Jodie, on the occasion of your surgery

I cannot begin to tell you how emotional it was when, as an infant, you were diagnosed with diabetes, and then the worst  brittle diabetes.  Your mom wept for days.  She wept sticking you repeatedly to find your blood sugar level.

I was in the hospital last week.  They pricked my fingers three times a day.  I used all my fingers on one hand.  Did you celebrate your 10,000th prick?

Then they told your parents your life expectancy was 12 years … possibly.  So we heard story after story in the night, in the morning, in the bathroom, in the bedroom when everyone in the family — including pets — took turns awaking for no particular reason (God must laugh when we say silly things); to walk in, check you, and find you had cratered.

Your family created a “new normal”.  Jodie cratered.  Jodie’s out cold — and we must calmly, intentionally work our way out of this.

This latest series of debilitating headaches, leading you through a new, bewildering forest of conflicting diagnoses, crashing and ascending hopes — has drained all of you.  Draining Jill and me ten hours away is a lot less than your mom and dad.  That draining, doesn’t even include the bills. . . .

So, next week you return to Houston, to Ben Taub where your grandfather loved his traning as a physician to remove your outsized pinneal gland.  Being twice as old as doctors said was even possible, helps me pray that you lick this thing and flourish.

The Roller Coaster

Most of my life is not laid out.  I don’t have one “paycheck” that is my primary source of income.  It turns out that a lot of “drivers” in the economy approach life the same way. 

Even when they are CEO of a company, they know that the average life expectancy of a CEO, even if you founded the company, is way short of a life time.  Way short.

We pass through seasons.  The economy is vanquishing many life-time jobs.  We will spend time “between” jobs, revenue streams, income(s), or sales. 

Translated: Roller Coaster. 

Roller Coasters are fun for some, nerve-shattering for others, life-ending for a few, and dreaded by many.  What makes one worthwhile, even fun?

Hope.  I have laughed to hear a number of women and even a few men (unscientific poll, not meant to be sexist) say, “I rode that thing so that he/she would think I was adventurous, fun, crazy, etc.  They rode the Roller Coaster hoping it would impress the person with whom they were riding and … something else would develop. 

Adventure.  “I wanted to see what it would be like.”  Afterward, many people loved it and rode again and many people had enjoyed enough adventure along that path to last a life time.  Never to do so again. 

Thrill sampling.  Some crazy people have ridden enough Roller Coasters that they compare the rides and live for the next thrill on one — “hoping it is at least as good as that one in ____ was; maybe better.” 

What no one talks about and everyone is loathe to mention is that some Roller Coasters dip into despair and crest in bleak outlooks.  War, poverty, divorce, bankruptcy, fatal illnesses all dip and crest in gut wrenching places.   Walking away alive is an amazing achievement.  Amazing enough. 

The response?  Many people engage enough to keep those nerves alive that go with riding Roller Coasters.  That is why sports are so HUGE in our economy.  We cheer and yell, knowing that few lives are at stake and, Lord willing, they line up and do it all again next year. 

Many people find the extremes and love living there.  Yosemite’s upper camp of climbers is packed with those people.  So is entrepreneurship, many NGOs, people planting churches and planting new lives. 

Many people disengage and live through media and cocoon — alone. 

I have been fortunate.  My cowgirl has ridden our Roller Coaster with me for over thirty years.  My sons (and daughter in law) are unafraid, and that is a gift.  My friends tend to live on the edge and challenge hard things.  And my students?

Every one of them is eyeing life and sizing up whether he or she believes he or she is up to the ride of a lifetime.  I end up talking about courage in class a few times, and even more often with them in small groups and individually. 

They seem to come with enough child left in them to not want to stand on level ground; unmoving all of their lives.  They seem to know that is an illusive thing to desire.