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Archive for the category “A Different Look At Dying”

It Is Well

 

When I went to church as a teenager they didn’t have the rock sounding music that so many churches offer today.  I remember one Sunday night the song leader talked specifically to the youth section.  “Tonight we are going to sing only rock songs”, he offered.  Of course we were looking forward to a change of beat from the usual hymns.  What followed was the hymns, (Rock of Ages), (Jesus Is The Rock of My Salvation), (The Solid Rock), and other “rock songs.”  One of the hymns I remember us singing back then was called (It is Well With My Soul).  I remember it especially because it was a song that had an echo in it.  The main words would go (It is well) with some of the people doing that part while a few other ones echoed the phrase (It is well) in another key.  The same echo was done with the words (With my Soul).  Anyway it was a memorable song and seemed to be about a person happy in life because they had the spirit of God in their soul!  Maybe this was a person that everything went right for and God seemed to bless at every step.  We’ve all seen those people that in our eyes everything seems to to be perfect.  They have the perfect family, have the perfect job, the nicest things, and it seems the sun is always shining on them.  Sure they can sing “It is Well With My Soul.”  For those people everything always goes right.

Horatio G. Spafford lived in the 1800’s.  He was a very successful Lawyer and Businessman.  He lived in Chicago Illinois with his wife Anna and their five children, 4 daughters and a son.    In 1871 tragedy hit the family as their son fell victim to pneumonia and that same year much of their business was destroyed by the great Chicago fire.  With trusting hearts they carried on and God had mercy on them as their business started to prosper again.  Their faith was a big part of their lives and by 1873 things were looking up.  All six of them made plans to take an ocean liner overseas for a family vacation in Europe.  Horatio was all ready to accompany his family when out of the blue an urgent business matter came up.  It would take several meetings and Horatio was forced to delay his trip.  He urged his wife and children to start on without him and he promised to meet up with them a few days later (taking another ship).

Anna and her four daughters boarded the ship along with 308 other passengers and crew.  The French ocean liner was called the “Ville du Havre” and it was a big impressive ship.  It was 421 feet long and weight 395 tons!  Four days into their journey through heavy fog the unexpected happened.  A huge iron-hulled Scottish ship called the Loch Earn collided with their ship.  Without warning all of the passengers were in great danger.  Anna ran up to the deck and met with her daughters.  They all knelt together and prayed that God would spare their lives but if not that they would be able to endure whatever awaited them.  Tragically 226 passengers and crew from the ship parrished that night including Horatio’s four daughters.  A woman was seen clinging to ship wreckage by a sailor in a small boat.  It was Anna and she was alive.  She was rescued to another liner and nine days later a wire was received by Horatio.  The message was brief but to the point “Saved alone, what shall I do?”  Hurriedly Horatio boarded the next liner and headed off to meet his grieving wife.

About four days into the trip the captain called Horatio and told him they were now directly over the area where the tragedy occurred.  The Holy Spirit must have been guiding Horatio’s thoughts as he wrote the now famous lyrics on that ship amidst his grief and pain in the most heartbreaking time of his life “It is Well With My Soul.”  You see in every ship that has sank there was the same cause.  There may have been different ways that it occurred but the diagnosis has always been the same.  More water was getting in than was staying out.  When the ships got weighted down they sank.  Horatio was determined with God’s help to keep his ship afloat.  He didn’t get into the blame game where the weight of the tragedy could get inside of him.  Instead he chose to keep all of that on the outside.  He showed us how we need to live our lives by the example he left.  Though the storms were raging on the outside he refused to let any of that disturb the peace that was on his inside.  These beautiful words that Horatio wrote with the waves badgering his ship have blessed many hearts and lives through the years!

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Chorus:

It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul

The Caller ID reads “Hell”!

I heard a story once about a frog.  This frog was placed in a large pan of warm water and he was happy and comfortable.  The water was placed on a burner and it was turned to low.  Very gradually the temperature increased but because it was such a gradual increase the frog didn’t notice.  At the end the frog died from the heat of the boiling water.

The phone rings right in the middle of dinner, a favorite show, or maybe as you are just relaxing.   I used to answer all of the calls.  You never knew when somebody important was calling.  Maybe it was an urgent call or an emergency, you never knew.  That was before the days of answering machines and caller ID.  One of the greatest inventions ever in my opinion is the Caller ID! It lets you know who is calling!  In my case the ID might say Michigan Caller, or Florida Call.  These calls are obviously telemarketers because I don’t know anyone in Florida and “Michigan Call” is too vague.  We have our phone set up where if it is friends or family music plays after the phone rings twice.  Sometimes someone calls that we want to talk to that the caller isn’t in that circle.  A quick look at the ID and we can quickly pick up.  Otherwise if one of those outside callers calls they can leave a message.  Almost all of the time they hang up.  If they can’t leave a message more often than not they were trying to sell me something and knew it couldn’t be accomplished on the answering machine.

There are times where I have answered calls that seemed suspicious.  At those times I answered but my guard was up.  If there is a delay after the original hello that is a sign for me to hang up.  I know that telemarketers use a phone calling machine.  Once someone answers, it takes a few seconds for the caller to realize it and connect to that victim.  The answering machine system is not perfect.  I’m reminded of an old friend receiving my call from a cell phone.  Obviously it came up on his ID as “Cell phone call” and he answered but he was on the defensive.  After some cold comments he realized it was me and had to apologize.  The same thing has happened to calls I have picked up.  I’m reminded of someone who called from the other side of the state whose husband was featured in one of my stories.  She asked if I had a few minutes and I said “no, I’m on my lunch hour.”  She wondered if she could call back at a better time and I asked what it was about?  When she told me I was glad to make the time right then after apologizing for my rudeness.

'It's like caller ID. You get to see who's calling before you pick up.'

There is a commercial on the radio that goes like this.  The phone rings and the lady picks it up.  “I hear you are going on vacation”, the voice begins, “we are going to come over and rob your house.”  With this warning the lady yells to her husband about buying security protection before they leave.  The commercial states “Wouldn’t it be nice if life gave you warnings?”  Of course it would!  If we knew what danger we were in or were about to get into we could avoid it at all costs!  Of course I can’t remember who sponsors the commercial but I do remember them saying that “unfortunately life doesn’t usually give us warnings.”

Likewise the Devil doesn’t give us a warning of what he is trying to do.  Jesus stated that “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.”  John 10:10. In contrast as the verse continues Jesus stated that “I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”  So in essence it is a choice between life and death.  It would be an easy choice if our guard is always up!  Unfortunately many of us find ourselves in the boiling pot not realizing that we are slowly dying.

The Devil's Ride

The Devil’s Ride

The Ride
By Lewis Hamilton c1997 from the book “The Gardener & My Garden” c1997

The man there at the carnival
gave us all a pass
He said, Ride on my little ride
I won’t make it go too fast

The crowd pushed hard, and I went too
but I wanted to turn back
That ride looked old and rusty
thee were pieces off the track

Oh, Mr. Carnival man, the others yelled,
Turn that lever to the hilt,
for this ride will get boring
if it isn’t at full tilt

So we got on that crazy ride
as crowded as could be
There were too many getting on
as even I could see

Mr. Carnival man, I yelled to him
This ride can hold no more!
But he just sneered and turned away
as he locked my little door

Please let me off this crazy ride!
It’s too crowded here for me
This ride is a death trap,
an awful place to be!

He looked my way with hateful eyes
With a mean and raspy voice
he said, You better just shut up,
You know you made the choice

I cried out as I shook that cage,
Somebody save the day!
This rides not safe and I want out,
unlock this door I pray!

Out of that crown one man came
He called out clear and loud,
Whoever wants out of this trap
I’ll save you all right now

I raised my hand, he pried that door
and I was safely free
Some others got out while they could
but most were mad at me

You’re holding up our death ride
They glared a look of hate
Quit delaying our excitement
Don’t make us have to wait

I saw the lonely, desperate looks
in their glaring, hate-filled eyes
They were looking for excitement
on that old death trap ride

The carnival man then grabbed the switch,
the ride was in full gear
The people clung on tightly
out of reflex and of fear

That old roller coaster went up the track
then it went straight down
As I had feared, the track just broke
with a thudding, crashing sound

There were bodies flying everywhere,
such a needless tragedy
I wish they would have listened
when their chance came to be free.

So I went home and thought a lot
It wouldn’t leave my mind,
just how I could have ended up
if that man was not so kind

I went back,there the next day,
surely that ride would be torn down
My eyes seemed to deceive me
with the shocking sight I found

A crowd was waiting to get on
with glaring, fearful eyes
Please leave this line, I pleaded,
and I began to cry

I saw the horrible tragedy
that happened yesterday
But most just glared right through me,
The yelled, Get out of the way!

The carnival man yanked on the switch
I heard his laugh so brash
We got some more, he yelled again
Then I heard the sickening crash

He laughed some more as his workers
cleaned up all of the debris
Come one, come all, get on my ride
It’s exciting and it’s free.

….and that they will come to their
senses and escape from the trap
of the devil, who has taken
them captive to do his will.

II Timothy 2:26

Trish, A Memory Maker!

I can still see the smile on her face in my mind!  She was at my desk telling me about the upcoming visit of Benson from Africa to her house.  She had been discussing the possibility with family and friends and was sharing their reactions.  It was well meaning comments that seemed to intrigue Trish!  Maybe the thinking was that Trish had not thought of safety first and the possibility of her stepping out in faith turning into a disaster.   “Do you mean that you are going to take in a complete stranger from another country into your house to be around your kids?”  She was telling me her answer as  a smile formed on her face along with a twinkle in her eyes!  “Yes!” was her reply to the questions of doubt!  I could tell that this was a position Trish liked to be in!  This wasn’t the first time she did the unexpected!  If she believed she was doing the right thing she listened to the concerns of others, but eventually did what she thought God wanted!  The smile on her face was a smile of  contentment and puzzlement.  I think she was proud of the fact that she was like she was!  The puzzlement part wasn’t about their reaction as much as her amazement of how once again she was defying logic!

This best captures the smile of amazement that she had!

Of course the safety concerns about Benson ended up a non factor just as Trish’s faith told her it would be.  Benson ended up being a blessing to her and her family and showed them a different way of seeing the world.  He brought to them an education that Trish relished because she was always looking for the behind the scenes view!  I remember her coming in tired one day and explaining to me that she had talked to Benson long into the night.  She gravitated to people who gave her a different perspective that she could embellish too!  For all of the good that Benson did once he was here, it was Trish who orchestrated the whole thing.  It was Trish who did not hesitate when she received the call asking if someone she knew could house Benson for a week.  “He can stay with us!” was her reply almost immediately and completely on her own.  Once Benson was here it was Trish that picked him up at the airport.  It was Trish that made the effort to get to know him and made Benson feel at home!  It was Trish that organized events where Benson could speak to different groups!  We saw Benson and his wonderful ministry up close as again Trish orchestrated a luncheon for our workplace.  Benson had a wonderful testimony but behind the scenes there was Trish making all of it possible!

Trish worked for quite awhile in our area before we got to know each other.  Usually we’d say hi in the hall or she would be bringing a gift in as part of her job.  She was a fund raiser at the University and I processed gifts.  Naturally we formed an acquaintance but that was all it was.  Then one day a little over two years ago all of that changed.  The subject happened to come up about the Christian poem book that I had written when Trish stopped by the office. Upon seeing the book Trish’s spirits picked up!  Although she never outwardly showed it Trish admitted that she was having a rough day.  I think performing the duties of her position could be an up and down roller coaster ride.  There was a lot of travel involved and she was feeling drained.  She talked some about her position before of fund raising for a church!  I could sense that although she liked a lot about her position at the University it really didn’t fulfill the big question in her life of “What am I supposed to be doing?”   She talked about her missionary trip to Africa and how fulfilling that was!  She told me that she would go back in a heartbeat!  I read her a poem from my book and she was all enthused!  Her wheels were spinning as to how she could help market my book!  She told me as she was leaving how our talk had made her day!  After that day we looked at each other differently.  Usually when we see people in their jobs we associate that person to the job that they are doing.  After that day we both saw the deeper person in each other who happened to be performing a job.

Trish had a heart for missions!

Trish had a heart for missions!

Trish was a deep thinker and that was something we had in common!  I think that as a writer you tend to see things in a different way.  Instead of hiding your emotions you express them in words.  If you really hit the mark you are describing things about an event or experience that nobody really thought about!  Getting people to think not only about the obvious but the other behind the scenes factors is my dream when I write!  Trish was a writer too!  She wrote down her experiences in the form of poems.  Her poems were not usually the rhyming kind.  Hers were more of the deep reflections that were working behind the scenes.  She wrote about experiences in a heartfelt personal feeling way!  It was like here is what you see, but this is what I am feeling as you see me!

As time went by I shared my website “lightenload” with Trish.  She enjoyed my stories as ten times she left comments!  Her comments almost always included some encouragement or thanks to me along with a message to myself and my other readers!  They were based on her experiences and how she saw the topic from her perspective!  Many times they were very deep and personal comments because Trish was a deep thinker!  One time I  wrote “What Are You Waiting For?” which was a story about anticipating Christmas as kids and how much time we wait for things in life, and how we shouldn’t wait to receive Christ.  Trish responded to this story by showing her true heart!  “I love this Lewis” she stated, “I was thinking about waiting in the grocery store the other day and anyone with fewer items than I had I would let them go in front of me.  I am the same way when it comes to traffic. There are certain things to be patient for and most certainly God opportunities extended to us to act upon.  Keep shining the light!”  Trish showed her sense of humor after a poem I shared called “The Devil Is A Liar”  She said “Amen my friend, He doesn’t come in a red pajama suit with horns and a pitch fork!  He is a bit smarter than that.  I love your posts and thank you.” When I wrote a story called “A candle In The Ice” about my family getting stranded in frigid temperatures for a whole night on a Georgia highway, Trish wrote “I wish I could have been driving then.  I would have picked them up.”  Knowing Trish and her sense for doing the right thing no matter what public opinion was there is no doubt in my mind that she would have!

Trish was a light in the darkness!

As someone who writes Trish realized how important encouragement was!  Her posts were always thoughtful and always had a little encouragement for me.  She knew how hard it is to put something out there.  She knew that when you put yourself on the line you are inviting trouble along with agreement!  Trish was a great supporter and inspired me with great compliments!  She commented after “Benson’s Lemonade” which was the story of her and Benson, “Thank you Lewis, for using your God given talent to share this story.  Beautifully written and true.”   Another time even though our positions are some of the lowest rated she said “I think you guys have the most important jobs of all of them!”  She was talking about my job and co-workers of processing gifts.  I joked the other day about what she said.  “She lied to us but it made us feel so good!”  Seriously though, I believe that Trish meant it!  She had a different way of looking at things and she saw value in the little things that others didn’t.

I played racquetball with Trish once.  I had convinced her that she should take advantage of the Rec Center the University provided and she was interested in learning to play racquetball.  Although Trish was a willing student she found that racquetball was a much more difficult sport than she had anticipated.  I taught her how to serve and she delighted in the fact that she could get her serves in!  We played a game we made up where we both worked as a team to see how many times we could hit the ball into the wall without it bouncing twice on the floor.  It turned out that I stayed in the back and got a good workout running down balls while every now and then Trish hit one.  Still Trish’s spirits were high and I heard her say in delight “I like this serving!”  I realize now the attribute that made her successful!  She had a knack of discovering what she could do and following through with that!  She realized that she was just one person and she couldn’t  do everything.  Yet, she knew she could make a difference in what she could do!  The glass was always half full in her eyes!

When I got to really know Trish I was  seeing more of a finished product.  Her triumphs and defeats that happened earlier and shaped who she was at that point were behind her.  Yet she lived for the moment and the day she was in.  Her outlook was on the future and not on past accomplishments.  When she decided to accept a position at another foundation I was shocked.  Yet when she took the time to explain her decision it made perfect sense that she would accept a new challenge.  After she was on the job for a little while she came back to visit.  “They don’t know anything about fund raising”, she said as that smile came on her face.  Maybe they were shocked at the crazy ideas she had for them and the changes she was instigating!

In the last few months Trish seemed to be in her glory!  She thrilled in her role and how she was making a difference!  She was delighted to play checkers, games, or cards with people that had nobody.  She was not happy when someone died that had become her friend but she relished the fact that she had gotten to know them!  I mentioned to her when I saw her a few months ago that she was doing now what was really her.  In true Trish fashion she said “I have no bad words to say about the University.  They were very good to me!”

A comment that she made about the story I wrote called “A Baseball Game and War” really showed an amazing side of Trish!  The story was a deeply emotional one for me about a morning at my cousins and his 18 year old brother wondering if he would be drafted to fight in Vietnam.  Trish wrote a beautiful piece about her father and his experiences there.  It was so pointed and so deep as she shared his attitudes and how they were developed.  How he had buried his friends after explosions and the psychological effects that it had on him.  At the end Trish said something that was very profound and presented the deep thinker that she was!  “I don’t see the world like he does, but I didn’t experience the things that he did.”  Amazingly Trish knew that we all are affected by our experiences and that hers were of a world of hope and love.  Yet she understood that her father had experiences that shaped his view and neither views were wrong.

Most people will look at Trish’s life and say that forty three years was way too young for her to go.  That is the natural human way of looking at death and I understand it completely.  A friend made a very pointed statement to me one time that is so true.  “Lew, we aren’t going to get out of here alive.”  My pastor years ago stated another truth “the moment we start breathing we are starting to die.”  God gives each of us a time here and whatever time he gives it is up to us to make the most out of it!  When Jesus told the parable of the master that left his wealth to his three servants while he was away for a long time the master gave all three different amounts.  In the end he expected each one to take their talents given and make an increase.  Trish in her time here certainly did all that she could do to make her Lord and Savior happy!

Trish made her friends laugh!

Trish made her friends laugh!

When I wrote a story called “A True Friend”, which described the difference between a true friend and a acquaintance friend Trish made this deep in thought comment: “Very well put, I have been through a season or two where the true friends supported me in ways beyond what I can express.  The blessings of a true friend is that we go through seasons and it is a reciprocal relationship.  Cool thing about Jesus, He’s always there no matter what you have done, no matter where you have been, he will take you home and he loves you.   Well it seems that Jesus has taken Trish home just like she said he would.  There are some people that you meet in life that are memorable and some that you forget.  Trish is near the top of that memorable list!  She embraced life with everything that she had!  For her taking a chance was not taking a chance as long as she knew God was leading her!  She was a deep thinker who I will miss greatly for her encouragement and support!  Frozen forever in my mind is the smile on her face that revealed everything that she was feeling behind the scenes!

Epilogue

This was a poem Trish wrote and asked me to review in early January.  For anyone reading my Leaving A Record Behind story where I talked about almost drowning in a swimming pool it seems I would be the last one to know the experience she talked about.  However the depth of her deep thoughts were so unique!  Trish was a beautiful deep person who touched thousands in a wonderful way!

living water

Surface:

I remember you…
The touch of your
Eyes, body, hands, and soul
I knew the light I saw and felt around you
You knew intuitively my affection for water
The way that I could submerge
And I knew you would never make me surface while I explored
You trusted that I knew the water
You believed I knew when to dive, ride waves, and surface
I trusted my inner world was no threat to you
I often watched you while under water
Looking through the ripples on the surface
What an amazing journey
Somewhere in me, I knew you’d jump in to save me
But I didn’t need saving
It was a magical water dance
I wish all could experience
The dance continues on
Temperatures change
Tides rise and fall
Waves come and there are hidden undertows
But knowing I have you my friend, I will surface
The water dance continues on.

Trish 12/23/2013

This Was Their Life!

It is very hard for a boxer to go out a winner. The lure of the ring with all of the fame it casts usually makes them try one more time. Although Joe Louis held the Heavyweight title longer than anyone in history and retired with it he ended up making a comeback and his last fight saw him knocked out helpless under the ropes. Muhammad Ali had a similar fate. He was the only Heavyweight to win the title three times! After the third time he retired only to be lured back into the ring. He ended up losing his last two fights finally admitting that he didn’t have it anymore.  Sadly a little bit of luster from their boxing greatness is lost when we remember how their careers ended.

Joe Louis losing fight

Joe Louis losing last fight

As happens sometimes I awoke in the middle of the night and watched an old show from 1979 or 1980 called “This is Your Life”, where they were doing the life of Muhammad Ali. Ali’s life is well documented but it was very interesting still! They brought his wife, mom, dad, and brother in and they all told tales about him. They brought the two guys that gave him his first start in boxing and even brought in his first boxing opponent as a kid. His childhood friend Jimmy Ellis appeared. Jimmy also had dreams of being the Heavyweight Champion. They both were very successful in boxing and Ali was thrilled to see Jimmy again on that day! One by one guests showed up to tell their stories about the champ. The man from Poland who Ali (then Cassius Clay) beat in the Olympics, his trainer Angelo Dundee, his tough opponent from England Henry Cooper and the guests kept coming! A friend and confidant Drew Bundini Brown appeared and told the story about how he made up the phrase for Ali “floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee!” Ali was visibly moved as guests on that show always were, when their life passed before them onstage! One of the last guests was Ali’s biggest rival Joe Frazier. Although during their careers it was clear they didn’t like each other all of that was different now. They both embraced and Joe told a very funny story about meeting Ali in 1970 when Joe had the title after Ali had been stripped of it. Ali always the attention getter announced to everyone the fact that Joe and him were together that day. Frazier in a very good Ali voice recreated the moment and it was hilarious!
joe-frazier-ali-6_2049193c
A show like “This Is Your Life’ works for a world figure like Muhammad Ali, but wouldn’t work for most of us. It’s only because they are famous and people are interested in knowing more about them that the show was successful. Although nobody would care about the details of my life on a show like that, when watching it’s easy to ask what if? What if that show was about me? Who would be the surprise guests telling stories? Would I be moved and what conclusions would be made?
Wolma
Thomas and Marilyn Wolma from Grand Rapids, MI were ordinary people like most of us. They didn’t have a show like “This Is Your Life” looking their way. Thomas was a retired Government Engineer and Marilyn taught in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Bernice Wisnieski, a fellow teacher, described what Marilyn was like. “She was always the first one there when you needed something!” Marilyn’s sister in Wisconsin needed them this past week. She was recovering from surgery and Thomas and Marilyn made the trip to help out. Thursday afternoon at about 3 pm disaster struck. On their way home from Wisconsin on I-94 near the Michigan border traffic was moving well. Then unexpectedly a whiteout occurred. Apparently a Semi-Truck jackknifed and there was a massive pileup. Over forty vehicles collided with over half of them being trucks. Thomas and Marilyn were killed. (click below for video)
Tragic Pileup
whiteout wreck
After watching the old “This Is Your Life”, about a famous person, how ironic that I would learn about Thomas and Marilyn’s story!  Back to back I watched one person whose life is on the worlds radar all of the time and two people who lived under the worlds radar. One person who the world knows and two who were known only to friends and family. There will be many stories told about Thomas and Marilyn recapping their lives in the days ahead.  The stories will be told from the hearts of people that were touched by their love.   They won’t be physically present as Ali was in the “This Is Your Life” program, but the love they shared will be revealed just the same! Friends and family will hear the stories instead of a national TV audience.  Julie Schafly, a friend and neighbor summed up what will be spoken in many different ways when she said “what comes to mind first when I think of Tom and Marilyn Wolma is that they loved Jesus with all of their heart and that was first and foremost for them!”  Before this morning I knew a lot about Muhammad Ali’s life but I had never heard of Thomas and Marilyn.  After hearing Julie’s tribute I know that Thomas and Marilyn will be missed dearly by all that they helped on life’s road!  By staying the course in their Christian walk many were blessed and their legacy will continue to shine!  There will be an abundance of tears shed for now, but in time the tears will turn to smiles as Thomas and Marilyn are glowingly remembered for going out winners!

Kate’s Kup

“There really isn’t a Kate’s cup everyone competes for.  Maybe a good idea would be to have a giant cup like The Stanley Cup with the winners name engraved.  Then again the winning team score is usually thirteen or fourteen under par and only a couple of teams can achieve such heights!  The gathering really is about winning but it has nothing to do with our golf scores.  The winner is the scholarship that goes to a fortunate young teacher candidate who is a senior at Comstock High School.  That student gets their tuition paid for and carries on the tradition that Kate Kwasny started years ago.

I was trying to think of how many years I have played the Kate’s Kup four person scramble.  I think it is five now.  I have had different team members over the years as some can’t do it and others take their place.  Scott from my softball team was on my Kate’s Kup team a couple of times including last year.  This year Scott and Tracie and Tim (also from my ball team) and his wife Lisa made up our rival team.  My team was formed in an unusual way this year!  Alan my lifelong friend from my neighborhood came back into my life three years ago.  He moved back to Holland Michigan which is over an hour away but still close enough for us to get together.  I talked him into playing a softball tournament with me (for old times sake) but we both started golfing  whenever we can get together.  This year I mentioned how much fun Kate’s Kup was and Alan was on board for golfing it with me.  Since Scott was golfing with another team this year and I didn’t hear back from Steve (who has golfed Kate’s Kup with me a couple of times and actually came up with the idea to participate years ago) we only had two of us.  Luckily just a couple of weeks ago I asked Hans from work.  Usually guys will hesitate and have to check their schedule but not Hans.  He gave me an answer within 5 seconds and it was a resounding YES!  He told me if we needed a fourth his friend Todd would play and we had our team set!

The course where lightening struck!

The course where lightening struck!

In 1989 I ran into an old acquaintance that used to live in my neighborhood named Terry.  Terry was starting a softball team in Kalamazoo and I was interested in getting back into the game.  I hadn’t played in four years (since my old team went their seperate ways).  Tim Miller worked as a student in our office and I asked him if he played softball because we needed players.  The next year 1990 Tim brought his roommates along to play with us also.  There was Leroy and Tim.  Tim Miller and LeRoy have long since went their seperate ways but Tim and I have played softball together ever since!  Tim is an excellent hitter and you can usually count on him for two or three hits a game!  I’m not sure if Tim really likes golf that much.  I played golf with him once when our softball team had an outing to celebrate a teammate getting married.  Tim’s game was a lot like mine.  He hit some good ones and some bad ones.  Much like me when comparing his golf game to softball, he is a very good softball player!  On my golf scramble teams I feel like that I am the weakest link.  My drives are embarrassingly short and crooked in comparison to guys like Scott, Alan, and Todd.  The best attribute that I have in golf is that I am a good putter!  Maybe it is all of the years of playing softball that ruins my golf swing.  Probably the same thing can be said for Tim who would much rather play in a softball tournament than a golf outing.  Still we were competing against each other in a strange way for bragging rights at the dinner that followed.  It’s a friendly competion as I remember a couple of years ago my team ran into theirs in the middle of our rounds.  I was feeling kind of down when they told me they were eight under par as we were hovering around even.   After the round I found out that they were just pulling my leg and that their score was worse than ours!

Kate Kwasny was born on September 15, 1983.  She grew up in Delton, Michigan with her older brother Kyle and her parents, Mike and Linda Kwasny.  Kate had a zest for life and loved every minute.  She played basketball, softball, and volleyball in high school!  She wanted to be a doer instead of an observer and loved becoming involved in causes and clubs that she believed in.  Kate loved the theatre and always ended up with a part in all of the plays she attempted!  She had a thankfulness about her and was always attempting to help others who were not as fortunate.

Kate Kwasny

In 2001 Kate headed to Western Michigan University with the dream of being a high school teacher like her father.  Through her years in college she adapted to many situations such as living in the dorms, living with her brother and his roomates, and living in Australia while spending a semester there.  In Australia she didn’t know a soul, but her sense of adventure was much greater than her sense of fear!  It was in Australia that Kate had time to think about her life.  As she told her mom and dad, “I had to go halfway around the world to find that what I really wanted was in my own backyard.”  That was Jeremie Coplin, her high school boyfriend.  They reconnected, and never were apart again.  They truly were perfect for each other, and their shared strengths made them a good fit.

After graduation in 2005, Kate started teaching at Comstock High School in Comstock, Michigan, where she had been a student teacher.  Kate’s enthusiasm and love for teaching made  her loved by her students!   It was one of those situations where the more she gave the more she received.  She truly loved her job and the difference she was seeing in her students attitudes and academic progress!

While Kate taught and Jeremie finished college and started teaching kindergarten in Constantine, Michigan, Kate and Jeremie became engaged!  They underwent pre-marriage counseling at the Methodist church in Delton, as Kate wanted God in every part of her life.  Jeremie and Kates wedding would have been July 21.   Kate Kwasny died on June 15, 2007 from injuries suffered from a car crash on Gull Road at the age of 23.  Kate was delivering thank yous for a wedding shower when the accident occurred on June 12 a little after noon.  Kate’s death left an empty void in all of the lives she touched.

A Granite Bench in Kate’s Memory

LOC Kwasny dedication (Hall/standalone)

We were playing the second or third hole of our scramble yesterday when the commotion occurred.  There was a loud long exuberance of screaming and shouting going on!  I don’t know how he knew but Alan thought he had the reason.  “Somebody just got a hole in one!” ,  he said excitedly.  As we concentrated on our game the thought kept creeping up in our conversation.  Wow, I wonder who it was?  It wasn’t too much after when it was confirmed.  The beverage lady came by in her cart and said she was running late because someone got a hole in one on one of the other holes!  When the news got to her she quickly drove her cart over to reward them with beverages as quick as she could!

As we were driving to one of our last four or five holes we ran into Scott, Tracie, Tim, and Lisa.  Instead of deceiving us with their unheard of great score Lisa and Tracie were excited!  “Did you hear that Tim got a hole in one?” Of course we had heard that someone got a hole in one and we heard the commotion, but we didn’t know who it was.  Standing in the background was Tim and his was not a jubilant reaction.  In fact he had a shocked stunned look on his face.  It was almost like he had been unexpectedly struck by lightening and though he wasn’t physically hurt it had dazed him.  He looked puzzled and almost confused as he looked me in the eye.  “Can you believe it Lew?”, he stated.  I didn’t say anything but if I did it would have been “no I can’t Timmy!”  “You and I are basically hackers!  How did this happen to you?”  Serously I was very happy for him!  Twice I gave him high fives and in the excitement and conversation Alan and I got lost on getting to our next hole in a timely fashion.

Jeremie is always the master of ceremonies at the event.  After the golf and after everyone is done eating the drawings begin.  There are many prizes that get donated each year and tickets are sold.  You can place tickets in the drawing for each prize.  Jeremie is always dressed kind of funny to shed laughter on the occasion.  This time he had a goofy looking rooster hat on.  After he made his introductery remarks he had a young lady named Brooklynn Brown come up.  Brooklynn was the first winner of the Kate Kwasny Scholarship in 2008.  She talked about how honored she was to have received the scholarship and how she had Ms. Kwasny as a teacher.  She talked about what motivation it is that the memory of Ms. Kwasny gave.  It was a nice speech from someone who benefitted from what Kate stood for!

Brooklynn Brown winning the first Kate Kawasy Memorial Scholarship 2008

Brooklynn Brown winning the first Kate Kwasny Memorial Scholarship 2008

I don’t know why Tim got a hole in one.  He must have just been at the right place at the right time.  He hit a 5 wood which is a club that I have in my bag too because I have trouble hitting a four or three iron.  Undoubtedly everything worked to perfection. Lightening does strike and sometimes it strikes unexpected places.  The event officials had to scramble to find a prize for Tim.  “We have never had this happen before”, Jeremie explained.  I’m of the opinion that it may never happen again.

I don’t know why Kate Kwasny died.  She was so young with seemingly  so much more to give.  It really doesn’t seem to make sense in our earthly minds.  Unlike Tim she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  On her website there is a statement that is stated that she believed in.  “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”.  Through their efforts her loved ones have not allowed Kate’s memory and what she stood for to die.  They do not dwell on the past, but have lit candles for others to see the path as they pass.  I wrote a poem years ago at a similar time of loss in my personal life called “The Window”.  The poem is about confusion and not understanding events that happen. The words are just expressing to God how I felt.  The window is fogged up now and the view is unclear.   I was searching for answers that I couldn’t have at that time.  For now the Kwasny family and friends also see a fogged up window.  Life is unpredictable and unexpected things sometimes happen.  When the unexpected is good we shake our heads in amazement.  When the bad happens we shake our heads in sorrow and question Gods plan.  Kate’s memory lives on in others and always will,  but the answer to the question of why she isn’t with us anymore will have to wait until the fog is lifted.

The Window
by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Sometimes I shake my head oh Lord
I just don’t understand
I know it all works for our good
just let me see the plan

If I could see the outline
with steps one through four
I’d know why this has happened
and wouldn’t question anymore

But when I try to look
through the window of my spirit
It’s so fogged up I can’t see
I wish somone would clear it

This has tested my faith oh Lord
and all that I’m about
I’m to trust you for everything
There is no time to doubt

For in your time we’ll know all things
You’ll hold us, oh so near
Then you’ll explain your perfect plan
and the window will be clear.

Now we see but a poor reflection
as in a mirror, then we shall see
face to face. Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as
I am fully known.

I Corinthians 13:12

Seasons In The Sun

It was the Summer of 1974 and we were driving back from camp.  The youth director of our church had recruited myself, my best friend Keith, and a classmate in high school Barbie to be camp counselors that summer at a place called Living Waters Camp.  We spent the whole week at the camp and he would take us home on Saturday morning and return us back Sunday night.  Each week we would meet a new set of young kids experiencing their first time away from home. While we were making one of those trips a song came on the radio.  It was sang by Terry Jacks and it was called “Seasons In The Sun.”   Greg (the youth director and a former disc jockey) made a statement about the song “that will be a number one hit mark my word.”  Greg was right, the song went straight up the charts to number one!  The song was about a man that was dying and he was saying goodbye to all of his loved friends and family.  It was a sad song that struck a chord with people because we all know that some day life will end and saying goodbye and recapping our lives together is something few of us get to do.

Seasons in the Sun

Seasons in the Sun

In Michigan around my birthday February 20, usually the snow is falling and it is cold.  A likely scenario is coming into the house after shoveling snow from the driveway and feeling stiff and cold.  At this point you are totally frustrated with winter, shoveling snow and feeling numb.  You turn on the TV and the announcer makes a statement “Pitchers and Catchers are reporting to Spring Training today.”  Suddenly a new hope comes over your spirit!  If Pitchers and Catchers are reporting it can’t be too long until spring arrives!  Suddenly there is a revived feeling that we all call spring fever!  After a dormant time in winter, spring brings a newness and things start to grow again!  The birds come back from their winter migration and as the weather begins to warm we start hearing them chirping!

Pitcher and Catchers report!

Pitcher and Catchers report!

In the big picture our lives can be compared to the seasons.  Spring is the time that we were born and it goes maybe to our early 20’s.  Spring is a time to learn.  Much like the growth of the plants and trees around us, spring is a time for growth in our lives.  Spring is a time for learning and making lasting relationships.  It is a time for us to feel the sun hitting our face for the first time.  It is a time, like the birds, to chirp and sing and dream big dreams as we look at the big world around us!    Spring is the time for choosing our values and deciding what we want to do with the rest of our lives.  It very well could be the time that we decide who we are going to spend the rest of our lives with!  Spring is a little unpredictable.  Sometimes we get hot days, sometime cold, many times rain.  Unpredictable describes our time growing up.  We are caught in the emotions of adolescence, hurt feelings and extreme highs and lows.  Spring is normally a time for less responsibilities.  Normally we live with our parents and they provide for us.  We long to start a life of our own and leave the proverbial nest.  There comes a point when we start making a life of our own and the temperature in our lives begins to rise as spring turns into summer.

Just as in the summer when the temperatures get hot, our lives go the same way.  As we enter summer we are now more independant.  We are willing to take on more responsibility which can be compared to the temperature rising.  The summer years are maybe 23-40.  Those years are a time for possibly getting married, raising a family, finding a lasting career, and living the day to day struggles that all of these things entail.  Summer is a time that you balance the crazy dreams that you may have had in the spring with the reality that the world doesn’t revolve around you.  It is a time for giving as we pass along life lessons to our offspring.  It’s a time to realize that other people are depending on us and we are not an island.  It is a time for extreme love and extreme personal satisfaction.  It is also a time of extreme disappointments and extreme heartbreaks.  Like summer, the heat can be extreme and very uncomfortable.  There are times when you wonder if you can do all of the things that you want to get done!  Near the end of summer you start to notice the leaves changing.  Maybe it is your hair starting to grey, or you notice there isn’t nearly as much hair as there used to be.  You start noticing aging marks in your face.  These are the signs that you are entering into fall.

The seasons of life

The seasons of life

As fall approaches you notice that the temperature is starting to drop.  Fall is roughly the ages of 41-60 in my illustration.  Responsibilities generally start to decrease.  Generally your kids get old enough where they are starting to make a life of their own.  If you have taken care of your money, your financial responsibilities become less as maybe you get closer to paying off your home!  Maybe by this time you have established a career and now you have a lot of stability in the workplace!  Fall can be the best time in life as now you have a true perspective of where you came and where you are going!  It is a time to think about retirement and plan vacations you may not have had time for in the summer.  It’s a time to think about your children and maybe their families as many of us will become grandparents during these years.  Fall is a time to give as we realize how fortunate we have been.  It is probably the time in our lives that most of us think of others as the stress and heat of our own lives becomes less.  Fall is some of the happiest times and yet with fall our bodies start to show us the creaks of winter setting in.

Gradually the temperatures start to go down.  The leaves begin to fall off of the trees and you notice that things are not as pleasant.  By this time your body reminds you of seasons past.  You find that your loved ones are more concerned about you instead of the other way around.  You find that things you took for granted such as driving could come into question.  You have extreme knowledge from experiencing past seasons, but your body may not be able to move you around like before.  Like the birds leaving you realize that you may soon be leaving too.  Winter can be a very hard time as we may become dependant upon other people.  Our memory and hearing most likely will get worse and we may think of things of seasons gone by instead of the present.  Winter is a time for things like pensions, social security, and estate planning .

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Turn! Turn! Turn!

The group “The Byrds’ had a song years ago called “Turn! Turn! Turn!.”  The words were “To everything (turn turn turn), there is a season, (turn turn turn), and a time for every purpose under Heaven.  A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, a time to weep.” You will find all of the words where the song writer found them, in the Bible, Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verses 1-9!

While there is a time for everything some have more time than others.  Many die in their spring, summer, or fall years before ever reaching winter.  Obviously there are no guarantees in life as to how many seasons we  see.  Terry Jacks “Seasons in the Sun” song had a good thought, tell the people you love how much they have meant to you!  Nobody wants to say goodbye, but when it comes down to it, goodbyes don’t have to be forever.  God made a plan for all of us to get to heaven after our seasons here on earth are over.  It starts by accepting Jesus Christ into your life as soon as possible.  If you haven’t done that consider accepting him now!  We all are concerned about our estate and things of that nature but what about us?  What about our fate after we leave here?  Since we have been talking about songs and lyrics I leave you with this songs lyrics by Paul McCartney and Wings.  It may not be what Paul had in mind but consider that Jesus  knocks on everyones heart door.  “Someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing the bell, someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing the bell, do me a favor, open the door and let him in!”  This one decision will lead you to eternal life and an everlasting season in the sun with the son!

Someone's Knocking At The Door

Someone’s Knocking At The Door

A Final Gift, A Final Breakdown

One of the last things my dad did in his life was to sign his car over to me.  It was inevitable that his time was short.  He seemed to come to the realization that it was over for him when the car, a 1991 Olds Cutless Ciera, was brought up.  The truth set in quickly as he laid there that times were moving on without him.  Just for a little while the shock and hurt hit him.  I know he had a tear in his eye when the final word came.  The fact that he wouldn’t be able to drive his car anymore signaled that he wouldn’t be here anymore.  Because if he were anywhere around and felt mobile at all he would be behind that wheel!  I was amazed at how quickly though he came back to business.  He signed his ownership of the car over in the same firm handwriting that he always did.  It felt like it was his goal to finish out his last mission in life.

A Final Gift

I left for the Secretary of  State office to complete the transaction.  When I returned home I walked in and told him the transfer was complete.  He seemed very pleased.  I told him I would take good care of his car.  My words didn’t seem to  matter as he was glad that he could leave behind something that would make me happy.  His cancer doctor had given him a slow amount of morphine that would have him sleep his final days.  “No need to have him suffering” was his reasoning.  Of course he was right and I was so glad that I got to tell dad that he was the bravest man that I ever knew because of the pain he had to deal with without complaining.  Even though he shook his head no,  in my heart my statement was one hundred percent true.

There were a few minor things in the car that needed fixing.  It needed new brake shoes for one.  I remember riding with dad a few months earlier when I was hearing some grinding.  Over the years he had lost some of his hearing and he didn’t hear it like I did.   Normally dad was very careful in taking care of his car.  He always had regular oil changes.  Even though it was six years old when I got it, the car had only been driven twenty four thousand miles.  The 1985 Camaro I had been driving was on it’s last legs.  Shortly thereafter I sold it for $50 because the transmission blew out and it was only able to drive in reverse.  Besides the minor brake job the Olds was in perfect running condition!  I was very pleased to have the transportation problem in my life solved.

As with any car there are maintenance bills to pay.  Over the years, whenever a bill came up I wasn’t thrilled, but I could justify the expense as part of the process.  I figured that it is the price of driving which it is.  No matter how careful you are with a car something will inevitably go wrong.  Something will wear down or break.  Parts will have to be repaired or replaced.  Like a pet though, the longer you keep a vehicle the more a part of the family it becomes.  Oh you may laugh at an object being a part of the family, but it’s true.  Think about the times you talk to your car.  Think about all of the hours you are behind the wheel.  It’s so familiar and you learn it’s tendencies.  You become an expert at driving that particular vehicle.  Any other vehicle I drive is now an adjustment.  Maybe the brakes are more touchy and I have to get a feel for them.  Maybe the steering is a little different.  With my Ciera everything was familiar and easy.

The thought occurred to me that we are a lot like our cars.  Sometimes our brakes go bad and we say more than we should.  Maybe our headlights go out and we don’t see clearly both physically and spiritually.  Perhaps our steering goes astray and we end up in a bad place or a bad situation.  Maybe our battery gets run down and we get sick.  Inevitably our body gets worn out and we see the signs of aging appear.  Sooner or later someone may tell us there is nothing more they can do to repair the damage.

Yesterday I left home to go back to work from lunch early.  I had to make a stop to have my bent glasses fixed.  As I was driving about thirty five miles an hour I heard a thump from my engine.  After that the car stalled out and luckily I was able to wrestle it into the Psychiatric Hospital that was directly to my left.  How ironic that we would end up at the Psychiatric Hospital with our breakdown.  I knew this was something major and it was confirmed when it wouldn’t start back up.  We did the usual things you would do in this situation.  We had the car towed to a repair shop and like a relation of the sick we waited for the verdict.  It was the next day when we got the outcome and the news wasn’t good.  It seems the timing belt broke and that was the thumping noise I heard.  Normally it may be worthwhile to have it replaced, but not on a car as old as mine.  I had already poured major money into it just recently and now this.  The time has come to say goodbye to the Olds.

When we got the news we started the task of  cleaning out the car.  Although I took good care of the car mechanically like I told my dad I would, on the inside I had papers of times past.  Most were unimportant receipts or old registrations that could be tossed.  My car was also home to my sports stuff such as my basketball, racquetball equipment, and golf clubs.  Cleaning out that car is like sorting out all of the stuff in someone’s life after they pass away.  Some of the stuff may be memories that we have of times past.  Those are like the receipts I found in the car.  Like in most cars there was money in the form of change.  The money might be some wisdom we learned from the person that we can spend later.

In 1997 the year my dad died and the year I got the car I also started a new job.  Over these last fifteen years I have worked with the same coworker in a two person office, Linda.  Earlier this year Linda told me she was retiring.  Next week will be her last.  For the last fifteen years two things have been consistent in my life.  I have driven the same car and I have worked with Linda.  I know that in life change is going to happen.  I have been blessed to have had stability for all of these years.  For these things and so many more I am thankful on this Thanksgiving day!

I realize that change is inevitable and that it is good for us!  I also wouldn’t blame you if you laugh at how sentimental I am about a car.  In fact you probably have gone through many cars in the time that I have had one.  I know dad would have told me years ago to get another car.   But there was something special about that Olds.  It was given to me by  someone who I loved very much and it remained a memory of him.  It was a last gift of love and I cherished it.  The Olds Ciera was a lot like him too.  It battled through the years until it broke down and couldn’t battle anymore.  Maybe like my sisters dog Teddy, who bridged the gap for her from the time mom and dad died til now, his car helped me bridge that gap too.  I will miss the familiarity of the Olds and the memories of all of the places we went together.    Dad left a little bit of himself in his car and that is what I will miss the most.

See Hello Charley Goodbye Shine for a car story with my car as Sam Olds! hello-charley-goodbye-shine

We’re Not Going To Get Out Of Here Alive

“We’re not going to get out of here alive you know?”  You would think that we were in a desperate situation.  Yet it was my friend Steve talking as our conversation turned to getting older and taking care of ourselves.  The truth that he expressed made me consider a subject that most of us don’t want to think about.  Another time a heart doctor was talking to a group of us. “How did your parents die?”, he asked.  After a short answer the doctor said casually, “well that is probably how you will die too”.  It was blunt and to the point and actually made me laugh.  It is good to laugh!  There were several TV episodes and movies with the subject of death.  One episode was done on the Honeymooners in 1955.


Matter of Life and Death 1955

First telecast on October 29, 1955, “A Matter of Life and Death” is the one in which Ralph is convinced that he is dying of the dreaded disease arterial monochromia. In truth, his medical examination has become confused with that of his mother-in-law’s ailing collie dog, but Ralph and Norton don’t know that; to make certain that “widow” Alice will have enough money to live on, Ralph sells the story of his “fatal” illness to American Weekly magazine.

Burt Reynolds in the comedy movie “The End” decides that life is not worth living anymore due to the circumstances that are happening in his life.  After several thoughts of how he would do the deed and Dom DeLuise supplying the co-star role in his comedic way he attempts  to swim out into the ocean and drown.  However when he gets out there he comes to the conclusion that life is good and he wants to live.  He finally is seen exhausted lying on the beach just as he spots Dom DeLuise still in killer mode coming at him with a knife.  At that point he starts running for his life!

It’s good to laugh about dying because dying is not a pleasant thing.  When we realize that we are only here for a little while we can put things in perspective.  We can get busy in the time the Lord has given us.  We can strive to be remembered for making this a better place.  It would be such a blessing if people found Jesus because of us even after we are gone.  What Steve said is true, we will not get out of here alive in the physical sense that is.  However our spirits will be in heaven rejoicing with those who went on before us!

God’s Wings

This is a story that was emailed to me.  It was a blessing to me and I would like to share it with you!  When I run across something like this I’m going to start putting it on here, and will let you know that I did not write it.   I don’t know who the person was that originated this story, but I know that they would be pleased to know that it is spreading to bless more people!  It is symbolic of  God’s love for all of us!


God’s Wings 
After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park , forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s 
damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. 
Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks 
scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her 
offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would 
rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had 
scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast….because she had been willing to die, so those under the cover 
of her wings would live.

‘He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.’
(Psalm 91:4) 

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