Tag Archive: Faith and Doubt


Dark Nights

I could not sleep last night, so I sat in a recliner from 2:30 to 4:00 AM staring into the darkness at nothing. There was no single thought percolating through my mind. There was no despair, no crying, or regrets—just acceptance. It was acceptance of what’s to come that my body provided warning signs of its declaration of impending death. Through all my life’s shame and successes, it comes to a moment of acceptance of all the mistakes, failures, and everything that regularly haunts me despite denying any such thoughts. And every night, I accept them. And every night, they return. The cycle repeats during only those hours of the morning. It is a time of love. It is a time of hate.

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The day-in-day-out process of Parkinson’s decline is slow and methodical. Parkinson’s is a slow progressive pain in the behind. The stage at which the symptoms appear, progress, and develop is tedious. Last week, brain fog. This week, not so much. However, this week, my hands’ fumble. Next week, maybe they will not.

My case manager got to the heart of the situation, “As you experience your body declining, ‘What are your thoughts?'”

“It’s confirmation my body is dying.”

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A Year of COVID

I don’t regularly listen to National Public Radio. In fact, in the past year, I can count the number of times spent listening to anything on NPR on one hand. Last week was either my fourth or fifth. While reaching down to grab something from my chair, I brushed the radio’s ‘on’ button. The NPR station began with the story, March 11th, 2020: The Day Everything Changed

“A year into the coronavirus pandemic, the enormous changes in our lives have become unremarkable: The collection of fabric masks. Visits with friends or family only in small outdoor gatherings. Working or learning from home. Downtowns deserted at noon on a weekday.

While some changes happened gradually, there was one day [March 11th, 2020] that marked the beginning of the new normal.”

For a few minutes, I sat fixated as NPR host Marco Werman took the listeners through what changed. By all accounts, the World Health Organization formally declared COVID-19 a pandemic around March 11th, 2020. Since then, the magnitude of loss has been stunning. Today, nearly 120 million global COVID-19 cases and 2.6 million deaths later, I kept thinking of all that had changed. Sure, one could focus upon key political facts: Chinese officials actively blamed Americans for starting the virus while the Trump administration blamed China. Still, my focus narrowed. The question I asked myself was, “How has my life changed during the year of COVID?”

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The Banker’s anonymous website relayed a story, “A buddy in New York used to tell me that the right way to manage your money is to have just enough to cover your bills until the day you die, and then bounce the check to the funeral home. Man, that poor funeral director.” While it was a joke, there is a speck of wisdom in the humor. My recent burst of wisdom come from two women. I call it, “A Tale of Two Women.”

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Back in 2019, I would have never imagined my body’s survival into 2021. I expected to have already seen Heaven’s pearly states, a thorough life review, and some final judgment, a curt, quick command, “Away with ye.” Two months into 2021, I can honestly attest that this has been a year of death, just not mine.

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

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Working well into late Friday night, my boss messaged from California. “Why are you online this late on Friday?” I responded by texting that I was working on COVID research. “I thought so,” he said. “I remember you stating you slept 12 hours a day during Christmas break. You perform outstanding work for us, but I need for you to logoff. Get some rest. NOW.” He’s right, I should rest, but the battle is personal.

My boss doesn’t know my father died from COVID. My mother called on a Friday “…Dad was tested for COVID this past Tuesday. His results came back today indicating he had COVID. But there’s good news. The nurse indicates he only has a fever. So, he might be ok. Right?” I knew otherwise. I knew that an 89 year-old man, paralyzed on the left side from stroke, suffering dementia, and possible heart issues would probably not survive. I knew that the eleven days post-COVID infection would be critical. Sure enough, when I received my mother’s 3:15 AM text eight days later, “Call me,” I instinctively knew he passed.

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The Repeat

I made sure I had all the right equipment necessary to get into work. After four days off, the biggest challenge for many coworkers today will be ensuring they can find their company issued badge. One would be surprised where ID badges meet their untimely end. For whatever reason, some get shoved into the Christmas tree and recycled with it. Some badges get chipped when used as an ice scraper on winter days. One employee brought their badge to security. “Wow. Smells like urine.” After convincing security that the employee was unclear how the smell originated, she was issued a new ID. Later I overheard her confession, “Yeah. My cat dragged it [the badge] into the litter box and p***ed on it.” Tragedies like this never occurred to my badge.

In the three years on the job, I have left my badge at home on two occasions. Upon getting to work, I have to return home, determine where in the hell I left it, reclaim it, and drive back. Sure, I could have requested and been issued a temporary ‘day pass,’ find my ID post-shift and return the next day. But that’s not my style. To me, a ‘day pass’ [and its flaming neon orange] screams, ‘Stand Clear! ‘Stupid’is attached to me.’ Nowadays, mine is always in my bag.

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As many know, I normally make no New Year’s resolution. Over the years, I learned that resolutions are ineffective and often go unbroken. Most resolutions never get past a week. One year I vowed to lose weight. “Don’t eat the ice cream,” my coworker pontificated at a meeting. “Where is it?” I countered. And there you go. Vowed to reduce pizza? Ate it. Declaring an abstinence from coffee found me four hours later laid out on the break room floor wheezing out between gasps to anyone listening that I couldn’t make it unless I received a caffeine fix. This year, I will try for a bolder resolution: walk like James.

To properly understand, you’ll require some context. When I started my current position, the job required a national security clearance. Over the course of several weeks, I carefully completed an SF-86, a one-hundred plus page Questionnaire for National Security Positions that details all previous employment, travel, criminal, financial, martial, personal background, all the times I used a restroom on foreign soil, and any other tales of woe I would to voluntarily disclose before government agents ask, “Hey dumbs**t. What about this incident in 40 years ago in a bookstore in Frog Jump, Tennessee?”

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