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A brisket for Nephrology . . .

This is a letter to my wife, one of the purest and sweetest beings that God has ever created. Her immortal soul returned to its Creator on Thursday, the eighteenth of November, 2010 at 9:15 in the evening. Immediately after joining Him she left His presence, and anointed with the divine influence of His grace she returned to our mortal world for a few brief moments. Her return is documented and discussed here.

Hi, sweetheart,

I know you’re watching and I’m sure you were part of the annual get-together in the Nephrology Clinic at Brooke Army Medical Center, but I’ll recap the luncheon for you just in case you overlooked some of the folks that attended. It was held on Thursday, December 16, the day that would have been your day for dialysis. You’ll remember that Thursday is the least busy day for the unit. There was only one patient that morning, and I believe that was an in-hospital patient.

All the nurses were there: Gracie, Linda, Irene, Gloria, Jackie, Tammie, Jim, Carver, Henderson and Patti, the Head Nurse, along with Kathy, the dietitian, and Dr. Reynolds, the officer-in-charge of the Clinic. Many of the dialysis patients were there, including the Big Colonel and the Little Colonel. The Big Colonel expressed his sadness at learning of your death, and offered his condolences to me and to our daughters, saying that we and you would always remain in his thoughts and prayers.

Dr. Reynolds welcomed us to the event and asked that we never forget those that are longer with us, specifically naming you and Mrs. Kirk, that beautiful little lady with the short gray hair and the ever-present smile, always commandeering a wheelchair and chauffeured by her husband. She followed you from this realm just a few days after you left us.

Dr. Reynolds introduced the chaplain, and following the chaplain’s brief prayer with blessings on those present and those not present, we lined up at the trough for lunch, and what a spectacular trough it was. The tables stretched at least thirty or forty feet along one wall and each table was loaded—the staff should be enjoying leftovers for several days, probably through the weekend and into next week.

You should be very proud of me because with you beside me, coaching me at every step, I prepared a seven-pound brisket, from HEB of course, and brought it still hot on my arrival at the clinic, along with sauce, chips, bread and four gallons of sweet tea from Bush’s Chicken in Converse—incidentally, there has apparently been a complete change of personnel at that location—I recognized none of the staff there.

Rita met me at the entrance of the hospital with a handcart to help carry everything. I also brought another large framed piece of art to add to our gallery in the clinic. That makes a total of fourteen pieces lining each side of the hallway from the entrance all the way to the dialysis section. I’m told that your “art gallery” is an attraction for other hospital staff and patients and visitors. I know that you and I did not make the donations as a memorial, but it doesn’t hurt that it serves as a memorial to you.

Cindy helped me create gold foil stickers for the pieces, and I placed one on the lower right corner of the glass of each, and I also placed a label on the flat-screen television you donated to the Nephrology Clinic to replace that little dinky tube television that was there. Each of the gold stickers reads, Donated to Nephrology by Janie and Mike Dyer. And just in case you are wondering, Rita still watches The View every morning with religious fervor.

I wish the hallway were a bit longer so I could expand the gallery in your name. I also wish that I could create another Taj Mahal to honor your name and your life, but I’ll have to be satisfied with the Taj Mahal that resides in my heart and in my memories of you and of my life with you. Just as is the original Taj Mahal in India, the Taj Mahal in my heart and memories is a symbol of our eternal love.

I helped the nurses set up the banquet tables (Irene made me don plastic gloves before I could help sanitize the tables). When the signal was given to Come and get it! I joined the long line, loading far more on my plate than necessary, but I admit shamefully that very little was left when I finished. I shared a table with Ernie, his wife and his daughter. You’ll remember Ernie as the camera-bug transplanted to San Antonio from El Paso so his severely handicapped wheel-chair-bound daughter could receive treatment here. He is still following Cindy’s blog and working on his photographic skills.

Unless you were preoccupied in another area, you probably noticed that I visited you in the cemetery that Thursday afternoon. There were few visitors that day, but the machines and their operators were present as always, hard at work maintaining and enhancing the grounds, watering and grooming and planting and preparing new communities for military wives and husbands and for the orphaned children of military families. The perpetual care provided by our government for those families ensures the beauty and the future of one of the largest such cemeteries in the nation.

My visit with you that Thursday afternoon was bitter sweet, as all future visits will be. I accept the sadness that cloaks and permeates each visit, but I exult in the knowledge that the sadness is temporary, because I know that at some time in the future I will join you and our immortal souls will be reunited.

And I know that, in the glorious morning of the Resurrection our bodies will be raised, and become as incorruptible as our souls.

Sleep well in heaven, my darling. I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.

Mike

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Posted by on December 18, 2010 in death, Family, flowers, health, marriage, television, Writing

 

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Help me, help me! A lass and lipstick moment . . .

Please study this photo and tell me what you see. Is this child a refugee from a war-torn country? From somewhere in Europe during World War II, or perhaps from one of the Balkan countries during a later time of conflict? Bosnia? Kosovo?

Look deeply into this pitiful child’s eyes, at her wrinkled brow, at that pleading look and stance, and try to imagine what horrors she has endured. Does she awake in the dead of night screaming, reliving sights and scenes and sounds from the past? Has she been abused? Is she a victim of ——-? (fill in the blank).

Nope, none of the above. This lovely little girl is not from any war-torn country—she is not a refugee. Those are not blood-stains you see, and the only thing she is a victim of is having gotten into her mother’s cosmetics and applied lipstick, quite liberally—she has lipstick in varying amounts on lips, teeth, chin, cheeks, neck, eyebrows, forehead, arms, hands and tee-shirt, and in her hair.

That pleading look is one of, Look at what someone did to me! How could this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this? That pleading look and pitiful pose is actually saying, Help me, help me! If the picture had sound, it would be similar to Vincent Price, half-man and half-fly, trapped in a spiderweb in that old black-and-white movie, The Fly and pleading, Help me, help me!

She’s begging for a clean-up job. My first thought when I saw the damage was to strap her on the hood of my car and run it through the automatic car wash a couple of times, but her mother nixed that. My next suggestion was to remove the lipstick with scouring powder but that was also nixed, and ultimately soap, water and lots of rubbing returned her to something approaching a normal appearance.

This child, this urchin with the oh, so innocent but pleading look and stance is my daughter Cindy, the middle one of three daughters, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia. She was somewhere between three and four years old—closer to four, I believe—when I took this picture. She’s standing in the driveway of our home at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, an upscale on-base neighborhood, one that our family hated to leave after just one year there. We left Brooks Air Force Base and traveled just twenty miles or so across town to another assignment at Kelley Air Force Base—our six year stay at that location is a subject for a future posting.

Cindy is all grown up now, married without children and working as—well, her work is so varied that rather than trying to capsule it into one category, I’ll let her tell you in her own words. The following is from Stuff about me on her Word Press blog. Click the link below for her Stuff about me. Click here for her latest postings and get ready to view some really gorgeous photography, some of the finest to be found on the web!

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/about/

Paying the bills: self-employed graphic designer and photographer (mostly print; professional and trade associations, and small businesses—magazines, newsletters, brochures, annual reports, logos, posters)—celebrating 21 years on my own this year—2010!

Family: by far the best Mom and Dad on the planet, two sisters, two great brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, and my sweetie, Michael…wonderful friends who are always there for me…an ode to my Garden Club Weedettes as well, who are always eager and willing to dive into a project with me, dress up for a party, whip up a potluck contribution, or get their hands dirty doing something crafty.

Some other activities—some, but not all: Oil and acrylic painting, photography (portraits, glamour shots, nature, macro, floral/botanical, travel), cement leaf casting, crocheting hats like crazy come winter time (what else can a gardener do when it’s cold out?), needle felting, sewing, murals, faux painting, Polaroid transfers (if it’s something crafty, I’ve probably at least tried it once), biblioholic (any topic, you name it—we probably have at least one book on the subject…don’t even begin to guess how many gardening books I’ve amassed!), animal lover (currently: two cats (ZenaB and Jasper), down to one goldfish (Goldie), and one pleco (Spot); formerly: ferrets (Ginger, Jessie Belle, Missy, Pogo Diablo, Ben, Callie Jo, Silver, Bandit), one white rat (Lucky Fred Chewy Ratatouille), and countless other goldfish (Calico Joe, Dorrie, Nemo, Suebee, Debbi, and Regina). Also handy with power tools and do-it-yourself projects…

Magnificent obsession: Gardening! As the “Head Weed,” I started a garden club in my community over five years ago and I’m surrounded by an amazing group of Weedettes!…and gardening books (reference, how-to, essays by other gardeners)

Always on my radar: Gardens, nurseries, plant sales! In my travels, I always look for the local nurseries and botanical gardens to visit.

And another obsession: BOOKS! I love to read and subjects include nature, science, gardening (I especially love personal essays by gardeners); photography; graphic design; nature and travel writing essays; how-to books on writing, editing, crafts, journaling, cooking, designing, decorating; biographies…sometimes a book just has to be beautifully designed for me to want to possess it! I never met a book I didn’t like (um…scratch that. If it relates to math, I’m outta here). And when I travel, I always look for new bookstores. What could possibly be better than Powell’s Books in Portland, The Tattered Cover in Denver, Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle, or any Half Price Books & Records in the south?

Other diversions: writing poetry, entertaining (all my parties must have a theme, dress code, and guests pose in front of related theme backgrounds for their photos!), animal lover; magazine addict (covering photography, graphic design, Photoshop, Mac, home and garden, travel). I also love to research the things I photograph.

Oh, and just a few more obsessions: Yarn, fabric and craft stores!

Globetrotting: I love to travel (so far: Italian and French Riviera, Rome, Chile (Buenos Aires), Argentina (Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia), Antarctica, Alaska, the islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, St. John, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, St. Barts), southwest U.S. several times over (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah), all the eastern states, Ohio, California (San Diego, Monterrey, Carmel, San Francisco, Napa/Sonoma Valley, Death Valley), Texas (mostly South Texas and Mexico), Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Point Pelee for bird migration, Maine (and all the other New England states), Maryland, West Virginia, New York, Louisiana (lived there when I was in 5th grade), Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Montana, Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Victoria/British Columbia)….love a good road trip…need to do more!

Music: Lifelong John Denver fan, Tingstad and Rumbel, Eva Cassidy, Christine Kane, Katie Melua, Cheryl Wheeler, Janis Ian, Barbara Streisand, Karla Bonoff, James Taylor, Trisha Yearwood, Carly Simon, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Josh Grobin, any acoustic instrumental music (particularly guitar and piano)

In a nutshell, I live to create.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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A letter to Hattie, my sister . . .

Dear Hattie,

Writing to you is a bit awkward for me because I have no way of knowing your age, or even knowing whether you have progressed in age since your death. I believe you have, because I believe that we are all born without sin, just as was Jesus, even without the sins of our mothers and our fathers, and I would like to believe that still-born babies, and those that die shortly after birth as you did, are privileged to ascend to heaven and do ascend, there to grow into adult spirits in order to welcome their parents and other family members on their level when they arrive, not as unknowing infants but as adults and as understanding spiritual beings.

The only thing I know about you is what our mother told me. I know that you lived only one day, but I don’t know what went wrong with your birth, whether you died in the womb or after you were born, nor do I know where you were buried—in west central Alabama, of course, but I don’t know whether you were buried in a cemetery or near the house where you were born—in that day and age many still-born babies and those that lived only a day or so were usually buried on private grounds, often without  ceremony or a marker of any kind. That’s doesn’t mean that those involved were not sorrowed by your death—that’s just the way things were handled in those days, and I’m sure you understand that.

Had you lived you would have been to me another older sister, not a completely good thought—sometimes I felt that I was up to my shoulders in sisters. You are one of seven children born to our mother—five girls and two boys, and I am the younger of your two brothers. You, our brother and our four other sisters were all older than I, so I’ll guess that you have progressed in age accordingly. I have never known where you stand in age in relation to the others.

You could have been our mother’s first born, and that’s very possible—she married our father, a considerably older man, at a very young age, just as did many farm girls during that era and in that area—older men as well as younger men married young girls for different reasons, not the least of which was that they needed a young wife in order to produce lots of children, especially boys, to help out on the farm—some marriages were in essence an economical necessity.

First births were, and still are, often very difficult, while babies born in subsequent births were, and still are, in less danger, and of course you could have been born between  the births of our other siblings. However, this I know for sure—you are definitely older than I because I am the last born, delivered several months after our mother divorced our father—I am also the last one of our family still standing, and reasonably erect—in posture at any rate.

The others are all gone—our mother and our father, you, our brother and all four of our sisters. Oh, and also gone is a stepfather our mother married when I was nine. We understood why he was attracted to her, but we never understood why she was attracted to him. He may have meant security for her, but that’s not the way it turned out—if you’ve been watching the twists and turns their relationship took you’ll understand. The two were married, unmarried, then married again in a relationship that lasted, spasmodically, for a total of 29 years.

Just to bring you up to date—when I was born I had only four siblings—one brother and three sisters. You were dead, of course, and our sister Eulene was only ten years old when she died, the victim of a hit-and-run drunken driver. After she was struck by the auto her body was dragged for a considerable distance. Our mother told me that the drunk was arrested a few miles from the accident scene at a low-water crossing while trying to wash the evidence—our sister’s blood, hair and tissue—from the auto’s undercarriage.

I was only two years old at the time so I know nothing about her other than a few details of her death. She is buried in the cemetery at Pinhook Baptist Church, located in a small rural community in west central Alabama, a few miles south of the city of Vernon, the county seat of Lamar County.

Atop her headstone is a marble carving of a lamb, an apt monument to a young girl taken from this life at such an early age—I know, I know—she fared far better than you did, but that’s life—it has its up and its downs and is rife with inequities.

In addition to our sister Eulene, our mother and our stepfather—well, not your stepfather, but my stepfather—are also buried there. The same cemetery also contains the earthly remains of various relatives on our mother’s side of the family—aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I didn’t know them very well, and some not at all.

I’m writing this because my three daughters—your nieces—want me to tell them everything I can remember about their parents and grandparents, their aunts and uncles and cousins. They have lived most of their adult lives away from those relatives and have never known them very well, and some not at all. They have assigned me a Herculean task, but I’ll do the best I can to comply—I understand their need and longing for more information on those that have gone before.

I apologize for not writing sooner, and I must admit that this letter did not come easily—it did, however, come from the heart. And if some feel that portions of this missive seem flippant, perhaps sacrilegious, the only thing I can say to them is, suck it upit’s in my nature.

I will close on a hopeful thought, one that may not be readily accepted by visitors to this blog. I accept the possibility—mind you, I said possibility, not probability—that souls may move at times between their universe and ours, so given that possibility, I plan to post digital letters on my blog, similar to this one, to our parents, to our brother and to our sisters, and perhaps even to my stepfather, so you might want to stay tuned.

With love from your brother Mike and your three nieces—Debbie, Cindy and Kelley.

Postcript: I found this information in a genealogical report researched and compiled by Jessie’s daughter Vicki, one of your nieces, a lovely lady now living in Montgomery, Alabama. I know now that you were born in 1917 in Fernbank, Alabama, a small town in Lamar County a few miles south of Vernon, the county seat. You were the second child born to our mother, some eighteen months after our older sister, Jessie, was born, and you were buried there in Walnut Grove Cemetery.

Had you lived, you would have been the second oldest of five girls and two boys born to our mother between 1915 and 1932, a period of just seventeen years, an average of three years between births. Remember what I said about farming families and the need for workers?

I would hope that our father was not too disappointed in the ratio of girls to boys—five girls to only two boys. Had it been me I would have been very proud, as witness the fact that I have three daughters and no boys, and I could not be happier with that ratio of girls to boys—of course I’m not a farmer!

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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