everyone goes

hey
dad
it's been a 
minute
but I wanted to
talk about heaven
with you
and I think you're
there right now sitting on your lawn chair drinking hot coffee

I wanted to
talk about heaven
with you
and tell you that
I'm sorry
for all the times you told me
Everyone goes to heaven
and I 
scoffed
because I knew
I knew
you didn't understand
how
the 
gospel
works
you called me a princess
but it was an attack
and I hated you for it
but now looking back
I now can see
how that's
exactly
what 
I
was

I was a spoiled princess
How Dare you Defy Me Dad
Don't You Know I Know
more
than
you
about
life

you told me everyone goes to
heaven
how could a god allow people to
go
to
hell
how could he do that
and why
and I
scoffed
the royal princess that I was
and why should I listen
to someone who wakes waiting
to drink
every
day

I was so much better than that
but now I think I'd like to
talk about heaven
with you
and say
I'm 39
and not a day
goes by
that I don't think of you
and I don't think of you
in hell
but how you have a lawn-chair seat in heaven

and when we
talk about heaven
I want to tell you
that I wish I would have
been a better daughter
later after you died
I tried
I tried
I tried to understand your 
pain
in life
your pain
I think you numbed
you'd sink into
grayed and fuzzed and cotton-muffled brain

but we're talking about heaven
and I want to say
that even though you couldn't stay
to make your heaven
here
on
earth
you've got it now
and now
I know that
I 
don't 
know
all the things I thought
I knew
and you
and you are sitting on your
lawn chair
drinking coffee
restful and content
so proud of me
(you were always so proud of me)
I wish I could have been proud 
of you

but it came too late you couldn't wait
to leave
you 
could 
not
cancer decided
you
did 
not

so hey 
dad
it's been a
minute
but I wanted to 
talk about heaven 
with you
and tell you
that I am doing what I can
to make my heaven
here
on
earth
and when I drink
hot coffee
I think 
of you
of you
of how proud
I am
of you.

Listen: The Grief Episode

All’s Not Well in Paradise. And That’s OK.

It was necessary, and the necessary was always possible.

Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis

Listen 8:23

It was a rough week. Necessary, but rough.

School was in full grind: Steve working all hours of the day; the boys logging on and off and on and off and on and off Zoom; me washing so many dishes.

I got a mango rash all over the right side of my face. Apparently, mangos have urushiol oil in them, the same oil in poison oak and ivy.

Trivial things, yes. But as you know (because you are a human), it’s those trivial things that add up to make you want to bang your (red, puffy, itchy) face into a wall.

These necessary kinds of weeks happen to the best of us. And dealing with them is tough. Because more than likely, the things happening to us are a result of choices we’ve made, which makes the dealing with the emotions part of it a little trickier.

Steve chose to go back to teaching. (Granted, he didn’t know it would be in the midst of a pandemic.) We chose for the boys to go to school, and that means virtual right now. We chose to live without a dishwasher. And my rash? I’ve known I’m allergic to mango since a trip to Costa Rica in 1997. And yet I wasn’t careful about washing my hands after handling mangos. My fault. Lesson learned. Well, I guess we’ll see in another 23 years.

So here’s the catch: We get mad at these stupid little things happening in our lives that are caused completely by us, or we get mad at these stupid little things happening in our lives that are completely outside of our sphere of control. Either way, are we justified in getting angry or sad or tired or or or?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that it was a rough week. I got angry. I was sad at times. Tired. And when I start thinking about these emotions and why I’m having them I start thinking that surely I can’t be justified in feeling these things because my complaints are rather trivial and mostly a result of my own choices and there are so many people out there dealing with legitimate hardship and I better just slap a smile on my face and START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL BECAUSE THAT WILL FIX EVERYTHING.

But you know what? I believe in a God that gives grace. And I think that same God would want us to give ourselves some grace. Grace to allow ourselves to feel justified in our pain. So as I sit in my rocking chair out on my porch molding a frozen bag of peas into my right eye socket, cheek bone, and chin, I think about how emotions — even the negative ones — are a necessary part of life.

And I also think of the things in my life that are not trivial. The things that hit harder than a “rough week.” Losing my beautiful, best-friend mom over ten years ago. She never got to meet her grandkids. It hangs on me like a shroud. Losing my fiercely loyal dad four years ago. He met and spent time with my first two boys and loved them unconditionally. The boys are already forgetting him.

They say that high altitude living practically sucks the moisture out of your body. So I try to drink lots of water here in Quito, where I live at over 9,000 feet.

But what happens when it feels like your very vital essence is being sucked out of you?

[No one-size-fits-all answer here.]

There are a few things that help me:

  • getting outside, walking, being in nature
  • reading a fantastic book
  • baking bread
  • cleaning the kitchen (yes, yes, I get it: the kitchen is both a source of pain AND of therapy — maybe there’s something to that combo)

And sometimes doing all of those things doesn’t scrub through to the bright, shiny happiness.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Why?

Because life is necessary. And while I don’t believe that we are “borne back ceaselessly into the past” (poor Gatsby), I do know that the past is absolutely a part of our lives. It should be acknowledged. Dealt with if necessary. Learned from.

Acknowledging and dealing with and learning from our past — these might not be necessary for life, but they sure are helpful in living an authentic life and having authentic relationships.

Life is necessary. And because it’s necessary, it’s possible. Maybe not happy all the time.

And that’s ok.

~~~

Tasting the Earth
James Oppenheim


In a dark hour, tasting the Earth.

As I lay on my couch in the muffled night, and the rain lashed at my window,
And my forsaken heart would give me no rest, no pause and no peace,
Though I turned my face far from the wailing of my bereavement…
Then I said: I will eat of this sorrow to its last shred,
I will take it unto me utterly,
I will see if I be not strong enough to contain it…
What do I fear? Discomfort?
How can it hurt me, this bitterness?


The miracle, then!
Turning toward it, and giving up to it,
I found it deeper than my own self…
O dark great mother-globe so close beneath me…
It was she with her inexhaustable grief,
Ages of blood-drenched jungles, and the smoking of craters, and the roar of tempests,
And moan of the forsaken seas,
It was she with the hills beginning to walk in the shapes of the dark-hearted animals,
It was she risen, dashing away tears and praying to dumb skies, in the pomp-crumbling tragedy of man…
It was she, container of all griefs, and the buried dust of broken hearts,
Cry of the christs and the lovers and the child-stripped mothers,
And ambition gone down to defeat, and the battle overborne,
And the dreams that have no waking…

My heart became her ancient heart:
On the food of the strong I fed, on dark strange life itself:
Wisdom-giving and sombre with the unremitting love of ages…

There was dank soil in my mouth,
And bitter sea on my lips,
In a dark hour, tasting the Earth.

A Quito rainbow. Look closely, and you can see it’s a double.