There are no accidents

“In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences”
Pope John Paul II


(a two legged okra? / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tuesday I spent the day doing something that needed doing.
It needed doing ages ago.

I pulled out two step ladders along with a box of dusting clothes and proceeded
to take everything off my bookshelves—

These bookshelves were builtin cabinetry, on either side of the fireplace,
and it was the thing about the house that I loved most when we moved in
20 years ago…
Because I always wanted a place to properly put my books.
And did I mention my book collection, within that twenty year time, has
only grown.

But it wasn’t just books that had since found homes on the shelves.
Maybe it’s the art teacher in me but these where mini display shelves of
design and creativity….they held my “treasures” from trips,
they held memories.

However to the causal observer, I feared, they held chaos.
Hopefully organized chaos, but chaos none the less.
And as I age, I think I’m finally understanding…less is more.

I took down every last book, picture, knick knack, souvenir, treasure…
emptying all shelves as if preparing to pack up, box up and move…
which mind you I do consider constantly as I hear the ocean often call
my name..but then I’ll hear the mountains call out as well…
so to keep things quiet…
I just ignore them and stay put….

I climbed up and down, balancing precariously on the cabinet edge, in order to get
everything moved, off and down.

I next proceeded to dust.

Finally I had a clean slate.

I spent the remainder of the day sorting.

What should be boxed for Goodwill.
What should be boxed and stored.
What should be moved elsewhere.
What should be allowed to stay.

We had brought back 9 very old decoy ducks that had been Martha’s.
Beautifully old decoys of various species, sizes, shapes, ages and colors…
with one being a giant rustic fish and one being a giant sitting turkey hen.
All now having come home to roost with the 4 I already had.
My flock of 4 sits on the fireplace—
what would I now do with Martha’s flock of 9???

It all started for me when I inherited my grandmother’s very old wood carved decoy
of a male canvas back duck named Henry…Henry is now nearing 100.
In her last years of life, as the dementia set in, Mimi named the decoy Henry
and he sat at the foot of the bed as if it were a pet…and I believe
in Mimi’s mind, Henry was real and was indeed her pet….

Eventually I decided to strategically place the decoys up on my shelves—
sitting a couple on top of books, while others were flanked by a few books.
I threw in few antique plates, a framed photo or two…
Poked and placed until I got something that I think to be tastefully presentable…
rather than stuffed to the gills full.

But all of this rearranging is not the point of this post.
Nor are the ducks or books or dust or junk…

As I was sorting through the wealth of books that I’ve acquired over the years–
with the bulk being based on Christianity, the Saints, Monasticism, Prayer,
the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, European history and lots of Art history…
one little book literally fell out amongst the hoard…
resting at my feet on the floor.

Most of my books are hardback, some are large and lovely, some are old and rare..
but this little paperback book simply seemed to fall out of nowhere….

It’s a book I remember ordering years ago.

There Are No Accidents
In All Things Trust God

by Fr Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R
with John Bishop

I remember that I never finished reading the book for whatever reason,
which I do remember starting while I was still teaching.
Time then was never on my side…not that it is now,
but these days I try to be more diligent with both my time and reading.

The book is based on an interview with Fr. Benedict..
as he was known by his first name and not his last.
He was a Franciscan monk, teacher and retreat leader who died in 2014.

He was also a monk who was hit by a car while crossing the street at the
busy Orlando Airport in 2004.
His survival was very questionable.
He was an older gentleman who sustained some very serious injuries.
Both broken bones and severe head trauma.

There were surgeries, long stints in ICU, ventilators, physical therapy….
He never walked again without assistance nor could he raise his right arm
but yet he survived and he persevered.
For he had a mission.
And that was to continue sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The doctors warned that if he lived, he’d never talk again,
never think again as he most likely would be severely brain damaged.
They also said he wouldn’t walk let alone dance…
but he was ok with not dancing
because he never liked to dance anyway.

I’m beginning the book anew.

For I too believe there are no accidents—
for behind every accident, every incident, be they minor or devastating…
it is there our Omnipotent God resides…

There are blessings to be wrestled over but we do not like nor do we
want to wrestle.

And therein lies our challenge…
our challenge to comprehend, to sort and to accept.

We stand as a lost child feeling overwhelmed and frozen by fear, pain
sorrow, horror, devastation, disbelief, greif.
Our thoughts, our faith, our being… rocked all to the foundation,
as we are left to rile with unbridled anger.

Because this God of ours is not reacting…
this God of ours is not playing the role…
this God of our is not doing things the way we would have Him do…
and therefore we decide we don’t need, don’t want, don’t like this God
as we assume ourselves to be the better god….

And there rests our trouble….

“There are no accidents.
Evil things occur because of bad will or stupidity or fatigue,
yet whatever the cause, God will bring good out of it if we let Him”

Fr Benedict

“even when we do not choose evil, we choose the good so half heartedly
and with so many qualifications that mediocrity becomes our canonized statis quo.”

Fr Benedict

heads of serpents

“The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage
and the family.
Do not be afraid,
because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will
always be fought and opposed in every way,
because this is the decisive issue.
However, Our Lady has already crushed his head.”

Sister Lucia


(Madonna and Child with St Anne / Caravaggio / 1605-1606 / Galleria Borghese, Rome)

Caravaggio was a masterful late Renaissance painter who seems to have been able to
capture the overwhelming importance of certain biblical moments with merely the tip
of a brush.
He mixed both arrangement, size, light and proportion to make both impressive,
as well as tremendous, visual impacts.

Yet for many art historians, this particular painting is not considered one of his better works.
However workmanship aside, the visual representation based on the verse from Genesis 3:15,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

is indeed a powerful painted statement none the less.

A little history behind the painting, taken from the site Caravaggio.org

The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne was painted between 1605 and 8 April 1606,
when a final payment to Caravaggio was recorded,
for the Confraternity of Sant’ Anna dei Palafrenieri, or Grooms, of the Vatican Palace.
The composition depicts Christ and the Virgin treading simultaneously on the serpent of heresy,
watched by the Virgin’s mother, St. Anne, who was the patron saint of the Palafrenieri.
It was an unusual although topical theme based on an ambiguous biblical passage, Genesis 3:15,
which does not make it clear whether it was Eve, the antetype of Mary, the ‘New Eve’,
or her offspring who was meant to strike at the serpent’s head.
What started as a theological dispute became caught up in the wider debate between
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism,
with the Protestants not unnaturally arguing in favour of the offspring and, hence, Christ.
The issue was resolved on the Roman Catholic side, however, with commendable textual accuracy,
not to say religious tact,
by a Bull of Pius V which ruled that ‘the Virgin crushed the head of the serpent
with the aid of him to whom she had given birth.’
It is this interpretation which Caravaggio followed, possibly basing himself on a
slightly earlier picture by the Milanese artist Figino.

Yet Papal Bulls, Reformations and denominations aside…
Today’s faithful know that the head of the serpent was indeed crushed following that fateful
Friday afternoon outside of the walls of the old city of Jerusalem.
And if the truth be told, the vice hold on the head began that lone starry night
in Bethlehem 33 years prior.

The quote from above is offered by Sister Lucia, the oldest of the three shepherd children
who, while tending their sheep in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, were visited by a strange yet
lovely lady.

And yet it matters not where you are on your Christian journey as to whether you
take stock in the tale of the shepherd children or of the tale of the miraculous..
Just as it matters not as to whether you believe that there was indeed such a heavenly
encounter now 100 years passed…
The important thing here however is to understand that wisdom and warning both
come to us in a myriad of fashions.

There are many in today’s world, both believers and ardent non believers,
who wonder and even argue that those tales of miracles and those outspoken prophets of
the bible are found only there…
in between the pages of ancient texts…
and that our world has not been privy to such powerful and outspoken voices, with such
names as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, John, Peter, Paul and that we have not witnessed such
miraculous examples as to partings of seas, or to the raising of dead bodies,
or to waters that turn either to blood or wine…
but if truth be told,
both believers and non believers, yearn for that very thing.

It is a yearning for the tangible being found in the miraculous of that of the intangible.

Our current time is precarious at best…
Where persecution of the faithful becomes seemingly more elusive yet more sinister….
as it is an intellectual and spiritual suffocation.

While that which was once overt is no longer clearly visible but rather is now veiled in
the gossamer shadows of confusion.
It is a place where the notions of acceptance and approval pervasively reign for that
which is upside down.

What was once accepted as Truth has now been twisted into something other than
as we are being spoon fed a most palatable mix of half truths and lies…
all the while we continue to clamor for bite after tasty bite.

Yet the time has come…
shall the faithful speak up and speak out?

A final battle will eventually ensue..
there have been preparations, when he left us, he made certain we were well equipped.
As he has provided ample opportunities, all of which have been freely offered..
all the while as a holy foot has held the head of the serpent at bay…

So the choice is now clear, either we opt to crush the head of the serpent or
we become his prey…

He who commits sin is of the devil;
for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him,
and he cannot sin because he is born of God.
By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil:
whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:8-10

A first…or will it be the last?


(the oldest surviving Icon or image of Christ, the Pantocrator / St Catherine’s Monastery, The Sinai Peninsula)

For the first time in 2000 years a Holy Mass for Easter will not have been held in Mosul.

“So what” you shrug…
“Who cares about Mosul?” you ask…
“Isn’t that in Iraq?” you quip…
“Isn’t Iraq Muslim?” you assume…
“Why would there be Easter in a Muslim land?” you espouse…

Well…yes, because for 2000 years there has been a celebration mass for Easter,
as well as Christmas and every other time a mass is to be said,
in what is now considered a Muslim land.

For Christianity has been practiced, as an organized religion, just following the
Resurrection of Christ, in this region of the world for the past 2000 years.

Christianity has been a long protected religious minority under the rulings and regimes
of various sultans, and in more recent times, dictators such as
the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

But how can that ever be…as we are left alarmed asking ourselves.

Because various Muslim leaders throughout the ages have in fact protected the
Christian Church within this Muslim land.

Not all of them mind you, but many have….as they have been tolerant.

In 1219, during the 5th Crusade, St Francis traveled from Italy to Egypt
as a Christian ambassador of sorts.
This was a time in which the Holy Roman Empire was fighting Muslims, Jews and heretics
in order to keep Jerusalem free and open to traveling pilgrims wishing
to visit the Holy Land.

But control of the region became a long, deadly and bloody conflict.

There was much stubbornness on both sides as each faction refused to budge in their
dominance of the region.
Countless lives were being lost and this grieved the heart of Francis.

Francis wished to share his faith with these unbelievers and if need be, he was willing
to die a martyr while proclaiming the Gospel to the unsaved.

Francis was opposed to the killings and bloodshed on both sides and had sought the
current pope, Pope Innocent III’s permission to travel to Egypt to meet with then Sultan,
Malik-al-Kamil,
nephew to the Great Kurd leader, Saladin.

Unarmed, history tell us that, Francis was arrested and beaten by the Sultan’s army.
He was eventually taken to the Sultan,
who was intrigued by this man who came wearing a tattered tunic
while carrying no weapons nor a quest for battle, but rather a love and desire
to share the word of God….
that being that Christ died to save sinners and his teaching was that the first shall be last,
the last shall be first and we are to love our enemies.

Francis won over the Sultan’s respect and favor….
And eventually following Francis’s safe return to Italy,
a peace was brokered between the Sultan’s armies and the European forces.
With Jerusalem once again being open to Christian pilgrims with a promise of
safe passage by the Sultan.

Sadly however…history reminds us that peace is a tenuous affair
wherever man is involved…

We know that there were a total of 9 crusades with the final fall of the final Christian
stronghold in Syria in 1291.
The land has been in Muslim control ever since.
And throughout the centuries that control has been both with and without toleration
for the minority people and faiths of Christianity, Judaism
and other minority sects..

But with the recent toppling of dictators such as Hussein and Gaddafi,
the vaccum which was created with their oustings has been filled by something
much more sinister and vile.

ISIS
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS is not tolerant.
Not tolerant of even varying sects of Muslims who do not adhere to the Sunni ISIS strict
following of Shia laws.

ISIS is not a single man who one may perhaps find reason with or
in turn topple and remove.
Rather ISIS is a fanatical organization which will not rest until “the infidel” is vanquished.
And they do not care who or what stands in their way…nor how their ends are met.
No one is exempt from their terror..not children, women, the old or in firmed.
They give new meaning to the words barbarism and sadism.

Eliza Griswold, a journalist who recently returned from an extensive study of the region
and of this anomaly of the systematic eradication of Christians and others sects in places
such as Iraq and Syria, was interviewed by FOX News.

Mrs Griswold offers a very sobering account of what she sees as the death throws of the
Christian faith in a part of the world in which Christianity has
existed since its very inception.

She lays out the argument for the need to eliminate ISIS and its spawned fanatical groups
or either humankind will have to live with the stalk reality that entire ethnic groups,
such as the Yazidis, and certain religious peoples and their existence will be gone forever
from a land which is as old as time itself. And not only gone from a region of this planet,
but gone from earthly existence.

And so my question to all of us…
will the knowledge of this eradication be something we can live with…
down in the depths of our human knowledge and understanding…
and within the soul of our consciousness.
Or…
will we allow ISIS and all of its tentacles to spread as far as they wish,
eliminating huge swarths of humankind…
that is until we see them on our very doorsteps?

Please read the article, but more importantly watch the 5 minute video clip of the
Griswold interview.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/14/christian-persecution-how-many-are-being-killed-where-are-being-killed.html

waste not, want not

“So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short,
and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.”

Seneca


(a busy and hungry carpenter bee on the Meyer lemon tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Waste not want not
is an expression that appears to have its origin in Old English lexicons dating back to 1576.
“For want is nexte to waste, and shame doeth synne ensue,”

A more familiar version emerges in 1721 as the expression
“willful waste makes woeful want”…

Which eventually turned into the short and sweet proverb we use today.

Each of my grandmothers used various versions on me and my cousins when we were all little…
with each version having much the the same meaning….
that our wanting should never be confused with our needing…
and lest we ever dare to be wasteful with what we’d been given…we had been warned.

As it all boils down to the understanding the difference between wanting, needing and wasting…

So as I was watching this carpenter bee enjoying the new blooms on the lemon tree,
I was reminded of that long ago wisdom as I watched him accidentally knock off a few of the petals.

Obviously not one to be wasteful, the bee immediately left the tree, flying down to the
the fallen petals on the sidewalk, making certain he had gotten all the
nectar he could….leaving nothing to waste.

Oh that we mere mortals could be so mindful…

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and
harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

1 Timothy 6:6-9

of gods and goddess…

“Am I in earth, in heaven, or in hell?
Sleeping or waking, mad or well-advised?
Known unto these, and to myself disguised?
I’ll say as they say, and persever so,
And in this mist at all adventures go.”

― William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors


(statue of Thalia, 2nd century / The Vatican Museum / Rome, Italy)

Thalia, the Greek Goddess of comedy, was the 8th of 9 muses and was one of the
many daughters of the Greek God Zeus.
Most scholars credit Zeus with having 92 children…
so I’m not exactly certain as to where Thalia
rates on the favorite list but seeing that she was in charge of comedy and all things happy,
she was probably a favorite daddy’s girl…
but I digress.

And as the goddess of comedy and poetry, her very name, which translates to flourishing,
referenced that her gifts would flourish through the ages…

However today, I am actually wondering more about the Goddess Moron…

As in I just know that with all those gods and goddesses,
throughout all of the mythology we had to learn in school,
surely there was one named Moron…
Who, might I add, was responsible for stupidity…..
As in, moron being a word that translates to idiot, dunce, blockhead…
as in…
well, I’m sure everyone gets where’s this is all going.

Shakespeare first introduced us to the notion of a comedy of errors with his
play of the same name.
Yet over the years the ‘catch phrase’ came to mean something that was to be
“made amusing by bungling and incompetence.”

So when we say something is a comedy of errors, we mean it is a situation
that is one of idiocy, most likely caused by the Goddess Moron, or at least by a
dunce or idiot acting like a moron who has
demonstrated a certain level of incompetence or bungling…

So during my arduous ride home today on the burgeoning Atlanta interstate system,
the same interstate system that is now bursting at the seams due to the massive interstate closure
as a result of last week’s fire and road collapse,
I found myself pondering the notion of writing a book.

I think it will be entitled, My life, a comedy of errors
but that title may already be taken…
so….how about…
“Wait and let ME do that…so you can learn from my incompetence”
I’ll use the pen name Goddess Moron.
If Dana Elaine Owens can rename herself Queen Latifah, I, Julie Cook can rename myself
the Goddess Moron.

Makes perfect sense.

And why all this self deprecation you wonder….
Well, I’m so glad you asked…

Have you ever had to go to your town or city’s courthouse to get official paperwork?

A nightmare, I know…..

And if so, you may understand that such a visit is a matter of hoop jumping.

Due to the interstate closures and downtown now being impenetrable, you have to go
to the northern city’s annex.
A building built in the late 60’s that has never had an update or remodeling experience.

You arrive, along with thousands of others who had the same brilliant thought as yourself…
show up on a Thursday cause it seemed like a good idea…

You have to park in an overflow lot that is down by a dumpster and a sea of kudzu
and busted asphalt.
Winded after hiking up from the pawpaw patch,
you enter through a set of double glass doors covered with all sorts of warning signs.

A guard greets you…but….
no one smiles and babies are crying.
There is an odor.
Stale, smokey, bodyish…odors
There are guards and deputies staring you down as you fret that by the way you
are standing could just possibly land you in the pokey.
It’s that serious.

You stand in a long line just to get a ticket to stand in another line and
to be able to simply ask a question…
Asking a question of a person behind a bullet proof glass.
There is a small hole that you can speak through as well as listen through.
You tell her you’re here to probate your dad’s will.
“Oh you’re in the wrong place, you need to be upstairs”

Relieved to leave the sea of waiting humanity, you go outside and walk up the sidewalk
to the “top floor.”
Here another guard tells you to go to the last room down the hall on the right.
The sea of humanity waiting in the hallway is a key clue as to you being in the right spot.

Here is where people buy marriage licenses, gun carry permits as they gather
copies of officially filed identifying papers, probate wills, etc….

You sign in on the sheet sitting on the counter, in the cramped little office,
while the nonplused woman working the other side of the counter tells you to sign in,
go sit down somewhere and not to crowd the counter…
and oh, she’s locking the doors at 1:00 until 2PM for lunch…
You look down at your watch, it’s 12:20.

She processes two of the sea of waiting folks when the magic number 1:00 strikes.
She clears the office telling those waiting inside to go out in the hall and wait with
the others until 2:00.
She locks the door.

You have all your papers in a nice folder sitting on your lap.
You have the check ready for the $200 processing fee.
Your cousin had actually come to meet you and help out but after leaving the first office of
humanity, you thank him, telling him that he is free and needs to go back to work—
because only one from the family should remain in servitude to the system.
You now make nice conversations with your fellow waiters….or is that waitees?

The bell for 2:00PM sounds and the nonplused woman returns and unlocks the door.
She is alone today and mad.
Her supervisor failed to show up for work, leaving her alone to tend to the sea of humanity.
You think that maybe she should now be supervisor.

You hear a few folks fussing, as they walk past you into the adjacent courtroom,
complaining that “if 3 million people voted for her, why did we get him”….
It registers in your brain that you know what they’re talking about and you just
shake your head while you hear another voice screaming in your head that if the man
could just do his job maybe, just maybe,
this whole sea of waiting humanity might not have to wait so long
and that perhaps some of the idiotic bureaucracy could finally be dealt with…
finally allowing this bureaucratic nightmare,
that is morphing into the monster we have created into this thing we call government…
but that screaming voice in your head is now apologizing for digressing…

All of this while new folks file into the cramped office to sign the sheet…
with the nonplused woman behind the counter telling everyone she is closeing the
office at 4PM and everyone will have come back in the morning at 8:30.
A newcomer asks is she’ll pick up where she left off on the list the following day.
“No” she answers flatly, “it’s a new day”…

Finally the sweet little lady, who has been sitting by you this entire time,
has her name called.
She just needed a $10 copy of proof guardianship for her now 22 year old granddaughter
for a college scholarship—
never mind the college has three copies already on file–
she needed another new one…

As you continue waiting, you rather mindlessly and nonchalantly look down,
for the millionth time, at the letter from your lawyer sitting on your lap.
You have the packet she sent to present to the court,
you made certain you had the death certificates,
you had the check ready to be filled out…
you had proof of ID…
but wait….
the will…
where is the will?????

You feel your cheeks burning.
Your stomach flips over.
There is a pain now drilling deep into your temples.
You live an hour and a half away…
You’ve waited almost three hours….
You feel as if you’re having an outer body experience.
You are not allowed to ask any questions until your name is called.
Do you keep sitting, waiting, just to ask if you need the hard copy
of the will in order
to probate the will???

Seems like a no brainer.

You get up from your now well worn chair…
you silently leave your fellow waitees…
making your way back down to the dumpster, busted asphalt, kudzu and your car.

You feel hot tears rolling down your cheeks.
A nice man passes you on the sidewalk…
he sees your tears as he kindly and somewhat knowingly smiles.

When suddenly out of nowhere…
you hear a familiar shrill and overtly heavily ladened southern
laced voice opine…..
“Well fiddledeedee, tomorrow is another day”

Thankful for the wisdom from the southern goddess Scarlett…
you make your way back to the sea of cars on the interstate
ready to come back and do this all over again….another day….

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction;
whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap
a harvest if we do not give up.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,
especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6:7-10

into the valley of death

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4


(Lady Butler, 1881)

The other evening, as I once again attempted to fall asleep…
sleep which is maddeningly elusive…

…For my mind wanders all around….

“was that my phone ringing?’
“how much more can his body take?”
“will tonight be the night?”
“what was that the nurse said…”
“should I just stay up there?”

As now there is the talk of moving Gloria…
as her own dysfunctional family wrestles on that…
attempting to pull us into the web….

On and on it plays throughout the night,
all the while I yearn for sleep…

The thought of an old black book with brittled yellow pages
surfaced to the forefront of my consciousness…as words from a different time
began to recite themselves in my head…
I was perplexed…
How in the world, why in the world, did this image from the past come to mind
in the midsts of all that is happening currently now in this most sorrowful present….

One of the first poems I ever memorized as a little girl was Tennyson’s
Charge of the Light Brigade.

When I was around 8 or so, I proudly “owned” two books which had belonged to my grandfather…
of which I suspect were his in college.
The copyright on one of the books is 1903.
It is a collection of poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson edited by Henry Van Dyke.

As a young American girl, I have no idea why someone like Tennyson and his
ballad of battle would call my name… but call both author and poem did.

While all these many years later, there in the restlessness of a long dark night,
the British forces once again came charging forward from deep within my memories.

Tennyson was the poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and Ireland during the long
reign of Queen Victoria.
He was also one of the greatest poets of Western Civilization.

It was shortly following a botched assault by Brisitsh forces in 1854, during the
Crimean War, that Tennyson penned his now famous ballad.

The poem is a heart’s response to a devastating battle and of the heavy loss of life
following the miscommunication which called the wrong division into a
now legendary near massacre.

The 4th and 13th Dragoon, the 17th Lancers and the 8th and 11th Hussars
were light calvary divisions…the Heavy Brigade consisted of the 4th Royal Irish
Dragoon Guards, the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and the Scots Greys…
each of whom were more equipped and who were more accustomed to seeing the fiercest of conflicts.

According to Wikipedia,
The Light Brigade, as the name suggests, were the British light cavalry force.
It mounted light, fast horses which were unarmoured.
The men were armed with lances and sabres.
Optimized for maximum mobility and speed, they were intended for reconnaissance and skirmishing.
They were also ideal for cutting down infantry and artillery units as they attempted to retreat.

Therefore the Light Brigade was not equipped nor prepared to face the onslaught of
20 opposing Russian battalions or the 50 artillery pieces ready to level them in mid attack.

It was an epic tragedy for British forces as well as British morale back home.

Leading Tennyson to pen a lasting tribute not to mere loss and misfortune but rather to gallantry…
heroic courage demonstrated in the face of insurmountable odds.

For despite the wrong orders…the Brigade followed the orders none the less…
Orders followed by men who questioned not whether there had been a mistake in calling
them to battle…but rather… that in the end, when all was said and done…they knew that
it was their’s not to question why… but rather it was theirs to do and die…

And so now as I watch my dad muster on as it were,
under the now seemingly insurmountable odds of death…
he rides on…

For my dad has not been a man known for being strong nor bold…
but rather…
he has been both deferring and lazy…

Yet more importantly however… he has always known for being overtly kind and generous…

So now…throughout this arduous and painful journey,
this devastatingly life ending ordeal…
my dad has not lamented nor complained nor even questioned why…
but rather he has seen that this battle has been his to endure as he makes his way
through this valley of death…
as I continue to marvel at the choice of charge he has now made.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Memorializing Events in the Battle of Balaclava, October 25, 1854
Written 1854

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter’d & sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

(Note: This poem, including punctuation, is reproduced from a scan of the poem written out by
Tennyson in his own hand later, in 1864.
The scan was made available online by the University of Virginia.)

a dichotomy of time

“There are two kinds of light –
the glow that illuminates,
and the glare that obscures.”

James Thurber

the-melting-watch
( melting clock, 1954, Salvador Dali)

It was almost 31 years ago and I was soon to turn 26.
I can remember it like it was yesterday.
It was around 9PM
I was just merging from the downtown connector onto I20—heading west,
It would be about an 80 minute or more drive home.
Mother had just recently turned 53.
She had been in the hospital now for about 4 weeks…
and they had finally just diagnosed her with an aggressive lung cancer
that had already metastasized throughout her body.

I was tired, weary and devastated but intent and focused on driving.
I spoke out loud in a wavering voice, flat and matter of fact…
“I know I’m probably going to mad at you before this is all over”
Because I knew none of this would go well and that when it was all over,
I would be left stripped bare of both heart and soul.
And I knew that in my eventual frustration, God would take the brunt.

I was correct.

I did get mad and also very lost…
for about the next 8 years, I was lost unto myself.
I was on a inward downward spiral turning my back away slowly
from a life sustaining relationship…
And at times I didn’t even realize what I was swirling down into….
Yet it took what seemed a lifetime of getting myself back together.
Seeking and needing both healing and Grace.

It came, slowly, painfully and almost devastatingly ending… but come it blessedly did.
Life like an onion–layer upon layer of stripping away self destruction.
Known to no one but myself.

Fast forward to last Saturday.

I’d spent the day with Dad.
Helping the caregiver clean him, bodily functions no longer self controlled,
as he withered with pain at each turn, touch and move.
Seeing more of poor ol’ Dad to last a life time…
I administered the morphine.
He had asked my son to bring him the movie Hacksaw Ridge because he wanted to see
it before he died.
We all sat together watching it.
I readied to head home as I was feeling sick.
Not the kind of sick from catching a bug but rather
a deep down inside sick.
I left them to their movie.

I felt the hot stinging tears fighting for release before I merged onto the interstate.

I made my way over to my far left lane when the flood started.
On and off it ebbed and flowed for my 75 minute drive home.
Sorrow mingled with the melancholy of recalled memories.

But the difference between Saturday and that lone night 30 years ago…
Time.

Time filled with a continuation of both healing and Grace.
Gone is that youthful resentment and anger.
Replaced rather by a solemn resignation and acceptance of the inevitable.
But not in a negative defeatist sense…
rather with a sense of determination while standing
in the face of the storm and knowing I won’t succumb to the maelstrom and tumult.

Feeling shored up by something greater than myself.

It is the now the reality of the ‘is what it is’ of living and dying.

Does it make any of this any easier?
No.
It’s just a hard time.
Hard in a myriad of ways as there are many more involved that
require my attention, my decisions, my time, my words…
and there’s just not enough of me for all of the this and thats….

…and there are still those nagging ruptured discs, slowing me down.

Yet through all the tears and the stretching beyond imagine of this single self…
driving with the flow of the breakneck speeds, focusing on the road ahead
through swimming eyes, I feel a presence…not in some sort of otherworldliness…
but rather a steeliness that is silently yet relentlessly there…
ready to catch me when I finally let go, and fall—
because before it’s all said and done, I will fall…
There is this knowledge of a force which is allowing the heartbreak and overwhelming drowning
to flow,
all the while, being ready to steady me when the time finally comes.

And in that car on that late Saturday afternoon, I suddenly hear my own trembling voice…
uttering ancient words…
words of acknowledgement of the One to whom it is I cling….

“for you are my refuge, my portion…”

I cry to you, Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”

Psalm 142:5