Monday, June 23, 2008

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.......... a comedy written by William Shakespeare around 1600 a.d. [First performed in 1598-99] The title's meaning has been debated for years. Some say, as did George Bernard Shaw, that Shakespeare used short, casual titles for his comedies as a marketing tool for devaluing them to the tastes of the low-brow portion of the general public. In other words, it was a money making tool to sell to the multitudes.

Others believe his comedy titles were a serious attempt at a new didactic tool where Renaissance literature could be a "teaching through delight." As one said "Shakespeare was saying 'sorry about all the poetry and the shouting, but I thought it might amuse you'."

As in any age there was the possible sexual innuendo. In Elizabethan English "nothing" was slang for the female sex organs, so calling the play by this name was, perhaps, a way of advertizing a saucy romantic comedy.

I'm not sure of shakespeare's intention in using his title for this comedy play but it has come to mean "a lot said about things of little consequence." That's the meaning I'm giving it for this particular post.

That's a long way of saying I'm going to talk about some random things that may be of no consequence and meaningless to most people, but are part of my present day life and I want to talk about them. "Much ado about nothing" I'm sure.. but it's my nothing and so I will make much ado about it.

Carotid artery surgery is not minor..for anyone. You've heard the old saying 'any minor surgery is major when it's on me.' That recognized, carotid surgery is major. Period. It's amazing how they cut the artery, affix a temporary by-pass tube, clear out the plaque by stripping it away, and patch the split artery with a patch from the sac that protects a cow's stomach. [They've got four so maybe they can spare one.] Then, remove the by-pass, re-attach the artery, close up and go home after about two hours of work. Simply amazing.

I had one of these done on Monday..waited a day..another done on Wenesday and wound up looking like I had a size 22 neck and have permant scars, one about seven inches and the other about five inches, down the side of my neck.

But I'm sixty-eight years old and have had a sense of living on borrowed time for twenty-two years anyway with triple by-pass back in 1986 and living through it when a sister just older, a dad, his five brothers, my uncles, all died in their forties and fifties from what I survived. It appeared to me I was given an extension of life. I know this thing of death is an appointment thing and I know Jesus inserts the key to 'unlock death' for every believer. It is that belief and scriptural confidence that enables me to face the possibility of my life perhaps ending in a surgery as I've described and being perfectly alright with it. But it is also true that life can be seen from the human side [sense of living on borrowed time] which is what I'm addressing here because I am...human.

Add to that the fact that I've lived with the woman of my dreams for forty-nine years and we're already planning our fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration which will include dining, dancing, and a champagne fountain with an invitation list which will include a ton of family and friends [those who won't be offended by such goings on] and you can see surgery is major for me at this time in my life. [Thoughts like 'I may not make it this time' are there for good reason.]

By the way, this girl of my dreams with whom I live, has a little bit of a strange personality. She doesn't like surprises. She doesn't like making decisions spontaneously. Me? I love things spontaneous. I love surprises. Take away my spontaneity and you will rob me of half my joy in life. As I said...she's weird.[I think anyone who isn't like me is a bit weird :)]

So, to help, we spent several days working out what would be an adequate memorial service and what would be the best pictures, speakers, burial procedures, [before or after the memorial service] and things of that nature were I to run out of borrowed time. We did it for both of us so we wouldn't lock in on me. Thanks babe..that helped and I'm serious.

This was necessary, as I said, to eliminate any pressured decisions were they to be needed and, because we both have personal problems with the typical memorial service of our day. Even christian memorial services. You may think I'm the weird one but I wanted Mary to be in charge of the service on the platform. This is basically because she is the least pretentous person I know and knows me better than anyone else on this earth. Put together that spells REAL. I will admit there might be a bit of a last ditch effort to make all extreme Fundmentalists uncomfortable [a woman in charge?] in my death as they have been with my life. But that was minor.

I also wanted no message. But all four kids were to speak and anyone else Mary chose. The singing would feature some anniversary songs I put on tape for Mary over the years and included some fifties, some Merle Haggard love songs, Lee Greenwood love songs, [Mary swoons at his voice] and my favorite gospel and praise choruses. Music of all kinds has been used to celebrate my life in Christ and being in love with that dream woman.

You can see as we talked we were reminded anew that, while we would grieve and hurt were the other to die, we would not be paralyzed by grief because our marriage is not our source of life for us..He is. Our marriage has been a great resource for making life better but, no question, He is our source. We would draw from that source at that time and celebrate the other in music, words, and people. A reception would follow for all to enjoy the moment and one another because the burial will have already been accompished that morning with the family only present.

As I write this I'm impressed again with what we decided. But it will have to wait. That key was not inserted into the lock of death...for this time. [We'll put our plans in a folder for later, much later perhaps, who knows.]

I'm aware some people don't think death is a joking matter. But I tend to lighten moments that are heavy.. with humor. It may be an escape avenue or a pop off valve but it is real for me. I'm not sure but what it is good for us to be reminded that life is a journey through stages and included in that journey is this stage called death. So like Shakespeare, I want to give some comedy to that stage. When mine comes I do want it to be a laughing matter to some degree. Much ado about nothing. I'll sure be celebrating there. Why not those who are here?

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...


I'm so glad to hear you surgery went well. So did mine.

I'm glad to hear that too.

Peg and I didn't go through the things you and Mary did although we've discussed the matter several times in the past. I think it's smart.

When is your 50th coming? Ours is next March 13. In fact, that'll be Friday the 13th, which is what it was the day we got married.


Kevin Bussey said...

I'm glad both you and Bob's surgery went well. How about letting us know ahead of time so we could pray? :)

Paul Burleson said...


Ours isn't until next May 28th. Glad you're doing better.


I will next time. For some reason this experiece was very private and personal and I'm not sure of all the reasons why. Some I've shared in the post but I think there were others I haven't plugged into yet. Interesting. [To me at least.] But you are one I want praying for me anytime and next time you WILL know ahead of time. :) Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I like your approach to this. It is a time to celebrate even though there is sadness for family and friends.

Moreover, I think looking physical death in the eye from time to time is a healthy thing. It helps keep things in perspective and me from taking myself too seriously.

Seven years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and the doctor said I had two years to I received one of those reprieves as well. But I have reminder every December when I go for my check up to see if the cancer has returned. Yes, there is a degree of stress associated with it but it is also one of the best few days of each year.

I am thankful you are still with us....we need your wisdom.

Paul Burleson said...


My said in four short paragraphs what it took me an entire post to even try to say.

By the way Traveller.. you are automatically invited to our fiftieth. Be sure and wear your dancing shoes.

[ guys are too.]

Todd said...


I will copy this post and save it for my wife and I. We celebrated 25 years married, add to that our four years of "dating" and we virtually raised each other. Best friends for sure. This is the kind of service we would want for each other.

Glad you are well.

Anonymous said...


As always, your thoughts are inspiring. Glad you're doing well and glad you're sharing a part of your life with us.

Cheryl Schatz said...

Pastor Paul,

You gave all of us who care about your well-being a good scare. Glad you are back (shouldn't you have taken more time off the computer?)

I also know what it is like to have what appears to be a death sentence. For several years I read the obituaries just to make sure my name wasn't in there. The sobering reality of death wears off in time and I no longer read the obituaries. Maybe it is a good thing to happen a few times in life for us to wake up to the precious nature of time. We only have a short time here and people are our greatest treasure. Jesus didn't die for houses or cars or a bank account that will take us past retirement. He died for people and only people will last for eternity. I am on my way to a family reunion and this reminder will help me treasure and enjoy each precious member of my family.

Paul Burleson said...


Do that. It'll save us from being the only "weird" couple around. Of course, we will be ancient history by the time you make use of it. :)


This was pretty personal and won't be everyone's cup of tea but I'm glad to share thoughts with those who hear and receive. Thanks for being one of those.

Paul Burleson said...


Good to hear from you and am enjoying your writing and DVDs.

I actually think the "treasure of heaven" Jesus told us to lay up is, in fact, relationships with people, beginning with our Lord of course, but embracing the whole or real relationships here. Those will be our treasure there.

Have fun at your reunion.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Paul: I hope I didn't trample on the privateness of this surgury by posting a prayer request, but to be honest, I was worried too and wasn't ready for anything bad to happen. I wanted all the prayers sent up for you that I could muster. I hope that was OK.

Paul Burleson said...


Perfectly OK. Appreciated in fact. You and Emmanuel were part of this whole thing from the beginning. What you did with it prayer wise and request wise was more than OK.

For some reason I personally did not say much about it. [Other than to family and you guys] I even remembered I hadn't told my pastor Dennis Newkirk and called him on the way to the hospital. I certainly didn't like being the last to know about a church member when I was pastoring and I know his heart is always with the people he pastors. I had a time convincing him that everthing was alright and to not drop all and run to the hospital right then.

As I said, I'm not sure why it was kind of a private thing [ As I said, I don't mean you and others had to be quiet about it] and some lessons were being learned that I'm still having shown to me. The lessons were bigger than the surgery I think. Odd don't you think. Oh well. :)

Anonymous said...

Paul I prayed for you after reading Debbie's blog...great to hear an update and thanks for being so open and transparent with all your life's experiences.

Ron Fisher

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks. I chuckled when I read your comment. Mary used to cring just a little bit [for good reason] when I would share transparently [your word] from the pulpit of all places. I guess it's in my DNA.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are doing well Paul. We love you guys lots a much. We don't even want to wonder where we would be in our lives without them having been touched by you and Mary.

Bobby & Margie Brown

Paul Burleson said...


Most of you have no way of knowing who Bobby and Margie Brown are but, just know that, other than being on my board of directors for VTM and being fellow sojourners in the Lord for nearly forty years and being people Mary and I have learned as much from as they have us, they are the perfect example of the "friend that sticketh closer than a brother" [or sister] that the scripture says is wonderful when it happens.

Anonymous said...

Hey Paul, nice posting...I haven't been to your posts for a while (got kind of busy with my spouse's change in ministry location, etc.), but I'm glad you are still here. You are still a voice of reason that I like to tap into from time to time.

I'm going to tell my spouse of you and Mary's funeral plans. I think it's a great process to think through, and I love how you have Mary in charge--it's not about the junior pope saying, "it's all about me."

God bless in your recovery. I hope you feel well because of these steps you have taken.

My 2 cents (a pastor's wife from the Chicago area...soon moving to Milwaukee area--and still chewing on your views on authority).

Paul Burleson said...


Welcome anytime. Keep chewing. Believe it or not I think I will still be chewing on my view of authority when Jesus returns there being so many nuances to it scripturally that I have yet to fully grasp I'm sure. But the journey is sure fun, isn't it!

Paul Burleson said...
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