Monday, November 25, 2013

Pauline Wright Nichols Pepinsky, June 27, 1919-November 25, 2013

PAULINE WRIGHT NICHOLS PEPINSKY-June 27, 1919-November 25, 2013
Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at
November 25, 2013

                My Mama died this morning.  She died having held her great grandchildren, Mila, 5, and Evan, 3, of Durango, Colorado, as recently as last summer.  She died at peace.  Her eyes had closed, and she had stopped eating and drinking, 6 days ago, probably the result of another in a years’ long line of strokes.  She was well attended her last several days, and kept comfortable till her heart stopped, by Hospice.  I thank them for ensuring that my mother had a good death.  Hospice is indeed a blessing in all their work.
More profoundly, I thank the staff of the Laurels of Worthington for the last 3 years of such loving, tender care they offered my Mama.  As they know, I will return to join Director Kristine Provan there Thursday mornings on the north sun porch for sing-alongs.  For more than a decade before retirement, I joined a friend in Bloomington, Indiana, Mable Linder, to sing in nursing homes and at an adult day center.  Kristine and the Laurels have given me a home near home in Worthington to continue to enjoy the closest thing to a worship service I have found for myself.  I have special respect for all those who care for the aged and the dying, and the Laurels of Worthington is the most special place of its kind I have spent time in.
                In 1951 when I was 6, my Mama sent me up the hill from our apartment at 81 Selby Blvd. in Worthington, to Sunday school at the Methodist church now 2 blocks from Jill and me, to “learn about the Bible.”  In recent months of bringing memories of her back into my mind, I have remembered asking her early on whether she believed in God. Her reply: “God is love.”  It occurs to me that I have spent my entire life trying to discover what “love” entails—to identify it, and as my parents never ceased asking me to figure out, to notice violence and human separation and how to transform it.  At root, it has been the challenge of redeeming myself in the eyes of her God and mine, that has become the calling I refer to as “peacemaking,” her greatest gift to me.
                I will in due course write an obituary celebrating a range of my mother’s talents, insights, gifts and generosity.  I have asked the funeral director to divide her ashes in two: half to be laid beside my dad’s ashes in the graveyard among Pepinsky’s at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church near Paoli, PA; the other half for Jill and me to spread here at Mama’s home and ours, 519 Evergreen Circle.  In late April or May, as spring blossoms, Jill and I will host a memorial party celebrating my Mama’s life.  Love and peace--hal

Monday, November 4, 2013


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at
November 4, 2013

                I heard it on NPR: We in the US are in the midst of an opioid epidemic.  Ironically, opium is among common drugs in a harmless class by itself.  It is the herbal equivalent of a hormone, endorphins, our own minds produce, and so is non-toxic (unlike pharmaceutical “equivalents”).  Our bodies metabolize endorphins by blockers, to maintain homeostatic balance.  Symptoms of rapid drop in endorphin/opioid levels are well known as “going through withdrawal,” or more dramatically, “going cold turkey.”  Too rapid a rise, and you stop breathing.  Pioneering drug researcher Alfred Lindesmith documented these realities in his 1940 work on the Opiate Addict and the Law.  There he reported that those who had been given morphine in hospitals without being told anything about addiction withdrew without problems as they recovered their health.  Late in life Al was a volunteer driver for the Monroe County, Indiana, Red Cross.  He told me about driving a pregnant heroin addict to Indianapolis to receive morphine maintenance so that her baby could be born safely.  No local doctor would treat her, so Al found one up the road.  He explained to me that if the mother had been deprived of opiates, her fetus probably would not have survived, or worse.  As it was, the newborn could be weaned off opiates in the first few months, with no ill effects.
                When I became a criminologist forty years ago, the fad treatment for heroin addiction was methadone maintenance.  Methadone had been created by Germans during WWI to serve the troops when opium supplies were cut off from Asia.   Today opioids created in drug company labs have become abundantly advertised, consumed, and illicitly sold and used, and behold:  we have an opioid epidemic.
                Colorado has shown that a medical, now even a recreational, cannabis market can be safe and well regulated.  Switzerland has shown that heroin addicts can be safely maintained in public clinics, with among other things drops in street crime, and in addicts who are socially dysfunctional.
                I’m a political realist.  If the Swiss example ever catches on in my home country, it won’t be anywhere close to my grandchildren’s lifetimes, I know.  But it is crazy that we create such a mass of pharm lab concoctions and wars against them, when we could be raising poppies in our own communities and learning how to use their medicinal and spiritual powers.  I repeat: it’s cultural insanity.  Love and peace--hal