A Mighty Wind

A mighty wind blows

            Us down a thundering sea—

                       Yet God is with us.

Who Am I?

Who Am I?*

            by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Who am I? They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

* I include this poem because it has had such a terrific impact on me.

A Belated Preface to Mystory

I am not sure when this all got started, but I retired in 1991, and it all began with Catherine’s request for the story of the “Great Blue Yoyo.” She moved to Clayton State College in Atlanta in 1993, we both got computers in that year, and began exchanging emails. One such exchange was the yoyo story request.
Quoting from the Inroduction to Vol. I, 1st Ed., kindly provided by Catherine:
“I want to give my daughter, Catherine, credit for getting me started on this project, as yet unfinished. She, Lenore and Caroline and I are writing each other via E-Mail frequently, and in her notes, Catherine urged me to write down the family stories. I started to write a family history, quickly became bored with that, and wrote several stories using America On Line (AOL) E-mail format, and sent them to Catherine with copies to Lenore and Caroline, to Caroline with copies to Lenore and Catherine, or to Lenore with copies to Caroline and Catherine.
As I got caught up in the project, it became very cumbersome to use AOL and E-Mail consistently, and with a few exceptions, I began to write directly on my computer using my word processor.
Why am I doing this? I have no doubt that the first inspiration came from seeing the response of Emily Jean and her brothers, (Doug and Joe) and the three of us in-laws as we read Rubye Gilbert’s (Emily Jean’s Mother) “As I Remember.” Patti, Doug’s wife, has an Apple MacIntosh computer, and does beautiful desk-top publishing stuff. She took Rubye’s hand-written recollections of her childhood, printed them, added pictures, and had it all bound into books of about 70 pages.
I began to think about how much it meant to all of them, and to me, to be taken back into Rubye’s childhood, and to see her in such a beautiful light. It wasn’t far from there to thinking about all the wonderful stories which we Joneses, Friths and Cummingses, not to mention Roddeys et al., love to share when we get together. I thought that maybe my children and grandchildren would enjoy having these stories, and that, in the process, they might enjoy getting to know me better. I have already come to understand my mother better through the stories I have written. And, I have to admit, myself. Know better? Yes. Understand better? Not yet.
So why am I doing this? As above, but also because I am enjoying it, and I don’t want this fantastic family heritage to be lost.”
Once the writing process began, one story reminded me of another, until finally, Vol. I was published in 1994, followed closely in 1995, by Vols. II and III. I do not have copies of earlier editions of Vol. I, but the 4th edition came out in September of 1995. Vol. IV, My Spiritual Journey, did not come easily, taking me nearly 20 years to complete. It was worth it; I learned a lot about myself, and where I came from.
At any rate, from early in the process, I had a vision of a four-volume work, with an appendix, the latter to be a collection of original documents which shed light on our family history. Volume IV was already outlined in the back of Vol. I, 4th edition, and entitled My Spiritual Journey. Harry made herculean efforts to get me to complete and publish the Appendix quite a few years ago, but I was not ready, so he went ahead and put one out. I now have two letters which more properly belong there, but I will include them in the body of Vol. IV rather than attempt a revision of the Appendix, though I may well do that. They are the letter of Benjamin Dunlap (Mama Joe’s father) to Mama Joe written to her on her and Papa Joe’s honeymoon, four days after they were married, on August 6, 1890 and a letter written on April 5, 1978, by Harry T. Jones (my father) during the year before his death in 1979, and addressed to all his descendants, in which he set forth his philosophy of life.
Volumes I-III tell the stories of the family; this is who we are. It is who I am. It is where I came from. The two letters are the cradle in which I was spiritually rocked long before I was born. Pa Ben’s letter to his daughter, Perry, whom we came to know as Mama Joe, is the earliest evidence of the beginning of my spiritual journey. What an awesome and wonderful thought, that my spiritual journey began long before I was born!
I am grateful that I was able to complete Mystory before my death. I feared I would not. I give it as a gift to myself, my wife, lover and friend, Emily Jean Gilbert, and especially to my children and grandchildren. Others who are still with us in the extended family have their own related stories, and may be interested in mine.
Though three of my four siblings passed on as I was putting this together, I am grateful to them all for their earlier assistance on Vols. I – III. Again, I want to thank my daughters, Lenore and Catherine for their help. Lenore’s friend, Chistopher Hatton, has been of special help in putting together Vol. IV.
Introduction to Vol. IV, My Spiritual Journey

Some may wonder, looking over these collected stories, what jokes and “dirty” stories have to do with one’s spiritual journey. To me, it is self-evident, but perhaps it would be helpful to explain.

My childhood was tightly hemmed in. I learned certain expectations and prohibitions early, and many of them are still in place, despite my intellectual rejection of them. Telling jokes and stories which go against what I was taught has helped me to move beyond them. It seems silly, perhaps, but some stories are a crazy cry to all those imprisoned in Puritan sexual values to laugh at themselves and perhaps get more comfortable with the way things are, and, bluntly, with the way most of us are.

Here it is April 30, 2012, and I am moving toward the end of my work. A number of questions have occurred to me:

1)                  For whom am I writing My Spiritual Journey?
2)                  Why not just refer readers to Tolstoy’s Levin (in Anna Karenina, Part IX)?

I am writing it for me, first of all, but also for my family and close friends. Members of the Gathering may recall hearing me say that I want to be known. I want you, my loved ones to know who I think I am and have been. If I succeed in conveying that, I am content.

I will refer all to Levin. When I read his ruminations following Anna’s death, I realized that he was Tolstoy’s alter ego. I also realized that he was me.

If you are short of time, read my poetry and skip the rest. You’ll find me there.

Letter from PaBennie to Mama Joe

(William Joseph Roddey married Mary Perry Dunlap on August 6, 1890. She was 24, he was 30.)

                                                                                                            Lancaster,  S. C.
                                                                                                            Aug. 10th, 1890
Dear Perry,
Your letter from Hot Springs was received on yesterday, and we hope to hear from you at each stopping point while on your trip.
My mind is gradually becoming more and more reconciled to your marriage and if for no other reason, Joe ought to appreciate you on account of the suffering undergone by myself in giving you up.
While I believed he truly and sincerely loved you: that his ability to provide for your comfort and necessities was far greater than mine; that no objection could be truthfully urged against him as a husband: yet the selfishness in my nature persistently suggested the thoughts that my house would no longer be yours.
It was useless for me to try to think that you would be near us; that you would be with us often: that your own happiness would be assured and the loving kindnesses of Lyle (Papa Joe’s father) and his family to you would add to your happiness—All of these thoughts would be cried down by the selfish idea of my own sunshine fading away from my home. This was the reflection that made me so miserably sad and which, at times, although not near so intense, still recurs to my mind—So you and Joe in all your travels may rest assured that at least one mind in your old home is endeavoring to follow you in your route and praying for your pleasure and safe return. While I will not be so selfish as to ask you to come to us immediately on your return yet you must come over after resting a day in Rock Hill….
Well Perry, my poverty grinds me more, whenever I go among your nice bridal presents, than ever before in all my life. Such nice mementos from others and yet not a single thing from one who above all others should contribute to your happiness….
My pen is so bad I must close hoping to hear from you often. All join me in wishing you both a pleasant trip and safe return.
                                                            Your loving father,

                                                               W. B. Dunlap           


Letter from Dad to his “loved ones”

Rich Square, N. C. April 5, 1978

Mrs. John T. Cumming & Family
Dr. and Mrs. James R. Frith & Family
Mr. & Mrs. Harry T. Jones, Jr., & Family
Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Roddey Jones & Family
Chaplain Randolph L. Jones & Family
Dear Loved Ones:
            There are a few things that have been going through my mind, since I wrote all those letters about our family. I want to pass along to you these thoughts, for what they might be worth, because I love you so much.
            Yes, we do have a wonderful family. There are many other wonderful families, just as good as ours, but I do not think there are any families any better than ours.
            The Bible tells us that we ought not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think!
            One of our Methodist Bishops lived to be more than One Hundred Years Old. I have forgotten his name. When he got to be One Hundred Years Old, he wrote a book which he entitled, “My First One Hundred Years.” I read a condensation of this book in The Reader’s Digest. The main thing I remember about this book, - he went on to say that after living for One Hundred Years, he was convinced that the greatest quality of character was, HUMILITY!  - I Think all of us should take our blessings, in our stride, so to speak, and be thankful and HUMBLE.
I think a very great quality of character is UNSELFISHNESS!  I have been told that HUMILITY includes UNSELFISHNESS. I hope so.
            Harry, Jr. has made a very fine suggestion that all the fifty-eight members of our family be furnished with all the addresses so that all of us can keep in touch with all the others. So, I am enclosing a list of all the addresses.  I will appreciate it if you will let me know if you move or change your address so that I can keep the list of addresses up to date.
I do not wish to put any member of our family under any pressure to do anything, but wouldn’t it be wonderful for each one of us to try to gradually improve ourselves, physically, mentally, morally and spiritually, so that each one of us might, gradually and naturally become the very best Christian that it is possible for that member of the family to become!  With fifty-eight of us becoming the best Christian possible, how wonderful that would be!
            The following are just a few of my thoughts about the philosophy of living.
1.         I think the two greatest things in the world are, - Sincere Christian Love and Sincere Christian Living.
2.         If you must be selfish, be Unselfish. I think Unselfishness brings many more personal rewards than Selfishness brings. In fact, I know it does. – I remember my Father telling me that he had never given a donation to a worthy cause that it was not returned to him, many fold! He was quick to tell me that he did not think we should give to a worthy cause for the purpose of the profits that might come, but to make the gift sincerely! I think my Father knew what he was talking about, because I have had the same experience!
3.         If you want to help yourself, then help the other fellow! When we first came to Rich Square, I made up my mind to make this rule the policy of our business. I did put this rule into effect with great results for which I am so grateful!
4.         Have you ever thought about the Human Body as a Great Miracle?  It seems to me that the Human Body is a tremendous miracle!  A Brain that can Think, Plan and Reason! Eyes that can see, - Ears that can hear, - Noses that can smell, - Hands that can feel and do innumerable and wonderful things. – Ability to walk, ability to talk and converse with others. It is really wonderful! Let’s each and every one of us do everything we can to take good care of our miraculously wonderful bodies and improve each one in every way we can.
5.         With fifty-eight wonderful people doing all they can to improve themselves and, in that way, improve the family, just try to imagine the tremendous possibilities!
6.         Remember! No pressure on anybody! Just do everything gradually, naturally and in your stride, so to speak!
So, let's each one of us keep in touch with each other, pray for each other, love each other, help each other in any way we can and, in this way, make our family an even better family!
With my devoted love and every good wish for each and every one of you.


            (signed)              Harry T. Jones


Growing up Youngest

When Catherine was much younger, she came to live with Emily Jean and me in Jersey City. She was with us for about a year, and it was during that time that an incident occurred that helped us all to appreciate what it means to grow up youngest in your family. All three of us were the youngest in our families.

One morning, we were sitting in our kitchen, with its incredible view of the New York skyline, preparing to have breakfast. Bowls had been filled with cereal, and Catherine had the job of putting blueberries in each of the three bowls. We were all sitting at the table, ready to eat, as soon as the blueberries had been distributed. Suddenly, all three of us became aware that each of us was counting the blueberries as they were put on the cereal. We roared with laughter, enjoying the moment of realization. Being youngest had left its mark! Clearly, the youngest is always afraid of being shorted.

It is not that I cannot be a leader. I have become, I think, an effective supervisor and a competent family therapist (retired from both now, of course). But what an oldest or only child seems to do easily (it flows), I and other youngest have to work at, to concentrate at, to keep in focus by an act of the will. And, while I can’t speak for others, I know it is a relief when someone else wants to take over the leadership. I am not inclined to fight for the right to keep calling the shots. I am comfortable being a follower.

Emily Jean and I realized a long time ago that we both prefer being follower to being leader. And it does cause problems in the relationship. We decided on a title for a book about our life together, if we ever got around to writing it: The Battle to be Baby.

I think one of the assets of being youngest is a heightened sensitivity to the feelings of the oppressed. Youngests do not expect to get a fair share; we expect to be deprived of our fair share, and are therefore “on the lookout” to be sure to take care of ourselves. Having formed this emotional habit as a way of being in the world, we are able to carry it over into being “on the lookout” for all. I wonder if there has been research into whether NGO’s have a significantly larger percentage of youngests, just as politicians and leaders in the business world are probably predominantly eldests and onlys.

Personally, I have been most comfortable avoiding leadership in my professional organization. I served on committees, did my job more or less responsibly (How I functioned when depressed is another matter!), but never sought higher office, either in our region or nationally. Had I run, I might never have been elected, but I never tried. And I was relieved that no one put pressure on me to do so. Eldests and onlys seem to react differently.

Little Events That Marked Me

When I was very small, perhaps four or five, my mother was working in our backyard, pruning the roses. It looked to me like it was a shame that all those pieces of rose were being cut off and thrown away, so I asked her if I could have one of them. She gave me one, and I found an out-of-the-way spot, stuck it in the ground and forgot about it. A few weeks later, Mother called me and showed me the little piece of rose wood I had stuck in the ground. It had little green shoots growing out of it. What had seemed to be dead had come to life again. I think my love of gardening began that day.

Another early event when I was about ten or so probably has a great deal to do with my lack of interest in hunting. I had a B B gun out in the back yard, and saw a sparrow sitting on a telephone wire. Without thinking, I aimed the gun and shot. It hit the sparrow, and he came tumbling to the ground, dead. I ran over and looked at it and saw a spot of blood where the B B had hit it. The little bird which had been full of life a moment before, was now dead, because of me. I felt terrible. I have never forgotten it.

A third learning stems from such an early time that I’m not sure how old I was. Through a series of family outings which happened on Sundays, I took in very deeply the lesson, the value, that it was OK to have fun on Sundays, but never OK to take part in competitive sports. We could go crabbing, we could go swimming, or sunbathe at the beach, even throw baseballs or footballs to each other, but playing a game of baseball or football on Sunday was out.

Eventually I arrived at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. In one of my first classes, the subject of recreation came up. The professor pronounced it not “rec-reation” but “re-creation” and urged on us the spiritual value of having fun, even on Sunday. This was tremendously liberating to me. I had become somewhat of an avid golfer, and the idea that I could go to church on Sunday morning and then play golf Sunday afternoon without breaking the rules was most appealing. So the following Sunday, I found a golfing friend who was happy to play with me (he had no such compunctions), and out we went to one of the public courses in Atlanta. My sense of freedom was short-lived.

My head was convinced, but values I had taken in so early were not to be idly discarded because a seminary professor rejected them. I sliced the ball in the woods, I hooked it into the water, I dubbed it fifteen yards instead of 220, I three-putted. I had a terrible day, shot one of the worst scores I had had in years. And I was miserable the entire time.

I have tried more than once during my lifetime to leave those early values behind because I don’t really hold them any more. I still can’t do it. I am no longer upset about it, but really sort of proud of it. Maybe I’m also a little amused at myself.

World War II

It occured to me that I should look at my experience during the war, and try to understand the impact of those experiences on my spiritual development. I have alluded to it elsewhere, but not with this as the focus.

I graduated from Maury High School, in Norfolk VA, in May of 1942. I matriculated at Virginia Military Institute in September of that year. I was the fourth of my family to go there. It was by no means because I was dedicated to the military as a way of life. It was more that I did not have an inkling of what I wanted to do with my life, and that Dad could afford to send me there. I never gave thought to what I wanted to do, nor did I have dreams of certain colleges where I wanted to go. I was totally passive.

So, with a Firstclassman (Senior) and a Thirdclassman (Sophomore) in the family already at VMI, in Harry and Roddey, now there was also a “Rat.” I spent one semester at VMI, almost all of it on crutches or with a cane (See under “Sports”), and then the Enlisted Reserve was called up, and I was in the army. I passed through an induction center (Fort Meade MD), and was sent to Georgia for Infantry Heavy Weapons training. This was a 12-week program, with lots of drill (I was still limping heavily.), and training in 81-mm mortar and 30-caliber water-cooled machine guns. All of our free time was spent desperately trying to figure out how to get out of the infantry and into some branch where chances of survival were better. We all felt anything would be better—anything. So I tried West Point, the Naval Academy, the Coast Guard, the Air Force. Every application came back “Denied.” Then I heard about the “Army Specialized Training Program” or ASTP. Anyone who had an I. Q. on army tests of 115 or better could apply. I applied and was accepted.

After completion of Basic Heavy Weapons Training, in June, 1943, I was ordered to the ASTP program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI) in Blacksburg VA. The irony for me was that I had spent one semester at VMI, and now, less than four months later, found myself a student at VPI, the arch-rival school of VMI. The Army’s plan was to give us speeded-up classes (a semester in the time of a quarter), and graduate us as officers for the Ordnance Branch of the Army. But other planners, anticipating heavy casualties at the invasion of Europe, put the kibosh to the entire ASTP in April, 1944, and sent us to infantry regiments, already stripped of all privates and sent to be replacements.

I went to the 84th Infantry Division, at Camp Claiborne, near Baton Rouge LA. I became a member of a platoon in Company C (I think it was.), 333rd Infantry Regiment. So here we were, the intellectual cream of the privates of the army, sent to be cannon fodder, commanded by the cadre of sergeants and corporals who had been left in place when the 84th was stripped. And they were all from Texas, New Mexico and other states in the southwest, and many of them seemed a little thin on brains. It was a recipe for disaster. When we finally got into combat in October, 1944, the cream rapidly rose to the top, as the old cadre fell by the wayside due to wounds, death, or demotion.

By December of 1944, just turned 20, I was commanding a platoon, as a three-stripe sergeant, although there were only 18 left of the original 40 men in the platoon. And we were in the Battle of the Bulge.

We emerged from this onto the banks of the Roer River, which the Germans had flooded by dynamiting the dams, so we came to a standstill a few hundred yards from the Germans on the other side. All the men in my platoon were still dedicated to finding a way out of the infantry, or at least, out of the shooting, so they all (18 plus a few replacements) lined up to apply for Officer Candidate School, which had just been announced. All were denied. They came to me and urged me to apply, saying, “Somebody has got to get out of here, Sarge—why don’t you apply?” So I did. And I was accepted.

I spent two months at Fontainebleau, living in the stables where Napoleon kept his horses (better than any four-star hotel). OCS began on April 1st, ended on May 31st, with the awarding of commissions as 2nd Lieutenants in the U. S. Army. But the war was over, and I had survived.

I spent some time in the Constabulary Force, occupying Germany, then went home in March, 1946, to attend Harry’s wedding, and was discharged.

How did the war experience affect me?

1)                  It taught me to suspect all authority.
2)                  It stripped me of the veneer of the southern gentleman.
3)                  It taught me a new language of four-letter words, without which nothing could be said.
4)                  It enabled me to survive emotional pain by not feeling anything.
5)                  It bred in me the powerful beginnings of cynicism in regard to all values.
6)                  It taught me not to trust anyone.
7)                  It taught me to be suspicious of everyone.
8)                  It taught me not to care.

I have been able to overcome or get beyond many of these “learnings,” but some of them persist. To understand the “me” that is inside, you have to know this part of my history.

First Marriage

Jean McClarin and I were both from Norfolk VA, and members of the same church, Epworth Methodist. She was a couple of year younger than I, so that we were not in the same youth groups. I think I met her after the war upon my return. I know that my brother, Roddey, had dated her at some point before I did. I went off to Randolph-Macon College, transferring in as a Junior, and sometime during that first year, I think, we met and began dating. By the time I was a senior, we had decided to get married when we graduated. She wanted to be a missionary, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so we applied to Candler School of Theology and Duke. I think we could have gone to either, but chose Emory because it had better help in terms of housing.

We married in 1948, a few days after graduation, she from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, and I from RMC in Ashland, VA. We spent the summer of 1948 at Lake Junaluska, where we were in charge of the recreation program. I remember playing a lot of ping pong, and our struggling to arrange a dinner party on a boat in the lake, and running into the argument: “We’ve never done it that way before.”

That fall, we went to Candler, living in a very old house down by the railroad tracks our first year, moving into new apartments our second. Randy was born in 1949, Caroline in 1951. Eurethroblastosis reared its ugly head after Randy was born. Jean was Rh negative, and Randy Rh positive. This meant that any other children would be affected. Caroline, fortunately, was Rh negative, so there was no problem. But Jean became pregnant a third time, coming to term during the summer of 1952, when I was back at Emory to complete a Masters in Education. I had graduated from Candler with a B. D., in January, 1951, and took a number of courses in education, knowing that we were going out as educational missionaries. The baby, a boy, was born August 2, 1952, lived three days, and died. This was pretty devastating to both of us, but especially to Jean. She had wanted very much to have a son whom she could name for her brother, Donald. (He died in a tragic accident at home, and Jean, alone at home with her brother, who was home from college for the Christmas holidays, found his body. He had been extremely important to her.)

In the fall of 1952, the four of us went to Yale University’s School of Oriental Languages, to study the language and culture of Japan. It was there that we met Dave and Betty Swain, among others. We sailed for Japan on the S.S. President Cleveland in August, 1953. Another year of language school in Tokyo followed, where I paired with Dave in pursuing the language, including the famous trek to Kyoto in the spring of 1954, and then to my assignment at Kwansei Gakuin and Jean’s at Kobe JoGakuin.

Some time in the mid 50ties, our mission Ob/Gyn doctor told Jean that there had been a lot of research done which made it possible that she could successfully have a third child. Lenore was born in 1957, had two blood exchanges right after birth, lived in an incubator for about five weeks, then had two more transfusions before coming home.

With further encouragement, we decided to try one more time for a boy. After four years at Kwansei Gakuin, where I worked as an English teacher in the high school, we returned to the states for a year’s leave, choosing to spend it at Duke. We timed her pregnancy so that she would deliver soon after we got to Duke. We made our plans around being there for the help Duke Medical Center could give us with another problem birth. Dr. Richard Diamond, of Boston Children’s Hospital, had taken the lead in researching eurethroblastosis, and developing treatment regimens, and one of the young hematologists he trained was at Duke. Our plans worked out well, and Catherine was born on October 23, 1958, had ten blood exchange transfers in the first four days after birth, and emerged from this terrible ordeal undamaged, and full of beans.

We returned to Japan in 1959 for another five-year term, then went to Boston University to work on doctorates.

Our personal relationship had been a disappointment to me, though Jean always said that she had no problem with it. With therapy, I was able to see the issues between us and to push for change. Jean was unwilling to work on these with me, and I gave up. It is still a painful memory for me, and I think, for all of us.

Childhood of My Children

I married Jean McClarin in 1948, and we divorced in 1966, 18 years later. Randy was 17, Caroline 15, Lenore 9, and Catherine 8 (approximately). So my recollection of their childhood is largely of our time in Japan. Randy was a very smart kid, afflicted with a younger sister who was blessed with just as much brain power, but also with a strong competitive streak. When he came home from kindergarten, she wanted to know immediately what he had learned that day. And within a few minutes, she was catching up. I have always suspected that Randy’s ambidextrousness developed from watching how incredibly well she did writing with her left hand. So he began writing with his left as well as his right. I still remember like it was yesterday attending a class when parents were invited to Canadian Academy (the school our kids attended in Japan). Naturally, he was sent to the blackboard, since I was there. The teacher dictated something for the three children who were at the board, and he began writing with his left hand. When he got to the middle of the board, he shifted to his right hand to write the rest of the sentence. What could be more efficient?

Both Randy and Caroline did well in school, and Randy was active in the Boy Scouts. I went on a few hikes and overnights with them. I remember taking them to Kobe Union Church one Sunday when their mother was away somewhere. I was preoccupied about something or other, and went home without them. When I walked in the door of our house at Kwansei Gakuin, I suddenly “woke up” and realized that they should be with me. I called the church, and they assured me that the children were fine, and would be OK until I could get back to pick them up. I drove back to Kobe (30-45 minutes) and got them. I don’t know that they even noticed it.

Lenore was born at Yodogawa Christian Hospital in Osaka, the subject of much worry and joy. She finally come home after over a month, two blood exchanges and two blood transfusions. 10 months later, while we were at Duke on furlough, Catherine was born, had ten blood exchanges and sustained no damage. Both were miracle babies, for their older brother, Donald, had died of eurethroblastosis in 1952. They are alive because of the amazing progress of medical research and practice.

Their early years were spent playing with “Boya-chan,” the grandson of Yamada-san, our housekeeper. He came to live with us when his father was killed in an accident, and his mother had nowhere to go. For a while, in exchange for a place to live, she helped her mother around the house, and the three children played together. All communication was in Japanese, and our two became quite fluent. And Lenore was incredibly adept with chopsticks (hashi). One of her favorite things to eat is still Ramen, which they ate a lot of when she was little.

We returned to the states in 1964, when Jean and I went to Boston University. I don’t remember much about that time. I do recall that a favorite thing for the three of us (Lenore, Catherine and I) to do was to go for a drive in the car. Lenore and Catherine would sit in the front seat with me, and take turns deciding which way we would go at each corner. We had a blast. We never knew where we were going to wind up.

Another thing I remember is Catherine trying to get Randy to play with her. He had a room in the basement of our little house, and she would run down the stairs and beg him to tickle her. She would then scream and go running back up the stairs. This could go on for hours with many variations. She also begged him to tease her, and when he did, she would run to her mother and scream that Randy was teasing her. It was unending.

One other thing I remember about Catherine (true in Japan, and after we returned to the states) was that she was hyperactive all day long, until she fell asleep in mid-stride in the evening, at which point, we would pick her up and put her in her bed.

I regret that my separation from Jean also meant separation from my children. We have all gotten reacquainted since, but so much was lost. I saw Lenore and Catherine from time to time when they came up to NJ, Caroline and Randy much less. My overall feelings about it are a profound sadness.

Lake Nojiri

When Jean McClarin and I arrived in Japan, we were assigned housing on a quadrangle in Tokyo for the year we would be in the Naganuma Language School. That was September, 1953. During the next few months, one of the other folks on the quadrangle (I’ve forgotten the last name, but his first was Les.) asked us if we would like to buy a half interest in their summer cottage at Lake Nojiri. That was the first time I had heard of Lake Nojiri. We learned that almost all the missionaries in Japan went to Lake Nojiri in the summer, usually for two months, July and August.

Jean and I talked it over and when we learned that the offer was for only $1,500 for a half interest, we began to try to figure out how we could come up with the money. We finally did, bought the half-interest, knowing that Les and his wife were returning to the U. S. the next year, so that we would have the next two summers at Lake Nojiri, with their getting a turn when they came back. And when Les got his doctorate and was offered a teaching position at Oklahoma State, he took it, and offered us the other half interest for another $1,500. We scratched that up, too, and enjoyed Lake Nojiri for eight summers. We all loved it almost all of that time.

On Japanese university campuses, the school year begins in April, with the first quarter ending early in July (as I recall). Since there were no classes during the summer, and the Fall quarter did not begin until September, we headed for Lake Nojiri after the last classes ended. Usually, we went by train, having to change trains once or twice on the way, then taking a taxi from the train station nearest to Lake Nojiri.

Our house was small, but had four small bedrooms, a wonderful ofuro (Japanese bath), a nice sized living room, a kitchen and a small study. There was electricity, but at the time we owned the house, there was no running water. Our house was better equipped than most in having a well with a hand pump on the high ground behind the house, and a 55-gallon drum to pump water into, from which it flowed by gravity into the house. We also had to adjust to the farmer coming to empty the honey-bucket in our bathroom every morning at around 4:00 a.m. We got used to the sudden assault of the smell, even when the noise did not wake us up. And taking hot baths in the ofuro beats any kind of bathing in the west, bar none.

How did we spend the time during the summer? I’m not sure how the kids and Jean spent their summers, but I was incredibly involved in sailing, tennis and golf. There were sailboat races daily (Monday through Friday) at 1:00 p.m., if there was a racing wind, sometimes when there wasn’t. The first four summers (1954-57), I fixed up an old Snipe hulk from prewar times, and raced it. It was made of oak, weighed a ton, and was not very competitive, though I did win one race when I was gambling on a wind shift, and got it. But it was a lot of fun. Jean sometimes crewed with me the first summer, but I don’t recall that she did that much after that. After we returned to the states in 1958, and returned to Japan in 1959, I bought a new Snipe which was used only four days in the International Yachting Olympics in Japan, then auctioned off. Peyton Palmore, a good friend who lived in Nagoya, where the races were held, knew that the boats would be auctioned off following the competition, and lined up those of us who liked to race to put up the money so he could bid them in. A new Snipe, fully equipped with the most modern sails, and made of the best marine materials at the time, was bid in for $300. As I recall, there were about six of us who got new boats, so the races were really interesting after that.

I’d play golf in the morning, go home for lunch, then rush down to the lake and get my boat (called “Yellow Jacket” after the RMC “mascot,” and painted black and yellow, the RMC colors) into the water. We started at the main pier, the starting line running from the end of the pier out to a boat anchored about 75 feet out in the lake, usually so that the line was perpendicular to a line running from there out to the first buoy. The course included rounding a little island on the far side of the lake, a nice little challenge because the island blocked the wind and you had to creep around until you got out into the wind again. I think we made two laps of the course, though I may be mistaken about that. (I’ll have to ask Peyton!) Racing was strictly for fun, and a lot of fun it was.

Golf was fun, too. It was a little pitch and putt course of nine holes, none long enough for a wood, and with sand greens, which had to be raked smooth after each group putted out. I played well enough to be competitive in the tournaments; I may have won once or twice. I taught Dave Swain to play up there. He had never played before. He was an ungrateful friend; he soon began to beat me.

There were also times when we had friends over, or went to the homes of friends for the evening. And there were activities like musicals, which Jean was interested in, though I was not.

At any rate, Lake Nojiri was important in my younger years. I’ll have to think about what this had to do with my spiritual journey. It feels like those years were pure activity, without any thought or inner development. Maybe that’s the key.
Second Marriage

After Jean McClarin and I separated, and she finished her doctorate (I never finished mine.), she took the children with her to Georgia, where she became Associate Dean of Women at Brenau College (now University) in Gainesville, GA, then Associate Dean of Students at Pfeiffer College (now University) in Misenheimer, NC. I only saw them occasionally from that point on, when they could come up to New Jersey, where I had become Director of Pastoral Care at Overlook Hospital in Summit NJ.

While I was completing my residency at B. U., and my training as a supervisor in ACPE (Association for Clinical Pastoral Education), I was living out at Boston State Hospital. There I met Joan Dominick, an attractive nurse who was working on a research project with Dr. Bernard Stotsky. I liked her, and we began dating. Perhaps I was on the rebound, but I was quite taken with her, and eventually, we lived together for a while, and then were married when I moved to Summit and my new position.

It did not take long for me to understand that I had married a person who had serious problems with alcohol. At first, the physical side of our relationship was good, until her need for alcohol, and my ineptness at understanding what was going on created real problems. It was then that Joan taught me that I am capable of murder. When drinking, she tended to follow me around, making terrible accusations, none of which were true, but my patience would wear thin, and I’d get very angry. One day, to my everlasting regret, I got so mad that I destroyed several articles of furniture, including two beautiful landscapes that Frank Wesley had made in Montreat years before. But I suppose it’s better to destroy things, however wonderful and valuable, than to destroy a person, however provocative.

After Al-Anon for four years, and several years of therapy with an alcoholism specialist, I decided to separate from Joan. I tried to get her to participate in a confrontation meeting facilitated by my therapist, but Joan was a highly skilled and very well-trained psychiatric nurse, and she knew immediately what I had in mind, and said in no uncertain terms that she was going to have no part of it. I recall that she said, “If that’s what you have in mind, you may as well pack your clothes and get out, because I’m not going to do it.”

I followed her advice and left.

A year later, I ran into her on the street, and she looked terrific. I took heart when I learned that she had spent the year in A. A., and was dry. I proposed that I move back home and that we try again. She agreed, and I moved back. It lasted three weeks. She was dry, but still unable to stop the unprovoked emotional assaults on me. I felt I did not need to accept that sort of abuse, so I left again. And ultimately, I filed for divorce, and with the help of a local attorney suggested to me by Art Tingue, the new therapist I began to work with after I began a relationship with Emily Jean, I qualified for a no-fault divorce. This lawyer, whose name I have forgotten, helped me to be patient and to motivate Joan to come to the table. As I recall, her passive resistance was dealt with by working out a deal with the bank to put mortgage payments (which I was making) into an escrow account, and get the bank to write her as if I were not paying the mortgage, and threaten foreclosure. It feels mean, but I was desperate, and it worked.

She agreed to a clearly written legal agreement, and the divorce became final after 18 months.

Joan had a son, Mark, from a previous relationship, who lived with us and went to school nearby. Since I left, and the divorce became final, I have had no news of either of them. This is because Joan wrote poison pen letters, and made phone calls, accusing me of all sorts of terrible things, none of which were true. She wrote or called my colleagues in ministry, my boss, Emily Jean’s boss, the President of Presbyterian Hospital, after I became Director of Pastoral Care there nearly ten years later. The worst was a “get well” card sent to a patient at Overlook whom she had met in A. A., in which she accused her of having an affair with me, and telling her to “drop dead.” She was really disturbed.

It was a great relief to have her out of my life, and I have done nothing to invite her back in. Nor do I intend to.

Third Marriage

Emily Jean Gilbert and I have had a very satisfying marriage. I came to this relationship feeling very much a failure as a husband and father. I had left my first wife and children out of a conviction that living in a destructive relationship was bad for all of us, including the kids. But I still felt a failure. Failing in a second marriage made it even worse. No amount of argument with myself, citing her drinking, her refusal to go for help, etc. availed. I had decided that I might have relationships, but they would not involve marriage, because I was not capable of sustaining a marriage relationship.

But Emily Jean and I began to live together shortly after we fell in love with each other, and immediately began working very hard with the help of Art Tingue*. We used Art’s Equalog Contract, which was a framework for thinking about your relationship which covered all the bases. Each of us completed it independently, without sharing in advance of our therapy session together. I remember that I was very lacking in trust, and wanted a written agreement about what we expected of each other. I forget the details, but they were very important to me at the time. After a few months, I never gave it another thought.

One thing we agreed to do, and still do, though not as consistently, was to have a date every week. We used to hold Wednesdays for Our Night, but don’t do so formally any more. We do manage to go out about once a week still.

We both believe firmly in therapy, and have turned to professionals from time to time when we felt we needed help. Emily Jean is more expressive of her feelings than I am, perhaps because she is more in touch with them than I am with mine.

Our physical relationship has been healthy, passionate, appropriate to our ages. That is to say, I’m relieved that I do not have the drive I used to have. It’s nice to have the pressure drop in that area.

We were married in 1979, but since we count from our first kiss, at the Annual Conference of the Eastern Region of ACPE, in May, 1977, standing in the warm waters on the beach at Puerto Rico, we always celebrate Cinco de Mayo. So we have been together 35 years as of May 5, 2012.

How strongly my mother influenced me! She was raised in a household where there were no pets of which I am aware, despite there being four boys among the six siblings, and I think she wanted her house to be free of pet hair and the smells of animals. But she gave in to pleas of her children twice.

Smiley was a collie whom we all loved. He came to be a part of our family when I was very small, probably only a few months old. I am told that Smiley “herded” me. I was put outside in the back yard and Smiley would walk along with me as I crawled around. When I went down the driveway toward the street, he went with me until we got to the front yard, when he put his body between me and the street, gently encouraging me to go into the front yard. Mother insisted that he should not be allowed in the house, and he had a place to sleep in the garage. During the winter, it got very cold, Smiley caught pneumonia, and died. I’m guessing that Mother must have been devastated (along with the rest of the family), because soon we had another dog, “Skipper,” a wire-haired fox terrier, and Skipper lived in the house.

But there were no cats! Mother disliked cats, said they were sneaky. (I’m interested to note that none of my siblings ever had cats! Harry had hunting dogs, but they were not allowed in the house. And I don’t think Perry Lee, Kitty and Roddey ever had any pets, except Roddey’s goldfish, and they were in a pond outside.)

When Jean McClarin and I were in Japan, we got a wire-haired fox terrier, whom we named Belle. We all loved Belle, and it was very sad when we left Japan in 1964. We had intended to go back after a few years of doctoral studies, so we had arranged for someone to take care of Belle until we got back. But on the day before we were to leave Japan, Belle suddenly got sick and died. It was quite a shock.

Anyway, cats were not a part of my growing-up experience. My introduction to cats came when I began to live with Emily Jean, and met her “Butterscotch,” now known as “Butterscotch I.” At that time, since Butterscotch was her cat, it seemed appropriate to me that she should take complete care of her, and my contact with the cat was limited to providing an occasional lap, or petting her. Then we were married, and moved to Jersey City in 1979 and our own house. Soon we added Miss Priss and Beau, and I agreed to share the job of cleaning the litter and feeding them. This arrangement has continued with cats we adopted after coming to Allentown PA in 1991. We added Ollie and a second Butterscotch (Butterscotch I had died before we moved here.) at that time. Our high-water mark with cats came a few years after that when Donna Cieply’s mother, Edna, and aunt, Edie, moved to Bethlehem from Massachusetts, and stayed with Nancy Adams and Donna until they were able to find their own house. Until then, they had no place for their two cats, Charlie and Cocoa, so we boarded them with our four for a period of several weeks. Butterscotch II was the only one of the six who had been declawed (before we got her—she was elderly even then), but she was top cat and woe betide any challengers. She fought both Charlie and Cocoa to a standstill. She was fearless. And stalked them until she got them cornered, then attacked with her clawless footpads, receiving without hesitation their clawed counterpunches. Finally, Charlie showed his mettle and bit her leg. It got infected and we had to take her to the vet. As I recall, both Edie and Edna were terribly upset that one of their cats had been an improper guest, and wanted to pay the vet. We felt that it was Butterscotch’s fault, and refused.

Charlie and Cocoa went to their new home, and seemed happy there. Butterscotch had died, Miss Priss and Beau both had passed on, and we were down to two: Ollie and Neko-chan, a Pastel Calico that we adopted from a dairy farm in New Jersey, with the help of a former Presbyterian Hospital resident, Marcia Krause. (“Neko” means “cat” in Japanese, and the “chan” is a suffix reserved for children, meaning “Little Miss” or “Little Master.”) One day, Emily Jean came home saying that a colleague at work had a litter of kittens to place, and she wanted to adopt one. I said, “No,” we should get two, a male and a female. This was a great move, and they have been inseparable ever since. Their names reflect the fact that both are orange. I am somewhat smitten with Amber, the female, but Kaki (Japanese for persimmon) is also a formidable lap cat, despite or perhaps because of his 20 pounds. Kaki is like his mother, in having short hair and an Alaskan malemute-type tail, curling back over his body. Amber is like her father, with very long, beautiful hair. Both their parents were feral cats, and the kittens were trapped when their mother brought them to the porch to get food. Emily Jean’s friend did a great job of socializing them, kept one of the litter and the mother, and has them still.

We like having them about. In the cold of Winter, there will come a particularly bitter night, which we have come to speak of as a “four-cat night.” All six of us will squeeze into our one bed, all snuggled up together.

We had one other boarder, after Charlie and Cocoa had moved on to their new home (God rest their cat souls—they’ve both gone on to a better life.). Catherine, my daughter, called to say that her company was sending her from Phoenix to New Jersey, but she could not get in to the apartment she had found there for about a month, and needed us to take care of her “Joe,” until then. We were glad to have Joe, and agreed immediately. Joe came and had been here about a month when Catherine called, somewhat upset, to say that she had not read the fine print on her lease, and that they did not permit pets. Joe never showed his stuff with me—gender discrimination, perhaps—but he has a way of putting his arms around your neck and laying his head alongside yours, while drooling down your neck, which is said to be memorable. I forget how long Joe was with us, but it was maybe a year or so. When Catherine moved back to Phoenix, she came by and got Joe. Now they are in Atlanta together.

Since then, we added Sully, a young but well-socialized stray who came via Betty, one of my work-out buddies at the Y, and Charlie. Charlie belonged to Madge, a volunteer in Emily Jean’s office for many years, whose health had failed, and Charlie had to be placed. We took him, but had him for less than a month. Madge died, and less than a week later, Charlie showed extreme neurological problems and had to be put down.

Judson Memorial Church

I came to Judson the first time in the company of Emily Jean Gilbert, who later became my third wife. When Joan Dominick, my second wife, and I reached the breaking point, I separated from her, and moved into an apartment owned by Overlook Hospital, where I was the Director of Pastoral Care. I then moved in with Charlie Brackbill, a friend whom I had come to know when his wife was a patient at Overlook, and later when he was a patient. It was during this time that I dated Emily Jean once, then again during our ACPE Eastern Region Spring Conference, held that year (1977) in Puerto Rico. The time together in P.R. cemented our relationship, and we began to live together in June, 1977. We were both suspicious and careful, having been burned before, so were relieved to discover that we both wanted to have therapy together, and to go to church together. Since Emily Jean was already attending Judson, I went with her a few times during the summer of 1977, and we went on the Judson Fall Retreat that year.

How shall I describe Judson? How can I capture the uniqueness of Judson? It’s not easy. I just know that I have searched far and wide for a church like it, and have not found one. I guess, first and foremost, Judson is a community which lives justice. We have a “Peace and Justice Team” at Hope UCC, where we go now, but at Judson, everyone was engaged in work for peace and justice. To illustrate, the new pastor, who became Senior Pastor a few years ago, preached a sermon recently in which she spoke about her feelings about Judson by telling about the interview process to hire a church administrator. One man came in who was very well suited, with the necessary background and training. Donna Schaper asked him how he felt about homosexuals. He responded that he was comfortable with them being a part of the church. Donna said she thanked him for coming, and sent him on his way. She was looking for someone who would be joyful and excited about the prospect of living and working in a church community where half of the members were gay.

There are plenty of arguments, lots of times when members are upset with each other, but on the whole, people are caring of each other, and try to be fair. It is also a group which is very well educated, quite far to the left politically (with one or two exceptions), and often involved in the political scene.

The level of sophistication is also remarkable. Not a few have artistic careers, several have been or are on Broadway. Interestingly enough, though there are truly superb voices in the congregation, there is no formal choir. From time to time, a plan to perform a particular number is announced and people who want to sing will gather to practice before church a few times. And they sing wonderful and difficult music. I remember Faure’s Requiem in particular. Emily Jean, who sang (I did not.), recalls also Vivaldi’s Gloria.

There is a long tradition of high-quality music at Judson, which dates back at least as far as Al Carmines, who was Associate Pastor when Howard Moody was Senior Pastor in the 60ties and 70ties, maybe earlier. Al, encouraged by Howard and the congregation, played for services, but did much more as time went on. He wrote numerous hymns (one of which is in the UCC hymnal, and one in the Methodist hymnal), several oratorios, and several musicals. I was deeply moved when Al wrote special “birth” songs to welcome new babies into the congregation. These were sung at the morning worship. It is indeed a very special congregation.

Another thing about it that sets it apart, particularly in this day and age, is its insistent practice of laissez-faire doctrine. Members include Roman Catholics and Jews, probably by this time, a few Muslims. They are welcome to join the church on their own terms. I was able to function as a member under a special rubric which had been created before I came, called “non-member.” The church constitution provides that the Administrative Board can have two non-members on it. As a Methodist clergyman, I was not allowed by UMC to be a member of any church, even Methodist, but had to belong to a conference with all the other Methodist clergy.

To sum up, Judson puts relationships and people ahead of all other values. The church fulfils its obligations to the American Baptist Church and to the United Church of Christ, with both of which it is affiliated, but tends to downplay doctrine across the board.

Computers and Modern Technology

Mother always loved gadgets. I think that was my first exposure to modern technology. The most memorable gadget she had I have never seen anywhere else than in our kitchen, and it probably no longer is made. She had a little dipper which would fit down inside a bottle of milk so that the cream could be lifted off the top, leaving skimmed milk. All the milk then came as it came out of the cow, skim on the bottom, heavier cream on the top. If a cook wanted to make whipped cream, this was where you got the cream. Now, of course, all is pasteurized, and you buy each separately.

Mother’s gadgets were hi-tech for that time. I was the youngest still at home when all the others were off at school so I’m sure I had a different exposure to Mother in the home than my siblings. I alone was there to watch her with any new gadget. Somehow, I imagine this experience began a comfort internally with looking for new ways of doing things. Such comforts lead to curiosity which can develop into passions!

When I came out of the army in March, 1946, I signed up to transfer to Randolph-Macon College in the fall. I decided to do something with the time before I went to RMC in September, something which would make it easier and more efficient in college. I went to a business school near our house in Norfolk, and studied typing and shorthand during the summer of 1946. I got my typing speed up to 100 wpm on the electric typewriter there, and took shorthand at about the same speed or better. I guess this was my first venture into modern technology.

I recall listening with great interest when Randy, Jr. and Caroline told me of using the campus computer to write their term papers, of punching cards, making middle-of-the-night appointments to go to the computer, run their cards and walk away with a completed paper. And I had thought carbon paper was a great advance!

So when I was treasurer at Judson Memorial Church, during the early 80ties, they were given an old computer which used 8-inch floppy discs. I was intrigued, but never got to work it. Then Lenore and John, or was it just John then, talked of computers practically non-stop. I spoke to John and asked him what he would advise for a beginner. I recall that he suggested an IBM clone which I bought, and sat down to work at, with him looking over my shoulder.

I said, “What do I do?”
He responded: “Just type something.”
So I typed my name. The computer put up a message on the screen: “Bad message” or something to that effect. I looked up at John as if to say, “I still don’t get it.”
John said: “You just learned an important first lesson.”
I said, “What?”
“You can’t break it. It can take care of itself.” He was right. He was a good teacher.

I weathered the “dos” years, using all kinds of “freeware,” including my first word-processor, the name of which I don’t recall, and had a wonderful time relearning to type, writing many more letters than I had in past years.

And finally, I switched to Windows, which I had looked down my nose at because I had learned to use “dos.” Life was much simpler.

And then came Email and Instant Messaging and smart phones with GPS. Unbelievable.
Now I am content to stay with what I’ve got—my brain doesn’t happily take in much new stuff.

And I have my own smart phone! Incredible. It makes me sad to think how much Mother would have loved all these gadgets. She knew no fear of the “new.” And I think that’s part of what I got from her which has made this easier for me. 



As a small boy, I followed my mother as she gardened, interested in what would grow, wanting my own garden. I finally got my garden out behind the garage, and would plant beets and carrots, none of which came to maturity before we left for Montreat and our summer vacation early in June. But I planted year after year.

I can’t remember if I had gardens in Japan. We went to Lake Nojiri when classes were suspended for the summer around July 1st, so probably not. And it was not possible to have a garden at Lake Nojiri. You got there too late to plant, and left too early to harvest, and there were too many trees, anyway.

I joined the Boy Scouts when I was eligible (age 11, I think), and was in Boy Scouts until I was 14 when I joined the Sea Scouts. I never got very far in rank, Star, I think, definitely not Eagle. I loved Sea Scouts. With Forsberg as our Sea Scout Scoutmaster, as he had been of our Boy Scout troop, we had a wonderful time fitting out and then sailing a brigantine-rigged ship around Chesapeake Bay.

When in Montreat, I was in the Club System. The Intermediate group, which included boys of around 10 – 12, was advised by Boo Walker, a “famous” cross-country runner at North Carolina State, who later became a doctor. We worshipped Boo, and he seemed to enjoy leading us in all sorts of games during the early weeks of the summer, then hardening us up gradually by short hikes up small mountains, until toward the end of the summer, we could make the trek to the top of Greybeard, second only to Mt. Mitchell (6,711 feet in elevation).

By the time I was 13 or 14, I had a lot of confidence in myself. I took a group of cousins and friends (six of us in all) on an all-day hike up Greybeard, with the intent of returning the way we had come. When we got to the top, somebody (maybe it was me, I can’t recall) asked if we could go back by way of the ridge line of the “Seven Sisters,” as the seven peaks down from Greybeard were called. I was game, and we started out. I had told all to bring sweaters, but one of the little boys had not. Ages were maybe nine to eleven for three of them, and two others my age. It began to get dark, it was raining, and we were lost. I stopped us, and directed the others as we made a bed of evergreen branches under a big evergreen. I knew from Scouting that when you are lost and the sun goes down, you stay put until someone finds you, or until you figure out where you are.

We slept under the tree, in two piles of three boys, rotating the top kids to the bottom every fifteen minutes or so until the sun came up. I sent a cousin who was known as a great tree-climber (Frank Dowd—we referred to him as “Squirrel Blood.”) up a tall tree to see if he could spot the tower on Mt. Mitchell. He was able to find it and point out the direction, so now I knew where we were. We gave up on the Seven Sisters, and struck out across the slope of the mountain until we hit the main path down Greybeard. We were met by a party of relatives and rangers who had been looking for us all night. I, personally, was very proud of the fact that we had been disciplined, had taken care of ourselves, and found our way back without help. Of course, my Aunt Jean, mother of one of my cousins, had gotten pretty upset. But she got over it, and used to brag about how much cereal I had eaten when we got back that morning.

When Joan and I were married, living in Meyersville NJ, I had a huge garden, and kept bantam chickens. I read in Organic Gardening that chickens have special eyes with which they are superbly equipped to spot bugs in all of their stages. OG recommended keeping the chickens out of the garden until the little plants got big enough that the chickens wouldn’t destroy them, then letting the chickens into the garden where they could eat up all the bugs at the same time that they fertilized the garden. It was one of the best gardens I ever had.

When Emily Jean and I lived in Jersey City, we had a tiny yard, with room only for a few flowers, so I didn’t grow vegetables, my main interest. But when we moved out to Allentown, we bought an old farmhouse (where we still live) on 1.6 acres of land. I had two huge gardens, with a Troy-Bilt rototiller. I made raised beds in one area and had a 80’ by 40’ plot in another part of the yard. We also planted a wildflower garden which was so stunning that it made the papers.

A few years after we came to Allentown, I heard about bluebirds somehow, and decided to put up a bluebird house. Though we had been here for five or six years, we had never seen one. Within three days after the house was up, there were bluebirds nesting in our box. I don’t think I have ever been as excited. I got totally caught up in bluebirding, adding box after box in our yard and in the yards of neighbors, until finally, I had 28 bluebird houses on my trail. I became the County Coordinator for Lehigh County of the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania, which I enjoyed for several years, until I fell and broke my heel, and could no longer get around.

I read extensively about bluebirds, corresponded with other bluebirders on the internet, raised mealworms in our basement to feed our bluebirds, and was quoted in a bluebird book which was published during that time. Now, the houses are gradually coming down, and my interest has waned as my inability to take care of proper monitoring has been made clear.

When a neighbor called and said he was taking down two houses from his yard, I said I would like to have them. I contacted my brother-in-law, Joe Gilbert (Emily Jean’s twin brother) and his wife, Lillie, and asked if they would like a couple of bluebird houses on their property in the mountains of Virginia near Warm Springs. They said yes, so we took them up there and Joe and I put them up. Joe and Lillie had bluebirds their first year, and were able to watch them caring for their little ones.

I have learned from others, including my wives, none of whom enjoyed playing games, that it is something learned very early in life or not at all. I took it for granted that everyone loved games, and it came as a great disappointment and shock to see that many people responded negatively to games, for many reasons. Some come from families where money was scarce, everybody had to work hard, and there was no time for play. Playing any kind of game seemed frivolous. Very religious people, in some instances, put games in the category of sins or temptations, and ruled them out. Indeed, my grandfather’s church (Presbyterian) stipulated that there would be no games played in Montreat NC, where the Southern Presbyterian Conference grounds were located. But this was also vacation time, and Papa Joe, as we called him, paid no attention, and bridge was played all day six days out of the week. Papa Joe would not violate the Sabbath.

I want to distinguish between learning games, and learning to enjoy playing games. Anyone who has brains can learn the rules of games; not everyone can learn to enjoy games. I think it has to be learned very early in life, or it’s pretty hopeless. I think it’s like learning a language.

I was fortunate in having a grandfather who was a little nuts about bridge. Papa Joe had made a lot of money and had lost it in the depression, along with his health. But he was still comfortably situated, owning this nice place in Montreat, and close family owned six other homes nearby. He had plenty of time after he retired, and there were summers when our family stayed in the same house with my grandparents. One day, when I was around six, I was walking by the card table in the living room of the “big house” in Montreat, when Papa Joe grabbed my arm as I passed, and told me to sit down, that they needed a fourth. I swear I remember holding 13 cards in my tiny hands, learning to sort them by suit, and making bids (someone looked over my shoulder and told me what to say.). So I learned the suits, how to count points, how to bid, and eventually, how to play. When the bidding was over, I always became the dummy, but I stayed to watch, and I took in the fascination and the enjoyment. Being included in the fun time of the big folks was also quite attractive.

Papa Joe died before I was old enough to play with him as a responsible adult. If I’m not mistaken, he died in 1945, when I was still in Europe during WWII. But I played with my parents, and with my brothers and sisters. I don’t recall playing in college, but I played with other GI’s when we were in rest areas before we went into the line again, and I played after the war ended until I left to return to the states, to be discharged.

I recall three bridge incidents which “marked” me. Around Einhoven, Holland, we were pulled back from the front lines for a few days, and a friend, Jim Gillis, desperate for a fourth, asked me if I played bridge. I said “yes,” and a game began. He proposed, somewhat offhandedly, that we play for a tenth of a cent a point. I had never played for money in my life, because I had been taught that gambling was a sin. But I said nothing, and play began. We played for an hour or two, and before we quit, I owed Jim $10. I told him I would pay him as soon as we were paid. We returned to the line (around Aachen, Germany, and the Seigfried Line), and Jim was hit by a sniper’s bullet. He might not have survived anyway, having been struck in the groin, but as four stretcher-bearers were carrying him to the rear, an 88-mm shell struck right in the middle of them and killed all five. This was a real dilemma for me. On the one hand, I had gambled. Second, I had lost and owed money. Third, I could keep my mouth shut and do nothing and no one would ever know. Fourth, I would have the burden of a bad conscience. So I dumped it on Jim’s parents. I wrote them, explaining that he was killed, for which I was sorry, but enclosed was the $10 I owed him. In a few weeks, back came an envelope from his parents, empty except for the $10 bill. It still bothers me.

The second memory is of playing with three other young officers in the company I was assigned to after I got my commission. The war was over, and our duties were minimal. I was Mess Officer, which involved going to the Mess Hall daily at 10:00 A.M. to consult with the Mess Sergeant. I went down, had a cup of coffee, and left. The others had similar duties in other areas. One was Morale Officer, and had access to Coca Colas and cigarettes, as I recall. At any rate, our practice was to have brunch together about 12:00 noon, then gather around three to start playing bridge. This was the best bridge I ever played. I suppose that it takes playing a lot to sharpen one’s memory. At any rate, I recall that days after big hands were played, I could remember not only what cards I had held, but all the cards played from the other hands, and when they had been played. I recall the surprise I felt after playing seven no-trump doubled (and making it), at seeing five lit cigarettes lined up on the edge of the table, all burning. I had been so into the game that I was unaware that I was lighting them one after the other, taking one puff, and then lighting another. We were there together about seven months, until I went home for my brother, Harry’s, wedding in February, 1946.

The third time I recall came the summer after I got out of the army in 1946. I had known Margaret Cochran in Montreat. Her family had owned a cottage just down the hill from ours, and she and I had known each other through the clubs, playing tennis, etc. I don’t know if we ever dated. During the war, I wrote to every girl I could get an address for, because getting mail was a very big deal, and helped enormously. She and I exchanged many letters, and the feelings got warmer as time passed. When I got out, I arranged to see her when I went to Montreat, and we dated frequently. One evening, she came up to our cottage and she and I played bridge with my parents. We were paired, and Mother and Dad were paired against us. We were defending a hand, and Margaret trumped my ace, something of an unforgivable sin in bridge. I swept all the cards on the table up and threw them into the fire. I then stormed out of the house. Just out of the infantry, my anger was formidable, and it didn’t take much to bring it out. I came back later and apologized, and I think, was forgiven. But I didn’t forget, and was reluctant to play bridge for a while, thinking that if I could lose control that easily over a simple card game, maybe it was best that I avoid it.

That was sixty years ago, and I have played very little since then. One summer when I was in Montreat for a few days, my sister, Perry Lee, who played regularly in a Duplicate Club in Cleveland at the time, asked me if I would replace her partner for a duplicate event being held in Black Mountain. I protested that I had never played duplicate, and had played very little bridge at all in the last few years, but she persisted, and I agreed. I was surprised that it all came back to me, and at the end of the evening, we learned that we had won the top score. It was even printed in the Black Mountain newspaper, which Perry Lee clipped and mailed to me after I had left and gone back home.

Between my grandmother, Mama Joe, and friends in the army, I learned an astounding number of solitaire games. I still play them, abetted by friends like Carole Kobayashi, who put me on to Spider, a totally addictive solitaire game provided by Microsoft. It’s good I’m retired, because I probably play several games each of three kinds of solitaire during any given day. In addition to the ones on the computer, I know about five additional kinds.

Mama Joe also loved to play canasta, and I was always glad to play with her and whoever else wanted to play. Papa Joe, frustrated when he could not find people who wanted to play bridge, took a children’s game called “Setback,” and adapted it to a game he called “Bridge Setback.” He was always involving his grandchildren in games of Setback, and I guess this was one way he educated us for bridge-playing, because the bidding was the same. I recall the points being Hi, Low, Jick, Jack, Joker and Game. Trumps were set by bidding, and the highest trump and lowest trump taken in a game won a point. Jick was the same color jack as the trump jack, and Game was determined by counting who had taken tricks containing the most points with Ace = 4, King = 3, Queen =2, Jack = 1, and Ten = ten. Except for the Ten, the point counting is the same used to help one determine how to bid a hand in bridge. Interesting.

Every Christmas, although there was not much money for presents during the depression, Santa Claus brought a new board game to us all together. I remember Monopoly, Bulls and Bears, Caroms, and many others. Neighborhood children opened their presents on Christmas morning, then headed for our house to see what new game Santa had brought. We all loved to play games.


I retired in 1991. I had felt for a long time (probably since I graduated from college) that I was not really educated. In my rush to get a degree following WWII, I took the minimum number of courses at Randolph-Macon College in order to add their credit hours to those I brought with me from VMI and the Army Specialized Training Program (at VPI) and graduate. As a result, I was overloaded with science and mathematics, with almost no humanities.

So in 1995, I decided to read. I began by reading all I could find of some authors. I did this with William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, John Hersey, Willa Cather, Ferrol Sams, Patrick O’Brian, and Will Durant’s 12-volume History of Civilization (each volume around 1,000 pages) and began working my way through Shakespeare (I am still slowly doing this.). In 1997, I created a reading list, and adopted a plan to read from three books at a time, a minimum of 25 pages from each per day. In addition to a reading list, I began a “Books Read” file, with a month by month listing of books read, a “Reading Journal,” which included a brief note on each book completed, together with a response to each book.

The reading list initially was made up of the Harvard Bookshelf (50 volumes in the original “shelf” plus 20 volumes of fiction), and the Pulitzer Prizewinning novels and plays from the inception of those awards. Later I added several lists of 100 best novels I found, until I had a list of over 500 books. Since then, I have added books I heard about, read about, or found references to in my reading to a file called “Complete Line Up,” a list of such books. From time to time, I will select a book from that list to read.

I have now completed reading the Harvard Classics and Harvard Fiction Shelf, and all of the Pulizer novels and plays. I have also added the Pulitzer prizewinning books of history, biography and non-fiction.

And I continue to pursue writers I like. A recent example: Iris Murdoch. We heard of the DVD “Iris” and after watching it, I wanted to read from her. I have now read several of her books, and will probably read more, though it is work. And William Styron. I saw an obituary yesterday for him. Sad. I wish I had written him a letter letting him know that as a Virginian from Norfolk (He was from Newport News.) and the same age, a lot of bells rang when I read his stuff. I especially enjoyed reading Tidewater Morning, particularly the story about the newspaper boy (obviously Bill Styron, but also me.). What joy I felt as he threw those papers in the water!

But I enjoy digressing, too. In 2010, I joined Dave Swain on his Underground Railroad (UGRR) excursion to New York State, and read two books which were written during the period leading up to the Civil War, though compiled after it. I learned to know William Still (escaped slave) and Levi Coffin (Quaker), two abolitionists who helped a lot of slaves to escape their chains. I also enjoyed Reminiscences of Levi Coffin. Reading these stories of the suffering of the Negro people, and thinking that some of them were the property of my ancestors up there in Emporia, Virginia, is uncomfortable, to say the least. And I wonder how many of the blacks in that area of Virginia are kin to me. (I have now subscribed to 23andme, a DNA research firm, which will help me to find out some of the answers to my many questions about my heritage. I look forward to getting that information in the near future.)

I find that not only am I beginning to feel like I’m better educated, but I have seen an additional benefit to being a senior citizen. Because my memory is so poor, I can reread books without missing a beat, often getting well into them before being struck by something familiar.

And I will continue to read and enjoy my reading. As long as my eyes last! (I have been diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, and am in continuing treatment for it. Both of my sisters and my mother had it, and Mother and Kitty went blind with it. I think about it a lot. Removal of cataracts and implantation of new lens in both eyes has helped some.)

For Christmas 2011, Emily Jean and my three daughters got me a Kindle Touch. I have been quite enchanted with it. Among others, I read War and Peace, and Anna Karenina. I tend to think of the present as my “Tolstoy phase.”


From the earliest time I can remember, I loved playing games in our back field. We were fortunate in being on a block in West Ghent, Norfolk VA, where there were 22 kids of high school age or less. Most of us tended to get involved in the baseball, football and other games we played. When there were enough kids gathered, it was “choose up sides” and play, either baseball or football. When only a few were around, we played “buck-up, buck-up, how many fingers do I hold up?” The “it” person from the previous game hid his face against a tree, all the others stood around watching, and one person held up a number of fingers where everybody but the “it” guy could see. If the “it” guy guessed the right number (between 1 and 10), then he was no longer “it” and the one who held up the fingers was “it.” We would all run instantly and hide. The “it” person caught people by seeing them and running back to touch the base tree before the player could. If the player got there first, he was “in free,” and all who had been caught were also freed. At the start, if five fingers were held up, and the “it” guy guessed three, the difference was two and he had to run and touch two trees before returning to base and beginning to try to catch players. We also played “kick the can” with similar rules. “Old Dead Mule” was a more challenging game, since most of the older boys played as well, and could run faster than small fry, but all were allowed to play. There were two “it” guys, who cooperated in chasing down and capturing players. Capture could only be made by touching, so players who were adventurous would climb up on top of a garage and stand there in plain sight, daring the two who were “it” to try to catch them. One would have to climb up onto the garage roof while the other waited on the ground hoping he could tag the player when he jumped and ran. And as each player was captured, he became part of the “it” team, and assisted in capturing those who were still free. It was a great game.

I guess I learned teamwork, especially with the latter game, but also with baseball and football, although we did not have the continuity organized sports did. We never played Little League (Did they have it then?), and I never thought I was good enough to try out for American Legion teams. We did have a Six-man Football League we played in. Three in the backfield, three on the line, it was a fast game. I don’t remember what kind of protection we wore, but I do remember the game when I sustained a concussion, went amnesiac for the last half of the game and only came to on the way home. I looked around in astonishment, and asked Roddey where we were and what we were doing. He told me that we had won the game, and that I had thrown the pass for the winning touchdown. I remember that I begged him not to tell Mother, because I knew that would be the end of my football career.

I also remember a game that Collins Hill, the “bad boy” of the neighborhood, got up with the Navy. We fielded a team down at the Naval Base against a team of sailors. I was on our team, which included kids of all ages. I think I was about 12. I don’t recall who won, probably the Navy, but I do remember being sent out to receive a pass, because they thought the Navy would not expect a little kid to catch a pass. I went way down the field and they threw it to me. I caught it, but was immediately picked up by a sailor and set down on the ground. He was not rough, but amazed at my catching the ball.

The only sport I tried out for in school was track. I remember going out to the stadium and telling a coach I wanted to be on the track team. He inquired as to my event. I told him “Pole Vault.” He wanted to know how much I could do. I told him “eight feet.” He sent me home, saying he had a kid who could do twelve. I knew I was too small for the football team, and wasn’t that good a baseball player. And I didn’t swim very well.

After the war, when I got to Randolph-Macon College, transferring in as a junior, I went out for track again, and they told me to try out for the Cross-Country team in the fall. I did and made it. When spring came and the time for the regular track season, I was in good shape and ran the two-mile, I think. I had some success at Cross-Country, but don’t recall how I did at the two-mile. Whenever I was the best on our cross-country team, there were two or three of the other team ahead of me, except for one race, at our home-coming my senior year. I have written this up elsewhere, but it’s a painful memory, and I’ll tell it again. We ran about a five-mile course, timed so that we would arrive back at the stadium at half-time of the football game between RMC and Hampton-Sydney, our arch-rivals. I was feeling pretty good and running very well, and was delighted to see that I was the first one back to the stadium. I had about a 200-yard lead on my teammate, Emory Evans. It was clear that he would come in second, because I could see no one beyond him when I looked back around the track. I had seen on the sports page that week a picture of the four runners of the North Carolina State cross-country team, one of the best in the country, crossing the finsh line of a meet, hand in hand, in a contrived “tie” for first place. I was impressed, and thought that would make a great picture if I waited for Emory and we crossed the line together. So I marked time at the finish line, waiting for Emory, but this had not been planned in advance, and he was bushed. He just went by me and won the race. I was crushed. My only chance for a win during my career, and I let it get away from me!

Being a spectator has never appealed to me very much, except that I enjoyed listening to the Rose Bowl game on the radio with Dad on New Year’s Day. That was special. But going out to stadia and being a fan never appealed very much. There was a time when we were working in NYC that Emily Jean and I both got interested in the New York Mets, a relatively new team in the 1980’s. We got a crowd of Judsonites together and over a period of two years or so, we’d go out to Shea Stadium to watch from two to eight games every year. It was a lot of fun. And we were quite excited to see the Mets win the World Series against the Red Sox in 1986 (I think it was.).

Nowadays, I enjoy watching golf, if Tiger Woods is playing, and especially if he is “in the hunt,” as he calls it. I never played competitive golf in school, but entered tournaments at Lake Nojiri, and won one or two. I enjoyed playing for fun over the years, but never played enough to get really good. My top score was when I was playing at an army course in Japan, when I put together two nines for a total of 76. We actually played 27 holes, but forget about the first nine! And I played with Mother and Dad down at Ahoskie NC, where they had a membership. Dad had a wonderful way of giving support on the course. I remember one time, I hit a drive which went straight down the fairway and stopped just short of the green on a par four hole. Dad said, “That one’ll bring you out again!” I stopped playing quite a few years ago when arthritis settled in my thumbs. I hit a ball one day and it felt like I had been electrocuted, as intense pain ran up both arms from my wrists. I tried again from time to time, thinking it was temporary, but it wasn’t.

Tennis was a sport I enjoyed when I was younger, especially at Montreat, but I was never very good. And walking to Candler School of Theology one morning, I passed through the woods, picked up a small rock and threw it at a tree. Something tore in my shoulder, and I’ve never been able to play tennis since. Whenever I raised my arm to hit a serve, severe pain would hit me there. I suppose I tore a rotator cuff, but never had it looked at.

So, I would say that I had a natural ability for sports, but never enough to be on a competitive team. I even taught myself to bat left-handed, because there was a hedge out there which marked the line of the field. Soon I could hit it over the hedge. If I was batting right-handed, left field went on all the way to St. Andrews, the Episcopal Church just across the street from our field, and nobody could hit one that far. I tired of hitting long outs, and began shooting for the hedge.

When we were in Montreat, we were organized into clubs by age, and we used to have a volleyball game, followed by a softball game every day. After the softball game, some of us went up to the lake and went swimming to cool off. Since five minutes in the water of Lake Susan would turn your lips blue, it was a quick cool. I remember one of the guys, who at the time, was on the Davidson basketball team, saying after a rigorous volleyball game and a closely contested softball game on a hot summer day, say, as we all walked up toward the lake: “Let’s choose up sides and smell armpits!”

We played a lot of horse shoes, too, though I don’t recall any enthusiasm for shuffleboard.

When in Norfolk, we played badminton in the back yard, and Chinese baseball in the front. Our front steps at 936 Graydon, were granite, without overhang, and made to order for Chinese baseball. In this game, you had two players on a side, and the batters took turns throwing a tennis ball against the steps, hitting a horizontal surface first, then a vertical one, and sending the ball up in the air. The two squares of the walk next to the steps were divided down the middle, the next three went across all the way, and then came the sidewalk which connected our house with the neighbors, and a square which went to the street. So we had the first two small ones as “foul ball,” the next three as “First,” “Second,” “Third,” and the last three as a “Home Run.” The two pin oaks growing just to either side of the last square next to the street just made long balls more interesting, as the ball hit up in one of the trees, and trickled down. If it fell on the grass, it was a foul ball. If it fell in, it was a base hit, probably a home run out that far from the house. We loved to play Chinese baseball after supper in the evening, and hated to go in when time was called by Mother. We’d have played until we couldn’t see the ball any more, if we had had our “druthers.”

Cooking, Eating and Dieting

I was the youngest in my family, and a boy, at that. That meant that, while I spent a lot of time at home with Mother after everyone else was off to school, I was the wrong sex to be in the kitchen. I don’t recall that I ever asked to be in there with her, but neither do I remember her encouraging me to join her there.
Mother was raised in a family where they had servants, including a cook, so young ladies did not need to know how to cook whole meals. They needed to learn to plan meals, and to cook cakes or pies. When I was growing up, we had our own cook until the depression. I was born in 1924, and the depression really hit us when price supports were established on cotton in 1933 or 1934 and Dad’s cotton export business went belly up. I was nine or ten then. That was when Mother began to cook other than cakes. She was a trooper. She did what she had to do, but she was no gourmet cook, nor did she want to be.
I wish I could remember what she cooked for us. I know that, on Sunday, we always had a baked chicken with rice and gravy and some kind of vegetable. What we ate other times, I can’t recall. She made custard too, which was delicious. And I remember her peeling grapefruit on Sunday evenings and offering the sections to us, waiting like little birds with beaks open. And I think I remember her making candy: fudge, and on one occasion, taffy. That was fun, pulling taffy. I see Perry Lee’s face in the kitchen for that.
But that was exceptional. The pattern was not one that had me in the kitchen, so I never learned either to cook or to enjoy cooking. I don’t remember ever cooking anything, even an egg, except in the Boy Scouts, and that was cook or starve. I remember that Fosberg, our scoutmaster said that you passed the cooking test for 2nd Class Scout if you would eat what you cooked. At that age, most of us were pretty good at eating what we cooked, if we were hungry enough.
I think I also stayed out of the kitchen during my marriage to Jean McClarin. We had Yamada-san living in and cooking for us out in Japan, and she was an excellent cook, and Jean did a good job of planning, I guess. I don’t recall that there were problems. I didn’t pay much attention. I did learn to make sukiyaki, but in Japan, that is a very male thing, and it was expected that when you had friends over for sukiyaki, the male head of household would do the cooking. Sukiyaki is a dish of thinly sliced beef, chopped cabbage, sliced onion, rice noodles, mushrooms, etc., all cooked in a fry pan at the table, so that, when the first part was ready, guests could dip into the fry pan and take some right onto the rice in their bowls, or, if they preferred, into the raw egg they had beat up in a bowl. I like the egg, myself. It was a wonderful custom, and I did OK.
Other than that, I did not do any cooking except maybe bacon and eggs on a Saturday morning, and I don’t really remember that—I’m just guessing.
The first cooking I remember was when I was married to Joan Dominick, and living in Meyersville NJ. I decided out of the blue that I would learn to bake bread. I went into it in a big way. I was doing a lot of experimenting, baking all kinds of bread. I remember a communion service at Overlook Hospital when I brought in and served five different kinds of bread. I really enjoyed baking. A friend I got to know in Al-Anon heard me talking about remodeling the kitchen, and helped me to find a whole kitchen in the ads in the newspaper. We went and looked and he measured it out, finding that we could use all the cabinets, as they were, with it being necessary to build only one extra one for one corner. And there was a nice electric oven at eye level, and gas burners for a stove top. Best kitchen I ever had.
When Emily Jean and I lived in Jersey City, I baked almost all the bread we ate. I found a recipe in Organic Gardening that made five loaves of whole wheat bread at a time, and following the instructions in the article, I saved up # 10 tomato juice cans until I had five. The dough was put in the cans to rise, then baked standing up, so that the loaves came out looking like chef’s hats. We saved money by cooking five loaves at a time—standing up they’d all go in the oven together. And however funny the loaves looked, the bread was delicious.
Sadly, we became concerned about our weight, went first on the Fiber, then Scarsdale and bread became a no-no, so I stopped baking. When we lived in Jersey City, Emily Jean and I used the “Fiber Diet.” I think primarily it had to do with our breakfast, but it helped us to control our weight, temporarily. Here in Allentown, we have both gotten fatter than we want to be, and used the Atkins and the South Beach diets to bring our weight down. It’s down for me still, though I have gained a lot back. What happens to the dedication and discipline after a while? Suddenly I can’t say “No” to what I’ve been saying “no” to for a long, long time. And the weight comes back. Does it have to do with being depressed? Or do I get depressed because I can’t say “no?” I don’t really know.
Right now, I’m not dieting, and I do enjoy bread and butter, candy, and sweets in general. Ice cream is so good. I don’t think my chances of losing weight are any good now, nor will they be for a while.
Now that we’re both fat and happy, only occasionally counting a calorie or two, I should start baking again. I think I will!
I have gone to school a few times to learn new ways. The first was to a French Cooking Class, where I learned to make puff pastry and white sauces, among other things. I still do both, though the puff pastry is a very big deal and reserved for very special occasions. White sauces I can whip up any time easily.
Then I saw that an Italian Cooking Class was being offered at the High School as a part of Adult Continuing Education through the local school district, so Ron Henderson and I signed up for it. Ron and I had gotten to know each other, and bonded while working out at St. Luke’s. He and I went and took the course once, and I went back alone and took it a second time. Carmelina DiCarlo taught it, and it was a gas. She did all the cooking while we sat at the tables and listened to her Italian-flavored patter. She never stopped talking while she was cooking. And after the 1 ½ hour session, we got to eat everything she cooked! I still enjoy making Tiramisu, and Rigatoni Vodka. Elizabeth Hudgins said it was the best food she ever ate. I still feel supremely complimented!
As a child, my favorite foods were baked chicken with stuffing, rice and gravy, sweet potato casserole, lima beans, brains and eggs, and pork tenderloin. Dad moved his business to NC in order to survive and feed us all, and when he went out to the farms to talk to the farmers about their cotton, he often would bring back a pork tenderloin. Boy, was that good!
This reminds me of something that I may have written up in an earlier volume of Mystory. When I was Chaplain at Overlook Hospital in Summit NJ back in the 70ties, I was making routine calls one day, and happened into the room of a man who said he was from Manhattan. We got to talking, and were sharing about our backgrounds, education, etc., and it came out that my mother was from Rock Hill SC. He was immediately interested, said that his college roommate at Princeton had been from Rock Hill. A little more talk, and we established that Mother’s brother, Joe, had gone to Princeton, and had been this man’s roommate! There were more visits, and all sorts of stuff was gone into, including the pork tenderloin that Dad brought home, and how good it was.
He improved, and was discharged from the hospital. I thought no more about it, and several months went by. Then one day, there was a note on my desk from the volunteer in our office saying that “I don’t want to see any God damned chaplain, but I would like to see my friend, Randy Jones.” I went down to his room, and he handed me a package which was suspiciously soft, and wrapped in butcher’s paper. It was a huge pork tenderloin.
That was about thirty years ago, and my Uncle Joe is dead, my mother is gone, and I imagine Uncle Joe’s roommate is gone, too. I never heard from him again.
We ate pretty simply, because Mother was a beginner of a cook. I remember a lot of rice and gravy, but never an Irish potato. I loved lima beans and snap beans, but don’t remember eating the coles: Brussels Sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. She was, as I said, a great maker of cakes, and we always had one at Sunday dinner. It wasn’t until quite late in her life that she allowed us to cut that cake on Saturday night, though we would all try to get her to do it. No, it was part of the Sunday ritual. Sunday School, Church, Sunday dinner of baked chicken, stuffing, snaps, and finally, the cake.
When Dad was home, he always got up early to squeeze orange juice for all seven of us. And he squeezed a 6-ounce tumbler for each, too. He and Mother believed that if you drank orange juice every day, you would have good teeth. I think they were right. I know that when I saw a dentist when I was in the army, he was astounded that I had not a filling in my head. By the time I came out, I had plenty.
In Japan, I learned to love Japanese food: sukiyaki, tempura, chawan mushi, sushi, sashimi. But I rarely attempt any of it. When we go out to a Japanese restaurant, I like to get sushi and speak Japanese to a waitress or waiter. But most staff in these places are Korean or Chinese. Only once in a blue moon do I find someone who is Japanese. I also now have a taste for Thai, Indian, and Mexican food. But, again, I do not cook it very much.

I have never been a dancer. I think I got inoculated against dancing when my mother sent me to dancing school when I was about 12. I may have imagined this, but I have a hazy memory of standing over at the side, trying to avoid both getting out on the floor, and catching the eye of the teacher (matron?) who was assiduously endeavoring to get us all out there in pairs. I have a feeling of dread when I think of it.

I enjoyed square dancing at Black Mountain when I was a kid. They put up police barriers at the end of a street in downtown Black Mountain, rerouted Route 40 traffic around by the railroad station, scattered corn meal generously on the pavement, and off we went. The locals, including many mountaineers, mixed with the summer crowd, and all had a great time dancing to square dance music made by a local combo. I enjoyed it immensely, so much so, that after my first year in seminary, and after taking a course in recreation leadership given by the folks in Nashville, I offered my services to local churches in Atlanta, calling square dances and leading folk games. I charged the (then) enormous sum of $25 for a three-hour evening of dancing. It paid for a lot of meals while we were in seminary. After I got to Japan, I was all burned out on it, and kept my talent a closely guarded secret. I’ve never done it since.

But ballroom dancing was another story. I’ve never liked dancing much, and have evaded it as much as possible. I recall going to dancing school with Emily Jean when we lived in Jersey City. We went down to a studio in Hoboken, as I recall, once a week for a number of weeks, and worked on the fox trot, the samba and the cha cha. I felt like a block of wood, but she seemed to enjoy it. I expect if I had not been so resistant, we would have been dancing a lot. Emily Jean recalls that we had to quit because of the strike at PH, when we had to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week for several weeks.


Music was a part of my life from an early age. When I was still unable to walk, Mother used to put me down for a nap every afternoon, and take advantage of the fact that she was somewhat free, by getting out the latest issue of Etude, a magazine, as I recall, for piano players. She would spend about an hour playing piano, relaxing and enjoying herself. To this day, when I go to concerts, especially if it involves piano, I begin to nod at the first note. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but the early conditioning is just too strong.

We also took piano lessons early on. My first exposure was to the class of Mrs. Crosby Adams in Montreat. She was a famous teacher, valued for her ability to take very young children (pre-school), and help them enjoy music through the enjoyment of movement exercises to music.

Further lessons were taken in Norfolk. I don’t remember who the teacher was, only that I was not wild about it, nor particularly good at it. It was probably these lessons that led to my being able to read music. Very early on, our family began singing hymns around the piano on Sunday evenings, and we routinely sang in harmony. Dad’s job was to stay out of it, because he could not carry a tune in a bucket. I became quite good at singing my own part from sitting next to him in church, because I was able, after a while, to ignore the droning of his one note, while singing along with the congregation, or even to sing in harmony. As we grew older, and began dating, it became equally routine to invite dates home on Sunday evenings to sing with the family. Jim Frith’s wonderful bass was a terrific addition to our chorus.

In Montreat, there was a Sunday night hymn sing over at the Assembly Inn. They were still doing this when I was up there last summer over the July 4th week-end. We used to sit on the rug in the lobby and shout suggestions to the leader as to the next hymn. We even took canoes and rowboats out into the lake and sang out there a time or two.

At Taylor School (elementary), we used to sing songs from the old yellow book of songs. I recall Old Black Joe, Dixie, and a favorite of my 7th grade teacher, Miss Watkins, We All Went Down to Amsterdam. She divided the auditorium into two halves, with one half singing the first part of the chorus line, Amster, Amster, and the other half getting the response. It was quite titillating to hear one or two new kids slip up and say Dam, Dam, Dam instead of the prescribed Shhh, Shhh, Shhh.

At Blair Junior High School, I was given a clarinet, and played in the band from then through Maury High School. Roddey got an oboe. I recall that the clarinet teacher used to charge 10 cents for one reed, two for a quarter. I think he might have been better at music than at math. We quickly learned to buy them one at a time. Maybe he was putting me on!

During this time, a friend, Eddie Smith, got a bunch of us together in hopes of forming a combo. We went over to his house with our instruments. I was a little shy, but interested. All went well until I sat down on a day bed, not noticing the pile of 78 rpms, and shattered the entire pile. I don’t remember being invited again.

Maury had a Symphony Orchestra, a Concert Band, and a Marching Band. I played first chair First Clarinet in all three, because the best clarinet player, Norman Olitzky, good enough to be playing already in the Norfolk Symphony Orchestra, was a smartass, and the director of the bands, Mr. Ma, couldn’t stand him. So he punished him by promoting me over him. I played pretty well, but couldn’t compete with Olitzky, who was a real pro.

I tried to play every now and then after high school, but with the three year layoff of the war, and lack of a band or orchestra at Randolph-Macon College (I sang in the Glee Club.), I went for many years without touching my clarinet, with the result that now my lip is gone and I can’t play at all without pain.

I heard a friend play an alto recorder at the Judson Retreat last September, and it was so lovely, I determined to take it up. I searched the internet, going on EBay and checking prices, and was about to make an offer when I noticed that many of the recorders being offered were made by Hohner. Right away, I thought of Sissi, Roddey’s wife, who then worked for Hohner. I contacted her, thinking she might be able to get me a good price on one. She did better than that and sent me a brand-new one, with slight color defects, as a present for my birthday. And she followed that with a book or two about how to play.

I haven’t gotten into it as yet, being engaged in writing this Spiritual Journey, but I will.

Mostly, music is singing hymns in church until my voice gives out (that comes pretty quickly, which is why I don’t sing in the choir), and listening to an occasional jazz record, which I enjoy very much.


I did not experience money as important in my childhood. I thought all fathers had holes in their underwear, and that all mothers had just one dress, which they had knitted themselves. I got a quarter for lunch every day, and saved a dime. I don’t recall ever wishing for anything I didn’t have. If I asked for a quarter for the monthly meeting of the Hi-Y, I was mildly puzzled at the hesitancy my mother showed when she gave it to me. When very young, we were given ten cents at the end of the week if we had done all of our chores. Failure to make up the bed cost one cent. Failure to brush your teeth, or take a bath led to similar fines. The six or seven cents at the end of the week went into the piggy bank.

When I went to grammar school, I went home to lunch sometimes, sometimes ate at the school. In junior high, I got a quarter for lunch. Having a dime left after buying a sandwich and two buns at the bakery, with which I got a rootbeer float.

Mother came from a wealthy family, but when the depression hit, she pitched in with Dad without a complaint. Dad was a man of impeccable integrity, with money as well as everything else. He believed in paying as you go, hated being in debt, tried very hard to avoid it. The only advice he ever gave me about money was never to co-sign a note for anyone for any reason. Yet he loaned me money when I was studying to become a missionary, and when I was unable to pay it back after many years, he wrote me to say that he was forgiving the loan. I know that he gave an equal amount to each of my four siblings, in order to be fair.

Money did not charm me. I didn’t feel poor, but neither did I feel rich. Visiting in my grandparents’ home (an incredible mansion) even after my grandfather lost everything during the depression, seemed “normal” and I never thought anything about it. It was fun to go to the 3rd floor and play pool, it was fun to go out in the pecan orchard and shoot jays and squirrels, and I happily collected five cents each. But I don’t recall having dreams of what I would do with the money. I did not worry about money.

As a teenager, I carried papers and earned a little money. I also earned ten cents a week for carrying out the ashes from the furnace, and the garbage, and when I (the youngest) was the only one left at home, fired the furnace and was paid 25 cents a week. I don’t recall worrying about money or longing for more.

As a young adult, I was in service in WWII. I went in at 18, got out three years later, went on to college, dated, then married when I graduated. I had the GI Bill, and we managed OK.

After seminary (we had two children by the time I finished), we went to Japan as missionaries. Our salary was $2,800 base pay plus increments for each child and the Board of Missions of our church was self-insured, so that we had unlimited medical coverage. The most we were ever paid (we were given housing without charge) was $8,000 per year.

I returned from Japan at age 40, separated from and then divorced my wife, and remarried. I was living on a shoe-string, but was used to it. When I began my work as a hospital chaplain and CPE supervisor (1968), I was paid $12,000, plus benefits. This gradually increased, but the most I was ever paid was about $44,000. My youngest daughter now makes more than twice that.

We have enough, and are trying to simplify our life-style. We have our pensions and social security, and Emily Jean does consultation with supervisory students from time to time. We own a house and have equity in it, plus a Prius. We both have TDAs, though mine is considerably reduced after the required quarterly distributions since I retired. We have a mortgage on the house, which will be paid off next year. We have no other debts, pay our charge cards monthly.

I am 87, Emily Jean is 66. My parents did leave me a small trust. I have the income from it, about $2,000 per year. At my death, the deed of trust provides that the principal will be divided among my four children.

Am I generous or stingy? Probably stingy, but it feels like I just don’t think about it that much. We believe in tithing, and carefully plan each year how we will distribute that tithe among two churches, and other causes and agencies. I don’t spend very much on myself. It used to be very hard to go out to dinner, but I’m better at it now.

Guilty about the money I have? A little. I’d like to give more of it, and will, if we can simplify successfully. But I’m not ready really to sacrifice.

I have spurts when I count my money, but haven’t lately.

We do not take risks with our money. We do not gamble, nor do we throw it away.

When we eat out, I don’t grab at the check, but I pay my share, including tax & tip.

I think I’m more on the giving than on the receiving end.

If I lacked money, it would be exceedingly difficult to accept charity.

Losses and Gains

John Cumming’s Death

Perry Lee, my oldest sister, died a couple of years ago.. She was 8 years older than I. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for her. I don’t know why. It’s probably because she took care of me when I was little, even though I have zero recollection of that.

During World War II, I was in high school, and Perry Lee was still living at home, working in a Chemistry Lab. There she met John Cumming, and they began to date. She brought John home for visits from time to time, and they would go into our back living room at 936 Graydon Avenue in Norfolk so they could have some privacy. Naturally, I was curious as to what they might be doing in there on the sofa, so I glanced in from time to time. As often as not, they were both so tired from working long hours at the lab, that they had both fallen asleep, sitting side by side, their heads lolling back on the back of the sofa, leaning against each other. They were a classy couple!

They were married in 1942, the year I went off to VMI (Virginia Military Institute) to join my two older brothers, Harry and Roddey, already following in our father’s footsteps. Dad graduated from VMI in the class of ’08, and considered it a “character-building institution.” His father had wanted him to go there, and he wanted his sons to go there, too.

John and Perry Lee had three children, Betty, John Randolph., and Mary. John and Perry Lee were equally bright, but very different in other ways. John went on to take his Ph. D. In Chemical Engineering, and ultimately headed that department at Case Western, later known as Cleveland State University.        

He was a fitness buff, racking up some 25,000 miles jogging in the fitness program sponsored by the Kennedy White House. He was also interested in parachute jumping, making 13 jumps, but quit when Perry Lee asked him to, saying that her ulcer acted up every jump he made.

The sport of greatest interest to him, and in which he invested the most time and energy, was scuba diving, in which he became quite skilled, and was well respected as a diver and a leader. He dove for more than 25 years.

One day in February, in the late 50ties, I had a phone call (I forget now whether it was from Perry Lee or someone else in the family—probably Perry Lee.) telling me that John had drowned in a scuba diving accident. I went immediately to Cleveland to be with her, and spent several days there. He was in the flower of his life, professionally and personally, and it was a very sad and difficult time for Perry Lee. John and Perry Lee were both in their young 50ties at this time. Their children were all grown, but rallied around, I’m sure. I don’t recall too much, but remember that I was at Perry Lee’s side throughout.

She told me that John had gone scuba diving with his club. He was dive leader. They were diving under the ice (I think it was February) in an old quarry near Akron, Ohio. John dove with several younger divers, giving them explicit instructions for their own safety. There were old railroad tracks at the bottom of the quarry, used for moving stone many years before. They ran from the point where the divers entered the water further into the quarry and terminated there. John emphasized to the inexperienced divers that this was the point at which they had to turn back because their supply of air was such that they would not have enough to get back in safety if they continued.

After the tragedy, in which John and one of the young divers drowned, an inspection of the bottom of the quarry was made in the effort to determine just what had happened. It appeared that one of the other divers did not follow instructions, but continued into the quarry beyond the end of the tracks. It looked like John went after him, and tried to save his life by getting him to turn back. But they both died when they ran out of air.

It was a terrible, terrible tragedy. I will never forget that time with Perry Lee. I think that, in a way, I came of age spiritually as I walked with my dear sister through that awful time.

Death of My Father
At the time of Dad’s last illness, Emily Jean Gilbert and I had announced our wedding date (September 30, 1979) , which was just a few weeks away. I got word that Dad was in a hospital in Asheville NC with a diagnosis of stomach cancer. I rushed down to Asheville and joined other family members who had gathered to care for him and for Mother, who was there with him.
I recall with gratitude the way in which the staff of this small Roman Catholic hospital did so much to enable us to be with Dad, and were responsive to our concern that he not have to suffer unnecessarily. I knew that the odds of recovery from stomach cancer were only about 3%, and we focused our efforts, after a few days, on encouraging the doctors to keep him comfortable while he lived out his remaining days.
The sister who was in charge of “hospice” for the hospital understood immediately our concern that Dad not be put through a whole lot of needless suffering at age (nearly) 92, and helped us to put a stop to the seemingly endless tests, which in at least one instance, kept him waiting in excruciating pain for more than a hour even before the test began. At any rate, we finally got on the same page with the physician who was taking care of him, and tests ended. The sister (wish I could recall her name) arranged for a large waiting room near Dad’s room to be set aside for our family’s use, and had a cot brought into his room so that Mother could be there with him day and night.
I don’t remember who made this happen, but there was a steady flow of family members going into Dad’s room to see him and to talk with him. I forget how long this went on, but it must have been about three weeks or more. I was not there for that entire time, as I had to return to New York. When he took a turn for the worse, they called me and I went back down.
My most powerful experience during this time was the Sunday before his death. Mother and all five of us siblings were in his room together. Harry suggested that I lead us all in a Communion Service. He had brought Dad a bottle of white grape juice, and there was a pancake left on Dad’s plate from breakfast. I got some paper medicine cups, filled them with grape juice, then cut the pancake into bite-sized portions. I consecrated the pancake and the grape juice, and we all received. I asked Harry to pray.
When we had all received, and Harry had prayed, there was a silence. We all looked at Dad, who, by this time, only a day or two before his death, was no longer able to talk. He spread his arms wide as though to take us all in, and looking each one of us in the eye in turn, he folded his arms to his chest, giving us all a “group hug.” It was one of the most beautiful, and one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life. We were all in tears. (Catherine says she was there, too.)
A few days later, he lapsed into unconsciousness, and again, Mother and the five of us brothers and sisters gathered in his room to be with him at the moment of his death. I took up a position at the head of his bed, beside Mother, from which I could put my hand on his heart, as his breathing came to a stop. His heart continued to beat for a few minutes, until it stopped. I turned to Mother and said, “He’s gone, Mother.”
I don’t remember what happened after that, but suppose we all hugged Mother and each other, and the rest of the family who were out in the waiting room.
It was a sacred time.

Leaving My Card with Mother

Toward the end of her life, Mother could no longer live at her house in Rich Square NC alone, and arrangements were made for her to move into a Residential Facility in Rich Square where she could be cared for. My brothers and sisters and I visited her in Rich Square when we could (Kitty was very good about going down, and was there more frequently than I was, I know, and probably more than the rest of the connection.)

I recall a visit that Emily Jean and I made to Rich Square to see Mother. We stopped at the desk inside the home, and were directed to her room. We went in together, and Mother seemed to know me right away. She had lost her sight by this time, and was a bit deaf, but the really disturbing development for her was her loss of memory.

We had a nice visit, and after an appropriate length of time, I told Mother that we would have to go. She teared up, and said, “Randolph, I’m so glad you came. It was wonderful to see you and Emily Jean. But I know that as soon as you go out the door, I’ll forget that you’ve been here."

I took out one of my cards (I was working at Presbyterian Hospital in NYC at the time.), turned it over and wrote on the back, “Mother, I was really here!” I told her that I was putting it on her bedside table. Later, she or her nurse would see it, pick it up and read my note on the back and would know I’d been there. Mother said: “Oh, that’s a good idea!”

"What Do You Think I Want?"

When Emily Jean and I went down to visit Mother, we took her out to dinner. (All of us did that when we went, believing that it was good for her to get out as much as possible.) We drove down to the Quaker House, but, for some reason, it was closed. So we went on to Murphreesboro, I think it was, to a place where the food was OK, but where they did not know Mother as well. In Scotland Neck, they would probably have known exactly what she wanted and told me what to order for her.

At any rate, we sat down at the table, and, since she could not see to read, I went over the menu with her. There were only a few choices of entrees, so she settled on chicken right away. But this was a Southern place, and the list of vegetables was awesome. I think there must have been 15 or 20 choices. I read the list to Mother. She had a pained look on her face, and asked me to read it again. I knew that the problem was that she could not remember the long list I read, and I felt for her, but dutifully read the list again. She looked blank again, and finally said: “What do you think I want?” I was really hacked now. I felt terrible for her that she was suffering like this, and somehow needed to help her find some solace. On the spur of the moment, I decided on a joke. “Mother, I’ve been trying to figure that out for 65 years.” She knew I was teasing her, and, always a good sport, said, “Oh, that’s a good one!” We finally settled on vegetables for her, and had a nice meal together, before we took her back to the home and said good-bye.

Clearly our relationship was a mix of bitter and sweet. I loved her dearly, and she loved me dearly, but I know I brought her a lot of pain.

Helping Mother Dress

On one occasion, I went to see Mother alone, driving down from New York, and spending a week-end with her. She had moved to the Rich Square Residency Center by that time, but had retained the home she and Dad had lived in, because she liked to go back home when one of us came to visit her. So the Saturday I arrived, I drove to the Center, told the nurse that I was going to take her home for the week-end, and got her to pack a suitcase for Mother to take with her. We walked out to the car, and drove to her house.

We went out to dinner, came home and went to bed. The next morning, we were going to the Rich Square Methodist Church, so we were up in time to have breakfast, and I was getting dressed when Mother called me from her room. I went in there, and she asked me for help getting dressed. I had not realized how helpless Mother had become. She had forgotten which article of clothing went on first, and this was something I had never in my life known. Needless to say, we had an interesting time before we were ready to go to church.

I decided that this much intimacy between mother and son was a bit more than I could handle. Mother did not seem to be uncomfortable in the least, though I have rarely been more embarrassed or felt so helpless.

Lee Guides Me on a Trip to the Underworld

Back in the 1980’s, when I was working with Emily Jean at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, I did several years of therapy, and then decided that I would try to find someone who was able to help me with my spiritual journey. I approached a number of people with credentials as spiritual directors, but did not find anyone who “clicked” with me. Finally, I went down to Judson Memorial Church, where Emily Jean and I were then active, determined to assess whether Howard Moody, Senior Pastor, or Lee Hancock, Associate Pastor, might be the right one for me. I went into Howard’s office, and listened as he talked. Howard is one of the greatest church leaders ever, but I knew within three minutes that he was not the spiritual director I needed.

So I went into Lee Hancock’s office and we spoke for a few minutes. There was a quality of presence, warmth and caring which made me feel that she would be able to let me be myself with her. So I brought up spiritual direction, and she said immediately that she would be willing to meet with me on a regular basis for a period of time. I think we met weekly for an hour for quite a while. This was most meaningful to me.

We talked a lot about my dreams. I remember one in particular which turned out in spiritual direction to be quite spectacular. I was changed by it.

My dream was that I met a beautiful woman who walked with me though a field of blue flowers. We stopped there to make love, but I woke up before we did. I was really disappointed, so when I next met Lee, I told her about it, and she said we could go into a guided meditation and finish the dream. She took me into a meditation, then asked me what I saw. I met the beautiful woman, we made love, and then I was alone in the field of blue flowers. Lee asked what else I saw, and I looked around and on the far side of the field, I noticed a cave in the side of the mountain. With Lee’s encouragement, I entered the cave to explore it. Continuing down the slope of the cave as it went underground, I suddenly met my grandparents (who had died quite a few years before). I spoke to Mama Joe and Papa Joe (Mother’s parents), and told them how worried I was about Mother, who was quite sick at the time. I believe she was about 90 or a little older, and was in a hospital near Rich Square. The doctors did not know what was wrong with her. Both Papa Joe and Mama Joe reassured me that I did not need to worry, that Mother was going to be fine. I went further down into the cave, and met Dad. (He had died in 1979, just a few years before this.) I told him also how worried I was about Mother, and he said the same thing Mama Joe and Papa Joe had said, that I should not worry, because Mother was going to be fine.

[Now, many years later, I am wondering if what they meant by “Fine” is the same thing I thought it meant, that she was going to get well and live many more years. I suspect that what they were saying was that being dead is not something to be feared, and that whether she lived or died, she would be all right!]

A few days later, I flew to Greenville NC and drove directly to the Regional Hospital there, to which Mother was being transferred for further testing in hopes of getting an accurate diagnosis so she could be treated. We were all in fear she would die. I arrived at the place where Mother was being taken out of the ambulance which had brought her from Roanoke Rapids Hospital, to be admitted to the Regional Hospital. I had a moment to speak with her as she lay on the gurney.

I said: “Mother, I was talking with Dad the other day.” She responded with complete aplomb. “I talk with him almost every day. What did he say?” So I told her that he had assured me she would be OK and that Mama Joe and Papa Joe said the same. She was entirely unfazed by this, but glad to hear it.

They took her on in to the hospital, and she was fine. (Kitty said she made the diagnosis of cystitis, suggested it to the doctor, who then treated her for it.) She got well, and was reasonably healthy until her death at 99.

Mother’s Death

I forget now where Mother was in the hospital. I got a call at Presbyterian Hospital (This was May, 1990), and flew down immediately. I was the last of my siblings to arrive, I think. Several of Kitty’s family were also there. Mother was approaching her 99th birthday, and it seemed clear to me that she was nearing the end.

I thought all of us had come to terms with the fact of her impending death, but I was wrong. She did not die, and it took me a while to figure out why. She was bleeding internally, and they were giving her blood on a continuing basis. I approached the doctor who was caring for her, and asked her why she was giving Mother blood. The doctor told me that without the blood, because she was bleeding internally, Mother would die. I asked if she did not think that it was appropriate now, at age 99. She said that she agreed, but that not all of our family agreed, and until they did, she had no alternative.

I inquired around, and talked with everyone until we all came, however reluctantly, to an agreement to ask the doctor to stop giving Mother blood and to let her go.

She died within a few hours.

Mother was not reluctant at all. I recall speaking with her on several occasions about this, and feeling very guilty once. At Dad’s funeral, I was strongly of the opinion that Dad was dead, and that the undertaker should not be permitted to use cosmetics to make his body appear to be fresh and alive. Without discussing it with anyone, especially not with Mother, because she was in her grief, and it seemed inappropriate, I told the undertaker to leave off the cosmetics.

When Mother came in and saw Dad looking really dead, she was quite upset, and said, “Oh, I wish I had died with him!” I felt like I had really done a bad thing.

Another time, she told me she wished she had not outlived Dad, and that she looked forward to the time when she could be with him. She was not afraid of death, but was sure that she would be joining the man she loved, and the family she loved.

Perry Lee’s Death

I so regret not going to see Perry Lee during the period following our July 4th celebration of the Roddey Family’s 100 years in Montreat. She was there, and we five siblings were together for the last time. She had been growing increasingly frail in the last years, and I wondered if this would be the last time I saw her alive. But then, I had wondered that before.

Bob Edwards called me on November 12th (Sunday), to say that she was in the hospital, and John, Mary and Betty were to meet with the doctor to decide whether to have emergency surgery. The decision was made, and she was left with a colostomy. My heart was very heavy when I heard this, for Perry Lee had been showing increasing signs of dementia, and was quite disoriented prior to surgery. A colostomy is a tough adjustment for anyone, but at age 90, to cope with this is beyond my powers of belief. I really feared for her and for all the family.

I wanted to see her, but decided to wait a few days for her to recover a bit. This was not a good choice. I wish now I had gone immediately to see her, as Kitty did. But I didn’t.

Our Gathering went on retreat on Saturday the 18th, to end on Sunday afternoon. Roddey and I had planned to go on Monday to Cleveland. They were to drive up to our house on Sunday afternoon, spend the night and we would drive up together on Monday. She took a turn for the worse, and we decided to move it up a day. I got a plane reservation for Sunday afternoon and they planned to drive up from Ashland early Sunday morning.

Bob called about 9:30 a.m. to say that Perry Lee had died. Roddey and Sissie were already on the road, and could not be reached. So they went on up to Cleveland, directly to the hospital, joining Mary and Betty in the hospital room where Perry Lee’s body still lay. I’m sure it was a great comfort to them to have their Uncle Roddey and Sissie with them.

After much discussion, Perry Lee’s children decided to wait until after Thanksgiving, and have a funeral in Willoughby, Ohio, at Perry Lee’s and their church on Saturday following Thanksgiving, and a second service and interment in Norfolk on the Tuesday after that.

Bob Edwards wrote: “The funeral service in Ohio was held at Davis Funeral Home, in Willoughby. The minister presiding at the service on Saturday was John Sykes, former minister of First United Church of Christ, Eastlake, Ohio. He had performed the service for Dad as well. Mom was active in service and support for that church before moving to the assisted-living facility in Austinburg, near us. Bettie married me in that Eastlake church. Reverend Sykes was minister then.”

Emily Jean and I had decided not to go to Willowick, and drove down to Norfolk the morning of the funeral there. Katie Moffett arranged for motel space for all who wanted it, and we had a block of rooms in the same section of the Founders’ Inn in Virginia Beach.

Joe and Lillie Gilbert and Ron Henderson were there, as were old Norfolk friends, Bud Truitt and Nancy and Web Chandler. Nancy, Web and I were part of a small social set in high school which we called the Eta Bita Pi. I dated Nancy a few times during high school. Web and I went on to room together at VMI, and Buddy was in Roddey’s class there. Buddy was good to me. I remember it well. Web and Nancy married after the war.

I wish now I had counted the Jones clan as it gathered; Emily Jean guessed more than 20. (Counting afterwards from memory, she put it at 32, including Joe and Lillie Gilbert.) All five families were represented. It was a nice service presided over by a clergywoman from Epworth, our home church growing up. John Randolph Cumming had talked with her and arranged that there would be time for anyone who wished to speak about Perry Lee. He spoke from his heart, saying what a wonderful person his mother had been. Mary spoke, then read several passages from Thomas Merton. Harry, Roddey and I, Katie Moffett, and Bob Edwards, and finally Cathi Edwards, Perry Lee’s granddaughter shared. Bob told of moving Perry Lee from the home where she and John had raised their children to the assisted living place. Perry Lee was saying good-bye to a neighbor, and addressed her as “Mrs. Wolfe,” whereupon, Bob reported, the lady responded: “Perry, after 50 years of being neighbors, you can call me by my first name.” As someone remarked of their mother, it was always very important to Perry Lee to be proper. And Cathi told of an occasion when, at the square dance in Black Mountain, though in a wheel-chair, Perry Lee agreed to dance with Cathi, and they wheeled around the floor, having a glorious time. It was a mix of sad and funny, the best for grieving.

We drove out to the cemetery, had an interment service, stood and talked and took pictures. We also went to Grandmama and Granddaddy's graves which are a short walk from the Cummings plot where Aunt Perry Lee and Uncle John are buried. Some of us then drove to 936 Graydon Avenue to see our old home where we grew up. The current owners were very welcoming and gracious, and about 15 of the family went in and looked around. I also checked out my pecan tree in the back yard, which is now more than 75 years old. The owners have had to cut it back to protect the house, and it is only a shadow of what it might have been, but it is still alive, and bears nuts every year, they told me.

Roddey and Sissi had arranged for and hosted dinner at the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club, and we had three very large tables of family and friends there. More stories were told, and there was much laughter. Harry and his family had flown up from Thomasville, and had planned to fly on back right after the interment, but changed their minds and stayed for dinner. It was a time for healing. Lenore and John were there, sitting, as Lenore said, at the table for the younger set. Stories were told about Perry Lee’s love of nature, and her wonderful knowledge of all things botanical. Her love of card-playing was talked about. I confessed to being a spy on her when I was a teen-ager, first in Montreat, when I hid behind the door to Mama-Joe’s dining room and peeked out, listening to Perry Lee and a young German man rattling away in an incredibly strange language (to a 12-year-old who had never heard it before). Then, a year or two later, peeking into the back living-room at Graydon Avenue to see what she and John were doing, and finding that they had both dropped off to sleep, sitting straight up on the sofa, their heads leaning in against each other.

Perhaps the most poignant moment came after I told how Perry Lee had used her hard-won German language skills to translate letters from the German family which I had put out of their house in order to use it for our troops following the war. They found Mother’s address on the wrapping paper from a package she had sent me, wrote her, telling them of their dire privation, lacking food and clothing for their children, and begging her to help. Mother sent clothing and shoes, and Kitty told how she used to have the responsibility of scuffing the soles and sides of the shoes so the German family would not have to pay duty. And Perry Lee translated Mother’s letters back to them.

After this story was told, Bob Edwards’ brother-in-law, who had come with Bob’s mother and sister, stood and identified himself as one of those Germans, who, following the war, had suffered the same way, and had been helped by others from our country. This was truly an amazing moment. "Walter" said he now knew why he had accompanied his wife, Beth, for the funeral. He basically thanked the family for this humanitarian effort of 60 years ago. He said "I was that child." He also said he never knew this of Perry Lee but now feels that much more connected! It was moving.

This is the list of family that were at the funeral: (Thank you, Becky.)

Betty, Bob and Cathie Edwards
Mary Pearson
John and Sylvia Cumming
Kitty Frith
Katie, Larry and Catherine Moffett
Becky, Hannah and Jimmy Garrity
Harry and Lella Jones
Harry T. Jones III
Powell Jones
Nancy and John Fox
Ranny Jones and Emily Jean Gilbert
Lenore Jones and John Peterson
Roddey and Sissie Jones
Jason and Ashley Fetty
Mrs. Edwards (Bob's mom)
Beth Edwards and husband, Walter (Bob's sister and brother-in-law)
Joe and Lillie Gilbert (Emily Jean’s twin brother and his wife)

After dinner, we all returned to the motel, and by twos and threes, gathered in the little bar to have beer and wine, and several gnoshes, pizza, crab dip, and a few other things. And more stories. At breakfast next day, all who were still there (Lenore and John had to catch an early flight) met to eat and talk some more.

When we hugged and parted, I think we all felt that it had been a holy and healing time.

Kitty’s Death

I determined that I was not going to deprive myself of a chance to be with Kitty, and have quality time, so early in 2007, I called her and arranged to go down to Charlottesville to be with her for a few days. I stayed in her little apartment at the residential facility where she lived, and we shared meals, both in the dining room of the facility, and at various restaurants in town. We ate lunch and dinner out for both the days I was there, and it was so much fun. We also took short walks together, and talked and talked. How delightful!

Not too long after I returned home, I learned that she had gotten a diagnosis of cancer and had only a limited life expectancy. Emily Jean and I went down again to see her in late April or early June. She was already much less able to get around, and needed help from the family constantly. She died a few days later.

Two services were also planned for Kitty, one in Montreat (a memorial service) when the family would gather for the July 4th weekend, and a funeral at their church in Front Royal, with interment of her ashes out at the farm. I decided to go to the service in Montreat. The memorial service was held at the picnic grounds. Roddey and Harry and I were all there with our families, as many as could come, and all the Friths, as well as many other friends and members of the extended family. Becky and I both spoke briefly about Kitty, and we had a picnic.

My remarks were as follows:

Kitty’s Memorial Service Reflections

Deep inside, secret. Despite her joy of the moment, her infinite capacity for “being” present, for being with me, I never felt confident that I knew her in her depths. And I regret that I never asked her what was in there. We shared many losses, yet she did not go there. Not with me, anyway. All that pain must have been a banked fire.

I wonder if the stuff of her art didn’t well up like lava from a volcanic vent.
Not like an earthquake, but a bubbling pool, like at Yellowstone.

There was a part of her which was mystery: non-threatening, trusting, non-judging.

She was caring, but space-making. She did not expend great energy in the effort to control people. You somehow knew her values, for she lived them. But she did not “work on you” to get you to join her where she was.

Anger? Yes, but I don’t recall a specific event. She could speak her mind.

She was laid back.

She was at home in her body, lived her life with enjoyment, seemed to have few regrets.

Her laugh was unforgettable; she pealed like a bell. She rewarded me with that joyful hoot when I shared something we had both appreciated. Did she give you such gifts, too? I know she did.

There were lots of losses, but she was never broken. Even when she lost her sight, so crucial for an artist, she never seemed to feel sorry for herself.

The older she got, the more she was like our mother; but definitely a new edition.

My dear Kitty, how we shall miss you!

We knew and loved you,
And knew that you loved us, too.
Go with God, Dearest.

Roddey’s Death

I realize now that Roddey looked better than he was, when we were together in Montreat, for Kitty’s Memorial Service on July 3rd. I forget now how I learned that he had been diagnosed as CHF (Congestive Heart Failure), probably from Sissi, but Emily Jean and I spent many years in hospital work as chaplains, and we knew this meant his time was very limited. So we called Sissi immediately and arranged to go down to see him. We stayed overnight and returned home the next day. He was already on oxygen 24/7, and was very weak and limited. It was a sad and beautiful time. We all knew he was dying, but none of us spoke of it. He clearly did not want to talk about it. Sissi had tried to get him to plan his funeral, but she never got beyond that he wanted lots of jokes told.

We got up the next morning, and he insisted on disengaging from the oxygen, going to the stove and making our eggs, which were incredibly delicious. We said goodbye, knowing we would not see him alive again, though I did call him and tell him over the phone that I loved him a few hours before he died.

Three weeks after we visited, he was gone.

Sissi asked me to speak at his funeral, and to write some haiku to be attached to packages of his daffodil bulbs which Susan suggested they give to his friends and loved ones to take home and plant in their gardens as a memorial to him. I was gratified to help in this way.

The Celebration of Roddey’s Life

Joseph Roddey Jones was a central figure in Ashland, Virginia, for many years. It was evident from the crowds at the “gathering” of family and friends Friday evening, November 9th, and at the Memorial Service the following morning, Saturday, November 10th, that he was greatly loved and appreciated by the people of Ashland.

At the gathering in the lounge of Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church, a wonderful display of pictures of Roddey, together with a scrapbook of more pictures were displayed. A basket of individually wrapped daffodil bulbs grown by Roddey, each with a picture of Roddey and two haiku about Roddey and daffodils on the back (by me and Sissi), were offered to all who came.

Daffodils are smiles
Of such joy and happiness
They make us happy.
We cannot look at
Daffodils and not think of
Dear Grampa Roddey.
We all sat and stood around and chatted, while eating from the lovely refreshments provided by the ladies of the church.

Saturday morning the church was packed. The Memorial Service was held at Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church, where Roddey and his family have attended for many years.

Bob Blinn, the new pastor, despite being at the church for only a few months (since June), had clearly gotten to know Roddey, and spoke about him with great appreciation, including sharing two jokes Roddey told him when he visited him in the hospital prior to his death. I have to share them; they are “so Roddey.”

Two elderly men were sitting on a park bench feeding the pigeons and talking, as was their habit of many years, about baseball. One said: “Do you think there will be baseball in heaven?” The other replied: “I sure hope so, but I just don’t know. We’ll have to wait to find out.” A few weeks later, one of them died. Next day, the other man was back in the park feeding the pigeons, alone. His friend appeared, a ghost. The first man said: “Well, is there baseball in heaven?” The ghost said, “I have good news and bad news.” “Tell me the good news first.” “There is baseball in heaven.” “What’s the bad news?” “You’re pitching next Friday.”

A bear went into a bar, stood up and put his paws on the bar. “Give me a bourbon [and after a long pause] and a coke.” Bartender: “What’s with the big pause?” Bear: “Oh, I’ve had them all my life.” (Going by sound, this goes better in the telling!)

Following the pastor, I spoke, then Luther White, an old friend of Roddey’s from Norfolk, our home town, who also was in Roddey’s class at Randolph-Macon, and later was President of R-M C. He clearly loved Roddey, and appreciated him greatly.

It was a lovely service.

Following the Memorial Service, the ladies of the church again laid out a beautiful spread to which we did not do justice. The family was well represented. Harry and Lella flew up from Thomasville, accompanied by Powell, Randy and Margaret. Perry Lee’s family was well represented with Bob and Betty Edwards and Mary Pearson. Kitty’s side of the family had Katie, Nancy and her husband, Becky Garrity on Friday evening, then Bob and Hannah and her husband Richard on Saturday. Lenore and John joined Emily Jean and me. I think all of Roddey’s family, without exception, of all generations, were there at one or both gatherings, as well as the interment. Emily Jean’s brothers, Doug and Joe, and Doug’s wife, Patti, were there for the Memorial Service.

Various members of the family told the old stories, some at the Friday evening gathering, some on Saturday following the service. Powell noted that three of Roddey’s grandchildren spoke of his faith and how he lived it out in his daily life. Friends from the church and/or college spoke about Roddey’s wonderful contributions to the church and community.

That afternoon, the family gathered at the cemetery. The interment was simple, yet moving. The pastor opened with scripture and prayer, closed with a prayer and benediction. During the simple service, the military folded a flag, presented it to Joe, and a bugler blew taps.

Then Roddey’s ashes, in a beautiful urn made by Susan, were interred alongside Betsy’s in a crypt, as his family gathered there to say good-bye. Lots of tears were shed by all of us. It was very moving.

Though I did not personally list and count us all, more than 40 were present at the “Smoky Pig” for an early dinner following the interment. Naturally, more stories were told.

Many of Roddey’s daffodil bulbs which Sissi had dug up, were descendants of Mother’s Rich Square King Alfreds. I asked for extra, made off with eight, which are planted around our birdbath in Allentown PA. It’s a sunny spot, and Roddey smiles at me in early Spring. Further down the yard, Mother smiles with her own King Alfred’s in a much larger collection. Roddey sent me 300 bulbs nearly ten years ago, and they are busily dividing each year.

My beloved brother continues to be an important part of my life.

Sissi’s Remarriage

Roddey and Anneliese Nitsch were married in February of 1991, about a year after the death of his first wife, Betsy King Jones. Sissi and Betsy had met when Betsy went to work part time at Hohner in Richmond. Legend has it that Betsy asked Sissi to look after Roddey. Sissi knew how to take advice.

Anneliese met Bob Augustine some time after Roddey’s death. She and Bob joined us in Montreat for the July 4th week-end on at least one occasion, maybe two. And they had also visited us in Allentown, which happened to coincide with the annual picnic of Emily Jean’s Women’s Faith Study Group. All of the WFSG come to our back yard with significant others, every year on a Saturday in June. They so much enjoyed Bob’s playing and singing that they complained the following year that Bob had not come again. Anneliese wrote Emily Jean and me to invite us to their wedding down in Maryland. We drove down and joined them for the celebration. It was at Bob’s church, out in the country, in May of 2010.

Following the service there was a reception. All had been invited to bring their instruments. Bob and Sissi are both exceptional musicians (She had been a key figure at Hohner in Richmond for years, responsible for repairs on harmonicas). Professionals from all over the world called in a multiplicity of languages asking for “Sissi” in troubled and broken words. She reassured them that she could have their harmonicas fixed and back to them in time for the next concert, or supply them with a substitute instrument. When we attended a concert near Hot Springs, VA one summer, I spoke to a veteran harmonica player who had performed. “Of course I know Sissi. You are her brother-in-law? Very pleased to meet you. Please say 'hello' for me.”

Guests at the Reception performed in turn. We were among the few who had brought no instruments and did not perform. It was great. And in lieu of a big wedding cake, after the wedding dinner, there were little cupcakes for each guest.

It was a great occasion. Sissi and Bob are wonderful additions to our extended family.

John Peterson’s Death

Lenore married John Peterson in 1994 after they had been together for quite a few years, loved and supported by the Hobbits (graduates of Michigan State University Tolkien Fellowship) who had migrated to the NYC area. They continue to be a most important community for all who shared the experience at MSU. In June of 2008, John was diagnosed with prostate cancer of a most virulent kind. With wonderful care from Sloan-Kettering in NYC, John lived nearly two years, dying in February of 2010. He was blessed to be able to live at home until his death, and with the support of his employer, Ab Initio Software, continued to work throughout that time.

He was a wonderful man, a churchman of the first order, who was quite biblical in doing good without calling attention to himself. We learned only at the funeral that he had had a private arrangement with April Harris, the Director of In Jesus’ Name Ministries, the food pantry in Hoboken, to contact him whenever someone had a need which April heard of for which she did not have funds. At one time he and Lenore, with other church and community members, made sandwiches for the homeless and distributed them Saturdays. I heard a wonderful story of a stranger pulling up at the park where people came to get sandwiches. He got out of a very expensive car and handed over a box of sandwiches, saying, “Someone left a message on my answering machine telling me not to forget to bring sandwiches for the homeless. I know they had a wrong number, but it’s a good cause and I didn’t want there not to be enough.” That was one of John’s favorite stories about abundance.

John’s ashes were interred in the little garden of their church, All Saints Episcopal, in Hoboken NJ. It’s a lovely spot, and Lenore has had a stone marker put over where John’s ashes lie. It says “In Memory of / John D. Peterson / 1958-2010 / ‘Life is a parable of God’s abundance.’” That’s a paraphrase a friend of theirs suggested of something John used to say, especially after he was diagnosed. He said he really had no excuse for not knowing about the abundance of God’s love, but he kept forgetting, and when he got sick God finally hit him over the head with it.

Tim Lenz, son of Mike and Laura, dear friends of Lenore’s and John’s, wrote an essay about John as part of his application for a Merit Scholarship. Tim grew up knowing John through the “Hobbits.” With his permission, I have excerpted a short portion.

"John Peterson was a great man. Charitable to a fault, he devoted his life to helping those less fortunate than he, and he only redoubled his efforts when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. [He] was incredibly smart, though he would be the last to point it out... The memory of John, this man that I hope to emulate, is the heart of my drive to live, love, and be a better human being."

Harry’s 91st Birthday Party

Two summers ago, when I was in Montreat, I went to see Harry at his and Lella’s Pineapple Place on North Carolina Terrace. We sat together on the porch, but were not able to share a great deal. I know that I am not a great conversationalist, but something seemed different. Later, I asked Lella about the likelihood of their being in Montreat the following summer. She said that she did not think Harry would ever go to Montreat again.

I was aware that his health was not what it had been. He had knee replacement surgery some years ago, and had to give up his beloved golf foursome. For quite some time, he had ridden around in his cart, putting on the greens while his friends played each hole. But he lost ground. I was concerned that I would not be able to be with him again during his lifetime, so arranged with Lella, Powell and Harry T., for us to make a visit to Thomasville.

Emily Jean and I went down for his 91st birthday last September 13th (2011). We had a great visit with all the family, and Harry seemed quite pleased that we had come. After a birthday dinner on their patio, we came into the house and were sitting around talking. Someone asked me to tell VMI stories about Harry, and I began to do so. Harry, whose helper had taken him in his wheel-chair into his bedroom to prepare for bed, was sitting in the chair listening from the bedroom. Suddenly, his chair began to wheel toward us and he came out to join us. He didn’t want to miss out on anything.

It was wonderful being there, and we were treated really royally, but it tears at my heart to see him struggling with the limits we all have to face as the years pass.
I’m so grateful I had a chance to be with him and his family, even for a brief time. Perry Lee died before I could get to see her. I was able to spend a few days with Kitty in Charlottesville and Roddey in Ashland before they died, so this was special.

Chuck and Erica’s Wedding

In August of 2010, we flew out to Seattle to be present and help celebrate the wedding of Caroline and Marv’s son, Chuck to Erica. The wedding was held in a state park south of Seattle, presided over by Chuck’s father, Marv Vose. A goodly collection of their friends had come for the occasion, and we could see their tents below the area where the service was held. Friends provided music, they said their own vows, with Chuck, appropriately, readiing his from his I-Pad (He works for Apple!). What was it he promised? To do the litter?

After the wedding, kids romped in the valley, old folks sought refuge from the heat (it was almost as hot as Lenore and John’s wedding) inside, while devoted friends labored helping get the wedding feast prepared. It was a lovely, relaxed meal.

Erica had prepared and planned a very intriguing way of getting the guests together. She divided us into two teams, and tested our capacity to taste-judge chocolate. She gave each guest a taste of four kinds of chocolate. There was chocolate from Madagascar (the best), Costa Rica, Guyana, and one other place. Then each team was given an unknown sample, and required to identify it. Surprisingly, both teams were able to accomplish this.

Another highlight of the trip was staying at a hotel or inn which used to be a whorehouse in the early days of settlement. Interesting comments were painted on the walls of the rooms, and the wall of the room where you registered had a sign addressed to any women who planned to accompany sailors to their rooms. What did that sign say?

We had a wonderful time, not the least of which was (with my hearing deficit) watching Jean McClarin Jones and Emily Jean Gilbert chat at the table while we waited for dinner to be ready. Clearly, they respect each other a great deal.

Genevieve’s and Molly’s Wedding (Planned for 2013­)

At the time of writing (May of 2012), this has not yet happened, but we have been informed by telephone that it is coming up soon, probably next year. This will be an epic occasion for our family, and we look forward to it with great joy. It has been only a matter of months since Washington state voted to allow same-sex marriage, so their decision to get married followed closely on the decision of the state legislature.

It will be difficult to forget the joy in Genevieve’s voice over the phone when she said: “Granddaddy, Molly has asked me to marry her!” We rejoice with her.

But our joy has a background. The Methodist Church defrocked a fine pastor in Germantown PA, when she announced that she could no longer keep silent about her partner. With the approval of her senior pastor and the Administrative Board of the church, she made her announcement at a Sunday morning service, to applause. But the governing bodies of the connectional church took her to trial, found her in violation of church law, and removed her ordination credentials.

I was so upset by this that I wrote a letter to my bishop surrendering my ordination credentials, saying that I could no longer be comfortable identifying myself as a Methodist.

I then became a lay member of the UCC. The sad note here is that our local UCC church took a straw vote on whether to call itself “Open and Affirming,” (code for accepting same-sex marriage), and while a majority said “yes,” the vote was so close to even that we realized that taking a real vote would split the congregation. But time is on our side.


The Religious/Spiritual


Faith and Doubt

I still flounder, though, as you will see, Tolstoy has helped me to make some progress.

As a child, I felt pressure to believe, and not to doubt. I can’t really point to any instances where this pressure was actually applied, but I felt it, nevertheless. Since I did not firmly believe anything except that I was a member of the Jones family, I held my doubts closely, and never expressed them. And they lived in me. They still do, and the shame about them also lives, despite my intellectual determination to accept doubt as a positive good.

More often than not, I now make myself speak up when I do not agree or when I doubt, and it is probably an important contribution.

What do I believe about God? I have never been satisfied with the relationship I have with God personally, and that leads me to suspect that there is no personal God. But I still think and talk in those terms. Who can talk about a relationship with the cosmos? And how can anyone draw comfort from the vastness of space? I can’t. But I still hear myself speaking about the way God is with us in our suffering. And I believe God is. What I would like is the kind of one-to-one relationship the saints wrote about. I found it on a couple of occasions, but I’m greedy. I want it all the time, and feel bereft and abandoned when I don’t have it, which is nearly all the time.

Just recently, I have been on a Tolstoy kick, and “discovered” Levin in Part VIII of Anna Karenina. It took a lifetime to get comfortable being crazy, being me, but I think I am there. I am grateful.

I am now a member of Hope UCC. Being a part of that community is important to me, as is being a part of the Gathering. Perhaps the answer lies in the relationships we have with people. I am sure that God is a part of those relationships somehow.

I am amused at myself in a wry way, as I look back over my history. How did I wind up with the life I had? Well, I hurried back to RMC and rushed through, finishing in two more years with the minimum number of credits required to graduate because I felt like I had lost time during the war. I wanted to become a chemical engineer, but Cornell would not accept any transfer credits, and I didn’t want to start over. I went to RMC because Roddey was there, and I really did not know what I wanted to do. I dated Jean McClarin and decided to marry her, and went to Emory University with her because she wanted to study religious education, and I had no better idea. I studied theology because I was there, though I spent more time playing ping pong than I did studying theology. I became a missionary because Jean wanted to be one, and I didn’t care, as long as I didn’t have to preach. I was a good preacher, but it troubled me exceedingly, because I doubted everything I was preaching. I agreed to go to Japan as a missionary, provided I could go as something other than a preacher.

I became a teacher of English, without any special training in English as a Second Language, and served as chaplain and teacher in the High School of Kwansei Gakuin, even reading the Bible in Japanese at chapel services. Later I was chaplain to the University Student Center, and taught Bible classes in English and then in Japanese, but I managed to avoid having to make a witness. I did a little counseling, discovering that I was a pretty good listener.

I attended Kobe Union Church with Jean and our children, but was not challenged in terms of my faith. I just kept my mouth shut, as I guess most church members do.

We completed two five-year terms in Japan and went to Boston University to work on doctorates, I on one in Pastoral Care and Counseling, Jean on one in Religious Education. She got hers; I did not. I shifted into Clinical Pastoral Education, and gave up on the doctoral program. CPE was full of religious mavericks and I felt right at home immediately. But I was not put to the test theologically, and never had to make up my mind what I believed.

Joan, my second wife, was a somewhat lapsed Roman Catholic, and I did not have a church home while I was at Overlook Hospital in Summit NJ. When I joined my life with Emily Jean’s, I joined her in attending Judson Memorial in NYC. Here, too, I felt at home, because hardly anyone bothered with a faith position, and my puzzlement was shared by almost everybody. I was really happy there, because, for the first time, doubt was respectable. And I was accepted, respected, and liked. It was very special. And they taught me to be comfortable with my gayness (such as it may be) as well as that of others. It helped me with my gay son and my gay granddaughter, by getting me ready for them, and for celebrating their place in the world.

We moved to Pennsylvania and had to leave Judson behind. I went to St. John’s in Allentown with Emily Jean, but it left me cold. There was no life there. Despairingly, I stopped going to church. When Emily Jean became an interim minister, she asked me to support her by attending her church, which I was happy to do, making it clear that I was not there because of my faith, but to support her.

She began attending Hope UCC after she took the job at St. Luke’s as Director of Pastoral Care, and asked me to join her in attending. I decided to do so, but still was not sure of what I believed, or if I did. About the same time, the Gathering was brought together, starting with a visit to the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC. I had heard a lot about the COS, but had never been there, so I was happy to join nine others in making the trip down there. While we were there, something happened inside me that I can’t articulate or understand, but I wanted to be a part of the Gathering as it continued.

I guess I still have more doubt than faith, but these folks are my folks. I love them and they love me. And that’s enough.

Strangely, to me, I knew what to do when Beth Stroud was defrocked by my church, the United Methodist Church. I had never been a happy Methodist, but after that, I could no longer abide the name by mine.

I’m with Tolstoy and Levin. I know where I am and it is OK. I still have less faith than doubt, but that’s OK. I like who I am, and I’m sure I’ll agonize about it a great deal less in future.


I have read many a book on prayer. My parents, and I believe, my maternal grandparents, and possibly all of my siblings, pray and believe in prayer. It is easier for me to say what I do not believe about prayer than it is to say what I believe about it.

Over the span of my life, I have prayed a lot, but never was able to be clear about what I believed about prayer. I was taught that God was personal, and that a personal relationship with God was possible. I think my parents and grandparents believed and experienced this, and practiced prayer based on this belief. I have wanted this all my life, but have been unable to sustain a belief in it. This despite my incredible experience at Lake Junaluska, reported elsewhere.

Recently, the Caring Committee of my local church in Allentown (Hope UCC), had a proposal before it to pray for police and firemen of the city. The pastor wanted the committee to locate members who would be willing to pray for particular individual members of those forces on an on-going basis. I could not bring myself to agree to do so, and finally said to the committee, of which I am a member, that I just could not do that, because I did not believe that God was responsive to those kinds of requests. I have the same problem when people are grateful that God saved their lives during a storm. I always think of those who died. Did they fail to pray? Did they not pray properly? Did God hear their prayers and decide they were not worth saving? Or decide that they deserved to die? If we give God credit for good stuff, who gets the credit for the bad stuff? A devil is convenient for dealing with this, but then God’s power is limited, and the world is reduced to a battle between God and the devil, and Zoroastrianism is substituted for Christianity.

And yet, when I am in trouble, or when someone I love is hurting in some way, I can’t help but pray.

During WWII, when I first came under artillery fire, I recall praying to God, saying that if God would spare me, I would become a minister. And I did. What nonsense! But even though I think the whole business is crazy, I made a promise, and I try to keep my promises.

I don’t even know what I believe about God. I no longer think of God as a personal God, whom I can keep in my pocket like a favorite yo-yo, and bring out for an occasional spin when the time calls for it. But I mourn for that God, too, and pray to that God, too, “when the time calls for” God. I do believe that the Holy is in our relationships. Friends tell me of some trouble, and I say that I “will hold you in my heart.” And I do, though I tend to be very forgetful.

I believe that God is in all that is, and especially in life. With our native Americans, I believe that all of nature is holy. It is given to us, into our charge, and to treat it as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, is to profane the holy.

When I am asked to say a prayer before we eat, I say something like this: “Holy One, we are grateful for your presence with us now. You bless us by being here. Thank you. We are grateful for this company and for this food. Amen.” But anyone can see the inconsistencies. If I don’t believe in a personal God, who am I talking to? I don’t know the answer, yet I am grateful, so I guess I’ll keep praying.

When Emily Jean and I went to Japan shortly before Betty and Dave Swain retired, they taught us a wonderful blessing, which has been spread everywhere we go, and is now quite popular in this part of Pennsylvania:

“Everyone who is grateful, raise their right hand.”

We used this with our Gilbert family in Charlotte, NC when Rubye was dying. A few weeks before she died, but when she knew that she was dying, Emily Jean’s invitation to hold up right hands if you were grateful, was responded to by Rubye, who said, “I can’t get mine up high enough!”


I was totally deaf to words like “feminism” and expressions such as “inclusive language” until around 1970 when one of my CPE students told me after chapel that she had been able to worship until I announced that we would pray the Lord’s Prayer together. It was as if she had been speaking a foreign language. I asked her to say more, and she did. She explained that she felt shut out by the male language. I concluded she was unhinged, and thought no more about it. But over time, the same nail was struck again and again. When I began to have Emily Jean in my life, I was better prepared and able to hear better. I was by no means a feminist, but I could hear. I joined her in attending Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, NYC, where inclusive language was a way of religious life, and where there were no women, and few men, who were not feminist.

Suddenly, it all began to make a great deal of sense to me, and I find it difficult to remember how uncomfortable it made me when someone objected to the use of the male pronoun in reference to God, or to the use of a male pronoun to make a general statement about “mankind.”

I now have at least two daughters (three?) who are militant feminists in addition to my wife. How can anyone not see that a male-dominant society/culture is biased against women. There really is a glass ceiling.

Personally, I look forward to the time when women have a truly equal voice in government. I think that’s the best thing we as a people can do to make peace. I think that our womenfolk are less likely to lead us into wars than men. I also suspect that they are more likely to be concerned about the poor and the oppressed. I suppose I am naïve. The proof of my naïveté lies in my shock at women like Ann Coulter (and Ayn Rand?). And I guess there are many others.

I am still uncomfortable in direct confrontations with women. Perhaps it dates from the time when my mother, a very strong woman, set me straight in no uncertain terms when she thought I was wrong. It’s sad to think that my mother was born 50 years too soon; had she lived in our time, she would probably have been a strong leader in our world in whatever way she chose.

Now, I find I’m enjoying books by some feminists; I particularly enjoyed Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.

My Cynicism

I suppose I am a cynic. It doesn’t feel that way to me; it’s just that I tend to see the bad as well as the good in all of us. It seems to me that folks who look at the world through rose-colored glasses don’t want anyone to see it any other way. I know what I am capable of, and I suspect all of us are just as capable of evil as I am.

What is meant by the word ‘cynic?’ A person who expects people not to be straight? I am not taken by surprise when the “holier than thou” pastor is found to be unclean while calling on the world to repent. And I expect politicians as well as the rest of us to be repentant when caught, but hardly ever before.

I wonder if my feelings about hypocrisy relate to this. I have an intense loathing for hypocrisy in anyone, but especially in myself. I think this is part of what made it hard for me to be a part of the church. It certainly had a lot to do with my leaving the Methodist Church. Does that sound cynical? I’m comfortable with that identity.




Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

After my first year of residency in the doctoral program at Boston University was completed, I sat down with Dr. Bill Douglas, my advisor, for a routine conference. He asked me what I was going to do that summer (1965). I replied that I had no special plans, but would probably take a couple of courses. He encouraged me to consider taking a unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). It was already May, and the program was to start in early June, so I thought my chances were poor. But I called out to Boston State Hospital, and that program still had openings. It was a big program, with slots for 25 students. I got in. And thus my life was changed.

Joe Woodson was the head chaplain out there, assisted by Pop Hartl. What a pair! God led me there, for sure. Both embodied how craziness can be powerfully healing, and I learned it from the best. The net result of the unit out there for me was that I “felt” rather than knew, that I had found my niche. I asked Joe to let me stay out there after the unit ended, and take part in the residency, which already had three or four guys in it. I still remember how he grinned, turned away from me, walked up the hall, came back and said, “I don’t know if I can put up with you all that time.” But he accepted me, and I did the CPE residency. I negotiated a shift from full-time at B. U. to half-time, with a plan to complete my doctoral residency a year later than I would have. After the CPE residency was almost over, Joe asked if I would be willing to be an Assistant Supervisor the following summer. I agreed, met the Certification and Accreditation Committee, and was approved. (I have written details about this elsewhere.)

So without ever setting out to do so, I was well along on my way to be a CPE Supervisor. When I met the committee again in the fall of 1967 for “Acting” credentials, I was there because I had chosen this course for my life. I still intended to complete my doctorate, but it was secondary. I found a job at Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ, and began work there in January, 1968. I got my full credentials in Washington DC in 1970. After nine years at Overlook, and a disastrous second marriage to Joan Dominick, I left Overlook and went to Bergen Pines County Hospital in Paramus. Joan did not make it easier by the poison pen letters she wrote to my boss, and to many clergy colleagues in Summit. I don’t know if anyone really believed the nasty things she said about me, but there was a cloud, and it was good to get away from it.

It was during this time that Emily Jean and I had begun a relationship, and I persuaded her to apply at Bergen Pines. She was accepted, and we began a period of work together along with being partners. After a little more than four years, I learned of the opening at Presbyterian Hospital in NYC, applied and was accepted. Actually, we applied together, trying to persuade them to hire both of us, but they declined. I began there in January of 1982, and was able to prevail on my boss to hire her part-time within the year. She was later made full-time. We learned a lot through co-supervision as a couple. It is not for everybody, but there proved to be something very powerful about co-supervisors who were known to be sexual partners. Inevitably, students tended to deal with us as parents, and issues each had brought tended to emerge.

Our work at Presbyterian stands out in my memory as the best I did. I was more relaxed, less demanding of students, more open. And I was operating out of systems theory, which had now become second nature to me. I found I was able to accept the role of authority without ramming it down students’ throats. I still remember one of the best supervisory moves I made during my career, which illustrates this. One of my students, who later became a supervisor, was resistant to my aggressive moves, and I realized that she needed space. I announced that from that moment, I would give her no more supervision unless she felt she needed it and asked for it. Space was created for her to claim her own process, and she responded by doing so.The residency was a nine-month residency, with a senior resident continuing during the summer, and into the following year. During the summers, Emily Jean and I each supervised five or six students. We had Verbatim Seminars with our small groups, and two Interpersonal Group Meetings weekly. In addition, the two groups came together for a Didactic Seminar and a Large Interpersonal Group each week. So Emily Jean was exposed to my students and I was exposed to hers during these times. It was a very effective model.

In 1989, about a year before I was to retire, Emily Jean decided she would accept an offer from Bill Wycoff to join him in Allentown PA as his Associate Supervisor. She commuted two days a week from Allentown back to Jersey City, where we lived, until I retired in 1991, and moved out there with her.

I thought I did not want to do any more CPE, and resisted invitations to supervise on a temporary basis, but did hang out my shingle not only for family therapy, but also for consultation on supervision. Several people consulted with me over a period of time and two of them got supervisory credentials. One who I considered to have more potential than most failed to get her credentials. I still do not understand that!

I have more of a sense of fulfillment about my work in CPE than any other I have done, although family therapy was a close second.

A Philosophy of Clinical Pastoral Education

I wrote the following, remembering my thoughts about Chuck Hall's, Allison Stokes' and Glenn Asquith's addresses at the ACPE Conference in Philadelphia years ago.

It is true that we in ACPE are searching for a clinical theology. I think that that is the same as "getting your shit together." But we are committed to resisting the temptation to set up a smooth system by getting rid of the piece which doesn't fit. Keeping that piece available, even when it doesn't fit, is costly. There is stress. And it leads to craziness.

But craziness and creativity are tied together like yin and yang. Claiming the piece that doesn't fit, and hanging on to it, creates dissonance, leads to stress, and that puts us at risk. It put Flanders Dunbar at risk, it put Boisen at risk, and they suffered as a result. It seems to me that a lot of the time we know we are choosing dangerous courses, crossing boundaries, taking risks, yet we act as if there is no risk--as if we think that because of our special privilege, we will be spared the consequences of the risks we take. I see in Dunbar and Boisen, our forebears, important lessons. Great creativity comes at great cost, and at great risk. And there are consequences. No one is spared the consequences; for some, those consequences will be stress that leads to fatigue, ulcers, minor discomfort. But there will be others, like Pappy and Helen, who will pay the extreme price of mental illness or death. And the most dangerous thing we can do is to kid ourselves into believing that we are the exceptions.

"Forgive us the joys we have not known." Lee Guilliat 's (Lee is a member of Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, NYC.) "Communion Hymn" comes to mind as expressive of another commitment we in ACPE seem to have made to ourselves: to live life to the full; not to hold back from the boundaries out of a fear that we might have trouble. Like Dunbar and Boisen, when at our best, we push across the boundary, aware that we put ourselves at risk in doing so. Of course, there are plenty of times when we count the cost and decide not to cross, but at our best, we cross, paying the cost gladly. This is what it means to pioneer into territory which is the unknown. This is what it means to open the door to the holy spirit. This is what it means to venture, to be crazy, to be creative. It is dangerous, yes, but of a different order of danger from taking the same risk under the illusion that we are not at risk.

This is not to condone unethical behavior by any of our members. And our history is full of ethical breaches. We are not proud of it, but we are all too human. Some of our community have been unable to live with this sort of freedom without falling into temptation. That is spiritual and emotional, and sometimes, total suicide.

What have I learned?

    1) We in CPE have a great heritage. We are part of a great tradition. It is a rich, creative, crazy tradition, full of risk, full of promise.

    2) We are a people who seek God, individually and collectively, yet in a way that is unorthodox, rough, earthy, full of beans, rich in shit, sexy, powerful.

    3) We believe that God and truth do not have to be protected. For this reason, we can walk into the darkness of doubt, question the verities, assault the given, blaspheme against tradition. We can pursue without fear of offending or destroying the holy, because the Holy can take care of the Holy. To think that the Holy needs me to protect the Holy is presumptuous heresy. We are not that important, and the Holy is not that vulnerable.

    4) We are people marked by our commitment to live it up, to bet the whole pot every time. No holding back. Going for it. So we hurt a lot, and we suffer a lot. But we are with people who are on the edge of danger in a very special way; we have made it a practice to go there and to live there, so we are not terrified, only afraid. And we can choose to stay there with them, and thus, we can model the integration of hanging on to the uncomfortable piece, treating that ache in the heart as a treasure, holding on to that fearful fantasy as the leading edge of our pilgrimage. And those we minister to have that same deep-down wisdom, God-given, I believe, that enables them to know that something holy is happening when we are there with them, sustaining them in allowing their worst fears to be welcomed in their spirits. God is near; the Holy One brings healing through our lived craziness.

    5) There is power in the choice, repeated endlessly, to be me. In that dogged persistence, despite all pressures and enticements, I come to know the person given me at birth. I come also to experience the joy of finding my true home within.

    6) We are a people who cannot stand phoniness. It is destruction. It smells. It is sin. However painful, however crazy, we find the richness of our lives in following our own truth, wherever it leads.

    7) We are a people who find joy in inviting others to join us on this crazy journey; and even greater joy in being with and in seeing those others discover their own path, and follow it with integrity and joy, despite the cost.

    8) We are a family of those who do not know who we are so much as who we are not. And we are united in living our lives into the unknown with passion and with compassion.

    9) And our journey is a spiritual journey. We know that we do not have the answers, and we are suspicious of those who insist that they do. We search for God, and for a clinical theology, not because it brings us to a neat and complete system of philosophy or theology, but because we can do no other. We are called to truth, to authenticity, and we will go no other way.

Family Therapy and Supervision of CPE

During my training and work as a family therapist, I learned that a great deal of research has been done into the impact of sibling position on the behavior of individuals. While these are not “laws,” they do have predictive value in looking at individuals and families.

I had exposure to the theory and practice of group process as early as the 1950’s, when I participated in a week-long seminar run by a group from Bethel, Maine. I forget the name of it, but it was quite well-known. We worked in groups, watched “12 Angry Men,” and looked at the way they influenced each other.

I felt comfortable in groups then, as I do now. It seemed much easier for me to be transparent than for many others. I’m still not sure why that is. It may have something to do with war experience “numbing” my feelings.

While at Boston University working on a doctorate, I took a course in Group Dynamics. I did a good bit of reading in the field, including Bion (Experiences in Groups). He influenced me a great deal. During my residency in CPE at Boston State Hospital (1965-66), I was taught a lot by the schizophrenic patients. Another student and I co-led a group of 7-8 ladies once a week for a semester as part of a course taught by Jud Howard, called “Clinical Pastoral Care of Groups.” It was a three-hour per week course: one hour was a lecture, one hour was co-leading a group, one hour was presenting a verbatim account of the group hour, with analysis by the student group and Dr. Howard. It was a fantastic learning experience. I still recall how one member of our group of schizophrenics, who had “escaped” from the hospital and gone into town, expressed her feelings about it by describing how cars with machine-gunners riding on top roared by and shot at her. This was a revelation.

As a part of supervising CPE units of training, there was always a meeting of the group of students and supervisor(s) two or more times per week. I thought I was a pretty good group leader, but I tended to interact directly with individual members of the group which was not the most helpful leadership. But I did not find that out until 1977, when I entered a three-year program of training in family therapy at the Ackermann Institute for Family Therapy. As a result of this training, I was like Saul on the road to Damascus, the scales falling from my eyes.

I now understood that the group had a life of its own separate and different from the individual lives of the students in it. Now, instead of interacting directly with members of a group, I watched myself really holding back, facilitating functioning of the group. Where before that training, I might have said to a student, “Why did you do that?”, now I heard myself saying, “Why did the group need him/her to do that?”

At Bergen Pines County Hospital, I began to see a few client families, getting supervision on my work as I applied much of what I had learned at Ackermann Institute. I then joined a group of five who hired a senior staff person at Ackermann, Dr. Jessie Turberg, to give us supervision once a month. We brought families to the Institute, met with them while the supervisor, Jessie, and the other four members of the group watched from behind one-way glass.

This was a continuation of all the valuable learning from the 270-hour course I had taken. It was three hours, one day a week for 30 weeks per year for three years. I still tell stories from experiences I had then. The first day of the course, they divided us into groups of four according to our sibling positions in our own families: an only, an oldest, a middle and a youngest. I was, of course, the “youngest” in my group. We were then given several topics to discuss. I remember only this one: “What did you do when you asked your mother to let you do something you really wanted to do, and she told you “No?” I was the only “goy” in the group, the other three being Jewish women social workers. My response was very different from theirs. I said: “I gave it up, however angry it made me.” They all gave the same answer: “Our mothers taught us not to take 'no' for an answer the first four times." I’ve often thought how different my life might have been had I had such an upbringing.

So I learned something about the importance of sibling position, but also of cultural norms.

When I went to Presbyterian Hospital in New York in 1982, I applied the principles of systems theory to my work with students, but set aside my practice of family therapy until I retired in 1991. Once I moved out to Allentown, I began seeing clients again one morning a week, continuing this for about five years until I noticed how my memory was failing. I had prided myself as a CPE supervisor on meeting with a student at a given point in the supervisory process (we usually met once a week during each unit of 11 or 12 weeks), and taking up a particular issue, referring back to how the problem had been dealt with by the student at several times during the unit, showing him or her how it was not a new difficulty they were wrestling with. This approach in therapy is also quite essential to enabling the client to understand his or her own process. I realized that I could no longer do that. I could function very well dealing with current material presented by the client on that day, but the past was shrouded, despite careful note taking.

So I made a decision to stop, and have not regretted it, though I have missed it, as I missed supervising when I stopped. I am also sure I made a good decision when I stopped supervising. I was able to help two supervisors in training to get their credentials by consulting with them regularly to talk about their supervision.


Stories I Have Enjoyed Telling

Disclaimer: A few stories in this section have adult content and/or "dirty" words. They have been marked with an asterisk by the title so that you may skip them, if you wish to do so.

Poise in the Pulpit

I don’t remember any more who I first heard this story from, but it was probably back in my seminary days at Emory’s Candler School of Theology (1948-1951).

The homiletics (preaching) professor had his class in the chapel. He went into the pulpit in order to talk with them and demonstrate the techniques that go into great preaching. He said:

"Young gentlemen (back in those days, there were no women in seminary, I’m sorry to say), we have talked about choosing a text, making an outline, crafting an introduction, developing your points, using illustrative material, and drawing all together in a succinct conclusion. But we have omitted to speak of one of the most important elements of really fine preaching.

"No matter how good the content of your sermon, if you do not have poise in the pulpit, all is lost. You must be confident, calm, sure of yourself, and project this to all in your congregation.

"For example, there is a fly buzzing around my head. This seems a little thing, but it is important. Do I wildly wave at it, thus distracting from the gravity of the message? No, I gently and calmly brush it away.

[Begins waving wildly, screams] "OH MY GOD, IT’S A BEE! IT'S A BEE!!!"

Bi-Lingual Stories (English-Japanese)

One of the great losses I experienced on leaving Japan was an audience of people who understand enough of both Japanese and English to “get it” when a joke was told which required both languages. Of course, if you have to explain, the lightning flash that makes a joke funny is not there. I can think of several examples, one of which is the title story.

Let Me off at the Next Stop

A Westerner was new to Japan with just a beginner’s smattering of Japanese. Nevertheless, he had large ambitions of being able to manage for himself in Japanese. One day, he got on a streetcar. Before he got to the stop where he wanted to get off, he called to the conductor from the back of the car: “Please let me off at the next stop.” He got the “please” right, and he got the “next stop” right, but he made a slight mistake in his choice of a verb for “let me off” (orosu). Instead, he used the verb korosu, which means “kill.”

So the entire car full of passengers looked terribly puzzled at this foreigner who wanted to be killed at the next stop.

The Speech

A man was asked to be an after dinner speaker. [speech = hanashi] It happened that he had false teeth. [teeth = ha, none = nashi] As he got into his speech, he made an effort to speak in a louder voice, and his teeth fell out on the table. Before he could pick them up and put them back in his mouth, one of the guests shouted out: Honto no [real] ha nashi [no teeth, speech] desu ne” [is].


I also heard a report of a missionary who went into a grocery store needing some bean sprouts in order to cook sukiyaki, a dish made of thinly sliced beef and a number of vegetables, flavored with soy sauce, broth and a little sugar. Unfortunately, when he asked for bean sprouts, he used the Japanese word which means “night soil,” which produced much astonishment at the store. The Westerner insisted that he always put “night soil” in this dish, and that without it, it just would not be as good.

Of course, I never dared to tell this story in Japan, because, although I know that the two words are moyashi and koyashi, I’m still not sure which one means what.

The New Missionary's "Lord's Prayer"

A new missionary, having been out in Japan for a term, returned home, and was invited to the church which had supported him there. The pastor thought it was wonderful that he and his family had gone to Japan, and wanted them to know how much the church respected and admired them for that. So not only was the missionary asked to preach, but after the service ended, the pastor announced that, in lieu of a benediction, the missionary would say the Lord’s Prayer, in Japanese.

He was stunned, but could not bring himself to admit that he did not know it. As all bowed their heads, he launched into a recitation of the subway stops along the Chuo Line in Tokyo. All were suitably impressed, except for one Japanese man, who said from the back of the church, Ah, soo desu ka? [Is that so?]

Other Stories

Championship Golf

[This story and the other golf stories are a legacy of a hot, summer day at Waynesville NC with David Swain many, many years ago. A sudden rainstorm struck the course, and everyone rushed for shelter, many squeezing in under the same open-sided work hut we crowded into. I expect there were 20 or more golfers there, and each one had several stories or jokes.]

A local Country Club had had its annual tournament over the last week or so, and the finals, 36 holes of match-play golf, had come to the final hole, even. Both players had played very well, in a tensely fought match, and had arrived on the 36th hole with long putts. If either sank his putt, the match would be over. The first golfer putted, being away, and his ball slid just past the hole. The other player conceded the putt, and went to study his lie. He looked from every angle, checked the wind, and finally addressed his ball for the putt. Just as he drew back his putter, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the lights of a funeral procession going by. He backed off the putt, snatched off his cap, held it over his heart, and stood with bowed head until the long procession had passed out of sight. All the spectators, including his competitor, followed his example, and there was a long, respectful silence.

Finally, the second golfer pulled his cap back on, stepped up to his long putt, and rolled it in to win the championship. As a roar went up from the crowd, the first golfer came over and shook his hand.

First golfer: My God, no wonder I lost. How could you do that? You must have ice water in your veins!

Second golfer: Well, it’s the least I could do after 35 years of married life.

The Minister Played Golf on Sunday Morning

A minister had a moral struggle between his call to ministry and his love of golf. Thinking he could handle it, he accepted the call, and served a number of churches with distinction. After a number of years, when he had become the senior pastor of a rather large church, he felt a powerful yearning for golf one Sunday morning early. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and it promised to be a beautiful day. He could stand it no longer.

Calling his young associate, he told him he had suddenly been called out of town, and that the young minister would have to hold the service. “Remember that I told you to be prepared on short notice? Well, here it is.” With that, he threw his clubs into the trunk of his car, along with his golf clothes, which he had ready in a small bag. And he drove out of the city where he lived, getting a suitable distance away, so as to be sure no one would know him.

He arrived at a challenging course which he had heard of, got a locker, changed his clothes, and got the pro to link him up with three other players waiting for a tee time.

In heaven, God and St. Peter were looking down on this scene. St. Peter was furious, and said to God: “Do you see what I see? Aren’t you going to do anything about that?” God replied: “Now, Peter, don’t get bent out of shape. I’ll take care of it.”

The first hole was a par four, dog-leg left. The other three players went first, one hitting it in the fairway, one slicing into the woods on the right, and the third hooking into woods on the left. The minister stepped up, and belted a long drive down the middle, about 25 yards further than the golfer who had also put his ball in the fairway. St. Peter made a long face, but God was silent.

When the others had played, the minister hit a crisp five-iron to the middle of the green.
When all were on the green, the minister, who was furthest from the hole, putted the ball straight and true, dropping it for a birdie. St. Peter spoke up again. “Lord, I don’t know what you are doing here, but it looks like you are rewarding this clergyman for sin.” God remained silent.

On the second hole, which was a par three, the minister made a hole-in-one. St. Peter was so angry at the sheer outrage of God’s silence and inaction that he had to walk away from God for a while.

And so it continued throughout the round. As the rest of the foursome watched in awe, the minister shot a course record, some ten strokes lower than any round recorded at that course, or indeed, anywhere. Would you believe a 52?

Finally, St. Peter could contain himself no longer. “Lord, I have waited as patiently as I could for you to carry out your promise to take care of it. I now observe the ultimate reward given to this man, a man of the cloth, no less, for the heinous sin of abandoning his congregation on Sunday morning, going into an area where he knew no one, obviously a planned sin, and enjoying the greatest game of his life. How can you allow this?” God responded: “Peter, you need to get the big picture here. What do golfers do when they make a hole-in-one?” Peter: “They buy drinks for everyone.” God: “But what else do they do?” Peter: “They brag about the shot to everyone who will listen.” God: “Yes! Do you see now?” Peter: “Ah! I finally see. He will have to go back to his home town and his home church, and his home golf course, and keep silent. God: “Yes. He will go his entire life knowing he was the greatest golfer in the world this morning, shot the finest round ever, anywhere in the world, and will be unable ever to tell anyone. Isn’t that punishment enough for a golfer, even for such a sin as he has committed?” Peter: “You’ve got me there. You know everything, Lord, even psychology!”

Religious’ Golf

A priest who loved to play golf persuaded a sister who worked at the same parish to caddy for him when he played a round of golf. He was not having a good day to start with, and after he hit a couple in the woods, and another in the water, he began to swear. The sister was a very pious type and remonstrated with him. “Father, if you are going to use filthy language, I’m not going to continue caddying for you.” The priest promised to do better.

Soon, however, needing a short putt to make par, he hit it wide, and cut loose again. Sister reminded him of his promise, and said that she meant what she had said. The priest was really fearful she would quit on him, and said: “May God strike me dead if I swear again today!” The sister was mollified and continued to caddy.

As luck would have it, the priest made a series of duffs, hooks and slices, and finally, unable to contain himself, swore a string of curse words.

There was a roll of thunder, and a great bolt of lightning came from the nearest cloud, striking the sister dead. And a great voice was heard from the cloud: “Damn, I missed!”

The Bengal Tiger

A man had read a great deal about India, and was very much interested in going there on a safari for a Bengal tiger. He learned of a man who had been to India and had even hunted tigers, so he arranged to see him and get his advice.

This man was very helpful. He gave him the name of a company that would organize such a hunt, taking care of all the details. He gave him all manner of advice, and as the traveler was leaving, he thought of one more important thing. “There is a snake in India which sleeps at night by biting a branch of a tree and hanging down from it. These snakes are exceedingly poisonous, but can be dealt with simply by grabbing the tail, yanking hard, so the snake will bite the branch even harder, then running your other hand up to the snake’s neck and snapping its head off.”

The traveler thanked the man for his help and left.

Some months later, the man heard that the traveler was back from India, but in the hospital. So he went to see him, only to find him swathed in bandages from head to foot, both arms and both legs in traction. His head was bandaged as well, leaving only a small hole for his mouth.

The visitor was stunned! “What in the world happened?”

“Well,” the traveler/hunter said, “I made arrangements with the person you told me about, and his group was terrific. They set everything up for me and my party, and we had everything we needed. We set out on the hunt, and I was quite excited and eager to take a Bengal tiger. Carrying my rifle, I was walking through the forest, carefully parting the high grass, when suddenly, I saw, not a tiger, but the dreaded snake, hanging down from the branch of a tree. Remembering what you had told me, I grabbed hold of its tail, yanked hard, and ran my other hand up to snap off its neck…Did you ever goose a Bengal tiger?”

A Pope with Polish

[I heard this joke on the morning that Pope John Paul II was elected, when I was a chaplain at Bergen Pines County Hospital. I was there from 1977 to 1982. We had a multifaith department, with three Roman Catholic priests, three Protestant ministers and two rabbis.One of the priests, with classic Irish humor, came in and gave this report of what had happened in Rome.]

“You heard that we have a new pope, I’m sure. But do you know what really happened in the Sistine Chapel when the vote was announced?

A loud voice was heard from the top of the chapel: ‘NO, NO, YOU DUMMIES! I SAID “polish” NOT “POLISH!’”

The Toilet Seat*

[Jean Evans was a wonderful Jewish woman who appeared at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, New York City, one Sunday morning and sat next to me and Emily Jean. We talked after the service and over time got to be good friends. Jean was a retired writer, having had articles appear in New Yorker and other magazines, and had published a book of case studies of psychiatric patients thought by psychologists to be really solid. Jean had an interesting background. Her great grandfather had been a rabbi in Russia, her mother had grown up there, and had brought Jean and her brother to this country when very young. They were raised in Hollywood, where Jean’s brother made connections and became a director of note. She knew a bunch of people out there, who were aware that she liked dirty jokes, and would periodically telephone her in New York to tell her a new one that was going around. When we got acquainted at Judson, she soon learned that Emily Jean and I appreciated good dirty jokes, and when one came from Hollywood via the phone, we were among the first friends she called to share it. “The Toilet Seat” and “Bad Breath and Smelly Socks” stories came from Jean.]

A couple (who happened to be Jewish) had a well-known marital problem. When he went to the bathroom to pee, he invariably left the seat up. She begged, she pleaded, she screamed at him, to no avail. He meant to do better, but he kept forgetting.

One night, she had to go in the middle of the night, and sleepily made her way to the bathroom in the dark, and plopped down on the toilet, only to discover that, once again, he had failed to put the seat down. Unfortunately, this time, she had sat down so hard that she was caught in the toilet and could not get out.

She called her husband, who got up to see what was wrong. He went into the bathroom, sized up the situation, and announced that he would call a plumber. She protested that she was nude and did not want to be exposed like that to a stranger. Her husband replied that she could just fold her arms over her breasts. She was crying and upset, and yelled that her privates were on display as well. He went and got his yarmulke, put it over her crotch, and called the plumber.

The plumber came, saw what had happened, thought for a while, and said:

“I have good news and bad news.”

“What’s the good news?”

“I can get your wife out without any trouble.”

“What’s the bad news?”

“It’s too late for the rabbi!”

Bad Breath and Smelly Feet

There was once a young couple who were blessed with a son. They doted on him, but as he got older, they noticed that his feet smelled unbelievably bad. At first they thought it was just the way boys were, but others noticed, and finally they took him to see a specialist in smelly feet. This doctor acknowledged that their son’s ailment was so far beyond his training that they would have to consult the world’s top smelly feet expert. After numerous tests, and much money being spent, the great man admitted defeat, and told them their son would just have to live with the problem.

Another young couple, about the same time, had a daughter, who was lovely, and they were very proud and happy. But soon, they noticed that she had exceedingly bad breath.No amount of brushing of her teeth, rinsing out her mouth with various mouthwashes, no amount of flossing seemed to help. Her breath still smelled terrible. As she grew older, her parents became increasingly concerned, and took her to several dentists. Ultimately, they were referred to the world’s greatest specialist in bad breath, who ordered a battery of tests, and personally examined her mouth. After a long period of treatment, he, too, admitted defeat, and told the parents they would just have to accept the reality that their daughter would always have terrible, smelly breath.

In the course of time, the two grew up, and as luck would have it, met, fell in love, and married. On their honeymoon, both were anxious, he, about his smelly feet, she about her bad breath. He went into the bathroom first, took a long soak in the tub, scrubbed his feet as much as he could stand, put on his pajamas, and was ready for the marital bed. As he went to open the door to leave the bathroom, he noticed his socks, and not wanting to carry them into the hotel room where his bride waited, tossed them behind the bathroom door. The bride, when he came out of the bathroom, went in herself, and did her best to deal with her bad breath. She flossed, she brushed, she rinsed with mouthwash. She even took a couple of breath mints before she joined her new husband for their first night of love.

She got in bed, and they embraced and kissed. He recoiled instantly, exclaiming, “You ate my socks!”

The Cherry Tree*

Jean Evans swore that the following was a true story of her mother’s childhood in Russia. At the time, pogroms against Jews were not unusual, and Jews lived very carefully among their Russian neighbors.

Jean’s mother lived with her grandfather, the local rabbi, whose house was near the home of the orthodox priest. There was a magnificent cherry tree in the priest’s front yard, and the cherries naturally were a temptation to the little girl, who was about ten.

One spring, when the tree had flowered and set its fruit, and the fruit was beginning to show red and beautiful, the rabbi walked with his daughter to the priest’s yard, and stopped in front of the tree.

“My dear,” he said, “Under no circumstances must you ever go into the priest’s yard. And certainly, you must never even think of climbing that cherry tree, and taking any of its fruit. The priest would be very angry, and there is no telling what terrible things he might do to us.”

She promised. But each day on the way to schul, she had to pass the tree, noticing how red and beautiful the cherries were. Finally, one day, she could stand it no longer, and looking carefully around to make sure the priest was not around, she quickly slipped into the yard, shinnied up the tree, and began to stuff her mouth with cherries.

Suddenly, she was terrified to feel a hand grasp her leg, and heard the priest shout, “Come down out of my cherry tree” She was so scared that she lost control, and peed all over the priest as he dragged her out of the tree. Furiously angry, the priest grabbed her by the ear, and hustled her all the way home to the rabbi’s house.

“Your granddaughter has not only invaded my yard and stolen my cherries, but she has urinated on me. This is unforgivable and she must be punished.”

The rabbi apologized for the behavior of his granddaughter, and assured the priest that he would deal with her appropriately.

When the priest had left, the rabbi took his granddaughter across his knee, and spanked her hard. “I told you not to go into the priest’s yard. This is for going in his yard.” She cried. He spanked her a second time. ”And I told you not to climb his cherry tree. This is for climbing his tree.” She sobbed. He spanked her a third time. “I told you not to take his cherries. This is for stealing his cherries.” Then, as his granddaughter continued crying, he reached into his pant’s pocket and took out a kopeck. “And this is for peeing on the priest.”

The Mother Superior*

[I heard this story told in mixed company by a Jesuit priest!]

A new highway was being put through just down the hill from a convent. The young novices were very interested in the men working on the new highway, and particularly in their colorful language. The Mother Superior noticed that the young women were practically hanging out of their windows in order to hear what was going on below.

As soon as she saw what was happening, the Mother Superior scolded them, and sent them off to another part of the convent so that they would not be able to observe or hear what was happening. She, herself, sailed down the hill, and demanded to see the person in charge. The boss of the job came over, and asked her what was the matter.

M.S.: My innocent young novices have never been exposed to the kind of filthy language that your men are using down here. I demand that you put a stop to it!

Boss: Now, Mother, don’t be upset. These men don’t mean any harm. They work hard, and they call a spade a spade.

M.S.: Spade, Hell. It’s a “fucking shovel!”

The Sisters of Mercy House of Prostitution*

A traveling salesman was driving along the highway, when he saw a huge billboard, proclaiming that only ten miles ahead, he would come to the Sisters of Mercy House of Prostitution. He could not believe his eyes. Thinking it a joke, he drove on and forgot about it. But in a few more miles, he was another billboard: “Sisters of Mercy House of Prostitution, only 5 miles.” Now he was curious. As a good Catholic, this went against everything he believed in. He thought about stopping out of a sense of duty.

Then a third sign: “Sisters of Mercy House of Prostitution, 1 mile.” He made up his mind to stop.

And suddenly, there it was, with a great sign out in front: “Sisters of Mercy House of Prostitution.”

He went up to the door, entered a vestibule, and was confronted by a little window and a hanging bell. He rang it, and after a few moments, heard the sound of footsteps. The window in the door opened, and a face appeared.

Sister:              Yes?

Traveler:          I saw your sign…

Sister:              Come in through the door on your right, go down the hall to the end and through that door and you will find what you are looking for. $20, please.

Traveler:          (Pushing $20 through the window) Thank you.

The traveling salesman went through the door indicated, found himself in a hallway, and walked on down the hall to the door at the end. He pushed it open and went on through, finding himself again outside the “convent.” He looked back, and saw a sign on the outside of the door:




The Organ-Grinder’s Monkey*

A man wanted to have a baby. He consulted friends. All told him, just have sex with a woman. But he responded that he did not want to be a father by having sex with a woman. He wanted to feel his baby inside himself, just as a woman does, and to give birth to it himself. All his friends told him he was crazy. Finally, someone he talked to told him about a gypsy who might be able to help him.

He went to see the gypsy. The gypsy listened to his story, and gave him the same advice his friends had. Have sex with a woman, and you’ll have a baby. But when he insisted that that was not what he wanted, and explained about wanting to feel his own baby inside of himself, she relented, and gave him special advice. It cost him plenty.

The gypsy told him to shut himself up in his apartment with all the food he would need for two weeks, and to eat all he could hold at every meal, but not to go to the bathroom except to pee. No matter how great the pressure, he was to hold it in, and not let himself take a shit. After two weeks, to the minute, she promised, he would have a baby.

The man struggled for the two weeks, eating all he could cram down, but somehow, holding it all in and never going near the toilet except to pee.

Finally, at the end of the two weeks, on a wonderful warm spring day, with all the windows open to the warmth of the May day, as the time ticked off to the end of the two weeks, an organ grinder passed by in the street below. Just as the man dropped his pants and let fly with the two weeks accumulation of shit, the organ grinder’s monkey came in through the open window, and ran right behind him. It was covered with a torrent of shit.

He turned around, saw the monkey dripping shit, and shouted with great joy:

“You’re the dirtiest, shittiest little bastard I ever saw, but I don’t care. You’re mine, all mine!”

The Funeral

All the children in the neighborhood where the minister lived knew that his son loved to preside at funerals for their pets, and were happy to call on him for his services. On one occasion, a little girl went to him for solace when her canary died. The little boy told her to put the canary’s body in a shoebox, dig a hole big enough to hold the box, and then invite all the kids in the neighborhood to come for the service.

At the appointed time, the minister’s son knelt at the grave, took off his cap, and ordered all the other kids to take theirs off.

He took the box with the canary’s body from the little girl, and slid it into the grave as he intoned:

“In the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the hole he goes.”

Dad and the Turkey

When Dad was about five years old, being the youngest of nine children, he was the only one home after the other eight went off to school in the morning. One day, his mother said: “Harry, let’s walk over to the Parsonage. It’s not far, and I want to take the minister’s family a turkey for Thanksgiving.”

Arriving at the parsonage, she knocked on the door, and the minister’s wife came out. My grandmother said, “Mrs. _____, we want you all to have a very nice Thanksgiving. We hope you’ll enjoy this turkey.”

The minister’s wife happily accepted the turkey, and quickly responded: “Thank you so much, Mrs. Jones. Do it again real soon!”

Favorite Quotations

I have always envied the English this aspect of their governing. Occasionally, there is that light touch. Perhaps we have it, too, in our history, though it is not very much in evidence in our Congress now.

Winston Churchill was challenged in the House of Commons by a back bencher, complaining that the Prime Minister had ended a sentence with a preposition. Without any hesitation, Churchill responded: “This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put.”

In October 2006, a friend at the YMCA quoted Albert Einstein, ‘the wisest man ever,’ as saying that the way to be happy is to get up early and stay up late. My rejoinder was to cite Somerset Maugham with the quote below.

Hearing criticism that he was undisciplined, Maugham replied: “That is not true. Just for the good of my soul, I do two things every day which I don’t want to do: 1) I get up in the morning; and 2) I go to bed at night.”


Heard at a bar: “If I told you that you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”


"Gifts” Received from Others

I had turned 50, I think, before I realized that my father had given me the great gift of tenderness. As I have put it, I came to see that my father was my Mother, and my mother was my Father. He was a very sentimental man, for all his manliness. He was kind, thoughtful, and most generous. I like to think that I am a lot like him.

Mother was more practical than he, and did all the little things around the house that you would expect the man of the house to do. But, as she said of Dad, he graduated from VMI with a degree in Electrical Engineering, but couldn’t change a light bulb. He was not gifted that way, nor am I! I recall the time when we had a leaky faucet during the depression when there was no money to speak of. Mother called a plumber and asked how much they would charge to fix the faucet. They said “$5.00.” She said “never mind,” went to the hardware store, bought a monkey wrench, some washers, and some packing, all for less than $5.00, and from then on, she repaired leaky faucets herself. What did she give me? She modeled not whining when things were difficult, but pitching in and doing your part. She was raised in a family which had plenty, including servants to do the dirty work. She suddenly found herself without servants when the depression hit, and she taught herself to cook at age 40. She also went to the school board and applied to be a substitute teacher. I recall asking her what subjects she signed up for, and she calmly said, “All of them.” I allowed as how she might have more confidence than ability. I was wrong. She was a great teacher, and friends who had her told me she had no trouble keeping discipline in her classes. She knew no fear. She was tough. And she was smart, too, without having to be a show-off. She had two B. A.’s because Papa Joe, her father, told her that any woman who had graduated from a southern college was not educated. Despite having a degree from Converse, a very fine women’s college in the south, she went to Smith College for two additional years and got a B. A. there as well.

My grandmother, Mother’s mother, whom we called Mama Joe, taught me generosity. We used to say that you had to be careful not to look at Mama Joe’s plate at dinner, because if she thought you wanted something on her plate, she wouldn’t be able to eat it. She was born right after the Civil War, in 1866, I think, and those were hard times in the South. She learned to watch every penny. I’ve seen plenty of times when someone would wish for something for dessert, and she would go to her locked cupboard, and always be able to come up with a piece of cake or pie. It was often so old it was hard as a rock, but some custard from the icebox would make old cake taste pretty good.

I also learned solitaire from her. She had servants, so she had plenty of time to herself. If the sun shone, she was out in the garden. If it rained, there was solitaire. She was loving, never criticized, and was enormously patient with everybody, including her servants. She had a hard time being a straw boss. Papa Joe is remembered for writing his name with his finger in the dust on top of the piano in the parlor, his way of letting her know that the servants were not doing their jobs.

I guess Papa Joe’s gift to me was enjoyment of games. He was a great businessman, very successful, but by the time I came along, he had lost all his money. I knew him in retirement after his best years. He also taught me not to take religion too seriously. I don’t mean that he was not a man of faith. He was, and he was both a founder of and a consistent supporter of his church, the Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill SC. But he would never have understood, nor would he have approved of what is happening in our society today. He had great admiration for the ARP’s as he called them (Associated Reform Presbyterians). They were radically conservative, fundamental in their theological doctrine. He admired them not for that, but for the fact that if they gave their word, a businessman did not need anything in writing. Somehow, I doubt they would have been comfortable with the way religion is being used politically.

Joe Woodson, my first CPE supervisor, gifted me with comfort with my own craziness. I cannot thank him enough, because that made my life livable. Once I recognized that it wasn’t just the patients at Boston State Hospital who were crazy, I could begin the struggle to accept myself as I am, and to try to use myself effectively. I was able to stop trying to be someone I am not, and also to stop trying to convince people that I was not the person that I am. What a burden that took off my back! When people accused me of being crazy, I could now respond, “Yes, I know. That’s the best part of me!”

Joe modeled that in his supervision. I have found that not being afraid to be called crazy or weird gives you quite an edge in your work. Many people in CPE circles dismissed Joe as crazy, but I learned that he was crazy like a fox. More than anyone I ever knew, he communicated directly from unconscious to unconscious. When I later read The Family Crucible, I was reminded of Joe. I forget the name of the psychiatrist who coauthored the book, but he had that same quality. He said he needed a co-therapist so that he could get right into the unconscious with the family, knowing that his co-therapist was out there keeping an eye on things.

Who else? Emily Jean (absolute integrity and love is always enough), Joan (that I am or can be homicidal), Jean (passivity kills a relationship), Dave (true friendship cannot be defined, and it has no time or space limits), Harry and Roddey (you can totally disagree on almost everything and still respect and love), Kitty (as close to agape as I know), Perry Lee (so different from me, but beloved), Randy, Jr. (I love a stranger.), Caroline (I love someone who is so much smarter than I am, and it is OK.), Lenore (I can stand being helpless to help, and not run.), Catherine (models living her life without apology, while still loving me very much.), Jean McClarin (Another stranger! 18 years together and I do not know her now, nor did I know her then. Taught me I was too young to get married, too innocent to be in a marriage relationship.)


Gandhi: if focused and determined, and with vision, you can do almost anything.
George Washington Carver. Jesus. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What appealed to me in these men was their intensity, their vision, their commitment, and their dogged persistence in pursuing their dreams.

I can recall wishing I could find a cause I was willing to die for. WWII was sold this way, in all the propaganda, and I felt guilty because I was not that patriotic, though I was too chicken to stand up and say so. Of course, I discovered very quickly that very few of my fellow GI’s felt the way the propaganda and John Wayne said they should. There is a part of me that still looks for that cause. I guess I know I’m not going to live forever, and how nice it would be to go out that way!


As I look back over my life, I see very few friendships. Perhaps that’s because I define friendship very narrowly. Maybe it’s because I do not easily reveal myself. Odd, I always thought of myself as someone who was out there, transparent, but the longer I live, the more I feel like a fraud in this respect.

My first friend was Frank Dusch. Frank’s parents were divorced (a terrible thing, we all thought), and he lived with his father two houses away from me. Frank missed his mother, I think, because he spent a lot of time with mine. And she looked out for him. Frank and I had a “six-Sat” arrangement. Every Saturday morning at six in the morning, either he came over to my house, or I went over to his. This involved the excitement of pebbles on the window, sneaking out of the house, and doing something together that no one else knew about. We built a fort in the back lot one Saturday. I can’t remember all the things we did, but “six-Sat” was very big. Frank and I lost touch over the years, but, when I was headed out to Japan, I wrote him (His mother was a Cannon, and he was an executive at Cannon Mills by this time.) and asked him to set us up with linens for the trip. He was happy to do so. I have had no contact with him since, and do not know if he is still living.

My cousin, Barron Roddey, was almost exactly the same age as I. His father was my mother’s younger brother. When we went to Montreat in the summers, Barron was almost always there. His oldest brother, Dunnie, was the same age as my brother, Harry, and they hung out together. Barron and I were four years younger, and they wouldn’t give us the time of day. Poor Roddey was in between, and had no cousin. Neither pair would allow him to be a part of their doings.

Barron and I enjoyed getting into mischief together. Two memories stand out.

1)                  We wanted one of the nice ripe peaches from the fruit safe hung on the back of Mama Joe’s house in Montreat. Mary, Mama Joe’s cook, would have been glad to give us a peach each, though she would have given us grief at the same time. But it was much more fun to search for the perfect sapling, cut it down, attach an old paper clip or hook of some kind to the end of it, and then, lying on the bank above the kitchen (this was the mountains, and the dirt had to be cut out to make a place to build the house, leaving a 15-foot wall at the back of the house), quietly lift the latch of the safe, spear a peach, and slowly and carefully reel it back in. I think we removed the peach from the hook, and carefully and painstakingly relatched the door of the safe, too.

2)                  We loved the adventure of frog gigging. Lake Susan was a central feature of Montreat from my earliest days. And at night, you could hear the frogs. Some of them were pretty good sized. We’d go down there with a good flashlight, take off our shoes, walk along in the shadows until we came to a big frog, previously located by shining the spot from the bank. Then holding the spot on the frog with your left hand to “freeze” him, you grabbed him with the other. Big frogs like to lie in the shallow water with their legs out behind them, so you could grab the legs with one finger between the frog’s legs and one on the outer side of the two legs. Then, no matter how slippery (and they were very slippery), the frog could not escape. I never enjoyed killing them, but how would you get to eat the legs if you didn’t?

3)                  On another occasion, Barron and I had to exercise a little more ingenuity in order to have our frog legs. Dr. Anderson, President of the Montreat Cottage Owners’ Association, and Montreat College, was the “power” structure of Montreat. Perhaps there were complaints about us gigging frogs, but at any rate, a law officer was hired from Black Mountain, and began patrolling the lake to prevent our gigging, and generally to maintain the peace during the confeences. I forget which conference was on at the time of this incident, perhaps the Women’s Conference. At any rate, when we arrived down at the lake to gig some frogs, we went to the little platform where a diving board and tower used to be, next to Assembly Drive, just below the Inn. The law officer was there, packing his pistol. We engaged him in conversation for a while, commiserating on the devilment the kids got up to these days. He was all business. They were going to be in for a surprise.

Barron and I then walked a good ways up Lookout Road, up onto the trail, and lit a firecracker with a very long, 10-minute fuse (we had done some careful research and preparation that afternoon), came back down the road about 200 yards, lit one with a bit shorter fuse, and repeated the process all the way down the mountain to the lake, just giving ourselves time to join the law officer to renew our earlier conversation before the first firecracker went off, close to the lake. Off he rushed to catch those d____d boys, with the carefully delayed firecrackers leading him ever higher up the mountain.

We had our frogs and were on the way home long before he got back.

We also raided the Anderson Auditorium for the little booklets about Montreat, because the paper was nice and heavy, and we could cut them up and make bullets out of them for shooting with a slingshot. We had lots of wars with other friends and cousins. We held our own with Harry and Dunnie, even, until they began making guns out of the slats that held bundles of shingles, nailing a couple of pieces of shingle to the slats for handles, then making ammunition out of strips of old innertubes. A clothespin stolen from the line and nailed to the back end of the slat made it possible to put the innertube over the end of the slat, stretch it back to the clothespin, fasten it in, then aim it and fire it by pushing on the clothespin to make it release the innertube. When you got hit with one of those things, it really smarted.

I also ran with Buck Troutman in Montreat for a while. And Pete Schmitz and Stanley Paul. But I don’t recall any mischief. I think all three were in the clubs with me.

In High School, we had a little clique, called Eta Beta Pi, which was a take-off on the fraternities and sororities. We pronounced it “Eat a bite of pie.” I forget all of the members, but Web Chandler, Nancy Outland (the two later married), Doris Schmoele (my steady) and I were in it. We did things together. Then I broke up with Doris and started going steady with Laulie Belle Friedlin. I don’t recall how that impacted Eta Beta Pi.

During WWII, I don’t recall any close friends, except for bridge buddies, and they were not close. In college, it was the same. I knew a lot of guys, but was close to no one.

In seminary, I played a lot of ping pong, instead of studying. There was one guy, Morrell Robinson, who always made it to the finals of the annual tournament, only to lose to me. Except the year he pointed out to me that I always grabbed the seam of my left pants leg with my left hand when I hit a slam. I couldn’t hit anything after that and he won. Morrell would come and stand outside the double doors of the library and look at me sitting at a table trying to study. He’d wave the paddles and ball back and forth, and I’d be a goner. Of course, I had chosen to sit at the table facing the doors! This happened with some regularity. We’d go down to the basement and play ping pong until the library closed. I wonder what ever happened to Morrell?

After I graduated from Emory, Jean McClarin and I went to Yale University School of Oriental Languages under the auspices of the Board of Missions of the United Methodist Church, to study Japanese language and culture. There I met Dave Swain. He and I shared a gift for languages, and soon hit it off. This continued in Japan, where we were at the Naganuma Language School in Tokyo. We were so good and our learning pace so fast, that the principal had a hard time finding anyone else who was able to learn at our pace. He’d move us out of the class we had been in because the others couldn’t keep up with us, but the same thing would happen in the next class. Finally, he gave us our own teacher in a class for just the two of us. I guess that cemented our friendship. It has persisted through nearly 60 years. I think true friendship is like this. You may not see each other for several years, and then, you are together and it is just like it always was.

I have written elsewhere about our ToKaiDo trek, when we took the last two weeks of language school and walked from Tokyo to Kyoto, a distance of about 300 miles. Dave sent me a copy of a picture I took of him standing on the old road, talking to a farmer. I had lost my negative, and I appreciated it very much. The picture hangs in our dining room.

In 2004, Dave and I celebrated the 50th anniversary of that trek by driving down the DelMarVa peninsula together and visiting historical sites. Again, David did all the research, and I went along for the ride. Great fun. And a few years ago, we did an UGRR (Underground Railroad) trek by car in upper New York State. Dave’s brother, Bill, joined us.

The bonds of friendship are very special.

A few years ago, Ron Henderson, spouse of one of Emily Jean’s residents at St. Luke’s Hospital and I became friends. It was nothing like the friendship with Dave, but we worked out together for two years three days a week, were part of a Foodies Club, and had each other over for dinner with our spouses a few times. We hated to see them move to Suffolk, but Mary found a good job down there. We talk on the phone occasionally. Ron is the one who told me about 23andme. My DNA report just came, we were on the phone not ten minutes ago, comparing notes, to see if we have common ancestors/relatives. They’re moving to Fredericksburg VA which is closer. Good.

Emily Jean is my best friend. We met through the ACPE, when she sat in to observe a Certification Committee subcommittee. The thinking at the time was that if people in the process could experience a committee’s functioning without the anxiety of trying to pass, it might help them when the time came for their official appearance. We met a candidate, the session ended, and we debriefed. Afterwards, we all sat around talking, while waiting for the next session to begin, and Emily Jean remarked that she had decided not to keep her appointment with the National Certification Commission. I was much impressed, because I knew she was going to sacrifice the enormous fee she had already paid for that appearance. I thought that anyone who could make a choice like that had to be pretty mature. So she was on my radar after that, and when Joan Dominick and I separated, I called Emily Jean for a date. We had one in Brooklyn, where she lived at the time. It was near disastrous, to hear her tell it, with me anxiously prattling, ignoring the carefully chosen jazz music she was playing, trying to find out if I appreciated music. She found out. I attempted a reconciliation with Joan, canceling a second date I had made with Emily Jean, but that did not work out, so when the Regional Conference was held in Puerto Rico, we had another date, which led to a passionate kiss, standing in theh warm waters of the Caribbean, other fireworks, living together in Brooklyn for nearly two years, marriage and working together at two hospitals for a period of nearly 15 years. We  celebrated the 35th year of our relationship in 2012.

We have had our struggles, but there is mutual love and commitment which has not failed. And Cinco de Mayo…


I have always been on the small side, 5’ 9” or less, probably 5’7” now. But I have always been active, well-coordinated, so that I was above average in the sort of pick-up games we used to play. I was never the last one chosen, that painful fate of some children. And I was pretty healthy all my life until recently.

I had the normal number of accidents growing up. I broke my left arm jumping out of a swing in Mama Joe’s back yard, competing with my cousin, Barron, to see who could jump the furthest. I won, but I went up and then down, rather than out for distance. I recall reading Mama Joe’s notation in her diary many years after her death. I’ve forgotten the exact date, but I think it was July. Her entry was cryptic, to the effect that Randolph broke his arm jumping out of the swing. It’s still a little bent where they set it wrong.

I seem to have had weak ankles, and when I was about 10 or so, had a series of sprains which slowed me down. Then, when I was 12, I was carrying telegrams for Western Union in Montreat, and turned one pretty bad coming down a hill. I went to a house nearby, explained that I had sprained my ankle, asked them to give me a tea towel that I could make a bandage out of. In Scouts, I had learned all kinds of bandages, including the ankle bandage, so I knew just what to do. (I still do.) I tied on the bandage, and began to limp back toward the Assembly Inn, where the Western Union office was. As I rounded Fellowship Hall beside the lake, I had a long flight of concrete steps to go down, so I was hopping from step to step on my good ankle, holding the sprained one up, when I sprained the good one. I fell down the stairs to the bottom, not really hurting myself except for the second sprain. So I took off the bandage, ripped it lengthwise to make two bandages, bound up both ankles, and crawled home. From that time on, my ankles were constantly turning because the ligaments had been stretched.

Then at VMI, I was playing softball with other brother rats, when I really got hurt. It fell to my lot to be the catcher. I was unafraid, and a good catcher. So when an opposing player was running for home after an infield grounder, I blocked off the plate, planning to take the throw and tag him out. He was a big guy, I had no padding or other protection except for a mask, and he hit my outstretched left leg with all his weight, feet first. The bone snapped.

We had arrived at V.M.I. in early September, and this was early October. For the rest of my time there ( only one semester.), I was on crutches or walking with a cane, so I was spared much of the inconvenience of walking the Rat Line. But when the Enlisted Reserve, in which I had signed up, was called in March, 1943, I was gone from VMI, and gimpy leg or no gimpy leg, during Infantry training, I was walking the miles with the rest of the guys. I think it took the full time of the war (3 years for me) before I could walk without limping. I have no residual effects today.

I was in the hospital only four times that I recall. The first was to have my tonsils out. I remember quite well how nice it was to have all the custard ice cream I wanted, whenever I wanted it, and driving my toy trucks around the blankets, filled with pennies that visitors gave me..

The second time was when Roddey and I were in the Boy Scouts, Troop 20, located at Ghent Methodist Church not far from our neighborhood. We went on an overnight hike to our campground. Morris Forsberg, our scoutmaster, was delayed getting out to the campground, and we ran wild. Among other mischief, we chopped down a mighty pine, causing it to fall right in the middle of a little lake next to the campground, which we could use only because of the kindness of the owner of the land. Then we had a war throwing sticks at each other, and used our only partially built huts for ammunition, tearing them apart, and throwing them at each other. Finally, exhausted, we had a big bonfire, burning up all the wood we had taken from our destroyed huts, and a lot more besides. It was a huge fire, and we danced around, in and out of the smoke. Unfortunately for Roddey and me, there were a good many pieces of poison oak/ivy thrown in the fire. After many years of growth in the woods, these vines can be as big around as your arm, but still filled with poison. We got it so bad we had to be hospitalized. My eyes swelled shut so that I couldn’t see. Roddey’s arms swelled so that he could not bend his elbows. When we finally were discharged from the hospital and brought home, Mother wasted no sympathy on us. She delivered our meals to her and Dad’s bed where we both were, and we soon caught on that I was to dip up a spoonful from one plate, hold it out, and Roddey, able to see, would bring his mouth to it and take it. Then, he would dip a spoonful for me, and put it in my mouth. This went on for about two weeks, when we went back to school, only to be sent home by the school nurse because the scabs on our hands were so terrible looking. When we came back to school wearing white gloves, we were admitted.

The third time I was in the hospital was also because of poison ivy. I was now in the 84th Infantry Division, and we were having maneuvers in the swamps of New Orleans, near Baton Rouge, I believe. I hated being there in all the heat, being bitten by mosquitoes, and still being ordered around by dumb non-coms. So when I noticed a few poison ivy blisters on my hands, I deliberately rubbed them to make them worse, and wound up in the hospital again. The palms of my hands peeled off, and scared me, but it was worth it. The food was great, the beds were clean, and the nurses were lovely.

The last time I was in the hospital was about ten years ago. Genevieve was about 12 or 13 and was coming to visit us. We had planned to take her to Dorney Park, so she would be able to ride on the coasters. While her plane was in the air on the way from Colorado Springs, I fell off a stepladder while pruning webworms out of one of our walnut trees. Normally, such a fall would not have caused me any problems. I know how to hit and roll. Unfortunately, I misjudged my landing, hitting my right heel on the bottom step with all my weight on it. It was smashed. I had to crawl to the back door, and into the house to get help. Emily Jean was home, but did not, at first, hear my calling. Finally, I got some help, was driven to the hospital, and kept overnight by the orthopod, who was against operating to set the heel, pointing out to me that research had indicated better results with allowing the heel to harden where it was. So on the xray of the broken heel, I have four heels. The podiatrist told me much later than it was a miracle I was not in a wheelchair for life. I count my blessings, despite many problems stemming from that accident.

While in the hospital on this occasion, a very funny thing happened. The orthopod who was keeping me in the hospital overnight told me that he was sending over a gadget for me to breath into. He emphasized that it was very important for people my age to do this in order to prevent pneuomia. Genevieve had arrived, thanks to a friend who met her at the airport, and Emily Jean, Genevieve and I were in the room with the other patient. They were talking, and I suddenly remembered what the doctor had said about the breathing gadget. I picked up the microphone attached to the bed for the patient to call the nurse for help, which goes over the loud speaker so that everyone on the floor can hear, and when the nurse asked how she could help me, I said:

"The doctor said I was supposed to get a blow job, and I want it right away."

There was a stunned silence from the nurse's station and Emily Jean and Genevieve stared at me in horror. Finally, the nurse responded, "Chaplain, I'll be there in just a moment to see what you need." I did get the device and I was able to avoid pneumonia, but the story has plagued me ever since!

I saw a neurosurgeon over at St. Luke’s, where Emily Jean was Director of Pastoral Care, about growing weakness in my legs, and he found that I had four discs in a row, all of which were threatening to rupture. If only two, he would have recommended surgery to fuse them. With four, it was impossible. He sent me to a Physical Therapist, who worked with me, and guided me to the Fitness Department of St. Luke’s, where I began an exercise program which I still follow, although I now go to Planet Fitness, closer to our house. Had I not done this, I think I would undoubtedly be in that wheelchair, or dead.

My chiropractor was very helpful over this period. I went to see Dr. Mark Augello on referral from Martha Frith Palm. I called her out in Sausalito CA and told her I wanted her to fly East and give me an adjustment. She laughed, and agreed to give me a referral to someone who used the same approach she did. I rely on working out only now.

The scoliosis of my spine resulting from walking on my injured leg without an orthotic lift for nearly five years after the injury, has resulted in great fatigue when walking. I used to be able to hike for miles without a problem, but it’s always a cane now, and for more challenging situations (museums), I use a rollator , and sometimes a wheelchair. I never make a trip any more without giving careful thought to this limitation.

I also have macular degeneration, which seems to be genetic. Both Mother and Kitty became blind because of it, and Perry Lee told me about “eye vitamins” years ago, so I know she had it. Mother’s father, Papa Joe, was blind in his last years, so I suspect he had it, too. I was diagnosed with it some years ago, and have been followed closely. So far it is “dry” macular degeneration, but it could switch to “wet” at any time with dire consequences. Although the paper today had an article about a new treatment for “wet” macular degeneration which is miraculous.

Another effect of macular degeneration is night blindness. I discovered it several years ago when I visited Kitty in Charlottesville. I arrived just at dusk, and it was raining. I heard lots of horns blowing, and to my astonishment, discovered that I was in the wrong lane driving against oncoming traffic. Fortunately, there was no accident, and I got back to my side of the road. Now I am accustomed to planning carefully to drive only when the sun is brightly shining.

Two lens implants may have helped, but they have not solved the problem.

Another problem I have is GERD. (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). This is pretty much controlled by taking omeprazole once a day, more often if needed. Diet also helps. I try to keep intake of certain foods to a minimum. Among them are tomatoes, garlic, raw onions, citrus, caffeine, chocolate, all fried foods, and fats. I remember one evening when we had a coupon for a local Italian restaurant and went just as I was in the middle of a sort of outbreak of the GERD. When the waitress came, I asked, “What do you have that has no tomatoes and garlic in it?" There was a roar of laughter from customers at tables nearby.


My first experience of therapy was with Dr. Paul Johnson, retired professor of Pastoral Counseling at Boston University. Dr. Johnson, after retirement, came to Japan under the auspices of the Board of World Missions of the United Methodist Church for a year to assess the needs of Japan for services in this field. He spent six months living and working in the Tokyo area, and six months in the Kansai (western Honshu), near Osaka. He was housed on our campus, at Kwansei Gakuin, and I was requested to manage his itinerary. In addition to doing this, I talked with him a great deal about personal matters, and I asked if he would give me counseling. He agreed, and I asked Jean, my wife, to go with me. She agreed, reluctantly, to go, but was unwilling to continue.

I continued to work with him for several months. I don’t know what was accomplished, except that Dr. Johnson urged me to go back to B. U. to work on a doctorate in Psychology of Pastoral Care.

When I got to B. U., I soon learned that anyone going into the field was expected to do therapy in order to know themselves. I again asked Jean to accompany me. She again declined. I went to see a psychiatrist to consult him about getting “didactic therapy.” At the end of the hour, he asked where my wife was. I said she refused to come. He said bring her next time. He then said that I did not need didactic therapy, about which I had inquired. He said I needed therapy.

Jean came with me the next week for the one session, then chose not to go back. I decided to go on anyway for myself. It was the beginning of the end of our marriage. The  more work I did on myself, the more I realized how much I was holding back my negative feelings in the relationship. So I began trying to express them. The problems became worse. Finally, I decided to separate from her. I was already living out at Boston State Hospital a good bit of the week, coming home on week-ends. It was a painful time for all of us, perhaps especially for the kids.

After Joan Dominick and I had been married a year or two, I realized that she had a problem with alcohol, and that I had a problem with rage. Friends encouraged me to go to Al-Anon, and after much resistance, I did. I have no doubt it saved my life. Had I not gone and gotten some relief and release with fellow-sufferers, I have no doubt I would have killed Joan, and would have been in prison or dead. It was not therapy, but it was wonderfully therapeutic. I kept my identity as a minister hidden, wanting to be there as a person with the same problem as everybody else, not as clergy. No one ever found out. But I was able to give leadership along with everyone else. I remember doing a program on anger one night when it was my turn. I invited everyone there who wished to share, to tell about their own struggle with anger. Without exception, as we went around the circle of nearly 30 people, all were struggling. One woman, about 4 feet 10 inches tall, told how she blew her stack and beat her 6 foot four inch husband over the head with her spike heels. There were many such stories. I was in good company, and it helped a lot.

After a while in Al-Anon, I got into therapy with a woman who had come through the fire with an alcoholic partner, gotten training and become a counselor. She was a good listener, but more importantly, she started every session with a question. It was a question that I dreaded more and more each week. By this time I had told her all my troubles with Joan and her drinking, and there were no more surprises. Her question was always the same, “What do you want?” And my answer was usually the same, for many, many weeks: “I don’t know.”

Finally, I did know, and it was to stop living with an alcoholic and her abuse. So I did. A year later, I ran into Joan on the street, and she looked like a different person. We spoke, and I learned that she had begun going to A. A. within days of my leaving. She had stopped drinking entirely, and had lost weight. She looked like a million dollars. I was impressed, and felt that our marriage deserved another chance, although I had already had a brief affair with one woman, and one date with Emily Jean. I called Emily Jean and cancelled a second date already made, telling her that I wanted to try to save my marriage. She understood. I think it took me all of three weeks to determine that Joan was what is referred to as “a dry drunk.” The alcohol was gone, but the abuse was not. I left again, and Emily Jean and I resumed our relationship in Puerto Rico.

When we realized that something big was happening, we both, almost at the same moment, made clear that we were not going to enter into a long-term relationship unless the other was open to conjoint therapy. I recall the sense of relief when I heard her pushing me to get therapy. I had wanted Jean to join me in therapy, and she had refused. So we began doing conjoint therapy with Arthur Tingue, a CPE Supervisor, Diplomate in the American Association for Pastoral Counselors, and one of the founders of ACPE. Emily Jean had already been seeing him in both individual and group sessions. Now she added conjoint with me, and I began seeing him also in individual therapy. We continued four almost five years, two before we married, and nearly three after. I’m quite sure this work with Arthur accounts in large part for our still being together.

One thing that became quite clear was that therapy was something to be resorted to at any time our relationship seemed to be in trouble. After we moved to Allentown, we found another therapist at one point and worked with her for about six months. And we’re both open to going back if we feel a need to.


I know what aging is now. When you are young and you get hurt or have an ache, you know that in a short time, it will be history. When you get old, you know that it is not going to go away. With such a simple change of expectation, you know you have become old!

I went to Boston University to work toward a Ph. D. in Psychology of Pastoral Care, and decided to focus on Pastoral Care of the Elderly. My timing was right—had I completed the dissertation and demonstrated some expertise in this then burgeoning field, I would have had my future laid out for me. I’m very glad I did not, because then I would have never gotten into CPE, which is where I really belonged.

During my first semester of residency, I decided it would be helpful to take a course in gerontology, and joined the nurses in the Nursing School to take the course. I recall that one of the nurses asked the professor for a definition of aging. “Aging,” he replied, “is a process of becoming more and more like what you have always been.” So wise. And so true.

I am very comfortable getting old. I know that I will not live forever, although my mother and father both lived a long time, and Mama Joe was over a hundred when she died. I am glad to be here, glad to be without debilitating pain, and very glad to have discovered that they have a beautiful hospice in Bethlehem. It’s officially known as Hospice House of the Visiting Nurse Association of St. Luke’s Hospital. I’m working on getting them to put up bluebird houses in their back yard so I’ll have some when I get there!

If pain gets bad, or my limitations increase so that I can do less and less on my own, I expect I will not be so happy with the aging process, but, for now, it’s OK. And I resent very much any assumption that I would prefer to pretend that I am young. The “greeter” at Weis Market used to say as I came in or left, “Hello, there, Young Fellow!” I hated it. I confronted him once or twice about it, once very angrily. But I realized afterwards that it was my problem, because he is a little dim. Besides, how should he be expected to recognize me when I come in, among the thousands of people he sees every day. So, though it is irritating to be called “young” when we both know I’m not, I let it go.


Haiku and other Poetry Through the Years
I would be leaving out a big piece of my spiritual journey is I failed to include my haiku poems. In the section on Japan (Vol. II), I related the story of a week-end at a Zen temple when a mixed group of Japanese intellectuals and American missionaries wrote haiku poems and shared them.

After that week-end, I found that writing poetry, especially haiku, was a freeing experience for me, enabling me to give expression to my deepest feelings that I was unable to express in any other way. Each poem arises out of a specific time and place and my feelings about what was happening at the time. Wherever I can recall the context, I will give it.

[On the occasion of the burial of my baby, or on later reflection.]

           I looked but did not see—
                    I heard rather than saw
                             The clods fall on the coffin.
           And my heart turned to stone.

Dec. 21, 1954
[National Training Laboratory Conference, Japan]

          Poor flowers! Still bravely blooming
                  On the table by the window, hiding
                         Death behind their smiling faces.


          Threatening thoughts, voices intruding—
                    Blank out, dethink.
                             Fear, despair, void.


          Nightmare of soul-raft, roaring river.
                   Hate-faces line the banks, staring.

May 8, 1966
Wellesley, MA

          Such a loveliness:
                     Our family is incomplete—
                               One empty chair.

          Brown and yellow umbrellas
                    Glistening with Heaven’s kiss.
                               Spring again!


          The eerie stillness
                     Of dawn’s darkness is shattered!
                              God paints us yellow.


          Windblown, buffeted,
                      Bamboo kisses Mother Earth.
                               But when the sun shines…


          Tiny shoot agreening—
                    Guard it well, my soul.
                               In time, a daffodil!


          That sweet smell in the night air
                    When I stand close to you?
                                A red, red rose.

Fifties or Sixties

          Storm’s terror and
                   Rain-sheets stilled.
                             Imagine that! The sky is blue!

          Dark clouds pressed
                   Upon a weary world,
                             And a yellow rose wept one tear.

          Tiny piper flit-flirting
                   With roseate wavelets
                             Ne’er wet his feet.

Boston area

          Time turns strength to rubble,
                   Present viewed with future’s eyes
                            O God, be near.

          Yes! All bones and skulls, weathering.
                   When these bricks are gone,
                            God is still with us.

          Bomb’s aftermath,
                   Beasts among the rubble,
                            Christ, then and now, in our hearts.

December 23, 1965

“Empathy with Schizophrenia”
 (Written during Clinical Pastoral Education Internship at Boston State Hospital.)

O God--
            My skin crawls at the color of a scream.
The empty vastness of space is crushed
            By the enormity of a baby’s tears.
How could love ooze from a hairbrush?

            The teeth of my soul grind and gnaw,
Tearing my heart. I am destroyed.
            Yet it will not end.

The hate I feel feel feel before the pasted smiles—
            They smile and simper their wooden roles
Of loving uncle, sister and son,
            But I hear their heart-beat.

I know the color of death. I smell
            The stench of their hard shells
Covering over fear, hate and self-pity
            With the mean mask of Motherhood.

Is there none to give me of himself?
            Is there none to speak the
Life-giving word to my starved soul?

O God--
O God--
O God--
            Teach my eyes to wait,
            My ears to ponder the sweeter sounds,
            My heart to search for the door

To what?
            To life and the way of it.

O my soul!
            Suffer not my rebel feet to
Draw back again. There is nought for thee
            In the darkness there, hidden
Alone from the outness, the noness.

Wait not, o my soul, for a gift!
            New ears and eyes and heart for thee?
Take now the shrill terror of the ancient
            Babe into thy quaking heart, and
Of it Life make.
            Give it with quaking soul, and
Receive it again.

            So shalt thou know thine own pangs
Of birth. So shalt thou live.

            Scream, odious green of false faces—
No, I’ll not give way.
            Shriek, yea, cry aloud thy pleas
And beckonings to doom’s darkness--
            For me no turning now.

            Ye shall not wound me more.
For me now, an opening into the
            Glory of a light-bursting tomorrow--

Today, ah yes, today, I’ll kneel--
            Today, I’ll kneel at the manger
For now at long last, the star has shone,
            His light been born for me.

August 7, 1968
[Overlook Hospital, Summit, NJ. For Jim Cooper and the Turtle Group.]

          Foaming sand, crashing waves—
                  A solitary mound wept
                           One snow-white egg.

February 1, 1976
[Visiting Caroline and Marv at their church in Denver, during a sermon by the Minister of Finance, who was undoubtedly better at handling money than at preaching.]

          Ten thousand starlings
                   Clustering the pine branches—
                            I can’t hear you, Lord.

          Oh, for a bird song
                   To sweeten my evening.
                           Winter chills my soul

          Prairie tumbleweed
                    Blowing aimlessly about—
                           Yet courage takes root.

          Pain behind my eyes—
                   Clanging, pounding dissonance.
                           Thus my spirit cries.

February 7, 1976
[Greymoor Friars, Garrison, NY, during Eastern Region Conference. Written for Jean Gilbert, who was having a “down” time. We were not in a relationship then.]

          Wintry ungreen hills,
                   Cold snow-covered barrenness—
                           Season of waiting.

May, 1976
[Forest Lawn Cemetery, Norfolk, VA, while visiting my son, Donald’s, grave—it was raining.]

          Heart and leaden sky—
                  My baby boy’s stone is wet
                           With tears—mine and God’s.

June 29, 1976
Montreat, NC

           I heard a bird sing
                    At midnight in the moonlight.
                             Lovely loneliness.

March, 1977
[With Catherine at Harvey Cedars, at the Jersey Shore.]

           A long, cold winter—
                  ‘Ere yet I looked, a crocus.
                            Lovely secret shared.

March 22, 1977
Overlook Hospital Chapel

                  Rain trickles down my neck. Wet.
                          Listen! A crocus.

          A rose blooming midst
                  A mad mob of daffodils—
                         Somehow out of place.

          The dogwood, they say,
                   Is riddled, its bark peeling,
                          Its heart eaten out.

          Where can I find joy?
                   If it’s not somewhere within,
                          Hidden from me, where?

           Doing a new thing!
                   Making something new happen—
                           That’s where true joy is.

May 8, 1977
[On Eastern Flight 271 returning to Atlanta from the Eastern Region, ACPE Conference in Puerto Rico, where Emily Jean and I had “connected” in a very serious way. We fell in love during the conference there.]

          Suspended in blue
                  And kissed by apricot eyes
                         I am home again.

May, 1977

          Red clay, Kelly woods
                  And lonely miles between us.
                          Apricot and blue.

July 3, 1977
[In June, 1977, I moved in with Emily Jean in Brooklyn. Our third housemate was Bill Altham, a friend of hers from Union Seminary. Emily Jean had a yellow cat, Butterscotch.]

          Feigning interest
                  In butterflies, a yellow
                           Cat is watching me.

July 24, 1977
[I thought about writing Bill Altham a poem for his birthday yesterday, and couldn’t. During the Judson Church service…]

          I tried to enter
                  Your space, there to discover
                           And greet you. I failed.

          How can I open
                  A flower for you ‘til I
                           Know who, what you are?

October 1, 1977
[Judson Retreat, Ivoryton, CT. Written upon hearing the news that Al Carmines was in the hospital with a brain-stem aneurysm.]

          Raining then and now—
                  God’s promise, the rainbow, glows
                          Brightest midst dark clouds.

November 17, 1977
[Emily Jean took me to a birthday party for her friend, Linda Clark, not long after we began to live together in Brooklyn. Everyone present except me had graduated from Union Theological Seminary, and were old friends. I was feeling overwhelmed by knowing no one, and retreated into my own head. I noticed that Linda was wearing an orange dress, and that her hair was turning grey. This was my present to her.]

          Orange persimmons—
                  Beautiful, but much nicer
                          When they’re touched by frost.

February 5, 1978

          Behind massive walls
                 Our cloistered family lives,
                          Loving, quiet; here.

          But in that great wall
                 A door opens to the world—
                         We go out gladly.

April 26, 1978
[Eastern Regional Conference, Lancaster, PA.]

          I can’t remember,
                  But I thought I saw the sun
                         Bright gold this morning.

          The mimosa, too,
                  With nightfall and black darkness,
                           Closes its eye-leafs.

June 7, 1978

          I was ready when
                  The leaves fell from your drooper—
                           But, oh, my elm tree!

July 7, 1978

          Far off in the sky,
                   A red-tailed hawk slowly sails.
                            Lonely, a clear view.

Sometime in 1978
visiting Bergen County Jail

          A star fell on me!
                 O, let stars fall and touch them
                          Behind slatted bars.

June 22, 1980
[During Judson Service; Dad died September 16, 1979]

          Oh, my Father, oh—
                  Lovely man. I remember.
                          Oh, oh, my Father.

July 28, 1981
CPE Retreat, Darlington

          Under a rose leaf
                   I found a caterpillar
                          Chewing merrily!

April 21, 1987
[CPE Worship led by me. All wrote haiku poems and shared them. I read some of mine. I wrote this poem, thinking about the cursor as I work with my computer.]

          Busy buzzy bee!
                 Moving so fast to and fro
                          It can’t smell the flow’rs.

April 27, 1988

          Our crocus are gone,
                  Our hosta are still buried—
                           But spring stirs my soul.

Summer, 1989

          Rainy, then clearing,
                  Life’s like a summer shower—
                          Surprise! We’re all soaked!

Date uncertain

           Chill soul-wind blowing,
                  Sere leaves quiver, soon will fall.
                          You will all leave me.

Dick Schaffer’s Birthday

October 5, 2005

          In the autumn of life,
                 When the trees are all dressed up,
                          It’s leaf-peeping time!

Emily Jean’s Birthday

October 19, 2005

          The days come and go,
                 With a rhythm all their own.
                         We’re here, and it’s good.

Catherine’s Birthday

October 23, 2005

          Such a tiny seed.
                How quickly it grew into
                        A beautiful tree!

2006 Haiku Diary Selections
[My New Year’s Resolution for 2006 was to write a haiku each day of the year. This is a selection from those.]

Sunday, January 1st

2.         I see a blue light—
                    Interstices of heaven.
                            O, please speak to me!

Friday, January 6th
[A friend, Sharon, was dying.]

9.         Where is God today?
                    Auschwitz, Sago, Sharon’s bed.
                            God hurts with us all.

Thursday, January 12th

19.       Growing old – the pits.
                    Just when you need ev’rything,
                            It’s hardest to get.

20.       It ain’t right. It ain’t
                   Right. It ain’t right. It ain’t right.
                            We say: “It ain’t right.”

Sunday, January 15th

25.       Hypocritical
                   Cynic that I am—O God,
                           Save me from myself!

Thursday, January 19th

33.       “Walk on him! Wake him!
                   “It’s past five! Get up! Feed us!”
                           My morning greeting.

Saturday, January 21st

35.       How much time is left?
                   Day by day, the time runs out.
                           There’s still time to love.

Saturday, January 28th

47.       Sitting here alone,
                   Enjoying my solitude—
                           That is a blessing!

Friday, February 3rd
[Catherine asked us to board her cat, Joe, for a few days/weeks until she could get into the apartment she had leased in NJ. Upon reading the fine print (“No pets.”), Joe’s stay became a matter of months.]

62.       Joe, cheese and water
                   Determined immiscible
                           On the table cloth.

Sunday, February 5th

65.       The wind is blowing.
                  Old sailors wet their fingers
                          And then hold them up.

67.       I won a race once
                  By gambling on a wind shift
                          To blow me home first.

68.       Yet I know nothing
                  About making a new wind
                          To bring us all home.

Tuesday, February 7th

71.       How I want to be
                  My own person! Our five cats
                          Are, effortlessly.

Sunday, February 12th

82.       All snowed in today—
                  We’ll have a complete day off,
                          Enjoy being home.

Tuesday, February 14th

87.       Drive the speed limit.
                  No telling how many lives
                         We can save that way.

Wednesday, February 15th
[Joe Duggan, former resident of ours, and former Jesuit seminarian, then Roman Catholic seminarian, who contended unsuccessfully with church authorities, became a very successful Human Resources specialist with enormous responsibilities in his company. He left it to become a candidate for ordination in the Episcopal church. After further struggles at Episcopal Divinity School, he completed his studies, was ordained, and at the time of writing, was in England, working at an advanced degree. He received his Ph. D. from Manchester University. The "gators" reference those with whom he contended.]

89.       I celebrate Joe
                 Risen above the gators.
                        He will climb higher.

Thursday, February 16th

92        We’re in the middle
                  Between question and answer.
                        We are all Hamlet.

Friday, February 17th
[Em Finney’s brother, John, a world-class organist, came to Packer Chapel, Lehigh University, to give a memorial concert for the mother of Lloyd Steffen, Professor of Religious Studies and Chaplain of the University. Em is Lloyd’s wife.]

96.       And what’s this music,
                 If not God’s great miracle
                     Sent to fill our souls?

Saturday, February 18th

97.       Lying in your arms
                  On a Saturday morning—
                        At home and at peace.

Sunday, February 19th
[One of the first times I attended Hope UCC, the congregation sang “Happy Birthday!” to those who had a birthday in that month. As we sang, they ate apples and honey. I was powerfully moved by this homegrown ritual. I thought I was weird to be moved!]

99.       Apples and honey!
                 God’s way of calling is strange.
                       Weird ways for weird folks.

[Ten of us—our Gathering―meet every other Sunday for “check-in,” discussion and worship. One Sunday afternoon, when we were meeting at our house at 5:30, we saw three bluebirds on a limb of our walnut tree over the holly bushes, red with fruit which they like to eat.]

100.     Just at four today,
                  Three came for the Gathering.
                         Cold, hungry bluebirds!

Friday, February 24th

110.     Catherine and Joe
                   Left for Phoenix this morning.
                          How quiet the house.

Tuesday, February 28th

115.     Blue sky and white snow.
                   And I thought winter was done.
                         The groundhog was right.

Sunday, March 5th

130.     The rainbow tells us
                   God, too, needs a reminder
                         To keep Covenant.

132.     Look! Red oak-flowers
                   Telling of spring’s coming joy!
                           I love that color.

Wednesday, March 8th
[The Methodist Church put Rev. Beth Stroud on trial for openly living with her lesbian partner, took away her ordination credentials. I decided I could no longer be a Methodist minister, and surrendered my papers to the bishop of the NY Conference, of which I was a member.]

143.     Son and granddaughter
                   Both gay. If no room for them,
                         There’s no place for me.

Thursday, March 9th

147.     Reading Canaan’s Edge.
                   Loved the poor, protested war—
                          We had to kill him.

Sunday, March 12th

160.     In the wilderness,
                   There is darkness ‘til Easter.
                          We’ll welcome our Lord.

161.     Rainy, gloomy day—
                   Seems to invite reflection.
                           So fitting for Lent.

Wednesday, March 15th

169.     Caroline’s birthday!
                  All day quite aware of her—
                          I feel greatly blessed.

Monday, March 20th

181.     “Headed for the Y.”
                    We should have bumper stickers
                           That tell our story!

182.     The sky is all blue.
                     What are these snowflakes I see?
                             Supposed to be spring.

183.     Patriotism.
                     We know how to hate and kill—
                              Can we learn to love?

185.     “Swords into plowshares”—
                     This idea has been around
                              For a long, long time.

Thursday, March 23rd

194.     I am alone now.
                    Emily Jean is away.
                              Thank God for the cats.

Friday, March 31st

209.     A beautiful day
                    Warm, sunshiny. 74.
                              Where are the bluebirds?

Tuesday, April 4th
[A member of our congregation at Hope UCC in Allentown, killed himself.]

218.     I am a slow dirge
                    Of dark feelings. I just hold
                           Michele and her boys.

[I am aware of the feelings of the members of the congregation.]

220.     Our pain’s palpable.
                    Let your love flow over us
                           And heal all our hurt.

Wednesday, April 5th

223.     I can always choose
                    What I want to do and be.
                           It’s my business.

Sunday, April 9th

227.     Snow fell yesterday.
                   Blanketed the ground, melted.
                           No, it’s not yet spring.

Monday, April 10th

229.     We went for a drive
                   Through the Valley. Forsythia
                            Is really gorgeous.

Friday, April 14th
[My brother, Roddey, dug some of Mother’s daffodil bulbs from her back yard when she died in 1990, and before the property was sold. He planted them in his yard in Ashland, VA, dug them up and separated them and offered me some of his surplus. I was delighted, planted them in a corner of our yard where we used to have raspberries.]

236.     I like Mother's smiles
                    Much better than raspberries
                             Down in the corner!

Sunday, April 16th
[My nephew, Jimmy, is in prison. We doubt he is guilty, but he’s there.]

239.     Jimmy, it’s Easter!
                    Beyond the bars, and within—
                             Our Lord is risen.

240.     Sister Perry Lee
                    Is 90 today—Easter.
                             Happy Birthday, Dear!

Thursday, April 20th
[My urologist told me of a procedure which would relieve the symptoms which accompany enlarged prostate. It’s called Transurethal Microwave Thermotherapy.]

246.     I have decided
                   To go for the microwave,
                            Gambling it’ll help me.

Saturday, April 22nd
[Our Gathering is writing “money autobiographies,” and I conclude…]

249.     Looking at money,
                   We soon come to see ourselves.
                          Upsetting pictures.

Sunday, April 23rd
[I began a mindfulness program which is to last ten weeks, designed to help us learn to meditate and be more in touch with ourselves. The body scan is an exercise.]

250.     Finished body scan
                   With but a few excursions.
                         A sense of triumph.

[The Gathering created a worship service in which each of us wrote a haiku for the part of the service assigned to us.]

251.     It feels very good
                  That my haiku effort
                          Is making impact.

252.     May the Holy One
                   Enhalo Nancy Adams;
                            Be her life’s power.

253.     Go forth, you people,
                    Called of God to cast shadows
                           Of healing on all.

Tuesday, April 25th

255.     I tilled the meadow
                    And planted wildflower seeds.
                            Now it’s up to God!
Friday, April 28th

259.     I’m not sure I want
                      To be aware of my aches—
                               Too many of them!

Wednesday, May 3rd

266.     Asparagus—Yes!
                     Breaking through leaves, standing tall,
                               To give us pleasure.

Friday, May 5th
[On May 5th, 1977, Emily Jean and I fell in love, down in Puerto Rico.]

268.     Cinco de Mayo!
                    We began on a big day!
                             Still the biggest yet.

Sunday, May 7th

272.     The Best Shepherd trains
                       His border collies to do
                                What they love to do!

273.     We begin the month
                       By gathering at table.
                                  Feed your sheep, O Lord.

Monday, May 8th
[Our pastor, Bill Ragan, asked me to accompany him on visits to shut-ins. Phoebe is a home for the elderly.]

274.     Bill and I made calls
                     At Phoebe. My age and death
                             Loomed up before me.

Tuesday, May 9th
[We at Hope UCC were in the midst of an effort to become “Open and Affirming.” This is UCC code for welcoming of gays and lesbians.]

277.     I don’t understand
                   Why gays are so troublesome
                             To some of our folks.

278.     I just know it’s so.
                    God help me be sensitive
                              To their pain as well.

Sunday, May 14th
Mother’s Day
[Every Mother’s Day during my childhood, Dad went into the back yard and cut six red roses for Mother and us five children, whose mothers were still living, and one white rose for himself, since his mother was dead. We wore them to church that day.]

286.     This tear in my eye
                     Is for my father. He brought
                             A rose for each one!

Monday, May 15th

287.     Rainy day today—
                   The earth is very thirsty.
                             God loves wildflowers.

Monday, May 22nd
[At BJ’s, a woman was coming out of the Men’s room as I went in. This is what she said to me!]

298.     Entering Men’s Room,
                     A confused lady told me
                             “You’re in the wrong room!”

Sunday, May 28th

304.     Iris are blooming.
                     Why can’t I remember when?
                              Next year, too, it’s May.

[I have a visceral negative response to the use of patriotism to manipulate our people.]

306.     Let’s salute the flag
                      And never blame those who make
                                Our young people die.

Tuesday, May 30th

308.     Maybe we’re addicts
                     To violence and killing.
                             It sure looks that way.

[My cousin, Gatewood Kistler, was a fine painter. This exchange took place shortly before her death.]

312.     Who is an artist?
                       I think she’s a soul with eyes:
                                 Never mind the rest.

Saturday, June 3rd

315.     Let us not fear fear!
                      Manipulating our fear
                              Empowers false gods.

Sunday, June 4th

317.     Pentecost today!
                        Let me be blown before it
                                The rest of my days!

Monday, June 12th
[Joe and I put up two of my bluebird houses at Wild Meadows, their place in Bath Co., VA. We left early to return to PA.]

331.     Five! We’re off, Lillie
                    And Joe. It was marvelous.
                              Now come on, bluebirds!

Tuesday, June 13th
[We are in the habit of calling our male bluebirds “Sam.”]

333.     Why, hello there, Sam!
                      It’s been a long time! Welcome!
                               Our bluebird’s arrived.

Thursday, June 15th

335.     Sun shining today.
                     Nice rain yesterday, also.
                                The meadow’s blooming.

Wednesday, June 21st

342.     Inexorably
                     Time rolls on, carrying us
                                To the next crisis.

Friday, June 23rd
[The urologist’s procedure is imminent.]

344.     Three more days, and then
                         I’m in Gordon’s hands. Alas.
                                      I’m really nervous.

[Joan Hemenway, our dear friend and then President of ACPE, lived until the end of January, 2007.]

347.     I can’t believe it.
                        Our Joan has a brain tumor,
                                  And not long to live.

348.     Driving through the rain
                        Returning from seeing Joan—
                                  Dark and gloomy day.

Sunday, June 25th

349.     It doesn’t seem fair
                    That I, an old man, am left,
                               And Joan is taken.

Wednesday, June 28th
[To my lover, Emily Jean.]

354.     Your love’s wonderful.
                      I thank you with all my heart
                                 For that special gift.

Thursday, June 29th

355.     I’d rather believe
                      That God is helpless than that
                               God just doesn’t care.

[About Joan.]

356.     God’s heart is breaking
                      Because Her lovely daughter
                              Is living with Death.

[Sense of helplessness at Joan’s dying, along with expression of faith.]

357.     A mighty wind blows
                      Us down a thundering sea—
                             Yet God is with us.

Friday, June 30th

358.     Tomorrow I fly
                     Home to Montreat, family,
                            And our Reunion.

Tuesday, July 4th

366.     You shoulda been here!
                     Unbelievable chaos—
                              Roddey Clan swarming.

Thursday, July 6th

369.     Been away too long.
                     In that whole Montreat parade,
                              Nobody knew me.

Friday, July 7th
[My feelings after two nights and days with Dave and Betty Swain.]

371.     Thank you, my dear ones,
                    For a truly, lovely time.
                            It was “coming home.”

Tuesday, July 11th

377.     Can it be my heart—
                     This tightening in my chest?
                              I’m not ready yet!

Wednesday, July 12th

380.     The message is clear—
                      To follow Christ means trouble.
                              It will cost our lives.

Thursday, July 13th

381.     I feel so empty.
                     Joan’s life is ebbing away
                                As I sit alone.

382.     My emptiness fills
                     All my body and spirit.
                               This is my prayer.

Saturday, July 15th

385.     Tell me about love,
                   All I need to know to live.
                              For my heart is full.

Sunday, July 16th
[I’m preaching at Hope UCC.]

386.     O God, be with me.
                    Help me stay out of your way,
                               And bless your people

387.     Thank you, Holy One,
                    For being present today.
                               We all felt you there.

Saturday, July 29th
[To Joan Hemenway and Jennifer Allcock]

404.     To take a moment
                      To think of you, cherish you—
                                 That is my prayer.

Saturday, August 5th

414.     Saturdays are great!
                    My lover and old movies
                               Make time very rich.

Sunday, August 6th

415.     Gathering today.
                     Is this three years, or just two?
                            It’s been life-changing.

Saturday, August 12th
[Emily Jean and I wrote this together to celebrate Nancy K-M, one of our friends in the Gathering, who also gives us massages.]

423.     Slender and stately,
                    The very soul of kindness—
                             She blesses us all.

Sunday, August 13th

425.     Another cool night,
                   A blessing to our spirits.
                           Thank you, Lord. Thank you.

[Another Gathering friend is not well.]

426.     We’re worried for Em.
                   God, let our love surround her—
                            Let there be healing.

Friday, August 18th

431.     How much shall I tell?
                     And how little is enough?
                             My life’s Mystory.

[On this date, I suddenly was ready to finish my Spiritual Journey.]

432.     Time for Volume Four!
                      I read the outline and click!
                              I’m gonna begin.

Monday, August 21st
[We’re heading to Bath County, VA.]

437.     Hello, Virginia!
                     We’re coming down to meetcha!
                                Give us your best air.

Tuesday, August 22nd
[Wild Meadows, VA]

439.     We’re finally here!                 
                      Wild Meadows and blue skies.

[Some call them “surprise lilies,” but most Southerners know them as “Naked Ladies.” They send up leaves in Spring, much like daffodils, but no bloom. Then suddenly, in August, after the leaves are gone, up comes a long stalk (30”) with a pink flower on it. Beautiful.]

440.     Near the house, we were
                       Greeted by Naked Ladies.
                                 What a warm welcome!

Thursday, August 24th

442.     Magnificent sky—
                       A full bowl of azure blue.
                                   And still—so quiet.

443.     Wild Meadows whispers:
                     “Soul, hear this word—‘Peace, be still.’”
                                   And my soul listens.

444.     Green and blue intense
                       Assert the artist’s hand. Who
                                  Has been at work here?

Sunday, August 27th

449.     Trees are whispering
                     This morning. They are saying:
                                “Welcome to this place.”

Monday, August 28th

453.     Three deer came and stood—
                      Tense, alert, jumpy, looking
                              Toward the painful cries.

[Emily Jean’s]

457.     Rumbling o’er the hills
                      Signaling to thirsty earth—
                               “A drink is on the way.”

Wednesday, August 30th

460.     It’s Randy’s birthday
                     Today. I wish I had been
                              A better father.

Thursday, August 31st

461.     Rain. It’s raining. Rain
                      Falling steadily. Rain. Rain
                              So long waited for.

Saturday, September 2nd

466.     The Gilberts gathered—
                    Family, ah, family.
                             We are truly home.

Sunday, September 3rd

472.     Walking through the woods—
                    Beautiful quiet, silence,
                              Not even bird calls.

Saturday, September 9th

481      Breakfast with Diane
                      At the Emmaus Diner.
                                How nice to have friends!

Monday, September 11th
[Reflecting on 9/11.]

485.     What did I lose then?
                      My innocence. Why such hate?
                                 Surely we have fault.

487.     Teach us love, O Lord.
                     Show us how to hold our lives
                                 Lightly, loving all.

Sunday, September 17th

495.     What’s community
                      If not the freedom to be
                               Your own nasty self?

Wednesday, September 20th
[Remembering Wild Meadows]

498.     Cedar waxwings crowd
                     The trees, drop on the cherry,
                               Quickly pick it clean.

499.     Is this how life ends?
                     Thoughts and memories fly back,
                               And gobble us up.

Tuesday, September 26th
[Edna & Edie’s last cat, Cocoa, had to be put down shortly before Edna died.]

510.     Donna’s Mom, Edna,
                     Died this morning. She’ll be missed.
                              Cocoa’ll welcome her.

Thursday, September 28th

514.     I’ve started writing
                     My Spiritual Journey.
                             I think it is time.

Saturday, September 30th

517.     Through the cloudy veil
                     Of misty falling water,
                              I see the sunshine.

518.     Special day today!
                       Our 27th Wedding

Sunday, October 1st

520.     Good month, October!
                   Mother gave me a good start,
                            For which I’m grateful.

[Thinking of Edna and Cocoa]

521.     Edna: “Cocoa!
                   Why in Heaven are you here?”
                            Cocoa: “Welcome Home!”

[Recalling our first trip together back in 1977]

522.     That double rainbow
                     Up on the Blue Ridge Parkway—
                              What did it all mean?

Wednesday, October 4th

525.     Listen to Amber,
                      My morning soporific,
                                  Purring on my lap.

Thursday, October 5th

526.     82 today.
                       I’m a modern miracle,
                                Glad to be alive.

Sunday, October 8th

532.     The Fall air is cool.
                      It is an omen of snow
                              Falling on my head.

Monday, October 9th

533.     Nice warm day today—
                      Indian Summer, I guess.
                           It’s nice while it lasts.

Wednesday, October 11th

535.     Looks like rain today—
                      And it’s getting colder, too.
                               Guess it must be fall.

Sunday, October 15th

540.     Where do I find God?
                      Not sure. Any place will do.
                             Being hungry helps.

541.     What to do when sad?
                      My best haiku poems
                              Are made of sheer pain.

542.     And what else to do?
                     The best loaves of bread I make
                               Are baked in anguish.

543.     Agape is love—
                      The love I want to live out.
                                Lead me in that way.

Monday, October 16th

544.     Speaking wordless words,
                     We rediscover true words
                               Speaking in our souls.

546.     What’s a wordless word?
                      It’s a holy silence now,
                                 A moment of truth.

547.     Listen to silence,
                        See the hidden, catch and hold
                                Your own dark shadow.

Tuesday, October 17th
549.     I’m writing about
                     My spiritual journey.
                                  This is my whole life!

Thursday, October 19th
[Emily Jean is ready to retire—now!]

551.     Today’s her birthday.
                    Retirement’s one year closer;
                           She’ll be so happy!

Friday, October 20th

552.     “Good-bye, dear Edna.
                       We hope to see you again
                                  On that glorious day!”

Monday, October 23rd

555.     Catherine’s birthday!
                       My youngest is forty-eight.

556.     My dear Catherine!
                       I wish you a happy day,
                                 And a happy life!

Sunday, October 29th
[Dave Swain and I visited sites on the Underground Railroad in NY State, staying with his brother, Bill, and Bill’s wife, Molly.]

563.     Harriet Tubman
                   Is a true American—
                           A first-class hero.

Monday, October 30th

564.     The snow was falling
                     As we left Oneonta—
                              And our hearts were full.

Wednesday, November 1st

566.     Planning the retreat:
                    How to find my true center—
                            How claim the real me.

Thursday, November 2nd

568.     The sun is shining
                   And Ollie and I are warm
                             Sleeping in our chair.

570.     The sun shines brightly,
                   And I think of my friend, Joan:
                              How to honor her.

Thursday, November 2nd

572.     I’m writing for Joan.
                     She’s such a special person
                                 And good friend to boot.

Saturday, November 4th

576.     Repetitiousness
                       Guarantees burn-out for sure.
                                 Can’t write a long time.

Sunday, November 5th

577.     I am excited
                   About writing Volume Four.
                            Making good progress.

Tuesday, November 14th

586.     Washing clothes today—
                     Emily Jean in Tampa.
                               Perry Lee, my heart.

587.     You’re a terrific
                     Soporific, dear Amber.
                            We’ll soon be asleep.

Friday, November 17th

591.     Now is all we’ve got!
                    Our calling: to live it up,
                             Make love ev’rywhere!

Saturday, November 18th

592.     Look at the bricks—
                       Alyssum volunteers there
                                In between the cracks!

593.     The Gathering’s here
                     At Mary Immaculate.
                                  We’re finding ourselves.

Sunday, November 19th

595.     My dear Perry Lee
                     Died this morning. I’ll miss her.
                              She’s my big sister.

596.     I missed seeing her,
                     I’m sorry to say. She died
                               Before I got there.

597.     I give her over
                     To you, Holy One. Take her,
                                Give her joy and peace.

Tuesday, November 21st

599.     I am sad today.
                     All the chances to visit
                                 Are gone forever.

Wednesday, November 22nd

600.     It’s hard to feel joy
                    At this Thanksgiving Season.
                             My dear sister’s dead.

Thursday, November 23rd

602.     Great Thanksgiving meal—
                    Bill, Peggy, Barbara, Ted
                               And us, family.

Saturday, November 25th

604.     Driving home again,
                      And grateful for Thanksgiving
                                 With our special friends.

Monday, November 27th

606.     Dearest Perry Lee,
                       I hope you are happy now,
                                 At rest and at peace.

Wednesday, November 29th

609.     End of an era!
                       Perry Lee was laid to rest
                              Yesterday. We’re changed.

610.     Yesterday was rich—
                      We loved being family
                               And saying “Good-bye.”

Friday, December 1st

612.     It’s almost Advent—
                        We hear Christmas bells ringing
                                The siren song to spend.

Saturday, December 2nd

613.     Cantigas singers—
                      Lovely to see Lenore sing
                              With such abandon!

Sunday, December 3rd

614.     Sitting at Judson,
                     Listening to choir practice—
                            I’ve come home again.

Wednesday, December 6th

617.     Who’d have believed it?
                     I’m still telling my story
                               Writing haiku.

Friday, December 8th

620.     On my lap again,
                    Amber’s working her magic
                            To put me to sleep.

621.     May our good neighbors
                     Have a very good Christmas
                              And Happy New Year.

622.     What dear friends you are!
                       You’re walking the path with us
                                All the way to God!

Saturday, December 9th

624.     Kitty’s birthday’s soon.
                     I think how precious she is,
                                 Now that Perry’s gone.

Sunday, December 10th

625.     Missed Harry’s, Roddey’s
                        Birthdays. How did I do that?
                                 I do love them both.

626.     Tomorrow’s Kitty’s
                        Birthday. Have a good day,
                                My special sister!

Monday, December 11th

629.     Kitty’s 88,
                      Japan’s age of indulgence.
                                     She sure deserves it.

Tuesday, December 12th
[Posted to Caringbridge about Joan]

631.     May your life be whole—
                        May you find serenity—
                                   And may you know peace.

Thursday, December 14th

633.     New Year’s Day Party—
                        First, invite 60 people,
                                  Then leave for a week.

Friday, December 15th

637.     Bought myself a gift,
                        For the kitchen. We needed
                                  A toaster-oven.

Saturday, December 16th

638.     It’s Lenore’s birthday.
                        It was a wonderful day
                                   When you came to us.

Sunday, December 17th

639.     Our choice: to rejoice
                          At all your wonderful gifts.
                                     We thank you, O God.

Monday, December 18th

642.     Do I want to write?
                      Or am I using Christmas
                               As my best excuse?

Wednesday, December 20th

644.     We leave Christmas Day
                    To drive down to the mountains;
                               It’ll be a good break.

Friday, December 22nd

646.     Today, Jalousie
                      With Diane and Nancy K.
                                   It’ll be delicious!

Saturday, December 23rd

648.     Eight more days to go
                        To the New Year, to fulfil
                                  My Resolution.

649.     What shall I promise
                        For Two Thousand and Seven?
                                 Can’t think of a thing.

650.     I know! I’ll finish
                   Up My Spiritual Journey.
                                  A worthy project.

Monday, December 25th

652.     We’re on the way South.
                     Sad we won’t get to see Jim,
                            But glad to be Gilberts.

Tuesday, December 26th

653.     Wild Meadows loves rain—
                     It’s so peaceful, so quiet.
                            My soul is at peace.

Thursday, December 28th

656.     We’re on the way home.
                     Had a great time together
                               Up at Wild Meadows.

Friday, December 29th

657.     How I love dear Em!
                      One New Year's Resolution
                              Is to love her more.

Saturday, December 30th

658.     It’s been a great year—
                     I’ve enjoyed my haiku,
                               My resolution.

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

659.     This is the last day
                     Of the Old Year. And I’ve kept
                               My resolution!

Haiku Since 2006

June, 2007
[At Kitty’s Memorial Service, Montreat]

          We knew and loved you,
                     And knew that you loved us, too.
                                   Go with God, Dearest.

November, 2007

          Two Thousand Seven
                      A dark and unhappy year
                                   Kitty and Roddey.

          Ah, me, Jacob’s gone.
                       I’m glad we have the pictures
                                   That show his sweet smile.

Thursday, January 17, 2008
[Edie Wilson’s Memorial Service]

          Stubborn persistence—
                     A long life not long enough—
                            Beautiful cookies!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

          If she was the block
                     From which the chip came away,
                              She was real special.

Sunday, February 10, 2008
[Outhouse incident ?]

          Someone's after me!
                  Another narrow escape—
                            Can you believe it!

          God’s out to get me—
                  Why am I so important?
                             I do not get it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

          Genes and orange juice
                   Explain my wonderful teeth.
                            Thank you, dear Mother.

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

          That beautiful tune
                    You feel in your inmost part
                             Is your Valentine.

Friday, February 15th’2008

          Cold – cloistered within
                   Mary Immaculate walls,
                           Wintry leaves will fly.

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

          Thunder, lightning, hail—
                  Wild Meadows is wild today,
                           Snowing and blowing.

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

          Blue skies and bluebirds
                    Flitting and flying around.
                             What a warm welcome!

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

          April the Nineteenth—
                     Incontrovertibly Spring!
                              Four asparagus.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

          Spring is wonderful!
                    So new, so delightful, you
                              Can almost taste it!

[We gave her a bunch of asparagus!]

          Happy Birthday, Em!
                     Spring brings wonderful things to
                                 Share with those we love.

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

          My Daddy loved ‘em—
                   Called ‘em “asparagrass!” Yes!
                           He knew when ‘twas Spring.

March 21st , 2008

          Wonderful woman!
                      Easter brings new life again—
                                As you do to me.

Thursday, May 22nd,2008

          Losing your mother—
                  There’s no sorrow quite like it.
                           Such bleak loneliness.

Wednesday, Aug.13th, 2008

          George and Vivian
                    Are moving today. I’m sure
                              It is a great loss.

Sunday, Sept. 14th, 2008

          Sitting here alone
                   Trying to remember, but
                            My haiku’s gone.

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

          Summer’s gone, Fall’s here,
                   And so our lives have gone, too.
                            I thank God for you.

Wednesday, Dec. 31st, 2008
[We greeted Joe and Lillie at Wild Meadows in Bath Co, VA, then Emily Jean came down with 24-hour flu, just as we were about to return to PA, so we delayed for several days until she felt better. A high wind came on New Year’s Eve, and down went the largest tree on the mountain, a huge old oak about 150 feet high. It had rotted to the core.]

          Hugs, bugs and snow, too.
                    How the mighty have fallen!
                             Two thousand and nine.

[We played Mexican Dominoes, and Rummi-Kub, and we all played to win. But nobody was more into it than Lillie’s friend, Beedee.]

          Stones, tiles and blood flowed.
                    Though we all won and lost, ‘twas
                            Beedee P. D. Q.

Sunday, February 28, 2010
[John Peterson died on this day.]

           Awesome! Wonderful!
                   That John could start his journey
                           With your sweet blessing!

          O bright Maple Leaf!
                   You circled in the eddies—
                             Floated out to sea.

April 2012
[Emily Jean spent a week in Provence the last week of April, 2012. I was very aware of her absence.]

          I’m eating breakfast,
                  My lover is having lunch—
                           France is “over there.”

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Mother’s Day

          White roses for us,
                    Blooming down many years—
                             You blessed us with life.

          We start life anew
                    Each day. That’s why we love Spring!
                              Ev’rything is new.

[Musing about writing haiku, and thinking about our Book/Movie group having a poetry night:]

          Writing haiku
                    Is like catching soap bubbles
                               Without breaking them

A Haiku for Early Spring

          Look! Snow on the ground
                    And also on our heads. But
                             Here come daffodils!


Emily Jean and I were married at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village during a morning worship service on September 30, 1979, just exactly two weeks after Dad died. During the period 1977 – 1991, we were active at Judson.

It was during that time that I was in therapy with Art Tingue, and did Spiritual Direction with Lee Hancock, Associate Pastor of Judson. Both were very interested in dreams, and both helped me with mine.

I had three dreams in a very short period of time, in all of which God appeared as a woman. This affected me greatly, and, to tell the truth, may have affected me more at the unconscious level than at the conscious one.

The Dream of Maggie

In the first dream (and the only one I remember), I went on a fishing trip. I caught nothing, and was walking home with my pole over my shoulder. The path I took was into the mountains, and led through a rhododendron thicket. As I walked along, the hook on the end of my line caught on a branch of the rhodies, and the line reeled all the way out without my being aware of it. I was brought up short when the end of the line came, and only then, realized what had happened. I looked back, and was chagrined to see that the line had become hopelessly entangled in the thicket. Still, I was determined to get it untangled so that I should not lose my line. I was making slow progress, when an old man came along the path and offered his help. I was glad to have his help and together, we slowly got it all untangled and rewound on the reel. I thanked him and we parted. He went on down the path I had come up, and I continued on my way.

Soon the path widened, and I came to a high clay bank or wall, into which some steps had been cut. I climbed up those steps, still carrying my fishing pole, and when my head rose above the bank, I saw a grassy clearing with a log cabin at the far side of it. I saw a very large woman standing in the doorway, and as I drew nearer, recognized her as Maggie Wise, a fellow member of Judson. As I approached, she withdrew into the cabin, and I saw when I went through the door, that she was standing behind a table, the long communion table at Judson. On the table was a large platter with a fish on it. Maggie spread her arms wide as she looked at me, and said, “Come and eat!” And I knew that she was God.

At my next appointment with Arthur, I shared the dream. His only comment was: “You know who that old man was, don’t you?” I said, “Who?” He said, “Me.” It was important to see my therapy in the context of my spiritual journey. He was so right.

[I just learned (8/11/2008) that Arthur died over a year ago in Maine, where he and his wife, Carrie, had retired. I shall miss him.

The Rocket full of Eggs

The journal in which I recorded this dream was stolen from the trunk of our car when we were visiting a friend in Manhattan. We parked the car on the street, and discovered the theft when we came out after dinner. There was a “Rocket full of Eggs” dream and a third, in which God, a woman, drove me in a car.

While both of these dreams have been lost, the three appearances of God as a woman within a short space of time opened me up to “see” the pan being inflicted on women by our male-dominant language. It is not necessary, and is not helpful. I am glad to be free of it.


The Meaning of My Life
April 9, 1966

[At the time I wrote the excerpt below, I was engaged in a doctoral program at Boston University. After the first residency year, my advisor inquired what I planned to do the summer of 1965. I said I would make up a couple of courses I lacked. He urged me to get a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. I had never heard of it, but followed his advice, and although it was quite late, succeeded in gaining admission to a program at Boston State Hospital which began in June. By the end of the summer when the program ended, I knew that I had finally found my niche, and asked Joe Woodson, the supervisor, if he would allow me to stay on in a residency program. He reluctantly agreed, I cut back my doctoral load to half, stretched it to two more years rather than one, and was completing the CPE residency at the time of this writing.]

It has become imperative now for me to consider the meaning of my life. I have erected many barriers to an honest examination of this question, and can now see that I have lived these 41 years without really making it clear to myself what that meaning is. Furthermore, I have stood before my life waiting for it to happen, without ever seizing and making it happen.

One does not live forever. I need now to consider the fact that while I may live 30-40 years more (or may not) I have only about 20 productive years remaining to me, and I am using up three of them in this period of study, a monstrous investment regardless of the outcome, tragic waste in the event of failure to energize and give meaning and purpose and accomplishment to the few years remaining.

I cannot build on doubt. For me, there must be an island of firm ground from which to begin. It must be an affirmation of myself as a living being, blessed with the equipment needed to live and enjoy life. And I know myself as this being in relation to others. I know myself most fully where I am most fully known. I can accept myself most fully where I am most fully accepted. And I can love only as I am loved. I want to believe that God loves me and by this love I can love. But wanting to believe is not believing. And to pretend a belief where there is none, or only doubt, is pitiable, and ultimately, a delusion.

Still, I am not content to turn my life solely inward. For me to live is to live for others. To love myself is to reach out to others. I can find meaning for my life only as I can help others to find it for themselves.

The old morality of laws and rules is part of my bones, but I cannot live by it only. Neither can I put it off like a winter coat in spring. Yet will I affirm myself and my life, to joy in it, and to hold it in my hands, to live it to the full. To live it, and to accept responsibility for living it—this shall be my goal.

I do not yet emotionally accept myself as worthy to be loved. But there is one who, like water dropping on stone, wears away the crust of my self-negation until I foresee a growing of new life, new love in me.

Dare I live? Dare I love? Dare I stand erect and leave boyhood behind? Yes, I still fear life. It threatens me. Twenty years. They shall not be empty years. They may not be perfect, but they shall not be empty.

And yet I must struggle and fight to use dreams and fantasy--not let them use me. Reality is what I am and what I am able to do with myself in relation to others. Relax, then, and live each day, each moment to the full. Fill each moment with love, looking ahead far enough not to miss the next turn, but not so far as to forget its importance.
I’ll stop agonizing over my doubt and lack of faith, lack of certitude about God. I must accept this as a given, too. In a sense, to trust God is to trust God’s right to remain a hidden God. The nearest I can come to affirming God is to affirm myself and others. This I can do and I will affirm them. And I will express this affirmation in accepting and affirming myself.

I want to look at a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime, and find some warmth of satisfaction in what I have been able to do. With this warmth, I shall find the courage to die.

The road of life has many strange turnings. I’ll not question why or how I meet others there. No, I’ll accept them as given to me, and me to them. Let this then be the meaning of my life.

Self-Assessment and Goals
April 9, 1989
Active rather than passive
Sense of humor
Staying engaged when angry
Give good hugs
Listening when criticized
Enjoy gardening
Like being alone
Avoid cross criticism
Take better care of myself spiritually
Concentrate well
Less arrogant
Careful not to be rude
Stubborn in healthy ways
More sensitive
Enjoy being crazy
Fighting fair
Don't worry very much
Being direct with anger
Good health
Less procrastinating
Stable family of origin
Be more orderly
Well educated
Be more disciplined
Like gadgets
Not allow myself to be depressed
Enjoy puzzles
Stop being self-assaultive
Can use computer
Be more political
Am not money hungry
Care more about social justice
Tolerant of differences
Be more alive
Good listener

Effective group leader


Strong ego

Healthy unconscious

Uncomfortable with phoniness

Sensitive to dissonance


Comfortable doubting

Comfortable using systems in my work

Effective family therapist

Effective supervisor

Read well

Enjoy sports

Way with words

Flair for metaphor

Words at Retirement
June 8, 1991

I spent ten years in Japan, four as a high school teacher of English, five as a university Chaplain. It was a wonderful experience of exposure to Japanese language and culture which I enjoyed thoroughly.

Returning to the states in 1964, I enrolled at Boston University in a program designed to lead to a   Ph. D. in the Psychology of Pastoral Care. Between my first and second residency years, I participated in a program of Clinical Pastoral Education, and recognized that I had found my niche. I decided to pursue certification as a Clinical Pastoral Educator or Supervisor, after doing the math, and realizing that teaching ministers pastoral care, I could touch more lives than by direct pastoral care ministry.

I would guess that I worked with from 150 - 200 clergy, a small number of lay people; mostly Protestant, a significant number of Roman Catholics, one priest and quite a number of sisters, and two rabbis.

More than ten of that number are now Clinical Pastoral Educators. And many of them have had multiple students go on to get their credentials as supervisors. I am very proud of that record.

I appreciate the NY Conference "taking me in," at a time when membership in the Virginia Conference, because of the distance from the hospital where I was working, was making it difficult to serve the United Methodist Church. I was very glad to serve on the Metropolitan District Committee on Ministry.

I feel good about the work I was able to do in ministry, but am glad to slow down. I wish you all Godspeed, especially those to be ordained. Get some CPE! It will help you to be more effective ministers.

When have I felt most me?

I look back to those magical days of my childhood in Montreat when I carved roads and tunnels in the clay banks and played cars, or went out in the rain to fight desperately to dam up the water as it came running down the mountain by our house as times when I felt most myself. I lost myself in play, and was purely me. Sometimes when playing bridge, I have also lost myself. I was still trying to win, but I was beyond trying to impress anybody.

Oddly, I have felt this when doing supervision of CPE, and when doing family therapy. I think I was also “lost” during wartime, when the focus was on survival. But I’m not sure. I have been so devoted to making people think well of me that I might well have fallen into it in the heat of battle, unless I was alone.

I remember once when there was a great flood at Montreat, and I was about 12 years old, that I put on my bathing suit and went out in the rain, and down to the lake to see what was happening at the dam. The level of the water in the lake was up almost to the surface of the walkway across the dam, and all sorts of debris was coming down from the mountain above. Logs, trees, bushes, all kinds of things. Yet, I was so totally fascinated, that, alone, I climbed down one of the stone pillars that supported the dam and bridge over it. At the bottom, the water was shooting out over the spillway well over 20 feet. I was caught up in the excitement of it, and thought how great it would be to crawl across under the water. I was alone, and no one was around to stop me, so I did it. I expect I was as much “lost” in me at that moment as ever in my life. It was an incredible high.

As I reflect on this, I become aware that either I was alone, or in authority at the moments when I felt most myself. I also experienced myself in my work as chaplain, as chaplain supervisor and family therapist, as thoroughly competent. Does that mean that I am most myself, or experience myself as mostly myself when there is a low level of threat? Perhaps. And I feel most me when I am writing! Like now. Or when I am writing haiku.

The Gathering
May 4, 2004

I retired in 1991 from Presbyterian Hospital and moved to Allentown, PA. I was a happy retired person, with no interest or need to practice ministry in any way, shape or form. I did not want to do any preaching or teaching, though I did some family therapy work for ½ day once a week for several years. While in the Metropolitan area, Emily Jean and I were active at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village. Since I was an ordained Methodist minister, I was unable to join Judson, but the church had a special category for people like me, called “voting non-member.” I loved being a part of the Judson Community. This is, by far, the most satisfying experience of church I have ever had. Probably 50% or more of those who are regular participants are gay or lesbian. This was a wonderful education for me, and sorely needed. At least two members of my extended family are gay or lesbian, perhaps more. Sadly, I found nothing in the Lehigh Valley to compare with it. Though I attended different churches from time to time, eventually, I came to avoid church for the most part.

A little over a year ago, nine other people, including my wife, Emily Jean Gilbert, began talking about meeting regularly in order to find what they were missing in their local churches. A trip was planned to the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC. I had first heard about the Church of the Savior in 1948, when I was in seminary, but I had never visited it, and I immediately wanted to go.

The visit was powerful for me, and I decided to continue in the “Gathering,” as we decided to call our group. It’s very special to study, discuss, pray and worship with a group of people who are all present because they want to be, engage each other, and care about each other. I am sure some churches are like this, but I have rarely experienced it.

Jump-started on a new, more intentional spiritual journey through my participation in the Gathering, I joined Hope UCC as an associate member. Emily Jean was already attending and soon became a member. I became a full member a year later. My response to the Methodist Church’s trial of Rev. Elizabeth Stroud, which resulted in her defrocking, was the painful and sad decision to surrender my ordination credentials and leave the Methodist Church. My family had been Methodist since well before the Civil War.

At the Church of the Savior, missions are formed when two or more people want to meet and work toward a particular goal together. One day, I saw a squib in the newspaper that noted that the cost of educating a student in the public schools in Pennsylvania was $8,000, and the cost of imprisoning someone was $28,000+. I said to myself: “Something’s terribly wrong here.” I had found my mission.

George Yoder, another member of our Gathering and I formed a Prison Mission, and met about once a week to talk about our concerns. I read a lot about prisons and prisoners. We went on a tour of a nearby county prison.

I wanted to find a way to be directly involved in working to change the prison system. Rather than going into a prison to work, I decided to seek an involvement with one or more children whose parent(s) are or had been in prison. This was a new departure for me.

The director of a Family Center in Allentown (We attend the same church.) made a brief presentation at Hope UCC on her work at the Center. I spoke to her after church, asking if I might volunteer as a foster grandfather to a child whose parent had been in prison or was then in prison. She invited me to visit the center, we talked and I put in for clearance with the state police and the Child Abuse Line run by the state Department of Public Welfare. I got official clearance, and spent a year working one day per week with a 12-year-old boy who was having adjustment problems at school.

I had been warned by my friends in the Gathering that going into the homes of people who have run afoul of the law could be dangerous. That makes sense. But it feels like going into the prison as a chaplain (I did this in Bergen County, NJ for a short while about 25 years ago) is not where I’m led. Now over 80, I’m equipped to be a grandfather, and maybe that can make a difference to some one kid. I was willing to see.

At the time I began, I wrote the following, and it is still true:

Do I know what I’m doing? No. Do I know what I’m getting myself into? No. Am I scared? Yes. Am I crazy? Yes, and it’s one of my greatest gifts, as I learned back in 1960, when I did my first unit of CPE at Boston State Hospital with Joe Woodson.

It was a new departure. My friend, George, and I are convinced that prisons are obsolete, doing a great deal more harm than good, and costing all of us an enormous amount of money which could be much better spent. I tried this intervention in hopes that it would help.

I worked with this boy for only a year, and am not up to it now. I wish I had done it many years ago. It was a great experience. George and I no longer meet.

New Year’s Day (2006) Meeting of the Gathering

What follows is what I prepared for our Gathering meeting of Jan. 1, 2006. Each of us had agreed to prepare something about our past year, and the year to come.

Reflections on 2005

I don’t want to do this. I can’t think of anything that feels like an accomplishment. I kept on working out. I read lots of books. That’s about it.

No. I spoke out against the UMC’s action and position on homosexuality by surrendering my ordination credentials. And I joined Hope UCC, became a full member. I continued my participation in the Gathering.

Hopes for 2006

I draw a blank on this one, too. Keep on keeping on. Work out. Take care of myself. Stay in touch with those I love. Read. Write more poetry.

Lazy, disorganized, irritable, easily bored, undisciplined. Am I even glad to be alive?
I don’t even know who I am. So important to have others think well of me that I am always performing. Yet I hate that. I don’t like it in others, I despise it in myself. I despair of changing this in me. It’s the only way I know to be. God help me. Even as I write, I know I’m thinking that someone may be reading this, and I’m partly, at least, thinking of trying to impress. What bullshit!

This haiku poem, written at that time, expresses how I felt.

          Microscopic bug
                  Poised on the top of the world―
                          What if I jump off?
By the end of the meeting, I had announced that my New Year’s Resolution for 2006 was to write at least one haiku every day. I missed a few days, but kept the resolution for the most part. I think writing daily helped me to complete my Spiritual Journey. I composed over 600 haiku during the year.

The Seekers

About four or five years ago, several men friends began meeting together to discuss a book once a month. We soon realized that this was more than a book-discussion group. We were asking and answering important personal spiritual questions. We decided our group was The Seekers. There is no titular leader, but Dick Schaffer got us together and keeps us reminded of times and places.

There are four of us. Dick is retired from Bethlehem Steel, 62; Paul, a retired Mennonite pastor, 92, and the "youngest" of the lot; George, a retired UCC pastor and social worker, 89; and myself, a retired hospital chaplain, 87. All their memories are better than mine, and our discussions tend to be wide-ranging, dipping often into the book before us, and often going beyond it.

Our most recent book was James Hillman, The Force of Character. I know we have talked about what we are seeking, but I don’t recall what was said. I know that we have found brothers whom we trust and love.

Devotional Journal

Feb. 16, 2012
I have been meditating for over a year now, thanking God for giving me one more day of life. Today, the thought occurred to me to ask why I appreciate having one more day of life. I decided to ask myself that question along with the “thank you.” Here are the answers that came up today.

A chance to

Pray for folks
Date uncertain, after Feb. 16th
Perhaps I have discovered the answer I have been seeking all my life.


When one begins a meal, it is good manners to say to the host/hostess, itadakimasu. Literally, I receive. Japanese expresses relationships in many ways, of which language may be the most important. Moraimasu expresses the thought, I receive, without a relationship being explicit. Itadakimasu expresses the relationship as well: the speaker (I) am of lower status than the one who gives. (I remember someone telling me that this is the language which it would be appropriate to use to the Emperor.)

For some time now, during Emily Jean’s and my devotions, I have been beginning my quiet time by thanking someone (God?) for the gift of another day of life. My doubts remain, but the sense of gratitude is real. Today I decided that Itadakimasu expressed this for me

The chance that I will live the day faithfully is strengthened by my itadakimasu at its beginning. What a world we could have if each of us began each day with itadakimasu!

April 7, 2012
What is faith?

Faith is starting each day by renewing the commitment which I have made daily and never kept.

April 9th, Easter Monday
Who am I?

I am a man of faith. See above.

There needs to be a sense of lightness and humor about this. Discouragement is not in it. Depression and despair is not a part of it. It is not heavy, but it is very serious. 
April 10, 2012
Doing business with God: Dad used to say that in business, both people involved are pleased when a good deal is reached. God holds out his gift of a new day, but I must reach for it with my itadakimasu in order for the deal to be complete. God wants me to have it, and is pleased when I accept it.

The sun will come up and there will be a new day whether I and God transact business or not, so what’s the big deal? My business with God is extraneous to the sun’s coming up, separate and apart from it, and for me and God, far more important, very personal. Itadakimasu.

          Easter is over
                 But Mother’s daffodils are
                         Still so beautiful!
April 11, 2012
Reflecting during meditation: I began a long time ago thinking that the story of my life might be a) God sending people to me, and b) God sending me to people, and what I did with them. In a way, I have been God’s chosen angel. And my life is the story of my successes and failures with them, mostly failures. I want to enlarge “mindfulness” to include awareness that I am chosen as angel for all whom I meet every day. My itadakimasu includes that.

          Midori iro*
                   Without it, God cannot paint
                            The Glories of Spring.
*A Japanese word which refers to the first yellowish green of the new leaves of Spring.

April 13, 2012

          Let the world slow down—
                  The kitties are here for you.
                           Comfort, peace and joy.

Devoting alone, EJ at EPICS. (Gathering of CPE Supervisors and supervisory students)

I’ve been reading a chapter in Hillman’s Force of Character on Erotics. Very challenging to me. My insides say “bad” to acting on my lustful imagination, but Hillman says why not? Or that’s what I hear.

Devoting was a quiet time, with only Amber visiting briefly. 
April 14, 2012
One scripture reading was Mark 16:35ff, I think. Early days of the Christian Community. All things held in common, selling houses to provide for needs of all. I said it was an economic plan that would not last. But then recalled the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus said, “Take no thought for tomorrow…”

This led to my thinking of the Bible as a loveletter from God to me, not a missive to use against others. And this is what it becomes in most sermons, I’m afraid. I want to resist all impulses to do that. It is also a loveletter from God to each person who goes to it. What makes it sacred is not its existence, but that God gave it as a loveletter to each of us.

          God is still speaking
                  In God’s own true loveletter--
                          I plan to listen.

April 15th, Sunday

          O you holy cats—
                  You purr us into prayer.
                          Stay with us all day.

When I quote the Bible at people to get them to change their behavior (even in my thoughts), I am reading their mail. God’s loveletter is addressed to them, not to me (in that instance). When it’s to me, I will apply it to me.

Hillman, in his The Force of Character, which Seekers are reading and discussing, speaks of jisei, the poem written just before death by some Japanese people. I wondered if their jisei were spur of the moment, or if they meditated for years on the poem, then issued it as their death poem. I wrote two, feeling the latter approach more realistic for me, and I am sure I will write more, or rewrite these.

          Fog slowly crept in—
                 I struggled to see through it
                        And learned to love.

          Life—eternal fog—
                  I long to see clearly, but
                         My sight fades with years.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

          I hear a faint voice
                  Calling to me from somewhere—
                           Come and receive life!

Thursday, April 19th

          O, Wisteria—
                   Your gorgeous purple flowers
                          Fill our hearts with joy.

          Ah, Wisteria—
                   Your glorious, luscious clusters—
                           Is this my last time?
Today, Friday, I think of an alternate third line: “Speak to me of life.”

Friday, April 20, 2012

[Written during devotional. The poem reflects the daily struggle to be present without “leaving” in my thoughts.]

          From words set me free—
                 From images let me be
                       Alone, God, with Thee.

Catherine visited for a couple of days before she moved from Eagleville PA to Atlanta in February 2012. While here, she crocheted me a throw.

          Dozing ‘neath my throw,
                 My heart filled with gratitude,
                        I’m thinking of you.


More than two years ago, Emily Jean and I decided that we wanted to have a devotional time in the morning. With both of us retired, it seemed that it would be possible. We began to start our day in the living room, lighting candles, and using A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, by Job and Shawchuck, and Rubye’s (her mother’s) Bible. Lillie had given me a head lamp to help me in dim lighting situations, and I got it out. Our three cats, Kaki, Amber and Sully, join us almost every morning, Kaki being the most faithful. Our devotional time is occasionally spiced by a battle between Sully and Amber, who, after several years together, still have little use for each other.
I also began keeping a devotional journal just recently, though already my ineptness with technology has resulted in the loss of the earlier portion. One morning it was gone, so I just started over. Mainly I have reached a few conclusions about life and myself in it, and have written a few haiku, often relevant to my thinking and feeling about my life.
I find myself thinking as follows:
1)         I am God’s angel; God is sending me every day, and has been sending me every day to all the people I meet. This did not start yesterday. It has been so since I was born. Most of my life, I have not been tuned in, not mindful of it. I have been oriented as a taker, not as a giver.
2)         God has also been and is now sending people to me to receive a blessing. Needless to say, I have missed most of those opportunities.
3)         At the same time that I continue to doubt almost all dogma of the church, despite my continuing skepticism of all authority, and despite the absence of an ongoing sense of the Holy, or personal relationship with God, I begin each day with Itadakimasu! There is a source of life, One who continues to give me life a day at a time, and I reach out and take it, with gratitude. And I don’t understand this at all. But it feels OK. And I want to say “Thank you.”
4)         Itadakimasu! came to me as a new understanding during meditation. Comfort with the use of the word, itadakimasu, as symbolic of Japanese courtesy, made this an important insight approaching a spiritual breakthrough. While I do not actually kneel, prostrating myself on the rug, and holding out my hands to receive my fresh new day of life from God, I do visualize it as I say itadakimasu.
5)         Lots of haiku has come to me during our devoting time; I try to record them as much as I can.
6)         I find it hard to meditate. I still do not know how to do it, but it feels like it is enough to try. By being quiet and providing a lap for one of the kitties, I am doing enough.
7)         I am open to new ideas and directions coming out of our devotional times together.

This volume has been written over a period of at least 20 years, maybe longer. I have not succeeded in putting it together in such a way that the seams do not show. Nor have I sought to stick to chronological arrangement. Perhaps it’s just as well. It will be a little like a biopsy being taken every year or so on my spiritual life. Is it any wonder that there has been change? I know that I do not experience myself as the same person. When I read over some of the older stuff, I am surprised and often pleased.

I had a premonition this week that I need to press ahead, that time may be more limited than I think. I was thinking of my father, who died in 1979 of stomach cancer, and I felt a pain in my stomach. I thought: “Is that it? Am I going out the same way Dad did?” He played golf in August, and died a month later. If my premonition proves to be accurate, My Spiritual Journey is at a stage now where somebody else, if they choose, can publish it as is.

I reread some of my files prepared over the years, and ran across a letter Benjamin Dunlap, Perry Dunlap Roddey’s father, wrote to her on her honeymoon in 1890. It made me wonder when my spiritual journey began, if not with my great-grandfather, known in the family as Pa Ben or more familiarly as Pa Bennie. So I’ve decided to put that letter in along with one from my father written a year before he died in 1979. Both letters seem to me evidence of cradles in which I was spiritually nurtured, long before I was born.

This completes Mystory. I will be no different from the person I was, but it feels good to be able to hand it to those I care about and say, “Here I am. I want you to know me.”


Many Japanese offer jisei from their death-beds. I particularly liked one by Saruo that James Hillman quoted in The Force of Character:
          Cherry blossoms fall
                 On a half-eaten
My reading of it is: “My life is over, and I hardly got started living!”
I got to thinking that folks who leave jisei probably wrote them some time before they arrived at their death-bed, so it might be well for me to start thinking about it. Two came to me.
          Fog slowly crept in—
                  I struggled to see through it,
                           And I learned to love.

          Life—eternal fog—
                  How I yearn to see clearly!
                           My eyes fade with years.

Jisei kept coming to me during devotions; clearly they belong here, but removing them from that Journal didn’t feel right.
          O, Wisteria—
                   Your gorgeous purple flowers
                           Fill our hearts with joy.
          Ah, Wisteria—
                   Your glorious, luscious clusters—
                            Is this my last time?
          I hear a faint voice
                   Calling to me from somewhere—
                            Come and receive life!
May 22nd, 2012
          Tolstoy and Levin
                   Opened a new world for me,
                             My life’s beginning.

June 16th, 2012

          Waiting patiently,
                    I have finished My Journey.
                            I’m ready to go.