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, November 1, 2020

Pondering our future and a goodbye

Street art

Yesterday morning, I went for a really nice walk around the waterfront with two dear friends. It was sunny (as you can see in the above photo) and cold, with the temperature in the low thirties (1.5°C). We walked around five miles, and by the time we were done, it had warmed up considerably, with no wind and after having been active. It felt really nice.

I needed it for several reasons, not the least of which is that I learned that my dear blogging friend Ronni Bennett died Friday evening. As many of you know, she wrote the blog Time Goes By for fifteen years, and I have been a follower and fan for more than a decade. Three years ago now, Ronni discovered she had pancreatic cancer and decided to opt for the Whipple Procedure, an invasive operation that gives people with this illness a chance to live. She describes the entire process in great detail, and it's worth your time if you want to go back and read about how she dealt with dying.

She did two things that I find really rather amazing: she arranged to have a guided psilocybin "trip" to help her deal with the fear of dying, and I have gone back and read about it more than once. (I just tried to find it again with no success. No search box on TGB, but all her posts are still there.) She described in response to her trip that finally her fear of dying had changed dramatically. 

The other thing she did, after having become a Hospice patient, was to arrange to have the drugs in her home that she could take when it became impossible to continue, and not having to wait for the natural process of death to take place. This is legal in Oregon, where she lived. At this point I don't know if she actually took them, or whether she died without them. From what I know, pancreatic cancer is a particularly painful death, and she cared for her father many years ago when he died of it. In any event, she is gone, leaving her dedicated fans and followers to muddle through. She has a good friend, Autumn, who will take over the blog and keep it alive so that we can all continue to "visit" with Ronni and glean her wisdom, even now that she's gone from the world.

After having had a copious cry, I read the comments from other readers who had responded to her passing, and it was time to begin the process I've grown to know all too well: mourning the loss of a treasured friend. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed, I began the process with her, and it still continues to this day. They both died of pancreatic cancer, which for a rather rare cancer, seems to be all too present in my own circle. Those two, along with one of my hiking buddies who was younger than me, also died of it last year. 

Dying is a part of life. Nobody and nothing that is born escapes death, and now that I have lived long enough that I've passed through all the phases of the life cycle, except for the final one of dying, I realize how fortunate I am to still be active, with relatively few aches and pains (although there are still plenty, if I focus on them), and so very much to be grateful for. When I watch the news and see what's happening in other parts of the world, I again thank the Powers That Be for my good fortune of having been born here in the United States.

But that might be changing soon. In two days, we will have an election that will change the trajectory of this country in profound ways. No matter who wins, I fear we are in for a bumpy ride, one which I am not sure all of us will survive. There is so much hate and division, more than I would ever have thought possible, everywhere in this country. What happens next depends on whether people decide to concentrate on what we all share and preserve it, or whether we decide to take out our anger on each other.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have an extra hour this morning, since we again changed our clocks back to Standard Time, which will be around for a few months before we go back to Daylight Saving Time again in the spring. Of course I couldn't sleep beyond my usual waking time, so I've already been up for more than an hour, and it's not even 6:00am yet! I really dislike the process, although I am happy for my friends who never seem to get enough sleep and can snooze for an extra hour. This time change will mess with my routine for a week or so, but I have little problem losing that extra hour in the spring. I'm weird like that.

One thing I have realized as I ponder the future is that whatever we end up going through during the next week or so will finally pass. It sure doesn't help that we are still, all over the world, in the grip of Covid-19. It isn't as bad in my own state as it is in several others, but the good thing is that now we seem to know a little better how to treat the illness in those who end up in the hospital. People are still dying, and that really makes me sad and angry at people who don't take it seriously. But I can only do what I can in my own circles and have no power to change them. I want to believe what Martin Luther King, Jr. says in that quote: that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. 

And of course I need to take care of myself as best I can, stay out of crowds and stay masked and socially distant, except for my own Covid "pods," and hope for the best. It takes a lot for me to actually get down on my knees and pray, but I'm doing that now, and trying to find peace wherever I can. My dear life partner sleeps next to me, peacefully, and that makes me smile. The day is beginning bright and sunny (when the sun comes up, that is), and I will visit my friends at the coffee shop, even though it's cold we will gather and take comfort in each other's presence. We might end up huddling in John's truck as we drink our hot coffee and remind each other how important friends are. 

And that is how I will end this post, thinking about a week from now when I hope we will gather here together in virtual communion, and we take a look at our changed world and find it good. You are admonished to find one thing, just one, to be grateful for. If you do that, you'll find other reasons not far behind. Take care of yourself, dear reader, and keep believing that unconditional love will have the final word.


Linda Reeder said...

I feel for your loss, but I will not be sad on this fine morning. I got a real, restful, full night's sleep and still have extra time this morning. I got out of bed not hurting, even after hours of garden work yesterday. I had a little fun surprising my grands last night. Then Tom and I found a fun, light movie to watch on Netflix and a few episodes of Shitt's Creek to finish off the light hearted evening.
I have time this morning to do my PT, go for walk, be ready for a Zoon cabin meeting, and watch both the Seahawks this afternoon and the Sounders this evening. I am grateful for it all.
I will be careful about how much political stuff I take in today. We'll know soon enough. I can't imagine the current president being re-elected. I'll be planted in front of the TV on Tuesday, but today is a gift I will not waste on DJT.
Be well, find happiness.

Arkansas Patti said...

I too felt the gut punch of losing Ronnie. I guess like RBG, we knew how sick she was but she just kept going on and we came to expect it. I have followed her for years and I will miss her so. She made us smile, she opened our minds and she made us care.
I echo you on hoping this election does not bring out more hatred and violence. Let there be a healing.

Margaret said...

I too read Ronni's blog, although I didn't comment on it because others had already said everything. I still find it difficult to go back and re-read my posts from when my husband was dying of cancer, but I'm glad I wrote them and chronicled the experience. I am concerned about Covid and about the election and post-election. More like extremely worried. My cat doesn't understand time changes--nor do I. They seem pointless and I rant about them every year!

ApacheDug said...

DJan, I so much enjoy your writing that one reading is never enough. You & I touched on a similar subject (Ronni Bennett) in our recent posts, but yours was kinder and more eloquent than my clumsy words. I wasn’t aware you had known her for such a long a time (but I should’ve guessed so). What I do know is, while I only discovered ‘Time Goes By’ a couple years ago, she did feel like a friend, and I’m going to miss her voice too. (And I don’t want to sound crass, but I was wondering too if her passing was her choice. I wish we knew.)

I also appreciated what you had to say about this upcoming election and all the accompanying turbulence. To be honest I’m pretty angry after watching the news this morning of a Biden campaign bus being flanked (and run off the road) by a swarm of Trump trucks. It just seems like something from a darker, earlier time. Well, I’m glad to know you’re feeling relatively healthy and doing so well; Ronni’s blog was always a part of my Saturday morning, but yours is always my Sunday! I’m going to go back & re-read your post (I always feel like I miss something if I don’t) and then I’m going for a thought-filled walk. Hope your week ahead is a happy one.

Elephant's Child said...

I am so sorry for your loss. And for the loss that everyone who knew your blog friend is feeling right now. I am always blown away (and grateful) for how close we can become to people we have not, and may never, meet.
I am watching your election news from this side of the world and hoping (so much) that love, empathy and compassion triumph.
I hope your week is full of joys.

Far Side of Fifty said...

It will be an interesting week. This morning Far Guy and I wrote down four predictions for the week...we will read them at the end of the week.

Sadly I had to watch the funeral online for my cousin who died of covid. 21 people including the honor guard were in attendance. Big Elmer was a man of God and shared his belief until his dying day. No doubt that he is in heaven...what happiness to know that we are all saved by God's grace and grace alone:)

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your blogging friend. Pancreatic Cancer seems to be on the rise...we had a friend die from it a few weeks ago.

I am not sure where all these different roads of life lead...we must make the best of each day and be thankful for friends...like you who brighten our days!

gigi-hawaii said...

Yes, friends are very important. So sorry to hear about one of yours dying.

Betsy said...

I'm sorry to read about your friend. As you probably know from my blog, my dear sister in law just died from pancreatic cancer less than two months ago. Our family is still reeling and my husband misses his baby sister dearly.
The world seems to be in chaos and without my faith in my Heavenly Father I wouldn't know what to hope for.
Take care.

Anvilcloud said...

I didn't know this blogger, but I have read three posts about her today, so she must have been well loved.

I did a search for the word, psilocybin, on her blog. Maybe it will lead to the post that you want to find.


Rian said...

DJan, I do envy your walking/hiking with friends. So good that you get to go out and do those things and in such a beautiful place. As for the passing of your blogging friend, I am sorry. My brother also died of pancreatic cancer. I tried to go to the site you mentioned, but it didn't work. I would really like to read her blog.
As for the hate and division within our own country, this too saddens me. We should be able to overcome this. I too think we are in for a bumpy ride.

Gigi said...

I am so very sorry for the loss of your friend. It is so very hard to lose loved ones - and yes, virtual friends are no less loved.

I am trying so very hard to be hopeful and optimistic - it's not easy, but I am trying.

Today I am grateful for so very many things and that includes you. Have a wonderful week, my friend.

Marie Smith said...

I am so sorry to hear of your friend’s passing. That terrible disease took my friend’s husband in August. It is brutal.

The U.S. election is on the news here constantly. I will be glad when the voting is finally over but it sounds like the results will not be known early nor accepted by one candidate when they are known. I pray for a peaceful resolution either way.

Covid is testing our patience and resolution. Countries are headed into lockdown again. Parts of Canada have seen a resurgence. We are doing okay here so far. Being on an island has helped us. We are using all the precautions just the same. Who know where this is going? The world is in a sad state these days. We just keep on with our lives in a bubble and do what we can to help others and stay healthy ourselves.

Take care. I hope this is a great week for you.

Red said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. she sounds like a salt of the earth tower of strength kind if person. You will miss her. It's a stressful time in your country. Looking way back it's hard to think that such divisions could occur.

justme_alive said...


William Kendall said...

I'm sorry about your friend.

Mary said...

I followed Ronni too. Her blog was exceptional. Chock full of information and insight. I was hoping she’d last through the election, but maybe it’s just as well...sad to say.

Mary said...

Maybe this will open.

Rita said...

I didn't know her but it sounds like she had a lot of followers and will be missed.

I think I have election anxiety. I heard that is a legitimate thing now. ;)

Glenda Beall said...

My deepest condolences for the loss of your friend, DJan. I admire her for taking the opportunity to hasten her own death if she felt it necessary. I wish more states gave us the opportunity to halt pain and suffering when we want to do so. Anyone who has watched a loved one suffer, as I have, with no hope of recovery must know how important it is to have this option.
I watched a movie about Ruth Bader Ginsberg a couple of nights ago and was once again amazed at the courage and perseverance she embodied to bring equality to both men and women in this country. The movie reminded me why I didn't do what I wanted with my life when I was young. Women had few choices and men ran the country. I am grateful for RBG and her husband who supported her taking risks. Thanks for this post. Hope your week is good and hope we all get good news from this election tomorrow.

Galen Pearl said...

I'm so sorry about your blog friend. Loss on top of national turmoil -- sometimes it just feels like too much.

So there is a collective breath holding now as we wait to see how this will all sort out. Take good care of yourself. I know you will.

Linda Myers said...

So sorry for the loss of your friend. This is a hard time.