Category: Do No Harm


About thirty-five years ago, during breakfast, my former mother-in-law said she had to run errands throughout the day, culminating with a stop at the pharmacy for some PTA items. Confused by the comment, my ex-wife asked what ‘PTA’ items she was picking up while also noting her mother wasn’t part of the local Parent Teacher Association? “Oh dear, no.” she chuckled. “I am stopping for some ‘Pits, Tits, and Ass’ products.” My ex sat in shock while I rolled in laughter. Three decades later, I found myself doing the same.

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In December, multiple women alleged New York Governor of sexual harassment and or assault. The allegations varied between inappropriate comments, forced kissing and groping. For his part, Cuomo took issued a prerecorded video alleging no misconduct. Strangely, I can look at both Cuomo and the victims compassionately. This view is neither thinking in the light that Cuomo’s actions do not have some form of merit nor are justifiable. (Cuomo’s actions are indefensible). I also don’t take a strict form of religious interpretation by reiterating, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Instead, I look at Cuomo and say, “Cuomo is done. He cannot politically survive.”

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“Excited?” Maria asked as she placed a slice of cake in front of me and sat to my left. “I mean, it’s here. It’s finally here.”  Then, leaning in, “It’s here.”

“Weird. It just feels weird,” I responded while typing ‘execution commands’ on my laptop. I momentarily glanced at the memo taped over the cake, candy, chips, assorted snacks, bottles of sparkling juice, party streamers, ribbons, and helium-filled balloons. 

“COVID Tiger Task Force Deactivation.” the internal memo broadcasted to staffers. The shutdown comes as the pandemic continues. The U.S. will eclipse 610,000 deaths by Summers’ end, while the global death toll currently exceeds 4.1 million. As we approach deactivation, the entire team was focused on ensuring a smooth transition of key members back to normal business operations. Yet, I am unsure what ‘normal’ was anymore.

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There’s a ton of historical NDE experiences, some dating back centuries. Their stories are similar to those told in hundreds of books or websites (including mine). Though details vary across, there are many commonalities, including floating upward, viewing the scene of their death; spending time in a different realm, meeting relatives, feeling God, or something like ‘complete love.’ Once all that occurs, the person is told to return to live another day. For many, the person reports the experience was not a dream but “authentic,” changes profoundly post-NDE, and has a hard time returning into everyday life. 

My recent experience is similar, but not totally. Here’s a recap.

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My body did not experience any significant trauma. There was no earthquake. No carjacking went wrong, nor was I violently assaulted. My condo unit did not collapse, and I was not involved in a car wreck. Neither did I neither fall down the stairs nor overdose. I did not experience a heart attack and didn’t see the ‘light’ during an operation. All I did was fall asleep in a recliner.

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I never fully understood why God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The story can be summarized as follows. God tests Abraham’s faith by commanding him to sacrifice his firstborn son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Abraham has absolute trust (faith), so he follows the command. A knife is drawn and placed to Isaac’s throat. At that moment, God sees Abraham’s faith and obedience are complete and sends an angel to stop the sacrifice. I cannot imagine the conversation Abraham had with his wife.

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A few hours before my physician’s appointment, I read Dr. Rebecca Elon’s story on the Kaiser Health News. Living in the age of COVID, she lost her husband, experienced the death of a sister, and watched her mother battle dementia. The geriatrician and policy expert made a striking comment. “Reading about caregiving of this kind was one thing. Experiencing it was entirely different.” Elon’s statement struck so deep that I took the time to not her comment. Thinking Elon’s quote was a worthy citation in a future blog post, I never imagined referencing hours later, just after my doctor’s appointment.

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Katie Cassidy revealed that her father’s (singer David Cassidy) last words were ‘so much wasted time.’ Cassidy’s last words have been on my mind for weeks, and none more present while I have been cleaning out my home. In Sweden, this type of decluttering called döstädning— meaning ‘death’ and städning meaning ‘cleaning. In the final preparation of my departure, I don’t want others to be spending hours clearing out unnecessary items. Therefore, I am unloading all I can while alive. As I sorted, I kept thinking, “Why? Why did I waste so much time collecting this stuff?

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I first heard Limbaugh in 1988 driving across America. His voice ricocheted across Iowa as if each corn stalk was were a unison of antennas uplifting far-right conservatism from the depths of a relatively unknown chasm. His voice gave marginalized Americans a voice. To some extent, his views paved the way for likes of Fox News, the Tea Party, and Donald Trump. I listened, not because I overtly professed his beliefs or even liked him, more so because I recognized that this form of vitriolic pseudo-hate would likely climb out from American farmlands to impact America. I wanted to understand, but never did. Limbaugh was uncomfortable. He called HIV/AIDs ‘Rock Hudson’s disease,’ asserted ‘environmentalist wackos’ were scientists organized for a political position, women lived longer than men because they had comfortable lives, being liberal was similar to being Nazi, claimed Barack Obama was not born in the US, and argued against the dangers of smoking.

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I texted a friend in Missouri, “Oh my God, new reports indicate a woman was shot and killed during the riots. This is insane.” A few minutes later, she responded that she wasn’t watching the ‘lamestream’ media coverage. Several more minutes passed and she texted Fox News reports the woman was ‘a peaceful demonstrator’ shot by ‘ANTIFA.’ (ANTIFA is a false allegation. CNN identified several notable figures in the crowd of rioters as conspiracy theorists linked to right-wing extremist movements, QAnon and the Proud Boys.)

During a 2016 campaign stop at Dordt College (Iowa), Trump stated, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK? It’s, like, incredible.” I thought then, as I do now, the logic is insane. Members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet issued harsh rebukes of the mayhem at the U.S. Capitol, but stopped short of criticizing the president, who had urged his supporters to take action.

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