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Our tombstone inscriptions . . .

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.

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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in death, Family, funeral, health, marriage, Military

 

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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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A letter to Janie in el cielo . . .

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,

Mike

 

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Re–post: Dear Abby poem, a letter from those beyond . . .

The letter that follows below is from my original posting dated November 25, 2009, entitled Dear Abby poem, a letter from beyond . . . Click here to read the original post. I am re–posting it now for the benefit of a recent subscriber to my blog, a nephew, the first of two sons born to my sister. His mother was the penultimate—the second to the last—family member to shuffle off this mortal coil. I am the ultimate, the last of seven children born to our mother and father and the last one still standing.

The poem below appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News daily on Sunday, July 11, 1993, in Dear Abby’s column. It’s a moving message from one and all that, as voiced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have shuffled off this mortal coil, and is for us a solemn reminder of our own mortality.

These are the words of Hamlet:

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause.

Several years after her husband died, I sent this letter to my sister:

July 11, 1993

Dear Sis,

It’s Sunday morning here and I just finished wading my way through the Sunday issue of San Antonio’s Express-News. This poem was in Dear Abby. I know it’s very sad, and I know it won’t be easy for you to read. But I’ve read it over and over and I found that, at least for me, it becomes more uplifting and less sad with each reading. It was untitled, so I guess we are supposed to furnish our own title.

Nice touch, that. We can simply leave it untitled, or we can dedicate it to someone or something we’ve loved and lost, whether it be a person or pet or place or idea. Or we can title it We are not dead and attribute the poem to be from all those we’ve loved and lost.

Whether the voice of one or the voices of all, and regardless of the title, the poem must give us pause:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow;

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain;

I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awake in the morning’s hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there. I did not die.

In the seven months since I posted the poem it has garnered ten votes, all excellent, but no viewer has taken the time to post a comment. I realize that many of us, perhaps most, are reluctant to focus our thoughts on those that are no longer with us, but when they are in our thoughts they are not dead—they live, if only for a brief moment, and the finest tribute we can pay is to never forget—always remember.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


 
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Posted by on June 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Dear Abby poem, a letter from those beyond . . .

The lines that follow were excerpted from Hamlet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play:

To die, to sleep, to sleep,| perchance to dream;
Aye, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death,
what dreams may come

when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause.

The poem below appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News on Sunday, July 11, 1993, in Dear Abby’s column. It’s a moving message from one and all who, as voiced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have shuffled off this mortal coil, and it is for us a solemn reminder of our own mortality. My sister’s husband had recently died and I included the poem in a letter.

This is the letter I sent to my sister following the death of her husband:

July 11, 1993

Dear Sis,

It’s Sunday morning here and I just finished wading my way through the Sunday issue of San Antonio’s Express-News. This poem was in Dear Abby. I know it’s very sad, and I know it won’t be easy for you to read. But I’ve read it over and over and I found that, at least for me, it became more uplifting and less sad with each reading. It was untitled, so I guess we are supposed to furnish our own title.

Nice touch, that. We can simply leave it untitled, or we can dedicate it to someone or something we’ve loved and lost, whether it be a person or pet or place or dream. We can title it I am not dead and accept it as being the voice of one we’ve loved and lost, or we can title it We are not dead and accept it as being the voices of all those we’ve loved and lost. Whether the voice of one or the voices of all, and regardless of the title the poem, in the words of Hamlet, must give us pause.

I choose to entitle the poem as the voice of one we’ve loved and lost:

I am not dead

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awake in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Re: Dear Abby—the following biographical sketch was extracted from Wikipedia:

Pauline Phillips (born July 4, 1918 as Pauline “Popo” Esther Friedman) is an advice columnist and radio show host who founded the “Dear Abby” column in 1956. The current Dear Abby is her first-born child and only daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who now writes under the pen name of Abigail Van Buren, which was also used by Pauline. She also has a son, Edward Jay Phillips.

Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips was an identical twin; her sister, Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer, wrote the Ann Landers column until her death from multiple myeloma in 2002, at age 83. As children, the two grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and went by the nicknames “Popo” and “Eppie,” respectively. Both are alumnae of Morningside College and both wrote for the college newspaper. They were so close then that they had a joint wedding in 1939 when both women were 21 years old. They were both Jewish.


 
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Posted by on November 15, 2009 in death, Family, newspapers

 

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