the collision of life and dying….

“I believe O God,
help thou my unbelief….”

Dorothy Day


(Julie Cook / 2017)

I still have a great deal that I want to share about the last two weeks that Dad and I spent
together….however the time is just not yet ripe…

Too much is now pressing and weighing in as I still find myself having to journey
back and forth…albeit not every single day…
taking care of business that is now snowballing faster then I care for….

Yet despite these larger than life looming worries found in the act of both dying and death,
I continue wading through the musings and thoughts of Dorothy Day…
And how timely it is that I should stumble upon her own reflections of her time spent
by the bedside of her dying mom…

“It almost seems that one is absorbed in a struggle, a fearful, grim, physical struggle,
to breathe, to swallow, to live.
And so, I kept thinking to myself, how necessary it is
for one of their loved ones to be beside them, to pray for them,
to offer up prayers for them unceasingly,
as well as to do all this little offices once can…

In reading Dorothy’s own words of the interaction she had with the last
moments of her mother’s life,
I was taken by the similar thoughts that I held as I kept my vigil with Dad…

I found myself actually timing his breaths….
and when I didn’t think he’d taken a breath as I thought he should,
I stared with an almost laser intent vision at his chest checking to see I could
still see the heart beating through his now thin body and translucent skin.

I watched him laboring to swallow as his eyes, now cloudy and glazed, would roll back
then vainly attempt to focus on the sound of a nearby voice…
Muscles involuntarily twitching as the toxins overtook what oxygen remained in the blood.

All the while the unrelenting conversations with God continued unabated.

I was keenly aware, as I sat in the stillness of his room, of the mysterious,
yet rocketing forces of both life and death…hurdling at a ferocious and devastating speed…
colliding simultaneously into one another….with dad smack in the middle…

It was, it is, a struggle between both life and death.
A most fierce tug-o-war…
All the while a scared and mystical transition of power was actually taking place.

Our natural earthly instinct is to fight….
just as in birth we are implored to breathe..
In death we fight for the very last breath…
for we do not, will not, go peacefully from this realm of which we have grown so accustomed….

And yet, when the final moment does come for us to relinquish…our very beings…
as it always does…for there is no choice when that time does indeed come….
there is a tremendous release…
as if a heavy sigh is expelled after completing some sort of most strenuous physical task..
something so demanding and so arduous…
that when it is finally finished, a resulting sense of both exhaustion and
satisfaction ensues…

That feeling of being totally spent yet simultaneously feeling totally content…

And so it is the Psalmist who so sweetly, yet so aptly, expresses the
true underlying yearning found in the center of that life ending and life beginning
seismic collision….

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

(Psalm 42:1-2)

never saw it coming

“We cannot change our past.
We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way.
We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have,
and that is our attitude.”

Charles R. Swindol

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(the twins / Julie Cook / 2016

Traversing back and forth from Dad’s every other day takes me along a variety of roadways…
with the longest of stretches being two major interstates.
I merge onto one interstate that actually runs from South Carolina all the way to Texas.
My jumping-on point is considered more of a rural area in my lovely southern state,
just before the state line of Alabama.

It is an area that sees its fare share of “wild” animals crossing and being killed.
Coyotes,
possums,
armidillos
beavers
groundhogs
the poor errant dog or cat…

Many of the casualties are deer, whitetail deer which are native to Georgia.

Most animals who live near such roadways are pretty savvy when it comes to crossing and vehicles…
particularly vehicles that are zipping up and down the roadways at the speed of sound.
Yet sadly there are some poor animals that just aren’t so smart
as their naiveté sadly gets them, as well as any people involved, killed.

And of course there are those times that a deer is being chased by a predator…
Chased to a one way date with disaster…

In our area that predator is most likely a coyote.

Coyotes, when hungry enough, will run a deer to exhaustion before the final and deadly attack.

When being chased, as with the unfortunate deer living near the busy interstates,
there is not much choice but to take that precarious chance,
darting out into the line of speeding vehicles…

It’s a do or die situation….

With the results most always being sadly…death.

As the frantic deer, racing for its life, never saw it coming…
that being the car or truck that was to hit it…
just as that same car or truck never saw the deer darting our in front of them…
not until it was too late….

Just never a good thing…

We’re a lot like those deer you and I…

We’re being chased by a fierce and hungry predator…

We are being chased by a most cunning foe…
An ancient adversary who knows that we can be easily exhausted.

He works at wearing us down as his hot breath licks at our heels
All the while, we are none the wiser…
For we don’t even realize there is a chase taking place…
We’re simply running, busying ourselves with our own interests and desires.

And that’s the thing…

We never realize that our lives, nay, our very souls
hang in a precarious balance…
of life and death…
That is…not until it’s all too late…
as we never saw it coming….

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand
against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:11

Signs of the times

Our heart oft times wakes when we sleep, and God can speak to that, either by words, by proverbs, by signs and similitudes, as well as if one was awake.
John Bunyan

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(deer crossing sign located on the road near Cong, County Gallway / Mayo Border / Julie Cook / 2015)

You’ve seen the signs, plain as day.
A visual word to the wise.
Slow down
Be careful
Be mindful
Keep a watch
Be vigilant
Caution

Yet you don’t pay much attention.
Maybe you take a quick check of your peripheral vision…
Sensing nothing out of the ordinary on either side…
All the while, you stare straight ahead with both hands fixed on the wheel–
Assuming you’re good to go…as you merrily zip down the road.

As far as slowing down and exercising the advised caution, well, that ain’t happening.
You’ve been down this road a million times, and you’ve got places to go…
You flippantly play the gambling odds in your head, figuring chances are on your side…
Deer?
No deer?
Hummmmm
You go with no deer…as you’ve never seen a deer on this stretch of road.
You continue scooting mindlessly down the road.

But ironically the odds are not in your favor.

That lone buck, chasing that lone doe, darts out from the woods and crosses your path.
You’re clocking 70 mph, if not more.
You see the deer running right in front of you, just out of your right eye, right before you slam on the brakes…
You and the deer meet as one…
There’s a sickening thud and a high pitched screeching that won’t stop.
It slams into the windshield, shattering the glass, sending shards everywhere…

Blood and fur now cover your vision.
Reflexes have you stomping, pushing as hard as you can, down on the brakes as the car slides to the right, spinning.
The tires hit the shoulder of the road, which is nothing but soft earth…
Your tire mares in the soft dirt sticking and flipping the car over, sending you, the deer and almost 5000 pounds of metal, glass, rubber and plastic on a merry-go-round of madness.
Will you survive?…the last thought before you black out as you head slams into the door window…as you flip and flip and flip…

You were given a sign for a reason…
Yet you chose to ignore it…
You egotistically chose to play the odds.
You were invincible, in a hurry with places to go remember…

Obviously those odds were not in your favor….

God has given us all the signs.
He continues offering…
Yet you, me, we just keep continuing playing the odds…

Maybe it’s just that we’re opting to ignore any and all signs for some stupid selfish reason, hoping the inevitable will just go away…
or better yet…
Won’t ever happen…
Cause really, we’re just all too busy zipping down Life’s myriad of roads to pay too much attention to any benign sort of sign….

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
John 4:48

What the world needs now. . .

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. . .”

Lyrics by Hal David with music by Burt Bacharach

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(a wild weed volunteer under the bird feeder / Julie Cook / 2015)

In 1965 Jackie DeShannon’s rendition of What the World Needs Now hit number 7 on the top 100 play charts.
This was two years before the famous, or infamous depending on who you ask, Summer of Love.
It was a precipitous time in our Nation. . .
For little did any of us fully grasp that at this particular tender time, we were on a oneway collision course with what looked to be a National implosion of epic proportions.

It was a time that was pre Woodstock, pre pill, pre woman’s lib, yet post Cuban Missile Crisis, and post JFK assassination. . .
Growing ominously in the distance were the beating drums of war as this was the same year the first US troops found their way to shores of the Sea of China, just north of Da Nang, Vietnam. . .

Fast forward to September 1st 2015. . .Breaking News. . .a Fox Lake, Illinois police officer is shot by 3 assailants and dies from his wounds. He’s a 32 year law enforcement veteran who leaves behind a wife and four children. The suspects are still at large as the entire community is put on lock down.

This incident comes on the heels of a coldblooded assassination, which took place over the weekend of a Texas Sheriff’s deputy who was shot while simply pumping gas, filling up his police car. A man approached him from behind, shooting him executioner style.
When he fell to the pavement, the gunman stood over the body, emptying his gun into an obviously dead body—an exclamation point of murder.

This incident comes on the heels of a coldblooded assassination, wait, didn’t I just said that. . . of two television journalist in Virginia. . .etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum

There’s been a lot of banter recently about “Black Lives Matter”. . .
However I heard a response from the Sheriff of the deputy who was shot that I think sums up all of this craziness best. . .his response to the press just following the murder of his deputy was, and I’m paraphrasing, . . .’that there has been lots of talk surrounding the Black lives matter conversation but we all need to drop the qualifiers and understand one thing. . .that ALL lives matter—doesn’t matter black, white, brown, yellow. . .ALL lives matter. . .’

For you see, in this one man’s grief over the wasteful loss of life, he gets it–he can actually see to the core of what is yet just one more divisional line to so many divisional lines in this Nation of ours. . .

. . .for in the heart of God, there are no distinctions. . .
there is no line of separation, no color, no status, no sides, no qualifiers. . .all that exists is a Love that is as wide and tall as it is deep. . .as in never ending.
It does not discriminate, nor does it look twice. . . it does not set limits nor does it demand anything in return. . .It is equal, all inclusive, welcoming and offered to each and everyone. . .who so chooses to accept it—and that’s the kicker. . .choosing to accept it–choosing love, forgiveness, surrendering of self, of pride, of ego, of hate, of suspicion in exchange for Love. . .a Love that has been offered from a Father and bought with the ultimate price by a son, so that you and I could stop the madness and live a life that finally lets go of the hate—

Which brings me to what exactly this world of our seems to need. . . NOW. . .

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26-29

clouds

“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?–it is the same the angels breathe.”
― Mark Twain
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Overhead, stretched across an endless palate, colors and textures collide in a dazzling spectacle.
Dust particles, light and various masses of air–some hot, some cold, choreograph a mesmerizing heavenly banquet–an endless feast for any skyward glance.

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Shifts in atmospheric pressure rise and fall, as foreign winds whip unseen forces into precarious unions. Colors, of radiant glory, sparkle as from a million tiny prisms suspended on an seen chandelier.

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As Winter’s evening light sets forth a tantalizing tidbit of self, explosions within the spectrum, seldom seen with such force, offer grandeur over an otherwise barren land.

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An invisible hand unfurls a massive patchwork quilt which falls languidly over a sleepy land.
“Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
Red sky at night, sailors delight”

Echoes of ancient rhymes lyrically and rhythmically rise and fall as a lofty drama plays out guiding the ancient traveler.

Summer’s heat unleashes instability, as an ominous skyward cocktail mixes aloft.
Overhead a thousand unseen forces prepare to do battle.
Change is soon at hand as varying air masses vie for control,
As a cacophony of sound and light unleash a frightening display.

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Yet just as quickly as refuge and safety is sought, the unseen foe is suddenly vanquished.
Light emerges the victor as wary souls emerge unscathed while eyes still scan the changing sky.

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Transition

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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The hauntingly beautiful sanctuary of Saint Sulpice, Paris, France / Julie Cook/ 2011

When I first took on this adventure of writing a blog several months ago, my life was in the midst of transition as I was navigating from a lifetime in the classroom to a new life sans my kids, my school, my 31 year routine….and so it was with that whole balancing of life, otherwise known as transition, that this little blog of cookiecrumbs was born.

One notion which has continually presented itself, as I have written and addressed a myriad of topics from my life’s adventure, is that of life’s balancing act. The seminal passing to and from one shade to the next, or simply put, transition. I had started all of this business thinking that transition was a singular momentary event..something that happened and then was, most thankfully, over.

I am one who likes my world steady, my ducks in their nice neat orderly rows, “my people” (family and friends) happy and content and perched where they normally perch on my tree of life….I can handle the transitions of life but that’s not to say they’ve not torn me up on the inside. It’s what people can’t see. My insides seem to rise to some invisible crescendo of nerves with the inevitable crashing down chorus…all hidden from observations but known only to me and my nervous system.

But who likes that sort business anyway?…no one I suppose. The one glaring epiphany I seem to have been enlightened by during the course of my little blog, is that life is but one big transition. It is as if we float throughout our lives form one transition to the next–never really stopping at any one spot for any particular length of time..be that a blessing or a curse.

I was struck by the image I chose for today’s post due in part based on an unspoken sense of determination and power which the image seems to invoke. At first glance the average viewer may not pick up on anything other than a dark image of what appears to be some church with someone walking up the aisle.

The average viewer most likely sees a dark, overwhelming and intimidating ancient interior of what must be the image to an unknown cathedral located who knows where. But fortunately you have me to tell you that this is the interior of the Cathedral of Saint Sulpice in Paris. A very ancient church indeed.

I visited this magnificent marvel of human ingenuity and deep spiritual thirst on a work day which equated to very little traffic to and within this cavernous Cathedral of the Rive Gauche. There is indeed something akin to transcendence when one enters such a vast solemn capacious sanctuary.

Sounds echo and are greatly amplified reverberating deep within one’s entire body. The air is cool yet heavy with the years of burnt incense and dust. The lighting terribly subdued– given this being an early Thursday Morning. There is an overwhelming sense of feeling “less than” and of being swallowed alive.

Intimidating….and yet inviting.
This space evokes a humbling sense of awe—that I am quite insignificant. It is a similar feeling that I have experienced when standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or in the middle of the wilds of Alaska.

Witnessing this lone individual walking boldly forward towards the altar with such determination and purpose—no fear, no cowering, but rather walking towards an unseen entity which is obviously beckoning—the path of two entities on a direct course of collision meeting head on with a world altering impact.

Finally, the tie to transition. First there is a lone individual. There is also something unseen calling. There will be a collision. Two entities, one seen, one unseen, will collide. There will be a change in energy. I think science refers to the meeting of two bodies as… elastic and inelastic collisions— one producing no loss of kinetic energy and the other in which the kinetic energy is transformed into some other form. The transition of two energies.

It is this energy altering event that is the result of our seeking, walking towards and in turn meeting our Creator, our God. Our eyes cannot see the collision. But there is indeed a world altering impact.

This individual walked directly toward the great high altar, alone yet purposeful and determined. God was there. He was waiting. This person knew that God was there and waiting. The need to go forward was greater than the inevitable meeting and collision. The transition, then the change.

Nothing is ever the same.