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Trump is proving that the rise of the one-issue voter makes the messenger irrelevant.

Ruthless megalomaniac. Delusional narcissist. Thuggish, dishonest, crude, crass, and arrogant beyond belief. All of these have been used to describe Vladimir Putin … and Donald John Trump, Sr.

Not so long ago, a man with Donald Trump’s personality, not to mention his history of shady partners and shadier deals, would never have considered making a run for the White House. But Trump is not only running, he’s winning. He is at the top of some polls, slightly behind the powerful Jeb Bush machine in others, but irrefutably one of the top prospects for the Republican nomination.

How could a man more like Vladimir Putin than Abraham Lincoln be a serious candidate for President of the United States?

One word: immigration. As foul and disagreeable as he is, Donald Trump is saying something that an enormous number of Americans want to hear: get tough on immigration. And that one message appears to be so important that even a troll like Trump can gain tremendous ground by exploiting it.

Can any serious person dispute the levels of corruption in Mexico? I don’t blame anyone for wanting to leave. The tragedy is that our current policies are a disservice to both immigrants and native-born Americans. First, let’s look at the “typical” immigrant from Mexico – hard-working and eager to succeed, but, with the lowest high school graduation rate of any group of immigrants, facing an enormous disadvantage in our system, where education is so important. What happens to people in a competitive system when they are at an enormous disadvantage? Most of them lose. They become casualties of the system, regardless of their color or language. It’s not about race; it’s about statistics. A small percentage of talented individuals will beat the odds, but the majority cannot overcome the double burden of a deficit in both language and education.

There is a higher percentage of immigrant men aged 18-65 in the labor force than there are men born in the United States, so a willingness to work is not the issue. But the percentage of immigrants on welfare after 20 years in the U.S. is higher than those who have been here five years or fewer. Why do the lives of so many immigrants get worse over time?

Is more polarization the answer? Should both sides dig in, with immigrants refusing to assimilate in any way as a point of national pride and loyalty to their homeland while native-born Americans replace the welcoming Statue of Liberty with a giant fence?

On the one side, we have people who want a better life in a better place, and who are willing to work hard to make that dream come true. On the other, you have people who understand that the U.S. won’t be a better place for anyone if we blindly open our borders. Changing people from hard workers into uninsured, welfare-dependent tragedies makes the American Dream a nightmare for everyone.

Maybe that’s why a jackass like Trump isn’t being laughed out of the race. Like Abortion or Gun Control – those “capital letter” subjects that tend to polarize Americans – the subject of Immigration has reached a point where people don’t care who the messenger is. They simply want people on both sides to forget political correctness and take an honest, hard look at how to solve a very tough problem.

In an age where one misstep on Twitter can destroy anyone, the other candidates have advisors armed with demographic analyses and polls that tell them to never offend this group or that demographic. Trump is – let’s be honest – too arrogant to care about what any advisor says. He is touching on one of the biggest fears of what he calls the “silent majority” and counting on their anger to propel him to Commander in Chief.

Up to this point, Trump has been nothing more than a buffoon, a very wealthy buffoon and a Reality TV star, but still … just a buffoon. Becoming President of the United States would give him the power to do serious damage on a widespread scale.

He would become the American Putin.

Time Machine

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Time Machine

by John Carter

A friend of mine just sent me this old photo from a camping trip, circa 1989. It’s Bo, the Labrador retriever who shared my life at the time. Typically, she is curled up in my lap, this time in the middle of a field. Bo, the eternal puppy who nobody could resist. It may sound grandiose, but the flood of emotions and memories this image evoked reminded me of Proust and the madeleine in Remembrance of Things Past:

An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself …

Any glimpse of this memory requires an understanding of the way Bo affected people. My parents were raised on farms during the Great Depression – not an upbringing that makes you overly sentimental about animals, but Bo was the exception to every rule. My mom would cook meals for Bo – grits for breakfast, broccoli (which she loved!) for dinner. My father, who might normally have been the first person to say that anyone who cooked for a dog was crazy, seemed to think it was all fine. It was for Bo.

My father, my mother, and Bo have all been gone for many years now. When Bo died, my dad helped me bury her out on the farm. We picked a spot for her grave overlooking the pond and the pastures that she loved. It was rough, hard Georgia clay, full of tree roots and rocks – tough digging. We didn’t get any gloves, even though I know he had some. Those bloody blisters on our hands were the only way we had left to show Bo how much we loved her. We both understood that without saying it.

And we didn’t share that kind of connection as often as we’d have liked. I loved my dad, fiercely. Still do. But it was rare for us to find the right words for each other. So we dug that awful hole without words, just the thunk and slice and tearing of our shovels and mattock as we fought the earth. Until we put Bo in.

Before we started covering her, I asked him to stop, and I walked over to the cabin – less than a hundred yards, but it seemed like it took me hours to walk over and back. I had to look for a few minutes, but I found Bo’s favorite ball under the porch steps. I walked back over to her grave, got down on my knees, and put that old chewed up ball in beside her.  For a minute, I didn’t have the strength to stand, so I just hung my head, there on my knees. And I heard my father start to cry.

I stood up. One shovelful at a time, we said that last goodbye. I don’t remember saying a prayer … or even a word. When we finished, we lingered there for a minute or two, holding the bloodied handles of our shovels and watching the bats swoop after mosquitos as dusk took over the pond. I imagine both of us were picturing Bo racing down that hill and jumping into the pond. Race on, good girl.

We walked back to the barn to put the shovels away. He was wearing his old dirty blue coveralls and a hat with the name of a feed store on it – too dirty to read. When we started to walk down the hill towards the cabin, he put his arm around my shoulders.

Bo getting some love.

Bo getting some love.

John with Bo, Wink, and Puppy

Bo – with a puppy on top of her and Wink the cat chewing her back leg. Nothing bothered her.


Can the Lorax Find Inner Peace?

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“What kind of times are these, when
to talk about trees is almost a crime
Because it implies silence about so many horrors?”

― Bertolt Brecht


In 1971, Dr. Seuss published a story called The Lorax. You can read the whole story at the end of this post. I’ve read it many times, but as an adult, I always return to one line about social responsibility.

“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Doesn’t this statement conflict with a search for inner peace? Peace can be defined as “freedom from disturbance; quiet; tranquility” … hardly ideas commensurate with fighting for a cause.

Like many who grew up in the pre-Internet age of books, newspapers, and magazines, I find myself happiest when I stay away from the cacophony of the worldwide 24/7 news cycle. It’s too disheartening, especially leading up to any election, when the ugly underbelly of American politics is exposed.

You can read my thoughts about The Myth of the Self-Made Man elsewhere, so you know that I’m writing from the point-of-view that we are a society – a group of interconnected parts that directly affect each other. And yet, many people who tell me they are often happy and at peace say they do it by becoming more insular, avoiding politics, natural disasters, terrorism, and news in general. I admit that I’m often tempted to turn it all off and stroll into the sunset whistling the theme from The Andy Griffith Show, but where does that leave my children, my grandchild, and everybody else? I’ve had a good life. Don’t I have some responsibility to deal with the ugly realities of this world, even if it stresses me out and makes me less happy?

As I pester friends and family with these questions, I find that the response is sometimes religious, as in, “It’s in the Lord’s hands. He gives me peace.” But to my ears, that sounds like an easy abdication of responsibility disguised as Faith. The Lord gave me two hands also … and a conscience that tells me I should use them to help others.

Another approach is to say, “It’s always been this way. Nothing’s going to change.” But the next logical step down that path is the realization that things surely won’t change if we look at it that way … which brings us right back to the Lorax.

I don’t fully understand the concept of entropy. Is the Universe on a gradual but inevitable decline that is part of the fabric of Life? Or is that just one part of the answer to a question we are too small to even ask? Maybe trying to solve big problems can lead to a loss of inner peace. But I’m clinging to the notion that solving the little ones is the only real reason that we’re here.

So I have to side with the Lorax. Or if you think a cartoon is too flippant for such serious thoughts, then read Loren Eiseley’s The Star Thrower essay (too-often co-opted without attribution by politicians and preachers). It’s worth noting that Eiseley was both a scientist, devoted to empirical research and proof, and a philosopher, who seemed to believe, as I do, that – at least for now – we are too ignorant to measure the things that really matter. How much I love my children … what I’d give to see my parents again … all the good things I see in my fellow man … these are more than just chemicals in my brain. And building a world around those things is more important than retiring, so while I am left with the desire to turn it all off, I’m going to get up, put on my Lorax t-shirt, and choose empathy and involvement over the chimera of a peaceful existence that doesn’t include caring about anyone outside my tiny circle of friends and loved ones.

Still … I do like to whistle that Andy Griffith song.

There’s a comment section below. Have at it! And here’s The Lorax. Buy a copy at your local bookstore or here.)

by Dr. Seuss

At the far end of town

where the Grickle-grass grows

and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows

and no birds ever sing excepting old crows…

is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.

And deep in the Grickle-grass, some people say,

if you look deep enough you can still see, today,

where the Lorax once stood

just as long as it could

before somebody lifted the Lorax away.

What was the Lorax?

And why was it there?

And why was it lifted and taken somewhere

from the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows?

The old Once-ler still lives here.

Ask him. He knows.

You won’t see the Once-ler.

Don’t knock at his door.

He stays in his Lerkim on top of his store.

He lurks in his Lerkim, cold under the roof,

where he makes his own clothes

out of miff-muffered moof.

And on special dank midnights in August,

he peeks

out of the shutters

and sometimes he speaks

and tells how the Lorax was lifted away.

He’ll tell you, perhaps…

if you’re willing to pay.

On the end of a rope

he lets down a tin pail

and you have to toss in fifteen cents

and a nail

and the shell of a great-great-greatgrandfather


Then he pulls up the pail,

makes a most careful count

to see if you’ve paid him

the proper amount.

Then he hides what you paid him

away in his Snuvv,

his secret strange hole

in his gruvvulous glove.

Then he grunts, “I will call you by Whisper-ma-Phone,

for the secrets I tell you are for your ears alone.”


Down slupps the Whisper-ma-Phone to your ear

and the old Once-ler’s whispers are not very clear,

since they have to come down

through a snergelly hose,

and he sounds

as if he had

smallish bees up his nose.

“Now I’ll tell you,”he says, with his teeth sounding gray,

“how the Lorax got lifted and taken away…

It all started way back…

such a long, long time back…

Way back in the days when the grass was still green

and the pond was still wet

and the clouds were still clean,

and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space…

one morning, I came to this glorious place.

And I first saw the trees!

The Truffula Trees!

The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees!

Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.

And, under the trees, I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots

frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits

as they played in the shade and ate Truffula fruits.

From the rippulous pond

came the comfortable sound

of the Humming-Fish humming

while splashing around.

But those trees! Those trees!

Those Truffula Trees!

All my life I’d been searching

for trees such as these.

The touch of their tufts

was much softer than silk.

And they had the sweet smell

of fresh butterfly milk.

I felt a great leaping

of joy in my heart.

I knew just what I’d do!

I unloaded my cart.

In no time at all, I had built a small shop.

Then I chopped down a Truffula Tree with one chop.

And with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed,

I took the soft tuft, and I knitted a Thneed!

The instant I’d finished, I heard a ga-Zump!

I looked.

I saw something pop out of the stump

of the tree I’d chopped down. It was sort of a man.

Describe him?… That’s hard. I don’t know if I can.

He was shortish. And oldish.

And brownish. And mossy.

And he spoke with a voice

that was sharpish and bossy.

“Mister!” he said with a sawdusty sneeze,

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.

I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.

And I’m asking you, sir, at the top if my lungs”-

he was very upset as he shouted and puffed-

“What’s that THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?”

“Look, Lorax,” I said.”There’s no cause for alarm.

I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm.

I’m being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed.

A Thneed’s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!

It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove, It’s a hat.

But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that.

You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!

Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!”

The Lorax said,

“Sir! You are crazy with greed.

There is no one on earth

who would buy that fool Thneed!”

But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.

For, just at that minute, a chap came along,

and he thought the Thneed I had knitted was great.

He happily bought it for three ninety-eight

I laughed at the Lorax, “You poor stupid guy!

You never can tell what some people will buy.”

“I repeat,” cried the Lorax,

“I speak for the trees!”

“I’m busy,” I told him.

“Shut up, if you please.”

I rushed ‘cross the room, and in no time at all,

built a radio-phone. I put in a quick call.

I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts

and I said, “Listen here! Here’s a wonderful chance

for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!

Get over here fast! Take the road to North Nitch.

Turn left at Weehawken. Sharp right at South Stitch.”

And, in no time at all,

in the factory I built,

the whole Once-ler Family

was working full tilt.

We were all knitting Thneeds

just as busy as bees,

to the sound of the chopping

of Truffula Trees.


Oh! Baby! Oh!

How my business did grow!

Now, chopping one tree

at a time

was too slow.

So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker

which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker.

We were making Thneeds

four times as fast as before!

And that Lorax?…

He didn’t show up any more.

But the next week

he knocked

on my new office door.

He snapped, “I am the Lorax who speaks for the trees

which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.

But I’m also in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots

who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits

and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits.

“NOW… thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,

there’s not enought Truffula Fruit to go ’round.

And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies

because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!

“They loved living here. But I can’t let them stay.

They’ll have to find food. And I hope that they may.

Good luck, boys,” he cried. And he sent them away.

I, the old Once-ler, felt sad

as I watched them all go.


business is business!

And business must grow

regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.

I meant no harm. I most truly did not.

But I had to grow bigger.So bigger I got.

I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.

I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads

of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth

to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!

I went right on biggering… selling more Thneeds.

And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.

Then again he came back! I was fixing some pipes

when that old-nuisance Lorax came back with more gripes.

“I am the Lorax,” he coughed and he whiffed.

He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.

“Once-ler!” he cried with a cruffulous croak.

“Once-ler! You’re making such smogulous smoke!

My poor Swomee-Swans… why, they can’t sing a note!

No one can sing who has smog in his throat.

“And so,” said the Lorax,

“-please pardon my coughthey

cannot live here.

So I’m sending them off.

“Where will they go?…

I don’t hopefully know.

They may have to fly for a month… or a year…

To escape from the smog you’ve smogged up around here.

“What’s more,” snapped the Lorax. (His dander was up.)

“Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp.

Your machine chugs on, day and night without stop

making Gluppity-Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.

And what do you do with this leftover goo?…

I’ll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man, you!

“You’re glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed!

No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.

So I’m sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary.

They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary

in search of some water that isn’t so smeary.”

And then I got mad.

I got terribly mad.

I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!

All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’

Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you

I intend to go on doing just what I do!

And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering

On biggering




turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds

which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”

And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!

From outside in the fields came a sickening smack

of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.

The very last Truffula Tree of them all!

No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done.

So, in no time, my uncles and aunts, every one,

all waved me good-bye. They jumped into my cars

and drove away under the smoke-smuggered stars.

Now all that was left ‘neath the bad smelling-sky

was my big empty factory…

the Lorax…

and I.

The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance…

just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance…

as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.

And I’ll never forget the grim look on his face

when he heisted himself and took leave of this place,

through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.

And all that the Lorax left here in this mess

was a small pile of rocks, with one word…


Whatever that meant, well, I just couldn’t guess.

That was long, long ago.

But each day since that day

I’ve sat here and worried

and worried away.

Through the years, while my buildings

have fallen apart,

I’ve worried about it

with all of my heart.

“But now,” says the Once-ler,

“Now that you’re here,

the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.

UNLESS someone like you

cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.


Catch!” calls the Once-ler.

He lets something fall.

“It’s a Truffula Seed.

It’s the last one of all!

You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.

And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.

Plant a new Truffula.Treat it with care.

Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.

Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.

Then the Lorax

and all of his friends

may come back.”

How to Write a Great Short Story

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How to Write a Great Short Story
By Kurt Vonnegut

Note from John: These tips about “how to write” are always tricky. The creative process and the human condition are too complex for one set of rules to be all-encompassing. But I do believe it’s helpful to be exposed to great idea. I try to internalize them and make the ones that fit part of my own process.

As Mr. Vonnegut once said (to split an infinitive), “If you can’t write clearly, you probably don’t think nearly as well as you think you do.”

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.


Please support wonderful writers like Kurt Vonnegut at your local bookstore or here.

Mother’s Last Gift

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Mother’s Last Gift
by John Carter

My mother is dying. Terminal emphysema, heart disease and life’s relentless accumulation of years have robbed her of most of the things that made her life worth living. I have watched, wondering what possible purpose could be served by this prolonged torture, this painful, heartbreaking process. I have reminded myself that life’s lessons are often learned – and character is forged – in adversity. But what could God possibly be trying to teach my mother? She can’t remember a visit five minutes after it’s over. How can she possibly be learning anything from this ordeal?

When I told my oldest sister about this doubt, she said, “Maybe it’s not what she’s learning, but what we’re learning.”

Who knows the thoughts of those very close to death? Where does the mind go when it leaves this plane of existence? I have hoped that as the body dies, the spirit soars. That as the veil between this life and the next grows gossamer-thin, we glimpse Heaven drawing near. But is this just wishful thinking? Where does my mother go, and what has she seen there? Watching her die, as I did my father, turns my thoughts back to the lessons I learned from both of them.

My father was a good man, and I loved him dearly. But when I think of the contrast in what my mother and father taught me, I think about a speech from an old movie called I Never Sang for My Father. It reminds me that fathers can be hard. They prepare a young man for life. For the abusive boss, the dishonest partner and the unfaithful friend. Mothers are soft and loving. Their lessons are about family, acceptance, and unconditional love. While my father taught me about becoming a man, my mother kept the child in me alive.

So now, after a lifetime of sacrifices … of meals and laundry. Of the thankless, often-isolated life of the mundane. Of a life measured only in the service of her family … now come the hospital beds. The breathing treatments. The diapers. The loss of mind, memory, and dignity. This is mother’s last gift. The cross she bears to teach her children one final lesson. After twenty years of growing apart, of different paths chosen, of forgotten kindnesses and nurtured slights, her sons and daughters are forced to come together. To do the right thing. To care for her.

Her lesson is this – that we are destined to be different. We will disagree. We will probably always drive each other crazy. But we will always be a family. A family that she and my father devoted their lives to building. And we can no more abandon that than we could abandon her. As I sit by her hospital bed on this rainy afternoon, she doesn’t even know that I’m here. But I believe some part of her, deep inside, knows. Knows that her grandchildren – living in an age that treats family, like everything else, as a disposable commodity – need to be shown that love can turn selfish people into selfless people.

My mother has never had a forceful personality. My father could have brought us together with a few words. Left alone after his death, my mother’s only option was to lay herself down, to die a prolonged, horrible death that has made her children cooperate in caring for her. In the midst of this hell, when she is lucid, she says, “I am so lucky. I don’t hurt anywhere. If I could just catch my breath.” She reminds me of the Coleman Barks translations of Jallaludin Rumi’s poems. I am certain that my mother never read Rumi, but they both taught me that Life is not about grief. Life is primarily a joy. And when I write – one of the most joyful things in my life – it is my mother’s voice, my best voice, that I see on the page.

Mother, now I know. Your youngest – and slowest to learn – has learned this lesson. Your baby – who you did spoil – now asks for one thing more.

Wherever you are now, Mamma, wherever your spirit has flown … listen. Early this morning I dreamed of you. I was a little boy again, tagging along after you like I always did. I was playing in our yard on Culloden Road as you hung laundry on the clothesline. All the dream colors were incredibly vivid – the grass a deep, rich green. The sky cerulean. Only you were in black and white. You were young. It was you from the black and white photo I have of you when you were about 16. In the middle of pinning a shirt to the clothesline, you stopped. For just a second, a look of concern flashed across your face. I knew that you heard something I could not hear, some music or someone calling from far away. Then you turned towards me. The look of concern was completely gone, replaced by absolute peace. For one final moment (and that’s exactly what it felt like – a final moment), you showed me the first thing I ever saw in this world – your beautiful smile. And then (aren’t dreams bizarre?), you just flew away – up into that blue sky. My little boy self felt a moment of panic, and then … peace. The peace I felt as your little “mamma’s boy.” Before the world taught me the hard lessons I have been forced to learn. The lessons that have changed me into whatever kind of man it is that I’ve become.

And then I woke up, and I knew.

Fly mamma. I love you, and your absence will leave a hole in my life that can never be filled. But you’ve given enough. And the reward you have waited for – and taught me about my whole life – is one heartbeat, one final breath away. You have taught your children all we need to go on. To pass on the most important lessons.


I originally wrote those words months ago, when my mother was in the hospital, and before her brief stay in a nursing home and her death early this morning. Although we prayed for a quick end to her suffering, this wish was not to be granted.

But how can I be bitter? I have just said goodbye to a woman who told me over and over again my entire life that I should trust in the Lord. I feel strangely at peace. I know now that my mother wrote these words through me, and that I have left them dormant these long months, waiting for today, when I will deliver them to my sisters and brother.

For my mother, the adventure has just begun.


The Gathering

There is a gathering tonight.

on the far shore,
they come together
waiting to welcome her.

the parents.
They wait, with love and praise,
withheld until now.

the husband.
With giant strides he crosses an amber field,
a black dog romping by his side.

Sister, aunts, uncles, friends.
The Lord’s congregation waits.

As she leaves our small circle of love
and moves toward theirs,
they assemble
to lead her to the One.
Healer of them all.

One day soon
they will gather for me,
and I will see her again, as she is now,
for the very first time.


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by John Carter

Tonight, with everyone asleep, I’ve made my familiar rounds, going to each of my children and whispering:

“I love you, Evan.”
“I love you, Matthew.”
“I love you, Lauren.”
“I love you, Dylan.”

These are the quiet moments. The whole house is asleep, and the world seems still. I am filled with the strength of the words I’m saying, combined with a familiar frustration at my inability to show them how much I love them.

Part of me wishes that these small souls, who I love so fiercely, were standing beside me in this darkness. That their adult selves could run through these hectic days, to be my age, to know me now and relate to all I’m feeling. Another, smaller part of me, lies sleeping, curled up beside those sweet, innocent faces, pajamas rumpled, arms akimbo.

The reason I do this is – for me – uncharacteristically superstitious. I hope and pray that somehow these night messages are subliminally stored in a special part of their brains. And that at the end of this life, no matter how close or far apart we’ve grown, or how things turn out, they will remember these whispers and their father’s voice, their father’s love.

I look out the window at a brilliant, clear night sky, and I recall what I’ve read about those stars. Some are long dead, but their light is just arriving here, to fill me with warmth and wonder in this moment. When I am long gone and they need it most, I hope these sweet children can still find strength in my abiding love.

Physicists say that our bodies are made of atoms that were once part of the stars. At this moment, I know it’s true. I can feel it when I look at my sleeping children. When all the noise is gone and everything is as simple as the ray of pure love pouring out of me and into them.

My little stars. Myself, but not me.