The True Cost

Photo by Marco Bellucci

Photo by Marco Bellucci

It’s hard to know what something really costs, isn’t it?

I mean, if you buy a piece of clothing you find appealing, and you begin to explore where it was made, who designed it, how and by whom it was manufactured, and the source of the raw materials used to create it . . . you could almost fill a small book.

The storybook I used to read as a young boy . . . you know the one that shows where food comes from, and traces the journey back from the milkman, etc. is a profound resource that creates a much-needed perspective on life. I no longer remember the name or details of the book, but the concept it taught remains with me to this day.

The business world is very cost-conscious, of course. Businesses that don’t count the cost do not usually last very long. And lasting a long time, or at least long enough to make a healthy profit or create a healthy benefit for people, tends to be a well accepted raison d’etre for any business.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday regarding the pace at which we live our lives in the United States, and we contrasted that with the apparent pace of life in much of Europe. For example, both of us were familiar with the enormous number of “holidays” that friends of ours seem to have in Holland and Germany.

In spite of the fact that we tend to view pioneers in our nation’s history as harder working than us lazy 21st century Americans (and no doubt their comparative deprivations were sizeable), and we muse about how we probably wouldn’t last a day without air conditioning or central heat, etc. the truth is we work longer hours and carry much more stress than our forbears ever dreamed was humanly possible.

And . . . they might be right! Now granted, we live longer, grow taller, our athletes are stronger and faster, our level of production is something that would cause a John Henry to drop his steel-driving 20 pound hammer and shrink in awe. We are rather amazing, aren’t we?

But heart disease is killing up prematurely, various cancers are rampant, and our fascination with all things technical has taken up captive with our iPhones, iPads, Apple watches, and multifarious devices; things intended to save time have made it possible for us to fill our time even more efficiently. “Time is money,” we have often said. And money is what we want. What we need. What we must have. At any cost.

The high incidence of criminal indictments for fraud, tax evasion, insider trading and the like is testimony not only to the long standing human predicament, but also to the fact that think we need so much more than can be honestly derived.

My 2016 heart attack has caused me to rethink a great deal of what I used to take for granted. One thing that continues to haunt me is the notion that the way I learned to live my life, the way I learned to work (from 7th grade onward) at a go-at-fast-as-possible pace, may have indeed led to a heart attack in an otherwise healthy-looking man in his early 60s.

Our life patterns are usually begun at a very young age. And changing them is like pulling teeth; most of us think we would rather just ignore the decay and make the best of it, even though we know extraction is the only thing that will bring relief.

Do you, for instance, know the true cost
of the way you are living your life?

We look around us at the Jones’s (you know, the ones we’ve always had to “keep up with”) and what they have, and we arrive at a standard of living that we accept; we would swear by it like the rising and setting sun. We berate ourselves until we reach it. And when we do we set our sights a bit higher and choose a new and improved family of Jones’s with whom we compete.

And who can begin to say what effect television and movies have had on our standards; cloistered in our homes we make friends of flickering images on the screen in front of us, and we look to them to define our relationship standards, our income standards, and our whole way of life. After all, dealing with real people as become an outmoded skill; we have machines that do that now.

And the stress is crushing us. But we do not relent!

We cannot drop the steel-driving hammer. We cannot surrender. We cannot do the thing that would bring us more peace, more health, more joy, more . . . . for fear that we will fall behind in the race to – the race to . . . . What exactly? What are we racing toward in such a headlong fashion?

We are, as it has been phrased, “hell bent.” That is one goal I think we will attain.

My heart attack makes me want to reconsider some things.
Like almost everything about how I function.

Is it too late for me to change? Time will tell.

But I can make a marathon out of a simple household task. I can attempt to “fill every minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run” (thank you, Rudyard Kipling), but is that what will truly bring me life?

I want to get off the treadmill, out of the hamster’s cage with the spinning wheel powered only by my effort. I want to learn how to rest. How to simply BE.

I hope you will go with me, if only because that will make it easier to keep going the right direction. But with you or not, I must go. I must reset my sights. And honestly, I think I may need a whole new operating system.

Posted in Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Real Tool: the Coping Saw

My father was good with tools! Especially when working with wood. His father was born in Sweden in 1878, and Dad used to have some of his father’s tools until thieves broke into his and Mom’s Tucson, AZ house years ago and took them.

Dad taught me to love tools. Not so much by showing me how to use them; rather, by showing me his own respect for them.

One tool that caught my attention early on was the coping saw. Unlike the mighty and heavy hammer, the coping saw was more my size, and more delicate (even though it could have sharp teeth, depending on which blade was installed). I saw Dad do some amazing things with this saw.

In the hands of a master the coping saw could produce cuts impossible to make with a conventional saw. It’s ability to make turns in very small areas is a sight of beauty to behold. The coping saw seems to suggest to its admirers that

it will perform well in anyone’s hands.

But that is far from the truth.

I don’t know when the expression “a real tool” originated; you know, the pejorative expression that is a modern insult to males? But whoever came up with it demonstrated they didn’t have proper respect for good tools! Because a person with proper respect for tools would never suggest they are just objects to be USED. Am I wrong? No, I am not!

Among the “real” tools I have respected, the coping saw is in the top ten. Versatility, a sense of elegance, and subtle strength are among its virtues.

But why is it called a “coping” saw?

Whether its origin in only a couple hundred years old (as some suggest), or five centuries or more, it is clearly not of modern invention. Its name is likely meant to refer to the “coped” or angled cut sometimes used in construction, which aids water drainage from the top of a wall. Be that as it may . . . the primary purpose of the saw is seen in its ability to curve, to maneuver (if you will), i.e. to cope.

And it is here that I find its meaning most helpful. For somehow, through the passage of time (possibly originally from Old French “coup,” to strike, then Middle English trade or exchange, to wrestle, strive, persevere) we have arrived at a word that makes reference to how we deal with situations in life. Psychologists talk about our “coping mechanisms.”

Our skills with coping are as varied as my own experience using a coping saw. For though it appears easy, of course, it is not. If the blade is too loose, or if the blade is too tight, your maneuvering is destroyed. I have even broken blades because they were too taut. Instead of giving to strength to the cutting process, I ended it prematurely.

In any event . . . coping skills matter.

We all use coping skills, of course. The abused child learns coping skills. The overprotected child learns coping skills. The overindulged child learns coping skills. The neglected child learns coping skills. Even the well-adjusted child learns some coping skills. We all learn coping skills. It’s this world we live in, you know. It forces you to have to cope!

Now you may not be good with a saw. But it would benefit you to learn good coping skills in life. You can learn a great deal from a saw. I learned, for instance, two important lessons:

  1. You can’t force a cut without destroying the wood (or the saw).
  2. You can’t stop the cutting process abruptly without losing the ability to maneuver.

If you force a cut you will often find yourself plowing into the wood much further than you had intended, thereby ruining the design you had in mind. It’s like water building up behind a dam; a small crack evolves into a gushing gorge in seconds. Not a good coping skill in life either.

If you stop cutting in order to position yourself better for a curving maneuver you will often find yourself stuck in place. It’s kind of like turning a corner while riding a bike; it’s easier to stay upright and make your turn if you’re moving. If you stop to position yourself for the turn you will fall. Adjustments are best made while still in motion.

Coping is not only natural, it is mandatory.
No one gets by without having to cope.

Christmas was just last month. And I was reminded that even the mother and father of Jesus had to use coping skills due to the circumstances surrounding the birth of the Savior: Joseph had to deal with Mary’s shameful pregnancy; the couple had to wrestle with the inconvenience of traveling during the final days before giving birth to a child; they had to persevere when there was no place other than an animal stall available for the delivery; the new family of three had to flee the country when the threat of annihilation was apparent. Coping.

How did you maneuver this past holiday season? How well did you cope?

Pushed to our limits during times of stress (joyful or sad) we tend to cope in a variety of ways: financial overstretching may cause us to overeat; wrestling with family company from out-of-town may tempt us to overindulge in alcohol; balancing work with parties and shopping may cause us to function on much less sleep than usual, so we may compensate with too much coffee or other stimulants.

We must be careful to choose how we cope with these difficult situations, so that our coping doesn’t create even more problems with which we must cope.

The inauguration of a new (and shall I say “different”) President will happen tomorrow, so that along with the beginning of a New Year, with its attendant resolutions and stresses, there saunters in our worry of the unknown, uncertainty of the future, and insecurity fears.

Flexibility. Gentleness (with ourselves and others). Forgiveness. We must not try to force situations. And we must realize that we must maneuver and re-position on the fly, because that is how coping is done.

So, keep that blade moving as you form those curves. And let the wood tell you how much pressure it will endure.

With a bit of concentration . . . and care . . . you might even admire the cut you make. And the result – might just be . . . a thing of beauty.

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My Adventure: Simplicity

Simplicity. It’s one of those things that many of us had as children, but at an age when we were incapable of appreciating it. It occurs when the stuff of life is boiled down (so to speak) to its essential ingredients.

Simplicity brings clarity, focus, and well defined purpose. Often we associate it with poverty, or lack of possessions. But it is not exclusively the property of the poor.

Several years ago my wife and I began to create an entertainment program where I would combine songs and stories; we called it “Simply Put, Simply Found.” It never really got off the ground, because . . . well, life is not simple for most of us. The demands of my odd work schedule (combining several part-time jobs) made it hard to focus. As a result, the project was provided no Simplicity with which it could be Found.

My heart attack three months ago changed that radically. In fact, I am still in the process of finding out all the things it changed, or will change, in the future. It is why I am titling the year 2017 “Adventure” for myself, personally. Because that is, indeed, what it is: uncharted personal territory, with mountains to climb, and valleys to cross.

And it has brought (through no wise effort of my own) a good bit of simplicity to my life. Each day has pretty much the same agenda: get better. Get proper rest, take your meds on schedule along with supplements (I do adhere to a few witch doctor neutraceuticals, if you must know), try not to over exert yourself, but get regular exercise (monitored at cardiac rehab).

I am improving. Although I know there is a ceiling to that improvement since I did damage to my heart. And I also know that down the road there may be other hurdles to encounter due to the aforementioned damage. But that is just how it is. Now that I can drive again, I do run some errands, go to a movie once in a while, check emails, and write on my blogs, etc. (in fact, I am working on a new blog for heart attack survivors now at

But life has become MUCH MORE SIMPLE than it has been, rivaled only by when I played with Army men and rode my scooter, “Lo,” many decades ago.

And I love it!

I am able to do much of what I used to do physically, just no gym workout, and not too much singing and playing guitar (too little wind and stamina yet), no excessive leaf blowing or raking, no climbing on the roof, or lifting heavy boxes (or grandchildren).

Well . . . maybe I’m not really able to do much of what I used to do (after looking at that list). But as a result, life has become much simpler.

I do not rise early in the morning anymore (usually 7:00 AM or later). My rest is critical to my health now more than ever. Bored? Never! I find plenty to do, but my focus remains on improving my health, planning for our future (financially and otherwise), and considering my options. I am a praying man, so I am able to spend time in prayer about others as well as myself.

We are totally reliant on social security income currently (and gifts from generous friends and family), and even though that source is not adequate at least it is predictable.

As I look back to the past there are certainly things I wish I could still do. But I also see that the simplicity that has been forced on me is a beautiful thing. It helps bring clarity to each day, and encourages me to “stop and smell” those proverbial “roses” we always talk about.

I am almost at the point where I can say I am glad this happened to me. Because the simplicity it imposed on me has been so refreshing. It makes me wonder if it’s even possible to impose simplicity on yourself just shy of tragedy or disaster.

What has been your experience with simplicity?

Photo by Joe Diaz

Photo by Joe Diaz

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Will You ALWAYS Want to be With Me?

Sometimes the most arresting questions seem to come “out of the” proverbial “blue.” And often, they come from a source you would not expect. This particular question came from my grandson; he is 5 1/2, going on 25.

My wife and I were taking him and his 2 year old sister to Dunkin Donuts; they were both safely buckled into seats in the back, and we were sitting up front making conversation with our grandson. [NOTE: our granddaughter was in one of her silent moods this particular morning, giving us one of her “I couldn’t care less” looks].

We were rehearsing with our grandson how we used to take him to Dunkin Donuts every Tuesday morning when he was little, and how much we enjoyed those times.

He said, “You really like being with me, don’t you?” [which put a smile on our faces, of course]. And we quickly said, “Oh yes, we always enjoy spending time with you!” Whereupon he asked the title question:

“Will you ALWAYS want to be with me?”

As parents and grandparents we often discuss the natural candor of children. In fact, when I was younger, Art Linkletter became famous for a TV show where he illustrated the oft repeated truth, i.e. “kids say the darndest things.” It was quite entertaining.

What we don’t always discuss is the profundity that a child’s honesty sometimes produces.

“Will you ALWAYS want to be with me?” is a question not just asked by a five year old; rather, it is a question that stirs deep down inside of every adult as well. I would call this inadvertent when asked by a child so young, but the truth is that unless conditioned otherwise, when a child asks a question, they mean exactly what they’ve said.

It is the question being asked by the elderly lady in the nursing home. And it is the question being asked by the old gentleman residing in the independent living facility. It is usually directed toward immediate family members, but it can also be directed to friends and more distant acquaintances.

We see it clearly in the elderly, don’t we? And we often discuss how sad it must be for them to have been so valuable to friends and family at one point in their lives, and now to face the fact that few really choose to be with them, and even fewer want to be with them. My wife has often pointed out to me that the old folks in those nursing homes, etc. were at one time vibrant contributors to their employers, vital citizens in their communities; people would come to them for advice and counsel.

They were sought after. But . . . no longer.

Yet inside of them resides the identity they held in the past, the sense of value they added to their workplace, or their home.

No doubt, as they ask the question, “Will you ALWAYS want to be with me,” they sense the clear and resounding response: “No.”

Yes. We see it in the elderly. But do we see it in the teenage girl, the young adult man, the middle-aged worker? Because the question is in their minds, too, I wager. It is the question we ALL are asking of those around us.

It is a concept that is venerated at weddings, where promises are made and vows said, all of which hover around and support this very idea: I will always want to be with you. But unhappiness and divorce often drive it into the ground. And our life experiences teach us that to maintain our much needed status with others we often have to do some psychological or emotional gymnastics.

It’s tiring. But we do it anyway. Because we know no other course. And we so dearly need the object of our efforts.

In our careers we often strive for it as well. We want to be needed. We need to be wanted. We need to be needed. And we want to be wanted. And without stating it so boldly . . . what we really want to know from our place of business is will you always want me here?

Even in the work arena we often find ourselves jockeying for position, seeking leverage, always guarding ourselves (as best we can) against the loss of the thing we most want: to be needed, to be wanted. Because to us, that means we are loved, valued.

It’s why young persons sometimes seek out alliances with unsavory organizations; it’s why people sometimes settle for unhealthy relationships; it’s why we stay at jobs long after we should have moved on.

One of the most powerful things you can say to another human being is this: “I will always want to be with you.”

And if you do, indeed, stay true to those words, and buttress them with behavior consistent with those words, you will foster growth and security that is boundless.

By the way, as the car carried us to Dunkin Donuts that day, my wife and I eagerly embraced the opportunity of a lifetime. Without any hesitation whatsoever, we said in unison:

“Yes indeed! We will ALWAYS want to be with you!”

Now all that remains is to live out the words. And if given the chance, to say them again.

And again.

Posted in Aging Parents, Assisted Living, Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The New Abnormal

Ever since a close friend visited me in the hospital, and mentioned to my wife that we will now have to adjust to “the new normal” (post heart attack), we have batted that expression around and discussed the variety of possible changes in my/our life from this point forward.

I began cardiac rehab six weeks after my myocardial infarction, and my blood pressure and a number of other factors have been measured from time to time. By my count I am improving, so I figured health care professionals would heartily agree with my self assessment.

Sadly . . . they have been reticent on the subject.

This has led me to face repeatedly the very real possibility that my heart’s pumping power, i.e. ejection fraction may not (despite my desire and prayers) come back to a healthy percentage. I should know the verdict by December 7. [I choose not to comment on any possible allusion to that date which may come into the reader’s mind. Hush!].

And that has prompted me, today, to begin to think in terms of what I affectionately call the New Abnormal.

Whether or not you have experienced a heart attack, some other life threatening or otherwise debilitating situation, you are no doubt familiar with the universal life experience of dashed dreams, unexpected tragedy, or a simple change in plans with far reaching ramifications.

What was once the normal flow of your life is radically altered, and you enter the interim phase that sits prominently between the Old Normal and the New Normal; I call it the New Abnormal. I call it that because: (1) it is indeed NEW; and (2) it is anything BUT normal for you.

Harsh realities have a way of winning out in the end. In fact, the only way I know of to avoid acknowledging them is to enter into a fantasy world that could easily be referred to as psychotic. So, unless you want to go down that path . . . acceptance becomes the hurdle you must vault.

And acceptance rarely comes without a fight.

I don’t know what view you have for your life, or what features you have banked on, counted on, depended on in order to reach a place where you would say you have lived successfully. That varies greatly, of course, depending on factors that relate to emotion, religious faith, financial income, health, relationships, etc.

But I do know this:

every one of us has in our mind’s eye
an idea of how life ought to turn out for us.

You may not have written your idea down on paper, but you have one. You may not be able to clearly articulate it . . . but it is present, deep in your psyche. In fact, it is like the ground upon which your mental house sits; you assume it, and never question it until an earthquake compromises its soundness, or a large crack in the foundation indicates its erosion.

You trust this idea, this perspective, this emotional lens (if you will) until your mental spectacles are dropped and broken, someone else cracks the frames, or you realize (perhaps for the first time) that the images you see through those glasses are out of focus, blurry, and clearly misrepresented.

Congratulations! You have now entered the New Abnormal, where everything in your life must be looked at again; where your time worn plans, objectives, and expectations must be reevaluated and refocused; where relationship with yourself and others changes, and

what was in the past can no longer be from this day forward.

When I was young I used to observe older men exercising, e.g. walking in their slacks, etc. And I used to say something like this: “If I can’t do enough exercise to merit wearing gym shorts, etc. I wouldn’t even bother exercising!”

But today, at cardiac rehab, I walked a 2 mile per hour pace on a treadmill for 15 minutes, then rode a recumbent bike at Level 4 for 15 minutes (careful not to get above 50 RPMs), and finished with stretches. All in long pants. And not at any speed I would have honored in the past. And there is a chance that in the coming month I may receive the news (as incredulous as it sounds to me now) that I am. . . disabled.

Today . . . I was the consummate old man I used to observe as a young man.

You see, I am in the middle of the New Abnormal. I am in the process of grieving the loss of past strength and health, and discovering what expectations to construct for the future. Because no matter what happens on December 7 . . . things will never be the same again.

My initial reaction to unwelcome change is disbelief, anger, and fear. But as time goes on I will have the chance to see new opportunities. I can (as my friend, Landon Saunders, once said) learn to . . .

use my wounds as tools.

My life is not all gloom and doom now. New adventures lie ahead. New discoveries about myself, the world I live in, and the people that people that world. And if I will but surrender to the New Abnormal . . . the sun will indeed shine in my future, and . . .

A New Normal will emerge.

Photo by Carlo Mirante

Photo by Carlo Mirante

Posted in Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

The Making of a Widow (Part 5)

Photo by John Martinez Pavliga

Photo by John Martinez Pavliga

Anyone who has watched a sporting event where the sidelines of the competition are crowded with spectators, has no doubt been witness to, at one time or another, what could fairly be termed collateral damage.

I’m talking about the tackle in a football game that transgresses the white sidelines and hurtles into several unsuspecting cheerleaders. Or the basketball player whose post-lay-up trajectory slams him into a cameraman poised for a shot.

We’ve all seen it happen. And we’ve all felt quite helpless witnessing it. Because the truth is this: there’s not much one can do except sympathize. Before any hero has a chance to intervene . . . the unfortunate deed is done.

This was certainly true of the collateral damage caused by my heart attack. For while I was writhing in pain, uncertain of my future on this earth, others were being affected simultaneously. Maybe they weren’t in the throes of death, but they were significantly affected nonetheless.

In most lives I’m sure there is at least one BEFORE and AFTER experience.

Sometimes it represents a change brought about by a moment of high elation. But more often than not it is a life change far from our choosing, one which we would pay almost anything to avoid, one which on the surface (and usually much deeper) spells disaster and heartache.

Before my heart attack; after my heart attack.

But for my family it was: before my husband’s heart attack; after my husband’s heart attack. Before my father’s heart attack; after my father’s heart attack. Before my brother’s heart attack; after my brother’s heart attack. Before my nephew’s heart attack. After my nephew’s heart attack. Before my cousin’s heart attack. After my cousin’s heart attack.

And I could go on. Numberless friends. Former students. Beloved neighbors.

My granddaughter is too young to understand, but my grandson may remember his own unique version of Before and After. He asks me each time I see him, “How’s your heart feeling, today, Papa?”

My youngest daughter journals a great deal. The other night she read to me (amidst tears) the 20 handwritten pages of her journal which concern Before and After. I was moved to tears myself.

When you take your eyes off your own self, and you gaze at the loved ones surrounding your hospital bed, you are staring into the beloved faces of those for whom collateral damage is not just a remote concept. These are the people who, although wounded and scarred themselves by what has happened to you, have nonetheless come to offer even more of themselves if need be.

The friend who handed my wife $500 on my first day at the hospital, or the neighbor who hand washed our dishes while we were away, walked our dog, and left us $150 in cash. The families who took the time to make it possible for us to eat for at least two weeks without going to the store and preparing our own food. The next door neighbor who repaired our leaking toilet when I was too weak to even get up off the couch. The two sisters who sent us a check for $1,000. The good friend who repaired our ailing wooden fence.

Prayers have been prayed in my presence and as far away as Montana. Gift cards have been sent to us by friends and family. Get Well Cards from those who love us. Emails, and Facebook remarks without number. Calls from old friends. One sweet friend brought a bag of books for me to read. My work sent a beautiful plant arrangement. And there have been special greetings from heart attack survivors welcoming me into “The Club.”

Even my dog, Lex, knew something was up once I returned home. And he has been gentle with me, and considerate of my new daytime home on the couch. In fact, he has rather enjoyed his new napping partner, snoozing near his bed in the den.

My youngest daughter has faithfully continued to sacrifice and help care for me, and my eldest and her husband have pitched in whenever possible, all-the-while juggling the affairs of two small children.

Above any othermy wife of 40 years has cleaned for me, cared for me, administered meds for me, provided food for me, been my chauffeur, and hovered over me like a mother hen. I can hardly begin to tell you of all her sacrifice in what ostensibly is my drama, not hers.

She continually demonstrates what true love is all about. But I cannot begin to imagine her pain in all this, often falling to sleep at night with tears as she ponders what “might have been.”

“No man is and island . . . .”

The unwanted disturbance in the middle of the pool of my life in the wee hours of October 4, 2016 sent ripples all the way out to the shore; the splash made waves that rocked those closest, but also those farthest away. Because that is how it is in this life. Our ponds may seem small to us, but their waters mysteriously are able to touch every ocean on this orb.

When a large sporting event has concluded, a winning and a losing team has been announced, spectators have gone home, and players have made their way to the locker room, the highlights of the game become a memory. Those memories usually center on the spectacular plays of the night and the unforgettable outcome of the contest.

But for those caught up in the drama of an accident on the sidelines . . . a completely different memory remains. And it is indelible. It is an ink stain that is permanent. Even if the players themselves should forget that it happened (as inconceivable as that might be),

the faithful fans along the sidelines . . . never will.

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The Making of a Widow (Part 4)

3219069891_e3d74d2018_z “Timing is everything.” It’s true in comedy; a vocally well delivered line can fall flat if the timing is off. Exactly when a pause is required, or an inflection employed can bring an audience to tears of laughter, or . . . uncomfortable silence.

But timing is priceless in so many other aspects of life, too. From the timing belt in your car, to the pie you bake in the oven, to your attendance at a loved one’s special event. A word of encouragement spoken at just the right time; an embrace or a kiss of genuine love and concern expressed at the very second it is most needed. Yes . . . timing is everything, isn’t it?

My maternal grandfather’s heart attack, and (days later) his death on Saturday evening, Feb. 11, 1961, has always stood out in my memory; it was my cousin John’s 7th birthday – one he will never forget. My brother and I had already gone to bed in our 600 square foot little house that my father and that same grandfather had converted from a chicken house to a human house. But I remember the ring of the telephone, and mother’s answer from the other room. Maybe I remember the hushed sounds of her voice, but I can’t be sure now. She informed us of what had happened the next morning.

My grandfather was 62 when his fatal heart attack came; the same age as me. Coincidence, I guess.

The night of Oct. 3, 2016, just hours before my LAD artery closed completely and the circulation in my left arm was inhibited, my wife and I had been happily driving toward the setting sun, admiring the beautiful cloud formations and color of the sky, and discussing – our preferences for the interment of our remains (in that far off time when and if that should occur). We wanted to make sure we weren’t a burden to our children and grandchildren (with regard to finances or last minute decisions during a difficult emotional time).

I said to her that evening as I drove down the highway east of Snellville, Georgia: “How would you like to be eulogized? What would you want to be remembered for?” And then I shared my wishes regarding myself. Coincidence, I guess.

The group of firemen gathered around my bed in the wee hours of Oct. 4 were working hard to save my life; we are forever grateful. And their insistence (once I was loaded into the ambulance) that we go to a hospital 4 miles away as opposed to our preferred hospital 8.7 miles away, was an assertion based on timing. And in my case, timing was everything.

“Most don’t even make it to the cath lab,” my family was told. Upon arrival, we had to wait for the cath lab nurse who was “on call” to arrive. I don’t know how long it took her to arrive in the OR, but I can tell you this: the timing was critical.

They must have sent my EKG to her cellphone en route, because she later came to my room in the ICU to show it to me. A series of tombstones all in a row. I am forever indebted to her for her sense of timing that morning.

And, at the risk of repeating myself, I must also add that the cardiologist who said to me 18 months earlier (without performing any tests on me), “Quit wasting my time! You look fine. Come back when you have some real symptoms!” [my General Practitioner had referred me to him because of some anomalies she saw in me] – he was the same cardiologist whose skills saved my life that momentous morning. Coincidence.

I absolutely LOVE great timing, don’t you?

My friend, Klaus, was awakened in the early morning of Oct. 4, prompted to pray for someone in great need, but unaware until hours later who that might have been. Timing.

When a great musical composer writes a piece of music he/she plans the piece with care; not only is it critical for him/her to decide the meter and speed of the music, but the build up of particular instruments, and the entrance and exit of vocal harmonies are all painstakingly decided, calculated to convey the strongest possible feeling in the music.

Whether or not we explain the timing in our lives as interesting coincidence or the work of an unseen divine determinant, it still remains remarkably true: timing is everything. Patterns emerge. Intersections appear.

They make me smile. And they make me nod . . . in acknowledgement.

“I see you.”

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