Monday, January 02, 2006

2005 - The Year Of The Pills

Happy New Year, folks!

2006. Seems so weird to type that for the first time. 2006. Feels pretty good!

In what may become an odd New Year tradition (although Nancy surely hopes not), I tidied up a year's worth of empty prescription bottles over the weekend. I could barely get my arms around the stack arrayed on the kitchen table.

At the start of the year, I was on about 40 pills a day in the early recovery from my liver transplant surgery. A rough tally of the empties shows I injected about 6,500 pills in 2005 - or about 18 a day. As I'm on 8 or 9 a day now, that number should drop considerably next year - alas a much less dramatic photo - but I'll settle for that.

Put in an 8 mile walk on a fairly mild New Year's Day - a great tradition which I will keep up. That means I started the year with a miles-walked/pills-injected ratio tipped in favor of the miles. Alas after two days (0 miles today - though several laps made of Borders bookstore aisles) ratio is again skewed toward pills, but I'm determined to make a serious stab at a reasonable balance.

I've gifted myself with a new pair of running shoes - having actually worn through the soles of a pair in 2005 through excess use - probably first time since I was a kid cracking through cheapo pairs of ''Bob Cousy Mr. Basketball'' sneaks or fake Adidas.

I set out on the usual route Sunday, only to realize about a mile into it that I knew where I had to go. I reversed course and headed for the local Shrine of St. Joseph. This was a place of comfort and strength during my illness and recovery. It has a small but beautiful chapel on spacious grounds and I remember looking through its huge windows at a rapid, cloudy sky in autumn 2004. I was struck by the thought that I was seeing the outer banks of heaven as this thick cloud bank was continously whisked to the right as I gazed upon it. There wasn't the slightest break in the clouds and I wept with joy, knowing at that moment - well before my surgery - that everything would be fine - there wasn't any opening in heaven's outer wall for me to pass through. It wasn't my time.

The shrine's grounds have a bell tower made from girders from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, which stands as a striking memorial. On a winding walkway - where the names of all victims appear on a plaque - flowers, photos, toys, notes and other momentos have been left my family and friends. The most poignant are obviously hand-painted stones with messages of hope - single words telling their lost loved one and the world that in painting the words they are committed to perserving, getting by somehow and carrying on.

In the chapel, several dozens of people prayed the rosary. I joined in, praying to myself the Hail Marys in Spanish, as I was inexplicably inspired to in the hospital. As every day, I said a special prayer for more donor and her family. I don't forget they lost her at the Christmas holiday season. I prayed for all those on the waiting list, for all their families and for all organ donors, recipients and their families.

The Rose Bowl Parade aired today, with the Donate Life float making a wonderful appearance. The main element of the float was new life springing from old - as represented by a real fallen chunk of a California redwood providing home for animals and the base for new plant life. The happy talk announcers - working with a script - sounded a historical note about how organ/tissue/marrow transplants have saved lives - rather than a pitch for having people sign up to become donors. I would have preferred a more forward looking message, but the float and its very existance was quite moving and I was happy and hopeful that its presence started a dialogue with someone somewhere.

We pledge that we'll have remembrance and celebration roses on next year's float and in perpetuity.

A special prayer tonight for Robbin and her family who begin this new year grieving...


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