December 26, 2008

The Old and the New

Category: News — Ira @ 6:27 pm


Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go,
for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.

—Brooks Atkinson

The day snuck up on us, and just like that, it’s over. Christmas was good this year, cold and wintery like days of old. I spent the day at my brother Steve’s house. Along with my guest, my youngest brother Nate, who traveled down from Ontario, Canada. We had a large time. And plenty of delicious food. With the family scattered so far, among so many places, you gather with those who are close.

Brothers at table: Ira, Nate, Steve

Steve, Ira Lee, Nate and Clifford (not pictured) play monopoly.

Scrunched in: Nate and Steve take a ride.

Does the Amish mafia exist? Nate at the firing range Christmas afternoon.

And now one more year has come. And one more year has gone. It will be 2009 before my next post.

Last year, 2007, was a time of facing and absorbing a lot of bad stuff. Of tremendous loss. Of rebuilding my life from shattered foundations. I now look back on those not so long ago days and wonder sometimes how I made it through. Somehow I did. Like we all do, or most of us anyway, when adversity comes. Slog through it.

And the days of 2007 crept by, and a new year came. I welcomed it. Looked for better things. For joy. For the sun to shine again.

I found those things. At least some of them. And the sun did shine again, although the year had its share of dark days as well. 2008 was much better, a year of acceptance, a time of letting go, of clearing my head and moving on. I have. Pretty solidly, I think. Other than a few flashbacks on the dates of certain events. Things I wrote out. Things that snuck up and stirred deeply in the core of the memory and the heart. To be faced down and dealt with again. And perhaps repeatedly in the future, but with a bit less emotional upheaval each time. I hope. As the events of 2007 recede into the distance, further and further into the past. Covered by the layered days and weeks and months. And eventually years.

I remain convinced that time does not heal deep wounds. Pain diminishes, but the roots always exist. Buried, way down. Once in awhile, triggered by some thread of memory, or the shock of a nightmare, they stab for the surface again. Like weeds. And like weeds, they must be hacked out again and again.

And so things stand. The old behind. The new ahead.

In the past month, Ellen and I have reestablished some communication because of our mutual friendship with Paul and Anne Marie. She is close to Anne Marie. We share our concerns and our support for them.

We’ve talked some, too. Through a veil of heavy sadness. About who we were and what was lost. The realization that Eden, however imperfect, cannot be regained. Once it’s abandoned. As it was. Engulfed by thorns, its desolate gates now stand, guarded by the fiery twin swords of memory and pain.

We met exactly ten years ago, on Christmas Day.

I will always care for her. And look out for her where I can.

I won’t say much more, other than it’s easier to be cordial than to remain in a state of perpetual rage.

With one exception. The one who used to be my closest friend. For him, I still have only seething venom. At him, the molten rage still smolders. For him, there is no cordiality. No warmth, no desire to reconcile.

Not that any effort to speak of has been made, by either of us. I would recoil if I met him. So I try not to.

Which may be right. Or it may be wrong. But it’s where I am.

He walks the earth alone. Devoid of the long term relationships that defined his life. And the one for which he threw it all away. Devoid of the meaningful human inter-actions that sustain us all. Alone. Pursued by the virulent demons that torment his soul. Alone, cursed, the mark of Cain upon him. Until he chooses to remove it. Which he alone can do.

And that’s all I choose to say about that.

Other than that little brooding spell, I’m doing well. Really.

Emotionally, I’ve got a handle on things. Mostly. See my counselor once a month, the only truly, absolutely safe place in my world. Working to the place where the things written above can rest. I’ve made progress. What I wrote above was about one-tenth of what I would have said six months ago. So that’s progress. And I’ll get there. Over time. To where even that last ten percent can be laid to rest. For good.

Physically, I’ve kept off those 45 pounds now for going on three years. With some mild fluctuations during holidays, such as now. Still hit the gym regularly, as often as I can. “Doc” and I have made our peace and are friends again. I don’t see him often, but when I do, he tells his old tall tales, like he used to. He’s teaching me some new stretching exercises. For my lower back. He’s good. It helps. We respect each others’ use of the sauna. Peace reigns at the gym. For now.

I’m back to Chestnut Street Chapel on a pretty regular basis. Except for the odd Sunday mornings when I feel sinful and sleep in and don’t attend church at all. It’s a cool, diverse little group. Not diverse as in politically correct, but truly diverse. From plain and non-plain backgrounds. Currently the church is in search of a pastor. The lay members fill in occasionally and preach, something I don’t have to worry about, what with my marital status and all.

And so another New Year comes. Another fresh slate. For all those resolutions. To take another crack at it, to do better.

But I’m pretty ambivalent about it all. Don’t have a lot of great plans or anything. And no new resolutions. Just keep plugging away where I am.

It should be an interesting year. Economically. Even as the One enters his office as the most powerful man in the world. To the accolades of the craven press and the fainting masses. With his utopian socialistic dreams. It should be interesting. And perhaps a little scary. Not that fear should paralyze us. Just be aware. And prepared.

The days and weeks and months will roll by like they always do. By this time next year, some few of us won’t be here. Will have passed on. It could be anyone. Me. You. Or friends we cherish.

The living will keep going, like they always do. Absorbed with the details of daily life. The constant grind. And the joys too, the unexpected little things that pop up and surprise us.

In one area, I’m not ambivalent. And that’s the writing. It’s what sustains me, the pressure valve that releases the gathering steam. I would have been lost without it these past ninety weeks.

That’s how long it’s been since my second post, back in April, 2007. For ninety weeks now, I have posted every Friday. A remarkable thing. Exciting too. For me, at least. I’ve never maintained such discipline before. In anything. In all my life. It feels good.

I’ll keep churning out the occasional sketch. And the occasional brooding screed about what’s bothering me. And the stuff that’s happening around me. And, of course, the final Elmo Stoll essay. To ye of little patience, that should be done in early 2009. January or February. But note the word, “should.” It’s not a promise.

I write not to change the world. Or make it better. Or worse. I write because I want to, because deep down, something stirs, something that prompts me to write the things I have lived and seen and felt. The little things that stir the recesses of memory, the things that will be forgotten if left untold.

I say it sometimes, but not often. Don’t want to get tiresome. But it’s fitting in this last post of 2008. And that is “Thank you” to my readers. I appreciate every one. The time you take, weekly or sporadically, to read what I post. I’m honored and touched. Truly.

Last spring during a period when I was feeling down, a friend emailed me. “Keep writing,” he said. “If you write it, they will read.”

He was right. He’ll probably feel wise when he reads this. But that’s OK. He was.

I’ve kept writing. And you’ve kept reading. Thanks for validating his advice.

All the best to all of you in 2009.

And Happy New Year.



  1. And a very Happy New Year to you too, Ira. I look forward to another year of western Pennsylvania Friday evenings, laughing and thinking through your writings. Becky sends along her best wishes — as do Estelle, Sarah, Phoebe, and Ira Graham.

    Comment by Mark Graham — December 26, 2008 @ 8:20 pm

  2. I liked you from the first time I read your writings. But as time went on, I also grew to respect you. That respect continues to grow.

    You ever get down here to the Dallas area you holler at me and we’ll do coffee or something. (We moved just south of Dallas 2 weeks ago from NC.) And if you ever need a bed in this area you got one at my house.

    I pray your year will be filled with love, joy, peace, and prosperity.

    Comment by RagPicker — December 26, 2008 @ 10:31 pm

  3. I’ve followed your blog for awhile now- I’m one of those who followed the link on Amish America awhile back- I’ve also got Amish background. I love your writing and admire your courage. I must say I feel a bit indecent reading some of these that are so ‘soul-baring’ when I don’t know you, so I stopped. A friend passed along an interesting article last spring- blogging as a form of self-help. I’m pretty sure that’s what I use it for sometimes; and I’ve found I love to write as well. I hope yours continues to help you! I guess my main thought is this: Our hope is that as we continue to live we continue to learn and are slowly but surely guided to the best end. I wish you a safe journey.

    Comment by Ann — December 27, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

  4. Happy New Year to you, and keep up the good work. I look forward to reading each new blog entry.

    Comment by Clayton — December 28, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  5. I have been reading your blog almost from the beginning. Your writing is excellent, never dull and I always look forward to more good reads. Since I was raised Amish Mennonite (Beachy), I enjoy all the stories of your childhood. I really enjoyed the hilarious “preacher story” and shared it with my dad, who is a retired bishop. He found it very funny as well, just imagining how that must have looked!

    I want to wish you a Blessed New Year and wish you all His Best-2009-whatever that may be.

    Comment by Doris Vetter — December 29, 2008 @ 9:57 pm

  6. Another post that tugs at the “heart strings.” I, too, know from experience that parting with loved ones, whether by death or some other form of seperation, leaves a void that not even time can fill completely. But keep traveling on as it does seem to get a little easier.

    On a more personal note: should you sort through all the twigs and branches of the Wagler Family Tree you would find me hanging there as well as my Grandmother was a Wagler!

    Sincerest wishes for a happy & healthy new year!

    Comment by HENRY — December 30, 2008 @ 11:21 am

  7. >>> “Last year, 2007, was a time of facing and absorbing a lot of bad stuff. Of tremendous loss. Of rebuilding my life from shattered foundations.”

    I prayed for you faithfully Ira. Got your name on my prayer board in red. I can’t imagine what you went through but the Lord is there to heal the hurt. Life will be short and soon we will stand before the great Judge.

    Lord help us all to more than a hoping hope. It will take a lively hope that is anchor to the soul. A hope that is both steadfast and sure.

    Yep, that right. I like that scripture 1Joh 5:13. I call it the know scripture.

    Used To

    I used to hope, but now I know,
    I used to cry, no place to go.
    I used to think, how it’d be,
    When I stand there, God and me.

    I used to pray, but wasn’t sure,
    I used to think, to endure.
    But now I know, name is there,
    Not by works, nor by prayer.

    I used to read, not understand,
    Keep the rules, fear the ban.
    Then I heard, the voice that day,
    Leave you sin, walk this way.

    So now I know, I see the way,
    Open eyes, plain as day.
    Out the rules, and on the ban,
    Now I read, and understand.

    These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. — 1Joh 5:13

    You ever think about that. Will you anchor hold in the storms of life. Let me see if I can find that and post it.

    Will Your Anchor Hold

    Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
    When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
    When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
    Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

    We have an anchor that keeps the soul
    Stedfast and sure while the billows roll,
    Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
    Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

    It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
    For ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand;
    And the cables passed from His heart to mine,
    Can defy the blast, through strength divine.

    It will firmly hold in the straits of fear,
    When the breakers have told the reef is near;
    Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
    Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.

    It will surely hold in the floods of death,
    When the waters cold chill our latest breath;
    On the rising tide it can never fail,
    While our hopes abide within the veil.

    Comment by More Christ Like Blog — December 31, 2008 @ 4:48 am

  8. Ira,

    I for one have greatly appreciated your writing, especially since our painful journeys have ran simultaneously. You began writing when my heart was at its rawest. I agree with you about those roots that will never be eradicated. Thank you for for allowing others to know the pain that is reality.

    Comment by sms — January 1, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  9. Mr. Ira, waiting for your kind comments about them there EAGLES. Also your final comments on them Jets in New York. Sorry, can’t help myself. Us Eagles fans are desperate.


    Comment by Elam — January 2, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  10. I’m doing a lot of “scattered” reading on this blog. I really enjoyed this read. It felt so peaceful, like an exhale. Counseling does wonders and I know God uses it a lot as a means to comfort His people. I’m one of those people. Really enjoying your stories.

    Comment by Francine S. — October 4, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

  11. Honestly Ira, you offer so much to ponder that here I am again over 2 months later. I remember reading this then because I wondered how you could despise your ex-friend so much yet “…always care for her. And look out for her where I can.” I really don’t get this. Didn’t get it over 2 months ago, either.

    Comment by Francine — December 18, 2012 @ 12:17 am

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