Archive for August, 2018


It’s hard to write an eloquent memoriam of McCain when many an author have captured McCain’s and eloquence so much better. Yet, as my friends would note, my view of McCain is complicated. Writer Jeff Barker captured my thoughts perfectly:

“But he [McCain] once told me that Udall naturally possessed something McCain had to continually strive for — grace. McCain could be engaging and jocular but also temperamental, sometimes holding years-long grudges or allowing his passion for a pet cause to override his better instincts.”

Yeah. Been there myself. Truth be told, we all hold grudges.

Still, in the spirit of love, while walking my parent’s dog on the outskirts of Tucson, AZ, I calmly listened to many a resident openly admiring the man who represented the state. However, when querying about what McCain had done for them in the last 5 years, not one could answer. Statisticians could claim McCain was no Maverick, for he voted along party lines approximately 94% of the time. Yet I will focus on McCain, the hero.

I was seven years old when McCain’s Skyhawk dive bomber was shot down over Vietnam. While I played ‘Army’ in the backyard, McCain spent five and a half years in North Vietnam being tortured. He refused to leave the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ without fellow POWs’. Thus, when I think of the rift between a current leader and McCain, I remember Khizr Khan directly addressing a political candidate, “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

McCain’s worldview can be paraphrased from his last words to America:

And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes – liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people – brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

But the uniqueness of John McCain are echoed in Meghan McCain’s tribute.

“In the … years we shared together, he raised me, taught me, corrected me, comforted me, encouraged me and supported me in all things. He taught me how to live. His love and his care, ever present, always unfailing, took me from a girl to a woman — and he showed me what it is to be a man.”

… the task of my lifetime is to live up to his example, his expectations and his love.”

Ponder Ms. McCain’s note“He showed what it is to be a man.”

I was in the military and received medals. But I’m no hero. Borrowing from the Bible,  I am not worthy to untie the strap of McCain’s shoes. Dale Carnegie once wrote, ” The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus.”  McCain is a true ‘once in a lifetime real deal.’ We will miss him dearly.

So my friends … live to his example.

He Remains My Father

As my father hurls toward his final passing, he spends endless hours watching television – in particular, ‘NCIS.’ Until recently, I personally never watched more than a handful of episodes. My father however, spends endless hours digesting this show. Ironically, he doesn’t remember episodes. He could watch the same episode over and over and it would be new to him each time he watched, for as his cognitive abilities become limited, it’s hard to follow plot lines and characters’.

I have no particular dig against many of the of the crime drama television shows. But I will say this, most of them are a goddamn poor form of entertainment. The weekly hashing of death and destruction is awfully depressing. There is no good food for thought. Outside of the occasional humor, it’s frick’n depressing. Still I recognize that one may consider “The Kardashians” actual entertainment while others may not. And again, one who hates ‘The Kardashians‘ may love ‘Criminal Minds.’ Personally, I find neither offering value.

Searching my own values, I have many questions. From a Buddhist perspective, does seeing other people’s suffering gives us a sense of community and togetherness? By watching such shows, are we enjoined by the community with the idea we’re all in this life together? Why can’t we not appreciate what we have without having requiring some frame of reference for both positive and negative? If the goal of any Buddhist is to eliminate suffering, I query, why do I participate in another’s misery? Why am I entertained?

While my father’s situation is dire, watching these shows does not drive me to despair. My father remains an inspiring presence – one whom, even at this late stage of life, I can forge bonds regardless of such ignorance streamed via cable. For the first time in years, I studied my father, his disciplined effort to escape the skin cells that binds him and his personal quest for ultimate enlightenment. I intently studied him, his fractured body—and smiled remembering the Iron Man of my youth. I love him so.

So, in spite of the shows he watches, he remains my father. He is forever my Iron Man.

 

At 86, my father lay at the precipice of passing. He spends nights talking to ‘friends’ – those being his mother, an old friend or angels he claims to be guides. During the waking hours, my father’s life is not unlike Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

For 15 hours a day, I sit in this same chair, totally dependent on someone else coming in here to make me a cup of tea,” Kubler-Ross says. “It’s neither living nor dying. It’s stuck in the middle.”

Watching a loved one pass can be painful, gratifying, even joyous. Seems ritualistic for my mother, for this is not the first time my father died.

May 21th, 2001 was the first time my father passed. During emergency procedures, he claimed to have an out-of-body experience and successfully repeated, verbatim, all medical procedures to every clinician. He briefly entered the brightest white light ever seen, spoke to his mother and was able to identify key angels, ‘helpers’ and ‘takers.’

The above background lays the groundwork for this post. My thoughts are not of the afterlife, white lights, or angels. Rather, I wish to document critical life lessons my father has revealed in the autumn of his.

Lesson 1

One beautiful thing about death is that one’s life circumstances doesn’t determine your outcome. Whatever your life, whatever your mistakes, God probably doesn’t view personal successes and failures as ‘black’ or ‘white.’ All of us are redeemable. All are loved. And in God, there are no ordinary moments, there is no ordinary person.

Lesson 2

We all feel heaven will end our human experience. Yet, my father has taught me heaven is a world where pain is not worth losing every other emotion and experience that makes us proud to be human. Spiritual living is a changing experience that should cause all of us to dig deep and live all the moments we’ve ever dreamed about, regardless whether they be here or in heaven.

Lesson 3

Love is the most powerful purifier of all. When our heart is filled with love, we are healed. God’s love resonates with everything around us that affects the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. True love purifies the spirit and cleanses the soul. Expect nothing less from heaven itself.

Lesson 4

Heaven is probably more like our world than we think. Just as we are a collaboration of energies, heaven is probably reinforces that everyone has something to contribute. Everybody has a purpose and a spiritual life attunes you to the rest of the universe. All the life force energy comes to your aid when your purpose is in attunement with betterment of the universe as a whole. “All energy is only borrowed … You have to give it back.”

Lesson 5

Lesson 5 summarizes 1 through 4. Simply stated, Heaven and life, are very similar to ramen. Maezumi from the film The Ramen Girl summarizes what my father has been trying to teach me for 58 years.

A bowl of ramen is a self-contained universe with life from the sea, the mountains, and the earth. All existing in perfect harmony. Harmony is essential. What holds it all together is the broth. The broth gives life to the ramen.

What’s in the broth? Love.

Pre-accident, my parents were a lively young eighty-year-old something couple. Post-accident, I look through my father’s eyes and see life’s bewilderment. Hmm, the future for both of us is an uneasy fear – an fear of the future and declining health. Pre-accident, my father was lively, inspired and full of wonder. Post-accident, he sits in an easy chair, moves little and stares endlessly into repeat episodes of NCIS.

At dinner, my mother discussed how many members of the 55+ retirement community often commit suicide after receiving terminal diagnosis. “Somehow,” she muttering string through her coffee, “I thought our final years would be different.”

After 14 years in the medical industry, I with certainty that the final years for the majority will be unlike any Hollywood film illusion. In “On Golden Pond,” Henry Fonda’s character, Norman, is similar to my father.

“You want to know why I came back so fast? I got to the end of our lane. I couldn’t remember where the old town road was. I went a little ways in the woods. There was nothing familiar. Not one damn tree. Scared me half to death.”

Many of us in the shimmering landscape of life will seemingly suffer needlessly. Living this life means all of us will have to navigate the constant demand of human growth and change. And what my father is living is fear. It’s the same fear his father lived, and his father’s father. Like Norman, the road for all leads to nothing familiar.

Everyone ages differently. Then if we must age, as all do, we must age differently than our fathers and refuse the role of victim or recluse. We must remain interested in maintaining relationships, remain nonjudgmental and approach our “twilight” with a sense of adventure.

In life, and in death, in order for us to understand the ideals of harmony and peace, a certain amount of discord and dissonance must be endured. Human frailty tests the limits of personal endurance. Yet if we overcome our frailty, even in death, we join the cycle of the seasons and become what God has always wished – perfection.

It seems like forever since I’ve written. In theory, one might say I’ve busy. Some time ago, my eighty-year-old parents collided head on with an SUV trying to cut across several lanes. Or, another friend might blame it on the fact I’ve now moved to a wheelchair. As a result, there’s less stress on my heart.

In truth, I haven’t written due to time and having a lack of anything to say.

I thought of letting my blog just reside there, allowing those who wander across my words to read, partake and ponder. And while visitors still read my posts, the exchange of ideas probably occurs offline. In truth, there is no one ‘right’ way to exchange my thoughts. Enjoy them as needed. Find strength in them as required. My words are not my words, but rather that eternal inspiration that guides all living creatures.

Today’s message is one many have pondered. After having cared for my parents post-wreck, I read of Dale Earnhardt Jr. account where he believed a supernatural being pulled him from a fiery wreck. I wouldn’t have thought much of the account if it had not been for my father. A few days ago, my father stated that during the head on collision, he saw four angels or spirits. He remains unaware of their purpose, except many medical professionals, after reviewing accident pictures, pondered how either of the vehicle occupants remained alive.

The desert southwest, where my parents live, is full of wonder and movement – a geological marvel where spiritual and physical life resides and interact. However, this interaction is not exclusive to only the desert southwest. I believe the spiritual and physical lives and breathes around us each day.

We just need to look and experience. We need to reach beyond our own limitations and believe

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