Step Inside

“Enter when you will, take what you need, leave something of yourself when you go”

I have a friend I met over a bottle of scotch in a Brandywine Valley bed & breakfast some odd years ago who travels constantly and widely, sending me bits and pieces of the world as he goes. Each picture contains a sense of mystery, or surprising humor, and/or most likely the bicycle he rode in on.

I forget where he said he shot this wide planked shack. It is intriguing, don’t you agree? The sun and scattered leaves promise it is a bright, brisk day, yet, I wonder what musty odor fills your nose when you poke your head through the door, what scurrying varmint lives in the corners, what fingers grab your ankle once you cross the threshold and the heavy door slowly shuts out the light, the long, strong boards slide through the door handle locking  you inside…

… you go first…I am right behind you…


If you have seen it, you know.

Life does not end.  It does not. No, it does not. 

It peels away and moves beyond this body, those once treasured plans, these sweet, dear beloveds.  Often not easily, nor willingly; sometimes not even completely, but eventually -when exhaustion prevails, organs fail, when all is ready, enough is said-  the anchor lifts.     And the soul’s strong sails spread on the wind, sailing, sailing  with sad, exquisite relief.


…after sitting with my son-in-law, Brandon Gonzales, in his hospital room fighting the last hard fight as his liver fails, and his family’s heart breaks, my darling daughter, Juliana’s, life shatters, my grandtwins, Max and Ryan’s, futures reshape… today he answered my questions with only his eyes and a labored nod, agreeing this really is the shits…

Peace be with you all, my darlings…

March 19, 2017


when someone is sick

really sick

for days

then months

then years

you get tired of it

really tired of it

tired of understanding

tired of the eggshells

tired of the positive, uplifting conversations

tired of the faux hope for tomorrow

tired of caring about it

completely resenting it

but then, of course,

you don’t really mean that

of course, you want them well

of course, you’re careful to only encourage

careful to think before you speak

careful to expect only the best

to say only the kindest words

to put that smile on your face when you say good morning

but what’s good about it?

What, you think you’re the only one who hates this?   You think life is all about you and your blasted illness?  You think YOU feel lousy…I’ve got news for you, Sucker,You need to Get up, Get going, Take a shower, Get out of the blasted hospital and Get back to your family who needs you more than that damned hospital bed and those nurses need you

I’m pissed at this whole stinking illness routine



oh, I’m sorry…  here’s to making it a good day…  it’ll be a good one, you’re looking good, how ya feeling, were you able to eat, did they get y0u standing today, are you feeling any better, is there anything I can do for you, anything I can get you



oh, what of the clouds building over Mt. Evans…

here at the light on County Line at Quebec

the sky is clear

the sun is etching new lines ’round my eyes

and for this thirty seconds

nothing in the world is off kilter


…oh, quit your honking!

rJo  2/4/17


Excuse me, what are you saying?

he is not a candidate for hospice?

he is not in enough pain?

he is not sick enough?

did not someone tell him yesterday there was no hope?

that he will not live out the month?

and that is why you called hospice?

do you not see that is why he said to leave him alone?

refused to eat?

asked that his children not be allowed in?

do you not recall his brain injury causes him to misinterpret what you say?

did we not leave requests to call his wife if you have something to tell him?

did you forget that he will forget?

Excuse me, what?

you called for a consult for the liver transplant?

did you not do that last week?

and what else?

you  are immediately transferring him to the transplant hospital?


this afternoon?

so there is some hope?

or are you simply concerned we have finally had enough?

that we shall begin to question every word said?

every thing done?

will you even remember he and we were here?






Today she meets with hospice,

my darling heartbroken daughter,

to discuss how best to establish care

for her darling dying husband.

It is not the dead part I hate so much,

it is the impossibly hard work of dying.


This is the truth I have come to know:

people are not dead until they are dead,

and maybe not then.

You cannot talk over them, pretend they are not there.

You cannot plan without them, assume they don’t care.

They are here!  They are here, and fully aware.

So quiet the panic as best as you can,

sit down, shut up, take hold of their hand.

Just at this moment it is not about you.

Cry if you must, wail and weep,

but sit there, and listen, and live in the moment,

while they are here living with you.


How can it be?

How can it be

that that thin, thin body

can hold four liters of fluid?

Four liters of fluid!

There is no room!

Certainly there is no room…

Certainly not.


You see, it is not just the liver that petrifies,

but also the hearts of those watching,

praying for that one miracle,

one is all that is needed,

before his body

is too weak

to accept





Today they started the confirmation hearings for the next president’s cabinet… how the talking heads will smirk and opine, how the haters will smugly hold to their views, the fearful will shiver, the disgusted will huff…and some of us will continue to pray to all the powers of good in this universe, God Almighty Himself, to guide the hands and hearts, minds and mouths of these people duly elected to manage our country… It is time for cooler heads to prevail, for the noise to cease, and the listening to begin, lest we miss what we really need to hear…



All this talk of hope…hopelessness…how without hope, you have nothing…

I think it’s off base. Faith is what you must have. You can develop hope, if you have faith. Faith in God, the creation, the unseen. Faith in your fellowman, faith in yourself. Faith that the sun will rise at some point, and that it will shine and warm you.


We must have faith that despite all appearances, our country will continue, our freedoms will sustain us, our work will feed us, our efforts will reap rewards…

We must have faith in the principles that guide us, faith in our fathers and mothers before us, faith in our children after…faith that our doctors know what they’re doing, faith that our deaths somehow lead to life.

It is Faith that pulls us through when all hope is gone… and that’s how I see it…