Thoughts while building a pine casket revisited.

I wrote the following  three years ago…seemed fitting to re-post it this week, with the passing of Billy Grahm.  Hard to believe his wife has been gone 11 years already. DM
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Thoughts while building a pine casket

June 14, 2007, Ruth Grahm, wife  of Evangelist Billy Grahm  passed on into eternity.  She was 87.

Here is a portion of  a newspaper account: 

Shortly before he died, convicted murderer Richard Liggett was asked to make two of the simple plywood coffins he meticulously crafted for fellow prisoners. Except the caskets would be for Billy and Ruth Graham.

 Burl Cain, warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary said: “He (Richard Liggett) told me, of everything that ever happened in his life, the most profound thing was to build this coffin for Billy Graham and his family.”

That story caught my attention for several reasons.

#1 It was a simple pine casket.

#2 A prison is not the first place I would go shopping for a casket. 😉

#3  They were definitely making a statement and I like things like that.

It wasn’t too long before I ran the idea by my wife.  (She is such a patient woman) What would she think about  me building a pine casket for myself????

I’d read  you can actually use it as a book-case until the time comes when you  need it. 🙂

It wasn’t as much about saving money (though it would)  as just the experience.  I love building things out of wood.  I love history. (In my mind, I was thinking of building one of those tapered boxes from 150 years ago).

I had read stories about people going on a weekend retreat to build their own casket.  I have to say, that has always struck me as a little weird.

Switching gears slightly…

I remember mom telling me they were having a hard time convincing  grandma,  who was 90 something at the time to  write her will.  She was superstitious, and somehow by writing a will, it would hasten her passing.  At the time  if she didn’t have a will  then a judge would settle the estate, and the family did not want that if all possible.

Pause.

This past December we sat down with our lawyer and updated our wills.   It had been 10 years, and things have changed.

Secondly we filled out  something called The Five Wishes.   It has to do with health care and end of life related decisions.  It is a living will on steroids, simple to understand, upbeat, positive and thorough. Got it from a friend whose daughter works in hospice.  Check it out.

Finally, I got on-line and started looking for do it yourself casket designs.  I’m currently in the workshop building harvest tables again and decided I would take a stab at building a casket….my casket.

I started last week.

It has actually been quite interesting.

First let me say, I am not suicidal or depressed even though we are right smack dab in the middle of winter.  The new full spectrum LED lighting I installed in the kitchen a couple of weeks ago really works.

(I call them my  “happy lights”)

I am in great health.  If I live to be as old as 3 of my grandparents, I have another 40 years in the saddle.

I have come full circle in my mind from, I’m not 100% settled on this whole “build your own casket gig” to now feeling the creative juices kicking in.   I am thankful I have the time, ability, inclination and shop to do this project.

I am thankful  I am not plagued by the fears my grandmother must have labored under. I have a quiet sense of anticipation that is rooted in the Christian scriptures.

PS. I am taking orders btw 😉  (Prices starting at under $1000 plus shipping)

Plan to post pictures once it is finished. DM

Pine caskets for sale

6 thoughts on “Thoughts while building a pine casket”

  1. Great post. Enjoy your meditation on impermanance! Both for your mortal coil and tge box too.

    This is the second weekend i had the opportunity to do a little woodworking myself. Sawdust all over motorcycles, bicycles, and every surface in the garage. A dedicated woodshop is in the plan. Id love to pick your brain on woodshops on solar power e.g. Make the most of your hand tools and do batches of powertool work on the generator.
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    dust is a bugger. I finally got smart and started doing the heavy sanding outside. I have a dust bag on the belt sander (I use it a lot instead of a wood plane on boards that may have old nails buried in them) Also have a simple good air cleaner I picked up on Craigslist. That would be interesting to talk more about shop set up. You may actually be ahead of the curve on your thinking. thanks for the comment. It’s been pretty quiet over here on the new blog 😉 think I lost 3/4 of my former readers. DM

    Liked by you

  2. Although it might sound morbid to some folks, it makes perfect sense to me. I’ve told Cherie that if I’m buried, I want to be buried in something that will decompose (and I don’t want to be pickled before being put in it). A simple pine box works. But lately I’ve decided I’d prefer to be cremated. Cherie told me where she wants her ashes scattered. I told her to put mine in the compost pile. Not sure if she’ll do that though. I like the idea of being spread on a garden. Not any time soon of course. Maybe in about 50 years. Minimum.
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    yea, it’s “illegal” here to scatter the ashes (I think) but my first choice would be in the orchard. Good to hear from you Bill! DM

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  3. When I was in college, I used to go with a guy who had a Martin 12-string that he carried around in a wooden, casket-shaped case with a cross on the front, in brads. Oh, did I love that guitar. And, as he said, the wooden box was heavy, but it protected the guitar as well as anything would. It was lined, too. Burgundy velvet over some kind of padding.

    Did you know that there’s a group of monks who build caskets, there in Iowa? The Trappists of New Melleray Abbey, over by Dubuque, have been doing it for years. Here’s their page. I see they have cremation vessels now — that’s new since I’ve visited their site.

    I want to be cremated, but buried. The issue is where. I could land in Iowa, since my mom was cremated, and hence used only half of her space. On the other hand, I have a lot here in Texas, which is a story all of its own. Decisions, decisions.
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    Yep, those Trappist are only about 30 minutes from us. I have been to their gift store a time or two..and eaten some of their home made caramels (which are to die for) I vote you come to Iowa (to get planted) 🙂 DM

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  4. Have you seen the pretty caskets they build in Ghana? Maybe you could make one of those?
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    I have not. Remember..I am a simple man 😉 If it’s too tricky I will have to punt. DM

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  5. Makes sense to me! I think a lot about articles I’ve read/conversations I’ve had about what a “death-phobic” society we now live in… almost as if there are some of us who think they will avoid arriving where we are all going…(and I don’t mean where we are all going AFTER death, just the fact that all of us will have to arrive at death, eventually!)
    I bet building a coffin is not a bad way to get to thinking about one’s own mortality and just meditating on death and what it does and doesn’t mean, what does and doesn’t matter to one, and so on.
    I would love to see pics when you are done.

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  6. Now you have got me thinking. I’d like to make mine out of old weatherboards with the paint flaking off.(I think you guys call them ‘clapboards’. Is that because everyone sits back and claps when a wall gets finished?) I think my wife would probably burn it the day I drop off the coil and then get a nice one with shiny varnish.

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Quoting Harry Potter

The other day I was reading through a comment thread on a garden forum.  Out of the blue, someone quoted a verse from the Bible to back up what they were saying. (It felt out of context/ and  just a wee bit off putting)  Next person weighed in and said to them, “You might as well  quote a line out of Harry Potter…it has the same effect….”  

Yea, I thought to myself, this is the world in which we live….and if a person decides to get into a discussion on the Internet,  (which I never do, except here in the blog-o-sphere among those of you I know)   you need to choose your words wisely.

Unless I live in a bubble,  and only talk with those in my bubble, I am constantly interacting with people from  wide and diverse viewpoints on every issue under the sun….. They are called “World views.”  Everybody has one…from the homeless guy living under a bridge in Portland, to the Queen of England.  From the ISIS fighter in Syria to the organic farmer just down the road from me.  Each of us looks at life through the lens of our world view.  It helps me make sense of what I see, how I interact with others, how I live my life.

I have always found that fascinating….

(This is stirring  up a whole bunch of random bunny trails in my head right now/  but I need to stay focused, because I really do have something  I am leading up to…)

It has to do with the Amish farmer I have written about twice before… here and then here.

Thursday of last week I got a check in the mail from the Amish Farmer.  Two months late/ but a check never the less.  There was a $5 tip and a note attached, hoping he could come back for more apples in the fall….(I thought to myself..we shall see.)   Anyway,  instead of doing what I normally do and cash the check at my bank, something told me to stop by his bank…just in case.

Well, I happened to know the lady in the drive-up window, so I asked her  to verify that he did in fact have enough money to cash the check…

30 seconds later…….

Nope.

He had sent me a rubber check.

I was told by someone who knew, this Amish man typically got paid on Fridays, so to give him the benefit of the doubt, I tried again on Saturday.

Nope.

Still no good.

I decided yesterday to return the check with a letter.  Wanted to share that letter here in its entirety, along with some background into why I said what I said.  I reference the Bible in my letter. In his worldview and in mine, the Bible is a reference point.  A source of common authority ( In theory at least.)  To his ears  I am not just quoting Harry Potter.  😉

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1/4/2018

Dear ***,

Enclosed is your check for $25 that the bank would not cash.  I tried twice, and both times I was told there was insufficient funds.   Life is too short to deal with this, so I am returning the check to you.

I need to tell you a story.

A few years ago now, I heard about an Amish family moving into the area, with possibly more families to follow.  I thought to myself, neat.   I would love to meet them. My background is German.  My dad still speaks low German.  I grew up on a small dairy farm, plus I am a Christian, been a Christian since I was 22 years old.

So even though I am not Amish, I felt there were many things I share in common with an Amish person.  This past June we had a bad hail storm. Really did a number on our apple crop.  I decided to turn a heartache into a blessing.  Instead of marketing damaged apples,  we decided to share them with others, (that whole “do unto others what you would have done unto you” thing.)    Your family just happened to be the first family that approached me, after we had made that decision.  Make no mistake, I could have advertised #2 apples on Craigslist, or our orchard page on Facebook but I chose not to.

So I was excited when you  approached me about getting some free apples.   I was a little taken back by your comment, that you were not going to share my phone # with your Amish friends until you had gotten all of the apples that you wanted.

First impressions are so important.

The second thing that seemed a little “off “ was as we walked to my  apple wood stash (You’d asked if we might have any apple wood for smoking?)   It felt like you were trying to get as much apple wood as you could for the least amount of money…I sensed you thought you were dealing with a naive, simpleton…

Trust me I am not.  It did irk me just a little, after giving you hundreds of dollars worth of free apples, that  you were still trying to dicker with me. 

We talked about $20 for 1/3 of the pile of wood..and you would leave the money on the mantle of my shop in case I wasn’t around…simple as that.  (Couple of years before, I was selling my apple wood to a sports bar in *** for $1 a pound..  I made over $1000 that year, when my work was slow, and I needed $ to pay my bills)  So that apple wood pile for me was money in the bank…My contact @ the bar no longer worked there, and I wasn’t sure the new owners would remember me and buy the wood..which was why I thought, what the heck, if this Amish farmer needs a little apple wood, why not….

Skipping ahead to early  December, you called to say you were coming the next day to pick up the apple wood.  I happened to be in the house doing book work the day you stopped, so when I went out to the shop later that day to get my $20 I was honestly taken back, you had not left the money, nor a note, nor called me to let me know  you hadn’t left the $20, which is why I called you and asked about the $. 

You said  “$20 may not seem like a lot of money to me, but it was to you.  Things were a little tight right then, but you assured me the next time you went to town, you would stop by and pay.  

 I said, I felt the same way…$20 is a lot of money.  I asked you how long that might be…a  couple weeks?  You assured me, it would be two weeks or before.  Well,  a month went by and no $20.    I was starting to get agitated with you

It really has nothing to do with the money. 

Heck, I gave you several hundred dollars of apples, (not to mention the apple wood) if it were about the money,  I would have charged you for the apples way back when you first stopped.  I was upset by your lack of integrity.    I thought to myself, this Amish man I am dealing with is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.  I can’t believe they (the Amish) are all this sneaky and selfish.

Rather than continue to stew on it, I sent you an invoice a month after you got the wood.

We went to a program at our local library early  January about the Amish lifestyle.  I was tempted to tell my story about your dealings with me, but decided not to..

it would not have been right.  I did learn however about how your churches are structured..how there are deacons and bishops that oversee 25 to 30 families in an area. I decided to attempt to find out the name of the bishop or deacon in your area and bring my situation before  him.

In Matthew 18:15-17 it says:

“If your brother wrongs you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, then tell it to the church….” (the goal here is reconciliation/ conflict resolution)

So, ***, I tried talking to you one on one..followed up with an invoice in the mail.…then took it to the next level, and brought it before your deacon.   I talked with *** your deacon  a couple of weeks ago.  He assured me he would be talking to you)…

So here I sit with a worthless check,  and I’m thinking to myself… boy would I  love to come to one of your church meetings,  stand before the assembly, and tell my story about  brother ***  who is leaving a not so good impression with some of the people in the area.  As an Amish man and even more importantly as a professing Christian.

I turn 60 years old this coming week.  I have learned to pick my battles.  Life is too short.    I suspect this is not the first time you have done this sort of thing, and will probably not be the last, unless God turns the lights on.

Please do not call or stop next Fall to ask about free apples.

 

Sincerely,

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So we shall see.

My whole point in sharing this sliver of my life with those of you that care to read along, is this…There is more to loving my neighbor as myself than just warm fuzzies.  There is a place for confrontation.  Feels an awful lot like parenting older kids if you ask me.  🙂

Later! DM

It’s not about the money

This is part two of my dealings with an Amish Farmer.

(Make sure you read part one to get the big picture) 😉

I got a call from my Amish farmer friend the first of December letting me know he would stop the next morning to pick up some apple wood.

I went over the details again.

You are going to take 1/3 of the pile of wood.  If I’m not home when you stop, just stick the $20 bill in the shop on the mantle.”

“Yes.  I will.”

Well, he did stop the next day.  I happened to be in the house doing book work and saw him pull in and leave.  Few hours later I went out to the shop to get the money.

I could not find it, so I called and left a message on his phone.  Thirty minutes later, he called back.  I asked him about the money?

There was a pause on the other end of the phone..”Well, I am a little short of cash right now.  Twenty dollars may not seem like a lot of money..but I will get it to you the next time I come to town.”

Me: “When do you think that would be?  Within a few weeks?”

Amish farmer : “Oh, yes.  Within a couple of weeks....”

Well, 4 weeks went by and I never heard from him.  Decided to send him a gentle  reminder with some of my apple orchard stationary…Reminded him it had been a month, and it was past due.

By now, I was starting to battle a low-grade bad attitude.  It was not about the money.  It had to do with integrity.   His word. Feeling like I was being played for a fool.

Keep in mind, I do have a market for apple wood…just have not aggressively pursued it this Winter.  I was getting $1 a pound for it @ a local bar.  Sold over $1000 worth a couple of winters ago.

My desire to be a good neighbor to this new community of Amish was starting to go south.

I was wrestling with thoughts like, “Am I being petty?   Is $20 worth all of the mental vexation I was expending on it?”

Problem was I couldn’t shake it. (The vexation)

There was a program @ our local library last month about the Amish. (Within the past 5 years, over 40 Amish families have moved into our area.)

One of the things I learned was that over every 25 to 30 families there are either deacons or a bishop who takes care of the day today issues of the congregation.  I decided last week I was  not going to just write off the $20, rather I was going to make an effort to contact the local Bishop (or Deacon) and tell my story.  If he blew me off, then I would let it go…but not until.

Last night I sent a Facebook message to a lady I know who drives for the Amish.  Since the Amish do not own cars, they hire out local people when they need a ride somewhere further than they can take their horses.  When I told her what I was thinking, she absolutely encouraged me to get a hold of the current Deacon, gave me his name and number…

This morning he returned my call.

He asked me what I wanted? I told him I had a 30 second story, and was looking for his input.

When I finished  the first thing he said, was there were two or three  people he knew that have pulled stuff like that before, then asked me his name.

I told him.

He said, “He was at the top of my list.  This was probably the 6th time he had gotten a phone call about this man…If it wasn’t wood, it was hay, if it wasn’t hay, it was something else…”

We talked a couple of more minutes.  He thanked me more than once, and said,  “It isn’t about the money.”

“I want to know about this sort of thing.  Thank you for calling.”

My vexation was 100% gone.

He took my name and address and said he would make sure I got my money.

 

View from the orchard floor

Restoration of a claw foot tub part 1

This fall, the main cast iron pipe in our bathroom started to leak.  As it turned out, it was more serious than we realized. All of the cast iron pipe in the basement was literally disintegrating and needed to be replaced.  The bathroom as a whole has been in need of  attention ever since we moved here in 1995.    The lead paint  was chipping off the wall.  A purple, yellow and black color scheme that I never could figure out….  Soft spots in the  floor around the tub, that turned out to be 10 inch diameter holes under the multiple layers of linoleum.  It is a wonder someone didn’t take a ride to the basement.

Here is a before picture:

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I have always wished out loud, if we ever did remodel I  wanted suggested a  white claw foot tub with all the bells and whistles.  (Wife and several of her lady friends, have always said, the  purple tub must stay)

Here on the other hand, is what I had in mind:

photo by google

That’s what happens when you read too many of those Country Living Magazines. 😉

Well, once things got rolling  this Fall, it turned out the purple tub had to go…  (that’s too bad I thought) 😉

So  I had permission to start looking for a claw foot tub… came across one in need of some TLC on Craigslist for $60.  Sure it  looked a little rough, but that’s half the fun of it.

Today  I had a block of time and  was able  to cut loose with a wire brush attachment and start stripping.

 

Claw foot tub feet

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Well, that’s it for now.

Mostly just wanted to start a conversation about refinishing a claw foot tub with this post…

Stay tuned for updates.  DM

 

 

 

 

Mary Did You Know?

Mary started working for me in 2006.

To this day, she remains one of my favorite employees.  We lost touch after she moved back east.  I was thinking about her  yesterday as I was roofing.

At the time I hired her, I  was looking for one laborer.  She met all of my qualifications but one…

Needed to be able to carry an 80 pound bundle of shingles up a ladder.

We talked about that at the interview. She thought she could probably do it.  She told me her last job as an archaeological assistant  was very  physical. She liked working outdoors, in all kinds of weather, wasn’t afraid to get dirty.  In the end, I hired her and young man named Brady.   I knew Brady could handle the shingle lifting.

Like I said,  Mary came to mind yesterday as that Christmas song Mary Did You Know  was  flitting through my brain…

Couple of quick stories about Mary.

First week she came to work, she cussed like a sailor.  I didn’t say anything. Figured she just wanted to make a good first impression with a bunch of rough construction guys.  I used to cuss like a sailor myself, so I didn’t think too much about it.  About the 3rd day she came to work, she brought the cussing  up.  Seems she and her day care lady were talking about her new job working for me….(whom I kind of knew)  The day care lady went on and on about what a “good Christian man I was.”  (yea right)  so Mary  told me she was sorry about all of the “f bombs.”

I laughed.  Told her not to worry about it.  To my ears, they were just words.  I noticed a change  after that conversation. She became more relaxed and  genuine.

Few months later, we were heading to work one morning.  She told me to pull over, quick….  she was feeling sick.   Lost her breakfast next to a telephone pole.  (sorry)  When she got back in the truck, I asked her if she (quoting now) “Had one in the oven?” 😉

“Absolutely not!  It was probably a greasy salad dressing I had the night before.”  She said.  Well, me, having watched my wife go through pregnancy  four times  wasn’t convinced.

The time of day was suspect. The fact she didn’t have the flu made me suspicious.

In the end, I was right. 🙂

As we got closer to Christmas that year,  I could tell she was under financial stress.

No family in the area.

Pregnant…

My heart went out to that young family, 1000 miles from home.   I mentioned something briefly in an adult Sunday School class I was a part of.

“Wouldn’t be fun to pass the hat  in the spirit of Christmas?”   I told the class I would have to come up with a way to present it to her, because she was not a mooch.

There is nothing quite as much fun as being able to help someone out who really needs it, and who is not expecting it.  We ended up collecting  about $300 as I recall.   I gave it to her that next Monday morning before work.

She cried.

Said she couldn’t accept it.

Can’t remember now what I said, but eventually she  did.  The following week, more money trickled in…

I had to apologize and tell her I had more money for her.

It wasn’t my fault.  Someone else had heard about their situation and wanted to help.  I think I got a hug out of that one. 🙂

I’ve tried to track Mary down a few times since she moved but she’s fallen off the radar. She reminded me a lot of my eldest daughter Angie.

I’ll close with Pentatonix’s version of Mary Did You Know.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s generosity?

Have you ever had the chance to be on the giving end to help someone out?

Tell me your stories!

I want to hear about it!   DM

In case you ever wondered what they look like…

This will have to be short…

Monday I got a call from Don. There is no doubt in my mind Don is a millionaire.   Don is a regular client of mine and asked if I could stop by his farm house  and take a look at some windows that needed “tweeking.”    After I got the key from him, I grabbed number one son  and away we went.

The first thing I noticed when we walked into the kitchen was the smell of dogs.  Then I remembered the last time I worked there, there were two or three ankle biters running around outside.

Ankle Biter:  Small dogs that don’t stop barking.

I changed the furnace filter, grabbed a busted storm window sash, made some mental notes and headed home.

We were no more than two or three minutes down the road, when number one son said something about a small bug on his coat.   He grabbed a piece of duct tape and caught it before it got away. Minute later,  he got another one, then a third. Son has this thing about spiders anyway, so I wasn’t paying too  much attention….He did something with his phone and announced those small bugs were in fact fleas.

While I had been switching out the furnace filter and a window pane, he had been on his hands and knees checking out the carpets.

When we got back to town, I texted Don and suggested the first thing he needed to do was call the Bug Man and fumigate the house. His house had fleas.

Ten seconds later my phone rang. It was Don. There was a momentary pause on the other end of the phone…then Don said to me..”That explains it.  I had several bits on my legs this morning when I woke up.”  (Don had spent quite a while at that farm-house earlier in the day assessing the situation.)

I suggested there was a very good chance he had hauled some of those fleas home with him..and they were “probably” in his bed.

More silence on the other end of the  phone..

“Do you think I should tell my wife?”

That’s your call, I said, but would definitely change the bedding.”

Being the ever thoughtful person I am,  I sent him the following picture:

Flea under electron microscope

Image compliments of google.

Never did hear from Don.

Makes me wonder if his wife knows….

Later!

PS In case you were wondering where things are at, my biopsy has been rescheduled for 1 PM December 28th.

Merry Christmas to me. 🙂

 

Circling

Wednesday I got a letter in the mail from the Hospital where I am (was) scheduled to do a saturation biopsy of my prostrate.  Hospital wanted to give me the heads up it would be just over $12,000 for their cut/ I could get a 20% discount if I paid it up front…bringing it down to under $10,000.  This does not count the Urologist’s fee nor the anesthesiologist.

Just as soon as I opened the letter, I called the phone number. I have interacted with  (4) different people in the past two weeks on the phone, all connected to the medical billing/financial aid, etc. In every case, they have went above and beyond what I would have expected.

Like many of you we have a high deductible ($10,000) and are currently on a monthly payment plan for (3) other medical related thing-a-ma-bobs…. and there is no more wiggle room in the DM discretionary fund for another payment plan for a medical bill.

Nada.

It suggested I could put the bill on a credit card.

Not going to happen…

or take out a loan.

Not going to happen.

 

A saturation biopsy is where the urologist takes between 20 and 50 core samples of the prostate checking for cancer. The only 100% sure way to detect cancer of the prostrate is a saturation biopsy. (I’ve already had an MRI and 2 in-house biopsies, all coming back clear…and yet now my PSA number doubled in the past 6 months…something is afoot.)

If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve had something like this done in the urologist’s office twice already,  first with 8 samples and the second with 12.  Not fun but I’m sure not as painful as delivering a baby with forceps.

When it comes to prostate cancer, it’s all about early detection.  Once it breaks out of the prostate gland, you better have your affairs in order.

I woke up Friday morning and realized I just could not go through with the test, not knowing where we stand in terms of financial assistance with the hospital.  (I submitted the necessary paperwork as soon as I found out I needed this procedure, but it normally takes 45 days to a decision.)

So I called Stacy,  one of the nice people I’d already met in the hospital financial aid department.

She heard my story, got on the phone with their main office and asked because of the sensitive timing nature  of this, if my application could be sped up.  Bless her heart.

Yep.  So now I wait to hear whether or not I qualify for a break.  If not, I have just one other option to explore…see if the Urologist has any pain killing tricks in his bag, that would enable me to do a saturation biopsy in his office…

His cut in this whole thing was $910.00

A thousand dollars/ maybe $2000 I can handle..but more than that…not happening.

I was on-line late last night doing some reading/ research….sounds like it “might” be possible.

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Writing this out, I’m not sure who in  my blog audience is interested in these types of posts?

I hate to bore you with medical stuff..but I got to get this stuff out and on paper….Do you think  I should start another blog or sit tight and wait to see what happens in the next few weeks?

I’ll close with a couple of pictures I took yesterday of some milkweed going to seed….