Friday, June 24, 2022

KIPLING'S "IF"

 POEM: RUDYARD KIPLING’S “IF”

If—

Rudyard Kipling - 1865-1936

If you can keep your head when all about you
   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
   But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
   Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
   And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
   And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
   And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
   And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
   Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
   Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
   If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
   Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Friday, June 10, 2022

Pascal's Wager and Mine


From online material from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

"Pascal's wager, practical argument for belief in God formulated by French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal. In his Pensées (1657-58), Pascal applied elements of game theory to show that belief in the Christian religion is rational. He argued that people can choose to believe in God or can choose to not believe in God, and that God either exists or he does not."  

Pascal goes on to argue that the benefits of the belief outweigh the disadvantages, whether or not God exists, so one should believe.


My wager is similar:

If there is a Heaven, then my precious Tina will be there, and perhaps I will be able to join her. That's Possibility One.

Perhaps there is no Heaven, or even if there is, I may be rejected. Either way, I will not be reunited with her. That's Possibility Two.

Each has some probability of being true, though we don't know what it is. 

The probabilities times the rewards are the expected values.

I don't choose to believe because that is the only way I might be saved, however, I simply choose to believe that there are these two possibilities, and I hope the good one will occur.

This resembles quantum mechanics, where only the act of doing (e.g., measuring) brings the hidden state into being.

I'll know. Someday. 

 


Saturday, May 28, 2022

"A World of Our Own" by Tom Springfield (1965)

 Close the door, light the light

We're stayin' home tonight
Far away from the bustle and the bright city lights
Let them all fade away, just leave us alone
And we'll live in a world of our own

We'll build a world of our own that no one else can share
All our sorrows we'll leave far behind us there
And I know you will find there'll be peace of mind
When we live in a world of our own

Oh, my love, oh my love, I've cried for you so much
Lonely nights without sleeping while I longed for your touch
Now your lips can't evade the heartache I've known
Come with me to a world of our own

We'll build a world of our own that no one else can share
All our sorrows we'll leave far behind us there
And I know you will find there'll be peace of mind
When we live in a world of our own

We'll build a world of our own that no one else can share
All our sorrows we'll leave far behind us there
And I know you will find there'll be peace of mind
When we live in a world of our own

And I know you will find there'll be peace of mind
When we live in a world of our own

I listened to this frequently after my June 1964 separation from college sweetheart, Tina Su, eventually Tina Su Cooper.

Friday, May 27, 2022

IN MEMORIAM: ROBERT F. STARBUCK, USMC

  

Robert F. Starbuck died a hero in Vietnam on February 4, 1967.  Only 25, he was a sergeant of an elite RECON Marine detachment holding a hill against overwhelming odds.  He was awarded the Silver Star for bravery.

 

Bob and I were football teammates, high school classmates, and friends. He was very likable and decent.  His death must have been shattering for his family. When I learned, much later than 1967, of his death, I pondered what I could do in his memory. Moving back to Walden, I found that our high school, Valley Central, held an annual awards ceremony for members of the athletic teams. I established the Robert F. Starbuck Captain’s Award in his honor, going each year to the captain of the football team, in recognition of Bob’s leadership, courage, strength, and service to our country.

The story of Bob’s last battle is one of those in the book, Honor the Warrior: The United States Marine Corps in Vietnam, by William L. Myers, published in 2000. Mr. Myers dedicates his book to the nearly 15,000 members of the U.S. Marine Corps who died in Viet Nam. His dedication includes this excerpt from a poem by Laurence Binyon:

 

            But they shall not grow old

            As we who are left grow old.

            Age will not weary them nor the years condemn,

            But at the going down of the sun and in the morning

            We will remember them.

 

We do remember.

 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

TOGETHER FOREVER?

Nearly every day through our 37-year marriage, I reminded my beloved Tina Su Cooper,

"Sweetie Ting, I love you: 

Every cell, every second,

Every molecule, every moment,

Every itty-bitty bit, every instant,

Now and forever."

Not quite poetry, but Tina and both I liked it.

"Now and forever" meant together forever.


Tina has died (4/25/22) and is interred next to our shared tombstone, which has engraved on it, "Together Forever." I have been giving that sentiment a bit more thought.

If there is a Heaven, she is there now, and I hope to be there someday. That will handle "together forever" nicely, though waiting will be hard.

If there is no Heaven, then we will be side-by-side in our graves, together in that way.

Meanwhile, I choose to view us as still married, to keep my wedding ring on my left hand, to do nothing I would not do were she here now. We are metaphorically still married, together in that way. Much as I miss Tina, this comforts me. 

A promise kept forever is the most precious of vows. 



Sunday, May 22, 2022

NOTES FOR MY EULOGY FOR TINA SU COOPER, 05.03.22

 FAMILY AND FRIENDS, THANKS FOR COMING.

“WORK IS LOVE MADE REAL.”

 

[COUGH]

FEBRUARY 2004 – TINA CHOKED, INHALED, INFECTED, AMBULANCE

MY DELAYED ARRIVAL AND COUNTERMANDING HER ORDERS

COMA FOR A WEEK

QUADRIPLEGIA, VENTILATOR, SPEECHLESS

EVENTUALLY: I DID THE RIGHT THING; SHE WANTS TO LIVE

100 DAYS IN THE ER

HOME OR HOSPICE, ONLY MONTHS TO LIVE

CHRISTMAS IN OCTOBER?

 

TAKING OVER FROM NURSING SERVICE FOR 17 YEARS:

TERRY BUSH, DIANE BEGGIN, VERLEEN LEWIS, DORI OSKAM, MARY WILKINSON, AUDREY POTTINGER, KATE MURPHY, HEATHER GEIB, JACKIE OAKLEY, ANGELA MULLINGS, DENISE BINNS, ABBY BOPELA, KATHY KARPIAK, STEPHANIE KAUFMAN, BOBBIE RIEMER, KELLI RAMSEY, SONIA RICKS, MELISSA VARIANO, GLORIA WOOD, CASEY PARTRIDGE, BARBARA GEORGE, TARA O’BRYAN

SEVENTEEN YEARS OF “EXTRA” LIFE.

 

WHO IS TINA SU COOPER?

KUNMING, CHINA, WW II, 4/3/44

2ND DAUGHTER TO DR. AND MRS. SU

MIT, CHIAO FAMILY

ALLIED PETROCHEMICAL FACTORY

1946 TO AMERICA

PROF. SU @ UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER

“IRENE AND GENE AND TINA IN BETWEEN.”

ROCHESTER-HENRIETTA HS.

          VALEDICTORIAN, CLASS PRESIDENT, YEARBOOK EDITOR

CORNELL UNIVERSITY, AB 1966 W/DISTINCTION

          PRE-MED TO ASIAN STUDIES (CAT KILLED HER MD CAREER?)

HARVARD UNIVERSITY, MS 1968, EARNED DOCTORAL CANDIDACY

          ASIAN STUDIES

          MRS. INSTEAD: MARRIED DR. KWEN-SHENG CHIANG

 

CHICAGO: EDITORIAL STAFF, ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA

          THEODORE CHIANG, 1973

          PHILIP CHIANG, 1981

          MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS PARALYSIS / DIAGNOSIS

STRESSFUL MARRIAGE OF A TRADITIONAL CHINESE PROFESSIONAL MAN AND A MODERN, INDEPENDENT ASIAN-AMERICAN WOMAN.

MY 1983 BUSINESS TRIP TO CHICAGO AND CALL. STILL LOVE HER.

“NOTHING HAS CHANGED FOR ME IN TWENTY YEARS.”

MEETING. ALL I EVER WANTED IN A WOMAN.

M.S. REVEALED: USUALLY MILD, SOME SEVERE.

MY SLEEPLESS NIGHT: CAN I HANDLE THIS IF NEEDED?

“WILL YOU MARRY ME?”

“YES, YES, YES!”

 

FIRST:  TEN EASY YEARS OF BLISS.

NEXT: TEN VERY HAPPY YEARS WITH PARAPLEGIA AND HELP.

THEN: 17 YRS QUADRIPLEGIA, VENTILATOR, HOME NURSING CARE (IBM).

 

TINA’S AND MY THANKS TO IBM AND THE NURSES AND DOCTORS.

WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR ALL OUR 37 YEARS OF MARRIAGE AND THE 17 EXTRA YEARS AFTER THE “HOSPICE” ADVICE.

 

WITHOUT TINA, WE WOULD NOT KNOW TED, PHIL, LISA, AND LEO

 

TINA’S DEPARTURE LEAVES A HOLE IN OUR LIVES.

 

POET ROBERT FROST WROTE ABOUT WHAT EVE GAVE TO THE GARDEN OF EDEN (SEE THE MEMORIAL CARD):

“NEVER AGAIN WOULD BIRDS’ SONG BE THE SAME.

AND TO DO THAT TO BIRDS IS WHY SHE CAME.”

 

FOR US, TINA CHANGED SO MUCH, TOO.

 

NEVER AGAIN WILL OUR LIVES BE THE SAME.

OUR LOSS IS HEAVEN’S GAIN.

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

NIGHTMARE 05/18/22

 I rarely have dreams I remember, but this morning, mine was too apt to forget.

I was walking at night in the rain on a deserted road, after some car crash, partially dressed, not sure of where I was going, except that it would be a long and difficult trek.

From nowhere, an old man, in a hooded jacket, came up to me unexpectedly and asked if I was ok.

"I'm fine," I responded, feeling anything but fine.

Denial is useful. The death of a spouse, especially one as beloved as Tina, is disconcerting in the extreme, but we persevere. 



Saturday, May 7, 2022

Virginia Nodhturft's Tribute to Tina Su Cooper, 5/3/22


Indeed, this is a sad day for all who knew and loved Tina. The pain and sadness we all feel today is hard to describe. We cannot begin to comprehend the extreme loss Tina’s family are experiencing now. Tina’s passing has heavily fell on the hearts of all who loved her. We have abandoned ourselves into an overwhelming state of grief, but we want to honor a great woman named Tina and to offer our comfort the best we can to Tina’s Family. 

 

Tina was an extraordinary woman in so many ways. She was a warm person who loved being part of the families and friend’s conversations. She loved her family and they loved her. She has led friends & family into a kinder, loving, more compassionate world.

 

She was a loving Mom, a devoted wife, a great sister, and a respectful, caring daughter and friend to so many.

 

Her unaffected, natural, innate dignity never deserted her during her difficult times. She was esteemed and loved by all who knew her. The kindliness and tenderness of her heart was seen and felt by all who came within the charmed circle of her intimacy. The love of Tina poured out into all our hearts and has inspired us to continue to do God’s work for others in need.

 

What is it we remember when we think of Tina? It was our breathless attention in the room to catch her words, speaking eloquence, animated by the fervor of her mind. The outpourings of her profound intellect were enriched by copious streams from her fountain of knowledge. It was her understated outlook on life, her warm heart, her sense of humor, her air of dignity, and her joy of being around people. It was her ability to always think of others, to be concerned for others before herself.

 

The thread of life is cut, the immortal separated from the mortal, but the products of her great and cultivated mind remain with us forever.

 

As we abandon ourselves into grief, we thank God for all the blessings that Tina has bestowed upon us all during her life. She has taught us to celebrate the goodness of God and has taught us what life is all about, which is rich, warm, loving relationships with family and friends and doing good for others.

 

Today actually belongs less to grief and sorrow than congratulations and joy.  It is true that Tina is no longer among the living, but is subject of congratulations that she lived far beyond the ordinary period allotted for human life with Tina’s condition. We rejoice that she lived long enough to hear the words of Doug’s book, Ting and I. Seeing her extraordinary life through the eyes of her husband and hearing the warm, loving tributes of her by her friends and family was indeed a gift to her beyond the description of words.

 

Every October we looked forward to seeing Tina. We have such fond memories of visiting with her. She always asked how our son Philip was doing and asked how we were doing. As she listened with enthusiasm, she gave us an update on how Doug and her two sons Phil and Ted were doing. She beamed with pride as she shared their accomplishments with us. She was proud of her mom’s beautiful paintings and always reminded us that the lighted picture on the wall was given to her by her son Phil.

 

Tina has left many wonderful treasured memories for her family and for all of us who knew and loved her. She was our sunshine and our bright shining star.

 

Tina’s life was filled with joy, hope, enthusiasm, courage, and love. Her journey was a great one packed with fun and adventure and surrounded by loving family members and friends.

 

With Tina’s passing, she lives on. She lives on in each of us with her warm, loving spirit.  The power of God has allowed Tina to resurrect her spirit within each of us. She has given us restoration and hope to move forward.

We need to make our lives purposeful and infuse Tina’s spirit in others. We need to tap into Tina’s pure gold and inoculate others with her warm, loving spirit to give strength to others in need, so they can lead an abundance of life. In Tina’s legacy, we must bring hope, joy, and peace to others.

 

Doug, there is a special spot in heaven for you. There is a saying that says, “How we handle our tough times stays with us for a long time!” You have handled your tough time with grace, dignity, sacrifice, and commitment, and put your needs on the back burner to be by Tina’s side day and night. Caring for her medical needs, offering comfort, love, support, singing to her, reading to her, and providing her with entertainment to keep her spirits up have done more for Tina than you realize. You were her advocate when she had to be admitted, you were her lover, friend, and longtime confidant. You were the best husband any person could hope to have. You have been an extraordinary inspiration to all of us, Doug.

 

And Phil and Ted, you have to take comfort in knowing you were the best sons any mom could hope for. You lifted her spirits with your visits, calls, and letters. You provided her with laughter, joy, pride, and fun. She loved you both more than you realize.

 

I pray for comfort, peace, and encouragement for Doug, Phil, Ted, and her other family members. Mend them and restore them so they can move on to where they need to be. I pray that God will carry you all through this difficult time.

 

Dear Lord, Tina is at your side and in your hands now, please take good care of her. Please take her hand to greet her parents now in heaven. And, please help Tina’s family, find the courage, strength, and self-confidence to cope with this extraordinary loss. 

 

 

Friday, May 6, 2022

"The Cruel War" Lyrics Remind Me of Tina's Love

The cruel war is raging, Johnny has to fight
I want to be with him from morning to night
I want to be with him, it grieves my heart so
Won't you let me go with you?
No, my love, no

Tomorrow is Sunday, Monday is the day
That your captain will call you and you must obey
Your captain will call you it grieves my heart so
Won't you let me go with you?
No, my love, no

I'll tie back my hair, men's clothing I'll put on
I'll pass as your comrade, as we march along
I'll pass as your comrade, no one will ever know
Won't you let me go with you?

No, my love, no
Oh Johnny, oh Johnny, I fear you are unkind
I love you far better than all of mankind
I love you far better than words can e're express
Won't you let me go with you?
Yes, my love, yes

Friday, April 29, 2022

OBITUARY FOR OUR HEROINE, TINA SU COOPER, 1944-2022, R.I.P.

After a courageous eighteen-year battle with multiple sclerosis, Tina Su Cooper of Walden, NY, passed away Monday, April 25, 2022, in Valhalla, NY, at the Westchester Medical Center. She was 78.

 Tina Su, the daughter of Dr. Gouq-Jen Su and Shou-Tsung Su, was born April 3, 1944, in Kunming, China. Her family had aided the Allies during World War II and emigrated to America in 1946, shortly after the war ended.

Her father became a central member of the University of Rochester engineering faculty. Her brother, Eugene Su, and her sister, Irene Su, went on to professional success in the medical and dental fields, respectively.

Tina was her high school valedictorian, yearbook editor, class president, and recipient of a scholarship to Cornell University, where she graduated in 1966 with an A.B. with honors in Asian Studies. She graduated from Harvard University in 1968 with an M.S. with honors in Asian Studies, and she went on to work on the editorial staff for the Encyclopedia Britannica, in Chicago, IL. There she married Kwen-sheng Chiang, and they had two sons, Theodore Chiang and Philip Chiang, both of whom earned advanced degrees themselves.

After her divorce from Professor Chiang in 1984, she married Douglas Winslow Cooper, whom she had known at Cornell. Their story is told in Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. Their 37-year marriage overcame the challenges of interracial marriage and her progressive disability from multiple sclerosis. During the last eighteen years of her life, Tina persevered despite being quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent, having around-the-clock nursing (courtesy of IBM); respiratory infection and pulmonary failure eventually took her life.

Survivors include her husband, Douglas Cooper; her sons, Theodore and Philip Chiang; her sister, Irene So; her brother, Eugene Su; her daughter-in-law, Lisa Stuppler; and her grandson, Leo Cooper Chiang.

Our loss is Heaven's gain.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

TINA SU COOPER, Heroine, 1944-2022, "A Plaintive Melody"

 “Like a Plaintive Melody”

                                                by Douglas Winslow Cooper

 

Most mornings I sing to my beloved wife, as she lies immobile in the hospital bed we have at our home:  

 

You were meant for me. I was meant for you.

Nature patterned you and when she was done,

You were all the sweet things rolled up in one.

You’re like a plaintive melody

That never lets me free,

For I’m content the angels must have sent you

And they meant you just for me.*

 

This song captures the bitter-sweet nature of our current situation, happy to be together, sometimes sad that Tina’s ill-health has limited her so greatly. She has been quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent, fed and medicated through a gastric tube, for the past ten years, and she will be so for as long as she lives.

 

 

Meant for Each Other

 

Our love story began in January 1963. Cornell University formed a beautiful backdrop for our romance. When Tina Su walked into the second semester of the language course I was taking, Chinese 102, I saw the incarnation of my feminine ideal: lovely, slender, soft-spoken, elegant without pretension, graceful.  After a few “coffee dates,” I learned that this Chinese - American woman was also intelligent, learned, cheerful, talented, considerate, kind, and more than somewhat attracted to me, too. By Valentine’s Day, 1963, we were officially in love, “going steady.” That included going hand-in-hand together whenever and wherever we could. When it was cold, we would each shed one glove and share my coat pocket. We loved to walk and to talk, to hug and to kiss. Bliss.

 

Tina and I like to think we were “fated to be mated.” It seems amazing that this girl from Kunming, China, and this boy from Manhattan could have found each other. How lucky is that? There were about a billion folk in China. We had then in the U.S. less than a few million Chinese. That’s roughly 1000 to 1 odds of being in the U.S., not China.  I was accepted by M.I.T., but my scholarship application was a few days late, leaving Cornell as my best option. Less than one student in a thousand at Cornell was in Chinese 102, so the probability of a randomly picked pair of students being in that eight-person class was less than one in a hundred thousand. The random nature of genetic combination means that she could have been born a very different person than she was, the same being true for me. I would not have married her sister, nor she any of my brothers.

 

 

Nature Patterned You

 

Actually, nature patterned each of us. Scientists generally agree now that much of our abilities and personalities are strongly influenced by genetics. A decade or two ago, Tina and I took the Briggs-Myers personality inventory test and found ourselves remarkably alike: more introvert than extrovert, equally intuitive vs. sensing, much more rational than emotional, more judgmental than passively perceiving.

 

In making us well matched for each other, nurture played a significant role, too. Both grew up in homes that valued education and thrift. The Chinese Taoist tradition favors compassion, modesty, and humility – virtues that my religion also supported.

 

 

All the Sweet Things

 

Tina was very popular and justly so. She had been senior class president in her high school. All the Cornell sororities she visited asked her to join. She made life-long friends at Cornell, always giving more than she got and tending to see the best in others. Warm, friendly, sympathetic, helpful, trustworthy…exceptionally nice, Tina was special.

 

 

Like a Plaintive Melody

 

She was a freshman and I was a junior. We had three glorious semesters left to be together, and we fell even more deeply in love. Usually, a couple our ages would have become engaged to marry, perhaps soon after Tina had graduated. It quickly had become clear, however, that an interracial marriage would estrange Tina from her parents (as did happen to her younger brother several years later). My own parents argued that such a marriage would bring added complications for ourselves and for any children we might have. Then, too, we were young, with little real experience in the adult world. Neither of us would want to have a wrong decision harm the other. We accepted parental persuasion and pressure and parted very sorrowfully when I graduated, June 1964. We each cried a lot about our separation that summer…and occasionally thereafter.

 

Tina’s parents arranged for her to take her junior year abroad in England, where her father, a professor of engineering, took his sabbatical year at the same time, and her mother accompanied him. That put the Atlantic Ocean between us, an enormous moat.

 

While Tina was in England, I was drafted. She returned to finish at Cornell, went to Harvard, dated men of Chinese ancestry only, and married a promising scientist from Taiwan, who took a faculty position in Chicago. She spent the next fifteen years under his thumb. He had expected a traditional Chinese woman, but she was an American girl with a Chinese flavor. Their marriage was rocky, but two fine sons were born. Her first multiple sclerosis exacerbation, and with it a temporary partial paralysis, came right after that second son’s birth. Her husband, more committed to career than to family, had little time for his wife and children.

 

After serving in the U.S. Army, I went on to graduate school at Penn State and Harvard. I married a Caucasian woman who strongly reminded me of Tina, and I steadily progressed professionally, becoming an associate professor of environmental physics at the Harvard School of Public Health. Unfortunately, eight years into my marriage, I found out my wife was having an affair. She was from a rich family and thought she could get away with it. Wrong! We divorced.

 

Later on, I dated, even got engaged, then disengaged. None had been Tina’s equal.

 

 

That Never Lets Me Free

 

I had never forgotten my precious Tina, but we seemed doomed to be apart.

 

Nineteen years after we parted, while I was on an academic business trip through Chicago, I called Tina there. Before calling, I had reason to suspect her marriage was in trouble. As we chatted, I was so comfortable talking with her, it seemed we had been apart for weeks, not years. I told her in my call I still loved her and I had to know whether we could ever be married.

 

“Nothing has changed for me in twenty years,” she stated circumspectly because she might be overheard. She meant she loved me as much as she ever had.

 

Soon after this, we talked several times via long-distance phone calls and we corresponded. She did a courageous thing, an honorable thing: she told me she had multiple sclerosis. I read a lot about it, spent a very sad night (that’s plaintive!) imagining her someday to be quadriplegic, on a ventilator, fed through tubes. Could I handle that, if I had to?  Yes. Could I bear to walk away and learn someday she had gone through that without me? No.

 

“Will you marry me?” I asked her over the telephone that next day.

 

“Yes, yes, yes!”

 

I had yet to see her. When we did finally meet, weeks later, I was thrilled. She was all I hoped she would be.

 

On June 2, 1984, about a year later, we were married. Her father toasted us after the wedding, “Love conquered all.” As one of the conquered, he would know. Her parents had “surrendered” gracefully, after all. Our wedding rings were inscribed, “a dream come true.”

 

For ten years, multiple sclerosis was minimal. Then she had an exacerbation, a severe attack. For the next ten years, Tina could no longer walk but retained the use of her hands and arms.  Then, in 2004, we nearly lost her altogether.

 

 

The Angels Must Have Sent You

 

“Please, God, don’t let her die,” I prayed and pleaded as I walked our dog around a little lake in early March of 2004, almost twenty years after we wed.

 

Tina Su Cooper, my beloved wife, had already been in a medically induced coma for a week in the Critical Care Unit of the Orange Regional Medical Center. She had a severe case of aspiration pneumonia, part of an M.S. exacerbation. The resulting infection had spread throughout her body. She was not expected to live.

 

I had called the 911 emergency number near midnight the week before. Tina’s temperature was rising alarmingly fast. The EMTs got her to the Emergency Room twenty minutes before I arrived. She had told them that she did not want any invasive procedures, no tubes down her throat, etc. I countermanded that, having her power of attorney and knowing that this was no time for fuzzy thinking. Her M.S., especially when she was feverish, had diminished her cognitive abilities, which previously had earned her honors at Cornell and Harvard and then an editorial position at the Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

“Do whatever you must to save her life,” I instructed the medical personnel. Thus began a one-hundred-day battle to keep Tina alive.

 

Later, when she was out of the coma but still near death, now quadriplegic, unable to speak due to an air tube that ran between her lips and down her throat, being fed intravenously, I asked her whether I had made the right choice, to take all steps needed to save her life. Yes, she nodded, emphatically, yes.

 

Near June 2, 2004, our twentieth wedding anniversary, the decision had to be made: go home to fight vigorously to live or go to a hospice to go gently to the grave? She was catching infections from the other patients in the hospital. This place of rescue had become dangerous to her.

 

Would we fight to preserve her life at home, in a replica of the hospital’s Critical Care Unit, or did she want to give up?

 

We would persevere.

 

“Be a brave soldier,” her father had often told her in her youth. We fight on, my brave soldier and I.

 

The doctors estimated she would live only a few months. We’ve had ten years, precious, sometimes difficult, wonderful years.

 

I thank God daily for the miracle of another day that we are together.

 

 

And They Meant You Just for Me

 

“Together forever,” we hope. That’s inscribed on a charm I gave Tina for our 25th anniversary 2009, five years after her near-death experience. We say it to each other daily.

 

A retired physicist, I put much stock in evidence and reason, less on faith. When I pray, I pray for Tina to be healed or at least be comforted. Perhaps asking for healing is reaching too far, but Robert Browning wrote that one’s “reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a Heaven for?”  In Heaven, Tina would be healed. On Earth, if healing is not in the works, then consolation, or better, joy, may be possible. Love certainly is.

 

The cosmic Big Bang, fourteen billion years ago, certainly seems like the act of creation. Creation implies Creator, though it leaves open His origin and purposes.

 

We know there are billions of galaxies, each with millions or billions of stars. So far, however, we find that the chemistry and physics of these stars are the same as we have here. That leads to another observation: there are a dozen or so fundamental properties of the forces and of the matter that make up our world that need to be within a percent or less of their value on Earth for life to exist, even for the universe to resemble what it does. The probability of getting these properties all to be within the proper limits just by chance is infinitesimal. Cannot happen. Had to be designed by a Designer.

 

Unfortunately, there is no consensus on what the Creator/ Designer/God intends with all this. Various religions have various beliefs. If there are humanlike entities on other worlds, they are likely to have multitudinous religions, too. We are left to come to our best understanding in the limited time we have alive.

 

I believe Christ was divine. He told us we are to love one another. He said that his Father, God, had a place for us after we die, depending on our faith. It is inconceivable to me that other good people of different faiths will be excluded, though I know it is Christian dogma. We’ll see.

 

Tina and I will be buried side by side, though not likely simultaneously. If we are resurrected, wonderful. If not, so be it. Either way, “Together forever.” This will be engraved at the bottom of our shared headstone.

 

The pessimist is said to see the glass as half-empty and the optimist to see it as half-full. We are optimists and are enjoying what is left in our glass of life.

 

We have had to “play the hand we’re dealt,” with good cards and bad. Life is something like a card game, where playing more skillfully improves your odds without guaranteeing you will win. Tina and I feel we have been lucky and prudent and have won.

 

As we sat on our porch on a recent autumn afternoon, we agreed: if that were our last day on Earth, it had all been worth it.

 

###

 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., a retired physicist, is a freelance writer who has written Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, published in 2011 by Outskirts Press, available through amazon.com and tingandi.com. He has co-authored Ava Gardner’s Daughter? and The Shield of Gold, and edited High Shoes and Bloomers, three other memoirs also published by Outskirts Press and available from amazon.com and other Internet vendors. This article is an adaptation and extension of a shorter piece, “Ting and I,” published in the Winter 2011 Momentum - The National Multiple Sclerosis Society Magazine.

 

*“You Were Meant for Me (Broadway Melody of 1940)” by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed; lyrics © EMI Music Publishing Co.

 

###

 

Published in an anthology edited by Michelle Tupy (2015), Love Alters: A Love for All Seasons, pp. 56-61.

 After an eighteen-year courageous battle at home with multiple sclerosis, Tina died of the complications of a severe respiratory infection at Westchester Medical Center, on the evening of April 25. Her death has left a hole in our lives, with a memory of this beloved, loving, and talented woman.  

Friday, April 1, 2022

A Giant Little Kiss

My long-beloved wife Tina, now a few days away from becoming 78, spent a week in the Critical Care Unit of our local hospital. She has been quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent for 18 years. After prolonged intravenous antibiotic treatment, she came home this week cured but bruised, bloody, unclean, almost wholly unresponsive, worse in many ways --- except for her life-threatening respiratory infection --- from how she had been when we sent her by ambulance to the emergency room on March 22.

 

We had seen this a few years before: Tina returned to us from the hospital in a virtual vegetative state, immobile, unable to speak, perhaps unable to understand. Several days of “home cooking,” the excellent nursing she receives here, had cleaned her up, normalized her vital signs, and brought an occasional ambiguous indication she might be aware of her surroundings.

 

Last night before I went to bed, I stopped at her bedside. She seemed awake --- at least her eyes were open --- but it was not clear she knew who I was or where she was.

 

I leaned over her and kissed her cheek on the side facing away from me. As I did so, my cheek brushed by her lips. Then I felt her mouth move, and she gave me a little kiss, a giant little kiss.

 

She knew, and she cared.

 

She knows, and she cares.


 P.S. Tina died 4/25/22. This was our last kiss.