Sunday, January 1, 2017

As the Obama Presidency Draws to a Close

The last eight years have been a good deal harder or us than they have been on him.

       Those of you who have been with us, on this blog from the very beginning, know that the timing of the Obama presidency, at the  very least, has been very difficult for us.

                 First of all, when Barack Obama was running for president, I bought and read his books. I didn't agree with his views and his perspectives and what seemed like socialist leanings to me and so I knew that I would not vote for him. I encouraged the kids and the rest of the family to read these books, which I incidentally bought quite cheaply from   Daniel, even at 12, was first to read the books and most of the other kids, despite being at the university did too.  The kids also thought that he did not espouse American values, and they could not vote for him. One of my son's had his life threatened by another student at his urban university when he said he might not vote for Obama. Apparently, young people in particular were very pro-Obama.  I was working teaching college at the time, and when my students asked me who I was voting for, I wouldn't tell them. I thought, just as my own professor's had, that I should not exert undue influence of my students. I told them that they should do their own research and make their own decisions. I have regretted that.

                 Of course, in early November, 2008, just after my father's passing, Barack Obama was elected to the presidency.  At the end of November, Daniel died suddenly.   Daniel knew that Barack Obama had been elected, but Daniel was never here on Earth for even one day of his presidency.   As Obama discussed "shovel ready jobs", "leading from behind", trading in your paid off reliable car for a new one with six years of payments, and other nonsense, we felt as if we had fallen into a bizarre episode of Sliders. Someone was doing something strange in the White House while our family processed the totally insensible and unfathomable death of a 12 and a half year old.

                  We were equally confused when Mr. Obama was reelected in 2012.  We didn't know a single person who had voted for him a second time, and yet, there he was again. Four more years.  Four more years of golf trips, broad criticisms of America, having the Muslim Brotherhood to dinner at the White House, and executive order upon executive order, most of which can't really be Constitutional. Obamacare came in and no one really stood against him.  Anyone who did was accused of being a racist.  How would expressing dismay regarding his actions make anyone a racist ?  Mr. Obama is also the child of a mother with Irish ancestry.  Most of us believe that there is only one race, human, and that when the economy goes well for one group of us, it tends to go well for another.  We all must eat. We all must live somewhere, and we all love our children and seek to do what is best for them.

                   Obamacare cost our own family a great deal more money on a monthly basis than health insurance did before. My husband has had no raises since the beginning of his presidency. With cash flow more difficult, there have been no vacations since then. No, not in eight years. (Although we have taken some business trips.) In fact, our expenses have increased while our income has decreased. We are in far worse shape today than we were when he was elected. 

                   And so finally, the Obama presidency draws to a close. It's been a difficult eight years, in part because bizarre edicts and strange actions have occurred on the part of this administration. The world in general is quite different and much less safe.   This November, Daniel will have been gone for eight years, which is already two thirds of the time he was on the Earth in total !  The day of his passing still seems like yesterday.

                  I don't know why God called Daniel home so suddenly as he did.  On dark days, sometimes I have thought that perhaps God is rapturing deserving children, and that Long QT Syndrome (LQT) or Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) or Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) which are the potential alternatives we were given following multiple autopsies,exist so that God can call his best students of Earth home as the enter difficult times.  I still don't have any good answers.  I still live on Earth, do my best, in this broken timeline.

                  Here's hoping, no praying, for a better presidency this time around, and I live in the hope that Mr. Obama is remanded to the golf course for the remainder of his natural life.  So, if God can do whatever he wants, do you think he will send Daniel back to us now ?  I wish he would.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

You Love Me More: Our Christmas Letter


    It is now eight years counted in Earth years since you parted so quickly, at the beginning of that Christmas season.  Since you missed the Christmas in 2008, then you are actually about to miss the ninth Christmas since your departure.

                      There are a number of things you know I do since your departure, in part as remembrances of you, and in those early years, as a probably attempt to stay sane.  Each year, I have either written a Christmas letter to you that is found in your Christmas stocking, or I post it here on your blog, or both.  I place your ornaments on the tree each year.

                    As you know, this year has been richly challenging.  Your brother's wedding was beautiful and memorable, and yet, I did not see you there. I hope that while I concentrated on suppressing happy tears that day, that you and my Dad were able to sneak in and get good seating.  The wedding cake was superb and unusual and I hope you both got a taste.

                   The world continues to be difficult, fitfull and uncertain at times.  Sometimes, even I will admit to having learned to appreciate that you will not know some of the trials that are all too common here.  This year when one of your brothers were hit on the interstate and his car rolled over, I was two things. I was grateful for the life of your brother and for his safety, and a small part of me was grateful that this would never happen to you. You will be spared many of the sorrows of life, and I have learned to be somewhat grateful for this, even though I have no real choice.

                 The animals are still fine, and when they are not, they are home with you.  I still remember your big shining eyes. I remember your rare but generous tears. I remember your generosity to people and how well you conversed with human beings of all ages. How can it be that this year you will be twenty-one ?  I love you and my Dad more than words can say.  Each one of these years beings me just a bit closer to the breath that will see me reunited with you both.   I love you, Daniel.   Yes, I know,  you love me more.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Eight Vast Years


       I found this picture of you taken when you were about eight at Christmas, at the first farm. I believe your sister says you were being dressed to be an elf.   I can't believe that it's eight years today since you had to depart. I love you just as much as I ever did, and the memories of what you liked and disliked when you were here are still fresh. You will always be my son whether you had continued life here on Earth, or in Heaven. Your siblings and your dad mention you often and we often giggle at things you said which have turned out to be quite true. Love to my Dad and everyone with you. I love you wider than the oceans, and deeper than the seas, and I always will.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stop Crying: This is the Good Stuff


  Today, just two days before Daniel would have been gone eight years, one of my sons was married in a beautiful church ceremony with friends and family in attendance.  He has married a lovely young woman that Daniel clearly would have adored. Perhaps our entire family will benefit from a wedding anniversary that occurs just two days from Daniel's sudden departure from Earth.
              There were lots of tears at the lovely well attended wedding.  In fact, some of the bride's nieces and nephews asked me why so many of the adults were crying.  I told them that first, we were crying because seeing two people very much in love who finally are able to marry one another is both rare and sweet and makes us cry. Also, such beautiful music, which was especially chosen by the bride and groom makes many of us cry, all by itself.  Also, if we are the parents of the bride or the groom, we cannot help but remember them as small children and wonder how they made the jump from toddler to kindergartener to teen, college student, graduate, and then husband or wife. We wonder how the years could have passed so quickly when they might seem not to have for us.  Lastly, we cry because we are just a grain selfish. When our children marry the love of their lives, there simply will be a bit less time for us, and we cry because we may, just a bit selfishly,know that life will change and that we will miss them.  The kids seemed to accept this, or perhaps they simply were sorry they asked.

              In any case, I send understanding and good wishes to anyone who has had to sit through beautiful music and has been the mother of the bride or the groom.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Our Fragile Times

Daniel,  May, 1996-November 28, 2008


       This week, two ladies who worked with my daughter died on the same day.  Later in the week, the lady who took over work for one of our family members while he vacationed, passed in a car accident.  The end of this existence will come for each and every one of us, and yet, we work, play, and sometimes plan as if it will not.

    We are just five days away from the day when, eight years ago, my son Daniel, who was only 12, collapsed and died here at home. He had a clean autopsy, and so the prevailing pathologist's theory is that he experienced a sudden heart rhythm disturbance, as increasing numbers of children who play sports are doing, and that despite immediate CPR, his rhythm disturbance was non-recoverable. He's had a physical with a professor of pediatrics just a week or so before his death, and now ironically, both my son and that physician are dead.This time of year used to be my favorite, and yet, even eight years past Daniel's passing, I am fragile around Thanksgiving. It seems to me that almost everyone in our family eventually passes within October or November.

                    I am however, not quite as destroyed as you might expect because I know a few things which ease the journey.  Our trip to Earth is a temporary one for us all. Each one of us is issued a mortal flesh suit and then raised with the idea that our stay is somewhat open ended. After all, when we're in school we may be told that by the time we are middle aged, there will be a cure for all the cancers, and failing organs will be laboratory grown and transplanted. You'll live to 120 the school physician told me at 16 when I had a tennis physical.   Of course, none of this is true. Our bodies are on loan, a bit like a tuxedo rental from the Men's Warehouse. We work and play and over time, we age. The aging that is evident on the exterior indicates that similar or even more severe aging is occurring internally.  Entropy is real. We age in steps and eventually must evacuate our flesh suits even though we wish, at that point,  simply to shelter in place. It is universal. It will happen to us all.

                   I have actually accepted my own mortality pretty well over the years. The only reason I fear it now is that I have more skin in the game than I used to.  I still have four children remaining on Earth, and a grandchild. I dislike the idea of feeling as if I will ultimately be abandoning them all in a world that is not quite as friendly as most mothers wish it were.

                 Still, we come to Earth. We live, we love, we work, and this too is very important.  Eventually, we leave the rental suit and go home to a more permanent arrangement.

                  Make sure that tomorrow when you see family and friends that you drink the water and realize how cool and quenching it can be. Be kind, even to those who don't really deserve it, because this could be their last Thanksgiving.  Drink the sparkling cider and don't be tempted to drink anything that muddies your memory of this rare day. Realize that the little kids who will spill gravy on the oriental rug are going to remember tomorrow always. See that they remember you for forgiveness.  Remember always to place people above even valuable things.  Make sure that although you have a strong work ethic, that you are also known for the important ability to set work aside, even just for a day.   Eat and enjoy, but not so much that you make the rental suit sick, because you will have to inhabit it the day after, as well.

                   Enjoy this day as if it is your last, not because it will be, but because someday there will be a day that is.

                      Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

This Time of Year


      No matter how many times we revisit this time of year, as it approaches, I still have trepidation as if it's a train pulling into a dreaded station.  This year, it will be eight years since Daniel enjoyed Thanksgiving with friends and family and then, the day after, in preparation for Christmas shopping, collapsed and died in our home's main floor bathroom.  Even though we heard the crash of his falling, and unlocked the door with a key and started immediate CPR, there was no coming back. The helicopter team from the University of Virginia ran an exceptional code, but he was gone before they had really arrived.
               We live now in the altered, no fractured timeline doing the best we can to propel our children forward in a world frankly Daniel might not quite have recognized from eight years ago.
                 The song below, by Steven Curtis Chapman, is a comfort and I hope it will be to you as well.

Monday, October 3, 2016

An Alpaca on an Oriental Rug

Daniel with Cammie, in early August, 2004

                         Sometimes, I look back sadly on the twelve and a half short years Daniel had on Earth. Sometimes I feel as if I should have taken him to Europe, or to Canada or even Iceland.  The fact is, I believed all those things could wait or that he could do them as an adult. I believed he would be on Earth for an entire lifetime and that there was no reason to race through his life.  Other times I look back on his life and realize that in many ways he enjoyed an unusual and special life here, even though he may not have completed the things I might have wanted for him.

                         Daniel loved animals, and in late July of 2004, one of our alpacas, Queen Isabelle, gave birth to a third cria (baby alpaca)   Isabelle's milk did not come in as it should have, and the vet came to give the cria a blood transfusion from another animal in order to provide the immunity that the initial colostrum ordinarily would have provided. We also needed, for a time,  to tube feed the cria, and then nurse her through colic, all while running her outside periodically to maintain the bond she was to have with her mother.  At night the cria slept in some clean orchard grass in our empty deep jacuzzi in the master bedroom.  During the day, she spent time with her mother outside in the grass. The cria, named Warrior Princess Camellia, or Cammie to mere mortals like ourselves, came inside to the bathroom to receive orogastric tube feedings. At times, the little dear did walk over genuine oriental rugs ! Fortunately, even young crias urinate and defecate only in a dung pile out of doors.  Daniel was especially nurturing to little Cammie, who was all of twenty pounds during this period of time.

              Time passed quickly and Cammie grew.  As time passed she not only had the bond with her mother for which we had all hoped, but a bond with Daniel and the rest of her humans, as well.  Daniel may not have seen Europe or had pastries in Paris. He may not have have seen bubbling hot springs in Iceland, or have made it to Stonehenge in England, but he did live a remarkable life.  He spent a lot of time studying things with which he had a deep interest. He read a great deal and few had such a detailed understanding of a computer and the internet. In fact, he was looking at colleges at 12 1/2 and was academically ready to go. He enjoyed close relationships with animals and was an important caregiver to them, especially when they had difficulties. He enjoyed rescue dogs, and chickens and ducks. He did far more of the things he really cared about doing than many of us have the chance to do.

             We had no idea what was to come. Probably the reason that Cammie's mother did not produce milk following her delivery, is that she was later found to have an advancing brain tumor. The vet believed it to be astrocytoma.  Cammie's mother Isabelle died in the Summer of 2004. I remember Daniel hosing Isabelle down to keep her cool following a seizure in one of those last hours.
              Then, in November, 2008 Daniel died suddenly, and with a clean autopsy. It is theorized that he passed of a sudden heart rhythm disturbance, the type often seen in children playing sports. It is theorized to have been something called Long QT Syndrome.
              Cammie is ten years old now. She lost her mother, and then she lost Daniel.  Within in past few months, her father, Ditto, passed at a very advanced age.  We still care for her as diligently as we ever did, exactly as Daniel would want it.  Cammie may have known losses, but she has also known stability in that she has remained at the farm in which she was born, all of her life. She has herdmates she has known all of that time. She has a brother who has always been here also.

                In late Fall this year, Daniel will have been gone for eight years. Sometimes it feels like it was only three years ago, and then other times it feels as if it were ten years ago. So many of Daniel's animals have lived to advanced old ages and then passed. The world has changed a good deal in the eight years since his departure.
                 And still, both Cammie and Daniel have the memory of playing together within weeks of her birth, on oak floors indoors, and on oriental rugs. Most of all I remember their joy while playing, as we worked so hard to keep Cammie alive in those early weeks.

                   And so, if there is a moral to this story and to life in general, it's that none of us know what is to come or can predict it. Of course we all need to work, because work is a part of life, but we also need to make time to do things we genuinely care about doing.  I can't account for my grandmother living to near one hundred when she had battled health issues from about forty on. I can't account for how a healthy child could die despite CPR one November day.  What I can do, is make sure that everyone I love knows it, and that the most important things I care about doing are done. Make sure that the animals you love know that too, as their lives pass so much more quickly than our own.  Don't be afraid to put your alpaca on an oriental rug if need be.

My husband with Cammie.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A September Flu


        I haven't been sick with anything other than a cold for about three years.  Somehow I have managed to catch the flu. I spent last evening figuring out what I should do since it's been such a long time since I had to treat myself for flu.  I started with extra vitamin C, then moved on to regular strength tylenol when I became febrile. I added Mucinex and lots of water when I became congested. Then, when I developed a wheeze. I brought out the nebulizer with medication which I will be using at least twice daily until this disappears.

           Since I didn't spend time yesterday exerting as much energy as I do normally, I didn't fall asleep easily when I went to bed. The program I was watching ended at eleven, and before you know it, my wheezing was back and it was midnight. Then I tossed and turned, drank more water and it was one. Then, the dogs barked
       Then, finally feeling a bit better, I lapsed into either unconsciousness or a deep sleep.  I found myself in a dream with my father.  Despite the fact that my father passed in 2008, he and I were in a navy blue Land Rover, and Dad was driving. This was interesting because most modern Land Rovers are automatic transmissions now, but this was my Dad, so he was driving a standard shift. He and I were making an evening run to some Goodwill Stores.  Once we got there, Dad found some new intelligence software that someone had donated. "This would be useful", he said,  as he presently doesn't have access to the software used in intelligence reporting. I bought some leather bags that were new and had been donated by a store to Goodwill. Dad also found a new pair of leather shoes which he delightedly picked up quite reasonably. I have no idea of the significance of this trip but I do appreciate my Dad visiting when it's possible for him. His appearances for visits in dreams help me to recall the feelings of his occasional visits and trips we made both together and with my kids. I will take these visits any way that I can get them.  Perhaps Daniel will come next time. They tend to visit separately, even though they both contend they "see each other all the time" and are in "close proximity".  I know that they care for my animals who have passed, and when they are away, the animals are cared for by Mrs Brandt, a friend of my family's from my childhood who loves dogs and other animals.

        I awoke with  simply a cold. I was a bit peeved that I could not keep the leather bags I had bought during the dream.  I am encouraged with the time I spend with Dad, and I am glad he finds a way to  visit me sometimes.

          Since cold and flu season is here, please consider getting a flu shot early.  Best wishes to you all.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Truth of the Damaged Time Line

  When you lose a child, many physicians and ministers in particular, allot you a time in which to grieve of about a year. Then they expect that you heal sufficiently to head into what they call "the new normal". If you don't, they consider that you are grieving abnormally or perhaps even arrested in the development and maturity of your grief.

       I was a great little soldier through my grief. It's not because I am particularly brave or not in touch with the devastating loss we had experienced. It's that I had three other children and a husband who was understandably broken following our sudden loss of a healthy 12 1/2 year old beloved youngest son.  I was certainly broken. I just needed to make sure that everyone else would survive this loss before I fully examined what the loss of Daniel from Earth really meant to me.

         This November, it will be eight years since Daniel abruptly left his beautiful flesh suit.  Eight years later, I don't believe that there is a new normal. I think that what happens to most people is that they craft a life without their child or the loved one they have lost and they do so as if the life they lead is the result of a fractured timeline.  What I mean by that is that if Daniel had remained here on Earth, then he would be twenty years old. He would be in college or working.  He would have adult friends and be driving and planning for the future. He would be going places with his older siblings. They would be planning vacations together.  Instead, the branch of the tree that would have been Daniel's is now absent. The life we lead is not the one we would have. Our lives without him have continued to grow on that tree and as bright as some of the fruit in this timeline might be sometimes, the tree has now grown as a disrupted timeline.

The reason this is important is that in order to make best and most productive use of the life we have remaining, it's important to describe our situation, at least to ourselves, accurately. I don't cry much, although I think of Daniel each day. I miss seeing his wonderful life unfold. I miss his commentaries and I miss seeing what he would become. I will also miss seeing the family he would have made.

I don't believe that anyone who hasn't lost a child or a loved one can truly understand the pervasiveness of such a loss, or all of its implications.  This does not mean that I am lost. I accept and believe that God keeps Daniel and that I will see him again when I leave this existence myself.  I believe that at some future day we will be reunited.

     This does not stop my feeling that in late November, 2008 that the loss of Daniel altered the timeline we expected to live. The timeline was replaced by one with less joy.  I will continue to build the best life I can for my children, my husband, and my grandchildren, just as Daniel would have strenuously requested, had he had the chance to speak to us after his passing.

      Please remember that those you love who have experienced a crushing loss might feel this way also.  There is no genuine return to the days before such a tragedy. Be kind as you talk to others, especially those who know grief, either the anticipated kind, or the kind that envelopes us. May your "time line" be linear and as you expect.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Terrible Loss of Jamil Baskerville Jr.

                 Most of the time, I am well.  It helps me that my beloved youngest son left the Earth quickly, and without pain, by God's calling, and not by violence.  I often wonder how parents of children who were victims of violence and who died as a result fare, when they are eight years past the loss of their child, as I am.

                Yesterday however, I heard something that has stayed with me and has broken my heart.

This is Jamil Baskerville Jr., in a family photo

         Last Saturday, in Pennsauken  N.J., a 24 year old man, Zachary Tricoche, became upset with his girlfriend over not bringing home some groceries he liked. They reported that a fight ensued. The woman's  two year old son above, is reported to have become upset when Tricoche shoved his mother, and he tried to defend her.  Tricoche took his fist and hit the child in the chest sending him into a wall.  When the child got up and came at him again, he punched him again so severely that the child hit the wall again, this time hitting his head and becoming unconscious. Then the child vomited and became unresponsive.  Jamil was pronounced dead later at the hospital.

          What kind of a person tells a two year old to "put up his hands to fight", before beating him to death ? Why would he think that his role would be to fight a child rather than to lay his own life down in order to protect one ?

There are too many people who have deliberately caused the death of a small defenseless child. Small children are fragile.   What kind of a monster would do such a thing ?  Then I prayed for little Jamil, and I got an answer.   The kind of person who would do such a thing, is a person who was also raised to believe that a two year old is a man, and that it's appropriate to fight like a man against a 24 year old.  A person who was raised with ineptitude and evil, will grow to see a two year old as competition and will attack him. Evil begets evil just as good begets good.

I also cannot imagine my not getting between an attacker and a two year old in a similar circumstance.  I wonder if his mother simply didn't understand what was happening or whether it all happened so quickly.

In your own life, make doubly certain than unbalanced, unstable or violent individuals are not permitted near the vulnerable children you know.

 On autopsy it was determined that Jamil's liver had been ruptured and that he bled to death internally. This is an end no child should ever endure.  Tricoche is imprisoned on a million dollars bond awaiting trial for homicide.

  Sadly, there are children in foster care who have only narrowly escaped such an end, and who will carry such a memory throughout life. It is not the shocking aberration that it should be.

       I pray for the remaining family of Jamil, here on Earth.