a perspective

“We pay more attention to dying than to death.
We’re more concerned to get over the act of dying than to overcome death…”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(a gull takes flight at the onset of a wave / Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

The past two weeks or so have felt like an all out assault.
On all fronts.
With both Dad and me, each dealing with all sorts of issues, stuck in the middle…
All the while I’m finding myself dealing more with Dad’s issues than Dad…
such is the lot that befalls one’s power of attorney and one’s legal healthcare advocate.

The irony is not lost that there was a time that he was all of that for me, his only daughter.

Hard issues, with hard conversations.

We went yesterday to see his primary care physician…
to have one of those hard discussions…and to get his flu shot.

When we got there, Dad’s blood pressure had bottomed out.
They took it three times…with him sitting, then standing…with help, then sitting again.

An immediate IV of fluids was ordered.

While Dad and the nurse were dealing with which vein might work,
as each attempted vein kept collapsing,
the doctor and I had one of two hard conversations of the day.

We went over the notes from last week’s visit to the radiologist, the one dad keeps
calling a screwball. The radiologist had sent Dad’s doctor his recommendation…
The hard 7 weeks of daily radiation treatments.

We talked— as we both pretty much reiterated earlier thoughts and our own takes on
the situation.
An eloquent perspective of living and dying I suppose….

I explained that, how the day following the initial visit last week and dad’s willy nilly
panic of impending death, once Dad had had a chance to think about it all…
that his desire to “do nothing” was met with a peace in my soul.

Not because I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to make the final call…
only to live with the guilt of was it or wasn’t it the right call…
and not that I’d no longer be taking him here, there and yon…
watching what 7 weeks of daily treatment would do to his already frail state,
but rather because there was simply a peace in the
midst of the madness that Dad seemed resolute.

At first I too shared that sense of impending disaster…
as I panicked wondering how I would manage two months of commuting and
transporting a heavy wheelchair and a sick man…
all with my own bad back and pinched nerves,
watching a man who would only be getting sicker daily with treatments…
treatments that would not cure, but only hopefully slow the inevitable.
Knowing I would be watching what would be a losing battle with only poor results.

After our conversation, the doctor then went into the the exam room…
with poor ol Dad flat on his back, hooked up like a car filling up…
where he proceeded to put it all out there for Dad.

Very frank and very honest.

What would most likely happen if treatment was sought…
What would most likely happen if no treatment was sought…
Both grim…
with neither being a victory.

But all rather an issue of quality.

He spoke of maintenance and dealing with things as they came.
Failing bodily functions…
And eventually that of pain, real, unrelenting pain.
He spoke of Hospice.

Dad listened….
and asked a few questions.

Why radiation verses chemo?
What would each most likely do to him?
What would the doctor himself recommend?

And finally being in agreement…

Life is ok right now…
so we do nothing…

And the doctor told him that when things begin to “change”
as we all know things will indeed change….
there will be conservative treatments of getting through…day by day…
all of which will suffice for now…

As we are scheduled to meet with the Hospice folks soon enough…

So it was not lost on me this morning when I just so happened upon this observation
of dying and death by Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
I’ve seen the quote before, and even used it a while back…but how timely it should find me
again…now…

Bonhoeffer was a man all too familiar with death and dying as he faced his own death
by hanging in a Nazi Death Camp….
He looked beyond his own dying…
and rather to the fact that his death
would give way to the release of joining the Resurrection of Christ,
The very one who overcame death…forever

As this is all a matter of perspective—dying and living…

Socrates masterd the art of dying; Christ overcame death as the last enemy.
There is a real difference between the two things; the one is with the scope of human possibilities, the other means resurrection. It’s not from ars mourned, the art of dying, but from the resurrection of Christ, that a new and purifying wind can blow through our present world. Here is the answer to Archimedes’ challenge: “Give me somewhere to stand, and I will move the earth.” If only a few people really believed that and acted on it in their daily lives, a great deal world be changed.
To live in the light of resurrection–that is what Easter means.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

it’s baaaaaaaackkkkkk….

“Yea, I shall return with the tide.”
Kahlil Gibran

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(a flock of gulls, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

Today I thought we’d take a break, venturing far from the tales of woes of my
on-going trials and tribulations…
preferring rather to take a gander at the behavior of seagulls and the similarity they seem
to have with repetitions in history….

Have you ever walked along the shore and approached a
flock of gulls milling about the sands?
They congregate en masse, especially near where any humans congregate…
all in hopes of snagging forgotten scrapes of food…

If you don’t believe me…offer said mass a piece of bread and suddenly…
you’re Tippi Hedren in a scene right out Hitchcock’s The Birds….

Anywhoo, back to our train of thought….

While out casually strolling the beach, all one must do is to
venture too closely to a group of gulls and the birds immediately scatter…
either scurrying out of a perceived harm’s way or quickly taking to flight.

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Once you, the perceived danger passes, they return right back to
said spot of just hanging out and waiting…
It’s what gulls do…

This gull image came to mind yesterday when I came across the following news story
regarding Vladimir Putin’s desire to “resurrect” the KGB…The former Soviet Union’s
dreaded and oh so mysterious Secret Police…

An odd correlation perhaps…
but actually really rather appropriate.

We must remember that Putin is a former KGB man who rose through the ranks to where he is today…
One of the most powerful men on the planet.
Whereas you younger ones may think that lofty position belongs only to any US president,
perhaps it’s time for a small history lesson…

Old school USSR days were nothing like this new Mother Russia business
of a happy Federation today…
It was the old school dark days of a Cold War…
as the cloyingly murderous scent of Joseph Stalin still lingered heavy in the air.

It was the days of suspicion, mysterious deaths, poisonings, spies, counter spies, double spies,
mysterious disappearances, iron fists, gulags, suppression, oppression, lies,
total power control… and lots and lots of secrets…

So just when you thought it was safe to be Russia’s friend again….
Here comes the following story…

http://abcnews.go.com/International/russian-president-vladimir-putin-reportedly-planning-reforms-effectively/story?id=42190514

It’s as if the world went out one day walking, much as we do at the beach…
but for our story here, the world was out walking and demandeding an end to Soviet Communism…

Those die hard Soviets, feeling the surmounting world pressures, quickly scattered.
However the die hard and dyed in the wool Soviets, never disappeared…
much as the world had thought and hoped.
They merely flew away and waited…waiting until the perceived threat passed…

They simply waited until the world passed by and forgot…

Because that’s what happens with us human beings…
we tend to adhere to that whole ‘out of sight out of mind’ school of thought…

So just when you thought Putin’s Russia was now more like us, you might want to think again…

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 6:16-19

a shot of fortitude, knowing I can do anything for two weeks…

“True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace,
exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing
the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind;
and in steadfastly and freely exerting and following
good affections and dispositions,
without being hindered by sinful fear or the opposition of enemies…
Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and
counteracting the enemies that are without us;
yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing
the enemies that are within us;
because they are our worst and strongest enemies and
have greatest advantage against us.
The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more
than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness,
and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries,
strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this
evil and unreasonable world.”

Jonathan Edwards

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(a jumbled mess of fishing line, fishing hooks and seaweed washes ashore / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

The other night, my husband and I found ourselves at our favorite restaurant celebrating
a month late anniversary. This particular restaurant is a place we love to visit whenever we are fortunate enough to find ourselves at the beach.
The restaurant is very nice and the clientele can be equally as nice…with the exception
of some not so nice diners, but that’s for another story for another day.

As we arrived a bit early for our 7PM reservations, the host kindly asked if we
wouldn’t mind waiting as they prepared our requested table.
“Not a problem” I replied as it is often nice to sit for a minute and observe
those who have also opted to come dine…
Folks at the beach are always most colorful in a variety of ways….

As we waited, we watched as two couples entered together through the front door.
Very attractive couples…say, mid 60’s.
The women were puffed and coiffed to the Nines.
Giving the air of overtly well to do.

They waited a bit and were shown to their table as one of the men excused
himself from the group asking for the men’s room.
About two minutes later the other gentleman wandered back out for
what we assumed was to direct his friend to their table.
But rather than wait on his friend, he headed straight to the bar.
He appeared very impatient wanting the bar tender to hurry to his aid.

He ordered what appeared to be a triple shot of scotch.
I know these things as my dad use to be drawn to the same sort of amount and
libation back in his younger years….

The man took glass in hand bringing it quickly to his lips as he threw his head back,
draining the brown liquid from the glass in one quick swallow…
As he just as quickly plopped the glass on the bar.
No savoring, no sipping nor enjoying…
more like a “wham, bam, thank you mam, sort of moment.

At this point his friend emerged from the men’s room and
off they went to join their wives.

My husband and I kind of laughed to one another as we wondered aloud
if spending time over dinner with his wife was such that he
needed a heavy shot before continuing…

Fast forward to today…
I was back at the Orthopedic’s office following last week’s MRI.
I sat in the exam room almost 45 minutes before the PA came in.
How are you feeling she asked.

“Well…
imagine that the top of your thigh is numb yet at the same time it feels
as if your inner thigh and groin have been flayed wide open
while someone is constantly scrubbing said area with a brillo pad…
All the while someone else has a drill and is drilling right
into your hip bone and lower back, just a tad over from you lower spine…”

“Hummmm, that good eh?”

I flatly looked at her and stated more then questioned…
“I suppose the MRI didn’t show a thing did it?”

“Oh no, it showed something alright…
that’s what took me so long, the doctor had to keep looking over the MRI”
The scan wasn’t as high as we wanted it to go nor as deep…
but there is definitely a distribution of disc material outside of the
column on the left side…and it’s squeezing the emerging nerve.”

In other words, a bulging disc with severe nerve inflammation.

I asked if they wanted to repeat the MRI…
with her response being “only if we have to do surgery.”

Surgery?

“We have two options…we can be conservative and do therapy and traction….”

The thought of traction conjured an image of me flat on my back in a dingy cell
tied to a dark wooden plank as my hands and feet are chained to a roller
all the while as the masked torture master cranks the medieval rack…
stretching me till I snap.
Which mind you might feel better than flayed skin and brillo pads….

“Or, and this is my recommendation, we schedule a spinal nerve block.”

Ahhhh another torturous device where a large long horse needle is wiggled deep into the spin,
injecting steroids and anti-inflamation meds directly into the source….

“Ok, I’m in” I said probably a bit too eagerly…
but I think she grasped the fact that the pain has got to go…as in now.

“We’ll need to schedule it with one of the other doctor’s who normally does this sort
of procedure…and I’m afraid it could be a couple of weeks…”

“WHAT?”

Sure enough, the first available time is in two weeks.

“I can do anything for two weeks,” I hear myself chanting in my head.
That use to be my mantra when I was a much younger mother and teacher.

I would always have to take some sort of continuing ed training or coursework,
usually during the short summer, and it always seemed to be for two weeks.

I despised having to give up my precious home-time–
Whenever I was home, that’s when I savored being like a full time wife and mom…
Having to give up any of the sacred home-time was…in a word, torturous…

But….

I would always reassure myself that both my young son and me could manage anything for two weeks…

Just as I reminded myself today, “I can do anything for two weeks…”
even if it means living with constant pain, no energy and no moments of rest…
while now dealing with poor dad’s conundrum….

All this while as thoughts of just running around naked seemed to make perfect sense as nothing
would then be rubbing on the skin where angry nerves recoiled at the slightest touch.

Which brings us back to the previous observation of the gentleman at the bar…

Whereas I feebly attempted to soothingly reassure myself that I could do anything for two weeks,
perhaps this particular gentleman, who found that he needed a shot of fortitude just to endure
dinner with his wife, had it more aptly figured out…

As I quipped to the nurse, “two weeks is fine, but please call me if anything comes available
sooner… as you may just find me at a bar drinking heavily….”

Here’s to doing anything for two weeks…along with a shot of fortitude!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

loveliness amongst the lilies….

The day the power of love overrules the love of power,
the world will know peace.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

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(a water lily blooms / Deer Lake, Watercolor Beach Community / Julie Cook / 2016)

Any pond owner can tell you all about the love / hate relationship they have with water lilies.

On the one hand, water lilies are pleasing to the eye as they languidly spend life just floating around.
They help to conjure up thoughts of idyllically kayaking or canoeing around said peaceful bodies of water…as we languidly long to spend life much like the water lily, just kicking back and letting life be….

Lilies provide and offer inviting homes to a myriad of reptiles, amphibians, fish and water fowl.
They provide delightful visual bursts of color across an otherwise barren greenish body water….
They offer shade underneath the water and help to encourage mini ecosystems within the pond itself.

However if left unchecked and unmanaged, they can grow out of control…giving into their invasive
tendencies.
As they will eventually choke out the very fish and aquatic animals who they once provided shelter and nourishment to…
Sucking out the very oxygen and nutrients from the water which helped to
sustain those dependent on such.

Lilies will eventually cover and clog a once thriving body of water…
rendering it dead, empty and useless.

So what is initially considered lovely and even beneficial in moderation,
is anything but lovely when left to its own devices….

Much like ourselves.

We often have good intentions.
We start out wanting to do the right things,
to do well,
to be productive,
to aid our fellow man…

We work on focusing on the positive and all which is good.
We put our best efforts and best foot forward.
We are filled with all things altruistic, looking outward rather than inward…

Yet something happens…
our vision begins to fade…
as our sights shift…
Outward becomes inward
as the ‘theys’ become less and the ‘mes’ becomes more…

We grow out of control…
We allow ourselves to go unchecked, unmanaged.
The negatives become invasive, choking out all the positives

Intentions easily turn…empty.

There is but only One who can manage this unchecked overgrowth of ours…
Turning unmanageable ways…from the negative back to the positive…
It is a matter of focusing,
self discipline
and daily yielding…
Yeilding to the only One who desires to maintain that which has gone awry …

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—–
to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Revelation 1:5-6

Don’t let your eyes fool you

“It is only prudent never to place complete confidence in that
by which we have even once been deceived.”

― René Descartes

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(a gull catches a fish that proves a bit too large, prompting the other gulls to come steal his catch/
Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

When I was younger, my mother would always warn, “don’t let your eyes fool you”
Meaning, as well as being very similar to the notion of not biting off more than you can chew…
that our eyes may deceive us—that just because we see it, doesn’t always mean we need it…
or even particularly want it…

This admonishment would often come when we would visit
a buffet style type of restaurant or reception…
As I would spy all those wonderfully prepared dishes…
just sitting there…simmering, succulent, steaming and savory…
practically begging for me to stop and partake…
The enticing scents wafting toward my hungry nose and eyes, drawing me ever closer…

I would politely ask for a little of this and a little of that…
dish after dish after dish—
with mother knowing all too well that as my plate grew, my stomach would not…
I’d eat maybe half of it and lament that I was suddenly too full to finish…
In turn being shamefully wasteful, as I was overcome by merely hungry eyes,
a hunger of vision verses true hunger and need of body….

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In this land of the plenty, we tend to see things a bit skewed..
Always larger than life,
with all things being shiny,
wonderful,
and alluring

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Prompting us to want to quickly snatch things right up…right then and there,
all before anyone else can get their hands on it…
Whatever ‘it’ may be…
Which in turn can often get us into some sort of trouble…

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Remember… more often than not…
our eyes, and even our insatiable appetites, are more often then not,
bigger than our needs or wants…
do not be deceived by the hype, the glitz, the beguiling scents and sights…

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

stand fast

“Boldness in the course of a noble fight is worth the risk…If you stand on truth, you’ll only regret your timidity later, but you’ll never regret being bold.”
― Charles R. Swindoll

“You never know how much you really believe anything until
its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.”

― C.S. Lewis

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(Great blue heron, Santa Rosa, Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

When it appears that the ground on which you stand is sinking…
When the waves of assault are relentless…
As the waters rise against your will…
When the winds shift and you find yourself standing alone…

Never back down,
never give in,
never give up…

Stand fast…
and stand firm in your faith…
For God will never desert you and will always be faithful…

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Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power.
Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand
against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason,
take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day,
and having done everything, to stand.
Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist,
by putting on the breastplate of righteousness…

Ephesians 6:10-14

a teacher’s ultimate love

The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.

William A. Ward

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(Miss Hunt’s first grade class/ 1966-67 / High Point Elementary )

One of the oldest tricks of the trade of any educator…
Put that one student next to you who needs that extra eye…
The student who you can easily redirect when they’re off task by merely having them within reach…
You may note who it is who is situated right by the teacher in reading circle…
yours truly…

Whenever I spot a positive story about a teacher…
it is the teacher in me who feels the need to share…

You most likely have seen those stories, often featured in the news,
which relay the virtues of “true educators”…
Those stories featuring those teachers who go above and beyond the mere job…
elevating the job to what it is…a true vocation.
Those educators who go above and beyond the expected…
Those teachers who hold and comfort their kids during those unforeseen crises…
those moments in life which go beyond what would normally be expected of any educator…

This story is no different…
A young Scottish teacher who left the familiarity of home…
who went to teach young Jewish children in Budapest…
who at the onset of a world war was encouraged to come back home,
but who refused to leave her “kids”
Who was eventually sent to Auschwitz for her involvement with her “Jewish” children….
And who eventually gave her very life for her “kids”…
It’s is what any real teacher will do….

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2016/09/14/holocaust-heroines-will-lost-photos-unearthed-in-scotland.html

In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned,
so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8