the friends

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

One minute you’re sitting in a cafe with your mom basking in a glorious sunny, 61 degree day in February in Michigan and the next minute you’ve got mascara all down your tear-streaked face.

Because that gloriously warm February day reminds you of a similar unseasonably warm February day when you were basking in the excitement of a new relationship.

Which you loved.

And lost.

And still grieve.

And there’s really nothing you can say to grief while it’s barreling through like a freight train.

But what if you could stop it in its tracks?  What if, instead of looking back at last year’s happiness and grieving what you’ve lost, you could look forward to next year’s happiness in anticipation of what you’ll gain?

Because where you are is not where you’ll stay.

Dixie would tell you that if she could talk.  She would tell you that life can turn on a dime.  She would tell you that one day you’re living in a garage in Ohio, flea rash all over your hind end, getting your face bit off by a mean dog and then, a couple of months later, you’re going for a walk on a glorious day in Michigan.

And you’re eating organic, grass-fed, home-cooked meals and getting belly rubs and snuggling on the sofa. And life is good.

Dixie and her sister were found on the side of the road in southern Ohio when they were 3 months old.  Life must have looked bleak for those two babies. But then they were taken into foster care and Dixie was immediately adopted by the foster mom’s mom – Betty.

Apparently Betty treated Dixie like a queen.  She even cooked for her.  They lived happily together for about 10 years.  And then Betty developed dementia and was moved into a nursing home. And died.

And Dixie, near as I can figure, was bounced around from relative to relative and then eventually ended up back home at Betty’s house – where Betty’s grandson and his wife are now living.

But one of their dogs kept attacking Dixie – she has the scars under her right eye to prove it.  So she had to live outside and in the garage until she was finally surrendered back into foster care for her own safety.

For six weeks she lived in a foster home here in Michigan where, according to the foster mom, Dixie was heartbroken.

I wonder if, while being shuffled around this past year, she grieved the memory of her life with Betty. I wonder if she despaired ever curling up on a sofa or getting a belly rub or enjoying a home-cooked meal again.

But beagles are optimistic so I prefer to think that instead of grieving what was behind her she dreamed of the love that lay ahead.

And now here she is in Hintzville, curled up next to me on the sofa, her days filled with fresh air and exercise, love and really good food. She even has a gentle new brother, Max, who is so gentle that he just stepped aside and made room for her when she started eating from his dish after polishing off her own. (Of course I intervened on his behalf and reminded her of her P’s and Q’s.)

No one is going to bite her face off here.

Today I stopped to say thank you to God for providing for Dixie.  For Betty’s sake. For Dixie’s sake. For my sake. For Love’s sake.






The Unexpected Losses of Autumn


It’s been a melancholy morning: Cloudy sky, falling leaves, flowers in the pots on their very last legs, snoozing beagle perhaps on her last legs, me with the flu.

But now the sun is out and life is brighter. The leaves are falling golden now. The beagle’s slumber is a healing sleep. The herbs, perhaps, are making her well. The Father’s loving-kindness abounds.

I’ve been thinking lately about unexpected losses. Things that come up in your fifties that are not on your radar in your twenties, thirties or forties.

Things like losing a trusted doctor.

I’ve encountered three really good doctors in my life. By really good I mean really caring. I’m sure many have been really smart, but only three showed they really cared.

Dr. Morris

In college I dated a wrestler. He came to Michigan State University from a suburb of Cleveland to wrestle under the coaching of Grady Peninger.

I became sick one summer weekend while visiting the wrestler at his home in Ohio. The wrestler called his doctor, the doctor opened up his office in downtown Cleveland just to see me.

He drew blood and looked at it under a microscope. He called me over, had me look and explained what I was seeing.

He asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I fibbed and gave him the money-making type of answer that I thought adults who asked that question expected.

And then I told him I what I really wanted to do.

“Do what you love and the money will come,” he said.

I’ve quoted him often since then.

After quite a long visit he said he better get going before his wife started calling, they were due at his granddaughter’s birthday party.

He was clearly doing what he loved.

That one and only meeting was enough to induct Dr. Morris into my Hall of Fame.

Dr. Ferguson

I went to Dr. Ferguson because I had a respiratory infection, his office was close and he took the insurance I had back then. I didn’t know, when I made the appointment, that he was an internist who specialized in gastroenterology.

I could barely keep my head up in his waiting room, even started to doze off. When the nurse called me in I felt guilty for exposing her to my germs.  “That’s what we’re here for,” she said with reassuring kindness.

Dr. Ferguson looked at my blood, too. Then he sat next to me on the sofa in his office and explained what he saw.  He prescribed an antibiotic and then sent me to the hospital for an x-ray just in case…

When I went back for the follow up (yep, a doc who actually followed up) I mentioned a pain in my abdomen. He asked if I’d ever had a colonoscopy and that’s when I realized he had a specialty.

I only saw him twice after that – both times for a colonoscopy – but the way he took time to explain things and draw diagrams, the way the nurses at the hospital raved about him and said he used the really good anesthesia, they way he seemed to really care about my health made him my second inductee.

Dr. Migdal

Up until a few weeks ago Dr. Migdal was my gynecologist. It’s not TMI, it’s a fact.

I didn’t see him much more than once a year but I loved him.

I became his patient 15 years ago. I knew Dr. Migdal cared, not so much by the things he said to me as by the things he said about others. He didn’t name names or give any identifying information, he just shared general concern about patients who needed specific tests yet their insurance companies wouldn’t approve them. I often wished, listening to him, that I had a lot of dough, so I could start a fund for the patients he seemed to care so much about.

Once he expressed concern for a young woman who went into very early menopause, another time for a woman who discovered she was pregnant at 50.  He never violated confidentiality, he just showed his heart. He lamented that when he was a young obstetrician he would get called in the middle of the night informing him that a patient was in labor. He counted it a privilege to get out of bed and go immediately to the hospital.  Now, he said, obstetricians are not allowed to go to the hospital in the middle of the night, even those who want to. Regulations. He was grieved by all the new regulations.

Medicine is no longer an art. It’s no longer a science. It’s big business.

And Hall of Fame docs are becoming rare.

The last time I was in his office I asked Dr. Migdal his age. I didn’t say so, but I was hoping he was younger than me.  Because I had often thought that if I ever got cancer like my sister did, I would want him to be the one to walk me through it.

He happily answered. Turns out he is a few years older than me.

“You’re not planning to retire any time soon, are you?”

He assured me he wasn’t. But he would be having hip surgery.

It was an unexpected, yet dreaded, loss.

I read the letter and cried. Dr. Migdal’s recovery from hip surgery was not going as well as he had hoped. He was retiring, effective immediately.

I’ve never been one to cry over change. In my twenties, thirties and forties, I would have taken the letter in stride. Oh well, I would have shrugged, there are plenty of docs in the sea.

But in autumn, when leaves are falling all around you, you begin to feel vulnerable. You begin to not only appreciate a good doctor, you feel the need for one.

Since I received his letter 3 weeks ago, I’ve been meaning to send him a note. I want to tell him that he is inductee three in my Hall of Fame, that he’s up there with the greats. I guess this post is the rough draft.

Thank you for caring, Dr. Migdal. I’ll always have The Great Physician, but I wanted you for the duration, too.






Jesus, life

His Name is Jesus

She died on Wednesday, just before 2:30 in the afternoon.

Her funeral was on Saturday at 10:00 in the morning.

I left the funeral and the post-funeral luncheon disturbed and disheartened, not liking my family much.  All kinds of thoughts swirled in my head and in my spirit.  Thoughts that have been swirling these four days since she passed.  I sat down to tell you about them, and now I’m thinking I’ll wait until they land.

But since many of you have been offering your kind prayers, I want to at least tell you that she passed.

An old friend of Laura’s, who worked with her way back in that doctor’s office I mentioned in the last post, offered her condolences at the funeral.  She shared that she lost her sister two years ago, and she’s lost both of her brothers since.  She is the only sibling left.  I offered my condolences right back to her.  She said there is something particularly hard about losing a sister and she just wanted us to know that she understands that.  She said, “No one writes about that.”

I might.  When I can.  When it all lands.

Laura posted this video on her Facebook wall last November and wrote, “My friends, what could make you feel closer to God? This was not about Carrie, it was about her relationship with God. That’s what makes it so beautiful.”

Amen, Laura.


My sister, Laura
December 28, 1956 – August 26, 2015