Tag Archives: life

Best of Times – Worst of Times, but the Only One We Got

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

it is amazing how many truly frightening things are going on in the world. In fact as I went through the rush signing out of the Staff College, transferring to Little Creek, and getting signed in everywhere I needed to, as well as visiting my friend John in hospital where he is being treated for cancer, I have only caught tidbits of what is going on, but even that gave me pause.

So since I am tired and haven’t had a chance to write anything too complicated, I’ll share this short thought from the late great Art Buchwald.

“I don’t know whether this is the best of times or the worst of times, but I assure you it’s the only time you’ve got.”

Kind of says it all huh?

Peace

Padre Steve+

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under philosophy

Deaths, Funerals, Baseball, Tornadoes, and an Izzy Emergency


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Baseball great Leo Durocher once said, “You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it might rain.” Those are words that can apply to almost anything in life as I was reminded of last week. Friday and Saturday were pretty hectic in my World and I have been moving fast and flying low.

My original plan, before my friend and coworker Mike passed away, was to continue moving things from my current office to my office at the base that I transfer to this month, and then meet a friend for the exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Norfolk Tides Friday afternoon. 


That of course changed. Friday morning began with a visit to the wife and son of Mike as the area was being inundated with torrential rain. As I said the other day I felt like I knew them just from what Mike had shared with me at work. To have to meet them for the first time in this situation was sobering. They are such nice people, as they told me of his last minutes alive I was reminded of what a good man he was and how much I will indeed miss him. Later in the day the funeral home called me and said that Mike’s widow asked if I would conduct his funeral. I am honored to be asked. 

I drove back to work after the visit as the rain continued without let up. When I got what I could do there done I drove back through the rain to meet my friend at the light rail station in order to go to the ballpark. When I got there the rain was still pouring down and I was really wondering if the game would be rained out. As I sat in my car waiting I looked at the local weather radar and saw that the worst was then passing through and that there was a break in the system. 

By the time we got to Harbor Park the weather was clearing, bit when I looked at the field there was standing water in the outfield and the warning track and foul corners looked like lakes. The ground crew was already working to dewater the field and remarkably they had the field in good shape and the game began just a few minutes after the scheduled first pitch. It turned out to be gorgeous baseball weath, as if the God of Baseball was smiling on us, and the game was good. We left it a bit early in the bottom of the 6th inning thinking that it was a 7 inning exhibition and as we left the ballpark the clouds were building up and the local EMS and news were broadcasting that the area was under tornado watch. 

Judy was planning to have a girl’s night out with a friend so I drove over Gordon Biersch and took my place at the bar. Shortly after I got there the National Weather Serice issued a tornado warning for Suffolk, which then was extended to Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. As I sat at the bar with my fellow Northern California friend Rick, the storm hit, the rain was crazy and mixed with a lot of hail. Judy ended up canceling her night out and it was good she did. The area she was going to had an EF-2 tornado touch down. When it was safe I went home, my personal weather station recorded almost 5″ of rain for the day. 

Things calmed down overnight and on Saturday morning we took our youngest Papillon, Pierre to get his bandages off his leg from his knee surgery as well as getting Izzy her first couple of her annual vaccinations. When we got home I went out and did our grocery shopping and looked for a present for a another friend’s birthday. By the time I got home and we had dinner I was just hoping to relax a bit before working on my taxes. About 9:00 PM Izzy came up to me snorting and coughing. I looked at her and saw that her face was swollen twice its normal size. I immediately scooped her up and was out the door on the way the the emergency veterinary hospital in under a minute; nothing like having worked in emergency rooms a good part of your career to understand that such hints are abnormal and potentially life threatening to motivate you to move fast. They took her back and it turned out to be an allergic reaction to her leptospirosis vaccine. She was given an injection of Benadryl and a steroid and came through everything fine, but it was scary. Izzy has been my therapy puppy since we got her. We have nicknamed her “Nurse Izzy” because of how sensitive she is to us and other people who are sick or depressed. She is a gem and I cannot imagine not having Nurse Izzy with me. For those who don’t have dogs this may sound strange, but she has been a lifesaver for us. 

It was almost 11:00 PM by the time I got home with Izzy. Upon arriving she ran into the house and started playing with Minnie and Pierre and doing what we and other Papillon parents call the “zoomies.” 

Sunday was a day for chilling out, breakfast with Judy and friends followed by some time with my friend who was having the birthday. This week will be busy, Mike’s funeral, my taxes, and a number of other things that got pushed back amid all the craziness last week. Even so, all things considered things could be worse, it could be raining. 

Have a great start to your week. Love those around you and hug a furry friend if you have one. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

Life Gives Meaning to Death: Remembering Lives Lost in 2016

481801_10151367001287059_1003164983_n1

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As 2016 comes to an end I am remembering so many people who passed away this year. Death does seem to touch all of us, and I am pretty sure that most of us have probably had a relative, friend, coworker, or classmate pass away this year. Some might have been expected, others unexpected. Likewise some may have lived long and full lives and others lives seemingly cut too short. Henry David Thoreau wrote: “On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.”

Of course we read abut or see stories of people dying all the time. The media and especially social media assures us that we know about the deaths of famous people, or the deaths of large numbers of people in natural disasters, accidents, murders, wars, and terrorism. The former we tend to magnify because of our celebrity and media culture. Actors, musicians,. sports figures, and famous people become part of our lives, and when they die it seems that some part of us dies as well, even if we never met them. The one celebrity that actually I met and with who I chatted occasionally with on Facebook and Twitter was Patty Duke. Her death came as an absolute shock. But, even so among those I had never met there were so many who through their lives touched me. I was looking through the New York Times which has a gallery of notable deaths and was reminded of the stories, events, songs, sporting events, plays, films, inventions, and decisions that impacted my life. I was really amazed with who we lost and what so many had contributed to my life as I know it. The link is here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/notable-deaths/2016

But the latter, people whose lives end in large groups tend to just become numbers to us, and that is something we cannot allow. We must try the best we can to remember them as individual lives. That struck me last week when I read about the Russian aircraft that crashed with the Red Army Chorale aboard. I remember going the victims through name by name, as I did with the victims of the various terror attacks, and mass killings this year.

Then there were the stories of military personnel, or first-responders, killed in the line of duty. Those were important for me to read, and sense the common humanity.

But it gets harder when we see the mass killings and disasters around the world and the numbers become overwhelming. The temptation is to allow the dead to become mere statistics rather than people who had lives. Instead of thinking about a mass number of people which generally ends in a round number, let us remember individuals, like Army reserve Captain Antonio Davon Brown whose was killed at thee Pulse Nightclub, or Justin and Stephanie Shults who were killed in the Brussels terror attack, Sean and Brodie Copeland, killed in the Nice terror attack. Dr. Liza Glinka, the Russian humanitarian who died along with the Red Army Chorale.

sean-and-brodie-copeland

Sean and Brodie Copeland 

os-mass-shooting-victim-antonio-brown-20160614

Antonio Brown

dr-liza-glinka

Dr. Liza Glinka

Of course there are so many more many whose names will never be known in the west, and because of the ravages of war and ethnic cleansing in the Middle East will have their lives erased from memory. So it is important to us to ensure that those lives, those individual lives multiplied a million times are not forgotten.

dave-shaw

Dave

cara

Cara

tony-martin

Tony

This year lost a number of friends and relatives. “New York” Mike Ferry and Cara Beruk Hartwell were people who helped hold me together when I was stationed at Camp LeJuene and struggling just to survive as I went through very dark times struggling with PTSD, TBI, terrible anxiety, depression, and times when I was considering suicide. My friend from Gordon Biersch Dave Shaw, a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman planning to retire from his civilian career and travel around the country; my co-worker Bert Trembley whose sudden death coupled with a few other events kicked me into a tailspin at the end of March. My great-aunt Betty Dundas who loved to sing in the church choir; my former neighbor Tim Nestor who suffered for years with heart problems finally received a transplant but had complications which killed him; Bishop Randy Adler of my former church who was always so kind to me, and finally my high school friends, Stephanie Leon and Tony Martin. Tony took the time in his last month to spend time with me chatting via Facebook messenger as he was in the final stages of his battle with cancer.

In a world where death is always present it is important to remember the lives of people, not just their deaths. To quote Timothy Snyder death “must not, above all, supply the rounding rhetorical flourish that brings a story to a defined end.” Life gives meaning to death, rather than the other way around, so it is important that we remember the lives, not just the deaths if we are to retain any sense of humanity.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy

A Reality Break


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a short post today to emphasize a couple of things. 

First, just because Donald Trump is now President-Elect, life does not end. I have my concerns, but I still have family, friends, and beer. 

Second, beer is good. As Homer Simpson so correctly noted “ah beer, the cause and solution to all of life’s problems.” 

Third, and this is serious; I am going to hold off on anymore speculation about what a Trump presidency my bring. Right now everything is speculation and no-matter how well any of us think we are reading the the tea leaves the fact is the fact is that the internal divisions of the GOP may force Trump to work with Democrats to get anything done. Thus it is too early to do more than speculate what may happen after January 20th, even if we strongly believe (like I do) what will happen. 

Because of that fact I am going to restrain my comments until there is empirical evidence that I am right, and when I do write, my words will be carefully crafted in order to focus on policy and its effects than anything directed at any specific person. Emotions can carry one into shoal waters that are more dangerous than listening to the voice of reason. 

So tonight I am listening to great live music and drinking great craft beer with friends at our tapping of the Winterbock at Gordon Biersch Virginia Beach. 

So for the next few weeks I will be writing about things other than the Trumpsition. 


Have a great night, and remember, beer is good.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under Political Commentary

I’d Like to Believe: Reflections on Death and the Life to Come


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

In the final scene of the final episode of the season nine of the X-Files, Fox Mulder tells Dana Scully “I’d like to believe that the dead are not really lost to us. That they speak to us as part of something greater than us…” 

Over the past couple of weeks I have experienced the loss of three wonderful people. Two of the were expected. My cousin, Betty Dundas who was in her 80s and had been in declining health for the past year passed away on Wednesday. My friend from  high school, Tony Martin passed away two weeks ago after battling cancer for more than a year; and I found out last night that my friend Cara Burke Hartwell, one of the people who helped keep me sane during my tour in Camp LeJeune suffered a massive stroke and was taken off of life support Saturday night. I guess that Cara’s death hit me the hardest because she was my age and it was so totally unexpected.

All three were beautiful people, and all three left the world better off for simply being here. Betty lived a long and full life, until a year effort she died she took an active role in her church choir. Tony and Cara both died far too young, they leave behind many family members and friends.

After chapel today I walked around the grounds of the Staff College and the Naval Support Activity for about an hour. I needed to. I reflected on life, and I prayed for the souls of my friends, and of those that they left behind. The walk was quite peaceful, and I glad that I did it. I am blessed to have had my life touched by all three of these wonderful people, so I do not grieve for myself. I was blessed by all of them, and that is nothing to be sad about, and like Fox Mulder I’d like to believe that Betty, Tony, and Cara are not really lost to us.

I guess that believing that is really important to me, and my faith as a Christian about that is summed up in the final sentence of the Nicene Creed, “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.” 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under faith, remembering friends

Smile and the World Smiles with You: PTSD, Broken Noses, Smiles, F-Bombs, and God’s Love


 Smile and the World Smiles with You: It Looks and Feels a Lot Worse in Person, the Black Eye is Awesome

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tuesday morning began with a fucking bang. I was in the middle of one of my HD PTSD nightmares and I was rudely awakened when my face smashed into my nightstand. It’s not the first time that this is happened, and it is the second time in the past two years that the incident required a visit to the ER. I have had a lot of these incidents since returning from Iraq in2008, but thankfully only two required going in for medical treatment. The last time I required medical treatment was when in a similar nightmare, I bruised my jawbone and gave me a concussion. Today, just a gash across my face and a broken nose. The incident was so violent that it scared the hell out of Judy, Minnie, and Izzy. I woke up and felt liquid on my face and realized that I was bleeding. So I rapidly put some Kleenex to keep the blood from dripping everywhere I didn’t want to clean and stumbled into the bathroom where I was confronted with my bloodied image in the mirror. I looked like an old and out of shape MMA fighter who just had his ass kicked, but thankfully I didn’t tap out. 

Judy drove me to the Naval Medical Center, and two of the nurses both related to my situation, having both dealt with the nightmares of PTSD. One female nurse said that hers lasted over five years after returning, mine have been going on over eight years. It is one of the marks of PTSD, the fucking brain matter gets scrambled, and sometimes, no matter how much therapy you get, or how good your medication management is, shit like this happens.

That my friends is life. It may not be fair. It may not fit in with a theology that says of you pray that God will heal you, but it is life, and for that matter it is much more in keeping with scripture, and reality than the bullshit put out by the mega-church and television preacher bullshit artists who call themselves pastors, who fleece their flocks by the tune of millions of dollars every fucking day of the week. So fuck them, not that I would want to, but I digress… 

That being said, with the except of the chronic insomnia and nightmares I am doing much better when it comes to dealing with PTSD. I make accommodation for it, I avoid things that I know are likely to blow me up, and So I have a choice; I can either sulk and be angry, or while realizing how serious it is I can decide to live, to smile, and to love. So fuck it, I’m going to live and smile. I might need to start wearing a catcher’s mask to bed to keep from hurting myself when I have these high definition nightmares, but then I did play catcher in both little league and softball. 

So… What now? Well for me the answer is simple, live, love, and smile, because when you smile, no matter how fucked up things are, the world smiles with you. Laugh, and no matter how fucked up things are, and the world laughs with you; and for that matter, God might even give me a grin, because the God I believe in actuality understands and cares about real human beings and is much more concerned about our happiness than he is about the occasional F-Bomb. 

As for me, no matter what life and dealing with the effects of PTSD and TBI may be, I am still going to fucking laugh, and fucking smile. Even so I do think I will go looking for a comfortable and well fitting catcher’s mask when I get back from Gettysburg. 

Have a great night, and no matter what happens, try to smile.

Peace

Padre Steve+

P.S. I will post something about the Democratic Party National Convention tomorrow and promise to soon do something on the Trump-Putin bromance and Trump’s probable treason in the coming days. 

2 Comments

Filed under mental health, PTSD

The Paths not Chosen


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

After about a week of writing about politics, history, and the very disturbing candidacy of Donald Trump, I need to take a break, not that there isn’t a lot of politics, foreign policy, and other serious subjects I could write about. But honestly I need to take a break from that, at least for a few days, for my own sanity and to get ready for another trip to Gettysburg this weekend.

So today something a bit more introspective which I think is a good question for all of us who seek the truth and take the time to examine our lives in light of all that happens to us. 

In the series the X-Files, Agent Dana Scully played by Gillian Anderson made this observation: 

“Time passes in moments… moments which, rushing past, define the path of a life, just as surely as they lead towards its end. How rarely do we stop to examine that path, to see the reasons why all things happen, to consider whether the path we take in life is our own making, or simply one into which we drift with eyes closed. But what if we could stop, pause to take stock of each precious moment before it passes? Might we then see the endless forks in the road that have shaped a life? And, seeing those choices, choose another path?”

I actually think that it is a very good question and truthfully I wonder. I wonder what my life might have been had I, or others made different decisions. How would my life be different? Or would it? I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t really care.

One thing I do know is that whatever my alternate paths might have taken that I am happy. I have been able to fulfill many dreams and I do take the time to ponder all the forks in the road that have shaped my life. When I do I realize that the alternative possibilities are almost endless. Then when I think of the possibilities of alternate universes I wonder, not that there is anything wrong with that. But even so, I don’t think I would want to be on any other path, for since I was a child all that I could imagine ever being happy doing in life was serving my country in the military.  In early 1861, Ellen Boyle Ewing Sherman, the wife of William Tecumseh Sherman told Sherman “You will never be happy in this world unless you go in the army again.”  Ellen had never approved of Sherman’s previous service and in fact hated ever moment of it, but after six years of seeing her husband in civilian life, she knew that he had to return to the army. 

Twenty years ago I made a decision to volunteer to serve as a mobilized Army reservist during the Bosnia crisis. It was a decision that changed my life. I had left active duty in 1988 to attend seminary while remaining in the National Guard and the Reserves, and when I was mobilized I lost my civilian employment, and two and a half years later when I was offered the chance to go on active duty in the Navy, even though it meant a reduction in rank, I did it. 

When I think of all the things that transpired to get me when I am today I really am astounded, and for the life of me I don’t see how I could have chosen another path. It has been twenty years since I volunteered to support the Bosnia operation, and almost thirty-five years since I first enlisted in the army, and like Sherman, I cannot have imagined doing anything different. As for my wife Judy, she, like Ellen Sherman was with her husband has been long suffering in staying with me all these years, and I wouldn’t trade her for anyone. 

When I look at my life in total, there are many things that I might have wanted to change or do differently, but if I had, or for that matter,mad someone else made a different decision concerning my life, the tapestry that has been my life would be very different and I might not even recognize me if any of those paths had been chosen, by me, or by others. 

Agent Scully’s words got me thinking and pondering and that my friends is a good thing. 

So until the next fork in the road….

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy