Tuesday, November 28, 2017

You Departed Nine Years Ago Today

  


 

Daniel, one year in costume as Charlie Chaplin.    Daniel would be 21 years old in the present day.

        
 Daniel,

     I won't ever forget your special days.   I will always remember your birthdays. I will always remember the anniversaries of your sudden departure to Heaven.  I will be here until I am called. I will continue to take care of your animals, and there are still quite a few you would know from the farm.  The ones you knew seem to try to live lives as long as possible as if to spare me any more grieving, for as long as they can.

      This year, it is not only the birthday of a special friend of yours, but one of your friends has a baby that is due today.  Please look in on her if you can. 

       And so, the anniversary of your departure nine years ago today, is no different.  I will man the fort. I will find warm homes for the things you owned and loved while you were here. I will watch and care for your siblings as they grow, and I will continue to be comforted by the love we shared while you were still my youngest son, here on Earth.

        You have my love and my respect always.   Please send love to my Dad.




Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Cataclysmic Loss: Nine Years After

Dearest Daniel,

               On the twenty-eighth of this month, you will have been gone from Earth for nine years.  I can just imagine you at 21, had you remained here.  You were only 12 1/2 when you departed.  I have to wonder how I might feel, in three more years, when you are gone for as long as you were here.
                I know that you keep an eye on us all.  Somehow, some of your animals are still alive. It's as if they knew you had to depart in haste, and they wish to stay as long as possible in order to support us.  Sometimes, when I am scrubbing a horse bucket, or working with one of the horses, I feel as if you are watching me.  I think of you often, and I try to be as busy as I can be.  There is no "closure".  The loss of a child will always be a crater in one's life, but we must continue, for your Dad, for your siblings and your animals, and also it's what you would expect from us, and I wouldn't want to disappoint you.  You know, I still love you, wider than the oceans, and deeper than the seas............and yes, I know, just as you always said, you love me more.





Friday, November 24, 2017

And the Bathroom Still Stands as Witness

              

Daniel



         In a few days, it will have been nine years since you entered the bathroom, collapsed, and died. My immediate  CPR, a precordial thump, a shot of epinephrine, and then another, followed by the sheriff's deputies use of the AED made no difference. You hit the floor, and you were gone.  In the crazy days and weeks which followed, there weren't many answers. Eventually, multiple world class pathologists at university medical centers said that although your autopsy was negative for anything that should have caused your death, that your collapse, your fall forward, and the number of sudden deaths in older members of our family coupled with our strong family history for arrhythmia (heart rhythm disturbance) is likely what took you, even at only age 12 1/2.  Since then, so many more children and teens have died suddenly from sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) and sudden unexplained death in childhood (SUDC), that although I am sure you have a lot of company and friends to talk to about it, it is of no consolation to their families, or to myself.

                I often think about the bathroom you died in.  The house was new when you died there. The shiny walls and lights, new marble tub and shower. The mirror and new shower curtain, and the photos of lighthouses are still there.  When you died, the baseboards and shoe moldings were new. Today, they are showing just a little age, the result of steam and occasional splashings by your siblings and your toddler nephew. A few days after you died, I lay on the floor, as you had, looking up to see if anything resembling a stairway to Heaven were there, something, anything, but there wasn't anything.  It was simply a bathroom. I couldn't imagine how your active and shining soul could have seeped out of the cheery new room.  How could something so cataclysmic have occurred in such a pleasant and ordinary room?  One of your doctors called it a "supernatural passing".  How could a supernatural passing have occurred in a modern bathroom. Wouldn't it have needed to occur in a church?

               Since then, we haven't changed  much in the bathroom.  There are some prints that are hung on the wall in blue and white which look quite good.  James uses the bathroom more than anyone, since he occupies your old room, after we moved all of your things to a new bedroom we finished in the basement. (To those who don't know us, James in a young teen who was adopted the year after Daniel died, something Daniel had always wanted us to do.) Also since that time, your nephew bathes in the tub in that bathroom, and spends more time in the tub there, than anyone else ever has, since all of you preferred showers.

              The bathroom remains the same, and on some levels so do I.   I still can't believe that my youngest son could celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, play a soccer game with college students, and then arise the next day perfectly well, with the intention of Black Friday shopping.  We were getting ready to go, when you collapsed and died.   Black Friday is all it will ever be for me.

               

Monday, October 30, 2017

Our Family's Story of Halloween



                  Daniel, I remember telling you that when I was a young child, my absolute favorite holiday was Halloween.  Christmas and Easter were the purview and territory of the adults, and you had to dress as they wished you to.  Halloween was another matter. It was the child run and mediated holiday, and we adored it. We often had our costumes planned months in advance, and we would buy elements of them from garage sales or church sales. Some of them were incredibly creative.  We would choose our costumes and then my mother would sew an accessory or two for us on the sewing machine.
                   When we were very young, we walked, before dusk, to all of our neighbors, and since we lived in the country, that would only be about nine neighbors if you walked several miles. Because the neighbors knew that we would be getting to a maximum of nine, they would give fairly generous offerings. It was also the only time we would see some of these neighbors all year.

                   As we grew and became twelve or thirteen, we went farther afield. We walked and hit the local neighbors before dusk and then when dusk came, my friend's mother would take us to the subdivisions which were about fifteen miles away. She gave us shopping bags and the name of the game was to move as fast as possible. Of course, the people who were seeing fifty children a night adjusted their offerings downward, but that wasn't the point. It was a candy treasure hunt......a one day special.  The funny thing is that we didn't really eat all of that candy.  Our parents would check it, we ate some, and we would give some away to our friends at school. Some of it would still be sitting in the bag at Christmas.  The last year I trick or treated, a pizza place in the valley gave a slice of pizza to each child on Halloween.

                    By the time I had my own children, the carefree days of letting your children walk on country roads at dusk were over.  We feared poisonings, abductions, and accidents on those same country roads, because by then, all of those things had happened.  When your brother and sister were small, I would take them to selected neighbors who knew us, and since your sister was a Type I diabetic, they had special sugar free treats especially for her.  When we moved to the suburbs, and had the big white house, your Dad took the two older kids, your brother, and you to neighbors, while I gave out candy to more than a hundred kids, most years.  One Halloween evening, your Dad had to go out and restock our supply two more times!

                  By the time you were of prime trick or treating age, America had fallen out of love with the holiday. By then, we lived here on the farm, and the closed gates at dusk ensured that no one would be coming here.  Instead of trick or treating, churches and local groups arranged Harvest Festivals, with a bonfire, a pot luck dinner, candy, costumes and all your friends.  On that Saturday, you and your friends would play games until late at night.

                    I hope you had as much fun on those days as we did. 
                

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.


https://vpsa.virginia.edu/communications/2017/support-otto-warmbier?platform=hootsuite         



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.







https://www.history.navy.mil/research/archives/research-guides-and-finding-aids/personal-papers/a/papers-of-lieutenant-commander-doris-m-artz.html


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day: 2017

                
Graphic: casesder.info



              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 giving.massgeneral.org/donate,

 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:

http://www.dyer-lakefuneralhome.com/memsol.cgi?user_id=1793830        




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.








                 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ugo Ethiogu Dies

                   






               It has been announced that famous football (soccer) player Ugo Ethiogu has died of a cardiac arrest during practice at Tottenham in England, last Thursday.  Ethiogu enjoyed a very successful career as a soccer player for both England and for Aston Villa.

                 He was very successful as a soccer player and as a personality and was gaining credibility and great popularity as a coach.

                 Ugo was married to his wife Gemma and they had two children, Obi Jackson, a son, and Jodie, a daughter.

                 Cardiac arrest of the arrhythmic variety afflicts those of any age, and may especially afflict those who hearts are pumping rapidly during exercise during sports.  This is not the first sudden death of an accomplished soccer player. Piermario Morosini died in 2012.

                  We send our prayers to his family and to his children.





This is more detailed information on Ugo Ethiogu than I can possibly tell you.


Information on Piermario Morosino






Tuesday, April 11, 2017

On Grandparents

                      




                 I think a great deal about Daniel and about his life here on Earth before his departure. I spend some time with my small grandson, and I am quite mindful as to how positive our time together is for both of us.    Both of my in-laws died young several years before Daniel was born, and so they never met him, never held him, and he knew them only from pictures and things we told him. After they died, we did buy their home from the estate, and Daniel was born while we lived there, and for almost the first two years of his life.  He had pictures of them, and he knew stories of their lives. Now that I have a grandson, I realize how unfortunate it was that he didn't have a chance to know them.  In addition, my own mother did not live nearby, and she died the year before Daniel did.  My father did come to visit and spent lots of time talking to all our kids, particularly Daniel. I have a wonderful picture in which the two of them are eating at a Chinese restaurant. Sometimes I imagine them to be doing that now. Daniel was close to my father. In fact, when my father passed, Daniel was deeply upset. How could I have known that Daniel would join him just a month later ?      Perhaps the answer is that he can communicate with all of them now, and that I should put this aside.There are so many things I wish I could have changed for Daniel. Yes, he did a number of things in his time here that he enjoyed, but there was so much of the Earth I had yet to show him. If you have children and living grandparents for them, then please use this time for them to get to know one another, if possible.





 

Friday, February 3, 2017

In Tribute to Frances Overstreet Kelsey

       
An entrance to the ranch in the present day.



            Perhaps it's because one of my children now resides with my ancestors, but I think a great deal about my ancestors. This has heightened recently as the book I am currently writing concerns my father. A great deal of background and research work is going into this project, and as a result I have learned some things about my ancestors I had not known.

               The sum total of what I knew about my paternal great grandmother was told to me by my mother. Before I was born, and we moved three thousand miles East to a job my father took, she had contact with my father's dad and his siblings, and they spoke of their mother fondly fairly often.  I knew that, from my mother's perspective, my great-grandmother was the wife of a California rancher. I knew that my great grandmother had ten children and worked very hard on their 9600 acre ranch in the 1880s.

                In later years I learned that she was the daughter of a San Francisco family, who were authors and college professors. They wrote books on popular psychology of that day, on family and on child rearing. Still, although I had met one of my father's uncles, and one of his aunt's when they traveled East where I grew up, I didn't know more.

               In the past few months I have been working my way through diaries, letters, copies of letters from family, all with the idea of providing the most accurate perspectives in a book which centers on my father and where his courage and mettle originated. Slowly, the personalities of the uncles and aunts who so clearly impacted my father's personality emerged.  They were intelligent people, each of whom had creativity in one form or another. They were accomplished horsemen and women. All ten of them completed university in an era where most women did not.

             So much of what I had believed was simply me, turns out to be echoed in my great grandparents and in their children. So many of my own skills, likes and dislikes have their origins in a secluded arid California ranch. So much of who my father was, and what he taught me has its origins in that place.

              This week, my daughter located a picture of my great grandmother as a young wife posted on a website on the internet.  I don't think she looks like me, or like my daughter, but there was something about her face that was stirringly familiar.  The woman who somehow did laundry and made delicious food for ten young children, her husband, herself, ranch hands, had an intelligent and yet a loving look. Somehow this woman maintained the new house her husband had built, kept it immaculate, and helped him repair literally miles of fencing when her sons and daughters were too small to help. She still found time to maintain relationships with her relatives, particularly an aunt who raised her. She read a great deal and wrote in a diary. She loved books and particularly oriental art.  She successfully raised all ten successful and intelligent children. What she and her husband taught them, echoes all these years later in the values and perspectives I have taught to my own children, and that they are teaching to my grandson. Of course, it should  not be a surprise that these likes and dislikes are reflected in my cousins as well.  The woman who worked side by side with her husband in a life filled with anything else but privilege, should be my hero.

             I am betting that I am not the only one who sits on Earth having benefited by the choices and the work done by our ancestors. I am not speaking of material goods here. I am speaking of a love of learning, of reading, of intellectual curiosity, a work ethic, and of valuing solitude, particularly in a world now dominated by, and perhaps damaged by, technology.  When you can, try to preserve and read whatever is known about your own ancestors. Try to honor them by preserving some of their habits in your own life and in that of your children. We are all gently standing on their shoulders.




               

Friday, January 27, 2017

Have Some Faith





One of the custom made items I noticed for sale in the shop today.


Some years ago now, one of my sons and I took a trip to a distant town which had a number of art shops along its main avenue. I remember that trip as if it were yesterday. My son had been homeschooled and was transitioning through community college before going on to university. He spent a lot of time on that trip talking to artists, welders, blacksmiths, and business people. I didn't know it at the time but he was carefully considering his occupational options before choosing a major in university. I wondered if he might come back and work for one of the many people with whom he had spoken that day. Later that year, my son transferred to a university in order to study sculpture and extended media. At the time, we were concerned for his occupational outlook, but we were also consoled by the fact that the art school itself was quite competitive and because those accepted into the top rated program for sculpture and extended media were even fewer. Someone has to make a living in the arts, I told myself. "Have some faith" were the words which somehow played in my head.

        Years passed quickly and many things happened within our family. We built a new farm, and moved our family to a very rural area. Both of my parents passed. Our youngest son tragically and unexpected passed shortly after my father. Two of our children graduated with honors from a highly rated art school and entered the work world in the middle of a recession. Two of our children battled serious chronic diseases. I often wondered how we would weather all the challenges that seemed to have befallen us. Still, I heard "Have some faith".

     I have been busy lately promoting my third book and first novel. I have also been pinch hitting in caring for my infant grandson while his mother works. The time does not seem to have passed as quickly as it must have. Of course, my most important works on this Earth are not occupational ones, but the five children my husband and I raised and helped to acclimate to the world.



     Today, I returned to that same town I mentioned at the article's beginning. My son has not returned to work for one of the shops there. Today he and his beautiful wife, also an artist, opened their own shop on that same lovely avenue. Every detail within the shop was perfect and it quieted all my private maternal concerns for their starting a speculative venture in an uncertain economy. As I looked down the street, it seemed almost unchanged from our first visit, now thirteen years ago.  I am so proud of all they have accomplished. Their friends came, some of their relatives were there, some of the people who knew them professionally also were present. I wondered if my father and my son who has passed found a way to be there today. The mayor, the newspaper, and an employer of theirs also came. After the festivities, I walked out to their parking lot and entered my car with a solitary tear in my eye. Where this son is concerned, my job is done. My son and his wife are doing things that I never taught him and that I have no idea how to do. I do so hope and pray this business is successful, I thought. Once again, I heard, "Have some faith."


Their business;

   www.raindropsinvirginia.com


 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Grey Metal Casket

          
This is it.



             One of the strangest things about having a child die suddenly is that all at once, there are many questions asked of you. Will you be wanting burial or cremation ? Where are the remains to be buried ? Where is the funeral to be held ? Do you want an open casket or a closed one ?  How much do you want to spend ?  Will you be needing embalming services ?  No one really cares that your child collapsed and died three hours ago, and no one knows why.

                 In the past I have thought of myself as someone whose mind works fairly quickly. As a critical care nurse I have functioned well and thought clearly in any number of pretty horrible emergencies both in and out of hospitals, but nothing can compare to the sudden absence of your child's spirit from his body, before your eyes. Nothing can compare to being told that since there was no "foul play" suspected that any autopsy would have to be at your own expense ***, and nothing can compare to being asked a number of fairly complex final questions when you have absolutely never considered such things where your child is concerned. We actually didn't know of a single funeral home in our area.

               Part of the reason I had difficulty answering such questions is that the questions and the answers were complex. Our farm actually has a family cemetery, and despite the frozen ground, we wondered if it could be used for Daniel's remains now. Secondly, how could someone have an open casket funeral after an autopsy ? Thirdly, why was embalming required by law ?   Somehow we navigated this very difficult time and item by item came up with answers to these mind bending questions. We chose to have the funeral in the county seat of the place in which Daniel and our other children had homeschooled. We thought that more of his friends could attend this way, rather than holding the funeral in Charlottesville, which had been my first leaning. We learned that despite the autopsy, that great care had been taken to allow an open casket funeral afterward. I did not want this, but my husband did, and who was I to argue ? He too had lost his youngest son that day. Also at that time, we chose cremation, just as my parents, grandparents, and aunts had.  And so, we needed to buy a casket, not for him to be buried in, because his remains wouldn't be, but simply for the hours of the viewing and the funeral itself.  Afterward, we could have given it back to the funeral home where it would be refurbished and presumably used again.  We selected a rather heavy metal casket painted a matte gray with shiny silver toned handles.  Inside it was lined with a particularly soft pillow and white soft lining which reminded me of the fabric of the gown and clothing Daniel wore for his christening. The funeral itself was quite beautiful and well attended. It truly was a celebration of Daniel's life with many people ranging in age from babyhood to in their eighties in attendance. Even a cat named Macintosh, that Daniel truly loved, that belonged to a friend, attended the gathering in a carrier.

                   All of the decisions we made we solid reasonable ones, perhaps except for one. Rather than giving the coffin back to the funeral home afterward, we decided, in advance, to keep it. There was a great deal of metal in it and we'd paid what we considered a great deal for it. Daniel was a big believer in recycling and repurposing almost everything, and perhaps this was a hats off to him.  Perhaps our eldest son, who was completing his degree in sculpture at university could use the metal and fashion an incredible sculpture of some kind. He certainly had with other heavy large metal items. The funeral home wanted it off their property as quickly as possible after the funeral.  The day after, we secured it to one of our trucks using multiple bungee cords and covered it with a tarpaulin. As we drove the distance to the farm, periodically the tarp would blow upwards in the wind, and drivers behind us would see that we were toting a coffin. Daniel would have thought this hysterical. I remember being an odd combination of distraught and amused as they passed our truck, looking strangely at us. Why shouldn't I want the casket? I thought. We didn't yet have Daniel's ashes back. I still wasn't sure that the happenings of that week weren't a terrible nightmare.  When we got home, we placed the coffin in one of our outbuildings on its back. I was surprised to see that the pillow and lining were still intact and clean and had not been removed.
              It didn't matter how much we said that Daniel's casket didn't really have anything to do with him and how repurposing it as a sculpture would have pleased him. Our eldest son, who had originally planned to use the metal in a project was struck by lightning while closing up another wooden building with a metal roof here in August of 2011. Although he survived, he had a number of ongoing medical problems which limited his use of the welders and equipment necessary to completely take down the casket to its component parts.
            And so, an empty gray casket sits alone and waits in an empty building here on our farm, and has now for eight years.  It remains as beautiful and as clean as the day in which I first saw it. It has taken eight years for me to be able to tell you this. Perhaps 2017 is also the year in which the casket is set free to become something else other than a symbol of a very sad day indeed.

















***The University of Virginia Medical Center eventually chose to make Daniel's case a teaching one, as no clear structural cause of his passing could ever be demonstrated. Since his cause of death was theoretical, we were never billed for multiple autopsies by different pathology teams. The cause of death was surmised to be a functional cause of death, a supposed heart rhythm disturbance in a heart that appeared healthy otherwise. We learned later that this flaw of heart rhythm does run in our family, and it had to be treated by ablation in other family members.

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 half.com.   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.