Blog 2301 – 02.09.2022
Have It Your Way
It may sound completely illogical to many raised to believe that we are mere puppets destined to dance directed entirely by the strings of fate or some angry God that wants us to burn because we failed to live up to His or Her impossible expectations. But, I believe like a favorite poem of mine, Invictus, that we are indeed the captains of our souls and the masters of our fate.
A month or so ago I signed up to receive a daily free poem from Poem-A-Day. As a small boy I enjoyed poetry and still find it inspiring to read the rhymes and free verse of others and especially to hear and sing tge many that have been put to music. Yesterday’s poem of the day is attached here and is the inspiration for the blog today:
I have owned and still do more than my share of possessions.These I share all with my loving and lovely wife Linda. We have only one remaining child, Jonathan, and to him we have willed all we possess or whatever remains when we both can no longer manage it. Currently we are paying on a home in a nice neighborhood just outside of the 610 Loop in Houston, Texas. They are building multi-storied mini-mansions all around our one story ranch style home in Oak Forest. Our property value continues to rise daily and we get offers often from developers who want to tear down our house and build on this lot another one of these over a million dollar homes. Our next door neighbors’ house is valued at over two million. I never dreamed as a poor boy growing up in Tennessee that I would ever live it such a high end neighborhood. Oak Forest was developed after World War Two for returning vets starting families and was mainly two bed room frame houses with one car garages attached. We added a large den on the back of ours, made an extra bedroom of the garage, and added an additional full bath. The last two changes we made were vinyl siding the house and having the driveway replaced with a wider one that can accommodate four vehicles instead of just two. It was always a pain having to move the car behind the one you wanted to get out. Now my wife and I can get our vehicles out far easier and even have two additional spaces off the street for guests visiting us to use.
We have Social Security checks coming in monthly and a couple of small retirement checks, several flush checking and savings accounts, a small cash stash, even a little silver and gold put away for that proverbial rainy day that life has proven to provide as regular as clockwork. A year or so ago I bought a new foam mattress than was not quite as expensive as the foam slice in the poem that I figure may very well be the last I ever buy. Just last week I bought myself the best and most expense recliner that I have ever owned. It is a beauty and I promise myself not to be like Archie Bunker about it but to offer it to my wife or guests to sit in. Much as I enjoy reading and watching TV during my waking hours and napping in that chair or sleeping on that new soft mattress when not awake, it is most likely that one or the other cushy places will provide my final launching pad for my flight from this body to what’s next.
Do we really get to choose how and when we go? I think so. Years ago as a young man, believing I was going to be a preacher, I rode in a car from Tennessee to Florida with an elderly pastor friend and his wife to attend a ministerial conference of our particular narrow fundamentalist sect being held near one of the groups Bible Colleges in Florida. We spend one night at my pastor’s brother’s home also near the convention center where the conference was being held. I slept on a small bed in the brother’s den where he kept his father’s library. My pastor and his brother were children of a somewhat famous evangelist in our group. He was often one of the guest speakers at the annual camp meeting held in Anderson, Indiana. These sermons were mostly delivered without notes and could be quite long, but in the early nineteen hundreds at the turn of the last century they had stenographers take them down word for word and printed them bound to memorialize each annual camp meeting. I found one such volume on a shelf and read a sermon that J. Lee Collins had preached seventy or so years earlier. Though he himself had long before exited this stage his words still spoke from the pages.
In his sermon he shared his calling to the Christian ministry as an evangelist (a traveling preacher.) J. Lee said he struck a bargain with God. He loved his wife and the large group of children they had together and knew his life on the road would be a great sacrifice for him and for them so he laid out one stipulation. He told God, “I will do this for you, but you must promise me that I will never have to see my beloved wife or any of my beloved children die. If you will do that for me, I will do this for you.”
The next morning at breakfast I ask my pastor and his brother about their father’s death, specifically if he died before his wife and children and they confirmed that he had. God, his higher best self, had it seems held up his end of the bargain. And, yes, I realize this is anecdotal evidence at best. I nevertheless firmly believe that on some break between life adventures that we planned this one too in detail. Some people plan their funeral arrangements in great detail. I plan only to leave some funds behind to make sure no one has to go into debt to dispose of my earthly remains. My preference is cremation with the ashes scattered to the winds, but my son refuses to do that and says he prefers a more standard memorial service with a body, a coffin, and interment in the ground. As a military veteran, like my daddy, I am entitled to a plot and a stone in a veterans cemetery paid for by the Veterans Administration. Even the most inexpensive coffin still looks pretty fine with an American flag draped over it. The VA will provide the flag and even have a local veterans group or ROTC cadets provide a little send off for vets. All very nice.
The one departure detail I care about most is that I have asked to have the most painless and most comfortable passing possible. I plan to go in my sleep, either in my cushy bed or my cushy chair. I can hear the Monty Python boys saying, “Oh, no, not the cushy chair.” Yes, lads, the cushy chair or the cushy bed, as I sing “I Did It My Way.” No hospital, no hospice care, just one last call for “Take out,” pun intended.
I am in no hurry and have no immediate departure plans though.
Your friend and fellow traveler,
We can indeed have it all and have it our way if love is the way we choose.
In This Life