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#1136 – Dick Bernard: The Man in the Background: Father’s Day 2016

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

I continue to go through hundreds of photos left as part of the legacy of the North Dakota farm. Recently I was looking at this one:

(click to enlarge)

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

The initial focus was the women in the group photo. I didn’t know any of them, and I’ve sent them to a ND friend lifelong in that area to perhaps identify one or two or more of them.

But my interest turned to the guy in the background, who seems to be holding a stick, doing something.

On initial glance it looks like a stick, maybe a baseball bat. On the other hand, it may well be a croquet mallet for a lawn game popular back then. The stick may look a little fatter than in should because it is a bit blurred. If you click a second time over the man, you can almost see the croquet ball to the right, to his front….

Almost certainly the camera had caught a Sunday outing at the Memorial Park – the folks were all dressed up, as if after Church. Also, almost certainly, the women and men were farmers or engaged in agriculture in some way. Most were likely Moms or Dads, and Sunday was a day of rest.

If I’m right – that it is croquet I’m seeing. Not far away some more men were throwing “horseshoes” – real ones. And off to the left was the baseball diamond, where the town team was playing some out of town bunch, and there were kids, and people fishing, and visiting, and picnics and this and that.

As was (and is) most often the case, the old photos is not labeled as to year or people. It didn’t occur to anybody that somebody, 60 or more years later, would care who or what….

As I say, this was a farm photo, and there were hundreds of them, and I’m still going through them, and they won’t be thrown away.

Most were taken by a couple of versions of old box cameras, thence as time goes on, assorted new fangled cameras replaced them. Everytime we came to visit, Grandpa would gather us on the lawn for the traditional picture before we left for home. This was a Grandma deal as well, and their children followed suit.

The picture exists because somebody felt it important to not only record the moment, but to keep it for posterity.

The picture itself is just another moment in the life of some people out in North Dakota, among many moments in many days in many lives, filled with good times and not-so-good, crops, relationships, tragedies, children, whatever.

As we all know, some days are better than others….

Today at Basilica of St. Mary, Fr. Bauer asked all the men to stand up, and recognized every male there for whatever role they play in others lives. It was a nice touch, typical.

While this is a specific Father’s Day, yet another tradition in our society, all of us, regardless of gender, play a part in making our world a better place.

We are all fathers and mothers.

Have a great day.

#1134 – Dick Bernard: Grandpa Bernard’s Can of Pebbles

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Now and again in our growing up years we made it up to Grafton ND to visit Grandma and Grandpa* Bernard, who lived in a tiny house at 738 Cooper Avenue.

Grandpa, 68 when I was born, and 85 when he died, was a most interesting character, starting life in Quebec on a farm, then an asbestos miner at Thetford Mines QC, thence a lumberjack, a carpenter, and finally chief engineer of the Flour Mill in Grafton (he came from a line of probably hundreds of years of millers in France and thence in Quebec. His brother, Joe, was chief miller in Grafton.)

This particular day, Grandpa was sitting on his accustomed perch on the front stoop, basically exactly as shown in the old photo:

(click to enlarge photos)

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

I don’t recall Grandma being there, but we kids were, and at some point Grandpa looked over his shoulder and saw a dog trotting down the sidewalk.

“See that dog?”, he said. Then he picked up his homemade slingshot, and fished a pebble out of the nearby can and made sure the dog saw it.

No word (nor bark) was spoken.

The dog kept coming till some invisible “do not cross” line; at that point, making a hard right, trotting across the street; hard left past Grandpa; and on about whatever business the dog was about that sunny day.

Grandpa loved dogs, best I know, but there was a time and a place for everything, and apparently this neighbor had to be reminded, now and again, of the rules of the road at Grandpa’s house.

The parties understood the rules….

There are endless Grandpa (and Grandma) lessons conveyed to us, as we all know, once past a certain age. Things we just soak up, without realizing it at the time.

Not all the stories were conveyed directly, or even intentionally. For instance, across the alley from the tiny house was the Walsh county yard where things like snowplows and other public machines were kept. And down the street was the Courthouse, and the local Jail….

And there was the annual event at the Courthouse where the last remaining veterans of the Spanish-American War had an annual remembrance of their fallen comrades. It was always impressive and Grandpa was always in it.

There was something else about Grandpa, which you can see in the picture.

He had one leg.

The other he had lost to diabetes in 1946. Since he was a veteran, that leg was amputated at the VA Hospital, in Fargo; as was the second, at the time he died in 1957.

He used to entertain we kids with the stub of the missing leg.

Over time, I’ve come to learn that he lived to entertain us because a government agency, the VA, had saved his life; and Social Security, enacted about the time he turned 65, was what they had for retirement. His source of livelihood, the Flour Mill, had gone out of business on short notice right before the stock market crash in 1929; and at almost exactly the same time, the bank with nearly all their savings, went under due to fraud.

Overnite they went from regular middle class to dependent on others. It was the year Dad graduated from high school, and, of course, his plans on going to the University of North Dakota were dashed.

Of course, if there’s a grandpa, there’s a grandma.

Just yesterday I came across an old photo of my other grandmother, Rosa (Berning) Busch, with the Ladies Aid of Berlin North Dakota in September, 1946 (See below). Grandma is the lady kneeling in the front row at the center of the photo.

There are lots and lots of Grandma stories, as well as Mrs. Busch stories, even to this day.

No extra stories to be conveyed here, but an encouragement to remember your own, about those who came before you.

And to emphasize what is no longer often seen as obvious: we like to think we are, as individuals, in charge of our own universe.

What our ancestors knew, imperfectly, was that we all do better when we all do better.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946.  Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946. Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

* There exists, to my knowledge, a single film clip recording Grandpa Bernard and others “sidewalk superintending” in Grafton ND in 1949, when a crew was paving the Main Street. His moment of fame come at four minutes 15 second mark. You can view it here.

Of course, we all have two sets of grandparents, whether we got to know them or not. And there are all manner of other relationships which would take a long writing to describe in any detail…for each of us in our own lives.

In my own case, Grandpa Bernard died almost exactly on my 17th birthday, in 1957; Grandma Bernard died near my 23rd birthday, in 1963; Grandpa Busch died in 1967, less than two weeks after their 62nd wedding anniversary, coming up the stairs from the basement with some eggs for breakfast; Grandma Busch died in early August, 1972, at 88. Lore has it that she lingered on long enough so that her youngest son, my uncle Art, could make it from Chicago. He did, and she died very soon thereafter.

#1129 – Dick Bernard: In Praise of Exasperating People. A Thought for Mother’s Day.

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Last Sunday I had the honor of saying a few words at the celebration of the life of a friend who I’d known the last seven years of his near 95 years; and later that day more words at a now-annual dinner that wouldn’t exist were it not for him.

(More details on both can be found at A Million Copies, click on Lynn Elling, and, there, click on “celebration” in first paragraph at the top of the page.)

The real problem: how does one condense this guys life as a peacemaker into a few words?

I had four minutes.

At coffee over many days I made a list of experiences I had had with Lynn over the seven years. It became a very long list.

I finally zeroed in on a single vignette from another Memorial service I had attended in Comfrey MN at his request June 23, 2009. And within that visit, a single recollection from the piece of paper he asked me to read at that Memorial about the LST he and his friend, Melvin, had served on for two years in the Pacific in WWII. That summarized Lynn’s life for me.

(LST? Officially, that’s a “Landing Ship Tank”.

In his words, on his piece of paper from which I read, “LST” was a “Large Slow Target”. LST crew would understand…. Somebody in that congregation that day, a man, laughed out loud. He knew….)

As I prepared my list about Lynn, it dawned on me that Lynn was not alone as a positive example in my life.

I began another list, this one of people I’d known at many other points in my life who were in one way or another, like Lynn.

Then I decided to use part of those four minutes to talk about Lynn, the “exasperating” individual. He could be, I said, the kind of individual you saw coming, and ducked across the street to avoid. You knew that he wanted to tell his story, and that the pitch would include something he wanted you to do.

Some folks in the pews chuckled. They understood.

They were there because they knew Lynn.

I mentioned my new list of exasperating people, (the last entry was #27 – there are 14 men, 13 women.) They came from all points in my life. The list could be much longer.

That list is a keeper. You’d be honored if you were on that list!

From that list, last Sunday, I mentioned only Geography Prof. George Kennedy, who, back in about 1960, got very angry at me, calling me “lazy”, and that was for starters.

Well, that is exactly what I was: Lazy.

He knew I had talents I wasn’t using. I never forgot what Prof. Kennedy said, and how he said it. It was very pointed and very personal, and it changed my life.

Too bad I couldn’t tell him that he made a difference for me while he was still alive.

Exasperating people can be very irritating and annoying. That’s what the word means.

But if you take a moment, you can learn something about what you learned from them, about yourself.

Hopefully, I sometimes fill that role, of being “exasperating” to somebody else.

Exasperating. Remember that word…. At times, I fit that word. You?

Happy Mother’s Day May 8, to Mom’s (and all others who in one way or another have filled that oft-times exasperating role).

#1124 – Dick Bernard: Prince, and Harriet Tubman, Deserving Their Honors.

Friday, April 22nd, 2016
First Avenue, downtown Minneapolis MN, 11 a.m. Sunday April 24, 2016.  It's been a rainy morning in the Twin Cities.

First Avenue, downtown Minneapolis MN, 11 a.m. Sunday April 24, 2016. It’s been a rainy morning in the Twin Cities.

POSTNOTE: April 24, 8 a.m.: This morning a feed from the Washington Post brought this link, of ZZ Topp’s Billy Gibbons on Prince. I found it fascinating, with links to Prince playing.

Yesterday [April 21] I was in the hallway at an elementary school, and a teacher in the student lunchroom held up his cell phone, pointed our way, and said “Prince died”. My daughter, who was with me at the time, looked at her own cell phone and said that the musician, Prince, had just died.

It was one of those moments one doesn’t soon forget. We all have had them.

Prince’s wasn’t my music, but his was an impressive presence in this, his lifelong home state. This mornings Minneapolis Star Tribune devoted the entire front page, and five additional full pages to his “Purple Majesty”. If there is any major league Prince fan out there, make an offer for the front section (even if the offer is only, “I’d like to have it….”)

My only real memory of Prince is seeing Purple Rain in a Duluth movie theatre in 1984, the year it came out. I remember that I liked it.

Prince apparently was 25 when he made the film. It is probably destined to be a blockbuster this time around. Twin Cities area screenings can be viewed here.

On occasion, I’d be in the neighborhood of First Avenue, the club made famous by Prince, which in my day was a somewhat shabby nondescript building across the street from the Greyhound Bus Depot in downtown Minneapolis. Now it’s an iconic place, and the tourist traffic will increase, for sure.

That’s all I really know about Prince.

Other news outlets can fill in the blanks about Prince, who without doubt was a genius with music. I won’t even try. But he seems to have made his mark in the world of music. And he seems to have been a decent guy to boot. Not bad for a life, even if only 57 when it ended.

Then there’s Harriet Tubman.

The front page of yesterday’s Star Tribune headlined “Tubman to make history again in U.S. currency first.”

Ms Tubman was quite a woman who, thankfully, really never did know her “place” back in the day, and lived to tell about it.

I saw a post about Harriet Tubman yesterday which is perhaps a bit off the beaten path for most folks, which I found most interesting. You can read it here. The headline says it well: “Top Seven Ways Harriet Tubman Is The Most Badass Spy Warrior Ever To Be On U.S. Currency….

Who’d ever thought it possible?

All of us owe a great debt to people like Harriet Tubman who took a stand for justice at great personal risk.

from Jeff:
On behalf of our daughter, Emily, we went to Paisley Park yesterday. She wasn’t a big fan, but
I think wanted to be part of the larger group honoring him (I would not have gone myself )

I liked Prince’s music. He really was a genius and a musical prodigy. At one time I thought he was full of affectation, that it was a bit of narcissistic celebrity worship that surrounded him and his persona (or various personas).

But in listening to “Purple Rain”… it’s a rock ballad, that blends the soul of R+B with the electric rock and roll of the 1970’s. Much like he was a child of the 70’s and his father a jazz musician and his mother a vocalist in her spare time.

At Paisley park you see Caucasians and African-Americans mingling in respect. His music and his personality actually transcended race, and at this moment in America, we need more of that.

from John (my brother): Interesting personal connection factoid about Prince – a couple of decades ago, he appeared on one of the early MTV Music Video Awards TV shows. Believe it or not, one of his back up dancers at that point was your niece and, our daughter Christi.

Alas, she used up her 15 minutes of fame in about a 10 second segment – which, due to the technological limitations of the time, we recorded on VHS tape, played several times, and then somehow lost it in the dustbin of history.

#1121 – Dick Bernard: Judy, a Homemaker goes home.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Monday I was completing a project, and noted to my colleague that I was about to go to a funeral. “I am sorry that you will be at a funeral; my condolences”, came the reply, to which I replied “I’m at the age where these are increasingly common events…life goes on….”

It was not a flip statement, simply a statement of fact. As you get older, you become more aware of death, pending and actual.

Judy had died on April 5, the details unimportant. She was a many years long friend of my wife, and she and Bud had been married for 53 years, best I could tell, a great marriage. They had met when she was a car-hop at the Dariette in east side St. Paul, and he was a young biker (who later in life earned many patents at part of a work team for a large corporation).

I sent Bud the condolence card I always send when someone dies. I took it in November 1999 along I-94 east of Valley City ND. It’s story always, to me, has been the radiance of the life just ended, and the family tree left behind. Nothing fancy.

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ND Sunset east of Valley City on I-94 Nov. 99

ND Sunset east of Valley City on I-94 Nov. 99

Every end-of-life commemmoration differs.

Judy’s was marked by simplicity. This mother of four, grandmother of eight, and great-grandmother of one was recognized this way in the program: “Judy loved music. She could play the accordion, the organ, and all sorts of percussion instruments. She sang in her high school choir and church choirs her entire life. Judy was a drum majorette in high school and also played in the St. Paul Police Band for five years where she played community concerts and marched in parades. She loved to dance and could never resist a Polka!

Judy was full of energy, loved being outside, going on walks, planting vegetables and flowers, weeding the garden, raking, picking up sticks, and even re-stacking the wood pile. If there was something that needed to be done, she would jump up and do it.”

They didn’t mention her homemade pies. Well, there is only so much space in a program. The Priest who presided at the funeral and who had visited her during her final illness, choked up, visibly emotional, during the service. This is something I rarely see. She had that kind of impact on a person.

Bud had been especially thankful for the card and note (photo above) in which I commented on the personal meaning that the sunset and the tree had for me.

Perhaps there was a reason Bud was particularly moved.

At the end of the program were the lyrics of “Beyond the Sunset (A favorite song of Judy’s)”. You can listen to a version of it here.

(Click to enlarge)
Beyond the Sunset002

Farewell, Judy.

Fare thee well, Bud, and family.

#1118 – Dick Bernard: A Thought at Easter. Le Don du Sourire (The Gift of a Smile)

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Recently I have been reviewing the index of 22 years, 1980-2002, of the newsletters Chez Nous and Nouvelles Villes Jumelles. These 145 “kitchen table” publications were for those of French-Canadian and French heritage, and affection, primarily in the upper midwest of the United States.

In the midst of the project, at page 651, I found the below, submitted by Stephanie Wolkin in summer, 1996, and reprinted in the Septembre-Octobre, 1996, issue of Chez Nous:

(click on image to enlarge)

from Chez Nous, Septembre-Octobre, 1996, page two.

from Chez Nous, Septembre-Octobre, 1996, page two.

(Here is the same thought in printable pdf form: The Gift of a Smile002)


(For those curious about the other near-1000 pages of Chez Nous and Nouvelles Villes Jumelles: go here, click Library tab, click Chez Nous, click second link and note first paragraph.)

These were, remember, “kitchen table” newsletters, put together by a succession of volunteers over 22 years. For the last 16 years, I edited or co-edited Chez Nous.

These modest publication were, in aggregate, a chronicle of hundreds of years of relationships between the French and North America, as conveyed by ordinary people through their own stories….

Have a very good Easter, wherever you may be.

#1108 – Dick Bernard: A Leaf Flutters to Earth

Sunday, February 28th, 2016
Hymn at 9:30 Mass Basilica of St. Mary, February 28, 2016

Hymn at 9:30 Mass Basilica of St. Mary, February 28, 2016

My friend, Wayne Wittman, won’t be at his Minnesota Precinct Caucus on Tuesday, March 1.

My guess is he’d never miss his Precinct Caucus. He was always an activist.

From his obituary: “Wayne lived every day of his 86 years to the fullest. He had a long, satisfying career, a family he deeply loved (who loved him equally). He had zillions of friends. He died with his boots on, doing what he loved. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wayne was the definition of success: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

As the story came across the internet: Wednesday night, Feb. 24, Wayne “had a heart attack while riding the MTC [Metropolitan Transit] bus home from a union gathering. He was rushed to the hospital but never regained consciousness.

The next day I was at another meeting and colleague Karla was shocked to hear the news. I gathered that she had been at the same meeting as Wayne, which apparently was a phone bank urging support for a particular candidate for President at our caucuses on March 1.

So is how it goes. Below is the last photo I have of Wayne, which I took two weeks ago in St. Paul.

Here is his obituary. And here is his personal autobiography, written some while ago: Wayne Wittman Pers Hist001.

(click to enlarge)

Wayne Wittman Feb 12, 2016

Wayne Wittman Feb 12, 2016

“A Leaf Flutters to Earth”?

Wayne Wittman was a common guy, like all of us.

We humans are all like leaves on a tree, and there are many trees, many varieties, in many environments, everywhere.

Just like human beings.

Wayne’s life of contributing to his family, very broadly defined, ended abruptly as he sat on a bus heading home from being of service to others. I’d guess that he’s happy that his death didn’t disrupt too many others lives. It would probably be the way he’d like to depart this earth for eternity…going home.

I know from knowing him, his particular “leaf” on life’s tree was a very productive one. (That’s why the song which heads this post came to mind when I heard it sung in Church this morning. (click to enlarge the text) A version can be heard here.)

Wherever people are in the world there are trees, and leaves.

All of us are connected.

Wayne won’t make his Precinct Caucus on Tuesday, March 1.

I’m sure he would tell us all: get involved in politics. “Politics” is each of us, at every level.

If you’re in Minnesota, and don’t know where your Minnesota caucus is: click here.

Trees, Woodbury MN, October 14, 2015

Trees, Woodbury MN, October 14, 2015

(looking for Wayne’s leaf? It’s the golden one that just fluttered down to earth….)

Here’s the Memorial Card for Wayne Wittman: Wayne Wittman Mem Card001

More about Veterans for Peace (to which, Wayne Wittman recruited me a dozen years ago, and of which I’m still a member) here.

#1107 – Dick Bernard: A Beachhead at Tarawa: A Farewell to Lynn Elling, a Man of Peace

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

My friend Lynn Elling died early today, Valentine’s Day, 2016.

Lynn was four days short of age 95. His daughter, Sandy, said “I think he may have planned to head up to Heaven on Valentines Day to be with his life long sweetheart, my mom, so it is quite fitting.”

Lots of words will be said and written about this businessman who spent most of his adult life as a warrior for peace. I understand there will be an obituary within the next week; and a Memorial Service is planned for May 1, 3 p.m. at First Universalist Church, 3400 Dupont Ave S, Minneapolis MN.

There will be lots of time for “Lynn-stories”.

Lynn was no wallflower.

It was my privilege to know him for almost nine years, but I have to admit periods of Lynn-fatigue. Lynn was relentless. Nonetheless, Lynn walked the talk for peace for almost all of his adult life. He had some incredible accomplishments, including the flying of the United Nations flag over Hennepin County Plaza from 1968-2012; and Man’s Next Giant Leap, a film he produced in 1971, which featured John Denver singing “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream”.

Everyone who ever spent a half hour in Lynn’s presence knew his experience with war began as a young Naval officer whose LST (Landing Ship, Tank) came to Tarawa Beachhead in the period immediately following that horrific battle with loss of thousands of lives near the end of 1943.

Lynn Elling on USS LST 172 in the Pacific, 1944

Lynn Elling on USS LST 172 in the Pacific, 1944

I heard the Tarawa story from Lynn numerous times.

Dec. 21, 2015, completely by surprise, I came upon a monument in the town of Waimea (Kamuela) Hawaii on the Big Island, which brought the story of Tarawa more to life. Here is a photograph of the monument at Waimea, which tells part of the story.

(click to enlarge)

Tarawa Monument, Waimea HI Dec. 21, 2016

Tarawa Monument, Waimea HI Dec. 21, 2016

Not long before he died, January 18, 2016, I stopped in to visit Lynn at the Nursing Home. He was about to be discharged to return to his home in south Minneapolis, and he looked and sounded better than he had in months. We talked about Tarawa; I gave him the photos of the memorial at Waimea, and I took the below photo of him.

Lynn Elling, January 18, 2016

Lynn Elling, January 18, 2016

Sadly, Lynn’s return home lasted all of three days, thence began the end of his life’s procession.

Now he’s gone, but his work and his example of working with others for peace and justice live on.

Bon voyage, Lynn.

Lynn (at right) at what turned out to be his final Friday night gathering at Gandhi Mahal restaurant.  The next day he went into the hospital, and except for three days in January, 2016, never returned home.

Lynn (at right) at what turned out to be his final Friday night gathering at Gandhi Mahal restaurant. The next day he went into the hospital, and except for three days in January, 2016, never returned home.

More about Lynn Elling and his history and accomplishments here. (The link to the 1971 film is broken at this site, but is the same film linked above.)

There is also a one hour video interview with Lynn Elling from May, 2014, which can be provided on request to dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

#1097 – Dick Bernard: A Reflective Time

Saturday, January 16th, 2016
Hawaii roadside Dec 15001

Roadside monument to someone, probably a young person, who died near Kawaihae HI Dec. 2015

A few days ago a few folks in California, Tennessee and Florida won the largest lottery in history.  Judging from the news, there was, even knowing the chances of winning were near zero, the thrill of the dream of riches with almost no effort!

The day after the drawing, I had my date with the Internist (annual physical) and Eye Doctor (annual checkup).

A few days before, at coffee after church, my fellow usher friend, call him John, and his wife, Mary, were sitting with me.  Mary not too long ago was a fellow usher with us.  This particular day her Alzheimers took over.  She was uncommunicative, and abruptly walked away.  John knew the drill.  He caught up with her, and they left.

There were no departing words, there didn’t have to be….  Theirs is a very long and loving marriage with several grown children, and such is the lot of their lives at this moment in time.  He has retired from his job, because she needs his full-time care.

And so it is.

The day after the checkups, I attended a very large funeral for a colleague from many years ago.  I didn’t know Bob well, but in our mutual context from about 1972-75, he was a stellar person, a dependable and valued colleague.  The attendance at the funeral was not surprising. He spent his time “on the court” of life.

He had died suddenly, shoveling snow.  He was 77.

Arriving home, my wife told me that the elderly lady across the street, the always pleasant person who I saw just weeks ago walking with her dog to pick up the mail, had just died; there were no details.  Last time I saw her ,she was her usual pleasant self, about to head for some time in Florida with her daughter and son-in-law.

This morning, giving blood, the attending nurse who I’ve become friends with, allowed that five people from her high school class have died in recent years, all from cancer.  She’s probably 25 years younger than me, and while her class was a large one, still….

Both the Internist and the Eye Doctor had a minimum of serious looks as they checked me over this year.

I even passed the memory test given by the pleasant nurse before hand.  So for me it was a good day.  Hopefully, the next visit with both of them is a year from now.

I could extend the above list considerably, of course.  For all of us, life happens.

There is an “end of the road”, in temporal terms, and the more miles our vehicle has traveled, and the rougher the road, the closer the destination is.

Thankfully we’re mostly spared that memo which specifies the day, hour and cause of death.

We all just know that we are somewhere along the route.

One thing I’m sure of: if we’re fortunate to have medical insurance, especially medicare for the elderly, we can almost be assured of a longer and better quality of life than those who preceded us.

The practice of medicine (emphasis on “practice”), with all its abundant and well publicized problems, is in the greatest part full of caring professionals who do their best.

That dreaded memory test is useful to help notice a symptom.  Mary’s ailment probably could not be prevented, but it is helpful for her husband to know earlier, and be prepared.

In the end, I’m reminded of the long ago words of the wise pastor at the same Church I attended the funeral on Friday.

Perhaps 40 years ago, a teacher I knew, Myron Way, died in a car accident enroute to a national conference, perhaps Boys Nation.  He was probably in his 40s, then.

Pastor Hyllengren said, and I’ve always remembered this: “Myron lived before he died; and he died before he was finished.”  “Too many of us”, the pastor continued, “die before we’ve even lived”.  His reference seemed to be a passive approach to life itself: we don’t live, and then we die.  We wait to win the lottery, in vain.

Bob lived….

I’m not sure I remember Pastor Hyllengren as he intended; but he’s not around to challenge my interpretation.

Let’s make every day, a day we win the lottery, just by showing up.

POSTNOTE from Kathy: Thanks for writing your thoughts and sharing. “Be faithful to the day” a 102 year old nun told me…her mantra for life.

#1094 – Dick Bernard: A Homily to begin a New Year

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

See also Jan 11 and Jan 20, 2016
My Christmas message here, Dec. 17, 2015.


We just returned from nineteen days in Hawaii, most of which time was a wonderful visit with my cousin, Georgine, and her circle, as well as the use of her home on the Big Island of Hawaii.


Only one previous time, in 1985, did I visit Hawaii. Certainly I’m no expert on our 50th state. Still, there are many learnings, simply from observing. In later posts, I’ll share more observations about the Hawaii I saw the past 19 days. This initial post focuses on events part of three of those days.

We are home bodies. Christmas and New Years this year was far away from home. One becomes aware of customs and traditions, similarities and differences, inclusion and, yes, exclusion.

December 23 was not a particularly good day, and in mid-afternoon in a McDonalds restaurant in a Kailua-Kona Walmart, I had the good fortune of passing about an hour of time listening to a concert of community elders sitting across from me (picture below, click to enlarge). They were simply folks, singing in English, and in Hawaiian, tunes familiar, and unfamiliar. At most, there were about nine in number. It was a very pleasant time, and they seemed pleased there was an audience.

Singers in McD's in Kailua-Kona Hawaii, Dec. 23, 2015

Singers in McD’s in Kailua-Kona Hawaii, Dec. 23, 2015

Earlier, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Dec. 20 edition featured an essay by Minnesota home-boy Garrison Keillor on Christmas. Neat: GK Honolulu Star-Adv001.

But the high-lite for me was the Christmas Day homily of Fr. Stephen at Annunciation Church in Waimea (called Kamuela by the post office, as there are six Waimea’s in the islands.)

One doesn’t have to be Catholic or even Christian to know the basics of the Christmas story: Jesus was conceived and born, and on goes the story.

I happened to be sitting in a pew directly in front of a doll, the infant Jesus, which, ironically, was directly in my sight-line to the crucifix on the wall behind the altar.

Fr. Stephen had a very simple Christmas message which I interpreted like this: Jesus was born, and then he died, and then he was resurrected…the basic elements of the story we all know.

But in a most gentle way this teacher seemed to nudge my thinking in a new way. Surely, Jesus went away, leaving his disciples behind, those folks who had become dependent on him doing miracles and such. There they were, stuck with continuing the hard work Jesus had begun.

In a sense, perhaps, we were being reminded by our homilist that we need to learn that we are the ones who “must be”, as Gandhi so famously said, “the change we wish to see in the world”. We cannot delegate our responsibility to someone else. At least that is how I heard the message.

I started to see the Christmas message a bit differently than I had always seen it. If those apostles of Jesus were a bit slow on the uptake, so long as he was on the scene, so are we, and its best that we nudge ourselves off of our sense of hopelessness or dependence on whatever it is that holds us back, and get to work, actively, in our own spaces and places to make our community, our world, a better place for everyone. It’s not enough to blame the President, or the Republicans, or whomever. We are, each of us, responsible….

With our involvement the world can indeed become a better place.

At the end of Mass December 25, the excellent community choir sang the Hawaiian Christmas song – you’ve all heard it: here’s Bing Crosby’s rendition.

Mahalo, everyone at Annunciation in Waimea, Big Island, Hawaii.

Fr. Macedo, Dec 25, 2015

Fr. Macedo, Dec 25, 2015

Annunciation Choir 12 25 2015

Annunciation Choir 12 25 2015

A PS: A couple of days later I was back in the same Church, again listening to the same choir, and the same pastor. It was Holy Family Sunday. The message this time was about the tough time this Biblical family had for some years after Jesus was born. As Christians know, Herod was not especially happy at this new child. The family was not welcome. They became “Illegal Immigrants” for a considerable time

After church, myself, this stranger, this short term “migrant” in Waimea, was welcomed to participate in the after Mass hospitality.

Migrants are not a pleasant topic these days.

Back home, going through mountains of mail was a Refugee Facts001. Might be a good fact sheet to look at as this New Year begins.