100. Milestones: Remembing my story

At the end of a ten day administrative trip in India, the miles seemed to crawl along so slowly as we returned to our home in Calcutta. Without familiar landmarks, I had nothing to help me estimate how far we had to go. What I did know was that I was tired and dusty and thirsty and I wanted to be back in our comfortable home.  I recall the relief I felt when I saw a milestone marker that indicated we had only forty kilometers to go. Now I could pace myself with the expectation that I would be home in about an hour.

Milestones have been used from antiquity to tell the distance from one point to another. Milestones were used in 312 BC on the Appian Way in Italy. Before British colonial rule in India, the Mughal emperors had already placed milestones along some of the main thoroughfares making them four centuries old.

That’s the use of milestone as a marker of distance. The second meaning of milestone as used commonly today is “an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.” (Wikipedia)  Jep and I have reached a milestone of sorts with this blog. We have each posted 100 weekly blogs.

Each of us has milestones that we can look back to that represent an achievement or change of direction. I decided to look back on my 83 years and name some of the milestone markers along the way. I came up with six:

  • Baptism
  • Marriage
  • Graduation from medical school
  • Appointed country representative to India by MCC
  • Publication of Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well
  • Survived 20 years past my heart attack


1944 Baptism
I was baptized at the age of 12 by my uncle, Bishop Ed Frey at West Clinton Mennonite Church. This was an important milestone because with this act I declared my intention—immature as it was—to follow the way of Jesus. Equally important, it linked me to a community of faith that has been important to me throughout my life.

1955 Marriage
Marilyn and I married more than 60 years ago. As I reflect on those 60 years, I realize how essential Marilyn was in making decisions – both minor and major. She enthusiastically endorsed the decisions to live and work in Egypt, India, Cambodia and London, England. It was her suggestion that led me to study theology, eventually graduating with a Masters in Theological Studies. These are only a few examples, I could list many more. Clearly the milestone of marrying who I did directly affected the course and purpose of my life.

 1961 Graduation from medical school
t was unlikely that a boy from the farm, growing up poor, a lackluster student in high school and located in an insulated community would be admitted to and graduate from medical school. The dream I had as a 12-year-old boy had come to pass. This milestone directly affected the course of my life thereafter.

1990 Appointed as country representative to India by MCC
This appointment is a milestone because it became a life-changing experience as we lived and worked in India for seven years. We—Marilyn and I—learned to appreciate the diversity and the true meaning of hospitality. We also discovered that life can be fulfilled without all the trappings of modern living. We learned to take pleasure in small things and drew satisfaction from the knowledge that we were making a difference.

2014 Published LTDW
Publishing Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well was achieved after three years of listening to stories of good and bad deaths. It was the stimulus for me to articulate my thoughts on what represents a good quality of life and a good death. The book and speaking on the subject of end-of-life issues put me in touch with so many good and hospitable people that enriched my life. Writing this blog for the last two years was a direct outcome of the publishing the book.

2016 Survived twenty years past my heart attack
On March 4, 1996, I had a major heart attack while living in Calcutta. Since then, I had a second heart attack, two cardiac arrests, coronary by-pass surgery and congestive heart failure. With that history, there will be reason to celebrate the milestone of having survived these twenty years.

Identifying the milestones has been a way of remembering significant times and events that got me where I am and who I have become. I recognize that the six milestones I identified are all positive. I could also have used my first heart attack as a milestone with the consequences on my life thereafter.

I encourage you to talk with your family and friends remembering the milestones in your lives.

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