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"Taking a Swing at Weight Loss - Update #12" 

28 September 2001

Dear Cherished Ones Standing in Unity,

I sincerely pray this update finds you peaceful and content.  By power and strength only from God, I greet you with enthusiasm and a grateful heart despite the uncertain realities we currently all face.  Even the smallest light can make a difference in the darkest night.   And so, I strive to reflect the kind of light that comes from the Father in heaven. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!

Two weeks ago  my heart was so heavy I had no capacity to type anything other than the divinely inspired and timely passage of Psalms 27.  Even now, I am reluctant to share personal experiences as they seem so trivial but will do so only in response to numerous inquiries. 

The last time I shared with you was August 31st, the day before I walked the Freedom Trail of Boston.   What wonder I experienced reliving many of the monumental events from the infancy of this blessed country.   As I wandered along this guided path of American history, I even got to visit the church with the first Sunday School in the country!  Over the last 6 months, I have visited so many of the country's most strategic historical sites and was already overdosing with patriotic spirit.  I wish I had paid more attention in my history classes!  Now after the terrorist attacks, I am toxic with patriotic appreciation and perplexed by the question of "how can this country be blessed with so much?"  I certainly pray that collectively as a nation and individually as it's citizens that we would honor God as good stewards of the blessing we have to call ourselves Americans. 

From Boston I drove with my grampa to Canada and enjoyed the hospitality and favorable monetary exchange rate our national neighbors made available to us.  Even in Toronto I am blessed to have special friends that opened up their home and hearts and treated us like family.  Basil and Judy Zettas met at my parents wedding where they served as best man and maid of honor respectively.  Now, 35 years later, what honor I had to celebrate with them the wedding of their younger son Jonathan (David is still accepting applications) to his lovely bride Cindy and participate in the blessing of God through the generations.  I had no idea of the timing when I scheduled to see the Yankees play the Blue Jays that week in Toronto way back in January.  We also got to see a game up in Montreal which felt like yet another different country with its French influence and less than 3,000 fans at the baseball game.  After a week in Canada we headed for NY stopping for a day in Cooperstown, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  We arrived in the NY metropolitan area the evening of Monday, September 10 and spent the night at the mansion of my cousin Terry and his wife Kathy enjoying a meaningful visit filled with laughter and reflection. 

After a very late night of catching up on numerous e-mails, for me Tuesday morning 9-11 started with urgent yelling from my grandfather.  I could not believe what he was telling me and thought I was dreaming as I turned on the TV in my room in time to see the second plane crash into Tower 2.  Anyone watching this unfold live must have shared in the shock and dread of a world view suddenly shattered and thrown into instant chaos.  As news started pouring in about other incidents, a guarded sense of awe overwhelmed me as to the fragile and vulnerable state of our earthly existence.  Dark moments like these are when the anchor of a personal faith in Christ makes all the difference.  I remember feeling this same eerie way as a child the day Turkey invaded Greece when we lived there as a family in the early 1970's.  I can still vividly recall that sense of tense uncertainty that was so palpable in the air, and now, with amazement was reliving it as an adult.  I was also just utterly blown away by the fact that here I am, wandering around the country on a diet, going to baseball games and I arrived just in time to see this?  I watched in horror as people were leaping to their death and immediately was convicted of the need to help.  I snapped out of my shock the instant the first tower collapsed as I realized this would be a catastrophe of monumental human suffering.  I urgently called the clinic back home and had my medical credentials faxed to my cousins home and got busy making numerous calls. 

Assuming there would be urgent medical need for physicians, I called and offered my medical assistance to the Red Cross, the NY Medical Society and every Trauma Center in the area including the one at the hospital in which I was born in Englewood, New Jersey.   I even contacted the Fort Lee Police Department trying to get medical clearance to cross the George Washington Bridge on foot into Manhattan which they denied for security reasons.  Everyone I spoke with was very thankful and promised to call on me as soon as help was needed.  Amazingly, for the magnitude of the catastrophe, there were not as many injuries as one might have anticipated and yet  the number of casualties was beyond anything anyone expected.  No calls for emergency medical help ever came to me and I learned  that hospitals had many physicians just waiting around without much to do.  A sad testament as to the nature of the destruction and the devastation to those caught in its path.

In a surreal daze I sat at the edge of the Hudson River in NJ watching billows of black smoke rise from the spot in NY City where the day before mighty buildings confidently stood.  Military jets patrolled overhead and everyone was consumed about someone they knew working in that area.  Many calls were made on strained phone systems that were only partially functional trying to check on the well being of loved ones.  Thankfully, even though several of my family members and friends were in the city at the time, none were injured or directly affected.  The day was spent grieving, comforting, and praying while wondering what would come next. I used these vulnerable hours of uncertainty to reflect on the status of my own life and my deepening appreciation for my faith, health and family.  Rich intimacy was shared with extended family as we tried to get our arms around what were issues much bigger than we are accustomed to dealing with.

On Wednesday, I had a funeral to attend.  My Aunt Ann's father had passed away four days before and I was honored to serve as a pallbearer and to share in their family's sorrow.   Life is so full of contrasts.  Four days before I was freely dancing with joy and exuberance at a celebration of love and the creation of a new family.  The Zetta's wedding was also an opportunity for me to dance and laugh off some of my own excitement and euphoria with my weight loss progress and the dream journey I was living.   What a contrast now, deeply sober hearted with everything going on and participating as the end of a life was being honored and remembered. After the funeral, my grandfather who had been such a supportive and loving travel companion, went back home to Virginia for some rest and relaxation.  God willing, he will be  rejoining me in mid-November for the final cross country drive back to California at the end of my trip.

On Friday the 14th, my cousin Nick Yphantides and I spent the day at the Armory in Manhattan where I got to counsel and share with some of those who had missing loved ones.  The scope of the tragedy really hit home upon seeing the thousands of homemade posters all over the building as desperate people in anguish tried anything to locate their missing family.  Pictures of young, beautiful and vibrant lives snatched of physical existence made for crude wallpaper on an already old and run down building.  It was so gripping to personally hear how strongly family members held on to hope that theirs was the person yet unidentified in a burn unit or alive somewhere just waiting to be found.  It was such a delicate matter to show support and sympathy while not stealing the hope and optimism they so dearly clung to.  The only thoughtful words I felt worthy of sharing were not my own but scripture brought to mind that I shared with a broken humility of heart unable to even comprehend the scope of pain at loosing a cherished life in such a malicious act of terrorism.

After spending over a week in the NY/NJ area with extended family and friends, I decided to follow through with a surprise I had planned months ago.  Anticipating that the weekend of 9/21-9/23 was going to be Tony Gwynn's last homestand as a San Diego Padre, I had made arrangements to make a very short surprise visit back home.  Even though with the cancellation and rescheduling of many baseball games it no longer was going to be his last series, my main motivation was to spend a couple days catching up with my immediate family.  And so, on Thursday September 20th, I and only the15 others on the plane, flew from Newark to San Diego and I got to surprise my parents and siblings.  One by one I walked in on them, hid in closets and had a joyful time shocking them with both my presence and degree of weight loss.  I kept a very low profile hiding at home and at Padre baseball games for the weekend before returning to the East Coast to complete the rest of my journey.  Please don't feel left out or give me grief (smile) as I hardly saw anyone outside the family. The time went so fast I barely had time to scrounge and stock up on smaller clothes.  The clothing I wore 6 months ago is so big it feels like I am wearing sheets and blankets draped around my body. 

I am now back in NJ having just returned from three days in Philadelphia where I got to see some more dear friends and family.  My buddy Peter Shih and his family just moved there this week and I got to help a tiny bit with the move and share in the joy of a new home for them.  My friend Alberto Rodriquez just happened to be in town on business so I shacked up with him in the luxury hotel he had downtown and enjoyed a little pampering in a cozy environment.  My Uncle Ken, Aunt Ann and their three daughters (my youngest cousins)  all drove down from Jersey and we enjoyed a great Phillies game together.  I also got to walk around Philadelphia for hours and visit the many cherished historical sites including the Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall, and Franklin Court.  Tonight I went back to NY but this time for a baseball game at Yankee Stadium with my cousin-in-law Danny Callahan.  I have been so blessed to see 97 games in 29 of the 30 Major League Ballparks with only Shea Stadium, home of the NY Mets left to visit this coming week.  In the process, I have driven over 30,000 miles in 44 of the 50 States while loosing 170 pounds.  Even with all the stress recently and an overwhelming temptation at times to forget the diet, by God's strength I stuck with it and find myself with only 67 more pounds left before reaching my goal.  I again must humbly acknowledge how much your support and prayers have helped me.  The initiative so many take to encourage and so lovingly provide support is beyond my capacity to express adequate appreciation for.  May God richly bless you as you have blessed me.

I leave you with my ultimate life goal as stated in 2 Timothy 4:7.  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Getting Closer to Being Half the Man I Once Was,

dr. Nick

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