Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Screaming in rage

I started experiencing numbness in both hands and arms back in May. It wasn't too bad then - I could just shake my arms and it would clear up. But it kept getting worse; it got to the point where I couldn't shake it out any more.

I recorded the highest blood pressure reading (154/100) I've ever recorded when I saw my Doctor in September about the numbness problem.

I quit smoking on September 22, 2008 (4 weeks ago.)

I buried my Mother on October 7. 2008 (2 weeks ago.)

Except for an occasional burning sensation in my hands I haven't had any feeling in my fingers for two week.

I saw a specialist last week who diagnosed the numbness as being caused by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. He recommended surgery on both wrists.

A project at work is not going the way I think it should and today I really blew my top. I started yelling at the top of my lungs at a couple of people who didn't deserve to be treated that way.

I just smoked two Swisher Sweets Cigars and will smoke two more before I go to bed tonight.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Four weeks as a non-smoker

It's been four weeks since I've had a cigarette. I still get urges but they aren't quite as strong and don't last as long as they use to. I need to have the heat exchanger in the ceiling cleaned because it smells like cigarette ash; I use to smoke in the bathroom when the weather was bad. I can smell the cigarette smoke on other smokers when they walk past me or ride the elevator with me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Remembering Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard died ten years ago - October 12, 1998. I never knew Matthew, I never met him, I never saw him, I had never even heard of him. He wasn't the first person to have been murdered because of their sexual orientation and he wouldn't be the last - yet Matthew's death shook me to my bones. I was busy at work when the news that he had died came over the radio. I was so shaken up by the news that I was not able to work the rest of the week. Why would the death of this complete stranger affect me so much? There were many reasons.

This didn't happen in a big city far away or a backwards foreign country. This happened in my back yard - just a 100 miles from where I live. Out here a 100 miles is close. Get away from the Denver front range into the Wyoming country side and you can drive for miles without seeing any signs of life. On the high planes of the central United States a 100 miles is a morning commute. They didn't kill him outright - they tied him to a fence, pistol whipped him, bludgeoned him with the butt of their revolver and left him to die. He died 5 days latter.

Even though I never knew Matthew, he was family. I spent many days in Matthew's home town of Casper Wyoming. I walked on the same streets and went to many of the same places he would later go - I even attended a funeral in the very same cemetery where he is now buried. I went to the same University he would later attend, and I came out of the closet in the rugged outback of Wyoming shortly after he was born - this too made us family. [I only attended the University briefly and not successfully.]

The image of the fence itself seems to have had an effect on me too. The image of the fence doesn't create in me a sense of death or danger, rather it creates feelings of "harvest", "hearth" and "home". Juxtapose that with the reality of what actually happened there creates a sense of dissonance and confusion.

Even though Colorado's Amendment 2 was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 1996, when Amendment 2 was passed in 1992, many gays and lesbians felt their very person hood was in mortal jeperdy. Matthew's death following so closely on the heals of Amendment 2 was a realization of what many were living in fear of. Matthew's murder was a continuation and escalation of the hatred and dehumanization of a class of people.

With California's proposition 8 on the ballet and numerous other attempts to revoke equal rights for gays and lesbions, Judy Shepard (Matthew's mother) has it right when she writes "It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since Matthew’s death. So much has changed yet so much remains the same."

Matthew's death shook me down to my bones and deeply affected me. The most profound realization is that he was born, he lived, he was loved, he loved, and he died. Through his utter humanness he affected and moved countless others. Matthew Shepard's life and his death was not in vein; it is full of meaning and purpose.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A very Baptist affair

My mothers funeral was last Tuesday. It was held at the First Baptist Church in my home town. Both of my parents were very active in that church until they moved away many years ago. She was interred, after cremation, next to my father. A lot more people attended than I expected; not all of her peers had died, moved away, or were infirmed. I was really surprised when several people, I assumed had died, showed up alive and well!

It was a simple Baptist service. After an opening prayer and some singing the preacher read her obituary, then asked my brothers and sisters and I to come forward and recall a fond memory of our mother. One spoke about our parents involvement in building the new church, one spoke about her prom dress, another spoke about singing the special music in a church service. I spoke about a memory of mother playing the piano one afternoon, while my father and I napped, when she stopped playing (after an hour) we both got up to find out why she had stopped. After a long incoherent sermon the service concluded with the old Baptist standard hymn: "In The Garden".

We had a police escort to the cemetery. One good thing about my home town, they take really good care of the cemetery. At the grave site there was a prayer then we placed roses next to mom's Urn. The ladies of the church provided lunch after the service.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My mother died Thursday October 2, 2008 (updated)

My mother, Frances, died very early Thursday morning October 2, 2008. My sister and brother were both present when she died. Below is a draft (slightly edited) of the obituary my sister wrote (I am the only non-theist in the family; the rest of the family identifies as Christian.)

Frances R. H. peacefully returned to the loving arms of the Lord on Thursday October 2, 2008 where she joined her beloved husband, Doctor Joe.

Frances Ross HShe came into this World in on March 18, 1920, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the eldest daughter of Clyde and Alice R. She grew up in Cheyenne surrounded by music. Her parents were both professional musicians and music remained an important part of her life. She enjoyed playing in string quartets, and played First Violin with the Casper Symphony for many years. Occasionally she played with the Billings Symphony and later played several seasons with the St. George, Utah Symphony. She gave piano and violin lessons, and was organist and choir director at First Baptist Church for many years. She attended Park College in Parkville, Missouri from 1938 to 1941 and graduated from the University of Wyoming 1943 with a degree in Music

While attending Park College in 1938 she met the true love of her life. The first time she saw Joe H. she was attracted to the tall handsome curly haired gentleman. He was a Senior and she was a Freshman. When they discovered they were both from Wyoming, a romance which lasted a lifetime followed. They were married in Cheyenne, Wyoming August 30,1943. After Joe’s residency in St. Louis, and his stint with the military following World War II they made their home in Wyoming. Five children were born of this marriage.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Joe H., her parents, Clyde and Alice R., her only sister, Mae Fern Jay, and her infant daughter Alice.

She is survived by her sons, Frank, (wife Elizabeth) of Wisconsin, David (wife Kit) of Wyoming, and Clyde of Colorado; her daughter, Jeannette of Montana; four grandchildren, Marci, Jessica, Patrick, Robert (wife Pam) and one great grandson, Teague.

Cremation has taken place, burial will be at Mt. Pisgah in Wyoming.

A funeral service will be held at the First Baptist Church (Wyo) at 2:00 PM Tuesday October 7, 2008; the service is open to the public.