Connecting Pieces of Life-When bad things can bring something good

Back in my childhood home, I have been caring for my father as he continues to recover from a fall he had two weeks back. He needs 24 hour care since his ambulation is not stable, and he has a very painful left foot resisting expectations for a more rapid healing. Dad and I have not shared a living space for about 30 years, when my mother, father, and siblings required my assistance for a few months before her passing away from ALS. Lately, threads of memories are surfacing, not to haunt, rather to complete a personal sense of myself.2013-05-30_14-07-27_334

As God writes the best of plans, my first job when I was 16 was as a Certified Nurses’ Aide (CNA) which trained me in providing range-of-motion exercise, patient lifting mechanics, personal hygiene care, and other useful skills and knowledge. Although my work with the elderly at St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, was just a Saturday job while I was in high school (earning $2.40 per hour), I enjoyed serving meals, assisting residents with their much awaited baths, curling their hair in the facility’s “beauty shop,” dispensing medications, and lots of listening. They used to call me “Sweet Sue.” There was Antoinette (AKA Frenchie) from Canada who used to chat with me in French. I was not fluent, but she engaged me to love the language. Someone had said that she had no visitors except one nun who also spoke her language, and so I was heart bound to her. Within a few months though, I’d learned that she was declining food, despondent to end her life. She did not acquiesce from my pleading to eat, and a couple weeks later I was crushed with grief when Frenchie had died.

Tragedy has a way of sharpening our focus and revealing character. Although only 16, I could not bring myself to continue working as a CNA; it hurt too much to know that I had no power to help “save” those in my care.

When Dad came home, all things we formerly took for granted were scrutinized, chair heights, bathroom configurations, and sleeping, medicine, and feeding schedules. A spare bed was brought down to the ground floor and an angel brother-in-law constructed risers for it as well as Dad’s recliner that made it a bit easier for him to get situated with a walker featuring wheels and tennis ball sliders.

It has been a labor of love, even getting my night owl schedule to synch with his 5 a.m. start, and although this does not feel like “home” any more—because I have my own filled with my husband and older children a 40 minute drive away—I can remember where everything is and have flashbacks of family that kind of glue the pieces of my life past to the present.

Also, as I am roughly 10 years older than the majority of my siblings, Dad’s challenges have revealed their characters as adults now. Interesting… There is a deep sense of gratitude for my husband’s understanding and support, and I have observed my children’s acceptance and willingness to also accommodate, taking on a greater share of independence and ownership of home duties. Here’s hoping that I don’t find a tornado zone upon my return!

Since my highest priority has been loving care of Dad and serving his needs the best I can, so far I found time mostly at night to do my professional work and had used the opportunity to see a rather long YouTube (1:16) presentation by Hakim Archuletta.

Wisdom is revealed throughout, identifying the nuances of ancient knowledge related to preserving health, but the last 25 minutes of the recording hits several tidbits of good measure that clue the viewer toward a vision that aligns with what intuitively matches my own. It is worth the time to explore, and I believe answers to the causes of some deep seated illness can be discovered. The concept of “connection” converged with events in my family circles, and I value what I perceive to be God’s hints to promote healing in many of them and their relationships.

Along this line of thinking I reminisced that by digitizing old video media and about 750 photos and slides I inadvertently healed rifts that formed amongst my brood, as there’s a lot of testosterone in my house, and sometimes ego clash. By seeing our kids, we realized some things that were never apparent before. One of the most comedic was to see birthday videos of our youngest at ages 2 and 3 where his older brother merely asked to cut the cake. As parents we probably just did not want to risk him using a knife or anticipated hassles, but we put him off with a solid, “No,” and really emphasized it when he balked. Ah, parent guilt! We promised ourselves that the next family party–a high school graduation–could relieve and deliver us from potential fixation if we finally let him, at 23 years, to finally cut the cake. I wonder if the video game I always saw him play, the one with guerilla combat and hunting knife, had anything to do with that!

In viewing themselves, the kids piped up, “We were such pests!” I saw exceedingly patient parenting, but the beauty of sharing the video memories is that we remembered some really great and harmonious family times, when they were still so cute and innocent. They were close, and seeing it that way again rekindled the bonds, which were perhaps taken for granted.

All in all, I now have current media, replicable technology, which can be passed down to connect us to future generations. Appreciation of togetherness, respect, just sharing meals, and taking time are immensely healing and should not be dismissed as insignificant while our society’s patterns are shredding these conventions apart.

When I was an assistant principal, my raison d’etre was to help people develop and discover their potential. In that capacity, I connected individuals in many ways: to other people, resources, and sometimes to their inner selves. This vocation permeates my self-concept of being a type of guardian angel to help, promote, develop and connect those who can benefit from knowledge, assistance, and by lending an ear. I have been granted blessings I deem worthy of sharing, and I wish to remind readers what Hakim Archuletta pleaded with followers to do. Make it a priority, make time to connect, breathe, and live.

—–Update: Dad is back in the hospital, another one. The medical system foibles have been revealed. Two hospitals, sets of doctors, home health care confusion, and a holiday weekend delay in having competent follow-up resulted in a very bad foot infection that causes immense pain. Thanks for Loyola Medical Center and their teams for bringing a quick admission, expertise, and relief. We hope to go back “home” tomorrow or the next day.

~God is the One who has created all of you originally weak. Then after your weakness, He brings about strength in you, Then after your strength, He brings about weakness in you and the gray hair of old age. He creates whatever He so wills. For He is the All-Knowing, the Almighty. Thus, the Day the Hour of Doom shall come, God will raise the dead, and the defiant unbelievers will swear that they had not remained in the world but for an hour. Even so, they were deluded about the truth of the Hereafter.

But those in life who were given revealed knowledge and who had faith will say to them: Very truly, you have remained in existence from the time of your creation until the Day of the Ultimate Rising–in accordance with the decree in the Book of God. Thus, this is the Day of  the Ultimate Rising. Yet you did not ever seek to know of it!

Then on that Day, those who did wrong by worshipping false gods shall not benefit from their justification for it. Nor shall they be allowed to propitiate the wrath of God for their ungodliness.

Now very truly, We have put forth for the good of all people in this Quran, something of every kind of illustration. Yet even if you were to bring them, O Prophet, a miraculous sign as proof from God, those who disbelieve would still, most surely say: You and the believers are nothing but progenitors of falsehood!

And so it is that God seals up the hearts of those who do not seek to know truth from fallacy.

Therefore, be patient, O Prophet. Indeed, the promise of victory from God is ever true. Thus do not let those who have no certainty in God and His judgment unsettle you. (30:54-60)

Hospital, Hope, and Historic Legacy

Hospital, Hope, and Historic Legacy

Perched on the 7th floor of a suburban hospital, I peer at the Chicago skyline in the distance. Here for five days after my father suddenly “lost power” in his legs while feeding the birds in his yard; it was 92 degrees and he was stranded, baking for a few hours before a neighbor miraculously found him. While the event was unpleasant, he feels blessed as his children have risen to the cause as his advocates with numerous staff and specialists, tests, logistics, and he instigated a chain of reunions and collaborations that give him satisfaction, and above all, the feeling of love. We anticipate discharge to a physical rehabilitation within days.
1367685774908 With all the nasty news headlines, political and economic stresses, it distills down to this—we prevail when we have Hope. In Dad’s case, all testing so far was mercifully unspectacular, and an additional benefit, as I ponder it, is that rehab guided by professionals may speed up his recovery from winter doldrums to result in out-performing me in golf! I had better get my own training on track, in spite of numerous overseas relatives who have added to the complexity of my task schedule.

Yet, before spring sprang with its tulips, redolent lilacs and hyacinths, I was prompted to read Tariq Ramadan’s Islam and the Arab Awakening. It was not part of the Muslim Journeys book list, but I wish it was because he has a global following. This review will summarize contents and some of my own perspectives derived from his ideas.

Ramadan analyzes historic, geopolitical, and currently relevant perspectives. In his prescription for Arab and Muslim majority countries, he echoes a call I have heard even from OIC business research circles, that there is need for reform in education to foster innovation, critical thinking, and establishing a mission based stance toward collective responsibility, which may even question leadership if a better solution may be conceived. He recognizes the need in light of economic ripples from globalization, and the necessity of guidance and requirement to utilize young people in work. In particular, the value of women’s education and autonomy is acknowledged, and resolving poverty and corruption, which has undermined societies.

In timely manner, he qualifies that Islamic shariah implies a call for justice, dignity, and freedom. It supports religious, cultural, and political pluralism. Ramadan’s expertise is qualified, as he holds a PhD. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva (Switzerland), and he contends that shariah is not constitutionally rigid and reductive. He also explains that the often misunderstood term of jihad “resists racism, dictatorships, corruption and oppression.” He states that “only when Muslim societies actively envision and work for nothing less than these values can they achieve liberation.” This is a far different portrayal of these terms—shariah and jihad—than what the American public has been led to believe.

Efforts of a deliberate misinformation campaign have been revealed, as I have learned of several reports in the past year. Truly Machiavellian, there are enough well plotted schemes that convince this to be reality, not a conspiracy theory. Yet, Ramadan does not address these at all. What he does note though are the inequities of powerful nations in their willingness to engage in resolutions within Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia as contrasted with Syria and Yemen. Specific interest was abetted to unrests in petromonarchies of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Meanwhile, we also see further power plays and economic polarization in Greece and Cypress, and we question when will the purge end? Who loses and who gains? How can “they” get away with it, and can the juggernaut be halted without a hard landing? The printing of fiat currency is heading toward Jupiter with futile hope of ever meeting debt obligations on every scale. It’s a house of cards, and even my overseas guests—who sport the shopping malls have reported that designer brands are selling out, while middle-America is not even in the mall or they’re just window shopping.

My eldest children have commented that nearly all their classmates from high school and college have no job, and this we see in Arab societies as well. Educated and un or under employed, we have too many PhDs. What benefit was their education for? A better effort is required for guiding students toward employable fields and majors. Ramadan writes that “critical intelligence is mandated to resolve the waste of human capital. Globalization and unemployment needs some turnkey solutions, and although not everyone is an entrepreneur, we must utilize resources in a fulfilling and sustainable manner.” Working to eliminate poverty is a solution; yet, the widening gap of haves and have nots is directly oppositional to the solution required.

Ramadan’s writing expresses hope for Muslim majority societies to take the initiative in building its own alternative order. In my mind I sense powerful potential parallels with the Dark Ages and subsequent rise of the Golden Age of Islam which eventually catalyzed into the Renaissance. However, with the internet and social media’s pan-identity of “we” there is optimism to breach entrenched nationalistic, gender, and religious divisions in exchange for a united, humanistic bond with willingness toward inclusion.

The power of the people was just a glimmer in the Arab Spring, and we wait for its awakening to cure the malaise threatening our existence. To build, Ramadan calls for the following three priorities
• The dignity of the individual and labor
• Defined conditions for fair and equitable trade
• Compassion and efforts to relieve the poor

While Arab and Muslim majority societies seek solutions, it is fair to evaluate weaknesses, in order to recognize their vulnerabilities. Since Ramadan clearly rests the responsibility to ultimately lie with the people, irrespective of corrupt leaders and plots, he diagnoses that many greatly lack Spirituality. Of course, there are deeply spiritual people scattered in every society, he qualifies that the masses are not devoid of “religion,” rather they lack its deeper infused essence. “Adherence to rituals, and even moral concern, fall short of spirituality depicted as having a rock solid base in a meaning to life and peace in one’s heart resulting from an unshakable belief that permeates one’s personality resulting in inner security and serenity.”

He calls out that rhetoric and formality have taken precedence over the spiritual core, and that some people incorporate Sufi practices while maintaining parallel to them secular lifestyles. We’ve seen this in American society where there was a rising interest in Buddhism and yoga. While not all who choose yoga as their form of exercise connect to the spiritual relation to it, the popular rise of it into mainstream was sparked by people seeking to fill a void.

Who could blame them for casting away religion when it seems that all dogmatic religions “take away” and “restrict,” rather that enrich? Moreover, the argument that religion “gives comfort” can easily be dismissed because many other less polyanna-ish pursuits can also give at least a temporary comfort.

Ramadan contends, “What lies at the heart of spirituality is the willingness to not resist against life’s challenges, because at some point exhaustion sets in, if unabated. When the human reaches its limit in its ability to suffer, the only recourse is to reach beyond one’s self to an entity who never fatigues, who creates all, and can deliver ultimate relief. Certainty of this entity’s existence and a personal connection to it defines one as a Believer. The depth of the relationship between Creator and Believer determines the degree of spirituality. Just as muscle improves with effort, spirituality is deepened with effort to connect with one’s Creator. In our often busy lives, this requires an investment of time and consciousness. That justifies why Muslims pray 5 times a day, to maintain that “hand hold” and bond.”

Far from simply hiding and praying, a spiritual person is called upon to actualize virtue in caring for themselves, their fellow humans, plants, creatures, and the environment. The manifold aspects of this can be applied to all realms of life. For me, Ramadan’s clarification reminds that aspects of this should resonate throughout education, social, political, economic, cultural and artistic work. For every type of occupation, I can easily perceive its relevance in serving for a greater good, whether it be through social work, fine arts, math and science, literature and communication, law, health care and fitness, politics, agriculture, animal husbandry, travel, logistics, trade, manufacturing, marketing, finance, and defense. All are acceptable if they serve toward building and preserving a legacy of dignity for all, and respecting the benevolence and wisdom of the Creator. This respect and acceptance of the Creator’s higher authority is what feeds spirituality. Behaving contrary to one’s inherent autonomy, status of trust, honor, and responsibility erodes it.

My vocation in Education—inclusive of the plurality of languages, customs, arts, cuisines, and other facets of culture—can help us discover our own pan-identity. Giving meaning and worth to other cultures gives respect and bonds humans as global partners.

——-Enough heavy analysis; levity also bonds humans. To that extent, I’ve a hankering for reading something by P.G. Wodehouse. After all, balance is a characteristic of Islam, and much time hanging out at the hospital with Dad has me chomping at the bit to get moving outdoors as soon as I can assure he is comfortable in an interim setting to get his legs and lungs ready for golf.