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Is this real life? Is this just fantasy?
For All the Saints
It isn't even past
Life at the intersections
Is this real life? Is this just fantasy?

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Clio's Temple

Life and Death

For All the Saints

This is All Saints' Day, which is the day on which we Episcopalians traditionally sing "For All the Saints" (William W. How & Ralph Vaughn Williams) to commemorate those we love who are now gone from us.

I've loved this hymn since we used to sing it in the CHS Glee Club. It took on special meaning several years ago. In the weeks after a rash of deaths in our family, I sometimes sought out the Kings College Chapel Choir rendition of this hymn as I pondered the lives of my mother, two cousins, and several friends.

It isn't even past

One of William Faulkner's more famous quotes was, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." This is an underlying theme ofFaith, Hope, and Dr. Vangelis, my first novel, which will be published next winter.

As I've noted in other posts, the protagonist is Dr. Lukas Vangelis, an elderly hospice physician. Weary from the burden of easing the passage of the dying into peaceful death, he begins to get messages that point him toward the approaching end of his mission. This brings no fear; most of the people he's loved in his life have already died.

A poem, a song, a life of paradoxes

Do you have a hidden desire for your life to be a fairytale? We might not admit it, but we do sometimes yearn for fairytale outcomes in life. We remember those favorite fairytales where all came right in the end, even after heartbreak. By the time we reach middle age, we've learned that fairytales are rare things. Sometimes heartbreak happens and there's no compensation for it and no one to blame. We learn to accept life and go on. In the face of hard realities, how can we explain to others and ourselves the meaning of life?

Light under a Bushel

This past weekend, I attended a memorial service for a professional colleague, a man for whom I developed a great personal respect during the years we worked in the same department. After I left the Savannah River Site in 2007, I didn't see him for years afterwards. When I encountered him at a restaurant  in 2013, we chatted as naturally as if we'd encountered each other in the hallway at work.

It was a rude shock to pick up the Sunday newspaper on a recent Sunday morning and see this man's obituary.

The uses of pain

Pain is a bad thing. That's what most of us believe, and most of the time we're right. Whether it's the dull nagging of a chronic ailment or the stab of a sudden shock, pain puts us off our game, becomes the center of attention, and wears out its welcome very quickly.

This is not to say that pain has no uses. Some pains clue us in that something is wrong with our bodies or our minds. That's not the point. I've found that one use of pain is to focus our attentions on things we can't see when all is right with the world.

Tears in the darkness

Dealing with strong emotions is a problem for left-brain writers like me. I tell people, "I can do romance, but I can't write about it." Grief is another problem area, a lesson I've had to learn and relearn. Sometimes having a focus for grief makes me shudder inside, until I have to face it.

As my friends know, my wife and I are partial to cockatiels. We adopted our first one as a baby, naming him "Crockatiel Dundee," or "Crock" for short. His constant affection helped to sustain us through some hard times in our family.

Gordy's Ghost, or Upsetting the Past

Because my paternal grandfather died years before I was born, all I knew of him was what I learned from my father and uncle, and the impressions of him from my grandmother. To make a long story short, I now believe that Grandma always bore some resentment at the fact that my grandfather didn't resist the demands of his brothers to loan him money. Eventually, even some land that his own mother had left to him went out of his hands. At that point (about 1925), my father's family relocated from Georgia to Florida and Grandpa went into the lumber business.

A haunted relationship?

We can't choose the family into which we're born. There have times when I wished I belonged to some other family, but that's mostly just blowing off steam. When I look at how many of my friends have families whose dysfunction runs deep, I consider myself blessed to have the family I have.

I grew up in a family with unbalanced relationships. Both my grandmothers strongly preferred to spend time with their families, not with my grandfathers' relatives. Growing up, I knew some of my grandmothers' nieces and nephews who lived fifty or seventy-five miles away better than I knew my  cousins across town.

Remembrance

On April 29, 1944, my uncle's plane was blown out of the skies over Berlin. After surviving a near-lynching by German civilians, he joined my father in POW camp in eastern Germany. Exactly one year later, tanks from the U.S. 14th Armored Division rolled through the front gate of the POW compound in Moosburg, Bavaria, liberating both brothers and thousands of other American and British prisoners.

At about the same time, my future father-in-law's unit liberated another camp, this one with a name still infamous - Dachau.

Seeking forgiveness

It must be hell to be one of those persons who can't ask for or accept forgiveness. I suspect we all know at least one such individual. What makes it particularly challenging is that folks who think this way very often wind up making yet more misery for themselves and everyone else around them.

A couple with whom my wife and I have been friends for several years lost their first child, an 18-month-old girl under particularly ugly circumstances. The little girl's nanny killed her, then committed suicide, thereby forever thwarting any hope of getting an answer to the question of "why?
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