Kindness Serves the Souls of Strangers


“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”    Plato
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”   – Mark Twain
“Offer kindness without reward knowing that someone will return that which you offered another.”   – Henry Van Dyke
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”   – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to thank those of you from around the world that were generous, hopeful, and kind in spirit to send my brother Get Well cards. Thanks to you he received hundreds of cards which surprised him and stunned the hospital.

When asked by nurses “who do you know?” He thought for a moment then said, “Me brudder!”

The Dead’s Etiquette: Returning To Sender

Self-designed stamp for the return of mail to sender.
Self-designed stamp for the return of mail to sender.

Emily Post let me down. Abby offered a half smile. The Post Office just stared at me.

My question was always the same: “At what point can I stop stamping to return my deceased brother’s mail?

Just last week he received a stack of mail three inches high! Perhaps they’re thinking of him as Deadbeat rather than Dead.

He died four months ago at which time I rented a P.O. Box in my neighborhood and had his mail forwarded to it. I designed the “return deceased” stamp. And each step was more painful than the last. With each envelope I was reminded that at some point in my recent past my brother for 58 years disappeared. Poof! Extracted like a tooth, and like an extracted tooth a hole remained reminding me that something had occupied that hole, something I took for granted as permanent.

I still cry when I’m reminded that he’ll never return as though he was exploring the far reaches of dense jungle. And with each damned envelope which I mannerly stamp “Addressee Deceased,” I ache with longing which tumbles to tears then swells to a contemptible bitterness toward companies which mechanically spit out statements completely void of sympathy or understanding or humanity.

I think it’s time to treat their mail like my best friend brother was treated: simply disappear.

Life: It’s All Yours.

  This post, its contents, and its author are not nor pretending to be healthcare professionals giving advice or suggesting treatment for health issues. 
For help with your health you must see a healthcare professional.

If you’re reading this post, chances are that you’re alive like I am, but you didn’t have a motive like I had, to reflect on what does it mean to be alive while the Life of my brother simply floated away like a freed balloon.  Synonyms for alive include methodical references like: aware, cooperative, and sensible. On the other hand, synonyms for Life imply inventive and daring like: animated, vital, and dynamic.

living1I’m definitely alive but am I Living? Living Life now? Living an animated, capricious, passionate, dynamic, vital, and creative Life? Living Life as though I was purposeful rather than predestinedOr has Life as an adventure, those outwardly foolish, expressive, devil-may-care, and goofy ideas of my arrogant youth been bagged and hung in the back of a closet like an unstylish overcoat? I remember exactly when I lost my nerve and consequently my verve. It was when I had to shelve my life as a creative, curious, and lyrical writer in order to be initiated into a wholly alien and inconsistent corporate culture by getting a job, being supervised or managed, have a steady income, and be a responsible adult. I compromised my true self to evolve into one in herds of others that bought into the idea that business is better than a mind full of zany ideas

The week immediately following my brother’s five minutes of death then resurrected by modern medicine, he spent it straddling the threshold between now and ever after. Rick’s life had become a slippery slope with one treatment jeopardizing another, inconceivable mobility issues, and, like a politician caught taking bribes, his dignity was retired by committee, his independence was incarcerated as he was assigned a room on a floor presently occupied by end-stage, incoherent residents. Considering what he’d already forfeited, I knew that my brother Rick, was going to finish what he’d started seven suffering days earlier: his non-negotiable intention to die, right there, there in a generic hospital bed surrounded by generic strangers. It was, after all, his free will that determined he did not want to live a compromised life.  It was then, in the presence of his own conviction that he would end his miracle of life.

Later that afternoon and well into the night I took a long, hard look at my Life, my unconsciousness of it, what I promised the world at birth, and finally, have I kept those promises? Below you’ll find a list based solely on recalling Rick’s life, his courage and his conviction, and finally my own mortality.  I was surprised (to say the least):

  1. Life is a Miracle:  It doesn’t matter to which, if any, spiritual leadership you follow, the simple fact that you, you, not somebody else, but you, faults and all occupy one tiny spot in a universe few can even imagine.
  2. Life knows its job:  Life knows the human genome and like Mr. Potato Head puts us together in a fascinating display of accuracy and symmetry.  None of my Mr. Potato Heads ever resembled each other.
  3. Boldness and Bravery aren’t the same. Boldness is something you do for your self in order to get noticed. Bravery is something you do for others disregarding your own safety. Men and women that are brave get noticed. Not because they were bold, but their actions were brave.
  4.  Join clubs, gangs, or any organization whose sole purpose is benevolence. They’ve been drawn together in order to help others rather than themselves.
  5. Fail as often as you can. Failing implies you tried something new. Failure is knowledge.living6
  6. Success is fleeting and assigned by others.
  7. Keep secrets secret. Secrets are like boomerangs, they always return to sender.
  8. Be unpopular; popular people spend a lot of time being popular. Unpopular people spend more time on their passions.
  9. All Olympian’s, film stars, and scientists who have won, starred in, or discovered a cure forfeited something very precious to dedicate themselves to their sport, their art, or their experiments.
  10. Whatever you’re undertaking, always have a “Plan B.”
  11. If you’re doing, going, or trying anything new, be sure you know a way out before it becomes dangerous.
  12. Be generous. Sure, with money; but with yourself. Everyone is inspirational. Tell your story to others. Truthfulness is inspirational.
  13. Never compromise your character. It’s who you are. Without it you’re nobody.
  14. living5Fear stops everyone at one time or another. But fear can be conquered: Simply dig in your pocket for your determination.
  15. Never quit. Never. Friends, family, strangers will all chide or mock your idea. Expect it. Ignore it. Mockery confirms they’ve heard or seen it. Which is always better than silence.

My Brother Once Said, “My Life Was Determined By Another’s Lie.”

A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering.


513Rick willfully shouldered a self-imposed burden his entire life.  Unsettled by our Dad’s violent outburst’s (routinely targeting our mother), he began to peek behind, beside, and beyond our parent’s staid alibi about their colorless and urgent courtship which usually quelled curiosities. Except for one widow that pursued, with neighborly caution, my mother’s dire dodging. “It was simple math,” he’d once said, “Simple math and the ordering of month’s to quickly calculate the truth. He was proud of his steely pursuit, wishing there was a merit badge for exposure of parental lies. “Then suddenly,” he said, “the whole enterprise soured.  The recently decoded shameful and moral secret they’d disguised as hushed urgency, longing, and the mid-fifties moral compass was, in fact, his birth which occurred  five months after their City Hall nuptials.

It was then, at that inconceivable denouement, that his conception was the root cause of bout after bout after bout of unbridled and disgusting epithets often followed by a round of brutish, physical taunts which, my mother learned too late, that if you retreat to the broom closet or the empty cranny next to the refrigerator, you raise your arms to protect your face like exhausted boxers stuck in a corner. Fear and submission killed my father‘s blood lust as though he’d been fed a syringe full of Ketamine.  Oh, but those few and far between times when her self-respect outweighed her self-preservation, her repressed anger putrified to man-slaughter.  She charged at him, disgust followed by anger followed by critical injuries helped to ignore his devastating kidney punches followed by multiple precisely aimed and explosive back-handed slaps which buckled her knees; by now, in his cold eyes she’d lost any humanity and devolved into the recipient of his fully expressed hatred for her.

My mother’s marriage, a litany of lies: loathing thinly veiled as affection; irritation disguised as intimacy; and an escalating and violent blame for Marge‘s moonless flight with their three children through thorn bush and brambles, and following her husband’s business partner who liquidated their company’s assets that afternoon.  Later that evening my father received a brief call from Marge confirming that all three children were safe and in her care.  And sternly warned my father that if he pursued them, she’d kill all three of them rather than spend another minute with you, then abruptly disconnected the line.  It was then that my father accepted that he’d been abandoned, ruined, and penniless.  My father was incapable of keeping his promises, especially when it came to monogamy whether married or single. But worse still was his continued punishment of my mother for Marge’s inconceivable disappearance into the thicket behind their home. Marge later confessed that it was his barefaced screwing of the nanny.  Who, coincidently, was our mother.

Rick witnessed just one of those bloodsheds and cursed his responsible birth as cause for these vengeful and sadistic rituals.  So he heaved the imaginary and backbreaking potato sack stuffed with the rubble of our mother’s self-esteem and character; up to his waist, hesitated, then at once swung the unbalanced sack up to his shoulder while tucking his short ageless frame beneath the load like a tire winch. From there he strained and distorted and drove the shifting load skyward until his swollen knees snapped open like a toy jack-in-the-box and steadied his load . . . for the rest of his natural life.