Monday, December 24, 2007

Silent Nights





As the spirit and the hope and the peace of this season descend upon us and touch our hearts, my hope is that each of us takes the time to realize that life and love and family and those close to us and those we hardly know, whose lives we may touch for only an instant, are all important and special in their own way – and should never be taken for granted.  


This has been a year when those lessons have been brought close to my home and to my heart on too many occasions – and the best and only way I know to honor those I have lost is to try to live my own life in a way that will prove that those lessons were not taught in vain.


I wish you warmth of heart, closeness of loved ones and kindness of and to strangers.  I wish you silent nights and peace on earth, simple pleasures and the time to truly enjoy them.  I wish you a glow that starts deep within, and reaches out to all with whom you come in contact – spreading light and hope to any and all.  Each of us makes a difference in the lives of some or many – and I pray that each of us will remember to live each day to its fullest and to never take this gift for granted.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and all you hold dear – and a bright, happy and healthy New Year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Reasons to be Thankful

Its been a long time since I’ve visited this space, but Thanksgiving has always been an important time of the year to me – and, even though circumstances are far different this year, there is still and always much for which to be thankful.

There will be a large vacancy at the table this season – yet the absence of a physical presence does not also portend an absence of the spirit and the memory of all that has gone before.

In things small and large, happy and poignant, there will be moments to remember. In words said and in traditions continued, there will be memories. And in fleeting moments, it will seem that all is as its always been – and that is just as it should be.

Whether this Holiday finds you exploring long-honored traditions or those in their infancy, whether family and friends are near at hand or simply close in your heart, whether the sun shines on your day or clouds prevail, my wish is that your heart knows peace, that you remember and celebrate the things for which you are thankful – and that you let those who are important to you and who you love know exactly how much you care.

To my friends here old and new, to those who have visited frequently or just this once, I thank you. Your many words of kindness during a difficult time in my life have been and are very much appreciated and I am grateful to you all. And to those who brighten my life and my days – who listen and provide support and love to help me always see the sunshine on the horizon – thank you from my heart.

May each day of the year give you reason to be thankful. May each day of the year give you reason to smile.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Blue Skies



A friend asked if I’d ever participated in any of the Journal-based photo challenges and I replied that I never thought my work was good enough to expose any more widely than I already have.  But I took a look at the suggested sites again and found a topic I particularly liked in light of all the grey that’s descended in my life lately.  The topic was ‘Blue Skies’ and the ‘assignment’ was to post a picture dominated by cloudless expanses of blue.  You can find links to others who have posted entries here: Your Monday Photo Shoot: Blue Skies.



I’ve always liked the subject of this photo because its always made me smile.  Another photographer also captured a less-than-flattering image of me in the process of taking this shot (lying flat on my back in a wet parking lot in order to get the perspective I wanted)  - and that helps keep me humble in case I ever need it.  To any and all who read this, I wish you blue skies - regardless of the weather.





My sincere thanks to all who took the time to read my last entry and for the wonderful, supportive comments you left.  I intended it to be a celebration of the life dad led and the inspiration he has been to me - and not a maudlin lament of loss.  I truly hope that you found it as uplifting to read as I found it cathartic to write.  I know without doubt that he has received the rest he sought and so richly deserved.  And that’s one of the reasons I chose this topic – because for him the skies will now always be blue.


Friday, April 20, 2007

A Tribute



As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been away from J-Land for quite some time.  Not only have I not written in my own journal, but I have been remiss in reading those of others - and for that my own life has been all the less rich.


When I began this journal, I wanted it to not just be a record of my existence but a record of the small blessings we encounter in life yet do not take the time to appreciate.  My feeling was that my life was not so remarkable that it needed recording, but that I had encountered frequent brushes with bits of wisdom and reminders of the beauty of the world that I wanted to keep and remember.


My journal has always been written to help me hold those moments, but when others began to read I found that perhaps those experiences could help others find their own small blessings as well. If you have taken something from these pages that has caused you to smile or to better appreciate wildflowers along the roadside, then that is all the more reward to me – and those who have then shared their own experiences have helped to  enrich my life as well.


This entry will differ from some of what I’ve written in the past.  It is again primarily a reminder for me and it is a celebration of sorts, although different from what you have read here previously.  It is personal and I apologize if it brings back memories for anyone who, for whatever reason,  wishes to keep them suppressed.



Last Friday, as I held his hand, my father very quietly slipped away from me and into the arms of God.



I’ve introduced my dad here before – the struggles with which he’s dealt with such grace and dignity, and all the things he’s taught me about inner strength and faith.  And while I’ve cried enough tears in the last few days to fill a small pond, in the end I only celebrate the life he led and his release from the burdens and indignities that life has heaped upon his frail shoulders these past three-plus years.


There have been times in life when my faith has faltered.  But all I have seen and felt in these past several days has again strengthened my belief that there is more to this life than we know or control. 


When I visited his hospital room last Thursday, I could hear dad talking from all the way down the hall.  When I turned the corner, I found him sitting in the chair beside his bed, oxygen mask in place, telling a long and detailed story to no one in particular.  I took a seat across from him and listened carefully to understand what he was so insistently conveying and slowly the realization came that he was providing a litany – in exacting detail – of how he spent a typical day.


Carefully he explained how he used the pitcher of thickened milk to make his oatmeal, how he took small bites and swallowed carefully as the doctors had directed, how he was so careful to maintain his balance during those brief periods when he rose from the wheelchair and relied upon the walker.  When he finally paused, I touched his hand and he looked toward me for the first time – so intent had been his presentation that he had not noticed my presence.  I asked if he knew who I was and he replied ‘my one and only son’ – and then proceeded to explain all the routines I followed during my visits with him – the grocery shopping, pill sorting and jar opening that had become a part of our ritual.  As he talked, the mask bounced about his face and I touched his hand again, quietly reminding him that it would stay in place and allow him to breathe easier if he didn’t talk so much.  But he looked at me and said with a hint of a smile in his weary eyes ‘but you know that’s what I do’ – and he was right, for dad was never at a loss for words and no visit could ever be long enough.


Finally, he stopped and looked at me, and in a very serious voice asked me a question that was obviously troubling him.  ‘When they ask my name, what do I tell them?’  Flustered, I asked him to repeat the question and he was more forceful in his reply.  ‘When who asks your name?’ I asked.  ‘The judge,’ he replied.  Confused, I asked him if he knew his name, and he replied clearly and deliberately.  Not understanding, but knowing it was important to him, I could only tell him ‘Then that’s the name you tell him’.  After that, he fell into silence and the rest of the evening was peaceful.


In the morning, the nurses called and told me he was having a great deal of difficulty breathing.  He was receiving 100% oxygen by mask and if his condition worsened the only available next step would be to place him on a ventilator – in violation of the terms of his Living Will.  I knew his wishes clearly and we had discussed them many times, but my decision was complicated by the fact that he had pneumonia and the antibiotics had just started to work - and I didn’t know if a day or two of help might pull him through.  I called his doctor and gathered more information, but then sought a place of silence and asked for guidance for perhaps the most important decision of my life.


And in a moment, the answer was clear.  Already yesterday, dad knew.  His faith was strong and sometimes literal – and the story I had heard the previous day was practice for when he stood at the Gate and needed to state his case that he had done all he could to help himself during this prolonged test of his faith.  And when the Judge asked his name, he wanted to make sure that he got it exactly right.  I let his DNR instructions stand and went to the hospital – knowing in my heart that when I left that day I would be a 52 year-old orphan.


We sat together most of the day and I held his hand - without acknowledgement, but squeezing tight regardless.  For all his struggles in life, his passing was the kindest possible.  He left so quietly and peacefully that I never really knew exactly when – and for that I will be eternally grateful.




So many times following his stroke he would ask me why he had been chosen for this particular burden.  It was not asked in the context of ‘why me?’ – for it was obvious that he was really struggling with understanding what God was asking of him and what he was expected to do.  And now in the quiet days after the uplifting visitation and service, I begin to understand that perhaps at least some of that task was to teach me grace and humor and faith in the face of adversity, to dig deep and keep going no matter the odds, to treasure life and all it holds despite the darkness of the clouds.  Much of what you have read in these pages has stemmed from the appreciation of life that I have gained from his example – and I will only hope to make all of his struggles worthwhile by holding those lessons in my heart and remembering them always.


At his service, the following words were read.  Although written thousands of years before and applicable also to countless who have passed before him, they ring true to the life he led and the man he was:


“I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”  II Timothy 4, 6-7.



As for me, my life remains blessed by friends and by people I love – and now also by a brand new angel who will now always rest upon my shoulder.





Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Day to Remember



I’ve always believed that life tends to balance itself out – sometimes over days, sometimes over a lifetime.  I never correct anyone who falsely blames me for something I didn’t do unless its particularly egregious, because I know that there will also be times when I’ll get credit for something I had little or no control over.  Sometimes its best just to smile and move on and let the natural order of things take care of itself.


Yesterday, nature created its own balance – and in record time.  Tuesday was cold and blustery, leaving 8 inches of wet snow in the driveway by the time it was over.  But yesterday more than balanced the scales – bright sunshine and clear blue skies framed the new-fallen snow, and there are few combinations in nature’s vista that can match that spectacle.


I had already decided to venture forth, camera in hand, to see what wonders I could record.  But before I even had the chance to leave the house, nature served up a bounty of visual riches just outside the window.


It began asa blur of movement caught my eye, drawing me to three deer foraging in the woods only a few feet from the house.  I watched as they nuzzled the foliage, gently brushing the snow away from the evergreens in search of a morsel to nibble upon – and leaving a white powdery moustache upon their fur in the process.  Methodically they moved through the woods, oblivious to the cars passing on the road just down the hill, the morning sun casting painterly shadows - dappling their coats and the snowy ground around them with random shades of light and dark.


As they slowly moved down into the valley and away from the house, a woodpecker began noisily pounding away on the suet feeder and the chickadees and nuthatches began swarming the seed feeder nearby.  I parked with my lens close to the window glass and waited to see what nature had in store for me.


Only moments later, I smiled widely – and knew the day was destined to be memorable.  For there, framed perfectly in my lens, was a brilliant red cardinal – an eternal symbol that on the greyest days of winter there is always the promise of the color of summer to come.  He lingered for but a moment, but time enough for me to capture his image.


Knowing that the best part of any show I could hope for from this vantage point had already come in the opening act, I packed the camera and headed out for the rest of the day – knowing, no matter what I might find, that nature had already more than repaid any debt from yesterday’s snow with a brilliant day to treasure and remember.