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Monthly Archives: July 2009

I was on my way to lunch today and met a person off the interstate.  You all have seen persons like this before.  She was a homeless person (I presume) and holding a sign that read “I am broke…”  I typically drive by people like this while trying not to make eye contact.  However, this day was different.  While stopped at the red light, I inconspicuously pulled out my wallet and pulled out some money (the amount is immaterial to the story).  When the light turned green I slowly drove the car near her to give her time to get the bill from my hand.  I asked myself, “what was different this time?”  Why did you give this stranger some money?  First, I answered – I got this unction to give her some money; I simply felt ‘moved’ to give her something.  Second, I answered – if she is brave enough to expose and humiliate herself like this, then she must be genuine.  However, I said to myself, “she is simply taking you for a ride, you are so gullible.”  Well, I thought, I get taken everyday.  I often buy a cup of coffee that is overpriced.  I know I get taken when I buy a new car.  And we just returned from a family vacation where I know I was taken.  I thought I would rather err on the side of helping a real human being that I can actually see with my own eyes.  If I was naive and taken, so what!  (This story was not told to earn me any bragging points.)

Larry was the younger brother to my wife, Rita.  Larry died on Sunday, July 5, 2009 at the age of 47 due to complications with lymphoma and the subsequent cancer treatment.  His wake was on Monday, July 13 and the funeral was July 14 in Topeka, KS.  At the wake, I carefully observed his oldest son (12 years old).  Several times he approached the casket; sometimes alone, sometimes with a relative.  On one occasion, I saw him approach the casket and he tenderly touched the face of his dad, his dad’s thick moustache and his dad’s hands.  He was so mature to lose his daddy at such a young age.  I am unsure what made me cry more – weeping with my wife (she loved her brother, Larry), hearing the wonderful stories about Larry from fellow army personnel, weeping for Larry (because he was the true ‘underdog’ in the family) or weeping over seeing Larry’s oldest son tenderly and gently touch and meticulously study him.   Larry’s oldest son was also a bit witty because one time he mentioned to Rita, “my daddy is having coffee with Grandma Shirley in heaven” (Shirley, the mother to Larry and Rita and two other brothers, died in January 2002).  Shirley and Larry both loved coffee!

My family and I flew from Los Angeles to St. Louis yesterday (July 10); the last leg of our return flight from vacation.  My kids and I sat in 23D, 23E, 23F.  (My wife because of her frequent flier miles got a better seat and was unable to sit with us; she sat in row 12).  However, immediately behind us was a family – mother, father and two kids.  One of the kids was adorable – she sang nursery rhymes, played with a toy that was apparently interactive and excitedly pointed out ‘stars’ (they were really the city lights below; it was nearly 10 pm when we arrived in St. Louis).  The other kid was a baby and was apparently quite miserable and colicky because she (or he?) cried…in irregular increments.  This mother demonstrated amazing patience because when the baby cried, the baby cried loudly.  This mother would eventually do something (nursed, fed, coddled, rocked, etc.) to settle the baby down.  After moments of peaceful silence, the crying would commence again.  And the tight quarters made the baby crying all the more piercing.   While the mother (and father) demonstrated fantastic patience, other passengers glanced over or back to this row (including my kids).  You might say that they demonstrated impatience.  Parents who fly with little kids get a bum rap.  I guess I can show a little more patience with this family because I have been there and done that!

Like most adults my age, I grew up watching and singing along with the Jackson Five.  I have followed the Jacksons you might say up close and from afar.  Following Michael and the Jackson family has been fairly easy as a family this visible can barely breathe or hide from the public eye.  Unfortunately (and fortunately?), the Jacksons have been constant fodder for the paparazzi and for Americans’ voyeuristic cravings.  Despite the mystery that clouds the life and death of Michael, his children, his plastic surgeries, his bleached skin and his net worth, he was the consummate performer hands down!  I have yet to see anyone dance, spin, glide and moon walklike Michael Jackson.  Yet, I am just blown away or surprised by so many things.  One, I am surprised that so many people are surprised that Michael died.  This reminds of a talk I heard on Americans’ obsession with sequestering death.  Someone said, there are two certain things in life, “paying taxes and dying.”  Yet, we avoid talking about death.   It is not morbid or odd to talk about death;  I think it is a healthy thing to do.  Maybe people are surprised that Michael died at age of 50?  However, not only will we all die but no one knows when he or she will breathe his or her last breath.    I learn many things when someone dies ‘unexpectedly.’  One lesson I have learned is this: life is so finite and fragile and unpredictable so live each day like it is your last one.  Second, I am pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of honor paid to Michael.  Clearly there seems to be some good here as Michael’s death, like many deaths and other tragedies, often brings people together.   In this case, a global community mourns together over a phenomenal person and showman.  While this ‘unity’ maybe short lived, it gives me hope in knowing that we can still find good in humanity and that good often emerges from sad events.