When I was very young, I was terrified of large bodies of water including swimming pools. Part of my fear came from the fact that my mother was scared of water and always preached to me how I could easily drown if I wasn't careful around water. She was so terrified of water that even standing on a beach, far away from the shore, was extremely difficult for her. So, she passed that fear on to me at a very early age. It is very difficult to fear water if you want to be active and involved in organizations. For instance, I joined the boy scouts and when we went to summer camp, I would stand on the pool deck and simply watch as the other scouts had fun splashing about in the pool. For a ten year old it is a difficult thing not to be able to join in on the fun. But my fear of water kept me firmly planted safely away from the water. I was told at the end of the camp, that if I did not learn how to swim that future summer camp participation would be difficult and in fact, I would never be able to successfully progress as a scout because swimming was required. And so when I left summer camp that year, I thought I might never return. But then fate intervened.
This is a photograph of an old Royal Quiet DeLuxe portable typewriter. I show it because it has a great deal of significance in my life. The other day we were in the basement cleaning out some old boxes and my children came across the typewriter. They opened it up and laughed. "Wow, it would take you 3 days just to type out a letter on that thing!" one of them remarked, followed by howls of laughter from the other two. When I saw the typewriter, it took me back to a place a long time ago. I sat down and began to reflect.
The noted psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, once wrote, "The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." I ran across this quote a few days ago when I was having a conversation with a close friend. And as I thought about the quote I realized that the "beautiful people" Dr. Ross referred to are rare.
Nothing is sadder then the witnessing the lamentations one feels upon the passing of a loved one. But compounding that sadness is that moment when the realization hits us on how much that person meant to our lives. It happens to everyone and has happened to me on more than one occasion.
Many years ago, in January of 1971, a car pulled up in front of the house shown in the photograph above. It was driven by a good man, who had with him three of his four sons. And when they pulled up, this man, blew his horn, and a young teen emerged from the house. The youngest son of a single parent, he adjusted his coat, and walked toward the car. And while he neared the car, one of the occupants, reached out and snapped this photograph, on that cold January day, 43 years ago.
In the Old Testament, in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 3, Verses 1 - 18, we find the story of Shardrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It is an inspiring story that affirms the faith of three young men who refused to bow and worship a statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had made and had ordered all to worship. Even facing death, all three remained steadfast in their faith.
1976 was a year of change - both good and bad. The Steelers beat Dallas in the Superbowl - I lost money on that game. The Naval Academy accepted its first female class - somewhat appropriate that it happened in 1976, but still way too late. And Babara Jordan, yes, Barbara Jordan, gave a historic speech when delivering the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, becoming the first African American to deliver a keynote address for either party.
My sister Mary died in February, 2012. She was taken from us by cancer at the young age of 66. The diagnosis was unexpected and sadly, her demise was swift - only 15 days from discovery to her passing. But my sister Mary was steely tough and I am sure that during those last days she gave cancer the fight of its life. When it took on Mary, it took on one formidable opponent, and although she lost the fight, she went down swinging. She died on Leap Day - February 29, 2012.
Sometimes you wonder why certain things are put on your path. Many times, as you encounter them, they don't seem to make too much sense – they don't match. And this is certainly the case with sunflowers and penguins. At first glance, there is no match.
A few days ago I was working with my daughter on a project for one of her classes at the University and she ran across a quote from a very famous writer, Theodor Geisel, known by most of us as Dr. Seuss. The quote was such a wonderful quote and comes from his book, "Happy Birthday to You". It simply says, "Today You are You, that is Truer than True. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."