Friday, September 8, 2006 Observation:
Yogi Berra, the great philosopher, baseball player, and manager, said to one of his malingering players, "Are you dead yet?" About a week ago in the ER I put that question to the doctors in the first person and asked them "Am I dead yet?" Thankfully they assured me that I wasn't which was very comforting. They asked me what my blood type was before giving me a transfusion and I told them "Ephraim". This threw them off for just a minute but they quickly recovered and got me the blood. Thanks to good doctors, marvelous medicine, and lots of fasting and praying by family and good friends, coupled with priesthood blessings, I am home and out of the hospital with a positive prognosis for the future.
However, a terrible thing has happened during the week I spent in the hospital. Black Strap Molasses sales have plummeted in health-food stores all over the United States. My week in the hospital even damaged the sugarcane market in the Caribbean and a number of plantations are on the verge of going under. A consortium of health-food stores has asked me to rise up in defense of Black Strap Molasses. I also think my son-in-law, Matt Riley, was a little off base in writing that Jimmy Durante, Groucho Marx, and Danny Kaye were not reliable nutritional experts. They all lived to a good old age by eating "Black Strap Molasses and the wheat germ bread", and they all lived so long that others probably wished they were dead.
I have already told you more than you would ever want to know about blackstrap molasses, but to strengthen the sugarcane market, as well as blackstrap molasses sales in health-food stores across the nation, I must punish you with the following information.
"The George Mateljan Foundation is a non-profit organization free of commercial influence...Our purpose is to provide you with unbiased scientific information about how nutrient-rich World's Healthiest Foods can promote vibrant health and energy and fit your personal needs and busy lifestyle."
"Blackstrap molasses is a sweetener that is actually good for you. Unlike refined white sugar and corn syrup, which are stripped of virtually all nutrients except simple carbohydrates, or artificial sweeteners like saccharine or aspartame, which not only provide no useful nutrients but have been shown to cause health problems in sensitive individuals, blackstrap molasses is a healthful sweetener that contains significant amounts of a variety of minerals that promote your health. In addition to providing quickly assimilated carbohydrates, blackstrap molasses can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. Blackstrap molasses is a very good source of iron."
I promise never to mention Blackstrap Molasses again -- unless sales in health-food stores have been irrevocably and permanently damaged.
On a more serious note, let me share with you some random observations regarding my latest brush with death as a result of a bleeding ulcer that the doctors described as Mount St. Helens.
My faith and testimony in the "tender mercies" of the Lord has been strengthened. The day the ulcer erupted was the day Jo Anne and my daughter Rachel and her two little girls were to fly to North Carolina to join Rachel's husband Matt who has begun a new career there. Due to some extenuating circumstances, the trip was postponed and Rachel, an RN, along with her perceptive mother called 911 when I didn't think it was necessary. Had I been put to bed that night without going to the ER, I doubt I would have lived to see the morning. Some would say these were just coincidences, but I call them the "tender mercies" of the Lord.
My appreciation of my fellow human beings has been greatly expanded as a result of this experience. I have never been treated so well by so many people for such a long period of time, that I can recall. All of my nurses were from the Philippines -- I call them the Filipino Relief Society. They treated me with great love, tenderness, and respect. They couldn't do enough for me. They were also very teachable, and although they were highly trained ICU nurses, they let Jo Anne teach them how to care for somebody in my condition. The doctors were competent, compassionate, and did everything in their power to get me over the hump. There are lots of good people out there! Yes, we live in a very wicked world, but I believe there are still so many more goodhearted people then there are evil. Instead of my injury making me cynical it has had the opposite effect. I have a great love for people of all races and religions. I have been treated so kindly by so many for so many years that to not love my fellowmen would be a sad reflection upon my own character.
My love and appreciation for my family was greatly enhanced as a result of this experience. My sons and daughters and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law rallied behind me and were an incredible source of strength. My son John, the ER doctor, was with me for three days questioning everything the doctors did, but I think really keeping the doctors on their toes. My son Mike, the district attorney and prosecutor, was constantly cross examining the doctors, and I learned some things about my case through listening to those conversations that I would have not known otherwise. It was reassuring to have all my children care so much. In the ER room, my sons, Richard and Mike, gave me a special blessing that was very comforting at a very uncertain and difficult time.
The highlight of my stay in ICU however, was when my four oldest grandsons -- two priests, a teacher, and a deacon -- held a special sacrament meeting for me last Sunday afternoon. They are all in the same ward and my son Mike is their Young Men's President. Two of the boys are Mike's and two are my oldest daughter Jolene's oldest boys. For me, it was one of those paydays that are unanticipated and therefore that much the sweeter. They sang hymns, blessed and passed the sacrament, and then each one bore their testimony. Each one recounted a sacred experience in which the Spirit had come to them and powerfully touched their hearts in such a way that they knew The Church was indeed true. I do not have the verbal ability to accurately recount this experience, but it was one of the highlights of my life. It was worth a bleeding ulcer to have had such an experience with my grandsons. These kids are light-years ahead of where I was at their age.
I was also touched by the many friends that have expressed love and concern. I have had reinforced in my heart that the only thing that really matters in life is the relationships we have with family, friends, and the Lord. Nothing else really matters much at all.
Life is precious. Each day is to be savored. The most common things are really very special.
If there is a theme to this observation, in my own mind, it is that we have a kind, loving, Heavenly Father who pours out his "tender mercies" upon us constantly. "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things..." [Doctrine & Covenants 59: 21]