Tag Archive: Christmas


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.

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.

VermontThe window overlooking Vermont is surrounded by oceans of trees. Looking upon Nature’s marvel, I realize she gave nothing without labor. I remain utterly speechless and in awe.

Here in the deep woods, I can dust snow from tree branches and ponder the struggle. Yes, she struggled. In love, she forged and bored through listless rock to create this world, the world in which we live.  Each of us on this island earth are connected, born from that very labor of love. And everyone needs to understand our earth, this spirit of life, this beauty of creation loves everyone given life.

Over the years I have traveled to and fro, from Asia to Africa, from Canada to South America. In all those travels, I am not unaware of the encircling power of love – the love of people; the love of potential and the love internal peace that only someone who truly loves another gives. There is a tremendous power within unabridged love, in drawing life’s breath from one another. Those who share the depth-less, that someone so deep, so encompassing, there is no other.

Even I found the richness of God’s creation in my love, I now understand God’s true love includes both power and strength: the power of a received kiss and the foundational strength forged year after year.  Yes, my love knew me. She understood my significance and stirred life through a simple touch. In her hand, the key of the lonely heart trembled and the simple twist of her wrist unleashed the magic of Christmas. Agape love understands, for everyone needs someone to set them afire.

This Christmas, give the power of love.  We need NOT be independently wealthy. Nor does being a rich Scrooge to make a difference. Surely there’s something about our service that doesn’t require having an enormously rich neighbor to facilitate?

This type of glory is not about recognition. It’s about assisting those in need. Thus, this Christmas, remember those who’ve not had the opportunity to receive this power of love.  Understand one in six children live below the poverty level. 1.6 million children are homeless and represent 38% of the entire homeless population. Somewhere in your neighborhood, there is an elderly man or woman who believes they are alone.

Together, we have the power to reach unto those in need.  While shopping for the holiday, drop a toy in the collection box, pay someone’s monthly heating bill or sit and listen to their life story. There is nothing like the power of listening. All of these souls have the same right to kiss their dreams just as you or I. Awake from the slumber, come to them as a friends. Regardless of fault, each person is worth knowing.

While I lost my love to my own ego, I look through the forest onto Lake Champlain and I hope somewhere she searches for me.  Regardless, were she here, we would embrace the community and acknowledge a power greater than any CEO.

All of us can be the Christ in another’s life.

Live … love … offer peace and comfort. That is what God’s love is all about. It is very Buddhist and very Christ-like.

And to Ms. K. … Merry Christmas … wherever you may be.

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