A Sidekick's Blog

A Tribute to My Father

January 22, 2017

We were not on good terms when my (biological) father died last Thursday. He had attacked my bride, blaming her for “all my troubles” following my life-threatening battle with severe depression. He never showed any respect for the female members of my family. Neither my wife nor my daughter – both of whom I am immensely proud of – was worthy of any mention in his letters or phone calls for the last several years of his life. Informed of my brush with death, his response was heartless and cruel, especially toward my wife. That was our last contact, about a year ago.

“Joe,” as we always called him, was a brilliant composer of classical music that never got published as far as I know, but efforts to get one of the local colleges up in his hometown to publish it and play some selections were mostly successful. He wrote several hymns as well, which were heard, as far as I know, only at the little Lutheran church he attended. I hope they will find their way into publication so that that part of his legacy can live on and bless many others. Joe was a military veteran, an arch-conservative, a certified NRA firearms instructor, and a faithful husband.

When Joe and his wife Hilda visited us in Florida, he had nothing but good things to say about my stepfather, who was living with us by then. One of my favorite memories of Joe was one wonderful day of target shooting in which everyone including my kids and nephew participated.

Joe helps Danny perfect his technique.

That’s “Dad Hiley” seated on the scooter, Joe teaching, and Hilda poking her smiling face from behind Dad.

Shooting sports were a love we both shared. Here Joe and I went skeet shooting a few times, both at his home in Virginia and mine down here in Florida.
Great memories!

I renewed my acquaintance with my biological father when I was 14 and intensely curious about finding and getting to know my “real” father. He was very accommodating then, and we kept in touch by phone and correspondence for many years.

I met my half-brother Charles on that first trip to Virginia, and always enjoyed the pride that Joe had in him. Charles is a French-trained pastry chef who owns and operates the best bakery in Luray, Virginia. If you’re ever traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and plan a visit to Luray Caverns, be sure to stop in at the Main Street Bakery and Catering shop and tell them Robin sent you!

Joe hated technology. I tried several times to get him a computer in the hopes of teaching him to use it, if only so that our correspondence would be easier and faster, to include pictures, links, and other stuff to enrich it. But really, nothing beats pen and paper and “real” printed photographs, newspaper clippings, and the like. It seems technophobia was another trait we shared.

Joe never got my Star Trek references.

“Holy moley, it’s genetic!” was Suzie’s first response to meeting Joe and witnessing the idiosyncrasies we shared, from the frequent lack of a proper “filter” for our words and behavior in social situations. I was not raised by Joe at all. Yet I act like him in several ways and share his contempt for the new math and modern technology. In a conversation with him about Asperger’s syndrome (before it was re-named to “high functioning autism”) his reaction was, “Holy moley there’s a name for this?” I believe that is a trait we also shared.

Even though we parted on unfriendly terms – so much so that I was not supposed to be informed of his death – most of my memories of Joe are really good ones, and I’m proud to be his son.

Rest in peace, Papa Joe. I’ll see you again soon, in the next world, where our falling out won’t matter one little bit.


Birth, Life, and Death

January 22, 2015
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If you could talk to a baby still in the womb, you might tell her:

I can’t begin to describe the world that is waiting for you! Things you cannot even imagine, like colors, smells, touch, the unmuffled sounds of music! Everything you know in your present world is just preparing you for life in my world, and it’s wonderful! Pretty soon, baby, you will be pushed through a tunnel and enter this amazing new world, and we are very anxious to meet you, to hold you, to see you, and to have you see us as we really are. We are preparing a special place just for you, with your own crib and warm cozy clothes and pictures on the walls – oh, you can’t understand this description at all, but trust me, it’s wonderful. Your room is almost ready, and we can hardly wait for you to join us here in our world!

Hearing this, a baby who has only known the warmth and comfort and familiarity of her floating, liquid home with all it’s comfort and the sound of Mom’s heartbeat, might reply, if she could:

No, thank you! I am fine right where I am! I like my cozy little home, it’s great right where I am, I don’t want it to change. What’s a tunnel? What is color? What are taste and smell and touch? Please don’t frighten me, just let me stay here. It’s so nice and cozy, and I am content to live and float right where I am, beneath that beating rhythm and the embrace of this home.

But inevitably, birth comes. The painful squeeze through the tunnel, pushed against our will and thrust into a world of cold, warmth, light, color, sound, sensation, smell, and the taste of mother’s milk. And y’know what? It ain’t so bad after all! It’s amazing! Indescribable and constantly new! Only the transition through that tunnel was hard, but we quickly forget our former life in the womb because this new world is so totally awesome!

Now the preacher is describing life in the next world, and it’s as impossible for us to understand as it was for us to understand this world when we were still being prepared for it. He says,

I can’t begin to describe the world that is waiting for us! Things we cannot even imagine, not like colors, smells, touch, music, but much more! Everything you know in your present world is just preparing you for life in God’s world, and it’s wonderful! Pretty soon, baby, you will be pushed through a tunnel and enter this amazing new world, and your Lord and His saints are very anxious to meet you, to hold you, to see you, and to have you see Him as He really is. Christ is preparing a special place just for us. Oh, you can’t understand this description at all, but trust me, it’s going to be wonderful. Your room is almost ready, and Jesus is waiting for you to join Him in His world!

And as before, we might say,

No thank you! I am fine right where I am! I like my cozy little home here and I don’t want that to change. Please don’t frighten me, just let me stay here. It’s so nice and cozy, and I am content to live right where I am, in the embrace of my own body, my own house, my job, my family. Must I really leave all this? Please let me stay, even if just a little while longer.

Death is just like birth – for those who have been born again. But only for those who are twice-born! Those who have not been born of the Spirit, but only born once, of “water and of blood,” as the scripture says, cannot look forward as I do, to a wonderful world beyond the tunnel.

My wife’s mother has just made that journey through the tunnel to the invisible world, untouched by the pain of the disease which ushered her out of this earthly home to the next. I bet she couldn’t find words to describe the life she has begun there, but the closest we can come to words are described in God’s Book. We shall see Him as He is! We shall be like Him! No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more loss, no more fear.

But this new world, and a place in it prepared by Christ Himself, only awaits those who are twice-born. That is, born of the Spirit, as well as having been born physically into this present world with it’s mortality and decay and sorrow and pain. But this New Birth is from Above, not from within. It is not something we can work for, conjure up, earn, or create with our own efforts. Just as with our physical existence, it is entirely the work of Another, the Author of all things. Without His work, we have no hope in this world nor in the next. Are you twice-born? Are you being prepared for the tunnel and the entrance into everlasting life and light? Or will you face the justice of a holy God without an Advocate who gives His own birthright to those who trust in Him?

If you are not sure, find a copy of God’s Book and read the little Gospel of John. It is the story, in short form, of how God, the Author of all life and all creation, rescues a people for Himself from the fallen race of Adam. Those who have faith in Christ alone for safety from the Father’s terrible justice against sin can be born from Above! I am happy to answer questions in the Comments section below.

Soul Searching

October 15, 2013

I ran a lot of medical calls to nursing homes in my fire department days, and cared for my foster dad in his old age, and now my wife and I are caring for her mom. eighty three years old, frail and suffering from advancing dementia. I speak from long experience.

My foster dad was alert and vibrant until the day he died. His physical frailty was no issue. It was a delight to care for him, and he always wanted to be useful, to ¨earn his keep¨ in any way he could, and he did.

But my wife´s mom, and the great majority of those nursing home patients and assisted living residents I served in my fire department days were mentally absent, or mentally impaired, or just crazy, but one thing they all had in common – including my mother-in-law, is that they were absolutely miserable.

Another thing they all had (or have) in common is that they´re on buckets of medications designed to prolong their lives. Blood pressure meds, cholesterol lowering meds, cardiac meds, that sort of thing.

I have thought long and hard about this for years. If a beloved pet was suffering so, we would euthanize it as an act of compassion. But old folks who are out of their minds and suffering terribly get no such consideration, because killing them would be immoral. I feel the same way about withholding food and water from these dear folks. But I don´t feel the same way about these life-extending medications. Would it be so immoral to medicate folks like this only for pain management and comfort rather than artificially extending their lives – and thus their pain (and that of their families in many cases)?

If I ever reach a state of misery and mental incapacity, I want only comfort measures taken in caring for me. No medications aimed at extending life. No blood pressure meds, cardiac meds, no cholesterol-lowering meds or blood thinners, nothing to prevent any natural old-age related illness or event from relieving me and my family of the burden and heartbreak of caring for a helpless madman who has outlived his dignity.  Just ease my breathing, my discomfort, and my pain. When my time comes, don´t let me be held back from my homegoing to Jesus.

What I have just described is already a well-accepted care plan, called Hospice care. But legally, at least in my country, such a care plan requires a terminal diagnosis with a specific expected remaining lifetime. What I am suggesting is that a palliative / comfort-measures-only care plan should be available without regard to life expectancy in cases where there is no hope of a cure and the patient is in profound pain, whether physical or emotional. I´m not suggesting any form of euthanasia or the withholding of food and water! Only to let ¨natural causes¨ proceed naturally.

Does that cross some moral red line? Have I fallen victim to ¨creeping liberalism?¨

Comment is invited and encouraged, but please, don´t tell me that I´m destined to be the next Antichrist for daring to suggest such an immoral thing. Consider it a sincere question deserving kind, biblical, and thoughtful counsel.