The long goodbye…

Last night we watched an episode of The West Wing titled “The Long Goodbye.” It dealt with CJ Craig’s trip back home…the rationale was to give a speech at a high school reunion, but underlying that was a desire to check on her dad who has Alzheimer’s.

The nickname for that disease is “the long goodbye…”

It was rather ironic that we watched that episode at this particular time, because we’re starting down that road with my mother. I don’t know that it’s specifically Alzheimer’s, but watching CJ interact with her father was so much like some of the interactions I’ve had with my mother.

She can still function in her usual routine in the home where she lives, and she can still get where she needs to go without getting lost. But her short-term memory is fading…and, to some extent, so is her long-term memory. When we visit for 10 minutes, we can have the same conversation 6-8 times–and each time is the first time for her. And if I call her later that day, we can again have the same conversation–again for the first time.

She’s also forgetting some things that she’s known for years…and hiding things in her apartment so well that we are unable to find them.

It is a long goodbye…

We went through this with my father-in-law–basically lost him two years before his body gave out. And I was hoping not to go through this again. But…

My father was mentally with us until a couple of hours before he took his last breath. And his sister is still living by herself…still active both physically and mentally at the age of 90. I had hoped that would also be true of my mother.

Having to parent your parent is difficult. She knows she is losing sharpness, but she also does not want to be treated as a child–understandably so–even though there are some aspects of her life in which that is becoming more necessary.

“The long goodbye…” I don’t know how long it will last, but it will be a lesson in loving, patience, and understanding.


Tonight is the 94th annual performance of Handel’s Messiah…It will be at Community of Christ Auditorium. This will be the last performance there, because next year it will move to the new performing arts center in downtown Kansas City.

There are so many thoughts / emotions tied up in that one word…”Messiah.”

Yes, it includes the performance…sadness about the Auditorium tradition ending…but also delight that the Kansas City Symphony wants to keep the tradition alive with the Independence Messiah Choir, even if it will be in a different venue. And yet, in many ways it’s coming full circle, because the early performances of Handel’s masterpiece were in downtown Kansas City…and so, in some ways, we’re closing the circle.

But there are also deeper meanings to that word–“Messiah”–meanings that in many ways are caught up in the words of this oratorio.

I could be picky and say that there are places where Handel got it wrong…where he didn’t have the insight of current biblical study and scholarship, and so his use of the scripture is just all wrong. And some might.

But when I sit and listen to it–to the whole thing–there is such a celebration of the One whom I believe came to show us the way to develop a closer relationship with God…who came to bring healing and wholeness.

And the power of the music isn’t limited to “formal” performances. Just watch what happens when a choir breaks into the Hallelujah Chorus in–of all places–a food court!

Nor can I forget the power of “I know that my Redeemer lives”…or “The trumpet shall sound”…

As we move into this season of Advent, I am reminded by Messiah of so many meanings….that Christ has come once….that he will come again…and that my challenge is to live in such a way that my life will truly show that I believe the music I hear.


After a family Thanksgiving feast yesterday, we were invited to spend the rest of the evening with some family members, watching the movie Stomp. I’d heard of the group before…and had seen little snippets here and there. But I’d never seen what they really can do. Theyr’e incredible!!

Apparently the group has changed personnel at times, because some of the folks we saw were different–but the work they do is still impressive. Here’s a montage:

It’s not just percussion….it’s not just dance…

And they don’t use fancy instruments…just everyday, ordinary stuff. Well, okay….some of the things you might not have just laying around your house. But a lot you do….and one of the most incredible sections to me used nothing but the human body to create an incredibly complex and sophisticated  experience.

If I were teaching music appreciation, this would certainly be in my repertoire of resources!

What an incredible way

Happy Thanksgiving…and thanks-living

I want to wish all my friends a happy thanksgiving. May you be blessed with true friendship and a joyful life.

We had our thanksgiving service at church a week ago to allow folks to attend who might otherwise be traveling. As I was preparing for it–looking up some Thanksgiving Day trivia (fun and otherwise)–I was reminded again of just how significant that first Thanksgiving was.

The people who were celebrating it had been through a more difficult time than I can imagine. Only about 40-50% of those who had made the voyage survived–and their food supplies were running low. Yet they were still able to give thanks.

I have a warm home, plenty of food, and have basically had a healthy life. And yet, how often do I forget to give thanks?

Thanksgiving Day is simply that–a day. My challenge is to be a “thanks-living” person…to live every day in appreciation of how I am blessed…and to consider how I can share that blessing with others.

Boring could be nice

Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy my life…at least most of the time! But sometimes I’d like a little boredom!

Just about the time one situation seems to be getting under control, another breaks out…and of course, they never seem to be easy ones. For whatever reasons, they are ones that stretch and challenge me in all kinds of directions.

If the “challenges” were all related to one part of my life, that would be one thing. At least I’d have some idea of what to expect. But no…they come from work…church…family…personal…medical… Nothing seems exempt!

I know that some stress is good in our lives, and I don’t mind that. In fact, in a lot of ways, I work better under pressure–when there is a specific goal that needs to be accomplished in a specific time period. But when that goal is accomplished, then there should be at least a little down time before the next one arises.

Oh well…I’m beginning to think that the only time my life is going to get boring is when I’m no longer breathing, and I’d prefer to put that off as long as possible!

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

…but words will never hurt me.

I wonder how many of us remember this rhyme from when we were children? And how many of us still believe it?

What exactly is violence? Is it merely physical action? something that may break a bone? It’s definitely that…but is that all it is?

That kind of violence is obvious. It leaves bruises…makes us wear casts…leaves scars…may end in physical death.

But what about the kind of violence that isn’t so obvious? The kind that comes from words…words that tell someone they’re worthless, of no value…that the world would be better off without them…that no one–including God–loves them. Isn’t that also violence?

It may not cause physical death–at least not directly. But sometimes physical death is easier than the soul or spiritual death that these kinds of words can cause. And even if the one who says those words doesn’t pull the trigger of a gun or beat someone to death, they help create an environment in which those actions can–and unfortunately, far too often, do–take place.

Some may say that individuals have a right to free speech, even if it’s obnoxious. I agree. I’ve heard a number of speakers that I find obnoxious and disagreeable…but for me the line is crossed when someone calls for violence against an individual–or a group of individuals.

Sticks and stones may break my bones…but words may kill the spirit. And to my way of thinking, that is a far worse sin.

The old gray mare…

She ain’t what she used to be!

Last week I picked up whatever the cold/flu bug is that’s been going around our area. For the first time in a long time I spent several days lounging around in my pajamas…not doing much of anything but sleeping. That’s unusual for me! Even when I don’t feel really good, I usually find a way to do some reading–but not this time. Pajamas and bed…

As a result, some weaknesses related to my MS (multiple sclerosis) have kicked in, and I’ve had to haul out of the closet my brace shoe, my cane, and my electric cart. I haven’t pulled the walker out yet, but that may be coming. Normally if something kicks in, I need either my brace shoe (to keep my foot from dragging) or my cane (to help keep my balance when my knee buckles)–but not both. The electric cart I use at other times to save my energy, so that’s not particularly surprising. But I’m wondering if I need to pull the walker out so that I don’t twist my knee when/if it buckles.

Usually the weakness clears up pretty quickly. This time it hasn’t. I’m still dealing with it…and wondering if it’s back to stay.

I was diagnosed with MS back in 1976. The first ten years were not good–spent more times than I care to think about in the hospital getting stuck with needles for IVs of ACTH, which did seem to help. Then all of a sudden, it seemed to basically go into remission–no major exacerbations, no major problems. Sure, there were little ones–if I got too tired, too hot, or ran a bit of a fever, then the residual weakness would kick in for a day or two.

So I’ve had 25 really good years–years when I could pretty well do what I wanted to. I’d like to think that that’s going to continue, but who knows? If it does, then thanks be to God! If not, then thanks be to God for the time I’ve had–and for being with me in the present. I’ll just deal with what is…and remind myself that all things can work together for good if we’ll let God in the middle of them.

The old gray mare…she ain’t what she used to be! But there’s still a lot of good years ahead!!