Saturday, April 25, 2015

Steve Osborne, NYC Police Sargent, tells a story about his dad and cancer

I heard this story by New York cop Steve Osborne on THE MOTH radio hour on our local NPR affiliate today. His story moved me to tears ...

I have a confession to make, almost 3 years after Debbie's departure, I am not really doing all that well. I battle depression on a daily basis and sometimes acute anxiety. Loneliness stalks me on a weekly basis. The worst is Friday night at 5 pm, whcn I finish work, and there is no one to go home to.  My finances also took a huge hit during 7 years of terminal cancer, and 10 years of graduate school, and I foolishly only had a small life insurance policy on Debbie. I am in a graduate program of learning about God's grace.

A book I read recently on grief compared losing a spouse to an amputation. It never heals, you never get "over it." You can only learn to adapt to the loss -- if you are lucky. If you are not, you give up and look for a quick exit. 

Officer Osborne's story of his dad's crotchety courage in the face of death was deeply moving to me. Everyone has to deal with death, loss and grief at some point.  It is helpful to learn that I am not alone in my pain, that every other human being on the planet has to eventually face the same issues in one way or another. 

I hope you will listen and enjoy Steve's story ...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

That which is not

Today was one of those days. I felt lost, like I could not find my way home. I drove over to the Fruit and Spice park at 2 pm. It is a bright and sunny day, but everything felt dark. I enjoyed meeting some new people and walking around the park. Then I came home and took a nap.

When I awoke, I didn’t want to get up. What is the point? In the past, taking salsa lessons, studying, reading, thinking, writing helped me soften the pain, or at least forget it. I have been working hard, developing course material and teaching classes.

Now however, dancing no longer interests me and I am actually tired of reading books. There is no point to writing and posting online, no one cares and nothing will change.

All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one might say,
“See this, it is new”?
Already it has existed for ages
Which were before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

Is this what ‘nothingness’ is like?

The Finnish theologian, Tuomo Mannerma, talking about Luther’s theology of Two Loves, says,

“God works in two ways; God leads human beings into hell and then brings them back again. In other words, God turns human beings into “nothing,” making them weak and crazy sinners, but also makes them “be” and exist again, making them holy, strong and wise.  Luther calls the former action the work of God’s left hand, and the latter the work of God’s right hand” ~ Two Kinds of Love, Martin Luther’s religious world, p. 32.

So, I guess this awful place I am in makes me somehow an extraordinary candidate for God’s creative love? I’d like to see exactly how that works.

“God gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. (Romans 4:17) but I didn't know it would be this awful getting dead and coming to nothing.


 God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no [t]man may boast before God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

Well look at me now, there is no boasting going on now, is there? 

Solomon:  I realized that this also is striving after wind.18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Path


I am picturing my time line like a path this morning. I can see a winding path that leads up to the present moment … but no path representing my future leading away from this moment.

What does that mean? Perhaps I cannot see a future for myself? Perhaps it is hidden from me? But of course, it always has been. Any sense that I could see my future timeline was an illusion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Let not your heart be troubled

I am re-reading this morning from Debbie’s journal of July 2009.
July 13
Debbie wished her mom a happy birthday and wrote:

“Yesterday I pulled weeds and loaded wood in the wheel barrow and cut hedges and I think it helped me. Joseph and I went out to Boteco (a Brazilian restaurant) to listen to Bossa Nova music. While there, we met a UM Dean Leo & Angie. They seemed quite nice. We have no idea what the future holds, but I am confident that you are in control; I just want the best for us. Joesph worries about it too much, I think. Each day is an adventure for me.

She was right, I worry too much.

Last night I went to see my friend Dr. Sam Lopez about my A-Fib condition. We found that there was a large area of emotional grief that was contributing to the stress on my heart. There was also a lifestyle component (too much alcohol) and a physical cause (too much weight and not enough rest). 

We re-framed the grief to reduce it. There was also a fairly high level of dread about the future that comes from my anxiety about the next step (a full time job). Sam went back into my past when I was six years old and helped me reprocess my memories of my dad going from cheerful and playful to withdrawn and morose over financial problems.

When I was thinking about my grief over all of these things, I visualized myself giving my troubled and stressed heart (physically and emotionally) to Jesus.  I had a distinct impression of Jesus coming to me and saying “You believe, in God, believe also in me – let your heart not be troubled!” As soon as I repeated the verse to myself, I broke and began to weep. It felt profoundly significant. 

There are intellectual atheists and there are pragmatic atheists: I guess I have been the latter. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Have faith in God

Today, I am reading through Debbie's journal entries from 2009. I came across this in July of 2009:

"What have no idea what the future holds, but I am confident that you are in control; I just want the best for us. Joesph worries about it too much, I think. Each day is an adventure for me."

She was so right about me worrying too much! I gotta get that under control somehow. I found out that I have Atrial Fillibration last week ...and as an adjunct, at the bottom of the university surplus labor pool, I do not have health insurance.  I have been slipping back into a depression after doing really well for about a year. I don't want to lose the will to live. 

So now I am meditating on Mark 11:22

Apparently, I have some kind of emotional trauma relating to money issues. Each time I get into a tight spot, I get discombobulated. 

Debbie wrote this on June 28, 2009:

"I guess we just have to live life as fully and fearlessly as possible until we come to death."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Silly dreams ....

I got into a one-sided discussion last night in my dreams apparently. I was spending time with Debbie, and I looked at her and said

“I’m confused. You are here with me, but I distinctly remember putting your body in a box and putting it in the ground.”

She just sat there and smiled.

“So you can’t be here. You are in Ohio in a box in the ground. How can you be in two places at once? This is confusing me.

She just smiled and then I woke up.

But before I completely woke up, I found myself jogging in Bogotá Colombia. I kept running and running down streets that I vaguely remember, trying to find my way back home. Part of the time I was barefoot, part of the time I had running shoes on. I was also have trouble seeing …. I had to squint to make out the street signs.

When I awakened, I remembered that I am in Miami, Florida and that Debbie is resting in Johnstown, Ohio.

Silly dreams ….

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A tree in winter: Desolation in black and white.

The lonely tree in winter

I have been trying to find images to describe a feeling that I have had lately. The only thing that comes close is a memory I have of a bare tree standing alone in a field at the end of November, roughly around Thanksgiving weekend. The sky in Ohio is typically overcast, the ground is wet with soggy leaves on the ground and the temperature is hovering around 35 to 40 degrees. Not cold enough for snow, but still too cold to enjoy the outdoors. This mental image in my mind comes with a feeling of sorrow and desolation, a feeling of decaying death and solitude. Rather melancholy, yes?
This is how I feel now in this season of my life. Desolation in black and white. Just a few years ago, in the middle of Debbie’s seven-year battle with cancer, there was a brilliant sunset lighting up the breath-taking reds, browns and oranges of the turning leaves. Life was hard but it was so GOOD. Such beauty. Courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Nobility of spirit.

However, just as there is really only one such breath taking weekend near the middle to end of October, the brilliant fall season in our lives was gone far too quickly. But I was unprepared for November desolation!

I tried to find a photo on the internet that would capture my feelings. I tried googling “bare”, “soggy”, “cold”, “fall”, “black and white”, “lonely” and came up empty. Perhaps the closest I came was this photo (B=below), which still does not convey the hopeless cold desolation the image in my mind carries.
I think back to the many years of raising children and planting churches as the ‘summer’ of my life. In the words of the immortal Beatles,

Those were the days, my friend, we thought they would never end …”

When I reminisce about my early years of marriage, and the truly exciting spiritual discoveries we were making, as, what appeared to be a whole new world opened before us, it would seem to me to have been the exhilarating “Spring-time” of our lives. Babies, new life, new growth, love was in the air!

But now here I am standing before this old bare tree, at least in my memory, feeling alone and desolate. I hope the first snows hurry up, perhaps there will at least be an austere beauty in the winter.

There is a scene from the Lord of the Rings second film, “The Two Towers” which describes this feeling better than anything else I can think of. It is when Elrond is trying to convince Arwen to leave Middle Earth and he prophesies to her the end of her life after her love, Lord Aragon has died. 

I realize that this post was entirely dark. A good post should have a ray of light SOMEWHERE, right?  By now, you are all undoubtedly deppressed with me. Not necessarily a good outcome. So, I ask myself, is this it?

or is it possible that after a beautiful and quiet winter I might experience another Spring time of love and new life? After all, we all experience the changing of the seasons repeatedly, multiple times throughout our lives. Well ... I will let you know as soon as I find out .... stay tuned or tune back in, in a few months!