Angel of Death



Two weeks ago today I made arrangements to go see my Dad so I could help him die.

The day before (Thursday) my sister-in-law had called to say he was in the hospital with spinal meningitis. I decided to go that weekend. Friday I found out how serious. I left work early, and didn’t start driving that night once my wife told me we could afford a plane ticket.1

I arrived in Salt Lake City around 2:30 pm on Saturday, rented a car, and immediately drove up to the Logan hospital. Though Dad had been delirious the day before, he was conscious and able to hold short conversations. He had rallied that morning, so much so they thought he might be recovering, but had visibly worsened by the time I got there. He clearly recognized me, but was unable to tell the nurse my name.

I pulled up a chair beside his bed and held his hand. We talked some. I told him that on my drive up I thought about how the world reminded me of the Book of Mormon shortly before Christ’s death. He asked me if I thought the world was going to hell. I told him yes, which he thought funny, but that I was of an age where that feeling wasn’t uncommon.

I was only able to understand about half of what he said. He obviously could rally a little through force of will, but also tired easily. I called my Sister-in-Law and my Uncle to tell them that I thought it was serious, and that anybody who wanted to see him before he died should plan on doing so the next day (Sunday).

Because of the acuity and worsening of his condition, despite multiple antibiotics and an anti-viral, it was decided to move him to a larger hospital in Murray Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. It took a couple hours to get the OK from Murray and for an ambulance to arrive. When it did I told my Dad that I would follow him down, but would stop for dinner, so wouldn’t be there when he arrived.

I stopped for fast food on my way out of town. It was late enough that it wasn’t crowded, but I got some stares, which I found unusual since I am white, conservative, and Mormon enough to usually pass without comment. The lady at the counter kept referring to me as “my friend with the black leather coat”. It isn’t black, but is dark enough that I didn’t take it amiss. I chalked it up at the time to the coat, but later thought it was more likely my “countenance”.2

When I arrived at the hospital he was in the neurological care unit. I was impressed at how many people that could rustle up for his room and nine o’clock at night. He had arrived an hour before me, and his temperature had risen to 40°C (104°F). They spent the next several hours running tests and working to lower his temperature.

My Dad was still coherent, but he faded faster, and had a harder time communicating. I could understand only about a third of what he was saying. In Logan he would periodically reach up to rub the tip, or just to the side of his nose. After the transfer he would reach up, but couldn’t get to his nose, so I took it upon myself to rub it for him whenever I saw him trying to reach up.

I was very grateful for the people working with Dad. The nurse was cheerful in a reassuring, not false, way that I was grateful for. My mother was a nurse, and had long learned that nurses are not usually good sources for empathy, which she was. She seemed cute, which at my age has rather broad boundaries, and is a type 1 diabetic, similar to me.

His doctor also was approachable, and I felt a human connection from talking to him. They had tried to get a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) in Logan, and weren’t very successful because Dad had moved around. I told him I would be willing to sit with Dad to help keep him quiet since Dad would respond to me more than the nurses. Sadly, the anesthesiologist thought it inappropriate, so I only watched from the window.

That night during a quiet period between tests, when Dad was not awake, I would relax in a chair away from the bed. At one point I thought I could see in my mind’s eyetwo beings near the foot of the bed. I didn’t think it was quite time for him to go, and didn’t worry about it too much.

The next day (Sunday) Dad’s wife Lucille came down from Logan. My Uncle Orson showed up, as well as my brother Phillip. They were able to talk to Dad a little, and we were able to get some more information about Dad’s condition from the nurses.

While Phillip was there I was able to talk about an advance directive for Dad, but wasn’t able to locate the day shift doctor to discuss it with Lucille. When my brother left at 2:00 pm I followed him to his house to clean up and get a break. While I was gone my Aunt Gail and her husband, Dad’s cousin, Eugene came by also.

I showered, talked to my brother and his family for a while, had some dinner, and went back to the hospital. Everybody had left by then except Lucille. Dad had an oxygen mask to help with his breathing that Lucille had brought down from Logan. She had left it in her car, and went down to get it.

When she left I decided to meditate.4 In my meditation I talked to Dad. I told him that it was his choice to live or die, though I felt he had already chosen to die. I then mentally shouted it out to the rest of the ward. With what affect, if any, I don’t know.

At some point I heard Dad start choking. He had been having trouble swallowing, and therefore trouble clearing his throat. He was hooked up to several monitors, one of which was for oxygen level. When it started beeping (it was low, but not life threatening) I went out to tell the nurses about his choking. I went back in, and he had stopped, so I sat down again.

The nurse came in, turned the monitor off, and checked on Dad. When Dad didn’t wake up I came up to rouse him. I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Dad, wake up”. At that point the nurse saw that he was not breathing and started using a BVM (bag valve mask) on him.

People started coming in and I moved away, standing a little ways away from the foot of the bed where I could see what was happening, but still not interfere. Shortly after the doctor arrived his heart stopped. He started to call for everybody to start resuscitating him when he looked up at me. I shook my head no. He came over to me and asked if I had power of attorney, and wanted them to stop.

I said, “I am my Father’s oldest son. Yes, I do.”

The doctor went back, and everybody stopped trying to revive Dad. Seconds later Lucille walked in the door and asked what was happening. I called to her and said, “Lucille, come here.”

She walked over. I put arm around her and said “Dad is dead”. She started sobbing, and I held on to her to comfort her. After a little while we sat down by the bed. She wanted to know what happened, and I told her a little about it, and said that we could ask the doctor when he came back. I held her hand, and we talked a little about Dad, and what we would do next. I suggested we say a prayer, so we did.

At some point I went out to talk to the doctor, and later he went in to talk to Lucille also. He told her Dad had a heart attack because of the strain of his body failing, and that seemed as good an answer as any we could have. I told him how grateful I was for their care, and that he couldn’t have been in a better place. He said that he was sorry my Father died. I said that’s why I came.

I then went back into the room, and Lucille and I stayed there for another hour or so. It was quiet, and peaceful, and I had no desire to be anywhere else. Dad was gone, and it was OK.

I went so that my Dad knew I loved him, relieve him of some guilt, and ease his transition. I think I did alright.

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What is Religion, Part 6

What is Religion, Part 1
What is Religion, Part 2
What is Religion, Part 3
What is Religion, Part 4
What is Religion, Part 5

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
1 Corinthians 8:5-6

Most people today treat religion in one of three or four ways, as a deluded belief that is mostly innocuous, as a deluded belief that is mostly evil, or as a good belief that is mostly not open to questioning. The fourth, which is applied mostly to individuals and cultures outside of your own, is that of a deluded belief that has positive benefits for the believer.

All of those are wrong. Religion is a powerful instrument, rarely used by the well intentioned, that has changed the world multiple times, in multiple ways. We’ve stopped taking it seriously because we’ve stopped taking our’s seriously. Or at least stopped taking the Gods of our Fathers seriously.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
Rudyard Kipling

The faux religions do not have the power to save, do not have the power to bring people together, and do not have the power to make things better. And the traditional religions have lost their way, to the extent that they ever had a way. What is worshipped in most churches is not God, but gods, beings without bodies brought in to impress, cajole, and empower.

For those of you who think that religion is simple, or simple minded, or some such thing, may I remind you of a people that lived in a jerk water section of the planet, that because of their religion became a great people, or maybe just a consequential people, who changed the world.

Some of you may of thought of Mohammed and Arabia, some of Henry VIII and England, or Henry V and Crispin’s Day, or Kaiser Wilhelm I and Germany, or the Founder’s and the American Revolution, or Japan and the Kamikaze (either the first two, or the third), or Shaka Zulu and Africa, or, Ivan the Terrible and Russia, or, or, or. It doesn’t matter how many ors, because most people have this myth.*

Religion matters. It matters a lot. Disbelieve it to your, or your children’s regret.

I think I will end this series here.

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Karma #4

I was talking with some friends recently about youthful indiscretions. A story came up about accidentally causing a boulder to roll down a hill into a house. His description of his feelings while watching the boulder roll down the hill, while remaining completely incapable of stopping it was quite vivid. This is one of those things that you hope never happens to you, from either direction, but once it does you call the insurance agent and forget about once it’s fixed.

While talking about it, my friend mentioned that because he had no intent to cause harm, there was no karma. My reply to him was that there was more karma attached than he might think. My other friends comment (later) was that the most karma was from in unwillingness to take responsibility for his action.

I suspect that that he inadequately understood his teacher’s teachings, his teacher inadequately understood his own teachings, or most likely, he never discussed it with his teacher. Given his lack of ill intent, he still had insufficient intent (if any) to not cause ill.

Karma is not sin, or at least not as we understand sin. Sin is about our relationship to God. Karma is about our relationship to each other. Just as your ex-wife (OK, my ex-wife) will never forget anything you ever did, so does everybody in your life, or past lives.

Or maybe it’s just that on some level people recognize the person that you are, and react to that. As far as I can tell, Karma lasts until you are no longer the person that caused the harm. Your sins may be forgiven, but your karma has to be worked out.

Oh, and sometimes it works in your favor. That is if you are that type of person. Sometimes past favors are returned. And sometimes the boulder misses, and hit’s your neighbor’s house. 🙂

What is Religion, Part 5

What is Religion, Part 1
What is Religion, Part 2
What is Religion, Part 3
What is Religion, Part 4

When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. . . And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.
Luke 28, 30

I have rarely met someone who only believes in pure materialism. To do so is to believe in determinism, all actions resulting from beginning state conditions possibly moderated only by chaos theory, and sub-atomic uncertainty. But in my experience, the more someone believes in materialism, the less likely they are to let you off because you were “built that way”1.

Most peoples, cultures, and religions have a belief in something beyond this life. Or perhaps I should say that most peoples, cultures, and religions have had a belief in something beyond this life. But apparently not so much lately.

But I won’t let that bother me, because traditional religions aren’t being replaced by materialism so much as they’re being superseded by non-traditional religions; religions such a feminism, environmentalism, cultural relativism, and socialism. Even hard core materialist Marxist-Leninists can rap poetic about the struggle of the working peoples and the beauty of the coming socialist paradise.

True materialism has no values. Values have to come from somewhere else. People espousing science and materialism as the arbiter of truth are just playing Three-card Monte with where they are getting their values.

I would define religion as the connection between those of us here now, in body, on this planet, with those who are not. You are free to define who and what those beings are, and call it whatever you want, but in essence it is religion.

Some examples:

  • The environmental movement2 is the second incarnation of the Luddites, both literally and metaphorically. Oh, and Gaia.
  • The next time you see a picture of Che on someone’s shirt, just ask yourself what he is espousing? Probably not what he thinks he is.
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson: “For me, when I say spiritual, I’m referring to a feeling you would have that connects you to the universe in a way that it may defy simple vocabulary. We think about the universe as an intellectual playground, which it surely is, but the moment you learn something that touches an emotion rather than just something intellectual, I would call that a spiritual encounter with the universe.”
  • There is a Stalin Society of North America. It’s not even in the top one, two, or three most effective Marxist groups in America.
  • Then there are the traditional religions that seem to be trying as hard as possible to gain the benefits of being a post-modernist non-religious religion.

There has been a great denial of religion in the post-modernist world. Some try to tie it to the evils we’ve seen, as if throwing their peers and forebears under the bus will assuage their own guilt. And denying the religious influences they’ve chosen doesn’t help break the cycle they claim they are committed to breaking.

The thing is, we are all connected to the great beyond. Some of us feel it, some of us see it, and some of us deny it. But connected we are. And that connection has both implications and consequences, privileges and obligations. Karma, she is a bitch.

God is there, if you dare find him. He just won’t be what you want him to be. And no, your pastor is probably not helping you find him.
What is Religion, Part 6

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What is Religion, Part 4

What is Religion, Part 1
What is Religion, Part 2
What is Religion, Part 3

We live in a highly materialistic society. This is not an unusual sentiment, with the usual critiques of capitalism, shopping malls, and Christmas. Most of the complaints about capitalism are really about freedom, shopping malls with the choices people make, and Christmas. . . well lately the crass commercialism of my youth seems preferable to the “don’t make us acknowledge the reason we’re taking your money” attitude I’ve been seeing.

No the materialism I see is deeper, wider, more prevalent, and seems to be winning almost everywhere I look. Without being either an historian, nor a philosopher (my life has been too short to try to do either well), I would point out a few things.


Neils deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson – science enthusiast

I believe Mr. Tyson (or perhaps his fans) is making the logical fallacy of mistaking the map for the territory. Reality is true, science makes inferences about that truth. Some how we have elevated science from a methodology and a tool for discerning truth, into a goal in and of itself. Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the solar system is no more scientific than Ptolemy’s geocentric one, nor Newton’s conception of gravity less scientific than Einstein’s, even though in both cases the former conception was replaced by the later.

In religious terms we have constructed a false idol, a tower of babel, that some have substituted for God. People have promoted science into a religion because it is convenient, both psychologically, and as a weapon against their cultural, political, and philosophical enemies. Because belief in God cannot be scientifically proven, or more correctly disproven, belief in God has been declared unscientific, as if science had something to say on the matter.

But that is hardly the worst. This is:

Marxism is not the first philosophy to promote communitarianism, but it may be the first to promote it at the point of a gun. That a philosophy promoted for the betterment of mankind could end in the death of a hundred million people is shocking. That the leaders of that communitarian philosophy live(d) in absolute luxury is more shocking. That educated people still take Marxism seriously is not only shocking*, but severely depressing.

From Wikipedia:

Marxism builds on a materialist understanding of societal development, taking as its starting point the necessary economic activities required to satisfy the material needs of human society. The form of economic organization or mode of production is understood to give rise to, or at least directly influences, most other social phenomena – including social relations, political and legal systems, morality and ideology.

Because Marxism does not allow for non-material influences, the moral and spiritual is deprecated. America is simultaneously the last bulwark against Marxist thought and has surrendered most, if not all, of our national institutions to its fellow travelers.

I am not a philosopher, nor do I much read it. But it is too important to not include. Nietzsche perhaps started it with his famous “God is dead”. But it continued on with philosophers such as Heidegger, Foucault, and the Frankfurt School. When there is no objective truth, no God to judge, when all judgement is politics, and all politics displays of power, then there are no barriers to human ambition. The effects of which we have seen.

Freud was brilliant, ground breaking, and essential. He was also either the first therapist to elicit false rape memories, or decided to conveniently ignore the actual cause of his patients psychological trauma, or both. He both brought a modern interpretation of the psyche to the fore, and impeded it’s development for another two generations.

As with philosophy, people have sought for a substitute for God in psychology. The idea that universal truths are to be found in human endeavors, rather than increasingly better accommodations with it, seems foolish to me.

Rather than taking on the task of educating the young, or training them for professions, universities seem to have taken on the role of incubators of cultural change. Unfortunately they have largely been successful.

It is impossible to understand the policies of World War II Japan without understanding the influence of Japan’s junior officers on its senior leadership. Likewise, when Mao was in danger of losing power, he turned to the young and created the Cultural Revolution. We are now in danger of being led  by a generation that is willing to call any true statement a “micro-aggression”. What was done to those two nations can also be done here.

I have rarely met people that did not acknowledge in some fashion that there is something beyond the physical, more to being human than a body and social conditioning. If there is not, then there is only biology and conditioning left. It is evident that Marxists and Post-Modernists of all stripes think so, or else they would not so foolishly keep trying to change human nature.

The brain is a marvelous instrument, of which we have barely begun to scratch the surface.  But the idea that a hundred billion neurons could self organize into a personality that, for example, could go toe to toe with grown adults by the age of five is laughable.

Or that it could make or appreciate these at any age:

Ansel Adams Moonrise, Hernandez , New Mexico

Ansel Adams: Moonrise, Hernandez , New Mexico

Asian Cat

Asian Cat

Just as science hasn’t found God, neither has it found consciousness.

But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
Job 32:8

Though the body may be essential, it is not in the way we think it is. We exist before birth and after death. We may fear this knowledge, but our fears are hardly controlling. Death comes for us all.

What is Religion, Part 5

* I mean shocking for future generations. I went to high school during the 70’s in semi-rural America (State College, PA), where one of my better teachers praised Mao and the Chinese example of using human feces for fertilizer. Meanwhile Mao was near the end of killing 30 million in the Cultural Revolution. Unfortunately the “modern”, or perhaps more correctly “post-modern”, sensibility is not shocked at all.