Tag Archive: Easter

Throughout my years of wandering the hospital as an unknown IT guy, elders would strike up conversations. In nearly identical ways, each lived with loss and disability, yet they remain undefined by them. Almost to a person, they awoke each morning, serenaded the day, ate breakfast, and set out to seize the day or ‘get in trouble’ as one nurse phrased it. Sure, their knees hurt, and some couldn’t perform exercises like they used to. But, old age did not hit them suddenly. Instead, they got used to it, one day at a time. 

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Pope Francis offered a message of hope during his Good Friday message.

“May the hearts of those who have enough be open to filling the empty hands of those who do not have the bare necessities.”

“This year we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday. We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day. They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly. They had seen death, and it weighed on their hearts.”

For the past twenty-four hours, I haven’t been feeling the love. It’s been rough.

A lot of weird or strange events occur to me on Good Friday. Good Friday 1996, I was told by doctors that I would not live past 50. I was fired on Good Friday 2010. Yesterday, I learned a coworker hangs on in an ICU, battling against Coronavirus. And today, a friend texted that a mutual business acquaintance (I’ll call Jim), age 54, died from Coronavirus on Good Friday. 

I worked with Jim from 2006 through 2010. He wasn’t the type of guy I would pour my heart out to over a beer, but for every week for four years, we would meet at an old church converted into a coffee shop. It was a remarkable escape. Over latte’s, coffee, bagel, or sandwich, we’d joke, tell stories and strategize about one project or another. We laugh about doctors – the ones who couldn’t tell time or appeared to lack a lot of real-world common sense, but the same doctor you’d trust your life to navigate the brain during ten-hour neurosurgery.

Jim was a master of human communication. He was always in the know. Freely admitting he knew little of the finer points computer technology, he knew everyone. And that’s what made him valuable. If a project was in jeopardy, he knew who to contact, where to go, and what political lever to push. Jim once said, “All projects would be easy if we eliminate the people.” Jim was all about politics. 

He was a gregarious man with a happy life. However, when speaking with strangers, he would identify the most successful person avoiding the “biggest” talker. Reason: The ability to keep quiet and listen to what others have to say is a common and critical trait. He found importance in the unsaid. 

In the story of the cross, we discover God’s message of hope. When one of the two men who hung next to Jesus comes to terms with his guilt, he asks Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. Jesus offers these redeeming words, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.” 

I am going to hold God’s goodness to that commitment. Because right now, I feel pain. Jim shouldn’t be dead. But he is. And while I compare myself more to one of the two hanging next to Christ, I hope one day, our merciful and graceful God will wipe away all our sins, faults, and mistakes and make us whole. 

Most Coronavirus victims will have no public funeral, Jim included. ‘Private to the family,’ I’m told. He’s in good company. Christ was hurriedly buried, without the presence of friends, just a few family members, and two men who weren’t part of his inner circle.

In the Catholic faith, during the next month or so, you’ll heat two phrases: “Peace be with you!” and “Be not afraid!” Remember that we’re all members of the great human family, created in the image of God (Gen. 1:17). The color of our skin, the language we speak, our accents, and our cultures mean little.

If Jim were here, he’d acknowledge that Easter 2020 is subdued. Yet, even with limitations, it’s not all negative. Sure, there are no huge crowds, no early dawn ceremonies, no ‘He has risen galas.’ He would remind us that Easter is more than a yearly one and done event. Every morning is Easter Morning. Every morning is a new opportunity to rise.

Jim’s death weighs heavy on me today. I promise death will not hold its grip forever. Likewise, I presume Jim has already determined who’s who in heaven. Therefore, we can trust Jim to say, “Peace. Be not afraid.”

Good Friday 2020

I happened to see Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s memorial to Charlotte Figi, a child with a catastrophic type of epilepsy who went on to inspire a CBD movement. Ms. Figi passed from complications to Coronavirus-like symptoms.

I commented to myself about the irony of why we find the unexceptional exceptional only after passing. Why is it we never see those qualities when they are alive.  

Shelly is not unlike Figi. I didn’t know her well. I don’t recall ever personally meeting her. If I did, she was too unexceptional for me to note as exceptional. I certainly don’t remember what she looked like, the color of her hair, what she wore, eyes, or the way she carried a laptop or cup of coffee. I don’t know about her life story. Neither did I understand the challenges she overcame, the obstacles tossed her way, accomplishments, nor tears. 

Shelly worked in our west coast office. We interact several times each week, separated by the Central to Pacific coast time zone. Occasionally, Shelly would call during the early evening to gather advice or discuss strategies in handling a difficult manager.

I learned Shelly was a Star Trek fan, including Kirk, Spock, The Next Generation, and others. Spock would be proud; she lived the mantra, “The needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few.” Like crewmembers on the U.S.S. Enterprise, she willingly gave up many parts of her life for others. 

Shelly fought for what was right. She wasn’t afraid to poke holes in the politics and beliefs of our times. There was no perfect life, where all the world would walk in peace. Even I, the great Unknown Buddhist (my sarcasm), was challenged to look at my own culture and ask what was right. And maybe in real life, Picard, Charlotte Figi, and Shelly pushed others to eliminate personal hunger, excessive want, and need. More importantly, all of us were pushed to grow out of intellectual infancy.

And like so many others, just like Figi, Shelly was attacked by Coronavirus symptoms during the early hours of this morning, Good Friday. She’s in intensive care, barely alive.

If there’s a lesson, Dr. Gupta laid bare that our world dialogue has become disorienting. Should there be a second lesson, it would be that our life can only succeed by the quality of our bonds, not by the height of our walls. We must find a bridge between otherwise irreconcilable cultures. Maybe that bridge is love.

Good Friday is about love and transformation. In remembering Ms. Figi and Shelly, I must recognize that their lives do not end this week. Instead, it begins anew. Love triumphs death. And like so many others, love continually transforms me as well. 

Ms. Figi and Shelly are exceptional. I regret not making either ‘exceptional’ during my living years. I should have; we should have. In their way, each gave me a tremendous amount of unconditional love. How do I know? I call it faith. We may not understand it, yet it exists nonetheless.

It’s the same faith Christ calls us to live. It’s what Good Friday’s about.

ascension-dayThe Easter sun rises through my patio window. Another Easter, another year of challenges – another year remembering could haves, should haves, and would haves. Over the years, I’ve experienced several hard transitions between Good Friday and Easter. Each year I vow otherwise, but like many, I spent Easter reminiscing, not so much on loves and past dreams but more so on what went wrong.

Easter 1984 I was informed I had a major disease. I would live maybe 20, 25 years if going downhill with the wind behind me. Now, I’m 56. Go figure?

Good Friday 2010 I was fired by telephone and lost the love of my live. Both walked out the door on Good Friday and never looked back. Six years later, I have received none of the forgiveness requested.

Easter 2016 brought another round. Like an old food item, doctors gave me an expiration date. Doctors informed my body is expiring, slowly. I linger, not so much in pain, but prolongation and loneliness. I vowed never to be the guy who ingested six medications. Yet here I am. Major illness and cervical injuries to the C4 and C5 vertebrae leaves walking nearly impossible. Medications control everything from dysphagia, cardiac problems, high-blood pressure, chest pain, paraplegia and vertigo from inadequate blood flow.

In life, the body doesn’t always follow best-laid plans. Having made my living in hospitals since 2008, the variance between living fully and tragically collided daily. One day, you’re full of life. The next day, you must learn a new normal, one requiring every ounce of soul. And that newer pathway often leads to mental decline and frailty. Yes there are some joys, but for most, the declining body saps of everything.

Bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel noted that living too long is a loss. His picture of living past 75 wasn’t pretty – no skydiving, no horseback riding and endless commercials reinforce cholesterol medications and Viagra cannot rejuvenate youth.

I cannot even envision 75. At 56, I don’t ask for anything but dignity. I’ve put aside any desire to live longer. None can cure aging. Still, for the time remaining, I want to live in the real world, to accept the year head on, valuing those around me. I want to love once more, lie in someone arms and embrace the sweet nectar of romance. I want to experience a level of agape love never received. Can one live in love? It seems simple? Maybe too simple? Maybe not.

I understand Easter’s hope in ways many never will. It’s not about an Easter Bunny, coloring eggs or finding chocolate. In the late stage of life, we become housed and nurtured by those around us – a prisoner within a prison. Thus Easter’s real hope is prison’s destruction. Revering God’s ability to overcome fear and human boundary, leaving any willing to mercifully love God who will overcome breathing difficulties, aches, pains and of course death itself. That my friends is what Easter’s all about.

Live in love and experience the real beauty of God.

Easter Freedom

EasterDuring childhood, when Easter rolled around, my mother thought of spring-cleaning, she literally meant “cleaning house” of all things. Likewise, in our personal world, we should clean ourselves of guilt, shame, anger and resentment yearly.

Jean Valjean, the fictional character in Les Misérables noted:

I have done wrong, and cannot escape it. I want to do good, forever, for everyone. Even if I became as wealthy as a King, I honestly don’t think I would spend it on myself – I’d use it to help other people.

I can forgive myself, and I can forgive others – but I will not excuse myself or resent the law or accusers when I am in the wrong. When I am wrong, I deserve the punishment.

Another person should never have to suffer in my place.

If I could possibly share anything, it’s that honesty, purity, unselfishness and love are essential absolute truths. Many Christians believe these four qualities perfectly express the life of Jesus. Thus, they represent an ideal for human conduct.

Throughout my life I suffered from my own mistakes, being selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened. Thus, rather than inventory those whom I thought had mistreated me, a central question now is “Where I to blame?” In every instance I ask, “What is my part in it?

These days, I tend to distance family that only looks upon me as a burden. I acknowledge their pain is real, but they know nothing of my complexity and capacity to feel love and change this world into a place where I can thrive, where being naked and vulnerable is safe and encouraged.

It’s within this world we can reach outside ourselves and find true purpose of our existence. To survive my own addiction, I have to acknowledge there’s always been something within me that’s never seen the light of day.

Les Misérables’ Jean Valjean worked his whole life to love other people, to fulfill his promises, his duties. In the end, he found that “To love another person is to see the face of God.

I got into a deep hole by trying to survive alone in a fearful world. I now know I am not alone; and there is much love, both within me. When another human being accepts you no matter how bad the things you’ve done, it’ll be much easier to accept yourself.

We’re only as sick as our secrets. This Easter, release them and be free.

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