Talking about Death with my Daughter & Remembering Carol Christ

Recently, facing the reality that I do not have definitive or perhaps, static “answers” for my little one when she asks me about death, I find comfort in Carol’s words—in the idea that I don’t have to “answer” my daughter with one, forever “truth.” Because I have to ability to give her “enough,” at least for now.

As I sit down to write, I am reminded of a post I wrote many years ago entitled “Where Do Cat’s Go,” about my mother’s cat, Mimi, who passed away at the age of twenty-four. At that time, I was struggling with what death meant outside of an Evangelical Christian ideology. I had rejected the doctrine of heaven (and hell) itself; but doubt lingered. Fear still held sway over my emotions. I wanted to “believe in,” something else. Whether to regain control or simply for comfort, I hoped for new belief.

Carol Christ, who has touched so many of us, who was my teacher and whom I miss, replied to that post (paraphrasing here), “Why does [Mimi] have to go anywhere? Isn’t it enough that she is a loved and remembered part of life?”

At the time it was not enough. But recently, facing the reality that I do not have definitive or perhaps, static “answers” for my little one when she asks me about death, I find comfort in Carol’s words—in the idea that I don’t have to “answer” my daughter with one, forever “truth.” Because I have to ability to give her “enough,” at least for now.

 As a feminist mom, I frequently think about what will give my daughter strength and a sense of her value outside of hetero-patriarchal standards. I am also an ex-vangelical agnostic married to an atheist. He and I want our daughter to have choice in her spirituality and freedom to explore her own directions. I think this is a good commitment, though it is frequently a little more difficult in practice. My partner wants to protect our daughter from all religion and Christianity in particular. I tend to take an educational approach, answering her questions about spiritual matters with, “well, people believe all sorts of things about that,” then listing several beliefs or mythologies that might give her some information on the matter.

Continue reading “Talking about Death with my Daughter & Remembering Carol Christ”

One-In-A-Million by Marcia Mount Shoop

Today I am fully vaccinated. It’s been two weeks since I got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The day after I got the vaccine was the day the New York Times headline read, “Johnson & Johnson Vaccinations Paused After Rare Clotting Cases Emerge.” People told me not to worry, “it happens to only one in a million people.”  

That “one-in-a-million” argument isn’t what calmed me down. The “one-in-a-million” odds had already struck once in our household over the pandemic when my husband was diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer. A one-in-a-million kind of cancer. And to top it off, it was his second cancer diagnosis during the pandemic. He turned 51 years old this past August and has spent most of the pandemic either waiting for treatment, receiving treatment, or in recovery from treatment. A lot of the year he has been and continues to be in considerable pain and discomfort. 

Continue reading “One-In-A-Million by Marcia Mount Shoop”

The Legacy of Wisdom by Karen Leslie Hernandez

My Aunt Sophie passed into another realm last week. Not from COVID, but, from a life well-lived.

At 98, she lived a remarkable life. She wasn’t famous, nor did she ever strive to be, but what she was, was what love should be, can be, and is.

In her 98 years she played trumpet in the high school marching band, she had a mean left hook, and she was a Rosie the Riveter, where she actually worked as a welder on ships being built for WWII in Richmond, CA. More, she was a devoted wife, she was a sister and caretaker, she was an incredible grandmother, and, she was a mother. Not just to her seven children, but to her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, neighborhood kids, and to my sister and me, her nieces. Continue reading “The Legacy of Wisdom by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Ant Hill by Sara Wright

Yesterday I gave a poetry reading at a local library beginning and ending with thoughts about how Climate Change is affecting all living things. I am a naturalist who holds the radical belief that all living things are sentient. I also argue that we must not equate animal intelligence with that of humans.

Almost every poem I read was about my intimate relationship with some aspect of the natural world, for example, the changing seasons, my friendship with sagebrush lizards, steadfast trees, Sandhill cranes, beloved Black bears. Intimacy and inter –relationship are part of every experience I have with nature and by sharing these poems I hoped might draw others in to new ways of perceiving the earth and her creatures.

The whole point of my focusing on non – human species was to raise awareness that these animals and plants desperately need our help. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about how critical it is to bring animals, plants, trees, mushrooms into the picture in this age of the Anthropocene, that is, the period in which we live where a few men with power rule. Today, it is not an exaggeration to say that humans control every aspect of our fragile planet.

I repeat: Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough or perhaps almost no one was capable of listening? Maybe both. As soon as I concluded my reading one woman did actually bring up an incident involving a very difficult child who became attached to a lizard, so she at least, was on the track I hoped I had laid….

Continue reading “Ant Hill by Sara Wright”

Sawbonna: Godde and Another Route to Forgiveness by Margot Van Sluytman

From the day my Father, Theodore, was brutally and callously murdered in Toronto, on Easter Monday, March 27, 1978, I wanted to meet his killer. I wanted to know how it was possible to do such a horrific thing. I wanted to know how he felt about destroying the lives of so many; my family’s, and his own.

We did meet. The meeting occurred in July of 2007. Because of reading about an award I received for my Therapeutic Writing Workshops and the publication of my books about healing, voice, and agency, he emailed me. Our meeting, our reconciliation, even those many years after that dark, dark day, was a rich blessing in my life, and proved helpful for him too.

The word forgiveness, is one that can lead to great suffering for victims and offenders alike. Victims are told that if they do not forgive, they cannot heal. Offenders are told that if they are not forgiven, they cannot move on from the crime they have committed. Forgiveness is a loaded word, with as many understandings, expectations, and definitions as there are experiences of savage loss, savage grief, savage pain.

Continue reading “Sawbonna: Godde and Another Route to Forgiveness by Margot Van Sluytman”

Where Did She Go?  A Slothful Seeking of the Divine by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

 A week ago today was my birthday.  I’m the same age as my mother when she died of a stroke some twenty-eight years ago.  This past year has been marked by the deaths of close friends and family; most recently my Uncle Jack who almost made it to his 93rd birthday. This latest passing, coupled with being the same age as my mother when she passed, has left me more than a bit reflective of life and vulnerability.   This internal examination has lead me to acknowledge another loss I have been ignoring for a few years—my love affair with the divine.

It didn’t happen all at once; instead it’s been a slow brew of indifference to the spiritual domain.  Like many who read or contribute to FAR, my spiritual compass was fined tuned to point north in all matters of my life, even at a very early age.  The Virgin Mary, Mass, the Sacraments of the Catholic Church and its rituals are what Andrew Greeley defines as The Catholic Imagination.  Taken together, these insist on a spirituality that sees the divine saturated in all of creation.  Grace, abundant grace, is never outside the reach of those who wish to experience it.    Continue reading “Where Did She Go?  A Slothful Seeking of the Divine by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

A Family Conceived, Lost, and Resurrected by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina and SarahGood Friday marks the second anniversary of one of the most significant dates in my life – the adoption of my daughter, Baby S – who by the way is no longer a baby (she will be turning 5 this May).  On Easter Sunday, 2012 I wrote about the resurrection of my family.  In the last few years that I have been blogging, this is by far my favorite post and I have been so grateful for the many wonderful responses I have received from it.  With today being Good Friday, it seems an appropriate time to revisit this incredible experience and once again, give thanks for the blessings in my life.  Continue reading “A Family Conceived, Lost, and Resurrected by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Goodnight, Sweet Friends by Natalie Kertes Weaver

Natalie Weaver

Yesterday, to this day of my writing, two of my friends died.  Both endured years of struggle against cancers, and both finally yielded to death at nearly the same hour.  I received notices of their passing within moments of one another.  We sat vigil with the family of one of my friends until late in the evening, while the other friend was prepared for repatriation in the land of her ancestors.

In the home where we sat vigil, I entered the room where my friend had passed away.  I wanted to feel the last fading traces of her physical presence.  I don’t know whether any part of her was there or not, but I was grateful to be in the place where she had been.  The room was very full.  It held the medical equipment that had briefly sustained her life for the last few days, but it was mostly stuffed with the clutter and the souvenirs of a life.  Porcelain trinkets, formal family portraits, travel photographs, colorful shot glasses collected from the cities she had visited, and everything covered with a fine layer of dust. Continue reading “Goodnight, Sweet Friends by Natalie Kertes Weaver”

Losing my Mother and Realizing her Resurrection by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina and momFive years ago today I buried my mother.  Violence took her life; however because of this patriarchal culture we live in, there was no prosecution in her death.  Violence against women is of little consequence in our society.

She died at the very young age of 56 on June 29, 2008, the same day I was moving to California.  I was just about to get into our moving truck when I got the call.  I will never forget the moment I heard the words, “your mom passed away last night.”  It was as if I felt her dying in that moment, as if my heart was falling from my body.  I cried out so violently and fell to the floor.  How could this be real?  How could my mom be gone?  The day before we had stood in my kitchen, danced, sang, laughed, embraced.  She was so alive, but in a moment, she was gone.  I begged and pleaded with God, I thought it was a mistake, Continue reading “Losing my Mother and Realizing her Resurrection by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Touching Roots: An Incredible Lightness Of Being by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ 2002 colorA few days ago, a German-speaking friend spoke with an Eiloff relative of mine who lives in St. Nikolaus, Saarland.  My relative remembered hearing the story that Heinrich Eiloff, my 2x great-grandfather, emigrated to the United States in the mid-1800s.  Since we connected, I am experiencing an incredible lightness of being.

This is the first time my two years of genealogical research have led to a “Kunta Kinte” moment, a connection with a relative in “the old country.”  I have been unable to trace most of my ancestors back to the places of their birth. 

My relative in St. Nikolaus was perplexed by a call from Greece from a woman claiming to represent his American relative. But when she explained that I only want to find my roots and perhaps visit relatives in St. Nikolaus, he said, “that would be very nice.”  He promised to speak with other living relatives and said we should call in a month or two and he would tell us what he found.

According to my research, my 2x great-grandfather Heinrich Eiloff was born in 1820 in St. Nikolas, Saarland, in Prussia (now in Germany).

st nikolaus saarland

Continue reading “Touching Roots: An Incredible Lightness Of Being by Carol P. Christ”

The Search for Belonging by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

My life today is a continuation of the desire to belong I felt as a child, only the terrain is now a spiritual homelessness of sorts, the inability to feel welcomed and accepted in what seems to be an oxymoronic state, a feminist woman in the Catholic Church.  

Family vacations in my childhood usually took the form of camping.  This was an era devoid of seat belts and car seats, where we rode unrestrained in the back of our parent’s pickup camper like pieces of discarded luggage.   One trip found us deep in the Baja coast of Mexico.  At that time I was four years old with three older brothers, one younger and one on the way; who in spite of my repeated pleas to the Blessed Virgin Mary, turned out to be yet another brother.  Sandwiched between all this testosterone was me, the only girl child who continually failed to fulfill her parent’s dream of the quiet, sweet, and passive daughter.  This would be one of many family job descriptions at which I would fail. Continue reading “The Search for Belonging by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

Remembering My Grandmother: Not as a Suffering Servant but as a Devoted and Loving Mother By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

The last week-and-a-half has been probably the most heart wrenching time I remember having in my life.  You see, my grandmother passed from this life June 19th and the void in my heart is huge.  I have to admit that I am lucky that my grandmother was a huge part of my life and the last family funeral I attended was in 1983.  Certainly one expects grandparents to pass away, even when they live a healthy long life.  Nothing prepares you for the time that you must say good-bye.  You yearn for one more conversation, one more hug, one more kiss – the thoughts churn and churn robbing you of sleep or peace.  At some point, a level of acceptance or at least the ability to cope will occur – when is a mystery, but for now I just try to be strong – for my mom, my sister, and my children.

Driving home from vacation, I received the news from my sister, Lisa:

Lisa:    Nanny has lymphoma, which they found in her stomach and invaded her spine, paralyzing her from the hips down.  It is fast moving.

Me:     How long?

Lisa:    2-4 weeks. Hospice was called and is making her comfortable.

The news was jolting, but I did not realize that the initial expectation 3 days earlier was 6-8 weeks.  She had tests for a bleeding ulcer, so this diagnosis was jolting.  Over the last year, we dealt with dementia and health issues.  These either were false alarms or cured thanks to the love of her family, care from the people at the nursing home, and her nurse practitioner and physician.  I wished that this was also a false alarm – but it was not, this time it was real and the end was eminent.

Seeing my mother at Father’s Day celebration, the news was even more grim – Nanny is no longer alert, can no longer open her eyes – they are making her comfortable.  The last time her eyes opened was after her priest gave her last rites.  He turned to leave, she opened her eyes, said “Hi Father,” and went back to sleep.  This was the last time her eyes would open.  My mother tells me that she is not expected to live through the week.

I took my children over to say good-bye.  I know I should be grateful that my girls have a close relationship with their great-grandmother, one that spanned 19 years.  I know I should be grateful that I had her in every facet of my life.  It is no secret that family was important to my grandmother, and she adored all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  This is a trait handed to my mother, my sister, and me.  Something I strive to instill in my children.

The good-byes were difficult as she was essentially unconscious and her breathing was noisy.

My sister called, how is she?

Me:     Breathing is labored and gaps between breaths are getting longer.

Lisa:    Will she be o.k. tomorrow?

Me:     I have no idea.  You may want to visit tonight just in case.

My sister and her husband appeared about 10 minutes later.  Wanting to give her time, I left with my family.  Going home was hard.  I was afraid she may not make it through the night.  I hoped with all my heart that this was not the end.

The next morning I returned to work.  She made it through the night.  I was in my office for a few hours before when I received a call from my dad.

Dad:    I am just calling to tell you Nanny is declining pretty fast.  They are saying minutes to hours – we are all here.  No need for you to come, I just wanted to let you know.

Me:     I am on my way.

Depending on traffic, I had a 40 – 60 minute drive.  I had to be with the woman that helped care for me and loved me.  The person that I took trips with, would talk hours on the phone with, cook with.  My grandmother was at every event, every family function, every holiday, and every birthday.  She was a huge part of my life and very important to me.  I needed to get there before she took her last breath – thankfully, I did.

The goodbyes continued.  Staff and residents alike came down to say goodbye. She was loved my so many.  Tears flowed for this petite woman with beautiful blue eyes, a contagious smile, and a heart of gold.  Her three children, my father, my sister, a few friends, and I kept vigil by her bedside.  I held her hand, sponged her neck and forehead to help with the fever, and kissed her forehead.  This went on all day and all night.

It was now midnight.  Everyone left the room to have a snack.  It was a long day and we forgot to eat dinner.  The staff was nice enough to provide us with muffins, water, pop, and coffee but this was no longer enough.  Every time someone would leave to use the restroom, you did not know if she would still be there when you came back.  Even running to a fast-food restaurant to grab a few sandwiches was done with angst and concern. Continue reading “Remembering My Grandmother: Not as a Suffering Servant but as a Devoted and Loving Mother By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

To a Friend, on the Loss of her Daughter by Carol P. Christ

One test of a thealogy is whether it can help us “make sense” of our lives—even the senseless parts of them.

Recently a friend told me that the teen-aged daughter of a friend of hers had committed suicide. “What would your thealogy say to that?” she asked me. Here is what I might say to a friend who lost her daughter:

I am so sorry for your loss. This never should have happened.

I remember times when I wanted to commit suicide. My pain was intense and my mind was stuck. All I could think was: this hurts too much to go on, and it will never change, so I might as well die. I am so sorry if your daughter felt that way, because I know it is a horrible way to feel. I am sorry she was not able to understand that it could have–and probably would have–changed. Don’t blame her. Sometimes pain is so overwhelming you really cannot see beyond it. Don’t blame yourself either. I am certain you did everything you could think of to help her. I know that if you could have prevented her, you would have. It really was not your fault. I don’t blame you, and no one else should either.

I also want to tell you that what happened to your daughter was not the will of God. Goddess, like you, felt you daughter’s suffering and reached out to try to help her. Like you, She did not have a magic wand. All She could offer was love and understanding. Right now Goddess is feeling your feelings of anger and sorrow that Her love and compassion and yours were not enough to comfort your daughter. Please do not torture yourself further by asking how this could have been the will of God. It was not. It really was not. Continue reading “To a Friend, on the Loss of her Daughter by Carol P. Christ”

Robbed by Monica A. Coleman

“Life is robbery.”

I re-read this Alfred North Whiteheadquotation to my students in the last weeks as we read through Adventures of Ideas. We were taking a welcome break from the philosophically demanding Process and Reality.

I explained that this is one of Whitehead’s more frequently cited sentences because he succinctly and poetically describes his position that life entails loss, and you can’t go back and get what you lose.

I said the same thing to one of my girlfriends as we chatted in my kitchen a couple of weeks ago. I was cooking and catching up with a friend I had not seen in nearly twenty years. As we chronicled our lives from the intervening decades, my friend said: “I have a religious question.”

In moments like these, I curse the fact that even my closest friends think that I have some special kind of knowledge as a minister and professional theologian. I took a deep breath because that phrase usually precedes some difficult, heart-wrenching question that has no satisfying answer.

Continue reading “Robbed by Monica A. Coleman”

I’m Back and Writing About Loss By Monica A. Coleman

The following is a guest post written by Monica A. Coleman, Ph.D., scholar and activist committed to connecting faith and social justice. An ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Coleman has earned degrees at Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and Claremont Graduate University.  Coleman is currently Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director of the Center for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology in southern California. She is also Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University.

This post was originally posted on the Beautiful Mind Blog.  Be sure to check in there and follow Monica’s journey.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve noticed that I’ve been really quiet lately. Like all summer lately. What’s up with that? Well, part of the challenge of writing about depression is that it’s hard to write when depressed, and, well, depression happens. Continue reading “I’m Back and Writing About Loss By Monica A. Coleman”

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