Wednesday, February 16, 2011


It was relieving to have the decision made and then it was time to go on my California vacation. It was an intense trip where over 6 nights, I slept in 6 beds, went to 9 cities (though some right next to each other), rode in 14 cars and saw a few dozen people. It was a privilege to have people be so gracious One of my hosts, Shelly, I hadn’t seen since I was 19 and despite her space being fairly sacred to her, she let me sleep on her futon.

While I had lived out there for five years, the fluidity of life made it so that the people I saw were not only from that time but from as far back as high school and as recently as a year before the seizure. I don’t know what it is like to run for office but it has to be something similar because I had just announced where I would be for a meal and invited people. Each time people showed up with hugs, support, memories…with humanity. It was an odd trip because with a short exceptional outing to the Getty, the trip was pretty much spent driving between meals.

I was both flattered and humbled by the people who showed up. I hadn’t seen some of them in over a decade and some just a couple of months before but there they were, all showing support. When I’d lived in California was when I was a college student and/or professionally employed as a pastor and so most were people from that era of my life. There were stories about how I was there for people during significant life events like funerals and hard times. It was good to remember having been there for people when it was hard since now so many people were doing it for me but the two stories that stuck out to me the most were from two young men who were teenagers when I was their pastor (I was 20 at the time). Curt had been struggling with Spanish in High School while I was there and I tutored him most evenings for several weeks. He went on to pass, minor in Spanish and live in Spain for part of his college career. Ruben reminded me of something I don’t even remember: once his mother was unloading groceries and he was just standing around and I ‘reprimanded’ him for not helping her because she deserved it. He said ever since then he had unloaded the groceries every time for his mother. His mother, coincidentally, also came to one of the dinners.

Nicole, the doctor who had visited Austin, gave me a ride to Northern California where I saw Steve, the guy who in many ways has been a father figure to me. We had a meal and a few hours together. It was frustrating to be spending so little time with people who meant so much to me but there were also so many people to see and I wanted to guard time off in case something went wrong with the surgery a few weeks later. I saw church members, college colleagues, and professors. Five college professors came to see me, three of them stating that they still used a paper of mine as an example for various reasons (2 of the 3 for a way to look at something from a different angle).

I had visions of what my life might have been like when I saw Lindsey Painter and her husband, Jason and Heidi, two couples who were now married and still living the pastoral domestic live. Jason and I had some very intense conversations as he drove me around that afternoon. He threw out a question that threw me off then and I still don’t have a good answer to: listening to how you talk about all this, I don’t know how to pray for you, how should I do it? Weeks later I still don't have an answer.

I was so moved by all of these people that I immediately decided I’d do a similar tour of everywhere I lived if I could. I couldn’t go everywhere I’d lived (in 30 years I had lived in 9 different cities and 4 different countries) but I’d try to make at least some of the ones in Texas. London, Mexico and the South Pacific were probably going to be a little difficult. But even if it was going to just be the California tour, I became aware that if I had to choose between the relationship with these people or avoiding brain cancer, I’d take the brain cancer every time. I’ve done plenty of things wrong in my life and probably always will but seeing those people, knowing that years after they’d seen me they would come out and be so kind… I had to have done at least one or two things right.


  1. You would take avoiding cancer over the relationships?

  2. No I would take cancer as long as I got to keep the people