“No Outlet – Dead End”

These days, everyone seems to rely on some form of electronic map to get from Point A to Point B. Not only do these systems direct you “left” and “right,” they chirp cheerfully when traffic builds up or a cop is ahead. No matter how sophisticated the chirp or the English accent of the system – at some point, each one will send you in the wrong direction. Sometimes they may be off by a street or two. Sometimes, more. Once, I ended up at a similar address that was forty-five minutes from where I was supposed to be. Sometimes, you are led the wrong-way up a one-way street or land at a dead end.

You’ve been there. What’d you do? If like most people, you just pull to the side of the road and set up camp. That’s right. Pull a tent out of the back of the car. Lay down roots Make a new home. Yep -right there in front of the sign reading “No Outlet – Dead End.” Read more

Summer “Daze”

In the world of family law, summer is a battleground. Parents jockey for position in an attempt to manipulate visitation schedules so that they’d get more time than the other parent. Usually, they just wanted that unfettered time of lazy days devoid of the school calendar. School’s out. No homework. No responsibility. Just fun as far as the eye can see.

Sometimes, parents would be more particular about crafting a schedule, homing in on the “forgotten” holidays – Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day. And, in South Louisiana where summer typically stretches deep into October, parents often went to war over “Parish Fair” Day – that extra Friday in October when the world of Washington Parish revolves around the fair. (Other parts might recognize this as the “county fair.”)

For those dealing with the loss of a loved one, summer can be a battleground. Even when the sky is cloudless and blue in the shade of a memory, shadows loom with the intensity of storm clouds. Read more

Does the “Beginning” Ever End?

One of the things “they” say after losing a child is that the second year is worse. No way. I had endured “second years” after my brother, my dad, and others passed away. The first year is by far the worse. That settles it.

Fast forward 355 days or so and I can begin to see what “they” might be talking about.

I barely know what the next step is. I’ve spent nearly a year dutifully marking off each morbid milestone – One month – check; Two months – check; Brooke’s birthday – check; Start of a Fall semester with no Brooke – check; Halloween Horse Show – check; Thanksgiving – check; More birthdays – check; Christmas and New Year’s – check; Megan’s birthday – check; Mardi Gras – check; Gulfport horse show – check; and so much more. Yet, here I sit with the realization that – it doesn’t end. This is just the beginning.

The reality that Brooke is gone – it must seem fairly obvious, but the mind is a tricky thing. The mind gauges just how much reality the heart and body can endure at once. Even when we are sure of “reality,” the mind is there acting as a gatekeeper. Filtering out the bits that are too much for the moment. Saving them for a sunny day. Doling out reality in measured doses.

As the heart and body begin to bear the weight of reality, the mind piles on a little more until eventually the full load comes to bear.

If someone handed you and load and told you that you’d have to carry a 500-pound weight every day for the rest of your life, you’d protest that it is impossible. But if someone handed you just a few pounds here and a few there until 500 pounds was sitting square on your shoulders, it would be different. That’s what losing a child is like. That’s the nature of tragedy. Read more

The Path of Hope is Muddy

Who hasn’t had to memorize “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening?” What 7th or 8th grader hasn’t had to study “The Road Not Taken?” Robert Frost is one of the great American poets studied by school children across the nation.

What does “The Road Not Taken” have to do with grief or loss?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

What if your “yellow wood” is your home office in the wee, dark hours after a horrible accident has taken your youngest daughter’s life? A “yellow wood” could just as easily be the backseat of the car as your mother takes you home after seeing the team doctor. Homes are awfully lonely in the wake of divorce – even when bathed in yellow sunshine. Read more

Who wants to be the “King of Pain”?

There’s a little black spot on the sun today, that’s my soul up there
It’s the same old thing as yesterday, that’s my soul up there
There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top, that’s my soul up there
There’s a flag pole rag and the wind won’t stop, that’s my soul up there
I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running ’round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain – 
The Police

“I’ll see your despair and raise you two gloom.” Doesn’t it always seem in this game of life that we are constantly “sweetening” the pot of suffering. A never-ending round of one upping our fellow players. Who wants to be the big “winner” anyway? Who wants to walk away from the table with a wad of woe – peeling each one back like a crisp hundred-dollar bill to spend on future rounds of “Who Has it Worse”? Read more

When you’ve lost so much – how do you manage to be grateful?

My daddy was an ironic mash-up of 70’s flower child and Sicilian Catholic. In the 70’s and 80’s he had an annoying habit of preaching the gospel of “PMA.” For those of you who might have been subjected to this particular brand of torture in your own lives, you will recognize “PMA” as standing for “Positive Mental Attitude.” For every negative comment that Daddy caught us uttering, he would literally make us repeat the opposing positive statement out loud ten – TEN – times. You recognize the formula. It takes ten – TEN- positive thoughts/actions/comments to erase the energy created by just one negative thought/action/comment.

How does this look when applied? Quick example – I might say something to my little brother like “I hate you.” Read more

Why “Dances with a Limp?”

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken.  And the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved.  But this is also the good news.  They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up.  And you come through.  It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold.  But you learn to dance with the limp.  – Anne Lamott

If you are looking for evidence of God’s sense of humor – you’ve landed in the right place.  Had I lived in Biblical times, you likely would have had an easier time finding me at the well than in the synagogue.  Frankly, there hasn’t been a less likely candidate to share the Word since Saul of Tarsus.  And, there is where the comparison between the Apostle Paul and me ends. Read more