April 20, 2007

“Silence receive us, and the field of peace…”

Category: News — Ira @ 5:43 pm

Title quote by Thomas Wolfe

…………………………………………………..MERV ESH, R.I.P……………………………………………………..

merv.jpg Merv and Ruth Anne Esh

I open my blog today with a heavy heart of deep and painful sadness. Merv Esh, one of our main guys at the office at Graber, succumbed last night (Thurs., 4/19 at 7 PM Eastern time) after a valiant 2-1/2 year battle with cancer. A mainstay at Graber since the early 90s, Merv was always positive and upbeat during his long and arduous “cancer journey,” fighting to the last, exploring every option, striving for the life most of us take for granted every day. But the vile and deadly disease would not be denied and finally overwhelmed him. He died in Mexico, where they had gone for last-resort, non-conventional treatment.

Our hearts and prayers are with his wife, Ruth Anne, and his family. To us, his life was tragically cut short way too early, a month before his 31st birthday, and almost exactly two years after his wedding day. But we see as through a glass, darkly, although we shall one day know even as Merv now fully knows as he enters the glory of God’s kingdom. We will greatly miss him, first as a colleague, but more importantly, as a dear friend. Our office will never be quite the same without him.

As for Ruth Anne, after her admirable and unflagging strength in the long, bitter struggle against unfathomable odds, may the silent depths of God’s immeasurable grace receive and envelop her especially now, and may she ever walk quietly, with her memories of Merv, in His fields of peace……

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At around 1 PM, on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007, on a clear sunny day, in the parking lot of a Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Sarasota, Florida, a powerful thunderclap exploded around me. It was the kind that detonates abruptly, with a great crack and roar from seemingly above, but all around, threatening to implode the house. The windows shake and rattle, the whole structure, be it made of wood, brick or concrete, shudders to the core of its foundation. The kind that scares the wits out of you, your hair stands on end, and your heart, when it resumes beating, fights to jump right out of your chest. Only I was not inside a house and the thunderclap was not real. It erupted inside my head. With varying degrees of intensity, it has reverberated there since that awful day.

Noise. Black noise, harsh noise, loud noise, soft noise. Incessant, unending noise, from so many sources, from all directions. Sometimes it recedes a bit, then returns from some other point, more ferociously then before, threatening my bearings and causing me to question the very framework of my sanity. Noise from questions, noise from doubt, noise from pain and fear, noise from work, noise from bad news about Merv’s battle with cancer, noise from launching this site, noise from others second-guessing my decisions, noise from old friends, noise from busybodies and gossips, noise from people I haven’t heard from in ten years who suddenly and strangely are deeply interested in every detail of the tragedy in my life, noisy clamor from jangling phones and garbled messages (call me back! I care!) – (I bet you do.), noise in the morning, commotion at noon, clamor in the evening, and disquiet at night when I sleep. A special roar of noise that rose to a crescendo until the day that Ellen left, then abruptly faded, the dreaded imminence of the moment confronted and conquered. And now, of course, the vacant noise of an empty house, the result of a life in shambles.

What I need is silence. Not noisy silence, just deep, calm stillness. Such genuine silence, even for a moment, in any life is rare, and in mine is a nebulous dream. I have read of Monasteries that offer week-long retreats where guests reside in complete silence. I would go to such a place if I could locate one in the eastern U.S. If any of you readers out there have had such an experience or know of anyone who has, please post the information or email me. I am serious about this and would like to embark on such a pilgrimage this summer or early fall. In such a setting, the incessant noise would have to cease, and one could recover from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and commune with God at leisure and in peace. And one could write.

When I was a child, a majestic pine tree in a neighbor’s field, half a mile to the west, came to symbolize a deep, forceful yearning for another world, spiritual perhaps, beyond my own. Dubbed the “freedom tree,” a secret shared, I think, only by my little sister, who seemed to understand, this pine was often the focus of my rapt attention. Especially at sunset, it stood silhouetted against the fiery hues of the western sky, an emblem of longing undefined, intangible strains of mysterious, haunting music wafting in and out of consciousness, now clear, now distant, describing a future, also misty and obscure, of inconceivable delights; broad lush meadows rippling in the wind, sparkling brooks and clear, shaded streams winding through hills and woods, mountains and valleys, and the infinite world beyond. I would return to the hunger and the yearning of that child. Silence receive me…….
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On Tuesday, Apr. 17, I awoke dizzy and unbalanced. I went to work, but each time I got up from my chair, I had to hold onto something for a second until the dizziness abated. At 9, I called my doctor’s office and said I was exhausted and stressed and needed to see someone. By 11:45, kindly Dr. Sammitt was listening sympathetically to my story. He checked me out and had me fill out a couple of questionnaires. After reviewing them, he solemnly informed me that I was mildly depressed and had moderate anxiety. Well, duuuhhh. He strongly recommended anti-depressants, but I declined. All I need, I said, is the ability to get a good night’s sleep. All else would fall in line if that could happen. The world belongs to those who sleep soundly. So, after a bit of grumbling about how some people come to him for help, then refuse his expertise, he gave me a prescription for Ambien, a sleeping potion. I went to bed early that night and knocked myself out and slept like a log for the first time in weeks. Although I have strong reservations about all pharmaceuticals, there are times you just have to take what gets you through the short term and run with it.

I am rejuvenated by the opening of baseball season, despite very un-Spring-like weather. Of an evening, while sitting at the computer, I always keep my eye on whatever game is on. I’m delighted, as always, that the Phillies are starting out the year in their normal disastrous fashion, trying in vain to emerge out of their abysmal basement spot from day one. Take that, Phillies fans. My Braves, on the other hand, are doing quite well, thank you. Now, if the hated Yankees go down the same primrose path as the Phillies, my baseball cup of joy will be full.

LEFTOVERS UPDATE: As of the time of this post, my much-anticipated harvest of leftovers from the groaning, well stocked larders of Lancaster County has been less than spectacular (Let the gasps of horror from the balcony subside, please. I’m as shocked as you are. Perhaps the economy is worse than we realized.). Dave and Ruth Hurst did give me a very delicious chicken-and-rice casserole (definitely NOT a leftover, and very much appreciated). And there has been no dearth of comments, but, alas, one cannot dine on comments. One friend emailed me the astute observation that I could not hope to retain my new, hard-won 199-lb. figure if I stuffed myself with leftovers. Though appreciative of such concern and insight, I replied that such a problem would be welcomed as a challenge. She then suggested a drop box, a very astute suggestion indeed. So here goes. First, you are welcome to drop off at my office at Graber Supply. At home, I have a garage with a large overhead door facing Voganville Road. To the immediate right of the overhead door, directly around the inset corner, is a wooden entry door. Go through that door; on the table in the garage will be a blue cooler. Place your leftovers in it, along with a note stating who it’s from. If no food shows up after this appeal, I shall revert to grim looks and sulking. I may even starve (THEN they’ll be sorry.). I know there’s Superfood, but, although it has almost unlimited positive qualities, until now, at least, man has not been able to live on Superfood alone. I don’t want to be the first to try.

Special thanks to Alvin and Naomi (my sister) Yutzy for their thoughtful package.

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  1. Maybe you could also post daily which direction Grabers trucks are delivering and folks could meet the driver as he goes by with leftovers. I am sure something could be arranged, another idea if you don’t mind driving west a few miles further on your way home, we will put a blue cooler at the end of our drive for your friends in this neighborhood to drop off. It may also have worked to your advantage had you lamented about the 199 lbs. Cause from my viewpoint being shorter and 205 plus, after all that joy I would feel guilty if we should be the cause of you ever gaining a lb.

    Ira’s response: “Just fork over the food, buddy.”

    Comment by Steve aka. (Bear) — April 20, 2007 @ 10:09 pm

  2. This is a well designed site. Esp. enjoy old pics of wild young uncles who I only knew as men. Never saw a picture of Titus before he was paralyzed. I too was excited about baseball season, but the Phils have killed that excitement. Charlie Daddy needs to be fired. My softball team almost has as many wins as they do and we played 4 games. You should come watch some time.

    Comment by Ira L Wagler — April 21, 2007 @ 1:57 am

  3. Hey Ira, on your ‘silence’ thing… I haven’t been to any monastries but I did go hiking in the mountains last summer for about six weeks. Life in that time was very basic, very much simplified. I came back into society with a much greater inner quiet than what I’d had before. Good for weight loss/mantinence as well!!
    Appreciate your pictures. I got to spend quite a bit of time with Titus these past few years. I’d never seen a picture of him walking. The one with him ambling across the parking lot, young and free, is powerful. And I don’t hate the Braves like I used to, but may they go the way the Phillies have gone.

    Comment by mervin — April 21, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  4. After wincing several times I enjoyed the old pictures, memories, etc. Back then we thot a magical future was ours to sieze, not understanding, not knowing, that life would throw a curveball when we least expect it. Ira, I know you as a person of great strengh and resolve.You will get thru this!

    Comment by marvin — April 21, 2007 @ 7:08 pm

  5. ” I must go down the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky,
    and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”
    John Masfield

    Ira:
    I was reminded of Masefield’s poem having just returned from a quick trip down to the beach to see what was left after that Nor’easter savaged our state less than a week ago.

    This past Monday, we went down into the same area. We had parked at an ocean overlook just as the storm approached its full ferocity and the high tide/storm surge were peaking. After having the car almost completely covered by the spray of a wave (this was at a place where you are about 20 feet above the high water mark) we hastily retreated – exiting the coastal area on a road that was flooded shut within 20 minutes of our leaving.

    Today, as we toured the area, I was struck by the fact that though there was a fair amount of damage, it really was less than one would expect for a storm of that size and duration. Here we were, on a beach with people throwing frisbees, sunbathing in the latest fashions, sitting in beach chairs reading and conversing, walking their dogs, eating picnics, surfing the remnants of the storm and all of them enjoying sun and 74 degrees in a place that 3 days earlier was inundated by crashing waves, roaring surf and howling winds. How is it that the beauty and tranquility can come so shortly after the tempest? Maybe nature has something to tell us after all.

    Now let’s get on to some other items of importance – in particular SILENCE. I have two possibilities for you on retreats here in the Northeast. I may be visiting one of them later in May and there is a separate weekend retreat scheduled for August. I’m due to meet with our Pastor on another matter and will get the contact information for you and forward it by email.

    Number 2): I believe I heard some serious dissing going on in your last blog about my Yankees. The Braves are merely Johnny-come-lately’s who can’t keep it stiff until the final shot is fired. The Phillies are, indisputably the worst team around (at the moment) and deserve the scorn they receive. However, the Yankees are in a class of their own and should be accorded the praise and acknowledgement due a team of their caliber and status. I chalk up such petty quibblings, as I saw posted, to insufficient mentoring in the fine art of supporting the correct team and/or a lack of understanding of our national pasttime. Conversely, it just be a severe case of “P—- Envy”. Whatever it might be, I forgive you these flights into the dark side. ( I was just asked if this was a bad time to bring up a matter like that, but my response was “No, he screwed with my Yankees” – so to speak. :>)

    I’m working on some thoughts I’ve had about “one foot in-one foot out” and as I hone them, will post. I understand there are some good cooking classes at a couple of the restaurants in town. It couldn’t hurt, since you seem to realize that “frying” water isn’t really that tasty or nourishing. Its better to take maters in hand (once again, so to speak) and accomplish even a brief bit of pleasure, than wait around and hope that the “gourmet” meal which we all fantasize about, miraculously appears.

    CYATB (Lets see who can guess what this means.)

    Thorne

    Ira’s response: Don’t you live closer to Boston than NY? Cheering for the Yankees is like, well, nothing comparable comes to mind, as they are evil incarnate. When the Braves win and the Yankees lose, the Yankees loss brings me more joy and happiness (I’ll be as bitter as I want to be.).

    As for the goument meals, let me think, cooking classes, then a big mess in the kitchen, all to feed one person. I think begging is more productive and will provide better food.

    Comment by Thorne — April 22, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  6. Hey, Ira, about the silence thing, a weekend thing may be fine, but no self-respecting Wagler should ever go longer than that, depriving the world of much needed insights. ..I noted in the news some 54 yr. old guy and his 23 yr. old girlfriend pushed off from New Jersey yesterday on a 67 ton sailboat, they expect to sail ‘a thousand days’ without ever landing or taking on supplies of any sort. They plan to circle the world 3 times in that time. They got a website with that name. So how would that be for the alone feeling? Doubt they’ll last very long at that [either way].

    Comment by uncle jess [pops w] — April 22, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

  7. Ira:

    As you note, Boston is definitely closer to home than NYC. Unfortunately, I do find myself pretty much in the center of Red Sox Nation. At this point, I’ve learned to keep my opinions on the Yankees relatively quiet, unless I have a 100 yd lead on whomever I’m discussing the relative merits of 27 World Championships, 46 division championships and more Hall of Famers than any other franchise. I’ve also taken to wearing body armor and keeping my back to a solid wall at all times. I don’t think I realized how rabid (and I mean this in the worst way) these Boston fans are.

    My one regret about moving up here is that I will now have sons who, I’m afraid, will ultimately become red sox fans. (Where is “Honor thy father”, in that?) Unless I’m extremely diligent and make at least five trips a summer to Mecca (read that as The Bronx, NY, or “The House that Ruth Built”), blue and red may become the family colors rather than the Yankee Pinstripes.

    I’m afraid Atlanta is now on the down side of a respectable but thoroughly unremarkable 12 year run, and the Mets are in their ascendency. So enough of this self-flagellation, my man. Come and join us, let your heart ring true and clear, and proclaim to all far and wide that “THE EVIL EMPIRE REIGNS”. ( For those who are not baseball fans, or are National League afficionados only, I am simply refering to the Yankees – nothing else).

    Thorne

    PS: As I write ,”The Empirial March “from “Star Wars” is playing deafeningly in the background.

    Ira’s response: No, Darth Vader, you are NOT my father and never will be.

    Comment by Thorne — April 22, 2007 @ 8:37 pm

  8. Ira,
    I have a quick question, “who are the Braves?”

    margaret

    Ira’s response: The Atlanta Braves, classiest baseball team in America, despite the great blusterings of a certain (unnamed) Yankees fan.

    Comment by Margaret — April 22, 2007 @ 9:23 pm

  9. You weren’t kidding when you said you were going to deepen your tune on the leftovers!! I had more than a few chuckles over this one. Guess I’ll have to see what I can muster up – god forbid if that blue cooler is full and running over on the day I decide to share my blessings. I also appreciated Bear’s comments. That might tie in well with my business idea. :) May you find your quietness.

    Comment by judy — April 22, 2007 @ 11:29 pm

  10. just curious how the leftovers were coming along…am thinking you perhaps have some “standing invitations” to dinner that you should cash in on…Perhaps if this does not work, standing on the corner in front of church on Sunday morning with a “will work for food” sign would get the message accross.

    much love.
    jm

    ps, uncle jesse…how is that super food of green stuff working?

    Comment by janice — April 25, 2007 @ 12:53 am

  11. Ira:
    Praying for you and Ellen.

    Hey…glad to hear there is another Rush Limbaugh fan out there! Love those parodies right now featuring the Justice Brothers! Why the fallout with Mr. O’Reilley? (another favorite of mine)

    If I still lived in PA, I would bring you leftovers! Hope your blue box is full and running over!

    Take care.

    Comment by Dawn — April 26, 2007 @ 8:11 pm

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