1 Thing You Need to Do to Be Alive … September 22nd, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4531)

Respond when someone knocks you on the head and says: “Are you there?”

Trust me–it’s true.

After nearly eliminating my life by accidentally taking too much insulin, those are the words I heard.

Are you there?

I wasn’t. But I was not gone.

So I responded affirmatively.

Death visits our lives more frequently than it should.

Don’t leave a welcome mat.

Published in: on September 22, 2020 at 1:53 am  Comments (1)  
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Things I Learned from R. B. (September 6th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4517)

Episode 31

July 19th.

R. B.’s birthday.

It arrived with a horrific sense of timing. In the midst of his daily demise, how would it be possible to foster a celebration of his birth? Yet I was fully aware that R. B. knew it was his birthday. He didn’t need leave this planet feeling he was absent sentiment.

So I planned it.

I picked up pulled pork barbecue, which was his favorite, a chocolate cake with butter cream icing (which was my favorite) and got permission from the hospice to use the dining room for a private party of about twenty-five people. The facility also graciously offered kitchen facilities for our use.

I took the precaution of talking to each person attending about the nature of the situation. In our family, it is customary to give a verbal tribute to the person being honored at birthday celebrations, telling them how valuable and precious they had been during the year.

Trying to avoid awkwardness and also R. B.’s fatigue, I suggested that the guests share one sentence stating their favorite part of R. B.

Considering how bizarre the circumstances were, the party ended up being rather intimate, especially when one of the young children told R. B. that he was very sad that his friend was dying.

This was too much for R. B.

His eyes burst forth with tears, which had been held in reserve for some unpronounced occasion.

He wept.

He sobbed.

And through his tears he proclaimed, “I don’t want to die.”

The room was hushed—emotions thick with tenderness and pain. Nobody ate much of the barbecue. The cake was sampled. It seemed that the circle of souls who came to salute R. B. moved in closer and closer as the afternoon pressed on.

I guess if a man has to die and is granted a send-off, this could have been one of the better ones ever to be conceived.

After about an hour-and-a-half, one of the nurses arrived to take R. B. back to his room.

It was time for final thoughts. Something needed to be said.

I was trying to come up with a spirited closing for the event when Lily, my granddaughter, piped up with some wonderful four-year-old wisdom. “See you tomorrow,” she said with the cheeriest voice I’ve ever heard.

Everyone applauded, laughed and clapped some more as R. B. made his exit from the room.

As he was leaving, I thought to myself that I was probably the world’s greatest hypocrite.

For I certainly did not honor this fellow. He had been cruel to me—perhaps treacherous. What did I think I was achieving by hosting a party for my enemy?

As I was standing there, staring off in the distance, one of the guests came up and hugged my back. She leaned up and whispered in my ear, “Congratulations. You gave him what he needed.”

Exactly. She was right.

It wasn’t about me.

Of course.

It wasn’t about me.

 

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Things I Learned from R. B. (August 30th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4510)

Episode 30

I seized on a space of silence to attempt to calm my troubled mind.

I reflected back on the early morning phone call from Johnny, when he explained, in a fevered huff, that he had been arrested and was in jail, requiring bail.

From his disjointed explanation, I was able to comprehend that he had gone to a local mall to window shop and was “suddenly overtaken” with an obsession to steal a woman’s purse. Unsuccessful at obtaining it, he had been detained and now needed me to come and pay him out of his travail.

Mentally, I was halfway down the hall of my home, keys in one hand and wallet in the other, when my spirit tackled me and forced me to reconsider.

I heard a voice in my ear whisper, “This is not your business. Call Johnny’s family.”

So I did.

I telephoned one of his brothers in Rhode Island, who sheepishly took responsibility, not seeming to be surprised.

I went back to sleep and awoke the next morning, refreshed. I had a lovely day until just shortly after lunch.

Another call from Johnny, requesting that I meet him at the hospice. He was trying to talk to R. B. about some necessary business matters and had hit numerous snags.

I kept waiting for that sweet spirit-voice from the night before, to whisper in my ear, freeing me of responsibility.

But this time I was on my own.

I agreed to come. When I arrived, I was surprised to discover all sorts of paperwork laid out on R. B.’s bed and the two brothers embroiled in a nasty conflict.

Johnny explained that the government was asking R. B. to take some of the thousands of dollars he had in the bank, which had been given to him as disability, and spend it in a productive way, or they would stop issuing checks in his direction.

I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.

For a solid year, I had been paying R. B.’s rent, utilities and groceries. Now I was discovering that he had sought assistance from the government, received it, and had so much money in the bank that they were requesting that he disperse it or lose his supplemental income.

I stared at the two brothers. It had not occurred to either one of them that I had been suspended in a spider web of their lies—cheated out of money that R. B. did not need.

My instinct was to turn on my heel and leave. Or maybe I could join the screaming match they had begun, adding in my own lamentations.

But then I looked at the thief and the skeleton sitting in front of me. My responsibility in this matter was not going to last much longer.

Yet five years from this moment, the only thing I would have left was my dignity and the memory of how I conducted myself.

So I tried to be helpful.

It seemed the best way for R. B. to keep the government money flowing into his coffers was to buy a grave plot in Gallatin, Tennessee, which was permissible to do and would lessen his bank balance.

Also, there was a huge argument about R. B.’s car.

Johnny wanted it, and R. B. was digging in his heels, refusing to release it.

It was pathetic—this crippled, hurting and broken man quibbling over an old car.

At length I proclaimed, “Tell you what, R. B. Give Johnny your car. And then, when you get out of the hospital here, I promise you that as a celebration, I will buy you a brand-new car.”

He should have seen through the offer.

He should have realized his situation.

But instead, his eyes lit up with glee.

He stuck out a bony hand to shake mine, confirming the arrangement. It was just a goddamn ugly meeting.

The final piece of wacky meaninglessness was when Johnny took out a book he had purchased about heaven, written by Billy Graham, and began to read passages aloud to R. B., whose eyes welled with tears.

I suppose there was nothing wrong with it. Some people would suggest that it was therapeutic or great ministry.

But it left me cold.

I excused myself and made my way out the door.

As I shuffled down the hallway, looking at other human souls who were hanging in the balance, I realized that a hospice is no place to come if you’re searching for hope.

Things I Learned from R. B. … August 23rd, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4503)

Episode 29

While I was waiting for a member of R. B.’s family to arrive, to assist in care and making decisions, I made a practice of visiting him once a day.

It was not easy.

He had convinced himself that I had placed him in this institution, and that it was I, and I alone, who had the power to release him.

The spread of the cancer had left him weak, sallow and embittered. It was difficult to ascertain what parts of his actions were real, what parts were brought on by drug interactions, and what portions that were conjured from the horrors of the disease itself.

“I thought you’d die first,” he said to me.

It became a recurring theme.

He looked at me and then at himself, and wondered why, with all of my obesity, I was still living and he, who was slender, was on the verge of demise.

He wanted to blame God.

But mostly he wanted to blame me.

Even though he felt that I had been generous to him, he insisted that I had withheld just enough to keep him from true success and happiness. He lamented following me all over the country and spoke disparagingly of our adventures.

I started to wonder why I was putting myself through this daily bombardment of accusations. But deep in my soul, however, I knew that at this present moment, I was all R. B. had.

However, it was a little too much for the other members of my family. To their credit, many of them were able to set aside some time to visit R. B. and listen to his ramblings, but no one was willing to take on the daily duty.

About a week after we put him into the lovely hospice, it was decided by the federal government that R. B. did not qualify for this particular home, so he was moved to a less expensive one down the road.

It had less of everything.

Even less hope.

R. B. was about ready to explode with anger—when family showed up from Rhode Island. It was just his younger brother, Johnny. Johnny was quite different from R. B. Johnny was glib, filled with stories, and fancied himself to be humorous. Johnny was curious.

R. B. was glad to see him, but Johnny did little to bolster the dying man’s will to live.

He joked about death.

He joked about how cheap R. B. was.

He even joked about the fact that he had pulled the short straw with their family—which was the only reason he had made the journey.

He did it all in a spirit of jest, and R. B. seemed to laugh along. Matter of fact, the arrival of Johnny was the best thing that had happened to R. B. for several months.

I stood back at a distance and remained supportive. Johnny jumped in, took over R. B.’s finances, living quarters and car. I was a trifle uncomfortable with some of it, but then rebuked myself since it really wasn’t my business.

Everything seemed to be going along pretty well until late one night, when I got a phone call from Johnny.

Things I Learned from R. B. … August 16th, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4496)

Episode 28

It seems that driving on the wrong side of the road is illegal, even in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Sitting at home on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from the local police. I was informed that R. B. was in their custody and that he had given them my phone number—and headquarters was wondering if I would meet the officers down in front of the shopping center near the middle of town.

I wanted to ask questions, but my instinct was that this would be met with resistance—especially since the lady calling would probably not know the specifics anyway.

So I drove down to the parking lot. As I cruised along, I saw R. B. sitting on a bench in front of Jersey Mike’s Subs, with a constable on either side. When he saw me, he waved and cheered.  I parked, got out of my car, walked up and R. B. started blabbering out a story.  When it became obvious that he was not making sense, the kind officers interrupted.

The police had been notified that a red car was driving down the wrong side of the street at about fifteen miles per hour, scattering traffic.

When they arrived on the scene, R. B. had already traveled almost a mile-and-a-half down the main thoroughfare. Yet the officers were able to corral his car and he finally came to a stop, bumping into a fire hydrant.

When they saw him and did a preliminary interview, they found that he was not malicious—nor a drug lord.

He gave them my telephone number and address, so they decided to transfer him into my care. As I gazed at him sitting on the bench, he was so thin that he looked like a marionette between the two puppeteers.

I must tell you—my first instinct was to run. I don’t know what kept me there. Maybe it was propriety. Perhaps I was afraid to object in front of the lawmen.

I agreed.

Somehow, I was able to gather him together, get him into my car, and drove the two-and-a-half miles to my house. He was so exhausted from the experience that he lay down on my upstairs couch and fell fast asleep.

This was the day I had known was coming. Barring an all-out Holy Ghost miracle, R. B. was going to get sicker and sicker.

I knew I couldn’t take him back home. He would just try to drive again—but this time, somebody might get hurt. I made a couple of phone calls to agencies and was blessed by assistance from some angels of mercy, who quickly and efficiently located a hospice for R. B., so he could be under constant care. I was astounded at the mercy extended. How wonderful to live in a country that provides such fail-safes.

When R. B. woke up, I explained that I was going to take him someplace—that he wouldn’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning up, or complaints from the family living below him.

He seemed to be fine with it and settled in. Then it was time for me to leave. It dawned on him that I was departing without him. He was so angry. He swore at me, and with weak and feeble arms, he took a swing—trying to strike me. He was unable to complete his blows, but tears streamed down his face as he gritted his teeth, feeling betrayed.

Maybe he was.

They sedated him. After fifteen minutes, I was able to leave, telling them to let R. B. know that I would return tomorrow.

I went home, realizing it was time to involve his family from Rhode Island—whether they wished to be disturbed or not.

 

Not Long Tales … January 28th, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4303)

25.

Did I Keep You Waiting?

by Jonathan Richard Cring

It’s not really the tears. Privacy can be found for them.

It’s more the sense of vacancy—the emptiness, like a deep, dark cave, where the growl of agony echoes against the walls.

Eleanor counted the days. Forty-three. It had been forty-three days since the death of her soul, Jack.

Although she tried to remember, all that came to her was a wave of hopelessness which drenched her, leaving behind nothing but angry frustration.

She could barely remember the circumstances. An accident. A sleepy truck driver.

Instantly dead.

That’s what they told her. It was supposed to comfort her—that at least, her Jack did not suffer. No, all the suffering was left for her.

Somehow or another, she’d expected more empathy. It had been little more than a month and people were already moving on—perhaps wondering when she would be able to “compartmentalize” her grief.

To push on.

Somehow, she survived the funeral. But continuing life after Jack was not something she had planned for nor could any preparation have left her understanding the sense of incompletion that swept over her entire being.

She spent her days staring at his last razor, rubbing her hands across the top of his deodorant, using his washcloth and never rinsing it out, peering at the six-pack of beer in the corner of the kitchen he hadn’t finished.

And mostly—yes, mostly—indulging herself in smelling everything he had touched and everything that had been his.

Everybody had called them “Jack and Eleanor—the perfect couple.”

But if a coupling is perfect, what does it become minus one of its links? Especially if that joining has been ripped away, leaving the devastation on the other.

There was no relief for her grief. She didn’t want any. Not only was she unwilling to move on but found the whole idea blasphemous to a divine union which had been squelched by the demon of chance.

At first, Eleanor feared sleep. For it was peppered with flashes of Jack—some distorted and many violent. But gradually, the dreams tempered. They became an aching journey through images—almost like a photo album.

They were visions of firsts: first meeting, first kiss, first lovemaking, first child.

Ah, yes. The children. There were two—much too young to be talking about their dad in the past tense. Eleanor needed to tend to them, like a shepherd to sheep, but she was frighteningly put off by their presence. They were the evidence of Jack and Eleanor’s love—and now that their love was gone, only the needy evidence remained.

She was ashamed. She wanted to criticize the kids for not caring enough about their father—simply because they no longer broke down at the sound of his name or the sight of his picture.

Then, in her dream life the photo album of memories changed. She was given sights she couldn’t remember. She recognized herself—the children, old friends, and even Jack—but she held no recollection of the event or the scene or the time.

And then, on Tuesday night, October 25th, she met a visitor. Yes, a new image appeared in her dreams—a man. Part American Indian, athletic, eyes like her mother’s and a tender voice, deep and basal, like warm maple syrup.

She had never been visited in a dream before. But the apparition spoke to her. “What if you’re wrong?” he asked.

It was a simple question. She was surprised that her dream self was offended, and immediately spat back, “I’m not wrong.”

“My name is Saralis,” he said, pointing to himself.

Eleanor didn’t care. It was a dream. She wasn’t really interested in carrying on a conversation with something that was not going to last. She had already committed to eternally being in love with Jack, only to have it snatched away after fifteen short years.

But Saralis continued. “Why are you so upset?”

“He is gone!” Eleanor screamed, feeling it completely unnecessary to explain who the “he” was. He was the only he she was interested in or would ever consider.

Saralis smiled. “Jack is not gone,” he said. “You are gone.”

Eleanor became immediately angry. Maybe it was the tone of voice, or the flippancy of the comment. It was rude. Meaningless statements uttered in dreams were not going to fill the hole in her soul.

Saralis, seeing her rage, continued, “If you can be calm, I will explain to you that Jack is alive and waiting.”

Eleanor laughed. She now understood. All her religious training, heavenly schooling and church foolishness was trying to take over and replace her vacuum.

Her laughter quickly turned to scorn. “I am not going to wait for heaven!” she snarled at Saralis. “I am not going to believe in something that isn’t nearly as promising as what I possessed with Jack.”

Saralis interrupted. “Nor would I ask you to. I would merely suggest that your ignorance keeps you from the truth that would free you of your obsession.”

“Jack is not my obsession,” Eleanor said. “He is my love. He and I shared a breath. We shared a purpose. We conformed to each other’s needs. We became gloriously ecstatic when we were able to meet them.”

Saralis walked across the dreamscape and sat down on what appeared to be a glowing pile of logs, prepared for him and his perch. “My dear,” he said, “you just don’t know where you are, so how could you be expected to know where to go? You are in the middle of a mortalation. And before you ask me what that is, let me tell you. A mortalation is when our dreams mercifully evolve into our reality, as God, in his grace and wisdom, grants us the blessing without us having to consciously struggle with the transformation.”

Eleanor was unimpressed. Saralis asked, “Did you understand anything I said?”

“Not a word,” snapped Eleanor, “because there was no sense in it. It’s the jumbled language people use to pretend they’re spiritual when they really have nothing to say.”

Saralis chuckled. “Yes,” he retorted. “It would be impossible to comprehend what I’m saying. But what I would like you to do is just listen to my voice. What I’m about to speak will be very familiar to you. Remain still. Don’t allow yourself to attack or be insulted. Just listen.”

As Saralis stopped, Eleanor took a breath to speak. Then Saralis began sharing again—louder. Maybe not louder, but it filled the space surrounding her.

“The first time I met her, I did not fall in love with her. But I liked her so much that I hoped I would have the good fortune to love her someday. I didn’t think my prospects were good, for she was much more lovely than I was handsome. Much smarter than I was intelligent. And so much better than my simple good.”

Eleanor held her breath, frozen, shocked. These were the exact words Jack had spoken at the altar so many years ago when they exchanged vows. Saralis continued.

“And then, one night, or one moment—just some speckle in time—she looked at me with a gleam in her eye that communicated that I had a chance. That’s all I needed—just an opportunity to try to convince her that her time would not be wasted on us blending our lives together.”

As Eleanor listened, the basal tones of Saralis melted away. It was an amazing evolution—like bitter salt turning into the sweetest sugar. Emerging through the voice of the apparition of her dream came the familiar, gentle and less assured sound of her beloved Jack.

“So,” he went on, “when she decided to let me touch her, kiss her—to unite with her, I was so fumbling bad. I thought she would surely think better of giving me another chance. But she not only gave me another chance, she told me I did well. That I made her happy, and that she, too, wanted to do it again and again and again, with only me.”

The voice began to lose its dreamy quality, sounding more normal. More human. More present.

“So that’s why I read this to you each and every day, with the hopes that one day you will remember when I said it the first time, at the church we chose because it was so pretty on the outside.”

The voice finished. Eleanor slowly opened her eyes, and with cloudy vision, saw the form of her lover and friend, Jack. She tried to move toward him—to put her arms around him, but she was much too weak. Apparently, the dream had drained her of all power.

Jack, looking into her open eyes and realizing she was moving, squeezed her hand and she weakly squeezed his. Without saying another word, Jack ran out of the room, and quickly returned with a man in a white coat, wearing a stethoscope.

Eleanor looked around the room and realized she was in a hospital. Her face was filled with distress, so the doctor firmly laid his hand on her shoulder, holding her down.

“Don’t move,” he said, with a convincing tone. “You’re fine. But I need to check you over.”

That he did, reviewing all her vital signs while Eleanor desperately looked past him at Jack, who was darting right and then left, attempting to maintain visual contact.

Eleanor opened her mouth to speak, but no words came forth. The doctor patted her on the head, took a washcloth lying nearby and soothed her brow.

“I need you to relax and be quiet,” he instructed. “I will explain everything to you soon.”

Eleanor looked at Jack. She hadn’t really taken in his entire appearance. He was much thinner than she remembered. His clothes looked cheap, like they had been purchased at Goodwill. And though she would never tell him and hurt his feelings, he had aged.

But obedient, and too exhausted to say a thing, she lay her head back and closed her eyes. The doctor slipped out of the room, motioning for Jack to follow him.

In the hallway, the doctor looked for a private area and finally ducked into an examination room. Jack was gleeful, grabbing the doctor and pulling him in close for a bullish embrace.

The doctor held up a hand. “We’re not out of the woods,” he said.

Jack interrupted. “I know, doc—but it’s been five years. I never thought I would even see her eyes light up again, or… I don’t know. I gave up on any progress. I spent all my money. The kids and I are back living with my parents. I finally found a job that would accept that I needed to be at the hospital four hours a day. But the money’s terrible!”

The doctor broke in. “I understand all of that, Jack. What I am telling you is, she has come from someplace we don’t understand, so her grasp of the place we’re in may be twisted…”

Jack frowned. “What do you mean by twisted?”

“I don’t know,” said the doctor. “We think we’re so smart, but the human brain is so much smarter. She’s back. But her story may be much different than yours.”

“You mean she may not know she was struck by an eighteen-wheeler and suffered a severe brain injury?” Jack asked.

The doctor chuckled. “No. She won’t know any of that, more than likely. But don’t be afraid of her story. Don’t be afraid of her telling.”

He put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “The universe is so much larger than we are that her version may be the accurate one. We may be the ones having an illusion.”

Jack stared at him like he had sprouted a second head. The doctor smiled. “Don’t worry about it, Jack. It doesn’t matter who’s been waiting for who. All that matters is, somewhere in that darkness, you found each other.”

THE END

 

Drawing Attention … January 1st, 2020

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(4276)

Ashes to Dust

(tap the picture to see the video)

art by Clazzy

Music:  Joshua

from the symphony, Cloud of Witnesses, by Jonathan Richard Cring)


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