, I will entrust the inscription to the sensibilities of our three daughters, and I trust that they will be gentle in complying with that responsibility, and unanimous in their decision, whatever it may be—but none of that two out of three stuff!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: cemetery, daughers, decision, Fort Sam Houston, funeral home, headstone, inscription, Military, mortal, national, remains, San Antonio, stuff, submission, temporal, wife
This afternoon I dozed off while watching television in our den and I awoke with a start, looked around the room and said in a loud voice, “Where did you go? It was just like all the many times over the years when I would become preoccupied in reading or I would be snoozing and when I noticed your absence, whether by awakening abruptly or looking up from my reading, I would shout, “Where are you?” and you would answer that you were in the kitchen or that you were going to the bathroom or just returning from the bathroom, or something on the order of “I can’t do anything without you wondering where I am!”
The feeling of your presence in the den this afternoon was so strong, so powerful that it took me several seconds to realize that I had awakened to my new world, a world without you, the world that was created when you left me.
Perhaps I dreamed that you were here, but I have no recollection of dreaming. I have prayed every day since you left for you to come to me in a dream. I’ve prayed to Jesus and Mary and God and to all the apostles that I could remember, and to the gods of other religions—except to the god of those that would seek to destroy us and our nation.
In the thirty days since you left me I can recall dreaming only twice. Once I dreamed that Cindy and I were on a trip out to the southwest, shooting photography in every direction, and the other time involved a cat. I remember no details other than that there was a cat in my dream.
I want to dream. I need to dream. I need to see you in my dreams, to see that everything is all right with you and that you are safe and happy in your new world. I pray every night for you to come to me. I pray for other things and for other people, of course, but my thoughts of you and my longing for you are always uppermost in my mind, in my thoughts and in my prayers in all my waking hours.
Yes, I know that’s selfish. I probably should be praying for miraculous findings in the search for curing the diseases that shorten our lives, and for world peace and for the abolishment of hunger and suffering among third-world countries. I suppose I’ll get around to that when my prayers for you to come to me in my dreams are answered.
As for my awakening from sleep this afternoon and calling for you, this is what I believe—I believe that you were in the den, that your spirit, your immortal soul, was there and in my dream, and although I was nestled deeply in the arms of Morpheus—asleep—I was aware in my subconscious mind that you were there, and that’s why I called out for you when I awoke.
I realize that all my erudite readers are familiar with the fact that Morpheus is the god of dreams in Greek mythology, a benevolent supernatural being between mortals and gods, a being that can take any human form and appear in dreams. Armed with that knowledge I do not find it necessary to explain the term, but a treatise and a painting of Morpheus may be found here. The 1811 painting is Morpheus, Phantasos and Iris (Morpheus is the one reclining).
I did find it necessary to write and tell you that I was aware of your presence this afternoon. I thank you and I love you for being there for me, and I welcome you back whether I am awake, snoozing in the recliner or deep asleep in our bedroom.
I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.
Sleep well in heaven, my darling.
Tags: bathroom, bedroom, benevolent, cat, den, dream, erudite, form, god apostles, greek, human, iris, janie, jesus, kitchen, mary, morpheus, mythology, nation, painting, peace, phantasos, recliner, religions, soul, southwest photography, spirit, supernatural, Television, treatise, world
This is the second letter I’ve written to my wife Janie since she left this realm for another, a realm on a much higher plane, the highest level of existence, and I intend to write more similar letters from time to time. Click here to read the first letter I wrote to Janie in el cielo.
In reference to the method of correspondence I have initiated between me and my wife, I realize and acknowledge that it strains credulity, but a significant number of this nation’s population and the population of the world routinely talk to a celestial being—God—and all believe that their prayers are heard. Given that followers of every religion that exists now and that has ever existed features prayer, and that prayer is fervently practiced by those followers, I feel that the strain on credulity is considerably lessened. Such followers routinely call on their God to comfort those that have passed on to a higher realm as well as those that remain on this level—in effect, in using this medium to communicate with my wife I’m simply bypassing the Middle Man—the envelope is open and can be read by all, just as you are doing now.
My second letter to my wife Janie follows:
This letter will be brief because there’s not very much new to talk about. Our daughter returned to her home in Dallas today with our grandson and granddaughter. They arrived in San Antonio early in the evening three days ago on Monday, and we have been pretty busy over the past three days. We packed a lot into that time, including dinner at our San Antonio daughter’s home—lots of great leftovers from her Christmas dinner with several new items added. We also managed a trip to the Ninety-nine Cents store across from HEB. Oh, and we also took in the Salvation Army Thrift Store on Wednesday—slim pickings but our daughter found some novels that she liked, and also a large book that claims to make learning to play the piano easy—I doubt whether the family dog will appreciate the sounds that the book will generate.
Over the past several days we had the requisite tacos and fried chicken baskets from Bill Miller’s Barbeque, and MacDonald’s pancake/egg/sausage/potato/biscuit breakfasts today. On Tuesday morning I served the kids thick-sliced bacon and soft-scrambled eggs for breakfast, and as usual they made quick work of making it disappear. Yesterday we had lunch at Jason’s Deli near Costco. Our daughter had a salad, the children had pizza and as you might guess, I had a bowl of chicken noodle soup—extra hot, and I managed to sneak out two cups of ice cream to bring to our daughter that lives near us. She has been under the weather for several days with allergies brought on by the norther that swept into San Antonio recently, bringing cedar mold and other pesky airborne afflictions down from our vaunted hill country.
We visited you at Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery yesterday. Your community is really busy—we estimated that at least one hundred more residents have been moved in since you’ve been there, just in the past thirty days. I read that an average of 13 burials are made daily, usually Monday through Friday. With few exceptions, Saturdays and Sundays are down days for interments.
We stopped at HEB’s supermarket, the one near our home, and the four of us selected sprays of flowers for you. The only flowers I can identify with any assurance are roses, poppies and tulips. I brought you tulips on your birthday last Sunday, but I don’t know what the sprays were that we brought yesterday—whatever species they were, they were fresh and bright and beautiful.
Workmen were busy in your community, placing floral pieces on recent arrivals and seeding and leveling the ground in the newly created area. Underground irrigation is already in place and by midsummer your community should be up to par with older established communities, with headstones in place. Creating and placing those simple marble monuments usually takes six weeks or so following interment. That should give you an idea of how busy the National Cemetery is, and that’s all year long except for holidays and weekends.
After we placed the flowers near your temporary marker and returned to the street, I told our daughter that I would like to tell the children what some people believe, and tell them that they could talk to you if they liked, but that you would not respond in any way. Their mother seemed to have no problem with that and agreed to it.
I told our grandchildren that lots of people believe that persons that have ascended to a higher plane than on earth are still present in spirit, and can hear comments directed to them, and I told them that if they wished they could go back and talk to you. Both of the children decided they would do that, and spent some time kneeling near you. We don’t know what they said, but I’m sure you were listening.
I made several phone snapshots of the children and their mother placing the flowers, and of the children talking with you, but I won’t make them part of this letter. I’ll just keep them in the phone and let you look over my shoulder to see them.
That’s all for now, but I’ll get back to you with more news as it happens.
I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.
Sleep well in heaven, my darling.
Tags: Bill Miller BBQ, biscuit, cedar, celestial god, chicken noddle soup, Christmas, correspondence, credulity, egg, envelope, existence, Fort Sam Houston, heaven, heb, ice cream, interments, irrigation, Jason's Deli, letter, marker, McDonald's, method, middle man, National Cemetery, pancake, piano, pizza, plane, population, potato, prayers, religion, salvation arm, San Antonio, sausage, spirit, supermarket, sweetheart, thrift store, world
Christmas 2010—flowers, rice and chopsticks . . .
Cemetery scene: Having lovingly placed a bouquet of roses at the head of a grave, the visitor to the cemetery watched smilingly as an elderly Oriental man lovingly placed a steaming bowl of rice and chopsticks at the head of a nearby grave, and then asked him at what time he figured his friend would come up to eat the rice. The other man replied, “He will come up at the same time your friend comes up to smell the roses.”
Having set the scene, I will continue with this posting. On this cold blustery day in San Antonio, Texas I traveled twelve miles from my home to Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery. I placed fresh flowers on the grave of a great lady that was transported from this earthly realm to her just reward in God’s heavenly realm on the evening of Thursday, November 18, 2010 just one month and eight days before her seventy-ninth birthday. Our three daughters were present at her death, at her memorial and her interment, but unforeseen circumstances prevented them from being with me to visit her on this day.
Today is my wife’s birthday. She was born December 26, 1931 on an icy Saturday in a small south Georgia town. We met in 1952 and were married just four months later on a Saturday afternoon on the thirteenth day of December in 1952, and we completed fifty-eight years of marriage thirteen days ago on the thirteenth of this month, December of the year 2010.
To complete the fifty-eight years of marriage I included the days between her death on 18 November and our wedding anniversary date of 13 December. I included those days because we remain married and will always remain married, albeit on a spiritual level rather than on a physical level.
We are separated physically but our spirits are intertwined, an inextricable unity that will never be separated. I refuse to allow our marriage to dissolve simply because we exist in separate realms. Her spirit—her soul—has returned to God from whence it came. She is in heaven with Him and I remain on earth. I am well aware that adherence to our marriage vows will be more difficult for me than for her, but I readily accept the challenge and I will not falter.
I still wear my wedding ring on the ring finger of my left hand, and when I join my wife in the grave that contains her earthly remains—the same grave that will contain mine throughout eternity—that ring will still be in place. If it should be lost I will replace it, and if that replacement is lost I will purchase another, as many times as necessary. I also wear my wife’s 1949 high school graduation ring on the little finger of my right hand. That one will be a bit more difficult to replace, but I will make the effort should it happen.
Yes, in the same grave—with space at a premium in our national military cemeteries, husbands and wives share the same burial plot. I have no problem with that procedure, nor does my wife. We have discussed it at length over the past several years, and we agreed with the premise that the closer, the better. And on the subject of matter, the contents of our grave constitute mortal material matter only, as do the contents of every grave.
The immortal essence of that matter—the soul, given by the grace of God—was never there, having already gone to its promised reward before the remains were placed beneath the sod—its direction dependent, of course, on certain requirements having been met, a point that should be foremost in how we decide to live our lives.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: adherence vows, bouquet, bowl, burial plot, cemetery, challenge, december, essence, eternity, Fort Sam Houston, friend, Georgia, God, graduation, grave, head, heaven, home, immortal, interment, marriage, material, memorial, national cemetery. lady, oriental, physical, realm, rice, ring, roses, San Antonio, sod, soul, spirit, Texas, unity
Yesterday was December 25, the Year of Our Lord, 2010. That day was Christmas, the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, hailed, revered and worshiped by Christians as the Son of God and the savior of mankind, One of the Christian Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It was the seventy-eighth Christmas of my life, and the fifty-eighth Christmas since I met and married my wife near the mid-point of the past century—1952.
I spent all but five of those 58 holidays with my wife. On Christmas Day in 1961 and 1962 I was in West Germany helping my country during our cold war with the Soviet Union, a war that ended in a cold stalemate. That stalemate continues to this day under different names and titles. I was in South Viet Nam on Christmas Day in 1970 and 1971, helping our country lose the war against North Viet Nam.
Just as an aside, I spend Christmas Day in 1950 and 1951 helping our country lose another war, the one ineptly labeled the Korean conflict, a conflict that cost more than 40,000 American lives over four years of fighting, a conflict that ended in a stalemate that exists to this day. Apparently stalemates run in our national history.
Yesterday was the fifty-eighth Christmas since I met and married my wife, the love of my life. It was only the fifth Christmas that I did not spend with my wife and my family. My wife died last month on the eighteenth day of November, and I spent most of yesterday alone in the house we have lived in for the past twenty-two years, alone with the furniture, decorations, artwork, various collections and photographs, my wife’s clothing and other personal articles, and our memories we accumulated over the past fifty-eight years of our marriage.
I spend most of Christmas day at home, but I accepted an invitation to enjoy a Christmas dinner with one of my three daughters and her family that live nearby. Earlier in the day I visited my wife at Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery. I had planned to place a beautiful plant that our neighbors to the west, the finest next-door neighbors in existence, brought over as a Christmas gift, a beautiful poinsettia. I wanted it to grace my wife’s grave, and I intended to tell her how kind and thoughtful the neighbors were to give us the plant.
I wanted to believe—no, I did believe—that she would know the flowers were there. I realized that the plant would last longer in the home than in the open, subject to heat and cold and lack of moisture, but I felt that its brief life in the open would be better than watching it age and wither in our home—frankly speaking, I do not have a green thumb, and it’s a given that any potted plant will not last long under my tutelage.
I visited my wife without the poinsettia. My previous perfectly plotted perverted poinsettia plan (I really do love alliteration) was abandoned when I stepped outside to check the weather . The air was bitterly cold and a strong blustery wind was blowing, and I realized that the tall poinsettia plant would be lying flat and frozen even before I left the cemetery. I decided to let the plant remain in the home and take its chances with me, with the firm resolve to take flowers to my wife the following day, December 26, the day of her birth in 1932.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, but I’ll get back to you later with more details.
Tags: age, american, artwork, birth, cemetery, century, christians, Christmas, clothing, cold, conflict, country, daughters fort sam houston, december, detatils, Family, flowers, furniture, grave, green thumb, heat, history, holy ghost, House, invitation, korean, life, Lord, marriage, moisture, national, National Cemetery, north viet nam, plant, poinsettia, potted plant, son, south viet nam, stalemate, trinity father, tutelage, war soviet union, west, west germany, wife, wither
A letter to Janie in el cielo . . .
I fully recognize the possibility—nay, the probability—that readers of this post may find it unusual in nature, unusual because the letter is for my wife, one of the most beautiful beings that God has ever created, a lady that allowed me to share her life for the past 58 years. It’s unusual because my wife is dead—she drew her last breath on earth at 9:15 PM on Thursday, November 18, 2010. Potential readers may reasonably be divided into three major groups, namely believers, agnostics and non-believers. Believers will accept my title, agnostics will wonder about it, and non-believers will reject it. Click here for details of her transition to el cielo—the sky.
El cielo is Spanish for the sky—I use the Spanish term because it suggests the direction of heaven, a place of eternal life of goodness and mercy, located somewhere beyond the universe overhead—heaven’s location is up rather than down. The ancients considered heaven up because the sky and the stars and the planets and the universe overhead are so beautiful, unknown but limited—heaven begins where the universe above stops. The ancients placed hell down rather than up, in the universe below, a place also of eternal life but an evil and unmerciful place of flames and heat and agony, its existence revealed to the ancients through volcanic activity.
How do I know my letter will be delivered? I don’t know, but I believe that it will be delivered to my wife in one way or another. Perhaps she is watching as every letter appears on my screen, or perhaps she checks her mail periodically just as we do on earth. And perhaps it will be delivered by angels, those ascending and descending to and from heaven on Jacob’s ladder, the bridge between heaven and earth, that stairway to heaven described in the Book of Genesis. I believe that it will be delivered because I believe in the Trinity, in the Mother and the Son and the Holy Ghost. My belief is newly-found and a bit shaky, but it grows stronger every day.
Yesterday, December 11, 2010 was a special day for flower placement at cemeteries across the nation, an improbable coincidence and a ceremony that my daughter and I learned about only after we arrived at Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery. The grounds were crowded with people and with vehicles of every nature, including those of several motorcycle groups, all gathered for an annual ceremony of placing wreaths to honor those interred there, to honor those that have died in protecting our country and those that have supported them in their sworn duties. Click here for information on Wreaths Across America.
As is my wont—my nature if you will—I have digressed, so on to the letter to my wife en el cielo:
My dearest darling,
Our daughter Debbie and I placed flowers yesterday on Plot #47 in Section 71 of Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery, a beautiful place of oak trees and lovingly tended grounds. The flowers we placed were sent by Gracie, one of the dialysis angels in the Nephrology Clinic at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, one of those that loved you and were loved by you over years of dialysis.
Plot #47 in Section 71 is yours, the spot where your mortal remains were placed. Your plot is in the newest section and is not yet shaded, but young oaks have been planted nearby and the area is being sodded, and soon your section will blend in with older areas. I felt that you would want to know who lies nearby, so I made notes. On your left is a lady named Mary L. Sandoval, a military wife such as you, and on your right is a U.S. Air Force member, Chief Master Sergeant Jack M. Thompson, a military member such as I am. I take great comfort in knowing that when I join you at sometime in the future, we will fit in nicely with our neighbors.
All the plots in this new area are marked only with a small card in a metal frame placed at the head of the plot, with only the name if non-military, and the name and military rank if a service member. That frame will be replaced within five or six weeks with a marble headstone engraved with the Christian cross, your name, the appropriate dates of your life on earth and information confirming your right to be there as the wife of a U.S. Air Force service member. The right to be interred in any national military cemetery is zealously protected by military authorities, as well it should be.
Yesterday, December 11, was a special day for flower placements at cemeteries across the nation, an improbable coincidence and a ceremony that we learned about only after we arrived at Fort Sam Houston. The cemetery was packed with people and vehicles of every nature, including many motorcycle groups, all gathered for an annual ceremony of placing wreaths to honor those interred there, to honor those that have died in defense of our country and to honor those that have supported them in their sworn duties, to honor people such as you, my darling wife. You are among those honored for never failing in your support for me through my long absences from home caused by military duties, including tours in Germany and war-torn Viet Nam, and by frequent absences caused by my later employment as a federal law enforcement officer following retirement from the military. You were always with me when I was away from home, and you were always there for me when I returned—always loving and understanding and above all, always forgiving.
That’s all for now, Janie Mae. I’ll try to keep you posted on events here—Christmas is just around the corner, and you can rest assured that you will be with us—with me and our daughters and their husbands and our grandchildren and friends of the families, just as in the past. Other than the absence of your material presence, nothing has changed. You are always in our thoughts and always will be and yes, also in our prayers. We pray for you to watch over us and perhaps even put in a good word for us to You-Know-Who. I am reluctant to speak for the others, but I need all the help I can get.
Sleep well in heaven, my darling.
I love you more today than I did yesterday, but less than tomorrow.
All my love,
Tags: agnosstics, agony, angels, BAMC, believers, Christian, cielo, cross, dialysis, eternal, evil, flames, Fort Sam Houston, God, headstone, hear, heaven, jacobs ladder, letter, marble, mortal, mother, nation, nephrology, non believers, planets, remains, sergeant, sky, son holy ghost, stars, transition, trinity, universe, volcanic activity, wife, wreaths across america
Food for thought: When it’s time to pay the bill . . .
The following obituary appeared in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph of Sept. 16, 1958:
A great poet died last week in Lancieux, France at the age of 84. He was not a poet’s poet. Fancy-Dan dilettantes will dispute the description “great.” He was a people’s poet. To the people he was great. They understood him and knew that any verse carrying the by-line of Robert W. Service would be a lilting thing, clear, clean and power-packed, beating out a story with a dramatic intensity that made the nerves tingle. And he was no poor garret-type poet either. His stuff made money hand over fist. One piece alone, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, rolled up half a million dollars for him. He lived it up well and also gave a great deal to help others. “The only society I like,” he once said, “is that which is rough and tough—and the tougher the better. That’s where you get down to bedrock and meet human people.” He found that kind of society in the Yukon gold rush, and he immortalized it.
I recently spent considerable time on the web, absorbed in the poetry of Robert W. Service. Click here for that site. On its surface, his poetry is just as rough and tough as the society he professed to love, the society he found in the Yukon gold rush. However, if one chooses to look below the surface of his writings, a moving current of his belief in the Deity and of life after death will appear. That current is apparent and can be found in the final three lines of his epic poem, The Reckoning. Click here for more works by Robert W. Service.
It’s fine to have a blow-out in a fancy restaurant,
With terrapin and canvas-back and all the wine you want;
To enjoy the flowers and music, watch the pretty women pass;
Smoke a choice cigar, and sip the wealthy water in your glass.
It’s bully in a high-toned joint to eat and drink your fill,
But it’s quite another matter when you
Pay the bill.
It’s great to go out every night on fun or pleasure bent;
To wear your glad rags always and to never save a cent;
To drift along regardless, have a good time every trip;
To hit the high spots sometimes, and to let your chances slip;
To know you’re acting foolish, yet to go on fooling still,
Till Nature calls a show-down, and you
Pay the bill.
Time has got a little bill—get wise while yet you may,
For the debit side’s increasing in a most alarming way;
The things you had no right to do, the things you should have done,
They’re all put down; it’s up to you to pay for every one.
So eat, drink and be merry, have a good time if you will,
But God help you when the time comes, and you
Foot the bill.
I hope, and I would like to believe, that if I pay my bills as I go through life—pay them conscientiously on time and in full right up to the time I depart this realm for another—I will arrive with the maximum score possible to be considered for entry into heaven, with no unpaid bills, a credit score over the top and an impressive record of doing unto others as I would have them do unto me, a record of shunning the bad and embracing the good (the image at right is a self-portrait, taken at some time in the future).
In reference to the line in The Reckoning that reads, The things you had no right to do, the things you should have done, I am well aware of the things that I’ve done that I had no right to do, and of the things I did not do that I should have done. Armed with that knowledge, in the time I have left in this realm I will strive mightily—nay, desperately—to do none of the things I’ve done that I had no right to do, and to do all of the things I should have done and did not do.
And just one more thought:
I am brazen enough to speculate that some, perhaps many—oh, let’s face it—all of us, not only those that may stumble upon this post—all of us would profit in the long run by establishing and adhering to the plan I’ve outlined above. At the very least it wouldn’t hurt to try, and even if we fail we would perhaps earn points for making the effort—perhaps, and again perhaps not.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: bill, brazen, cigar, current, Dan mcgrew, debit, France, gold, gold rush, joint, knowledge, million, nature, pittsburgh, poet, profit, realm, restaurant, robert w service, story, sun-telegraph, wine, women, yukon
More than 300 years ago the British poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) created a poem that included advice To Virgins to Make Much of Time. That advice, both then and now, applies to every person, to males as well as females and to couples as well as singles, whether same sex or opposite sex. Because of recent events I feel qualified to endorse his advice and pass it on to the people of today, regardless of their ages. I met Robert Herrick only yesterday while surfing the Internet. I believe his advice to Gather the rosebuds while ye may is universal and timeless. It gave me pause for thought, and it is in that spirit that I offer it to my readers.
To Virgins to Make Much of Time
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun,
The higher he’s a-getting;
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best, which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.
I met and married my wife in 1952. We were both very young and we embarked on a 58-year odyssey in search of the Golden Fleece, as did Jason with his Argonauts. There are many interpretations of the significance of the Golden Fleece but some religious scholars, both ancient and contemporary, believe that it represents the
forgiveness of God, something that can neither be sought nor attained unless one knows God.
My wife knew God early in her life and she held steadfastly to that knowledge throughout her life. I found God only with her recent death. Her race is run, and that glorious lamp of heaven—my Sun, the light of my life—has set. I am nearing the final laps of my race, and thanks to my wife I approach the finish line with renewed hope, armed with the knowledge that a Supreme Being and divine providence exist.
The science of physics tells us that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, and that theorem postulates the existence of another being, one with many names—Satan, Lucifer, Beelzzbub, Devil and others. As one cannot visualize and believe in the existence of a mountain without visualizing and believing in a valley, so one cannot believe in God without believing in Satan, a being that is all-evil but perhaps not all-powerful. If the Devil were all powerful, it should follow that goodness and mercy and forgiveness and pain would not exist.
In that context, the Devil perhaps does the worst he can do given what he has to work with, and given the nature of the individuals concerned—namely, you and me. And perhaps God is all-good but not all-powerful, and therefore does the best he can given what he has to work with, and given the nature of the individuals concerned—namely, you and me.
This posting is not meant to be a dissertation on religion. I have neither the ability nor the desire to convert anyone to any religious belief or from one belief to another. My sole interest is to call my readers’ attention to the passing of time by offering up Robert Herrick’s poem, the gist of which can be summed up simply by the first two lines:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may
Old Time is still a-flying
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: argonauts, blood, British, couples, death, devil, disease, females, flower, forgiveness, God, golden fleece, goodness, heaven, herrick, hunger, mercy, mountain, race, rosebuds, sun, Time, valley, virgins, youth
Janie, my wife and the mother of our three daughters, for eleven years was a long-time ovarian cancer survivor dating from 1999. In recent months the cancer had metastasized to her lungs and other organs, a spread so severe that surgery and chemotherapy were no longer options. She was also a long-time dialysis patient with a schedule of two days each week, Monday and Thursday, for two hours each day. She had dialysis on Monday, 8 November but because Thursday was November 11, Veteran’s Day, her dialysis appointment was shifted to Friday. We did not take her to dialysis on the following Monday, and she died just three days later on Thursday, November 18 at 9:15 in the evening.
Early in the morning on the Saturday after her last dialysis I was at her bedside and we were talking about going to dialysis on the following Monday. She was very quiet and I was doing most of the talking, and at one point when I paused she said, softly but very clearly, It’s time. When I asked time for what, she again said softly but clearly, It’s time to go. I broke into tears, just as I am now doing while writing this. Choking back my sobs I said that it was not up to her, that God would decide when it was time, not her, and that she should keep fighting until He made that decision. She smiled slightly and sweetly and made no response.
I stumbled on blindly, sobbing and speaking in broken tones and told her that I didn’t want her to leave me, that she couldn’t leave, that I wouldn’t let her leave, that I needed her and our girls needed her, that we would complete almost six decades of marriage on December 13, and that her birthday would be the day after Christmas. I told her that we had 58 years together, all beautiful except for one, and for that year I desperately needed her forgiveness, and I begged her to forgive me—I begged her for forgiveness that I had not earned and did not deserve.
She looked into my eyes for a long moment, then speaking slowly and softly she said, I forgive you, and then she said, You’re a good man. I told her that if she left me I would follow her and be with her, not knowing when but that I would definitely follow her, and I promised her that from that moment on I would make every effort to live my life towards that goal. Her eyes were closed when I told her that and I wasn’t sure whether she had heard me, but then she said, I’ll wait for you, and a few seconds later she said, I’ll tell Jesus you’re coming. I don’t remember any conversation after that. She lapsed into sleep and except for a few precious times that she acknowledged me and others when we spoke to her, she was silent up to the moment she left us.
I had asked her earlier if she wanted a chaplain to come in and she shook her head, but early in the evening on Thursday, November 18, I asked for a chaplain to visit us. Hector Villarreal, a Protestant chaplain, arrived at six o’clock and prayed with her and for her, and for me and our three daughters. He told her that God loved her and wanted her to be with Him, and that He was waiting for her.
The chaplain said that she would draw her last breath on earth, but that she would draw her next breath in heaven. We were at her side when she took her last breath on earth, and we truly believe, then and now, that she took her next breath in the presence of God, and that her spirit, her marvelous soul, never judgmental and so perfect in every other respect, is now complete and happy and whole again, untarnished by toil, trial and tribulations encountered during almost 79 years of life, years that she lived and loved to the fullest—born in 1931, she died just 38 days short of her 79th birthday, December 26. We would have celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary on the 13th of December.
The hospice nurse noted the time of her last breath as 9: 15 PM on Thursday, November 18, 2010. She had lapsed into a coma the day before, and her breathing had become labored, with her mouth sagging open and each breath an audible gasp for air. She was on oxygen, with the maximum allowable flow of oxygen to her nostrils from a bedside tank.
From time to time, depending on whether she seemed to show pain either by sound or movement, the hospice nurse administered liquid pain medication, placing it under the tongue with a syringe. The nurse assured us that the hearing is the final sense to go, and that Janie could hear every word we spoke, so we talked to her right up to that final breath with our hands on her, on her face and smoothing her hair and softly stroking her arms and hands and feet and adjusting the bed covers, each of us in turn professing our love, recalling our favorite times of our lives with her, with all our words interspersed and muffled by sniffs and sobs.
When our daughters left the room, I asked the nurse if she could do anything about the way Janie’s mouth drooped open, twisted and misshapen, drawn down and to the left from the way her head was turned to the side for so many hours. The nurse said that nothing could be done, that it had to be done at the funeral home.
I insisted that we try, and I began trying to place her head differently in an effort to restore her features to a more natural position. The nurse assisted by folding a hand towel and placing it under Janie’s chin, and that helped slightly. Her mouth, however, still sagged to the left and her lips were open and peeled back with her teeth showing. The nurse said that was all we could do, that the rest was up to the funeral home staff.
Everyone except the nurse left the room, but I stayed seated beside the bed with her while the nurse was completing her report, and several minutes later I spoke aloud, saying that my eyes must be playing tricks on me. I thought I had seen a fold in the blanket high on her left chest rise slowly but perceptibly, as if she had slowly inhaled. I watched it intently and after a brief period it appeared to lower.
The nurse either did not hear me or perhaps simply ignored me, and continued with her work. I felt that the blanket fold had moved, but I knew that I could have imagined it, that I was perhaps trying to will my wife to take another breath. The air in the room was very still. The overhead ceiling fan was not on because she never wanted it on.
A few seconds later I again spoke aloud and said that my eyes were still playing tricks on me. I saw the same fold that had moved a few seconds earlier move again, rising ever so slowly but perceptibly and after a brief period I saw it lower. Again there was no response from the nurse. She may have felt that I was so stricken with grief that my imagination was running wild, and that perhaps I was trying to will my wife to breathe, to return to me, to return to life from the other side.
Our daughters had been out of the room since their mother took her last breath, but Kelley, the youngest of the three, asked them if they wanted to come in to see her again. They declined and Kelley came in alone, and as she entered I glanced at her mother’s face and my heart began to pound wildly.
I told Kelley to look at her mouth—it was no longer contorted and sagging. Her lips were closed and her mouth showed a hint of a smile, an uplift at the corners—just a hint of a smile but enough for any observer to see that she looked calm and peaceful and perhaps a bit amused. Kelly told the others that they needed to come in, that there was something they needed to see, and we all marveled at the transformation of Janie’s face—from a grimace to a grin, from a sagging mouth to a smile, and from pain to peace.
When I felt that my eyes were playing tricks on me I was wrong. They were not playing tricks. I believe—no, I know—that I saw the blanket fold move up and then drop back down after a few seconds, and I saw it repeat the movement a bit later.
She did indeed draw her last breath on earth, and it is my honest belief that she then drew her next breath in heaven. I believe that our Creator allowed her to return and draw another last breath on earth, a breath that enabled her to live again, albeit just long enough to correct the awkward position of her lips and her mouth and begin that beautiful smile that she shared with me and with our daughters and with others throughout her 78 years of life on earth. I truly believe that she heard me ask the nurse if anything could be done with her mouth, and I believe—no, I know—that after she took her next breath in heaven, she asked God for a favor and He granted it.
I believe that through the power and grace of God my wife was allowed to return to this life just long enough to slough off all the pain and misery of years of surgeries and chemotherapy and dialysis and several days gasping for breath while under medication for the pain caused by ovarian tumors that almost filled both lungs. I believe the Master sent her back to earth to occupy her body for the brief time she needed to complete the metamorphasis from a chrysalis to a beautiful butterfly, to return that smile to her lips for us before returning to Him. He knew that I needed that, that we needed that, and He gave her the power to do it for me and for our daughters.
Her return to the world of the living, though only for a very brief period, is a miracle because of the miracle it wrought in her appearance. It is for me the epiphany I have longed for and sought for many years. I have always wished for a sign, an unworldly experience I could view as an indication that life does exist after death, that there is a divine presence, that God exists and is responsible for all the good in mankind. That smile on Janie’s face on her last night on earth has given me that sign, and for that I thank God and I thank her.
Sleep well in heaven, my darling.
Postscript: Janie is buried in Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery. She lies among military veterans of our wars, many of whom are cited by our nation for bravery and duty performance. Janie is just one of many there, but she is one that deserves every commendation and medal that may exist to commemorate her exemplary life as a wife and mother. Her obituary appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News on Monday, November 22, 2010—click here for the full publication.
The request below appears at the end of the obituary. Perhaps some of the readers of this posting will find it in their hearts to support these or similar organizations with donations, and join in the search for prevention and cures for ovarian cancer and kidney disease, two of the deadliest and most debilitating afflictions known to mankind.
From Janie’s obituary: In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in her memory to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, P.O. Box 7086, Dallas Texas 75209, http://www.ovarian.org or the American Kidney Fund, 6110 Executive Blvd., Ste. 1010, Rockville MD 20852, http://www.kidneyfund.org
Tags: blanket, butterfly, cancer, chaplain, chemotherapy, chrysalis, coma, creator, Dallas, darling, dialysis, earth, epiphany, Express-News, fan, Fort Sam Houston, God, heaven, jesus, kidney, lips, mankind, metamorphasis, mother, mouth, nurse, obituary, ovarian, oxygen, pain, patient, peace, presence, protestant, rockville, sign, smile, soul, surgery, tank, Texas, trial, wife
Readers of my blog will note that I write and post letters to my relatives who have left this realm for another. These letters are the means I have chosen to document their lives and to secure them in my memory and the memories of our children, our grandchildren, our relatives and our friends.
The following obituary appeared in San Antonio’s Express-News on November 22, 2010. My wife and I met in August of 1952 and married just four months later on a Saturday afternoon on the thirteenth day of December that same year. We were together for the next 58 years except for the twelve days remaining in November and the first thirteen days in December. We are still together and we will remain together throughout eternity, both in this realm and the next.
Janie Alta Dyer, age 78, an eleven-year survivor of ovarian cancer, died at her home in San Antonio, Texas on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from complications of that disease and kidney failure.
Janie was born on December 26, 1931 in Broxton GA, one of six children born to John James McLean and Wootie Pridgen of Pridgen GA. She met and married Hershel Mike Dyer of Columbus MS in 1952 in Douglas GA and is survived by him, her three daughters, their husbands and her grandchildren: Debra Janet Dyer and William Talbert of San Antonio TX and their daughter and son, Lauren Ashley Talbert and Landen Dyer Talbert, Cindy Dyer and Michael Schwehr of Alexandria VA, and by Kelley Dyer and James Brantley Saunders of Wylie TX and their son and daughter, James Brennan Saunders and Macie McLean Saunders.
Janie is survived by three sisters and one brother: Winnie Sapp of Hamlet NC, Evelyn Pridgen of Brunswick Ga, Christine Young of Fitzgerald GA and Charles McLean of Pridgen, GA. She was preceded in death by her father in 1954, her mother in 1985 and her brother John Herbert McLean in 1997.
Over the years Janie has expressed admiration and love for those involved in her health care, including the staff at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) and Wilford Hall Medical Center (WHMC), with particular affection for those involved in the chemotherapy clinic at WHMC and those in Oncology, Nephrology, Vascular Surgery, Interventional Radiology and Dialysis clinics at BAMC. She viewed them as angels placed on earth to guide her through perilous times.
Her family echoes her sentiments, and they also thank the staff of Odyssey hospice for their loving care and professionalism. Janie’s highest praise for others was that they were good persons, and her life echoes and exemplifies that expression. She was a good person throughout her life. She will be missed in this realm, and will be welcomed in another.
Memorial services will be at 11:30 AM on Monday, November 29 at Porter-Loring Mortuary North, 2102 North Loop 1604 East. Interment will be in Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery at 1:00 PM.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in her memory to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, P.O. Box 7086, Dallas Texas 75209, http://www.ovarian.org or the American Kidney Fund, 6110 Executive Blvd., Ste. 1010, Rockville MD 20852, http://www.kidneyfund.org
I intend to post letters to my wife in the future in order to keep her up to date on family feats and foibles. I know that she will be watching anyway, but I might be able to provide some minor details that she may have overlooked. If they don’t have computers there now, they will have when Bill Gates and/or Steve Jobs relocate from here to there.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: bill gates, broxton, cancer, cemetery, chemotherapy, columbus ms, dialysis, Express-News, hospice, interment, memorial, nephrology, obituary, oncology, ovarian, pridgen, radiology, San Antonio, steve jobs, surgery, vascular
Dempsey was one of my many first-cousins, born in 1928, the younger of two sons born to Ellie, one of my mother’s sisters. Aunt Ellie was married to my Uncle Esker, a hard-working land-owner that lived with his family in a rural area some five miles south of Vernon,the county seat of Lamar County, Alabama. He was a highly successful landowner, farmer, store keeper, blacksmith, syrup-maker, grist mill operator, auto mechanic, self-trained veterinarian and a husband and father.
He died under the wheels of a farm tractor, his head crushed by the lugs of the left rear wheel with his younger son, a boy of ten years, at the controls of the tractor. For the edification of anyone unfamiliar with lugs, they are the huge metal spikes on the rear wheels of some tractors, designed to allow the tractor to find traction in mud and loose soil. One can still see highway signs in rural areas prohibiting vehicles with lugs from operating on paved highways—for obvious reasons, of course. Those spikes can cause significant damage to asphalt pavements and bring death to living flesh, whether animals or humans.
It was an unfortunate and horrible accident, and it was impossible to know with any certainty how and why it happened. The tractor had a power take-off, and its broadband drive belt was hooked up to operate the grinding machines of grist mill at the time. Families came from farms and small communities from miles around to the grist mill with wagon loads of raw corn and grains and returned home with cornmeal and flour. The old-time tractor had no starter—its engine was started by a hand-crank from the front, as were many vehicles in those days, a procedure that often required two people for success—one to turn the crank and the other to operate the throttle and choke to provide the proper mixture of gasoline and air to start the engine.
Obviously the gearshift had to be in neutral when the engine started—otherwise the tractor would lurch forward when the engine started, with predictable results for the person cranking the engine. The tractor should have been rendered immobile—that is, secured with safety chains or with barriers in front to keep it stationary while it was hooked up to the grist mill—it was not secured in any manner.
This was an accident waiting to happen, and it happened. The tractor was not secured, and when the engine started the tractor was in gear and it lurched forward. My uncle slipped and fell and the left rear wheel crushed his head. His son either failed to place the gearshift in neutral before signaling his father to turn the crank, or by accident put the tractor into gear after the engine started, and before his father could move out of harm’s way—he was said to have died instantly.
I don’t know my uncle’s age or the year he died. There is no record in the Social Security Death records because this was just a short time after Social Security was established in 1935—I doubt that my uncle ever had a Social Security number. I was a little feller at the time, somewhere around five or six years of age, but I have vivid memories of my uncle’s casket in my aunt’s house—the casket was closed, for obvious reasons. His casket was one of three that I remember seeing in that same room in a period of perhaps five years when I was a small boy. The others were those of my grandmother (my mother’s mother) and another uncle, one of my mother’s brothers. The life and unusual death of my mother’s brother is recorded in one of my postings. It involves my uncle, another patient in the asylum and a metal bedpan. Click here for that story—it’s worth the read.
In those days the deceased lay in state at home for a time, at least overnight, before being interred. This gave friends and relatives time to bring in flowers and food for the family and for the other mourners, and to tender their respect for the dead and condolences to the grieving family members. There were lots of flowers and lots of food at Aunt Ellie’s house—my uncle was a highly-respected man in the community, very active in his church in addition to his business activities, and people came from many miles around to attend his funeral.
I had big ears when I was a little boy—still do, as a matter of fact. I don’t mean that my ears are larger than normal—they aren’t. It’s just that I am unable to tune out conversations around me. I dislike dining at cafeterias because I am tuned in to every conversation at every table within earshot, and that becomes a bit overwhelming. As I moved around at my uncle’s wake, in the room and through the house and on the porch and in the yard, anywhere that mourners gathered, I gleaned information from people talking in low voices about the accident, going over the details and wondering how such a thing could have happened. I took in all the solemn voices and speculations and conclusions, and because I am blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a fairly decent memory, I have retained many memories of the event.
One of my most vivid memories of my Uncle Esker is of his huge barn across the highway from his house. I went with him one morning to feed the animals and to see the foal that he told me had been born the day before. It was a beautiful colt, brown with white markings. I stood in awe of the foal and my uncle asked me if I would like to have one like that. I answered in the affirmative, of course, and he told me that the colt was mine, but that I would have to wait until it grew up a bit before I could claim it.
No way—I claimed that colt that same day, and I could hardly wait to tell all my friends about my pony. I was the only kid in my circle and on my block and maybe in the entire city of Columbus, Mississippi that could claim to be the owner of such an animal, and I got as much mileage as I could with the information. My uncle died soon after the gift was made, and since he and I were the only ones that knew about the transaction, I laid no claim to the colt but I still feel, even to this day almost three-quarters of a century later that I once owned a beautiful white-faced and white-footed pony—that’s a very satisfying feeling—not many kids can make that claim!
I was not around Dempsey very much, and I didn’t know him well. I have no way of knowing how well he coped with the knowledge that he was complicit in his father’s death. He died in 1977 at the age of 69 so whatever he felt and how he coped with his part of the accident is of no consequence now. We were four years apart in age, and few ten year old boys have much in common with six year old boys. I may have seen him three or four times in later years, but it would have been for very limited periods. The only concrete knowledge I have about him is that he worked in Birmingham, Alabama for Bama Foods, a company that produced jams and jellies for home and commercial consumption, as did most of my relatives from that period. I and my family have used their products for many years and I can highly recommend them—and no, I do not have any stock in the company!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: accident, Alabama, asylum, bama foods, blacksmith, Columbus, corn, death, death records, farmer, father, foal, grains, grist mill, hand crank, highway, husband, Lamar County, life, lugs, Mississippi, pony, Social Security, tractor, uncle, veterinarian
I began my career with U.S. Customs as a GS-7 trainee at the port of Progreso, Texas and I was upgraded to the GS-9 journeyman position after one year. During that year I learned more from one officer at the port than from all the others combined. Not that they didn’t help me learn the ins and outs of the job—they were very helpful, but the port director and I became a team, both professionally and personally. Almost from the beginning we were like brothers, respectful of each other and each always looking out for the other’s back.
As a measure of how well the port director taught me, I was awarded an in-grade pay increase in my second year and another in my third year, both based on my duty performance, particularly on my arrest and seizure record. An in-grade pay increase is a pay raise given for outstanding performance, and is in addition to the normal longevity raises given to federal employees based purely on successful duty performances. In-grade pay increases are the gifts that keep on giving!
Some ten years older than I, the port director took me under his wing like a mother hen protects a chick—figuratively, of course. He placed me on the right path for success in my new profession and set me straight when I strayed from that path. He raised hell when I made mistakes, and he lauded me when I managed to do something right, such as making seizures and accurately documenting our various Customs activities. I also was brash enough to submit several suggestions that I felt would improve port operations, and upper headquarters felt impelled to implement my suggestions and provide remuneration for my ideas. How about that!
His most recent assignment was at the port of Eagle Pass, almost 300 miles upriver from Progreso. In the latter part of 1971 Progreso became a separate port from the port of Hidalgo, and he was promoted to the position of port director for the new port. His name was Paul, and he died at Christmas time in 1973. His cancer disease was diagnosed in mid-1972 and a scant eighteen months later he was dead.
Paul, my first port director and supervisor in Customs—my friend and my mentor—was buried in Brownsville, Texas some fifty miles distant from Progreso. I was unavoidably delayed at the port and the casket was closed when I arrived at the funeral home. The funeral director offered to open the casket for my viewing but I declined the offer. I figured that Paul had once again been promoted and was already on the way to his next assignment, that shining port in the hereafter, and I was reluctant to slow him down.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: Brownsville, cancer, casket, Christmas, eagle pass, friend, funeral, hearafer, hen, hidalgo, journeyman, longevity, mentor, port director, Progreso, team, Texas, wing