When the one you need most is no longer there–

I have not lost the person dearest to my heart, but I imagine how difficult such a loss must be when the one person who could help moderate your grief is the one who is no longer there.

Since my niece’s death in 2014, LV Jordan, my niece’s long-term partner and wife of two months, has struggled with kidney disease that threatens her life. She has a supportive family and many friends, but she is still grieving for the one who could best comfort her. LV’s kidneys–earlier judged to be perfectly healthy–failed one month after my niece’s memorial service.

LV seemed amazingly strong and composed through my niece’s pain and decline, but caring for a loved one often affects the other’s health. Now she desperately needs a kidney.

I must tell you about this remarkable couple. I recently received a copy of their first photo together, which I believe was featured in The Washington Post. The year was 1993, and they’d come with different Chicago-area friends to the Gay Rights March on Washington. They connected immediately and never looked back. Challis.LV.marching

My niece said their photo was printed in the Post because not only were they gay, they were black and white. I said while that might be true, they also were very good-looking, which always helps get a photographer’s attention. 🙂

An LV design original.

Twenty years later, my niece and LV made news again: they were the second same-sex couple in Illinois to be granted a marriage license. The state had earlier voted to approve same-sex marriage, but the law was not to take effect for several months. The first married gay couple also included an individual who was terminally ill. After that, the state lifted the waiting period and others were granted licenses.

The fact that my niece and LV were opposites in other ways seemed to make for a great relationship. My niece was comical and analytical (a computer systems analyst), a super-positive woman who let very little stand in her way. LV is sweet and loving, an artist with a great sense of color and fashion. My niece was very proud of LV’s talent: she makes one-of-a-kind couture knits of natural fibers. Her work can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/lvjordandesigns.

LV would like to get well enough to continue working, but says she has no stamina. Since April of 2014, she has been hospitalized more than six times, and undergoes dialysis three times a week. She is on the kidney transplant list.

This summer LV got strong enough to carry out my niece’s request to have her ashes spread in Canada’s French River, where her family spent many fishing vacations. The owner of the Crane’s Wilderness Lodge knew Challis Gibbs (my niece) and her family well, and was touched that she wanted the French River to be her final resting place.

It’s sad that couples who love and rely on each other cannot end their days at the same time, but inevitably, one must go on alone.  My niece would be so proud of LV’s struggle to live and work again.

Happy Birthday, LV, and many-MANY more!

Transplant program, Rush University Medical Center

Information about live kidney donation

The 20th anniversary of the LGBT March on Washington




"Heroes", comic books, Stock Phrases, Writing

Stock phrases: you gotta love ’em

I’m always late to the party.

“Heroes” aired on television several years ago, but I’ve just discovered it. It’s a creative TV drama with a lot of the characteristics of comic books, which also happen to be important to the plot. hero.

I think the stock phrases in “Heroes” are inevitable, likely penned by writers who were chuckling as they wrote.

Here are a few stock phrases from the series:

I told you never to call me.

We’ve got a problem.

I’ve always loved you.

We’ve got to get out of here.

What are we going to do?

It’s not my fault.

That’s a good question.

You can do this!

Look out!

“Heroes” has been fun to watch.

Your turn, wordsmiths and culture-watchers. What are your favorite (or most dreaded) stock phrases? And/or, what did you think of the series?

"Heroes", media and culture, Pass it On

Stories That Give Us Hope

In a world where so many put themselves forward by shoving someone else out of the way, we’re heartened by stories of unselfish giving. It’s an inspiring theme that always emerges in the glow and remembrance of Christmas.

But any time of year, stories both true and fictional help us balance our ambitions, become less selfish, and strive to be better people. Not stories featuring superheroes, obviously. Much as we enjoy characters whose special powers enable them to topple the bad guys and avert catastrophic events, superhero characters don’t inspire or give hope.

The most inspiring stories feature people we all could be—those with no special gifts, ordinary people, poor people, compassionate people. Realistic fiction has the potential to expand our view of creation  while giving hope for problems that seem to go on without relief.candle

One of my favorites is Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. Set in India in the 1970s, the story gives us characters who endure poverty, frustration, corruption and prejudice with moral courage. Beautifully written, it ends in an unforgettable way, not happily-ever-after, but with the power of love.

I’m inspired by stories of faithfulness, even silly ones like Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg. Horton the elephant is an unlikely egg-sitter, but when the lazy bird Mayzie leaves him in the lurch, he sits and he sits, because “an elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.”

Maybe the bird in this children’s story was not simply lazy. Maybe she did not know about love and faithfulness, qualities learned by example. I thought about the importance of a loving environment as I watched Anderson Cooper interview Shin Dong-hyuk, a young man born and raised in a cruel North Korean concentration camp. Until he was about 23, starvation and brutality kept Shin from experiencing any human kindness. He told Cooper he didn’t cry much when his mother and brother were executed for trying to escape the camp, because he thought they’d gotten what they deserved. Later Shin revealed he was the one who informed on them. At the time, he thought it was the right thing to do, because they’d broken the rules.

Now 30 and free, Shin said he still doesn’t know what love is, but he feels bad about what he did, and cries more than he ever did in camp. He’s learning to be human. Writer Blaine Hardin tells Shin’s story in his book, Escape from Camp 14.

In 2005, 100 writers (“leading lights of British letters”) were asked to name their favorite fictional characters. As you might imagine, literary characters were cited for being unique or entertaining, stoic, independent, despicable (but so well drawn), or compassionate. Author Maeve Binchey chose one of my favorites, Joe Gargery of Dickens’ Great Expectations. Joe, a father figure to young Pip, is the humble character whose love and compassion make him a contrast to the haughty and vindictive Miss Havisham. Though Pip is awed by Miss Havisham and made rich by the bequest of a convict, Joe’s influence is most important to his life.

Compassion makes us human, and compassion helps us endure. Compassionate characters, like people in real life, show how an ordinary person can make a small corner of his world better.

Here’s where you can find the books mentioned above:

Great Expectations (free) http://amzn.to/Y7Hy9s

Horton Hatches the Egg http://amzn.to/TUACq3

Escape from Camp 14 http://amzn.to/Rxg0Zq

A Fine Balance http://amzn.to/R0EVmG

And my historical novel, also a story with characters who care: The Girl on the Mountain.

Every small act of kindness spreads hope. Keep Christmas with you–all through the year.

Carol Ervin