Bill, disasters, lessons learned

Bill is finally back from Bavaria!

He got on the road at 5:00am and was home before 9:00am. It’s so great to see him… the dogs were super excited. Even Noyzi, who is kind of scared of Bill, was happy to welcome him. The weather is cold and yucky today, which means we’ll probably have a cozy afternoon… even though Germany is slowly reawakening after lockdown. I don’t mind, really… it’s just another week of the same shit, only I don’t have to do it alone. This month has been unusually cold and rainy, anyway. But as of Thursday, Bill will have his second shot, and I will follow on June 9th. And then, look out, world!

I spent yesterday thinking more about my old Peace Corps colleague, Matt, who just died. It’s not lost on me how completely crazy his exit from life was. Here’s a man who spent over four years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in two developing countries, helping people learn to speak English. I’m pretty sure he had a doctorate, and I know that he wasn’t about making a lot of money or owning material things. He valued art, music, travel, languages, and relationships. And he was taken out by someone recklessly driving a Rolls Royce, which is a product at the height of ostentatious consumerism. I just looked up the price of a 2021 Rolls Royce. Google tells me they cost between $245,000 and $382,000! A very nice home could be purchased for that amount! It’s like something out of an absurd novel or movie. It’s definitely an unusual and unexpected way to go. What are the odds? And what a horrible and terrifying fate… to be hit by someone driving a car that is the antithesis of what he stood for. They didn’t even have the decency to stop. They just left him to die. It’s heartbreaking to think of it… I hope Matt didn’t know what hit him.

I don’t think I have ever seen a Rolls Royce in person. I have only seen them in movies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black Rolls Royce, either– the ones I’ve seen have all been silver or champagne colored. I can’t even picture a black Rolls Royce. Granted, Matt was in Brooklyn when this happened, but it seems like something like this would have happened in Manhattan or Boston. It’s just bizarre… and very sad, because he obviously was much beloved by his family, friends, and colleagues. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in years, and his death has touched me, all the way over here in Germany. I have so many good memories of knowing Matt. It’s tempting to write something trite, like he was needed for a higher calling or something like that… but I don’t think Matt was much into religion, nor am I. Really, what I think it comes down to is a terrible tragedy that took someone out of the world much too soon, although what happened to Matt has already influenced me in a potentially positive way.

When Bill sent me a message last night from Bavaria, debating on whether or not he should drive back to Wiesbaden last night, he admitted he was tired and had a headache. So, while I told him I wanted to see him and it was up to him as to whether or not he felt like driving, I encouraged him to stay at the hotel and rest. I know Bill very well. He’s not a night person at all, although he is a very safe and careful driver. But he’s only a year younger than Matt was, and he’s already had a dangerous encounter being hit by a car… only his incident happened when he was 16 and the car rolled over his chest. If he hadn’t been a teenager, though, chances are good that he would have died. As it was, he had a near death experience.

I think Bill would have made it home last night if he’d tried to drive back, but I had Matt’s accident in mind when I asked him to wait until morning. Bill is much more coherent in the morning, and there was sure to be less traffic on the Autobahn on an early Saturday morning. He was originally talking about coming home starting at 4:00am, but then he said that technically, that would be violating the COVID-19 curfew that is still going on. People are supposed to stay home from 11:00pm until 5:00am, unless they have a good reason for being out. Of course, Bill could have told any cop who stopped him that he was on his way home from work. That would have been the truth. But waiting until morning was the more responsible thing to do. I’m glad he did that, since he probably would have been too tired to do much last night, anyway.

Bill worked so many hours in Bavaria, that he’s just going to work a few hours on Monday and take the rest of the week off. It’s too bad we can’t take a trip, but we can get some things done… he can rest up and get over whatever side effects come after he has his second COVID shot. I still have a faint red blotch where my first vaccine was given, but there’s no pain. I have a feeling the second shot will probably lay me out. Good thing no one depends on me for anything… unless you count the dogs.

Matt’s car accident is a grim reminder that you just never know when disaster will strike and you’ll be the victim of a senseless accident. So it’s a good thing to try to mitigate risks, if possible, although fate also could have played a part. Bill had already paid for the apartment he was staying in, anyway. He still has one more meeting to do for this latest exercise– it happens this afternoon from home. Then he can take a much needed and well deserved rest, and we can think about where we might go when we’re finally “free”… or as free as a person can be during the whole COVID-19 nightmare.

In other news… just days into his latest TDY, Bill’s windshield on his rental car was struck by a rock. I guess it’s a good thing he was driving a rental car, rather than his own car. I’m also glad he wasn’t hurt when that happened. Below is the reception Bill got from the dogs when he arrived home this morning. I was glad to see that Noyzi was just as happy to see Bill as Arran and I were! And it looks like the marathon TDYs from Hell will be over, for the time being.

Daddy’s finally home!
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LDS, musings, religion

The edge of Heaven…

No, I’m not referring to the 1986 pop song by Wham!, which I used to love when I was 14 years old. I’m referring to the place commonly referred to as Heaven. But if you’re curious about the song by Wham!, here’s a link.

You would think a song about the edge of Heaven would be less bouncy and sassy.

Anyway, for those of you who don’t care about Wham! or already know this song, I’ll get on with today’s topic of near death experiences (NDEs).

Many years ago, I read a book called Life After Life. It was written by Raymond A. Moody Jr., MD. I don’t know who brought it into my parents’ house, but I found it in a handsome antique bookshelf my mom had. The book, which was originally published in 1975, is about near death experiences. Dr. Moody had noticed that he had many patients who had experienced “life after death”. They had seen themselves being operated on or watched as other people tended to them, as if they were witnesses in a room. They had floated above their physical bodies and, in many cases, drifted toward whatever waits for us after we die.

A lot of people don’t believe in NDEs. For instance, I have learned never to bring them up or respond to threads about NDEs on the Recovery from Mormonism message board, because there is a vocal, persistent, and obnoxious posse of people there who have no tolerance for discussion of life after death. Many of the people who are against NDEs are atheists. They don’t believe in God and don’t like discussions about what happens to a person who dies temporarily. They often dismiss these phenomenons as a release of endorphins that make dying more tolerable.

Honestly, I don’t know where the truth lies. I am not a particularly religious person myself. I do think I’m kind of spiritual. I’m not quite at the point at which I would call myself an atheist, though, because I have experienced some things that make me wonder if there really is a “hand of the almighty”.

For instance, about 21 years ago, I had an extremely close call while driving to work one afternoon. I was in my Toyota Corolla on a two lane road. I came upon an intersection where there was just a stop sign. Someone was at the stop sign and had pulled slightly out into the road. I had to swerve to miss the front end of the car at the stop sign. As I was swerving, another car approached in the opposite direction on the two lane road. I hadn’t seen the oncoming car because of some trees that obscured the view ahead.

Somehow, I managed to maneuver perfectly, with very precise timing, and missed the car at the intersection as well as the oncoming car. I could have very easily hit them head on, but somehow I didn’t. I think this might have been the day that John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash with his wife, Caroline Bessette Kennedy, and her sister. I seem to remember thinking about how they had so suddenly died on their way to a wedding.

I can’t explain how my reflexes worked so fast. I am certainly not a terrible driver, but I’ve never been particularly gifted physically. Still, I somehow managed to avoid what would have been a terrible accident. And yes, it really did seem like there was a guiding hand that did the steering for me. It just wasn’t time for me to have a car accident that took me or the other driver out of the world. I should also mention that in 1998 and 1999, I regularly considered suicide because I was crippled by depression and anxiety. I never made any truly serious attempts, but I did think about it a lot. I suppose that a head on collision would have been one way to end it, if I’d really wanted to or it was my time to go.

Bill, on the other hand, has experienced a car accident that could have killed him. I have written about this before, but here’s a repeat for those who missed the story the first time. In 1980, when Bill was about 16 years old, he was in Houston partying with some of his teenaged buddies. They were drinking beer in a parking lot.

One of Bill’s friends had a Subaru Brat. See today’s featured photo for reference to what they looked like. Basically, they were like a car mixed with a pickup truck, and they were really ugly. Back in the 1980s, we also had Pontiac El Caminos, which were equally ugly car/pickup truck hybrids kind of similar to Subaru Brats. I guess El Caminos were for people who liked that style of vehicle, but wanted to buy American. Just imagine! That Subaru Brat truly could have been the vehicle that literally delivered Bill to the edge of Heaven!

Anyway, the guy who owned the Brat had a girlfriend who was angsty about something, which is customary for most teenaged girls. She threw a tantrum of some sort and decided that she wanted to leave the beer drinking festivities. Bill had gotten a ride to the parking lot with them, so when he noticed his friend was about to drive off, he made a move to hop into the “bed” of the Subaru Brat. As he was mounting the car’s rear bumper, Bill’s completely oblivious and preoccupied pal started to back up the vehicle. He didn’t know that Bill was trying to get into the back of the car. Consequently, the teenaged brat driving the Subaru Brat backed over the sixteen year old version of my husband as if he was a speed bump.

Bill has told me the story about his car accident many times. He’s said he was extremely frightened as the car’s rear tire rolled over his chest, thankfully still somewhat protected by cartilage. He felt the gravel beneath him give slightly, which was probably one reason why he didn’t die. Then he blacked out and found himself in a very still expanse of nothingness that was absolutely peaceful and comforting. Bill said he somehow knew that if he gave into the peacefulness, he would be okay… but he would cease to exist. However, he was completely fine with no longer existing. He was in a place where there was no suffering or stress. It was just calm and devoid of any negativity.

Of course, Bill didn’t end up going toward the bright light at the end of the tunnel. He soon found himself back in his own body. He was terrified and racked with pain, and he had a collapsed lung and eyes filled with blood. He spent a week in the hospital and the doctor told him that he probably survived because he was so young and his chest cavity hadn’t yet hardened into bone. He also told him that he would have arthritis in his chest to look forward to as he aged. That prediction has, in fact, come to pass.

I have often marveled at how kind, mature, unselfish, and gentle Bill is. He doesn’t like religion, but he is very much in tune with God, in a way that isn’t annoying or obnoxious. One other thing I’ve noticed about Bill is that he has an amazing ability to find pain in me. When I have a sore muscle or painful trigger point, he can somehow find it within seconds. He knows exactly where to touch me to relieve the ache. It’s like he has a healing quality. I don’t know if that is related to his experience with near death, but I sometimes wonder if it is. All I know is that he’s a very unique and interesting person. I don’t know anyone else like him.

So why is this topic coming up today? It’s because this morning, as I was thinking about what to write about, I happened to see a video about a man who had a near death experience. This video is about Scott Drummond, who had a NDE when he was 28 years old.

I’m getting strong Mormon vibes from this guy. Maybe it’s his accent, or it could be the cheesy background music.

And… sure enough, I looked up this video and see it’s associated with a LDS Web site… The channel affiliated with the above video only has two videos on it, but it has a lot of subscribers. Scott Drummond does mention skiing in Park City, Utah, but that doesn’t necessarily make a person LDS.

Well, whether or not Scott Drummond is Mormon, I am interested in hearing his story. Bill was not LDS when he had his experience, although he did later convert for awhile. He joined the church in 1997 and officially left it in 2006, so he was Mormon for nine years. I have read a lot of stories about NDEs and they seem to have a universal theme, regardless of a person’s religious beliefs. I find these stories fascinating. Even if there’s nothing once the brain and body are totally dead, it’s comforting to think that the process of dying isn’t horrible. Once the lights go out for good, you won’t know the difference, anyway. I don’t remember what it was like to be pre-born, after all.

Bill is the only person I have known personally who has experienced a near death event, although I first read about them sometime in the 1980s. I believe him when he tells me that he’s had a near death experience. I know him very well, and he doesn’t routinely lie about things. I consider all of the other difficult situations he’s been in that he’s survived, like being in the Pentagon on 9/11, having just had his office moved from the section that was hit… like being married to a hateful woman who once told him she should just “cut his throat” when she thought he was sleeping… like going to war with a narcissistic asswipe who took delight in playing head games with Soldiers while they were in a war zone… like having an abusive transgendered stepfather at a time when no one had any understanding of what being transgendered meant– a man who blew smoke in Bill’s face and told him that talking to him was like talking to a wall (it’s definitely not)… like being separated from his beloved children and knowing that they were told many lies about the kind of person he is… and even like meeting and marrying me. I could have been a lot more psycho than I am. I’m not a dangerous person, but I certainly could have been.

Despite all he’d been through before we met, he still chose to meet me offline and later marry me. It’s amazing how it’s all worked out so perfectly. There were many instances in which a wrench could have been thrown into the mix and completely fucked up everything. If I had chosen to go to grad school in Illinois instead of South Carolina… if he had not been sent to Virginia in 2001 instead of 2002, when he’d expected to go there… if he had not run into my aunt’s brother, Ralph, who assured me that Bill isn’t a psycho… if I had started grad school a different year or had done just one degree instead of two… if he hadn’t separated from his ex at the time I started school and we hadn’t both ventured to the same adult oriented site at the same time…

Any of those things would have derailed the conditions that have put us together for the last twenty years. Maybe it was just luck or kismet or whatever. But the longer I live with Bill, the more I think our life together was meant to happen. In fact, I think a lot of things we’ve encountered in life were meant to happen. Maybe there’s no real truth to that belief, but it does make the concept of life more intriguing for me.

It makes things more interesting to think that maybe there’s a reason I ran into abusive landladies who made outrageous and false claims against my character. Maybe it was a sign that I needed to fight back… and help Bill fight back against people who don’t treat him right. I did have that bad experience in Armenia before I met Bill. I was successful in my bid not to be ripped off by that woman. Sometimes, I think the world puts certain people in your life to teach you valuable lessons.

On the other hand… it’s just as likely that we’re all here as a cosmic accident and there’s really no meaning in anything. Perhaps we’ll learn the secret of life someday when we each inevitably perish. When I die, will I see a beautiful Alpine or Rocky Mountain landscape with vividly beautiful flowers and amazing trees? Or will there be a beautiful white light and silhouettes of my loved ones who have passed on before me? Personally, I think my idea of Heaven is being greeted by all of the wonderful pets I’ve had who have loved me unconditionally. I’d like to be in that place, with rolling fields, rainbows, brooks, and no need to clean up any residual piles of crap.

I guess I think that believing in a higher power is a good thing, if you don’t rely on the higher power to do specific things for you. I don’t think it’s a good thing to live life thinking that there’s a God above who watches and judges every single thing you do. I don’t think God cares if you curse, for instance. I don’t believe God, who is supposed to be perfect, gets offended by things like cuss words… or really by anything. Why would God be “offended”? That’s the emotion of an imperfect being, like man. But I do like to think there is something bigger out there… and that being is not concerned about trivial issues like whether or not your collarbone is visible when you wear your favorite shirt or how long your hair is… or even where you spend your Sundays, Saturdays, or Fridays.

Anyway, those are my deep thoughts for today. I felt kind of compelled to write them. Maybe someone out there can use them for something good. It beats my usual profanity laced snark, right?

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true crime

You just never know…

A friend of mine just shared this Facebook post with me.

I don’t know this woman at all, but after I read her post about the terrible car accident she was in, I took a look at her Facebook page. It appears that she has a wonderful life with loving family members and many friends. Like me, she was recently in Scotland. It looks like she enjoyed a bucket list vacation last month, which also included a stop in Brussels, Belgium, another one of my favorite places. I can see that she has a lot of good people around her, and some of them were also having fun with Sharp in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. On September 29, 2019, Pat Sharp was riding in the third back seat of a car in Frankfort, Kentucky when she was in a horrific car accident.

Jerry Elder, of Flint, Michigan barreled down Interstate 64 at about 70 miles per hour in his fully loaded 18 wheeler semi. He had his cruise control set, but his attention was fixed on the cellphone mounted on his dashboard. He was watching a video on YouTube while driving through a construction zone. Consequently, Elder was distracted, and didn’t notice that traffic had slowed down. Instead of braking to avoid causing an accident, he collided with a Jeep Liberty, killing its driver, 61 year old Jeffrey Curtis. The truck then hit two more vehicles and a Ford Explorer. Elder and Trina Summers, the driver of the Explorer, were taken to a hospital with non life threatening injuries. I’m guessing Pat Sharp was also in the Explorer, along with four other people.

When Elder was released from the hospital, he was initially charged with manslaughter and taken to the Franklin County Regional Jail. Looking at Elder’s details on the jail’s Web site, I see that he’s now been charged with murder, assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, and two counts of wanton endangerment. His bond is set at $500,000, and he has already pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. I wonder what in the world was so important on YouTube that Elder had to endanger so many innocent people’s lives that day. Curiously, he was also not wearing corrective lenses required by his commercial drivers’ license and medical card. What the hell was he thinking?

Pat Sharp is now looking for the nurse who stayed in the back seat with her while she waited to be rescued. She says the nurse comforted her and helped her stay alert and breathing while the paramedics worked on freeing her and everyone else in the car. I can’t help Sharp with her quest, except to write this post about her accident. Maybe someone reading my blog knows the nurse who helped her on the day that changed her life, probably forever. She spent a week in the hospital in Frankfort after the wreck, and will no doubt now have big medical bills to pay, as well as legal issues to attend to, since I’m sure she will be a witness when Elder goes on trial.

Reading about this accident makes me realize that, once again, you just never know when something horrible is going to happen. I woke up a little while ago, thinking about how mundane my life is most days. I don’t really have to worry about much, which causes me to sweat the small stuff or things that I can’t control. But I think about people who find themselves in suddenly horrific situations like Pat Sharp was in last month. Things can change in the blink of an eye, and all it takes is someone who would rather watch YouTube while driving than pay attention to the road.

I have no idea what kind of a person Jerry Elder is. I see from his booking photo that he doesn’t appear to be a country club type. I’m sure he has friends and family, though. Most people have someone in their lives who care about them, and I’m sure that’s true for Jerry Elder, too. He probably didn’t even consider that he could wind up killing someone that day and land in jail on murder charges. Most of the people involved in the wreck didn’t know each other, and yet fate brought them together in the form of a tragic, deadly accident.

Jeffrey “Jeffro” Curtis was a man with a green thumb who inspired loving memories from friends, and a request for donations to the Kentuckiana Blues Society. I wonder if he was listening to the blues when Elder’s semi rammed into the back of his jeep. I see he had a fiancee, friends, and family members, and all of them are now left to mourn his death.

I’ve been on Interstate 64 myself many, many times. It runs through Virginia and is the Interstate closest to Gloucester, Virginia, which is where I grew up. I’ve never been in a bad car accident myself, but I know a lot of people who have. It just goes to show you that life is short and precious, and people have no business using cell phones while driving.

I’ve already said a prayer for everyone involved in this wreck, including Jerry Elder. It sounds like he was careless and negligent, which unfortunately led to someone losing his life. It goes to show that actions have consequences, and even the most minor choices can irreparably affect other people in devastating ways. God be with Pat Sharp, and everyone else who was involved in the deadly accident. I’m going to try to be more careful myself, having read about this. You just never know when your life will change… or end.

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