About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Consolidation and the Dead Horse*

Picture from the Johnstown Convention and Visitors Bureau

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat 5/25/2007
as "Wanted: True leaders not afraid of consolidation"

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

At times we are compelled by mysterious forces unknown to us to engage in a seemingly futile exercise colloquially referred to as “beating a dead horse.” With all respect and apologies to the equine enthusiasts among us, here we go.

Consolidation. I can hear those groans already. I know these arguments have been put forward again and again, always seeming to find them shattered on the rocks of politics. I can’t help but notice that those who campaign the hardest against the idea are the ones who stand to lose their personal slice of the political pie. But, I digress…

I could talk about how consolidation would level the tax burden on homeowners throughout the area.

I could talk how the patchwork of municipalities and governments, laws and regulations do more to drive businesses away.

I could talk about how that lack of opportunity is hemorrhaging the valley’s population.

I could point out that Balkanization (the subdivision of a country/county/city into small isolated units) never creates prosperity or economic growth.

I could talk about having one fire department, one police department, and one municipal government is inherently more efficient and less costly than maintaining the 10 or 15 in place now.

I could talk about a lot of things, but those are arguments that have been made ad nauseum, arguments to which people here seem intent on turning a deaf ear, seemingly happy with maintaining the status quo. Look, history is a good thing; heritage is a good thing. But hanging on to outdated and outmoded things just because it’s always been that way is not a good thing. It’s like insisting on wearing a cast on your leg months after the bone has healed. All you end up doing is weakening the leg.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Circle of Life*

Crystal and Andy, glowing.

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat April 29, 2007
as "Another family is created in circle of life"

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

There are certain events that, as they occur in our lives, serve as markers, signaling the end of one thing and the beginning of another. Graduations, marriage, births, and deaths are some of the events that mark the passage of time.

On a certain weekend in early April, I found myself in a church standing in front of a couple, a young man in a rented tuxedo and a young woman in a long, white gown. The young woman was my daughter and it was my responsibility that day to seal the covenant of love between them.

A minister (or priest, or rabbi) is someone who becomes intimately familiar with life-changing events, since we seem to be involved in so many of them, both joyful and sad. We officiate at weddings and funerals, baby blessings, we conduct spiritual counseling during troubled times, occasionally contributing prayer at a graduation. We spend a lot of time in close proximity to the raw edge of human emotions, so it becomes our duty to always be the source of serenity in the face of life’s storms.

As anyone who has been a part of one can attest, the run-up to a wedding is a maelstrom of events, often seeing the ship of careful planning founder on a storm-tossed sea of the unplanned, unpredictable, and unavoidable. Sometimes, the wedding itself almost seems a let-down after the muss and fuss of the final few days. Some late RSVP’s led to a renegotiation with the reception caterer and the inexplicable bankruptcy of the restaurant where the rehearsal dinner was supposed to take place added to the general chaos.

I did my best to be that rock for everyone else, despite suffering from my one and only cold of the entire winter. But on that day, as I faced my daughter and her husband-to-be, I found myself to be struggling with emotions of my own.

Monday, April 09, 2007

When Tomorrow Starts Without Me

This picture of Chris Carstanjen was taken by an as-yet-unidentified member of the Internet Pacific Coast Riding Club (IPCRC)

Christoffer Carstanjen, a beloved member of the Honda Pacific Coast Motorcycle Community, left Boston on a sunny morning bound for the West Coast to join the annual Pacific Coast Highway ride.

His flight was United Air Lines 175.

The date was September 11, 2001.

When Tomorrow Starts Without Me

By David M. Romano, adapted by Margaret Tait & Rick Elderkin

When tomorrow starts without me, And I'm not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes, All filled with tears for me,
I wish so much you wouldn't cry The way you did today,
While thinking of the many things, We didn't get to say.

But when tomorrow starts without me, Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name, And took me by the hand,
And said my place was ready, In Heaven far above,
And that I'd have to, thru a tragedy Leave those I dearly love.

But now I've walked through heaven's gates, I feel so much at home.
When God looked down and said to me, From his golden throne,
“Today your life on earth is past, But here it starts anew.
This is life eternal and all I've promised you,

Here there’s no tomorrow, But today will always last,
And since each day's the same day There’s no longing for the past.
You have been so faithful, So trusting and so true,
Though, at times you did some things, You knew you shouldn't do,

But you have been forgiven
And now at last you're free,
So won't you take my hand now
And share eternity with me?”

So when tomorrow starts without me, Don't think we're far apart,
For every time you think of me, I'm in your loving hearts.
So ride the roads without me And see what I can see
I'll be right there beside you In peace and harmony

But remember me from time to time And speak to me at night
When you sit in solitude in the glow of soft starlight,
Tell me all your journeys And where they've taken you
So I may share the happiness And thrills life has for you

The world will smile upon us as we journey here and there,
And freedom lays it’s blessings for we are without cares.
Go ride for peace; Go ride for joy; never asking why,
For tomorrow starts without me, with the sunrise in the sky.

The Power of 5

The Purest Swing.
(From the Internet without attribution)

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey
Written content only

One Friday morning, I sat down at my desk, flipped on the computer and surfed over to the Kansas City Star’s website. After a cursory glance at the headlines, I drilled down to the sports page to see the image of George Brett at spring training. Not that such a picture is unusual. Every year since he retired, Brett has gone to Florida in the spring, laced up the spikes and pulled on the jersey with the familiar number 5. I’ve also seen pictures of George in a suit and tie, but somehow the sight of this leathery-faced warrior wearing a Royals jersey is the one that fits him the best.

The Royals have been a major league franchise since 1969. I can still remember the excitement of that first year at Old Municipal, the clean look of blue and white erasing forever the taint of another team in garish green and gold that foundered in the American League basement until they left Kansas City, moved west and began winning World Championships. The Kauffman’s were a breath of fresh air; they looked like everyone’s favorite grandparents. They loved their city, they loved their fans, and they loved their team, smothering it with a sincere care and nurturing that helped the Royals mature into an early contender.

Despite the giddy excitement of those first few years, one could arguably make the point that history of the Kansas City Royals really began in 1973. That was the year that a young tobacco-chewing Californian with untamed hair and a reckless disposition donned a Royals uniform for the first time. Over the next 21 seasons, George Brett and the Royals would make history. Once he retired in 1993, the team receded into history. New York fans will always remember Joe DiMaggio, another number 5, as the Quintessential Yankee. Likewise for Royals fans, George Brett was not just a Royals player; for almost all of us, he was the Royals. And 13 years after his retirement as a player, he still is the face, and the heart of Royals baseball.

In Consideration of Grandchildren

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

I’ve been watching my grandson for the past few weeks, marveling at his exploration of his still-new world. One of the things that fascinates me is the speed at which he learns. Of course, every grandparent thinks their grandbaby is brilliant. And I’m sure they all are. But, every day, he has learned something new. 

Human children are unique, in that they are born completely helpless. But they have the capacity to rise to the position we all hold as the most advanced lifeform on the planet. To me, that is an amazing thing. Even a monkey is born with far more strength, agility, and independence, but at the end of his life the only thing he’s accomplished is to swing from trees and eat bananas. And although I’ve had days where I wished all I had to do was swing from trees and eat bananas, I know that we humans alone of all of teeming life on Earth, have the intelligence, capacity and the ability to change our world.

As a father, I am familiar with the sensations of holding a new baby, that moment where we look at this tiny little human and ask, “Where will you go? What will you do? Where will your life take you?” And in that moment felt the weight of heavy responsibility.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Meaning of Meaningless Death*

*Saint's Herald May 2008

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.

John 11:25-26 I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

"If there is a God, why does he allow all the suffering in the world?"

The eternal question; the stumbling block most Christians run into when trying to explain God. It is also the attitude of many who have suffered the untimely loss of a family member or friend. It is the question that intrudes into the consciousness of even the most devout believer when confronted with the awful reality of violence and cruelty. It is the question that haunts me when reading reports of the unspeakable tortures inflicted on innocent people during the Rwandan civil war, the diamond wars in West Africa, and over 100 million people worldwide put to death by regimes of oppression and aggression throughout the history of civilization.

The easy, quick answer is that God doesn’t allow such suffering; we allow it. God’s gift to us of free will and agency puts the responsibility for controlling such acts squarely on the shoulders of humans, both individually and collectively. Although succinct, such cold logic fails to embrace the larger picture.