Why are we hiding?

Most of you reading this will likely think of Halloween at the mention of masks, but where I’m from . . . “throw me something, Mistah.” (Or “Sistah,”) rules the day. For those unfamiliar with Mardi Gras, it is truly the greatest party on earth. From January 6th until Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) each year, the streets of New Orleans and the surrounding communities host parades and street parties. Families gather in the same spot along a parade route where they’ve gathered for years. Much fried chicken, po-boys, king cake, and beer is consumed.

The parades aren’t your typical ones where beauty queens wave from an open convertible. Yes, there will be a “royal court” on display, but there’s so much more. The bands are better. The floats come in elaborate (and often satirical) themes.

The riders are in costume. Masks are an essential part of their costumes often looking much like those cheap, plastic masks that are sold with children’s Halloween costumes. The masks add to the mystery of the parade so much so that most local ordinances require riders to be masked while on the floats. Parade-goers often join in the fun with their own extravagant costumes and masks.

Traditionally, masks were worn by during Mardi Gras to allow revelers to escape social judgment. No matter your social status – all are equal behind the mask. Our modern-day “masks” serve the same purpose. Not the masks worn by revelers; rather the ones that we don each morning. Those thin veneers that we never leave home without. Those facades that help us face the world. The smiles that say, “stay away.” Even when pain presses against our broken hearts, we create picture-perfect lives on social media. Snippets on Snapchat. Isolated updates on Instagram. Pithy posts on FaceBook. The perfect life tweeted in 142 characters or less. The lives we think we should have. The lives that we think will convince others of “nothing to see here.” 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

You Can Take “It” When You Go

After several months in the hospital, the end was near. Aunt had only one desire in the end – she wanted to die at home. So, we brought her home. Hospice came. Family gathered.

It was Meg’s birthday (only 11 at the time) and another young cousin had a birthday approaching within days. What do you do? Read more

The Sting of Unanswered Prayers

No.

Sometimes, the answer is simply “no.”

Every school has that one professor who is renowned for the breadth and depth of their knowledge. Sharp minds and sharp tongues frequently travel in packs. My second year of law school, I voluntarily subjected myself to such a professor, Professor George Pugh.

On the first day of class, I chose a seat toward the edge of the classroom – tucked safely out of the line of fire. So, I thought. By this time, Professor Pugh was later in his years and was losing his eyesight. Unbeknownst to me, his central vision was declining, but his peripheral vision was as sharp as his mind – and his tongue; and, I found myself in his line of vision and his line of fire. 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

#BiscoffsforBrooke – A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

Monday started out like a typical day. My phone dinged a few times letting me know that I had a couple of packages waiting for me in the downstairs delivery lockers. No biggie. One of the things about apartment living – we order a lot more of our goods online. I was expecting several packages. (I even have a special folder in my email account to keep up with what has yet to be delivered.)

I headed downstairs with my trusty codes to unlock the lockers. I opened the first locker. Delivery from Williams-Sonoma. Check. I opened the second locker. Huh? The return address was foreign to me. Who do I know in Georgia? The box didn’t match the size of any of my anticipated deliveries. It was addressed to my full legal name. It’s not my birthday. I wasn’t expecting anything from the government. Read more

How to Set a New Year’s Resolution with Intention

Around this time every year, we make resolutions (and frankly, by the time this is posted a good number will already have been abandoned). Often, we opt for improvement in exercise, diet, or health habits. Other times, we take the path of “giving up”– drinking, smoking, coffee, television, social media, fill-in your “drug” of choice.

Not to say that anything is wrong with any of these choices, but can we challenge ourselves to go deeper? More meaningful? Read more