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Christmas Morning – The Rules

Deal W. Hudson
December 25, 2008

The hallway on Christmas morning: We children stood, youngest in front of oldest, not allowed past an invisible line on the floor separating the hall from the living room. We were close enough to see the lighted tree, the fireplace, and the wrapped presents – but not close enough to see the unwrapped presents left by Santa. No matter how hard I peered into the dark room, lit only by the Christmas tree and fire, I couldn’t see if Santa had remembered.

The old black-and-white photos with scalloped edges attest to the excitement of a young boy, being held back like a pony ready to break out of his stall; the pajamas and robe, brought out of the drawer once a year, falling almost to his fingertips (my mother always bought clothes I could “grow into”). But the robe would soon be off, and the pajama sleeves rolled up to facilitate unwrapping.

I was about to say “tearing into packages,” but then I remembered we weren’t allowed to do that. My father – ex-military, ex-Texas A&M cadet – had “rules” for Christmas morning, for “doing the tree,” and those rules started in the hallway. Some years my father’s mother would visit, seemingly for no other reason than to help enforce those rules. Having raised three boys alone, after the death of my grandfather as a young man, she knew something about commanding discipline.

My grandmother would always slow things down. We were required to pass every present from hand to hand for inspection before going on to the next package. Nana, as we called her, took her time, a cigarette always in one hand, turning the gift over in the other, before nodding with approval – the signal I could hand out the next present.

The photos show a modest home with small rooms appointed with a few 1950s-style chairs and a couch, all plain and functional. A television is nowhere to be seen, and the walls are mostly bare because we didn’t stay in houses very long. My father was transferred by the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) from Kansas City to Minneapolis to Massapequa, New York, to Alexandria, Virginia, and, finally, to Fort Worth, where I started seventh grade.

Dad was slender, handsome, and, it looks to me, slightly sad. His experience fighting over Europe as captain of a B-24, the Liberator, was still fresh in his mind then. Only half of the men who fought those air battles came home.

My mother was a beauty from a small town in east Texas: long dark hair, better dressed than my father, often photographed in a t-shirt. She looked like an elegant young woman who belonged in more upscale surroundings than her husband had yet provided. She attended Duke, pledging Zeta Tau Alpha; he went to A&M because he wanted to be a rancher. That about says it all. The war interrupted his plans of raising horses and cattle – but it taught him how to fly, which became his career, a distinguished one.

The two children in the photos – my older sister Ruth and I – look happy enough, especially when showing off our favorite Christmas presents for the camera. (My younger sister, Elizabeth, would come years later – a “mistake,” as children were sometimes called then.) I had a bad track record with “favorite” Christmas presents. One year, the train I had dreamed about for weeks before Christmas, actually arrived, unwrapped and unassembled in a box in front of the fire. The day was spent with my mother’s father, Hoody, putting it all together. But the one thing I was not supposed to do – leave the transformer on all night – I did, and the train was no more. The small electrical fire that woke my father up in the middle of the night did not help the Christmas spirit.

Then there was the beautiful leather football that ended up on the roof of Mount Vernon Elementary School the first day of class after the holidays, which the janitor never returned. I missed that ball for a long time; it had just the right feel in my hand, just the right spiral as I let it go.

The “rules” for the Hudson family also required champagne and black-eyed peas – “for luck,” my mother always said. One year I actually ate one, repressing my gag reflex; my sip of champagne never tasted very good, and I wondered why. Much later I realized my dad always bought the green bottle at a local convenience store.

My mother always made up for the black-eyed peas with a great turkey, lots of mashed potatoes and dressing, served with all the cranberry sauce I wanted. For me, every bite of the Christmas meal had to include some cranberry on the fork – to this day, I still do that on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Hudson Family Rules in this generation, like rules in general, bear only a pale resemblance to those handed down by my father and his often-fierce, always-smoking mother, my grandmother. I can, at least, keep my children out of the living room until the appointed time, but my attempts at recreating the line-up failed long ago. I regret we no longer pause at the invisible line and let the mystery grow for a few moments. The feast of gifts, wrapped and unwrapped, seemed even sweeter then because we followed the rules. (Except, of course, for the black-eyed peas.)

On the Contrary: Bobby Jones Meets the President

Deal W. Hudson
January 1, 1997

Last summer I had a supremely enjoyable day introducing my daughter to golf.

As I watched her skip down the fairway with a cut-off five iron in her hand, I wondered if she would learn to love the game the way I did from my father. He helped teach me the hard lesson that loving the game, like loving life itself, requires accepting its limitations, its measure—as it were—on us.

That’s how the game reveals the character of a man or woman.

The greatest golfer of them all, Bobby Jones of Atlanta, is still admired for calling penalty strokes on himself in major tournaments, for infractions no one else even noticed. He was tragically struck down in his prime by a debilitating and painful disease. But the character he demonstrated on the links served him well for the rest of his life. When asked if he regretted the disease that crippled him, Jones grinned as he answered, “Life is like golf: You have to play it where it lies.”

At summer’s end, I read an article in the American Spectator by Byron York on our president’s habit of ignoring the rules of golf.

When I learned about President Clinton’s veritable shower of second, third, and fourth shots —so many that the green gets littered with balls—it was apparent that the ancient game, once again, was providing an insight into human character.

Here is a man who considers himself, and his own enjoyment, more important than the rules, more important than the traditions laid down by those before him— traditions that make golf a constant challenge of self-mastery, and not another opportunity for self-inflation.

Of course, one has got to wonder how much genuine enjoyment there is in pretending to have saved par when you really shot a triple bogey. All the while this entire charade is carried out in front of men of real accomplishment—often with great golfers or world leaders of government and business.

What kind of man can find enjoyment in such pretense? What kind of man can be so oblivious to what others must be thinking?

If I were a novelist, I would conjure up a meeting, say, on the first tee at Augusta National between Bobby Jones, the club’s co-founder, and the president. There would be the usual mannerly greetings and fraternal kidding. As a matter of courtesy, the president would be asked to hit first.

Then the president would take his first swing and send it out far left or right of the fairway, only to reach back toward his caddy for another ball. One imagines a deep voice with a thick Georgia accent saying, firmly but politely, “Mr. President, I imagine we’ll be able to find that one.” Unable to get the message, the president would continue to hold out his hand toward his caddy.

The caddy, not knowing what to do, would look again at Jones. Bobby Jones, who had a smile that could outsparkle Cary Grant’s, would put his arm around the president’s shoulder, smile, and say, “Mr. President, this is a great golf course, and this is a great game, but you’ll never find out how great either is if you drop a new ball every time you hit a bad shot.”

It’s hard for a grown man to learn for the first time to play by the rules. He may, by the time he is fifty, find it impossible to enjoy himself under the conditions that honesty requires. He will feel stifled, his appetites frustrated.

Clinton often plays at the Robert Trent Jones Club in Manassas, Virginia. As reported in the American Spectator, club members are tired of his bad manners: “Caddyshack should have had a Bill Clinton character in it,” said one member.

There are times when we all dream of shortcuts to excellence. Millions of dollars are spent on gimmicks to lose weight, build muscle, achieve happiness, make money, and build lasting friendships. The easiest gimmick of all is just to pretend: If you didn’t make the putt for par, just putt it until you make it, or, if you can’t make it, just pretend you did.

Golf, like all great sports, is supposed to help us live well.

“Play it where it lies” is a lesson that has benefited me all my life. It means that life often provides opportunities that only come once—be ready. It means that I have to live with my mistakes—be responsible. It means that when I act every part of me must be involved—be committed. It means that no situation is perfect, no opportunity is without its difficulties—be courageous. It means that all we do, all we are, is shot through with limitations—be humble.

Let’s hope this presidential pretense is not the “bridge to the future” he promised. The future needs more the spirit of Bobby Jones and less the spirit of self-indulgent leadership.

If Bobby Jones put his arm over my shoulder, I’d listen closely to anything he happened to say.

Sed Contra: John Wayne Grows Old

Deal W. Hudson
October 1, 1999

He was the strongest man I ever knew. He had will-power of iron. The doctor said to stop smoking. After that day he never smoked another cigarette. Years later a different doctor banned alcohol—not another drink passed his lips for more than thirty years. Of all the money he inherited from his mother and aunt, not a penny of these assets was spent on himself; all of it was saved and reinvested for his three children. Now after heart failure and a stroke he lies in a hospital bed. I have just returned from his bedside, where I cut up his dinner and placed it in his mouth, piece by piece.

I guess you could call my dad part of the Saving Private Ryan generation. Fresh out of Texas in his early twenties, a captain in the Army Air Corps, he flew his missions over Germany and Yugoslavia and, I was told by my mother, never lost a man. Dad never talked about the war, but over the years it became clear his soul had suffered much from the experience. After seeing the Spielberg movie, and listening to the reaction of many World War II veterans, it was also clearly an emotional catharsis of sorts had been long overdue.

I took the occasion of that film for my daughter and I to interview him about his war experience. Dad seemed finally ready to talk about those years where every morning these young men wondered if they would survive another day. No wonder, he said, they all learned how to drink, pretty hard. His best story was about his plane being shot down in Yugoslavia and the local women who hid the flyers in hay wagons until they were rescued.

I already knew that story because a few months earlier providence had arranged for Dad to play golf with my friend and Crisis supporter, the late Jim Matthews, who turned out to be the captain of the plane that swooped down in that field to take them back to the base in Italy.

Age did not diminish Dad’s will-power. In the summer of 1998, I went to Rockport, Maine, to play with him in a two-day golf tournament at the local country club. This had become a yearly ritual for us—we had never played that well but we knew we were running out of time, and we were determined to make a good showing.

Dad was 78 that summer but still a solid mid-80s player. After the first day’s scramble format, we were in the lead. We always liked scrambles, where you pick the best shot and play from there since I usually drive well and Dad has always been an extraordinary putter. The second day was the best-ball of our twosome. I played well for about 13 holes but then started to fall apart. My trusty driver was letting me down. We knew we were probably in the lead for the championship flight but could not afford a single bad hole.

To this day I have no idea where he summoned the strength. While I looked for my lost game, Dad parred the last five holes. We had been teaming together since I was eleven, and now father and son had finally won a golf tournament.

Two weeks later, at a hospital in Houston, my father would be told he suffered from congestive heart failure, and his heart was pumping only 20 percent of the blood his body needed. How did he do it? As Tom Brokaw explains in his book The Greatest Generation, these men had guts, acquired in the midst of unprecedented self-sacrifice—in the fight against tyranny they learned that God, country, and family outweighed personal satisfaction.

Many readers, I am sure, have been down this road of watching a father, or a mother, become child-like through the ravages of age and disease. Michael Novak told me that losing a father is like standing in a clearing where all of a sudden the last row of trees are blown away and you feel a storm smacking you in the face. I have gone back to that image many times to understand the strange reversal of roles. My father is still with us but already I feel the force of the wind rising against me. To be the son of the father I must pray and persevere.

Music: Our Golden Age

Deal W. Hudson
October 1, 2000

The golden age of the Broadway musical may be long past, but never has the musical been so gloriously recorded as in the present. Those who only know and treasure the familiar original cast recordings of shows like Brigadoon, Oklahoma and West Side Story have a great treat in store. Quietly, over the past decade, most of these shows have been rerecorded inversions that often match or surpass their originals.

At the top of the list stands a recent recording of The King and me with Julie Andrews and Ben Kingsley. Nothing here disappoints. Julie Andrews’s singing is breathtaking: Her rendition of Hello Young Lovers is a master class in diction and characterization. Ben Kingsley actually succeeds in effacing the memories of Yul Brenner, and the conducting of John Mauceri, as in The March of the Siamese Children, reminds us that Richard Rodgers was a melodic genius. Don’t miss this one!

Next on the list is Brigadoon, conducted by John McGlinn, who has had a leading role in the revival of Broadway recordings beginning with his 1988 Show Boat on EMI. McGlinn’s recording is flawless; every role is perfectly cast and beautifully sung. Singers like Brent Barrett, Rebecca Luker, Judy Kaye, and John Mark Ainsley are not household words, but they stir you to the quick in the way Drake, MacRae, Merman, and Martin did a generation ago. Listening to Ainsley’s Come to Me, Bend to Me will leave you shaking your head that such a marvelous song was left out of the MGM movie with Gene Kelly.

Kim Criswell is the belter par excellence of our day, and she stars in the new versions of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate and Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. Again, McGlinn is the conductor in both shows, and baritone Thomas Hampson is Criswell’s romantic partner. Hampson continues very successfully the tradition of classical performers crossing over to Broadway. You must hear Anything You Can Do to believe it—my daughter heard it on her way to camp and asked to hear it again when I picked her up a week later. And Criswell’s I Got Lost in His Arms should be labeled “Dangerous to play while driving in traffic!”

Next to McGlinn, the person who deserves the most applause for this recording revival is producer John Yap. In 1979, Yap founded TER Records in England (known as Jay Records in the United States) to record musicals in complete editions with their original orchestrations. A good place to start is Yap’s On the Town with Criswell and Kay but also Greg Edelman, Ethan Freeman, and Valerie Masterson. John Owen Edward, who does most of the conducting for Yap, handles Bernstein’s score with the kind of brio you would expect from the composer himself. In fact, Edward’s conducting is the star of all the Yap recordings I recommend, including Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, South Pacific, and Oliver. Great voices are a necessary but not sufficient condition for a successful recording—without proper pace and idiom even well-sung performances will fail to ignite.

The film version of Oliver succeeds dramatically but is musically lacking, especially in the role of Nancy. Yap’s version builds on the unrivaled Nancy of Josephine Barstow. Sample her brief reprise of Where Is Love? followed by the ensemble Who Will Buy? for an example of musical theater at its best. In West Side Story, Yap again succeeds in rivaling the virtues of the well-known film version with the fresh young voices of Paul Manuel and Tinuke Olafimihan as Tony and Maria. As in most Yap recordings, the performance is greatly enhanced by the prudent use of dialogue, which serves a musical purpose of setting the mood for each song and, in the case of West Side Story, means hearing a lot of Bern- stein’s music as underscoring.

None of the previous Guys and Dolls recordings match the complete Yap version with Edelmann, Criswell, Emily Loesser (yes, the composer’s daughter), and Tim Flavin. There is just so much good music in this show one CD can’t hold it. For example, Yap gives you the world premiere recording of the entire Havana sequence. Yap’s complete version of South Pacific features opera star Justino Diaz in the Ezio Pinza role of Emile and Paige O’Hara, better known as the voice of Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as Nellie Forbush. Again, it is the great achievement of this recording that you don’t miss the film version or, especially, its soundtrack. You may think that two CDs are too expensive for a musical, but once you have heard the little gems like the dance number based on the Bali Hai theme, Company Street, you won’t want to go back to single-disc versions.

Given space, I would recommend many more, including some remarkable solo recordings of Broadway songs by Dawn Upshaw, Bryn Terfel, and Thomas Hampson. Artists and the recording industry have definitely discovered an audience hungry for expressive singing and good tunes. There have been some laments lately that the only musicals opening on Broadway having any success are revivals like Kiss Me, Kate and The Music Man (both reviewed in CRISIS). This new golden age of recording reminds the skeptics why some musicals fail quickly and others continue to find new audiences.

Loesser, Bernstein, Rodgers, Porter, Berlin, and Bart knew how to write memorable music and wed it to a story that neither wallowed in spectacle (Andrew Lloyd Weber) or in cynicism (Stephen Sondheim).

There is a young talent emerging on Broadway whose music is quite arresting—Adam Guettel. In a future issue of CRISIS, we will take a look at his work, especially his musical Floyd Collins, in which powerful religious themes abound.

Sed Contra: Romania Bound

Deal W. Hudson
February 1, 2001

My family of three—my wife, Theresa, my twelve-year-old daughter, Hannah, and I—will fly to Eastern Europe next month and become four. Waiting for us is a four-year-old boy named Cyprian who needs a permanent family. From his pictures he looks like a young Omar Shariff, with dark hair and eyes and gleaming cheekbones: just the right seasoning to flavor our fair-skinned WASP genetic mix.

We began two years ago to think about finding a child from overseas. William Pierce, president of the National Council for Adoption, recommended working with James Savley, executive director of the Small World Ministries adoption program in Nashville, Tennessee.

Savley had connections to several orphanages in Russia. We filled out the papers, submitted to the required home study, and wrote the checks. After everything was completed, we waited seven months to hear something. But Russia had recently elected a new president, Vladimir Putin, who decided to require all adoption agencies to undergo new accreditation procedures. At this point, we didn’t know how long it would be before we received a “referral” for a Russian child. Then Savley’s son called. He had just returned from a trip to Romania, where his nondenominational Christian agency donates gifts, “capfuls of love,” to children every Christmas. A contact there told him that she knew of a little boy available for adoption.

It was an unusual situation: Cyprian had been living with foster families since being given up by his mother when he was six months old. Savley said, “I thought of you first because I thought you would be open to an older child.” My wife’s wry comment was, “Yes, Deal would like to play baseball with him and not be in a wheelchair.”

Since I’m now on the shady side of 50, I have been asked why I’m doing this. I’ve already survived to raise a toddler—so why put myself through it again? My answer is, “If Bob Reilly can do it, so can I.” Bob, Crisis music critic and a dear friend, is also advanced in age and raising three small children. Indeed, he is one of several older fathers and mothers to whom I have looked for inspiration since Theresa and Hannah first proposed to me that we make our family a little bigger.

Still, I mentally resisted the idea of adoption for a long time—until I happened upon Hannah praying a rosary for her as-yet-unseen brother. Evidently, this had been going on for weeks without her father’s knowledge about it.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I groan at the thought of going through one more time all those stages of childhood that so tax a parent’s knees and back. There is a reason why nature guides us to have children early when our muscles and sinews comport with the challenges of chasing young ones through the yard and out of the street. I take comfort in the fact that golf is my sport, not football or baseball, and that a golf swing survives longer than a downfield pass or a slide into third base. As a Romanian, Cyprian will probably have the foot genes for soccer, a game that was unknown to my generation growing up in Texas—and at my age, I’ll have to settle for watching his brilliant play, not joining in.

In the final analysis, neither Bob nor anyone else made me want to take a small stranger into our home. I realized that Theresa and I hadn’t yet given all we have to give. We—I—haven’t fully made the “gift of self” that Pope John Paul II talks about. There is more time, more money, more energy, more of myself to be given away. And of course, there will be plenty in return for all of us. As I watched Hannah play with her young friends one day a while ago, I saw a deep joy stream forth, something I had never seen in her when she was around only grown-ups. I wanted her to feel that joy at home with a brother or sister.

There is a passage in C.S. Lewis’s Four Loves that I cannot get out of my head when I think about adopting Cyprian. He explains that when we are in a group of friends, only specific individuals can bring out specific aspects of ourselves. It is as if we need a group—a larger family, as it were—to realize our full selves.

So in a few weeks, we’ll be off to Bucharest on what feels like the biggest adventure of my life. As I think about Cyprian, I can’t help but connect him to that other Eastern European, John Paul, who made us so aware of the “gift of self.” I hope the Hudson family is up to the task. As we all know, the presence of a child makes love often seem effortless, so much more like the gift that it is.

U.S. Catholic Editor Chides My ‘Clumsy Argument’

Deal W. Hudson
December 31, 2009

Bryan Cones, the managing editor at U.S. Catholic, is upset that I used the word “fake” to describe Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Two weeks ago, I criticized those organizations for supporting the Senate health-care bill containing abortion funding.

At the Huffington PostCones calls me out:

Hudson appoints himself the arbiter of what is Catholic, and if you support health care reform that in any way might lead to an abortion paid for with public funds, you are not one.

Cones stresses his disagreement with me in a lively style: “If he wants to have a debate about whether I’m a Catholic, I say: Bring it, Deal.” You have to love that spirit, but Cones misses the point. I’m not interested in arguing over whether he is a Catholic, but whether it is “Catholic” to support health-care reform containing federal funding for abortion.

I argue that if the health-care bill contains federal funding for abortion – no matter what’s contained in the rest of the bill – Catholics in the Congress must oppose it. To support such a bill constitutes a direct cooperation with this serious moral evil (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2270; Evangelium Vitae 74).

Why? Because there is no doubt that federal funding would lead to an increase of 200,000 or more abortions each year. According to a 2007 Guttmacher study, “18-35 percent of women who would have had an abortion continued their pregnancies after Medicaid funding was cut off.” This is taken from studies published over the past 20 years.

But Cones finds a way around these hard facts, arguing:

Catholics are free to hold different positions on how the right to life should be pursued in the public sphere. Our common goal is no abortions; our paths can differ.

True enough: The paths may differ. But at some point, they must merge – that point being the certainty that more children will die as a result of a specific piece of legislation, i.e., the Senate health-care bill.

Cones’ view of the facts on the ground about abortion is tenuous. He claims, without citing any sources, “There is plenty of evidence that making abortion illegal actually does little to prevent it.” I wonder, then, how he explains the explosion in the abortion rate since Roe v. Wade, if legalization was not a factor.

Cones simply ignores the impact of abortion funding: “Catholics who argue that access to affordable health care and other progressive social policies will reduce abortion are on the solid moral ground.” Whatever truth that may contain will surely be offset by the findings of the Guttmacher study – namely, a significant number of women will not give birth to their children if the government pays for abortions.

Cones, not surprisingly, cites the agreement of the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious with his position: “I’m not the only Catholic who is willing to do the difficult moral math and judge health care reform worth the difficulty surrounding abortion funding.”

Cones mistakenly think the “moral math” of the health-care bill is “difficult,” which it is not. Perhaps his insistence on inserting complexity into the argument is the reason he hasn’t come to the right conclusion. But there is a deeper problem with the way Cones thinks about the issue. He considers my position on abortion – that it is a “make-or-break issue” – the “clumsiest of moral arguments.” By clumsy, I assume Cones means my position is one-sided, out of balance with his perspective. This is due to the fact that Cones, evidently, does not recognize a hierarchy of values, nor the weight of non-negotiable issues. It’s not a question of balance but of priorities.

Cones make the same mistake when he pits the human “right” or “access to health care” against the right to life. “Catholic teaching has long recognized access to health care as a human (not merely civil) right.” These “rights” are in no way comparable, especially in a health-care bill that treats abortion as “preventative care.” Indeed, the Senate health-care bill doesn’t recognize the right to life at all – doesn’t that bother Bryan Cones?

My Heart Laid Bare — A Tribute to Mike Eisenbath

Deal W. Hudson
July 23, 2015

This evening “The Christian Review” will publish the 17th column by Mike Eisenbath. I hope our readers fully realize how remarkable these columns have been.  Few people are willing to expose themselves, be completely honest about their personal darkness, and risk the shame of being viewed as weak, sinful, or lacking faith.

Most writers won’t allow themselves to be viewed in a negative light even when talking about their sins; they make their confessions as if on a Hollywood sound stage with lighting that romanticizes their “journey” to salvation.

Mike doesn’t add any gloss to his story. The honesty of self-revelation is daunting, but Mike digs more deeply into himself with everything he publishes. Like the great 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire*, Eisenbath’s writing could be collected under the title, “My Heart Laid Bare” (1857).

I almost used the more familiar phrase “dark night of the soul” to describe Mike’s work, but I chose not to because Mike never writes to draw attention to himself or to portray his struggle in heroic terms.  I mean no disrespect to St. John of the Cross (1542-91), but over the centuries his “dark night” has become domesticated and trivialized by application to routine bouts of unhappiness.

Mike does not want us to be interested in Mike per se but to recognize that the paralyzing depression that grips so many of us, to a greater or lesser extent, can be treated.  And the treatment begins with admitting the problem, confessing it aloud, and no longer hiding it from others.

Mike Eisenbath

Mike Eisenbath

Mike Eisenbath was one of the leading newspaper sportswriters in the nation when his depression hit him, literally out of nowhere.  One day he could not get out of bed.  He had to quit his “dream job” at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where he had just covered the MLB home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Mike admits that since leaving his highly visible role as a sportswriter he would be forgotten. He admits his despair has led to several suicide attempts. But, once again, there is no attempt to dramatize or to seek congratulations for surviving.  Mike doesn’t keep such “embarrassing” things to himself as an attempt to help others. As he wrote in “Why I Don’t Keep My Depression to Myself“:

“People keep all sorts of things in their lives a secret. Opening yourself to scrutiny can be challenging. That said, the best decision we ever made was to open our situation not just to family and friends, but to the world at large. That is how I have come to recognize the disease as a gift.”

That suicidal depression can be a “gift” is a difficult assertion to accept, at least at face value.  But a look at the website, “Offering Hope for the Journey,” created by Mike and his wife, Donna, will convince you, as it did me, that he’s telling the truth.

To explain why the writing of Mike Eisenbath is so important, I will offer a statement from the Polish poet, Czesław Miłosz,  in his 1980 speech accepting the Nobel Prize for literature:

“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.”

I want to thank Mike Eisenbath for the courage of breaking the silence about depression, about thoughts leading to suicide, and suicide attempts themselves. Love and supported by his wife Donna, Mike has risked everything — put everything “on the line” — to help others to ease the burden of their interior suffering.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28)

* T.S. Eliot called Baudelaire “the greatest Christian poet since Dante.”