Confessions of a Cayce Doctor
“Keep thine feet on the earth,
but thine head, thine soul, thine mind
to the whisperings of God.”
§ The Army decided that I should be a Flight Surgeon which required training at Fort Rucker, Alabama. I filled in time at Martin Army Hospital while waiting on the program to start. Like all aviation personnel, I was required to take a Flight Physical which included a standard chest Xray. For once during my days at Fort Benning, I passed with flying colors. The radiologist’s report read as: “AP and Lateral views of the chest reveal no abnormalities of heart, lungs or rib cage. There is noted, however, clear evidence of vestigial wing buds. This man is ready to fly.”
In any case, I was ready for a change after years in college, med school, and internship. Flight Surgeon school was the next step. It was a quick six-week course patterned after similar ones given by the Air Force and Navy. Even while the training was easy and rather social, it seemed like the program was more official than real. The Army was trying to make helicoptering into something more complicated and dangerous than it was.
Rotor wing aircraft defy gravity like fixed wing airplanes do and are prone to error and accidents. But especially in peace time, they do not bring cause for worries about altitude, long hours of flight, and passenger loads. The dangers to men and machinery are relatively small as opposed to those in high-performance aircraft common in the Air Force and Navy.
That said, I got to see a different Army base and take up running in off-duty hours. I was also exposed to “flyers” and given a new badge to wear on my Class A uniform: Flight Surgeon’s wings. And, I was then able to sign my name Capt. Robert McNary, MD, MC, FS. MC for Medical Corps, FS for Flight Surgeon. Yahoo!
Flight Surgeon Badge
Initials have become more and more prevalent and seemingly important in the modern world. Pass through some program and get a certificate to impress your self and others. Real knowing, understanding and awareness are not often required. But rather, the ability to pass tests and know what instructors and boards want the student to know. §
Kathy and I appeared at Fort Riley, Kansas, in the fall of 1978. It was my second time at the old central Plains post. So, I felt at home in some ways. Before long we found a place to live on the edge of Manhattan (The Little Apple), one of the post towns spread around the base. I commuted to work and Kathy tried to get her bearings. She continued over succeeding months to finish her graduate degree program at Carrolton, GA. Then, she began to think about a Ph.D. to rival her Doctor husband. Unfortunately, one more diploma would not be enough for the likes of Kathy and Dr. Wood.
I set to work at Fort Riley in a number of capacities some of which were more for show than for real effect. The Flight Surgeon’s job was to attend aviation personnel at Troop Medical Clinic #1 and perform endless annual flight physical examinations. That became an exceedingly repetitious and boring job. In part because of the routine and the other part because the group I attended was a very “normal,” healthy, robust set of militia men and women. They were not only soldiers, but also had relatively estimable jobs in the Army and wanted to maintain that station at all costs. They had extra motivation toward maintaining health, fitness and waistline.
I was also given the title of Medical Consultant for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Program. That meant I had occasional visits from soldiers with drug and alcohol problems. I was also expected to write prescriptions for Antabuse, at times. That drug was meant to deter drinkers from indulging. When it worked, they got violently sick upon imbibing and were thus more motivated to leave booze alone. The theory was fine, the practice did not always follow suit. The reader should be able to imagine obvious shortcomings in such a prescription.
At the home of the Big Red One – the First Infantry Division, I rarely spent time at Irwin Army Hospital. That was fine with me. I had seen enough of hospitals. I only appeared there about once a month when the call roster appointed me to cover in the Emergency Room on a weekend.
I might CONFESS that the Irwin Army Hospital Emergency Room became the site of most of my medical errors during my time at Fort Riley. I remember mis-diagnosing a patient who before long was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy. There is an old adage that a woman is considered pregnant until proven otherwise. I also, uncharacteristically, sent a child patient home with its mother when she decided he should be seen for a sore throat at three a.m. That got me a royal chewing out and probably rightly so.
I was assigned to the First Medical Battalion on Custer Hill. But, I had little to do with it most of the time. I was attached to the First Aviation Battalion because I was their Flight Surgeon and my allegiance was largely to Aviation. I was expected to keep tabs on the Air Field and to fly in the back seat of helicopters for several hours each month. When I did, I was rewarded with an extra $50 in my pay check. That was a modest but welcome inducement. At the same time, I got to know some of the aviation personnel at Marshall Army Airfield. I was further expected to give occasional classes at the airfield in topics pertinent to military. That was good practice for me to stand in front of people. But, I doubt the aviators and soldiers got much out of those early teaching efforts.
My main venue was at Troop Medical Clinic #1 on Main Post. It was located in an old two-story sandstone structure. The clinic took up half of the first floor and offices filled the rest of the space. One of my neighbors was Lieutenant Colonel Harry “Pete” Davis who was the Division Surgeon when I appeared.
Davis was on the general’s staff, wrote papers for the Division Commander (DC), and reported directly to the major general when requested. When I first met him, Davis was reading Manchester’s American Caesar: The Life of General Douglas MacArthur. An internist by training, Pete was dreaming of the day he would be named Surgeon General of the United States Army. Davis was dedicated, extremely hard working, and willing to do whatever was required to fulfill his part of the mission. He thought, talked, ate, and lived Army. Davis upheld its virtues and obligations quite well, maybe long enough to retire therefrom. He even sacrificed himself on occasion, or so it seemed.
At the same time, Davis was short and on the runty side and exuded little presence or real charisma. Though he was a fine, intelligent, and energetic staff officer, he just didn’t stand out in a crowd. Davis almost always wore Army fatigues, trying to look like a soldier. Yet, he didn’t act very military or official – neither did I, to be sure. When we were in Germany on maneuvers in the winter of 1979, Davis dutifully traveled from station to station bundled up more like a schoolboy than a soldier. He talked about his concerns for Snuffy Smith, the soldier in the field. But, with his pale face and runny nose embedded in layers of winter Army clothing, Davis may have been more in need of sympathy.
Actually, I liked LTC Davis and respected him for his indefatigable constitution and persistent efforts. In those aspects, he did fit the title of the division’s surgeon and may have someday merited the rank of general.
There were others in his office with whom I spent more time. Master Sergeant McKinney was a man of color, a career military man, who filled in as Davis’s chief aide on the enlisted side. He was a warm, helpful fellow. First Lt. Ron York assisted on the officer end of things. He had been an osteopathic medical student in Kansas City who decided to take a break from studies. He was also a racquet ball champion and I happily took a few lessons from him. Lastly, there was 1st Lt. Charles Pride, the Public Health Officer. I always thought his last name was fitting. On the other hand, he thought I needed new names, as he was happy to call me Dr. Organic and Chiro and some other forgotten titles.
When I took up the job as Medical Officer at TMC #1, I figured I could finally begin to step into the holistic medical – Cayce type – shoes for which I had been grooming myself. And I did, for the most part, what I thought best for my mostly young patients and for the young soldiers who worked under me. There was little interference with my practice and my work seemed to pass muster.
In a short time, I became attached to my TMC #1 posting. My complement of enlisted help was drawn from the 16th Combat Surgical Hospital (formerly the 16th MASH). I enjoyed working with the mostly young medics; I had been in their shoes not too many years before. For the most part, they were very bright, eager to learn, and receptive to the example of the incumbent medical officer.
While at TMC #1, my enlisted cohorts were two efficient NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers): first, SSG Ron Gaither and, later, SFC Gene Powell. Gaither was orderly, by the book, protective of his enlisted men and women, and always eager to lend a helping hand. On the opposite hand, Sergeant Gaither was insecure, anxious, and unwilling to stick his neck out to ask for things to which the clinic was more than entitled, but for some reason had not been forthcoming.
SFC Powell wasn’t bashful about asking for anything. And if the system wouldn’t cough it up, he would find his own independent means to procure it. Powell was seasoned and sharp, confident and brash. He was probably as good an NCO as they come, but he was only as good as he wanted to be at any particular time.
Powell was a striking character. He stands out in my memory for several reasons. Gene lusted after Asian women. His ex-wife was Korean and his current lover was Korean as well. He carried Korea with him in other ways. I could always tell when Sergeant Powell was in the building because the odor of Korean kimchee permeated the air waves.
Powell was as provocative in his profile as in his perfume. When he first took over from the departing Gaither, he was almost 100 pounds over the Army weight limit for his height. At the time, Uncle Sam was pushing for slimmer and trimmer soldiers from the top down. Powell fought the battle of the bulge for over a year while I knew him. For days and weeks, he jogged, lifted weights, and just drank water to cut himself down to size.
Powell had a jovial manner befitting his girth, but also had a cynical sense of humor. He could laugh at himself when not the Army. Some months after Powell had won his weight battle, I asked how his weightlifting program was going. He chortled and said, “Oh, I think about my barbells and weight once in a while. But, when I walk through my old exercise room, I just smile and wave.”
I never thought it my place to directly discuss his weight issues. And, he certainly never asked me for any “reading” on the subject. My profession and experiences did not top his greater age and liberty to make choices within the limits that the Army set for him.
I can still see some of the faces especially of the younger enlisted personnel. They were energetic and wanted to succeed in their works. There were so many personalities amongst the group: Alex, a black clerk who studied the martial arts and carried his discipline in his walk and bearing; Nora, a teenage clerk who was working on a promotion to MRS; Dave and Sid and Gordon, who were buddies but also competitors trying to learn from and impress the “Doc.”
Sp. 4 James Alexander once shared with me a teaching from his martial arts instructor. One worth carrying for many years. He was told and was happy to pass on a dictum that we all might remember. It was that each person should be able to say, “I am three things. I am what other people think I am. I am what I think I am. I am what I am.”
Would that we knew who we are. Too often we just think we know, then we get into trouble. “Forgive us for we know not what we do.”
I was lucky to have an interested and interesting set of corpsmen and women at the clinic. Looking over my shoulder, the only thing I could complain about may have been the spelling of my compatriots. Some of the medical terminology was quite difficult for them. I will let you guess how words like diarrhea, hemorrhoids and pneumonia appeared on patient forms when “presenting complaint” was written down. At one time, I considered compiling a dictionary of medical misspellings based on that experience.
Regardless, the frequent and often funny misspellings did lighten up the day. They also spurred me to initiate periodic training sessions. We covered basic anatomy and physiology, vital signs, and common illnesses and remedies. I tried to keep the classes informal and reasonably practical. They became openings for laughter as well as learning. The medics needed the opportunities to learn more and appreciated the attention while I gained from my teaching efforts. We all enjoyed the camaraderie.
TMC #1 took up a lot of floor space and was composed of two corner offices, three small exam rooms, a large waiting area, treatment, dispensing, records, and storage rooms. Over time, I did my best within government restrictions to tune up the place. I covered most of the exposed walls with posters of one sort or another. I requisitioned an old hi-fi/stereo system, a black board, and various teaching materials. I photocopied reams of self-help and health information and placed them prominently in the waiting area. I suppose only a tiny portion of it was ever read, but ... Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I decorated my corner office pretty much as I liked. I purchased a negative-ion generator to neutralize the positive ones and clean up the stale air. I read the manufacturer’s instruction for installation, but didn’t do a very good job of following them. Because the office space was small, there were only a few possible placements for the generator. I first stationed it on my desk, but whenever I got near the device with the telephone receiver in my hand I got one hell of a jolt. When I tried to put it near the sink, I got another. Eventually, I found a safe spot high in a corner and to the side of the sink. But, the generator caused me regular housekeeping chores in that area with dust precipitating from the air and dirtying up my picture of Pooh and Friends. The next tenant probably did a little head-scratching about dirty spots on the wall.
Paper work, equipment, furnishings and medications all have their place in a medical office. But, the real work was with people – patients and personnel – with whom I tried to create positive interaction. Even the small things we do can make a difference. They did then and I am sure they still do now. The details and frills are secondary. It was person-to-person contact and real concern that was most useful.
At the same time, I was not a pill pusher nor a test man. The pharmacy tech was rarely very busy and I do remember hearing words like, “The Doc sure doesn’t order much for lab tests.”
LESSON§ My reticence to do testing was itself tested on occasion. But, one episode brought forth a particularly valuable lesson. I discovered that there can be other reasons to do medical tests beyond getting information in search of some finding or diagnosis. The story may be instructive from a number of angles.
I hold in memory the time when a young enlisted man came to the clinic complaining of chest discomfort. He was obviously in more than physical distress. It didn’t take long for me to find out that his favorite uncle had just died after a heart attack.
The young man was scared and wanted his heart tested. I tried on two or three visits to reassure him that, “You’re too young to have a heart attack. You’re on active duty, working, and in obviously good health. You do your job and PT. Your body seems to be functioning quite well. Your exam is perfectly normal. You have simply had a shock because of your uncle’s death. You need to grieve a bit and just let things settle. You will be fine.”
Well, things weren’t going to be fine because this physician didn’t really listen to his patient. The young man persisted making trips to the clinic until a day came when I was off duty. The practitioner who was ON DUTY and paying attention that day decided, “The only way to appease this fellow is do what he asks. Let’s get a therapeutic EKG.”
The EKG was surely WNL – Within Normal Limits. The soldier was satisfied. Maybe cured. And we heard nothing more from him. Listening to the patient can be much more valuable than talking or examination. And sometimes, just the administration of a test can be therapeutic. A lesson worth learning. §
I tried to make minor adjustments in the pharmacy. It was stocked with many more items than I would ever use. But, I did request a supply of castor oil, olive oil, plant-based laxatives, and vitamins. To top it off, I asked for Placebo to be stocked in Troop Medical Clinic #1. I remember the Division Surgeon signing off on my order. He made two comments as he approved my request, “Don’t you know that most vitamin supplements are just pissed out in the urine. Americans have rather expensive urine.”
Then, Davis went on to write a paragraph in response to the request for Placebo. I thought it wasn’t really asking for much. He ended his note saying, “I wonder if you realize what you are doing when you give placebo. What are the implications of prescribing it for a patient? Will you need the patient’s consent? Do you have to tell patients you are giving them a placebo when you prescribe?”
Well, he might have been right about the vitamins. But, I suspect they were safer and cheaper to prescribe than most drugs on the shelf. How pricey is the urine of the over-medicated public?
Regarding his query on Placebo, it seemed to me that the placebo tablet clearly fits the Hippocratic dictum, “First, do no harm.” How can a lactose (milk sugar) pill harm, infringe, or disrupt a patient’s integrity in any way comparable to the artificial pharmacological agents that physicians prescribe so freely each day: those antagonistic substances which combat normal bodily processes – the anti-biotics, anti-acids, anti-inflammatories, anti-arthritics, anti-pruritics, anti-histamines, anti-diarrheals, anti-tussives, anti-pyretics, et cetera and et cetera?
Regarding informed consent, I thought, “Duh! Why would I give a sugar pill to someone and tell him so? ‘Sergeant Patient, I’m writing you a prescription for a capsule which contains an inert substance. Theoretically, it should have absolutely no effect on you unless you believe it will. But, I want you to give it a try, just the same. I guarantee it will work if you believe the strange logic I have just presented to you.’”
I fought a few small battles with and alongside LTC Davis over the next two years. But, I decided not to precipitate one over placebo use in the TMC. Rather than haggle, I let him have that one. Instead, I had the pharmacy tech procure some milk sugar and empty capsules. It gave the lad a project for a few hours to fill the bright red capsule so that we had a ready supply of Obecalp (placebo spelled backward) to prescribe as needed at TMC #1.
I had another small tussle with the Division Surgeon early in my days at Fort Riley. Although my bout with hepatitis was a one time affair, I confronted a boil here or there on one limb or the other thereafter. They always resolved of themselves with only minor discomforts along the way. What was boiling up was hard to say then or now. Life was actually peaceful and relatively quiet, but somewhere within things must have been simmering, waiting to boil up – or just clearing the house a bit. In that first December, I noticed a tender lump inside my nose. I bothered, worried, and tinkered with that particular “zit” for several days. It didn’t want to come to a head, but just grew bigger and more painful. And, my nose grew larger as well. It got so puffy, purplish and bulbous that I began to look like W. C. Fields. The swelling spread into the areas below my eyes and I had trouble finding my feet at times because of it.
The whole thing was a bit scary and terribly discomforting. If I did anything to my nose, even touched it, the pain got worse. I could think of no reasonable home remedy for a boil hidden in the nose. A castor oil pack never came to mind. In desperation, rather than seek medical help, I called Dorothy (whom you will meet later) and asked for her healing assistance. She came by the apartment and spent some time with me. She had no great clues as to what to do for my swollen and tender proboscis, but she did lay her hands on me – over my face and head and said a prayer.
By that time, I had missed a day or two of work and Kathy started to take charge. She spoke to the Division Surgeon who expressed his concern. Davis firmly recommended that I visit the hospital ENT Clinic which was temporarily manned by Dr. Guy Patterson. Patterson was a general medical officer like myself. He had worked a few hours weekly with the previous ENT specialist and was filling his shoes until a permanent certified replacement appeared.
Guy was a fine, gentle, and bright young M.D., but he was fresh out of internship like myself and had limited ENT experience. My confidence level in his abilities were no higher than my beliefs in the whole medical system, but . . . Colonel Davis expected something to be done. Patterson was worried that the “infection” might lead to cavernous venous thrombosis, a very serious but rather unlikely possibility. It is one of those frightening rarities which physician’s guard against but almost never see. Akin to a zebra in Ed Friedler’s paradigm.
Both Guy and I hoped that the boil was ready, as Patterson prepared me for an I & D (Incision and Drainage) procedure in his ENT chair. I leaned back while Guy put on his reflective head mirror and shined a bright beam at my nose. Then he tried to deaden the area by spraying it with a refrigerant. With the freezing liquid trickling down my throat, I was in a vulnerable position. Guy stabbed through the semi-frozen tissue with a sharp scalpel blade. But, all that he got for his efforts and my discomfort was a bit of blood and more pain. Patterson was embarrassed at his failure to hit yellow gold – in that case, pus. He was disappointed as well. So was I.
Patterson offered me his condolences and gave me script for Ampicillin. I had it filled, though unenthusiastically. I took only a few of the forty capsules. I belched and battled with them as a toxic and noxious smell which eructed from my stomach. Soon developing diarrhea, I decided to flush the rest of medication down the toilet with one of the loose stools. Actually, the diarrhea – intestinal flush – may have been “just what a Cayce doctor would order.” I have taken no pills, prescription or non-prescription, since that date. That is with one exception which will be mentioned regarding moments occurring many years hence.
The boil strangely never came to a head. The swelling and pain slowly subsided. The lump just slowly shrunk over a period of years. I improved quickly enough so that Kathy and I could make a Christmas trip to celebrate with my family in South Dakota. By the time we reached home, my nose was much better. Yet, my face still showed the signs of my ordeal. My nose looked like Rudolph’s, only not so shiny.
Nobody at home made any direct comment about my schnozzle. But, I obliviously proceeded to remark to my older sibling about some new gray hairs he was sporting. That observation got under his skin, but not sufficiently for him to make a rebuttal at the moment. However, he later spoke to Mom saying, “Butch sure has a lot of nerve to talk about my gray hair. Look at him with the beet planted in the middle of his face.” Ah! More to learn.
I doubt there was any benefit from Ampicillin in my bout with boil. Lest it be touted as a laxative. Maybe it is just another placebo with a name writ large. I don’t remember ever prescribing Ampicillin once I was out of training. And, I probably only used placebos in less than a handful of occasions during my whole medical career. I do remember prescribing for a young woman who was frequenting the Troop Medical Clinic with ever changing symptoms. She returned a few days after receiving an Obecalp prescription saying, “Oh, those red capsules made me really sick. I can’t take them anymore.” I don’t recall what happened with the woman. But if I had those moments with her to do over, I would try to do things differently. Didn’t I just replace one pill with another?
DIGRESSION§ All the same, I was not confident in promoting the NEW medication with her. I certainly didn’t believe very much in Placebo, as I had less experience with it than with many medications – which often was not all that much. I didn’t have much faith in most of those, either.
There is plentiful evidence that faith in a pill or procedure is as consequential if not more so than the supposed real deal. “Far more important than what the physician does is the patient’s belief in what the physician does.” (William Osler)
Modern patients and their physicians have been trained for generations to believe in pills. They put so much faith into little capsules that to a critical eye that kind of thinking might appear as magical. Medicine and medication are practically synonymous in recent generations. Pills are the preferred and sometimes the only acceptable method in treating modern ailments. They are quick and easy, if not safe and effective. No wonder we are a pill popping society!
My mind returns repeatedly to a simple but insightful statement made many generations ago in France by the writer, philosopher and critic Voltaire. His perception is just as accurate today as it was in the 18th century: “Physicians prescribe drugs of which they know little for diseases of which they know less to patients of which they know absolutely nothing.”
For the moment, we will focus on the the first part of the citation. But let the reader be assured that others are almost as true as the starter. For the most part, John Q. Patient believes that his physician knows a lot about the medicines which are prescribed for him. But, how could any physician really know that much about even a tiny percentage of the available repertory? Or for that matter, know one single medication well unless s/he took it personally for an extended period of time? Or worked with many patients who reported to him/her regularly and faithfully about its internal effects? That is pretty rare. Psychiatrists and a few others may make the exception to the rule as they work with a smaller spectrum of patients and a modest number of remedies.
Your physician “tries” medications on his/her patients based on teachings in medical school, the latest rap from visiting pharmaceutical reps, hype in the medical media, and his PDR (Physicians Desk Reference). Sometimes, even from patients asking about such things as the Purple Pill.
It is pretty well known in the medical field that the newer the medication the more effective it will be. That because hopes and promises still look bright, side effects have yet to raise their fearsome specters, and the placebo effect is most pronounced.
The present-day medical system has a huge investment in medications. “A pill for every ill.” And, physician and patient expectations run readily and regularly towards the prescription pad. It was said long ago by some sage that, “The readiness to take pills separates man from beast.” Animals and children seem to retain the wits that medications are better shunned than taken.
Medicine has lost its way in many aspects of modern practice. That while the finest physicians over the ages have eschewed the abundant prescription of all manner of drugs. §
• Oliver Wendell Holmes: I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica, as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be better for mankind-and all the worse for the fishes.
• William Osler: The first duty of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine.
• Robert Mendelsohn: In the Church of Modern Medicine, the doctor who treats without drugs is regarded as a heretic because he or she appears to have rejected the sacrament of medication. Non-drug healers are regarded as belonging to a different religious system and are thought of as quacks, nuts or faddists.§
But, what is a physician or patient to do in lieu of medication? Edgar Cayce recommended formulae which were relatively specific for particular individuals. And, he had clairvoyant advantage that very few can emulate. How can such be duplicated in the modern era?
Cayce can’t be duplicated presently, but common sense can go a long way towards helping those in need. And since many moderns need to “take something,” why not prescribe or take medicinals which support bodily functions, promote well-being, stimulate healing? Rather than attacking a problem, why not work at rejuvenating the body and its systems? It is hard to go wrong with such an approach. Much of the Cayce methodology was based on just that very idea. He was ever giving suggestions to resuscitate, regenerate and rebuild. There was no talk of “attacking” problems, but of working with the forces of body, mind and spirit to bring forth a renewal of that magical form called the human body.
You see, Dr. Osler had it right when he said, “The person who takes medicine must recover twice, once from the disease, and once from the medicine.”
In my days of treating soldiers, my best and favored prescription for those with a variety of ailments was “Quarters” for 24 to 72 hours. Put the young person to bed and keep him or her there. That was more effective and more natural than any pill or remedy I know.
That was and still is my favorite remedy for myself. Would that more of us had the luxury to just “go to bed” when we are “sick and ailing.” Modern civilization too often requires someone’s okay – often a physician – to be sick for more than a day. When that happens, patients are often obliged to go through the mill of appointments, testing, procedures, as well as expenses. Some day it will be otherwise.
That said, let me tell the reader about some of my favorite remedies. Which are really more helpers and boosters rather than remedies. I shared some of these with patients and staff at TMC #1. But hopefully, I have refined the theory and practice of their use over the years.
Besides positive attitude and state of mind, a wholesome diet and regular exercise should be obvious avenues to health. Those three cover a wide spectrum which can surely produce the health-building assimilations, eliminations, circulation, and relaxation which are fundamental to the Cayce medical readings.
I must admit I had little influence on any soldier’s diet. That was pretty much determined by the spouse’s kitchen or the Army mess hall. One of the wonders of young bodies is that they can ingest all sorts of food materials, dissolve them in their innards, and turn them into flesh. Surely, the greater concern comes even in that age group with thoughts and stresses, emotions and worries. Attitude and right orientation of mind are of such huge importance in everyone’s life. They really are the deepest source of human nutrition. “The mind is the builder.”
A clear mind helps in so many ways to build and rebuild the form life. Without it, humans readily attract all manner of illness to themselves. To retrieve it once it has been disturbed can be a large job to undertake. Still all of us – physicians, friends and neighbors can try to point to the higher way through sound thought, word and action to those in need.
The aid of a shepherd-like presence was often recommended by Mr. Cayce for people with emotional problems. Would that modern systems might find ways to bring those in need for more than mere moments to the supposed authority and strength of physicians. But rather into communities where the light shines and expands. Ashrams and tribes and clans in past and present provide that much needed force.
The Cayce readings spent much time discussing and recommending proper diet. Surely, such varies some from person to person and place to place. But, as much wholesome, living, and fresh food as possible is a simple point at which to start. Whatever the sun has shined upon and given natural color is sure to be beneficial. Plants take the sun’s light and turn it into food and fiber. Plants then are eaten by animals which are often consumed by humans. At that point, the life force is three times removed from its source. More naturally and healthfully, we should gather nutrients as closely to the source as possible.
The sun itself is a great healer, known for ages but largely forgotten in modern times. We live so much of our lives protected from the elements and travel from our shelters to doctors located in other artificial structures. We forget the great nutritive and healing forces that the sun and the outdoors provide.
Thus also follows the simple wonders of exercising outdoors under sun and sky. Cayce often mentioned the benefit of sand, sea and sky. Which was certainly part of the reason that he eventually settled himself and his organization at Virginia. Man does not live by bread alone. Some saints and sun worshippers have learned to live off the prana, chi, mana, ether directly and solely. We can at least emulate them in part by spending more time under the sun and close to the life-giving elements of nature.
There are alternatives to spending practically our whole existences inside boxes of one type or another: houses, buildings, and motor vehicles. We will live longer and healthier when we make fuller and regular contact with nature.
One of the wisest things that the people at the Uchee Pines Institute did for their patients and themselves was to build simple sheds screened in on all sides and covered with tin. Bunks were stationed there for visitors and residents to sleep in relative comfort close to the elements. It was not quite like camping out, but fairly close. The benefits were incalculable but sure to accrue from “sleeping with nature.”
Exercise in the modern day has become a business through gyms and athletic clubs. Well and good for entrepreneurs. But, short of doing manual labor, there are many ways to get exercise to help balance, stimulate and heal things. Walking is my favorite and most recommended exercise. It can be done most anywhere, most any time. It requires no special training or equipment. Costs nothing. And, it has such great benefits.
Everyone should attract him or herself a suitable exercise. Done as close to nature as possible, regularly and happily. Especially in the modern setting, so many of us need to practice the conscious moving of our bodies, expending energy, and circulating in the midst of the wonderful creation of which we are part. Else we become constipated – in one manner or another.
The benefits of chiropractic and osteopathy have already been mentioned. But, they bear repeated discussion. Healing touch can be administered in a host of ways. Sharing that gift with another can be so simple. Yet, this is another remedy we have largely forgotten over the ages. That especially since families have been separated in modern civilization and relatives often do not live close by.
I took a few opportunities to use my hands while working with patients at TMC#1. I cannot say how beneficial my efforts were. But, I did come to the conclusion that my patients were not in the best hands when directed to hospital Physical Therapy.
CONFESSION§ One day, Sergeant Gaither took me aside and told me about one of his new medics who had recently been injured. Felix Jimson, a quiet man of color, had suffered a severe strain to his lower back while on field exercises some days previously. An ambulance had taken him directly to the hospital where he was examined and treated. Private Jimson was given muscle relaxants and directed to the Physical Therapy for a back “re-education” program.
When I saw Felix, it was obvious he was in real discomfort. Jimson was bent to one side and pain was written on his face. It didn’t take a physician to recognize that he needed help. I was concerned that not enough had been done for him and was more than aware of my lack of experience in the treatment of back injuries.
Thus, I resolved to get some extra attention for Felix in the form of care outside the military. Rather than having him accept a paltry prescription and a page of exercises. On my query, a friend recommended I take Felix to Dr. Joseph Garden in Manhattan and that I did. Garden first treated Private Jimson with acupressure and acupuncture. He soon eased him into gentle chiropractic adjustments. Within a week or so, Felix was back to work albeit in a tempered fashion. I wouldn’t say that Garden cured Felix, but he did touch him and talk with him. He worked on and with him rather than just him him a prescription and exercises to do. And, Jimson’s recovery coincided with those sessions with Dr. Garden.
I visited Garden on my own from time to time to see if there was anything I could learn from him. Ultimately, I came away from those visits a bit disappointed. While Joe was talented with his hands, he was also hooked into the medical model more than he would dare admit. Garden ordered full spinal xrays, which are probably useless like the vast majority of diagnostic xrays, on most of his patients. They are good money makers, though! Dr. Joe also recommended vitamins and herbal compounds in abundance. I saw numbers of patients laden with vitamin bottles paying over $100 for a few weeks’ supply.
Eventually, the Division Surgeon got wind of my referral of Private Jimson to the civilian chiropractor. I was thence summoned for a private consultation. Davis was pretty decent in his handling of my foray outside the orthodox Army medical system. Still, he told me that it was inappropriate – how often have I heard that word – to use civilian resources when military ones were available. “Use the physical therapy department at the hospital for this sort of problem. That’s what they’re here for.”
I told the Colonel that I had no confidence in orthodox medicine or physical therapy for the treatment of back strains. He retorted, “Chiropractic is an unproven method.” As if allopathy has ever been proven!
I retorted, “Colonel Davis, there are a number of studies out which show that manipulative therapy is as good as and often better than standard medicine for the treatment of back pain. I believe that the Army Medical Service should have chiropractors on board.”
Davis countered with a phrase which I heard more than once during my association with him: “Now, Doctor, let’s not be too logical. You know, as well as I do, that the Army is not logical. And, it’s not going to have chiropractors for a long time, if ever. It’s plain and simple. You can’t use them. Stay in the system.” (Interestingly 30 some years later, military installations now have chiropractic.)
He was right – and wrong. And so was I. The military began contracting for chiropractic services in 1993 and now has chiropractors working for them on 42 bases. They are, however, not in uniform. The Medical Service is still a long way from allowing Chiros in its ranks. §
Davis either never heard about or cared about my using and recommending castor oil packs in the clinic. It wasn’t a common practice, in part, because my charges didn’t seem to have the need for such. Still, I found a few occasions where the packs fit perfectly. As when a young soldier appeared with a day or two of gastroenteritis – diarrhea and vomiting.
Did I have a new experience for him and my young corpsmen! We stretched the patient out on a treatment table after having him strip to the waist. Then, we slathered a goodly portion of castor oil onto his abdomen. We followed that with an ABD pad saturated with more oil. An ABD is an absorbent dressing typically used to cover surgical wounds. Since flannel cloth was not readily available, we followed one of Cayce’s favorite aphorisms to “use what was at hand.”
I don’t remember if we had a heating pad to top off the pack. But, I have found that a person’s own body heat is often sufficient to support the healing process. In any case, the patient was covered and allowed to rest with his pack for as long as needed. Then, he was sent to the barracks with the pack, a day confined to rest in quarters, and a return appointment.
The soldier had received a unique treatment, attention from several medics, some human touch, and the benefit of castor oil. I suspect the sum of the process was healing for all involved. At the same time, I can assure the reader that there was no raid on the hospital pharmacy for castor oil. Nor did the packs cause much of a stir even with my corpsmen and women. It was unusual for them, but they were used to me and some of my Cayce ways by then.
SUMMATION§ Briefly drawing from the Cayce readings and similar sources, my simple recommendations for building and rebuilding health are as follows:
• A wholesome, natural, largely vegetarian, alkaline ash diet.
• Regular exercise.
• Frequent periods outdoors with the sun and the rest of nature.
• Massage, chiropractic, and/or osteopathic care on occasion for prevention and therapy.
• Castor oil packs from time to time when healthy and ill.
• Atomidine and Glyco-Thymoline are worthy of study and experimentation.
• Mental-spiritual practices to include meditation and prayer when suitable. §
Those ways took wing in sundry directions during my three years as medical officer at Fort Riley. I had 30 days of vacation every year and one week of continuing medical education paid by the United States Army. I made good use of the opportunities that time and finances provided.
On my own time, I investigated the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship which held annual conferences in Northfield, MN, on the campus of Carleton College. I attended two or three times and enjoyed every minute of the broad-ranging lectures and workshops.
I joined the American Holistic Medical Association which held its first meetings at La Crosse, WI, where the founding President, Dr. Norman Shealy, maintained his practice for many years before relocating to Springfield, MO. Shealy had a large effect in bringing “holism” into broader light in modern medicine. While it has yet to catch fire, holism has made some inroads into physician thinking. If holistic, integrative, complementary, and alternative medicine are not mainstream yet, they have at least gotten valuable attention in the media on a continuing basis.
Norm Shealy was a key player, as were the McGareys at the ARE Clinic, in the formation of the AHMA. Shealy, although a small man of unassuming appearance, carried extra weight because he had both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees and had practiced as a neurosurgeon for many years. He wrote many books and developed the Transcutaneous Neuro Stimulator which I used with some success on Sergeant Baxter back at Fort Benning.
Gladys McGarey has described Shealy as an “exuberant” leader. He knew how to organize and brought talented and stimulating speakers to the stage at annual meetings. Attending a number of conferences he hosted, I expected that the next one would be as enjoyable as the last. As opposed to the dour brand of medicine taught in my school experience in which AudioVisuals were the highlights, the AHMA conferences offered many expansive drafts of fresh air.
The topper of one trip to Wisconsin came in the form of a non-physician who shared an evening of healing with the medics in the crowd. Jim Turner was a musician from the Rockies who created music using all sorts of unusual implements: baking pans, wine glasses, wrenches and handsaws to name a few. He was good enough to catch Johnny Carson’s attention and appear on the Tonight Show. Turner apparently gave up that business because internet searches for him turn up all but empty.
While performing a number of songs on his Sandvig handsaw at our convention, he told about playing some of the same tunes on a recent return visit to a church in Colorado. At the end of that show, he shook hands with members of the audience who passed through a receiving line. An older woman got his attention and initiated a conversation. She told him, “The last time you played here, you gave me a bloody nose.”
Turner was a little embarrassed and at a loss as to what to say, so he tried to apologize. The woman stopped him and said, “Oh, no. It was really wonderful what happened that night.”
The lady related how she had grown up in a family in which expression of feelings was not allowed. She married a man who was much the same. So, she continued to hold things in even after her husband died. In later years, she developed high blood pressure which was not well controlled on medication. Her physician told her he was worried.
Turner’s first musical performance enthralled the woman. When he played Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring on his saw, she couldn’t hold her feelings back any longer. They broke through, not in tears but in a bloody nose. Her physician eventually told her he had been worried that her unrelieved blood pressure might some day result in a stroke. He was then pleased and hopeful because of the change that happened on her experiencing Jim Turner’s touching music.
Turner also told a healing story about a child at the other end of the spectrum of life. A young black boy, who had stopped speaking after he saw his father killed, appeared on the stage when Jim was doing a show at the child’s school. At one point, the youngster pushed himself forward when Turner was demonstrating how to play the saw. All was silent as the boy reached toward Mr. Turner and his musical saw. He grasped and gasped, “Saw?,” his first words since the death of his father.
With several hundred in an amphitheater setting, Mr. Turner concluded an evening session conducting the group as a glass harmonica orchestra. Everyone got a wine glass. Different sections had glasses with different amounts of water in them. As Jim played his handsaw, he pointed for groups to join in and drop out. All we did was wet our fingers and rub the rims of the glasses, each section producing its own wonderful tone to add to the unique symphony. The music was ethereal and the event truly memorable. Turner reprised his favorite tune, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, during the session. Thanks, Jim, for those magical moments of healing.
All moments at AHMA conventions were not so glorious. Still, they were often instructive in one way or another. One particular remembrance of Shealy’s leadership relates to the commonly accepted idea that we live in an age of “Scientific Medicine.” In preparation for that particular meeting, Shealy sent letters to the deans of all (about 100 at the time) American medical and osteopathic schools. In his letters, he asked a simple and direct question: “What is scientific medicine?”
Dr. Shealy received a handful of responses, most of which were on the order of: “That’s an interesting question. We ought to do some research on it.” Really?!
Those who replied to Shealy’s question were invited to address the convention on the topic. Five accepted. Yet, not one of them dared to address the subject directly. Instead, they merely concurred that IT was an important issue before going off on tangents to talk of their school’s own particular interests and work. They were unwilling or unprepared to confront the issue head on.
But, really? Whether it is declared loudly or not, medicine clearly claims to base its practices on science – practically the whole medical curriculum is one “science” or another – and physicians claim to use the best of science and technology.
Healing Arts buildings of the past have been replaced by Health Science Centers. While the phrase “art of medicine” is rarely heard in medical training, science, science and more science is pushed into physicians’ and patients’ brains. All the same it is sad to say, the majority of modern medicine is neither scientific nor artistic.
Much scientific research has been done over the past two centuries from which medicine contends to draw and provide rationale for its philosophy and practice. But, most medical functions are really dictated by tradition: “That’s the way we have been doing it for years.” By consensus: “That’s what they taught us in medical school, right or wrong.” By the latest drug on the market: “Here are some samples of a hot new medication. Give these a try.” By personal preference: “I like this method. It usually works for me.” By faith in authority: “We wouldn’t steer you wrong. Would we?”
Well, I have to remark that even holistic, spiritual, and psychic people just like the orthodox don’t always have the best, right and more useful responses to our problems. Life is complicated, you know. We often have to seek, knock, and ask for long times to find our way.
Closer to home base in Wichita, KS, I attended an International Conference on Human Functioning organized by Dr. Hugh Riordan. That program will not soon be forgotten because of the extraordinary performance there. The actor I will call Dr. Picard. I don’t remember his name but rather his apparent message and subsequent actions. Picard was one of the international speakers on the program. He was a trim, dashing French rheumatologist and appeared at the podium in a neat-fitting, undoubtedly expensive, brown double-breasted suit. Picard displayed a smooth-shaven head and face, crisp features, and an eye-catching monocle. At his side was his beautiful, young English-speaking female colleague. As Dr. Picard gave his speech, the female physician translated his words into English. The audience got a triple dose of the Frenchman’s pitch through the almost verbatim script of his speech which was typewritten in our syllabus.
Dr. Picard’s story involved his work in helping people to stop smoking. Originally, Francois had been looking for a way to alleviate pain in his arthritic patients. He devised a solution of vitamins and iodine (if I recall correctly) which he injected in tiny amounts at specific points into his patients’ ears. Picard unexpectedly found that a large percentage – 80 or 90 percent – of his smoking patients, who were so treated, spontaneously gave up their habit with no other remedies or counsel. He was elated at the results and predicted that his discovery would revolutionize the treatment of smoking and other addictions. By the end of his speech, Picard had somehow mobilized the hopes of the entire audience – or close to it. They were on their feet and gave him a rousing, sustained ovation. Picard beamed and the auditorium was entranced.
That same evening, I went with some new-found acquaintances to the lounge at the top of the Holiday Inn where the convention was being held. My friends sipped their drinks and I my iced orange juice while we talked over sundry topics. The conversation was eventually deflected when Dr. Picard and his retinue entered the room. Eyes turned toward him and intermittently followed his actions. We could not help but look on for a few moments as the group seated themselves and waited for an attendant. I glanced back and forth in the doctor’s direction until my attention was arrested by Picard’s movements. I eventually stared while he extracted a gold case from his coat pocket, selected a long, white one, and lit up.
I hardly forgot Cayce during my workshopping days. And, during two excursions I got to see Hugh Lynn again. The first occurred at a small regional conference held at a summer camp outside of Topeka. The seminar on teachings from The Secret of the Golden Flower was presented by Hugh Lynn and Herb Puryear. Both were warm, friendly presenters and presences.
Honestly, the substance of the Golden Flower teachings are long forgotten. But one interaction between Mr. Cayce and a grandmother named Molly Hansen stands out in my memory. During the weekend gathering, Molly and I became friends. On the surface, Mrs. Hansen was pretty ordinary. But underneath, she was a real spicy character. Molly recounted bits of her life to me as we battled through several rounds of championship SCRABBLE in our spare moments. Molly had a few advantages over me. Her age and many long years at SCRABBLE were two. I thought the other one was even more significant. Molly subscribed to the official monthly SCRABBLE newsletter which gave tips on strategy and offered lists of short words which were invaluable for use in tight matches. I was happy to come out of our unofficial competition with a tie.
I sat a few chairs away from Molly during the last session of the conference. She was parked in the front row looking like a wizened cherub in her ersatz Nikes. Hugh Lynn was giving his closing talk, making points about the wondrous capacities of the human organism. He talked of the trillions of shifting synapses which exist between our brain cells, of the minute amounts of hormones which stimulate bodily functions, and of the incredible number of red and white blood cells which circulate each second through the vascular system. Hugh Lynn took a breath and continued on, “It is also fascinating to learn that nature has supplied the human organism with such abundant potential to propagate the race. There are over 100 million sperm cells in every drop of a man’s semen. At best, only one ever reaches its destination. Think about that. Only one in 100 million.”
As if on cue, Molly chimed in to the delighted and prolonged laughter of the group, “Oh Lord, what a waste.”
I have often thought, even marveled, at how the best part of those conferences and the most memorable moments of life come through the humor, love and goodness of fellow human beings. The presenters and organizers make programs happen, but all the people including those in the seats bring them to life.
Somewhere in the middle of my tour at Fort Riley, I went off to the Beach for a week-long Spiritual Spa. A modest sized group gathered at the ARE under the guidance of Mary Lynch Thurston and participated in Cayce therapies and meditations, exercises and studies. We stayed on the top floor of the old hospital building, shared meals, and made the best of time shared with people on similar paths.
There were moments led by Ann Lee Clapp in a Temple Beautiful program, visits with Virginia Beach’s favorite Cayce chiropractor, Genevieve Haller, and walks next to the ocean. I also recall a moment when just a couple of us passed up the stairs as a young disheveled and agitated man was going down. He was talking to himself trying, it seemed, to bring himself to lucidity. Shortly after he wandered by, Hugh Lynn followed on. He looked a bit unnerved himself as he stopped for a moment to remark that he was trying to counsel the fellow. “He has been meditating for many hours daily for several months. Then he finds himself in a place from which it is hard to return. I have my hands full with him.” That instant was the only sour one in the whole expedition to the Beach. Yet, it showed another wonderful side of Mr. Hugh Lynn Cayce.
There were many gifts shared during the time spent at the Beach, most especially those simply gained in joining in a sense of community. In the midst of it all, I imagined gathering a new remedy to share at TMC #1. Hugs were such a keen part of the Spiritual Spa experience, it seemed hugs might be another “treatment” I could share with my patients. I returned to the Troop Medical Clinic with the “hug bug.” You know, Hug Therapy: “A hug a day.” I began dispensing hugs or at least pats on the shoulders to various and sundry patients. Private or sergeant, tall or short, robust or skinny, it didn’t matter. The concept was great and is great, but the practice is not always so straightforward. “To hug or not to hug, that was the question.” Not every situation or patient really called for a goodbye hug.
As part of my duties as Medical Consultant to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Program at Fort Riley, I interviewed each soldier who was newly enrolled – usually involuntarily – in that system. One particular female private who was abusing alcohol required two consultations for reasons which I don’t recall.
At the end of our second meeting, I offered some words of counsel to the young woman and gave her a brief hug at the door. I thought nothing of the incident at the time. But, a few days later the new Division Surgeon called to report that the soldier had made accusations that I had tried to assault her in the office. The D.S. didn’t even ask me about the episode, but merely told me of the allegation and of the other problems with which the woman was struggling at the time. Later on, I got a fuller report on her situation and was told that she had been acting out with alcohol as well as in other ways. I heard no more of the incident, but chastened myself about sharing hugs so freely. Sad to tell, “A hug a day is not always the best therapy.”
Would that I had gathered some experience of healing useful in my own household. But, the shine of the Spiritual Spa Week was dulled in hurry at the clinic and even more so at my home where things were touchy as usual.
Early on at Fort Riley, two of our brigades took a six-week trip overseas on Reforger [Return of Forces to Germany] operations. A complement of doctors and physician assistants were delegated to join in the event.
The event was staged theoretically to show that American forces could be mobilized in days to send men and material across the Atlantic to deter the Soviets from advancing onto European soil. In fact, we spent weeks if not months getting ready for the operation. And we were delayed for a few days in departure because of a winter blizzard. Once we got to German land, we took several more days to get moved to our maneuver site and thence to “war games” for a few weeks.
It was winter time and took some getting used to living in tents. I bunked with a surgeon and dentist in a tent “heated” with a gasoline stove. But even with that, a down sleeping bag, and every stitch of clothes and fiber available to cover me and my cot, I found it difficult to get comfortable for a night’s sleep.
The days were spent waiting for patients, occasionally real but mostly simulated to test First Medical Battalion’s capabilities. I never heard how well we did. The only hint was that we seemed to be withdrawn earlier from the field than expected. Then, we had to cool our heels at an aid station in a corner of a supply office at a barracks at Einsiedlerhof. Many of those days were much like my corpsman days in Vietnam.
Another physician and I were left holding the bag while troops skipped around the staging area and filled airplanes back to the States. Before long, we tested the patience of the Army system with our obtuse antics which don’t bear recounting. We were eventually called on the carpet and threatened in a number of ways. Dr. Devillier and I showed some rebel stripes in the moment as we protested the state of Army medicine in the latter days of the exercise. The details were a bit reminiscent of the manner of the physicians portrayed in the movie MASH, but on a much smaller scale.
Months later as Colonel Davis was departing for another duty station, I found out that he had begged for us not to be court-martialed for insubordination. It was our lucky lot that the Army treats physicians differently than other officers. Thank goodness for small favors and Colonel Davis’s intervention.
Some time after my return from European duty, Kathy came to the decision, “I can’t go to school [as she had begun to work on a doctorate in counseling] and be a housewife at the same time.” That pointed me to give her space. For a time, I slept on a couch at the home of Mr. Kenney, P.A. He kindly opened his house for me until I rented a farmhouse south of Fort Riley.
There I stayed through many months until Kathy joined me one summer evening to take a trip for another holistic medical conference in Wichita. After stopping at my temporary abode, I drove out the gate as it was getting dark. We hadn’t gone but a few miles when Kathy screamed. Then, the car rammed into the side of a cow.
That was not the best way to start a weekend nor a good omen toward getting back together. In any case, we got the car towed. Kathy then drove us to Wichita and we tried to make the best of the experience. It turned out that even though the cow shouldn’t have been on the road, the rancher-owner was not responsible because of Kansas’s Open Range law. The insurance company footed the bill for my car and the rancher took the loss. The cow died on the side of the road.
CONFESSION§ Interestingly, our first reconciliation coincided with my bout of hepatitis. The second time with a car crash with me at the wheel. I have to share with the reader that I have drawn more than my share of motor vehicle mishaps into my life. I call it Car Karma. I won’t count how many such “accidents” there have been. It is a little embarrassing and I have lost track. I will confess, however, that I only know of two other persons who claim to have had more auto mishaps than I. One fellow is classmate of high school days who recounted his karma to me via email in recent years. The other man is a psychologist with whom I worked after the Army in Phoenix. Curiously, Dr. Russell even acknowledged crashing into a Land Rover in an almost wholly-untrafficked expanse of sub-Saharan desert.
In the not-to-distant past, I have contended with unexpected meetings with white-tail deer on Montana highways. I can recall three such encounters and a very close call with a horse over the course of a few years. I excuse myself a bit when remembering a retired small town photographer who hit four deer on separate occasions in less than a year.
Car Karma is nothing to rave about or celebrate. My motor vehicles rather than my own body have literally taken severe beatings on occasions over the years. I look back and see that those accidents out-pictured a number of energies which were working in and through me. Some combination of anger and frustration, impatience and agitation, and other forces precipitated those violent episodes. I dare not project those forces outward any further. §
Time marched onward. Kathy pursued her degree in fits and starts. Never being good enough was hard to fit in with her attempts to get a doctorate. And, I was never sensitive enough, or feeling enough to deal with her appropriately. Kathy frequented a counseling psychologist at the Fort for a time and invited me to join her with Captain Dobson for several weeks.
We covered areas which Kathy and Dobson usually suggested. Latterly, K. began to feel misunderstood and outgunned. The two men who sat in those meetings with her were very much alike. Dobson and I held the same rank, dressed identically in military attire, stood six-foot tall and slim, and wore black-rimmed, Army-issue glasses. More significantly, we were both mental types, slow to speak and cautious with our words, reticent to express our feelings openly. Eventually, Kathy reacted and rebelled. She thought we were ganging up on her, trying to belittle her concerns and put her in the wrong.
I don’t believe that was the case but can quite imagine it might have seemed so. On more than one occasion, minor battles broke out between Kathy and the psychologist. K. tried to “get a feeling” out of the good captain. But, he could only admit, “I am confused and concerned.” Dobson’s demeanor was reminiscent of my own in many instances at home.
Finally, K. decided to quit the counseling in the midst of a meeting. Her hurts and frustrations with the two of us came to a head and Kathy was adamant about stopping the sessions. The hospital psychiatrist, who was fortunately a short, frumpy major, joined the melee and tried to bring order. He cajoled K. for some time trying to “keep her in the program.” Nonetheless, Kathy stood her ground, said her piece, and exited the counseling arrangement.
I decided to stay on with Captain Dobson thinking that I might learn from him or at least use him as a sounding board for my emotional investigations. I explored with him some of the issues and ideas which I faced in my marriage and particularly in my recent studies with A Course in Miracles. Dobson, a solid Mormon, remained very analytical and detached in our sessions as he had in the earlier triangles. I met with him for some months until we simultaneously completed my agenda and his suggestions. I look back at that period more as one of introspection and reflection than of therapy.
I didn’t say much to Dr. Dobson about the specific sources of the influences which led me to look more deeply at my life and nature. I never mentioned Cayce or the Course nor did I dare to speak of the “seances” which I began to visit during my latter months in Kansas.
“This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.
“This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.”
–– from the introduction to A Course in Miracles
En route to Fort Riley, I had decided that I was ready to take up a new personal study program or spiritual discipline. What it might be, I had no clear idea. But, I wanted to renew and expand my earlier investigations which had started with the Edgar Cayce readings. Curiously, Kathy uncovered the next step on the spiritual path for me. She noticed a tiny advertisement in the local newspaper for a Sunday morning metaphysical study group. While she had no personal interest in it and never attended, K. encouraged me to try it out. I did. It became an important turning point for my inner work.
The weekly meeting brought together three couples in their fifties who were regulars and a variety of singles who were intermittent attendees. Most all of the group had some association with nearby Kansas State University. I was immediately drawn to one of the couples. Reid and Dorothy were warm, cordial, and welcoming. They seemed more accommodating than even the host couple. I instantly “knew” them.
I assumed Reid and Dorothy were married and had been for years. I was wrong. They were only just preparing to be wed and become the Barnetts in the following weeks. In retrospect, I think I was only superficially wrong. They likely just renewed vows from previous incarnations. I was present to witness that renewal.
On the first Sunday I visited, the group was completing a study of a book by Emmett Fox and was starting into a new set of materials. Reid had just discovered A Course in Miracles and brought the books to his friends’ attention. During my several visits, the Course was just being introduced. Interestingly, a three-way split occurred amongst the members. Several were neutral on the material, a few were deeply distressed by it and ready to abandon the group if the Course’s study was continued. There was another faction which was quite taken by the Course. Reid, Dorothy and I fit into the latter category. As soon as I touched the books, I knew that A Course in Miracles was my next field of study regardless of what the group chose to do. The inability to come to a consensus Sunday morning material caused the group to spread apart. People went different directions and I took up my new study on my own.
My best company during that period of time was A Course in Miracles, even though it was no small task to attempt as it is composed of three volumes totaling over a thousand pages. The bulk of the material was found in the textbook which I read diligently. The second volume contained 365 lessons and guided my daily life for much longer than a year, while the third was the teacher’s manual. The latter was lightweight, relatively easy, and the most enjoyable.
I learned a great deal from spending a year and a half with the Course, as I decided that some of the lessons needed my attention for more than a single day. Actually, a week on each might have been quite useful. I developed a new manner and time of meditation due to the Course. Since discovering Edgar Cayce and studying the Search For God books, I had meditated in the late evening on a regular basis. A Course in Miracles suggests morning sittings. For some reason, I found that pattern difficult. I thought I could never do it. I did it and have been meditating mornings ever since.
I practiced meditation with and on the lessons. I carried the day’s affirmation with me as best I could – not always very effectively, to be sure – through at least twenty-four hours. With the backdrop of the textbook, I began to learn from ACIM. Actually, I really didn’t get to the essence of the material until I re-read ACIM, studied some supplementary booklets, and led a group of my own in Phoenix some years later.
Briefly, A Course in Miracles is about learning to see and experience the world and ourselves differently. Pointing us to gradually perceive and express as we were intended, being Children of God. The study of the Course did indeed influence my life. In a significant way, it helped me to uncover my long-suppressed feeling nature. In the midst of my morning studies alone for several months in that prairie farmhouse, I determined that, “I must learn about feelings. I INTEND to learn about feelings.”
I knew what I was asking for and yet I didn’t. Kathy had long encouraged me, pleaded with me, begged me to express my feelings. Often in the midst of a discussion or dissension, K. would entreat, “What do you feel about that, Bob?”
My retort was often short, sometimes gruff: “I don’t feel. I think.”
Mr. David had once told me, “You need to become more aware of your feeling side. Don’t be afraid to let your emotions out. They’re there. Let them out and go on with your life. If you hide them or suppress them, they will only haunt you. Some day, they will come out and bite you.”
My bout with hepatitis had helped to bring the issue into the open for me to consider. My body had spoken to me – or maybe my emotions had spoken through my body. Emotional energy also boiled through my body on other occasions. Cayce was wont to say: “Poisons are accumulated or produced by anger or by resentment or animosity. Keep sweet.” (23-3) It takes a long time move from frustration to sweetness. Real sweetness.
“But, how can I learn about emotions, learn how to express them appropriately?” I asked myself. In retrospect, I recognize that I was afraid of my emotions. Not terrified, but uncomfortable, unsure, unaware of them. It was really a matter of ignorance more than anything else. What a man doesn’t understand, he often fears. So it was in my case.
Yet, I wanted to be a whole person, and I had to admit that the emotional nature was definitely part of me. There was no clear outline or direction for my learning about emotions. And, over subsequent years, I tried to sidestep them, jump over them, or simply avoid them. Yet, my simple, clear, and decided INTENTION to “learn about feelings” opened the doorway.
“Energy follows thought,” and so my intention brought opportunities to learn and results. Actually, A Course in Miracles was a great teacher in itself. It not only stirred my interest in the emotional nature, but also helped me get in touch with my own FEELINGS. The Course spoke of Fear, Guilt, & Anger as being the major feelings which we must confront and eventually overcome. Yes, overcome – transcend. Of course, transcendence does not happen in a great hurry. There are a number of steps along the way between denial – acceptance – expression – transmutation – transcendence.
Early into the search, I focused on my angers and frustrations. How obvious they may have been to others. And, how blind I must have been for so long to my critical and defensive, fault-finding and self-righteous ways. I once counted nearly twenty (20) different expressions I had used to describe my angers without recognizing the simple central feeling I was experiencing and expressing. I used to say such things as, “Don’t bother me,” “I’m frustrated,” “That pisses me off,”and “You make me tired,” not knowing what I really meant.
Now, fear and guilt were other issues. Somehow, they were and still are less significant. Or is it less frequent for me than anger? However, I have indeed experienced them both. They seemed to come together powerfully and dramatically months later when Kathy and I were on the road to divorce.
A Course in Miracles was one matter, the channelings I attended while stationed at Fort Riley were another. Though they were really mediumistic seances, I felt comfortable with the leaders and the sessions. The substance of the meetings was not always of the highest quality, but the warmth and care shown in the group was admirable. And there was no fee to cause anybody to wonder about the money factor mixing with the messages.
The same couple who introduced me to A Course in Miracles also led the channeling group. In my latter days at Fort Riley, I was drawn to join the weekly channeling session of one called Oxnard. Still, the main draw was in my connection with Reid and Dorothy – most likely begun in another era. Dorothy of Kansas had her own “wizard” until he passed a few years ago. She and I have maintained a friendship now for over 35 years. Secondarily, it was comforting to have regular friends. Thirdly, there was the mediumistic work to investigate and experience.
The seances I attended were neither held in darkened chambers nor were they conducted by dark and mysterious characters. Reid was a lean, avuncular gent with wire-rimmed glasses and ruddy cheeks from years of doing outdoor masonry which was his life-long occupation. He reminded me of a hardworking, soft-spoken, but straight-shooting farmer. Reid walked with a bit of a limp due to some old injury, but his spirit was keen, his eyes shined, and he had a genuine “presence” about him which rubbed off on most people.
Dorothy was equally kind and generous. She smiled and radiated some inner treasure despite her intermittent discomforts. Her heart seemed open, but strong emotions quite obviously shadowed her. Yet, she was invariably helpful, outgoing, and accommodating to anyone who came to her doorstep.
Interestingly, both the Barnetts wore hearing aids. I wonder about that now, although not at the time. Together Reid and Dorothy had been leading their “message groups” for a number of years. I had heard about the meetings when we first met. But in the midst of other activities of life, it took many months before I found my way to their channeling session.
Actually, it was a quiet, prayerful, and attentive group that usually gathered around Reid, and just occasionally around Dorothy and her guide called All-One. Their living room was gently lit and comfortably furnished. An introductory reading was shared and a short invocation pronounced. Reid sat back in his cushioned rocker, removed his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. He took several long, deep breaths and after a short interlude, a shudder swept through Reid’s body. Then a strong, confident voice produced a preachy, but pleasant monologue. Oxnard spoke words which were optimistic and hopeful, clear but general in nature.
Oxnard was an entity of Atlantean origins who offered advice and information both freely. Neither Reid nor Dorothy ever charged for their services. They did accept donations, but such offerings were rarely made. The medium sat up to an hour or more channeling to those in the circle who had questions to pose. The range of topics covered was quite wide, but usually focused on decisions regarding vocations, schooling, family concerns, and spiritual directions.
Oxnard was supportive not directive, compassionate rather than chastening, accepting instead of questioning. He was never harsh or complaining, although he occasionally goaded the medium. That although Reid usually had no memory of the chidings or other offerings after Oxnard gave a closing benediction and parted from the medium’s body. Reid took some time to reorient, rubbed his eyes again, and came back to himself.
His awareness of the session was more of a general tenor except when unusual things happened in the seance. Reid was usually aware when another entity took Oxnard’s place for a time. Occasionally, the change was oppressive and draining for Reid. At other times, when a “lighter” being came through, Reid was invigorated and inspired.
It was no easy avocation that Reid and Dorothy took upon themselves to act as mediums, counselors, teachers and hosts to a varied set of participants. Often after the formal session was over, the group would be reorganized and paired up in various ways so that people could practice “picking up messages” for each other. If nothing else, it was a novel way to quickly get to know people.
The spectrum of the group was wide. Diverse ages, both sexes – a few more women than men, white and blue collars, students and laborers, housewives and professional people were duly represented. Some people became quite attached to Reid and Dorothy. They leaned on them, their hospitality, and their messages. Some consulted the Barnetts over the phone with some frequency to “pick up messages.” I sometimes wondered about what return they got for their efforts. Yet, they were undoubtedly gaining what they needed at the time even with their apparently unselfish giving.
Each seance sitter had his/her own unique story. Generally, we only “picked up” a bit of the lives of the other group members. There were exceptions. I cannot forget a woman named Maruha who was a regular for a time. She made her presence well-known and her life story center stage for what seemed to be a prolonged period of weeks. Maruha Quinones was a short, roundish, middle-aged native of Costa Rica. Her face and features were rather attractive, but her fixated chatter detracted from her assets. Her speech was rapid, pointed, and grating to my sensibilities. She seemed quite entrapped in both the misfortunes and the triumphs of her life.
Maruha had come to the United States with her gynecologist-husband many years past. He supposedly had dumped her, taken up with a younger American woman, and moved to New York City where he was a highly-paid abortionist, according to his former wife. Maruha talked as if the trauma of his desertion was quite recent while it had actually happened over a decade past. Ms. Quinones labored to rear three children with “NO HELP from their father.” Yet, she managed to move through the American educational system, eventually writing a dissertation and receiving a doctoral degree. Maruha’s pride in her accomplishments was large, and rightly so.
More than that, Ms. Q. had recently finished the draft of her autobiography and was ready to look for a publisher. I don’t recall the title of her book, but it was the planned cover of her tome which was of greater import to her. Maruha had decided that her visage – the face of a self-made woman – should smile across the autobiography’s jacket. There was just one thing delaying the necessary photographic session. In her piercing Latin voice, Maruha sang out, “ Ayeee, I must have a facelift first.”
I became a regular visitor at the weekly Barnett channeling sessions. I also joined for a time another group which the Barnetts helped to initiate. It was A Course in Miracles group held at the home of a professor of agricultural science. Both of the weekly meetings gave me, who sometimes felt so alone and isolated, some valued support and contact. At the same time, the groups reinforced my beliefs, but did little to expand them. We spent a great amount of time reciting and recollecting what we “thought” we knew, but very little time in challenging our present beliefs, making real discoveries, or charting new courses.
But then, passing beyond the familiar and the known is most difficult for everyone. We create castles and fortresses of our beliefs – good or not-so-good as they be. We get comfortable with ideas and traditions, customs and manners. Dare we really look beyond the surrounding mote into unknown territory?
Still, the biggest question in my life was my relationship with Kathy. Although we had been back living together for more than a year, we hadn’t grown any closer and counseling had been a bust. The gap between us had actually seemed to widen. Kathy held on though. Her life was much focused on and through me. She put some time into her doctoral program, but it was slow-going and stressful for her – and me. And, it would take her several years to complete at the rate she was proceeding.
I too had held on, being unable to adapt and accept and understand my child-like wife. K. continued to struggle with low self-esteem and chronic depression which would become life-long companions. Would she ever break out of the pits into which she recurrently fell? Would I, could I, dare I wait that long? How much responsibility had I to her or any other human being?
Before the holiday season of 1980, I made my way one evening to sit with Dorothy, Reid, and “White Feather.” White Feather was a discarnate Indian guide who “came through” Reid to help me deal with my situation. The invisible Chief explained that he spoke because he had experienced a situation similar to my own in centuries past. He described the relationship between Kathy and me as one of master and servant, the roles of which had come down from distant lifetimes. Those roles and the obsolete bond were already broken. There was at least a kernel of truth to his intimations. But, what could be done about the situation was another story.
White Feather suggested that I gently work at making more space between us. I had heard that before. He also indicated that during meditation I should visualize the heavy bond between Kathy and me being loosened and released. He said, “You no longer need to lead her. She no longer needs to follow. The master-servant relationship must be sundered.”
Looking back, I wonder about the whole episode and experience. Did White Feather not tell me what I wanted to hear? I was ready for the break, waiting and yearning for validation of a decision which I had been making months if not years before. Could the “discarnate guide,” have suggested anything other than what I already desired? How much of White Feather’s words and recommendations were merely projections of my consciousness through Reid’s?
After that session, I shared with Kathy a little of the advice that came through Reid Barnett. Even though psychic and channeling things were somewhat threatening to her. I asked again for space and time to look at the future, to prepare for leaving the Army, to seek some perspective in my life. With some prodding, Kathy agreed to take time with her parents after the holidays while I spent mine with my thoughts, my meditations, and my future.
During the early part of that final separation, I traveled to Phoenix to take in the 1981 ARE Clinic Symposium. My memory of that time is pretty hazy except for one moment which finalized my intention to divorce and return to Phoenix on my own that summer. Rather than join in the scheduled activities at the Symposium one evening, I took myself to see Neil Diamond in his movie The Jazz Singer. It was not a stretch to see myself as the character he played who found himself in a marriage which restricted him. He took steps to move away from it as I did on returning to Kansas. No doubt, I could have interpreted the scenario differently. How often do we see what we are looking for?
In any case, I then resolved that our differences were too great for us (me) to contend with. When I returned to Kansas, I rented a small apartment for myself. On Kathy’s return, I told her I was planning to move to Arizona alone in the summer. In the meantime, I asked K. to take the responsibility for retaining a lawyer and for doing the divorce paper work. She insisted on divorce counseling and I joined her on regular visits to a Wesleyan minister.
Kathy and I did our counseling with a Wesleyan pastor. The minister was honest and direct from the outset, saying, “I will work with you under the assumption that there is still a chance for your reconciliation.” While our weekly sessions were generally helpful, I was definitely uninterested in another round of marriage with Kathy. Furthermore, by the time we started divorce counseling, we had been separated for some weeks and before long I was otherwise involved. Kathy kept to home and would not allow herself to date, although she had invitations and desperately wanted to accept.
After one particularly difficult counseling session, we had an argument in the parking lot of her apartment building. I remember saying, “Kathy, you have to let go of me. My life must continue without you. Yours must go on without me in it.”
We parted on strained terms, but later that evening Kathy came to the door of my apartment to say, “Please, will you forgive me. I still love you. I want what is best for you.” Which expression said a lot for Kathy.
CONFESSION§ I had one final “battle” with the US Army before we parted ways. It went like this. One day, I received a phone call from the training officer at the medical battalion requesting my presence at weapons qualification. I had heard that mandatory activity was coming up so I was not totally surprised by the call. On the other hand, I had been in the Army for going on three years as a physician with the medical battalion and I had never touched a weapon. The “call” to fire a rifle – or was it a sidearm, I don’t really know – seemed a little late and quite useless to me, and for the Army. I thought to myself, “If it ever gets to the point where I, a physician in the U.S. Army, ever have to fire a weapon to defend a patient or myself, we might as well give up.” That was much akin to my thinking when I gave up carrying a weapon in Vietnam.
I was direct, but rather naive, in my response to the training officer. I said, “I don’t want to create a problem, but I don’t see any good reason for me to fire a weapon. I think it’s unnecessary for a physician to carry a gun. I don’t want to fire one.”
The lieutenant was undeterred and replied, “Since all of the troops have to do it, you will also, sir!” I continued to insist that I was not going to be available for weapons qualification. Eventually he rang off, but he made it clear that the issue was not settled.
Before long, I received another call from the battalion adjutant ordering me to report to the commanding officer ASAP. Lieutenant Colonel Leahy invited me into his office when I arrived. Although quite military in his manner, the Colonel was usually fair, reasonable, and easygoing. In the presence of the training officer, the trim, sandy-haired commander explained the mandatory nature of the training. “There will be no exceptions.”
I told him, “I wouldn’t hurt a fly. I am a vegetarian. I’ll pick a tomato, but I won’t harm an animal far less another human being. I am a physician and healer. I am not a killer or even a potential one. A weapon in my hands is of absolutely no value to me, or you, or the Army.”
Leahy retorted, “All that is quite irrelevant to me and the Army. You are first a soldier and second a physician. Your personal beliefs have no bearing on the subject. I order you to participate in weapons fire on the appointed day and I will put it in writing for you.”
All I could say was, “I’m sorry Colonel Leahy. I have to tell you that I will not be firing. I will seek conscientious objector status if necessary rather than fire a weapon.”
He didn’t like my words, but let me go. I received the written order the following day and I responded to it in kind. I put myself on the bad side of the commander and into the hot box with only months to go in my military obligation. A number of unspoken threats loomed. Legal proceedings, court martial, etc.
I was concerned not so much with the consequences of my action but more so as to soundness
of my decision. All those events transpired in just forty-eight hours and left me wondering if I had rightly chosen my direction.
I remember taking some time out for myself at the end of a workday when I came to the awareness of the speed at which events were proceeding. I thought to myself, “I must be sure that I am making the best decision.” I closed the door to my office. I thought and pondered and meditated on whether to stay with my initial leading. When I got up from my quiet time to drive home, I had no answer. Yet, I felt sure it would come. I drove less than a block before I spied a squirrel lying dead along the roadside. It riveted my attention. I stopped for a moment and thought again. There was only one way I could interpret that image of dead animal on the side of the road.
I began the paperwork to seek CO status while Colonel Leahy sought to have my orders to attend a week-long Tri-Service Combat Casualty Care Course in Fort Sam Houston, Texas rescinded. His rationale was that if I couldn’t play the Army game, I shouldn’t get the “benefits” of attending a professional training in Texas. Well, the CCCC was no junket, but rather a training exercise for physicians. And, I was not keen on going anyway. I had been delegated to attend some weeks previously. I hadn’t asked for the program.
Colonel Davis came to my defense and supported my going to the CCCC. His view was that COs had done admirable work in the medical branch over the years without firing a single shot. The ability of a medic or a physician to treat the sick and wounded had nothing to do with his interest or qualification at weapons fire. LTC Davis’s opinion won out and I went to the CCCC program. Sadly, the most memorable aspect of the course was working on laboratory goats which had been anesthetized and shot to simulate war wounds. Thus, the CCCC physicians had “real” bodies and injuries to work on!?
I went through the motions of applying for CO status. I consulted with the hospital psychiatrist and a division chaplain, obtaining short letters from them. I also wrote out my specific reasons for seeking designation as a conscientious objector. Since I had no deep religious cause behind me, my case was likely to go nowhere.
My case did exactly that: It went NOWHERE. When my papers were as complete as I could make them, I handed them over to the battalion adjutant whose job it was to transmit such requests through proper channels. Shortly thereafter, LTC Leahy was transferred to a new assignment and most of his staff officers, including the adjutant, were reshuffled or replaced. Several months later, the new adjutant called me. “Say, I have some paperwork of yours in my safe. It looks like it has been here for some time. What do you want me to do with it?” §
Even while the Army was threatening on the one hand, it showed some generosity on the other. During my last several months at the Fort I was given an afternoon free to explore Army medicine. It developed as a new flight surgeon returned from Korea and happily took over many of my duties in aviation medicine. The Medical Corps also knew I was nearing the end of my obligation and might have offered me opportunities to influence me to continue on. In any case, I chose to investigate the Mental Health Clinic.
I presented myself there one day and asked if I might do a rotation through the Clinic over the next few months. The supervisor was amenable and invited me to return on a certain day. When the appointment occurred, I was escorted to the office of Joy Hoffman. Joy was a tall redhead near my age who had been working at the clinic as a counselor for years.
We hit it off well as she allowed me to join her with clients acting as a silent partner once a week. Actually, Joy and I hit off overly well. Within a few weeks we were seeing each other after hours, running, playing and cavorting. We attended musical events and programs at the university and even attended an annual convention of the AHMA. Soon, we were talking about Joy and her son following me to Arizona. But, nothing is without complications.
A Course in Miracles rose with its pronouncement of issues. I had confronted some of my anger issues. Fear and guilt remained. They seemed to come together powerfully and dramatically months later when Kathy and I were on the road to divorce and Joy had appeared.
One evening during that time period, Joy and I attended a performance of PDQ Bach at the university theater. At intermission, we walked out into the foyer for a few moments’ breather. Joy walked several paces behind me and I was for an instant swallowed up by the crowd. Of a sudden, I spotted the Wesleyan minister. I froze, not able to even imagine what I might do should I stand before him with Joy at my side. How awful!!
I turned on my heel and, in my ill-humor, gathered Joy toward the opposite side of the foyer and back into the auditorium. I eventually tried to tell her of the pain I felt in those moments. She was more than understanding. But, the incident lay heavily on me for a long time. Somewhat similar events in later times have been a haunt to me. I suppose I shall someday have to stand up and face such feelings more directly when they arise. I have indeed encountered fear and guilt. They can be powerful adversaries. It may be easier to stand up to a bullet than to the feelings which arise in interpersonal relations.
Kathy and I went to the courthouse on the appointed day and received the divorce decree together. Kathy saw me depart town and drive off toward the Arizona desert. I stopped to see Joy on the way out of town imagining she might join me in Phoenix. That even though I had begun to feel she was pushing and in a hurry for a change in her own life. Our situation would not be resolved until I was settled in Arizona.
The divorce process was quite amicable. I was more than content that K. should have the household furnishings and the lion’s share of the bank accounts. (Joy had pointed me away from agreeing to alimony. Thankfully, I followed her suggestion.) I told myself that Kathy needed the money for her sense of security: “She has always had trouble keeping a job. I ... I am a doctor. I can always make a living and a decent one at that.” But, I cursed myself more than a few times in the following years because of my excessive generosity and erroneous confidence in my ability to perform and earn my way as a physician.
One most pleasant memory of those final days in Kansas is of Army life. For the longest time, I have been a fan of military march music. I love John Philip Sousa – at least the best of Sousa. I used to play Sousa records to get started in the morning. At the same time, I had been disappointed to have missed viewing a single military parade in the whole of my latter four-year Army tour. The closest I had come to a parade was to catch snippets of the same when one occurred on the field located near TMC #1. Or when the Band marched by the clinic in some kind of practice formation and played parts of tunes within hearing range.
With two days left in my active duty career, I made the rounds on main post processing papers, turning in equipment, and “signing out.” I walked by the General Headquarters section and cut across the edge of a parade field. And, what came to my ears from afar, but the sound of brass and drums! The First Infantry Band. That time it wasn’t practicing, nor was it alone. Several battle-dressed units marched with it and the whole assembly gingerly made its way onto the field. The troops circled the grounds as the band blared out military tunes and Sousa marches to my earnest delight. There was a short ceremony and a few speeches made ostensibly to honor the retirement of some unknown Army colonel. But as the parade concluded and the traces of the band faded away, I gave thanks for the gift of my own going-away military parade and musical program.
The sounds and the feel of a military parade will never be distant for me. Nor will the Army or soldiering. The martial spirit is clearly a part of my nature. It dwells within me and within my long history. So do medicine and healing. So also do moments with Kathy. The images of what I have been and done in the distant past may not be totally clear, but the essentials are recorded within the book of my times in the Earth.
Some day, I will master the capacity to look within, so as to recover the past, scrutinize the present, and even peer into the future. As everything around me is but a reflection of that which dwells within, I have potential access to all things. What a wonder I am. What wonders we all are.
Those wonders do not always appear in positive light. And living a “wonderful life” can be hard, Even Kathy had a one such life, however much she struggled. She never completed her doctorate, but worked for some time on the Army base in the capacity of what she called “reflective counseling.” I suspect she was good at that, being able to listen and often relate to the difficult and pain experiences of others.
Before a year was up, Kathy has remarried to an enlisted man who lived in our apartment building. Within another year, she was divorced. Eventually, she married for a third time, on that occasion to a warrant officer aviator. That marriage lasted until her husband took up with her best friend which was terribly traumatic. Her brothers had to travel to Kansas and bring her back to live with her mother in New Orleans.
While I only saw her once after our divorce, we talked occasionally over the years after she moved to New Orleans. Her mother and she were thrilled to hear my voice when I called. But, I found it sometimes to talk with Kathy. Either she was depressed or medicated. At one point when she was taking $300 worth of psychotropic medications a month many years ago, she told me, “Bob, I feel fine. But, I can’t balance my checkbook.”
That situation may have resulted in part from always contributing more than she could manage to the latest fundamentalist church she was attending. Eventually, Kathy recognized her good nature and pocketbook were being taken advantage. Then, she moved on to another such experience.
Apparently over the years, she not only had psychological struggles but also physical ones. I suspect I never heard the half of it. But, Kathy underwent brain surgery on a couple of occasions and at least one abdominal surgery. All the while, she was pleased that she was still slim and trim weighing less than one hundred pounds.
One of the larger tragedies to befall her and the whole country occurred when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. A modest sized book could be written about Kathy's travails following on that catastrophe. Karma, karma, and more karma that woman must have. Hopefully her karma equates with many learning opportunities and the divine love to sustain her.
Joy’s future was much brighter than Kathy’s. She was eager to follow me to Phoenix. I was not and asked her to write me rather than call for a time because of her intensity. Soon, there were no calls nor letters. She eventually said she had broken her hand, literally. Before long, the communication passed. But within a year or so, Joy was remarried. She began a second family which eventually included two daughters and went on to get her doctorate in psychology. There is more to that story, but enough for this chronicle.