Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In memory, Robin Elizabeth Marsh, July 6, 1997 to August 31, 1997. The leader of our grief group once asked me when I was going to take time out for myself. She had met us when Jessica died, been there with us when Courtney died and had gotten to know us pretty well. I told her that after Robin was born, I'd finally take time for myself.

I miss her still, and sometimes, still dream.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

It is amazing what one person can do, over time.

A Grain of Salt talks about Gandhi and Christ, but it made me think about what one person can do, such as teaching people to read, one on one, one person at a time, until a people could be freed.

If we just continue, it is amazing what we can do, if not in our own lives, in the lives of others.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

One of the hardest things to do is to survive benchmarks, as one child approaches them, or as another passes them, and those who have died echo. Having our youngest start school was so stressful, especially as she talked about being baptized. Jessica was talking more and more about baptism, just before she became ill. She was never old enough to be baptized in our faith (ignoring, for a moment, the kindness of Catholic nurses in their own ways). She would be in college now, and all of her friends (except one) have gotten married in the last year or so. Tried to attend a wedding, but it was like running into a wall, I just could not.

On the other hand, Heather is rifle team commander this year, and should earn her forth letter in rifle team, something that is hers alone.

As for the weddings, we send gifts, we think, we go forward. Life moves on around us and with us.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I thought I would write about Cindy Sheehan and other grieving parents in the public eye. The sad truth is, every time a grieving parent is in the public eye, someone is trying to exploit them. That doesn't mean they don't have an agenda of their own (think of MADD), but that they don't get anything for free.

That said, having given myself some time, I am still appalled by the exploitation of Ms. Sheehan by those on all sides.

First, I'm not happy with those who are using her to promote an agenda -- for either side (either as a stalking horse or a free target). The one side should have more decency, the other hand should leave her out of things in their discussions.

Second, (in a very related way) I am offended by those who are using her as media fodder. The first group exploits directly, the second group exploits reactively. If you suffer grief, you may very well run into both kinds. The one seeks to turn you into a cypher, the second type seeks to make use of you as a cypher.

For those exploiting her, on the one hand they delight every time she is attacked. They revel in it. Every attack strengthens that group regardless of which side they are on (attacking or defending).

The second group feeds off of the attacks and makes them continue -- the term media circus has some real meaning in this instance, it is a circus. Either the second group is doing its best to help the first group, or the second group is exploiting Ms. Sheehan for their own benefit, or they are so clueless as to make one question their competence. Who sees any real analysis? Who sees any real kindness?

You will see the same thing in local news when a child dies of hard drugs or steroids in a high school and a parent speaks out.

Ask yourself.

If a thousand sons and daughters had died in Iraq (or perhaps 1853), leaving two thousand parents (drop some for orphans, add some for step parents) and only one of those parents acts out in what you consider a loopy fashion, should you conclude:

1) That one out of two thousand is a fully competent adult knowingly doing something crassly wrong who needs to be shamed and humiliated as an example for other grieving parents (I listened to a radio personality do just that, though when I called him on it, he backed off in a letter to me), or

2) They are suffering under the disability of grief and being exploited?

3) The person just wants media attention?

I suggest to you that if #1 is correct in the first half (a fully competent adult knowingly doing something), then people who say Cindy Sheehan is the most courageous woman in America and should be president may have something. If she is fully competent and knowing, then she may be right and she is definitely courageous. The more competent she is to face criticism, the more she acts from reason and knowledge rather than emotion and being exploited, the less she deserves any criticism.

If #2 is correct, attempts to shame them do nothing but feed and support those who are trying to use her to get attention -- and in a way that makes Sheehan look correct.

If #3 is right, any attention rewards them.

I think that public shaming attempts -- especially of a parent who has lost a child within the last year or so -- are useless, crass and exploitative, and do nothing but encourage those who would exploit the vulnerable. If the person just wants attention, it gives them the attention they crave in an atmosphere that provides them with enough positive voices that the public shaming attempt never reaches them and enables exploitation.

With each attack, the both sides are strengthened and those who have exploited Ms. Sheehan (if she is being propped up) are rewarded. Real dialogue, which this country needs, and real respect for death and loss and sacrifice, all of those are lost.

Now, as for someone who is exploiting a grieving parent, I think stringing someone along to make them a target for such public shaming attacks is evil and heartless. Drawing the poor family into things is sad.

I don't know Ms. Sheehan's heart and I've seen a lot on the war in Iraq to where I am unwilling to agree that she is correct or insist that she is wrong.

However, I can understand how she could believe as she does regardless if she has a noble or a crass purpose. I don't know how much of those feeding off of her, from both sides, raven like wolves attacking a wounded deer rather than are responsible for the wounding in the first place.

But I know that public shaming attempts against such a parent are useless, less than productive and shameful.

People who have buried children, when they make mistakes or act out in public, need first and foremost to be allowed space and quiet.

If her critics are truly right (if any of the critics of those in grief are right), what Ms. Sheehan needs and deserves is to be allowed her act in private.

If she is right, then what she really needs is people to make the issue about the dialogue and the concepts and thoughts and not about her.

Too often the grieving are exploited, by both sides (or all sides or any side) and then discarded. As human beings we deserve more both in the grieving and how we relate to it.

My two bits. I'll probably take this post down after a while, but I wanted to vent a little myself.

Post script:

I was asked which blogs I would condemn as exploiting Cindy Sheehan. None. I do not see blogs as significant in what is going on in her case, and I do believe that there is plenty of room to comment and review without exploitation.

Maybe if I read more blogs, but I don't see them as a factor in what is going on with this example or with most grieving parents (other than the fact that many of them do have blogs).

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Interesting link to a thirty minute or so speach by a guy who was an engineer, then was a lawyer, and now is an entertainer.

What Do You Want to Be?
-- links to a link that will take you to the download.

Interesting, different.

Often, in dealing with grief, you have to decide, what do you want to be? What do you want to become? This is because you are going to become something, as are all those around you, no matter what you plan on. Life and change will happen. Especially if you have subsequent children, you are going to relive, evolve and become regardless of what you think you are going to do. Life will not remain static, and if you do not anticipate and plan and decide, it will still happen, just without your input.

An excellent question: what will you decide to become? What will you do for those who are part of your life, how will you help or hinder them in what they are going to become? What will your choice be?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

How can I keep on living, why should I keep on living? Hasn’t every parent who has buried a child had to face those two questions and had to face the traps that threaten on the way to finding answers.

One real problem is that because the pain is so great, it shuts everything else out. Then, once you are finally recovered enough to be numb or in shock, the only way you can reach emotion is to reach into the pain. It blots out everything else and seems to be the only real emotion left.

Sometimes children will start misbehaving so that they can be punished, because the emotions tied up with punishment and sorrow break through to real emotion and let some pain out. A child can become addicted to that cycle, and it can be hard to break.

Worse for adults is becoming addicted to anger and rage and pain as the only touchstones left, ones that will swallow a man or a woman in bitterness, leaving only dregs.

It is funny, but watching The Pacifier (my five-year-old had seen it several times, so I had to see it too with her), I was brought back to the only way I found to escape the traps. In the end, the hero realizes that children and family are the only things that matter, and he choses to remain near the children and to find his own way to starting his own family. Everything returns to that, to living life outside of myself, as the real meaning and the real hope.

That pathway out and away from anger for me was by remembering my wife and children and their needs and by finding a way to keep on going to keep on for them, while at the same time keeping Paul’s warnings about bitterness in my mind. "Any root of bitterness" is how the scripture reads, warning the saints in Jerusalem against the pain and loss that the fall of the city will cause them (Paul wrote them before the city was sacked, with blood running ankle deep, and the people scattered). Justified or not, I had to let all bitterness go.

I guess I should note that this blog is about faith and hope and surviving. About the three children we buried in a five year period and about finding our way home. Some times I write about related things, or about life in general, but everything comes together in living life for a real purpose and with a real hope, and when those are obscured or hard to see, living for those I love until I can see the hope and love I need for them again.

I write these essays for many reasons, but most of all to help those who are going through the same things I am going through, in hope that what has helped me might give them hope or tools to help them in their journey.

I pray that God will bless us all.