Tag Archive: About Love


When I was 16, my parents loaded our Southwind Motorhome and headed west for vacation. My brother and I were allowed to ride along, but I considered of myself only as an ‘accessory.’ “Hey, get me a beer.” “We need wood for the fire.” “Empty the ‘holding tank.” (‘Holding tank’ was a euphemism for ‘s*** tank.’ Since someone has to empty it, might as well get the cheap labor to do it.) Along the route to Glacier National Park (Montana), my father shrewdly traded two cartons of Kool Menthol cigarettes with an Native American for a personal guided tour of the original ‘Camp Disappointment.’ Camp Disappointment was the northernmost point reached by the Lewis and Clark Expedition (July 23, 1806). Lewis referred to the campsite as ‘Camp Disappointment,’ for it meant the expedition was unable to reach 50 degrees north latitude, which would extend the Louisiana Territory. I viewed Camp Disappointment more pragmatically.

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I watched Nomadland Sunday. Robert Ebert’s website summarizes the film accordingly: “Fern (Frances McDormand) is grieving a life that’s been ripped away.” Almost every viewer will claim the movie is littered with pain (not in a bad way) of those who face the challenge of living life alone. Some suffered from loss of a town, job loss, homelessness, loss of a spouse, a child, or even loss of oneself. In one scene, Fern so much wishes upon being alone that when she finds an abandoned dog, she ties the dog to a table outside a shop and walks off, thereby averting any potentially sentimental moment of connection. When in trouble, they become masters of finding a way out, rarely calling anyone. And that’s where I can relate.

I spent much of Sunday in a chair, barely able to move. Regardless of position, my neck, shoulders, and chest. Anyone suffering cervical osteoarthritis gets accustomed to the sound or feeling of popping in the neck when moving. At ties, mine tends to sound like a garbage disposal in perpetual grind. Never forget to add that the ol’ ticker (my heart) dribbles in some momentary flickers of pain and reminds me that I am a mere mortal. One day, time will be up. But not today. In theory, I should have been able to reach out to someone, but hell, when you live a solitary life, the question I always seem to ask myself is, “Just who the hell do I call?”

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Nearly every person with a significant disease experiences peaks and valleys. One is likely to have weeks or months when everything is fantastic, bringing some level of normalcy. There are other times when you understand what’s coming is damn serious. I would categorize this past Thursday [February 11] as ‘other.’

I had been on a plateau for weeks, a state of neither God awful nor wonderfully great. Suddenly, I felt wet. It turns out I was bleeding. I had uncontrolled rectum bleeding oozed from the rectum and a dull pain emanated from the lower left part of the abdomen, probably either in or near the sigmoid colon. Diverticular bleeding occurs in the colon and produces bright red or maroon bowel movements.

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Thank You/Thank You Not

One of the most frequent questions any of us answer nearly every day is “How are you?” Since only a handful of people know that I’m a bald, fat man on a short leash, I clench my teeth, pretend a smile and say something utterly 70’s-ish, “Groovy.” The days could be like today, near frigid conditions, blizzard, the roads suck, and bleeding from a hemorrhoid. But damn it, I still say, “Groovy.” If I want to add sarcasm, I might add ‘F***’n’ just before ‘groovy.’

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This blog post is difficult to write, and I hardly know how to begin. I am devastated to learn of Karen’s death.

I spiritually carried Karen in my heart for decades. Everywhere traveled, a part of her remained alive in my heart. And throughout all the years, through all my spectacular failures, I am now forced to breathe differently. I am forced to accept the crushing gravity of loss of death. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I (the UB) was supposed to die first.

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My review of a Canadian Armed Forces report of their effort to assist Ontario long-term care facilities early in the pandemic left me soul searching. There’s a general presumption that the Canadian healthcare COVID response (and therefore, healthcare) may be a solid model for the U.S. to emulate. Some colleagues openly question whether the U.S. should follow that model. In reviewing the Canadian COVID response, I found that, in fact, the U.S. mirrored many aspects of the Canadian response. Unfortunately, much of it was the worst aspects. 

The Canadian Armed Forces published report (Ontario) contains nightmarish scenes; residents abandoned in beds for weeks or force-fed until they choked. Residents with dementia allowed to wander at will through buildings rampant with the virus. At a facility just north of Toronto, residents were “crying for help” for as long as two hours before receiving assistance. Some had not been bathed for weeks, and “significant gross fecal contamination” was the norm.

A warning to readers: The report was difficult to read. Having a father who was in Hospice, there were times I had to walk away. My intent is not to disparage the Canadian medical system. Just like the U.S., there are many wonderful clinicians and facilities. But the report offers critical lessons. More importantly, on a personal level, there was one question I often asked myself repeatedly: ‘Where was God?’ And for the broader audience, ‘For those suffering from dementia, is God there?’ 

When Jesus walked, people didn’t experience dementia or Alzheimer’s as we know it today. They died. In fact, the average life expectancy was 35. Infant mortality was huge. Subtract infant mortality and archaeologists indicate lifespan jumped to 50. In her book “Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit,” author Jodi Magness summarized life in Jesus’ day: It was a “filthy, malodorous and unhealthy” world. A case of the flu, a bad cold, or an abscessed tooth would often kill. That was His world. COVID-19 is ours.

For Christian and non-Christian alike, Jesus is seen as a model of care for the sick. Needless to say, when caring for someone with coronavirus, one should take the necessary precautions in order not to pass on the infection. Phillip Yancey noted that “… for Jesus, the sick or dying person was not the ‘other,’ not one to be blamed, but our brother and sister. When Jesus saw a person in need, the Gospels tell us that his heart was “moved with pity.” As such, Jesus remains a model for how to care during a crisis: a heart moved by sympathy.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, the Spirit of God intercedes (speaks within), sometimes in sighs too deep for words. Could someone with Alzheimer’s experience God at a non-conscious and non-verbal level? Perhaps this is God’s calling to us to cradle and love without expectation of conscious response or reciprocity. As caregivers, sometimes we must provide without hope of return. Bear one another’s burdens, the Bible would say. The response Jesus emulates is to bear the burdens of those we touch (just as He). 

In his book Night, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel described witnessing the agonizingly slow death of the Dutch Oberkapo’s pipel, a young boy hanged for collaborating against the Nazis.

“Where is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked.

For more than half an hour [the child in the noose] stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed.

Behind me, I heard the same man asking: “Where is God now?”

And I heard a voice within me answer him: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows. . . .”

So where is God? Here’s here. He’s here in our dementia. He’s here in our COVID. He’s here in the world. We are His emotional incarnation, we are called to follow His example. Sure, sometimes God does enter and occasionally performs a miracle, and thereby offers strength to those in need. But mainly God relies on us, His agents, to do His work in the world. We are asked to live out the life of Christ in the world, not just to refer back to it or describe it. We are to announce his message, work for justice, pray for mercy . . . and suffer with the sufferers. And when we do this, even those suffering from dementia will know God lives, that the spirit awakens and we can help one find the path homeward.

So, where is God? He’s right here. In our suffering, in empathy, and in love.

In my last blog post, I discussed losing communication. I find there’s always a way to rejuvenate and recharge. The resulting mental peace, inner satisfaction, and clarity are what makes me stronger. Lastly, I found the level of pain and pain medication has hampered this ability. The result often leaves me asleep after a few minutes.

If one is over-stressed or has been dealing with sleep-deprivation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you fall asleep. My original meditation teacher stated outright that sleep cannot be dismissed, that the body will take what it needs. After several weeks of dealing with a parent in palliative care, flying across the country, and living in a single guest room, returning home, and working remotely was physically exhausting. 

This repeated sleep condition has deprived me of a critical link in this world. Communication with a friend has been a godsend to the hustle and bustle of our overly crisis-prone times. Last week, I told my healthcare case manager, “I know she’s still there,” I told my case manager. “… I can’t communicate as clearly as I could before. I want her to know that I miss her and our conversations. However, it seems I’ve misplaced the phone number.

The person I’ve been meditating upon has been a source of inspiration. Many who’ve lost a relative or friend have stated the most common way they know a family member or friend is nearby is through a sense of presence. Likewise, I can sense Ms. K. at various times throughout the week, even being touched. I have not experienced the same with other long passed family members or friends.

In-depth communication in meditation has been significantly impacted (maybe ‘restricted’ is a more appropriate word) these past several weeks. And finding the solution has been equally challenging. In the course of searching for a resolution, I may have found a path that might be helpful for all of us during such times.

First, all relationships require work. Each partner must be committed to listening, letting go of control, practicing vulnerability, overcoming resistance to change, being honest, even in the face of fear, and focusing on your work rather than trying to change your partner. 

I may have taken my meditation partner for granted. I have to realize that this is not a ‘one side benefits more than the other.’ Like most, my relationship was meant to be win-win, not win-lose, or mostly-win mostly-lose. It has to be interdependent, a relationship where each side is willing to come together to make something more significant. 

Second. I need to ask better questions. What steps can I do to positively inject a sense of value, even if it means becoming a better listener? Can I reflect upon my errors and understand the positive differences I make now?

Third. What can I do to maximize that which I currently have? I’ve already mentioned that I can sense my partner at various times throughout the week. I also believe she touches me, as well. Therefore, since everything has not been completely severed, how can I maximize what I already have? How can I enrich that which I already have? 

Life is an adversity response business. We have to create possibilities that do not currently exist. We must learn to course correct. We have to presume relationships in both heaven and earth require a continual course correction. If we do, we’ll find we’ll have created a significant relationship.

I spent 9 hours back at war–meaning I spent hours assisting medical clinicians in calibrating equipment that will keep hospital patients alive. I captured and edited the photo that shows the grooves from my N95 Mask.  The grooves etched into my cheeks up to my ears will remain for several hours.

For months clinicians have braved face mask scars while working long hours to treat coronavirus patients. They are the heroes, not me. I just crunch numbers and keep machines alive, that in turn will keep patients alive. Real heroes are the men and women who work the front lines, spending hours triaging, processing, recording, and treating patients. It has been a privilege working side-by-side with them, every day, day-in, day-out.

I returned from Arizona a few days prior to Trump’s Phoenix rally. Phoenix’s mayor says mask requirements won’t be enforced at the Trump rally. Why not?

Well, The Dream City Church, the megachurch that hosted Trump’s re-election campaign rally announces a dreamy COVID-19 cure-all.  Their megachurch installed a new air-purification system. Not just any ol’ air-purification system, but one that will kill 99.9 percent of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the church. I am positive Jesus approved that announcement.

“. . .  when you come into our auditorium, 99 percent of COVID is gone, killed, if it was there in the first place. You can know when you come here, you’ll be safe and protected. Thank God for great technology and thank God for being proactive.”

Praise Jesus. Thank you, God.

The true vision of Christ does not come from an orange-toned figure proselytizing his own righteousness backed by Church idiots. You want to really see the face of God? Go to any emergency room exit and watch clinicians coming out for a breather or leaving. View the face mask scars. See their pain and walk five minutes in the life of a patient dying from a lack of breath.

When the president mocks mask wearers for appearing weak and sees face coverings as a political statement against him, it’s no surprise that some Americans are loudly declining to wear them.

My friends will claim that me trying to shame people into healthier behavior generally will not work. So, is that what this blog post is about? Shaming? No.

We depend on the trust and kindness of others to protect our wellbeing. That is part of being an American, that is why we must wear a face mask. We wear seatbelts, don’t we? Most wear helmets while riding motorcycles, skiing, and skateboarding? Yes? We wear safety harnesses on rollercoasters. Right?

Masks will not deprive anyone of oxygen. They do fog glasses; make the skin itch; produces sweat; appear ‘uncool.’ You have to remember them when walking out the front door (or risk getting nearly all the work and returning home to retrieve it … like me). And, masks constantly remind Americans of what they want to forget: that in spite of everything, the pandemic hasn’t ceded.

For me, it’s about the scars on my face. It’s about love; it’s about genuinely wanting to keep our community safe; about recognizing that face masks will reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. If you cannot understand that message, then I will see you soon . . . probably during my shift.

There are a haunting feeling untold numbers of Americans who must decide whether to risk Coronavirus (COVID) infection while traveling to see a parent dying from natural causes. Such experiences are reminders of the unanticipated scope of the suffering caused by COVID. 

Sons and daughters are forced to make risky choices, either by love or distance. Should they be allowed to visit? And will they be the exception, the one who can travel across and not become infected?

Three days ago, the call I’d been expecting for several years came. After a long battle of successive mini-strokes, my father’s time is nearing an end. The latest stroke occurred Monday morning, and cost my father the use of his left side as well as other functions, but his humor remains. There aren’t any good options, damned if you do something, damned if you don’t.

It’s a natural part of life,” said the neurologist doctor.

I know. Losing a parent is inevitable, and it isn’t easy,” I replied. 

In the COVID world, it’s hard to describe how complicated such a decision is. If I travel, I could carry the virus to my mother, age 82. If I don’t go, I presume my name will be added to the immortal “primadonna list” for not being concerned enough to say a final farewell. There isn’t a safe choice, except for one: don’t travel.

The COVID pandemic has had a profound effect on grieving. Many who’ve lost loved ones have been unable to be at the bedside as their loved one passed. Death becomes remote. There’s no herd immunity for COVID. There’s no airplane, taxi, bus, boat, or other vehicles that can guarantee a barrier from the virus. Likewise, COVID cannot be segregated from my mother or others.

I looked up to God and muttered, “I probably will not be able to say goodbye.

Like my father, people have been dying alone for centuries. Some have no close friends or families. Distance separates others. In those cases, a volunteer may be able to sit with them during their last moments. My father has two people sitting with him, each taking a twelve-hour shift, holding his hand, and asking them what they loved most. It’s a service I will be forever grateful.

My father always said no one dies alone. After his near-death experience twenty years ago, my father said there were two sets of angels: ‘Helpers’ and ‘Takers.’ Helpers are those that assist those in need during trying times. Takers are those that help those move into the hereafter.

My Lord, can you be with him?” I prayed

I am with all who suffer. I am with your father.

Not a second later, “I will go and stay with him,” Ms. K. said.

I’m convinced my father has a volunteer, God, and a Helper. I presume he’ll have a Taker soon enough. That alone provides enormous comfort. I hope we’re all just as lucky.

Working nonstop on our company’s Coronavirus Tiger Team is exhausting. Let’s face it; coronavirus news is depressing and impossible to get secluded. On Friday, I mentally shut down. Finally, getting several days off, I extracted myself from any form of COVID news. As valiant as that effort was, my Samsung flooded with COVID-19 messages. 

Our Task Force required daily watching of our current Washington administration updates. Many team members left wondering if any intelligible life existed on Pennsylvania Avenue. We can’t stand the constant political bickering and stream of negativity. As Seth Meyers stated, any time, a world-renowned idiot like Donald Trump tells you to think about that’s your queue to exit the conversation. “He’s like the dumbest guy at the cocktail party trying to make conversation by telling you something he read on a Snapple cap.”

Truthfully honest, I don’t give a s••• if Coronavirus gets me anymore. I used to, but not now. Of course, there’s the anxiety associated with still going into a hospital, as my work is considered medically necessary. Sure, there’s the reality that every time I enter the front doors, it increases my probability of catching the virus. And of course, I take exceedingly due diligence, even when I stop for gas. However, at the end of the, it is what is.

Why? Well, there are a lot of people out there worse off than me. For many people, it’s a rather dark time. Jobs are gone. Savings are being depleted. And we’re experiencing long-term isolation never intended. 

Humanity survived worse. There were World Wars, the Black Flu, Spanish Flu, smallpox, H1N1, HIV/Aids. Yet, it’s those who find purpose under unimaginable circumstances will survive – and eventually prosper. Frankl called it the ‘quest for meaning.’ 

Sometimes we find meaning in extraordinary places. I find it in the transcendental power of Love. Frankl noted this form of Love accordingly.

“Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.”

Frankl’s words, “life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose,” are a call to action today. Finding purpose, a fundamental requirement for human health and well-being, will not cure the Coronavirus, but may well mitigate its effects and enable a more rapid recovery.

Zig Ziglar stated we could either react or respond. Sure, many of us will have good days. Many of us will have bad days. But each of us can choose to adopt positive attitudes and control our response to the circumstances.

Therefore, when I say, “I don’t give a s••• anymore,” it’s because I do. I refuse to ‘react’ to COVID-19. Instead, I am responding by finding any semblance of Love possible. I choose to find meaning and purpose in what I do. If I die, then so be it. I die in meaning and Love.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

~Victor Frankl ~

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