Thursday, August 27, 2009

It Just Isn't the Same Anymore

Somehow, when someone dies, it just isn’t the same for me any more. I suppose you could say it is because as I reach my advanced years I become so much more aware of the personalities I have known or heard about for most of my life who are now beginning to leave us. As a child I remember my parents remarking about the passing of some public figure, be it a movie star, politician or local celebrity that everyone knew, and saying how it seemed that all the “good” people were leaving us. The older I get, the more I am aware of those same feelings. It is like the pool of friends is getting smaller every day. That is not to say that I have a personal relationship with the more public figures. It is just that due to who they were they influenced my life and my world in some way that made them seem personal to me. Unfortunately, I often don’t realize that until they are gone.

The night of August 25, 2009 the nation lost one its most ardent exponents for social justice, human rights and equality for all—Senator Edward Moore Kennedy. I wanted to write my own thoughts in tribute to him. The newspapers, TV and radio all echo the voices of those much more articulate than I so I let the notion slip by. Then, this morning I received the email from our President, Barack Obama, reflecting his feelings and those of Michelle. As far as I am concerned, what he said fits for me. So, I am sharing it here for any of my readers who may not have seen it.

Daniel -- Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy. For nearly five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts. His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives -- in seniors who know new dignity; in families that know new opportunity; in children who know education's promise; and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just, including me. In the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle. His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth and good cheer. He battled passionately on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintained warm friendships across party lines. And that's one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy. I personally valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've benefited as President from his encouragement and wisdom. His fight gave us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you and goodbye. The outpouring of love, gratitude and fond memories to which we've all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives. For America, he was a defender of a dream. For his family, he was a guardian. Our hearts and prayers go out to them today -- to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family. Today, our country mourns. We say goodbye to a friend and a true leader who challenged us all to live out our noblest values. And we give thanks for his memory, which inspires us still.
Sincerely, President Barack Obama

Friday, August 21, 2009

Crabby Old Man

As I was searching through my writing resource files I came across the following item. It was sent to me quite some time ago as one those emails making the rounds. I don’t know why I saved it, but as I look at it now I seem to reflect on it more personally than I might have at first. I remember as my grandparents aged and as my mother reached the 100-year mark. I know of others who also found themselves in declining years with the declining abilities that come with the territory.

When I checked the story with Snopes, an Internet hoax tracker, I found it to be a well worn story with a number of different starting points, but not without a sense of authenticity. I decided that, for me, it didn’t make any difference where it came from. The story is worth repeating.


When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Tampa, Florida, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.One nurse took her copy to Missouri. The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation (here) has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

What do you see nurses?......... What do you see?
What are you thinking.......... when you're looking at me?
A crabby old man......... not very wise,
Uncertain of habit......... with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food......... and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice......... 'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice......... the things that you do.
And forever is losing......... A sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not......... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding......... The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?......... Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse......... you're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am......... As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding......... as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten......... with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters......... who love one another.

A young boy of Sixteen......... with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now......... a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty......... my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows......... that I promised to keep.

At Twenty-Five, now......... I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide......... And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty......... My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other......... With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons......... have grown and are gone,
But my woman's beside me......... to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more,......... Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children......... My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me......... My wife is now dead.
I look at the future......... I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing......... young of their own.
And I think of the years.......... And the love that I've known.

I'm now an old man......... and nature is cruel.
'Tis jest to make old age......... look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles......... grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone......... where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass......... A young guy still dwells,
And now and again......... my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys......... I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living......... life over again.

I think of the years--all too few......... gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact......... that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people......... open and see
Not a crabby old man.....Look closer....see......... ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. We will all, one day, be there, too!

The best and most beautiful things of this world can't be seen or touched. They must be felt by the heart. God Bless.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Not By Chance -- Again!

Just as I posted the previous article on “Not By Chance” which discussed air accidents and the question of why some persons are involved in the disasters and some seem to escape them, there was the announcement of the crash over the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey of a small airplane and tour helicopter. The irony in this story is that once again a woman was interviewed who had just missed the helicopter flight that crashed. She said the experience gave her a “second chance” to appreciate her life. Almost every day there are experiences like this occurring.

If you have a Facebook account check out my “Notes” where you will see a comment by Raven Dana that further discusses the subject of chance and coincidence.

Not By Chance

Right after the heroic and safe crash landing of US Air Flight 1549 I wanted to write an article about why people end up having experiences like that. I jotted some notes and left it for later. I guess today is the “later” I was waiting for, so here it is.

For most of my life there has been an aspect of my personal philosophy that has stood out. Somewhere along the line I developed the belief that there are no coincidences. Nothing happens by chance. There is no happenstance and there are—now brace yourself—no innocent bystanders!

Now that I have your attention, I hope you will read on to find out how I came to this belief and perhaps you will consider it for your own personal philosophy.

We have all heard and read the story about US Air Flight 1549 that crashed into the Hudson River in New York City with not one fatality. We have seen the heroic story of Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, the captain of that fateful flight. There is no question that it was a miracle flight with “miracle workers” on board. Did you also see the story of the young man who was supposed to be on that flight, but changed his plans? One may ask, “Why did he decide to change his plans? Why wasn’t he on that flight?” We also wonder why everyone on that flight survived. We do not know the specific answer to those questions, but we do know that for every disaster that occurs there seems to always be someone who avoids it in some way.

On June 30, 1956 a United Airlines plane and a Trans World Airlines plane met in a mid-air collision when over the Grand Canyon in Arizona, resulting in the crash of both planes and 128 fatalities. In terms of loss of life, it was at the time the worst aviation disaster in history, and would be a catalyst for sweeping changes in the regulation of flight operations over the USA. At the time I was preparing to host the International Youth of Unity Conference with over 350 teen attendees. One of the young men arrived at the conference to tell us that he was supposed to be on that flight. At the last minute he discovered the flight was delayed a half hour and he could take another flight though it would arrive at Kansas City later than his original flight. We all asked him why he would take a flight that meant he would arrive later than he originally planned. He offered no special insight to answer the question.

This young teen later entered Unity Seminary and became a successful minister and a long-time friend. I particularly remember discussing this event with him. We were “positive thinking” persons and naturally took the position that he was somehow guided to avoid that flight. That his life took this different course was not due to any obvious outer reasons. Yet how can we know whose life, besides his own, was touched by his ministry. Could this have been the reason he was not on the doomed flight?

A friend shared the story of Gerry McNamara who was on USA flight 1549. You can find the story in several places on line as well as this one:;read=140532.

I was particularly impressed with the ending of his story that follows.

There is a great deal to be learned including: Why has this happened to me? Why have I survived and what am I supposed to do with this gift? For me, the answers to these questions and more will come over time, but already I find myself being more patient and forgiving, less critical and judgmental.

For now I have 4 lessons I would like to share:

1. Cherish your families as never before and go to great lengths to keep your promises.
2. Be thankful and grateful for everything you have and don't
worry about the things you don't have.
3. Keep in shape. You never know when you'll be called upon to
save your own life, or help someone else save theirs.
4. When you fly, wear practical clothing. You never know when
you'll end up in an emergency or on an icy wing in flip flops and
pajamas and of absolutely no use to yourself or anyone else.

There is power in our lives that somehow guides us beyond our own limited understanding. As we seek to understand that presence and power, I am convinced we will always be in the right place at the right time and for the right reasons.