Tuesday, September 06, 2016

My eulogy for Doug Coker

Before I left Portland Oregon to come to Atlanta when my brother in law, Doug Coker passed away unexpectedly I knew I would not arrive in time for his memorial service so I wrote a eulogy that my brother Ron spoke during the service.  I wanted to post it now so I would have a record of it during my travels. Thanks to all of you who have posted or emailed your thoughts and prayers for our family as it is much appreciated by everyone.
Time is too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice,
But for those who love, time is eternity.
Hours fly, flowers die,
New days, new ways pass by,
Love stays. (Henry Van Dyke)

Though my heart is filled with much sadness during this time, my thoughts will not be one of despair, nor of loss, and mourning, but it is one of hope, love, and celebration.  I had the good fortune of knowing Doug since early childhood, living in the same neighborhood, spending time and growing up with him and his brother Tony.  I had the good fortune to call Doug one of my lifelong friends, a brother to me much like my own.  We played many rounds of golf over the years before I left Atlanta, spent vacation time or just hanging out talking and discussing the world’s problems with that somewhat sarcastic bite that Doug was known for.  I can attest to his talents in business, good humor, strengths but also, the gentleness and kindness, to which he personified.  Doug’s wit and sometimes “dig” into those he loved were what made everyone drawn to him.  Doug was the type of person who lived this life to the fullest, who took advantage of each and every minute. Always there for everyone; family, friends, or business associates he was always there to listen, give his opinion or be there for everyone.  These were always the fundamental qualities that dominated Doug’s character. 

Though now I may mourn the loss of such a brother and friend, I will forever cherish that friendship I shared with him and celebrate the time we had growing up together. For I believe he would want each of us to continue living our lives in the same manner he did. He would want us to laugh and continue our lives again. 

And rather than to mourn his death, I believe he would want us to celebrate his life. 

In keeping with that spirit of his life, I thought about the many things that Doug did to make me laugh.  Such as, one time in our youth when I refused to go to any of the school dances because, I couldn’t dance. Doug did his best to teach me how to dance but I guess I wasn’t a natural dancer. I will never forget how Doug told me if anyone was ever born without rhythm, it was I. He laughed at my two left feet and to this day have problems getting up there to dance, usually rather enjoying the music from afar while everyone else dances the night away. 

But, such was the way with Doug.  After he married my sister Judy we reunited our families once again and became grown up best friends.  We would laugh together ever acting the youths we were: weekly golf outings while laughing with each other, as we would talk about our lives, families, work,  and all the other things best friends would do and talk about with each other.  Family was always the top of our list as we made our change from youth to adults and later into our middle years and the changes and experiences we’ve had. 

But, that’s what best friends are for; to share in the joys and sometimes in the pain & hurts that we encounter on life’s highway; Doug was a friend who was always there when I was down, to lend a hand when I needed help, and to be there as we grew and learned. He was always there to encourage me, to push me to do better and be a better person. Doug was the embodiment of this, a real and true friend, a second brother.

But, just as we impatient youths can’t wait to grow up, life unfortunately, sometimes pulls us in different directions and we grow up becoming engulfed by a cruel world that leaves little time for us to just stop and smell the flower’s sweet scent on a cool breeze. I left Atlanta in 1995 and our time golfing was cut short only the occasional round we could work in during my visits. Our last round together was arranged by my brother Ron last summer in Jacksonville Beach.  
It was the typical hot, humid July day with little breeze but beautiful blue skies.  We all sweat, enjoyed our time in the sun and remembered all the years playing together which was sorely missed by both of us. Doug told me that the real cruelty of being grown up and becoming adults was that the world sometimes makes us forget that we should have more fun or a good laugh every day.

Since I left Atlanta it seems so long ago now, Doug’s health had been an ongoing issue.  Strong as ever but problems with his heart over the recent years I’m sure have taken their toll on his body.  We laughed many times being good southern men who loved great BBQ or steaks on the grill.  It was only later that we tried to do better with our diets and cut back somewhat on our southern foods and deserts which was always hard for both of us.

Yet in talking to Doug several weeks ago after building a deck in Oregon for friends, I was invited back to Atlanta to work on the decks around the house.  In true Doug fashion, I was invited to come down, do the work but I had to leave once it was finished.  He was not going to “take me to raise” and was ready to downsize his house for a home on the beach.  That is a dream we both seemed to want as we grew older.   

That is why I choose to celebrate Doug’s life, not his death.  There’s a song that I play a lot that has been kind of a morning wake up music.  The 1939 classic “Somewhere over the rainbow” played by the late Hawaiian “Izzy”, by Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole.  His soothing vocals make it a very peaceful and calming experience listening to the song.  The song speaks of this magical place over the rainbow where things will be better.  It refers to this other, better place compared to where we are now.  If you feel down and out, and when things seem tough, this song will lift you up.  Just remember that the better place isn’t “somewhere out there”, but here where we are now.  It’s up to us to make the best of what we have!

I’m thankful that Doug’s last act of kindness to me was in reminding me sometimes we could all stand to be happy in this life.  To enjoy this miracle that is our lives, and to see the perfection of the child in all of us, the child that knows the honesty of love, the kindness of a friend, and the beauty of the spirit within all of us. 

And it is that Spirit that is my dear friend and Brother Doug; and for as long as we each remember him will never be gone from us, never pass away, and will never fade.  But, will continue to live in our hearts and minds.  For it is the joyous memories of Doug and family members that he leaves with us; not the sadness that this life was tragically stopped and cut short, nor that for now our sight may be blurred by our tears of sadness but, that even though in Doug’s passing on to a higher plain, he leaves us with his living memory in the spirit of everyone he touched in this earthly life.

To our family; I mourn with you in our time of loss and hope that your grief will in time be replaced by the precious memories everyone has of him.

For my friend and brother, I can only say, you will continue to live on in my heart and spirit, for you have taught me the kindness and love of a friend, confidant, and brother over the years which have forever touched my life by showing me how to see through the eyes of our hearts.


Thursday, September 01, 2016

Grief can have far reaching effects

Grief can have far reaching effects

“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Over the last several months my family has been going through some major changes to our lives due to an unexpected death in the family. It has brought with it many different feelings and thoughts about the short term future and long-time changes to things.

Trying to be an observer has been hard in that I lost a lifelong best friend and seeing the interactions of my family has been hard on me and everyone else.  Grief can take many forms in all of us and there are some shared emotions but I have found that it is a very different and unique experience for each of us depending on the relationship within our family structure.

Losing a husband, father, grandfather, brother-in-law, best friend, and so many other combinations is a complicated and sometimes trying thing for us to go through.  We each have a different perspective from which our life experience is seeing the situation and reacting to things going on around us.  All our feeling and turmoil’s are valid but there are so many things that have caused hurt feelings and possible misunderstandings because we each see things from a totally different perspective.

Trying to support each other and dealing with our own feelings of grief or uncertainty has been at times difficult and not what I would call our normal family temperament.  The dynamics changed when everyone was thrown into such an unfamiliar situation which changed so much of the family.  I found myself wanting to explore all of the different ways people respond to and learn to live with loss in a culture that generally tries to avoid it.  Grief is often described as a journey, but it’s an intensely individual and often isolating one: rarely do people speak openly about the range of ways of grieving, and there are many misconceptions about the grief process.  What many may think of grief occurring in stages what we have found that it is not a neat predictable experience.   It’s actually a jumble of feelings and thoughts that can have you flipping back and forth from one stage to another, between emotional highs and lows that can be terrifying at times.

Some of the things our family is going through over the last several months is:

Numbness or Shock, this can involve a sense of unreality and of being lost, as if you’re living in a bad dream.  You want to “wake up” and everything is normal again but finds that is not the case or will never go back to what once was.  In the extreme, you may feel as if you’re going crazy but that can feel like the lesser of the multitude of emotions going through you during this time. 

Disorganization, after the initial shock wears off our family has started going through a rush of emotions that can included sadness, anger, poor concentration, loss of interest or motivation, fear, guilt, denial, depression, regret and yearning.  We have gone so far as to even begin to question life choices, religious beliefs, relationships and the future.  This emotional upheaval is apparently normal and necessary in working through our grief.

Reorganization is partially where we are in the grieving process right now.  Going over things with the family business, vehicles, and property are all being worked on now trying to get the first priorities started or addressed.  Downsizing and slowly making adjustments to the priority list is starting to give some normalcy but the loss and tears are still flowing everyday as one thing triggers a memory or thing that takes everyone down for a bit only to remember the good things or times which are a mixed blessing.  Will this diminish over time and something positive replace this lost feeling we are all having I do not know but I know we all are a strong southern family so we will dig in, reach deep and put the broken pieces together again.  We will not have all the pieces but the spirit and love felt will get us going once again. With time hopefully we will be able to begin to adjust to the new life without Doug which was lost. We can then focus on life and enjoy moments of happiness again, even when thinking about our lost loved one.

Hopefully working through these stages, at our own pace, we, especially my sister, will eventually find a new normal for herself where she can reinvest in relationships with friends and activities.  So far the support from our friends here in Atlanta and elsewhere has been overwhelming. 

From Kenny Chesney song “Don’t Blink”:

"Best start putting first things first."
Cause when your hourglass runs out of sand
You can't flip over and start again
Take every breathe God gives you for what it's worth.
Don’t blink.”

Our family is truly blessed but I am reminded that the best moment to be happy is the one that is happening right now.  Don’t wait in your life to be happy with things, work, relationships, or so many things that you waste precious time with your spouse, brother, sister, grand kids, or other people in your life because it can be changed in an instant.  Keep us in your prayers my friends as we do for you.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Backpacking your way through life

My analogy of life through a backpacker eyes.

Imagine yourself as a traveler walking through life with a backpack on your back.

Your life is the journey, the road ahead is your future and the bag on your back is your past.  As you walk through your journey of life you pick up rocks of all shapes and sizes along the way which symbolize memories and experiences from your past.

Now imagine you are walking forward on your journey with the bag on your back: it will be fine to have a couple of the rocks in the backpack, but if you carry too many heavy rocks around with you, eventually the backpack will get too heavy and you will no longer be able to continue moving forward. You become tired and overwhelmed with all the weight you carry around with you and can’t seem to want to move on with your life.

After a bit of time you see that to move forward once again you have to take the backpack off, look at those memories from the past, acknowledge the past for what it was, bank the good ones keeping them with you and dumping all those bad memories out of your backpack.

Forgive yourself or others if needed and keep the good ones with you.  Put the backpack on again and start/keep moving forward on to new adventures and people in your life.

Pain is inevitable but misery is a choice!

You can always get a bigger backpack but why bother, dump the extra weight in your life and save the great memories of your life. Pack that extra bottle of water or bottle of wine and enjoy the hike of your life. 

Anything can change in an instant so don’t waste time drugging up the past, it is gone, today is the only “real” day in your life and if you’re lucky you have a chance for another real day tomorrow.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Where it all started, 11-07-2005

I've had several people recently ask me how long I have been blogging and how did it all start.  I searched back through the archives and found my second post (first real post) where it all started.  My inquisitive side (plus my office at the time was in the laundry room) so my imagination took over and many years later has taken me on many travels, thoughts about many subjects and just weird observations along the way.  If you have some free time go back through the archives and enjoy some good reads along the way. (Most are a great length for bathroom reading, lol).

Did you ever wonder?

A couple of nights ago after a really long week I was sitting in my washing machine trying to figure out how the Downy Ball works.

The water was really cold until I hit the button for Hot/Cold water and changed the setting to “extra large” load. I like using the Downy “Enhancer” Ball for that clean fresh smell it gives all of my clothes and sheets. I especially like the “April Fresh” scent. The “Soft Ocean Mist” really didn’t do a lot for me as I guess I have never really been a “beach person”. The “Mountain Spring” scent was nice but the constant draw of mosquitoes and other flying insects kept me from using this one.

I pour that nice silky Blue Liquid into the Ball, put the rubber top on it and drop it into the water next to me. It floats along side me during the wash cycle.

I watched and waited for something to happen to the little Ball. I waited . . . And waited. Nothing happened with the Ball but this cycle was a little uncomfortable for me as the agitator keep hitting my leg and also knocking my head into the top rim of the wash tub. This cycle lasted about 9 minutes but soon led to the really fun part.

Have you ever been to the Fair and rode the big Barrel Ride? The spin cycle is almost like that ride.You start spinning around faster and faster. Everything is a blurrrrr on both of these. The Fair ride has the floor fall away below you about 3 feet and everyone is pinned to the walls for several minutes as the ride continues. The force keeps you solidly against the wall until the floor is brought back up to your feet.

The spin cycle is similar in that you are turning so fast. I tried to watch the Downy Ball but could not see it below me. When we stopped spinning and I finally got my wits about me I looked down and saw that the little rubber plug top had slid down into the Blue liquid. The ball again floated but this time the liquid was mixing with the water as this fresh smell and smooth feeling crept all over me. It was a state of mind I have not been to in a long while. After this adventure I am not sure I will attain this feeling again anytime soon.
Over the next 10 minutes was another rinse and repeat spin cycle which made me to dizzy to write this down until today.

Going through our lives is an ever learning and always “mind expanding” experience. Don’t just sit on the sidelines of life, always seek those truly unique experiences to learn and explore our weird and fascinating world. Remember what Forrest Gump said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."

Now you know the secret of the Downy Ball but I enjoyed every minute of this one.
Winter is fast approaching with snow now falling on the mountaintops and the need to find ways to entertain ourselves during the long darkness. I probably should have saved this for December but it was too good to wait that long.

Oh and before I forget, when you climb into that over sized dryer for another unique experience that should not be missed, always throw in that Downy Dryer sheet to remove all that “static cling” from those tumbles. I always hated having all kinds of socks and underwear hanging off of me when I climb out of the Dryer. It has always bothered me when I get those extra stares from the people when that extra sock or ladies underwear falls off as I walk out of the Laundromat.


Friday, August 26, 2016

What is lonely?

What is lonely?

I have been asked by several people since I started my travels if I am lonely traveling alone over the many miles I have gone so far?  I think the thing about the question is that it really leaves a lot to be defined.
Lonely compared to what?  Compared to before I started travelling?  Compared to you?  Compared to the locals and people I meet along the way or where I am?  Compared to a “typical” single guy my age?  Compared to a married guy with children and an active social life?

For one thing there are many aspects of loneliness.  You can be lonely even if surrounded by people who know you because you feel they don’t “get” you. You can be lonely in a long-term relationship because you realize it isn’t going great and possibly over.  You can be lonely because you are stuck in a routine (at home or work) and not having deep conversations with people.  There are so many ways you may feel lonely in groups of people or all alone.

It just seems so obvious to many people that I must feel lonely as a solo traveler since I don’t have anyone physically or constantly there with me.  I wish I did since sharing adventures and travels is one of the things I love the best in my life.

But to me loneliness depends way more on the person’s mindset than on their situation.  By getting over the shy feelings and maintaining some personality when I meet new people, I can usually make new friends quickly no matter where I am.  Some places have been tougher to do this, but with persistence I always make one or several friends along the way.

People may say, “You can’t make a true friend in just a short time!”  I tend to disagree with that statement since over the years I have made many friends online having never met.  Once meeting in real life it was like we were best buddies forever. 
My Canadian friend Russ is a great example.  We met online almost fifteen years ago and he has probably been my best friend over the years even when we have not seen each other for a while.  When I would drive through Canada on my way to or from Alaska he was always a stop during my road trip.

I used to say about my ex-wife, “She never met a stranger only a friend she hadn’t met yet”.  She had a way she could comfortably talk to anyone when just meeting for the first time.  I keep that philosophy while on the road opening myself up to so far some pretty incredible meetings. When I have stopped by the roadside to give cold water to several lone bicyclists who shared their story of travelling while I shared mine, it opens up a whole new meaning to travelling.  People are on the road for a multitude of reasons and everyone has a story which is pretty cool if you have the chance to stop and listen.  Others in places to eat, rest areas along the way and at the many attractions where I have stopped, especially when I pull out Placido Flamingo to take photos or request others to share in my photo opportunity.
I don’t restrict my definition of friend to the sadly restrictive (for most of us) one of someone who I have known since childhood.  No matter where you are on the road, if you are open to making a new friend either with other travelers such as myself, or (more ideally) with those from the location I am visiting.  Hopefully I will never feel alone.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Life Observation # 164 . . .

Life Observation # 164 . . .  

Life is a gift that you must unwrap.  It's up to you to determine if what's inside will lead you to happiness or dismay.  You have the power to make that decision for yourself.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Georgia Guidestones – Elberton Georgia

The Georgia Guidestones

Several years before leaving Atlanta for Alaska in 1995 I discovered a unique and interesting site in a field near Elberton Georgia.  Rolling hills of farmland are the normal views one usually sees while driving in the area along Georgia Highway 77 (Hartwell Highway).  On one of the windswept hilltops just outside Elberton stands an unexpected granite monument.  The monument is alternately referred to as The Georgia Guidestones, or the American Stonehenge. 
I still cannot believe in the time I have lived in Alaska over the last twenty years the Guidestones are still relatively unknown to people I talk to.  It is not the typical tourist location but probably is in the same theme as the world’s largest ball to twine (Cawker City KS, Hwy 24 west of Topeka Kansas) or largest frying pan (Rose Hill N Carolina).  I have seen the ball of twine but not the frying pan which is still on my bucket list.
Elberton isn't called the 'Granite Capital of the World' for nothing. It sits atop a granite deposit 35 miles long, six miles wide and three miles deep.  If there was ever going to be an earthquake or natural disaster, I'd want to be right here atop six million tons of solid stone.  

The origin of that strange monument is shrouded in mystery because no one knows the true identity of the man, or men, who commissioned its construction. All that is known for certain is that in June 1979, a well-dressed, articulate stranger visited the office of the Elberton Granite Finishing Company and announced that he wanted to build an edifice to transmit a message to mankind. He identified himself as R. C. Christian, but it soon became apparent that was not his real name. He said that he represented a group of men who wanted to offer direction to humanity, but to date, almost two decades later, no one knows who R. C. Christian really was, or the names of those he represented.

Several things are apparent. The messages engraved on the Georgia Guidestones deal with four major fields: (1) Governance and the establishment of a world government, (2) Population and reproduction control, (3) The environment and man's relationship to nature, and (4) Spirituality.

Engraved in eight different languages on the four giant stones that support the common capstone are 10 Guides, or commandments. Though relatively unknown to most people, it is an important link to the Occult Hierarchy that dominates the world in which we live.  The stranger wanted a Stonehenge built -- he had a model of it in a shoe box -- and had selected the area because it was remote and it offered good granite.  Mr. Christian reportedly left $50,000 in a local bank, told the locals that they would never see him again, and vanished forever.  Following Mr. Christian's detailed instructions, the company erected what are now known as The Georgia Guidestones, four granite monoliths, each nineteen feet tall.
The main cluster was completed on March 22, 1980, using granite quarried from nearby Elberton. One slab stands in the center, with four arranged around it.  A capstone lies on top of the five slabs, which are astronomically aligned.  An additional stone tablet, which is set in the ground a short distance to the west of the structure, provides some notes on the history and purpose of the Guidestones.

On the top stone, carved on the four sides in Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Babylonian Cuneiform, it says: "Let these be Guidestones to an Age of Reason." On the upright slabs, carved in eight different languages (including Swahili, Hebrew, and Chinese), are Ten Commandments for the coming "Age of Reason," encouraging visitors to "unite humanity."

A message consisting of a set of ten guidelines or principles is engraved on the Georgia Guidestones in eight different languages, one language on each face of the four large upright stones. Moving clockwise around the structure from due north, these languages are: English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.
  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature
  2. Guide reproduction wisely – improving fitness and diversity
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language
  4. Rule passion – faith – tradition – and all things with tempered reason
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties
  9. Prize truth – beauty – love – seeking harmony with the infinite
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth – Leave room for nature – Leave room for nature

I found it interesting the choice of placement of the languages on the stones.  Several were very opposite cultures of the language on the reverse side. I think there was a lot of thought given the message and the cultures represented on the stones.

There are many theories and people’s thoughts about conspiracies of the Guidestones.  Is it a new world order or the commandments for the anti-Christ?  Who knows but its message in many ways is a start to a safer world, giving others a chance, protecting our environment and controlling our population so as not to destroy our natural resources to survive.

“I want people to know about the stones ... We're headed toward a world where we might blow ourselves up and maybe the globe will not exist ... it's a nice time to reaffirm ourselves, knowing all the beautiful things that are in this country and the Georgia Stones symbolize that.” – Yoko Ono
Placido Flamingo enjoyed his visit to The Georgia Guidestones being another unique and thought provoking place along our journey.

(*Some reference material found here from various sources from the internet)