Death

February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

July 1, 2017

Godless and Childless Leaders

You may have heard of Charlie Gard, the 10-month-old baby who was born with severe brain damage and an inability to move or breathe on his own. He has been on life support at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London since he was born. Earlier this year, Charlie’s doctors concluded that he was terminally ill and that nothing more could be done for him.

After doing extensive research, Charlie’s parents found a doctor in the United States who thought he could help Charlie with a certain type of medication. The medication has never been tried on anyone with Charlie’s exact condition; however, the medication was successful on another individual who had a condition that was similar to Charlie’s.

In order to raise funds so that Charlie could be transferred to the United States for treatment, Charlie’s mother set up a GoFundMe page on the internet. To date, she has been able to raise more than $1.7 million for the experimental treatment.

Even though Charlie’s parents have the desire and financial ability to transfer him to the United States for treatment, the administrators at Great Ormond Street Hospital took it upon themselves to stop the parents. In April, the hospital filed a court case with the family division of the High Court of Justice in London. The question that the hospital presented to the court was, “Is it legal, and in Charlie’s best interest, for the hospital to remove him from life support — even against his parent’s wishes?” After a hearing on the matter, the judge ruled in favor of the hospital and against Charlie’s parents, stating that it was “in Charlie’s best interests” to allow the hospital to withdraw treatment, which would result in Charlie’s death.

Charlie’s parents appealed the judge’s decision to the Court of Appeals of England and Wales. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the judge. Charlie’s parents then appealed the case to the United Kingdom Supreme Court. That court subsequently upheld the judge’s decision.

December 31, 2016

Death of the Star Wars Princess

princess-leiaI remember it like it was yesterday. It was early June 1977. I was 20 years old. I had completed my sophomore year in college and was home for the summer working as a laborer for a construction company.

All of a sudden, everyone was talking about Star Wars, the new movie that had been released at the end of May. The movie had quickly gained momentum and was breaking box office records.

Star Wars was about a 19-year-old farm boy, Luke, who was expected to take over the family farm someday. Luke was itching to get away from the farm and start exploring the universe, but his dad made him feel guilty about abandoning the family farm and leaving it up to his aging parents to continue to maintain.

After his parents were killed by enemy soldiers, Luke joined forces with an old Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and they set out to assist the Rebel Alliance in stopping the evil Empire from taking over the universe.

One of the most interesting things about Star Wars was that it was modeled on the westerns that moviegoers in the 1960s and 1970s had grown up with. In the westerns, we were accustomed to seeing a villain who always used force and violence to take over the land of local farmers. In Star Wars, the villain’s goal was to take over planets that were controlled by local governments.

In the westerns, the heroes were always sharpshooters who rode into town on horses to save the day. In Star Wars, the heroes arrived in spaceships to save the day. In westerns, the heroes used conventional guns with bullets. In Star Wars, they used high-tech guns that could blast holes in buildings.

But it wasn’t just the westerns that Star Wars was modeled on. It was also modeled on the old pirate movies where pirates hijacked and took over waterborne ships with gunpowder-based cannons and swords. In Star Wars, the villains hijacked spaceships with laser cannons and laser swords.

December 17, 2016

Sudden Death and the Question of “Why?”

the-most-painful-goodbyes-death-of-a-loved-oneThere’s a book that was published in 1970 by Harold Sherman that had a title that made potential buyers want to buy the book: How to Foresee and Control Your Future. We all have a desire to control our future. Lucifer knows this. The lie that he successfully told Eve was that she and Adam would never die, which implied that if they ate from the tree of good and evil, they would be able to exercise complete control over their lives forever.

The sudden death of a person you love is a mortal blow to the concept that you have control over your own life. The essence of being able to exercise control over your own life is that you must also be able to control the lives of the people who are around you.

The shock that comes with the sudden death of someone you love is always accompanied by the one question that screams out for an answer — “Why?”

Why did he have to die now? Why did God take her from us? Why couldn’t it have been me instead of him?

While we can never really know with certainty what the answer to those questions are, there are legitimate reasons why God would allow the sudden death of an individual. Here are some of the reasons:

1. The Sacrificial Lamb – Last week, I wrote about the sudden death of my wife’s 19-day-old niece, Natalie, in 1978. She was baptized before she died. The Catholic Church teaches that a baptized child who has not yet reached the age of reason — which is ordinarily seven years old — goes directly to heaven when he or she dies.

Why does God allow a baptized child to die? The most common reason is that the child’s family is going to need the child’s help in the future to keep peace in the family, to help the members of the family get along, and to help each member of the family get into heaven. In His infinite wisdom, God knows that the child’s family members are going to need an advocate in heaven who will be able to provide assistance to each of the family members.

December 10, 2016

The Unanswered Question

whyI’ve written before about how I met my wife, Georgette. We met on August 4, 1978, in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the Midwest Federation Lebanese Convention. We were both 21 years old.

I traveled to Indianapolis with a friend and when we walked into the hotel to check in, Georgette was walking through the lobby with her sister, Janet. My friend yelled out to them and introduced me to Georgette and her sister. We spent a few minutes talking to them and then checked into the hotel.

I knew who Georgette was before I was introduced to her. Every young man in the Lebanese community in Peoria knew who she was. Besides being stunningly beautiful, she had a reputation in the community for being a kind, generous, and fun-loving person. She had a magnetic personality that seemed to pull guys out of the woodwork.

During the two days that I was at the convention, every time I saw Georgette there were college-age men around her trying to impress her. I intentionally kept my distance the first day because I was concerned that if I gave her too much attention, she would lump me in with all the other guys who were trying to impress her.

On both Friday and Saturday evening, there was a dinner and a dance. At the dances, there was a live band that played Lebanese music. Each night, the band played until midnight, and then a DJ took over and played American music.

On Friday evening, I only had one chance to have a brief conversation with Georgette. On Saturday morning, I ran into her in the lobby of the hotel and we started talking. We ended up taking a 15-minute walk together while we talked.

On Saturday evening, we danced together a couple of times. After our second dance, I suggested that we walk out to the lobby so we could hear each other. As usual, the band had turned up the volume of the music so loud that it was impossible to carry on a conversation.

August 27, 2016

From Fat Man To Body Builder

Pat Brocco

Before and After Pictures of Pat Brocco

Earlier this month, there was a story on the internet about an Arizona man who had lost 335 pounds. His name is Pasquale “Pat” Brocco, and he’s 31 years old. His nickname used to be “Fat Pat.”

Three years ago, Pat was warned by his doctor that because of health-related problems associated with his obese condition, there was a strong likelihood that he was going to die in his sleep at an early age.

After meeting with his doctor, Pat went home, put on a pair of shorts, and took a side view picture of himself in the mirror. At that time, he weighed 605 pounds.

Pat commented on the picture during a recent interview with an ABC News reporter. He told the reporter that when he took the picture, he was disgusted with himself. His stomach was down to his thighs, and his chest was down to the top of his stomach.

After Pat took the picture of himself in the mirror, he threw out all his food and made a commitment to himself that he was going to walk to the local Walmart, and then back home, every time he wanted to eat something. The Walmart was a mile away, so every time he wanted to eat, he had to walk two miles, which meant that he began walking at least six miles every day.

Over time, Pat modified his diet. He said that he came to the conclusion that he needed to stop eating dairy products. After that, he started losing weight. He eventually added vegetables, meats, sweet potatoes, and steel-cut oatmeal to his diet.

After Pat lost about 200 pounds, he began working out at a local gym. Instead of walking to Walmart, he walked on a treadmill and lifted weights.

Now, three years later, he is 335 pounds lighter and weighs 270 pounds. When he began walking, he looked like a whale. Now he looks like a bodybuilder.

Because he lost so much weight, Pat ended up with about 30 pounds of excess skin. The extra skin was recently removed by a plastic surgeon, which reduced his weight even further.

February 20, 2016

Coping With the Death of a Loved One

Moments TogetherWith the recent death of my father-in-law, I’ve had to fall back on some of the coping skills that I learned and developed when I was younger. I’ve written before about the death of my 13-month-old sister, Kathryn Mary. When she died, I was 15 years old. I’ve also written about the sudden death of my cousin, Tommy LaHood, who died when I was 13. Tommy’s brother, Harry LaHood, passed away when he was 42. Harry and I were the same age and were best friends while we were growing up.

What do you do when someone you love suddenly dies and disappears from your life? How do you deal with the void that is created by their loss? How do you handle the sorrow, grief, guilt, despair, and loneliness?

There are five primary ways that I use to cope with the death of a loved one:

1. Swipe The Image – Sometimes you are left with horrifying images of how a person looked before they died. If the person was hooked up to a machine, was severely injured, or had deteriorated to the point of being almost unrecognizable, the images of the suffering person stay with you for the rest of your life. Those images continue to appear in your head and remind you of the suffering the person went through prior to their death.

It’s common to hear people complain about how the images won’t go away. They say, “I can’t get the way he looked out of my mind. He suffered so much. I wish I never saw him that way.”

The best way to deal with those images is to think of them as having been saved in your memory along with all the positive images of the person. As you know, when you look at images on a smartphone, you can use the tip of your finger to swipe each image away so the next one can be displayed. Your mind has the same ability — you can swipe away negative images of a deceased person and replace them with positive images.

January 30, 2016

A Merciful Savior Intervenes

Dumit GhantousLast week, I published a tribute that my wife, Georgette, had written about her father, Dumit Ghantous. Georgette’s dad passed away on January 19, 2016. I met Dumit on August 4, 1978, when I was 21 years old. I remember the date because it was the same day I met Georgette. We met in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the Midwest Federation Lebanese Convention. From the moment I met Dumit, he treated me like I was a member of his family.

Dumit was a very unique man who was blessed with the ability to connect in a special way with everyone he met. He was very outgoing and was energized by being around other people. He had a way of showing people that he genuinely cared about them. He was a master at making people feel good about themselves.

Dumit was a tailor by trade. He loved to sing, dance, and play his oud. An oud is a pear-shaped stringed instrument that is most commonly used in the Middle East. Dumit had the ability to pick up his oud and while playing it, create a beautiful love song out of thin air about his wife, one of his children, or one of his grandchildren.

On the morning of January 6, 2016, one of Georgette’s sisters called her on the telephone and told her that Dumit’s heart had stopped beating because of a sudden cardiac arrest. One of the family members had already called 911 and there were paramedics at Dumit’s house attempting to revive him. The paramedics were able to get his heart going again and he was rushed to the hospital.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Dumit was hooked up to a ventilator. A ventilator is a machine that is designed to mechanically move breathable air into and out of a person’s lungs. It is used on patients who are physically unable or incapable of breathing on their own.

The same day that Dumit was admitted into the hospital, Georgette posted a request on Facebook for prayers. Within hours, word spread throughout the local Catholic and Lebanese communities, as well as the worldwide Lebanese community. Georgette heard from relatives from different parts of the world, including California, Australia, and Lebanon. Our best estimate is that there were over 1,000 people praying for Dumit and his family.

December 27, 2014

From Jonny Quest To Batman

Jonny QuestOf all the superhero movies that have been released by Marvel and DC comics, Batman is my least favorite, primarily because of the dark and diabolical nature of the villains. Despite my dislike of the Batman movies, I still watch them. In the last Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, the villain, Bane, delivers a crippling blow to Batman’s back. He then escorts Batman to an underground prison. The only way out of the prison is through a tower-like tunnel that is carved out of rock.

While the prisoners can look straight up through the tunnel and see the blue sky, they know they will never be able to escape. The tunnel is several stories deep, and legend has it that there was only one person who was able to escape — a child. The prison is described by Bane as “Hell on Earth” because the individuals who reside there have lost all hope. All that remains within them is despair.

After rehabilitating himself, on two separate occasions Batman attempts to escape by climbing the wall of the tunnel. During his attempts, he uses a rope that is attached to the wall of the tunnel by tying the end of a rope around his waist. He fails at both of his attempts, and like an inflexible bungee cord, the rope stops him from crashing to his death on the ground below.

After Batman admits to an old prisoner that his greatest fear is that he will die in the prison, the prisoner reveals to him that the child who escaped climbed the wall without the rope. The prisoner tells Batman that if he ever hopes to be successful in escaping, he must climb without the rope, risking certain death if he falls. Only after Batman decides to climb without the rope is he finally able to escape from the prison.

I thought about Batman’s iron-willed determination and his decision to forgo the security of the rope earlier this month when my cousin and friend Chuck Couri suddenly passed away. Chuck was a year older than I and had been diagnosed with stage-four cancer in March 2009. After his diagnosis, he received a bone marrow transplant, radiation, and chemotherapy. Because of his ongoing problems, he never actually completed his treatment. He was required to continually monitor his condition and, when necessary, receive additional treatment.

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