The Present of Presence

by Dr. Jeff Spiess
I have never seen a new BMW, Mercedes, or Cadillac parked in a driveway on Christmas morning with a giant red bow on top; based on the TV ads, I must be living in the wrong neighborhood. What is it that makes a gift perfect, or even good? If you were going to give yourself a present this year, what would it be?
 

We Could Be Doing So Much Better

We Could Be Doing So Much Better
by Dr. Jeff Spiess

We treat our health care system as if it were the best in the world; we embrace the idea that medicine can treat, can cure virtually any disease. We pay far more for health care than anyone else on the planet, we should expect miracles. But that fantastic idea is just that, a fantasy…

Medicare for...Me, at Least

Medicare for...Me, at Least
by Dr. Jeff Spiess
I have officially arrived at Senior Citizendom, and I’ve got the card to prove it. Turning 65 is a huge milestone in American culture. Medicare is designed for the elderly and disabled, and, since I don’t have any qualifying disability, I guess that makes me …

Because You Want to Do It Well

by Dr. Jeff Spiess
You only get to die once, so do it right!

Vacationing in Hiroshima

Vacationing in Hiroshima
by Dr. Jeff Spiess
The Hiroshima Carp play professional baseball at Mazda stadium (I recently learned from my brother-in-law that the Miata assembled there). Hiroshima is a bustling commercial and industrial city that happens to surround a park commemorating total devastation. I don’t know what else I thought I would to find. For me, and for most people, the names “Hiroshima” and “Nagasaki” meant only one thing – these are the only two places on earth where nuclear weapons were unleashed ... I have encountered few places where death and life are so starkly demarcated yet so vitally interconnected ... 

Where is your calm?

by Dr. Jeff Spiess
As I’m writing this, my wife and I are virtually confined to our hotel in Japan, awaiting the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis. Forecasters predict record setting rainfall, up to 30 inches or so, and wind gusts approaching 150 mph. So the safety of the Tokyo Hilton is a refuge, a place of safety and calm (and a really good breakfast buffet!) in the face of the howling bearing down on us...

...but I could be wrong

...but I could be wrong
by Dr. Jeff Spiess
Everybody seems so sure. Politicians and pundits and preachers proclaim their righteous opinions and postulate the depravity and corruption of their opponents. Dogmas are spouted and anathemas announced with a vigor that would make Savonarola cringe. Is everybody so convinced they are right, or are they just trying to make points, to score victory in a power struggle? Whatever the motivation, whoever “wins”, the inevitable result is increased frustration, suffering, and desperation in all of us. After decades of working with the terminally ill, I believe they might have something to teach us about this.

Final Jeopardy? Bet It All!

Final Jeopardy? Bet It All!
by Dr. Jeff Spiess
I met Alex Trebek before he knew he was dying, well, at least before he told the world that he was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer...

This week, he said, “I realize that there is an end in sight for me, just as there is for everyone else…when I do pass on, one thing they will not say at my funeral is, ‘Oh, he was taken from us too soon.’” Mr. Trebek, from where I sit, you’re getting this one right.

 

Cain and Abel - A Reimagining

by Dr. Jeff Spiess

If I’m encouraging us all to think about our own mortality, why would I write about murder?  

What would it feel like to be the original murderer?
They were the only two children in the world, yet they were rivals … It was unfair! He hadn’t understood the rules, but he realized that he had lost…

Today, in the first of an occasional series stemming from my interest in stories and images of death and dying as portrayed in the arts, literature, sacred texts, and popular culture, I reimagine the ancient Hebrew story of Cain and Abel (from Genesis chapter 4).

Crying in Baseball

Crying in Baseball
by Dr. Jeff Spiess
My wife calls it happy face, sad face. It is the montage of televised images that immediately follows the final out of the World Series. The victors take the field, fist-bumping, embracing, donning the championship caps, the losers sit in their dugout, often alone, heads down, and, yes, sometimes crying. Their struggle through 162 regular season games and three playoff series in October has ended in defeat. They will not hoist a trophy or be the stars of a hometown parade. They have died, perhaps valiantly, but essentially ignominiously, and that is good cause for tears.

Your Navel, Your Humanity

by Dr. Jeff Spiess
You don’t remember it, but it happened; you were there, playing a starring role...The indisputable evidence is there in that wrinkled dimple in the middle of your abdomen.

The Smirk

by Dr. Jeff Spiess
I heard the chuckle dozens of times, saw the smirk over and over. The chuckle was one syllable long, a quick exhalation, between a “huh” and a cough. The smirk was a quick pull at one corner of the mouth, a slight near-wink of the eyelid on the same side, closer to a tic than an expression. They were simultaneous, took less than a second, but spoke volumes.