Category Archives: Death

Death and Heaven

RichardI am mourning for a man I never knew.  Like my father, and father -in-law, he died too young by our earthly calculations.  I heard him speak a handful of times and read his words a couple more handfuls of times, but never had a real conversation with him more than to shake his hand and thank him for speaking.  The beautiful Hannah and I had imagined plans to have dinner with him one day when that real conversation might happen.

The beautiful Hannah has mentioned more than once that her father will get to have dinner with him before us.  They will meet in heaven.  Which has gotten me thinking about heaven again and I am not sure how I feel about that.  I am not sure if I agree or more honestly, if I want to know what heaven is like.   When I first started getting into church— as in listening, reading and taking to heart – church and biblical ideas the general consensus was that heaven would be one large praise and worship party.  This always scared me.  I enjoy loud, rock worship as much as the next 23 year old in a 33 year old’s body, but… I am not sure if I want to do it eternally.

Before that I went to a singles ministry (for fellowship, ya know) that was non-denominational at a southern Baptist church and led by the conservative Baptist minded leaders of said church.  More than once the mention of streets of gold was made.  At the time the hip hop world I was surrounded by was obsessed with platinum, which made me wonder why God—as the sovereign creator and designer of our faith—used a less than most precious metal to pave his paradise.  Was he not wasteful? Or was gold actually more precious to him?  Or did it matter at all?

As I explained some of my ideas about heaven to friends and my objections a lot of them agreed with me.  Often this is where it ended.  Until in recent years I have chatted with agnostics and atheists what are worried about Christians projections of heaven because it stops them from caring for this world environmentally, socially and charitably.  I like their thoughts that we as Christians should care more about this life that we can define than the next (if you believe in that) which is unknown and a major surprise.

As a follower of the Jesus Way– with Richard, I am committed to helping those around me today more than worrying about what kind of music I will hear or what I will walk on in the next life.  That is why the beautiful Hannah and I have decided to honor the man we never actually communed with by donating to his legacy.  He lived a life worthy of remembering but also left many holes both physical and financial for his foundation and his family.  If you want to join us (we want 8 friends to help with $100), please let me know.  All the needed information is found here.  If you think you can do a full share of the ask, please follow the steps at the link.

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Filed under Death, Freewrite, Global Community, Grieving, The Jesus Way

The Season of Death

Friends…I am in the season of death.

I have been using this phrase for a couple weeks now.  For some I think it is equated with the changing leaves and their death.  The sun is dying and in Portland everything kind of gets a morbid grey feel.  I attempt to figure out when my Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) will hit and pull out the waterproof clothing and thinker boots.  Then before I know it I am remembering death more than desired.

There is a lot of death to be remembered in this season and while I love the changing weather and being able to wear jeans, hoodies and warm hats, I am reminded of the loss of family members and friends.

Unfortunately joining lives with the beautiful Hannah it has increased.  Both of our father’s birthdays are in this season and both of them died in December.  Plus grandfathers, grandmothers, and friends.

Also unfortunately this year has been punctuated my eldest aunt’s death on Thanksgiving day.  A death she chose which is a new one for me.  She has been in failing health for a few years and homebound for even more years.  It saddens me that given the choice, she chose to die.  But I also respect her decision…a lot.

She died on her terms.  She chose in her right mind that years more alone, on medications was not what she wanted.   Others don’t get to chose.  Something I know too well … and I have been forced to come to terms with that.

As I get older, I am realizing this season will get worse not better.  As I come to terms with one death there will be another.  And when this season is over there will be another that I have one or two deaths or another weekend of three deaths to deal with.

And so I must come to terms with this season of death…and death itself.

This piece is intentionally choppy and multi- topic-ed.  It is meant to show how my brain works around death.   

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Filed under Death, Grieving, Obese Obsessions, Transparency

14 years

Who would have guessed when I wrote this last year on this I would be sitting writing this in a little apartment a few feet from my wife?

My dad. That’s who!

14 years have passed. Fourteen long tiring years of figuring out how to live life without a dad to call and question.  Without being able to find any suitable replacement and without being able to even contemplate what that means most of the time.  Last year, I cried a lot.  Around friends and counselors.  This year feels different.   It might be because I have been able to do a couple things in the last year that I think would have made him proud.

1. Gave up my selfish plans when a beautiful girl crossed my path.

2. Made the hard decisions to keep her protected

3. Doing whatever is necessary to show her she is worth more to me than anything else.

Last year, I was reminded how many bad jobs my dad worked to provided for our family.  This year I am reminded of the time we (just me and dad) drove all over Smyrna, Marietta, Powder Springs, Mableton, Austell, Douglasville, and Lithia Springs to find a present for my mom.

I was a teenager, maybe an older teenager of 16 or 17.  I had better things to do.  It was cold and getting in and out of the car as we stopped in multiple strip mall jewelry stores was not what I wanted to do.  I am sure there was some taped David Letterman to watch or a book to read.

I am sure he saw it as a chance to spend time with me, as most of my high school years required errand runs be bonding time.  It was two days before Christmas I think and the purchase must be made that day.  He hadn’t found the time between work, church and mom being around to have this adventure.  But he was determined to find my mom a charm for her bracelet.  Because it was his tradition – to buy something meaningful that she would keep forever.   And it was what she liked and how he showed love.

I also remember that we didn’t just drive around to get the best deal…although money was an issue.  We drove around to get the right gift to express his love for her.  It took a while but was worth it to a man of little free time, because she was worth it.

And even though I was probably as bad as any angsty teen on TV I learned from you, dad.

Thanks for letting me learn from you.  I miss you, Dad.

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Filed under Death, Grieving, Transparency

Working Kirk

As the election coverage was winding down this week and Facebook was becoming bearable again I saw some posts popping up about the white tuxedoed trumpet player all Portlanders have seen.  He had passed on, and more info would follow when the family allowed.  Today it came out that his family still hasn’t been notified because no one knew who they were and roommates suspected he committed suicide.

That hit me hard.

Last week, I saw Working Kirk Reeves as my bus rolled over the Hawthorne Bridge into downtown.  He was up early and looked really tired.  Knowing what I know now I can imagine him being up all night before deciding to give it one last chance.  One last chance to make money, a living, a connection, a smile or a friend.

I judged him like I judge most street performers.  They perform because they need to, like it or can’t do normal work.  I lumped him into the same category as the guitar players that charge for a picture or the statue dude that paints himself silver and juggles slowly.  It is possible they were friends and knew each other.  But I have seen most of them on off days in bad moods as well.

I judged him as being a little crazy or developmentally delayed.  Which he might have been, but he might also have been just awkward.  He spoke slower and different and there was a chance meeting at the local grocer where he was opening the readymade food to smell and inspect it before putting it back.  Again knowing what I heard yesterday, it was probably because his cataract was making him blind.

He smiled and laughed.  He threw a plastic ball in the air sporadically and played 2 songs mediocre or well.  He had puppets for the kids and was learning to juggle to entertain.

I am not sure that is what he thought would ever be his career.  Or that he really believed he would be discovered on the triangle of a bridge. I think he did it to entertain rush hour traffic and make some cash for food.  He was homeless at times, had a rough childhood and lived a hard life.

But I wonder how many people didn’t know his name until this week.  I didn’t.  And I wonder how many people who are now commenting on social media and leaving flowers at his corner actually talked to him.

I didn’t.

And once again, we are hearing the story of someone you should have said you liked or loved, before it’s too late.

Let’s not let Kirk be a statistic or story in our lives, but our motivation.

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Filed under Adulthood, Death, Three O Clock People

Love

For almost 20 years I wandered around looking for this elusive thing called love.  According to Wikipedia:

Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. Love is also a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection; and “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. Love may also be described as actions towards others or oneself based on compassion, or as actions towards others based on affection.

Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.

Love may be understood as part of the survival instinct, a function to keep human beings together against menaces and to facilitate the continuation of the species.

That is all well and good but like a lot of life it was not as easy to put into practice.  For me, after losing a friend and then my father to car accidents at age 19, I shut down and decided I didn’t need love.  Pushing away friends and family for a period of time and just dwelling in my own world.  I was still looking for things like love, but never really was able to give or receive it while being emotionally locked down.  The fortress was solid, the walls high and the inner workings idling but never revving.  As it turned out nineteen is an interesting age for that to happen since most guys go through that period for a few months or a year.

I was in that shut down, emotionally closed off period of life for 7 or so years until someone tried to break me out.  She was great and amazing but her eventual rejection brought up all the past rejections again.  It brought up a lot of pain and brokenness that did not allow me to trust.

“Do you trust anyone?”

-Not really

“How about yourself? Or your family? Or God?”

-Nope.  I don’t think they have my best interest and I apparently don’t either.

Those might not have been my exact words, but in 2009 I uttered something like that to a counselor…who then teared up and said he was sorry that the world was not a safe place for me.  We took a couple years to get through some of those issues, but I came out the other side victorious…mostly.

In the midst of those years, I started looking more actively for love.  I was pursuing what I knew as love.  It wasn’t always what love is, apparently, because it hurt, stung or made me drunk for a couple hours.  The dates weren’t defined, so the rejection wasn’t as harsh.  The calling just ended, and was often my fault.  The words and feelings were dealt with, to an extent, and laughed at by confided in friends.  It was fun most of the time.

Then, it wasn’t.  I realized I had fake love in 5 area codes, 3 country codes, and a couple Facebook profiles.  How was I to trust anyone when I couldn’t trust myself?  So I gave them all up.  I let some of them go.  I confessed fake, or projected, love to others and reconciled a couple more.  More dudes were confided in for advice.  A couple more girls entered the outer gates of the fortress but never were issued a treasure map to the hidden passage way.  Eventually those who were trying to be close gave up and no more invites were given out.

It seemed like a good day to renovate.  To open up a couple windows and air the place out.  To dispose of some old souvenirs that held more hurt than pleasant memories. While cleaning up the corners and deep recesses I was allowed the chance to see some amazing examples of love in those around me.  Love that isn’t written about but simply lived out.  The examples of friends and families loving each other whether in spousal relations or in neighborhood, employment or community realms.  I started noticing more and more how people made time for each other and just listened.  I started taking notes and planning when I would be done with the cleaning process…figuring the fortress needed to be cleaned well before anyone would want to come in or should be invited.

The yellow caution tape was put up… and this metaphor is losing steam.

As the old adage goes, when you aren’t looking you will find what you want and need.  Or something like that.

Last Christmas Eve, I was minding my own business doing what I needed to do relationally—preparing a Christmas dinner for 200+ people when circumstances set me up.  Only one girl stayed more than a few minutes to decorate. Since both of us were holiday orphans and had nowhere else to be we worked for about 3 hours together decorating significantly better than the previous year…and talking and towards the end I started admiring her smile and joy in life.

That girl quickly became a woman and something special to me.  Hannah walked past all the caution tape and somehow found the secret pathway into the fortress like she had been given the code and map by a higher power.

For almost 20 years, I had been searching for this elusive thing called love. Looking high and low, in corners and rooftops, in person and on phones. And yet that elusive thing called love simply showed up one day in a greater way than I would have ever imagined.  A way that in two months has made me a better man than in the 200 months previous.  The way that makes me wonder if dreams do come true and if Hollywood is writing my life story right now.  In a way that things just feel right…including the timing.

More about the amazing Hannah in the coming weeks…stay tuned.

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Filed under Adulthood, Dreams, Grieving, Storytime, Transparency