One final service

Mark’s family asked that I, with three other men, clothe him in his burial garments at the mortuary.  I accepted with a sense of duty and honor.

There are a number of cultures and religions that bury their dead in ceremonial and/or ritual clothing, including members of our church who have attended our temple.  I think it unfortunate that this seems less common in Christian religions, as this can provide some comfort to those left behind, and it can remind us of the eternal nature of our beings and faith.  It is a way of further honoring and respecting those who pass on, and can be a precious and tender experience for close family and friends to do this service.

Mark’s wife had carefully and lovingly cleaned, pressed, and folded his burial clothing in a small suitcase for me to take.  I almost felt like I was intruding into sacred space when I opened it to confirm everything was included.

I did feel some trepidation at the prospect of viewing and handling the body of a deceased, especially of someone I knew and loved.  The discomfort and sadness at viewing the lifeless body of someone who only days before was so warm and alive were overshadowed by the tender feelings of doing one final service for someone so deserving.

While we treat with respect the mortal remains of our loved ones, we can rejoice and find solace in our faith in the afterlife, and knowing that Mark’s eternal spirit and very being live on, freed from the body’s sufferings and limitations.

We miss you, Mark.  But we also rejoice for you.

A man acquainted with grief

My good friend Mark was not unaccustomed to serious illness.  As if suffering through terminal stomach cancer wasn’t enough of a cross to bear, he had survived a previous bout with cancer, as well as life threatening heart attacks.

Mark related how he “died” from one heart attack in a public area at the Denver airport some years ago.  While laying on the ground in terrific pain he wondered what all the gathering people were experiencing as they watched someone die right before their eyes.

From his previous cancer he had a good idea what was in store with the proposed chemo treatments for his latest diagnosis.  He considered whether just to forgo such treatments and maximize quality of life.  To his great credit, his overwhelming consideration was to do what was best for his wife.  He said he had a high tolerance for pain and could, once again, deal with the treatment.  But he didn’t want to drain the family savings to disadvantage his wife.  Fortunately, his medical insurance covered him sufficiently.

Mark didn’t fear death.  His faith gave him confidence in the hereafter.  He did fear leaving his wife a widow, and burdening her with his care in his decline.  He also confessed he was apprehensive about the difficult journey leading to death, not what would happen after.

A few months ago I asked him if he had regrets about his decision to have chemo and other treatments, if the added months of life were worth the suffering.  He said he would do the same again.  (I have heard others say, after having gone through chemo, etc., that if they had another diagnosis they would not go through it again.)

I never heard Mark curse his misfortune with ill health and premature demise.  I only heard words of faith and testimony in his God, his Savior, and the plan of salvation.  And gratitude for his wife and family, the wonderful life he had enjoyed, and many who surrounded him with service, as well as his opportunities to serve others through his life.

Mark, your difficult journey is over.  Well done, my friend.  May you rest in peace.

The passing of a friend

This post, and I think several to follow, will be heavier and more emotional than many that I write.

Last week a dear friend, Mark Carver, passed away after a two year battle with stomach cancer.  Suzanne and I were close to Mark and his wife.  I’ve known Mark about ten years, and worked closely with him in various callings and service opportunites in our church congregation (LDS ward).  I had the good fortune of being assigned as his home teacher for most of those years.

There were a number of ups and downs over his two year battle.  I remember the day he called me in October 2015 with the news of his diagnosis, and its likely terminal prognosis.  I shed a tear or two.  

He decided to proceed with conventional treatment of chemo and radiation, and endured its side effects.  Life was prolonged, but that treatment exhausted its benefit late last year.  His insurance declined coverage for a very expensive medicine that held some promise for his case, so we were all very heartened when the drug company offered to proceed with no cost.  Could this be the miracle we all hoped and prayed for so fervently?

Alas, it was not to be, and a few months ago Mark was resigned to his fate, and elected to maximize quality of life for his remaining time.

There is much more I want to relate to fill the many gaps from this abbreviated summary, but I will close this post with a link to Mark’s obituary:

Mark Carver

 

More frugality

We have an Oroweat bread outlet store in town, and when I come home from making my purchase there every few weeks I often remark that I’m surprised the police didn’t follow me home and arrest me for robbery.

I eat 100% whole wheat bread every day in my lunch sandwiches, and I prefer Oroweat brand, so I stock up with several loaves and store them in our freezer.  This past week I picked out 4 loaves for 5 dollars, and felt pretty good about the bargain, as it sells for $2.50 to $4 per loaf retail.  Then I discovered a coupon in my Oroweat app on my phone that gave me $3 off with $10 purchase, so I grabbed 4 more loaves.  Then I used my senior discout of 10%, plus got a free package of English muffins for filling my frequent buyer card, and paid $6.30 for the whole deal.  I was surprised the shoplifter alarm didn’t sound when I left the store.

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My mom would be proud, as I’m sure my frugality stems from her genes and example.  

I am the Man

After four decades of being a homeowner you pretty much learn how to fix anything.  And there is a certain degree of satisfaction in DIY projects.  I often resort to strutting around the house proclaiming “I am the Man” after a particularly impressive accomplishment.

Like today.  Our shower drain was clogged.  My experience was, fortunately, not like this one:

Previously, I had used a clumsy metal snake contraption to coax all the hairs out of the drain, and was eventually successful.  Later, I was at Home Depot and figured there had to be a better tool for such a task.  And there was!  A very simple and inexpensive plasic device.

Here is the device, with one offending clump of hair:IMG_4759

There were two more clumps, and now water rushes down the drain.  Ta da!

 

2017 Total Eclipse

I have never experienced a total eclipse of the sun, only partial (in 1979).  So we were looking forward excitedly to the Aug. 21 eclipse here in Oregon.  Since our home would only be 99% eclipsed we looked into travel possibilities.  To minimize the risk of cloud cover we decided to go to Madras, Oregon, on the east side of the Cascade Mountain range.  And to avoid traffic risk we booked a campsite just north of Madras, right on the center line of the eclipse.  The city of Madras organized about 5000 campsites on a farmer’s field, and called it Solartown.  We reserved it back in March (it sold out eventually) and for $150 got a 20′ by 20′ square of grass to park our car, tents, and any gear.

Some reports picked Madras (and central Oregon high desert in general) as the best viewing spot in the country, due to lowest risk of clouds.  The town of population 6000 expected to be overwhelmed by as many as 100,000 visitors.

We got on the road by 5:30AM Saturday for the 2.5 hour drive to Madras, fearful of traffic.  But it was no problem, though a bit busy for that time of morning.  My son Blair booked a site as well, and we were side by side, with 11 of us total in three tents.

We were very satisfied with the campground and facilities.  And very comfortable with all the fellow campers.  The atmosphere was electric with the anticipation.

On Monday morning, eclipse day, we were awakened early (5:30AM) by the car alarm next door.  They set it off mistakenly while packing the car.  No matter, excitement was running high.  We ate breakfast, braved the long porta-potty lines, and set up the chairs facing east.  Everybody was outfitted with eclipse glasses, including my 3 year-old granddaughter.  At 9:06 the eclipse got underway as the moon took an increasingly larger bite out of the sun until 10:19 totality.  It just got gradually darker and just seemed a bit eery.  

I had read that those experiencing a total eclipse have a strong emotional reaction.  And I have to say when the sun disappeared and the corona emerged dramatically around the black shape of the moon, it took my breath away.  It was wondrous and indescribable.  For two minutes and 6 seconds there were gasps and exclamations all around us.  It got dark, though not pitch dark.  Don’t know if that is due to the corona giving light, or the horizon w/o total eclipse.  Then the sun gradually emerged again over the next hour and some.

It has been said that the experience of a total eclipse compared with 99.9% eclipse is infinitely more powerful.  And I definitely agree with that.  It has also been reported that a common reaction of those experiencing one for the first time will immediately ask when and where the next one will be, because they want to view it.  And that is exactly what I thought.  So April 2024, Texas here I come!

Traffic was near standstill after the eclipse, so we just chilled for 6 hours before packing up and leaving.  We still encountered some very slow going, and got home around 10PM after a 4.5 hour drive.

So, was it all worth it?  Totally!  Just an amazing, memorable experience, a highlight of my life.

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Here is a video/slide show about our adventure I uploaded to youtube:

The video from 9:00 to 10:00 is from my camera on tripod facing west to catch the eclipse shadow coming at a half mile per second.  So you see the outline of Mt. Jefferson 30 miles away start to emerge a minute before our totality (as the sun no long illuminates the smoke and haze obscuring it).  I still feel the excitement and emotion each time I watch this.

Ye Are the Light of the World

I know it is a little late for a Christmas message, and this video was targeted for lighting the world each of 25 days leading to Christmas.  But really this message applies to every day, all year long.

I am impressed by the “I am the light of the world” to “Ye are the light of the world” transition.  I know I can do better in this regard.  

Car Adventures – Episode Five (transmission woes)

In late 1987 we sold the VW Rabbit and bought a new Acura Integra, with 5-speed manual.  This was a very fun car, and we thought quite luxurious for us.

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In 1993 we sold the Integra in favor of a used Eagle Talon.

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This car could fly, with manual transmission and 4-cyl turbo-charged engine.

In 1996 we sold the Dodge van and bought a new Dodge minivan.

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Our first family trip in it (to Olympic National Park in Washington) we got a rock chip in our windshield.  Argh!  We stopped in the first city and had it repaired right away so it wouldn’t grow.  But that wasn’t nearly as bad as the next summer when the transmission failed during our trip to a family reunion in Utah.

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The transmission failed and was replaced again about 60K miles later, this time at our expense.  We also had to replace the engine along the way.  Needless to say, we were done buying Dodge vans.  And for the past 10 years we have been the satisfied owners of a 2006 Toyota Sienna van, which has given us nearly zero problems.

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I wrote previous blog posts about buying BMW 3-series automobiles through the European Delivery program:

http://acraigwalker.blogspot.com/2010/11/european-delivery-1997.html

http://acraigwalker.blogspot.com/2010/11/european-delivery-2007.html

http://acraigwalker.blogspot.com/2010/11/european-delivery-2010.html

There have been a few other cars sprinkled in there over the years.  There was a 1987 Honda Accord I bought in 1997 for Bridget, then Teresa to drive to school, etc.  Perhaps if it hadn’t been a salvaged car we would have experienced more typical Honda reliability, rather than losing the engine during our family’s drive to the airport (we had to abandon the car and take a taxi to the airport, and eventually spend a thousand or so on a used engine replacement).  Or the timing belt, stranding Bridget and Teresa in Vernonia on their way to a Hood to Coast Relay volunteer assignment.  I’m sure those two cute girls were the talk of the town for some time.

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There was a 1994 Nissan Altima with manual transmission I bought in 2007 for Steven to learn to drive and use for school.  I was so proud of Steven for learning to drive a stick, and actually driving that car for his license driving test!  Sadly, the engine died in 2010, and we sold to a salvage yard for $280, but it had served its purpose.

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There was a 1990 Honda Accord we bought for Teresa to use at college.  And in between the ’98 and ’07 BMWs I bought a new 2007 Toyota RAV4, but sold a few months later as I missed too much the driving dynamics of the BMW.  There was a 2006 Hyundai Elantra purchased and sold to Teresa, and a 2007 Elantra intended for Steven, but when he moved to NYC and didn’t need a car I sold it later for what I paid.

So, there you have my family car genealogy!

Car Adventures – Episode Four (We got a new van, buddy!)

In 1984 we moved from Idaho to Beaverton, OR.  The Chuck Wagon was towed behind the moving van.  I’m sure it was worth less than the cost of moving it, but alas, we weren’t paying the bill.  But that summer we parted with it in favor of a new Dodge van.

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We now had plenty of room, and air conditioning.  We couldn’t believe such luxury.  Our son Daniel was so excited he would tell everyone “Hey, we got a new van, buddy!”  It was only a minor setback when the battery exploded a few months later, spraying acid on the paint.

This van was our family workhorse from 1984 to 1996.  So many family memories are associated with it.  I’ll relate just a few.

In 1986 I took the van on a scout outing.  I still can’t believe I did this, but I allowed one of the boys to drive the van a short distance for some purpose, and darned if he didn’t crash it into some railing by the road.  He said he swerved to avoid a dog.  We had some minor body work done, but fixed the bumper only with glue and tape.

Daniel decorated the interior of the van more than once with byproducts of car sickness.  On one trip he ate too much red licorice, which led to some long lasing redish stains in the upholstery.

On one trip home from So. Cal. to Oregon we were driving through the night and encountered snow near Mt. Shasta.  The engine sputtered, then died as I pulled off a freeway exit.  I opened the hood, looked around, and was at a total loss what to do.  Meanwhile, inside the car our young daughter Teresa suggested they say a prayer to get us back on our way.  And darned if the car didn’t start right up when I got back in, and drove us fine all the way home.

Near the end of its days with us, we filled the van to the brim with donated goods for Daniel’s Eagle Scout project, and delivered them to a migrant workers camp.