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  • January 18, 1994

    It was one of those days. I had been going along very evenly, even better than that. I had been saying, almost as a mantra, “I am enthusiastic, excited, expectant and at peace. I am in God and God is in me, and all is well.” I was simply expressing my feelings.

    Life is good!

    I am in my 76th year, healthy and involved. Several times a month I have an apprentice for a 4-hour shift on the Ala-Call Hotline. This is a time of sharing and teaching about alcoholism and the personal effect on people and the way in which we can touch a person in a 3 or 4 minute phone conversation, while referring them to the place best suited for their problem. In the process of the calls, the sharing and the teaching, a spiritual connection is surely made between the apprentice and me. It is good.

    I am receiving an average of one call a week on my phone at home, calls from Gay or Lesbian, or a parent of same. The calls with parents last usually an hour or more as they pour out their hearts to me about the pain, anger, depression, or whatever they feel about the death of the dream they had of their child, finding them to be homosexual. I share some of my experience with them, as they share their experience with me. When I hang up, I have a feeling of awe, as though God was very closely in touch with us both during the conversation.

    I spend two days a week with my grandchildren, Beach, so Mary can work. But it is good for me to have such time with them.

    Last, but not least, I have been going to Mount Holly for my weekly support group meeting for persons who have a loved one who is a person with AIDS. I am the facilitator, together with my partner, Lynn. Twice a month we co-facilitate. The other times we rotate going solo. I had had several solo turns. But this Wednesday night there was but one person, Joe, whose partner has had AIDS for probably 11 years and is doing well. Joe is dedicated and caring but wearing out. He never thought Bill would last so long. Joe is a very practical German person, but it is getting old. He is fifty or so. Beginning to think “Is this all life is ever going to have for me? What will I have when Bill finally does die?” With Joe alone, there obviously was no group interaction and it became rather depressing.

    As I walked from the hospital where we have our meetings, I wondered why am I going to all this trouble to be with just one person, a person who really only came because he thought someone else was coming, someone he wanted to talk to? He was bored with me but remained the whole hour and a half of the meeting time, pouring out his heart.

    In all, I became rather depressed as I drove home in the evening’s dark. My body and my mind were depressed. I felt I was pretending to be of some benefit to some people, but it was amounting to nothing much. I was fooling myself to believe what I was doing was of any value. It would be better if I simply gave it all up and sat back and acted my age. I’d enjoy having no obligations, being able to rest, read, play around a bit with my computer, anything but continuing to pretend I was of some benefit to society, to humanity in my own small way.

    The next day I was in the depths of depression. I got things ready for my Bridge group – three men, all retired, two engineers and an accountant. All practical people, down to earth men who read practically nothing, have no ideas in the spiritual realm. Very religious, no doubt, but not spiritual. No depth in their political or human relations either. Typical conservatives who seem to believe they have long ago learned all there is to learn. There is nothing new in the world that is worth reading or considering. The convictions, the things they have learned and believed in for all these years are the final word. New ideas do not exist – nor are there new lights on things they heard, learned or believed in for years. Usually, I find joy with these fellows. They are joyful in their way. They are so different from me, I can revel in revealing little parts of me or my experiences to them. They seem to listen. Seemingly, they do not comprehend – are amused, I guess.
  • In the middle of the morning, as I was doing my housework, I received a phone call. It was the choir director of 5 years ago. She, I and all the choir had retired at about the same time. In the meantime, I had finally left the Catholic Church in disgust. I was not finding spiritual nourishment there. I was finding frustration at the old patriarchal focusing on genital activity of the world and the results of such activity. Subjects like pre-marital sex, homosexuality, birth control, abortion, test tube babies, in-vitro fertilization, on and on. A philosophy caught in a time warp – out of touch with reality, with humanity.

    Jane said the old pastor had died of bone cancer. He had had a prostate operation six years before. (When I faced the prostate cancer last year, the surgeon said surgery was the true cure. I elected to have radiation.) Anyhow, would I join with the reassembled members of the choir to do his funeral and a memorial service? She was aware I swore I would sing no more as I have vericosities in the throat that become irritated when I sing.

    I indicated I would be very happy to rejoin the choir one time for this occasion, but raised the objection that I had resigned from church. Perhaps they would not want me under those circumstances. Jane replied: “Oh Jim, how could you say that? You were and are the very soul of the choir. Everyone always asks me about you. Of course we want you, no matter what!”

    That did feel good. I begrudged the little surge to the positive side it caused. I felt depressed and wanted to stay that way! When in the depths of blackness, light looks like a threat, I think. It is a threat, a threat to the dark depression that engulfs the soul. But, of course I agreed to sing one more time.

    After noon, the men came. We played Bridge. In the middle of the game, the phone rang. It was another person I am close to, Jane, the Director of the Reassurance Division of CONTACT 609. She told me she just had to tell me something, even if I was in the middle of the game. She had been talking with Allison of the AIDS Coalition. I knew that. Rosemary had told me Allison, who is HIV positive, and a real mainstay of the Coalition, was envisioning establishing a Reassurance service for persons with AIDS, a marvelous idea. It would make disabled persons know they are of some help if they contracted to make a call on another in worse shape every day to reassure them.

    Rosemary and I have often spoken of Allison. She is a marvel. She does so much. She does not look like a human dynamo, but she acts like one in a very quiet way. She works with teens who have the teen AIDS line, with the Camp for Teens, with the Buddy System, with everything around the AIDS Colaition, it seems. Rosemary and she have worked together on the Buddy System. She has often been in meetings I attended, but I did not believe she was aware of me in any real sense.

    As the two of them talked, Rosemary’s name came up. Allison commented that of course, Rosemary is afine, and exceptional person - - but, Rosemary’s husband, Jim, “Every time I look at him, I see God! He does so much!”

    That did it. How could God have sent such a message to me in the depths where I was wallowing? My mind and my spirit soared. The body, of course, remained depressed. The body does take a longer time to change course. I went back to the bridge table and simply had to narrate the story to my prozaic friends. I’m not sure what they heard. I don’t care what they heard. I had to share the simple and clear joy I felt rising from my heart to my soul.

    The message has come to me simple and direct. Keep going your way, one person at a time, one day at a time. Do not grow weary on the path. The ups and doens of life are meant to be met as they present themselves. I am not to judge, just to do.

    It will be well. I am to remain enthusiastic, excited, expectant and at peace. God is truly in me and I am in God. That is evident. And so it is.
  • ___________________________________________________________

    June, 1995 - How Life Changes!

    In such a short time, everything can change. In January of ’94, I didn’t really have a problem in the world. I thought it would be better if I simply gave up my activities and sat back and acted my age. I’d enjoy having no obligations, being able to rest, read, play around a bit with my computer, anything but continuing to pretend. I was of some benefit to society, to humanity in my own small way. Now, I am doing exactly that.

    Then, it seemed as though the prostate cancer was well in remission. (And Joe’s Bill looked as though he’d last forever).

    18 months later, the cancer has metatisized into my boney structure, my PSA is rising gradually but steadily. I am on hormone therapy that causes me to have great sweats, also known as hot flashes, and I am taking heavy amounts of pain killers. (And Joe’s Bill died suddenly, not of AIDS but of Cancer).

    But most important of all, I have abandoned all of my former activities being uncomfortable in them under the circumstances of my life. The isolation that results I am finding difficult to live with. I have not yet come up with a good alternate life style to occupy the rest of my life. Still, I have to know there is a reason for my continual being and I must keep awake and alert to see what God sends my way, telling me where I am to fit in now. “I am to remain enthusiastic, excited, expectant and at peace. I am to remain in God, and God is in me, and all is well.” And so it is.

    (Landscape Artwork displayed by oldest daughter Juli Ricksecker)
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