For Sheila, My Cousin, My Friend

This post is a short glimpse into a friend’s life.  She was much than this. It’s my attempt to say goodbye to my friend who we lost this last week in a car accident. She will be greatly missed. — Janet

When you’re ten-years-old, life is simple. Everyone around you is an uncle, an aunt, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, or a cousin. Other than a family member, you are a stranger until you become a friend or a neighbor.

I grew up in a small town. And that small town raised me. Collinsville had only a population of 3,009 by the time that I was ten, by the time that Sheila and I decided to figure out if we were just friends or if we were family now. It was about bonding. It was about how we mattered to each other. And it was important. Who wants to be just a neighbor when they can be a friend? Or a cousin? Only friends and cousins can do sleep-overs or know secrets.

We were at Sheila’s house. We attended school together since forever but something was different. My brother was dating her cousin. I’m not certain of the relations, but at the time we were solemn about this. We had to be cousins, she had decided. We must be cousins. We discussed it around and around and looked at it from both sides of the family tree. Surely we were cousins if my brother married her cousin. It made perfect sense to our 10-year-old minds.

Hours went by and running out of time, we decided that maybe it didn’t matter. That just maybe we’re all cousins or sisters because God was our father. From then on we were friends and family. I remember several times afterward calling out to each other, “Hello cousin.”

Thank you, Sheila, for being my friend and for being a friend to so many. You gave so much love while you were with us. You were the expressed image of friendship and family. Open arms and a warm heart. You are missing from us today.

I’m Not Dead Yet

When I first walked away from Christianity, the one thing that scared me was dying. And the no-life-afterwards stance of Atheism. I felt like a child whose Halloween candy had been stolen. I’ve held on to the opinion that Atheists could be wrong. Denial in the first degree!

People like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, have stripped away my belief in a separate soul, so what would be left to carry on after my body dies? Energy particles? It’s taken some time and lots of truth seeking. Richard Dawkins attitude has really helped with my perspective. Yeah, I may not have eternity in white robes, but I can live a full life and celebrate every day right now.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?” 

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

Denying truth doesn’t make it disappear. What happens after I die can’t be prearranged. The events are out of my control. Maybe I’ll be happily surprised with more candy or maybe I won’t. Either way it’s done. Richard Dawkins is right. We are the lucky ones.

Don’t Let Go of My Hand

Hold my hand and take me away
Hold my hand and take me away (Photo credit: (davide))

From the depths of my heart. Truly.

Oh I’m hoping you’ll understand and not let go of my hand.  – In For the Kill, La Roux.

I love music. I have no talent whatsoever, but I can listen as well as the next person. The lyrics catch me completely off guard sometimes.

We are a species who love stories. Movies, books, plays. It doesn’t matter what form it is. We can relate. And once the story has wrapped itself around us, it can jolt us. Even linger in our minds, when another person could have said the same thing to us and we would have walked away wondering what they were talking about.

Sometimes when I’m in a conversation, I have to remind myself to stay quiet and listen to the other person. I really don’t want to cut in or stop them talking. I just want to relate. This song is one that caught me off guard. The lyrics, the voice, and the story. Isn’t this what we all want?

We want someone to listen and understand. And not let go of us. Hear me, they cry. Please stay with me. There was a suicide recently at a local school. It’s hard for us to understand how a teenager can have a troubled life. Like illness and disease though, emotional pain does not know age or wealth as a dividing line. It does not respect you just because you are a good person or a pretty person. Suicide doesn’t only come because someone has a difficult circumstance. Suicide is an out for pain also. And when you are in pain all you can think of is stopping it. It’s the irritating ticking noise inside someones head that never ends. They see no solution.

I don’t know the child’s story or the family’s. All I know is that I am sorry. So sorry for their loss. And I hope that there is someone nearby who will understand and not let go of their hand.

Hair Happens!

Bad hair day
Bad hair day (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

While cleaning my bathroom floor, I was disgusted. I had hairs on the floor. Matted swirls of blonde hairs. How did I let that happen? Why do I not prevent that?

Is it possible to prevent a mess? Somewhere in my thinking I believed I was the only one who had hair on their bathroom floor.

I can still hear my family, “Janet, your hair is everywhere.” And, it was only my hair. No one else had hair that floated from room to room. My hair was errant in nature and very naughty. I don’t know how it became so naughty. And then suddenly, while I was on the bathroom floor no less, I realized, my hairs weren’t bad or evil or gross. They are just hair.

Everyone (mostly) has hair. We all have germs. Mine aren’t super alien strong germs either. My hair isn’t magically searching for some solid surface to glue and multiple itself on. It’s just freakin hair and it just freakin needs cleaned off of the floor.

Hair happens.

Dirt happens. Pain happens. Death happens and so does life. None of these things are preventable.

When I get on a roller-coaster I never expect it to crash. Usually it doesn’t. When I eat food from a restaurant, I expect it to enjoy it and I don’t expect it to poison me. We are lulled everyday into expecting things to go on. We expect life. We expect health. But sickness happens. You can’t plan for the unexpected. Life should run smoothly. Children shouldn’t die. Roller-coasters are fun amusements and aren’t meant to be dangerous. And cars shouldn’t rear end us on our way to work. Safety is the norm, or so we think. But is it really?

So should we lock down all our facilities? Shut the doors and keep the windows barred? Maybe tag everyone and keep them monitored like sheep. This isn’t the way any of us would want to live. That’s the obsessive way of existing. And even in that, we would still die. We would still have illness.

If someone disobeys or finds a loophole, make a stronger law.

I’ve heard it too many times now. Why was this not caught? How did this happen?  I believe we have created a picture safety being the norm. Otherwise how would you cope with everyday life? Would you send your child to school? Drive to the store? Without the story of “this won’t happen to me”, I don’t know if I could fully live my life. The illusion of safety and control of my destiny allows me to fully express myself, to take chances and challenges.

I know the temptation to say, Why me? The why me, doesn’t really mean “Why me, why not Jack?”  We really aren’t asking why me at all, but we are trying to grasp the situation. Have you ever tripped and fallen flat on your face? It stuns you. The suddenness of the fall surprises you so you can’t even feel the pain sometimes. If you’ve been in a car accident you know how quickly it can happen.

A friend just lost his wife. Suddenly. She lost her grip on the coffee cup. Something wasn’t right. They went in to see the doctor and found a tumor on her brain. After investigating they realized it was pancreatic cancer that had metastasized into her brain and various organs. Ten days later she was gone. Ten days. Eleven days ago she was the picture of health. Taking her son to football practice and cleaning her house for the holidays. Suddenly life changes. Why me? Why her?

SAFETY (Photo credit: calignosus)

Maybe it’s our form of therapy, these questions of Why me? or Why did we not stop this?

These questions keep us from dealing with the sudden shock and pain of the accident. We take a step back mentally. We have to. The shock is overwhelming to our nervous system. Our brain is not capable of handling the shock, so it handles the next immediate detail, ‘How did this happen?’ If we’d had metal detectors at the door, then no one could bring in a gun. If we’d worn non-slip shoes, we wouldn’t have fallen. It’s our method of handling the tragedy. If we can control this preventative aspect of the accident then we feel calmer. As if by naming something we can understand how it works.

It’s not so bewildering once we’ve identified it. We can look at the situation and say it is less likely to happen again in the future. We can’t process not having control over our future safety. We have to believe that we can prepare, that we can foresee the danger and prevent it.

It amazes me when I watch the news. They seem to tell us that death could be prevented. Whether from massacres, riots, or wars. I’m sorry, I thought we all died. Maybe years down the road and certainly not children, but still death is not preventable. Neither is the mess on my floor. It isn’t because I’m a lazy, irresponsible person. Life is a circular motion of pain and happiness. Joy and searching. Loving and losing. Birth and death. Fear and excitement. It is all of these. Life is a merry-go-round of living.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.-John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy”

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