Category Archives: Death

Mellow Yellow

“Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow.”

– Coldplay-

Chris Ford ‘A Foggy Empire’, United States, New York City, 5th Avenue & 20th St., Cold Spring Night

 Have you ever noticed how music reflects your mood, puts you into a specific frame of mind or just invites you to feel “something,” whatever that something may be? Today is one of those days for me.

I hate October 30th. I have to keep myself busy, too busy to think and maybe, too busy to breathe. But the music reminds me of how much I hate this date. And to go a day without music would be worse than not breathing, than today.

When I woke up this morning, I had Coldplay’s “Yellow” on the brain. It’s from their album “Parachutes” in case you were wondering. I can’t say I’m a “can’t-wait-for-the-next-release” fan of Coldplay, but I admittedly have a couple of songs from each of their albums in my music library. If this had been my record collection, I would probably have more than my fair share of albums, but gone are the days of vinyl, eh?

I wish more than anything, I were anywhere but here. I found the picture Chris Ford took (Ford is a great photographer) and it adequately describes my feelings about “today.” Rain. Walking alone down the streets of New York. Yes. There is where I would like to be. Not here. Not today.

Pops showed me the stars… and they were all yellow.  I wonder which star you are…

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Thoughts on “The Book Thief”

“A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.”
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Book Thief

Apologies for the delay in communication. I have spent quite a bit of time as of late with the new grandson. Small. Cute. Easy baby. All in all, I will give him a 10.

It was during my travels to and from my hometown to my new home I encountered “The Book Thief.” I wanted to watch the movie, but I tend to read the books prior to watching a film as films can only grasp a tenuous amount of plot-line  However, I have to say this time I took it a step further and listened to the book narrated by Allan Corduner during the long, straight drives through the plains under blue or starry skies.

I have listened to some other books on tape including “Watership Down” and “Storm Front” (Dresden files by Jim Butcher-awesome), but while both were excellent stories, this one entangled me. Zusak wrote a great novel and Mr. Corduner’s read is delightful, moving and spot-on with the German, which is a necessity in a book of this magnitude.

Set in WWII Germany, we learn about Nazi fanaticism, a Jewish fist-fighter, thievery, friendship and death. They are all intertwined in the story of a girl seeking out an existence. We learn, we laugh and we cry. We learn that death indeed has a heart.

Liesel Meminger is a character I shall not soon forget. Deep. Well-rounded. Flawed and yet still flawless. She inspires me in ways I have not yet fully realized as she is each of us in our own unique ways. How did Zusak do that?

Beyond the well-scripted plot, the word economy and the descriptions of things seen yet unseen, I found Zusak to not be a writer or an author, but a natural story-teller.  And to add to this, Allan Corduner is a BRILLIANT talent who brought to life this poignant story.

Now, there are some who have trouble getting into the book as Zusak’s writing style is unique. It flips and flops until it settles into a rhythm such as a cha-cha or something of that nature. By the end of the first hour of listening, you are well into the story and transformation has indeed begun.

I generally steer clear of writing about books I have read, but “The Book Thief” changed that for me. I hope you will take the time to delve deep into the pages or the audio-book and breathe in a fresh and inspiring look at the beautiful piece of work Zusak shared with us all.

Almost Five Years….

The older I get, the more I find myself acting like my mother or father – especially my father. This is good because even though he’s been gone for almost five years this month, I still have parts of him with me. You see, some memories have begun to dim a little and I cling to those I remember with crystal clarity.

My pops was a baseball player, umpire and minor league manager. He was with the Yankees, Braves and Brewers in various capacities over a 14 year career, yet never made it on the field in the majors. (Thank you Lou Gehrig.) I bring this up because when I was five, pops and I were in the backyard and he was teaching me how to throw and catch a ball. Apparently my aim at a young age was spot on and his catching sucked because I felled him like a giant Redwood. We didn’t play any more games after that, but I learned the inadvertent power of an accidental curve ball at an early age.

Thought: Dad’s favorite movie was “Pride of the Yankees.” He loved “Hogan’s Heroes” and couldn’t stand watching anything bloody or gory in movies or TV.

At thirteen, when I was nearing the peak of teen angst, my father morphed into a big, bad knight in shining armor. Now, he was an actual knight – bestowed on him by King Peter the Second of Yugoslavia. But this day was awesome. I had a teacher who believed yanking my hair when I got an answer wrong, spoke up/out or under my breath or even silently wished her dead was a good idea. As a result I cut my hair ridiculously short and punky (as it was the 80’s) to mitigate the damage. She actually pulled my hair out this one day and when I told pops, he marched on the fortress of that school and threatened to throw her out of her 3rd floor, un-air conditioned classroom window. She never yanked my hair again. My hero.

Thought: Pops did this one other time at his agency located near the top floor of a bank building. This led to an early “note to self” – don’t lie, cheat or try to steal your way to success.

Sixteen brought an accident on Halloween night. I BADLY burned my hands at work and the man that couldn’t deal with medical stuff sat in the room as the doctors helped heal my hands. The night he brought me home, he set a green glo-light next to the bed so I could see so as to not bang my useless appendages against anything and sat in his office outside my door for hours. He helped with a lot of things I had taken for granted.

Thought: Pops HATED purple with a passion – especially lavender. Mom and I occasionally wore it to tick him off. Purple became my favorite color.

The man that drove more than 2.5 million miles before his first accident taught me to drive. He was not a patient man and I STILL hear his voice in my head while parallel parking, breaking or backing up.

Thought: He loved Obsession cologne and I can’t ever smell it again without his face coming to my mind.

He walked me down the aisle when I was 23 and held my first daughter the following year. Eldest was soon followed by Youngest and he loved the girls in a way I couldn’t imagine until five days ago when I held my grandson for the first time. I just wanted to scream to Heaven, “Hey Pop! I get it now!”

I saw my pop slowing down, his back stooping over and his gray hair turning silver then white as time trudged on. His once big frame leaned out as he couldn’t really eat much any longer. He lived on milkshakes from Malcolm’s. I remember the day my dad became like my child and I loved him even more. I no longer took the knight for granted. It was my turn to care for and save him. But you can’t save someone from the grave.

When it came time to say goodbye, we had his friends come by hospice. My mother came. My sister Chris and her husband came. But…My oldest sister came and together we stayed with him at the hospital. We told him stories and sang to him for a couple of days. The night the nurse brought in a roll-away bed was the first night I slept in days. Dad waited until Ker and I were asleep to whisper his last breath.

I have hundreds of memories and moments throughout any given day when I suddenly do or say something that is “him.” God knows he wasn’t a perfect man nor a perfect father. He tried though and I think that’s what counts. But I wanted to share these with you because memories are better when shared.

Continue reading Almost Five Years….

Icing the Iron Horse

“For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. When you look around, wouldn’t you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine looking men as are standing in uniform in this ballpark today? That I may have been given a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”

~Lou Gehrig~

Photo Credit: Willie Zhang via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Willie Zhang via Compfight cc

Lou Gehrig was a gentle soul with a wicked sense of humor and was also a humble man. He was taken too young by a disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). As Lou died pre-“me,” I never had the opportunity to meet the baseball legend. However my father did when he was with the Yankees during Spring Training in 1936 and 1937.

Pops was a pretty good player, but never actually played a game as a first baseman. The problem? Lou Gehrig, the “Iron Horse” himself.  Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games – games where he was ejected (after receiving credit because he was already up to bat), injured (including being knocked unconscious), and ill.  But dad was in training with Lou (and Joe DiMaggio, Kemp Wicker, Frank Crosetti, Bill Dickie, Red Rolfe and other great Yanks) for two seasons before transferring to the minors.

Lou Gehrig impacted dad’s life quietly. He wanted to emulate the legend in many ways and Pops told me how Lou and Joe helped change his life not only on the diamond, but on the train rides to St. Petersburg, FL. Pops was a smoker on and off during his life. Trying to be “cool” like some of the other ball players, he was lighting a cigarette up on the train. Lou leaned over to my dad and instead of reading him the riot act, he softly explained to him, “If you keep that up, you’ll lose your wind.”

Dad kept in contact with Gehrig after leaving the Yankee organization and there is a letter tucked safely away written in 1938 or early 1939 (I can’t remember) to pops explaining Lou’s illness and that Eleanor, his wife, was taking care of him.

75 years after his death, Lou Gehrig seems to be finding himself in the spotlight again, not for his baseball prowess, but for the disease that took his life.  I’ve been watching the ice bucket challenges on social media to raise money and awareness for ALS. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or just plain Gehrig’s disease.  ALS is a neurodegenerative ailment that is as debilitating as they come to the human body and someone with ALS does NOT have a good quality of life.  Gehrig died when he was just 37 years old. You don’t have to do the challenge to help a really worthy cause. To make a donation today:  http://www.alsa.org/

If you want a weekend in, check out a movie called “Pride of the Yankees” starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig as well as real members of the Yankee organization: Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig and Bill Dickey. This was my father’s all-time favorite movie – most likely because of the representation of Lou’s character. To find out more about my father’s friend, Lou Gehrig: http://www.lougehrig.com/about/bio.html

Neither dad nor Lou are here today to witness the ice bucket challenge. I personally think both are probably sitting in a dugout in Heaven looking down and wondering what we’re all doing. However, I just know that as silly as dad would think the concept is, he’d agree it’s a brilliant piece of marketing in bringing awareness and funding to ALS research.

If I Cry… Just Lend a Shoulder & Some Tissue

“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Return of the King” 

Well, it has been a while since I have written. Congested into the past six months has been a turbulence and turmoil I had not quite anticipated. Had there been a glimmer of the mayhem to come, I might have been better suited to deal with the pandemonium. Alas, I never caught a glimpse of it. Thus, the delay in writing.  My most humble apologies. 

Toward the end of December I spoke of the pending move. Yoda was transferred to the Metroplex and so it began. I could go into all the gory details, but seriously, there isn’t enough time and carpal tunnel would kick in long before I’m done. But here’s the gist: 

We sold the house, which wasn’t even on the market, in about a month open to close. The buyer’s lender insisted the close date be moved up two weeks. Because of the freakin’ weather, we were having the outside painted and the little house reroofed almost simultaneously. The paint wasn’t even dry on the final inspection. And that doesn’t even include the other little repairs that were made during that time. 

What Yoda didn’t bring to DFW was thrown into storage during the sale of the house. The remainder of the items was thrown in literally at 8:51pm the day before we closed on the house. The storage unit locked down at 9:00pm. I have a feeling I’ll never figure out all the things that were thrown out, given to charity or are tossed in boxes here and there. (And as a side note – paying rent on storage just irks me. I want a house again. Obviously I’m feeling a bit materialistic. Maybe I need to get over that.) 

So the kids moved into an apartment – the lease was signed a few days before closing on the house. Begging, borrowing and stealing came to mind when it came to the pet deposits as two of the dogs are there and one is in the Metro.  Seriously… why are pet deposits so blooming high? 

Meanwhile my sister-in-law/sister of my heart entered the hospital over 350 miles from her home because she had to undergo a more rigid cancer treatment – diagnosed in November with leukemia.  My mom-in-law for the most part moved with her to Dallas and moved into her hospital room and helped her so much as my SIL was so weak and miserable. I mean nursing staff can only do so much, eh? This started mid-March. 

Birthdays and holidays came and went and I still hadn’t heard back from the job I applied for.  You heard that right. I applied for one. It’s a specialized field and the hiring process is incredibly long. So long that I didn’t go down for an interview etc for a while. However, after all this, that and the other they must have thought I could do the job because I started the second week in June. Normally, this is cause to celebrate; however, I LOVED my old job. I had planned to retire from it. This obviously didn’t happen. So while I’m mourning my old job, I move down on Sunday and start work three days later Wednesday 6-11-14. 

Obviously God had his reasons for the timing of the madness.

My Yoda, dearest Yoda… He was a half-match for a bone marrow transplant. In the entire registry, he and his brother were the only ones. The transplant took place just days before he helped me move.  The process made him feel “blah” to say the least. But he has the biggest heart and I’m richly blessed. 

But my SIL didn’t improve much after the transplant. Apparently you have to bide your time and wait for the cells to kick in. Meanwhile, my MIL still stayed with her and cared for her. She only left the hospital for maybe a total of 2-3 weeks between mid March and June. Wow. She’s such an amazing woman. 

Saturday the 14th we went to see her in the hospital after going to church. Darling SIL didn’t look so hot. I mean, sporting a hospital gown theoretically could be a sexy look. On cancer patients, not so much. However, her bald head was beautiful and her smile still so sweet. But you could tell something wasn’t quite right. She was rather “out of it” and slept most of the time we were there. 

The long story short is the excrement hit the proverbial fan. I don’t remember how many calls and text messages flew back and forth over the next week, but too many to count. There were prayers lifted for my SIL all around the world. But she lost her fight to that ugly disease called cancer on Monday, June 23rd. Now the texts and calls fly because of funeral arrangements and all I can think about is that I just want to pick up the phone and hear her voice. I want to get her advice on some things and I can’t do that. I feel bloody selfish. I feel bloody miserable.  

Tomorrow I leave for “home” again – a quick trip. My new supervisor allowed me the day off if I work next Friday (which I was supposed to have off), but I’m not allowed to use vacation days, sick leave etc for the first six months of employment. And a SIL doesn’t apparently qualify for any kind of bereavement leave. I don’t know that I understand, but there’s no arguing the point.

I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I am in a pretty dark place right now and I have a feeling it’s going to be a bit before I’m feeling “normal” again – whatever that is.  I believe I will feel better after my SIL is laid to rest and we all gather to celebrate her life.  For now, all I can do is rely on my Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, to carry me when I’m weak and lift my heart from the darkness to the light. 

May this letter from my new home find you in a better place than I am emotionally at this time. Always…. C

Deliverance

Operation Overlord.

That was the code name for the allied invasion on France – one of the the largest amphibious military assaults in history. It began on June 6th and wasn’t an overnight victory. The battle lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, but in the end the Allies were liberated from Western Europe and Nazi Germany’s control.

It’s been almost 70 years ago since some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five different beaches on the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region.  Just before the assault, the Allied forces conducted a huge deception campaign to mislead the Nazi forces about the intended invasion target. They called it Operation Bodyguard. Months of planning went into this. It worked.

President Dwight Eisenhower was only a U.S. Army General at the time of the Normandy Invasion, but Supreme Commander over the Allied Forces. Think about it. Wow. He rallied his troops and spoke with members of the 101st Airborne paratroopers before the planes and gliders left. (Great photo of this moment btw.)  Paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines during the night when their friends and fellow soldiers assaulted the beaches at dawn. Soldiers braved the pounding surf, crossed the beaches and moved over the seawalls to face the enemy.  Finally the beachhead was secured and they continued on. Men were wounded. Men lost their lives. All in the name of Freedom.

Freedom. Seven letters with a meaning more powerful than most other words known to man.

June 6th, 1944.

As the greatest generation becomes fewer in number and history books become filled with “more important” things, this and future generations don’t /won’t understand the breadth and depth of this date in history.

It’s a date that NEEDS to be remembered.

Without this combined military effort, the world would be a different place.

It was a day of deliverance.

Is There Hope in the Middle of Hell?

“There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.”

~ Leo F. Buscaglia ~

It looks like a scene from the middle of Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran – a bombed out warzone.  But instead of bombs, it was an EF4 tornado that ripped through the middle of America and desimated the lives of hundreds of people in Oklahoma. Entire housing blocks were razed, cars mangled beyond recognition and what remains are scraps of the lives of normal communities on what started out as a normal day.

Among the missing and the dead, children. These children went to school at Plaza Towers Elementary School; they laughed and ran and played on a playground that exists no more. Rescue workers worked through the night and are still working today to find those children who have not been located in the rubble.  I choose to believe there is hope for these children and their frantic parents.

People across the United States are pouring out their wallets, their closets and their homes to help those affected by this disaster. Facebook pages have been created to help people locate property that was dropped miles away from where they were originally housed. Photographs and documents that landed on the ground as so-called falling debris up to 100 miles away (at this point,) might look like detritus but are in fact irreplaceable artifacts or documents for somebody.   Facebook, Petfinder and other organizations are helping people find their furry babies and reunite them with their families.

Here are some of the community pages set up on Facebook at this time:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=o.477306085682757&type=1#!/MooreTornadoLostAndFound  -Moore Tornado Lost and Found

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=o.477306085682757&type=1 – Photos of Moore Oklahoma Tornado Pets Lost & Found

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=o.477306085682757&type=1#!/MooreTornadoRelief – Moore Tornado Relief

And here’s the link for Petfinder. http://www.petfinder.com/ 

There are many other pages on Facebook designated to help those in Moore, Oklahoma try to rebuild their lives. There are also many more organizations around the area and the country taking donations.

Everyone is talking about how so many have died or were injured.  It could have been worse. Much worse.  Moore has 36 sirens in their community. These sirens in Moore, Oklahoma saved many lives.  Residents had 16 minutes to find shelter. If you haven’t experienced the process, the sirens sound once the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning. They serve as a signal to turn on a television or radio to get more detailed information about the storm and instructions on how to seek shelter.  Most people that live in Tornado Alley know how it works. We are taught from a very young age what that sound is – what it means. 

I’ve lived in Tornado Alley, which encompasses 12 states, my entire life. As a child, the tornado drills in school prepared us for what “could” happen, but hasn’t occured here in Amarillo as long as I have been alive. I always assume when the sirens sound danger is moments away.  This is a danger I pray doesn’t happen any time soon.  And as the threat of more storms lay on the horizon, I pray none find their way to Moore, a town of 55,000 that has been decimated twice now by mother nature. I pray these survivors find peace and hope in the middle of hell.