I’ve been a hospital chaplain now for eight years at hundreds of deathbeds. I want to tell you something I’ve witnessed.
Most people, at the end, realize they’ve spent a lot of their life hiding. Sometimes by choice, or because they could not safely choose to be themselves.
At a deathbed, if my patient can communicate, they show they’re dying two deaths: the one they’re dying & then the death of the life they really wanted to live.
But in their dying, some are also free. To tell me who they are. What they wanted. Who they had to hide. Finally free.
Once, my patient, as he was dying, told me something like this: “What was I so afraid of? All the people that I lived for are dead now, too.”
This is a morbid thought, harsh, & very real.
I catch their dying dreams as they sail off into the unreturned. I am a last witness.
Not everyone is able to fully embody themselves, achieve their dreams, pursue their goals, for all sorts of reasons, systemic & traumatic.
I hope to fight & right these inequities.
And at death, if I can help my patient be themselves, even for the briefest moment — I will.
I’ve said it before & will again:
I’ve heard so many regrets.
Please. I plead with you. Live deeply. You may be young now, but it goes. Fast. It is a breath. Do not waste time on everyone else’s vision for you. I know it is not this easy. In all the ways you can, please be here.
The Question about the Resurrection (Luke 20:27-40)
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless;then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless.Finally, the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now HE is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him another question.
I’ve always thought of this passage as a passage on marriage and individual entity-hood in the afterlife. But reading it as one of the passages on resurrection, it’s clear that the marriage relationship isn’t a concern or focus here at all.
God of the Living has been marinating in my spirit this past week. Life and death is a consistent duality theme throughout the Old and New Testements. It’s easy to think of death as the end of everything, but God is not the Creator of dead things. Death is not the goal, purpose or outcome of Creation.
Yet our entire human experience is focused on death. We are born into a dying world. Everything we eat must die to sustain us, even those who only eat plants. Human societies glorify death by giving honor to those who sacrifice their lives to kill others in war, in service, in daily life. We hold on to people, jobs, situations that drain us of our sense of self. Dying slow deaths at the hands of people who enjoy killing us softly.
Simply by maintaining what we’ve been born into, we are tacitly choosing death every day.
The Question about the Resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33)
The same day some Sadducees came to him saying there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question: “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”
Jesus answered them, “You are wrong because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection people neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels of God in heaven.And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead but of the living.”And when the crowds heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.
The term “resurrection” implies a return to life. Humans were given a paradise to cultivate. Through human choices the world became condemned and paradise hidden from us. Since we are made of the earth, self-condemnation was the impact. Yet God so loved His Creation – the world and its hybrid human-encased-spirits – that he provided another opportunity for eternal life. A sacrifice to alleviate our self-destruction. Even as The Sacrificial Lamb was poised on the cliff of death, He said to a fellow condemned man, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Jesus’ body died. Jesus’ body returned to life. What happened to Paraadise today? Indeed, did Jesus’s spirit ever leave Paradise?
Jesus is Life. Those who enter into the truth of Jesus Christ are reborn. They are resurrected beings, returning to life in a world they were previously condemned to death in. Looking at Jesus’ response to the question about resurrection, I’m touching on an understanding of how the Resurrected can no longer die. God only sees his children as alive. His Creation is infused with His Breath. What a powerful reminder to get into your spirit.
No matter the process this world puts you through, your belief in the truth of Jesus, indeed your faith, puts you in the resurrected category in which you can experience benefits of your eternal life in this temporal world.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From on you do know him and have seen him.” ~ John 14:1-7
The Question about the Resurrection (Luke 12:18-27)
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children, and the second married the widow and died, leaving no children, and the third likewise;none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died.In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”
Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when people rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven.And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead but of the living; you are quite wrong.”
Thinking of my neighbor Ms. Cheryl.Written as a prayer and reminder.
In no way can I claim to be a follower or supporter of the British royal family, yet, after the death of Princess Diana, Prince Harry’s mother, I, like many others around the world touched on media updates to see how her lads were doing. It has done my spirit good to hear Harry share his story.
My review can be summed up in two words: Absolutely beautiful.
Harry is a natural storyteller with a good sense of humor. The arch of his life, identity, growth, maturity, awareness, and manhood are clear and earnestly shared. He doesn’t bash anyone or share intimate details about his familial relationships. However, what he does share of familial interactions is very sad and poignant, unintentionally so, I’m sure. His earnestness creates an intimacy with readers/listeners. [Note: I listened on Audible and am extremely glad for the experience of hearing him tell his story in his own words.]
In retrospect, for those hating on him and saying he shouldn’t talk about his family, his memoir could be described as a rebuttal to media accounts of his life as he appears to stay true to a timeline of headlines covering the twenty-five years leading up to the book. His primary focus is sharing his state of mind, physical location, and emotional environment to provide his perspective and understanding of the stories about him. Unfortunately for the naysayers, these media episodes obviously touch on his family relationships.
During the initial listen, I cried three times. (1) When Harry and Meghan received unexpected help from a benefactor after begging for help from, and being denied by, his father, brother and queen grandmother. (2) The last time he said, “I’ll keep you safe.” (3) His last line in the book. While re-listening to segments for this review, I’ve cried at almost everything I replayed.
The overall gravity of Harry and Meghan’s situation, the petty selfishness and mean-spirited jealousies in his family, the absolute absurdity of this family ruling most of the world for more than a millennia with its myopic dysfunction and self-hatred is astounding. A line of people who have no respect for themselves, their spouses, children, brothers, sisters, etc. have been conquering and dividing the world into parcels since 1066. They’ve created cultures, laws, societies and hierarchies among peoples around the globe. All while being completely opposed to expressing basic human emotion. A touch or a hug for a grandchild – unthinkable! A father protecting his sons from watching their mother’s death on TV – what could be done? A brother embracing his sister-in-law rather than smearing her and her future children in the media – it’s how it’s always been. The British Royal Family eats its own. How could their 1200 year reign possibly result in a better world?
Unfortunately, like most of us mortals, Harry’s not so good at deciphering the heart and motives of his loved ones. For most of the book, I talked back in frustration, voicing the treachery he had to be aware of on some level, but didn’t want to call out directly.
However, when he was forced to the point of understanding, he elucidated how he came to the point of separating from his dysfunctional family in favor of protecting his wife and children. When Harry and Meghan were first ousted from the royal family, I began to pay attention to their story. What struck me was the fact that a Black Woman was so hated and vilified that her husband, a member of the most well-known, powerful and wealthiest families in the history of the world – the second son of a future king – could not keep his wife safe. Not only that, he feared his wife would die as his mother had because of the relentless hounding and vitriol of the paparazzi which went unchecked by his father and brother (both heirs to the throne). He shared his fear openly in real time. Imagine, having the ability to ask for and receive anything your mind could conjure, but security and safety for your wife was prohibited. She was deemed too much of an expense to house, clothe, feed and protect.
“Pa was cutting me off. I recognize the absurdity, a man in his mid-thirties being financially cut off by his father. But Pa wasn’t merely my father. He was my boss, my banker, my comptroller. Keeper of the purse strings throughout my adult life. Cutting me off, therefore, meant firing me. Without redundancy pay and casting me into the void after a lifetime of service. More, after a lifetime of rendering me otherwise unemployable. […] Sponge, the papers called me. There’s a big difference between being a sponge and being prohibited from learning independence. After decades of being rigorously and systematically infantilized, I was now abruptly abandoned, mocked for being immature, for not standing on my own two feet.”
Harry represented himself well. I do hope he sees himself as a human being who has value simply because he exists regardless of his birth into this family and his role in other people’s lives.
Charles: Pa, Boss and Comptroller
Even in his austere aloofness, the former Prince of Wales and current King Charles III comes across as a father who was willing to love and be present if only he could manage it. Unfortunately, for him and his children, his understanding of love and presence is cold and comfortless. Charles is only mentioned as Pa in the Spare. Pa is spoken with reverence, respect, pain and bewildered disillusionment. Pa is often spoken as a plea.
“Pa and Willy had their parts to play and they came ready for a fight. ‘Please, boys! Don’t make my final years a misery.’ His voice sounded raspy. Fragile. It sounded, if I’m honest, old.
I looked at Willy. Really looked at him, maybe for the first time since we were boys.[…] In some ways he was my mirror. In some ways he was my opposite. My beloved brother. My arch nemesis. How had that happened? I was massively tired. I wanted to go home and I realized what a complicated concept ‘home’ had become. Or maybe it always was.
‘If they didn’t know why I had left, maybe they just didn’t know me, at all. Maybe they never really did. And to be fair, maybe I didn’t either. I have to tell them. And so, Pa, Willy, World, here you go.'”
So begins the epic retelling of a life from in front of many lenses.
“Journalists are the scum of the earth, but…,” Charles said to his sons in Frogmore gardens following his father’s funeral.
“There was always a but with Pa when it came to the press. He hated their hate, but oh, how he loved their love. One could make the argument that therein lie the seeds of the problem, indeed all problems going back decades. Deprived of love as a boy, bullied by schoolmates, he was dangerously, compulsively drawn to the elixir they offered him. He cited grandpa as a sterling example of why the press wasn’t anything to get too vexed about. Poor grandpa had been abused by the papers most of his life, but now look, he was a national treasure. The papers couldn’t say enough nice things about the man!
‘So that’s it then? Just wait till we’re dead and all will be sorted?’
‘If you could just endure it, Darling Boy, for a little while. In a funny way they’d respect you for it. […] You must understand, Darling Boy, The Institution can’t just tell the media what to do.’
I yelped with laughter. It was like Pa saying he couldn’t just tell his valet what to do.”
Diana: Morning Star
“Wherever mommy was, I understood she was with her friend.”
Harry doesn’t hold any surface or tactile memories of his mother. The way he speaks of her is as an ethereal being who was known to have existed on earth but is hiding away for safety. Named after a goddess and titled as princess, neither stylings are grand enough for his memory of her personhood. Earendel, an indescribably large star discovered in 2022 by the Hubble Space Telescope, is the oldest known star to have existed close to the moment of creation and is called the Morning Star. “That was my mother,” Harry says quietly.
In his late twenties, Harry sought proof of Diana’s actual death. Up to that point, he did not consider her dead, only away. He imagined she was hiding from the paparazzi. Believed she would one day return to whisk him and his brother away to be with her in hiding. He asked a member of his security team for the file on his mother’s car crash hoping to clear any questions he had. Harry reports, “The file proved nothing, other than Mummy was in a car crash. After which she looked unharmed. Slumped over in the back of the car. While those who chased her continued to harass her. Rather than proof, I discovered more reason for rage. It wasn’t a mist. It was a torrent.”
Paris police had seized the cameras of the paparazzi on the scene. The images showed chaos. Onlookers. A deceased Dodi and driver. Hurt bodyguard. Deceased Diana. Flashing lights created auras on the printed images. The file contained police photos of the scene and images from the frenzied photographers who chased Diana to her death. Those men never stopped photographing her even in the aftermath of the crash they caused. She landed between the seats and was clearly unconscious or semi-conscious.
“No one checked on her. Offered her help or comforted her. They were just shooting. Shooting. Shooting. I hadn’t known. I hadn’t dreamed. I’d been told that paps chased Mummy like a pack of wild dogs, but I never dared to imagine that like wild dogs, they also feasted on her defenseless body. I hadn’t been aware before this moment, that the last thing Mummy saw on this earth, was a flash bulb.”
When he was twenty-three, Harry went to the World Cup in Paris. While there, he asked his assigned driver to drive up and down that same tunnel at 65 miles per hour (the speed Diana supposedly died at) in an attempt to understand how something so routine could be so life-altering. He was not convinced events happened as reported.
Identity is problematic
“Two years older than me, Willy was the heir and I was the spare. This wasn’t merely how the press referred to us, though it was definitely that. This was shorthand often used by Pa, Mummy and Grandpa and even Granny. There was no judgment about it. But also, no ambiguity.
I was the shadow, the support, the Plan B. I was brought into the world in case something happened to Willy. I was summoned to provide back-up. Distraction and diversion. And if necessary, a spare part. A kidney perhaps, blood transfusion, spec of bone morrow. This was all made explicitly clear to me from the start of life’s journey and regularly reinforced thereafter.
I took no offense. I felt nothing about it. Any of it. Succession was like the weather. Or the positions of the planets. Or the turn of the seasons. Who had the time to worry about things so unchangeable? Who could bother with being bothered by a fate etched in stone?
Being a Windsor meant working out which truths were timeless and then banishing them from your mind. It meant absorbing the basic parameters of one’s identity knowing by instinct who you were, which was forever a byproduct of who you weren’t. I wasn’t Granny. I wasn’t Pa. I wasn’t Willy. I was third in line behind them.”
During his gap year, he worked a cattle farm in Australia. He had planned on six months in the outback, but the ranch was infiltrated by paparazzi. He left early. However during his time, he acquired new habits, dressing style and a new nickname, Spike.
“I became Spike, when I wasn’t Haz, Baz, Prince Jackeroo, Harold, Darling Boy or Scrawny. Identity had always been problematic, but with a half dozen formal names and a full dozen nicknames, it was turning into a hall of mirrors. Most days I didn’t care what people called me. Most days I thought ‘Don’t care who I am so long as it’s someone new. Someone other than Prince Harry.”
Harry speaks of several women he dated as being guide stones in his evolution. Each one highlighted a part of himself he was unaware of or hadn’t been able to access prior to the relationship. The first girlfriend Harry mentions is Chelsea, whom he was drawn to because she was different from the people in his circle. She was South African and preferred her home to Britain. She was unconcerned with appearances, propriety, and royalty. He was enraptured. During his time with Chelsea, he says:
“I had no talent, so I’ve been told. Again and again. And thus all reactions to me had nothing to do with me. They were down to my family. My title. And consequently, they always embarrassed me because they were so unearned. I’d always wanted to know what it might be like to meet a woman and not have her eyes widen at the mention of my title. But instead widen them myself using my mind, my heart. With Chelsea, that seemed a real possibility.”
Another girlfriend helped him cry for the first time since his mother’s death. It was then that he began to accept that Mummy was not going to return. He was encouraged to seek counseling. He did so.
One day while scrolling his Instagram feed, Harry came across a filtered video of his friend Violet with a woman he had never seen.
“I’d traveled the world from top to bottom. Literally. I’d hopscotched the continents. I’d met hundreds of thousands of people. […] For thirty-two years, I’d watched a conveyor belt of faces pass by and only a handful ever made me look twice. This woman stopped the conveyor belt. This woman smashed the conveyor belt to bits. I’d never seen anyone so beautiful. Why should beauty feel like a punch in the throat?
I never had a firm answer to that burning question: Is there just one person on this earth for each of us? But in that moment, I felt there might be only one face for me. This one. I sent Violet a message: WHO. IS. THIS. WOMAN?”
He had an instant response to Meghan’s face. She exuded energy, joy, playfulness, confidence and a sense of freedom.
You’re free! Fly away!
Frogmore was special to Harry. It held one of his favorite cemetery’s and was one of the first places he lived with Meghan. he thought it would be their forever home before they had to flee the country. Following his grandfather’s funeral, he still sought Frogmore’s cemetery – for a walk with his father and brother, and for his final resting place – “…because the gardens were lovely and it seemed peaceful.”
On remembering a happy day with Willy – a transcendent moment that led to the rarest of things: a long tight hug with his brother:
“Now I saw that even our finest moments, my best memories somehow involved death. Our lives were built on death. Our brightest days were shattered by it. Looking back, I didn’t see spots of time, but dances with death. I saw how we steeped ourselves in it. […] Windsor castle itself was a tomb. The walls filled with ancestors. The Tower of London was held together with the blood of animals. […]Outsiders called us a cult. But maybe we were a death cult. Wasn’t that a little more depraved?
Even after laying Grandpa to rest, had we not had our fill? Why were we here? Lurking on the edge of that undiscovered country from whose born, no traveler returns.
Eh, maybe that was a more apt description of America. My father and brother were talking over each other. I was no longer listening. I was already gone. Already on my way to California. A voice in my head saying, ‘Enough death! Enough! When is someone in this family going to break free and live?'”
Upon leaving his father and brother in the cemetery, Harry walked to Frogmore Cottage and was greeted at the door with a long hug from his wife, Meghan. Listening, one could tell all was right with his world in that moment.
Seventeen months after his grandfather passed, Harry was notified that his Granny was gone.
“Pa was king.”
Harry: A Man. Not a Spare.
Harry likens California to life. By extension one can also hear that he sees Meghan and America as givers of life also. Speaking of the past, of honoring long-dead ancestors with bows, and salutes while passing monuments in their image, it’s easy to see how generations became mired in death and stuck in the ways of the deceased.
Spare begins with an institutional family meeting where Harry is resented for expecting and seeking his individuality. Where he confronted his punishers for retaliating against him for attempting to live his life on his terms with a partner of his choosing. We can all understand why Charles would be resentful. He was denied his choice for most of his life. The book also highlights why William is resentful – as the heir, he’s held to a stricter rule than Harry. Being his own man was never on the table for William.
Spare ends with the realization of life being an active choice. By remaining in the traditions he was raised in, death had become part of everything. Ancestors were buried in houses; walls were held together with blood. Images of the dead were on walls and standing in corners. Harry wasn’t aware of an option other than death worship. Tradition had taught him he was only in the world to support the lives of his superiors, not to live his own life. Tradition had taught him to put the crown and institution before self and family. Tradition had taught him that obedience to duty came before everything. There was a pecking order to obedience. His brother was above him. His father was above his brother. His granny was above everyone. If granny said yes, it didn’t matter what the other two said. Yet his brother could still physically assault him and threaten him with no consequences. His father could still remove his protection to bring him into obedience as he saw fit.
Then Meghan came along. A Black Woman who had made a name and career for herself crossed his line of sight. Someone he connected with whom he had a great deal in common. Someone who exuded life and joy. Someone who demanded to be respected for who they were, not because of their name or position. A humane human with a good heart. Harry became smitten and developed a new life-focused purpose.
Harry had tested his constraints throughout his life. But he had tested with mischief. He had played at being naughty and shocking. He had explored options within the parameters set for him. Because of the way his family treated Meghan, he had to think in a new way and explore options outside of everything he had ever known. In doing so, he learned more independence than he thought possible. More importantly, he learned, experienced, and embraced love. Love for himself, his wife, their relationship. Love has expanded Harry into a protector, a provider, a man, a husband, and a father.
In the last minutes of his story, Harry describes his daughter’s birth. He shares his verbal greeting and his desire to welcome Lilibet skin to skin. He shares that later, as he and Meghan laid skin to skin, she spoke his testimony to him, words he now hold sacred. “That was everything. That is a man. My love, that is not a spare.”
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off, we will not be found naked.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
If life is a full term pregnancy processing us for birth into the afterlife, then I met Charlene B. Ware during her third trimester. Life is its own master course and we all become the product of our beliefs, choices, and actions while running our own great race.
When I met Charlene, she was nearing the end of several stages. Retirement was approaching, her second marriage was unraveling, and the West would soon be calling. Charlene was transitioning fully into her third trimester of life with all cylinders on change. So, I was blessed to meet a woman in the prime of her life who was embracing the unknown with joyful anticipation. She had been married, had divorced, and raised two children while working full-time.
Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
When I make friends, I tend to befriend the whole family on some level. I met Cherre during my college internship twenty-three years ago. Shortly after she introduced me to her Mama, Charlene. I don’t remember a lot of our first conversation details, but I do remember her warmth, welcome, familiarity and a whole bunch of shared laughter. When we met, I was nearing the end of my first trimester of life and was gifted with a bird’s-eye view of Ms. Charlene as she was entering her home stretch.
Being able to witness her fearless, vivacious approach to life has been a beautiful experience. Nearly twenty years ago, Ms. Charlene spread her wings in preparation of exploring freedom – life after work, life after divorce and a technical empty nest, life as a full-time grandma, and life as a pensioned retiree in the Valley of the Sun. I met her when joy came easy, and laughter was free flowing. That’s how I know her. This is how she is remembered.
In the society we are formed in, life offers only three widely accepted stages for women: daughter, wife, mother. Though variations abound, they are rarely respected or appreciated. Women who don’t hit and hold all three marks are seen as lacking. This shortsightedness can prevent us from embracing our true selves and growing into our promise. Fortunately, some brave souls can free their minds and unchain their souls from societal conventions and allow their eternal light to manifest in their mortal lives.
The young woman who left home chose to hold on to close relationships throughout her life. Ms. Charlene’s sense of personal liberation allowed her to choose love and marriage again yet still not be broken by its heavy yoke. The self-knowledge and awareness needed to live her best life guided her. Not only did she decide to live in a completely different environment from her first and second trimesters, her secret to thriving as a transplant in the desert was being within close proximity of the true loves of her life, Napoleon and Cherre.
Love and relationship are the ties that bind all the stages of Charlene’s life together. You don’t get to live such a vibrantly full life without committing wholeheartedly to your choices and their harvests. This willingness to embrace life, come what may, made room for the people she met along way – friends who were embraced like family, neighbors who were embraced as friends, and of course the family she loved as extensions of herself.
She departed how she lived: surrounded and embraced by the love of her children.
If we truly believe that what we bind on earth will bind us in heaven then Charlene B Ware prepared her whole life for her life beyond (Matthew 18:18). May she rest well in the embrace of her Creator.
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
Playing house is different with baby
cousins, lil’ brothers and sisters and the
mannish boys in the neighborhood. Who needs
a fake baby with real baby cousins
in reach? Tish was a chubby, curly-haired
infant, rosy-cheeked girly-girl toddler
adorable, rambunctious, loved. Rolling
over, pushing up learning to walk, run
circles around folks from the house and yard
to Grandma’s vegetable garden; real life
cabbage patch doll blooming up and down the
street, burrowing roots, extending networks.
Too soon, I was no fun; just a boring
old cousin to a womanish girl who
preferred smokin’ weed as boys circled and
plotted in her haze. Though she grew up fast,
she was no fast-tail-gal. She met her love,
married young in paradise. Soon after,
my play baby was having babies in
wedded bliss. A homemaker happiest
making a home in the warm embrace of
family, next door to her mama, ‘cross
town from Grandma. A nurturing space for
herself, her husband and their one two three
four five bouncing bundles of joy. Later
expanding her shelter to make room to
comfort Grandma in her declining years.
A lifetime came and went. A final stealth
pregnancy shared with few. Heard in passing
near her due date. Her mom, my aunt, kept her
confidence; our uncle not so. She was
due on my long-deceased brother’s birthday.
A happy coincidence to be sure.
On December 16, my aunt called to
check on me. She asked, “Have you gotten your
diabetes under control?” “I thought
I did, but last week I spiked,” I replied.
On and on I rambled, before Cousin
Tish interrupted, “Should I let them give
Grandma the Covid-19 vaccine?” “No,”
my aunt said. “What do you think,” she asked me.
“No,” I agreed, “they don’t know what the side
effects are.” “Yeah,” my aunt said, “Mom has too
many illnesses and is taking too
many medications, that vaccine could
kill her. “Ok,” said the woman who was
once upon a time my play baby, as
she made arrangements for the grandmother
she was now mothering. Generations
are mere stair steps grape-vining across blurred
lines. We could’ve all been in the same room,
sharing the same space in momentary
unity. A rare consensus. Eighteen
hundred miles, forty years separated
us from oldest to youngest to farthest
away. “I have to go,” said Auntie. “Tish
needs to get ready for the hospital.
They’re inducing her tonight.”
“Goodness! How does she do it all,” I asked.
“What do you mean?” Intoned with a raised brow.
“She’s about to deliver her sixth child.
She’s on her feet to the end, taking care
of grandma, five kids and a husband. It’s
a lot.” With a quiet sense of affront,
my aunt said, “I help.” Indeed, she does, though
not immediately apparent from
eighteen hundred miles away. As neighbors,
mother and daughter have separate but
shared households. They see each other daily.
Tish stays home, her mom works. They share the days
and divide the responsibilities.
Mini-compound in an old industry
town. How can any of us do it all
without help? “Ok, talk to you later.
Good luck to Tish.” When was the last time I
told her I love her? She’s kept me at a
distance for decades; I stopped trying to
bridge it long ago. What would I have said
had I known it was my last chance to speak
to her through her mom? The next morning, her
brother called to say this vibrant woman
died in childbirth. Unbelievable, yet
true. That was not the call any of us
expected to receive. From good luck to
my God, may she rest in peace! We know she
held her blessings close in a well-lived life.
Of the ways we thought any of us would
go next, the ones we were “ready” for, Tish
dying giving birth was not a concern.
Gone. Thirty-eight years young. Healthy. Happy.
Living, loving fully. Present for life.
Woman, wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter,
sister, niece, cousin, friend. Being herself
was her favorite role. “I Am Woman.
I Am Me,” she shared with me when asked what
womanhood meant to her during my last
visit. “Everything about Woman
represents Me. Determination. Me
being focused. Being respectful and
making sure my children are respectful.
Having manners. Succeeding in life.” She
Will be remembered as my play baby
and a bonafide mommy-woman. She
leaves behind many impressed by all the
life in her years, her love of motherhood
all encompassing. For the little ones,
Tish’s babies, overwhelming sadness
for the void her physical absence leaves
in their lives. May God enrich their spirits
to receive all the comfort, guidance and
love they need to fill their years with good life.
Precious Layla, Erick, Karess, Remy,
Daymanie and dearest London whose first
breath struggled pass her mother’s last. As I
mourn Cousin Tish, I ache for the husband
she shared her life with, mother never more
than a hop away, father whose pride was
his first-born, and brother who could’ve been
her Siamese twin. Then there’s Grandma, who
has been sustained by Tish’s care and grace.
For me, it encompasses two big projects I’m working on: a re-edit of my book, Desert of Solitude: Refreshed by Grace and the Marriage & Relationship: Modern Concepts vs. Biblical Principles Virtual Bible Study Series.
I’ve added so much to Desert of Solitude since it was published in 2018, that it’s more of a re-write at this point. One of the strongest themes in my book is the cycle of endings and beginnings aka life and death. This sermon has touched on a vein and exposed perspectives I hadn’t considered. It is also a great addition to the Marriage & Relationship discussion series. Pastor Steven Furtick gives an excellent perspective and understanding of Jacob, Rachel and Leah (covered in Part 1 of my study) and Mary (covered in Part 5).
“The relationship between fear and favor cannot be overstated. Choose favor over fear.” ~ Pastor Steven Furtick
Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with the rain; in the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly; when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.
Besides being wise, the Teacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find pleasing words, and he wrote words of truth plainly.
The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd. Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back. Divide your means seven ways, or even eight, for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth. When clouds are full, they empty rain on the earth; whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. Whoever observes the wind will not sow; and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.
Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
Even those who live many years should rejoice in them all; yet let them remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.
Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
Family Matters, Part 1
Pastor Gary Barteau
April 8, 2018
Book of Ruth: Naomi and Ruth
Ruth 1:5 Naomi loss her husband and two sons.
Your family still has a future.
It is an healthy thing to be able to grieve.
It is an inside process.
It makes a declaration
Becomes a deep outside expression of how valuable the person was to you.
Its never too late to go back and grieve something you didn’t grieve before.
When we don’t grieve it’s difficult to move forward.
Ruth 1: 19-21
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
Just because there is loss doesn’t mean all is loss.
Look for ehat isn’t loss.
For whats there. For God is bringing into the picture.
Naomi was gifted with two great daughters in law. She had a hometown to return to.
Dream of what God has put in your heart that matters to you.
Those values and beliefs do not fo away. They remain.
They may manifest differently than you imagined.
Is iy grace? Acceptance? Family as a safe place?
Boaz instructs workers to leave grain for Ruth yo glean/collect
As you look to whats loss and what is still present. Go build that family. You have a part in shaping what your family might be
We can choose to move forward.
Naomi’s grandchild is not the future she envision but she called herself blessed and Ruth better than seven sons.
We don’t get back what is loss from before but we are gifted with something beautiful and new. God remakes us and everything we need for life.
God my gift you with ife and joy that may be different that before but is a future for your family.
The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America by Ann Neumann
One of the first phrases to stand out to me was part of a story Ann Neumann shared of a terminal man in the Midwest. He thought it was important to “participate in our own death.” (p 69)
There was a very strong sense that Ann Neumann was directing her words and somewhat undercover activism to a very distinct audience. Her audience was very much so white middle class, middle aged women. There were several times in the text when my neck snapped back in affront as if she assumed anyone outside of her preferred audience would have no interest in or understanding of a good death.
This was a book I was looking forward to reading when it was shared as the next selection for my book club. I read the first couple of chapters with great interest and anticipation. Somewhere approaching the center of the book, she got off topic or changed strategies that took away a great deal from the reading experience. By the end, I felt it was a fruitless book with a misleading title and subtitle.
One of the main things that was off-putting was the author’s off-handed handling of medical ethics. Neumann lost credibility with me on page 93 when she wrote one line on the Tuskegee Airmen experiments, which involved more than 600 black men, as being “observed but not treated for syphilis” when doctors knowingly misdiagnosed, lied and refused to treat the disease… and most likely gave the disease to those who did not have it. All because they reportedly wanted to watch the debilitating effects the disease has on black bodies as well as document their deaths from it. Neumann later spent twenty full pages on one woman in a coma. She exhausted the medical and personal ethics involved in keeping one young white woman on life support who may not have even wanted to be on life support had she been able to choose. Then there were the thirty pages she wrote pro-life conferences and how the conservative Christian right is a danger to the “right to die with dignity” movement. These fifty pages were followed by another thirty pages itemizing the online disputes with disabled bloggers who saw the terminally ill’s right to die with dignity as a threat to their own personal safety under the care of medical professionals.
I confess I remain unable to connect these tangents. More so because one of the last personal profiles in the book is of a terminally ill imprisoned Latino man who was either a dreamer or a braggart. Neumann was disgusted by him and didn’t understand why he would share elaborate stories with her about his former life or his supposedly non-existent future. She actually wrote how she had no compassion for him and his situation. Yet she began the book writing about being a hospice volunteer to better understand the process of dying.
How is Neumann an authority on death? She concluded, “There is no good death, I now know…. But there is a good enough death…. knowing death makes facing it bearable…. And there is really one kind of bad death, characterized by the same bad facts: pain, denial, prolongation, loneliness.” (p210)
I stalled on the last chapter for a couple of weeks. I ended up finishing it while on vacation during a day trip to Tombstone, AZ. It proved to be a good fit with the Tombstone aesthetic. Ann Neumann’s writing is reminiscent of Tombstone, a town that celebrates death and killing from a bygone age. The town’s tourism thrives on ghost stories, hauntings and remembering the wild viciousness of lawless times. Neumann celebrates the privilege of white middle-class, middle-aged Americans. She goes on a grotesque exploration of what she thinks are horror stories in bioethics and medical morality while exhibiting no curiosity or compunction whatsoever for atrocities against humanity on mass scales.