I have been living on borrowed time for a long time. Every day since that man in the pickup crossed into my lane and smashed head on into my MG Midget convertible at about 45 mph. Yes, the top was down. When I saw that even my evasion efforts of pulling off into the breakdown lane were not going to prevent the accident, that having slowed my vehicle to almost 0 and pulled the emergency break. I threw my upper body sideways into the other seat, took my feet off the pedals, and thanked God for the many opportunities I had had in life and the many good people I had met.
The MG did not survive. Nor did my pantyhose. When I sat up in the driver's seat, after hearing the truck door slam and the man yelling "I've killed her. I've killed her, OMG I've killed her," I thought he was going to have a heart attack. I had a small cut and bruise on my left knee where it banged against the knob that rolled the window up and down. Even the police officer could not believe I wasn't dead, much less barely scratched. That is the moment I knew God had some purpose in life for me. I had no idea then what that purpose was. I still do not.
Even that day, unbeknownst to me, lupus had begun to destroy my body. That was almost thirty years ago. Lately, I have begun to think my borrowed time is running out. That whatever task God had in mind for me has been accomplished, even though I lack the foggiest.
Most days I feel too tired to go outside to my garden, or even to sit at this keyboard and write. I'm weaning off prednisone, because it will take 5 years off my life if I don't, and it's not controlling the lupus. I see my doctor in a few days, and I am expecting bad news on my test results. Inside, I just know something is not right.
I will not subject you to a litany of the pain that is now with me day in and day out. I will only say that most days, at some point in the day, I end up crying from it. I lay in bed and moan, because I cannot make it go away without taking prescription pain killers, and I do not want to die an addict, even though I know that eventually, I probably will.
There are still so many things I want to do, to see, and I know I never will. Some of them are big things, like seeing Sweden before I die. Some are tiny, like cleaning out a drawer, but I am too exhausted even for that.
Mostly I read and watch movies or British TV shows. People exhaust me, even those I love the most. Putting on that stoic face to keep from crying, or moaning, or screaming has become enervating. Putting up with those that irritate me has become impossible.
The real problem is that I do not know how this stage will take. Will it drag out several years, with my family and friends growing more and more agonized by my pain? Months? Weeks?
Or is this not what I believe it to be, but just lupus playing with my body chemistry? Having been clinically depressed, I know this is not depression. I can feel joy in simply touching my husband's cheek, or petting my stubborn, narcissistic cat, and laughing at her narcissism.
No, this is something else. It feels like goodbye, like my body telling my spirit "I want a divorce." I don't think my spirit was expecting it.
God gives us life, and He takes it away. What those who have never been in the position this woman is, or many others with debilitating diseases, do not realize is that sometimes our lives are taken from us bit by bit. It is that particular situation, not young people in good health with lives ahead of them going through a rough spot, that I address.
We disabled watch those who love us working to take care of us until they are exhausted. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. We watch their financial sacrifices, and watch their enjoyment of life drain from their tired eyes. The more and more dependent we get on them, the more we think "they could have a better life without me." We love them and want that for them, especially if they are also getting older, feeling arthritis, experiencing heart disease, depression or other health concerns of their own.
Ever thought God also gives us the will to continue or the courage to die? The choice to keep fighting beyond physical, mental, spiritual exhaustion, or the courage to free one's loved one's from debt, struggle and the same kind of exhaustion? It just might be cruel to deny this woman the peace she seeks for herself.
I speak as one whose life has eroded from beneath her feet for decades. My career. My dreams of motherhood. The respect of people who knew me but not my disease. Suffered the contempt of people who do not know me and do not know my disease; managing to find the love within myself that made it impossible to wish they suffer this one day.
I still fight to make the most of every day, , to find, create, as much joy and laughter to buoy my own heart and those of others, to do as much as I can for myself, for others, for the world, for love. I admit that I am growing increasingly less willing to fight as my abilities continue to erode, as it becomes increasingly difficult to make even the tiniest of dreams come true, and most of all, as I see the stress my beloved husband undergoes every day. I die by breaths, but the amount of time I can hang on, long after I can do nothing for myself or others, stupefies me.
I am not there yet. Yet I see my future, with all its pain, and I do not wish that on my husband. Some day I will be where Marie is, and anyone who stands in my way does not know the first thing about loving others as we love ourselves.
My prayer is that Marie and the Irish courts find the wisdom to break free of medieval views on death and suicide. I'm amazed that any Christian who looks to heaven can willingly insist that someone with no will to live any longer MUST suffer and make suffering for the ones they love until some "critical" body part wears out.
I could not say I love anyone that I made endure suffering: physical, emotional, mental. If you think you can confront God and say "I kept her from killing herself so you could decide when," don't be surprised if He says "I loved her enough to let her decide when she could stand no more, and you didn't love her enough to let her go." Cause the God I believe in would say just that. I hope the Irish courts know that God.
There's this rather spooky thing that happens to me. Maybe it happens to other people as well, but nobody has ever mentioned it to me. I have an innovative idea, and almost as soon as I voice it to anyone, someone else comes along and does it. When I was younger, I quickly stopped telling anyone about my ideas, thinking that the people I was telling them to were passing them on. However, I quickly reached an age where the likelihood that the person implementing my ideas had any contact with the person I told was inversely proportional to the physical distance between the person implementing the idea and myself. Moreover, the only person I say these things to now is my husband,, and I'm sure he isn't telling anyone. Sometimes I'm not even sure he really listened, so how could he repeat what his brain never took in?
Then I reflect on God moving in mysterious ways. What's wrong with me now is physical. I don't have the energy or physical strength to implement most of my ideas. The latest idea I had, some months ago, concerned the "urban food deserts
" in Houston. These are areas in which access to fresh produce is limited or non-existent. Residents reliant on bus services to get about, particularly the disabled and elderly, are hard pressed to make the journey to the stores which offer good fresh produce.m I said "What if some grocery store had a big truck that could roll up to a community center or deserted strip center, drop its sides and offer fres\h produce?" Now, while it's not a grocery store doing it (yet) Houston's Recipe for Success
, founded in 2005 by Grace and Bob Cavnar to provide nutrition education, fight childhood obesity, and encourage long term health has instituted exactly such a program and hopes to be serving up fresh produce by the end of the year.
Perhaps my speaking about my ideas, putting them into the Ether, or Cosmos, are directed by God to the hearts of those with the energy and strength to implement them? Maybe it's a coincidence, but it has happened so often, that the statistician in me has to wonder why coincidences with a small probability keep happening over and over. Could it be that this is a form of prayer? Perhaps many were trying to come up with a way to get good food to the people in these under-served areas, and my thought went into God's inbox, and God looked around and said "Gracie! Bob! Listen up...here's your next task in the pursuit of your goal!" I don't know, but I am thrilled that the idea is going forward and wish to support it every way I can. They need money, kitchen items for their cooking classes. They take donations but are also selling a cookbook aimed at kids with healthy recipes. along with T-Shirts, hats, and other items. They have a wish list, and I happen to have Bed Bath & Beyond coupons available that I won't use. So if you are moved to give them a gift, contact me by the form on my coupons page or message me on FB. I'll get them to you one way or another.Fresh produce vans will roll into Houston's 'food deserts'By Allan Turner, Houston ChronicleUpdated 10:29 p.m., Sunday, February 5, 2012
(interestingly, this photograph was taken at the school my mother and brother went to, although I think perhaps it's been remodelled or updated or even rebuilt since then. My grandparents house is now gone; it would be about the middle of the southbound feeder for Hwy 288 at Wentworth.)
Thanks to Gracie and Bob for starting this service, to Allen Turner for writing about it, to Councilman Stephen Costello for championing solutions, and to H.E.B. for opening Joe V's in undererved areas
For me, the greatest blessings have always been the people who come into my life. Some of them stay. Some of them go. A few became lifelong friends; others were around for a few years. Many of them are momentary or casual encounters, such as retail employees, clerks in offices, medical personnel at hospitals.
I have blogged before about two of these people. Tonight I want to write about another one. He works part-time at the ALCO Store here in Houston. He also works at Auto Zone.Nothing wrong with his work ethic!
Twice now, during my shopping trips I have had the opportunity to talk with him. He's a young Black with children. I haven't asked his age, but I'd guesstimate it in the 27-32 age range. He's cheerful, considerate and extremely helpful. Tonight I ventured into ALCO alone, so he helped me take my purchase out to my car and load it in. We were chatting about one of the items I bought, and I discovered he was born with a heart murmur. I told him of losing my father at age 46, just days after my 10th birthday and how it tore my life apart. I begged him not to eat so much salt, since heart disease in Blacks takes more of them at earlier ages than it does Caucasians. Then we chatted a bit more about nutrition and its importance in combating heart disease.
That conversation took a glissade into living each day as if it were your last. We both felt that that attitude goes a long way toward putting things into perspective. It's very hard to remain depressed, angry, or selfish if one asks one's self each day "If I die today, how will people remember me?" It's also hard to rush through life oblivious to others and to the beauties that lay around every corner, whether that beauty is the laughter of a child, a carefully tended flower garden in a run-down area of town, or something else.
"I try to do God's work every day," he said. Now in one of my smart mouthed moments, or with someone who knows my warped sense of humor well, I might have retorted "So what's wrong with God today that He can't do his own work? He call in sick again?" Instead, I commented that we never know just what it is that God wants us to do every day, or in our lives. We may think we know, but only God knows. Maybe it's a kind word to a stranger badly in need of kindness, something seemingly inconsequential. The conversation ended with him telling me to take care of myself because, he said, "I love seeing you up in here, moving and smiling. You have a beautiful smile."
Each of us has an opportunity to be a blessing to someone each and every day. It need not be a grand gesture. Nor need it wait until Christmas when one is feeling generous. Hold the door open for a person in a wheelchair, even there is someone pushing them. (You might be surprised how hard it is to open a door and push someone through, even the person being pushed is helping.) Take a couple of cans of food to the local food bank every week. People have to eat all year long. Order an extra packet of vegetable seeds and send them to a community garden in an "urban desert." If you see someone at the gas station driving an old beat up car, wearing old clothes, pay for an extra gallon of gas for them. You can think of a 1000 ways to do little things for people, at little to no cost to you. Suspend your judgment about whether they "deserve" it. Do you think God withholds His grace because "(s)he didn't deserve it?" If that question gives you a problem, perhaps you could look up "grace" in a dictionary and rethink your answer.
Don't get me wrong. Politicians from both parties say idiot things. The reason I'll be talking about Republicans today is that the Republicans are the only party with a Presidential primary this go round, and we are bombarded almost daily with their idiot comments.
The first idiot thing I want to mention is Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) saying that disabled children are "punishment from God" for earlier abortion(s) by the mother. First, it's pretty clear that Marshall knows NOTHING about the causes of birth defects and disabilities. Many birth defects are in fact, GENETIC, caused by an error in the DNA. Many others, if they are punishment for anything, are the result of drug or alcohol use use during pregnancy or getting the measles! Down's Syndrome is related to the aging of the parents and the physical decaying of their components of the embryo (egg and sperm). Some are caused by combinations of things, including lack of proper pre-natal nutrition, and mother 17 or younger. Still others have not been definitively assigned a cause.
Second, Marshall throws out a statement saying the number of disabled children born subsequent to an earlier abortion has risen "dramatically." Since what year? What is his source of data for this allegation? How does he know the mothers of the disabled children had earlier abortions? I don't know of any study which has asked motehrs of disabled children if they had earlier abortions nor of a study that follows women who obtain abortions to their next pregnancy to see if that child is disabled. If such exists, Marshall should be able to provide the source, and indeed, a responsible user of statistical data would supply the source of data for such an allegation. If there WERE such studies, wouldn't they violate the women's privacy rights? OK possibly someone has conducted such a study on women WILLING to participate. The question then becomes how much self-selection warps the data. What are the odds a woman who doesn't want to tell anyone about her abortion(s) who has a disabled child would participate? And what are the odds women who had an abortion but don't have disabled children would be included, or participate if they were somehow invited to participate As it is, it appears that Marshal is either practicing MSU (Making S..T Up) or he fails to comprehend the basics regarding unbiased research design and statistical analysis, or both. Why would any voter accept this kind of assertion, give no data to back it up? Unless they are intellectually or educationally disabled themselves? (If you suspect you don't understand statistics, or you just don't trust them, please read my "Liars, D***d liars, and Statisticians essay under my The Language of Math page. If that doesn't help, contact me directly and I'll become a Statistics Instructor just for you. :) I did that for years and published in international Statistical journals.
The second idiot thing I wish to discuss is Rick Santorum's call for higher birth rates and his assertion that cjhildren are our greatest resource and create wealth. Is he attributing the US's post WWII growth with the baby boom? More babies means more GDP? Apparently Rick leaps his logic right over the devastated European economies who needed American goods to rebuild, as well as over the shuttered American factories which don't make anything any more. In Research Methodology, this is called confusion of correlation with causality. The classic example is the old joke about "100% of people who smoke marijuana drank milk as infants, therefore drinking milk as a baby must CAUSE marijuana use." Now quit laughing like you just inhaled a doobie! ;) Just because two things happen in order does not mean one causes the other. Let's take a look at some US household sizes over time here.
The average US household size has been falling since 1790, even through the Baby Boom. The Baby Boom was also partially an artifact in changes in the timing of births, caused by the war. On one hand, you had couples rushing to have a baby before he left, unmarried women giving birth to children conceived when their intendeds left before the couple could get married, and after the war, couples separated for several years rushing to make up for lost time. Moreover, there may be a causality working in the opposite direction. The prosperity of post-WWII America, combined with the loss of so many American men in the 18-35 age range (prime childbearing years) may have encouraged couples to have more children than they would have without that prosperity. The GI bill made it easier to buy a home and go to college. Jobs, and salaries were plentiful, especially in the eyes of new young parents who had grown up during the Depression when large families often found putting food on the table difficult. Rick Santorum seems to be unaware that the world has changed: unaware of the unemployment rate compared to those during the Baby Boom, unaware of the falling median income, the larger percentage of families living at or near the poverty level, and the larger number of older Americans who will fall into poverty from being laid off so long that they are now unemployable according to many human resources people. Those with children are the fortunate ones, as the children may be employed and making enough to help their parents. If nothing else, they may combine their households, which is happening more and more now. Those without children may find themselves at the bottom of a deep deep pit from which the only escape is death. Just who is going to profit from having more children? Since the Industrial Revolution, when the added hands on the farm weren't a benefit in the city, groups have risen on the economic ladder by having fewer children, not more. China is perhaps the most extreme example, with India not far behind. These are rising economic stars which many economists expect to eclipse the US in the next 25 years. Both have instituted compulsory birth control policies. China opted for mandatory abortion if the couple did not use birth control to limit the family size to 1 child. India opted for encouraging and providing free birth control pills and devices. Both encourage rigorous education in math and science, for men and women. Historically, female education has been the single greatest predictor of falling family size and increased household wealth. I know, I'm not providing the data to back up these statements. However, I have studied these issues since I took my first demography class in 1972 or 3. I encourage you to learn to find these statistics. They are readily available online, easily searchable using the terms I have used here. You will find statistics to support what I have said. You will not find any credible, unbiased design studies to support Santorum, or Marshal. If you do, I'll eat this post. I'll also write a blog entry called "Idiot things Bloggers say and do." Go for it!