Archive for November, 2020


A Walk Alone

Some claim solitude leaves me to wander both through and beyond a dark foreign land (death). There’s no one single road, nor is there a map showing the way. Yet, if I can pass through, will I not find peace? Maybe my answer is not physical, but the very nature of why God called me to trust. Of course, there are steps, His and mine. And therein I find spirit of life walks with me. We walk together. And until I am ‘called,’  the world moves.

Given the fact a major stroke awaits at any moment, life propels onward ‒ there is work my employer requires, conference calls, deadlines, and debts to be paid. Life goes on regardless of how much of Thanksgiving week was spent lying in bed, hobbled by hip pain beginning Monday, November 23rd. Since I had no fall, no bruising, no trauma, and based upon symptoms, osteoarthritis is the likely culprit. The right hip, yeah the one which had only inconveniently plagued me until now, decided to perform a full-on assault. Every movement was either a dull ache or produced noticeable suffering. Walking required further leverage of a cane, and sitting was ‒ as I would simply put ‒ a bitch.

A friend might say to a doctor, “He won’t tell you this, but he is suffering.” Truth be told, the past few days had been an assortment of pain. However, no such friend knows the burden. I ate even as Advil and Tylenol percolated throughout my bloodstream.  Like almost all parts of this journey, I was alone when I read recent medical results. I sat alone in my favorite recliner while medication turned upside down every 6-8 hours. As terrifying as it is, it is a solitary journey. At a very gut level ‒ the soul ‒ it’s what I’ve come to embrace. 

There’s some portion of every soul for which the journey must be alone.  Sure, there are parents, lovers, friends, lovers, coworkers and others who can, and often will, assist, but there’s an integral part that is solely our own. No matter how much I would like to have a friend who could support me, there’s no possible way to transfer the pain. It is my ‘cross,’ mine and mine alone.

Supposedly the Buddha said, “If for company you cannot find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life, then, like a king who leaves behind a conquered kingdom, or like a lone elephant in the elephant forest, you should go your way alone. Better it is to live alone; there is no fellowship with a fool. Live alone and do no evil; be carefree like an elephant in the elephant forest.” I think I understand the reason for the advice.  

People who are on a path of spiritual growth learn not everyone is on the same path. Even though we are all, essentially on the same journey (see Falling Through the Cracks, where 90% will pass from one of six diseases), it’s important to choose what we allow into our minds.  The Buddha basically says to try and associate with “wise and prudent” people, but don’t get lost following a crowd, just because you want some affiliation. Real spirituality is not a social practice; most of the time, it is a private endeavor between God and you. It’s an individual matter. I was tagged as being monolithic, an impersonal, sometimes non-political, structure that is invisible, yet indivisible. True, but not quite.

I am privy to all the thoughts and feelings I tend to hide from the world. My journey is personal, deeply personal. I am continually looking for transcendence, but I am also hoping we can look past indifference to one another. To some extent, God choosing to dwell where least likely to be looked (within the depths of my soul) is genius. And maybe, just maybe, by the time I meet God and Ms. K., I will be fully awake and the soul will fully comprehend.

Master: You see only what the eye sees. What the soul sees cannot be denied.

Student: Will not the soul, too, be denied in death?

Master: No. The soul always sees.

Student: Yet the body dies.

Master: Does the sun die?

Student: It does not shine at night.

Master: It shines somewhere. You just cannot see it.

My trek through this disease reminds me of Vinko Bogataj. On March 7, 1970, A Wide World of Sports captured Bogataj’s third jump on the Heini Klopfer hill. Midway down Bogataj realized the ramp had become too fast. Attempting to lower his center of gravity and stop, he lost his balance, flew out of control, tumbled multiple times and crashed through a retaining fence before halting. Coordinating producer Dennis Lewin inserted Bogataj’s crash to coincide exactly with the words ‘… and the agony of defeat.’ (You can see the clip on YouTube’s Wide World of Sports intro, about the 13 second mark.) Life is filled with the cyclical nature of ‘the thrill of victory’ and ‘the agony of defeat.’ As you walk, almost everyone understands this yin and yang.

Everyone continually proceeds through the cyclic process of suffering and recovering from defeat.  At face value, 2020 seems loaded with fear, anxiety, and other hatred. And unlike the Stella Artois ‘Daydream’ commercial (which admittedly, I’ve personally viewed over 60+ times) the path remains uncertain. The journey is daunting.  You smile, restate a Psalm, Bible verse, famous quote, wear your charm, spew positive thoughts (because that’s what’s expected), but inside, 2020’s tastes like f’ing vomit.  I sometimes think everyone else is somehow favored, for they are free from my 30 years of pain. They are free of a death sentence that beckons at a moment’s notice. They are free from everything being ‘the last.’ 

I understand the felon’s torture. This morning would be the last cup of tea, the last good night’s sleep, the last great shower, the last great meal, the last great smile, the last thought, the last despair, and the last snippet of hope. Eventually, we crash. Life ends. And our last reach unto heaven remains inconclusive. “Do you think he made it into God’s hands?” “Unsure,” mumbles another. The notion that some find grace and beauty in every fall is a matter of perspective.  

No one ever knew me as someone who knew how to fall, but like Bogataj, I got up every time.  I also realized laughter saved many a day. Why? Because it can save the day. There’s a great deal of evidence that laughing improves both mental and physical health. Getting fired in 2010 was a horrific experience. After nearly six (6) weeks self-flagellation, I started to laugh. Captain Gerald Coffee was a POW for seven years during the Vietnam War. He claims he and the other American soldiers he was imprisoned with found solace in laughter, and it helped them make it through the harrowing experience.

I began laughing at my experience, the ridiculousness of taking one medical test after another with little hope of ever detecting that ‘fatal blood clot’ lying in wait to claim my life. Life’s absurdity, and all that could go wrong, deserve a laugh. A medical clinician recommended I eat a healthier diet. “You’ll be healthier,” she stated. Catching her error, “Oh. Sorry.” We busted out laughing. Comedian Demetri Martin once said, “The worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades, especially if your teammates are bad guessers.” Fortunately, I hope I’m not one of those who can be improved only via death. Therefore, I embrace the notion that laughter allows joy to flow into an otherwise joyless situation and forces fear out.  And with joy comes gratitude and love and hope. 

I simply let go of fear. Sure I think of death. Quite a lot in fact. I don’t fill my life with repetitive rehashing of what-might-have-been. I figure God will justifiably judge my arse in due time. I have to rejoice in what is, a simple cup of coffee, in friendships and love. I reach for hope, laughter of the soul, and unknowingly, even the most mirthless of situations can become sunnier.

I know it’s hard to find laughter and joy during fearful and self-doubting moments. Kobe Bryant once said, “I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”

Thus, my end life journey continually searches for the man (God) who will profoundly affect my life. He will probably review my life, painfully cry at some moments, and laugh at the most absurd failures. And from those moments within ‘the agony of defeat,’ God will embrace ‘the thrill of victory.’ In that moment, I shall no longer recognize the person from years past, for I will become anew. And looking behind me, I will see thousands of others just like me.

If God were here, He’d tell you I failed to alter the course of human history. Pretty miserably in fact. Like many, I tended to be swept along by Tsunami-like waves of current events, often set in motion by something entirely beyond my control. I survived the years drifting alone and repeatedly tortured myself for the years wasted bobbing at sea waiting for either a rescuer or to be eaten. For fellow bobbies, the year 2020 required an incredible amount of internal fortitude. We made it past COVID, unemployment, hunger, Trump, the election, peril and or death. Now we’re here, November 26th. Congratulations! And since Thanksgiving is upon me, I ask myself, “Do I celebrate, memorialize, or a little of both?”

Ms. K. died seven years ago, just prior to Thanksgiving. I never knew she passed until early 2014. And why should I have known? She was a fellow colleague that I’d meet for lunch, catch-up, shake hands, and say, “Same time next year.” Now, seven years have passed. And since she was from Japan, I wonder if her family would participate in the Obon festival, an annual event for commemorating one’s ancestors. 

According to Buddhist legend, Obon originated from a disciple who used supernatural powers to see his deceased mother had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and suffered greatly. The disciple went to Buddha and asked how he could release his mother. Buddha instructed to make offerings to the many monks completing their summer retreat (occurring on the fifteenth day of the seventh month). The disciple did as instructed and his mother was released. I am not sure whether the Japanese version has similar intentions or not. I liken Japan’s version of a festival to honor the dead. 

Obon can be held during the 1st year anniversary, sometimes in the 3rd and or the 5th, 7th and 13th years, and a number of times afterwards up to either the 39th or the 50th year, and that each time, ancestral spirits return to visit relatives.  Remembering from my days in Japan, it is not a solemn event. Dances are performed, ‘ozen’ (offerings) are placed in front of altars, temples, and sometimes grave sites. Many families visit grave sites and clean gravestones. Paper lanterns are hung round to help guide the spirits return. Some families carry lanterns from the graves back to their homes. Toro nagashi (Floating lanterns) have sometimes been set afloat downriver, running to the sea. Symbolically this sends their ancestors’ spirits into the sky. 

The thread between all these stories is to understand how past selflessness and the sacrifices were made. In life, I never knew Ms. K., but she has since visited and I believe she remains a guide during my travels here. As much as I’ve tried to research, I know nothing Ms. K. ‒ not where she went to college or how many siblings her family has, what she did for a living prior to settling in the United States or other minutiae of snippets that surround typical friendships. Yet, by the very nature of my illness, I deeply understand the personal impact of pain, despair, constipation, the trudge of earning a living while dying, pondering the future ahead, and finding hope. If anything, I would say each of us must embrace any friendship founded in hope. 

For many families, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be filled with music, small parties (if any), a Netflix movie, family and friends via Facebook, Facetime, or Skype. Others will look upon the empty chair and dabble at tears. My heart aches for Mothers like the Duchess of Sussex, who ‘clutched her firstborn while losing the second.’ I cannot imagine the pain. 2020 saw so many heroes lost, including clinicians, fireman, police officers, teachers and activists. Jess Wells lost her husband (an Egyptian activist) to a dictator. Activist Travis Nagdy was shot and killed by a carjacker. Still, I feel a sense of optimism. I remain grateful for the kindness and sacrifices of all those who sleep. We should remember and appreciate each person not not as though they were perfect, but rather the positivity brought to life. 

As trite as it may sound, I will embrace hope this Thanksgiving, for it is a powerful force that propels us through fear, depression and paralysis. Hope is unlike any other medicine. It kept me going throughout the years. I will retain my faith in both God and Ms. K. In 1978, God told me He would always watch over me, and personally know He intervened when He neither really had too nor probably wanted. I presume He did so for two reasons. First, He promised. Second, He cared. As for me, I don’t get up and work in spite of the pain because God was committed to me. I did it simply by the fact that since I awoke in the morning, that I should get up, be productive, and in some small way, help another. It’s what God would have wanted. I think that’s the way Ms. K. would want me to honor. 

Ms. K. didn’t require a chochin lantern to call her spirit nor did she require one to return. (Heck, I don’t even know where she’s buried.) However, I know she is in my heart, and that’s a toro nagashi (floating lantern) that will never burn out. Therein lay my Thanksgiving message, never let hope (love) burn out. It is all we have.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Happy Thanksgiving Ms. K. Feel free to stop by. 

Is it possible for God to look upon human frailty and feel compassion? Some days I wonder. I wonder if He remembers what it’s like to walk the earth, see the pain, look upon the hunger, go back to heaven and ask what’s for dinner. Meatloaf? “Great.” Wine from a heavenly vineyard? “Awesome.” Regardless of what God thinks, I am exhausted. Simply, going to the doctor for a blood draw or through a supermarket feels like a gargantuan task. I no longer walk, I shuffle. Rigidity and sagging stomach drooling over my belt graces anyone who dares to stare. Doing any more than two tasks at the same time is challenging. Back in the safety of my car, I lay against the headrest and thought of the previous week. I completed the task at hand—preparing for inevitability.

I spent this past week saying goodbye. Sure, I should have started this shortly after receiving a terminal diagnosis nearly two years ago. Remember? The days when I could still leap from a couch, hold a coffee cup, a plate with a bagel while simultaneously carrying on a conversation via Bluetooth headset. “Death? What death?” I sometimes smirked. “Dude, that’s like a couple years away,” a defiant inner voice responded. Continuing, “A lot of things could happen between then and now. Miracles could occur. And I could be one of them.” I wasn’t.

If you’ve read my blog, you’ve known I never believed in miracles from some Devine interceder were meant for me. I pretty much accepted my fate, even now. I just knew that whatever time I had left, it could be the last time to experience. Flying to see my mother and father, flying to see my brother, that beach walk on the Florida Panhandle, the desert sky, and that walk with Skip, my father’s dog. Just as my doctors said, I always knew I could be within weeks, days or hours of death. The October 19th event brought clarity. 

For the 60 years of life, my family consisted of four: my father, mother, brother, and I. We grew up, went on to extend our inner circle, but at its core, there were just us four. 2021 brings a future of absences, absences that will weave through the family core as my father and I are likely to depart. My parents will never have another child and my brother will never have another brother.  I looked at 60 years of documents spread across the Livingroom floor, deciding what to send, what to trash, what to donate. Yesterday, my life finished with 499 pieces of documents stuffed into a folder that will be distributed when I’m near death or dead. 

Even in death, my will will continue on earth, at least for a brief moment. There will be bills to be paid, assets to transfer, assets to sell, writings to be mused of, and potential awakenings with “What the hell possessed him to do that?” When people look at this material, I hope the world knows I approached my finality with clarity, that decisions were made from a position of reason, intellect, compassion, honesty and love. Looking through the pictures and documents, I notice how feelings are difficult to discover—and often even more difficult to acknowledge. Yet hidden in the deepest feeling is a higher truth. Many will find a sense that finally that “f***ing bastard is gone.” Even in anger, it was my goal for love to live and survive.

Sure, I’ve seen the same basic instincts in others facing death. An eighty-year old nun who talked about God’s penchant for miracles as a cough settled in; died two days later from COVID. Then a close friend, an Emergency Room Chaplin, who feared no such thing a COVID because she always took precautions, wrote via email to update us on her struggle to breathe after COVID diagnosis. In truth, I am not that desperate to stay alive.  

While I did have a blood draw this morning, I didn’t need the test to tell me if a treatment is working.  I can feel life’s edge.  The climax closes quickly and inherently, I have an internal knowing I will stop soon.  As such, I can feel for those who will unwillingly envision a life without me. My heart aches but I don’t know how to help. As I finished sorting my life, I accepted that there’s a part of the preplanning process that cannot be resolved. One can resolve logistical problems of death, but how does one alleviate pain? My mother will suffer. And maybe for a fleeting moment, my brother will as well. Nothing I say or do will help as much as time. The laws of planetary evolution don’t allow one to relive dreams. To those who hurt, time will be your friend. It will remove the intensity of the hottest of rage and, yes, even the most heartbreaking sorrow. It will heal you. And you will become free to live again.

I told my case worker I had several dreams of telling people I was dying. I am not sure if the prognosis of dying actually initiates such ‘death’ type of dreams or not. However, having worked in a hospital I have encountered terminal patients who shared that their dreams and visions felt realistic. Many related visions of past meaningful experiences and reunions with loved ones, and those who reassured and guided them. Others reported feeling as if they were preparing to go somewhere.  My dreams fell into the second category.

One dream seemed appeared like walking through a black fog. There was no light (maybe enough light to understand I was walking through fog), no pain, no hatred, no hell, no fire. Just a dark fog. I did not envision life was going to be destroyed. Nor did I fear death. I was sort of assessing the fog, the steps required to exit it, that I should follow this ‘intuitively’ known path. If I did, I would exit and move on to whatever was next. This intuitively known path offers much insight. All dreams offered a similar message: time is short.

I noted one particular dream of interest. I followed a child, who held a letter proclaiming life would end six weeks later. The child did not walk in fear but busied himself by looking for the room to report. When experiencing such dreams, many claim it is the internal soul processing all the events occurring. Others turn to Internet dream analysis and equate some deeper meaning. And many might roll over and slumber out some words, “That was weird,” drink some water, and go back to sleep for another round. I took all of it as a message.

Up front, there’s no indication that I am going to die within six weeks. There is also no indication I won’t die in six weeks either. If I did there was only six weeks, I have five left, for the dream of the child occurred last weekend. Since I am a walking timebomb (my non-medical techie word), that could check out (blow-up) at any moment, I must be prepared. I have to understand that my family needs to know my finances, where to get access, where can one store documentation, etc. Therefore, this week has been a non-stop action of lists. Even in death, life is a list.

There are lists for everything: pre-flight checklists, project checklists, camping lists, grocery lists, bucket lists, start of school lists, moving lists, packing lists, medication lists, household todo lists, babysitting lists, and so on. Preparing to die has a list. Once I started, my list grew exponentially as the  week evolved. I started with a simple Internet list of 7 things needed when you learn you’re terminally ill. Some things included a second opinion, treatment options, disease course, symptom management, bucket lists, hospice and how I would like to die. Here’s the additions:

  • Health Insurance coverage and details;
  • Printed Health Summary (list of your medical infirmities) ;
  • Last will and testament (Don’t have one? Get one.);
  • Work transition list;
  • List of contact numbers, including work, Human Resources, and supervisors;
  • Storage location for scanned files that can be accessed by my executor;
  • List of passwords for key accounts;
  • Last Letter (The Stanford Letter Project) to loved ones;
  • Last blog post;
  • Medical consent list, including a sub-list of Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), living will, no code treatment, spiritual counseling (last rites), plan of care, etc.;
  • Bill Payment list, including credit cards, utilities, bank account passwords, account key questions, special PINs, and copies of statements;
  • List of turn off auto-refills or auto subscriptions;
  • Car maintenance schedule list;
  • Veterans Benefit changes;
  • Change property title transfer to beneficiary (If you rent, lease information);
  • List of drafted letters to all credit bureaus;
  • Letters to credit card companies terminating accounts (to let them know you’re dead and that Platinum Amex card is not accepted in heaven);
  • List on securing Passports, ID Cards, Driver’s License and other ID materials;
  • Turbo Tax passwords and past five years of taxes;
  • Car Title transfer;
  • List of email accounts/services to cancel, Facebook, and other online services to cancel;
  • Social Security Administration Information;
  • List of E-Trade accounts and other relevant information, listing statements, ensure beneficiaries are properly stated and net worth (which either shows you’re beneficiaries will adore you or confirm you’re worth the paper the statement was printed on);
  • List of any 401K plans and beneficiary information;
  • Deferred compensation and beneficiary information;
  • List of local Hospice information and basic interviewing of hospice; and
  • List of cremation services;
  • List of items for storage, selling, or donation; and
  • Lists of people to inform I am terminal (nah)

I admit, as of today, I have 90% of the above list(s) complete. I feel terrific. The lists of life are not easy, but they must be checked off. Get prepared. Live your life like you’ll die tomorrow, but build a document repository that will help your benefactors. Then plan your life as though you’ll be here for another 50 years.

A day prior to the election, a heating and air conditioning technician arrived to perform ‘the scheduled Fall furnace inspection,’ a preparation for winter. I always engage these technicians during the inspection process, often learning of who they are and obtaining perspectives of life one rarely gets. “If Nancy Pelosi were to show up here, I would immediately hang her for treason.” He blurted. “And Biden should be shot.” The technician’s stunning admission was brutally honest, ‘summary execution.’ Neither Biden nor Pelosi deserves trials, just termination. The conversation still haunts me post-election and reminds us just how fractured America has become.

Blue-collar workers (like him) were left behind. It is one reason the ‘blue wave’ frittered like a mild earthquake. The tsunami didn’t occur. Democrats entered the U.S. election hoping for a GOP repudiation, certain to be swept back into power. Instead, close to 50% of the electorate denied the “blue wave” and steadfast in fear and hatred. GOP rhetoric permeated America’s soul and what emerged is an underlying desire to kill anything opposing the President’s view. If you’re not with the president, then you must be terminated. Enemies must die. All naysayers must be excoriated. 

GOP success is especially amazing given that their entire platform for the next four years was ‘Trump. Whatever he wants.’  As such, half the electorate drank from the cup of venality, vulgarity, and racism. Mirroring Gordon Gekko, one might say, “Hatred is good.” Of course, the Senatorial GOP lied, cheated, and stole a Supreme Court nominee. They copied their strategy straight from hell and told their minions, “God calls us to lie, defame, and cheat.” Glen Cook noted that more evil gets done in the name of righteousness than any other way. Do we expect politicians (whether GOP or Democratic) to proclaim they perform evil deeds in the name of Satan? Of course not.

Any attempt to politically embrace America, both racially and ethnically, in an increasingly divided society is misplaced, viewed with suspicion. My heating and air conditioning technician heard the line “we’re all Americans message,” and saw his America had evaporated and rather than accept change, he prefers to destroy all he sees, even if that hatred destroys himself. Given the permission to hate, half of America’s electorate chose a kingdom of ‘swill’ and its scraps of waste for pig feed. America’s new reality will chain Democrats from lofty horizons. Subtly, Democrats failed to understand that their party no longer looks like white America.

Unlike Democratic party delegates, Americans of the ‘rust belt’ and ‘Bible belt’ are not too thin, too rich, and too sophisticated to care about the fate of Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, or the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. They align themselves to the Republican thunder that reverberates a repeated mantra, “We are tougher, meaner, stronger, better Americans than Democrats!” Clinton’s fabulous ‘Deplorables’ slur and subsequent approach to statesmanship, “Strength and wisdom are not opposing values,” was a hit among the like-minded, but it was never Texas bumper sticker material. We simply refuse to trust.

Trust leads to some form of expectation. Wherein, that leads to the presumption that some things remain static. The disappointment is that at some point, everything changes. The question both GOP and Democrats must answer is difficult. Can we really trust politicians to not act only in ways that please those who think like them when they ought to find middle ground solutions that unify the multiple threads of our country? I’d argue no. But we can trust in ourselves.

“To have confidence in ourselves is to have confidence we can control our response. This is trust. No matter what we can possibly do in this short and fleeting life, without trust we are stuck being the traffic cop, trying to make everything go our way, according to our one-sided and self-deluded views.” 

~ Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat Roshi ~

A ventilator can mean the difference between life and death for seriously ill patients. But sometimes even these ventilators cannot save someone’s life. I looked at the age Mr. Smith had progressed through his short three-week stay at our hospital: a non-active otherwise healthy 86 year old, to mini-stroke, to heart attack, and now near death. Through the multiple layers of protective gear, I stroked the thin aging hair. His eyes remained shut but somehow I felt some connection. 

Medical teams face tough decisions about when to stop treatment. The decision is made after careful consideration, analyzing factors including age, underlying health, response, and ability to recover. With our hospital at 94% capacity of COVID, I volunteered to assist the attending physician Dr. Nessie (also a sister/nun). Our presence ensured Mr. Smith would not pass alone. 

Restrictions meant this man would die without family. Dr. Nessie used an iPad, assured the family their father was not in pain, looked very comfortable, and asked about her Mr. Smith’s wishes and religious needs.” The curtains were closed, we turned off all the alarms, watched the heart rate monitor hit zero, and just like that, flat line (death). 

After processing, Dr. Nessie asked, “Normally, I don’t get volunteers. Why today?” 

“I felt I needed to give back. I couldn’t be there when my father passed away. I am trying to give someone what I couldn’t.”

“I am so sorry for your loss.” Dr. Nessie continued, “When did he pass?”

Glancing at my watch, “About two-hours and forty-three minutes ago.”

My father passed away 1,400 miles away and several weeks shy of his 89th birthday. Like Mr. Smith, only the Hospice nurse and nursing home staff were with him. My mother and I were able to view his passing via an iPad. It is a connected disconnected way to say goodbye. You are a witness but excluded from end of life moments that regularly occurred during pre-COVID times. One could hear the election coverage echoing from another room, “F*** it. I am tired of watching this s***,” he reasoned and left. Now he’s just another CNN/MSNBC statistic. 

Nearly 20 years ago, my father had an Near Death Experience (NDE). During his time in a coma, he claimed God sends two types of angels: ‘takers’ and ‘helpers.’ “Takers’ help the newly deceased to heaven. ‘Helpers’ assist people in moments of crisis, such as heart attacks, car accidents, and other calamities. In the years following his NDE, we’d walk during late summer evenings and discuss how no one actually dies alone, that there is always an angel(s) present even if one can’t see them.

Personally, I sensed no such presence in either death. One cannot detect the extraordinary via an iPad. Yet, I hope both Mr. Smith and my father experienced God’s loving angels, who cared for them in their hour of need; that each of them saw the extraordinary in the ordinary; that each were embraced by Chrrist’s love. 

If today’s election and deaths must be connected, may we find hope in Abraham Lincoln’s words. “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Be Heard: Vote!

Watching any form of news the week prior to November elections is like enduring rubber band ligation for internal hemorrhoids. The victim generally rests their side or over a table and the doctor inserts a viewing instrument whereupon the hemorrhoid is grasped with an instrument, and a device places a rubber band around the base of the hemorrhoid. I’ve had it performed. It isn’t pleasant. And, the procedure hurts like hell. Democrat, Republican, Green Party, and Neophytes telephonically perform this procedure via commercials in an unrelenting perversion of ‘democracy.’ 

In 2016 Law professor Lawrence Lessig claimed our founding fathers denounced ‘democracy.’ “But the “democracy” they [founding fathers] were criticizing was “direct democracy,” and the “Republic” they were championing was “representative democracy.” In essence, the framers’ wanted voters to choose representatives who would vote on passing and repealing laws. This form of representative democracy works only when a large majority of people participate in choosing their representatives. That can happen only when those in power agree that voting should be as easy and widely available as possible. 

So correct me if I am wrong, but one of the two major political parties is convinced that said [party] cannot win on an even playing field. Hence, why try? The ‘Orange One’ has spent the better part of a year arguing of a great vast (as in expansive) conspiracy of voting systems that can only be summarized as boarding the absurd. The rate of voting fraud overall in the US is less than 0.0009% (that’s like 1,125 or so ballots every election cycle). Ask a Trumper-thumper to prove fraud, and the fraud claims fall apart. Yet Republican-appointed judges will seemingly find justification to strike down attempts to allow people to vote.

Even as with the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — eight days before Election — some 70 million citizens had voted. That fact didn’t stop the Supreme Court from siding with the GOP in ordering Wisconsin not to count ballots received after Election Day, even if they were postmarked before. Earlier today, the ‘Orange One’ spewed forth more diarrhea, “We’re going to go in night of, as soon as that election is over, we’re going in with our lawyers.” Continuing, “I don’t think it’s fair that we have to wait a long period of time after the election. Should’ve gotten their ballots in a long time before that. Could’ve gotten their ballots in [sic] a month ago. I think it’s a ridiculous decision.” What the GOP is really saying is, “America is by the people for the people whom I allow to vote. All others need not apply.”

Voting is a social justice issue. In this momentous political season, we (as in we the people) enter an electoral cycle that will answer fundamental questions about the kind of country we want America to be. Recent movements are taking impassioned and opposing stances on the exercise of political and economic power and reshaping the mainstream discourse. Overall, these change issues will determine humanity’s very future. Social justice is not about one singular issue. Instead, we must show others how to use spirituality to navigate life’s challenges — challenges like, say, a pandemic, a huge economic collapse, racial injustice, and social unrest. It is exactly what Christ would have wanted. It is a form of spirituality Buddha would have been proud of. Having a voice means unfretted access to voting and living in a democracy means every vote counts.

As spiritual teachers and leaders, we must embrace the fundamental human right that every voice has a right to be heard.  Therefore, make your voice heard. Vote.

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