April 15, 2012


I buried my Dad four weeks ago. I’m still getting used to speaking of him in past tense. And even though it was a long battle with cancer, it still seems too early.

During the past month, five of my friends’ fathers also died. I’ve heard sometimes people die in batches (think Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, etc.), but this is just weird.

I’ve actually been grieving the loss of my Dad for the past year and a half, as he just wasn’t quite the same once certain symptoms started kicking in. After he had his prostate removed, we thought it was all good. Then, while I was in Haiti … not the happiest place on earth to cushion bad news … he told me they found cancer again. And with all the doctor appointments, traveling back and forth and such, it’s been an exhausting 24 months for the family.

But my point here is not to depress you.

Through the past couple years, even in the creeping fog of death, I’ve gained acute insights into how powerful life is. From the crumbled ruins of Haiti to the fluid-stained ICU beds where my father had wrestled since Christmas Eve, I’ve been entirely amazed by the strength of life-energy. (I don’t really like that term. It sounds too new-agey. But it’s the most accurate easy descriptor I can think of right now.)

I’ve also seen it through my Master Naturalist classes.  In the microscopic processes that drive microorganisms; the adaptability of  metamorphic animals; the befuddling geologic timescale; artifacts illustrating the brilliance of ancient humans; the rocketing growth of tomatoes and squash in my garden (and the snails that try to eat them); and of course, those goddamn fire ants. Hell, even that evil beast, cancer. It’s one determined bastard. You gotta give it that.

But in all of it, I shake my head in amazement of the unquenchable radiance of life. I want to swim in this life-energy that’s all around us. I want to enjoy life; breathe it in. Not make the most of a career, but of life. I intentionally do not say, “Make the most of MY life.” That implies trying to live up to some expectation.

So I mean this: take full advantage of the life that I’m surrounded by…the life that connects us all. That same energy that fuels the planetary motion fuels the unconscious pumping of our hearts and lungs.

I remember watching intently as my dad gasped between the pumping of the breathing machine. It was just a few hours before he died. He was entirely non-responsive. But he was breathing. Somehow. His skin was still warm, but not as warm as the day before. I don’t think he was “there.” He was already somewhere else. But something, besides the sterile mechanisms, was still powering his body. The energy was fading. Beginning its transition into another type of energy. A transition that would, through astounding natural processes, transform human flesh into oxygen for me to breathe.

I am wordlessly thankful to my father. For exemplifying how to take a singular, unique path.  For acknowledging and then ignoring rules and the status quo. For standing firmly. And for resting. For enjoying life. For always being proud of me. For squeezing my hand once more, before he passed, to let me know he loved me. For helping create me. And for helping us all, even in his dying, by handing over his bit of energy.

I know this wasn’t the most unified of posts. But oh well. I just wanted to say that I plan on embodying every little bit of universal energy that I possibly can, and sharing it with others. I hope you’ll join me.

With that in mind, I may not be posting here very often anymore. I’ve said my peace on the topics this blog has been focused on. I’m moving on. Not necessarily in another direction. Just…on. I plan on opening a new site where my musings take on different forms. It might be a while before I open it to the public, but I’ll keep you posted.

So if you’ve liked what I’ve had to say here over the past two years, I really think you’re going to like what I’ve got planned to share. So stick with me while I transition.

Until then, peace to you and yours.

— Dave


image source: M.C. Escher, Sky and Water I (woodcut)



January 19, 2012

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Dad has been in the hospital since Christmas Eve. Last weekend he went into ICU. Then bounced back and got out of ICU. Now he’s back in ICU.

The head nurse said his breathing was a certain type of shallow that’s consistent with what she thought, in her experience, might be a signal toward the end. She recommended that family from out of town might want to consider making their way into town.

So I’m getting ready to make the drive. Packing. Again, actually. I made this same drive last weekend too. All was going downhill fast, and I saw him in a bad state. And then the next day he was relatively fine. We were joking around in ICU. This time seems more serious.

But apparently no one tells you how to pack for such trips. Am I supposed to bring a suit for a funeral? Or a toga for a party? So far, I’m stuck at clean underwear and a toothbrush.

If it is time for him to pass on, what’s the protocol for how long until the funeral? And where’s the “Death for Dummies” book for all this?

I know this sounds terribly morbid and all. And part of me feels guilty for even writing publicly about this. It’s my father. I’m very sad.

But there’s a practical side to all this. And in fact, I think my Dad would be thinking the same sort of way. He’d be the first one to crack some irreverent joke.

He’d also be the first one to start packing if it were me in ICU. Of course, he’d also probably just pack clean underwear and a toothbrush.

Because he knows it’s not the ‘stuff’ that matters.

Three Lives, Part 1: David Gentiles
December 31, 2009

David Gentiles: Mentor to many, friend to all.

I’ve been reaching for hugs lately. Tonight hundreds of us commemorated the life of David Gentiles, who for me was a father figure, mentor, pastor, and good friend. David always met everyone, including me, with a warm glow. Open arms, open heart, a smile, sparkling eyes. He opened his arms and accepted everyone. But he not only opened his arms, he wrapped them around you. Warmed you with a sincere hug that made sure you got the point: He loved you. Since he passed on Dec. 18th, I definitely feel a little        space        he left        blank        with his absence. I don’t have him to welcome and encourage me anymore. But I still need someone to do that for me. And tonight I felt him in the tight, sustained hugs I shared with a few friends in my faith community. We are all trying to pick up where he left off, sharing the morsels of love that he apparently felt were divine gifts to him to pay forward.

So I don’t claim to know the characteristics of God, but if the spirit of David Gentiles is any indication, God must love us all, even if we don’t believe in him. Thank you, David, for being a reflection of a divine acceptance. (This post by Donald Miller, which details Don’s eulogy during the service, says more about David’s character.)

David’s part in my life represents the latest phase of my spiritual journey, a time when I have given up playing religious games and started to open up, in raw honesty, about my doubts. Since giving up in what has been for me the game of faith, oddly enough, I feel like I have caught clearer glimpses of what God might be like, or at least glimpses of the type of entity that he/she/it is — Good. I thank David Gentiles for radiating that invisible goodness. I may not be able to scientifically prove it, but I know it’s powerful…and it’s good.


I was planning to save this write-up about David for the last part of this short, three-part series of posts, but I couldn’t wait, especially after tonight’s beautiful experience. So, oh well, I screwed that up.

Anyway, I will be writing two more posts about people who served as markers in my spiritual journey, and who died recently, fading out with 2009. So stay tuned.