Tag Archive: Christmas Spirit


Christmas Day +1

A friend texted me, “Merry Christmas. We must get together after the Holidays.” Given the mere fact I haven’t heard from this friend in ion’s, instinctively I know this ‘get together’ would never happen as I returned a non-committal, “Merry Christmas.” I originally titled this post as ‘Last Christmas.’ After I received my friend’s text, I changed it, for I don’t, in fact, really know if, in fact, this is my last Christmas or not. I have been told Christmas 2020 would be my last Christmas, but does anyone know for sure? I mentally affirmed that message as the left side of my chest pained me. Hell, I haven’t even gotten up yet. I reached for the Lisinopril, Hydrochlorothiazide, and a small dose of Inderal. Feel renewed thirty-minutes later, as if nothing occurred, I got up and got moving. Of course I know the damage is still there, but it’s Christmas.

I have no Christmas tree, no decorations, no carols in the snow, no gifts. Like many others this COVID Holiday, I spend Christmas alone. And I wonder. I wondered if I led any form of a good life, a life worth being proud of. And to be honest, I think all of us need to be reminded of all the goodness we have brought forth. Often we get too wrapped up in what we have done wrong- without looking at what we have done right. Like others, I gave much. I cannot say I have given more than many, even up to the greatest sacrifice (life) for another, but I have worth. This Christmas, I think Christ would remind me (us) that I wasn’t (we weren’t) complete losers. I think there is a lot God would claim, “Well done.”

When I was a kid, I used to think that some form of cancer, tumor, or leukemia would nab me and wrest from me. A couple decades of maturity and having worked in healthcare these past fourteen years, there’s an incurable truth that one of six key diseases will kill most ( see Falling Through The Cracks). There’s no denying our lack of power. But I also believe this knowledge, and the knowledge of my own fragility, makes us a better person, a better nation. I believe I (we) am (are) nearer to God and has forced me (us) to see the beauty surrounding me. Thus, as Christmas Day plus one comes and goes, all of the pain has taught me (us) that I’ve (we’ve) come out ahead. Yeah, I (we) am (are) forever altered, as disease does that. But I (we) remain alive. I (we) remain intact.

If asked whether I should have chosen a life of tremendous successes with tremendous failures versus the more balanced nine-to-five job, I chose the former. Reflecting all my adventures, I think I would make that choice again. If I don’t, I would never be the person I am today. I think what God taught me these past several months is that a life worth living is one imbued with both success and failure, joy and sorrow, relief and suffering. What God reminds during this holiday is that all of us (me) missed on many occasions was purpose, passion and courage to not to pointlessly hurt one another, to toil in pointless jobs, and to endure a loveless marriage. I ventured forth and explored an unknown world. I took chances and enriched my soul. I loved, I lost. I still love, and still lose. Such is the nature of this world. Yet, ying/yang (love/loss) is the hallmark of a good life and the criteria by which I wish my life to be judged.

God asks us to live enriched lives. Are we willing to be changed? I have nothing against corporate leaders, though I question one man’s worth should he claim he requires 20 million or more a year in compensation. But I believe there are more spiritual lives in the lowly than in Washington, D.C.. An old rabbi was once asked why so few people were finding God. He wisely replied that people are not willing to look that low. Jesus was born in a stable, and is sure sign God is especially concerned for the poorest, the lowliest, the lost, and the neglected.” [From Liberation of Life by Harvey and Lois Seifert – quoted in A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants.] Most of us feel lost and neglected. But I know He’s there. He’s there.

Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol is a wonderful classic for all ages. The book has been translated into many movies, each with the director’s own interpretation. To this day, my favorite is ‘Scrooge,’ the musical version. It’s available on YouTube for free. The singing, graphics and music is so eloquently intertwined. Many watch the film and think, ‘You know, I hope that old geezer at the office gets visited. Surely, he needs change.’ Feel free to replace ‘old geezer’ with anyone: Aunt Jane, Mr. Smith, Carl, an ex, soon to be ex, current spouse, father, son, daughter, pet chihuahua, Oscar the cat, that kid (whoever that kid is) or whomever. The lessons are there. Simple to understand, yes? However, look beyond the veneer and viewers should understand Scrooge experienced a ‘life review.’ And this is exactly as life review(s) appear.

Mine was experienced as if I was a third person, as only a third person would see it. I saw myself enacting all those ugly, mean events. Yet I was allowed to experience the pain and harm I caused others. I saw an angry, bitter, manipulative person, often absent of any redeeming sense of honesty.

In life, I somehow thought I could positively impact the world, but many parts were shrouded in deception. Now, arthritis, Parkinson’s, and cardiovascular issues make it likely that I will forever be known as just another dipstick. “How much Love did I show there?” asked one angel. “How would I measure those moments against my life’s mission?” asked another. Like a Dickens character, I saw the evolutionary effect of every deed. The final question, “What happened between Christmas Eve 1978 and now?” pierced forth from a bright white light, as if the ‘Light of Truth’ beamed from an indescribable place and was asked, “W.T.F.?”

There was no one to save me. No way to hide.  No one to blame. There was no public relations firm. No possible way to manipulate anything. No way to justify my actions. The totality of each event was present, head on, as if God ripped off the band aid from an unhealed wound. No, Ms. K. wasn’t there. I could not hide behind any ‘could have,’ should have,’ or ‘would have.’ I stood silently, attesting solely for my actions. And for the first time in 40 years I came clean.

My sin was too much to bear. Looking away, I said, “I simply wanted love.” Throughout my life, for whatever reason, I was never good enough. I became the chameleon. I blended in and became what I thought everyone wanted me to be. Turns out, that wasn’t very effective either. I constantly looked for the one ‘big thing’ that would make me great, “And they would love me (I remember saying in 1994).” ‘They’ (whoever they be) never did. Like so many before, I became just another asshole.

I never loved myself. “If I never loved myself, how could they love me?” one angel poignantly queried. “In life and with God, it is the small acts of love and generosity that make up the world. Every moment may be a life changing moment. any moment may be monumental.” They were saying small moments are just as big as being a spiritual leader. Looking back at my review, I fear that all those things really are me. Am I still that angry, bitter, and manipulative guy? If I continue to hide my illness, is it because I remain angry and bitter? 

God was teaching lessons I needed to learn. When inner and outer join, one no longer has to hide. The part that God Loves and understands is still there. He remains within me. Is a form of agape love that transcends way beyond who I made love to, who I worked for, or successes achieved. In principle, it is living without reward, giving without receiving, and loving unconditionally.

Most of the love I experienced (as I presume most others experience) is conditional. We love (or are loved) based upon what we’ve done, how much we earn, how funny we are, how we treat others. We find it hard to love others just the way we are. The greatest obstacle in path is a fear love may not be returned. We don’t realize that what we seek is in the giving, not in the receiving.

Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas future paints a bleak picture (if the events remain unaltered). My life review presented no such future. I must admit though, death is no stranger to me. He is an old acquaintance, someone who’s been chasing me for thirty or so years. Sometimes when people talk of their fears, I tell them I’ve seen death, and when it happens, God will be there. That’s the love He (God) promises.

After all these lessons, I pass my Christmas present to all who read. Know that God lives within you, just as He lives in the words of this page. I also believe He exists elsewhere, in some other way, not readily seen or touched, but in a way that can be felt. Even in loss and separation, I am clear the spirit of God was me these past several weeks, just as I believe that in my last days, both He (and Ms. K.) will be with me. 

He wants us to know that it doesn’t matter who we are, what we do, how much money we make, or whom we know. We can all love and are loved. And in spite of all the difficulty 2020 has wrought, He wishes we open our hearts to the love around us. If we do, we are unlikely to miss His greatest gift—that love is always present, in all of our wonderful experiences—even in our tragedies. Whatever we call it—love, God, soul—love is alive and tangible. Love is our connection to the divine, to the sacred, to holiness. Love is richness and it is ours for the taking.

This Christmas, accept love and change your life review.

In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Scrooge asked the spirit, “… tell me if Tiny Tim will live.” The ghost indicated that should the shadows remain unaltered, he saw an empty seat. Eventually, the spirit used Scrooge’s own words against him, “If he is to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Interpretations tried to turn it into an assault on the wealthy, critiquing capitalism’s effect on society. It is not. Rather the spirit condemned Scrooge for the act of looking away, ignoring the evils imposed on people who cannot survive in society and also the political structure that keeps them in place. If I had to summarize God’s message to me, Dickens’ message would be an arrow between the eyes. 

These past weeks, I have been meditating upon my transition. In Dominoes, I noted Ms. K., waits. Why? In 2019 (see My Thanksgiving Letter), both God and she promised not to surrender, that they would always be knocking. I repeatedly told God I wanted to mentor people as if I could somehow drop from heaven and mysteriously help those in need. It’s as if I was saying, “Yeah, that’s it, God. I’m your man, your go-to guy. Bring it on. Let’s go.” I was on a roll until God provided a small portion of my end of life review.

An end of life review is a common aspect many Near Death Experience (NDE) claim to experience. It is sometimes described similar to a movie, in segments, or reliving every moment of life. During that process, there are no secrets, nowhere to hide. It’s all open. Suddenly, my meditation was no longer an exchange. God began to speak.

He told me that running the universe is above my pay grade. “You want to be a mentor? Then when did you mentor the needy in life?” Showing just a few clips of those I’ve ignorantly hurt or dismissed, God continued, “Who are you to request your position? What makes you so right? Why do you ask for something to be in heaven that you willfully failed in life? What effort did you give? What passion did you expend? Where are your fruits?” God claimed that the same passion that resides in us, the spark of the divine, the image of God that we bear, is what also allows us the free will to do good or evil, to choose to harm or either ignore willfully. 

It was a lovingly rebuke during a moment of arrogance. There were many moments where I failed to mentor. Let’s face it. I am not perfect. I was presumptuous to think I could ask God for what I thought I would like to do, but I was honored by God’s honest questioning. Terminally ill or not, I shouldn’t have overstepped. As written, “If you want to be first, you must be the very last. You must be the servant of everyone.”

What Jesus told His disciples is the same lesson God had for me: I needed to be a servant. A servant does things for other people before themselves. When someone is a servant, they put themselves last. As mentioned before (Deciphering God’s Call), Ken Boa stated God entrusted us with specific resources, gifts, and abilities. Our responsibility is to live by that trust by managing these things well, by design and desire. For a good portion of my time on earth, I the very gifts God entrusted me. Seeing my own arrogance, I sheepishly requested to be the caretaker [janitor] of a small park. “No. Taken.” Angel of gum removal? “Taken,” He interjected. “I have something else in mind.” He left without indicating what that ‘something else’ would be. Whatever it is, it will be His will, not mine.

Former world heavyweight boxing champ, Muhammad Ali, was known for often bragging, “I’m the greatest.” Just before take-off on an airline flight, the stewardess reminded Ali to fasten his seatbelt. “Superman don’t need no seatbelt,” Ali said. The stewardess retorted, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.” Ali fastened his seatbelt. Likewise, I fastened mine.

Yesterday I was asked to describe what Christmas gift Ms. K. provided. The request was a soul-searching. 

In the 245th episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, ‘Who Knew,’ a landmine killed a nurse Hawkeye was dating. In the aftermath, Hawkeye finds himself performing some severe soul searching when he finds out she was too shy to reveal she had serious feelings for him and regrets not allowing himself to get to know Nurse Millie Carpenter better. Hawkeye uses his eulogy to do something Millie never got to do–to do a better job of letting those closest to him know what they mean to him.

I’m empathetic to Hawkeye. 

For me, Ms. K. was someone worth knowing. However, during the early decade of 2000, I was positive she wouldn’t care to know someone like, and for a long time, I lived for nothing more significant than myself. Moving backward just eight months ago, I feel Ms. K. through experiences of a cool breeze, in the touch of a loved one, and in the memories of those lost who’ve stood beside me, for better or for worse. 

In many ways, I’ve gotten to know Ms. K. through our on-and-off conversations. Many who worked with Ms. K. never saw her. They saw her beauty, but few knew her. Until recently, I was in the former crowd. I could write my feelings, but could never express them. And, I thought my style of communication would clash with her style. However, I only guess exactly what her style was.

Unfortunately, I had to learn post-life. In her death, I learned there remains an unexplained bond. I’m uncertain how long it will last. Hopefully, forever. Then again, maybe our relationship is a hand-off that will make a more substantial contribution beyond just my life. I believe it’s a similar bond Christ gave.

However, to answer the question I was given, the greatest gift I received from Ms. K. is love. While outside our time, she’s within my heart, with no fear, no great anguish. Even in meditation, I yearn toward her and await for God to bring us close. She has the heart of hope and leaves not the smallest thought unfilled. As Matt Chandler might say, ‘love is sacrificial, love is ferocious.’

To all the people I’ve worked with, fought against ignorance with, and those of common bond, I am blessed by your love. All of you were very important and helped make the man I today. I am sorry if I took any of you for granted, especially Edward P., Ingrid L., Sheila M., and Ethel C. All of you are directly responsible for setting the foundation Ms. K. inherited and continues to mold.

Ms. K.’s link goes beyond love. There’s compassion. Like God, I experienced neither thirst nor hunger. In her eyes, I can shed MS. I walk without a cane, and we dance with through the forest she created, the home she now resides.

In life, right to the end, she was a mentor. And true to nature, she’s mentored me. With compassion as her compass, she guided. Of course, therein lay her challenge. I didn’t make it easy. 

We’re told the most challenging people are the ones that need compassion the most. I am that person. I’ve hurt and taken advantage of others. In anger, hurt, or frustration, there were times I didn’t feel like giving anything. However, if Ms. K. were alive today, she’d probably say something like, “Nothing in life is worth it if you don’t take a risk.” So, she took a risk … on me.

Ms. K. never quit–not on life and not on me. Neither did she authoritatively judge nor dismiss me. She pushed onward in grace. She paused upon weakness, learned to understand and embrace my growth. I can’t imagine what it’s like for her to have to endure continual embarrassment. Yet, she remains resilient and guides me closer to my highest self, a place where goodness and learning were closed years prior.

Ms. K. taught to fall on faith. Don’t fall on drugs, alcohol, prejudice, anger, or isolationism. Fall on your faith. In the subsequent half-year, I have learned about shared humanity, that it’s the everyday person who impacts one’s life—those who help the many, not a ‘chosen one.’

Denzel Washington said, “It’s the people you have, the people you love and the faith you have. Those are the things that define you.” It’s the same message God sent. It’s the same message Ms. K. lived here on earth. It’s the same message she still lives. 

She never wanted anyone to confuse movement with progress. It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have. Ms. K. is one of the most beautiful women ever met. She’s my mentor. She taught me to love. 

And I love her.

Christmas Eve is upon us. And if Christmas is meant to bring us closer, even in my condition, I managed to bring cheer to those surrounding me.

People talk about the holidays being rough for some people. Christmas has always been difficult for me. I also wanted the beautiful ending depicted by so many Hallmark movies, but those are meant for the young and beautiful. Life never takes a holiday. I haven’t felt well for weeks and last night while bending over to pick up a dropped spoon, I couldn’t straighten. There weren’t the typical back spasms or pain, it’s just that the signals my brain sent were not received and I remained curled like a large beach ball.

So, off to the hospital.

in spite of it all, there are good things happening. Yeah, I understand my body is wearing out. However, rather than being a victim, I choose to be a witness to the process. There are strange and sometimes wondrous events. Most are personal perspectives that probably confounds many.

Ms. J. asked last week if was trying to excel the process – meaning dying. “Not really,” I replied. “I understand my story will end like most with terminal disease: death. However, I have things to do. It’s just that the pain and spinal issues make it more aggravating.

Blogger Josie Rubio noted, “I try to live in the moment. Sometimes I have to think ahead and I can’t help but look behind. Sometimes I’m so fully immersed in the moment, it’s hard for me to reach out to make future plans or be reachable, and for that I’m sorry.”

Ms. Rubio summarized it well. Live in the moment.

Unlike most Christmas’ when I didn’t even comprehend it, I’m grateful for the time. I traveled. I was able to visit my mother and father. I am able to get hospital staff to laugh. And even while in a hospital bed awaiting discharge this very morn, I spent time helping a friend with a pressing business problem.

Unlike current government leadership, true religion brings peace and satisfaction to others. I am horrified by those who claim a certain leader being the ‘Chosen One,’ when in fact such actions only aroused confusion and serve no religious function. Such a mindset is extremely immature.

As 2019 ends, it is a good time to ask what we want to do with the remaining days of our life. Surely, one can discuss dreams and see how to support one other. Just as Jesus had a dreams, Buddha had dreams, and you have dreams. Can we look at our relationships and see how they might be improved?

Paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King, our love must transcend race, tribe, class, skin, and nation. Neither nation nor individual can live alone. We must learn to live and love together or we perish as fools. Every man is somebody. Every man is a child of God. What Christ demonstrated is there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Neither male nor female. Neither Communist nor capitalist. Neither bound nor free. Every human is sacred, in some way.

This morning, I tried to absorb the beauty of the nurses and doctors treating me. I couldn’t. I want to remember them, in everything. I want to embellish the joy of friendship, saying “Thank you sir” to the black man who held the door open for me. I want more moments of saying “Beautiful head scarf” to the Muslim woman who served me coffee. I simply want love. And I simply want to take their love with me.

Love is what Christmas is about. Love requires everything. Yet that’s the simple message of a boy born in a manger.

2019 Christmas Message

It seems like years since my last post. If queried, I could probably craft several reasons: work, lack of time, body’s pain etc., etc. To some extent, maybe some, if not all, is partially true. However, I ran out of things to say. 

Of course, I could have written of Trump, or Congress, world affairs, Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year.’ Yet none pale against the daily onslaught of pain, medication, doctor appointments, and other accouterments of the medical journey that I and most will one day embark. Still, I find myself wanting to share a wondrously graceful moment.

Perusing previous posts, December 10, 2018, Lessons Upon Love’s Roller Coaster hinted at something somehow sensed but not processed. I summarize:

“Several days have passed since my last post. I’ve felt ill, not from posting the previous eighteen letters, but from my body. A body zooming past the highest point of life’s roller coaster. I will soon bid adieu and go forth in nature.”

March 2019 saw me turning off the television, except for an occasional football/baseball game. I also experienced an Out of Body Experience (OBE) to which I promised to write about but haven’t (my bad … sorry). And like others before me, I woke up one day healthy, the next day diagnosed with a tumor. As such, like warriors before (those with cancer), I woke up with a full day ahead. 

It’s also the month, I vowed to make one final attempt at making amends. In May 2012, I created an Atonement List (Personal Inventory). I detailed twenty-six (26) severely painful situations requiring amends. It was quite a list ~ almost one for every year I have roamed the corporate world. 

So in becoming Buddhist, I felt obligated to honor the Atonement principle. I researched attempted to contact all I could. The outcome was exceedingly painful. Seven (7) refused my amends, including the Catholic Church. However, eleven (11) did forgive me. Four (4) could not be located, and four (4) others were a work in progress.

Yesterday, I met with one of my greatest loves, the woman to whom I wrote 18 letters years ago, subsequently posting all on my blog a year ago. It was the first honest and open conversation in years. Throughout the hours, we reaffirmed our dreams, our lives, and our love. I told her of my letters, and that one day, she’ll be provided a hyperlink to my blog, where she can read them. 

Our conversation was is what true love is about. It’s what God asks, to fill each other with love. In the end, nothing changed. We did not ride off into the sunset. Commitments embedded us or maybe the laws of physics or the universe worked against us. I am dying, and she is living. 

Still, making amends allows God to provide an opportunity, not for what we want, but for what we need. Ms. J. and I needed those hours. We needed to express our love; we needed one final moment to gaze into each other’s eyes and profess the undying gift each of us brought to one another, and we needed the opportunity to allow ourselves to heal.

Maya Angelo wrote, “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” Therein lay my Christmas message for you … forgive. Strange, the word ‘forgiveness’ has the word ‘give.’ Luke explained whatever we give will be given back. Paul said whatever we sow (itself a form of giving) will provide a harvest. And Jesus said that unless we forgive, God will not forgive. 

If I die before the new year, I would only request you have the opportunity to unlock the chains and allow love (God) to work in your heart. Mostly, that’s the message found within “A Christmas Carol,” the message Marley delivered to Scrooge. And truthfully, that’s what this tumor has done for my own life. 

When someone whom I mistreated chooses to forgive and prays for me, I know that it was divine work. This Christmas season, embrace forgiveness. Live it, breathe it, and nurture it.

I wrote the following letter reply to an email from mother. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, my father is entering the last years of his life. And while I have yet to inform my parents of my diagnosis, I wrote what I hope was a well thought response.

My mother’s letter is as follows.

I’ve been wanting to share with you something Dad said the other day.  I made a small Christmas wall hanging and said (to dad), “Let’s put it up because it’s so close to Christmas anyway and it won’t get wrinkled.” 

I wished Dad a merry Christmas. 

He replied, “Yes – for the next 2 Christmases.” 

“And many more,” I replied. 

“For the next 2 Christmases”. 

“And for many others after that?” 

“Oh yeah. Sure.” replied very offhandedly’

So, I’m wondering if that’s what just came to his mind or he knows something I don’t? Or, can he can sense something?


Dear Mom:

I read your note with interest. I can attest to some extent of nature’s intuition. So, I will get to this upfront.

Every day in medicine, there are numerous examples of patients who know they are about to die, even if no one else does. They often have a feeling. And even though doctors don’t know how to explain it, the intuition is rarely taken seriously.

In hospital terms, when we talk about instinct, we usually speak about expert clinicians grasping diagnoses in ways that seem to defy rational explanation. Doctors appear to know almost intuitively which data to focus on and which to ignore. Of course, their decision-making is based on experience and deductive reasoning (and perhaps on evidence, too). Still, it seems almost mystical.

Personally, I have learned the years to take such intuitions seriously.

I can’t remember if I told you this or not. Instincts can be derived from other sources. In 2007, The New England Journal of Medicine had the story of a cat named Oscar who lives in a nursing home in Providence, R.I., and seems to have an uncanny sense for when elderly residents are about to die.

Oscar goes to the patient’s rooms, curls up beside the patient — even those residents for whom he has previously shown little interest — and purrs. Staff members learned that this is a telltale sign of impending death, as they’ve witnessed Oscar’s similar behavior in the deaths of at least 25 patients. “This is a cat that knows death,” one doctor said. “His instincts that a patient is about to die are often more acute than the instincts of medical professionals.”

There are, of course, other signs that can guide intuition. Natural aging is one. Or maybe it’s a combination of natural aging and the will (internal will) to remain meaningful. Then there’s Google.

If you’re after a bit of a break from worrying whether killer robots will murder us all, don’t worry: Google knows when we’re all going to die. Google’s Medical Brain AI team has been working on neural network software which can scan through a person’s electronic health records, pull together relevant information, and quite effectively determines how long that person will live.

Accuracy nears 96%.

It turns out Google is efficient at sorting through mountains of data, including scribbled notes on old charts, and turning them into useful predictions while also pointing out to healthcare practitioners where they’ve pulled the data.

Then there’s just plain age. Turns out, the older you get, the accuracy increases. Why? Because people get older and die.

In truth, if you create an algorithm that assesses patients against the mean average age of that person in the population, you reasonably accurately and quickly dial into an expected natural life. For instance, FlowingData website calculates that I have a 10% chance of dying in the next ten years and a 26% chance within 10 – 20 years. And if I input’s dad’s age, he has an 88% chance of dying between in the next several years.

My company has a similar AI program. I inputted dad’s age, some essential background information, recent medical trends, and the result nearly equals dad’s ‘intuition’ – meaning the AI estimated dad is likely to pass within two to two-and-one-half years, with a 47% chance likelihood of a circulatory issue (heart or lung).

People are amazed when I tell them fairly accurate things. It’s not magical. In truth, having been in the medical profession and installing all these systems, I know the statistics, even weird ones. For instance, I know that between 45–50, the relative majority of deaths are due to cancer. As cancer gradually declines in importance, circulatory diseases become the leading cause of deaths those between the ages of 75–80. Mental disorders (Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc.) and diseases of the nervous system are common causes of death after 80+ years of life.

Of course, dad knows none of this. He does, however, know his own body. He’s tired, and like many nearing a winter morn’, he may simply want to look moving forward.

Therefore, here’s my suggestion. Forget all the statistics, mind over matter, intuition, etc. Focus on trying to find a way to enjoy the time you have and what you have left. In a way, you are in an enviable position of knowing and experiencing “the ultimate relationship.”

And what’s that?” you ask.

The ultimate relationship we can have is with someone who is dying. This landscape of such a relationship is so varied and so vast that it not only renews, but you’ll discover a new level of intimacy never experienced. In this way, love will teach a certain sense of gratitude for what we have been given.

But … prepare for when the day comes … for it’s sooner than later.

I awoke to stifling lower back pain. A quick glance of the clock, ‘1:46 AM,’ Christmas Day.

Stumbling to the bathroom, located some Extra Strength Excedrin, swallowed three and nursed myself to a rocker overlooking the valley below. “Christmas Day!” I squinted as my eyes adjusted to the sparkling lights from the valley below.

As a kid, there were many times I sat waiting to surprise Santa. Armed with a Pentax K1000 35mm camera, surely Santa would be doomed by my conniving nature, as I would be the first in a couple hundred years to snap artwork of ol’ Santa. And like those days of yesteryear, I sat shrouded in the mystery, briefly revealed by an occasional flicker from below.

In waning decades, not much has changed from such days. Even today, adorned by all our gadgetry, motion detectors, instant photo cams, city web cams, and Ring doorbell systems, Santa remains elusive. Today, I’m armed with the best of smartphones. But age has dulled reaction time as well as my ability to capture the red guy.

Ah,” I smiled. “Christmas Day.”

Looking back at the kid from years gone by, I was merely caught in gifts. Yet, by the age of 9, I started to keep the traditions of ol’ Saint Nick, having unknowingly moved from the spirit of Santa to a spirit of faith. What I had hoped for the world – more specifically, my world – was something bigger than just our world. I wanted to experience the beauty of love, in celebration and embracing one another. It was a world of faith that both Christ and Buddhist would have been proud.

In essence, all the presents in the world mean nothing without a faith for love and a faith for life. As such, the questions I reflect upon include ‘What difference did my faith and love for life make to me yesterday? What effect did my faith in love have on what I did yesterday?’ Much to the disparagement of some traditionalists, my personal faith is genuinely nourished by more than one religious tradition, by more than my home ‘root’ tradition.

One inquisitor queried, “What then, is your great way?

Love,” I replied. “Many people can follow a ‘great way.’ Only a handful understand and follow the small way.

Just as in years before, I fell asleep shortly after my search began. A welfare check from a friend wakened me early morn. Alas, Santa silently sleighed by in the night. There was no Mercedes-Benz in my driveway, no WeatherTech Floor mats, nor any diamonds from whatever jeweler. Just a new day … and new opportunities for love.

What I’ve realized though, is that Santa is bigger than any one person. His life of love has gone longer than any who’ve lived. What he does is simple, but powerful. He teaches how to have belief in something unseen or touched. As such, all of us remain students of the real Santa, the real Christ and the real Buddhist.

And the lesson?

Love.

Last night a friend texted, “Have you seen the moon? Beautiful, isn’t it.”

At the time, I couldn’t see it.

However, pushing and pulling the bed, just past 1:00 AM Christmas Eve, I was able to maneuver near the window. Wow. It was a beauty. Over the years, the moon has been my true companion. It’s always there. Steadfast. Guiding. Loving. I suppose this year be no different. I’ve never heard its rotational voice, but I’ve always understood its imperceptible power.

Christmas Eve. Made nearly another year. Not sure how, but I did. Gazing at the brilliance, I remember astronaut Bill Anders looking out a window of the Apollo 8 spacecraft on Christmas Eve, 1968 and snapping a photo of earth (titled Earthrise)– to which the poet Archibald MacLeish offered:

To see Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence as it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in that eternal cold.”

I thought of MacLeish’s elegy after reflecting upon my last 12 days – 12 days since my last blog. Many remain unaware how difficult the last 12 days have been. A single cell phone calendar note states it all, “Awoke – unable to move.” Cheating life’s natural wavelength, I’ve out-maneuvered spinal and heart problems for three decades. Until December 13.

As the days wore on, I regained use of my body, I remember my father battling like mad to fight from going mad – he never quite recovered from surgeries a year earlier. The anesthesia seems to have spun his brain like an emcee spinning balls on Catholic Bingo night. He never came out quite ‘right.’ Thus, upon discharge, I caught an American Airline flight to Tucson, AZ to visit my father.

It doesn’t matter who he is, it matters only how I remember him. Doesn’t matter if I die first or should he. We are unified in love. He is my father, but he is my brother. We are riders on the same earth.

Contemplating Anders’ photograph, noted authors and dignitaries attempted to invoke a similar sense of humankind’s spirituality. Not sure we succeeded. Alas, the Christmas Eve message from 1968 and today remain the same – that Christmas is not solely about a child in the manager. Of course, it is. And it isn’t.

Christmas is about the unity my father and I have – about the unity humankind should have. Millions of people saw Anders image, with Gary Lovell saying, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” And what we have is awesome. It’s awesome, because you help make it awesome.

During this Christmas (and any other time), let us adopt a similar attitude. Let us follow after real courage and understanding. Lay aside whatever may be disturbing us today and forevermore and attune ourselves to all that the Christ within represents – we are loved. And we are one.

Reaffirm your faith. Remember MacLeish’s “To see Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence as it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in that eternal cold?” There’s a smidgen more, often omitted “… brothers who now know they are truly brothers.”

This Christmas, be the ‘brothers who now know they are truly brothers.

I haven’t watched much of the news since starting my publication of the last 18 letters. I found three remaining letters, all addressed to God, written back in 2009. I may dare myself, open the letters, and publish one or two.

Sorry, I digress – back to news.

I haven’t listened to Trump in some 20 days. All-in-all, seems rather damn refreshing. However, I’ve read tidbits of the New York Times (NYT). One item that caught my mind was that worldwide voter turnout peaked in the late nearly 30 years ago, back in the 1980’s.

Unfortunately, the percent of electoral success in building and redevelopment is abysmal. To highlight, in February 2018, President Trump released a $1.5 trillion infrastructure financing plan that called for spending $200 billion over 10 years to repair and rebuild highways, bridges, airports, seaports, and water systems. But a relatively small amount of that funding would come from the federal government. This plan shifts the burden for raising infrastructure money onto state and local governments.

Likewise, import tariffs imposed by President Trump are adding thousands of dollars to the cost of building homes. That squeezes homeowners seeking to rebuild quickly after natural disasters, such as the California wildfires.

Compare that to the destruction. Trump wrecked any semblance of an immigration policy right out of the gate. Trump also filled two Supreme Court nominees. Significant Judicial accomplishments were processed since the GOP refused to confirm Obama’s lower court nominees for the last two years. The administration took significant steps to chip away at the foundations of the Affordable Care Act and suspended payments to insurance companies that helped control the costs of insuring poorer, sicker Americans. Changes to the tax code has been estimated at $1.5 trillion over 10 years with individual tax reductions expiring after eight years.

We cannot count on the Trump’s of the world to invest in us. As a whole, America has not invested in their most important asset: the incredible diversity of its people. Both GOP and Democrats discuss empowerment every few years during an annual/biannual election. But while all that happens, in the backdrop of ballot boxes, one third of the earth’s population lives in slums.

Where’s our humanity?

People … our global citizens are dying. As I, myself, dies, I’ve looked back upon my 58 years and witnessed so many amazing souls who live a life of service, adding massive value to the lives of others, yet they neglect to take care of or know how to handle adversity in their own lives. Thus, the trick to rebuilding is moving people from a ‘must serve mentality’ to ‘serving globally.’

Whether we’re aware or not, we’re all mentors. If the Trumps of our world will not invest in us, then we must. Only through global living will the halls and windows we’ve looked through would will change. It’s requirement? Invest in ourselves and each other. We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.

In this place where time stands still it seems like everything is moving. Including me. I can’t say I know where I’m going nor if my bad deeds can be purified. There are so many things I have done that I regret. But when I come to a full stop I hope you understand that the distance between us is not as great as it seems.

~ Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet ~

Humanity is about movement. So get moving. Invest and make the world you want.

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