Monday, December 27, 2010

A real Good Samaritan

This comes to us in a round a bout way through author and self proclaimed grumpy old man, Gary Kelly. It's an article from the BBC as written by the original author.

One act of kindness that befell British writer Bernard Hare in 1982 changed him profoundly. Then a student living just north of London, he tells the story to inspire troubled young people to help deal with their disrupted lives.

The police called at my student hovel early evening, but I didn't answer as I thought they'd come to evict me. I hadn't paid my rent in months.

But then I got to thinking: my mum hadn't been    too good and what if it was something about her?

We had no phone in the hovel and mobiles hadn't been invented yet, so I had to nip down the phone box.

I rang home to Leeds to find my mother was in hospital and not expected to survive the night. "Get home, son," my dad said.

I got to the railway station to find I'd missed the last train. A train was going as far as Peterborough, but I would miss the connecting Leeds train by twenty minutes.  I bought a ticket home and got on anyway. I was a struggling student and didn't have the money for a taxi the whole way, but I had a screwdriver in my pocket and my bunch of skeleton keys.

I was so desperate to get home that I planned to nick a car in Peterborough, hitch hike, steal some money, something, anything. I just knew from my dad's tone of voice that my mother was going to die that night and I intended to get home if it killed me.

"Tickets, please," I heard, as I stared blankly out of the window at the passing darkness. I fumbled for my ticket and gave it to the guard when he approached. He stamped it, but then just stood there looking at me. I'd been crying, had red eyes and must have looked a fright.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Course I'm okay," I said. "Why wouldn't I be? And what's it got to do with you in any case?"

"You look awful," he said. "Is there anything I can do?"

"You could get lost and mind your own business," I said. "That'd be a big help." I wasn't in the mood for talking.

He was only a little bloke and he must have read the danger signals in my body language and tone of voice, but he sat down opposite me anyway and continued to engage me.

"If there's a problem, I'm here to help. That's what I'm paid for."

I was a big bloke in my prime, so I thought for a second about physically sending him on his way, but somehow it didn't seem appropriate. He wasn't really doing much wrong. I was going through all the stages of grief at once: denial, anger, guilt, withdrawal, everything but acceptance. I was a bubbling cauldron of emotion and he had placed himself in my line of fire.

The only other thing I could think of to get rid of him was to tell him my story.

"Look, my mum's in hospital, dying, she won't survive the night, I'm going to miss the connection to Leeds at Peterborough, I'm not sure how I'm going to get home.

"It's tonight or never, I won't get another chance, I'm a bit upset, I don't really feel like talking, I'd be grateful if you'd leave me alone. Okay?"

"Okay," he said, finally getting up. "Sorry to hear that, son. I'll leave you alone then. Hope you make it home in time." Then he wandered off down the carriage back the way he came. I continued to look out of the window at the dark. Ten minutes later, he was back at the side of my table. Oh no, I thought, here we go again. This time I really am going to rag him down the train.

He touched my arm. "Listen, when we get to Peterborough, shoot straight over to Platform One as quick as you like. The Leeds train'll be there."

I looked at him dumbfounded. It wasn't really registering. "Come again," I said, stupidly. "What do you mean? Is it late, or something?"

"No, it isn't late," he said, defensively, as if he really cared whether trains were late or not. "No, I've just radioed Peterborough. They're going to hold the train up for you. As soon as you get on, it goes.

"Everyone will be complaining about how late it is, but let's not worry about that on this occasion. You'll get home and that's the main thing. Good luck and God bless."

Then he was off down the train again. "Tickets, please. Any more tickets now?"

I suddenly realised what a top-class, fully-fledged doilem I was and chased him down the train. I wanted to give him all the money from my wallet, my driver's licence, my keys, but I knew he would be offended.

I caught him up and grabbed his arm. "Oh, er, I just wanted to…" I was suddenly speechless. "I, erm…"

"It's okay," he said. "Not a problem." He had a warm smile on his face and true compassion in his eyes. He was a good man for its own sake and required nothing in return.

"I wish I had some way to thank you," I said. "I appreciate what you've done."

"Not a problem," he said again. "If you feel the need to thank me, the next time you see someone in trouble, you help them out. That will pay me back amply.

"Tell them to pay you back the same way and soon the world will be a better place."

I was at my mother's side when she died in the early hours of the morning. Even now, I can't think of her without remembering the Good Conductor on that late-night train to Peterborough and, to this day, I won't hear a bad word said about British Rail.

My meeting with the Good Conductor changed me from a selfish, potentially violent hedonist into a decent human being, but it took time.

"I've paid him back a thousand times since then," I tell the young people I work with, "and I'll keep on doing so till the day I die. You don't owe me nothing. Nothing at all."

"And if you think you do, I'd give you the same advice the Good Conductor gave me. Pass it down the line."

Has a stranger ever done you a good turn? We're all here to hear about the brighter side. So, tell us in the comments section.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Don't forget to live

Everyone dies. But not everyone lives.

I heard this a couple of weeks ago and thought it especially good for this season. Working my second job, I see a lot of people running around doing the Christmas shopping thing. They are all in such a hurry. They have their list and their budget and a time slot to get it all done in. They need to make sure that everything is just perfect. The decorations have to be right. The food has to be right. The family has to be there.

I see them all rushing so they can have the perfect Christmas. What I don't see, is them enjoying the holiday. In my house, we have made a pact to keep it simple. We buy for those that we want to buy for and we go to the houses that we want to go to. We enjoy visiting with friends and family, we just don't see the need to do it on a particular day at a certain time. We'd rather visit when it's best for everyone. Even if that means sometime in January. Winter is long and cold in Michigan.So we like to spread everything out a little. Our visits are more personal and meaningful than the 28 person dinners of old. There's no pressure to buy gifts for people that you barely know or have a huge meal ready at a particular time. It's a more relaxed take on the holiday, we know. But, we enjoy every minute of it.
Do you live your life? Or do you rush through trying to get everything done? In the end, will they remember that you had everything on the table at 3pm and there was 14 people present? Life is short, live it to the fullest. Let your legacy be that of someone that everyone loved to spend time with, because time spent with you is always the best way to spend life.

Thank you to everyone that has visited the Brighter Side this year and have a great Christmas season.

I'm looking forward to sharing more stories with you next year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I'll start this with a quote from John Quincy Adams

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."

With the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), this quote seems especially true.
And with permission from my beloved friend (one of the men who traveled to Toronto to witness my wedding five years ago) and the author of this guest post, I bring you the opinion of a career military man that is gay.



It is dead, it is gone and I never, ever thought it would happen in my life time. Untold thousands of men and women have served honorably in silence and fear. I know - I was one of them. Twenty four years of absolute terror of being found out was unbelieve pressure. I am certain that the stress from this STUPID policy was a large part of the three heart attacks I have been throuh. Haven't had any problem since I retired. There has NEVER been any reason for the DADT or even the never popular "holy shit he/she is gay - automatic dishonorable discharge." I would have lost the best job in the world, my retirement, and my self worth.

I was so happy to be on the reception desk at Affirmations (a GLBT community center in Ferndale, MI) when the vote took place. What a great way to celebrate this historic occassion. I am not ashamed to admit I broke down in tears of joy and relief.

I went out to celebrate with friends tonight and found I was in such a strange mood that I said the heck with it and came home to comtemplate the entire event. As I sit here with a toddy beside me (and several inside me), I find I am still emotionally charged. Doubt if I will sleep at all.

Both of my sons have called to make sure I was gonna be ok - they knew what this meant to me and were concerned I would stress out. Having their support means more than they will ever know.

I am about to hit Google and see some of the reactions from the American public. Believe I will ignore McCann, Limbaugh, and that stupid, ignorant Glen Beck!

Good night all and thank you for your support!

This is truely, The Brighter Side of the Grave.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Day!

It's a beautiful sunny day here in Southeast Michigan. Although it's not officially winter yet, two nights ago we got hit with our first measurable snowfall of the season. It was a wet and heavy snow. Great for packing as they say. The kind that's great for making a snowman. So we did. Not our best work ever, but since right after the snowfall, so fell the temperature. It is bitter cold out there. Below the freezing mark and no sign of returning to the positive numbers anytime soon. It's the kind of snow that if you got hit with a snowball made from it, it would hurt and definitely leave a mark.
It is beautiful, that's for sure. After our burial today, I couldn't help but to take some shots around the cemetery for you.

While it's been difficult to dig us out of this snowy mess, our neighbors on the other side of the border have not been as lucky as us. It seems as though a band of snow took up residence over the large space of land between our border and London, Ontario. London is the town that got hit with a meter of snow last week. The freeway and ALL other roads are closed and impassible. There are over 300 cars and trucks stranded on the freeway. They are evacuating people on snowmobile and in helicopters and encouraging them to stay with their vehicles until rescue workers can get to them. On this side of the border, this translates to our freeway being lined with miles and miles of trucks waiting to cross the border. These truckers are stuck with no place to go. I did see a catering truck out there selling them food and beverages. But all they can do is wait. It doesn't help the situation that on both sides of the border, there are power outages in homes and businesses. With temperatures below freezing and no heat in homes and all these people stuck on the freeway, you can imagine that rescue, repair and road workers are a little busy.

All this makes me excited to see what winter will bring. And even more excited for spring.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Something's not right

Something just doesn't seem right here...

Who buys fish from BP anyway?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just another day...

As usual, my day started yesterday. This time as early as 11:30am. Various things kept me going for most of the day. When I was able to finally lie down, my mind would not stop and eventually it was time to get up for the night job. It was a pretty uneventful night. None the less, it requires staying up all night. As usual, when I finished up there, it was time to get cleaned up and head off to work.

When I left to get the hearse out of the garage, it was 15f (or -8c). Since it was raining the last time I used it, it was quite the mess and needed washed. (Every family deserves a clean hearse) It was going to be a 35 mile drive to my job for the day, so I decided to wash it closer to where I was going to. Hoping that it would miraculously turn warmer outside along the way. At about the half way point, I was in neer white out conditions of snowfall. The large flakes mesmerizing me as I drove into the wind with the long dark blue hearse. By the time I reached the neighboring town, it had subsided, but had left about two inches of fluffy white snow everywhere. I pulled off the interstate and into the car wash opting for the automatic wash today. And yes, I washed the hearse in a snow storm. They really need to increase the dry time in the winter months to avoid doors freezing shut. When the wash had finished, I threw on my long black top coat and made sure all the door frames were dry and the car was looking good. then I proceeded to the funeral home.

Upon arrival, I climbed out of the drivers seat and started to bundle up for an hour of standing in the cold. That's when I noticed, the hearse looked the same as before I had washed it. And of course, the rear door had frozen shut. I made sure that it was in the sun because I'll need to open that in an hour or so, or none of us are going anywhere.

Today we had a predominately Baptist crowd. I've noticed in the past that the people from this particular church in town are always in a good mood. As each car pulled up and put down there window and I enjoyed the heat pouring from their car on my face, they would joke about something. Some would think that I was the valet attendant or parking tax collector. They would offer to get me a hot coffee from Tim Horton's or just let me feel a little extra warmth until they were cold enough that they wanted the window back up. Everyone stopped as they pulled in. I didn't have to chase anyone down or throw myself in front of their car. Yup, a very friendly bunch, in deed.

Because of the extreme cold, we used the chapel at the cemetery and everything went pretty smoothly. Then the family decided that they wanted to go to the grave side as well. That's when Lake Huron decided to spit out a cloud filled with snow. The wind picked up from across the lake and snow was actually drifting around the peoples shoes as they stood there. It was so cold that it went rather quickly and we soon had the lid on the cement vault and the family on their way. That's when the sexton pointed out to me the vault next to our grave. Often when we dig a grave, you can see the vault of the neighboring grave. The burial had taken place in 1927. The vault was made of metal.  The metal had rusted so much that it was about to the point of collapse. Fortunately, the ground was so frozen that there was no danger of it giving way today.

If you look closely, just below the casket you can see the corner of the 1927 vault.
 Burial vaults have come a long way over the years. Even the cheapest ones now are made of cement. Some are lined with copper or stainless steel. It all depends how much you want to spend. The lids can be plain or finely carved. You can even have the name inscribed so that even if the stone were to disappear, the body could be identified. As I mentioned, the neighboring vault today was made of metal. It was very popular at the start of the industrial revolution. Before that most were made of wood, if one was used at all. Most wood vaults would be gone by now leaving no protection from the wet earth at all.

So, I wrapped things up at the cemetery and headed back home. I still can't seem to warm up. Perhaps it is because I am staring out the window at the snow falling gently in my garden. While it is beautiful, anyone that doesn't live in Hollywood knows, it's cold! They are saying that it's not going to stick today or amount to much. Not until Friday at least. But, a neighboring city on the other side of the Canadian border got hit with a meter of snow last night. Sometimes these Great Lakes protect us and sometimes, they make it worse.

Now, it's off to bed for me. I've got to get up in 5 hours and do it all again.