Death Into Life

It seems like there’s been a wave of death around me lately — which I guess is understandable, given recent events.  It began a couple of weeks ago with the death of a friend’s son and then recently, quite unexpectedly, another friend’s husband.  Follow that up with the death of my dentist’s 15 year old son on Valentine’s Day and an old family friend shortly thereafter and I think the quota has been met for now.

One over-dosed, 1 died from complications arising from a flu shot and one was apparently (heard from a friend) a suicide.  The last was more a matter of old age than anything else, I suspect.  Meditating on this chain of events reminds me that we all enter this world pretty much in the same way — but how we leave it depends quite often on the decisions we make while we’re here.

A long time ago it was explained to me that this life was a sort of classroom with a custom curriculum just for us designed by God to teach us lessons we are lacking in or need to know to prepare to embark on a new and wonderful spiritual life.  Some beliefs assert that you will return again and again until you complete those lessons so you can move onto the next level.  I subscribe to a Christian understanding of the meaning of life, which given the teachings of Jesus, would seem to fit well with the classroom analogy.

As I have grown older, I spend a lot more time contemplating mortality than I ever would in the invincible days of my youth.  Fortunately, along with such contemplation, I have developed a sense of faith (much more loosely defined than it was in the past) in a Power greater than me and have touched into an innate sense of the eternal nature of life.  Simply put: yes, there is a heaven.

February is steeped in lifelessness.  The grass is brown, the trees devoid of foliage and quite often (although not so much this year in the northeast) snow lies on the ground in occasional abundance.  That’s what you see on the surface, which doesn’t require much effort in examination.  If you take time to look beneath that surface, however, you will find that cells are on the move once more, preparing for the herald of spring.  Life doesn’t return – because it never left.  Life simply takes on a new form and reveals itself once again in familiar colors and patterns.  Such is the cycle of life.  We are here for a short time, learn and do what we need to do (or not, that is for God Himself to evaluate) and leave for the next plane of existence.  It seems so finite and so sad when those we love disembark for the next leg of their journey, and yet it should be a cause for celebration.  I like to attend celebrations of life, not mourning sessions.  There is plenty of time for that in the lonely periods where it is just me, my heart and my God.

Atheists can bemoan the existence of God all they want.  I feel sorry for them — in what I perceive as their denial.  They are so concerned about the effect religion is having on “the masses” and see conspiracies around every corner.  They live in a finite world of plastic and decomposition and cannot see beyond that.  How sad.  Personally, I suspect there is some measure of denial and I agree with an author who stated that deep down inside every man, woman and child is the fundamental idea of the existence of God.

Think of it this way:  if you spend a life in service to God, that carries its own sense of deep satisfaction.  If, at its end, you discover it was all a lie, what have you really lost?  You have still lived a good life -and you’re not going to know it anyway.  For the non-believer, I would think that there is even a measure of comfort in that.

Either way, flesh deteriorates and returns to soil and then becomes part of something else, something new — yet the same.  Death once again reveals its true nature as life.  In a sense, the message of Easter offered from a different perspective.  If you are interested in the message of Easter, I know just the One to share it with you.

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Whitney Houston

English: American singer Whitney Houston perfo...

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The widespread belief is that she is the latest famous victim of drug addiction  -but whatever the cause, Whitney is lost to the world at age 48.  Listening to people comment on CNN and other news outlets about her untimely death, I get a sense of hurt, angry people looking for someone or something to blame. 

While perfectly understandable, especially with a large variety of perfectly plausible excuses at hand, I suspect it really boils down to the nasty old disease of addiction.  I had to learn that it was necessary to put the responsibility of recovery on myself and no other person, place or thing.  Why I finally got it while many others don’t is beyond me; I am just grateful to God to still be here and know the gift of recovery.  She shall be missed.  Her voice was remarkable, but apparently her addiction was cunning, baffling and powerful.  Too powerful.  The coroner’s report will tell the story, but if the apparent cause is correct, what a terrible waste to forfeit yet another mega-talented to the grim reaper via drug abuse.

Whatever the reason, her talent was undeniably extraordinary and the world is missing one of its shining vocal stars tonight.  I am deeply saddened by her death.

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Julius

I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything about our latest grandson Julius yet.  It’s been a hectic week!  He’ll be a week old tomorrow!  He was born at 4:20 PM at Backus Hospital last Wednesday, November 30.  Pictures are truly worth a thousand words.

 

Love that Is gone–Or is it?

Title page of The Holy Bible, King James versi...

I have been dwelling a lot on our new house and also the world around us – debt reduction, 2012 elections, etc..  Perhaps a little too much.  I was reading something earlier and the thought of my little dog Bailey popped into my head.  I must confess I was overwhelmed with sadness for a moment or two as I paused and gave thought to my little friend -who I loved so well for so many years.  He was a true character and companion for almost 10 years (he was three when I got him).  I still think of him often and get very sad when I allow myself to feel the pain of his passing again.  I am much the same way with people in my life.  A friend passed (a little unexpectedly) this past winter and there was a memorial for him this spring in Old Mystic at the church where my long time mentor and father-figure George has some of his ashes spread at the base of a tree.  As I went outside during a pause between the service and reception afterward, I wandered over to the tree to reflect on the man who was so instrumental in my life for many years and had to hold back the tears as I remembered him and felt the pain of his absence.  It was he who taught me to take the time each day to feel the pain of my life.  I didn’t understand it then — and maybe I don’t now – but I do know that doing that adds something to my life: an appreciation for that which is here with me now and the memories of things that have passed, yet remain on a spiritual plane.

May God bless those I have known and loved, either human or animal; we shall meet again.


1 To every thing there isa season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from   embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
King James Version

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Remembering Bailey

The end of next month will mark a year our beloved dog Bailey will have been gone. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by without some memory or him and a little sadness for his loss. Certainly things are better, but his presence is still very much missed.

Having Bailey come into my life when he did was really quite important, as he gave me something to give a damn about at a time in my life when it seemed like nothing mattered. Hard to believe that a little Toy Poodle could have the impact that he did on my life.

He became quite popular with the crowd I traveled with at the time and would attend the regular Sunday Barbecues at the beach where he was spoiled by many folks who couldn’t resist the innocent little white dog with the big eyes and cute face. In fact, I had to take him to the vet once to be treated for colitis – a direct result of too many hot dogs! Needless to say the vet was not amused. Come to think of it, after a couple days of diarrhea, I wasn’t either. Oh well, I’d go through it all again just to have him back. Of course, when love leaves, other love does seem to enter my life.

Our most recent addition, Einstein, has fit right in and celebrated his first birthday back on December 12, 2010. Still very much so in the puppy phase of his life, he tends to be a little rambunctious and get into trouble from time to time, but for the most part he is improving. Although there certainly were moments early on where I questioned the wisdom of his acquisition, he has endeared himself to me and won a place not only in our home, but my heart as well. Moreover, he’s the best thing to happen for our dog Martha. His constant urge to play is helping to keep her young and fit at age 5. She is a sweetheart and we affectionately refer to her as my wife’s “daughter.” She pretty much stays glued to Karen when she is home, unless playing with Einstein.

There has been discussion of a possible #3 this spring…

 

Forced Into A Decision

It’s a little after 6 AM as I sit here in contemplation of the day, writing this blog with a bit of sadness to contend with. My wife and I have reached a difficult decision in regard to our oldest dog Bailey. Aside from his increasingly bizarre behavior and random attacks on unsuspecting people, he has developed a nasty cough that is undoubtedly caused by fluid from around his heart. I have seen this before with dogs of his breed, having had one as a child who developed fluid from heart issues and wound up on a diuretic for the final chapter of her life. She wasn’t quite as bad off as our poor little Bailey has become and was able to enjoy another year or two before quietly dying in her sleep one night. Oh how I had hoped for that scenario to play out in Bailey’s life, but apparently that will not be the case. Therefore, we have decided it is time to make the phone call to the vet and get an appointment to help our little friend escape his suffering. To keep him going this way would only be cruel and serve no good purpose.

I know that death is as much a part of life as birth is, and all living things must return to that from which they came. My faith in that fact dictates that I feel some happiness for him as he goes on a journey we must all one day undertake. I shall celebrate that little dog’s life of 14+ years and am grateful for the time we had and the fun we shared along the way. He shall be missed, as much as anything living thing (human or not) I have known and loved.

This will probably not be one of my better days.

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Married

Karen and I got married on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 9 AM at the Union Baptist Church in Mystic, CT. This is something we’ve planned for a while and I’m glad we finally got around to doing it! I’m also glad we took the time to get to know each other and learn how to communicate effectively – something always missing for me in past intimate relationships. Hope to see our friends at our party October 16 at the K of C.

COMMITMENT

Commitment (as defined by Merriam-Webster):

1 a: an act of committing to a charge or trust: as (1): a consignment to a penal or mental institution

In modern times, it seems like the word “commitment” has taken on the connotation of something less than pleasant with obligatory overtures that lead to a lifetime of imprisonment and unhappiness. Even though that may sometimes be the case… for the most part, I think that commitment is a wonderful thing and fosters a sense of peace and security to those who are committed each other or a cause.

Somewhere along the way I came to understand that the things I value most in life are those I earned through hard work and dedication (commitment). Such it is with human relationships, whether a relationship with a friend or an intimate partnership forged over time. Either way, there are going to be bad times along with the good – that’s when I do my best work.

Why all this discussion about commitment? Very soon, Karen and I are going to be taking the next step in our commitment to each other. That is no small thing for either of us. We have both made mistakes in the past and do not wish to repeat them. I know we’ve been together long enough to know that this will work, but there’s always that little voice of uncertainty that likes to whisper in the corner of my mind and sow the seeds of fear.

On the whole, I am looking forward to this next step in our relationship and think the benefits far outweigh the risks. I love her and the thought of spending the rest of my life with her (just the way she is and not as I wish her to be) does not frighten me. I used to love the person I was going to create instead of the one I was with at the time. Somehow that never seemed to work out – they always disappointed me!

It is interesting, however, that the second definition of the word mentions mental institutions…

Things I Miss…

Recently I checked out a co-worker’s blog and read a post about things he missed, where he listed various people, places and things that impacted his life in some positive manner.   That interested me, as I never thought to organize my thoughts in that direction and write a comprehensive list of things I miss.  That being said, I shall endeavor to list some of the things that come to mind when I ponder the subject…

I miss my parents.  I never appreciated them the way I do now that they’re both gone – and see some of the sacrifices they made to give us a comfortable childhood and decent chance at life.  I particularly miss my father – we spent the last several years of his life together until he died about 3 years ago.

I miss some of the people who went to high school with me: Valerie, Dave Brimlow, Robert Small … so on and so forth. And yes, I miss the one-time love of my life, Laurie.  She taught me a thing or two about relationships with the opposite sex.

I miss the afternoon softball games with the kids of the neighborhood.  I even miss my Mom yelling out the window to tell me that it was time to come in “out of that night air.”

I miss my grandmother Willis with her unique farmer’s dialog and her blanket reference to kids as “young-uns.”

I miss my Aunt Emma, who had a heart as big as she was.  We practically grew up in her house on Smith Avenue in Norwich and she truly was the grandmother I never knew on my mother’s side.  (My mother’s mother died before I was born).

I miss my Grandfather Lamorey and his visits – that always brought a crisp, green new five dollar bill!  What to spend it on? It always seemed to burn a hole in my pocket… so much cash!

I miss my buddy, Randy Welles.  We would hunt, cut wood, fish and discuss girls.  He was always a kind of “straight-laced” type of guy; yet, we would somehow often get into trouble.  Never anything too serious, though.

I miss Sunday afternoons with my friends George and Gainor.  Several of us would gather and head down to the beach for a while, returning to fellowship and have an evening cookout.  In the warmer weather, it became a traditional thing to do on Sundays.  I miss that, for sure — but most of all, I miss them and their regular counsel very much.  George was a long time spiritual adviser of mine and, through his life experience, continues to be to this day.

I miss my dog Michelle – she was one of the sweetest, most innocent creatures I have ever known who remained a puppy in spirit until the day she died.

I miss my cat Katie (although I have publicly denied it).  She was a pain in the behind but seemed to have a bond with me that she shared with no other.  I sometimes smile when I reminisce about some of her antics.

I miss High School – the friendships forged, the good times had, the lack of worry about bills, relationships, careers, old age… things were simpler when young and more naïve!  I had my whole life ahead of me to make and fix mistakes. Now, with more days behind than ahead of me, I spend a lot of time still fixing mistakes!

I miss Jim Sandahl, my High School Music teacher and Choir Director.  He was a positive influence in many of our lives.

I miss Ken Carpenter, former pastor of the Union Baptist Church in Mystic.  He helped me a lot when I was going through my divorce and trying to find out who I was at that time.

I miss Barbara Howland.  She was in every spiritual sense a mother to me, as though she were the one who gave birth to me.

The things I miss speak to me of the sweetness of my life and remind me that there is so much to be grateful for.  The past may never come again, but has never really left my life in the first place – it has become an integral part of who I am.  As the author wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes – for everything there is a season.  Thank God for the many wonderful seasons I have experienced – the good and the bad.