LETTERS FROM MY FAMILY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Thought for Today

Death is not our final hour; we have God’s word on that.

 

One week ago today all of our lives were changed forever. While there is no joy in commemorating the anniversary, each of us should celebrate our brothers and sisters who left us that day, whether we knew them or not. As I write this, just before midnight, the combined toll of those dead and missing in Pennsylvania, New York and Washington D.C. has reached 5,889. The missing and known dead include citizens from 62 countries in addition to the United States. Time and again I return to the words of John Donne for comfort.

“No man is an island, entire of its self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

-from “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions XVII”

Still using island as a metaphor, Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote, “There are no islands any more.”

I feel blessed to have so many friends who took time out this past week to call me and to write letters of concern and commiseration; this awful week, this confused and alarming time when each of us needed all the friends we could get and all the love we could muster for one another.

Ken was the first to call and he wasn’t ringing from down the block but from distant South Africa. All week he wrote me words meant to cheer and they did. I heard from Wade, Charlie, Bob, Jean and Melinda and so many more. As always Jay’s compendium of my work made selecting material for the Flight Plan easier than I deserve.

Jim Pierson had a mutual friend call and let me know they were both all right and that he had checked out of the Trade Center Marriott before the terror began. Then he sent an e-mail that pretty well sums up how friends feel about each other.

Dear Rod: I was finally able to get out of Newark airport yesterday morning and am now in Chicago. I am finding it close to impossible to focus on getting work done and I know you must feel the same.

The show of patriotism is incredible with flags on the light poles, automobiles and store windows. It is amazing how tragedy brings unity in a sense.

I read your recent flight plans over the weekend and I am so sorry to hear about the losses you have suffered directly. I imagine one of the friends you lost was Anthony Perkins' widow, whom David Kennedy was also friends with. The editor of the Petula show lost a friend who had been trying to assist victims at the site.

I am expecting to be here until Friday night and hope to get home at that time. I plan to give blood in the meantime. I'm also changing one of the charity auctions from the Dark Shadows Festival last month to a WTC relief fund. It is so unreal to see video footage of that event and my Belafonte interview in the hotel that no longer exists, sandwiched between the two towers.

I know it is going to be a long, long healing process and there is much uncertainty and suffering ahead. But I am grateful for friends such as you to make the journey more meaningful. Love, Jim

Amen, Jim.

Here are some other e-mails that arrived

GIVING BLOOD

Hi Rod, After hearing the news Tuesday I wanted to do something to help and since I have O+ blood I decided to go give blood. The line was long but everyone was there for the same reason to help, to do something. The line went around the building, the blood center being in a strip mall--it was to get much longer as the day wore on. We all talked about how quiet it was. I live west of O'Hare and there's always background noise of planes flying overhead.

But something amazing was taking place there in line, people waiting started helping pass out info on giving blood, then
water, juice, cookies. People got out of line and went over to the grocery store nearby and brought back cookies and bagels. Shortly restaurants in the area started bring over food, French toast, cinnamon rolls. even pizza! Then boxes of juice and bananas showed up. probably from the grocery store--they later gave ice too.

A woman in front of me had her 2 daughters with her and they started collecting trash and passing things out. Once inside I saw these 2 girls sitting patiently drawing. one drew the Trade Center with black and orange smoke pouring out the top. then a few minutes later she drew a huge pink heart.

I can't think of a better place to have been. I was there 6 hours and there were old and young there and everyone wanting to help in some way. It's an amazing country with some pretty amazing citizens! Susan


Dear Susan, Thanks for sharing your experience in the ‘blood line.’ Given the chance people are always better than we expect them to be. These past few days’ experiences like yours have been reported from all over the nation and around the globe. It’s a beautiful world full of extraordinary people and it will always need the love and protection we give it.

I loved your letter and the way you described this small but important event was as good as being there. Luv, Rod

NO WORDS

I visit your site most days, smile at what you have written, take comfort in your words, rejoice in the reminder that you give that the World is wonderful and I am alive, blessed with a family who love & appreciate me. The World is lovely? It was until yesterday. I knew of the events as they happened - thanks to the marvels of technology & mobile phones. I came home & switched on TV and could not believe what I saw - surely this was a Die Hard movie? It wasn't.

I can think of no better place to send my deepest condolences to the American people than by writing to you - you extend beyond nations, yet are truly an American. I'm not. Last year I went to New York - it has to be the most beautiful city in the World. I went onto the roof of the South Tower - I was on top of the world and it was magical. My husband wasn't with me, so a few weeks ago I booked to come back to New York because I wanted my husband to experience the absolute thrill of being on top of the World ...now it doesn't exist.

I know my feelings and my condolences doesn't change these dreadful events, I am crying as I write this - but I just wanted to let you know that I care. I don't know what else to say - words just aren't enough. Emily


Dear Emily, Having visited The World Trade Center you know how busy, vibrant and alive it was. I found it very much like a city and in fact it was a microcosm of the metropolis that makes up New York. The views from the observation deck on top and the Windows of the World restaurant were spectacular. You could find anything and everything in the shopping mall that made up the lower concourse and the bustle of the main lobby had a romance and excitement about it like no other place I’ve been. It seemed as if everyone coming in and out of the building was on his or her way to somewhere. Even the tourists didn’t loiter.

A few blocks away the riverfront had green expansive parks that were as much a part of the center as the buildings themselves. Transportation to and from the center was fast and easy since both subway and commuter train took you right to the buildings.

Thousands of people worked happily, industriously and safely at the Trade Center. If you were from out of town and doing quick business at the complex there were decent hotels and lodging across the street or around the corner. Despite being located downtown near the financial center it was still a short taxi ride to the theatre district and Forty-Second Street and a healthy walk to The Village.

To think that this giant marvel of planning, architecture and building is now a tomb for thousands of people like you and me is more than heart wrenching, it is numbing. So much life, talent, love and humanity gone in an instant. No, Emily, there are not enough words or even emotions to express how we feel but your words and those of the other letter writers today help all of us. Luv, Rod

WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO MY CITY?

As the hours pass I go in and out of so many emotions, shock was first then disbelief fear anger sadness and then back all over again. What have they done to my city? Our great city, the most famous skyline in the world.

All the innocent people, the emails from friends telling me of the burn victims, the Wall street men in suits dropping to their knees crying, the brave firefighters not hesitating to rush on in, all the stories that continue to flood our lives, and will continue, sadden me so much. It is somewhat of a surprise to have these waves of emotions come over me, I thought doing something other than watching TV. would help but it doesn’t. This is nowhere near over.

I don’t think even living in New York almost 19 years has made that much difference in how I’m dealing with this. As in any tragedy, I believe there are positive things to learn and tremendous growth if we try to find the lesson in what God is trying to help us with, as a society, individual, whatever. And this lesson is so obvious; God is constantly trying to show us that intolerance, hatred, bigotry, judgment of others, is a big no-no.

And when it comes in the name of religion, as it has so often in the pasta lesson of love is what is needed to be learned. Severe fundamentalists in ANY religion or group will do nothing but contribute to the fear and division in any society, they are missing the point of gods love for all and inclusion of all. It’s that simple!

PLEASE don’t hide the truth of what is really the root of this disaster to any of your children or friends, family etc. That is the only way we will heal. Love Mike Cline


Dear Mike,  As transplanted New Yorkers and my new friends you and Tom were among the first people I thought of while I was watching the terrible events unfold on Tuesday morning. Your heartfelt letter pretty much says it all.

As for “the fundamentalists” inside and outside of this great country, they get the fundamentals wrong every time.
Fundamental to life and everything that goes with it is live and let live. The right to live and breathe in this world is basic and not limited to those who feel anyone who believes differently than they do is somehow a lesser human being. I’ll be devoting an entire Flight Plan to one such fundamentalist / bigot who couldn’t wait to blame Tuesday’s tragedy on his usual list of scapegoats.

I agree with you about not shielding children from bad news, as I indicated last week this is a perfect time to help youngsters come to terms with their anxieties and fears. Luv, Rod

SUGGESTIONS

Your suggestions are right on. I pray that they are kept close to the heart with long-term memory. Not just for the moment. We should have and we should. Only one of those can become a promise from now on. I hope my local sheriff and fire stations aren't too shocked when I take my four boys down there to give them a hug. Bets (Betsy)

Dear Bets, It’s comforting to see how many hugs and heartfelt thanks police and firemen have been getting during the past week. No one works harder, cares more and puts their lives on the line more often than these very public servants. And, let us never forget that 403 firefighters are dead or missing in the Trade Center debris. Luv, Rod

COMFORT

Dear Rod, Today's SPTL was so difficult to read - the tears didn't let the words thru to these old but sad eyes. Thank you for your being here for all of us, and for your words of hope and action. Knowing you for all these years, who you are, what you stand for, how you feel, what you believe makes your message so much more potent.

After talking to you this afternoon, and knowing you and Edward are ok, we wanted to write and tell you how much we appreciate your work and your friendship. Your world is so big, your influence so dynamic, your words so poetic and calming, please know that we, and millions of your readers, are greatly comforted by our ability to reach out to you daily. Richard, Anita, Neal, Beth and family :)


Dear Richard, Anita, Neal and Beth, Space is space even on The Net and if I’m going to take up some of it I can think of no better motive than to offer comfort when it’s needed, friendship when it’s wanted and love when it might be missing. I consider those who visit here often part of my extended family. I’m here for you and them. Luv, Rod

THANK YOU

Gentle Spirit, My words seem so insignificant in comparison and I want to say, "your writing touches my heart in its most sacred places". You are delightful by the very clarity of your verse.

As I searched today for a poem by you... ".... as I watch you walk away ..." I came to your website and felt grateful and blessed. You have been, for years, my favorite. Wishing you love and peace on this day of remembrance. Maggie

Dear Maggie, Thanks, but don’t give me that much credit, without an audience I wouldn’t exist. Luv, Rod

NOSTRADAMUS

In the year of the new century and nine months,
From the sky will come a great King of Terror...
The sky will burn at forty-five degrees.
Fire approaches the great new city...

In the city of York there will be a great collapse,
Two twin brothers torn apart by chaos while the
fortress falls, the great leader will succumb.
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.

- NOSTRADAMUS

2001 is the first year of the new century and September is the 9th month. New York is located at the 45 degree Latitude. Interesting and chilling.

I, like you Rod, am antiwar. I'm an Army brat and spent my share of time living overseas. In the mid-sixties when we were living in Wurzburg, Germany, the country still bore visible scares of war in the form of portions of buildings bombed in W.W.II left standing. As Americans we have riches to rebuild and erase the visible signs of attacks on our country. The psychological damage will eventually heal or die as those of us who have witnessed this great tragedy cross over.

Let us all pray that God, by whatever name you know Him, will guide us and our leadership in our efforts to understand and respond to this act brought against the most noble country ever. While we sort this out, remember to fly your flag proudly, hug your family and friends and voice your feelings for them, shake the hand of your neighbor instead of waving to him, and commit to doing every

And to you, Rod: Thank you for your website and giving us a place to go every day to connect with friends we may never meet. You have created a wonderful community for us, and we appreciate both the site and the gift of personal communication with you and each other. Ann Martin


Dear Ann, Mae West said it best, “I’ve yet to hear a man wake up in the morning and say, “I’ve just had a great war.” Like it or not we are at war and, alas, at some disadvantage since we don’t know who the enemy is or where to find them.

I fear it will be a long war but I hope it’s more about preventing something like this from happening again than it is about punishment.

As for the so-called thoughts of Nostradamus being interesting and chilling, alas the old boy is dragged out more often to make rear projections than our jumbo TV sets. That particular prediction wasn’t in my “Collected Works of the Devine Mr. N” but I’m sure it will make it into the revised editions. Wouldn’t it be great if the folks who pass this bilge along just once cited chapter, page and verse?

Freedom is a precious commodity, Ann, and as much as I deplore all the wars that have been fought for it I admire them more than I do the thousands of others that have been waged under the banner of religion. The way I see it, Freedom is a principle and a right, religion is a chosen preference. I can’t
see praying to any God of vengeance. But, yes, like you I’m anti-war. Thank God for you. Luv, Rod

IN GODS NAME

Dear Rod and Edward, What can I say? I was on my way back from Melbourne and in transit in Singapore when I saw crowds of people around a TV screen.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing! My favourite city being struck at its core. I first of all thought it was a movie and then, when I realized that this was reality, I just felt sick. I have to tell you, it took considerable courage to get on the plane to carry on my journey but I'm home.

I just had to write to you and Edward, telling you that you, in particular, and your country are constantly in my thoughts. I grieve, I mourn and I have a terrible anger. I cannot pray. Religion has been the root of nearly all the wars and atrocities
throughout the century - and I cannot believe in a God who allows such atrocities to be carried out in his name. My heart is full with sorrow and for love for you. Sue

Dear Sue, Edward and I both cried many tears on Tuesday and every day since. Thanks for the comfort you gave us by thinking of us.

Because someone says they are doing such and such “in God’s name” doesn’t make it so. Some folks find the books of The Bible as plastic and pliable as the works of Nostradamous. True the bible says “an eye for an eye” but isn’t that cancelled out by “thou shalt not kill?”

If God decided one day to favor me with a visitation and during our little chat he suggested I grab a gun and shoot somebody, I’d skip the gun and find another God. Luv, Rod

HORROR

I am 60 years old, and I have always found solace in your poetry and music; what can you offer me for this latest horror? Bob

Dear Bob, here’s a meditation and two prayers from “An Outstretched Hand,” I hope they help. Luv, Rod

The Long Run

Once I thought I’d die at fifty. I had no reason for thinking so, merely that I would have spent the hours allotted to me and it would be time for me to move through the distance to whatever waits when we are separated from life. Now I know that I will not go easy. I enjoy too much the sparring, the skirmishes, and the long runs that only life affords.

Prayer Before Sleep

Lord, let me live another night, another hour, another minute, that I might try to make up for transgressions, known and unknown, which I have brought about within the day just past. Forgive me, Lord, and help protect me from myself. Help me. For, with Your help, sleep - even that final one - will come easy.

Prayer at Morning

Good morning, God, and thank you for another restful night. Help me achieve these goals I’ve set for this new day, so that I will have justified this extra time on earth.

JIMMIE RODGERS

Today is Jimmie Rodgers’ 68th Birthday.

A special surprise party was held for him on Saturday night in Branson, which I had planned to attend. After discussing it at length with my family, I decided not to take the flight that would have gotten me there on Friday. My apologies Jimmie and my eternal love for being a good friend and the first artist to record so many of my songs including “The World I Used to Know,” “You Pass Me By,” “Someplace Green,” “Another Country,” “Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name,” “Bon Soir, Mademoiselle” and so many others.

Most of all, happy, happy birthday and many more.

And to Jews everywhere, a blessed Rosh Hashanah. Sleep warm.

RM 9/17/2001 Previously unpublished.

Details of Rod's next appearance can be obtained by following the link below.

"Tap Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman

notable birthdays

Rosh Hashanah

Eddie “Rochester” Anderson o Lance Armstrong o Frankie Avalon o Robert Blake o Rossano Brazzi o Harold Clurman o June Foray o James Gandolfini o Greta Garbo o Samuel Johnson o Keith Kidder o Phyllis Kirk o Jada Pinkett Smith o Jimmie Rodgers o Michael Scigliano o James Shirley o Josef Tal o Jack Warden o Fred Willard

Rod's random thoughts The minute man walks into war he starts into a tunnel with no end.

Love is another word for sharing. If you go out into and beyond the day with love in mind and heart, you are probably as close to life as you can ever hope to be.

Mankind will always suffer from Cain’s crime and God’s failure to condemn it.

TWO POEMS & A SONG

Earth

Alive, awake
we anguish for the dead
we wail and weep.
But it is for ourselves
               that tears
and tearing at the heart
               is done.

We do not grieve
because the earth
reclaims its own.
We weep because
we’re suddenly deprived
of good companions
       sound judgment
and familiar counsel.

-from “An Outstretched Hand,” 1980

The Green

I’ll survive, I will.
Whatever hill I’m asked
to climb or crawl upon
whatever dry space
I must travel through
to where the green
of this oncoming season
stays to speak to me,
I’ll be there.

Wait for me
whoever you are.
Whatever tunic or bright shirt
you wear,
I’m coming, I’ll be there.

-from “An Outstretched Hand,” 1980

Song from The Earth

One drop of rain
cannot fill a fountain.
One grain of sand
cannot make a mountain.
And a handful of earth
is more than we should be worth
in the eyes of the Man
who made us all from the earth.

Those who go alone
those who go together
those who give the world its trouble
those who make it better,
we’re all on our way to dust
from the day of our birth,
from the ground we’ve come
and we’re all going back to earth.
So stay for a while with me
walk another mile with me,
live another day for what it’s worth.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
we’re all going back to the earth.

-from the album “The Earth, 1970 ” & “An Outstretched Hand,” 1980. Words by Rod McKuen, music by Anita Kerr.

 
© 1969, 1970, 1980, 1988, 1994, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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