At Least Three Times
I want to tell you two personal stories from my past. They are about two significant events in my journey down the yellow brick road of life. I experienced a strange but a reassuring feeling that came over me as I faced each obstacle. I didn’t hear any voices, nor did I see some phantom providing comfort in either situation. It had to do with how I felt long before accomplishing either goal. I was so confident that I told people before I emerged in either struggle. I felt like Sisyphus struggling to move a boulder up a mountain.
However, the difference between Sisyphus and me is that I believed that I could accomplish both tasks.
The first of the two Sisyphus endeavors dealt with the Presbyterian Church a half-century ago. That denomination was the driving force behind the idea of an ecumenical effort to join a handful of mainline Protestant churches into one denomination in 1961. The churches developed a framework for this new ecumenical endeavor. It was a cutting-edge attempt that was several years in the making. However, the Presbyterians withdrew from that effort in 1970.
Two years later, Hurricane Agnes came up the East Coast and created the worst flood in Northeastern Pennsylvania in decades. I lived in Kingston, PA, at the time. All the homes in Kingston and neighboring communities had floodwater on their first floor and many on the second floor. I had one of less than a dozen homes that wasn’t flooded out in the entire area.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, I had an idea. We could merge the Presbyterian and Methodist congregations, which were located across the street from each other, into the first example of what the Presbyterian denomination envisioned in the early 60s. Both congregations voted unanimously to create the first Church of Christ Uniting. Then I went to the local presbytery and asked to be elected as a delegate to the next General Assembly. They elected me, and I went to the General Assembly to reinstate the Presbyterian Church to the ecumenical organization they had started. The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to return to that ecumenical effort. Several denominational leaders told me that the General Assembly had never reversed itself on such a significant issue so quickly.
That was the first time in my journey down the yellow brick road of life that I felt assured of success long before any group voted on my ecumenical idea. While the task wasn’t easy, I wasn’t worried about the outcome.
The next time that I had that secure and confident feeling was in 2008. I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The surgeon robotically removed my prostate, but it had spread beyond the prostate. I took hormones pills, shots, and radioactive gold implanted seeds for four months to kill the cancer cells. I went to the U. of Chicago Medical Center for daily radiation treatments during the last two months of treatment.
I laid on my back while a large device called a linear accelerator slowly moved over my body in an attempt to destroy the cancer. The radiation treatment took place every day for two months. The procedure took about an hour as the device slowly moved, stopped, and shot a radiation beam at the area. Then it moved slightly and continued radiating the area. That procedure was repeated for an hour. On Wednesday of the last week of two months of radiation, I got up from an hour of radiation and said to the radiologist, “You got it today.” My comment startled the radiologist. This was the second time that I felt confident without any facts. I was sure that I no longer had any prostate cancer. The last few cancer cells were killed on that Wednesday.
I have taken a PSA test annually for over a dozen years to detect whether the cancer had returned. In a couple of weeks, I will take another PSA test. I assure you that it will be negative. I’ll die someday, but it won’t due to prostate cancer.
This is a present-day story about that same feeling of assurance and comfort. While the world I live in is stressful and haunting, I feel confident that all will be well soon.
When I returned to visit my family in Myanmar during winter break in 2017, I sat down with Moh Moh, Ko Ko, and Ti Ti to discuss college. She had a couple of years to prepare for college. However, I remember looking at Ti Ti and saying that where she goes to college is up to her parents and her.
That being said, I told Ti Ti that she had to decide what she wanted to do after college. Then find the best school to prepare her for her career. Then suggested going to college away from home. What she and her parents decide is up to them, but these were just my ideas.
Ti Ti asked what I thought about spending a year of college outside Myanmar. I responded that I spent a year doing post-graduate work at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Traveling to a new place provides the best education for any student.
Two years ago, Ti Ti started her college education at Gusto University in Yangon, which is three hundred miles from their home. However, COVID forced her to go to Gusto online. The following year, the military seized power in a coup. She still learning online.
That is the backstory. Moh Moh wrote that she and Ko Ko applied for a Diversity Visa, DV, six months ago. Our State Department has a program, which is essentially a lottery. If an individual or family’s name is drawn, they will be able to immigrate to America. In June, they will find out whether they won their green cards. That will be the most important and exciting event in their lives and mine.
I’m working on a couple of backup plans to get them to America if they don’t get their DVs. Ti Ti could go to school in America if she files for an F-1 visa. The parents can also apply for employment visas. Nevertheless, I have the feeling that they will win the DV lottery and soon will be living in my home on the lake.
I can’t guarantee that they will win the DV lottery. Nevertheless, it is the same feeling that I had years ago in Kingston, PA, and when I went through radiation therapy in Chicago. No one from our State Department called me to say that my family won five DVs, but they will announce it in June. Nevertheless, I feel confident that they will win. They will live with me in America, and Ti Ti will travel abroad to get her college education…in America.________________________________________________________________________________________
This video is Neil Diamond singing my family’s song.