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May Her Name Be for A Blessing June 28, 2008

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I have said all the goodbyes I can

I know that good and happy memories are

the best and most enduring expression of love

So this is what I remember about Barbara:

 

She came to love me and I loved her.

We shared our good times and bad, holding onto each other.

She listened. Patiently

Her advice was good.

She made me want to follow it.

 

She loved her children Marcella, Jeff and Begona without question

She was sorry about your middle name Marcella

She was glad you stopped looking like a rat Jeffrey

And she was relieved too.

She did the things she learned were right once upon a time

Sometimes, often, they were things that were not good for her.

Old habits die hard.

She did things she knew were right too.

And I learned those things from her.

 

She had a wicked and dry sense of humor.

She laughed with ease and she smiled

Even when there was little to smile for.

We laughed together a lot.

 

She didn’t like diabetes and she didn’t like

restricted diets.  So she cheated.

She liked Hostess Cupcakes.

She liked to eat everything a good Jewish girl from the

Bronx should never eat and she relished them all.

She will not be barred from Heaven for a single bite

The Lord always knows a good person when he sees one.

 

She believed in promises.

They didn’t always work out the way she imagined.

She cherished the friends who

kept faith with her

Charlotte especially.

 

She loved my cat Elliott and he loved her.

They both gave life a good work out.

I hope he is close by today

And stays beside her in their own forever.

 

But the one she loved and cherished most is Satya.

Every coo, every song, every tear, every smile

She adored Satya.

It was a joy to watch her be Nana,

And she felt it was the best part she had ever had.

If they gave Oscars for Best Nana, my money would be on Barbara.

She was a great Nana.

So that is how I hope you remember her

I think she would be very happy for that

 

Remember her as your dearest friend,

as Jeff and Marcella’s mother but above all else

as her most beloved Satya’s nana

 

This is how I will think of her

My friend Barbara, whose very existence brought

such pure light to my life.

My own personal light, still shining, still keeping me warm.

 

May her name be for a blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With love to everyone who loved Barbara

Chloe Ross

June 27, 2008

At

Mt. Sinai Cemetery

Los Angeles, CA

In That Single Act June 8, 2008

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In the end the tears refused to come.  The wind blew west across the hill facing the freeway and the home of Mickey Mouse and the Disney Studios.  The cars raced along the 210 and on Forest Lawn Drive and not one tear escaped my eyes.   I stood with my husband at a grave site in Mt. Sinai Cemetery, beneath a canopy and saw one very small, plain pine box waiting to be put in its forever bed.   A fine linen shroud embracing my friend in death.  A Star of David atop the coffin.  I prayed, alone and aloud,  the rites for the dead.  She and I – bound forever in that single act. Eishet Chayil.  A woman of valor.  Her price – to me – beyond rubies and beyond the diminished months of life she tried so hard to leave.  In the final moments though, she found the courage and the strength to take one last breath and leave us wishing, too little, too late, for things to have been better.  In the end she decided she had had enough and then left us wondering: where had she been and where did she go?  Her time had finally come.  Grief and faith tell us that she is in a better place but all we really know is that she is in a different place.  She is not with us any longer.   I long to believe her pain and sadness is over and that she remembers us just as we remember her.   I long to believe that my version of the place her soul sought out is what she would have wanted.  I long to have done a thousand things differently for her.  I never saw her cry and perhaps that’s why my tears won’t come just yet.   They will come when it’s time.

And Die in Despair April 14, 2008

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No one wants to die.  Even mentioning it creates magical thinking for many and therefore could make it happen unintentionally.  Best not to even think of it.  In fact,  best to think it out of existence because no one really knows what happens when you die.  Who would volunteer for a trip with no brochures, no return ticket and no tourism minister?  It is either so damn great that there is a confidentiality clause as soon as you sign in or it’s such a hideous nightmare that no one wants to invite anyone else there.  You are on your own.

You’d think.

Being born is a huge deal – the operative words are:  “push, come on, push, it’s coming, push, here it comes” and slick as a Willy out comes the new person – greeted by family and friends and ready to take on the world.  Women love to talk about labor – how long they suffered or how fast it went or how bad it felt or how well they did.  It’s just a subject that never seems to get old. For mothers.   And to make it even better – when you are in labor – assuming you are due – the medical community eggs you on;  puts extra stuff in your IV  to speed up the process and if need be, cuts you open.  Or both.   Getting born is a time sensitive enterprise.  And it can’t happen fast enough.

But try to die.  Not suicide or murder – just regular, “time’s up, time to die”.  You cannot die when it’s time.  The process of passing away is so complicated, dragged out and hideous, that unless you go in your sleep without a sound – your own personal end of life is going to be harder than hell.  Imagine if you can, a person who is going to die from various causes thwarted every step of the way by everyone.  Doctors, nurses, relatives, friends, even strangers impede the process like a relay race. If you think back to having a child (if you are woman or a man who participated in the event)  here is the analogy:  every time you got ready to actually expel the baby, someone stepped in and made you stop.  And they could do this as often as they wanted. And you have to play along.

Someone I cherish deeply is in exactly this place right now;  stored in a constant care, old folk’s home.  She is dying but she cannot die.  She is lost inside herself and cannot communicate.  She cannot eat on her own nor can she eat solid food.  These are some of the things she will never do again: She will never taste a ham sandwich, clam chowder, pizza, chocolate ice cream or a Pink’s hot dog again.  She is not able to take care of her most basic needs. She will never flush another toilet.  She will never laugh again at the Golden Girls; she will never be a golden girl. She arrived at this place in her life from the ravages of diabetes and she is not going to get better.  She has reached the end stage of life.  When she does speak, she cries for help or says “no more” or simply “no”.   The people who care for her are extremely good to her. But the entire situation is a mine field of unspoken wishes, permission forms for medications that cannot restore her to health and a sad, circle of hope and hopelessness that  grow like a field of yellow weeds – beautiful yet useless.  This year she had flu shots and pneumonia shots.  Both these afflictions could kill her so we couldn’t risk that.  Last week a dentist came in to see about x-rays, crowns or dentures.  To raise her self-esteem?  No reason was actually offered because there was no good reason for any of it.  But we must seem to be hopeful and pro-active.  She is not on a respirator, but I know it will be suggested at some point – the inability to breathe without help is a part of dying.  We dare not even mention this.  There is a kindness and compassion that exudes from the staff where she stays.  Religiosity factors in, but more than that, it is a part and parcel of those who care for her and her family, who love her.  Even those of us who are   exempt for the idea of miracles. The others weigh the sadness of her death with the even greater sadness of her diminshed life now. As I see her and watch her leave us by small increments I ask myself – would I want this for myself and the answer is no. Major faiths decree that life is given by God and only he is allowed to take it.  Wars have been fought for dogma such as this.  People have died defending this faith against those who don’t.  None of it makes much sense. 

Dying is a lonely event.  We may not hasten it for reasons that have vexed mankind for eons.  We may not argue that the right to a dignified death is equal to the right of a dignified life.  We speak in euphemisms and ifs and maybes because any other terms are suspect.  Secretly some of us pray for the dying to die.  Openly we deny the very thought.  The criminal who is hastened to a pre-destined death may even have a reason for gratitude.  It may seem wrong, but it’s quick and final. The innocent merely get a life sentence without possibility of a decent death. And in all the time of mankind this question has existed and has never been resolved.    If we live in hope – must we die in despair?

So this is for the person I cherish and love.  Not an answer but an acknowledgement that when I think of her, this is what I think.  And it is a promise to her as well, that when she finally dies,  I will remember all the days we shared, the secrets we whispered and I will be as grateful for these memories,  as finally, I will be for her death.

From the Same Folks Who Brought us Torquemada March 17, 2008

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UPDATED:  In Loving Memory of George Carlin –

Leave it to the reliable ol’ Catholic Church to come up with a snappy new list of sins.  As if we don’t have enough to worry about – they dump another list of do-nots on their community centuries too late – euros too short.  The new list and the old are as follows – let’s look:

The seven social sins are:

1. “Bioethical” violations such as birth control and pedophilia

2. “Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research

3. Drug abuse

4. Polluting the environment

5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor

6. Excessive wealth

7. Creating poverty

The Original Seven Deadly Sins*:

1. Pride

2. Envy

3. Gluttony

4. Lust

5. Anger

6. Greed

7. Sloth

It seems to me that this is a PR attempt at modernizing the church – yet all of the new sins are so anti-enlightenment and hypocritical – well they may not be idiotic – but they are certainly a little late at this point in time and actually redundant when compared to *Pope Gregory’s 6th century list.  Let’s see why:

1.  Bioethical violations. Birth control and abortion wrapped in a different baby blanket.  AND…pedophilia – Madonna mia! – unclear on the concept as usual.

2.  Morally dubious experiments i.e. stem cell research, i.e. scientific inquiry and medical progress. 

 3.  Drug Abuse – does this include no wine and no smoking?  There goes most of Catholic Europe.

4.   Polluting the environment – did this used to be a virtue?

5.   Contributing to the divide between rich and poor – they didn’t mean it  the way it sounds.

 6.  Excessive wealth – No, they didn’t.  The current estimated worth of the Vatican assets fluctuates between $5bn and $15bn.  This does not include offshore accounts which require walking on water to access.  No, they didn’t.

 7.  Creating Poverty.  Huh?  Those thermometers in front of churches that measure fund raising will have to go and so will passing the plate.

You will need the Baltimore Catechism and Noam Chomsky to figure these out.  What do they really mean?  The old list is much easier to parse  Let’s look:

1.  Pride – “Look at all my money – oops – I didn’t really deserve it.”

2.  Envy– “I wish I had everyone’s money;  oops – I am satisfied with what I have.”

3.  Gluttony – “I want to taste everything in the world until I burst open or get the gout.  oops – I am going to run five miles a day and become a vegan”.

4.   Lust – “I want your sex”  oops – I was just using the bathroom. ” For Christ’s sake bring me an altar child – just kidding”.

5. Anger –  “You will be sorry… if you don’t renounce the devil I will burn you at the stake.  Oops.  Would you like to renounce Satan?”

6.  Greed – “I want more money, I want all the money Oops – I was thinking of Donald Trump – HE wants all the money, not me”.

7.  Sloth – “Why should I get up and work?  Oops – Wal-Mart is hiring – better run and fill out an application.”

As usual the Catholic Church has adopted another do as I say not as I do policy that dates from its founding in about the 1st century C.E. and has been interfering in people’s lives ever since.  (This is not exclusively the domain of the Roman church – but we are not talking about non-Christian fanatics or Holy Rollers here – they have much longer lists).  But what do these sins really mean?  They seem to be the same as the others only spun into savvy words and hot button issues that will boost the circulation of L’Osservatore Romana.  And they make no sense. Let’s consider:  

Can infertile Catholics utilize medical intervention to have babies?  Why can’t they use stem cell research if it will save a life.  Especially since abortion is considered murder? 

Can dirt poor Catholics escape poverty (a sin) by using birth control (another sin). 

Why doesn’t the church use its billions to feed all the poor and reduce the gap between hierarchal wealth and worshipper poverty.  Selling their art collection might be a start.

What about dreaded Idol Worship?  That is one of the original Ten and the church loves it some statuary. 

And the calendar of saints – where one used to wait hundreds of years for a nod; now they have speeded up the process to about two weeks give or take a week.  Where is the Devil’s Advocate when you need him?  Often mentioned for the calendar; Mother Teresa didn’t even get a squeak from the Almighty for 50 years – which may qualify as a miracle but not one I know about.

Out of touch with reality – more like never in touch with reality

 The new list first was published in L’Osservatore Romano – so you know it’s the God’s Honest Truth – but I don’t know.  I think the truth about the sins lies somewhere in the thoughts of  Father Guido Sarducci when he commented:

Life is a job. You get $14.50 a day, but after you die, you have to pay for your sins. Stealing a hub cap is around $100. Masturbation is 35 cents (it doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up). If there’s money left when you subtract what you owe from what you’ve earned, you can go to heaven. If not, you have to go back to work. (Sort of like reincarnation — many nuns are Mafia guys working it off.” (Obtained from Father Sarducci.com) 

My advice: Ignore both lists.  Do what you know is right and failing that, hang around St. Peter’s;  buy a few indulgences and fuhgettabout the rest.  (Oops – I think  blasphemy is on some list too – Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Blessed be their holy names), I’m going straight to hell.)