Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Edge of Autumn


                  Yesterday, outside on the farm it was clearly late summer. Dogs were still shedding hair, honeybees were still seeking flowers, and squirrels were quiet.  Today, the tide has turned. Squirrels are gathering acorns, trees are turning yellow, leaves are falling. So many trees here grew so tall this year that it's now time for them to sleep.It smells like autumn.

                    So finish up those last summer joys and tasks because the page is about to turn.  Have you noticed that the pages turn faster and faster each year ?  I certainly have.  Happy Autumn.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Step Back

The house we lived in when Daniel was born. Picture taken yesterday.

  Yesterday, I had a business meeting which briefly took me to the area in which we lived when Daniel was born. Of course, we haven't lived there in about eighteen years, and so we wondered if we could still navigate the back roads to get there. All at once, we were there, and although there are some new houses and some others gone from landmarks in the region, we were able to navigate just as if we had never left. 
                         At least three families have purchased and occupied the house we lived in when Daniel was born, since we did.  It's good to see that the house is still being maintained and well loved.
                     Afterward, since we were in the same county, we visited the house we had first bought when moving to Virginia. One of our children was born while we were living there.  We were surprised to see that the stockade fencing we had installed in the back yard was completely gone now. Then we realized that we had installed it twenty-five years ago, when we were both in our twenties !  Of course, the one we installed would be gone now.  Over all, that house too has fared well.

The home we bought when we first moved to Virginia.  Daniel's brother Matt was born while we lived here.

                     When we traveled home I realized that despite the fact that Daniel went home earlier than any of us wished to, that we have always been lucky.  We lived in beautiful places where our children had safe places to play, and knew they were loved.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Story of Otto Warmbier

Photo Sam Greene AP

            Otto Warmbier was born in 1994 and  grew up in Cincinnatti, Ohio, the eldest of three children. His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, were devoted parents to their children. As Otto grew, he became an excellent student, and developed an interest in international affairs. Upon graduation from high school, he became a double major at University of Virginia,in economics and commerce. His interest in international affairs brought him first to a visit to China. It was on the China trip that he saw an advertisement geared toward Americans for a brief tour to North Korea.

                   During the five day tour, he became good friends with a British man, Danny Gratton, who was his roommate during the tour. Danny recalled Otto as being bright, very polite and mature for his age. The morning of their departure, they were running late because the hotel had missed their wake up call. While at the airport, they provided their passports, and two security officials came to Otto, and had him follow. Danny remembers joking, "Well, that's the last we'll see of you."

                   Of course, the rest is history. Otto Warmbier was detained on the charge of stealing a political banner/poster from the hotel, which was considered "a hostile act" against the government of North Korea.  Following a hasty one hour trial, Otto was condemned to a fifteen year hard labor sentence, which is rarely survived in North Korea.  Incidentally, Otto's family says the theft is untrue and that Otto was threatened and coerced into a confession.  The young man who might have become a diplomat someday, helping to set up international commerce between nations, had become a political pawn.

This is what Otto Warmbier looked like prior to his imprisonment.   Photo CNN

                    For eighteen months following the trial Otto Warmbier's parents have had no real information.  Sweden had continued to request information on Otto and his condition throughout these months.

                   This week, Otto Warmbier was released by North Korea on "humanitarian grounds". They claim that shortly after his trial, he became ill from botulism and from a sleeping pill, and has been in a coma like state ever since.  He has been fed using a nasogastric tube and has been in a North Korean hospital for quite some time.

                  Otto has been transported to a teaching hospital in Cincinnatti, Ohio.   Top neurologists have examined him.  Their conclusion is that botulism is an unlikely causation for his condition, as it causes respiratory paralysis and death, and there is no organ damage other than to his brain.  They note that his MRI study indicates severe brain damage across all regions of his brain. This is the type of damage that would occur following a protracted cardiac arrest.

                  Was Otto Warmbier detained for simply being an American ?  Was he tried, falsely convicted, and then brutalized and tortured to the point of cardiac arrest ?  Was he resuscitated just in time to prevent death, but to simply live in a persistent vegetative state ?  The evidence suggests that all of this is true.

                  The next time someone tells me that "everyone in the world is alike" or that "evil isn't real", please remember the case of Otto Warmbier. He went from being a University of Virginia junior, with an entire life of possibilities ahead of him to being a young man in a wakeful vegetative state without recognition of language. There is no video evidence that he is alleged to have stolen a propaganda poster from a region of the hotel from which he was not permitted.  His mistake was simply to have vacationed for five days in a rogue nation with a supervised tour with people from other nations.

                  Evil is quite real in the world, and Kim Jong-un has committed quite a bit of it, including killing his own half brother and uncles.

                   I had to think long and hard today as to why this course of events was quite so repugnant and so upsetting to me, and then I realized that Daniel was only two years younger than Otto. The idea that any nation could torture a young adult to the point at which he arrests and then has brain damage indicates that the leader of North Korea hasn't even taken even rudimentary steps toward being a human being.

People who wish to leave an encouraging message to Otto's family may send it here.  The University of Virginia will pass these along at the appropriate time.

  Please be kind. I have been horrified by a number of the heartless, uncaring, ill informed and downright bizarre comments concerning this case on Facebook.         

UPDATE:  Monday,  June 19, 2017   The family of Otto Warmbier has just announced that Otto  passed away today.  My family and I send prayers to Fred and Cindy Warmbier, as well as to Otto's surviving siblings and friends.  I am so terribly sorry for their loss, but I know that Otto is now safe home and set free.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Award Winning Animation

                 As both a gifted creator and an admirer of animation and of giraffes, Daniel would have appreciated the following short film by Nicolas Deveaux :  I'm thinking that you would too.

Monday, May 29, 2017

In Remembrance of Lieutenant Commander Doris M. Artz


                 On the occasion of Memorial Day, I would like to thank a person from my own life, for spending her own in our military.

       Lieutenant Commander Doris N. Artz was a navy nurse who ran the naval hospital in Hawaii at the time of Pearl Harbor. She also served with distinction in a number of ways in the profession of nursing, including as a writer of nursing board exam questions and in the structuring of nursing programs.

          She was also an extremely bright and independent woman who loved playing the piano, gardening, teaching, and taking six year olds to Christmas pageants and church functions. She was also a very good soldier of Jesus Christ.

          Courtesy of her extremely good health in retirement, she was also my piano teacher, good friend, and, I suppose,  mentor when I was six years old.

           Despite the fact that there are papers of her's held by the Naval Museum in D.C., there may not be enough data or enough people that knew her and about her life and times for me to write the book she so richly deserves.

          Instead, I must honor her today for all she did, for our country, for the soldiers in her care, and for me. At least part of the registered nurse I was and am, was seeded by Lieutenant Commander Artz in those days we shared. She conveyed a love of animals and of God's world, a meticulousness in her desire to aid living things, but never in a manner which interfered with nature or did harm.

         Thank you Doris, for the gifts you gave to me, both material and symbolic.  Thank you for all you did for me, and for our country.  You are remembered not only on this day, but always.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day: 2017


              I am not a big proponent of days devoted to special groups.  I would rather that people treated me with respect and consideration all year rather than saving it for a special day and calling it Mother's Day.  I also have a birthday and one day a year is enough for me.   That said, I usually am treated well and so the special day is not normally a point of my focus.

                    Once you lose a child, Mother's Day becomes a bit of a double-edged sword. It can become one of those days in which there are both happy and profoundly sad memories. I am not advocating that you ignore the day for such mothers, but I am advocating that you perhaps ask before surprising mothers who have lost a child or a baby.  It would be nice to acknowledge the day without making it an exercise in endurance.   Consider flowers carefully. Sometimes flowers conjure funeral memories for some Moms especially if the loss was fairly recent.

                   If you are a mother reading this post today, then you are likely processing a loss. I send prayers for you for a good day, and for lovely memories for you, despite their bittersweet nature on this day.

                   And to Daniel, we will always be connected through space and time, even though we might not occupy the same dimensional space here on Earth.  Some connections are static in time, and not subject to entropy. Love endures all things.  I love you, bug.  Today and every day.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Sudden Departure of Grace Heitzig

Grace Heitzig

                      Minnesotan native Grace Heitzig loved the color purple and was a bright, energetic young woman who took on games and activities with determination and occasional willfulness.   She was, like Daniel, 12 and a half and was about to have a thirteenth birthday when at 6:30 in the morning on January 6th, 2016, her parents went up to call her for school and found her beside her bed, wrapped in the bedclothes and lifeless.  They described her excitement the night before as she planned her birthday party that Friday. Hers was a life so filled with joy and promise, and for a moment hearing the story, I am reminded of that last wonderful night with Daniel, before his own sudden departure.  Like Daniel, Grace was also a youngest child. She had no known medical problems, although a seizure of uncertain cause had occurred in the prior Summer.  Like Daniel, Grace had an autopsy that revealed no particular clear cause of death.

                  In cases of sudden death of this age, most often physicians feel they are due to a sudden heart rhythm disturbance which can lead to a rhythm called ventricular tachycardia.  Sometimes, v-tach will cause a seizure because the brain is instantly deprived of oxygen. In such cases, the siblings of such youngsters are examined by cardiologists to help to ensure that they too do not have a cardiac conduction issue that may predispose to sudden death.

                It has been one and a half years now since Grace's sudden departure. I pray for her parents, Charlie and Katie Heitzig,her older sister Ellie, her many relatives, and her friends.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Another Sudden Cardiac Death at Thirteen

Joshua Isaac Perkins

        Most of the time, I hear fairly quickly about someone who died under similar circumstances to Daniel.   Occasionally, I do not.  Joshua Isaac Perkins died suddenly and unexpectedly at age thirteen a year ago.  Like Daniel, Joshua was the youngest of four children. Joshua had been homeschooled and also had attended New Covenant Christian Fellowship School.   Daniel died at home, but Joshua collapsed at church, and despite CPR, he was pronounced dead later at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in  
Attleboro, Massachusetts.

           Joshua will always be the beloved youngest son of Mark A Perkins and of Carleen A (Hazen) Perkins.  Joshua also left three siblings, (Jacob, Brandon and Hannah)  many relatives and lots and lots of friends.  He brought light wherever he went.  He loved video games, board games, and the family's beloved beagle, Buddy. He loved hiking, movies, and fishing with his grandpa. He loved being with his family.

           This happens to too many children, and particularly to too many boys of Daniel's and Joshua's age.  Please pray for this family. A year is a short time on a journey of grief.

                    His family requests that donations in memory of Joshua be made to:

  Massachusetts General Hospital in support of cardiology research led by Dr. Tomas Neilan. 

Gifts can be made online at,

 or mailed to

 MGH Development Office, 
 Attn: Carrie Powers,
 125 Nashua St., Suite 540,
 Boston, MA 02114

payable to Massachusetts General Hospital. Please include in honor of Joshua Perkins on the memo line.


More information:        

Happy Twenty-First Birthday, Daniel

Is this an adult enough cake ?


   Happy twenty-first birthday, Daniel !  I know that once you leave the Earth that celebrations commemorating the age of the flesh suit aren't important, but your birthdays are cherished memories for me, and I need them, so please indulge me for just a moment.  It has now been eight and a half years now since your abrupt departure from the farm, and yet in some ways, it seems like yesterday. You are still discussed here, and we laugh about things that would have amused you. We talk about your friends and what your responses to some of the things they are doing would have been.  Your toddler nephew knows you from pictures and calls you, "Unco Daniel".  Among our many dogs, there are still three dogs, Sally, Sable and Benjamin, who remain here that you knew and loved. They are all very old and will probably join you there soon, but we are very much enjoying their continued presence here, particularly since they remain healthy.

                  Please know that I love you with all my heart and that you are missed from here every day. My faith remains strong that God called you for a specific reason and for specific tasks and that is a comfort to me.   I continue to keep the promises I made to you on the day that you were absent from your beautiful flesh suit.  I am sending a hug just like the one we shared, when Papa Lawrence was in the hospital. I know you remember.   Please send my love to him as well.   Happy Birthday, you gorgeous brilliant man !   I have always been so very proud of you, and I still am, even though I don't really know everything you are doing.

                I love you, and I still feel your presence sometimes especially when something momentous happens.  Happy Birthday !

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Dreams of Queen Elizabeth


            I had the very strangest dream last weekend between about 2 and 3 am.  I had a particularly vivid dream in which I was summoned by Queen Elizabeth.   I was permitted to bring my children and my grandchild.  My daughter and her son attended but the others were not able to go.  Even in the dream I thought this was preposterous. I am not a subject of the Queen. Why would she wish to see me, on an urgent matter?  She must have confused me with someone else, I thought.  She does own land adjacent to mine in Canada, perhaps it's related to that, I thought.

             When I arrived, she was in bed with the head of the bed elevated.  My daughter and her little son would visit briefly after I spoke to her, but she seemed to know who I was, and wanted to talk to me.  She was feeling well but believed she would pass shortly and she wanted a chance to ask me to do something for her. What could I possibly do for a sitting monarch ?  "I want you to forgive your mother", she said.   This made just a little more sense.   Until her passing, my mother was a British subject who, despite the fact she married an American and lived a good deal of her life afterward in the US,  kept her citizenship.  My mother had a particular respect for Queen Elizabeth primarily because of her conduct during the second world war.  Both my mother and Queen Elizabeth had been born the same year, and in the same approximate area. When they were young, they truly resembled each other. My mother would have been the taller version of Elizabeth.

I have few pictures of my mother, but this is one of them.

              Queen Elizabeth went on to say that my mother endured sorrows and losses that were both beyond my knowledge and beyond my comprehension, during the war, and that it was actually remarkable that she recovered to the point that she did and went on to live a life.  She went on to say that the most difficult skill in this life, is the task of true forgiveness. "Now that you are a grandmother", she said, "this is a task that you should master."  Rather than discussing the matter with the sitting monarch, I wondered how she knew my mother and why this was important to her.  She said something about her task being the communication of this message, and that she did not need an answer. Then she went on to visit very briefly with my daughter and two year old grandson.  In totality, there was no warmth in our meeting. This was the passing of a message not unlike the passing of a wish she might have had for a small commonwealth nation.

               I awoke with a start. What a vivid yet strange dream. Several days later, I am still recalling it, and wondering if my mother, in fact, during the war, did know Queen Elizabeth.