I’m now a member of the flat-line club.

Hospital BraceletOn Tuesday I went for my annual physical. I was feeling pretty good. I even told my doctor that I had been feeling better this year than I could remember for a long time.

After I got done with the doctor, the nurse came in to draw a vile of blood. They do that every year. Cholesterol check. She got me leaned back on the exam table and poked me once inside my elbow. She said she got the vein, but nothing was coming. So she tried again on the back of my hand.

“How ya doing?” she asked.

“Ok, I guess,” I said. I don’t like needles. Never have.

“Well, you can get a cup of coffee in the waiting room after we’re done here,” she said.

That’s the last thing I remember. The next thing I know I open my eyes and the doctor is leaning over me shouting, “Come back, Caspar. Come back.” I had a little ringing in my ears. I felt as if I’d had a really great power nap.

“What?” I said. “Did you get any blood?”

“Never mind about that,” she said. And she put an oxygen mask over my face.

“What?” I said.

“You just bought yourself a ride to the hospital,” she said. “The ambulance is on its way.”

As it turns out, I’d stopped breathing. They couldn’t get a pulse for some 30 seconds. The doctor had been doing CPR on me the whole while I thought I was taking a nap.

I’d flatlined.

The paramedics came and hooked me up to an EKG. One of them poked my finger to get a blood sugar reading.

“You know,” I said to her, “this whole thing started when they tried to get blood out of me.”

My heart rhythm was a little out of whack. “High S-T wave,” they said. They put me in the ambulance and took me to a hospital in Schenectady.

On the way the paramedic tried to start an IV line, but couldn’t get the needle into a vein. After two attempts, he quit trying.

“I’d better not stick you too many times, or they won’t have anything to work with when we get to the hospital,” he said.

It was fine by me.

When we got to the hospital they took another EKG and then hooked me up to a heart monitor in the ER and watched me for three hours. The EKG showed no damage and a perfectly healthy sinus rhythm.

“How do you feel?” the ER doctor said.

“Hungry,” I said. I’d been fasting since the night before for the blood test.

“Okay,” he said. “You seem to be doing alright, so we won’t poke any more needles in you unless we have to.”

The RN brought me a chicken salad sandwich, a cup of macaroni salad and a cup of sliced peaches. Best hospital lunch I ever ate.

After three hours wired to the heart monitor, they decided I was going to be alright. They released me. Brooke and Silas picked me up and drove me back to the doctor’s office in Saratoga where I’d left my car. I drove the rest of the way home. I’ve been fine ever since.

On the one hand, depending on how you define being dead, I’d been dead earlier that afternoon. On the other hand, I was perfectly fine. And except for a sore arm where they’d done all their needling, and a sore chest where the doctor had been doing chest compressions, I’ve been fine since. It was like I went to a hospital three hours from home to have a chicken salad sandwich.

Dying was easier than I thought it would be. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. I didn’t see any bright light at the end of a tunnel. Nor did I see the flames of hell. I felt no pain. I bring no great wisdom back from beyond the grave.

Only, having been through it, I don’t feel any fear of death any more. Not that I ever did dwell on it very much, but when I did I always thought how bad and painful an ordeal it would be to die. I suppose there are plenty of more painful ways to go. But the actual being gone part of it wasn’t anything at all. So, bring it! I don’t care. I’m not afraid to die.

At the same time, at least for the moment, I’m much more aware of how randomly we live and that death really can come any moment when you’re not expecting it. I never thought when I left the house on Tuesday morning that I might not ever come home. But there it was. Even if I did come home. Had I not still been in the doctor’s exam room when it happened, I probably wouldn’t have. So I’m not taking life for granted. Not for now.

Not being afraid to die, strangely enough, makes one much more free to live. If there’s anything I’ve gotten out of being a member of the flat-line club (besides a $3,500 copay for a chicken salad sandwich) that’s it.

I sent my doctor a bouquet of flowers yesterday with a note: “Thanks for saving my life. And for the flu shot.”

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Yesterday was the first day I missed posting since I started this blog last December

There’s a story about why.

But tonight is already late. So I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Sick Kid, Sick Cat

The kid is sick today, so he’s home from school.

This morning he wanted hot chocolate. So I made some. He wanted it upstairs in bed. So I brought it upstairs.

He drank half of it.

The remaining half, now cold in the mug beside the bed, has been discovered by the cat.

Everyone knows chocolate is bad for dogs. It’s also bad for cats. I googled it. If it’s on the internet it must be true.

Fortunately, she didn’t drink much, and it’s not dark chocolate, and it’s not even very strong hot (now cold) chocolate. It’s not likely to be lethal.

The article says that, based on the type and amount of chocolate consumed, I can expect the cat to vomit, be agitated and be thirsty. I don’t see how this is any different from the cat’s normal behavior. So, all is well.

Except I still have a sick kid.

Dreaming with Solomon

I preached at the Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Lake George again this morning. They announced today that they have decided on a new Pastor. The congregation will vote to conform the choice sometime in mid-November.

I talked about Solomon’s dream (1 Kings 3:1-15), the story about how, when God offers Solomon anything he wants, Solomon asks God for wisdom. There was a teen-ager sitting in the balcony who slept through the whole service.

He was dreaming with Solomon. So there was the sermon spoken, and there was the sermon lived, simultaneously.


One of Silas’s friends is coming over tonight for a sleepover.

They want to build a fort in the living room using the dining room chairs and whatever blankets they can find in the hall cabinets. Then they want to sleep in it.

We’re also doing caramel apples. And probably a movie.

We’ll probably let them sleep in the fort. It’s actually easier to clean up the living room than to clean Silas’s room. When his friends come over his room always ends up a major disaster area. Legos get spilled out onto the upstairs hallway where we step on them in our bare feet. Then we say ouch. At least, Brooke and I do.

Legos in the hall aside, Silas’s friend is a good kid. All of Silas’s friends are good kids. We lucked out.

Hermeneutic of Suspicion

Public radio weather report:

“Cloudy. Intermittent rain, possibly heavy at times, especially in southern sections of the listening area. Drier north. Winds out of the north, 5-10 miles per hour with occasional gusts up to 15 miles per hour.”

Local TV “news” weather report:

“It’s going to be a real nor-Easter out there, folks, so batten down the hatches. We could see some trees and power lines come down, and possible flooding.”

Same weather. The intent of one interpretation is to inform. The intent of the second is to incite fear.

Word of the day: hermeneutic.

Upshot: There is no such thing as a neutral point of view.

(That’s my opinion.)

4 Hours, 3 Toddlers, 2 Babysitters and 1 Hotel Room

Today I got to hang out with a few 18-month olds for four hours. It’s been a while (9 years) since I’ve had to deal with (be responsible for) people of that age. We were at a conference for Methodist Pastors at a hotel in Lake Placid, and since I’m not Methodist and didn’t have to go to the workshops, I got to do childcare.

Some observations:

  • The best snacks really are are goldfish and cheerios.
  • Putting shapes into the appropriate holes is harder than it looks.
  • There’s nothing really wrong with peeing your pants. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Deal.
  • Climbing on things is fun.
  • Taking turns is fine, as long as it’s not my puppy-lovey (or my book, or my — fill in the blank).
  • If you cry loud enough and long enough someone from housekeeping will come to check up on you.
  • Plastic bags are everywhere you turn, at least in hotel rooms, and are fun to play with.
  • Ditto for window-blind cords.
  • And glass table tops.
  • The best time is when mommy comes back to pick you up.

(Seriously, if you have an 18-month old and you’re going to stay in a hotel room, there are plastic bags lining all the trash cans, and don’t forget the one that’s lining the ice bucket.)

Yosemite Update Screws Up Apache

Most people won’t notice. If you develop locally on your Mac, though, it’s a pain in the butt.

First you have to restart it after upgrading from Mavericks. That’s easy enough. Just go to terminal and sudo apachectl start.

But then, on both of my machines, I went to localhost and got nothing.

I browsed around a lot. Nothing I found seemed to work. In my case, it took resetting the PRAM.

After I reset PRAM, I also checked to make sure the new httpd.conf file (yes, that got updated, too) was configured the way I wanted it. Then sudo apachectl restart and, presto!

Good luck!

The Skeleton In Our Closet

We have a skeleton in our closet.

Really, we do. Sometimes when the closet door isn’t closed all the way, its left shin and foot hang out a little into the front hallway.

People say, “You have a skeleton in your closet.”

We say, “Oh. Yes, we do. Is he coming out again?”

We mostly refer to the skeleton as “he.” Every year, in October when we put him out on the porch, we give him a new name. We always name him something scary. One year it was a “she.” That year she was Bachmann.

One year he was Parry. Another year he was Harry, for Harry Whittington, the guy Dick Cheney shot in the face. This year, he’s Boehner (pronounced Boner).

Brooke says we shouldn’t say Boner. I say having a name Boehner and pronouncing it Bayner is like having a name Bucket and pronouncing it Bouquet.

You say Bayner, I say Boner. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Anyway, that’s the skeleton in our closet.

And yes, we are sick.

Lunch in Keene

I’ve decided to have lunch at the ADK Cafe in Keene today.

Brooke is away at an all-day meeting. Silas is at school. I could make myself a sandwich with the cold cuts in the fridge, but it’s cold enough already.

Maybe, if it’s not too crowded, I can stay there a while and get some writing done. No telephone ringing. At least, not one that I’d have to feel the need to answer.