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Day: February 24, 2014

“Things I’ve Learned from Dying: A Book about Life” by David R. Dow



Things I’ve Learned from Dying: A Book about Life” by David R. Dow 

c.2014, Twelve
$25.00 / $28.00 Canada
273 pages


Just one more bedtime story.

You wanted that as a child because you’ve always been someone who hates endings (one more for the road). Everyone knows you never get out the door on time (let me just look again). Coat on, hat on, and you start another story (did I tell you…?).

“Goodbye” sounds so final and it’s not a bad thing that you can’t take your leave. But, as in the new book “Things I’ve Learned from Dying” by David R. Dow, sometimes, it’s time to go.

The crime was horrifying for its brutality: four teenagers broke into the home of an eighty-four-year-old woman, slinked upstairs to where she was watching TV in bed, took her car keys, and killed her. Later, Texas law allowed Eddie Waterman, who did not shoot the fatal bullet, to be sentenced to die for the crime.

In Huntsville, where “inmates spend twenty-three hours a day in a sixty-square-foot cell with… a slit of translucent plastic for a window” David Dow met Waterman, his new client. Dow, a lawyer for Death Row inmates, had been down this road before. At their first meeting, he “did the math” and figured Waterman would “be dead in twenty-eight months.” Still, he would try to overturn the sentence.

Dow’s father-in-law, Peter, asked why Dow wanted to save Waterman’s life. It was a good question from a man who was dying himself: Peter had metastatic melanoma.

But as hard as Dow fought to save the life of Waterman, who had nothing and wanted to live, Peter, who had everything to live for, wanted to die.  Every possible legal chance was used to help Waterman’s plight; Dow and his team even put themselves in danger of disbarment. Meanwhile, Dow’s wife, Katya, desperately searched for viable alternative treatments for her father, who’d decided there’d be no more chemotherapy.

“I know you know how to let go,” Peter wrote to Dow. “I need you to teach it to Katya.”

In a file stored somewhere in my computer, there’s a flexible list of my Top Five Books Ever.  “Things I’ve Learned from Dying” is there.

As a meditation on life, author David R. Dow first takes his readers on a dual path of sorrow (“My entire life consists of trying to put off the end.”). The situations, together, drip with irony; his good memories of Peter seem grief-flat, dry, and joyless. It’s hardly believable, then, that Dow’s dog falls ill during this time, which feels to readers like another kick to the stomach.

That’s overwhelming – obviously for the author as much as it is for us – but it’s also so affecting that you’ll find your hand creeping over your mouth as you read. You may even cry. But you won’t avoid being moved.

This memoir on life and death is a must-read for both sides of the capital punishment fence. It’s a must-read for anyone who’s lost a loved one. Start “Things I’ve Learned from Dying,” and I don’t think you’ll be able to leave it.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Boys take 2 of 3 in final CVC play

Celt Johnathan Doutt leaps between two McKay players to get off a shot in the game Monday, Feb. 17. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Celt Johnathan Doutt leaps between two McKay players to get off a shot in the game Monday, Feb. 17. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)


Of the Keizertimes

When Celtics meet the Royal Scots in boys basketball Friday, Feb. 21, the McNary High School team might just put a lid over their basket in the last 30 seconds of every quarter.

When McNary met McKay High School earlier this season, the Scots escaped with a win on a buzzer-beating three-pointer. When the two teams clashed Monday, Feb. 17, McKay players repeated the feat twice, once in the second frame and again in the third. It was the latter that likely stung the most as it was a former teammate, Isaiah Montano, who put it up. McKay won 56-44.

“I think the buzzer-beaters killed our energy,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach.

Monday night’s game had a lot riding on it for both teams, McKay was fighting for an undisputed claim to second place in the Central Valley Conference, and it would likely have been a substanial boost to the Celtics’ power ranking.

The Celtic started out the night with an early 9-2 lead, but an unanswered 11-point run by McKay gave the team a lead it never relinquished. The Celtics hung close to the Scots for much of the first half, but the team’s first buzzer-beater put them up 31-26 going into halftime. McKay had a nine-point cushion when Montano hit the trey in the last second of the third frame.

“We were really excited and we had high energy and we matched their intensity, but we got a little sloppy. We weren’t under control in matching their intensity,” said senior Johnathan Doutt.

In the fourth quarter, the Celtics went on the attack on offense and created a handful of turnovers, but opportunities to score fell victim to mishap and fouls that kept the team from threatening McKay’s lead.

“We came in wanting to stop (Dillon) James, but I think they showed up more than us. We couldn’t pull the way they seemed to,” said Celt Devon Dunagan.

Doutt and Trent Van Cleave had 11 points apiece in the game; Dunagan and Tregg Peterson had seven each, Hayden Gosling had six and Braden Taylor had two.

Free throws also hurt the Celtics in the second half. After a relatively clean first half that included only four fouls for McNary, the Celts racked up 10 in the second half.

“The kids played hard and we don’t have time to worry about it. We’re playing good basketball and they just got some key plays that put us in the hole,” Kirch said.

The third place finish meant the Celts had to take on West Salem High School for the second time in five days in the opening round of the CVC tournament Tuesday, Feb. 18. The boys won that contest 54-42 and earned a second-round berth.

The McKay loss was a bitter end to CVC regulation play for McNary, especially after a dominating win over Sprague High School and an “ugly” one over West Salem had the Keizer team poised to become the league’s comeback kids.

In the Sprague game, McNary went into halftime with a 34-13 lead over the Olys and was only outscored by Sprague in the fourth frame.

The Celts won 56-36 as Doutt put up a game-leading 24 points. Dunagan had 12 points, Peterson and Van Cleave had eight each, Hayden Gosling had three and Connor Goff had one.

“We came out really strong and got a good lead on them. They key was rebounding against their 6-foot-9 post (Harris Morgan) and staying in front of him was a big part of it,” Doutt said.

Morgan only notched three points on the night.

Neither Dunagan or Doutt was particularly happy with the outcome of the West Salem game Friday, Feb. 14, other than it ending up with a Celtic win, 52-50.

“It was an ugly game, but you have to win those, too,” Dunagan said.

McNary had a four-point lead going into halftime, but lost it by the end of the third quarter. Only two points separated the teams heading into the fourth frame, but McNary outscored the Titans 19-15 for the win.

Rawlins property process moving forward on two separate counts


Of the Keizertimes

One Keizer property is being actively discussed in the courts and the state legislature.

As reported the last couple of weeks in the Keizertimes, the city has an ongoing struggle regarding the Rawlins property in Keizer Station, with the Local Improvement District (LID) fee on the property being the focal point.

State legislators are working with a LID-related bill that deals specifically with the Rawlins property, while in Marion County Circuit Court a summary judgement on the issue is now expected to come out March 10 – a few days later than originally scheduled.

City leaders and Linda Rawlins, in addition to Dave Hunnicutt from Oregonians for Action, met with legislators from the House Committee on Rural Communities twice last week. A seventh amendment to House Bill 4017 was moved to the House Rules Committee, but with no recommendation.

“The (dash 7) amendment to 4017 would allow the judge to make the determination as to whether or not the assessment to the Rawlinses represented the actual value of the benefits the Rawlinses received,” Hunnicutt told legislators Feb. 13. “If the court decided the amount of assessment is too high, then the court would lower the assessment to what the court believes and then enter a judgement. Keizer could then foreclose on the property.”

After an LID assessment of $6.7 million was put on the property in 2008, Northwest National LLC and developer Chuck Sides started making LID payments to the city as well as rent payments to the Rawlins family.

Shannon Johnson, Keizer’s city attorney, wrote recently the rent was $12,500 per month for the first year and $25,000 per month after that.

Reached this week, Sides said the Rawlinses were still being paid their rent “until last month” but did not confirm what the rent amount was. Sides declined to say much else about the situation.

“We’re still trying to resolve that situation,” Sides said. “It’s a delicate subject.”

LID payments were being made to the city until the summer of 2010. After waiting three years, attorneys for the city began foreclosure proceedings last year, since the city is having to make payments on the LID loan every six months. The next payment is due in May.

As the foreclosure process moved forward, the Redmond-based Rawlinses reached out to state legislators to plead their case, hence the proposed legislation. City leaders said little publicly about the issue until recent filings with the court and testimony to legislators last week.

Prior to Tuesday’s Keizer City Council meeting, city manager Chris Eppley talked about the legislation status.

“The rural committee approved the (dash 7) amendment, which gutted parts of the bill, and passed it to the House Rules Committee with no recommendation,” Eppley said. “The no recommendation was for the House Rules to act as a parking lot for the bill, to allow the city and the Rawlinses to make a deal.”

He said the House Rules Committee could let the bill die with a deal or send it to the House floor for a vote.

“If it makes the floor, it would likely pass, since it only affects one community,” Eppley said, referring to Keizer. “There’s no reason for representatives to vote against it.”

If approved by the House, the bill would then go to the state Senate and go through a similar process. If the bill ends up on the Senate floor, Eppley opined it would again be passed since it would have little impact for most senators. If it passes the senate, it would be sent to Governor John Kitzhaber.
“We hope we’d be able to talk with him about it,” Eppley said of the governor. “If not, the fight is in the court. The litigation is a separate track.”

Costs for the litigation keep going up. During Tuesday’s Urban Renewal Agency meeting prior to the council meeting, agents approved an additional $90,000 for the foreclosure proceedings.

Susan Gahlsdorf, finance director for the city, noted $120,000 had already been budgeted for this fiscal year to deal with legal costs associated with Keizer Station property foreclosures.

“Due to continued legal complexities unforeseen at the time the budget was amended, outside counsel estimates an additional $90,000 is needed,” Gahlsdorf said. “This is based on the reasonable assumption that the courts will rule favorably for the city.”

The money was transferred from debt services funds to legal services funds.

“There’s not many options for this,” Gahlsdorf said.

Agent Dennis Koho, a Keizer attorney, noted the price tag.

“How many lawyers are we paying and over how long of a time?” Koho asked. “That’s more than I bill my clients over a whole year.”

Gahlsdorf said it started last fiscal year.

“There are two main attorneys outside of counsel working on this,” she said. “It’s very expensive.”

Agents approved the transfer with a 6-1 vote, with Koho voting against it.