Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Prayerful Parents to be Prosecuted

WESTON, Wis. - Two parents who prayed as their 11-year-old daughter died of untreated diabetes were charged Monday with second-degree reckless homicide.

Click Here for the rest of the Story

I would really like some feedback from everyone on this. This totally fits with a bible class series our church is in right now on Prayer. What do you think about a set of parents who would forgo medical care to pray in faith for God's intervention with their daughter's health?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Separated at Birth?

For those of you who know Luke...

Luke Norsworthy, Minister

Rob Marciano, CNN Weatherman

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Cupboard is Joylessly Full

The little things remind me of Mama.

In Mom's final months, there were two habits of Mom's that were particularly difficult to live with. For one, her body temperature was low, so she got cold very easily. We would bring her blankets & encourage her to wear more clothes to warm up, but it was more convenient & comfortable for her to turn the heat up. Obviously, this was more uncomfortable for the rest of us. And it was maddening with the energy bill rising, also.

The second habit was that anytime she went to get something to drink, she would get a new cup. She'd have one cup for coffee, one cup for milk, one cup for OJ, and another for water. She'd go through so many cups. Since I typically do most of the dishes, I would notice this & try to respectfully ask her to use less glasses -- just rinse it out & re-use it. But I guess there was no teaching that old dog a new trick.

These days, the thermostat remains remarkably consistent, and the cupboard stays full of cups. But it pleases me not when I make these realizations.

Colbert & His Heart of Stone

Can author Mitch Albom make Stephen Colbert cry? I love this clip. The best part starts at the 2:10 mark:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Never Knew...

Before today, I never quite fully understood the power of presence. But I do now. There were lots of folks who came to memorialize my Mama today who I hadn't seen in ages, or even EVER seen. A gentleman who was friends with my parents 30 years ago, and who I'd never met, came to spend the day & pay his respects to Mama. One of Mom's best friends from high school drove five hours this morning to get here and then drove five hours to get back home tonight.

I've always heard folks say to me at funerals, "Thanks for coming." I always thought that that was what they were supposed to say. But with seeing so many folks who loved my Mom & love our family, I didn't know what else to say. It was truly touching. And it was a great comfort. If you were one of these people: Thank You.

The service & dinner reception came off really well. Many people commented how much they enjoyed & appreciated how well Daniel eulogized my mother. He did an outstanding job. It was a mighty fine day.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Saving the World One Mouse-Click at a Time

In a blog entry about 10 minutes ago, I told you about a wonderful new web site called But there are other smart, internet-savvy people who are using the power of the internet to help conquer huge global problems.

NBC Nightly News recently profiled They donate rice to needy & hungry people as you play a vocabulary game:

Also, there is a wonderful site that fights breast cancer by using ad revenue to donate free mammograms. Its very original name is The Breast Cancer Site. Go click the button once a day, and every ten days you have single-handedly donated a free mammogram to a poor or underprivileged person.

Saving the world one mouse-click at a time...

All the Joys of Gambling; None of the Hazards

Have you ever secretly wanted to become a compulsive sports gambler? You know -- make lots of money off of your considerable sports knowledge? But ultimately decided that you'd rather not sleep in a gutter?

Well, have I got the web site for YOU!

I just found out about this cool web site called The web site gives you 10 cents right out of the gate. You try to build it up by betting that amount on sports games. You do not give them any credit card information or other personal financial information. Everything is paid for by ad revenue. So, no matter what, you will always have 10 cents. If you build it up to or beyond $20.00, you can cash out & they will send you a check of your winnings. Apparently, there are some individuals who have made it up to $400.

This will certainly become one of my new favorite web sites.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

'Heaven Holds All To Me'

A sermon that had a particular impact on me in "my youth" was a sermon I heard about a decade ago. My mentor, Jack, preached it at my home church on the annual Homecoming Service in June. The title of the sermon was "Heaven Holds All To Me." There's also a hymn in many of our song books by the same title. The premise of Jack's sermon followed Matthew 6:

19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jack's dad, Howard, was a minister for 50 years. In his sermon, Jack talks about how his dad came into the office to visit with him on that particular week leading up to preaching this sermon. Apparently, this was a rare occurrence. Howard asked Jack, "Whatcha preaching this Sunday?"

Jack simply told him, "Heaven Holds All to Me."

Jack says in his sermon that Howard just went into preacher mode. He said, "Ya know, Jack, Heaven holds a lot more to me now than it did when I was your age."

Jack said, "Well what do you mean, Pop?"

Howard said, "Well, heaven holds my Mama & my Daddy. Heaven holds my sisters. Heaven holds my brothers. Heaven holds quite a few of my life-long friends."

I've always remembered that. Brother Howard passed away himself about a year after that sermon was preached, and everyone dearly misses him. But now that my Mom has passed, I understand a little bit more about what he meant.

Also, I have a new-found respect for my elders. People who are 60 and older have probably gone through this taxing process of grief a few more times than I have. They have a strength & perspective that I can learn from on this subject.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Always Grimace at News Like This

JERUSALEM - Greek and Armenian priests and worshippers scuffled at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Palm Sunday, part of a growing rivalry over religious rights at Christianity's holiest shrine.

Click Here for More

Monday, April 21, 2008

This One's for Matt

None of the Above

BTW, did you get my E-mail from last week? I'm sure the reason I haven't heard back yet is that you've been busy...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More Reflections on Mom's Passing

Here are some more random reflections in the wake of Mom's passing. These are realizations or lessons that I think will be helpful for anyone who reads. Or they may just be memories that I wish to preserve here & look back on sometime in the future. Anyway, feel free to peek in to see what's on my mind this Sunday afternoon...

• A long-time friend, Lori, has taken an active interest in my younger sister. Lori lost her mother when she was 16. So she has a lot to offer us in terms of experience & guidance during this season of our lives.

One thing I picked up on, that Lori said when she visited yesterday, was how this is "a unique experience in (my) life." That is a really good way to describe it. Some folks say it's "tough" or it's "hard." And it is, but that language is somewhat imprecise. It is really just a unique experience. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.

• Other folks say, "Nothing prepares you for it." I sort of think that is imprecise language as well. In a sense, I was prepared. I have a faith that sustains me, and I had plenty of time to say goodbye. But when that loved one (in this case my Mom) is gone, there are a FLOOD of feelings that come over you. That's part of the uniqueness of this experience for me -- the amount of raw emotion I'm dealing with. And I think that's what folks mean when they say, "You can't prepare for it." The inevitable raw emotion comes over you like a wave. And there's nothing you can do in advance to buffer yourself from the intense nature of this sorrow.

• This raw emotion comes out for me in a number of ways. Seeing others cry (like my sister, or like I talked about a couple day ago with my grandmother) can get the water works flowing. When my sister, Katie, voices some of these grieving realizations while crying, I can't help but get misty myself while trying to comfort or console her.

Also, seeing Mom's old possessions around the house is difficult. I've heard folks talk about that -- I never knew what a truly big deal that was. I've often heard folks mention, "It's like they just up & left. They're gone!" Mom's coat is still hanging over her computer chair. Katie brought Mom's shoes to me last night with tears in her eyes. At one point yesterday, she was crying over a hat that Mom wore. Mom lost her hair with the chemotherapy, of course, and was insecure about showing off her baldness in public. So she had these cute little caps. And whenever we spot an empty hat, it just serves to remind us of the emptiness in our lives & in our hearts. I'm sure we'll be putting all those things away soon, but for now they evoke a very visceral emotional reaction.

As I typed that last paragraph, I got a big lump in my throat & a little teary-eyed. Some of my younger readers may not understand that element of this grieving process yet, but I suppose you will eventually. I've hardly ever been one that clings to physical possessions. But now even small things are important keepsakes because they represent Mom in some way. Even down to the charts we had on the wall where we tracked Mom's "pain spikes" and when we gave her her pills four times a day. Those now seemingly meaningless pieces of paper are precious. A keyboard Mom bought only just a few months ago means a lot to us because Mom loved piano music. It always sounded irrational to me before, and it might even sound that way to some of you. But for those who have experienced intense grief at this level, you know precisely what I mean.

• My Dad is grieving, too. Even though he & my Mom were separated for the better part of a decade, that doesn't erase the 22 years they spent together as close companions. It's a big loss for him, too. In some ways it is bigger for him than it is for my sister & I. And he's been a rock through it all.

• I had a conversation with Lori & my Dad about the ways people die. Lori lost her Mom suddenly at age 16, so she never got to say goodbye. She also never got to experience her mother's love as an adult -- she never got to be "just buddies" with her Mom.

My Dad lost his mother just eight years ago. Her decline and death was a prolonged & drawn out experience. My Dad lost his Dad (Philip Wesley Cunningham, Sr. -- the original!) suddenly when he had a heart attack. One of the worsts parts of it was that Dad should have been with him -- they had planned a fishing trip, but Dad had to cancel for some reason, and he had the heart attack on a Saturday morning.

Dad says that he would prefer the experience of his mother's death over his father's sudden loss. Lori, though she hasn't experienced it, says that she couldn't imagine going through a long, drawn-out death experience. I think that it may be a male/female thing. Being a man, we enjoy playing the hero. And so being there for Mom for everything little thing, no matter how tedious, can be fulfilling for us. And it was for me. I have no regrets for how I was there for Mom since her illness began over a year ago.

• I got to watch my Dad be there for his mother through her decline & death. I said at the time that I learned a lot from him about how to handle a situation like that in a positive way. And many of those lessons helped me help Mom through all of this.

If I could share one lesson that I learned, I would say that it is good to keep a light personality & sense of humor through this kind of a trial. In her final months, my grandmother began to think that Dad was her boyfriend. So he went along with it, and would joke, "So where we going for our date." And so on & so forth. In like manner, I would joke with Mom. I think it's comforting for everyone if you can make light of things from time to time.

• When my Mom got out of the hospital a few weeks ago following her seizure, she got on the computer only a couple of times. She used to spend hours on the computer -- reading & sending E-mails. She was known for her very long E-mails. But she didn't have near enough energy for that after her seizure.

One of the very last E-mails she sent, when I look at her account, really gets me:

seizure & hospitalized for a week

I had a rough week this past week.

The shortness & directness of that E-mail says it all for me. Didn't have the will to capitalize the subject heading. I just hate that she had to suffer like that. I'm glad that part is over for her at least.

• You never know when your last moment will be with someone. My last real moment with Mom was on Thursday afternoon on the day before she died. I was very simply changing the sheets with the hospice nurse -- a difficult chore when Mom became immobile! Anyway, I was rolling her over in the bed toward me, and she woke up from her nap. She said, "HEY Bubba," and gave me a big hug. She was very sweet in her last week.

Right then, I didn't let the moment linger because I knew the nurse had other things to get to after we finished. I thought, "Well, there will be a few more moments." I didn't know that that would be the last moment we would share with her in a conscious state. It will always be a tender memory.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mom's Obituary

PANAMA CITY, FL – Rebecca A. Garrick died April 18th, 2008 after a 17-month fight with cancer.

Born September 4th, 1949 in Tuscaloosa, AL, Rebecca Ann Robinson was raised by her loving parents Tom and Jean. She was raised in several cities, including Gainesville, GA, Jacksonville, FL, and Grove Hill, AL. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting in 1975. She married Phil Cunningham in Mobile, AL in July of 1977. She worked as an accountant until she returned to school to study to become a social worker. She graduated from Florida State University with a 4.0 GPA and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She worked as a social worker until she was diagnosed with cancer in November of 2006. She re-married in 2000, to Herman Garrick of Grove Hill, AL.

Becky is survived by her mother, Jean Leavelle; sister, Judy Sadler; children, Philip Cunningham III & Katie Cunningham; former husband, Phil Cunningham, Jr.; and husband, Herman Garrick.

The memorial service will be held at 10:30 AM, Saturday, April 26th at the Jenks Avenue Church of Christ with Minister Daniel Cherry, officiating. A dinner reception will follow the service, being hosted at the Lynn Haven Church of Christ.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Becky’s name may be made to Covenant Hospice, 107 W. 19th St., Panama City, FL 32405.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mama Has Passed On

At 9:25 this evening, surrounded by family & friends, Rebecca Garrick died. She was my mama.

I have a lot of thoughts, and I want to preserve them as best I can. This may be a little bit exhibitionist of me, but I'm going to share with each of you some of my thoughts in the last hour and a half.

• I was just about to take out the garbage when the Hospice Nurse called me into the room. She could tell that we were in her final moments. Five to ten minutes later, she breathed her last breath. Her breathing had been labored for some time. And her body was finally at rest.

• When she passed, I did what Mom told me to: I looked to the ceiling. I looked up to the right, to the left, to all four corners of the room, and right above the bed. At one time, Mom read extensively about near-death experiences. And she told me that when she passes, look up. I did.

• I am sad, but also relieved. I miss her, and will miss her, but I also have come to accept that this is a natural part of life.

• When the Hospice nurse was listening for a heartbeat and there finally was not one anymore -- before she said anything -- she reached her hand to Mama's face, slid her hand down Mama's face, and covered over her eyes. It seemed a little over-dramatic to me. I thought they only did that in movies. My Mom's sister, Judy, had to ask her, "Is she gone?" And she replied, "Yes."

• That's when the crying broke out. Hearing all the ladies cry, I couldn't help but break down a little myself. No shame in that, of course, but I just prefer to do my crying in private. So I let a little bit out, hugged everyone and cried.

I'll especially remember hugging Dad & crying. We've hugged a lot -- he's good at that. We've hugged, in this very house, at times when I was leaving and times when I've come home. We've embraced in times of joy -- I'll never forget us hugging and jumping up & down in our living room the night the Braves won the World Series in 1995. And now we've hugged in a time of extreme sorrow. And I've seen him cry before, but his face this time, with the grief, was difficult to take in. I'm sure it was true vice versa, as well. He told me he was proud of me -- how I've held up & handled all that has needed handling. That meant a lot. He's told me in recent weeks that he's been impressed with my sister & I -- how we've cared for Mom. He said that it has given him a lot of comfort for if ever/whenever he gets into that rough of a condition.

• The WORST of it for me (by a country mile -- no other part of this was more difficult...) was seeing my grandmother, Mom's mother (we call her Mama Jean), break down & cry. I'll never forget the expression on her face. I can't imagine the pain of watching her grown daughter suffer & die at her relatively young age. Mama Jean hardly wanted to leave Mama's side in these last days. She loved her so much.

We had just been talking, in fact, yesterday about how Mama Jean had a third daughter. Her name was Jennifer. She died soon after being born. Of Mama Jean's three children, she's had to watch two of them perish. And we even received the horrible news Monday that Mom's sister, Judy, has a tumor in her right breast. The doctors do think that it may be benign, but they haven't completed the tests yet. PLEASE pray for Judy. I just hate it for Mama Jean right now, and I don't want to imagine what any more suffering she would have to endure.

Why Did Miguel Tejada Reveal His Age?

Some peculiar news came out yesterday morning. Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada, out of the blue, seemingly volunteered to the Houston Chronicle the information that he is actually two years older than he had said he was. It was thought that he was 31; he's actually 33 years old.

Why did Miggy make this revelation all of a sudden?

From the Funny Pages

Dilbert Cartoon

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reverse Christmas Eve

I dreaded waking up this morning. After the news about my Mom from the hospice nurse yesterday, and after hearing my Dad tell me last night that he thought she would pass on in the middle of the night, I dreaded what might await this morning. As a kid, when you go to bed on Christmas Eve, you can't wait for the next morning. Last night was the exact opposite.

But Mama made it through the night. Her mother & sister are coming to visit today, and Mom knows it. She may be holding out for that.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The End is Near for Mama

I just thought I'd let everyone know that the hospice nurse gave us serious news today. She said that she thought the end is near for Mama. She's not a doctor. But she does have a lot of experience, and she says Mom is exhibiting signs that she is ready to pass on. It was probably harder for her to deliver this news than it was for us to hear it. She was very emotional when she delivered it to us.

It has been very emotional for us since initially receiving the news. My sister & I have already shed a few tears, and there are probably more to come.

I thank all of you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for our family.

I was listening to the podcast for a radio show this weekend called "60/20 Sports." It is hosted by James Carville & Luke Russert (the son of NBC News Host Tim Russert). Their guest was Dick Vitale, and he was talking about his favorite charity, The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. He said he recently had another friend die of cancer, and that father's young daughter was their grieving. Vitale was there to be with the family, and the one thing that the young daughter said to him was, "Cancer sucks!" I think I'd have to agree.

How To Comfort the Suffering

I've learned a lot in the last few weeks about how to be compassionate to people who are suffering. There are a lot of things that I've done in the past, which I said or did in an effort to be compassionate, that I now realize were not.

If you want to be a better servant to people in suffering, check out this list. I borrowed it from Dr. John Mark Hicks, who just recently took up blogging again. These are very good guidelines for being there for someone who is hurting...

What can we do for someone who has lost a loved one to death? I lost my first wife (1980), father (1994) and son (2001) to death, and my second wife and I divorced in 2001. I share here based more on my experience than any expertise.

1. Have a healthy sense of inadequacy. The worst and most offensive thing to a sufferer is for someone to come with all the answers.

2. Be there and be silent. From a sufferer’s point of view, the most important thing is not what you say but your presence. Be present and be God’s instrument of comfort.

3. Listen. It’s difficult to listen to a sufferer, and the tendency is to try and change the subject. Take a cue from the sufferer. If they lead you into remembering their loved one, go with their lead. If they talk about something more superficial, talk about the topic they choose. Be willing to listen to questioning doubt. Job’s friends were unwilling to hear Job’s questioning and tried to stop him. What we do represents God for them. They will experience God’s listening through our ears.

4. Be willing to experience pain with the sufferer. We may have enough problems in our own lives that we often don’t want to experience the pain and hear about the problems of others, but a sufferer needs someone to listen, feel with them. Proverbs 25:2. When we are willing to sit with others in their feelings then they can also feel the empathy of God’s own presence.

5. Express your love without interpretive statements. Don’t say, “It’s all for the best,” or “God plucked a rose from his garden.” Never try to interpret why a person died or what God’s intent was—this is not only arrogant but doesn’t help the sufferer. Say something that you feel, such as “I feel awful about this. This is terrible.” Never tell a sufferer how they should feel, but you can tell them how you feel, that is, how you hurt with them and how awful you feel about the circumstances.

6. Do something. Don’t say, “If there’s anything, anything I can do, call me.” Why not? Because this places on the sufferer the responsibility to do something, to figure out something for the person to do for them and make a call. This is a time when the sufferer doesn’t need more burdens. Have you ever really been called by someone who is suffering after you told them this? Most likely, you’ve been called rarely, if ever. The sufferer may not want to inconvenience someone nor decide who to inconvenience. Statements like, “Call me if there’s anything I can do” only extend the suffering rather than helping. What needs done? In some cases, everything needs to be done. Do something for the sufferer that you perceive they need. Mow their lawn, take them some food, help them clean their house, change the oil in their car. Show up and do.

And this final point from another Hicks entry:

Don’t Pry. Don’t inquire, listen. We will tell you what we want to tell you. Keep the questions to a minimum. Focus on presence and listening. Keep your curiosity in check. Recognize that pushing for disclosure of details is more about you than it is about helping us. Hear whatever we are willing to tell, let us take the initiative in disclosure and never pursue your curiosity with us.

If you follow these guidelines, you will bless people immensely in their period of suffering. And they will always remember it. One of my mentors in ministry is wont to say, "Folks probably won't remember the sermon you preached last Sunday. But they will always remember that time that they were in the hospital & you were there." So true.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

For My Buddy Lloyd

My friend Lloyd recently provided a humorous blog post that highlighted how networking sites that have your information use it to target you with demographic-specific ads. On MySpace, we're actually both listed as females. So instead of seeing the large & gaudy ad images of women on that site, we see large & gaudy ad images of topless men. As it just so happens, those latter images don't bother us in the least. ;)

Anyway, I noticed this one tonight as I was checking E-mail. How so very nice of Yahoo! Mail to provide such easy access to "someone special" ...

Someone Special
Looks like a Proverbs 31 gal indeed!

My other thought on these ads is how they provide the little boxes that say "I am a (Male/Female) seeking a (Male/Female)." I remember the first time I saw one of these, and goofed around to make it say "Male seeking a Male." I cackled as I marveled at the silliness of such an obvious programming error that would allow me to make such a ridiculous search.

Then I realized it wasn't a programming error and was grossed out.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Dream

With all the remembrances of there have been this year of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., from his birthday to the 40th anniversary of his assassination, I think we have come a long way toward realizing his ultimate dream. We may not be there yet already; in fact, I consider that the pure idealism of his speech may not be fully realized until the eschaton. But consider the following...

• A black man now appears to be the favorite to win the presidential election this November -- Barack Obama. In fact, the color of his skin has been cited by a female former vice presidential candidate as more of a political benefit than a political liability. And, in the primaries, he won in a landslide in Southern states like South Carolina & Georgia, where people of color were not impeded from voting in very high numbers. This black man attended Columbia University & law school at Harvard University, where he was the President of the Harvard Law Review.

• A man of color is the greatest golfer in the world, and perhaps of all-time -- Tiger Woods. He attended college at Stanford University. And even when this great golfer has stumbled in his career, the man who supplanted him as the world's #1 player was also a man of color -- Vijay Singh. Both of these men have won championships & are beloved by the patrons at The Masters, a tournament that was once rife with racism.

• For today and the next two days, the face of the Masters television broadcasts will belong to a black man -- Mike Tirico. He is also the lead broadcaster of ESPN's Monday Night Football productions, as well as the host of a radio show for one of ESPN Radio's most prestigious time slots. He graduated from Syracuse University.

Opportunity abounds for people of color today like never before. There's no denying that abundant progress has been made.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Latest on Mom

Not much has changed from the last update at all. Mom is still very drowsy & sleepy most of the time. And when up, she is groggy. But she is in less pain, at least when she's off of her arthritic knee.

We're very appreciative of friends & church family that have brought meals for us in the last couple weeks. Last night David & Julie brought over a fine meal -- the main dish was Poppyseed Chicken. It's certainly nice to have to worry about one less thing every once in a while.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

In Flux

For my regular readers, you'll have to bear with me through this period. I've had lots of great blog ideas occur to me in the last week or so, but my life has been filled with so many duties & so much stress that I haven't been able to jott them down for later or remember what they all were right now. But I'll be back to a normal schedule sometime soon here...

For the family & friends of my Mom, here's the latest...

The Hospice Doctor came by the house yesterday afternoon, checked her out, and shot straight with us about her condition. He informed us that it doesn't look good for Mom, but that she has done much better than other people have who have been in her condition. They have added more medication for her -- mainly to help calm anxiety, reduce pain, and help her sleep through the night (which she hasn't been able to do for a while). The lack of sleeping through the night has really added stress to our household, as we have all missed sleep & been awoken in the night when Mom tried to do something on her own, lost her balance, and fell.

Last night she slept all the way through the night, and she's been sleepy & groggy all day today. So we might have to re-adjust her medicinal in-take, but we'll get it normalized soon. She's feel less pain with the new med's, so that much is good. And she's still able to do things on her own -- eat, walk, use the restroom, etc.

Thanks for all the expressions of love and sympathy. They are appreciated.

If anything else happens, I'll keep you guys updated.