Sunday, June 12, 2011

About Life

"...when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."  (The Risen Lord speaking to Peter.  John 21:19)

I apologize in advance for the nature of this post.  Our neighbor next door, only a few years older than us, has been fighting cancer these past few years, and we thought he had it licked.  He's a vibrant man, loves to hike and snowshoe, he's anything but a victim.  My wife and I prayed with him and his wife when he was diagnosed, and we prayed again in thanksgiving when the last of his cancer was pronounced gone late last year.

Anyway, now an MRI has revealed lesions on his brain and he's going in for surgery this Wednesday.  Mrs Silverfiddle is off to her mama's house with the kids and I had to call and give her the news.  I hated to spoil her vacation, but our neighbor needs her prayers, and those of her mom, who is the most saintly woman I have ever met.

I thought I would be OK as I was dialing the phone, but I broke down as I was telling her the news.   Isn't it weird like that?  I was fine in my solitude, even as I went to Saturday mass and said extra prayers, but as soon as I tried to speak it out loud to my wife over the phone, I cracked up.

Maybe it was more for my wife.  She's the neighborhood do-gooder, taking care of everybody.  She's a big believer in prayer and in herbal medicine and having good health through eating good foods, no msgs or trans fats!  She is personally offended by sickness, and has helped friends and family battle it by eating right.  I've tried to tell her that sometimes when your number is called it's just time to go, but she won't listen.

Life happens.  People like AOW, who are taking care of loved ones, know it all too well.   I call AOW heroic, but she would probably shrug it off.  She loves Mr. AOW and she's determined to put him on the road to recovery.  All I can do is stare into an unknown future and know that my charmed life will come to an end eventually.  Maybe quick, maybe slow and painful, but one day sooner or later I will meet my end

A few days before the wife and kids left, she and I watched the movie About Schmidt, hoping for a good laugh.  Mrs Silverfiddle and I loved Jack Nicholson in Anger Management, thought he was outstanding in As Good as it Gets, and he was at his devilish best in Witches of Eastwick.

Anyway, About Schimidt wasn't a funny movie.  It was a very sobering movie, a movie that made me think about the rest of my life.  Like Schmidt, it would be just my luck that my wife dies before me, and I could see myself struggling to come to grips just as he did in the movie.  It was painful to watch, but it was real.

I watched Papa Silverfiddle struggling to convince granny that it was time to sell the house and move into an old folks home.  She's stubborn, and Dad loves her very much.  After a lot of wrangling she is in her own little apartment where they keep her meds straight, do her laundry, and have a cafeteria and activities.  Best of all, she's very happy and tells everyone how glad she is she decided to sell the old place and convince her son to move her to that wonderful apartment.

It was not an easy transition, and if she takes a turn for the worse, the next one will be more difficult.  We all face it eventually.

In the movie, which has some kitschy late 80's Denver scenes, complete with Katherine Bates and Martin Mull as aging hippies, we realize that Schmidt has never really connected with anyone.  Not his wife, his daughter, or his friends.  The way he finally makes contact with humanity is amusing and quite poignant.

I have a dead Facebook friend, and Facebook keeps urging me to tell him about some new messaging app.  He died slowly of cancer, but he died with dignity and respect, with his wife and kids, brothers and sisters all there with him the whole way.  He lived a full life as a teacher and writer, father and husband.  He loved and he was loved by others.  What more can one expect from life?


Anonymous said...

My life closed twice
Before it's close
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A Third Event to me

So huge ––
So hopeless to conceive
As these which twice befell

Parting is all we know of Heaven
And all we need of Hell.


You left me, sweet, two legacies
A legacy of love
A heavenly father would content
Had He the offer of

You left me boundaries of pain
Capacious as the sea
Between Eternity and Time
Your consciousness and me.

~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Submitted by FreeThinke

Always On Watch said...

I call AOW heroic, but she would probably shrug it off.

Yep. I'm doing what I vowed to do on our wedding day nearly 39 years ago.

But after what has happened to my husband, I do think more now about what my final years will be like -- unless I'm lucky as my parents were and die suddenly of cardiac arrest almost out of nowhere.

Years ago, my grandmother said to her doctor, "Keep me on my feet." She got her wish, thanks to a wonderful "country doc." But at the time my grandmother talked of the importance of staying on one's feet, I didn't have a clue as to what she meant. I do understand now.

I recently read a book entitled New Say Die. Although the author is a liberal atheist, she does make excellent points that all of us approaching middle age should consider. We should start preparing now and not later -- and not only financially. For example, we should consider the house we're living in: Is that house adaptable to wheelchair usage should the need arise before we are "old"? Mr. AOW and I are so very blessed that our home is quite adaptable in many ways even though not ideal. Had we been living in a townhouse at the time that Mr. AOW was stricken, I'd have had to sell quickly and find another more suitable dwelling in order to extricate Mr. AOW from that nursing home (costing nearly $10,000/month).

Bunkerville said...

Much to think about and a reminder of that which is important. Thank you.

Christopher - Conservative Perspective said...

Silver,,You mention movies to relate some thoughts so I will do the same as regards to my eventual demise.

At 46 years of age I feel much the same as Tom Hanks character in the 'Green Mile' being I have had the very unpleasant scenario in my relatively short life of seeing many of my family and friends pass before me to and including both of my parents.

Some who know me personally would say I am jaded about death as it has been a regular occurrence in my life. Truth be known, I myself cannot wait for it (death) so long as it comes before my Wife and Daughter as the reverse is something I know in my heart and soul I simply could not handle.

I have no intention of going anytime soon it's just a preferential order to it I seek from God as I have passed many a test in this regard thus far and seek relief from it.

I pray for your friend and his family.

Silverfiddle said...

Thanks for the poetry, FreeThinke.

Christopher. That's the catch. We can't pick our time or place or manner of departure. God owns the clock and we are on his time.

To take a page from Viktor Frankl, we can't choose our circumstances, but we can choose how to react to them.

Anonymous said...

Here’s a more earthy perspective, and a bit of practical philosophy from Stephen Sondheim on how to deal with the passing show before grim inevitability takes over.

Immoral? Perhaps, but I’m not at all sure that a flat-out embrace of whatever God’s Gift of Life has to offer along the way would not be pleasing to Him. Better than sitting it out in solemn, sterile virtue till “the bosoms droop and go dry,” I should think.

I frankly agree with Anatole France who reportedly said, “Of all the sexual aberrations found in mankind the one I find hardest to understand and accept is chastity.”

The Miller’s Son

I shall marry the miller's son,
Pin my hat on a nice piece of property.
Friday nights, for a bit of fun,
We'll go dancing.


It's a wink and a wiggle and a giggle in the grass
And I'll trip the light fandango,
A pinch and a diddle in the middle of what passes by.
It's a very short road
From the pinch and the punch
To the paunch and the pouch
And the pension.
It's a very short road
To the ten thousandth lunch
And the belch and the grouch
And the sigh.

In the meanwhile,
There are mouths to be kissed
Before mouths to be fed,
And a lot in between
In the meanwhile.
And a person should celebrate what passes by.

Or I shall marry the businessman,
Five fat babies and lots of security.
Friday nights, if we think we can,
We'll go dancing.


It's a push and a fumble and a tumble in the sheets
And I'll foot the highland fancy,
A dip in the butter and a flutter with what meets my eye.
It's a very short fetch
From the push and the whoop
To the squint and the stoop
And the mumble.
It's not much of a stretch
To the cribs and the croup
And the bosoms that droop
And go dry.

In the meanwhile,
There are mouths to be kissed
Before mouths to be fed,
And there's many a tryst
And there's many a bed
To be sampled and seen
In the meanwhile.
And a person should celebrate what passes by.

Or I shall marry the Prince of Wales,
Pearls and servants and dressing for festivals.
Friday nights, with him all in tails,
We'll have dancing.


It's a rip in the bustle and a rustle in the hay
And I'll pitch the quick fantastic,
With flings of confetti and my petticoats away up high.
It's a very short way
From the fling that's for fun
To the thigh pressing un-
der the table.
It's a very short day
Till you're stuck with just one
Or it has to be done
On the sly.

In the meanwhile,
There are mouths to be kissed
Before mouths to be fed,
And there's many a tryst
And there's many a bed,
There's a lot I'll have missed
But I'll not have been dead
When I die!

And a person should celebrate everything
passing by.

And I shall marry the miller's son.

~ Petra’s Song from A little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim

If you want to listen to it, here’s a link to a great performance. I highly recommend it. :

~ Submitted by FreeThinke

MathewK said...

That's a very good post Silver, i hope they can rid your neighbor of his cancer.

I also hope that my end will be quick, however one way of looking at it is that it robs those who love you the opportunity to care for you.

Jersey McJones said...

This is a great blog, huh guys?

Ol' Jersey McJones said a prayer for your friend, Silver.

I'm dealing with big changes in my family right now. People are getting old and they are dying. An entire generation is disappearing. Some younger people too. It's currently happening among three generations of my wife's and my family. My wife, also a (crazy;) rock like AOW, is holding it all together.

Keep the faith.


Endo said...

prayers with you and your neighbor Silver..Peace be with you! Sorry I have been a away for awhile! (WMUR)

Silverfiddle said...

thank you everybody.

Jersey: I'll pray for you and your family as well.

Trekkie4Ever said...

Silver, prayers said for your neighbor.

I have a dear friend who at 76 was one spunky, spit-fire of a lady. Nothing dragged her down. A month ago an MRI was done and cancer was found in her lungs, lymph nodes, spine and now her brain. She has dwindled before my eyes. And I have shed so many tears. And her incompetent doctor never once acknowledged her concerns. A week ago they found she has been bleeding internally!

Prayers appreciated for my friend.

Most Rev. Gregori said...

Silverfiddle; I believe that having loved ones at your side as you make that final journey, and being remembered for the good that you have done in life, is more then enough. There are so many who for one reason or another, are forced to make that final journey alone, which to me is so sad.

As for your friend and neighbor, I shall pray for him also, or as we say in the Orthodox Church, he shall ever be a crumb on the diskos upon the altar. If you wish an explanation of that, just let me know and I will be more than happy to explain it. God Bless.

Silverfiddle said...

I will pray for her, Leticia. Thank you!

Silverfiddle said...

Thank you, Reverend. I probably don't understand it completely, so of course I would appreciate an explanation!

Anonymous said...


In case anyone thinks me callous, inhumane, flippant or irreverent please let me say that I spent ten years taking care of a two people one desperately ill with cancer and heart disease, the other a nonagenarian who became increasingly senile and dysfunctional over the last seven years of life. This was hands on care. I did willingly. I loved these people. It was never easy, however, and became increasingly stressful and draining as the years wore on.

The point is that I empathize probably more than most people with situations of this kind, and my heart goes out to anyone facing the agonies -- and rewards -- of a similar ordeal.

We can always draw a measure of satisfaction in knowing we did all we could to help another person over a rough spot or bring some comfort, cheer, fun and good humor into the lives of terminally ill people.

Too often without realizing it we treat the terminally ill as though they were already dead. We cluck our tongues and refer to them in the third person while they are still within earshot -- I've heard visiting nurses, home health aides and family members do this all the time, and I find it appalling.

I believe that life should be savored and enjoyed up to the very last minute if possible.

Mournful and lugubrious sentiment should have no place in a sick room. Read good fiction. Watch good movies. Cook, serve and eat good food. Crack jokes. Talk politics. Never act as though there is nothing left to look forward to but pain and death.

Never let on that you find the patient tiresome or too demanding. Always treat each new day as a blessing bright with promise no matter how dreary and discouraging the situation might be. Not only will, it help the patient, it will help you too -- more than you could possibly know. (CONTINUED)


Anonymous said...


One of my younger friends is the father of six children. Nearly five years ago he was diagnosed with advanced cancer and told, "Tidy up your affairs. You're not going to be around in six months."

Well, he said "To hell with that." Fired the doctor on the spot, sought treatment elsewhere, has fought valiantly with massive doses of chemotherapy and several radical surgeries, and mirabile dictu is still here.

About three quarters of his life these last few years has been unimaginable suffering, but his love of life is so strong he feels it's worth putting up with the pain, nausea, diarrhea, chills, fevers, insomnia, secondary infections, temporary blindness and near-death experiences that come with the aggressive approach to cancer treatment.

In the early stage of this crisis his wife of 15 years -- the child of a preacher, who describes herself as "a good Christian woman" -- left him and took their children with her. Her excuse? "I don't want my children to have to live through anything like this."

So much for her understanding of Christian Charity! I have to add that her father (the preacher!) supported her in this.

Despite the callousness shown by those who should have been closest to him, this guy continued to seek the always-elusive cure for the cancer -- even going so far as to offer himself as guinea pig for three different experimental drug programs. He said, "Well even if it doesn't help me, maybe they might learn something that could help someone else someday. That might be worth dying for."

To add to his quietly heroic stature he helps himself, by attending cancer patient support groups, and whenever possible visits people sicker than he, and tries to give them hope and encouragement.

So what do I do for him? I give some much needed financial assistance, but more importantly I play Scrabble with him -- read to him -- argue politics with him (he's a liberal!) -- go out for meals or little drives on occasion when he's strong enough -- ask for his helpful advice on things I know he knows about -- share my problems with him sometimes. All that may seem trivial, but it lets a sick person know they still matter -- that they are not just a burden. It may not cure cancer, but it helps pass the time -- however long it may be -- more agreeably than just expressing "concern" with a tragic air of impending doom.

It's a very short road
From the pinch and the punch
To the paunch and the pouch
And the pension.
It's a very short road
To the ten thousandth lunch
And the belch and the grouch
And the sigh....

In the meanwhile CELEBRATE life as long as you have it. All of us will be dead soon enough.

And as my young friend's remarkable humane and involved oncologist says:

"Don't ever give up on life till they've put the second shovelful of dirt on your coffin."

~ FreeThinke

Trekkie4Ever said...

Thank you, Silver

Anonymous said...


I just looked at your profile. What is Christian Heavy Metal? Sounds like a self-contradiction to me, but I never heard th term before, so I don't know anything about it.


~ FreeThinke