Family: December 2009 Archives

Sudden death

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Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing
Passing from you and from me
Shadows are gathering, death beds are coming
Coming for you and for me.

An uncle of mine died this week. He was 70.

He and my aunt were in the process of moving into a new house. The day after Christmas he went back to the old house to take care of something, fell, and evidently hit his head. He was able to call a friend for help, but by the the time he reached the hospital his brain was beginning to shut down. He lost consciousness and never regained it.

He leaves behind his wife of nearly 50 years, two daughters, and two grandchildren. And while he suffered some chronic health problems, which may have intensified the effect of the fall, neither he nor his wife had any reason to think that his words to her as he left on his errand would be the last he would ever speak to her.

I last saw my uncle in early November, at the annual early Thanksgiving celebration for that side of the family. I took some extra photos because we knew it would be our last Thanksgiving at that house. It never crossed my mind that it would be our last Thanksgiving with my uncle.

No one wants to suffer through a long, painful demise, but most of us would hope for enough advance warning to get our affairs in order and to say our farewells to those who love us. Yet so many people never get that chance. Another uncle died last year from a sudden stroke. A former coworker was felled by a heart attack at the age of 40, two months after his youngest child was born. A friend died suddenly one afternoon of an aortic aneurysm. Another friend was in one of the highest stories of the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Pete Maravich and Jim Fixx were both athletes in excellent health, but both dropped dead suddenly from heart attacks.

Only God knows the hour in which you will take your last breath. But whether death comes suddenly or slowly, one thing is sure: Death is coming.

They nailed his hands
There on the cross,
On his head the thorns did lay.
Be prepared to go;
There's one thing I know:
You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.

You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.
Sinner man, won't you stop now and pray?
Live the road of sin alone.
Let Jesus lead you home.
You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.

On the great Judgment Day
When life's book is read
There'll be no time to pray
Learn to love and forgive
While on earth you live.
You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.

By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.(James 4:13-14)

None of us have any guarantees that we will wake up in the morning. When you leave your house in the morning, you cannot know for certain that you will return that evening.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Come home.
Come home.
Ye who are weary, come home.
Earnestly, tenderly,
Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home.

Today is the only day we know we have. Every moment is entrusted by God to us as stewards, to be used for His glory.

Even if I survive 2010, 2010 will have its share of loss. We go through life expecting every week to be like the last. But in the course of 2010, I will travel through places that I will never visit again. I will spend time with friends and family members that I will never see again. Opportunities will come my way that I will never see again. Friendships will end. At some point in 2010, my youngest child will correct himself and stop uttering some cute malapropism forever. In just a few days, he will no longer be a three-year-old.

Every moment is its own little death.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

When I left work on Thursday at about 3, high winds were firing tiny ice darts (sleet, officially) into my exposed skin, as I cleared the car windows as quickly as I could. I stayed off the expressways and mentally charted a zigzag route home, avoiding any significant up- or down-grades. Closer to home that meant figuring a way to deal with the rise going west from Sheridan to Yale. A combination of neighborhood streets provided for a gentler climb with fewer cars. Then came the most fearsome challenge of all -- the driveway -- and I made it up on the first try.

We had finished all our last minute shopping on the 23rd, so there was no reason to get out on the roads. A 1:42 p.m. e-mail from the church office announced cancellation of the 11 p.m. Christmas Eve service. Within two hours, the 6 p.m. service had been canceled, too. No need to get out at all.

My wife had the older son get out the china and crystal and set it on a new, shiny, red tablecloth. For dinner, we had fish, crabcakes, crescent rolls, salad.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, as we cleaned, made dinner, ate, cleaned up, we watched out the window at the snow falling and swirling. Bedtime was later than usual on Christmas eve, as we bundled up and went out in the yard to see the snow glowing in the streetlights. The snow had piled high enough to fill the street from curb to curb. The 13-year-old took a half-yardstick with him. The white powdery stuff was about 7" deep through most of the yard, with some drifts as deep as a foot. It was still falling, still blowing. It was a real blizzard.

Back in the house, into warm clothes and ready for bed. We read through the Advent Book -- a beautifully illustrated volume with a numbered door on each page, a present from my parents a few years ago -- with the three-year-old finding and reading each number and opening each door, the 13- and nine-year-old reading the Christmas story found behind the doors, as the 13-year-old picked out "Once in Royal David's City" on his mandolin.

Late bedtime led to late wake-up time -- about 9. After looking through our stockings and opening presents, we had breakfast -- kielbasa, cinnamon rolls, eggs, and the clementines that Santa brought.

We had planned to have Christmas dinner at my mom and dad's, but with the roads packed with ice and snow, officials discouraging travel, and KRMG's Joe Kelley describing the scene as a combination of "Mad Max + Ice Planet Hoth," we all agreed to delay until Saturday. So there was no need to shovel the driveway, no hurry to get dressed and out the door. The only pressure I felt was making sure I got the kids bundled up and outside to play in the snow before the day was gone. They would have been content sitting close to the fire and playing with their gifts. The nine-year-old had a new SimAnimal game for her DS that kept her absorbed much of the day. The 13-year-old got lost in some Calvin and Hobbes books. The three-year-old had some new Cars Hot Wheels and a new double spiral track to use for racing them. He and I played the card game War by the fireplace. My wife had bought a DVD set of holiday TV episodes and movies. There was a Burns and Allen Christmas episode, and one from a series about the French Foreign Legion. We watched the Dragnet episode, from the original series, about the baby Jesus statue missing from a church nativity scene.

Lunch was simple -- leftover roast from earlier in the week. Plus more candy from the stockings.

Outside, we measured the snow -- 10" to 12" most places, with some drifts to 18", including one about that height in front of the garage door. Glad we didn't need to go anywhere. We got the sleds out and the kids rode them around the yard and down the little hill over the storm shelter. Efforts to use turn the swingset slide into a luge course were unsuccessful -- the sleds were too wide; so much for holding the 2018 winter games in our backyard -- but did not result in injuries. The kids played on the swings, with only a few inches clearance between the swing and the top of the snow.

While we played, mom got a well-deserved nap. She returned the favor a little while later. When I got up from the nap, they were watching Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Then OETA had the Red Green Christmas Special, and we learned how to make a complete Christmas dinner while driving your car. (Potatoes go in the hubcaps. Peas go in the radiator, but there's no good way to get them out. The fan doubles as a meat slicer.)

It may have been the most relaxing Christmas ever.

Augustine Christian Academy is blessed to have among its alumni a talented young videographer named Kenneth V. Jones. Kenneth produced several wonderful videos in connection with the ACA Junior Performing Arts Company's presentation of the Nutcracker. He does an amazing job of capturing the event. Here is a montage of scenes from dress rehearsal:

Nutcracker Dress Rehearsal Montage from ACA on Vimeo.

And a montage from the opening night performance.

Nutcracker Montage - Augustine Christian Academy from ACA on Vimeo.

Previous entries:

Nutcracker photos
Nutcracker preview

Nutcracker photos

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The school has posted some photos from Augustine Christian Academy's production of "The Nutcracker".

Here are my three kids: The Prince, the Candy Flute, and their little brother.

And here she is with one of her classmates and best friends:

The Prince as the Nutcracker, with Herr Drosselmaier:

The Prince and Marie, with the Chinese dragon and dancers

At the cast party after the final performance, "Marie's" mom (who had two younger daughters in the performance as well) remarked that it was wonderful that Augustine Christian Academy provided a God-honoring context in which her daughters could develop their God-given talents.

ACA is not a wealthy school, but teachers, parents, and students take what they have and add a lot of sweat equity and a lot of heart. The result is consistently one of beauty and excellence. If you want a school where your children will be challenged to excel in a loving and creative environment, check out Augustine Christian Academy.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, cast photoAugustine Christian Academy's Junior Performing Arts Company presents "The Nutcracker" this weekend, December 11-13, 2009. I attended last night's dress rehearsal, and it's a wonderful story told through dance, colorful costumes and sets, and the music of Tchaikovsky -- the party, the wind-up dolls, the snowflakes, the battle with the Mouse King and his minions, the Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, and Russian dancers, the gingerbread clowns, and the Sugar-Plum Fairy.

What: The Nutcracker

Where: Augustine Christian Academy, 30th St., just west of Sheridan Rd.


  • Friday, December 11, 2009, 7 p.m.

  • Saturday, December 12, 2009, 7 p.m.

  • Sunday, December 13, 2009, 2 p.m.

Admission: $8.50 for adults; $6 for students.

Tickets are available at the school office. I'm told that Friday and Sunday are almost sold out.

Saturday, before the performance, there's a special "Land of the Sweets" extravaganza -- a light dinner, desserts, and priority seating for the show -- $20 for adults; $15 for students.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, the Prince battles the Mouse King

What's especially impressive about this production is that the performers range in age from the 7th and 8th grade leads down to the 1st grade gingerbread men. That they have put together such a well-executed performance is a tribute to the dedication and energy of the young actors and dancers. It's also a tribute to the creative team of teachers and parents who spent the semester directing and teaching choreography, designing costumes and sets, and to the parents (including my wife) and grandparents (including my mother-in-law) who spent the semester sewing those costumes (almost 100). (And a special thanks to another grandparent -- my mom -- whose babysitting made it possible for my wife to help as much as she has.)

Performing arts are an ACA specialty, and every year the high school puts on a full-scale Broadway musical. This year is the first for a major production involving the grammar and junior high grades. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the result is amazing.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, cast photo

I may be biased. My 13-year-old son is the Nutcracker Prince and my nine-year-old daughter is a dancer in several scenes. I am as proud as can be of both of them.

Nutcracker, Augustine Christian Academy, cast photo

ACA's "Nutcracker" is a wonderful evening's entertainment. It's also an opportunity to get acquainted with a school that seeks to glorify God through excellence in all its pursuits, including the performing arts.

Low-quality cellphone pix by Michael Bates

MORE: After the jump, video from a segment on Fox 23 Daybreak from last Tuesday, featuring directors Gail Post and Dawn Redden, and five of the students performing the Russian Dance (in a smaller space than usual).

My son the juggler, during our visit to Silver Dollar City last weekend:

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from December 2009.

Family: November 2009 is the previous archive.

Family: January 2010 is the next archive.

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