“When I’m Sixty-Four” by the BEATLES was released in 1967 on the forever young “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.
“HOPE has two children. The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it.”-St. Augustine
By Eileen Fleming
It was 50 years ago last June that the BEATLES released Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
Among this American’s annual New Years week traditions is watching “A HARD DAYS NIGHT”
AND loudly playing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band while singing and dancing along.
Because I turn 64 in 2018, I have replayed “When I’m Sixty-Four” sung by Paul McCartney repeatedly, but with a one word change in the lyric “feed” to READ:
“Will you still need me, will you still READ me, when I’m sixty-four?”
Over the next few weeks I will be publishing excerpts from KEEP HOPE ALIVE beginning with Chapter 10:
Khaled, now seventy-five and a newlywed since July, turned to Fatiha and cried, “This madness must stop. Retaliation only ups the ante, and the wheel is still in spin. But I am nearing my end. I have been dreaming of mass communication for decades and olive trees my entire life; now, I must act!”
Within hours of viewing the tragic news that stopped the word on a Tuesday morning just before Fall. Khaled phoned his many friends: Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others to gather in downtown Orlando at Lake Eola and pray for peace. He told everyone, “Praying for peace without action is like praying to win the lottery and never buying a ticket. But unless we work for peace, saying ‘peace, peace, peace,’ means nothing. If we want peace, we must work for justice.”
Jack had been restless for three days. Julianne was in New York City at her sister’s home and wasn’t due back for three more. His knees began throbbing more the moment she drove out of sight on the morning of September 8, 2001.
After returning home on Monday night from the Brother Lawrence Addictions Center, Jack mindlessly ate two Lean Cuisines, then spent the rest of the evening trying to read. He fell asleep just before dawn and dreamt he was on the blacktop running track at the middle school where Julianne taught seventh grade English, where they both rollerbladed in the early mornings before the students arrived on campus.
Jack spent a ten-hour day at the BLAC, as its founder and administrator, and the mornings on the track were when the couple had their best conversations. He inhaled the aroma of tar as he wondered what was keeping Julianne from him. He bladed for what seemed like hours, when a silver spandex-clad apparition with a golden helmet flew by, sharply turned, and with a backward stroke, called out, “Hi, Jack, don’t look down; don’t look back; look out straight, Jack, look out straight, don’t look back!”
“Yeah, I can; I can do that,” Jack responded, but the apparition had already vaporized into the distance. Then Jack rolled onto an exquisite grace, knees freed from bone-on-bone grinding and not an ache in his fifty-three-year old body that had been abused by two motor vehicle accidents and hours of overuse syndrome. Jack glided on the blacktop effortlessly for what seemed like hours, when suddenly, a roar of thunder assaulted his senses, and his eyes were magnetized upward, to view two fireballs thrown down from on high, miles from where he stood. He saw them hit the ground; one traveled east, the other west, and then they circled back around, burning a path straight towards him. Just before they collided, Jack woke up, not believing he had only been dreaming.
Not until after he had downed a pot of coffee did the phone ring. “Jack? Are you watching TV”, Maureen, the day supervisor at the BLAC asked, as she fingered the framed mission statement that sat upon every employee’s desk and on the north wall of every resident’s room:
‘Peace, peace, peace. God’s peace be upon you. But living today in a time of war, crying out peace, peace, peace, where there is no peace. Fearing age and death, pain and darkness, destitution and loneliness, people need to get back to the simplicity of Brother Lawrence.’ [-Dorothy Day]
Brother Lawrence was a monk in the 17th century, who lived in a monastery and was consigned to the kitchen. He spent his life baking bread, chopping onions, scrubbing pots and floors. He also ran all the errands, did all the shopping, and always brought back the finest of wine. He loved his brothers deeply, but they merely tolerated his many eccentricities, or he was totally ignored. Truly, I tell you, if ever a saint was born to bring hope to the addicted and those afflicted with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, he is the one. For Brother Lawrence learned that by continually re-remembering the Lord, no matter what the activity, or where one might be, the Lord was ever-present and a holy habit was born, just re-remembering that.
Jack thrived on curiosity and spoke as he reached for the remote. “Mo, you know I never watch TV in the daytime; what’s up?”
“Well, isn’t Julianne visiting her sister in the city?”
“Yeah, in fact, today’s plan was to meet her sister’s co-workers on Floor 101 of the North Twin Tower.”
“Jack, turn the TV on.”
“Oh, Mo, I just did; my God, is it the end of the world?” He spoke as he hung up the phone and never heard Mo say, “I don’t know.”
Jack knew in his bones that Julianne had been vaporized as he recalled a song he had first heard at a Bob Dylan concert in 1981:
See the massacre of the innocent
City’s on fire
Phones out of order
I see the turning of the page.
Curtain’s rising on a new age.
See the Groom still waiting at the altar.
And then, II Chronicles 6:1 welled up within him: “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.”
Dr. Jake Hunter heard the news that stopped the world for a day from his third patient of the morning.
Terese didn’t know until Jake called her before his next patient.
Kat had been dancing in her loft studio in Panacea, Florida, all morning, ignoring neurological symptoms. She did not turn her cell phone on until 11:45 a.m., and then gasped, “Christ, who died? The entire Hunter clan has called me. I’ll phone Mom,” she said, just as “Let it Be” chimed from her cell.
“Hi, Kat, I have been trying to reach you.”
“Mom, what’s the deal? What’s going on?”
“Turn the TV on.”
Kat did and gasped, “Oh my God, is it the end of the world?”
“Mom, I am coming home. I’ll bring Bob; I think I’ll stay awhile.”
“Okay, okay, drive carefully.”
Kat packed three weeks’ worth of clothes, put Bob, her blue-eyed cat, in his kennel, and wrote a sign for the front door that read “KATZ STUDIO CLOSED UNTIL???”
She taped it to the door and walked away saying, “Bob, I have been dreading telling dad about my symptoms, because I don’t want to admit them. But, I have been summoned from the land of denial and must face the facts on the ground. If I have the dreaded Gehrig’s disease like my cousin Nick, I will be livid. He was a saint; I am not. I am not dancing as I once did; I don’t glide anymore, I have gotten clumsy, and all of these muscle twitches are driving me crazy! I am pissed! I am too young for this! Oh Christ, I hope it is just a bad cervical spine, like Dad’s. I can live with the pain, but I must be able to move about, or I’ll go nuts. Nick was a saint even when he couldn’t move, but I will be an unholy terror if I can’t dance. Bob, if I have ALS, will you please just shoot me and put everyone out of my misery?”
Kat sighed deeply and popped in a favorite mix she had burned of Tom Petty and U2, and then lost herself in the music until Bono began to wail:
If I could yes I would,
If I could, I would let it go
Into the half light and through the flame
Into the light and to the day,
Let it go and so to find the way,
To let it go, and so to find the way.
I am wide awake, I am wide awake, wide awake
If I could, you know I would:
Let it go:
Let it go and so to find a way
I am wide awake,
I am wide awake,
I am wide awake, wide awake!
Kat mused, “Strange, how seeing that horror on TV woke me up to some things, too.”
The Sunday after that day the world stood still, the Hunters’ seven children and eighteen grandchildren had gathered together. Everyone was down at the lake except for Jake, Terese, and Kat, who were in the family room.
Jake contemplated Kat’s chances of having ALS or a bad neck, and brooded.
Terese said, “There’s an interfaith gathering today in Shea Stadium, and I want to view it.”
She turned the TV on just as the shofar sounded in New York City, and hundreds of priests, rabbis, sheiks, and clerics of all kinds somberly filed into the stadium in front of a sorrowful nation.
Kat became luminous, “Wow, look at how beautiful all of that is! All of those holy ones in their uniqueness and all the shades of people in the stands reaching out to each other–how blessed we are in America to live among such diversity, and how beautiful it is to see us coming together out of such sorrow. This is the way we can let the pain go: by reaching out to the stranger, we comfort them and heal ourselves. America’s worst day has brought us and the world together. Why, it’s only a few angry mad men who did the evil; the international community can confront this together, by confronting this evil as sister and brother. What an incredible opportunity America has been given to lead the world this way and not seek revenge. Imagine the dysfunctional family of Father Abraham building on this momentum, to confront the evil that is terrorism, by confronting it with good and unity among us. Didn’t St. Paul say that the only way to resist evil is with good? Imagine how much better the world will be when America chooses not to use military power, now that we all know our nuclear arsenal cannot protect us American’s will want to discover why these mad men did this evil and go after that! The global village is the community to address this issue; terrorism is everywhere, and now America has woken up to the fact that we are not immune. We are all in this world together; we will either learn to share this world as sister and brother, or we will blow it up.”
Terese responded. “Kat, human nature is to strike back and seek revenge, but we have the witness of Christ, Gandhi, and Reverend King how to effectively respond to violence. I hope and pray this president follows their ways, but I see hawks circling.”
Jake cleared his throat and intoned, “Another thing is that acting out of fear makes one do stupid, irrational things. You know I have always said to never ever react out of fear, for the gospel says fear not! And fear drives out compassion and hardens the heart.”
Kat was mesmerized by the TV, Terese sighed deeply repeatedly, and Jake brooded.
In a log cabin nestled within the thickly wooded mountains of upstate New York, Jack sat in a darkened room with the TV on, but he wasn’t watching. When the shofar blew and grabbed his attention, he froze until the ram’s horn went silent, and then popped open his sixth beer of the day, for Jack had fallen off the wagon.
Next Excerpt from the Chapter: 16 DAYS IN ISRAEL PALESTINE, from KEEP HOPE ALIVE
Will be published HERE by January 6 2018
Eileen Fleming is Senior Non-Arab Correspondent for USA’s TADN
Eileen Fleming produced the UNCENSORED
“30 Minutes with Vanunu” Mordechai, Israel’s nuclear whistleblower
Contact her HERE
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