An Ode to a Brief Life

When I wrote this poem I wasn’t thinking of it as a miracle of my life. But some comments by a friend brought it to mind in that context. It was one of my miracles. See if you agree.

An Ode to a Brief Life

From the smallest cell,
You developed and grew,
Struggling to prepare,
For a life – Someone new.

Conceived in love,
Your small life was planted,
By parents who wanted,
A long life granted.

Siblings before you,
Robert and Joseph – longed to arrive.
Both conceived and loved,
But failed to survive.

Theirs indeed – likewise your fate.
Early, too early, you desired the light.
Your arrival – small and fragile,
Unable to fight, your short life took flight.

But to each life is granted.
A purpose by God, an answer to prayer .
In your death, your mother was to be,
Drawn to that place – another was there.

For there was a small child,
In need of a mother.
His own could not care for him,
He much needed another.

The two were united,
Indeed there were three.
A mother and father,
There was them and there was me.

You brought us together,
You were the cause, a family were we.
A child was loved and there was great care,
It was a gift – unplanned – from you unto me.

And so I remember,
A brief existence, an un-named infant.
But if it all had not happened just in this way,
My life, so happy, would be greatly different.

I offer my gratitude for your life heroic,
As unintentional as the heroism may be,
For I am your brother,
Only because – you gave your brief life unto me.

I look to the day when in eternity we meet.
I’ll greet you humbly to learn of your name.
I owe you the life – long and fully enjoyed,
For without your gift – my life would not be same.

© Grandpa Don Plefka
Orland Park, Il
March 2, 2009

The basis for the poem

In a Letter to me from Catholic Charities in April of 1994:

“Our caseworker noted that Florence had planned adoption for your future and arranged for temporary care in the newborn nursery at the hospital where you were born on May 6, 1931. It was Evangelical Deaconess Hospital at 5421 South Morgan in Chicago. This hospital later became Christ Hospital and moved to Oak Lawn, IL, where it is now located.

Your adoptive mother contacted our agency on May 26, 1931. She was in that hospital, having delivered a premature baby who died. She stated that she knew you were in the nursery and available for adoption, and she wanted to adopt you and only you.

Arrangements were made to obtain Florence’s signature on the adoption surrender. Her signature was received by Evangelical Deaconess Hospital, on June 2, 1931.”

So my life as a child of Sylvia and Joseph Plefka began as the direct result of the still birth of a premature and unnamed child. How very tragic for the child. How very fortunate for me. As I later discovered, “Florence” was Florence Lucille Lossner of Cleveland, Ohio, mother of Jim and Ken Cecora, divorced from their father Dan Cecora and living with her parents at the time of my conception. It would have been very difficult to introduce her illegitimate baby into the family household and explain the child to her then seven and five year old sons. I am reasonably certain that my father Alden (Al) Copeland had no say in the matter. As a result, “Lucy” was sent to live with a cousin in Chicago to have her baby and arranged to have the hospital care for him until parents could be found. You can find more details of this at Cecora.

I had a great childhood and it has led to a wonderful adult life. For myself, I would have it no other way. Thanks to my un-named sibling who, paradoxically, if .had lived, would not have been a sibling.

Joe and Sylvia lost two sons at birth, Robert and Joseph, Jr. in addition to the unnamed child in May of 1931. There may have been, and probably were, two or more additional failed pregnancies. I believe that every life has a purpose, regardless of its length or its nature. That includes the un-born. Obviously the one about whom I have written has had a profound effect on me. For many, the reason and effects may be unrealized but none the less real and important. May God bless them and welcome them into His Kingdom where we will meet eventually.

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Rabble Rouser Report #14 – Genoside

I hope we are not becoming a people of shallow thinkers. Here is what I mean …

Do we want to keep repeating the mistakes of the past? I hope not.

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The Extra Post Card

This is the first of my life’s miracles of which I became ware. It wasn’t until many years after it happened that I recognized it as a miracle. You see, for a long time I thought I was doing everything all by myself. So, here is the story of The Extra Post card.

I now know that there were miracles before and after that.

I also now know that I had a lot of help along the way. I had the help of family, friends and the help of God … even at the times I wasn’t sure He existed. He does that. I now am well aware of it.

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Skinny Dipping

This is one of my favorite stories.

I heard that story When I was a young father at a mens club gathering at church. Our pastor told it to the group and of course it got a lot of laughs.

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The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck

This is humor in the form of a poem.

My son Tom responded with information on the original poem which was inspired by an actual event in history. The original “boy” of the poem, the 12 year old son of a naval officer, stood at his post, awaiting instructions … with tragic results. However, the poem sparked many parodies of which this was one. See Casablanca.

It occurs to me that the reason that the poem, as tragic as it is, gave birth to many humorous parodies is the fact that, as my mother used to tell me, “Discretion is the better part of valor”. There comes a time when you must realize that the only orders you are going too get are those generated by your own common sense and you need to know when it is time to abandon ship without being told to do so.

Besides, it strikes my funny bone to visualize this boy running about in his sister’s panties. Well, I suppose, its better than none at all. In my humble opinion, the boy was more stupid than heroic. I hope that belief doesn’t brand me as being heartless and cruel.

Maybe this should be classified as Humor with a Lesson.

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Free Advice

I want to take the opportunity to pass on some of the things that have helped me and may help others. They are not new but I am in my 84th year and have been around the block a couple of times. I my travels I have picked up a few things that may be of value.

  • Be open to opportunities. They often come at surprising times but do so with caution to insure that it is an opportunity and not a trap.

  • Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Be careful as to your long term commitments and don’t make decisions with short term eyes. Always consider the long term ramifications of your choices.

  • When taking advice (such as now) consider the motives of the giver of the advise. If they will benefit directly or indirectly in your acting on their advice be very weary of accepting it. If they do not benefit it is a good sign that they are motivated selflessly and you can consider that advice favorably.

  • Be patient with life. Instant gratification is often fleeting and does not satisfy. Contentment in life is proportional to the effort put into it. Look for contentment for it brings the joy and happiness that is lasting.

  • Be patient with people and slow to be offended. Always ask if the offence was really intended as you perceived it or was it the result of a person’s personal problem which had nothing to do with you. Then of course there is the possibility that you deserved to be offended. Sometimes we need to recognize our own faults, then correct them, or at least try.

  • When a disagreement occurs … and they will … always ask yourself, “How important is it for me to win this argument?” Do I want to sacrifice love or friendship to serve my pride or my ego? Sometimes it is prudent to lose or just refuse to fight in the interest of peace and love.

  • On of my favorite expressions is, “I thought I made a mistake once … but I was in error.” It is my way of saying, I am often in error and when I am, my first action is to admit it and then ask for help. To try to hide a mistake is to put your trustworthiness in jeopardy which deepens the problem. Admitting error brings others to your side. People are always willing to help an honest person. You are recognized as a responsible person.

  • Live a life of truth, honesty and justice, and be cognizant of the fact that Justice applies to everyone equally. A decision or action that I consider to be “justice” to me, if it damages someone else, is not Justice. Justice is when no one hurts and sometimes we must have less than we want for justice to exist.

  • Recognize that our work and indeed all our efforts in life should contribute to the wellbeing of our fellow humans. When we gain anything at the expense of another we loose because we have damaged humanity.

  • This list is not complete but it will suffice for now. You may think that I have ignored faith and religion but I haven’t. All the above is not only based in my Faith in God but it is the manifestation of that faith. It is the way I love God and my neighbor or at least do my best to accomplish that. I just try to be more kind than I need to be.

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A Unified Christianity

This is interesting, to say the least …

In January 2014, Bishop Palmer gained notoriety after Pope Francis sent him as a special envoy to a Charismatic Evangelical Leadership Conference hosted by Kenneth Copeland. During the conference, Bishop Palmer presented a short video message from the Pope. Bishop Tony and Pope Francis were personal friends. The message was recorded when the two met a week prior to the Kenneth Copeland Ministries leaders conference. Pope Francis suggested the recording and it was recorded on Tony Palmer’s iPhone. The message is one of brotherhood, unity and love. A declaration that the Reformation protest has ended. At the end of the presentation and video message, Copeland prayed for the Pope and recorded his own message back to the Pope. Bishop Tony Palmer died on Sunday 20th July, 2014, after injuries sustained in a motorbike accident.

I do not believe that I am related to Kenneth Copeland unless it is through some common ancestor in Scotland in the 1200’s or 1300’s. I also do not identify with his ministries which have been tainted with questions of possible financial improprieties. Neither do I presume to judge him or his ministries although I do find his style of preaching not to be my prefered style.

All that aside, Tony Palmer fascinates me. He had a Catholic wife and their children were raised Catholic. Yet, he was a charismatic Episcopal Bishop who has worked in Roman Catholic circles. I like his statement … “Diversity is Divine. Division is diabolical.”  I “preach” that a lot as I firmly believe that we should celebrate our diversity and learn from it while freely sharing God’s gifts and His love. As stated in the video, for all practical proposes in 1999 the Catholic and Lutheran churches agreed on the doctrine of Justification of faith which was the prime reason for Martin Luther’s split and this essentially resolves the conflict over the nature of justification which was at the root of the Protestant Reformation. The document was later ratified by the Methodists.

I don’t understand why this agreement has not been more generally promulgated and why it hasn’t been the seed of general unity. I don’t envision a return to one united Christian Church under a single leadership. I doubt that will ever happen. But we should be able to respect each other as working toward the same goal as United Christians. We should be able to unite around our common beliefs and it could be done if not for the diabolical divisions which are the result of misunderstandings and misinformation or just, if you will, unimportant window dressing. It is not important how you worship as long as you do.

Of the misunderstandings, Confession to a Priest was mentioned in the interview as a “problem” with the Roman Church. Why? Confession can be therapeutic and is a way of humbling ourselves. However, it is not mandatory and never has been. We, as Catholics are not too receive Communion while in the state of serious sin and so we should reconcile with God through confession in order to receive. But it is also a matter of conscience that determines our state of sin and I personally don’t know anyone who is in that kind of trouble.

Some say that we idolize the saints. But, we idolize them no more than the average sports fan idolizes a star quarterback or exceptional basketball player or swimmer or anyone who has won an Olympic medal. We look to them in awe of their accomplishments and for inspiration. We hope to emulate them and since they apparently have a connection to God, we ask them to intercede for us.

Probably the most misunderstood is the Catholic devotion to Mary … The Mother of God. That just sends some people off on a tangent to places unknown. But why do we give her that title? We’ll start with Jesus. If we are Christians we do accept Jesus as both human and divine and the two are an inseparable One. As a human, Jesus’ mother was Mary. But, if Mary is the mother of Jesus, she must be the mother of God because Jesus is both human and divine. It is that simple. No, she is not a God, nor did she exist before god. (Mary Ball was the mother of the first president of the United states, George Washington. She was not a president. She was the mother of a president.) But why is she so revered? Well, she is the rock star of all saints. As a young, unmarried girl she was told that, if she accepted, she would become the virgin mother of a Savior of the world and she trusted God and accepted the assignment. She was the first follower of Christ and his biggest fan. That took a lot of trust in God and a lot of bravery. It is that simple. She, of all people knew she was not God nor any where equal to Him. We admirer her for her faith and devotion.

And then there is the subject of belief based in both the Bible and Tradition. There were Christians before there was a bible and the Bible rose from their traditions so how can you throw away tradition? Yes, the bible was inspired by God but not dictated word for word by God. If it was, how would there be four different gospels describing the life of Christ with so many differing details. The Truth of the Bible lies in its message and it is that message which was inspired. But, of course that is an argument that can go on until we are able to ask God Himself for the answer.  My theory is that early protestants were so anti-pope that they grasped at the idea of a perfect Bible to prove that they didn’t need a pope or anyone else. But that is only my theory.

Getting down to basics, lets talk about “The Message”. That is the only thing that is important. Do we abide by Jesus’ message of love of God and each other? If we do, then we are Christians. Everything else is just window dressing or even distraction. Religious organizations are human devices intended to aid us in our need to find God and His ways. As such, all are imperfect, as are we. I invite you to read ” How Could I Go Back” which tells why I am a Catholic in relationship to the faults in my church.

I also invite you to “Hearts Open To the Spirit“.

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