Friday, August 4, 2017

Guardian Angels Working Overtime

Todd Telin doesn't ride a motorcycle. He hasn't since his bike slid sideways and sent him shooting down a highway at 80 miles an hour.

"That's how fast I was going when I saw the wheel on an old truck beside me in the right lane start to wobble," he says. As he was considering his options the wheel fell off and rolled into the side of his bike.

Image result for old tire on side of road

"If it had hit the front tire I would have gone end-over-end. If it hit the back I would have rolled. That it hit the side probably saved my life." The motorcycle fell on top of him and he started an 80-mile-an-hour slide.

Image result for highway graphic

"I was wearing leathers, but no helmet," he adds, "and while I was sliding I kept thinking, 'Keep your head up, keep your head up." As it was, he slid boots first about 200-feet along the pavement, burning through his shoes, scraping a hole in his foot and taking off most of his small toe. But that was it. The second he stopped, he says he bounced back up.

A friend of his was also on that road, a doctor who saw the wheel, and saw the fall, and thought there was no way Todd had survived. He hit his brakes and drove through the median to turn around and head back to the scene. "By the time he got there I was standing. Adrenalin I suppose," says Todd. He climbed into his buddy's pickup and they headed for the nearest Emergency Room, which happened to be in a small town. There was no doctor there that day.

"Only an intern," says Todd. As they came through the door, a woman in another bed was in cardiac arrest, and the intern was in over his head. "He was scared to death," says Todd. "You could see it on his face." Todd's road rash and foot injuries, while serious, suddenly took a back seat.

"His friend said, 'I'm a doctor, do you need a hand?' and then he jumped in and they saved that woman. So maybe that was the whole point," says Todd.

Both he and the woman lived through it. Even so, Todd says he'll never again climb onto a motorcycle. He doesn't want to push his luck.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Dad Made His Own Funeral Dinner

His business card reads: "Have Fedora & Dr. Who Scarf Will Travel," underlined.

His claim to fame is a quote from Donald Trump which reads: "Nobody reports that, but you do. That's why I like you."

Pete "DatechGuy" Ingemi is a blogger Massachusetts with a long resume. I ran into him at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show where he was selling his book, Hail Mary, and gathering interviews for his radio program. He interviewed me, but I could tell by looking at him that he had a story. I wasn't wrong.

He heard what my book, Gift of Death, was about, then told me about his father, who died in his kitchen right after making his own funeral dinner.

"He was sitting at the kitchen table with his face in his hand," Pete explained. "Being Sicilian, he always sat where he could see all the doors -- the front door, the side door and the cellar door." Pete's brother Antonio arrived first with their mother and at first glance they thought he was sleeping. But when they touched him they realized he was cold. This was a guy whose ancestors hailed from Italy. Years earlier he'd owned a bar and restaurant called the Mohawk Club. Cooking was a thing he knew how to do. And he loved to do it. "He loved to see people eat."

On this particular night, even though he was expecting only four for dinner, he'd cooked food for an army. Spaghetti, meatballs, peppers and onions, steaks, chicken and pot after pot of sauce; traditional Sicilian dishes of all kinds. They were on the stoves and in the ovens in the upstairs kitchen and in the spare room, and in the cellar where the old restaurant stove was stored. There was food in toaster ovens that they didn't discover for days. Everywhere you looked, there was something wonderful cooking. "As Italians we naturally always made more food than we needed to," he said, "but this was ridiculous."

As the family gathered over the next several days they were well provided for. "Everybody just ate. There was so much food and everybody loved my father's cooking." Suffice it to say nobody went hungry.

Did he have a premonition? "Nobody knows. But it sure seemed that way," Pete told me. Earlier in the day he'd called the priest, and he talked to a brother he hadn't seen in a while. He called his wife at work, a thing he rarely did. He didn't say goodbye in those calls. Instead, he said farewell in a way that was uniquely him, channeling his love into his food.

If you're interested in Pete's book on Hail Mary - The Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer, here's the link:

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Body/Spirit Connection

I've become interested lately in Terminal Lucidity. It's only recently been named by biologist, Dr. Michael Nahm, but it's not a new thing. It's that moment when somebody who has previously been unresponsive is suddenly alert and communicative hours before death. On his website, Exploring Frontiers of Biology, Dr. Nahm lists several examples.

In one case he talks about a woman who had Alzheimer's Disease and who had not recognized anybody for five years who engaged in normal conversation just hours before she died. In another, he describes an event in which a young man with cancer that had spread to his brain had lost the ability to speak or move, but who woke up and said goodbye to his family right before he died.

As with so many things that seem inexplicable, scientists are trying to find a physical reason for this. However, I became convinced while doing research for my book, Gift of Death, that we are surrounded by an entire world of wonder that we simply can't see. How else to explain the woman who told me she was surprised one day when her doorbell rang, and standing there was her favorite aunt who lived in a different state. Before she could ask any questions or even hug her, her wall phone rang. "Come in!" she said. "I'll just answer that and be right back." She went into her kitchen and picked up the phone. It was her father, telling her that her aunt had just died. When she turned back toward the door, there was nobody there. She believes her aunt had come to her in spirit to say goodbye. "What was even more amazing," she told me, "is that when I reflected back on it I realized the woman I saw at the door was my aunt when she was much younger."

If you know of anybody who has had this type of experience, I'd be interested in hearing their story.
Write me at:

Friday, July 7, 2017

Faith in Our Future

Watch the news today and you may get the impression that the entire world is run by extremists, and that America, and Americans, are hated everywhere.

I thought I'd share with you a conversation I was privileged to have with North Dakota native Brigadier General Gigi Wilz. General Wilz grew up in Richardton, ND, in a military family. She joined the National Guard when she was just 17 and since then has served our country for 30 years, using her talent not only to pave the way for women in the armed forces, but to act as a representative of the people of our nation. She spent the last two years as NATO Commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where she met and got to know people from all 29 nations that make up the NATO Alliance; people from all corners of Europe. She was in a position to really hear what people elsewhere think of us. What she said might surprise you. I'm writing it here, word for word.

"I think if we take the middle of the road citizens of other nations, they still love America and think America is important in terms of global order. Most people, when you talk to them, all want to come to America and experience that. So, I think for the most part we have a good reputation, regardless of what you hear on both ends of the spectrum in the media."

I asked her if she thinks the media as an industry chooses sides. She laughed and said, "I probably shouldn't answer that question sitting here in a television studio, but yes, I think they have the tendency to go way right or way left. And the truth of the matter is, most Americans are right down the middle, and that's the population that the news media is not capturing today."

Fair enough. Next question: Situations like what's going on in North Korea are very frightening. With her military experience, does it worry her?

"It does, but I don't know that we haven't been here before with other rogue nations, so as long as we have incredible leadership within the defense structure and we have a Congress and we have a president who's trying to influence that, then I'm less concerned."

She also said, "I'm not the politician, I'm not the world leader, but from a military perspective we think it's very important that we demonstrate  an alliance. That's why NATO is important...I believe that diplomacy is still the best deal, always backed up by military power, and that's why the NATO Alliance is so important.

Does our form of government still work?

"Yes, without question. It's got a checks and balances system so, just like I subordinate myself to civilian leadership, that leadership also needs to pay attention to Congress. That's important."

When the news we hear is so often gloomy, I found General Wilz' views reassuring, as if we are still in good hands.

You can read more about her in this month's issue of Inspired Woman magazine, Freedom issue. Find the link here:

Monday, July 3, 2017

I Think That I Shall Never See.....

"A Poem Lovely as a Tree" *

You think you know your kids. Especially after 27 years. Which is why I was so surprised by my son's recent reaction to California's Muir Woods. We had time to do one thing, so we were headed to Stinson Beach when we saw the sign, and he mentioned that visiting the giant redwoods was on his bucket list. "Let's go!"

This detour was meant to be. Signs said the parking lot was full, but we took a chance and pulled right into an open space. After that, we walked the trails and took pictures of tree after tree. To me it was a really nice walk. But to C.J. it was awe inspiring. He couldn't get enough.

Perhaps it was growing up in North Dakota, which has its own brand of beauty, but it's certainly not the land of trees. Perhaps it's just the idea that these trees have been there for hundreds of years. Perhaps it was sharing the experience with his wife, Erica. In any event, the fun part was in watching those two.

Today I found the perfect travel itinerary for the remainder of their lives. Here's the link to that, for the rest of you tree lovers out there:

*Poem by Joyce Kilmer

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Alley Life - Part Two

A whole other world exists in my son's neighborhood once the sun goes down. I know this because I just visited Denver again, where he and his wife live in an 11-unit downtown apartment building.I was up in the small hours for two reasons. First, they have no air conditioning, so I was sitting on their front balcony drying off and enjoying the cool night air. I also had to catch an early-morning flight, so going back to bed seemed pointless.

I heard what sounded like a party going on somewhere nearby. It seemed close, but I couldn't see anybody. Just voices. From that noise I picked out the sound of two people talking, a man and a woman. He was pouring out his heart to her. Of course I considered going inside and giving them their privacy, but I have to admit I was riveted. He loved her! He couldn't live without her! He'd waited his whole life for her! Silence. She clearly didn't feel the same way. My heart hurt for him. It was as if I was right there in the room with them, that's how clear the sound was. I wanted to give him a hug. Poor guy. And then....the sound of the laugh track. Turns out I was listening to a re-run of Cheers, playing on the TV in the apartment one balcony over.

Bu t wait! At that moment the can man came by. He was having a good night. His grocery cart was stuffed with cans, and so were the bags he had hanging from the sides and underneath. Perhaps that's why he didn't try very hard. He wheeled up the alley, peered into the dumpster, tossed an empty peanut butter jar and a fast food bag out onto the cement, then let the dumpster lid clang down, wiped his hands on the front of his t-shirt, and continued on his way.

That dumpster is the site of a lot of city life. Arguments happen there, along with transactions I've described in previous blogs. On this night, though, all was quiet once the can man left. Even the TV was off next door. For a quarter of an hour it was just me and a tiny bird waking up and singing in the branches of a tree not two feet from my face. At
4 a.m. the garbage trucks arrived with their backing beep and their diesel fumes. But for just a moment, Denver and I were at peace.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Choose Your Moment

This week I heard from a man who related to me how he had been at the bedside of a dying friend.

"I slept in the living room where she rested on a recliner for two full days," he told me. "She was not responding.  When I gently touched her and said, 'It’s OK to let go,'  she showed a weak version of her beautiful smile.  I left the room for just a minute or two.  When I returned, she had passed."

There's so much about death that we don't understand, and in many cases there isn't a thing we can do about it. I'm thinking of the sudden car crash or a fall off the roof. But in researching my book, Gift of Death, A Message of Comfort and Hope, one thing I heard over and over again was how much say people do have in choosing their actual moment of passing over.

You may ask yourself why anybody would choose to die alone like the man's friend, but if you think about it, death can be a very intimate and private experience. I believe some people are just more comfortable slipping away without an audience. The reasons for this must be as varied as the people experiencing death.

In a recent interview I heard death described as an intrusion, and it certainly is. It interrupts life as we know it and once it's over nothing is ever the same. So that would make it the ultimate transformative experience, whether it's happening to you or to somebody you love. .

 It's what you do with that transformation that makes all the difference. On this Father's Day I am thinking of my own dad who has been gone for two years now. As I describe in my book, his last actions on earth were focused on those he loved rather than himself. I can't know what happened to him in the moments after he died, although I feel certain that he's doing just fine.

But what I do know is his death transformed my life, and sent me in a different direction both spiritually and actually. I think of this every time I face an audience and talk about death as a gift. For me, fear is gone, God is close, and so is my dad.