Once Again, A Memoriam

The following post is a reblog of my initial response to the shootings in Aurora earlier this year. Once again, my heart is aching with the same sentiments. Oh, America, what has happened?

Retro Wishes, Childhood Dreams

“Be home before the streetlights come on,” was the summertime rule in my house. Growing up in the small town of Plymouth, Michigan, during the 80’s was a real-life Sandlot experience. Between the large park around the block, the gas station with the Slurpee machine down the street, and the “downtown” movie theater only a quick bike ride away, my friends and I spent the bulk of our summers outside.  We rode bikes, climbed trees, flew kites, and built lemonade stands. Our parents knew that if we weren’t swimming in Jamie’s pool, we were probably in our tree forts in the park. We didn’t have cell phones or Ipods; we were blissfully entertained by the song of chirping crickets, the light show of dancing fireflies, and the tinkling sounds of the ice cream truck.

A school shooting wasn’t even a figment of my imagination. 

Today, not only do I mourn the loss of innocent life in Sandy Hook, but also the loss of the childhood innocence of a generation. Our children are growing up with the morbid possibility of school shootings, theater massacres, and terrorist bombings. The TV violence of the 80’s has become real-life breaking news. My heart is heavy.

Fighting the Darkness

It’s time for us to stand up for the future of our children, to champion the cause of preserving the innocence of childhood. Our country is not lost; there are still families who eat around a table, children who play in parks, and parents who diligently teach ethics and morals. We have not slipped into the reckless abandon of a lawless society; rather, we have parents, teachers, leaders, and civil servants who protect order and preserve peace.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

It is the duty of us all to promote courage within our society. We all have influence. I influence people you will never meet and vice versa. It is our civil responsibility to fight the darkness that is slowly descending upon our nation. Our children depend on us to preserve their childhood. Their childhood memories are weighed in the balance of our willingness to stand up for what is right. The cause of morality needs champions.

There isn’t enough darkness in all the world to snuff out the light of one little candle. ~Robert Alden

Morality Rises

This weekend, rather than going to see a movie or a ballgame, why not spend time with your family. Hug them a little tighter, tell them a story of courage in the face of fear, show them a memory of your own retro childhood. Be a child’s hero this weekend. Fly a kite, build a fort, read a book. Let’s make morality rise in our country once again.

The families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims are in my prayers.

Fighting the Darkness: In Memoriam of the Batman Shooting Victims

Like the rest of the country, I was shocked and disheartened this morning as I heard the news of the “Batman Shooting” in Aurora, Colorado. As news commentators cry, “What is this world coming to?” and “How did this happen?”, I am asking myself another question: What kind of childhood will my children remember?

“The youngest reported victim is a 3-month-old, who is said to be doing fine at University Hospital, where 20 patients, including nine in critical condition, are being treated. Another victim is a six-year-old being treated at Children’s Hospital, where a total of six victims were taken. Their condition wasn’t known. Victims were rushed to six area hospitals overall.” ~CBS News

Retro Wishes, Childhood Dreams

“Be home before the streetlights come on,” was the summertime rule in my house. Growing up in the small town of Plymouth, Michigan, during the 80’s was a real-life Sandlot experience. Between the large park around the block, the gas station with the Slurpee machine down the street, and the “downtown” movie theater only a quick bike ride away, my friends and I spent the bulk of our summers outside.  We rode bikes, climbed trees, flew kites, and built lemonade stands. Our parents knew that if we weren’t swimming in Jamie’s pool, we were probably in our tree forts in the park. We didn’t have cell phones or Ipods; we were blissfully entertained by the song of chirping crickets, the light show of dancing fireflies, and the tinkling sounds of the ice cream truck.

A movie theater shooting wasn’t even a figment of my imagination. 

Today, not only do I mourn the loss of innocent life in a Colorado theater, but also the loss of the childhood innocence of a generation. Our children are growing up with the morbid possibility of school shootings, theater massacres, and terrorist bombings. The TV violence of the 80’s has become real-life breaking news. My heart is heavy.

Fighting the Darkness

It’s time for us to stand up for the future of our children, to champion the cause of preserving the innocence of childhood. Our country is not lost; there are still families who eat around a table, children who play in parks, and parents who diligently teach ethics and morals. We have not slipped into the reckless abandon of a lawless society; rather, we have parents, teachers, leaders, and civil servants who protect order and preserve peace.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

It is the duty of us all to promote courage within our society. We all have influence. I influence people you will never meet and vice versa. It is our civil responsibility to fight the darkness that is slowly descending upon our nation. Our children depend on us to preserve their childhood. Their childhood memories are weighed in the balance of our willingness to stand up for what is right. The cause of morality needs champions.

There isn’t enough darkness in all the world to snuff out the light of one little candle. ~Robert Alden

Morality Rises

This weekend, rather than going to see a movie or a ballgame, why not spend time with your family. Hug them a little tighter, tell them a story of courage in the face of fear, show them a memory of your own retro childhood. Be a child’s hero this weekend. Fly a kite, build a fort, read a book. Let’s make morality rise in our country once again.

The families of the Batman shooting victims are in my prayers. 

Objects in the Mirror

Due to my car accident in January, I have been avoiding driving. My husband would argue that this is a classic case of my bad diving habits catching up to me, but I choose to believe it is in direct correlation to my recent accident and the ensuing, lingering injury. When I do drive, I’m overly conscious of cars entering my lane, misused (or unused) blinkers, speeding summer vacationers (living in Florida isn’t always fun), and inanimate objects on missions to collide with my freshly repaired vehicle.

While sitting at a red light on my way to work minding my own business, I looked in my side mirror to see a barely-legal brunette applying what looked to be a second coat of mascara on her already made up face. “As long as she is behind me” used to be a valid argument… that is until a Toyota 4-runner rear T-boned me in the Target parking lot. She reached for eye liner, causing the wariness and anxiety to exponentially grow in my chest. Once again, I looked closer at the mirror and saw “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Surprisingly, I smiled.

No longer was I anxiously watching a twenty-something apply another coat of makeup; I was mentally transported to a Father’s Day several years ago. Father’s Days are never good days for me. Long story short, my Dad lost his battle with cancer in 2003. On that particular rainy evening, I was sitting at a stoplight, on my way get a much-needed cup of coffee at my favorite Starbucks, when a quick glance into my side mirror changed my perspective forever.

A beautiful rainbow was suspended above the saying, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” 

Rainbows echo promises. Not only promises of Biblical proportions, but also reaffirming, stabilizing promises of new days, ends of tunnels, and smiles after tears. That night while sitting at a stoplight I was reminded that my Dad was just a whisper away, that one day I’d see him again… on a day that was much “closer than it appeared.” You may think it is a stretch, but I was encouraged. Because of that encouragement long ago, I was blessed today.

Taking it a Step Further

It’s the little things in life, isn’t it? The little reminders of a blessing discovered, a smile given, a dream realized. Don’t ever forget to look in the mirror of life; not just to see your reflection, but to reflect upon what has gone before. My past has made me who I am today. The battles fought and won have made me a stronger person. The people I’ve “lost” along the way will one day be found again in my home beyond the sky. The broken hearts, the broken dreams, and the broken promises have only served to mold a masterful collage, more beautiful from its healing than a pristine, undamaged, un-characterized whole. I wouldn’t change a thing.

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history it becomes even more beautiful.
Barbara Bloom

What in your mirror is closer than it appears?

Life’s Greatest Loss

Last week, a friend of mine posted a shocking quote in her facebook status that has sent me into a whirlwind of deep, introspective thought. While it is fascinating, it stands as a stark contrast to the societally accepted norm of reactionary emotions surrounding the event of a death.

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. ~Norman Cousins

This quote can be interpreted in many different ways; quite possibly, it is translated differently for each individual. To me, the fundamental definition of this quote is that my greatest personal loss did not occur when a battle with cancer ended my Dad’s life in 2003. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. Very simply: the mountain of his death is irrevocably written upon the landscape of my past, but it should not define the outlook of my future.

Real Life Inspiration

Not nearly an expert on coping with death and loss, I’ve drawn upon the life of a childhood hero, Corrie tenBoom. A Dutch woman living in the Netherlands during World War II, Miss tenBoom and her family risked their lives to help Jewish refugees escape invading Nazi troops by hiding them in a secret room built in the walls of their home. Their activity was discovered and Corrie and her family were sent to various concentration camps. Her father, sister, brother, and nephew died as a result of their imprisonment, but she survived and was released due to a clerical error in Ravensbrück Prison. Before her sister died, she said, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Imagine that. The unfathomable torture received in Ravensbrück, and she still knew that God was in control. While at times it is difficult to bear the loss of my father, it is in no way comparable to the ever-present suffering of the tenBoom family at the hands of their captors. My Dad suffered greatly during his battle with cancer and I would never belittle his courageous survival, but we all know that prison camps held unspeakable horrors. Despite all of that, Corie and her family had somehow figured out that death is not life’s greatest loss.

When she was a little girl, Corrie asked her father about death:

I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!” “Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”~excerpt from The Hiding Place, by Corrie tenBoom

Real Life Application

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. To respect those we love, to hold their memory in our hearts, to live in honor of their memory is to go forth into the future with abandon. It is not living in the past or dwelling on the loss. We must choose to exist, to conquer, to “be” despite the pain, despite the loss, despite the tragedy. Loss is inevitable; living within its imprisonment is a choice.

So, I guess this blog is a charge to you who have lost. It is an encouragement and a challenge to not lose a single moment of possibility. To take the pain, the heartache, and the loss and morph it into resolution. I know my Dad would be so pleased with where I am in life. I know he would love my husband, encourage our dreams, and champion our goals. Yes, I would like to consult him for advice, but I know what he stood for and how he responded to adversity; he lived an example for me to follow. I choose not to dwell on the fact that he is gone; rather, I choose to capture my moments, embrace the possibilities, and strive for excellence. By doing so, I will honor his memory. We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.  ~Kenji Miyazawa

Sympathy vs. Empathy

I have often marvelled at the subtle difference between the words “sympathy” and “empathy” and their erroneous interchangeable usage in modern speech. Since I’ve been laid up with the flu for the past several days, my husband has been taking care of me by making sure I drink ungodly amounts of fluids, eat meals on a regular schedule, and rest, rest, and rest some more. During all of this “resting”, I have been ruminating on these two words.

According to my faithful 1959 Webster’s Dictionary, sympathy is: “An affinity, association, or relationship between things so that whatever affects one similarly affects the other or others; hence, a reaction or response brought about by such relationship.” Empathy is not listed. Evidently, in 1959, there was no clear distinction between the two words.

Further scrutiny of “empathy” yielded the following results: “empathy is the ability to imagine oneself in another’s place and understand the other’s feelings, desires, ideas, and actions. It is a term coined in the early 20th century, modeled on “sympathy.” The term is used with special (but not exclusive) reference to aesthetic experience. The most obvious example, perhaps, is that of the actor or singer who genuinely feels the part he is performing.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica: Academic Edition) Interesting.

As I said in a previous post, I love to participate in community theatre. The best kind of acting is when the actor truly loses himself in the part he is playing–when he empathizes with the character because of past circumstances. To me, this definition of empathy is very applicable because I understand exactly what it means to “become” someone else for the stage. To you, this may not be an adequate representation of the word.

To be truly empathetic, an individual has to have experienced the loss, walked through the valley, spent the effort, or needed the cure just as much as the person with whom he is empathizing. Any other response is sympathy. Please make no assumption that I am claiming sympathy to be less than adequate for most situations, but I do believe that in some cases, the empathetic affirmation of “I’ve been there, I know what you are feeling.” makes a huge difference.

I cannot empathize with many trials that people face, but I can offer sympathy in the midst of the storm. I cannot give counsel to people that are walking through certain hardships, but I can sympathize and pray with them for resolution. I cannot truly understand how things can happen, but I can sympathetically lend my shoulder to friends in despair.

I can empathize with those who are facing the loss of a loved one. I can empathize with you who are facing the Giant of Cancer. I can tell you that I understand the fear of the doctor’s diagnosis and the outcome of his verdict. I do understand what it means to watch sickness ravage the body of a loved one. I know the pain of goodbye. I have experienced the bittersweet knowledge that my loved one is with my King. I have felt the overwhelming comfort of whispered empathy from those who have survived.

In this volitile age in which we live, we need more support. We need more people who “have been there” to stand up and say so. We need people willing to revisit the pain of the past to comfort another’s present. I need to be more sensitive to those around me. I need to offer empathy when I can and sympathy when all I can do is pray.

Unfortunately, my husband can now be empathetic to my flu…

Reader Response: Sympathy and Empathy, what say you?

The Power in a Sunrise

As many of you know, my beloved Dad lost his battle with cancer in November of 2003. Being the ultimate Daddy’s girl that I am, I still wrestle with the empty space he should inhabit and dreadfully miss his presence in my life. He truly was my hero; he traveled the world slaying corporate dragons, kissed my Mom in front of my brother and I, cooked amazing Sunday dinners, and made sure that no monsters were living under the beds. I wish my husband could have met him, that he could have seen my brother graduate from college and marry the girl of his dreams, and that he could be with my Mom in her empty nest adventures.

During one particularly tear-stained night not too long ago, I set my pen to paper and wrote a quote that I like to think is encouraging. I was inspired when I considered that the long nights end in the sunrise. There is a cleansing that arises with the golden rays of dawn. I thought I would share this quote with you today.

May we never look at the burning horizon and forget that it travels on into the breaking dawn; that just beyond its reach is a land waking up to conquer a new day. In the midst of the night season, may we always remember that the long night will not tarry beyond its allotted moments, but will quickly surrender itself to the golden rays of dawn. ~© Jessica Burchfield

Over the last 8 years, I have found that yes, it is perfectly ok to break down. In fact, when talking to people that are going through similar situations, I encourage it. The bottling up and suppressing of emotions is never a healthy practice. We all need the healing that comes with the tears. Sometimes surrendering to the loss is just what you need to move on, yet again.

But then comes the morning.

I love beginnings. What are mornings, but new beginnings? During one of my elementary/junior high years, a teacher made us choose a poem to present before our speech class. I don’t remember what poem I chose, but I do remember that a classmate chose The Land of Beginning Again by Louise Fletcher. This was my favorite stanza:

For what had been hardest we’d know had been best
And what had seemed loss would be gain
For there isn’t a sting that will not take a wing
When we’ve faced it and laughed it away,
And I think that the laughter is most what we’re after
In the Land of Beginning Again.

So, here’s to all of you that are struggling in the season of shadows. Here’s to you that have long been dwelling in the “night.” Here’s to us that have awoken from the darkness, only to find the golden beams of a bright new day–a day that holds the promise of beginning again. Here’s to the sunrise.

We can only appreciate the miracle of the sunrise if we have waited long in the darkness. ~Author Unknown