Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes



The Mourners

by William H. Ogilvie

When all the light and life are sped
Of flowing tails and manes
And flashing stars, and forelocks spread,
and foam-flecks on the reins.

I like to think from every land
And far beyond the wave
A crowd of ghosts will come and stand
In grief around the grave.


A friend of mine died Friday morning.  He had been in the hospice program through Methodist Hospital for the past 11 months.   He died with his daughter holding his hand, telling him it was okay to let go.  I was assigned to Jim  as a hospice volunteer but I can honestly say we became friends in the past year.  Jim had lived a big life.  He had a family.  He had been a successful venture capitalist, a entrepreneur, involved in starting up a number of new businesses, saving failing ones and generally having a good time putting deals together.  He had worked and travled in Mexico and the Phillipines and was well traveled.  He had all the trappings of what successful business men have, a big house on Lake Minnetonka, boats, a cabin up north, nice cars, plenty of money to spend.   And he was an alcoholic.

Jim was very up front about his disease.  He had been sober for seventeen years when I met him and it was besides his children and grand children the thing he was most proud that he had accomplished in his life, though he was not boastful about it.  Jim taught me a lot about what it takes to make a commitment to sobriety.  The most profound thing he shared was;

“the biggest mistake that people make who want to stop drinking is they think they will be happier if they quit.  And so they come to A. A. for a while and they discover they are just as miserable as before.   If you really want to stop drinking you have to address the underlying issues that drove the drinking in the first place.  You have to find your serenity.   If you can do that, you can quit drinking for good.”

What made Jim an amazing person was his positive attitude and his focus on connection to others.  When I met Jim he was on oxygen 24/7.   He couldn’t drive anymore and yet he found a way to get to his local A. A. meeting over the noon hour every day.  He sponsored countless men and women over the years and was constantly patiently encouraging others.   Jim had loyal friends because he was such a loyal friend.

Jim and I mostly talked when I visited and usually we laughed a lot.  Jim shared the foibles that happen in life and the good stuff too.  Jim had a interest in horse racing and would bet races all over the world from his living room connected through his lap top.  Some weeks he was up, some weeks he was down, but he always had fun.

Jim is a success story of how our communities are supposed to work.  The hospice program gave Jim dignity.  It allowed him to remain in his apartment and receive outstanding care tailored to his needs that actually improved his health and quality of life for his remaining year.   Jim got stronger while in hospice and up until the last month lived with minimal pain and with good support from his nurse and social services.  Jim would tell me, “I can’t believe all the things I have access too, life is good.”

Jim served in the Marine corps, but he never spoke about his military service.  We didn’t talk politics, I am not even sure how old hew was.  We didn’t talk about his illness and we didn’t talk about death.   Jim and I just talked about our lives, funny things that happened and played cribbage.   And from those conversations I watched a man who truly was at peace with all that happened in his life and learned the secret to that happiness – find your serenity.   And if you haven’t found it yet, figure out what you need to change, and change it.

I shall miss our conversations.  I will miss your laugh and your smile.  Thanks for the lessons on humility and serenity.  God Bless you Jim.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.


Weltering In The Grace of Love’s Remand

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November sunset on my street corner.

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme

I am a late bloomer as a writer and am still finding my way playing with words.  I have come to appreciate the idea of a muse; having at times, an almost out-of-body experience where it feels like words flow from my fingertips as I type in ways that are separate from my conscious brain. When this happens, I wait anxiously, like an onlooker,  to see what my fingertips have to say as the words appear on the screen.   Not that my writing hits the page in its final form with a first draft. My writing process consists of trying to get a first draft done fairly quickly; quick being a relative term as it can range from one hour, to one day to one month.  From there I tend to tinker endlessly, changing lines, changing words, re-ordering structure, reading the poem out loud over and over again, with literally dozens of edits, until it reads at least to me, without awkwardness. I will sometimes come back to a poem over a year later and make edits, finding the fallow period helps my subconscious smooth out flaws.

I am still amazed by the well of experience from which inspiration arises. Sometimes it starts with one word.  An example is the sonnet Simple Praise.    It came about while reading Lila by Marilynne Robinson.  In it is there is a bible passage that re-occurs throughout the book.  The passage is from Ezekiel and is relayed by Robinson as:

And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was cut, neither was thou washed in water to cleanse thee; thou was not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. No eye pitied thee, to do any of these things unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou was cast out in the open field, for that thy person was abhorred, in the day thou wast born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee weltering in thy blood, I said unto thee, Though thy art in thy blood, live; yea, I said unto thee, Though thou art in thy blood, live!.

A powerful metaphor for a middle-aged man in the midst of his mid-life crisis; get up, stop wallowing, take responsibility for your true skin, taste your blood and live.

The first time I read it, a word jumped out at me – weltering.  It’s one of those words, that I thought I knew the definition, but on it coming into my consciousness more deeply, I doubted whether I fully comprehended its meaning.  So it sent me to the dictionary.

verb (used without object)
  1. to roll, toss, or heave, as waves or the sea.
  2. to roll, writhe, or tumble about; wallow, as animals (often followed by about):
  3. to lie bathed in or be drenched in something, especially blood.
  4. to become deeply or extensively involved, associated, entangled,etc.:
    to welter in confusion or despair.
  1. confused mass; a jumble or muddle: welter of anxious faces.
  2. a state of commotion, turmoil, or upheaval.
  3. a rolling, tossing, or tumbling about, as or as if by the sea, waves, or wind.

Definition from


Several of the definitions held portent to what was happening in my life, in particular the concept of being deeply entangled and in a state of commotion and turmoil.  At the time, I was attempting to use poetry as a vehicle to imperfectly capture portions of my spirituality and this one word, weltering, began swirling in my mind and from it a sonnet emerged.

The sonnet Simple Praise intentionally has connections to Reinhold Neibor and his focus on realism. On this week before Christmas, as I prepare to celebrate with family and friends, I feel more strongly the passage of time.  Christmas is my yearly reminder on the possibilities of rebirth and renewal. It is a time I try to strengthen my internal connections to hope and celebration. It is a time to be thankful.  And to remind myself to live, truly live, in the coming new year!

Simple Praise

by T.A. Fry

Weltering in the grace of love’s remand,
What brokenness have I put right today?
God is unknowable.  Yet I pray
To avoid the trap of greed’s quicksand.
Cold foot in mouth, hot tongue in hand,
I offer restitution my own to pay.
To lessen debt’s cycle of dismay,
And honor my debtors, if not their demands.

In silence I ask what’s to be done?
Make the best of all things in my power.
And accept the rest as it plainly comes?
Bless me with useful work to inherit.
I’ll not worship thee with obscure merit.
Only simple praise for the setting sun.

© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.