Getting Old Ain’t For Sissies

My sister Toni says that all the time. She says it in reference to our 85 year old mother who just recently went to live in a “Senior Community.” Now those of you who know me, would know that my wife Cheryl and I came here about two and a half years ago, broke and homeless. We had realized a couple things in our life, I mean, besides the fact we had lost our house and Cheryl’s condo and a whole lot of other stuff. What we realized was this: God will sometimes take everything away from you for His purposes, we had been praying for a couple years, actually since 2007 when we went on a cruise with mom for her 80th Birthday.

God will sometimes “Make decisions” for us. We had prayed and asked Him whether we were supposed to move in with my mother? Cheryl’s mother got sick and was sick for about 20 months before she passed in 2005 or 2006 (can’t remember exactly off the top of my head). She had gotten a fibrosis like condition and her lungs deteriorated very quickly, and so did her overall health. She was blessed though, that her mental faculties stayed sharp and she was able to stay home with her husband, only spending short intervals in the hospital. For the Christian, death is not the dreaded “End” of everything you see, it’s rather something to be awaited with eager expectation to see how Jesus will take the believer home.

Those of us who are left behind when a cherished loved one passes on are still left with a tremendous loss in our hearts and our lives. Cheryl is no different in that respect. We do, however, look forward to meeting her mom again when we too get to go and meet Jesus. Cheryl’s father Don is still with us, he just recently turned 80. After a couple years of mourning, and pouring himself into hobbies and other activities, he developed another relationship and now has a partner with whom he shares his life.

My mother, had three husbands, and she has now comfortably outlived them all (I am relatively sure her first husband is deceased anyhow, I don’t know for sure, I don’t even know his name!). She carries the name, and lives with the Social Security and Insurance from her third husband Mike Bates. Mike was a humble man, a devout Irish Catholic who grew up in Catholic schools, went on to play football, and eventually wound up at the Naval Flight School at Pensacola, Florida. He graduated as a Naval Aviator in 1935, I have his Naval Aviator’s Certificate hanging by my dresser. Mike was one of my favorite people, I was blessed to have him as a Step-father if even for just a few short years.

Mike graduated in that Aviator’s class with Pappy Boyington, another distinguished fellow whose name you might recall. But Mike was not destined to be a war hero like his class mate. Mike was in a crash in 1938 or 1939. I never heard the exact time frame. The issue was that they didn’t understand torque as well as we do these days. On those old planes that they flew off Aircraft Carriers they had these huge radial engines, and the amount of torque was tremendous. The engine mounting bolts would pretty regularly sheer off and the engine would just “Fall off.” That’s what happened to Mike. When that happens, the plane just stops flying, and goes into a tail first spin. Mike, he grabbed his co-pilot and threw him out, he was unconscious apparently. He saved that man’s life, but in the process of getting out himself, some other part, fell off and hit him in the head and knocked him unconscious. Thus, he went all the way down with his aircraft.

He would have died except a farmer saw the whole thing (I think it was in Missouri or someplace like that) and ran over there and pulled Mike out of the wreckage and got him to hospital. He broke nearly every bone in his body. His legs, arms, back, hip, skull fractures, you name it! He spent three years convalescing at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and was there when the war started. Because the crash was not his fault, they never took his Aviator’s Certificate away from him, so he went to work for Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach after he got out, and he test flew C-47’s as they came off the assembly line. Mike met his first wife in the hospital while he was recovering, I don’t know her real name, everyone called her “Mac.” She died, accidentally choking to death in a restaurant around 1968 or 1969.

Mike was a bachelor for a few short years until my daddy left around 1973-74. Mom invited Mike to Christmas dinner that year and the rest is history as they say. At the time, Mike was still working for Douglas Aircraft (now McDonnell Douglas) and you’ll never guess what his position was? Senior Air Crash Investigator for all of McDonnell Douglas! That’s right, the very thing that nearly killed him became his specialty. He went anywhere whenever there was a crash involving a McDonnell Douglas aircraft. He told us a story about a crash in India, where the bodies were in a canyon, and they could hear the tigers fighting over the bodies. Makes you shudder.

Mike came into my life at a time when I was very agitated and upset. I was a very rebellious teenager. I drank, I smoked weed, I stayed out until all hours. I was a mess, but I was so arrogant and callous about it that I still figured I could handle it and I sort of thumbed my nose at all those who were in authority over me. My relationship with my High School swim and water polo coach is a prime example. There I was the fastest swimmer on the team, and I worked out hard and all, but I goofed off all the time too, and got the coach upset with me all the time, so he would punish me by benching me during important matches. In 4 years of water polo, when I started I always swam for the ball in the opening swim-off, and I never lost. Yet, he would bench me and keep me from starting in important games because I was such a pain in the rear.

My step-father Mike got to know me through all this, and he gently and quietly came alongside of me. He didn’t really do much, but he was there. Simply being there is so much a part of the battle for the hearts and minds of our children! One thing he did do at the end of my High School was he went and found a wilderness program and he and my mom sat down one night and discussed it with me. Those things were very popular in the 1970’s and still are – for troubled teens. I fit that definition completely — I had no idea at the time, of course. But I agreed to go on this program, to Outward Bound for 24 days of back-packing in the North Cascades in Washington State.

Now everyone said those things could be “Life changing.” Somehow or another, I went up there with some extreme reservations. I didn’t have any doubt I could throw a pack on and hike around the wilderness for 24 days, physically I would not have any issues at least. At the time, I was in tip-top shape, having swam my entire life at least 5 days a week, I swam in the ocean, I played beach volleyball on occasion, I body-surfed, I had been on a National Champion Water Polo team at the age of 15, and there I was 17 years old, 165 lbs. and solid muscle. Mentally, emotionally, I probably had no clue what I was in for. I was smoking tremendous amounts of weed at the time I went on this trip, but I decided I would only take one “Bomber” joint with me to be smoked at some time when I could just kick back and relax a bit and enjoy it.

I flew to Seattle and took a bus downtown. Everyone said to watch out for pan-handlers and “Bums” in downtown Seattle, so I was pretty careful. I made my way to the hotel where we were to meet the bus that would take us to the wilderness. I met Joe, he was the first person I met. He and I were destined to be part of the same patrol, so we became fast friends. We were same age, both from California, he was from Hollister, in fact he was part of the Hollister family. Anyhow, we talked, and we met some of the other guys as they got there. Pretty soon we were all there, and the bus got there, an old school bus. We piled on board with our gear and we left Seattle behind and headed out towards the North Fork of the Skykomish River.

On the bus, this one dude starts rolling up reefers and firing them up and passing them around. We all kind of thought, “Oh, what the heck, we didn’t really come for a party, but might as well.” So, we got stoned on the bus on the way up to our base camp. I’m sure the fellow driving got pretty stoned off all that smoke too. We got to camp anyhow, and they divided us up into patrols, there were 8 in a patrol, and 4 patrols. There were two patrols of boys like us who were under 18, and then there were two older patrols – co-ed patrols with girls and guys, since they were over 18. Then, we met our leaders, I can still see them, and I remember their names: Jeff and Jim. Jeff was a paramedic. Jim was a career wilderness guide, very experienced. We looked up to these guys pretty much instantly.

So, they made us do some “Intro” exercises. First, we ran about a mile down the road alongside the river, and then we had to make a 12 legged animal, where at least 4 of the legs had to be arms, and one person had to be carried. And then we had to walk like 50 feet or something. It sounded ridiculous, but it was actually fun. Then, they made us strip naked and get wet in a pool in the river. Get this, the North Fork of the Skykomish River is a Cascade River, we were at about 3,000′ elevation, and that water was cold, and it was moving fast too, but this pool they found was pretty large, at least big enough to walk in, and dunk your head. That’s all they wanted us to do, so we did. None of us thought about swimming in that river!

But the next morning, the other patrol of boys went down to do what we had done, get wet and all, and one of the boys jumped into the river and tried to swim for a rock. Remember, this was a “Wild” Cascade River, with fast moving water. We had swam in that very spot, and seen how much water was coming in and going out of that pool, think about a swimming pool’s worth of water every 5 seconds or so, I would guess easily 1,000 gallons of water a second going down this river. Anyhow, this poor kid didn’t make it to the rock, instead he got swept right out of that pool and over a “Falls” only they weren’t steep or anything, just fast moving, but once you’re in that current, you ain’t getting out of it easily. He hit his head and drowned pretty quickly. Our leader, Jim, pulled his body out about 3/4 of a mile downstream, when he finally floated out of the current.

So, we got up that morning and we were supposed to go do all that again, and spend another entire day in base camp “Learning the ropes” or something like that, but instead we woke up and we had no leader. Pretty quickly though, Jeff came into camp, and he gets us around in a circle and he asks us “What do you think of death?” We all, being teenagers, spouted out some nonsense about whatever, and so finally he says “One of the boys died this morning, at that spot where we got wet yesterday, he went over the falls and drowned.” You could have heard a pin drop. We all knew who it was – the boy who was rolling up reefers and passing them around the bus. I think we all turned white or something, as we realized, the guy had been heading to “Summer camp” or something, like it was going to be a vacation, when in reality, at least we just realized it, this was to be the most challenging experience of our young lives.

I still, to this day, remember exactly what I felt at that moment when I realized all that. Jeff told us that our other leader Jim had pulled the poor kid’s body out of the river. The kid had a friend who he came with, so his friend dropped out. That was even more harsh on us I think, to realize that somebody could just quit the program and not finish? We understood why, but it was very sobering to think that we had started as 32 young souls full of energy and after just one day, there were 30 left! They didn’t let us sit around and think about it very long, instead, we got our food, and packed our packs, divided up the gear (which was considerable) and we left. We left with 75lb plus packs, old Kelty frame packs, slogging up the hill towards our first objective: Dishpan Gap.

Anyhow, I won’t tell the entire story of my Outward Bound experience, I will save that for another post. I only wanted to tell you enough to say that death is anywhere out there, any time. It can come when you least expect it, and certainly for some, it comes early. For others, it comes late. Obviously, I survived my rebellious teen years, but not of my own choosing. I “Drugged out” of my first college (University of California, Davis) in 1982. I was such a mess. I had gotten a DUI, and I was working as an Assistant Manager at a Pizza delivery place, and I was closing the restaurant and cooking the books so I could take home plenty of money to go buy drugs and alcohol. I never went to sleep without at least drinking a 6-pack, and I was doing as much Cocaine as I could by then. This was only 8 years after I had started doing drugs! What the heck happened? I’m not entirely clear on why some personalities or some people are “Addictive,” why they get hooked so easily on drugs. I only know that when I did drugs, I wanted MORE!

But, fortunately, I wound up in a Drug Rehabilitation program on December 1, 1982. I wondered what the heck I was doing there, since at first, I thought I had nothing in common with “Alcoholics” and “Drug addicts.” Pretty soon, I realized, I did need to be there, and perhaps the best decision I ever made was to stay in that program. My mom went through that program with me, as my “Co-alcoholic.” She never said a word, never accused me, never blamed me for anything, she just simply was there. She came to all the meetings and even probably opened up about some of her own issues. Anyhow, I was still pretty much a mess for some time. But, I met my first wife in that program. I was actually in the program with her mother, and she was her mother’s “Co-alcoholic.” Imagine that.

We had lost my Step-father Mike in 1980. It was probably the saddest time of my mom’s life. She and Mike had been married in 1977, around Christmas time in Hawaii. I went over and met them over there that year, I had just turned 18, and I had a girlfriend who, along with her brother, we rented a car and camped out on the big island of Hawaii. We stayed on a beach, when they were expecting a severe storm, and we drove that rental car places where cars weren’t supposed to go. We generally followed the old saying: “A rental car goes anywhere.” That’s one of those statements similar to the another saying about “A borrowed saw cuts anything.” It wasn’t really very good of us to do that, but we were kids and we didn’t care. We just wanted to see things.

The volcano Kilauea was the first volcano where I ever danced. I bought the album by Genesis back in around 1975 (right after it came out) and it had that song on it called “Dance on a Volcano.” I did that in Hawaii. We walked right on the surface of the main crater, right under the Volcano Observatory House. It smelled like rotten eggs (sulfur dioxide gas, or hydrogen sulfide, can’t remember exactly). And there was steam coming up from cracks all over the place. It wasn’t crazy, not too much anyhow, since there were lots of folks doing it, the gases must have been deemed safe for some time in order for them to let us on there.

So, that was the year my mom and Mike married, and they were only married just three short years, because Mike passed in 1980. They bought a Motor-home, and they toured all over the Country. They drove the entire Eastern Seaboard, stopping here and there, they were gone for months at a time. I don’t remember much of it, since I graduated High School in 1977, and went to school at U.C. Davis that Fall. I saw them for all holidays and such, and I did believe that I was a changed person after Outward Bound as well. I had no idea how changed I was, since I was still just a teenager, and not very wise in things of the world, and especially not in spiritual matters. In terms of spiritual upbringing, I would say I had almost none.

I’ve written before and commented that my folks both had some “Religion” in their past, but that they made a conscious decision to raise my sister and I as “Intellectuals.” We were going to be somehow better I guess they thought without religion, or any spiritual upbringing. Today, of course, I consider that fantasy, as you cannot bring children up in this world without giving them a firm spiritual background. The only faith you can have is in the true God, creator of the Universe, whose Son Jesus came to earth to die on a cross for our sins, so that we could live with Him forever in Heaven. In my interim years between my High School years and when I actually got saved, I read a lot about other Religions, after I got sober I even took a Philosophy course called “Comparative Religion.” But somehow or other, even though I’d only been to “Church” a handful of times as a kid, and always with my Aunt Fredricka, I made a decision when I went through drug rehab to believe in the Christian God. That was the only “God” I knew of at the time (Dec. 31, 1982), and even though I still had no idea who Jesus Christ was, I gave my life to “God” and asked Him to “Live it for me” and allow me to just “Learn my lessons” each day.

I really had no idea what I was doing, I only knew that I hated my life at the time, it was completely unmanageable as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, I was powerless against alcohol and drugs, and I would die if I went back out on the streets under my own power, or I’d wind up like my friend Joe, who over-dosed on acid one night at Disneyland around 1977 or 1978 and was forever changed into a walking derelict.

But the year my Step-father passed away was difficult in more ways that just that. My mother’s father died, just a few days prior to Mike passing. For some reason, my sister and I were both home at the house in Manhattan Beach when it happened. Our Grandfather had been sick, and was in hospital, and we’d gone to see him. Then, he died, and we got a hold of mom and she flew home. She and Mike were in Rapid City, South Dakota at the time. Mike stayed behind with the Motor-home and the dog, and mom flew out by herself. We picked her up, and went to the Funeral and were at home when we got a phone call, Mike had had a massive heart-attack, and he was gone. This happened just three days after my mother’s father passed away.

I’m just not sure any of us can ever know that kind of pain. Losing a parent is tough. My Grandfather was the only Grandparent I ever had either, since my dad’s folks had passed away before I was born, and so had my mom’s mother. Mom’s mother had always been unhealthy, it might be more appropriate to say that she was never “Strong.” She was often sick, and in bed for long periods. She finally died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 1955 or 1956, right after my sister was born. She died young, she was only 45 or 46 I believe. I think she was born in 1910 that is, I don’t really have all the dates worked out for that side of the family, but I have some pictures and some of those have dates written on the back, I’ve tried to piece some of it together at least.

Anyhow, my mom lost both her dad and her husband back to back, and we had to fly up to Rapid City with her, and go to the campground where the Motor-home was parked, and we gathered the stuff together and drove it back to California. We were going to stop and camp along the way, but in the end, we just drive straight through, my sister and I taking shifts driving that huge thing down Highway 80, and on into Utah, and then down Highway 15 to Los Angeles and home. I don’t think mom drove at all, but sat there numb, just in shock the entire time. It was a miserable drive. I don’t remember any of us speaking or saying much either, there wasn’t anything any of us could have said to break that shock that had settled on us.

That was in 1980, I got sober a little over two years later, and then met my wife to be shortly after that. My sister, met a fellow named George, and they were married. They started their family, pretty much right before my wife and I started ours. Toni and George had two sons, we had a boy and a girl. So, by 1990, mom had four grandchildren to replace her loss, and they all became the love of her life. She loved them all, she was especially tickled with Talya, my daughter, since that was her only granddaughter. I should say that mom is still very fond of all her grandchildren, since at the time of this writing, she’s still alive and well and living at Silverado Senior Living Community. She gets to see my sister’s two boys George and Stewart more often is all, since they live here in California close by, and my son Alex and his sister Talya, and Talya’s husband Mike all live in Colorado right now.

Grandchildren are, of course, a blessing since they go home after they’re done visiting with you. All the fun, not all the work. Not to say that mom has had it easy with her grandkids, but relatively easier than it was with me and my sister. It wasn’t always just the two of us here either, my brother Gary lived here with us after my mom and dad got married, but most of that was long before I was born. Gary was born in 1946 and he was already a teenager when I was born in 1959. Gary is my half brother, his mother lives back east somewhere. He has a full sister and a full brother also. My mother had two children you see, and my daddy had seven. Typical California family I always tell folks. My daddy’s first wife was from Missouri I think, she was a farm girl.

Anyhow, mom has dealt with all that most of her life. She met my father in High School, he was the proverbial “Bad kid.” All he did, apparently, was surf and fool around. He harped on us so bad when my sister and I were little about how he made so much money and how great that was, and how we needed to study harder and workout harder at swim practice and such – if we wanted to be like him. What a bunch of bunk! He never even went to class in High School! Gary found all his High School transcripts and some letters from his mother and such. He was enrolled at Redondo Union High School for two years, and had no grades! His mother finally got so exasperated with him that she made him join the Navy (in 1943, at the age of 16). She told him it was either that or he was out!

He joined up (his mother signed the enlistment papers), and the rest is history. He was a radio operator in a PB-Y (Catalina) flying boat first, and learned how to fly since the radio compartment on a PB-Y is right behind the cockpit. Then, he went to the Cadet Corps before the war ended and got his Aviator’s Certificate. Then, he bummed around after the war, did some flying, some barn-storming, some other things, but eventually joined up in the Army around 1948-49 and got into flying in the Army. Then, when the Army Air Corps became the Air Force, he was in the Air Force. Not too many folks served in three different branches of the service. I have his discharge paperwork from all three though. I have his flight book, showing all his flying from the time he was in the Army. He may have cheated slightly, his Army flying log book starts with 1,000 hours flight time. They gave him credit in other words, for his flying in the Navy, even though he either lost or withheld his log book. I doubt he got 1,000 flying hours in when he was in the Navy, he learned to fly so late in the war, there just wasn’t enough time to accrue that much flight time. That’s like flying full-time for 6-8 months, perhaps even a bit more! And only flying at that!

But, whatever it represents, it turns out he and my mother met in High School. She use to go with him when he and his buddies went surfing up at Malibu. I have a picture of my dad sitting on his board at (presumably) Malibu, in 1942 with his Captain’s hat on. Typical. Right at the end of the war was when he met his first wife. They were married and had the three children (Gary, the oldest, Fred and Beverly). But, by about 1951-52, they were already divorced, and my dad started flying back to California to see my mom. She was married, but the fellow she married the first time (I don’t even know his name!) didn’t give her any children. I gather they tried, but it never happened. So, she was divorced too, and she and my dad married around that time, 1952-53. I don’t even know the dates for sure actually. I’ll try to find them and get them in here. I have their wedding pictures, but no dates.

Then, as I said, my sister and I came along, and we were children of the 1960’s, the “Me” generation. I honestly don’t know what happened in this country, and when we turned from being a self-less to self-centered people. There are still plenty of self-less folks out there, humble, doing what they always did. But whatever the reason, we seem to have turned into a culture of folks who are selfish and self-centered and want nothing to do with anybody else, “It’s all about ME!” That’s what any culture that turns away from God will be, if you want my opinion. Our enemy, Satan, tells us that lie over and over that “You can be like God! You can be in charge of your own life, be Captain of your own ship, in charge of your own destiny.” All like that. It’s a bunch of hooey, and today I know better!

Putting God first is so important! And that’s what happened when my mom met Mike Bates. I started out this article to describe my mom’s relationship with him because it changed her so much, and it changed me too. Mike was, as I said, a devout Irish Catholic. He went regularly to Mass, and he had to get a special dispensation from Rome to marry my mother (even though his wife had died), and she had to get “Confirmed” into the Catholic Church too! She went to Catechism classes, and she got confirmed. I have her Bible, as well as we found her Bible from when she was a little girl, going to Hollywood First Presbyterian Church. She still remembers some of the Psalms – to this day! When I read them to her, she brightens up, and her whole countenance changes. You can just tell, they are speaking directly to her soul.

Even though mom today cannot remember most things, she still remembers God and Jesus and the Bible. She prays every night she says, and she still recognizes Toni and I, and my wife Cheryl, and her grandkids, she can’t always remember their names, and once when she had a real bad dementia episode, she thought I was her husband, but those episodes are few and far between. They mostly only come out when she is stressed. Where she’s living now, they work hard to keep the folks from being stressed. It’s still hard, but they are Professionals, and they care. They truly care. I’ve watched the care-givers at Silverado, very closely. Many have a gift for doing what they do. One lady, she can gather a whole group of folks around her, when they are getting anxious after dinner (when Sundowner’s hits) and she sits them all down around her and just touches them. Her warm, kind touch, calms and soothes them. You can see it! I tell you – that woman has a gift! And she teaches it and passes it along to the other care-givers.

So, there are many wonderful things, new experiences, lots of things still happening in mom’s life, in spite of her being 85 years old, and mostly “Used up” or “Useless” from the world’s perspective. After all, it was the NAZI’s who declared old people to be of no ‘Utility” to the State. Hitler said they should be gassed, and gotten out of the way. We aren’t far from that in our Society, we take and put them into these homes, and most of them languish there, forgotten, decaying. Most are in places that are not as nice as Silverado. This place is one of those exceptional care facilities where they have top-notch staff. They watch the people, they study them, they care! They provide good care, and treat them – as they would want to be treated if they were in there. You can tell, they really do care.

But some facilities, well, they’re more like Dog Kennels than they are elderly living communities. It’s not just economics either. You could care, even if they weren’t paying you much, even if you felt over worked and overwhelmed, you could still care. Instead, the horror stories we hear of people coming in to Silverado from other places are just awful. We’re so glad we have a place for mom so close, and where we can “Drop in” any time, unannounced, and we know there’s nothing to worry about there. Mom’s care is their primary concern. They know that we’ll be happy too, if she’s in good shape and well cared for all the time.

As I started out to say in this post, getting old is definitely not for sissies. Mom has outlived most of her friends, at least two and probably all three of her husbands, several other boyfriends she had along the way, we praise God that she has both of her children still, but being in my 50’s now, I know that I could go anytime as well. That would be terrible heartache for her, but it’s a reality for us men, we just don’t live as long as women, and our bodies often give out earlier for a variety of reasons. That’s why I workout so hard these days, I am swimming at least three times a week lately, and the past few weeks, I’ve actually bumped the workouts up to 5 per week, going twice in the ocean each week to prepare for the pier to pier swim in August.

But, since Cheryl and I have no health insurance, we must fight to stay in shape, and do the best we can for our bodies. We keep looking at “Catastrophic” care packages from places like “Medishare” and such, and we will likely eventually have something like that. It’s not really a question of timing, it’s more a question of realities. We moved to Los Angeles in Dec., 2010, broke, homeless. Mom took us in – and it’s been a tremendous blessing for all of us, my sister and her husband Rod as well. We were able to shoulder the load of taking care of mom day in and day out, for those two and a half years during which mom’s Alzheimer’s and other physical conditions continued to decline. It was in Mar., 2011 that mom fell and broke her hip – barely 3 months after we got here! We just are amazed by God’s timing, because we really do feel he stripped all our “Stuff” away from us and made it so we had to move here – he made the decision for us. I think I mentioned that we had started praying back in 2007, after going on a cruise with mom for her 80th Birthday whether we should move in with her and help take care of her. At that time, we both still had jobs in Denver and so forth, and it wasn’t very practical.

Well, our God is a God of practicality I must say! He made it so we had no other choice – really – but to move in with mom and take care of her. He made the decision and answered our prayers all at the same time. We feel certain that following the Lord is always the best course for anyone to take, what’s more, if He wants you to have stuff, you will, if He doesn’t – you won’t, so there’s no sense fighting or crying about it. Still, it was hard. On the day I left Denver for good, it was just me, and our Tahoe, and a 10,000lb trailer, loaded completely to the limit, and I still had 13 boxes of books that I could not carry, they simply were going to put the load overweight. The trailer had our 1950 Chevy, and my motorcycle, and a bunch of other miscellaneous things, but there simply was no more weight allowance in the trailer, and I had no room in the car either for all those books. So, I took them to our Church, and gave them to Pastor Wes, then told him “Let folks have them for free. If they feel like it, they can donate a dollar to the Church for each book.” Then, I cried with him and said goodbye.

There are many tough things we must do in this life. Letting go of my books, some of which I’d had my entire life, was very hard. I love books, I love to read, and I had many “Favorites” in those that I let go. I kept 4 boxes of books, since that was all I had room for, and those were the ones that were just too precious to part with. I don’t have anything really valuable either, some are old and such, but there are only a few first editions, and there were a few signed books, most of those got left in Denver. I have some very nice editions of things like “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” and such, since those are my absolute most favorite books of all time, besides the Bible. I used to tell people “The Lord of the Rings” is the only book I’ve read more than the Bible. But now that I’ve read the Bible over a dozen times, probably about 15 actually, my 7 times through the “Lord of the Rings” is starting to fade somewhat in comparison.

We left many other things behind. The Lord has been teaching me that lesson ever since I became a Christian: That we ought not be tied down with too much “Stuff.” We are to remain “Simpler” and less encumbered, because it makes us more like sojourners, and not “Residents.” This earth is not my home – my home is in Heaven – with Jesus! Some days I am more anxious than others to get done with this earth and get to Heaven to be with Him. I want so badly to sit at His feet and listen to His voice. I want to hear the “Master’s” voice so badly I can just groan sometimes! Often I look around at this world and I am disgusted by what I see: over a Billion starving people on the one hand, and folks with so much money they don’t know what to do with it all on the other! There is no justice, I am sure of that. What’s worse, is there is not even any real compassion.

The older you get, the wiser you get, the more clearly you see these things. It’s probably that, more than anything else, is what my sister’s saying means. At least, that’s what it means for me. There’s an old saying in Christian circles, that when you get fed up with the world around you and all the sin and such, that you either get bitter, or you get better. Obviously many folks get bitter, and they withdraw and hate the world around them. But getting better means you surrender to Jesus more and more, and let Him work through you to make a difference in your world. Lord, I pray today that I may make a difference. I pray that my story may make a difference for someone who reads it. It’s a long story, but a good one. I’ve heard it said by our Pastor at our Church that redemption is the “Only” story. It’s Your story Lord. I ask that you use this for Your purposes this day. I want only to do Your will. In Jesus’ name.


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