As a lifelong baseball “addict” I was saddened today when I read that Cy Young hurler Roy Halladay announced his retirement. He gave the Philadelphia Phillies 4 great years, pitching a perfect game, and a no hitter in a playoff game in 2010. I would be shocked if he doesn’t enter the Hall of Fame in a few years. Baseball has gone out of sight, when a player gets a contract earning 24 million dollars for 10 years. No one is worth that much. Commercialism and greed has taken the game away from the fans as salaries spiral and only the wealthy teams have a chance of getting into the Series It’s time that there needs to be a restraint on salaries and a demand that the owners consider a comprehensive revenue sharing plan as ways to save the game. It is hard for me to identify with players who are zillionaires. Roy Halladay always gave his best. His full page ad in the Philadelphia Daily News expressing his gratitude to the Philadelphia fans (best known for booing Santa Claus) was a class act. Thhis well loved pitcher in the city of brotherly love has rounded third and is headed home. We wish him the best. pitcher
How well I remember riding the merry-go-round when we went to the shore in my boyhood. It was sheer joy whirling around and around midst the flashing lights, the carnival music and trying to reach the evasive gold ring. When I was little and we went to Cape May, New Jersey I was restricted to sitting in those stationary horses that did not move up or down. The world around me seemed to fade away, and I even forgot to notice my father who stood but a few feet from me, ready to take me home when the ride was over. Even when I graduated to the horses that leaped up and down, my merry-go-round world was always encircled by Cape May, New Jersey. I was so caught up in the spinning ride, that I did not realize my ride could end at any time, as my Father waited to take me home. I now realize that the merry-go-round is a far better image of life than a straight line. At any age, young or older, we all ride the merry-go-round and are all equally close to eternity. Our ride can end at any time and then I will be called home by my Father who waits for my ride to end. My merry-go-round life is always encircled by the infinite world of the Father, just a few moments away. At any moment my ride could be over and my Father will reach out, take my hand, help me down, and take me home with him. Then I will finally embrace the golden ring, which I never realized in this life.
It has been my privilege as a pastor and hospice volunteer to be present with dying persons as they make the transition from this world to the next. It is a lonely vigil, but one in which you experience the reality of life, for death is an integral part of life. I have been sitting at the bedside of a dear friend whose life will soon end, in order to give her husband a break. It was an eerie quiet as I sat there alone, listening to her shallow breathing, wondering when she would utter her last breath. On the wall facing her bed were three things: a tapestry depicting two dogs, a small one clinging to a larger one. Next to that was a faded photograph of her parents, and then a large clock as moments clicked away. The clock reminded me of clock time (chronos) but as I kept vigil beside this saintly woman it was kairos time for her, as she soon would face the greatest journey of all. The moments ticked away, and my thoughts wandered to other times when I was present when a person died and left this world. I wondered where they were now and if they had found peace and joy. I scribbled this poem on an old envelope: What is this life if full of wear, we have no time to sit and care. No time to sit by the dying’s bed and pray for one almost dead. Poor life this, if full of wear, we have no time to sit and care.Death remains “the elephant in the room” the subject we shy away from, closing our ears to any mention of it. But I am thankful for moments like this, which keeps us from trivialities and makes us “count the days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
Once again it’s Thanksgiving. I am thankful to be alive. I have outlived all my parents and grandparents, except two, Dr. Lyon, (and hopefully I will reach his age of 85 this March), and my maternal grandmother who lived well into her 90′s. I never expected to live this long. I am thankful for my family, 19 people, 8 adult children and 10 grandchildren, now 11, counting Jessica, Chris’s wife. They bring constant joy and blessing in many ways, too numerous to count. I am thankful for all the people at Upper Room Books, who sent this card of Thanksgiving. They have been a great support in my writing career since 1991. Special thanks to Janice Neely, Director of Marketing, who installed my Blog in 2010. Incredible as it may be, this is my 222nd blog since I began this writing project in 2010. And, I am thankful for you my readers, whoever you may be. Thanks for your comments and suggestions which keep me writing. Obviously, there are some things for which I am not thankful, but as the apostle Paul wrote, “IN everything, give thanks.” That I try to do.
When my friend, Donovan Drake, was associate minister at 1st Presbyterian Church, Morganton, NC he wrote columns for the Morganton News Herald. One he entitled, “Has Anyone Seen My Parents?” since they were always on the move. He is now senior minister at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee. I listen to his sermons every week and believe he is one of the most outstanding preachers today. Recently he wrote to say he had to make several visits to Iowa, where his parents now live. His father, a Greek scholar, has lost his memory and his mother, worn out from caring for her husband, is now in the hospital.In a short matter of time, his parents had gone from “go-go” to “no go.” The issue is exacerbated by two factors: we are living much longer and all too often aging parents do not live in the same community as their adult children. Some statistics claim there are 42 million adult children caring for their aging parents. All too often the brunt of the stress falls on one primary caregiver, usually a daughter. My friend, Barbara Stephens, has defined categories of caregivers. One is the “sea gull,” who flies in, offers advice, then poops, and leaves without getting involved. Caring for aging parents need to be a family concern. We who are the aging parents need to be proactive. When we made the decision to enter this continuing care retirement community 10 years ago, we felt it was our gift to our adult children. After all, they have their own issues with their children, and we don’t need to add to their burdens.
It seems like yesterday that I heard the news President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, and, in a matter of minutes, had died. Strange that 11 days before JFK had laid a Veterans Day wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a few days later was laid to rest at that same Tomb. I had worked for Kennedy in the 1960 campaign, and was mesmerized by his charisma and political agenda. I was chaplain at Peace College in Raleigh, so, when the news came, I ran over to the college and joined the students as we watched the black and white images flicker by, not knowing that the years 1961-1963 would mark us like no other. I hastily ran home, threw away the sermon I had preached, and wrote another, “In the Year President Kennedy Died.” My mind went back to another sad moment when King Uzziah died, and Isaiah fled to the temple to mourn and pick up the pieces of the nation’s shattered life. I preached that sermon in Rocky Mount, N .C. and unknown me, a college student was in the congregation and asked for a copy of my sermon. Later, I was surprised when it was published as one of twenty five sermons entitled in a book entitled: “A Man Named John F. Kennedy: Sermons Preached at His Assassination by Paulist Press. I have long forgotten the name of the student who gave my sermon to Paulist Press, and the book has been out of date for many years. I pulled a well worn copy of the book from my shelf and found these words, “Can it be that this tragic murder will awaken the sleeping American conscience, arouse the Christian church from its hypocritical racism, and finally hear the cries of the poor, the needy, and the oppressed.” While I cannot deny that some progress has been since that horrific event, much remains to be done. There is still a wide economic gap between the rich and the poor; although we did elect a black President twice, every effort conceivable by his enemies has been made to undercut his presidency with slander and lies. So, the work continues that we become a nation “with liberty and justice for all.”
Eating meals in a retirement community can be a blast! At times I sit and listen to the conversation, jot down some notes and then return to my room and burst into laughter.
For example, here are a few humorous things I overheard. A woman said, “We need more men here, more testosterone and less estrogen!” (Women outnumber men 7-1 here). A lady carries a word search book everywhere she goes, even takes it to the dining room. I asked her about it, and replied, It keeps me awake and I am still looking for a word I can’t remember. “An elderly man says little, and when asked why he was so quiet, he muttered, “At my age the best thing is to keep your mouth shut and your bowels open.” And there is the constant problem of hearing. I said to one man (who claims he doesn’t need a hearing aid) “I don’t know how I can with stand watching the Steelers play,” and he replied. “Why do you have to stand?” This didn’t happen here, but a little lady lost her cane in a retirement community dining hall and she exclaimed, My cane. My cane. My cane.” and someone remarked, ” No, it’s Obama!” And one lady constantly says, “My legs are taking over my life!” I overheard another resident mutter under their breath ,” You’re a leg up on everyone here.” And there are now over 50 walkers scattered over the dining room causing traffic jams. One man claims he is going to direct traffic and charge a parking fee. The monks call their dining room a Refectory. Ours is quite similar, except we don’t have required silence.