Monday, July 29, 2013

The Ghosts That Haunt Me

A few years ago, I had a claim at work with a family that had lost their one-year old son to cancer.  A few months prior, Sarah and I lost a child to miscarriage, so I was especially affected by this family. As I dealt with my own grief, reading the journal of this dad allowed me to cry - something I can rarely do with only my own thoughts to prompt me.  Crying is healing.  Every now and then I try do it on purpose - sometimes via his journal, something via YouTube videos (SoulPancake is a great channel for this).  More recently, 2 friends of friends have lost children, and I came back to this journal to help me deal with the pain that comes up each time. I share it below in hopes that if you need to release some stuff, maybe this will help.  The full journal can be found here:

Dear Bubba,

Today would have been your fourth birthday.  I wish, with all my heart, that you were still here.  Life did not offer you or I such choices.  For if it had, you would - without question - be in the position to write a letter like this to me.  I mean I wouldn't expect much.  You're four.  An "I miss you Dada" would suffice.  But here I sit with a heavy heart writing you this letter and wondering what it would have been like to see you at four.  I simply can't imagine.  You will always be stuck at 21 months in my mind.

Your little sister, Lily, looks so much like you, Monkey.  Every once in a while I'll catch a glimpse of her at just the right angle and it's like I see you.  She has your head with your gentle spirit to boot.  Now get this, she is 13 months old and still doesn't crawl.  She just scoots on her butt.  Everywhere.  She's pretty good at it but I'm sure if you were here, you'd show her the ropes.  You'd show her how kissing your mom's feet makes her squeal, or how pulling Big Red's hair makes her squeal too (though with very different emotional results).  I'm pretty sure you would love your little sister.  She's pretty sweet.  When your Mom is missing you terribly, she always manages to do something pretty cute to lift her spirits.

You'll be relieved to know that Makena has not changed much.  Still talks.  A lot.  Still forces us to play games that only she knows the rules to.  Still makes us very tired by the end of the day.  She can be very sweet and tries to include your name or thoughts of you in everything we do as a family.  I know her relationship with you could be tempestuous at times but she really loves you, Carter.  You will always be the first man I saw fall completely head over heels for my oldest daughter.  And that wasn't just because she pushed you.

Your mom is doing okay.  She still manages to make us laugh with her dorky sense of humor.  She's a great mom to your sisters.  She has her hard days; I have mine.  I doubt that will ever change.  I often catch her just staring blankly into space and I know her thoughts are with you.  I do the best I can to keep her happy, but going through life with a broken heart isn't easy.  No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in (good or bad), there will always be something in our lives that is missing.

I am not sure why I am writing to you.  I don't believe in heaven and I don't ever intend to.  The only places I know I will see you again are in my memories and my dreams.  What I do know is that the more time passes, the stronger I feel your absence. Lately, I unconsciously stare at your pictures while a voice in my head repeats over and over, "I miss my son."  Going on without you is the hardest thing your Mom and I will ever have to do.  We miss you, Monkey.


ps ka-chow

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Out of Compliance

The circle has a lump in it
Can you see it?
Naked and sharp, standing alone
Fallen outside the V
Like a straggling duck

Another cycle of the moon
Nobody smoothed the poor blemish
It shivers in the dark, out of breath
No blood to revive it,
The flaw cannot be allowed to be

The circumference closes
To make the circle whole again
So much more easy, nay, pure
To scab over than to expand
Creating a beautiful new shape

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Faith = (a) Relative

I spend a fair amount of time oscillating between being skeptic-friendly among believers, and religion-friendly among skeptics.  As a non-believer, there are times when faith-based ideas are harming people, and I think it’s right to point those things out.  As someone sympathetic to certain religious ideas and people, there are times when believers and religion are criticized too harshly, and I think it’s right to point that out as well.  I’m working on an analogy in my head that I think will be helpful for me in future criticisms.  It’s something like this:

When being critical of someone’s faith, I want to shape my words as if I were criticizing that person’s parents.

If I think back to when my faith was the most zealous, if someone were to mock what I believed, I would have taken it personally.  My faith = me. It wouldn’t really matter what the issue was, what would matter is that something I hold more dearly than anything else in life was being attacked.  I don’t have time to dissect your criticism of the validity of the historical Jesus if all I want to do is punch your face.  Similarly, if someone called me up and said “your mom is a whore,” my first response is not going to be a critical analysis of the quantity of my mom’s bedfellows. 

People hold their faith in the same way they love their relatives.  It’s personal far more than it’s an opinion.  So if my goal is to produce change (and usually it isn’t), my approach can’t be so harsh that I’m self-defeating.  Maybe there really is a problem that needs correcting.  If so, I need to be civil about it, pick my battles, and choose my words as if I still intend to be your friend after we’re done talking about it.  I've gotten better at this, but sometimes it's so much fun to poke you in the eye that I forget how much that probably hurts.

The same approach should apply to anonymous interactions online.  It’s not acceptable to be a jerk just because I can’t see your face after I troll your Facebook post.  Most of our societal problems will require the cooperation of people with opposing ideas if we’re going to fix them.  And if one of those problems is what you’re doing because of your faith, you’re not likely to stop if you can’t be convinced that you’re wrong.  And I don’t know about you, but nobody ever changed my mind with a knife in their hand.

Here are a few examples of people doing it right (on both sides of the aisle):