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Coronavirus, dying well, Faith, featureed, L.L. Larkins, op-ed, Psalm 4, Psalm Hymns, Replete

Raise Up the Scientists & Raise Up the Faithful!

By L. L. Larkins, author of the Psalm Hymns

Have you been thoroughly confused by tuning in and hearing paradoxes like this in the news?

  • “Rest and be good to yourself.”
    • “Keep busy. Excercise. Be productive.”
  • “Post cartoons on social media for the depressed. Laughter helps people cope.”
    • “We’ll go down in history as the nation who died laughing, singing, and eating-with rolls of toilet paper stored in our shower stalls.”
  • “Together, we will get through this.”
    • “The only way to get through this is to shut our borders and take care of ourselves.”
  • “The President let the wrong people go. Losing these valuable assets put us in jeopardy of personnel, policies, and programs”
    • “No-one could possibly be prepared for a once in a generation pandemic of unknown origins.”

If you are like me (and I know I am) these soundbites provide me an inspiration to humble myself, to pray, and to research. When I find a line on an answer, I like to enter the fray with the new understanding.  There are others who have history, many facts, and a great understanding yet, they prefer to keep their own counsel.

Yet, a Great Leveling Factor is Occurring

A leveling factor is occurring in our midst and among the nations of the world. Consider a few of these.

  • The smart ones are deprived of answers bringing them low. 
  • The defenseless and poor are watching their organic gardens and farms and ranches providing feasts to eat in safety.
  • The military cannot see the enemy.
  • The wealth of the rich does not help them survive.

The real question is, while world administrators gain access to humanity by following and listening in, and as they start to implement long-lasting laws and social regulations, will believers offer the hand of their Creator-Sustainer to others who need to know their Creator-Sustainer, or will they capitulate to empty soundbites and dead-end platitudes? I’ve found a few more. . .

  • “Alcohol is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Peroxide is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Bleach is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Bleach was invented to kill American troops in WWII.”
  • “Vinegar and lavender are the best sanitizers.”
  • “The virus is the Evangelical’s fault because they don’t believe in science.” 
  • “It’s China’s fault.”

Science has now shown that Covid-19 is a protein, rather than a virus. Thus, vinegar does not kill it. Hand-washing and other cleaners are still the best defense. Also, do not shake out plastic bags, paper bags, or clothing because the proteins can enter and live in the air for up to three hours.

We can only Give what we Know. 

Here’s the funnel. People can only give what we possess and know to be true. We can only know what we have submitted to learn.  We can only learn what we’ve been taught.  We can only be taught if we have teachers.

But, even scientists disagree.

  • “The mystery protein properties of the virus DNA is bad news.”
  • “There’s a patent on the virus.  Only man-made things can be patented.”
  • “There could be a resurgence.”
  • “Don’t take the anti-virus vaccine.”
  • “We’ve got to follow the science.”

Sometimes in our home, we pray for those we love.  Sometimes we pray for just ourselves. Sometimes we pray for the world.  Today, we prayed that the research would increase and scientific answers would be found. We also prayed for faith to increase. And, yet we continue to hear about wild ends of the spectrum.

  • “They should open every political meeting with prayer.”
  • “A third of the world could perish.”
  • “My loved one went to heaven this morning.”
  •  “Those who praise the Lord will be spared.”
  • “Christians have a greater rate of illness because they run to help and they aren’t afraid of death.”
  •  “Isolate and protect your elderly.”
  • “Anyone over 80 will not get standard medical care.”

So, we know that life will change soon.  It has already changed. Look around. Make a list. It is changing moment by moment like it did on 9/11. Like it did with the Spanish Flu (sic) and the Black Plague and is doing in Africa with the plague of locusts. How could a global pandemic not change the world as we know it? 

We are being humbled.  But, as we are being humbled, why do only a few look up from our shoes and stand in confidence?

An expert criticized the current administration in America today: We are not looking into the distance. We are only looking at the two feet in front of us in the headlights.

Maybe we are only looking at our own wallets and our own stockpiles.

But, how about this form of modern Palm Sunday church service announced on the news?

“A church provided their community paper bags of stuffed Easter eggs for the children with no human interaction.” Some say, “Resurrection Day is not Easter. Easter is a celebration of the goddess of fertility.” Others ask, “What harm is there in sugary treats and celebrating Easter egg hunts?” It is easy to throw up your hands!

There is no-one good like God.  We can only hope to be faithful in a time of trouble because of the faithfulness shown to us by someone gone before. Has someone offered compassion and wisdom to you? Practice it. Offer these gifts to someone else who needs them.

Have you only known bad examples and poor models of nurture in your life? Do the opposite. Do what your heart is wooing you to do. Maybe it isn’t even about serving others first.

The Biggest Answer to this Life has Been-Always Will Be-Walking with God.

There is a fountain of living water from which you can drink. The water originates from the Source of Life!

When we accept the age-old story that there is a Power in the highest heaven, seated on His throne Who searched throughout the world for righteousness, and seeing none, He sent kindness and healing for us by His Son’s death to take upon Himself our lawful punishment of death. After the crucifixion, Christ descended into hell and freed the captives there, and then He ascended into heaven to mediate for us and offer continuing salvation and eternal life for anyone who believes in this substitution for the forgiveness of their sins. 

When the Judge Himself provides a Substitute for a Convicted Man’s Sentence

Yes, we should sit up and listen, but we should also be humbled when the judge allows for an innocent substitute to receive the forty lashes we deserve. Why would we care? Because the substitute-volunteer of the judge’s own son.  I personally, cannot imagine any judge or father allowing such a thing unless the judge had made the law, underscored the punishment, and had the power over life and death in order to raise up his son from the grave.

Psalm 4 Try singing to the tune: DAY BY DAY and with Each Passing Moment 

Yes, the Lord has set apart the faithful,
For Himself, the Lord will hear my call.    

Oh my soul, you tremble, but be careful;

Chill your anger, be direct and still.
On your bed, reflect on your condition;        

Offer up your righteous sacrifice!
Trust the Lord, entrust to Him the outcome,

Trust the journey for He holds your life.

Many doubt and savor speculation:

“Who can show us any lasting good?”
Now, look on with favor, Lord, and save us,

Evidence of this residing joy.

My own heart knows deep resilient laughter,

Introduced by Your creative play.
This is joy much better than their feasting,

That their grain and harvest wines convey.

I will rest and I will dream reclining,

Peacefully, in sleep, I am restored;
For I know that You alone are faithful,

You’re without exception, Lord of Lords.

This sweet safety isn’t circumstantial,

For Your care is night and day supreme;

Making me, Your servant, live in safety,

You renew my life, increasing peace.

(David’s lament for evening worship with strings, verses 2-4)

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adaption, Author tools and hacks, clickbait, Faith, featureed, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, ingenuity, op-ed, Soothing Rain

“Oh, I Need That!” Clickbait

Media Alert!

0September 4, 2019 Reprinted with editions

By permission of Capture Books co-author, Sue Summers

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:2 (The Message)

“Oh, I need that!”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Advertising is ubiquitous! Indeed, it’s everywhere! The average American sees 3000-5000 ads per day. Think about it! That doesn’t mean just TV commercials… it counts every form, including signs as you are driving down the street, pop-up ads on the computer, brand names on clothing, notices on buses, upcoming event reminders in bathroom stalls, etc. Every day we’re bombarded with messages that intend to direct our buying, thinking, and actions.

And so are our children and teens.

Our culture today is overrun with ever more invasive means of getting messages to us. In September of 2015, BBC reporter, Ben Frampton introduced the Changing Face of Journalism as clickbait from the outset of any news article. Technology is being utilized in new ways that impact our daily lives and attract our eyeballs to messages. Perhaps you have been a  “victim” of clickbait.

“Clickbait consists of attention-grabbing headlines used for Web content to lure readers into clicking on normally uninteresting content. Many websites use clickbait as a mechanism to gain popularity via higher click-through rates. Clickbait is characterized by a highly enticing headline with a hyperlink that, when clicked, reveals a website that has content that is not nearly as interesting as the headline. Clickbait is therefore considered to be a strategy to increase the number of views to a particular Web page.” (Techopedia.com)

Photo by Hope Aye on Pexels.com

Have you read clickbait headlines such as,

“Lose 20 pounds in 20 days! New miracle pill!”

“Which Hollywood couple is giving away millions?”

“Seniors: stop paying property tax! Learn this easy strategy now!”

Sometimes these headlines immediately redirect a reader to a different domain. They are simply fishing hooks.

Buzzfeed alone regularly attracts more than 10 million unique users in a single day. 

Buzzfeed can bring strong returns for careful users, but it has also created expensive traps for the unsuspecting.

Bloggers often use clickbait to earn their influencer income through affiliate marketing. However, promoting affiliate products can easily distract not only a blogger’s readership, but also the hopeful content blogger from the central purpose of his or her blog.

Products are not the only thing being sold through clickbait.

Personal information is transferred through every click made to the collectors and analyzers of these products and services. This fact can be used positively when you are able to grow a base of contacts to use for legitimate business and kingdom purposes.

A darker morass of reasons others may use clickbait.

When a woman clicks on a piece of clothing or sleepwear, she may find herself next inundated with new ads for women of her age and size in sultry and lewd poses. When a boy or girl clicks on an ad, it is not unusual to discover advertisements for games, adventures, political ads, pornography, phishing sites to military operations, sign up sheets, edgy books and other age-monetized bait popping up on tomorrow’s online screens.

Because religious advertisements are considered a hate-speech liability to fan bases, it is not a Christian ad we can count on seeing unless the advertiser has taken pains to identify only easily recognized Christian buyers acceptable to the marketing host.

Our children need to be introduced to this marketing strategy so they are aware of the intentionality and purpose of these alluring headlines.

And then there’s location-based marketing.

Have you received a text message from a store just as you were driving near it?

Location-based marketing (LBM) typically takes advantage of the geolocation of a customer (usually via a GPS-enabled device) and uses these techniques… to send personalized and relevant messages at the right place, at the right time to the right person.” (www.martechadvisor.com/articles/geolocation/how-location-based-marketing-will-disrupt-marketing-in-2019)

Does this CEO’s statement bother you? “Augmenting location with data about user behavior patterns enables a brand to create more timely, customized user engagement.” (Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, CEO, Connecthings)

More technology, more knowledge about each person’s consumer habits and personal preferences, more desire to sway your thinking, buying, and actions, and lo and behold! GPS-based marketing!

We all need to raise our awareness of “Peeping Tom” marketers and interfering corporations. If you recently looked at e-bikes on Amazon for a possible purchase, and then you were suddenly accosted by pop-up ads for e-bikes on Facebook, websites, and online games… it wasn’t a coincidence!

Advertising has come a long way, baby! No doubt there are more intrusive techniques being created right now, with the ultimate goal of saturating your life with appealing hard-to-ignore ads.

God has told us to be ever vigilant. We need to be dealing with life with “eyes wide open”.

So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?

Photo by Kjell Kuehn on Pexels.com
  • Discussion is crucial. Talk with them about why advertising is part of our daily lives. Ask, “Where do you see ads?”
  • Discuss both the benefits and the downside of advertising. Ask, “Why do you think advertising works?”
  • Ask, “Is the accumulation of possessions enough as the purpose of a life?”
  • Ask, “What resources are available to create useful click ads for kingdom purposes? Do you have a service or a product for which you would like to design a click ad to help others?”

The world says you are what you own. Our treasures (material possessions) can own us. Matthew 6:21 states: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV)

Philippians 3:14 is a bold statement: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

Stay on top of this situation, be creative, and help young people keep their eyes on the prize!

//

Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!

Her website is: www.MediaAlert.org

Sue can be reached at: Sue@MediaAlert.org

breath of joy, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, Kathy Joy, op-ed

Chocolates to Knives

Kathy Joy, Author of Winter Whispers

February 12, 2020

Some Dove chocolates have been lurking in my desk drawer at the office; I’ve been able, somehow, to resist them. But today is different. Today, as the calendar marches inevitably toward Valentine’s Day, my resolve is weak.

So today I’ve opened the little foil packaging and here’s what the inside message says:

“Believe in those you love.”

And just like that – a flood of memories leaked from my heart. Memories of my own sweetheart, Roger Hoffner, who died way too soon.

I believed in him.

And because I carry his memory like a treasure, I still believe in him – in the present tense.

Roger grew up in a time when boys admired men who wore leather gloves to work and tucked knives into their pockets to use when needed. He wanted to emulate them.

He was raised in a country swath of America that believed in ruggedness and self-sufficiency. He learned, by example, that you don’t toss something in the trash just because it quits working – you figure out how to fix it and you take the time to do it right.

He grew up in a time when bicycle skeletons were salvaged from junk yards; kids learned how to dismantle them and rebuild them to their own specifications: banana seat, high bars, squeeze horns and pedal brakes.

Living as a kid in the green rolling hills of Northwest Pennsylvania, Roger worked odd jobs for uncles in exchange for a hot meal and maybe a game of poker. He learned to drive tractor and toss hay bales into the mow, long before he was driving a car.

One of Roger’s most prized possessions was his pocket knife. I’ve kept it in my jewelry box.

That little 3-blade wonder came out when the girls got Barbie Dolls at Christmas time, the toys impossibly ensconced in those hard plastic packages.

The small but capable knife was used on our farm to:

  • cut twine,
  • fix a wooden latch,
  • remove a splinter,
  • break the ice on the horse’s buckets,
  • shorten a piece of tack when saddling up and once,
  • to remove gum from our oldest daughter’s hair.

I saw him:

  • slice a watermelon,
  • sharpen a pencil,
  • open a can, and
  • cut bait from the fishing line.

I often saw him cleaning his fingernails with the smallest blade.

Eventually, as his own nephews grew responsible enough, Roger started gifting little pocket knives to them so they’d be ready for any eventuality.

Each of our daughters also received a pocket knife when the time was right.

I fondly remember their papa cutting reeds by our pond with his knife, to fashion them into organic musical instruments for the girls. They held the long green leaves “just so” and blew through their thumbs and fingers to render nature’s finest music.

The sound came out something like chirping crickets mixed with bird warbling – it was simply beautiful.

The pocket knife, over the years, came to mean much more than simply a handy little tool. It represented a hearty resourcefulness. A hard-scrabble work ethic, a readiness for just about any situation.

I spoke with another guy who carries one, and he told me he’d attended a concert once and was horrified when the security guard confiscated the tool and tossed it carelessly into a garbage bin.

My friend fished his pocket knife out of the bin and left the venue; he was not going to lose a lifelong companion over a one-time event, so he went outside and people-watched while his wife enjoyed the music inside the arena.

That’s how strongly men of a former generation feel about their pocket knives, and that’s how strongly Roger felt about his, too.

I miss him.

Roger’s own pocket knife, a prized possession and heirloom.

I carry Roger’s memory in my heart. I will forward his legacy to my son-in-law. On his birthday coming up, I believe I will gift him Roger’s trusty pocket knife.

I wouldn’t want Nick to find himself in a situation and not be prepared. Especially when the day comes that he takes his own kids fishing and needs to cut some bait.

adaption, Author tools and hacks, Faith, ingenuity, Laura Bartnick, op-ed

Ingenuity Colors a Wall

By Laura Bartnick
Managing Partner, Capture Books

During the holidays, I had the opportunity to host the inventor of a well-received artists’ pastel, the Terry Ludwig Pastels and his lovely wife in my home.  I learned how his creative need for widening a small array of pastel colors to vastly more colors begat an ingenuity to create them himself.

For Terry, learning how to mix and shape these new pastels for personal use led to bulk mixes of the pastel shaped chalks and also to the business of selling them to other artists. Soon, the success he received outgrew his ability to paint and to run the pastel business. Fortunately, in retirement, Terry’s son, Geoff, continues to run the family business.

INGENUITY COLORS THIS WALL

Soon after, another company came to my attention, an innovative and ingenious company that actually grew in lean times when other companies gave way to the competition.

Braun Brush Company is one of America’s oldest family-owned industrial brush manufacturers. From the start, Emanuel Braun, a German immigrant, implemented handmade, quality manufacturing techniques to produce brushes as effective household tools. They became popular.  Who doesn’t need a variety of brushes, right?

However, at the turn of the century when the industrial revolution started, the factory, like most small manufacturing businesses, fell on hard times. Mass production by machine, whether inferior in quality or not, overwhelmed them. Authors and publishers might relate to the phenomenon as they experienced the mass marketing of self-published books took over the marketplace.

Again in the 50s, when China began mass production of common household items to America, Braun, could have given up production of his homemade brushes.

pexels-photo-45059
Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

Instead, Braun began identifying a person at a time needing one unique brush. He could still fill that market of one each time he designed a unique brush making his mark up, because the machines were making multiples for the masses, not unique needs. Finding one-of-a-kind niches, inventing brushes for commercial institutions such as NASA and nuclear plants for cleaning silos, sustained Braun’s brush business.

Braun cylinder brushREINVENTING THE WHEEL – A GOOD INVESTMENT?

Artisans and business people are often warned not to waste time or resources in trying to reinvent the wheel. In this instance,  I’ve learned the opposite is true. It helps to be willing to reinvent the wheel for different purposes and vehicles.  Thinking about this, it may be common sense that the same wheel would not suit all purposes, nor does the same brush.

Braun understood that not all designs were for all people, so he turned the tables and specialized. Ingenious. Sometimes it isn’t the quantities, but the value of rarity. Due to the improvisation and determination of the family owners and managers, Braun continues to design, craft, and sell brushes in new markets.

I have discovered, time and time again, that one person may be a visionary while others must get on board with the business sense, varieties of production needs, or sales in order to make the business succeed. Each person must use ingenuity to succeed in creating a full picture from the puzzle pieces.

NOT EVERY CREATED THING IS PRODUCED FOR ALL

Some people mass-produce their art for those who decorate personal spaces with reproduced poster art printed on less quality paper, sold, and appreciated en mass, ie. think the paperback novel or Kindle readers.

Some people want to see their own work up on the wall, ie. think the vantage press hardcovers or those who use their books for establishing a legacy.

Some only want to produce enough work to give gifts to friends, club members, and business associates.  Others need to make a living and are able to gain the aid of professionals to either become a classic household name in a genre or form.

In readers as in the art world, there are those who collect, those who invest in local artists and masters.  You understand, if you have an original signed and dated piece from a local artist, author, or a master in any era, it is safe to say that only those who come into your space will likely see it.

Like showing off a beloved library, an original art piece may be the dictating factor for how the rest of the space is decorated and furnished.

KEEP UP WITH HUMAN APPETITES

Finding and selling to the markets basically means that the creator has discovered a way to feed someone’s appetite. It comes down to that.

It’s great to create new stories and new things, but there are some things that are universal patterns and needs requiring  some pattern of format or reformatting. This is true in writing a widely read book.

A novice author dreams of seeing his or her book mass-produced. For me, when the self-publishing phenomenon happened, when all manner of marketing and social networking advice overwhelmed me, I floundered and moved into low gear. The transformation of the bookselling industry was about to spit out the hobbyists from the author-entrepreneurs. And, I wasn’t ready to give up.  In digging in my heels, I had a lot to learn.

One of the things I learned related to finding a niche of readers, and describing my book as the answer to their appetite for discovering the source of creativity and learning to follow a true pattern of success.

In 2020, when I approved the final revision of my book, Welcome to the Shivoo!, I smiled thinking, “That’s a book I want to buy and read myself!”

Authors and publishers aim for more readers and merrier times. Whether this dream becomes fact, real art always comes from the heart. When an artisan believes in his or her process and skill, adapting ideas to reproduce stories in a bigger way and by a preferable means becomes real-world work.

What a delicious assurance.

 

Occasionally, authors believe they have written their only masterpiece.  With the work and expense required to establish themselves, it feels unlikely that another manuscript so heartfelt and well-researched will ever pour from their fingertips again.  They want their books to be mass-produced, and when at first this fails to happen, spirits fall in chorus like a requiem.

It’s simply the excitement and pathos of a first book singing out a delicious moment. But, there is a whole new career awaiting.

Getting a book published produces a bell-curve of an overwhelming high and extreme low of emotion before the reality of the artisan’s business work ethic sets in. However, it is unfounded to think that new inspiration can never spurt to the surface again considering the wellspring of ingenuity contained in the life events of any artisan.

Imagine logo Capture Books_smallWhen a writer has found one passion, another passion will likely emerge parallel to the appetites sparking at the time. An opportunity to produce a sequel or a similar brand of book will begin to tug at a sleeve. The question is, will the creator accept being the vessel in the future? Will the creator continue to find the hope and motivation as Braun found to prepare for a future society, to accept this new manuscript in the new language of a new people?

I like to keep a notebook, camera, and recorder nearby to document the interesting things that pass through my life so that I may one day adapt them into new art, or writing, or sales systems.

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Making investments of time, making new connections, encouraging and celebrating old friends, building a stack of different contact lists, figuring out new sales taxes, new applicable laws and trends, learning software and state of the art sciences, showing up to present at libraries and social clubs, and learning the ropes of publicity, are they worth the effort to you?

Every day, you and I are just like Emanuel Braun who was beckoned and wooed by life’s need to survive in New York’s transitioning society and the crux of needed creativity. You cannot blame your competitors who found a rung on the ladder before you did.  Learn from them. You cannot hold customers captive without new products. Keep inventing.

You and I are the ones who must continue to get gritty, work late nights and early mornings, research, edit, barter, and train.

Be Braun.

adaption, dying well, elder care, family caregiving, ingenuity, literary, Lynn Byk, Mister B, op-ed, winter

The Pinch

Lynn Byk, Author
Mister B:  Living with a 98-Year-Old Rocket Scientist

Mister B had been vying for the certificate of blindness since he’d turned 96, seven years prior. His January hobby was to study and search the IRS Publication 17 each year, and he’d done his own taxes until age 100.

When Joe saw that his taxes were getting adjusted by the taxing authorities two years in a row, he decided this meant that he was no longer capable of understanding how to report them.

Last month, at 103-years of age, my father-in-law finally received a certificate of blindness from his eye doctor. It was in answer to another of his badgering requests so that he could file it with his 2020 taxes.

pexels-photo-1474705
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I fished out this portion of our joint memoir for whomever reads this blog. You can tell that he is not only going blind at this juncture, but deaf as well.

We’ve had a fun spin this morning getting all the things done on Mister B’s list. He turns suddenly to applaud our execution of a morning to-do list, “Wow! You solved all my problems in an hour and we still have time for books!” I turn the wheels towards the library looking at the wide empty soccer park of stark, winter grass and note, “Where are the geese, Mr. B?”

“The heat?”

“No, the GEESE.”

“Where’s the beef? Oh, you’re trying to be funny.”

“No, the GEESE! In the park!” I flutter my arms and point.

“A treat? You don’t have to overreact like that.”

In the library, he forgets that he’s already picked up the federal tax forms, so he makes his way over to pick up a couple more.

On the way home, he taps his tax documents and spouts, “Hey, I think we should get a deduction for my blindness. Can you look into that for me?”

“You aren’t exactly blind, Mr. B. You’ve been reading for the last hour.”

“Well, I know,” he admits, “but there has to be some sort of stepped up percentage, some standard you can find out about, and you know I am blind in the one eye and I have this mascular deterioration too.”

I about lose it with the “mascular deterioration” and am pursing my lips, trying to hide my amusement, when he says, “You know, if I could get another $1,200 off my taxes, you and me could go out to Ted’s Montana Grill!” He wraps his hand in the crook of my elbow and snuggles up.

“Now you’re thinking, Mr. B., but really, you’ve already made my day.”

This week’s events prove there’s nothing more sure than death and taxes as the wheels of life moved ’round us.

My dear man breathed his final breath–to our complete shock. We were not ready to let go. Undulating lost feelings, an empty house, and reflections that he won’t be needing the bananas, oxygen, and pills this week were felt among currents moving side-by-side in streams of wonder recognizing the Lord’s compassion for him and for us as things occurred, and arching overall was a desperate hope of glory.

pexels-photo-65541
Photo by Sohel Patel on Pexels.com

Mister B, Joe, had managed to pick out every corner of every walnut shell in his New England basket. He’d managed to rock a rut in the new carpet.  He’d managed to entertain his hospice caregivers for nine months with stories. He’d outlived all of his siblings and far-flung relatives. We’d managed to capture his DNA and confirm all the suspicions about his Baltic sea coastal father’s origin and the soul of his Polish mama with a Norwegian slice of pie.

Then, he simply disappeared.  We saw no vapor, no shudder, heard no heave. He was breathing deeply in sleep, he took six shallow breaths, and suddenly he breathed no more.

The day after, wandering through the hall, I peered into his empty bedroom. “Where are you, Mister B?”

A while later, as my husband and I clomped up the stairs bringing tax boxes from the basement–for our ongoing life, I saw Mister B’s script from his doctor lying on top. Damn.  He’ll not get this last pleasure! The irony of it,  although his tax deduction came through, finally. I muse, my chest tightens, and I stomp on the top step because Joe can’t enjoy this poetry having simultaneously shaken hands with death.

In fact, the only time I ever knew Joe to stomp his own foot was the night before he died.  The pain in his chest was “biting” he said.  “Biting” just like his mother’s description of her lung cancer to him the last time he saw her. Throwing out his groans through the house, his howls, his stomps, and finally, his whimpers broke our hearts.  We called the hospice repeatedly and received directions for morphine. And, finally, he slept snoring roundly.

The thing is, so many beautiful things occur between birth, taxes, and death.

Joe’s fortitude happened.

“Old age isn’t for the faint of heart,” he’d say. Indefatigable, Mister B found patience for the long hours of silence which deafness handed to him, meekness at his failing strength to stand and walk.  Interest in the many varieties of soup he downed when his esophagus stopped working. “Why is this happening?  Why can’t the doctor fix it? What kind of credentials makes her a doctor?” Then, acceptance.

His humor shined with polish.

When he needed a handy cherry-red walker near the end, he often grinned grasping the handles toot-tooting like a childish train engineer. He mostly kept his own counsel and his own secrets. Only what benefited his audience escaped his lips.  He’d launch into some political opinion, then, “Why do I care? It won’t matter to me. The world is your oyster now.” And, “thank you”, “I’m so lucky”, and “I appreciate ya” up to his last night. Sometimes he’d list the accolades of his doting valet of a son to me. “I couldn’t have done any better,” he’d say. Other times he’d wonder if my husband cared that he was dating me or that I had two husbands.

Wonder happened.

He was still curious about things he thought he saw or heard, and those conversations could become sheer fantasy of reason or extreme frustrations trying to explain to him that his experience was not logical.

He started uumming over his food and singing.

Patience and humility happened.

His itching and face cancers reminded me of the misery of Job covered in boils. We’d slather Mister B’s head and torso with medicated cream.

Sacred respect happened.

He stopped mocking our dinner prayers and bowed his head every evening, closing his eyes, respectfully. I ached to know it was more than that, but I never will this side of the resurrection. Many times he thought he had to get up to go to work.  It was only right that he should work and share the household burden. Maybe he could get some kind of job…

If you’re one who’s feeling the pinch of a parent’s age and what that might mean, if you’re curious about how a family could learn to love again, and if you’d at least like to consider the value of caring for your elderly parent, I hope you’ll pick up our memoir, MISTER B: LIVING WITH A 98-YEAR-OLD ROCKET SCIENTIST.  I was a most resistant upwardly mobile child, and I was wooed.

It does take two.  Both sides had to budge. Both sides had to be open to learn respect. He led the way by deferring to us, “You kids take this over.  Why do I need it?  I’ve lived my life.” Or, “You decide. I trust you.”

My husband says his father had become someone he’d never known prior to these final years. Tears have rolled wetting his face many times this week. “Thank you, Dad, for loving me, for teaching me how to live this life.” These were his last intimate words to his father.

But if it’s true that the amount of tears shed relates to the amount of love you hold in your heart for one who’s passed, it’s also true that living in the wonder of Mister B’s company, I became a vastly different person during these past six and a half years.

My takeaways:

  1. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  (Galatians 6:9)
  2. All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
  3. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not extinguish the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5: 17-19)
  4. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
  5. Math, accuracy, and facts are intrinsic to a good long life. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 25:15)

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