Moving on, to the next

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien


(the mounded rocks to help break the storm waves at The Breakers Hotel /
Palm Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

“It was too perfect to last,’
so I am tempted to say of our marriage.
But it can be meant in two ways.
It may be grimly pessimistic—
as if God no sooner saw two of His creatures happy than He stopped it
(‘None of that here!’).
As if He were like the Hostess at the sherry-party who separates two guests
the moment they show signs of having got into a real conversation.

But it could also mean ‘This had reached its proper perfection.
This had become what it had in it to be.
Therefore of course it would not be prolonged.
‘As if God said,
‘Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

In that place of sheer isolation and utter vulnerability,
deep within the quagmire of mourning and sorrow of which we find ourselves
sinking helplessly into the quicksand of our losses and suffering…
we humans are fast and keen to denounce the omnipotent God..
we proclaim Him to be most cruel, sadistic and menacingly cold hearted.

For we are hurting for heaven’s sake….
can He, does He, not see…
does He not know…
or worse….
does He simply not care…??

As C.S Lewis reflects on the loss of his wife—
he, in such typical Lewis fashion, expresses the thoughts and feelings that
are our own…
that of our angst and misery culminating from the overwhelming painful experience
we all eventually experience from our living, death and loss…

As he sums it up nicely in one wonderful notion…

“Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

And so we are…ready to go on
on to the next….
to the next whatever…
the next whatever God has in store…
all the while nursing our wounded hearts,
we move on, by His Grace, to that which comes next…

(for a wonderful movie about Lewis, his marriage, the death of his wife due to cancer and how Lewis wrestles with God…see the 1993 movie Shadowlands staring Anthony Hopkins and Deborah Winger—a marvelous and timeless movie)

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.

waves and ripples

“A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats.”
Stephen Crane

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(Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

In the blink of an eye, a seemingly glasslike sea,
rippling and lapping gently against one’s boat,
can turn angry, vicious and deadly.

The calm and peace…
the solitude and the seamlessness of being one with the sea…
will change…
is changing…

Will you be ready?
Are you ready?
The winds have shifted…
The current has quickened..
And the storm is nigh…

This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Look! Disaster is spreading
from nation to nation;
a mighty storm is rising
from the ends of the earth.”

Jeremiah 25:32

He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
Psalm 107:29

it’s just one of those days to wonder

There are good days and there are bad days,
and this is one of them.

Lawrence Welk

“Promise me you’ll always remember:
You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.”

Christopher Robin to Pooh, A.A. Milne

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(a lone gull looks out to sea / Henderson St Park, FL / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ever wonder what the gulls wonder?
What are their thoughts as they stare forlornly out to sea?
Do they watch the waves rolling in, one on top of another,
wondering where they have been and to where it is they now come?

Are they lost in wonderment and awe, mesmerized by the rhythmic breathing of the sea?
Do they feel loneliness, separation, isolation?
Wondering, as they stare outward, as to what once was and to what could have been?
Do they have hopes and dreams that tomorrow will be different, better, happier?

Perhaps they are merely watching, as they scan ever outward,
wondering where the next elusive small tasty fish may be?
Perhaps they merely watch, looking for what may come their way. . .
As in an opportunity, a new start, a fresh beginning. . .

Does their wondering lead to questions, those without answers?
Do they wonder about that which is definitive verses that which is uncertain?
Do they wonder if they will ever have the right answers?
Are they listening for the cries of the other gulls, only to be lost in the sound of the crashing waves?

Are they lost in their wondering, as their thoughts wander across time?
Do regrets lie in the heart of a gull?
Do their hearts break?
Do they yearn for that which seems impossible?
Do they stand at the ocean’s edge longing to hear the voice of the Creator?
Wondering if they will ever feel His embrace. . .

Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

Psalm 40:5

It’s hell getting old

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

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(Watercolor Beach, Florida, The Gulf of Mexico on a fine September morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

This is not a tale about the proverbial wisdom which comes with age.
This is not a tale about aging parents (or maybe it is).
This is not a tale about the endurance of a family’s legacy with the addition of adorable grandchildren.
This is not a tale about the new 30 being 50 (which is so stupid right?)
This is a tale about you and me and simply put, about the triumphs and agonizing defeats
of aging. . .

Once upon a time, somewhere around the age of 50, life suddenly became less clear. No, I’m not talking metaphysically, I’m talking literally, as in things are literally out of focus.
A trip to the eye doctor is scheduled.

The good news is that you haven’t contracted some terrible disease nor or you going blind. . .
well not exactly going blind. You’ve simply gotten older and your vision is well, not what it use to be.

Thousands of dollars later you walk out with new glasses or contacts, which are suddenly making you feel as though you now live on a boat which has just set sail on a storm ridden sea. Up and down and all around you swivel your head like a bobble head, desperately searching for that tiny little speak of clarity and focus. . . Yet you must constantly remind yourself that the new glasses are “fly” and you are looking designer chic, albeit nauseated and still blind and of course thousands of dollars in the poor house.

Also at this magic age of 50, your doctor informs you that it is time for a colonoscopy.
I really don’t want to go into what all that entails as this venue is family friendly but if you must know, I am still having nightmares from the one I had 3 years ago–swearing I’d never do that again. . .of which I’ve now done twice. The only good thing to come from such an experience, other than being told you’re not dying nor that there’s anything detected, by observation, to be wrong with the workings of the plumbing, was that I lost 6 pounds while enduring the dreaded “prep”

Let’s move on.

By the age of 50, if you’re a female, you will most likely find yourself popping pills on a daily basis.
Not exactly mommy’s little helpers but more like the pills derived from the urine of a horse.
Great.
The dreaded yet welcomed hormone replacement therapy pills.
Pills to keep you calm.
Pills to keep you cool.
Pills to keep you collected.

It is usually obvious, to the casual observer, as to the women who are not popping said pills but certainly need to be popping said pills. They are the women who break out in a sweat in the dead of winter, shedding all forms of clothing, screaming at any and all as if everyone is an idiot for having the heat on, as it is only 25 degrees outside–this as they cut on the AC, turning it down to that of a meat locker all the while screaming at any and all for merely making the comment that no one is hot.

They are the women who you find crying hysterically because they just looked at a picture of their now grown children when they were but sweet tiny babes. . . but who, in the blink of an eye, are now screaming incessantly at said now grown children who made the ill fated decision to pop in for an unannounced visit. . .that they should have called first because the house is a mess.
Go figure.

Also sadly around the age of 50 one’s mind is not as sharp as it once was.
You find yourself forgetting that you’re in the process of cooking supper.
You seem to have forgotten that you had put the skillet on the stove and that you are suppose to be waiting for it to heat up.
You seem to have forgotten that you had added the olive oil ready to sauté, let’s say, a nice piece of fish.
Your phone rings.
You answer.
You chat.
You suddenly smell something burning.
You now remember the skillet and the olive oil.
There is a small fire.
No one is seriously injured and the kitchen can be repainted.
Enough said.

Also around the age of 50, there is the issue of your ears and of your hearing.
That once taken for granted clarity of the sweet whispered secrets and the singing of birds–both of which are sadly no longer special simply because you no longer hear them.
In fact you find yourself wondering why the birds no longer sing.
You decide it must be due to global warming.

This is when you decide its time to make the appointment with an audiologist.

You have that little hearing test.
“Raise your hand when you hear the beep.”
You never raise your hand.
You now leave the office with thousands of dollars worth of two little things you’re to poke in your ears to help you now hear.
The birds actually still sing.
Good.

Let’s create a little scenario to highlight a few of these aging problems shall we, in order to help put all of this observation business into perspective.

Let’s say that it’s your anniversary.
And since you are old, it’s an anniversary of significant number because at this stage of the game, they are all of significant number.
Your spouse offers to take you to the beach for a long weekend.
Ooooooo.
This is a gracious offer because your spouse hates the beach but knows you love the beach.
However, he does really likes to eat.
The beach has really good food.
Really, really good food.
It’s a win win.

As your spouse begins to feel badly that you are sitting alone down on the beach under a little umbrella surrounded by couples and families who are all sitting under their own little umbrellas, as he’s inside in the nice air-conditioning watching football. He decides it would be a nice gesture to brave the 97 degree heat and the irritating sand to come sit with you for, say, 30 minutes or until he feels he’s catching a sunburn. How this is, when he is wearing a tee shirt, shorts, shoes, a hat, sunglasses and has wrapped a towel around his legs lest the sun hits them, is beyond your soul—yet you’re just happy for the company.

The ocean looks inviting.
It’s 97 degrees.
Sweat begins to form on the brow.
The waves look big and fun.
Something about the ocean and waves brings out the inner child in said spouse.
Your spouse begins to take off his hat, his shoes, his glasses.
He empties his pockets of keys, wallet, etc.
You ask what he’s doing as you have decided he has been struck by heat stroke.
“I’m going to get in the water with you for just a minute”
“Really?!” you hear yourself squeal with excitement.
You both venture into the water.
Boy the current is really strong.
The waves are really big. . . this as they crash over your head, knocking you off your feet.
You nervously look around for sharks.
Your spouse dives under the water.
He seems to be having fun.
Really, really lots of fun.
He never seems to have fun.
This makes you a little nervous.
Suddenly you see a little gray thingie falling from his left ear.
“YOUR HEARING AID. . .” you hear the words coming from somewhere far away as if the world has suddenly gone into slow motion.
BAM
Another towering wave crashes over you both.
You now hear cursing.
Very bad words being echoed out over the sound of a frenzied ocean.
He remembers to take off his glasses but can’t remember the most expensive thing on him?!
Frantically you search the maddening swell for the lost hearing aid as your spouse narrowly catches the other hearing aid falling from his opposite ear.
You swim around desperately searching for a small grey hearing aid in a vast swirling churning sea.
Your spouse is now back up under the umbrella, throwing things.
The woman sitting under the neighboring umbrella looks nervous.
You scamper out of the water and begin frantically walking down the beach, at water’s edge, praying to see the hearing aid washing up on shore.
You ask the nice ladies sitting in the surf to be on the look out for a hearing aid.
The proverbial needle in the haystack is now your reality.
You sadly relinquish the search and head back to the umbrella.
Visions of a ruined anniversary trip swirl through your head.
Tears now are stinging your eyes.
Literally thousands of dollars are now floating out to sea in a tiny grey hearing aid.
You pack your things back into your beach tote in order to go back inside.
Your spouse, now calmer, tries to reassure you he’s not upset.
You feel terrible and guilty because you know differently.
Remember you have been married a significantly long number of years, you know him better than that.
He gathers the remaining towels and follows you up the stairs.
You fight holding back a flood of tears as you knew that moment of the happiness and fun was too much to hope for. . .he works really hard and has very little precious time away from work and the business has not been good as of late. . .who can afford thousands of dollars floating out to sea?
Luckily you have on sunglasses so no one is the wiser that you are about to lose it on the sand.
“It’s alright” he reassures, they’re insured.
“What?!”
“Really?!”
“I just remembered. That’s why they cost so damn much, I paid for the insurance”
A smile crosses his face.
You begin to feel a little better.
You want a margarita.

The moral of this little tale. . .?
Well, if you’re under 50, you probably won’t understand.
If you’re over 50, you already know. . .you get it.
Not only is growing older expensive. . .
It is painful,
It is limiting,
It is aggravating,
It is life altering,
and. . .wait. . . let’s see. . .What we were talking about?!
Hummm. . .
Oh well, let’s just go have a drink shall we. . .

The raging Storm

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Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid? The he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Matthew 8:23-27
May whatever storm it is that you are facing today, may it be stilled and calmed within you. Calling upon the name of Jesus has more power than this generation realizes…” My Peace I leave with you.”
(Photograph: Gulf of Mexico / Julie Cook )