Latest Podcasts
For iTunes & RSS Readers
Friday
Mar102017

Post Sixty-Seven

THOUGHTS ON FIFTY YEARS OF LIFE

This year marks fifty years since my graduation from high school with the Frankfort High School class of 1967. Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with several of my FHS classmates and I have hope that we will be able to pull off a reunion of some sort before the end of May. I have pleasant memories of growing up in Frankfort, Michigan. However, following graduation I went off to Albion College and returned to my home town only on rare occasions. I find myself a bit surprised at the intensity of my desire to reunite with classmates after all of these years. Nevertheless, the desire burns within my heart.

Fifty years ago I was a young man of great certitude. I was certain of my religion. I was certain of the nobility of my country. I was certain that the world was organized into categories of good and bad, right and wrong, worthy and unworthy, life and death. I was certain that Benzie County was a fair representation of the rest of the world and that I was therefore ready to move out into the wider world with little difficulty.

That certitude began to crumble on a Sunday in July of 1967 when my dad and I took Tom Long and his dad down state to attend a Detroit Tiger double header against the New York Yankees. It was the first day of the Detroit riot/rebellion. Leaving Tiger Stadium at the end of the day we became snarled in the chaos of the uprising with no idea what we were witnessing. What began as an annual baseball adventure became a terrifying experience of urban anger and violence. This was a world unlike anything I knew. It was messy and alien - only we were the aliens.

The disintegration of my easy certitude continued piece by piece. The Vietnam War challenged my belief in the nobility of my country. Working summers with the Michigan Migrant Ministry challenged my assumptions regarding poverty and wealth. Working with the Interfaith Centers for Racial Justice of Metro Detroit challenged my assumptions about white privilege and our legacy of slavery and racism. The sudden death of my father at age 52 challenged my assumptions regarding life and death.

The disintegration of my certitude has continued throughout my life these past fifty years. The experience of being fired from a job I thought I loved; holding my wife, Terry's, hand as a doctor explained the discovery of a stage three tumor; walking with her through surgery and chemo therapy knowing that none of it would change the outcome; losing her after 38 years of marriage; expecting to live the rest of my life alone and then welcoming another love into my life who restores the joy; all of these experiences have worked together to turn my certitude into dust.

Now I am 67 and I have cast my certitude into the trash. I have grown fond of ambiguity and the resiliency it offers. I prefer the mystery of life over the embrace of easy answers. Having been voted (along with Suzie Hughes) the "Most Likely To Succeed" by the FHS class of 1967 I would rather now be known as the "most likely to bounce back." Perhaps this is the reason for my eagerness to meet with old classmates. I want to hear how life has treated them and hear their stories of resilience. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to apologize for the false and I imagine off-putting certitude of my 17 year old self. We shall see.

Dave Gladstone

Wednesday
Jan182017

Post Sixty-Six

A FUNERAL LESSON

I attended a funeral for Dick last Saturday. In doing so I learned about a man who lived a gentle life teaching children in public school for forty years. The sanctuary of the church contained a very significant number of adults who, as children, were nurtured by Dick's teaching and who now wished to honor him. I learned about a man of good humor with a wit that enlivened family gatherings with his children, grand children, nieces and nephews. I learned about a man of tremendous hospitality who, as a docent at the DIA, introduced hundreds of curious visitors to the exciting beauty of art and music. I learned about a man of deep Christian faith and steadfast devotion to his church. I learned about a man who lived out that faith with immense compassion teaming up with his partner to provide for children displaced by the Vietnam war.

 

I hardly knew Dick. I had met him once or twice many years ago. I attended the funeral because I knew his partner, Jim. Jim and Dick lived in a faithful, committed and loving relationship for 53 years. Jim and I worked together years ago. I was the Director of Music in a church. In 1983 I hired Jim as accompanist and organist for that church. Jim brought great skill to the work of helping people sing their faith. My choirs were enlivened by his humor and his devotion to making music that opened the hearts of those gathered to worship. Jim and I clicked as colleagues in ministry. In all of the years since, I looked back upon my time working with Jim as a special time in my ministry. In all of those years I have lived with a vague regret that Jim and I found it necessary to work together without mentioning or acknowledging Dick's place in Jim's life. Perhaps Jim was unwilling to risk that reveal. I was unwilling to ask for it. We worked together under our own version of “Don't ask. Don't tell.”

 

I attended the funeral for Dick last Saturday as a personal act of casting off that regret and allowing my affection for Jim unfettered expression. I attended because, as one who has also lost a spouse to cancer, I know something about the self doubt and immense emptiness that loss brings. I attended because I wanted to be a part of the healing process for Jim. I attended the funeral hoping that doing so would, in some small measure, make up for the dishonesty I have accepted in my life and the pain we as a church have inflicted upon other children of God.

 

At Dick's funeral I discovered a community of faith devoted to God's love revealed in Jesus the Christ. I discovered a healing liturgy confronting the reality of death with the promise of Easter joy. I discovered accepting love that embraced Jim's broken heart and affirmed his fidelity to Dick. I discovered a church beyond doctrinal arguments and judgements. I rediscovered a God of love waiting for my United Methodist Church when it finally moves beyond power and politics and learns to accept all people as children of God.

 

I attended a funeral for Dick last Saturday. I found my way back to a God of love.

Dave Gladstone

 

Tuesday
Jan032017

Post Sixty-Five

ON PAYING ATTENTION

Every so often a movie comes along that clarifies something for me that has needed clarification. Collateral Beauty is such a movie. Movie critics are not impressed. They are generally unimpressed with movies that are steeped in symbolism or movies that deliver a message the critics believe should be obvious to everyone. But I regard beautiful movies that put me back in touch with important truths as a gift to my heart. There are times when I need help remembering important things.

Death is certain. Time is fleeting. Love permeates everything - even the most difficult of experiences. In the five years since Terry's death I have had to relearn this lesson many times. My first response to her loss was to deny the new reality and continue living in the past. This recent presidential election has shown us that grief can also come to those who are confronted with other types of disruptive change. A changing economy has caused many to grieve for a world that no longer exists. Donald Trump's backward looking slogan, "Make America Great Again" offers the false promise that he can address their grief by putting things back the way they were - or rather back the way we imagine they were. But there is no going back. Relief for our grief can only be found in accepting the new reality, appreciating the beauty and the love of the past, and anticipating the beauty and the love that is yet to come.

I lose site of this from time to time. That's when a movie such as Collateral Beauty comes along to remind me of things I already know. Death is certain. Time is fleeting. Love permeates everything for those who have eyes to perceive it. 

 

Dave Gladstone

Sunday
Feb222015

Post Sixty-Four

A SPECIAL KIND OF  VALENTINE

I have not offered an entry in this journal in eighteen months. My silence has been intentional. I have been busy trying to move ahead with my life. These postings have seemed to me in that period to be a tether to the past I have lost and a hindrance to my gaining a grip on life in my new reality. The entry below, marking the death of Terry's father, Harold, seemed like a good place to stop.

My life has moved ahead in those eighteen months. A new grandson has been born. His name is JD (Joe David).  Grandson Theo and grandson JD together have taken my hand to gently lead me forward. Every day's an adventure with Theo and JD.

My life has also been blessed by the presence of Jane Heithoff. Although we are separated by many miles, we see each other as frequently as we can. We came together after each of us suffered a loss. We pledged kindness, gentleness, understanding and fidelity to each other. Some time ago I described it as "dancing in the dark". It remains an apt metaphor.  

Recently Jane paid a visit on Valentine's Day. We spent the day taking nick-nacks down from on top of the kitchen cabinets. We cleaned them. We polished them and we placed them back in a new arrangement. As you can see from the pictures to the left, they gleam.

Terry and I placed these nick-nacks above the cabinets in 2005 when we finished the construction of our beloved Lake Louise cottage. The copper was Terry's special decorative passion. They have stood there ever since watching over all that has happened in this place over the past ten years. Many of the nick-nacks are kitchen souvenirs from decades past: commemorative syrup bottles, obsolete coffee percolators and other such things.

I found comfort in seeing these items in the kitchen everyday. They reminded me of happy Saturday mornings making pancakes for the family crowd or Harold making Sunday morning omelets. I never noticed that these objects had long since lost their sparkle. For ten years they collected dust and grease from the kitchen. Jane noticed it right away.  It was her suggestion that we spend the day taking them down, cleaning them and restoring them to their proper shine.

Now that the task is accomplished it occurred to me that this exercise also has meaning for the task of rebuilding one's life after the death of a spouse. It may take the presence of a new love, a different love, to restore and polish the memory of the life that has been lost. Perhaps it is in reclaiming the future that the past can once again shine through - not as a reminder of the loss and the pain, but rather as a celebration of the beauty that was shared and that forms the foundation for happiness ahead. Perhaps. I have my gleaming kitchen nick-nacks to ponder.

Dave Gladstone

Sunday
Oct132013

Post Sixty-Three

The Cadence Concludes

Harold Niles died in his sleep on August 1, 2013 following a period of declining health. Harold was 92.  I have been unable to post a reflection on his passing until now. Terry and her entire family of origin now rest with the Lord.  My four year experience as primary caregiver is now over.

Here is what I wrote to the Lake Louise Christian Community at the time of Harold's death: Even with his fading memory, Harold liked to tell people that he first saw Lake Louise when he was seven years old. He liked to brag that as a teenager he was the first to construct a hydroplane to speed across the water of Lake Louise. Harold chose the Lake Louise Camp beach as the place to ask Mary Cutter to be his bride in 1942.  They were married in 1943.  Harold was well known for his booming bass voice, his beautiful singing, his ability to fix almost anything mechanical, his mischievous smile, and his inability to turn off the television.

During World War II Harold served in the Army Air Corps and was trained as a technician on the Norden bomb sight.  Following the war Harold began a 35 year career with Ford Motor Company as an automotive engineer.  He was an expert in fuel formulations and instrumental in developing new fuel formulations for the high compression engines that came into service in the 1950's.

Harold was preceded in death by his son, Stanley (Tom) Niles ; his daughter, Terry Gladstone, and his wife Mary.  He is survived by his son-in-law David Gladstone, his daughter-in-law Denise Niles, four grand children Carl, Mary, Nathan and Nicloe, and one great grandchild, Theo.  

 

I will most remember Dad as an entusiastic and powerful singer.  The family joke was that I was accepted into the family because I was a tenor and I completed the quartet.  In 1963 Deaborn First UMC made a recording of all their choirs.  On that recording Dad sings the solo in a pretentious old style Easter anthem entitled Light's Glittering Morn. The text of his solo follows.  An excerpt from the recording is linked below.

 

 

 

That Eastertide with joy was bright,

The sun shone out with fairer light,

When to their longing eyes restor'd

Th'Apostles saw their risen Lord:

He bade them see His hands, His side,

Where yet the glorious wounds abide;

These tokens true which made it plain

Their Lord indeed was risen again.

 

 

Harold Niles sings LIGHT'S GLITTERING MORN