Tag Archive: Love


Visions and Visitors

It was nearly 5:36 PM. The sun had set in the western sky, and the temperature dropped almost 20 degrees from its 6:00 AM high. I sat to make a near nightly FaceTime call to my parents. I powered on my iPad, noticed only 38% battery life remaining.

Hi,” answered my mother.

“Hey, mom. How are you?”

“Dad is out walking Skip. But, listen,” she interrupted, “I have to tell you something.”

Having noticed seriousness to her look, “Ok,” I affirmed. Living with an 86-year-old dementia patient has its challenges, with trying to keep your sanity being challenge number 1.

“Last night dad and I decided to go to bed about 8:30 [PM]. After a few minutes, I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to go to my recliner and read. A few minutes later, Dad started talking.”

Wow,” I said, relieved upon hearing nothing major, for 86-year-old’s commonly talk in their sleep.

Wait,” she interrupted. “I heard a woman’s voice talking back.

What?” unsure what to say.

Yeah,” briefly pausing, “I got up, tried to sneak up to the open bedroom door, glanced just past the door. The talking stopped. There was no one there.

Hmm,” I breathed. “Amazing.”

Yes, but,” she interrupted again. “I went back to my recliner, started reading. Moments later, Dad started talking. And then, the woman’s voice returned. After some minutes, Dad said, ‘I love you.’ The woman’s voice replied, ‘I love you too.‘”


While it’s hard to confirm, I wonder if his mother visited my father.

After working in the hospital field for all these years, I know it’s not unusual for the dying to have visions of someone already passed. As David Kessler, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s longtime assistant noted, the dying are often visited by a mother or father. Kessler hypothesized parents die before their children to lead the way when it’s their child’s turn.

Comforting my mother, I noted such stories are common, meaning, a lot of people have such visions. In many ways, these visitors offer tremendous peace, not only for the patient but also for relatives. These helpers affirm another life beyond our earthly borders. In my industry, this stage or phase is called Nearing Death Awareness.

Nearing Death Awareness often includes visions of loved ones or spiritual beings, although they don’t necessarily signal death’s imminence. It’s a path, a path we cannot lead, but a path we can help them walk.

Between the fragile beauty of fire, water, air, and wind, there is no discord. Between the supple silence of life and death, there is only harmony — no two elements of nature conflict. In every loss, there is gain. And in every gain, there is a loss. When such visitors arrive at our door, we may lose this world yet gain a unity of love and spirit that flows throughout the universe. My father will become part of this beauty — a universe full of love, full of peace.

At the end what remains is not riches, not structures of stone but remembrances of those few people we joined in spirit.

In Memoriam: Tony

A former colleague called. My fingertips deeply massaged my forehead listening to the news streaming through the phone. Tony was dead.

Tony wasn’t a longtime friend. We never hiked nearby rivers on summer afternoons, traversed local cliffs or watched football on lazy Sunday afternoons. Not once did we grab a beer, eat lunch at a local pub, or shoot the sh** while sitting in bleachers as our favorite baseball teams lost for the umpteenth time.

Our relationship was, um, complicated.

An ash-burnt sky added to the misery. Rain pelted the windshield and my hands tensed when I gripped the wheel. Once off the elevator, the heavy wooden entry door swung inward, and I eased into the living room. I flung my laptop to the couch, caring neither if it landed adequately or not, powered up the stereo, and inserted the CD ‘Rent.’ An ice cube skidded across the floor after bouncing off my shoe. I stared momentarily before plopping the remainder into a quarter-sized glass. Southern Comfort oozed over the clear cubes of frozen water and a passing whiff of steam ascended then disappeared. Frozen in thought, I sat looking outward, unto the ceaseless rain. “Seasons of Love” echoed in the background.

I met Tony in February 2018. An accountant by trade, he spent several years in internal audit. He loved baseball, and dutifully charted his favorite team throughout each season. Pictures of his wife and kids dotted along desk shelves and stacks of audit samples sat on the floor in checkerboard format. By all accounts, he appeared happy.

I began a two-month company audit in February. To say the company had financial control issues would be an understatement. All-in-all, he knew the results wouldn’t be positive. The firm struggled, often chartering its boat to the prevailing wind of the day versus destination. And while that alone is a common mistake by most firms, Tony knew he would be under siege; he would be responsible; only he would be accountable.

Two-and-one-half months later, he died.

I learned of his death by coincidence, from a friend of a friend of a friend. I Googled his name plus the word ‘obituary.’ A summary of his life followed: “beloved husband … ; loving father of … ; dear brother of … ; brother-in-law, uncle, cousin, and friend: will be greatly missed—he already is!” The story of life – crammed into two paragraphs of an obituary page.

Hauntingly, I ask, “Had I known, could have I done anything?” More so, “Would I have done anything differently? Did I fail him, God or both?

Ethically, no. Spiritually? Most definitely.

My failure is that I discovered only a handful knew anything about Tony. Like most, I reduced many of those around me to ‘just acquaintances’ – just another person, not someone special. And harder still is the fact I’ve used humor as a defensive weapon to remain emotionally detached from almost everyone. I’m unsure if Tony acted similarly. Yet, I feel profoundly connected.

In singing “Five hundred and twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes,” the cast of Rent asks listeners how to quantify the value of a year in human life. The song concludes with the most effective means – “measure in love.”

Love” was the spiritual connection missed. Love was the only connection that mattered. When physically alive, I could not feel or respond to his love. Now that he’s dead, only now do I realize the abundance and capability of the love he had. He was an untapped treasure I failed to grasp and call ‘friend.’

As daylight faded, I am reaffirmed by faith that all existence will fade into God’s love. And therein, will be Tony. A friend whose soul and memories will merge with the tapestry of life I continue to weave. As such, I am assured Tony’s death will not go in vain.

I will carry forward the lesson that relationships go through seasons and we all always be finding ourselves looking for signs of growth, signs of life and symptoms of renewal. “Eternal possibility,” a mentor once claimed. Tony helped bring an understanding of myself and allowed me to ponder the desire for a deeper understanding of others. As such, life is not measured in time alone, but in the moments spent with others. It’s about little moments in life; the coffee and the hugs; the tears and the laughter. Don’t remember a year as merely gone. Rather, remember each year for the time spent in the company of good friends that love you.

Measure your life in love.” Measure the people you love in love.

Without love, life is death.

Thank you, Tony, for sharing. Thank you for your life.

Devon Jackoniski, a physician assistant in orthopedics and daughter of former football player Tommy Nobis, wrote that gladiators fought with spears and swords while American football players use their heads as their principal weapon in combat. In ancient Rome, gladiators ultimately lost their lives in battle. Football players lose their minds and then, eventually, their lives.

My only experience with football was in high school, the military and college. And brief as my career was, I remember suffering only one concussion – that I can remember. Writing that gives me pause. However, any dreams of running the gridiron every Sunday was surrendered decades ago – not from a lack of physical endurance – but from an apparent lack of talent. By age twenty-five, repeated injuries of tendons in both knees relegated had me to spectator status.

On the other hand, my father played all kinds of sports well into his sixties. There was baseball, tag football, skiing, golf, and bowling. The near-daily ritual of sports was followed by alcohol. Sometimes, heavily.

I wonder if all that had an impact. As I care for my father, I watch his ability to remember such escapades has slowly degraded. Instead of sports, medical appointment reminders that blink on his iPad are forgotten within moments. And thanks to my mother’s aid, my father had successfully been able to fool many for years. Eventually, though, even my mother’s assistance was no longer viable.

My brother called to offer birthday wishes the other day. I confided that I wonder if my father lay dormant within me. While I have not lost the ability to remember where I live, what states visited, crimes investigated, or meals eaten, everything hurts – ankles, feet, knees, and back. My heart beats, then skips and once suffered a silent attack.

As such, tracking medications require an hour or more weekly. Since pain’s a significant part of life, I’ve entirely abandoned the five-second rule. Something drops, I query, ‘I wonder if there’s a two-day rule,” and schedule pickup during one of the two times each week I ease down on all fours, crawl throughout the rooms, and capture scattered Statins, Lisinopril, Inderal, pain medications, muscle relaxers, aspirin, and others objects. I’ve also snaggeded stray bottle caps, pens, paperclips, three-day-old broccoli, and other assorted vegetables.

Therefore, buying a Roomba vacuum cleaner may have merit. However, I remember reading of a man whose Roomba ran across a pile of fresh, soft dog doo-doo. The owner referred to it as “The Pooptastrophe, The Poohpocalypse or The Poppppening,” when hs Roomba spread dog poop over every conceivable surface within reach. Ugh, Roomba nixed.

Moving onto dogs, I considered a dog may have a certain sense of appreciation. However, walking said dog in subzero weather does not appear to have any beneficial merit – for me. Sure some whacked out ‘Paul Bunyan‘ type will tear longingly for the great outdoors, the fresh air, and the cold crisp snap of the early morn’.

Last Paul Bunyon I met once said, “Ah, Dog and man. Dog and man.”

He returned a week later with a torn rotator cuff from throughing too many axes into trees.

Nope. Nada. Not me,” I replied.

Of course, there’s another option. A friend suggested a cat. While a cat seemed like a viable option, I had been there, done that. Back in 96′, I adopted a cat named ‘Cleo,’ short for Cleopatra. Apparently, Cleo’s previous owner was under some illusion that Cleo had somehow inherited Egyptian royalty. While Cleo loved to eat fallen broccoli from the floor, on most days, she was more a sovereign state with a tail than royalty.

The whole cat thing ended when I reflected back to my first heart attack. I was cleaning Cleo’s litter box when the heart event occurred. Being awash in sudden and crushing pain gave way, not to the thought of survival, but to whether some paramedic would find me face-planted in ‘Tidy Cats’ Free and Clean. I rolled to the right reflecting upon the Chicago Tribune headlines, ‘Owner Found Dead, Face-First in Liter Box.”

Circling around, being a Buddhist means enjoying my father and the time remaining. Even now, as I write, one can find my father in his favorite chair, either watching old ‘Gunsmoke‘ episodes or the saguaro cactus adjacent to the living room window. Sometimes, he fiddles endlessly with old broken computers. “Hoping to fix this,” he nods. Sure, it’s mindless activity. And he may be lost, but the action itself makes him feel un-lost.

Devon Jackoniski lost her father to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), caused by a career doing the thing he loved. My father doesn’t have CTE. He lost to age. The sad truth is that CTE, dementia and Alzhimers are not treated exceptionally well by current medical technology. Thus, people like Ms. Jackoniski, my mother, my brother and I are unknownly bonded in the same fight – the fight for quality care. It’s a battle mercilessly  fought, but never won.

I know my father’s genes swirl within me. I will ride such genetic markers to the ground. I don’t think about it, the good or bad. Yet some days, the similarities are astonishing, with humor being one.

One day, not long ago, I made a statement about not remembering where I put something. My father looked up and asked if I needed one of his pills.

Pass the pill, Dad. Pass the pill.

Dang. Dropped it.

Hey, Dad. Is there a two-day rule?

The Power of Love

Remember when I said you never know what tomorrow will bring? Or as Tom Hanks charater in cast away said:

“… keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise, and you never know what the tide will bring.”


Bob Boilen of National Public Radio wrote this piece.

The story of Bernie and the Believers is the most powerful I’ve ever come across at the Tiny Desk. It’s about a beautiful act of compassion that ultimately led to this performance, and left me and my coworkers in tears.

I discovered the music of Bernie Dalton among the thousands of Tiny Desk Contest entries we received earlier this year. The band’s singer, Essence Goldman, had submitted the entry and shared Bernie’s story. You can hear her tell it in her own words at the Tiny Desk (and I choke up every time I hear it) but she said that a few years ago, Bernie — a father, a songwriter and a musician in his mid-forties, and an avid surfer with a day job as a pool cleaner — answered an ad Essence Goldman posted offering voice lessons. In addition to being a singer, she was a performer trying to manage her own career as a single mom, and Bernie was trying to improve his talents.

Bernie drove 90-minutes from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, eagerly showing up early to his voice lessons with Essence. But not long after they started working together, Bernie lost his voice. They didn’t think much of a it at first, but then things got worse. He had trouble swallowing and eating. Essence encouraged Bernie to see a doctor and after some tests Bernie Dalton was diagnosed with bulbar-onset ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He began to lose the use of his hands and, along with it, the ability to play guitar.

With a prognosis of only one-to-three years left to live, Essence offered to raise money so that Bernie and his daughter could travel together. But what Bernie wanted more than anything was to make a record. So he asked Essence to not just be his voice teacher, but his voice. From there, they got to business. Essence pulled together a team of producers, engineers and musicians, while Bernie guided the creative direction through gestures and a dry-erase board. They wrote and recorded a new song every day. Their first single, “Unusual Boy,” was the one they included in their 2018 Tiny Desk Contest entry.

Now Bernie’s friends have gathered here in Washington, D.C. to perform his songs. All the while, Bernie watched and listened from his hospital bed on the West coast, communicating with us in a live video feed through his eye-gaze device. What you are about to witness is the ultimate act of love: Essence sacrificing her own musical ambitions to fulfill the dreams of Bernie Dalton. Through tragedy there was beauty.

I don’t know Bernie or Ms. Goldman, but after watching this, I believe they are worth helping. If you can, watch the entire piece. Ms. Essence Goldman told the story at the 9:02 minute mark.

Here are the key links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPQsEoYHekg

Band Page: https://www.bernieandthebelievers.com

To bring Bernie: https://www.gofundme.com/sendberniehome

This group of talent artists understand the power of love. Beautiful.

Six months before he was assassinated, King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967.

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life’s blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you–doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, “If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

This hasn’t always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don’t drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you’re forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

— From the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the Seattle Times noted, Martin Luther King Jr. lived an extraordinary life. At 33, he was pressing the case of civil rights with President John Kennedy. At 34, he galvanized the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. At 35, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. At 39, he was assassinated, but he left a legacy of hope and inspiration that continues today.

But does it?

In a nation of shutdowns, disingenuous protests and moral superiority, many speak of King’s morality – few live it.

Chances

From a Sacramento dinner I looked at the rain as it beat a gentle rhythm upon the roof. The grey sky rolled left to right as dinners ushered dates under umbrellas. Pools of puddles widened as rainfall became heavier.

Good evening,” said a voice awakening me from the moment. “My name is Michael and I will be your server tonight. May I start you off with a drink?

Ah,” I said recovering. “Just a Diet Coke, Please.”

With that Michael darted off on his rounds.

Throughout the meal, I heard Michael’s name whispered amongst the guests. Finally, I gathered some mental strength and queried the patrons in the table next to me.

“Oh,” one guest whispered. In a hushed tone, she leaned inward, “We are friends of one of Michael’s friends. By day, he is a TSA Agent. But he has to work nights during the shutdown to pay expenses. We understand he won’t take charity, so we’re going to leave him a hell of a tip. It’s our way of helping him.”

Their meals came. The table received the bill and headed out. Michael came to collect the check. He momentarily looked. He exhaled heavily, wiped a tear or two and returned the check-holder to his pocket.

My check-holder arrived twenty minutes later. The bill was $59.87. For a moment, I thought about client policy, only fifteen percent tip maximum. “Too bad I muttered,” as I wrote a $100.00 tip.

Friday saw an early wake-up call. Flight 323 was due to leave in a few hours. I arrived at Sacramento International well before departure. TSA interactions were cordial, but none reminded of Sheila from a few days earlier.

When boarding started, I met a stunning older blond woman. Approximately 6’1” or 6’2,” long blonde hair, a silver back pack, and towing a standard black roller carry-on. We engaged in conversation. Just as I, she was a consultant. And strangely, we had similar experiences, similar travels and similar travel horror stories.

Sadly, I never asked her name. I wish I did. Two strangers, hitting it off on a Southwest jet bridge, traveling to the same city, in the same career field, knowing one another, yet never not knowing one another.

In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman said their last words to each other in a weird foggy glow on the taxiway. A Lockheed 12 aircraft looms behind them, promising adventure. This is a threshold of escape — a point of departure for the characters, an apt space of closure for the film. In real life, our films move forward, unending. And for once in the past nine years, I wish I had more time.

Strange.

As I write this, I realize how much I miss her. Like many others, it makes you feel warm inside and you feel lucky to have met someone special that is missed in your life. However, I am jealous of the people she gets to meet. I wish I had another chance.

Life is about chances. Maybe it was chance that I met Michael. Maybe, chance had nothing to do with it. Maybe it was chance I met a wondrously beautiful and engaging woman on a Southwest jet bridge. Maybe ‘chance’ had little to do with it.

In a lot of cases, life is about opportunity. When I met Michael, I was drawn to his cause simply because others were so drawn to him. As for my chance traveler, we were drawn to each other for some reason. But I forfeited my chance when we parted.

I whispered a personal thought into the hotel’s bamboo plant, remembering the opening of “Red Corner.”

“When I was a child, I would come to this park and play. My grandmother told me why the bamboo is here. She said, “It is waiting for the wind to touch it. It is filled with emotions. Listen to the sound and you can feel them.””

In closing, I think of the woman I met and of the missed chance. We are somehow interconnected. Borrowing from the character Shen Yuelin (Red Corner):

My Iife has changed. She opened me up and in some way, will forever be a part of my Iife. And hopefully, I will never be the same.

Remember, leave nothing to chance.

Don’t Let Go

loveAn airline employee discovered a love letter written on an air sick bag. Discovered last year, the letter chronicles a woman writer on her way to confess her feelings to her crush.

“If you’re reading this, hello 🙂 My name is Andrea and I am incredibly bored. Right now this flight is going from Miami to DC. I’m 21,” the letter begins.

So, I bought the ticket last night at 4am because I have a huge crush on my best friend. He’s flying from Boston to New Orleans and has a layover in DC. I actually live in DC and was gonna go up soon anyway so I thought why not, I’ll surprise him at the airport during his layover. I’m gonna tell him I have a crush on him.

But see I’m going to Australia for a semester abroad in 4 days and I won’t see him for 5 months so it’s really the last chance I have.”

The writer requested that whoever found the letter to “do something crazy today like I am.”

Good luck whoever you are,” the letter concluded.

Of course, a search is underway to find the love struck passenger who wrote the note.

Some will call the writer childish, a dreamer lost in the fog of burning hormones. Others are enchanted by dreams of a lost love who’s memory has given to the daily rituals of life. I am in the ‘enchanted’ category.

Over the course of thirty-years, I must have written close to a thousand letters. About 40% were romantic. The addressees were numerous: Karen, Kelly, Valerie, Farrah, Ruth, Jennifer and you, my readers. A few were even addressed to God. For the most part, many were read, several were ‘returned to sender.’

Even today, as my body continues its decline, writing remains a privilege, though many aren’t love letters. But the hope that propelled 21-year-old Andrea to Washington, D.C. remains alive in me.

I close with a few thoughts.

Cruising the Internet some time ago, I ran across a love note, perhaps written by an 8th grader.

“But RU ready to be there when I’m mad, or need to cry, and can do things that I can’t do with anyone else but you. Yes I am ready unless I’m eating fried chicken so chicken is more important than me Only fried chicken and only when I’m hungry. But if not then you are the only thing I care about.”

So, to the Andrea’s of the world, I say this: relationships are not predestined. They cannot be guaranteed. Care not for life’s typos. Care only for love. Rings are the perfect harmony for those in love. If you fail to care for them, they may no longer fit.

If you made it to D.C., but failed in your mission, remain true to your spirit. You weren’t thrown away. You are the most important person to me. You’re an incredible person. And so, you’ll become someone else’s incredibly precious person.

My final thought to all, if you meet someone willing to grasp your hand tightly through life, don’t let go.

Don’t let go Andrea.

Don’t let go.

Time recently completed a review of 2018’s most influential people of 2018. Thus far, I’ve read only a handful. However, I want to take time to celebrate the life and legacy of those who brought hope and healing to the world we have lived. There are of course, whose values of truth and compassion radiantly defined the courage we often lack. There are those who’ve spread universal, unconditional love and forgiveness. We can celebrate those who’ve reached the masses with inspiration and vision. I carry these leaders in my heart, for I do not live in a ‘world‘ but the world lives in and through me.

We’ve heard such inspiration before. Having vision is important, but once you have it, being able to properly apply these characteristics is completely different. Too often we expect our vision to simply happen, but expectation will never one closer to vision. On the flip side, as a general rule, we shouldn’t embrace those that celebrate government shutdowns, diminish human dignity, or propose the value of monetary gain over life, reporter or otherwise.

All of the above is true, maybe even overly simplified. However, for me, 2018’s most influential aspect was not a person. It was love.

I garnered a truthful nugget from the movie Love Actually during recuperation this past several weeks. Maybe learning an entirely new language is over-the-top. That being said, situations such as struggling to communicate present very real obstacles for many. Still, in life, barriers can be overcome. And while love may not conquer all, love can successfully tackle an awful lot!

Life is messy though. It’s often unexpected. And busy. Therefore, I suggest not spending a lifetime earning others adoration. Seek your own worth and accept that amidst hard times, do not forgot how beautiful love truly is. Anthony de Mellow brought a similar this message through the following story.

A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a barnyard hen’s nest. As a result, the eaglet grew up among the hens. Believing to be a chicken, the eagle did as chicks do – scratched for worms and insects, clucked and cackled, and thrashed his wings. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird in the cloudless sky. Majestically soaring among powerful wind currents with scarcely a beat, the old eagle looked in awe.

“Who’s that?” the eagle asked.

“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said a friend. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to earth. We’re chickens.”

The eagle lived and died as a chicken, for that’s all he thought he was.

The lesson? Never let any one man’s opinion of you become your reality.

Toward the end of Love Actually, a washed-up British rock star achieves the comeback he so desperately sought. Immediately, upon success, he’s swamped by invitations to a lavish lifestyle. Our rock star attends the party. Shortly thereafter, he returns to his manager’s apartment. Having realized that the only real personal connection he had was with his manager, in the end, he chooses to be with someone he really loved. And that someone, loved him.

Truth be told, 2018 was exactly like 2017, 2016 and all the years before. We are a culmination of what we observe. Yet, I’d not be the man today without the tangible presence and love of a few good friends. The most influential people of 2018 were the same as 2017 – they are those who can, and have, loved. Your’s should be as well.

In 2019, ensure love is not something you have; rather love is something that has you.

Get Past Dog

A friend of mine visiting her home country was staying at her sisters’ and called me at just the right time.

I can’t believe it,” she muttered.

Believe what?” I inquired.

My sister is just like my mother.”  Continuing, “She is constantly telling my nephew how much everything costs. She’s teaching him the exact same thing she taught me. I hate it.”

I see,” I noted. “Maybe? Just maybe? He’ll be able to grow past it. That, just because he is experiencing this today, doesn’t mean he can’t overcome it.”

Frustrated, she lashed out, “No. He’s just like a dog. He’s learning only what he’s trained.”

Yeah. Maybe.” I noted. “But maybe just like other kids today, he’ll become resourceful, interact with others and become something better than that being taught.”

No.” she replied. “Impossible. He’s only being groomed into being guilted into caring for his mother.”

But maybe ….” Pause.

Click.

If you want to make a call …

She hung up.

The messages children learn are powerful, with most being planted before we discover the capacity to challenge and reject them. Such a message is found in Harry Chapin’s song Flowers are Red, released some 40 years ago.

In the song, Chapin offered a warning to those who would abuse privilege. As such, a little boy is delivered to school full of life. He sees a world full of colors with no rule as to which should apply to what. The crayons dare him to draw. The teacher intervenes for the boy’s “own good,” as she’s seen this before. It’s bad. A child’s view of a world offering flowers of different colors brings only trouble. Eventually, the teacher punishes the child until he surrenders and tells the teacher that “flowers are red, and green leaves are green.”

The last stanza of the song indicates the child moves to a new school. A new teacher claims ‘… painting should be fun. And there’s so many colors in a flower, so let’s use every one.” However, one student paints flowers only red and green. When asked why, he quotes his previous teacher.

“… flowers are red, and green leaves are green. There’s no need to see flowers any other way than the way they’ve always have been seen.”

The point I was trying to make was that we must get past children being nothing more than trainable dogs. Yes, maybe her nephew (and her sister) are having a difficult time. However, there should be nothing that summarily dictates the future – that our current opinion of any child should not become that child’s life.

Instead, maybe life has a different, yet unseen purpose. Maybe, her nephew will cure some form of cancer, become a recognized mathematician, create a solution to global warming, write great novels, a wonderful chef, an honest and trusted business owner, husband, lover and father. The possibilities are endless.

Enthusiasm should be our vehicle for education and love. As a Buddhist, I believe Chapin’s real message might better be directed toward the second teacher. Will the second teacher give up? Can the second teacher be successful? And, should she be successful, would not the lesson be that life still remains a place of endless possibility?

This Christmas I ask each parent to look at their children with love. Do one thing … get past dog.

Several days have past since my last post. I’ve felt ill these past several days – not from 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. With that being said, someone asked via private email if I learned anything from opening and reading my previous work.

Of course. Yes.

First. I keep thinking just how badly I constructed those early letters. Like most writers, I don’t have the benefit of an editor. Never been paid for writing. Thus, it’s hard to write, rest, edit, write, rest, edit and publish. But I think all who write – anything – should take the time between writing and submission. Editing is critical. It’s the key to success.

Second. Maybe it was good these letters were never written. Ha! At times, I thought of Harry Chapin’s quote:

“In the sixties I wrote about four hundred songs before anybody even paid any attention. They were my protest songs – to which, I was known, as ‘Gapping Chapin”’

And, uh, my songs had the implications that if only the world was as truly wonderful as I, there’d be no problems …”

Reading through, I sometimes thought I appeared as Mr. Wonderful. And truly, in all confession, eight years ago, I was not all that wonderful.

Third. Most importantly, there were some brilliant expressions of love I wished she could have read. Who knows? Maybe she will. Or, maybe she does.

So, what happened?

In reality, people breathe their own work, their own life. And often times, in our world, one cannot sustain anything that one cannot make use of – relationships included. Often, a weaker personality gives way to the stronger. This dominant personality can work flawlessly in life’s macro-level. However, such divisiveness is not endearingly palatable at the micro-level. Thus, those eagerly willing to please initiates the downfall.

Humans are complex beings. Each of us has inner conflicts, both with life and in our relationships. Truth be told, not every relationship works. Not every boy gets the girl. Not every girl gets the boy. Sometimes, you end up with someone else – someone better. As such, in her world, I know I would have been out of place.

The fact that I (maybe even we) still think of her (of each other) shows our relationship had some level of substance. And yet, like most sea-bearing Captain’s whose lost a love, I was too stupid to return to harbor, too fearful of sailing dry land. Yet, as I give way to nature, I accept that the extraordinary days of loving her will probably be my last. She could pierce my eyes, and cleanse my soul. I miss the beauty of her hair, its wave against gentle summer breezes and her radiant smile.

I recently visited the home I stayed in upstate New York during the Fall of 2010 and Winter of 2011. Looking past the Hudson River, up upon a Waxing Gibbous, I remembered the changes of fortune in both our lives, thinking of the many people who worked to make us whole, to return us to our inner home.

And … I wonder what tomorrow may bring.

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