january 19, 2017

posted in: photography | 1

“The beauty of life lies not in eliminating what we consider troublesome,
but in learning how to grow using turmoil as a tool.” ~ Terry A. Gordon


henna head


My friend Marcella Christensen has been undergoing chemo and radiation for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for several months. She got the diagnosis just a week or so after we attended the Death Cafe back in September. Looking at the link you’ll notice she was walking with a cane that day. She thought she had a knee going bad. It turned out to be far worse. This was a profound diagnosis given that Marcie lost her husband to cancer; a battle with which she is intimately familiar, and certainly not one she expected to deal with again. Yet, as Marcie is wont to do, she pulled-up her big girl britches and headed straight for treatment with the kind of life affirming attitude that is nothing less than inspirational.


hen henna party


Marcie’s friend Tammy Cornett does henna. Marcie wanted her bald head adorned with henna designs. She’d planned a henna “hen” party last month, but Tammy got sick, and, well, you can’t be hanging out with sick people when you’re having chemo. But today, the stars aligned, and most all the hens could be present for the Decorating of The Noggin. We met at Ann Daugherty’s delightful house. She’s Marcie’s BFF. The photos don’t do it justice. Inside or out, you don’t really feel like you’re in the city. It was perfect for a hen party. As you can see, we were enthralled with the process. Deb Chenault and Ann each contributed a small design to The Noggin. That’s Marcie’s sister, Linda, taking a picture. Marcie introduced her as “My Linda,” which I thought was sweet as can be. That little person seated to the right of Deb? That’s Kathy Robinson whom I met at the Death Cafe and immediately fell in love with. This was the first time I’d seen her since September. It turns out that she was in the hospital at the same time as Marcie (but not with cancer)! I hugged her extra hard when I found out how lucky we were to still have her, too.


round canvas


I didn’t get to stay long enough to see the finished product, but I’ll see it soon. For however short my time, I was extremely grateful to be in everyone’s company, and witness this moving event. There was nothing but love and gratitude swirling around in that room. I met new people, and hugged old friends. Their gentle spirits and kind energy lifted me so much, as I’m sure was true for each of them as well. The best news of all is that Marcie’s cancer is gone save for a few small spots that will be eradicated with a final round of chemo and radiation. What glorious, hopeful news. This day definitely goes in the win category,

september 24, 2016

posted in: photography | 8

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” ~ Jim Rohn


pure happiness
pure happiness


This is Kathy Robinson. We just met today. The second she opened her mouth I felt like I’d known her my entire life. This photo is pretty much how we looked most of the day. Kathy and I had the opportunity to meet because we attended the first Death Cafe in Kentucky (as far as I know it’s the first). Marcie Christensen invited us along with Deborah Knittle (below). Marcie drove the chariot and picked us up one at a time. None of us had met, well, except we all knew Marcie. If that’s all we had done today I would have had a blast.


traveling companions
traveling companions


But our day was destined to be so much more than a joy ride. Death Cafe was held at the tea house on Furnace Mountain. If you’re not familiar with Furnace Mountain, it’s an 850 acre Zen Buddhist retreat near Clay City in Estill County. Imagine that: a Buddhist retreat in Eastern Kentucky! It’s so beautiful on that mountain, and the drive through the red river valley was simply gorgeous. You’re still wondering what on Earth a Death Cafe is, aren’t you? In short, it’s a small gathering of people interested in talking about death. Honestly, I didn’t know much more than that going in, so I was expecting tears and psychobabble. There was neither. Death Cafe is not therapy. It’s a simple gathering of people willing to talk about death and dying. As morbid as that may sound, the actual experience of it was anything but. When you think about it, it’s remarkable how little we are willing to talk about the subject.


nothing but smiles
nothing but smiles


This is Micki Eul with Kathy. Like Kathy, I loved her immediately. She and her friend, Tyson, shared a table with Kathy and I, and we were able to get acquainted fairly well. Micki, at only 38, is a three-year cancer survivor. Her brush with death gave her a different perspective on death from what she started with. But that perspective is very similar to that of Kathy’s, who said one of the most profound things today. She said, “My goal is to have a good death.” Think about that for a minute. What is your idea of a good death? If you ask Micki and Kathy, they’ll tell you it’s living every day as if it will be your last; fully embracing every ounce of goodness and happiness you were born on this Earth to experience. Can I get an ‘Amen?’


open hearts
open hearts


Now, you’re wondering why I was there, aren’t you? I haven’t had a horrible illness. I’m still young enough to (conceivably) double my age before I die of old age. So, why Death Cafe? I’ll tell you what I told the group. The day after my fourth birthday my Uncle Ralph Paul was killed in Vietnam. He played with me more than all my other aunts and uncles. He came to see me a lot. He was my friend, and that was a big deal for an only child like me. I don’t remember what mom and dad told me about his dying, but I knew there was no coming back from death. I also knew it was not the end. Whatever they said laid the foundation for me to handle death from that point forward. I’ve seen people die. I’ve watched people suffer until they die. I’ve seen them die young. I’ve seen them die when they’re a century old. One of the joys in my life is that I know and care about a lot of people. Knowing they could die before me is part of the love package. I’ve had to say goodbye to my share, but I’ve never felt like it was over. It’s just so long for now. My parents did their job really well, and hopefully some of what they gave me I can give to others. As I always say, ‘Ain’t none of us gettin’ outta here alive.’ Make sure yours is a good death.


be happy while you're here
be happy while you’re here