Hands of healing.

Leave it to me to experience something so ordinary yet so awesome…

When Dr. Woods, the cardiothoracic surgeon, came out with the good news about mom’s open heart surgery, I found myself staring, entranced with his hands, while listening to his family report.

All I could think of as he concluded and left was that I had just shaken the hand which, minutes before, had held the very heartbeat of the woman who had made mine and touched it so many times since.

Those who know me know I never use the word awesome unless something truly is. The news was great today, but staring at the hands of a surgeon who had touched her fleshly heart then shook my hand with it minutes later was truly an awesome and unforgettable few moments.

A teaching moment.

The young kid who works the night shift where I get my 430 coffee each morning asked about my name badge: “So what exactly do you do every day?” I replied “In a nutshell, we keep people housed and fed with the lights on.” He said it sounded like a cool job. Not to miss the teaching moment, I asked in return, “So what exactly is it you do every day?” Puzzled at my question, he paused, then replied “Well, I serve coffee, snacks and things people need to get through the day and I try to keep people happy.” As I walked out, we both smiled as he realized, probably for the first time ever, that we are essentially in the same business.I hope he never looks at his job the same way again.

Talk all you want about how you’ve lived a full and meaningful life, did more good than bad, got right with God and the universe, and how you’re ready and good to go with yourself and others. 👍🏻

I suspect at that moment, when shown the light toward which we all must one day walk, all those noble words of satisfaction, peace and readiness will instantly vanish, meaningless and in vain, eagerly traded in a panic for just one more day, hour or minute to make the one change you always dreamed about but overlooked and never righted in this life, and at that point, never will.

My friend, if you’re scrambling for a reason, this is why you’re still alive.

Carpe diem.

Each new day.

Consider each new morning an open seat at a poker table. Your deal is determined by a shuffle, so accept what’s handed you with grace and the understanding that winning or losing is largely up to you. Don’t cheat, don’t count, use your best skills. Life’s not entirely a game of chance, but when it’s over the best of us smile and tip the Dealer for the chances you were given, departing the table a very rich man to begin anew tomorrow.

Love and aging.

By anyone’s count, he was seven times older but never once left her side. He was her warmth, her comfort, and the one with whom she cuddled each night and awoke to each morning. She prepared their meals and they took walks both mornings and evenings while she reminisced about the days when they were younger souls on longer journeys. Her companion and protector, together 15 years without so much as an argument, they were indeed best friends until last week when he curled up at her side never to wake again.

Lives may pass but loneliness isn’t quite as lonely when you’re old and have enjoyed a lifetime of love and loyalty with a dog.

The Time of my life

Good morning, yesterday

You wake up, and time has slipped away And suddenly it’s hard to find The memories you left behind Remember, do you remember?

It was 1975 when I was just shy of 16, counting myself lucky to have found a legally licensed friend to drive us both on double dates to sophomore prom. As with all proms, it was themed after a popular song of the time. Paul Anka was big back then and “Times of your Life” had just hit Kasey Kasem’s top 10, earning it the theme of our adolescent gala. Today at 61, single and dateless for 11 years, I heard the song again this past Sunday morning on the oldies station and sang along with all the memories it wafted up from days gone by. Back then, and as adolescents with seemingly immortal lives ahead of them often do, we thought it was all about us. We’d understood the song to be about the hope of what lied ahead of us, not of one man’s reflection backward on those experiences which had already long passed into memory.

Tinkering along in the garage as old men do, I was signing a song that brought back so many great memories of high school, while at the same time realizing it was truly a song of reflection on times and experiences long since passed. And a lot has passed indeed. Almost half a century. I thought “So what do I have to show for those 50 years?” What have been those times of my life in particular they say race through your mind like celluloid as you wave and take your final bow only to retire your sore ash self dusted to the four winds over a favorite place you once knew and remembered?

Apart from a knack for run-on sentences, a lot.

My list would first include people like my kids and grandkids, my family, my best friends, my dog, a few bosses, a few pastors, several complete strangers, all of whom might either not exist or whose lives would otherwise be quite different without having spent at least some time or interactions with me. Indeed, they represent the most significant times of my life.

Next would be circumstances. My marriage, even my divorce, my family ad agency, my drug addiction, my recovery, my work with poor seniors and the homeless, and the times I spent writing stories about all these times of my life for others to experience. Finally, I’ve spent much of my life urging my kids to “like things, and love people,” And as one who just recently gave away 95% of my possessions as part of a purge while moving my residence, I condensed all things that ever mattered at all into a 5×5 storage space, which is still more than I can take with me. I’m not terribly thankful for the things I’ve accrued over half a century. In fact, I can’t think of any item that has made any time of my life any more memorable. Honest reflection makes gratitude easy. At 61, I’m most thankful that memorable people and memorable experiences, good and bad, are all that seem to matter anymore. At 16 and self-centered with my whole life ahead of me, I never imagined that this time of my life would be the time of my life.

Good morning, yesterday.

Angels on dispatch

We never really stop worrying about our kids even when they’re adults.

It’s a lot like wearing a heart monitor that goes off at all times of the day and night alerting you to pray for at least one of them at that moment.

I just woke from a nightmare about my kids and my fatherly superstition alerted me to take pause. Of course, I can’t risk a 1am text or a call but I can always risk a prayer. They’re entirely unaware I spend these times tuning frequencies to their private channels to spy if they might be hurt, happy, worried, in harm’s way or just in secret need of something no one else may understand, save the one who’s known them since before they were born.
I’ll have no need to teach them this parental peculiarity. They’ll learn to trust this phenomenon all by themselves when we are long gone and their own are away at school, asleep down the hall, or on a midnight road of crazy drivers protected only by the angels we’ve dispatched to their mercy by knee from our midnight bedsides.

Kids may be all grown up but they’ll never outgrow our duties and responsibilities to psychically worry and silently intervene as I am, and perhaps you are, right now at this very moment.

All lies are one size.

Today was my third lie in a week that didn’t have to be.
Nobody was harmed, but my conscience has taken one hell of a beating.
Gone unchecked, lying gets a little more effortless each time.
My third lie was easier than the first, and I suspect the seventh might be easier than the third if this trend continues.
There’s no such thing as a little white lie.
All lies are one size, and none come in white.

I can’t say it was an epiphany or revelation driving to work this morning. I’ve known right from wrong the better part of my life. The worse parts, not so much.
I was tired and not up for what the day was about to unleash on me. So from the driver’s seat, planning my fourth lie with the best cough I could muster, I picked up my phone while on the freeway fastlane opting to text my boss who would certainly detect dishonesty in my voice message that I was not feeling well. One tap closer to deception with two words left to go, I threw the phone down and barked a loud, righteous yell. I won’t share the stream of disgusting terms I used to describe myself at that moment, but I was pretty convincing and feeling bad. Not bad because I was actually sick but because I was deceiving myself once again.
For me, it can’t be good enough to be a “generally honest guy.” After the decade long dark history from which I’d recently escaped, honesty in both the generals and the specifics is at the core of living sober, which for me means being aware of my insidious abilities to lie to myself and to others with convincing skill. I can no longer follow white rabbits down those dark paths.
So I broke the cycle, narrowly escaped my fourth lie, and got to work with sobriety intact. For now.
None of us knows what insidious mindsnakes will invade tomorrow’s brain. We can only hope to catch it in time without getting bitten by the lie that binds.

Today is just another day, but I have my suspicions.

A fresh beginning to a new year, a clean page on life’s calendar, a symbolic start to better intentions, clarity in focus, or maybe a simple sentimental morning to contemplate the parade route of your life. A day off work, extra time to wipe slates and imagine how the new year might unfold. Some will wake desperate for aspirin and coffee, football distractions or to clean up wild night messes before sleeping away the day’s remains from which they only recently arrived home.

But I suspect more than a sober few will be thinking deeper thoughts from time to time today. Plans for self-restraint, to be a little nicer, quit a bad habit or start one better. For today’s curious and contemplative minds the options are limitless. So, applause to those making use of this new day as a personal prompt for positive change, at least in thought, if not in deed. It’s a good day for it. Some require an external catalyst like a nodal event or an arbitrary date of a year to be propelled into deeper thoughts and richer inner lives. Shocking or startling, they shake us to our cores begging for change, forcing us once again into the awful truth: We waited for something to force our hand, but also the glorious redemption that the only difference between last year’s regrets and this year’s successes is another day, and how we use it.#LifeMeansSoMuch#LMSM

Community Champions.

Behind the scenes each day, thousands of men and women with hearts too big to contain passion for the forgotten, neglected and those living on the thinnest edge of survival, work in silence.

They toil in creative ways, collaborating with one another to help keep the underserved from drowning in hunger, homelessness and the many quicksands of poverty.

It’s a calling in which few ever considered enlisting but were once recruited through their own experiences, hardships, and indeed, the universe.

We are called to be our brother’s keepers and obey our heart like the very gift of life it is.

And on rare occasion, someone notices, thanks them, and joins in the fight.
If that someone is you, we thank you for heeding a call whose reward, though delayed, is forever and eternal. 

6Susan Pierce, Ronald K Byrnes and 4 others