Belleau Wood

Sergeant-Major Dan Daly, USMC. His bravery lives

Trump says the US Marines who fought and died at Belleau Wood were “losers” and “suckers.” Here is part of what happened at Belleau Wood: In fighting beginning June 1, 1918, Marine and French forces were outnumbered by Germans. The French ordered the allies, including Marines, to fall back to a trench line. The Marines declined the order and continued to fight – Marine orders were, “Hold where you stand.” This where a captain in 5th Marines said, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.” Over the next 26 days, United States Marines attacked the Germans six times, finally securing the woods on June 26, 1918. Marine Corps casualties numbered 9,777, including 1,811 killed in action, and buried where trump declined to visit. They were not “suckers” or “losers.”

 

What is exponential?

On July 9th I posted the following re coronavirus infections. It took the United States:

99 days to go from zero cases to 1 million cases

43 days to get to 2 million cases

24 days to 3 million cases

15 days to 4,000,000 documented cases of coronavirus infections in the United States.

So in 7-9 days, another million; 4-6 days, another million; 2-3 days, another; 1-2 days another and then the numbers really start to grow (the exponential part).

What can I say? How will this play out as people sicken, the healthcare system is overwhelmed, supply chains broken (food, medicine, people, anything), and everything is up for grabs? By everything is up for grabs, I mean political, cultural, and social norms and balances are crumbling and something will take their place.

A Grateful Dead song comes to mind.

Death Don’t Have No Mercy

You know death don’t have no mercy in this land
Death don’t have no mercy in this land, in this land
Come to your house, you know he don’t take long
Look in bed this morning, children find your mother gone.

I said death don’t have no mercy in this land.
Death will leave you standing and crying in this land,
Death will leave you standing and crying in this land, in this land!

Whoa! come to your house, you know he don’t stay long,
You look in bed this morning,
Children you find that your brothers and sisters are gone.
I said death don’t have no mercy in this land.

Death will go in any family in this land.
Death will go in any family in this land.
Come to your house, you know he don’t take long.
Look in the bed on the morning, children find that your family’s gone.

I said death don’t have no mercy in this land.
Death will leave you standing and crying in this land,
In this land. Whoa! Come to your house,
You know it don’t stay long, you look in bed this morning,
Children find that your brothers and sisters are gone.

I said death don’t, death don’t have no mercy in this land.

(Gary Davis)

—————-

BUT, to put things into perspective: “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” Anne Frank

 

COVID-19 days, June 2020

I ran out of steam sometime in March. These sad and horrible times. No writing other than some personal things. I also deleted about 150 people from my FB friends list.

Sign on our front gate

I’ve been thinking about the (literally) 1000s of RNs and NPs I taught, as well as doctors, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers. Today, many of them are absolutely on the front lines of this pandemic. Many are in critical care, emergency, or primary care, though many others are in other acute settings or in community health and a few in international health. I am proud of them, I am proud of my work with them, and I grieve for what they have lost and are losing as the nightmare unfolds.

Grieving for what we’ve all lost in these dystopian/trumpian pandemic days when humans are little more than pawns in this grotesque game. When life loses its value (131,000+ dead as of this moment) and the fireworks show goes on, America leads the world in cases, the economy is “shattering all expectations” (another lie from the liar-in-chief), when fucking statues are more important than people (to this president), when the plan literally is chaos! When we, our lives are the ultimate prize in this demon’s game.

We’re living in a movie to be known as Apocalypse Slow. And it is a little slow, at first. But the action will pick up as the plot unfolds. The coronavirus pandemic is quickly growing, worsening. The danger of infection grows day by day for each one of us individually and our communities. Our nation is being gutted. Suffering and dying.

They are burning out several generations of nurses and doctors. Used – sacrifices to an orange demon, orange, the color next to red, red, the color of the devil’s skin. Swollen with pride and greed. UNMASKED! He ain’t even in much of a disguise.

November 1963 (from Dylan’s new work, Murder Most Foul)

The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son
The age of the Antichrist has just only begun”

He loves it. The chaos, the suffering. The only thing that’s touched him on a human level, at least visibly, since this began is when he held a rally and there were all those empty seats. The lonely trudge from the helicopter – there’s your president.

Wants to cancel health insurance for 20 million people in the midst of the worst health crisis in the last century! There’s your president.

—————-

It was a good day to be alive,

It was a good day to die. Dylan

 

Another week in Berkeley: Covid-19 days

In 2017, I wrote a post on “Another week in Berkeley.” This seems like a good time to do it again: everyday life, during, but removed from the virus and suffering. We are living a very fortunate life, indeed. Photos may or may not correspond to text. Nearly all were taken during shelter in place days.

Thursday, 4/09 – 21 days since shelter in place began in the Bay area.

Jean in the studio

Awaken about 6:30. Fix coffee, get morning snack together (banana and grapes to have before meds), meds for each of us, water for Jean (500 ml with electrolytes), I drink my 500 ml in kitchen, back to bed, coffee, talk, watch the morning show (the ever-changing sky over Golden Gate to Mount Tam). Breakfast is the usual fruit bowl, today with mango, strawberries, Cara-cara oranges, blueberries, yogurt, and maple syrup. I also had toast and almond butter.

Worked in garden and Jean did business things. I “had lunch with David” – via Facetime. We talked. It’s good to see you! We ate. I took David for a tour of the garden. “You can see these tiny leaves just poking above the soil – these are lettuce, these are chard. Oh and look, here are two tiny cantaloupe leaves coming out of the soil.” Pretty exciting!

Sunset

Nap together.

We went to the hardware store on San Pablo. I got a cultivation tool, seeds, fertilizer, potting soil, and was looking around and spotted some XL gloves, so bought a box of those too.

Jean worked in the studio. I spent time in the garden.

Fixed enchilada sauce for tomorrow night (roast peppers, garlic, onion, tomatoes).

Sourdough starter has been working for several days and today started sponge (or poolish) of whole wheat flour using a recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book. The Tassajara book was where I learned to bake bread in 1969.

Jean fixed a stellar vegetable and tofu stir-fry. Ginger and tamari made the difference. As always, we stayed at the table for awhile, cleaned up, read, watched a Seinfeld episode.

Friday 4/10

Awoke about 6:30. Meds and snack ritual, coffee, sunup on the Bay 

Chocolate chip cookies, sourdough bread

Breakfast – same as yesterday, with slight variations in the fruit. It’s difficult to keep a good supply of ripe fruit in these virus days. We currently have an abundance of cara-cara oranges and mangoes (WooHoo!), and a few days worth of strawberries, blueberries, pears, and bananas. I’ve been dehydrating fruit for several days (mangoes, pears, apples, strawberries) in case things get difficult. 

 

Started working on the bread – folding flour, salt, and oil into the levain, kneading, cutting into pieces that ultimately became a whole wheat batard, mini-baguette, pecan/currant/cinnamon round loaf, cheese round loaf, spread some of the dough out for cheese and some for the pecans, etc., then into bannetons or couches, proofing, slashing, egg wash, and baking on a stone. Bread! Crusty old whole wheat loaves. Good crust, good crumb, great tastes. Old-time hippie bread.

“Bread makes itself, with your kindness, your help, with imagination running through you, with dough under hand, you are bread-making itself, which is why bread-making is so fulfilling and rewarding.” Edward Espe Brown, Tassajara author

Nap 

Dinner: cheese enchiladas, guacamole and chips, salad.

Saturday 4/11

6:30, snacks, meds, coffee.

Same breakfast. I had limited goals for today as we’ve actually been busy and moving fast the past few days.

Exercise, brisk walk, come home, write, lunch, nap, take it easy. I’m doing stretching and strengthening exercises to deal with hip and shoulder pain from osteoarthritis. I’ve started doing some stretching exercises before I get out of bed, as the exercises are the best way to prevent pain. Alas, alas! I miss NSAIDS! Acetaminophen, even at max of 4 gm/day just doesn’t manage the pain well. Acetaminophen + exercise does okay job, and that’s the way it’s going to be. Icy-Hot helps as well.

Afternoon on The Bay

 

It’s a Schubert kind of day.

Jean in her studio.

Jean and I are very much in relation to one another – the Endless Summer continues, albeit quietly. We talk endlessly. I talk with David and with John every day. In touch with David O and Ron every few days, and with Charles B, Peter, Larry, and Jim Z about once/week. I think of Leslie every day. Wonderful to have these connections.

Two years ago in Udaipur we had a dinner on a patio on the lake in the center of town. One of the dishes was roasted new potatoes stuffed with nuts, paneer, spices. I’ve made some variation on this several times. Tonight I stuffed the potatoes with potato, mixed feta and goat cheese, roasted walnuts, lemon zest, and lemon thyme.

Kitchen and dining room at Orr Hot Springs – from the porch of our cabin.

Watched Dr. No. Pretty goofy and definitely not sexy, but hey…

Sunday 4/12

Awoke about 6:20. Meds and snack ritual, coffee, no sunup on the Bay today: solid grey 

Van in the morning (“every line in that song is like a chapter”), now Chopin.

Buckwheat crepes with fruit (strawberries, mango, blueberries)

Stretching exercise, walk for 30 minutes.

Planning big trip to Berkeley Bowl tomorrow.

I talked with Jeff. His Mom has far advanced cancer. Jeff is taking care of her. Lucky Mrs. Wiseman!

Udaipur palace across lake from the hotel restaurant patio (our room had the same view)

Dinner roasted small chickens on bed of lemon and onions, roasted asparagus, carrot, potatoes from last night.

Watched the last 30 minutes of Dr. No.

Got ready for grocery shopping tomorrow. Fix part of breakfast (slice mango, prep orange, get strawberries ready).

Monday 4/13

Awake at 0530. Stretching exercises in bed. Fly through getting breakfast ready. Coffee with Jean. Eat. To Berkeley Bowl – gloves and mask. I was #3 in line. Waited for an hour. Huge shopping trip. Spent $280. Shopping is a big production, even at senior hours.

Unpacked groceries, giving quick wipe to boxed or canned goods

Aes Luz and other musicians in dining room at Orr

, washed produce, put stuff up. Tons of produce – some, like apples, mushrooms, kalamatas destined for dehydration.

Video conference with PT at Kaiser re hip and shoulder pain. I’ve been doing specific exercises for these for 6-8 weeks. Pain better and I’m stronger, but I want to decrease acetaminophen intake and felt that a refresher encounter was a good idea.

Walked up to Raxakoul Coffee and Cheese to buy 5# whole wheat flour, 5# all-purpose flour, 5# brown rice, and some cheese.

Jean is making borscht with beets from Monika. In a little while she’s getting on a Zoom birthday call with Marika, Amy, Janet, and Lori. Then to studio. I’m writing this…

One of the pools at Orr

Grateful that right before all this began, we spent three days at Orr Hot Springs, a beautiful two days at River Ranch in Carmel Valley, and a beautiful day in Bolinas. We had dinner with David and Charles and Hobe and Jennifer right before the shut-down.

Tuesday 4/14

Up at 0630. Snack, meds and water. It takes about 25 minutes to get everything done and back to bed. Early morning sky begins with the faintest blue/grey of the Bay into blue mist around the mountains, edging into transcendental pink and finally grey/blue skies. I gave Jean a 15 minute shoulder, neck, and head massage. 

The usual breakfast – bowl with mango, orange, strawberries, blueberries, pear with yogurt and maple syrup with toast and almond butter – the bread was whole wheat with pecans, cinnamon, and currants. I may be going too far with this California life. What a way to go.

Morning

I spent the whole morning deleting emails and responding to some. I’ve been dodging this task for weeks. But I got it done. Meanwhile, my partner had it even worse, dealing with credit card stuff.

 

Chicken sandwich for lunch; Jean had egg salad.

Nap together.

To garden. Planted blueberry bush that Nancy and Peter gave us. Straw around strawberries. Tied up sweet peas. Strangely, climbing sweet peas aren’t very quick climbers and have to be coaxed and tied up to strings. Jean was clearing underbrush, getting ready to plant some succulents.

We rearranged the outside studio downstairs. That area has long reminded me of some place in Cambodia or Thailand – two large work tables, poles for hanging fabric, chairs, and then the garden, vegetables, flowers, bamboo, Buddha image, cascades of fragrant white flowers. Really.

Generally speaking, I have the more energy in the mornings and Jean has more energy in the afternoons. I’m tired by about three. Jean kept on trucking, finishing 5:00-5:30. I have an afternoon and evening bowl.

CK in back garden

I’m listening to Murder Most Foul. Bob Dylan is back!

 

I heard from Hermanson today. We were in the Corps together. After Boot Camp and Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) he went to recon and I went to infantry – exactly where I wanted to be. He has had a very difficult last two months with pancreatic cancer, surgery, and pneumonia. Hermanson is a very, very tough man. There is a dangerous edge to him.

The ground olives we’ve been dehydrating for two days should be ready tonight. Though I rinsed them thoroughly, there is still much oil, hence slower

January – UC Berkeley campus, chorus at Sather Gate. No more of that!

dehydration.

 

Wednesday 4/15

Up at 0630. Fixed coffee, meds, snack. Pink and blue and gray skies, few clouds. Serious lounging. Jean gave me a 15 minute massage this morning.

Jean had oatmeal with fruit and I had fruit and yogurt and toast with almond butter for breakfast.

Started 1.5# mushrooms dehydrating.

Exercise. I’ve discovered that some stretching exercises are the only things that help with the hip and shoulder pain. I exercise before I get out of bed, after breakfast, and before dinner and a few abbreviated exercises in between.

Chancellor’s Garden before the shutdown

Our neighbor Monika again offered to shop for groceries for us. Thank you, Monika!

Made beef stew with caramelized onions and pinot.

Worked a little in the garden. Pruning by negotiation, LOL.

Mushrooms finished dehydrating in about 6 hours.

Lunch with David via Facetime.

Nap

Jean worked in garden, then to studio. She talks on the phone with friends throughout the day, so that’s a real nice thing.

I went for a 30 minute walk, showered, computer.

Stew for dinner. Read, watched a little of The Crown.

Thursday 4/16 – today begins week 5

Sunset

0630, awake, snack, meds, coffee, lounging, massage. 

Same breakfast – so good!

A few days ago Monika told me East Bay Nursery is open. I went today and got Sungold and Early Girl tomatoes, jalapeno and serrano peppers, eggplant and some potting soil. We’re set. In the front garden we already had strawberries, blueberries, chives, lemon grass, lemon tree, lime tree, sage, thyme, oregano, and many flowers. Seeds planted include basil, cilantro, parsley, Thai basil, peas. In back garden there are strawberries, lettuce, chard, Sungold tomatoes, mint, and many flowers. There is also a kaffir lime tree and a miniature lemon tree.

How am I doing? Pretty good. I think I’m emotionally a little blunted, a little prone to irritation, but overall, okay. We’re happy together, getting along, loving. We’re surprisingly busy; we haven’t even gotten to deep cleaning the house.

Sunset

Jean is in the studio more. She’s gotten a wonderful response to her covid mask. The deYoung Museum Textile Arts Council put the pattern and instructions up on their site, and a very nice store, Britex, has the pattern and cut materials for six masks for $10 (a community service). Nice affirmation.

Nap, nice afternoon, me in the garden or living room and Jean in the studio.

Dinner was blackened catfish tacos with all kinds of sides, garden salad, guacamole.

We are living a very fortunate life, indeed.

Well, I see trees of green and red roses too
I’ll watch them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Well, I see skies of blue and I see clouds of white
And the brightness of day
I like the dark
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow so pretty…

(Israel Kamakawiwo’ole)

And here we are, at the end of another week in Berkeley, and a month into this covid 19 scene.

 

 

 

Mask for coronavirus days

MASK SEWING INSTRUCTIONS

(These were written by my partner, Jean, who is experienced with textiles and understands the language. I don’t, so you’re on your own here. Note that this calls for three layers with a tightly woven middle/inner layer to improve efficacy. Based on what I’ve read re masks, this one should provide better protection than most other options, except for respirators, etc. – N95 masks are more protective for the wearer than others.)

YOU WILL BE MAKING 3 MASKS LAYERS. EACH LAYER GETS SEWN ALONG THE LARGE CENTER CURVE, THEN ALL LAYERS GET SEWN TOGETHER AT THE END.

USE LIGHTWEIGHT FABRICS FOR THE OUTER FRONT LAYER + BACKSIDE LAYER

USE A DENSE FABRIC FOR THE INNER LAYER (PELLON OR TIGHTLY WOVEN FABRIC).

FOR EACH LAYER: CUT 1 PATTERN PIECE FOR A LEFT SIDE, AND 1 FOR A RIGHT SIDE.

FOR EACH LEFT AND RIGHT PAIR, SEW RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER ALONG THE CENTER LARGE CURVE FOR EACH LAYER, CREATING THREE LAYERS. PRESS OPEN EACH SEAM.

PIN IN PLACE THE RIGHT SIDE OF FRONT LAYER TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BACKSIDE LAYER THEN THE INNER LAYER ON TOP.

SEW AROUND THE EDGES THROUGH ALL 3 LAYERS BUT LEAVE A SPACE AT THE BOTTOM.

TRIM SEAMS CLOSE THEN TURN THE MASK INSIDE OUT THROUGH THE OPENING.

IRON ALONG THE FINISHED SEAMED EDGE.

SLIP A SMALL GAUGE “FLORAL WIRE” INSIDE AT THE TOP ALONG THE NOSE BRIDGE

(FOLD OVER THE ENDS OF THE WIRE FIRST SO IT DOESN’T RIP OUT THROUGH THE CLOTH).

SEW A CHANNEL ”POCKET” THROUGH ALL LAYERS TO HOLD THIS WIRE IN PLACE BE CAREFUL NOT TO SEW OVER THE WIRE.

MAKE A TUCK ON EACH SIDE OF YOUR MASK, APPROXIMATELY ONE INCH PERPENDICULAR TO THE EDGE. PRESS THE TUCK DOWN.

TOP-STITCH AROUND THE WHOLE EDGE OF THE MASK.

ATTACH ELASTIC TO FIT AROUND YOUR EARS OR HEAD. THIS IS WHERE YOU ADJUST MASK, SO JUST TACK FOR FIRST FIT. SHOE STRINGS OR PONYTAIL BANDS CAN WORK ALSO.

HAPPY SEWING!!! STAY SAFE.

JEAN CACICEDO

 

How my Mom died

Tuesday, May 29, 1990

In the morning I went out back to check on Mom. We talked for a few minutes and I fixed her a cup of coffee and washed some dishes. I went back home to straighten up before her radiation therapy appointment.

David and Mom at Little Gus’, where we had breakfast most weekends

When I came back, she was sitting on the two step ladder that I had given to Leslie 17-18 years ago) putting on her makeup. I thought, “Oh Lord, I don’t believe this as shaky as she is.” I didn’t say anything to her; just made a mental note to move a chair into the bathroom.

The truck was backed into the drive to make it easier for Mom to enter. I helped her walk to the truck.    Along the way she pointed with her cane to plants she had planted and some she had sprayed last week with soapy water for insects. She thought the hostas were doing better. She held my hand tightly.

We drove to Baylor and I think it was on this day she finally spotted the street woman I always watch for on Columbia.

Getting from the car into the clinic was a ridiculous effort. Ten 100+ yard walks were necessary to get her from the car into the clinic and back into the car. In retrospect it was surely more frustrating for me than for her.

She saw Dr. Senzer who did not indicate great concern for her condition, i.e., he didn’t realize she was as close to death as she was. At that time she was having increased right chest and back pain; weakness in her legs (reflexes seemed diminished to me); and some return of left hemiparesis. Pat Henderson, the nurse, gave her some IM demerol so she could tolerate lying still for chest x-rays. We went up to x-ray and back downstairs for treatment.    Then we left.

We got home about 12:45.  She walked, with help, from the car to her house. I got her into a blue gown- the one she chose, and into bed.   She was groggy and uncomfortable. I gave her two percocets.     We did quite a bit of pillow adjusting before she went to sleep. In the meantime, Betty Edge arrived.

David and Mom In her bedroom. Her hair had begun growing back in

Betty stayed with her and I went home to accomplish very little. I checked on her three times before I left about 3:00. She was asleep, or semi-comatose or partially conscious propped high on 4-5 pillows each time I came by. I went to the cleaners, Wolfe’s Nursery (to get Mom the birdbath she had asked for), and to pick up David. When I got home about 4:15 her condition had begun to deteriorate. She had increased pain in her chest and back and was coughing up blood every 5-10 minutes. She was breathing 24-26 times per minute and her pulse was 114-120 and somewhat weak. Mom was not completely alert, but was rational and responsive to questions. Faye Briggs was there and had called a doctor. Faye said the doctor told her the blood was a result of radiation and capillaries being close to the surface of Mom’s esophagus.

Betty asked Mom if she could stay and Mom said, “Yes, I need you tonight.” Tom and John arrived and helped with the coughing. Faye left.

The radiation and capillaries theory didn’t seem likely to me. There was more blood than that. I talked with Dr. Orr who offered the option of having Mom brought to the hospital for bronchoscopy and possibly stemming bleeding, temporarily.   By now it was obvious that she was dying and I declined the offer.  Despite the doctor knowing about the increased pain, he did not offer or suggest any change in medication, hence It was necessary to directly request stronger medication. Tom had gone for Kleenex and John went to pick up the morphine. Betty, Leslie, David and I stayed with Mom.   We gave her some of David’s Tylenol with codiene for her cough.

Most of that time she sat up or propped on her right side. She coughed at about the same rate as before. We would help her sit up each time and she would hold the kleenex. Then we would wipe her lips and give her a drink to help get the taste of blood out of her mouth.

Leslie told David that Grandmother Mary was more sick now than ever before. She asked him if he understood and he said “yes.” Then Leslie asked if he had any questions and he said “no.”

After he came in to say hello, David went home and got Mom a straw.  Then he held the glass and straw for Mom to drink. Later he helped wipe her lips and rubbed her legs.

The card David made for her

He made a card for her and left it and a picture of himself (holding the sword he got at the circus) propped by her lamp. He also brought in some flowers from the garden and put them on her bedside table.

John and Tom were back and we gave her some morphine. She rested easy after a short time; and Betty, Tom, and I went home. John stayed on and we set up the intercom between the two houses. Mom lay either propped up on her back or on her right side. John was able to rouse her enough to give her medicines on schedule, but otherwise, she stayed semi­ conscious. Her coughing had lessened markedly. We kept a little vaseline on her lips and gave her small sips of water. She had no complaints except when changing position.

I could not sleep and went back and forth between the houses several times. John said that I came over every time Mom woke up. Although we were not saying, “Mom is dying now,” it seems like we were all fully aware of what was happening.         I thought she would make it through the night. I had a feeling of dread and could not sleep at all. About 12:30 John beeped on the intercom and I went back quickly.

John was holding Mom up trying to give her medicine. She wouldn’t take it and we eased her back down. We held her gently, John at her side, and I holding her head.  There was a change in her pattern of breathing and she opened and closed her mouth several times. I said, “Mom, we love you.” She stopped breathing. John asked if she was alive, and I said, “not very.” She died. We put a towel under her and just sat, numb, for awhile.

We called Tom but waited about 30 minutes before calling the doctor. The doctor called the Medical Examiner and they called the fire department and police. By now it was raining hard.     I went out to stand on the porch to await their arrival. About four firemen came to stand around saying and doing nothing and looking bored.  To me, they were intrusive and dumb.  The senior fireman filled out a report and they left. The police came and filled out their report. They seemed to have a greater sense than the firemen of what was going on this house where our Mother had just died.

Somehow, we bought into the process of getting this situation taken care of – forms filled out, cleaned up, body out, finished. We called the medical school and they dispatched a hearse. Tom came. Before the hearse came I went in to wake Leslie. She came out to Mom’s house (stagger ing numb/sleepy). When I told her that the hearse was on the way and asked what were we to do about David, she made a disapproving “mmrnm” sound.

That was all I needed to hear and went straightway out to meet the hearse and told them we had changed our minds and they couldn’t take Mom until later. After that, there was a calmness about. Leslie went back home to wait for David to awaken. John started calling people who might want to see Mom’s body before they took it to the medical school. We arranged Mom’s body and pulled a sheet up to her chest.

John said that Mom’s last words were, “Take me fishing. Take me fishing.”

David got up about five o’clock and immediately noticed that Mom’s lights were on and people were there. He asked Leslie about it and she called me home. We all sat on the bed for awhile and then Leslie told him that Grandmother Mary had died. He cried quietly for about ten minutes. During that time he moved back and forth several times from my lap to Leslie’s. We all cried.

We went out to Morn’s and David looked at her closely, and then he sat on my lap on the love seat in her room. He asked a lot of questions about what had happened and I answered them the best I could. Suzie Miller and Betty Edge came, and later Eloise and CB.

There was great sadness that morning. David brought a picture of himself out to send with Mom. David also told Tom that he could give Mom a flower, “even if she’s dead.”

* * *

This was not an “end to her suffering.” She had little suffering, and most of that was from her mind rather than the cancer. This was the end of her life. She did not want to die. And her death certainly came before we were ready.

But it was a very good death.

Mom had primary tumors in her lung, and metastatic sites in her lymph, spine, and brain- that we know of. There were many terrible potential ways this could have gone. I think a lot of people don’t realize how incredibly lucky she was to die like this at this time.

Aunt Dinah and Mom at Christmas

We are grateful for: Mary Kemp as a person, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and friend; her presence; the last two years of Mom living with us; all the time we spent together; Leslie taking care of her insurance and financial affairs; her friends; the garden; her last weekend (a very good one); the knowledge and confidence that kept her home to die with her family; her knowing throughout, from diagnosis to death, that we would be there for her and would do the right thing; being able to slow the after-death process; being able to grieve as a family; and much more.

We miss her more than can be said here. There is still so much sadness.

 

Afternoon magic, The Dreamer, gratitude for her presence, love on the way to the toilet, what matters now, epic journeys, John Chase, years of living dangerously

David, Jean, The Dreamer in David’s office

In the afternoon, taking a short nap, then lying spooning, tangled up together for I don’t know how long – 20-30 minutes, warm, so comfortable, comfortable physically, emotionally, puppies, lovers, friends, the afternoon sun starting to come in the doors, crystals sparkling, alive, rainbows on the walls and our bodies, knowing that literally this is as good as it gets, grateful. Remembering and writing this is as close as I can come to preserving the magic.

The Dreamer photo was taken in David’s office at UC Berkeley. Jean gave him The Dreamer. When we put it up, she explained some of how and why she made it. It’s felted wool. All of the lines on the body and face were sewn in and everything was shrunk.

Another day, kind of cold, taking a nap. Under the covers I encircled your warm, soft right thigh with both hands and we fell asleep like that… and awoke 20 minutes later – like that. This too, is as good as it gets.

The Chancellor’s Garden – in the Berkeley Hills

—————

Going through flyers and things related to events I’ve attended (mostly psychedelic forest gatherings) I ran across this from an Each Moment Matters event:

Remember not that she died; but that she lived.

Of course it’s not one or the other; it’s both, in varying degrees. But there is movement toward more good days than bad. And now, five years later, the days are all good. I think of Leslie a number of times every day. Her presence is like an overlay to my life and I think of her more in brief moments than in endless sad ruminations; more in gratitude for her presence in the world and in David’s and my life. More in being inspired by her. Just the love. Not the awful pain.

—————

I told my doctor that when I was getting up four times a night to pee, it was okay, because I’m happy, including when walking in the hall (“with hangings rich of many strange design”) on the way to the bathroom. But five times is too much.

Morning has broken, like the first morning…

—————-

We were talkingabout being with a friend with ALS – a friend who is moving inexorably toward the end of life, who is unable to speak; but who can use her eyes with a computer to spell out messages. What do you say when there is nothing left to say? This specific question emerged:

What matters to you now?

Burning Man art – at Oakland Museum (Kristina!)

And it’s a question for us all, all the time. What matters now? Jean asked her friend this question. Love was right there at the top.

We see that personal growth can be part of the process of dying; that values clarification has value until the end; that the human spirit turns toward the light – toward love.

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Jean’s sister, Ginny and brother-in-law, Jim were here for a couple of days. They had flown from Tucson to Chicago, then caught the California Zephyr (Amtrak) to Denver, through the Rockies, across Utah, through the Sierras (all of this in deep winter), and on into Oakland. From Oakland (Emeryville) they’ll take the Coast Starlight to Los Angeles and from there, the Sunset Limited to Tucson. Pretty cool!

Back gate I made for Dallas house

Years ago, Jim’s doctor in New Jersey told him he had to quit smoking or die. So he flew to the west coast and rode his bicycle back to the east coast and by the time he got to the Atlantic Ocean, he had truly quit tobacco. Epic.

I was looking at Ginny and Jim’s New Zealand cycling blog: 59 days, north to south, 30 nights in a tent, seashores, up hill and down dale. More epicness. This man understands epic journeys.

So I was thinking about epic journeys in life. It’s worth thinking about. Some of my epic journeys are 13 months of combat, the hippie years, taking care of Leslie at the end of her life, a 10 day solo trek into the Wind Rivers wilderness, and other journeys across geography and mind/heart.

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From the deck

In 1988, when I was operating community health programs out of the East Dallas Police Storefront, a police officer was murdered in downtown Dallas. John Chase was shot three times by a homeless man who had grabbed John’s pistol. John pled for his life while a crowd was urging the man to shoot: “Kill him!” they were shouting. “Kill that white mother-fucker.” I had only met John once, but the killing hit me hard because he was a nice guy and because nobody tried to stop the killer. Afterward I made a clear commitment that I would never let something like that happen in my presence, regardless of the risks. I’m older now, and not much of a badass, but here it is again: the same commitment to the memory of John Chase.

As with all other murders, John was autopsied. His partner, Gilbert was there for the entire procedure. Gilbert is a true warrior.

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Can you see how this blog functions as a kind of memoryizer (new word meaning promotes remembering)? I guess it’s a way of keeping my shit together, as we used to say.

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Sunset from the deck. NOT Photoshopped

My high school class (1962) has a Facebook page. 20-25% of the class is on that page. It’s nice. Everyone on the page is about 75 years old. There are all kinds of realities associated with that age. In a recent discussion three people noted that they are homebound. Death is near for most of us and not far for the rest. I recently posted on that FB page:

These are truly the years of living dangerously. A classmate’s recent listing of classmates who have passed (about 20% of us) was such a powerful document. And here we are, still living after all these years! We’re all kind of like people living with cancer (and some actually are) – each day, each moment, each touch, each kind or loving word… Treasures. Here’s to each one of us, here and not here.

Eric and Jamie, talking in bed, With the Old Breed

Sunset across the Bay and behind Golden Gate

I was driving David home from high school one day. On Forest Lane we passed a bad traffic accident. There were emergency vehicles there, so we didn’t stop. When we got home we learned that two of his friends – Eric and Jamie – were in the car. They had been taken to Parkland Hospital, a terrible sign as both Presbyterian and Medical City were closer than Parkland (but Parkland has a Level 1 trauma center).

We drove straight away to Parkland. There were some of David’s classmates and a few parents there in the ER. We learned that Eric and Jamie had both died. The school chaplain was there and he was talking to the boys, trying to explain what had happened and seeking some kind of meaning in it. The boys seemed to tune him out. Then one of the parents who was also an infectious diseases doctor from Parkland began explaining to the boys what had happened. He gave them the unvarnished truth and didn’t try to explain why the accident happened or look for meaning in it. I could see them responding to him. He offered to take anyone who wanted in to see the bodies. Some went and some did not. Eric’s family came.

Eventually David and I went home, shaken to the core. That awful emptiness.

There was a series of memorials – several big ones that everyone came to. Jamie’s in an Episcopal cathedral, Eric’s in the Restland chapel. Over the next year there were other memorial events, all of them attended by Leslie and Scott’s mother, Oneida; by the time of the last memorial event, the school was represented only by the headmaster, Leslie, and Oneida. The stalwarts. Leslie visited Eric’s grave every year until she passed.

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We were having coffee and talking in bed this morning – talking about how we sometimes have to work to integrate health-illness experiences with life (the story of our 2019).

And how integration is necessary for positive resolution of Erikson’s final stage of psychosocial development, ego integrity vs. despair. In other words, as we go through the challenges of aging and the end of life, are we able to integrate those challenges with our changing life? Integration (and acceptance) as we near the end of life leads to Erikson’s ego integrity and wisdom.

Sun dog in Montana. We stopped twice in Big Fork to take a nap on a baseball field. The sun dog was there once when we awakened. The only one I’ve ever seen.

And how at Baylor we taught that a central goal of care was integration of the health/illness experience.

And how integration is an integral part of every trip. If we’re open to integration it unfolds over subsequent days, and actually, over months and years – all the way to this moment. The integration process was/is of equal importance to any visions and insights.

While we were talking I got a text. Ordinarily I wouldn’t interrupt our times together, but David is in Europe and I wanted to see if he was texting. It was David Overton, letting me know that Ram Dass just passed away at age 88.

David Overton and Ram Dass at Lama Foundation – New Mexico about 1987

When Ram Dass was 65 he had a massive stroke that took away his abilities to talk and walk. Eventually he was able to talk (with difficulty) and use one arm. He never walked again. He continued to serve as a hospice volunteer and inspire others with his integrity and strength. This is an example of ego integrity in the fierceness of aging and illness.

We’re having a ceremony on New Years Eve – saying goodby to a very hard year (yet in many ways a beautiful year) and hello to a beautiful New Year.

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I recently finished a book titled, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. It’s a powerful and often horrible book that reinforced my belief that overall it was harder in WWII than in Vietnam (not that VN was easy!). I wondered what it would be like to read what I’ve written about combat, not as the writer and in terms of reliving it, but reading it without reference points in the same way I’d read With the Old Breed. My conclusions: we still didn’t have it as hard as those guys, but still, wow, that’s some hard-assed shit.

Photo from The Old Breed

From a review: on one level, The Old Breed refers to the veterans who fought and survived the early days of the war. On another level, The Old Breed for the author is “a paean to what has gone before him, to that which exceeds him. He is there to play his part, to serve with courage… One could have been swallowed up in the ‘chamber of horrors…’”

Last class, Off the Wall, Philadelphia, trains, NYC, Hoboken, Montana, David, Chris, life and death, relationship, health and illness, Dallas, Coloma, days of magic

Last class, November 2019

Last weekend I taught what I think will be my last class. The class was in a dome at a psytrance gathering in an East Texas forest… I got to the venue at dusk on a very overcast and cold Friday, set up my camp – which was simple as I was sleeping on a pad in the back of my RAV4 – and checked in with Kitty and Jessica at the main stage. Went for a walk in the woods and met up with Annie.

Sunset, from our deck in Berkeley

The music started around 8pm and was scheduled to stop Sunday around 11am. I hung out some by the dance floor with Kitty and at the chill dome where Kristina and Fritz were working on the deco. I turned in early to work on my presentation and listen to the music and all the shiny happy people talking and laughing at campsites near mine. It’s hard to sleep with the music pounding and having to get up pretty often to piss. I slept sound for awhile and awoke for good about 5:30. I stayed in the car for an hour or so having coffee, listening to the music, then breakfast (almond butter sandwich and apple). I got to the dance floor about 7:30 and did some little-tiny dancing at the back of the floor. I hung out with Jimi and Angela and Sean. The usual good scene. Finally it was 11:30 and time for the class.

Jean, Marika, Janet – Off the Wall principals at entrance to Philadelphia Museum of Art

The topic was psychedelic healing in PTSD and at the end of life. I taught from the perspective of, we’ve all been enlightened, even if just for a few hours, and therefore we should… reach beyond ourselves, live fully, reach out to others, those sorts of things. We discussed the mechanics and underlying process of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and I contrasted that with my experiences treating people with PTSD with SSRIs. Most people in the class have had experience with psychedelics and MDMA – and some were having an experience at that moment. It was a relaxed and intense class, very open, good response and discussion. Sweet interactions afterwards. By the end of the class there were 18-20 people there. Interactions before, during, and after the class were very affirming for me.

After class and hanging out in the dome, I walked back to the main stage, where I spent a few moments with Tyson and David Brown who was getting ready for his set. Then back to the car and away, stopping at the gate to talk with Keith and Amber. Home at four, tired, feeling good.

A lot has happened in the last few months, and at the same time, I realize that Jean and I are both tired after the last “trying” year. I’ll write about some of these events in no particular order.

Jean discussing My Father’s House

Jean has six pieces in a major show (Off the Wall: American Art to Wear) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We went to the opening – a true gathering of her tribe. The work of Jean and her friends and colleagues from Pratt like Janet, Marika, and Sharron was seminal in the art to wear movement. This was the biggest show they have had – a great honor for them and for Julie, the collector and gallery owner whose collection comprised the show. There were artist and family gatherings around the opening. It was a beautiful and affirming celebration and I met some of Jean’s family and colleagues who I hadn’t previously known.

We are ON THE TRAIN

Jean and I, Janet and Peter, and Marika and Tom stayed together in an AirBnB in a transitional Philadelphia neighborhood. It wasn’t a great place, but was okay – until I got sick (GI) the night before we left. It was a long night. Jean and I took a train from Philadelphia to New York City. That journey is a blur to me, except I know at one point I was in a wheelchair. When we got to Penn Station in NYC we walked up to the street to catch a cab to Grand Central Station from whence we would catch a train to up-state New York to visit Jean’s sister. Unfortunately for us, the Veteran’s Day parade was blocking all cross-town traffic, so back down (and up and back down) we went to catch a subway to Grand Central. Our stuff got really heavy by the time we got through the right turnstiles, but we made it to Grand Central. Security guy told me I couldn’t sit on the floor. Oh Lord, trudge trudge. Finally on the train for a two hour trip and there we were on a cold, windy platform in small town New York. Sue pulled up less than a minute after we arrived and away we went to her and John’s farm. That night Jean got sick with same thing I had. We were sleeping in a loft with a chamber pot. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Jean moved downstairs to a couch. After two nights we split to go to NYC to spend a night in a hotel before moving on to Jean’s niece’s Hoboken brownstone. We slept in Anne’s bedroom on the third floor trudge trudge up some mighty steep stairs.

The high point for me was a meal with Arthur at our favorite Hoboken restaurant – La Isla, a Cuban place with everyone stuffed into counter and tables, coats and hats. I remember when the “Marielitos” came from Cuba – another very interesting group of refugees to resettle. Finally we were on the plane

Fishing shack dock on Flathead

to Dallas. After a couple of days in Dallas, Jean was ready to go back to Berkeley (she had not fully recovered quickly) and away she went, while I stayed in Dallas to go to the previously described gathering. Tomorrow I’m headed back to Berkeley. Whew! What a trip!

Something I neglected to write about several months ago was that we went to Montana to spend time with Jean’s friends, Jim and Chris from long ago in Wyoming. We stayed in a cabin (the “fishing shack”) on their property on Flathead Lake. Courtney was there, too, staying across the road, past the orchard.

We spent several days in Glacier National Park – at last!

Singers at Sather Gate, UC Berkeley

David is teaching full-time at UC Berkeley School of Law. My son, the professor! For me, this means far fewer trains to San Francisco for lunch with David. Instead of 7 bus to downtown Berkeley, BART to The City, and MUNI to the Castro to meet up for lunch. Now, it’s 7 bus to downtown and then walk across campus to David’s office. My whole life I’ve loved being around universities. And here I am, on one of the world’s greatest campuses. I like to walk through the Physical Sciences building. My peeps.

I had lunch with David’s friend, Chris. He told me about his family, his work, and he told me that I had been a positive influence in his childhood and a role model in his adult life as a husband and father. That was another deeply appreciated affirmation.

Jean and I have a new custom: most mornings one of us lies on our back between the other’s legs, with head on the other’s chest. Then it’s 15 minutes of shoulder, neck, and head massage.

Jean at the Bulb

Morning has broken…

One of the lines from one of the songs of our life: “…for I will never grow so old again.” Reflecting on this profound thought that I will never grow so old as I was in those terrible dark days of grief.

This bold leap into openness when we each said, “I’ll love again.”

Reality is, one of us will die first, leaving the other alone. We’ve both been left before. We know the pain. Intimately. If I’m the one left behind, I know I’ll never have another love like what I’ve had with Leslie and with you, Jean. And if I pass first, I know what I’m saying is generally true for you. The fact of love is comfort to me – that love exists in the universe. The fact of having loved and been loved. I am fulfilled.

I’ll be exhausted again. In pain again. Sad again. Alone again. But never so old, so desolate again. Soaring high on love. What a life.

Sun dog. From baseball field where we took a nap in Big Fork

I’ve turned inward these past few months. Heart issues take up psychic and physical energy. I wore a mini-Holter monitor for several weeks and my suspicions of occasional episodes of arrhythmia were correct. So I have paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, which is barely in the same universe as persistent AF, such as Jean had. I also have an aortic aneurysm, but it’s small and stable and asymptomatic. Still, it gets my attention. I’m on all the right meds, several of which tend to cause a decrease in energy. Those meds + age + the exertions of the last year lead to decreased energy for me. I am, nevertheless, doing very well.

Our relationship brings great joy to both of us… passion, excitement, adventure, comfort, succor,

Sun shining through fog at the Bulb

rest. These are the days of the endless summer. Now it seems my heart may take me Onward, To My Noble Death. I had long expected I would die from cancer, now it seems that heart disease will be the more likely cause of death. In a sense I welcomed that one last battle. There is also the thing of last things to say, last chances for healing, and so on. But sudden it may be. I’m comforted by my ongoing effort to stay current: living as fully as possible, nothing left unsaid, no forgivenesses pending, all those things.

Other sort of side issues include: since the Marine Corps, I have operated as if I have no limits (obviously, there have been situations in which I couldn’t keep going – my knee giving out 2/3 of the way down the Grand Canyon comes to mind). Now, pushing myself physically has resulted in AF several times, so take it easy, sit down, take a rest. Also, I can’t take ibuprofen or other NSAIDs because I’m taking an anticoagulant drug. This matters because I have some pains and NSAIDs are more effective than acetaminophen.

4300 block of San Jacinto where Leslie and I worked

Somewhere along the line in these months, Jean had another cardioversion. Chinh came in to do the anesthesia – such comfort to Jean (and me). He gave her the propofol and said, “Jean. Jean.” Her eyelids twitched, so he gave her a little more. “Jean, Jean.” No response. “Okay,” he says, stepping back. “She’s under.” A resident pushed the button to give her the shock. She bounced and her heart went back into rhythm. RRR ever since.

We were in Dallas and drove by where Leslie and I worked during the Cambodian years 1980-1985. The apartment buildings are being torn down. So many memories. Faces, sounds, smells, tears, strength, real struggles.

From bedroom at Hobe and Jennifer’s in Point Reyes. We could see bats from this window

We drove to Coloma to visit Jean’s friend, Lisa, who had a two week artist’s residency at a gallery there. We had dinner with Lisa in Coloma and then drove to a cabin in the Sierra foothills on the American River (as it turns out, ½ mile from where gold was first discovered in 1849). The second day, PG&E cut the power to that part of California because of fire hazard. It was cold and dark and we had a good time. We ate breakfast in the warmest place around – the car, packed up and took off.

“California earthquake” – named for uneven crust – apple pies for Thanksgiving

We went to a big wedding on a farm in Sonoma. It was great fun, good food, lots of nice people. Afterward we went to Hobe and Jennifer’s home, hidden away among the hills and trees near Point Reyes. In the morning I could hear something rustling around outside. It was bats – countless bats – darting every which way, coming home to roost under the eaves after a long night of catching bugs! Breakfast at the table in the kitchen/living room. A little banjo music. Good times.

Dancing Earth

We drove up the coast near Jenner to spend the night with Kristina and Fritz. Jean and I slept on a futon on the floor of the living room. In the morning I was fixing coffee looking into the living room at Jean and Kristina came into the room and got in bed with Jean to snuggle. Sweet.

We went with Courtney to a Fiber Shed event on a farm somewhere in Sonoma. Almost everyone there was involved in some way with natural fibers – weavers, flax farmers, shepherds (really), and so on. with great (and in some cases, weird) food, good music, and at the end, Deep Magic from Dancing Earth, an indigenous dance troop. This was the first time I ever was truly turned on by dancing. I don’t know how to describe it except to say it was really real, really intense, and very beautiful. We were inspired to go to another Dancing Earth performance with Susan a few weeks later in the Mission (occupied Ohlone territory). Soooo San Francisco: BART from Berkeley to Mission and 24th, hanging out at Café Le Boheme, walking up the sidewalk for a pipe, serious opening ceremony, deep dancing.

On the deck, making bubbles

All my life I am grateful for these days of Deep Magic.

 

Tribute to Laura Neal-McCollum

Laura Neal-McCollum: She was the first hospice social worker in Texas and one of the first in America. She created a path through cultural, racial, medical, funding, and other wildernesses at the literal edge of human existence.

She gave me the record of the music (Pachelbel’s Canon in D) we played on breaks in the first hospice training sessions at my house and at Cliff Temple Baptist Church. We were finding our way in uncharted waters and Laura was walking point. Some memories of things I know she did…

There was a woman dying from cancer (all of our patients were dying from cancer) who was still feeling sexual despite a large purulent abdominal wound, weight loss, pain, etc. In the course of conversations with Laura, the woman said something about black or red satin sheets. Our way was clear. The nurse working in that team taught the woman how to put on a secure dressing that the exudate wouldn’t soak through. The rest of us took up a collection for the satin sheets. The woman and her man had sex on the satin sheets and the dressing didn’t leak. That was the way Laura was.

An old man was dying. I remember him as severely jaundiced. I remember sitting on the front porch of his little frame house in Oak Cliff. He lived with a lady who gave him beautiful care. His worthless relatives started showing up, usually fucked up in one way or another and talking about getting his life insurance. Laura got an attorney (Sister Rosemary) from an advocacy group to get his affairs in order, in particular insuring that his money went to the lady who cared for him. The lady got everything – $14,000 – and his relatives got pissed off, and he died knowing that he’d done the right thing.

Laura enlightened us to the reality that we were doing nothing less than birthing souls from this life to the next. She explicated that concept to us. This was in 1978. Today, so many years later, people are talking of “end-of-life doulas.” That’s what I’m talking about when I say that Laura showed the way into and through the wilderness.

Laura Neal-McCollum gave us a lot. Thank you, Laura.