Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Poem-Advice on Dying

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light,”
ranted Dylan Thomas to his father
Like all else in his Self-addicted
haze, he spoke only to himself
But father knows best
or at least better
Enough to know not
to take advice on dying
from a child

 John Robert McFarland

Monday, February 17, 2014


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter For the Years of Winter…


Dave called. He had heard from Charlie Bob that Bob had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had six to eight weeks to live. Bob was selling his motorcycle and the rest of his stuff and arranging for hospice car. I’ve learned not to tarry when I get that sort of news. I quickly wrote Bob a sappy letter about all we had shared and hope for the future and such like stuff. That was almost two years ago. 

I waited. I watched the obits in the hometown newspaper. No news of Bob. I called Mike and John from time to time. They hadn’t heard anything. I talked to Dave. He didn’t know anything. We assumed we had missed Bob’s obit. I was disappointed. I thought maybe the obit writer would say something nice about the sappy letters that had comforted him in his death throes.

Then Bob’s mother’s obit appeared in the newspaper. Ninety-nine years old. Survived by her son in Florida, it said. How could that be?

So Dave called Charlie Bob again. No, Bob wasn’t dead. Quite the opposite. After he got rid of all his stuff, he began to feel better. He went back to the doctor. “We must have misdiagnosed you,” was the new diagnosis. Charlie Bob couldn’t give Dave Bob’s telephone number right then because he was in the basement, doing laundry, since Daphne can’t do stairs anymore.

This has put us into an embarrassing situation. How do you call up an old friend and say, “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch, but I thought you were dead?”

Every once in a while you get a misdiagnosis. Not just from doctors, but from others who look at your life and think you’re diseased when you’re only dealing with a problem that can’t be seen by others. They tell you there is no reason to have faith, that that there is no reason to hope. Or they give you sappy bromides when you just need to get rid of some stuff.

At our 55 year class reunion, Bob said to me: “Do you remember that summer when the District Superintendent would send you around to various churches on Sunday mornings to fill in while the pastor was on vacation or in rehab or something, and Dave and Donald Gene and I would go along? You’d preach, and we would sing as a quartet. I always said the best preacher I ever heard was an eighteen-year-old kid.” I pointed out to our classmates that this showed Bob had not been to church much in the past 55 years. He protested that that was not true, that he had gone to church a lot, but how much can you trust a guy who won’t even die when he’s supposed to?

This is very embarrassing. If Charlie Bob ever gets up from the basement so we can get that telephone number, I have to call Bob and take back all those sappy things I said about him.

John Robert McFarland

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where life is defined by winter even in the summer!

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{I also write the fictional “Periwinkle Chronicles” blog. One needs a rather strange sense of humor to enjoy it, but occasionally it is slightly funny. It is at}

I tweet, occasionally, as yooper1721.

I have nothing to do with those double under-linings Blogger puts into the body of these posts, randomly, it seems, to lead you to advertisements, and I wish they would stop that.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Committee Meeting--a poem

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter


He died this week
Did not send apologies
Or a report for his sub-committee
He simply left

The chairman said
we should take a moment
“To remember how he touched our lives”
then gave us seven seconds for the task

Someday I shall die, report undone
and in some damp basement
on ancient, metal folding chairs
eight weary souls will remember me
in seven seconds—fifty-six in aggregate
It is fitting, and it is enough

John Robert McFarland

[I found this today, hand-written on a yellow sheet, November 10, 1983]