How many more years do I have?

I was just sitting here at my desk wondering how many more years I’ll be blessed with to rise early in the morning, put my self through the paces of early-morning exercises, earnestly meditate on the things of my life, quietly expressing thanks to my Creator, and to feel at peace. Yes, I’m feeling at peace. Even though there are conflicts occurring all around my beloved globe, I feel at peace at this very moment. It’s quiet. It’s so quiet, I can even hear the overpowering sound of one of my ailments, tinnitus. This ringing in my ear that’s a constant, that I mostly don’t notice until I have a moment of silence. One might say I’m even blessed to be alive to hear this bothersome ringing. I’m not so sure that’s my sentiment.

I remember twenty-two years ago; I asked that same question: How many more years do I have? Life has answered that question for me. I’ve been given ample time to make more dumb mistakes, correct them in many cases and to move onto a future absent of past mistakes; however, there are always new ones waiting in the wings from which to learn. I’ve tried my best at living in the present, but less be honest, don’t we all go to bed at night thinking about what the dawn will bring?

Even tough I do think about the futures of my grandkids and great grandkids, what their experiences in school will be like, what their rights of passage will present them when doorways are opened, I don’t worry myself into a clinical state. I’m convinced they will have similar opportunities to make dumb mistakes, and hopefully to correct them also. Life has a habit of serving up the same stuff repeatedly, with different technologies of course. We may have computers, cellular phones, jet planes and the like, but all these wonders are there to help us indulge in the same human experiences (love, hate, greed, envy, politics…) that have occupied our days since time immemorial.

Yeah, I would like to have a few more years, without dementia, and physical frailties. Of course, I know I can’t order them up the way I would want them. For now, I’ll keep rising early in the morning, exercising, meditating, and enjoying the peace granted me by my Creator. That sounds like a winner, don’t you think so?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Fifteen minutes of fame delayed

Technological development moves at a rapid pace. I bought an iPhone eleven twenty-one months ago. The iPhone fourteen is out now and people are going bat crazy over it. My cell phone service has been emailing me incessantly over the last three months, trying to get me to purchase the new iPhone. Their pitch is to pay off the balance I yet owe on the phone I have so that I might be sitting pretty like countless others, enjoying the latest in communication technology. People are aware of new communications technology, and they want to be right there amidst it. To the contrary, society’s consciousness about social issues doesn’t develop at a pace necessary to keep instep with needed justice and equal treatment of all.

Recently, my Sunday newspaper contained an article about James Meredith, an African American who bravely enrolled in the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 1962. Meredith, as did several African Americans, of all ages, stepped from a social frying pan into an inferno when they bravely crossed the thresholds of all-white educational institutions in the South during the 1950s and 60s. His act resulted in violence from Ole Miss students, members of the local community and folks from outside of the State of Mississippi. Five hundred federal law enforcement agents were required to protect the life of Meredith and to attempt to keep the peace. On Thursday, September 29, the University of Mississippi recognized Meredith for what he did sixty years ago. There were accolades showered upon him for his bravery in doing something that should have been the right of every American citizen to do, enroll in a public educational institution. The retired assistant provost at Ole Miss, Donald Cole said of Meredith, “He came and revolutionized our thinking. He came to open our closed society.” At age eighty-nine Meredith finally got his much deserved fifteen minutes of fame.

Following the article about James Meredith, my newspaper contained another article about delayed recognition. The article was announcing the death of the Native American activist and actor Sacheen Littlefeather. In 1973, Sacheen, made a speech on behalf of the actor Marlon Brando of Godfather fame. Brando had declined to appear at the Academy awards to accept his award for best actor in the Godfather movie. While on stage, Littlefeather spoke about the mistreatment and misrepresentation of Native Americans in the entertainment industry. Her comments were met with some applause and much booing. According to her, in an interview she sat through later, John Wayne was so moved with anger, security personnel had to restrain him from physically attacking her. As a result of Sacheen’s speech, her acting career was torpedoed before it gained momentum. It is strangely ironic that two weeks before Sacheen’s death the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences offered a long overdue public apology to Sacheen for the treatment she received nearly fifty years ago when she made her speech at the awards ceremony.

The list of forward-thinking individuals who brought socially redeeming thoughts to the table years before those thoughts were widely accepted is impressive. These individuals are showered with distain at the time they spoke, protested, or took some other action that elevated their thoughts to discussion in the public square. Later, sometimes when they’re dead, people from across the social spectrum can’t quote them enough. I suppose innovative thinking must sit awhile to allow the rest of us to catch up.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Suffering through encourages others

I’ve written several times about my chronic health condition. I have multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. As I continue to survive this horrible disease, I’ll write something about it occasionally. How can I not write about it, with my blog having the handle Old and Blessed. Aging, and aging gracefully with cancer is a wonderful blessing. Taking stock of the things I’m blessed with enjoying demands that I write about those things in my despite column; despite the challenges that threaten not only my quality of life, but life itself. We all have a despite column, consisting of those items in life that come to stifle us. Somehow, we’re able to journey on with more joy than we deserve. I chalk it up to my Creator.

Consider the following: According to the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, an estimated 34,470 adults (19,100 men and 15,370 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma this year. It’s estimated that there will be 12, 640 deaths in the United Sates from multiple myeloma this year. Myeloma is less common than other types of blood-related cancer, such as leukemia and lymphoma Worldwide, an estimated 176,404 people were diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2020. An estimated 117,077 people worldwide died from it in 2020. The overall five-year survival rate for people with multiple myeloma in the United States is fifty-five percent. There are many more statistics I could bore you with regarding this disease but consider the fact that I was diagnosed twenty-two years and seven months ago. Who knows how long I had the disease before diagnosis. My healthcare team reminds me regularly that I’m considered a long-term survivor, poster child, if you will.

I’m a member of a Facebook page called Multiple Myeloma Patients. It provides information about the disease and support for those who have been diagnosed. I’m a regular contributor to the page, looking for those who find themselves struggling with a recent diagnosis, or seeking information about some development in their condition. Although everyone is different and the approaches doctors take to treat individuals are different, based on several variables, there are often some commonalities that can be discussed among patients. I often find myself of some use in encouraging people who haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that they have multiple myeloma, and that the world hasn’t ended for them yet. They are still alive, living during a time when advances in treatment for cancer are being made regularly. Whenever I mention my long-term survival, the responses indicating hope, encouragement for a bright future are quick to show up on the page with likes and smiling emojis.

My journey hasn’t always been positive. I’ve undergone a lot of suffering. There have been numerous hospital visits over the years. I’ve had to have a hip replacement. I’ve contributed nicely to my dentist’s coffers. Heck, I’ve even undergone a bout with sepsis that nearly took me out; however, I’m still here with a story to tell that offers encouragement to others.

Suffering is that dark cloud that sometimes has a silver lining, especially if you are moving forward. I honestly believe it isn’t to be wasted on yourself. When the Psalmist in the Twenty-third Psalm said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…,” I focus on the word through in that verse. I don’t believe I’m walking through this dark valley of suffering for no reason. The best reason I can produce is to let us know that if they’re still alive with sound mind, they have every reason to be encouraged.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

I wouldn’t be without you

From the time two sources came together in a moment of passion, you have been there. You have energized me, given me opportunities to learn, watched me, while never depriving me of my freewill. You were there waiting to usher me into my first exposure to light. You provided a platform for me to test my endowments; to begin the process of developing my humanity. In the initial stages of my development, I had no knowledge of you, what you were about, what your purpose was. I simply reveled in uninhibited joy, most of the time anyway.

As I’ve meandered about, sometimes with short periods of understanding, most of the time with unadulterated ignorance you’ve been there offering more challenges, more opportunities for me to learn and connect with all that I see. There have been forces coming at me from all sides, convinced that they have the answers I require to better prepare me to navigate through the times I’ve been granted. Each force is convinced that it has the best answers, the best tools, and at time, each is willing to vehemently attempt to win me over to its side. At times, I’ve resisted because I’ve wanted to seek my own answers, my own path. Little have I known that paths already taken by other have been better for me than any travel plans I could conjure. Fortunately, I’ve learned much during those times when I turned left when conventional wisdom said turn right. I wish I could say all bad decisions left me unscathed. Sometimes the wounds from bad decisions seem to linger for ever.

There have been times when I have come near being deprived of your presence. I can recall one time when you, in your dogged determination, decided the forces that tried to take you away had to retreat. I don’t think that bothered them terribly, since that was simply a battle lost, not a war. I’ve come to enjoy you in my own unique way, but that was the intent. You’ve been my personal companion, gifted to me to use in the best way I can. I honestly wish I had used you to the fullest of positivity; however, I wasn’t always that good at ignoring the distractions that offered greater sensory experiences at the time.

I’ve had more time with you than I deserved, and now that you’re short on supply, I have a better understanding of who and what you are. I understand your purpose. But isn’t that the refrain of many of us who have been gifted with your presence: Just when we think we’ve got you figured out, the screen goes black. Ironically, it’s a blessing to be given the time to get to that point.

Life, my greatest gift, my greatest friend, my greatest companion, thanks for what has been and what has yet to come.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.