Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Farewell to a good man

If you're like me, you fear and dread going to the dentist.

I've always been afraid of someone poking around in my mouth or drilling or yanking or filing.

Maybe it's because an Air Force dentist (during the Vietnam War era) hurt me way back when. Or maybe it goes back earlier than that--to my boyhood. Perhaps a dentist did me wrong. Inflicted pain and aching.

Dr. Mark Landrum of Piedmont Dental Partners in Rock Hill never hurt me. Always, with his caring, professional staff took excellent care of me. Consistently was gentle, careful, meticulous, professional, efficient.

But Dr. Landrum, who unfortunately died a few weeks ago at the age of 54, was even more than that. Many, including yours truly, will say he was the best, most skilled dentist they ever had. But we shouldn't also forget that, along with all that talent and professionalism, he treated his patients like people. He knew some of us were scared and loathed coming to the dentist. He knew we'd rather be someplace (any place) else. He knew we were babies when it came to getting our teeth taken care of.

But he put up with us. No, he did more than that. He REALLY CARED about us--about all his thousands of patients over the years--and made sure they went away happy, with excellent dental treatment.

Dr. Landrum, like so many dentists, I'm sure, bounced from treatment room to treatment room at his office on Constitution Avenue in Rock Hill (and now I wonder how on earth he did that!). But for all that bouncing around, he was GOOD. He always spoke to me (and to other patients in the other rooms). Always strived to put us at ease and make our dental visit the best it could be.

He and his staff succeeded like no other dentist and staff I've ever seen.

And I've been to a lot of dentists in my time. I'm 67 years old, but Dr. Landrum, my dentist for some 25 years, was the best.

I've been living in Johnson City, Tenn., about a four-hour drive from Rock Hill, since I retired from Winthrop University in 2012.

But you know what?

I always drove back to Rock Hill (more than 200 miles from Johnson City) to keep my appointments with Dr. Landrum.

People here tried to persuade me to find a dentist in Johnson City. "No way," I always told them. "I have the best dentist in the world in South Carolina!"

One more tidbit. Flashback to April 2008. I had double-bypass open heart surgery (scary stuff) at the VA hospital in Asheville, N.C. But before the surgery, the VA said I'd have to be looked at by their dentist. (Apparently there's a connection between dental health and the heart.) The VA dentist assessed my teeth and exclaimed that someone had taken REALLY GOOD CARE of them.

Thank you, Dr. Mark Landrum and your staff.

You were a GREAT DENTIST and a VERY GOOD man.

You will be missed.

(Photos of Dr. Mark Landrum and his staff courtesy of Piedmont Dental Partners website).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Is there life way out there 14,000 light years away?

Exciting, titillating news a few days ago about the discovery of a planet some 14,000 light years (8.4 quadrillion miles) away from Earth.

Planet “Kepler-452b” is thought to be hospitable to life—just like Earth.

Its temperatures are not frigid or scorching. And scientists think that if we could go there, we’d find liquid water, and who knows what else.

Of course, the million-dollar question is whether the planet sustains creatures (human-like, salamanders, deer, birds, dinosaurs or otherwise).

Wouldn’t it be amazing if that were the case?

Kepler-452b (where in the world--or out of this world--did they get that name?), in the constellation Cygnus, is about 60 percent bigger in diameter than Earth. It orbits a star that resembles our sun. It’s also in the “Goldilocks zone”—a place not too hot, nor too cold for life.

On another note, I heard a thought-provocative sermon today. It seems that an old man was whiling away his time on his front porch in one of those so-called iconic rocking chairs from Cracker Barrel.

More of the man’s life was behind him than in front of him. In fact, only a sliver of a few years remained before he would leave this world.

So there he rocked, and thought, and rocked, and pondered.

Rock, rock.

Creak, creak.

Eyes opened drowsily. Then eyes closed. Then back open drowsily.

Rock, rock.

Creak, creak.

These are some of the questions he asked himself:

1. Will I leave this world better than I found it?
2. Have I accomplished all that I want to?
3. Have I been faithful to the Almighty?
4. Been good to my family?
5. Used my money and gifts wisely?
6. Been kind and good-hearted?
7. Generous or greedy and selfish?
8. Made good and wise choices?
9. Been good to my dog?

(I added number 9!)

The preacher asserted that when we live our earthly life, there are no do overs. (No undo command like there is on a computer). That’s it. We die and come before the judgment seat of Christ. What we have done, how we’ve lived our life, what we’ve believed in. All these determine our eternal destiny.

If there are beings (of some sort) on planet Kepler-452b, are they rocking and harboring such thoughts?

I wonder.