The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Sunday, July 31, 2016


There was a time when I was younger, that I would look at a person and if they seemed unkempt or indifferent to their behavior, if they were rude at the grocery store checkout or rushed through a door  in front of me, or even on the road, driving foolishly and seemingly unaware, when I would see such things I would immediately categorize the individual as rude or uncaring or irresponsible.  But no longer.

The effects of time and experience, and particularly recent situations of having one loved one battling through an horrific disease without a happy ending and another loved one battling problems with mental health – these have brought me to grasping the real truth, that we do not know what other people are dealing with.  Just as I used to prejudge people without knowing them, people have probably looked at me, and at my companions at times, and thought what I used to think.  Strangers would not know that I was dealing with the heartbreak of losing a beloved brother, nor would they be aware of the many years of battling severe anxiety and depression that a beloved family member has experienced.  We none of us wear signs that say what our hopes and worries of the day are. 

And then there are all the other concerns that can turn we humans inward.  I have realized that some people I encounter are possibly dealing with financial difficulties, or time constraints for all kinds of reasons.  Mothers or fathers may be hurrying home to children or just anxious to get home to feed their family after a day’s work. 

I am not naive enough to think that everyone we encounter is dealing with a terrible heartache or a difficult worry; there are, of course, many rude and oblivious folks out here in the world.

But here’s the thing:  how do we know which is which?  We cannot know.  So why not simply give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  Now I try, and encourage my family to try to give that benefit of doubt.  It costs us nothing, it makes us feel better about our fellow humans, and after all, it gives us the right to ask for that benefit of doubt right back.  Because none of us can really know.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


When I was a child, I enjoyed the ‘obliviousity’ of most children and my world centered entirely around myself.  So much of the world was background noise; what was important was me, my now, my future, my hopes and dreams.  But little by little, the world encroached and made my reality the real reality.  Even then, though, my world was small and local and the passage of time seemed  slow. 

And then, and then, I became an adult somewhere along the way, with loves and responsibilities and all that such  life demands:  spouse, children, parents. 

Eventually I became an amateur gardener, planting, harvesting, losing plants at times, learning, aware of the seasons but only as they affected my hobby.

Now, a sort of visceral awareness has been given to me, so that as the seasons arrive, and as they change, I can feel those changes and it is wonderful to me.  For instance, in early spring the days grow longer, just a little at a time, until we are at mid-summer; now we are past that, and now, just a little at a time, the days are growing short again.  I can sense that particularly in the late afternoon and early evening.  I can feel it.  And at my stage of maturity I sometimes wonder, how many more changes of season are there for me.  But when I have those thoughts, I shake them off as one would a dried leaf that fell, or a flower petal or an errant snowflake, depending on the season.  Because it should and must be enough to relish these changes of daylight and dark and to realize that long after my existence they will continue.


Everyone has many wishes they make, most wishes with little to no chance of being realized.  Some wish for beauty or restored youth or wealth and leisure.  Some wish to travel the world.  Some even wish to go to Mars.  Most of us wish for peace and for the word ‘war’ to disappear from headlines.

But I have a deep and abiding wish about the end of tobacco addiction.  For it is indeed an addiction and a terrible one at that.  I couldn’t possibly present all the statistics and information that is already out there about the effects of tobacco addiction.  But I can describe the effects on our family.  Oh, I won’t go into the grim description of what each beloved family member suffered.  Everyone already knows  about that.  Those effects have been graphically depicted in photographs.  But those photos are about ‘other’ people.  Not ourselves.  Not a loved one.

In our family, a beloved aunt was the first victim, taken by congestive heart failure after smoking all her life.  Then there was a beloved father, who stopped smoking twenty-four years before his addiction took him.  And a sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who each lived horrible existences before they passed.  And a dear friend, who was the ultimate southern gentleman, funny and kind, and still sorely missed. 

And now a very beloved brother, a good and kind and gentle man, very caring and giving.  His heart was sound, so even though he tried desperately over the years to stop smoking, he figured he might be a lucky one and escape the side effects.  But he didn’t. 

Emotion prevents describing the terrible surgeries and the effects of those surgeries and of his disease. Because of that sound heart, his dying was long and painful and difficult, not just to him but to all who love him.  And they are many. 

Monday, July 4, 2016


Sometimes someone else says just what we feel: 

“I'm not quite sure why, but July 4th had become much more meaningful to me as a holiday the older I've gotten. I absolutely *loved* going to see fireworks as a kid, and I can still conjure the feeling of sitting on my dad's shoulders wading through the crowd at South Street Seaport, being awestruck and delighted by the sheer number of people packed into a little space.
Maybe part of it is having kids myself, and having the chance to see the delight in their eyes as they watch fireworks, and walking through a small town parade with Kate and her family, waving flags and singing songs and enjoying everyone in their red, white and blue. But I also think that in the same way, as you age, you come to appreciate the power of familial love more and more, as I've gotten older I've come to appreciate the same for love of country. You love your family because it's yours. Not because it's objectively the greatest family ever in history. Not because it's the greatest collection of humans who ever inhabited the planet. No, because you belong to them and they belong to you and you'd do anything for them.
Happy birthday, America. Let's try to be as good to each other as we possibly can be." 

By Chris Hayes of MSNBC on All In, July 4, 2016