I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial Day weekend

Sky, clouds, water, trees
Yesterday I went to Lummi Island with my walking group, and I took this picture of the water through the trees, hoping to show how pretty it all was, but unfortunately the picture doesn't do it justice. I decided to use it anyway, because for me, it evokes the feeling I had while we walked. A brisk breeze and cool temperatures made it fairly easy to cover the seven miles. Most of the time, I love my environment, although there are times when I get tired of the incessant rain. We didn't have a drop yesterday.

Memorial Day weekend in Belllingham is filled with an unusual amount of traffic. The Ski to Sea race is today, with many hundreds of competitors in town. This relay race has seven legs and starts up at the Mt. Baker ski area and ends in Fairhaven. There are eight people on each team, starting with cross-country skiing, then downhill skiing, running, road biking, canoeing (two people on this leg), mountain biking, and then a final leg in a kayak. A timing chip is passed from one participant to the next, and it gets very competitive. There are people who do the race for fun, but many come from afar to try to win or place.

For a couple of years, I've gone down to Fairhaven to watch the kayakers come into the bay and climb out of their kayak, run up the hill from the beach to ring the bell and finish the race. It's fun to watch for awhile, but there are so many people everywhere, a bit overwhelming unless you wish to be jostled shoulder to shoulder in a raucous throng. Being short, I feel lost in the crowd and can see so little except the heads and shoulders of those around me. So I'll skip going out today. Instead, I'm planning to make a nice stew with my new Crock Pot.

One of my blogging friends sent me a couple of books to read, and I just finished one, which is the reason I bought that Crock Pot. The book, Walking with Peety, is "an inspirational and informative story about recovery, redemption, hope and achieving dreams, made possible by a doctor who listened and cared, the unconditional love between a man who thought life was over and a shelter dog who wouldn't let him quit" (from the link). Eric was way overweight and miserable and finally found a doctor who was able to help him. One of the first things she suggested is that he adopt a shelter dog to get him moving.

He had never had a pet in his life and didn't know the first thing about how to care for a dog. He also changed his diet completely, becoming a vegan following a whole food plant-based diet. Although I know a lot about food (and diets), I was moved to learn more about the difference between it and a regular vegetarian diet. Yesterday I watched Forks Over Knives, a documentary on Netflix, which was what made me decide to buy that Crock Pot and find out how I might be able to make some interesting dishes that require little work. Today it will be a vegetable stew; I'll head from the coffee shop to the co-op and get the ingredients. Looks easy enough; I've never used a slow cooker before.

On Memorial Day, lots of people visit cemeteries and remember their loved ones. I've got so many to remember, and no graves of my family anywhere, that this post will have to be my way of bringing to mind that which is never far from my consciousness: my son Chris who was serving in the Army when he died of a heart attack at the age of 40, my father who died at the early age of 62 of a heart attack, and my sister PJ who (you guessed it) died at 63 from heart disease. I take a statin to keep my cholesterol in check, but now I'm wondering if I followed this diet if I'd be able to stop taking it. Not likely, but it's worth checking out.

Right now I am re-reading a wonderful book by Paul Kalanithi, a neurologist who died at the age of 38 from lung cancer. When he realized how sick he was and that he would probably not survive for long, he and his wife decided to use IVF to have a child. He was able to be present for his daughter's birth, and he was given so much pleasure from watching her develop. He wrote the book, When Breath Becomes Air, in part as a legacy so that she might hopefully remember something of him. This beautiful book has a piece that I cannot forget and will share this long-ish quote from it with you:
Words have a longevity I do not. I had thought I could leave [Cady] a series of letters–but what would they say? I don’t know what this girl will be like when she is fifteen; I don’t even know if she’ll take to the nickname we’ve given her. There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all but past. 
That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.
Each time I read this, like right now, I tear up. I can't help it, it's so beautiful and says so much about how I feel about loved ones and life and love. On this Memorial Day weekend, when so many of us remember those we have lost, I'd like to also say thank you to Paul for his determination to finish this book. It was actually published posthumously by his wife early last year. In the second reading of it, many parts of the book resonate even more deeply. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

And to you, my dear readers, I give you my most sincere wish that you will have a chance to remember all your departed loved ones, and will give those you still have with you a hug (virtual or physical) and be grateful for their presence in your life. I know I am thrilled to have such a fine virtual community, and I send you my love. I wish you all good things. Be well until we meet again next week.


Marie Smith said...

There are no words today dear Jan but blessings to you!

Rian said...

I went to the cemetery on Mother's Day to visit a dear friend of mine that passed away a few years ago. My grandson went with me and we brought Pat flowers and cleaned up around her headstone. My own deceased family members are down in Louisiana so I don't get to visit them much... but I think of them when I visit Pat.
The books you recommend sound great... if a little sad. However, I may try When Breath becomes Air as leaving behind something of yourself in your own words resonates with me. And I can imagine how much joy that infant brought into his remaining time.

Linda Reeder said...

We're not doing cemeteries this year. My sisters posted from my parents grave in Oregon on Friday. I was there in spirit.
Instead we will visit gardens and walk in nature. I feel like running away today.
I gave away my slow cooker a couple of years ago. I never used it. Have fun with yours.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

We tried the slow cooker but it seems we prefer steamed veggies more so it was donated. Hugs to you as you rememner your lost loved ones. Like you my losses are never far from my memory almost daily something of one or another pops up.
Studies about statins are now suggesting that the drug does not change risk of stroke or heart attack. The newest research suggests that the very high sugar content in today’s foods is actually a much higher cause. And there is a more natural way to deal with cholestrol, no flush niacin 500mg. Sadly messing with fat in our diet affects our memory as it is full of fat to function. Hope the stew is delicious. Hugs to you my dear friend.

Tabor said...

All my cemeteries and ash tossing sites are far away and either 100s of miles south or close to a thousand to the west. If I visited it would have to be alone...not with others as I just am that way. I read that book and now you make me want to read it again! I am also on statins, low dose, but wondering if I can find a way to better my lifestyle.

Red said...

I don't think many people take time to think about their life and death. It is healthy to consider both. We have to accept and be comfortable with our end. It always concerns me that people had no time or opportunity to consider their end. We do not have a Memorial Day so i am intrigued by what goes on. It made more sense to me when my American cousins shared their activities in their memory of my aunt and uncle and two cousins that had died. It just made more sense when I knew the people.

Elephant's Child said...

That is a truly beautiful and inspirational quote. Thank you so very much.

Marty said...

So many connections here. I knew of the fellow with the dog - proof that we can all change.
And I had read the book last year, one of those books that both makes you glad that you've read it and always brings on a little sadness
You got me thinking about my new twin granddaughters and my musings about how much of their life I'll get to see.
Happy and sad.

Mage said...

I loved "When Breath Becomes Air," but I haven't read the first one. Thank you for the inspirations.

Hilary said...

I wish you and I could sit in the sunshine with a cuppa tea.....and just chat. I have the feeling that it would be a marvelous visit.

DDD said...

I read that book two months ago. It is very sad! The neurosurgeon’s lunch was some kind of ice cream and a donut.
You mention “whole food plant based diet” and the neurosurgeon died at 38 in the same post. I wonder if he had eaten healthier he may have a few more months or years?
It is the analogy Blind Men and the Elephant:
Some see how beautiful the writing style.
I see the lifestyle. Sorry if I offend anyone.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Sending you a hug this memorial day weekend. I have so many cemeteries that I should have visited. I have lots of dead relatives. We made it to two cemeteries the rest will have to wait for another day. Too many things to do and not enough of me to go around.
I love my crock pot or slow cooker, I have two! I use them for soups and chili and all kinds of wonderful foods. I use mine in the summer in an alternative to the oven which heats up the house. It is very warm here this weekend:(

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, This joyous and loving post is just perfect for this Memorial Day weekend. And once again I’m adding a new book to my Kindle thanks to your kind recommendation. Thank you, as always, for sharing Eye on the Edge. John

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

Enlightening read.
I have now added When Breath Becomes Air, to my TO READ list.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I read "When Breath Becomes Air" when it was first published last year or the year before. Like you, I found it to be a memoir that I can't really forget. There are parts that simply stay with me. I have it as an e-book, so thank you for writing it here today. It would be good to go back and reread it because I always find that a second or third reading speaks more strongly to me and the tI find new things that escaped me before. Peace.

Arkansas Patti said...

Sending a hug your way my friend. This is a day to not only remember those who have gone on but to appreciate those still with us. Lovely post and I think I will check out that diet. Good luck with it and I do believe we can alter our health for the better by what we chew.

Glenda Beall said...

My heart goes out to you when I remember the loss of your dear son at such a young age. Like me, you have heart disease in your family. I need to be more careful about my diet and I love my crock pot and my new pressure cooker/crock pot. I like to make soups and stews. Memorial Day is always sad to me as I remember those who lost their lives in wars. I feel that wars in which our country has been involved since WWII have been unnecessary and have cost us too many lives. I remember those who died, appreciate their sacrifice, but do not celebrate war.