Be Our Guest

Last Tuesday, my brother, who owns a pool maintenance company, stopped at a house north of town in the desert to work on a customer’s pool. It was post-lunch, and he’d been working since 5 AM.  He’d gone home midday for food and a 100º+ temperature break, and when he returned to his schedule, he wore his flipflops not his close-toed shoes. At his first stop,

without warning

and with no rattle,

Fangs embedded into the top of my brother’s foot –

My brother was bitten by a rattlesnake!

He looked down and saw the 5-foot rattler @ his feet. My brother immediately drove himself 20-minutes to the closest ER; leaving his work truck parked and idling in the ER’s entrance drive as he admitted himself into the hospital.

After an examination, the doctor determined the snake had bitten my brother on the top of his foot –

Twice!

His foot swelled beyond recognition and turned a greenish-blue. The pain in his foot and leg was excruciating.  The venom, the poison, pushed its way through his veins; radiating pain from the puncture wounds and causing him to scream out in pain.

Admitted to the ICU for three days, he received six vials of antivenom (at $2400/vial.)  His bill at discharge, $200K. gasp! He still can’t put weight on his foot, so he uses crutches, and he’s unable to work for at least two weeks.

A costly lesson to remind us that we’re guests in the desert where we’re awestruck by the desert’s beauty – its play with the sunlight and its rare and impressive terrain, but at times, oblivious to its torturous conditions and its acclimated inhabitants.

The desert demands respect for its uniqueness, and unfortunately, sometimes, we discover firsthand an appreciation of its dangers. Warnings may or may not happen.  The sun doesn’t tell us that it’s taking our water, the cactus doesn’t ask us to keep our hands off and a snake may or may not rattle before it strikes.

Through witnessing my brother’s recovery, I’ve been bitten by the harsh reality:

We can’t let down our guard when infringing on this rugged territory.

Respect the earth. Respect others. Respect the desert.  And unlike most good guests, never take your shoes off when entering.

IMG_0026“Be Our Guest”

Befriending the Unfriended

45 days ago I was unfriended.  Not by choice, but by death, by lung cancer. After Julie’s death, I pretty much quit facebook; taking it off my phone and only replying to notifications. If Julie’s gone, who else cares to see my story and images – why post and why engage when my most encouraging yet objective critic isn’t online? She’s the only one outside of my immediate family who’d never actually unfriend me. Doesn’t everyone else use this platform to stalk and to scrutinize each other, why provide the material? Boy did I needed a kick toward positivity: do it for hope – do it for all those you love who remain – do it for your faith!

Last night when letting my dog out, I looked up to see two doves on a telephone wire with an incredible cloud show in the background. Two “old” birds just hanging out, enjoying each other’s company for no real reason. Not worrying about what everyone else is up to or posting selfies at the latest and greatest location, but truly together, taking in nature and feeling content. Julie called this goal, “a relaxed joyfulness.”  The wave of grief, my annoying sidekick these days, knocked me for a loop. It hits so randomly, ugh.

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Yet, today, less than 24 hours later, an envelope arrived on my doorstep from my dear high school-befriended-again-via-Facebook friend, Jon, and his wife who live across the country in AL. What on earth could this be!? Inside, a handwritten letter (side-note: Jon, the fit I find with my camera, you most definitely find with your pen!)  explained why I’d been given a hand-crafted work of art by Jon’s friend, Nizhoni Thompson.

Through your kindness, Jon and Wanda, I’m inspired to resume –

“wandering the world, seeking the sublime, capturing creation, glorifying God”

befriending the unfriended; restoring power when the Lights have seemingly gone out for good.

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We only get one shot – let’s make it beautiful

for us and for others.

 

 

0° of Separation

I’m building you a garden.

“I’ll be visiting a lot.” – Jules, a month before she died.

Do you believe in life after death?

Faith is believing in what we cannot see.

I listened to her last dying words – the messages she told me from behind her full-face oxygen mask as she laid in a hospital bed with a broken hip in her final days of battling lung cancer.  Her hands trembled as she attempted to reach at the oxygen mask, trying to pull it from her face so she could speak. She looked at me with her traumatized eyes and talked through the air blasting into her nose and mouth:

what kind of dressing?

You need to put it in an envelope.

I’ve been kind of busy lately.
Where are we going?
How are we going to get there?
So I have to walk?
Thank you for being available to me, it means a lot to me.
This is the way I wanted to go.
After her death, I happened to stop at a random Costco Wholesale to buy only one item. Headed to the cashier with my can of mixed nuts, I took a  detour when I saw a display of rose bushes.  I could tell they had been housed in the indoor light and without a recent watering (nothing a little love couldn’t cure) yet decided it was fate since I’d never seen rose bushes for sale in a Costco. I inspected the bushes and chose one based on the color of its buds.  It’s common name, Fire & Ice. Seemed like a fitting name for a plant to begin my Jules’ garden.
And now, two weeks later and a month after her passing, the Fire & Ice rose bush is going nuts!

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Jules always kept her word with me, and now I see, in death, she continues to speak; no longer muffled from entering oxygen or from the interruption of a lack of breath.

It’s our active choice to believe we sometimes won’t be able to explain why, when, where, how or the extraordinary but to trust we may see who.

And to me, this is faith –

An assurance that there’s life after death and there’s 0° separation if we listen to the messengers who’ve gone, returned and report we’re NOT going nuts when we see and hear the unexpected. Instead, we’re being led to the truth –

It really is phenomenal

where we’ve never been but where our late loved ones live!

 

From This Point Forward

Relaxed joyfulness is found at the point

when we have everything we could ever need,

and we know it.

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“Welcome to the Party, Let’s Celebrate”
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“Repeat After Me”
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“From This Point Forward”

 

Rest in relaxed joyfulness, J⁴

07.27.1954 – 04.05.2018

I’ll see you in the Light

and honor your grace

all the livelong day.

http://www.neckgrace.com

http://www.rpstillworks.com

 

 

From the Flight Deck

I prayed on the way to pick up my lunch date,

Please God, give me the emotional strength to wheel her in a wheelchair.

Amen.

I arrived at her house.  Lasso-ing her 40-foot in-home oxygen line, she looked beautiful as she secured herself to the portable oxygen machine. Her hair looked freshly fixed and her makeup impeccable.

She gathered her supplies.

1 portable oxygen tank

1 car power adaptor for the oxygen

1 extra battery for the oxygen tank

1 long cord for the oxygen tank

1 handicap parking placard

1 bottle of water

And her purse.

Without mentioning her newly rented wheelchair, she said, let’s go.

The captain had spoken.

I didn’t question her, and we took off – wheelchair-less.

We drove to the first restaurant, and I pulled my car up to the valet, so she’d have a short walk into the courtyard to sit. An easel holding a sign, Closed Until 4 saved us from the rigamarole of car-exiting and restaurant-entering. We discussed other lunch place options and quickly decided, Lon’s, a hotel restaurant with a patio to enjoy the day’s sunshine.

I drove a few minutes in the direction from which we’d just come and pulled into the hotel’s parking lot.  The valet, busy with other customers, didn’t help us, so we sat in a holding pattern, watching and waiting.  We didn’t want to exit without knowing we had an easy way to enter.

I parked and exited my car, but left the car running – we were dependent on the car to power the cord charging her portable oxygen tank. I approached the valet, questioning if they were open.  He asked, hotel or restaurant?

Restaurant, but we need effortless access -the shortest distance to the outdoor seating. The valet pointed toward the valet parking lot and directed us: Go in there, park your car and take the side entrance to the restaurant.

So that’s what we did.

We gathered all of her belongings, and we walked side/side, slowly into the patio area, about 10 feet. Out of breath, she looked at me with the look I’ve become so familiar – that’s all I’ve got.

I told her to sit down in the nearest seat, and I left her to check-in.  Finding the hostess, I asked if it was ok for us to sit at the table where my friend sat. The hostess said,

Of course –

The valet called ahead and told us that you were arriving.

Sit wherever you’d like.

The hostess led me out to the patio where my friend sat and gave us two menus.

The crew looked out for us.

We ate lunch while the mesquite tree overhead sprinkled its leaves on our table.  She blew her nose, she coughed, and she checked her oxygen.

She requested a to-go box for her leftovers, and we sat in silence. We both surveyed the beauty that surrounded us. The sun began to shine over the top of our table’s umbrella, illuminating her face and making her eyes twinkle.

She said to me,

“Know that I plan to visit you when I’m gone, a lot.”

“I know you will. That’s why I’m creating our place where you will visit.”

*******

An eternal gift, from the flight deck, announcing she’s at ease making her final approach,

and I need not worry.

I can rest assured, she’ll be using her wings with no need for pre-board, and most definitely, be wheelchair-less with wheels-up in the garden that I’m preparing for her landings and take-offs.

Cross-check.

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Good Hands

While walking on a treadmill at a gym in January 2015, Julie Jo Jamison Jones (J⁴) lost the feeling in her foot. Two days later, after symptoms persisted, she checked herself into Barrows Neurological Institute.

J⁴ called me from the hospital, “ come here now.”

J⁴ had a brain tumor, and according to the neurologists, the tumor metastasized from cancer in her lung. The diagnosis – stage IV lung cancer.

The following April, my daughter and I set out on a long-anticipated 5-week trip to South America to celebrate my daughter’s college graduation. I felt terrible leaving J⁴ who I’d promised to be by her side during cancer treatment.

My daughter and I contemplated how we could include  J⁴ in our travels.  I asked my mother if she had any ideas.

Two days before our departure, at 11 PM, my mother called with an idea. 

Years before, my mother had purchased colorful wooden angels from an artist at a Chautauqua art fair.  My mother suggested we contact the artist and see if we could order the angels for our trip.

I phoned the artist, Cheryl, owner of Louise’s Daughter.

Last minute, but it was worth a try.

Cheryl answered my call from the other side of the country while she grocery shopped.  I asked if I could purchase 60 angels and if the angels could arrive by the following evening. Unable to guarantee, Cheryl assured me she’d try.

The next night, on the eve of our departure, the angels arrived.

And what’s followed, has been miraculous. 

The angels, now known as J⁴ Angels, are spreading across the world. Handcrafted by Louise’s Daughter, the J⁴ Angels arrive at our hands via a FedEx package, and as life happens, find their way into the hands of warm-hearted, supportive, and deserving people.

Together, we’ve become a choir – 

A choir of angels sent out into our world one person at a time, lifting each other to a higher ground and rejoicing with gratitude for all that’s good.

When a J⁴ Angel makes it into your hands, please know that someone somewhere sees the Light in you. You are a beacon of hope.

In the name of eternal friendship, you, too, are a messenger in our growing circle of kindness and support.

Hopefully, your J⁴ Angel will remind you to rejoice –

For you are in Good Hands and good company!

 

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