Monday, October 31, 2011

When Halloween was in the dark ...

When I was a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday.  Probably some children feel that way still.  And there was a whole "Halloween season," which started right after school reopened in the fall.  By the end of September, the classroom was decorated with pumpkin drawings and construction-paper cutouts of ghosts and witches (I don't remember cornstalks.  I imagine they were not yet in vogue).  But the best thing about Halloween, in the early 1960s, was the freedom of Halloween night.

Hard as it is to believe, Halloween trick-or-treating back in the day was done in the dark, absent hovering parents.  Parents stayed at home and watched TV, after helping us children get into our costumes, handing us flashlights, and warning us appropriately about getting run over (this is the only warning I recall ever receiving).  Costumes could be more-or-less the same for several years. "Blue fairy again?" Mom would inquire, and I consented to be the blue fairy until I outgrew the costume.

I always trick-or-treated with Cathy and Chuck, my sibling friends from around the block.  We basically ran wild for two or three hours after dinner, through neighborhood after neighborhood, finding our way back home shortly before bedtime.  No one kept track of us (there were -- gasp! -- no cell phones). Mom and Dad would look up when I arrived, admire the size of my candy-stuffed pillowcase, and advise me not to eat it all at once.  No one checked for razorblades, poison, or any other items of ill-intent.

By the time I raised my own kids, trick-or-treating had migrated from the evening to the afternoon.  My kids enjoyed it, but for me, it had lost a lot of its glamor.  What's scary in the afternoon, in broad daylight? Not much.  I took a half-day off so I could trail around behind my son and daughter, sometimes in the company of adult friends of mine. Trick-or-treating was now a group activity for parents, too. It was ... shall we say ... ho hum.

On Halloween night, by the time I get home from work, Halloween activities are long over.  Everyone turns out their porch lights, to discourage teenagers who have ignored the curfew.

A Halloween curfew.  I realize the point is the safety of kids, but my happy memories are at odds with this dangerous world.   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sign of the Times?

 Another chunk of my childhood seems  about to drop off and float away on the river of time.  I should be used to this by now, but it gets me every time!

The link above is for the church where I grew up, the Cathedral Church of Saint John, in Wilmington, Delaware. I learned recently that the Cathedral will be closing in July 2012, for lack of funds.  I knew there were financial problems, but I had no idea it had come to this.  I have never before heard of a diocese without a Cathedral, though perhaps I am naive to be so horrified by this thought.

Below is an excerpt from the History portion of the Cathedral's website:

The Cathedral Church of Saint John is the Cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware and the seat of the Bishop of Delaware. June 13, 1857, the cornerstone was laid, and the church was consecrated on November 3, 1858. Alexis Irenee du Pont is credited with founding the church and donating the funds for its construction. John Notman of Philadelphia who designed the Athenaeum on Independence Square as well as Saint Mark’s Church in Philadelphia, designed the church.
Because of the use of pointed arches, the design is considered Gothic; however, it might be more accurately described as typical English Village Church style. The church is constructed of Brandywine granite about three feet thick. Mr. Notman adhered to the old custom of sitting the church to meet the North, South, East and West compass bearings. The church itself was 116 feet long with the altar at the East end, and the center aisle runs East and West. The open roof has all its massive oak rafters, purlines, jack and hammer beams open to view. The total cost of construction including the land was $26,173.49.

So the Bishop will have no seat, and I will have no chance to return, as I have occasionally, to the place where my parents were married, and from which they were buried,  where I was baptized, confirmed, and married (both times!), and where my Dad was confirmed just four months before he died.  The nave seemed endless to my child's eyes, and  bears a striking resemblance to  that of the church where I worship today.  I also remember a quaint childrens' chapel up on the top floor,  and a large wooden model of the Cathedral itself, with little doors that could be opened and shut.  Like a church dollhouse!

If I come across additional pictures at home, I will post them.  Meanwhile, I am trying to plan one more visit, before the Cathedral doors close forever.

It's wrong. It's just wrong!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Courage and Faith

A Facebook friend of mine, Jeff,  died recently.  He was only 54, younger than I am, and had suffered from muscular dystrophy. Close to the end, he had only 10%  of his lung function, and was on a ventilator.

I was saddened by his passing, but I'm amazed by his courage.

A week ago Saturday,  Jeff had a party.  Twenty or so of his closest friends were there, as were his parish priest, his two adult children, and his physician and hospice nurse.  After feasting on his favorite foods, including large quantities of chocolate, Jeff gathered his friends together to watch as he received Last Rites.

At that point, the doctor administered to Jeff a dose of ativan, and, at Jeff's direction, removed his ventilator. With his children at his side and his friends offering comfort, Jeff died peacefully.

This is a beautiful story, and I know we would all like to die peacefully at home, with our families and friends at our side.  The question is, would I have the courage to make the decision Jeff made? Would I step forward in faith, have the ventilator removed, and trust God to bring me home?

The very thought of this makes me hyperventilate. I'm really fond of breathing, to the point that I can't watch movies about deep-sea diving (I had to leave during The Abyss). I am, in fact, not a fan of pain, or even of discomfort.  My idea of hardship makes me embarrassed, and would make you laugh. 

Of course, not having been in Jeff's position, I can't begin to imagine what life must have been like on the ventilator. I have no doubt he made the right choice, and that he was welcomed into the open arms of God.  I have no doubt that we are all  welcomed into God's arms, no matter how fearful we have been of death. That's my trust and hope.

But that ol' yellow streak up my back is about a foot wide.

Rest in peace, dear Jeff, brother in Christ. And pray hard for faith and courage for the rest of us.