Monday, September 30, 2013

Arbitrary indeed...

A friend and colleague, Ed Jarose, is fighting the battle of his life...for his life. I just returned from Rio de Janeiro to read Judith Hester Thompson's chronicle of the sad events that occurred this past weekend in the lives of Ed and his life-partner Gerry Aubert. I visited Ed on-and-off while he was hospitalized in The Woodlands earlier this year. I came away in awe of his spirit and with respect for this kind, gentle, caring, giving human being. 

In June, I wrote this when one of the "topics of the day" on Facebook was COMPLAINTS:

"While on the subject of complaints, I would like to relate a situation to everyone that involves a friend and colleague of ours. He's been away from us for years now with a debilitating degenerative muscular disease, similar to ALS (although his diagnosis is related, it is NOT ALS.) Of late, he's spent the last 11+ weeks hospitalized at the Houston Medical Center, then St. Luke's in the Woodlands (to be closer to his partner and home in Spring) and briefly at an in-patient rehabilitation center in The Woodlands. His immediate trouble is chronic and recurring pneumonia brought on and exacerbated by the weakness in his muscles...the muscles that are controlled autonomically...those that control breathing, swallowing, heartbeat, etc. Obviously his situation is grave. But everyday, this incredible survivor exercises his free will and makes choices.

Every time I've been to visit, he chooses to be bright, smiling, warm, welcoming, and HAPPY! That's right, H A P P Y ! Don't ask me why, because I frankly can't fathom it. No person I know has more right to COMPLAIN but I've never heard him do it: he compliments the hospital, the staff, his friends, his employer, his loving and devoted partner. He is genuinely pleased to see you, to know that you made a few minutes in your "busy" day to show your concern for him and his well-being.

The last time I visited, I violated my own rules about complaining and recounted how the day before, it had taken us HALF of the Dreamliner fleet (3 out of 6 airplanes) and a delay of 4 hours to get to LAX on a simple turn! I immediately regretted it. He looked at me wistfully and said, "it sounds like heaven to me! I'd give anything to be at work instead of here!" Needless to say, I wasn't very proud of myself that day.

So I'm going to ask you to do me and our friend a favor. The next time you schlep out to the airport to fly some "horrible" trip, or the catering isn't right, or a customer doesn't treat you the way you think s/he should, or you can't believe the new uniform you've been tasked with wearing, take a moment and remember our friend with aspiration pneumonia, a fresh PEG tube (for nutrition), and a not-very-rosy prognosis for the future. But above all, remember the story of how HAPPY that man is and how he would give ANYTHING to trade places with you!

I can think of no brighter, more compelling example of the sheer beauty of free will and choice than our colleague Ed Jarose. His life-partner, Gerry Aubert, is also a friend and colleague and a member of The Way FORWARD. If ever there were a "poster child" for our cause, I think that Gerry would agree that his amazing partner Ed would be the best candidate!

Be well Ed. May the Peace of our Lord be with you and Gerry now and always!"

Meditate, cogitate, say a prayer...whatever you do when our world is in jeopardy of losing one of it's gentle warriors whose life is such a beacon of right and light. 

Lord, hear our prayer...

The truly special among us are not the ones that raise their voices, make waves, attempt to make their presence known in every conceivable way.

No, the SPECIAL ones are those whose presence is like a feather on the unbroken surface of a serene pool; making no effort to have its beauty recognized.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Life can seem so arbitrary...

When we arrived at the hotel in Rio de Janeiro yesterday morning, we had been up all night...10 hours non-stop from Houston.  Of course, everyone was exhausted and anxious to get to their rooms for a quick nap.  When I arrived at my average, run-of-the-mill "crew room" on the 12th floor, it was a rat's nest.  Either it was still occupied (inhabitants must have stepped out for a moment) or it had not been yet been tended by the maid staff.  In any event, this is NOT the eventuality you want to encounter after a long, sleepless night.  I found a maid just down the hall who informed me, in VERY broken English, that I should "go to lobby...get new room".  So I did.

The very nice lady at the front desk was so apologetic for my inconvenience.  She stepped away and returned a few minutes later saying, "Again, I apologize.  I hope that you'll enjoy a newly renovated, oceanfront room!"  Well, if you insist...

My room is on the 3rd floor in an area of the hotel reserved for very frequent guests and VIPs.  For reference, the lobby is on the 5th or 6th floor.  When I opened my door and stepped inside, the view took my breath away!  I'm likely 15-20 feet above the sand but the expansive view off of my lanai makes it feel as though I could dip my toes in the surf.  And what surf it is!  The Atlantic is crashing around huge, waterbound boulders just feet away.  I immediately turned off the air conditioning and opened the doors wide.  The sight, the smell, the sound of waves crashing...seemingly all around me, the sensation of the slightly salty ocean breeze wafting in, and the comforting, familiar "taste" of the sea all serve as "centering" forces in the midst of life's pressing insurgencies on one's humanity.  

For example...

Last night, I was mesmerized by the sight and sound of the rising tide, seemingly right at my feet.  Even after dark, the hotel assures that the beach is well-lit, so visibility is excellent.  In the sand, just to the left of the monument-sized boulder immediately outside my room, I noticed a smallish, roughly cone-shaped figure lolling back-and-forth in the surf.  At first, I thought it was some surf or boogey board apparatus but the longer I watched it, the more substantial this "body" appeared.  I soon realized that it was a small marine mammal, dead, washed up by the tide.  Back-and-forth it rolled, on the sand, back out into the surf.  The lifeless body, I determined, was a small seal.  From a distance, it appeared "whole" and unblemished, yet animated only by the ceaseless action of the sea.  I stepped away from the lanai for a few minutes and when I returned, it was gone.  Was I the first person ever to have seen this tiny being?  Was I the last?

Just prior to leaving home on this trip I learned that a pilot colleague at my airline employer died while operating one of our flights from Houston to Seattle on Thursday night.  Apparently, he suffered a major cardiac event while at the controls and, despite the best efforts of many capable, caring individuals, he later died at a hospital in Boise, Idaho.  While I did not know "Rocky" Skillern personally, we have several mutual friends and acquaintances.  I've since learned that the heart attack that lead to his death was likely a totally unforeseen event.

The seeming randomness of life fascinates me.  Yet, on some level, I believe that every event is related, that the seeming randomness is actually just a limitation of our ability to comprehend what it all means.  Underscoring that belief is how, as I sit here in "paradise on Earth" with no worries, no cares, I can't help but think about life and lives that never directly touched my own.

By virtue of those thoughts, aren't the lives of Tony Reece and Rocky Skillern, in fact, connected?  Isn't all life related in some fashion?

Rest in peace, Rocky.

Monday, September 23, 2013


The power we ALWAYS have is to simply withdraw.

More and more as I age, I find that simply withdrawing my energy from an interaction (with ANYONE) that isn't going some place positive is likely my best move.  If I am not contributing to your journey, nor you to mine, then isn't it better that we not travel together?  No "relationship", familial or otherwise, is more valuable than the sanctity or nobility of my journey's purpose.

I don't waste time regretting either!  I can't control the other's motivations or aspirations and I usually can't understand them.  They likely feel the same about me.  So where's the point in continuing the engagement?

As I "move on", I wish PEACE to all:  supporters, detractors, lovers, haters, it doesn't matter.  PEACE is the ultimate gift.  Our maker endows us with the means to find it.

Whether or not we do; that's up to each of us.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

September 12, 2013

Marriage is an institution which should never be taken lightly. There is no reason on earth to justify taking the marriage vows unless each party has for the other that mutual love and respect that will last forever.

What we bring with us is mainly who we are and what we have been. We are now at a special moment. 

They have discovered that something in them, something about the way they are made enables them to find more fulfillment together than they could have hoped to find apart and having discovered this, they wish to share this union and to give it meaning and significance by celebrating it here, in your presence. 

Will you solemnly promise that you will loyally fulfill your obligations, you will honor, love, and cherish each other in sickness and in health, and keep yourself unto your partner for the rest of your lives together?

For as much as you have consented together in lawful wedlock and have witnessed the same before this company and thereto have pledged your faith to each other and have declared the same by joining hands and by giving and receiving rings,

By the authority vested in me by the laws of the State of Maine, I now pronounce you married. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September 11th, 2001

Philip and I were sitting at our breakfast table trying a new recipe he'd found for "Sugar Busters" pancakes.  As usual, Matt and Katie were prattling on in the background about something of no particular importance to us.  I distinctly remember how clear and beautiful that September morning in New York seemed.  I thought how nice it would be "out on the Plaza" in weather like that.

Katie's familiar, lilting voice suddenly became strident at about the time that Philip asked if I was going to the gym that morning.  I remember looking up to what seemed a scene from a bad made-for-TV movie.  "A small airplane has crashed into the World Trade Center..."  That was  it!  That was the pinpoint moment that would change our lives.  

"Philip, does it look to you like that building is leaning?"  

We watched the subsequent events of the day in shock and disbelief.  The facts revealed themselves to be so much worse than the initial much worse.

It changed all our lives fundamentally, that morning did.  There was widespread anxiety and uncertainty as a result.  But then came the truly awful details of just what had transpired.  The anxiety and uncertainty gave way to cold, abject fear.  Like it or not, the perpetrators' true mission was accomplished.

Everyone remembers that day.  Oh, how innocent we were on September 10th.  Oh, how that innocence was lost on that spectacularly beautiful & awful, early fall morning of September 11th.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

On being a "better person"

I want to be a "better person".

So, I will...

     Live in truth.  

     Embrace my imperfections.  

     Wear my vulnerabilities with honor, not hide them.  

     Celebrate the uniquenesses that make me, me.

     Show respect for all of God's handiwork but begin by respecting myself.

I was custom-made, the sublime product of the boundless love of the Father.

The nature of life is that I have choices.  The value of MY life is determined by the choices that I make.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"The world has changed me." - Amelia Earhart

"All the things I never said for so very long, look up, they're in my eyes. Everyone has oceans to fly, as long as you have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? May be. But what do dreams know of boundaries? I think about the hands I have held, the places I've seen, the vast lands whose dirt is caked on the bottom of my shoes. The world has changed me."