Michael McCabe

On Loss and the Holidays


I am told that if you write about something that is weighing heavily on your heart that just letting it out helps you deal with it. So here I will try. Let’s see if it works.

The upcoming holidays will have a whole new meaning for many of us who lost loved ones over the past year. I cannot relate to those who watched as a family member or friend or co-worker hat was struck down by the pandemic.  But I can relate to the loss and discovery of a new reality.

A great many things befell my family last fall. In October I heard those three most terrifying words; “You have cancer”. In November, my father passed away after a very long fight with chronic pain and COPD. Then almost exactly six months to the day later, my mother joined my dad in heaven.

This will be the first holiday season without them. Even when we spent the holidays apart, we always knew where each of us was and how much we wished we could be together, and that we would be together again.

I know from personal experience that we will be together again in the next reality. I had what what is known as a “near death” experience in 1992. That is subject for another time and over another beer. I believe I know what is on the other side and I am so happy that my folks are there. That knowledge eases some of the pain of the loss.

Maybe if someone sees this blog and feels what is in my heart about it, then these words may help soothe their own hurt.

In my case, I was driving home from work at the firehouse, in my wife’s Stanza (a light 4-door sedan). I had just crossed out of my fire district when I got slammed by a pickup truck towing another vehicle. It was a bright, dry morning. I admit the accident was all my fault, as witnesses will attest, I purposely ran through the green (yes I had the right of way) light. The other driver busted the red light at about 60 miles per hour when he hit my driver’s side door.

Not my car, but very similar.

The impact spun my car across an irrigation ditch and about 40 feet into an open field. In the movies when the director wants to show the severity of an event, they usually go into slow motion filming. What I witnessed was something like that. Time slowed down.

I felt the impact and the pressure throwing me to the right side of the car. My seatbelt kept me (at least the lower half of me) behind the wheel. Sparkles of glass seemed to hang in the air around me. My ears rang with the explosion of sound from the meeting of the two vehicles.

In truth it was an amazing experience.

I was aware of the point where the physics of the impact quit acting on my car and my body. All I remember was seeing the face of one of my Battalion Chiefs who had retired from my fire department some time before. Ok, so in my mind I was either losing it or I had died and gone to hell and he was there to torment me again. As it turned out the Chief and his wife were on their way home and witnessed the accident. He controlled the scene and made sure I was at least breathing.

The next thing I was aware of was being transported in an ambulance to the hospital. The attending Paramedic was a firefighter I had helped train. So, I knew I was in good hands. One of the bad things about being a paramedic is you do a self-assessment, and you know what is going on inside of you. We confirmed my suspicions that among many other injuries, I had a collapsed lung on the left side, but we had no way of knowing that my spleen had been fractured and I was bleeding to death internally. My attendant told me he would have to stick a needle in my chest to relieve some of the pressure. I told him “Over my dead body”. He said, “OK, I’ll wait”. And we both got a laugh.

So, let’s skip to the end.

I can only witness to what I felt. I cannot witness to the “Bright Light” or celestial music or ghostly figures in white robes. I believe those are all human constructs to help calm our fears about the transition from this reality to the next.

There are no human words that can adequately describe the sense of what we call total love, peace and freedom from restraint that I sensed.

My first perception was of the total release from the pain. I believe that there is a “pain” or burden to just hauling around this human body. We don’t realize it until we are rid of it.  There is also the pain plateau one feels from the injuries. All that was gone, and I was totally free.

Since my five natural senses left me, there was only this self-identity as some form of “energy” and that I was being called to join in what I can only refer to as a peaceful river or flow of energy. The desire to join this flow of peace and love was totally consuming.

I sensed that everyone I knew and loved who had gone on before was there and they so desperately wanted me to join them, almost as much as I needed to be a part of them. And the flow was going to something much more wonderful. Everything that was me desired to be with them.

I imagine that “hell” is being forever forbidden to join that flow. Sadly, I sensed that there were other souls or energy entities who were doomed to never become part of that pool. I am not sure how I sensed this, but I know in my heart it is real and it is to be feared.

A long time after I came back to this reality, I was able to make some sense of why I was returned. I came up with the simple answer: that I was not done here yet. We all have a purpose for being here. We may never know exactly what that purpose is or when we have accomplished it. But, to me it is the only thing that makes sense and helps me keep my sanity over the extreme sense of loss at not having been able to join the flow.

I know that the energy that made up the souls of my Mom and Dad are there. Forever embraced in that ultimate peace. I know they made it to wherever that flow was going.

And I will be with them again.

Finally, I believe to get there we must:

  1. Do all that we can to be kind and loving of everyone and everything. We are all in this together.
  2. Leave this reality better than we were born into it.
  3. Pursue a life of joy and meaning.

That is all and yet it seems such a heavy lift at times.

If you wish, I can talk more of this and fill in some gaps in an otherwise long tail. Just leave a comment and share this with someone you know. That may turn out to be your purpose.

Let’s go make a difference.

Be safe and be kind.


Holiday Safety Tips: Road Trip!

Good day fellow travelers!

There are just 66 days left in our current journey around our sun.

Today I want to offer some advice coming out of my 50 years of emergency service to humanity, regarding road trip safety and the upcoming holidays.

Over the river and through the woods…

Please feel free to share this page with others. Who knows you may evens save a life or two or ten. I know I do when quit driving on the sidewalks.

So here we go 8 (or so) tips to get you from point A to point B:

Tip #1 You guessed it: Don’t drink, medicate, sleep or text when you drive.

Your first responsibility behind the wheel is to keep from bending things, especially the humans within the vehicle.

Did you know that according to statistics the 2019 death toll (during the holidays was:

By the way one-third of these fatalities was linked to driving under the influence.

  • Thanksgiving Day – 439
  • Christmas Day – 318
  • New Years Day – 279

Tip #2 Prepare your vehicle for winter

Autumn is a great time to get out there and check the tires, fluids and emergency equipment. The best time to replace your battery is before you need to.:

  • Test your battery – cold weather sucks the life out of older batteries. To be sure you have a good one replace the battery every 3 to 5 years.
  • Make sure heating/cooling system is in good shape.
  • Inspect drive belts and electrical connections.
  • Take a walk around the vehicle to see if all the lights are working (best done at night, of course).
    • Reminds me a of a story: My brother and I are sitting in a bar. He knows I am all about space exploration. So, he tells me about NASA sending a satellite to study the sun (yes they really did). He says it is a foolish waste of money. So I ask why? He says they launched it during the day, so what good is that he asked? I am not sure where this is going and I only had two beers. So I say what’s wrong with that? He begins to inform me that any study of the sun cannot possibly happen during the day because it is so hot. They should do it at night when it is cooler.
  • Check your tires
    • Do they have more air in them than a politician?
    • How about tread depth? More than 2/32 inch?
  • Take a look at your wiper blades and wiper fluid. Did you ever wonder why they only go bad right in front of the driver and not the passenger? My brother said it was because I use that side more.
  • Another good idea is to always make sure your gas tank is at least 1/2 full. That way you get two benefits:
    • You keep from forming water crystals that could clog gas lines in freezing temperatures and
    • You are to not run out of gas when you are stuck in a blizzard on the I-70 parking lot. The vehicle’s heater will run far longer if the engine is running.

Tip #3 (This is serious) Make sure to build your own emergency kit.

You can buy them already to go or build your own with that school backpack you kid refuses to carry.

  • Pack at least one blanket. You can also get Mylar (plastic) space blankets that work really well. You may also want to include some of those chemical packets that create heat like the ones the hunters use.
  • Pack some snacks and bottle of water (yes, they might freeze, but if you have enough gas in your car to run the heater, they will thaw before you mummify).
  • Put in an emergency flashlight. LED lights are rechargeable and use very little energy (Like my brother). You may also want to put in some of those chemical light sticks…no heat but lots of light.
  • You’ll need an emergency first aid kit and while your at it make sure your car fire extinguisher is not out of date (or out of gas).
  • Put in a pair of durable work gloves and some plastic ponchos.
  • Some folks opt for a set of jumper cables, rope, matches, survival knife and whistle, tooth brush (toothpaste is optional), soap, moist towelettes, etc.)
  • How about some playing cards and something to keep the kids from pushing you over the edge.

Tip #4 Get a good nights rest

The U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving is related to at least 100,000 motor-vehicle crashes and more than 1,500 deaths per year. About 71,000 drowsy-related crashes involve non-fatal injuries.

Tip #5 Buckle up!

Not just you but everyone in your vehicle. I cannot tell you how many people I responded to, as a paramedic, who would have survived if they had only stayed IN the car instead of being ejected FROM the car. COm’on folks … it’s physics!

Tip #6 Turn off your text messenger, cell phone and other distractions (wives are not included).

Yes, I know but it bears repeating. Particularly for the teenager behind the wheel. No text message is worth losing your life over!

I found this statistic interesting: Men are 4 times more likely to drink and drive, while women are more likely to text and drive. What does that tell you?

Tip #7 Practice defensive driving.

Not everyone is lucky enough to read this blog. So it is your responsibility, as I said…to keep from bending things (especially me). You are the only one who can create your own defensive space.

Tip #8 (Last one I promise) Leave early and take your time!

Especially if you are going to encounter bad weather. Remember what I said about the I-70 parking lot? There is NOTHING short of fire or leaking blood that is worth endangering yourself our those other folks in your vehicle. SO, don’t make a bad situation worse.

There are a great many other things to watch out for on your road to Grandma’s. Use common sense and preparation as your guide. Or just Google it.

So that is it for this week. I will be oputting in some more holiday safety awareness tips for home, decorating, cooking, and generally preparing for the bad weather to come.

We are stuck in our homes due to the Covid-coma, so let’s make the best of it and ensure a happy holiday season. Who knows if it becomes a habit it could spill over into extending your home and your life.

Be safe, be kind and lets make a difference!

Both Sides Now

A Barnyard Management Insight

Barnyard Management is a series of inciteful reminders written by Ken Farmer. Ken is a retired Fire Chief and close friend. Please take a moment to read his latest musing. The stop to reflect on the words and how they may apply to your own situation.

Once again, I am showing my age! In 1966, Joni Mitchell released a song called “Both Sides Now”. It later won a Grammy for best arrangement and instruments and vocals. It was later recorded by Anne Murray and Neil Diamond with success.

Joni Mitchell

In the song, she sings about looking at love from both sides now and from the give-and-take. She concludes with that somehow, she really does not know love at all!

I guess that’s still true for some of us. But many of you have now found that one true love and clearly understands and embraces the both sides.
Like many of us during the recent pandemic times, I ended up watching some TV shows that I would not normally watch. One was the story about the rise of country star Garth Brooks. Garth was born in Tulsa, OK, and was a graduate of Oklahoma State University. That is the part of this story that I will come back to in a little bit.

Garth Brooks

Garth has become one of the biggest county acts ever with his career. He recorded nine albums that achieved diamond status. He beat the Beatles who held the record at six. His career is amazing when you consider it all. He has won two Grammy Awards, 17 American Music Awards and the best-selling solo album. He did something very unusual for a musician and retired from performing between 2001 and 2005. In 2014 he staged a comeback world tour. He has since released several albums.

According to the records, he has sold 170 million records. As of 2020, he is the best-selling solo artist and is ahead of Elvis and second to the Beatles.
I could go on about his history and his fans. He is an amazing performer and loved by his fans here in the US.

He has become more thoughtful and contemplative in recent years. In the show I happened to catch, he was sitting in a cabin on his farm and talking about his father and two brothers. In this scene, he held his hands out and turned them slowly as he described his father’s advice about life.

open hands, open hearts, open minds, open to giving as well as receiving …

He had told Garth to always look at both sides of any situation before making a final decision to be for or against something. He said that everything is a blessing, and everything is a curse. That’s some deep advice, in my opinion. What may look like gold today can turn to brass tomorrow. Everything has many impacts. Being the richest person in the world comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. Don’t ever assume that everything will be perfect in the future. What may look like a golden chance may destroy your life. Like you, I can tell hundreds of stories that fit this scenario.

His Dad’s good advice was that there was always another side to each issue in life. Some were good, and some were bad. It was always your choice to ponder the issue and decide what was right from your perspective, morals, and beliefs in your life.

This perspective struck me for many reasons. In each of our experiences we have had to decide on many matters in many situations. Sometimes you must make the decision quickly and sometimes without all the information. One key thing we can all learn from this story is to always take the time and make the effort to find out all the information and facts you can before deciding. There is a need to not extend your time to plan, and you may be forced to decide before you are ready.

In the year 2020 about the only thing you can count on is that what you know now will change in a few minutes or days. Nothing seems certain and what you were told one day will change dramatically the next day. So, what is right and wrong today may become wrong and right overnight!

I would just simply follow Garth’s Dad’s advice and ask you to consider both sides of a discussion or argument. Ask more questions; look for more accurate information; wait a few days until you can discover all the facts and then make a decision that is best for everyone. Always try to consider both sides now.

And the rest of this story deals with Garth and his connection to the fire and rescue service. From what I have observed about him, he is a deeply concerned person and has not gotten above his raising. An old friend of mine works at the International Fire Service Training Association which is housed at OSU.

He met Garth when he was a fellow bouncer in a local club in Stillwater. To this day, Garth and his wife will stop and talk with him and his family when they run into each other in Stillwater just like they were both still in college. This tells me a lot about him and his lifestyle.

Next time you have a chance, put on some Garth Brooks music and appreciate his view of life! You will learn something! He is someone who still lives in the barnyard!

Stay Safe, October 2020
Ken Farmer

If you like, please leave a comment and share this blog with your friends, relatives and social media.

Be safe and be kind.


Whatever happened to…

Good day my fellow travelers.

Am I too naïve to believe that these attributes are necessary for human peace and growth or too jaded to think that they are gone forever?

Do unto others as you would have done unto you

Respect for the rule of law

Respect for human life

Respect for heritage and culture

A man’s/woman’s word is his/her bond

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people

You make that face again and it will stay that way

Sitting with the family (not the TV) at the dinner table

Night time prayers

Journalists who report the news without bias or color

Yes Ma’am, Yes Sir, No Ma’am, No Sir

May I (usually followed by Please)

Gratitude for breath, life, love, friends


The American work ethic: Work hard, persevere, be creative


Research and thinking for yourself

Swing sets and Teeter-Totters

Holding the door for the next person

Saying “Good Morning” to the stranger on the street

Comedy without racism, vulgarity or stereotyping

Listening with intent to understand

Creating space where everyone is valued

So, what do you think? What brings peace to your life? Can we get back to respect, honor and self-confidence?

That’s one small step…

A plan without action is but a pipe dream

Good journey my fellow travelers!

I hope this blog finds you well and happy.

And, welcome to this blog. We are dedicated to providing information, camaraderie, and inspiration. This site is open to making all who join us feel safe as we explore our shared adventures, hobbies, concerns and what makes us happy.

As the name implies, we are all on this trip around the sun together. Yeah, like we have a choice? Even the folks up in the ISS are enjoying the trip.

You may discuss, train, inform, gripe, announce, pronounce, denounce, alliterate, ruminate, collaborate or simply communicate anything that comes to mind. I only ask that there be:

  • Mutual respect
  • No profanity
  • All our opinions matter. Discuss them with intelligence not emotion.

And, if you have something negative to say about someone…Do not use their name or place of work! How would you like to be embarrassed that way?

In short, we are here to escape the negative vagaries of our real world. We are here to inform and support each other as we move through time and space.

So, let us get going….

Graphic courtesy of creative commons

Even the longest journey begins with one small step. It could be the length of a lifetime or 586 million miles (one trip around the sun). You can measure it in seconds, minutes, hours, days or 36 million miles per day.

It all boils down to deciding to take that first step…and then actually doing it. Hence, for me – my new video business and this blog.

The choices we make steer us along the path. We either deal with the consequences of our decisions or bask in the glow of the accomplishments wrought by them.

In my short 68 trips around the sun, I have made a few decisions. Some ended up good, some not so good (like: Hay ya’ll watch this….). But all of them gave me something to grow on.

How we react to the events that result from those decisions is what defines both our character and the next steps in the journey.

If the result is negative, we may choose to simply let it wash over us, consume us, or knock us off course. Or we can choose to see it as a learning event and change our path, maybe for the better.

Photo courtesy of creative commons

Like Thomas Edison, he found hundreds of ways to not make a lightbulb. He may have been discouraged at times, but he kept at it for years. He was driven to find a path to light.

Edison did not stop there to rest on his laurels. He went on to discover many new bumps in the road (failures) and new paths to fame and glory (inventions we take for granted). He has gone down in history as one of the greatest inventors of all time.

Remember having a failure does not make you a failure unless you give up!

According to Jeff Walker (another of my heroes): “You do not need to be perfect. You need to be in motion.”  Keep in mind that if you decide not to decide, then you have still made the decision to stay where you are. The rest of us will wish you well and pass you by.

So here are some action items:

  1. Make a daily plan
  2. Get moving on that plan … take baby steps
  3. Get rid of negatives (people, events, things) that steal your dream
  4. Listen to champions who come with experience
  5. Course-correct as needed
  6. Celebrate your wins!

Those who say it cannot be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it. (modified quote from G.B. Shaw, one of my greatest heroes)

Let’s go out and make a difference!

Feel free to comment on this one or start your own conversation.

Be safe and be kind.


PS: You just read 581 words. Be sure to thank your teachers.

PPSS: Head over to my website: hilltopvideoservices.com, leave your email address and I will create a free animated personal greeting card just for you.