Sunday, April 22, 2012


It’s hard to identify “the last time” until it happens, and even then, you might not.  Have you found yourself trying to think back to when was the last time that..........?  It's probably something we think about at one time or another especially when we're yearning for some connection to the past.

Several weeks ago I was trying to put some rememinder to the last time I held each of my three sons in the rocking chair and sang them to sleep.  Those were some tremendously great memories.  Just me and them in the quiet of the nightime.......rocking back and forth.  What age did that end?  I can't be sure of the timing for any of my sons. They just disappeared.  Years later we graduated to things like throwing the ball in the backyard or playing a game of street basketball.  Those times are gone now too.  So I began wondering about all the many things we do in our lives that end, some very abruptly. 

What would be some of your favorite things to wax nostalgic?  Do you have some pictures or video to look back at to relive the moment?  I hope so because that sure can take you back to the moment with just about everything to the smells, the type of day and the emotion that went along with the special moment.  Those times might not have seemed so special then, but they do now. 

One for the memory banks

I ran across an article from a writer by the name of Stephanie Georgopulos which I think presents a very vivid picture.  "Last fall, my parents were preparing to move south.  My brother and I chose a Sunday to visit and figure out what we could unload before they sold the house: furniture, books, records.  After spending the day excavating the garage, we sat down for dinner at a table where we’d passed countless holidays as a family.  This was no holiday, though — both of my sisters were notably absent and the mood was more somber than celebratory.  We ate in silence until my dad pierced through our thoughts to give voice to what we’d all been thinking: “Whenever I do anything around the house lately, I can’t help but think it’s the last time.”

The last time can be imminent, sometimes, but it can also come when you least expect it.  All it takes is one phone call and suddenly you’re scrambling to recall the minutiae of five minutes ago — what was our last conversation and I hope we didn’t fight and did I say I love you?  Because I did, I do.  The last time can happen while you’re sound asleep, like you went to bed next to someone you loved and woke up to a stranger who’s saying something like “You should go,” or “Do you need to turn the light on to find your things,” and it sounds like he’s speaking a foreign language, like he’s talking in tongues and how does this happen?  Hours ago he was there, but he’s been replaced by a vacuous stare and a stale voice, a cold sack of bones and the last time has come and gone without your permission.  Had you seen it coming, maybe you would’ve done things differently. Maybe you wouldn’t have come over at all.

After dinner we talk about Pepper, the family dog.  She’s thirteen; too ill to survive a trip to Florida, too old to become someone else’s pet. “I think you should put her to sleep,” I tell my dad. She sits five feet away, dazed and joyless.  I suspect I’m unfamiliar to her now; she’s experiencing bursts of recognition but for the most part I’m a stranger.  I can tell by the way she growls.  My dad breaks his own silence with a sigh. “I’m glad you said that, thanks.”  And I know it’s genuine, that he needed to hear it from someone else, that he knows it’s the right thing to do.  We both kind of stare at nothing for a while, then I scratch behind Pepper’s ear for the last time and prepare for the ride home.

You can set an alarm, mark it on a calendar, tattoo it on your skin and still the last time doesn’t need your permission.  What you count on is that you have the power to end things, to label people ‘never again,’ to say farewell forever and mean it.  What you count on is having a choice.  But you don’t, and you’ll know that when you allow your heart to get broken again despite the protests you made and the caution you took; you’ll know that when you see The Ex at an airport bar even though you swore you’d never set eyes on her again.  You’ll know that when you look at a loved one’s funeral face and whisper goodbye and shut the door only for that person to haunt your dreams; for that ghost to find you in the one place where you can touch him, laugh with him outside the bounds of reality.

I hadn’t planned on it, but my brother and I took one last trip to my parent’s house before they locked the doors for good.  Everything looked the same as it did two weeks prior, except for the room where Pepper had been.  That room was empty, quiet.  And sure, I’d said my goodbyes already,  I’d pet her and comforted her and thought of it as our ending, our closure. I’d known, the last time I walked out of my parent’s front door, that I would never see her again.  But if I knew how quiet the house would be without her, how empty that room would feel, maybe I would’ve done things differently. Maybe I wouldn’t have come over at all."

I highly doubt that Stephanie.  You and I both know that.  Not only did you pay your respects, it was a way of honoring your parents for the time they made you a "home" with all its special memories.

And isn't that what the "last times" should mean to us?  Remember that the next time you feel like it's the last time.



Sunday, April 8, 2012


PV2 Pete's Journey for Help is a look-see at the thoughts and heart of a young soldier who returned to Iowa from deployment to Afghanistan.  He is facing some real struggles integrating into "normalcy".  His story, while unique, is one that many of the 2,800 that deployed in July of 2010 and returned home the summer of 2011 are experiencing in one form or another. 

We haven't  heard much from PV2 in quite some time.  And the reason?  Well, thankfully, he appears to be on the right road.  He's dating a young lady and he has continued to work in his support for Presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

But more importantly, there has been a big conversion in his attitude about life and what direction and purpose there is for his future.

We hooked up the other day to catch up.   And here is a story he was told which he's using as a remembrance where he was months ago..... and how he sees an opportunity to help others in the future.     

Who Needs Who More?
"I remember an incident that took place a few years ago at Huntington Beach.  The summer day was beautiful, the sun was warm, and it felt good to be down at the ocean.

I walked into the water to do a little body surfing.  Suddenly, I noticed something unusual about another swimmer.  He was a young man, about twenty years of age, and maybe twenty-five yards in front of me.  He was struggling against the waves, and as I watched him, I knew something was very wrong!  I quickly swam over to him, grabbed him, and towed him back to the beach where we were both out of danger.

Bringing him to safety had proved to be no easy task, and afterward we both sat on the sand for awhile, exhausted.  In a few moments, I introduced myself, and he told me his name was Steve.

When we finally caught our breath, I asked him a question.  "Steve, were you drowning out there?'  He bent his head and looked down at the sand.  He hesitated and then answered, "Yes."  Even though we had come through this experience together, this young man felt so embarrassed that he could not even look at me one on one.  He could not look me in the eye!

After a moment, I asked him a second question.  "Steve, since you felt you were drowning, why didn't you cry out for help?"

Almost immediately he turned, looked at me and said, "Cry out for help, Mike?  What would my friends think if I cried out for help?"

I sat there stunned.  I could not believe what I had heard.  How foolish, I thought.  In another minute Steve would have drowned.  Yet, no matter what, he would not have cried out for help.  He was going to make it on his own or not make it at all.

Why is that, like that young man at Huntington Beach, so many people find it difficult to say, "Help, I need you!  I need encouragement!  I need support!  I don't think I can do it alone?"  Why do people refuse to reach out for help and support?  Why do we find it hard to admit we need encouragement?  We all need to pray this prayer.

"Father, I need you.  I need your help.  I know I cannot go through life alone.

I'm so glad You've provided brothers and sisters in the Lord who will stand by me, support me, and reach out to me even when I am unable to ask."  

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."  ( Psalm 9: 9 )

For all those out there who provided support and encouragement to me when I was drowning, (and you know who you are) thanks from the bottom of my heart for keeping me from sinking!  I will never forget what you did to keep me alive and never giving up and giving in.  I wish everyone had a thousand friends like you have been to me. 

Pete's story was very impactful to say the least.  He'd had these great words passed onto him when he was in that "sinking" state.  Just like many of us.  On this beautiful Easter day...look around you at ones who might need your help.  Today, you might be giving the help and tomorrow you just might need it yourself.  Just like Pete has figured out.

He is Risen.