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Halloween in Phoenix

November 4, 2009

Who can explain/ Life and its brevity/ ‘Cause there is nothing here/ That I can understand/ You and I/ Have barely met/ And I just don’t want to let go of you yet–from “Hello, Goodbye,” by Michael W. Smith and Wayne Kirkpatrick


You’d never know it was Halloween in Phoenix. Instead of leaves all over lawns, there were palm trees and no chill in the air. The sky was clear, the sun vibrant, and at night, unless someone was wearing a costume or passing out candy, it felt like Labor Day or Memorial Day. I recollected the Halloween scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial when Elliot and Michael took E.T. trick-or-treating on a sunny California evening, except I was in a Phoenix hotel room in a city that felt a little like a deserted ghost town.

            “Happy Halloween,” said Joe Buck and Tim McCarver in the beginning of the World Series third game, live from Philadelphia and rain delayed. Halloween somehow didn’t feel right outside of Michigan. When I walked down 16th Street near Squaw Peak, so many of the stores were closed for good and there were many For Sale and For Lease signs, just like at home. Phoenix was hit almost as hard as Michigan in home foreclosure numbers and unemployment. But unlike the Detroit area, the economy for many years rose quickly with the rise of the housing market and mortgages. When it finally arrived, the extreme economic downturn felt more like home.

Today, the United States economy is trying to come out of its “Great Recession” and supposedly, according to economists and the media, the recession is over. When I discussed business conditions with some manufacturers and distributors at the Security Hardware Distributors Association in this 2009 annual board meeting, many of us weren’t sure it was over. For us, sales were still lousy as we compared stats from the downturn. Were sales and profits down 12%, 20%, or more? Had we seen the bottom yet or was it getting worse? When I heard from a major manufacturer that new construction was worse than ever, I began to revert to my old pessimistic self again.

It was easy to be pessimistic as I began to read the new book, Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Sorkin on my Amazon Kindle. The book begins in March of 2008 when Bear Stearns was taken over by JP Morgan Chase for $2 a share with the backing of the Federal Government and details the fall of Lehman Brothers and the government bailouts and the stimulus and everything else that has happened in the last 18 months.

My mind couldn’t help floating from one thing to another as I moved from pessimism to optimism, from GDP rising to 3.5% growth to the rise of swine flu in the United States, from the “learned optimism” that should keep us focused on happiness to the David Horowitz book, A Cracking of the Heart, I was reading about the life and death of his daughter, Sarah, who had suffered from Turner Syndrome.

As I was thinking about business conditions for the next year and watching the World Series, I got a wake-up-email after coming back to my hotel room from dinner. An update from Diana was sent after midnight (12:20 Michigan time) which was only 9:20 PM in Phoenix. I had wondered before if Noah was going to be well enough to wear his Spiderman suit for Halloween. But the update was about Noah surviving the intense pain and trying to relieve his agony and get him some sleep. Diana and the hospice nurse had to give heavy dosages each day of Methadone and stool softeners and steroids and add in his IV large dosages of Dilaudid. And yet still, the pain was horrendous and Noah screamed while Diana spoke with the doctor, “Make the pain go away! I hate stupid, frickin cancer!!!”

While Noah was in pain, his parents found more bumps growing on his body, one on top of his read right about his forehead and another one on the left side. They also found a mass sticking out from the right side of his abdomen. “All of these tumors,” wrote Diana, are like smacks in the face every time that I see or feel them. The reality of Noah’s situation hits me every day in different ways. Dr. Mody feels that our time frame is very short and to do what we want to do with him NOW.”

Noah was thankfully able to celebrate Halloween by dressing up as Batman and passing out candy at his dad’s house. But Scott was distraught about Noah not being able to hang on for dear life and asked Noah if he could possibly do his best and “hold on” till Christmas.

In response, Diana who had been told that Noah was not going to make it till the end of the year, wrote, “I called my dad, bawling, and told him to get the family together and that we are going to have Christmas next week.” She put her father in charge of the food and she was going to decorate the tree and house and then tell Noah that for them, Christmas was already here. She told Noah that she talked to Santa and gave him his list of toys and then asked her friends and family to send him Christmas cards. I called Judy on the first day of November to see if she could find a card to send Noah the week after Halloween.

Who says that you can’t celebrate Christmas in November?

Diana also mentioned that a friend had sent her lyrics to a Michael W. Smith song which had the same title as a Beatles song but different lyrics. She wrote that the lyrics were “eerie how close these are for little man,” and that she wants to play it during the video at the funeral home after Noah passes.


Hello, Goodbye


Where’s the navigator of your destiny

Where is the dealer of this hand

Who can explain

Life and its brevity

‘Cause there is nothing here

That I can understand

You and I

Have barely met

And I just don’t want to let go of you yet



Noah, hello, good-bye

I’ll see you on the other side

Noah, sweet child of mine

I’ll see you on the other side


And so I hold your tiny hand in mine

For the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face

Heaven calls for you

Before it calls for me

When you get there save me a place

A place where I can share your smile

And I can hold you for more than just awhile


Noah, hello, good-bye

I’ll see you on the other side

Noah, sweet child of mine

I’ll see you on the other side


            I sat in my Pointe Hilton hotel room, thinking of the courageous daughter of David Horowitz who had dedicated her short life to help others. I missed the voice and spirit of my wife, Judy, and couldn’t help thinking about my daughter, Marlee, who had trick-or-treated with her friends on a windy night in Michigan. And then I imagined a little boy, his face swollen with steroids, trying to enjoy the last Halloween of his short life.

            I tried to fall asleep but couldn’t.

            I kept the TV on in the background and let the white noise melt away my tears until I drifted off into the other side of consciousness.



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