A Birthday Thank-You to My Mother

Today would have been my mother’s 96th birthday.  (She died at 91.)

The other day, while indulging in my usual frustration over how my college students are so often ignorant of so many things that I was familiar with well before high school, it occurred to me that a substantial portion of those things were material I learned not in school or even through my own reading, but from my mother – not in any didactic setting, but informally.  For example, I first learned about Versailles and Pompeii through my mother’s recollections of her own school projects on those topics; the mnemonic “SPA” (to recall the chronological order of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle) she likewise recalled from her school days.

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The Invisible Casualties of the “Opioid Epidemic”

My wife Alison was one of the casualties of the tragedy described in the article just below. She took her life this past March by overdosing (I surmise) on the medications she’d been prescribed for chronic pain. She explicitly told me over the years that she kept a stash with her at all times in case things got bad enough for her to have to take her own life. “I have no intention of living past 70,” she’d often say. She was 57.

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Bishop John Shelby Spong, RIP

I was saddened to learn today of the death of John Shelby Spong, Bishop Emeritus of the Newark, New Jersey diocese of the Episcopalian Church. Though I can’t claim to have known Bishop Spong very well, he was a close friend of my parents’, and a constant presence in our family home. He was for decades Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Christ Hospital in Jersey City, where both of my parents worked–my father for forty, and my mother for thirty years. So we knew Bishop Spong less as a bishop than as a hospital trustee. The stories–or legends–I heard about him for decades were about health care, not theology.

Spong speaking in England; photo credit: David Gibson/RNS

Christ Hospital started its life as an Episcopalian institution. It later merged (or attempted to merge) with St Francis Hospital across the city, a Catholic institution. The merger initiated an apocalyptic sectarian battle for the mortal souls of both hospitals, a battle in which (I’m told) Bishop Spong did a fair bit of the fighting. Eventually, after a series of Jesuit-worthy legal complications I’ve never been able to grasp, Christ Hospital was consumed by the godless and soulless CarePoint Health System. By then, Bishop Spong had had the good sense to leave the hospital behind; Jesus Christ may or may not have been resurrected, depending on your theology, but Christ Hospital was not going to be resurrected, at least not in the form it originally took as an urban community hospital in the Episcopalian tradition.

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The Lessons of 9/11: Twenty Years Later

I post this every year around 9/11, so here it is again with some revisions.

Today is the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from two decades of perpetual warfare. I offer them somewhat dogmatically, as a mere laundry list (mostly) minus examples, but I have a feeling that the lessons will ring true enough for many people, and that most readers can supply appropriate examples of their own.

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9/11 + 20

This Saturday marks the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. To that end, I thought I’d haul out some of the more edifying things I’ve written over the years about, or of relevance to, 9/11. In doing this, I’m to some extent plagiarizing at least the form of Chris Sciabarra’s most recent blog post at his blog, summarizing the twenty annual posts he’s written about 9/11. But plagiarism in this case is intended more as a tribute than as mere theft. If you read one thing about 9/11, you should read Chris’s Post of Posts.

The old World Trade Center site, April 2017.
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Albert Pelham, RIP

I’m deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Albert Pelham, President of the Montclair, New Jersey chapter of the NAACP, and Executive Director of the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation. This article just below nicely summarizes his many achievements as a civil rights activist and “social justice warrior.”

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