Christmas Letter 2012

December 2012

Thanksgiving Friday Dinner is becoming a new tradition in our family.  This year we welcomed eleven people and four dogs to our home for a wonderful meal and great memories.  Dinner began with Wendy’s Dad offering the prayer, giving thanks for the presence and support and love of the family throughout Mom’s illness and death.  It’s been a hard year for all of us, but it’s also been a year of growing together and realizing how much love we share.

Mom died on August 23rd after six months of hospitalization and nursing care.

On the drive home to Texas from Wendy’s installation as Regional Presbyter in Princeton the end of January, Mom realized something was seriously wrong.  A stop at the ER in North Carolina, then a visit with her own doctors immediately upon arrival at home, led her to be admitted to St. David’s hospital on February 15th for the treatment of a serious abdominal infection.  I don’t know if it was the stress of the long winter drive to New Jersey, the relief of knowing Mom was cared for, or just the ticking of time for Dad … when he returned home that evening from bringing Mom to St. David’s, Dad noticed he was experiencing chest pains.  The next morning Dad was having an emergency heart catheterization, Mom was in a room down the hall praying for Dad as she was being treated with antibiotics, and Michael and Wendy were on the plane for the first of many trips to Austin this year.

Virginia Berg
b. July 2, 1942
d. August 23, 2012

Dad was recovering well after a few stents were put in when his heart stopped.  Fortunately, he was being monitored and the doctor was on hand to take him immediately back into surgery; he had a pacemaker installed.  He went home the following afternoon.  Mom, on the other hand, was just beginning her long battle.  Her most difficult surgery was a week later.  The doctors worked together to do some abdominal reconstruction and to clean and treat the ongoing infection.  As her body healed from the surgery per se, physical therapy was difficult. After a few months, the stress became too much and her body began shutting down.  She entered hospice care the week of her 70th birthday, July 2, and died about a month and a half later.

Wendy made five trips to Texas over that time.  One of her trips was a surprise for Kate … On May 28, Ben asked Kate to marry him!  Wendy, Dad, Michael and Terrie were able to be there with other friends and family as Ben took her into a replica of the Dr. Who “Tardis” (a time machine) leading into the University planetarium and sang ? “You’re the one I want to go through time with.”?  Yes, it made this proud mother (and Jim Croce fan) cry.  Oh, and Kate said, “YES!”  So we are in the midst of planning a wedding June 22, 2013, in Texas!  One week later, we’ll host a “Meet the Newlywed” gathering at our house in New Jersey.  The Texas event will be a classic garden ceremony and reception at a boutique hotel.  The New Jersey event will be more like a family reunion and barbecue.

Ben and Kate in front of the “Tardis” through which Ben “popped the question.”

Dwayne couldn’t be at the engagement event in Denton because it was opening night for his New Jersey debut as “Peter” in Company at the Kelsey Theater.  It’s been a year now since we moved and Dwayne has been cast in two shows at the Kelsey.  In January he’ll open in another Sondheim show, Sunday in the Park with George.  In addition to the theater, Dwayne has become active in the worship and music team at the Allentown Presbyterian Church, which is the church he joined this spring.

Dwayne is still working for Eyestreet on government contracts. As technology is developing, he has been able to take advantage of training events in NYC, and conferences in Princeton and Denver to keep learning new developer skills.

Wendy is, officially, no longer the “new” Regional Presbyter.  Working with eighty-eight congregations in two presbyteries is both challenging and rewarding.  The year has been christened, so to speak, by “Superstorm” Sandy.  The work in our congregations and in the presbyteries has been a true mark of grace in the communities in which they live.

The recovery from Sandy will take years on the Jersey Shore.  Hopefully, it will not take as long for the two of us.  Our house did have wind damage; now we know why the previous owners named our homestead, “Windy Acres.” The insurance company agrees with us that we need a new roof.  We had four trees down and some minor damage to our shed and deck.  Fortunately, the brand new hot tub was sheltered somewhat miraculously from the tree, which fell around it.

2013 promises to be a year of celebration, particularly as we prepare for Kate and Ben’s wedding in June.  And we hope to see you … remember you are always welcome at “Windy Acres”.  Our thoughts and prayers surround each of you as we are blessed this Holiday season.

Merry Christmas!
Dwayne and Wendy


Christmas Letter 2012

Dreams from my President

from the documentary, “2016: Obama’s America”. Filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza interviews Barack Obama’s half-brother, George.

I watched the documentary, 2016: Obama’s Americathis afternoon.  I know, we live in a polarized society ,and I’m clearly an Obama fan … why would I, Wendy, watch a movie that is bound to make me incensed?

Because my brother and his wife endorsed it on Facebook and I felt I needed to actually watch the film before commenting.  I have to admit, the movie wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be based on the hype.  It kept my interest, it showed a sympathetic relationship between the writer/director/narrator and the President in that they share pieces of history.  I thought that was interesting.  (Particularly D’Souza’s assumptions of our nation and his perceptions of us as a child in Mumbai.)  The information in the movie was built on fact; but the interpretations, leaps in logic, and conclusions are largely exaggerated, clearly biased, and at times totally misleading.

There are a few overarching principles in the film, though, that I’d like to address … let’s start with Obama’s relationship with his father.  Not unlike Oliver Stone’s depiction of George W. Bush, Dinesh D’Souza makes great claims about our president’s world view and “agenda” based on his desire to gain love and approval from his father.  Obama’s struggle to understand his identity as a black man growing up with an absent father is, indeed, the angst of the young man portrayed in his autobiography.  D’Souza claims that the man Obama idealized was not the real Barack, Sr.  Of course, that’s true.  The absence of a parent’s human presence in our lives tends to make children either idolize or demonize.  And D’Souza is also on to something when he says that it’s his mother’s view of his father … that mythical story so often shared … which is so influential.  That story of Barack Obama, Sr. was more real and more congruent with the values she hoped to raise up in her son, maybe, than the real facts.  Clearly, the ideals of anti-colonialism shaped our president.  I think that’s a GOOD thing.  And I think it’s a good thing that our leader has not only heard about or studied political revolution, but has, in fact, lived in a place where uprising was real, where poverty was fought against, where social infrastructure was fragile at best.  I’m glad that my president is not one consumed by the “first world problems” that dominate our middle class and affluent lives, but knows the reality of third world problems, and can begin to understand how the two are intertwined.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how D’Souza makes anti-colonialism sound so un-American?  I know, he even articulates the irony when he mentions that America was born in anti-colonialism in our fight for independence from Britain. But our American legends are based on the great stories of colonization.  Every day, here in New Jersey, I’m confronted with our colonial days … the building of churches, of towns, of mills, and farms.  And we are still in denial over the genocide our colonizing waged on the indigenous population.  We can argue, of course, that we brought “civilization” and “progress” and “economic boom” to this land … but is that enough?  is that good?  is that worth the price?  Those are the questions of anti-colonialism.  And the answer is “no.”  Economic growth is not enough of a gain to warrant genocide, slavery, exploitation of labor forces, exploitation of natural resources, and the refusal to treat every man, woman, and child with dignity, respect, and with the ability to decide what’s best for themselves and their community.

We can no longer live in a world in which one nation rules the world.  It is precisely that attitude which breeds anti-American sentiment around the world.  And as our third world brothers and sisters get glimpses of American culture on youtube, Facebook, twitter, and other “world flatteners,”  I can understand how they see ethno-centricism, nationalism, and a consumeristic gluttony which is both intoxicating and infuriating.  This glimpse of “streets lined with gold” is what draws immigrants to our nation; it’s what, no doubt, gave Mr. D’Souza hope.  Our principles and ideologies are, indeed, the “gold” we have.  That all men and women are created equal … and we have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  These are to be held high, but should be for ALL people … not just those who have been lucky enough to be born in the United States, or rich enough, or lucky enough, to have been able to migrate here.  We HAVE to work together with other nations and form relationships that are mutual … not dominating.  It is no longer moral to say, “our way or else”.  That is not a strong defense.  It is ignorant of the realities of our world.  We may wish we could return to times of our American imperialism, but we can’t.  In order to be a strong leader, we need to be a strong team player.  It’s true in business, it’s true in family life, it’s true in politics.

One final overarching theme related to all of these issues … racism.  I’m glad we elected our first African American president in 2008, and I hope we re-elect him.  I had no idea how deep the wounds of racism run in our African American brothers and sisters, until I watched my black co-workers cry, literally, sob, in joy on the day of his election and his inauguration.  We’ve come a long way … but we cannot allow ourselves to be convinced that racism is a thing of our past and not still very real today.  It IS real.  It is part of an overt minority who still openly make racist comments, jokes, or violence against people of color.  And it’s a subversive and systemic part of all of our lives.  There is an inter-relationship between racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia.  It’s not enough to look at one man of color in a prominent position and say, “if he could become president,” or “if he could become a writer and movie director,” then “why can’t anyone make it?”  That kind of logic is flawed.  The reality is that we have a huge problem of poverty among blacks in this country, we have a drug war that unduly targets the African American community, we still only pay women 70 cents for every dollar we pay men.  The American dream is still that … a dream … for African Americans, for women, for Latino Americans, etc.  At the end of the documentary, D’Souza implies that Barack Obama’s dream is contrary to the dream of most Americans … it’s not.  It may be contrary to the dreams of most wealthy, white male Americans … for those in power, keeping power is important.  For those in marginalized positions, Obama’s dream is our dream.


In Memory of Mom: Obituary

The Rev. Virginia (Ginnie) Joan Koepke Berg, made her transition to “Summerland” on Thursday, August 23, in Pflugerville, Texas, at the age of 70.

Virginia was born on July 2, 1942 in Jamaica, Queens, New York, to Gertrude and Henry Koepke.  She was the oldest of four children.  The family moved to Uniondale and then to Middle Island, NY.  It was at a Lutheran youth rally in Patchogue on March 10, 1956, that she met the love of her life.  She married Peter Berg three years later on October 4, 1959, in Ridge, NY.

Virginia and Peter built a house in Holbrook, NY, in 1962 where they raised their three children.  She was a dedicated wife and mother who volunteered with the Ladies Auxiliary of the Holbrook Fire Department, as a Sunday School teacher and leader at St. John’s Lutheran Church, and both a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader.  With a high value on education, Virginia worked hard to finish her GED, and entered college as a mother with three young children.  After persevering many years, she received her BA and MA (1980) from C.W. Post College in Speech Pathology.  She worked for over twenty years as a Speech and Language teacher in Sachem School District.  In addition to teaching she had a private practice as a Speech Pathologist.

Serving people, being a healer and teacher were core to Virginia’s character and life.  Her spiritual journey eventually led her to the Spiritualist Church, and she was ordained as a minister in the National Spiritualist Association of Churches November 30, 1985.  She served as a minister to the following churches: A Temple of Metaphysical Science (Patchogue, NY), A Sanctuary of Infinite Spirit (Smithtown, NY), and the First Spiritualist Church of Austin (Austin, TX).   Under her leadership and vision, the Sanctuary of Infinite Spirit began meeting in her basement in Holbrook, before moving to the Masonic Temple in Smithtown. She was a Trustee and Secretary of the Pine Grove Spiritualist Camp in Niantic, CT, and served there faithfully as a spiritualist worker every summer giving readings, teaching, healing and preaching.  As a missionary on the national level she has also served dozens of churches throughout the country.  In addition to her church work, she was a member of the Eastern Star, Rosicrucians, White Eagle, and Lucis Trust.

In 2006, Virginia and Peter, built their dream house in Pflugerville, TX, complete with a swimming pool, hot tub and waterfall, and moved with their menagerie of parrots to the great state of Texas.

She is survived by: her husband, Peter (Pflugerville, TX); her children, Wendy and her husband Dwayne Bailey (Hamilton, NJ), Michael and his wife Terrie Berg (Holbrook, NY), and Matthew Berg (Chicago, IL); her grandchildren, Michael and his wife Amanda Berg (Medford, NY), Brandon Berg (St. Paul, NC), and Kathryn Bailey and her fiancé Ben Farmer (Denton, TX); her sister Marjorie and her husband Dan Maceda (Washington, DC), and her brother Richard Koepke (Amherst, NY).  She was preceded in death by her parents, and her brother Robert Koepke.

Memorial Services for Virginia will be held both in Texas and New York as follows:

Saturday, September 1, 2012, 2:30 PM at the First Spiritualist Church of Austin, 4200 Avenue D, Austin, TX, 78751.  The Rev. Shirley Williams of the Spirit Lights NSAC, Houston, TX, will be presiding.  A potluck reception will follow the service.

Sunday, September 23, 2012, 2:30 PM at the Masonic Temple, 34 Nissequogue River Road, Smithtown, NY 11787.  The Rev. Patricia Duffield of the Sanctuary of Infinite Spirit NSAC, Ronkonkoma, NY, will be presiding.  A reception with light refreshments will follow the service.

Gifts may be made to the First Spiritualist Church of Austin in memory of Virginia.


Health Care Rights

So today the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act and allowed the individual mandate that all people of the United States must have health care insurance or they will be “fined” or taxed.  And, like I expected, there has been lots of discussion, applauding and complaining on Facebook and Twitter, and, no doubt, around water coolers and coffee pots all day.

If I listen carefully to the criticisms of the decision, I hear a few major themes.  The first is about the requirement to have health insurance or be penalized; the second is about the huge debt this plan will create for us.  Some are focussed pretty myopically on the anti-obama rhetoric that he “lied” about not taxing the working class.  And others don’t think it’s their responsibility to be forced to give “charity” through government health plans.

I’m intrigued by the notion of independence in this country and its connection with freedom and “the American dream.”  I realize we were born with a DNA of rebellion and individual rights.  And I can relate to the “you can’t make me” kind of mentality around how we spend our money and the choices we make in our lives.  I remember when my husband had to register for the draft in the early 1980’s, and I thought, how can this be fair?  I wondered why women weren’t also required to register, and, at the same time, whether I would ever allow myself to be drafted into a militaristic mentality that I believed was at its root sinful.  Yet, being a member of society means we have to require sacrifice for the common good.  I’m still an idealist, but doesn’t age also make us more pragmatic?

The health care issue is intriguing because there are some pragmatic realities.  The medications, the surgeries, the “cures” and the “cares”, are relatively recent technological innovations.  The routine care that my insurance company helps provide for me didn’t exist 100 years ago … daily thyroid replacement hormones, medications to counter high blood pressure or high cholesterol or arthritis pain or pre-diabetes … is providing this care for me my right?  a privilege of class or financial status?  What about cancer or end of life issues?  As the pharmaceutical industry continues to advertise newer medications to correct medical issues we didn’t even have a name for 10 years ago, how much of this is basic care and compassion for human life?  Am I entitled to a $100 cream for the rosacea on my face? what about the psoriasis on my ankle that keeps me awake at night?  Or are these mere “comforts” of the privileged class?   In end of life care, are we entitled to nursing home care through government subsidies?  What about hospice?  Is everyone, no matter their age or mental capacity, entitled to medical subsidies for wheelchairs, power chairs, c-pap machines?  Do we continue to pay for X-rays or blood tests or other expensive tests when we expect a patient is dying?  And in the beginning of life, are young parents of premature babies entitled to government aid when their child amasses hundreds of thousands of dollars of bills for neonatal care?  These are the hard questions we still have to deal with.  And it’s tough for a society to work through these tough questions; it’s easier to say, well, we all have the right to choose for ourselves and we can only choose what we can pay for.  Yet, the compassionate  side of me says everyone should have equal access to the care that will allow a level of human comfort, health, and wellness that we all dream possible for ourselves, especially if the technology and medical treatment exists.

The pragmatic and compassionate side of me is mostly in favor of the health care act and its principles:  that all boys, girls, women and men are entitled to basic health care, and that it’s our responsibility as fellow human beings to participate in the system which provides for it.  Some people say they have “paid” into medicare all their working lives and deserve its benefits.  Yet, most of us have not paid in nearly the amount Medicare will likely pay out on our behalf.  I have been observing my mother’s medical bills as she has spent the past four and a half months being supported by Medicare in an intensive care unit, hospital rooms, operating rooms, imaging labs, rehab units, ambulances, and skilled nursing centers; I don’t know how much money she “put in” to Medicare, but I’m sure it wasn’t close to what the government is paying on her behalf.  It’s the contributions of the younger workers today that are paying for my mother’s care, and I’m grateful.  We couldn’t do it ourselves.

None of us know if we’ll be one of those in skilled care for years or die quickly in our sleep at home, if we’ll slip off a ridge while hiking or sneeze while changing lanes on a highway, if we’ll be one of those who develops MS or a rare cancer.  We can’t plan for it or save for it.  We can’t pay for it ourselves; we have to rely on the mutuality of our civilized society.  We have to rely on each other … and that means we have to give and sacrifice for each other.

A mandate for insurance is a vote for responsibility and for everyone giving our share so that we can rely on each other as we find ourselves in need.  Personally, it seems much easier to me if we had one system in which we all participated … expand medicare to cover everyone … create a new single payer system … but that goes against our capitalistic priorities and belief that economic competition holds us all accountable.  So we have the system we have … a hybrid system  of socialism and capitalism … my hope is that it’s compassionate, just, and accessible to all who need it.

Will it put us in debt?  probably yes … but the rising cost of healthcare will put us all in debt with or without it.  How do we reduce that cost?  Many suggestions are in the health care act … centralized records reducing paperwork and mistakes, birth control for all women (and men) who desire it to reduce unplanned pregnancies and childbirth, a focus on preventative health care and healthy lifestyles.  I would add a cap on corporate profits from health related industries (including pharmaceutical and insurance companies) … I don’t deny anyone the right to make money, but I do think that exploitation of the aging and diseased populations by corporate executives whose moral obligation to next quarters profits takes priority over compassionate care is not the ideal we hold dear as a people or nation.  And if we’re not going to offer one single payer system, then require insurance companies to act more like co-ops … sharing whatever profits with members/customers by reducing premiums.

Then again, we’re going to have to come back to the big questions … the more we advance medically, technologically, pharmaceutically, we need to advance ethically, spiritually, and socially … why is the cost of medical care so high? because we can do so much and we believe that if we know how to cure, we should … that’s the right thing to do … and that requires us all to give.

A Good Choice

I remember the day.  Despite being only three or four years old (it was about the same time in my life that I was having regular play dates with the imaginary “Ding Dong” colony that “lived” with us), I distinctly remember telling my mother that I chose her and Dad.  I was mad at the time, and I was clearly second-guessing my choice.   “I don’t know WHY I chose YOU!” I cried as I stomped my feet and tantrummed off to my room.

The thing is that, just like the Ding Dongs, I actually remember remembering.  I don’t remember talking with one of my imaginary friends, but I remember trying hard to show my dad what they looked like.  I remember drawing a picture.  I can practically smell the Manila paper and feel the chunky Crayolas as I recall that afternoon.  I was attempting to draw my favorite of the “Ding Dongs” … I was so frustrated, because no matter how hard I tried, whatever I drew didn’t look anything like the image in my mind.  I remember remembering.  And, while I still can’t draw a picture of the ding dongs, I do remember how colorful they were and how it felt being around them.

My “parent shopping” recollection is similar.  It wasn’t really shopping, like at a grocery store; my second-hand memory involves something akin to looking at profiles, much like we did when we chose the girls we hosted from AFS.  And I remember talking it over with someone … more like a group of people … who acted like placement counselors, teachers or mentors.  To my three or four year old self, it wasn’t that my parents chose me, so much, as I chose them.  I chose them, not because of DNA, not because we’d be living on Long Island or in the USA, but because of their character, because of the love and opportunity they’d give me, because of what I’d likely learn from them and how I’d be shaped by them.

Now a half-century later, I still remember, and I’m no longer second-guessing my choice.  My parents made me who I am today.

The pile of books my mother brought home from our weekly trip to the public library were always stacked high next to the recliner in the living room.  Mom checked out as many as she was allowed.  She read avidly and most of the books were non-fiction.  She was always learning something, or studying something.  My love of learning and intellectual curiosity definitely comes from my mother.

Mom expected a lot from me.  Sometimes I wish she hadn’t, but she held herself to the same standard. She entered college as an adult with three young children, and she would never settle for mediocrity.  She was on the deans list; she got all A’s.  Some would call it perfectionism; nevertheless, she shaped the part of me that is continually striving for excellence in my work and relationships.

Dad would play as hard as he worked.  He not only passed along the value of working hard and being wholly committed to the tasks and people in our lives, but he was just as committed to fun and play.  Whether it was pretending to be puppy dogs running around the house, building a house with refrigerator boxes and cartons from the mill, playing marathon games of Monopoly, or taking daylong bike hikes through the woods and over streams to get an ice cream cone, Dad taught me the value and appropriateness of play and leisure in our lives.  Even now, I look forward to playing a round of Draw Something with Dad before I fall asleep each night.

Mom’s fun comes in the form of travel.  We didn’t get many vacations when I was young, but we did visit museums and take factory tours, stop at state parks and get away to visit relatives in far off places every chance we got.  As a tween and teen, it was trips to Florida or Boston or Canada that we all looked forward to, and Mom would be the one to research where to go and how to get the most out of our trips.  After we kids were grown, Mom and Dad started doing more international travel … and we had a few shared vacations: running into each other in front of Buckingham Palace and a cruises to Mexico and the Caribbean that fill us with memories.  More than just a love of travel, though, Mom shaped in me an appreciation of culture, places, and people who were different from us.

This appreciation of those who are different is the core of liberal-mindedness I share with my mother.  While some kids are raised to preserve the way things are, my mother shared a vision of a better way – a peaceful and more just world, a love and compassion for those living with poverty or disease or disability.  With Mom, I could always ask my questions, critique the way things are, and work toward a peaceful and holistic future in which all things are good.  Mom gave me a glimpse of heaven, an idealism that I am loath to lose, and a conviction that “with God all things work together for good.”

While Mom’s gifts are the big picture ideals, Dad encouraged a life of day-to-day service.  As a volunteer fireman and EMT, Dad fashioned a pride in me for working through the messy and difficult things of life and for offering up your own safety and security for the well being of others.  There is nothing we cannot face together; we are duty bound to be active in the civic life of our community; we take risks for what is right and good.  These are the qualities and values I gained from my father.  And, yes, even now as we face very difficult times together, our mutual strength and willingness to face the messy parts of life, give us comfort and support.

It wasn’t spoken often, but it was clear, too, that the comfort and support we enjoy while working for good, is clearly a gift of God.  My parents are both people of faith.  I have watched them grow over the years in their love and commitment to a life and hope far beyond the here and now.  Sitting next to my Dad during worship at St. John’s as a child, I remember hearing the passion in his singing, the love of Christ in his prayers, and solidness in his faith.  Even when his belief was challenged and the doctrines of religion were shifting for him, his underlying conviction and love of a God who is both here and beyond, who loves and is good, who forgives and builds up … these are his foundation … and they are mine as well.

From Mom I also received the ability to think theologically, to critique the doctrines of our faith community, to question and to search.  And because of my mom, I will always be searching … in a good way … because whenever we search we are led to new and deeper and richer understandings of Truth, of Spirit, of Love, of the World, and of each other.

I clearly remember that day I screamed in frustration about choosing my parents. I won’t even begin to speculate how real my memory is. The memory is good, though.  It allows me to approach each day with a foundation of intentionality that is life-giving.  Yes, I undoubtedly remember second-guessing my choice, but that was nearly fifty years ago … now there are no doubts.  I am sure I would choose them all over again.  They have made me who I am.  They have made the world a better place.  A good choice.

holding hands

Two People, One Flesh

I’m getting ready to pack up for our trip to Texas.  First we’re heading to Houston for Maegan and Jonathan’s wedding.  I had agreed to officiate at their wedding long before we knew we were moving to New Jersey.  Now I am looking forward to visiting with “old” friends and being present and part of such a special day.

In preparation for the wedding, I wrote a retelling of the creation story we read in Genesis 2.  I’m sharing a copy of that with you here …

In the beginning of time, the story goes,

God spoke,

“Let us make human beings in our image,
make them reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.
And so God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
And God blessed them.[i]

These are verses from the creation story preserved in the first chapter of Genesis.  In the second chapter another story is told that is believed by Biblical scholars to be considerably older than the first.  In this story, God is more personal and intimate.  Man and woman are created not from the cosmic boom of the voice of creation, but by the hands of God himself.

The first person, we’re told, is “hand made,” uniquely inspired, shaped, and formed from the earth.  adamah.[ii] God names the personality after “adamah”, a lump of earth.  The first human being is named “Dust” or “Red” or “Clay.”  Yes, God created the first human being with a name … with personality, ego, conscience, self-awareness, and the same longing for companionship that God, himself, had suffered.  And, although this being is given life and soul by the very breath of God, Clay is alone.

“It is not good for the human to be alone.”  And, so, God seeks to design a suitable companion for Clay. God creates every species of animal on earth and presents them one by one to the human.   One by one Clay accepts them and labels them, but none of them fill the longing in the heart for a friend, a sympathizer and a partner in life.

So God puts Clay to sleep … and takes a piece of flesh, not another lump of earth, but the very flesh and blood of “Clay” … and from that first piece of humanity, God fashions another being … separate, distinct, unique, yet born of the same essence … the same spirit and flesh.  And God introduces this one to Clay.

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

And so it is, that we grow independent of the parents who raised us, and embrace our life[iii] partner … wife, husband, companion, friend, lover … two people, one flesh.

[i] Genesis 1:26-28 paraphrased in The Message

[ii] Hebrew word upon which the proper noun Adam (?????) is based.

[iii] In Genesis 3, the second person is named “Eve,” which is a Hebraic allusion to the word for “living”.

1,680 Miles

I think the hardest thing about being 1,680 miles away from my parents is knowing when … when is it right to drop everything and go to them? My mother had a UTI, I was told. She’s had quite a few of them lately, so my parents weren’t too concerned when they stopped in the emergency room in Charlotte, NC, on the drive home from New Jersey. They’ll just pick up some antibiotics for her and all will be fine.

Following up with her urologist, though, revealed a more complicated problem. There was a reason she kept getting infections of her bladder … And it was going to require surgery. A few more tests and a visit with the surgeon revealed a little more … The infection was not only in the bladder but lodged in her abdominal cavity. She was hospitalized immediately.

As I told my co-workers … I know what a good daughter does if mom lives around the corner or a town over, but what does a good daughter do who is 1680 miles, and a 4 hour flight away? I prayed that God would help me know when I needed to go …

Friends … I should know better … How many times have I told myself and others, “be careful what you pray for!” The next morning my mom called from the hospital … Dad had had a heart attack. Evidently, after he dropped off mom at the hospital and got her settled into her room, he went home to relax. As he made himself some supper, he felt the familiar angina pains. Thinking, though, that it was just due to the anxiety of mom being in the hospital he decided to drive himself to Urgent Care to see if a doctor could give him something to relieve his nerves. Urgent Care recognized the symptoms and rushed him to the hospital where he met his cardiologist and had three stents put in his arteries to open up the blockage. That’s when mom called me … to tell me he was okay … and not to worry.

I think there’s a point in our lives, though, when it’s our JOB to worry. We tend to think of “worrying” as dysfunctional … but there is an appropriateness of concern that is normal, natural, and a consequence of love. It’s not a “bother” to worry about my parents … It’s right.

Well, it was clear now … No more subtleties … I dropped everything and planned a flight as soon as I could to Austin. My brother and I decided to fly together. That was almost two weeks ago. It’s been a full two weeks. Dad had another episode after his angioplasty causing his doctor to install a pacemaker in him that afternoon. He was released from the hospital the next day. Mom has had her surgery, but is still in terrible pain. It will be a long recovery.

Now I’m flying back to Long Island to pick up my car at Michael and Terrie’s. I left mom feeling as good as can be expected, but it will be a long haul. She’ll probably move to a extended care nursing facility by the weekend … When she’s able, they’ll move her to rehab for physical therapy …

So what can a daughter do to help from 1,680 miles away? Pray, of course … Arrange for housekeeping, sure … Knit a gratitude/prayer shawl to keep me busy and feeling like I’m doing something …

I think I’ll start a prayer group on Facebook for her … That will be something … We can share prayers, memories, hopes, etc. And I’ll call every day ..

Dwayne and I have another trip to Texas scheduled for Holy Week … I’m officiating at the wedding of Maegan and Jonathan on March 31 …. A couple days with friends in Houston and Baytown, then a drive to Denton to see Kate and Ben, and finally Good Friday and Easter with Mom and Dad. Hopefully, by then, we’ll be celebrating our ow resurrection of sorts as well.