Setting up for the outdoor July 4th Service
Historic Church Tour July 4th 2010
Last week I was on vacation in Florida and found myself in a very undesirable place- a swimming pool. I haven’t been a fan of the beach or pool ever since the Coast Guard tried to tow me back into the surf- but that’s a story for a different day.
I’m at the pool because my little nephew shames me into going to their community pool at least one time while I’m visiting on vacation. This is a huge pool in a large community development with a lot of people. After about thirty minutes of undivided attention my nephew comes to realize that I wasn’t nearly as fun as expected and he goes off to play with his friends. Great news!
If nothing else at least now I can have some peace and quiet while staying mostly submerged avoiding the inevitable sunburn that average white boys like me are destined for. Minutes into this solitary bliss a little kid about five years old powers over next to me with the aid of his swimmies and starts staring at me He then says “will you play with me?”
Ok- I’d like to think I’m a nice guy but in my head I’m thinking- are you kidding me? Giant pool- tons of people and you want to have play time with me? Me? Go away and leave me alone! At least that is what I’m thinking but instead I blatantly lie and simply say “sure!”
What follows was a nightmare trilogy consisting of me, this kid and his pool toys. “Throw me the ball and I’ll catch it.” “When I catch it twenty-one times I win.” The kid didn’t tell me until after he reached twenty-one the full tournament would start with multiple games that I always managed to lose. Then it was on to the plastic rings that I had to throw and he’d retrieve like a demented Lab for me to throw again and again and again…. I’d politely try to end the games but he simply ignored me and continued on. This process easily went on for over a two hour period. If there were pens in the pool I would have surely stuck one in my eye.
Well into this water nightmare after I had lost yet another game of catch with him the kid’s sister who’s about ten years old swims over to me. The sister who had been playing with her friends then provides me with a life lesson that I should not soon forget. She starts by telling me that she knows that I’m letting her brother win in all of these games. I feign denial but she knows the truth.
The sister then tells me that I remind her and her brother of their Uncle Bear. Sis says that Uncle Bear “used” to play with her brother just like I was now. She that says “Uncle Bear died last year” and with those words she swims away.
In that moment God answered the question “why me.”
If but for a moment, I had been presented with the opportunity to be Uncle Bear for that kid. Maybe, just maybe, I had for a short period of time been used as an instrument of comfort and peace for that little kid. Maybe God just taught me a lesson about doing the right thing- even when the right thing doesn’t conform to my own desires.
Since that day I have come to wonder how many Uncle Bear moments I have dismissed in the past. Rarely do we know of all of the opportunities we have to bring a bit of happiness to complete strangers with our simple words and actions.
My lesson is now shared with you. Always be vigilant for your Uncle Bear moments for you never know when they will be presented to you.
RIP Uncle Bear.
Dreams can be the best. Dreams can be the worst. Sometimes, like last night, dreams can inspire a legitimate and hopefully productive thought process. Hopefully it is even possible to become a better, wiser person as the result of a dream. Hopefully that happened for me last night. Hopefully it can help you too.
Last night I dreamed that I was somewhere on vacation and I was sitting down for lunch in a public restaurant when someone escorted my father in-law in and sat him across from me at the table. This was of course a great surprise to me because he has been dead for a few years now. Sheldon looked incredibly frail and sickly much like he did shortly before he passed away. In the dream he told me he didn’t have long to stay because he wasn’t feeling well. And then the dream just simply faded away….
I woke up numerous times in the night after that dream and ended up getting up far earlier than I needed to because of how it made me think. The dream had provided me with something we all wish we could have lots of in life- a do over! I was presented with another chance to say the things- to ask the things- of my father in-law that I hadn’t and that I should have.
In the interest of fair disclosure Sheldon wasn’t always the easiest man to get along with. He was a man of strong opinions and fearless in his efforts to share them. Yet he was no doubt a good man. Married to one woman his whole life, a WWII Navy vet and a hard worker his life was one to emulate in many ways. Most importantly we had one very big thing in common for we both greatly loved the same woman- my greatest earthly blessing- Debbie.
Sheldon lived in Florida and his death process was a long distance one for me. I vividly remember the last time I spoke to him. I wasn’t aware that it was to be the last conversation but both he and I knew that it could be. I had something that I wanted to say to him during that call. I wanted to tell him that he should know that in my eyes he was a great man for raising this woman that I love so much. In all of his accomplishments through my lens of life that was his greatest. I chose to make small talk instead..
I said nothing that I should have because I was a proud and cowardly man. I was fearful that I would cry and look weak. My plan that day was to say it the next time, on the next call. The Lord’s plan was different. Sheldon died leaving me no next calls and no second chances.
I have come to greatly regret that lost opportunity. After his death I came to think of so many other things that I should have said and which I should have asked but did not. I always knew that he was a Navy veteran of WWII but never bothered asking for details. Only after his death when going through some of his papers and talking with my mother in-law did I learn more. His job was as a landing craft driver and he served in the Pacific theater. He likely participated in some of the most historic island landings in our history- and I never knew because I never asked. How many other things did I miss out on knowing? Quite literally only Heaven knows.
So that is why I am up early for like my reality the dream too faded away without anything being said. The dream, like reality only leaves behind regrets and thoughts of what could have been.
Most importantly the dream leaves behind a lesson for me and a lesson that I share with you. If you were presented with a do over what would you say and what would you ask? Would you face that moment with courage or would you shrink away from it due to pride and forever be regretful? We never know when our conversation with someone in the dying process will be our last opportunity to say- or to ask. For that matter we never know when our conversation with our healthy loved one will be our last opportunity to say- or to ask.
Don’t let the moment just fade away….
RIP Sheldon Kolsin
At the time of 9/11 I was a cop and had been one for many years. What follows is something I wrote very soon after 9/11 to help me cope with the horrors of that day:
If you know me then you knew them.
As I contemplate the horror of this attack on our great country I tend to
think, I can’t imagine. Yet as I contemplate further I realize that, in a
small way, I really can imagine.
I can’t imagine what it was like at the end for the poor souls on the
airliner. I can’t imagine what it was like for the innocent people in the
buildings that were attacked. But I can imagine what it was like for the
officers who died in their valiant efforts to save total strangers.
I can imagine this because I am a cop. Being a cop is a strange thing. We
are all, for the most part, the same exact thing. Just as a McDonalds
cheeseburger is the same either in your town of three thousand miles away-
the same can be said for cops. We all tend to be very much like each other.
As such I know what it was like for these men and women in law enforcement
as they faced their death. Their response was no different than mine would
have been, no different from those of the cops who work for me. No different
than that of cops if it had happened three thousand miles away.
These cops saw danger that others ran from. These cops ran towards it.
Others ran out to save themselves. These cops ran in to save others. These
cops, who through their careers have been vilified and mocked by the general
population tried, heroically, to save those who may well have been their
These brave officers were under no obligation to enter these buildings.
The credo that “Cops fight crime and firefighters fight fires” didn’t occur
to them. They knew that people needed help and they didn’t hesitate. Just
like I wouldn’t hesitate and just like the cop three thousand miles away
These brave men and women of law enforcement had husbands, wives, children
and other family and friends that cared for them greatly. Just as I do.
These brave men and women, unhesitatingly, sacrificed all that in the
service of total strangers. Just as I would have and just as the cop three
thousand miles away would have.
My prayer is that their experience of death was quick and
To my friends and family I boldly suggest this- If you know me then you
knew them. They are no different than me, no different from the cop three
thousand miles away. We are no different. We are one.
My deepest times of introspection usually present themselves in a dark living room with just the glow of the monitor before me. Tonight is no different. A sudden onset of summer has burst upon New Hampshire bringing with it warmth and through the open window the discordant cacophony of peepers from down in the swamp.
As I sit here I come to a full understanding of the fact that I indeed understand very little. As a control freak I find myself controlling nothing. So much of my life is completely beyond my own understanding or explanation. In my mind, tonight, all of the failures are magnified and focused yet mitigated by God’s great mercy.
Tonight I don’t pretend to know or understand anything.