Dad has read all the various books his various children have given him in the last year, and he wished for more books to read. I scoured my shelves and brought him an eclectic stack: political leadership; environmental activism; third-world memoir; history; biography. I was not sure he would be interested in the selection, but he exclaimed, “I’m going to read them all!” as he started in on the first. Reading: that is what he can do, and he does it well. His enthusiasm faded as he labored in quaking pain to rise from his chair and stagger to the restroom, unable to straighten, hunched dangerously over his walker. Mom and I helped him redress that day, for ne needed all his arm and leg strength merely not to collapse. “Today was a hard day,” Dad lamented. Mom looked uncharacteristically drawn and worried, and she suggested I call Brad and ask him to come help me with a religious enactment we call a Priesthood Blessing. But I did not want to call Brad: the time was after 9:00; and, I did not want to have to summon the emotional energy to approach the Almighty God to seek a blessing from Him; and, I lacked confidence in my worthiness and strength to draw upon Divine power. But after breathing deep for a few minutes, I called Brad, and he said “Yes!” and walked over. Brad and I did as the Apostle James instructed two thousand years ago in answer to his own question, “Is any sick among you?” then “let him call for the elders of the church” to “pray over him,” “anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” And it was our privilege, Brad and I, ordained Elders in our Church, to anoint Dad’s head with a drop of consecrated olive oil, to place our hands lightly on his head, to invoke the name and priesthood authority of Jesus, and to prayer over this father and neighbor of ours. Brad proclaimed the infinite love the Father and the Son each have for Dad, that they know him and are mindful of him and his sufferings. Brad reminded Dad of the love and admiration all his family have for him, and praised his goodness and sacrifice. Brad pronounced a blessing upon him, both of deep peace and of a body sufficiently strong to control and perform its functions. And we all said “Amen.” I marveled at how in my Church we presume to access the priesthood power of God to pronounce blessings of healing, or comfort, or counsel, or release, how we often feel God’s unfathomable love for the afflicted person, and how these blessing experiences bring comfort and peace, hope and love, to all involved. Lying in bed, I yielded to the ritual of checking my social media accounts for updates, and realized I was not seeking information but rather affirmation. Upon waking every morning, I check Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, Marco Polo, Gmail, and texts, hoping for a shot of external affirmation, and again at bedside at night, and again several times during the day, and I never find it, or I find some but want more, always more. Lying in bed, I resolved to set aside the compulsion, knowing suddenly the truth that the only real affirmation comes from within oneself. Lying in bed, resolving to be better and stronger, I thanked God for once in a while allowing me to be the weakest of His servants in blessing the lives of others, the lives of His children, in blessing Mom and Dad. And I slipped into sleep.
Tag Archives: Reading
Courage at Twilight: Five-Month Reading List
During my first five months living with Mom and Dad and commuting to and from Sandy and Tooele, from August 1 to January 1, I have enjoyed listening to many amazing books, which have enriched my life tremendously, and have made the time and expense of commuting a blessing in disguise. I have enjoyed sharing these books with Mom and Dad and my children, sometimes just some stories, sometimes the books themselves. I looking forward to “reading” many more. How abundant good books make the world.
- Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly, 2016)
- How Will You Measure Your Life? (Clayton Christensen, 2012)
- Beyond the One-Hundredth Meridian (Wallace Stegner, 1953)
- How To Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie, 1936)
- Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow, 2004)
- Becoming (Michelle Obama, 2018)
- Amos Fortune: Free Man (Elizabeth Yates, 1950)
- The Truths We Hold: An American Journey (Kamala Harris, 2019)
- The Pioneers (David McCullough, 2019)
- The Great Bridge (David McCullough, 1972)
- Searching for Joy (C.S. Lewis, 1955)
- The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (C.S. Lewis, 1941)
- Simply Jesus (N.T. Wright, 2010)
(Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay)
Courage at Twilight: Late into the Night
I awoke at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for work. Noticing the glow from the living room lights, I looked over the railing and saw Dad still in his recliner, covered with a crocheted afghan, still reading his book. “Hi Dad,” I whispered down to him. “Are you going to go to bed soon and get some rest?” He looked at the clock, looked up at me, and nodded a sleepy smile. To be up all night was unusual. It must have been a compelling book. Often, I will awake at 2 or 3 a.m., needing to use the restroom, and Dad will be reading, or sometimes sleeping with the open book on his lap. As much as he loves reading late into the night, the later he reads the less he sleeps and the worse he feels. An all-nighter can ruin his energy for all of the next day. One day when he seemed to feel particularly sick and weary, I asked him, “How do you feel today, Dad?” “I feel awful,” he said. “I was bad last night and read until 3:30 before I went upstairs to bed. Now I’m paying the price.” I remonstrated with him for associating the word “bad” with an activity he loves, which keeps his mind sharp, which enriches his life. “There’s nothing bad about it,” I reassured him, adding that the later he read, the more he would need to rest, perhaps. “What do you think about going to bed before midnight tonight?” I suggested. “I just can’t do it,” he craved. “I have to read, or my day will not be complete, and I won’t be able to sleep.” Read on, Dad.
Courage Twilight: The Long Commute
Don’t hate me, but for the last six years, my commute was only three miles each way. For the 18 years before that, it was only 12 miles. All of a sudden, my commute is two hours a day, longer in heavy traffic or bad weather. Knowing how quickly I would become frustrated with that fruitless occupation, I began listening to audio books. (I can’t even eat breakfast without a book propped open on the kitchen table.) First I listened to the second volume of Saints, a new history of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a troubled history haunted by murderous mobs and failed legal systems and unimaginable personal suffering as tens of thousands of the faithful walked a thousand miles beginning in 1847 to find unmolested freedom in Utah. I listened to C.S. Lewis’ harrowing memoir Searching for Joy, which left me scratching my head. I loved David McCullough’s Pioneers, the tale of the 1790s settlement of the Northwest Territory, beginning in Marietta, Ohio. Then came Michelle Obama’s beautifully-written and touching memoir, Becoming. And on my 90th day after the move, I finished today Ron Chernow’s masterful meticulous comprehensive biography Alexander Hamilton—what a remarkable man! Far from being a waste of time, my long commute has proven to be an incredible enriching inspiring educational experience. I munch on raisins to stay focused and awake as the road stretches ahead and the narrator drones on. I have ordered and shared my favorites with Dad, who reads Obama and McCullough and listens to Villa-Lobos and Mathis long into the night while I am sound asleep. Next will be McCullough’s story of the Roeblings and their great Brooklyn Bridge.
Courage at Twilight: Reading with Villa-Lobos
Dad’s hobby is reading. He is the smartest man I know, reading biography, theology, philosophy, history, fiction, science, etc. He indulges his hobby from 10:30 p.m. until at least 2:00 a.m., every night. One night’s literary fare may be the Book of Mormon, the Bible, or other scripture. Another night may be The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels or Rumpole of the Bailey stories. Often he reads the World Book Encyclopedia, the next day telling me everything he learned during the night. Did you know nectarines spontaneously appeared on a peach tree in China over two millennia ago? Other days he reads books his children gave him for his birthday or Christmas, when book gifts are a sure thing. During those late-night reading hours, Dad listens to the music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, particularly his Bachianas Brasileiras (my translation: Brazilian musical pieces after the manner of Johann Sebastian Bach). Having been a missionary, post-graduate student, minister, and international lawyer in Brazil, he loves Brazilian music. And he loves the Brazilian people. In 1971, while finishing the sweat equity on the new Baker house in New Jersey, a cassette tape of the Bachianas kept him company. At a particular point in Bachiana No. 7, an electrifying sensation suddenly swept through him, a visit from a spiritual plane, and he knew somehow that he would be asked the following year to take his family to Brazil to oversee the Church’s missionary work. The impression came to pass, and our little family went to Brazil for three years— I was eight years old. I, too, love the Brazilian people, and the food, and the language, and the music. Villa-Lobos—what a cool-sounding name—and it has a fun meaning as well: city of wolves. Heitor City of Wolves. Bachiana No. 7—at counter 16:55 in the Tocata/Desafio. World Book Encyclopedia: N for Nectarine. Two a.m. and all is well.
Baths and Books
Like I have told you before, Sunshine and Amy are inseparable.
Having enjoyed a hot bath, it’s time to chill on the couch in a hair-drying towel and read a book together.
Sunshine, not knowing how to read (yet), is content to listen and gaze off into imagination.
I think he is growing long and stout under all Amy’s pampering!