April 23, 2014

Letter: In Memory of Neil

Hi Neil,

It has been six months since you made your journey back to your God. Everyone keeps telling me that the pain of missing you will ease with time. I don’t think so Neil. With each day it gets worse. I know that I was in deep denial for months. I just knew you would burst through the back door and call to me as you did so often, “Hey Boo, where are you?” I am beginning to understand that although denial is a very primitive defense, it served me well in the early months.

During those months, I ruminated over your medical care. Did we make the right choices? Did the Oncologists give us false hope? What happened? Why did you start to fail so fast? I can still hear the doctor telling us that there was no cure for your cancer, but because you were so strong, with radiation and chemo, they could give you “two, five and possibly eight more years.” For God’s sake, Neil, you only lived for five more months. I don’t understand what happened.

Several weeks after you died, I dropped my wallet on the floor at Foodworks and everything, including the little pouch that the gypsy gave us at our hotel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, fell to the floor. Do you remember that night? The gypsy gave each couple in the dining room a “lucky” penny and told us to write down a wish and put it and the penny into that tiny pouch. I don’t know why, because that gypsy gave me the creeps, but I always carried the pouch in my wallet; even when I had a new wallet, I transferred the pouch. When I got home from Old Saybrook, I reread our wishes and was stunned when I read that you asked for “twenty more years of health and happiness with Ali.” The date on your wish was exactly twenty years to the day that you were diagnosed.

Why did you ask for twenty more years? How did you come up with that Neil? Why not thirty? It has me wondering if you knew on an unconscious level why you were here and when you were going to die. Do you remember our conversations about Origen? We talked about him and the other Church Fathers a lot. Origen is the one who believed in the pre-existence of the soul. He taught that this life is like a classroom and the soul chooses to come here to learn certain lessons. In essence, we learn our lesson and then, in a breath, return to God. It always made perfect sense to me. The gem of his thinking was that it takes many lives to become what God wants us to be. I know you were on the fence about that issue as Origen was later condemned as a heretic by the Church. The condemning theologians believed that reincarnation denies our salvation by the death of Jesus. Quite honestly this is all beyond my ken-really.

Wherever the truth is Neil, what I do know is that I want you back here with me. I know, I know, its selfish o f me. You had a long wonderful life while so many are taken so young. Who am I to complain? We had so much together. I want you to know that on those occasions when I think I just can’t stand it anymore and start to climb into my high-chair with “Binky” in hand, I snap out of it by remembering how you were while you were so sick-courageous sums it up pretty well.

Despite that intense pain, you never did the “why me” thing. You never complained and you even managed to joke around a bit. You couldn’t fool us Neil. Despite the meds, we could see the pain etched in your wonderful face. Near the end, when the Hospice nurse gave you a stronger injection for the pain, I knew from my days volunteering at Hospice, that your death was near. At that moment, I didn’t care. I wanted your suffering to stop. It was time to let you die and go home to your God. My regret is that we didn’t call Hospice sooner.

Shortly after you died, several friends told me to look for “signs” such as dragonflies and butterflies. I saw the most notable Dragonfly in Old Saybrook. I was stopped at the light on the Boston Post Road across from Homeworks. It was a hot August day and the dragonfly was trying to land on the hood of my car. I was afraid that if it landed, it would burn its little body. It finally flew away unharmed.

The Monarch butterfly that was performing figure eights outside the kitchen window brought-up memories of your flight training at Williams Air Force Base. Do you remember the day the base commander decided it would be a good idea for the wives of the pilots in training t to visit the observation booth? The point was to see what you guys did in your little T-Thirty Eight fighter jets? Oh my gosh Neil, I wanted to throw-up. You flew by too fast, too low and definitely too loud. That was the first time I worried about your safety, but not the last. You seemed to be hardwired for thrills. By the way, thank-you for agreeing to wear a ski helmet when you raced and “attacked” the Moguls. Why did it take so much arm-twisting?

It was the Mourning Dove that really got to me. For days, it sat on top of one of our bird feeders with its eyes facing towards the water. After several days, it turned toward the house, stayed for awhile and then flew away. How many times did you say to me, “Ali, you know, Mourning Doves mate for life?” I wept for that Dove. Had it lost its mate? I think so.

I have no clue what the signs were all about. They were comforting on some level and did, I think, prevent me from feeling the impact of your death so acutely. I remember the day when I finally got the two by four in the stomach. I was at the Doctor’s office filling out some paperwork that had its origin in Health and Human Services for God’s sake. The second or third question asked if I were married or single. The question provoked so many feelings. I didn’t know how to answer that question and left it blank. It is hard to believe that something like that was the engine for my descent into the reality of your death.

Finally understanding that I am no longer your wife and will never again feel your touch, or hear your gentle words or see your beautiful smile is so painful that I think I might break into a hundred pieces. You are my best friend Neil, my lover, my confidant, my teacher and my pupil-my soul mate. We fell in love when we were so young. In many ways, we helped author each other’s lives. Nothing, not the loss of grandparents, parents, siblings or friends prepared me for the loss of you. I am so frightened that you will forget us. And, will I forget what it was like to be loved by you? Please, no!

Recently, I had lunch with a woman whom you know who lost her husband a year ago last November. She was telling me that someone suggested that she think of three things for which she would thank her husband. If I could only choose three things, the first would be your loving me so completely and so honestly. Even when we were in the middle of a lollapalooza of an argument, I never doubted your love-not for an instant. And we never stayed angry for long. For me, the ice-breaker was a simple glance into your eyes where I saw the intensity of your unconditional love. Your eyes really were a window to your soul Neil.

Secondly, I want to thank-you for our three wonderful sons. I see something of you in each of them. The boys and their families are O.K. They all miss you terribly and are grieving for you-each in their own way. They are in Connecticut frequently and I am beginning to stop protesting. A friend suggested that they probably feel closer to you right here. When they are here, we have some good belly laughs. I feel guilty when I laugh so hard Neil. I ask myself how I can laugh when I am feeling so sad and you’re not here to join us? I do know that you would not judge us and probably are happy that we can laugh.

The puppies also make me laugh. They miss you and, at first, were acting-out all over the place- if you get my drift. We love visiting your grave. I guess that would be a surprise to you as I have never been a “cemetery person.” I feel comforted while I am there; you feel close-by. Jaynie sniffs around a lot and Murphy always pees on your grave. At first, I thought that it was his way of letting you know how angry he is that you left. I know now that it is just his way of saying, “I love you.”

The third thing I want to thank-you for is arranging for the auctioneer to come here, at the appropriate time, to pick-up your amazing antique collection. You knew that I couldn’t deal with all that “stuff.” He took it all-antique hat pins to your beautiful wooden planes. When I go to the basement, it’s a little sad to see it all gone because I know how hard that was for you.

It was hard, but you were thinking of me. And that brings me to your decency. I often think about what it was that I loved and admired the most about you. Yes, you are intelligent and I always loved picking your brain. You could converse in depth on any subject and it constantly amazed me. And your optimism was legend-a glass half-full kind of guy. But, it was your decency, your generosity of spirit, time and treasure that made me love you so much. It animated your life.

I can’t think of one time that you were too busy to help someone in need. Is it any wonder that my sister called you Lance? How many times did I say to you, “You had better put your white horse back in the barn and give it a rest Neil?” Whether family, extended family, friends, acquaintances or strangers, you were always there to help. And it came from your heart-not your ego.

Speaking of ego, I am having a hard time focusing and am experiencing a lot of anxiety. Your sister reminds me to stay focused while driving. She has a friend who lost her husband and became so distracted that she drove into a tree. I guess it was probably a good decision for me to stop listening to Elvis’ Gospel music while driving the car. The news is definitely more grounding.

I suppose lack of focus and anxiety is pretty normal during the grief “process.” But really, is there a normal, or abnormal, or right or wrong way to grieve? I don’t think so. I am finding it bit easier to cope with your death when you make your presence know. I love it when you come to me in my dreams. When you told me you were healed, although I already knew that you were, it warmed my heart to hear it from you. And, I heard you loud and clear to take my friggen keys out of the car. I know these aren’t just grief fantasies or the result of psychic trauma; they are real and beautiful-a bridge from your soul to my heart. Please don’t stop coming Neil. I love you, Ali.

 

Alison Nichols
Essex

 

Letters: Thanks to our First Responders

To The Editor:

Last weekend, our beloved Welsh Terrier, Jaynie,  Houdinied herself out of our parked car. I watched in horror as she rocketed down Main Street. Her little ears were flapping   joyfully in the wind. The bubble over her head must have read something like, “Yippee, I am free and on my way to mess with those River Museum ducks.”

Fortunately, one of Essex’s finest passed by in his patrol car.  With officer Belcourt’s guidance and a neighbor’s agility, Jaynie was scooped-up and returned to her grateful parents. Later on, I began thinking about our first responders and how lucky we are to have their help and protection. I will never forget the letter on your online news written by Jerry Wilson. Jerry was writing to thank officer Kenafick for responding to his call to Town Hall asking for help with a fallen tree. Officer Kenafick arrived on the scene and equal to Paul Bunyan lifted the tree off the driveway.

Of course small issues lead to the big issues. How do these men and women and all our first responders do what they do? When they get that 911 call, they never know exactly what is on the other end.  First responders to fires, car crashes, natural disasters, domestic violence, robberies, medical emergencies and more are heroes. They seem to have something extra in their DNA.  Maybe it’s “Grit” that allows this special breed to remain cool, dedicated and brave under unimaginable circumstances.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the first responders, not only for the warm and fuzzy thing that they do, but for their extreme bravery under extreme pressures.  I write with my deepest respect for these men and women.

Sincerely,

Alison Nichols, M.Div., Essex CT

Letters: Climate Change a Manufactured Crisis

To the Editor:

I am scratching my head in wonderment over President Obama’s Inaugural address in which he pledged to address the “threat of climate change.” Why now? The economy is shrinking. Seven million people are poised to lose their health insurance under Obama Care. Unemployment, underemployment and those no longer looking for employment is a real crisis in America. And our President is focused on a hoax created by the UN. Perhaps now that Obama is sinking in the polls, he will, in his State of the Union address to the nation, focus on the real issues facing America.

Obama knows that “climate change” is a giant hoax. John Kerry, the new “climate-change” secretary of state, knows it is a hoax. And yes, the guy who has made gobs of money perpetuating the false beliefs surrounding the hoax, the king of carbon-credits, Al Gore, also knows it’s a hoax. Not only has Gore’s book (An Inconvenient Truth) been used in schools to indoctrinate our kids and grandkids, but this giant hypocrite has just raked in one hundred million dollars from oil monies after claiming that fossil fuel is the culprit in “climate change.” The inconvenient truth is that the earth’s climate has been warming, cooling and dramatically changing from the beginning of time. For goodness sake, the plague in 1867 is blamed on weather. Chinese sea captains reported melting ice caps as far back as 1434. Mega earthquakes and Tsunamis as well as blizzards, “raging fires, crippling droughts, powerful storms,” horrific tornadoes and scorching heat waves have also been around since antiquity.

Thankfully, a majority of Americans are no longer drinking the climate cool- aid passed out by liberal/progressives, or better “UNers.” We are beginning to ferret-out the truth that this hoax was created by the UN to gain power to itself. The plan was conceived in 1987 as a means to achieve “Global Government” through a manufactured crisis. Who can forget the words of Obama’s former chief of staff, the present mayor of Chicago, who said, “never let a crisis go to waste.”   We have been duped. All the over-arching rules and regulations have been used to force citizens to obey a doctrine that is fallacious.

The creators of the giant hoax, the UN and its sycophants, realized, brilliantly I might add, that its Agenda, that openly targets private property with oppressive regulations, had to be established on a local level first. That said, it is up to each of us to discern if our local boards, commissions and legislature are loaded with “UNers.” Are those serving selflessly performing their civic duties and looking out for the citizens of their towns and districts- or is their agenda the UN Agenda? Our founders were counting on ordinary citizens to speak out to protect our rights.

I wonder, do “We the People” of our great nation really want to be manipulated by the UN? Do we care that this UN invasion into our country will ultimately strip away our freedoms? Do we care that “global warming” hype, “climate change” hype and “rising sea levels” hype is a sinister means of enforcing the idea that the collective takes a front seat to individual rights? Inherent in this idea is the belief that the government can “plan” our lives better than the individual.

Liberal/progressives have very effectively demonized and dismissed the canaries in the coal mine as whacky, paranoid conspiracy theorists. No, the canaries understand that the invasion of the UN agenda has ushered in “a long train of abuses and usurpations” that the Constitution warned would threatened our Freedom and Liberty.

Many Americans watched Paul Harvey’s stellar tribute to our Farmers delivered in a commercial at the Super Bowl.  Have you heard the recording of Harvey’s prescient “warning for a nation” delivered in 1965? It is entitled, “If I Were the Devil.” Please, google it!

Sincerely,

Alison Nichols,
Essex, CT

 

Letters: Fear and Violence

To The Editor:

Here we go again. The Middle East is a powder keg and four of our patriots have been viciously killed. Now the violence has spread to Northern Africa. The Obama foreign policy is not working; it is meek, weak, hide-and-seek. We should have known that candidate Obama was flying high on out-of-control-narcissism when he claimed that the day he was inaugurated Muslim hostility would ease. This kind of hatred and violence is too deeply rooted to be ameliorated by one man who sees his presidency as the time when the “rise of oceans begin to slow and the planet begins to heal.” What kind of leadership is this?

The human community has suffered from bloodshed in the name of religion since antiquity. The conquest of more than two thirds of the Christian world by Muslims and the bloody retaliatory crusades that responded centuries later, the Spanish Inquisition, Auschwitz, Treblinka, the slaughter of Jews by their Christian neighbors and “friends” in the polish town of Jedwabne, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, hatred between Pakistan and India, the Muslim jihad against Christians in Indonesia, the horrific and savage “holy war” launched by fundamentalist Muslims on September eleven, the slaughter of Christians in Pakistan, and the murder and mayhem now in the middle East are but a few examples of the havoc reaped because of humanity’s basic insecurity and fear that cuts deep into the heart of the human community.

As I see it, our intolerance towards each other is an out-picturing of a deep sense of fear and abandonment that exists in the psyche of the human community. We have been cast into the world to fend for ourselves and to grapple with loss and end of life issues. What other species is unconsciously, if not consciously, riveted to loss and death? We know that we and our loved ones are going to die, yet we have no idea how death will come, when it will come, or who, if anyone, has the right answers as to what happens after death. This is the cruel fate of humanity.

And for most of us, the need to believe that our loved ones and we exist after death in some rarified form, or another, is the strongest and most urgent force within us. Whether it is psychic, cosmic, or biological, our belief in immortality is more basic than our need for sex and nourishment.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, we have created, been given, or inherited over two thousand religions to help allay our fears about “end things.” Essentially, religion has been based on disassociating the idea of death and ceasing to exist. Virtually all religions promise some form of afterlife-with death as an end of temporal life and the beginning of something else.

While it is true that millions of humans profess to have no religious yearnings or concerns about their fate after death, for most of us, whether we are willing to admit it or not, the thought of not having the “right” answers as to what happens to us after death is untenable. As a result, life has become a battleground of intolerance and hatred.

It seems almost diabolic that the religious teachings that ostensibly provide us with our symbols, our values, our purpose and our comfort are so often the fuel that ignites violence and hatred between humans who look and think differently. Throughout our history we have witnessed the use of sacred texts- perverted, interpolated, misunderstood and misrepresented to justify savage cruelty by extremists from many faiths.

Most of humanity wants to rid our planet of the cruelty that we continue to inflict upon each other. However, looking for love in all the wrong places is naïve at best. At this time in human history, Islamic extremist have Americans squarely in their cross hairs. Obsequiousness will not heal this deeply rooted hatred.

Did this administration learn anything from September 11?  It was the timidity and perceived weakness of America during the Clinton administration that allowed Global Terror Inc. to implode on Ground Zero at the beginning of the Bush administration.

American foreign policy must be hardened to protect us here and around the world. Perhaps, instead of sending the bust of Sir Winston Churchill back to English diplomats, Obama should have put the bust on his desk in the Oval Office as a reminder of strong leadership. “Victory at all cost, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

Sincerely,

Alison Nichols,
Essex, CT

A Little More About Prayer

The daily news of worldwide events makes me wonder how the human spirit endures so much torment-both physically and psychically. Humankind is constantly besieged with unbearable anguish, and for many the suffering goes on for months, years and in some instances, a lifetime.

It has always been the minister’s purpose to transmute their flocks’ pain and suffering into character. While suffering may indeed build character, I can’t help wondering why we are so reluctant to get angry at God. Maybe the creator wants to know how we really feel.

The words attributed to the dying Jesus as he endured three hours of raging human pain, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me” are the most passionately honest words found in Scripture. This cry, born out of human despair, poignantly describes the human situation.

Thinking about Jesus’ cry of desolation transports me back to an incident that happened a few years ago.  I was entering my home through the backyard and noticed a tiny mouse lying on the step. It was either ill or badly hurt, but alive.  I knew the mouse was dying, and that I should end its suffering.  However, I was too cowardly to kill the little mouse.

Although I don’t believe the Creator is up there somewhere floating in the clouds, I remember looking up and yelling at God, “do something, this is your responsibility.”  When I looked down, the mouse was dead.  It is curious, but that tiny mouse symbolized all the horror, violence, misery and injustice that I see in our world.

While I remember feeling rage towards God, I also felt close to my Creator for the very first time. It was several months later that I understood what transpired on the back step. I was visiting a friend who had been seriously ill for the past six months. She had cancer in her lung, her kidney and her liver. Throughout her illness she appeared stoic and prayed frequently. Members of her church visited with her and prayed with her regularly.

On this particular day, my friend was very weak-but not too weak to tell me about a dream that she had the previous night. In the dream she was carrying a giant gift box tied with a bright red ribbon. She was carrying the gift to a church at the top of a hill. As she climbed the steps to the church, she kept falling backwards as the box was too big and cumbersome.

After an arduous climb, my friend finally reached the door to the church. She had a terrible time opening the door as she would not put the box down-not for an instant. Once inside the church, she could not take a seat because the box was hitting people in the head.

Finally, an old man with a long beard and wearing a white robe came over to her and suggested that she simply put the box on the alter. My friend did not want to give up the box so she left the church. As she was lugging the big box down the steps she awakened from her dream.

My friend asked if I knew what the dream meant. I in turn asked her what was in the gift box. She claimed that she didn’t know so I suggested that we take a look inside.  Together, we imagined ourselves untying the big red bow and looking inside.

With tears streaming down her fragile face, she looked into the box and told me that it was filled with garbage. Spontaneously, she cried out “what have I done to deserve this? Where are you? I can’t stand this anymore. I hate you God!”

My friend did not need for me to interpret her dream. She understood, at the deepest level, that the garbage symbolized all the negative feelings that she was denying God. She understood also that the wise man in her dream was urging her to leave the box of garbage on the altar as a gift for God.

The next morning, my dying friend smiled as I entered her room. With her mouth so dry and cracked that she could hardly speak, she told me that during the night she looked across the room at the wall facing her bed and saw a beautiful young man with long glowing hair. He was standing in a field of wild flowers-beckoning to her.

She said to me, “he has come to take me to God.” My beloved friend slipped into a coma that night and died two days later. Her dream, her tearing passion, and her vision helped me to understand that a despondent cry to God is a beautiful prayer of trust and of healing.

Implied in her prayer was an affirmation of faith and respect for the integrity of God. Her prayer showed enough trust in God’s love to express her rage for the horrors that she simply did not understand.

Alison Nichols, M.Div.
Essex, CT