Tag Archive: God’s Love


I’ve seen many a hurricane in my day. First, super Typhoon Pamela (No, not an ex-girlfriend) produced typhoon-force winds for 18 hours and left 80% of the buildings in its wake. Then was Hurricane Andrew (No, not Gov. Cuomo). Hurricane’s Rita and Katrina, whose one-two punch devastated parts of the southern coast. Last was the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy flooded everything it touched, but mostly the shores of New Jersey and New York. The flooding was so bad that then-Governor Christie won the ‘I just wanna hug you award’ with then-President Barack Obama. Other not-so-large hurricanes spattered in and out of my life, but none produced lasting memories of those previously mentioned. If there’s one thing I regretted the most from my participation, it was thinking that unless I was strong, I was weak.

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“God,” I whispered, waking in pain. “My intestines are killing me.” I attempted to dig into my stash of Tylenol #3 leftover from a dental procedure years ago. (Yeah, I know some will say they’ve expired. But I don’t believe that one day past expiration, this form of pill says to itself, “I’m expired.”) I was hoping the pain would subside. Instead, it stayed with for hours. The pain originates either in the stomach or where the transverse colon and descending colon connect. This unbearable pain in the upper left abdomen occurs almost nightly, with some nights worse than others. Intuitively, I know my colon has some serious problem (maybe Splenic Flexure Syndrome), but a cure for all my ailments is not feasible at this point in life. As such, the spasmodic cramping, gas, and bloating have become a part of my everyday living. I’ve acclimated to it. I’ve also adjusted to the notion that my body is rejecting life. It’s ironic, as thirty-plus years ago, this acclimation wasn’t always the case.

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“Excited?” Maria asked as she placed a slice of cake in front of me and sat to my left. “I mean, it’s here. It’s finally here.”  Then, leaning in, “It’s here.”

“Weird. It just feels weird,” I responded while typing ‘execution commands’ on my laptop. I momentarily glanced at the memo taped over the cake, candy, chips, assorted snacks, bottles of sparkling juice, party streamers, ribbons, and helium-filled balloons. 

“COVID Tiger Task Force Deactivation.” the internal memo broadcasted to staffers. The shutdown comes as the pandemic continues. The U.S. will eclipse 610,000 deaths by Summers’ end, while the global death toll currently exceeds 4.1 million. As we approach deactivation, the entire team was focused on ensuring a smooth transition of key members back to normal business operations. Yet, I am unsure what ‘normal’ was anymore.

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Tools

One day, Tom Turcich decided to walk the world. He left in April 2015, and except for returning to the U.S. for recovery, obtaining visa requirements, and sitting out the pandemic, he’s continued to hike, covering 39 countries and approximately 19,000 miles. He’s posted many Instagram messages. A December 2016 Instagram message caught my eye, and then my heart.

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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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During my first big job during my 20’s, I overheard my coworker Jamie crying two cuticles away. I could only hear one side of the conversation, his. From the nature of his tears, his father had been diagnosed ‘terminal.’ The same scene repeated over several days, to which, at one point, I thought, “Get over it. Everyone dies.”

I wasn’t as appalled at myself then as I am now. Being ‘terminal’ tends to alter one’s perspective significantly. after surviving life in a military rescue squad, I arrogantly grew to believe I could live forever, that I was invincible. Rescue that person from the edge of a cliff? Sure. No problem. Deactivate that a piece of unexploded World War II ordinance without blowing oneself to bits? Sure. No problem.

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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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A Life Review

My father is an NDEr’ (someone who experienced a near-death experience). During the summer of 2000, his experience included several perceptions, including bright light, moving through a tunnel, positive emotions, meeting his mother, reaching a point of no return, and an out-of-body experience (OBEs). He did not experience a life review. Afterward, we couldn’t get my father to stop discussing it, as if there was some mission to tell everyone about it. Go into a metaphysical shop, and my father would start talking of his NDE. It didn’t matter if anyone asked; my father often felt the world was a podium, and he was the messenger. He never considered the presumption that others could attribute the experience to anything more than neurology.

One neurobiological hypothesis is that NDEs are by-products of brain disorders. Altered blood gas levels that produce hallucinations, tunnel vision, and bright lights. Others equate an abnormal electrical activity to explain life memory flashbacks. It has also been presumed that medications and neurochemical reactions, in general, could affect the occurrence of NDEs. Then there’s delirium, which is the well-known primary effect of brain dysfunction. As one who has experienced the mystical, I always believed.

I’ve often said that one of the blessings of my illness was the opportunity to feel such incredible love and support from acquaintances, healthcare professionals, and even total strangers. I know intuitively that many people go through their entire lives without ever experiencing the kind of human compassion and love God and others have shown. I was moved to tears by and experienced true humility through the gentleness and kindness shown to me by the many nurses and doctors who helped me through the darkest days of my diagnosis. And I wish I could tell everyone that God sees their contribution, their act(s) of love, and their beauty, even during those days when the patient is experiencing the worst. I hope, during my life review that I can relay these acts of kindness to God. They are essential, for they are the focal point of love’s ministry.

During a recent meditation, I experienced a life review, mine. It was an interesting experience. Over two hours, many acts of utter selfishness were reviewed. I can only describe this review from a third-person perspective, and included awareness of what others were feeling and thinking at the time of my interaction. This previously unknown awareness was both surprising and unexpected. I could feel the good and awful emotions I made them experience. I received a total picture of my life’s truth and that of everyone I affected. I perceived not only what I had done or thought, but even in what way it had influenced others. Of course, I could see truths that I had hidden from loved ones and friends. The ‘poor’ decisions made had more impact than the positive, for all the promises I made to God on Christmas Eve 1978 fell apart during my review.

I wanted to make a meaningful impact on the world. But I did not. While I probably didn’t envision solving poverty, hunger, or cancer, I certainly did not foresee the profound sense of pain I caused others. I don’t believe I’ve adequately “paid it forward.” In those moments, I found myself angry, bitter, and manipulative.

After several hours, I stood at a crossroads, literally and figuratively, the end of one phase and the beginning of another, a decision point where choices must be made. Days later, I remain at that crossroad, trying still to figure out what to do next: be the giver of compassion and love or be that which I was. What God taught (maybe remind) to choose unconditional love now and always, while we are alive. We can always be honest and open about everything. We can be accepting and forgiving so that others can do the same. I know the universe will speak to me and direct me towards the right road.

And that road be? Why toward the ‘Light,’ of course.

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.

My trek through this disease reminds me of Vinko Bogataj. On March 7, 1970, A Wide World of Sports captured Bogataj’s third jump on the Heini Klopfer hill. Midway down Bogataj realized the ramp had become too fast. Attempting to lower his center of gravity and stop, he lost his balance, flew out of control, tumbled multiple times and crashed through a retaining fence before halting. Coordinating producer Dennis Lewin inserted Bogataj’s crash to coincide exactly with the words ‘… and the agony of defeat.’ (You can see the clip on YouTube’s Wide World of Sports intro, about the 13 second mark.) Life is filled with the cyclical nature of ‘the thrill of victory’ and ‘the agony of defeat.’ As you walk, almost everyone understands this yin and yang.

Everyone continually proceeds through the cyclic process of suffering and recovering from defeat.  At face value, 2020 seems loaded with fear, anxiety, and other hatred. And unlike the Stella Artois ‘Daydream’ commercial (which admittedly, I’ve personally viewed over 60+ times) the path remains uncertain. The journey is daunting.  You smile, restate a Psalm, Bible verse, famous quote, wear your charm, spew positive thoughts (because that’s what’s expected), but inside, 2020’s tastes like f’ing vomit.  I sometimes think everyone else is somehow favored, for they are free from my 30 years of pain. They are free of a death sentence that beckons at a moment’s notice. They are free from everything being ‘the last.’ 

I understand the felon’s torture. This morning would be the last cup of tea, the last good night’s sleep, the last great shower, the last great meal, the last great smile, the last thought, the last despair, and the last snippet of hope. Eventually, we crash. Life ends. And our last reach unto heaven remains inconclusive. “Do you think he made it into God’s hands?” “Unsure,” mumbles another. The notion that some find grace and beauty in every fall is a matter of perspective.  

No one ever knew me as someone who knew how to fall, but like Bogataj, I got up every time.  I also realized laughter saved many a day. Why? Because it can save the day. There’s a great deal of evidence that laughing improves both mental and physical health. Getting fired in 2010 was a horrific experience. After nearly six (6) weeks self-flagellation, I started to laugh. Captain Gerald Coffee was a POW for seven years during the Vietnam War. He claims he and the other American soldiers he was imprisoned with found solace in laughter, and it helped them make it through the harrowing experience.

I began laughing at my experience, the ridiculousness of taking one medical test after another with little hope of ever detecting that ‘fatal blood clot’ lying in wait to claim my life. Life’s absurdity, and all that could go wrong, deserve a laugh. A medical clinician recommended I eat a healthier diet. “You’ll be healthier,” she stated. Catching her error, “Oh. Sorry.” We busted out laughing. Comedian Demetri Martin once said, “The worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades, especially if your teammates are bad guessers.” Fortunately, I hope I’m not one of those who can be improved only via death. Therefore, I embrace the notion that laughter allows joy to flow into an otherwise joyless situation and forces fear out.  And with joy comes gratitude and love and hope. 

I simply let go of fear. Sure I think of death. Quite a lot in fact. I don’t fill my life with repetitive rehashing of what-might-have-been. I figure God will justifiably judge my arse in due time. I have to rejoice in what is, a simple cup of coffee, in friendships and love. I reach for hope, laughter of the soul, and unknowingly, even the most mirthless of situations can become sunnier.

I know it’s hard to find laughter and joy during fearful and self-doubting moments. Kobe Bryant once said, “I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”

Thus, my end life journey continually searches for the man (God) who will profoundly affect my life. He will probably review my life, painfully cry at some moments, and laugh at the most absurd failures. And from those moments within ‘the agony of defeat,’ God will embrace ‘the thrill of victory.’ In that moment, I shall no longer recognize the person from years past, for I will become anew. And looking behind me, I will see thousands of others just like me.

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