I don’t run from myself.  I don’t wish to be someone else.  I don’t spend time trying to be other people, but the guy in my mirror keeps changing.  His glasses have changed, and he is more nearsighted.  Liver spots.  Even when frozen off, tend to find new spaces on his face.  He is getting older, but the guy in my head still talks and sounds at most 30ish.

And yet, the Christian scriptures describe God as the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Timeless.  Not subject to the ravages of time.  Hmmm.

Just sitting here, I am replacing myself.  Cell for cell, and not quite replacing each cell as wondrously as I did in my first few years of life.

I now own five toilets in three buildings.  All functioning again after yesterday’s work by Paul.  No, all five flushing again after the nice plumber came out for four hours today.  He said tree roots don’t mind “gray” water, but they don’t help toilets to flush without sending relics into showers.  My wife hates relics.   Wait, the one in the guest end of the house sounds like a small machine gun when filling, and rattles pipes in the kitchen.  So, after one more servicing, they will all be maintained.  Not improved.  Just maintained.

And yet, for forty years the Israelites making an extended, generation-wiping detour in the desert never had shoes or tents, or clothes wearing out.  Timeless.

I have pains that take longer to heal.  Some never will.  I didn’t make life choices to bring pain, I thought.

And yet, heaven supposedly tolerates neither pain nor tears.

In the last 2,000 years, we’ve left nothing unchanged, unedited: governmental forms, trade, technologies, medicine, science.  Many changes are wondrous.  Some bring bad effects.

And yet, no one has said anything as lasting, as improbable, as heart-stoppingly hopeful as a carpenter-cum-late-blooming rabbi that authorities unsuccessfully rubbed out.

Did you ever feel as if time does not make sense?  As if time itself is somehow not right?

It could be that our weirdest acceptance of the incongruous is that we take time for granted, as the given.

When it is not.


Thank you

Jill and I watched Band of Brothers last week.  Two a night.

It is one thing to think, “I have many, many people to thank so I could rest at ease today with my family.”  It is another thing to see their story told by Ambrose, Speilberg, and Hanks so poignantly — and then see the old men speak before each installment, who lived, fought and endured so much in battle, and in so many nightmares since.

Thank you.

To my wounded friends, who served in a war you may or may not have agreed with in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Your wounds, visible and not, make getting out of bed every morning a matter of courage.

Thank you.

To  you who minister, fight hunger and hopelessness for kids and people we feel hopeful for on Thanksgiving — and forget on Black Friday.

Thank you.

For you sweating the launch of your little business.  Your faith is stunning.  If people buy, you eat.  If not, you worry.

Thank you.

To you first responders who spend some time bored and the rest on the abyss of terror.  The EMTs, docs, and nurses as well who reach the end of technology and bite your lips in hope on any given night in the ER.

Thank you.

I can go on like this for a while.  And I should.  And so should you.

Thank you is not an emotion.  It is something we invent a way to say to people who don’t do it for the praise, but will fight back tears on the day we demonstrate ours.

Many heroes need one of us to say, “Thank you, hero.”

Hebrews’ writer said: Invent ways to encourage one another to good works.  You know what is so cool about the book of Hebrews in the bible?  The writer is faceless, nameless, the object of much conjecture: just like the people I have to invent ways to thank.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Dearest Dr. Mackey

imageI wanted to thank you for caring for Legolas in his final days.  You fought with all the tools at your disposal.  We were fortunate to have a dear friend help make those treatments possible.  His cascading failures were too many, he was finishing, and you did not hesitate to call us back to the hospital.  Thank you.

More than the days, I wanted to thank you for his final minutes as we ended his struggles.  I saw your tears at his passing, and was so sorry you had just gone through the same thing with your dog of so many years just last week.

I want most of all to say thanks for standing back as I lingered, insuring that as life and light faded from his eyes, I was the last thing  he would see in this world with Jill peering over.

I have thought for years that as other pets faded in the seconds after a vet said the heart had stopped, that the eyes were still too clear, too focused for all of the passing to be done.  I sensed that as death came and all that it brings to an animal, it had an anchor, a last comfort if it could see Jill or me.

The newest research says that the short term memory, cognitive functions, and even motor functions shut down — before the senses when the thalamus can no longer relay information to the cerebral cortex — all in minutes.

But Legolas could not close his eyes, and all the rest was passing from his ability to see and process or understand me.  I had a sense years ago to hold the gaze until the eyes lost the clarity, lost the lucidity.  And only then to move away.

Somehow the science seems to bear it true.  So the last thing he saw was our tears, yours, Jill’s and mine.  The last thing he felt was my petting and stroking his fur, and the last thing he heard was our voices.

As a child, my father taught me that part of God assigning dominion to us over these animals was that when their sojourn ends, we who have enjoyed them should be the last ones they see.

Thank you for affording us that.

Hellos across the worlds

Hi, Melinda.

You fought MS longer, better, more courageously than any other soul I know.

Your kids continued to grow stronger, taller, truer.  They pursued differing paths than any of us would have guessed when you were first diagnosed.  The grand kids are all taller, stronger and a little above average.  Your genes and spirit make them vibrant.

Your home was safe sanctuary for us in Miami.  Dan could come and go, but the anchor was in place, was secure because you were there.

When Dan told us that after the diagnosis so, so long ago that the two of you just returned to the car and held each other and cried and cried — I  instantly had the image — of hundreds, no thousands standing around that car.  All of us weeping or wiping tears.  Some holding each other, but all of us thinking that this disease, this test, this curse had hit us all.  And we silently held up our question to God, “Why her?”

You have answered that question fully, now, I know.  That is ancient, one world back history now, I know.  But I wanted to say it to simply say, “Thank you.”

Melinda, you made mother, friend, sister, Mother Superior, and encourager look so easy, so graceful.

And you are making it look so graceful again, of course.

I may not know much about thanksgiving

I may not know so much about Thanksgiving.  I have used silly phrases such as, “I don’t feel very thankful.” And “Here it goes again.”

Fairly depraved. 

I think that the most thankful people feel it the least tonight and tomorrow. 

The ones that have been travelling for fifteen hours and may not make it past cancelled flights and road crews trying to keep up with falling sleet, ice and snow.  They know. 

The men and women in uniform who may feel only a tear or a lump in their throat at the thought of Thanksgiving, and still go out on patrol; walk out and preflight their very cold aircraft; or stare at the prosthesis that may as well be Mt. Everest as far as ease of use.  They know more about thanksgiving than I do.

The same is true for First Responders, Emergency Room doctors and nurses, who grabbed a bit of the terrible turkey at the Station House or Cafeteria with luke warm coffee.  They know more about Thanksgiving and what it truly costs, than I do. 

The Pilgrims had buried a staggering number of their own in that first year and winter.  They had their noses rubbed in their mistakes, missed opportunities, and “if only I had” bashings.  So scheduling the feast with the Indians, their only neighbors, took courage.  It has always been a holiday that looks beyond the cemetery, with great hope at the children, at the mom-to-be, and the land and its opportunity that is so very much harder than you had dared imagine. 

It has always been the holiday that chooses to thank God, when screaming or whining is easier, closer to your heart. 

The expense.  It is the expense that makes the smells, sounds, tastes, and minutes so terribly wonderful, deep, abiding. 

So to those of you travelling, guarding, and responding, if this is not the Thanksgiving, then may one truly wonderful find you.  I am grateful for you.  And if it is with cheese and crackers and a salty tear only, may the Father from whom all good gifts come take note and bless you.