Autumn Reflections

It seems like it wasn’t long ago when I was welcoming the coming of spring, now here we are with winter knocking on the door, at least that is the case in my part of the world.  As I sit typing this, enjoying my morning coffee and looking out the window, I get a first hand view each morning of the sunrise. One of the bedrooms I renovated has been turned into an office and my desk faces the window looking towards the east.  On clear mornings I’m greeted by the brilliant, orange and pink hues that make up the morning sky as the sun awakes from its slumber, helping me shake off mine as well.  There are far worse ways to start a day…

I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite season.  Sure there’s the tendency to want to latch on to the season that offers the temperatures we find most enjoyable, but moving beyond that, each has its own particular splendor for the one who takes the time to observe.  This autumn has been beautiful with the spectacular displays of colors presented by the trees giving up there leaves for the winter.  I’m not sure if it was all the rain we had this fall, but the colors were amazing and lasted much longer than I remember last year.  Even as I spent one afternoon raking them from my front yard I did not mind the small investment of labor on my part to be privy to such awe-inspiring beauty.

Cooler temps for me mean more cooking than I usually do.  Although I get a great deal of pleasure from cooking, I learned over the summer that being in a hot kitchen is not my idea of fun when it’s 90 + degrees outside.  This is likely compounded by the fact that I try not to use the a/c much at all in the summer and given that my house is small the heat output from the stove increases the indoor temp by several degrees.  Plus, hot soups just aren’t as pleasing as they are in the cooler months.  There is something to be said for living your life to the rhythm of nature…

So, it was with great enjoyment I broke out the crock pot last week and began cooking some hot, hearty soups.  This week I made a lentil soup for the first time and last night had an amazing potato soup that I  gave a little edge to by adding the smoky flavor of chipotle and a little curry powder.  Topped off with ground pepper, shredded cheese and bacon bits.  YUMMY!  And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, I baked some beer bread to go with it.  Nothing is quite so warming on a cold day than a hearty soup and fresh-baked bread, nothing…



A few of you may recall that I’ve worked a good many years, a little over a decade, as a paramedic.  In that time I’ve seen death and the loss it brings on a personal level more times than I care to remember.  If you do this kind of work, whether it be in a pre-hospital setting with EMTs and Paramedics or in the Emergency Department with doctors and nurses, you quickly learn to compartmentalize the emotional feelings you encounter, not only yours but the emotions of others whom you encounter .  It is the only way you will avoid emotional burnout.

Death occurs in all areas of the hospital, but there is something about the Emergency Department and the pre-hospital setting.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I believe the difference is the primal, raw nature of what is unfolding.  There is no time to prepare for the car accident that just took someone’s life, nor did you know that when you awoke this morning you were going to have a heart attack that would end your life.  And just as the people who’s lives were taken had no way of knowing these events were about to unfold, the ones they left behind were equally, if not more so, blindsided by something that cannot be anticipated.  A day that started with plans for dinner or picking the kids up from school ends with hospital visits and plans for funeral arrangements.  Such is the fragility of life that goes largely unnoticed in our daily routine.  The pre-hospital and Emergency Department settings are the stage for which some of life’s most painful experiences are played out, and where some of the worst news you will ever receive is delivered, by strangers.  Through the years I’ve learned to compartmentalize the emotion I was exposed to for the sake of my own mental sanity as well as allowing me to do my job in circumstances that sometimes felt like chaos, but when an event strikes close to home, those mental defenses are useless…

On Oct 7th I received a phone call from my dad’s cell phone at 11:30 at night, an unusual call because we usually talk every morning, just as we had that morning.  Equally unusual was the shaky female voice on the other end, “…Michael, your dads in the hospital about to have emergency surgery and it doesn’t look good.”  WHAT!?  Half a sleep I was trying to understand what was going on.  I had talked to my father twice that very day and he was fine, how could it be he was having emergency surgery?  When she told me that he had an aortic aneurism I didn’t believe her because aortic aneurysms carry a high mortality rate, very high.  Few who present with symptoms make it to the ED and fewer make it out of surgery and those who make it that far usually have some type of deficit due to the lack of blood flow.

Once I made it to the hospital I found out the original information I had been given was correct.  I didn’t get a chance to see my dad before he went into surgery and I honestly wasn’t sure if I would see him again…

After a nine hour surgery, much of which was trying to control the bleeding, the repair to his aorta had been completed successfully.  The surgeon told us that the damage was one of he worst cases he had seen.  Now we had to wait, and this was just as emotionally draining as waiting for him to come out of surgery.  There was no way of knowing if he had a stroke or if there would be any other organ damage.  When he first opened his eyes and reached for my hand a huge relief swept over me.  He wasn’t out of the woods, but for the first time in two days I felt like it was going to be ok…

This story ends with a happy ending.  My dad is at home recovering now and except for a complication that landed him back in ICU for a week, he is doing great.  I had no intention of writing about this when I first started this post.  Perhaps my subconscious had something to share and hijacked my conscious thoughts.  Who knows.  What I do know is how thankful I am to have my dad around and how comforting it is to know that I will have at least one more time to call him in the morning and say, “I love you dad.”  For what now is, could have easily been no more.

I encourage you this morning, or whenever you might be reading this, to stop what you’re doing and tell your spouse how much you love them, give them a kiss that lingers just a little longer, embrace a little tighter.  Let your kids know what they mean to you.  Call an old friend you may have not talked to in a while.

Live while there is still living to be done…



4 thoughts on “Autumn Reflections

  1. Very glad he came through this. I’ve been through similar when my mother first had a serious stroke, but survived with much lower quality of life only to be diagnosed with lung cancer a few years later. She never regained consciousness before I arrived at to the hospital. She died in our presence. I miss her.

    Here are some very thought provoking words written by a preacher some years back. They have been mistakenly attributed to the comedian George Carlin, but that is apparently not the case. They do help me to soberly consider how I spend my time and how much attention I give to friends and loved ones.

    “The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
    shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more,
    but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and
    smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees
    but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more
    problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

    We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,
    drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too
    little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our
    possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

    We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to
    life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but
    have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space.

    We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air,
    but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.

    We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less.

    We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold
    more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

    These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small
    character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of
    two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.

    These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one
    night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer,
    to quiet, to kill.

    It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the
    stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time
    when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

    Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

    Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent. Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.”


    • I’m really sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. 😦 The loss of a loved often leaves a void in our souls that never completely gets refilled, not even with time…

      Thank you so much for sharing this passage. It has some really great stuff and I will be reading and re-reading to get the most out of it. One of the things I enjoy the most about blogging is the exchange that occurs between reader and writer. It’s nice. Maybe one day I will write consistently enough go get even more enjoyment from the exchange.

      All the best my friend,
      The Stoic

  2. Hi Stoic,
    Great advice on living and appreciating – in the moment. Thanks for sharing your dad’s story – best wishes to him for a speedy recovery!


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