Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Random Thoughts On Death, Dying, and My Own Struggle to Live

            Two of my friends have died this month, so I am taking time to reflect on death.  It is inevitable—the natural end to life, yet we encounter it with shock and surprise.  I confess that I don't know the answers to our questions about death and dying and am as shocked and surprised as anybody else when someone passes.  Why? 

            Once, when I was in a meeting about disability services, I commented that we need to have transition services in place for when the parent-caregiver of a disabled adult dies.  The leader dismissed my comment by saying, “Yes, they might die.”

            I countered this dismissal with a promise.  “No!  I can promise you with one hundred percent accuracy that every, single parent-caregiver will die!”

            My remarks were ignored, almost as if I was being obscene.  During my time working with state disability services, they never set up a protocol for dealing with this transition.  It would not take much to have a page in a file listing people to contact, resources and an action plan for when the caregiver of a client dies.  It would serve the client to have a plan in place.  It would save the state time and money to have a plan in place, yet this didn’t happen.

            What is it that causes us to look upon death with so much denial that we cannot make a plan and put it in a file?  For believers in many faiths, death is just a passage to eternity—a return to our real home.  Yet we want to deny that death happens.  Why?

           I think the answer lies in our own grief.  It hurts so much to be separated from someone we love.  I think the grief of separation effects both the dying and the survivors.
           Personally, I see death itself as a pleasant passage to what lies ahead.  Still, I am reluctant to leave behind my loved ones.  I feel compassion for their sense of loss and grief, so I grieve with them and fight to cling to life.

            Clinging to life was a choice and challenge for me during and after my stroke and during my cancer treatments.  Living involved some tough choices and suffering.  It hasn’t been easy.  In addition to the pain of illness, I was well aware of the presence of total love and peace just around the corner that we call death.  Turning the corner would have been so much easier than fighting to live.  I chose to live partly because of my love for my family, but mostly because of a sense that I have unfinished business here.

            During my struggle, I started writing Lies That Bind.  In a sense, it was the story about my struggle to live, and the conflict between my desire to be with the One who loves me unconditionally and my attachment to those in this imperfect world.  This is not a sugary sweet story about life and death.  It is a passionate story about love.  I came to understand death as part of our passionate life love-story.

            I used adultery as the central theme in Lies That Bind because our society treats the topic of death much as it treats the topic of adultery.  We know adultery is a betrayal.  I think under much of our grieving, we see death as a betrayal.  Our loved one has abandoned us. 

            Just as Jake and Celia in Lies That Bind needed to unravel the lies that separated them, we need to unravel the lies that cause us undue grief when someone dies.  Death is not abandonment.  We need to remember that our loved one still loves us and we can still love them. Yes, we will miss our loved ones.  Still, they have made a natural passage whether we think it was timely or not.  We need to learn how to deal with this transition, to have a plan in our file. 

            How do we grieve?  How do we find wholeness when part of our life has been ripped away?  The answers to these questions will be different for each person, but we need to answer them.  The answers to our questions about grieving involve telling our-selves the truth and finding truth.  I sense that the answers involve living our passionate life love-story and recognizing that love is the eternal spark that each life passes on to the next generation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Blog Hop: M'TK Sewer Rat by Delinda McCann

We are hopping our way through some great reads.  For those who aren’t familiar with a blog hop…it’s a lot like a treasure hunt—once you find something on one blog, hop over to the next blog link for more treasure.  In this case, the treasure is a wealth of new and exciting books.  Some are still being written, some are just being released.  Either way, for fiction lovers…it’s a treasure and I’d like to thank Sandra Humphey for tagging me to participate. 

Sandra’s wonderful books can be found at

Here are the questions I was asked, with my answers.

1)    What is the working title of your book?  My latest is coming out as a two-book set.  M’TK Sewer Rat:  End of an Empire and M’TK Sewer Rat:  Birth of a Nation. I split the story so my readers would not injure themselves carrying the book around.
2)    Where did the idea come from for the book?  My work as a social psychologist brought me into contact with the governments of several third world countries…Oh for pity’s sakes, the voices in my head compelled me to write the story.
3)    What genre does your book fall under?  My publisher classes it as general fiction.  I wish there were a genre for social fiction.  Of course, Jake classes the work as his autobiography.
4)    Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  This story spans a number of years so this question is a challenge.  Jackie Chan would play Mr. Wu, of course, and Sean Connery would make an excellent Professor Ingleman.  Natalie Portman has the looks to play Leah, Jake’s wife.  Pierce Brosnan could do Jake’s Papa and I’d choose Catherine Zeta-Jones to portray Mama’s vitality and sense of humor.  The story has many characters so I could include Will Smith as Christian VanGelen, Penelope Cruze as Sophia Uzara, Lucy Liu as Margaret M’TG, and Orlando Bloom as Andrew Corbain.  But who can play Jake?  Who has the swarthy good looks, cheekbones, athletic build, power and energy to play Jake?  Who is small in stature but can fill a whole room with energy and vitality when he walks through the door? 
5)    What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?  Jake came from the slums of M’TK to lead his people to freedom.
6)    Is your book self-published, published or represented by an agency?  Writer’s Cramp Publishing, a small publisher, is publishing M’TK Sewer Rat.
7)    How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The first draft took five months.  I’ve spent ten months on the rewrites, edits, and proof reading.
8)    Who or what inspired you to write this book?  I first fell in love with President Jake Jaconovich in Lies That Bind.  I wanted to learn more about this amazing man who captured my heart, so I wrote his autobiography.
9)    What else about your book might pique the readers’ interest? I like to describe my books as compound complex stories, which… (“Delinda gets too intellectual.  This is my autobiography.  I am the son of a laborer.  I grew up in the worst slum in my country.  I am very proud of earning the title The M’TK Sewer Rat.  Yes, I am really the one they called that, but half of the stories you hear are myth.  As far as I know, I did not kill the man when I was seven.  I do confess to stealing the boats that worthless excuse of humanity called Fortenac locked up.  I tell of my first love, Fiona, and how Papa sent me to stay with cousins when he met her.  Yes, under the laws of the time, I was a smuggler.  I give full credit to my cousin Prosecutor Margaret M’TG for straightening out that mess.  I confess that my friends and I engaged in several adventures that would turn my hair grey if my son were to do such things, but that is how life was then, and how the son of a laborer behaved.”)
10) What other books in your genre would you compare this to? The first book that comes into my mind is Kim by Rudyard Kipling.  (“Ahem, My Dear Readers, This is my story and there is none other quite like it. Personally, I like many books written in English.  As a college student I read all the James Bond books by Ian Fleming.  I considered myself quite as daring as Bond.  I read way too many westerns by Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour.  I loved the Prisoner of Zenda and read it many times in my youth.  As a law student, my favorite book was To Kill A Mockingbird.  We discussed it in all my classes.  I would say that from that book, I learned that a humble person can make strides toward justice for all.  Finally, I’d like to thank you for taking an interest in my story and to thank Delinda McCann for being such a patient scribe.  Sincerely, President Jake Jaconovich aka The M’TK Sewer Rat.”)  

For next week, I am tagging

Steven Nedelton

Bryan Murphy