Sunday, April 29, 2007

'Nita, Needle, and Thread

Among Juanita's gifts was the way she worked with needle and thread. She had her sewing machine and made dresses for herself, and Julia, and shirts for my dad and me. I remember a suit she made for me for Easter when I was in the second grade. In her later years, when she could afford to buy all those things, she turned to cross-stitch and embroidery. She was active in the local chapter of the Embroiderers' Guild of America. (The "EGA", which my dad libelously said meant "Enraged Grandmothers of America".) She did beautiful work, giving most of it away. In fact, before she started something new, she knew to whom she would give it.

Among the things she kept was a wedding cross-stitch that celebrated her marriage on March 6, 1943, to my dad, Walter. In the bottom third of that work, she stitched this poem:

I pray that,
     risen from the dead,
I may in glory stand,
A crown perhaps
      upon my head, But -
A needle in my hand.


The house is quiet this morning. Last evening Micki, Morgan's mother, then Audrey and Bob, my sister's daughter and her husband, and Julia, Greg, and Gregory Paul left on their flights home. This morning I took Macon, Kellsey, Aidan and Honor to the airport for their flight. Walter and Morgan are sleeping, and Carol went back to bed after rocking Honor one last time this morning. Mary and I have been IMing some. But I have also been to church to set up the coffee for the service, and come back. Morgan and Walter will be here until tomorrow morning, when they fly back to Austin.

We had the memorial service for Juanita yesterday morning at our church. (Friday we were in Atlanta for the interment.) There were a lot of people there, and that surprised us. I had proposed to Carol earlier in the week that we hire a caterer for the lunch that we planned at our house after the service, but she was confident that people from church would bring enough food. During the service, however, she was having second thoughts about that. The Lord helped me whisper "Loaves and fishes", when I wanted to express my own anxiety. "Loaves and fishes" it was, even though the house was jammed with people, again more than we expected, and there was more than enough food, enough food to feed us for supper too and enough food to take to church today for the light lunch after the service.

The service at our church was just wonderful. Van did such a great job. I had asked Ed Sagi to come and play the piano for the service, and he did his usual great job.

Ed and I went to high school together. He sang the part of Curly in Oklahoma our senior year, a smash hit that the drama department took to the Dade County Auditorium after it did so well in our school auditorium. Ed went on to teach music in our school system, and lead church choirs, as he continues to do in his part time. For awhile, he was our music minister. He goes to Epworth from time to time and sings and plays for them. My mother loved him, but she was always careful to tell me that I had a better voice. [I absolutely don't.] And so I called Ed to play and of course he said yes.

Donna sang. We chose the Old Rugged Cross for her, because of Mary's post. Donna was going to mention that to the assembly before she sang, but she was afraid she would cry, so she didn't. She just sang wonderfully. It was in her upper range, and she is not respectful of her upper range. She has a low alto voice, full of tenderness and passion. But her upper voice is beautiful too, and she moved us all.

Walter spoke. Sometimes lately I have seen "open microphones" at funerals and memorial services, and an offer is made to anyone to speak. Those aren't always good. I have seen family members also speak in eulogy, sometimes to great effect, but sometimes much too sadly and weepily. So we offered it to the grandchildren, and they decided Walter should speak for the family. I had visions of his speech at his rehearsal dinner, which went on, as I recall, several hours. Or the one he made a Macon's rehearsal dinner, where he cried and made the rest of us cry. It was a high risk assignment, but he did it just right. Just right. He told two stories about Juanita that captured perspectives of her that were just right.

I spoke to two men during the service and luncheon who were about my age and whose mothers had died. I discovered that they too were surprised at how those deaths affected them. Of course you expect to mourn and to feel the loss. But you don't expect to feel like a little boy who has lost his mother in some busy department store. You don't expect that, but you feel like that. I feel like that, and it was helpful to find out that this is not uncommon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Bedlam Revisited"

See this informative piece from Opinion Journal which addresses the question of "why the Virginia Tech shooter was not committed." (The comments to this article are also interesting.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

"It's a Season"

Macon checked in last night by telephone, wanting to know how we are doing. He had a cold, and I mentioned how busy he had been these last several weeks, especially with trips out of town and the weekends taken up with travel and catch-up. And he has another busy weekend out of town beginning Friday, as he and his family come to Miami for the memorial service.

"It's a season", he said.

That hit home. It was what I needed to hear. Even though there is winter, and it seems a very, very long winter in some ways, it is a season. It will come to an end. It is part of time's movement, over which God is sovereign. Things advance, finally to a glorious culmination, but in the meanwhile (good word) there are intermediate culminations that have a Sabbath waiting, before the next season begins.

So we engage the season, with all our energy and with the Spirit's help. But we will be glad for Sabbath, a time of rest. And then the next season. Praise God.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chicago Airport

I'm sitting at my gate for my flight to Austin, and my first thought upon seeing the view was,"Oooooooh! Big Trucks with Cherry Pickers with Big Nozzles on them!" (These are the de-icing trucks.) Clearly, I miss Aidan.

I've been in Chicago since Thursday for John Stott Ministries board meetings, my first of (at least) three years' worth. (It was during the nominating process that I had to get a picture.)

I departed Austin on Thursday morning, the same morning Dad called to let us know that Grandmother had gone on to Glory. I was glad to know that I'd be seeing Aunt Marlene (also on the board) and would be with some family while in away from my family.

The meetings were extremely interesting and stimulating for all number of reasons, and I am exceedingly grateful to be now associated with JSM (and the Langham Partnership International). (More on that in a different post.)

One thing many of you will appreciate is that I came down with a really bad cold almost the moment I arrived that took my voice down to a whisper. While a real pain, I'm viewing it as a blessing from the Lord, who helped keep me from shooting my mouth off during my very first meeting.

It was a joy to go to the meetings, but I am glad to be heading home. With the funeral for Grandmother next weekend, and my work with InterVarsity as a Chapter Planting Coach, I will be out of town for at least three days a week three weeks in a row.

Thanks for your prayers for me and the family!

'Nita Went On

Thursday morning at 6:40, Nita died.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

While she was in the hospital, as I wrote before, she spoke of seeing my dad, my little brother, and Jesus waiting for her there on the other side. (As I told a Jewish friend, most Christians refer to St. Peter greeting them. She has Jesus waiting for her. That's probably great insight on her part. But it could be because she was a Baptist. The rest of us get St. Peter. The Baptists get Jesus.)

We will go to Atlanta for the burial. She and my dad had a plot at Westview Cemetary. The body of my dad (Walter), his mother and father (Walter and Heddie Stokes), and my brother (Walter) are buried there. Nearby are the graves of my grandfather and grandmother (Carlos M. and Willilu Hemperley), my mother's brother and his wife (Carlos M. Hemperley, Jr., and Ellen) and one of their children (Mickey Hemperley), and of my father's sister and her husband (Frances and Harold Harris). On the way there from the airport, we will pass by an older cemetary with other ancestors. Not too far away, in Stone Mountain, are even more gravesites of family members. There are Jordans, Johnsons, Lanfords, Paris, Gays, Manns and Travises [yes, those Travises, Texas readers] buried all over Atlanta to which we are connected.

I see Juanita's greeting in heaven as something like that Cingular commercial: a host of people behind the three in the forefront, all waving, maybe singing. And Juanita, who could not sing a note on this side of the divide, finding her voice at last and just thrilled to join in the song.

Juanita said that when you died, you had to go to heaven by way of Atlanta and, while there in Atlanta, pick up your robe at Rich's, once to Atlanta as Macy's is to New York. Knowing that, however, she told me that she wanted to be buried in the dress she wore to Walter and Morgan's wedding, and we had set it aside and then gave it to the funeral people. I don't know how she worked that all out with the people at Rich's, but I have no doubt that it's that dress and not a robe from Rich's in which she entered into God's presence.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dear Professor Scott,

After class I came up as the other students filed out. I was disturbed because I just did not quite get what you wanted in the paper you had assigned us. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something like “Do you want this, Dr. Scott, or that or something else?” I did not know exactly what you wanted, and I wanted to know exactly what it was. I was sure I needed to know. I thought you would tell me.

You said, “Just let the chips fall, Mr. Stokes.”

To my surprise the day brightened, I relaxed, said thank you, and out I went. You liked what I wrote.

Furthermore, that conversation became part of our family’s lore, because I repeated it time and time again to my children as they grew up. “Just let the chips fall, Mary or Macon or Walter.” It was the “chips fall” story. They knew exactly what that meant. It meant that “I have confidence in you to figure this out. You have permission to paint your own bulls-eye. How you frame the issue, you not me, within bounds of reasonableness that are really wider than you think, is as much a part of this assignment as how you address the issue.” You said all that in a short sentence, and it was a sort of release.

So here am I, reading the article about you in the Duke Magazine, and thinking about you again, feeling blessed to have been in your class and marveling at how you can be your age already and me mine. I went to the University of Chicago Law School, then to New York City as a law clerk for a federal judge, then back home to Miami where I joined a law firm, and I have practiced law in Miami ever since. My wife was a freshman at Duke the year I met you, and she and I married when she finished.. We have three surviving children, each of whom graduated from Davidson College, two sons (a philosophy major and a classics major) and a daughter (an English major). The sons are in “eBusiness” in Austin and are married. Mary teaches English at a boarding school for missionary children in Kijabe, Kenya. One son in Austin has two tiny children. If I live long enough, I’ll tell them the “chips fall” story.

Please add my thanks to all the others you richly deserve.


Paul Stokes
Class of ‘68

Did someone mention "justice"?

A friend of mine called for a referral to a criminal lawyer. My friend's 20 year old step son had been arrested for battery on his grandfather, with whom he was living.

I know that sounds like a terrible thing to do - striking one's grandfather. No argument there. It has a sort of Biblical edge to it, and not a nice edge.

The stepson was charged with two offenses, which may have been: (a) battery and (b) battery on an elderly person. One reaches the "elderly" category at age 65. I don't know whether the charges were "aggravated".

In Florida, battery is a misdemeanor of the first degree, but when it is upon an elderly person it becomes a felony of the third degree. A first degree misdemeanor has a one year maximum sentence. A third degree felony a maximum five year sentence.

There is also aggravated assault and aggravated battery. An aggravated assault is a third degree felony. An aggravated battery is a second degree felony. A second degree felony has a maximum of 15 years.

But if the aggravated assault or battery is on an elderly person, that gets you a minimum (mandatory) term of imprisonment of 3 years, a fine of not more than $10,000, resitution to the victim and up to 500 hours of community service work. Restitution and community service are in addition to the imprisonment. Adjudication or imposition of sentence may NOT be suspended, deferred, or withheld.


"The next time you hear a lawyer joke, maybe you'll think of the lawyers who represented these three boys and it won't seem so funny. "

Right on!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mr. Davidson Training Update

Many* of you expressed great concern regarding the effect my 'boarding injury might have on my Mr. D. training.

Fear not! My knee should be fully recovered in four more weeks, which gives me four months to get my 5K time down.

While I haven't been able to run, I have been able to train for a number of other events. For those of you rooting for my practically assured victory, I know that you will be relieved by the image below. For my competitors, well, I can only imagine that it strikes fear into the very marrow of your bones. If you like, I will gladly save you travel time and expenses and accept the Mr. Davidson 2007 award from you right now.

ps: For your edification, in the sidebar I added a handy timer counting down the time to the Mr. Davidson 2007 Opening Ceremonies.

* where "many" > 0 and < 2.

Monday Monday

Mary left for Kenya yesterday evening a little after six PM Miami time. Our watch on the BA website indicates that her plane arrived at Heathrow a little late, but in plenty of time for her to catch the plane to Nairobi, even with the very long lines at that airport. We went to church yesterday morning, and she spoke at the worship service about her work in Kenya. The church has a big screen that drops down at the front of the sanctuary, and during the talk she displayed some scenes from RVA. We thought it might be a sad day, yesterday, with her leaving us, but she gave such a good talk that it encouraged all of us about what she is doing at Kijabe. It was sad day, but it also was full of joy and encouragement.

On the way back from the airport, we went by Epworth to see Juanita. (She lives at Epworth Retirement Village and has been for several years, in its "independent living section".) She returned there on Tuesday of last week. We arranged for aides to be there 'round the clock. Hospice nurses were there for the first four days as well, and now visit once a day, as we expected. Our friend, Sharon Hicks, an RN who just retired from Jackson Medical Center and whose mother Mary lives at Epworth, dropped by several times last week, talked to the aides and saw Juanita. (Sharon's sister, Nancy Jones, is our senior paralegal.) Carol and I went by there after work during the week and Saturday and Sunday. (That will be our pattern. There are some recurring needs for her household as we go forward and the aides need our encouragement. And, of course, we just want to see her.) Other people are visiting. The aides, who seem to be gentle and competent, by now know that a lot of people care for Juantia.

She is very quiet. Sleeps most of the time. Eats and drinks very little. She cannot sit up or get out of bed. Each day she seems less responsive. She does not seem to be terribly uncomfortable, and of course the medication is there to help with pain. My sister will come visit again at the end of the week and bring Audrey. My Aunt Ann plans to come for a short visit a week from today. I think Juanita will still be here by then, but I am glad that Macon, Walter, and Mary got to say good-bye. We pray that the Lord will take her gently, while she sleeps, and know it will be in his good time.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Can YOU resist me?

"Something like that"

You know how in Spanish they put
An -ita on things? So this girl
Mildred, this Puerto Rican girl
Where I work, pretty girl--so I get
To thinking that a funny thing about
Her name is that it's one thing that now
That you think of it it isn't clear how
To ita-ize.
            I'd come right out
And ask her how, but figure it's a bit
Safer to let the questioning begin
With a little in the way of easing in.
As in it is Spanish isn't it
Where they do that, and are we talking small
Things specifically or is it more
Like anything you have affection for
And so forth and so on--all
Of which preliminary inquiries
Get me to the one I'm getting at:
Did they ever call her something like that
When she was a kid?
             Only lowered eyes.
Then, like something she's confessing to,
That her father did. And would she mind my
Asking what it was? No reply,
So I try prompting with a few
Possibilities. Not to press her,
But I've got to know how that would go:
Mildrita? "No." Mildredita? "No."
Mildredecita? "No!" Then . . . "Princesa."

                                    -Dan Brown

[No, not that Dan Brown.]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Disingenuous Statement Designed to Pass as an Apology

To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused.

-Michael Nifong.

Whatever opportunity Nifong may have had to demonstrate even a scintilla of good character and common sense, he surely let it pass with this statement.

Duke LaX

Don't miss KC Johnson's sum up of the proceedings on Tuesday. I have followed that case on his blog from the beginning, sent there by Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Easter Gift from Catalyst

"Catalyst" is a hip-hop ministry of Greater Miami Youth for Christ, and the ministry has been using our church facilities since the beginning of September. It consists of several parts: a break-dancing group, a DJ group; and a graffiti group. The "large group" gatherings are on Saturday night, beginning about 7PM, and last until 2:30 or 3:00 AM. Often when we come to church the next morning, Joel Stigale, who leads the ministry, and his volunteers are still there putting the place in order. It is by then, pristine, except for the graffiti wall.

The graffiti wall is the west, outer wall of our fellowship hall. It is quite a long stretch of concrete, about 20 feet high, interrupted by a series of standard windows. We gave Catalyst that wall, and we covered the windows with plywood. Each week "signers" from all over South Florida gather to do their art work, and it is quite spectacular.

This past Easter Sunday, the artists presented the church with a gift, and my friends the Spences took photos of it. It is a series of words that tell the Easter story. Those words are Christ, Cross, Death, Tomb, and Risen.

During our Easter Service, one of the break-dancers, spoke. He is a young man who fled his gang life in the Bronx to Miami about three years ago, and was invited to Catalyst. His legal name is Gabriel, but his street name is "Fatty-Free", because he is muy flaco. After several months coming to the Saturday night gatherings, he started listening to Joel's sermons, which he had sleepily ignored till then. And then, he said, the Lord simply drew him in. (Calvinism is obviously at work in Catalyst.)

Easter Sunday was a great moment of celebration in our church's history. We had counted it a victory to have two or three professions of faith a year before Catalyst (and, of course, it was). But Catalyst has several each week. Those also "belong" to us.

On Tuesday nights, Joel has a Bible study. We've given him the old Sunday School office, and he has outfitted it comfortably.

I would think that the Lord will keep our little church going just so we can continue to host Catalyst. Keep that in your prayers!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Will (Sky)Walker

Will (Sky)Walker challenges the Dark Force of Gravity! Click here to relive this epic struggle (2.5 minute video).


One of several non-political tracks Glenn Reynolds follows on Instapundit is lightbulb technology. Here's a recent post. Change a bulb, change the world. Thanks, Glenn.

UPDATE: This on LEDs from PM.

UPDATE UPDATE: PM also reports test results on comparing fluorescent light bulbs.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Lego Redux

I'm ready. Aidan?

GTD Redux

Wal-Mart in Mexico and Other Places

For you Wal-Mart doubters.

Oh, Mom!

It's sad, really, but my little girl is already giving me that look--the long-suffering one You know the look I'm talking about. It's the look moms everywhere get when they are wanting to be cute and fun and sweet and cuddly with their little girls, and their little girls just want mom to leave well enough alone and stop pestering them.

The good news is that that look is rare, while her oh-so-sweet smiles are ever increasing.

The Men in My Life

These are the men in my life.

Just so you know, Macon was the hairstylist.

Rockin'! (electric guitar sounds in the background)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

'Nita Perks Up and other News.

While Julia has been here, she has spent the days with Juanita at the hospital, and Mary has shared that task with Julia. Carol and I have gone to the hospital at the end of our work day to see Juanita and bring Julia back home, Mary leaving earlier to do errands. Yesterday when we went by, Mother seemed a bit more perky. To talk to her two days ago and before that, we had to get down close to her face. But she was laying on her back when we came in yesterday and she was able to carry on a conversation with people in a normal position. Two and three days ago she had said that she simply wanted to stay put in the hospital room. But yesterday she expressed full agreement to going back to Epworth on Monday. She is eating and drinking a little more, and doesn't seem to be terribly uncomfortable. On the other hand, the effects of her liver disease have become more obvious as the week has progressed, and we are not going to see her get well on this earth. But there is a sort of progress, here and now. It is a blessing.

The renovation project at our house has become less important of course, except that its being closer to completion has really helped with the company we have had this week. And yesterday workers came in to hang the shower door and the medicine cabinet in the new bathroom and install the towel racks, so it is ready but for the paint. The kitchen is in full use, and has been all week. The only thing remaining is the tile backsplash work and the paint. The den is also mostly complete, and we were able to clear it this week of the kitchen cabinets that had been stored there, pending installation of them or disposal of the ones that came defective. So we are able to use it too. The back porch is finished, except for some touch up painting and clearing some construction materials left behind. We have had some good times with our company sitting on the porch. The weather has been perfect for that. So the timing of all of that has been right, and we see another blessing.

Julia and Mary went to Epworth yesterday to gather information about the decision between the nursing home there or Mother's apartment. That turned out to be a very easy decision. In the nursing home, they learned, it is noisy and the place only has double rooms, no singles. So this weekend we will be getting her apartment ready for her return on Monday. I have set aside that day to deal with the health care aide support issues and to get her settled.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Small Mercies, Not so Small

Juanita was quiet yesterday. Julia and Mary spent the day with her. She perked up some when Carol and I visited in the late afternoon. But she seems to have faded a little more. She asks several times when Easter comes, and we tell her what day it is now and how many more days until Easter. We wonder whether she is waiting until then.

Someone not undergoing curative treatment is not to remain in a hospital like Baptist. And a hospice person is not to remain if there is no crisis, and there is none now. So arrangements would probably have been made today to transport her to Epworth. But a hospice nurse needs to handle the transition and to train the aides that we would engage to care for Juanita. None of those nurses is available this week nor during the weekend. So she stays at Baptist Hospital until Monday, where the nursing care is simply outstanding: a small mercy not so small.

Julia's husband, Greg, is coming in Sunday, with our nephew Gregory Paul. They will stay the day, and then go back to New Port Richey that night with Julia. What a help she has been this week. Mary remains. More mercies.

We are sorry our niece Audrey, who wants desperately to come, has been warned away by her MS physician so far. But maybe he will relent if we get Juanita to Epworth, and Audrey will be able to come and say good-bye.

Today Julia and Mary will work on the issue of whether Juanita will go to the nursing home at Epworth or back to her apartment, and we will make a decision. Meanwhile, I will be contacting a fine Christian woman, a former member of our church, who lives in Naples and is an aide. Perhaps she will be able to move in with Mother or at least assume a substantial burden of her day to day care. Finding the right care-givers would be a great mercy.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

'Nita Down, but not Out

My mother, Juanita, is unwell and in the hospital. We think this could be the end. A hospice agency is now assisting us. She is ready to go, but her heart keeps right on beating. She sleeps a lot, but when she is awake she's pretty sharp. All of this, of course, has occupied our family fully over the past ten days. All three children have made a visit, and Macon brought Aidan. Mary is still here: she's on her trimester break, which is timely. And my sister is here too. She lives in New Port Richey, FL, and is a school librarian. She is on Spring break. She has been spending all her days at the hospital since Saturday.

My sister and Juanita sing when Mom's awake. Two days ago it was "Go tell Aunt [pronounced "Ain't"] Tabby", a very sad song about a goose being killed by a soldier. She used to sing it to Julia and me when we were babies while she rocked us. She really can't carry a tune, and I'm sure that's why I was an early walker - I had to get away from that rocking chair. Yesterday the tunefest featured "When the Saints go Marching In", which she is telling us she wants us to sing at her funeral. Yesterday also featured her singing "Happy Birthday", after which rendition she said "I'm crazy". We have always known that about Juanita, but it's good that she is coming to terms with it, finally.

You would think that one would be able to maintain a demeanor of solemnity during this period of time. Tears do come on, but then they clear up, and we have a good talk or say something funny. She has already figured out that Jesus, my dad, and my little brother will be there to meet her, and she is very ready to go. After we discussed this, she added our first daughter to the group that she expects to greet her.

Meanwhile, she flirts with Daniel, the terrific male nurse that has been tending to her during the day, all in a dignified sort of way of course. (She is on her side, with her hands drawn up near her face. She waves at him.) I doubt that Daniel sees that sort of thing often from 86 year old women who can hardly move in the hospital bed.

I woke up this morning and, as in the past 6 mornings, the first thing in my head was, "Well, no calls during the night".

I wonder what today's song will be.