Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Good, and health care policy

About a year ago, we discussed the topic "goodness" or the "Good", at our Heart of Medicine community of doctors' meeting. I brought the story of Joseph of the many-colored coat from the Hebrew scriptures. It seems very compelling to me that when his brothers go to Egypt to beg for grain during the years of famine, and Joseph has become the head magistrate to purvey the grain, the brothers try to apologize for their brutal treatment of him as a boy. And Joseph says "Never mind. What you intended for evil, God used for good. Because now I am here, and can help you and my father in the time of need." To me that is one of the best stories about what is "good"-- because it points to what is beyond the ken of the humans in the immediate story-- the possibility of some new good that can be brought from the most disastrous occurrence. And that somehow, the Divine Mystery does not allow full destruction-- some new creation or good can come from whatever may seem evil or bad to us at a particular time or place, or from a particular viewpoint. The Hebrew scriptures say reassuringly, at the end of each of the passages on creation, that "God saw it, and it was good." The idea of human sin is a corollary to this idea of good. When we "miss the mark" it may be that we aimed wrong, or the trajectory of the action we intended went off-center. But it may have been with good intentions; and somehow, as we judge between good and bad, we need to take that into account. It is helpful for me to think about these distinctions as the nation brings this debate to a vote. So many people have tried so hard to move the work of reform and increased social justice, and help to the poor and sick, forward. I am praying it will pass. But even if it does not pass, God will find a way to bring some new good out of something that seems to me totally bad. It is the lot of humans not to have that divine insight into the future and all its possibilities-- and makes it important and possible to have both faith and hope!

Friday, December 23, 2011

the Main Frame of the Democratic ideals

We Democrats are diverse, but we are FOR clean water, and enough water-- which means pipes and dams and infrastructure for water; and preservation of the land and resources from environmental degradation. The underpinning idea is good steardship of the Earth. We should be known as the party for women and children-- to recognize that our parents and our children need health care, and need it to be reasonable and available to all families; and we are ADVOCATES for health care and education! We are FOR a living wage, and FOR the rights of individuals to earn a living and have a home, and FOR protections in the workplace. We are FOR support systems to keep families healthy and vital. We are for diplomacy, and making the world safe for democracy. We are FOR the veterans, and their benefits for health care and housing. We are against a burgeoning 60%-of-our-taxes being used for war, bombs, and related costs from the Pentagon. We want to beat the swords into Ploughshares. Many of us were in the Peace Corps, or in NGOs which are trying to help the developing world. We are FOR solar energy, and clean energy from new technologies building on wind power, and other non-toxic sources.
We see that the building up of the country is something no citizen can do alone, and that for all of us to live better means that we need social systems which help put technological and sophisticated intelligent design-systems at the disposal of the common good of our people. This includes engineering costs and infrastructure of roads, bridges, dams, and oversight agencies.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Eulogy for Aunt Popie

Eulogy for Popie 12/6/11
(poem-- Popie and her Blue T Bird)

“I love you Truly!”
--- when I called her on the phone, Popie always signed off with that lovely lilting phrase-- and a voice full of affection and affirmation-- and I last heard her say it just a day before she went into the hospital for the last time.
I think about the amazing fact that God decided to send my parents 6 daughters, and maybe as a gesture of insightful compassion, He sent Popie as the right hand-- a sort of Lord Chancellor-- to mom. She might have gotten the nickname because she LOOKED like the Pope, but the nickname stuck because she was always “RIGHT”; she had that perfect memory, so that you knew the last time she was wrong was on a Tuesday in 1956! Mom always said, when she wasn’t sure-- “ go ask Popie!” She was very smart, and an easy source of advice for how to set a table, who ought to sit next to who; what you should serve, and how to do the invitations-- so she also got called “Emily Post--- or Emily Pope”. She knew so many things about etiquette, and she was a natural at acting like a lady; which was what we were trying to grow up to become! Stanford just helped polish her natural acumen in giving good counsel.
Popie was my godmother, and like an extra mom-- for my whole life, she has always LISTENED very carefully-- and with interest, wanting to know what I am going through, and willing to believe I am trying my best. SHe invariably asked great questions, and helped prepare me for any upcoming conversation with difficult people. She would have been a great lawyer-- or a judge! She always cheered me up ---when I was devastated, or worried about something; and especially when I was humiliated, feeling defeated or depressed. When I was young she helped me do school projects, especially in history. She helped get me through the tribulations of going to medical school. She never stopped believing the best about me. I think of that line in my favorite book “Cutting for Stone--- what is the one medicine which can be given by ear?---- words of comfort”. She gave me words of comfort, my whole life, with gallantry, affection, and kindness. And she did it for everyone else in our family, too.

Kids nowadays have Google and Wikipedia-- in our family we had Uncle Gerald and Aunt Popie, to answer questions, and to try to teach us a little history, or give a context for some story, or point out something we should know. They were marvelous together, because they both had that quickness of mind-- that FitzGerald brilliance-- and Uncle Gerald could bring us to tears of laughter as he played off Popie’s prim and proper opinions, with puns, jokes, and riffs of all kinds. She would laugh as hard as the rest of us; and wherever we all were, was a party!

I tried to remember to call her often, because I know how hard it can be to be stuck in bed. Popie fell and shattered her leg at almost the same time I had the near- fatal car accident 7 years ago. It was hard for her to get out of bed, because it hurt to walk, and as time went by it got harder; and so she put all of her energy into those phone calls, and visits from the family members. She remembered and asked questions about everything going on, in each of our children’s lives, in all of the whole family.

One of the happiest days of her life, I think, was her 75th birthday-- everyone in the FitzGerald clan was there, at the Pierpont Inn in Ventura-- having a great party, visiting, and glad to celebrate with her. She was definitely a person who deeply believed in family-- It suited her well, that the FitzGerald war cry is “crom a boo!”-- hearth and home!
She was proud of the history of Camarillo, and wanted us to grow up to be good stewards of the land, and to care for the legacy of our family; and she and mom both tried to educate and foster interest in the history of Ventura county, and the Camarillo ranch. She encouraged us all to do well in school. She hoped each of us would go to college. Her father’s mother had been a very intelligent woman, and Popie’s middle name, Chapman, was for her grandmother. It was legendary that all the FitzGerald boys (her father George, and his brothers, Gerald and Grattan) went to Georgia Tech to become engineers, and their mom Carrie Chapman had been the one to tutor them in math to get them ready for college!
She showed us by example how to take care of Nana, especially when she was sick; and how to care for the older aunts and friends and relations. She was always sensitive and caring about their feelings and needs, and anyone who was ill, or depressed. She also taught me to make enchiladas, and her famous lime jello was my favorite family recipe!

When Popie said “Cheers!” or “Crom a Boo!”-- with that lightest of lilts in her voice, I remember that she lived with severe anxiety, and that it was often like “walking in the valley of the shadow of death”. She concealed her anguish so well, to be able to bravely and cheerfully give us that salute. Most of us will never have to endure the kind of suffering she faced down, daily. She was truly an Irish warrior, conquering demons of the mind, to be able to engage US in bright conversation, and to offer US love and support. “Crom a Boo”, Popie, from all of us, who loved you TRULY! -- “Crom a Boo!”