Mortal enemy

“You remind us that how you treat somebody defines who we are”
Quote by Col William Percival regarding his meeting with Gunter Grawe
a former German POW who was interred in Washington St at what is now
Joint Base Lewis-McChord— who, some 70 odd years later, returned at age
91 to visit the camp)


(a spotted orb weaver just outside my closet window—too close / Julie Cook / 2017)

He was mad at his ex mother-n-law and that’s why he did it.
Makes sense right?

No, I didn’t think so either….

But more on that in a bit….first the spider…

Those of you who know me know that I am quite terrified of spiders.
And much to the chagrin of my husband and daughter-n-law, my son seems to
have inherited this fanatical fear.
Some call it a phobia, I call it a state of paralyzing terror ….

Dealing with any kind of snake, any sort of reptile…is a piece of cake…..
but let an arachnid show up— and it’s all over but the screaming!

So when I opened the shutters the other morning in my closet, I was greeted
with the sight of this orb weaver having set up camp right outside my window.
It was all I could do to take the picture without perishing.

Yet don’t they say facing one’s fear is how to best beat it??

Well personally I think stomping, swatting, smashing or simply running away
screaming works just as well.

So you would think that I consider the spider to be my mortal enemy right?

Well, yes and no.

Now whereas a spider can indeed kill a person, chances are that is not going
happen, not unless you live in say Australia where their spiders are truly lethal.

But here in Georgia we have just a couple of “deadly” spiders.
We have the Black widow, the brown widow and the brown recluse—
with each one causing terrible reactions when one is bitten…
and if bitten just in the right spot, a bite could actually lead to death—-
Yet those odds are not as great as just suffering form severe tissue loss
at the site of the wound.

And whereas I do “fear” spiders, they are not my true mortal enemy.

My true mortal enemy however does walk this earth.
He is very much, and for the loss of a better association of words,
alive and well.

I’m talking about that which comprises all evil…

Satan, a dark and sinister ironic bearer of light.

On Sunday our Nation witnessed another unimaginable horror.
The senseless and tragic mass shooting of a church congregation.

Just like most everyone else, a peaceful fall November Sunday was suddenly
punctuated by Breaking News…with word coming out of a tiny town in Texas that
a gunman had gone into an equally tiny Baptist Church shooting, killing and
wounding almost the entire congregation present during that morning’s service.

I sat glued to the television as I kept checking my phone and computer for the latest
updates. Like Newtown’s Sandy Hook…it seemed as if madness had once again,
crossed that imaginary uncrossable line.

Not that each time we have a mass tragedy it isn’t madness…it’s just that we,
as humans, seem to believe that some things are off limits when it comes to
that which is horrible….
yet sadly we are learning that nothing, absolutely nothing, remains “off limits” to
that which is Evil.

I was perplexed, as I was reading the updates, as they were laced with the personal observations of those who immediately began calling for the banning of guns or that
this had somehow been Trump’s fault…
on and on went the litany of blame.

Because that’s how we now seem to be as a people—it’s how we seem to deal with
things—
We don’t even wait for full details.
We don’t allow for shock which gives way to grief and sorrow…
Rather we immediately seek a reason, a rationale, an answer—
because, by God, there has to be an answer…otherwise we have no option but to
acknowledge that there are just some things totally beyond us and beyond our control…
and we just can’t handle that idea…

I posted a comment the other day on a fellow blogger’s site with much the same
sentiment—as person after person kept asking how and why…
I knew how and I knew why.

People were pointing accusatory fingers…”this is the fault of the NRA,
“it’s the fault of the Republicans”,
“this is the fault of those who support the President”
“this is the fault of white America”….on and on went the ugly banter….

Was it President Clinton’s fault for Columbine?
Was it President Obama’s fault for Sandy Hook?
No.
Just like this is not the fault of President Trump.

A man who claimed he had issues with his former in-law’s.
A man who had actually filed legally for the application to possess
a gun license despite having a criminal past.
A man who had been courtmartialed.
A man who had been held in Military detainment for a year.
A man who had beaten his wife and fractured his stepson’s skull.
A man who had assaulted his own dog…
A man who had been dishonorably discharged from the AirForce….
…this man walks into his former in-law’s church and destroyed as much life
as he possibly could….as the in-laws weren’t even present.

There are no reasons…
because anything remotely attempting to be a reason
would merely be an excuse—because simply put, there are no reasons for this.

It would not have mattered if all the guns were gone.

I heard last night some stats to the effect that if all the guns were banned right
this very moment, there would still be 5 million out there.
So then you’d have those folks going door to door collecting—

You can collect all the guns you want but when you have Evil intent on evil,
it matters not if there are guns, or trucks, or bombs, or hatchets, or
planes or poison—
Evil will destroy everything in its wake when it so desires…
that is what Evil does.

And so we now consider the opening quote I chose to use this morning…

I follow a terrific blog—Pacific Paratrooper—a great blog about the history
of WWII with the specifics being confined to the fighting on the Pacific front.
The history lessons are excellent as well as the stories of those brave men
and women who fought and served, yet are leaving us daily due to time and age…

Yesterday’s story was about a former German POW who was interred actually here in the States for three years until the War’s end.
It seems that 4000 or so German prisoners of war were actually held here in the
states…
Their experience here being a far cry from those prisoners who were held in the
Death Camps of Nazi Germany and even later, those held in the Gulags of the USSR.

Herr Grawe, at 91, wanted to come back to visit the US camp,
wanting to see one last time, the place that he has long admitted actually
saved him.

He declared his capture by the Americans at the age of 18 was “his luckiest day,”
“No guard called us nasty names. I had a better life as a prisoner than
my mother and sister back home in Germany.”

On the flip side we have seen those former surviving prisoners who have returned,
albeit reluctantly or be it defiantly, to view the German death camps…
camps they survived but places in which left them permanently damaged.

A contrast of human survival…survival at the hands of fellow human beings.

Col. Percival reminds us that we are defined by how we treat others.

So in the upcoming days, weeks and months we as a Nation will be judged by a world
who looks intently at how we will react to our latest sorrow.

But in all of this, it would behoove each of us to remember who the real enemy is….
and that is Satan…..
the master of all lies and deception, the creator of all hate and division.
Our mortal enemy…..

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.
On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2017/11/06/wwii-german-pow-returns-to-say-thanks-intermission-story-27/

decisions of life and death, as witnessed by the squirrel

“I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Douglas Adams

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(gray squirrel / Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

If you’ve ever driven down a road, suddenly spotting a grey mass sitting in the middle of the road…
as you approach said mass, at a nice clip of speed…you quickly, and a bit sickeningly,
realize that the gray mass quickly coming into focus…is a frantic squirrel…
who now sits directly in your immediate field of vision and in the direct path
of your 50 mph plus some odd ton vehicle…
closing in for an immediate and deadly impact.

The squirrel seems stuck in time, shifting left then shifting right…
with this surreal dance of death going on a million times,
within what seems to be an eternity but in actuality is…
a mere few seconds…

If life is good–the squirrel makes the right 11th hour decision by darting
miraculously out of your path by the very hair of his tail.

If life is not good–it is a bad day for the squirrel as you feel badly for that slight bump you feel under your wheels….

I am that squirrel.

The car barreling down on me is dad with cancer…
add to that my on-going searing back and hip pain coupled by the myriad of tests
I’m squeezing in in-between trips to Dads.

The Radiologist oncologist told us today that radiation would be every day for 7 consecutive weeks—everyday I’d commute to and from Atlanta as dad would be zapped.

Not to cure him mind you…just to hopefully keep the tumor at bay….
but for how long, no one can say.

His primary care doctor says he is simply too weak and frail to endure such.
The side effects of radiation in the elderly is weakness, diarrhea and burning…
that is in the best of cases…

He’s already weak, already battles colitis and is not very well overall mentally or physically…
yet that did not seem to deter the doctor today who seemed
more concerned with his ever ringing phone…
as he would step out of the room for 20 minutes here and 10 more minutes there…

He told Dad that if he did nothing it wouldn’t be pretty with pain and misery…
which scared dad into wanting to begin zapping right then and there.
I explained to the doctor that we, as a family, would need to talk about all of this
and discuss this with Dad’s primary care doctor—
at which he seemed a bit incensed that I too didn’t agree to begin immediately.

To be honest, I felt overtly pressured.
He didn’t seem to consider that dad is weak and frail or that he is struggling with his cognizant abilities…
It was more like checking off a list…then wham bam you’re good to go, lets sign you up now…

I called a dear friend who had been one of dad’s nurses over the past year for her input.
I called back to dad’s primary care doctor for his opinion.
I called my husband
I called my cousin.
I called my aunt…
and I cried the entire rush hour traffic ride home…

Everyone who knows dad knows treatment is not the correct route.
But dad is scared.
And dad is very much like a little child.
And the cancer doctors are chomping at the bit…

So this squirrel is at a loss.

I may dip in and out of blogland here and there.
The first time in 3 years.
But I’m feeling my energy, creativity, my very life, ebbing away….
Depression is closing in fast…
it’s wicked hot breath has been on the back of my neck now for months.

Decisions have to be made…
and sickeningly, like the squashed squirrel, the buck stops here.
For I am now the parent of the parent who can no longer make those calls himself.
What is the right decision???
What is the right call???
Quality of life…
length of life…
yet at what state??
How much longer either way?
Aggressive cancer…
Fast growing…

I danced this dance with Mother 30 years ago…
I never would have envisioned walking down this road again…

I pray for a revelation or a Divine intervention—
One that directs our path without regrets, without second guessing…
That the road we go, is to be the right road…the only road…

I’ll be in and out as my strength and mindset allows…

dscn2434

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord,
“and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14

Today’s awareness

“If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”
― Leo Tolstoy

IMG_0955
(image courtesy Phyllis Snipes, Ohau, Hawaii/ 2014)

Today is Friday, Sepember 26, 2014.
Just another ol day for so many of us on this planet.
Yet. . .
for others, today is a day of great significance and importance.
Perhaps it is a birthday, a wedding day, a new job day, a new move day, a new relationship day. Perhaps it is a day offering new joy, a day of wonder, a day of homecomings, a day of expectations, a day of anticipation. . .
or. . .
for some. . .perhaps it is a day of loss, of sadness, of goodbye’s, of grave diagnosis. . .

Today, a day for those who suffer, have suffered or will suffer from the ravages of cancer, in particular mesothelioma, today is a day of Awareness.

September 26, 2014 is the 10th anniversary of Mesothelioma Awareness Day.
And why, you wonder, is Cookie showcasing this day. . .

Flashback two weeks ago.

Imagine my surprise when I received a request on my blog from a certain Cameron Von St. James asking if I would please e-mail him as he had a question. I thought that request a bit unusual as I usually don’t receive the asking of questions as folks typically just comment, reply or like whatever is going on in cookieland.
Curious, I emailed Cameron.

Cameron responded with an introduction.
He is a husband and a father who wanted to ask if I could help him with a particular quest he was / is currently waging.
His wife Heather is a mesothelioma survivor.
He was asking if I could help highlight this vicious cancer by offering some information, etc. with a post on my blog, hopefully coinciding with the official awareness day.
Having lost my mom to lung cancer 28 years ago, I am always more than happy to help bring awareness to the continuing battle we wage against all forms of Cancer.

My first introduction to Mesothelioma came in a rather round about way many years ago when I just was a new young teacher. I was teaching in a school that had already seen a good bit of wear and tear as it had been built around 1963. It was not uncommon for buildings and even houses, which were built early to mid century, to be insulated with asbestos. Asbestos was a desirable building material because it was a natural occurring mineral mined in abundance, it was cheap, it was a super insulator as well as sound barrier plus it stood up to the damaging effects which could be caused by fire, electrical mishaps and or water.

My classroom’s ceiling was coated in asbestos, as were several other classrooms, as well as the school’s cafeteria ceiling. One summer, about my 3rd year at the school, we saw some major work done by the State to rid the school of any and all asbestos as its potential for health concerns had become paramount.

It seems that there is even documentation that the ancient Romans had raised health concerns over the use of asbestos. Even our own scientific and medical communities began raising red flags back in the 1920’s and 30’s. Finally here it was the early 1980’s and the Government was just getting around to ridding schools, buildings and homes of this potential health hazard. Alas the Government has never been known for speed.

That summer long ago, the men in the little white hazmat suits and hoods invaded our school. My classroom, as well as other areas of the building, were sealed and cordoned off complete with warning tape, plastic sheeting and signs with grave health warnings.
It was that big a deal.
Here were these men walking around fully incased in special suits as the teachers, on the other-hand, were milling about in average clothing. A twilight moment of the surreal to be sure.

We were assured however that as long as the asbestos material, in our case the sprayed layer coating our ceiling, was not “disturbed”– scratched, rubbed or agitated to create dust particles, we were fine.
Whenever the Government tells me “I’m fine”—that’s when I worry.

I didn’t think much else about that summer or asbestos again until my mom died of lung cancer several years later. If you’ve ever watched a loved one fight and die battling cancer, you, the survivor somehow develop a deep seceded paranoia. Even though I am adopted, watching my mom suffer, I had that whole transference thing going on. I felt doomed to her fate. She was young when she died, 53. Would I ever live past her age?
Stupid, silly and unfounded, but yet very real.
If she was robbed of happiness and of her life, why should I be afforded anything different or better?
That sadly was my mind set.
It was also my dad’s— as throughout the 28 years since her death, any ache or pain, he’s been convinced it’s cancer.

That’s what cancer does—it not only robs those who actually develop cancer of joy and life, it robs the living as well.

When Cameron contacted me, asking for my help, I began to rack my brain on what I knew about Mesothelioma.
I knew it was a cancer that was somehow connected to the exposure of asbestos.
I had seen the commercials concerning the legal rights of it’s victims on television.
The victims seemed to be older men who were somehow connected to having served in the military or did construction work.
Why that was, was still a mystery to me.
I then tried to figure out a correlation between what I knew and how a young woman who was a wife and a mother up in Roseville, Minnesota could somehow contract such a cancer.

Cameron was kind enough to provide a link about Heather and her battle.

http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/awareness/#.VCWnod6qBUQ

Eight years ago Heather was diagnosed with the cancer and given 15 months to live.
Mesothelioma is a rather rare cancer affecting roughly 3000 victims yearly. It also comes with a very grime prognosis as there is no cure.

When Heather was diagnosed it was shortly after she and Cameron had welcomed their daughter Lily into the world. I can only imagine the tremendous roller coaster of emotions of going from the joy of becoming new young parents, to being handed an out of the blue death sentence of maybe 15 months to live. My mom was given 6 months yet barely survived 6 weeks. Guessing games with life expectancy is never reassuring nor encouraging.

Yet I was curious.
How in the world did a vibrant young wife and mother contract a cancer that was / is more common in those who are older as well as effecting those who have been either members of the military or those who worked in the construction field?

It seems that after watching Heather’s short video, I learned it was from her dad, who was a construction worker who had spent a lifetime working with sheetrock, otherwise known as drywall, that Heather had been exposed. Heather’s dad would spend his days sanding asbestos ladened drywall, only to come home each evening covered, unbeknownst to him, with a potentially lethal fine white powder. Heather, each evening greeting her dad, welcoming him home after a hard day’s work, was exposed to millions of deadly dust particles which in turn insidiously invaded her young body. Heather’s was a type of second hand exposure. She was not the one doing the initial sanding but yet it was from the residual dust that she was effected. Why it affects some and yet bypasses others remains a mystery.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that the damage done to the lungs and pulmonary system can sit for years in one’s body without warning signs or symptoms–as was the case with Heather—she was 36 when she became symptomatic and was eventually diagnosed, yet she had been exposed many years prior.

Heather was sent to Boston for treatment from one of the leading facilities in the Country which works with Mesothelioma patients. She underwent grueling treatments, with the loss of one lung being a big part of her treatment. She was unable to care for her young daughter as Cameron, who had to remain back home much of the time in order to work, was unable to be by the side of his ill wife nor could he be with his young daughter who now was staying with Heather’s family in South Dakota. Cancer does not care whether families get to stay together or not. Nor does it care whether families can financially absorb the catastrophic costs to wage such a battle.

This is in part why days like today are so important. They help raise our awareness, concern, and hopefully the necessary funding to help better fight this stealthy enemy and help work toward a cure.

There is more information available out there on the internet regarding the particulars of Mesothelioma, which I won’t repeat here as it is not my desire to parrot clinical history or statistics but rather it is my desire to bring attention to this cancer and to the faces of those who it effects.

heather-family
(a recent picture of Heather, Cameron and Lily)

In this case the cancer not only effected Heather, it effected Cameron and their daughter Lily as well as both of their families. . .Just as it continues to affect countless numbers of other unsuspecting individuals and families. That is why, a day such as today, Friday September 26th, is important. This is a day which hopefully will bring more and more awareness to Mesothelioma and of it’s devastating smothering blanket it casts indiscriminately.

May you use today, this day of national awareness, to do a little investigating of your own. May we use today as a day to learn, to teach, to help, to pray and to work toward bringing more focus on this cancer and its gravity- – – so that little girls like Lily may always enjoy living life with their beautiful moms like Heather.

“Give me Liberty or Give me Death” or everyone has “stuff”

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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(beautiful white azaleas in Julie’s yard / 2014)

Most individuals who we currently read about today in the annuals of our History, those brave men and woman who have gone long before us, paving the way for the life we all know and treasure today, have grown, no doubt, larger than life exponentially with the passing of time. Exploits and deeds take on lives of their own as the truth, history, fact and legend mix precariously through the ages.

We tend to think of such individuals as almost super human, void of the things we mere mortals suffer and deal with on a daily basis.

I think Steven Spielberg helped us humanize Abraham Lincoln in his most recent movie “Lincoln”. The movie portrayed a man acquainted with deep sorrow and affliction. We actually saw a man (albeit the actor) wrestle with grief and loss while dealing with the shared pain within the dynamics of his family, all the while as a Nation wrestled with tremendous growing pains.

The cynics among us can say that Mr. Spielberg may have taken liberties with the emotions of a man that we know only through grainy black and white photographs and the myriad of writings, letters, and documented statements regarding his actions and reactions. Yet it is the actual seeing and viewing of such actions and reactions, via the medium of stage and screen, that which we see with our very eyes, which makes the man, truly a man.

I say all of this as I read most recently a most interesting article regarding Patrick Henry. Our famous Revolutionary War hero whose immortal words “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” have cemented his fame and notoriety in the pages of the birth of this mighty Nation.

Not knowing a great deal of Mr. Henry’s personal life, I was intrigued by this short article regarding such. It seems that one evening, several years prior to the turbulent days of the Revolution, Mr. Henry was entertaining some guests. As everyone had gathered in the parlor for after dinner brandies and conversation, a commotion was heard coming from somewhere in or under the house. A scratching sound and the faint shrieks and screams of what must be a woman or perhaps bobcat. Appearing somewhat confused and baffled, Mr. Henry moved his guests to another room of the house where the remainder of the evening was quiet and without further distraction.

Was it a ghost the guests, and now reader, perhaps wonder?

Upon the departure of his guests, Mr. Henry returned to the parlor where he first heard the dubious sounds and proceeded to pull back a rug from the floor, revealing a small trap door. Mr. Henry pulls open the door, and with a candle in hand, proceeds down the steps to a dark labyrinth which ran underneath his home. He makes his way hesitantly through the dark and wending alley like maze. Suddenly the candle casts an eerie glow towards something huddled in a darkened corner. Cowering in this dark tomb crouches a figure, which at first glance appears to be that of an apparition or other worldly specter— but in actuality was that of a woman.

She is dirty with wild darting eyes. “There there my dear” the reader hears Mr. Henry utter, whispering across the span of hundreds of years.

The story now takes on a sad twist verses one of some other worldly shenanigans.
It seems that Mr. Henry was once married to a woman named Sarah– to whom he greatly loved as she in turn loved him. During the course of their marriage, she bore six children for the couple, but as the years passed, it was noted that her mental health became more an more erratic. Her actions became violent as she attempted to cause harm to not only the children and Mr. Henry but to herself as well.

Given that this was the mid 1700’s, in a young new land, facilities and care for the mentally ill were quite archaic if non existent. The notion was still widely believed that those who suffered mental illness were actually demonically possessed or were practicing witches. Treatment for such individuals was often more torturous then restorative with many patients dying in unspeakable conditions.

Historians continue with conflicting theories as to Mr. Henry’s intentions for locking Sarah in a damp and dark cellar. Some believe that, fearing for her safety as well as for the rest of the family’s, it was the only solution but to lock her away (shades of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights comes to mind). Others theorize that his reasons were a bit more sinister and selfish as he was embarrassed having a wife who was mad and wished that no one knew, or as few individuals as possible, of his wife’s “condition”.

Either reason mattered not upon her death, at which time Mr. Henry cleared both house and heart of any and all reminders of his wife, never speaking of her again.

It was not much longer until the Mr. Henry we all now know grew into his own with his famous Revolutionary battle cry.

This story is but one small reminder that we all have our burdens to bear in our lives. No one is exempt from the mishaps of life. Some of us may seem to be more blessed than others, living more charmed lives than others, but that is merely only on the surface. Chances are that even the most fortunate among us have had their share of trials, sorrows, tragedies, setbacks, struggles, miscues, and misadventures.

Even as those who saw the recent movie “Saving Mr. Banks” came to learn, that even the most magical among us, have had to bear hardship, often times at the hand of physical and emotional abuse.

The real story here is that greatness can and does rise up from adversity. We may either allow the circumstances of our lives to ruin and destroy us, or we can use them as a stepping stool, reaching upward and outward, working our way toward bigger and better places.

I have written often about the dysfunction and mental illness which plagued my own family as I was growing up, so I can speak first hand of its devastation and darkness, but I am here to also speak of the saving Grace and Hope that can be found waiting as well.

Do not allow life’s darkness to cover the radiant light that lies deep within your own heart. Do not succumb to the hardships and sorrow. It is all merely the furnace which is being used to forge, shape and mould the beauty in your own soul.

No one says that you must love these difficulties and burdens but they will tell you to learn from them and to use them for making not only yourself and your life better, but use them for making that of the World’s existence better as well. . .