Archive for the ‘Dying’ category

My Funeral Music

April 23, 2017

2000px-GClef.svgSo, my post the other day about funerals got me thinking. Joe, what about your funeral. Mind you, I’m not planning on checking out any time soon, but you never know. So I had a chat with Paula about what music I would like played at my funeral. A while back, I had created a playlist on my iPhone titled “My Funeral Music”. So here’s my list. You might not be able to play it all inside of 60 minutes. If you are reading this (and have some time), hook up your ear buds and spend some time listening to the pieces.

  1. The intermezzo from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. This is the music that is heard between the two acts of the opera. One of the most beautiful, relaxing piece of music I have ever heard.”
  2. Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. I first heard this piece at a music appreciation class when I was in college. The professor was talking about 5/4 time signature which is a tad unusual. 5/4 time is five beats to the measure and 1/4 note gets one beat. He was comparing “Tchaikovsky – Sixth Symphony – Second Movement” to “Take Five” (both in 5/4 time)
  3.  A Hymn to New England by John Williams. This version is played by the Boston Pops with pictures of New England Scenery.
  4. The Entertainer by Scott Joplin. This rag time piece was made famous in recent years by reason of its use in the film “The Sting” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. There was a time when I could play this but I don’t have the hand strength to play the octaves anymore.
  5. Heigh Ho from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. This is probably one the most recognized (and loved) Disney tunes. When I first started playing the organ for my lodge back in Mass.I would play this tune at the beginning of every meeting. I don’t play it as much anymore. Maybe, I will push it up the stack for our next meeting.  Here’s another version done by Dave Brubeck in the album “Dave Digs Disney” done in 1957. Dave Brubeck is one of my all time favorite Jazz artists. Paula and I saw him in concert about a dozen years ago. Still touring into his 80’s. Amazing. And it that’s not enough heigh ho’ing for you, here is Louis Armstrong doing Heigh Ho.
  6. Next up would be the second movement from Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto. This piece was made popular by the movie “Elvira Madigan” back in 1967.
  7. Now let’s get into some actual hymns. First on my list would be How Great Thou Art, followed closely by Amazing Grace.  And one more for my friend at OVBC, Daryl “What a Friend We Have in Jesus“.


January 6, 2017

Today is the 50th anniversary of my father’s death. My brother Rich sent me a copy of a prayer card that he had been carrying in his wallet all these years. I had one word for him “Wow”. Rich, put that back in your wallet and bring it out ten years from today.2017-01-05-13-50-27

My father died of heart disease way before his time. Back then, they didn’t have any good treatments for heart attacks. My father had his first heart attack when he was about 56. He was in the hospital for a few days. He was sent home and told to rest. But that didn’t kill him. 

He was born in February of 1901 in Western Massachusetts. He married my mother on March 3, 1946. My guess is they waited until the end of WW2. Interesting bit of trivia. March 3 is also my birthday (2 years later).

In November of 1966, he went in to the hospital for gall bladder surgery. He survived that surgery but had complications, internal bleeding. So the surgeon scheduled another surgery to fix the leak(s). The second surgery did the trick, ie. it killed him. Cardiac arrest on the table. He was revived but never regained consciousness. He was on life support for about 6-8 weeks.

So I have already outlived my father by about 3 years so far. My Dad never got to see me graduate from college or get married. He never had the joy of meeting his grandchildren.

Sometimes I wonder whether I have my father’s genes or my mother’s. My mother lived to be 89. I’m hoping that I have my mother’s genes. Just sayin’.  Rest In Peace, Dad.

Leonard Cohen, RIP

November 11, 2016

11cohen_leonard_web1-master768I was saddened to hear today that Leonard Cohen had died. Mr Cohen had such a great body of work, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are the lyrics to the opening stanza to “Hallelujah”

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Here’s a video of a performance of “Hallelujah”:

Leonard Cohen’s most recent album was released in October 2016. Here’s the link on Amazon. Also, get the “Essential Leonard Cohen“. As if there isn’t any non-essential Leonard Cohen.

One more song and then I’m done. This is the song “Suzanne”. I think the first version I ever heard was the one done by Judy Collins, long, long ago. One of the first loves of my life was named Suzanne. Long, Long time ago.


June 6, 2016

01a838c7416f7af69fac2c1d92078b7296d5cb9dafSo it’s been a while since I last wrote. I found out that an old friend of Paula (Chuck) is a faithful reader. Paula was talking to him this evening looking for info on judges running for election in Los Angeles.

So here we go. Saturday, we planned on going to the Summer Fiesta at the OES Senior Living Center in Yorba Linda. We asked Mary if she would like to come. She said yes. We described it to her as a bunch of booths with stuff for sale, food trucks, tours or the SLC. Parking was a challenge and Mary had to walk a bit. Weather was beautiful. We got her inside the center where she sat for about an hour in a comfortable chair.

Meanwhile, Paula and I wander around checking out the many booths and greeting friends. We came back and got Mary up and got her outside. She again sat down in a folding chair in the shade. Still no interest in seeing everything. We got her a coke and that was about it. We tried to interest her in food. Nope, not going to happen.

So Paula and I shared a grilled cheese with bacon, then vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries. Once we finished, we gave in and started taking her to the car to head home. We know when we are licked. We got her into the car and gave her a bottle of water. Well she only finished about three sips of water during the one hour ride home. It’s unbelievable what it takes to get her to drink water. I told her if she liked peace and quiet, the way to get it was to drink water. ie. I was going to nag her all the way home until she drank more water.

So on Sunday, we asked her early whether she would be coming to church. Initially she said yes, but changed her mind after a while. So she spent the rest of the day in bed. So we went to church and did lunch at the Pacific Diner with Theresa and the grand-kids. Little Sarah was none too happy when I gave her some home fries that happened to have some hot sauce on it. Oops, my bad.

Her memory is failing badly. She barely can remember anyone other than Paula and me. When we show her pictures of Harold (even a fairly recent ones), she doesn’t remember him. They were married for over 60 years and she remembers none of it.

Nevertheless, her general health is not too bad. A little bit weak at times. Her walk is pretty slow but she can get around. She tires easily though.

We found some pictures of a trip they took to Alaska. Remember any of it? Not a bit. We continue to dig through old pictures and letters found in her storage locker. I am sure they will help provoke more writings by me.

On occasion, Paula has brought up the subject of funeral planning. Nothing, she doesn’t want to talk about it. I guess we are on our own. Sigh.

By the way, we had a great trip back to Mass. in May. It was so nice to see many of our friends back there. We had caregivers taking care of Mary 24/7 while we were gone. There’s just no way now that we can leave her alone.






Mary, God and the Conversation

July 6, 2015

So do you remember article in the New York Times that I wrote about a couple of days ago? The one by Eleanor Goodman? Yeah, that one. What you didn’t read it? Go back and read it, I’ll wait. Click here.

Yesterday, I had printed a copy of the article for Paula to read. So the printed copy was sitting on the dining room table. So Mary picks it up and starts reading it. Indeed, she is studying it. Front to back, back to front. Then a few hours later she looked at it again.

So I ask her what she thought about the article. She replies that she is talking with God about that. Okay, Do you think you could share your side of the discussion. No, that’s between me and God. I told her that God might not be sharing your discussion with us and it might be helpful if Mary would talk to us about that. Nope.

So that reminds me of an old joke. There was a great flood throughout the land and a man was sitting on the top of his home waiting to be rescued. So the man prayed to God, “Please God, save me”.

So a while passed and a lifeboat came by and the life boat crew asked him to get in and they would save him. Nope, the man said, “I am waiting for God to save me”.

Then some time passed and there was a Coast Guard helicopter hovering above the man. The helicopter pilot asked the man to get in and be saved. No, the man said, “I am waiting for God to save me”.

So maybe, by this point you know where I’m going with this. Eventually, the man drowns. So he reaches the pearly gates, the man asks God, why didn’t you save me?” And God said, “I sent you a life boat and a helicopter, but you decided not to get in. What was I supposed to do?”

So my point is (and I do have a point) sometimes we have to recognize that sometimes God sends someone to help us. We need to recognize this. Paula and I are the crew of the lifeboat. We just need Mary to get in the boat.

On Dying

July 4, 2015

So Happy Fourth of July to everyone. We will be going to a pot luck picnic at our Masonic Lodge in San Pedro. The lodge has a spectacular view of the LA Harbor. It is an excellent spot to watch the fireworks. It is familiar territory. We try to avoid big crowds with Mary. She doesn’t do well with them. I will post pictures tomorrow.

So this morning I read an article by Eleanor Goodman on dying. Eleanor Goodman you might remember (or perhaps not) as a columnist for the Boston Globe. The article’s title is “How to Talk about Dying”.

The article really hit home for us. For example, she says,





Yes, my mother and I talked about everything — but we didn’t talk about how she wanted to live toward the end. The closest we ever came to discussing her wishes was when she would see someone in dire straits and say, “If I’m ever like that, pull the plug.” But most of the time there is no plug to pull.


Right, no plug indeed. She also talks about something the experts call executive function, where one loses the ability to do ordinary things like deciding what to eat or how to turn on the TV or make a phone call.

Mary is certainly heading in that direction. She gets stuck in a rut on what to have for breakfast. For a while, all she would eat would be Cheerios with blueberries. Then all of a sudden, she starts eating Raisin Bran. She probably switched because we were out of Cheerios, so now Raisin Bran is the new normal.

Slowly but surely, we are taking over those executive functions on what she eats or what medicines she takes to insure that her last days are the best that they can be.

So back to the column. Ms Goodman is working on a non-profit called “The Conversation Project”. Here’s the pointer to her piece in the NY TImes.

And here’s the link to “The Conversation Project“. Go take a look. You won’t regret it.