Bishop's Mantle

Jim Bishop ('63) reflects on his "odometer" reaching a new milestone

Bishop's Mantle

Editor's Note:

The Class of 1963 has lost its voice.

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Jim Bishop, Class of 1963, on Sunday, January 16. Our hearts go out to his wife, Anna, and the entire Bishop family.

Jim's obituary appears below, but we encourage you to continue scrolling and read his Bishop's Mantle columns. Jim wrote this weekly column for the Harrisonburg (VA) Daily News-Record for more than 20 years; we have published the last half dozen or so columns on this page. It is our belief that these columns contain the essence of Jim's life—his great enthusiasm for words and writing, his ability to make you laugh, his love of the simple gifts God gives, his deep love and appreciation for Anna, his tenacity in battling a life-threatening illness. But most of all, Jim's writing points to his great faith and reliance upon the promises of God. It is heartening to see how God's word both encouraged Jim in his darkest hours, but also helped him set priorities and seize the opportunities God gave him.

May it be so for us as well.

James V. "Jim" Bishop

James V. (Jim) Bishop, age 76, of Belmont Estates, Harrisonburg, died Sunday, January 16, 2022 at his home of complications from glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.

A native of Doylestown, Pa., he was born May 22, 1945, the eldest son of the late J. Vernon and Ann Dayton Bishop.

Bishop retired in 2011 after serving 40 years as public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He earned a B.A. degree in English as a member of EMU’s Centennial Class of 1967 and did graduate work in communications at James Madison University, 1981-82.

On July 22, 1967, he married Anna M. Mast of Cochranville, Pa. They celebrated 54 years of marital engagement – in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.

Surviving, in addition to his spouse, are daughters Jennifer Hummel of Weyers Cave; Sara Kiser and Jason Kiser of Hinton, Va.; grandsons Dylan and Jacob Hummel; Grant, Megan, and Lane Kiser and step-grandchildren Collin Hummel and Heather Hummel Beall.

Siblings include Robert and Sharon Bishop, Doylestown, Pa; Rebecca Ann and Daniel Swartzendruber, Rocky Ford, Colo.; J. Eric and Linda Bishop, Souderton, Pa.; and Michael and Brenda Bishop, Blooming Glen, Pa.

Following college graduation, Bishop was an editor-writer for the former Mennonite Board of Missions (now Mennonite Mission Network) in Elkhart, Ind., primarily doing publicity and magazine editing for the agency’s Voluntary Service program. He and wife Anna moved to Harrisonburg in July 1971.

In addition to his communications duties at EMU, Bishop was involved with programming and announcing for the school’s public radio station, WEMC, 91.7 FM. He contributed to a variety of radio programs including a weekly “EMU Activities Report,” a Saturday morning program, “Focal Point,” “The Wax Museum,” an oldies request show on WHBG, The “Warped Records” show with Jim Britt on WSVA, and “Friday Night Jukebox,” an all-50’s music show on WEMC, from 1990 until retirement.

He actively pursued free-lance writing for church and secular publications throughout his career, including “Bishop’s Mantle, which appeared every Saturday in the Daily News-Record February 1990-July 2011 and returned at the invitation of the paper in March, 2020, where it continued until his illness led to a modified publication schedule. He also wrote a monthly column, “Virginia Ham,” for Mennonite Weekly Review (now Anabaptist World), Newton, Kan., for some 20 years and was a regular contributor to HealthQuest magazine published by Sentara-RMH.

Bishop was an active member of Community Mennonite Church of Harrisonburg since 1973, a year after the congregation was founded, where he served as “unofficial” publicist and photographer, usher coordinator, worship leader, Sunday school teacher and other capacities. In retirement, he continued as a longstanding member of the Shenandoah Valley Public Relations Council (SVPRC), a monthly business and exchange gathering of professionals in the private and public service.

Bishop, who often perceived himself as a fifties guy marooned in the 21st Century technological era, took an “old school” approach to life. He spent much of his career in a penchant to print, radio and face-to-face conversations, not fully convinced that social media provides a more effective, substantive communications platform.

The veteran writer-editor and photographer delighted in growing exotic indoor and outdoor plants, doting on grandchildren, generating “pundemoanium,” line dancing with friends, cruising in his Mazda Miata convertible while enjoying a Kline’s black raspberry cone and the Bose radio blasting oldies but goodies.

He resonated with the bumper sticker that declared, “I may be old, but I’ve seen all (or most) of the great music artists/groups in concert.

Bishop sought to follow this maxim daily: “Dance as if no one were watching, sing as if no one were listening, and live every day as if it were your last.”

A Celebration of Life service will be held at a later date. Per his wishes, the body will be cremated. Arrangements are being handled by Kyger Funeral Home.

Flowers are welcomed.  However, memorial contributions may be given to Patchwork Pantry, Community Mennonite Church, 70 High Street, Harrisonburg, Va. 22801

Remembering Jim

Classmates share their memories of Jim Bishop

For the Christopher Dock High School class of 1963, remembering Jim Bishop is easy. Words that come to mind are energetic, imaginative, articulate, spirited, ebullient, and most of all, astute. His love of a pun, a practical joke, or a quick-witted retort was always on display. In his post-high school years his humor became a part of his inspirational and insightful writings. In his own words Jim's prevalent theme was, "Life is good.  Loving life is better. Loving God and one's neighbors is best." Humor always accompanied Jim's musings even as he contemplated his "clash with glioblastoma." His essay, "When I Survey the Wondrous Examining Table," is poignant yet optimistic as he reflects on the blessings in his life and his ongoing desire to pursue a life of purpose. We remember his beloved micro-car, his love of WIBG, his line-dancing passion and most of all, his legacy of courage and faith.

Mary Lynn Landis Ferry


We remember his little car that was so unique to him. He always knew the top hits in pop music. We laughed again when we remembered the time at a class reunion when he tried to teach us to line dance. I think it was a bit like herding cats for him.

Annie and Roy Musselman


I remember Jim with his Isetta car—the whole front of the car opened as a door. I believe I recall he and Pearl Schrack and Roland Yoder stood in front of it when a photo was taken. As a tribute to "Jim's World," I would say that that unconventional car doors represented a launching point for his career as a creative and innovative writer. . . full of wit and wisdom.

Samuel Ruth


Jim was energetic and kept us on our toes! One thing he did for me, and maybe some others—he always made sure I got the latest Top 40 list from WIBG radio station in Philly announcing the latest hit songs.

Another endeavor of his was creating new words that just a few of us got to use: Zettlebump, Blorg, and Twank to name a few! I know Harley Kooker remembers these too.

Yes, Jim was unique and special. I will close by mentioning the Isetta, one of the most unique cars in the world. Yes, Jim had one of those! I talked to him about it at the Heritage breakfast.

I bet that God has special things for Jim to do! I'm glad to have known him, and I look forward to seeing him again!

Ed Clemens


The memories of Jim begin with him puttering in the drive at CD in his little Isetta (pictured in the 1963 yearbook). That was a car that would have failed every crash test today! 

He was always ready for a pun. You may remember at the 50-year reunion he gave everyone a CD of the top hits of 1963. At one point he knocked a whole stack to the floor and immediately said, "Oh boy, now I have slipped a disk!" And he actually got everyone to line dance in Dan Leatherman's barn!

I took two gap years before heading for Eastern Mennonite College where I roomed with Jim the first year. I think we had one of the cleaner rooms in the boys' dorm with beds made every morning. He even dusted the leaves of the plants he had in the room. If we were both awake at midnight when the speakers on top of the administration building would chime twelve, we would start singing the hymn "Tis midnight and on Olive's Brow."  

I would not have wanted to be on an opposing team in Trivia if the category was 50's and 60's music. He knew them all. His love of music extended to his license plate which was "MH 606," referring to the hymn "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow" on page 606 in the red Mennonite Hymnal that we used at one time.

Ralph King


Jim always enjoyed helping to plan for the class reunions.

Glenn and Chris Bauman


My memories of Jim go way back to our childhood days! Our families lived only a couple of miles apart from one another, and we all attended Doylestown Mennonite Church together. I knew early on that Jim had a great sense of humor. He was the class clown in SS and MYF. By the time we were in high school, Doylestown Mennonite Church had purchased a school bus to transport the local kids to CD. I am quite certain that he was responsible for naming the bus the "Yellow Dog." I also drove my dad's '49 Buick to school, which he named the "Hearse." But in all seriousness, as I kept in touch with him over the years through his writings, there was another side of him that I really appreciated. He had a love for life and more importantly, a love for the Lord. He has left a beautiful legacy and he will be fondly missed by many people.

Mary Lou Hunsberger Oswald


Within the first few weeks of having Jim in class, I realized that this young student was a package of energy with enthusiasm for life and a creative imagination. He was well versed with the popular music world of the day. He was respectful of teachers, well-behaved and likeable. At a recent class reunion, he planned and led a whole evening of fun activities that helped to recall memories of 55 years earlier.

As I noticed a trail of his frequent articles and photos that appeared in church-related publicity materials, I was delighted to see how his gifts and abilities developed. He dedicated so much time and passion in telling the stories of activity in the local and broader community. We were all blessed by his life and vigorous activities. He served his Maker well.

Roland Yoder

Turkey Talk to Ruffle Your Thanksgiving Feathers

In the face of a life-threatening illness, a declaration.

by Jim Bishop ('63)

It's Saturday morning, semi-live and . . .All is well, well, most all is well . . .at least in this little corner of the world, to wit:

- Several Shenandoah Valley FM radio stations have already switched to a full-time Christmas-holiday music format 24/7 through Dec. 25. Granted, it’s the same tired, terrible tunes as last year, where you’re guaranteed to hear repetitive plays of “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . Jack Frost picking at his nose), “Feliz Navidad,” “Have a Jolly Holly Christmas, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” and various artists who can’t sing, let alone hit those high notes while butchering “O Holy Night.” The best rendition, in my opinion, is by the late doo-wop vocalist Johnny Maestro of The Crests (“16 Candles”) fame. Scanning the dial, you’ll likely never hear musical chestnuts like these roasting on an open studio hard drive, unless “The Warped Records Show” returns to deck the halls and wreck the halls with “Christmas at Ground Zero,” “Santa & the Satellite,” “Porky Pig’s “Blue Christmas,” “Don’t Eat Beans (on Christmas Night”) or “Christmas Dragnet” or “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth.” What a bite!
- Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, Costco and the other big box stores couldn’t wait for Halloween to be over to run their competitive “Black Friday” ads and have their yule displays up and playing, “I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas.” Bah, Humbug!
- All the Christmas catalogues that we’re ever going to receive in the mail already fill our mailbox. Amazing how the U.S. Postal Service was able to offer speedy delivery on junk mail while we sit and wonder why First Class and other postal items make us wait for days, even weeks, to receive.
- Per-gallon gas prices silently keep ascending the electronic signs just in time for holiday travel.

And on these upbeat, gladsome notes – does this sound a bit like the opening to another dish of “ruffled grousing” from the Bishop’s Mantle? Hmmmm, could be, but might it be another desperate attempt at an offhanded reflection on another special day on the calendar that keeps getting more distorted every year? Thanksgiving appears to have become a prologue for many people to step around in order to devote more time, attention and financial buffeting of Christmas while downplaying the real “reason for the season.”

Thanksgiving, giving thanks, was never intended to be one date on the November calendar, but rather it’s an attitude of gratitude that should pervade our thoughts and actions daily. But that’s easier said than done, especially for me in these heady times dealing these past seven months with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. I find myself asking, “What next?”

For starters, I recount and give thanks to God and to the incredible waves of emotional, spiritual and physical support from family and friends close at hand and distant, my home congregation, transportation and regular notes and email messages. A flick of the Bishop’s Mantle to one and all.

I’m thankful for the awesome autumn technicolor landscape, its purple mountains that showcase the scenic splendor of the Shenandoah Valley.

With only a couple weeks of sizzling temperatures, 2021 has been one of the best growing seasons in memory (which for me is short). Our zinnias, Knockout rose bushes and dahlias displayed striking blooms until our first killing frost mid-October.

When I start grousing that Anna and I haven’t had any vacation/getaway time to ourselves all year, I recall our fine four-day week at a spacious beach house Oct. 10-14 at Virginia Beach/Sandbridge, a gift from daughter Jenny and friend Jay (right).

I’m thankful for my congregation, Community Mennonite Church, and its servant leaders who have kept in close touch with our medical situation and the establishment of a Care Team that checks how we’re coping with the anxiety and stress of end-of-life decision-making.

Cultivating a thankful spirit, a grateful heart, is sheer hard work, but the more one seeks after it, the more natural it becomes. One must plant seeds of compassion, water regularly and remove the “weeds” that may hinder the fresh sprouts of loving kindness.

Pursing this goal will mean different things to different people, but a good place to start is right at home, with those closest to you, and fanning out from there, social distancing notwithstanding.

Happiness expands by giving and by serving others. Author-poet Maya Angelou has said, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” That sentiment lines up with one expressed by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service.”

Being thankful for what I have, rather than thinking “just one more thing” will bring contentment, is joining with the Apostle Paul in being content “in whatever state we find ourselves” (see Phil. 4:11-12). Without contentment, genuine happiness is harder to attain and retain. Why brood over situations that can’t be changed? Ultimately, experiencing happiness and gratefulness is a personal choice.

As this “new (ab)normal” pandemic outlives its welcome and this life-threatening illness continues to hold us hostage – if we allow it to – I find myself declaring:

Life is good.

Loving life is better.

Loving God (and one’s neighbors) is best.         

Which leads me to proffer this perceptive counsel from scripture to guide our persistent chemo-pill popping pathway:

 “ , , , be unceasing and persistent in prayer;  in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. – I Thess. 5:17-18 (Amplified Bible, for those of us with hearing loss).                             


Round and Round Spin the Medical Rounds

Healing, perfect healing, our "cloud of witnesses," and the comfort of truth from scripture.

by Jim Bishop ('63)                 

“So, how you doing today?”

Nearly every day, more than one person asks the perennial question related to my health condition. I often don’t have an immediate response. Each query seems to call for a different personal assessment. But it’s a conversation starter, and I appreciate everyone’s concern. One day, I’m feeling good, doing well, as far as I know, and I am grateful beyond what words can express.

“A lot of people are praying for you,” is a common comment from many. I am most aware that “something’s got a hold on me” from the Great Physician. This sacred scripture declares, “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill.” ~ Psalm 3:3-4 (NRSV)

My diagnosed malady, glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, apparently was percolating in my pate for some time, but came to a head, so to speak, with a reluctant visit to the Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital Emergency Room (ER) May 20. A cognitive test, followed by a CT-Scan, and I was whisked off to Martha Jefferson Hospital, where I underwent a five-hour surgical procedure to remove a brain mass, followed by five days of convalescence before being discharged. I immediately began radiation five days a week for six weeks at Sentara RMH accompanied by a plethora of chemo pills and weekly blood work, a schedule completed late July. Test results at that time “exceeded our expectations,” according to attending oncologists and my neurosurgeon.

But wait, there’s more.

The end of my treatment program – so I thought – turned into a welcomed several week “reprieve” with no radiation or chemotherapy, just ingesting a large antibiotic pill – I found that hard to swallow – every other day. No headaches, no seizures, no nausea, some hair today, gone tomorrow and . . . no driving my convertible Miata; that was the hardest restriction to navigate.

Some persons tell me face-to-face or on email and Facebook that they are “praying for complete healing” of my health situation. I smile and mumble words of appreciation for their support, but sometimes add that my illness, according to the specialists, is not “curative.” They are drawing from and applying the best training and expertise from their medical arts bag, but what they are mainly doing is seeking to slow the cancer’s growth, shrinking the lesions in inoperable areas, offering me time to pursue a certain quality of life, doing things that I want to do – freelance writing and photography, spending time with extended family, writing my obituary-epitaph and planning my memorial service, all the while trying to maintain a positive, upbeat (“attitude is everything”) approach to dealing with my unexpected, volatile situation.

In some ways, I’m already experiencing healing of sorts – gaining more patience over this ordeal with its exacting medical directives (I am not the world’s most patient patient), learning to accept the manifold tangible expressions, verbal and otherwise, of support from unexpected bases (it’s not easy for me to receive others’ benevolence). It’s been impossible to respond to every well wish, so I’ll use this medium to express my sincere gratitude for all the overwhelming gestures – cards and messages signed by employees of businesses that we regularly patronize (florist, credit union, wellness center); transportation to the Wellness Center, pharmacy and the ubiquitous Wal-Mart; food from the “Send Them a Meal” program at church. The list flows on endlessly. . .

The longer I deal with this malaise, the more I’ve come to believe that the One who created me often speaks through a “cloud of witnesses” surrounding me, beginning with Scripture that pops up and seems to “fit” where I am: “God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves . . . and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” ~ Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)

Where this yellow brick road leads, I will cautiously follow, asking questions and feeling ebullient one day and downcast the next, knowing that at some point I will need to make certain decisions to determine what is the “better” of the two roads that diverge in a wood – continuing the treatments that help provide some additional time and opportunity to set my personal and spiritual house in order or to acknowledge that the hour has come to “pull the plug” on my energy supply. The biggest disappointment for me at that stage, I think, will be severing the ties that bind with my spouse Anna, our extended families, not having the cochlear implant procedure that was approved before encountering this major “bump” in life’s pathway. But then, I believe that a time will come when I and so many others will be perfectly healed; we know so little about the afterlife that we may find ourselves remaining connected in spirit with our loved ones.

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” ~ I Corinthians 10:13 (The Message)

I rest my case.


When they found out that Jim (standing, far right) was coming back to Pennsylvania for a Bishop family gathering over Labor Day weekend last fall, some of his Class of '63 classmates arranged to have lunch together. Standing (l to r):  Dave Myers, Ed Clemens, Ralph Leatherman, Dan Leatherman, Jim Bishop. Seated (l to r): Henry Rosenberger, Glenn Bauman, Abram Moyer, Roy Dale Musselman


When I Survey the Wondrous Examining Room

A time for reminders and discoveries, for appreciation and gratitude—and for reflecting on promises. 

by Jim Bishop ('63)

I had a “homegoing” on Labor Day, 2021, returning to the green earth where I lived and moved and had my being – Bucks County, Pa., and Doylestown, its county seat, where I was born and raised. My good companion, Anna, accompanied me. Daughter Sara drove (I’m still not supposed to drive) their spacious van, and granddaughter Megan, now 16, even maneuvered the vehicle along the bustling, corrugated Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Like the Paul Anka song recounts, “I took a little trip to my hometown,” intending to do more than just look around.

This past Labor Day weekend was largely a trek down memory lane, an opportunity to travel, reconnect with family and old friends and essentially stay as active as permitted in the wake of a literal clash late May with glioblastoma, a previously unknown medical term in my vocabulary.  A reluctant visit to the Emergency Room at Sentara-RMH Health Campus, some cognitive tests and a CT scan resulted in a rushed transfer to Sentara-Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, where I underwent a five-hour craniotomy in my right frontal lobe and emerged with 39 metal stitches. My memory card must have been part of the surgery; I have little recollection of the procedure or waking up in the ICU unit.

Now, several months later, I remain alive and kickin’, grateful for many simple pleasures amid the upheaval of an unpredictable schedule.

This unanticipated extended episode has brought or revived these observations to the fore:

  • A reminder of the ephemeral nature of material riches versus a strong faith in God, a loving, supportive family and extended family, and relatively good health for many years. This was only my second extended stay in a hospital (five days) for other than elective surgery such as a colonoscopy.
  • Maintaining a positive approach, sense of humor through it all, despite the “down days.” I received a multitude of appreciative responses – email, notecards and verbal – to the upbeat attitude I sought to demonstrate toward my bout with brain cancer, the fearful foe that is no respecter of persons, regardless of health, gender or religious persuasion.
  • The serendipitous discovery that “I am loved” and have made a difference in the lives of many over the years. People told me that explicitly, thanking me for my weekly newspaper columns, my steady smile regardless of any anxiety I’ve been experiencing,
  • Any time and ability given me past age 70 is a “bonus.” The wide-open opportunity to do work largely enjoyed, freelance writing (columns, religious and secular publications, radio programming/deejay) and photography; time to write my own obituary/epitaph rough draft and funeral service plans (‘death wishes’).
  • Renewed appreciation and love for spouse Anna (married 54 years) as primary support person through this ordeal. She quickly became my principal caregiver as my ordeal unfolded, taking notes at medical consultations, keeping tabs on the many chemo pills I ingested, answering and replying to text calls that nearly short-circuited the system (I don’t text on my decrepit flip phone).
  • Gratitude for few major side effects from my first six-week intensive round of radiation and chemotherapy. I’ve been able to maintain an active lifestyle and positive attitude and slightly warped sense of Bishop humor, all of which I believe have contributed to a positive report from my oncologists and neurosurgeon.

This experience has underscored the need to adhere to a “wellness plan” – exercise, eating, spiritual life, drawing on counsel from my church (Community Mennonite) Care Team and Harbor small group, all of which have helped better prepare me for this unforeseen walk, sometimes stumbling, through the valley of the shadow.

Now, gravitating into and trying to live a balanced life, literally and figurately, I’ve been blessed with 10 fulfilling years into retirement, supported by a close-knit, loving family, a wide-open window of opportunities that I never expected – a writing career that I felt utilized and honed my God-given journalistic abilities, newspaper columns that helped spark and meet deadlines in my “real” job, radio programming on commercial and public radio stations, weekly line dancing and regular exercise at the VMRC Wellness Center. My lines have “fallen in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:6). I’ve definitely hit the jackpot, seeking to live each day one determined step at a time.

By the time you read this – assuming you did – I will have completed a month-long “reprieve” with no radiation, followed by a five-day regimen of a double dosage (280 mg.) of a high-powered chemo pill, one that I was warned may cause severe nausea. When I started my first treatment round late May, I was fortunate to encounter just one bout of nausea and dry heaves and not a single headache, no fainting spells or seizures, so am hoping and praying that trend will continue. I’m scheduled for another MRI early October and follow-up consultation and palliative care meeting at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

And so, I forge ahead, with an ounce of prevention and optimism, a pound of prayer, a ton of well-wishes into the unfolding next chapter of this expedition, leaning on the everlasting arms of the God who created me and has the power to sustain me in this jerky journey into the unknown. 

At this life stage, I recognize that my 76 years of life have been largely good ones, making me both amazed and determined to face the “bumps” in the road along the way. All of us have the same 24 hours in a day and a certain capacity to shape our own destinies, make necessary mid-course corrections. We are born, make decisions that may later prove providential, other times bad choices. I’ve been fortunate to have persons cross my path at critical developmental stages with encouragement, counsel and wise reprimands – some heeded, others not.

“Listen to me . . . you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you, I have made you and I will carry you.” ~ Isaiah 46:3-4

With this heaven-sent promise, I carry on.



If The Slow Motion of the Ocean Agrees with You, Wave Back

Proof that laughter may indeed be the best medicine.

by Jim Bishop ('63)

Don’t want to belabor this Labor Day weekend, but . . . sitting, or smoldering, on the broiling North Carolina beach on a sunny, humid day, I ask my beach bunny spouse, who do we old people think we are – burning our bodies to bacon-crispness, getting itchy sand in our bathing suits that makes it obvious that we’ve lost what little physical-body prowess we may have had years ago. The longer we seek to break out of our shells and adapt to changing tides, we perch on our beach chairs, trying not to flounder and becoming more determined to let our worries drift away.

It's tough work, but might as well be shore to relax, take time to coast, go with the riptide flow. Seems to me this is the perfect prescription, just what the doctors ordered for our recovery. As soon as we head northward to the ‘Burg at the end of the week, it will be “the hour of decision,” with an MRI scheduled after my “reprieve” from following my six weeks of intensive radiation and chemotherapy after my surgery for glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.

This unexpected ailment certainly was not in our retirement plans, friends – you still are my friends, aren’t you? – so, as one feeble attempt to get my mind off what may be going on in my mind these days, permit me to chase you off the beach (it’s a dune deal) with a passel of pathetic pundrops (no, not taking any credit, or blame, for this despicable doggerel, so I don’t plan on barking up the wrong tree (or going out on a limb) . . .

The heaviest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his girth from too much pi. His court jester colleagues were Sir Loin of Beef (a vegetarian, most likely) and Sir Ossis of Liver (smoking more now but enjoying it less).

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

A guy goes into a lawyer’s office and asks the attorney, “Excuse me, how much do you charge?” The lawyer responds, “I charge $1,000 to answer three questions.” “That’s a bit expensive, isn’t it?” “Yes. What’s your third question?”

She was only a whiskey maker named Gin, but he loved her still.

For several years, the young magician insisted on a trap-door trick in every show he did. He was just going through a stage.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption (so was algebra for me).

No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

 A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie. That’s not to be confused with a Bangkok handshake – a Thai clasp.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization; an atheist lacks any invisible means of support.

Two hats were hanging on a rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: “You stay here; I'll go on a head.”

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

The midget fortune-teller escaped from prison. The news headline the next day read, Small Medium at Large.

The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

A backward poet writes inverse (for no rhyme or reason).

In a democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.

When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you'd be in Seine.

A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.”

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly, it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, “I've lost my electron. The other says “Are you sure?” The first replies, “Yes, I'm positive.”

The rotation of the Earth really makes my day.

The shovel was a groundbreaking invention (can you dig it?).

Did you ever hear The Fish Quartet – first tuna, second tuna, barracuda and bass? They’re good at singing scales.

Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: to transcend dental medication.

All good things – except what you just managed to wade through – must come to pass, including a full, active yet relaxing week with great food, entertainment and near-perfect weather. We perambulate back to the ‘Burg, both anxious and with a sense of peace and resolve, anticipating “what’s next” in this dark, unknown journey, lightened considerably by wave after wave of concern, encouragement and prayer from family, friends, readers of this column and the medical staff at Sentara-RMH and Martha Jefferson Hospital. (More on this to come).

We bid farewell to Topsail Island, not knowing if this might be our last visit to this restorative resort area. Thus, the longer we gaze at the ocean, the more we sea.

Might as well seas the day.



Epitaph: The Space Between 1945 and . . . ?

Is this any way to celebrate a birthday?

By Jim Bishop ('63)

Every sunrise dawns with “the best to you each morning”–singing the opening stanza to a childhood chorus:

“I owe the Lord a morning song . . . of gratitude and praise . . . for your kind mercies you have shown in lengthening out my days.”

These beholden lyrics have taken on more meaning for me these days. I look at myself in the mirror and think reflectively, “That can’t be accurate.”

The next musical round is usually, “This is the day that the Lord has made (that the Lord has made). I will rejoice (I will rejoice) and be glad in it”–Psalm 118:24.

I’m finding that we can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it. 

I've spent five unexpected days (May 20-26, 2021, including my 76th birthday) in Sentara-Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, VA, where I underwent a battery of tests, a CT scan, several MRIs and a plethora of pill-swallowing. With little time to grasp all that was happening, the neurosurgeon, Dr. Slottje, carved open my skull, removed a mass in my frontal lobe and left his trademark of 39 heavy metal stitches. The pathology report indicated a glioblastoma, an aggressive but common brain cancer.

However, the CT also revealed that I have two other lesions in less assessable, inoperable areas that may be causing some of my other health problems. So, we're looking at a battery of chemo and radiation treatments, every day Monday to Friday for SIX WEEKS! Oh, and then there's Phase II, whatever that entails.

We are fortunate to be able to work out an arrangement so that we won't have to make the drive to Charlottesville every day for an eternity, but rather will be able to receive the prescribed treatments at Sentara-RMH in Harrisonburg, which I'm not looking forward to but am thankful not to have to make the long, arduous trip. I expected to have my initial treatment at the Hahn Medical Center/RMH last Monday, but I didn't. Instead, the medical staff made a "treatment cap"—replicating a facial image of Jason Vorhees—to guide the directed chemo and radiation to follow. I think I am most anxious about the possible side-effects of this aggressive treatment.

But, hope floats. Discharged from the Martha Jefferson hospital with Anna, my gentle caregiver, we looked up in awe—a brilliant rainbow cast its technicolor iridescent spectrum upon the mountains. The silent message: Just take a deep breath, close your eyes and say to God, “I know it’s your plan. Just help us through it.”

Since returning to our residence, our sanctuary, we’ve been flooded with expressions of love and care from many sources—daughters Jenny and Sara and extended family, my brothers Bob and Michael from Pennsylvania who performed several days of repair work around our domicile, Community Mennonite Church members and Harbor small group, “thinking of you” messages from persons I didn’t expect to hear from, our Saturday Dayton Market “coffee group.” It struck us how important, timely and significant such gestures are to persons in crisis, how much it allows us to “go with the flow,” to keep on keeping on, coated in courage.

As brother Eric noted, “You are no doubt discovering that your ties that bind, your community, is much larger than expected.” The “grapevine prayer line”—not all Mennonite—has been well-greased and wider expands. We’re not accustomed to being on the receiving end of so much beneficence.

Meantime, I wrestle with a bevy of behavior modifications—no driving (the family confiscated the Miata)—and returning to regular approved exercises. We reluctantly canceled two upcoming weekend line dance workshops, including the Virginia Line Dance Festival in Fredericksburg. No boot-scootin’ boogie for us! It feels like a repeat of 2020, just when things felt like they were getting back to “normal,” whatever that means.

Recently, in conversation with my editor at the Harrisonburg News-Record, we agreed—a difficult decision for me to accept—that this would be my last weekly column, which I began (again) last February. When the time seemeth right to he and me, this Mantlepiece will be unveiled. The journalistic junket has proven a helpful way to process the pitfalls of the pandemic, and my unexpected medical morass. Reader’s responses have largely been encouraging—not always, but that’s okay; at least I know they’re following this bothersome blather.

In our church small group a week ago, following a meaningful prayer time, we joined in singing, “My Life Flows On (How Can I Keep from Singing?”), Voices Together #605, a note-worthy united effort.

My final request on this Mantle swan song? How about The Drifters, “Save the Last Dance for Me”?

Maybe a more appropriate malady, er, melody—“God be with you ‘til we meet again.”


Jim Bishop is a 1963 graduate of Christopher Dock (now Dock Mennonite Academy), and a 1967 grad of Eastern Mennonite University. After four years as a writer-editor for the former Mennonite Board of Missions, he returned to his college alma mater and served 40 years as EMU's public information officer. He retired in June, 2011. Jim also wrote a weekly column, “Bishop’s Mantle,” for the Harrisonburg, VA, Daily News-Record from February 1990 until July 2011. He recently "resurrected" the column and has continued to contribute pieces like the one below on another Dock alum, Ted Swartz ('74). He and his wife, Anna, have two adult daughters and five grandchildren. They are members of Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg.

Ted Swartz ('74, above and below, left) performing "What Would Lloyd Do?" along with Trent Wagler (center) and Jay Lapp during Dock's Homecoming weekend in 2009. Within months, Wagler and Lapp would release their first album as The Steel Wheels.

Waiter Lee Eshleman describes—and gives the correct pronunciation for—chicken cordon bleu to puzzled patron Ted Swartz in the "Cathartic Cafe." Photo by Jim Bishop


Here's a scene from the annual "SingMeHigh" musical celebration, August 2018, at Crossroads Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, VA. Three members of the "Jerusalem Council"—(l to r) Jenny Howard, Braydon Hoover and Ted Swartz—in the midst of a debate: "You can't start a church with who's not allowed in." In this performance, Ted & Co. were backed by The Walking Roots Band—that's Dock alum Greg Yoder ('05) in the background, left. Photo by Jim Bishop


At 75: Singing upbeat tunes—or the birthday blues?

There's relatively little he'd do differently given the opportunity to relive his life to this point. Still, there are one or two regrets...


Man alive—I just rolled over new numbers on the old vehicle odometer (and had some trouble shifting into overdrive). Just happy to still be driving (under the speed limit in the passing lane with my left turn signal on).

I pull up to the traffic light, contemplate the light traffic flow, turn up my homemade 50’s music CD on the Bose system and sing aloud (like no one’s listening, and they aren’t) with The Tune Weaver’s plaintive ballad, “Happy, happy birthday, baby . . . “

Today, May 22, 2020, I turned 75. How did that happen so quickly (guess dates on calendar are closer than they appear)?

I put my pedal (gently) to the metal of my 2013 Mazda Miata and accelerate, observing with the late Chuck Berry, that there’s “no particular place to go,” except on exciting trips to Wal-Mart, Walgreen Pharmacy and Kline’s Dairy Bar.

As a birthday bonus, I just made my last loan payment to the Credit Union and the Miata is now officially mine; car title in hand, marked “no lien.” I auto feel good, and I do.

Then I think to myself, with the late Louis Armstrong, “What a wonderful world . . .’” even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to turn the world upside down.

Life is good. I make this assertion not only because “this is my Father’s world” despite its many flaws and ills, but because I feel abundantly blessed, far exceeding expectations—“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” (Psalm 16:6).

I start just about every day by singing, usually in the shower or before eating breakfast—cereal, toast, orange juice and coffee—“I owe the Lord a morning song of gratitude and praise, for his kind mercies he has shown in lengthening out my days.”

Then, the whiny voice of Grandpa Mick Jagger invades my reverie with “What a drag it is getting old . . . “

I’ve reflected often of late on growing older and working to accept the physical, emotional and spiritual realities that accompany this simultaneously exhilarating and unnerving roller-coaster life stage.

For most of my life I’ve acknowledged and accepted that I am high-strung, quirky, resistant to change, hopelessly nostalgic, quick to judge and tend to measure my worth by how many things I can accomplish in a day. Nine years into retirement, I try to do the same or even higher levels of activity than I did 20 years ago. I’m trying to slow down, focusing more on people and less on material things (that you can’t take with you).

As the pandemic plods on, I vow to make more attitude adjustments—choosing my battles selectively, listening more (even with hearing loss), learning how to pray more honestly, giving affirmations freely and saying “I love you” often, starting with my amazing supportive companion of 53 years, wife Anna, and fanning out from there.

I’ve stated this before, but were it possible to go back and relive life up to this moment, there’s probably little I’d want to do differently, and I'd undoubtedly make some of the same mistakes again.

Echoing the Chairman of the Board Mr. Sinatra’s reflection, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. . .” However, I will admit mine.

I wish I had applied myself more all through school; I could have achieved more academically and otherwise. That deficiency was partially offset by an active social life and involvement in many satisfying extracurriculars that proved valuable to my eventual career choice.

I started but never finished a master’s degree, but felt like I received the equivalent preparation through the opportunities and challenges of the communication work I pursued, and enjoyed, in the same role for 40 years.

I often felt that I fell short in carrying out my parental duties as a father when our daughters were little. Anna bore more than her share of responsibilities, especially during their teenage years. But, many times since, Jenny and Sara have expressed their boundless love in many tangible ways and I am humbly grateful.

At 75—at any age, really—we don’t know what might happen the next minute, next day, next week. Thus, it behooves us to live each day as if it was our last—a tall but do-able order.

I believe that there’s a bit more life in this old physical vehicle of mine. It’s been a great ride so far, despite some wrong turns and setbacks en route, but my desire is to “get out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure” a few more times before my warranty expires.

I’ve come this far by faith, and faith will lead me home. So again, I sing, “Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me on, let me stand . . ."

— Jim Bishop

Jim Bishop is a 1963 graduate of Christopher Dock, and a 1967 grad of Eastern Mennonite University. After four years as a writer-editor for the former Mennonite Board of Missions, he returned to his college alma mater served 40 years as EMU's public information officer. He retired in June, 2011. Jim also wrote a weekly column, “Bishop’s Mantle,” for the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record from February 1990, until July 2011. He continues his freelance photography and writing interests in retirement. He and his wife, Anna, have two adult daughters and five grandchildren. They are members of Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg.