The Valley Project
“A grateful mind, by owing owes not, but still pays, at once…” (John Milton) 

Where have I been?

These journal entries were written in August/September of 2006. I present them here not to boast about any prowest possessed but to encourage anyone traveling through the same valley.

----------
This electronic journal is an attempt to keep everyone up to date on this unwanted but necessary journey through a Psalm 23 valley. It is my hope that through the thoughts shared here, by all, we can encourage each other whether we are in the valley or on either side.

Psalm 23


A psalm of David.
ADONAI is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His Name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me:
Your rod and Your staff comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You have anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of ADONAI forever. 

 

Things Are What They Are


August 23, 2006


Things are what they are. Sometimes the axiom of, “perception is reality”, or “read between the lines”, or “every cloud has a silver lining” are just ways of rationalizing or posturing or merchandising. What I am discovering in this valley is that some times, or most times, things are what they are.


I am quite sure that people’s urges to bring me the short answer to the question “what’s the best way out of this valley?” question, are born from compassion, conviction, and very genuine concern. I’m struck with the absolute fervor with which all present the answer. Whether based in experience, observation, or hear say they, to the last man and to the exclusion of all others, have the definitive cure, the most attractive path, the wisest and only logical choice for my ill. It doesn’t seem to matter what the basis of these incredible and miraculous remedies are, all propose to be based in truth, logic, common sense, or spirituality and have impressive anecdotal evidence to support the claim that if I just eat this, or wear this, or massage this, or pray this everything will return to a place that is even better than the place I came from and I will have discovered a way around the valley. Furthermore if I don’t embrace this particular answer not only will things not get better but they will, not may, get much-much worse.


Never mind the current circumstance, look at what else is in store for me. I’m poised on the brink of disaster and this must be taken seriously. My very life depends on immediate acceptance of the proposition to change how I eat, sit, walk, talk, and think about this existence that G-d, in His evidently flawed wisdom, has planted me in.


Never mind what I know to be true, I should be fearful, no dramatically afraid, that what has previously been presented, documented, experienced, and accepted is unfounded. Those that I have relied on for judgment and sustenance have not just been mistaken but have, as a part of some vast undefined conspiracy, deliberately misled me primarily to further their own clandestine goals. I can no longer rely on conscience or counsel and must throw my trust solely and completely in the hands of these compassionate purveyors of myopia, these malevolent merchants of mistrust.


No matter how filled with conviction or compassion or concern, the agenda for these disquieting harbingers of apprehension remains fairly constant. It is my opinion that in this world morality is how we think things should be and economics is how things really are. It is the anticipation of money and power that molds this illusion of fear and mistruth. I am experiencing a vast subculture of zealots; spiritual, physical, and emotional, comprising an army of prophets and diviners of untruth. All mendacity relies on true as its origin and has always started with the question that originally brought man to iniquity, “Did G-d say…?” (Genesis 3) We are still falling for the same line.


So what is the answer to my question about the best way out of this valley? My answer seems to be in truth already accepted and not in truth counterfeited. Things are what they are. G-d in His wisdom has allowed me to walk through this valley. Why would He do that if He didn’t know I already had all that was needed to complete the journey? He promises His comfort, His presence, and gives assurances that being with Him completely extinguishes all fear. (Psalm 23) I think I’ll just keep walking.

 

Sunday, August 27, 2006


To this point.


This episode began several years ago when with little warning I experienced what I diagnosed to be kidney stones. It was an excruciating incident that relies on experience for explanation. I have been told that with the possible exception of childbirth, it may be one of the top ten pains. Medical communication being more art then science has quantified pain into a ten point numbering scale with one being the mildly discomforted smiley face and ten being the “oh my god, where’s my leg.” This pain was a ten with a bullet.

The doctor, however, did not agree with my diagnoses because in that dramatically clinical and qualitative diagnostic test; i.e. please pee in the cup, nothing turned up, no little stony things, no blood, nothing. He almost seemed disappointed. I, however, had been feeling fine from about ten days after the event until the time that I had eventually made it in to see the doctor. We need to watch this and call me if it happens again. I can remember leaving the office and mentally making a list of all the things I would call him if it did happen again.

Things were fine for about eighteen months and then the premonition of pain appeared again but this time I was ready. Lola had been studying polarity for sometime and had identified all the body marks that could head off those kidney stones at the pass. So I asked her to “do that voodoo that you do so well.” The treatment seemed to work and another six or eight months passed and I remained fat and happy. As 2006 dawned it was Lola who was garnering all the medical attention. Her sixteen year battle with the “shadow beast” culminated in surgery for a hydro-cephalic condition. It was almost a miracle cure, which just goes to prove you should never underestimate the value of drilling a hole in your head and putting in a piece of plastic. She’s feeling better then she has in years.

In May I began to have the nagging premonition again and was experiencing some mild discomfort, so we opted to do what had worked before. This time with an associate of Lola’s that came to give her a treatment as part of her recovery. When it was my turn under the screw Lola said, “It may not be such a good idea to lay flat on the firm treatment table.” Understanding that the idea of me laying flat anywhere was quite revolutionary, I in my flawed logic replied, “What could it hurt?” The answer of course was me. Such pain I had! It was only through God’s providence that Amad was visiting or I might still be on the treatment table.

Another undiagnosed kidney stone was again my mis-diagnoses and as before, just holding on through the worst of the pain was my prescription. This one brought an attitude. It was bound and determined not to leave me alone until I paid attention to it. The expected ten day persecution period passed and though there was some moderation, it was still persistent in holding my attention. Over the next month and a half I relied on little red and white capsules to bring me to a place where I could pretend to ignore it. It was my decision to wait for my scheduled doctor’s appointment that turned out to be a blood test and no visit with the physician making my real face to face a good two months from the occurrence. And still the pain, in its obnoxious little egotism, was always demanding attention, always suggesting something else.


Again the doctor says; “pee in the cup” and still comes up with the same results and admits his desire to have pictures of me, from the inside. We scheduled a cat scan with results reported by some type of medical personnel by phone in a “what’s my line” impersonation next to none. I have a cyst on my kidney that warrants further pictures, ones that cost more. And then the doctor calls. Now I don’t know much about the medical profession but I do know the difference between a call from the medical personnel and one from the doctor. It’s a solid mass, a growth, a tumor, a bad thing, and I need to see a specialist.

The specialist confirms it’s not a good thing. An unwanted growth that has a ninety percent chance of being cancer is his best offer. My memory for multi-syllabic medical language is limited but the translation is an aggressive surgical kidney cancer that does not respond to chemo or radiation. Because the little bugger (5cm) has grown down into the kidney the option is to remove the kidney. So here we are waiting for September 1 when surgeons will exercise their laparoscopy skills in yet another test of the practice of medicine.
 

Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
 
Surgery Scheduled 8:15AM


This morning I received the third in a series of phone calls from the surgical scheduler at the OSU medical center. Apparently, they keep spilling coffee on the schedule for what once was a 7:00AM surgery is no longer at 9:00AM but at 8:15AM. (Sept. 1)

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Known or Unknown


He was a young man. He seemed pleasant enough and exhibited a quiet confidence that comes from knowledge. We took up our positions as dictated to by culture. I in the uncomfortable armed chair against the wall and he on the round wheeled stool drawn up to the institutional desk like shelf hanging from the wall as if placed there for the sole purpose of complementing the round chair. The room is small and institutional.


The young man closes the door and proceeds to tell me about this pain. At times I have trouble following his multi-syllabic language but he is gracious and just a slight bit condescending in its translation. He is logical in presentation not leaving much to the imagination. The options are clear and concise, one from column “A.” or one from column “B.” or one from column “C.”. And, by the way, column “B.” probably won’t work, column “C.” will probably make it worse, and column “A.” might help.


Do I understand? What an intriguing question. Do I understand the part about what the pain is? Yes, very well done sir. Do I understand the part about what needs to be done? Yes, resounding clarity, admirable presentation. Do I understand the part about what the odds are that this is a bad thing? Yes, well stated, precise numbers, not 90%, not 88%, but 89%. Somewhat like checking the tire pressure, “Yup, there’s a 89% chance that this thing will kill you.”


What about this question? Do you understand that from this moment in time your life will change forever? People will look at you differently. The mix of fear and sadness, discomfort and thanksgiving is hard to hide. I think it’s their eyes. They look directly at you, searching for some absolution or abstraction that pardons the discomforting thought of my future and the gratitude for theirs. Why don’t we look at each other like that when we’re both whole? Why can’t we touch each other’s soul as a normal part of everyday life? And if we are so bold, rid our selves of the unexplainable guilt that rises from culture, or teaching, or spiritual misdirection, or some other misprisonment.


He was an older man. He was at ease and though attempting to construct a peer to peer relationship with his learner it was evident that he had been in this room more times than he could remember. But as “wisdom’s mark doth show,” he did.
He sat down beside me and leaned toward me until our arms pressed against each other. Then I recognized Him. The voice was calm and firm, filled with on unflinching confidence, unmistakable concern, and genuine sincerity. It was Him; compassion, acceptance, consolation, empathy. It was G-d Himself in this man, known or not known, nonetheless present. He had me…and without struggle brought me back from my pending dark journey into myself, and with a touch the focus changed. I could hear His voice, not the wise man sent to comfort me, but the voice I have over the years come to recognize. “Listen,” He said, “you’ve done all the dying you’re ever going to do. This is just another change.”

Thursday, August 31, 2006

 

Salt Shakers


There is somewhere time to think about pain. There is a stoic place in the somewhere that says pain makes you stronger. I don’t have total agreement with this postulation because there is no definition involved. Physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural, national pain all manifest in ways that may be strengthening but many just hurt.


Over the past several months I have experienced physical pain that presents itself in various guises, from a sharp wrenching burn to a crouching clandestine discomfort that drags everything to the edge of thought and emotion. This one doesn’t strengthen and in fact it does the opposite.


It reminds me of visiting my aunt Maimie’s house. She lived with her daughter Helen and a small particularly annoying miniature dog that at some times, to me, seemed to be indistinguishable from the multitude of collectibles unevenly distributed in veritable every vacant space. The pre-visit parental admonition was “don’t break anything.” most particularly the dog and most surely the salt shakers. The collectibles were salt shakers that had, over the years, been painstakingly called together by my aunt and cousin into a sea of porcelain and pewter, all of it quite valuable and most certainly most fragile.
I should say a word here about my natural tendency. Though probably not inherited, it was every bit as apparent from an early age and has become more refined over time. Things around me like to fall off shelves, get caught on clothing, jump in front of my feet, move over head and behind elbows and generally make a nuisance of themselves by smashing to pieces on some conveniently located hard surface. I’m a “klutz”, a “shla’meal.” So in the shaker museum with its pint sized purveyor of calamity I sat on the edge of anticipation, not anticipation of “if” but of “when.”


This discomfort is the same feeling. I am consistently anticipating the smash of sensation that will capture every focus of my life. This pain is tiring. It adds neither strength nor wisdom. It has no lesson to leave no moral to reveal. It is malicious, nasty, and disconcerting. I would like to leave it to its watchful purpose and go home now.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

 

Before the Morrow


This is the day before the day and I am in the midst of the prescribed exercise of "cleansing". It has an interesting ring to it. I'm thinking of putting on a long robe and climbing to the top of some nearby mountain but then they don't have commodes up there so that's definitely out of the question. In between my trips to my mountain alternative today I have some pieces that have been squeezed from my spirit to share. Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Jim says "Hello and God's Blessing" to everyone

I just left Jim's bedside and he is doing exceedingly well.  He has no severe pain and was looking forward to a good night's rest.  He is in good spirits and has had fun teasing the nurses.  He asked me to say hello to everyone and also to thank you for your prayers, love, comfort and support.  It has meant so much to both of us.  Continue to pray for us as we will not know the results of the pathology report for at least two weeks (the doctor will be out of town).  We know what God has done up to this point and it is poignant.

Posted by lmklein at 10:21 PM 1 comment: Links to this post 

The latest...

Lola asked me to post the latest. Jim is in his hospital room. According to Marcy (who just came home from seeing him) he looks "astoundingly good". Good enough that it's hard to imagine that he even had surgery! I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see for myself. (It an OSU game day, so parking will be impossible, but I have a bicycle!)

Posted by Chris Kotting at 4:16 PM 2 comments: Links to this post 

Jim is OUT OF SURGERY!!!

He is in the recovery room and has already had his breathing tube removed. He has a small incision and several smaller spots where the scope was used. The Dr. said he looked good and there was no indication that there had been any spread outside the kidney itself. However, until pathology examines the kidney, they won't know for sure.

Jim is expected to start taking clear liquids this evening and getting up and around tomorrow.  Lola is ecstatic, to say the least!!

Thank you all for your prayers.

Posted by sue frederick at 12:58 PM 2 comments: Links to this post 

Surgery going VERY well - kidney is out!

Lola just spoke with the surgical nurse - Jim is doing VERY well and surgery is going smoothly. The diseased kidney has been removed and they are putting him back together. Estimate is that he should be done in an hour. Your prayers have been answered!! Thank you, L-rd!!!

Posted by sue frederick at 11:56 AM 1 comment: Links to this post 

Surgery has begun

Lola, Marcy, Danelle, Roxanne and surprise guest Amy Palmer (and I) are in the waiting area at the James. We have been informed that Jim's surgery has begun and things are going well so far. Lola seems to be in good spirits, as was Jim when I saw him earlier. Please continue to pray as they are estimating a 4-6 hour surgery at this time.

Posted by sue frederick at 10:04 AM 1 comment: Links to this post 

G-d's Timing is Perfect

Thanks to Chris Kotting for writing this up for me from a phone call!!

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Well, it's been a crazy 24 hours. I had to go to work to make up a few hours, so I was there late last night, so I was late getting to the hospital this morning. I was fretting that I wouldn't get a chance to see Jim & Lola before Jim went into surgery, because I wasn't completely sure where or how I would hook up with them.

Of course, I got lost...

SO my panties were really getting into a wad by the time I found the place and hunted down a parking spot.

I hustle my tuchus into the building, just in time to see Jim & Lola crossing the lobby on the way to pre-op. Praise G-d!

Jim looks good, and seems pretty positive about the surgery. I'm waiting in the main lobby now. Lola's coming back to get me once Jim's headed into surgery, then we'll both head for the Surgical waiting room. Marcy will probably be here by then, and folks will be swinging by periodically throughout the day.

Waiting is the hardest part...

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Jim is doing well

I have spoken with Lola by phone. She said Jim is doing VERY well!! He is
walking on his own, sleeping, eating and getting along fine. The doctors
are considering letting him go home tomorrow.
Lola is exhausted. Please keep them both in your prayers.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Walking Around


Jim is eating well, up walking around every couple of hours and in general
ready to go home. He is still taking some pain meds, but is doing GREAT!!
I saw him and Lola this afternoon. Lola said she slept well last night.
Thank you all for your prayers and support.

Monday, September 04, 2006


It's back.


Thyself thou gav’st, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gav’st it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.

Modern: There’s nothing in me to justify such a beautiful gift, so my right to possess you is reverting back to you. When you gave yourself to me, you didn’t know your own worth, or else you were mistaken about me, the person you gave yourself to. So the great gift you gave me, being based on a false estimate, goes back to you now that you’re able to make a better judgment. 

Ah...Shakespeare. Who can say so much to say so little and say so little so well. Sonnet 86

Translation: I'm Home.

Thanks everyone. I'll write more later.
 


 

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Caned and able


Isn't a cane a marvelous invention? My mother used this cane and I remember what a challenge it was getting her to accept the fact that using it was a good thing. I had to sneak it home from the “cane store” and casually drop it into conversation. Though many say I am a lot like my mother I do not follow her character when it comes to the cane. I find it to be an extremely versatile tool. Its primary use not with-standing, it has functioned as a hook on the foot of the bed to get me up and down, an arm extender when I drop things to the floor, a cat herder, and recently I  have noticed its use in conversation. There is nothing like a point emphasized with a long stick.


We’ve had some company and many cards and letters (electronic and snail) in the 24 hours since coming home. I’m feeling quite well if I don’t move too quickly. As many of you can attest I have never been known for the speed at which I move either in physical or intellectual realms. The words “Jim Klein” and “quickly” are not often heard in the same sentence. This is a monumental admission for someone who professes to be a “chancellor of change.” In our world change happens constantly and our ability to adapt is the key to whether or not we have to use a cane or simply walk up right. We all need something to lean on at one time or another. 


I thank G-d for the canes I lean on, not only the metal and rubber one that keeps me from falling on my face but for all the people that support me every day. Through this time I have been amazed at how people have come forward offering support, whether in trouble or out, G-d shows His grace and mercy through people. We only need to pay attention and keep leaning.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Today…


This was another good day. I was able to get up walk around and even spend some time in the garden, which may have been a little over ambitious but none the less gratifying. Laura and Russ Marr visited early in the evening and G-d in His ever abundant providence provided a newly mown lawn through Russ. I thank G-d and Russ. He also showed up in the form of Betty and Bruce Smith who stopped to visit and with a little “Jewish mother in a bowl.” (matzo ball soup)(Betty’s is the best.) With all these believers sitting around what better time for my youngest son to call with a pray request. G-d never misses an opportunity.


Deo gratias

Sunday, September 10, 2006


I am human


I am human and from time to time I lose my faith. It’s not that it is planned or even foreseen but rather as startling as coming to faith was in the first place. Having traveled on the road of faith for more then just a short time, the expectation might be that strength or conviction or some other self generated attributes would hold my foot steady against “wickeds” and wilds and not so wilds of the present age. It has always been my intent to stay strong in faith, to run the good race, to stay the course, but alas in the midst of my goodness there always seems to lie the seeds of discontent that move me to another path.
Is it the lack of knowledge that causes the loss? Or maybe some shortfall in teaching or instruction that precipitates the sideways glance or turn of head? Is it some weakness in doctrine or indoctrination that becomes the origin of apostasy? Clearly, intent is not the fervent glue that I might think for it appears that the road to hell is paved with its derivatives.

 

Possibly, it’s the fault of those with whom this dance of life is shared. Their imperfections and flaws surely have seduced me into passageways where darkness seems to overpower light. Reason dictates there is no place within my heart that would, with such recklessness, abandon that which intent and command have set as such a noble prize. Yet, when heart and hand and mind do fail to keep the frailty of humanity at bay, and with little regard for life or death, I plunge face first into the indulgence of self, the truthful sting of faith is felt. Without a thought of return or origin the embrace of faith is forsaken in willing welcome embrace of self.


The One in whom faith commences and eternally resides does convict with gentle means, though not so often thus perceived. A message not concealed but seldom heard and understood is proclaimed again my heart. There is nothing I can do but set myself toward the task of keeping faith with Him who is author and finisher. Aware of the frailties of this humanity by experience taught, His mercy makes compassion move beyond perception’s reasonable ends. Loss of faith is not loss of the faithful One. Condemnation is not the inevitable tide of actions wrought with selfishness, but the fact that simply and persistently He waits again to be found.

Monday, September 11, 2006


New Glasses


I’ve been talking about this Psalm 23 valley for awhile, and because of where I am and maybe who I am, have become focused on this one man’s journey. Today the L-rd convicted me of myopia.


I can remember getting my first pair of glasses. It was in Ms. Krueger’s second grade class in the basement of the main school building at Bristol, South Dakota. Now understand that my public school experience was totally and completely shaped by the reality of my perception and therefore it was not until somewhere in the 4th grade that it was revealed to my perceptive reality that the terms “lower” grades and high school had nothing to do with where they were located in the building. You see at the time that I attended Bristol Public Schools first through the fourth grades were housed in two rooms in the lower level that was the basement of the building. This at one time had been the gymnasium and had, as a result, high ceilings with small “basement” windows at the top of the walls. Grade five through eight were on the first floor with the “high” school grades nine to twelve being quite naturally on the top floor. It wasn’t until I heard the joke; “Why did the student bring a ladder to school?” that I ever puzzled together the concept that being in high school had nothing to do with where it was located. This did two things for me. One it made an immeasurable difference in my education career and two, while not making the joke any funnier it did make the attempt at humor understandable.


It was Ms. Krueger that suggested to my parents that they have my eyes checked. The result was my first pair of glasses and just like in the stories I experienced a miracle. Things that were for the most part conceptual or abstract in understanding became obvious, unmistakable, and clear. Back in the classroom marvels expanded with my first view of how tall those walls really were and how small the windows looked. I truly saw Ms. Krueger for the first time and fell in love immediately and also discovered that there were other kids in the class with me that were more then simply blurry shapes with distinct voices. I discovered I was not alone on this journey. Each one of these now cogent fellow travelers was doing the same thing I was. They were figuring out where they were and where they were going.


So here I am fifty some years later still living in the haze of myopia attempting to figure out where I am and where I’m going. Still looking at those tall fuzzy walls with what might be windows at the top. Still pretty much unaware of those blurry shapes with distinct voices journeying here with me. Then the Teacher suggests that instead of spending so much time figuring out where I am that I may want to test my spiritual lenses. And in His compassion a phone call, unexpected but totally miraculous just as the first day with new glasses.


Nancy and Ralph Thomas have been friends since our time together at a small church (Becida) in the north woods of Minnesota. Our families shared the beginnings of the road of righteousness at this small but fervent body of believers. Ralph and I are the same age and though each on different career paths have stayed loosely connected over the years. Nancy called to tell me that Ralph had surgery for prostate cancer on September 7 and instantly the spiritual lens focused. In this valley, Ralph and I now stand together arm in arm both leaning on the One who has promised to be there with us. In an instant we have become brothers on this path with an unexplainable connection through our travail. Both with G-d gifted help mates to counsel and support along with a myriad of friends that bathe in love, prayer, and encouragement. I here today can see, as if for the first time, that this valley is full of travelers like us. All on this journey and each one of these now cogent fellow travelers is doing the same thing I am. We’re all just trying to figure out where we are and where we’re going. Neither my brother Ralph nor I know in which house we will rest after this time but we will both continue our walk with the One that led us in.
We will pray for Ralph and Nancy as we urge you, too. Pray that they will be alright no matter what the outcome.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Where am I?


In looking over this site I'm not quite sure it is serving the purpose for which it was intended. It appears I've become somewhat verbose in description of my inter-health and somewhat lax in reporting on my outer health.
Today marks two weeks since surgery and in my opinion I’m doing quite well. With the aid of my cane and my cat I have become fairly mobile with frequent trips to the garden and my home office. Lola has returned to work and has trained the cat to take over in her absence. Though he is well intentioned, he has a ways to go to fill her shoes. I am blessed by her love and care.


My current challenge is to remember where I am and that is two weeks from surgery. My natural tendency is do more than I’m ready to do. As a result I have some good days and some bad days with most of the bad days being a result of the good days. Slow and steady wins the race. I look forward to attending synagogue this Saturday for the dedication of the Ner Tamid (eternal light) designed specifically by local artisans for Beth Messiah.


September 19th I return to visit the surgeon and received the results of the pathology. I am optimistic and look forward to moving beyond this next step.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


A Family's Perspective


"Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici"... By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe...

From a Family's point of view it's not just the physical recovery that is of concern. A mental recovery can be more poweful an aid to the physical recovery than any medicine.

Knowing that there is support beyond the realms of family names and bloodlines in times of trouble gives a great lift to the soul. Knowing that people care can be a boost to the entire family when it is needed most.

"Conceal me what I am, and be my aid for such disguise, as haply shall become the form of my intent. "

I know I speak for myself but I would dare to venture a theory that I speak for the Entire Klein Family when I say "Thank You" to everyone who has supported us through this time.

I'm sure we will all be hearing more from "Mr. Klein," AKA Dad, about his experiences soon, at least after he gets done playing in the garden...

 

Amadeus Klein
 

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Pajamas


This idea of spending my life in my pajamas is grossly un-attended and should be given much more consideration. My characteristic slothfulness has been allowed to wallow around in a state of euphoria, in the shallow fog of waking or falling back to sleep, intent on one but always ready for the other. The very act of donning clothing signifies an unspoken undercurrent of intent to go and do…something. In my world it is much more difficult to definitively frame what “something” is, then to accept the charge of getting something done. So, logically, when this morning I was charged with the task to; “Get dressed,” until cognition captured consciousness, the very thought gave me pause. But as recollection triumphed over character, the realization of responsibility focused on what was happening today.


I don’t think that whoever named it “pathology” ever intended for it to have the connotation it obviously has. This “Surgical Pathology Report” does much more that crisply and distinctly delineates what has been found on this mysterious path, it also points to what’s ahead on the path. The surgeon asked if I’d seen the report to which I replied I had not been granted the required security clearance to know anything about what was happening inside my body. He then provided me with a verbal code book that allows me to provide some basic translation.
Final Pathologic Diagnosis (this is what was wrong); This was renal cell carcinoma (cancer on the kidney)


Procedure; right kidney, nephrectomy (they took out the kidney; though, in my opinion, generally “ectomys” are things to be avoided; this was a good one)


Prognosis; Tumor infiltrates through the renal capsule, with no extension into perirenal fat and no definitive lymphovascular, vascular, ureteral or soft tissue resection invasion. (They got it all.)


Prescription; Regular blood tests and/or x-ray initially on a 6 month schedule with no further treatment necessary. (go ahead, live the rest of your life)
The Doctor seemed much more concerned about my use of a cane to steady myself then the results of the pathology report. Upon using the cane to emphasize my point and assurance that his bruises would heal, he did concede to my position.


Though somewhat disappointed that I will have to abandon my pajama strategy in lieu of culturally accepted dress codes, the report was very well received and was appropriately celebrated with breakfast at Waffle House. Thanks again to all who have offered prayer and support. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I was expecting to feel sixteen again.


I was expecting to feel sixteen again. After all, my chauffeur had been doing an exemplary job and there was really no need to be anxious to get behind the wheel except for the indefinable urge to take control of a 4,500 pound machine. The Doctor had explicitly prescribed no driving until we were done with the drugs. I don’t know what drugs he was on but I finished mine up and having passed that test, with a blatant disregard for my Doctor, decided to take up the challenge and drive again. Admittedly, there was a bit of excitement and more anticipation then I may want to confess but as I slid behind the wheel a strange feeling of transition shuttered through me very much like the feeling experience when clothing replaced pajamas. One more shift, not back to, but forward toward what some call normal but what I expect to be an abnormal life.


My friend Ralph sent me a letter. It was a delight on a number of levels, not the least of which was that it was hand written. There is something about putting pen to paper that reveals an almost lost intimacy. Ralph hasn’t been driving either. He’s been plodding along the valley path and, though separated by space not spirit, we’ve both enjoyed “spending time in the garden…where I’ve quieted myself enough to hear. G-d speaks, peace follows,” both anticipating getting behind the wheel again. And the “path”ology was as encouraging and worthy of thankfulness for Ralph as for me. Tied up neatly in the little phrase, “The Doctor…feels they were able to get all of it” is such an invitation to the abnormal life.


Life can no longer be normal when you have felt the touch of the healing hand. When you have been plunged beneath the black water of death seeing only the distorted forms of light above the surface and as the shadows of death close in on that light and fear threatens to overtake you there it is. The Healer’s hand. Not thrashing the water frantically searching for you but calmly, not pulling but pushing you from the water. He’s been there all the time holding us up. Maybe its circumstance, or lack of focus, or fear, or selfishness that keeps us from seeing but none-the-less He’s there anyway. So to expect that the One who would support and comfort in such times of need would disappear when situations improve, makes little sense. Therefore, a life lived with attentiveness to the presence and activity of the Comforter can in no way be considered normal. I think Ralph would agree that even though there is a rush about being behind the wheel it’s probably a lot better to just let the chauffeur do His job. I believe being abnormal should be quite normal.