My Father Died 50 Years Ago Today

My Father in World War II

My Father in World War II

 

My father died 50 years ago today.

The thought of this blows my mind.

Can he possibly have been gone half a century?

Do I actually have 50-year-old memories swirling in my brain?

I still remember being the four-year-old boy whose father went away forever.

It seems like yesterday.  It seems like another life.  Like another universe.

His passing was my first introduction to death.

More would follow.  Too many and too soon.

I wish I knew my father.

I wish he knew the adult me.

I often wonder if he would even like me.

He was a war hero.

A B-17 pilot in World War II.

A devoted husband and father.

My older brother followed in his footsteps and became an Air Force pilot.

For years my brother would visit our father’s gravesite at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

Now they are buried 50 yards apart.  Heroic men sharing hallowed soil.

And I, the least heroic of our family, live to visit their graves, as I will today.

I am the youngest of my family and the last surviving son.

Today when I visit their gravesites, 50 years after my father’s flight to the next world, I undoubtedly will look to the sky.

I will gaze to the clouds where they both flew.

Searching for any sign of them, as I have for most of my life.

I never see them in the sky.

But sometimes I feel them nearby.

Especially at the cemetery, where the silence of a sea of souls beckons my attention.

And I am taken back, to when my father served in Vietnam. And he carried photos of all his children in his wallet.

He left us these photos just before he died.

Photo of me from my father's wallet

Inscribed on the back of my photo…

“Kip (that’s what he called me), You & your sisters and your brother have been on the other side of the world – I love you son, Dad”

I love you too, Dad.

Wherever on the other side of the world you might be.

I miss you.

For 50 years now.

The Eternal Valentine

Liz and Jimmy

Liz and Jimmy

 

 

I can’t make it through Valentine’s Day without thinking about my friend, Jimmy Parks, Jr.

It was on this day three years ago that Jimmy presented a beautiful Valentine’s card to the love of his life, Liz. 

What seemed like any other Valentine’s Day would soon become much more poignant.

Liz had celebrated Valentine’s Day with Jimmy for every year of their adult lives. 

Sweethearts shortly after they met at San Antonio’s Churchill High School in the Sixties, Jimmy and Liz became inseparable as teenagers and their bond grew stronger over the years.  After high school, Jimmy was offered a full academic scholarship to Princeton, but he turned down the Ivy League because he couldn’t leave Liz.  Instead, Jimmy stayed in San Antonio, attended Trinity University and married the woman he loved.

Four decades later, when I had Jimmy in my radio studio as a guest, Liz would often sit-in with us.  What I witnessed was something I have rarely seen among couples together for so many years: that new-love-sparkle in their eyes.  Both Jimmy and Liz treated each other with the same blissful affection that young lovers do when first falling head-over-heels for one another.

When Jimmy inscribed his words to Liz inside that Valentine’s card, he had no idea that his hours on this Earth were nearly over.  Jimmy was planning his life’s next big adventure – a run for the United States Congress.

But God and fate had a different plan for Jimmy. 

Just five days after he handed the Valentine’s card to Liz, he would leave this world in the blink of an eye. 

Suddenly, Jimmy died the Sunday morning after Valentine’s Day.

Jimmy’s card for Liz was displayed a few days later at Porter Loring Mortuary as I joined a line of mourners wrapped around the building to pay our respects.

That day we all read the words Jimmy wrote to Liz:

 

I am so much more in love with you than I was last year on Valentine’s, that I’m sure my love for you can’t expand anymore.

But I do want to love you more.  My deepest regret is that I only have the balance of a lifetime to love you…

to exercise my love for you…

and to let you know how much I love you.

Jimmy

 

Jimmy's Valentine for Liz

Jimmy’s Valentine for Liz

 

Jimmy Parks taught me many life lessons.

His last was through this Valentine’s Day card to Liz.

Reading his loving words, I am reminded not only of the importance of expressing love, but of the fleeting nature of our dance upon this Earth.

I believe that the spirit of Jimmy Parks lives on. 

And I believe that the love he showers upon Liz and his family and friends is now returning to him in waves. 

On and on.

For Eternity.

The World Is Going To Devastate You

Note To Self

Note To Self

During a pre-Spring cleaning today, I found this note that I wrote to myself about three years ago.

The messiness of my scribbling suggests it’s a thought that occurred to me out of the blue, or from the other side of the veil, and I had to write it down quickly or it would become lost.

It was February 2012 and my friend Jimmy Parks, Jr. had died suddenly and much too young.

I was grief stricken, along with everyone who knew him.

I recalled Joseph Campbell’s description of the way of the Bodhisattvas.

All life is sorrowful; there is however an escape from sorrow; the escape is Nirvana – which is a state of mind or consciousness, not a place somewhere, like heaven. It is right here, in the midst of the turmoil of life. It is the state you find when you are no longer driven to live by compelling desires, fears, and social commitments, when you have found your center of freedom and can act by choice out of that. Voluntary action out of this center is the action of the bodhisattvas – joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.

– Joseph Campbell, from “The Power of Myth”

 

The final words have always stayed with me: “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.

Life will ultimately be sorrowful.

Life will break you.

Either you will disappear or everyone you know and love will disappear, depending upon how long you live.

Yet…

There is joy.

Everywhere.

And you have a choice.

Boiling down Jimmy’s life and the message of every enlightened being and bodhisattva who ever walked the planet is to choose love over fear.

That’s what this download from the great beyond told me…

 

“The world is going to devastate you.

The world will bring you horrors and griefs.

But you must find and create joy in between the storms of life.”

Fly Closer to The Sun

FlyCloserToTheSun

In his book The Icarus Deception, author Seth Godin sheds new light on the ancient Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus.

The story goes that Daedalus created wings for himself and his son Icarus that were attached with wax.  Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, or the wax would melt.

Icarus became euphoric with the sensation of flying and did indeed fly too close to the sun. Sure enough, the wax melted, he tumbled into the Icarian Sea and died.

But what has been lost over the eons is that Daedalus also warned his son not to fly too low, or the sea water would ruin the lift of the fragile wings.

The admonition of not flying too high and not flying too low aligns with the Buddhist idea of “The Middle Way,” which is the path to liberation.

Although The Middle Way and balance are wise, mindful approaches life, I tend to believe that Icarus did the right thing by flying high.

If you fly too low, you are squandering life’s blessing.

If you fly in the middle, you may have a comfortable life, but you may also miss the adventure.

When you fly closer to the sun, while you risk melting the wax of your wings, you are also breathing rarified air.

You just might get a glimpse and a taste of Heaven.

Isn’t that worth the risk?

 

And shifting from Greek Mythology to Seventies Rock and Roll, this from Manfred Mann’s Blinded By The Light

Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun… but Mama, that’s where the fun is.

 

Your New Year’s Resolutions Will Fail

"Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight." - Japanese Proverb

“Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight.” – Japanese Proverb

 

 

Your New Year’s Resolutions will fail.

Count on it.

Either today or tomorrow or in a few days, you’re toast.

At least if you are like vast majority of people who make resolutions.

Change isn’t easy.

Old habits die hard.

For some reason we’re wired to believe that Day One of the New Year is the ideal time to make a change.

And when we revert to our old ways we stay there for a long time.

But remember this…

The calendar doesn’t determine the new moment, the new day.

You do.

This is your life, this is your dance, this is your movie.

And every moment is the new moment.

Every moment is your opportunity to become the best version of you.

Your quest is heroic.

The epic battle is you versus you.

Will your higher self or your lower self prevail?

A lifetime of trends can be vanquished with your will, your heart, your faith and your refusal to play small.

So when your New Year’s Resolutions fail…

Forgive yourself.

Trust yourself.

Remember the Japanese proverb: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

Stand up.

Dust yourself off.

And begin again.

This is the sacred moment. 

 

 

My New Year’s Wish for You (and for me)

My New Years Wish

My New Years Wish

 

The clock strikes midnight

Are you ready?

Do you realize

You are given a gift

 

 

A new day

A new year

A new chance

 

 

To begin again

To wipe the slate clean

To see the world with new eyes

 

To trust your heart

Instead of the tired voices

In your head

 

To take the leap of faith

That has always beckoned you

 

My new year’s wish for you

(and for me)

 

Is that we realize

That the most precious

And sacred moment

Is not in the distant past

Nor somewhere in the future

 

Because

That moment is here

Now

 

May we embrace it

May we surrender to it

 

At last

 

May this new year

Shower you

With outrageous blessings

 

May you discover

Delightful magic

In each of your days

 

May your fondest dreams

Come true

 

Such that you pause…

And ask yourself,

 

“Is this Heaven?”

 

Before hearing

 

A still, small voice

reply,

 

“Yes, it is.”

 

 

 

Flying Through Life in My Brother’s Jacket

Wearing my brother Greg's flight jacket before dawn

Wearing my brother Greg’s flight jacket before dawn

Early this morning.
Predawn.
A chilly, foggy mist blankets the sky.
Some cold mornings I wear my brother Greg’s old F-100 Super Sabre flight jacket from the Seventies.
He flew supersonic through the sky in this jacket.
He taught me how to fly in 1978.
We lost him in 1980 while he was piloting a jet.
When I wear his flight jacket I seem to feel his presence.

The Wisdom of Silence

This Is The Sacred Moment

This Is The Sacred Moment
From The 1005 Faces Project by Sarah Brooke Lyons

 

We live in the information age.

This can be a blessing and a curse all at the same time.

While we have access to humankind’s cumulative knowledge at our fingertips, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of data that constantly streams across our computer screens, televisions, radios and smart phones.

We inherit the information of a billion souls, yet lose touch with the connection to our own.

Too often we are overstimulated by the nonstop cacophony of information that our miraculous technology delivers.

Eons of generations before us naturally had access to extended periods of silence. Especially as night fell and there was no electricity to power the devices that not only inform us, but distract us from the wellspring of guidance and wisdom that dwells within.

More than any previous generation, we have lost touch with silence.

It becomes more difficult to hear that still, small voice that guides, informs and inspires.

All the more reason to consciously, regularly choose to allow silence in our lives.

Go off grid.

Meditate.

Breathe.

Listen.

Rediscover the silence and the darkness.

There are life changing secrets being whispered to you.

 

 

 

The Christmas Miracle is You

Christmas and You

Christmas and You

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?  Another year over, and a new one just begun.”  – John Lennon

 

Christmas is wondrous – for those filled with joy.

Christmas is delightful – for those living in the moment.

Christmas is inconvenient – for those feeling overwhelmed.

Christmas is sad – for those missing loved ones.

Christmas is depressing – for those feeling hopeless.

 

Christmas is so many things to so many people.

 

The celebration of holy birth of the Savior

The opportunity to gather with family and friends

The exchange of gifts

Christmas carols

Christmas cards

Christmas trees

Christmas lights

Christmas ornaments

Christmas egg nog

Christmas tamales (hey, I live in San Antonio)

 

But shouldn’t Christmas be more personal?

 

What if Christmas had an even deeper personal meaning in your life, your story, your journey?

 

Since the late-Eighties, I have studied the works of the late mythologist Joseph Campbell, who spent his life studying the world’s religions and folklore.

One of his key teachings was that during a holiday such as Christmas, we should internalize the story into our own lives.

Not just celebrate the holiday.

But live it. 

Embody it.

 

Thus, since the Christmas miracle involves the birth of the divine into the flesh and the physical world, why not allow the birth of the divine into our bodies, our hearts, our souls?

On this Christmas

and every day…

May you feel, allow and increase the holiness that already exists inside of you and all around you.

And may you know

That every day

Every moment

Is a miracle.