Bill Died Yesterday

 

Yesterday Bill died.  Bill, our friend.  The Bill with a smirk, always a wonderful smirk on his face.  The mischievous tinkle.  The face I always looked forward to seeing, I’d search for Bill across the crowded Sunday Morning service.  Worried he’d someday be gone.

What will the world be like without Bill?  Our kind-hearted friend.  The guy always with time to listen.  Who loved to see me.  The smile he’d get when he saw our kids.  The stories he and Ted shared, standing out in the church parking lot, unhurried – they would talk.  A car where they were standing needed to back out, they would move to one side, and keep talking.  They’d have to move again.  And still, so much to say.  Never too busy to share another story, he and Ted could talk about anything at all.  Bill holding onto his stick (“It’s not a cane”, he’d say) – his son had carved it for him.  He’d tell about the trips across the states.  All about the adventures.  About the wind at one of the rest stops so strong someone had to help him to the restroom.  Into his 90’s, he was still on the go.  He’d tell about his flying days.  He was a flight instructor during WWII.  Ted and Bill both loved airplanes, they had that in common.  Ted knows which planes he flew.  I can never remember. 

Bill would come along on church campouts.  He’d join the kids for the campout bike parades.  He’d decorate his bike up fancy too.  And always the twinkle, the smirk. 

Bill, such a thoughtful guy.  I remember telling him one Sunday that Marty, our son, who he was fond of, had graduated from H.S.  I invited him to the graduation party.  I really didn’t expect him to make it.  His wife had passed away and doubted he was getting out much.  He came walking up, a bit unsteady on his feet even then, but came to congratulate Marty. 

Losing his wife I think was so hard on him.  He’d tear up anytime he talked about her.   The wife he’d spent a lifetime with, raising so many children that at her funeral I lost track of the count.  Their children, birth children and foster kids.  A lifetime of giving love to each other, and to their many kids and friends.  Grace had a stroke and for years Bill took care of her, bringing her to church in the wheelchair, his patient easy-going ways.  It was definitely true love.

Bill would steal purses.  You’d be chatting with him, and get distracted.  A few minutes later you’d realize your purse was gone.  After scrambling, you’d notice across the room, your purse and a few others hanging from Bills shoulder.  He did this enough times that the church finally presented him with his own purse, which he faithfully wore with his Sunday best. 

This story, it happens everyday.  Good people are born, live, then they die.  He was 96, after all.  And still, I can’t make it OK in my head that it will work for Bill to be missing.  I suppose that would be due to the significant lack of Bill’s in this world.  The eyes that see you from across the room.  The sideways smile.  The twinkle.  The dry jokes.  The smirk. The trust to share a story.  Taking the time to do so.  The interest in others. The caring questions.  The lifetime of giving and loving.  A man whose choices benefited so many. 

I suppose he stole things other than purses.  Like hearts.  It’s a habit.  Whenever I find my seat in church, I hunt for the site of Bill.  Bill died yesterday.  Finally with Grace again.  The twinkle.  The smirk.  Though he’s gone from us, he’s where he’s been headed all along.  A little support through the windy patch, and he’s arrived.  

 

All I Ask

by Gordon Jenkins

Beautiful girls, walk a little slower when you walk by me

Lingering sunsets, stay a little longer with the lonely sea

Children everywhere, when you shoot at bad men, shoot at me

Take me to that strange, enchanted land grown-ups seldom understand

Wandering rainbows, leave a bit of color for my heart to own

Stars in the sky, make my wish come true before the night has flown
And let the music play
as long as there’s a song to sing
And we will stay younger
than Spring
Advertisements

Canadian Geese and Ella Fitzgerald

Under the autumn sky, around the lake another time I walk.  Brisk air tossing my hair about, and I catch sight of them.  Grey and grand, they are silent above me.  Determined necks, strong wings in the bluster, they move onward.  Moving together toward a destination – built in the bones.  Just being geese, they pursue what has been etched into their beings, and they live.

For two weeks now, I’ve been working hard on “Green Dolphin Street”, “Take The A Train” and a couple other songs best sung by Ella Fitzgerald.  Geese in the currents overhead, I think about her.  Baby Ella born to a laundry girl and the shipyard boyfriend – the gene donor didn’t stay long.  She said once in an interview “… I never met him.”.  Moving from Newport News, Virginia to New York, Ella, her Momma and the current boyfriend settled in.  Life seems to have gone well for the family; a sister born, attending both school and church. 

Then things got hard.  An auto accident took the life of Ella’s mother.  Just after she died, her boyfriend treated Ella wrong.  Ella was a young teen.  Time passed.  An auntie finally came for Ella, moved her in with her family, but it was too late, Ella’s life had already begun the backward slide.  Failing grades, she skipped school and roamed about in the shadows of New York, dancing the streets of Harlem for a penny.  Ella was caught for truancy and placed in a reform school.  The reformatory was a horrible place.  The girls there were beat by male guards.   When she couldn’t take it anymore, she found a way to run. For some time she lived homeless on the streets of New York.  No year is better for living on the streets than another, except for depression years – and that’s when she was homeless.  Did all kinds of odd jobs… slept wherever she could. 

One night she decided to participate at an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater.  Ella loved to dance, but when she saw the Edwards Sisters dance their socks off just before she was to go on, she changed her mind and decided to sing.  The crowd wasn’t pleased at the sight of her.  She looked homeless and unkempt, because she was.  But when she started to sing, the audience went silent.  The crowd was taken away.  A well known drummer in the audience realized this girl had something, and whisk her away to talk to the powers that be.  The answer was no.  They wanted a man, not a woman.  What they were really saying was that she looked like heck, and would not have her.  Well she was given another chance, she cleaned up, sang, and the rest is history.  Ella provided the world with music from age 17 to age 79.  Sold 40 million albums and won 13 grammy awards. 

Ella was a black homeless girl during the depression, on the streets of New York City, chewed up and spit out by life.  Orphaned, molested, a school dropout, thrown in juvie, a runaway, homeless.  When she was given a chance, it wasn’t for the amazing body beneath tattered misfit hand-me-down’s and dirt.  Wasn’t discovered for a startlingly unusual voice, though lovely.  Wasn’t chosen for her ability to charm musicians into choosing her.  She was too plain, too shy, and socially awkward at times.  Like the Geese that fly, no matter the weather, driven to be, she was herself – herself was just what the world needed. 

Circumstances can’t remove a core blueprint.  I wonder how she kept mind lies from stripping from us six decades of herself?  What prevented her from believing lies in her head that she is a nobody, that she has no business singing for people at an amature hour.  A brave moment.  A strong moment.  A moment of taking to the skies, doing what she was made for, just being.  She let her unique internal grid be her true north. 

At times, over the years, dark thoughts did tormented her.  There were times she felt like nothing, wanting to hide because of her failed marriages and her body size.  A person who gives the best of themselves is not the person who has no dark thoughts.  It’s is the person who doesn’t let the dark thoughts stop movement forward.  She continued to put herself out there despite the struggles. 

Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote just after Ella’s death “Here was a black woman popularizing urban songs often written by immigrant Jews to a national audience of predominantly white Christians.”  Some things have changed in our world since that day.  Some things have stayed the same.  There are still homeless overlooked, rarely given a chance to be.  Children are still being orphaned, beat, molested.  Some still see themselves as better than others.  At the same time, society has attempted to make laws and movies and music, poems and books for teaching us to accept others different from ourselves.  Ella didn’t set out to change the world.  She set out to be, despite what she lacked.  Every time a person does that, they change the world

Ella, lately you come with me when I walk under autumn skies.  I watch the Canadian Geese above me.  Your songs, they soak into my bones.  I think about the beauty of each human being.  

… the baby born to a young mother and boyfriend

…the little one raised by a step-dad

… the child living in poverty

… the orphaned child

… the molested child

… the child running the streets

… the child harmed by the system

..each one with an internal grid

for giving this sorry world something wonderful

– built into the bones, just being.  

Ella, you fly!!  

The Abusive Treatment of Body and Narcissism

The way we treat our bodies in this culture is the way a Narcissist treats everyone. Like something to use.  Narcissistic people are motivated by one thing.  Will this benefit me?

Let’s say I’m a Narc and I’m deciding whether I should say hello to you or not.  The thought process is simple. 

Will talking to you benefit me? 

Will talking to you make me look better? 

Will talking to you give me more power, or make me look smarter?

Will taking my time with you give me an edge in any way? 

Of course there are spiritualized versions of this. 

Will talking to you be worthy of my time?  My time really belongs to God, and after all, you didn’t listen the last time I told you what to do.

When relationally oriented (non-narc) types makes a decision, ‘Will this benefit me?’ is one of the considerations, but it is generally only one of many. What primarily motivates a relationally oriented person is, you guessed it – relationship.  Relationship to ourselves, to others and the world around us, which leads us to ask different questions.

Will talking to you make us both grow in our understanding of an idea?

Will talking to you make me late, which might harm another relationship?

Will talking to you honor you, honor myself, and honor God?

Will talking to you give you the feeling of belonging?

Now consider the way we treat our bodies.  Very fickle, and Narc-like, I say.  Body sometimes offers something that benefits me.  There have been times Body has been strong, and brown, cute, and just the right and shape and size for fitting into a nice pair of jeans.   There are times Body has made me look beautiful, brought me a bit of power, and given me advantages.  These are the times I’ve treated Body nice.  I’ve regarded it.  I’ve rested it.  I’ve attended to it’s needs, dress it up, stretched it and ran tracks and stairs and mountain trails with it, all friendly like.

And then something happens.  Body breaks.  It can’t do what it once did.  Just looking at Body makes me sick.  The swollen face, thinning hair, pasty and hunched.  Body that doesn’t benefit me the way I’ve wanted it to.  In fact it’s an embarrassment.  Total rejection and repulsion is what I feel toward a body that once benefitted me. 

Such narcissism.  Such objectification.  What if I treated my body relationally?  What if I sought to let my body know it’s value?  What if I attempted to receive the kindness my not perfect body has attempted to extend to me day after day?  Might I learn to speak blessings to my body?  Wouldn’t Body feel more beautiful if I made an attempt to welcome its presence?  Would the things I think and say to myself allow me to be more comfortable in my own skin? 

Some confuse narcissism as obsession with self rather than what it actually is, an obsession with a fantasy of self.  Because the true self is made up of a real human being.  A human whose body sometimes gives and sometimes needs to be given to.  Using another for my benefit is a terribly ugly thing.  So is using my own body, and distancing myself from it when it can’t be for me what I expect.  Body has value – it’s value stands alone despite not always being what I’ve wanted.  It’s time I treat it that way. 

I Saw Your Son Yesterday

I saw your son yesterday.  Standing on the corner for a brief moment before he jaywalked in front of my car  – blue jeans, t-shirt, flip flops stride wide cross the downtown Seattle thorofare, tall frame and wide shoulders, black hair, the curls all wild. 

Beauty – I caught a glimpse of beauty beneath the emaciated form – the body torn down by a substance that owns him.  Leads him  – ring in nose – under the bridge to where he feels OK.  To an army of ‘ease the pain’ worshipers who sacrifice themselves for a fix. 

I saw your son yesterday, and yelled at God.  “What does it take for you to touch a body and make it whole again?  What if he’s too far gone to reach for You?  Can’t you just take the voices in his head and hush them still so that the fix is not his only relief?”

I saw your son yesterday, as light turned green, I passed him by.  Behind me, he and hundreds of other mother’s sons there to just make it through…

Another crave. 

Another fix. 

Another sleep it off. 

Only to wake up needing more. 

I saw your son yesterday, and asked God to be ‘The More’ for him, and all the mother’s sons with him. 

The Quiet Voice low. 

“…saw her son?  

He’s my Son, too.”

I Collect Good Men – Oops… stories of:)

This past couple years disrespect of women has become more public than in the recent past.

The Stanford Rape Case – girl gets left like garbage out on on the ground and swim jock rapist get community service.

Bill Cosby – 60 women destroyed and he calling it “casual sex”, admits to using sedative hypnotic methaqualone with the women – admits knowing that giving it to another person is illegal, but won’t call it rape.

Mark Driscoll the lead pastor of Mars Hill is off’d his mountaintop for a variety of reasons – I’m sure his graphic sexualized prophecies and hyper-fixation on teaching women in the church to provide certain kinds of sex to headship husband lest they neglect their Christian wifely duty have added to the list of reasons why.

Seventh day Adventist Church:  Women’s Ordination.

Donald Trump.  Lets see, strip clubs, objectifying his own daughter.  Filth spoken to his buddies long ago, (‘We all do it’, quip the supporters.  No, many of us have never had thoughts like the words that came out of his mouth, or ever heard such words.  And needed a shower after hearing such words.  No, we don’t all act like that and talk like that.). Reports that he raped a 13 year old girl (read the reports. Yes she dropped charges after her life was threatened.  This was a group effort, the other man accused, Jeffrey Epstein, Trumps buddy, is a registered sex offender and payed the girl off for his part.) 

This is the year it became impossible to talk about the happenings in the news round the dinner table. The year we couldn’t have our kids involved in the election process as it became X-rated and revolting.  The year an old family entertainer we all love and who made us laugh was found to be too violent and grotesque in his secret life to be funny at all anymore. 

Today I ran across a short little video about a single Dad who started classes in his community to teach other Dad’s how to do their daughter’s hair.  This Dad says knowing how to care for his daughter’s hair became one of the challenges for him and as he figured out what to do, he decided to share what he learned with other Dads.  Thirty-four classes later and 800 plus guys through the program, he reminds the guys it’s not a gender thing  “Even a messy braid is still time spent together. It’s not about the braid, it’s about the bond”.

I ran across a story about a woman who went to her husband’s work because he had been working late.  She found him sound asleep in his chair, feet up on desk, holding a little two year old on his chest.  This man works for Child and Family Services, the baby had been taken, and was between placements.  A big kind-hearted guy sound asleep on duty, helping the little one during this terribly painful time of transition. 

There are the abusers.  The selfish.  The toxic and manipulative.  Liars and users.  There are monsters.  The types who say words with a smile, but words that cut holes in the souls of those around them.  There are people all about power over.  There are small types who have to talk filth to feel big.  Small ones who drive giant trucks, suck up gas and burn tires to prove how important they are.  The people who do not care the scars they carve into those who trust them.

And then there are the others.  Not perfect, and still day after day he goes to work, brings home all that he has been earned, rarely uses money just for himself.  The guy who grocery shops.  He cooks.  The one who still tell bedtime stories, he doesn’t do it all just right, but cares deeply for the people in  his life.  The guy who doesn’t spend his life angry because he is hamstrung by the old lady and a couple-a snot nosed dependents.  No, a guy who loves and adores his wife, still finds her hot despite the way they’ve both aged… the marks grooved deep into her being, stretched lines telling a story about their love and their love babies.  A guy who doesn’t want the plastic of porn.  It’s his wife he desires.  Not just her body, but her friendship.  

This year I hope to collect stories of respect given by men to women and women to men.  Men and women to children.  Not tales about why it’s so important for women to respect men and why women don’t need respect but love.  The church has contributed to the abuse by ideas that we have propagated.  The Bible is crammed packed with why respect and love are important for all.  Male headship, leading and following.  Balderdash.  He who is greatest must be servant of all.  Jesus, God himself, says he calls us FRIENDS.  Men and women are all in this together, we either all contribute to love or to destruction.  We all need each other.  I am collecting stories of mutual care and love given between equals.  Help me collect the stories. I look forward to each one. 

P.S.  Happy Birthday Adored Husband.  Thank you for the little ways you remind me every day that not all guys are like the horrific males who make the news.  The kids and I are blessed.   

Ugly Duckling and God

dsc_0493
To mock me is to mock God, for I am God Art.
To mock you is to shun what God has thought up, and formed, breathed into and had high hopes for.
To mock is to set myself as an equal with God.
I will not do that arrogant thing.
I will notice the beauty in me.
The loveliness and intrigue in you.
And when I do, I glance at God.
God Art.
God Offspring.
It is God who causes us to belong to each other.

Real Prayer

dsc_0437

This prayer to God was written by a beautiful survivor of the most hideous of abuse.  It’s a real prayer to God.  I’m posting this with her permission as I think we all need to challenge preconceived ideas about what a proper prayer looks like, and assumptions about people unable to imagine a loving God.  The God I worship wept.  He welcomes honesty. Even of the rawest form.  Thank you Trinity for allowing me to share your letter.

 

I so long for a Father figure,

someone to gently love me without abuse,

without conditions, without fear of judgment.

You, God are suppose to be my ultimate Father,

on one side, I still so desperately long for your affections, your love,

and at times I see glimpses of that in the children you’ve place in my life,

through other people,

through the promises in your Word.

But lately there is this other side,

this darkness within me that rages at you

and doesn’t understand how you have a plan for my life,

or that you care about the broken hearted.

A part of me that see you no differently than I view my abuser,

as a monster,

because only a monster would allow children to be abused,

would allow my own parents to crave drugs so bad that selling me,

their youngest child,

was like selling a used shirt at a yard sale,

something you don’t think twice about.

And then you create me to need love and attention,

the very things that got me hurt in the first place!

Why would I come running to you?!!

You didn’t protect me,

you sure as hell didn’t stop the bastards that used me like trash for years.

If you want me to truly trust you God,

you’ve got to break the wall down,

because it’s high and thick and not coming down without some serious work on your part.

I’m tired of praying to what seems like thin air,

only to battle the demons within me so much more.

You say you’re a healer and you heal the broken hearted.

Where’s the healing???

When does it come?

When do I get release from the monsters of mental illness?

The hell and torture of PTSD?

The little Trinity needs her Abba Father,

but the adult me wants to never let you close to her.

I need some answers, God

if we are going to work together to heal little Trinity.

Written by Trinity

The Grandma I Can’t Recall

0097

Grandma Naomi in the front of the boat

It’s hard to write about a Grandma I can hardly remember.  My sisters remember her well, we were 10, 8 and 7 when she passed.  But for some reason I have very little memory of her. I do remember her sister, Great Aunt Hannah, I think because the only time she visited from Vermont, she looked at me with her mostly blind eyes and talked to me kind and soft.  Grandma was maybe 5 or 6 years when her Mother died.  Their family lived in tenement houses in Brooklyn where many Russian Jewish immigrants had settled after making their way cross ocean, through Ellis Island and to America, far from a homeland that had become hostile.

Just after the death of their Mother, her older brother Moses took his life at 17 years of age, and their father Solomon disappeared, leaving she and her two sisters alone.  There are different reports about what happened at this point, but best I can tell, she and her sisters were placed in different orphanages. There were wealthy relatives in New York, and from time to time, they helped the girls as well.

This poem is one of Grandma Naomi’s rare heart creations, talking about some precious things she remembers about her mother. We located her mother’s grave in a cemetery for impoverished Hebrew people.  Also found her brothers death certificate. There is no trace of their father who disappeared or her oldest sister who died in a mental institution.  Grandma Naomi and her sister Hannah, two of the six to survive so much suffering.

 

dsc_0331

 

0157

A picture of Grandma, the one to the left, and Great Aunt Hannah on the right.

Not sure who the middle girl is.

What Race are the Kindest of Doctors?

17488_10151728414064307_1675244510_n

I had a doctor once, slight of stature, brown kind eyes, practical wash and wear hair, nothing fancy about her, and the one who sifted through mountains of charts – two separate charts belonging to one giant medical system.  One chart spelled with an “e”, the other spelled correctly without.  Both charts mine – and she found them.  Bent over her desk.  Diligent she was. 

Discovered, out of dozens of notes that I have 2 MTHFR gene mutations.  This information was not found where one might expect.  She found it anyway, because she worked on my case.   From this information she realized I must not take Tamoxifen, a medicine used for breast cancer patients who are found to be estrogen positive.  A medicine that can cause a stroke for those with my gene mutation.  She suggested I not take it.  Diligent hunt.  Diligent follow-through. 

I had 6 miscarriages before the gene mutation was looked for and identified. 

The gene mutation that caused the miscarriages. 

A number of doctors did not check, though they knew my history.

One did. 

Brown kind eyes he had, too.

Found it. 

Treated it. 

And Butterfly was born perfect and alive.

“Miscarriages are not unusual. 

They are nature’s way of discarding what is flawed”

say lazy doctors everywhere,

brown and blue eyed alike. 

Those doctors who do not see the value in learning the cause of a problem

before using one-liner’s to shush up the likes of me.

My PCP, always respectful of me, when I mentioned how heavy my sheets felt on my neck at night while laying on my back, immediately stepped out of the tiny examining room, hurried down the hall and ordered an ultrasound.  There it was, thyroid cancer. My endocrinologist who hand checked my neck each and every visit paid no attention when I told him the same story.  One doctor listened. On doctor didn’t.  Taking little stock in what the person that lives inside the body might know about herself.

After the thyroid cancer diagnosis, my husband and I asked my oncologist if thyroid cancer might have been related to the breast cancer I had months before.  She said “no”.  The next visit, the same oncologist brought in research showing us she had been wrong.  Said that it very well might have been related. 

She didn’t have to tell. 

Didn’t have to admit she had been wrong. 

There are doctors who are sloppy, lazy, don’t read the fine print. 

Make mistakes because they don’t listen,

don’t trust,

don’t respect. 

And then there are the doctor’s who do.

Thank God for the gene testing doctor’s of the world.

Doctor’s who don’t take it upon themselves to social engineer other people’s lives. 

Doctor’s who don’t minimize another person’s need when it causes them inconvenience.

For doctor’s that hunt and read and listen. 

The doctor’s who set aside ego, and act accordingly.   

I am alive because of some good ‘work hard for another’s sake’ sort-of doctor’s.

Women,

Men,

Asian,

Puerto Rican,

Jewish

Irish,

Tibetan,

Middle Eastern,

African American,

German,

a mix of them all. 

Each of these good doctors have more in common with each other than language and country of origin.  Hard-working kindness is a culture of it’s own.  A race of kind hearts, and kind eyes. 

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,

but by the content of their character.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

You’re Gone

DSC_0153Breast Cancer killed you.  It took and done way with you, my friend.  Tore your life away.  Now you’re gone.  We were both getting well to run a ridge together on some grand mountaintop.  Now we can’t. I can’t even believe it.  You’re gone.  You died this morning “quietly in her sleep”.  Quietly.  Right. That’s what happens when your very breath is choked out, your brain is eaten, you just die and I HATE IT.  I’m so so so sorry Wendy, that they couldn’t heal you.  Wonder why God said no.  So sick and angry that your life is gone.  I want you back.  Want to fb you once again.  Call you on the phone.  Want to get off my lazy ass and get an airplane ticket and fly out to your Ohio farm and hold your hand and command you “Get Up in Jesus Name” but I had my fears, was too lazy and I didn’t and you are nowhere to be found as you have died, and have been taken away, and are no more and I ache with Leif who is alone now, and for your beautiful daughters who had to watch cancer show its menacing teeth, ripping tearing at you until you disappeared but for ash and earth and a stone overhead.  I HATE CANCER.  You were alive, an active God fearing beautiful woman.  Another beautiful woman fighting thyroid cancer also young died few weeks ago.  I’ve been holding on by strands, and feel I’m slipping away with the rest of you have who have been taken.  You had breast cancer, she had thyroid cancer.  I’ve had both.  How am I to fare?  I needed you both to make it, and you didn’t.  Your families, they have their reasons to need you to live.  I have my own.  I want to live.  Why will I live when you don’t?  I can’t breathe.  Something on my chest.  And I gasp, while you stopped gasping.  And the fear overtakes.  A non-pretty blog for the ripping, tearing torment of a thing called cancer death.