Brain Cancer

The announcement that Senator Edward Kennedy has a form of brain cancer brings to mind these thoughts.

Most of us know someone who has had cancer, or has cancer or who has died of cancer. It is an insidious disease. It is indiscriminate and it is a life altering challenge, not only for those diagnosed with its various forms, but also for the family and friends of the afflicted.

Whenever these kinds of announcements come fourth that a celebrity is stricken, it reminds all of us of our vulnerability. Somehow we think the famous or the wealthy are immune to disease because they appear to have everything. The truth is that illness is the common denominator of all humans for we are finite beings.

What every cancer, every disease says to everyone of us, is that life is precious and fragile and fleeting and that all of us are vulnerable and maybe some of the things we call important aren’t really.

My son Lee died of brain cancer nine years ago. He was 31. I talk about this, not because I choose to share a personal grief, but because he was a great teacher and some of the things he taught by being the evidence of them, may be of value to you as it is to me.

Lee knew he was on a short life line. Cancer tends to focus one’s thinking on the finiteness of life, yet he never complained, despite three brain operations, chemotherapy and radiation and the debilitation that goes with those encounters.

Lee lived for the moment. To complain, he felt, wasted precious time and energy that he could use for healing. He chose to enjoy and embrace every minute of life and to gracefully enthuse everyone with whom he came in contact. His humor was infectious and he always chose to be positive even when another choice would be easier.

Lee also taught me that parents must love their children for themselves, not love ourselves, through our children. What a great lesson. And by example he taught that there is dignity in dying and that the spirit always dances.

Judge Frank (Francis) Vogt

Frank Vogt died the other day. He was 85. Most of you won’t know him. That’s the way it is in life. You know some, you meet some, you stay in touch and you get to hang out together for a moment or two. We each have the opportunities in our lives to touch a little piece of another’s life and if we’re lucky it resonates with our own and something called friendship results.

We come into the glorious existence called life to live a little, cry a little, laugh a little, love a little and then we pass, leaving a shadow of memory for family and a few friends and acquaintances who linger in this density for only a little while longer till we too move into the beyond of corporal understanding.

I knew Frank Vogt in a very small way, but it was a big knowing for his credentials in life’s work amplified the personal persona that he shared with friends and colleagues. I knew of him as a former FBI agent, I knew he was a District Attorney, a judge, and those accomplishments were part of his professional life. I knew he was a father and a husband and a friend to many. I knew that he laughed easily and could turn a phrase with wit. What I really knew of Frank Vogt was that he was an intelligent conversationalist, a fun partner in golf, an elegant competitor and a man who always remembered the little things that mattered to me and I suspect in private personal conversations also to others.

When a body dies, when a soul passes to other realms, it is truly a time to rejoice for the soul has finished what it came here to do. All endings should have a celebration. Our earthly farewell to Frank should be as glorious as his welcome home in that other place we all deeply know exists, but are too often hesitant, and too timid to acknowledge as the truth of being.

Goodbye Frank, we’ll all see you soon and thanks for all your courtesies. The eternal light is now brighter.

Check The Facts!

When I started writing this Blog and in fact when I started writing commentaries a number of years ago, I decided that I would not critique, but I would offer an alternative view of looking at a situation, an issue, an action, or a belief.

While I still try and sometimes fail to hold to that personal and specific ethic, it is often difficult to do so when those in authority, when those in leadership positions, when those who are acknowledged partisans, and especially when those who are ordinary, everyday, common citizens choose ignorance over intelligence. Unfortunately it happens everyday and everywhere because opinionated righteousness demands, not only a personal validation, but a vindication from suspicion of being wrong. To me facts demand validation and so few today, who are immersed in their political or spiritual beliefs, seek the confirmation attainable in common sense or astute research. Too many prefer the invalid verification of blind faith or blind allegiance by the acclamation of cheers and applause from others who are just as uninformed for it gives momentary strength to an empty belief.

A colleague recently sent me an email saying if I buy a six volt battery and pry off the top I’d have umpteen double A batteries for a lot less money. Then he sent me an email saying, “Whoops” it wasn’t true. He doesn’t do this in his political emails attacking his opponents with the untruths he believes to be true. Untruths never matter when the result brings about what you politically desire. To me a logical and even fair motto for all of us, is don’t send junk out until you personally check it. Too many people today are willing to stand for what they think is true, not for what is true, and they are lazy for checking facts and conclusions requires some effort and then maybe even a change of mind.

Where is “Away”?

I’ve wondered now for quite awhile
Where is this place we call “away”?
It must be big and vastly vile,
Perhaps the hell from old Dante.

Each day we throw away our trash
That no one wants. We let it go.
There’s paper, cans and blackened ash
Just junk and trash that’s tossed heave-ho.

Immense the piles of useless stuff
In bins and carts and plastic bags.
We hold and store more than enough,
And oft’ we toss good clothes as rags.

Someday there may be no more space
To put the stuff we throw away.
What then of us, the Human Race,
Do we get tossed as our doomsday?