Spring has Sprung

This week I’ll address a question that I get asked from time to time. Given that the people who ask me are typically close friends, I suspect that others have the same curiosity but are too polite to ask. The question: “do I ever think about death?”

The Rushing clan doesn’t typically “do” spring break- except in the form of soccer tournament travel. I’ve been looking for excuses to travel with the family, however, so here we are back at Seaside. A couple of years ago, I resolved that we were done with Seaside for family vacations (but left the door open to visit Mom when she comes down). I have a tremendous sentimental attachment to the place, but realized that for “Seaside money” we could give the boys a broader set of experiences- our trip to Costa Rica for example. With everything going on in our lives, however, I forgot about my resolution and subconsciously went with what I knew. In fairness, I can’t travel to any exotic foreign destination due to my health anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

Livin' the dream

During the past year, I’ve written around death a lot. I’ve spent time on what will happen to my family in the aftermath, and I’ve addressed what I’m doing in preparation. While I’ve danced all around it, I haven’t gone in on the act itself. It’s not that I’m afraid of it, I just haven’t spent any time thinking about it. Considering that it’s Easter weekend, however, this seems the perfect time to bring it up.

We’ve engaged a counselor that will eventually help the kids through their grieving process. She noted that for children of a certain age, it’s tough to comprehend the finality of death. The concern is that our youngest may have issues with this- i.e. understanding that Dad’s dead, but expecting him to come back. Consequently, I’ve been very sensitive to that concept of late. It seems that everywhere I turn, the idea of life after death pops up.

The oldest and I finished reading Harry Potter a few weeks ago. The Potter books are chock full of death cheating. Harry sees his parents in the mirror of Erised. He runs into them again when Voldemort uses his old wand after killing Diggory. He sees his folks once again when he uses the resurrection stone. He himself cheats death by using said stone- crossing over and coming back. Then, of course, Voldemort crosses back forth a couple of times himself.

When I finished Potter I decided that rather than embark on a new series of books, I would pick an old favorite to revisit one last time. It was a tough choice, but after serious (serious) deliberation, LOTR and the Foundation series lost out to Dune. (I also had ulterior motives- since there are now nineteen volumes of Dune, I’ll probably run out before the books do).

Speaking of death (and rebirth I hope). To my shock and horror,
the original Seagrove Village Market has been demolished. This
to make way for a newer and better iteration, but that old one
held so many memories...
In any event, the Dune saga spans millennia, and there are numerous life after death shenanigans going on. Leto the Great’s Golden path is the broadest example. The most acute example, however, is the concept of the ghola. A ghola is a Tleilaxu creation- essentially a clone grown in an axlotl tank. In the case of Duncan Idaho, the tleilaxu figured out how to return the memories and personalities of the deceased to a new ghola- thereby creating the potential for eternal life.Of course, Leto takes advantage of this by growing a steady stream of Duncan’s over his three-thousand year long life. I digress.

All of this is to say that I’ve have a steady barrage of life-after-death imagery thrown at me for the last few months. Despite that, I’ve had no such thoughts or even daydreams for myself. Beyond the fact that it’s not possible, the idea just doesn’t interest me. Don’t get me wrong; I want to live for as I can (given a baseline quality of life). I feel pretty strongly, however, about leaving when my time is up.

I’ve heard that a lot of people who face death spend a lot of time thinking about the afterlife. I have not. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, as a Christian, there is no work to perform to earn myself a better fate in the afterlife. You don’t get into heaven by doing stuff. There is simply faith. If you believe, then your fate in the afterlife is a function of his grace. As for what happens next, the good book spells it out.  Secondly, I’m more focused on what I’m doing with my remaining time here than I am daydreaming about what will happen to me in the afterlife. I’m confident enough in what will happen later, that I can spend my energy on now.

So, what do I think about death? I don’t really. There you have it, nothing profound, no secrets. Ya’ll have a great week and please keep the prayers coming- not that I’ll beat the tumor, but that I’ll beat spring break on the panhandle. Catch you next week.


I'm Still Tickin...

Ladies and gentlemen, let's go to the clock...

The C.Rushing Big C Countdown Clock 

A year ago today, an oncologist told me that people in my position usually have about a year to live. Unfortunately, the tumor hasn’t gone anywhere and our options for treating it have just about run out. I’m here, however, and I plan to live and love for as long as I can.

I’ve been touched by all of the love and prayers you’ve sent me over the past year. You have no idea how much I appreciate each and every one of you.

Have a great Easter weekend, all my love, C.


Officially Out of Hand

For the past five years I’ve been working with a client in Southeast Iowa on a number of scopes that focus on downtown and riverfront revitalization. For those five years, I’ve visited every month for a couple of days, with the odd week-long charrette thrown in. Such a long relationship is atypical for a planning consultant. Most of the time, a consultant comes to town, works for 6 to 9 months, then moves on to the next city and client. Being able to work in one place for so long has been a tremendous blessing. I’ve been given the opportunity to dig deeper into the issues facing the community, and I’ve had time to develop strong relationships with my clients, elected officials, and people throughout the community. 

Last week as I was leaving town to head back to Chattanooga, the community sprung a surprise on me. Under the pretense of walking to take a last look at a project we’re working on, one of my clients friends led me to a street corner where a large group of folks had assembled. As we joined the group, the Mayor pulled out a piece of paper and proceeded to read a proclamation marking March 16, 2016 as Christian Rushing Day. He then also revealed that the street we were on would be renamed in my honor – Rushing Way. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed at the thoughtfulness of those gestures and was almost left speechless (I did manage to string a few sentences together in thanks).

I chose my profession because the work I do is in and of itself a reward. To be acknowledged in such a way by my clients and the community is a blessing beyond what I deserve. There is importance, however, beyond that blessing. The great thing about their gesture is that in addition to face value, it more importantly reflects how much the community values urban design and planning. That, my friends, is a great sign of things to come in the community, and something that makes me very happy. 

With love and gratitude in my heart, it is now safe to say
that the C.Rushing victory lap is officially out of hand.

The weekend was great, and it once again centered on (you guessed it) soccer. Fortunately, the traveling son didn’t have to travel. Our academy hosted the Shamrock Cup here in Chattanooga, which made things much easier for us. The youngest played out at North River, and had a great game. He hustled hard and scored a handful of goals- one being the equalizer just before the final whistle. The oldest had a really good tournament, though his team lost in the finals to our Academy team that is a year older. He too hustled and scored a handful of goals- including a well-taken last second equalizer in the Championship game. The game went to penalty kicks and while he converted his, the team lost 5-4.

Earlier in the tournament, as I was watching from the sidelines, a group of girls about my son’s age posted up next to me. While I was trying to focus on the game, I couldn’t help but overhear what they were saying. The first few minutes was typical ten-year old talk, but their attention eventually turned to the game. “Oh my god, that’s S. Rushing!”, “He’s a really good player”, “He’s really smart”, “His eyes are so blue”, etc, etc, etc. Instead of feeling flattered or proud, I felt an unbidden and irrational surge of jealousy. That’s my boy. Who the hell are these little girls talking about my son? They don’t know him. They never saw him as a baby with stomach issues that threw up everywhere, they didn’t change his diapers, or rock him to sleep, or read him bedtime stories, or fix his boo-boos. They need to go somewhere else and talk about someone else’s kid.

Of course, a wave of shame immediately washed over me for that little train of thought. What a silly and awful reaction. My son is growing up and is becoming his own man. My sentimentality and possessiveness won't change this- and I don't want that to change. I want him to grow and prosper and become his own guy. And seriously, he’s only ten. I’m not supposed to feel like that until the kid hits thirteen, or goes on his first date, or gets his drivers license, or leaves for college, or flies “the nest”. But I suppose that’s the issue.

I probably won't live long enough for him to ditch me in favor of hanging out with his friends, I won't see him in the rear-view mirror after dropping him off at college, I won't see him leave my family to start his own. We are getting closer to the point where goodbye will be goodbye. It seems that my reaction to that fact has been to keep the boys super close and jealously guard my time with them. On the other hand, I want them to grow and be social and spend time with their friends, and spend time alone. Selfishly, however, I want to spend every waking minute with them. I don't want to share him or his brother- they're mine. I know I need to let go and let them be free to be. It's tough to let go, however, when we're closer to the point where letting go is forever.


...With a Little Help From My Friends

Sorry I missed ya’ll last week. We were traveling for a soccer tournament (surprise) and I missed my normal writing windows. In any event, news last week is that Joey Feek passed. I think she and I were diagnosed at about the same time, and over the year I’ve seen updates on her pop up in my Facebook feed. I don’t really feel a connection to the Feeks (I’m not into country music), but we’ve been on a parallel path so I felt compelled to at least mention her passing. RIP Ms. Feek.

Greetings from Blackberry Farm, where D and I are enjoying a little escape from the “real world”. Sadly, we are here shortly after the passing of the proprietor- apparently a heck of a guy (and one who spent time at The French Laundry). When all this went down last spring, an international coalition of C.Rushing cronies pooled resources and treated us to a cabin at this remarkable resort. It’s been a challenge trying to find the right time to come- but in the end we figured that we had to make our own time and just do it. As fate would have it this turned out to be the perfect time- pure sunshine, 75-degree weather, and the place isn’t crowded. We can only offer our sincere and heartfelt thanks to our friends for giving us the vehicle to spend some special time alone in a special place. Having been so blessed to do the things that I’ve done in the last year, life’s bar has been raised. Now that I’ve seen and tasted how the other half lives, it's going to be mighty tough to go back to the “real world”.

This is an auspicious week for another reason. Returning to the list of things I would like to see before I check out, we can cross another item off. My oldest was accepted to the Baylor School and will join the class of 2023. I could not be more proud of him. Baylor seems to be tailor-made for him, and he has an awful lot to offer them. Would that I could see that relationship grow and flourish over the next seven years. As it is, I will be content in the knowledge that he will be in a caring and supportive community, (and will settle for paying his tuition from beyond the grave ;)

That's a good looking young man.
Thankfully, he got it from his mama.

As for me, I’m doing pretty well. I’m dealing with some side-effects of the chemo and pain meds, but as I’ve mentioned before, those things don’t seem to effect me as much as some other folks in my situation- so I can’t complain. We’re set for another scan in early April to see where we stand. In the meantime, there aren’t enough hours in the day. There have never really been enough, but now it’s even more of an issue. I’m continuing to work both in Chattanooga and Iowa. I love my projects, my clients, and the people I work with (to the point that it's tough to call it work). I have a lot of writing to do- I don’t suspect I’ll be able to get it all done. I’m going to do it for as long as I can, however, and I suppose that’s all any of us can aspire to anyway.
Calm before the storm.

 As I’m writing this from the boathouse dock at Blackberry, D is canoeing around a small pond. In five short minutes she has managed to run aground three times. Bless her heart. No moral to the story- just a bit of local color. 

The pond was angry that day...

We returned to the “real world” on Friday, and in getting back in to life as a normal person, I met a friend for coffee. As we settled in, he reached into a bag and handed me a gift. The bottle I pulled from the bag was a princely gift indeed. Thanks to my friend, I've had another literal taste of how the other half lives- so much for returning the "real world".

Which brings me to something that's been on my mind. It's been fun to share some of the things that groups of friends have done for me over the course of the past year. I've shied away from sharing many of the things that individuals have done- I don't want to put anyone on blast (as the kids say these days), and most of these folks are modest and would probably feel uncomfortable being written about anyway. On the other side of that coin, I don't want any of you to feel slighted because I haven't written about you as I have written about others. Please know that I've cherished every gift, prayer, thought, lunch, email, and letter I've received. Each of you are a blessing to me and my family.  

I must admit that I’m starting to feel the pressure to die already. Having been the recipient of so many kind gestures, I’ll eventually have to pay this all off. (just kidding Mom, calm down)

As many of you know, I’m an introvert, can be awkward around people at times, and I’m no social butterfly (I see cocktail parties as a close approximation of Hades). For those reasons, my perception has been that I don’t have a large number of friends. If I’ve learned anything over the past year, however, it’s just how many friends I do have. I suspect that this number is low when compared to some of my more gregarious and outgoing compadres, but the depth and quality of my connections have been made apparent over this last year. I’m so incredibly lucky to have had this year to discover that truth- lots of folks never get the chance to find out just how many people care for them. So, to all of my friends, from Atlanta to Albuquerque, Athens to Aspen, Birmingham to Birmingham, California to Colorado, Chisholm to Chattanooga, Henley-in-Arden to Highland Park, Iowa to Indiana, Mississippi to Montgomery, New Orleans to Nashville, Ringgold to Richmond, and everywhere in between- I love you.

Chemo music of the week is back! I was going through a rough patch a couple of weeks ago (both physically and mentally), and pulled out an old go-to album. This one is just as likely to put you in a morose mood as pull you out of it, but maybe that’s the point. Despite the fact that they can be dark, I do love The Cure. Their remix album Mixed Up, is an all-time fave of mine. I’ve been wearing out Fascination Street, A Forest, The Walk and Lovesong.