When This Is, That Is

Exploring the world of conditionality

In Memmorium


Genevie “Jennie” Dietz Gerhards
January 15, 1928 – October 9, 2006

October 11, 2006
St. Paul Church
Silverton, Oregon

A Life Well Lived

I was much younger when I last attended Mass in this church. But imagine me younger still, seven years old, maybe. I am walking along with my mother. We’re about to enter a building. Sears and Roebuck, maybe. Just as we come to the door, she stands aside. I stop too, not knowing what to do next. I look to my mother for a little guidance. She says, “A gentleman holds the door for a lady. Go on, open the door.” I open the door, hold it for her. She leads the way. I follow.

There are two important aspects to this story that personify our mother’s life and our life with her.

The first is respect. How often my brothers and I heard the words “respect your elders.” That meant respect for parents, respect for family, respect for teachers, respect for rank. It was all inclusive.

The second aspect this story is example. What I learned from both of my parents is the importance of setting a good example with your life.

Respect and example, of course, are not really two things, but one.

My mother was the child of a Polish immigrant. She grew up in a small coal town in southwestern Pennsylvania. Her father worked in the mines. She understood what it meant to be on the low end, the labor end, the minority end, of the social scale.

The unkind treatment of the lower class made a big impression on her. Perhaps that is the only thing she ever really hated. It also made — indirectly — a big impression on my life. Never in her presence did I hear unkind words about a person’s color, religion, or nationality. Prejudice and bigotry were simply not part of my education. Instead, all people are equal and deserving of respect.

There is an immutable truth to life that says good actions bring good results and bad actions bring bad results.

I’ll speak more about good actions and their results in a moment. Now is the time to talk about bad example, bad actions, bad results.

Those of you of her generation no doubt remember when Mother Culture taught that smoking was sophisticated, glamorous, a symbol of independence. These were qualities my mother wanted to cultivate as she escaped the oppression of small town life into the excitement of the Big City, of Washington DC.

But instead of sophistication and glamour and independence, what she ultimately got was just the opposite. As most of you know, about 18 years ago she was diagnosed with emphysema. Say good bye to sophistication and to glamour, and especially say good bye to independence.

As I said, bad actions bring bad results. We all make our mistakes and she made her share. But she was wise enough to understand that even though actions of the past cannot be changed, and we have no choice but to live with their results, it’s the actions of the present that matter, and those actions have a tremendous effect on the future.

Until just a couple of weeks ago, most of her life since that diagnosis was spent quietly in her spiritual room where she wrote her memoirs and poetry, read her Bible and other spiritual books, listened to recorded stories and watched a little TV. And, in the most positive of ways, she reflected often on her death.

The result of such reflection is wisdom. She had no delusions about how things were and how things would be for her.

What she did not do was complain about her condition or any of the negative things which that condition imposed upon her. In truth, there wasn’t much to complain about.

My mother’s life was a life well lived.

It was well lived in four ways.

It was well lived because she treated everyone with loving kindness.

It was well lived because her compassionate heart included everyone.

It was well lived because of the great joy she found in her family and her faith.

It was well lived because of the equanimity with which she faced her many trials and setbacks and limitations.

Now I ask you to consider one very important result of those good actions, of a life well lived. It’s not that she gets a heavenly reward. It’s not that people say nice things about her at her funeral.

My mother, our mother, our friend, my father’s wife of 58 years died well. She died well indeed.

May all of us benefit from the example of a life well lived.

Aloft and away

imageWe arrived at the airport about two and a half hours before takeoff at 6:44 Saturday. I like to be early because if there was a problem needing resolution, there would be plenty of time for it. But all went well. On a Saturday afternoon PDX was nearly empty. We zigzagged unimpeded through the stanchions as we approached the Delta counter.

Two attendants vied for our business. Robin and I each had a carry on bag, but we shared a large suitcase to check. It weighed in at 49 pounds, one pound under the limit to avoid a fee. We went through security with the same ease.

Before going through security, we stopped in at Powell’s Books. One of our traditional pastimes while on vacation is reading, but not independently. Robin reads aloud while listen. One of her favorite genres is young adult fiction.

We got a cup of coffee, wandered down Concourse D, then settled in at D5 where Robin began reading “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs. After we boarded and got underway, she read for awhile more before we went into our own worlds: I with my writing, Robin with a sudoku puzzle.

Moments ago I felt the obvious change in altitude as we began our descent into Los Angeles. Seat belt fastened. Ready for the next phase.

“Persist” a Winner in Ebook Competition

One of the books I published through my company, Parami Press, took first in its category in the second annual Global Ebook Awards.

Persist: In Praise of the Creative Spirit in a World Gone Mad with Commerce, by Los Angeles author Peter Clothier, won first place in the Art/Graphics Non-Fiction category. The book is not about art per se, nor does it contain artwork. Rather, it’s a collection of compelling essays offering inspiration and encouragement to artists and creative people of all kinds, especially those who struggle against the stream of commercialism and profit.

In the Introduction to Persist, Peter writes:

Earning a living with art is a fanciful expectation for the vast majority of those we certify as artists with the award of a college degree, thanks largely to a self-supporting, self-perpetuating system that provides teaching jobs for otherwise unemployable artists. What results is a disconnect between what students have been led to expect and the realties that await them . . . and there is an army of the walking wounded out there to prove this point. Our culture celebrates creativity from the earliest age in schools. Children are encouraged to express themselves even before they learn the ABC’s that enable them to do it. So many of our brightest young people dream of careers in music, acting, film, and television, but later find themselves in a career market that offers scant possibility of fulfilling the dream they have been fraudulently urged to dream. I live in Hollywood and go to restaurants. I talk to the servers.

This collection of essays is intended to celebrate and encourage these amateurs—or rather, more honestly, us. Because, though I myself have been fortunate enough to enjoy a good measure of success as a writer, I too am confronted with the reality of a publishing world in which many thousands of worthy writers flounder against the formidable rocks of commercial demands. If I write about the survival of the creative spirit in such a cultural context, it’s because I myself have needed to develop strategies and mind-sets that enable me to persevere with a sense of dedication, self-respect, and persistence that might otherwise seem foolishly quixotic. These essays have been written to remind myself, at moments of discouragement, that I am, first, foremost, and always, a writer—if only because that is what I have been given to do.

 The ebook edition of Persist is available for immediate download in both MOBI and EPUB formats directly from Parami Press through the Gumroad download service. You can also order Kindle and NOOK editions from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Of course, the paperback edition is available, too.

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