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Monday, December 2, 2013

Mosese of Shangri-la

                                        


  My wife, one son (my other son Tucker was indisposed) and I went on a nature hike today guided by a young Fijian they call Moses. His real name is Mosese. All the resort workers shorten their names to more European monikers for the sake of the tourists.  We are in Fiji of the South Pacific on a vacation of sorts.

An open motorboat ferried us across the deep blue lagoon. After careful maneuvering through sandbars in the shallows the boat scrunched to a halt on the coral sand shore. The coxswain waved a grinning goodbye as we pushed him off. Someone would come back “in a while.” I couldn’t help but wonder if that was “Fiji time” which is a tongue in cheek way of implying a certain relaxed flexibility.

  After being informed that the island had been inhabited until the early 1800’s by way of a wonderful bit of history and story telling by Moses we embarked into the jungle. My son Corson, with his surgically reconstructed left leg, strode carefully down the shaded and uneven path with his ornate wooden cane  (a gift and story of its own)

  Each ten to twenty feet or so Moses would stop and pull a leaf or point out a fruit or flower. He’d softly explain the medicinal uses and totem qualities of each. His grandmother had been a healer. She knew all the plants and their uses. She could direct young Moses (now a father) through the forest to the exact location of whatever plant or tree she desired. He shared his amazement at her ability to place him on the spot.  He’d retrieve the leaf, berry or bark for her to grind or manipulate in order to form the medicine. He laughed a comical, shrill gurgle like a bird.

 The day before he had shown us how to build a “fish house.” This is part of a conservation project to rebuild the reef. My sons, Moses and I had sat in the sand mixing concrete in five gallon buckets to use as mortar of sorts in order to build an igloo of broken coral and shells while their Mother and Lata (another story) searched for shells. He had guided each of us patiently while regaling with stories and describing his life and work.

 When we finished the “house” he showed us a shed where he kept a sea kayak. It was like being shown a secret hiding place. Moses explained that he’d place the heavy igloos of concrete and shells onto the kayak and walk them out into the water 150 to 200 yards and place them there. When you finished your house they gave you the GPS coordinates and the sequential number of that house so you could always track it on a computer.

  Eventually we reached the far side of the island. As the trail opened out onto a secluded beach I gazed into the vast ocean that evolved from shallow turquoise to deep blue.  A sudden breeze dried the sweat on my brow, neck and chest. Moses had cut a papaya from a tree with the rusty machete he carried slung over his shoulder on a rope. Sitting cross-legged in the sand he fashioned a sliver of knife from a piece of the same papaya tree that had yielded the fruit. He explained that he did not want to contaminate the fruit with the rusty blade.

 As we chatted I watched him precisely, slowly, slice the papaya into pieces. He’d peer out across the water and sky with his eyes shaded by the bill of a worn and faded blue ball cap as if he could see somewhere beyond this world. Then he’d grin as he handed each of us a piece of the juicy, sweet, orange-yellow manna of a hiker’s heaven. We were comfortable and sustained. Eventually, we departed for the meeting place around the point and over the crest to our left.

  My son had struggled with fatigue on the walk. He had endured a year of intense chemotherapy a while back. Concern rose as we crossed huge driftwood jams the sea had deposited on the inlet side of the island. He looked across at me and gave thumbs up in response to my questioning gaze. Of course he’d respond the same even if he were about to fall out on the ground.

  Motoring back to the mainland. I reveled in gratitude for nature and the peace of having my son and wife in the boat safe and resting. Moses sat reflective and grinning in the bow.  I knew he had a baby coming. He’d told us on the beach. They wanted to name him Ebenezer, “from the book of Samuel.”

  I also knew that he had been two units from a marine biology degree and ran out of money and had to go to work. It had been difficult to find. The resort had not had a position so he’d volunteered for two and a half years at the marine center there until they had been able to give him a job. That had been two years before. We’d discovered all this while inquiring as he had guided us through the construction of the fish house.

  As far as I could see, in comparison to America, these folk live a meager existence. They come to this resort called “Shangri-La” each day. They work serving and cleaning, teaching and guiding, entertaining and giving of themselves in such a natural way that you feel as if you have known them forever.

 Then they return to their villages of cinderblock, tin and thatch; windows always open, few screens, eating their simple diet, living their simple lives, knowing there is opulence yet clearly loving their lives and family and ancient way of life.

 The resort jobs must be a godsend and I would imagine highly prized. Shangri-La has several resorts in the Pacific. Each of them works to sustain and serve the people and environment where they are located. Here they have built schools, initiated myriad environmental programs, aided families and more. They treated us with such grace and generosity that we are forever humbled and grateful.

  We leave here tomorrow. This trip was granted my son by the “Make a Wish” foundation. They grant wishes to children that suffer from life threatening diseases. We’ll leave these childlike, welcoming people behind for our competitive, material contest of a world and have only been a ripple on the sea of their lives.

  Lord willing, Moses’ child will be born and Moses will teach Ebenezer the plants that are medicine and life’s blood to these people of earth and sea. Lord willing, another son will walk with his mother and father across this island of time into the love of the world that awaits him.

“Bula,” all ye angels of life. Peace, love and blessings to each and every one of you in far away “Shangri-la.”

  You are in our hearts … forever.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Lou

                                  

A while back they asked me to teach Sunday school to the middle schoolers at church. I must say that as an old scoundrel I was a bit intimidated to be responsible for the fresh minds of these children. Though I had a couple of tikes myself, they were my charges to mess up, not someone else’s.

I decided to observe the other two teachers first. Chuck played games with them. They were excited and had fun. By the time they left for “big church” they were exuberant. I couldn’t help but joke after they left,

  “Those parents are going to love you, my friend.”

He was a good teacher.

The next Sunday Lou was teaching. I was prepared for another round of exuberance. Lou was already sitting, books in his lap talking with a couple of the children. I noticed he spoke to them just like you would to an adult.

 “So what’s new in your world this week, Mary?”

“How’s your Mother doing, Jack?”

When all the children were semi-seated yet chattering and bouncing around like kids will do, Lou stated firmly,

“Alright, let’s all sit and get ready for the lesson.”

Expecting some resistance I looked around to play Master-at-Arms as is my general way but they settled and with just a little poking and wiggling began to gaze at him.

 Lou opened the bible and Sunday school guide and for thirty minutes or so he engaged in a conversation of lecture and questions and small asides with an attentive group of adolescents.

It was amazing that it was the same group of children from the week before. As they departed, Lou would pat one on the back or touch them lightly on the head. When the room was empty, except for him and I, all I could say was,

“Well done, Lou … well done.”

We shook hands and walked together toward the sanctuary. He told me he had been teaching for a while and it was all just second nature anymore. I couldn’t help but think of St. Francis though … sitting calmly in the garden among the birds and small animals as they sat on his shoulder or fed from his hand.

 I know that sounds a bit dramatic but that’s what came to mind as Lou and I walked down the stairs.

The children had come to play and had stayed to learn. They left to return to their loved ones having grown in the words of Our Lord and Savior with calm and grace and dignity. Lou gave them that. He gave the children that for decades.

Now he had given it to me.

When I saw your picture in the paper this morning, Lou I had to walk away and cry a little. You touched me that way. You touched many that way.

You have and will always be there when I try to teach the youth.

Rest in bliss and peace dear friend. I can see you there … with the children gathered at your feet, books in your lap … small bird on your shoulder, speaking calmly as the grown ups listen nearby.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Youthful Swimmers




  Periodically I teach the youth on Sunday at our church. In so doing I read scripture and attempt to follow a teacher’s guide.

  Like all study and research this process evolves. I will find myself pausing to reflect as the words, history and meaning seep into my consciousness.

  The thing that I am not always aware of is the slow but sure marinating of my sub conscious. I will present the lesson to what is, at times, less than eager youth. They are pleasantly willing nonetheless.

  As I gaze into their faces a need rises up in me to impart to them the value of these teachings to their evolving spiritual lives. I yearn for their expressions to open and receive these words so that they might avoid the traps of spirit that have scarred my existence in this world.

  My sons tell me I get a little “preachy” so I try to keep it dialed back. I try to ask them questions and cause them to reach into their hearts and minds for a place beyond the material plane.

  Then without fail … it happens. They teach me. They will answer a question or share an experience or thought and I will know that I am not so much teaching as I am swimming with them in a river of energy I’ll call God.

  You see, I've never been a great swimmer. I have managed to keep from drowning by holding back often pretending I'm more capable than I am. In the end I am simply managing.

  That is the secret I would have them know. That is why I become “preachy”. I want them to swim with the graceful ease than you sometimes witness in a pool or lake or sea when someone seems to blend with the water.  You've seen them, I know. There is so little sound. The water garbles like a gentle stream over smooth rock as they glide not through it but with it … IN it. 

  I would save these youth from my flailing and gasping experience. I want them to immerse themselves in the cool and caressing love that is Spirit. Even then they have a way of showing me that my need is subjective and possibly even unfounded. It would appear, in most cases, that they are better swimmers than I am.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Past Heaven

Peering out the window
I see the cars go by.
How much of all the chaos,
Really matters why?

Folks hurry along worried,
Racing to feed the maw,
Losing all their reason,
Sprinting for a fall.

It will not fail to trip them,
Even as they try.
Laughter only fools them.
Pain just makes them cry.

On the other side of heaven
Is a world where we can go,
If only we could travel,
Without the need to know

A map or way confusing,
A road to travel by.
Dissolve and lose the losing
Cast off the human lie.

Deeper I must fathom,
For narrow path beyond.
Light beckons from ether,
Word belongs to song.

There’s money, trial and worry.
There’s birth and death and pain.
But in the end what matters
Is a poet’s lone refrain.

If peace could flow like river,
We’d flow away to grace.
The sound would only sooth us,
 soften  the angry face.

So listen while you’re gazing
 and maybe you will hear,
The sound of lonely heartbeats,
The splash of falling tears.

Hold fast dear beloved,
This place will wash away
And then you’ll know past heaven
Where we might rest and stay.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Acecela of Fiji


  That first day when you came and sat on the window ledge by the breakfast table, I was a bit taken aback. I mean, a guy is sitting with his family looking out over the Pacific, still a little dazed from 16 hours of flight when a 6 and a half foot male weighing in towards 300 lbs plops down at eye level with you.

  You grinned that big grin with several teeth missing that said, “Hi, I’m friendly.” Your gold polo with the resort emblem clearly stated you were an employee.

  “Everybody calls me Ace. I’m here every morning. No worries. Where you folks from?” We bantered a bit and you moved on. Later you came out with your battered guitar and sang children’s songs to the little ones that were everywhere. They came and sat at your feet or you knelt down at their table.

  Even the most petulant would soften. One child reached over to touch your arm as if to insure that you were real. For the next six days you were always there; village tours, fire ceremonies, games and every morning with your battered guitar, singing to the children.

  You dressed as a Fijian warrior and did the war dance. You took us to a wedding of your niece and treated us like family. You took my teenage sons into town to shop for shirts that would signify we were of the same clan as you. More importantly we comfortably let you. You showed us your life. Most of all you showed us your heart and in so doing you showed us the heart of your people.

  I knew from the first moment that you harbored a story of trial and tribulation behind the dark pool of your eyes. We recognized the wounds in one another. Both of us sought to heal and pay back through our love of the children.  Everyone knew you. They respected you.


  The day before we left a father from Australia told us that he had come there to the resort yearly since childhood. He had a photo of you as a fifteen-year-old “cheetah of youth” lighting a torch, wearing native dress.

  Before the scars was this lithe, exuberant boy. Even in a still photo you could sense the need to run toward the next flame … the next person … the next experience. Even in that photo of a youth,
one could sense the joy and grace of a people such as I have never known.   I believe that you, my friend, more than anyone we encountered, are Fiji … from the laughing children to the scarred warriors.

  Thank you Ace. Thank you for putting your arm around my sons in friendship. On the last day you came to the breakfast table to say goodbye. You sang a plaintive refrain that I had not heard while my wife cried openly.

  I listened to the yearning hope of a powerful man with a child’s heart and saw in my mind’s eye a youth lighting a torch that reveals the soul of a people bound to land and sea.

 In that moment, on a balmy Pacific morning, you and all of Fiji became a part of my family forever. I suspect there are many you have caused to feel the same.


  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Make a Wish"

                                                             Fiji


 In a few short days my family and I will board a plane for ten days on a south pacific island called Fiji.  This was the wish granted by the “Make a Wish “foundation of N.C. to my son Corson.

  Two ladies came to our home about eight months into a year of intense chemotherapy he was going through. He weighed 128 lbs of what was 170 lbs when it started. He was bald, had no eyebrows, dark all around his eyes and an angry, maroon scar a foot long or more down the front of his now pole thin leg.

  They asked him what his wish was. He had told us it would be Fiji but I figured the idea would wan. It had not. They were the type of folks that kindness shown in their eyes and voices. I was uncomfortable. I suffer from pride. I knew that this was not about me though. It was about Corson.

  My wife knew that I would try to dissuade him. It was too expensive to wish for. Before I had the chance she admonished me, "They said don’t try to change his mind.”  I understood that his fragile state was not to trifle with so left it alone. It rested heavily on my heart.

  He had to write an essay. His usually sharp brain was muddled by the chemo. When I asked him, “Why Fiji?” he would shrug his shoulders, as he was prone to do. Time moved on and he never did really say.

  I think he has at times felt that I was disappointed that he was sick … somehow disappointed in him. He has always been our warrior, the stalwart self sufficient one. It hurts to consider yet as a father I can sense it. So we quietly marched through the year of suffering … together.

  It was a foggy world of chemo pumps and IV bags. We watched him waste away until finally, one day, it was over. It has been a year now. He has gained back most of the weight but there is much that he can no longer do.

  One of the ladies is coming to the office today to give me the itinerary and all the necessary documents.  We leave next Saturday. They gave us the news a couple of months ago. I was shocked. I had thought they would not be able to do such a thing. After I had to ask just one more time … “Why Fiji, Corson?”

  “Well Dad, I’m still not really sure. When they asked at the hospital that day what I would wish all I could think of was that I wanted to get as far away from this hospital as I possibly can.”

  When your child suffers there is an ever-present sense of heartbreak that you don’t think you’re going to be able to withstand … and then it breaks some more.

  So we will go to Fiji and I’ll watch the waves of that vast ocean ebb and flow as I remember all the faces.

  The knee-high girl with the remaining wisps of blonde hair and cowboy boots looking up at me as if to ask “Will you be my friend?”

  I will pray to the scudding clouds for Justin who died after his year of chemo for the same disease my son has.

 I will remember the mother sobbing on the elevator and all I could do was to hold her and mutter, “It gets a little easier, somehow. Just hold on. It gets a little easier …”

  And I will watch my tall, lanky son stride loosely through the surf with his twin brother and I will thank God for each breath that remains. You see it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s Fiji or Charlotte or Bangladesh as long as he still walks with me, free from that hospital … as far away as he can possibly get.

  Thank you; “Make a Wish” because, you see, I know that it does matter to a youth who is becoming a man. One thing is for sure no matter what happens,
he has this. For the rest of his life … however long that is … you have given him this. We will be forever grateful.


scott hicks
Corson Hick’s father.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Art


 We had taken our teenage twin boys and four of their friends to the beach for their sixteenth birthday. It was early (for teenagers anyway) so my wife Kimberly and I had taken a bike ride on a couple of cruisers that were under the house.
 
 It was sunny on a balmy May day when we spotted a  wooden footbridge down at the end of a street. It crossed the inland waterway and was about as long as half a football field. It arched from the wild of marsh and beach into a middle class neighborhood.  Fascinated we parked the rusty bikes and went for a stroll.

  An older couple, gray and a little unsteady were crabbing down below on a small square of dock.  A white egret fed in the distance. Modest piers were home to modest boats of various configurations.

  It was quiet. After crossing and walking a block we realized we’d been gone a while and the kids are probably wondering where we are. We turned to cross back over at a faster pace.  I remember thinking how I love the sound when your tennis shoes hit the two by fours of a wooden bridge when I spotted an older white haired gentleman we had greeted in passing on the way over the bridge.

  He seemed small sitting there on a bench in the midst of the flora and fauna of a quiet marsh His hands were clasped between his legs, shoulders drooping forward. Then I realized that he was weeping. I didn't hesitate but stepped over to him with out raised arms and held him about the shoulders in the best hug I could with me standing. He tensed for a millisecond then rested his head in the nape of my neck. I could feel the tears and his day old bristle. I let him weep.

  I knew my wife had stopped because I could no longer feel her footfalls. I sensed her returning and dropped to a knee. The old man muttered “ thank you … thank you.” Finally, when it felt right I stood, as there was not room to sit.

  “I’m so sorry,” he said. “My wife has died and I’m having a bad day. We were married for fifty-six years. Some days I’m ok. Then there are days like this when I miss her so. My son lives down the way. I’m here visiting with the grandchildren.”

 “There’s nothing to be sorry for my friend. We know all about grief. I’m just glad that we happened by.” I said.

  We stayed and talked to Art for a while. He told us about Margaret. Then he told us about his wonderful church and all the friends that looked after him. He showed us pictures of his grandchildren.

  We told Art that our son was battling cancer so he would know that we were brothers and sisters in grief and that we are never alone. We told Art we loved him until a tall man with a graying short beard came earnestly walking onto the bridge. I knew by his energy of haste and concern that he was Art’s son.

  We all exchanged pleasantries until it was time to go.

“The children will be missing us so we should go.”

Son and father thanked us. We told them we were just glad that we had happened by when we did.

 As we passed back over the bridge I spoke to God.

“Thank you Father, for Art and this time in nature to heal. Thank you Father for all of those who have held us in our tears and let us rest our head in the nape of their neck as our sorrow bled into them. Thank you Father for each breath we breathe and the memory of our loved ones. Thank you most of all for my sons who are waiting. Please let them live so that the day can come when they walk onto a bridge with love and concern looking for their wayward and earthly Father.

Peace to all …


The Fountain Pen 2

I am participating in a contest ....
http://positivewriter.com/?p=3315

   Long ago, as a child, I sat impatiently waiting on the front steps of my home. Crew cut and inquisitive I had discovered a box top offer on the back of some Sugar Smacks for a fountain pen.

  It had kindled daydreams of the Founding Fathers using quills to pen our beliefs.  I was going to save the world with that pen. There were truths that needed to be told. Grown ups needed to heed the thoughts of fresh and knowing young minds. They were “messin’ things up somethin’ awful.”

 I told my mother one summer morning, “Momma, I’m gonna save up and get this fountain pen.”

 “ Ok Honey. You do that though I can’t for the life of me see why a seven year old would want a fountain pen! Wouldn’t you rather save for something you could play with?”

 “No Momma. I NEED this pen!”

“ Ok Honey. You save the box tops and I’ll help with the mailing.”

 Somehow I felt she thought I wouldn’t follow through. What she doesn’t understand, I thought, is that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, they all knew the real truth, that  “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

  Look what the Declaration of Independence had accomplished. It had tumbled a world power like a line of dominoes. It had created a country like God created the universe. That pen had brought a king to his knees and by golly I was going to tell the world how it could be done.

   I was going to pen my way into the hearts of America. I would write tomes to truth, tap dance my way into the hearts of mankind, toot the horns of progress, tell the world the answers til they were dancing on the rooftops!

  When I was done they would make me president because I was so smart. I yearned for the love of mankind. I believed that we could mesh our souls to create a utopia of understanding. “Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!” “Hi Ho Silver … AWAY!”

  I spotted the mailman way up the street striding down the Nessman’s driveway. 

  My heart began to palpitate as that blue clad public servant grew in my vision until he was nothing but a giant   “Jungle Jim” hard hat and a pair of high black stocking socks on huge, hairy legs. He was holding out a small box to ME. I was receiving my first piece of mail. I thought I would explode with glee.

   I don’t remember the mailman leaving. All I could see was that box as I worried it open. Then at last there it was, just like they showed it on the box, that beautiful, lacquered epistolary tool of the scribes.

 “Hot diggity dog!” I held it for a moment just feeling it in my little hand. It was smooth, elongated, orb like.

  Finally I had my very own fountain pen, my vehicle into the world! My uncles would sometimes pay me quarters to stop talking for fifteen minutes. I bet they’ll pay attention when I write a book. I just bet you when I’m famous they won’t be grinning that grown up “oh ain’t he funny” grin. I was jolted back to reality as I heard a car door slam.

 I looked up from my reverie and there was my Dad. He was sort of a cross between Johnny Cash and John Wayne. He had a booming voice and always wore starched shirts and pressed pants.  He stomped when he walked. It would cause all Mommas’ knick- knacks in the house to tinkle and shake.

 I loved my Daddy but he could be plain mean sometimes, especially when he was just coming back from a work trip.

 “Hey Beau … how’s my little buddy doin’?’’ he drawled with that lazy grin.

“Great Dad! Look at this fountain pen I got in the mail! I saved box tops and ordered it myself!  “Ain’t it great?”

 “Well Beau, I don’t think it’s such a good idea for a little fella to have this kind of pen. It breaks and you’ve got a mess that’ll never clean up.”

 “But Dad that’s why I wanted it. It’s a grown up pen. I’ll be careful. I promise.”

 “ I can’t believe your Momma would let you have such a thing … nothing but an accident waiting to happen. You let me have it for now. I’ll talk to your mother and we’ll see.”

  He reached out his big ole hand and I couldn’t do a thing but hand over that pen. I want you to know my heart broke right down the middle. He wasn’t just taking a pen, he was punching me in the gut like he had drawn back in meanness and let me have it. He stomped away around the house and out of sight.

   Hot tears streaming down my red, flushed and freckled face my blood rose to fever pitch, pounding in my temples. I hated him like a bull hates red, like a tiger hates fire, like a preacher hates sin. My heart raced and my knees went weak.  I changed in that moment. I never saw that pen again and I never forgot how easily dreams could be taken away. 

  I’ve got boys now. They are truly a gift. I can be grouchy and say things so I wish I had just kept quiet. I try to remember though that a little boy’s dreams are just as intertwined in their hearts as our grown up dreams are. I try to remember to say I’m sorry. I hope I’m doing ok. I hope and pray that I have never taken away their dream.


  My Dad is gone now. He died a couple of years ago. I loved him and sometimes I miss him bad … but he should have never taken away that pen.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Maybe ... Just Maybe


 Hey Dad. It’s been a while. Father’s Day just went by so I’m thinking about you more than usual. You know if you’d asked me 10 – 15 years ago I think I’d of said you were mostly just mean. Seems like the memories of violence and drinking were what stuck the most.

 I've mellowed some. My boys are up big now and I’m flooded with memories of a different kind. Do you remember dragging us all to the Starlite Speedway in Monroe on Friday nights? I’d lean into the chain link fence and watch those old beat up cars bump and bang around the red clay track. When they came around the  fourth turn it’d throw mud in our faces and down the front in little specks till the front was a film of clay.

  Do you remember Uncle Benny driving that race car, biting his tongue underneath his black helmet til one night somebody finally bumped him back and he went over the far rail? I knew it scared you though you hollered and went on like you were mad. He sold the race car after that.

  Do you remember how you’d make me go down to Beaver Creek at night and fish from the boat? You’d put those Coleman lanterns out over the black water and we’d sit there for hours pulling in crappy. The mosquitoes would be so bad I’d have welps in the morning. You hardly noticed them at all.

  Do you remember throwing the baseball out in the front yard? You threw side armed like Don Drysdale cause you broke both your collarbones in a head on collision with a drunk driver. I knew it hurt cause you’d complain a little. To be honest I was glad because you threw it so hard it’d make me dance.

  Do you remember all those times we’d fly down two lane blacktop leaving the ground on the “tickle hills” singing old hymns? You’d be smoking Marlboros like a freight train and you, Momma and me would work out the harmonies.

  Do you remember the time you were working on an electrical problem with a vacuum cleaner at your workbench and little brother Stevie snuck up and banged a hammer on the bench? You jumped back so hard you slipped and had to catch yourself. Man did you cuss. It scared me at first but then we all ended up laughing. It was good to see you laugh, Dad.

  The reason I’m bringing all this up now is because I got to thinking. Maybe he just wanted to spend time with me. Maybe he just thought if he could teach me enough, life might not be so hard like it was for him. Maybe … just maybe you were trying to be a better father than you had.

  Maybe when we were fishing you were showing me how to be quiet and sit with nature in the dark.

  Maybe you threw that baseball hard so when I played with the big kids I’d be used to it and not be scared.

  Maybe singing those hymns was your way of taking me to church … of showing me what you believed and how you loved God.

  Maybe when you started laughing that time Stevie scared you, you were laughing at yourself. It made us all better … I know that much.

  I could go on and on because you see for the most part you were there after I turned twelve or so. It was hard to watch you fall. You were my hero when I was little so it broke my heart to see you destroy yourself.

  Well Dad I suppose I just wanted to wish you Happy Father’s Day and let you know that I see things a little different now. Having the boys grow up has changed me. I love them so much it hurts so it makes me think … Maybe he just loved me and it was the best  job he could do.

 


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Born Again

I have written many times about my baptismal experience. The core of the message is that little did I realize in those moments the depth of rebirth I was experiencing. Little did I know that  I would be reborn many times over.

  It saved me in more ways than one. Before my “conversion experience” twenty-four years past I lived by anger and conflict. It was me against a cruel world until I wore out. I changed my life with baby steps. I married. We had fraternal twin boys, joined a church … you know the drill.

  Those twin boys grew until they began to obtain driver’s licenses, have girlfriends and go places without us on a regular basis. Often I've wondered why they showed little interest in “joining the church” or being baptized.  I would ask and teach but each seemed  ambivalent other than a rather liberal take on religion in general. We have encouraged questions and exploration. We seek each day to ingrain in them a sense of inclusivity and a “cosmo-centric” worldview yet I yearned for the passage into commitment … belief … faith.

  Last year in the midst of a grueling protocol of chemotherapy one son told his mother he’d like to be baptized in the lake my wife called “Heaven Lake”. We have traveled there each year for 12 or 13 years to camp with friends and raft white water. Ironically it started on a church trip. We have continued to go even though the church trips have stopped.

  My wife and her teacher had taught my son to meditate to help him with the side effects. They told him to imagine a place of peace where he felt lifted, calmed … healed. He chose “Dream Lake”.

  Last week we went there and the same man that held them up to the church as infants baptized them in that lake. That man is a friend of mine and I’m afraid I don’t claim many. Twenty or so folks stood on the bank and watched. We sang “Amazing Grace” and a few sang a verse of “We Shall Gather At the River”.

  It wasn’t done at the church we attend in front of that community of faith but I got a feeling God’s ok with it. Some were from the church … some weren’t but we were all in that cathedral of nature.  We were all witness to these youth being washed in the spirit. We are all better for it and once more I was "born again."


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tucker's First Prom




  My son Tucker is on his way to his first prom. I never went to one. I had a date for the senior prom and rented a tux but I sabotaged it and didn't end up going.

  His Mom has made a corsage and shopped with him for clothes and shoes. She does all that kind of stuff. I’m working most of the time. I gave him some money and watched him from afar the days leading up to it like Father’s will do. 

  He’s a handsome fellow and a little full of himself. He’s also altruistic and loving though. I've had a couple of waves of worry about drinking and drugs and such. No matter what I do he will always be my little “ Ta” from two years old. (That’s what he called himself)

  After closing up shop I returned a call I missed from his mother.

  “You missed us. I wanted you to see Tucker before he went,” she chirped.

  “ You took pictures didn't you?” I asked.

  “Of course.”

  “ Well I can at least see them tonight.”

   We hung up and I went back in to clean up my desk. Suddenly I had this overwhelming desire to talk to him … to hold him. I texted instead so as not to interfere or embarrass him.

  “Make us proud son. I luv u.”

  I filed a few things before leaving. Then I heard the little bloop my phone makes when a text comes in.

“Yes sir. Love you too.”

 I’m not so worried now. I think I’ll leave that on my phone for a while though. 
  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Powerlessness




 When my son was diagnosed with bone cancer about a year and a half ago we entered a world fraught with traps and pitfalls. I walked through a year of chemo and my son withering away with a dream like determination to keep him alive.

  The truth is once western medicine takes over a father is helpless except to clean up the puke and put cold bath cloths on his head. You can joke and be steady but you cannot suffer for them. I have never felt so powerless in my life.

  In order to maintain my sanity, I began to practice meditation, qi qong and tai chi chuan. Chemo ended. He returned to school. I began to fight. Part of me knew that I was doing what I had not been able to do for him.

  I took a Krav Maga class. Often while punching and kicking I would begin to gas so I’d bring childhood cancer to mind. Fury would explode as I lashed out at the helplessness I had felt that year of his torture. I’d see a demon attacking those dear bald children and I would murder it with my fists and knees and elbows.

  Eventually I blew out a shoulder that had been reconstructed years back. I’m back to tai chi and qi qong until I can heal. I know that I’ll go back to fighting though. You see a father who has to watch as his child suffers is like an animal that has been dropped off in a strange land. He does not know how to feed so he does the only thing he can.

  I have always been prone to fight. It has never been like this though. Before it was sport. Now … I seek to destroy something that I cannot touch and can only see with my mind and soul. In the end I am just an animal trying to survive. In the end I am powerless and he still suffers.

  For now there is no more chemo but he is tired and the leg they made for him requires him to use a cane and robs him of dreams. So I’ll continue to fight. I’ll fight till the day I die and maybe then I can be free of this interminable void that grips my heart. Maybe then I’ll be able to feel the true power of God. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Night's Rain




  My mind wants to weave in and out of scenes and scenarios that at first seem random.

 Just after dawn, one gray winter morning a few days ago, I sat on the deck behind my house. The cat we call “Rain” had jumped onto my lap and proceeded to kneed my leg, as cats will do. She purred that guttural whir as I softly drew my cupped palm down the length of her satin fur.

  The world was wet from the night’s rain. A dove called in the distance leading me to mindfulness of the bird’s morning symphony.

  I had found Rain one morning in weather much like this damp cold. She appeared near death and drenched, so small my index finger touched my thumb as I grasped around the trunk of her emaciated body.  I placed her on my shoulder. Kitten claws sank into my flesh. I walked the two miles  home grimacing through her panic.
 
  We eventually discovered she had a bad eye. You could'nt tell at first. I learned that animals would abandon offspring sometimes if something is wrong with it.

  She has always been skittish with a tendency to bite or claw out of the blue. I was wondering why she had jumped in my lap. She was looking at me with her now obvious one good eye as if to ask something.

  She reached up with a paw and touched my lips, purring steadily all the while.
 
  “Thank you,” she seemed to say. “Thank you for saving me. I’m healthy and have a good life because you held on to me in my fear and anger. You let me stay even though I attacked you. You did not give up on me so now I am here, beautiful, strong and capable.”

  So I sit here now writing this. I know it’s a stretch but I find it all quite real, you see. It’s as real as the prayer that lives in my heart each day as I reach up to the sky and thank God for saving ME.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Hem of God



  Chaim lay in a hovel of sticks by the wall near the square. It was just around the corner so that the children would not abuse him. He had once been a shepherd in the hills outside the city. One day while retrieving a stray he had slipped and fallen hard onto a rock. Lying there watching the scudding clouds on a blue canvas of sky he had been overwhelmed with anxiety.

  They had found him there and taken him to a physician who could not help him. Knowing nothing else to do they had taken him outside the city wall, given him some bread and a skin of water and left him there.

  Eventually he had pulled his useless legs along until arriving here at the busy square where he could beg. There was less wind and dust and he had found this hovel. They told him that another crippled beggar  had been found dead there. The body had been buried outside the city.

  Today there was a fever in the air. A rabbi was coming. He claimed to be the Son of God. It was told that he had performed miracles of healing throughout the land. Was this truly the Messiah? Chaim could only query, “What God would have brought  so low?” What could the son of such a God do for him?

 He lay there as the rain reached her cold fingers inside his rags. It ran down his sides until it reached the places where he could feel it no more. He wept into the rain for he was lost and could not find his way. Then in a flash of lightning, shadows exposed,  he knew what he must do.

  Since there had been reports of miracles, he would crawl to the rabbi and ask him to restore his legs so that he might walk again. Dawn broke and the crowds gathered murmuring among themselves. The rabbi came. Chaim pulled himself along through the mud and stone. His neck ached from looking up at the legs and robes, struggling to find his way to the center.

 Some moved to allow his tedious passage, others trod upon his fingers and kicked his ribs but he persevered until he saw Him. He gazed upon this man who claimed to be the Son of God and once again he began to weep. No longer did he weep in self-pity though. He wept for joy because he could see the face of truth.

  He had come to be given his legs. Instead he had found his soul in the eyes of the Savior and he did not need to walk anymore. As the Messiah passed Chaim reached out to touch him craning his neck, extending his body until he could feel the coarse cloth of the rabbi’s simple robe.

  As the crowd surged a sharp pain flashed from his ankle where someone trod. He jumped to his feet to avoid being trampled. That’s when he heard the gasps as others began to murmur, then shout …

 “The cripple walks. It is a miracle.”

  Then he knew. He had wanted to stand like the man he had once been yet at the sight of the Savior, he had surrendered to his plight. In that moment he had been lifted by faith to stand new before God. Hearing their shouts the rabbi glanced back. Chaim looked into His eyes and wept no more.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Father's Battle


   August 2011 my youngest son was diagnosed with bone cancer. So began a journey into another world.

  Upon arriving home from work, his mother and I stood in the large master bath of our home with the door closed trying to digest what was happening. I’ll always remember stepping to the mirror and looking into my reddened eyes. There stood a pitiable creature. There stood a man powerless to protect his family. There stood a man unable to be a man.  Then I told the tear-stained face, “The fight begins here.” We held each other for a few moments then parted. Each had to gird for battle in their own way.

  The next year was a blur of hospital rooms and “IV s”. Our son wasted away before our eyes as we ministered to him as best we could. We were at war with an enemy that would not come out and face us. It lived in him, a parasite on our lives destroying its “host of innocence.” The “pump of paradox” droned on endlessly delivering the poison that ate away his body in the hope of killing the cancer without killing him. I have since written often of this young warrior that is our son.
 
  Today though, I would like to speak of the fathers. I want you for just a moment to look into the mirror at the pitiable face that ultimately walks the halls of a world that has no place for him.

  When at the children’s hospital I would speak to my fellows. We were like ghosts haunting the fringes of reality. Each day we marched into the world of pain and grief with our bags of hope, days work behind us, to be with our children.

   We were men who could not fight, warriors whose swords slashed at air. Powerlessly weeping in closets of sadness we would rise and go to the foot of their beds to watch them fitfully sleep in a balled up stupor.

  Having gone to sea as a youth, I know the vast emptiness of an ocean. Yet that ocean breathed. This sea of doubt only suffocates courage until what remains is a robot of determined love.

  I tell you this only to shine a light on those invisible men lying there in the dark listening to the chemo pump.  I want to tell them that they are not alone. I need them to know that I see them there and I love them each and every one.

  Things may not be ok but no matter what happens, we will endure. We will be there like the fathers before us for time eternal because in the end it is simply where we belong.

  For now things are better. His hair has grown back and he goes to school. He attends parties, laughs and has rejoined his fellows. Often though,  in the photos his mother is always taking of the children and I see his fatigue.

  This is not a battle that ends. We march onward into time knowing that each moment is a gift. Each day the fathers gird for a battle that they cannot win. Each day they listen to the God they deem Holy and hope … hope for new beginnings. Hope … for all the children and all the days ahead.

Amen.