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Archive for June, 2009

The Age-Old Debate Rages On: My Views

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Sometimes I am not sure where I stand on the thorny issue of abortion.  While I could never see myself choosing such an option, I cannot say what I would do in a situation that might call for it.  I do not think any of us can.  It is not for me to judge another's choice, and I do not feel comfortable taking that choice away from anyone.  I suppose, in that light, I am - for the most part - pro-choice.  True, too, I have a problem with dictating the choices another makes.

While I can understand how people say it is "murder", in a sense – it is killing a somewhat sentient, living being…maybe – I also see a need for such in certain, horrible, situations.

In this over-populated world, filled with starving and struggling children and with poverty levels as high as they are in this country, it is, perhaps, almost favorable to have an unwanted or un-prepared for child aborted.  There are millions of children already living that need loving homes by means of adoption; just as there are millions more living in poverty or suffering abuse at the hands of parents who cannot support them and do not have the ability - or desire - to do so.  There are children being born every day to parents on welfare who care more for the extra dollars that child will add to their government checks than for the living being they have created.  These children, born to parents who do not truly want them or who cannot readily support them, may have been better off not coming to Earth at this time.  That is a harsh reality and a difficult stance to take, and I do not - I assure you - take it lightly.

That is not to say that all of these people would have been aborted had their mothers that choice; far from it.  That is to say, however, that the choice should be there for responsible mothers-to-be who feel that they would not be able to provide for a new baby and are reluctant to add another child to the excess of youth needing adoption and/or saving.

And it would seem, as much as the pro-life proponents cry for the life of such children, they have little care for what becomes of their lives - or the lives they may someday affect - once they have been born.  Once these underprivileged children reach adulthood, a number of them will repeat the patterns of their parents; living off of the government or - worse - entering our penal system.  Our prisons are overflowing with adults who were once unborn children, born into a life of poverty from which they were unable to escape.  Why, I have always wondered, do pro-lifers not care about the lives of children, teens, and adults who live hand-to-mouth and, more often than not, get caught up in the life of crime they are so predisposed to due to such living conditions?

The world is filled with unwanted children who are never given a fair chance at life; many of them end up in our prison system.  Who cares for them then?  The pro-lifers cry out for the lives of the unborn; yet who is to care for this multitude of outcast or handicapped children once they are born?  At the time they become little people and, eventually, adults where are these pro-lifers; what are they doing to sustain a life that they insisted should be born?  They are not helping with the insurmountable medical bills of a struggling family caring for a disabled or mentally handicapped child.  They are not holding the hands of grieving parents who watch as a beloved child suffers and slowly dies from a terminal disease.  They are not comforting or offering financial assistance to the young, single woman who was raped and could not be prepared for the child borne of her nightmare.  They are not there to support the woman who gives birth to a child she cannot financially sustain and that has to opt for the painful yet noble choice of adoption; nor are they there to help her search for adoptive parents or find the child a loving home and keep it out of the mess that is foster care.  They are certainly not there when that child – perhaps unwanted on unprepared for – grows into a tortured young adult and lands in an ever-growing prison system.  That is, unless that child – now a broken adult – faces the death penalty for their crimes.  Often times – and not always, but too often for comfort – those same pro-lifers, who rally for the life of the unborn, are there to rally for the death of the long-born and living.  That is not to say that all pro-lifers are hypocritically pro-death penalty; they are not.  Yet none can deny that there are a large number of pro-lifers whose value for actual life seems to be rather shaky.  They decry the death of a fetus – argumentatively and possibly not yet alive (I am not going to venture into that debate) – yet shoot at or plant bombs to harm or kill abortion doctors.  Some are vehement pro-death penalty, which is something I can never quite wrap my mind around; how can you hold one life over another, unborn or born, yet to take its first breath or breathing for many years?  What is, truly, the difference?  Is not a life, a life?

President Obama has been lambasted for being the "Most Pro-Abortion President Ever".  Though he supports choice, he has worked diligently in his short time in office to expand programs that would lower the rate of abortions.  Abortion is not always the answer.  Hopefully, it is only rarely so.  Yet there are times when it is the only viable option and - for those times - the choice should be available.  In agreeing with President Obama on this issue, I take the stance that no one wants an abortion to happen.  I believe many pro-lifers fail to realize this important fact.  Even as pro-choice, all of us want to eliminate the need for any abortion.  That would be the ultimate; that would the greatest joy and end to the conflict for all involved.  Yet that is, sadly, not the world in which we presently live.

The Rule of Three and More

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Though there are a number of things I wanted to discuss today, I would be certainly remiss if I did not share my thoughts on the spate of shocking and untimely deaths that have rocked not only the entertainment industry, but the entire world.

Without fail, bad things tend to happen in threes.  Whether you are superstitious or not, it is hard to deny a hard and fast rule that proves itself over and over again.  This rule applies especially, it seems, to death and even more specifically to death in the world of celebrity and known public figures.  It would seem that yet again the "Rule of Three" has come into play as in the last week, we have experienced the deaths of three cultural icons and stars:  Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and perhaps most shockingly, Michael Jackson.

Ed McMahon, beloved sidekick of Johnny Carson and the face of Publisher's Clearinghouse, went quietly after suffering through a number of health problems - including bone caner - at the age of 86 in a Los Angeles hospital.  Though he was an icon and his death a sad one, it is not a terrible shock nor does it come with the "too soon" laments of the other stars to have lose their lives recently.  Ed lived a long and fulfilled life and was on this Earth for eighty-six years.  He will be greatly missed and absolutely mourned, but none of us were surprised to heave learned of his passing.

Then, yesterday morning, Farrah Fawcett lost her battle with anal cancer.  Then, appallingly, a few hours later we learned that Michael Jackson had died.  While Farrah's untimely death was tragic - 62 is too young to lose your life to a wasting illness - we were, sadly, expecting it.  The true shocker was Michael Jackson's sudden death at the age of 50.  He was an enormous cultural icon, despite all his quirks and possible downfalls, no one can deny that he changed the face of music, broke down barriers, and was the true "King of Pop" the world over.

Farrah Fawcett had been fighting her cancer since 2006.  At the time, she enlisted the help of her former longtime companion and lover, Ryan O'Neal.  Initially, chemo and surgery had removed the cancer, but in May of 2007 a malignant polyp was found in the originally affected area.  She fought hard and courageously and even filmed some of her struggles – no scripts, bare reality – for a television documentary for others suffering through the same fate (she even shaved off of her signature mane of blonde hair on camera before the chemo could cause it to fall out).  She believed she could beat the cancer, saying, "I do not want to die from this disease."

She and Ryan rekindled their love affair and he was quoted as being amazed with her strength and resilience and told reporters once, "She is so strong and amazing.  I love her.  I'm in love with her all over again."  They had previously been together since 1982 (had a son together in 1985) but had never married.  Though they were always "on and off", they always seemed to get back together.  In June he asked her to marry him and she said 'yes'; they planned to be wed as soon as she was strong enough…yet it never happened.  He was quoted around that time in People magazine as saying, "It's a love story.  I just don't know how to play this one.  I won't know this world without her.  Cancer is an insidious enemy."  I feel genuine sadness for this man - a cancer survivor himself - who is mourning the death of the woman who was the love of his life.  A comprehensive and touching commentary on the legacy left by Farrah Fawcett and the final battle she ultimately lost can be read over on ABC News"Farrah Fawcett's Journey:   Golden Girl's Iconic Career" .

Michael Jackson is truly, a shocker.  The world appears to be in mourning right now; it is dominating the news as fans pay tribute, camp out at his star in Hollywood, and call in to radio stations (which are spinning his hits non-stop).  Though he was only 50 years-old, it has been noted that he has been ill in the last few years.  The much-publicized 1993 court case where he was accused of child molestation financially (and somewhat professionally) ruined him; it was also when his health began to decline, friends and family say.  I cannot ever say if I fully believed he did it or not; I suppose no one will ever really know except him and the boy, Jordan Chandler, (or boys) he supposedly molested.  He seemed, in interviews, a child himself – sort of sad and lonely, broken, and wanting to live out the childhood that had been denied him as a child by his abusive father.

Regardless, none can deny that he gave unflinchingly to many charitable organizations for children and helped millions of children around the world either directly or indirectly.  The news media has stated that his death is from cardiac arrest; that he was found – unconscious – at his rental home in Los Angeles and rushed to the hospital.  Whether there are mitigating factors will remain in question until the toxicology reports come back, of course.  Despite his troubled personal life, one cannot deny that Michael Jackson was the true "King of Pop"; a cutural icon who was known the world over, broke barriers, influenced countless of present-day celebrities, and contributed immensely to changing the face of music with his considerable talent and artistic genius.  I ask that you take a moment to read this beautiful and poignant tribute to this engimatic man by his close friend - and a personal favorite person of mine - Deepak Chopra over at Huffington Post "A Tribute to My Friend, Michael Jackson" .

Deviating from the "three" rule (or adding to it if you discount McMahon as simply coming, gently and non-controversially, to the end of his time here on Earth), is actor David Carradine.  David Carradine died the same week as my grandfather earlier this month.  His death was first believed to be a suicide but I called it right when telling my family the news:  he perished due to auto-erotic asphyxiation; accidental death labeled as "autoerotic fatality".  He might have been 72, but apparently he still enjoyed an active sexual life; at least solitarily.

He was found hanging in a closet in the Swissôtel Nai Lert Park Hotel Bangkok, Thailand where he was to soon begin filming a new movie; the most telling evidence of his accidental self-demise was a shoelace around his neck and, going down, that bound his penis.  Such circumstances seemed to ruled out suicide or homicide, the coroners agreed, however, his lawyer – Mark Geragos – believes that he could have been murdered (he actually said this on Larry King Live) by a secret sect of kung fu assassins.  Absorb that one for a moment.  Geragos claimed that it was recently revealed that Carradine was attempting to blow the lid on some underworld martial-arts groups.  Two of his five previous ex-wives, though, stated Carradine was into self-bondage and "deviant sex acts" that could be "potentially lethal".  Feel free to draw your own conclusions.  A fitting tribute - one of the few not focusing on his bizarre death but rather his provocative life - was written by David Edelstein in his The Projectionist piece over on the New York Movies website: "David Carradine:  Ode to an Existential Hero".

Death seems to be our constant companion these days, as we also can not forget the less-mentioned and often unknown Iranians who have perished at the hands of a murderous, fascist regime.  This was brought to our attention with the gruesome and unnecessary murder of young, beautiful Neda Agha Soltan, who was shot - in the heart - for peacefully protesting the ills of a corrupt government in Tehran.  That poor Neda had to die so violently and publicly was necessary, it seems, to bring the plight of our Iranian brethren to light and force it into directly into our faces.  We must pray for them as they fight for the basic freedoms that we take for granted every single day.  Neda is only one of many who have - and will - face brutal death as they cry out for their basic human rights.  A deeper look into Neda's tragic death and cut-short life is on guardian.co.uk"How Neda Soltani became the face of Iran's struggle".

Whether we are fans of any of the above, whether we care about their lives or are interested in their deaths, and regardless of whether or not we believe they made a impact on society - and our world - we must not fail to honor and remember them; for as it is said, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls...it tolls for thee."

Firefighter and Three-Time Cancer Survivor Uses His Experience to Help Others

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I add this story not only because Lorenzo Abundiz is a firefighter, but because he is a philanthropic warrior - a man who focused on helping others while facing down death throughout his own terrible struggles. Abundiz has suffered through three separate cancers and over 250 surgeries since his initial diagnosis in 1998. Instead of admitting defeat, however, he turned his own pain and strife into a roadmap for helping other firefighters and their families who found themselves on a similarly terrifying path.

From the website:

Abundiz' first cancer was a rare and highly aggressive one called "leiomyosarcoma," located on his right side chest wall, which needed immediate treatment. Unfortunately, because Abundiz' employer denied his claim that the cancer was job related, he was not covered under the workers' compensation sytem. Thus, he was forced to rely on the general medical establishment to provide timely treatment, which was anything but timely. It took a month for a much needed surgery to be approved, and by that time the tumor had grown considerably, with the possibility of satellite cancer cells spreading.

As Abundiz lay in a hospital bed at USC Medical Center in Los Angeles recovering from kidney surgery on March 12, 2006, he was inspired to do something to help other firefighters who are going through similar struggles. Out of that moment grew the Code 3 for a Cure Foundation, an organization formed specifically to help firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer and their families, as well as select nonprofits who are helping fight the war on cancer.

 Nearly all of us have been touched by cancer and have had to struggle to with medical costs that insurance refused to cover; I believe that Abundiz's altruistic efforts are something each of us can get behind. I urge you to visit his website and nonprofit organization, Code 3 for a Cure Foundation  (code3foracure.org). For more information, please watch Houston's KPRC Local 2 interview with this amazing survivor.

Firefighters Have High Cancer Risk:

Something I learned from visiting Code 3 for a Cure was that firefighters have an extremely high chance of contracting cancer sometime in their lives. They are constantly exposed to smoke and any number of harmful chemicals that may be in that smoke. Unfortunately, even though statistics prove this to be the case, firefighters often have a difficult time getting worker's compensation to help them pay for their cancer treatments. Due to this, many brave men and women have lost their lives to cancers that may have been treatable and even survivable - if only they had been able to afford proper treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society, half of all men and one-third of all women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. It is becoming more and more apparent just what an epidemic this disease truly is. That is why one of the goals of Code 3 for a Cure is to contribute a percentage of our funds toward organizations that are conducting cancer research, and/or helping those diagnosed. The main focus of our organization, however, is to provide assistance specifically to firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer and their families. Why? Statistics show that firefighters are at a higher risk of cancer than the general population due to their exposure to toxic substances throughout the course of their careers.

Further, and perhaps even more disturbing:

But in spite of numerous findings pointing to an increased cancer risk among firefighters, as well as presumptive laws that have been passed in certain states, it is still an uphill battle for many firefighters to try to prove that their cancer is job related so they can get the medical care they need. Read more...

The fledgling Code 3 for a Cure Foundation seeks to help firefighters and their families dealing with the financial hardships that cancer can, with disastrous results, bring upon a family; from being denied medical coverage to losing a job. This is not only a noble cause, but a much-needed crusade.

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Reflection

The Peaceful End

Friday, June 5th, 2009

After a short yet arduous journey that began - suddenly - last Wednesday, Riley Claude Prestenback, on June 5th, 2009 and at 5:12am, took his final breath and completed a sojourn on this planet that began eighty-two years ago on December 9th, 1926.

A gentleman always knows when to leave.

A prideful, private gentleman until the very end, I will simply say - for now - that his passage into the next stage of his eternal life was gentle and palpably peaceful.  I stood at his bedside, softly whispering words of love and encouragement as I stroked his silken hair; the lone, living sentinel aiding him in his serene transition and the final witness to the loosing of his Earth-bound ties.  It was a beautiful moment that has irrevocably altered my perceptions on life and death and profoundly altered my heart in infinitesimal ways.  It was an honor to see him to the end of his road; to bid him the final farewell as his spirit soared - free - to dimensions I, for the briefest of precious moments, glimpsed as he fled the prison his body had so recently become.

On this, I will speak more later; when my mind has had time to rest.

At present, I have yet to sleep since awakening at 5:30am yesterday morning.  Stringing together two words is an enormous chore in this state (my apologies, therefore, if any part of this post is rambling or nonsensical), and the full story of my grandfather's final journey deserves a clear head for its telling.  At such a time, I can better attempt to put words to something that is, nearly, indescribable.

For now, I can ease your minds by stating, simply, that his passing was "soft as cream", as they say.  Not only was it smooth and untroubled...it was beautiful.

My family - including extended family, friends, and a tangled, rambling mess of "adopted" grandchildren and children that spans a good portion of the United States - hopes that you can join with us in honoring and celebrating the life of Riley Prestenback; a life that - though filled with much pain, suffering, and loss - was also one of smiles, laughter, and unflappable love for family and "adopted" family.  His was a life spent in service to others;  from his time as a medic in the Army during World War II to nursing his mother, sister, wife, and mother-in-law (among others) through protracted illnesses, none of which had a happy ending.

As I said, we do hope that you can join us in honoring this special man.

Services will be from 4-8pm on Sunday, June 7th at the Fellowship Hall next to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church at 11140 Hwy. 77 in Maringouin, Louisiana.

Viewing will resume at 8:00 am on Monday, June 8th, same location but in the church itself, and will continue until services at 11:00am; followed by burial in the mausoleum at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Cemetery.

I choose not to view these services as en end, but - rather - celebrating a life beautifully well-lived.

A Tearful Update

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I wanted to write this last night, but I simply did not have it in me.   After yesterday I returned home exhausted and spent; wanting to do nothing more than lose myself in a computer game and stop thinking completely.  It was a small relief, but it was something that made me feel a bit more alive.  All of this has been like a waking dream, the last twenty-four hours sliding into a walking nightmare from which I cannot escape.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore my grandfather.  I extoll upon his charming eccentrities, praise his amazing cooking (best in the world, as anyone who has dined with my family can attest!), and share laughs about his wily sense of humor.  Friends, new and old, are often asked to come and have supper with us one Sunday - not only to sample some of the finest cooking that may ever pass their lips, but to meet an extraordinary man.   I wanted everyone to meet my Pa-Pa Riley; without fail, everyone who did so was as enamoured of him as was I.

Yesterday, my mother and Tommy, my Uncle Keith (Mom's brother), and my Aunt Lydia, and I met with the pallatative care doctor and his nurse.  While Dr. Kleinpeter - who has been nothing short of wonderful - had wanted to try and fight, Dr. Kanslow informed us that my grandfather was, despite all our best efforts, dying.

The words hit me hard.  Usually strong, I am almost ashamed to admit I broke down right at that moment.  Mom came and embraced me while the kind doctor went on to explain that samples of a certain nutrient from Pa's body were exceptionally low.  It indicated that his organs were failing; that his body was withering away from the inside - even though, on the outside, he looks better than he has since he entered the hospital.  His color is good and the swelling that causes his skin to weep from his under-functioning kidneys has recded from his face.  His beautiful, silky white hair recently brushed by the compassionate nurses, his soft glow belying the fight raging inside of his body.

Today, at 11am, we meet again to dicuss the hardest part of our venture yet; since this all beagn last week when Pa was rushed to the hospital by ambulance with - what we did not know then - was a ruptured colon.  The fact that has not regained consciousness since that initial surgery is telling; the doctors believe he may have suffered a stroke.  His reflexes are normal on only the left  side of his body and, it now seems, his struggling kidneys are the least of his problems.  Though nothing that has been biopsied to date has shown cancer, the doctors believe this prognosis is correct; certain enzymes in his blood indicate that cancer lives somewhere, currently hidden, in his body.  He has been "left open" since that initial surgery; unable to be closed, even through the last few procedures where they irrigated the toxins and infection out of his body, due to  acute swelling.  It is not worth it, Dr. Kanslow says, to even close him up at this point - no need to put him through such an ordeal, as it will only cause him discomfort in his final days.  Out of all we are faced with, I cannot fathom why this bothers me so.  Perhaps it is just the realization that his condition is so hopeless that they don't even feel it worthwhile to stitch him back up; the coldest, hard fact that there is no going back, no miracles left to unfold, no inkling that he could suddenly rally and begin to recover...no hope.

As Amber, my sister, and I lamented together yesterday, it just doesn't seem real.  It does not; as Amber said, "I just can't imagine a world without my Pa-Pa in it."  Neither can I.  He has been the one of the centers of my world since before I can remember.  Most of my favorite childhood memories revolve around my grandfather; picnics under the magnolia tree when I was around Ava's age (three), his tirelessly riding us around the yard in a never-ending circle on the ride mower with the little red wagon attached to the back holding all of us grandchildren, his teaching me to waltz before my first dance, his silly, thoughtful gifts and notes over the years.  He was always such an important part of my life.  He taught me to drive on a long, lonely road that led to the levee that ran behind our small town of Maringouin and, later, he took me to Price LeBlanc Toyota and bought me my first car.

Returning to 11am - forigve my rambling as my mind is so out of sorts at the moment - we will be discussing removing the ventilator.  At that point, it could be minutes, hours, or even a few days of precious time we have left with the man who was so central to our entire family unit.  He meant so much to so many people.  It has all happened so fast.  Just a couple of weeks ago he was getting dressed up in his dapper way, splashing on some Polo Black (which had replaced, thankfully, Elizabeth Taylor's Passion as his cologne of choice), and bringing fresh baked pies to each of the elderly ladies in town (all of  which were a little bit in love with him - how could they not be?).  He would get into his car - the one that used to belong to Lance - and stop by each house, visiting for an hour or two, before returning home in time to watch his much-loved soap opera, Days of our Lives.

He was wholly independent and, we thought, healthy.  God only knows how long he silently suffered after his colon had ruptured; stubborn to the end in not wanting to bother any of us with his pains or troubles and never wanting us to worry.  His family was always his greatest passion; a stout and almost cold-hearted German man who choked on his own sobs if tears dared to even wet his eyes - which they did, only rarely, only when he saw one of us crying.

Though all of us know, inherently, that he would not want to be kept alive artificially - mostly because he would vehemently oppose anything that burdened us - it still troubled us some that it was a conversation none of us could ever remembering having with him.  Then, like a flash of lightening, as I sat with him yesterday - alone - in his room, holding his hand and asking for a sign, a memory washed over me like a douse of cold water.  It was a holiday, and we were joking baudily and loudly - as we often do - in the kitchen as his house.  I cannot remember what the conversation was exactly that had us on the subject of life support, yet - as clearly as a bell - I remember him announcing to the room, but directed at me, "If I were on life support, I'd want you to be in charge of making the decisions for me."  I asked him why, and he responded in that half-serious, partly mocking, and mostly teasing voice with a hint of a smile, "Because you'd be the only one strong enough to pull the plug!  The rest of them are  too weak!"  I assured him then, smiling myself because I firmly believed my grandfather would live forever, that - were the situation ever to arise - I would, without hesitation, "pull the plug" rather than let him suffer on indefinitely.  "Good," he told me.  "That's what I'd want."   The conversation was all done mostly in jest, but that was his way of dealing with something serious he would rather not discuss.  His health being what it was, the possibility seemed so remote that none of us thought of it again and it was not until I stood there next to what will, I suppose, become his deathbed and holding his hand that I remembered it.  I realized that in that teasing treatise was a serious message; he had, without my realizing it at the time, imbedded a seed in my mind that told me exactly what he would want done in such a terrible situation.

"I promise, Pa," I told him then, squeezing his hand and brushing back his bone white hair from his forehead, "We all agree and want the same thing.  None of us want you to suffer; it is agreed.  As much as we don't want to lose you, we want you to be okay."

I put on my gentle scolding tone that I use only with him then.  "Listen to me, you stubborn, old goat.  Do not stick around just for us; do not let yourself suffer for us.  We want you to be okay.  We will be okay, I promise - don't I always take care of the family?  I will and we've got Tommy.  Mom will be okay; she has Tommy.  I have Baret, Amber has Blake, and Mom has Tommy.  Johnnie has all he needs in Ava, if he'll just see it and Robby...well, Robby has Chastity.  We will all be okay, and if you want to fight, we'll fight right alongside you.  But if you're ready to go, please do.  We want you to be okay, do you understand?"

I said it a few times, just to drive it home.  He's nothing if not stubborn, and he would be all too willing to hold on - regardless of his own suffering - if he thought we still needed him; especially for his little girl, my mother.  Their bond is the stuff of magic and fairy tales - they have always been so very close, even without much outward affection for that is not the stuff of which either of them were made.  Rather, it was an unspoken and unyielding bond; an affection that, without word or action, held more power than any other father-daughter relationship I have ever encountered.

Needless to say, this has all been literally heartbreaking for my mother - who I worry about more than any of us.  While it will destroy us all to lose this beloved patriarch and amazing man; though a piece of each of our hearts will, now, forever be cut out leaving them irreparably broken, it is my mother who will never fully recover from the loss.  A piece of her will die along with my grandfather, as a piece of her did when my beloved grandmother left this world over ten years ago.  Our small family will grow closer after this loss; closing in on ourselves to hold each of us up and together.

We will go on, but none of us will ever be the same.  Our lives were touched by something almost otherwordly; my Clark Gable-ish grandfather...forever the dapper gentleman, the sly prankster, the irrasciable flirt, the studious bookworm, the quietly passionate family man, the multi-talented craftsman, the unfailingly generous charitor, the quirky eccentric, the slightly chilled heart that could excise someone from it's small warmth without ever a glance back, the infamous chef and able provider.  He was all of these things and, oh, so so much more.  Riley Claude Prestenback made have made only a small mark on this world, but the mark he left on the lives of the people he touched is as wide and deep as the Earth itself.  Every one who has ever met him has simply fallen in love with him, charmed to their very core by a man like no other.

Saying goodbye to this man I love with more than all of my heart will be one of the most difficult tasks I have ever faced in my thirty some-odd years.  I ask that you all send your graces, thoughts, prayers, and affirmations to not only my grandfather for a smooth and soft passage, but to my family, who is nearly buckled in our grief over a loss that is almost too large to comprehend.

Thank you.