I’m sure you’ve caught the latest scare in the media. Not long ago it was Ebola and now it is the measles. The debate is turning into a political football. This football is inflating not deflating. It’s people who believe in vaccinations for their children vs. those who don’t believe in them for their children. The pro-vaxxers are calling the anti-vaxxers evil monsters who hate their children. They assume anti-vaxxers are flat Earthers who hate evolution and science. The anti-vaxxers are calling the pro-vaxxers Nazis who want to imprison them for not getting their children vaccinated. I recently got a shingles shot. I did that because I’ve seen my father suffer with shingles. My children have had their vaccinations. We do not run out and get the latest flu de jour flu shots. I do understand some of the suspicions the anti-vaxxers have when they know the vaccine manufactures are on board to make $41 billion in 2015. I’m sure those manufacturers love the media scaring the crap out of the public, about the latest disease making the rounds. I am not pleased with the anger and jargon on either side of the vaccination issue. With all the outrage from both sides I don’t see a solution unless, someone comes up with a vaccine to fight panic and demagoguery I think a little more civility and education would help the situation but don’t see any on the horizon.
I’d rather talk about a different disease all together. It is the disease I’ve lost the most relatives to. It is the disease that I lost my best friend to when we were both 19. It is a disease that makes me deaf to any of the latest media scare diseases. It is the disease that needs more attention than any other. It is a mass murderer causing genocide. It is a disease that has no vaccination. It is a disease that has led me to attending two funerals in the last few weeks. I’m talking about cancer, a disease every family is familiar with. My neighbor Dante age, 52 died of cancer on New Year’s Day 2015. When I went to view him at the funeral home I noted the large number of people who came to pay their respects. The very long line of people standing outside in the cold attested to how many people’s lives and hearts he touched. Dante was the father of three girls. My daughter, Mackenzie grew up playing with his youngest daughter, Kelsey. Kelsey spent lots of time at our house and Mackenzie spent many hours at their house. During those years my wife became ill and bedridden for several months. Dante and his wife Angie found out and came to the rescue. They brought food, offered prayers and were there to help get my kids off and on the bus. I am too proud to ask for help but I didn’t need to because Dante and Angie were intuned to what community is all about. Years later I was remodeling and needed to reroute a gas pipe from my boiler. No plumber would do the job as it involved working in a crawl space under my dinning room. Dante worked at plumbing and offered to do the job after hearing about my dilemma. He did a great job and refused to take money from me. Kelsey and Mackenzie spent lots of time playing cards with my mother-in-law, who my kids called Baba. When Baba died the December before last Kelsey came over to tell Mackenzie how sad she was to hear. Now Mackenzie has had to say the same to Kelsey about her dad. Dante fought the good fight against cancer and now our community is left with a lot less “common unity.”
Last weekend my wife and I were grocery shopping for her brother. He has been recouping after back surgery. While at the grocery store we ran into the hairdresser who cuts both of our hair. She was wearing a scarf on her head as she lost her hair because of chemo. We were glad to see she is feeling well enough to get out and about. She is soon going to the Cleveland Clinic for some stem cell treatment and is feeling very optimistic. She misses work and wants to return as soon as possible.
The very next day one of my wife’s relatives phoned us. We were told my wife’s cousin, Dave’s wife; Diane had just died of cancer at age, 60. At the funeral Dave told us he felt somewhat blessed. That is because Diane had been given 3 years to live over 7 years ago. Dave said that none the less he still has a lot of questions for God when he sees him. Both Dave’s dad, Ed and my wife’s dad, Ray died in 1973. Ed and Ray were card playing drinking brother-in-laws. Both of them suffered heart attacks dying on the spot. Dave is right it is better to have some time frame about dying. That way you can make a wise decision about what good you can do with the rest of the time you have on this planet. It really is the way we should be living everyday anyway. Diane found her purpose knowing her time was limited. She was an excellent quilter so she decided to teach other how to quilt. Her proudest achievement was working with other women to make a giant cancer quilt. The quilts had many patches each featuring the names of people who had died of cancer. In 2014 more than 559,000 people lost their lives due to the fight against cancer. A quilt that size would blanket the Earth (pun intended).
I am reminded that Native Americans made quilts. The pride of every Dakota home is the God’s Eye- the morning star quilt. It lies folded in the home to wait as a gift. It is used to cover the bed, and it also wraps the dead. It makes everything it covers sacred. It is sacramental. It is a visible image that holds an invisible reality. ‘It will not leave you orphans.’”
Diane and Dante and caring people like them do not leave us orphans. They leave us with a valuable gift. That gift is learning from them that life should not be lived complacently. Do you really want to die thinking; was just doing no harm enough of a way to live? My life has been blessed knowing so many people like Diane and Dante. I hope you have been so blessed.
Jonathan & the Modern Lovers: “Old World”
“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.” ~ Jean Vanier