Monday, July 28, 2014

Low Tide...

Have you ever met an "Expert"?  Let me ask that a little differently...  Have you ever met someone who talked as if they were an "Expert"?  Galileo was a pretty smart guy.  Born in 1564 and lived some 77 years; he was an accomplished mathemetican, scientist, physicist, philospher and was credited with many discoveries in his lifetime  He died under house arrest having been convicted of heresay by the Pope's council and though was a pious catholic he broke many laws of the church.  His theory of "Tidal" movements was that because the earth was revolving around the Sun, there was constant inertia and that basically the ocean waters just sloshed to and fro.  I'm a dumb cluck and had I been around back then, I am sure I would have made many jokes about Galileo, his Tidal theory, because it would have been a fun thing to do!

And I would have been vindicated because Newton came along, disproved Galileo's theory by his figuring out that the Tides are influenced by the gravity pull of the moon, which as it revolves around the earth, twice a day, it is THAT pull that influences the Tide.  The good news is that smart people figure things out for the rest of us and all we have to do now is look at a Tide Table and decide how that will best effect our fishing or whatever.  But there is a high tide and a low tide in life...

Like the ecosystem of the ocean that depends on the Tidal movement, we too as children of a living God depend on Him for everything.  Of course, because mankind is so full of ego, self interest, a "who needs God attitude" few of His children recognize just how essential God is to all of us.  We have nothing without Him.  We are nothing without Him.  The mere fact that He leaves us alone to turn left when we choose vs. keep His commandments through obedience, is quite telling of His nature.  Some reason that there can be no God, because the world is too corrupt and evil.  Some say that a God would never allow His children to suffer at the hands of bad people, catostrophic events like tsunami waves, hurricanes or dastardly rulers whose goal it is to rule in vain, harsh control over starving people...  But that is exactly what makes God so omnipotent.  That he stands back to let mortals be mortals.  To mess up and fail as we do.  But His goodness is also about how we can draw closer to Him, by living good, honorable lives.  Val was so devoted to living a life that was headed in one direction.  Back to God...

When the tide of life is high, the blessings are many.  When the tide of life is low, we struggle like the fish who became beached as the water receded and is near lifeless on the shore...  We want to quit, we want to say that we just cannot do what we must to make it to the tide rising again...  It is during the low tides of life that we grow.

It is the low tide when we need to stand tall.  Lean into the wind.  Step ever so carefully, but keep going... Its our silly human pride that prevents us from making progress...

Never been this blue
Never knew the meaning of a heartache
But then again, I never lost at love before
Somewhere down the road
Maybe all those years will find some meaning
I just can't think about them now
Or live them out anymore

Stand tall, don't you fall
For God's sake don't go and do something foolish
All you're feeling right now is silly human pride
Oooooh, Stand tall, don't you fall
Don't you do something you might regret later
You're feelin' it like everyone, it's silly human pride

Never lasted so long, no,
Through so much or through so many
I just can't believe I could throw it all away
Sometimes late at night
When there's nothing here except my old piano
I'd almost give my hands to make you see my way

Stand tall, don't you fall
For God's sake don't go and do something foolish
All you're feeling right now is silly human pride
You've got me down on my knees for ya mama
Stand tall, don't you fall
Don't you do something you might regret later
You're feelin' it like everyone
It's silly human pride

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Slow Down, You Crazy Child...

In 1974 Val and I found and fell in love with Billy Joel's "Piano Man" and a few years later his other work.  Boy!  What a talent.  In 1999 while in Toronto, he happened to be on the elevator as he and I began humming his song, "Big Shot", to which Mr. Joel could not keep a straight face.  I'm not much of a celebrity "gusher", well I know that no matter how much fame and fortune one may or may not have, has little to do with one's integrity or what they can or will contribute to one's human family, one's own family or friends.

It's a beautiful summery July day in Tacoma.  The sky is clear blue as a bell and the temperature is a very mild mid-70s.  Mt Rainier is majestic and stunning on days like this.  That beautiful mountain is truly one of God's most wonderful, picturesque creations!  It's easy to contemplate the eternities and keep a clear perspective with such an awe inspiring site of this magnanimous mountain.  Oh how Val loved Mt Rainier!  I can't look at it and not think of her.

I wish the world's people everywhere could have such beauty in their purview every day.  I'm quite sure if all of mankind could see Gods hand in this beautiful world, there would be less strife, anger, hate and much less dischord between everybody.

So what are we waiting for?  Vienna?  Let's all slow down and and stand all amazed.  Let's all be more kind and caring to everyone we meet.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


I'm a part of a wonderful community of fellow widows and widowers and I can't fully describe the heartache I feel when I listen to their various stories and experiences.  Tragic loss, lives altered immeasurably, children who are suddenly father or motherless.  Trying to cope and adjust, were those the only two things to work through, would be challenge enough on their own.  But income is often dead stopped, homes lost, family members/in-laws who want to affix blame, the personal thoughts that can haunt; what could I have done differently, what if I would have kissed him goodbye that morning, why didn't we go to the doctor sooner, did I do all I could to give proper care, oh, if I could just re-do that cold, snowy day when I encouraged him to go to work because money was so tight, he wouldn't have slid off that cliff...  And more...


Where does it come from, why does it stay, is there any good to the feelings it stirs?

No matter what the circumstances, we all fall short, we all wish we could have a "do over" to try and alter outcomes... In my own case, I have long said, "We had great numbers, we beat the odds, and got more time than most anyone in our situation, and yet, sometimes I wonder, "Was there more I could have done?"  Do my kids and grandkids wonder if I was kind enough, did I serve Val with deep love or just husbandly care?  I'm about like most of those in this strange land of widowdom, where I have doubts, I question my strength and I wonder "Did I fall let Val down?"  

Well, I will tell you a few things that I have come to know... 1) Even in one's grief where you feel the comfort of angels and that the next life is very near, the darkness of the destroyer bears down on you to try and make you feel inadequate and that you failed.  2) Losing your spouse is someone's child, someone's sibling, someone's grandparent, someone's friend and people have their own perspectives and opinions.  Sometimes their feelings are manifest in sweet and gentle behaviors and outreaches of love, other times people are so stunned, they react and assign blame.  3) Your life and that of your children and grandchildren is now forever changed.  No matter the age, no one wants to lose someone who is so special to them.  Reconciling those awful feelings is daunting and sometimes peace is a elusive.  4) Time is your enemy and your friend.  It's your friend because as you hobble through the abyss of it all, inch by inch, minute by minute, you start to heal and "feel" again... It's not the same as before, it will never be the same as before, but you can breath, you do breath, you learn to accept the world as a different place.  And what's weird is everything is nature is the exact same.  The sun comes up in the east and it goes down in the west.  "The sun will rise another day..." As the song "Long Road" by Pearl Jam goes...  Time is your enemy because it wants to remind you that because things are so vastly different now, you're over, you're done, you're irrelevant, there's nothing that matters.  Food has lost its savor.  Ice cream is no longer cold and refreshing.  Things you never used to let slide, have not only slid, they're now an avalanche of many things you couldn't grip and keep in your clutches if you wanted to.

And the fungus that grows out of all this is "Guilt"...  

Loved ones can begin to self medicate, or if they have substance abuse issues, it will likely deepen.  Some begun saying hurtful things to cope with their hurt.  Some people disappear.  Some shut down.  Some stop eating.  Some increase their eating.  Some quit being available and "alive" in their formal normal life.  All here things and more grow out of guilt and the inability to get through (not over, you never get over) the loss, sorrow, grief and hardship of losing your spouse...  I'm like everyone else in all this...  I grapple... I wonder...  I don't sleep... And I'm one of the luckiest guys I know...  Val and I had a beautiful long goodbye... She beat the dates and assumed mortality percentages... Yet, she is still gone...  "Oh this poison called guilt.

I feel uptight when I walk in the city

I feel so cold when I'm at home
Feels like everything's starting to hit me
I lost my bearings ten minutes ago

Modern guilt, I'm stranded with nothing

Modern guilt, I'm under lock and key
Is turning into convention
Don't know what I've done but I feel ashamed

Standing outside the glass on the sidewalk

These people talk about impossible things
And I'm falling out of the conversation
And I'm a pawn piece in a human shield

Modern guilt is all in our hands

Modern guilt won't get me to bed
Say what you will
Smoke your last cigarette
Don't know what I've done but I feel afraid

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sweet Love... Deep Grief... Dancing With A Limp...

There is something quite phenomenal that billions and billons of people have experienced, yet, we don't talk about it much and we certainly don't have a cook book with recipes how to understand it, yet sooner or later it is a reality that we all face...  Grief...  I have undertaken a serious study of grief...  I want to embrace it and have it be my friend...  When I hear the cliches about grief, they are usually said by people who haven't experienced the hardest kind...  Imagine that... levels of grief, severity of grief...  For you see grief is a journey, often without a destination...  like all journeys, none are exactly the same...   It is often perilous, you have no compass, no sense of direction yet, you are moving...  Even when you are in bed, with the shades drawn, the phone off, deep in your covers...  You are moving...

I know what its like to "take it like a man" and attempt to push through it...  Like the football player I once was, I decided I could just add another 25 lbs to my bar bell and lift...  Same with my desire to tackle grief...  Just lift all that much harder, lift more...  Yet, I discovered its not something you can control, hurry past, nor can you ignore it...  Grief is gnawing...  Grief is patient, it has no where to go but to reside in you...  It is not contagious (I wonder what it would be like if you could give it away like a cold and have the virus leave you?) and its a different thing for everybody...  Sometimes people let it own them, their grief overcomes who they once were and changes everything...  It can lay you outward... Where bitterness can claim you, innner sympathies can whisper into your mind that you are alone, you cannot ever understand this, you have failed... Its the most persistent thing we will ever have in our lives, because to some degree it will never go away once it has come to call...  It can ruin you, it can "make" you, its full of opposites and dichotomies, though it is a process of saying farewell to someone you love, you are also saying hello to an experience that deserves honor and respect...

There are real manifestations of grief...  They come in the form of feelings that you actually have, such as emotions, there are physical sensations, there is the mental and cognitive pieces and you have changes that affect your personality and behavior...  I seem to have gotten more funny...  Or so some say...  Kind, wise friends have said, "Dan you are hiding in your humor."  Which, I have done throughout my entire life, by the way...  Maybe later I will write about and identify specifics of each of the ways grief rolls on over us, but tonight I want to leave you with this thought...

While everything in life, whatever you do, choices you make, events that come without warning and push you to your limits, each of all of our journeys begin with a single step...  Usually, that ice breaking first step is the hardest, the most difficult...  When you are being blown down, when the gale force winds are making you grasp onto life's railing, there is a major gift that you can know that when you hold onto it, you are firmly safe and the railing is keeping you...  That gift is "Hope"...  Just what do you hope for?  That varies of course, but it is something to get us up in the morning, face the day, much of this is not something you can decide what to do, with a pragmatic plan (Remember my comment about football and pushing through) do much more than just function; eat, sleep, deal with the giant octopus of emotions that seems to constantly swim after you...  But with hope, you can "be" able to live, love, emerge at some point...  Its a difficult passage, especially when someone like Val is who has gone away from me...  (You know there's a few people who I really wish would go away! :)  But you know, I have met difficult challenges in the past, I've had dark moments and I have met and climbed those rocks of life with "HOPE"...  Seems like a good idea to keep that perspective now...  Sweet love, brings deep grief, and....

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
― Anne Lamott

Friday, July 11, 2014

Butterflys, They Always Fly Away...

Its July, its warm, its the kind of weather that we who live in the Pacific NW wait all year for...  And, my house is quiet, my backyard is empty, I can only find one of the turtles, I don't know why there is this blanket of contemplation surrounding me is causing me to reflect so much...  Usually the summer is a time for carefree thinking, feeling the sun kiss our cheeks, tasting the luscious summer treats like watermelon, popsicles, ice cream... and yet, this summer, I feel differently...

Last summer I was engulfed in sorrow...  a sadness that was heavy and difficult...

This summer, I feel lost and I am quiet, contemplative, not sure of what is next...  I am busying myself in my work, I am trying to be thoughtful and considerate about others around me who may feel lost, alone or empty themselves...  I look at the world's troubles and feel a heaviness about the greed, the anger, the lack of humanity...  but this is something more, deeper within me...

10 years ago right now, summertime, Val was in the middle of her Chemo treatments... I would cook for her and we would eat every meal outside...  Absorbing the beauty around us and the many blessings we held in our family, our life and with our hopes for her full recovery.  Which, she did receive...

Scout was always "at the ready" for a handful of table scraps...  she was such a great dog.  Val giving her to me for Christmas in 1996, was the true show of love toward me...  She did NOT want a big dog in the family...  But Val knew I wanted one, so she sacrificed herself to make me happy...

I can easily say, Val was always on my side...  She remains so even today...  I am blessed with her nudges from time to time...  Its funny...  there are moments when I can see things so clearly and happily and then in a nano second, I have to reach deep...  When I do, she is always there; a memory, I find a small note, a trinket or sign from her  that everything is going to be okay...

Always On Your Side

My yesterdays are all boxed up and neatly put away
But every now and then you come to mind
'Cause you were always waiting to be picked to play the game
But when your name was called, you found a place to hide
When you knew that I was always on your side.

Well everything was easy then, so sweet and innocent
My demons and my angels reappeared
Leavin' only traces of the man you thought I'd be
Too afraid to hear the words I'd always feared
Leavin' you with so many questions all these years.

Is there some place far away, some place where all is clear
Easy to start over with the ones you hold so dear
Or are you left to wander, all alone, eternally
This isn't how it's really meant to be
No, it isn't how it's really meant to be.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pondering and Wandering....

Is your mind like mine?  Do you find yourself thinking about people, places, memories that are somehow electrically connected to your heart?  Do you skip a beat or feel your heart flutter when someone crosses your mind that you forgot that you loved or cared about?  Perhaps a childhood memory of Christmas morning or the first crush you had when you were in Jr High School?  Do you recall your delight when you heard the rumor that "so and so" liked you?

Its no wonder why we feel such loss when life changes on us...  I recall leaving Lubbock, Texas, watching it disappear behind our station wagon as we headed to Nevada.  It was also exciting, because we were going on "summer vacation" for over a whole month!  Well, my dad's transfer changed to Washington state, which I knew nothing about.  We also had two dogs, Heidi and Freda, with us and one got sick in Salt Lake City and she had to be put to sleep.  I was sad, but not nearly as sad as when 2 years later Heidi was run over by a car.  I sobbed for a week, with my head in my mom's lap.  I just did not, could not, understand why?

(Midgey and Scout...  Scout went away in 2009...  Sure miss her)

Today I read that the word "Mortality" literally means "death", for when Adam and Eve fell, they fell to mortality and died a "spiritual death" or they no longer were able to be in the presence of God.  It is also synonymous with "life".  Life on earth, with all the various conditions that came with it.  Disease, fear, troubles, peril, injury...  We became subject to pain.  The good news is that one day all of us will become immortal.  We will all be resurrected.  We will all gain immortality.  What only some of us will receive though is eternal life, exaltation.  For that is God's work and His glory to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.  Being exhalted means being in the presence of God for all eternity.

As I walk each day I notice a difference in so many things.  How limbs grow out of a tree.  How animals seem to be keenly aware of their own survival instincts.  How out of touch we all are, our heads bent down, tapping away on your phones; texting, doing a yelp search, checking emails and generally snubbing the people around us.  As I was wandering around today, I noticed how intensely "busy" we all are.  Not just others, me included.  I have a desire to be more "minimal" in my living patterns.  Less water, less waste, more efficiencies.  Why, I wonder?  Why now?  Is it because I am alone and feel less about leaving a big splash?  Perhaps.  But I feel a sense of accountability in ways that are meaningful and I suppose it because I am less distracted.

My day is continually filled with sadness on so many levels.  Turn on the news, the world is a horror story.  People who matter to me are leaving, changing, going away.  Life is all about change...

Yet...  I cannot hold back the sands of time...  All things have reason to be subject to "change"...  If you would have told me in 1972, that 42 years later I would be a widower, an orphan (my parents are both gone) and that my world would be darn near a zero sum game, I would not have believed you.  Zero sum...  That principle that all sides of gain must be matched by as many sides of loss... I guess you could say that the "Circle of Life" is a real thing...

What do you do with the sands of time
When they carve out lines around your eyes
I can close my fists up good and tight
But I can't hold back the sands of time

What do you do with a memory
That just hangs around and stares at me
I can tear that frame down off the wall
But it won't erase the things I saw

Night and day
Night and day
You remain
You remain

What do you do with old regrets
There's a box full underneath the bed
Just close enough not to forget
But do what do you do with old regrets

There's old house key in a kitchen drawer
To the door I can't unlock no more
Sometimes I hold that key real tight
But what do you do after goodbye

Night and day
Night and day
You remain
You remain

Night and day
Night and day
You remain
You remain