Building Relationships

Feeling a little better. The pain is not so bad now. I still need the brace, but, I think I can get away with typing this up with two hands. So let’s just jump right into it, shall we?

Today’s bible message was again in the book of Daniel. I had already been through to chapter 7 so I didn’t spend too much energy listening real hard for every bit of information the pastor had to share. But my ears were perked up. What caught my attention was a passage where the pastor went on to another level. He talked about God being a person who hides from us sometimes in order to have us try harder to seek him out. It was something to do about building relationships. It was noted that there are times when God wants to be found and then there are times when He wants us to seek Him all the more.

I don’t know about that strategy. If it were me, I would be concerned that the person would get tired of “seeking” and end up walking away. But I am not God and I don’t know people as well as He does. I’m sure it’s a tried and tested method of His and that it works more often than not.

The whole premise of building relationships, then, is teetering on the seeker. Does that person want a relationship bad enough to continue seeking God, or, does that person lose patience with it all and say “screw it!?” I’ve been the latter quite a number of times. But, I always come back. I guess God is right.

The message centered on Daniel, Chapter 2. I don’t remember which verses specifically, but was somewhere from verse 24 all the way to verse 40-something. The pastor talked about the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had – the one with the statue of precious metals and how the kingdom of God will come to establish His reign on earth. I had read some commentary discussing exactly what the pastor said, but to hear it from another person rather than just reading it, well, it makes a difference. That is why I think it is very important to attend church services whenever possible.

Well, I’m gonna go. My hand is hurting and I don’t want to irritate it any more than I have to.

Y’all have a good day and stay out of trouble. I’ll be here nursing my wrist and hand for another few days.

Peace

Eric

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Prayer Challenge

My hand is still in a brace. Please be patient.

So I started this prayer challenge. It is hosted or rather, inspired by, Max Lucado. It is the simplest prayer challenge I’ve ever come across.

http://beforeamen.com/prayer-challenge/

Click on the link above to check it out.

This hunt and peck is just too much work. Bye for now. Ihope to be back in full strength soon.

Y’all be safe out there.

Is God Working Undercover?

Okay, so I couldn’t stay away. I just have to share today’s report.

You ever have one of those days when you don’t feel like doing anything? I mean you REALLY don’t feel like doing something in particular? And then you just do it and it turns out you go gangbusters? Well, I really did not want to read the Bible today, but, when I started in I just got into it and it didn’t feel burdensome at all.

I was reading in the book of Daniel and before I knew it I had read five chapters! It was all about Nebuchaneezer and Belshazzar, his son. I found the stories so very interesting. On a side note: I have to say that my left hand and arm are sore now. My right hand and wrist are still in a brace and I am controlling the mouse and typing with my left hand. It’s taken me ten minutes to type this far. Anyway, I have to stop and rest every now and again. I don’t know how those hunt-and-peck folks do it.

So, Daniel interpreted Nebuchaneezers dreams (2) and deciphered an ominous warning to Belshazzar concerning the proper object of worship – God, himself – and was rewarded with purple and gold and a high stature in the kingdom. Which brought me to wonder, “Why do we not see episodes like this in this day and age?” Seriously, we still have rulers, we still have Christians; men and women of prayer; spiritual gifts and so many ‘qualifying’ circumstances, I don’t see the logic in God hiding His face from us.

Twenty minutes.

With the explosion of faith in recent times, one would expect to see or hear of many miracles, dreams interpreted, etc. Wouldn’t this bring more glory and honor to God? Isn’t He in the business of healings and such?

I can honestly say that I witnessed, nay, was part of a miraculous event, so I know God is real. I just don’t understand the logic sometimes. Are we believers doing something wrong? Have we missed the mark? Whatever happened to all those ‘faith-healers?’ Has God gone undercover?

I’ll stop there. Maybe the answers will reveal themselves as I read more in my Bible.

Goodnight all. Thanks for sharing.

Un-hand me, my self….

I don’t know what I did. I screwed up my wrist. So, I am typing this up one-handed.

I find my thought process to be slowed quite significantly because of this hunt-and-peck order, and, I tend to hit the wrong keys often.

Last week I helped a neighbor build a green house. It was a kit. And, it was a real challenge. Not only were the instructions poor, but the design was something out of a science fiction book. We were assembling and unassembling things over and over again because that is the way they designed the construction of it. We were not completely happy campers. That being said, we finished it in three days.

It was nice to get out of the house and be productive again. It’s been a long time since I had any projects to make me feel useful. And there’s something to be said about that. A person (me) sitting on his duff all the time, staring into a flat box with lights (laptop) just is not beneficial for the psyche. It’s like how they say playtime for the kids improves their test scores. A man without activity soon wastes away.

 

My neighbor and I connected again. A different neighbor. This lady is 85 years old and is the most positive-minded person on the block. She is a Jehovah’s Witness and has been reading the Bible for over 60 years. She is my “girlfriend” – we chat for hours at a time when I see her and we always leave smiling. She has had a difficult life but she has shone through with grace. So anyway, I hadn’t been over to her house for a couple of months and I felt guilty and half-expected her to question me on my whereabouts. But she did none of that and simply greeted me with a big smile.

After I got back home, I started thinking about it. How special our relationship is. Here we are thirty years apart and we have so much to talk about. I don’t know what it is but I have always had an affinity for talking with older folk. Even when I was a kid, there were older people who would open up to me and tell me things. And in my teens I volunteered at a rest home and would sit and talk with the folk for long periods of time. I just felt the need to be there for them so they could feel “connected”, not alone. Y’know?

Well, this neighbor said last night that we haven’t been having our talks like we used to. And she is right. I haven’t been as attentive as in the past. I need to fix that. So I’ll be going over there for a pow wow this weekend. It should be a rip roaring good time.

Belief + Perception = Results

This writ is biased. I am basing my assumptions on actual experiences in my life leading up to conversion, and, post-conversion efforts. You will see that my perceptions are shaped by my entire life being led into conversion through environmental factors i.e. media, society, family.

As a boy I was forced to attend church services with my family. We attended a Catholic church on base and, for many years, I suffered through the tedius homily and the quiet atmosphere. This exposure to the Christian belief system shaped my future outreach.

By the time I was fifteen I was done with the Catholic church, it was just too boring and lifeless for my tastes. Their practices and traditions were also undesirable to me. But, a foundation had been laid. When I got out on my own I searched for other avenues of faith. I sought out various denominations settling on the Holy Rollers because of the liveliness of the gatherings. I was always interested in Buddhism but never took the plunge. I did read up on it occasionally but never found it intriguing enough to pursue. Therefore, I can only base this writ on my experiences as a Christian.

In my early twenties I decided to “get God” and went to a church to be “saved.” It was in this experience that I found my mind opened to the possibilities of a spirit world sharing our space here on earth. The people at the church gathered those of us who “committed” together and we were all encouraged to invite the Holy Spirit to rest upon us and we spoke in “tongues.” We each spoke in our own spiritual “language” as a sign of our faith.

Again, my mind was open to the possibilities. I “invited” the opportunity to be blessed by the spirit world. This is a key factor in belief and results. Now, for there to be a desired result from such an experience there has to be something in the spirit world to experience. There has to be some sort of commodity to purchase with my belief. You can’t just believe and have nothing to aim for. There must be a target. In this case we were assisted by other Christians, mature Christians in the act of drawing out the commodity of speaking in tongues.

As I studied the Holy Bible and learned of the whole affair, I came to know that there were many spiritual commodities available to the believers. These were called “Spiritual Gifts.”

So what is my point so far? My point is that Belief + An Open Mind = Invites Results. You don’t have to know what you are doing to receive the desired results, but it helps to have someone there who has walked the path before you.

In the coming months my whole world had changed. My perception of things had a new tint to it. No longer were rainy days dreary and cold, but instead, they were refreshing and cleansing. No longer were people annoyances and attackers. They were instead mixed souls exploring the earth, some determined some confused. I lived this way without trying. Meaning that I did not wake up each morning and determine that everything was going to go my way. I simply woke up with a happy disposition, as if I were walking on clouds.

I believe this was the result, again, of Belief with an open mind. I didn’t have the knowledge to force anything to change, I simply went about my days being happy. Why was I happy? I don’t know, to be honest. I can’t remember. I can assume that it was because I was “saved” – that something happened to me that day when I accepted Jesus into my heart and also spoke in tongues. There was a door that was opened to me and I walked through it to the other side.

So my perception of things changed. I had a happy disposition. Couple that with the belief that my sins were forgiven and that the Most Almighty being ever has accepted me into His kingdom, well, that would be enough for anybody to rejoice —— if they believed that death had been beaten. If they believed that eternity was to be spent in the presence of one so great. If they believed that Jesus sacrificed Himself, sacrificed His very life, for our sake, and if they believed that any of this was at all a possibility. If they believed all this, their life would be transformed and they too would be happy beyond understanding.

But, let’s take a look at the dark side. Let’s fast forward to another experience. A place where negativity was prevalent.

I went into a “haunted house”. I went into it on purpose. With determination. With an open mind, but with a foundation of belief that empowered me. What I was told is that the family who lived there previously, well, they had left in quite a hurry. So much so that they left the dishes on the table, the beds in the bedroom. They even left pictures on the nightstands. And they didn’t want to go back for any of the stuff.

I went with four other people. Three from the same family and one a friend of the family. I was the odd man out. I cannot speak for the others, but the intention was to go and learn something. To make contact with the spirit world. And we did. Sort of. What happened was that the lady and her son were attacked by a demon. My belief in Christ changed the course of our lives that night. I did not attempt to force anything to happen. I merely was there as an observer. But, I was forced into action when the lady screamed that the demon had strangled her by grabbing her necklace. Long story short I burst into action unwillingly. It was more like a reflex, I just burst onto the scene with the gift of speaking in tongues and it shooed the demon away.

What is significant about this whole thing is that fact that I no longer acted consciously, but instead, I acted on impulse. This was not a planned outcome. But what part did belief play in this? Belief was instrumental in that I had a foundation of belief in the spiritual world. I believed that we were entering into a house that was inhabited by “evil” spirits. I believed that we were safe. That we had nothing to fear because “Jesus was with me.” And I believed that Jesus was greater than the demon(s) we would encounter. BUT, I did not believe that I would be instrumental in eradicating this house of demons. I had no idea that things would turn out the way they did. Therefore, someone else was in charge of the whole shebang and that person was “on our side.”

For me to say that I would also have to believe that there is both “good” and “evil.” This in itself is a construct of western thought. Good and Evil permeates our society. In everything from politics to marketing, good and evil are key players in shaping out thought processes. In the movies there was always the “good guy” who wore white and a “bad guy” who wore black. Again, this shapes our perception of things. And so, going into that house I had pre-existing ideas about good and evil and those perceptions would further shape my thoughts as I went through the house looking at all of the “evidence” that presented itself.

Was I just being led around by my nose like a dog or did I actually have freedom of thought? I would have to say that I was being led by something. How else could I explain the sudden outburst of speaking in tongues and the subsequent departure of the demon? I didn’t — I couldn’t do this on my own, so I must have been led, controlled, by someone else. Which brings me to another facet of belief – involuntary actions.

Sphere of Influence – You can work in the sphere of influence for the common good without even trying to force the situation. Opportunity arises and if a foundation has been laid then the actions can be carried out to fruition without having the determination of mind to do it. Kinda like autopilot. You see, therefore you are. You spend your life within a certain framework and you go on to master certain skills and thought processes. When an opportunity arises you simply act on impulse and cause the ball to go in motion.

If you are on the “good” side, there are favorable results, based on our societal desire for “good” to win. But you can just as easily be on the “dark” side and have “favorable” results even though those results mean something bad is going to happen to someone. This is because both good and bad are legitimate poles on opposite ends of the same spectrum. We merely have attached the labels good and bad on them to differentiate them for our understanding. An “evil” person would find it enjoyable to see someone get hurt. While a “good” person would tend to the wounds. Both are legitimate perceptions and both carry with them “desired” results.

I only bring this up because I want to show that good and evil are human constructs to identify behavioral patterns. Both can be considered valid and both can be exercised in good faith for a desired outcome.

Let’s talk about “fear.” Fear changes behaviors and it changes a person’s belief strategy. Fear causes illogical perceptions and binds the powers of possibilities so that no progress can be made.

Belief shaped by fear is the beginning of damnation. Fear will cause you to believe lies. To expect the worst. It will damn you into submission and choke off the very life you have left to live.

Fear has been used by con-men and corporations for thousands of years. It is the most powerful device to steal someone’s freedom (and money.) Politicians use it. Parents use it. Even Preachers use it. It is the one constant in all of life. It moves us to fight or it bolts us to flight. Without it we are dead.

For any good to come of fear, we have to change our beliefs and we must lay a solid foundation in order to make fear our “friend.” The only way to lay a solid foundation is to first seek out a device that will give us the tools to build the favorable foundation and it has to be a device that gets good results, that is, the device must make fear be nothing more than a tool. Fear must be manhandled. It must be brought into submission. It must be powerless until we ask it to perform. Nothing has power until we act.

Belief and perception are the rulers of our life here on earth. We must take an active role in ensuring our beliefs serve us and do not hinder our progress. We can choose to belief anything – good or bad – and we will reap what we sow. If we choose “good” beliefs, we will sow blessings. If we choose “bad” beliefs we will cause damnations. We have the power. We have the ability. We have the right to be free from fear. We need only to decide, to choose our fate.

In Transition

Caught in a cushion

Of gentle, sweet rain

Focused on a vision

That is blurred just the same

Looking for answers

On this pathway of life

Enduring small disasters

Oft-laden with strife

To speak of the Lord

Though bound to this dream

In hopes to once more

Reveal the unseen

To share with you all

the living True Christ

in words and in song

While here in this life

Spring of 1993

Today’s Bible Verse was on Suffering

Suffering for Christ

I did some Bible reading today (I get daily emails from Bible Gateway) because today’s Bible verse grabbed my attention.

“Philippians 1:29 – [NIV Bible]

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only

to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,…”

This passage conflicted me. I’ve heard about suffering for Christ before, many times in fact, but today it sparked an interest. I just had to look deeper into it. So I went on a hunt. Mind you, it was not a thorough excursion but merely a curiosity thing. What I found was the usual: people suffering for disobeying God; Job suffering; and Paul suffering for Christ because of his commission.

But what I also found through using the study helps was this:

Job 36:15 —

“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. [NIV Bible]

Life Lessons – Charles Stanley..

“God wants to use our afflictions, and the way He delivers us from them, to lead us into a deeper and richer relationship with Him. We should treat adversity as a bridge to a closer walk with God.”

Stanley’s idea touched me. Years ago, when I first heard about us having to suffer for Christ I was bothered. Isn’t He supposed to deliver us from this stuff? Why do I have to live my entire life suffering?

I still have issues with that. Just because Jesus died for me shouldn’t mean I have to live my entire life suffering. But Stanley says this will lead us to a closer relationship with God. And that’s cool. So I am trying to open up my mind and grab this thing and embrace it. Maybe my suffering won’t be so bad. Maybe I won’t be as bad off as Job.

So, I looked further and found this:

Colossians 1:24

[ Paul’s Labor for the Church ] Now I rejoice in what I am

suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still

lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of

his body, which is the church

Paul is actually “rejoicing” in his suffering. Job didn’t do that, and God had mercy on him. But how can Paul be so gleeful in his persecutions?

1 Peter 4:13

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings

of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

There’s the answer. I have to change my focus. I have to look for the future – to God’s second coming. I have been so busy just living day to day, barely making ends meet – suffering – that I have lost sight of the prize at the end of the race.

I guess we can suffer without being miserable. But, for me, that will be awfully hard. Because….I am miserable just being here in this life. Again, my focus is not on the hereafter, but on today. I guess focusing on today could be good if I were to be accomplishing my mission step by step, day by day, but I am not. I am sitting here wasting away like a good little mentally ill person. OKAY! So enough to the negative stuff. Let’s get on to some happy stuff.

Paul’s motivation for enduring suffering was to benefit and build Christ’s church. That must be my attitude as well. And my mission. To build Christ’s church. How do I do that when I am homebound? How much can I do? How much is expected of me?

Charles Stanley again comes to the rescue:

“To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to liveHis life in and through us.”

I never thought of it that way before. I mean, heck, I’ve heard of allowing the Holy Spirit to take up residence in my heart and soul, but it never really came alive for me. But Jesus actually “living” in me and through me? That’s profound!

So, my reading took me to more verses and somehow I got to

Colossians 4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

It always comes back to prayer.

That’s it! I don’t spend enough time praying. I spend too much time complaining and not enough time being thankful. I need an attitude adjustment and I need it now. What was possible for Paul is also possible for me. I just have to change my focus. Change my whole outlook. Change my mind.

Salvation is available for everyone. You only need to ask. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and to take up residence in there. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and to save you through the renewing of your mind. Take the Roman Road to Salvation:

Romans 3:23 NKJV  – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:10 NKJV  – As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;
Romans 5:12 NKJV  – Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned–
Romans 6:23 NKJV  – For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8 NKJV  – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 10:9-10 NKJV  – that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation
Romans 10:13 NKJV  – For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

What to do after you’ve prayed that prayer.

Romans 10:17 NKJV  – So then faith [comes] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Go. Find Christian outlets, Christian people. Go to churches. Go online to churches and read, listen and watch videos. Immerse yourself in THE WORD. And then reach out to Christians for fellowship, companionship.

Here are some online resources to get you started:

Bible Gateway – https://www.biblegateway.com/

Community Crossroads Church – http://crossroadschurch.net/

Indian Rocks Baptist – http://www.indianrocks.org/

Asleep at the Wheel

No, this won’t be a post about the band. Sorry to mislead you. But I do feel like I have been asleep at the wheel these past few weeks. Lately I have been battling sleep issues and faith issues. Last night I finally went to sleep around 11pm. That sounds normal right? Well, consider I had been up for 32 hours. Not so normal anymore, huh? I go through these cycles where I am on a “normal” sleep routine for a few weeks and then out of nowhere I am caught up in the world of insomnia and it takes me up to a week to get back on track. The flip side of this is that there are days when I am so tired I don’t get out of bed until late in the afternoon. I have no explanation for any of this other than the fact that I am Bipolar and with that I experience many side effects from the pills they have me on. Anyway, this happens far too often for my comfort and it interferes with everything. It’s hard to make appointments because I never know if I am going to be in a cycle or not. I have canceled many appointments due to this problem.

My faith issues are a direct result of me not being a regular church-goer. I don’t have the money that it would take to pay for the gas to get me to church every Sunday. So, I try and do my own Bible Study online and it has been difficult. It is not easy to do this as a one-man-show. I need people to bounce ideas off of. I need other folks’ input. The big question at present concerns my salvation and my standing with God. I am certain that I have committed the “unpardonable sin”: blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. You see, I have anger problems (bipolar, hello) and when I have an episode I could care less who I am talking to and who the audience is – I will yell and scream and cuss and say all sorts of things. And, I think on one occasion I cussed out the Holy Ghost. And if Matthew 12:31 is accurate (Jesus speaking) then I am in pretty hot water.

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. “

So, reading this and not having the knowledge that, say, a pastor has, I am worried that my episode will be held against me and that I am going to hell. Simple as that.

It would be a shame if God is so anal that He does not take into consideration a person’s mental health when He judges a person’s faithfulness but the Bible is not clear on this. Jesus says that particular sin will not be forgiven, but does that carry over into my salvation? I mean, if – and it’s a big if – I were to be saved, would He look at me differently in heaven? Will I be sent to the back of the bus, pushed out of His immediate presence? Will this affect my opportunity to store up treasures in heaven?

What are your thoughts?

My Freedom

I will not enter your game

For I won’t accept your rules

I refuse to remain

Within the company of fools

I live within my mind

A world unto it’s own

Beyond the realms of time

A universe unknown

My soul adrift a-sea

To feel and co-exist

With boundless energy

A freedom man has missed

Captured to this day

Within this raging gulf

Were not but for to stay

Would leave at once my self

Unite the world in peace?

By man cannot be done

But the spirit through love and peace

Is shared with all by one

Why must life, itself, be measured?

Can we give to it time and place?

My life within is treasured

Through all with whom is grace

No, I shall not but yet remain

Without your bordered land

For with me there is no game

Only life

A love so grande

October 19, 1992

Passing Through

Passing Through

My dad went into the hospital. He had had two heart attacks in one day. They put him in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). I was three thousand miles away in Seattle, Washington. My sister called to tell me the news. It didn’t look good.

I had no money, so if I were to make there to Tampa to see him I would have to hitch-hike cross-country. I had done it many time before so it wasn’t that big a deal. But I was older now. The roads were far more dangerous. The world had changed.

Somebody convinced my mom that it would be a good idea to buy me a plane ticket so I could get there sooner. Just in case time was cut short. She was reluctant, but bought me a ticket.

When I got there a host of other family members were already there, weeping in their misery. Dad was loved by everyone. He was a true hero. Not some media darling or commercialized here, but a true hero. A man you could count on if ever there was a need. A man who came to the rescue many times when family issues arose. A man who lit up a room like a sun lights up the sky.

Everyone knew something I didn’t. But I found out sooner than later. Dad wasn’t given much hope to survive. He was on life support machines with all manner of hoses going into his body and tons of wires coming out all over. He couldn’t talk – obviously. And he couldn’t eat. They fed him intravenously. The poor guy was on his death bed.

For two weeks I stayed by his side, icing him down, reading his notes and talking to him. I didn’t want to believe what was so obvious to everyone else. He was only 54 for damn’s sake! I was 28 and I was not ready to see my daddy off. But I could not stop what was already fore ordained. His kidneys were failing, his stats were not optimistic. He was dying right before my eyes.

In those two weeks there was no sign of him getting any better. There was no hope for his going home to tough it out again like he had done so many other times. This time it got the best of him.

I had moved away just six months prior. I had lived with him for ten years and watched him deteriorate over that time. When I got out of the Coast Guard, they had given him five years to live. And so together we battled through the diabetes and the heart attacks. We lived as full of lives as we could. We moved from California to Florida to be closer to my sister and my mom.

They had divorced when I was three. I was never told why. It was none of my business. I suspect it had something to do with my father being a flirt and my mother being a stone. They were about a incompatible as any couple could be. But they were both great people. They just couldn’t make it work.

Dad was in the military. His dad was in the military. His two brothers were both in the military. It provided a good life for them…..if you can handle the strict discipline and orderly lifestyle.

He could. He excelled in that environment. He was a lifer. Before they forced him into retirement, Dad made it to E-9; Chief Master Sergeant. The highest enlisted grade in the Air Force. He had served through Korea and Viet Nam. He saw action in both theaters. He was a munitions man – bombs and things. It was a good life. But as I said, they forced him out. Medical reasons. Diabetes.

This was before medicine got a handle on how to treat diabetes. This was when complications from diabetes included loss of sight, blood sugar episodes and heart attacks.

Dad was on 9 different medications. He took nitro-glycerin for his heart, he gave himself two shots every day of insulin (from pigs, beef and humans) and he took a host of other pills to manage his other diabetic issues. I watched him for ten years.

When I got out of the Coast Guard we planned the move to Florida. All was going well until we got to Texas. His foot had got a blister weeks before and it just wasn’t healing. We stopped in Waco, Texas to see our relatives, his brother Emil and all my cousins. It was there that dad decided to go to the VA hospital and have his foot checked out.

The doctors immediately admitted him and proceeded to experiment with his foot. A training crew had been brought in from DC or somewhere and without so much as a thank you, they cut off his toe. BUT, they did not take care of the wound. Within two days of him “coming home” to the apartment that I got, his toe exhibited signs of gangrene. We had to go back to the VA and have them fix it. But they again experimented and only cut out a canal and left some dead tissue to test out different medications to see if they would kill the infection.

It didn’t. They continued toying with it and now his foot had a huge crater in it with the edges being infected. Before long they had to chop off his leg at the knee. And that is how my dad lived for ten years. With a prosthetic because those doctors toyed with his foot instead of fixing it right to begin with. So I had real issues with him being in the VA hospital in Tampa. I had a hard time believing that he had no hope of coming home. I secretly wished I could just whisk him away to some “competent” facility where they would work miracles and my dad wouldn’t die.

But, that was not to be. He was dying and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Somehow word got to me that it was time to make a decision. And, that I would be the one to make it. This was not what I had hoped for nor expected when I got on that plane and flew to Tampa. I didn’t want to make the decision. Heck, I was the youngest of the bunch there. Why couldn’t my aunt or uncle or mother or someone else take the responsibility?

After they chopped off his leg, we stayed in Waco for two years and then moved back to California. Our trip to Florida just had to wait.

I don’t remember much about the in-between years in California, but I do remember we moved back to Campbell. A tiny enclave in the heart of San Jose. Campbell was where I went to high school before I joined the service. Dad had agreed to let me live with him after mom kicked me out of the house. I was fifteen.

She had been dating a guy that she met at work and brought him home one day and said, “I’m getting married!” To which I replied “Over my dead body!” She and I could not resolve our differences and so she kicked me out.

Dad was a bachelor. He hadn’t had many companions after he and mom divorced. So having a kid move in with him was a challenge. I was unfazed. I was happy to live with my dad. For all my life I had looked up to him even though I only got to see him on a few occasions. We got along famously. Especially when I showed an interest in the military.

At school, I joined the ROTC and learned all about the military, its customs, expectations and all that sort of stuff. And I enjoyed it. Playing soldier was exciting. By my second year I was named leader of the class. I was on cloud nine.

It was short-lived. I had been cutting art class and got caught by the dean of boys. He asked me where I was supposed to be and I smarted off and told him “I dunno. Where do you think I should be?” And from there it quickly dissipated. The whole thing. My dad was called and I was expelled from school. They wanted to make an example out of me. And then my dad asked me where I wanted to go? The Army. Navy. Marines. Air Force. Or, Coast Guard. I was not in my right mind as this happened so fast and so I decided on the Coast Guard because I liked water. What a stupid move. But then, any move at that time was wrong. I should have asked for some time to think it over. Anyway, within weeks I was in the Coast Guard marching and drilling and barking out “yes, sirs” and “no, sirs”.

During this time Dad was slowly getting worse. While I was in Alaska he had a blood sugar attack and drove himself from Lake Tahoe all the way to Reno, where the closest VA hospital was. His blood sugar was in the 400 range and the doctors told him that they knew of no way he could be driving because with that b.s. level he should be dead.

He also had a heart attack in this time. As I recall, it was his first one.

So the decision was left to me to make. The doctor said I had two choices: I could either take him off of life support now and let him pass quietly or I could keep him on the machines, but, this second option would give us extra time for a price – he would be in great pain as his kidneys died first. So there really was no choice at all. I would have to tell them to pull the plug.

I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye FOREVER to my father. It wasn’t fair. My dad was loved by everyone and he loved everybody too. He wasn’t a criminal. A jerk. A boozer. He wasn’t anything like that. He was a decent, loving man who only wanted the best for people and they loved him for it. But, I went home that night and cried myself to sleep.

The next day I went up to that room and talked to my dad. It would be the last time we would be alone – together. Later, all the family would gather in the room to send him off. And I would have to tell the doctor to take dad off of life support.

The hour came when it was to be done. I had already talked to dad about it and he was ready. I don’t know how anyone could be ready to die, but he was fully aware of what was to happen and he was okay with it.

My heart sunk. Okay, let’s do this. The nurses came in and did all the dirty work: they pulled all the electrodes, yanked out the tubes and then left the room for the rest of us to deal with. My uncle couldn’t handle it, it was too devastating for him, so he left and took my dad’s sister with him. Poor Louise, she didn’t even get to say goodbye to her brother. Dad’s other sister was there, my Aunt Gertie. She was somber, like everyone else in the room. We looked at dad and I could tell, we were all wondering how much time we had left with him.

He couldn’t speak. His throat was left raw by that darned tube they had down his throat. Dad did manage to get out a few words – “chocolate shake”. I was ready to go get him a shake at the 7-eleven just a couple minutes walk from the hospital but everybody freaked out and made me stay in the room. They were worried that dad would die before I got back, so, dad suffered and thirsted because everybody was so scared of him dying “suddenly”.

Well “suddenly” never came. What did come was some damned smelly hospital food. For some reason the VA thought dad would “enjoy” a last meal. But it stunk so bad, dad almost threw up as did I.

We stood there, lost in our embarrassment for what seemed like eight hours. Plenty of time to have gone to the store to get dad a chocolate shake. That bothered me. But who could have predicted how long he would live?

As the time wore on, his vitals started dropping. He was starting to breathe shallower and shallower. And as the hours passed his attention span dwindled as well. He was slowly succumbing to the inevitable.

There wasn’t much talking going on that day. Sure, there were the expected “I love you’s” and such but we really didn’t connect with him. It was sad to watch and be a part of.

When he finally “gave up the ghost” it was a shocker. It was not at all like what they show in the movies or on tv. He passed quietly and peacefully, but, his body lunged out for one last breath and that was freaky. And then, when I least expected it, his spirit passed through my abdomen and then went away. It was the coolest thing. My thoughts on death were pretty tame before, just assembled the beliefs that Hollywood offered. But to be there and go through it, and, to have his spirit pass through my body – that was special. No words can tell how that moment has impacted my life. I question everybody’s take on it now: the Christians and other religious folk; the doctors and their click; the Hollywood moguls and the way they depict life and death. I question it all. Reality is far more sophisticated than what I was taught.

In all my years I never would have guessed that my dad would die at 54. Nor did I expect to be the one to kill him, to cut off his life. It’s a damnable thing: this existence. It’s been 27 years and it still hurts.