Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Long Month

As I write this, within one hour the month of March will finally and mercifully come to an end. This has been a tragic month for the family of Lloyd Smith and all his friends. It is a month that began with the possibility of Lloyd contracting a cold or, at worst, pneumonia, to the end of the month with him lying in a hospital bed unaware of much of his surroundings.

It has been a month of monumental emotional swings. There was the hope of a positive outcome of a cardiac test. The fear of the worst. The confirmation that his heart was seriously blocked, thus requiring immediate bypass surgery. There was the agonizing wait as the surgeon extracted blood vessels from other parts of his body to serve as conduits to his hear, bypassing the ones that were clogged. And then the long wait once surgery was completed to see how he was doing.

There was great hope once again as the days immediately following his operation passed. He seemed to be gathering strength with each day, even to the point of beginning to take some nourishment orally. Then, profoundly and suddenly, all came crashing down late in the night as his heart came to a complete stop.

With hearts beating wildly from fear and anxiety, we waited in the hospital to see if doctors could bring him back to life. There was the guarded happiness as his heart resumed its rhythm, but the underlying fear that he now had sunk out of sight loomed.

Since then the days have passed agonizingly slowly. Each day, one looks for some sign of improvement and, at times, it does seem that improvement has indeed taken place. But if it has, it is only minimal. Now, as March becomes a part of our history, an uncertain April and beyond dawn. There is great irony in all of this.

With Lloyd as sick as he is, the springtime of the year is arriving. Warm temperatures and sunny skies have replaced the damp and dreary weather that so often marked the days of March. Tender plants have begun to peek their heads above the ground as trees begin to bud and daffodils and tulips begin their annual pageant of vibrant colors. All of this by way of reminding us that life does, indeed, renew itself. And once again, as we emerge from a long, cold winter, hope is in the refreshingly warm air.

Yet, there is a certain darkness in our hearts this spring. But in that darkness we can find some light if we look hard enough. It is hard to see it in the midst of pain and suffering, but it is there. It is to be found in the legacy of a father whose life has been well-lived. It is in the memories of holidays, birthdays, camping trips, and anniversaries. It is in the ordinary every day encounters we have ever had with him. It is in the knowledge that Lloyd Smith has lived a life that we can all look upon with pride. He has taught us well and, in time, as the painful memory of this cold and bitter March fades into the distance, we will begin to see better just what a gift this month has been. For without it, we would not have taken the opportunity to reevaluate our own lives and measured them in relation to Lloyd.

So, good-bye March! And thank you for your most difficult lessons. We will not miss you, but we will one day appreciate you for what you gave us.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Pope and the Scandal

In recent days, the secular media has been aflame with accusations against Pope Benedict XVI and his handling of the child sex abuse scandal now rocking the European church.  When he was Cardinal Ratzinger, he was in charge of handling such cases and has been accused of covering the up the scandal.  There is very little proof of the charges that have been leveled primarily by the New York Times in this country.

While this scandal does, indeed, demand explanation and justice, I have to wonder a few things about those who are now howling for justice, including some who are calling for the Pope to step down.  First, these secularists and libertine Catholics who urged the sexual revolution of the 1960's and 1970's bring very little credibility to their position.  It is these same people, who now place themselves in the position of protecting children, who have argued loudly and fervently for abortion.  They sanction gay-pride parades that include the North American Man-Boy Love Association, a group that encourages sexual relationships between adults and children. 

The moral authority of these people is nil.  They hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular because the church is not afraid to state unequivocally that certain behaviors are wrong and sinful.  We now witness the absurd and deplorable spectacle of a culture awash in depravity and never-ending exploitation of women and children lecturing the Vicar of Christ on moral issues.

In all of their reporting and search for the "truth" there has not been one mention of the same types of abuse that goes on in American public schools.  Where is the outcry about the abuse of women in society who are paraded around in commercials, scantily clad, selling anything from women's lingerie to cars?  Isn't this exploitation of women at its worst?  Where were the women's groups protesting Bill Clinton's dalliances in the Oval Office of the White House? 

While the bishops and priests involved in these scandals deserve to be brought to justice and imprisoned if fond guilty, it is also important that the media and other groups who somehow see nothing worthwhile regarding the Catholic Church begin acting as journalists and report such outrages with equal condemnation.

I am not sure whether there is a concerted effort on the part of the media and popular culture to attack the Catholic Church, but I do know that they have made every effort to place a cloud of doubt over the head of every Catholic priest.  Many thousand of priests serve the Church and society for years with humility and dignity.  Only a relatively few abuse children and these few should taste justice to its fullest extent.  But please do not condemn the entire church and its most ardent and dedicated servants to the public perception that all of them, by virtue of their vocation is a threat to society.

During this Holy Week, we must pray for all involved and realize that it was for this very reason that our Savior accepted death on a cross in reparation for the reprehensible sins of humanity.  We pray for peace and forgiveness as well as justice and healing in this terrible tragedy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Sanctity of Suffering

There are those who read this who may take exception to the title of the piece. It seems absurd to think that there is sanctity in suffering. Our modern age teaches us that suffering is evil and we are to avoid it at all costs. Suffering is a part of the human condition and it would most certainly be wrong to seek it out.

Recently, with the hospitalization of my father-in-law, I have seen close up the effects of suffering, not only on the one who is afflicted, but in those who have no other alternative but to be relegated to the role of the spectator.

I have witnessed other families struggling with the nearing of the end of a beloved one's life. I have seen the fear and agony of letting a much loved one go. It was touching to see their complete devotion to their dying family member as the hours and minutes ticked off drawing them ever closer to death. They did not leave the hospital once, keeping vigil in the waiting room. They smiled bravely when asked how their situation was, yet, you knew there were tears just below the surface ready to break through. But they also understood that others were in similar circumstances and never failed to ask how another family's plight was progressing. There were even times when the families would unite for a moment or two of prayer. Sad to say that these brave people lost their relative only a few days ago and we didn't have the chance to say good-bye to these wonderful people.

In our situation, Lloyd still clings to life, now led without the intrusive breathing tube. His suffering, while far from being constant, is obvious as he lay on the bed trying to cough the fluid from his lungs to clear his air way. It is heartbreaking to watch him as he struggles through the motions, occasionally bringing up some of the offending fluids. But there is also an unmistakable look of peace on his face as he either gazes about the room or sleeps quietly as his body fights to come back to life.

There are moments as I stand at the foot of his bed with other family members on either side, that I think I see signs of consciousness and recognition and my heart soars with hope. In these moments we are all united in hope that something is happening to bring him back complete and whole. Hope is all that you have at times because the situation can become quite overwhelming. It is in these moments that the words of our Savior come to mind. "Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28)

Suffering transforms all who come into contact with it whether they are the victims or witnesses to such. If our faith is strong and we truly are able to hand over to God our trials for the better, then we will find rest and goodness, not in their suffering, but in our realization that we are never truly alone in our trials. This is difficult at best since our love for the afflicted one helps us to empathize with their pain in the moment. But we must look past the pain to see what is truly happening.

When I see Lloyd's face wincing in reaction to some unknown and unseen pain, I truly see the face of Christ upon the Cross. I see the torture and agony that He bore for me all reflected on my father-in-law's countenance. Again, Lloyd becomes the teacher. In those moments all of us want to reach out to Lloyd to comfort him and remove his pain even to the point of taking it on upon ourselves so he would not have to. None of us wants to see him suffer. We feel helpless and frustrated that all any of us can do is to pat his arm, hold his hand, or gently stroke his head to let him know that we are at his side, suffering right along with him.

It is in this moment that we are doing the same thing for the Crucified Christ for He once also said, "as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me." (Matt 25:40) And it is in this moment that we are all united in a special way to Christ. This is not some religious fantasy or the ramblings of a religious fanatic. It is the true reality of the nature of suffering. We must always seek to relieve suffering in the world but we must not go so far as to avoid it at any cost. We must realize that suffering always has been and always will be a condition of being human. It can also be a doorway to a closer relationship with God if we only trust in His ways. It may seem hard and cruel to think of it in this way, but often, the truth is hard and cruel.

As we begin our journey through Holy Week, try to keep in mind that the sufferings of Christ are still seen in the world today. But also remember that in order to see the sanctity of that suffering it is necessary to look past it and see the truth behind it. And the truth is that, through suffering, we can grow closer to God and one another by uniting this suffering with that of the pain of the Crucified Christ. Remember that Good Friday is only Good because of the Resurrection! If all there were was suffering, then it would be pure evil and our existence would be truly futile!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

God's Will. . .and Sense of Humor

We human beings think we're so clever!! We pray to God so that we may come to know His will in order that we may follow it. Once we get off our knees feeling secure in the knowledge that we now understand Him perfectly, we tend to be very certain that He will act in a way that is compatible with our desires. However, God has a sense of humor!

In the continuing saga of my ailing father-in-law, Lloyd Smith, the family was called together by the doctors for a conversation about his current condition as well as future course of action. All of us braced ourselves for what obviously seemed to be the inevitable message of the physicians. What else could their message be? Of course, we knew that the end had come and it was time to begin to say our good-byes.

To our surprise, both the neurologist and surgeon agreed that there had been some minimal improvement in Lloyd's responses at the neurological level. They feel that he deserves two more days on the ventilator to see if there is more improvement. One way or the other, the breathing tube must come out before too long.

All of us in the room were dumbfounded. We simply could not believe that there had been enough progress to allow another couple of days of treatment to see if he will continue to show any signs of improvement. All of us had prayed for guidance and acceptance of God's will. All of us knew what that will would turn out to be because we were certain that God was on the same page as we.

Think again! God, in His infinite and never unsurprising wisdom, has seen fit to answer our prayers but not in the way we expected. Once again, He used Lloyd as His vessel of teaching. Through this turn of events, we have learned not to jump ahead of God. None of us has the market cornered on the desire or will of God. Even though this is a positive turn of events, it still must be pointed out that the chances of Lloyd surviving are greatly against him. Yet, where it was once felt that there was virtually no chance, now there is one, albeit rather small.

Then, without warning, late on Friday evening, March 27, a call was received from the hospital informing us that he had managed to pull the breathing tube out by himself! What a shock. Instead of waiting for Monday, Lloyd evidently decided that he'd had enough of the invasive tube. As to whether he removed the tube in a conscious effort or it was the result of the involuntary action is really irrelevant at this point. The fact is that the tube has been removed and will not be put back in.

Humility is the lesson here. We must be humble enough to let God answer our prayers in His own good time and in His own way. When the doctors told us of their findings, there was a sense of confusion at first as if the good physicians had suddenly begun to speak in Swahili. All of us were certain that the medical team had gathered us together to deliver the news that the beginning of the end was about to convene. And then, God expressed His will in the dark of night while most of us were catching forty winks!

What a wonderful lesson to learn. We are not sure at this point as to where the premature removal of Lloyd's tube will lead. But one thing is certain. The will of God is known only to Him. We can gain insight of this by quieting ourselves, distancing ourselves from the static of every day living, and truly listening carefully to discern the will of the Father. We must wipe out every notion that we somehow think we know God's will so well that we really don't have to think much about it. His will is something that we must actively seek every day of our lives through the simple, yet, very difficult and complex act of listening. This, too, is an important lesson for our interaction with one another. We are all too anxious to have our own thoughts and opinions validated to listen to each other in the way we should.

I honestly believe that God is somehow smiling at us in this moment, bemused by the fact that we all thought we knew exactly what He was going to do.

Humility! That is the key to understanding the will of God!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I am certainly no theologian, nor do I pretend to have special insight into things religious. But I do contemplate things prayerfully and deeply to understand further the ways of God and His very nature with the full knowledge that I will never come to a point where I understand even one iota. But I do have certain ideas about things.

Lloyd Smith, my father-in-law of whom I have written about over the last week or so, is very critically ill with a poor prognosis at this point. That isn't to say that something can happen and a complete reversal of the current course of his health won't take place. But, for now, things don't look good.

That led me to thinking about something. Heaven. Lloyd has received the Sacrament of the Sick in the Catholic Church. He is prepared to come into the presence of God when the call will go out for this faithful servant of the Lord to return home. In these moments, heaven has become far more real to me.

How many of us who believes in heaven, really has a concept of what it is or what it means? When we think of heaven, I 'm afraid that many of us keep it in the conceptualized form without really understanding its very existence. I am not about to explain what heaven is here but what I want to impress upon you is the very reality of heaven.

As I write this, Lloyd, only a few short miles from here, fights for his very life. He could be taken home at any time. As I was thinking about this, it suddenly hit me that some time soon, my father-in-law, a man that I have come to admire, respect, and love, may be ushered into the very presence of God our Almighty Creator. This is not fantasy. It is a reality. Let that thought sink in for a moment about a loved one of yours who may be ill or facing the possibility of death. Some time soon, they may be in the midst of God the Father. This is a reality far greater than any reality any of us ever encounter in our mortal existence.

What will that encounter be like? I have no idea! But I do know that there will be an immense and eternal peace the likes of which our poor human intellect cannot possibly fathom. The God Who created us all will one day greet us and it is a reality every bit as much as the reality of us getting up in the morning and starting our day.

There is great joy in this for it is the culmination of the promise of Jesus Christ. He has told us that there are many mansions in His Father's house and that He has gone before us to prepare a place for us. No more conflict. No more pain. No more jealousies. No more hurt. No more sinfulness. Only a Divine Love that none of us can even begin to describe or understand. This is true joy and the promise of all our futures.

Yes, there is a great sadness at the departure of a loved one. There is a void in our hearts and lives that cannot be filled by anything earthly. But the departure is only one aspect of life. The promise delivered to us through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ can and will overcome the painful loss of our loved one. My father-in-law, the patriarch of the Smith family will one day actually be in the presence of God! What more could we wish for one that we love so dearly? Our loss will only be temporary. For one day we, too, shall be at the edge of life, ready to cross over in death, with the sure knowledge that, as long as we have followed the will of God, we too shall be favored the unspeakable and eternal joy that Lloyd shall soon enjoy.

With this in mind and aware of the season of Easter fast approaching, our Alleluias may be far more different than in any year of our lives.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Time is an amazing thing. It is completely non-discriminatory. Each second is like the previous. Each minute follows upon another in the same manner. Our lives follow its rhythm. We live by it and die by it. It seems as though much of our lives is involved in waiting for something.

The family is now involved in a waiting game. As those of you who have read my recent blogs know, my father-in-law Lloyd Smith, now lay in a hospital bed recovering from not only bypass surgery but an episode in which his heart stopped.

Connected to tubes delivering medication and nourishment, he lies still, his chest rising and falling with each breath taken. Occasionally, he opens his eyes appearing to stare forward or at a family member. He moves his arms and once in a while his legs move slightly. The question at this point is simple: what does this all mean?

Hope keeps all thinking that this is a good sign. A sign that underneath the tubes and apparatus helping him to heal, a recovery is taking place that simply has not reached the surface. Simple movements of the hands and blinking of the eyes when opened are taken as something positive taking inside this head of the family. Yet, no one can be certain.

Doctors have been consulted as to the cause of the heart failure and, still, they know very little of what may have brought this episode on. When asked for a prognosis, they are unable to say much of anything simply because no, not even the experts, knows. "It's too early to tell," is the mantra of the day. Yet, human nature as it is, wants an answer now! Sadly, there are none. And so patience is required.

During this time, painful decisions are pondered and questions arise out of those decisions that spur more conversation. The grim reality of a loved one on the precipice of death slowly sinks in as the days pass by agonizingly slow. All through the conversations, each person has the opportunity to voice their opinion. As a bonus, they have the unique possibility of learning something about his or her siblings that they would never otherwise have the chance to find out. It is in moments of intense sadness or tragedy that we reveal ourselves in an intimate fashion in ways that we would never consider.

What appears to be a tragedy--the serious health problems of this beloved father--is in reality an important lesson for us all. God has His own good time. We live under the illusion that if we pray just enough or beg just at the right time, God will change His mind giving in to what we are asking. Somehow, we begin to think that we can negotiate with the Creator. But God's plans are far above our poor powers to understand or interpret. Through all of this, it is my belief that each member of the family is learning how a loving God is reaching out to them through Lloyd.

Through this difficult time we have had the opportunity to learn just how dependent we are on God. We are not masters of our own life! If we are to lead a life of peace and dignity, we must conform our will to the will of God. We surely can ask God to deliver Lloyd from his illness and restore him to health and we have every right to do so. But we also must remember that God's ways are not necessarily our ways. Lloyd, as sick as he is, continues to teach his sons and daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren the important lessons of life. Through his illness he has taught us strength, courage, and hope and complete trust and faith in the ways of a loving God.

And so the waiting continues. Our patience is thin. Our yearning for answers of any kind continues to occupy our minds. But, somehow, as we gaze upon Lloyd in his bed, we must remind ourselves that there is a purpose to this waiting. There is good coming from the bad. And there is hope eternal as long as we strive to follow the will of God no matter how hard or impossible it may seem. All of us sit at the foot of the Master who lovingly embraces us all with the sometimes harsh realities of life as a way of helping us understand His ways. How fortunate we are to have Lloyd as our teacher!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Waiting Room

A minute is a minute is a minute. An hour is an hour is an hour. A day is a day is a day. Time inexorably moves forward marking the moments of our lives with a certitude and exactness that nothing else can touch. Each second is exactly one second. Each hour is exactly one hour. However, these measures of time seem to pass by with bewildering sluggishness when spent in the waiting room of a hospital.

Those of you who read these scribblings of mine know from the previous blog that my father-in-law, Lloyd Smith, has recently undergone a test of supreme courage due to serious health issues. He emerged from six bypass surgery successfully and appeared to be on the road to recovery when, quite unexpectedly, he experienced heart arrhythmia in which his heart came to a complete stop. Thanks to a quick acting, persistent nurse, he was revived and rushed back to the cardiac care unit. He now is gravely ill and the future is quite unsure.

As this alarming and sad event unfolded, members of his beloved family have gathered in the waiting room of the cardiac care unit fearful of what announcement may come from the unit located on the floor above. Everyone is acutely aware of the gravity of the situation. There is no hiding the fact that the beloved patriarch of the family is in the fight of his life.

The waiting room is a story of just that, waiting. Seconds pass by with the speed of an hour. Minutes never seem to pass and hours come and go with the rapidity of a year. Each family member lives for the moment when they are able to go upstairs for a visit. And for each member, this visit represents a moment of supreme courage.

Once on the cardiac ICU you walk down a pristine hallway. On any given day there might be a gurney up against one wall with some other high-tech equipment opposite against the other wall. You round the corner knowing full well that if you had taken a left turn you would be brought into the operating suites. There is a certain tension as you walk onto the unit. Nearly every room has a patient whose life is being supported in that moment by an array of machines and equipment that put the Star Ship Enterprise to shame. Each patient is assigned a nurse for that shift and it is their responsibility to see to the well-being of the entire patient.

As you near Lloyd's room, you find your heart beating a little faster in anticipation of what you are about to see. Lloyd's life is now surrounded with a dizzying number of mechanical devices pumping life-sustaining chemicals into his body and removing toxic fluids from various parts of his anatomy. Here is the one place where I have found courage.

Each person reacts differently to the scene before them. A ventilator monitors his oxygen intake always at the ready to take over for his breathing. A tiny exterior pace maker exacts a tiny electrical shock to his ailing heart with impressive precision in an effort to maintain his blood pressure at an acceptable level. A robust man all of his life, he now appears weak and helpless as a newborn kitten. His eyes are shut and his chest rises and falls with each breath taken. For all who enter the room at this moment, it is a shock and can even be devastating.

We like to remember people as they were in good times. It is only human. For his children, my brothers and sisters-in-law, this must take a monumental amount of courage. How devastating it is for them to see this man they have always called "dad" lying helplessly in a bed with numerous tubes and monitors measuring his metabolic responses each second.

Here is the man who delighted in camping trips. A man who loved to fish and build bonfires regardless of the season of the year. Here is the man who worked countless hours and every shift imaginable so that his children could have every opportunity that he missed out on. Here is the man whose tenderness could take care of every childhood hurt and whose arms, when wrapped around their tiny bodies, made them feel that nothing could ever harm them. Here is the man who encouraged, nurtured, and loved them with untold passion.

In these past few days I have seen these adult children as well as the grand-children and other family members pause at his bedside, gazing lovingly at the deceptively peaceful countenance. They are all frightened even though some do not show it. They cling to the moments with him in a failed attempt to slow time down for that time they have with him. Each knows that this visit could be their last and yet no one wants to think of that for the pain.

The remarkable thing is the way that they have supported one another. They gather in the hospital cafeteria for a bite to eat, often telling stories of their dad from days gone by. Seldom is there any sadness on the surface as the stories unfold. Yet, their eyes betray them. They aren't as bright as they were a couple of weeks ago when all of this had yet to happen. There is always a certain type of distant in their gaze as though they are trying to envision a world without their father. Still, the stories continue punctuated with laughter that leads to another story.

I have seen them pause in prayer, acknowledging the role of the Author of Life in all of this. Their faith in God is strong and remarkable and is really the underlying glue that holds them together. Their parents saw to it that they have a deep and firm faith in a loving Father who, even in the most difficult of times, is there for them. It is a faith that has seen them time and again through various crises of this family's life.

It has been my privilege to be a part of this and to learn from their courage and hope. All know the possible outcome of these moments. They understand that any hour might be the last hour their father has on this earth. Yet, they face the inevitable moment with a sense of peace and dignity. They greet other families who are experiencing similar trying times with true concern and outreach for them. They smile and laugh through tears both seen and unseen. They are wonderful examples to the younger generations of the family of what it is like to come to this point in life when the impending loss of a loved one looms. That is not to say that Lloyd Smith is going to die soon. He may make a recovery and go on to enjoy another several years. But it is to say that should death come, his children will carry on his legacy of dignity and grace implanted in them by this man with a near infinite capacity to love his family!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Great Man

Shortly after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, someone said, "A tree is best measured when it is down." The same can be said about a very important man in my life.

Lloyd Smith is my father-in-law. He is a gentle and humble man who is always in motion fixing this and doing that. I don't think there is anything that he could not fix with his hands. He has accomplished much in his lifetime. He has not amassed a huge fortune or become a prominent business man. Those are things the world counts as accomplishments. No, this man has accomplished what all of us wish to accomplish and that is a life led in courage and dignity.

He was hard worker all those years as he raised a family of five along with his wife, Eileen, at his side. Like every family, there were good times and bad, funny stories and sad tales. Camping was the family's main source of entertainment and Lloyd led them proudly into the woods for magical weekends of swimming, canoe trips, and warm summer nights spent by the crackling campfire. Memories, bolstered by family movies shot on the latest technological marvel, the home movie camera, flow freely at each family gathering. Laughter abounds at stories now told and you would think that these things just happened last week instead of many years ago.

Eileen, Lloyd's lifelong partner of over fifty years, died nearly five years ago. I cannot imagine what that must have felt like to him. During those sad days, I had the opportunity to witness this gracious man go through the funeral rites with dignity and integrity, surrounded by a loving family as his support. Over the years since Eileen's departure, Lloyd has grown older and in some ways a little weaker as we all do with the aging process. But one thing has remained: character.

Only a week ago, Lloyd reported that he had been experiencing shortness of breath. He thought it might be the flu or a cold. Certainly it could be nothing more drastic than pneumonia. Upon consulting with his doctor about the situation, Tom, his son and my brother-in-law, was instructed to get him to the ER to have this checked out. The doctor didn't seem to think it was much but did bear examination. This advice saved Lloyd's life.

Much to every one's surprise, it was discovered that Lloyd's heart had suffered damage from a heart attack that occurred some time ago. Then, only recently, another one had assaulted this vital organ. Lloyd was admitted to the hospital for further testing. The results of those tests were not encouraging.

Lloyd's heart had serious blockage and he was urged by doctors to have cardiac catheterization to see exactly what the problem was. This news was very frightening. You see, Lloyd had never been sick enough in his life to require hospitalization. He was always the caretaker, never the patient. He was frightened. As was typical with him, he gathered his family about him to discuss the options and possible outcomes. It was decided that there really was no decision in this matter. The procedure must be done.

Once again, the results were not what was hoped for. It was found that Lloyd's arteries in his heart were nearly all blocked. Bypass surgery was the only procedure recommended to correct this situation. If he would not have surgery, death was imminent. And so, not two hours after the cardiac cath test, Lloyd bravely bid his family good afternoon and was wheeled into surgery for what would be a nearly six hour procedure.

As evening descended, the family gathered in the waiting room. There was little talk of what was going on one floor above, but no one in the room had anything else of real consequence on their minds. After an exhausting wait, a call came from surgery that the procedure had ended. Lloyd's blockage was so severe that it required six grafts! This is, indeed, rare though not unheard of.

When the family was permitted to see him after surgery, Lloyd was found to be resting completely under the influence of anaesthesia and sedatives. A breathing tube kept his respiration's even and oxygen flowing into his wounded body. In a way it was hard to see this robust man laying in that bed with all the tubes and instruments tracking his every movement and bodily function.

As the week progressed, Lloyd has slowly come out of the fog of surgery. The breathing tube has been removed and he now rests more comfortably. Somewhat confused, he is beginning to communicate with visitors.

It struck me that after watching this amazing man for a week in a hospital bed, tied to monitors and machines geared to help in his recovery, that we could all take a lesson from him. He faced all of this with courage and determination even though he was scared. Who wouldn't be scared at the prospect of having your chest cut wide open and your heart brought back to life through delicate, complicated surgery? Yet, because Lloyd loves life to the fullest, he has chosen to fight the battle upon which he is now engaged. He has fought it with his deep abiding faith and the loving support of his family that is his lifeline. He has taught all of us who have witnessed this struggle that we must face our challenges head on with a sense of integrity and dignity that reflects our standing as a human being and a child of God.

No one knows for certain the outcome of all of this. The prognosis is very positive at this point, but none of us can be sure that we will wake up tomorrow morning. But the way Lloyd has fought this fight, the fight of his life, should teach us all of the very precious nature of life. We must take care of ourselves and each other with loving care, ignoring all the unimportant trivialities that afflict families at one time or another.

Lloyd Smith is a great man not because he is my father-in-law but because of the life he has led. It is a legacy of strength and determination guided by a deep faith, a lifelong partnership, and a family that provides the energy of his life. He is a true inspiration!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Senator Harry Reid. . ."Only 36,000 jobs lost!"

Senate majority leader Harry Reid was nearly beside himself today on the floor of the senate when he proclaimed that the number of jobs lost during the month of February was "only 36,000." That is good news according to the Senator. While I think I know what he meant, I have to wonder what it sounds like to those 36,000 who find themselves without an income. The Obama administration also proclaimed this as good news and an indication that things were getting better.

One has to wonder where these politician's sensitivities are. ONLY 36,000? That simply adds to the millions who have lost their jobs over the last couple of years. These job losses are a result of fiscal spending by both the Bush and the Obama White Houses and is only compounded by the run away spending now in full swing in Washington. Where is Bill Clinton when you need him? Remember his proclamation of "I feel your pain" from the 90's? At least he voiced the idea that he was empathizing with those who had fallen on hard economic times!

This callous disregard for the feelings of those who stand to lose everything due to their unemployed status is nothing short of abhorrent. What we are witnessing in Washington from both sides is a desperate grab for power regardless of the opinions or feelings expressed by the American people. Apparently, the opinions of the American people matter very little to them. In their world, the real power is within the Beltway, not in the towns and villages across this land.

Both sides are guilty and both sides are apt to pay in the future for this myopic view of the world. The democrats will take a severe beating in November if things don't turn around fast. If they manage to pass the health care bill, the beating will turn into a bloodbath and the republicans are likely to benefit from these events. But republicans, listen up! No one out here in the real world thinks for a minute that you are preferable to your democratic counterparts! You just happen to be a member of the opposition party. One wonders what Harry Reid will feel like the morning after his nearly certain defeat come this November. After all, that is ONLY one job!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Sadness of the Heart

There is a certain sadness in my heart as we make our way through this Lent. It is a sadness that is almost indistinguishable because it lay just beneath the surface and there is so much that goes on in life that it is hard to discern. But every once in a while, I catch its feeling.

The sadness is over how factionalized we have become. It seems everyone is mad or at least up in arms about something. Camps of people who believe in certain ways have formed and they look upon their opposition not with respect but with disdain. Past hurts intrude into the present so that the old wounds are continually aggravated and there is no healing.

We cannot look upon each other without wondering what the motive of the other is. Trust, the glue that binds all human relationships, has nearly vanished. So many trust so very few. Much of this has been earned. But part of growing as a human being is coming to the understanding that all are capable of change. We are all capable of being healed. We are all in need of that healing. However, in order to be healed, we must reach out to those who may have done us harm. Even then we may be rejected. But if we do nothing, then nothing will happen!

It is not easy being human! It is not easy dealing with the emotions that accompany us through our lives. Bitterness and anger can fester to the point that it poisons lives and prevents any kind of meaningful reconciliation. But we are human and the mere fact that we are means that we have the capability of overcoming these daunting obstacles. It is not easy because none of us wants to be hurt, especially over and over by someone we once cared for deeply. Often, we cannot overcome these things without the help of God.

Now there are those who may read this and turn their noses up at this last thought. They are firmly convinced that there is either no God or at least if there is one, he matters not. But the truth of the matter is that God does exist and is very real. Another truth is the fact that we are nothing without him and we are dependent on him for everything.

Lent is the season for reconciliation. It is a time for reassessment of our interior lives in respect to our relationship with God. Life is far too precious for us to remain in our camps, comfortably slinging our judgments at others in other camps. It is a time for reflection. How am I contributing to this polarization? What am I doing to begin to reverse this trend? What, in my life, do I need change to become more sensitive and aware of the feelings and needs of others?

We can not, any one of us by ourselves, heal the wounds of the past. Healing the wounds that exist between people takes the parties involved. This is reconciliation. It is this very reconciliation that the Son of God died for those two thousand years ago. His death was a personal death for all of us. He died for us all collectively as well as individually. He died to himself so as to follow the will of the Father. We, too, must die to ourselves in order to accede the will of the Father. In this way and only this way, will the sadness of the human heart be replaced with unspeakable joy!