Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

If Ryan Miller Wrote It, I'm Already Sold! "Everything Breathless" and the "Life of Faith"

By way of an intro, I use to be an avid Myst gamer and book reader. There were three major game titles (Myst, Riven, Exile) that mesmerized me; five that I played (Revelation, End of Ages); and seven in all. The three book titles I read had very little correlation with the games except in establishing how the "worlds of Myst" came into being, and in many ways, were a whole new adventure. As I remember, the last book (D'Ni) was more sermon than adventure - though for half of its length it promised as good a journey as the first two. When reading the first book, The Book of Atrus, I had read up to page 121 before realizing I had read it all wrong and needed to return to the beginning to re-read it again with my newly acquired knowledge at this point in the book. I couldn't believe I hadn't caught on until page 121!! (The only other book that ever had done this to me was John LeCarre's, The Perfect Spy). Needless to say I was hooked right from the start. No other books nor games in this exploratory/adventure genre seemed to match the level of entertainment that Ryan's creations demanded of its avatar'd players. They were fun, and they were extremely creative.

Ryan Miller (born 1974 in Albuquerque, New Mexico) is a writer who worked as a design director for the computer game company Cyan Worlds, founded by his brothers Rand and Robyn Miller. Ryan is credited with writing the initial draft of the Book of Atrus for Myst.[1] He also received acknowledgment for helping develop the story lines in Book of Ti'ana, Book of D'ni, and Uru. In 2004, Miller and his wife, Heidi, opened Mango Ink, a boutique greeting card company.[2] Miller self-published two novels, Inkarri (2003) and The Naked Fruit (2010). He lives in Spokane, Washington. - Wikipedia

Rand Miller (born January 17, 1959 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.) is CEO and co-founder of Cyan Worlds[1] (originally Cyan). He and brother Robyn Miller became famous due to the success of their computer game Myst, which remained the number one-selling game from its release in 1993 until that record was surpassed by The Sims nearly a decade later.[2] Rand also worked on the game's sequel, Riven, and later reprised his role as protagonist Atrus in Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, Myst V: End of Ages, realMyst, and Uru.[3] He also co-authored Myst novels The Book of Atrus, The Book of Ti'Ana, and The Book of D'ni.[4]  - Wikipedia

Which brings us to the question "What ever happened to Ryan Miller?" Did he retire to spend all the oodles of cash he made on the games and books? Is he off creating some new version of Xbox Killer with his brothers that gamers having been impatiently waiting for? For me, the fad passed and I moved on, but during all these many years of being offline Ryan actually has been pastoring a church in Seattle called Branches, and speaking about a Christian faith that is, rather than a faith that requires hoops to jump through, or boundaries to cross, and rivers to forge. A faith that sees God in the moment - and not in the minutia of creedal formulas and church dogmas. To simply be, and to find Jesus everywhere about. Let us join Peter Enns in his interview with Ryan Miller to find out what he means by all of this!

R.E. Slater
October 22, 2013

* * * * * * * * * * *

Christianity without formulas. imagine that.

When Pacifism Meets Reality: Examining Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Hitler-Dilemma"

Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer a Would-Be Assassin? (Review of a New Book)

N.T. Wright, "Paul and the Faithfulness of God" (Vol 4) - Jesus' Larger Story

At the Heart of the Apostle Paul: The Story
The main problem with Bultmann’s proposal, in addition to the muddling of different senses of ‘myth’, is that when he insisted that we should strip the early Christian world of its ‘mythology’ he meant not only that we should express the existential challenge of the gospel without its pre- Enlightenment scientific assumptions, but also that we should re- conceptualize the gospel in a non-narratival form, reducing it to the pure existential challenge of every moment, in which one is called to hear God’s word now rather than think in terms of the waste, sad time stretching before and after (457-8).
What Bultmann was to recode that message into a saving narrative characteristic of Protestant (Lutheran) theology, ramped up by 20th Century German existentialism as well. The impact, and this is characteristic of many forms of soterian thinking, is to de-Judaize the Bible (I’m using Wright’s use of de-Judaizing). For Wright, this whole New Perspective debate is all about whether or not someone embraces the Story of Israel into its theology or not. He observes the irony that Sanders erased that narrative and — this is well-known — colonized Paul into a soteriology. He sees the same in Dunn.. Wright then takes on those who deny narrative/story as a retelling in Paul and emphasize, in various ways, proposition or a more vertical theology (JC Beker, Watson, Barclay). With Wright stand Richard Hays and many others, including Morna Hooker. There has been a rather stubborn, if not productive, pushback against the importance of operating within, or explaining Paul within, a narrative framework. Wright’s discussion then ought at least to offer a response. For me it offers a counter to a tiring discussion. When Paul says his gospel is “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David … this is my gospel” then denial of a narrative plot fails at the start.
In fact, NT Wright argues for stories within the story, plots within the plot. The outer story is about God and Creation. God is creator, he made humans, they have a purpose, they thwart that purpose, there is a work to undo the thwarting, etc, Age to Come, etc… this redemptive work of God has already begun in the Present Age.
New Creation has invaded … all a hint to a large underlying story at work here for the entire cosmos. Death is the enemy and is and will be defeated. The evil forces — demons — are in need of conquering. So this story has a theme of judgment, and this judgment is connected to a coming Davidic king.
From pp. 484-5: So how does this ‘outer story’, this framing plot of creator and creation, function in relation to all the other things Paul is talking about in his letters? Is it just a loose, wide framework, so big, so unrelated to the detailed concerns of his churches, that for the most part it has little or no effect on what he actually says, on the line he takes, on what he urgently wants his congregations to reflect on and to embody? 
That might be said (for instance) about the Stoic belief in the great periodic Conflagration. The serious philosopher can see the connection in theory, and can live ‘in accordance with nature’ in the light of it. But for most of the time Stoic ethics, as we saw, has no need to look beyond the horizon of the particular human being and, perhaps, the particular polis. One may well be able to develop the classic virtues without being too concerned about, or even conscious of, living in a universe that may one day go up in smoke and then, phoenix-like, reappear and repeat the entire story. One can believe in that framing story without it having an immediate impact on day- to-day living.
But with Paul it is different. This framing story, though it appears only seldom, functions dynamically in relation to the other stories, precisely as an outer story in a Shakespearean plot might function in relation to the smaller stories that nest within it and are joined to it by all kinds of subtle threads. To explain this next move we need to go slowly and carefully. We must ask: what are Paul’s sub-plots, and how do they relate to the main, overarching plot itself? 
To make life easy as things get more complex, I shall now do what good storytellers would never do, and reveal in advance the shape of what is to come. The first sub-plot, I suggest, is the story of the human creatures through whom the creator intended to bring order to his world. Their failure, and the creator’s determination to put that failure right and so get the original plan back on track, demands a second sub-plot, which is the story of Israel as the people called to be the light of the world. This is the level of plot at which the Mosaic law plays out its various roles, like the complex but integrated roles given to the Moon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then, because of Israel’s own failure, we find the third and final sub-plot, which is the story of Jesus, Israel’s crucified and risen Messiah. His work, at the centre of Paul’s narrative world, resolves the other sub-plots, and provides a glimpse, as we have just seen, of the resolution for the main plot itself, the creator’s purpose for the whole cosmos. It is only when these various levels of plot are ignored, confused or conflated that problems arise. Allow each to do its proper job, and the Pauline story will work.
So there you have it: how the God and Creation plot shapes the whole of Paul’s story-telling and stories within the Story.
One plot is about the redemption of humans — purposed to reign for God in this world. They must be redeemed to reign, they must turn from their ruling on their own to rule for God. Here’s how it all fits together, from p. 489:
Thus the story of humankind falls, like the most obvious sub-plot in a play, within the larger plot, and cannot properly be understood (in Paul’s terms at least) independently from that larger narrative. The plot and the first sub-plot thus fit together as follows, explicitly in Romans 5—8 and 1 Corinthians 15 and, because these are so obviously central for Paul, by implication elsewhere as well: 
1. The creator’s intention was to bring fruitful order to the world through his image-bearing human creatures.
2. Humans fail to reflect God’s image into the world, and the world in consequence fails to attain its fruitful order; the result, instead, is corruption and decay. 
3. God intends to restore humankind to its proper place, resulting in the rescue and restoration of creation itself. 
So far, so good – though of course we have not yet explored the question of how the creator will accomplish Stage 3. This three-stage outline is not yet, in point of fact, a complete narrative, though it has the shape of one. There are many blanks still to be filled in. The passages we have already glanced at contain the clues, which we shall follow up presently.
What is so often neglected in what I call soterian approaches is that the story stops here and the whole thing gets reduced: we lose Abraham, Israel, Jesus as Messiah, and it all gets reduced to personal salvation, and here I’m rehearsing what Tom Wright is saying in this chapter. The story of Abraham is how God chose to reinstate humans in this world — Israel, then, is central to the Story. If Israel, so also David (that’s from me).
What happens if we ignore this narrative, and never enquire about its placement within Paul’s largest story, that of the creator and the cosmos? The answer is obvious, because a great many readers of Paul have done exactly that. First, it will then be assumed that Paul is talking, not about the plight of creation, but simply about the plight of humans. Second, it will be assumed that when he appears to speak of a ‘solution’ to this ‘plight’, this solution is basically something to do with Jesus and his death and resurrec- tion, seen in isolation. Insofar as Paul refers from time to time to Abraham, he is simply a ‘predecessor’, someone in the scriptures who had faith (or: the right sort of faith!). Instead, I propose, and shall now argue, that Paul’s entire theology gains enormously in coherence and impetus if we see that he affirmed, even though he radically redrew, the particular second-Temple Jewish narrative which we studied in chapter 2: the story of God’s people, of Abraham’s people, as the people through whom the creator was intending to rescue his creation. This makes sense of so many passages in Paul’s letters that it ought not to be open to doubt that Paul had this narrative in mind, and gave it substantially the same meaning it had within his native Judaism – except, of course, for the radical redescription to which he had come through the shocking and totally unexpected way in which the story had in fact reached its denouement. But to read the same story with new eyes as a result of its surprising ending is still to read the same story (495).
How so? Though the faithful Israelite, namely, the Messiah.
Wright explores how the Story of Israel fits into this Story … and it’s all about that singular divine intent to save the world through Israel, its failure to do just that and the expansion of Israel into the church … but in this section Tom finds a new expression that God has a “rescue operation [Christ] for the rescue operation [Israel].” Nice turn of phrase that will, I predict, become like “life after life after death.”
Enough for today. Come back Thursday for more.

Continue to Index -

Empty Spaces

Empty Spaces

I woke this morning to the empty spaces of a lingering, personal, numbness  much like a grey, misting fog stubbornly refuses to lift to an early rising dawn; finding myself groping for what thin, vanishing support remained within the disembodied promises of hope and healing I had heard all week long. I was feeling both a deep, personal loss, and that feeling of a general disorientation that was trying to make sense of everything that had come to pass.

For it was on Tuesday last that I stood over my father's dying body to embrace him long and hard, then begin gently cradling his feverish head between my hands to breath final words to ears that were no longer listening. Believing that touch was the only sense of connection left between a dying person with the land of the living, the body having become dissociated from the spoken words it was hearing so engrossed it was in its impending death. And as my dad laid within a borrowed hospital bed provided by our hospice group, I wetted his face, dabbing his temples with a wet cloth, then compressing drops of cold water into an open mouth that could no longer speak or swallow. Like so many of the previous months before, I felt helpless against dad's long illness and suffering grief. I could only pray the Lord's tender mercies upon a beloved father laboring under diminishing breaths and wordless whispers. As the day wore on dad fought valiantly to the end against a lingering illness that would keep its promise of certain death and final rest.

Six months earlier I had carried dad's broken, feverish, body into the hospital's emergency ward to revive him from a deep, aspirated pneumonia misunderstood and left undiagnosed. My previous visit two weeks earlier, and succeeding daily calls, never informed me of dad's declining health until receiving my mother's call for help on a careworn Thursday afternoon (I was to visit that weekend). Late into the evening the ER doctors worked to stabilize dad's shaking body, all the while asking the inevitable questions of whether the family wished to resuscitate him or not. Afterwards, each of the next eight days and nights revealed to the family how deeply serious dad's chronic condition had become, causing each of us to rethink final preparations for his care. And during this time, as dad laid within yet another hospital bed - this time in the hospital's intensive care ward - his words can still be heard ringing in my head, asking me, "Am I going to die?"

How does a son answer that? "No, you aren't going to die?" "Yes, you are going to die?" How does one respond when, with each passing day, we learn of the many new ways that my father's body was beginning to fail? All the while struggling to educate ourselves as a family how to care for dad's wasting disease known as Parkinson's. Our next steps were to place dad's recovery into a nursing facility's sub-acute unit where we could stall for time while preparing and educating ourselves how to successfully care for dad at home. If we were to honor dad's wishes to go home and die in a place he found comfort and peace, than we needed to somehow prepare for bringing him home without returning him to a nursing home to live out his final days. It was what he wanted,, and what the family would attempt to do, without any medical training behind us. It required teaching my mom, who would become dad's primary care giver, what to look for, and how to effectively help him when he needed it. In effect, at 81 years of age, mom would have to become dad's full-time nurse without previous training or experience. And it is to her credit that she did such an amazing job far beyond anyone's expectations.

We next had to figure out what outside agencies could assist us with the task of bringing (and successfully keeping) dad at home - along with a backup plan in case all failed and came crashing down upon us. After countless days of interviewing nursing homes and agencies over the next several weeks I finally came upon the helpful offices of the Veteran's Administration (VA) and quickly came upon a viable, long-term, solution that soon found me housed within the offices of Hospice of Michigan (HOM). There, under the consult of one of the organization's regional directors, I spoke of my dad's condition. And as I spoke, my confidant's soulful eyes glistened with tears listening to my concerns of medical ethics and personal guilt while asking questions of when is enough, enough, after seven long years and a failed double heart attack? When do you quit? At what point do you stop trying? Are finances sufficient reason? How do we avoid ignorance and ineptitude in dad's care? Questions I needed to ask as I looked down the road to dad's inevitable end. A disquieting end that troubled me as much as it inflicted him with its wasting pains and growing physical dilemmas.

During the next few days I prepared the nursing home staff, and then my family, for the fatal resolution of bringing dad home to die under the care of hospice (even as we entered into the care of the rehab unit, the floor doctor had spoken cautiously weeks earlier of dad's survivability beyond the next several weeks. And to have looked at his depleted condition in the face of his lingering pneumonia one would think the good doctor to be right). We next met with HOM and had the nursing staff meet with my parents and family for a final examination, consult, and patient exit. After eight long days of hospitalization, and another thirty days of rehab and recovery at the nursing home, we transferred dad home to begin preparing a mobile staff of nurses, aides, doctors, social workers, chaplains, medical devices, and equipment around him. Forty days had passed since dad had laid on death's door in my arms, and in the emergency ward, and now he was back home to prepare both himself, his spouse, friends and family, for a slow, wasting death which would come some nineteen weeks later - more than twice the length of time that I actually thought we really had, and none had confidently predicted.

During dad's remaining days we were able to fly in a nephew from South Korea who had recently been released from overseas duty and was coming home on furlough. At his visit hospice thought to honor both dad and grandson for their military service in Korea (it was appropriately timed and thoughtfully suggested as we would later find out). Before a grandson dressed in military blues, a former navy veteran to administer the honorarium, and a news reporter on hand to headline all of the proceedings, each were duly honored and awarded. To which proceedings dad dryly observed that while his grandson served in a clean, dry, warm, barracks far removed from the DMZ, he (at the tender age of 19) was stationed sixty-two years earlier near the Korean front lines in active combat with only a sandbagged hole in the ground for lodging. Above his head stretched a wet, snow-bound canvas that held within it a potbellied stove to stave off the long, cold, wintry months of the Arctic winds. More fortunate than most, dad became the company supply sergeant when the Army found he could type. His duties were to provide warm clothing, boots, blankets, food, armor, and bullets, to the front lines. Fifty years later, in 2003, he would meet some of his frontline buddies for the first time since those days of his youth at a military reunion held by his company's regiment in St. George, Utah. That was ten years ago against a dithering will as to whether he should go or not, but to then happily discover lost war-time friends when he did decide to go with mom. Those were happier times.

Over the ensuing weeks and months, mom and dad slowly allowed hospice to increase their personal services to the family, each thinking dad's days would last forever but finding in reality that his body was beginning to shut down, no longer able to withstand the chronic disease wasting away at dad's muscles and nerves. In dad's final weeks, we would learned just how desperate his end would become... at which point my greatest fears were beginning to haunt me as I witnessed my mother's emotional decline against a strong resolve to not succumb against the daily strain of keeping dad alive. Her mind was beginning to wander, and her unfailing stoutness was beginning to break, under the stresses of seeing her beloved husband becoming more and more diminished. With each new realization came mom's mounting irritability amidst a growing emotional tension within our close-knit family (most easily witnessed by every intrusive visit by son or daughter). At the last, I had hospice meet with the family to discuss dad's final, impending stage while attempting to prepare private-duty nursing for him - and especially for mom in great need of help. Nursing that I was to find out was generally "more in name than in function," when finding agency after agency that would take our money but not lift dad off the floor when he fell (which he did often). Their solution was to call 911. Nor would they help administer medication because of the liability (though a second set of eyes would make me feel better at the behest of mom's continued administration). Hence, the difficulties of making dad's death at home successful were beginning to mount up. Even so, there were a few agencies that would provide for dad's physical care and lifting, although it most generally would go under the name of "aide" of some kind, thus requiring two sorts of people at the house instead of one.

To help reduce some of the tension, and to get mom out of the house so her "batteries might recharge," I took both parents downtown to the city's art festival not long before dad died; my brother would bring dad outside to the wood pile to sit beside him in the sunshine while he split and stacked wood; and my sister would sit with dad while mom took a nap in her favorite swing on the porch; a grandson would stop by to help in the morning - and then my brother again in the evening - with dad's lifting and dressing; and family friends came by to cheer and to pray. By placing dad into hospice's care we found a tremendous resource of help even as we found a reasonable way to prepare everyone for dad's impending death. Though it seemed cruel to begin it so early, it actually began exactly when it should have. From the time when I took dad into emergency, until his death this past Tuesday evening, nearly six months had passed... far longer than I actually thought we had... and far shorter than anyone was actually prepared for.

Which brings me to Tuesday last as I embraced my father, placing my hands to either side of his feverish face, telling him my love for him and what a good dad and friend he had been to me, between gasps for air and fingers that could only squeeze in response. And as I placed my hand on his emaciated breast to pray for the Lord's merciful removal from this life, tears rolled down my face thinking of the grand memories dad and I had shared over so many long years. From working the fields together on the dairy farm as a kid, to hunting, camping, hiking, ball games, and the celebration of Christmas. Even as recently as a week ago my father had asked mother to bring up a few Christmas decorations so he could hear the Hallmark displays sing-and-play over-and-over again one last time. It was his favorite time of the year. Soon, dad fell back asleep under a medicated stupor and I left the room to watch a stream of people troop through the house knowing that he was passing against the prayers of many belatedly entering. I finally decided to leave as the hospice nurse began issuing her final instructions of care. My heart had become overwhelmed and I did to wish to stay for my father's final passing. My sister however, had elected to stay the night, along with a niece, an aunt (my dad's final remaining sister) and mom. As I left I wasn't sure I would see dad again but needed to leave for my soul's sake. And as I left I found myself driving over to my grandmother's childhood farm where dad's cousin resided with his wife and cried with them for a time. Both cousin and father had farmed together and had actively served as firemen together (95 years between the both of them). They knew each other well and I wanted to bring my relatives up-to-date because no one else had called them of late. We each hoped to yet see dad one last time the next day and made plans to meet at the house in the early morning. But that day never came as I steadied dad's cousin at the news of his death earlier that night, helping him into a receiving chair in the family home where he had come to pay final homage with his wife of many years.

On the night before, between great sobs on the phone, my niece had called me, then my sister, to tell of dad's passing. They had briefly left his bedside for a few minutes to get ready for their night shift when they noticed they no longer heard dad's desperate breaths for air. Rushing back they found dad gone. Departed his broken body and with the Lord above. In the space of five minutes dad died to the tears of all. And on a day once joyfully marked on our calendars as the opener for Pheasant season - for dad loved to bird hunt. And the date of October 15 was always marked in red when we would set off across the family farm to traipse through field and brush, rain and snow, mud and wet, with uncles and cousins, to closely watch our sporting dogs working the scrub ahead of us with their snuffling noses to the wet ground. It was upon this the glad day that dad died to go hunting for departed friends and families in the great beyond. A mere ten days before his 83rd birthday as his family sung to him around his bedside when last he awoke earlier in the evening the refrains of "Happy Birthday." And it was but a short week later (yesterday), that I would witness dad's burial under dirt and spade to lie with his son and parents.

And so it was that I would find myself before dad's open coffin on yesterday's pages reliving the rapidly escalating events of the week before as each day blurred into the next. Causing me to react by trying to live normally without feeling too much for fear of never recovering. But it was also on yesterday's autumn morning that I stood with mom receiving friends and family against an honor guard embracing my father's coffin ahead-and-before, locked in time-and-space, and changing out to the regular beat between city and county police, and fire services, as they honored dad as their own family over four long decades of faithful service. It was but brief moments earlier I had stood before dad myself to rest my hand one last time on his stilled breast breathing my goodbyes while I had the time alone before the church opened its wide, glassed doors. To find myself, shortly thereafter, embracing a fireman stepping off the city's fire truck sobbing in my arms in the parking lot, even as I did in his, as he relived his son's unfortunate death two years ago. This was not an uncommon experience over the past two days as mourners came one-after-another to express sympathy and perhaps painfully relive the deaths of lost loved ones yet bereaved. Even so, did my dad carry my brother's untimely death to his grave, in sorrow and in grief. And thus do we bear one another's sorrows. For if we do not, who will?

Soon, family and relatives were somberly ushered to the front of the church. Accolades and sermons were made-and-given. Mindful songs were stirringly sung a cappella, and by weeping grandchildren in disquieted testimony. And all concluded before a lengthy military procession past dad's flag-draped coffin. Away in the distance could be heard the dying echoes of a soulful refrain of taps played on silver'd bugle from somewhere outside. And beneath its hallowed reverence  came the reverberation of a 21-gun salute fired before a flag flown at half-mast. And all the while soldier-after-soldier presented long, slow salutes of personal respect and military reverence by an honor guard at my father's military service to his country when but a boy taken from the farm to become a man overnight. A carefully folded flag was next placed into my mother's arms with the spent casings from the volleys in respectful tones of farewell and goodbye. Then under the escort of my father's steel-gray casket, we, his pall bearers, rolled dad out to the awaiting hearse to witness one of my final, lasting images. That of dad being driven away, out-of-sight, clutched between patrol cars and firetruck, to be laid to rest in one of the city's oldest cemeteries. Many with street names for last names. And many of which I too often had buried with my dad in childhood's youth.

There, today, this morning, and last night, lies my father with his wept parents and beloved son. Quietly at peace with his Lord and Savior. "Hail, my dear father, and goodbye. Now rest to await that further day when all will be resurrected to a new body without sickness and death in its bones. Without want or need except for relationship with the dead and living soon to come. And soon to pass. Fair morning has arisen with its exhaustion of tears, its want of lament, and last rays of autumnal sunshine. Worn out, disoriented, we must fumble forward even as you had, searching for the wise use of our remaining days. Seeking the help and goodwill of friends and family. Providing service where needed and prayer for all. Vade in pace."

R.E. Slater
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Deputy Chief of Police, Russ Slater, age 82