Who Are You? Where Are You Going?

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Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.
~~ Billy Graham ~~

For as long as I can remember Billy Graham has been someone I’ve always looked up to. A towering personality throughout my life. I vividly remember as a 5 or 6 year old boy lying on the floor in front of an old black and white television watching him. I was mesmerized by his speech and his style. There was just something about him that, even as a very young boy, grabbed and held my attention. His message touched me. It’s always been that way and I’ve spent untold hours watching his crusades on television and his many interviews. If Billy Graham was on, I wanted to watch, I wanted to hear him.

As an adult I came to recognize his greater qualities, which is probably something I sensed as a boy. He was genuine, he was sincere and, he was humble. Beyond his words, his life-long example made an impact around the world. He never wavered. A few years ago I found myself once again captivated by his words when reading his book Nearing Home in which he shared his personal experience of growing older. I could relate.

It was not, with any great surprise, I heard of his passing yesterday at the age of 99. And especially no great surprise the huge influence he’s been credited with in the lives of millions over his long life. I was just one among them and am grateful to have had the experience.

I share the following story with the hope you appreciate it’s timely significance.

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Misfits: Rudderless and Restless


If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me,
because I’d like to hear it again.
~~ Groucho Marx ~~

My old friend Al Bello was, to say the least, one-of-a-kind and among my oldest friends. We met in 7th grade dishing out our own brand of trouble to our teachers and others. Al was among my small circle of class clowns, birds of a feather.

Aloysius

“Al” – School Days

In our quest for attention, we were especially brutal to our music teacher, Miss Morgan. I’ve come to realize, the attention we sought was our misguided attempt to make up for other things lacking in our lives. No excuses though. In hindsight I regret how we treated her and by the time I wanted to apologize she was gone. She was a fine, gifted woman and her story deserves a place of its own here in this blog.*

Over a period of 45-years Al and I lived our lives separated by time and distance. He stayed in Maryland while I moved west. We managed from time to time to reconnect, only very occasionally, via phone calls. I had spoken to Al several years ago when I learned he was suffering with COPD. He was the same guy, the same sarcasm and still the jokester I remembered from our times together so long ago. Despite all those years of separation and little contact I remember thinking: losing him would be a bitter pill to swallow.

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Generation to Generation

Life is an everyday occurrence, until one day it’s not. ~~ Susanne Strempek Shea

A few weeks ago I was looking at hand tools, many of them with a lifetime replacement guarantee. As I read those words I was reminded there really are no guarantees, not with tools and not especially when it comes to lifetimes. Here today, gone tomorrow — no time outs, no second chances and few replacement parts.

Like most of us when young and stupid I thought myself invincible, that I would live forever. At least I envisioned the inevitable so far off that it seemed that way. Even when I experienced the death of What was I thinkingcontemporaries my attitude, my life style and the risks I often took spoke of an assumed immunity.  That only happens to the other guy, tomorrow never comes! But as one ages — receiving experiences and education that almost always come with the passage of time — we realize the years quickly pass us by. For me the inevitable is a lot closer than it was once perceived.  So, I’ve changed my mind, time to savor the moments. Continue reading

May 1961: Remembering Michael

During my youth every kid in my Riverdale, Maryland neighborhood had a bicycle, and I was no exception.  I had lived there since I was four and all my earliest childhood memories originate there.  I’m sure I went through three or four bikes during those years, my first being a small Huffy with training wheels, and later upgrading to the most popular of them all, a Schwinn! Continue reading

Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share.
~~ Steve Jobs ~~

Steve Jobs

I had planned to post something different in the morning, but just over an hour ago I saw the news on the Internet of the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs. The fear I wrote of, just a little more than a month ago, that his time might be short, has sadly been realized.

In June of 2005 Jobs left a touching and timely commencement message with the graduating students of Stanford University. From his unique perspective and very personal experiences he urged those graduates to pursue their dreams and to look to the various setbacks of life for the opportunities that present themselves, including death itself.

I’m not sure why I am as saddened about Jobs’ death as I am. I guess it has something to do with his young age and all that he had to offer the world, now cut short in the prime of his life. The world won’t be the same without Steve.

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Growing Old is Inevitable

“Growing old is inevitable.  Growing up is optional.”
“Age is just a number.” “You’re only as old as you feel.”
“Growing old ain’t for sissies.”

As much as we might wish it weren’t so and as much as the young think it will never come, we all grow old. At least we have hopes we will, rather than face the alternative. But I’ve also been known to say,  there are worse things than dying, and… there are.

With the passing of each year we draw ever closer to getting older… getting old. I’ve often reflected on how quickly it has come along. Certainly reckless living, eating, drinking and merriment — thinking we’ll stay young for ever, that tomorrow never comes  — will hasten its arrival.  In looking back I wish I had taken more time to stop and smell the roses. Not that I haven’t done that on occasion, it’s only I wish I had done it more. Continue reading

A Few Thoughts on Death and Dying

Heaven

A butterfly lights besides us like a sunbeam. And for a brief moment it’s glory and beauty belongs to the world.  But then it flies once again, and though we wish it could have stayed, we feel so lucky to have seen it.

I lost a good friend nine days ago.  The shock and dismay was far worse than any I’ve suffered before.  I’ve lost quite a few relatives and friends in my life and a couple of them were really rough passages for me.  Only losing one of my children could be worse.  Ironic that I had just written about friends here on this blog 12 days before.  I told another friend that, with this latest loss, I thought myself a better person.  It had taught me a big, big lesson, but I’ve since struggled with changing my mind.  I sometimes wish I could go back to being the other Rick, with my friend still here, my emotions in-check, forget the lesson!  What sustains me in times like these is my unshakable faith that death is but a comma in the continuum of life, ie. life exists beyond the grave.  I’m thankful, better yet, so very grateful for it. Continue reading