Tag Archive: Thanksgiving

Over a month has passed since the last blog post. I am still trying to figure out why. I may be burnt out. “From what?” one might ask. Sometimes I believe the world is tired of hearing about my various medical freefall(s). And while it’s a great relief to talk about such conditions, they are not ‘page-turners’ for readers.

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“What Thanksgiving message do you have this year? What do you feel blessed about?” Barbara (my case manager) asked yesterday. 

To be truthful, I had a hard time responding, so I copped out with, “I survived.” Yeah, sure, it’s true, I survived, but was I genuinely thankful for it? Of course, I knew that Barbara knew I struggled to find something positive. I wasn’t ready for the question. I searched my list of quick, snappy comebacks, and nothing fit. I knew how I felt. And the best line I can grasp at this moment comes from the 1994 film Wyatt Earp where Doc Holiday exclaims, “… I wake up every day looking at death, and you know what? He ain’t half bad.” If any statement honed in on my thoughts, that would be it. Still, I kept thinking there has to be a better response than ‘Gee, death looks better.’

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If God were here, He’d tell you I failed to alter the course of human history. Pretty miserably in fact. Like many, I tended to be swept along by Tsunami-like waves of current events, often set in motion by something entirely beyond my control. I survived the years drifting alone and repeatedly tortured myself for the years wasted bobbing at sea waiting for either a rescuer or to be eaten. For fellow bobbies, the year 2020 required an incredible amount of internal fortitude. We made it past COVID, unemployment, hunger, Trump, the election, peril and or death. Now we’re here, November 26th. Congratulations! And since Thanksgiving is upon me, I ask myself, “Do I celebrate, memorialize, or a little of both?”

Ms. K. died seven years ago, just prior to Thanksgiving. I never knew she passed until early 2014. And why should I have known? She was a fellow colleague that I’d meet for lunch, catch-up, shake hands, and say, “Same time next year.” Now, seven years have passed. And since she was from Japan, I wonder if her family would participate in the Obon festival, an annual event for commemorating one’s ancestors. 

According to Buddhist legend, Obon originated from a disciple who used supernatural powers to see his deceased mother had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and suffered greatly. The disciple went to Buddha and asked how he could release his mother. Buddha instructed to make offerings to the many monks completing their summer retreat (occurring on the fifteenth day of the seventh month). The disciple did as instructed and his mother was released. I am not sure whether the Japanese version has similar intentions or not. I liken Japan’s version of a festival to honor the dead. 

Obon can be held during the 1st year anniversary, sometimes in the 3rd and or the 5th, 7th and 13th years, and a number of times afterwards up to either the 39th or the 50th year, and that each time, ancestral spirits return to visit relatives.  Remembering from my days in Japan, it is not a solemn event. Dances are performed, ‘ozen’ (offerings) are placed in front of altars, temples, and sometimes grave sites. Many families visit grave sites and clean gravestones. Paper lanterns are hung round to help guide the spirits return. Some families carry lanterns from the graves back to their homes. Toro nagashi (Floating lanterns) have sometimes been set afloat downriver, running to the sea. Symbolically this sends their ancestors’ spirits into the sky. 

The thread between all these stories is to understand how past selflessness and the sacrifices were made. In life, I never knew Ms. K., but she has since visited and I believe she remains a guide during my travels here. As much as I’ve tried to research, I know nothing Ms. K. ‒ not where she went to college or how many siblings her family has, what she did for a living prior to settling in the United States or other minutiae of snippets that surround typical friendships. Yet, by the very nature of my illness, I deeply understand the personal impact of pain, despair, constipation, the trudge of earning a living while dying, pondering the future ahead, and finding hope. If anything, I would say each of us must embrace any friendship founded in hope. 

For many families, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be filled with music, small parties (if any), a Netflix movie, family and friends via Facebook, Facetime, or Skype. Others will look upon the empty chair and dabble at tears. My heart aches for Mothers like the Duchess of Sussex, who ‘clutched her firstborn while losing the second.’ I cannot imagine the pain. 2020 saw so many heroes lost, including clinicians, fireman, police officers, teachers and activists. Jess Wells lost her husband (an Egyptian activist) to a dictator. Activist Travis Nagdy was shot and killed by a carjacker. Still, I feel a sense of optimism. I remain grateful for the kindness and sacrifices of all those who sleep. We should remember and appreciate each person not not as though they were perfect, but rather the positivity brought to life. 

As trite as it may sound, I will embrace hope this Thanksgiving, for it is a powerful force that propels us through fear, depression and paralysis. Hope is unlike any other medicine. It kept me going throughout the years. I will retain my faith in both God and Ms. K. In 1978, God told me He would always watch over me, and personally know He intervened when He neither really had too nor probably wanted. I presume He did so for two reasons. First, He promised. Second, He cared. As for me, I don’t get up and work in spite of the pain because God was committed to me. I did it simply by the fact that since I awoke in the morning, that I should get up, be productive, and in some small way, help another. It’s what God would have wanted. I think that’s the way Ms. K. would want me to honor. 

Ms. K. didn’t require a chochin lantern to call her spirit nor did she require one to return. (Heck, I don’t even know where she’s buried.) However, I know she is in my heart, and that’s a toro nagashi (floating lantern) that will never burn out. Therein lay my Thanksgiving message, never let hope (love) burn out. It is all we have.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Happy Thanksgiving Ms. K. Feel free to stop by. 

My Thanksgiving Letter

Dear Ms. K.:

Six years have passed since you left.

When we first met around 2001, we were strangers. And interestingly enough, at this moment, we remain strangers. I tend to believe you’re sitting or working in God’s house in another part of creation. The rest of us stay thinking about getting through the rest of the day, getting through life’s challenges.

For years, we had no contact. As a vagabond road warrior, consultant, and former serial asshole, I’ve never earned a CPA. My cellphone camera is used only for receipts. I am not sure if the ‘flash’ portion works. Old girlfriends and wives can attest I’ve disappeared from their lives shockingly fast, as I could barely commit to next week, let alone years.

You remained local, set sights on marriage, a home, and a career.

Reconnecting in August 2007, our friendship rekindled, occasionally sharing lunch, swapping stories, and distant lands traveled. 2010 found me flying further onward, in 2013, you left forever.

Strange how similar we are. Never saying a word, I wasn’t aware you had cancer. It’s the same tactic I use currently. Sharing a cancer diagnosis is exceptionally personal, and while I never felt close enough to be considered in your inner circle, looking back, I should have known. I should have recognized. You were thin, but I dismissed it. The eyes were hauntingly distant. Maybe you didn’t want me to feel sorry or change how I treat you. I remain unsure.

We met in life, but post-life remains real. Upon returning in 2014, our connection deepened. In some way, maybe we always had it, lose it, and find it. We remained connected and are ‘one’ in some strange, beautiful way.

I worry.

Six years past, I vaguely remember your laugh. And as much as I would love, I cannot feel the touch of your hand. I still don’t know anything about you or what God has you doing.

I know you’ve been working. You said as much. However, I don’t know if you are a writer, or if you’ll read books any me outdoors while overlooking the small park you’ve labored on. I must confess, as you sat atop the overlooking the park’s beauty, my scenery was you.

Still, all I have left of you are two pictures, a resume, and an obituary.

Yet, you’re special to me. I know you exist. You are my miracle.

You’re showing me how to find heart, and understand that the best miracle of miracles was making my heart beat.

I have no idea why you said you’d meet me. Sometimes I wonder if you’ll run out of patience with this ol’ man and run off to future endeavors. Yet, I believe you will be there.

I don’t understand our untouchable bond, so pardon my foolishness when we meet. The amount of love you have will stun me. You’ll flip my heart on its axis, and I’ll beg to be forgiven for ever doubting you’d meet me. As I wrote previously, living in solitude these years has allowed me to recognize my growth. I am deeply human, moral, and spiritual. And I know that for most pressing ethical questions, the spiritual and political often go hand in hand.

Recently, you told me not to give up. I concur. It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I have changed. In years past, the intimate side of my soul did not acquire essential skills of vulnerability, how to set boundaries, how to listen, and how to speak up. I learned the art of compromise and forgiveness but found many who couldn’t. I cultivated significant wisdom from failure, but much of it brewed little success.

Ms. K., those were weaknesses, but my promise is simple, don’t give up on me.

  • If one doesn’t knock, there will be no answers. Therefore, I will knock on your door.
  • If one hasn’t done anything, then don’t expect anything in return. Therefore, I will be the best I can be.
  • Standing in place will not gain a thing. So, I will continue to move toward your love.
  • If only true love can be embraced, I will embrace you for eternity.
  • Love continually renews and reunites. As such, I will grab your hand and renew it daily in the waters of your soul.
  • If God allows only ten minutes of agape love, then I will beg for millions within you.

If you wait, I long to be bound.

Happy Thanksgiving Ms. K. . . . God, I miss you.

~ W ~

Thanksgiving 2013

thanksgiv-daySitting upon the porch of my rented home, I look back at a room filled with handmade quilts. I grab a medium size quilt and warm myself under the sun during this brisk autumn day! Looking upon Lake Champlain, I reverence its solitude, broken only by the flurry of several birds darting to and fro upon the shoreline.

Lake Champlain is filled with color this cold day. Reminiscing, I remember the coats of colors found upon my journey throughout the world. Lakes and rivers taken on many different colors. Living in Albany one year, I noticed New York map lists White Lake, Green Lake, Silver Lake, Black Lake, and Lake Clear.

On this Thanksgiving, we must remember how the colors of life impact us. What makes us blessed is that each of us have many lakes. We are full of colors and our hues burn through the outer shell and fall upon all to see. It is important to remember who we are and our heritage, remembering always to be thankful.

Surely, there is a tremendous amount of tragedy to our life. But as we gather together around tables filled with food and share with our loved ones, it’s appropriate to remember the many things all have to be thankful — as individuals, families, a community and a nation. Some souls reside upon this earth for a long time while others experience shorter. We can bring joy and love wherever you go. We can spread sunlight and kindness. We can be souls of strength and kindness. We can be thankful for the opportunities won and lost.

I recently met the owner of Queen Donuts in Tucson, Arizona. In her youth, she and her family escaped the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia with nothing but their clothes, made their to Seattle and then onward to Tucson, Arizona where Queen Donuts came to fruition. Losing a son to gun violence, she still finds the ability to be joyful for each holiday season, for the life they’ve had, friends made and love offered. They know each customer by name and bring so much joy and peace to all who grace their shop.

I also met the unofficial mayor of Copper Crest retirement community. Each morning, this 20 pound pralines and cream colored Terrier visits each and every resident, while sipping a spoonful of water and nibbling treats. Aging residents are thankful for Skip’s daily visits. In his own unnoticed way, he forms and bonds a sense of community, gathering of time and experiences and lifetime of life and love.

These simple moments remind me to be thankful of our time together.

Personally, I am thankful for the time I had with Ms. K. I am thankful for the morning greetings we exchanged. I am thankful to have experienced the blooming flowers of spring, to hold her hand while walking, to touch her skin in the cool night, her laughter, to feel her breath upon my skin and a connection so deep one thought God was present.  I am proud of her continued journey to save those in need. K., even though we far apart, you remain very near, your smile starts and end my day.

I am grateful to all, even for those who irritated me, since they reveal to me the inner core of my own truth. I might believe I’m an all-encompassing exquisite person, but all nurse grudges, attachments, pride, jealousy, ego-clinging, and all the rest of that mucky stuff. Without such educators, I would remain aloof even to my own soul.

But just like the lakes of Vermont and New York, we are a single coat, a family of many colors. We must remember to reach out give love all the days of the year, not just Thanksgiving. Remember to breathe life into one another, forge a unity of family or friends, the solidarity of community, the bond of closer ties. Use this time to develop an attitude of gratitude: to all in our lives who’ve contributed towards our fortune and success.

As for me, I thank you Ms. K and offer my blessings … wherever you are.


Be The Church

FaithInActionLogoThis past week, a Christian friend stated all must have faith; that God brings meaning and order to everything.  Reflecting upon my friend’s quote, I think of Faisal bin Ali Jaber.  Mr. Ali Jaber looked in horror as drone-fired missiles incinerated his nephew and brother-in-law. And in searching for answers, he traveled from afar to our house of congress. However, no congressman has been able to explain why his relatives were killed, or why the administration is not willing to acknowledge its mistake.

The strike occurred in of August 2012. The deaths drew widespread indignation in Yemen and was documented by The New York Times, along with a number of other strikes that accidentally killed innocent people. I am sure Faisal bin Ali Jaber looked lost in Washington, with members of Congress and staffers darting from one meeting to another. It’s not every day a victim of American drone strikes travels 7,000 miles to Washington to look for answers but received none. And more than likely, as he fell to his knees in August 2012, his prayer of faith remained unanswered.

It’s important to note God remains just as elusive for the Philippine typhoon victims as the holocaust victims, the tsunami victims in Japan and Asia. Christians are not exclusive record holders for unanswered prayer. God remained so elusive for September 11th victims that some joined hands and leaped from the highest floors. Ask any mother who’s lost a child to gun violence and see if God provided answers. Also, ask all Middle East families who’ve been touched by violence if Allah has come forward. In all cases probably not.

Some however ignorantly claim they have an answer. Huckabee and Geraldo Rivera advised the world God was absent in both the perpetrator and the Connecticut school where so many children passed away. Rivera went further, claiming a faith-based man wouldn’t have performed such an evil act. Still, faith-based is not singular, as the perpetrators of September 11th were largely propelled by faith.

Conservative Christians also claim God allow us to have exactly what we want; that we suffer the consequences of independence; that society turned its back on God’s truths. Thus, the resulting pain manifests itself in murder, suicide, drug use, tsunamis,’ earthquakes and a host of other calamities.

Point-to counterpoint, I would love to have any conservative Christian eloquently explain to an eight-year old child staring at the end of a semi-automatic rifle that society’s independence is responsible for their untimely death. Point-to-counterpoint, I would simply request same said Christian explain to a Philippine mother whose two children and husband perished in a massive tidal wave to have faith; God will make all things right.

Regardless of faith, in times of great peril, God remains elusive. I presume neither Faisal bin Ali Jaber nor the Typhoon Haiyan victims haven’t directly heard from God. Yet, perceiving the brevity of pain surrounding us, we continue to close our doors and hope for some form of spiritual control. We pray for it; we believe it and live it.

This Thanksgiving, if we want to help the hurting, we must remember faith is not about believing the world to be other than it is. It’s not about ignoring the evil, the darkness and the pain. It is about courage, endurance and helping those impacted to hold fast to ideals even as they are ignored by others. It is the courage of people to carry on their lives after tragedy. It’s about the resilience of those whose lives have been destroyed, families swept away, homes lost, but determined to rebuild. It’s the goodness and generosity of people all over the world to reach out and help strangers who live far from them, to contribute aid and to pray for them.

Since God remains elusive, anyone of us can become the fulcrum for love. And it is the collective responsibility to mobilize our compassion and ease the pain of the people who have suffered. This is not mere faith, but faith in action.

The real God is within each and every one of us. Be the Church.

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