Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Wednesday, 2017.05.24
Although I appreciate that many people find Twitter to be valuable, I find it a
truly awful way to exchange thoughts and ideas. It creates a mentally stunted
world in which the most complicated thought you can think is one sentence long.
It’s a cacophony of people shouting their thoughts into the abyss without
listening to what anyone else is saying. Logging on gives you a page full of
little hand grenades: impossible-to-understand, context-free sentences that take
five minutes of research to unravel and which then turn out to be stupid,
irrelevant, or pertaining to the television series Battlestar Galactica.

		Joel Spolsky

2006.09.09

Tribute To Mary Melendez

[From September 10th through September 12th, 2006, the JZ:TOL weblog homepage will be dedicated to remembering Mary Melendez and her family.]

Many diamonds passed from this earth on the morning of September 11, 2001. When I signed up with “2,996: A Tribute to the Victims of 9/11” to be one of the bloggers assigned the task of honoring one of those precious gems chosen at random, I looked forward to the opportunity. It would be an opportunity, I thought, to come to know just a little bit more about the life behind one of those diamonds. What I didn’t know was how difficult, emotionally, this responsibility would be. You see, my diamond was Mary Melendez.

Mary Melendez
Mary Melendez
August 22, 1957 – September11, 2001

Upon first seeing her picture, I smiled. How could you not? What a grand effect her smile must of had in person. I’d wager as effortless as a Spring breeze across a wheat field is how a smile came to Mary. A smile like that isn’t put on from the outside, it shines tirelessly from within. That’s what I thought when I first saw her picture.

As I began to cast about to learn more of Mary’s story, I was fortunate and heartened to find a wealth of remembrances. Having read all I could find, there were other things I came to know as true about Mary. She gave and received love unconditionally. And she is deeply missed.

Mary’s kindness and generosity clearly touched many, many lives. For play or for parties, for kids and adults, the Melendez’ house was the place to be. Every neighborhood, it seems, has a house like that. A trusted second home. For Mary and her husband, Ramon, to have created and shared such a space is a testament to the quality of love they held within their own family.

The center of Mary’s life was her family. While a successful professional in her own right, she made accommodations to her work schedule in the interest of spending more time with her family. A loving wife and proud mother to four boys, her life reflects the depth of her love, strength and undoubted ingenuity for keeping each of her sons on track.

The caliber of support for her sons is to be admired. When her son, Ricky, was leaving for Marine Corps boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., Mary saw to it a proper party was thrown to send him off to his next success. While he was away, Mary wrote to him every day, keeping him up to date about all the little things that together mean “home.” She and Ramon had made plans to attend Ricky’s graduation on September 15th.

As I researched and wrote this post, I kept wanting to write as if I were speaking directly to Mary. It seemed to be the only way I could adequately express some of my thoughts and feelings about what I had come to know about her and her family.

I can tell by your smile, joy and happiness simply shined from within you just by being who you were, an expression undaunted by events around you.

I know you did not belong on the front line of an unknown war and am saddened to know you were there.

America, the country, is forever indebted to you. America, the idea, will always remember you, for the very soul of Freedom and Liberty is composed of those such as yourself. To harm you was to harm all of us. To loose you as we did was to threaten the very soul of America and what it means to live in freedom.

I pray that you are at peace. I pray for your family that they may find peace.

I think all of America knows in the abstract the loss of life on September 11, 2001, was horrific. But there is a lot of room in the abstract in which all manner of horror can be packed away out of sight, much as you might isolate a monster on a deserted island. A much smaller percentage knows the loss first hand. The loss of a family member, a friend, a coworker or even an acquaintance. A direct connection, however brief or slight the touch, has tapped them into the full electricity of the loss.

I will not presume that my humble tribute to one of those lost on that fateful day has allowed me to experience the loss borne by so many others. But I can say the experience of researching and writing this post has allowed me to set foot on that abstract Monster Island, and even this slight and humble gesture has had a profound and lasting effect on how I frame news reports of all my fellow humans who have died similarly.

It has been my honor and privilege to write this post in tribute to Mary Melendez. For the rest of my days on this earth, memories of September 11, 2001, will forever be touched by thoughts of Mary Melendez, her family and a sadness knowing she perished on that day. But even this will thaw and melt away as I remember the image of Mary’s smile, leaving the comfort of knowing that the world was made a better place for having been graced by such a being. It is by remembering the life she lived and the family she created that we can all find renewed hope for ourselves and our children.

May God bless Mary Melendez, her family and all her friends.

Additional Links

Tribute and Comments on Legacy.com.
Comments on September 11, 2001 Victims.
Mary’s cousin, Josie Cleary

Tributes to the other victims can be found on the “2,996: A Tribute to the Victims of 9/11” web site.

2006.08.29

Variation On A Theme No. 4,577,308,253 By God

The Spring and Fall are the best seasons to walk along my life long favorite trails. This evening it was the Highline Canal Trail. I’ve walked this trail since, well, since I could walk. It’s evening walks like these, alone with my thoughts, that I feel I could never live anywhere but Colorado.

But the walks are changing. Deep gashes are being hacked out of the land on either side of the trail to build colossal, five story buildings some people seem to need. Stranger still, they call them “homes.” Thankfully, they haven’t rubbed out nature yet.

As I walk, I can close my eyes and listen to the cicada and crickets, smell the woody fragrance of the aging cottonwoods and maturing sage and yarrow. Fall is imminent. When the breeze is just right, and the failing sunlight just so, I can even imagine Janet is walking along with me. At this moment, it would take a powerful force to pull me away from here. I feel the roots fading, however, as places exist in both space and time. The relaxing satisfaction of watching a sunset has been displaced by a deep sadness I cannot define just now. It’s a silence that has me listening for something. My sense is there will be a time when I must go and search for a new home.

All the more reason to enjoy this sunset. And so I did…

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

[Edit History]

2006.08.30

Grammar changes and expanded a few ideas.

Sweet And Friendly Room In Kilauea

Passing this along…

I can vouch for the peace and tranquility of this space offered by Eana Rose. The quality of her massage is also top notch and an excellent way to set the stage for your visit to Kaua’i. Eana was one of the Hula dancers for Janet’s Celebration of Life on Kaua’i.

Sweet and friendly room In Kilauea

Do you have friends or family visiting? Anyone you know need a place while on Kauai for a retreat, workshop or school?

I am offering temporary shelter in my home, in a sweet room set up for retreat, healing and inspiration. Available for a day or two a week or two or by the month. As well as a supportive environment for your own agenda on Kauai, you have access to a sacred temple setting for meditation, yoga or making conscious music. Sacred Hawaii Bodywork and Ayurvedic Massages available, access to Hula lessons and sacred dance, great space for art and writing, silent Vipassana meditation on Monday evenings. Visit my web site for a description of “Pu’uwai Ka Lani Retreat”. Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who wants a safe, sweet space to stay while visiting Kauai. Or anyone needing a “Space In-Between” longer term living arrangements. Mahalo, eana

For information, rates and availability contact:

Eana Rose

(208) 721-1677
(808) 828-0138

eana@nalinilomi.com

eana.rose@hawaiiantel.net
www.nalinilomi.com

2006.05.29

The Warrior of Peace Rests

It may seem incongruous to associate the word “Peace” with “Warrior,” but as history has shown and current events are testing, there can be no peace without warriors to protect it. Janet was such a warrior. She knew peace, how to create it, how to nurture it and she knew when to defend it. And there is no denying she knew how to fight. When breast cancer showed as an opponent, she knew most likely she was fighting for others, that they might have a chance at peace. A peace that she would not know again until she left this world.

I had one last obligation to Janet’s physical presence here on Earth. It was her wish that her ashes be laid to rest in Hawai`i. Janet and I had a number of conversations about what she wished to have happen in this matter. And I have had a year to come to terms with this transition and to think about what needed to be accomplished during this particular journey to Hawai`i, for both Janet and myself. I have a clear sense of peace that I was successful.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

About half of Janet’s remains were released at a spot along the Kalalau trail on the way to Hanakapiai beach. The view from this location is breathtaking and was one of her favorites. (Click images for larger picture.)

South West West North East South East
South West West North East South East

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A few were released at a brief ceremony on the Heiau where we were married. I had devised a special urn for the Heiau ceremony and called it Janet’s hōkū lele (Hawaiian for “shooting” star or “meteor”).

My role in this ceremony was to facilitate the completion of her transition from life on Earth to what Janet believed was the next phase in her spiritual growth. I do not know what was next for Janet. None of us can claim that knowledge. What I do know is what she believed needed to happen on this side of her transition. As anyone who knew Janet could attest, she could be rather particular and in this matter she was no different. She was adamant, for instance, that at least 72 hours pass before her cremation. And so it was. Most of what needed to be done has already been taken care of by Janet herself. My part, while perhaps important, is largely symbolic and pertains to her actual physical remains.

In keeping with how Janet thought about the world, her Hawai`i Celebration of Life builds upon the transition of five basic elements which are common in a variety of cultures and spiritual beliefs. Buddhist philosophy speaks of “go dai”, the five great elements of earth, water, fire, wind and void. Hinduism makes reference to the “Panchamahabhuta”, the five great elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air/Wind and Aether. Similarly, western culture from pre-Socratic Greece up through the Renaissance refer to these same five elements, although “Aether” is frequently substituted with “Heaven.”

Transition of Heaven was completed by Janet on April 22, 2005. She referred to this as her transition into Spirit. Likewise, the transition of Fire has been completed. No one can deny that Janet walked through the most intense of fires during her 10 year battle with breast cancer. Then, of course, there was her cremation. That leaves the transition of Janet’s remains to Earth, Wind and Water. Here, I have a minor role to play and larger forces will see to the completion of transitioning these elements – the Earth, the Wind and the Ocean.

In summary, the Heiau ceremony went as follows. I met with Fern Merle-Jones from Island Weddings and Blessings at the Kalalau trail head about mid-morning. I was delighted to see she was accompanied by four other Hula dancers, including Eana Rose who had recommended I contact Fern for the celebration arrangements. I have previously posted the rather interesting chain of events leading to my introduction to Eana. As we began the short hike up to the Heiau, several of the dancers began to chant in Hawaiian.

Upon arrival at the Heiau and before stepping into the circle of stones, each person was to state their name, the purpose for being at the Heiau and to ask forgiveness and clarity. Fern blew a conch shell several times. A small table was set up upon which a picture of Janet, leis similar to the ones we had at our wedding, leaves gathered on the way up to the Heiau, the memorial book from the May, 2005, Celebration of Life ceremony in Denver and Janet’s hōkū lele were placed. We then sat in a circle and I was invited to share some stories about Janet so they could know a little more about her. I formally began the ceremony (if such a free-flowing and improvised celebration could at all be referred to as formal) by saying:

Aloha Kakahiaka.

Thank you each for being here with me to participate in and witness the completion of Janet’s transition and to celebrate her life. The voyage Janet and I shared began on this sacred ground. We were married here. And here, on this same ground, this familiar landscape where we vowed tell death do us part, we do so today. Each on separate journeys, each with new eyes.

Janet had a profound respect and appreciation for sacred places. Her skill at creating such places was unparalleled. She would have begun this ceremony by calling in the light and that is what I will do my best to accomplish now.

Father, Mother, God.

Pele, Laka, Hinahina.

I ask that you surround each and everyone here with the Light of Aloha for the highest good.

Mai ka piko o ke po`o a ka poli o ka wāwae, a la`a ma na kihi `eha a ke kino.1

A Warrior of Peace comes to you swift as an arrow shot into the sun. I knew her as Janet Laurel. Please accept her.

Fern then lead the dancers in two absolutely beautiful dances for Janet. One of the reasons I think Hula appeals to me so much occurred to me while watching. I thought of Fred Astair, and watching him from an Aikido perspective – he is incredibly balanced and centered. I can see this when watching a single Hula dancer, but the really amazing experience happens if you can view all the dancers simultaneously with soft eyes and absorb the story they are telling as a group. Its like seeing the forest in the trees. Not easy, but its very cool when it happens. The five dancers assembled for Janet’s Heiau celebration were excellent and did a wonderful service for her transition.

It was my turn to complete the ceremony with the hōkū lele. As I spoke the words returning Janet’s remains to the Earth, I tapped the hōkū lele on the stones at the edge of the Heiau to release a few of her ashes onto the ground. As I spoke the words returning Janet’s remains to the Wind, I held the hōkū lele high and shook it to release a few of her ashes onto the sea breeze blowing up from off the waves below the Heiau. After I spoke the words returning Janet’s remains to the Water, I held the string tail to the hōkū lele tight and wound up for the best shooting star I could muster and launched it far out over the edge of the Heiau and into the waiting Ocean below.

The holes in one half of the hōkū lele would allow for Janet’s ashes to be released into the Ocean’s water. The Colorado granite stones and Anini Beach sand would insure the sphere would sink and not wash up on some beach for a tourist to find and pocket as a souvenir. The Colorado granite stones also provide a symbolic link back to another part of the world that Janet loved so much. In short order the glue (water soluble and non-toxic, of course) holding the hōkū lele together would dissolve and spill any stones, sand and remaining ash into the Ocean. Over a short period of time,the wood and cotton string would degrade, thus leaving no trace to its purpose.

Watching the hōkū lele sail over the distant Ironwoods, the Hula dancers began to chant. I stood on the edge of the Heiau and allowed this moment to wash over me, then ended the ceremony by saying:

Ua ola loko i ke Aloha.

A hui hou, Makamae Janet.2

Before we left the Heiau, Fern again blew the conch shell several times. At the base of the trail leading up to the Heiau, I walked out onto the rocks at the end of Ke`e Beach and threw the leis into the Ocean while the Hula dancers chanted.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

As is my tradition, I made my way to Hanakapiai falls. I was on the trail before sunrise and made it to the falls about 7:30 AM. Each time I make this hike, it serves to remind me the guides to living a balanced life in a complex world are simple and easy to grasp – watch your footing, keep your balance, notice the beauty, take care of your self, help others, wrong turns have their own lessons and can be just as beautiful…

I ended up with a full 3 hours by my self at the falls before anybody else arrived. While soaking my sore feet in the cool water, I noticed I wasn’t alone. An `Auku`u (Black-crowned Night Heron, native to the Hawaiian Islands) was across the way, intent on some fishing. `Auku`u, while belonging to the same family as the ubiquitous cattle egrets found on the Islands, are quite rare and don’t care for the company of humans generally. I’ve been fortunate in that for some reason they tend to find me or when I stumble upon them then don’t fly away. This has been true of the Great Blue Herons back in Colorado as well. Janet used to marvel at my affinity for birds in general and herons in particular. She decided they were somehow my protectors or guardian angels. Perhaps. I just think they are magnificent creatures and I tap into a deeper sense of peace and confidence whenever I am near one.

I moved in a little closer and got a pretty good picture.

Black-crowned Night Heron
Black Crowned Night Heron
(Nycticorax nycticorax)

We hung together for about 15 minutes during which time he caught two pretty good sized fish. Then with a magnificant spread of wings, he caught the draft of wind coming off the falls and sailed effortlessly down the valley. Can you find him in this picture?

Black-crowned Night Heron in Flight
A hui hou, my friend…

And of course, the falls were as magnificent, inspiring, healing and replenishing as ever.

Hanakapiai Falls 1 Hanakapiai Falls 2
View from the ledge. View of the ledge.

Back out at Hanakapiai Beach, it was an opportunity to experience some excellent, thunderous wave action. The surf is still really rough and the rip tides looked particularly vicious.

Hanakapiai Beach 1 Hanakapiai Beach 2 Hanakapiai Beach 3

Monday, May 29, 2006 (Memorial Day)

The last of Janet’s ashes were laid to rest on top of Haleakala on Maui. Haleakala means “House of the Sun,” and is the place where the Hawaiian God Maui captured the Sun and brought it to Earth. Fitting, as Janet was certainly my sunshine, and my star to steer by.

I made the trek to the top of Haleakala well before sunrise, carrying the last of Janet’s remains. Finding a suitable place to sit in the dark wasn’t particularly easy, but find it I did. Looking to the horizon I could see the faintest hint of the new day begin to color the edge between Heaven and Earth. Time to wait. And remember. Janet was fighting cancer barely three years into our marriage. Most days, I have to struggle to remember what it was like to be married to someone who didn’t have cancer. I thought of all the hopes and dreams we had on our wedding day – thoughts of children, family, friends, laughter, flowers, travel, music, writing – the images were rich and endless. Somehow, they didn’t seem to belong to me anymore. They weren’t mine to share with Janet. Our time together was for a different purpose.

On top of the world, surrounded by an Ocean of tears, there was no need to cry. What was my sorrow when compared to all those who have suffered before me or were suffering now? Since Janet’s death, I, too, have added tears to this Ocean and so have come to understand a greater depth to loss, courage, power and love. My life with Janet expanded my experience of what it means to care, trust and understand. So how shall I apply the gifts Janet has left me? How shall I and the world gain by this loss? This, it seems, shall be my koan into the next moment.

The very first rays of sunlight were dancing with the cloud tops when I released the last of Janet’s ashes onto a wide flat stone in front of me. The wind had picked up and immediately began to carry her off to greet the rising Sun. Looking out across the vast panorama of volcanic ash, the thought occurred to me, “ashes to ashes, sure enough” and I wondered what magnificent Phoenix would rise from this humble collection of dust.

I rested there on the top of Haleakala, watching the wind carry away Janet’s remains into the morning sunrise. I was remembering the last words I said to her for which I know she acknowledged having heard. “Peace be the Journey”, I said, and she nodded. I looked down to the wedding ring on my hand. The ring Janet put there close to 15 years ago and during that time had never once left my hand. The ring inscribed with our wedding date and the simple phrase “With Loving” – our affirmation and promise to each other, our challenge to fulfill each day.

For thirteen months I could not bring myself to remove this ring. I have continued to feel like I am still married. Where can I place the experience of 14 years with Janet? “Until death do us part” turns out not to be true. I can never leave her behind and yet what is there to carry forward? Part of me died with Janet and part of her lives on with me. I cannot stay and I do not want to go. This was the void feared for so long and I had arrived at the trailing edge of that unthinkable moment. I said the words aloud, “With Loving,” to be carried away by the wind along with the last of Janet’s ashes. As I watched the barest trace of ash left upon the windswept stone in front of me disappear, I slipped the ring from my finger and shifted my gaze to the horizon.

East
Haleakala East
North Haleakala North Haleakala South South
Haleakala West
West

A hui hou, Makamae Janet…

Janet Angel Bear
Gregory and Janet at Haleakala

[Edit History]

2006.06.05

I was reminded today, while reading what the Anchoress wrote on the passing of her brother-in-law, of the solace I frequently find in a simple haiku from Shinsho,

Does one really have to fret
About enlightenment?
No matter what road I travel,
I’m going home.

I had thought of this simple, yet powerful expression while reflecting atop Haleakala. Indeed, it is our poets and composers who best speak for us when we are struck dumb with grief and sorrow.

2006.07.21

Came across this quote in my collection:

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.

Isak Dinesen

The woman knew.

2006.08.05

Edited for clarity.
____________________________
1From the crown of the head to the soles of the feet and the four corners of the body. A call to be mindful of one’s entire being- spiritual, mental and physical.
2Love gives life within. Until we meet again, Precious Janet.

2006.04.02

Spilling The Beans – Cherubim Foundation Update IV

“It is…due to circumstance beyond our control that Cherubim Foundation is closing it’s doors,” begins a letter to donors from the Unfounding Board of Directors for Cherubim Foundation. I haven’t received this letter. It was sent forward by a friend who did. So far no one in my family or Janet’s family received the letter. Apparently what we did wasn’t worth recognizing and thousands of dollars donated over the years doesn’t count. Whatever.

The polytope that is Cherubim Foundation’s demise is difficult to hold in one space and grok the gestalt. Probably not worth the effort, actually. A few of the facets, however, are particularly shinny and merit a closer look by anyone considering starting or participating in a nonprofit organization. Likewise, there is much that can be learned from this experience which may help other organizations facing similar challenges. The veils of diplomacy and secrecy are no longer needed in this story so lets just tip over the bean jar and have a look at the circumstances they couldn’t control. (more…)

2006.02.22

Cherubim Foundation Update III

I knew the Board had handed Judy Holland unprecedented powers as part of their feeble efforts to find an Executive Director, but this is unbelievable. Ms. Holland is listed as Cherubim Foundation’s Founder on the Colorado Nonprofit Association’s web site (original screen capture here), presumably for the past 8 months. I noted previously they seemed to loose track of when Janet actually passed away. But to loose track of who actually founded the organization? A lot of people are owed an apology. Wow.

Colorado Nonprofit Association Listing for Cherubim Foundation

2006.01.01

A New Year

Putting 2005 behind me, that’s a good thing. A new year. There is an implicit forgiveness about a new year. A resetting of life that allows us a new beginning to an existing life. That is, if we have the courage to seize the opportunity and act “as if” we have it all to do again. When we turn the calendar, its January again. We have had January’s in the past which makes us feel like we’ve been here before, yet hopefully with a bit more wisdom and insight. The seasons hold a built-in opportunity to do January again, only different. And by extension, an opportunity to do all the other months again, only different. Hopefully, better.

Happy new year and carpe diem everyone.

2005.12.15

Cherubim Foundation Update II

I have begun work to codify the business model which had proven successful for the first six years of Cherubim Foundation’s existence but elusive to new members of the organization. This will include components that worked, triage of those that didn’t and possible remedies to those weaknesses. Clearly, Cherubim Foundation’s transformation since Janet’s passing has exposed many of these weaknesses and as such will provide valuable insight into strengthening the business model. This will likely take a while as there is considerable material to work through. With plans to release under a Creative Commons license, I anticipate having a first draft ready for public review late in 2006. It is likely that at about the same time I’ll make a determination on whether or not to start a new organization in line with the vision Janet and I held for Cherubim Foundation.

Meanwhile, it seems the Board of Directors for Cherubim Foundation isn’t interested in taking responsibility for their decisions or answering questions. They wouldn’t do it privately and they’re not going to do it publicly. They’re quitting. Funny, the Board builds a wall while I press for answers until I’m spent. Tape a weblog note on the window to the world and the whole thing collapses. When it was eight fending off one lone voice of concern it was no doubt easy to wrap themselves in patronizing platitudes. How things change when it becomes eight against hundreds. Thank you all for your support.

Rather than do the work to move Cherubim Foundation toward a successful future, a process made significantly more difficult by their failure to correct bad decisions rather than having made bad decisions, they’re quitting. The latest missive follows with my comments included in-line. (more…)

2005.12.01

From the You-Can-Run-But-You-Cannot-Hide Department

[This post is a little out of sequence as this trip actually happen in mid August, 2005. Reading the previous few posts will give you a sense as to why. It took a little extra time to prepare the graphics and get them on line. – GPE]

You would think four months after Janet’s death I’d catch a break. Nope. The Universe has other plans and I’d be a master wizard if I could figure it out. After a mini Odyssey trying to get to Kaua’i (thanks in great measure to United Airlines – I’ll spare you the details.), I rolled up to a neat looking cottage. I found it on the Net and rented it based on photos from a “sister” cottage. This one was new and no photos had been posted to the owner’s web site. Its very beautiful, elegantly decorated and simple in a way that appeals to my Buddhist sensibilities – all except for the absence of an indoor shower. Privacy wasn’t so much the problem as there was a constant breeze up that side of the hill which makes for a chilly shower experience. I had thought to skip the whole cottage route entirely and camp on Anini beach like we had done so many times before but lacked the time to properly prepare. Well, at least I got the campground shower experience. (more…)

2005.11.04

Cherubim Foundation Update I

Someone sent along a copy of the new brochure for Cherubim Foundation. Is anyone in the office proofreading? Are they paying attention to any details? Janet died in April, folks.

It also incorrectly lists Fresh Squeezed Books as supporting the organization. Fresh Squeezed Books does not support Cherubim Foundation.

[Edit History]

2006.02.22 – A printing of this brochure from a month earlier actually had the correct date for Janet’s passing. The incorrect date was an intentionally modification. The first printing had its own problems, however, including trademarked material belonging to another organization used without permission. Hence the second printing.

2005.10.14

Once more unto the breach, dear friends – Cherubim Foundation’s Future

I’d like to start with a brief measure of your moral and ethical fortitude. Imagine you are coming out of a store and you see a car pull out of a parking space and smash into another car. You watch as the car drives away, making note of the offending driver’s easy to remember vanity license plate. As far as you know, you are the only one to have witnessed this accident. How would you respond? Would you call the police? Leave a note on the damaged car? Or would you just get on with your life and not get involved? Image the same story, except you recognize the damaged car as belonging to a friend you had met while shopping. Now what would you do? Your response to these scenarios will help put what follows in context.

This past August I was on an island in the South Pacific, relaxing into a little space to clear my mind and find some peace since Janet’s death in April. The month after her death had required my full attention as I worked to provide a memorial for family, Janet’s extended and impressive network of friends and any members of the public who wished to show their respect. Concurrent with and following this event has been a depressing solitary process of disassembling what remained of Janet’s life – her cremation, her psychotherapy practice, her business interests, her bank accounts, her medications, her clothes and uncounted smaller changes that if nothing else reminded me she was gone. Sorting through many, many thoughts and memories on Kaua`i, what emerged were five or six key areas I wanted to focus on in hopes of rebuilding a foundation for the future. (more…)

2005.08.01

Little Big Man Drops His Body

This is turning into a banner year for transitions here at the Engel homestead. First Janet and now Oscar has jetted on out of here. The little dude has been fighting so hard for so long. He has been seriously sick almost as long as Janet. I think his first serious brush with death was when his liver darn near quit on him close to 8 years ago. Since then it’s been major respiratory problems (kennel cough set this off), an enlarged heart and a murmur, kidney problems and finally three years ago he flipped diabetic. Turns out, true to his stubborn character, he is highly insulin resistant. Rather than needing 3 units of insulin with each meal for a dog his size, Oscar needed 15 units. By the time the vet figured out the proper dose, Oscar was pretty much blind due to cataracts. As with all his ailments, he simply adjusted and moved on. A powerful little package of inspiration in his own right. (more…)

2005.07.25

Janet’s Day of Days

I wanted to write about Janet’s last few days before the memories fade like delicate colors in the sun or the edges of objects in waining daylight. This post has been in draft mode for several months, undergone numerous revisions and will likely be revised again as I remember various points.

During the week Janet was in hospice, she said on three separate occasions “I want to go.” What an incredible forward looking statement. It wasn’t “I want to die.” or “I’m ready to die.” It was “I want to go.” The day before she died, she said “I want to go before they get here.”, referring to the impending visit by some of her family and out-of-town friends.

We had made it as clear as possible last Fall that Janet was facing a battle with the grimmest odds yet. No one we had known, met or read about had survived the predicament Janet was in. A month later, our good friend Linda would die from the very same complications Janet was dealing with. Getting the idea across to family was difficult because Janet had pulled this trigger several times in the past and ended up pulling through. Almost like crying “wolf”, but not quite. My sense was the family wasn’t completely sold on the idea this was going to be a problem. Can’t say I fault them for thinking this. I certainly knew that if anyone was going to fight in face of such odds, it was going to be Janet. And she did. Nonetheless, we made the call to family that if they wanted to see Janet while she was reasonably comfortable and available, now was the time. The family answered the call and each of her brothers, some of their family and her parents made the trip to Denver. (more…)

2005.07.17

Memorial Quotes

I have had several requests for the collection of quotes which were showing on the screen prior to the start of Janet’s memorial. Here they are… (more…)

2005.05.17

Eulogy For Janet

[What follows is the text of the eulogy I delivered for Janet at her Celebration of Life event on 5/16/2005. The celebration was held at Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colorado. – Greg]

Hello and thank you for being here.

Here we are, gathered together to celebrate a life over 51 years in the making. Like a fine quilt, its a life woven by a master’s hand from many threads that together tell a rich story. Each of us represents one of those threads. Some long, some short, each a different color and part of a different story. Ask anyone here about how they know Janet and you shall hear those stories.

My thread began a bunch of years ago, when an amazingly beautiful woman introduced herself, shook my hand and took my breath away. From that moment, life has been one long pursuit to catch my breath. And just when I though I had it, that amazing woman would touch my heart and once again take my breath away. It happened in the midst of stunning beauty on Kalalau, on the trails of the Colorado rockies, in crowded public places and silent private moments. It happened in the light of her laughter and smile as she told a story or sang a song. It happened while listening to her breathe as she slept. (more…)


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